As was procedure for an escape, especially of the Joker, the asylum was put on lockdown. The security camera footage of the corridors along the west side of the building were pulled up and showed the precise route he'd taken out, killing one other guard during his exit and clipping another with Doctor Davis' car while racing through the security gate. The car was found abandoned several blocks from the bridge out of Arkham Island and all the relevant alerts for the Joker being at large went out over the police, and presumably vigilante, airwaves.

It had taken three hours for Harleen to convince them she was fine. All she wanted to do was go home! But she had to complete a written account of what had happened and repeat the story to at least three separate parties. After a quick shower, to rid herself of the blood covering mostly her legs, she changed into a plain white t-shirt and pair of navy blue sweat pants that were handed to her by Doctor Leland, who got them from who knows where. At least it wasn't an inmate uniform.

"Doctor Arkham says that he wants you to go home," Joan had told her as she was exiting the shower facility in her borrowed clothes and hosed off heels. "And that he wants you to take as much time as you need off."

"I'm not taking days off," Harleen said, pinning her damp hair back up into a bun while they walked. "I'm not letting them see me rattled."

Joan let out a sigh. "Anyone would be rattled after going through that. It's expected. It's the healthy response. Just take a day or two off, please?"

Harleen crumbled at the worried expression on Joan's face. "...Fine. But only one day. I can't afford to just let it get to me like that. Not here."

The asylum tried valiantly to get her to accept the GCPD's offer of a security detail for the night, but she repeatedly turned them down. "If he wanted to kill me tonight," she had said to the detective that asked her for the thousandth time, "He would have."

When she finally got to her car, they insisted on having security check it for explosives first. She repeated the "If he wanted me dead" thing, but it didn't help. Driving through the exit checkpoint, she saw the damage that had been done when the Joker drove through earlier. There was even a bit of blood still splattered on a post, presumably from where he hit one of the guards in the side.

So, after umpteen hours of work followed by witnessing murder, Harleen at last trudged out of the elevator (thankfully free of neighbors) and down the hall to her apartment door, letting herself in with the full intention of collapsing straight into her bed. She had no idea what she was going to do to fill up the next day though. Her job was her entire world; her only plan was getting ahead in it, making it to the life of a pop psychologist. There were no hobbies, there was no anything, outside of her work. How was she going to fill some twelve-odd hours?

Nine steps from her apartment door, she heard a faint sound. The corridor was empty besides her and, two steps later, she realized it was a television. Coming from beyond her apartment door. It was her television. A brief second passed where she tried to remember if she had turned it off before leaving for work that morning, from when she was watching the news over her granola cereal. She'd never left it on before exiting, but concluded in the following second that it was possible. There had been a lot on her mind the last few days, she could have forgotten.

But, for the second time that night, she had opened a door and been confronted with something that stopped her dead in her tracks.

The Joker was in her apartment. In her apartment. Laying on her couch in his bright orange inmate uniform, still splattered with dried blood from his victims, and casually shoveling a handful of crackers into his mouth from a box. There were several diet soda cans on the coffee table by him and the television was flickering with bright colors from the cartoon he was watching. He turned his head to look at her, smiling as he chewed.

"Honey, you're home," he drawled around his mouthful.

He moved to a sitting position after a moment of watching her stare, open-mouthed, allowing the box of crackers to tumble to the carpet. "I hope you intend to turn around and go to the store. Reduced-fat crackers taste terrible."

"You're…here. How did you…why are…," Harleen stuttered, finding herself yet again unable to decide on the right question when faced with so many possibilities.

Thankfully, the Joker seemed to take mercy on her and replied, in order, "Yes Doctor Observant, I am. I flew here, my arms are tired. And why not?"

"You can't be here," she hissed, lowering her voice to a hushed whisper, suddenly feeling that there was an army of listeners right outside in the hall. "What if someone stops by or a neighbor knocks at the door or - "

"No," he said simply, laying back to his previous position on the couch, long white arms folded in front of him. "None of that's going to happen."

"But-"

"Nobody is going to come here, Harley." It was a statement delivered in a cold, knowing tone that closed Harleen's mouth and made the grip on her keys tighten. Of course no one would come. No one ever came, as he well knew. Silently, she berated herself for allowing too much of her personal life, including how lonely she had been, into his therapy sessions.

Feeling the need to act as if his appearance in her home wasn't terrifying, Harleen moved mechanically to the kitchen area beyond, depositing her keys and purse on the bar by the phone. For a brief second, she stood staring at the refrigerator trying to decide if she should...what, offer him something? He seemed to have helped himself already. She got herself a bottle of water from within and turned around in what she hoped was a nonchalant way, but probably appeared spastic.

He was still on the couch, munching on the crackers again. He had turned the channel to GCN and was watching the breaking coverage of his own homicides. It was surreal. Is that what he did when he escaped after a crime? Watched news reports about himself? Of course, she had known he was vain enough that it was probably so, but theorizing it was different than seeing him actually sitting there engaged in the activity. On her couch.

Feeling another surge of panic bubbling, Harleen quickly unscrewed the plastic bottle and took a very long sip. Then another. She felt her mind straying back to "Joker is on my couch HOLY SHIT" territory and quickly scrambled for another momentary distraction. This was provided immediately in the form of a blinking light on her phone, indicating she had a message waiting.

YOU HAVE ONE NEW MESSAGE

FIRST MESSAGE

"Harleen, this is Jeremiah. Joan said that she talked to you about this already, but I wanted to make sure that you felt okay with taking some time off. Joan said that you agreed to a day, but...I mean, think about taking a few more days. It's alright if you don't, I just want you to know that it's understandable. I'll see you when you get back."

END MESSAGES

The electronic woman's voice cut off with a beep and Harleen looked up from where she had been staring at the white granite counter-top, her eyes moving automatically to the top of the Joker's head. He was propped up against two of her burgundy throw pillows and had turned the black sofa at a slight angle, presumably to see the TV better. He had changed the channel to an old sitcom, one she didn't recognize immediately, but the news was still on in a small window at the corner of the screen. The picture was showing the post splattered with blood, surrounded by crime scene tape.

Reaching to her purse for a cigarette, she discovered that there was, still, just one left in the package. Fumbling with the lighter, she was finally able to inhale a glorious mouthful of smoke. It did little to decrease her tension, but the exhale was enough of a welcome release that she closed her eyes for a second and heard only the laugh track from the television and the light trickling of that little fountain she had setup last weekend in the corner of the dining area. So that the corner would have something, anything.

The moment was brief, but it was enough to put a series of thoughts into action. The Joker was intending to stay the night in her apartment. This couldn't be helped, so he would need the things one would normally provide a houseguest with... not that she'd ever had one. Moving on autopilot, cigarette held carefully between her middle and index fingers, Harley gathered an extra pillow and a blanket from her bedroom closet, stopping briefly by her bathroom cabinet to pull the second of three toothbrushes from the pack and a half-full tube of travel size toothpaste. The pile was deposited unceremoniously on the loveseat near the sofa, the Joker abandoning the television to watch as Harleen nervously picked up the toothbrush and toothpaste after a second and instead sat them on the coffee table.

Avoiding his eyes, she returned to her room with her cigarette and bottled water, finishing the former while pacing and finishing the latter with a couple of sleep aids. She was drowsy before she even finished brushing her teeth, probably owing to her infrequent use of the over the counter pills and general exhaustion. At least they were slowing her brain down enough to even think about shutting her eyes.

Slipping into the first thing she grabbed from her dresser drawer, a blue nightshirt it turned out, Harleen heard the television rapidly changing channels outside in the living room. Laugh track, news pundits, laugh track, applause, crime drama. News again, this time focusing on a hostage situation earlier in the day involving the Scarecrow and Batman. On unsteady legs, Harleen moved away from the dresser and to her bed, a four-poster she had bought immediately after landing her last promotion, sliding underneath the cotton sheets and pulling the burgundy comforter up to her chin as if it were a barrier.

She always slept on the right side, facing inwards, and from there she couldn't help but stare at the doorknob of her closed bedroom door. The noise from the television was fainter now and she tried to decide whether to risk locking the door. It would be a simple action, drowned out by the television, but it wouldn't stop him. Not if he wanted in. She still had no clue how he'd broken into her apartment to begin with.

Harleen was terrified in that moment, on the verge of sleep. Not for what he might do if he came to her in the night, but what he would expect from her if he did.


The last few sessions with him in Arkham had been...charged. The Joker had moved closer to her while speaking, probing, and proselytizing. He was witty and charming, with expressive, wild gestures even while handcuffed. He had been speaking to her about life, the answer to it all, long fingers of his white hands on the couch cushion, right beside where her left rested.

Their fingertips had touched.

Flushed, she had considered pulling her hand away and changing the subject, but he was leaning in and his voice was low. Intimate. A loose green curl was escaping over his brow, falling over one hooded green eye. "You see," he was concluding, "I'm the only one who gets the joke. Life is a stage that nobody is giving a damn about using for entertainment. There is no existence, Harley, only the show."

She kissed him. Once, before pulling back, hand over her mouth in shock at her career-ending impulsiveness. They stared at each other for another full heartbeat, her aghast; him smiling. Belatedly, she realized he had a strong hold on her left wrist at the same time he yanked her forward.

They had spent the remainder of the session like horny teenagers left home alone for the first time. His wrists were still cuffed, but Harleen had slid between his arms and made no attempt to stop him when his hands moved down to cup her behind. She hadn't been with a guy in...a year and a half. Two years, easy.

And in those blissful moments, nothing bothered her. Not the thought of getting caught by the guards right outside, not losing her reputation, and not that the man she was practically grinding against was a killer.

But, with the cuffs and the guards and her position, she felt safe. Felt safe to listen to his philosophies and pour her heart out to him. He wanted to share and he wanted to have her share. If at any moment she wanted to pull the plug, there was a safety net of armed guards and her word against his. Three sessions of feeling completely in control.


Harleen curled up tighter underneath the covers, her eyes no longer able to stay open. She thought maybe she had taken two of the pills when it should have been one, but she wasn't near as worried about that as she was the possibility of the Joker coming to her in the night. And expecting something from her that she wasn't prepared to give outside of the safety and control of the asylum.