Arkham High

Chapter 16

"This is an incredibly serious accusation, J," said Principal Leland sternly, her arms folded across her chest. "Are you sure?"

"I have it straight from the horse's mouth!" chuckled Joker, shoving Nygma forward. "Tell her what you told me, Eddie!"

Nygma winced. "I…I was told to rig the election so that J would win."

"Who told you to do that, Edward?" asked Principal Leland.

Nygma looked at Joker, and winced again. "H…Harvey Dent," he stammered.

Principal Leland stared at him in shock. "Why…would Harvey want J to win?" she demanded.

Nygma looked at Joker. "He…he was furious about J running against him, for challenging him. So he wanted revenge. And he thought the best way to do that was to let J win the election, which was obviously impossible. Everyone would know he cheated somehow, and he knew the powers that be would make him forfeit the title. So Harvey would still be class president anyway, but not before humiliating his rival. He…he also knew that it would drive a wedge between J and Harley since…since Harvey threatened to influence the scholarship committee against Harley if J won."

Principal Leland looked from Joker to Nygma. "If J was telling me this, I wouldn't believe him," she muttered. "But I don't think you'd lie to help out the man who gave away your cheating method."

"That's right, I wouldn't," said Nygma, hastily. "You have to believe me – it's the truth! Harvey pretends to be all nice and friendly, but he's a good politician, and that's what they do! They lie to make themselves look better! But you can't let him win! You have to give the class presidency to J, just like the votes said! And you have to make sure Harley's scholarship isn't affected by Harvey's vengeance!"

Principal Leland nodded slowly. "I'm going to have a little talk with Harvey," she murmured. "And we'll get this all sorted out. But there's no need to delay this announcement - I've recounted the votes, and I see no reason to argue with their validity. Which means, J, you're now class president of Arkham High."

Joker laughed hysterically. "Best joke ever, ain't it, Leland?" he chuckled. "But I promise I'll do a good job. Can I tell Harvey, or will you?"

"Just come with me to the cafeteria, both of you," muttered Principal Leland.

The chaos of the lunchroom instantly fell silent as Principal Leland entered, followed by Joker and Nygma. "I have recounted the votes," she said, calmly. "And I would like you all to join me in congratulating your new class president – J."

"That's not possible!" roared Harvey Dent.

"Harvey, I'd like to see you for a moment in my office, please," said Principal Leland, softly. "Congratulations, J. I'm sure you'll do a fantastic job."

Joker surveyed the stunned cafeteria, beaming. "All right, underlings – my first order as class president is that you all get down on your knees and chant 'Hail Joker' fifty times."

"J!" growled Principal Leland, warningly. "You're not allowed to do that. You don't have unlimited power, and you can't abuse the power you do have."

"Aw, but where's the fun in power without abusing it?" demanded Joker.

Principal Leland sighed. "We'll have a little talk about your responsibilities as class president after I'm through with Harvey," she muttered. "Until then, don't give any orders."

"Fine," sighed Joker. "But what's the point of being class president if I can't make people do stupid things?"

He strode over to Harley, who nodded at him. "Congrats, Mr. J," she murmured.

"Hey, turn that frown upside down, kiddo!" he exclaimed. "You're dating the class president now! And don't you worry about that scholarship – I've got it all taken care of."

Harley stared at him. "How…" she began.

"I told Leland that Harvey threatened you," he replied. "And that he set all this up to get back at me. She believed me, with Eddie's testimony, and now even if he tries to influence the scholarship committee, everyone will know he's lying. So if you win one, you're gonna win on your own merits, and not because you did or didn't do a favor for someone. I mean, I know that most presidents don't follow that rule traditionally, but I ain't like a normal president, after all," he chuckled.

"Oh…Mr. J!" gasped Harley, beaming. She threw herself into his arms, hugging him tightly.

"Yeah, you keep up the Mr. J, toots," he said, stroking her hair back and smiling. "But these other losers can call me Mr. President."

"So J…"

"Mr. President."

"So...Mr. President," growled Selina Kyle. "Can we talk about prom?"

"I'm all ears, kitty!" chuckled Joker. "It's the Weed Lady who seems to have clammed up."

Pamela sat across from Joker, glaring at him with a look that could kindly be described as loathing. "How's the boyfriend, Pammie?" asked Joker, grinning at her.

"He's not my boyfriend!" snapped Pamela. "I hate his guts, only slightly less than I hate yours!"

"Geez, Pammie, that's harsh," said Joker, shaking his head. "Dumping a guy when he's down…"

"Principal Leland suspended Harvey for a few days after their meeting," said Selina, slowly. "And Harvey got so angry that he…uh…kicked over a tree."

Joker stared at her. "He did what?"

"Kicked over a tree," repeated Selina, nodding. "I mean, it wasn't a huge tree, but it was a pretty impressive display of anger, I gotta admit. But you know how attached Pammie is to plants…"

"Yeah, kinda a creepy attachment, if you ask me," muttered Joker.

Pamela slapped him hard. "Well, we thought maybe prom could have a floral theme," said Selina, stepping in between the two and opening a notebook with some sketches. "Or if that doesn't intrigue you, maybe the theme could be cats."

Joker looked from one to the other. "That's your brilliant idea?" he asked. "You've been planning this for months, and this is the best you've come up with? Plants or cats?"

"Or maybe some combination of the two," suggested Selina. "Like cats climbing trees…"

"Tell me this is a joke," interrupted Joker.

"I'll say it is," growled Pamela. "You being in charge of anything is a huge joke, especially you being in charge of the most important event of any high schooler's life ever!"

"Hey, I want this prom to be a success as much as you two do," retorted Joker.

"And so what kinda theme do you suggest, Mr. President?" asked Selina, sarcastically. "Clowns?"

Joker was silent. "Would anyone object to a circus theme?" he asked.

The other two groaned. "Well, we're going to have to compromise on something!" retorted Joker. "And we can't very well have the theme being Floral Cat Circus!"

"What about some kinda Hollywood theme?" asked Selina. "That's pretty standard."

"Or a masquerade," suggested Pamela.

"Yeah, something along those lines," agreed Joker, nodding slowly. "Maybe a costume party?"

"What kinda costumes, though?" asked Selina.

"Whatever people want," replied Joker. "That way you can do your whole Cat Lady thing, and Pammie can do her Plant Lady thing, and I can do my clown thing!"

"So how do we condense that idea into a single, catchy theme?" asked Pamela.

"Just say the theme is Costume Party," replied Joker. "Wear what you wanna, as long as it ain't yourself. Or no, wait!" he said, snapping his fingers. "Wear what you are."

"What's that supposed to mean?" asked Selina, puzzled.

"It means what I just said," he retorted. "Wear what you are. If you had to describe your persona using a costume, wear that. I'm the Joker, so I'd wear some kinda clown getup. And you're Catwoman, so you'd probably wear something to do with cats, and Poison Ivy…"

"I won't dress as some insulting name a bunch of men have given to me," snapped Pamela.

"Fine, then make up a new one," he said. "But I think it's a great idea. Too many people spend too much time hiding who they really are. It's time we were proud of who we are, and dressed to show that. And then maybe we can do superlative stuff in connection with it – y'know, most likely to succeed, most likely to win second place in a beauty contest, most likely to end up in a lunatic asylum, you know the kinda stuff."

"That could actually work," said Pamela, looking at Selina, who nodded.

"We can call the theme Identity Parade," said Joker, smiling. "Now if you ladies will excuse me, I'll leave you to your planning. I got other, presidential stuff to do."

"Like what?" asked Selina.

"Oh, I thought about bugging the teachers' lounge so I can hear what everyone's saying about me!" chuckled Joker. "That's pretty presidential, wouldn't you say?"

They both just looked at him. "It's a joke," he retorted. "Bugging stuff? President Nixon? Watergate?"

"How the hell do you know about Watergate?" asked Pamela, puzzled.

"Harley taught me," he retorted. "Well, the class president's gotta pass history class, huh? Now I gotta run or I'll be late for another lesson."

Selina and Pamela stared after him. "I know he's a jerk and all," said Selina, slowly. "But this prom doesn't sound so bad. Do you think J as class president could actually work?"

"Anything's possible, I guess," sighed Pamela. "Though for my own personal satisfaction, I really hope it doesn't."

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