If words are sandwiched between two hyphens that seemingly shouldn't be there, it's because that word or phrase should be crossed out, but this site prohibits me from doing so.
Harley Quinn whirled around, deeply startled. Whenever she lost sense of her surroundings, she was absolutely oblivious to what was going on around her. Quickly approaching her from the other end of the hall was Jack White, a previous victor of the Hunger Games. A few strands of his shaggy blond hair fell onto his face, almost covering up his piercing green eyes. His skin was abnormally white due to an accident he faced from the Games. Further altering his appearance were several jagged scars that marred his flesh. Jack's lips started twitching slightly, causing the emotional girl to wonder what his smile looked like. In the end, she came to one obvious conclusion about him.
He was -handsome- a monster.
She couldn't possibly afford to be rude. After all, he was surprisingly deadly. "Hello, Mistah J," she greeted unsurely. Ever since she was a little girl, she had had a little twang in her voice.
Jack cackled. "Nobody's ever addressed me so formally before! It's such a… sickening feeling. Sweetheart, call me Jack. Speaking of which, what's your name?"
The nervous blonde answered, "Harleen Quinzel, but everybody calls me Harley."
Jack pondered this for a few moments. "Harley… You know, if you rework it a bit, you get Harlequin."
"Are you saying I look like a clown?" scoffed Harley, placing her hands on her hips.
He released a fake gasp. "Me? Never! You're too pretty to even be considered a clown!"
Harley blushed slightly. Nobody has ever called her pretty before. Sure, she got the occasional glance-over from guys, but it didn't mean anything to her. The looks didn't make her feel truly wanted. And, boy, did she want to feel wanted… and not by petty perverts like Seymour.
"So… Harley, how 'bout I buy you a drink?"
"Oh, I can't," she exclaimed. "I'm not old enough to drink."
Jack squinted, studying her appearance more closely. "How old are you, exactly?"
He seemed genuinely surprised by this answer. "Well, that sure didn't stop me."
-His offer was so tempting.- He was planning on luring her in and killing her where nobody would see or find her.
"Even so, I have to stick around here. If I'm gone, they might think that one of their precious tributes has been kidnapped or something."
Jack's eyes narrowed, instantly darkening. He abhorred the creators of the Hunger Games with a wild passion. Sure, it allowed him to get away from his hellhole of a home, but it scarred him beyond repair. It dredged up such bitter memories, especially when he was poisoned. Those two days were, perhaps, the most painful he'd ever endured. It was when his sanity reached the breaking point and fully cracked.
"Do you honestly think they give a rat's ass about you? They're pitting you against other children to die! It's not some fucking play date that you get to walk away from! You're dispensable and they bloody well know it. All they care about are their stupid Games!" he bellowed bitterly.
He exuded such passion. -He must be a great lover in bed.- She hardly knew the guy and could already tell that he truly considered his thoughts and beliefs. Every minute detail was calculated and used to his advantage. Miraculously, he wasn't some old stick in the mud like Vic Sage, a man from her district known as the Question that always obsessed over ludicrous conspiracy theories, such as how District 13 wasn't annihilated contrary to popular belief.
"Who's to say you won't poison me?"
Jack chortled merrily. "Darling, all of the poisons in my possession are reserved for certain… elites. Besides, I would never poison one as lovely as you! In fact, I can help you build up a tolerance level for poisons. I'm sure it'll come in handy at some point!"
"You consume poisons just to be immune to their effects? You have got to be joking."
"Ever since that plant-loving bitch, Pamela Isley, poisoned me in the Games, I made the decision to do so to protect myself. I pissed off the Gamemakers. For all I knew, they would try to spike my drink to get rid of me. I mean, I didn't know I put a smile on their faces! It was a… little precaution."
"Why would she poison you?" questioned Harley. She had never viewed the full Games.
"I'll tell you the story if you come with me." He winked.
Harley hesitated. What was the worst that could happen?
"Well, I sure do love a good story…."
-Meanwhile with Raven-
"Okay, this is how it's going to work out. If one of you dares to tattle on me for being in the possession of alcohol to that star spangled slut, I will make sure it's not in your favor. And when I say something, it sure as hell isn't in vain," Shayera Hol explained wearisomely.
Artemis exclaimed, "Are you threatening us?"
"Oh, honey, it isn't a threat. It's a promise."
"So, you're going to be too drunk and hung over to even prove useful to us!?" yelled Artemis, jumping to her feet.
Shayera's eyes darted over to her mace. Sighing, she asked, "Can you even fight?"
"What?" Artemis' mouth dropped.
Rolling her eyes, Shayera repeated herself.
"Of course I can!" said Artemis. "I hunt every day, unless something's going on that prohibits me from doing so. My targets are always moving and I always manage to pierce them in areas that won't ruin the meat or pelt."
"And if there aren't any bows and arrows, what are you going to do?"
Artemis didn't have a response to that.
"That's what I thought," uttered Shayera, who started to examine her fingernails. "And what about you three?" she said, addressing the other tributes in District 12.
"I snapped the neck of a bear with one hand once," muttered Conner. Unless it was her imagination, Raven could have sworn that everybody else in the compartment slid away from the intimidating boy ever so slightly.
"I'm good at hiding from others," murmured Kevin, looking at the checkered flooring.
"And what about you, sweetheart? Will you be able to survive?"
Raven lifted her gaze, jaw tucked firmly. "I have motivation."
After all, motivation and determination was a powerful weapon, but unfortunately, it was often underestimated. And when the time came around, it would be ready to lash out at everybody with its eager flames. It would destroy.
"I think everyone does at this point. After all, everybody has something to lose, whether they're willing to admit it or not. They will fight for survival. It's a primal human instinct," wisely stated the older woman.
Raven quirked an eyebrow, as if setting up a challenge. Before anybody in the compartment could realize what she was doing, a blade was whizzing through the air, aimed straight for Shayera's face. To the astonishment of the teenagers from District 12, the victor surprisingly managed to grab hold of the knife before it could lodge itself firmly into the space between her eyes.
Shayera didn't blow up, which astonished Raven. Rather, her lips curled slightly and she commented, "Now, that's more like it!"
"She could have killed you!" yelled Artemis, baffled by her mentor's easygoingness with almost being killed.
"But," Shayera said with a bored tone to her voice, "she didn't."
"You're insane," proclaimed the blonde teenager.
"Isn't everyone?" questioned the victor rhetorically. "Anyhow, when you don't need me, I'll be in my room. I expect to hear not a single noise, or there will be consequences." She was somehow able to exit the compartment gracefully, but popped her head back in a few seconds later. Gesturing to the unidentifiable food item that Kevin was about to consume, she said, "Unless you really fancy eating an Avox's tongue, I wouldn't recommend touching that."
Startled, Kevin flung what he had assumed to be chicken in the air, smacking Artemis in the face. Looking as if she wasn't amused, she wiped away the food remnants, glaring at the younger boy. "It's cow tongue, idiot."
"How do you know?" meekly asked Kevin.
"I hunt. Sooner or later, you learn to differentiate the anatomy of animals. Unless, of course, you're fucking retarded," rashly responded the hunter.
Not wanting to hear an argument ensue, Raven bolted upright and left the suffocating compartment. She wanted a breath of a fresh air, and possibly the ability to fly. Maybe ignorance could really be blissful. She could blend in with the clueless birds without a care in the world. But, would that necessarily be living? This was so bizarre to the dark girl. After all, who was she to be thinking about living when she could very well be dead in a couple of weeks?
"Raven, wait!" called a voice from the end of the hallway, the area that Raven recently vacated.
Turning around, Raven saw Conner making his way towards her. She sighed. She had really wanted to be alone for a while.
"Look, I realize you probably want to be alone right now, and I don't blame you for that. In fact, I think we all do. But, you shouldn't let your anger get the best of you. That anger could plunge you straight into death's grip," he said seriously, looking down at her.
Raven gritted her teeth. "And what would you possibly know about anger?"
Conner raised his hands in what looked like a sign of self-defense. "I'm just a mere observer that's been hurt too many times to count."
"You're not the only one who feels pain."
"Yes, but I know enough not to let the pain shine through. If your enemies, including us, catch a glimpse of the turmoil boiling inside you, just about ready to erupt, they will use that against you without hesitation."
"Then why are you warning me about this when you have the upper hand?"
"Let's just say that it's an understanding between two similar souls," he said with a wink before heading back in the opposite direction.
"You know," Raven called, "you're pretty wise for a loner!"
"Well, when you're on the outside looking in, you see and hear things that most would be oblivious to."
Raven nodded slowly and watched him disappear into his own compartment. Without a doubt in her mind, she could see him acting as a positive influence on her fellow tributes. In spite of that, however, she would be sure not to let him bring her guard down. Because at the end of the day, he was still her enemy.
-Meanwhile with Jennifer Faust-
After making sure nobody was in the front of the shop and that the cameras were offline, Jennifer began pulverizing the items for sale in the closed shop. Once she had discovered that both the backdoor and front door were locked, she had forced entry by climbing into a cracked open window on the second floor. Next time, she would have to check to make sure she had her hair pin with her in order to pick locks.
So far, she hadn't collected a single trinket. She had been expecting to find amazing treasures, but had simply found weird shit that she couldn't even describe. Luxury must really not be as luxurious as she had assumed. So, being frustrated as she was, she decided to call it quits by raiding one more store and breaking practically every product. She felt like a broken toy; she might as well break other toys. It was simple logic.
Smirking, she whirled around, sending a flawless roundhouse kick to a rack of books. With a few of the books flying around in a chaotic heap, the rack mainly tumbled backwards, colliding with another array of shelves that, instead of being knocked down, merely splintered and sent its objects falling to the ground disorderly. Gleefully, she began grabbing objects off their positions on the shelves and tossed them over her shoulder in various directions. Next, she wiggled her fingers and examined her nails. Before she knew it, she started clawing at the paintings, tearing into the carefully painted canvases. Ah, this was way too much fun for Jennifer.
Slowly, she reached the jewelry section of the decently sized store. After damaging a few goods, she came across a pendant that she actually liked. Attached to black lace was a circular pink topaz. Compared to the other jewelry she had seen so far, this was simplistic in design, but so much more beautiful. Gingerly, she touched it, enjoying the way it seemed to describe her character. As attracted as she was to the necklace, she shouldn't have removed it from its rightful place. She should have just walked away.
Once the pendant had carefully been yanked from its protective alcove, she felt a burning sensation in the back of her skull. Ever so slowly, she crumpled to the ground, the pendant rolling along the wooden floorboards, out of her grasp. Before her eyes could fully flutter shut, Jennifer caught a glimpse of black high heels, right before one of them sent a swift kick to her stomach.
Then there was darkness.
-Meanwhile with Harley Quinn-
As soon as Harley entered Jack's apartment, she was impressed with her surroundings. Two windows, separated by an artistic painting, overlooked the spectacular view of the Capitol, beige drapes pulled off to the side. There were several seating options, all of them looking rather comfy, especially the recliners that sat by the fireplace. A glistening chandelier hung from the center of the front room, dangling above two glass tables that both had a vase of flowers and a book placed upon them. Near a doorway stood a glass cabinet where she caught a glimpse of bottles of alcohol, along with literature volumes.
Quickly, however, her wits burst to the surface. "I thought you said you would buy me a drink. You know, surrounded by other people."
"Well, deary, that would surely raise questions. Besides, I have all the good stuff right here!" merrily said Jack.
Harley chuckled uncertainly. If she actually drank his alcohol, would he take advantage of her in her weak state?
"You seem to have a flair for everything refined, so I hope you don't mind me going with the red wine."
The blonde girl watched as he poured the scarlet substance into two elegantly crafted glasses. A knot formed in the pit of her stomach. What if the wine was actually blood?
Jack handed her one of the glasses before proceeding to sit down on a loveseat by the fireplace. Hesitantly, the fourteen year old girl followed in pursuit, sinking into the creamy sofa.
"So, I believe I have a story to tell, eh?" said Jack after taking a sip from the glass.
"Well," interjected Harley, "only if you feel like telling a tale!"
"It's good to get the feelings out," he said, placing his right hand on her knee. "I grew up in District 2, which I suppose makes me more fortunate than, say, those who live in District 11 or 12. I mean, we had food and all the necessities. But, life simply wasn't happy there. Especially in my household.
"Growing up, I contracted a few conditions. When I was six years old, I developed insomnia, so I often found myself wandering around the darkened streets. I walked right in on a gang war, and if it wasn't for my father, I probably would've been dead before I could have been reaped. When we got home, however, he didn't hug me to comfort me. Instead, he started beating me. The alcohol he had consumed earlier that night just heightened the beating. But, thankfully, I fell into sleep's comforting embrace afterwards.
"The beatings soon became a routine between me and my father. My mother couldn't be there to witness the scenes because she had died a couple of hours after giving birth to me. The other kids didn't care; they simply gossiped amongst themselves or bullied me further. I was an anomaly, a punching bag, a broken toy. Instead of always working in the stone quarries after school like I was supposed to, I would find myself curled up in a corner in the library reading. It eased my mind; imagining traveling to a distant land and actually being seen as a hero was a common fantasy. I could be free, which was an exciting feeling.
"Soon enough, I started suffering with what the doctors considered to be bouts of insanity. My father insisted on buckling me down at night to prevent me from sneaking out and to maybe stop some violent reaction, possibly a seizure. I would lose it, disjointing my limbs in order to untangle myself from the shackles. It was the complete opposite of my fantasies. And worst of all, they burned all of the precious books in that library I was so fond of. So, not only because someone tattled on my skip sessions, I began working in the quarries once more to occupy my mind. Then, believe it or not, everything worsened.
"When I was thirteen, I was diagnosed with a heart condition. They expected my heart to suddenly burst within a year's time. In order to 'protect' the others working in the quarries, I was excused from the strenuous duties. The time stamp on my life really opened up my eyes, making me want to live life to its fullest while I still had time. So, I sought revenge. For once in my life, I fought back. All that bullied me found themselves severely regretting it, and watching them squirm put such a smile on my face. Then, on the three-hundred-and-sixty-fifth day since my diagnosis, I found my father weeping on the kitchen floor. As luck would have it, it had been my parents' anniversary day. Deciding that the best gift I could possibly give him was a reunion with mommy dearest, I snatched a kitchen knife off the table, grabbed him by the skull, and shoved him against the wall. He started screaming at me. There was nothing new about that, no. But, there was something new because I started carving his face into a permanent smile, which was rather difficult because of his cheers. After a few hours of feeling like Picasso, my work was finished. And he was dead."
Harley was expecting a lot of things, but certainly not that. How can he still be alive when he was such a tortured a soul? What did he have to live for? Cautiously, she asked, "You killed your own father?"
"I did," he replied simply, sipping some more red wine.
"But, why? I mean, he was still your father."
"He was my father, yes, but not my dad. I was supposed to die that year. I didn't stop to reconsider the consequences. Instead, I just continued with my antics. And, frankly, I don't have a single regret. Those actions shaped me into who I am, made me stronger, a force to be reckoned with."
Not sure she wanted to hear anymore, Harley asked, "And what happened next?"
Jack laughed bitterly. "They shipped me off to Arkham Mansion, a little less than a mile away from the next district. I was placed in a ward they called Arkham Asylum, where a couple of other folks dwelled in isolation. But, I knew I wasn't crazy. Not yet, at least."
Harley's heart went out to him. Tentatively, she reached out and brushed away his unshed tears, tears that should be spilling down his pallid cheeks in a flood. He was so strong, for having held on for so long. If she had been in his position, she probably would have died the moment things got tough. "You mentioned this girl… Pamela, I believe it was. What did she do to you?"
Releasing a bark of laughter, Jack told her, "There were eleven people left in the Games, and dear old Pamela was one of them. She was one of the biggest threats and since she didn't concern me as much as Carol Ferris or Antonio Diego, I went after her. If you really wanted to piss off Pamela, all you had to do was destroy nature because she was an eco-friendly fool. I started a forest fire to bring her in, but I was admittedly unprepared for that showdown. I was weakened from the smoke that had clogged up my throat, so I wasn't at my strongest. Before I knew it, the bitch had snuck up behind me and was releasing the contents of a syringe into my neck. Before I could completely fade away, I saw Barbara Minerva, the fastest girl in that competition, leap at the poisonous bitch, retractable claws extended. I'm assuming they tussled around for a bit, and that Barbara must have gained the upper hand. She cared for me while I was out of it. If it hadn't been for her, I would've died."
"What happened to her?" asked Harley.
"Carol Ferris happened. Aside from how she was one of my competitors, it was the main reason why I offed her."
Harley gulped, deciding to take a risk. "Did you love her? Barbara, that is."
"I haven't been fortunate enough to find the girl for me. Not yet, anyways." Jack stared at her with a glint in his eyes as he said this.
"I'm sorry," whispered Harley, entwining his fingers with her in an attempt to comfort him.
"You know, Harley, I'm glad I met you. I don't think I ever met such a caring soul. That's why I'm deciding to show you something, something nobody else has ever seen. But, it has to be our little secret, alright?"
The ball was now in her court. She could either decline and go back to her room or she could follow him and strip away yet another layer of the complexity that was Jack White. If she went back to her room, she could pretend nothing happened. If she followed him, the secret she discovered could possibly kill her. Or, it would forge a stronger connection between her and the mysterious man.
Red wine forgotten, she slowly agreed to go with him. Carefully, he took her hands and led her to the doorway she had noticed earlier. As she padded along after him, she caught a glimpse of his immaculate bedroom. The clown doll that sat in the middle of the throne of pillows captured her attention, making her wonder why he was in the possession of such an item. Tucking it away at the back of her mind, she followed him up a ladder that had been concealed due to a bookshelf.
The secret room that the ladder had led to was a dark room, ideally used for photo development. However, that clearly wasn't the case. Plastered on bulletin boards were pictures of every official in Panem, ranging from Peacekeepers to the president to the Gamemakers. Clipped to clotheslines hung newspaper articles regarding every single past Hunger Games. In the corner was a rack that contained every film moment of the Hunger Games. Filing cabinets were positioned to the side of the trapdoor, presumably filled with files and documents. The creepiest things in the room, however, were the mutilated dolls that she assumed to be made to look like the country's officials.
"Oh, shit," she murmured under her breath. What had she just walked into?
Sorry for the two month delay, guys. I've been caught up with major projects, but updates should be posted much more quickly if all goes well. Anyhow, I hoped you enjoyed this chapter, which mainly focuses on Harley and the Joker (ahem, Jack). Thoughts on his origin story? Before I leave you guys, I'm curious: who's your favorite character so far in this story?
Thanks for reading!