Once again, Last Minute Theater proudly presents something that fell out of my brain in just a few hours. Enjoy!
The Joker hunched over his desk, scratching idly away with a pencil on the cover of his notebook as he thought up a new scheme. It seemed like he'd done it all already - he was tired of Smilex and the same old stale deathtraps. Dangling someone over a vat of acid was just so yesterday. No, he needed something new, something inspiring, something that would make the whole world smile.
He ignored her, watching the tip of his pencil as it sketched a grinning little Batman being devoured by a giraffe. A Robin-shaped lump in his long, slender neck indicated that he'd already had his appetizer. Could a giraffe really eat a Bat? Now there was a new idea! No one had ever had an army of mutant hero-eating giraffes before! Now, where could he find giraffes...
The zoo! No, they only had one or two, didn't they? He'd have to get them from other cities, maybe, or direct from Africa...he hadn't been to Africa in a while. Why had he been avoiding it?...Oh, right, because he'd sold them that malfunctioning missile a few years ago and they kind of wanted him dead. Scratch Africa for now.
"Puddin'!" He turned with a long-suffering look on his face and regarded Harley Quinn, who was standing with her arms firmly folded and glaring at him.
"What?" he snapped.
"Puddin', I want a puppy."
"No." He turned back to his work, shading in the spots on the distended neck.
"But Puddin', we could have so much fun with a puppy..."
Well, that was true enough. The last time he'd had a puppy, he'd had five whole hours of fun with it before the head fell off. And then the lair had smelled like dead puppy for the next two weeks, and dead puppies aren't much fun. (Well, unless you were singing about them, but you hardly needed an actual dead puppy around just to sing the song.) "No puppies."
"I said no!" he snapped. "Go play with the hyenas."
"Well, go wake them up," he said.
"I don't wanna. I want a puppy!"
"And I want Batman's head on a stick, but I don't have it, do I?" he pointed out.
Harley grinned mischievously. "If I went and gotcha his head-"
"No puppy!" the Joker shouted. "Are we clear here? You bring home a puppy and it - and you - are dead. Got that?"
"Yeah, boss, I got it," Harley muttered, sullenly kicking at a bit of lint on the floor.
"Good." Now, where could he find giraffes...
Squeak. Squeak. Squeak.
He was in a grocery store. Why was he in a grocery store? He peered down into the cart. It was full of severed heads. He must be dreaming. In real life, people tended to shriek a lot more when you showed up with bits of other people. What had he been doing with the heads?...he rounded the corner to see a perfect pyramid of tin cans.
Right! He picked up a head, went up on his tiptoes, and bowled it down the aisle. It crashed into the pyramid and sent cans flying. "Strike!" he cheered triumphantly.
Squeak. Squeak. The cart rolled up behind him and nudged him like a horse demanding attention. "Easy, Bessie," he soothed, patting it on the wire basket. "You can go next." The cans re-stacked themselves and Bessie the cart lumbered down the aisle. Squeak. Squeak.
CRASH! The Joker jerked awake as something very large and noisy fell over in the main room of the lair. "Har-ley," he demanded. "What's going on?"
"Nothing, Puddin'!" she yelped.
"You didn't touch my giraffe harness, did you?"
He scrambled out of bed. "No", in that tone of voice, generally meant yes, and I hope you can't tell I'm lying to you. "Harley," he said menacingly. "What's going on out there?"
"Nothing!" she shrilled. "Stay in bed, it's fine!" Crash. "It's still fine!"
He threw open the door and stalked into the main room. The giraffe harness, miraculously, was still upright, hunched in the corner like a weird metallic spider. Everything else, though, including the couch and his desk, had been turned upside down. Papers and plans were scattered in piles around the floor.
"Um, hi," Harley said, quickly straightening up, both hands stuck firmly behind her back. There were tiny little rips and tears all over her loose red pajamas. Something was most definitely up.
"Harley," he said in a tone that perfectly mimicked a father coming home to find that his little girl has fed waffles into the VCR.
"You can go back to - ow! - bed, Mistah J - ow!" she yelped, shifting around uncomfortably. Whatever she had back there was hurting her.
Well, he was all in favor of that. "What do you have, Harley?"
"Nothin', Mistah J, I - stop it, ouch! - don't have anything..."
"Did you get a puppy?" he asked in a low, dangerous voice. "Did you bring a puppy into this house?"
"No, Mistah J!"
"Then what's behind your back?"
"Nothin'! Go back to bed," she said desperately. "You look cold."
"What's. Behind. Your. Back?" he asked.
"I don't have anything!"
"Then let's see your hands," he said, folding his arms expectantly.
Harley wriggled around for a minute. "Here's the left one," she said, waving an empty hand at him. She jabbed it behind her back again, wriggled again, and triumphantly said "And here's the right one!"
"That one's so old it walks with a cane." He glared at her. "Both hands at once."
She wriggled again and waved two empty hands at him at just under the speed of light. "There, see, empty hands - ow, owie, ouchouchouch!" she wailed as whatever she'd tucked in the back waistband of her pants tumbled to the floor down her pant leg.
"What is that?" he demanded.
Harley brightened with sudden inspiration. "It's, um...it's all just a dream! Oooo, you're sleepwalkin' and you might wake up any minute, you'd better get back to bed!"
He ignored her and knelt to examine her ankle. "Your foot has a tail." he said flatly.
"That's dreams for ya," she muttered.
"You bought a puppy," he accused, standing back up and fixing her with a malevolent glare.
"I did not!"
"You stole a puppy, then," he corrected, still unamused.
"I did not!" The little bundle of fur crept out of her pant leg. "I got us a kitten."
He ran a hand through his unruly green hair. "I said no!"
"You said no puppies," Harley reminded him. "This is a cute little kittycat." She snatched it up from the floor and cuddled it close to her face. "I even made him all pretty for you!"
The kitten squeaked helplessly as the Joker leaned in closer to examine it. She'd started with a plain white cat - well, in theory she'd started with a plain white cat - and then she'd done her best to turn it into a little fuzzy replica of him. The fur on the top of its head had been dyed a vivid, startling green, and smears of red ran wildly down the corners of its mouth.
"He didn't like the dye on his mouth," Harley said apologetically. "It was supposed to be a smile." She sighed. "And he ran away before I could put the purple on him."
He was tempted to swat the kitten out of her hands and throw it out the window. The hyenas would love playing with a kitten...for thirty seconds or so, anyway. But...it looked like him. He couldn't just kill a Joker-cat! Maybe he could get out the old fish toxin and really put a smile on that cat's face.
The kitten, tired of being held, reached out with one bone-white paw and, claws extended, swatted Harley across the face. "YOWCH!" she yelped, throwing the kitten away from her. It soared through the air and landed splay-legged across the Joker's chest. He giggled as Harley dabbed blood from her face.
"Good boy," he praised the kitten, chuckling.
"Y'mean we can keep him?" Harley gasped.
He looked down into those manic, green little eyes. Within a few hours of entering his lair, the cat had wrecked the furniture, destroyed his paperwork and clawed Harley's face open. How could he say no?
Harley was sulking in the corner, not that anyone noticed. The henchmen hadn't been around for a week - what was the point, when there was no work for them? - and the only living things left in the lair were the Joker, Harley, and the cat.
Well, no. There was also the remnants of the Joker's welcome-home present for the kitten - a horde of white mice with Bat-logos painted on their backs. She didn't know where they'd come from, but in this town, you could find someone that was willing to do anything. It probably hadn't taken him too long to find a professional mouse-painter.
A Bat-mouse squeaked its way past her feet, pursued by a vengeful kitten, pursued by the Joker, who was videotaping it and cheering the cat on. "Go! Go! Go!" he yelled, following the duo as they scampered around the room. The mouse went into a hole in the wall, the cat slammed face-first into the hole, and the Joker followed suit with a sizeable wham! The camera crunched down onto the floor. "Harley!" the Joker bellowed.
"Yeah, puddin'?" Harley asked, perking up now that he was paying attention to her.
"Go get me a new camera," he ordered, picking up the angry little cat.
"But...he's my kitten," Harley protested. "Can't I play with him now?"
"If you wanted him to be your kitten, you shouldn't have painted him green," the Joker pointed out over the kitten's squalls.
She sighed. Couldn't he see that she wanted someone else to be hers, a certain green-haired someone who...who looked absolutely adorable when he was snuggling with a kitten? She felt her icy anger break up and melt away under the blowtorch of cuteness.
Still, it was her kitten, after all. She was the one that had taken the time to snitch it neatly out of the airport's baggage claim. (She was sure that the guy it belonged to would get over it. After all, it's not like he was there watching over it or anything...) "Mistah J, can't I please play with the kitten?" she asked, batting her eyelashes. "I mean, you've got an awful lot of work to do with those giraffes..."
He stared blankly at her. "Giraffes? You haven't been overdoing it again on the greasepaint, have you? You're supposed to wear it, not eat it."
Oh, the one time she'd mistaken the tube of greasepaint for frosting...She stuck her tongue out at him. Besides, she'd only gotten a little sick from it. Well, okay, a lot sick, but at least it had only lasted a day or two. And they'd needed a new bathroom anyway...
The lilting strains of 'Send in the Clowns' rearranged for electronic doorbells wafted through the air. "Go answer the door," the Joker ordered.
She skipped to the front door and popped it open. "Hi, Selina," she chirped. "What's up?"
Selina Kyle gave her the dirtiest of dirty looks. "Have you seen my cat?" she asked.
Oh. Harley bit her lip. Maybe she should have looked at that luggage tag a little closer. "Cat?" she said innocently. "What cat?"
"My brand new white ragamuffin kitten," Selina said coldly.
"I've never seen a muffin cat," Harley said. "Look, I'm kinda busy right now, I'll let you know if I see him."
Selina leaned in a little closer. "And just how do you know that my kitten is a him?" she inquired softly.
"Him, her, what's the difference?" Harley asked, starting to panic a little. "Look, there's no cats here, okay?"
"Get him! Get him!" the Joker yelled triumphantly from the back room. "Harley, do you have that camera yet? This is fantastic!"
"In a minute, Puddin'!" Harley called back. "See, Cat-lady, I've gotta go and-"
"...I've gotta go buy a camera and they're real expensive so I'm probably gonna have to knock over a bank first wanna come along it'll be fun!" Harley blurted out as loudly as possible to try and cover up the sounds of feline mayhem coming from the inside of the lair.
Selina looked into the lair. "Zizi?" she called.
The door to the back room, which Harley had left unlatched, bounced open as the little white cat raced for freedom. It darted across the room, paused for a moment at Harley's ankle, and then swarmed up her pants like a miniature spider. "Owowowowow!" Harley yelped as it dug its claws into her hip.
Selina reached over, unhooked the cat, and cuddled it close. "What did you do to my cat?" she hissed, noticing the large green splotch on his head.
"I, um, made him pretty?" Harley said hesitantly.
"Tell me this will wash out," Selina growled.
"Uh...it'll wash out?" Harley repeated obediently.
"It's permanent, isn't it?" Selina asked flatly. Clearly, she couldn't decide whether to take the kitten home and try to scrub off its Jokerization or to set the kitten aside for a moment and eviscerate Harley. Decisions, decisions...
"Har-ley!" the Joker bellowed from the back room.
"Look, I gotta go," Harley said, and slammed the door in Selina's face. Well, at least she was safe from Selina...for now. She turned around and saw the Joker in the doorway.
"Where'd the cat go?"
"It, um...it got out. Don't worry," she added hastily, "I'm sure someone will return him."
The Joker sighed. "I had plans for that cat," he said mournfully.
"Well, you've got lots of other plans," she pointed out hopefully. "I mean, look at this one..." She ferreted around in the nearest pile of plans. The one on top was the blueprint for the 'Death of a Thousand Smiles' gag, which she shoved under the remains of the desk with a shudder before snatching up the second one. "This is, um..." She squinted at the slanty scribbled formulas.
A white hand snatched the paper out of her grasp. The Joker looked over the plan. "Well, it'll do," he sighed, "until we get the cat back. Unless..." He scooped a pen out of the desk wreckage and made a few notes. "Harley! Go get me a box of those tooth-whitening strips and a goat!"
"Yessir!" she chirped, playfully saluting him before she skipped out the front door.
Goats. Now where could she find a goat...
Author's Note: Please don't dye your pets. (Not that I've ever done that. Incidentally, shih tzus look adorable with pink and purple hair.) 'Dead Puppies (Aren't Much Fun)' is a song by Ogden Edsl.
I spent most of the last few days wrist-deep in computer innards, and now I have all of my old files again! Huzzah! So, tune in next time for the completion of Homesick, and thanks for reading!