The Harlequin

14.

Anti Social Personality, also known as Psychopathy is a pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of, the rights of others that begins in childhood or early adolescence and continues into adulthood. The individual must have a documented history of a conduct disorder. For example deceitfulness such as compulsive lying is often a trait associated with the disorder, along with impulsivity and an inability to plan ahead. The patient will most certainly show signs of aggressiveness and irritability, often resulting into physical violence as a result of said impulsivity.

A lack of remorse and inability to feel empathy affects the patient's ability to form stable relationships or any relationships at all—they often rationalize or show indifferent to having hurt, mistreated or stolen from another. Psychopaths may be highly intelligent and incredibly charming; because of the stunted emotional interpersonal behavior they often use others to achieve their own desires.

Enlargement of the frontal lobe is the only potential physical sign of psychopathy.

Harley glanced out the window. It was easily past noon from the height of the sun in the sky—clear blue and pretty as Gotham held onto summer. Deciding food or coffee was in order—most likely the latter since the only things she'd eaten in the last few weeks were random unsatisfying morsels of food here or there when available. She hoped no one else was in so she could skulk around feeling sorry for herself, though she didn't know what to do. Practice making bombs?

Target practice?

She slipped down the hall, and could hear someone moving around in the kitchen—it turned out to be Gideon. Something was cooking on the stove while he cleaned his gun over the marble bar top. He spotted Harley and smirked.

"'Ello, luv. How're ye feeling?"

She gave him a tight smile, unsure how to act around him. "Like hell. I think Edward gave me something to sleep—what time is it?"

"Nearly two," he said, checking his watch briefly before fixing her with an amused grin. "You took quite a beatin, luv. Good to see your up and about though. Ye hungry?"

"Er—yes," she managed quietly.

Gideon motioned for her to sit at the bar and placed a bowl of tomato soup in front of her. "There ye go, darling. That'll fix ye right up." He frowned, watching Harley pick up the spoon and swirl the soup around. She seemed—timid? This morning. Completely different from the raging clown who beat thugs to death with fire extinguishers as she'd been the night before.

"Ye really alright?" he peered into her face, smiling at how blue her eyes really were. They looked innocent although Harley was most certainly anything but innocent with her track record. Deceptive. He liked that.

"Just tired. Where's Edward?"

Gideon towards the hallway over her shoulder, "There's another bedroom over there, love. Edward's getting 40-winks in being he was up half the fucking night with Bruno getting that fucking Scarecrow bugger up to that bloody asylum."

Harley nodded, "So they took Crane back to Arkham." Her lips twisted up in a smirk. "I know it's the worst thing we could do to him—but part of me still wishes I could have castrated him."

"There's our Harley fucking Quinn!" Gideon crowed. "Aye, darlin, you should have done both."

Harley grinned and sipped her soup. "Next time." Before she could stop herself she added, "So where's Jack?"

"I swear that silly sod doesn't sleep. He's gone out of town to get—" Gideon stopped mid sentence. He wasn't a very threatening looking man with ruddy cheeks and a big bushy mustache with eyebrows to match. He was probably in his early forties and looked more like he should run a pub than be involved with the likes of the Joker. He stared at Harley, frowning.

"And just how d'ye know his name is Jack, luv?"

Harley pressed her lips together, contemplating her answer. "I heard you call him Jack. Last night."

"Aye, and what else did you hear?"

"Nothing," she lied smoothly, "And it still doesn't matter to me what his name is. I love him just the same. I just thought it was—interesting."

Gideon considered her response, pulling out a pack of cigarettes from his back pocket and lighting one quietly. "Aye," he said at last. "Interesting can get ye killed sometimes Harley." His eyes turned melancholy as he watched her face. "He doesn't like having a name. I think it makes him feel—I couldn't bloody tell you what he feels, actually. And I've known the man a good an long time."

Harley ran a hand through her hair. "Has he always been—you know—like this."

Gideon nodded, "Mad as a hatter but keen as a fox? Aye, that's always been Jack, bless his soul. The makeup and suit though—that's new. I hopped back across the pond for a year or two ye see. He's not just frightening the people of Gotham, luv. CNN had it all over the globe and I thought to myself no fucking way—that's me old pal Jack. So I come back here looking for him."

Harley's blue eyes widened considerably. In all the time she'd treated him in Arkham this was exactly what she'd hoped to hear from the Joker himself. And now it was spilling from the lips of a crass Scottish criminal who didn't seem to quite understand how much he was revealing. The mystery was slipping away. Harley wasn't sure if she liked it.

"So—how did you know him?"

Gideon looked slightly suspicious of her curiosity. "We ran in the same circles. He just showed up one day out of nowhere. Young kid with a vicious streak, funny mannerisms, unnerving voice and a laugh that could make the hardest of criminals piss himself. Seeing what he's capable of—all this philosophizing that he never used to fucking do—I reckon all them years I knew him he kept it bottled up. Controlled himself. Maybe was afraid of himself. I don't fucking know and I know 'im better than anyone."

Harley kept her mouth shut, hoping he would continue.

"Seems to me it was Batman that set Jack off. Mask and a philosophy of justice or whatever the fuck he does. Probably made him snap, ya know, mentally. Always did have a flare for the theatrical—and what's scarier than a clown with a Chelsea smile? Nah, I reckon Jack knew all along that someone like the Batman would come along—his soul mate as he says. Someone he could react against."

"What about his scars?" Harley pressed.

"Aye, now, ye see love. That ain't my story to be telling."

She nodded, trying to process this information. "I can tell he holds you in high esteem, Gideon."

Gideon laughed loudly, holding his stomach. "Love, I've never seen him like he is with you. It's like—he's in awe of ye or something. Don't get me wrong, he's a mad bastard so this mightn't be a compliment."

Harley thought about what she'd heard the night before and a pang of sorrow shot through her stomach; she felt on the verge of tears again. "In awe? I get the impression he thinks I'm slowing him down."

Gideon snorted. "He's fucked in the head, relies on being a psychopath to keep that emotionally stunted bullshit out of the way. But Harley, darling. D'you know how rare it is to find someone who er—ye know. Ye just fit with. You're a tough bird, ye ain't scared but yer delicate and beautiful. Like a doll. He thinks of you as his little Harlequin, his doll to do what he likes with but he respects you. For yer brains, yer beauty, you're ruthless and brave and ye love him. And Jack, he doesn't respect anyone."

"But he doesn't love me," Harley said blankly, Gideon's speech about his feelings for her making her feel worse rather than better. "And what if I don't want to be his doll?"

"You do, love, don't kid yerself." Gideon grinned. "For a headstrong woman, a doctor at that, who's not afraid to kill or take a beating—who'll give as good as she gets. Now don't even tell me, love, don't even tell me you don't like giving up control every now and then. Especially when it means you get to be one of the special ones like Jack."

Harley considered his words. She didn't want to believe it but she knew it was somewhat true. Everyone saw her as some co-dependant battered housewife-- but maybe Gideon was on to something. Either way she'd given up part of her life to a mental case and all logical reasoning screamed at Harley to get out—ignore Gideon and get the hell out before he killed her.

"I suppose," Harley said quietly.

Gideon had a shit eating grin stretched across his rosy face. "Love, have you noticed his hair?"

"What?" she frowned, confused.

"He doesn't spray it green anymore. He leaves it all blonde and curly since he's met you. Now what d'ye think that means?"

Harley stared at her cold soup, silent.

Gideon continued. "I sure as fuck don't know. But it's to do with ye, that's for bloody sure."

X

As co-director of Arkham Asylum Dr. Joan Leland had reluctantly taken on Jonathan Crane's case. Reluctantly considering he'd killed his last psychiatrist during his previous incarceration, and due to the relatively mysterious circumstances regarding his capture. He'd been left in the staff parking lot, unconscious and already tied up in a straight jacket. He had bullet wounds in his legs and one in his shoulder that had already been sutured closed.

Reading his file and knowing him personally before his—reincarnation the Scarecrow, Joan knew what she was dealing with. And she wasn't particularly pleased with it.

The hospital wing at Arkham was in disarray since Dr. Nigma had retired to a life of crime with the Joker and Harley. They'd managed to coerce a surgeon and a few nurses from St. Catherine's Hospital to moonlight at the asylum until a permanent chief of Internal Medicine was found.

Joan sat on the stiff chair next to Crane's hospital bed and waited for him to address her. He appeared to be sulking and seething simultaneously.

"Dr. Leland. Congratulations on your promotion," he said stiffly, sarcasm coloring his words. "I assume you will be acting as my therapist?"

Joan pursed her lips and adjusted her wire framed glasses. She was one of the doctors who had been at Arkham longer than she was willing to admit—nearly thirty years. In her late fifties, she wore her graying auburn hair pulled back in a loose clip; her face was elegantly creased and the only make up she wore was a slick of dark mauve lipstick.

"Hello Dr. Crane," she said with a kind smile. "How are you feeling?"

He glared at her.

"You're been off all forms of medication for several weeks now—we've started you back on the anti-psychotics, SSRI's and anti-consultants. It appears that when Dr. Quinzel took you off all medication she also removed the drugs that kept your personality disorder in check."

"Is that so surprising in hind sight?" Jonathan said snidely. "She's fucking the Joker. Clearly her mental state is not completely sound."

Joan sighed. "Do you think she took you off the ant-psychotics in order to release your multiple personality?"

"I need to speak to the Batman," he said abruptly. "As soon as possible. Commissioner Gordon at the MCU will know where to find him." He turned away from her. "I have nothing further to say to you Doctor."

Joan was not sure how to respond to this. The fact that Crane was hostile was not in the least bit surprising. These claims of a need to speak to the Batman, however, were rather startling and most likely further indication of his deteriorating mental state.

"Dr. Leland." The curtain surrounding Crane's bed slid aside slowly, revealing none other than the Batman. Huge and threatening in black, only the strong mouth showing. "Will you please leave us." His voice was a low growl, aimed at Crane rather than Leland.

"You work fast," Crane said blandly.

Batman turned to the doctor. "Dr. Leland." It was not a request but an order.

Joan stood up quickly and clipped out of the room as quickly as she could. Crane was a sick man in need of help. But she wasn't willing to risk her safety for him.

Once she had escaped the medical wing Crane started speaking, his tone as patronizing as ever despite two legs in a cast and the handcuffs that kept him chained to the bed. "I'm going to tell you everything I know about the Joker in exchange for a shortened sentence in this hell hole."

Batman seemed wary. "I can't promise you anything."

"Try."

Batman examined Crane's face carefully. "Why do you want to tell me about the Joker?"

"Because I loathe him," Crane said, his lips curling up in disgust. "His weakness is Harleen Quinzel. If you get Harley you will get the Joker. Bait."

"The Joker feels nothing, he has no empathy or remorse. Why would he risk his freedom unnecessarily for woman when he shoots his own men to achieve his own ends."

Crane rolled his eyes. "You clearly don't understand the Joker. You see the Joker as he wishes to be seen—not as he actually is. I have never met a woman like Harley Quinn. She is beautiful, intelligent and dangerous. She is the Joker's perfect match, even in the way that she lets him control her. He lacks empathy but whatever twisted connection binds them is impossibly solid. One can't live without the other. Even if they don't realize it yet."

Batman was quiet. "Where is their hideout?"

"No idea," Crane shrugged. "They move around from what I can tell and never keep the same goons—his clowns around for more than a few jobs. The chaos that he talks about—they live it. Bur perhaps you should know about the Riddler—he's their new pet, it seems."

"The Riddler—the man that broke the Joker out of the MCU yesterday."

"Oh yes. I'm sure he could tell you much more about the Joker and Harley Quinn, he seems to be living with them right now. They won't risk their necks to save him but you could get him to talk."

Batman took this in with a grunt. He continued his questioning hesitantly, as if unsure he wanted to ask. "What does the Joker want. He appears to want nothing but chaos—destruction—the downfall of Gotham."

Crane shrugged nonchalantly, "Right now he's trying to control the Mob. Assert his dominance in the underworld. That's how I got caught—I was working with the Mob to take him down." Crane smirked, smugly. "So in a way the Mob and I are on your side."

Batman only grunted his distaste for the comment.

"No one knows what he wants. I imagine even he doesn't know what he wants. His actions are both disjointed and meticulous and he is impossible to follow. All you can do is intercept him and the best way to do that is through Harley Quinn."

"And Harley Quinn. What is her weakness."

Crane thought for a moment. "The Joker. Yesterday I watched her nearly get raped for refusing to give up information on the Joker. Then he showed up—he hardly did anything other than watch her smash a man's face in with a fire extinguisher." He cringed. "She literally flattened his skull. Do not underestimate her."

Batman turned to leave but Crane stopped him, clearing his throat to get the caped crusader's attention. "There's one more thing you should know. The Mob aren't the only ones who are going after the Joker. There's someone else."

X

The Joker did not return for several days. Harley spent most of the time sleeping and recuperating and trying hard not to think about the conversation she'd eavesdropped on. True to his word Gideon kept an eye on her. They didn't talk about 'Jack' anymore but rather his adventures as a double agent when he was working for MI5 in London by feeding information to enemies of the crown. It seemed to bring back good memories and Harley was vastly amused by his anecdotes.

Edward stayed with them at the warehouse 'lying low' but Harley had a feeling he was waiting for the Joker to return from wherever he'd gone to with Larry and Bruno and a troupe of other henchmen. Harley suspected that his interest in the Joker's operations came from the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder he blamed his actions on. Work for the Penguin was regular and standard—he was a run of the mill minion with a few quirks that left comparisons to the Joker's theatrical crime sprees.

The Joker offered Edward more danger. More brutality. More criminality. All the things he craved. More than anything the freedom that Harley herself craved.

But presently she was torn on her position in the Joker's life.

Lucy came over tentatively one evening and made dinner for the four of them. Harley had borrowed a pair of Gideon's clothes, a pair of black trousers that she had to roll up at the bottoms and tied tight around her waist and a white vest tucked in—it looked rather Annie Hall chic. She intentionally veered away from anything red in his suitcase.

They sat around eating and drinking like grown ups instead of three well known serial killers and a stripper. Harley could not help but wonder if the peace of 'lying low' was due to the lack of Joker in their midst. She was not happy though. She missed him desperately for the four days he was gone but Gideon refused to tell her where he was or what he was doing.

Lucy knocked on Harley's door, she was sitting on the bed with her legs crossed, playing with the blood stained dress.

"You alright honey?" Lucy asked, sounding incredibly mature for her 19 years. Instead of one of her ridiculous Iceberg Lounge outfits she was wearing skinny jeans with ballet flats and a pretty tunic covered in flowers.

Harley nodded solemnly. "Just, you know. Boy problems."

Lucy's eyes grew wide and she hopped onto the bed next to Harley. "Oh Harley!" She cooed, wrapping her arms around Harley's shoulders. "What happened?"

Harley sighed loudly, "I just get the feeling that he's—loosing interest in me."

"Oh, babes," Lucy rubbed her shoulders, with no idea what to say. It was entirely be possible that the Joker had grown tired of Harley. "I'm sure it'll be fine."

"He's going to kill me, Lucy." Harley's voice trembled. "I don't know what to do."

Lucy's arms stiffened and she pulled back to look Harley in the face. "You really think he would?"

Harley nodded , holding back tears that threatened to slip down her cheeks.

"Well, you can always stay with me, you know if you need to—hide." Lucy's voice was strong. "If you really think he would hurt you—I mean really hurt you, you know where to find me."

"Okay," Harley said slowly as she imagined it. Leaving the Joker. She had abandoned normal life in order to be free of society's points restrictions. She could do that with out being by the Joker's side. She could do it by herself. She was more than capable and now that she'd made her position known within the Mob circuit—she didn't think she would be fucked with anytime soon.

It was perfectly logical, detaching herself from the Joker put her out of harms way as his one weakness as everyone loved to call her, it seemed.

So why did the thought of leaving him make her feel physically nauseous and so empty inside?

Tires squealed loudly against the gravel parking lot outside Harley's window followed by car doors slamming noisily and loud voices. Lucy and Harley exchanged a worried glance and hurried into the main room where Gideon was showing Edward how to put together c-4.

"Larry's the best explosives guy but I do a good enough job—"

The Joker banged through the main door, his lips pressed together and his jaw clenched. Larry and Bruno followed in his wake looking exhausted and pale faced. Harley took an instinctive step behind Gideon, she could feel rage rolling off the Joker in waves as he stormed across the loft towards the bay window. There was left over scaffolding still attached to the side of the building and he started to climb out on it before stopping, turning back and staring at Lucy.

"What the fuck are you doing here, hmm?" he hissed, now striding back towards the group who were all avoiding looking at him.

Lucy opened and closed her mouth a few times, having never been on the receiving end of the Joker's wrath. "I—I was blindfolded—"

He had a jack knife open and pressed against her throat before anyone had a chance to move—but what could they do or say? Crossing him when he was in a mood like this would only result in their own inevitable death.

"Come come, Lucy. How did you know we were here—hmm? Someone do a little squealing Edward?"

"Let her go," Harley snapped, breaking out of her melancholy stupor. "Gideon drove her over here with a blindfold on. So get the hell away from her."

The Joker reeled on Harley, glaring at her with the same menace he'd held for Lucy. Perhaps it was how angry Harley was at him—as if disappointed in him. His jaw unclenched and they stared at each other long and hard. Harley realized they had never had an argument before—he had threatened her and hit her but they'd never argued on even terms.

Not that he was likely to let that happen.

She'd end up with a bullet in her head.

But right now Harley was too angry to care. She grabbed the arm holding the knife and pulled it away from Lucy's throat, her eyes never leaving his.

The Joker's face fell, no expression other than mild curiosity gracing his features. Harley's small hand gripped his elbow hard, her eyes fierce and determined, almost threatening. He felt as if she were begging him to do something—to hit her, stab her friend, kill them all. Why should would want that?

Instead he dropped the knife and continued to stare at her before turning on his heel and stomping towards the window again.

They watched the Joker climb out on the scaffolding and disappear around the corner of the building. Everyone shifted uncomfortably until Lucy asked Bruno to please drive her home and Harley retired to her room, looking on the brink of tears again.

X

"Thank you, Alfred." Bruce plucked the thin manila envelope off his breakfast tray, ignoring the croissant and fruit.

"Of course, Master Bruce," Alfred said dryly, "It always gives me great pleasure to watch you not eat."

Bruce sent his butler a pointed look before dumping the contents of the envelope onto the desk before him and sifted through the papers and photographs. This first was a glossy eight by ten of Dr. Harleen Quinzel taken at a conference at Gotham University a year earlier. She wore low heels, a black skirt suit and a pair of black glasses perched on the end of her nose. She was a brunette, as he remembered her, wearing her hair up in a clip with a few curls escaping to frame her pretty face.

In the photograph she stood with a handful of other doctors from Arkham—Blakely, Walsh, Corrigan, Leland, Strange, Nigma and Crane. Including Harley that was three dead and three criminally insane.

Behind the picture were several police reports held together with a paper clip, detailing all criminal activity Harley had been involved with in recent weeks. If she got caught she was looking at life in prison or Arkham at the very least.

The problem was Bruce wasn't sure if she was meant for Arkham.

Following the police reports was another blown up photograph of Harley in her Harley Quinn gear, a gun in one hand and a hammer in the other.

"Might I enquire as to your newfound interest in Dr. Quinzel?" Alfred asked passively.

Bruce sighed and went back to the picture of Harleen Quinzel. "Crane was right," he said slowly. "These criminals—the Riddler, the Joker, the Scarecrow, Harley Quinn—they aren't motivated by the same things that promote your average Gotham criminal. Even the Joker—I over simplified him before. I have to understand their minds in order to take them down."

Alfred nodded, "And how do you intend to do that, sir?"

"What Crane told me about Harley Quinn—why she decided to join the Joker. It's so—flimsy. It sounds like she's motivated by love, but it just doesn't fit with the Joker. Before I thought if I found him, overpowered him, got him locked up Gotham would be safe. But we have to do more than that. This is as much a game of psychology as it is of criminal behavior. I need to understand him. I need to get Harley Quinn. She's the key to getting the Joker."

X

The Joker flicked a straight edge razor open and closed as he paced up and down the scaffolding. He was furious—not with Harley but with the absolute failure he'd been subjected to in the last few days. He despised not being right, not having things go his way, not getting the desired effects. The person he was looking for consistently evaded him—it was infuriating.

What he really wanted to do was drag Harley by the hair into their bedroom and fuck her until he forgot about the last few days—but she did not seem entirely pleased with him at present and he didn't particularly feel like having to rape his—psychiatrist.

The razor slipped, cut his hand and he snarled, briefly annoyed but then decided to enjoy the pain. Concentrate on the gash across his palm rather than any of the present complications.

"Jack."

The Joker whirled around, nicking himself with the razor again and glared at Gideon, who now stood behind him smoking a cigarette and watching him stomp around.

"Don't call me that, Gideon. You know it's not uh—very appreciated." He flicked the razor closed and stuffed it in his coat pocket.

"Sorry," Gideon exhaled a cloud of smoke and kept his voice light. "I'm still getting used to you being—this."

"This is who I am," the Joker gestured to himself up and down. "This is me now—I'm a better version of me and—God, it is so boring talking about that. Why do you keep bringing it up? Hmm? Hmm?"

Gideon flicked his cigarette off the scaffolding. "I get the feeling you're thinking about it more than I'm bringing it up."

Too irritated to continue the line of conversation the Joker pushed past his old friend and tripped over himself getting back in the warehouse. He decided he needed to see Harley though he wasn't sure why. Something was drawing him to her. He had started making a checklist for reasons to keep her around and reasons to throw her in a ditch—letting him knock her around was in the plus category—getting kidnapped by Crane was in the negative category. Sex was a plus. Feeling overly attached to her was a negative.

The Joker was not at all comfortable with what was happening with her—for example the pull he felt to see her even though she'd annoyed him. The desire to squash those feelings in order to make her laugh and the fact that was so easily done. By the time he reached their bedroom door he was no longer seething—just apprehensive.

Harley was sitting up in bed with one of his knives in her hands—she turned it over, running her fingers along the blade as she examined the way it shined in the dim light. She looked up, seeing him standing there watching her with curiosity dancing across his face.

"Hey," she smiled almost sheepishly and put the knife aside.

The Joker shrugged out of his jacket, and threw it on the bed and then fell down heavily next to it, his eyes shut. He felt her shift on the bed and then she was curled around him, her arms tangling around his neck while she pressed her face to his neck and whispered.

"Are you alright?"

He raised his eyebrows, surprised. He'd expected the cold shoulder or a tearful apology—that was typically how women would react. Not empathy or worry.

"I'm fine now," he heard himself say. It sounded foreign to his own ears. "Are you pissed off?"

"No," she said quickly. "I just felt bad for Lucy."

The Joker chuckled, low and under his breath. "Don't feel bad for anyone. Ever."

"Ooh—you're so wise," she joked, pulling back to grin at him. He snorted loudly and then kissed her.

Harley's hands came up to his face, touching his scars lightly while she kissed him. These were the slow kisses she relished, his lips soft and perfect as they moved against hers. She bit his lower lip gently and was pleasantly surprised when he groaned into her mouth and rolled her onto her back.

Harley pulled on his shirt, running her hands up his back, sighing softly at the feel of his skin under her fingers. He looked down at her, licking his lips and examining her face. She decided that even if she hadn't fallen in love and despite knowing he intended to kill her, she fancied him like hell. With that final thought Harley found herself pulling madly at his clothes, her lips searching him out in fervent, sloppy kisses.

Perhaps she was trying to block out her current predicament—in love with a psychopath. Or maybe it was the way he looked at her when she kissed her way down his chest, his stomach, a sharp hip bone and then a narrow thigh, her fingers roaming everywhere.

"Oh God," he whispered, in a voice Harley had never heard from him before. The nasal sneering tone completely gone, replaced by breathy lust.

For his part the Joker was torn. He didn't like sex for the specific reason that having Harley look up so coquettishly made him utterly unable to stop her from doing as she pleased, from being in control. What was infuriating was he didn't care, couldn't concentrate, couldn't do what he wanted to her while she was so enthusiastically doing whatever she wanted to him. And he hated himself for it.

She crawled up beside him, wiggling out of her trousers and dragging him on top of her again, needing more of him. He buried his face in her shoulder, leaving a smear of red against her collar bone, panting in her ear as she wrapped her legs tight around his waist. He held onto her hips, pulling her against him as they moved together.

Harley's mind was a haze when they rolled over, he sat up so she was in his lap, their foreheads pressed together, their eyes closed. He felt her eyelashes flutter against his cheek and could feel her watching him. He opened his eyes despite himself, and stared her down like he would an enemy rather than a lover. She swallowed heavily, small sounds escaping her throat but her eyes never leaving his. It felt like some kind of significant test, like she was taunting him to look away. But the Joker, loathing himself for it, found it impossible.

Afterwards they lay in post coital bliss for what felt like hours but was really only a matter of minutes. She giggled at the state of his makeup—only smudged gray remaining around his eyes and he pointed out that her mouth and neck and breasts were painted red and white like some kind of sexy Jackson Pollock painting.

Then it was over—she felt him staring at her hair, unwilling to look her in the eye and her heart sank. She watched his lips pull into a straight line and his body stiffen up.

"Time for me to go," he said abruptly, rolling out of bed and striding into the bathroom. The door slammed shut and Harley stared after him in shock, unsure what to feel. Insecure, indignant, used and tossed out as if she meant nothing to him.

He reappeared ten minutes later, straightening his tie and avoiding looking at her. His make up was fresh and he'd sprayed his hair green with that Halloween store brand hair spray.

Harley sat up, frowning but not capable of saying anything—not when he was potentially in a mood to smack her around. But why she didn't understand. And then he turned to her, a smirk pulling at his red smeared scars.

"I feel much better now, Harl. Thanks."

Her eyes widened and she clutched the sheet to her chest as he turned around and walked out the door without a glance back.

x

The Joker left Harley indeed feeling much better. Nothing like a roll in the hay to perk you up. He was sure it had hurt her feelings to share this thought with her, even if it wasn't completely true. Physically he felt better, but emotionally he felt terrible and conflicted which, along with scheming, was strictly against his moral code.

"Edward," he snapped at the younger man; he was smoking a cigarette with Gideon discussing his plans for the future. "Come on. We're going to find you-know-who. Gideon—watch Harley."

Edward raised an eyebrow and stuffed his cigarette out in the ashtray before him. "You-know-who?" he echoed curiously. "I think I might be missing something."

The Joker smirked crookedly. "Our Ace in the Hole," he said smoothly.

X

Harley spent the remainder of the evening sobbing pathetically into her pillow. She got up once to take a shower and scrub the remaining paint and the scent of him from her body, then returned to bed and continued to weep until at last she fell asleep.

X

Bruce had considered going to the Iceberg Lounge dressed normally, sans mask or cape. He was on more of a reconnaissance mission than an ass-kicking mission. Find out about Harley Quinn, the Riddler and hopefully the Joker. Cobblepot was notorious for harboring criminals and mobsters, but due to the crooked system and the fact that his club was a viable establishment made it difficult to get a warrant.

He decided to go as Batman, and lurked dedicatedly in the shadows near the main entrance. A pretty young girl showed up around 6pm; she looked shaken and nervous as she slipped into the club. Bruce felt his heart go out to her. It was scum like the Penguin that drove girls like that into taking their clothes of for money.

Minutes later a man wearing a hooded sweatshirt making his face virtually impossible to see slunk out of the bar and hailed a cab.

An hour or so later a black Mercedes pulled up, its windows heavily tinted and its license plates clearly recently changed. A stolen car no doubt. Bruce's heart almost stopped when he saw who climbed out of the back seat—a youngish looking man with bright red hair and neon green suspenders over a white oxford shirt first, then the Joker.

The Joker looked anxious and jumpy as he pulled out a gun and changed the cartridge. It took every ounce of self control Bruce possessed to not tackle the evil clown. It wasn't a matter of capturing him, he had to be broken first to show Gotham it didn't need to be afraid—to show other criminals like him that their greedy pursuit of power was futile.

That the good guys would hopefully prevail.

He could hear him complaining nasally as the pair passed by the shadowy ally way.

"—great in bed after all, so long as she doesn't get herself caught again."

The Riddler laughed at this, not obediently but in genuine amusement. "She's not fussy though. My last girlfriend was a nightmare. Swedish exchange student, absolutely beautiful but completely bonkers."

They stopped so the Riddler could light a cigarette

"Harley's bonkers," the Joker continued. "It's cute though."

"Just see how it goes," the Riddler advised as they knocked on the door to the club.

Bruce could hardly believe his ears—was he really hearing two of Gotham's most notorious criminals discussing women so normally. He supposed in a twisted way their relationships had to be normal somehow—despite the madness and utterly disturbing qualities. Like Harley being beaten on television. The threat of death loomed over them constantly yet they still had a relationship that was somehow—Normal was not the right word. Human was more applicable.

The Riddler continued talking as they waited for the door to open. "How long has it been since you've killed someone?"

The Joker cackled quietly, not his usually hoarse laughter. "Two days."

"I think you need to kill someone soon. You're getting all obsessed with Harley rather than work."

The Joker laughed again and cocked his gun. The door opened and he shot the guard in the face.

Roughly twenty minutes later the two men returned, this time accompanied by the Penguin who looked incredibly annoyed with them.

"—can't just shoot my staff whenever you feel like it, Joker."

The Joker looked too annoyed to say anything back to this—instead he held his gun to the Penguin's head and squeezed the trigger. It clicked and Cobblepot winced but there was no gun shot. "Looks like I'm out, Ozzie."

"He left an hour ago?" The Riddler interjected, trying to civilize the conversation. "But you don't know where?"

"You're wasting your time. He doesn't want anything to do with you, Joker."

Bruce desperately wished he knew who they were talking about. Inevitably someone important to their cause of anarchy and chaos. It was becoming more difficult to control the situation—where there had been one before there were now three, or possibly even four. He hoped the Joker wasn't forming a unit of supervillains to bring chaos to the city. It was only a matter of time before more buildings would be blown to bits and more people would die.

"I know where he is," the Joker said with a sneer, sucking on the inside of his cheek thoughtfully. "It's obvious."

Bruce waited until they'd left the parking lot before hopping into his (new) Lamborghini and following them.

X

Harley looked at herself in the mirror—all blue eyes red from crying and blonde hair sticking up at odd angles from where it had dried in her sleep. It was nearing midnight and the Joker had yet to return from wherever it was he'd gone. She didn't dare leave her room lest she run into one of the henchmen and had to explain her blotchy face and red eyes. It was embarrassing really.

She thought about how much she loved him, enough to not realize when he was in a bad mood he would probably take it out on her and smack her around, or otherwise fuck her and leave her. That he didn't love her and could easily leave her or kill her and not give a damn.

Furthermore, even if Gideon was right—that he respected her or cared for her and simply did not have the capacity to understand those feelings—that she needed him to control her and guide her otherwise she'd be lost in the realm of normalcy again. Even if he was right, that some guy called Jack had found his perfect lady in her, his Harlequin, he was a psychopath and he would never, ever return her love.

Harley decided she wasn't strong enough. She no longer had a purse—just a bag containing their make up for there was no need for an ID or credit card anymore. She wore Gideon's trousers and vest again, and wrapped the dark blue oxford shirt around herself to keep warm. Going past Gideon would be impossible, he probably wouldn't let her leave so she climbed out on the scaffolding instead.

It reminded her of her first escapade into the criminal lifestyle—back when getting her hands on the fear toxin seemed so important when she'd swung around on the rickety poles in order to get into the warehouse where Maroni's men were storing the toxin. It made her smile.

She could do it on her own.

X

Grissom sat up in bed reading through a newspaper. He was on enough Morphine that he nearly didn't feel the pain in his legs. He'd only woken up from surgery that morning, high as a kite and needing to be reminded by his wife why he was in the hospital in the first place.

Because the Joker had crushed both knee caps with a fire extinguisher he would need physical therapy for months before being able to walk again. The son of a bitch—he would make the Joker pay. Whether by having Harley Quinn raped and cut into little pieces before his own eyes or maybe flaying the Joker alive. That would be a painful death no one would soon forget.

Two zipping sounds that Grissom recognized as a gun with a silencer going off echoed out in the hallway. He froze, knowing his two guards were most likely dead but by whose hand, he couldn't be sure. The door slid open and a figure wearing a hooded sweatshirt and holding a gun strode inside—he closed the door behind him with a soft click.

"Who the fuck are you?" Grissom asked wearily, his voice cracking slightly. Damn morphine.

"Me?" The figure came closer to the bed, his frame outlined by the dim light of the bedside table. He pushed back the hooded sweatshirt revealing half a mangled face.

Grissom cringed, taking in the exposed muscle and bone—the hollowed cheekbones and lack of lips, eyelid and ear. But the other half—it was the blonde haired blue eyed supposedly dead former DA. Harvey Dent.

"What the fuck—Dent, you're supposed to be dead!" Grissom exclaimed although he did not feel as secure as he voice allowed.

"Clearly not," Dent said in a low, deadly voice.

"What the hell do you want," Grissom sneered, not liking the way Dent's gaze traveled down to his legs, propped up in casts around the reconstructed bone.

"Hmm." A coin appeared in his hand and he flipped it into the air and caught it easily.

"Dent."

The deformed district attorney turned his attention back to Grissom's face and smiled crookedly, as best he could with half a mouth. "I want two things," he said in that low deadly voice again. "I want Batman dead and I want the Joker dead."

"What do you want with me?"

"Simple," Dent shrugged, "I want to make my presence known. The Batman took the credit for my actions—it's time I remedied that. I think a little chaos of my own is in order. It's fair." He flipped the coin in the air again and caught it easily. "Heads you get a gift from me in the leg—tails, you get a gift in the head."

Grissom started to protest but Dent had already removed his hand from the coin, exposing the blackened side—tails. "Bad luck, Grissom. I guess I'm doing the Joker a favor but hey, not much I can do about that. Fair is fair."

A gunshot rang out and Grissom fell back against the pillows, a thin line of blood streaming from between his eyes.

X

Harley ran as hard as she could through the abandoned warehouses and cargo containers. It was too dark to see anything other than vague outlines as she ran towards the sound of the freeway. At last she came to the off ramp, breathing heavily as adrenaline surged through her. She was part of the way there. All that was left to do was hitch hike—or steal a car—and get into town. She opted for the second choice and stepped out into the mostly empty freeway, waiting for a car. At last an old Ford Crown Victoria sped toward her and she started shooting at the wind screen, hoping to hit the driver.

It worked, the car swerved and fishtailed across three empty lanes, finally coming to a stop. The driver was an older woman, she slumped over the steering wheel, lifeless. Harley pushed her aside into the passenger seat and kicked out the rest of the shattered windscreen before pushing the car into drive and heading off down the high way.

X

The Joker and Edward reached the hospital only to find it surrounded by police and news reporters.

"God damn it!" The Joker swore, hitting the steering wheel hard five times and then turning out of the parking lot in a rage. He growled under his breath and Edward remained silence. "Grissom's dead. That annoying little bastard."

X

Harvey didn't consider himself a criminal—more like a lost soul trying to make sense of a senseless world. A world where girlfriends were killed at the hands of clowns and good people were killed. He harbored no ill will towards the good people of Gotham, aside from their willingness to accept corruption and deceit. That infuriated him.

Although he loathed admitting it, he'd taken what the Joker said to heart: chaos is fair, anarchy is logical, crime doesn't pay, it simply makes sense of things, vengeance is necessary and love is war. Harvey only had a vague idea what coming back to Gotham would mean. Primarily, getting rid of the Joker. That was what spurred him back in the first place. The Joker's escape and subsequent rise to terrorist of Gotham.

He knew the demented clown had been looking for him. After the evening with Gordon's family he'd been taken to hospital for his injuries. The rest of the world was obsessed with finding Batman and mourning his death, none of them noticed Gordon driving Harvey to Sacred Heart, a hospital on the outskirts of Gotham. There he was patched up without the prying eyes of corrupt cops and promptly put into the witness protection program.

They moved him to Charlotte down in North Carolina and gave him the name of Douglas Write. It had been the worst four months of his life. But then the Joker escaped and began a new reign of terror. And Harvey decided the only thing to be done was to return to Gotham and kill him. Slowly. To exact the revenge he deserved. He craved it.

He jumped out of the taxi that had brought him back to the Iceberg Lounge. It wasn't ideal but it was safe and the Penguin was notorious for providing a hide out when needed. He knew, because he'd attempted to get a warrant for the place multiple times as the city's DA.

Kill the Joker. Kill the Batman. Maybe kill the mayor—Gordon—anyone who had crossed him. Anyone who would feel good to steal life from.

He knocked twice on the door and waited for a while before the petit young woman he'd seen dancing earlier opened the door and let him in. The wall next to the door was splattered with blood and two bodies had been piled up with a blanket thrown over them. An arm hung out at an awkward angle and he couldn't help but cringe.

The young woman watched his face curiously, examining the charred flesh when she thought he wasn't looking. "Would you like a drink?" She asked politely.

He nodded gruffly and sat down at the bar. "Scotch. Straight."

She nodded briskly and moved behind the bar, "Coming right up!"

There was a frantic knock at the club door and the girl slid the scotch in front of him before leaving to answer it.

"Harley!" She exclaimed.

Another girl appeared huddled in the doorway and she threw herself into her friend's arms. "Oh Lucy! I couldn't do it anymore, I had to leave."

Harvey snorted into his scotch at the melodrama of the scene. It reminded him of Rachel—of how unlike all other women she was. This depressed him so he focused his attention back on the two women. Lucy was walking Harley into the bar, her arm around her friend's shoulders as Harley tearfully explained what had happened. It sounded like boyfriend problems.

"It's just I know if I don't get away from him now I never will."

"Listen Harley, you can stay here as long as you want, okay? Ozzie'll get you some jobs. It'll be fine. Now, how about a drink?"

Harley nodded and sat up at the bar while Lucy put together a few spirits in a cocktail glass.

Harvey chanced a glance down at the girl and did a double take. She was small and willowy, a dancer's body dressed in men's clothes and ballet shoes. Her messy blonde hair was curly and soft, shielding most of her face until she brushed it out of her eyes, revealing a pretty, heart shaped face with large blue eyes. Something about her beauty and melancholy struck a chord in Harvey. Perhaps because he was so miserable, seeing such an attractive woman in pain was incredibly satisfying.

Lucy put a bright pink drink in a cocktail glass in front of Harley. "I'll go get Ozzie. He'll help you out," she said, trying to sound upbeat.

Harley nodded and sipped her drink slowly while Harvey watched her out of the corner of his eye. He felt he was being inconspicuous until she turned to look at him slowly, her blue eyes now fierce.

"See something you like?" She sneered. The grim expression promptly dropped off her face when she recognized him. "Oh—Wow—Aren't you dead?"

Harvey rolled his eyes and made sure to keep his face in profile so she wouldn't see the horribly disfigured side. "Apparently not," he said dryly. "Boyfriend problems?"

Harley raised one eyebrow. "You don't know who I am?"

He shrugged.

"Well that's good," she mumbled to herself, sipping her cocktail.

Harvey drank his scotch until he felt compelled to ask her who she was if he hadn't heard of her.

"Harleen Quinzel," she replied coolly. "Pleased to meet you Harvey Dent. So, what brings you back to Gotham?"

He decided to be honest. "I'm going to kill the Joker and Batman. I haven't really thought it out past that."

Harley paled considerably, "You want to kill the Joker?" she repeated quietly.

He nodded slowly, watching her chew her lips as if trying to decide if she should comment on the matter. At last she said. "So you don't have it fully thought out? You just want some revenge and then who knows what? That's good. No one should make plans—they're just schemes created by the ass holes of society. Life is meant to be free, not schemed."

Harvey had a decidedly strong sense of déjà vu at her words. "Scheming?" He repeated, raising his good eyebrow. "You don't consider yourself a schemer, Miss Quinzel?"

She frowned, shook her head and pressed her mouth into a grim line. "Absolutely not."

"So, are you a stripper or what?"

"I beg your pardon?" Harley bristled, turning to face him fully.

Harvey couldn't help but chuckle, "Well, you're at the Iceberg Lounge so that makes you either a stripper or someone's henchman—or henchwoman, whatever. So which is it?"

"Neither," she said imperiously, brushing her blonde hair out of her face. "I work for no one but myself, I'm free of all constraints. Besides, I've been a henchwoman before," she sniffed and shrugged, "Not for me."

He decided he liked Harleen Quinzel. "You know what's funny," he said softly, his voice turning into the soft, lyrical irony of Harvey Dent rather than the gruff Two Face. "Six months ago, if I'd just met you in a bar or somewhere else. I'd probably ask you out on a date."

Harley laughed loudly at this, throwing her head back and laughing without restraint. "Six months ago, if you were Gotham's white knight still I would have certainly said yes."

Two Face slipped back in, "Want to go upstairs for a bit? I've got a room here."

She snorted. "I've um, got a boyfriend."

The Penguin exited his office with Lucy in tow then, cutting into their conversation. He took Harley's hand in his flipper shaped one and kissed her on both cheeks as a gentleman would. "My dear, Lucy has told me of your predicament with the Joker. My condolences, I know you, er, cared deeply for him. Unfortunately the man is not to be trusted with matters of the heart. Trust me on this, you are better off here."

Harley's face fell and she nodded sadly. "Thank you Oswald."

"We need a bartender if you would like to lay low for a bit. I imagine the Joker will not be entirely pleased by your departure?"

Harley did not respond.

"I'll have one of the girls set up a room for you upstairs," he continued briskly, still holding her hand.

"Thank you," she said again. "I appreciate it."

He nodded, then returned to his office with his usual waddle and Harley turned back to her cocktail.

Harvey stared at her. "Your boyfriend is the Joker?" he asked incredulously.

Before he could blink Harley had a gun pointed at him, "Not anymore. And before you even think that you can get to him using me you'd better reconsider. It's a tried and tested method and it never works. All I can tell you is he'd probably kill me before he'd kill you. You're more valuable. You're—" Her eyes widened with revelation. "You're who he's been looking for! He wants to recruit you."

"Unlikely," Harvey said stiffly, "He thinks of me as a pawn to his own ends."

"He thinks of everyone like that," Harley said dryly, lowering the gun. "Don't take it personally. But, you know, you are both of the same mindset in a way. Chaos—"

Harvey cut her off, "He wants chaos. I want vengeance."

"One is propelled by the other," she said thoughtfully. "I don't mean join forces with him, or anything. Maybe just see what he wants. I think he wants to put you on a pedestal—Gotham's fallen white knight. To show them how wrong they are about you."

"I'm not a criminal."

"You may not be a criminal Harvey, but you are a villain," she got out of her chair and moved to sit closer to him. "How many people have you killed?" She whispered, her voice eerily sincere. "Can you remember the first one? What it felt like to take a life, to snuff out that light that animates a person—all that remains is a husk, a corpse."

He stared at her, now turning his face fully so she could see both the scarred and handsome sides of his face. "Ten," he replied quietly, drawn in by her voice.

"It's not selfish or cruel so long as every time you kill it's making a point—how delicate and valuable—or invaluable we all are. It gives you the control and the freedom that everyone deserves. That's why societal values regarding the taking of human life, why they can be thrown out. Everyone has the capacity to be free by taking another life."

"You realize that's the rationalization of a psychopath."

"I'm a psychiatrist, I understand the difference," she said stiffly. "I am free of guilt simply because it has no purpose—it—" she trailed off, looking suddenly nervous. "Lacking guilt doesn't have to be a mental condition."

Harvey watched her face carefully, curious as to what was going on behind those startling blue eyes.

"Anyway," she continued, shaking her head to clear it of unwanted thoughts. "All the Joker wants to do is release you upon Gotham, to free you like he did me."

"And yet here you are, hiding from him because he'll kill you when he finds out you've left him?" Harvey raised an eyebrow.

"Well, there's always a price to pay," she mumbled, climbing off her stool. "If you'll excuse me, I need to go to bed. I'm sure I'll see you around."

"Are you sure you don't want me to come with you?" He asked slyly, enjoying playing the role of seedy sexualized villain. It seemed to be what she wanted him to act like for she beamed at him.

"Maybe another time. If the Joker doesn't kill me first."

After she left Harvey considered what she had advised him. He wondered if the fact that both the Joker and his girlfriend's philosophy affected him had to do with his weak mindedness or perhaps a shared kinship with them both. Chaos. Murder. Anarchy. Revenge. All these things captured his attention. They were in direct contrast to Harvey Dent, District Attorney, and that appealed greatly to him. What if Harley was right, what if murder was a more freeing experience than he realized.

Vengeance was his ultimate goal. How he would carry that out was a different matter entirely.

X

Edward had requested that they make a stop at a liquor store on the way back to the warehouse. The Joker noticed his new buddy had taken to chain smoking cigarettes, the cause of which was undoubtedly hidden stress over his new lifestyle. Or perhaps a kind of hedonism released now that he'd given himself over to a life of crime.

Edward returned with a large bottle of scotch, saying. "You may not drink but trust me, it'll make you feel better." He took a healthy swig and held it out to the Joker who accepted it warily, feeling a bit of a Wino as Bruno started the car and drove them home.

The difference between Edward and Harley was vast. He obviously didn't want to fuck Edward, first of all, but then he also didn't feel that horrible need to keep him around. He didn't want to kill the kid, it was fun having a side kick of sorts.

They returned to the warehouse and the Joker decided he'd probably have to deal with an irritated or offended Harley for intentionally hurting her feelings earlier. He was in a foul mood about Grissom and his inability to find Harvey Dent. Harvey had consumed his thoughts, he was a necessary link in Gotham's destruction. Proving to them that A. Their white knight was nothing more than a villain. And B. Show them how pathetically willing they were to accept Batman as a criminal.

Idiots.

Gideon was passed out on the sofa when they returned, a few empty bottles of ale near his feet. As Edward poured scotch into two cups for them the Joker went to check on Harley. Their room was empty though, the window wide open letting in salty air from the harbor. He felt something within him twitch and sucked on his scars, annoyed that she wasn't immediately available.

He checked the other bedroom, the office, then woke Gideon up and demanded to know where she was. He didn't have any idea. They checked the CCTV and there was no footage of her going out the front door or even entering the main loft since they'd left earlier in the evening.

With a growl of rage he realized that she'd gone out the window—she'd escaped. Not that she was being held captive, but the simple act of sneaking out meant she felt like she had to escape. It infuriated him—it offended him. He hated her in that moment for making him out to be such a monster that in order to leave him she had to be sneaky about it.

He started to storm out of the building, intent on finding her somehow but Edward stopped him with a large glass of scotch suggesting that maybe she would return in the morning and had just snuck out to clear her head. He pushed the glass into the Joker's hands.

The Joker drained the scotch in one go, it burned his throat painfully but satisfyingly. Like sex he wasn't that big on alcohol—he found the sluggish impaired haze of alcohol completely unnecessary and frustrating. Coke or MDMA, sure, they kept you going and made things clearer, but not alcohol. For whatever reason getting drunk seemed like the right response to Harley's departure that evening.

He could feel Gideon watching him carefully as Edward poured another drink. The thoughts running through his old friend's mind were practically written across his forehead: What is happening to you Jack.

The Joker hadn't thought of himself as Jack in years, and as the warm dizzy feeling from the scotch set in he couldn't help wondering what was happening to him either.

X

Note: Sooo—Edward's obviously changing slowly but surely. If the Joker seems to be getting a bit mushy it's just a prelude to big-bad-Joker-man. So don't loose hope.

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