Harley flies on autopilot all the way back to prison, shutters closed and smile stretched bright over her numb lips. No-one notices but Deadshot, and he’s nice enough not to say a thing. He does shoot her a few concerned looks – haha! Get it? – but he doesn’t say one word and she kind of wants to hug him for it.
She remembers feeling his arms around her as he lifted her off that car, such a gentleman. The warmth seeping through her thin tee, the press of his arm-gun-thingy into her spine. That’d been nice, the warmth and realness of him breaking though the cold that had lodged in her on that rooftop, as she watched the helicopter burn.
She doesn’t hallucinate once for two weeks, and she’s endlessly grateful that her psychosis has taken a vacay. She’s pretty sure she knows what it’d show her.
When the dam breaks, she’s sitting in her cell, drinking coffee. She spills the drink on her book when she hears the bomb go, and she’s not even mad because she knows that walk, she knows that man.
Her puddin’ pulls off his mask and strides over to her, and when she throws her arms around him she feels something settle in her chest and everything is right right right for the first time since the helicopter crash.
She’d known he wasn’t dead, she’d known it. If he really had died she would have died with him, heart stopping as soon as its reason to beat had gone.
When one of the guards walks in she laughs and points, saying in her best Harley-voice “Awww no, we’ve got a party crasher.” God she can’t wait for the fireworks, though she’s kind of confused as to why J’s men didn’t drop him as soon as he walked in.
“I don’t see a party,” New Guy says and damn, this dude must have balls of titanium, she kinda wants to recruit him. Then again, he’s got a face that annoys her.
“Puddin’,” she says brightly, turning to her man and feeling the sun rise in her chest as their eyes meet, “gimme a gun so I can kill this loser.”
“Oh I’d love to, Harley baby, I really would,” he tells her, smiling that cruel smile of his, “but there’s a little problem.”
“Oh?” she purrs, wrapping her arms around him and sliding over his tac gear like she’s dancing and he’s a pole. “What kind of a problem?”
J bends in close to press his lips to her ear, and she shivers as his grip on her tightens.
“You see, Harley, I’m dead.”
Suddenly he’s gone, gone like some terrible person just popped a balloon, and his men are gone, and she’s on her knees in the middle of her cell and she thinks maybe someone shot her because her nerves think there’s a hole in her stomach, wide enough that she must be cut in two and what the hell kind of bullets are they using now, to get a hole like that punched through her? And she can’t breathe, and there’s something blurring her vision, she can barely see New Guy crouched outside her cell, can only hear his words to her through a fog getting thicker by the second.
Later, they tell her New Guy came to check on her when she started talking to someone who wasn’t there – must be real new, if he gets worried at Harley Quinn hallucinating. They tell her she was comatose for three hours and someone had to go in and get her back onto her bed before her legs fell off from circulation loss.
New Guy comes to check on her later, face twisted with badly hidden concern. Harley smiles sweetly and thanks him. Then, still smiling, she tells him she wishes he’d shot her in the head.
The shock on his face makes her laugh. It’s bright and beautiful, a Harley original, and terribly terribly fake.
Harley doesn’t actually know how long it is until Waller brings the gang back together, but it can’t be more than a month. After all that destruction Crazy Witch Lady managed before they kicked her loinclothed ass, she’s pretty sure the Wall needs them more than she’s ever gonna let them know. It’s kind of funny.
Nice though, to get out of her head for a bit. The hallucinations are back, and she’s getting kind of tired of seeing her puddin’s face everywhere. By now, the stabbing pain has dulled to a sucking nothing – no one can keep that level of emotional agony up for a whole month, so she’s going numb in self-defence. Better than the alternative, sure, but it’s getting a bit boring.
Everyone looks pretty much the same, nodding at her as she sashays into the room. She winks at Flag and Waller just to see Ricky’s face go tight and pinched. Waller doesn’t even twitch.
Deadshot kicks out a chair for her and she sinks slowly into it, giving him a flirty smile. “And they told me chivalry was dead.”
“Not if you want in someone’s hotpants it ain’t,” Boomy informs her sagely, and Deadshot glares.
“Settle down, kids,” Waller tells them, with a disinterested tone that says they’re nowhere close to getting on her nerves ‘cause she does not give anywhere that much of a shit about them. It’s super effective. Harley kind of wants to ask her for tips.
As Waller lays out the thing that they’re gonna have to do to cover the asses of a government that’s thrown them in the closest thing to purgatory on the planet, Harley gets a good look at her team. Croc looks the same as ever, relaxed like only an apex predator can be. Boomy looks like he’s just crawled out of another duffle bag, which surprises her exactly none. He’s that kind of scuzzy. Deadshot actually looks better than the first time they met – getting to see his kid probably did the trick. Katana is leaning against the far wall, and kind of looks like she’s fallen asleep. Harley half-wonders what her link to Waller and Flag is, why she’s here when she so obviously hates their guts. Witchy Lady is conspicuously not here.
There’s an empty chair beside Croc. It’s only there because it came with the table, but no-one’s looking at it.
How do people like them mourn? Harley hasn’t had a chance to mourn for Chato – maybe she should feel bad for that, but she just hasn’t really had room. Not that she one-hundred-percent believes her puddin’s dead, but if he is she knows how she’ll mourn him. She’ll set a fucking hospital on fire.
Chato would fucking hate if she did that for him. Probably want her to plant a tree or some shit.
She’s not gonna plant a tree, but she does wanna know how the others have been dealing with the lack of Chatoness. They never really got a chance to know him, but she knows his loss hurt. Going through a high risk situation together causes people to form strong emotional bonds, after all.
Anyway, they’re moving now. She follows Deadshot out the room, hoping he listened. Hoping he’ll tell her what they’re gonna be doing. He doesn’t strike her as a sadist, so he probably won’t let her walk into a hot zone just to see her take a bullet.
It’s probably fucked up, but that makes her feel sick with longing, before the numbness subsumes it.
Abruptly the word gets to her and she feels kind of like cheese must when it’s grated, all raw and exposed and cold. Harley Quinn wants to stab him a bit – only a bit – but Harleen Quinzel once dressed down someone who threw around words like that, and she’d found that pretty satisfying. Might as well give it a shot. After all, Harleen had been the one to fall in love with Mistah J, so she couldn’t have been entirely wrong about everything.
“Rick, honey-bunches, just a quick question. When you say psycho, do you mean psychopath or psychotic?”
He blinks at her. Everyone does, to be honest.
“Cause if you mean psychopath – though I feel like I should point out that term hasn’t been used by anyone reputable in the field in years, so I’m going to assume you meant Anti-Social Personality Disorder – then none of us actually fit the bill. Boomy here is way too much of a scaredy-cat, Croc still has enough empathy not to qualify, Diablo is obviously exempt because come on, and no ‘psychopath’ would form an emotional bond with his kid like Floyd has. I’m about the closest we’ve got, and even then I’m still juuuuuust capable of forming attachments and feeling empathy.” The whole room is staring at her like she grew another head. You’d think she’d be used to that by now, but it’s still pretty fun.
“And while I haven’t actually had a chat with anyone, I’m like eighty percent sure I’m the only one here who’s psychotic. By which I mean, obviously, someone who experiences hallucinations and delusions. Am I wrong?” She looks at them, and Waylon, Floyd and Chato shake their heads. Boomy raises his hand. She points at him.
“Do the hallucinations count if it’s cause of a trip? Or a really shitty bender?”
“No, honey,” she tells him, cause she’s pretty sure that was in earnest. “Sober hallucinations only.” He relaxes back with a relieved sigh.
“So you see,” she says as she turns back to Rick, head cocked and friendliest smile on her face, “I’m actually the only psycho in the room.”
“Yeah, Rick,” Floyd gets in, smirking, “though you were all about proper order and shit.”
“Get your shit together, Ricky,” Waylon rumbles, looking very pleased at the way Rick glares. Harley gets a sense that they were getting just as annoyed with it was she was, and that she’s just done something pretty awesome for them.
Which…she honestly, hand-on-heart, for all her talking about empathy just now, didn’t know she could like people anymore. Harleen could, Harleen liked people a lot, was never without friends, but Harley only ever had eyes for one person, and the rest of the world could go to hell.
And now, she swears, there’s something warm and light and good in her chest. She doesn’t know how it got there, but she…
Later, when she’s back in HQ, curled up on her bunk, she thinks about how she’s changing. It’s uncomfortable. She thinks she should probably try to stop it.
Mistah J liked Harleen, sure, found her interesting, but he fell for Harley. Harley is his perfect complement, queen to his king. Sometimes she’s blown away by how wonderful it is, that she was born so perfect for him, like God or the Devil or whoever had made her just for him. Soulmates, she thinks.
But now she’s changing. Now she has people, people who aren’t J, and she helps people, and she can feel parts of her she didn’t even know existed light up like it’s Advent and someone’s slowly turning on all the Christmas lights.
If Harley isn’t Joker’s perfect match, who is she? And if – no, when – J comes back, and she’s not completely his Harley anymore, well.
She’s just about questioning the merits of a lobotomy when the alarm goes. She sighs and flips off the bunk. Another day, perhaps.
“Y’know, hermana,” Chato says softly, “I’m never quite sure how much of you is you screwing with people.”
It’s late, and they’re alone, and she feels like honesty. “All of it. None of it. I don’t know, sweetie.”
“Must be tiring,” he says, “living like that, always performing.”
“It’s not so bad. Fun, lots of the time.” She leans her head on his shoulder and it feels natural, nice. “I think it’s the only think I know how to do anymore. I used to know exactly who I was, y’know. But now J’s up and left me…” She trails off, because that hurts, that he’s just decided to cut her off like that. It hurts bad, and she spends night after night ripping into herself wondering what the hell she could’ve done that badly wrong.
“He died, hermana,” Chato tells her, “he didn’t have that much of a choice.”
“No he didn’t.”
Now Chato’s looking at her straight on, looking worried and fuck, this is why she didn’t tell anyone that J’s alive, because she knew they’d give her this look. “Harley, Joker’s dead. I know it hurts, Dios mio do I know, but you can’t hide from the truth. You taught me that.”
“No, silly, he’s alive,” she explains, wanting so much to run.
“I don’t understand; did he contact you or what?”
She gets up, starts pacing, does a cartwheel to shake out her limbs. “No, but I know he’s not dead.”
“Harley…” he starts, and she won’t hear it, she can’t.
“Look, El Diablo, I’d expect you to get it, having come back from the other side and all. It’s kind of really simple. If he had died, I would have died with him. I’m still kicking, ergo Mistah J is too.”
“I don’t understand,” he says again.
“He made me,” she tells him, straight and blunt like she so rarely is anymore. “Without him, I woulda died. That’s just how it works.”
“No it isn’t.”
She whips around to see Katana leaning against the doorway. Harley lunges for her, only to get pinned to the wall, and that would be super red hot if she wasn’t so furious. Katana’s grip on her hurts, and she’s a bit winded, and all she can think to say through the rage is an inane “You speak English?”
Katana gives her that look, like she’s a cockroach she just stepped on. “I don’t like it, but I can still speak it. Do you speak Japanese, rude American girl? Anything but English?”
“Point,” she says, and lets the anger filter into its box, where she can pull it out when needs be. Katana keeps her there, pinned to the wall, until she’s breathing normal again, before giving her a bit more room.
When she does speak, it’s with the gravity of stone. “I had a husband. He was my world. I thought his death would kill me, and I think a part of me did die. But I lived. I’m a wreck, but I’m breathing.”
“That’s different,” Harley says, and she can’t feel her lips, and J is standing behind Katana and his face is a skull, metal teeth flashing like bullets in the fluorescents, and her head is about to explode. “He’s alive. I couldn’t live without him. He was my air, do any of you understand me?” She’s screaming, and her face is soaked, and J is holding her, and he’s ice cold and stinks of rot and it’s not real, they’re trying to confuse her, trying to make her give up on him, and she won’t she can’t he is her other half he is her world she is his heartbeat and they cannot be apart the universe could never have let them be parted
the universe doesn’t care, Dr Quinzel. It’ll leave you high and dry, just watch
When she comes to, she’s in a hospital bed, and Amanda Waller is sitting next to it.
“Wasn’t me, guv,” she says, in her best imitation of a Cockney accent, “I was framed, I was.” Woah, her voice is three-hour blowjob levels of fucked.
“Security cams say otherwise,” Waller says, not even looking up from her tablet.
“Seriously,” Harley has to ask, “why are you here? Pretty sure I’m nowhere near the top of Amanda Waller’s List of Shit to Do.”
In answer, Waller tosses a file on her lap. “You won’t wanna read that, but you’re going to. Because if you don’t, you’re gonna keep doing shit like this, and I’m gonna have to drop you from the program.”
“If you killed me,” she manages, through her desert dry throat, “my ghost would probably get on her spooky knees to thank you.”
“Oh,” and now Waller looks at her, and it’s honestly just a little bit scary, “I won’t kill you. I’ll just lock you in a pitch black hole in the ground and drop your meals in. No-one real will ever speak to you again, and you’ll be alone with your ghosts. How’s that sound?”
“Great, thanks,” Harley says, and manages to sit up.
Waller looks down at her with an expression Harley has no words for, before walking out.
Harley hasn’t read the file when the nice nurse comes to let her know she’s free to leave. She sneaks back to her cell with it clutched to her chest, slips inside and settles on her bunk, in her space. She takes deep breaths.
Then she gives up, and goes to Floyd’s room.
He’s reading, looks like some detective novel or other, but he sits up and swings his legs round to make room for her. They sit shoulder to shoulder and he doesn’t ask questions, just sits quiet with her until she’s soaked up enough of his warmth to make her muscles work.
The first thing she sees is J’s face, burned all down one side and horribly staved in on the other. His lovely tuxedo suit is in tatters.
There is a red stamp on his file that says DECEASED.
Floyd lunges for the trash can and gets it under her just in time. All she throws up is water, but the heaving goes on anyway – she’s being split open, and her body doesn’t care that she has nothing left to give.
It takes her an hour to get through the whole slim file, through the photos and the coroner’s report, and the fact that he was cremated. She thinks he would’ve approved, but she honestly doesn’t know. They never talked about that. Other people’s deaths, sure, but not their own. She had honestly and truly believed she would die with him. Maybe most of that was a delusion, but some of it was just a woman in love. She thinks.
She’s not sure what’s true anymore. She’s not sure anything’s true.
Her brain tells her, on and off, that the file is faked, that she’s hallucinating it, that J is alive and breathing and she can’t believe otherwise for a second or how angry will he be when he gets back? But the delusion is losing its grip. She is starting to believe.
When she’s done with the file, she falls onto Floyd and sobs.
Ever since this particular delusion took hold, she’s been putting the mourning process on reverse. Now it’s all crashing down on her again and she thinks of what Katana said. I thought his death would kill me.
She must say something like that through the tears, because Floyd gets her arm around his shoulders and somehow gets them both to Katana, who is in her temporary quarters. He sits her down like a rag doll, and tells her in a soft voice Harley’s never heard from him that “the crazy’s loosened up, but she’s kind of falling apart. I’m told you know something about this shit.”
“Why should I help her?” Katana asks.
“She saved your life on the last mission. You owe her, that ain’t an argument, that’s a truth. Now you’re paying up.”
“Get out, then,” and Floyd goes, with a final squeeze around her shoulders.
Katana wipes down her face with tissues and water from the little sink in the corner, and gives her some…something, Harley doesn’t know exactly what she’s being fed, it tastes of nothing but that might just be her. Then she lays her down on the bed and spoons around her, humming something in her ear. She doesn’t try to talk, but for all her snappish abruptness there’s a strange, pragmatic kindness to her actions that makes Harley cry a bit more.
It takes an hour, but then Katana sits them up and makes her talk.
She stumbles through how J and Harleen met, through opening her eyes in the chemicals to his smile and his laugh and him being the first person she ever saw. She’s pretty certain Katana doesn’t get that bit, but she stays silent. She talks about strip clubs and crime sprees and the thrill of killing a man, of looking down at the blood and the limp body of her victim and realising, for the first time, how powerful she could be. How J taught her that she could be powerful, desirable, cunning, anything she wanted to be so long as she was willing to take it. How he gave her wings and taught her to fly.
She talks about the times he hit her and she wanted him to, and the times he hit her and she didn’t. She talks about how they never had a safe word, even though Harleen had been militant about them, because J said they didn’t need that, that they knew each other too well, and then when she’d looked as sceptical as she could manage he’d pointed out that even if they had one, she’d never use it.
Harleen had done her thesis partially on abusive relationships. Harley remembers writing it, but she’s not sure when she stopped feeling it.
She talks about love, and obsession, and hate and cruelty and fear and a pure, animal feeling that went beyond any names, beyond good and bad to simply be.