He's back, he's whole, and he's welcoming her enthusiastic bear hug. Or, tolerating it, in any case.
"Fly me to the moon," she croons, "and let me play among the stars."
"Really?" He frowns while his body is puppeted into step to music only she can hear. "I don't think your body can withstand the lack of atmospheric pressure, even with those pills you have."
"No, silly," she says, snickering into a spin. "Just fly us outta here."
"Oh, okay." His face softens, surprise fading from his features (which are rather fine, she might add). "Where should I take you?"
"Wherever you want to, I'm not picky. I'll go where you're going."
He sighs. "All right. Just this once. Hold on tight."
Harley, of course, requires no further invitation. She's past ready when he scoops her up, and leaves nothing but a joyous whooping behind. She's never been this literally swept off her feet. Except perhaps that last time Shazzy tackle-hugged her. Ah, they already share so many great memories!
"C'mon, let's go higher," Harley urges when it becomes apparent he's gonna stick to floating just above the skyline. "I wanna get as far away from the ocean as possible." And from the memories of those awful, awful gods. Who'd've thought they'd be such jerks? She's read their mythologies and yet they hadn't prepared her for the extent of the douchebaggery these gods had in store.
Shazzy, however, ain't in as much of a hurry to skedaddle. "I'd rather not expose you to frequent changes in altitude," he reasons. "You're not used to rapid ascensions."
"Aww, that's so considerate of you." She rests her temple on his shoulder and squishes him harder. "But it's fine. If there's one thing I'm good at dealing with it's attitude changes. Trust me, I've witnessed a lotta those."
"That's not what I..."
"I've always wanted to know what it would be like to fly among the clouds."
Shazzy can't but relent. "Don't say I didn't warn you." Haha, strike.
The wind whips and whistles around them as they climb through the air, his cloak flutters like the wings of an overexcited duckling, and the highrises below them dwindle to the size of lego blocks. Her exposed skin may contract from the razor-toothed cold, but it's easy to ignore; his body heat soaks through their every point of contact and saturates her with enough warmth to combat the dropping climate.
And anyway, she wouldn't want to miss this view for the world.
"It's breath-taking, isn't it?" he asks and his bright blue eyes sparkle with the awe she herself is taken with. It's... it's – wow.
"Shining, shimmering, splendid," she sings in answer, launching into a song that fits the mood to a T.
The beauty of it all. Traveling by plane doesn't compare in the slightest. All you have a tiny window offering a sliver of what she can see now. Which is everything. Patches of yellows and browns and greens rise out of the ocean, carved with the grays of highways and spotted with white houses and a multitude of other structures. The sky is so much vaster than it appears from the ground, its color palette a gradient bleeding from a deep royal blue to the azure of his eyes to a thin sliver of icy white.
"Being up here reminds me of what's important," he continues, gaze far away and contemplative.
"But it's awf'ly remote from the people you wanna protect." And freaking cold, geez. The lowest cloud layer left a thin coat of moisture on her skin that makes her more susceptible to the temperatures.
He shakes his head. "There are people everywhere on the planet who could use a hand, not only those few in my immediate surroundings. If my focus becomes too narrow, I lose sight of the bigger picture."
And what's that, she wants to ask. This bird's eye view won't give him an insight into people's lives. "But you don't see what people really think from up here, or how afraid they are of Superman and his stupid soldiers."
"Regular people don't need to be afraid of us," he says and his expression is so earnest she kind of wants to punch him for believing all that if it wouldn't melt her heart like it does.
"Shazzy, I like you, and your naivety is absolutely adorable at times, but I don't think you get regular people at all. Provided there's such a thing as 'regular people.' It doesn't matter that you think you're harmless or that your constant surveillance is meant to save innocent people from getting hurt. It doesn't change the fact that they feel oppressed."
"The people I talked to thanked us for what we've been doing," Shazzy maintains, puzzled and concerned.
"Do you really believe that anyone who disagrees with you would tell you to your face?"
"You're doing it."
"Well, I have no trouble punching you on the nose, and thanks to my little green happy pills I have no trouble taking punches from you either. But those regular folks you speak of, they can't do that."
"I don't understand. I have the wisdom of Solomon and it told me, back when we were starting out, that helping Superman was the right thing to do."
Oh, she senses doubt there. Now that's fascinating. "Is it still telling you siding with Supey is the right thing?" Her hand clenches in Shazzy's fluttering cloak. She can't think of that homewrecker without sliding into a maddening rage. Why, oh why doesn't Shazzy realize what a tyrant he's following? He shouldn't be in his grip like that. If he has the wisdom of Solomon as he says, why ain't he smarter than that?
Shazzy's silent for a bit as though he might be getting an idea of the error in judgment he's committed. "I probably shouldn't be telling you this, especially not out here, but I'm beginning to have my doubts. Not about the world order we've created, but about how Superman handles his business. He's not the same person anymore. I wish there was a way to help him overcome his demons."
Here it is, the perfect opportunity to talk some sense into him and beckon him to her side, and yet she doesn't use it to her advantage because his concern for Dictatorman makes her want to ralph. Violently.
"Ugh, I can't talk about this anymore." What a stupid idea it was to start an argument among the clouds, where she can't flee and beat up dummies whenever she wants to. At least it hasn't escalated and turned into a vicious defense of their respective sides in this war. For now, she is tired of fighting. There's been too much of that in the past few days and she can't handle any more, especially not with Shazzy.
"Harley, what – are you – doing?" he asks as she's twisting in his grasp, clutching at his shoulder, and swinging her leg around his waist.
"Hold still," she says and continues clambering over him until she's riding piggyback. "There. All set. You can go ahead now." Here she continues the song from before: "Take me wonder by wonder / Over, sideways and under / On a magic carpet ride."
"So what, I'm the magic carpet now?" he asks, playing at being offended. He's not very good at it.
"You're too cute to be a rug." Although you do let Supes walk all over you, she thinks bitterly.
This time, he shakes his head in fond disbelief. "Well, don't stop singing now. How does it go again?" he asks as though sensing her mood and picks up the tune: "A whole new world."
Harley nearly squeals with delight, bad mood shaken off like a dog shakes off water. "Oh my god, you know Aladdin?"
He shrugs as best he can while gliding through the air. "Billy has seen it."
"That is so amazing! The runt is useful for something after all."
His brows crinkle at the disparaging comment of his alter ego, but he lets it slide. "Do you want to know what is even more amazing?"
"Always," she says, beaming.
"Okay. Whatever you do, don't let go," he says and the next moment they're soaring, tumbling, freewheeling through an endless diamond sky like in the song. He propels forward like a rocket lost in flight, diving next to birds of prey and vaulting up high again, carried on upward currents and somersaulting beneath the clouds.
Isn't it just adorable what a showoff he is? This is significantly more fun than BASE jumping, where the only way is down. Her ecstatic laughter takes over her whole body because it's so easy up here, because she's so light and free of worry, alliances, and history, free of everything. All that exists is this exquisite rush of the wind in her veins, and Shazzy. Beautiful, kind, wonderful Shazzy.
She hasn't felt this alive since coming back from the dead. Which, granted, hasn't been that long, but even before that it must have been years... (She shouldn't go there. The memories are still painful.)
She slides off his back and dangles from his body, holding on only with her laced fingers behind his neck and her crossed ankles at the small of his back.
"How do you feel about skydiving?" she shouts in the direction of his ear and lets go. Her palms slip down his arms but before she can grip his hands, a sudden gale knocks her back.
For a second, she is suspended in mid-air, fingers outstretched for him to take, but just like her, he's frozen, unable to move. The next, she's dropping down to earth while he remains physically stuck in this moment.
She's shocked him; he couldn't have foreseen her overenthusiastic leap of faith.
Ahaha – oh shit.
Her playful grin morphs into hysteric laughter. How short her second chance at life turned out to be. Talk about a wasted opportunity. At least she got to spend her last moments with him.
Goodbye, cruel world.
Plunging toward the horizontal plane, cold air slicing her skin, it almost feels like the friction is ripping her spirit from her body. Which would probably be less painful when she goes splat.
Her only regret is that she didn't get to knock out Supey's lights for good. You go ahead, B-man, and finish what we started. And that Shazzy is here to witness the moment of impact.
Of course, he doesn't just stand by idly when she's about to become an ugly stain on the pavement. (Or perhaps walk away with a splitting headache – she ain't sure how much shock her happy pills can absorb before it starts to affect her body.) He hurtles down from the sky – lightning-quick, as is his MO – and catches her.
"Urp," she manages, hanging limply in his arms. She's quivering madly, not a single muscle under her control below the neck. "I stand by my earlier judgment. You're still a good hugger."
"What the hell were you thinking?"
"Sorry, I got a little carried away."
"You could have died, Harley."
"M-maybe I acquired a taste for it."
He flies them to the top of the highrise she nearly crashed into. His attempts to set her on her feet are unsuccessful, because her legs are made of play-doh and no longer function. She slumps against his chest, giggling and shaking uncontrollably, a nervous reaction to all the adrenaline flooding her system.
"You're freezing," he states and a moment later, something light brushes her bare arms, making her skin prickle. He's... he's thrown his cape over her shoulders. His residual warmth stored in the fabric creeps into her and intensifies her trembling as the cold ain't prepared to relinquish its hold over her yet.
She can't tell whether it's in answer to her tremors or a sympathetic reaction, but in the end it doesn't matter why he folds her in his arms and hugs her tight. It just matters that he does. He's tall and warm and smells like the air after a cleansing shower. But although he reminds her of something insubstantial, he's anything but that. He's a concrete presence that absorbs her jittering.
Her heart clenches at how much he cares. How he cares about her. Oh, Shazzy. Harley would be moved to tears if she'd had the energy to cry. (Maybe. It's usually only heart-rending movies that force the tears to her eyes.)
She clings to him. Her fingers card through the short hairs at his nape as she tugs his head down toward hers, the hood of his cape slipping down as she tilts her face up. Their noses brush and she could swear a spark jumps from his lips the moment they graze hers. They are surprisingly smooth and the feel maddeningly good against her own. How long it's been since she kissed anyone...
He doesn't drop her like a hot brick the way she's expected, but maintains his support of her. Harley's breath hitches when one of his hands slide up her back to cradle the back of her head. She's tingling, from her crown to the tip of her toes, as though his magic lightning energy is buzzing through her. The soft press and glide of their lips only amplify the sensation. With a quiet moan, she scrapes her blunt nails over his scalp. He sucks in a breath.
"Shhh..." Not yet, she thinks and closes her lips over his again. Don't leave me yet. His hair is thick and a bit bristly under her combing fingers. He allows her tongue past his teeth and wow, that's nice. Her hand at his neck actually detects a spike in his pulse. Sill, after a languorous caress of tongues, he draws back, as she should have anticipated.
"I'm sorry, Harley. I can't," he says and no matter how amiable or gentle or amused he is, her heart sinks all the same.
"No, I get it."
"I'm not sure you do," he murmurs, not taking his eyes off her lips, and please throw caution to the wind already and kiss her again.
"What's there not to get? I'm a baddie, we're on opposing sides, and your wisdom or whatever tells you this is a stupid idea. I'm already surprised you didn't carry me off to your super prison."
"It's all not that easy. I know I shouldn't be letting you off the hook, but I owe you. For Billy. And I never even got around to thanking you before."
Harley snorts weakly. "I didn't save him. I did it for you. And now we're even."
"Still. Thank you for looking out for him."
"I'm just glad you're back," she says and buries her face against the scintillating lightning bolt emblem on his chest. Her struggle against the downward drag of her body ceases.
"Likewise," he chuckles. When he notices her succumbing to gravity, he sinks down with her, cushioning her collapse.
He positions them so they can watch the hidden sunset color the clouds on the horizon in orange and apricot shades and wraps his cloak around her until she feels like a burrito. She lets herself be handled, since her body is effectively useless right now, especially from the waist down. She reclines against him, waiting for her shivering to subside.
It's painful how much she's in love with him.
"I'm... I'm sorry I can't love you the way you want me to," he says after a while, fingers drumming a nervous rhythm on his knees..
"Don't coddle me. I don't wanna hear it."
Of course he can't love her. It's not like she expected anything to come from her infatuation. Not really, anyway. Did he think he could force himself into loving her out of some strange sense of obligation or what? Even if the idea might be appealing for a second or two, it wouldn't be right.
She knows he cares about her – the same way he cares about everyone, because he's a good person. And she's just selfish. She hadn't planned on falling in love with him, much as you can plan these things, and yet she clung to her new obsession if only to erase the hurt from the past.
"I just," he tries to explain and laughs bitterly. What's there to explain? "Look at me. I'm the world's mightiest mortal and yet I am incapable of telling you how I feel." He sighs. "I... I've grown fond of you. Billy calls me any number of names because of that, but it doesn't change that I'm grateful to you. You're the first person to really treat me like a separate existence from him, and I can't begin to tell you what that means to me."
Harley squeezes her eyes shut and turns her head away. Her heart is aching so much. "Stop talking. Please. You're making it harder than it already is."
She didn't mean to fall in love with him. He didn't mean to hurt her. But it happened.
The harder Harley tries to lock her heart away, the more it revolts. (She just ain't the Bat.) People she holds dear have a habit of dying on her. Her puddin', Ollie, Dinah, the Chimp... even the runt and herself, almost.
This war has already claimed so many lives. She couldn't lose him, too. So maybe it's best they stay away from each other.
With the gradual return of her cognitive functions, Harley recognizes the skyline around them. She hadn't noticed how far they've been floating during their talk in the sky. "Why did you bring me back to Gotham? I thought we were gonna run away together."
Now it's Shazzy's turn to huff out a breath. "I agreed to take you home, not... do whatever it is you had in mind."
"We shoulda talked about that before taking off," Harley pouts and glowers at him. It's easier to mask the pain when she's mock-affronted. Before long, a smile tugs at her lips again. With the palm of her fingerless glove, she wipes away the remnant of black lipstick and greasepaint from his mouth. "There, better."
"Thanks," he says and smiles back down at her. God, does he have to make this so hard on her? She huddles back into the cloak and props herself against him perhaps a little more forcefully than intended.
She rests her head against his shoulders and hums under her breath. But when I'm way up here, it's crystal clear / That now I'm in a whole new world with you. He may just have ruined that song for her, because she now associates it more with heartbreak than with freedom. Well, what did she expect? That he'd just ditch Superman to be with her? Hm, kinda, maybe...
His face breaks out into a smile again. "You know, Billy was beginning to reform his opinion about you after you rescued him from Tartarus, but when you kissed me he took it all back again. That rather disturbed him."
"Huh? What are you talking about?"
"Billy. Although my body has taken his place in this dimension, his soul is still inside my head, so to speak. He experiences everything I do."
"Does that mean he was there in your head when I kissed you?" Harley's face scrunches up like she's bitten into a sour grape. "Oh that's just gross."
"That's what he thought," Shazzy says and laughs. "But don't worry, he walled himself off from that particular experience."
"Thank god for small mercies." Well, that's just great. Why didn't he mention he has an audience inside his head? Couldn't she even enjoy one private moment with him? It was enough that she had to entertain the possibility of Superdouche spying on them from afar.
"It's going to be raining soon. Can I escort you home?" he asks as the advancing gloom slowly envelops the city and its many neon lamps and billboard signs. They do little to pierce the blanket of darkness. Or maybe it's the darkness in her own head they can't lift.
"So your boss knows where to find me? I don't think so."
"I thought we'd already established I could just throw you into prison if I wanted to, but it's not going to happen."
"Let me at least get you to street-level. Can you stand?"
"I'm fine now, thanks." The shock of her second near-death experience within a day has faded and relinquished its hold over her body. She shouldn't make a habit of almost dying, but well, you gotta have some hobbies, right?
She rest her forehead against his neck when he scoops her up and bears her toward an empty-looking street where they wouldn't draw so many stares.
"Will you be okay?" he asks as he sets her down.
Why do you care, anyway? she wants to ask, but that may just be a little unfair. She doesn't know. Her head hurts. Maybe something has come loose during the fall. Then again, she's always had a few screws loose. No matter now. "I live here, remember? I've survived so far."
"With a little help," he quips, but all she manages is a weak smile. He must sense that something is amiss, because when is Harley Quinn not up for a joke? He hesitates, then presses a kiss to her cheek. "Take care."
And off he flies. Thus her brief romance with Shazzy concludes. Next time they meet, they'd be at each other's throats again. And as fun as that may be, she'd much rather fight at his side against Supes. Too bad that ain't gonna happen.
With his departure the heavens open up as he predicted, and she makes her way to the nearest bolthole in a deluge of Biblical proportions.
It's true what they say. Your life really does flash before your eyes when you're staring death in the face. Or, your defining moments, anyway. Receiving a scholarship at GSU, meeting her puddin', finding out she was pregnant, her puddin's death, and now Shazzy...
Why did Shazzy save her anyway? It would have meant one less adversary to this rotten regime. She could have been with her puddin' again. And with Dinah, Ollie and the Chimp. Although, to be fair, she suspects they hang out at different places in the afterlife. She hopes navigating between them won't be too tricky. She hates public transportation.
The crash of thunder overhead makes her wistful. She already misses him. In place of her heart is a gaping hole of ache and longing. Come back. But it's okay. It's not like Shazzy broke her heart or anything. It's already been broken. Now it's ground into fine powder that scatters on the wind. No biggie. She'll survive, just as she's always done.
If that means she can no longer fall in love, then so be it. It's always been a hassle anyway.
(Who is she kidding? She is likely to fall for anyone her heart dust settles on next. Love is who she is, it's in her bones, and no amount of setbacks will ever stop her from loving again. Or continuing to love. Even now, her feelings for Shazzy are all the stronger because she cannot have him.)
By the time she climbs into the dingy apartment she keeps for emergencies, she's drenched to the marrow. The radiator is blasted, but she curls up against it anyway, huddled in the waterlogged cloak. For some reason, she's expected him to come back to her, if only for a moment, to request his cloak back and say goodbye one more time.
Maybe she's read too much into his hesitation and his doubts. Maybe she thought they'd be enough for him to change his mind about his alliance.
Her body is heavy with disappointment and she drifts off to sleep with lightning in her nostrils. Her dreams are troubled and marked with loss, an endless line of allies and innocents that are caught in the clash of titans. Such is war. There will be more sacrifices before it's over.
She wakes up shivering in the twilight hours of the morning, groggy from too little sleep and too realistic visions of the future. His cloak is gone. Harley draws her knees tight against her chest so as not to fall apart through the force of her disillusion. Along with his cloak, any hope is gone that he might return and change sides, after all.