Disclaimer: I do not own Criminal Minds or anything related to the Batman universe. I also do not own any quotes from Alice's Adventures In Wonderland.

A/N: This is set after my story For Laughs, but this can be read as a stand-alone if you wish (though a few of the background stories might throw you off). Its setting is after The Dark Knight, but with no references to The Dark Knight Rises. While it's a Nolan-verse crossover, it is also inspired by other Batman comic and cartoon storylines. For Criminal Minds, the story is set right after Gideon's departure and before Rossi's arrival (so, season 3, pre-episode 6 sometime).

I want to point out that this scenario requires a "this isn't in any way realistic" disclaimer, because we all know this wouldn't happen in any real facility. Also, forgive me for tweaking so many random characters from the Batman universe, but I hope you enjoy their adjusted (Nolan-ized) stories.

Also, for those who might want to know, this story is a total of four chapters long, so it's shorter than For Laughs (an estimated 20-24k).

Chapter 1: Wake Up With a Smile

'But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.
'Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: 'we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad.'
'How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.
'You must be,' said the Cat, 'or you wouldn't have come here.'

Even in his dreams, Dr. Spencer Reid was a man of logic, ever questioning the current state of his surroundings. Because it made no sense, not really, that he'd be standing in a pitch black bathroom, yet still be able to see himself in the mirror above the equally lit but unlit sink. Likewise, he knew without a doubt that he'd never felt the pain of the scars on his face, yet there they were, the evidence of his mutilation, in the reflection.

He reached up, touching his cheeks but not really registering the feel of the lumped, pink line of butchered tissue.

"This is a dream," he said, to himself.

But it wasn't a reassurance. It was a joke, met with a smile in the reflection. His very own permanent smile.

"This is a dream," he whispered again. This time it came out more jovial, the grin in his very voice, so genuine.

It needed to be gone. It needed to stop.

Somewhere in the darkness, a clown chuckled: "Admit it, Doctor Reid. Deep down you're a freak, just like me."

Spencer reached up, clasping his head between his hands, clawing his fingernails into the skin. They dug deeper than he expected, wet droplets tickling his scalp, then splattering on the white sink below. But he didn't let go. Instead, he only curled his fingers in tighter and pulled down. A wet rip sounded as his face peeled off his skull, the pitter-patter of blood like rain in his ears.

"Kiddo, you're a hoot."

The noise woke him. He could have told himself it was more likely snores than laughter that had awoken him, left his throat sore from use and a cold sweat on his brow. But that would be a lie. He pushed himself up, sliding his legs off the mattress, and hesitated there, on the edge of the bed, pinching the bridge of his nose between two fingers as he tried to get his bearings. Outside, a late summer rain was falling.

Each drop pinging dully against the small balcony, like blood on a sink.

He repressed a shiver by pushing himself up onto his feet and crossing the distance to the sliding glass door, but he didn't look out at the city past the curtains. He knew, from memory, exactly what he'd see. Gotham by morning was just as gothic and looming from the condominiums next to the river as it had been from downtown, just as gray and dank in the summer as it had been last time he was here, in the winter. Thankfully, though, it wasn't as cold.

The tap on the door startled him, but Spencer recovered quickly. "Just a minute."

Hotch was standing in the short hallway, still in his sweats, and despite the early hour, his gaze was alert. Spencer wondered if the agent had heard him having the nightmare.

"How did you sleep?" Hotch asked.

Spencer shrugged, then gave the room an awkward half smile. The bed was plush, welcoming in its unmade form, and covered in linens that probably cost as much as Spencer's entire wardrobe.

"Bruce really spares no expense," he answered.

Hotch let out a short huff of agreement, but he didn't comment on the fact that the condo should have been far outside their allotted price range. Spencer had taken up Bruce Wayne's offer of hospitality before he'd known Agent Hotchner would be joining him in his interviews at Arkham Asylum, and when the older agent had been told where they were staying, Spencer had almost expected him to argue the point. Instead, Hotch had given him a narrow look, as if trying to read his expression, before dropping the subject.

Spencer knew his team had never been certain of the true identity of Gotham's vigilante, the Batman. But he also knew that they'd never really tried to find out. Not by the end. And when Spencer had made his statements, after he'd been interviewed by the board, they'd all pretended to believe that Spencer didn't know who was wearing the mask.

He was sure that they, much like Commissioner Jim Gordon, didn't want to know. Knowing would mean having to act. At this point, they all owed the vigilante too much to want to have to choose between doing their jobs and doing the right thing.

For Spencer, though, it was no choice at all, and he was sure J.J. at least felt the same, even if she didn't bear that burden of knowledge. After all, both of them had been saved by Batman when they'd been kidnapped by two equally crazed but vastly different madmen during their last case in the city.

Without realizing it, Spencer reached up with one hand, touching the small crescent moon shaped scar along his hairline, where the Joker had once dug his thumb nail into the delicate skin there, promising to make him 'the man without a face'. There was a matching mark on the other side of his scalp. Just a few of the many small souvenirs the clown left on his body to help him remember his first trip to Gotham. Not that he needed a bit of help in that department.

Things could have been much worse, he knew. Somehow that realization was always more of a horror than a relief.

The memory must have showed on Spencer's face, because he saw Hotch take an aborted step forward before catching himself.

"I'm fine," Spencer said, before the question could be asked.

Hotch didn't look convinced. "It's not necessary that you return to Arkham. Your interview yesterday didn't indicate that the Joker would be any more forthcoming today."

"The interview you've been waiting for is in two hours," Spencer reminded him.

"I know." The frown on his face said that Hotch wasn't looking forward to his visit. "And it's one I can't miss, unfortunately. However, that doesn't mean you have to attend. I can handle the Falcone assessment on my own. Why don't you call Mr. Wayne so you can reschedule your proposal for today?"

Spencer tried not to flinch. He'd blurted out the excuse for contacting Bruce while they were in Gotham, but it wasn't entirely a lie. The billionaire playboy was also a philanthropist with an interest in psychology and medicine, and Spencer had wanted to bring up some ideas concerning a fundraiser for an alternative city sanitarium while he was visiting. That, however, required actually meeting with Bruce again. Spencer had taken enough sideways looks from his team when he'd requested the interviews with the Joker, but Bruce, or should he say 'Batman', because that seemed to be the personality who'd answered his phone call, had been bluntly against it, despite offering to put him up while he was in the city.

"You're one of his victims." He'd heard that from so many people, he was getting sick of the words. As if that was the reason he shouldn't be there, in a room with him again. As if that was supposed to mean he couldn't do his job.

Maybe they were right. Spencer was almost certain the Joker was playing a game with him, promising to tell him where the body of one of his many random victims was stowed if he returned again ("oh, it's a funny story, kiddo - a real gut-buster"), but the profiler had his own reasons for wanting to continue the interview. He hated that most of those reasons centered around curiosity.

"I'm going," Spencer said. He stared past Hotch, at the wall behind him, where a framed picture of Gotham's cityscape was hanging on the wall, gray-scaled and a perfect match to the apartment's overly-modern décor. It seemed there was no real escaping the view. Spencer let out a tired chuckle. "You know, it would make sense, that we'd visit the asylum each time we're in Gotham, considering the city's founders."

Hotch raised a brow in question.

"Not much is known about the earliest history of Gotham Village, only that it originated in the seventeen century, and that there's a rather famous myth about its founding." Spencer leaned against the frame of the door, eyes still glued on the picture. He wondered if there was anything behind it. One of the Batman's secret weapon lockers - he was certain the vigilante had them planted all over the city. "The first dwelling in the village was an asylum. It was supposed to be a chapel, but a sanatorium was built instead. Rumor has it, the change was made after the village's first two residents were implicated in a series of murders. One of them used his partner as a scapegoat, committing him to the asylum he so charitably had built."

"Is the story true?"

"Which part?" Spencer asked. He shrugged one shoulder in reply. "That Gotham was founded on murder and madness or that an asylum has always been at its heart?"

"We should leave in an hour if we're going to make our schedule." Hotch stared at him a moment longer before shaking his head. "I made breakfast. At least get a bite to eat before we leave."

"Thanks, Hotch."

Spencer shut the door as soon as the man turned, then leaned his weight into it. One more time. He'd see the Joker one last time. Because a part of him had to.

He wanted to help the Joker remember how he got those scars, and he needed to know if it was true, if murdering madmen were simply drawn to this place, like moths to a flame. Despite being a man of logic, Dr. Reid believed that, maybe, they were.

This was her world, and she knew her place in it. That is to say, on top. Above all the rest, as was her birthright as The Roman's eldest, and, it was her long overdue duty as heir to take back her father's throne.

The sounds of fists meeting flesh were becoming a bit too rhythmic, and she was growing bored, waiting for her boys to finish. Taking a deep draw off the end of her tortoise shell cigarette holder, she tapped the slender tube between two gloved fingers, leaving a trail of ash in her wake as she stepped away from the town car.

Her thick heels clicked loudly against the cement floor, but all other noise ceased at her appearance.

Two men remained on their knees, breathing heavily through broken noses and busted lips. Her flunkies moved behind them, holding them up by their collars.

"Gentlemen," she said, loathing and smoke dripping from her dark berry-stained lips.

The biggest between the pair of beaten sacks of flesh looked up at her through one swollen eye, sneering enough for her to see the bloody gap where his front teeth used to be. "We ain't tellin' you nuthin', you big ugly bitch."

Sofia's face didn't betray her amusement. She took no offense to what some street rat had to say, but she did enjoy the edge of fear in his voice. She knew her appearance, and her reputation, had that effect on people. Sofia was under no illusion concerning her own beauty, and she was thankful that she'd been born without the delicacy that so many of the pathetic socialites with which she was forced to mingle prized in their women. No, she was tall, and thick, and powerful, in every aspect.

Her recent marriage to Rocco had been a good fit, not just for business, but for the addition of his descriptive surname: Gigante. If these pitiful second-rate crime lords thought that the name Falcone was done-for since her father's fall from power, they'd at least have a new name to learn to fear.

"Oh?" she said. "So, you won't be telling me that you're working for Rupert Thorne, then?"

The beaten thug winced. "We don't work for no Thorne - "

"Quiet," she ordered and let out a slow sigh when the second man folded forward, spitting up a puddle of bile and blood. "Your boss thinks he can take over where Sal Maroni left off, does he? Well, Maroni's dead, gentlemen, and the Roman may have fallen, but a Falcone is back on the throne. Thorne thinks he can move product into my city without running it past me? I'm afraid he's gravely mistaken."

The more talkative of the pair was pulled up a bit straighter. He swallowed hard, losing a bit of his cockiness. "I'll give 'em your message."

This time she did smile. "That's unnecessary. I think I'd rather speak to him directly."

She gave her boys a nod and turned her back. The flick of a knife's blade and a wet choke joined the sound of her clicking heels. Her driver opened the door for her and she folded her over-sized body back into the town car just as her phone buzzed from inside her purse.

She pulled it free with a frown. Her good mood was quickly disappearing as the sound of a Russian accent filled her ear.

"I hear news of your father, Sofia. There is word that the Roman is not as crazy as he appears. What do you suppose will happen to our new agreement if my people find out a sane Carmine Falcone is being questioned by the FBI?"

"I didn't take you for a gossip, Anatoli."

"Your father's recovery is making many people very nervous. If it's true, we need to know if it's…being handled."

She took another draw off her cigarette, biting back her annoyance. "It doesn't matter if it's true, my friend. Arrangements have already been made. This time tomorrow, my father will no longer be a problem."

"And you will also have claimed his former seat in front of the other families as your own. How convenient for you." The man on the line chuckled softly. "Well played, Sofia. I'll be sure to send my condolences."

Sofia slipped her phone back into her purse and stared out the tinted window at the warehouse district as the car rolled away from it. The smoke of her cigarette left a bitter taste in her mouth. "My kingdom," she muttered, her hard face stoic. "The king is dead, long live the queen."

The halls of the Elizabeth Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane were haunted, at least by some definition of the word. Without a doubt, they had seen murder and mayhem, and they were quiet but never silent, always filled with the muffled sounds of both the victims and the villains of those crimes. Only, the ghosts still lived, locked in their rooms, drugged, forgotten.

Supervisory Special Agent Aaron Hotchner had not, until this week, had a reason to visit the asylum, but he now understood why both Gideon and Reid had been so shaken during their last case in Gotham, after they'd both been sent to the sanitarium to investigate the escape of the Joker. To his regret, the team's paperwork documenting the asylum's questionable records, methods, and security did little good, but for one change. Where in the past the BAU had not been able to successfully schedule interviews with the inmates of Arkham, during this visit both Agent Hotchner and Dr. Reid had been permitted as much time as necessary.

"Spooky place, isn't it?"

Hotch gave the security officer to his side a glance. It was the same escort he'd had the previous day, a wide-shouldered African American man who seemed to have a decent respect for his post. Which was saying something, considering the disgruntled guards he'd met on his way in. Dangerous and underpaying, the position obviously wasn't to be prized amongst Gotham's working class.

"There's nothing here worth being afraid of," the man, Cash, added.

Hotch knew the officer was attempting to comfort him, and he imagined that most of the guests who visited the island probably needed the reassurance. And perhaps he did as well. It was easy to imagine one getting lost down the maze of hallways in this old wing of the asylum, the building containing the Intense Treatment ward. The usual interview room in the medical wing had been more modern, less brick and mortar, and there were more basic comforts for the visiting agents. Their guns weren't far away, at the entry gate, and they'd been allowed their phones. Hotch knew his favorite technical guru, Garcia, would by gleeful if she knew that her boss felt naked without that tiny chunk of technology at his side. Its confiscation only intensified the dread sense of being lost that Arkham created.

And Hotch was certain that, if he was fighting off that feeling, Reid was likely ten times as anxious. Especially with his mother's mental health history.

"You'll be escorting me to Falcone?" he asked, instead of disagreeing with Officer Cash.

Cash nodded, jutting his chin out at the three walking a few yards in front of them, a stocky orderly twice the size of most the guards, followed by Spencer and the psychiatrist currently overseeing the Joker's treatment. She was younger than Hotch had expected for such a high profile case, but with Reid on his team, he knew better than to make assumptions about her qualifications. As if she'd heard his thoughts, the blond woman glanced over her shoulder at the agent, smiling reassuringly.

"Turner will be with Dr. Reid and Dr. Quinzel. A pair of officers will be on watch while they're working too. One wrong move and Turner's been given permission to sedate the Joker, whether Dr. Reid is finished with him or not."

"Good." Hotch kept his voice low, hoping to not be overheard by the group. "I notice the guards stick close to the other personnel. Is that a requirement?"

"Is on my watch," Cash replied, just as quietly. "But especially here. This ward isn't usually where these sort of interviews are conducted. It's inmate quarters mostly, for those in intensive treatment. The dangerous ones."

Hotch had noticed. The day before, they'd been at the front of the medical facility, in a secured room, much like the interrogation and visitation rooms he'd been to in the past. "What's changed?"

Cash snorted. "Apparently the Joker didn't want to get out of bed this morning. Dr. Quinzel talked the director into letting the interview be moved to a more 'comfortable location' for the clown." He lifted the taser gun out of its belt holster slightly. "But there's nothing to worry about, Agent Hotchner. The inmate'll be restrained the entire time, and he's not that much threat without something sharp and pointy. Your man will be safe during the visit."

Somehow the officer's body language wasn't very comforting, but Hotch didn't comment on it.

Hotch had met with the new temporary medical director, Dr. Joan Leland, the previous day, and he'd quickly established that she ruled by the handbook, a quality which was lacking in her predecessors. She'd made it very clear that an agent from the FBI was there only because powers greater than herself had pulled the right strings and asked him to provide an accurate outside assessment on Carmine Falcone's improving mental health, and she'd been rather blunt about her thoughts on the matter. Hotch had respected her almost instantly, but he couldn't help but wonder why someone so rigid with procedure had allowed Dr. Reid unlimited time to interview the Joker.

Dr. Leland had shifted the conversation when he'd phrased that as a question, and Hotch had his answer. The administrator, Dr. Jeremiah Arkham, must have signed off on the requests. Since Arkham would be overseeing the Falcone interview directly, Hotch hoped to have the chance to speak to the man afterward. He'd read up on Dr. Arkham after the last riot in the asylum and something about the man's statement, not to mention the asylum's colorful history under his administrative rule, had been off-putting.

Hotch hadn't told Dr. Reid that he'd tried to get his interview with the Joker withdrawn. He was sure Spencer was already well aware of what his team thought of this trip. The younger man didn't need another reason to doubt himself. Hotch could only hope that Reid found answers to whatever questions he really needed to ask, and that the asking didn't damage Reid's mental health in the process.

The group up ahead had come to a stop in front of the last room down the corridor, and as Hotch caught up, he could hear Dr. Quinzel speaking to Reid about their visit. Her bright blue eyes were wide with more than professional excitement as she leaned closer to the door.

Reid stared at her, lips parted slight, as if he were looking for an opportunity to cut her off, and Hotch couldn't help the slight curve of his mouth. Reid had been blushing when he'd mentioned the psychiatrist's eagerness to work with him on the Joker's case; it looked as if the BAU's youngest had yet to shake off the woman's enthusiasm.

Hotch caught Reid's eye, giving him a short nod. He wanted to offer to stay for the interview, but he already knew what Reid's answer would be.

Still, Hotch felt a wave of protectiveness surface in him. His wife, Hailey, had left just a few months ago, taking with her his little Jack. His real family was breaking away from him, and after Elle, then Gideon…he didn't want to see his team, his other family, fracture just as easily. He wasn't the kind of man to admit as much, or to let the dread he was feeling show on his face, but it was there, a sense of foreboding: Reid can never forget what the Joker did.

Reid peaked out from behind the orderly and gave Hotch a tight-lipped smile, his own nerves showing in the tightening of his throat as he swallowed deeply. "See you in two hours," he said, quietly.

Hotch nodded and turned to follow Officer Cash up a short set of steps, past a security check-point door, and down the next corridor, one just as haunted as the last.

"Where will Falcone be moved for the assessment?" Hotch asked, resisting the urge to look over his shoulder.

"Dr. Arkham has an office in this wing, so he can meet with inmates currently undergoing intensive treatment. He asked that Mr. Falcone be moved there." The small shake of Cash's head seemed to indicate that he didn't think much of the administrator, but Hotch was too distracted to question it.

Something about this wasn't right. Morgan was usually the one to point out that instinct was there for a reason, and at the moment, Hotch was sure every hair on the back of his neck was standing.

This time Hotch did look over his shoulder, and he came to a full stop as he did. He watched the empty hallway behind him, staring at the corner, where it turned off into the corridor where he'd left Reid. Even through the security door, he could still hear a murmur, the slightly pitched sound of Dr. Quinzel's voice. A moment later, there was the metallic click of a door shutting in the distance and her voice was muted, but another voice replaced it, a man's. It sounded loud. Angry.

Hotch's brow wrinkled in thought.

"Officer, didn't you say two guards would be arriving for Dr. Reid's interview?"

Cash followed his gaze. "Turner can handle it on his own." But he said it with a frown. "You're right, though. The guys were supposed be making their way here from their patrol around the ward." He glanced down at his watch. "Their route was supposed to end five minutes ago. They should have met them at the door…That sounds like Turner shouting something..."

Hotch listened closely a split second longer. Cash was right - the sound in the distance had evolved into shouts. "The Joker wouldn't leave his room," he said, almost to himself. Then he started to move again, in the direction that they'd just left. Cash was at his side, not stopping to question him. In fact, the other man seemed to pick up speed, drawing a few steps ahead so he could get to the keypad.

Until the moment a siren sounded. A rolling red light flashed from the upper corner of the wall. Both men paused, surprised by the alarm. Then, just as quickly as it had began, the siren died. Along with every light and alarm in the corridor, leaving the pair standing in complete darkness.

The door was like every other door down the corridor, steel standing between two brick walls, the small window above the locked food tray slat at its center just like every other window in every other door. It was what, who, was behind it that distracted Spencer.

Inside, the lighting was dim. Most of the quarters were the same. The patients, the inmates, seemed to prefer the shadows to the too-bright sterility of the examination and group rooms. Spencer could make out the features of the room but just barely. The single bed was close to one side wall, and at its farthest corner sat a figure, hunched forward slightly, legs pulled up and crossed. It was too dark inside for Spencer to see the man's features, but he could remember them well, those puckered scars, painted over to form a constant, mocking grin, despite the murder in their owner's eyes.

Spencer swallowed hard. He knew Hotch was only a few yards away. It wasn't too late to call him back, ask him to stay. But he held back the urge.

"…Despite the lack of personal history on file, I'd venture to say that the Joker is the most fascinating inmate currently residing at Arkham. You know how it is - people would kill for a chance to work on a case like his. It's a once in a lifetime opportunity."

Spencer realized that Dr. Quinzel wasn't finished speaking, but he cut her off, his brow wrinkled when he turned to face her. "Yesterday, he told me you provided him with the make-up."

Dr. Quinzel blinked up at him from over her reading glasses, her blue eyes wide, and she pressed the patient file she'd been reviewing to her chest. "You don't agree with my choice…" The disappointment in her voice was clear, but she recovered quickly, her answer coming out sharp and her slight Brooklyn accent becoming a bit more pronounced. "Yes, I gave it to him, Dr. Reid. If you'd seen him during his first few months here, without it, you might understand why I made that decision."

"What was he like during those months?"

She glanced away, at the window he'd been staring through, a frown on her face. "He lost his sense of humor," she said, softly.

There was a time when Spencer wouldn't have been able to contain his own thoughts, when he would have automatically spouted out the exact nature of her fascination with the Joker and noted that her efforts were in vain, that she'd never be able to fix the Joker. When he would have pointed out that beneath her smart, friendly exterior, she was ambitious to the point of obsessing over her current study - a quality that could, if it hadn't already, lead her to a dark place. A quality the Joker would find amusing.

No wonder the Joker seemed to like his new doctor. She was providing him all the entertainment he could stand. How many of his scar stories had he told her? Or had he just picked one, a tale to capture her sympathy, make her believe all his pieces could be put back together again? Spencer winced at the thought - he'd been in her shoes before.

But Spencer didn't comment on her treatment or warn her to stop. Not yet. He was too distracted by what was in front of him.

Dr. Quinzel pressed a button beside the keypad, and the hollow sound of static dead air followed a click. She leaned into the speaker beside the door. "Mr. Joker, this is Dr. Quinzel and Dr. Reid. We're here for your interview. Please stay on the far side of the room."

Past the door's window, the Joker didn't move from his cross-legged pose.

Dr. Quinzel released the button. Another click, and then she turned back to Spencer. "Not that he has a choice," she reassured. "Dr. Leland insists we keep them restrained during anything outside of their daily schedules, especially visits." She flashed another of her girlish smiles, lowering her voice. "I think it's a bit extreme, what with the extra security, but gotta make the boss happy, don't we?"

Spencer didn't think it was extreme enough. He swallowed hard, then cocked his head in thought.

"Where are the guards?" he asked, the words little more than a whisper, as if he thought the Joker might hear him from inside. As soon as he voiced the question, it nudged at something in his memory, some factoid trying to get his attention.

Dr. Quinzel was too focused to hear him. She muttered something to Turner, the burly orderly beside her, about sedatives while typing a number into the keypad. The door release was louder than the intercom.

Dr. Quinzel stepped inside and Spencer followed, instinctively. The orderly's towering shadow fell over his back as the man waited at the doorway. A fleeting, ghostly touch on his spine made Reid stop, though, and he knew better than to ignore that chill. Before the woman in front of him moved closer to the cot, before she ever sucked in a breath of shock, Spencer had already realized what was wrong with this picture:

The guards - his eyes widened in horror. He'd noted the guards' schedule the day before, in passing, and his memory had tucked away the random piece of information. If that sign-in was correct, the guards should have been finished with their route before any visitors arrived down this corridor. Because they were the ones who, as Dr. Quinzel pointed out, had to restrain the patient.

He didn't have to see what she'd just seen. He knew that wasn't the Joker sitting on the bed.

The ghostly touch became more solid, fingers gripping on to the back of his sweater vest and jerking. He tripped over his feet and hit the wall beside the door hard enough to knock the breath from his lungs. The door slammed shut, Turner's massive fists pounding against it almost as soon as the lock clicked into place.

Spencer let out a gasping breath, slipping down onto one knee, where he could see the body of a man laying beside him, just out of sight from the room's small window. Hidden, just like his attacker had been. It was still, plastic cuffs on the wrists, and wearing a security uniform - after a second's beat, the officer's body shifted slightly with the deep breath of the unconscious. Spencer let out his own breath of relief and turned, seeing Dr. Quinzel perched on the edge of the bed, fingers against the neck of the figure they'd thought was the Joker - from this angle, Spencer could see that the patient's jumpsuit was right, but the body inside it was wrong. When the woman pulled her hand away, it covered in something dark, liquid, but she was calmer than she had a right to be.

The other guard, he guessed, was also still alive.

A foot nudged his leg, and Spencer's pulse jumped. The air rushed out of him, shaky, and he could hear the orderly outside the door swearing as the keypad let out an offending tune. But, at the moment, Turner might as well have been a mile away, because Spencer knew who was wearing those glossy black shoes that had just tapped him.

He lifted his chin, staring up, and the Joker was staring down at him, face painted white, smile a smear of red, and faded green in his wild hair. The shadows hid his eyes from sight. The clown was perfectly still a moment before he let out a bored sigh and used the taser gun in his hand to wipe imaginary dust off of the shoulder of the security guard uniform he was wearing.

Spencer shrunk down against the wall. "Joker."

The Joker's grin widened. He cocked his head, voice pitched high with amusement when he spoke. "Hey, kiddo. Glad you could, ehh, make it." He straightened, his voice chipper. "And just in time, too."

Spencer's mouth opened, but before he could reply, the dim light above blinked once and disappeared, leaving him in total darkness.

It was time.

His eyes were closed, but he could feel it, the moment the lights went out. It was a wave of energy, passing over him. His calling, making itself known.

He sat in the blackness of his room, staring at it, in search, and he stayed that way until a dim red glow outside the small window of his door lit the space in front of him, announcing that the system had been reset. A round of clicks sounded, starting at one end of the corridor, reaching his door, and moving on to the next, like falling dominoes. It was the locking mechanism, releasing as the security system rebooted. Just as he'd been told it would.

He smiled.

The expression was genuine. For Victor Zsasz, it had been too long since he'd been able to carve another scar into his skin, rid the world of another useless zombie just waiting for his blade.

He reached down into his cot, pulling free a small piece of sharpened metal, and then stood.

It was time.