A/N: Loyal fans, thank for your patience. The muses have not been kind. Plus a promotion at work has required more of my time and energy. I promise more is coming. I am working on Chapter 9 currently as well. Read and review! You all are why I write!
Chapter 8: Don't Hurt Yourself
When you hurt me, you hurt yourself (Don't hurt yourself)
When you diss me, you diss yourself (Don't hurt yourself)
I am not broken, I'm not crying, I'm not crying
You ain't trying hard enough, you ain't loving hard enough
You don't love me deep enough, we not reaching feats enough
Blindly in love, I fuck with you
Til I realize, I'm just too much for you
"Don't Hurt Yourself", Beyoncé feat. Jack White
The Joker was standing over me, looking a bit irate. Ok, well he was very irate. I was trying to diffuse the 180,463 bombs going off in my head.
"Huh?" I asked eloquently, feigning grogginess.
"You know what the fuck I am talking about." He snapped, pulling me out of the bed unceremoniously, "Why. Is. Bruce. Wayne. HERE."
"Once more with feeling. This just isn't your best performance, babe." I said, leaning down to get my slipper socks. Ok, I am old. Leave me alone. And I was salty about being woken up like this.
When I looked up, he had a look on his face that could curdle milk and probably make the Devil himself shit his pants.
"Ok, you're not in the mood today, I get it." I put on my robe, "Can I at least get some coffee?" I pushed past him and into the kitchen, where Pam was sitting at the kitchen island, drinking some juice and having a piece of toast.
"Morning." She said, not looking up from her phone.
"WHY IS NO ONE CONCERNED?" the Joker bellowed from behind me as I starting putting the grounds in the coffee maker.
"Sh, you're going to wake him up." Pam whispered, gesturing at Bruce.
"Am I dead? Is that what's happening?" the Joker asked into thin air.
I leaned against the counter, "Ok, now that you've stopped being irrational, I can talk to you. Yes, Bruce Wayne is sleeping on the couch. That's my bad."
He stared at me, "…my bad? That's the explanation?"
"No, not totally." I said, grabbing a coffee mug from the cabinet above me.
The Joker stared at Pam, "Did you know he was here?"
"I figured it out in the middle of the night when I got up to puke."
"Do you ever stop puking?" he asked incredulously.
"No. This child is going to come out with a 666 tattoo on it." She said, irritated, "I just know it. I conceived a child while I was in prison with my lawyer. I am the very definition of blasphemy. I have been impregnated by the Devil."
"Ok, ignoring that." The Joker turned to me, "How did he get here?"
"Ok, so he texted me last night and was like, all sad, but he didn't tell me why." I started.
Pam interjected, "Well, we did see him earlier."
"Yes, when we went to see Justin." Pam clarified.
"Who Pam did not tell me was her baby daddy." I cut in.
"I planned to tell you…eventually."
"Wait, wait, so Justin is the father of your child?" The Joker blinked, "Ok, there are too many dramatic plotlines to follow for one story."
"Tell me about it." Pam muttered.
"So, we like saw Bruce at Justin's and he was there with Barbara – another dramatic plotline to add to this clusterfuck – and we didn't know why he was there but I got all pissed at him and called him a lot of names and then Pam made me leave."
"Probably smart." He admitted.
"And then we got back here and Bruce texted me because he was all drunk and sad and how he fucked up and blah blah, and I wasn't going to meet up with him, I really wasn't. I was dumb. I did it anyway. He was at a bar around the corner. I went there and he was like SO DRUNK and so sad, like I said." I sipped my coffee, and then cringed when it was too hot, "He'd had like a whole bottle of scotch by then. Total mess. And I found out that he was all emotionally screwed because –" I halted. This was the part of the story Pam was not going to be happy about, and I hesitated.
"Because…?" the Joker insisted.
"Well, he slept with Barbara, which was a whole thing in of itself."
"He what?!" Pam exclaimed.
Ok, so there were going to be a lot of bombshells for Pam in this story.
"Sorry, babe, unfortunately this isn't the worst of it." I said, touching her shoulder.
"I think I know about the other part." She said, and she held up her phone with the incriminating picture.
"Oh." I said simply.
"What's happening?" Jay asked.
Pam showed him the photo of Selina's engagement-ring-clad hand.
"I don't know what I am looking at." He remarked.
"That's Selina." Pam said, dead-pan.
"Ah. OH." He said with realization.
"There it is." I shook my head, appalled at his being slow on the uptake.
"Ok, I haven't had a lot of sleep, and this is getting to be too much for me right now." He said.
I handed him my mug of coffee, and he shook his head, "No amount of caffeine is going to help me right now, Harley."
"Impossible." I said, and sipped it.
"So, he's being all emo because Selina is engaged to that farmer?"
"Rancher." Pam corrected.
"Ok, whatever. That was kind of quick."
"Selina moves fast."
"I know from experience." Pam added.
"Yeah, we were all there, honey." I said, patting her hand.
She glared at me.
"Anyway, so that's why Bruce is dead-ass drunk on our couch sleeping."
"I don't think praying is going to help us much." I sighed.
"I wasn't praying."
"I assumed you weren't, but you never know."
"Hey, so like, I have to get to my doctor's appointment in an hour, so is someone going to help me with that?" Pam interjected.
The Joker looked at me, "I am going to have to guess that's in your realm of expertise."
"I did promise to be the stand-in baby daddy." I affirmed.
"Ok, wait a second." The Joker held up his finger, "If you two need to leave, then you are going to trust me to be alone with my girlfriend's ex-fiancé, who is very hungover and liable to be thrown out of a high-rise building window?"
Pam and I exchanged a look, "Well, I trust you." Pam piped up.
Wryly, I said, "I will go wake him up. I can get him out of here. I'm pretty sure he doesn't want to deal with all of this aside from being hungover and depressed about Selina."
I stood up and pattered over to the couch. I lightly shoved Bruce's shoulder. When that yielded no results, I shoved it harder. Nothing.
"Do I need to get a bullhorn?" I wondered aloud.
"That would be hilarious." Pam said.
"Hilarious, but I think we would be kicked out of this hotel that mind you, we are paying for on someone else's credit card through means of identity theft, so I don't feel like rocking the boat." I leaned down closer to Bruce's face, "Bro, get up!"
He stirred a little, and one eye opened groggily, "Wha…"
"Did we bang?" he asked, struggling to sit up.
I didn't even want to look at the Joker's face at the moment.
"Just kidding. I know we didn't. By the way, basically heard everything you guys were saying about me. Do I get to defend myself at all here?"
"I'm not talking to you." The Joker said coldly.
"Yes, well," Bruce lifted his upper body with some effort, "You're talking ABOUT me when I'm less than 10 feet away from you, so I figured it would be ok."
"Bruce," the Joker exhaled raggedly, "You somehow keep getting involved in my life, despite how little I want you in it."
"It's not intentional."
"I think you texting my girlfriend is pretty fucking intentional." The Joker snapped.
"I was drunk." He said defensively.
"Not an excuse."
"You know I don't have feelings for her anymore." Bruce said reproachfully.
A scoff from Jay's end, "Yeah, ok, tell me one more time and maybe I'll believe you."
"I was upset about Selina." Bruce amended.
"Join the club." Pam interjected dryly.
"This is an incredibly weird situation we are in." I remarked.
There was an awkward silence.
"Just saying." I added, "I mean, considering Pam and Bruce have the same ex and Selina and I have the same ex and wow, what the fuck kind of Lannister bullshit is this."
"Bruce, it takes every ounce of strength I have not to beat the ever-loving piss out of you." The Joker said, flexing his fist.
I pushed forward, ignoring the Joker's threat, "Do you want some coffee, Bruce?"
"I need coffee, ibuprofen, and also a hammer to hit me over the head so that I don't feel like I'm literal death." Bruce replied, "But we can start with coffee."
"I will get that and the Advil. Because you're going to have to hightail it out of here in the next 30 minutes. I will call your driver." I said, "Pam, can you grab another mug of coffee while I call?"
"I'm on it." Pam got up, holding her lower back as she did so, "God, being pregnant blows."
"I told you that." I said, dialing from Bruce's phone. He hadn't changed the password since we started dating, "Hey, Andre, it's Harley."
"Harley, wow, haven't heard your voice in a while. How you been, honey?"
"Good, good. Can't talk long. Point is, Bruce is nursing a strong hangover in my hotel room right now. Can I text you the address and have you swing by in like 20?"
"Not a problem. I'll be waiting outside the front entrance."
"Thanks, Dre." I hung up, "Nice man."
"That's why I keep him gainfully employed." Bruce half-smiled, "He does ask about you sometimes. So does Alfred."
"I love Alfred. I want him to be my grandpa." I said with nostalgia, "Instead of my crusty-ass waspy grandfather Frederick. All he did was make white privilege-y comments, have lots of stocks that he was stressed about constantly and then died while smoking a cigar on his balcony in their house on St. Kitts and Nevis."
"Sounds like a great life." Bruce commented.
"He was such a stereotype it was unbelievable. Typical Harvard man."
Bruce scoffed, "Don't I know it. Wasn't your father a Princeton grad?"
"Yes, Tigers all the way. Him and my mom. Broke his father's heart when he went there."
"Well, at least he didn't go to Dartmouth." Bruce shuddered.
"Or worse, Cornell." I wrinkled my nose.
"You two led very different lives than I did." Jay remarked.
"Oh sorry, babe. I'm sure you feel left out. Even Pamela went to Harvard."
"Crimson, y'all." She whooped.
"Crimson isn't even a good mascot. It's not even an animal."
"Well, Stanford is a tree." She retorted, "Harvard rejects."
The Joker stepped into the center of the room, "Ok, let's stop, please. Bruce appears to be alive and able to stand, so he needs to go. I'm sure his ride will be here any minute."
"True." I turned to Bruce, "Let's go, drunky."
"I don't think you need to go with him." Jay said warningly.
"I will at least walk him to the elevator."
"Fine." He said curtly.
Bruce staggered to a standing position, and I let him hold my arm as I escorted him out of the hotel room and out into the hallway. I pressed the 'down' button for the elevator and heard the hum as it sprung to life. Bruce leaned against the wall next to the elevator entrance, "So, he still hates me, huh?"
"Well, dude, I still hate you. In case you forgot. This was a moment of weakness. Pam hasn't exactly forgiven you, either."
"I wouldn't if I were her." He said, shuffling his feet.
There was a brief silence. The elevator came up to our floor, and with a ding, the doors slowly opened.
Bruce stepped inside, and when the doors were about to close, he put his leg in the door, causing it to halt, "Hey, um, I'm sorry for causing a mess."
"It's fine, really." I said dismissively.
"No, I mean, this was really stupid of me. I have been drinking a lot since…um, the whole custody thing with Selina. This whole engagement thing is just throwing me off."
"Get it under control. You have a son who needs your attention." I said sternly, "I am not interested in hearing excuses on this."
"Because you're the paragon of parenting."
"Ok, bye." I started to turn away, and he grabbed my arm.
"Harley, that was out of line, sorry. I just…I really hope that we can be friends at some point."
"That's just not going to happen. You and I either fuck or fight, there's no in-between. And right now, I'm not interested in fucking."
"I am not, either. Sincerely."
"You're holding up the elevator."
"Ok, I'll go. Just, um…don't be a stranger, ok?" he asked.
I stared at him for a long moment. His eyes were genuine and sad.
"Ok. I can agree to that." I said quietly.
He smiled a little, "I'll text you sometime."
"Alright." I said shortly.
"Harley?" he called again.
"What?!" I was starting to get really aggravated.
"Have you read the Times lately?"
"What the fuck does that have to do with anything?"
"I guess you haven't, then. Well, I'll just be blunt. They interviewed Robert Callahan IV on his running again for a Senate seat."
"What the hell do I care about Rob?" I snapped. I hated hearing that bastard's name. If you care to recall, he was my ex. We dated for 5 years during undergrad and part of grad school, and then he decided to bang my roommate Katie – oh, I'm sorry, she goes by KATHY now because she's a senator wife whore – and ruin my life.
"He mentioned you in the article."
I felt like someone had socked me in the stomach.
I cleared my throat, "What could he possibly have to say about me? I haven't talked to him in a thousand years."
"You don't have to read it. I just wanted to let you know. You know I always hated that prick. I can't believe you ever deigned to sleep with him."
"You don't have the right to talk to me about him. You were in fucking Nepal being a Buddhist monk karate master or whatever."
"I've hated that little d-bag since prep school. The article isn't flattering."
"Small miracles." I said with a certain level of snark.
"Ok, I'll go. I just didn't want you to be caught off-guard."
"Cool." I said mirthlessly.
He let the doors close, and he was gone. That motherfucker, he always causes a shitstorm no matter where he goes.
I went back to the room, and Jay was standing at the door.
"That took a while." He remarked as I pushed past him.
"He's hungover and weird, it took a while to get him in the elevator. Dre can take it from here." I shrugged.
"He is a nuisance." Jay said.
"That's not incorrect." I replied, "Pam, are you ready to go to the doctor?"
"Yeah, I'm all good. Do you want to change first, though?" she asked, looking me over.
I realized I was still in my pajamas, "Ah, yes, that would be good."
Pam and I exited the building and grabbed an Uber with our identity theft-ed credit card, and headed off to the doctor's office in lower Manhattan.
Pam looked at me, "You're being weird. What happened with Bruce?"
"Bruce decides to bring things up when they're the most inconvenient to think about."
"What do you mean?"
"Apparently NYT had an article this week about Rob re-running for his senate seat."
"Rob, like your college ex, Rob?"
"Yes, like the fucking senator, dude."
"Ok, don't be sassy. What does that have to do with you?"
"He mentioned me in the article. Bruce said I should read it."
"I don't think that's going to do you any good." Pam frowned.
"I don't think so, either, but now it's stuck in my head. I literally haven't said a word to Rob since we broke up like 8 years ago."
"You said you Facebook stalked him."
"I am human, you know. I just wanted to see if he got bald or fat. Disappointingly, neither of those things happened." I pouted, "Kathy looks just as plastic as ever and their 2.5 kids are fucking little darlings who are like equestrians or some shit. They're so Kennedy-esque it's disgusting."
"I wonder why he would even talk about you." She mused.
"That's my dilemma. I mean, obviously he knows I'm an undesirable. Maybe they just wanted to know what he thought considering he's all 'let's fix this crime thing in New York' as his platform." We were talking quietly so the Uber driver couldn't hear but I'm pretty sure he was not paying any attention whatsoever as most Uber drivers tend to do.
"Yeah, I'm sure that's it. But, why would Bruce even bring it up then if he didn't want you to know?"
"Exactly. I'm going to have to look. I have no choice."
"Well, I'm sure they'll have it at the doctor's office. We can steal a copy."
"Steal a newspaper? What are we, criminals?" I feigned shock.
"I mean, I know it's a stretch for people like us of fine moral standing." She said, equally sarcastic.
The Uber driver pulled to a halt in front of an office building.
"Thanks." We both said as we exited.
We went into the elevator and went to the 6th floor where the doctor's office was. Pam went to the front desk to check in, and I went straight for the table in the center of the room with all the magazines and newspapers. I grabbed the Times, and straightened to start looking through it when I noticed something a little unnerving.
Justin was standing in the doorway. He started heading toward Pam.
I interceded aggressively, stepping in front of him.
"What the hell are you doing here?" I shot at him.
"This is my child, too." He responded, frustratingly calm.
"You don't know that for sure." I said spitefully, "Pam isn't exactly celibate."
"I'm not standing right here or anything." Pam said, not looking up from playing Candy Crush on her phone.
"You know as well as I do that I speak for both of us."
"It is true." She agreed amiably.
"I can be at my doctor's appointment if I want to for my child. She has acknowledged paternity. It's my legal right."
"Don't go all lawyery on me. You aren't married, so she can decide if she wants you in there or not."
We both looked at Pam, who looked like she'd rather be struck down by lightning than be where she was at that moment.
"Justin, look, I asked her to be here. I will invite you into the room if I feel there's something wrong or something you need to know but I'd rather you wait out here."
"I can respect that." He said, and he plunked himself down into a chair, pulling out his iPad from his briefcase, "Not like I'm a super busy lawyer or anything who has other things to do."
I wanted to deck him.
"Pamela Gardner?" The nurse called. Pam's fake name was a little obvious.
Pam stood up and I followed behind her. The nurse looked inquisitively at me.
"I'm moral support." I clarified.
"Just checking." She said, shrugging.
They took all of Pam's vitals, asked her a few questions about her medical history and all that, and the nurse disappeared to retrieve the obstetrician.
"So where did you find this doctor, anyway?" I asked, swinging my legs absent-mindedly.
Pam's bright red hair clashed spectacularly with the pink hospital gown they gave her, "Yelp."
I blinked, "You just fucking googled ob/gyn and this came up? That's how you're approaching this?"
"I don't know, how else am I supposed to find one? Walk around Manhattan and yell out, 'where's a good gynecologist'?"
I sighed, "I haven't been to one in a long time so I guess that's fair. You know, the whole life on the run thing."
"We're both pretty stupid for getting knocked up when we're literally wanted criminals." Pam said, like it was so normal.
"I didn't plan for my child, that was all him."
"How is Olivia?"
"I don't know, I think your mom sent me a picture last night but I didn't respond because I was at that bar with Bruce. I should write parenting books, I tell ya." I inspected the room, "This is giving me intense flashbacks."
"I bet." She affirmed.
The door opened and a man in a white doctor's coat and dark blue scrubs walked in. The doctor was youngish, probably like early to mid-30's. Tall, dark-haired, mildly tan. Not bad-looking, either. Not that I pay any attention to that. I don't. Don't judge me.
"Hi Miss Gardner, I'm Dr. Mills." He reached out to shake her hand and she obliged.
"You can call me Pam." She said.
"Pam, then." He said, smiling genially. He then noticed I was sitting there, "Oh sorry, and you are…?"
"Quinn." Again, not far from the truth but still not the truth.
"Nice to meet you. Are you two…?"
"Oh God no." I don't know who jumped to that one first, but we both said it.
He chuckled, "Sorry, didn't mean to assume. I don't ask questions if that's the case."
"No, we're just close friends. The father isn't involved." Pam said.
He looked surprised, "Oh, my nurse said there was a man in the lobby who said he was the father."
"Well, yeah, he is. But I'm not letting him in here."
"Ah. OK. Well, let's move forward. Didn't mean to make this uncomfortable." He said, seeming a little flustered.
"It's ok. We're a fucked-up group." I smiled in an attempt to make him feel more at ease.
"Pam, how have you been feeling?" he asked, feeling her stomach.
"First trimester was rough. A lot of vomiting."
"I can attest to that." I added.
"So by your estimate you're about 18 or 19 weeks, you thought?"
"Yes, I think so. I was under a lot of stress so I thought I had missed my period because of that, but then I noticed other symptoms. Mostly the vomiting."
A lot of stress. I choked back a snarky comment.
"How old are you?" he asked, writing down some notes on his chart.
"Good health otherwise?"
"Yes, in general."
"Ok, ok. From what I can tell, all is looking pretty good. The vomiting should go away in time. Make sure to drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration. Since you're already in the second trimester, we can do an ultrasound and hopefully be able to tell the gender. Do you want to know?" Dr. Mills inquired.
She and I exchanged a look.
"It's up to you." I said.
"Yeah, I want to know. I'm too much of a control freak not to." She laughed hollowly.
"Great, I'll get the technician and get the room set up. I'll meet you in there." The doctor left the room as swiftly as he had come in.
"Are you excited?" I broke the silence.
"I don't know how to feel." She admitted.
"Do you want Justin in there?"
"No." she said firmly, "He's fine where he is."
"OK. Just checking."
The technician came in a few minutes later, and took us to the ultrasound room. Dr. Mills followed us in.
The technician put the little ultrasound device on her belly, and started to move it around. Dr. Mills looked at the screen intently.
"All is looking very good, Pam. Normal size, good placement in the womb, strong heartbeat. Ah, here we go. Are you ready to know the sex?"
She nodded. I held her hand.
"Hard to mistake it, it's a boy!" he grinned, "There's the penis!"
"I'm going to vomit." Pam said.
He scrambled and grabbed a garbage can and she proceeded to puke into the receptacle.
"I have to admit, that's not the usual reaction." Dr. Mills remarked.
"Just like all other men, he makes me sick. Should have known." She said, trying to make a joke of it but her tone was too flat.
He laughed nervously, and he turned to me.
"Quinn, let's step out for a second. The tech needs to finish up."
"Sure," I said, getting up, a little puzzled, "You ok without me, hon?"
"Fine." She said curtly, staring at the ultrasound screen.
We stepped out into the hall, closing the door.
"Is she not happy with the result?" Dr. Mills asked.
"I guess not. I think she's just overwhelmed." I replied, "She didn't plan to go through this alone."
"Well, she has you, I suppose."
"Sorry, I assumed you were lesbians."
"It's ok, not the first time it's happened. Pam is a lesbian, actually. Well I mean, she's sexually fluid. She slept with a man to have this baby. The man in the lobby. Because she was lonely and vulnerable. OK, I'm saying too much, shutting up now."
"Do you have kids?" I noticed him glance at my left hand, which, as you all know, is quite bare.
"Actually yes. I have a daughter who's a little over a year old. Her name is Olivia."
"Thanks, you?" I asked, also glancing at his left hand. Also bare.
"Yes, 2. My son is 3 and my daughter just turned 5. Eric and Hazel."
I cleared my throat awkwardly, "Um, would your status start with a D or a W?"
"D. They live with her. We married young. You?"
"My status starts with a capital C."
He laughed wholeheartedly, "Well, if your status is not too capital C, feel free to give me a call." He handed me his business card.
"Thanks. It's pretty C, but I appreciate the offer." I think complicated should tattooed on my forehead if I'm being honest. I couldn't help but be flattered though.
He opened the door to the room, "Pam, we all set here?"
"Yes, I'm good." She said, getting off the table.
"Ok, go ahead and get changed and we will schedule our next appointment." He said, "I'll meet you out front."
"Thanks, doctor." She replied.
When we walked into the lobby, Justin hopped to his feet.
"Everything ok?" he asked.
"Yeah, it's a fucking boy, whoop dee doo." Pam said, pushing past him.
Justin began to smile, but the smile waned when he saw the look in Pam's eyes.
"Ok, I take it she's not happy." Justin surmised.
"The baby is fine, if that's what you're worried about." I said, taking a bit of undeserved pity on him.
"A boy, wow." He said, his voice breaking a little.
"Oh God, don't cry in front of me." I said, raising an eyebrow.
"I won't. I mean, I didn't care either way, but it's just great. I'm happy he's healthy."
"Me too." I affirmed, "Pam just needs some space. She'll call you another day." I went past him and into the hallway to wait for the elevator.
"Why is she so upset?" he followed me.
"I honestly don't know. I am going to find out." I started to walk around him because the elevator was about to arrive.
"Ok. I would appreciate it if she did reach out when she's ready. My parents want to meet her."
I halted. The elevator doors opened with a ding. I stepped a foot inside to hold it.
"What?" I asked, feeling like I was far away from my body.
"Well, I told them. Not the whole truth, I guess, but still that Pam is pregnant. They want to meet her. They want to be a part of my baby's life."
I grimaced, "Jesus Christ. This literally cannot get any more complicated. I really would suggest you break this news to her another time."
"I understand. I do. I'll give her some time. If it changes her mind at all, my parents want to help…in a monetary sense." He said, shifting uncomfortably.
"That might sway things a little." I admitted.
He perked up a little, "Ok, good. I will wait for her call."
"Bye, Justin." I said, letting the elevator doors close.
Since when did I become everyone's psychiatric support?
Oh yeah, right. I asked for this. When I got the PhD. I guess that's fair.