A/N: This is going to be my OC version of Harley Quinn....in other words, she's going to have 'a' relationship with the Joker....but it won't really be reciprocated love, ok guys =D

I don't know about you, but I just don't see the Joker loving ANYONE. Not bashing other HQ fics, I think they're great. But seriously. In my Jokerverse, the Joker isn't-going-to-give-a-shit if you cry or faint or get a little scratch. He's the Joker!!!

Ranting aside, this is going to be a longish fic, so please be patient. I'm going to introduce the Joker very soon. All good things come to those who wait!

Chapter Two: Settling In

It was mid-afternoon by the time the chopper set down on one of Gotham's abandoned sky-scrapers. I'd studied a schematic of the city before I'd left and had already decided which abandoned building I was going to live in. Of course, I'd had to pick a building relatively unscathed by the disaster, and miraculously, this was one of them.

I smiled as the chopper landed carefully within the yellow circle. Thornton Towers. One of the premiere hotels in Gotham. Of course, I'd never been able to afford such a hotel, even on my journalist's wage, so it was the naturally perverse thing to want to stay there. Only now its inhabitants would number more in ghosts and pigeons than the actual living.

I looked around me, considering the finely constructed conservatories that had once shaped the perimeter of the building's roof. Now, most of the glass was smashed (by vandals, not the earthquake) and the plants burned. But you could tell how modern and glamorous it would have once looked.

In its hey-day, the hotel had been owned by Philip Thornton, a thoroughly corrupt businessman who had built his empire on insider trading. Well, until he was undone by a mysterious vigilante. Gotham's Knight. It had happened shortly before the earthquake, and Thornton was going to be arrested and put in Gotham's maximum security prison (there were a lot of people who wanted to lynch Thornton). But the earthquake had intervened and Thornton had escaped out of the city in his private chopper.

'This alright?' The pilot had to yell over the roar of the engine.

I nodded. 'Perfect.' I tossed my bags out and jumped down. On the horizon the sky had turned a chiselled grey fused with the red of sunset. There was a storm on its way.

'Are you sure?' The pilot was offering me a second chance to escape the bombshell. The aftermath. The holocaust. Whatever people were calling Gotham these days.

I nodded again; this time sticking my thumb in the air in case he couldn't tell how determined I was.

'This is the last ride,' he shouted over the roar. 'You'll be stuck –'

I waved him off with my hand, grinning. He shook his head, and slowly took off up into the air. It wasn't hard to tell what he was thinking. Crazy-assed woman wants to kill herself.

Of course, I knew how my behaviour must seem to other people. After the earthquake, 75% of Gotham's inhabitants had been flown out of the city. Not in. The other 25% either died or went missing. As for those who had survived, and chose to remain here, well, you did have to be slightly insane. Most of Gotham's hardened crims chose the earthquake as an escape route, and quickly fled to neighbouring cities to commit their crimes. Only the truly insane crims chose to stay. Of those insane criminals, only the most insane stayed because they believed the Batman would return.

There'd been a huge uproar, understandably, the week after the earthquake. Once the shock and panic had died down over the tragedy, a new kind of panic set in. Probably about the time when the police searched through the rubble of Arkham Asylum and discovered that not all the patients had died during the quake. Among the missing were quite a few serial rapists, murderers, terrorists and kidnappers.

I knew all this not just because I was watching the news, but because I was reporting it. I hadn't slept more than two hours a night for a week-and-a-half because I'd been glued to my lap-top, recording every new event with a sort of feverish consumption. Of course, what had really stuck a needle in the public was the discovery that two of Arkham's psychotic escapees were in fact the Scarecrow and the Joker. A reward for their persons, dead or alive, had been immediately issued. The reward money was set at $5 million dollars, or $2.5 million each.

That, of course, produced its own set of problems.

In Ridburn, one of the two cities neighbouring Gotham, and the city where I lived, there was chaos. And chaos would probably still be continuing there since I had left.

The substantial reward money meant that sightings of the Scarecrow and Joker had been popping up all over the city. Cranks, crooks, and fraudsters as well as the average Joe looking to make a swift fortune were turning in fake Crowkers (the name our newspaper had come up for Scarecrow/Joker doubles) faster than the media could keep up.

But by the end of the week and no true Crowker sightings had eventuated, the reward charade had started to turn ugly. The police had informed us that several people had turned up claiming to have one, or both, of the Crowker's bodies. The bodies had been mutilated, or burnt, of course, beyond supposed recognition. But all DNA tests confirmed the Scarecrow and Joker were still large. The real tragedy of the earthquake was that more people were dying in order to catch some worthless scum.

And within all the mad-reporting, people were asking: what happened to Batman? Why wasn't he stopping this? Why hadn't he appeared?

That was part of the reason I'd taken my holiday leave early. I couldn't stand the sight of more photos of dead Crowkers sitting on my desk in the morning, waiting for publication. It was turning the search for crims into a circus, and I needed to get off the carousel.

At least for a little while.

Now that there was no noise, no traffic, shouts, news updates; I had Gotham to myself.

I left the bags where they'd fallen and crossed the length of the apartment rooftop to see the view. Those bloody grey storm clouds were inching forward minute by minute, and the buildings around me and in the distance were half-crumbled and collapsed. It was like a derelict ghost town, only it had appeared in just over a week, instead of decades of rust and decay and forgetting.

It was grey and deserted, but it was somehow beautiful desertion.

Incredible, I couldn't help thinking as I surveyed the full extent of the damage with my own eyes. This had to be the Joker's vision of paradise. Chaos, devastation, destruction.

The clown must be in heaven.

A gun-shot crack rang out somewhere in the city below, and I forgot the Joker.

I craned over the ledge to see if I could pin-point the source of the gun-shot, but knew the venture was hopeless and pulled back. Some people might have been alarmed, terrified even. Others might have felt a sense of responsibility and gone out there to investigate, but with darkness coming on and no street-lamps to light the way – that would just be stupid.

With such stillness, you could probably hear a crime happening on the other side of the city.

Anyone who had lived in Gotham, even as a child, knew that a gun-shot could happen right next-door to your apartment, and you wouldn't investigate. The only way to survive in a city built on crime was to pretend gun-shots were a normal, daily event. Which they were.

After a while you got so good at pretending you didn't mind the gun-shots at all. Business as usual. Unless it happened right outside your apartment room. Thenyou might get worried and take the fire stairs out the window.

As it stood now, I didn't think it was likely I'd be bothered by any criminals tonight. I crossed the soot-covered launch pad, picked up my bags, and made my way towards the exit. I'd intended to take the stairs, but for amusement's sake I pressed the button for the elevator.

To my surprise, the button lit up, and I heard the lurching kick of the lift rolling upwards from the bottom floor. I was more than a little surprised. I'd considered all Gotham's power to be cut off from the earthquake. Why was the lift working?

I waited, curiosity overtaking any normal sense of self-preservation. I wanted to see if the lift would work. And it did. The doors jerked open, and a female voice spoke over the eerie silence:

'Please select your floor.'

I stepped in, and chose, a little fatalistically, floor number thirteen.

I was taking my 'holiday' in an abandoned city, I reasoned. I was allowed to make crazy choices.

'Thank you, you have selected, floor number thirteen. Please enjoy the ride.'

I smiled at the strangeness of being alone in an abandoned elevator that was talking to me. And then suddenly I wasn't smiling. The lights flickered, and the lift dropped. Hurtled.

I was hurtling, down past all sixty-five floors in under a few seconds. I wasn't going to ever reach floor thirteen. The lift would hit the ground, and snap my neck.

* * *

I know I drew the chapter out but if you keep reading, the Joker will appear very soon. =D

Reviews please!