Co-Written by Irishlad & Joygirl
Chapter 5: Last Laugh
She remembered all of it… it came back to her in flashes as she made her way up that last few flights of stairs. So many memories, so much history. She was on her way to destroy the man who had created her life, to kill The Joker.
It seemed like such a long time ago, despite only having been a few years, since she had met him. They had met where the loony birds sang, in Arkham Asylum… maybe not the best first date, but it was enough for her. He had been so handsome… those lean features, that sleek green hair, those kissable lips. He had charmed the pants off of her within a month, and he’d mentioned something. Something he needed help with. A plan that the Batman had, something he had to stop.
She had regretted it, after she did it. She regretted it, but she let him out anyway – after that black-caped monster had beaten the tar out of her baby, after all he had done to the Joker, she owed him that one kindness. He had gone after the Bat and things had… gone rough. That hot-headed brat of his had tried to hurt him, and he had done what he had to do… sure he was just a kid. Sure he was probably brainwashed by Bat-face. But sometimes, Mista J… he could get carried away.
When she had heard the kid was dead she’d been devastated. She had sworn off Joker, she’d stopped all therapy and switched him over to Dr. Stevens. But when she had seen him in his cell, calmly going through therapy, that smile of his turned into a frown… she couldn’t bear it. Only when he saw her passing by his cell did Joker show that grin of his, that beautiful smile. Every time she saw that smile it killed her inside. She had tried to close up the Jack-in-the-Box… but every time she walked away from it, it bounced back in her face. She could never stop loving him.
And yet, when she had sent Mr. Stevens… “on vacation”… and taken her position back as Joker’s therapist, he wouldn’t speak to her again. He wouldn’t even look at her. He pretended she wasn’t there.
She couldn’t blame him. Not after she had left him alone, left him there with those… those doctors, those idiots who would never understand the way his mind worked, the way he saw the world. Only she could understand him that way, understand his pain, and the things he had lost, and the way he had coped with that pain. Joker’s insanity was far healthier than so many “sane” people. Joker didn’t hate himself, didn’t turn the destruction and anger inward. He was just a little rough around the edges, was all. His sense of humor was a beautiful thing, and the other doctors would only try to give him meds or make him “better”.
She had done something drastic. Something for his acceptance, for his forgiveness, for his love. She knew where his accident had occurred, the chemicals that had made him the way he was. It had seemed crazy at the time… but then, aren’t we all a little crazy when we’re in love?
She had leapt into that vat, that same vat that had hurt her baby. At first it seemed like she would drown as those thick, noxious fluids filled her mouth and nose, coating her skin and pouring into her lungs. She didn’t care – she had to do it for her baby.
When she finally washed out into the river and let out that first cough, and took that first new breath, everything had seemed to change. She saw things… differently. Saw them the way that they really were, saw them the way that the Joker did. Now she truly understood. Now it made sense.
It was all a joke, a big, elaborate, and utterly hilarious practical joke.
Clip... clop... clip... clop….
The sound of the man in the black top hat. Coming back, yet again.
He had been taking turns between him and Peter. The hoots and squeals, whether or pain or pleasure he was unsure, from the other room were a cringing reminder of what was to come. The mysterious man flicked on the phonograph that had been staring at Grifter for the past two hours.
“I love this song,” The Weeper announced softly. “Don’t you?”
Cole Cash sniffed hard and let his neck relax, staring back down to the floor. His turn again. Fortunately, Peter’s reaction to the puffer fish had freed him from the same fate… not that what had been happening to him was much better.
“Don't hang your head, please,” the soft spoken man said. “It... it won't be much longer. I promise.” The Weeper tried not to sob between words, while contorting his cheeks into an attempt at a reassuring smile. Dark, gloved hands reached forward, peeling off Cole’s mask to reveal his stubbled face “Now… there we go… some people like masks, not me, you see. I like to see a man’s eyes, his face. You can tell so much from the eyes… they are beautiful. They make me feel what you feel, they let me see your love, the torment, they let me see that you're afraid, they...oh, you're awake. Dear me.”
Grifter narrowed his eyes and lifted his exhausted head again, giving Weeper a look that bordered between broken and bored. “Why... why are you doing this to me?” He tensed his arms against the rusty, sweat-slick chains that still bound him. “W-why don’t you just %$#&ing kill me already?!” Grifter finally raised his voice, roaring with frustration and sheer desperation. Anything for the pain to end. His voice echoed through the chamber along with Weeper’s melancholy song, reminding him that, besides the man in the overcoat, he was by himself here. Alone.
Weeper creaked his head down, a deep frown shifting his leathery features as he casually placed a blade against the skin of Grifter’s arm. “Shshshshshshsh,” he whispered against Cole’s whimpers of pain as he scrawled and scraped at the man’s skin. Cole bit his teeth together, refusing to scream out. “There,” the Weeper remarked, patting his arm and pointing to a small design he had carved into it – a smiley face. “Look there! Do you see? It's Henry! You don’t have to be sad anymore, you don’t h-have to hate me. He will keep you safe while I do what I have to. It will all be over soon, I promise.”
The strange man wiped his blade on his coat before setting it back down. He stroked his chin as the blood ran down from Grifter’s arm.
“Oh my... you're dribbling.”
“Y-you’re… you’re insane….” Cole commented weakly as the awkward man reached for a towel, dabbing the blood.
“There we are,” Weeper replied, seemingly not hearing his victim. “I wouldn't want blood messing up her clean carpet.”
Grifter could feel his arm burning as the man plunged an injection shot into his open wound. His head was growing more and more woozy by the second, his body was shutting down.
“It's for the pain,” the apologetic torturer said with a sad smile. “I alwa—” SCREE.
The music playing in the background came to a sudden stop, the man gave Grifter a hollow look. “It's time, it seems. Oh, bother.”
The man leaned in close, staring at Grifter closely and reaching forward to pry one drooping, hazy eye open.
“Would you like to know how the first one died?” Cole remained silent.
“I'll take that as a yes. It was our wedding day… she was dressed from head to toe in white. She was beautiful… God, she was beautiful. I remember her hair blowing in the wind, but she betrayed me. She married my father… she said she loved him, but not like she did me. I never forgave him for taking her from me.” The man’s eyes glazed over slightly as he forced Grifter to stare into them. He was far away now.
Weeper leaned in to peck his rough, dry lips on Cole’s forehead. “Each night she would kiss me on the forehead, just like that. And tell me she loved me, you see. I was lucky, you see not many six year olds got as much affection as I did from my mother. That's why… that’s why I had to take her…” Weeper’s eyes seemed to come back into focus as he thrust a thick, mostly-dull butcher knife deeply into Cole’s shoulder. “Just like this, don’t you see? I had to stab her again and again and again, had to make her my own by robbing her of her life with my father… I regret it every day, but….”
“HRGHAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!” Grifter roared through clenched teeth, unable to bear it even with Weeper’s medication. He could feel his insides burning, blood gushing forth from his torn muscles and arteries. Tears streamed down the Weeper’s face as he drew himself close to his captive, ramming the knife into him repeatedly.
“The screams, they always make me cry… because I know… I know that the fairytale has to end now.”
The collapsing wall of razor blades had been a fun one, but ultimately impractical, as the weight of a falling razor is ultimately not enough to cause any major damage. The small cuts Harley Quinn had sustained from this last trap had healed within a matter of minutes, leaving only damage to her costume and a few splashes of blood across her pristine white flesh.
As a former psychiatrist, she had never liked the term “psyching yourself up”. It had never made a great deal of sense, really, as one’s psyche was generally not something that could be altered or overcome without a great deal of help. But now, climbing these seemingly infinite tower steps and somersaulting over an oversized pair of scissors currently hurtling across her midsection, she was in dire need of doing exactly that. Killing the man she loved, letting him go forever and ending everything. Destroying her own origin.
Not that her origin existed solely with Joker. She had been… troubled, long before him. Back in college there had been the… event with Guy Kopski. She had felt bad about what happened, and the cops had written it off as suicide, but it didn’t change the fact of what she had done. Her curiosity, her theories, had brought… misfortune, upon her boyfriend at the time.
She wouldn’t have felt quite so bad about it if her later girlfriend, Holly Chance, hadn’t suffered a similar fate as a result of a psychological experiment. That blood was on her hands.
Even before college though, she had been a little screwloose. Looking back now, when she had entered school to study psychology, she had been doing it as much for herself as for her family. She had always had those thoughts, thoughts of exactly a person can be forced to do. Ideas on how far someone will go when their chips are down. After Guy and Holly, she had learned that that distance was very far, but it wasn’t until she took her own fall for the Joker that she had truly understood it. When your world begins to fall apart, when your heart is pounding and you can’t control your feelings, when you love or fear something so intensely that death seems cheap, people can make some of the most great and terrible decisions.
I should know, she thought as she passed through the house of mirrors, alone but for Grifter’s screams and her own white-skinned reflection.
“Silence.....” The man in the overcoat and top hat said quietly as he wiped his tears. The blood from Grifter’s chest had poured down his body, dampening his jeans. Not that it mattered, he was dead, his body already beginning to cool as the blood drained from him.
“Good night, now, you poor, poor dear,” the Weeper wiped one last tear from his cheek and tried to steel himself, reaching for the light switch. His hand halted, however, when he noticed Cole Cash’s limp, hanging arm twitch suddenly.
“Hmm…? What is this?” The man turned and took another step towards Grifter, tilting his head curiously. “Oh, please don’t be alive… I could not bear ending your life once more.”
There was another small jolt, more of a twitch. Then another.
“My poor dear… did I damage your nervous system?” Weeper reached back for his knife, taking firm hold of it and drawing closer. He had no way of knowing what was happening inside Cole’s body, the way his blood circulated from the stagnant, half-warm pool in his stomach, back into his chest. Thick scabs began to slowly form under his black body-armor, and his heart began to pump spastically.
“What… are you?” Weeper whispered as a deep, ragged breath rattled against Grifter’s ribs. “I… no, dear thing, go back to sleep, it’s alright, you—“
Grifter’s eyes flickered, and then opened, seeming to ooze with a deep crimson glow.
The man that his torturer had known as Grifter, a man that had been named Cole Cash, slowly reached forward with a single arm. The chain that had bound him snapped almost casually against the extension of his muscles. The hanging man tilted his head haltingly to the side, and tenderly tapped a single fingertip against the side of the Weeper’s head.
His eyes lowered to his own body. His longcoat was gone, and now he was wearing her dress, the one she had worn on her wedding day. His mind had made the decision to show him his deepest love, his deepest hate, and his mother had become him.
“No… I can’t… she must… she must die…” Weeper’s words were a trembling coo of tranquil hatred, and he guided the thick butcher knife to his own midsection, plunging it deeply into himself. He toppled to his knees as the blade gashed through his spinal cord, but his arm kept moving, jabbing the blade into himself again and again. It didn’t matter where he stabbed himself, nothing mattered, as long as she was dead.
“No harm shall come to a Scion of Trigon.”
She could hear him. She was there, she was so close. His shrieks ranged from rage to curiosity, to pouting, to resignation, to all-out frenzy.
“Weepz?! I don’t like when you play games with me – except Guess Who, you’re pretty good at that one, hahaha, but seriously, your person is about to have a slit throat if I don’t see you back on this screen within five stinking SECONDS! And where the hell’s Jaina? She was supposed to keep you in line. And I was supposed to have a tuna fish sandwich up here by ten thirty! Jeez, what do I pay you people for?!”
He paused suddenly as Harley ascended the last few steps. The night air whipped and kissed at her cheeks, just as he had used to. It was night, and the rooftop wasn’t enclosed. It was just a massive sofa, a desk, a television set, a camera, a bag of Funyuns, and him. The Joker.
“Ah, who the hell am I kidding?” the Clown Prince of Crime squawked. “I don’t pay either of you! Hahahahahaha! Oh, for heaven’s sake. I have to confess a weakness for that Frederick’s of Hollywood get-up, sometimes I miss having that Harley kid around… at least she could whip up a decent tuna fish… I mean how hard can it be? It’s tuna and mayo! Or wait, Harley always put Smilex and capers in mine, didn’t she…? Ah well. Still, I really need a new sidekick… or at least a mediocre maid.”
“Is that what I was to you, Joker?” One of Harley’s hands slithered down to her popgun, unstrapping it and cocking it back. “A sidekick, a maid?”
Not even a flicker of concern, surprise, or unfamiliarity deigned to mar the Joker’s chalk-white, grinning countenance. He looked up slowly from the television screen, his smile gnawing at her. Her chest still ached from time to time from when the Red Hood had shot her – it had been so recent. So fresh. And this man had brought it upon her, used her feelings to save himself.
“Why Harleyyy,” he said softly, the grating rumble of his voice made her heart flutter, made her knees feel weak. “You know better than anyone how much you meant… ahem, mean, to me. That Rabbit harlot wasn’t anything to me, not even a satisfactory replacement while I waited for you to call off.” The Joker slowly stood up, casually kicking at his loveseat and sending it skidding across the rooftop.
“Is that so?” Harley said, setting her jaw tightly, though she could not stop her bottom lip from quivering. “Not even a satisfactory replacement?”
“Not even! I mean, you know how it goes, you get something you really love, accidentally flush it down the toilet, and the next model that comes out is never as good!”
“Then I did ya a favor, puddin’. Since she’s dead.”
Thomas Blake sunk his climbing claws into the cliff before him, little waves of falling pebbles and sand drifting across his masked face. He growled quietly and pulled himself up another arm’s length, and then lunged forward for the lip of the plateau. The tower was right beside him, not close enough to jump across just yet, but close enough to have a solid vantage point.
He pushed his arms straight and locked them, flipping himself over the edge of the flat clifftop and landing in a graceful crouch. His eyes gleamed darkly against the night sky, and he whirled around sharply, tattered cape swaying behind him in the cool wind.
He could see the top of the tower. A small light coming from a television screen, barely illuminating the figure of the Joker, and that of Harley Quinn.
She had made it.
Now she got to see it, the look she had been waiting for. That brief flash of… it wasn’t fear, or shock. It was concern. It was a change of mind, as the Joker realized that she meant business. It would have been the perfect moment if he hadn’t burst out into laughter mere seconds later.
“Hahaha! I bet that was one hell of a catfight! I knew ya had it in ya, kiddo! Always making your old man proud, ehehehheheheheh.” That low, dark laugh. Barely more than a giggle, but it carried a sinister promise with it.
“I didn’t do it to make you proud… I did it to get her out of the way. Because now I’m going to kill you.” She narrowed her eyes, her domino mask scrunching slightly. She was ready for this, she had to be. She swallowed hard to calm her nerves, the thrumming in her heart.
“It was kind of the team to spring most of the traps for us,” Bane growled as he skirted around the edges of yet another pit trap. Scandal was standing again, weak but mostly healed after the walk to the funhouse.
“I just hope they’re okay. We know Pete has some skills but Cole and Harley are untried on this team. I don’t know if they have what it takes to handle whatever defenses Joker has.” Scandal hissed and tapped two fingers to her wound, taking a deep breath and leaping gently over a limp pile of brightly-colored silly string made from razor wire.
“They’re okay, I think,” came a new voice, one not belonging to Bane or Scandal, but another member of the team. Grifter stepped into the light, rubbing the side of his head in agitation.
“Cole! You made it! Where’s Ragdoll and Harley?” Scandal Savage stepped forward hurriedly, quickly inspecting the masked man, specifically the bloodstains on his armor. A small gash showed, nothing too serious.
“Ragdoll’s okay I think, he has a… bit of a taste for torture. I don’t think Weeper ever found Harley, she may be at the top by now.”
“Weeper?” Bane inquired.
“It’s cool, I smoked him. Bad guy though, no sense of style.”
A loud laugh buzzed over from a nearby room, the one that Grifter had just left. He turned his head quickly, arching a brow behind his mask. “What is…?” he began, before snapping his fingers. “The TV! Quick, come on, I think we may see what Joker’s up to. The torture rooms have TV screens in them.”
Bane glanced over to Scandal for a moment, his own mask speaking nothing of any expressions he may or may not have had. The woman nodded back solidly and rushed after Grifter.
The room that Cole had been exiting contained the corpse of a man in an overcoat, multiple stab wounds riddling his body and a gore-caked blade laying a few feet away. The television screen was lit, and flickering softly. Two voices could be heard – that of the Joker, and that of Harley Quinn.
“Aww… Harley. Punkinpie. Don’t be like that… we all know how this goes. You could never kill the man who loves you.” He took a step forward, making Harley’s foot shift instinctively, though how she was not sure. Her body pulled her towards him, pulled her to caress that creased white skin, but her mind was reviled by the sight of him, and everything that he represented. All the callous slaughter she had committed in his name.
His voice dropped an octave. “And you know I love you, right Harley?” The Joker’s freshly melodic baritone seeped through his grin, more a threat than a declaration. A shiver ran through the clowngirl’s chest, and she set her jaw.
“Ya love me, huh?” she whispered. “Ya really do?”
“Of course I do, toots. Babydoll. Sugarlips. How could I not? Sweet little psychopathic tyke like you, what would I do without ya?”
“…I don’t know.” Another whisper. She was almost paralyzed with her feelings, and set her boot in front of her, taking one more step forward. Her weak fingers slipped, her popgun falling out of her hands and landing with a thud on the stone rooftop. She suppressed a shiver when his arms closed around her shoulders.
“I love you, Harley,” he whispered.
“..Yeah…?” She looked up at him, into those dazzling, bloodshot emerald eyes. “Did ya love me when you threw me out of that hot air balloon?”
His charming, glimmering grin faltered, twisted into an expression of perverse confusion. “Well, I, uh—“
“How about when ya fed me to your laughin’ fish? Did ya… did ya love me, then?”
“Well, of course baby, but I mean, fish need to eat…” he unfolded his arms from around her, taking a hesitant step back. Harley’s big blue eyes flashed with passion, with a fiery heat – but this time, it wasn’t love.
“Did ya love me when ya rigged that giant toy axe to decapitate me?” She took another step forward, hunching up her shoulders and setting her sights on the Joker. She didn’t see what she once did, didn’t see that purple-suited heartthrob. She saw an animal, a monster, a rabid dog that could never love someone besides himself.
“Well that was a gag, baby, I mean, where’s your sense of humor? Ahaha, I mean, um, can’t ya take a joke?” His laugh sounded nervous. He was trying to play every card, trying to manipulate her.
She closed in with a hard right cross, driving her fist into the green-haired villain’s jaw and sending him stumbling backwards, clutching his face. “Baby, I--!”
“Did ya love me when you put me in a rocket and aimed it at the moon?” She pursued him as he backpedaled, slamming a knee upward and under his guard, pounding into his solar plexus and knocking the wind out of him. “Huh? Did ya, puddin’?! Did ya love me then?!”
The Joker glanced from Harley, to the night sky behind him. She had followed him to the edge the tower, to the hundred-foot drop below the crumbling stone ledge. He pressed himself backwards against a parapet, breathing heavily through his teeth.
“I asked you a question! Did you love me then?! How about when you put me in the way of the Red Hood’s bullet?” She rocketed one foot downwards, crushing into Joker’s instep and forcing him to slide downwards with a pained cry, his back still forced against the parapet.
“Harley, punkin’, that was just a—“ he quickly cut himself off by reaching into one of the many hidden pockets in his waistcoat, throwing a lightning-quick volley of sharpened playing cards at his old sidekick. Harley sidestepped with agility the Clown Prince hadn’t thought possible, only a single card whizzing by to slice into her cheek. The Joker offered an innocent, helpless smile as she launched a roundhouse, sending him sprawling back across the rooftop, away from the relative safety of the parapet.
“Haha, b-baby, I mean, obviously I’ve made a few mistakes, but I’ve always loved you, I can do better, I--!”
She drew closer, her tall, leather-clad figure looming ominously over him. “How can I ever trust you again?” she whispered, before snapping forward with a heavy front-kick. The sole of her pointed boot blasted against the Joker’s vested chest, and his eyes widened as he was propelled from the rooftop.
“Har—kah, nooooooooooooooooohahahahahahahaha, AHHHHHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAAHAHAHA…” There was a sudden silence as the Clown Prince of Crime plummeted down from the rooftop, into the darkness of the night sky. A sudden end to his climactic laughter. A sudden end to it all.
Harley Quinn took a step, peering down of the edge of the tower and into the darkness. There was not enough light, no sign of him. He was gone. No sounds of scuffling, nothing. She wiped a solitary tear from her porcelain-white skin, and then held the hand over her mouth to keep from sobbing out. He was gone in the blackness.
“I can’t believe you did it,” Scandal Savage whispered. Bane, Grifter, and herself had made it to the top of the tower a few minutes after Joker had fallen, to find Harley kneeling quietly at the edge. Catman had been standing beside her, one hand resting gently on the woman’s shoulder but not a word being exchanged between them.
Bane, though he was never a man of many words, was speechless, his arms folded neatly across his chest as he watched the silent sobs ripple across Harley’s shoulders.
“She killed the Joker,” Cole whispered softly, his eyes widened slightly. “She did it. You did it.”
Blake glanced over to the rest of the team with a pleading expression. He was no good with people as a general rule – when it came to comforting an insane clown girl who had just been forced to murder her long-time lover, he had the staying power of Wally West on a week-long fast.
Scandal took a deep breath and stepped forward, taking Catman’s place. She knelt carefully beside Harley and folded her arms gently around the other woman’s shoulder, laying her head against the side of Harley’s. “Shush, now… it’ll be okay. He’s gone.” She paused, then, wondering if she was going about this correctly. She inhaled again and whispered “You did the right thing.”
Harley tightened her face, trying to hold off another tear. She failed, as evidenced by the salty bead streaming from her reddened eyes down her pale cheek. “He’s dead,” she whispered.
Peter Merkel Jr. wiggled uncomfortably on the cold steel operating table, straining his rubbery limbs against the straps that were pinning him down.
“…Hey guys? Guys?” His voice echoed throughout the funhouse torture room.
“…You there? You get the bad guy?”
“…I’m still here you know! I would really appreciate it if someone came and got me!”