Author's Note: Written for the livejournal batfic_contest prompt "The one that got away" in more than 500 words; first posted there on 2 June 2009.
The sound of raised voices filled the plush surroundings of the high-rise executive office suite.
"Harley! What in blazes were you playing at?" the Joker asked, an angry twitch starting to develop in his left eye that perfectly matched the angry twitch in his grip on a loaded revolver.
Harley threw her hands up in the air in disbelief. "What! Now you're sayin' that was my fault?"
"Well let me see now…" Joker adopted a look of mock thoughtfulness for a few moments, resting his chin in his hand, before resuming his angry glare in her direction. "Hmm… yes, yes it was you nincompoop!"
Harley poked a strident finger at his purple-jacketed chest. "I'm not the one who offloaded two of the goons on the drive over because he objected to their choice of footwear! And if we weren't two guys down then I wouldn't have been stuck tryin' to cover two exits and load swag into bags all at once, and the hostage wouldn't have just walked off without anyone noticin'!"
Joker swatted her hand away before poking an equally strident finger at his diminutive assistant's forehead and tapping in rhythm as he spoke. "But it was your responsibility to ensure that the hired help followed the dress code instructions I issued them with."
He paused, noticing one finger of his purple gloves was now streaked with white greasepaint, and frowned in distaste, wiping the paint off on the shoulder of Harley's red and black costume. She huffed in annoyance and the Joker tried to recall where he had got to in his argument. Something about shoes? It suddenly came back to him.
"Yes –I thought I'd made it very clear that for all "customer"-facing facing roles in this outfit there was to be none of this ridiculous trend towards wearing athletic footwear when not engaged in athletic activities." He gave a small snort of satisfaction. "That's a mistake those particular ex-employees won't be repeating again in a hurry. Not without some fairly immediate specialist medical attention."
Harley rolled her eyes and sighed. "I think you can get prosthetic legs with built in sneakers now Puddin'…"
"That's not the point; it's the principle of the matter." Joker interrupted, shaking his head. "Anyway – looking after the hostage was your responsibility and you failed spectacularly, as was only to be expected really." He sighed melodramatically. "I blame myself for putting any sort of faith in your evident inadequacies; the guilt is a heavy burden to bear."
Harley let out a growl of annoyance and threw down the canvas bag full of swiped goodies she was holding. "Right! That's it!" She stomped as much as was possible on the thick, executive carpet and made her way over to the large oak desk which was the central feature of the office. There she slumped down in the expensive looking premium leather swivel chair and kicked back, resting her feet on the edge of the desk. It was an impressive display of false nonchalance that fooled neither the Joker nor herself.
Joker narrowed his eyes. "What are you doing?" he asked suspiciously, wondering whether the lack of oxygen available all the way up on the 58th floor was starting to affect her judgement.
"I'm sittin' here and I'm gonna wait for hostage-boy to call the cops, and then when they arrive I'm going to cooperate fully," she replied fake-casually, concertedly looking away and pretending to toy with the drawers of the desk.
"You wouldn't dare." It was a bare statement of fact, devoid of emotion.
"Oh yeah?" To her credit Harley managed to keep the slight quaver in her voice to a minimum as her lip wobbled slightly. "Well why don't you take a seat and wait for ten minutes, then you'll see for yourself." She sniffed and picked at a thread on one of her frilled cuffs. "I've been feelin' mighty under appreciated lately and I think the cops might actually be interested in listenin' to what I have to say – unlike certain other people."
"Harley…" he began warningly, stepping towards the desk. Then he paused in thought. Should he play this hardball or softball? Or just ignore balls entirely, find the nearest bat-shaped object and let concussion bring this inconveniently timed tiff to a close?
Joker was just turning his head to check for any handy-looking blunt objects in the vicinity when a heavy weight dropped from above, forcing him face-first onto the cushy softness of the thick carpeting. Even with the air knocked from his lungs he managed a mirthless chuckle as he recognised the familiar weight of the Dork Knight digging into his spine.
"How kind of you… to… drop in," he managed to wheeze almost audibly through the added impediment of a mouthful of carpet.
"Save the puns," Batman replied as he reached for his cuffs.
"Puddin'!" Harley squawked in alarm, almost toppling the chair in her haste to leap to the Joker's defence. "You let him up you big bully!"
She desperately scanned the surface of the desk looking for anything she could fashion into a weapon. Narrowing it down to a stapler and a letter opener, she grabbed one in each hand and brandished them both in the direction of the one-sided scuffle on the floor.
"Back away, Batsy – or you might find that office supplies can be hazardous to your health."
To her chagrin the Dork Knight didn't even look up in her direction, and she was about to give him the stapling of a lifetime when she suddenly found herself in a similar position to Mistah J – eating carpet with a caped annoyance pinning her to the floor.
"Hey! Mghfhfh!" she spluttered in protest, which didn't quite communicate her puzzlement with why the ventilation system suddenly seemed to be spitting out costumed crime fighters from every air duct.
"That stapler is property of Wayne Enterprises and I don't think you were about to use it for a legitimate business purpose," Robin chided her as he in turn reached for his own cuffs. "Misuse of stationery costs businesses in America millions of dollars a year – you can't say we only focus on the fancy attention-grabbing crimes."
"A crime is a crime," Batman agreed as he hauled the now secure Joker to a more upright position. "But I don't expect Mr Wayne will be pressing charges relating to theft of stationery from his office when there are much more serious charges of assault on security staff and attempted kidnapping to be dealt with."
"Attempted kidnapping?" Joker asked incredulously. "You can charge her with attempted kidnapping if you want," he gestured to the struggling Harley with a jerk of his head. "She's the one who let the most famously dim-witted playboy in all of Gotham just walk right out of here in what has the easiest escape from a hostage situation ever. I orchestrated a successful initial kidnapping, so I insist that any charges being brought reflect that."
Robin rolled his eyes but Batman remained deadpan. "I'll speak to the prosecutor's office but I'm sure that can be arranged."
"Good. Quite right too." He shrugged at Harley who was now similarly upright and cuffed, if still wriggling slightly now and then in a half-hearted attempt to escape Robin's grip on her arm. "Sorry pumpkin, but you know Daddy already has two attempted kidnapping charges on file and a third one of those isn't going to count towards the full house."
"Yeah I know – sorry for messin' up Puddin'." Harley gazed across at him plaintively, all thoughts of retributive selling-out a long forgotten memory. "If I get out first I'll get started on the mail fraud plan so it'll be all ready to go for you, promise!"
"Mail fraud?" Robin asked, confused.
"Just a little project I've been working on," Joker replied casually. "I'm seeing how long it takes to be charged with one of every felony."
Batman shook his head in mute disbelief, but Robin pressed further. "What's the point in that?"
"Why do people collect stamps or train numbers? Why do you and the other members of the Bat-brood dress up in silly costumes and pester the less law abiding citizens of this fair city?" He asked loftily, then gave a peal of laughter. "Everyone needs a hobby!"
Author's Note: It's another pretty random one! Passing trivia fact – I think that's the first time I've even briefly featured Robin in a fic where he was not just a decorated a rubber duck. One day the kid needs more than a cameo!