She never pretended it was love. "Love" was much too defined a word; it had been fluffed up by millions of mass-produced Valentines cards that all read of the same old bullshit – poetry spat out by a machine. But she never pretended it was nothing, either. She liked to think she never pretended at all.

They had become, over time, fettered to each other. Attraction played a part in the beginning, sure; her all hips and legs and he all jagged smile and suave suits. Man could dress, she had to give him that. But there was something that ran deeper than that. No, perhaps not deeper, but beneath. One means of togetherness stacked atop another and another until they simply belonged with one another. Perhaps, belonged to one another, though surely more she to him than the other way around, although he insisted on taking her along nearly everywhere.

At first she thought it had been for his image, and there was a good chance that it had been. But the stack kept growing, and soon enough he had her by the arm, with a gun to her head, spitting in her face about being his property.

"You won't work for Abner."

And he didn't need a reason; he didn't need a verbal confirmation of the threat. All he needed were those fingers around her throat, and suddenly she didn't want to think about dancing in one of Abner's clubs anymore.

He claimed her in bruises and pocketknife sketches. She felt like a wallet for a good few weeks, somewhere to stuff his money and hold his guns. Something he could lose without caring very much, but something he wouldn't willingly give up. Soon, though, with her hand and his tongue on the same pill, with his drawl of "Harley" and her lavish touch to his coat or tie or sunglasses or whatever needed attention, with his arm around her waist and his fingers digging into her side and Jonny Jonny pedal-to-the-medal and wind rushing into the windows and through her hair, she didn't feel like so much like an object.

Perhaps she wasn't a person, but she had been selected. She was special. She was his. And she knew this more and more as The Joker grew increasingly fed up with his slippery grasp on the city. He ranted more, shook his hair, thrust his arms in the air and proclaimed himself king of his sandbox, emperor of his playground, master of his realm, his toy, and everyone saw this. Everyone saw his rage in bottles-to-heads and fists-to-phones. But when he marched out of the bar he'd blown up, when he sped to their lair and slammed through the door of their lavish bedroom and locked himself inside, for that instant, for those moments, on that side of his breakdown – for once, he belonged to her.

She knew it from the moment he kicked his heel so violently against the door that it swung back ajar and he only hung his head. When he ground his teeth together so loudly she could hear it, when he pounced on her like a cat and slammed her into the wall and kissed and bit and licked her everywhere without discretion or favor to any. When he tore off her clothes and brought her off her feet, when he slammed his body repeatedly into hers and into the wall, as if unsure whether he wanted to beat her to death or screw her until she couldn't breathe. When she first moaned and his focus broke and he groaned back in a pitiful tone. When he abandoned her on the other side of the room and skulked away, and smashed half the champagne glasses before she had to intervene and fill them herself. When she offered him a shimmering, bubbling glass and he let out his first, choked sob, she knew.

Before she could have said a word, he was on his knees and clutching at her, like a kid clutches his mommy after a rough day with the schoolyard bully. He buried his face against her stomach and sobbed without further restraint. She had to hold her cigarette and his champagne out so that neither would spill ash nor drink onto his hair, and he gripped her all the tighter. It wasn't until he squeezed for the third or fourth time that she realized what he seemed to want, and she snuffed out her cigarette to toss it away and free that hand, burying her fingers in his hair. He closed his eyes when her thumb stroked through those mangled tangles of green, and he slumped down, as if, given this, he could finally release.

He cried there for a long time. He asked her why, why, why, and she didn't answer. She didn't know how. He never expected her to, she was sure. He asked her where he was, why hadn't he found him, why hadn't they played, why hadn't he shown up. He asked her what he had to do. He asked her why he'd lost.

"You never lose," she had corrected.

There was a calm before the storm to come. A rattled breath. One last sob. And then he cast her away, nearly to the wall again, which was where she ended up anyway.

"I never lose." He'd bellowed it, but somehow it wasn't an exclamation. It was a statement. A fact. And he was on her again, shoving her roughly into the side of the room and smashing his lips into hers, her chin, her neck, her chest. He was slamming her into the wall again and again, repeating himself, shouting in her face. "I never lose. I never lose. I never lose." His hands were everywhere and never gentle, but somehow, when his frantically fiddling fingers found her, she was set on fire.

She was his, his, his.

And he, in secret, in dimly lit rooms at this end of his breakdown, with one hand working her and the other working his belt, he was hers.

"Harley," he breathed in a menacing, gravelly promise of things to come, "you're the greatest, you know that?"