Clipped Wings

I do not own any of the characters except for Merryl. They belong to DC Comics. This was written strictly for fun.

"Thank you, gentlemen. You sounded terrific tonight, as per usual."

One of the musicians packing up his trumpet gazed up from his case and looked at the band's employer. "Thank you, Mr. Cobblepot. It's always a pleasure playing here, sir."

Oswald Cobblepot's round face lit up as a smile appeared beneath his elongated nose. They had had the same conversation an hour after closing time for the past few years, but it never stopped him from smiling at the comment. It was music to his ears.

As the musician shut his case and stood, the squat man glanced over toward where one of his waitresses stood, cleaning the tables. Using his umbrella as a walking cane, Cobblepot began to waddle off. "I'll see you all, same time tomorrow," he said over his shoulder to the group of musicians as they began to file out one of the side exits.

"Right-o, Penguin," came a voice from behind the oversized man.

The Penguin came to an abrupt halt and immediately gnashed his teeth. His deformed hand clung tightly to the handle of his umbrella while the other clenched by his side. He shot an irritated look back at the lad behind him, his monocle catching a quick ray of light and making it gleam.

"If I am to be called by that name, my feeble minded friend," Cobblepot began in a cold but sophisticated manner, pointing his umbrella at the groupie, "then you will address me as Mister Penguin."

The lad drew a startled breath and nearly dropped the mass of power cables when a blade suddenly appeared out of the end of the umbrella.

"Understand?" Cobblepot asked in conclusion, cocking his head ever-so-slightly.

"Y-Yes, sir!" the young man replied frantically. He pushed the doors to the exit open. "Sorry, sir!"

The Penguin watched the rest of the band step out of the Iceberg Lounge and into the early rainy morning. Once the doors were closed, his rounded shoulders slumped and he heaved a tired sigh. The dagger slipped back into the safety of the umbrella as he turned back around.

The waitress began rigorously wiping down the table she was at when he had spotted her again. She looked up from her work when her employer sat down at one of the tables next to the one she was cleaning.

He propped his elbows on the table and removed his monocle. He ran a hand over his round face and sat in silence for a moment, looking aged beyond his years. His dark eyes shifted over to where his female employee stood, staring at him with a concerned look on her face. "Even in actual retirement, I still cannot shake that odious name of mine," the ex-criminal said at length.

The waitress's eyes fell to the rag that was on the table before returning to the Penguin. "Nicknames have a way of sticking with people, Mr. Cobblepot," she said quietly.

A mirthless chuckle escaped from Cobblepot before he began wiping his monocle clean. "How true, how true…" he mumbled in response. Once his monocle was back in place, he looked back at the girl. "So, Miss Merryl, are we about ready to call it a morning?"

Merryl began moving the rag across the table again. "'A morning,' indeed. Just a few more tables, and then I'll be done."

"Excellent," the Penguin replied, reaching into his jacket for his pocket watch. It was just about a quarter to five. "Forty-five minutes after closing, and we're already set to close down for the day." His eyes lifted to Merryl again, a small smirk slowly appearing on his face. "You are getting to be quite good at closing, my dear."

The girl smiled and moved on to the next table. "Thank you, Mr. Cobble—"

She stopped short when a series of knocks sounded against the main entrance doors. She peered over at the entry before she glanced back at her boss.

Oswald Cobblepot stared at the front door with bored eyes, but made no effort to answer it. "Our hours are in plain sight out there; if our unpunctual friend in this dismal weather is of the literate sort, he will take his leave soon enough."

Merryl gave her employer a curious look, but slowly began wiping down the table she was at. Her eyes lifted once more when another round of knocks rang out, sounding more frantic this time.

She glanced over at Cobblepot when he huffed and lifted himself from his chair. He was muttering something under his breath as he moved toward the front door with the aid of his umbrella.

The Penguin reached the entrance as a third series of knocks began. "Patience, you nocturnal miscreant! I'm coming!"

He unlocked the many deadbolts on the entrance and finally opened the door no more than a few inches. "I apologize, but we have closed for the—" His breath caught in his throat and his eyes shot wide, making his monocle fall out of place. "Miss Quinn?!"

Standing on the doorstep to the Iceberg Lounge, shivering from the cold, stood Harley Quinn. Her arms were wrapped around herself and she was soaked head to toe in rainwater. Despite all the water that had drenched her harlequin costume, however, the dark discolorations were still clearly evident. Her red and black outfit had tears here and there, revealing open wounds and her bruising skin. One of the "ears" on her hood had been torn clean off, revealing her blonde hair. Her white face make-up was running, though the rain wasn't the only one to be at fault. The girl's eyes were red and watery.

"H-Hi, Ozzy…" she stammered in a small voice, attempting to crack a smile.

The Penguin blinked from his shocked state as she began to try to explain herself. He barely heard her and began to fumble for his monocle. "Gracious, my dear, what has that madman done to you this time?!"

Harley's voice trailed off at his exclamation. Her eyes fell to her feet and she bit her quivering bottom lip. "…I'm sorry to—"

She stopped short again when she felt his arm across her back and his flipper on her shoulder.

"Come in out of this weather!" Cobblepot said, practically dragging her into the Iceberg Lounge by his side. "We need to get you cleaned up. Merryl!"

The waitress across the room stiffened at the call of her name. "Yes, sir—?"

"Quickly retrieve the first-aid kit and some dry clothes," Oswald demanded as he and the shaking criminal walked by.

The girl took off without a word.

"Now," Cobblepot said quietly as he led Harley to the closest table, "go ahead and sit down. We must get you warmed up."

Harley silently obeyed and lowered herself with some difficulty into one of the chairs he had pulled out for her. Her eyes lifted from the table when she felt him drape something over her shoulders, something warm. She lightly fingered the fabric, but graciously welcomed the warmth.

"Ozzy," she finally began again, "I'm sorry to come here so late…but everyone else is in Arkham, and Red has been lying low for the past few weeks…I-I couldn't think of anywhere else to go! I'm so sorry…!"

Her eyes rose to him as he sat himself down in front of her. She realized that the cloth over her was the jacket he had previously been wearing, that warmth being his own. Her eyes lowered again when his eyes met with hers.

"There is nothing to be sorry about, my dear," Cobblepot said gently. "You know that you are always welcome here." He paused for a moment as his dark eyes lowered to the open wounds on her arms. "Let's take a look at those cuts."

As he cautiously reached for her arm, she shrunk back against the chair and brought her hands up toward her neck defensively. "Ozzy, please, I-I'm fine…" she said in a shaky voice, her eyes closing for a second.

They opened again when she felt his misshapen hand slip into hers. "Harley," the Penguin began gingerly, "I can't help you if you don't let me."

The two stared at each other for a moment, but that moment seemed to last for so much longer. Harley finally looked off to her left. "Okay…" she finally said.

A small smile appeared beneath Cobblepot's large nose and he gently patted her hand. "Thank you."

Harley pulled her hand back and looked at the retired villain. "But I'll do it," she said firmly. "I don't know how bad this is gonna hurt…"

The Penguin drew his hand away from her and nodded. "Fair enough."

After taking an uneasy breath, she slowly began rolling back her sleeve. She carefully maneuvered the fabric over her cut, wincing only slightly. "I think this is the worst one…" she mumbled.

Cobblepot readjusted his monocle and studied the slash intently. "It doesn't look too bad…" he said after a string of silence. He looked back up at her. "Did he hit your head at all?"

The woman shook her head slowly as her hands moved to her lap. "No, not my head…" she replied. Her eyes fell to her gloved hands when Oswald's expression grew more concerned.

"…what else did he do?" he finally asked. When she didn't reply, his brow furrowed and he leaned forward in his chair. "Harley, please remove your mask…"

She slightly curled into herself, pulling his jacket tighter around her damp and battered body. "I'd really rather not…" she replied in a small and quivering voice. A hand unconsciously lifted to her neck. After taking a shaky breath, she added "you already know what you'll find…"

The Penguin sat back, aghast and at a complete loss for words. All he could do was stare at the trembling mess before him. An onslaught of fury suddenly overwhelmed the small man. "How utterly barbaric!!"

Harley's head perked up with a start when she heard him yell without warning. Her eyes locked with him as he jumped from his seat as started pacing around the table, ranting.

"My God, what sort of person would ever inflict such harm on a woman, and then just…just discard her like a piece of garbage into this weather?! It's absolutely inhuman! I mean, I have never held that nefarious clown in the best regards on a moral level, but this is downright atrocious! The way he treats you is simply revolting!" He paused to catch his breath, finally ceasing his storming around the table.

The harlequin stared wide-eyed at the retired criminal, unable to think of what to say. She hesitantly swallowed the lump in her throat, cringing slightly, and looked back down. "What makes you so sure it was Mistah J? It could have been B-man… He's hit me before, too, y'know…"

Cobblepot peered over at her, his rage disappearing just as suddenly as it was brought on. "Yes, but he has never taken any life-threatening actions toward you," he answered in a collected manner. He exhaled heavily, looking down at the floor and his shoulders slumping again. "You really do deserve better," he said softly in the most genuine of tones.

The sheer honesty in his voice made Harley Quinn's eyes shoot wide. They darted to the squat man after he had turned back around. She slowly straightened in the chair, her eyes locked with this man.

He surveyed the empty lobby of his lounge, his back to his guest. "Where is that waitress? That first-aid kit shouldn't be this difficult to locate…" His dark eyes scanned the area again. "Was there anything else he did to you, my dear?" he asked Harley as he glanced back at her.

When he saw that she was trying to lift herself from her chair, he rushed back over. "Harley, dear, please stay in your seat," he began to say.

"Ozzy," Quinn interrupted, leaning on the table to keep her stable. Her eyes rose from the ground to the short man, becoming watery again. She swallowed again and took shaky breaths. "Ozzy, I don't know how many times I've heard that from Red… but I never thought I'd hear it from anyone else…" She paused briefly to pull his jacket tighter around her. "How long have you thought this?"

The Penguin brought his flippers together somewhat nervously, but continued to look her straight in the eye. "…W-Well, shortly after I made your acquaintance, I made the discovery that you had used to be a psychologist, but he had…transformed you, in a way." He brought his hands to his sides. "I've known the self-proclaimed Clown Prince of Crime for years, and I know he is a dangerous and manipulative man. How he was able to turn his own doctor into an accomplice… You are just a tool to him, like everyone else he's ever worked with."

As Harley's eyes slowly fell from him to the ground again, Cobblepot continued. "Miss Isley may be the only one who will openly say that to him, but I'm positive that any other fellow rogue with a moral fiber in their body would agree. And she isn't the only one who worries and cares about you, I'll have you know…"

He looked off to his left, a flash of mild irritation appearing in his eyes. "What on Earth can be taking that girl so long? We really must tend to your—"

He was cut short when he felt her arms wrap around his round shoulder as far as they could. His entire form went rigid as he felt her damp body press against his.

She buried her face into his shoulder as she embraced him tightly. She put all of her strength into that hug, clinging to him. Tears fell freely from her eyes, running over her black mask and being absorbed into his dress shirt. She wept softly into him, never letting go.

Cobblepot stared down at her head in shock, a surprised expression clearly written across his face. He slowly began to relax his shoulders and his tension dissipated. His face fell into an empathetic expression as he sluggishly returned the embrace. "It's alright," he shushed her gently, patting her on the back softly.

The sound of high-heels against the hard ground echoed through the lobby, moving rapidly through the empty Iceberg Lounge. Merryl appeared around a corner with a change of clothes in one arm and a tray on the other, carrying the first-aid kit and a steaming cup. "I'm sorry it took so long," she said breathlessly. "I ran to the kitchen to make some—"

She came to a halting stop when she saw her boss and the battered criminal hugging. She would have smiled if the Penguin hadn't shot her an uncomfortable look. She began walking toward the table as quietly as possible and set the tray on the table.

"It's alright," Oswald Cobblepot whispered again. "You can stay here for as long as you need."

A/N: This idea just kind of hit me the other night...I'm still not entirely sure why. The Penguin is surprisingly fun to write for, especially his dialogue. And Harley...that poor girl. Rated T for domestic violence.