Piety

She was as still as she could be.

Poised, like a statue, with a statue's cold perfection.

Her cigarette continued to burn in her right hand, the slender length of it steadily shrinking back between her fingers. Delicately in her left hand she clasped a champagne flute. She knew the alcohol inside was growing warm beneath her touch.

But still she didn't move.

At her feet, on his knees, he was crying.

His arms were wrapped around her waist, encircling it completely. His cheek was pressed into her belly. The hotness of his tears were like fire. Her skin felt lacerated beneath them.

His grip on her was hard and desperate. He at once clung to her and pulled at her, as though he were a drowning man dragging her down with him in his desperation to live.

He made no sound and neither did she.

Impassive she gazed down at him, at the head of tangled green hair, the bridge of his nose protruding below it, the edges of his pulled-down mouth. She could see the anguish that creased his brow, could tell from the way his shoulders quivered that he wanted to sob.

Instead he was silent, and the tears coursed down his cheeks.

The first time this had happened, many years ago now, she'd felt agony overwhelm her to see him like this. As he had flung himself on her she had started crying also, snarled fingers through his hair, tried desperately to soothe him.

His retaliation had been brutal.

He'd jerked back from her, face contorting with betrayed fury, and beat her hard, working his overwhelming emotion out that way. Her jaw had clicked for weeks afterwards.

But as every punch landed, as every kick met its mark eliciting unbelievable jabs of pain, what most broke her heart had been the look on his face.

The betrayal.

She'd learned, after that. She was a quick learner, always had been.

Staring down at him she kept her expression still and neutral. She had seen him like this before, but never so that she was used to it – although she now accepted it.

Inside her heart thudded with anguish for him, her stomach churned with the desire to banish his torment absolutely, once and for all.

But she revealed nothing.

The slightest whisper, the gentlest touch, even the sweetest look of compassion would be enough to disrupt the fragile balance between them. If he glanced up and saw pity in her eyes, he would shut down. If she stroked his hair, he would jerk away. And if she spoke to him in crooning words, she might very well never see him do anything but smile again. Anything at all might taint his grief.

She knew she was the only one to ever see him like this and as much as she hated his pain, she treasured this confidence, guarded it jealously. She gave nothing away, not just for his sake, but for her own too.

These moments of misery were hers and hers alone.

He poured them into her and was freed of them. She took them in and kept them safe.

When they were separated, she brought them out again and poured over them in contemplative detail, nursing them tenderly, reveling in their intimacy. She was the chosen one, and she alone.

Sometimes she slipped a hand down between her legs and recalled his curious vulnerability in these moments, the aspect of him no one could conceive existed. No one but her. It brought her quickly to ecstasy.

The cigarette had burned into the filter now, was singeing her hands. Still she didn't move.

She could flick it away without disturbing him, she supposed. But she didn't care to risk it and besides, it would be disrespectful. He needed her right then.

She had known from the way he'd been laughing earlier that this moment had been coming. His laughter, their laughter, was the soundtrack to her life, playing alongside the technicolour excess of their exploits in high-speed, making her giddy and sick. As they laughed, the world seemed to hurtle by, a blur of noise and lurid colour, wild as a dream. And sometimes when he laughed, it seemed to speed up all the more, gathering momentum until she thought they'd be thrown off, unable finally to keep up with it all.

Instead he'd bring it crashing to a halt, shuddering into sudden silence that had them suspended and floating in time, frozen still, blank and grey and waiting while he stepped to her side and gave in, for the briefest of moments, gave in entirely.

To her.

She was the Joker's girl and no one else understood what that meant.

That was how she preferred it.

The cigarette was burning her fingers now, but she ignored it. His grip on her tightened and he turned his face a little into her tummy, soaking her with his tears. She gazed down at him, unable to entirely suppress the merest trace of tenderness from stealing across her face. She felt like a statue then; a structure of marble, solid and heavy. All that he needed to hold him up.

And all that she needed to conceal her own fragility, to hide how within she splintered apart, would collapse if not for that calm exterior holding her together. He didn't realise how her hips were angled forward, leaning into him as much as he was her. He couldn't know how seeing him like this made her tremble within. She was strong because he needed her to be, but she knew later she would cry alone, wishing she knew how to heal him.

That was not one of her many purposes, though.

She'd long ago realised that as well. Though that had been at first a bitter pill to swallow, she had acknowledged she was as close as she could be. It was her who saw him like this, saw him crumple and break down like a little boy, her he turned to in his moments of darkest misery.

And what she could do was what no one else could. She understood that for this man, weakness was not only unbearable to him but so much so it would horrify and sicken anyone else. Not just the men he controlled and did business with, but the police, the lawyers, even the doctors who treated him. For the Joker to cry, for the Joker to tremble was for the Joker to be human and no one could bear that.

No one but her.

And bear it she did, silently and with as still and impassive an expression as she could muster, standing there while her fingertips burned and her back ached and her knees grew sore and her stomach became wet. She received his torment calmly, offering herself as a canvas upon which he could streak his rage and his impotence, could reveal for however brief a moment the futility he felt in life. She felt it ebb from him and into her, felt herself slowly consumed by it. Inside she was straining against the burden of it, against the overwhelming desire to embrace him, against the compulsion to fall to the ground and give into weakness herself, but she suppressed it with greater effort than he would ever know - not that he knew at all.

And so, as he clung to her and she angled her hips forward so as not to topple back beneath the weight of his need, she too was supported by the yearning grasp of his anguished body, and that was her secret.

She belonged to him; she had made that decision long ago. Her life was his, its purpose whatever he deemed necessary.

But in a strange way, he belonged to her too.

--

This ficlet is taken directly from a scene in the new "Joker" graphic novel that hit stands on October 29th. An overall mediocre and dull story it nonetheless was fairly exciting and interesting in terms of its portrayal of the JokerxHarley relationship. Truly, this was probably the best aspect of the whole book!

I wrote a review of the book which goes into further detail on this – if interested, go to my profile and find the 'Love Dat Joker' link – it's archived there.

In one scene, Joker is on his knees, crying into Harley's stomach as she gazes at him, impassive and patient. It's very intimate, very powerful and very intense. And very beautiful.

Can you imagine Joker allowing anyone else to see him cry? Yet in this scene he is like a broken child and she is like the compassionate mother. They at once lean against and lean into each other, holding each other up.

The title of this fic was inspired by 'Pieta' – the classic depiction of the Virgin cradling the dead body of her Son. There was something reminiscent of that hollow yet accepting grief in this moment. And of course Harley, in her devotion and adoration of her man, is pious indeed.

By the way, if you're familiar with NaNoWriMo, I've undertaken the task of using it to complete my huge JxHQ prompts list and so… expect a lot more fic from me over the next two months. Considering the point of NaNo is to write 50,000 words – a LOT more fic!