On the face of it, the super-villains Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy couldn't have had less in common.
Yes, they were both females, both had earned doctorates in their respective fields before turning to crime, and both had most often been at odds with Batman…but beyond that they seemed polar opposites.
Their motivations, personalities, even their methods of fighting…all vastly dissimilar.
Yet when it came to successful partnerships…there were no two villains in history that were more devoted to each other. Indeed, the two exhibited a kind of loyalty to one another that inspired envy even among the super heroes that opposed them.
And nobody could explain it.
Ivy was a cold blooded ice queen who wouldn't bat an eye if all of humanity were to go extinct. In fact, she'd likely welcome such a development…as the world would then belong to her precious plants. No, every other person on Earth could die as far as Ivy was concerned.
Except for Harley.
Harley had been an ambitious and utterly amoral student of psychology who'd planned to find wealth and fame by writing sensationalistic books about notorious madmen like the Joker…only to be seduced by that infamous clown's manipulations and then abandoned by him once she'd served her purpose. While she'd survived that ordeal, her sanity had not. Now she lived for thrills, mayhem and absurdity. Fun was all that mattered to her.
Fun and Ivy.
Yes, the mutual devotion these two shared had made their partnership very successful. But as is often the case, the greatest successes can lead to ultimate failure. The higher one climbs…the farther there is to fall.
"So whatcha wanna do tonight, Red?" Harley asked before blowing a bubble, letting it pop and then peeling the gum off her lips and stuffing it back into her mouth.
"I'm going to crossbreed some of the new hybrids," Ivy answered in a bored monotone. "The last batch didn't flower as soon as I'd projected. I don't think the soil was rich enough."
Harley bounced over to the seedlings Ivy was examining. "Did you hear that widdle plants? Mommy is going to get you new dirt! Yes, she is!"
While Ivy continued to concentrate on the plants and seemed to take no notice of the blonde's childish antics…the corners of her mouth turned upwards just enough to be noticeable. Harley caught sight of the smile out of the corner of her eye and turned to beam at her partner.
"And what are we going to do after you're done with the seedlings, Red?"
"Do you have a suggestion?" Ivy asked back as she raised an eyebrow. She knew from experience that when Harley was given the opportunity to choose an activity for the evening…well, there was never any way to guess what she'd come up with.
Proving her unpredictability, Harley produced a small cup and a handful of dice before excitedly screaming "YAHTZEE!"
Ivy stared her, expressionless. "Seriously?"
"It just doesn't sound very appealing," the redhead replied.
"Did I mention it would be…Strip Yahtzee?"
The corners of Ivy's mouth turned upwards once more.
As fate would have it, the duo would never get to play the game. For when Harley was still in the process of explaining the rules, an unexpected guest arrived.
Zatanna appeared out of thin air even as the words of her spell echoed throughout Harley and Ivy's hideout. To say that the villains were taken by surprise would be putting it mildly.
"W-What are you doing here, Magic-girl?" Harley asked as she shifted into a fighting stance.
"Oh, I just wanted to catch up on the neighborhood gossip," the raven-haired sorceress answered. Her tone was typical of the confident banter so many heroes liked to engage in.
Ivy hated heroic banter.
"Here's a juicy tidbit I heard recently," Zatanna went on. "Seems that some precious gems were stolen last week from the Gotham Museum of Natural History. But I get the feeling you two know about that already."
Ivy really hated heroic banter.
But in this particular case, the hero's confidence was not out of place. Ivy had allowed for the possibility that someone might track them down while searching for the gems. But she hadn't imagined it would have been someone like Zatanna. While Ivy and Harley were formidable individuals and even more dangerous as a team, Zatanna was a heavyweight. Her magic could do…anything.
Then again, she wasn't invincible. And certainly Ivy wasn't going to give up without a fight. Trying to act quickly, Ivy mentally commanded the plants behind the magician to entangle the hero in their vines.
"Seniv rehtiw!" Zatanna said, causing the plants to shrivel and shrink back before they could even touch her.
Ivy wanted to scream as she saw the damage to her beloved plants…but her unsuccessful attack had allowed her partner an opening. Harley charged at the magician.
"Yelrah yawa morf em!"
The spell sent Harley flying backwards away from Zatanna. But the blonde clown tossed a few small pellets towards her foe even as she was repelled. The pellets exploded before Zatanna could recite a new incantation…releasing a pink mist.
Highly concentrated laughing gas.
Zatanna giggled hysterically…fighting to take a breath. Unable to speak.
Unable to cast a new spell.
"Harley! Gag her!" Ivy cried out. "Gag her before the gas wears off!"
The blonde was already back on her feet and rushing towards the hero before Ivy had even finished shouting.
"Make sure she can't speak!" Ivy went on as she joined the fray and held the struggling magician still while Harley ripped the sleeve off of Zatanna's jacket and stuffed the cloth into the hero's mouth.
"Don't worry, Red," Harley cracked. "I'm giving her a mouthful. Ha! Mouthful! Get it?"
"Save the jokes until after her hands are tied," Ivy continued.
By now Zatanna was effectively muzzled, but the gas had worn off and she had her wits about her once more. Realizing she'd be utterly helpless if the villains tied her hands, she began struggling desperately. Her sudden ferocity took her foes by surprise and she managed to wiggle out of their grasp.
"Oh no you don't!" Once again Ivy commanded her plants to ensnare Zatanna with vines…specifically to bind her arms so that she couldn't remove the gag from her mouth.
And again, desperation drove Zatanna to struggle fiercely. She lurched forward even as the first vine wrapped around her arms…and managed to snap the single tendril from its roots before any more vines could immobilize her. Her arms were still bound to her sides by the dying plant however, and she fled deeper into the villains' lair as she struggled to get at least one hand loose and ungag herself before she was caught once more.
But with the athletic Harley closing on her (and Ivy only a few steps behind) Zatanna realized she wasn't going to have enough time. Searching for some hidden reserves of strength she tried to increase her speed…only to trip and fall. Instantly she felt a multitude of vines wrap around her limbs…then she was lifted into the air.
What she had no way of knowing was that this time…Ivy was not commanding the vines or controlling their actions.
"Harley! Stay back!" Ivy yelled to her partner.
Both criminals stopped in their tracks as they watched Zatanna carried by the vines and drawn over the top of a huge plant. A plant with an enormous bulbous pod that suddenly opened wide...so that the vines could slowly lower the helpless magician into it. When the pod began to close back up…engulfing Zatanna's body up to just below her shoulders…the heroine suddenly understood just how serious her predicament was.
"It's got her," Harley said with a mixture of quiet awe and excitement in her voice.
"Yes…yes it does," Ivy replied almost reverently. She walked slowly forward towards the helpless Zatanna, motioning Harley to follow. "It's safe to approach now. It has its meal in place."
Zatanna tried to struggle but the pod was holding her in a grip of iron. Worse…she could feel tendrils inside the pod tightening around her body and trying to draw her down so that it could snap shut over her head as well. She kept her legs ramrod straight and tried in vain to spit the cloth out of her mouth. If she could only say a few words! That was all she needed for a spell!
Meanwhile Harley and Ivy watched the drama wide-eyed. It wasn't like they'd never killed anyone before…or watched this particular plant (one of Ivy's absolute favorites) feed. But this…this was Zatanna. One of the greatest heroes on the planet. A respected member of the Justice League.
And now…their latest victim.
"This is really happening," Harley whispered. "We're going to kill Zatanna."
"This is so cool."
"Yes," Ivy agreed as she watched the heroine's face. "Yes, it is."
Though nobody could question Zatanna's bravery…the combination of physical helplessness and the ghoulish running commentary from the two villains was hard to take. She felt her legs begin to buckle…and an icy shiver spread all the way to the core of her being. There would be no miraculous escape here. No last second rescue. Tears started to well in her eyes.
"There it is," Ivy said as she studied the doomed woman's expression. "She knows it now."
Harley smiled triumphantly. "Buh bye Magic-girl!" she said with a wave. Her tone was almost friendly.
Surrendering to the inevitable, Zatanna let her legs bend and was drawn fully inside the plant's deadly pod. It closed tightly once the top of her head had vanished from view.
Harley grabbed hold of Ivy and spun her around in a circle.
"We are the baddest of the bad!" she proclaimed proudly.
Ivy smiled at her. "Shh…let's go and let my baby digest his meal in peace."
Thus, the partners-in-crime retired to their bedroom…both still stunned at what they'd accomplished. Even the most infamous villains could rarely boast that they'd killed a super hero. And certainly not one of Zatanna's stature. They both knew that by any standard, this was a monumental accomplishment.
It would be a day or two before they'd realize the kind of price they were going to have to pay for it.
"Geez! Already?" Harley muttered as the sounds of the explosion roused her from sleep. "We just got here!"
She grabbed the nearby submachine gun and some extra ammo clips. She carried the gun all the time now, something she never would have imagined doing as recently as two months ago. While she'd always recognized their usefulness, firearms were so…ordinary. They lacked novelty.
But there wasn't much time for novelty these days.
Indeed, Harley didn't even bother to wear her jester outfit anymore. Nor did she paint her face. No point in the clown makeup now, not with her multiple mug shots being shown constantly on the news. She was just as recognizable in street clothes as she was in her traditional red and black tights.
Armed and angry, Harley followed the sounds of battle to see who'd tracked them down now…and hoped that Ivy was not having any trouble handling them. It wasn't easy fighting so many different heroes so often…with so little chance to recover before going back on the run.
The death of Zatanna had sent shockwaves through both the hero and villain communities. It was bizarre really…how nobody had expected the chain reaction that event set in motion, though in hindsight it made perfect sense.
Because they flirted with death so often…because they regularly faced lethal situations as a matter of course…both the good guys and the bad guys had managed to overlook a simple fact.
Super heroes didn't normally die.
Oh, there had been deaths here and there. Heroic sacrifices to stop some unstoppable alien monster or to save innocents from a natural disaster. There were even those rare occasions where desperate villains who preferred suicide to capture set off some death trap or self destruct device that would allow them to kill their foes at the cost of their own lives. But such cases were the exceptions…and those heroes that had fallen, brave and true as they may have been, were not exactly 'major names'.
Not like Zatanna.
Harley and Ivy had killed one of the most well known heroines alive. They'd killed her and they were still on the loose. That was unprecedented. That was historic.
It was also something that no other hero on the planet was going to let stand.
For among the vastly different individuals that made up the heroic community, amidst all the friendships and rivalries and extreme personalities, Zatanna had enjoyed a simple but unique distinction.
Everyone liked her.
One could have questioned all her peers and not one of them would have had an unkind word or thought about her. If a 'Miss Congeniality' award for super heroes had existed, she would have won in a landslide.
So to the heroic community at large Zatanna's death was about more than law and order or good and evil. It wasn't just about crime and punishment or right and wrong.
It was personal.
"They burned them all," Ivy repeated. Though her voice was tired and quiet her tone all but screamed out her despair. "Every hiding place they track us too…they burn all my plants."
Harley kept her arm around the redhead as they limped through the sewers.
"You'll grow lots of new ones," she replied. Her noticeable Brooklyn accent was much more pronounced than usual...as it often was when she was forcing herself to project a cheerful attitude. "We just need to find a place where we can rest long enough to figure out a plan."
Ivy gave no response. In her mind she could still see the images of all the precious plants that had been destroyed in battle after battle. It hadn't even been Justice League members this time. Just Starfire and Cyborg from the Teen Titans.
Children! We have to run from children now. I should have been able to crush them by myself! But even Harley and I together…we barely escaped. So…tired.
"You're good at plans," Harley finally said. Her accent had moved beyond even the borders of parody now. "Super duper good. We'll hide and rest…and make the best plan ever!"
Ivy looked over at her partner and saw that huge smile. Harley had always had such an amazing smile…so ridiculously large, yet it made her face look absolutely beautiful when it was genuine.
It looked so heartbreaking when it was being faked.
"Harley," Ivy started but then paused, aware of how weary her voice sounded. She took a moment before continuing in a stronger tone. "Harley, it will be a…spectacular plan."
She was still exhausted and still hurt…but Ivy did take some comfort as she watched that enormous smile become real.
Harley never used to mind nightmares.
Technically, it could be argued whether or not she'd actually had nightmares at all since losing her mind and becoming a costumed criminal. She'd occasionally have dreams that were sick and twisted…and she'd have horrible things happen to her in them. But she'd wake up laughing instead of screaming, happy to be alive and well…and proud of how creatively she'd imagined herself being tortured and even killed.
The dreams lately were all the same though. She'd always be in prison on death row. In reality, that seemed reasonable enough to her. The ordeal that had started with Zatanna's death had given Harley a feeling in her gut that she wouldn't be going back to the asylum this time. It didn't matter that she was insane as ever. Nor did it matter that the particulars of the crime could easily have been pleaded down to second degree murder. This wasn't about facts…this was about Harley knowing that if she were caught now…her life would be over.
In her death row dreams, sometimes she'd be set to die by different means…hanging, firing squad, lethal injection, gas chamber…even a guillotine one time…but the most frequent method was the electric chair. Most of the dream was actually quite entertaining to Harley's sensibilities. The prison décor was like something from an old gangster film. Harley's uniform was one of those black and white striped outfits often depicted in old cartoons…and which she wasn't even sure had ever been used by prisons in reality.
The lead up to the electric chair was always the same. A priest would come and offer last rites…she'd make a number of blasphemous jokes until he'd leave. Then, if it were the electric chair she'd be going to, a barber would come to shave her head. This would require half a dozen guards to tie her down…she always made sure to put up a great fight. But of course, after she'd given them all hell, she'd not be upset at all with losing her locks.
"Nice job," she'd tell the barber sweetly after he'd finished. "But I thought I said I just wanted a little off the top."
The guards would be angry of course…but that was just the start of their trouble. Because the next step in the electric chair preparation was getting her to put on an adult diaper.
Eventually (after beating up many, many guards in her struggles) she'd be dragged down the long hall towards the chair…kicking and screaming all the way. She has no intention of trying to escape as she does so, rather her goal is to batter more guards and at the same time yell out every clichéd phrase she can think of.
"I'm innocent I tells ya!"
"It's all a big frame up!"
"Get my lawyer on the phone!"
"Has the Governor called yet?"
All this would culminate when they'd reach the end of the hall where Harley would attempt her best Jimmy Cagney impersonation (which was never very good).
"TOP O' THE WORLD, MA!"
After that, with a final wild burst of strength she'd slip out of the guards' grasp…only to calmly skip over to the chair and take a seat.
"This will be better than the world's biggest joy buzzer," she'd say brightly as they strap her in.
Then they'd fry her.
The dream never ends with her death though. It always continues with her as a silent ghostly observer. She'd watch down with morbid curiosity as her charred corpse is removed from the chair. She'd watch the guards nurse the bruises and black eyes she'd given them…all of which would be well and good from her point of view.
But then she'd follow the guards when they'd head to a different cell. She'd watch as they'd surround the stunning red-haired prisoner who looked uncharacteristically helpless.
And then ghost Harley would be able to do nothing but watch as Ivy cried out for help that never comes. She'd watch as those damn guards…as they…
Harley awoke screaming.
She cursed the nightmare as she always did and then took a deep breath. Trying to put the dream out of her mind, she checked the time and got a pleasant surprise.
Seven hours? I got seven hours of sleep!
That was the longest period of undisturbed rest she'd had in over a week. Maybe this was a sign that their luck was changing. If they could spend a few more days in this hideout, Ivy could come up with that spectacular plan she'd promised to deliver.
Or maybe…maybe the heat is dying down ?
Harley allowed her thoughts to grow hopeful. While it was true that they been tracked down time after time in the last two months, she also knew how much effort the heroes had needed to go thru to do so. It wasn't just staying on the move that had kept her and Ivy free. They'd been smart. Well…Ivy had been smart at least. She'd gotten electronic scramblers to block any bugs or spy cameras. Neuro-flash emitters to keep them invisible from telepaths like the Martian Manhunter. Mystic Talismans purchased from Felix Faust to throw off any magical attempts to find them.
But still, for all that, so many close calls. And always the fear that the next attack would be one of the 'really bad' scenarios. That instead of Vixen crashing thru the window of their hideout…it would be Wonder Woman crashing thru the wall.
Or that instead of looking up and seeing the Black Condor swooping down on them…they'd see Superman .
Or that they'd think they heard a noise in the darkness…and instead of it being nothing…it would be Batman.
No, can't think like that anymore, Harley told herself. Ivy will come up with the plan soon that will solve everything. Heck, she might have finished it already.
Harley decided to go check on her partner. After all, she'd just gotten seven good hours of sleep…which meant Ivy had been up standing guard all that time. She should have her chance at some shut eye now.
It would be better if we could both get some shut eye at the same time, Harley thought. Sleeping in shifts blows.
Ivy was at a loss.
She approached the problem from all angles, she factored in all the variables, she considered all possible outcomes…and then went back to the drawing board to try again.
The heroes would hunt them down eventually. There was no escape.
At least not for both of them.
And that just made it worse. Because in this impossible, intolerable situation where there was no way out…Ivy actually had a way out. A long term project that she'd been working on for years. A goal she'd dreamt of for the majority of her adult life…and now something she could actually accomplish.
But she could only do it alone.
I can't abandon Harley, she thought. I WON'T abandon Harley.
Yet what choice did she have?
"How ya doing, Red?"
The question startled Ivy. She hadn't even heard her partner enter the room.
"Geez, don't be so jumpy," the blonde clown said. "I didn't mean to-"
"No, it's not your fault," Ivy interrupted. "I was just…thinking."
"About the plan? Have you come up with something?" Harley's tone was hopeful.
"I'm…close. Just one more detail to work thru and…things will be…" Ivy paused and bit her lip. "I'm very close."
The excitement shining in Harley's eyes was impossible to miss. "And things will be like they were? And we can relax? And not have to move all the time? And-"
Ivy cut her off. "Things will be…" Once again she paused. As she gazed into her partner's eyes, she made a decision. "Things will be different…but it will be better. I promise."
"Better is good," Harley replied. "Better is just dandy in fact. But you look tired, and I came to ask if you wanted to rest now."
"That's an excellent idea."
As she headed off to bed, Ivy's mind remained focused on the course of action she'd committed herself to.
I swear it will be better, Harley. I'll make sure you'll be okay. We'll both be okay.
To be continued...
Author's note: This is a birthday gift fic for my friend, the amazing author SilverTurtle. Now I just need to finish it. The continuity of the story is based on the DC animated universe...but is somewhat different.