Author's Note: Written for the livejournal batfic_contest prompt "Reformed" in less than 500 words; first posted there on 1 April 2009.
The human body has amazing regenerative powers: bones knit back together, bruises fade. But healing a broken mind, spirit and soul? More tricky. The dozen or so fractures and ruptured spleen from her fall into the ruined basement of old Arkham were really been a piece of cake compared to this.
The doctors had shown Harley the news story shortly after her re-admittance to the soullessly modern new Arkham's infirmary. She'd laughed in their faces, chalking it up as another tactic to try to get her to go straight. Even if everyone else believed it, she knew it was all nonsense. How many times before had reporters made wild claims of her Puddin's demise? He was probably chuckling in the flickering light of the news reports as he plotted his next big comeback extravaganza – one that would teach them all not to give such exaggerated reports of his death!
So she'd cracked jokes and ignored attempts to discuss the events of the last month. The doctors either didn't know about or chose not to mention "Joker Junior", and Harley certainly wasn't going to raise their unsuccessful adoption scheme as a topic of conversation. Little J was probably being brainwashed back into his crime-fighting do-gooder ways, and despite never really getting the chance to be a proper mom to the kid she felt a pang of maternal loss. Maybe she'd talk to Mistah J about getting a new hyena puppy when she saw him next.
Until then she was content to bide her time and stash her meds under the mattress when the nurses weren't looking. Soon her injuries would heal enough to allow an escape attempt. Or (she was ever hopeful) Mistah J might take five minutes out of whatever brilliant scheme he was working on now, realise he missed her and decide to break her out himself. She couldn't quite choose between him riding up to Arkham on a motorbike or a white horse.
Then the Bat had shown up one night, a pointy-eared harbinger of doom silhouetted against the barred hospital windows. He'd interrupted a really great dream, where Mistah J had worn very tight jodhpurs and a bike helmet.
Then he'd given her the full story. Strangely it was as though she was plum out of denial. Wise cracks and protests died silently on her lips as the dark figure dispassionately recounted burying the man she had loved – dedicated the last dozen years of her life to – under the ruins of old Arkham.
The Bat was saying something about sorry it ended this way, and the chance to finally move on. She barely heard. It wasn't until he offered his condolences and silently slipped away that the tears began to fall.
The next morning, she took her half-dozen pills without complaint.
The day after, she started actively participating in therapy sessions for the first time since she'd been the one in the white coat.
A year to the day later, she was discharged for the final time.
Author's Note: Writing angst makes the fluffy marshmallow that is my fannish-heart ache…