"Afternoon Terry, you have the codes today or am I visiting the warden?" Asked Harleen, her voice low and sore. She couldn't remember what had happened the night before, she only remembered arriving at the club, dancing, and then waking up in a side alley two blocks from there. That was three hours ago.
"I got'em today." He replied, passing them over. By the look on his face she could tell he had noted her disheveled hair and the dark rings under her eyes. "You had a rough night Harleen?"
"I guess I must have." She said quietly. To her surprise Terry laughed.
"You know," he began, grinning up at her, "I ain't never, in my whole life, known one of you doctors to show up with a hangover. I thought your type spent the evening reading textbooks and sippin' tea!" Harleen raised one eyebrow, too exhausted to smile back.
"I'm a doctor because I'm smart Terry. Conventional, that's something I'm not."
"And that's why you're my favourite Doc. Listen you gonna be ok with the Joker today? Cause I can try and contact the warden, ask if he can reorganise the appointment?" She frowned and shook her head slightly at this.
"What would you tell him, that I spent the previous night drinking and I'm too hungover to come in? Besides I'd rather get it over with, this is an important job to me, I'm not ready to lose it just yet."
"Well if you're sure, but-where are they? Ah, here, take these." He said, handing her some headache pills, which she gratefully accepted. "The guards are ready to bring the Joker out, so just head on down. Take it easy today alright?" Harleen appreciated how much he cared, and she agreed with him; she did need to take it easy. But of course she knew the Joker would have other plans.
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"Looks like you forgot your notepad Harley." Said the Joker the moment the guard had left the room after bolting his handcuffs to the table. He looked bored and tired today, as if he too had been woken for their appointment. His head was tilted up slightly while he stared, causing his eyelids to half-close. Well I'm not too keen on being here right now either sweetheart, thought Harleen spitefully. She was sure this would be her hardest session yet, thanks to her exhaustion coupled with a throbbing headache. Already she was forgetting things.
"So I did, thankyou for noticing. I'll manage without it." She was trying as hard as she could to avoid sounding as bored as he looked. The Joker didn't answer, he just stared uncaringly at her, waiting for her to speak again. "Let's pick up where we left off last time, why you do what you do. You were a-"
"We were talking about you and your little control problem Harley." Said the Joker, cutting her off mid speech, "I've gotta sneaking suspicion you're avoiding the topic." Harleen wasn't in the mood for his games, she was just too tired to care. She stared blankly into his eyes when she answered. He tilted hid head to the side slightly and stared back.
"I'm not playing your games today Joker. Today you're going to shut up and actually answer my questions for a change." The Joker didn't react, his facial expression still and unchanging when he answered.
"Rough night Harley?" His tongue flicked across the corner of his mouth.
"Stop it!" She hissed, losing her already strained temper, "I've had enough of being scared of you, and I'm sick of your games. I'm in charge of these sessions, not you. You only scared me because you made me feel weak before. But that's over, because I've realised that there's nothing threatening about you. I'm the one who walks out of here at the end of these sessions! All you are is a man on a leash. So stop calling me Harley and answer my damn questions!" The Joker dropped his chin to his chest when she finished, his eyes now looking up at hers. He had an excited smile spreading across his face which pushed his scars sickeningly. His fingers started tapping on the table top.
"While I appreciate the sentiment, you'll ah, learn soon enough that there's plenty of reasons to be scared of me...but alrighty, let's start talking! The last quack I was sent decided I was a...what did he call it, Delusional Anarchist!" Harleen noticed that he kept biting his lower lip in-between words. "Now, what d'you think of that huh?" He said as he leaned forward on the table, waiting silently for her answer. Where is he going with this, she wondered.
"I don't know if you're delusional but I would agree that you're an anarchist." The Joker's lips peeled back into a grimace as he leaned back and slapped his palms down on the table.
"No!" He hissed, pressing his finger towards her. "No no no, anarchists are just as bad as those other desperate people! They're as obsessed with disorder as, like, cops are with keeping peace! Y'see, everyone I've ever known has...viewed the world-" he mimed the shape of the globe with his fingers, "as if either order or disorder are important. Like, as if one is a true...fixed thing that is the same for everyone. But, y'see, they're never fixed, because they're the same thing. They're both a different person's view of a whole."
"The same thing? And that is?"
"The only law we can't deny! Pure Chaos." He was using his hands to explain everything he said. Harleen had never known him to be so consistently animated, his enthusiasm causing her to forget her exhaustion. "One man or woman-" He pointed at her, "sees some of the chaos as order and some disorder. Pick a person from the other side of the world an' the same chaos looks different. BUT-" He slammed his palm down on the table and stood, his chains rattling, "they're both Chaos!"
"...so because you're aware of this underlying chaos...you can do as you please?" Asked Harleen, her focus entirely on his words, on his movements, on his every action.
"Doc," he began, laughing at her question, "you're still trying to find a reason for what I do? Listen closely," he lent down close to her, lowering his voice confidentially, "everyone is programmed from the moment they come screaming into the world to view the pure chaos as their groups idea of order. Laws, morality, safety; none of it matters! Y'know, it's all just part of society's delusion to help them sleep at night. Me, I don't have that. I act without this...percieved order." Suddenly his hands shot across the table and caught hers, which she had accidentally left within his reach while he talked, his chains pulling tight. Harleen froze with fear, unable to pull away or call out as his cold fingers fixed on hers for the first time. But instead of breaking her fingers or pulling her towards him he simply held her, his scars closer to her than ever before, his eyes staring into hers as he began to whisper. "When you understand the truth about chaos, you understand that there's no need for rules anywhere and the only sensible way to live is without them. And without all those rules, there's no reason. Nothing needs to be justified or explained, it just is! So, Harley, getting back to your question," he continued, pulling himself across the table and closer to her face until they were only an inch apart, "I can do as I please, because I can do as I please."
"Wh...what are you doing?" She whispered, still unable to will herself to pull away or call the guard. The Joker's eyes were an inch from hers; his smile and inch from her cringing face. She could feel his breath on her lips. His scars had never been so close to her; two uneven twisted lines forming a broken smile and one smaller scar curving down over his lower lip. However these had been cut into his flesh, that extra scar made Harleen think that he must have struggled when it had happened. In those few seconds that they were close, she wondered who the man before the scars had been. Feeling a tickling sensation on her hand she flicked her eyes down and saw that the Joker was running his fingers over her hand gently. Slowly he released his iron grip on her and slipped back into his seat with a satisfied smile on his face.
"You'll see, one'a these days I'll open your eyes to pure chaos."
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The Joker's words echoed around Harleen's head as she entered her apartment, tossing her keys onto the couch as she passed. What he had said about chaos made sense to her logically, though she was sure that it took more than a suitable philosophy to transform a man into The Joker. She still didn't know the story of his scars. Her head was throbbing, but her exhaustion thankfully hadn't returned yet; she was still too stimulated from her talk with the Joker. As she settled into her apartment her thoughts turned to the previous night however. Harleen still had no idea what had happened with Jamie and Kaylee; neither had tried to call her so she guessed that they weren't worried.
"You were spending most of your time by yourself..." She muttered quietly while she stared blankly into a mirror, trying and failing to recall the previous night. Whatever it had been, it had ended with her waking up alone in an alley with no shoes. It sickened her slightly not knowing what might have happened to her, or what she might have done. She had been so rushed after waking up that there had been no time to think about it, but now she had time to try and find out. Also she needed to stop thinking about the Joker. Picking up the phone, Harleen dialed.
"Hello?" The voice on the other end of the line sounded exhausted, his voice husky and dry.
"Jamie? Can you really be sounding worse than me? I'm surprised, there I was thinking Kaylee was perpetually incapable of being fun!"
"...Harleen. What do you want?" His tone was cold and unfriendly, and it worried Harleen. It took a lot to push Jamie to anger.
"...I'm going to venture a guess and say I did something out of line last night. In my defense I don't recall anything. I woke up in an alleyway about four hours ago. You wouldn't happen to know where my shoes went would you? They were fairly expensive." She was trying to keep things as light as possible, in the hopes that humor might lift his mood and make him forgive whatever she'd done.
"I don't think I feel like talking to you right now. I don't care if you can't remember what you did, I'm not ready to hear your voice again." He spoke with a combination of exhaustion and what sounded worryingly like hate. It shocked her to hear it, leaving her unsure how to react.
"Ok, I can hear that you're angry, but please don't hang up yet. Will you tell me what I did? I can't remember anything after my first couple of drinks; I think I must have taken something." She said slowly, trying to sound reasonable. There was a pause on the line before Jamie's icy response.
"You almost got me attacked by a huge thug you were chatting up, you spiked Kaylee's drink, and then you threatened to hurt her if I ever try to tell you what to do again." Harleen's heart quickened.
"I...wow, ok I'm so sorry Jamie. I don't remember any of this. You know I'd never do anything like that if I weren't...out of it like I was, right?" No response. "Is Kaylee ok?"
"She's in hospital."
"Jesus what did I spike her drink with, cyanide?" Smooth, she thought to herself irritably. The shock had made her speak without thinking, and now she was left to curse her rash words.
"Actually Harleen," He began, as his voice started to rise in volume, "she fell and gave herself concussion because she was so high on whatever the hell you spiked her with! And you're making jokes about it! You really don't care about anyone do you? No matter how good you are at pretending, you are the only person who you care about!" He was yelling into the phone, and she was unsure how to react.
"Jamie that's not-"
"You know what's ironic Harleen?" He hissed, cutting her off. "The only person you take seriously is the Joker. You two deserve each other." The line went dead, leaving Harleen standing stunned and alone in her messy apartment. She felt sick, as if some dark secret was crawling inside her. Harleen had always been a fairly selfish person, it came with growing up alone and being smarter than her parents. She had always been the centre of the universe to the people around her. But she had never done anything like this before.
"Idiot...idiot, idiot girl!" She cursed quietly to herself. "You had to let him get to you. So what if he...seems smarter than you are." Even saying it out loud, acknowledging it, made her shiver with frustration and anger that she could barely contain. It was irrational, but she couldn't stop herself from feeling it; in all her life the Joker was the only man, the only person, who had been able to intimidate her. Harleen wanted to do something, to somehow make this right in one go. One grand gesture to make all that was wrong with Jamie and Kaylee right, but nothing was coming to mind. She thought about visiting Kaylee in the hospital, but she didn't know which one it was, and Jamie certainly didn't want to tell her. Besides, if all it was was concussion then she'd be out by the end of the evening anyway.
"He'll come around..." Wishful thinking, whispered the irritating voice of reason in her head. Jamie had put up with her behaviour for a very long time, but what he described was worse than anything before. It was stupid of her to accept the drugs at the club; she was a psychiatrist, she knew that it would be unwise to remove her inhibitions when she was feeling so insecure and combatetive. But she had been too selfish to care, and now Kaylee was paying the price. There was nothing she could do for now, accept give Jamie some space. She would call him in a week or two. For now she would focus on her work with Joker. It was the only thing to do.
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Arkahm Asylum, along with the rest of Gotham, was being drowned in a ocean of sleet and rain as Harleen quickly rushed through the front doors and into it's now familiar reception area. Her shoulder length hair was drenched and dripping from the brief walk from the car to the building, and her teeth chattered. Two weeks had passed since the event at the night club and still Jamie wasn't speaking to her. She had tried calling him after a week, and again after the second week, but both times he hadn't answered.
A different orderly was in the office today, a bored looking women who had not aged well; her skin was discoloured and splotchy with a myriad of wrinkles beginning to overwhelm her face, her cheeks were hollow, as gaunt as the rest of her, which made her look as if all the joy in life had been drained from her, leaving only this shell. Harleen disliked her immediately.
"Is there something I can do for you?" Said the old women from across the room. Her voice sounded like someone was clawing at her throat while she spoke, a rattling hiss forming the bulk of her words. Tobacco had stained her teeth yellow and black.
"Yes, I'm Doctor Harleen Quinzel, I have an appointment with the Joker. I'm his psychiatrist." Harleen smiled, trying to remain polite despite her inherent dislike for the woman in front of her.
"Since when?" She accused, her eyes squinting suspiciously over the counter at Harleen.
"I've been working here for about three weeks now. This is my ninth session with him."
"How come I ain't seen you before?" The woman scrunched her nose up irritably.
"I'm not sure, Terry's always been here when I came through in the past."
"Oh yeah? I only work part time." She coughed loudly, clearing her throat with a horrid grating noise. "Head up to the warden then."
"You don't have the codes today?" The old women blinked, confused.
"Why would I have the codes?"
"Sometimes..." Began Harleen, stopping herself before she could go on. She wanted this conversation over so she could get away. "Never mind, I'll head up to the warden." Leaving before the crone could respond, Harleen headed out of reception, into the hallway, and straight into the elevator. The warden's office was just a quick ride to the third floor, but Harleen savoured the solitude, however brief it was. She had spent the last two weeks almost totally alone, her only prolonged social interaction being her hour with the Joker three times a week, but nevertheless there was something comforting about the empty space inside the drab old elevator. Harleen had felt quiet over the last two weeks; she had stopped talking to herself as much and felt as if she had calmed down at home. Her sessions with the Joker had become the only times she had felt her old hyperactive animated self. Harleen theorised that the loss of Jamie in her life as her only confidant and close friend had caused her to put her feelings, abundant though they were, on hold until he would agree to speak with her.
"Or I've reached an all new level of emotional instability." She muttered to herself as the elevator doors slid open. The warden's office was just down the hall, a sparsely decorated musty room with a disturbingly thick layer of dust on the desk in the top left corner. Currently, the room lacked his presence, so Harleen decided to wait, settling down onto his old couch. Warden Peter Sullivan was known for spending most of his time away from Arkahm. The mystery of his wearabouts so far had remained unsolved; Harleen had only had to get the codes from him three times during her time as the Joker's psychiatrist.
"Doctor Quinzel! Well if this isn't a pleasant surprise I don't know what is! Funny, I was just looking to speak to you." Came the warden's sickly prattling voice from the doorway. For most of her life Harleen had secretly lived by the assumption that you could tell everything you needed to know about a person from the way they look, hideously scarred criminal geniuses now withstanding, and from the moment she had set her eyes on Peter Sullivan she had known that he was a self-praising incompetent fool with little interest in anything other than his own image. He believed that everyone around him saw him as a kind of wise mentor, when in actual fact everyone was repulsed by him. He had a small, fat head with tiny ears and miniscule eyes which would seem to search hungrily around any given space. His soot grey hair was cropped short and his eyebrows were so sparse that they almost appeared non-existant. Harleen wouldn't have called him short, but his bloated hanging belly worked wonders to draw attention away from his height.
"Were you now, very well. What did you need me for Doctor?" She asked politely, maintaining formality in an attempt to distance herself from him. He walked briskly into the room, picked up a file that was lying on his desk, and began to flick through the pages inside.
"Well Doctor Quinzel, it just so happens I've been reading your reports on the Joker recently."
"Of course, you wouldn't be so effective at your work if you didn't read the reports." She said, smiling and attempting to keep her contempt at bay.
"And that would be a terrible crime!" He grinned, misreading her sarcasm. "There are just a couple of things here that I want to ask you about, just to bring everything into a clear light for us all. In your last report you said, and I'm gonna quote you here, The patient's highly advanced philosophical beliefs regarding chaos, coupled with his extremely high I.Q. are leading me to question whether or not his sanity should actually be in question. Now here's the bit that really caught my attention, Though the patient clearly lacks any noticable concern for the loss of life, as his crimes have illustrated, my studies suggest that he is not a psychopath, for the emotional understanding that he exhibits is far too advanced for someone void of them, and finally, I have come to the conclusion that the patient is not unstable and volatile because of emotional or mental damage, but through personal choice. The patient's emotional health appears to be in an excellent state; he is never unhappy or depressed and always has a highly advanced understanding of the emotional states of those around him." Finished, the warden dropped the reports back onto his desk and looked over at her, raising his eyebrows as if expecting an explanation. Unimpressed, Harleen stared back and waited for him to continue. Finally he gave in and spoke first. "You have realised, haven't you doctor, that you are absurdly close to declaring the Joker, the worlds most dangerous terrorist and serial killer, totally sane?"
"I have realised." Said Harleen calmly.
"Harleen," he began, not bothering to ask permission to use her first name, "if you declare the Joker sane, by law he can't stay here at Arkham Asylum. Now I think that you'd agree that the safest place to keep the Joker is here, down in Joker Wing. I think...that you'd be putting everyone at risk by forcing the law to move him to a...less secure location. Now don't you think that too?" He pleaded, leaving Harleen with no doubts about his true motives.
"Peter, if I declare the Joker sane, you'll lose your main source of income. That's it. Blackgate and those like it are more than equipped to keep the Joker in line."
"But really doctor, how can that maniac be sane?" He said in frustration, putting his hands on onto his desk and bowing his head. Harleen's eyes narrowed.
"It sickens me to hear the warden of a psychiatric facility writing a patient off as insane and suggesting we leave it at that. Are we not expected to treat him? Is that not my job?"
"Harleen..." he began irritably, "your job is a joke. I'm required by law to have someone treating the Joker, but that doesn't mean anyone here actually believes that he can be helped! You're the only person left who actually thinks that lunatic is treatable!" To his surprise, Harleen smiled at this.
"Actually Doctor Sullivan, my suggestion that he might be sane implies that I do not in fact believe that he is treatable." Sullivan stopped his pacing and slowly lowered himself to the couch, his desperation evident.
"Doctor Quinzel, you are...a very smart woman. You know what that man means to us here at Arkham; he's our main source of funding. Hell without him we'd probably be shut down! Now I understand that the law says that if someone's sane we move him out of here. But look at what he's done doctor!" He pleaded, putting one hand on her shoulder. Harleen wanted to punch this idiot man. "With someone as bad as him, do you really need to make the ethical decision? I mean look at him, he's happy for christ's sake! So why would you want to ruin us here for that evil man?" Harleen shrugged his hand off her shoulder angrily and stood up, fixing him with contemptuous stare. He suddenly looked very small on his couch.
"You might have given up all of your self respect, Warden Sullivan, but guess what? I haven't. Now I'm not certain that my theory is correct, and I'm late for my appointment with him because of you. So if you'd like to find out what I decide, I suggest you give me the codes right now and stop wasting my time."
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"I've got an interesting topic for you today Joker." Said Harleen, her voice friendly instead of weary for a change. Ever since the Joker had grabbed her five sessions ago she had been extremely cautious, though she had a sneaking suspicion that he would not hurt her if he caught her again. A suspicion she was determined not to test however. The Joker was staring gleefully back at her today; she had noticed that his mood often matched her own, a behaviour she had yet to explain. "One that I think you'll enjoy. The Batman."
"OH? Is he coming here?" Said the Joker, chuckling as he tapped his fingers on the table, his overgrown nails clicking loudly.
"Unfortunately no, but I think it's about time we discuss him." The Joker raised his eyebrows and waved his hands, gesturing for her to begin. Harleen opened the file in front of her. "No one had heard of you before the Batman appeared, isn't that right?"
"Yeah." He stared blankly in her direction, not offering a further explanation. She decided to press for one, though she didn't expect much.
"That struck me as a bit odd, in all of the crimes you're known for you always showed your face, let everyone know it was you. But before Batman, nothing. I'd like it if you'd tell me what he changed." The Joker smiled slightly, his head tilting to the side before he answered.
"That's not hard to figure out yourself Harley!" He looked away, seemingly distracted.
"...Joker?" She asked cautiously. He looked back, a manic smile spreading across his face.
"First name basis now? I'm flattered! Alright, let me tell you something," he said quickly, "there's a thing about chaos. It's a...a way things always go. The more order there is, the harder chaos pushes back, 'cause y'know, it's the inherent reality about people. Everyone thinks they want order but they're all drawn to chaos. Now, before Batman started swooping around and roughing up the bad guys," he mimed scruffing someone by the neck, "Gotham was a mess. So obviously I got along just fine, y'know. I robbed mob dealers, took their pennies, their friends lives, their dignity. So much fun really! But, when the Batman showed up it got hard to make an honest living as a killer and a thief!" He smile became a grin. "Little crimes like that weren't as easy to get away from, an' it was like he was challenging me personally, by like trying to repair a city that was already in pieces. So, I pushed back." Leaning forward on the table, the Joker began to whisper. "You wanna know a secret? 'Till bat started flying around, I didn't paint my face. I didn't wear the suit either! So y'see, without Batman...the Joker wouldn't exist." He settled back into his seat, his expression blank again. Harleen took a moment to compose herself before responding.
"So the nature of your crimes changed then? You went from petty crimes to trying to drive an entire city into anarchy."
"You still don't understand it?" Asked the Joker, faking concern.
"No...actually I think I do understand it. The Batman was a powerful force of order and he needed an equally powerful opposing force, so you stepped into the role. Is that how you see things Joker?" He raised one eyebrow and smiled.
"You tell me doc."
"I think there's a lot more logic behind what you do than you let on." The Joker's smile widened and he stopped fidgeting, his body becoming still. Slowly he slid his right hand across the cold metal table towards her, stopping about halfway when his chains pull tight. His eyes stared into hers, unblinking.
"Take my hand Harley." Harleen had no idea how to react. She knew she couldn't trust him, and she didn't understand why he'd want her hand if not to hurt her somehow. Her eyes scanned his expression tentatively.
"Because...this is an important moment. I'd like to share it with you."
"How am I supposed to know you wont hurt me?"
"Where's the good in that?" She still didn't move. He raised his eyebrows slightly. "Y'know I'm not a man to mince words...so, when I say this, I want you to know I'm tellin' the truth. Your hand couldn't be safer than when it's in mine. I'm a man of my word Harley." At last she gave in to curiosity; the guard was just outside the door after all. Cautiously, she slowly slid her hand across the table and placed it in his. His hand was cold and surprisingly soft on hers. Gently, his fingers wrapped around hers. His tongue darted across the corner of his mouth before he spoke. "Tell me the truth."
"About what..?" She whispered, feeling an uncomfortable intimacy forming with the killer in front of her.
"About me of course," he said calmly, "and about you. Y'see, you've known the truth about me for a long time, haven't you Harley? You didn't want to say it, you had to be sure you were right. So many things in the world would go so much quicker if people trusted their instincts a little more. I know you know it, you know you know it. It's time to stop dodging to the truth, beautiful." That last word caught her off guard. It didn't sound mocking or harsh, it sounded almost as if he meant it.
"What truth?" She asked quietly.
"Stop it Harley!" He said, his fingers tightening around hers. "Tell me the truth about me. Say it."
"I don't-" She muttered. The Joker cut her off.
"Say it!" His hands tightened again.
"You're hurting m-"
"...your sane." There they were, the words he wanted to hear, out in the open. His hand relaxed and he grinned, yellow teeth bared. Harleen let out a sigh of relief as his hand unclenched. For some reason however, she didn't pull away. Despite him hurting her, she felt that he hadn't lied to her before; her hand felt safe in his somehow. Tentatively she looked up at him, unsure about what would happen next.
"An' what does it mean if I'm sane?" She knew the answer to this question, but she feared that if she said it the Joker would return to his usual, hositle self. Harleen couldn't think straight; somehow, she didn't want this to end.
"It means that you need to be moved to a prison." The Joker raised his left hand, his smile widening as he pointed at Harleen.
"That's what I wanted to hear."