Lights Out

Note: Because Chapter VIII of Fear and Malice struck me as being particularly horrible, I wanted to post a Crane-centric one-shot where, for once, the poor guy actually gets a break. And because some of you guys like Jonathan/Harley as much as I do, I also wanted the one-shot to focus on that pairing, at least somewhat, though this isn't a complete romance. That said, I imagine this taking place after F&M and after Harley has hooked (and broken?) up with the Joker, and she and Jonathan find themselves in Arkham together.

Warning: Hurt/comfort bordering on fluff as well as implied Harley/Jonathan. If you've been reading Fear and Malice, hopefully this won't seem too out-of-character (just imagine that they've been through a lot together). If you haven't read F&M, it might help to do that first since this makes several references to that story.


If he was certain of one thing, it was that he did not like this. Although, quite frankly, it was getting harder and harder to tell himself that. Especially at night, after the clock struck twelve, signaling 'Lights Out' at Arkham, and he was left with nothing to do but lay in the darkness and wait for the inevitable.

The first night it had happened, he had thought that it had been one of the guards come to torment him (ridiculous, as they knew better now) or possibly the Joker since that obnoxious man seemed to love interrupting his (very limited and much valued) rest. Though his sense of self-preservation was strong, he had never been intimidated by the clown, not even after the Joker had taken a chair and beaten him within an inch of his life, and especially not when he was trying to sleep.

"Go away," he had moaned into his pillow, eyes firmly shut. "Save your aggravating chitchat for tomorrow—or someone else entirely—and leave me alone."

"Oh," said a soft, female, and definitely un-Joker-like voice. "I just wanted to say 'hi,' but if you're tired, I suppose I'll just be going—"

His eyes flew open as he sat up too quickly, making the world spin in the dull lighting. But in spite of this, he had still been able to make out the shaky, blurred shape of a woman sitting at the foot of his bed.

"Harleen?"

She had nodded gently, blonde hair spilling over her shoulders and looking silvery in the light of the single window that he had been granted.

"What are you doing here?"

"I already told you: I wanted to say 'hi.'" She smiled faintly. "Hi."

"Hi…" Frowning, he shook his head. "No, I mean how did you get out of your cell and into mine?"

"What, like it's hard?"

He had sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose.

"Harleen…if the guards find out you're gone—"

"They won't hurt me, if that's what you're worried about," she interjected. "If I don't take care of them first, they know that either you or Mr. J will—and you two are the last people that they wanna antagonize."

He hadn't been able to keep from grinning a bit smugly at that.

"True. But what if they put you in solitary confinement?"

"It'll take me a little bit longer to break out," she replied. "But it'd be no big deal. If I wanna go visiting, I'll go visiting. And anyway…" She suddenly became very interested in her fingernails. "…I missed you."

"You saw me in the rec room for an hour."

He could just make out her scowl and the eye-roll that accompanied it.

"That's not the same, and you know it. We can't talk about anything because the staff's so paranoid that we're up to no good. Honestly, it's as if they think we've got nothing better to do."

"Right," he said with just a touch of sarcasm. "It's not as if we spend all our time plotting how to destroy this city and corrupt its inhabitants. Sometimes we like to talk about the weather or comparative literature."

"Exactly. Speaking of which, d'you have my copy of 'A Modest Proposal?' I remember lending it to you."

"I did, but I think your boyfriend might have stolen it. Something about selling children as sustenance appealed greatly to him."

"Well," she said fairly, "babies are delicious."

"Harleen, if this is leading up to a dead baby joke—"

"Aw, but you'll like this one, I promise." She cleared her throat and launched into the jest before he could stop her. "How d'you make a dead baby float?"

"…"

"Two scoops of ice cream, one scoop of dead baby."

He had rolled his eyes as she grinned at him, biting her lower lip. But when he had looked closely, he had seen that her smile flickered a little. And her eyes were sad.

He sighed tiredly.

"What's wrong?"

"You have to ask? You really must be tired—you always know what's wrong." She had sighed and shaken her head, staring down at her bare feet. "You called him my boyfriend."

"I said it mockingly."

"Yeah, I know…" She had sucked in a low, shuddering breath, and he had known that it would only be a matter of seconds before she started to cry. He hated seeing her like this. It wasn't right—Harleen was not a weepy, breakable person dependant on an idiotic man who didn't give a damn about her. She was supposed to be above all of that—like him. As childish as it sounded, he wanted the old Harleen—the bright, confident, fearless Harleen—his Harleen, not the Joker's harlequin. He had known why she had come to see him that night and, really, it should have been understandable—they were friends and friends went to each other when they needed comfort. But it still pissed him off.

"Harleen, I'm sorry, but…I can't feel sympathetic toward someone who's crying over a sociopathic, egotistical attention whore who only cares about himself and his giant, flying rodent." He had glared at her even as her eyes welled with tears. "You didn't come here because you missed me. You did it because you miss him. And you expect me to feel sorry for you. Well I don't, and someday you'll thank me because by then you'll have realized that you're better off without him."

She had stared at him, tears rolling down her otherwise blank face. Then, she shook her head.

"Y'know…I hate your mother." Her eyes had narrowed. "If she showed up right now, I'd kill her. I know I shouldn't say that about anyone's mom, but I would. And I'd carve a nice, big smile on her pretty face—not for J, but because she should smile when she looks at you. You're brilliant, you're sweet, you're gorgeous—and you don't know it because she had to go and strip you of any sense of self-worth when you were a kid, so, God, I hate that woman!"

He had blinked.

"Harleen, what are you talking about?"

"You, damn it!" she had exclaimed. "I mean, yeah I miss J, but you don't think for one second that I could ever miss you just as much…"

"You don't," he said firmly. "You love the Joker."

Shrugging a little, she picked at the hem of her uniform.

"I-I don't know… We have a lot of fun doing wild and crazy things together, and he's got a good sense of humor—and he's great in bed, I'm not gonna lie, but…I dunno… It's just kinda hard to stay in love with someone who's always gonna make you play second fiddle to a guy dressed as a bat."

"You don't deserve that," he had told her quietly.

She had scooted a little closer.

"No, I don't think I do."

"You deserve better," he had said even more softly than before.

Closer, until she was right beside him.

"Yeah, probably."

She had looked up at him through her eyelashes, slowly reaching out to trace the scars near his left eye, the ones that had been made when Rachel Dawes became overzealous with her taser. They were faint, barely noticeable unless pointed out, but Harleen had seen them the minute he had been hauled in to Arkham, after he had spent almost a year on the run. That was back when she had still been a doctor. According to the staff, she had fought tooth and nail (almost literally) to convince the new administrator to make him her patient. The first time she had seen his scars, she had cried—something that he had always been uncomfortable with. Even now, though he knew the reasoning behind it, he still couldn't fully understand why she had done it. After twenty-eight years of nothing but abuse, neglect, and rejection, the mere thought of anyone actually caring about him had become entirely foreign.

"Do you mind if I stay here tonight?" she had asked him, her voice suddenly small, like a child's.

"Do you want to?" he had asked in return. He had known that he wanted her to stay, and he felt certain that she wanted to stay, but he had wanted to hear her say it.

"Yeah. D'you mind?"

He had shaken his head and moved over to make room for her to lay down.

And that was how it had all started. After that, Harleen had come back and spent nearly every night in his cell, lying next to him in his cot with her arms wrapped securely around him. Eventually, the guards had stopped trying to intervene once they realized that there was little that they could do to stop her from breaking out of her cell. As long as she wasn't trying to escape or hurt anybody, it was easier to simply let her be.

"Besides," Mark Tess had once remarked with a suggestive smirk, "the damn Scarecrow's stopped screamin' ever since she started takin' care of him."

That was the story around Arkham: The Scarecrow was sleeping with the Harlequin—just wait until the Joker found out. People were so dense. He had never cared much for Freud, but he was beginning to think that the man might have been right: Everyone really did have only one thing on their minds. Well, save for himself, of course. By this point, he couldn't really imagine having sex with anyone, let alone Harleen. Yes, he supposed that they would all be rather disappointed were they ever to learn that, while he was sleeping with the her, it was only in the most literal sense of the phrase.

They weren't even right about his night terrors. He had been suffering from them since he was a child, and he highly doubted that having Harleen in his bed would suddenly make them go away. Although it was true that, ever since she had begun creeping into his cell at night, he had stopped screaming. However, that was only because his shaking and whimpering usually roused Harleen in time to calm him down before he started to scream.

He would admit that that was one nice thing about this…arrangement of theirs. But other than that, he didn't care for the situation in the least. That was what he kept telling himself, anyway.

They had established a pattern: Every night, shortly after the clock struck twelve and the lights went out, she would enter his cell and crawl into bed with him, then they would either read or talk for a while, and eventually fall asleep. He told himself that he didn't enjoy it, and that the only reason that he allowed it to continue was because Harleen clearly needed someone and it was better that it was him instead of that damn clown.

Although, having her there did help with the heating problem. Skin and bones, he had always felt cold, ever since he was a child, and Arkham had never been the warmest of buildings. But despite her being rather lithe and tiny herself, Harleen's body seemed to constantly give off heat, which suited him just fine, especially during the frigid nights in the asylum with only a thin blanket to cover up with.

However, one thing was certain, (and he rather felt that it was almost more important to mention this than it was to clarify that their relationship was strictly platonic) and that was that he did not, under any circumstances, 'snuggle.' Not with anyone. Not even Harleen. She might snuggle with him, but he didn't snuggle with her. It was childish and undignified—totally unbecoming of a man with his intelligence and fearsome reputation. To an outsider, it may have appeared as though he cuddled up to her as well, but in reality, it was all Harleen. It only looked like he did because the cot was too damn small, and so it was rather difficult for him to get comfortable on such a narrow space when he had a young woman clinging to him. Sometimes his only option was to cling back, which completely disturbed his normal sleeping position.

That was enough of a reason not to enjoy this arrangement with Harleen: Having her there totally disrupted his regular nighttime ritual, the one that he had had for as long as he could remember. He would absorb himself in a book for several hours (after some careful manipulation, along with several other privileges, he was able to keep his books and a small light in his cell), then lay awake for another two hours, tossing and turning with his mind on overdrive, before finally drifting off into a fitful sleep that was usually interrupted an hour later by a night terror, then (in addition to the fifteen or so minutes it took to recover from the night terror) it would take him about thirty minutes to fall back asleep, during which time he was plagued by nightmares—not the same as a night terror—until he finally gave up on getting any rest and got out of bed, which was often about ten minutes before his alarm went off (or, if he was at Arkham, when the nurse came in to give him his morning medications). And throughout all of this, he stayed in the same position that he always had—curled up on his side, one arm hugging his legs and the other kept close to his chest while he hid his face in his knees, the blankets pulled over his head and wrapped tightly around his body to lock in as much heat as possible. It was uncomfortable, yes, but after so many years of sleeping this way, it felt strange to wake up without the familiar stiffness in his joints.

Though it seemed like he would have to get used to that.

Because with Harleen, there were several sleeping positions that he had had to grow accustomed to. After reading together for an hour, he would turn off his lamp and they would usually talk quietly until they both fell asleep, her curled up at his side with her arms around his waist and him flat on his back with his arms at his sides, lying as close to the wall as possible. The night terrors occurred about an hour into it, as always, but she was normally able to calm him down in about five minutes by reaching over and taking his hand. Several hours later, and he would find himself lost in some horrible memory from his childhood that usually left him feeling more panicked than the night terror had. And, oddly enough, these seemed to fall under three categories: Grandmother, Bullies, Mother. Harleen always responded by stroking his hair and assuring him that he was all right (he had even gotten used to that, useless as it was), but she always—and he felt so embarrassed putting it like this—she always…held him…a different way for each nightmare.

Whenever he had dreams about the bullies—fellow classmates who had tormented him, beaten him up and called him names, thrown rocks at him, burned him with cigarettes, ruined his books, tied him to a pole and hung him up like the scarecrow that he was—Harleen would turn him over and pull him close, hands moving gently up and down his back, and so that when he woke up the following morning, he would find that his head was resting on her chest and that his fists were tightly clenching the gray fabric of her uniform. Despite what she said, he knew that this position could not be comfortable for Harleen, and he certainly wasn't comfortable with it, even if there was something about falling asleep to the sound of her heartbeat or the feel of her flat, toned stomach moving against his own concave belly. It was still an uncomfortable way to sleep.

He dreamed about his grandmother the most, which made sense. After all, she had been his greatest tormentor, the one who had the biggest hand in creating the Scarecrow and instilling his passion for fear. In those nightmares, he was always very small, even though her cruel punishments had continued until he had been at least fourteen (she could still cane him, even if she could no longer throw him into the root cellar or drag him out to the aviary). He would wake up trembling and begging for forgiveness, whispering over and over again about how sorry he was, how he hadn't meant to be bad, and promising that he would never do it again, just please don't hurt him anymore… Wrapping her arms around him from behind, her lips and nose pressed softly against his neck, Harleen would slip her arm behind his shoulders and twine their fingers together, draping her other arm over his waist. It was something that he would never admit to anyone, but he felt strangely protected like this, his back no longer exposed for those dreaded birds to peck at or for his grandmother to lash with the metal end of a belt. And the warm pressure of her hand on his stomach always soothed the phantom cramps that came whenever he dreamed about that disgusting steak that his grandmother had forced him to eat. Again, Harleen told him that she didn't mind, but he couldn't help but expect there to be a night when she would grow sick of it or for her to simply not show up at all—which, he told himself, would be just as well because he did not like this. But she would merely shake her head at him whenever he told her this, calling him paranoid and saying that that wouldn't happen, and then she would squeeze his hand gently and hold him until he felt better.

The nightmares about his mother were the worst. In them, she was the only thing he ever saw, standing in front of him, either sobbing or screaming, but always telling him how filthy he was, how disgusting, how he was a worthless abomination, a wretched little bastard who had ruined her life and so how could he ever expect her to love him?

He usually woke up crying.

What was more humiliating was the fact that he couldn't stop crying even after he was fully awake and knew where he was. The tears would just keep coming. Somehow, he would end up facing her, curling into himself and sobbing brokenly like the pathetic child he had once been. Only now, years after he had resigned himself to being alone, someone was there to wrap their arms around him, to hold him close, to let him cry as much as he wanted, and she never once told him to stop. She rubbed his back or stroked his hair, all the while promising him that it was all right, he was safe, nothing was going to hurt him. She wouldn't let anything hurt him. And he knew that her words were senseless because he was anything but all right, but that didn't stop him from accepting her embrace, entangling his legs with hers and tucking his head beneath her chin. She was always so warm.

Such weakness repulsed him and his hatred for the Bat Man grew every time it happened because, though he had always had such horrifying dreams and night terrors, they had never been this severe. Not before that thickheaded sadist with a hero complex had used his own toxin against him and then left him without the cure. It was only because of his own incredible intellect that he had even survived inhaling such a large and concentrated dose of the poison. When Harleen had found out what the Bat had done, she had been livid, ranting about how that hadn't been justice; it had been revenge—something that the Dark Knight was supposed to be above. Worse yet, it had been revenge for poisoning Rachel Dawes, that, in her words, "nosey, self-righteous bitch with no fashion sense."

That had earned a laugh from him, bitter though it was, and she had seemed pleased by this, as well she should have. Making him laugh was a far greater accomplishment than making the Joker laugh, no matter what that clown had made Harleen believe. All anyone needed to make the Joker laugh was a vast amount of gratuitous violence and a couple of bad jokes. Harleen knew that, knew how easy it was, yet she still seemed to light up whenever her boyfriend let out that raucous cackle of his. But still, the look on her face after she had gotten him to laugh was better than any expression she had ever given the Joker, even if it had only happened once.

Every now and then, there was the odd night when she would fall asleep while he was still reading, and whenever he would get up to put the book away, for some reason despite her unconscious state, Harleen would take that as a signal to move over to his side of the cot, so that now she was closer to the wall. Although there was now a greater chance of his falling out of bed, it wouldn't have been so bad were it not for the fact that, the moment he laid down, Harleen always felt the need to snuggle so close that she was practically on top of him, her head resting on his chest. He could honestly say that he did nothing to encourage this, and that the only reason he put his arms around her was because he didn't want her turning over and go crashing to the floor and, quite frankly, he didn't know what else to do with them. And he certainly didn't play with her hair; he merely brushed it out of her face because, well…it would have bothered him had he left it alone. He could have shoved her off, yes, but that would have woken her up and he didn't care to deal with a cranky harlequin, especially when said harlequin knew how to kill a man using only her stiletto-heeled shoes. Besides, even though he didn't like it, there was something comforting about having her small, warm weight on top of him.

Word must have gotten to the outside world that Harleen was routinely breaking into his cell, because one night—one of the odd nights, when she fell asleep first and crawled on top of him—they received an unexpected visitor.

He had finally been drifting off to sleep, when he had felt a third presence invade the room. Slowly opening his eyes, he had caught sight of something in the far corner, standing near the door. He hadn't even heard anyone enter, which gave him a good idea as to who his guest was, and he automatically found himself winding his arms protectively around the still-sleeping Harleen, though he knew that this person would never harm her. The man thought she was a victim—or rather, that was what the man kept telling himself. He wondered if that helped his visitor sleep at night? Probably. That man was in denial about so many things—that he was a sadist, that beating criminals close to death was more of an expression of his inner turmoil than an attempt to 'save' Gotham, that poisoning him had been justified—why not her? Telling oneself that the Joker had twisted her mind must have been comforting when compared to the truth.

It was so ugly, so dark… To think that Harleen Quinzel—that brilliant, beautiful young doctor—had chosen to pursue a life of crime… It was quite terrifying.

Yes, he imagined that the man would lose weeks of sleep were he ever to accept that. As a psychiatrist, he really should have informed the hero that denial was rarely (if ever) good for one's mental health, but, if that was what helped him cope…

"The Bat Man," he had said at last, smiling calmly at the darkest corner of the room.

"Crane," the corner snarled.

He resisted the urge to roll his eyes at the raspy growl. For someone who wanted to instill fear in the hearts of his enemies, the Dark Knight had absolutely no tact. Didn't he know that one didn't need to appear and sound threatening in order to be threatening? Obviously not, otherwise the masked vigilante would have stopped this ridiculous melodrama. No wonder the Joker was in love with him.

"To what do I owe the pleasure?" he had asked cordially, though his gaze was anything but.

"What are you plotting?" the winged rodent had demanded still maintaining the harsh, guttural tone that Harleen had once dubbed 'the Bat Chain-Smoker Voice' (he hadn't laughed at that, though he'd been close to it).

He had merely yawned, gazing at the fuzzy, black figure with a bored expression.

"Not plotting, sleeping." He had yawned, as if to express his point. "And you're disrupting it, so if you don't mind…"

"If I find out you're up to something, Crane—"

"If you wake up Harleen, Bat," he had shot back with a sneer, "I assure you, it won't be pleasant for either of us."

"What is she doing in here?"

"Sleeping," he had stressed with a roll of his eyes. Honestly, for a man who was hailed to be the world's greatest detective…

"That's all," the Bat Man had stated, clearly not believing him.

"That's all," he had replied in a tone used for assuaging a temperamental child.

"Nothing else."

"Nothing else, though you can tell the Joker whatever you like—God knows he's already jealous of our relationship, however short-lived it might have been." It was true. For all his bravado, the clown craved the Bat Man's attention like an addict and was furious at the fact that he, the 'whiney, girly Scaredy Crane,' had been 'felt up' by the Bat, so to speak, long before the Joker had ever made a name for himself in Gotham. Of course, confirmation of this theory had cost him an arm and a leg (again, almost literally) when, in what could only be described as a jealous rage, the Joker had beaten him senseless with a metal chair. Still, for all the pain it had caused, a part of him felt that it had been worth it as he now knew that it was possible to get under the clown's skin.

Apparently, the Bat Man had nothing to say in response to this, instead choosing to shoot him a glare that he imagined would have been intimidating were he a lesser man, before swiftly turning to exit the cell.

"Kiss the Joker goodnight for me," he had called softly, knowing that the vigilante would hear him and certain that it would put the man in an foul mood for the rest of the night. Good. The bastard had not only given him permanent brain damage and locked him up in his own asylum, but he had also roused him from what might have been the first peaceful sleep that he had had in ages.

Speaking of which… he now thought, glancing up from a copy of The Most Evil Women in History at the sound of his cell door opening. Hair scraggly, the pants of her Arkham pyjamas too long, Harleen turned around to face him, grinning mischievously as she brushed her hair out of her eyes. Then she saw what book he had been reading and feigned annoyance.

"Ah-ha. So you're the dirty culprit who swiped my book."

He marked his place with a ribbon, closed the book, and set it on his lap, resting his hands patiently on top of it as he gave her a pointed stare.

"I was doing you a favor. Reading such violent and suggestive material is hardly conductive toward your recovery, Harleen. I'm surprised your doctors let you have it at all."

"Yeah, well, what do they know? Nothing."

"I won't argue that," he smirked, making room for her when she hurried over to the cot.

"So, how d'you like it?" she asked, getting under the covers and snuggling close to him.

"Well, I can understand why you think that Rose West is worse than Myra Hindley, and I don't see why Lizzie Borden made the list at all and Countess Báthory didn't."

"She's in the one about the most evil men andwomen," Harleen explained, resting her head on his shoulder and reaching for the book. He waved her hand away and picked it up himself.

"In any case, I'm surprised that 'Bloody Mary' wasn't mentioned."

"She's in the other one, too, though she shouldn't be in any of them, if you ask me," Harleen informed him, a slightly bitter edge to her voice. "She wasn't evil. She was depressed and self-deluded. It wasn't her fault that Anne Boleyn was a self-promoting skank who treated her like a servant and kept her from seeing her mother for however many years until the old queen had died, and even then, she wasn't allowed to go to her funeral."

"Mm." He glanced at her and, seeing her forcibly careless expression, raised his eyebrows. "Was there a point that you were trying to make with all of that or were you merely spouting out random facts again?"

She shrugged.

"Just that people should do their research before they pass judgment."

"And your reason for wanting to make such a point is…?"

"Nothing really, 'cept that the Bat Man stopped by earlier to lecture me on the dangers of associating with manipulative psychopaths, especially when I should be trying to get better." She wrinkled her nose in disdain at the last two words, as if insulted by the notion. Which she was, he knew and couldn't blame her. The staff at Arkham treated her like she didn't know right from wrong, though she clearly did. Harleen knew full well that what she did was bad; she simply had no desire to stop.

"And by manipulative psychopaths, he means me, correct?"

"Yep."

"He's too kind."

"I just wanna know when he's gonna realize that there's nothing he can say that'll make me stop being friends with you?"

"He already knows that," he told her placatingly. "It's just that he has to keep telling himself that he can make you 'see the light' in order to deal with the fact that he failed to 'save' you from being corrupted in the first place. It's a coping mechanism that he employs because he knows that, if he were ever to reject his idealistic views and see the world for what it truly is…he'd break down and cry."

He expected her to laugh, perhaps make some smart comment, or at the very least, smirk in amusement, but instead Harleen fell silent, thinking.

"Why is acceptance so hard?" she asked suddenly.

"Because ignorance is bliss," he replied, removing his glasses before he closed his book and turned off the lamp. He had a feeling that he wouldn't be getting any reading done that night. Shifting so that he was laying on his side, he turned to Harleen, back to the wall. In the near-dark of the cell, he could just barely make out her pensive expression.

"So, does that mean that you're unhappy because you're…aware? You've accepted the world for what it is and you harbor no delusions about the people in it?"

He blinked at her, wishing he could read her face more clearly, though her tone said quite a lot.

"…you're trying to make another point, aren't you," he stated.

Harleen tugged at the edge of their blanket.

"No… It's just…I want you to be happy, are you?"

Well. He was taken aback. That was unexpected, to say the least. What could have brought that on?

"You think I'm depressed?"

"No," she said quickly. "No, no… Forget it; I dunno what I'm on about…"

He narrowed his eyes.

"That's not true."

"Fine," she admitted, snapping at him. "I have some idea, but it's not like I can figure out how to articulate it, so it's probably better to just forget the whole thing."

"Damn it, Harleen, you have my interest, now—what were you trying to say?"

"Nothing, just…" She sighed. "Do you think you've wasted your potential?"

"What?"

"I'm sorry," she moaned, covering her face with her hands. "I don't think you did, but he does."

He didn't need to ask who 'he' was to know that she was talking about the Bat Man.

"After I'd made all my points, I told him that the main reason he didn't want us to be friends is because he hates you cuz you poisoned his girlfriend," Harleen went on. "And he said that he didn't hate you, he pitied you because you ruined your life like you're ruining mine, and you're nothing but wasted potential."

"And you agree with him?"

"No! Jonny, if that's what I thought, you know I would've told you." In the poor lighting, he could almost make out the appalled expression on her face.

"I got pissed at Bats for saying that about you," she continued to seethe, "and started going off on him about how he's a vindictive little boy with a hero complex who keeps deluding himself because he doesn't want to admit that the real reason he fights crime is to nurse a grudge and fulfill his sadistic needs. And I also might've said that he shouldn't condemn my relationships just because he's clearly afraid to have one himself." She sighed wearily. "He just sorta shook his head at me like he was a disappointed parent or something, and then left in a huff, so I think I got to him."

"You didn't let him know that he got to you, right?"

"Of course not," she scoffed, and he imagined that, had he been able to see, she was giving him a look that said 'Oh please, Jonathan, spare me.'

"It's not even so much that he got to me," she was saying now. "He just kinda made me start thinking—and before you say it, it's not the same thing. 'Got to me' implies that I've started to believe what he said, which I haven't. But I have been wondering if you think you've wasted your potential, even though I don't, and I also can't help but feel responsible…"

By now, he really should have been used to Harleen's random proclamations, but nonetheless, somehow this still managed to render him speechless.

He stared at her for a full seven seconds before finally demanding:

"Where in the hell did you get that idea?"

"I could've discouraged you," she quickly explained. "I could've done it the first time you told me about your experiments, and I didn't. If anything, I was supportive—hell, I wanted to know if the damage was permanent or only temporary. And, I dunno, maybe if you hadn't had someone else who was interested, you might not've found the idea so appealing. But because I went along with it, now any opportunities that you might've had are probably ruined…"

Her voice had begun to take on that forlorn, wavering edge that told him that she was mere seconds away from releasing a flood of tears. Damn Joker. Harleen had never been so emotional until she met that clown. Nevermind that, when they met, one of the first things that he had wanted to do was make her cry. Besides, as it turned out, he didn't enjoy listening to her sob. It wasn't because he felt any kind of sympathy for her, he told himself, but because Harleen Quinzel's tearful wail was one of the most grating, migraine-inducing sounds that he had ever heard (even though no one else had ever complained about the noise).

But the worst part of it was, despite the fact that Harleen normally felt that he was always right, ordering her not to cry only seemed to make matters worse. Then again, saying 'Stop crying right now had never worked for his mother, so he really shouldn't have expected it to work for him.

So he settled for inhaling deeply and collecting his thoughts.

"Harleen," he said slowly, "I would have continued to experiment with toxins whether you liked it or not. You must know that."

"I do, of course I do, but the thought's still in my head," Harleen explained. "And once it was there…y'know…I couldn't not think about it."

They were going to have to escape again soon, he mused. Harleen was being given too much time alone with her thoughts. And while the fact that she actually had a brain and used it was one of the things that had drew him to her, the outcome was rarely good whenever she…over-thought, for lack of a better term (he knew that he must have been tired if he couldn't string a sentence together). With all of the thoughts that whirled through her head (all probably faster and more bizarre than his own), he sometimes wondered why she didn't get migraines like he did. That tended to be a common trait amongst those with brilliant minds. But then, it might have had something to do with her not being quite a genius. Or maybe it was simply her outlook.

"Listen," he began, "you need to stop thinking about this."

"I know, but—"

"No, listen." He gave her a stern look. "'Happy' is not a word that describes me. It never has been, it most likely never will be, and we both know that. However, am I depressed and embittered because of this…" he sighed, "terribly ironic situation where I'm a patient in my own asylum and am being treated by a bunch of incompetent, egotistical imbeciles? No. Because they're terrified of me—everyone is, save for the few people I can actually tolerate." He refrained from adding 'And the Joker' because he had been trying to steer her thoughts away from him. "That's what I've wanted—to inspire fear in the hearts and minds of those around me. Whenever I escape, Gotham throws itself into a panic because, now, I'm one of its greatest threats. As for 'wasting my potential,' no, I don't think I have. Not when I'm finally using it to do exactly what I want to do. And, quite frankly, there is something immensely satisfying about that."

"…okay," she whispered after a moment. And that was the end of it.

He watched, not moving, as Harleen sat up slightly, leaned over, and kissed his cheek.

"G'night."

Before he could even register what had happened, she had laid back down again, arms wrapped tightly around his waist, eyes scrunched shut with an inexplicable tension. She inhaled deeply, then relaxed.

"What…" He closed his eyes. "You're an idiot."

"Mmm," she murmured into his shoulder, reaching over to take his arm and sling it over her hips. He didn't let her do it. He allowed it to happen. And just like this entire situation, he did not like it.

"I know," she said quietly. "But I can't help it. I love you, so I worry."

Silence.

After a moment, he decided that she hadn't really said that. Her mouth was pressed up against him, the fabric of his uniform muffing everything she said, distorting her words. He only thought that he had heard…that. And the kiss hadn't helped, prompting his mind to wander to strange places, foreign territory that he had only ever found pointless and distracting. Or so he told himself, though he sometimes wondered if there hadn't been a time, years and years ago, when he had wanted something very similar to this.

He glanced over at Harleen—asleep—and shook his head. Carefully, he reached over to brush the hair off of her face. How in the hell she could even sleep with it hanging in the way like that… His hand dropped, returning to its place at her hip, and by the time he realized what he had done, it was too late to determine whether he had let/allowed it to happen.

It didn't matter, he decided, feeling worn out. Funny, though, how he wasn't tired when he likely should have been, his mind blank-yet-racing. Everything was muddled.

One thing was certain: He did not like it. That was what he told himself, anyway.

Though, to be honest, he didn't know how much longer he could keep doing that.


Told ya it was cute. Oy vey. You've all probably gone into diabetic comas now, thanks to the level of sweetness in this story.

Notes

the Joker had taken a chair and beaten him – this is a reference to the Knightfall story arch. In one of the issues, Jonny and Mr. J decide to team up and wreak havoc on Gotham, terrorizing the mayor and generally doing not-so-nice things. And in between this, they eat junk food, Jonny gets smacked in the face with a bag of potato chips, and high-five each other (I kid you not, and I still lol at the last one). Unfortunately, they eventually end their bromance because of creative differences—those mainly being that the Joker just wants to have fun and Jonny has a stick up his ass. It ends with Jonathan giving J a dose of fear toxin, and the unaffected J beating him with a chair in retaliation.

"What, like it's hard?" – I swear I didn't mean to quote Legally Blonde; it just happened, and I only realized it when I went back and reread this. Anyway, for those who are confused, this is ditzy, blonde sorority girl Elle Woods' response when her ex-boyfriend stares at her in disbelief and says, "You got into Harvard Law?" Actually, this kinda reminds me of Jonny's reaction to Harley's giving her patient an asthma attack in F&M, so I guess it's fitting, in a way. In relation to this, the idea of it being easy to break out of the cells (and the total lack of explanation as to how it's done) is something I got from the cartoons and comics, as it seems to happen quite frequently at Arkham. And, as much as I prefer there to be a logical answer for everything, in cases like this, I have no problem cuz I think it kind of adds something. :-)

"A Modest Proposal" – this is a satirical essay written by Jonathan Swift in which he suggests that the impoverished people of Ireland can help their struggling economy by selling children as food for wealthy aristocrats.

night terrors – nightmares and night terrors are two different things. Unlike nightmares, a person isn't fully asleep when they experience a night terror, and they typically don't dream about any specific, scary thing. With night terrors, the emotion of fear is felt, even though there isn't any frightening dream to cause it.

…hold him until he felt better – this is sort of echoing a remark that Jonathan makes in Chapter 7 of F&M, where he's hallucinating and remembering a traumatic event from his childhood when he was sick and wished that someone would comfort him.

Rachel Dawes – in all honesty, I don't like Rachel as a character (though the fact that she was first played by Katie Holmes didn't help, not gonna lie), not just because she helped foil Jonathan's plans but also because she was so snippy with Bruce and his conduct after he returns from the dead. I know I would find it odd that the guy I'd been friends with since childhood was suddenly acting like a drunken, womanizing party-hopper. But it's like she didn't even notice and preferred to bitch him out. Honestly, though, I've tried to be fair in writing her, though it was difficult to do with this story since both Harley and Jonny despise her. :-P

…he certainly didn't play with her hair – Jonathan doesn't seem like the kind of guy who would play with someone's hair. Maybe if he'd been in a relationship for a while and the person asked him to, but I don't think that it's something that he would think of on his own. I can, however,see him being annoyed when someone's hair is in their face, especially if they seem to have no problem with it.

…if that was what helped him cope… - this is taken from one of my favorite doctor/patient interviews in Batman: Arkham Asylum, where Jonathan treats his psychiatrist as if their roles are reversed (like he's the shrink and his doctor is the patient). His doctor gets irritated and informs him that they're his sessions, not Crane's, and Jonathan responds by saying, "Of course. If that's what helps you cope, I wouldn't have it any other way." Have I mentioned that I love how he's portrayed in that game? Because I totally do.

…a glare that…would have been intimidating… - it's always kind of bothered me in TDK fics where Jonathan is absolutely terrified of Batman. Mainly because, to me at least, it's obvious in the beginning of the movie that he isn't afraid of him. If anything, he's kind of pleased when Bats finally shows up. And then there's that snarky "Not in my diagnosis" comment. Come on, you don't say that to the six-foot-something, muscle-bound vigilante who just beat the snot out of the guys sitting around you. You just don't. Not if you're afraid of him.

The Most Evil Women in History – the title pretty much says all. It's a rather interesting read by Shelley Klein, and there are several others in the series, all titled The Most Evil Men, Men and Women, Pirates, Mobsters, and Dictators in the World. Honestly, I'd say that The Most Evil Women in History really dose have the best account of Rose West and Myra Hindley, since I tried to look up websites that would give more information for people who might be interested and didn't really find any.

Rose West – is an English serial killer who, with her husband Fred West, tortured and murdered at least ten young women and girls throughout the 1970s. In addition to this, she was also excessively cruel to her own children and even allowed her father and her husband to repeatedly rape her stepdaughter (his biological child from a previous marriage). The reason that Harley finds her to be more evil than Myra Hindley isn't because West murdered more people, but because of her depraved treatment toward her own children.

Myra Hindley – was also an English serial killer who assisted her lover, Ian Brady, in the Moors Murders—the abduction, torture, sexual abuse, and murder of five children (aged between ten and seventeen years old) during the 1960s. Apparently (and I say that because I'm just going by what I've read), she's considered to be the most reviled murderer in Britain and has now become an icon of evil.

Lizzie Borden – was an American woman and the prime suspect in the now-infamous hatchet murders of her father and stepmother in 1892. She was acquitted, mainly because she was a woman, which is why Harley and Jonathan aren't all that impressed by her.

Countess [Elizabeth] Báthory – was a Hungarian countess and possibly one of the most notorious serial killers in history, famous for being accused of torturing and killing up to 600 virgin girls from 1590-1610. Supposedly, she would bathe in the blood of her victims in order to retain her youth and beauty, but most historians claim that this is false.

'Bloody Mary' – I've had mad sympathy for Mary every since I was, like, twelve and read Carolyn Meyer's Mary, Bloody Mary, which is a fictionalized account of the queen's life from the time she's about ten, until Anne Boleyn is beheaded. I won't go into all the reasons why I like her, as that would take up too much space (I like sending you guys off to do your own research, anyway); let's just put it down to neglect, deprivation, degradation, and loneliness throughout most of her childhood. That said, she's considered evil because, during her reign, she was so hell-bent on restoring England to Roman Catholicism, that she had nearly 300 religious dissenters burned at the stake (and most people tend to ignore the fact that her dad, Henry VIII, and more popular sister, Elizabeth I had just about as many people put to death).

"…I want you to be happy, are you?" – I just wanted to point out that the punctuation here was deliberate because I felt that it needed to be clear that there was a pause between the confession and the question (because she's hesitant to ask but wants to get it out), and that the reason I went with a comma was because I thought that a dash would make the transition too quick and a period would make it too long. I've pretty much gotten comfortable with the idea that 'it's fiction, I can do whatever I want with the format,' but there are still times like this where I feel that I should explain myself.

Disclaimer: I don't own Harley, Jonathan, the Joker, or the Goddamn Batman. I do own Mark Tess, though, however brief his little cameo might be.