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Still smelling the roses

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Harley hated how these halls made her feel. There had been a time when she’d walked through them proudly. She’d been a practicing psychiatrist just as she’d dreamed about when she was younger. Well, perhaps she hadn’t quite dreamt about Arkham back then.

She’d worn a lab coat, her hair had been nice and smart. She had even clacked down the halls proudly in a pair of black high heels she’d purchased with her very first pay cheque. Little miss doctor had been a real professional go-getter. The kind of person that made their Ma and Pa proud. The thought brought a small smile to her lips, but it was short lived. The memory of what came next soured any pride she had for her old life.

Like a dream it washed through her. Harley remembered his smile. The smile that had enticed her to help the Joker erase that woman. For that smile she’d pushed the good doctor through the cracks in her own mind until she was nothing more than a faded and forgotten memory. Harley Quinn was all that remained.

Now the tiled white walls felt like they towered over her. They were clinical, cold reminders of a past she’d much sooner forget. The whole building stood strong where she had fallen so far. But none of that mattered anymore. She’d returned and she was trying to be the good guy.

A stain caught her eye as she walked determined onwards. There was an unmistakable rust grime discolouring the grout. Harley glanced at her feet guiltily. White really hadn’t been a good choice considering how much blood had been spilt along these corridors. Some of which she had spilt with her own hands.

Those had really been different days.

It was a wonder they were letting her back in. She owed Bruce one for this.

Harley flinched as she approached the patient check-in point. This was the first time she’d come to Arkham Asylum as a visitor. No cuffs or restraints, no bombs or elaborate escape plans, no Mistah J and no Suicide Squad. She was here to do good.

The Batman noticed her recoil. Of course, he did. That damn bat noticed everything.

“Are you sure you want to do this Harley?” He asked her, his voice appearing gruff but concern evident in his tone.

“I got this B-man.” She threw back, offering him one of her bubblegum sweet grins. “Or I gotta at least try.”

“You need me, just hit this button.” Batman passed her a sleek black box, but Harley saw Bruce in his actions. On one side was a red panic button, on the other his trademark symbol.

“You should really look into getting’ a sponsor Bats.” She joked, but her blue eyes carried the warmth of thanks.

The caped crusader nodded curtly, “I’ll be waiting here for you.”

♦♦♦

Harley expected the armed guard to escort her to Poison Ivy’s cell, but it still felt like the old days. She had to stem the excitement bubbling up in her gut that she was about to see her Puddin’. Funny how she still felt her depraved love for him clawing beneath the surface sometimes. It was maddening how he had crept into her bones and scratched beneath her skin. She was free from him but still he lingered…

“She’s in her usual cell.” Aaron Cash broke Harley free from her chain of thought. “She’s been quiet. Quieter than usual I mean.” He informed her, shifting the automatic weapon in his grip as if to remind her he had it. Harley couldn’t really blame him.

Cash was one of the good guards here at Arkham. He'd survived and seen a hell of a lot within it's walls. More than she'd ever seen. He'd been kind to her in the beginning, before Harley Quinn was born. Harley hadn't shown him the same kindness. At least not until recently.

He nodded and stood guard at the entrance to Poison Ivy’s decontamination unit. He was close enough to keep watch but not close enough to intrude. It was a kindness she hadn't expected from him. Harley was touched.

“Thanks, Cashy.” She said softly before stepping past him.

“Show time.” She muttered to herself, cracking her jaw. Steeling her resolve, she walked up to the thick glass that held the dangerous eco-terrorist captive. The cell had been filled with a fine red mist, Harley knew exactly what it was for. It kept Ivy’s powers muted but it didn’t tame her. Nothing ever could.

♦♦♦

“Hiya Red…”

The blonde's voice was small and weak. The kind of voice that anticipated a harsh scolding. It wasn't a voice she much liked to use anymore. It reminded her too much of how pathetic she used to be. Yet here, stood in front of the woman she used to love, she felt anxious.

“Harley.” Poison Ivy acknowledged her old friend’s presence with cold eyes and casual disdain. She lay on her prison cot in a seductive pose, as if she’d been expecting company. For once, Ivy didn’t look all that enticing. The green woman only managed to look menacing. Like she would eat you alive with no remorse and no second thoughts.

Harley shivered. It had been a long time since anyone had looked at her with the same cruel hunger.

She’d grown to expect it from her Mistah J, but not from Ivy. Never Ivy.

“So…” She started, her mouth suddenly dry. Harley had come here with so much to say but now that she stood outside of her old friends cell her mind drew a blank. Harley always had something to say. The silence was deafening. Ivy regarded her with a strange sense of curiosity. She hadn’t seen the blonde like this before. Not that she cared…

Harley swallowed thickly. “You… Well you killed me. Or you tried to and- well Red that just ain’t cool between friends.”

“We were friends Harl. Past tense is important for clear communication.” Ivy’s tone wasn’t much defensive, nor was it angry. It was aloof and haughty. Like she thought she was better than anyone and everyone. Like she owned the joint. The whole situation was just so surreal.

“Ain’t you even sorry about it?” Harley asked, hurt creeping into her childlike voice.

“Harley, I feel nothing.” The response was cold.

“But you nearly killed me and we-we used to be something.”

“Yet here you are.” Ivy yawned, feigning boredom. She turned over in her cot, dismissing the forlorn Harlequin with a dismissive gesture. “As entertaining as this has been, you can take your leave now.”

Harley clenched her fist, fighting the tears that threatened to spill but she stood strong. “You’re killin’ me here. But I ain’t givin’ up on you. You never gave up on me Red. Even when you thought you should, you never did. No matter how many times I didn’t listen to ya, or made you mad. You were always there. I ain’t giving up on you.” At that Harley put her hand to the thick glass.

It was something they used to do back when they had adjoining cells. They’d put their hands against the wall or even just sit with their backs to one another. Feeling connected to each other even when they couldn’t touch.

She walked off with the promise to return. Ivy had seen her leave before but this time it was different. She wasn’t running off to the clown and she was coming back.

Maybe Poison Ivy had more than just the Green after all.