Title: Defying Sanity (1/1)
Disclaimers: Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn, and all other characters from the Batman universe belong to DC Comics. Additional disclaimers can be found at the conclusion of this story.
Summary: Halloween has always been about the murder and mutilation of thousands of innocent pumpkins. But Poison Ivy discovers that this holiday could also see the death of her relationship with Harley Quinn - forever.
As she looked in the mirror, Poison Ivy pulled on a lock of hair and sighed. Black was so not her color, but if she was going to do this, she might as well go all the way. Still, she tried to cram as much as possible into her hat.
"At least it goes with the outfit," she muttered.
She fluffed her skirt irritably. She wasn't used to wearing this much clothing. But that was what costumes were all about, doing something out of the ordinary. For her, though, "out of the ordinary" in fact meant looking quite ordinary, rather than her usual ravishing self.
But then people weren't supposed to look at her tonight and see Beauty personified. They were supposed to get a different message when they saw the wide, floor-length skirt, the long sleeves, the high collar, and the pointy black hat. "Keep your shriveled man-things in your pants tonight, the store is closed!"
And if they DIDN'T get the message, Ivy had her broom.
She sighed again. It was such a bother having green skin on Halloween; there were so few costume options. And it wasn't like she could just skip the holiday. The Scarecrow couldn't actually affect her with his fear toxins, but he was an unpleasant little troll, and he would find ways to make her life disagreeable if she didn't show for his annual Halloween party.
Although it might seem like an obvious choice, Ivy had never dressed as the Wicked Witch of the West before. Of course, she still had the face of an angel, so nobody was going to confuse her with Margaret Hamilton, but as she reviewed herself in the mirror, she was finally satisfied. For someone like her, she could never appear in public looking less than perfect.
With that, Ivy could look forward to the incredibly unappealing prospect of seeing Harley again.
Harley Quinn laughed gaily as she turned in a circle. "Why, I do declare, Ms. Quinn, you are looking mah-velous tonight," she told herself.
What a perfect costume! She felt like she'd been born to play the part, but of course this was the first time she'd been able to make the effort. In the past she always had to coordinate her costume choices with . . . well, best not to think about that. She looked great!
"Crap, where's the wand?" she suddenly realized. Every good witch had to have a wand! Especially one with a big, sparkly star on the end!
Wicked was undeniably the greatest Broadway musical of all time. Harley had already seen it eleven times. And since that very first night, she had taken one look at Kristin Chenoweth as Glinda and known. This was a kindred spirit. Could there be any other short, perky, squeaky-voiced blondes in Gotham? And don't forget the great singing voice - she was sure Boxy Biloxi remembered!
"A-ha!" she crowed as she located the wand. Checking herself in the mirror one last time, Harley saw that everything was in place. Tonight was going to be great! Professor Crane always threw a swell shindig on Halloween, and it would be her first time seeing Ivy in way too long. She had been so lonely for the past few months. Every attempt to see Red at her hideout had been gently but firmly rebuffed by her plants. Clearly Harley wasn't on the guest list any more.
But they'd be together tonight. Ivy wouldn't be able to ignore her any longer, not like Mistah . . .
"No, Harley," she muttered to herself as her smile disappeared. "You've moved on, remember? He's the Joker now, not Mistah J, not Puddin', the Joker."
Harley's lip trembled. But she was not about to cry on her dress! Just think about seeing Red again. It had been so long.
Her heart lifted. She exhaled and waved her wand over her head, as if she could make herself magically happier.
Of course, if she could do that, then she could have gone to Professor Crane's hideout in a bubble, instead of the back of a taxi.
Ivy glared so darkly at nothing in particular that the taxi driver, catching her face in his rearview mirror, quailed and murmured a prayer in Farsi.
The whole thing would have been ludicrous if it hadn't been so infuriatingly depressing. Harley Quinn had been accused of being incompetent in various ways by various people (including, perhaps once or twice, her). Her talent had remained unappreciated and undiscovered for years until the Joker came to a startling discovery.
Harley's talent, her knack, the one thing she'd been born to do, was "not getting killed by the Joker".
In her years as the Joker's sidekick, Harley had devoted herself to being the best helper she could be by learning to anticipate all of his moods. Over time, her ability to predict what the Joker would do next had reached a level no one else could ever have achieved, not even the Batman. Even though he was completely insane and often did things for reasons inexplicable to everyone but himself, eventually Harley learned to read him like a book.
Among the benefits of this talent was knowing when an attempt on her life was coming. Harley felt that this was an especially crucial benefit, but of course it wasn't for the logical reason. Harley needed to live – so she could continue being his sidekick. It was so warped, so monstrous, it made Ivy feel like her head was splitting open and a tree was growing out of it. And not a bonsai either! Harley only cared about her own life to the extent that the Joker "needed" her!
Inevitably, however, it came to the Joker's attention that Harley, for some odd reason, was still alive. He was relatively sure he'd tried to kill her in the past (apparently he didn't entirely trust his own memories), but obviously he'd failed. It gnawed at him that someone he'd tried to kill was still alive. The Bat was a special case. The Bat was special. Harley was a nitwit.
And so the Joker spent the next week attempting to murder Harley. With style, of course. Anybody could hide a bomb under someone's bed. But it was necessary that Harley get the joke before she died. She couldn't be killed unawares.
Needless to say, he'd failed several times. She'd seen every death trap coming a mile away.
For some reason, the Joker had concluded that he would never be able to kill her. Rather than acknowledge this kind of defeat, however, he instead cut her out of his life forever. For the Joker, "Harley Quinn" no longer existed. You couldn't kill something if it didn't exist. If it hadn't existed in the first place.
Naturally Harley had come to Ivy with great hiccoughing sobs and told her everything. Ivy hadn't shared Harley's view that this was her worst nightmare come to life. Ivy's heart had done backflips and burst into song. Somehow she was able to swallow the cheers trying to escape from her lips, though, and made a show of comforting her friend. Harley had even confessed to putting a gun in the Joker's hand and pointing it at her forehead. Ivy could guess how well THAT went over. Letting him kill her? Inconceivable!
More satisfying was the thought that after years of unfairly belittling Harley, the Joker had fired her for being too good at her job! The ultimate joke, and he didn't get it! Ivy had snuck off to another room, closed the door, and cackled.
At any rate, Ivy had somehow managed to pretend to sympathize with Harley for three whole days, perhaps the greatest achievement of her life. After that, however, she'd decided that Harley had had more than enough time to work through her grief.
So she offered herself to Harley.
And everything had gone downhill since.
"I mean, really, what was I supposed to do?" Harley complained. "Just hop out of one bed and into another?"
Her driver smiled ingratiatingly, nodded, and drove faster.
Harley had had very good reasons to reject Ivy's blatant advances that night. It had been just three days! She was nowhere close to a place where she could commit to a new relationship. Never mind that this would make Red look suspiciously like a "rebound". Red was too important to be considered a rebound.
She was also too important to die. Even if Mist- the Joker was pretending she didn't exist, Harley couldn't be sure how he would react if he learned she was seeing someone else. The Joker despised Red, but he let her live because having her around made it easier for him to find Harley when he needed her again. "Harley day care," he'd called Ivy once. (And now that memory made her feel nauseous.)
She had not rejected Red because she wasn't interested. Harley had always been attracted to strong, dominating personalities. And Red could be incredibly forceful. More importantly, Red clearly cared for her. When she had been alone with Red in the past, Harley had convinced herself that it wasn't technically cheating if they didn't "go all the way". She had always wondered what "going all the way" with Ivy would feel like. She bet it would have been really nice.
Because it obviously was never going to happen. Red had not taken rejection well. Not even giving Harley a chance to explain, Ivy had stormed off in a volcanic rage. And she never came back.
Harley shuddered. The months after that were hard. Really hard. She didn't like to think about some of the places she'd slept in. She supposed she could have hated Red for forcing her to live that way. Instead Harley just wanted to be friends again even more.
Tonight was her golden opportunity, though. She smiled. Her "yellow brick road".
"I'll get you, my pretty," Ivy hissed. "And your little puppet too!"
The Ventriloquist had taken one look into her eyes and fled, even as his doll had clamored for him to go back so he could "cop another feel".
This evening was bad enough, Ivy thought, without some damn dummy grabbing her ass!
She gripped her broom like it was a quarterstaff, and her eyes swept the room. Everyone else seemed to be giving her a wide berth. Good.
She supposed she should have been grateful that someone, even a hunk of wood that was just a proxy for a repressed little coward, found her attractive. Ivy's stomach always tied itself into knots when she thought of that night. That night Harley had accomplished something no one else ever had, not even the Batman.
Harley had made Ivy feel undesirable.
It was bad enough when Harley chose a disgusting, demented, savage worm over her. But when Harley chose being single over her – well, a dose of Agent Orange would have been better than that. Ivy didn't think she could ever forgive Harley for inflicting that moment of self-doubt and humiliation on her.
Since then, Ivy's movements had been severely curtailed by her desire to avoid the sight of Harley. (She avoided equally fiercely the thought that she now shared something with the Joker.) Whenever Harley was free, Ivy resolutely remained in her lair. Only when Harley was back in Arkham did Ivy feel safe to visit public places like the Iceberg Lounge. And even then, she avoided doing anything that would put her on the Bat's radar. Joining Harley in Arkham was even less acceptable.
Consequently, Harley would not be the only Rogue who Ivy was seeing that night for the first time in months.
"You look like you're ready for some kind of onslaught, Pamela."
Ivy turned around and looked down at the Scarecrow. "Well, Crane," she said smoothly, "this is your party. Who knows what will pop out at me?"
"Who, indeed?" he asked smugly as he stepped aside. His gangly frame and wide hat out of her line of vision, Ivy could see that coming towards her was . . .
If the broomstick in her hand had been living wood, she would have strangled the poor tree to death at that moment.
"Red?" Harley asked hopefully.
Ivy's mouth twisted. "Harley," she said.
"You came," Harley said. She looked Ivy up and down, and her eyes began to shine. "Oh, and you came as Elphaba! Oh Red, don't you see, it's like, like – kismet!" And much to Ivy's horror, she began to sing. "Elphaba, see? We deserve each other, and – "
"What are you doing?" Ivy snarled. "What are you singing for? And what in Gaia's name is an Elphaba?!"
Harley seemed to shrink an inch or two. "What? But your costume! You're – "
"The Wicked Witch of the West, Harley," Ivy said impatiently. "You know, the Wizard of Oz? Flying monkeys? Ruby slippers? Sets fire to scarecrows?" She shot an evil glare at Scarecrow, who was too busy to notice. Then she really looked at what Harley was wearing for the first time. "Goddess," she said flatly. "And you came as Glinda."
"Glinda from Wicked," Harley corrected her.
Harley stared at her. "It's, um, a Broadway show. My favorite. It's really popular, Red. Haven't you heard of it?"
Ivy shrugged. If it didn't involve plants, it wasn't really important to her. Then she narrowed her eyes. "You don't get to call me 'Red' any more, Harley. You can call me 'Ivy' like everyone else. But not 'Pammy' like your ex."
Harley looked wounded. "Red, you can't mean that!" she wailed.
This was drawing too much attention, Ivy saw. Everyone was looking at them. The idea that these hateful men might learn about her dark secret, her rejection, was anathema to her. She grabbed Harley by the elbow. "Outside, now!" she hissed.
Harley drooped as she allowed Ivy to lead her out. Ivy would have prodded her with the broomstick if she thought it would make her move faster.
When they were outside on the lawn outside the abandoned house Crane had commandeered for his theme party, Ivy finally let go of her. "You were making a scene in there! What on earth possessed you that you decided to start singing?"
"It's a musical, Ivy," Harley retorted, crossing her arms. "That's what people do in musicals, they sing. I thought you were a fellow fan, that you'd recognize the lyrics."
"Well, obviously I'm not," Ivy grumbled. She considered trying to knock some sense into Harley with her broom. Harley could never defend herself with that girly stick of hers.
"I don't know why you're so mad," Harley pouted. "I don't think anyone cares that we're wearing coordinated costumes."
Ivy's eyes bulged. "You think that's why I'm MAD?! You KNOW why I'm mad! Why I've been mad at you all this time!"
"That was months ago! I thought you would have moved past it by now!"
"Well, I haven't," Ivy snapped. "I don't think I'll ever move past it. The memory is as fresh in my mind as it was the first day, Harley! You have no idea how much you hurt me!" Ivy quaked with rage. The sight of Harley had revived every hurt feeling, as she had predicted, but she felt powerful too. Why had she postponed this for so long? This was her chance to reduce Harley to a quivering lump for making her feel bad about herself! "How dare you do that to me!"
Harley found her hands forming into fists of their own accord. She stared at R – Ivy. (She was going to have to relearn everyone's name by next year at this rate.) She had been looking forward to this night for weeks. This was the night where everything would get better. All she had wanted was for Ivy to take her back.
Now, however, she thought of her life for the past few months, of how it all started when Joker and Ivy pushed her out of their lives. And she finally got angry.
Before she could think about it, Harley whipped out her wand and smacked Ivy on the forehead with the big sparkly star.
"How dare I do that to you? How dare I do that to YOU?! How about what you did to me?!"
Ivy was suddenly on the defensive, and by the look in her eyes, Harley didn't think she liked it. "I'm not the one who pushed you away!"
Harley gaped at her. "Are you kidding? You've been pushing me away every day since! Every door closed, every plant in my way! You've been avoiding me like I'm some, some . . . some lumberjack!"
Ivy tried to retake the momentum, but Harley was having none of it. "I needed you, Ivy. The Joker dumped me, I was out on my own! You were all I had left! And you shut me out! I felt horrible about what the Joker did to me, and suddenly you made it ten times worse because you did it to me too!"
Harley actually found herself wanting to shove her. "I was all alone, Ivy! I was in hell! And I wouldn't have been if you had just WAITED and listened to me after I said no. I would have told you I wasn't ready YET. That I needed TIME first. I mean, hello! Three days! That's like seventy-five hours!"
"You . . ." Ivy's mouth opened and closed like she was a fish. "You would have . . ."
"YES!" Harley screamed. Hallelujah! She gets it! "But noooooo, you had to go stomping off in a hissy fit because you couldn't have what you wanted, when you wanted it! You always have to get your way, all the way, all the time, Ivy! And if you don't, you turn into a raving lunatic! And believe me, I know a raving lunatic when I see one!"
Ivy was starting to shift back from "shocked" to "insulted" to "pissed" by the look of her, but Harley didn't care. She was done. She learned to live without the Joker. She could do it again.
"I'm sorry I hurt you, Ivy," Harley said. She felt a pang. But she squashed it. "Tell your babies not to worry about me any more. I won't be trying to see you ever again."
With that, she turned on her heel and walked away – before Ivy could see her cry.
Or before Ivy tried to put her foot up her ass.
Poison Ivy didn't know what to do. She didn't feel angry. She didn't feel sad. She didn't feel vindicated or relieved or triumphant or devastated. She just felt empty.
And she had no idea what to do about it.
With nothing else to guide her, Ivy could think of only one thing to do.
So she took a cab to Broadway, found the Gershwin Theater, kissed a man, took his ticket, and went in to see Wicked.
Harley was pale and weary as she finally made it back to her hideout. For two whole days she'd searched an empty Gotham, looking for somebody, anybody, only to find she was all by herself. The third day she discovered she'd actually been wandering around her hideout all that time, trapped in the throes of Professor Crane's fear toxin. Apparently you had to stay at the party until the end if you wanted a cup of the punch that contained the antidote.
She didn't need to be a former psychiatrist to guess where THIS fear stemmed from. The two central relationships in her life were now shattered and in ruins, and Harley didn't know what she would do next. Desperate for some human contact, she'd spent the day window-shopping at the mall.
As it turned out, definitely not a smart move for someone recovering from fear toxin. She was exhausted! (Or maybe that was because of the five pairs of low-rider jeans she'd been lugging around. Or those three Cinnabons she ate.)
As she staggered toward her makeshift bedroom, Harley wondered what tomorrow would bring. She could admit now that her life had been in a holding pattern ever since the week Joker and Ivy had left her. There was no need to make hard decisions when Ivy would forgive her like she always did and take her back.
Now that was impossible, and Harley would have to figure the rest out. She was a senior sidekick no longer. She was her own woman. An independent, a freelancer, an experienced criminal who now would decide for herself where and when her next crime would be.
She was in charge. Great. Just what she'd been avoiding for the past few years.
To make things worse, Harley wasn't entirely sure what kind of Rogue she was any more. Her solo criminal activity had been sporadic, nonlethal, and juvenile. She'd been sent to Arkham as a matter of routine, but her doctors weren't entirely sure what to treat her for. They'd called her a "delusional obsessive", but she no longer had an obsession. Her current diagnosis was something much more boring – "depressed".
Some of those doctors, amazingly enough, had been at Arkham long enough to remember Doctor Harleen Quinzell. They'd always wondered why her fixation on the Joker had been accompanied by a "regression to childlike immaturity" and a change of daily vocabulary. Harley couldn't really explain it herself, so she couldn't explain why she felt like she was changing back, either. With her twin obsessions gone, the remainder of her life had seemed trite and uninteresting.
The other day she was at the store, and she passed up the Frosted Flakes for the Special K. She wasn't sure who she was any more – Harley or Harleen.
Her mind was rambling. She needed sleep. Preferably without the dream where she was Dorothy, and she was off to see Scarface ("pay no attention to that guy with his hand up my gack!") with the Scarecrow, Mr. Freeze, and Catwoman in tow.
She got to her room and almost tripped over her own feet as she saw what was waiting for her.
Poison Ivy was sitting on her bed.
"Um," Harley said. She supposed she should be angry. But that would require higher brain functions that she wasn't currently capable of. "Uh."
Ivy grimaced. She looked like she'd bitten into a bacon cheeseburger. Then she sighed. "Un-lim-it-ed," she croaked.
Harley almost had a heart attack. It wasn't possible.
Ivy was trying to sing.
Few people besides Harley knew that Ivy was an awful singer. She'd dragged Ivy to karaoke once. No prisoner of Ivy's ever screamed as horribly as she did as she butchered "You Never Promised Me a Rose Garden". The entire Bat-clan would have surrendered just to make her stop if they'd heard.
Fortunately, Ivy was not one of those terrible singers who thought they were great, like most of the saps on "American Idol" (and one of the judges, the girl). Ivy was horrible, she knew she was horrible, and she didn't wanted anyone else to know it too.
But she was singing now.
Ivy must have seen the look of horror on her face, but she gritted her teeth and went on. "Together we're – un-lim-it-ed," she sang joylessly. "Together we'll be the greatest team there's ever been."
The melody was nonexistent, but Harley knew the words by heart. Her heart clenched.
"Dreams the way we planned them, if we work in tandem," Ivy sang.
This was her way of apologizing, Harley realized. She was debasing herself in the worst way possible. And yet Ivy was doing it in a way that would mean the most to her.
"There's no fight we cannot win," Ivy went on with all the dogged determination of a man unclogging a toilet – and stinking just as much. "Just you and – "
"Okay, you can stop!" Harley said hurriedly. The chorus was way beyond Ivy's nonexistent capability.
Ivy closed her mouth swiftly, like a fish consuming prey.
"You saw it," Harley told her.
"Three nights in a row," Ivy admitted.
"How the heck did you get tickets – never mind," Harley said, feeling foolish. Who said she paid for them? "Did you like it?"
"There were – parts I appreciated," Ivy said. "I could identify with that young woman, sacrificing everything and being branded a criminal, because she spoke up for the 'inferior species' that could no longer speak for themselves. I could identify with her . . . unlikely friendship with a chipper little blonde." She looked Harley in the eyes. "I did not like that they became rivals over some MAN, though."
Harley sat down on the bed next to Ivy. "It's a great show," she murmured.
"Mmm," Ivy replied. "I also noticed that they forgave each other in the end."
Ivy nodded. "I thought maybe we could do the same thing. I mean, I don't enjoy the idea of being alone again. And I really don't enjoy the idea of you being alone or, worse, with someone else. I . . . I would prefer it if you were with me." She paused. "Or, if you like, if we were with each other."
Harley hesitated. "I'm not sure I'd call us the 'greatest team that's ever been', Ivy," she said, stalling.
"I thought those lines were appropriate," Ivy said.
"You remember that's the scene in the show where Glinda turns her down and they go their separate ways, right?" Harley asked carelessly.
Ivy wilted. Please, Harley. You've made me beg, made me cry. You can't be rejecting me again. I don't think I'll live through the night . . . and frankly, I don't think you will either.
Harley saw the suddenly wild and dangerous look in Ivy's eyes and realized what she'd just said. "I'm not saying I'm turning you down!" she said hastily. "I'm just, you know, saying that's what happens in the show."
Ivy cocked her head. "Well, if you're not turning me down, then . . ."
Harley didn't even recognize herself any longer. But if she was with Ivy again, she knew exactly what she'd be. Happy.
"I want to go home," Harley said. "Our home." She took Ivy's hand. "If you mean it when you say we'd be 'with each other'. I'm the sidekick when we're on a crime spree, but I can't be the sidekick in a relationship too."
Ivy swallowed. "I'm not comfortable giving up part of control, but if that's what will bring you back, then yes."
Harley suddenly smiled. "Then I guess I'm not a good witch any more, am I?"
"No offense, Harl, but you'd make a lousy good witch," Ivy said. "No matter how much you look like one."
Harley stuck her tongue out. Ivy evidently decided that was an invitation.
And as they kissed, the thought that kept running through Harley's head was Trick or treat, trick or treat, give me something good to eat!
Author's Note – Wicked, and lyrics from "Dancing Through Life" and "Defying Gravity", are the property of the producers and writers of the Broadway musical.