In every step forward he took, Xander Harris found himself feeling even more and more at home. Which was really worrying, considering this unexpected and unwelcome sentiment wasn’t due to somehow returning to his birthplace, the most powerful Hellmouth in centuries possessing the completely banal name of Sunnydale. It’d been over a decade since he’d personally experienced life on that dimensional nexus, but the tainted ambiance of his current location compared to the time when Xander had spent virtually all of his days from childhood to this man’s early twenties was chillingly identical to that demon-infested California city.
Or to put it more plainly, Xander thought while he paused to shoot a wary glance around at the deserted institutional corridor he’d been walking through until halting there, Arkham Asylum was one damned scary place.
With mordant humor suddenly appearing in his mind and thankfully overriding for now the menacing atmosphere which had started to overcome him, Xander muttered under his breath, “Hey, you’ve already been through scarier, right? The Master’s cave, just about every graveyard in Sunnydale, the high school showers when the jocks declared it was Snap-Wet-Towels-At-Xander-Day.”
Unconsciously rubbing at the seat of his pants, Xander tilted his head to listen for any signs of others who might be nearby. He couldn’t hear anything, a discovery he wasn’t sure whether to be encouraged about or get even more nervous concerning this. Even if it was close to three o’clock in the darkest portion of the morning, not everyone here would be fast asleep. For example, the asylum staff attendants had their regular patrols to watch out for fires and other emergencies, plus also checking up on the facility’s patients. As for the patients themselves…
Xander grimaced at thinking about exactly those monsters in human form who were supposedly here for treatment and more basically to keep them from further harming the innocent people of Gotham City. A more miserable bunch of lunatics you couldn’t find outside the original Bedlam of London from the fourteenth century on, who possessed in total an even bigger body count than every slasher film in existence.
And now, Xander had to find the worse of them all.
Glancing at what he was carrying in his left hand, Xander nodded in satisfaction at how the bizarre object held there was obviously doing its job. Lifting in the air a bit higher the Hand of Glory with small golden flames steadily hovering over every fingertip of this magical item guaranteed to allow an invisible Xander to pass through any sort of locked door, the one-eyed man started forward again down the corridor. During his quick strides ahead, the amputated hand’s flames didn’t even flicker as it was brought along.
Xander took a moment to silently thank Giles for the pub-crawl they’d taken years ago through some of the odder parts of London. It’d been during a rare point in their busy lives when both he and the native Englishman found themselves at the same place and free for the night from their usual duties working for the New Council. While chatting about old times, Giles had impulsively proposed to show Xander some of the more out-of-the-way neighborhoods in his hometown that ordinary tourists never found. This decidedly included several supernatural locales around London where Giles had learned about and experimented with magic before he’d gone all Ripper and thoroughly ruined his reputation among the other practioners.
When Xander delicately brought up this latter bit of embarrassing history, Giles assured his younger friend that they’d only visit the places where he’d managed to behave no worse than the usual teenage pillocks acting out at that point of their lives. A cautious Giles had already returned to these particular old haunts, only to find himself accepted and welcomed back as if he’d never been away. Intrigued, Xander spent the rest of the night gleefully accompanying Giles on their shared excursion through a good number of the weirdest bars, shops, and historical spots this man with an eyepatch had ever visited. The people Xander met there were in the main okay folks, even if some of them weren’t human, which bothered him not at all.
Sadly, there wasn’t any chance during their tour to drop in at a certain combined magical inn and pub called the Leaky Cauldron since Xander was informed by his hosts having a distinct edge in their tones that no such place existed for real. In fact, after years of having to answer questions about it, they were sick and tired of anything to do with JK Rowling, who definitely should’ve known better. That was the only part of Xander’s pub crawl with Giles when things became tense, because otherwise he had a great time throughout it all. Aside from some fascinating stories about G-man’s past (which Xander promptly memorized for future blackmail material), there’d also been the opportunity for making valuable contacts for the New Council. Once certain their guests were fully in the know about what went on out of sight from the mundane world, Xander had been shown and offered for sale some really interesting magical stuff in between sending down a filled glass at various drinking holes. At the time, he’d passed on buying anything, but Xander still kept in mind where to go in London if he ever needed in a hurry some major mojo available for quick cash.
It all meant that years later during his unanticipated trip to the DC Universe, Xander Harris paid a visit to probably the shabbiest pawnshop ever tucked away in what had to be one of London’s most secluded, off the beaten path, forgettable neighborhoods. This was entirely by the proprietor’s design, given that all sorts of magic-workers in Great Britain and elsewhere occasionally ran low on ready money and needed to swap their enchanted valuables for some lolly without anyone finding out their awkward situation. Obviously, someone now in possession of this pawned article which might be capable of anything
had to be both utterly trustworthy and powerful enough to prevent the object used for collateral from falling into the wrong hands.
Walking into this pawnshop after being beamed down from the Watchtower to the Justice League’s Metropolis headquarters and then taking a flight to London, Xander shivered at the intense feeling of the protective wards thoroughly checking him out. He kept on heading towards the far end of the shop, not bothering to look around at the grungy, commonplace merchandise and detritus of regular life piled throughout the small room which was only there for cover should an unknowing visitor wander inside. The real,
honest-to-Merlin magic items were safely located in their own pocket universe beyond the dingy door behind a man sitting at a counter and calmly watching Xander approach him.
A being choosing for his own unfathomable reasons to look exactly like Bob Hoskins around the time of Who Framed Roger Rabbit
down to the late-1940’s fedora and trench coat nodded politely at his latest customer in the otherwise vacant shop when this person stopped at the counter. Before Xander could say anything, Bob murmured, “Greetings, the One Who Sees. How may I assist you today?”
Just going with the flow, Xander nodded back with equal courtesy and replied, “I need a couple things from your shop to get inside somewhere unnoticed, and then to finish the job there.”
For the next few moments, Bob merely stared at Xander, who gazed back with the same blandness he was receiving. Then, Bob asked in mild curiosity which was the first real emotion he’d shown so far, “You don’t want a ride home instead? That can be arranged, for a price.”
Xander shook his head. “Nope, already covered. But if it’s possible, I’d like my exit from here to set off what I’m planning. Can this be done?”
“Certainly,” Bob steadily regarded Xander. “But that will result in a higher fee, naturally. How do you intend to pay, in cash or kind?”
Instead of responding right away, Xander stuck out his right arm while pulling up his shirtsleeve to show the entire bare bicep revealed by this. “I’m thinking one pint of my blood as a trade. The…Bob in my dimension, he said it’d go for some serious loot anytime, any place.”
Actually blinking in his sudden shock, Bob forgot himself further by then uttering in a strangled voice, “Blood from the Sunnydale Hellmouth White Knight?!
Exactly what do you want from here?”
Satisfied by this reaction, Xander dropped his arm back at his side and shrugged, “Oh, nothing all that big. Let me lay it out for you, and we’ll see how it goes. Now, first, I need--”
About a week later, Xander wound up outside a certain room deep within Arkham Asylum. Pressing against the room’s door the purchased Hand of Glory which was the sole remnant of a holy man who willingly gave up this part of his body just before dying centuries ago so that it could be used by the forces of good, Xander intently watched the door swing ajar all by itself. He then walked through the now-open doorway, confident that nobody around would register his presence by any means whatsoever. This fortunately included the room’s regular inhabitant.
Stopping short a few steps inside, Xander regarded with absolute loathing along the far wall the lanky, green-haired man with chalk-white skin unattractively displayed by wearing nothing but a pair of boxers embroidered with smiley faces. Stretched out on the narrow bed while giggling in his deep sleep, the Joker continued to thoroughly enjoy all the atrocities against children he was committing in his dreams while making a few notes in passing about trying out for real some of the more impressive slaughters and mutiliations.
*It’d be sooooo easy,* Xander couldn’t help thinking. For all the Joker’s vile reputation, he wasn’t by any account an outstanding physical specimen. The only thing going for him in his fights with Batman was this villain’s ability to easily disregard due to the Joker’s insanity whatever severe punishment being inflicted upon him at the time. Plus, no matter what, his regular opponent wouldn’t go too far in beating the Joker into a laughing pulp and then turning over to the authorities this Clown of Crime.
Xander had no such compunctions. He coldly measured the distance from where he was standing to the proper position by the Joker’s bed, where a good stomp by Xander’s boot would then crush that bastard’s larynx. Let him see how much fun it’d be then to wake up choking to death, frantically tearing at his throat with all ten fingernails in a desperate attempt to breath again.
Standing there unmoving for a full minute, Xander eventually let out a low, wrathful growl. The New Council member continued to glare with revulsion at the unaware serial killer who remained slumbering, never knowing how close he’d come to losing his own disgusting life. Xander’s mouth worked again, preparing to spit on the room floor until he remembered that while the Hand of Glory would wipe away practically all traces of his visit, there was no reason to give a possible freebie to Chirpy. Xander was sure of this as anything else he knew right down to his toenails, that somehow the Batman had earlier acquired and filed away a specimen of Xander’s DNA. So, nix on the saliva.
A very cold smile now appeared on Xander’s face. Fine, there were a few genuine grounds for not immediately killing the Joker. Among these were that the Batman would track down to the very ends of the universe…or another dimension…the person who’d done this. For anyone else, this achievement would be impossible, but Xander wasn’t prepared to bet against Chirpy. That guy would definitely think it his sworn duty to haul Xander back to Gotham to face murder charges for the Joker’s death. However, this same blind spot possessed by Bruce Wayne also prevented him from ever considering the fact that instead of convicting Xander for his crime, the grateful citizens of Chirpy’s hometown more likely would grant him a full pardon and then throw Xander the biggest parade in Gotham’s entire history.
Not that Xander felt on the whole any great interest in having to undergo this whole futile capture by Chirpy. Even though it’d really be fun to wait for him to come calling at the Joyce Summers Academy and trip the magical wards laid upon the place by Willow. In the Joker’s cell, Xander savored the crisp orders he’d then give to his numerous girls, all those eager Slayers ready for action: “Graduation exercise, ladies. Find the Bat-dork, clobber him, and bring him here. Alive and intact, please. First one to succeed gets their diploma and also the chance to use the Scythe for a month. Go!”
Bestowing upon the snoozing Joker his most evil expression, Xander remembered again something Anya had once told him about her demonic boss D’Hoffryn often saying to her during the thousand years she’d worked as a wreaker of vengeance for that dimensional ruler. She’d quoted, ‘Never go for the kill when you can go for the pain.’
*Oh, honey, the other Scoobies never understood why I loved you so much,* mourned Xander. His momentary sorrow evaporated at once more looking upon someone who deserved
beyond belief a thorough retribution for all the people he’d hurt…while laughing about it.
Beginning to pull out from a pants pocket several magical items previously bought from the supernatural pawnshop, Xander smirked in his own grim glee about having the chance to scrupulously shaft both the Joker and the Batman.