That's right, folks- an update! Fantastic! So, let's get right to it. Thanks to reviewers.
I WANTED TO ADD: one of the reasons Joker is drawing Harley in so easily is that she's very impressionable as a teenager who had felt that she didn't belong in the company she'd been with (I.e Stacey). And also my attention span would not allow me to write super-long chapters with a slowly developing mental change. You know? Sorry.
Disclaimer (as if anyone thinks I own any of these people)
The First Practice
Harley walked happily into the school the next morning. She had ignored her mother- who'd been yelling and screaming at her- especially over the cuts- and had gotten a beautiful sleep, filled with dreams. Joker, in the dreams, had happily led her about the school, showing her a beautiful room filled with smiles. She had awoken with a great big grin on her face, and proceeded to start the morning wearing it, while thinking thoughts of Joker.
When she arrived to the school, she noted unhappily that Joker was not waiting for her at the entrance, as he had the day before. But she spotted Stacey, beaming. She frowned slightly. The day before, Stacey had been grumpy, and unhappy, due to Joker. What had her so pleased? Not that she wanted Stacey to be sad; after all, they had once been best friends. But it was odd.
"Stacey!" She called, and Stacey's happy demeanor died slightly. Harley couldn't help but feel guilty when she was inwardly pleased by this.
"What do you want?" Stacey growled, throwing her hair over her shoulder in a pretentious way. Harley didn't let it brother her.
"What's up?" Stacey looked at her suspiciously.
"What do you mean?"
"Just because you hate Joker doesn't mean that we can't still be friends," Harley said, lying, of course. "Jack's not my whole world." This was a lie too, and it pained her to say it. She also felt guilty for calling him Jack, because, after all, he hated that name. Stacey perked slightly, though she still eyed the other girl warily.
"Fine." She finally relented with an annoyed look on her face. "I just checked the list." The next words couldn't be contained in her angry voice- "I'm in!"
"In?" Harley asked. She had no idea what Stacey was talking about. Stacey rolled her eyes.
"Cheerleading? Remember?" Harley paused, realization finally dawning.
"They put up the list?" She couldn't contain her enthusiasm, either. She hadn't truly enjoyed cheerleading, but it was still a great thrill to know they might have accepted her. "Where is it?" Stacey grinned, obviously noticing that her excitement was not faux.
"Over here!" She led Harley to a bulletin board. Harley skimmed the board for her name, and grinned as she saw it.
"I got in?"
"You got in!" The two girls turned to each other and squealed, completely immersed in this great news.
"Good news, Harley?" The familiar voice that spoke said this in a dark, almost mocking tone, and Harley turned, hurt.
"Joker?" He laughed.
"And here I thought you were so different. But cheering over having to cheer? Harley, that's just pathetic." Tears bloomed in Harley's eyes.
"But- Mr. J-" She began, using the nickname in an attempt to soothe him. It didn't work. He laughed again, and it was harsh and unkind.
"Harley, don't you think this is stupid? I mean, I know I do. Working to achieve favor from, who? The middle-aged cheerleading coach who hasn't been able to do a split in thirty odd years? It's downright idiotic, and you're acting like it's a circus." Harley bit her lip.
"It's fun," She whispered. Stacey glared daggers at Joker, but he ignored her.
"Is it really? Prancing around in the hot sun, wearing that short skirt that makes the horny people in the crowd shout and cheer? Don't get me wrong, Harley my dear, I would enjoy seeing the skirt on you, but seeing people ravenously screaming at you…A fella could get jealous." Harley suddenly felt the pain of his laughter subside. That was all this was about? Jealousy? She giggled.
"You know I love you, Mr. J," She said, grinning at the smirk he wore. "I wouldn't fall for some drunk horny idiot, cheering in the crowd."
"Still…" He said, surprising her as he pinned her to the wall. Stacey squeaked in fear. "I'm just a jealous guy." He wiped a leftover tear from her face, and, though he still smiled, whispered, "I'm sorry that I made you cry." She kissed him gingerly.
"You know I'd always forgive you- you're my angel."
"Then will you not do this?" He asked, pointing to the board.
"Of course." Harley answered. It was obvious that she'd do that- she was actually looking forward to it, but Joker was right. It was a waste of time she could be spending with him. She grinned at him. Now she'd have much more time in his company, a luxury she would die for. "Bye, Stacey," She managed, as Joker pulled her from the board and her friend.
Stacey's eyes dug into her back, but Harley ignored it. She was with Joker, and everything was right when she was with him.
"I hate him!" Stacey declared, throwing her backpack onto her desk. Bruce turned.
"That stupid Napier kid! What the heck is wrong with Harley? Doesn't she realize he's a complete wacko!" She shook her head. "She was always so gullible and trusting. My Mom used to say she'd sell a cow for a bean." She glanced at Bruce and shrugged. "My Mom is weird." Bruce shrugged.
"I think she would have fallen for him even if she wasn't so trusting." He paused, wondering how much he should tell Stacey. She wasn't, after all, the smartest person in the school. "I heard that he managed to trick his psychotherapists, too." Stacey's eyes met his.
"He had psychiatrists- after his parents were murdered when he was kid. All but one said he was completely fine."
"What did the one say?" Stacey asked curiously.
"That he was good at tricking people, basically." Bruce answered. Stacey smirked grimly.
"And so he is." She sighed, and blew a strand of hair from in front of her face. "Hey, do you think he's as twisted as he acts? Or is it just an act? I mean- would he really have killed you yesterday if he wanted to?" Bruce shrugged.
"I really don't know. He was pretty damn close, so I really don't want to find out, but I don't want to leave Harley in the position she's in now." Stacey perked, seeming to remember what she wanted to say. She launched into a story about cheer-leading lists, and poor love-blinded Harley. Bruce was seriously pissed by the end of it.
"Bruce- they'll break up, right? I mean, this is Harley's first boyfriend- her mom is so strict, you wouldn't even believe- it can't be serious." Stacey looked at Bruce with serious eyes. Bruce shrugged.
"I don't know, Stacey." She sighed, and slumped back.
"I seriously hate him." Bruce didn't voice any disagreements.
The rest of the week was calm, with no sudden fights, or even any sort of interaction between Bruce and Jack Napier. Whenever the older teen spotted the billionaire, he would grin, tip an imaginary hat, wrap his arm around Harley's waist, and take her away. Bruce would grit his teeth, but would not try to start anything. He knew violence wouldn't work on someone like Napier, who had knives in his pockets that he could pull at any moment. He got a horrible feeling that the waters were too calm- that some rouge wave was going to pound into him at any moment.
"Are you okay?" Bruce turned. He was in English, and Harley was skipping. Again. He frowned.
"I'm just worried."
"About Harley?" Stacey guessed, a weary look in her usually bright and excited blue eyes. Bruce nodded- he wasn't about to deny it. He was worried for Harley. "But Jack hasn't done anything at all lately. Ever since I found out I'd made the team, he's been avoiding you and me like we're sick, or something. Harley, too. I can't even remember the last time she was in class."
"Is Harley the blond one?" A boy asked, leaning over. Bruce turned, then nodded. "Yea, I saw her yesterday when I was cutting this class- she's probably over by the bleachers."
"Bleachers?" Stacey echoed. The boy nodded.
"She was talking to that kid- the Joker. Jack something. You know- the psycho." Bruce and Stacey nodded in unison.
"What were they doing? Just talking?" The boy nodded.
"I didn't hang around much- I mean, Joker's a fucking nut. He sees anyone where they don't belong, he'll cut them up." Stacey noticeably gulped. "I mean, seriously. He beat up my friend last year, and my buddy, he's on the wrestling team. He can carry his own, ya know?" Bruce nodded.
"No mention, Wayne." The kid replied. Then he paused, and said, "I think my friend was askin' for it, though. Kids a goody-goody, you know? He wants to get Jack expelled."
"So do I." Stacey replied tightly. The kid shrugged.
"I don't mean nothing by it. But Jim's dad's a cop, and he put all this crap in his head that he can change things."
"Do you still talk to him?" Stacey asked. The kid shook his head.
"Why would I hang around some guy Joker's got an angry eye at? No way. I got the hell outta there." Bruce frowned, thoughts running rampant in his head. On the good side, there was someone else fighting against Jack out there. On the bad side, he wasn't very inspiring, and had become somewhat of a leper. He turned to the kid,
"Who is this Jim guy?"
"He's a senior," The kid answered. "Jim Gordon." Bruce nodded, already filing a note in his head to research the guy when he got home. But for now…
"Mr. Stack? Can I go to the bathroom?" Mr. Stack looked up from the book he was reading to the class- even though no one was paying attention- then nodded.
"Um- yes. Sure. Go ahead." Bruce nodded, scooped up his backpack, and ignored the inquiring look on his teacher's face. Mr. Stack was too timid to tell him to leave the bag behind, and Bruce didn't know how long he'd be out of class. He got into the hall, then ran in the general direction of the bathroom- and the exit. A few teachers were lurking about, and Bruce held up the pass he'd grabbed before leaving. No one stopped him.
"Mr. J, I know this joke is gonna be one heck of a thing, but it wouldn't it be more fun if I knew the punch line?" Joker looked at her, and she flinched at the angry look in his vibrant green eyes.
"Harley, don't you understand Jokes?! Timing! Timing! It's like location for a real estate guy, or a card up your sleeve for a magician-" He paused. "Or a poker player." He sighed, giving her a once over. "You get it, don't you?" Harley nodded swiftly, hating the rageful and doubting glint in his eyes.
"Of course I do, Joker- Just curious is all." He grinned at her, his eyes melting into kindness.
"And you have a right to be, my little harlequin. Unlike the rest of the school, you already know a joke is coming. Just remember." The glint was back- worse then before. Harley flinched as he smacked her hard on the face. She teetered off of the metal railing she was sitting on, then fell onto the dirty ground beneath the bleachers. "Curiosity killed the cat."
"I'm sorry," She whispered. She'd let him down again. Why had she asked that stupid question? Hadn't he made it perfectly clear that the joke was his own until he chose to let her in on the punch line? Why did she have to nag so much? She felt a tear in her eye, and wiped it away quickly. Joker frowned at her.
"Are you crying? I barely touched you."
"Not about that, sweetie, no worries," Harley said, smiling forcefully at him. She couldn't help the warm glow in her stomach that stemmed from his worry that he had hurt her. "It's just- I shouldn't have nagged you about it like I did. I'm sorry." Joker smiled, crouching onto his knees.
"I'm a nice guy, Harley- I don't hold grudges." Harley grinned at him, then wrapped her arms around him, and kissed his lips.
"You're the sweetiest!" She said with a giggle. He grinned at her, then pulled back from the hug.
"Now, Harley Kins, I have a bit of a quiz for you." Harley smiled at him, then nodded.
"Sure thing! What's the question?"
"You and Wayne- are you close?"
"Not since I met you," Harley admitted. "I mean, on the first day we were sort of chummy, but then I realized he was a complete-"
"Harley, Harley, Harley- don't speak ill of him…after all…for my little joke to work, it's quite important that you two get along."
"Huh? Me with Wayne? But, Mr. J- I hate him."
"Hate is a strong word, Harley- the only thing I hate is a bad joke. And if you don't do this, mine will be ruined-" He leaned in, his lip curling back in both anger and disgust. "And a ruined joke is one bad joke, Harley." She nodded minutely, avoiding his eyes that were burning. Then she smiled.
"Okay, Joker- if it's for your joke, I'll play nice with the kid, alright?" He smiled, and she felt her shoulders loosen, and her stomach- which had been screaming at the sight of his unhappiness- relax, too. If it meant he'd be happy, she'd do it.
"Thanks, my Harley." Harley grinned up at him, at his soft, warm green eyes that seemed to look right through her- right into her soul. Then she paused.
"But he knows I'm mad at him, sweetie." Joker smiled.
"I'm sure you'll think of something, little Harlequin," Harley smiled, reveling in the trust and praise he was drowning her in. How could anyone think he was bad? At the beginning of the school year, she had thought he was a violent delinquent, and, in three short weeks, she was madly in love with him. She wondered whether he showed everyone this soft, sensitive side of himself.
After fourth period, Bruce followed Stacey into the gym, for the first cheer-leading practice of the year. He had been restless after not being able to find Harley and Joker, and had wanted to do something so he wouldn't obsess. Stacey had been upset about not knowing anyone on the team, since none of her friends besides Harley had managed to pass, and Harley had opted against joining.
"This'll be the first practice of the year," She was saying. "And from now on it'll be every Tuesday and Thursday." She grinned at him. "This is gonna be so much fun, I swear!" Bruce smiled thinly, following her inside.
"Yea." He looked around at the tall ceilings and broad walls. Banners hung all around, exclaiming, GOTHAM KNIGHTS! Bruce walked alongside Stacey, before a tall, shapely woman stepped in front of her. She seemed 16, and had long blond hair, highlighted with blonder hair. She grinned at Bruce through white teeth, and pink lip gloss.
"You must be the new one." She said, her eyes drifting until they found Stacey. Stacey nodded. She wasn't one to be intimidated.
"Yep. Hi! You're the head cheerleader, right?" Or maybe she just hadn't realized that this girl was trying to intimidate her. Bruce smirked. Sure, he lost Stacey sometimes during conversations, but this was worth it. The girl frowned, then nodded.
"Yes. And you…" Her eyes were on Bruce again. "You're Bruce Wayne, right?"
"Yea," He said, smiling charmingly. Stacey turned, shock and betrayal shining in her eyes. Bruce wondered whether they had made some sort of agreement when he wasn't paying attention that they were going out. He didn't think they were…he shrugged, then smiled at Stacey, ignoring the new girl. He'd get it settled, but he enjoyed the company of Stacey, and didn't want to lose her. Stacey relaxed, and the girl smirked.
"Yea. Well, let's go already." Stacey followed her, and suddenly the doors slammed open.
"What about me? I got invited to this party, too." All heads turned to see Harley Quinzel walk in with a grin. "So- practice time!"