Warnings: Canon Typical Violence; Torture; Abusive/Unhealthy relationships; Savior Effect; Stockholm Syndrome; Codependency; Mentioned/Implied/Attempted Rape/Sexual Assault (not between Harley/Joker); Mutilation/Self-Mutilation; Attempted Suicide; Child Abuse; Non-Graphic Sexual Content; Coarse Language.
Joker's Characterization: While I did my utmost to stay true to Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker, this story is my take on a Nolanverse version of Harley and Joker's relationship, and as such a flavour of Animated Series Joker seems to have crept in. Since Joker and Harley's relationship originated there, I've decided I'm fine with it. I also give a nod to Jack Nicholson's Joker from time to time.
Harley's Characterization/Appearance: Harley doesn't have a representative in the Nolanverse, obviously, so I took as much liberty as I felt like. I did try to keep her recognizable as Harley, my primary influence being the way she is depicted in the Arkham Asylum and Injustice: Gods Among Us games, since they give us a grittier, darker character that would fit in with the Nolanverse better than Animated Series Harley. As far as appearance and expression goes, while writing this fic I pictured her being portrayed by actress Jennifer Lawrence.
Special Trigger Warning: I debated back and forth for a while on whether to include a Rape/Non-Con/Dub-Con warning, and finally settled on the warning/tag you see above and this note. What it boils down to is this: This story is told entirely from the Joker's point of view, and Joker is not a very reliable narrator. He perceives Harley as having clear choices and consenting to sex, and so he tells the story that way. Whether or not Harley actually does is up to the interpretation of each individual reader. Further, it's highly likely that Bad Things happen to Harley off camera when she's not with the Joker. He never speculates on what happens to her when he's not around, so again, what happens to Harley is up to each reader.
Harley and Joker's Relationship: Let me say from the outset that I do not in any way condone relationships that even remotely resemble the one depicted herein. Harley and Joker's relationship is abusive and destructive and not romantic in the least. However, it is really really interesting, hence the fic.
Quotes: All lines you recognize are from various Bat-media. Other quotes are either sourced within the text, or footnoted at the end of the chapter.
Special Thanks: To my husband for beta reading and cheerleading, and to hahaharley, whose fic Bad Jokes directly inspired me to write this one. She did such a good job with a Harley origin story narrated primarily by Harley, that it made me want to see Harleen become Harley all over again, this time through the Joker's eyes. (However, the plot of this fic has nothing to do with the Bad Jokes verse.)
J loved the Gotham news. Best show on television, the most entertaining, the funniest, because on the news they weren't pretending except for how they were. Here's a senator kissing babies, might make a run for the presidency soon, isn't it sweet, isn't it good? What a man, what a man, what a man. Except of course the senator, J knew, was a kiddie fiddler, and he probably got a stiffy from putting his lips on that baby, and no one mentioned it and it was such a joke.
Ha ha hee hoo ha. Ha.
But anyway, not the point. The point was that J liked to watch the news, so he knew when the Bat finally made a reappearance. Eight years without so much as a sighting, eight years since the night J was sent to Arkham and that's just plain rude, like fucking and running, but worse because fucking and running made sense. Want the pleasure without the mess, that made sense. Batman disappearing? Did. Not. Make. Sense.
But he was back now, so it was all fun, all smiles again, time to play a new game. For the first time in eight years, J started to notice time passing, started to think about breaking out. Without the Bat outside Arkham to tantalize him, he got busy, got distracted, got involved in seeing how far he could push the docs before they cracked like peanut M&Ms between his teeth. (Red and green, the Christmas bags were the best.)
J sat in the TV room eating M&Ms and watching the Bat play with Bane, and he howled and loved it and thought he'd like this Bane fella, seemed like his kind of guy. And Joker saw the flaw now, saw the flaw in his old plan. His bomb just wasn't big enough! And they said size didn't matter. Naughty, naughty liars.
But Bane's bomb, oh Bane's bomb, it was huge and it was tearing away the mask, breaking open the scab, making the city bleed, making them all turn on each other, eat each other, and J loved it.
"Give it to me, baby. Oh yeah. Give it to me, give it to me, give it to me," he muttered under his breath, eyes riveted on the screen.
Martial law was declared, and the Joker giggled and wondered how long it would be before Arkham broke open like an egg.
It wasn't long.
It was the middle of the day when the alarms started blaring and the door to J's cell clunked open, just a crack. He went over and stuck his head into the hall, looking around. "Uh, hi?"
No one was there, and then suddenly everyone was. Guys in orange jumpsuits ran all over the place, shoes squeaking on the shiny wax floors. (J liked the squeak. Sometimes he made people bleed just so they'd have to wax the floors again.) Doc Scarecrow, the only decent doc in the place, was cackling and wearing his mask - except, Joker knew, the mask wasn't a mask, it was his face, and the human features under it were the disguise.
Sidestepping the orderlies and guards frantically trying to contain the inmates, J put his hands in his pockets and strolled out of Arkham's front gates, whistling a merry tune. Couldn't remember where he'd heard it, though.
Oh well. Didn't matter.
He spent that first day of freedom ditching his prison clothes and making himself feel like himself again. Killed some guy with the right build and took his suit and his shoes. Not quite right, not really, but not half bad. Black jacket and pants, blue shirt, darker blue tie patterned in little white diamonds. Stepping over the corpse, J went into the guy's bathroom, checked himself out in the mirror. His hair was shorter. The Arkham docs kept it short, kept him from looking like him, reckoned that if he looked more normal, like they thought he should, that maybe he would start acting like they thought he should too. Would start lying to make the world prettier, just like they did.
J hated liars. He lied to anyone and everyone, but it was only because they lied first.
"Hey, good lookin'," he said to his reflection, then chuckled. The docs could give him all the haircuts they wanted, could refuse to give him his grease paint (war paint), but the scars were always there. J would never be good lookin'. But that was fine because the scars were true, they were his truth, written on his face for all the world to see, and every time someone recoiled or stared or glanced out of the corners of their vision, he knew just that much more about the liars around him.
There was hair gel on the bathroom counter, so J slicked back his hair. Better. Still not him, but it wouldn't do to attract the Bat's attention too soon, now would it? J needed to get the lay of the land, get his feet under him, and he didn't want to disrupt Bane's little game. Not when it was so much fun to watch.
He wondered who had the bomb's trigger. He hoped it was a mother. Mothers were more vicious than every other breed of human. J knew that from experience.
He was wandering the streets, not sure what turf he wanted to claim as his own little kingdom yet, when he heard the scream. It was high pitched and horrified, a woman's wail of terror. He went toward the sound, because why not? Might be fun.
He rounded the corner, his new shoes reflecting sunlight, and he smiled because muggings in broad daylight, now this was true. No more man behind the curtain, slinking in the shadows. Just out and out brutality, the world as it really was.
It was a dead end alley, the best kind, or the worst, depending on your perspective, and there were three big thugs standing in a semicircle around a little lady. There was a fourth guy, but he was on the ground, his guts spilling out, so J didn't think he counted. Not anymore. Not ever.
The little lady was screaming, her eyes wide, and frightened, and blue. She was what society said was beautiful: tall and lean and curvy in the right places, white and golden haired and unblemished. If J was honest (and he always was, to himself), he thought she was gorgeous, and he knew what these men wanted with her. Whether she'd be alive afterwards was anyone's guess.
The best part, the best part of all, was that none of these men were crooks. Oh, they were crooked, but they weren't crooks. Not an orange jumpsuit to be seen, not a single jailhouse tat. These were, hmm. College frat boys. College frat boys. Maybe they made a habit of date raping co-eds, dressing it up as it was fine, she wanted it, she shouldn't have come out drinking if she didn't. Maybe now, now that they didn't have to lie, didn't have to pretty it up anymore, they just roamed the city in a little pack, taking the women they wanted.
College frat boys gang raping women and killing their boyfriends with a kitchen knife and a baseball bat. How boring. How unimaginitive. Plain, ordinary, everyday evil. Gotham deserved more.
Except. Oh, the third one had a switchblade. And Joker wanted it. He wanted it.
He went into the alley.
"Hey, hey," he said. The college frat boys turned, brandishing their weapons. "Gimme the knife," he said, holding his hand out for the switchblade. It glinted, winking at Joker.
"Get your own," the boy with the baseball bat said, trying for menacing. Joker thought the boy meant the knife, and then he laughed because he realized the boy meant the woman. Ha, ha, ha, hee. It was funny.
"Gimme the knife, gimme the knife, I want the knife, I want the knife, give it to me," he pestered between giggles, wiggling his fingers toward the boy with the switchblade.
The three exchanged a look. They didn't seem to notice the little blonde woman, the little terrified angel backing away, folding herself into a corner, trying to make herself small. Baseball Bat (Ha ha! Baseball Bat) sneered at Joker. "Crazy ugly ass freak."
Well. That was just mean.
Joker tilted his head, smoothing his hands through his slicked back hair. "Do you want to play tag?" he asked the Baseball Bat.
Joker darted forward, kicking out at Baseball Bat's knees. Had to take him out first, the bat had the longest reach, was the most immediate danger. Baseball Bat went down hard, his head thudding on the concrete, his grip on his weapon loosening as he reacted to the pain. Really. Amateurs.
Joker grabbed up the bat and came out swinging. "Tag! You're it!"
He caught Kitchen Knife around the ears, and then got Switchblade on the backswing. They were standing too close together. Idiots. (Gotham really deserved better.) Kitchen Knife went down, and Joker took the opportunity to stomp on his nuts, just to make sure he stayed there for a while. Switchblade was shaking his head to clear it, like that would work, and holding his jaw, but he was still on his feet and he still had the knife Joker wanted in his right hand. Joker swung low, going for the knees. That always worked. Few people realized how important their knees were until they couldn't use them.
Bone splintered and Joker smiled, watching Switchblade drop his knife and scream. Joker picked up the discarded knife (it was beauteous, oh yes it was) and cut Switchblade's throat from ear to ear. Then he did it to Kitchen Knife and Baseball Bat just for thoroughness' sake, and because it was pretty. Made their throats look like they were smiling.
J liked his new knife.
The little woman came flying down the alley, and J barely paid her any attention. He stepped to the side, assuming she'd run past him, fleeing to quail another day, or whatever. He didn't really care.
He was so shocked when she flung her arms around him that he almost knifed her.
"Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you," she chanted into the skin of his neck, and that was just. Huh.
"Shshshshs, shushshushshush. Shush," he told her, stroking her hair. He didn't realize that she wasn't crying until after he'd shushed her. She was supposed to be crying. It was what people did.
She wasn't crying, but she was trembling, little shakes that vibrated against J in the most delicious ways. She was soft and hard all at the same time, strong, compact muscles leavened with breast and ass. Her hair was soft too. It had been a long time since J had been near a woman who didn't smell like medicine and blood. (Oh there was blood, but it was from his hands. He was getting it in her hair. She didn't seem to mind.)
She smelled like peaches.
J wiped the switchblade off on his pant leg and pocketed it. Then he pulled the woman closer, figuring he might as well enjoy it if she was going to cling to him like a monkey. He was (incidentally, not intentionally) her hero. Maybe this was what it was like to be Bats.
"They killed Jimmy," she said. Her voice was soft, her vowels rolling, purring with the thickness of a city accent. J wanted to bite her tongue.
He looked at the flesh pile that was probably Jimmy, the little punk who'd been dead when J arrived.
J raised a brow. "Boyfriend?"
The woman shook her head, her hair tickling his chin. "Neighbor," she said in that sweet little voice. "Said that it'd be better if we stuck together once. You know. Everything. The bomb."
Jimmy probably thought this was his ticket to that hot body. Protect the lady, stick together, and soon he'd be sticking it to her.
Wasn't a bad plan, if you liked them willing. (Which J did. It was a novelty, what with his face and all. And he didn't bother with unwilling. He always forgot what he was doing before he got to the actual fucking part and killed them. Oops.)
"Well, uh." J tried to pull away, but the woman wasn't letting go. He thought about hitting her. "Go away now," he told her. "Shoo."
She giggled, and well that was, that was.
She looked up at his face, and her grin froze, her eyes fixed on, oh right, of course.
"It's the scars, huh? Wanna know how I got 'em?" Joker skimmed a hand down her back, his fingers on the way to the switchblade in his pocket. Maybe he'd cut her up a little, give her some scars of her own to stare at.
The woman shook her head.
J blinked. No one ever said no. They always wanted to know, always wanted a story, wanted an explanation, a way they could make him fit in a box, something they could blame. "You don't wanna know how I got these scars?" he asked, just to be sure. She might be stupid, you never knew.
Those blue eyes were wide, wide, wide, staring through him. Did she recognize him? Remember him from the news? He used to be quite the entertainer, even if he hadn't been on the air in a while.
"It doesn't matter how you got 'em," she said, and her hands traveled up in jerks and halts, like scared rabbits, until her palms rested on his cheeks. She stroked her thumbs over the scars, one on each side of his mouth, and he shivered. Damn. Goddamn.
Finally, someone who understood, who saw. Someone who knew it didn't matter. Wasn't looking for a story, wasn't looking for a reason, just saw that the scars were there, saw his face, and accepted it. J smiled for her, and her brow furrowed, her fingertips traveling over the scars again, exploring the changed contours.
"I'm cold," she blurted.
J leaned away, wrapping his hands around her wrists. Her pulse was rapid, thrumming against his fingers, and her breath was coming in shallow little pants, interspersed with periods where she seemed to stop breathing altogether. Shock, he decided. (He was so smart, he coulda been a doc, if it wasn't so boring.)
He stepped away from the woman, and she let herself be pried off this time, though she wouldn't stay further than a few steps from him. J stripped his suit jacket off and draped it around her shoulders. She put her arms through the sleeves and hugged it to herself, turning her nose into the collar and breathing deep, like she needed his scent inside her, like she needed him inside her.
She looked like a little doll. A little porcelain doll, and oh how he'd love to see that porcelain crack, see if she was empty air on the inside.
He was starting to get hard, twitching inside his pants. She didn't seem to notice. But right now she wasn't noticing much, wasn't doing anything but gazing at his face like it was the best thing she'd ever seen.
"So, dollface, where do you live?" He needed to get her warm, make her drink something, or she might die or what have you, and that would just be disappointing.
She frowned, her eyes unfocused. "You gonna kill me?" she asked him. Straightforward. He liked that.
He thought for a minute. This woman deserved the truth, precisely because she hadn't asked him for any lies. He thought, if she asked, he'd even tell her the real story about the scars. Being brave enough to see the world as it was deserved a reward, after all.
"Nah, won't kill ya," he promised. "Don't worry. I'm a man of my word."
He snickered, wondering again if she knew, if she guessed. It would be fun to see how many hints he could give her before she figured it out. If she didn't already know. Who knew what she'd do? Jokes he didn't know the punchline to were the best kind.
He looked at the dead men in the alley. He'd never do this to the woman now. Pity. He'd promised though, and his promises, they meant something. He could do anything in the world to this woman, but he would never, ever kill her, even if she wanted him to.
Maybe he'd try to make her want him to. That could be fun. Irony.
Back to the dead men. J searched them for anything useful. Nothing so petty as cash. Cash didn't matter when you just took what you wanted. Like his sweet new blade.
None of them had anything interesting. J took the kitchen knife, because why not, and then debated a few minutes before handing the baseball bat to the woman.
"Hey, hey, hey," he jiggled it in front of her when she didn't seem to realize what he wanted. "Take this. We get jumped, uh, aim for the head and the nuts. Head confuses the victim, nuts incapacitates. Don't hit me."
She was unfazed by the warning in his tone. Shock. Well, she'd better remember what he said anyway. Her hands closed around the bat, her grip lax. J decided it was good enough, he'd work on her when she wasn't shaking, when she was more with it. He hoped she'd quit it soon, he didn't want to get bored with her.
He stalked out of the alley, and she followed him, just like he thought she would.
"Hey, um," she called, her feet going pitter patter as she caught up. "What's your name, Mister…?"
"J," he said, without thinking about it. It wasn't his name, but it was a nickname, even if he was the only one who'd ever used it, and then only in the quiet of his mind. But whatever, she could use it. Didn't matter.
"Mister J," she repeated. "Okay. I'm Harleen."
J scoffed. "No. Nope. Don't like it. Doesn't suit you."
She shrugged, and J spun on his heel, pulling her into him, one arm locked around her waist and the other hand grasping at her chin. He turned her face this way and that, her cheeks squished between his fingers, and she let him, her pink tongue coming out to flick at the corner of her mouth. J mirrored the action, tonguing at his scars.
Harleen. Lena. Leni. Harl. Arli. Harli.
"Harley, Harley, Harley," Joker moaned out, shaping his lips around the syllables.
"Yeah, Mister J?" she asked. And oh, good girl, good dolly, she already knew her name. Harley. Much better than Harleen. Perfect, even.
"Take me home, Harley."