Two pitiful knocks on the door and Poison Ivy didn't need to know who it was. Batman wouldn't have knocked, Catwoman had absolutely no interest whatsoever in coming over, and any member of the Gotham police force would have easily succumbed to the toxic levels of the environment by now. Ruling out all of those options, there was only one person it could be.
Ivy opened the door, expecting to find her hapless friend, Harley Quinn smiling sappily, sporting all of her belongings and eager to be let into Ivy's life once again. What she saw instead was enough to make her gasp.
Harley was at the door indeed, but all radiance in her was gone. Her eyes were squinting as if she could barely keep them open, and they seemed to have a rather vacant and empty look about them. Her cheeks were dirty, not thankfully covered with bruises like usual, but with soot, indicating that she had been traveling through Gotham's grimy alleyways. Her hair was messy and her blonde pigtails seemed to be drooping with utter fatigue. She looked exhausted, more exhausted than Ivy had ever seen her before.
"Hey, Red," she murmured tiredly, and Ivy could hear the rough scratchiness of her throat when she talked; the labored breathing that she was issuing wearily.
"What in Gaia's name happened to you?!"
Harley stumbled into the house, barely able to walk in a straight line. Ivy had to help her to the couch.
"I escaped from Arkham," she rasped hollowly. "Got out through the laundry shoot again."
"Yes, but what's happened to you? Did you come all this way to my place? In the rain at that?"
Harley nodded, her pigtails bouncing.
"I couldn't take it anymore, Red. I couldn't take all their questions…all their lies to me about Mistah J. I got out so that I wouldn't have to listen to them anymore. When I got out though, I looked and looked everywhere for Puddin' but I couldn't find him. So, I walked the whole way here, rain or not, Batman on my tail for days."
She collapsed in a spasm of coughs then, clutching at her side in pain.
"Harley, you're clearly sick and exhausted. You need to get to bed. When's the last time you've slept?"
"…'bout a day ago in an alleyway. Couldn't very long though…Batman's chasing after me…chasing…chasing…"
She trailed off, her eyes becoming more and more unfocused as Ivy reached forward to feel her forehead. It was terribly warm; almost enough to make Ivy want to shrink back from the heat.
"Harl, you're running a temperature. A big fever, probably. Come on, let's get you into the bathtub and bathe you so that you'll feel better before going to bed."
She helped Harley get to her feet, leading her down the narrow hallway. Harley's feet seemed to be dragging limply, signifying just how much she had been using them in the past few days.
"So," Harley whispered weakly. "Does this mean you'll let me stay, Red? Not sore with me?"
"Of course, I'll let you stay! Do you really think I'm about to let you go wandering around the city by yourself in this condition?"
Harley smiled contentedly, nuzzling Ivy as they walked.
"Hush," Ivy commanded. "Don't talk anymore. It sounds like your throat is very sore. A warm bath will help you feel better."
She led her frail friend towards the bathroom, carefully supporting her exhausted body.
"Do you think you can wash yourself, or do you need me to help you?"
"I think I can do it, Red. Just let me do it."
"Right. When you're done, wrap a towel around yourself and meet me in the bedroom. I'll have some clothes for you to change into and then you can go to bed. I also might have some herbs to help bring down the fever."
Harley nodded halfheartedly and stepped into the bathroom, closing the door behind her. Faintly, the sound of running water was heard from inside the room.
Sighing, Ivy laid out some clean clothes onto the bed, biting her lower lip in thought. Harley had come back to her yet again and while it was good that it had been her and not the Joker, it meant that Batman would no doubt now be on her trail, eventually capturing both of them in the process.
"Well then, let him come," Ivy said to herself defiantly. "I that pathetic rat even dares to come here, I'll unleash everything I've got."
Eventually, she tired of waiting for Harley and went to go see her progress on the bathing. She found Harley apathetically drying herself off, her peach-colored skin pinker from the heat of the shower. Harley smiled and waved at her limply, her hair plastered wetly to her forehead. She didn't seem to look any better though; her eyes still had that vacant and exhausted look to them and she was still breathing with difficulty.
"Come, let's get you into some clothes."
Harley followed her sluggishly down the hall towards the bedroom, wobbling slightly from the soreness in her legs.
Ivy dressed her, helping her into the clean nightshirt, glad to see Harley finally out of that wretched asylum outfit that they were forced to wear.
"How is it? Fit fine?"
"Yeah, I guess. Thanks for lending it to me R…R…Red……"
Suddenly, and without warning, Harley's knees buckled and she collapsed on the floor, coughing and heaving with great discomfort. Ivy rushed down to her side and helped her to her feet, feeling greatly concerned: Harley was worse than she thought.
"Red…I think I need to throw up."
"Alright. Let's get you back to the bathroom."
Harley was in there for ten minutes, Ivy listening outside with deep distress. When she reappeared, her pupils were more dilated than before and she was warmer than ever-the sign that the fever was at it's worst.
"Did that make you feel any better, Harl?"
"Oh sure, Red. You know me, always emptying out my guts! Just like that time when me and Mistah J were riding on that killer roller coaster at one of our carnival hideouts, do you remember that? Oh, wait, that's right, you weren't there. I forgot…"
Harley's speech pattern seemed to be scrambled and all over the place, indicating the first signs of delirium. A cold sweat seemed to have come over her features.
"Harley, go lay down on the bed, I'll bring an elixir for you to drink that'll make you feel better."
"Sure thing, Red. Something nice ta drink…like acid, oh wait, you can't drink acid or can you? Can you drink acid rain? I mean, isn't it technically water?"
Harley's feverish ramblings continued on as she shuffled back to the bedroom.
Ten minutes later, Ivy returned with a clear liquid, nonplussed to see the sickly blonde sobbing in a tight ball on the bed.
"Oh, Red! Everything hurts! My head feels like it's splitting open and I ache all over! Where's Puddin'? Where is Mistah J and why couldn't I find him? I want him, Red…I want my Mistah J!"
"Calm down, Harley," Ivy soothed softly as she brought Harley's burning head to look up to her. "Drink this and you'll feel much better. I promise."
Harley's eyes seemed to focus briefly with understanding and she downed the liquid without a complaint. Then she lay down on the bed, trembling slightly from the fever.
"I miss him, Red. I missed him so much when I was in Arkham. When I found all the old hideouts empty and abandoned, I felt miserable…almost as miserable as I feel now."
"Well, you're with Ivy now and I'll see to it that your pain is lessened. You won't get the same care from the Joker like the kind I can give you, anyway."
There was a silence and briefly, Ivy thought that Harley had gone to sleep at last. The quietness was broken however, when Harley spoke again, her voice barely a whisper.
"Red. Why do you care so much? How come you went out of your way to take care of me like this?"
Ivy smiled tenderly down at the blonde and stroked her sweaty locks, twirling them with her fingers.
"You probably won't remember this on account of your fever, but try to remember anyway: I look after you Harley. I can't have you dying on me. You're clumsy, scatterbrained and unbearably immature, but you're the only human in this world that I actually value."
"Red…Red…I'm glad I came. You're so great, Red…"
"Hush, now," Ivy whispered soothingly. "You go to sleep. You'll be feeling much better when you wake up."
And finally, Harley's eyes closed peacefully. She let out a slow and steady exhale and slept at last, her face tranquil and relieved from the pain of her sickness. In the moonlight, she looked like a sleeping night angel.
Sighing contently, Ivy pulled up a chair by the bedside and sat there, watching her friend for a very long time.