"Ewwwwwwwwwwww!" Harley Quinn shrieked and went running out of the bedroom, barrelling directly into The Joker who had been coming to see what all the fuss was about, a grin on his face in anticipation of getting a good laugh at his girlfriend's expense.
"Oof! Watch it!" he snarled and Harley leapt back and did a little dance on the spot, jerking her limbs about in a most peculiar manner. He stared at her. This was odd, even for her.
"Sorry, Puddin'," she squeaked, "But the bedroom is crawlin' with roaches! Ick ick ick ick!" and she swiped at her arms and kicked her legs out compulsively, as though they were crawling all over her.
The deadly duo had just made good their escape from Arkham Asylum and had headed straight for one of their most secure lairs, all the way over on the other side of town, just outside of it, near the highway to New York. It was high summer and the lair was baking hot inside, having been shut up for several months. Furthermore, it was situated within a very old building made of plaster and wood, rotting and split in a thousand places, the perfect breeding ground for pests.
Joker tsked irritably and pushed past his moll to head into the bedroom, certain she was exaggerating things. He wanted to rest for a couple of hours before beginning his next little game with his second favourite person in all the world (the first being himself), and he wasn't going to let a few stray bugs stop him.
Once he got to the bedroom however, even he had to stop and gape.
The ugly little things were crawling everywhere. There were dozens of them, running along the floorboards, exploring the dressing table, creeping amidst his purple satin sheets. Harley stood behind him, clinging to his elbow and peeking around and when she saw them again it set her off into another fit of squirms. "Icky!" she cried, "Oh Puddin', what are we gonna do? They're everywhere!"
"It's not that bad," he said obstinately, and strode further into the room. "We can just squish them. We could make it into a game. In fact, it's a great opportunity for you to practice your foxtrot, because you're hopeless at that! C'mon, Harls, let your toes twinkle!" and with that he began to beat out a frenzied tapdance on the floorboards, crunching the vile bugs underfoot. "Woo hoo, lookit me go! We'll tally them at the end and see who wins! C'mon, Pooh! Ooh!" as en especially large one crunched under the sole of his asylum slippers, "he was a biggie! He counts as two! Ooh!" he said again, "that one looked like it was carrying eggs! That's gotta be at least a hundred! Hee hee! You'll never catch up at this rate!"
Harley pushed her lips together in a little moue of disgust. "Mistah J, you're getting bug guts everywhere."
The Joker stopped and frowned furiously down at the floorboards, which were, indeed, littered with the splattered corpses of cockroaches. Further more, it did not seem to have significantly reduced the numbers of the little bugs that hurried importantly about the close and steamy room.
"Bleeeh." he pouted. He glared at Harley. Why hadn't she said something earlier? He contemplated making her lick them up, but decided it wasn't worth the hysterics. Besides, she'd want to kiss him at some later stage.
Meanwhile, still twitching, Harley was daintily tip-toeing over to the big custom-built double wardrobe that occupied almost the entire length of one wall. Using the edge of her Arkham pyjama top, she opened the wardrobe door wide, then leapt back.
"My suits!" Joker lamented, leaping over. The cockroaches were busily investigating the various expensive custom suits and shirts and he beat at them furiously. "Get off! Off, you wretched, vile little things! Not that one! That's my favourite!" He yanked out a particularly fine purple worsted wool suit and flung it onto the floor where he proceeded to stamp at it, teeth clenched and eyes bulging. Again and again he stomped on the fabric at any tiny little flicker of movement while Harley watched him with round eyes and lifted brows until finally he came to a stop, panting a little.
Gingerly, he retrieved the crumpled jacket and gagged in horror to see the tiny smeared bodies that were now worked into the weave of the material. He threw the jacket down and screamed at the ceiling.
"This is that insufferable Scarecrow's doing!" he shrieked, "He's discovered it! After all this time, he's finally realised my worst fear! Having nothing to wear! I'll get him for this! He'll know
my wrath!" and shook one white fist vigorously at the ceiling.
Harley, who had meanwhile retrieved one of her own costumes and had carefully shaken it out, shuddering all the while, gently hemmed to get her sweetie's attention.
"Actually, Puddin', I think that might be the cause of it all," and Joker whirled around to look where her head inclined.
At the bottom of the wardrobe there was something rotting. It wasn't altogether clear what it was, but it was something that had once been alive. Or at least had been part of something that had once been alive. Practically all of the flesh had been stripped and all that was left was some shrunken muscle and a few gleaming white flashes of bone. Not much of that could be seen, however, as the object was literally crawling with bugs, an ever moving tide of them squirming all over each other. It was clear this was the reason behind the sudden conversion of their private home into Bug City.
"Gee, I wonder how that got there," Harley puzzled, furrowing her brows together and glanced at The Joker who had assumed a vacantly innocent expression.
"Er, uh - don't worry about that!" he snapped hastily. "Worry about how we're going to get rid of these things. Could you vacuum them up? Or maybe one of my toxins would work - say there's a thought - can cockroaches smile, Harley?"
Harley grinned and spun away, skipping over towards the door. "No time for philosophy, Puddin'! Don't you fret your handsome head, I know just the fella to bail us out!"
This piqued Joker's curiosity - Harley - with a solution? What a novel idea! Of course the various times she had made amusing suggestions, organised the lair, found the right henchmen for the job and located the perfect socks to match his tie didn't count, as far as Joker was concerned. It only counted if he noticed it, and that was just a part of every day life. So how could he be expected to notice - and count - it?
He followed her out the door and down the stairs into the large room he used as his office, the huge oak desk with its purple leather inlay sprawling in the middle of it. On the desk sat a bright orange and red plastic phone, a former kid's toy Joker had modified to work. Harley perched herself on the end of his desk, picked up the receiver and began to dial as Joker pretended he had come into the room to count his crayons. He had almost three hundred of them, and no two colours were the same - except lavender. He had about five lavender ones. Lavender was his favourite. They were absolutely crucial to his plotting and scheming. He began to chuckle as he picked them up and rolled them between his hand, smelling their strange, crayony-smell. He walked over to where Harley sat with the receiver cradled between her shoulder and her cheek and began to draw big curling eyelashes over her eyes. She batted his hands away and smiled at him and he scribbled on her teeth. She sputtered, and then sat up straight as the other end was answered.
"Hiii," she sang down the line, "the password is 'beetlejuice'. Put me through - I gotta speak to -" and her eyes gleamed as she announced the name grandly: "- The Exterminator."
The Joker was feeling ripped off.
With all the pomp and ceremony Harley had given this Exterminator fellow, he'd been expecting someone in lots of shiny armour with some sort of tank of poison strapped to his back and big spray guns. Maybe wearing a gas mask with a long nozzle and huge round glass eyes.
Instead, a rather short, round and meek little fellow with coke-bottle glasses had shown up, wheezing and huffing as though every breath was a strain. He was a fellow employed by the mob to fumigate their houses and was considered imminently trustworthy amongst the rogues of Gotham. Of course, he had not anticipated it was The Joker for whom he would be working on this job, and the sight of the tall, lean figure in purple with his overly-friendly and therefore frightening grin, had given the man over to a bad case of the shakes. Joker watched with idle amusement as the fellow stuttered and sputtered his way through his introductions, then wiggled his fingers in a little wave as Harley lead the man upstairs. Harley did not seem to notice anything amiss and was her usual friendly self, assuring the man he could: "help himself to anything in the fridge. Anything that ain't grown mould yet!"
By the time he'd arrived, Harley was properly dressed and had carefully shaken out a few suits for Joker who finally felt like himself again, resplendent in full garb. She'd also packed Joker's crayons up as well as various other sundries she'd declared they would need, including her pop gun, a few other weapons and ammunition, some minor explosives, a game of Yahtzee, two jars of mayonnaise and the whoopee cushion, giving Joker a flirtatious glance with this last item. Joker puzzled over it as Harley explained to the nervous fellow what they needed done
"Harl," he said slumped down low in the passenger seat with his fedora pulled over his eyes as they backed out of the drive. "What're we doing?"
"We can't stay there for a coupla days, Mistah J," she explained briskly. "He's gonna fumigate the place now and then we gotta wait until it's all evaporated or something'. It's poison, ya see, so we can't breathe it in. Well I dunno if it'd really affect us given our 'munities, but the place will be pretty stinky and musty at any - "
"I know that," he snapped, lunging towards her so she squeaked. "I mean, where are we going?"
"Weell," she said tentatively, "I did kinda think maybe we could go to one of the other holes. Problem is, we don't know which ones the B-Man's uncovered during our latest stint in the funny farm and since we only got out a coupla hours ago, the whole city is gonna be on the look out. So I thought - well - we'd have a little slumber party." and she smiled coyly at his raised green eyebrow.
"Slumber party?" he queried with an edge of curiosity.
"Hyeah. Catch up with some old pals."
She blinked nervously and turned her attention back to the road, straining to stay under the speed limit. He sat up, leant over to the driver's side and peered into her face. She gulped.
"Which old pals?"
Huge shout-outs and loves to Gladrial10 who is acting as my beta, keeping me on track and correcting my silly mistakes! Thanks hon!!