I wanted to do a light-hearted Christmas story, and this is what I came up with. Hope it roasts your chestnuts and melts your magic talking, walking snowmen.
Summary: Harley feels that the Scarecrow hasn't embraced the Christmas spirit, and decides to take matters into her own hands. She decorates her heart out, bringing all the cheer she can to the Scarecrow's lair. Can he avoid killing her over it?
The winter wind tore at his shabby coat, finding every tear and ragged patch. For all the protection his pants offered, he might as well have been wearing swimming trunks. Despite the knit hat pulled down at far as it would stretch on his head, his ears felt like they were developing frostbite. Granulated snow and ice pellets stung what little exposed skin he offered to the elements and the drifts accumulated on the ground hampered his walking. The weather was a nightmare, something that belonged in the frozen tundra of Siberia or the ice-shelves of Antarctica.
Despite the Russian weather, people still lined the sidewalks and cars crammed the streets. With only a few days left to Christmas, nothing was going to deter them from the sales. The lost continent of Atlantis could rise out of the harbor, and most shoppers would hardly give it a second glance unless it promised cheap toys and bonus discounts on jewelry.
Crane was no great fan of humanity during the best of times. When thousands of people crowded the sidewalk he was trying to trudge home on, he hated the human race. When those thousands of people had in tow children and packages that kept bumping into him, the Scarecrow developed a hatred that burned with such fervor it was surprising he didn't grab the presents from the next person he saw and stomp them into the snow.
A woman carrying nearly her own weight in stuffed shopping bags and boxes struck Crane on the back of the head with a wayward bag. She made no attempt to apologize or even to look at whom she had hit. As discreetly as possible among a crowd of witnesses, he gave her a small dose of fear toxin. The gust of wind that blew down his sleeve when he stopped clutching himself long enough to attack almost nullified the shopper's terrified reaction. Almost.
For the first few seconds, she hardly reacted and Crane feared the wind had dispersed the gas before the dreadful woman had inhaled. Then she dropped her baggage, swatted madly at something invisible, and dashed into the jammed street. By some Christmas miracle, the shrieking woman made it successfully to the other side without anyone running her down. The Scarecrow considered her safe crossing a shame.
"Holy. Shit. That's when you know you bought enough stuff." Someone in the crowd said.
"Maybe she just realized how high her bill will be in January. Yowza, I hope I didn't spend that much."
"Isn't anyone going to help her? Or call the police?" Ah, senseless outrage. Crane loved it, especially when it was utterly ignored.
Leaving the sole concerned pedestrian to call for help, the Scarecrow pushed his way past with the rest of the sheep. His current hole in the wall hideout was several blocks ahead, and if he wanted to get there before he froze to the ground, he'd have to get a move on. Besides, the farther he was from the scene of the crime, the less likely it would be that anyone, be it pig or bat, would locate him.
After enduring ten more minutes of subzero wind chills, Crane ducked into an alley. The throng had thinned somewhat, many people either entering apartment buildings or a parking lot that had been filled to capacity and beyond. Nobody noticed the absence of an unusually tall, scrawny fellow wearing thrift-store clothing and that was just the way the Scarecrow needed it.
The alley was dark, as alleys in Gotham tended to be. Normal, sane people didn't venture into alleys for any reason because normal, sane people knew that abnormal, insane people liked to lurk in dark places. Crane didn't consider himself insane, merely ethically apathetic, but he was dangerous enough to stroll any lightless place he so chose. Or so he had dared to believe.
Someone or something tackled him. He had no time to prepare or defend himself. By the time Crane thought to douse the assailant with fear toxin, the bastard had him pinned to the ground.
"Get off of me and I will consider letting you live!"
"Really, Professor? That's so nice of you!"
"Harley? Harleen Quinzel, what are you doing assaulting me?"
"It ain't assault, it's a hug. A Christmas hug."
"I hate Christmas and I hate hugs. Let me go so I can vomit in disgust."
The perky clown squeezed him harder, as though he was a puppy or some plush toy and not the Master of Fear. Crane grunted as his ribs were pressed to the breaking point.
After crushing him for what felt like an hour and a half, Harley let him go. The Scarecrow could only vaguely make her out in the alley's darkness, but he could tell from the hug that she wasn't wearing much in the way of winter clothing. Her coat felt even lighter than his own beaten rag.
"What are you doing out in this cold, child? Aren't you aware of the dangers of frostbite? Do you want me to tell you about them?"
"No. I heard through some unnamed sources that you didn't even have a Christmas tree, so I came to investigate." Harley replied.
"Have you been inside my lair? Harley, you must learn about personal space and boundaries! You can't waltz into everyone's home the way you do your own. It's dangerous; you never know what booby traps one of our kind might have rigged." Crane admonished.
Harley laughed. "Professor, any ol' crook in this town could get into your lair. I'm sorta surprised you even locked the front door!"
"Don't insult my intelligence or my security. And don't break into my home and molest my property. I've got enough problems without adding clowns."
"I, uh, might have all ready done some of that stuff. With your property, I mean."
That was all the Scarecrow needed to hear. Without a farewell, he dashed down the alley until coming to an unremarkable, heavily rusted metal door. He fished around in his pocket for his key, only to find he didn't need it. The door was unlocked; that was a bad sign if there ever was one.
"I kinda broke the lock by accident," Harley said. She had apparently followed him, just wanting to see the look on his face when he confronted whatever abomination she had created.
"Child, you'd be wise to back away a few feet."
Harley obediently backed up. She was still smiling, oblivious to the venom in the Scarecrow's tones. If the Professor was mad over the lock, she was sure the work she did would change his frown right around.
Dreading what he was about to see, Crane stepped into his lair and flicked on the lights. They were slow to come on, and a few outright refused to respond. That was what happened when you made your hideout in abandoned hovels.
When he had left a few hours early to see a man about a batch of chemicals, the lair had been utterly pristine. The test tubes and beakers had been neatly arranged, the chemistry books had stood like old soldiers in a perfect alphabetical row, and the walls and floors had been as clean as possible considering the location. Everything had had a place, and everything had been in that assigned place.
Now it looked like an army of hyperactive school children armed with a limitless supply of glitter, paper, tape, glue, red and green streamers and markers had been set loose. The entire room was decorated with the most garish ornamentations Crane could imagine. Blinking lights hung from the ceiling and wrapped around the legs of his work table like bejeweled snakes. Cutouts of Santa Claus had been taped to the wall. Giant snowflakes created a blizzard out of an entire section of his home. Plastic reindeer, one with a red nose, grazed together in a corner.
"Oh my God."
"Is that a good 'oh my God' or a bad 'oh my God'?" Harley asked.
"Have you written your last will and testament?"
"Uh, I'll take that as a bad 'oh my God'."
"Why? Why did you do this? I thought you were one of the few people on this world who didn't hate me!"
Harley gasped. "Professor, I don't hate you! I did this 'cause you're my friend and I felt bad for you nor celebratin' or nothin'."
"I never celebrate Christmas! I never have, and will never want to,"
"Then what do you celebrate? Oh, crud. You do the whole Chanukah thing, huh? I can take down the Santa and get a dreidel or somethin'."
"I don't celebrate Chanukah, either." Crane hissed.
"Does that even dignify a response? I celebrate nothing. Except Halloween, and we both know how I do that."
"But how can you celebrate nothin'? I ain't talkin' about Jesus or that stuff. I'm talkin' about Santa and presents and Christmas movies that make you warm and fuzzy inside. Don't you even like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer?" Harley asked.
"Do you know makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside? Screams of anguish and fear. If you could show me a movie where Santa was in the grips of terror, I might consider changing my mind."
"What about The Nightmare Before Christmas?"
"Leave my home, please. And take as much of this festive cancer as you can with you."
Harley plodded over to the wall of enormous paper snowflakes and began to pull them from the wall. "Oh boy, Harl, you really screwed up this time. The Professor just wants his privacy, and you go and do all this to him."
Crane watched with satisfaction as the blizzard diminished to a flurry. As Harley was pulling down the last of the flakes, the Scarecrow began to hear a bizarre noise. It took him only seconds to pin it on the clown.
"Are you, are you crying? Harley, there's no need to cry over it."
"But I tried to make your Christmas nice and you hate it! I should've just minded my own business."
The Scarecrow winced. Normally, he liked it when people cried; it meant they were terrified to tears. Harley's tears, however, just triggered guilt. He hated guilt: that was why he tried to experience it as little as possible.
"It isn't that bad. I was looking for a little color, anyway. Gray cinderblock can wear on even a dedicated fan of monochromatic color schemes."
"You're just lyin' to make me feel better. There's not one thing here that you really like." Harley sobbed.
Crane hastily scanned the hideously decorated room. Paper Santa Claus? No, he hated that jolly, bearded hippo. Gingerbread house? He was quite sure he was allergic to ginger. Three-foot-tall plastic tree covered in oversized balls? A sin against mankind.
Carefully wrapped presents under the tree? Interesting.
"The presents. I like them. I've never gotten actual presents before."
Harley changed moods with all the speed and dexterity of a hormonal teenager. Her aquifer of tears dried up and her smile re-emerged. "You do? I tried really hard to think of somethin' you'd like. You're not an easy guy to shop, er, steal for."
"Lovely. What did you finally decide on?"
The blonde gasped. "Professor! You know I can't tell you! You gotta wait for Christmas morning, and then you can open 'em and see."
"Isn't that a bit childish?" Crane asked.
"If you lay one hand on those gifts, I'll send Mister J over here and he'll knock you out cold 'til Christmas."
The Scarecrow knew better than to doubt her. She was insane, after all.
"You have my word. I won't lay a single finger on any of my presents until Christmas. Thank you for giving them to me. Leave the rest of the…decorations. They add to the atmosphere."
Harley dropped her armload of snowflakes and hurled herself at the Scarecrow. She enveloped him in a hug Bane or Killer Croc would have been hard-pressed to outdo.
"Merry Christmas, Professor Crane! I gotta go before Mister J drinks all the eggnog and gets sick, like last year. And remember, don't open them or else."
With that, Harley pranced through the door, careful to pull it shut behind her. The Scarecrow could only hope nobody else would enter thanks to the loss of his lock.
Once Harley had disappeared into the frigid night, Crane sat down on a rickety stool. He looked long and hard at everything Harley had dragged into his lair. She had, in the span of mere hours, turned a functioning chemical weapons laboratory into Christmas Town. If he wasn't so disgusted by it all, he would have been impressed.
The lights, the tree, the presents, the elves, the glitter and shimmer, the presents, the reindeer herd, the presents, the poinsettias, the presents, the gingerbread, the presents, the presents, the presents.
He seemed to have developed an obsession. Despite all the other festive crap she had strung across his home, the few small, wrapped boxes kept drawing his attention. He wanted to know their contents. He needed to know their contents. He couldn't wait three more days, yet he had to.
Oh, the wait was going to be agony. Delicious, horrible, joyous, cruel, merry old agony.
Happy holidays, folks, no matter what you do or don't celebrate.