Hello, everyone! This is my take on Harleen Quinzel's transition to the Harley we know and love. Yeah, yeah, it's been done before. But it's a fun story (with, let's be honest, a ready-made plot) and I'm interested in exploring Harley in my own little way. This is mainly based in BTAS-verse, because that changes the least and it has more defined boundaries for me to wrap my head around (plus I love Art Deco Gotham, what can I say). Why did I stick it in "comics"? I dunno really.
Now, I'm hoping to follow the whole process as well as I can, which means some scenes will be a little similar to parts Mad Love. This is kind of unavoidable in places - f'r instance, there's only so many ways one can say "hi, I'm Joan Leland" - but I really want to get Harley as well as I can here. I don't want to quote Mad Love exactly but there will be lines that may seem familiar ;)
I hope everyone's in character and that there aren't any spelling mistakes or typos. This is un-beta'd, and it's like 1a.m., but the story is flowing from my fingertips and I thought I'd better post something to ensure that I do, in fact, pick this story back up again tomorrow and continue work on it. Yyyeeahh. So, it's not as polished or as perfect as I'd like, I'll go over it with a fine-tooth comb when writers block hits me sometime in the near future. So um, be kind, be constructive, and enjoy! Please review!
I'm also having some insane display issues that are probably due to sleepiness. I'll have to fix it tomorrow.
Spoilers: Mad Love
Disclaimer: I don't own Batman, B:TAS, or any of the characters therein. I make no profit and I am poor. Please do not sue me.
The news spread quickly. This sort of news always did.
It started off as an overheard exchange between a couple of the senior psychiatrists. Nurse Susan May, a rumour connoisseur and gossip-monger of the highest order, had to school her features into a mask of nonchalance and pretend she hadn't heard.
The nurses of Arkham Asylum were particularly skilled in the game of gossip. They were very good at keeping what they knew from the doctors and higher administration, and even better at carefully filling in the gaps of what they didn't with practiced interactions with the staff.
The guards, more quick-witted in general than those in less dangerous establishments, knew at once that something was up. The nurses, generally a weary and moody group, were positively chipper. That meant gossip – not just gossip, but verified gossip.
It didn't take long for the inmates to catch the vibe. The nurses were bright-eyed and amused. The guards were curious and wary. That meant something was up.
Opening the front door for Dr. Jeremiah Arkham, head of the asylum, a guard cleared his throat and voiced his concerns.
"'scuse me, Dr. Arkham?"
Arkham stopped and looked up, a frown of impatience furrowing his forehead. "Yes?"
"Ah, is there something we should know, sir?" The guard, a large fellow called Joey, shifted uncomfortably. "I mean t' say, the nurses, they've got their hands on some sort of rumour, sir, it's worrying. We don't know what to expect, sir, and it's making the inmates a little restless."
Arkham sighed, reaching up to resettle his hat upon his head. "I should have known we couldn't have kept it from that lot for long." He waved a hand dismissively as the guard's eyebrows rose. "No, it's nothing bad. We've an intern coming in."
Joey's eyebrows shot up even further. "An intern, sir? We haven't had a new intern – "
"In years, I know. This one's very bright, very motivated. She's qualified, and we think she has the abilities needed to work here."
Joey rubbed his chin, musing. "We'll have to up security, sir. When's she starting work?"
Arkham gave the man a tight smile. "Not for a few weeks yet. We'd have let everyone know in plenty of time, don't worry about that." He sighed again. "I really didn't want everyone to know at this point. The inmates would find out eventually, but I didn't want that to happen until after she'd arrived and settled in. We don't want them having extra time to plan their little games. You know how they enjoy playing with new arrivals."
Joey knew. Oh, how he knew. He'd lost any number of guards to the New Guy Games that the hardcore psychos liked to play. 75 of applicants quit before a month was out; the unlucky ended up dead.
But guards… guards were boring. Guards were old news. Interns were something special.
Arkham gave him a hard look. "I don't want them finding out about this… uh…"
"Joe, sir," Joey said promptly, taking no offence. "I'll make sure the boys know that, sir. But I have to tell them, sir, they're getting a bit jumpy."
Arkham waved a hand. "Yes, yes, I understand, but make sure this stays quiet. Lord knows those nurses can keep things from everyone else, but I'm not sure about some of your lot."
"Understood, sir. Have a good evening."
Joey fastened the door shut behind the head of the asylum. Jeremiah Arkham was usually the last to leave, and now no one was to go in or out until the day shift arrived.
Unless, of course, Batman turned up with another inmate.
Most of the Big-Name Baddies were in residence, however, and the night should (hopefully) be a quiet one.
The task before Joey wasn't an easy one. He couldn't call all the night shift together and tell them what was up: that would leave too many places without a guard, despite the fact that all the inmates should be tucked up in their cells. Nor could he visit each guard and tell him the news: his movements would come to the attention to someone at least, and arouse the inmates' curiosities even further.
He decided to have the night-nurses deliver the message to his guards. Notes were out of the question – one could too easily be dropped and picked up by an inmate. Whispering in the dark would have to do. Hopefully it would be attributed to horny nurses. Maybe they could giggle a little, and help that rumour along…
Whatever he did, they were going to get suspicious. This way seemed better than the others, and his men needed to know the deal. Last thing he needed was some over-stressed guard making a mistake.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------The Riddler woke suddenly, unsure of what had disturbed his sleep. A soft giggling broke the silence, quickly shushed. He frowned. Probably a nurse "entertaining" one of the night guards.
Or was it? The giggling nurse had begun whispering at length, the guard occasionally murmuring a question. Hmm. A surprising amount of conversation for canoodling. He strained his ears, but failed to catch more than the odd meaningless fragment of conversation.
Another giggle and a faint rustling of clothes, and sensible nurse shoes echoed loudly on the linoleum floor as she moved away down the hall.
The next day the Riddler took up station in the day room with a book. Anyone watching closely would be surprised to note how rarely he turned a page. In reality, he was paying very little attention to the page in front of him; instead, he was focusing on the conversations of those around him.
"Heh, some nurse had a li'l heart-to-heart with a guard near my cell last night," one of the more anonymous of the asylum's residents said to another.
"Yeah? No kiddin'. Same thing happened near me. I didn't hear it, guy in the cell next to me filled me in. Think the same girl's sleepin' around?"
"Eh, who cares? It's your turn to deal."
The plot thickens, he thought to himself. Perhaps this was information worth sharing.
"Hey there Eddie, what's new?"
Right on cue, the Riddler thought as the Joker took a seat opposite him and propped his feet up on the table. The Riddler rolled his eyes before lowering his book and giving the clown a stern look.
"Must you do that?"
The Joker brushed an imaginary speck of lint from his asylum-issue shirt. "Now, now, Eddie. We both know it doesn't take you that long to slog your way through a book that size." He met the Riddler's eyes, his tone hardening slightly. "What's new?"
No avoiding it, really. The Riddler closed his book and set it down on the table between him. "Something's up," he said mildly.
"No kidding." The Joker rolled his eyes. "Everyone's been on edge for a week now. You know something. Care to elaborate?"
The clown's body language was relaxed, but the Riddler knew better than to trust appearances with the Joker. But he'd be damned if he was going to be ordered around by the green-haired freak.
"Why, one would think you'd be able to work it out for yourself, Joker," he said, only the faintest hint of smugness entering his voice.
The Joker glowered. "Don't play games with me, Eddie," he said. "We're all in the same position here. Didn't your mother ever teach you to share?"
The Riddler smirked. "Didn't your mother ever teach you to say please?" He waved a hand to diffuse the Joker's growing ire. "It's nothing solid," he admitted. "Apparently a nurse – or several nurses – went around the guards last night. First appearances were of a late night rendezvous, but more talking took place than is usual in such circumstances."
The Joker tapped his fingers against the table, his expression bored. "So? Maybe they were planning a date or something."
The Riddler shook his head. "There are at least five other separate reports of the same incident. Different guards. Could be the same nurse, could be different nurses."
"Hmm." The Joker tapped a long forefinger against his lips. "You know, the guards seem a good deal more relaxed than they have done recently. Have you noticed?"
The Riddler nodded. "And they changed shifts a few minutes later than usual, almost as if the day shift had a short meeting beforehand."
The Joker nodded and stood. "Thanks for the chat, Eddie," he said cheerfully, giving the redhead one of his special Joker-brand grins. "So nice to catch up. We should do this more often." He walked off, giggling to himself.
The Riddler picked up his book again with an air of nonchalance. One of the guards by the day-room doors was looking over at him curiously. He started to read in earnest, deciding to let the matter rest for the moment. More information would reveal itself in the fullness of time, and he didn't have quite enough to unravel this riddle just yet.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------Another two weeks passed before the Joker learned anything more regarding midnight rendezvous and giggling nurses.
A rather unfortunate mishap in the day room had occurred after a certain obsessive-compulsive with a penchant for puzzles had been rather overly smug about a particular juicy tidbit of information in his possession. Words were said, bones were broken. Long story short, the Joker had bought himself a whack to the noggin and a week in solitary confinement.
He was just regaining consciousness as he was being dragged down the hallway towards the dreaded solitary wing. He kept his eyes shut and his muscles relaxed, hoping that the guards would think he was still out of it. He'd tried this trick before, and guards said more when they thought you couldn't listen.
"I'm tellin' ya, the Riddler knows," one guard was saying to the other. "He's a smart cookie, that one. He even does them cryptic crosswords an' that."
"Man, that don't mean he's so smart. My sister does those, she's not that smart."
"Is that the blonde one? Man, she's hot."
"Hey, man! That's my sister!"
The Joker rolled his eyes inwardly. Morons.
"Speaking of hot blondes," the first guard continued, "didja catch a look of the new intern? The boss was talkin' to her this morning. Whoooeee! Man, I never thought chicks with glasses was cute before, but she's somethin' else."
Intern? Oh hell yes.
"Yeah, bet she's naughty too, like them naughty librarians on that tape we saw at Benny's stag night." The guard let out an obnoxious hooting sound that had the Joker fighting the instinct to wince.
"When's she start, again?"
"I heard a week from tomorrow. If that Riddler has figured it out, let's hope he don't tell no one else before then. We'll have enough trouble with them when they find out she's a new doc without them having time to prepare for her arrival."
The creak of a door, and the Joker felt a brief rush of air before he landed heavily against the padded floor. He winced as new bruises protested, but the guards had already shut the door behind him, the heavy bolts ringing as they slid into place.
So. A new intern.
A new girl intern. And apparently very attractive, although such matters were far from the Joker's mind. Oh, but this would be fun.
All new doctors – and most doctors coming to Arkham were very experienced and thought they knew what they were dealing with – were assigned to one of the big-name rogues after proving their worth with the less… intense of Arkham's residents. Whoever they were assigned to then had first claim on destroying the new doctor. Many of the psychiatrists left. Some were killed. A precious few stayed on, and their tenacity earned them a sliver of respect, while at the same time taunted the inmates to do their worst.
But interns…. Interns were something special. Untested, inexperienced, and fresh from shrink school. Interns at Arkham were incredibly rare: only the very best were accepted, and even then few interns chose to work at such a dangerous asylum. Those who did were arrogant and self-important, under the impression that their high grades earned them the right to speak with Gotham's finest. Apparently ol' Jeremiah and his team turned a few of this sort down for being unsuitable. Those that made it through the rigorous selection process leapt at the chance for a one on one session with the big boys. Most regretted the decision.
An intern. The Joker grinned to himself. The last intern he remembered had fallen prey to one Professor Crane, and had left Arkham after a single session with him. Such a record would be difficult to top. Perhaps he would make her kill herself instead.
The thought provoked gales of laughter.
Chapter Two is on the way. I'm about halfway through writing it now, in fact. I don't want to make the chapters too long, so this may mean I end up with a LOT of chapters.
But it's good to have a big fanfiction project going again. I haven't had one in ages. I started writing it to prepare for NaNoWriMo, which runs throughout November, but I'm really enjoying it for its own sake.
Reviews are appreciated, kthx!
P.S. If you enjoy writing and you haven't heard of NaNoWriMo, there's a link to the website on my profile page. NaNoWriMo is a lot of fun, worth checking out.