Sock It To 'Em

Author's Note: Written for the livejournal batfic_contest prompt "Hunt" in more than 500 words; first posted there on 21 July 2009.

"This is just ridiculous. Harley! Harley?"

Muffled thuds emanated from the walk-in closet in the area of the dilapidated fun house set aside as a bedroom. The thuds were accompanied by an armful of carefully-ironed shirts that were tossed haphazardly out of the closet in a crumpled pile on top of two dozing hyenas; their chuckling breathy snores were uninterrupted by the sudden covering of several neatly starched new blankets.

Unaware that his shirts were now gaining a coating of hyena drool and fur, the Joker continued his search of the closet to the accompaniment of much muttered swearing. The discarded shirts were soon followed by a cascade of ties, a smartly thrown tub of silly putty that split open to drip gungily down the wall and half a dozen sketchbooks labelled "Top Secret Schemes and Plans (absolutely positively not for Batsy's grubby be-gloved mitts)" that soon littered the bedroom floor.

"Harley!" the Joker yelled again from within the closet. "Where the devil is that girl… Harley! Get your sorry excuse for a henchwench-self in here, pronto!"

"Comin' Mistah J!" Harley managed as she ran breathlessly through the doorway, ducking a particularly sharp-looking medieval implement of painful persuasion that was flung recklessly from within the closet. She was in her 'street clothes' with her exuberant hair restrained in two pigtails, and shrugged off a bubblegum pink warmup jacket as she quickly skipped across the room. "I was out gettin' provisions so I didn't hear ya." She hopped from one foot to the other at the edge of the closet, clutching a bulging bag from the local Chinese restaurant. "What d'ya need? Is it somethin' urgent? Is it the Batman?"

Joker turned from his rummaging in the closet clutching an expensive hand-stitched Italian loafer, facing her with a deadpan expression. "Yes Harley; Batman is here, in our closet." She gasped, clutching more tightly at the bag of takeout as the Joker nodded gravely. "I've got him subdued by threatening him with this shoe, but we need to get him somewhere secure before the rest of the Batbrood try to rescue him."

"Really Puddin'?" Harley asked, her eyes widening as she peered past the Joker to try to catch a glimpse of the cowering Batman amidst the boxes and clutter of the closet.

"No you nitwit." He threw the shoe at her but she skipped back just quickly enough to avoid needing some of her own hand-stitching to the forehead. "Honestly, what would Batman be doing in our closet? Learning something about decent tailoring? As if he'd change the habits of a lifetime."

Harley giggled as she stepped back towards the closet door. "Hee hee – that's a good one though Mistah J! Ya really had me goin' for a minute there." She stopped suddenly as a thought struck her. "Though I'm probably gonna have nightmares about Bats in the closet for weeks now – maybe I can get some mothballs or somethin'? Moths are a bit like teeny bats, so if they work on them…"

"Harl," Joker interrupted, "I don't know what you're twittering on about, and frankly I doubt it's worth caring about. I wasn't shouting myself hoarse trying to catch the wisps of your fragile attention on a whim – get yourself in here and find whatever you did with my socks."

"What d'ya mean Puddin'?" She asked looking bemusedly at the chaotic result of his hunt through the closet. "You've got plenty of socks! I put 'em all in the drawer labelled 'socks' so you'd know where they were."

"Ohhhhh – the drawer labelled 'socks'?" The Joker clapped a disbelieving hand to his forehead. "Why didn't I think to look there? You know sometimes I wonder how on earth I would cope without you, Harley."

Harley turned beet-red without the usual cover of her white makeup to hide her blushing. "Aww, shucks Mistah J, that's justa bout the sweetest…eek!" It was only her quick reflexes that avoided the second shoe, although she nearly lost her grip on the takeout in the process and dropped several fortune cookies amongst the scattered debris on the carpet.

The Joker clucked in disappointment at his near-miss. "Negative reinforcement even works on laboratory mice. Maybe if I throw a shoe at you every time I use the seemingly strange and alien concept of sarcasm you'll start to pick up on it." He turned back to continue rummaging through the closet. "Of course I checked the drawer labelled 'socks' – there's none in there."

"Seriously Puddin' – I did a whole load of laundry over the weekend." Harley protested. "I even used some of those little pair-up gizmos I swiped from the drugstore when we were holdin' it up to stop the machine eatin' all the socks. I counted at least a dozen pairs that I put back in the drawer yesterday." She wrinkled her forehead in consternation. "You can't have worn a dozen pairs since yesterday!"

"Well I don't recall takingto wearing several layers of socks at once..." Joker muttered as he rifled through a drawer of joke handkerchiefs and unopened packs of explosive playing cards.

Harley shook her head. "Bizarre city! So d'ya still want me to look for them?"

"No," he replied sniffily, "I've done plenty of looking while you were off gallivanting elsewhere. I want you to find them."

"Fine – find them then! Lemme have a go."

Harley discarded the rapidly cooling bag of Chinese food and ducked past the Joker towards the back of the closet. She made a beeline for the drawer labelled 'socks' just to make absolutely for-definite sure this wasn't all just a wild goose's foot covering chase. The sock drawer turned out to be as empty as the hollow head of Wesker's old dummy, which at least gave the Joker cause to puff out his chest in temporary vindicated satisfaction.

"This is really weird Puddin'" Harley pointed out. "If you haven't worn 'em all, and I haven't got 'em, then where have all the socks gone?"

The Joker frowned and rubbed his chin in consternation. "If Rocco and Henshaw had two brain cells to rub together between the both of them, they still wouldn't find any use for a dozen pairs of socks. And who else would take them?"

Harley gasped and grabbed at his purple-sleeved arm. "Ah-ha – you said it earlier; Batman! Stinky ole' Guano-breath was in our closet after all…"

"Don't be ridiculous, what would the Dork Knight have to gain from stealing a few socks and lurking in the shadows of…" Joker tailed away as his gaze fell on the scattered sketchpads that held some of his most brilliant and devious plans for destruction and deviancy, with extra death on the side. "Heavensto Murgatroyd, Harl, you may actually be right!"

"But if he was here, why didn't he get all arresty with those stupid bat-cuffs? Ya think he might've been spying on us?" Her eyes widened as she suddenly thought of the sorts of things that occurred within sight of the closet door, and she folded her arms across her chest in defensive indignation. "That pervy ol' Bat! I always knew anyone who lurked about in dodgy alleyways dressed like that had to be of dubious character."

"I'm sure Batsy was after more important things than a peep show," Joker remarked as he flicked through one of the old sketchbooks, quietly marvelling at his own brilliance. "Though I'm just not sure what the stolen socks is supposed to mean. He must be trying to send a message of some kind… but what?"

"I don't know Mistah J, but maybe you could send him a message back – steal a whole bunch of socks from all the swish department stores, do some sock-themed crimes or somethin'? Show him you're not gonna put up with no lousy sock-thieving!"

Despite some puzzlement at what a 'sock-themed crime' might consist of, the Joker had to concede that stealing socks was a good start. It was that or turn to sandals, which really wouldn't go with the majority of his outfits (that spiffy Hawaiain shirt-and-shorts combo aside).

"Right – come along then, grab a few Joker-grenades from wherever I threw them earlier and check the pins are still in them. We're off to Berguffs to clear out their entire sock department!"

A few minutes later the slam of the side-entrance door signalled the beginning of one of the more unusual crime sprees to hit Gotham that summer, which would result in city-wide sock shortages by mid-August. The following press derision contributed to the declining popularity of the incumbent mayor, and played a small but telling part in national elections the next fall.

In the quiet of the funhouse bedroom the dozing hyenas were only briefly awakened by their departing master and mistress, with Bud taking a moment to stretch and cough up the torn scraps of what was once a smart argyle sock before settling back down to sleep.


Author's Note: It's another one I really have no explaination or excuse for. I borrowed Nolanverse argyle socks just because they're spiffy.