Louder Than Words

Author's Note: Written for the livejournal batfic_contest prompt "Hesitation" in less than 500 words; first posted there on 15 February 2010.

"Ms Quinzel, it's of vital importance that we identify which school the Joker has targeted. The lives of hundreds – maybe thousands – of children are at stake here. Innocent children."

Commissioner Gordon stared at the woman sat across from him at the table, who with smeared facepaint and a petulant expression looked very child-like herself. The handcuffs that secured one petite wrist to the chair did much to dispel that impression.

"Come on Harleen, we know you don't really want to hurt anyone." He smiled encouragingly. "You're not like him, you're just a little… misguided. So why don't you tell us where to find the Joker now and we can stop this."

The small figure stared sulkily down at her lap and scuffed one foot against the floor.

"Due to 'lack of mental competency' I'm not s'posed to be questioned without an appropriately qualified psychiatric professional bein' present."

"This isn't formal questioning, Harleen. You're not being charged with anything and you'll be transferred to Arkham for medical evaluation as soon as appropriate transport can be arranged." Gordon leant forward, willing her to engage with him. "But time is very much against us now Joker is aware we're on to his plan, and lives are at stake. We wanted to give you the opportunity to make a difference – to do some good."

"I got nothin' to say to you bozos, so take a hike." She nodded in the direction of a shadowy figure in the corner of the room. "An' don't let the door catch your cape on the way out."

Batman stepped forward into the light. "Harleen, Joker left you behind. Again."

"Yeah? And who's fault was that, bustin' my ankle with that stupid Bat-rope-thing?" Her voice rose in anger as she stared defiantly at the masked man, then she lowered her eyes once more to fidget with the metal encircling her wrist. "I should sue you for assault," she muttered.

"We don't have time for this, Harleen. The catering factory you were apprehended at supplies dozens of schools in the east district, but Joker wouldn't bother targeting somewhere insignificant." Batman narrowed his eyes as her fidgeting increased. "He'd go for one of the prestigious private schools, like Lakeside, or for one of the larger public schools like Robert Kane High..."

The momentary flash of recognition in her eyes was unmistakable.

"Robert Kane High?" Gordon asked, reaching for his cellular phone.

"…no. No-sir-ee. Never been there – never even heard of it!"

The guilty second of hesitation was enough, and both men turned for the door.

"That's not fair!" she whined, stamping her uninjured foot on the floor and breaking into a choking sob. "I was good an' didn't say anythin', but now Mistah J's gonna be so mad at me…"

They left quickly, Gordon calling despatch and Batman plotting the quickest route across the city, not looking back to notice the dry eyes and sly smile as Harley anticipated the fun her Puddin' would have when he sprung the waiting trap.

Author's Note: I was mulling the "lack of mental competency" line in my head and wanted to expand it into something, so came up with this! Again, maybe I'm just a bit twisted but a sulky Harley quoting her legal status and rights seemed kinda cute.

I produce as co-inspiration both the Dark Knight interrogation scene and a little throwaway panel from the "Laughter After Midnight" short in the BTAS Annual #1, where Joker phones Harley for a lift and she's handcuffed to a table surrounded by cops trying to get her to ask Joker where he is (notably he doesn't think that's a reasonable excuse not to come and pick him up). Always one of my fave stories!