Taking Sides

Dr. Harleen Quinzel entered the staff room and took a seat in the corner, trying to avoid being noticed. She had been working at Arkham Asylum for a couple weeks now, but because of conflicting shifts, she still hadn't met all the other doctors yet, and honestly really had no desire to. She had never been particularly good with meeting new people - she wasn't the friendly, outgoing type, and preferred to use her breaks to study and read up on her patients, rather than socialize. At the moment she was examining the Joker's file – she was really hoping to be able to interview him at some point. He was a fascinating case, a fascinating man, and she was eager to discover all she could about him.

"You're the new girl, right?" said a voice.

She looked up to see a fairly handsome young man looking down at her. "Um…yes," she said, standing up and holding out her hand. "Dr. Harleen Quinzel, but everyone calls me Harley. Nice to meet you."

"Dr. Tim Baker," he said, shaking her hand and smiling. "Welcome to the madhouse. Can I ask why, out of all the mental institutions in the country, you picked a job at this hellhole?"

Harley stared at him, unsure if he was joking. "Well…I've always had an attraction for extreme personalities," she said. "And there are some pretty colorful characters here at Arkham."

"That's putting it mildly," laughed Dr. Baker. "But yeah, we've got some real psychos here. If you're lucky, they'll stick you with one of the random crazies, rather than the supercriminals. Those guys are a helluva lotta work."

"I took this job so I could work," replied Harley. "Really hard, if I have to, to help the people who need it."

"I admire your optimism, Harley," said Dr. Baker. "But I think soon you'll realize, like the rest of us, that some of these nutcases are beyond help. Just between you and me, I think the best thing for 'em would be to put 'em down. Y'know, like what people do to mad dogs. That's what these people are – animals, plain and simple. They'd kill you as soon as look at you."

"What makes you say that?" asked Harley.

"Well, I've been through my share of breakouts," he shrugged. "I've been held hostage a couple times. You see it in their eyes then, how little they care about human life, and how willing they'd be to take it without a second thought, the way you or I would flick off a lightswitch."

"Tim, stop trying to scare Harley!" snapped Dr. Leland. "You'll have to forgive him, Harley, he does this with all the new doctors."

"I don't need to scare her – she'll be scared soon enough," retorted Dr. Baker. "I'm just warning her. I'd hate to see one of those crazies do a job on that pretty little face of yours."

"Thank you for your concern, but I believe I can handle myself," said Harley. "I'm a professional, after all. If we treat our patients with respect, I firmly believe they'll show us some respect in return."

Dr. Baker laughed. "Wow, I'm not sure if that's optimism or just stupidity!" he said. "You can't be nice to these freaks, Harley, they'll only try to take advantage of it. I thought, as a fellow psychiatrist, you would understand the devious nature of psychopaths."

"And I thought, as a fellow psychiatrist, that you would be capable of a little more compassion and understanding towards your patients," snapped Harley. "I can certainly see why they resent us if this is the attitude they're greeted with."

"It's the only sane attitude when dealing with these monsters," replied Dr. Baker. "We're not the crazy ones, after all."

"Perhaps that's a matter of opinion," said Harley, sitting down and trying to focus back on her reading.

Dr. Baker sat down across from her. "Pretty thick file for you to be reading, sweetheart," he said, glancing at it.

"Yes, I mastered chapter books in elementary school," retorted Harley, trying to ignore him.

He noticed the name on the file. "Ah, the Joker," he said. "Now he's the worst. Worse than all the other crazies put together. Completely insane, heartless, unfeeling, unrepentant, homicidal maniac. Listening to him talk will chill you to the bone. There's nothing else there but evil."

"Forgive me if I don't share your incredibly simplistic take on an incredibly complicated man," said Harley. "To say the Joker is evil is to dismiss him entirely. We can only help him by understanding him."

"You can't help the Joker," retorted Dr. Baker. "No one can. Like I said, there's nothing there. No heart, no soul, just cruelty and malice and a really disgusting sense of humor."

She looked up at him. "Why the jokes?" she demanded. "Why the games and the gags if there's nothing there? There's something driving him to commit these crimes, something he may not even realize is there, but it's certainly more than just evil. No, he's a complex man, and I will do my best to try to figure him out, assuming that's ok with you. It is my job, after all."

"Joan, you didn't give the new girl the Joker, did you?" asked Dr. Baker of Dr. Leland, astonished.

"No," snapped Dr. Leland. "She wanted me to, but I told her it's not gonna happen. And it's not gonna happen, Harley."

"Luckily it's not entirely your decision," retorted Harley. "I'm gonna take it up with the other heads."

"Just don't neglect your patients," sighed Dr. Leland. "I really don't know why you want to waste your time with people like the Joker. I hate to agree with Dr. Baker, but they are generally considered incurable. What makes you think you'll be able to help them?"

Harley wondered how she should respond. Should she tell them the truth, the truth that she related more to these homicidal maniacs than to normal people because they were different, just as she had always been? Should she tell her that she believed these people not to be evil, just special, which nobody else seemed to see? Should she tell her that something about the Joker had captured her attention since she had seen him briefly on her first day here, and which had only grown when he had sent her flowers for no apparent reason? No. No, they wouldn't understand any of that. Nobody ever had.

She shrugged. "I just want to try," she replied. "There can't be any harm in that, can there?"

"There's always harm when the Joker's involved," retorted Dr. Baker.

"I'm not afraid of him," snapped Harley.

"Then you're an idiot," he retorted. "You better wise up, sweetheart, or you're not gonna last, and I don't just mean here at Arkham."

"Thanks for the tip," said Harley sarcastically, standing up and putting the file under her arm. "See you later."

She left the room and went down the corridor, heading back towards her office. On her way, she passed the cafeteria and glanced inside to see the inmates in the middle of their lunch. She looked casually around for the Joker and saw him at last, chatting with Harvey Dent, who the more disrespectful people called Two-Face. Harley thought that was an appalling thing to call a man who had been disfigured in an accident, and she resolved to always refer to him as Mr. Dent if she ever spoke to him. Or Harvey, if he'd let her.

Joker suddenly noticed her staring and looked at the doorway. She met his eyes and felt her breathing start to speed up, just as it had that first time she saw him. He had such beautiful, intense eyes…

He smiled at her and winked, just as he had that first day. Harley felt herself blushing, but managed a nod before striding off. Her body was shaking and she tried to get it under control. He was handsome in his own way, she had to admit it to herself. She wondered if anyone else had ever seen that before her. Probably not. Nobody ever seemed to see any of them as anything more than evil freaks, not worthy of notice, people who deserved to be swept under the rug if they could, like dirt. Harley didn't feel that way about them. The normal people, the boring, ordinary, everyday people like Dr. Leland and Dr. Baker were the ones who could be swept away. There were millions of people out there like them. But these patients, these supercriminals, were special. They were unique. There would never be anyone like them ever again. They should be valued and treasured, not locked away. They only hurt people because they weren't. Why couldn't anyone see that?

She entered her office and put the file down on her desk. She opened it again and picked up a photograph of the Joker, smiling as usual. She smiled back. "I know you're not evil," she murmured, propping the photo up on her desk. "And I want to help you. Please let me get close to you."