Harley sat bolt upright. It was no use- she couldn't sleep. Her hand shook underneath the red sheet on the bed, and she drew her face into her chest, trying to compress her sobs. She shuddered, a cold chill racing up her back. She hadn't bothered to change upon their return from the theatre; what would be the point? She'd only have to get dressed again tomorrow.
Harley glanced at the cot in the corner of the room, illuminated only by the glare of police helicopters raging above Arkham City. They'd come for her soon, she was sure. They would barge in here with their guns and their brawn and drag her back to that horrible place.
Harley hated her cell in Arkham; it was cold and dark and smelled like old socks. She thought about how lonely she'd be and shuddered. At one time she'd had a friend in there- his name was Mr. Wesker and he'd been a ventriloquist. He would make Harley laugh when she was missing her Puddin' by using his skills to make it sound as if the guards were saying funny things. Harley had been very sad when he'd been transferred to Blackgate and declared 'sane'. He was probably here in Arkham City- just like Red was- but she hadn't seen him yet. She wished he was here now.
Harley hadn't thought much about the police taking her in until that moment- she'd only wanted her puddin' back. She had slumped to the floor screaming outside the Monarch theatre, and would never have moved were it not for Spider, the Joker's semi-favourite henchman, lifting her and poking her back towards the steel mill before Gordon's cops could swarm. There had been cheers as the entourage had walked in, but they soon diminished as it was realised that Joker wasn't with them. Harley had dragged herself up the stairs and into her and Mr. J's room, had lay down on the bed, and this was the first time she'd moved since.
And where were the Hyenas?! They'd been missing for nearly a week. Poor Bud and Lou, out there all alone. Joker had laughed that they might have been devoured by Killer Croc, if he really was down in the sewers- since then, Harley hadn't been able to get the thought out of her mind. Poor Babies. Poor Joker.
Standing, Harley kicked at the scatter of failed pregnancy tests as she made her way over to the baby crib. Her mechanically designed boots crunched the glass screens of the pregnancy tests, making their ' - ' signs of failure less readable.
"Out of sight, out of your mind," she whispered, quoting one of Joker's many warped sayings. He'd used that one when he'd blinded one of the prison guards at Arkham by gouging out his eyes with a plastic fork. The thought made Harley grimace slightly, but her Puddin' always knew what he was doing. That fork episode has got him a good few months in sollitary, so no-one could see his health deteriorating from the Titan formulae he'd subjected himself to that night when they'd taken over the asylum.
Harley glanced at the outfit she'd worn- she'd managed to smuggle it out the night she and Joker had made their escape into Arkham City. The nurse-esque style seemed more appropriate here than back there- after all, she'd spent her time here in Arkham City trying her very best to help Joker get better. And it hadn't worked.
Silent tears began to roll down Harley's face as she attempted to put those thoughts aside, and reached down for the mutated ventriloquist's dummy sat inside the cot and cradled it in her arms.
"Hushaby baby, on the tree top..." she sang a little less than half-heartedly, "don't say a word... momma's gonna buy you a... a..."
Her sentence trailed off as she looked again at the pregnancy tests, all but one reading negative. She'd never felt so alone before. Her last chance of holding onto part of Mr. J was extinguished.
Harley let out a breathy sob and looked down at the doll in her arms. Mr. J had loved this puppet. Not more than he loved her, of course, but she sometimes felt strangely jealous when the two of them would sit together in the corner of the room, laughing raucously over some private joke Harley had no right to be involved with. She'd managed to get rid of the first one by 'dropping' him into a smelting vat. She had felt a little bit bad about it because Mr. Wesker had always talked about the puppet and Harley knew he'd be very upset about her killing him, but he had to go. He was more trouble than he was worth, and everybody knows three's a crowd in a relationship.
Unfortunately for Harley, though, Mugsy Binks- some stick that'd been holed up at Blackgate Prison before being transferred over to Arkham City- showed up at the steel mill one day with a box full of 'em. Harley had carelessly destroyed the next one in a wood chipper, and by the time she'd accidentally set off a round of explosives downstairs, and in doing so destroyed the third of Mugsy's Scarfaces, she was quite sure her Puddin' was beginning to suspect something. She'd then found out that Mugsy's supply of puppets was in fact inexhaustible, as he'd been carving each one himself. Binks was swiftly sent away on a suicide mission to steal some supplies from Penguins men. Safe to say, no one had heard from Mugsy Binks since. He was either dead, Harley guessed, or Batman had got to him; maybe a bit of both.
No more Mugsy. No more Scarface. Good riddance, she'd thought. But now, looking down at the limp puppet curled in her arms, she felt glad she hadn't gotten around to melting him with an acid flower or "accidentally" splintering him with her mallet.
Harley blinked as she sat back down on the bed, still cradling the garishly-painted Scarface, and rocked him back and forth in her arms numbly.
"Patta-cake, patty-cake, baker's man..."
There was a groan of metal and Harley raised her head to the door. She wiped away her mascara tears as it opened.
"Harley?" Said a voice- Spider.
"Oh- hi, Spider," Harley replied without looking at him- her eyes were welling.
"You okay?" he asked, moving a string of brightly-coloured bunting from his eye line as to enter the room more easily.
Harley stood, putting down her puppet without answering the question; she looked at Spider and smiled with as much strength as she could muster. She didn't want to- couldn't- talk about what had happened. It hurt enough to be thinking about it constantly.
"Did you find my babies yet?" She said, setting Scarface delicately back down in his cot.
"Urh... yeah. It's not good, Harley."
"What's happened to them?!" Harley cried, her eyes beginning to stream again.
The henchman shifted uneasily, clearly unsure how to word his response.
"They got shot," Spider said eventually.
There was a sickening pause for a moment, then Harley cracked.
"Nooo!" She wailed, throwing herself face-down onto the quilt and sobbing again.
"Oh, Bud, Lou! My poor babies... and- and my Puddin', my poor Puddin'! Why, Spider, why is this happening?!"
"They're in the Penguin's museum," says Spider, awkwardly dismissing her question, "he's got 'em stuffed in one of them glass cage things he's got. We got inside and... there's one made for you. And one for Joker."
"What?" Choked Harley, her face still buried in the covers. "W- what for?!"
"Uhh... he was gonna stuff J or somethin', if he'd got his hands on him. And you... I dunno, said somethin' about minutes of entertainment or somethin' like that. Sommat about cuttin' your head off and- um- stickin' it on one of them intercom things you've got around the place."
A choked mix of anger and tearfulness came from Harley as she briefly attempted to sit up. Failing, she flayed her arms against the bed sheets and lay atop them, exhausted.
Spider's footsteps cautiously crossed the room and the lock of the door clicked. Harley paid no attention, mentally tortured by the last few hours.
Or was it the last few days? The last few months?! Things seemed to have been getting worse day by day- Mr. J's illness, the babies disappearing, conditions in Arkham City. The men had begun to complain about the lack of real food; it seemed candy floss and corn dogs wasn't the most balanced diet. But it was all they had- food drop-offs were becoming less and less frequent, and the chances of actually acquiring the food was less than 50/50. With Penguin's Birds running around the place and the stragglers of Two-Face's old crew, not to mention the few guys around who'd kept themselves to themselves and not signed up with anybody, the Clown's food supply had been limited to only what had been looted from the various carts and stalls Joker had taken from the old Gotham fairground. J had laughed and said that the Hyenas were better off missing, as the men would only have eaten them anyway. At this Harley had become very paranoid and had questioned almost all of the Clowns via the Harley Head intercoms. The truth felt far worse.
"You okay?" Said Spider's voice, and Harley flinched, all but forgetting he was there.
"Yeah," she lied into her fingerless gloves, "I'll be fine."
"Yeah." It was harder to lie this time.
"Good." Spider sat on the end of the bed, his hands held in his lap.
"It must be hard for you," he said, placing a broad hand on Harley's shoulder.
He was a tough-skinned man, with the hardened face to match and unforgiving features. The tendrils of a spider web tattoo climbed up his thick neck and down one muscular arm, giving him his nickname. A deep gash splintered his eyebrow, a scar from long ago. Joker had thrown a sharp-cornered metal alarm clock at him, Harley seemed to remember, after some crack about time flying when you're having fun.
"Losing Joker," Spider said, bringing Harley back to the real world, "everything that's happened in the last few months..."
"Hey!" exclaimed Harley, pulling away as she felt Spider's hand trail from her shoulder down to her waist, "what do you think you're-!"
Without another word, the henchman grabbed hold of Harley and pulled her to him, smashing his lips against hers in a forceful kiss.