Author Name: Patriciatepes (Patricia de Lioncourt )
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Batman: the Animated Series
Characters: Dawn Summers, The Joker, Nightwing/Dick Grayson, Batman, Giles, Willow, Xander, Buffy Summers, OCs, several minor scenes with major characters
Pairing: Dawn/Nightwing (Dick Grayson)
Warnings: (for all chapters) Torture, swearing
Summary: When Buffy is poisoned and dying, Dawn is left no choice but to go to Gotham for the cure that she is told is too dangerous to retrieve. Time is on her side... too bad the universe isn't.Disclaimer: I don't own Buffy, Batman, or any related characters. They belong to Whedon, DC Comics, and WB. No money made here.
Author's Notes: Art by the wonderful http://20thcenturyvole. I started this story long, long ago, and decided to finish it for the wipbigbang. I do author's notes every chapter on fanfiction (dot) net, but I'll only copy the relevant ones here.
Chapter 4- Smile
Monday had come faster than Dawn had expected it would. After all, she had been anticipating it. But, in truth, she had been dreading it as well. The Joker wasn't the only inmate in Arkham—of course, arguably, he was the most dangerous. There had been several moments over the past weekend where Dawn had wondered if she was in over her head. But then she would remember why she was in Gotham and why she had taken this job. Buffy had never failed to save her life, and, now, it was Dawn's turn to save her sister.
So, dressed in mauve scrubs with white sneakers, Dawn crawled out of the backseat of the taxi, paying the driver as she went. She watched as the stereotypical yellow and black vehicle pulled away from the gates of the asylum, leaving only Dawn behind. Turning with a heavy sigh, she stepped up to the guard post and gave her name. The guard had nodded, telling Dawn that Dr. Leland had informed him of the new orderly, and gave her a laminate security badge.
"Wear this at all times while on duty, Miss Winters," he said as Dawn clipped it to the neck of her scrubs.
"Will do," she said as the guard turned and hit the switch to raise the caution bar in front of her.
"I'm Walter, by the way. If you need anything, don't hesitate to ask," he called after her.
Dawn waved her hand to show him that she had heard him and mounted the stairs to the asylum's main entrance. Once inside, it took her moments to locate Dr. Leland, as she was standing in front of her office. The doctor turned and smiled at Dawn as she lowered her arm, a gold watchband glimmering in the building's dim light.
"Ten minutes early. I like that. Now, I've got to run, but I was waiting on you to get you all set up," Leland said.
Dawn nodded as she turned from her and waved over another orderly, this one dressed in well-worn white scrubs.
"This is Alisha, and she's the Senior Orderly around here," Leland said as the other orderly arrived.
Alisha's super-curly, bottle-blonde hair was bound atop her head in messy piles. Her nails were short, but still painted a bright red that easily stood out the most of anything else… but at least they matched her equally-as-red lips. Her skin was olive-toned, tanned, and youthful in such as way that the word "Botox" immediately came to Dawn's mind. Her bright green eyes crinkled almost painfully at their corners as she smiled at her.
"Alisha will show you the ropes around here. Now, I'm leaving for the evening. Listen to everything this woman tells you, and you'll be just fine. Have a nice evening, you two," Leland said, turning to close and lock her office door.
Both Dawn and Alisha waved as Leland departed. When the doctor was out of sight, the head orderly turned and crossed her arms.
"I'm afraid I didn't catch your name," she said, her smile beginning to stretch her face unnaturally.
"Dawn Winters. But, just Dawn. Uh, nice to meet you, Miss Alisha," Dawn said, putting out a hand.
"Oh, please, just Alisha," she said as she took Dawn's hand and shook it once. "My, my… you're so young!"
"So I'm told," Dawn shrugged.
Alisha laughed a high pitched screech of a laugh that echoed unpleasantly off the asylum's stone walls. Dawn had to fight covering her ears at the noise. Sighing, the head orderly placed a protective arm around her, leading her off up the hallway.
"Now, I'm supposed to show you your duties. They're simple enough, if all the rules are followed. Basically, since all the patients here at Arkham are also inmates, we're just here to assist the police."
As if to illustrate her point, she gestured to a fully-armed and outfitted Gotham Police Officer as the two passed the young man up. The cop tipped his hat to Dawn, who gave him a small, almost weak, smile in return. Alisha gave Dawn a tiny little hug, bringing her attention back to her trainer.
"What we do is feed the inmates, do their laundry, pick up after them—especially in the Rec Room, and so on. Just basic housekeeping type jobs. Am I going too fast?"
The two woman rounded a corner and stopped as a line of police officers, two-by-two with each pair having a single person in between them, came filing out of a room. Dawn looked up to see Alisha—who stood a couple of inches taller than she did—nit her brow worriedly. Glancing down at her watch, she sighed.
"That's early," she murmured before adding, aloud, "they must have tried to start something. See that room they're leaving from? That's the Rec Room. And it looks almost empty. Tell you what, I'm going to drop you off with another one of my orderlies in there and let you help her clean up while I help these officers move the inmates. This'll be part of your duties soon too—too soon, if you ask me, but, what with the lack of orderlies… Anyway, we'll pick up your training a little later tonight. Just stick with an orderly if you can't find me. Now, off you go!"
Dawn had decided, as she watched Alisha depart with the inmates and cops, that the head orderly was just too cheerful to be working in a place like this. She wondered, briefly, if that—like the woman's youthful appearance—was drug induced as well. As soon as the morbid parade of cops, inmates, and Alisha had cleared the doorway to the Rec Room, Dawn slipped inside.
Chairs, tables, the sofa, and game pieces were overturned and scattered everywhere. Only a single orderly, another woman who looked only two or three years older than Dawn herself, occupied the room, sighing as she went about cleaning it. The woman's brown hair was cut in a short bob and she wore navy blue scrubs with shoes almost exactly like Dawn's. Her thin lips were pressed tightly shut and her chocolate eyes were downcast. Taking another tentative step into the room, Dawn cleared her throat to announce her presence.
"Oh!" the woman said, looking up and jumping.
Dawn grinned apologetically as the woman placed a hand against her heart.
"I'm sorry. I'm Dawn… the new orderly. Alisha dropped me off in here and told me to help you clean."
"Oh, well, that's all right, then, isn't it? I'm Megan, and I'm usually stuck cleaning this stupid room by myself… and not a one of those criminals can be in here together for more than five minutes without getting into a fight with another one. Here," she said, crossing the room and pulling a pair of latex gloves from her pocket. "Ivy was in here. You don't want to touch anything with your bare hands. Learned that the hard way."
"Thanks," Dawn said, putting on the gloves quickly. She knew what horrible things that something mystical could do to you if you touched them without preparing. And she had heard all about Poison Ivy's plants and toxins. She didn't want to know what nasty things those could do to you if you touched one without gloves or any other type of protection.
Dawn immediately started setting the furniture right-side up as Megan continued to gather scattered game pieces, talking all the while.
"So, you're new here, huh? I've only been here a year myself. Oh, but the things you'll see in this place! I'm telling you… if you've got a weak stomach, get out now."
Dawn didn't say anything at first. Instead, she kept an eye on Megan, waiting to see what would happen if silence fell. The woman looked as if she was just bursting to share some of those "things" she had seen. Dawn fought down a grin. Megan was a gossip. Just what she needed to get the inside scoop on all things Joker.
"So… what kind of things are you talking about?" Dawn said, trying to make herself sound innocently curious. Which, wasn't she? Well, "innocent" might be pushing it a bit far.
But Megan just seemed happy enough to share. She started with Poison Ivy and the time she had broken out using a giant beanstalk. Following that, she spoke about an inmate known as The Ventriloquist whose wooden gangster dummy did all the thinking. Next, she talked about the time Riddler was asking riddles of anyone who brought him his food. Finally, she mentioned a name that caught Dawn's attention.
"… And, of course, you've heard about Harley Quinn, right? And what the Joker did to that woman?"
Dawn turned from her place over a trunk that she was putting away all the board games into. She had heard of Harley Quinn before… who hadn't? But she had always thought that the story she had heard had to be mostly made up. After all, the version Dawn had heard had sounded so much like a soap opera storyline it was ridiculous. So, in interest of hearing what could possibly be the "true" story of the Joker and his infamous sidekick/henchwoman/girlfriend, she shook her head.
"I've heard of her," Dawn said, almost instantly in reply to the shocked look on Megan's face. "I just don't know that much about her."
"Oh, child, then let me tell you!" Megan said, leaving behind the little bit of cleaning she was doing to move, conspiratorially, towards Dawn. Lowering her voice, she added, "Not that this is that big of a secret… I mean, everyone in Gotham knows, but I don't think the doctors here like it mentioned much. You see, Quinn used to be a psychiatrist here."
Dawn had heard that. But, she feigned surprised and nodded for her fellow orderly to continue.
"She was looking, basically, for a get-rich-quick route. You know, write a tell-all book? So, who better than Gotham's own insane public enemy number one, the Joker? But… he knew how to get to her. That's how tricky he is, you know. She's not the first doctor he's gotten to in some way or another. But she is the first that has ever falling in love with him."
Now Dawn was surprised. Everything that Megan had told her was exactly what she had heard. She had always been skeptical of the story for more reasons than just the whole soap opera thing. In truth, she had just had trouble believing that any human… an honest to God human could have that big of an effect on a fellow human being in such a short time—since the story Dawn had heard had taken place over a period of only six or so months. Months! Only months to break a woman's mind in half and rob her of her sanity and, frankly, her self-respect. Six months just couldn't be right. That had to be the part that was fabricated.
"How long did it take him to, you know, trick her or whatever?" Dawn whispered, unable to help herself from glancing over her shoulder towards the door.
Megan shrugged. "Poor Miss Quinn… six months. Alisha here remembers it all. She's worked here for years, you know."
Dawn felt her body begin to shake. Was the Joker really that dangerous? Everyone and everything she encountered kept telling her so, but she had dealt with demons spit from the very mouth of Hell. Surely he couldn't be as bad as that… could he?
"You okay, chickie? I haven't scared you off, have I?" Megan asked, suddenly, her voice thick with concern.
Dawn blinked herself back into reality. Dangerous or not… a Summers girl did what a Summers girl had to do. Forcing a smile onto her face, she shook her head.
"Nah… just thinking. I mean, it's horrible, isn't it? I'm amazed Hollywood hasn't snatched this story up," she said, turning away to finish putting away the trunk of games.
Megan laughed. "You're telling me."
It took a little while after that for the two of them to finish cleaning the room… just enough time for Dawn to look up and see Alisha walking by. She turned, saying a quick good-bye to Megan, and caught up with the head orderly.
"Alisha, hey!" she said as the woman turned.
"Dawn, I was just looking for you. Sorry I was gone so long. Once I got done with the inmates, I was snatched up for several other somethings. Is the Rec Room clean?"
"Yeah, nothing left but the dusting that Megan was finishing up when I left."
Alisha nodded, glancing down at her watch. Shaking her head, she laughed.
"Where does the time go? You've only got about an hour left on shift tonight. I'm sorry I didn't get to show you more. We'll pick this up tomorrow, right? You're on schedule?"
Dawn blinked. "I'm not sure. I haven't picked it up yet… probably get that at the front desk, right?"
"Okay. I'll make sure to grab it before I take off… which reminds me. Why don't I take a walk around the cells, make sure that everything is okay?"
She hadn't figured that her first night of work would leave her with much opportunity to get close to the Joker. After all, she knew that this whole "mission" was going to be a slow process. But she had to snatch every chance she could, and this was one of them. Alisha beamed at her.
"Well, it's been years since we've had such a dedicated worker. Most of these people just want to work and dash. Really, I can't blame them. Every moment here is a moment of putting yourself in harm's way, I won't lie. So, go ahead and check… but be careful. I can't stress that enough."
"I'm just a big ol' caution sign," Dawn said, turning away from her boss and taking off up the hall.
She walked slowly past officers who nodded politely at her, trying her best to look like she gave a damn about the rest of the inmates. Of course, she wouldn't lie to herself. As she passed by the cells of some of the more famous inmates—Poison Ivy, Two-Face, and the Riddler, just to name a few—she spared a peek inside, curiosity getting the best of her. However, as the hall became emptier and emptier, she came upon the one cell she had sought.
She stopped in front of the giant glass wall and stared inside, much in the same way one might stare into a deadly animal's cage at the zoo. She lifted her hand, about to rest it on the glass, when she stopped. Thinking better of it, she lowered it, clenching it into a fist at her side.
That pane of glass was the only thing separating her from the sleeping figure of the Joker. Her sister's salvation. She watched as his chest rose and fell rhythmically, listening as he snored lightly—a ghoulish grin stretching his face even in sleep. She licked her lips quickly as a million crazy thoughts flew through her mind. The hall was empty. She could just break him out, and… And what? Just politely ask him for a vial of his blood in hopes that he would part with it out of gratitude? No. There was only one way to do this, and that wasn't it. She took a single step back as he stirred in his sleep. Glancing around, she saw that the hall was still empty, but that one of the non-famous criminals was staring a little too closely at her. She eyed the man before sighing.
She had time. Not a world of it… but more than she could have ever hoped for, given the situation. She would get what she need… just not tonight. Shaking her head, she turned and took off back the way she had come.
If she walked slowly enough, it would be time to clock out by the time she reached the front of the asylum.
End Notes: It took me forever to write this chapter.
Fun Fact: The previous chapter's title, "Almost Paradise," was based on the song of the same name by Ann Wilson and Mike Reno; it can be heard on the Footloose soundtrack.