It was one of the jokes she did get.

Better even than he did.

The punchline wasn't the door flung open and a boot in the rear, hurtling through the air to land hard on her face, gravel rash mixing spatters of blood into her greasepaint. It wasn't the cold night air and the starkness of the night-time Gotham Streets stretching out before her, making her feel unbearably alone in a world that refused to wrap itself close about her the way he did when all was right.

It certainly wasn't Ivy picking her up with a slight screech of the tyres, tapping green fingers impatiently on the steering wheel, barely restraining an eye-roll. It wasn't the inevitable lecture that followed. It wasn't the unending argument, trying to get Red to comprehend the heady bliss that came through being owned, that it wasn't all pain and not all of the pain was unpleasant.

Neither was it the inevitable spree that followed, a little retail therapy, diamonds and rubies and gold spiling over her gloved fingertips like water, piles of fur coats and designer gowns, bags and bags of candy and sweets, sparkly useless junk, baffling gadgets and mounds of stuffed toys, trying desperately to plug up the emptiness within, wondering how much longer it would be.

No, the punchline always came at the very, very end.

The door would be kicked in and he'd enter like a gale force wind, compelling and magnetically charged so that she'd feel every nerve cluster tingle at his proximity. He'd posture and mock, his voice insinuating and dark with sneering amusement. He'd remind her how shrunken and hollow she felt without him and accuse her of attempting to ridicule and overshadow him while she tearfully protested. He'd graciously accept her apology and allow her to cling to his elbow as they left.

And then, when they were safely ensconced back in this season's hideout and she covertly assessed the shambles the place was in, littered in takeout boxes and odd socks, half-finished chemistry experiments still smoking on edges of furniture and two hungry hyenas snapping restlessly at the air, the cap on this running gag would finally be delivered.

The pouting sulk at having been neglected so long. The eagerness to show her his latest stroke of brilliance and bask beneath her praise. The grudging admission he'd been mildly impressed by one major haul she'd pulled and the vain smirk when she confessed it was all for him. The steady uncoiling of his muscles as she worked out the kinks, a sudden rare moment of restfulness, resembling peace. The giggles and cuddles, the playful spankings as his scoldings gave way to indulgence, declaring that he was spoiling her, forgetting he had kicked her out to begin with.

He never even realised this joke was on him.