This is more of an experiment than anything else. I just had a few ideas playing out in my head and thought I'd try and place them into something coherent. Please tell me what worked and what didn't; I love and appreciate reviews. Rated M for implied violence.

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"Har-leeeeeey!"

The pain consumes her as soon as her swollen eyes split open. Bright morning sunshine bursts through the curtains and she groans, feeling the light sear her sensitive pupils. She fumbles for the edge of the bedcovers and half-heartedly throws them off herself, shuddering as the cool air washes her battered body.

"Harley!"

She rights herself with great effort, wincing at the pain that splinters up and down her spine and the protestations of her biceps and calf muscles. She perches on the edge of the bed and breathes deeply, then hisses as a sharp agony erupts in her chest. One or possibly more of her ribs is broken; she recognises the feeling.

Get up, her numb brain urges her. Come on, Harl. You should be used to this by now.

She slowly rises, gasping when her back crunches and her head begins to pound. She waits until the room stops spinning before tentatively taking a few steps forward, desperately trying to ignore the various aches and pains clamouring for her attention. She grabs her dressing gown from the end of the bed, biting her bottom lip as her right hand flares in sudden agony. She has a vague memory that he crushed it in his strong white fingers last night as he reached climax. She doesn't remember much else. She suspects that blood loss, asphyxiation, and multiple blows to the head play a part in her temporary amnesia.

Finally she reaches the door to the bathroom, and shoves it open. Even this small gesture makes her grimace, but she quickly wipes this off her face and replaces it with a bright sunny smile as soon as she steps onto the cold tiles.

"Mornin', Mistah J!"

He turns from his own reflection in the mirror, seizes Harley by her messy pigtails, and drags her nose to nose with him, his eyes burning with fury.

"When I call you, it means I want you here immediately, not half an hour later!" he snarls. "Have you got that, Harley? Or do I need to imprint it onto your pea-sized brain?"

"N – no, boss," she stammers. He was starting to pull her hair out of her scalp and she was trying not to yelp. "I'm sorry. It won't happen again."

"You're right, Harley, it won't," the Joker says, still sneering. She hates to see him without a smile.

He lets go of her and backhands her before turning back to the mirror. Harley rubs her cheek and suddenly notices that the time on the Joker's clown-face watch reads half past five.

"W – why did ya call me, Puddin'?" she asks tentatively. "It's so early."

He begins smoothing down his hair and grinning at himself, checking his teeth. He does not even glance at her during his next words.

"Some of us have work to do."

Harley sighs inwardly as she watches the Joker reach for his silk waistcoat, which is hanging on the bathroom door. This is the only explanation she's likely to get. Something builds in her and tears at her insides, fighting to escape. Why won't you tell me? We're in this together, Mistah J. We're lovers and we're colleagues, so why don't you confide in me? Do you really think I'm too stupid to understand your work? OUR work?

Her hands curl into fists as this silent outburst threatens to explode from her throat, not for the first time. Her right hand quivers in pain and she instantly relaxes it, feeling tears of frustration and hurt burn the backs of her eyeballs. Don't let him see, please God don't let him see that I'm upset... Harley's eyelids clench shut, hiding the evidence. But the injustice of it all ...

"What's the matter, doll-face?"

She feels a long, warm finger gently trace her jawbone, and her eyes flicker open. He is watching her intently and smiling that oh-so-beautiful smile that belongs to no other man but him, yet there is no concern in his violent eyes, only danger and warning. Harley attempts a grin herself. She can feel it wavering on her lips, like the last autumn leaf on a tree branch.

"Nothin', Mistah J. I'm peachy."

His eyes narrow; she knows nothing gets past him and wonders why she is even trying to pretend.

Her back feels like it's breaking. She wishes she could slip back to bed and cry herself to sleep. She wants his sympathy, she wants him to run her a warm bath and massage her sore muscles and kiss all her aches and pains away. She wants him to cradle her in his strong arms and tell her all his complicated, clever, beautiful schemes, then crack some new jokes and make her laugh until she wets herself.

But he is not in the mood this morning.

He stands scrutinising Harley furiously until she begins to squirm in discomfort. Suddenly he puts his hands under her arms and lifts her easily onto the sink, so that she is perched on the edge and almost straddling him. This makes her giggle; the danger has gone from the Joker's eyes and she is relieved that he hasn't beaten the tears from her yet. His action is acceptance, and this is all she has ever wanted.

"Tell Daddy what's wrong."

His voice is so soft it makes her shiver deliciously, and she cannot help but give in to his demand. "I – I just feel a bit sore this mornin', Puddin'."

"Is that so?"

His hands slide down to her waist and he squeezes her gently, pulling her small body closer to his. My God, the pain – she must have some real large bruises. Fighting back the urge to moan and cringe, she instead smiles up at him and lovingly traces her fingers over his chest, focusing on the waistcoat's crazy pattern to distract herself. She begins to absent-mindedly fasten his buttons, but he slaps her hands away.

"I can dress myself, Harley."

She swallows, tears threatening once more. "I – I know, Mistah J, I just thought – "

"Sometimes you think too much."

He was frowning at her again. His hands had pushed her gown up towards her waist and he was gripping her bare thighs painfully. Harley could feel herself shaking beneath his touch. It was agony but it was a drug; his fingers were digging into the marks they had made last night and to Harley this was his way of reiterating his ownership of her.

"Take the gown off," he orders. "You don't need it."

"But Puddin'," she whimpers, "it's so cold in here – "

"Take it off."

His voice, like poison, is deadly and laced with danger. Harley shrugs out of the silk garment and it pools around her hips.

She instantly begins to shiver but ignores the cold and concentrates on the Joker, on the way his discerning gaze roves, not lustfully but shrewdly, over her naked form; on the way his eyebrows rise and his eyes narrow in turns as he inspects her. His hands leave her thighs and he brushes his fingertips over certain cuts and marks and bruises, gauging her reaction as he pinches and prods. At one point he taps the broken rib and she gasps loudly, her breath stolen by the sudden agony that stabs through her chest. His eyes flicker to hers briefly, and then he resumes his examination, passing his touch over bite marks on her breasts and smiling slightly when, despite her torture, her nipples peak.

She glances down and catches sight of a large bloody gash across her abdomen, the flesh just beginning to scab over. She can't recall getting this and looks up at the Joker questioningly. He grins, and suddenly the memory floods back.

"Um...Mistah J? I – I think I mighta accidentally forgotten my birth control – "

Features twisted with rage – an iron grip – the flash of a sharp blade – a dull flash of pain that quickly fades to an ache –

The Joker laughs darkly and sweeps a strand of blonde hair away from her face. "I was a little angry with you last night, Pooh. But then I remembered – I'm not qualified to attempt a hysterectomy." He brings his lips close to her ear. "But if you are knocked up, you can rest assured that I will knock it out. Understood?"

She nods rapidly, swallowing hard, making a mental note to get to the pharmacy for an emergency contraceptive pill as soon as possible.

He runs a finger over her swollen bottom lip and across a large purple bruise on her temple, then gently wipes a speck of blood from above one eyebrow.

"Good girl," he murmurs, taking her right hand carefully in his. For one blissful, naive moment, Harley thinks that he might press his lips to her aching palm, but instead he crushes the already crippled hand in his long white fingers. She can't stop a whine from escaping her throat; he raises one eyebrow, almost questioning her protestation. He draws out the torture, gradually closing his fingers tighter until Harley is on the verge of begging him to stop, then drops her hand and turns to pick up his shaving foam and brush.

Turning back he says, "You always do the best shave, baby."

Right hand still shaking from assault, Harley takes the brush while he places a white towel around his neck. She can't deny that she loves this part of his morning routine, and his compliment causes something large and warm to bloom inside of her. Something's not quite right though, she muses as she begins to stroke his face with the brush, and remembers it's because he's not standing in his boxer shorts. He was obviously in a hurry and dressed while waiting for Harley to get out of bed. There is no rush now though, it seems – she is taking her time, enjoying the contact of the brush against his striking white skin; and it seems he is too, because he isn't hitting her, or snapping at her to hurry up. Their eyes dance briefly and Harley recognises a familiar but all too infrequent flicker behind his intense pupils. She smiles and checks her work, then nods, satisfied. The Joker takes the brush and shaving foam and picks up his cutthroat razor, then holds it in front of her eyes and smiles.

She takes it from him carefully. The handle is bone, the blade sharpened to gleaming perfection. Harley places her left hand on the back of his head to better control the blade, and begins to draw the razor gently over his jaw. He watches her all the while. Harley adores this – the closeness of his body to hers, the fact that she has been chosen to perfect his beauty for the world to see. It's intimate, sensual, and on his behalf, incredibly risky. With one quick stroke she could end the Joker's life in a gush of scarlet and he knows it. She shudders from the weight of power placed upon her. It's a test; the ultimate test of trust and loyalty.

Her heart rate increases in speed as the movements of the razor over his skin cause shivers of pleasure to run down her spine. She smiles lovingly as the foam is skimmed away time after time to reveal gleaming skin; satisfied with her work she puts down the razor, ignoring the complaints of her now throbbing hand, and gently wipes his face with the towel, then taps the end of his nose and smiles.

"All done, Mistah J."

He grins and wrinkles his nose at Harley, making her giggle, then appraises himself in the mirror.

"Beautiful, baby," he says, smoothing his hair back and raising his eyebrows at his own dazzling reflection.

She beams, pleased with her success.

He buttons up his waistcoat, turns from the mirror after one last check on his teeth and reaches for his purple jacket. Shrugging it onto his shoulders, he then opens the door and walks out of the bathroom. Harley quickly scrambles off the sink, gasping softly at the jolt in her chest and the screeching in her muscles, and hobbles after him as fast as she can.

"Mistah J, wait!"

He pauses with his hand on the bedroom doorknob and swivels round to her. His expression is not irritated, nor angry, nor even mildly frustrated, but surprisingly neutral, perhaps even patient for once.

"What is it, Harley?"

She stops and just simply looks at him, at his handsome angular face, his impressively tall figure, his slim yet masculine form, at the hands that have shaped her, moulded her, caressed her and hit her. He is perfection and Harley knows that she will never meet another man like him. She walks over and slips her arms around his waist, squeezing him tightly. Don't let him leave, please God don't let him leave me... The agony clouding her is far more immense than any physical pain he could ever inflict. He tenses briefly, then envelops her in a strong embrace. It gives life to her, puts breath in her lungs, allows her hope, and she feeds off it desperately like a parasite sucks blood from its host.

He is her host. She cannot survive without him.

He brings his lips close to her ear and whispers, his breath hot against her skin, "Daddy has to leave now, baby. You be a good girl while he's away, and maybe he'll have a present for you when he gets back."

Harley tries to giggle but it comes out as a sob, and tears begin to leak from between her tightly shut eyelids. The Joker draws away from her, sighs, and chucks her under the chin.

"Come on, Harley-girl. You know how much I hate it when you cry."

"I – I'm sorry, M – Mistah J," she stammers, her chest heaving. "It's just – I don't want – "

He watches her as she presses a hand to her mouth, emotion threatening to overwhelm her. His face is impassive, without sympathy or regret, and after a few seconds he slaps her upside the head. This surprises Harley and her weeping quickly dissolves into hiccupping.

"Now, enough of this," the Joker says quietly. "I want to see you smile before I leave."

She lifts her tear-stained face to his. "Will it make ya happy, Puddin'?"

He nods. "Very."

So she smiles her biggest, best, most beautiful smile, and he grins, pats her head, and walks out of the door in a whirl of purple coattails and a soft patter of shiny spats.

Harley's shoulders sag and her face collapses. It feels as if he has taken all the colour in the room with him, and she jumps into his bed and wraps herself in the purple duvet, as if by doing this she will soak up his very essence. She can feel the tears building again but forbids them to fall. He would hate it.

The pain quickly takes advantage of her inertia and consumes her, but this time she revels in it.

Every jolt, every ache, and every wrench is a reminder of him.

They are his gifts to her.

And she will cherish them.