Cost Benefit Analysis, or Who Needs Primitive Biological Urges Anyway?

Author's Note: Written for the livejournal batfic_contest prompt "Fight or Flight" in less than 500 words; first posted there on 12 January 2010.

In the early days Harley would often find herself flat on her butt on the floor, holding a bloody nose, and only then realise something had gone wrong.

She knew he didn't mean it – not always. Her Puddin' was the archetypal tortured genius, and who could blame him if he sometimes felt compelled to lash out at the world that had treated him so cruelly? If she wanted to be close to him and to truly embrace all of his brilliance, she needed to accept that.

Sure the cops and doctors, the Bat-bunch and even Pammy might tut and shake their heads; muttering about this-syndrome, so-and-so dependence and pasty-faced-creeps-who-just-aren't-worth-it, but they didn't see the big picture.

And so, as time passed, she learnt some of the warning signs.

It could be the sound of his voice, dripping with fury cold enough to freeze her in her tracks. Yelling her name from across the expanse of the Ha-hacidena or whispering the direst threats an inch from her ear; tickling and terrifying all at the same time.

It could be the look in his eyes as the rage flared; hot enough to blister anything in his gaze. A fleeting glance would leave her scalded and raw, tears evaporating as soon as they were shed.

Sometimes it was nothing more than a sense; a staticy feeling that made the hair on the back of her neck stand on end, warning of the approaching storm. She would wake to find a brooding figure hunched next to her in bed, all grinding teeth and red-rimmed eyes, or she would hear the sudden, pained cry of a hench who foolishly decided to play pinball next to the office when he was in the middle of his latest and greatest scheme.

Her heart would race and her gut would tighten, millions of years of biological self-preservation kicking in. Fight or flight, it told her.

But what kind of options were those? She wasn't Harvey – confined within a black-or-white, heads-or-tails choice. And her Puddin' wasn't a hungry sabre-toothed tiger. Since when did she have to be governed by primitive biological urges? (Feelings she got when he was walking around without a shirt on, or without pants – basically any feelings related to his half-nakedness – aside.)

And so she blocked her ears to evolutionary instructions, turning towards her Puddin' during his most furious, mostly deadly and most tormented moments.

If he noticed that she always stood her ground – even approached him – when he was in the midst of rage or seething towards an undirected outburst of frustration, then he didn't mention it.

And others might still just see a broken bone, a split lip. They saw all the cost but none of the gain.

But as she found herself curled up against him on a ratty old couch, watching re-run news reports of the carnage a few well-placed gas bombs could produce, one of his gloved hands lazily stroking her hair: she declared it a price worth paying.

Author's Note: I'll just leave this as one view of things in a small, drabble-length box.