A Change of Heart

By superninja

All characters belong to DC Comics and Warner Bros. This story is not intended for profit. Based on the new JL series on Cartoon Network.

***

The Joker was loose in Gotham.

He had managed to escape Arkham again, and was rampaging through the city. *His* city. Joker's girlfriend, Harley Quinn, had another change of heart, and decided to break her "puddin'" out of the clink. Mayhem ensued, as Joker had a string of robberies that made their way in a definite pattern across town.

Batman crouched on the rooftop, pulling out his night-vision binoculars, and looked out over the landscape.

"Very sloppy," Batman mused. "Too sloppy, for the Joker."

It almost seemed like an attempt to draw him out, into a one-on-one confrontation. Batman couldn't avoid capturing him, but he wondered if Harley hadn't presented him with something special for their reunion. Harley wasn't too bright when it came to affairs of the heart, but for her to risk breaking Joker out of Arkham meant that she had good reason.

Translated: he was walking into a trap.

He focused on a nearby alleyway, and watched as two figures, shrouded in shadows, began hauling large sacks up the fire escape to the roof.

It was Joker and Harley.

He waited until they were on the roof and broke into a run across it. Then Batman pocketed his binoculars, swinging down into the alley, and launched a grapple to the ledge above to follow after them.

Landing softly onto the ledge, he looked around. It appeared he was alone.

Definitely a trap.

Then, the laughing began, maniacal and threatening.

"Aww, Mr. J…" came a distant voice. "He missed ya!"

Batman dove just as a boxing glove was launched at him from the darkness.

Harley tossed the weapon aside, stepping out into the moonlight. She leaned over towards Batman, placing her hands on her thighs. He crouched like a tiger ready to pounce, gritting his teeth, his eyes glowing white. She pointed a finger at him in a reprimanding manner.

"You've been a bad, BAD, Bat!" she said, wiggling her finger. "Bad Bat. BAD BAT!"

Batman emitted a low growl, and launched towards her, releasing a Batarang as she somersaulted out if its way. He easily took her down by sending a spray of tiny balls across the surface. In a few moments, she was sliding on them and tripped, landing on her behind with a loud, "OW!"

"Don't worry, Harley me-girl," said a taunting voice. "I've got something he just can't get enough of!"

Joker leered into view, with a missile launcher on his shoulder, a crude Bat-symbol painted on its side.

Batman's eyes went wide as Joker pushed the launch button.

"If you can't take the heat, better get out of the kitchen!"

The missile shot out of the device, heading towards Batman.

"Or," said Joker, placing his index finger contemplatively against his chin. "You could just blow the kitchen up…"

Harley smiled lovingly back at him, tears in her eyes. "My puddin'…"

***

Batman raced along the rooftops, avoiding the heat-seeking missile only by inches. How Joker had found a way to make it target him, he wasn't sure. There wasn't much time to think.

He didn't dare venture too far away. It would give Joker and Harley an attempt to escape. But he was running out of options. Batarangs weren't effective, nor were any of his other counter-measures.

Meanwhile, Harley and Joker were sitting cross-legged on the roof, watching with amusement as Batman tried to outrun the small missile.

"Ah," said Joker, pulling a bottle of champagne out of one of the sacks. "Reminds me of the good 'ol days."

Harley sighed, placing a hand under a chin and looked up at the stars. "You're so romantic, Mr. J."

Joker popped the cork as Batman dashed back towards them. They both ducked with a gasp as he leapt over them, the missile continuing towards its mark.

"Some people have no manners," said the Joker with mock snobbery, and rose to his feet. Placing two fingers between his lips, he whistled, as the missile stopped in mid-attack and hovered.

"No more interruptions! Kill Batman, not me. I thought I made that clear!"

The missile wagged a little, like a reprimanded puppy, as Batman watched. So…voice command and visual identification.

He ducked as the missile sped over his head and then ran towards Joker.

Joker looked like he had swallowed something bad, and took off towards the nearest rooftop in his path. Harley reached out for Batman's ankles, but he sidestepped her, continuing after Joker, hearing the high whining of the missile following after them.

Then Joker stopped as he reached the ledge. It took Batman a few seconds to process what had happened, as Joker halted in his tracks, and someone had swept past him, grabbing the missile in mid-air.

He followed Joker's eyes upward. It was Diana, frowning down at them, the missile fighting to be released from her grasp.

"You have broken many laws," she said, glaring down at Joker.

Batman looked over at his adversary, to see a silly grin plastered over his face.

"Why do I have the sudden urge to say the Pledge of Allegiance?"

"Hey!" yelled Harley in a small voice somewhere in the distance.

Diana looked somewhat confounded, and landed on the roof, crushing the missile in her hands, containing the small explosion.

"Oooh," Joker said knowingly. "Now I know why they invented chestplates!" said Joker, walking towards her, his arms trust out in front of him like a kid that discovered a new toy.

He was stopped by Batman's hand yanking on his jacket.

Diana smiled at Batman, but it quickly changed to a disappointed frown as he scowled back at her.

Joker winced as he looked over at Batman. But it was nothing compared to the heat Harley Quinn was giving him.

"Of all the nerve!" she said, yelling at him in a rage. "Some new hussy comes along, and I'm like a pair of old socks. Who busted you out of Arkham? Who have you the guided missile?"

Diana hefted the angry woman off the ground with one hand.

Joker looked back at Diana as Batman cuffed him.

"Hey, babe," he said smoothly, "Where can I get a sidekick like you? Mail order?"

Batman scowled as Joker began to laugh.

Hauling him away from the others, he missed Diana's confused stare as she trailed after him.

***

Batman stood in silence next to Diana as Joker and Harley were shoved into the paddy wagon by Gotham P.D.

Joker, in a straightjacket, managed to yell a few final words as the cops fought to push him into the armored car.

"Look me up in Arkham, star-spangled doll! You can capture my missile anytime!"

Diana rolled her eyes as Harley stuck her tongue out.

"They seem to have a very abusive relationship," Diana said.

"Yes," Batman replied curtly. "It's called crazy…in 'man's world'."

"It was interesting that she did not attack us, given the chance."

He began to walk away from her, but she ran after him, and stopped him, putting a hand on his shoulder.

"You do not seem pleased that I assisted you."

Batman sighed, and gently swiped her hand off his shoulder.

"Maybe you don't recall my position when everyone agreed on joining the Justice League?"

Diana looked away thoughtfully, pulling up the memory of Superman, Green Lantern, Flash, J'onn and Hawkgirl in the monitoring station that hovered in Earth's orbit.

"Yes," she finally said. "When you were needed."

Batman raised his eyebrows, trying to hone the point home.

"You didn't want my help," she said weakly, her shoulders sagging.

A twinge of guilt pervaded his conscience. She was so young, and new to his world. Maybe he would give her a chance, like he had given Superman.

He stared back at her, but to no effect. So he placed a hand very gently under her chin and raised her eyes to meet his.

"Gotham is my city," he said with finality. "It's no different than your home. Think how far you would go to protect it."

Diana grasped his hand and pulled it away from her, although still holding onto it.

"But if I needed help, I would…"

"Ask for it?" he said, finishing her sentence and then releasing her hand.

Diana smiled back at him. "I understand. I'm sorry."

He turned away from her, and hefted his grapple towards the nearest rooftop.

"Thanks," he said briefly, turning back to her.

Batman launched out into the night, as Diana smiled to herself.

There were things worth learning in man's world.

The End