|And Lifts The Latch
Author: Random-Battlecry PM
There's enough stories going around about this prisoner that she's beginning to doubt men and firepower. The Joker waltzes away, and Harley Quinn follows. Postscript to The Dark Knight. Part three posted. Really finished now.Rated: Fiction T - English - Horror/Romance - Chapters: 3 - Words: 9,018 - Reviews: 51 - Favs: 57 - Follows: 12 - Updated: 07-30-08 - Published: 07-20-08 - Status: Complete - id: 4410788
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: Okay, it's really done now. Thanks for reading!
And Takes The Fall
"You," he says, deliberately, definitely, with a wicked and not very secret delight, "have flipped your lid."
He sounds a little admiring, a little proud of his role in her purported lid-flippage. She has to admit, this is a strange thing to be doing on Bruce Wayne's sofa.
She wriggles into her seat a little more comfortably. "I know it."
"I mean, even by my own exacting standards." One hand gestures to himself, he nods emphatically. He shifts his shoulders, rubbing back vigorously into the cushions, like a dog who knows it's not allowed on the furniture but who is determined to teach its owner a lesson by shedding, and possibly puddling, all over.
"Isn't that what you've been telling me, all this time? That it takes one to know one?" She likes to remind him that they've spent time together, likes to show off her scars: arms, legs, neck. It makes her feel legitimate. Tangible. Real.
He ignores her, anyway, just makes an empty yet emphatic gesture at her with both of his gloved hands. If he had anything in them, he'd throw it. "That's you. My prize exhibit. The pride of my nutcase collection."
She giggles at this. She's been with him long enough that he's taught her how. It had been a strenuous series of lessons, but she was now his prize student. Her face is painted, she's dressed in black and white, one half of her suit allocated to each, she has rings on her fingers and bells on her toes, and so he has music because wherever he goes, she follows. She's the jester among them.
She smiles at the thought and settles down, crossing one leg over the other and balancing her notebook on her knee. With one finger she pushes her glasses up on her nose, smudging her makeup a little. His eyes gleam out of their black holes. He's found her Groucho glasses, complete with red nose and bushy black mustache, and he thinks this is hilarious.
"So tell me about your dreams, Mr. J," she says, importantly.
"Hmm," he says thoughtfully, sliding a knife out of his jacket pocket and methodically ripping into the sofa cushions. Stuffing erupts from them, followed closely by a burst spring. He makes a noise, the noise the spring might make if it had happened in a cartoon. Sproing. "I dream of world domination, just like everyone else. No point in thinking small."
"Absolutely, absolutely," she says, nodding and making little scribbles on the notebook. She draws a puppy with a little balloon coming out of its mouth that says woof woof. She grins at it and adds a strategically-placed dagger. "A man with your talents ought to aim high."
"That's what I always say." He grins, and sits up, and starts bouncing on the slit cushions. Stuffing begins to fly, bursting from the myriad cuts and exploding into the air. He puts one hand on either side of him to keep his balance and bounces harder. She slides the glasses down her nose a bit and eyes him over them.
"Your inappropriate behavior is interrupting our session, Mr. J."
"Screw your session." He bounces harder. "If you wanted to play doctor, I can think of something else we can do."
She laughs. He mocks her. "Ha ha ha ho hee ha," in a high-pitched voice that sounds nothing like hers. This just makes her laugh harder.
"We're never going to get to the root cause of your issues if you don't take things seriously," she tells him, and he stops bouncing immediately and looks at her so hard she flinches.
"Seriously?" he repeats, deadpan. "You want me to take things seriously? Do I look like a guy who takes things seriously? Seriously. Do I?" He's feeling for the knife with one hand. It's embedded hilt-first in the stuffing, and he finds it by cutting his hand on it. "There you are," he tells it, and plucks it out, then leans over to grab her foot, hauling it upwards and balancing it on his purple-suited knee. "Seriously, Ms. Quinn, I think your issues are a lot more complicated than mine. We've got, uh, suicidal urges, for one. Trouble with authority. Unwanted pregnancies. Illegal abortions. Thoughts of murder. Masochistic tendencies."
"But great dress sense," she says, shaking her head to make the bells in her ears tinkle.
"Good taste in men," he says, shrugging, making allowances for her failings and cutting her shoe off with the knife.
"Anyway that's Doctor Quinn, to you."
"Ooooooh," he mutters, reaching for her other foot. The scars make odd ridges in his face when he purses his lips like that. Odder than normal, that is. It looks like the noise is erupting from his mouth the way lava erupts from a volcano. He cuts her slightly on the sole. She flinches and he grabs onto her ankle harder. "Wouldja hold still?" he demands testily. She wriggles her foot and he cuts her again, though to be fair it wasn't all his fault.
"I want to jump."
"You'll get blood all over the furniture."
"Good point." He releases her and she springs to her feet, wincing as the cuts come into contact with the ground. It doesn't hurt that badly, though, and she bounds onto the sofa and grins down at him.
"Watch me," she says softly, and begins to jump.
He switches places with her, picks up her notebook and begins to scribble. He doesn't watch, but after a minute raises the paper and shows her what he's drawn: the two of them, doing something most likely physically impossible. In his hand, she's a big dumb blonde, generously drawn anatomy-wise but still wearing the Groucho glasses. She jumps harder, and trips over the spring, and goes sprawling across the carpet. He leans over the arm of the chair.
"Clutz," he says with vicious fondness, and cackles.
A few of his men arrive, plastic clown masks in place, toting guns that look downright anachronistic in this environment. They hustle a prisoner between them; he's in a tux that's seen better days, and probably wasn't that badly ripped when he put it on earlier that evening. He's handsome and square-jawed, one lock of dark hair curling over his brow, with a deceptively delicate mouth which is streaming blood. He's also got a matching set of black eyes, the whole shebang. He's accessorized with bruises.
His host leaps to his feet, giving the girl at them a quick light kick.
"Bruce!" he cries. "May I call you Bruce? Brucie! How about Brucie?" He advances a few steps towards Wayne and stops, swinging his arms out to indicate their surroundings. "How about this for a bachelor pad, huh? I would have done something similar, but the little lady objected to the, ah, blow-up dolls." The little lady is standing up now, and grinning at Wayne with enthusiasm and genuine warmth. The same could not be said for her lord and master. "I like it," he declares. "Opulent, yet understated. Beautiful, yet pointless. Functional, yet broken. Didn't anyone ever tell you about the starving children in Africa, Brucie? How much did you spend on that TV?"
"It'll rot your brain," says his henchwoman brightly. He swings around to look at her, nodding quickly, stabbing at her with one finger.
"True dat!" he proclaims, and she beams.
Bruce Wayne is tensed and ready, though he doesn't seem to know for what. The intruder in his home grins at him.
"You're gonna hate me," he warns, "but I need money. That's why I'm here. To ask nicely before I take it."
Wayne looks at him blearily.
"I thought you usually just robbed banks," he says. "What happened, you couldn't blow the safe?"
His host pauses delicately. "Blowing's not a problem."
"That's what she said!" chimes in his girl from behind them. He winces. He doesn't mind bad jokes but he'd prefer them to be his own. Maybe he trained that blonde a little too well.
"Here's the deal, Brucie. I feel—" he clasped his gloved hands together and looked pious, "—that— I've come down a little harshly on the financial institutions in our fair city. And I now realize that it's time to get the individual spendthrifts to chip in. Think of me as, uh, a charity operation. Any and all donations and proceeds will go directly to a lobotomy fund for underprivileged children. What they don't know," he waves a hand at the imaginary poor kids, and chuckles dryly, "uh, won't hurt 'em."
Wayne is still tense; but perhaps he has reason to be. "Why did you come to me?"
His enemy raises his eyebrows, hidden behind the face paint, and blinks delicately. "Why, uh, it was pointed out to me by my buxom associate, here, that if you want money, go to the printing press. I don't like to accuse you of fraud, Brucie, but there's no doubt that your money is, is confusing, not to say almost mythical. No one knows where it comes from, no one knows where it's going." He waves his hands around in the air to demonstrate the ethereal nature of Wayne's funds. "I had my people contact your people— they didn't like that— contact— and, uh, your books are better than fiction." He laughs, and wheezes slightly. "Who'd you get to do 'em, uh, Tom Clancy? Le Carre? Len Deighton?"
"Wayne Enterprises has many branches, and a lot of areas of interest," Wayne tells him; his arms are held behind his back so he contorts himself, shrugging deeply, to dab away the blood dripping down his chin with his right shoulder. "The books you saw weren't necessarily the books that I keep."
His enemy draws the corners of his elongated mouth down, looking almost impressed. "So you are crooked. I like a man who admits to his own criminal tendencies; gives us a common ground."
"I didn't say they were crooked," says Wayne. "I just said they were complicated."
His enemy darts his tongue out, thoughtfully, moving quickly over his upper lip, then the lower. "Complicated. I like that."
"You like a lot of things."
"Oh, I do," he assures Wayne, brushing back his lank, greasy hair with one hand; his girl steps forwards and runs her fingers through it, and he bats her hands away lightly. "I really do. As you can tell—" and he gestures to the scar-augmented smile ever-present on his face, "—I enjoy life. I get a, uh, a kick out of things, you know? A really big bang." In response to the cue, his men fire off shots into the ceiling. The girl jumps. Wayne doesn't move. His enemy looks him over, and grins, then laughs. "Oooh, you're a cool one. Used to gunshots, are we? Now, I don't like to resort to threats, so—" He pauses, considers, runs his tongue over his lips again in thought. "So here's a promise. You don't tell me where your printing press is hidden, and, uh, I will personally reattach your ears to your spleen." He blinks, nods a little, encouragingly. "Are we clear?"
Wayne's face stays amazingly still; only his lips move.
"Perfectly," he says.
There seems to be no physical limitations to how fast he can move. One minute he's there, held and hemmed in on either side by unfriendly faces, by arms, hands, and feet willing to hurt, by teeth willing to bite if need be, if it weren't for the masks of course, and then he was moving, practically a cliche'd blur. He pushes the two on his left together, colliding them as though they're in a cartoon, fields a punch to the gut from the one behind him, throws an elbow into the throat in retaliation. There are three more surrounding him, circling, and he sets in with a fighting spirit; where there's a will, there's apparently a way.
His enemy and his enemy's girl back away, with identical noises of distress and upset. His enemy looks for his usual opening, to get in a kick or two or three, but Wayne moves too fast. What's this about? Why's a gentleman like him trained to do things like this—?
He shouts, snarls like a mad dog, and he's found the knife again. He was never as good with throwing as he was with pure and simple stabbing, but he tries anyway, hefting it till it feels comfortable in his palm, reveling in the weight, and then flinging it as Wayne's back is turned. There's some sixth sense there, though; Wayne turns just enough to take it in his arm instead of his back, and though he groans at the pain he's still moving. And there's no one between Wayne and his enemy, now.
Except the woman dressed as a modern jester, who isn't laughing at her own joke.
Her Mr. J grabs her, whips her around to face forward, one arm around her torso just under her breasts, the other around her waist. She's held as a shield between himself and the irate billionaire, who still has a knife sticking out of his arm. Wayne advances, and the two of them, looking caught and tangled in an illicit tango, step backwards. The second knife, the one he keeps hidden in a place no one knows or is able to fathom, emerges to prick at her throat.
"He's asking himself, Would he do it?" He sounds rather manic. "He's saying, No, surely not! But does he have enough experience to, uh, judge correctly? Does he know just how desperate a man I am?"
"You're going to kill your own people, that's not up to me," says Wayne, stoically. He steps forward, though, belying this. She stiffens and the knife pricks a bit deeper. He drags her back another step.
"Shh-shh," he whispers into her ear, but the knife doesn't recede. "She's an innocent," he tells Wayne, starting to giggle, "I made her what she is. She didn't have any choice. I didn't give her one. Now, you want to come along and interfere— and I use whatever tools I have at my disposal. And she's a good one. Hand-crafted. Ready and willing to sacrifice herself for my greater good."
They're headed for the window.
"Because the last thing that's going to happen," he goes on, a man of few words but flying above his own limitations now, "is that I get caught out by some, uh, over-privileged, tax-dodging Scrooge. And so what do I say to that?"
Another step back. Wayne stops moving, and his enemy grins.
"He who laughs last," he says, "doesn't get the joke."
The overlooked butler in the doorway takes the shot.
It shatters the woman's leg, below the knee, and she cries out and goes down, slithering through her man's arms to fall in a heap on the floor. There is noise and general consternation, and as fast as Wayne moves, his enemy moves faster, and is out the window and gone.
The psychiatrist, the floor-cleaner, the Joker's girl is left behind.
She's never liked the night shift. Poor things, creeping in and out of cells and rooms, lurking around corners and doors, all there to clean up after criminals and charity cases, nutters and neurotics. She feels for them, she really does.
She gets up, even though she's not supposed to with that leg, and half hops, half drags herself over to the bars. Wouldn't Mr. J laugh to see her now?
"I'm sorry," she tells the sweeper. "I did try to keep clean, but the bandage came off."
"Don't talk to the prisoner," says the uniformed cop standing by the door.
"I'm sure you don't have to tell her that," she informs him helpfully.
It's been two days. She has a visitor.
He comes in the night, and without permission, or anyone's knowing. How he got in she will never know, and she doesn't particularly want to. Why take the mystery from it? And this is a mysterious time, practically magical. She's meeting with, not to say sleeping with, the enemy.
He's dressed all in black.
"Wow," she says, and she giggles. "The Batman."
"I've come to find out what you know about him." His voice is harsh, raspy, like a gravel walk, industrial strength sandpaper. She blinks, settles back against the cell wall.
"Do you really talk like that, Mr. Batman?"
He ignores her. She doesn't blame him, she'd probably ignore herself too.
"What do you know?"
She tosses her head, shrugs her shoulders. "I gave him a coffee mug that says World's Greatest Lover, if that helps. But," she adds, leaning forward and looking serious, "I was lying a little."
The dark figure stands impressively tall, impassive, arms folded. He looks down at the blonde woman without compassion.
"I don't know hardly anything," she offers. "Other than what I know when I'm with him, I mean. When he's not here, I realize— I don't know anything. Except— the thing is, I wasn't happy before I knew him," she explains, her voice kindly. "I was sane, but that's not the same thing. You ought to know that, Mr. B."
"He left you for dead," he points out.
"Oh, I know it," she says cheerfully. "But that's nothing compared to some of the games we play."
"Well, you've seen what he's like. He only hurts me because he likes it, and he thinks I will too."
"What about his name? Anything about his origins?"
"Do you wanna know how I got these scars?" she says, shredding and twisting her voice into a fairly credible imitation.
"Has he told you the truth?"
"Oh yes," she assures him, sitting up straight. "Several times. Several truths. It changes depending on the day. To be honest with you, Mr. B, I don't think he knows himself anymore."
Batman sighs, and stalks back and forth across the cell. He can't hurt her because he's honorable, and she's sitting there looking all innocent and helpless and hurt already. She feels very well-trained. She glows with pride.
"He's gonna come to get me."
Batman looks at her impassively, but then, how is a man in a bat mask supposed to look? "I don't doubt it. But be careful, Ms. Quinn— Harley— hold onto the tail of a tiger long enough, sooner or later you get bit."
This is ridiculous, but she's too polite to say so. Mr. J isn't the tiger. Mr J is the jungle itself, and she can't see the forest for the trees.
The Batman feels sorry for her; this much she is sure of. But she doesn't feel sorry for herself.
"Well, thanks for the visit, Mr. B. But I really need to get my beauty sleep." She yawned ostentatiously, covering her mouth with her hand. "Mr J doesn't like it when I've got bags under my eyes. He says they make the paint look all wonky."
He takes the hint, and sighs harshly, and turns to go.
"I hope you don't mind me calling you Mr B," she calls after him. "It's interesting how many things initials can stand for. Batman— Brucie—"
She's not very smart, she knows. But she's got a spark in her, an instinct fanned into a flame of intelligence. It's the company she keeps, she thinks.
He turns back, very briefly, but he won't stay.
"Mr J will always come for me," she says again, just to clarify.
"Let him," says the dark man. "I'll be watching."
"About time you got back," says the man with the smile on his face.
She bounces in, ignoring the pain in her leg, grinning at him. The paints are in the corner and she makes her way towards them. "Hang on, Mr J. Let me put my face on." She calls over her shoulder. "Did you miss me?"
"Miss you? The floors are filthy."
And so is his mind, she thinks happily. She fills a dual purpose. She's there for a reason.
She'll tell him the important things later. Now, there's scars to be made, and truths to be fuzzed over, and enemies to be misled.
She's glad to be back.
He's found someone to tie him down
And do it all
And in his name she plays the clown
And makes the call
And lifts the latch, and wears the crown
And takes the fall