Silent Treatment

Author's Note: Written for the livejournal batfic_contest "What the protagonist wants" challenge in more than 500 words; the prompt was "Harley Quinn wants the Joker to stop ignoring her". It was first posted there on 4 May 2009.

Harley suspected her Puddin' was in one of those moods. The type of mood that often seemed to result in him shouting at the henchmen (and her) then breaking things; including the henchmen (and her).

Then again, he equally might retreat into a stony silence and not crack a joke for days – leaving her to fret and worry as he refused food or drink while brooding over the blueprints for whatever scheme had gone less than entirely well.

Either way, it wasn't looking good. But she knew what she needed to do.

"Hey, Mistah J? I know just what'll cheer you up – a game! I'll go first – okay?" Unsurprisingly there was no response. "I'll take that as a yes. Okey dokey – I spy with my little eye, somethin' beginning with 'B'."

She gazed up at him expectantly from her position perched half on his lap and half on the seat. Considering she had to only be about six inches away from his face, his ability to act as though she didn't even exist was quite impressive.

"C'mon Mistah J – I spy is fun, and it's an easy one!" she wheedled, cuddling up even closer to his chest as he continued to gaze impassively at a spot somewhere in middle distance. "I'll let you have all the guesses you want!"

After a minute or two more of the silent treatment, Harley resigned herself to I spy not being the instant snapping-her-Puddin'-out-of-it success she'd hoped for. But she didn't give up that easily – her bag of tricks wasn't even off the airport conveyer belt yet.

"Eye spy not catchin' your attention, boss? Not to worry – there's plenty more where that came from. How about twenty questions? Rock, paper scissors? Or kiss, marry, kill?" She thought for a moment about whether she would be happy with the categories Mistah J would probably place her under right then, and shook her head. "On second thoughts – not that last one. It's a bit high school."

She chewed on her lower lip thoughtfully and tugged on one of her liliripes while racking her brain for a game or diversion that would really appeal to Mistah J's uniquely brilliant mind.

"Okay Mistah J – I've got a good one this time. I'll name a psychiatric disorder, then you name another one that starts with the last letter of the one I said. So if I say schizophrenia, then you could say anti-social personality disorder, and I'd need to come up with somethin' that starts with an 'R'." She furrowed her brow. "And then we'd probably have to give up because I can't think of one that starts with an 'R'… but I'm sure it'll go better if we play for real. There are quite a few disorders though; lets just try to avoid those for a bit and start out with syndromes and dependence..."

"Harley?" A bored-sounding voice broke through her waffling.

"I'm not sayin' you can't use disorders at all – I'm just sayin' that it'll be a lot more fun if the game lasts more than two goes, otherwise we'll have to keep startin' over…"

"Harley." The voice repeated itself, now sounding distinctly frustrated.

"What?" she asked, annoyed at being interrupted before she suddenly realised the Joker was talking to her. "Hey! I knew you'd give in and talk to me eventually." She smiled up at him smugly, despite his less than cheery expression. If he was talking again she could work with it.

"Harley," the Joker began again, adopting what he felt was a very reasonable and moderate tone. "I've had just about enough of your infernal jabbering. If you don't shut up I may end up have to shut you up myself, and there would be the distinct possibility that such a process would leave you with permanent physical scars. "

"I've only been tryin' to cheer you up Puddin'! I hate seein' you all down in the dumps. But if you don't want to play a game then we can just talk." She paused for a moment while trying to think up something intelligent and insightful to prompt conversation with. "Umm, so… whatcha been thinkin' about, boss? Somethin' fun?"

"Yes, I have actually." The Joker spoke lightly. "It's a scenario involving you being chained to a hefty lump of concrete and going for a scenic walk off the Gotham harbour bridge."

Harley's face fell and she tugged at his sleeve. "Aww c'mon Mistah J! Y'know I didn't mean to mess up; I tried, I really did! You know that, right?"

He relented and turned to face her imploring gaze with a long-suffering sigh. "All you had to do was distract Batbreath long enough for me to release the Smilex underneath the staging. Two minutes – two and a half tops. But no;" he gave a mirthless chuckle, "no – you had to show-off and play trapeze artist."

"But I've wanted to try out the trapeze since I was a kid! And how often do we get to take over an entire circus? I might not have got another chance," she reasoned. "Besides it was the most fun ever – I know what's goin' straight on my Christmas list – and I looked really, really cool." She paused for a second at his disbelieving stare. "To begin with at least..."

"I see." The Joker adopted a carefully neutral tone to match his quizzical expression. "So then, towards the end – the dangling from one ankle shrieking 'Save me Batman!' – that was your idea of a successful distraction?"

"I got tangled up when my collar fell over my eyes!" she replied hotly. "And I wasn't shrieking – I was just a little surprised, is all. Anyway it distracted him, didn't it?"

"For just long enough that he managed to arrive and interrupt me about ten seconds before I was finished! That was the worst possible time! You couldn't have spent eleven more seconds whiningly clinging to his leg or something?"

Harley flinched slightly at the anger that appeared in the Joker's voice as he remembered his brilliant scheme being brought to an untimely end. Given this, she didn't think it was a good time to raise the issue of why he couldn't have delayed the Bat for another ten seconds if she was expected to keep him busy for several minutes all by herself.

"I guess Ratman just has a good sense of dramatic timin' Puddin'," she offered, knowing that if in doubt, redirecting the focus of conversation back to the Bat was usually a winner.

"Hmph." The Joker growled, still willingly following the new conversational path. "He just loves to squeak in under the wire at the final possible moment; the adrenaline must feed his hungry, heroic ego." He narrowed his eyes. "If he's not careful soon his head will swell so much he won't be able to fit that pointy eared-cowl over it."

"You're the best at deflatin' him though Mistah J," Harley reminded him. She toyed with one of the buttons on his purple jacket. "You're the best at everythin'."

This raised a small smile. "I would say idle flattery will get you nowhere Harl, but since you're only speaking the truth I'll let you get away with it."

Harley giggled and rested her head against the Joker's shoulder, and there was a brief moment of peace before a loud cough to the left of them interrupted the silence.

"If you're quite done, you might like to note that this is your stop."

The Joker glanced across at the figure in the driver's seat and gave a mocking smile. "Door-to-door service, you really do like to go the extra mile don't you Batsy?"

"Yeah – but don't think this'll getcha a bigger tip!" Harley chipped in from where she was still sat half on the Joker's lap and half on the remaining edge of passenger's seat – the Batmobile not have been originally designed to carry two passengers.

It was a bit of a squeeze, but after Batman announced he was taking the Joker straight back to Arkham Harley had kicked up enough of a fuss over travelling in a separate police van that the Bat relented and allowed her to stay with him. As if she would really consider a half-hour journey sitting on Mistah J's lap to be a Ihardship/I.

Batman made no response to their comments, driving up to the entrance of Arkham Asylum and powering down the engine. "I have to let Dr Arkham know you're here so staff can escort you back to your cells." He stepped out of the vehicle and fixed his passengers with a stony glare. "I've engaged the security protocols. Don't touch or even look at anything unless you want a nasty electric shock – and I know exactly how much change is in the glove compartment."

The Joker gave a short bark of mirthless laughter and raised his handcuffed wrists to wave ta-ta to the departing figure. "Do be careful Batsy – that was almost humorous," he muttered sarcastically, receiving only the sound of roof locking shut as a response.

Harley rested her head back against the Joker's shoulder, sighing wistfully as she contemplated their very imminent return to the dullness of the asylum routine. Plus only being able to see her Puddin' for an hour a day during (unfortunately supervised) recreation time. She clanked her own handcuffs together and mentally cursed the self-righteous overgrown rodent. And his stupid electrified car. If it wasn't for him she'd have had plenty of time to try to make it up to Mistah J and get back in his good books; now she only had a few more minutes before they would be led away to separate cells.

She sat back up and twisted around to face the Joker again. "I am real sorry for messin' up earlier, boss. Please don't be mad at me while we're locked up." She gazed at him imploringly. "I hate bein' away from you for so much of the time, and it hurts more if you're mad at me."

"Aww," he cooed down at her, tipping her chin up with one hand. "Poor ickle Harley. Are you really sorry?" She nodded miserably in response and he smiled and stroked her cheek. "Well – as long as you're sorry then how can I be mad?"

"Really?" she asked, not sure whether to believe it could be that easy.

"Of course, pumpkin!" He gave her a wicked smile, foreseeing some very frustrating therapy sessions ahead for the doctors assigned to his harlequin. It was no fun if they only ever had miserable trying-to-regain-his-affection Harley to work with. Lovesick head-over-heels pining Harley would be a new challenge for them. "And as you said earlier – you tried your best. What more could daddy ask?"

"Oh thank you Mistah J – you're the greatest." She murmured into his jacket, clinging to him tightly with her eyes closed. "Plus I think you're about a gazillion times funnier than Ratman, Puddin'."

The Joker turned to look down at her in some confusion, sharpness returning to his voice. "Well of course I am. What sort of ridiculous statement of the obvious is that?"

He briskly shrugged his shoulder, causing her to topple over with a squawk of panic and hit her head against the gearshift with an audible thunk.

"See?" he asked cheerfully as she rubbed at the rapidly swelling lump on her forehead. "Batsy just wouldn't even get that."

Author's Note: Hee hee, fluff! Well, fluff by JxHQ standards anyway. This was pretty much entirely self-serving; the idea just popped into my head and I thought it was cute. Nuff said.