Title: Rappacini's Last Laugh (10/10)
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Summary: Poison Ivy is mad in love, and Harley Quinn is sorely vexed by it. A DC Elseworlds fic.
"Rappacini! Rappacini!" I murmured the next day when I was alone. "And is this the upshot of your experiment?"
Remember when we first started talking? Remember how happy-go-lucky I was? Everything was fine until Spoiler - suddenly the name takes on a darker meaning - told me about Oracle. My sad story begins AND ends with Oracle, in fact.
Shall we review?
Currently I'm lying in a hospital bed, although as far as I know, this building is no hospital. I can't exactly leave because my right foot is being suspended in a cast, thanks to my broken ankle. Plus I'm being blackmailed by the Oracle. If I don't do what she says, I could find myself exchanging my tights for a Blackgate prison jumpsuit. Or a bull's-eye on my back. Now I'm faced with the prospect of pulling fake crimes to maintain my standing in the criminal community so I can dig up dirt on them and feed it to Oracle.
I've already squealed on Babs Gordon, who probably hates my guts by now.
And I gave up the chemist. Still not sure how I feel about that.
The only good thing is that I finally killed the Floronic Man. But I can no longer take any pleasure in that triumph. Somewhere in this complex, my bestest friend and unrequited love Poison Ivy is undoubtedly crying her eyes out, pining away for the man she was genetically modified to be desolate without. I broke her heart, and the break is never going to heal.
"Pammy hates me," I whispered. Then I started crying again. It was over. Batman had won. I was officially one of the terminally depressed residents of Gotham. I might as well get myself a freeze ray and a fishbowl helmet.
There was a jingling outside my door, and I raised my head. My door was locked from the outside. I mean, really - did I not mention the broken ankle? What was I going to do, walk out on my hands?
I wondered if it could be done.
I heard two voices as the door opened, and I instantly recognized one of them. Pammy was in her queen bee mode. "Modern medicine!" she sneered. "Why didn't you just amputate! Was your hook not sterile enough?"
"I'm a trained doctor, you green-robed prima donna," Phantasm retorted as they came in.
I just kinda stared at Ivy. I didn't even think of wiping my tears. She looked better than I expected. If the Phantasm didn't clue you in, she was wearing a green robe. It was probably the most clothes I'd seen Ivy wear in months. It was a refreshing change. Sometimes when you saw practically nothing but skin week after week, you started imagining how she'd fill out dresses and bathing suits and such.
Most people undress beautiful women with their eyes. Naturally I did it backwards.
Whoa, having sexual thoughts about the woman who was undoubtedly here to ream me out - bad call.
You gotta understand - Pammy has a wicked temper, and she's not afraid to unleash it. When she first started dropping by my hideouts all that time ago, her "gratitude" never stopped her from verbally ripping me to shreds for various infractions, most often "speaking ill of my rosebud". Even after we became friends, Pammy could still let loose. Friendship, after all, was a one-way street with Poison Ivy. She deigned to call you her friend, and she could just as easily remove you from the list. I wasn't looking forward to her vicious tongue . . .
Eep! More naughty thoughts!
My mind must have really wandered, because I suddenly realized Pammy was inspecting my cast with disdain. "Archaic," she sniffed. "Using man's medicine. And you call yourself a woman," she said to the Phantasm.
"I liked you better when you were heavily sedated," the Phantasm replied.
Pammy just dismissed her, turning her back on the doctor-turned-vigilante. "This cast will have to come off. I'll need some things from one of the hideouts. You do your little smoke-thing and fetch them, all right? I should write a list," she said thoughtfully. "These days people can't even tell herbs from weeds any more!"
"Excuse me, but I do not appreciate being treated like a servant!"
Neither did most of the people who visited the Iceberg, or the entire staff at Arkham, or even me, but that never helped us either.
"And that cast is going to have remain on for weeks," Phantasm added.
Oracle had suggested I get to know them by their real names, but I refused. My small, pitiful act of rebellion.
"I'll be fashioning some poultices for her ankle," Ivy said as if Phantasm hadn't spoken. "She can be as good as new in three weeks or less."
"That's good," I spoke up for the first time. "I'll be able to run better when you kick my ass across town."
Ivy just looked at me for a moment. "I'm afraid I don't know of any treatments for that sense of humor, Harley," she said finally. "Could we be given a few minutes alone?"
There was a pause. "Oh, I'm sorry," the Phantasm said. "I didn't think you were speaking to me, seeing as how you were asking a question, not giving an order."
"Please?" I asked meekly from bed. "Please - Andrea?"
The rebellion was over. Who's Spartacus? Not me.
"Well, all right," the Phantasm said at last. "But if I come back in here and find her tearing your cast off with her bare hands, I'm not going to be happy."
"Oh, go and do your poof trick," Ivy said.
The Phantasm scowled before going out and locking the door behind her.
Ivy sighed when she was gone. "It's better than Arkham, at least," she said. "None of those starchy cotton uniforms. And sedated is better than medicated, I always say."
An inability to use witty banter appeared to be a symptom of my poor humor. My eyes started welling up again. "I'm sorry, Pammy," I squeaked.
"Don't," Ivy said as she pulled a chair over and sat down. "Just - don't apologize. I'm just barely holding it together."
The despair in her eyes made me cringe in my bed. "H-how . . . how are they treating you?"
"Like a lab rat," she said, shrugging. "A very, very fragile lab rat. Either they're afraid I'll poison them, or they think I'm made of china. I suppose you might have created the latter impression?"
"I kinda suggested you'd be, you know, depressed."
Ivy chuckled bitterly. "Lost and bewildered is more like it."
I started crying in earnest now. "It wasn't supposed to end like that!" I whimpered. I don't look very good when I whimper either. Does anybody really look good when they whimper though?
"No," Ivy agreed. "It was supposed to end with you dead and Jason alive."
I gasped. Why did I let that bother me? It wasn't like Ivy hadn't tried to kill me herself. But it still did. "Then why did you save me!"
Ivy looked down. "I'm not exactly sure," she confessed. "I crawled in and found the two of you laughing your heads off. Neither of you looked particularly good. I made a split decision. For whatever reason, I picked you. It - seemed like a good idea at the time."
"And now?" I asked softly. "Not such a good idea?"
"I don't know. It's just . . . you'd almost died twice that night. I could have killed you, and then I could have let you die. I suppose I could no longer bear to risk seeing you die through either commission or omission." Ivy looked at me again and sighed. "This is all partially my fault, I suppose."
She looked annoyed - at herself, it turned out. "I never considered the effect my beauty would have on a lesbian," she said. "Naturally one as irresistible as I must be careful around men. Otherwise I might find a hundred different men competing for my hand on any given night."
Her ego still seemed healthy enough.
"If only I'd known you were gay, Harley," she said, shaking her head. "All those nights you were exposed to my charms - you couldn't help falling in love with me. If I'd realized you were attracted to women - "
"Actually, I'm kinda bisexual."
"Ugh," Pammy said, revolted. "If you could be attracted to a woman, why would you ever take a man to bed? Men are disgusting, nasty creatures. Bisexuality is just another word for 'bad taste'."
I didn't bother to point out the fact that she'd been involved with a man for years. Bringing Jason up again wasn't a good idea. Besides, her comment implied that our little kiss at the hideout was just a one-time thing. I sighed heavily and said nothing.
"I'm sorry if I'm sounding brusque," she said, misinterpreting my sigh, "but that's just the way I see it. As I was saying, this whole thing could have been avoided if you'd just told me the truth."
"Oh?" I asked. "What would you have done?"
Pammy shrugged. "Sought another refuge when I was out on the street."
"You mean - stop being friends with me?" I said, pained.
"Of . . . " She stopped and toyed with my bedsheet. "I don't mean to make it sound like your - feelings for me don't matter. You were a great comfort to me all those times, and I appreciate it. But if it meant stopping you from murdering Jason, then yes, of course I would have gone elsewhere!"
"I'd take it back if I could," I pleaded. "I didn't want him dead if it meant doing this to you! If I could snap my fingers and make him alive again - "
"Hmph," she interrupted darkly. "I'm not sure it would make any difference now."
Ivy frowned. "Your friend the doctor has been telling me things. Apparently her sister was Jason's first experiment. Jason told me many times that I was always intended to be Poison Ivy. I do not like finding out I was his - second choice."
Since when did Ivy have PRIDE when it came to the Floronic Man?
"And now she claims there is some element in my genes that compelled me to love him," she added. "He was a giant among men. I do not understand why he couldn't trust me to love him on my own."
"Um, Pammy?" I suggested gently. "Maybe that element is the reason you think he's a 'giant among men'?"
She looked blankly at me, and I decided not to push it. Although really, I'd spent the past two years giving her reasons to dump his sorry carcass, and she gets angry with Woodrue after a couple sit-downs with a woman who dresses up like a ghost on Halloween night?
"At any rate," Ivy went on, "I do not yearn for him quite as much as I used to. But . . . there is something missing. It must be him, because nothing else has changed. Soon my anger will pass, and I will want him back more than ever. Whether it's my genes or my heart talking, I know there is this void in my life now, and I don't know how to fill it. I don't know what to fill it with."
"I wish I could help," I said miserably.
Ivy stood up. "Talk to me tomorrow," she said. "At least you understand me better, Harley. Maybe you can figure it out for me."
Yesterday's desire to see her after I woke up from my coma had swiftly died when I realized what I had done to her. If she hadn't barged into my room, I might have avoided her until the day my ankle healed. Now that she was here, though, I wanted her back tomorrow so badly. Even if her presence tortured me with the memory of what I'd done to her, it was a sweet torture nonetheless.
"You can see me as much as you like," I told her.
"Assuming the Phantasm learns to take orders," Pammy growled.
That was Pammy. The world would work so much better, if only it listened to her.
The next day, Pammy and the Phantasm - sounds like a movie they'd show on the Wonderful World of Disney - returned with an armload of plants. "Oracle says if it will get you back on the street quicker," Andrea grumbled as she removed my cast, "she'll try anything." Then she watched us carefully as Pammy spent an hour fashioning what looked almost like a green and yellow ankle sock and fastening it over my foot.
The day after that, Pammy and I talked for hours. She said she was feeling a little better.
The following day, Pammy touched my hand briefly before she was taken away. And it didn't feel awkward.
And about a week later, I woke up one morning and realized no one had bothered to come for Ivy the night before. I realized this because she was snuggled next to me in bed.
I almost peed myself.
I must have moved somehow while I was regaining control over my bodily functions, because Ivy lifted her head. "Go back to sleep, Harley," she said sleepily. "It's not morning yet."
"Uhhh . . . how do you know it's not morning yet? There's no windows."
"I always know when the sun is up. It's in my blood. Now go back to sleep." She dropped her head down again and slid her arm across my waist.
"Heh-heh, sure thing, Pammy," I whispered.
Then I grabbed the button Phantasm set up for medical emergencies and pressed it. Many times. I was still pressing it when the door opened and Black Canary burst in. "What's the - am I interrupting something?" she asked slyly.
Ivy sat up this time. "Do you mind?" she asked irritably.
"Have you been in here all night?"
Ivy nodded. "I didn't want to sleep on the floor."
Oh. Maybe it wasn't a big deal then. Pammy sure loved her comfort.
"Well, you should go back to your room now," Canary told her.
"But I don't want to leave Harley," Ivy pouted.
"I believe part of being involuntarily confined here is that you have to do what you're told."
Ivy sagged. Actually, she wilted as Canary came over and took her by the arm.
I sat up as they left, alarmed. "Dinah," I said. "I need to speak with Andrea right now."
"Despite what happened last week with Andrea and Ivy's plants, we are NOT your messengers," Dinah shot back.
"Hello? Emergency button being pushed? I need the Phantasm right fucking now!" I hissed at her.
Black Canary rolled her eyes. "I should have gone home last night," she sighed. "I'll tell her - if I see her."
I seethed as she sauntered out with Ivy in tow, but my irritation with my keepers quickly subsided in the face of these new developments.
On the surface, it seemed good. Fantastic, in fact. But this was really, really bad.
Andrea finally showed up a half hour later. The Phantasm represented another tricky problem for me. My politeness toward Oracle disguised my hatred for how she was blackmailing me into becoming a stool pigeon. I didn't have much contact with the Black Canary. But the Phantasm - I kinda liked her. We'd bonded slightly that one night over our shared loathing for the Floronic Man - rest in mulch, you bastard - and since then she'd monitored my condition with care.
I was NOT going to be a happy little parakeet in this Birds of Prey organization, but whatever I was going to do about it, I didn't think I wanted her to get hurt.
"I hear there's been a breakthrough," Andrea said dryly as she came in.
"It's a nightmare," I replied glumly.
Andrea looked startled. "Dinah tells me Ivy was all over you this morning, and I know how you feel about her. Why is this a bad thing?"
"Because she's behaving exactly the same way she behaved with Jason," I said. "Clingy and affectionate when I'm around, joyless when I'm not. Is there any way her genetic makeup could have, I don't know, mutated again? If so, we've gotta get more of the chemist's special juice! Because I can't become like him!" I added desperately. This was exactly why I rejected Jason's offer before he died - I couldn't MAKE her love me!
"Even after a week of testing and study, my mother and I still don't know enough about Poison Ivy's genetics to give you a definite answer," she said, frowning. "We have been finding things out, though."
"We'll never know for sure now that Jason is dead," Andrea told me, "but we have a theory that Ivy's genetic modifications were only half of the deal. It's entirely possible that Jason's DNA was altered as well."
"Well, yeah, of course," I said. "To make him immune to poisons."
"Yes, that. But we suspect he transformed himself into a plant hybrid as well, specifically one that gave off a special kind of pheromone. Ivy gives off pheromones too, right?"
I nodded. That was part of how she enslaved men with her kiss.
"Jason may have emitted a special pheromone with one specific purpose - to attract Ivy, drawing her to him. That may be how he became the center of her universe."
"And when I injected him with the stuff that changed his DNA back," I realized, "he couldn't do that any more."
"So when Ivy walked in and found you and Jason dying from the Smilex gas, there was no longer this genetic mandate compelling her to love him completely. For once, Ivy's own instincts determined the outcome of her split-second decision."
"And she saved me," I whispered.
"Plants are very hardy and adaptive lifeforms, and Ivy is nothing if not determined. I suppose it's possible that, in the face of the permanent loss of her 'sunshine', she sought out a replacement. And you were the obvious candidate." Andrea hesitated. "This Rappacini story you're always quoting - I went back and I read it. You do remember what happened to Beatrice when she drank the antidote, right?"
"Yes," I said. The poison had been a part of her system for too long and . . . she died.
"I know you probably want this gene-altering chemical made more than ever now, so you can change her back. But it's an extremely risky scheme. Even if it works, the toxins in her system could very well kill her. Maybe it would be best if you let her be." She smiled slightly. "You don't have Jason's DNA, after all. So if Ivy has given Jason up and selected you, her decision HAS to be partly motivated by her feelings for you. From what I've been told, the way you've treated her over the years would inspire love and affection in almost anyone."
Tears were in my eyes, but for the first time in days, they were tears of hope, rather than of sadness. "You think so?" I asked.
"Well, if you're going to go on loving her, and teaching her to believe that she's an equal partner in the relationship instead of a slave . . ."
"Oh my God!" I blurted out. "If anyone's going to be doing the worshipping, it's going to be me!"
"Then you're what's best for her. Let Beatrice and Giovanni keep their poisons, and each other."
Suddenly I couldn't wait for Pammy to be brought back. I wanted her to hold me again. This time I could enjoy it. Without wanting to use the bathroom.
"I still can't believe it," I said as I stood on the runway.
"Which part?" Pammy asked.
"All of it!"
Pammy and I were waiting for a small plane to take us to Central City. According to Jean-Paul Valley, that's where the next Judge is supposed to strike.
Until yesterday, I had thought it would be Phantasm and Black Canary going to track down the Judges. In fact, we were using their plane tickets. We'd be flying under the names of "Andrea Thompkins" and "Dinah Lance".
I was supposed to remain behind in Gotham to feed Oracle information on my fellow Rogues. I still wasn't happy about it. I could live with it, though. In the two weeks since Pammy had suddenly fallen for me, I'd been floating through the days in a delirious state of euphoria. Not that we'd made love or anything yet, but she was lavishing on me the same sort of attention and support she'd always wasted on Woodrue.
And not that it was going to waste on me! Thanks to her programming, she was a little confused at first when I treated her like her opinions mattered. I think Pammy held herself back a lot when she was the "sidekick". Jason was supposed to be the brilliant one, and the strongest one. Now I'm encouraging Pammy to be the brains of our little pairing. The planning stages were never exactly my strong suit. And she's gotten better at controlling plants. Whatever block her subconscious placed on her powers is gone now, and now I bet she'd have no problem using plants to attack more than one person at a time.
Not to mention the fact that I've been returning all her devotion with devotion of my own. I think eventually she'll figure out that love is going to be a two-way street with us, and that I'll work to earn her heart for the rest of my life.
Well, she'd been doing more scheming than I realized. Yesterday she asked Oracle to see us, and once the Mafia princess arrived, Pammy went into full diva mode, told Oracle she was being stupid. "Why take Phantasm and Black Canary out of Gotham right when they've established themselves among the Rogues as a threat to be feared?" she had asked. "And why leave Harley here to waste her time information-gathering? You've got this Spoiler girl to do that for you!"
"I hardly think Harley can take the Judges on one-on-one," Oracle had replied.
"You have figured out we're inseparable, right?" Ivy had asked. "Of course I would go with her."
"But Pammy!" I had said. "What about the plants? I thought you had big plans for the lumber companies and the oil companies and . . ."
Ivy just looked at me with this annoyed little smile, and I realized I shouldn't have said that in front of Oracle. Although the fact that she was ABLE to be annoyed with me, instead of docilely taking it, was a plus.
"I'll go wherever you go and help you like a good sidekick," she only said.
"Partner," I had corrected her.
Oracle had been interested. I think she'd considered it already, but knew I couldn't do it alone. She had no hold over Pammy, so she had figured Ivy would want to stay in Gotham.
And Ivy was right. Taking the Birds out of Gotham just when they'd made their reputation was stupid. Isn't my Pammy smart?
Which is why we're waiting for a plane with our very small luggage and my very healed ankle. I'll never take a doctor's advice over Pammy's ever again.
"At least now we can talk freely," Ivy said. "I never knew when we were being monitored back there."
"About what? We can't escape, you know. They'd just track us down. Besides, I've been thinking more about it, and these Judges DO need to be stopped. We can't just let them go on killing people like us."
"Oh, I completely agree, Red," Pammy said. That was her new pet name for me, because of my costume. It sounded better than Black. "We can't let them go on doing what they've been doing."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Don't you see, Red? A cult composed entirely of men who can be easily programmed to do whatever the leaders want them to do? A group of ready-made slaves? I tell you, it's like a wet dream for me," Pammy said greedily.
"I hope it's the only one that doesn't involve me," I replied.
She gave me a smile that made me want to melt. "Of course," she assured me. "Anyway, I want to find the Judges too. A few kisses and they'll tell us everything they know. Including, perhaps, the whereabouts of their leaders. Then it'll be time for the Order of St. Harley."
"I never thought of myself as a saint."
"If one of us has to be a saint, it's CERTAINLY not me," Ivy replied.
She had a point. Saints weren't known for their bitchiness.
"It'll be a simple thing to reprogram the Judges to do anything we want," Ivy went on. "Then let Oracle expose you. I'd like to see them TRY to have you arrested with a few dozen Judges guarding you. Not to mention me," she added firmly. "I'd die for you."
"Don't you say things like that," I said. "You will NOT throw your life away for me. We're in this together, remember? Partners. If you died . . . my life wouldn't be much fun anyway."
Ivy turned bright red. I loved doing that to her. Then she grinned. "Just think of it, Harley," she said. "We could even send a few dozen Judges after the Oracle. After all, we know where she lives."
"No," I said. "The Phantasm could get hurt."
"But Red," she said, sulking. "She gave me my scar!"
"Pammy, you're a fiendishly clever girl, and I love you for it. But I'm not going to blame her for something she did while she was trying to kill Jason Woodrue."
She didn't get mad, I'm happy to say. It seemed "speaking ill of Rosebud" was no longer on her list of major offenses.
"Besides," I said, "we'll have defeated the Order, not Oracle. WE'LL have all that power. We can send Order members anywhere to do anything. Throw cream pies, plant smart trees, you name it. And the almighty source of wisdom won't be able to do anything about it. Let her stew about THAT."
Pammy chuckled. "You're a fiendishly clever girl, Red, and I love you for it."
As the plane taxied onto the runway, I thought about how we were leaving not just Gotham, but our old lives behind. But Gotham was a depressing city. And I had no regrets, no reason to feel sad. Even Spoiler wasn't mad at me. Oracle was paying her a lot of money to poke around, and now that her father was preparing for retirement, suddenly Babs wasn't so interested in making trouble for the police.
Now that we're getting away from Gotham, how can we not be happy?
So, in the real-life version of Rappacini's Daughter, Doctor Rappacini's scheme succeeds after all. If the old coot were real, I bet he'd be laughing right now.
And I couldn't be happier. Donald O'Connor said it best.
Make 'em laugh, make 'em laugh, make 'em laugh!
Author's Note - For those who don't follow the Birds of Prey, Helena Bertinelli is the Huntress in the current Birds of Prey comic book title. Black Canary and Oracle are the other members. But of course, in DC it's Barbara Gordon who is Oracle.
Oracle blackmailing Harley into helping her was meant to be a parallel to Barbara forcing Savant and Creote to help the Birds of Prey in a recent storyline.
The Phantasm's real name was Andrea Beaumont in the B:TAS movie. Make what you will out of her last name in this story.
The Judge appeared in a single episode of The Batman and Superman Adventures. He turned out to be a third personality of Harvey Two-Face.
Jean-Paul Valley is actually Azrael, created by the Order of St. Dumas to be a crimefighter willing to use lethal force.
Wow. My last Harley/Ivy story. I loved writing this one. Fortunately there are writers like Jen Kollic and Amimako who will keep the fandom alive.
Thanks to all my readers :)