Disclaimer: DC owns all these characters and WB owns DC and Time Warner owns WB and I'm pretty sure the rest of the world.
Author Notes: This was an entry for a very belated Valentine's JHQ themed contest (not to mention winner of said contest) so expect some holiday fun. The story changed a lot in my head before I put it on paper, not to mention while I was writing. I have simply fallen in love with it and hope you will too.
What Day Is It?
He couldn't believe it. She'd been gone for three months! She had never stayed away that long before, at least not voluntarily. …Not that he cared or anything. It was irritating though. He'd think of something funny and would turn around to share it with her, forgetting she was not around. He even made the mistake of doing this once in front of the boys. Of course, he had to kill them all and hire new help. They'd think he missed her…which he didn't.
"I'm sure she's doing this on purpose," he grumbled to the empty room.
Joker continued to tell himself that Harley was grossly overreacting when, in fact, he knew what he'd done would piss the hell out of her. To be quite honest, he wasn't thinking at the time.
"It's all that stupid mutt's fault," he complained. He had been working after all. Can't a man get some peace while he's in the middle of concocting the destruction of GCPD headquarters? One of Harley's pets kept circling him though. Joker tried to ignore it, but it began whining and nudging at him with its nose. As he intently continued to scribble notes down, he had given the animal a good kick. It let out a yelp but came right back for more.
"HARLEY! Would you take care of this? Daddy's busy," he called.
"I can't imagine what's wrong with him Puddin'. He's already been fed and I just took him for a walk. Maybe he just wants to play." Harley rummaged around and found a small stuffed Batman toy many of the Gotham vendors sold. It didn't take long for the hyenas to ruin them, so they tried to keep them in stock.
"C'mere Bud," Harley called sweetly, holding the chew toy out in front of her. "Mommy's got your toy!"
Bud had raced to her excitedly and happily played 'fetch the Batman' with his favorite person in the world. Unfortunately, Harley's aimed slipped in the middle of the game and the toy landed right on the desk Joker was working at.
"Oopsie…Mistah J! Look out!" Harley warned too late.
The large animal took off at full-speed for the desk. The clown looked up in time to see the animal leap onto his work area and slide right into him. With a crash Joker was knocked to the ground still in his chair along with the massive amounts of paperwork he had been doodling plans on.
Joker, on his last nerve, grabbed a pair of scissors that had fallen into the floor along with everything else and buried them into Bud's skull. It happened so fast that Harley didn't even have a chance to protest. "Stupid animal," he commented as he rose to his feet.
He looked at Harley with her mouth frozen agape, trying to process what had just happened. It truly hadn't occurred to him either until that moment. His eyes widened as his gaze darted between Harley and the dead animal. The first thing that crossed his mind was, "Oh shit…"
The fact that was the first thought that came to him really ticked him off. Why should the Joker have to concern himself with what he did in his own home? He wasn't about to start asking for Harley's permission or apologizing for his actions.
He didn't have a chance to think about it very long though, because Harley had clenched her fists on either side of her body and it was clear she was about to take action. Joker had already anticipated what was to come and pulled his gun from his belt before she had a chance to move.
"Don't even think about it," he said threateningly as he pointed the weapon at her.
Harley, who a mere instant ago looked as though she was about to explode with rage, had a sudden change in mood. She slumped her head and shoulders, looking weary and fed up with life. Her posture and the expression on her face did not fit her choice of costume in the slightest.
She looked the Joker in the eye unflinchingly and said as coldly and as straight as possible, "You won't be seeing me again," and headed out the door.
Her mannerisms had taken Joker completely off guard and he belatedly shouted, "Can I get that in writing!" as a snappy comeback before realizing she was already gone.
Harley knew where she would end up for the most part. The same place she always ended up: with Pammy. Typically, the thought of getting to spend some quality time with her gal pal cheered her up somewhat when she and Joker separated. This time, it simply depressed her.
She wasn't sure what bothered her more: what the Joker had done…or the fact that it bothered her so much. The sane person still fighting inside Harley was nagging at her greatly after the incident.
"So what now Harleen?" the voice said. "You value the life of a pet over people?"
"You don't understand," Harley tried to explain. "People will let you down, but Bud loved me no matter what and he counted on me to take care of him."
"That's quite a rationalization," Dr. Quinzel replied.
Harley halted in the middle of this thought process. "Ah crap!" she said aloud. "Now I sound like Harvey."
She tried to clear her mind and continued on her way to Ivy's.
"Yes Harleen," the voice nagged. "That's just what you need. I'm sure someone that values a plant's life over a human's will be very helpful."
"What'd he do this time?" Ivy asked irritably. She had become accustomed to this routine by now and barely looked up from tending her plants.
"I don't want to talk about it," Harley said numbly.
Ivy did look up at that point. Harley always wanted to talk about what cruel fate had separated her from her adoring Mistah J the day she arrived…and the following day…and the day after that. In fact, it was a miracle if you could ever get her to shut up on the subject.
She rushed to Harley's side sure that she'd find some serious injuries, but the young woman looked fine. "Tell me what he did, Harley!" she demanded while grasping both her shoulders, certain that it was something unspeakable.
Harley sat down and started to cry, not the fake little girl tantrums she usually threw, but weeping softly. Ivy put an arm around her.
"Oh Red," she said in between tears. "He killed Bud."
Ivy dropped the arm that was comforting Harley.
"That's it?" she asked in disbelief.
"Whaddaya mean 'That's it?'" Harley replied angrily.
"Harl, last time you came to me he had broken your arm in four places and shot you in the leg! You're more upset about your stupid mutt, who is extremely annoying by the way, than your own well being!"
Now Harley was the one in disbelief. "You," she said tersely. "YOU don't understand?"
Pammy waved her off. "Of course not, Harley! It's insane!"
Harley stood up sharply and stomped over to one of Ivy's potted plants. She picked it up and hurled it across the room, straight into a wall. The pot smashed and Ivy rushed over to try and save her precious darling.
"It feels like that!" Harley screamed.
Ivy was distraught and picking through the dirt to weed out the broken pottery pieces. Harley sighed, and grabbed an empty pot and some mulch to help her friend replant the fern.
The first couple of weeks were tense. Between Harley's attack on Ivy's plant and her sorrow over the lost pet, it was to be expected.
Harley spent most of her time trying to comfort her second hyena. Lou showed up at Ivy's a few days after Harley. It knew where to look for its master if she stayed away from home too long. Harley was sure that Lou must be terribly upset about the loss of his friend. Truth be told, he was rather confused; even Ivy admitted this. Lou would spend a lot of time sniffing about for his counterpart, but didn't seem to be able to find him.
It never took Harley long to bounce back into abnormal hyperactivity though and soon she felt much more like herself. On one hand, Ivy was happy to see the improvement. She rarely made time for any fun for herself, but Harley always seemed to bring it out of her. On the other hand, this meant Harley was ready to try and make excuses for the Joker's actions.
"Y'know Red, I'll bet he wasn't really trying to go for Bud's head," she'd say. "I'm sure he was aiming for something non-vital. Pets do require a lot of discipline."
Depending on her mood, Ivy would either ignore the comments, try to talk sense to Harley (not that it ever worked), or simply call her an idiot.
Meanwhile, Joker found himself at home bored to tears. He stopped even attempting to make any kind of plans for mischief out of frustration. Every time he'd get involved in a really good one, Joker would find that it needed Harley for some reason or another or that he simply stuck her in out of habit.
More than anything though, Harley had the gift of keeping him focused. Joker's mind was going in so many directions at once he'd often find himself working on dozens of projects at one time. As a result, many plans had gone uncompleted until she showed up in his life
When he'd find himself distracted, Harley would often gently prod with something like, "The one with the exploding toilets you were working on earlier was really funny, Puddin'."
"Yes, yes, yes, it was," he'd say and find himself back on track.
The thought of needing her (or anyone) for anything really frustrated him, so he decided a break was in order. He was just in a rut. Something would come to him; it always did.
"I've been going at this solo way before I met her," he said aloud, though no one was in the room to hear it. The fact that he had to keep reassuring himself was really starting to piss him off.
Joker had considered going out to get her. Harley did belong to him after all, and it was most definitely his right to retrieve his possession. It felt very backward though.
There were only two possible places she could be: with Ivy or at Arkham. Joker often watched the news to see if there was any coverage about himself. That always made him feel better. This ruled out one of the locations. If Harley were arrested, it certainly would be all over the television…not that he was looking.
Joker was eating out of a carton of ice cream as he flipped through the channels. With a spoon dangling out of his mouth, he surveyed his surroundings to find them in utter disarray. Dirty clothes and half-eaten, week old food could be found any direction he looked.
"Screw this!" he exclaimed as he stood up to take action. He was going to go get Harley and drag her ass back here.
"It's not because I need her," he rationalized in his head. "It's because I want her. That's very different."
"I don't like the way that sounds either," he argued with himself.
"Why not! It makes perfect sense. If I want cash, I take it. If I want to screw with the Bat's mind, I knock off a sidekick or two. And right now I want Harley here to clean this shit up so I can get back to work."
"…Works for me," the voice consented.
There were only two things he had to worry about now. Where exactly was Poison Ivy located and what if Harley was still angry with him?
Joker tackled the second problem first. He figured Harley probably wasn't in the best of moods seeing as she still hadn't returned. Typically, he couldn't care less about whether she was happy or not, but Ivy was no lightweight. Joker hadn't made it to where he was today by underestimating people. He was going to have a hard time forcing Harley to do much of anything with that kind of back-up.
A peace offering seemed the most likely solution. And the most obvious idea was to replace Bud, so he sent some of his boys on a trip to the local zoo.
"Why are we doing this again?" the voice inside his head asked.
"Because I'm a manipulative bastard," he explained.
"Oh…Just checking," the appeased voice replied.
Back at Ivy's, Harley was jumping around more excitedly than usual.
"What's got you so spun up?" Ivy asked.
"Dontcha know, Red? Valentine's Day is almost here!" she answered, overjoyed at the prospect.
"I hardly see any reason to get excited. Millions of roses are killed every year on Valentine's so that women have some excuse to gush over the moronic men of the world," the older woman lectured. It was clear that Harley wasn't paying her any attention.
"You honestly think he's going to show," Ivy said in realization.
"Of course he will, Red! My Puddin' loves me," Harley replied, utterly delusional.
"And when he doesn't you'll have some excuse lined up for him. Hell, I'll bet you already have one prepared. But I'm not allowing it this time," she determinedly stated.
"What do you mean?" Harley asked.
"When he doesn't show, and mark my words, he won't, I want you to agree to stay away from him the rest of the year," Ivy said coldly.
"WHAT!" she responded in astonishment.
"You heard me. It'll be good for you. It's not as though you'll be alone. I'll be here for you," Ivy coerced.
"I am NOT agreeing to that," Harley replied defiantly.
"Just as I thought," Ivy said, putting off an uninterested air. "You know he won't show up because he really doesn't care."
Harley chewed on her lower lip in indecision. Finally, she tried to negotiate the terms of the agreement. "If we get locked up…it still counts toward the year."
"Agreed, but only if you stay away from him in Arkham too," Ivy demanded.
Harley sadly nodded her head in consent as Ivy smiled.
Joker wasn't looking forward to this at all. He still didn't know where to find Ivy. There was only one person in Gotham who kept tabs on everyone: The Penguin.
He hated having to negotiate with anyone. If anything, people should be lining up to negotiate with him. Still, the necessity arose from time to time.
He approached the Iceberg Lounge from the back alley, as was customary for all those that might hurt Cobblepot's image as an honest businessman. The Joker never called before arriving. This was considered rather rude, but no one was about to say anything. It's not as though Joker was ever accused of being polite and he liked to see the surprised faces on everyone when he entered. But what was really funny was watching everyone bump into each other in their attempts to accommodate him. "May I take your coat Mr. Joker, sir? Would you like your usual drink, sir? Will that be all, Mr. Joker?"
It didn't take long for the Penguin to arrive. He made it a point not to make his regulars wait.
"We weren't expecting you today," Oswald said graciously. Ever the host, he offered his guest another drink.
Joker waved off the offer. "I was in the neighborhood," he said with a smile.
Penguin got right to business. "So what can I do for you?" he asked.
Joker decided not to beat around the bush. "I need to know where I can find Ivy."
"Big plans today?" Cobblepot asked knowingly.
Joker gave him a confused look but tried to play it off. "Yeah…sure…real big."
Penguin wasn't buying. "Why do you want to know?"
"Maybe I have some new weed killer I want to try on her. Maybe I've come up with another kooky plan that requires her assistance. Or maybe it's something else completely. The point is, it's not your business," Joker ended darkly.
"Everything is my business," Penguin stated matter-of-factly. "Besides, everyone knows you and the misses had a tiff. The news has traveled all over town. Given the day…I just assumed…"
"I'm flattered to make the front of your gossip column," the clown said irritably. "I don't see how that's of any interest, anyway. It's not like it's anything new."
"Whatever you did to her this time must have been something unspeakable. No one knows what happened," Penguin said with a gleam in his eye.
Cobblepot's intense interest in the subject was rather apparent, so Joker really started to ham it up. "Oh Ozzie, you know me."
"You know…in certain circles the information may be worth a lot. Everyone has been asking about it," Cobblepot hinted.
"Are you asking for the story as payment for information? …Hmmm…I dunno…," Joker replied, careful to make himself appear unsure.
Penguin scribbled something on a slip of paper. "The location is written right here. You tell me and I'll hand it over."
"Oh alright! You drive a hard bargain, Pengy," he conceded. Joker looked around dramatically to make sure no one was eavesdropping and beckoned Penguin to move in closer. He leaned in and whispered, "I killed her dog."
Penguin sat back against his chair again, flabbergasted. "That's…That's it?" he asked in disgusted disappointment.
"That's it!" Joker gave a huge belly laugh.
"…But…that's not worth two cents!" Cobblepot continued and was looking suspiciously like he wasn't sure he was willing to complete his end of the bargain.
"Them's the breaks," Joker said. "You know better than to squelch on a deal with me." He gave him a dangerous glare for good measure.
Penguin angrily handed the slip of paper to him and abruptly escorted the clown out the door, Joker laughing the entire way.
All in all, things couldn't have gone better in his meeting with the Penguin. However, something that Cobblepot said kept nagging at the Joker. The way he talked you'd think something about today was a big deal, but Joker couldn't come up with a single reason why.
He knew all the important anniversaries by heart. It wasn't the day he became his glorious self, the day he crippled the commissioner's daughter, the day he offed the boy blunder, or the day he whacked Gordan's wife. As he ran the list of important dates through his head, Joker was relieved to find that they had not slipped by him. He'd hate not to have celebrated properly.
Joker headed for the location Penguin gave to him, hyena in tow. It wasn't really trained yet, so he was using a U-haul as transportation and had placed the animal in the back. Not exactly the classy way he preferred to travel, but it was functional.
Meanwhile, Harley was not at all her perky self. With each passing day, her depression grew. Harley wasn't stupid. She knew perfectly well her Puddin' wasn't going to show. So she told herself things to make her feel better. Was that so wrong? Why did Pammy have to constantly ruin her fantasy? Furthermore, why did she agree to her stupid demands?
Poison Ivy, on the other hand, grew more cheerful as the days flew by. She knew she had won this time and it put her in great spirits. She spent her days being very sociable with Harley as she tended her garden. Harley was increasingly unresponsive, but Ivy was convinced with time she'd come around.
It was the big day, zero hour, and Pamela continued to gab while Harley sat perched up next to a window watching the snow fall softly. Her cheek was pressed against the cold window pane. She grunted in response to Ivy's conversation every now and then to give the impression she was listening. That's when she saw a U-haul truck pull up in front of the building.
"Huh…Looks like we're getting new neighbors, Red," she said dryly.
Ivy put down her hedge clippers and headed for the window. "I don't like this," she responded as her eyes met the U-haul. "Why would someone be moving at this time of night?"
"It's obviously someone who don't wanna to be seen changin' addresses," Harley deduced. "Just look at who hangs out around here. This ain't exactly the ritz."
"…I suppose," Ivy conceded.
That's when the U-haul began to shake and the distinct sound of a hyena's laughter drifted up the apartment building. Lou instantly awoke from his nap, bounded toward the window and started calling back to the truck.
"…It can't be," Ivy said in amazement.
Harley sat up rigidly on her knees with her body against the window pane, too afraid to even breath. She finally allowed herself a loud, little girl squeal when she saw her man emerge from the front seat of the U-haul, shouting "Shut the fuck up!" to back of the truck.
Harley gave Ivy a huge squeeze around the neck as she continued to squeal joyfully. Ivy hung there limply in disbelief.
As Joker walked toward the buildings entrance, Harley ripped open the window. "Oh Puddin', you found me!" she shouted down.
Joker halted and looked up. "There you are, cupcake! Why'd you leave me all alone? Daddy's missed you," he said as he put on his best pout.
Harley had a forlorn expression as she tried to remember what would make her do such a thing.
"Because you killed her mutt!" Ivy finally joined in. She yanked Harley back and slammed the window shut.
Joker clicked his tongue, turned around to the truck and opened the back. He hadn't planned on letting the wild animal loose until they returned home, but Ivy's attitude changed his mind.
He managed to get a leash around the dog and fought with it all the way up the apartment building to where the girls where staying. He kicked open the door to find a couple of strangers staring back at him in fright. "Oops, must have miscounted the windows," Joker said simply as he closed the door.
He moved on to the next door and shouted "Land shark," loud enough to be heard on the other side.
"GO AWAY!" was Pam's response.
Certain he now had the right room, Joker forcefully entered and let go of the leash. The untamed hyena ran amuck, knocking over an assortment of plants along with Lou, who was very excited to find a new friend.
Ivy screeched madly as Harley beamed, "Oh! I know they're just gonna to be the best of friends."
Joker stretched his arms out wide and Harley gladly dove into them. "Oh Puddin'! Thank you so much! It's the best Valentine's gift ever!"
"Valentine's?" Joker replied, confused. "…OH! I mean…Yeah…Of course, it is. Always thinking about you pumpkin pie." He patted her on the head.
"Will one of you get control of these things!" Ivy shouted in exasperation.
"He's not exactly house broken yet," Joker said in amusement.
"I'm going to name him…hmmmm…Bud!" Harley declared.
"How original," Joker muttered sarcastically, rolling his eyes.
Ivy looked disgusted. "…You what? You're just going to pretend like this whole thing never happened, aren't you!"
"I'm sure I haven't a clue what you are talking about," Harley replied haughtily, as both clowns exited with their happy family.
Ivy couldn't believe what had happened last night, the sheer coincidence of it was near impossible. Part of her was sure he knew something about her deal with Harley, though she couldn't think how.
She saved what plants she could the night before and drank herself to sleep. Pamela awoke the next morning with an excruciating headache, but had managed to sit herself up when her eyes caught on something she did not recognize.
A bouquet of roses was sitting on her nightstand. She slowly made her way over, picked them up gently and read the card that accompanied the delicate flowers.
Poison Ivy opened the same window from last night, hung her head out of it and screamed as loud as she could to share her frustration with the world.
The card read:
Don't worry Pammy. I'd never forget
about you. You might want to get these
in water so they'll live longer…or
prolong their suffering. I forget which.
Happy Valentine's Day!