A/N: Yet another victim of revisionist fever, Columbine has had a minor overhaul. (Would that be an underhaul?) It's sharper than it was the first time around with a few new scenes added and grammatical errors removed.
Thanks to everyone who reviewed it the first time around, with special acknowledgment for Princess Bee, whose review got me thinking about plot holes and how to patch them satisfactiorily and a couple of inconsistencies in characterization. Thanks, babe. Thanks also to Winters Rain, for no particular reason other than being one of the most amazing Joker fangirls I know and, as always, Twinings, who poked me until this story became more than just a throwaway idea I had when I was thirteen. Oh yes, I've lived with this character for nearly a decade. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Originally written June-October 2007, revised March 2009.
The rain came down in sheets and the wind blew violently, whipping hail at every target that wasn't smart enough to get out of the storm. Car alarms screeched their ear shattering calls into the night, almost drowned out by the howling of the wind and the rain clouds--heavy, leaden, black and pendulous--crackled with electricity and the terrifying sound of thunder echoing through the heavens.
Ah, yet another perfectly picturesque evening in Gotham.
Like most other perfectly picturesque evening in the city, a frenzied brawl was unfolding between Gotham's champion and one of the nastier villains who stalked the streets. Without provocation (not that he ever did anything with provocation--unpredictability was one of his defining character traits) the Joker blew up a high school. As always, his violent demand for attention through the use of high explosives drove Batman into the realm of barely contained rage.
Naturally, this is what the Joker had been aiming for. Nothing gave him that sense of genuine glee quite like yanking old Bats in the Belfrey to the end of his proverbial rope.
For the Joker, this was an elaborate chess game between two masters. All the lives affected by his antics were his pawns, to guard or discard as he saw fit with no more concern for their welfare than that of a man maliciously stepping on cockroaches just because he could.
The game of cat and mouse was growing tiresome for Batman, even if the Joker hadn't exhausted its novelty just yet, and he was fast getting to that point of no return where he would start considering disregarding his self imposed code of ethics.
If it weren't for his near infinite discipline, he would have wrung the Joker's scrawny little neck at least ten times over by now. The sadistic clown was too insane, too dangerous and too unstable to continue the way he had been throughout his career without someone having to find a means of stopping his rampages once and for all.
Really, to wipe him off the face of the earth would have been a service to every living being on the planet.
Yet, even knowing this, Batman still couldn't contemplate murdering the psychotic madman without something finding a means of getting in his way.
Sometimes, it was fate; sometimes it was his own morals and conscience pushing aside the bloodlust enough that he could think straight…
But tonight, neither principles nor divine providence was responsible for the Joker's continued existence.
Tonight, the thing that allowed Joker to keep breathing was Harley Quinn.
Fiercely loyal, head over heels in love and very deluded, she was a woman who walked where angels feared to tread. She toed the line between sane and insane, hopping over it again and again, back and forth, until the entire universe as she saw it was turned quite neatly on its head.
She loved her puddin', was convinced of his love for her, and would die to protect him if the occasion called for it.
On this bleak and rainy June evening, the stage was set for her to do just that.
Harley had fought valiantly thus far, taking far more injuries than the Joker did at the hands of the Bat, but in the end it wasn't Batman who was responsible for her taking a dive off a twelve story building.
No, this time her fall was at the hands of her lover, as it had been so many times before and to varying degrees.
The battle between the three costumed beings on the roof of the Ellinstad Hotel had been going on for quite some time, and the only person looking none the worse for wear was the dark knight. Harley's costume was torn at the shoulder and one of her gloves in shreds, but she still continued fighting, heedless of the angry purple bruises that were sure to be forming under her suit with every blow.
The Joker had been relieved of one of his back teeth and was nursing a black eye in addition to a few broken fingers, but he'd allowed Harley to take the brunt of the damage as he always did.
After all, she loved him so much…what better way to prove her affection than to be beaten to a bloody pulp for his sake?
She was like the puppy with the big brown eyes that just begged to be kicked when it bounded up to your ankles.
And the Joker had never turned down the opportunity to kick a puppy that was asking for it.
Harley, with her desperate need for affection, approval and support was the personification of the kick-me-puppy.
Joker used and abused her adoration for him one more occasions than he could count--be it through physical violence, emotional damage or letting her take the fall for him--and tonight would be no exception.
She was lovely to have around when she was being useful, but this evening her persistence in keeping him safe was wearing on his nerves.
If she'd just give up and fall off the building already he would have a crystal clear avenue for escape, but nooo, she just had to hang in there, leaving him trapped on the roof without any way of distracting the Big Bad Bat so he could get away.
With his annoyance growing with every insult and punch she threw at Batman, he finally decided he was bored and took matters into his own hands.
Joker grabbed Harley by one arm, spun her in some ghoulish parody of a dance and wrapped his fingers around her tiny throat, crushing her windpipe as he held her over the roof's edge.
The Joker could see that it took Harley several long moments to realize what had just happened, and the look of naked panic written on her features was absolutely scintillating. He did so love when her eyes went wide with an equal mixture of wonder and horror like that…the brilliant blue orbs were so much more exquisite when enhanced by unadulterated fear.
And she made the most charming gurgling noises too.
The Joker paid little mind to the pleading look on Harley's face as her feet dangled, toes desperately trying to find purchase on the empty air.
She even clawed at Joker's hand around her throat, something that she never would have done in her 'right' mind (which was most decidedly the wrong one, by everyone else's standards), but with the blood loss, oxygen deprivation and panic, she couldn't muster enough strength to force him to release her.
The Joker's grin grew monumentous as he held his hapless henchgirl out over the street he spoke a quiet, deadly, "It's not the fall that kills you, it's the stop at the bottom." and then released her.
With his eerie laughter echoing even as Batman dove off the roof to save Harley Quinn, the Joker turned and ran like his coat tails were on fire.
He didn't even look back.