Of Mice and Manhandling

Summary: In which Joker gets a new secretary heavily against his will, and Wendy is gratuitously poked by stick-bearing rodents.

Disclaimer: Read or Die and all of its characters are the sole property of the folks who came up with them, of which the chickie writing this story is not one, as she imagines you actually need talent to work on an anime. Also, Pyramid Head is the creation and property of the folks who made Silent Hill. And frankly, they can keep him. Ferret doesn't really belong to me either, which is just fine with me. She's based on a combination of an OC I found on Deviant Art and the creator of said OC. Not that there's enough originality in either that I probably need to bother.

"Who in the hell are you?"

At this angry, startled bark, the little brunette napping happily away in the massive spinny-chair situated behind the equally massive desk sat up straight with a yelp, her snide, vacuous expression acquiring a tinge of fear.

"Oh! Joker!" she greeted, on her feet in slightly less than a minute. "I'm Ferret!"

"Ferret," he repeated flatly. "Well, Ms. Ferret, perhaps you could enlighten me as to what on earth you're doing in my office?"

"I'm going to be working here from now on!" she replied proudly, attempting to pose sexily with one hand planted on the surface of his desk and the other planted on her hip as she fluttered her lashes.

Joker sighed, vowing in his heart to find and personally thank whatever idiot had organized this little arrangement. With a gun.

Then again, it seemed like quite a lot of work; perhaps he'd have Wendy do it instead.

Speaking of which...

"I don't suppose you've run into Wendy this morning?" he asked, eyes narrowing a little when she winced. "There's something I need to discuss with her, rather urgently."

"You can discuss it with me instead!" Ferret offered eagerly, surging forward to grasp his hands in her own, the nails painted bright, garish red.

Although he would deny it to the end of his days, Joker gave a terrified yelp as he backed out of her range.

"And why do you imagine I would do that?" he asked, once he had recovered.

"Because I'm your n--em, substitute secretary! Wendy's, um, sick today." She gave herself an internal pat on the back for this clever bit of fiction that she'd come up with, all by herself.

Not that it mattered at all what she told her Joker-Woker to cover up for the blonde tied up in her cellar (dumb skank). By the end of the day, her Jokey-poo wouldn't remember so much as the name of the useless ditz that did insignificant little things like acquiring evidence to back up suspicions of treachery on the part of untrustworthy agents, and generally keeping his professional life from imploding under the weight of its own disorganization.

Joker deserved a secretary that did important stuff, like making vapid faces and sleeping cutely in his chair.

"Wendy's ill?" Joker was meanwhile asking, his brow furrowing in concern -- obviously fake, Ferret thought airily. "Why hasn't she let me know? She knows to call my mobile phone straight away if she doesn't think she'll be able to come in. Then again," he continued with a fond chuckle, "I suppose it's the first time in three years that she's taken a sick day -- perhaps she's just forgotten."

Ferret nodded vigorously.

"Probably. She's not very smart, you know."

"Well, someone in this equation certainly isn't," he muttered under his breath, sweeping one hand over his hair. Something told him that he'd be doing a lot of that today...

Ferret dropped into her chair -- well, still technically Wendy's chair, in what was still technically Wendy's cubicle, although that would change just as soon as Joker's mind caught up with his heart and he realized that he actually hated the stupid bitch -- and expelled an exhausted breath. She couldn't remember the last time she'd worked this hard. For such a hot guy, Joker could sure be a slave driver!

First he expected her to actually know stuff, on her first day, and then he expected her to actually work!

Between taking notes at that boring meeting, the tutorial on how to use the system, and the mountains of paperwork he'd dropped on her desk -- she glared balefully at the six pieces of paper, all that was left of the absolutely unreasonable nine he'd given her that morning -- she was about ready to collapse!

Maybe he was just testing her. He wanted to see what tortures she was willing to undergo for him. Once he had seen that she would do anything for him, she could go back to just sort of hanging around his office and basking in his affection.

He was a man with a lot of love to give -- she could tell. He just needed to meet the right, non-Wendy girl, and he'd turn into a snugglebunny in no time!

"Ferret," a polite, yet ominous voice called from somewhere just above her.

She looked up, wiping the drool from her chin and placing her elbow carefully over the puddle that had formed on her desk.

"Yes, Joker, darling?" she asked sweetly, nearly melting at the look of absolute, unconditional love in his eyes.

It was there, even if it was hard to see, with the way they were all narrowed and glaring at her.

"A word, please."

"Anything for you, my love!"

Suppressing the urge to say something decidedly impolite and draw even more snickers from the girls at the surrounding cubicles, he ran his hand over his hair again, with such force this time several bits came with him.

He was going to be bald and shopping for toupees by the end of the day, he was fairly certain.

"We'll talk in my office," he said, casting a glare, just for good measure, at the grinning, snickering females that had been thoroughly enjoying this absurd situation, even if, as Danielle had muttered to him as they passed in the hallway, someone might go irreversibly mad if they didn't get Wendy and her strong work ethic and sense of organization back soon.

Ferret's heart, meanwhile, heart stood still. This was it! He was going to declare his undying love! And take back all the work she hadn't finished yet so she could get on with her real job of looking cute!

Even if he wasn't exactly talking to her - or looking at her, or acknowledging her existence in any way - as he stormed through the halls, about three steps ahead of her despite her greatest attempts to catch up.

"I've telephoned Wendy's flat," he said conversationally once both were seated, he in the chair behind his desk that he'd first removed her from by turning it upside down and shaking a few times, and she on a stool before his desk.

Ferret squirmed uncomfortably.

"Oh, really? Is she feeling better?"

"Actually, there was no answer."

"Well, maybe she's sleeping."

"And the operator informed me that her phone has been disconnected."

"Wow, she must be really sick!" Ferret in concern - flawlessly feigned, of course, because despite her adorably shy nature, she was a brilliant actress.

His jaw grew just a little bit tighter than the teeth-cracking state that it had spent most of the day in, at her expression of overblown, clearly feigned concern over top of massive glee.

"Ferret," he near-growled, scowling darkly. "The truth, please. You know I'll find her eventually, so you might as well save us all some time."

"Okay, okay!" she wailed. After all, the last thing she wanted was to have to do more work. "Wendy's gone, and she's not coming back, and I'm going to be your secretary from now on!"

"And who told you this?" he ground out, gripping the arms of his chair to occupy them from the gratuitous punching that they desperately wanted to be doing.

"I decided it myself!" she replied fervently. "You deserve so much better, my sexy, sexy darling! She was just holding you back! With me at your side, we can be the stars of the show instead of mostly irrelevant side characters or villains!"

He stared.

"What in the hell are you talking about?"

"Um, never mind," she replied quickly, recalling too late those warnings she'd been given on the way in about the fourth wall and the importance of keeping it in tact.

"Look, forget that," he said impatiently, pushing up from his chair. "What have you done with her?"

"She's not important now, my darling! It's just us!"

"I assure you," he said through gritted teeth, shrugging away as she attempted to nuzzle his shoulder, "it is not. And as for you, you have one hour to bring her back here. And if she is harmed, or traumatized, or even slightly annoyed, there will be penalties."

"Like what?" Ferret asked, intrigued. She was too adorable and charming for anyone with a pulse to want to harm her in any way, so penalties was probably some sort of code word for presents.

He gave a sinister chuckle.

"Have you heard about our Nunavut division, Ms. Ferret?"

"Um, no..."

"It's run by a nice fellow named Pyramid Head. Very effective businessman, although none of his assistants seem to last very long. Something to do, I believe, with his propensity for brutally removing the skin of irritating young women before throwing their bloodied remains at walls and looking for shapes in the blood splatters."

"Okay!" Ferret yelped, panicked. "She's alive, I swear! I'll go get her!"

She just hoped that the brutal torment of her minions hadn't already turned the dumb skank's cotton candy mind already. She'd been on the receiving end of the vicious stick-poking treatment in her many resolve-stiffening years as their sister - a will less iron would be bound to crumble in mere seconds!

Maybe she could utilize her miraculous, conveniently changing superpower and retrieve the girl from the brink of insanity.

And if not, well, that Pyramid Head guy was kind of hot anyway, if she remembered her Silent Hill right.

"Wendy," Joker greeted on a sigh of relief as a thoroughly irate little blonde stepped out of the car, which promptly sped away. Tamping down his first, overly demonstrative instinct of a tight hug, he settled for a light pat on the shoulder. "Feeling better, I hope?"

"Much better," that same young lady replied through gritted teeth, "now that I don't have your new friend whispering through a transmitter to me every three minutes that I'm dying of scarlet fever."

He stared, his hand at her shoulder tightening unconsciously.

"Good God, Wendy, I hope she hasn't harmed you!"

"No, I'm fine," she sighed, relenting and sending him a tiny, wan little smile, even if he'd just gone about business as usual instead of making the slightest effort to find her.

"I'm glad. When you didn't answer any of my calls--"

"Hold on, you called?" Wendy interrupted, her eyes growing starry. "More than once?"

Joker frowned, confused.

"Well, of course I called. There was clearly something off about her story, if only because Mr. Gentleman isn't in the habit of randomly replacing perfectly good employees with useless, irritating dolts, and there was something that I needed to discuss with you anyway. I thought that if I was wrong, and you were simply at home in bed, we could chat about that. But when you didn't answer after the fifteenth time, I knew I'd been right about her."

"It took you fifteen times to figure that out?" Wendy giggled, kindly disposed towards his apparently thickening skull by the knowledge that that he had been concerned enough to waste his entire morning dialing her number.

Well, hitting the speed dial key, at any rate.

Ordinarily, he had her do it for him.

"Of course not," he was meanwhile replying impatiently. "But one can't exactly threaten death by Pyramid Head without being entirely certain."

Wendy went abruptly pale.

"Y-you were going to send her to the Nunavut branch?" She sighed heavily, one hand to her forehead. "I wondered why she didn't stay around to chat. Not to mention, why on earth she nearly had kittens over it when I fell and skinned my knee in the parking lot. She told me that if she died because of that, she was going to come back and haunt me."

Eyes flitting to the scrape on her knee, with a quick side-trip on the way back up to enjoy the revealing effect of the little jogging shorts she slept in and had never had a chance to change back out of before becoming a kidnap victim, he chuckled.

"Mr. Joker, it's not funny!" she insisted, near tears. "Yes, the woman broke into my flat, dragged me to her cellar, and left her sisters, Gerbil, Rat, and Hamster to poke me with sharp sticks all day, but Nunavut? I know you, Sir! Megalomaniacal and heavily sadistic tendencies, yes, but you're just not capable of that kind of evil!"

"Wendy, I've just spent the entire day being called Jokey-poo by that odious creature! I was seconds away from inviting Mr. Pyramid Head for an emergency visit based on little else, even without the constantly running scenarios of finding you dead and messily dismembered!"

"Well, calling for Pyramid Head one thing, but to send her to Nunavut?"

"Never mind, Wendy, it's over now," he reminded her soothingly. "Why don't you stay the night with one of the girls, until we can get your locks replaced? I'm sure that Marianne will be glad to have you."

Wendy gave a sad little internal sigh, the crazy, absurd little hope that he might have been shaken enough by her brief absence that he would take her home with him evaporating in a puff of reality.

But then, she'd nearly gotten a hug out of the man; that in and of itself was something to be proud of.

"All right, I'll go ask her," she said, starting toward the building.

"Are you sure you're all right?" he asked, brow wrinkling a little and one hand shooting out to support her as she stumbled slightly.

"Yes, Sir, I'm just fine," she replied cheerfully. Then her forehead wrinkled in a tiny frown of her own. "Aside from this bizarre urge to acquire a gun and run around, shooting indiscriminately."

Joker beamed, relenting and wrapping an arm loosely around her shoulders.

"I'm very glad to hear that, Wendy, because as I mentioned, there's something that I'd like to speak with you about..."

End Notes: And we finally learn the real reason behind Wendy's rapid shift to evil. No one can look into the face of the pure evil that is a Character-Bashing Fanloon without adopting some of that evil in self defense. Joker, well, he was already pure evil, so he had nothing to lose. Except his Wendy.