Disclaimer: These characters are the property of DC comics. I don't own anything.
Author's note: This story will be comprised of multiple (sometimes rather short) chapters. I will upload them as soon as I finish them.
A cherry red 1965 Mustang convertible picked its way through the treacherous, misplaced pavement on the singular winding road up to Gotham's own Arkham Asylum. The driver cursed as she failed to avoid a pothole just before the narrow road opened up into a private lot which the girl deduced was maintained only marginally better than the driveway. She cautiously allowed her car to creep forward, both to avoid another unfortunate pothole and also in an attempt to find a parking spot where she wouldn't be in anyone's way. The latter task proved rather simple when she noticed a sign in the space immediately to her right that read "Dr. Harleen Quinzel." The driver beamed.
"Doctor Harleen Quinzel," she said under her breath, mocking herself by adding extra emphasis to her credentials. She really was a doctor now- a real-life practicing psychiatrist. She pulled in, making sure she had spaced her vehicle an equal distance from the cars on either side. Harleen didn't know if being a bad driver was a blonde stereotype, but since just about everything else unsavory was, she assumed it was best to rise above any notion her physical attractiveness might force people to conceive. Harleen had already spent significant time being "that girl" and was now carefully setting herself up to mold a new reputation, one that she could be proud of. Her mother had always said first impressions were everything, and Harleen Quinzel was more than ready to make hers.
"Arkham, eat your heart out." She said to the rear-view mirror, her wide, powder-blue eyes staring intently back at her. She narrowed them, trying to make herself appear somehow "harder." Only a hunter would want a baby deer as their psychiatrist, and Harleen refused to be made a meal of. She quickly grabbed a comb out of her glove box and pushed a loose strand of blonde hair carefully back into place.
"Don't fuck this up, Harley." She pointed an accusatory index finger at herself in the mirror. "Do. Not. Fuck. This. Up."
"Harleen. Good to put a face to the name. I'm Doctor Joan Leland." The middle-aged brunette extended a hand. Harley set her briefcase on the ground and shook back, careful not to appear too eager or bashful. She wanted her colleagues to see her as a confident, qualified young woman.
"Just call me 'Harley'. Everyone does."
The woman smiled somewhat pleasantly at her, and then continued "I trust you found your parking space?"
Harley nodded. "I did, yes." She wished there was more to say, something to elaborate on to impress or interest her new boss, but complementing the facilities would be horribly disingenuous.
"How about you set your things down in the office and I'll give you the tour."
Harley followed Dr. Leland to a room at the end of the hall past the security checks. It appeared to be a doctor's lounge of some sort with a small kitchen unit comprised of a counter and sink on the left hand side. Two men in matching white lab coats sat on the couches, each claiming one for himself.
"This is Dr. Graham and Dr. Cain." Leland gestured to the man on the left first, and then the right. "Gentleman, meet our newest resident psychiatrist, Dr. Harleen Quinzel."
"But you can call me 'Harley'." She grinned, forgetting for a moment that she was attempting to come off as a stoic professional.
"We usually keep it to last names only here at Arkham, Dr. Quinzel. It sets a good example for the patients."
"Oh," Harley hoped her face didn't appear as red as it felt. "Of course."
Harley gave a slightly awkward nod to her new co-workers and somewhat clumsily set her briefcase down against the wall. Dr. Leland turned out of the room without saying another word and Harley followed close behind. The two women rounded a corner, passing by another security check, and were all at once standing at the end of a wide hallway. The walls were lined with glass-doored cells, and Harley can hear spirited conversations between the prisoners- err, "patients"- wafting towards her.
Dr. Leland had abruptly stopped her forward momentum and turned to Harley who noticed the change in direction in barely enough time to stop from clattering into the woman.
"Please don't take this the wrong way, Harley…" Leland said the nickname like comradery was a foreign concept, "but why are you here?"
Harley's breath caught in her throat. "Ex-excuse me?"
The woman's face softened slightly. "With grades like yours you could have gone anywhere. Why are you here? Why would you subject yourself to this?"
Harley was relieved. It seemed to her that Dr. Leland had meant her comment as a compliment. "To be honest Joan, I'm simply fascinated by the criminal psyche, extreme personalities especially. Working here is actually a bit of a dream come true."
Joan snorted. "That will wear off quickly." She starts off down the hallway again. "I hope you're not planning on writing a tell-all book about this. These people can see a cash grab coming a mile away. They are animals and they will use any leverage or perceived weakness to get the upper hand."
Harley kept in stride with her boss, her strong gymnast legs easily carrying her weight. "Well you can't deny there's an element of glamour to these super criminals…"
They were passing the first set of cells now. A man peered out of one on the left hand side, obsessively licking the glass.
"But no, on principal I am not at Arkham simply for the elevated profile." Harley finished.
"Then there's a chance you might survive here." Leland said, stopping with her back to a seemingly empty cell.
Harley looked over the woman's shoulder at the warmly lit three-walled room. A shelf containing a variety of potted plants was set against the glass. Harley could see one of them blooming, an eye-catching crimson blossom.
"Step away from the glass, Joker." Dr. Leland implored a patient in the opposite direction of Harley's attention, then sighed, lowering her voice back to a conversational volume. "You'll come to know the occupants pretty quickly. Which ones are beyond hope of reform and which ones just happened to lose their way. It's a fairly simple delineation in most cases."
Harley watched as a woman's hand reached out from behind the brick portion of the cell and watered the potted plants. Harley squinted her eyes, unable to tell if the green tint to the woman's skin was just a trick of the light or some sort of bizarre condition. "And what about the other cases?" Harley asked, brushing by Dr. Leland towards the woman's hand as it retracted with the watering can back out of sight. "The ones who aren't so cut and dry?"
Dr. Leland turned to see where Harley was headed. "Master manipulators. They will set a trap and have you wrapped around their finger before you know it. You have to continually remind yourself that you are in charge of the situation. You are not powerless." Leland watched for a moment. "And that one?" She pointed to the cell which Harley was now standing directly in front of. "She's the worst one."
"Who?" Harley turned away from Dr. Leland to peer into the cell and was startled by the breathtaking red-headed woman standing just on the other side of the glass. It was not a trick of the light; the woman's skin did in fact have a green tint to it. But what Harley found considerably more engrossing was her eyes. They shone an almost alarming shade of harlequin green, like they had been colored by an electrically charged magic marker.
"Poison Ivy," The red-head purred in response to Harley's question, her breath creating clouds of condensation on the glass. "Pleasure to make your acquaintance."