Disclaimer: I own nothing. Batman and all of its characters are property of DC. The song 'Equilibrium' is property of Tristania.
I swim in you
In your dark rivers
Dive in your mind
Search for your monsters
Search for resistance
Sink into the mud
I dance in the halls of insanity
Yet madness is
Your highest deed
Tristania – Equilibrium
Doctor Susan Smith knew that she was an intelligent woman. More intelligent than many: maybe even most. She was also smart, sharp and insightful. That was why she was so exceptionally good at her job, so gifted at understanding and healing the mental anguish of others.
She had been considering these evidently positive attributes of hers for a good fifteen minutes now, and was still no nearer to understanding why someone with so many redeeming intellectual features had just gone and done something that was quite possibly inexplicably stupid.
The answer seemed intent on evading her grasp.
It had been an ultimatum, one that had Harleen had accepted grudgingly. Doctor Smith had decided that her young charge would be allowed one last session with the Joker, and only one. She had even gone so far as to agree to her Harleen's dangerous terms – no Doctor Smith and no security personnel. If the session produced anything less than the Joker's personal revelation, then Doctor Smith would be taking the case over herself. No more questions asked.
She could not understand why she had agreed to Harleen's request this far. The Joker could not be healed. He wasn't ill and he certainly didn't want their treatment. But young naïve Harleen was so convinced she could help him. So convinced there was more to his psyche than complete and utter insanity. So convinced that if she delved far enough into the depths of his violent, murky mind, she would find a man beneath the madness.
Doctor Smith knew there was no man. Just a hollow shell filled entirely with depravity.
So why had she let Harleen waltz back into the lion's den yet again? Perhaps it was because she couldn't bear to crush all her idealistic, youthful dreams regarding the psychiatric profession. Or maybe Doctor Smith had allowed this to happen because she was simply as mad as the patients she treated.
She discarded the latter with an ironic, humorless smile. Whatever the reason, Doctor Smith doubted that Harleen's final attempt with the Joker was going to yield any positive results. The young psychiatrist simply wanted to prove herself and there was no doubt that the Joker was a fascinating creature to study. The fixation would run its course and fizzle out eventually.
Had Doctor Smith's judgment on the matter not been so clouded by an emotional attachment to her young charge, she may have stopped to realise that this was not necessarily always the case.
She walked with a renewed sense of confidence. It wasn't overly dramatic or ridiculous – indeed he thought the changes in her demeanor were rather subtle, if a little sudden. It did not surprise him. She had left yesterday, a complete and utter wreck; it had been beautiful to watch. But a lot could happen in twenty four hours. Maybe not inside the tedious confines of Arkham, but in the outside world… Why one could change the world with twenty four hours out there.
Her face was set rigid in an expression of stone cold professionalism, blonde hair swept neatly back as always. But there was a distinct humour in her eyes, something that hadn't been there before. Something he liked.
No. Surprise was not the expression. Intrigue was a word more akin to his current thoughts on her. And Intrigue made life within Arkham ever so slightly more interesting.
As she stood across the table from him, he felt a chill of unprecedented delight run down his spine, a chill he hadn't felt in far too long. As dignified as she attempted to remain, nothing could hide the thick, dark purple bruising that ran the length of her jaw. It was only a small testament to his sadistic tendencies, but one that he took great pride in nevertheless.
She sat down slowly, purposefully, her eyes refusing to break contact with his. She was usually so unsure of herself, usually so desperate to appear confidant and capable in the eyes of her superiors. Usually, she couldn't bring herself to stare him down with any real conviction. But now her gaze held genuine power; and he liked it.
"You've got an ace in your hand, Harley." He drawled the words out slowly, every one dripping with meaning. He had considered her entertaining but ultimately, just a toy with which he could play. And yet here she was, pulling the upper hand on him out of the blue. Suddenly, she was worth a little more of his time.
Her mouth momentarily quirked into an odd half smile. "It's up my sleeve actually. I don't like to leave things where you can see them."
"She'll play the game today, hmm? It's really quite unsatisfying that you'll only, uh participate when you think the odds are stacked in your favour." He drawled as he leaned back in his chair. He was so carelessly arrogant; Harleen supposed even the idea of his own death would fail to faze him. She assumed her expression must have hardened slightly, because suddenly his eyes narrowed in an amused manner. "Oh Harley I know it's irritating for you, but at least I keep you interested."
"Tell me about Batman."
And then it happened. That shift in his demeanor that she had been striving to find for so long. The sudden slight contraction of his eyes, the way his body stiffened a little, causing him to lean ever so slightly over the table in anticipation. They were tiny movements, but in a heartbeat every scrap of his vicious humour had disappeared. In its place was pure malevolence, an obvious hunger that could only be satiated by fulfilling his desire for chaos. "And why would you want to, uh, know about him?" He licked his scars with a cruel eagerness.
"Why not?" His features, now painted completely by evil, were terrifying; but Harleen allowed none of her fear to seep through into her own expression. Instead she smiled, leaning back as he leaned forward. "He's the entire reason you're here. It seems only logical that we talk about him."
He cackled insanely, the sound echoing and reverberating off of the thick walls. "Put simply Harley, I miss the Dark Knight. I love it when people cower away from me, when I look into their eyes and all I can see is a primal fear that they can't suppress. I love listening to them beg for their lives. I love listening to them scream for their loved ones as they stare up in horror at an exploding building, watching helplessly as countless lives are obliterated within a single moment of beautiful tragedy. But do you know what I love more than any of that? I love it when people are brave; because people are so rarely brave. Humans are a self serving race fuelled by their own selfish cowardice.
"When they look at me with fierce determination, unafraid of me, unafraid of dying at my hand; there's nothing quite like it. Because then I know I've found someone worthy of my attention. Someone I can truly play with."
He spoke with such intense passion that Harleen didn't realise she had been steadily tilting forwards before it was too late. Her hands now rested on the cold, steel table; her face was so close to his she could feel his warm breath caressing her cheek. Her relaxed demeanor was now overwrought like a spring wound far too tight, threatening to pounce free of its rigid restraints at any given moment. "And does Batman look at you like that?"
The Joker grinned; the sickening lacerations pulling grossly taut over his would be handsome face. "He does. Can you imagine, Harley, if a person like that were to kill me? I would be dead but my legacy would be far from over." He traced a finger down the bruises that lined her jaw, applying just enough pressure for her to flinch slightly in pain.
She stared defiantly at him. His touch was nauseating but Harleen made no effort to stop him; something about it felt completely crucial. "If Batman were to kill you, he would kill his own humanity in the process; effectively bringing him down to your level. It would destroy you both." Harleen's eyes widened in realisation. "You need Batman."
He gripped her slack jaw tight. "We've been talking about uh, me for so long now. And yet we never seem to talk about you Harley. Why is that?"
"Because I'm the psychiatrist and you're the patient."
"Save it." He barked, his grip tightening. "The term 'patient' suggests I want to be here, when we both know that's. Not. True. You keep things entertaining Harley; you stop me from getting bored. And when I get bored, awful things have this tendency to just happen. And do you know what Harley?" She did not reply and his grip tightened further. "I said. Do. You. Know. What?" She shook her head vigorously, her mouth unable to form any words against his unyielding grip. "I'm getting bored." He whispered the words before throwing her to the floor.
He did not move from his own seat for which Harleen was incredibly grateful; she did not want more bruises to add to her ever growing collection. She had finally touched a nerve and now had to rectify the situation before it descended into madness; she had to play the game. With a groan, she pulled herself up, falling unsteadily back into her chair. "What did you want to know?" The strength of her voice surprised her, giving no indication to the feeling of jelly-like numbness that had overtaken her insides.
"Why are you here?" He pulled the words out slowly, the dark humour returning to his voice.
Harleen supposed she could lie; but there appeared to be little point to it. He would know – he always knew. And he would punish her for it. Besides whatever she had done, it would never compare with the atrocities committed by the Joker. He worked on an entirely different level to any criminal she had ever met.
"I wasn't supposed to be a psychologist. I was… a gymnast." She shrugged her jacket over her shoulders; despite the cool atmosphere she felt incredibly warm. "I have been since I was a little girl. I didn't… home was hard; I wanted to get away from there more than anything else in the world. So when I was offered a gymnastics scholarship, I didn't even think about it."
"Show me." He demanded. Harleen blinked. "Show me a trick." He elaborated.
It took all of her willpower not to rub at her throbbing jaw as she reluctantly stood up. Without missing a beat she flipped herself over in a graceful back hand spring, her body flowing through the motion like liquid. She sat back down without saying a word. His expression didn't change; she doubted she would be able to rouse another reaction out him like before ever again. There was a paused before she continued.
"When I got to college, gymnastics didn't feel like enough. It felt frivolous and I had no desire to face scrutiny from my fellow bitchy gymnasts and their nasty sport moms. I wanted to be someone more; I wanted my family to look at me and realise that I was worth more than they would ever be. Eventually I settled on Psychology." She could not look him in the eye as she spoke, her voice barely above a mumble.
"Now my knowledge of the American education system may be slightly outdated, but don't mistake me for a stupid man Harley. You can't just, uh, switch courses like that. Especially not if you're on a scholarship."
"I called in a favour."
"An abused little girl doesn't have any favors to call in." the Joker grinned maliciously. "Be honest now Harley. There's only, uh, us here."
"I-I slept with my professor." Harley choked the words out quickly, her gaze fixed on the blurry outline of her reflection in the metal table. "I slept with him… and then I set him up."
The Joker erupted into peels of horrifying, frenzied laughter. "Oh Harley Quinn, that's good."
His laughter rang around the room, echoing off of every surface and into her ears. She brought her head up defiantly. "I'm not ashamed of it either. I've become everything I knew I could be."
The laughter ceased immediately. "And yet some part of you still feels completely unconvinced. I might be evil, as everyone likes to so simply put it. But at least when I, uh go to hell I can say my life was a fulfilling one." He had leaned forward again, his voice filled with brutal rapture. "And how can you say it's not bad to blackmail a professor? Did you make it look like rape? Threaten to play the terrified victim? Or did he have a wife and children? You're better than I thought."
Harleen leant in towards him; she knew he could hurt her but her caution was no match for her intrigue. "You are evil. How can you claim for a single second that you are anything but? What you've done and what I've done… They don't even compare."
"Evil? No. No. I'm just more uh, informed than most; the human race is disease. And evil; well evil can take many forms. There is no good evil; so what you have done and what I have done are actually more comparable that you are willing to admit.
"You wanted to know so desperately what makes Batman so important; it's because he is more like me than anyone else I have ever had the misfortune to encounter. He sees the plague of humanity every single night; he sees it for what it is. I would imagine he has witnessed the crushing pain of its evils first hand. In truth, we're both just freaks in costume."
There was a long pause as Harleen took the sheer weight of his words in. "And you've witnessed the crushing pain of the world's evils first hand too?"
His scars twisted into their trademark sinister grin. He placed his finger delicately on the soft curve of her bottom lip, eyes glowing with malice as he traced his hand down the smooth skin of her neck, stopping momentarily on her pulse: he could practically feel the warm gush of her blood pumping like through her neck. "Why are you really here, Harlequin? Think you can cure me? You know you can't uh cure me, because I'm not sick."
"Don't change the subject." Her voice faltered slightly as the hand moved lower, tracing the delicate curve of her breast.
"And even if I was sick, do I look like I want a cure? Do you think I want an ordinary, boring life filled with the everyday evils of mundane men? There's no such thing as normal Harley, you know that. You know I'm right."
And then his mouth smashed into hers and this time there were no tears, no shame, no hatred and no disgust. It was neither gentle nor romantic; but neither was he. It was so forceful, so intense that the pleasure was combined in equal measure with pain; indeed Harleen was almost certain that her lips were bleeding. The cold metallic taste bled into the kiss and into his mouth escalating his frenzied assault on her.
He grasped the top of her arms pulling her roughly onto the metal table. His rigid grip would bruise; but she was slowly learning that everything he would ever to do to her would bruise, whether physically, mentally or emotionally.
The whole experience should have disgusted her. She could have screamed for help; she could have stopped him. But there was no desire in her to do so. She reveled in what should have been revolting; he was wrong. She was wrong. The whole situation was wrong. But Harleen found that in the midst of all the wrongness was to come the biggest right she had ever known, a realisation so astonishing that the Harleen struggled to understand the sheer depth of how it would change everything.
From the ends of her hair to the tips of her toes she felt electrified in the sheer immoral nature of it all. His hands twisted in her now loose hair, pulling her painfully down into the table, but it didn't matter. Nothing mattered anymore. Not Arkham, not Doctor Smith, not her job, not her supposed friends.
She wondered if this was how he felt; if this was his fulfillment. Perhaps he was sharing it with her, giving her a taste of completion that she would never know. He was on top of her now, his roughly slashed cheeks abrasive against the smooth skin of her own. He wouldn't lie to himself – he wanted her. But he also struck by the obscene urge to hurt her as well. He wanted to hear her scream, he wanted to hear her cry. But he also rather liked the way she seemed so enamored and naïve; it made her all the more amusing to crush.
She was the perfect piece to play with, one worth preserving if only for his own entertainment.
He pinned her down forcefully, his now overly long hair tickling her face. His own face was millimeters from her s and both were breathing heavily with exertion. "Now Harlequin. How. Loud. Can. You. Scream?"
In a room, far away on the other side of Arkham Doctor Smith watched a small screen, horror and despair slowly writing themselves across her features, as everything came bursting apart at the seams.
As it transpired, she could scream rather loudly. And he liked that. He pulled on her hair a little harder and she groaned in painful excitement; she was enjoying this a little bit too much. With one last touch of the bruises on her face, he threw her from the table to the floor, which she hit with a solid smack. "Session terminated."
She dragged herself up in an awkward manner, brushing the hair back from her bleary eyes as she sought out the panic button under the interview desk. Pulling her hair back into a rather haphazard bun she looked up to meet his eyes, which bore with a sadistic intensity into her own. She had no idea what to say; not that it mattered; she wasn't even quite capable of forming coherent speech yet.
The door was rammed open by a barrage of security personnel, destroying both the moment and any further hopes for conversation. They made a beeline straight for him and he grinned in savage humour as they harshly shoved him against the table and cuffed him.
"Are you okay doctor?"
Harleen blinked and shook her head in disorientated surprise. "I'm fine."
"Did he hurt you?"
"No." The lie couldn't have been more blatant; he had ripped her medical coat from her, leaving the fresh bruises from his unforgiving grip on display for everyone to see.
Harleen heard Doctor Smith before she saw her; her authoritative voice cut through the chaos, seeking out her charge. "Where's Harleen?" Harleen made no move to respond, instead watching in broken despair as the Joker was forced callously from the room.
He turned through the sea of security persons and caught her eye, grinning manically. "You'll be back, Harley." And then he was gone.
She turned to the man still stood by her side. "Don't hurt him."
He was evidently taken aback by her odd request. "We follow a strict code of ethics doctor. But do you really believe he has earned any compassion?" He cast a concerned, purposeful glance at the marks on her arms; Harleen shrugged in response.
"Harleen!" There was a hand on her shoulder.
"Doctor Smith." She acknowledged flatly.
"Come with me."
Harleen followed without question. The events of the past hour felt like some kind of surreal dream; she pinched herself, just in case. The last time he had kissed her, she had felt reviled inside. On reflection, she supposed it must have been some sort of denial. Whatever she felt now she didn't entirely understand, but it was a far cry from revulsion of any kind.
She knew that if she had truly wanted, it would have been easy to stop him. She could have pushed the panic button; she could have been stronger and defied his attempts to mould her into his plaything. But she didn't want to. She wanted him to touch her and she wanted him to hurt her. He was unlike any other man alive; he was exhilarating, heady and defied everything society attempted to chain him down with. He had no God and he lived by nobody's rule.
She had spent her life abiding by what society deemed moral and what society considered right; suddenly it all seemed completely worthless. One man had turned every notion regarding ethical protocol upon his head and forced her to think about the real meaning of life.
In the back of her mind, where a few shreds of common sense clung desperately to the hope of survival, she supposed she was romanticizing an incredibly dangerous man as a means to justify how she felt. She discarded the thought quickly; it felt like a boring thing to consider.
They carried on to Doctor Smith's office in utter silence. It was unusual and would have been remarkably uncomfortable had Harleen cared enough to register the situation. She did notice however that Doctor Smith seemed to be bubbling with an underlying fury; an hour previously the very thought of Doctor Smith's rage would have terrified her. Now, it just seemed utterly insignificant.
Harleen did not take a seat as she entered the office. She was almost certain about the direction this conversation would be taking; she wondered if she would be allowed to skip the speech and just clean her desk out.
As soon as the door clicked shut, Doctor Smith turned to face the young psychiatrist, something that looked like desperation painted across her face. She could utter only one word to her once protégée. "Why?"