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believing in a better world for no good reason

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Winter was horrible business: cold, for one, and lonely, for another. No one to keep her warm, or plain keep her company, not even her Kitty Cat, who must be lonely herself but has enough feline friends to fool herself over that fact so she doesn't need to seek out Harley, or anyone else.

There's no one, not even the Red Hood, who must himself be lonely after Scarecrow lost it, B-man croaked, and his militia was rounded up or fled the city. Maybe some came back for him, maybe he went after them, maybe he's halfway across the globe by now, to get away from Gotham's gravity. It would be the smart thing to do. Harley would have done it, if she were him.

Then again, Harley is still here, still mired, still hanging around as if waiting for someone to waltz back into her life and turn it upside down (because the view's nice, because it's a perspective change, because you see things you otherwise wouldn't and lose sight of those that may have been obscuring the things that matter).

(Death is a perspective change.

Although maybe she has had enough of seeing things in a new light.)

Oh, Harley, she can hear Ivy murmur, still relying on others to save you.

Except, she never did and still doesn't. There's no one left she'd even want back in her life. Well, maybe Selina, maybe Jason – that is, if he could ever forgive her for the unforgivable things she's done to him, things that make her sad and sick with guilt, but that she doesn't think about, because she's plenty sad and plenty sick without them.

It's not like they couldn't find her if they really wanted to. Ivy's old greenhouse by the bay ain't the smartest hideout for a former associate (lover) – even if the place has the abandoned look of an old haunted house bombed and trashed by those TYGER tyrants from the year before.

But they don't so much as look for her, they don't care, as if Harley's contagious, as if she's bad luck, and maybe she is, look at what happened to anyone she ever cared about, they're either dead, bereft, or mentally scarred, so Harley is and stays alone, safe for the sweet nothings her memories whisper in her ear. Or maybe it's the rustling of the wind in the dead leaves, the scuff of a boot, the swish of a whip. It doesn't matter, so long as she has her imagination as not-so-silent partner. She can tell herself Ivy's plants are still alive, that they still have a connection to her, that they let her know Harley is looking after them, don't ya worry, they're in good hands.

It doesn't matter that Harley has two black thumbs, that she's more about destroying things than nurturing them (why does she have to think of young Jason again?), that her task is basically impossible because she's faced with a wasteland of what used to be green-leaved plants as big as herself, bigger sometimes, but also tiny flowers with many blossoms that could fill the palm of her hand except she'd never know which of them would have eaten through it if they hadn't been scorched black in the fires or died because the heating and the sprinkler systems went. It's a self-imposed task, surely, no one asked her to do this, Ivy never would, she'd sooner ask Selina, the double-crosser, who doesn't care a lick about flowers and all the licks about making money and screwing you over, but it broke Harley's heart anew to see what used to be Ivy's come to ruin like this. Her foliate friends deserved better.

So Harley tries to make it better for them. She even strikes up a friendship with the manager of the local gardening store and the assistant in the flower shop two blocks down from where she does random snack runs when she's not out for groceries, to get some tips on plant care, the right tools, and a plethora of literature she leafs through during those long, dark, cold, lonely nights when she can't sleep because her memories are so loud and her need for human contact is aching on her skin.

(There are many of those. Harley just hates to be alone. She should just go looking for the others herself. Except that she has her hands full at the moment, her mind occupied, at least throughout the day, and that's something, too.)

Somehow, she manages to rebuild, through legit and non-legit means. She still has access to some of Mr. J's men, and her own. In Gotham, there's always someone willing to do the dirt jobs for a quick buck. This time, the dirt jobs include weeding and sweeping and cleaning out the cistern at the back. There's wiring to be checked and frames to be erected and glass panes to be installed. She lets the pros handle that last one, even if it costs.

She lets the guys handle construction and handles the plants herself. It's not that she couldn't handle construction or that she didn't trust them with the plants (or maybe she did). It's that she wants to do this herself, because it makes her feel closer to Ivy, fingers in the dry earth, uprooting or bedding something, placing dead flowers on the compost almost lovingly, it helps with the pain she's most certainly not thinking about, but that's gnawing away at her nonetheless. She feels thinner these days, less substantial, like she'd just disappear if she weren't anchored – rooted – to anything and she wonders if Ivy ever felt the same.

She probably didn't; she always felt so real.

No matter how much she reads – and she'll be the first to admit that she doesn't attack the books on horticulture with as much zeal as she did those on psychology and psychiatry all those years ago, but she tries, she really does – she still doesn't know if anything she's doing is the right thing, the thing the plants need, because Harley never really paid attention when Ivy was trying to teach her about them, although now she thinks she should have, but hindsight's twenty-twenty, right, and it all looks the same to her when it's not in bloom and she forgets which patch she watered when, and how did Ivy ever keep track of all that different plant life?

It's official: Harley's not good at taking care of things, even her Babies are dead and mounted because she wasn't around to protect them. But this time, she's really trying. This time, there's no one waltzing into her life and turning it upside down. This time, she has no excuses.

So it's a surprise to her, although really, it shouldn't be, when she comes home one day, and yes, she's begun to think of the vine-overgrown structure she'd had fixed up as her home now, because it's a place to crash, a place to stash necessities, even a place she's careful not to blow up, when she comes home, still bundled up in her thick clothes and nose freezing off, and is greeted by the first spots of color rising from the earth. Harley is so excited she stays up all night talking to the little shoot, falling asleep and waking up next to it.

Spring has come early, it seems, if not to the outside world, because Gotham likes to be cold and gloomy, then at least in her little corner of the world, her little shrine to Ivy and all the good things she represented, her beautiful goddess of fertility and abundance and joy of (plant) life.

She wonders if Ivy can see her now, can somehow sense what she is doing, and if she approves. She does, she must, Harley is convinced, no doubt about it. She'll know what it means.