Her legs healed and her arm did too. But she was broken still.
They had found her in that alley like a shattered marionette and they had pieced her back together, all except the piece she needed most.
Her bruised eyes and swollen mouth were like clown paint and she was a clown. Not because she wanted to be or had chosen to be, but because she'd been made one.
It wasn't a joke but she knew it was funny. Or was it the other way around? Either way it was all on her but she wasn't laughing.
Because she'd always known, deep down inside. Not that she'd ever known she'd known, of course. Not really.
But still, there it was, and maybe it wasn't so funny. Or maybe it was. She could never keep up.
She lied too, about not sleeping, so they would increase her sedatives. The asylum was quiet; there were lots of escapees right then. She slept late and read pulp fictions and watched daytime soaps and she did not think in words like Mistah J or Puddin'which means she did not think at all.
At night, as the drugs slowly dragged her down, she put her hand beneath her pillow and stroked the dried petals of a dead rose.
And just before she passed out of consciousness she would see him. For a moment. The flash of a smile. Bright eyes winking.
She would wake in the morning, resisting. Curling her healing legs up to her chest, cold tears on her cheeks. Not again. The full horror of realisation. Again and again and again.
The distant echo of laughter. Like no laughter on earth could be. The pillow around her ears. Don't laugh at her. Now it hurt when she laughed, like she had to learn the right way to do it again.
Her dreams confiscated. And her happiness, which had been so easily felt, broken. Like she still was, all torn apart and tossed aside and left to cry, a little painted harlequin pigmented in mottled blood and tears. Wondering why.
She knew when he was brought back. The asylum changed, almost imperceptibly. An increase of energy. A sense of movement. Guards rushing past, doctors glancing at her where she sat on her cot as they passed by too. The asylum itself seemed to stir. He'd always been the star resident. It embraced him.
She lay on her cot and listened as he laughed, as they led him through. She shut her eyes and shivered.
It felt the same but everything was different. Her love was still as strong and all-consuming, but now it hurt. Now it made her chest feel tight, made it hard to breathe. Before it had set her free. Now it was something she wanted to escape from and didn't know what she could possibly be without it. Was there anything left for her to be?
It happened finally when she went in to have her last cast removed. The doctor left the room and she sat on the edge of the cot, swinging her legs back and forth. Staring at the tiled floor.
The door opened but she did not look up. She thought it would be the doctor.
And then it was his voice. He said: "Well."
He had sounded vaguely surprised.
She had felt herself crumple. Tear. He might've knocked her out another window. She was in pieces.
He hadn't done it on purpose. He'd just killed a guard stupid enough to be alone with him. He'd slipped in here to avoid the rush as the alarm was sounded.
She blinked at him and he smiled at her, rakish and sinister and something else, too. She blinked again and looked closer. She'd never seen him with quite that look before. The bright light overhead was like a halo behind him and she had to squint to look at him.
"Is my Punkin all better?" he carolled, and came forward, taking up both her hands in his, rubbing his thumbs on them. She felt a jolt, like electricity, course through her.
"Why did you lie?" she asked him and his grin grew wider and more sombre. He had a smile for every emotion.
"Because you wanted me to," he answered simply. "You needed me to."
She was in a thin gown, her body was naked beneath it. She shivered in the little room and he leant in closer. Heat radiated from him. If he put his arms around her now she could forget it all and everything could go back to the way it was. He was going to kiss her. He licked his lips and she could feel them already. Feel herself being swallowed.
But she could not forget.
"Will you tell me the Truth?"
He dropped her hands, he stepped back. He was magnificent. Everything in the room seemed drawn to him and to come from him. As though he were the centre of all things and that included her. His skin was marble white and his green hair shone beneath the light. He was so beautiful it made her ache. Ache in all the places he had broken.
He kept his eyes on hers for a long, difficult moment but she'd gotten used to that. She knew she was the only person to have ever held his gaze so long. She thought he liked it. Despite himself, he liked it.
She saw the decision made behind his eyes. It snapped there.
"The Truth," he murmured and his voice was amused. "Yes. I will. The Truth, pet, is so simple that none of them see it. None of them would even believe it. Will you believe it, I wonder, little Harlequin?"
"If it's the Truth." she whispered and that hurts because she believed him once before and it had been a lie.
He laughed softly and cupped her face in both his hands. Despite herself, she is grateful for his touch. "My sweet little tot." he whispers and there is suddenly nothing but them. There has never been anything but them. "The truth about my past - about who I was before I became me - is it's nothing. It's irrelevant."
She did not realise her eyes had welled with tears until they slid down her cheeks. He shushes her although she makes no sound.
"It has no meaning. It may as well have never been. There are no answers there because there's nothing to find. Get it?"
She gets it, but it isn't funny. He is close enough now his breath dries her tears. The room smells of latex gloves and medicine. His knees are pressed against hers. Her head is tilted back to look up at him. She loves him and she wants to scream. She loves him and it feels like death.
A hand moves to the back of her head. A hand twines in her blonde hair. He bends his forehead to hers . She's drowning in his eyes.
"I didn't lie to you. Not really. Because here's the real kicker, Harley. This is the if-I-tell-you-I'll-have-to-kill-you part, but no one will ever believe you and one day I'm going to kill you anyway."
It makes her heart flutter when he says that. She knows that must be wrong. But that's what has always made this right anyway. She's no longer in the room, sitting on the cot in a gown. She's in his eyes; he's devoured her into them. He's holding her there.
"I didn't lie to you because I don't remember. That's how I know it's meaningless. Anything I tell you about that time could be a lie. But it could be true, too. You'll never know. I'll never know. But now I have a question for you, Harley."
He's not grinning anymore. His grip in her hair is painful. She doesn't want him to ever let go.
"What has my past - or a few little half-truths maybe-lies about it - got to do with my feelings for you?"
She hadn't thought about it that way. She is reeling to think of it that way now.
It floods upon her, realisation. Pin and needles prickling her skin. She is broken but she can be mended. She is a clown and she is his. He made her. And he is right. He is right and he is all and all she'll ever need.
It is so simple no one could ever believe it.
His mouth touches hers and he speaks into it like a kiss, as though if the words escape they might be carried to other ears.
"Harley," he breathes, "the final Truth is, if there's anything to know about me, you already know it. Only you. And so now you know. And you are mine."
She knows it is True because she feels a tremble in him. She knows it is True because she feels he wants to kill her. She knows he will never say this again.
When she smiles, he smiles back. And finally she sees what else it was there, in his eyes, and she is mended and whole and bright beneath his gaze. And when she laughs it no longer hurts.
The Truth, in the end, is simple.
She is special. She is loved. She is Harley Quinn.
It seemed to me that as the BTAS series and comics progressed, Harley lost her illusions about settling down in the burbs and having babies with Joker, and instead committed herself all the more to her life of crime. I speculate this change began after the events of Mad Love and wondered how exactly she would reach a resolution within herself and how and if she confronted Joker about it.
What I noticed is that in the exchange between Batman and Harley in Mad Love, Batman reveals Joker has lied about his childhood. Harley's response is 'he does love me, he does!' The inference is that because Joker lied about his childhood, he must be lying about his feelings for Harley too. But really, what has that got to do with it? Harley seems to think they're connected - but Joker lied to get her on his side. It was the beginning. They didn't know each other then. I think the idea that the two are related would be preposterous to Joker, who would see them as entirely separate things, though to most everyone else they would be important and related. Well, does Joker love Harley? If you've read this you know what I think. If you've read this you don't need me to say. You probably know it too.