They'd been drifting in and out of sleep for twenty minutes or so and the Joker kept half-waking and mumbling strange little observations and jokes to her:
"How do we know the earth won't come to an end?"
"How, Puddin'?" she murmured sleepily.
"'Cos it's round."
A moment as her sleep-dulled brain registered the joke, then her lips crept upwards in a smile. "Hee hee."
A few moments later: "That boy… with his frosted blonde hair and designer sunglasses… and manicured fingernails. Did you notice?"
"Notice what, Puddin'?"
"He was wearing – ha – blue slacks and brown shoes. Scuffed brown shoes!"
"What a disaster."
"Yes Puddin'." She didn't understand, but that didn't matter. He knew what he meant; she just had to nod along.
There was silence for another moment and his breathing grew heavy. The room was still and dark and though he was curled up on the other side of the bed, she felt comfortable wrapped up in the blankets and comforter, her head cushioned on a pile of pillows. Her lids grew heavy and her thoughts began to spot and disconnect.
His voice broke the silence, slurring: "Did you see the shooting star earlier, Jeannie?"
Her eyes snapped open. "My name's not Jeannie," she said.
He shifted on the bed and when he spoke his voice was irritable: "I know that. What do you mean?"
She was blinking rapidly now, her brows furrowing together. "You just called me Jeannie," she accused.
He was silent a moment. "No, I didn't," his voice was indignant.
"Yes you did," her own was rising, a sense of fearful betrayal flooding her, setting her heart pounding in her arms, her stomach twisting in sickened knots.
He glanced over at her in the darkness, then rolled away, sniffing in disgust: "Oh, please."
"Who's Jeannie?" her voice was tinged with hysteria now as she pondered all the weeks and months they had been separated in the last year, the time he might've had to be with someone else and swallowed hard against the nausea.
He was silent.
She sat up, turning towards him and began shaking him by the shoulder. "Who's Jeannie?" her voice rose in a panicked whine.
He whirled around so fast she had no time to even flinch and caught the full force of his curled fist on her cheek, knocking her straight back into the pillows.
Stars burst in her head and she was unable to respond as he drew back his arm and hit her twice more.
She lay there against the cushions, her jaw exploding with pain and her head reeling. She swallowed and tasted blood as he turned away once more and settled back down.
She rolled away too, rolled right onto the floor, her head still rocketing backwards and forth, sending her lurching as she stumbled across the room, snapped on a lamp and began fumbling for her clothes. There was a strange hitching noise breaking the silence and she realised it was the sound of her sobs.
"Oh don't be ridiculous," the Joker said sitting up and scowling at her. "Where are you going to go?"
She wanted to hurt him, and fumbled. "I'm going to go to Eddie's", she said spitefully, her voice muffled through the swelling of her jaw.
One look at his face told her she'd made a grave error.
"But not really," she stammered, but then he was out of the bed and across the room to her, quicker than she could duck.
"But not really, not really," she babbled hysterically, sinking to the carpet and lifting her hands up above her head. The fury burned into every line of his face as he towered over her was horrifying.
"Best make sure," he leered through gritted teeth and then levelled a vicious kick at her knee.
She yelped as it made contact, then he was grasping the semi-automatic from the armchair nearby and she screamed as he flipped it in his hands.
He slammed the butt of it into her knee viciously and as the unyielding metal made contact bile leapt to her throat in shock at the vividness of the pain.
She felt like her kneecap was exploding, sending shards of bone flying as he brought the butt of the gun down again and again. It could've been twice, it could've been twenty times; it didn't make a difference to the splintering agony that rocketed upwards through her body. She hiccoughed and swallowed back the vomit and then he was straightening, smoothing his hair back, face composed as though nothing had happened.
He went into the bathroom and she heard the water run as she slumped on the floor, trying desperately to suppress the waves of pain that rolled through her, each one seeming more intense than the last. She could hear herself choking, could feel hot tears pouring down her face with blood and mucous.
After a while, the pain dulled to a throb and she gingerly tried to move her leg, terrified it was broken. Fresh stabs of pain shot through her as she shifted the wounded limb, but she could flex the joint and a tentative examination of her kneecap, fighting nausea the whole time, convinced her there was no splintering.
She wiggled all of her toes, indifferently noting how normal they felt in comparison to the throbbing knee, all pain concentrated in the one spot. At first she thought they were numb but after jabbing at them sharply became satisfied the pain in her knee was so remarkable, ordinary sensation seemed unreal.
The water stopped running, and she pushed her hair back from her damp cheeks, casting a frightened glance at the door, then began to drag herself toward the bed, trying hard to swallow her sobs into silence.
She reached it as he came out, his hair damp and his face still. He didn't look at her as he got back into the bed and she placed all weight on her good leg and pulled herself up onto the mattress, tears coursing silently down her red cheeks.
As she settled beneath the covers, arranging herself in the least painful position, a hitched little sob escaped her throat and she hated herself.
He threw a look at her, eyes narrowed. "Broken?" the enquiry was snapped and devoid of compassion.
She bit her lip; then shook her head, her eyes filling up again.
He turned away from her, looking out across the room.
"I don't know who Jeannie is," he spoke brusquely. She knew the admission cost him and she saw his jaw tense, ready to destroy her if she pushed the matter.
But she couldn't help the way her heart twisted to hear the truth.
So she said nothing, simply shifted down below the covers and turned away from him, ready to welcome oblivion.
After several long moments in which he was absolutely still and she lay, resigned to whatever might transpire next, she felt a hand shifting through her hair.
He petted her several times, then slid in close behind her, his arms wrapping around her, pulling her in close to him. Immediately she was comforted, swelling with gratitude beneath the attention, a happy smile forcing its way through the tears. But when she felt his thin body shake with tears of his own, her own stopped. Her eyes dried instantly. If he cried, then she could not. No matter what had happened, what injury had been dealt to her, his emotion overcame hers.
She knew better than to say anything, just sat up and turned around, letting him rest his head against her breasts, his long red mouth turned down and his eyes staring blankly out to the window.
He wrapped his arms around her waist and she held him and cradled his head against her, his need for her completely obscuring the pain that still throbbed insistently in her knee. She held him close and concealed the greedy, grasping joy that suddenly bloomed within her; the delight she experienced as he clung to her, needing her so absolutely. As she gazed down upon his broken expression, her heart soared.
She rocked him gently and let her fingertips gently brush down his wet cheek.
"You want a hot chocolate, Puddin'?" she queried when she judged the moment right, her voice tender and crooning.
He grunted and turned his face into her belly and she took the opportunity to quickly lift her fingers to her mouth, licking his salty tears from them.
A second later and she felt his mouth curve upwards in a smile and then he was pushing her pyjama top up and blowing a terrific raspberry on her tummy.
She squealed in surprise and then he was giggling and pinning her down as she feebly resisted, pressing his red lips to her again and again, each trumpet louder and more ticklish than the last, vibrating across her flesh like little earthquakes.
She screeched laughter, ignoring the throbbing of her jaw when his long fingers began tickling her, squirming and wiggling beneath the assault, his laughter ringing beautifully in her ears. This was a perfect moment. But then she twisted too hard and her knee blossomed with pain and she cried out, hunching over double, sparks going off behind her eyes.
He sat up straight, one hand on the back of her neck, as she ground her teeth and waited for it to pass.
When she swallowed hard and straightened his expression was soft and funny.
"Hows about I make the hot chocolate?" he suggested generously and she snapped her head up to look at him, face shining with hopeful delight.
"You'll make me a hot chocolate?" she could hear the fervour in her voice and didn't care.
He laughed at her expression and lifted his palms up.
"Of course, Pooh! Why are you so surprised?
"I'm not," she hastened to say. "You just make them so well!"
Then he was preening and throwing back the covers to saunter out of the room, one arm lifted modestly. "Of course I do. Sit tight."
She squirmed with delight while she waited, scarcely daring to believe her luck.
He came back in, beaming magnanimously, two steaming mugs clasped by their handles in one hand, a towel-wrapped package in the other. He tossed it with calculated carelessness to her and it struck her sore knee, making her hiss and squeeze her eyes shut.
But when she opened them, she saw it was an ice-pack and picked it up gratefully, wrapping it around her knee beneath the covers.
Then he was sitting beside her and handing her the cup of hot chocolate and there were marshmallows in it and she wanted almost to cry as she sipped it, the steam smarting against her sore cheek. He patted her on the head, just exactly as if she were a puppy, smiling down at her indulgently.
She couldn't remember the last time a hot chocolate had tasted so good.
As she drained the mug, his eyes narrowed and then he was taking her face in his hands, tilting it sideways to the light to examine the mottled purple and red bruises that were forming across her cheek. She submitted to the examination with mute pleasure, suddenly so thankful he'd hit her, earning her this attention. She didn't miss the note of satisfaction glittering in his eyes as he clucked over the wound, deliberately pressing his thumb into it as he stroked the bruises, making her inhale sharply. A warm golden sensation spread out from her heart as she basked beneath his tenderness and his malice.
He pulled her head forward to meet his and when he kissed her, she thought she might expire from joy.
The kiss was as tender and warm as she needed, his lips bruising hers in their gentle exploration, his tongue flickering hotly against hers. He was gentle as he lay her back against the pillows and she went contentedly, moving only enough for him to divest her of her pyjamas and then opening up beneath him deliriously as he scalded her with quick, hot kisses all over.
He wasn't interested in dragging things out, but she was already wet and ready for him when he pushed inside, blissfully wrapping both her arms and her one good leg around him, revelling in the push and pull of his body as they made love.
He held her head as they kissed and she felt it begin to swim with delirium, holding him close against her, her breasts soft against his hard chest, his slim hips thrusting into her full ones, the drag and slide of his length eliciting ecstatic sensations from her body. She became drunk on his breath and when he chuckled meanly and deliberately knocked his leg into her bad knee she yelped and blinked pained wet eyes at him, inwardly delighting in the raw lust her entreating pout aroused in his gaze.
He choked her as he picked up pace and she clung to his shoulders and gazed up at him with mute adoration even as a roaring began in her ears. Her calm surrender brought him to his climax and when he grunted, his eyes shutting and his shoulders slumping over her, she found herself rising into her own orgasm, unable to make any sound other than a choked noise as she contracted hard around him.
When it was over he became suddenly indulgent, and pulled her across his lap to press her head against his chest, now rocking her back and forth as though she were a child being comforted.
"Little baby," he fussed, coddling her in a baby voice. "Funny, silly, sooky little baby."
Sure, she could be that. She didn't care, enjoying too much having her head pressed gently against him, slyly licking sweat from his chest and nuzzling him happily as he pinched her nose and tweaked her ears and told her how ridiculously silly she was.
The taste of his sweat was sweet and while he cosseted and rocked her, clucking to her a stream of strange babyish words, she nuzzled her way gently down his chest, pressing her lips sporadically against him until she found a nipple, puckered and almost flat against the lean muscle, swirling her tongue around it once before dragging it between her teeth.
Suddenly she found herself blinking dazedly at the ceiling, pushed violently back onto the bed with the wind knocked out of her while he scowled at her in rage.
"Goddamnit woman, do you have to be continuously pawing me? Give me a moment's peace, you greedy little brat!" his voice spat the words viciously but strangely, they did not smart, even though he was brushing at his skin compulsively with a contorted grimace as though disgusted by their recent entwinement.
She rolled onto her stomach and crawled back up to her side of the bed, careful not to put weight on her bad knee. Naked, she eased beneath the covers, settling down beside him as he turned away from her, plumping the pillows beneath his head.
Once they were both settled she reached out and switched off the lamp.
The darkness was like a quiet embrace settling over them gently and Harley, experiencing a peaceful contentment, felt herself beginning to drift off, as though lulled from her body on a swaying tide. The silence between them was heavy and soft and she blinked slowly, waiting to hear the Joker's breath come steady and slow before she gave into sleep.
Then he broke the quiet, his voice low and slurred:
"What's long, brown and sticky?"
I really love how messed up this relationship is. Really, really, really love it.
Just so you know – I don't favour the whole Jeannie as his One True Origin. To me she is symbolic of whatever happened in his life "before" – she might be real, she might not, but more truly she is just one manifestation of that pain and loss.
I admit, I feel funny about this one. I feel like it's quite different in some ways to the other things I write.
I wanted to depict how violently the Joker's moods can swing one to another and how Harley might just get tugged along with them, rather than react against them. She's along for the ride and it comes full circle in the end.
This is why there's not a lot of internalising. My hope was that actions would speak louder than words – for example, the hot chocolate tasting better than any other communicating how ecstatic she was in that moment rather than me describing how ecstatic she was. I was going for something a little sparser and simpler.
Is it effective? I don't know! Please tell me? :)