Author's Notes: I love the idea of Harley Quinn. I don't really like her the way she is in the animated series, though; she's too flaky, without enough really convincing personality to her. So I've sort of reinvented her, the way I think she might have been pre-Joker, while trying to stay as loyal to the comics as I can. Jaded enough, wry enough, just barely brave enough, to catch the Joker's attention. What I like best about the idea of Harley is that she must have something to her that the Joker is fascinated by--and I tried to represent that in that sort of barely-there confidence, that surety that lurks beneath the surface but isn't quite bold enough to be called real confidence. She is, in perfect words, a tease--not necessarily in a sexual way, although maybe that too, but in every other aspect of herself. She is the setup for the punchline, the last word before the finale of a joke.

...Erm. Sorry. Back to the point: I'm not sure how well I did, and this is a short piece, but I'm working on something maybe a little longer. We'll see.

All raisin-commentary credit goes to the movie Benny and Joon.

Joon: I don't like raisins. They used to be all fat and juicy. They're just humiliated grapes.

Sam: Yeah. It's a shame about raisins.

humiliated grapes

She doesn't like raisins. They scare her, somehow, with their shriveled skin and hunched form, floating pathetically in the Raisin Bran. So she plucks them from the small dish of tapioca, one by one, and drops them in her napkin like a sheepish ten-year-old hiding her vegetables.

Her mother always said she looked young, and she does; she's small, compact, her pretty features soft and child-like, almost naïve. At work she pulls her hair back too tight, pinching her eyes at their edge, giving her a harsher, sharper look that adds a few years, lends her some credibility. But she isn't at Arkham now, she's at a fundraiser, so her hair is down and loose around her shoulders, brushing softly against the fabric of her red dress.

She surreptitiously drops her raisin-filled napkin into the nearest trash can and dips a finger into the tapioca.

"I don't like raisins either," a voice says from behind her, and she turns, blushing. Bruce Wayne stands a few feet away, his hands in his pockets, stance relaxed and smile charming. She forces a light laugh, airy, as unconcerned as she can make it.

"Raisins are just humiliated grapes," she returns with a wry twist of her mouth and offering a hand. "Harleen Quinzel. I'm a psychologist at Arkham." She nods over his shoulder at the guests, old men and their twenty-year-old girlfriends, everyone falling over themselves from the wine. "Nice party."

Wayne laughs, stepping towards her with a flirtatious grin that she's hyper-aware of despite the fact that she knows it's all just fun and games for him, probably even habit by now. She thinks this must be some sort of a joke, some sick prank the others are playing. Let's see if the rookie falls for it. She's only been at Arkham for a few months now, just out of grad school.

She was wide-eyed and excited for about five minutes in Arkham before the dreary, dead air brought her right back down to earth.

"I've found that the easiest way into a man's checkbook is through his wineglass and his girlfriend," Wayne tells her, smiling crookedly. "By the end of the night Arkham will have more than enough money for the renovations." There's an edge to his voice when he says the name that catches her attention and keeps it. She feels her fingers start to itch the way they do when she senses a puzzle, but she refrains from commenting for dignity's sake.

She takes a step toward him and lowers her voice, though the tone remains light and teasing. She looks up at him from beneath her eyelashes, an experiment of sorts. "And what about you, Mr. Wayne?" She asks, tipping her head to the side and swirling her wine suggestively at him. "Are you reaching for your checkbook yet?"

But he's better at this game than she is. "Doctor Quinzel," he tells her, bending his head so that he can speak into her ear, "My checkbook—and any other part of my person you'd like to claim—is yours for the taking."

She laughs, ducking the innuendo with a flighty nervousness she's had since childhood. "I'll think about it, maybe," she murmurs, looking down at the floor. She is almost blushing; but not quite.

He puts a hand on her arm and leads her towards the dance floor. "Please," he says, spinning her into position, "Call me Bruce."

She learned a long time ago that you can turn any joke around if you just go with it, so she laughs at his jokes and drinks his wine, and when the night is over she slips her card into his hand. He looks disappointed, but only half-heartedly so, and despite all evidence to the contrary she can't shake the feeling that Bruce Wayne hasn't even noticed her. He looks at her head on and murmurs that he can fly her home, if she'd like; and yet when she politely refuses, he seems almost relieved.

He walks her to her car, keeping a gentleman's distance, and opens the door for her. "Drive safely, Doctor," he advises. "The city's a dangerous place this late."

She smiles at him. "Only if you're afraid of bats."