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Starve Her Fears, Taste Her Dreams

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Fall 1985

Harleen Quinzel stepped out of the cab, her eyes wide as she looked around at the nighttime skyline of Gotham towering above her. She stood there staring, and couldn’t believe she was here, really here in Gotham. She bit her bottom lip, grinning ear to ear.

“Lady, I ain’t got all night. This where ya wanna be?”

Harleen turned around when the cab driver spoke. The man was old enough to be her father, but where her father had cold, cruel eyes, this man had the look of someone who didn’t care about anything except his next fair. He didn’t look cruel, just tired, annoyed, and ready to move on.

“Yeah, how much do I owe you?” Harleen asked as she reached into the back of the cab and pulled out her only suitcase to set it on the sidewalk next to her.

“That’ll be three dollars and forty cents.” The cabby looked at his meter then at her, his hand out.

Harleen sighed and pulled her wallet out of her purse. She only had the cash that she had on her. No bank account, no savings, just what she was carrying on her and that money was quickly getting thin.

She leaned in, her blonde curling bobbed hair fell forward, forcing her to shove it behind her ears as she paid the driver. “Thanks. You said there was a hotel around here that was affordable?” Harleen asked again.

The cabby motioned with his head. “There is a place about a block that way…” He pointed to the left. “... called The Blue Moon. There’s another place down that way, maybe two blocks, The Restful Palm--better quality place if you ask me. That would be the one I would go to if I were you.”

Harleen frowned, pushing her large round frame glasses up her nose. “Why didn’t you drop me off there?”

The cabby smiled. “You said to take you to a neighborhood that had hotels in your price range, that you said was cheap. Ya didn’t say how cheap, so I split the difference. The Blue Moon, super cheap, The Restful Palm, cheap. You can choose which one sounds more your speed, sister.”

The cabby started to pull away, but Harleen yelled. “Is this neighborhood safe?!!”

The cabby yelled back with a laugh. “Sister, this is Gotham!”

Harleen frowned, watching the man drive away. Jerk, she thought with a tired slump to her shoulders. She sighed and turned back around. Now that she was really looking, she could see the trash hidden in the dark corners, the boarded up shops, a couple of guys loitering under a streetlamp smoking, and she was pretty sure the four women over by the bus stop were hookers judging by their clothing and the way they waved and yelled at passing cars.

Harleen pressed her lips together. She had been traveling all day. The moment Dr. Jeremiah Arkham had offered her the position as a full-time nurse at Arkham Asylum, she had said yes without a second thought. When he had asked if she could start on Monday--four days from now--she had said yes without hesitation. She had been so anxious to get out of her parents’ home, to get away from the abuse, that she had taken the job without a thought about where she was going to stay, how she was going to make it between now and her first paycheck. She had just been so happy to finally find a job...

She had packed everything that meant anything to her in her suitcase along with her clothing and books, and every dime she had and left without a word to her parents. She had purchased herself a bus ticket to Gotham, then a cab, but now...

Harleen sighed and grabbed her suitcase, thankful that she had decided to wear tennis shoes with her black skirt, white t-shirt and the large shouldered black coat she had thrown on--and not her heels--when she left. She shivered as the wind blew through the streets, carrying the smell of urine, garbage, and salt water, but she smiled at the experience. She was finally free. She just had to make it until her first paycheck and once she started to make money, things would be different. She was going to be able to do this.

Harleen frowned, looking to the right and the left before she decided to head toward the place the cabby had called The Blue Moon. The cabby had said it was the cheapest, and that was exactly what she needed--the cheapest place she could stay while she tried to start her new life in Gotham City.

*

The Blue Moon was a four story stone building that Harleen would guess had to have been built in the last century. Harleen wasn’t sure if the building had started its life as a hotel or an apartment building. There was a worn, blue awning over the dirty glass door that read “The Blue Moon” with three crumbling stairs that led up to the door. A couple of metal trash cans filled to overflowing sat next to the stairs, and an old black and white cat lay asleep near the door.

Harleen looked down the street both ways and shivered again. The night was getting colder and she didn’t feel like turning around and walking back the way she had come in an attempt to find another hotel.

She tightened her grip on her suitcase and headed up the stairs. The cat looked up at her, blinking large, green-gold eyes. It stood up and stretched as she reached for the door, flowing inside the moment she opened it.

Harleen stepped inside, hoping for the best.

*

The interior of the hotel looked faded and smelled faintly of cigarette smoke, urine, and greasy food. Harleen made a face. Why does everything have to have urine as part of its scent? Ew, she thought with a shudder.

She saw threadbare carpeting in front of a rounded counter where a telephone sat next to a handbell, while a guest book laid open, the pages yelled and covered in a light film of dust. Next to the book sat what looked like a can of cola, but whoever had handled it had greasy hands, smearing the name on the can. There were a couple of orange and red couches in the main body of the lobby. Each piece of furniture looked stained or had holes in them where yellowed bits of form pushed out. A large television sat in the lobby, the kind that looked like it was a piece of furniture with the TV built into it, with a cheaper looking VHS player on the top of it. (Not that she had any room to talk, she couldn’t afford one of the cheaper models.) The set was on and it looked like the VHS was playing a movie. Harleen’s brow furrowed as she noted the movie was some black and white old monster movie, though no one was in the lobby watching it.

The cat that had come in with her walked over to a couch, jumped up onto the back curling up around itself, and closing its eyes without giving her a second look.

She looked around, saw stairs leading upward to her right. The stairs were old, having once been painted a bright, cheerful blue that had faded to a greyish color in most spots. The stairs led up where a weak yellow light illuminated the first stairs, but from there, everything else was in shadow.

Harleen stood there looking around for a few moments longer and muttered. “At least it’s warm.”

She could hear music drifting from down the hall past the check-in desk, which, as she listened, sounded live, not from a radio or another television. She leaned over and saw a little sign hanging on a metal chain over the entrance to the hall that read” “Blue Moon Bar and Lounge.”

Harleen grinned as she spoke quietly under her breath to herself. “And this place has a bar.”

She waited a few seconds before she rang the bell, using her fingertips to lightly hit the top of the bell. The cheerful jingle jangle sounded off, like the bell was sick.

“Like the rest of this place,” she thought with a sniff as she turned around.

She heard a baby cry somewhere up the stairs, and the sound of feet thumping hard against the floor. She sighed, yawned. Her feet were hurting and she felt grubby, in need of a shower or a long soak in a bath. She took her glasses off, pulling up some of her t-shirt from her skirt so she could clean her glasses when the front door opened and a woman wearing a short, tight black skirt, blue corset, and heels so high Harleen couldn’t figure out how the woman walked entered, followed by a man. The other woman’s hair was frizzy and curly, adding another few inches of height to the already tall, slender woman.

The woman in the blue corset was laughing, hanging onto a short man in a nice suit, with oiled hair and thick, square glasses. There was something about the entire situation that screamed prostitute to Harleen.

Harleen remained quiet, learning against the check-in desk, holding onto her suitcase with both hands. She was doing her best not to stare, but the man in the suit was pawing at the woman in a way that made Harleen’s skin crawl.

The couple began to walk by Harleen, but the woman must have noticed her from the corner of her eye because she stopped and turned, narrowing her eyes at Harleen while she put her hands on her hips in a confrontational pose.

“Who the fuck are you?” The woman in the blue corset stopped and glared at Harleen; the woman’s heavy New Jersey accent was thick. Her eyes raked over Harleen.

Harleen frowned, her knuckles white from the grip she had on her suitcase. “Ah, I’m looking for a room.”

The woman in the blue corset looked confused. “Here?”

Harleen nodded. “Yes.”

“But no one…” The woman started, but the man with her grabbed her rear. “Come on Lucy! I’m paying by the hour here!”

Lucy turned on the man and put a hand on his chest. “Just a minute Mike.” She turned back to Harleen with a wicked smirk. “Look, you need to see the guy in the back if you want a room. He goes by the name Mr. Heart. Just go down the hall to the bar. The guy playing the piano is who you want.” The woman chuckled, turning her attention back to the man with her.

“Good luck,” she called over her shoulder, heading up the stairs and laughing, her arm around the man in the suit.

Harleen watched them go with a frown. She turned around and looked at the sign for the bar. She took a steadying breath, picked up her suitcase, and marched down the hall toward the bar.

*

The Blue Moon’s bar and lounge was small. Judging by the size of the room, Harleen thought as she stood in the doorway, the place might hold up to fifty, maybe sixty people max. It was dimly lit and smelled of stale beer and old cigarette smoke (but at least there was no discernible urine smell Harleen noted.) There were several round tables covered in dark red table cloths with mismatched chairs scattered throughout the room, most of them empty at this hour. The bar had that worn, tired look of a place that had once been nice, but over the years had fallen into disrepair. Now the bar looked like a place for the hopeless, the lost and forgotten, it’s heydays long behind it. Harleen counted maybe eight customers at most. There were a couple of old men in a corner, smoking cigars and playing a game of cards by the dim light provided from one of the lamps that hung directly over the table they occupied. The lamps hanging from the ceiling reminded Harley of old pots or maybe Turkish lamps, the sort of thing you would see in a restaurant or bar scene from an old movie from the 1940’s or ‘50s when bars and restaurants had themes.

As her eyes wandered over the interior, Harleen saw a couple of women, one of whom was sitting alone at a table drinking with a bottle sitting in front of her. The other woman, a slender black woman who made Harleen think of Tina Turner, was with a date, or she might have been in the same line of work as Lucy for all she knew, Harleen thought. The man she was with had that same sort of “look” that the man Lucy had come in with; desperate, tired, and lonely.

Harleen glanced toward the bar where a large man with thick black hair oiled until the lights in the room made it shine, stood behind the counter, leaning on his elbows next to the older black man who was sitting at the bar nursing a drink and looking as if he were ready to fall off his stool at any moment. The bartender looked to be speaking to the older man in a low voice, though his eyes were on the man that occupied The Blue Moon’s small stage.

Harleen’s attention was drawn to the man on the stage as music drifted over her. The music had stopped by the time she had arrived inside the bar, but now the man began to play again, his long pale fingers moved across the piano on the stage with the skills and passion of a lover of music. Harleen sucked in a breath when she saw him. He was tall--very tall she thought with lifted eyebrows. He would tower over her when he stood, and he was quite slender. The man on stage wore a simple, cabaret-style wardrobe consisting of a white shirt, black trousers, and a waistcoat. His jacket lay beside him on the piano bench, his hat sitting on top of that while on the piano within reach was an ashtray where a cigarette lay; the smoke spread lazily into the air creating a hazy fog around the man.

He was also extremely handsome she noticed, with a long thin nose, sharp chin, and sensual lips that she was sure were painted red. But as Harley stared at him, she could have sworn that his skin wasn’t just white, but ghost white, as if all color has been taken from his skin, and his hair, that he wore slicked back, was green. She frowned. That part had to be a trick of the light she thought, but even as she moved toward the bar, the light shifting, the man still looked ghostly white and his thick hair still looked green. Maybe it was some sort of persona she thought as she stared, tripping over a chair which forced her to turn her attention away from the man on stage and focus on her walking.

She sat down at the bar, dropping onto the stool while she continued to stare.

The bartender frowned, watching her as she dropped down, his expression both confused and a little annoyed.

The bartender pushed himself up from the bartop and walked over to her. “Whatcha want?”

Harleen jumped, dragging her attention away from the man on stage. “Ah, I’m looking for a room?”

The bartender blinked slowly at her as if he hadn’t heard her correctly. “What?”

“A room. The cabby that dropped me off said this place was cheap.” Harleen winced as she said the word cheap. “Ah, some woman named Lucy said I needed to talk to a man named Mr. Heart?”

The bartender grumbled. “She did, did she? I’ll have to have a talk with her. Look girl, we don’t have any rooms for rent.”

Harleen’s face fell. “You don’t? But…I really...”

The bartender just stared at her.

Harleen sighed, defeated, tried, and hungry. She sniffed and felt the sting of tears wanting to start, which only made her angry. She didn’t want to start crying, especially in front of a stranger.

Harleen angrily rubbed at her eyes with one hand before she took a breath. “Can I get something to drink before I go? Maybe something to eat?”

The bartender glared at her for a few moments before he sighed and sagged. “Sure, I can get you a drink and I think I might have some cheese balls or something in the back. That work?”

Harleen nodded. “Yeah, ah, what’s your cheapest drink?”

The bartender stared at her before he shook his head. “Look, the cheeseballs are probably stale...and you can have a drink on the house. Just this once…” He pointed at her. “So what’ll it be?”

Harleen smiled gratefully at the man. “Can I have a Blue Lagoon?”

The bartender chuckled. “Sure Miss. Why don’t you go grab a seat--they’re more comfortable than the stools--and I’ll bring it to you, all right?”

Harleen beamed at the man. “Thank you.”

He waved her off. “Whatever.”

Harleen picked up her suitcase with a smile and hurriedly went to take a seat close to the stage. The man on the stage had just been playing music while she was speaking with the bartender, some old classical tune, running his fingers lovingly over the keys, but when she sat down he had decided to start singing.

“Blue moon you saw me standing alone

Without a dream in my heart

Without a love of my own

Blue moon, you knew just what I was there for

You heard me saying a prayer for

Someone I really could care for…”

*

Harleen sucked in a startled breath. His voice was a beautiful baritone, smooth, warm, like a lover’s caress against her skin. She stared at the man as he sang, his eyes closed. He was the most beautiful man she had ever seen. He moved a little with the music as he played and sang, and she was mesmerized. She barely noticed when the bartender brought over her drink and a bowl of cheeseballs.

She reached for her drink, never taking her eyes off the man. The moment he opened his eyes Harleen sucked in a startled breath. His eyes were the most unusual shade of blue she had ever seen--electric, hypnotic.

*

Joker smiled, enjoying himself while his fingers ran across the piano keys and he sang. Coming to The Blue Moon, his base of operations, his hideout and home, always made him feel a little calmer, especially on the nights he took to the stage. Sometimes he would crack jokes for the locals, the people that occupied the building he owned, performing a whole comedy routine; but sometimes he would simply play an instrument, whatever instrument struck his fancy, or sometimes, like tonight, he would play the piano and sing old songs. He had no idea why or how he knew so many old crooner songs, or why he knew how to play so many instruments, but he did. Joker just accepted it as part of the mystery of who he was…

He enjoyed the surprise too, finding out what he knew.

Tonight he had decided to sing because he needed some time to come down from the rage he had been in. He had been in a blind rage punctuated by his own madness because a plan he had been working on had fallen through earlier this evening. He had shot five of his gang members before he left for the hotel to calm down. Incompetence didn’t just annoy him--it infuriated him.

But right now he was calmer. The music eased him down from his fury and settled him.

He smiled and opened his eyes--and stumbled over the words when he saw the woman sitting up front watching him.

Joker blinked as he stared back at her. He had never seen a more beautiful woman. She had short blonde hair that curled just above her shoulders. She had large blue eyes behind a pair of glasses, with a pert little nose, and soft pouty lips. She was watching him intently with a sweet, almost wistful expression on her face. She was perfect in every way he could imagine.

The moment he laid eyes on her, something inside him flickered into existence, things he had never felt before came alive--want, desire, lust. He wanted her more than he had ever wanted anything. No, he realized. He didn’t just want her, he desired her, with a capital “D.” He felt a sudden and wrenching yearning, a need to be close to her. The feelings were so strange and alien to him. He had no idea who she was or where she had come from; all he knew was that he had to make her his girl.

For a moment he wondered if he had just fallen in love. Could he fall in love? He never had any emotions before rage, confusion, sometimes fear when the night terrors came, and laughter--he thought many things were funny. But love? He didn’t understand or know if that was what he felt, but he knew he had to find a way to make this woman part of his existence, part of his life.

Joker smiled, switching songs, but this time he sang directly to the beautiful woman watching him.

“Love me, my love

And say you're mine

Kiss me and hold me tight

Let's make the most of tonight…”

*

Harleen’s heart did a little flip-flop as the green-haired man began to sing again. His voice was smooth and beautiful. Harleen could feel herself swooning; it was the most ridiculous thing she thought, swooning. She remembered girls in school (both high school and college) going all starry eyed over the football players, singers like Sting, or actors like Tom Cruise… She had never been one of those types of girls to fall head over heels for some guy, and she had never understood the girls that did, but right now, sitting here, listening and wanting this man in front of her, Harleen could understand because she was smitten, head over heels, lusting after a man she had only just seen.

He smiled at her, looked directly into her eyes and smiled. And it was, she decided, the most amazing smile. She had never seen a man with a more gorgeous smile, the way it spread across his face, the way his lips glistened, red in the light. His teeth were slightly crooked, but in a way that she found sexy--very sexy. Though slightly crooked, his teeth were perfectly white and his electric blue eyes sparkled.

He winked a her as he sang to her, his smile never faltering.

Harleen felt her heart jump again.

*

Tell me, my love

In words divine

That we will never part

Stay very close to my heart

*

Harleen knew without a doubt if this man asked her to jump in his bed, she would say yes without thinking twice.

*

Joker smiled at her, watching her expression, his own heart beating faster. The way she licked her lips, the sparkle in her eyes…

He knew he would do anything for her.

He had to know who she was…

*

“No sweeter bliss

No more than this

Could I ever know

Your tenderness, your sweet caress

How it thrills me so

Give me your love

Your heart and soul

Take me to heaven above

And say you love me, my love…”

*

He brought the song to a close, never once taking his eyes off of her. Once he was finished, Joker stood up and hopped off the stage to land in front of her table. He grinned and put his hand out to her. This close, Harleen could see that his eyes were two different shades of blue, one a deep dark blue, like the bottom of the ocean, and the other a light, electric blue. Gazing into both of his eyes was even more stimulating this close to him, hypnotic. This close she could see that his hair was a dark green and thick. A few of those green locks had fallen down and he reached up to run his long-fingered hand through his hair. The gesture made Harleen swallow and heat pulsed through her. It was such a simple gesture, but it made her feel on fire. She shifted in her seat.

“And who might you be, my lovely lady?” Joker cooed as he held his hand out to her in greeting.

Harleen put her hand in his, and sucked in a quick breath when he brought her hand up and kissed her knuckles, his lips warm and velvety soft.

“Harleen--my name is Harleen Quinzel.”

Joker didn’t release her hand as he reached over and pulled the empty chair on the other side of her table over to him and sat down across from her. He wrapped his other hand around hers, trapping her hand between both of his, stroking his thumb across her knuckles.

“What a beautiful and unusual name.” He quirked a brow at her. “Switch it around a little and you could be--Harley Quinn...harlequin. Do you know what a harlequin is?” Joker asked as he continued to caress her hand, except he had now turned her hand over, laying it palm up in his hand. He began to caress her palm with his fingertips. Harleen felt a tickle that began in her hand, moved to her stomach, and from there the sensation spread out, like a warm caress throughout her breasts and groin. Harleen had never been this attracted to anyone before, not like this. She felt as if she had been caught in a spell. His exotic appearance, the compelling intensity of his blue eyes, and his touch. She realized she was hooked and she would never be able to get enough of this man.

Harleen swallowed. “Uh, it’s a type of clown?”

Joker laughed and Harleen had never heard a lovlier sound than his laugh. It moved through her in a way that was almost orgasmic. “Very good, yes. A harlequin is a pantomime, a mute clown.

They usually are masked and dress in a diamond-patterned costume. You would make a beautiful harlequin with that angelic face.” He reached out and caressed her jaw with the back of one finger. “Such a pretty, pretty face and your eyes are like sapphires.”

Harleen blushed, smiled. “Thank you.” She swallowed nervously and took a bold chance. “You are beautiful too.”

Joker laughed. “Oh, you are sweet.” He caught her chin between his finger and thumb lightly. “Very sweet,” he purred.

Harleen felt as if her blush had rushed to the tips of her ears.

“So, did you like the song?” he asked, his blue eyes dancing as he brushed the pad of his thumb along her chin before he removed his hand to continue caressing her palm.

“I loved the song,” she said with a smile. “You have the most amazing voice.” Harleen tried not to sound like a gushy teenager, but it was difficult.

Joker grinned, turning her hand once more and wrapping his fingers around her fingers as he brought her hand up to his lips again and kissed her knuckles. “Thank you, my sweets.”

Harleen swallowed, her mouth dry. “What’s your name?”

Joker continued to hold her hand up to his lips, brushing his lips along her knuckles, while he spoke. Harleen could feel the brush of his lips like a warm caress through her entire body while the heat of his breath sent pleasant shivers down her spine.

“Mr. Heart, Mr. Jack Heart,” Joker said in his mellifluous tone. “But you can call me Jack.”

Harleen gasped. “You are the man some lady named Lucy said I should talk to about a room.”

Joker tilted his head with one brow lifted in question. “Lucy did? Well, she’s correct. Are you looking for a place to stay?”

Harleen nodded. “I ah, just arrived in Gotham tonight. I start a new job on Monday at Arkham Asylum. I’m a nurse.”

Harleen saw it only for a moment, a flash across his eyes, a tightness around the edges of his smile when she mentioned Arkham, but whatever she saw disappeared. Joker tilted his head to the side, but he continued to caress her hand with his fingers. “Interesting. A nurse. Well, Harleen Quinzel, it just so happens that we do have one free room, just for you.”

Harleen frowned, confused. “Are you sure? The bartender said there were no free rooms.”

Joker laughed. “Usually we don’t have any. I only like a very select clientele, but you my sweets, are more than welcome to join our little family.”

Harleen sighed in relief. “Really? That would be wonderful! I’m just so tired…”

Joker kissed her hand again and released it before he stood. Harleen noticed that she felt an odd absence of warmth when he released her hand, leaving an ache deep in her stomach. She had never felt anything like it, the sudden hollowness in her chest. She wanted him to touch her again, she wanted to feel the tickle of his breath on her skin, to hear him say her name, but instead she pulled her hands back to rest in her lap.

“Well, why don’t you wait here my sweets, and I’ll go check on your room.” He caressed her cheek with his fingertips before slipping a lock of her golden hair behind her ear. “I’ll be right back--you just finish your drink.”

Harleen smiled at him. “Thank you so much Mr. Heart.”

“Please, Harley, call me Jack.” Joker grinned before he set off toward the bar, his long legs cutting the distance quickly.

Harleen watched him as he leaned on the bar and spoke with the bartender who glanced over in her direction once or twice while speaking with Mr. Heart. After a few more seconds Mr. Heart walked past her, giving her a wave before he disappeared out of the bar. Harleen frowned, her heart dropping when he left, but the bartender approached her table.

“Miss Quinn…” Harleen frowned at the Miss Quinn, but she didn’t correct the man. Miss Quinzel was often a little difficult for people to pronounce and Mr. Heart had told her that her name sounded like Harley Quinn...If he wanted to call her that she was more than happy to go by Harley Quinn for him.

“Mr. Heart said I’m to get you anything you want while he gets your room ready.” The bartender smiled, his demeanor more open and kinder now. “You can call me Richie.”

“Nice to meet you Richie, I’m Harleen, but..” She shrugged as she put out her hand to him, surprising herself when she said. “You can call me Harley.”

He nodded, took her hand and gave it a good shake. “Nice to meet you Harley. Now, how would you feel about a roast beef sandwich? You said you were hungry…”

Harleen looked surprised, but nodded. “Ah, yes that would be nice.”

He smiled kindly and patted her shoulder. “You just wait right here. And welcome to The Blue Moon family.”

Harleen smiled as Richie turned to go make her a sandwich. Maybe her luck was changing.

*

Of the four rooms on the fourth floor, only the last two were occupied. Joker had the room at the very end, right next to Harleen’s room. Her room had belonged to a member of his gang, a man named Wags; the man had only been in the room a week or so. Joker usually kept the entire fourth floor to himself, but Wags had just gotten out of prison and had needed to lie low for a few days. Joker had agreed to let the man stay at The Blue Moon since Wags had promised Joker that he knew about a shipment of guns coming in for the Maroni family and that he would give Joker the information so that the Joker and his gang could intercept the weapons if he let Wags lay low at the hotel.

But that was before Harleen arrived.

Right now, Joker didn't care about Wags information. All he cared about was having Harley in the room next to him. Besides, Wags had been getting on his nerves over the last day. The man was not just a slob, but he was loud and obnoxious.

Joker came up the stairs, taking them two at a time. When he arrived at Wags’ room he could hear the TV blaring, playing some porno.

Joker didn’t knock. He grasped the knob, turned it, and flung open the door to find Wags at his table eating takeout and smoking in his boxers, t-shirt and socks while engrossed in watching the porno. The man jumped a foot when the door flew open.

“Fuck! Joker, what the hell?!” Wags was only in his mid-thirties, but the man looked to be pushing fifty with his large gut, balding black hair, and unshaven face along with his swollen eyes. He stood up when Joker walked into the room and looked around, his nose wrinkled.

“I need you to leave,” Joker said as he looked around the room with a frown.

Wags frowned. “Why the fuck do you need me to leave? Cops coming?”

Joker smiled and shrugged. “No. I need this room.” He walked further in, turned to take in the mess that Wags had made of the room in his short time here.

Wags snarled and slammed his hands against the table which caused all the take-out boxes to shake. “What the fuck? I thought we had a deal?”

Joker looked over his shoulder at Wags with a smile. “We did--now we don’t.” Joker put his hands in his pockets as he strolled closer to Wags. “Look, I’m going to be a good guy here and give you a chance to leave without any trouble, but Wags, it’s a one time offer. Go now, while it’s good.” Joker smiled, but his red lipped smile, his eyes, and the tilt of his head looked sinister. “Tick tock, tick tock.”

Wags snarled and stepped closer to the Joker, trying to use his size to be threatening. “Look, you fucking green-haired pasty skin clown freak! I ain’t going anywhere. We made a….” Joker’s head tilted to the other side. One moment he was standing across from Wags, the next he had wrapped one hand around the other man’s thick throat, hauling him with ease from the room in a surprising show of strength in his slender body.

Joker drove the man into the hall and held him against the wall.

Joker leaned in close to Wags. The smell of Chinese take-out, sweat, and cigarette smoke was strong on Wags, made Joker curl his upper lip in disgust. “I’m only going to say this one more time Wags, because I’m in a good mood. You see, I met a girl tonight and I like her a lot. So, are you going to leave?”

Wags’ eyes were as big as saucers, but he nodded and said in a tight voice, “Okay, okay, man, I’ll leave.” He shook his head. “I can’t believe you’re kicking me out over some piece of ass.”

Joker tensed when Wags called Harley a piece of ass, but he continued to smile and eased his hold on Wags, taking a step back. “Now see? That wasn’t so hard.”

But Wags launched himself at Joker, bringing up his big meaty hands to wrap around the slender man’s neck. “I ain’t scared of no corpse-faced clown!”

Joker leaned out of Wags’ grasp with graceful speed; Wags’ hands closed on air. From the corner of his eye, Wags saw Joker pull out a switchblade. The movement of the Joker's hand was mesmerizing as he flipped the blade open and in a fluid, blurring motion, sliced the blade across Wags’ throat.

Joker stepped back with a smile as Wags reached up to grab at his throat while blood spilled down his front. The large man hit the wall behind him and slid down to the floor, gurgling as he looked up at Joker.

Joker sighed and shrugged, the bloodied blade held in his hand to drip onto the hall floor. “I did try to be nice.”

He dropped into a crouch in front of Wags, tilting his head to the side as he watched the man bleed to death. Joker leaned forward and wiped his blade on the other man’s t-shirt before he flipped it closed with a graceful flourish and slid it back into his pocket.

He chuckled, watching Wags. “You really should learn to listen. It’s going to be the death of you Wags old friend.”

*

Harleen ate her sandwich with vigor. She had known she was hungry, but having the sandwich put in front of her kicked her appetite into overdrive; with all the stress and excitement, she was ravenous. She hadn’t eaten when she left home. Instead she had been focused on getting her things and getting out before her parents realized she was gone. And with her dwindling cash supply, eating had been pushed down on her list of necessary things she needed to worry about until she had a place to stay. The sandwich ended up being the best meal she had had in ages she thought as she took a huge bite, using the alcohol to wash down her food.

While she ate, and with Mr. Heart no longer singing or playing the piano, Harleen couldn’t help but overhear the sounds of shouting coming from somewhere in the building. It was difficult to tell from where the sounds were coming from, but she could hear muffled shouts, what sounded like a bang, like something slamming against a wall.

Harleen glanced over to the bar at Richie. He simply smiled at her as if nothing was wrong. She shrugged, the alcohol making her just a little lightheaded and worked on finishing her sandwich. Whatever was going on wasn’t her problem, so she wasn’t going to worry about it; she had a place to stay and that was the most important thing to her right now. She finished her sandwich and her drink, weariness washing over her. She realized she was getting ready to crash. She had been on an adrenaline high since she had taken the job, grabbed her things, took a bus from her home to the city, then the cab…

Harleen yawned, pulling her glasses off to rub her eyes.

“My poor dear. Long day?”

Harleen startled and turned to see Mr. Heart standing next to her smiling. “I have your room ready…” He put his hand out to her. “...if you’ll come with me.”

Harleen took his hand, let him lift her to her feet. “Thank you so much, Mr. Heart.”

Joker laughed. “Please, call me Jack and I’ll call you Harley. Deal?” He gazed at her in a way that made Harleen want to melt into a puddle. He reached for her suitcase. “Let me, my sweets. No reason for you to carry that up the stairs.”

Joker wrapped her arm around his with a smile before he led her out of the bar.

*

“So tell me Harley--are you all alone in Gotham?” Joker asked her as they took the stairs together.

Harleen nodded. “Yes, this is my first time to Gotham.”

He nodded at her response. “Gotham is a rough town. It can chew you up and spit you out if you don’t have family or friends for support.”

Harleen paled a little. “Do you have family here in Gotham?”

Joker smiled at her. “I have no idea, but this place…”

Harleen frowned at the odd statement, but Jack continued.

He motioned with his hand that held her suitcase. “This building is full of family that I have chosen. You have no idea how happy I am to welcome you to our little family. I’ll take care of you, I promise. Maybe, if you would like, tomorrow I could take you on a tour of the building?”

Harleen stared at him for a moment. There was something about the way he said he would take care of her that made her feel special. She somehow knew, felt that Mr. Heart didn’t just offer to take care of anyone, that he meant what he was saying to her, every word. She smiled and felt a blush creeping along her cheeks.

“Thank you, Mr. H--Jack, I would like that...and ah...thank you for letting me stay.”

Joker grinned, pleased. The way she looked at him, the warmth of her next to him, Harley made him feel good in a way he didn’t recall ever feeling, not that he really recalled much of his life. The most he could remember was back to the summer of 1983. There was nothing before that, as far as he could tell. That summer, he came into existence, though how or why Joker didn’t know. But in his short life he never recalled feeling this drawn to someone else. To him, most people were simply toys, jokes, to be played with...well, except this building. These people were his to keep, his to watch out for and take care of. This place was like his dollhouse and everyone one in it a precious toy that he protected. But Harley--she was something new. Joker found himself wanting to truly protect her, cherish her even though he had only laid eyes on her in the last hour. It was such an odd sensation that he wanted to explore it more.

“You are very welcome Harley,” Joker replied in a warm tone, his eyes dancing, but his smile softened.

Harleen turned away. It felt as if her ears and cheeks were on fire.

“So, other than working at Arkham, what are your plans for your life in Gotham?” Joker asked her while they continued up the stairs.

Harleen frowned. “I don’t really know. I mean, I sorta just left home in a hurry without really thinking about it beyond just getting here. Oh, and finding a cheap place to stay...not that I mean your hotel is cheap, I mean I just have a budget...”

Joker laughed, the sound once more moving through Harleen in a way that sent shivers of delight through her body. She could listen him laugh all day she thought.

“So, no plans but working, no family or friends. Well, how would you feel if tomorrow night I took you out on the town? Show you what fun that Gotham has to offer? Maybe dinner, a little dancing ...” He smiled and lifted a brow at her in question. Harleen only just now noticed that his brows were as green as his hair. If it was a dye job, Harleen realized, Jack was fully committed to the look.

“I would like that very much,” Harleen said softly. “I’ve never had any friends really.”

Joker smiled at her as they made it to the fourth floor. “Well, you do now Harley.”

He turned her off the stairs and toward a hall.

The hallway was a little worn looking like the rest of the place. There was a carpet runner than ran down the hall, but like everything else, the runner was threadbare. The walls had once been painted a light, almost creamy shade of blue, but time and smoke had faded the color until it resembled a dull grey-blue. Harley saw a few minor holes here and there along the wall, but it wasn’t as bad as it could have been she realized as Jack guided her down the hall. She frowned as they came down the hall. She thought there was a stain on the floor that looked like a small pool of blood, but it was hard to tell in the hallway’s bad lighting; she avoided stepping in it anyway. Probably a rusty pipe leak, she decided and dismissed the thought as they passed two closed doors until they came to the end of the hall and stopped at the next to last door, 403.

Joker smiled at her, set her case down and releasing her arm as he plunged his hand into the pocket of his slacks and pulled out a key. “Ta-Da!” He laughed softly when he produced the key before sliding it into the lock and opening the door for her, and reached in to flick on the light.

The walls of the room had a faded blue and white wallpaper, so faded that the design was lost. The room wasn’t large, more of a studio apartment than a full hotel room. There was an old fireplace against the left wall, an old television in the corner near the window that had a radiator under it. The window faced out onto the street from which a pale yellow light came in from the nearby streetlamp. A yellowed couch with ripped cushions sat in the middle of the room, a beat up coffee table lay on its side, and one old wooden chair sat nearby. Close to the door there was an old round table that looked like it had been new in the ‘70’s, along with one matching chair. The rest of the room was furnished with a small twin bed, one green painted bedside table with an ugly old lamp. There was a small thin door which hung open showing the bathroom with a tiny sink, toilet and shower stall.

The room looked as if someone had just been there. There were left over take-out boxes on the table, the food still smelled relatively fresh, and she was sure the cigarette in the ashtray next to the containers was still smoking. Harley saw a pile of clothing on the floor near the door, and the place smelled of unwashed bodies and almonds.

Joker picked up her suitcase and carried it inside for her, setting the case down near the bed. He turned around placing his hands on his hips.

“Now, we haven’t had a chance to clean it up. The last resident in this room took off in a hurry and left most of their things here. I’ll have those cleaned up for you tomorrow.” While he spoke, Joker walked over and picked up the pile of clothing near the door and just threw it out into the hall. He turned to look at her with a smile. “You can put some of your personal touches on it and it’ll be home in no time.”

Harleen had walked in and stopped moving, standing in the middle of the room looking around with wide eyes. She could see some old water stains on the ceiling, dusty cobwebs hanging from the corners, but unlike her room at home where she hadn’t been allowed anything personal except her bed and clothing, this place was hers, all hers. For as long as she could afford the rent, at any rate.

Harleen smiled and looked at Jack. “It’s perfect.”

Joker grinned, pleased. “Well, I’ll be right back. I have some clean sheets and I’ll help you make the bed. You don’t want to sleep on dirty sheets do you?”

Harleen shook her head with small chuckle.

Joker loved the way her hair bounced, grinned and gave her a wink. He walked over and took her hand, gently turning her hand around to drop the key onto her palm. He closed her fingers around the key.

“I’ll be right back with the sheets,” he said in a tone that Harleen decided was sultry. A smile teased his lips before he turned and walked briskly out, pulling the door closed behind him. Harleen stood there for a few seconds before she squealed and did a quick little dance. She had her own place! Her first place!! Granted, she didn’t know how much it was going to cost her, but she would figure it out! For now, it was hers! All hers!

Harleen wiggled happily for moment before she took a calming breath, letting the air out slowly.

She walked over to the table, moving the take-out cartons out of her way and set the key down. She shrugged out of her coat before she walked over to the window to look outside. She smiled again. She was in Gotham, she had a job, and a place...now she could really start her new life.

*

Joker rushed over to his own room.

He unlocked the door and rushed into his room. The room was similar in set up to Harley’s, but the walls were painted a dark purple with splashes of green color on the trim, and black crown molding. He had plastered the walls with old circus posters he had found or stolen from Haley’s Circus or from down at the Amusement Mile amusement park on the southern dock. He had written on the walls too...usually after one of his many nightmares. He had drawn smiling faces and bats, lots of bats…

He stood in the middle of the room trying to remember where Mrs. Geller would keep the sheets. She was the only other person who Joker let into his room. Actually the old woman from the third floor had broken into his room to make his bed and do this laundry one day. Joker had been so shocked, and by the fact that she said nothing about the blood in his clothes, he let her. She changed his sheets once a week, washing and folding the other sheets and slipping them…

“Ah!” Joker rushed over to the old wardrobe that had been in the room when he took it. He threw open the doors where all his suits hung. The sheets, covered in circus balloons, lay on the bottom of the wardrobe, clean and folded. He also spotted several clean and neatly folded blankets which he grabbed as well as the sheets.

Joker piled everything into his arms and hurried back to Harley’s room.

*

Harleen had just started to clean away the take-out, shoving the cartons into the trash can under the table that was already half full when she heard a slight rap at the door. It opened just enough for Jack to peak his head in. “I have sheets!” He held up the folded sheets with balloons printed on them.

Harleen laughed and went over to take them. “Thank you Jack.”

He grinned. “Don’t worry about it. Here, let me help you get the bed ready.”

“You don’t have to…” Harleen began, but Joker waved her off.

“I know I don’t. But I want to help. Besides, you’re beat. Let me help with this, then you can shower and get some rest.”

Harleen smiled. “Thank you Jack...I...I don’t know how I can repay you.”

Joker laughed, stripping the bed. “Pfft...you agreed to let me take you out for dancing tomorrow! I never get to go dancing! So that’s payment enough.”

Harleen giggled. “Okay then. I’ve never been dancing before.”

Joker smiled softly. “Well, I think you will love dancing. I’m quite the good dancer, if I do say so myself.”

Harley gigged again.

Joker looked up from pulling the fitted sheet over the corner of her mattress. “You should laugh more--I like your laugh.”

Harleen blushed while they made the bed.

Once they were done Joker smiled and ran his hand over the bed. “There, clean sheets. Maybe tomorrow I can find some better furniture for you...”

“Oh, you don’t have to do that!” Harleen said in surprise, but Joker tilted his head at her. “How about we start you a tab? That way, once you’re making better money, you can pay me back.”

“Would you do that for me?” Harleen asked.

Joker smiled, slow and sensual. “I would do anything you want Harley....”

Harleen swallowed. “Ah, that would be fantastic Jack. I really appreciate it.”

Joker walked up to her and took her hand, brought her knuckles to his lips. He caressed her knuckles with his lips, staring into her eyes as he whispered against her knuckles.

“I will see you tomorrow. I hope you sleep well and dream happy dreams.” Joker kissed her knuckles again before he released her hand. "And if you need anything just knock on the wall." He pointed to the wall behind her bed. "And I'll be right here."

He walked toward the door, stopped, and spun around with a delighted smile on his lips. “Tomorrow we shall go dancing!!” He performed a graceful pirouette and winked at her again.

Harleen laughed as he waved at her, giving her another wink before he walked out of her room and shut the door.

Chapter Text

After Harleen showered, she pulled on her night clothes, a pair of long pink pajama pants and an old, but comfortable Garfield t-shirt along with a pair of slouchy green and purple socks. She pulled the bed back, set her glasses aside on the bedside table, and crawled in, thinking she would do some cleaning when she got up in the morning. As soon as settled into the bed, the cool, clean sheets surrounding her, her body relaxed. She was safe with a new place to stay, a job, and a handsome man in the apartment next to her. Harleen grinned happily, burying her face against the fresh pillowcase and fell quickly asleep.

*

Harleen was standing on the cold stone edge of a building, looking out over Gotham. She could see the vast lights of the city, twinkling like hundreds of stars in the darkness. She stood on the edge, barefoot, wearing a long white nightgown that fluttered around her ankles. It was raining, a cleansing rain that washed away the fouler scents of Gotham. Rain made her gown stick to her, plastering her hair down around her face. The raindrops smeared her glasses and she was beginning to shiver.

Harleen could feel her heart beating hard and fast inside her chest, her blood pounding in her ears as she looked down. The urge to jump was strong, to jump into the darkness that waited below her. But as she stared into the pool of shadows below her feet, a light began to glow. It started off small, a tiny pinprick of light that steadily grew until it became a spotlight. Standing underneath the glow of light was Mr. Heart, Jack Heart, smiling up at her. He was dressed in an elegant suit of black that contrasted beautifully with his ghostly white skin. His green hair was slicked back, though a stubborn curl fell across his forehead. He smiled at her, a wide, beautiful smile, his lips panited a deep, dark red. He held his arms out to her.

“Come on Harley, jump. I’ll catch you.”

Harleen shivered. “But…”

Jack smiled wider still, the grin stretched across his face, and his voice was soft and seductive. “I’ll catch you Harley...I’ll catch you. Trust me. I’ll always catch you.”

Harleen smiled and pushed herself off of the ledge. She fell through the darkness and rain toward Jack…

*

Harleen came awake with a groan and rolled onto her back. Her eyes fluttered open to stare up at her dark ceiling as a sensation of strangeness fell over her. She had no idea where she was… Harleen lay still, scared and confused for a moment. She had no idea where she was or how she had gotten here. Her eyes felt sticky and everything felt strange, the room felt strange, the bed felt strange, and even the air around her was strange. It took several seconds of terrified breathing and rapid blinking before the events of the day came rushing back.

Harleen let out a breath she hadn’t been aware she was holding. That’s right, she thought, I’m in Gotham, in my hotel room in The Blue Moon.

She relaxed, sighing softly, letting herself sink back into the bed when she heard the sound that must have woken her up, the sound of someone shouting.

“HELP!! STOP!!”

Harleen bolted up, her eyes wide.

“Please...I can’t breathe!!”

Harleen frowned. The voice sounded like Mr. Heart and he sounded terrified. She stood up on the bed carefully and leaned over to press her head to the wall. His voice was quieter now, but she could still hear him mumbling, accompanied by squeaks and groans that must have been his bed, which meant his bed was up against the wall from hers. She frowned, pressing her ear so close to the plaster that she was afraid she might put a hole in the wall. She could faintly hear Mr. Heart’s voice. He sounded as if he were in pain...

“Everything...is red...my voice...”

Harleen frowned. Red?

“Monster...you’re a monster...bats...monstrous bat...”

Harleen shuddered. The poor man must be having a nightmare and by the sound of his frightened voice, a really bad one. She dragged her top teeth over her bottom lip trying to decide what to do. She hated to hear him like that, in pain, scared and suffering. Whatever he was dreaming about was horrible. She wasn’t sure what to do. Her natural empathy along with her medical training made her want to run over there and offer comfort, but…

She didn’t know Mr. Heart--no matter how nice he had been to her so far--and some people didn’t like to be reminded of a weakness, such as having nightmares. But she just couldn’t bear to hear him in pain...

Harleen hopped down out of her bed, turned on the bedside light, and quickly walked over to her suitcase where it laid open on the floor. She rummaged through it and pulled out her old, faded housecoat, pink with white stripes. It was a fluffy monstrosity that she had since before she reached her teens, given to her by her maternal grandmother, maybe the one person in the world who had loved Harleen.

Harleen stood up and slipped her arms into the warm comfort of the robe. Even after all this time, it still fit her, though it was short now. She pulled out her slippers from her suitcase, slid them onto her feet. She knew what she was about to do was stupid, reckless and perhaps silly, but she had to do something. She couldn’t let Mr. Heart...Jack suffer.

Harleen slipped out of her room, closed her door with a light click, and walked down to the door next to hers. She raised her fist, ready to knock; her knuckles brushed against the door and she stopped.

Harleen chewed on her bottom lip, indecision freezing her in place. What if he wasn’t having a nightmare, what if he was...she didn’t know, acting? Maybe...he was an actor? Harleen frowned. she didn’t think so, but...or maybe he was dramatically reading a book out loud. Of course, thinking about that possibility, that sounded really stupid. She wasn’t sure what time it was, but it was still early, and why would someone to acting out a book they were reading? Harleen shook her head, annoyed with herself.

After a few more heartbeats, she finally leaned in and pressed her ear to the door instead.

She could hear him mumbling and...maybe pacing, she couldn’t be sure, but Harleen thought she heard footsteps…

She took a deep breath and let it out before she knocked, not loudly, but firmly.

Nothing happened. She leaned her ear against the door again. She could still hear the sounds of muttering and pacing on the other side. Harleen made a face, wrinkling her nose.

“You’re so stupid…” she muttered at herself and she knocked again, a little louder this time.

She leaned her ear against the door again. Now she was sure that the pacing had stopped and she didn't hear any more muttering, but there was still no answer. Harleen pressed her lips together and knocked harder.

There was silence, then she heard a click. She could see some pale light from under the door.

“Who is it?”

She smiled at the sound of Mr. Heart’s voice on the other side; he sounded wide awake. “Ah, I’m sorry, Mr. Heart. It’s me, Harleen. Ah...I couldn’t sleep and I was…”

The door opened in a rush and Harleen gasped. Mr. Heart stood in the door wearing nothing but a pair of purple and green vertical striped boxers and a pair of socks. His green hair that had been perfect coiffed before was a rumpled mess, which made her want to run her hands through it, smooth the thick curls back from his face. His eyes looked tired, slightly bloodshot, but somehow the man made the look of having just awakened sexy. She could only imagine what waking up in bed with him would be like...She stared at him. He was that same pale milky white color all over! Every inch of his skin that she could see was ghost white, as if the man had been painted that way. His skin looked like porcelain, and just as smooth. He was slender, but with a wiry muscled tone that made her think of a cheetah or a wolf, quick, strong and fast. If you ran, he would catch you.

Harleen swallowed, her eyes snapping up from his body to his face. His lips were pale without the lipstick, almost as pale as the rest of his skin. She found she missed the red on his lips, but the lack of color didn’t distract from the sensuality of his smile, the shape of his lips. She didn’t want to tell him she had heard him crying out from behind the wall since she couldn’t be sure how he would react. He could be angry or embarrassed and she didn’t want him to feel either of those things. After a quick think on the matter, Harleen decided that silence on what she had heard was the best way to go.

“Ahh...I'm sorry Mr. Heart, I just…” Harleen began.

Then he smiled. “Harleen, remember, I said to call me Jack. I would like it very much if you would call me Jack.”

Harleen blushed, feeling a warmth rush through her. He wanted her to call him Jack, said he would like it if she did! Harley smiled, her cheeks reddening as she nodded. “Sorry, Jack...ah I, ah, it’s just that I can’t sleep and…”

Joker leaned in his doorway, his hand sliding up the frame as he leaned to the side, stretching his torso, crossing his feet at the ankle. He looked delicious, tall, lean, sexy. Harleen swallowed. The man was so sexy she thought, just...she was sure she had never seen a man as sexy as Jack Heart. If he was a movie star, it would be his face all over the magazines rather than men like Tom Cruise, Ralph Macchio or George Michael. She bit the side of her lip, feeling little tickles of heat running through her body like little wiggling worms. It was nice, exciting, and the sensation made her want to squirm.

She was snapped out of her lustful musings when Jack smiled at her and lifted a green brow. “Would you like some tea to help you sleep?”

He waited, several locks of green hair draped across his forehead, and he reached up to run his long pale fingers through his hair, smoothing his hair back a little only to have a curl fall forward again. Harleen’s fingers itched to reach up and stroke his hair back for him. She wondered if his hair felt as soft as it looked.

Harleen swallowed and felt the heat in her face and other body parts grow in intensity. She smiled with a nod. “Yes, that would be nice.”

Joker grinned at her and Harleen felt her heart flip over. The man’s smile was devastating.

Joker’s eyes wandered over her. She looked adorable in her robe and slippers, the head of Garfield the cat peeking up from the top of her robe. Her blonde hair was messy from sleep, and she wasn’t wearing her glasses, allowing him to see her blue eyes with more clarity.

Her eyes were big, so wide and filled with such innocence, but he saw something else, a shadow of pain in that beautiful gaze of hers. His desire to be close to her swelled and his longing intensified.

Joker’s smile softened and his mismatched blue eyes sparkled. “Let me throw on something halfway decent and I’ll walk you down to the bar. It’s closed, but we can get into the back where the kitchen is. I keep some tea bags back there--and maybe some toast would be welcome?” He tilted his head in question. “I have some fantastic peach jam in the fridge…”

Harleen nodded. “Yes, that would be nice. I like peach jam.”

Joker’s eyes caressed her face. “I had a feeling you might. I’ll be just a minute,” Joker said as he pushed off the frame and turned, giving her one more smile before he gently closed his door. Harleen groaned, turning to lean against the wall next to his door and cover her face with her hands. “Oh my god!” she whispered at herself, followed by a giggle. She felt as if her crush had just acknowledged her existence, which was silly since she had just met the man a few hours ago. Jack was so hot! She was curious about whatever skin condition he had that made his skin so milky, but damn, was he sexy! Those eyes of his and his hair, all so strange, but he made the combination work. Harleen wondered if maybe Jack had a form of albinism?

She wrapped her arms around herself, wondering what he had been having bad dreams about or how often he had them. Her gut told her he had bad dreams a lot. She wasn’t sure why she felt that was true, but she did.

It had made her heart hurt to hear him crying for help in his sleep. He had sounded so scared. He didn’t seem like the sort of man who would be scared...

She rubbed her lips together thinking about...

Jack’s door opened and he stepped out. He was still in his boxer shorts, but now he had a t-shirt on, a dark purple shirt with the Star Wars logo across the chest. He had also thrown a robe over his shoulders. The robe was a large, fluffy robe of blood red that hung to his knees, barely. He had slippers on his feet that matched the robe. He smiled at her and held his elbow out.

“Shall we, my sweet?”

Harleen felt a wave wash over her and through her when he called her his sweet. Oh, she was getting all stupidly swoony. She laced her arms through his with a smile. “Thank you Jack.”

He grinned and led her down the stairs.

*

“Sorry about waking you up,” Harleen said softly as they made their way downstairs, arm in arm. This early into the morning--or late, she wasn’t sure which, but either way--the hotel was still, quiet, so quiet she would almost think the place was abandoned.

Joker shrugged and gave her a disarming smile. “It’s fine,” he assured her. “I’m a light sleeper.”

Harleen gave a nod, glancing sideways at him. She could see a tightening around his eyes and maybe a tiny tremor around his lips. She didn’t say anything, but she could see the remains of his nightmare clinging to him.

They made their way to the landing then passed the desk where there sat a young man, smoking a cigarette, his tennis shoe covered feet up on the counter looking at some nudie magazine. When he saw Harleen and Mr. Heart, the young man dropped his feet to the floor so fast that he nearly fell off the stool he was sitting in, and threw the magazine to the floor with a loud smack and a terrified look on his face.

“Hello Mr. Heart. Everything okay?” the young man asked nervously.

Joker smiled at the young man, a slow, easy smile. “Everything is fine Joe, just getting a cup of tea for myself and Miss Quinzel.”

Joe nodded with a smile, though he still looked nervous. “Oh...ah…” Joe nodded at Harleen. “You must be the new girl everyone is talking about. Nice to meet you.”

Harleen smiled and returned his greeting. “Nice to meet you too.”

Joker smiled. “Harley is a very special guest Joe, I expect her to receive the very best The Blue Moon has to offer.”

Joe nodded with enough vigor that Harleen was afraid his head might come off. “Of course Mr. Heart. You ask for anything you need Miss Quinzel. Whatever it is, I can get it.” Joe looked between the two of them, reminding Harleen of a dog wanting only to please its master. She didn’t understand what was going on since Jack seemed happy, but the way Joe was acting you would think the kid was afraid of getting punished.

“Thank you Joe,” Harleen said with a smile.

Joker smiled a little wider. “Well Joe, you go back to your reading--don’t mind us.”

Joe continued to nod. “Okay Mr. Heart. If you need anything, just yell.”

Joker walked past the younger man, guiding Harleen along with him while smiling. “I will Joe, I will.”

Jack guided her into the body of the bar where he flipped on a light before stepping in. A small light close to the bar came to life, but only threw out a weak circle of light, while casting most of the bar in shadows. The small, pale light somehow made the bar look sad now that it was empty of people. The stage was hidden in shadows and the chairs and tables that surrounded the stage sat like quiet ghosts, empty and sad. The smell of stale beer and old grease added to the sense of abandonment and loss that filled the room.

Jack led her through the bar and around the counter toward a couple of slatted swinging doors that separated the back of the bar from the rest of the room. Jack pushed the doors back, flipped another light switch, and stepped to the side while holding one of the doors out of the way for her.

Harleen smiled at him. “Thank you Jack.”

“My pleasure,” Joker purred as she walked by him before he turned and followed her inside.

The kitchen was surprisingly big, large enough to have an entire kitchen staff working back here. An island stood in the middle of the room equipped with sinks and large cutting areas. Harleen saw a walk-in the fridge and a grill. The kitchen was also surprisingly clean.

Joker saw her looking around and smiled. “Before I owned the place, a long, long time ago in The Blue Moon’s heyday, the bar was always packed. Back then, it was more of a restaurant than a simple bar like it is now, with live performances every night, lots of music and people. It was quite the happening place in the 1940’s--or so I’ve heard.” Joker pulled out a couple of stools from under one of the counters, moved them over to the middle island by Harleen. He smiled at her as he set the stools down by her and stepped away. Harleen hopped up onto one of the stools and leaned against the slick silver counter by one of the sinks.

Joker walked down to one of the cabinets where he pulled down a couple of mugs and a box of tea bags. He frowned, looking in the cabinet, standing on his toes so he could look in the back; he nodded as he pulled out a bag of sugar. Harleen watched him, her eyes skating over his figure and down along the back of his legs. She caught herself staring at his legs while she bit the side of her bottom lip. He made the robe look good and she knew now what he looked like under the robe...all smooth white skin...

Harleen shook herself and suppressed a giggle. She had never been quite so lustful over a man before. She rubbed her hand over her mouth to hide her smile. She wasn’t sure what it was about Jack Heart, but in addition to finding him intensely attractive, she found him compelling. She was drawn to him and she didn’t mind that at all. She took a soft breath and let it out slowly, pulling her attention away from thinking about his body to focus on what he was saying.

“I’ve even heard a rumor that during Prohibition this place was a secret speakeasy. There was a false wall between here and a lobby.” He shrugged. “I always wanted to look up the blueprint for this place to see if it was true, maybe see if there are any secret tunnels to discover, but I’ve never done it--been too busy.” He grinned, turning to look at her, his eyes dancing as an idea came to him. “Maybe I could get the blueprints and you and I could look at them together? See if there are any secrets rooms in the old Blue Moon!”

Harleen giggled. “That would be fun, sure.”

Joker smiled, pleased with himself as he walked over and set the mugs down near the oven, along with the bag of sugar and a box of tea bags. Harleen could see a silver kettle sitting on the oven. Jack picked the kettle up, walked over to the sink where he rinsed it out before filling it with water, and stepped over to the stove where he turned on the burner.

He shrugged, continuing to speak. “Well then, I will make a point of acquiring those blueprints.” He turned with a glance around at the kitchen. “Nowadays the bar is just a bar, though the kitchen is only used once in a while. I let some of the residents use it, though most of them go out to eat or they have hot plates in their rooms. Mrs. Geller likes to come in here and cook the most. She makes this homemade bread once a week...” Joker made a soft groan. “Like heaven.” He glanced over his shoulder at Harleen. “We’re a hotel, but nearly everyone here has been here for years, which is why we don’t really rent rooms. But you are special, so I made an exception.”

Harleen blushed. “You have no idea how much I appreciate it.”

Joker turned around to lean against the counter near the oven, smiling at her. Some of his green hair had fallen forward over his forehead again, making him look younger. Harleen sucked on her bottom lip briefly while gazing at him. He was so handsome, even with his odd coloring and she found that she liked the color of his hair, though she wondered what dye he used because oddly his hair color looked natural to her.

Joker grinned. “Would you like some cookies?”

Harleen blinked at the sudden change of subject, but she smiled. “Sure, I love cookies. I used to eat way too many of them when I was in college. My parents didn’t allow any sweets in the house.”

Joker blinked, looking shocked. “No sweets? But...why?”

Harleen shrugged. “I don’t know...I don’t think they liked having children…”

Joker tilted his head. “Do you have any siblings?”

Harleen nodded. “Yes, I have an older brother, but he was a lot older than me and he joined the military and got out…” Her voice dropped. “So I was stuck with them, alone.”

Joker pressed his lips together. “Your parents aren’t good people, are they? Is that why you fled to Gotham with no place to stay?”

Halreen looked away from him to her hands that she had pressed against the cool metal of the counter. “No, they weren’t. Not really.” Harleen frowned at the memories of the yelling, the beatings, the control her parents had exercised over her. She was surprised when they let her go to college, probably only because she had worked her ass off at gymnastics in order to pay for it herself so they would have no reason to stop her. But when she was forced to return home after graduating with no job...everything had been worse. Jack was right. She fled her home for Gotham because even the prospect of sleeping on a bench outside was better than staying with her parents at home. No, it was never really home, she decided.

She nodded. “Yeah, they...they weren’t good parents...that’s why when Arkham Asylum offered me the job, I jumped at the chance without thinking…” Harleen looked over at Jack. “I figured this was my chance to be away from them, to have my own life. I didn’t think about the consequences of rushing out here I suppose, because I didn’t care. I just wanted to be away and on my own.”

She rubbed her hands against the stainless steel countertop. “Stupid I know…”

Joker frowned. He had no memory of parents or siblings, family of any kind. As far as he knew, he was alone in the world, that he sprang into being in the summer of 1983, but he could understand her desire to escape, to be free, to be who you were and who you wanted to be...

Joker looked over at her. His mismatched eyes were intense, his voice low, but passionate. “You’re safe here Harley. I won’t let anything happen to you ever--you have my word. This is your new home and you will never be unhappy here. Gotham can be cruel, but it has a beauty all its own too. You can be happy here, I promise,” Joker said, both with complete sincerity and a little confusion because he meant every word. He wanted to protect her, wanted to keep her safe from everything. Her happiness seemed more important to him now than anything else in his short life had ever been. Not even his encounters with the Batman had meant as much as Harley did. It was such an odd sensation, just like the intensity of his desire for her. Odd and unfamiliar, but welcomed.

Joker smiled and laughed lightly, breaking the strange heaviness that had begun to settle in the kitchen. He decided right then and there he would do anything he could to make sure Harley was never sad, that she never frowned. “Well, in this place we allow sweets my sweet. I love cookies, ice cream, cotton candy…” His voice trailed off. “Though I don’t know why…” He shrugged. “Not that anyone ever needs a reason to like sweets.” He winked at her before turning as the kettle went off with a shrill whistle.

Harleen frowned at the clear confusion that rolled across Jack’s face. She wondered what he meant by not knowing why he liked sweets. It was such an odd statement, but her trail of thought was disrupted by the whistle of the kettle.

Jack poured the water into the mugs, pulled out the tea bags, and dipped them into the water.

“Now, let those soak for a bit...I think there are some Oreos somewhere…” He walked over to another cabinet, pulled the doors open, and looked around inside.

“Want to help me look?” Harleen asked, getting to her feet.

Joker smiled at her. “Sure, try those cabinet there by the fridge.”

Harleen hurried over and opened the cabinets. There were the regular staples of any kitchen to be found inside: flour, more sugar, some spices, crackers, but no cookies…

“HA!! Found them!” Jack turned, holding a bag of Oreos up in the air. “The cookies have been found!! And…” He waved the package with delight. “They’re double stuffed!”

Harleen giggled and returned to her seat as Joker set the package of cookies down. He set the mugs of tea down, grabbed the bag of sugar, and pulled out a couple of spoons from a drawer.

As he sat down, Harleen tried to avoid staring as the robe he wore parted, his boxers rising up a little as he sat on the stool. She was so focused on the inside of his pale thigh that she almost didn’t hear him ask her. “Oh, do you like milk in your tea?”

Harleen jumped slightly at the question before she nodded. “Yes, please.”

Joker beamed at her. “Ooh, very English of you.”

Harleen giggled. “I thought this was the only way to drink tea?”

Joker nodded. “It is.”

After a few moments of getting their tea the way each of them liked, with sugar (in Jack’s case Harley noticed he put a lot of sugar into his tea), Jack ripped open the package of cookies. He pulled one of the chocolate cookies out and handed it to Harleen as if he were handing her a great prize. “My lady. Now comes the real test...show me how you eat your Oreo.”

Harleen giggled. “What happens if I pass?”

Joker frowned and tapped his chin in thought. “Hm...well…” He gave her a mischievous look. “How about if you eat the Oreo properly, I will give you a kiss…”

Harleen blushed. “Ah…”

Joker laughed. “A chaste kiss on the cheek.”

Harleen giggled. “And if I eat it improperly?”

Joker twisted his lips. “Hmm...you have to kiss me on the cheek.”

Harleen laughed. “That’s not much of a punishment.”

Joker smiled, his eyes twinkling. “No, but who said a punishment had to be unpleasant.”

Harleen blushed, her cheeks red as she held up the cookie and carefully pulled it apart. Joker leaned on the counter, propping his chin in his hand as he leaned on his elbow and watched her, mesmerized as she licked the frosting with her tongue, his gaze taking in every detail of her lips, soft and pink, sensual lips, lips made for kissing. Caressing and soft, Joker thought, lips made for so many fun things. He grinned, following the movement of her tongue, wet, dark pink as she licked the frosting slowly. Her tongue was beautiful, wet; he could just imagine how soft it would be against his skin. Joker shivered with the thought of how gorgeous her tongue and lips were...

He swallowed, heat racing to his groin. His heart hammered while he watched her. He frowned only slightly because it seemed as if time slowed while he watched her, every movement she made was sensual and beautiful. He caught his bottom lip while he watched her finishing off the frosting before she dipped the cleaned half of the cookie into her tea and took a bite with a smile.

She chewed and swallowed before she asked, “Do I pass?”

Joker nodded his voice soft. “You pass.”

Harleen smiled with pleasure when Jack declared she had passed. Jack leaned across the counter lightning quick, cutting the short distance between them and pressed his lips to the corner of her mouth. Harleen went stiff and sucked in a surprised breath at the feel of Jack’s lips on the corner of her mouth. The kiss was tender, gentle, his lips were warm and soft. Jack’s skin was soft as well. His hair brushed against her cheek, felt like the softest silk. He smelled wonderful, she thought, good enough that the desire to lick him was almost too strong to control. Her eyes were wide as she looked at him, his mismatched blue eyes looking into hers with humor and mischief. She didn’t feel that she was the butt of some joke, more that he was pleased to place a kiss at the corner of her mouth, a kiss that was somehow chaste while at the same time wildly erotic.

Joker sat back slowly, his eyes locked on hers. Kissing her had been a shock to his system. He had meant to be playful while at the same time giving in to his desire to kiss her, but the feel of her mouth, the scent of her skin, the brush of her hair had triggered something deep in him. He wanted her. He had thought that desire had been strong before when he first saw her, but now it was a need so powerful it hurt. He had to make her his girl, he had to love her, and for her to love him in return. He needed her. Part of his mind yelled at him that this was a weakness, that desire was a joke, that love itself was a joke, and he was setting himself up for a fall. The only truth in the world was madness, death, and the fact that nothing mattered. Everything was the butt of some universal joke, but Joker squashed that voice. He couldn't see how having her would ever be a weakness. If he didn’t have her...now that would make him weak.

Joker felt confused, the twisting mass of contradicting feelings scrambled his brain for a moment until he pulled free of the hissing voices. No, he knew what he wanted, and he wanted her. He just had no idea how he was going to woo her, but somehow he would find a way to make Harley his girl, because he knew without a doubt, that he was her guy, already hers. She owned him body and soul without even lifting a finger to try.

He sat back with a smile, hiding all of the twisting turmoil of feelings behind his never fading smile. Maybe he was weak, but he wanted to be Harley’s man more than he had ever wanted anything else in the world, more than he wanted to destroy Batman. He had never wanted anything more than for her to love him like he knew he loved her already...or at least as far as he could remember...

Harleen blushed and solved the problem of pleased embarrassment by shoving the remains of the cookie into her mouth and taking a large gulp of her tea. It was hot and it burned a little, but she needed something to do after that kiss. God, she thought, if he ever really kissed her, she might just spontaneously combust!

Joker smiled at her and sipped his tea, both of them quiet for a few moments, but oddly Harleen thought it wasn’t that awkward quiet, just a pleasant, comfortable quiet. She didn’t know what it was about Mr. Jack Heart that she liked so much (besides the fact that he was incredibly handsome), but not once in her life had she felt this...Harleen struggled to find the word...Right? Comfortable? Attracted? Happy? All of the above?

She set her tea down and opened her mouth to say something to Jack as he smiled softly at her, his blue eyes having not once left her face when without warning the doors to the kitchen were shoved open, followed by two loud voices.

“I’m telling you, it’s a walrus!” One of the voices belonged to a young man who wailed, followed by a gruffer male voice groaning. “Shut the fuck up about the walrus Donnie!! The walrus doesn't have our fucking drugs!! It’s that elephant!! Have you seen the way he looks at us??!!”

A female voice piped up. “I’m telling you, I stashed them in the kitchen, not the fucking zoo you assholes. I put the cocaine in the oven…”

Joker and Harleen turned, both of them getting to their feet to see three people, two men and a woman, all somewhere between their mid-twenties and early thirties standing near the doorway of the kitchen staring at them. One of the men was a slightly pudgy man in a ripped up t-shirt, stained jeans, and a mop of matted dirty blonde curls. The other man who was almost anorexic, skinny, had a faded blue mohawk, and wore a torn up Sex Pistols t-shirt under a leather jacket. He wore torn up jeans. The skinny woman standing between the two men had on a pair of large round sunglasses (even though it was still dark out), her dark hair was large and teased out. That, along with her black heels, she looked taller than the two men with her. She wore a short leopard print dress with long black opera gloves and dark hose. All three stopped moving when they saw Joker and Harleen in the kitchen.

Joker stood up slowly. “Donnie, Walter, Maude...what are you doing here?”

The one with the blonde hair spoke. “Ah, hi Mr. Heart...ah...we were...just…”

The man with the mohawk muttered. “Shut the fuck up, Donnie.”

Maude hissed. “Both of you shut up!”

Harleen frowned, looking at them. She could tell they were all high, could see it in their eyes and the way they all twitched.

Joker narrowed her eyes. “I thought I told the three of you not to come back here after the incident with Mrs. Geller, Henry, and Joanie...I thought we agreed that the only reason I didn’t do worse than kick you out of The Blue Moon was because I promised Mrs. Geller and you said you would never show your faces around here again...isn’t that what we agreed on?” Joker smiled at them, but the smile didn’t reach his eyes.

Maude suddenly looked nervous. “Ah, yeah we did, Mr. Heart, but we left something here that we really need back.”

Donnie grinned. “Yeah man, we left our drugs.”

Joker narrowed his eyes. “Where is Joe?”

The one with the blue mohawk smirked. “We told him to let us through or we would fuck him up.” Blue Mohawk pulled out a knife. It was an old bowie knife, not very sharp or clean, but it was dangerous. He showed them the blade with a laugh, turned it side to side, clearly proud of himself while his friends didn’t look happy at all. Harleen noted that Jack looked even less happy; his upper lip curled a little.

Harleen paled, looking between Jack and the three drug addicts. Her heart was beating hard with fear. She had studied about taking care of people who were drug dependent in her schooling to become a nurse. She also knew how violent they could be. Neither she nor Jack were armed...and if they were here for their drugs...but she noted that oddly enough, the three of them seemed scared of Jack.

Joker smiled and motioned for them to come closer. The three of them exchanged looks with one another before they did in fact step closer.

“If you want your drugs, let my friend here return to her room, then I will let you retrieve your drugs. After that, I want you three to leave and I don’t want to see your faces again,” Joker offered in a pleasant tone.

The three grinned as one and stepped quickly out of the way of the door.

Harleen looked at Jack with distress. “Jack, I can’t leave you…”

Joker smiled at her to assure her. He reached out and took her hand, gently tugged her closer. He smiled into her eyes at the same time he reached for her other hand. He brought both her hands up to his lips and kissed her knuckles, brushing his lips against her skin as he smiled at her.

“Don’t worry Harley, I’ll be fine. You just go up to your room and I’ll see you later for our date, all right?” Jack’s spoke softly, only for her ears.

Harleen swallowed. “I don’t want to leave you alone with them.”

Joker laughed and pulled her closer. “Don’t worry sweets, I can handle myself.”

Harleen smiled at him and nodded, though he could clearly see that she still wasn’t convinced. He surprised both her and himself when he kissed her on the tip of her nose. “Go on. I’ll be safer if I know you’re all right.”

Harleen wanted to argue further, but he released her hands, reached over to grab a half-dozen Oreos and put them in her hand. “Go on, sleep well.”

Harleen frowned. “Jack, I…”

He laughed lightly and turned her around toward the door. “Go on Harley--I’ll be fine.”

She walked a few steps and turned around to look at him. Joker smiled again at her, for some reason her wanting to stay with him made him feel good, made him feel wanted, protected, something he had never felt before. He gave Harley his best, most reassuring smile, but his heart swelled with happiness that she wanted to stay by his side.

“Go on Harls, I’ll be fine,” he said again.

Harleen didn’t look convinced, but she continued to walk. She narrowed her eyes at the three junkies who all smirked at her, apparently feeling confident in themselves and the fact that they were getting what they wanted from Jack. Harleen hated leaving Jack alone with them. She felt that Jack could take care of himself; he looked like he could and he practically vibrated strength and confidence, but it was still three against one. Still, she was new here and maybe Jack was right, he would be in more danger with her here than if she left.

Reluctantly she made her way to the door. She stopped and turned one last time to look over at Jack. He winked at her with a smile.

Harleen sighed and left, walking through the bar and out to the lobby where she found Joe cowering in a corner behind the lobby desk.

Harleen stopped. “You okay?”

Joe nodded. “Yeah, is Mr. Heart taking care of them?”

She nodded. “Yes.”

Joe smiled, and Harleen thought the grin on his face looked slightly cruel. “Good.”

Harleen frowned, but she headed toward the stairs, making the climb to her room.

*

Joker grinned as he turned his gaze upon the three drug addicts. “I told you three, if you came back I was going to kill you, and I meant that. I have to keep my word. So, why did you come back?”

Donnie grinned at Walter who smirked back, waving his knife. “We just wanted our coke man.”

Walter nodded, brandishing his knife. “That’s right, give us the coke and we’ll go.”

Maude didn’t look as confident as her friends; she frowned. “Ah...look Mr. Heart, we don’t want no trouble.”

Joker’s smile widened. “Then you shouldn’t have come back now should you? And Walter, put that knife away or I’ll make you eat it.”

Walter laughed. “You can’t do nothing Mr. Heart. I’m the one with the weapon and there are three of us, just one of you.”

Joker slipped his robe off and placed it on his stool, at the same time sliding out of his slippers. He took a step forward smiling, holding up his fists as he lifted a green brow at them still looking dangerous despite being barefoot in his boxers and Star Wars t-shirt. “All right, I’ll make a deal with you three; whoever can get past me to the oven can get the drugs and leave. Otherwise, I’m going to kill all three of you.” He chuckled. “Sound good? I think I’m being more than fair, especially since you disturbed Harley and me having cookies and tea, which was really, really rude, I must say, because I like Harley very much. And I really, really didn’t like being disturbed.”

The three looked at each other, but it was Walter who laughed too loudly and shoved Donnie forward. “Come on Don, let’s show Mr. Heart he kicked the wrong people out of his precious hotel for fucking with that retard Henry.”

Maude kicked her heels off, picking up one of them and holding it like a weapon with the spiked heel looking almost as dangerous as any knife, though she didn’t look high enough to be confident.

Joker chuckled and motioned at them with his fingers. “Come on kiddies, see if you can take Uncle J out.”

The three of them yelled and charged at him.

Joker laughed and shook his head, his green hair flopping around his eyes, as Walter, being the most confident with his knife, rushed forward with his blade. Joker easily dodged the young man’s thrust, grabbed Walter’s weapon arm with one hand, his pale fingers digging painfully into the man’s arm, and twisting around until Joker was standing at Walter’s back. Joker’s hand slid down the other man’s arm, grabbing for his wrist, the smell of sweat, drugs, and hairspray almost overpowering as the odors came off Walter in waves. Joker wrinkled his nose, his cheek against Walter’s ear while at the same time he forced the younger man’s arm forward, toward Walter’s throat too quickly and with too much strength for Walter to fight back. One moment he had been rushing Joker, the next, his own knife was stuck hilt deep in his own throat.

Joker chuckled against Walter’s ear with a whispered, “Oopsie, got something stuck in your throat there Walter.”

Joker dropped Walter, who hit the floor, jerking and with blood bubbling out from between his lips.

Donnie had rushed at Joker, but the green-haired man grabbed Donnie by the front of his shirt and yanked him forward. Joker swung the junkie around, grabbed the back of Donnie’s head and slammed his head down against the edge of the stainless steel counter with a resounding bang. The tall, pale man continued to smash Donnie’s head into the counter, bashing his nose, the bone around Donnie’s eyes, his cheek, and his forehead.

The violence happened so quickly that Maude didn’t have time to process what exactly had happened before both Donnie and Walter lay on the floor in pools of blood, the last of their life seeping out onto the kitchen floor.

Joker turned to her and smiled. A few flecks of blood marred his perfect, pale skin. “Now Maude, your turn dear.”

Maude dropped her shoe and took a step back, shaking and fearful. “Keep the drugs...I...I won’t come back! I promise.”

Joker’s smile was made all the more sinister by the gleam in his mismatched blue eyes. “Oh, my darling, it's far too late for promises.”

Maude turned and ran for the doors. Joker reached over to grab the kettle from the stove top that he had used for tea and threw it. The kettle hit Maude in the back of her head just as she reached the doors. She fell, crashing through the doors.

Joker smirked and walked over to her slowly, his gait like that of a predator stalking his wounded prey. Maude groaned in pain. Joker saw a bloody spot in her teased out hair as he reached down to grasp her by her hair and dragged her back into the kitchen.

“I really wish you children would learn some manners, and to take advantage of the gift the monster gives you when he lets you leave his lair the first time, because there are never going to be any second chances.”

Maude weakly groaned and whimpered, reaching up with one hand to bat at Joker’s hand in her hair, but he ignored her. “Well I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. You three never were very bright, now were you?” Joker sighed. “It would have been a mercy to kill you three the first time, but I was doing a favor for Mrs. Geller. She is going to be so disappointed in me, though I do tell her over and over again, I am a monster.” He chuckled with a shake of his head.

Joker dropped Maude next to Walter, who had finally stopped gurgling. He crouched down and pried the knife out of Walter’s hand and throat. Maude tried to move, tried to crawl away, but

Joker stood, walking through the blood without looking down at it and kicked Maude onto her back.

She groaned. “Please stop, please!!”

Joker crouched down over her, grabbed the top of Maude’s hair and held her head down. “Sorry dear, but I gave you a chance, one chance, and you and your friends wasted it.” He shrugged.

“And I am a man of my word.”

Joker chuckled and sliced the knife across her throat, watching with a distracted grin as the light left her eyes.

He sighed, stood up, and dropped the knife onto the dead woman’s chest, frowning as he looked around the kitchen. “Damn. I guess I’ll have to get Joe and Henry in here to help with some clean up.”

He walked back over to where he and Harley had been sitting, picked up an Oreo with bloody fingers and twisted the cookie open, leaning back against the counter as he licked the frosting clean off the cookie.

Chapter Text

Harleen was surprised at how deeply she slept. She had gone to bed worried about Mr. Heart...Jack...with those people. She didn’t know where a phone was to call the police from and she didn't have a lot of change (or wanted to walk outside in her pajamas to a phonebooth). Then her thoughts had drifted to thinking about his nightmares, what must he have been through to have such night terrors. Maybe he suffered from PTSD? He might have served in the military?

She had frowned in thought as she crawled into bed, but once her head hit the pillow again, she had passed out within moments, sleep overtaking her despite her worry. Her dreams had been surreal, dancing on a cloud with Jack in the Gotham night sky while the city lights twinkled below them. He had smiled at her, a smile that took over too much of his face and his teeth had been bloody, but she hadn’t cared, hadn’t cared at all.

She woke from her strange dream by a knock at her door. Harleen grumbled, squeezing her eyes shut and buried her face deeper into the pillow, but the knock came again despite her best efforts to ignore it. She sat up as she came more awake and stared at the door in confusion waiting to see if the knock was from her dream or reality.

The knock came again, this time followed by a voice of a man who sounded unsure if he was in the correct place. “Look, I have a delivery for a Harleen Quinzel? Is this Miss Quinzel’s room?”

A delivery? She frowned as she tried to think if she had ordered anything, but she had only been in the city for less than twenty-four hours, so...no, and she didn’t order anything because she had no money, and she didn't have access to a phone. She thought about ignoring them, pretend she wasn’t inside the room, but her curiosity was peaked. What was being delivered? And from who? Harleen dropped out of bed, grabbed her robe, and wrapped it around herself. She ran her fingers quickly through her blonde hair, smoothing it back the best she could before she walked over to the door. She realized with a frown she had forgotten to engage the slide lock. She put the chain lock in place before she opened the door a crack to see a young man with blonde dyed hair, who looked like he had to have been a high school football player judging by what she could see if his build. He waited by the door with a clipboard in hand. “You Miss Quinzel?”

“I am, but I didn't order anything,” Harleen said with a frown as she peered through the crack of her door.

The man looked down at his clipboard. “Well, someone ordered a whole room of new furniture, including a bed for a Harleen Quinzel.” He tapped the clipboard. “We’re to move the new furniture in and remove the old furniture.”

Harleen frowned and chewed her bottom lip, unsure what to do when a man she couldn’t see from somewhere behind the blonde football player muttered. “Hey man, you forgot the note.”

“Oh yeah! The furniture came with a note!” He flipped back the pages of clipboard and pulled out a purple envelope and handed it to her through the crack in her door.

Harleen took the note with lifted brows, looking back at the man. “Can you give me a minute?”

He nodded. “Sure. Just, ah, please don’t take too long. We lugged a dresser up here and we still got a vanity, bed, a wardrobe, a new TV, and entertainment center to bring up. Oh, and a shower curtain and towels too.”

Harleen blinked in surprise. “Oh...ah, okay.”

She closed the door, her heart beating quicker. She leaned against the door frame and opened the note. The paper smelled good...like...vanilla maybe? She wasn’t sure, but a delicate scent accompanied her pulling the paper free from the envelope. She unfolded the paper to see a handwritten note inside upon which some of the most elegant handwriting she had ever seen had been penned. She began to read.

“My Dearest Harley,

I took the liberty of ordering a brand new set of furniture for you. I hope you don’t mind, but that room’s furniture is old and falling apart. You deserve better and the room could use sprucing up. I’ve arranged for you to have breakfast downstairs with Mrs. Geller. I hope that’s acceptable? I didn’t want you to have to go hunting for food and she loves to feed people. She is on the first floor, room 104, she’s expecting you. You should also be expecting another package from me this afternoon, a dress for our dancing date tonight. Think of it as a welcome to Gotham gift. If you don’t like the dress when it arrives, don’t worry about it. Anything you wear will be wonderful I’m sure.

I look forward to seeing you tonight.

I’ll pick you up at 8 p.m.

Love and Laughs,

Jack Heart”

Harleen smiled and held the letter up to her lips. He was just so nice! Furniture, dishes, and a dress? Harleen could remember the last time she had bought a dress; it had been for her high school graduation. A pretty red dress that she purchased from the money she had saved babysitting. She frowned as the memory came flooding back. She remembered how angry her parents had been at her for hiding money from them (they usually took her babysitting money, payment for keeping her), and then she had spent the money she had hidden from them on something as wasteful as a dress!

Her parents had yelled for hours at her because of how much she had spent on the dress, how lazy and wasteful she was, how that money could have gone to them, to the people who gave her a place to stay, who fed her and she repaid them with lies and greed. They made certain she knew she owed them, owed them everything. Harleen had taken the dress back and gave the money to her parents. She had worn an old pair of jeans and a Rolling Stones t-shirt to her graduation instead. She had been yelled out for looking like trash by her parents, but it hadn’t been as forceful or as long.

Harleen smiled. This time she was getting a new dress as a gift! A gift from an attractive man (even with the green punk hair and milk white skin).

She hurriedly got dressed, pulling an outfit from her suitcase, threw on a pair of jeans, a pink light knit sweater with a snowflake border that ran across the breasts, and tennis shoes. She gave her hair to a quick brushing and pushed a white hair band into her hair to hold it back from her face. She looked at herself in the small bathroom mirror with a frown. She looked more like eighteen than twenty-six. Harleen sighed with a shake of her head. She didn’t have time for makeup, so she slid her glasses on and stepped out of the bathroom. She moved her suitcase into the bathroom with her pajamas and closed the door before walking swiftly back to the room door.

She unchained the door and opened it fully. “Okay, I’m ready.”

The young man nodded. “Just sign here to confirm you received the furniture and ah...I guess just try to stay out of the way--for your safety?”

“I’ll be downstairs at Mrs. Geller’s room 104. Just come get me when your done,” Harleen replied with a smile.

The blonde nodded. “All right.” He turned to the man behind him. “Hey guys, make room for the lady to get by.”

When Harleen stepped out into the narrow hall she saw four men and a large white dresser wrapped in plastic. Harleen smiled and pushed herself against the wall, shimmied past the men. One man, big with dark hair all over his arms and head winked at her as she hurried past to the stairs.

Harleen took the stairs down to the first floor of room and proceeded to find room 104.

*

The door looked like any other door in the hotel, but from this one Harleen could smell the delicious scent of bacon, maple syrup, and coffee. Even before she raised her hand to knock, her stomach made a loud growl of hunger. She blushed, thankful no one was in the hall to hear her stomach before she knocked on the door.

“It’s open! Come in!”

Harleen heard the accented voice of an older woman on the other side of the door. Harleen grasped the handle and stepped in.

Mrs. Geller’s room was like Harleen’s in its dimensions, but it was filled to capacity with old furniture and little, numerous knickknacks. The walls were papered in an old fashioned gold colored wallpaper with flowery designs. Harleen could see that the wallpaper was flocked which meant she could rub her hands over it and the paper would feel raised and velvety. As Harleen looked around, she saw that there were two large, very comfortable looking old armchairs by a sealed up white marble fireplace with a large mirror hung above it. A small television sat on a blue painted end table in front of the fireplace that held so many figures that it looked like a crowded party on the mantel Harleen thought with a smile.

A faded, fringed carpet covered the floor; an old iron frame bed sat in the corner with a heavy silver grey bedspread and a heavy knit blanket folded over the end of the bed where a sleeping tabby cat lay. The cat opened one golden eye to look at her before going back to sleep. The flocked walls were covered in old framed black and white photos, so many in some spaces that the wallpaper could not be seen. A large wooden wardrobe stood near the bed, making it so that if someone wanted to get into the bed on that side of the room they would have to shimmy along the tight space. One of the wardrobes doors was open and inside Harleen could see the hint of elegant dresses, a feather boa, and sparkles; she could see sparkles!

As her eyes wandered the small room she saw a round kitchen table by the room’s only window with three mismatched chairs around it. Harleen walked into the room, closed the door while she looked around with wide eyes. The place was old, but regal looking making her think of the private chamber of some exiled noblewoman. The resident of a room was currently at the one kitchen table near the window (which she had opened a crack to release the smoke from her cooking) working at a small camp stove with a hot plate next to her heating up a small kettle. The table had two mismatched China plates both loaded with scrambled eggs and toast from a toaster that was plugged in and sitting on the floor near the window, next to the plates were two elegant China cups painted with roses. There were even a matching sugar bowl and creamer. Harleen had never known anyone with matching dishes. Also on the table was a butter dish and some small containers of different jams. The woman was not quite as tall as Harleen with close cut short, pure white hair. She was dressed in stylish black slacks and a black turtleneck with a pair of black shoes with a cuban heel. When she looked up at Harleen, her smile was contagious.

“You must be Harleen. Jack told me all about you this morning. You must be something special, young lady,” she said with a barely perceptible lift of her eyebrows. “Not only did he give you a room, purchased new furniture for you, and he said he has a dress coming? He seems quite smitten with you, told me he was taking you out dancing. Jack hasn’t been dancing with anyone before, though I know the boy loves to dance. Now…” The older woman motioned at her. “Come--sit. I’m making coffee, but if you want I do have tea bags around here somewhere.” The woman’s voice was definitely accented, maybe Polish, or Austrian? Harleen couldn’t be sure, but the woman’s accent made her think Old World.

Harleen pulled out a chair and sat down at the table. “Ah, yes, Jack...I mean Mr. Heart left me a note to come have breakfast with you while the new furniture is being moved into my room.”

Harleen smiled softly, a blush coloring her cheeks.

Mrs. Geller smiled. “Yes, he wanted me to make sure you ate. You must be very special indeed. Our Jack doesn’t usually show this must concern over anyone.” She picked up slices of bacon from the little camp stove with a small pair of tongs and laid them on Harleen’s plate before giving Harleen a smile. “No one has ever caught our Jack’s attention. He has never shown interest in girls, or boys for that matter, but you...he could not stop talking about you.”

Harleen’s blush spread from her cheeks to encompass her whole face. “Really?”

Mrs. Geller nodded. “Oh yes. Now…” She set bacon on her own plate, turned off the stove, and reached for the kettle from which she poured a rich dark coffee into the two waiting cups before she sat across from Harleen. “You can call me Mrs. Geller or Lena, whichever makes you more comfortable dear.” She smiled as she added some cream to her coffee. “And you are called Harleen, what an unusual name! But pretty, just like you. Tell me all about yourself, dear. Jack said this is your first time in Gotham?” Mrs. Geller smiled, picking up her fork.

Harleen took a nervous breath. “Uh...yes. I’m starting at Arkham Asylum as a nurse on Monday.”

Mrs. Geller nodded. “Ah nursing. A noble profession.” She took a bite of her eggs, gesturing at Harleen. “Eat up my dear, those men are going to be a while and Jack was concerned that you eat.” She smiled, holding her fork up to her lips. “I’ve never seen him so entranced before, as I said. He has shown no interested in sex, but you…”

Harleen felt her face burn, sure her entire face was red. “Mr. Heart...ah, Jack is very nice, he’s been very nice to me.”

Mrs. Geller ate a large bite of eggs, laid the next bite of eggs onto her toast while she spoke. “ I must ask, you would never intend to hurt our Jack, would you? He would be quite destroyed. He may seem quite...resilient, but he is easily broken. I would hate to see anything happen to him.” She took a bite of her toast and eggs as she gazed at Harleen with her pale blue eyes. There was something in her gaze that was calculating, stern, but not so much that it frightened Harleen. Instead it made Harleen feel good to know that someone like Mrs. Geller cared so much for Jack. Harleen continued to blush, moving her eggs around her plate with her fork. “I don’t intend to do anything to him Mrs. Geller. I…” She smiled softly and looked up at the older woman. “I like him and I would very much like to get to know him better. I’m really looking forward to going dancing with him…” Her voice trailed off a bit. “He’s the most handsome man I’ve ever seen.”

Mrs. Geller smiled watching her. Whatever worries she had vanished by the look in Harleen’s eyes. “He is, even with his unusual coloring he is quite handsome.”

Harleen smiled, taking a bite of her eggs followed by a sip of her coffee. “Do you know why he looks that way? I thought it was makeup, but last night I saw him shirtless and…” Harleen’s eyes widened in embarrassment when Mrs. Geller gave her a smirk. “Ah...I heard him having a nightmare and went to wake him up. He answered the door wearing only his boxers.” Harleen quickly added, but her explanation did nothing to remove Mrs. Geller’s smirk. The other woman sipped her coffee before she answered.

“I have no idea. He came to us as he is now, broken, sad really. The poor boy has no memory of how he came to look that way, or memories of much else before that. It is as if our Jack simply appeared one night.” Mrs. Geller frowned. “He is a tortured soul in need of a soothing hand, someone to hold him through the dark, terrible nights.” Mrs. Geller watched Harleen intently.

Harleen frowned. No memory? Really? How odd, she thought. She wanted to ask more, but Mrs. Geller had moved on.

“So, Harleen--tell me a little about yourself.” Mrs. Geller smiled.

Harleen sipped her coffee. Mrs. Geller made her feel safe and there was something endearing about the way Mrs. Geller cared for Jack. Harleen had no problem telling the older woman about herself.

*

The two ladies were still talking, Harleen telling Mrs. Geller about taking the job at Arkham when there was a knock at the door. Mrs. Geller frowned with a look at the door.

“Well, odd. You’re the only guest I’m expecting and those young men better not be done already, because that will meant they did a piss poor job…”

She hurried over and opened the door to reveal a young girl...woman...Harleeen would guess the young woman had to be around sixteen, seventeen at the most, still mostly arms and legs though she was beginning to show a womanly figure. Harleen could see she was a pretty teenager who was going to turn into a stunning adult. She had short blonde hair that made Harleen think of Sheena Easton (immediately the song Morning Train started to play in her head).

“Joanie, what are you doing here?” Mrs. Geller looked at the young woman with a smile.

Joanie grinned, looking from Mrs. Geller to Harleen. “I heard the new girl was down here from one of the guys hauling furniture.”

Mrs. Geller waved the girl in. “Joanie Frost, this is Harleen…What did you say your last name was dear?”

“Quinzel,” Harleen stated. “Harleen Quinzel.”

Joanie glared. “Your name is weird.”

Harleen chuckled. “So I’ve been told.”

Mrs. Geller, on the other hand, was not amused. “Joanie! Really!” The older woman sighed and shook her head. “Have you eaten yet? I have a couple of eggs left I can scramble, no more bacon, however--I’m afraid Harleen and I indulged. But I can make from fresh coffee.”

“Eggs sounds great Mrs. Geller,” Joanie said as she rushed over to Harleen.

“So you’re the girl that’s got Jack wrapped around her finger already.” Joanie stood at Harleen’s chair and looked her up and down with a critical eye, her hands in fists on her hips. Harleen frowned, feeling a bit strange being inspected by a teenager.

“I don’t know about that…” Harleen started, but Joanie shook her head.

“He bought you furniture, like really bought it! And he let you have a room in the first place! He never does that!” Joanie frowned. “I’m not sure I like it. What do you think of his hair being green? His skin color?”

Harleen smiled. “I like it. He’s handsome and looks like no one I’ve ever seen.”

Joanie opened her mouth to respond, but Mrs. Geller ‘tsked’ at her. “Joanie sit down and stop being rude or I won’t fix these eggs for you.”

Joanie took the seat that Mrs. Geller had occupied only moments before, folding her arms across her chest when she sat, and continued to glare at Harleen.

“So--do you like him?” Joanie asked as she glared at Harleen from across the table.

Harleen shifted in her seat, picking up her almost empty coffee cup to hide her look of confusion. “Well, yes, yes I do. I like him very much.” Harleen’s voice was soft. “He has those amazing eyes...and his smile…” She blushed looking into her coffee cup.

Joanie made a sour face. “Well, I have to like you first before you’re allowed to go out with him.”

Mrs. Geller snorted. “Well, I'm sure that’ll be news to Jack since he already asked Harleen out for tonight.”

Joanie turned in her seat to gasp in astonishment at Mrs. Geller. “WHAT?!”

Mrs. Geller smirked as she cracked eggs. “Yes, they have a date tonight.”

Joanie turned to glare at Harleen. “You can’t!”

Mrs. Geller laughed. “Oh Joanie, stop it. Jack has never shown interest in anyone before and you’ve gotten selfish. Now stop. Harleen is a perfectly wonderful young woman. I think you two will get along swimmingly. Now, enough with the faces Joanie, your face is going to get stuck that way if you keep it up.”

Joanie stuck her bottom lip out in a pout, glaring at Harleen. “You better be nice to him, kiss him if he wants you to...or…”

Mrs. Geller sighed. “Now that really is enough Joanie!”

Joanie sighed frowning at Harleen. “He really likes you, huh?”

“I like him a lot too. I’m really looking forward to getting to know him better,” Harleen said with a smile.

Mrs. Geller finished with the eggs and dumped them on Joanie’s plate. “That’s enough being rude Joanie. Jack has brought Harleen into the family. She is one of us.”

Joanie sighed, picked up her fork, and dug into her eggs. She shoved a too-large bite into her mouth looking up at Harleen and saying around the mouthful. “I have to see how you’re dressed before you go out. Jack always dresses well.”

“Jack picked her a dress out,” Mrs. Geller said with a smirk.

Joanie groaned loudly, looking like every typical teenager the world over.

*

Somewhere in downtown Gotham, Joker, wearing a black fedora over his slicked back green hair, a black suit with a light blue dress shirt, buttoned up but lacking a tie, with a black overcoat over the top to ward against the chill in the autumn air, got out of a cab. He tossed the driver a few bills without looking as he stood up and looked around. He had on a pair of black wingtip shoes with purple laces, along with a pair of purple lense aviator sunglasses, all of which helped to hide his appearance. He drew some attention simply for the way he looked--dressed sharply in this run down section of Gotham--but no one noticed the too pale skin or the green hair, not that Jack really cared that much. He liked to be noticed, except when he didn’t.

He carefully lit a cigarette, took a deep drag, slowly blowing smoke from between his lips before he started to walk. He made his way down the broken sidewalk at a clipped pace. He was on his way to meet his best friend, his only friend (he did hope that he could count on Harleen as a friend...maybe more than friends eventually), Eddie Nygma, or as he liked to go by, the Riddler.

Riddler had been Joker’s partner in several of the Joker's crimes since his appearance in Gotham. They had met (not long after Joker had awaken with no memory) when they were both going after the same prize, a million dollars worth of diamonds on display at the Gotham art museum as part of some well renowned artist’s work. At first they had been ready to kill each other, but then the Batman had shown up, forcing the two of them to work together. They had ended up working well together.

They had been friends ever since.

Joker stopped in front of a graffiti-marked metal door embedded in what looked like a windowless abandoned brick building. He flicked his unfiltered cigarette away, the end stained red with lipstick, crushed it under his toe and knocked on the door. He knocked once with his black leather gloved knuckles, looking around once to see if anyone was watching him, then again, two more times, then a third. Joker slid his hand into his coat pocket and waited. He only had to wait a minute before the heavy door creaked open and he saw Eddie’s unshaven, bespeckled face in the thin space between the door and the brick.

Eddie, his brown hair a mess around his head as if he had probably just woken up (considering it was morning, he probably had still been asleep Joker realized), frowned. His blue eyes looked sleepy behind his glasses in his boyishly handsome face.

“Joker?” He leaned over and looked both ways along the sidewalk before returning his gaze to his friend. “What are you doing here so early?”

Joker smiled, his red lips spread across his face. “I need to talk to you, man to man.”

Eddie looked confused, but shrugged and held the door open for his friend. “Mi casa es su casa.”

Joker grinned and stepped inside.

*

The inside of Eddie’s place was all exposed brick with a few hanging exposed light bulbs of golden light, (only two of which were on so that the rest of the place was blanketed in shadow) but Eddie had put in a hardwood floor at some point and had added a few couches that he had picked up here and there (mostly in shades of green since green was Eddie’s favorite color) and a few throw rugs. Eddie didn’t have a bed. Instead, he had a recliner that he liked to sleep in. The recliner was in front of the television set, filled with pillows and blankets. One of the brick walls was covered in a hand drawn map of Gotham, while the other walls had various posters from chessmasters, to video games, to a large poster of Michelle Pfeiffer from Grease 2. A large metal pole ran between two metal beams and held all his clothing on hangers. He had a computer and a desk that was littered with paper--all held scribbles of riddles along with the crosswords from newspapers and magazines that Eddie was always working on.

Eddie was dressed in a pair of black silk boxers, a plain white t-shirt with a green and black kimono over the top and a pair of dull pink houseshoes.

“So what are you doing here so early?” Eddie asked as he shuffled along. “And do you want some coffee?”

Joker took his hat off, tossing it along with his coat and gloves over one of the couches. “Coffee would be wonderful, thank you. I’m here to ask a favor, Eddie. I have a girl I would like to take out dancing...on a date...but…”

Eddie spun around so swiftly that Joker nearly walked into him. “What? A girl? You asked a girl out? Does she know what you are?” Eddie asked quickly, his eyes behind his glasses wide.

Joker pursed his lips. “No, she doesn’t know I’m a criminal. She just arrived in Gotham yesterday. I gave her a room at The Blue Moon…”

Eddie blinked. “What? You gave her a room. Damn J, what’s she look like?”

Eddie started moving again, motioning for Joker to follow him. They turned a corner to the kitchen that Eddie had put in not long after taking over the place.

Joker smiled. “She’s gorgeous Eddie--radiant, beautiful, blonde hair, and the most amazing pair of blue eyes.”

Eddie grinned as he made his way to the coffee machine in his small kitchen. The kitchen held a small refrigerator, stove and a microwave, a handful of green cabinets and one small dining table with two chairs. It wasn’t much to look at, but it was efficient.

Eddie pulled a coffee tin from one of the cabinets and began making coffee. “Mm...blonde eh? She have a good body?” he asked while putting water in the machine.

Joker narrowed his eyes slightly, but answered. “Yes. She wears glasses and is going to be a nurse at Arkham Asylum.”

Eddie frowned. “At Arkham, man I hope she has a backbone of steel, I’ve heard that place was rough. My last doctor wanted me to commit myself.” Eddie shuddered. “Rather kill myself, thanks.”

Joker smiled leaning his elbows on the table. “I would happily commit myself if she’s there.”

Eddie came over placing two mismatched mugs on the table. “Whoa, you got it bad! She must be something.”

Joker nodded. “I’ve never felt like this...I have to have her Eddie. She has to be mine.” Joker’s blue eyes burned feverishly. “I need her.”

Eddie smirked. “Careful there.”

Joker made a sour face at Eddie. “Anyway, I want to take her dancing, but I need someplace to go where no one will…”

“Call the cops if they see the newest threat to Gotham’s safety running around.” Eddie nodded. “I wouldn’t worry too much. You’ve only just begun making a name for yourself…” Eddie didn’t say more than that. He knew Joker was violent, quite violent. And over the time they had known each other, Joker had become more and more violent, finding humor in death that Eddie didn’t understand. Joker had also begun to become more and more obsessed with Gotham’s vigilante, Batman, a little uncomfortably obsessed as far as Eddie was concerned. But that said, Joker was viciously loyal too. If you were his friend, he would literally kill for you. Eddie knew for a fact that the residents of The Blue Moon were under Joker’s protection. Anyone who tried to mess with anyone there, or tried to muscle in on Joker’s “territory,” Joker had no problem taking care of them. Permanently. Joker had even killed someone that had been messing with him, some two-bit criminal who thought it would be fun to beat on Eddie. Joker had cut the man from the hollow of his throat to his groin, opened the bastard up like a pastry. Eddie didn't like to think about it too much, but at the same time that moment had sealed his friendship with Joker, permanently.

Eddie frowned in thought, tapping his chin. “Where to go dancing...hmm...” His eyes opened wide and his face brightened. He pointed at Joker. “Oh hey, there’s that new place on Hudson--Sculptures. Plus, I know the guy who works as the lead bouncer there, can get you both in for nothing. You should go there, the place is hopping from what I hear, best drinks in town, a super large dance floor, lots and lots of drugs and sex, but I know you aren’t into the drugs or the sex...Though I’m guessing this girl is making you think a little different? About the sex part that is...” Riddler asked with a grin.

Joker smiled, looking suddenly a little shy. “Yes, she is making me think differently.”

Eddie shook his head. “Man, after just meeting her. Well, I like her already.”

Joker chuckled watching as Eddie jumped up to grab the coffee, but not before grabbing milk from the fridge and some sugar.

“You think she would like it?” Joker asked.

Eddie shrugged, dropping a box of Sweet-n-Low on the table (Joker wrinkled his nose at the artificial sugar. He liked real sugar, but when in Rome he supposed.) Eddie set down the small carton of milk. “Don’t know, but if she likes you, I’m sure you’ll both have a good time and you can just go as yourself. Even if someone recognizes you, no one is going to call the cops. That place is crawling with illegal drugs and sex, no one wants the cops there. Seeing the up and coming meance that is the Joker...won’t really set off any alarm bells yet.”

Joker smiled and nodded as Eddie poured the coffee. “Thank you Eddie.”

Eddie pursed his lips and gave a slight shrug. “So what’s her name?” Eddie asked picking up his hot cup of black coffee after he had set the pot back on the machine and dumped around twelve packets of Sweet-n-Low into the mix.

“Harleen Quinzel, but I call her Harley,” Joker said softly, his tone taking on a dreamy quality.

Eddie smiled at his friend. “Harley--I like it.” Eddie stirred his coffee. “So, would you be mad if I showed up at the club...you know, just to get a look at her?” Eddie looked up giving Joker his best smile.

Joker chuckled and took a sip of his coffee, black with only a couple of Sweet-n-Low packets and some milk. “Yes, I would be happy to introduce you to her.”

Eddie grinned. “Wow, she must really be something if you’re willing to let your best friend meet her.”

“Eddie, you have no idea,” Joker said, his smile spreading slowly across his pale face.

*

When Harleen arrived back at her room after an entertaining morning and early afternoon with Mrs. Geller and Joanie. Joanie had defrosted a little toward her by the end, though the young woman danced around any questions about herself and said even less about Jack, though Joanie had admitted she didn’t know much about him beyond the fact that when he took over The Blue Moon, “Everything got better,” she had said.

Harleen returned to her room to find that the room looked completely different. All the old furniture was gone, not a bit of it remained in the room. The new furniture was all white and black, very modern looking. Even the bed was white and black with a white padded headboard trimmed in shiny black, and a new black and white checkered comforter. The rugs had been replaced with plush black and white throw rugs, and she found new white towels and a new shower curtain in the bathroom. Jack had even gotten her a new television set, the latest model. There was a new standing white wardrobe in a corner along with a new full length mirror.

Harleen stood just inside the door of the room in shock.

But the thing that really took her breath away was the dress she found hanging on the bathroom door when she walked in.

The dress was a ruby red strapless with an interior bone corset, one side of the corset raised into a higher point over the right breast, giving the dress an asymmetrical look. The rest of the dress looked like it would drape around her figure, hugging her curves pulling up toward her right hip; from there, the skirt dropped down in a straight line to her ankles. A long split ran up to the hip in the skirt that would show off one leg. It was a truly gorgeous dress, and clearly expensive. She found the shiny matching red heels by her bed.

Harleen stared at the dress. “Oh my god,” she said in a hushed voice. “Oh my god!!” She squealed. She had never owned something so pretty, EVER! Every item of clothing she had even owned was from a second hand store. Her parents never let her wear anything new. She ran her hands over the dress lightly, as if she were afraid to touch it. She felt like Cinderella and her fairy godmother had just granted her wish, a palace, a ballgown, and a handsome prince.

Harleen shoved the knuckles of one hand into her mouth to stop herself from squealing louder as she hopped around the room. After she found her calm, she moved the dress and hung it against the door of the wardrobe. She still had several hours before eight p.m., but it would probably take her that long to figure out what to do with her hair and her makeup.

*

By the time eight o’clock arrived, Harleen was nearly sick with excitement and worry. The dress had fit her as if it had been made for her. She was shocked at how accurately Jack had guessed her size. She looked at herself in the full length mirror.

The dress hugged her like a second skin. She moved one way, then the other, watching the way the fabric fell away from her leg, showing an awful lot of it, she noted with a couple of slow blinks. She wasn’t wearing panty hose since she didn’t actually own any. She had a few colored tights to wear under her skirts on cold days, but no panty hose. She had decided to also not wear any underwear, not only because she was afraid of panty lines, but the idea of wearing something as boring as a pair of cotton briefs under a dress like this seemed a crime! Heck, Harleen thought, she wasn’t wearing a bra anyway, so why sully the dress with cotton panties!

She held her foot out looking at the way the heels fit her. Again, Jack had predicted her size perfectly. She giggled, reaching up to touch her hair. She had styled it in thick loose waves that brushed her shoulders. Harleen was pleased with how her hair looked and she wasn’t too disappointed in her makeup. She hadn’t had a lot of makeup to work with (another thing her parents wouldn’t let her have, but she had purchased herself a secret stash of makeup that she had managed to keep like a hidden treasure. It wasn’t a lot, but she had made it work). Her lips were a light red and she had outlined her eyes in a dark brown that made the blue pop even from behind her glasses.

When the knock at her door came though, Harleen jumped a foot. She raced across the room to the door, then stopped, took a deep breath to steady herself before she opened the door to see Jack Heart waiting for her.

She forgot to breathe.

Jack stood in front of her door dressed in a double breasted silver grey suit with sharp shoulders, a white shirt, gold and dark blue diagonal striped tie. The outfit was finished with polished wing tipped black oxfords with purple laces. His green hair was slicked back and his lips were painted as red as hers. When he smiled at her, Harleen thought her heart would stop.

“Ready, my dear?” he asked holding out his hand to her. On his other hand he held a black velvet wrap. “Since it’s cold out, I thought you might need this.”

Harleen swallowed as she reached out and took his hand. “Yes.”

Jack looked amused. “Is that to both questions?”

Harleen nodded, feeling numb and giddy. “Yes.”

Jack smiled as he pulled her close, all the way through her door and right up against his chest. He looked down at her. His mismatched blue eyes were intense as he stared right into her soul Harleen thought as her heart beat at a rabbit’s pace. Jack leaned in close to her, close enough she could smell the aftershave on his skin, feel the tickle of his warm breath on her skin... For a moment, she thought he might kiss her as he held her hand up against his chest, that he might grab her and kiss her, dipping her back like on the cover of all those romance novels she used to read (and still read if she were being honest with herself). She held her breath, waiting, his gaze intense, his red lips parted…

But at the last second, Jack stepped back with a smile. “I have a cab waiting for us downstairs.” He released her hand and draped the velvet wrap across her bare shoulders.

Harleen nodded as disappointment and relief warred inside her.

Joker’s own heart was beating out a rapid rhythm. He had wanted to kiss her more than he had wanted anything, but he held back from kissing her. Not yet. The time wasn’t right, he knew it wasn’t right yet, but it would be soon…

He closed his eyes for a moment as a wave of desire so intense that it almost buckled his knees washed over him. He calmed herself and led her down the stairs to their cab.

*

“So where are we going?” Harleen asked as she stared out the cab window at the many beautiful lights of Gotham; even the bad parts of the city where The Blue Moon was located were beautiful at night she thought. She turned back to look at Jack, her eyes bright behind her glasses.

“We’re meeting a friend of mine, someone I would like you to meet at a new club called Sculptures. Don’t worry, my friend Eddie isn’t going to be “hanging” with us.” Jack used air quotes on the word hanging, which made Harleen giggle. “I don’t mind if you wanted him to,” she replied, but Jack laughed. “I love Eddie, but not enough that I would want him hanging around while I’m with you.”

Harleen blushed prettily, making Joker’s heart speed up and other parts of his body react to her.

Jack smiled, forcing himself to relax. He leaned back against the seat, one arm draped over the back of the cab’s back seat watching Harleen take in Gotham, the city that in only a short time he thought of as his...maybe before whatever had happened to cause him to lose his memory, the city had been his then too. He didn’t know. All he knew was the here and now. And right now his goal was to make Gotham his city...with her at his side. Joker smiled. The idea of taking Gotham had always been appealing, but now, the idea of having Harley at his side made everything seem more colorful, more enticing--better.

*

The front of Sculptures was busy, the line was long; the place, as Eddie had said, was hopping. Eddie had told Joker to go to the head of the front line and tell the doorman that Eddie Nygma had sent him, which should get them into the club with no problem. Joker wrapped Harleen’s arm around his and headed straight to the front of the line…

*

And indeed, dropping Eddie’s name got them into the club.

After dropping off Harley's wrap at the coat check, they headed inside. The inside of Sculptures was wild. There were flashing red and purple lights, a large disco ball hung from the ceiling sending the lights dancing and sparking throughout the room. There were two large bars, each covering the entirety of one wall on either side while the middle of the room was filled with people, drag queens, women wearing nothing but glitter, and shirtless men in tight pants, all of them dancing, drinking, taking drugs...all to the tune of Madonna’s Material Girl. Harleen thought she might have been over-dressed, but there were so many people here in so many different styles of dress that she fit right in.

It was amazing, Harleen thought with wide eyes.

Jack held her arm and guided her over to the bar where Eddie, dressed in dark green pleated slacks, a matching green jacket and white t-shirt, said he would be, and sure enough Joker saw his friend sitting at the bar speaking with a dark-haired young woman in a zebra print dress.

Joker smiled and pointed. “That is Eddie.”

Harleen looked to see a very attractive man in green, though Eddie paled in attractiveness to Jack, she decided as they made their way over to the bar.

Eddie saw Joker and the girl his friend was so infatuated with and smiled. Wow, she’s a looker, Eddie thought as he excused himself from the lovely young woman he was trying to romance and hurried over to Joker.

“J! You look great--and this must be the infamous Harleen.” Eddie took her hand and kissed her knuckles. “It’s a pleasure! I’m Eddie Nygma, but just call me Eddie.”

Harleen blushed, glancing up at Jack before she said softly. “Call me Harley.”

Eddie grinned. “You, my dear, are just as gorgeous as J said you would be.”

Harleen blushed, glancing at Jack with a smile. “Thank you.”

Eddie grinned. “And you are very special. You should know that J hasn’t dated for as long as I’ve known him, never once showed a bit of interest in anyone--except for you.”

Joker frowned, blushing uncomfortably.

Eddie laughed. “Well, why don’t you two go dance and how about I order us some drinks? How do a couple of Long Island Ice Teas sound?”

Harleen glanced at Jack before she said with a nod. “I’ve never had one, but that sounds good.”

Joker smiled. “Thank you Eddie.”

Eddie shrugged. “No problem. Go on, go show Harley your moves J!”

Eddie hurried back to the girl he was romancing, motioning for the bartender at the same time.

Joker smiled at Harley as the music changed to Prince’s Erotic City. He took her hand and led her out onto the heavily occupied dance floor.

*

Once on the dance floor, Jack released her hand. For a moment Harleen had no idea what to do, as she had never been dancing, had never been to a school dance, let alone to a club. The dance floor was so crowed with sexy women and men dancing, gyrating and weaving, in a heaving mix of sex and dance. Harleen felt lost, overwhelmed and shamed, like she was a clumsy ox who had just wandered into a field of sexy, beautiful gazelles.

Jack smiled at her as she turned to face him, her eyes wide, her expression showing how scared she felt. “Jack, I don’t know how to dance. I’m sorry, I should have told you earlier, but...I’ve never danced. I didn’t even go to prom! I’m a clutz…”

Jack pulled her close, his hands at her hips pulling her up against him. When he touched her, grabbing her hips, Harleen felt an electric shock through her system followed by an intense heat that rushed straight to her breasts and between her legs that made her feel overly sensitive and burning with what she thought must be an erotic fire. She wanted to feel his hands on her bare skin, to feel his hands everywhere on her. She bit down on her bottom lip, sucking her lip between her teeth to stop herself from throwing herself at him.

Jack’s fingers tightened slightly on her hips as he pulled her flush against him. He felt a tingle through his fingers where he touched her. “Just hold on to me,” he said to her over the music. “It’ll be fine. Just move your body to the music, move with me. I won’t let go--I promise.”

Harleen gazed at him. Jack gave her his most charming smile and Harleen felt herself melting even more, burning with a desire like nothing she had ever felt. She didn’t know what it was about Jack Heart that attracted her so much, but she loved the way he made her feel.

She reached up and wrapped her arms around his shoulders.

Jack leaned down and whispered. “That’s my girl.”

Harley thought her heart would stop. She loved the way that sounded, my girl. She wanted to be his girl, she thought. But she didn’t have time to dwell on what he had said before Jack began to move.

He danced with her, weaving his hips with grace and sensuality to the music. He moved his hands up from her hips, caressing her sides as they weaved back and forth. Jack slid one hand up her back. Harleen could almost feel the burn of his fingers along her spine until his fingers were at the back of her neck, against her bare skin, and for a moment, she thought she might die. His fingers were so hot against her bare skin while his other hand laid firmly on her waist. He smiled at her, and without warning, he dropped her back, swinging her upper body in gradual, sensual roll. She dropped her head back, trusting him to hold her, trusting him to move and guide her.

Jack felt waves of heat roll over him from her as he touched her, feeling the way her body fit up against his, the way the dress hugged her figure, the way her breasts pressed up against the corset, full swells of soft, creamy flesh. His groin ached and he loved it, loved the way Harley made him feel. He wanted to touch her, to slide his hands over every inch of her pale, soft skin. It was so hard to control himself, but at the same time so much fun, especially when he knew the reward at the end was going to be everything he desired. And she desired him too, he felt that--knew that. If she didn’t, he knew he would be lost...but she did want him. Everything about her reaction to him, her body language, said she did. He vowed to himself to get her to say it though. She had to tell him that she wanted him, then the spell would be complete.

Jack smiled as he brought her back up, once more pressing her body against his. His hand at her waist slid up to replace his other hand on her back while his right hand snaked down her torso, down her hips to her thigh, his hand gilded under her dress to grab her thigh and lift her leg to wrap it around his hip.

Harleen became even more aware of the fact that she was wearing nothing at all under her dress as Jack pulled her close, his groin pressed against hers until she could feel the slight hardening of him, the heat and...Oh my god, she thought. This was better than anything she had ever dreamed about alone in her room. Jack’s natural grace carried her along with the music, with her gymnastics training, it allowed her to move with enough grace herself to weave, to improvise, and keep up with Jack, to move and undulate her body with him, to feel as if she was on the verge of her first sexual experience! The thought made her giggle with pleasure even if at the same time she thought it was pretty sad of her to be on the verge of an orgasm just from dancing. Jack caressed the back of her thigh with his fingers before he forced himself to drop her leg down, at the same time sliding his thigh between her legs, forcing her dress up higher as they moved together, undulating their hips, never losing contract with one another while they weaved and thrust to the sound of Prince’s sensual voice and the beat of the music.

Harleen kept one hand around Jack’s neck as her other hand slid down over his chest while she moved with him. He smiled at her and everything seemed right in the world. She had never been happier until this moment. This moment in his arms was everything.

Jack wrapped wrapped both arms around her, holding her tightly to him, rolling, weaving to the sexual music, staring into the paradise that was her eyes, feeling the pleasure that was her body pressed against his...

He pulled her close, leaned down to embrace her while they danced. Harley laid her chin against his shoulder, her arms around him.

Harleen started to close her eyes, her arms tight around Jack’s body, losing herself in the feel of him pressed against her, when movement at the bar caught her eye. Harleen opened her eyes with a frown. Someone had shoved Eddie up against the bar and looked to be yelling at him. The brunette in the zebra dress was long gone and the man who was getting in Eddie’s face was twice his size with a back broad enough that when he turned, Harleen lost sight of Eddie.

“Jack--Jack I think your friend Eddie is in trouble,” Harleen hissed against Jack’s ear.

Joker didn’t answer her at first. HIs eyes were closed and a small smile lit his face as he held her, enveloped in the scent of her, the softness of her...

Harleen hissed. “Jack, someone is trying to beat up Eddie.”

Jack frowned as her words broke through and he stood up, his hands still holding her. “What?”

She pointed and he turned, just in time to see someone slug Eddie across the face.

Joker snarled. “Fuck.” He turned to look at Harleen. “Stay here...”

Harleen shook her head. “No, maybe I can help. Besides, I don’t want anything happening to you.”

Joker blinked in surprise. “Really?”

She smiled. “Of course really.” She took his hand. “Come on--let’s go save Eddie.”

Harleen took his hand and began to lead Joker off the dance floor while the green-haired man had a smitten, happy grin on his face.

Chapter Text

Eddie fell back against the bar, his nose and lip bloody. The man who had hit him sneered at Eddie.

“I told you if I ever saw your ugly mug around here again I was going to knock your block off.” The man narrowed his eyes. “After that job, you left me and the other boys to take the fall while you disappeared with the money. That kind of shit doesn’t fly and you’re going to pay. Either give me the money you owe me or I’m going to take it out on your face, ya little weasel.”

Eddie laughed while he touched his nose, his fingers coming back bloody. “Look Oscar--I told you and your buddies if the job went off without a hitch, you’d get paid. But,” Eddie said with a small smile, “you and your friends, the clod brothers, set off the alarm. So I don’t see what you’re getting upset about. The job went sour, I took the money, which I’ll remind you I earned since I’m the one that broke the combination on the safe, AND I didn’t set off the alarms--that was you and your friends. So I think we’re even. It’s not my fault you guys are too bottom heavy to outrun the cops.”

The man named Oscar scowled. “You little punk…”

He took a swing at Eddie.

Eddie threw his arms up to protect himself while at the same time trying to dodge to the side to avoid another strike, but Oscar’s fist was caught, midswing, by Jack in a firm grip.

Jack had let go of Harleen’s hand and rushed forward, the slender man moving with impressive speed, but what really impressed Harleen was the way he caught the other man’s fist! The brute attacking Eddie wasn’t taller than Jack--if anything Jack might have an inch or so on him--but in comparing their body mass, the other man was huge! Jack wasn’t skinny, but he was a slender man, and when Jack caught the attacker’s fist with his hand, Harleen felt a rush of excitement and attraction wash over her. It took everything in her not to squeal like an idiot and clap her hands. She always liked to think of herself as a modern woman who valued intellect and emotions over brute strength and aggression in a man, but she couldn’t deny that watching Jack stop that man’s fist like that set off all her more primitive reactions because it was damn hot!

“Wow,” she said under her breath watching Jack with wide eyes.

Jack smiled, a slow and easy smile that was both mocking and genuinely amused. “Look buddy, I’m not sure what my friend Eddie here did to you, but I don’t think hitting him is the answer, do you?” Jack tilted his head, his slightly strange two colored blue eyes stared at the man while his smile never changed.

Oscar frowned as an icy shiver of fear trickled down his spine at the sight of Joker’s smile that didn’t reach his differing colored eyes. The smile spread across Joker’s pale face wider, but his eyes were cold.

Oscar quickly recovered, especially when he realized that a lot of people at the bar were watching them, and the bouncer hadn’t shown up yet. If he backed down now, it wouldn’t take long before the story was spreading around that Oscar had not only backed off from a fight, but that he had backed down from fight with a little fucking pansy like this dude in front of him with his pale skin and green hair. That story could ruin his reputation on the streets of Gotham, and a reputation was all the protection someone had sometimes; that and a knife or a gun. Oscar also relied on his reputation as a badass to help him land jobs with Gotham’s underworld, like with Eddie here, who had screwed him over.

Oscar sneered again at Joker, his small black-brown eyes flashed with too little confidence and not enough caution.

Eddie watched this exchange with a slight grin, knowing that Oscar didn’t realize the mistake he had just made, and thankful that Joker was his best friend.

Joker was beginning to think sneering was the only facial feature the degenerate in front of him possessed.

Joker smiled again, a little wider yet. “Eddie, would you like me to help you take care of your little problem here?”

Eddie nodded vigorously. “Yeah, yeah I would Jo...Jack.”

Joker glanced over at Eddie with a smile in his eyes.

Oscar snarled. “Who you calling little, ya fag. This jerk your boyfriend are something?”

Joker narrowed his eyes. “I don’t like people who use language like that.”

“I don’t fucking care what you like homo.” Oscar grinned thinking he had this stupid fight in the bag, kick the ass of this flake, then pound Eddie Nygma until the douche coughed up the money he owed him…but Oscar’s smile faded a little when he saw the flat look in Joker’s eyes.

Joker grinned and whispered, tightening his hold on Oscar’s fist, squeezing slowly. Oscar gasped as pain radiated down his arm.

Joker leaned close and grinned. “I can tell that you’re asking yourself if you can get away with decking me before I hit you. Or you’re thinking that you’re bigger than me, thinking size equals strength. Well, I hate to break it to you--it doesn’t.”

Joker moved so fast some of the onlookers gasped with the movement. He twisted Oscar’s arm around behind the man’s back, while at the same time he laid his other hand against the back of Oscar’s neck…

Eddie saw what was about to happen and moved, throwing himself out of the way just as Joker brought Oscar’s head down on the bar with a ‘thunk’ and jingle as glasses rattled from the impact. (The bartender moved out of the way. It wasn’t his job to get involved and if the bouncers were slow getting here, it didn’t affect him. As long as he didn’t get hit and no one came behind the bar, he didn’t really care).

Harleen yelped in surprise when the man’s head hit the bar hard enough that the sound of the hard thump cut through the beat of the music. Someone yelled and another man appeared, clearly a friend of Oscar’s judging by the look of rage on his face, who came charging at Jack and swung at Jack’s head. Harleen started to move to grab the man, but Jack was faster.

Joker spun around and leaned out of the way, a smirk on his red lips. The man’s fist instead connected with Oscar who had stumbled up, his hand to his now bloody forehead and turning around just as his friend’s fist came at him. The other man’s fist caught Oscar in the jaw and spun the large man like a top right back into the bar.

Someone else shouted, which drew the rest of the club’s attention to the fight at the bar, though Harleen didn’t think it was much of a fight since Jack was clearly more skilled than those men trying to fight him. The entire thing made her feel all warm inside. Little rushes of heat were running through her body and pooling in places that were pleasantly...stimulating. She blushed at her own reaction while at the same time enjoying watching Jack show the brutes who the better fighter was.

Another man showed up dressed in a Ramones t-shirt and sporting long hair that was teased up so high that he looked like a member of the band Motley Crue. Harleen couldn’t be sure if this man was with Oscar and his friend or if he just wanted to get in on a fight, but the Ramones guy took a swing at Eddie. This time Eddie was ready. Oscar had caught him by surprise, but The Ramones guy was coming at Eddie like a bull. The guy swung, a little too hard, throwing his body into the swing, causing him to overextend himself which threw him off balance. Eddie dodged, just barely, dropping into a quick crouch before he came up and slammed one fist into the man’s stomach. The Ramones guy doubled over, providing Eddie with the perfect opportunity to hit the guy in the face with his other fist, breaking the Ramones guy’s nose with an audible crack.

This seemed to be the signal for everyone at the bar to get involved in the fight.

Harleen squeaked and ducked, trying to weave herself out of the way as the fight multiplied as a few other patrons at the bar got involved. At the same time, she tried to stay close enough to not lose sight of Jack--and help if she could. Harleen had no idea how she could help, as she had never been in a physical fight before. Plenty of fights with words, sure, but no one had ever taken a swing at her.

Joker turned as another man in a striped shirt came at him and threw his fist out. Joker side-stepped the attack and punched the man in the face. His atttacker’s head snapped back while Joker stepped forward to grab the man around the back of the neck and threw him to the floor.

Joker turned with a playful grin when someone yelled. “Hey pasty!”

He turned just as another guy--this one clearly trying to simulate Micheal Jackson with his one sparkling glove and a military style jacket--picked up a beer bottle from the bar and tried to use it as a club against Joker. Joker’s hand snapped out to wrap around the other man’s wrist, stopping the Micheal Jackson wannabe with a surprised look on his face. Joker grinned and snatched the beer bottle out of his hand, used the same bottle to backhand the man. The glass bottle smacked against the man’s cheek with a meaty clunking sound. The man dropped when Joker released his wrist. Jack still has his back slightly turned away from Harleen as she saw another man coming up behind Jack, shorter, with Billy Idol bleached blonde hair. He was trying to sneak up on Jack, moving quickly, but Harleen guessed the man was trying to sucker punch Jack. Harleen, instead of shouting to warn her date, ran over to the man, grabbed him by the shoulder and yanked him around.

“HEY!” she shouted.

The guy turned and Harleen kicked. Her aim was excellent as her foot came up between the man’s legs to connect with the man’s crotch. Billy Idol went down with a squeak, grabbed his groin, and fell to his knees before dropping on his side, tears in his eyes. Harleen was unable to suppress the giggle that bubbled up, drawing Joker’s attention.

Joker blinked in surprise, which turned into a full belly laugh at the sight of the man on the floor clutching his family jewels. “Harley! You surprise me! Thank you for the save my prince charming.” He reached out and took one of her hands to pull her closer. He brought her hands up to his lips and kissed the knuckles of both hands, his eyes never leaving her face. Harleen felt a tremor rush through her as she stared into his eyes. She had to swallow down a giggle, from attraction, nervousness, and dizziness all at once. She smiled and sucked in her bottom lip to stop herself from sounding so silly.

“Thank you,” he said again, except this time he said the words with his lips against her hands. Harleen could feel the soft brush of his lips, the warmth of his breath caressing her skin. He held her hands in a gentle grip as his lips caressed her knuckles, never taking his eyes off her. She felt like prey, caught in the gaze of a predator, but at the same time she wanted to be trapped, wanted him to capture her. Jack’s lips on her knuckles felt like the most personal, most intimate touch she had ever felt! It was almost as if she could feel his lips on other parts of her body, the warmth of his breath...

Harleen giggled. She couldn’t stop herself, though she tried, but Jack’s only response was to broaden his smile and kiss her knuckles again.

Harleen tried to squelch her silly giggle. “Well, ah you didn’t see him,” she said with a shy smile.

Jack grinned and continued to caress her knuckles with his lips. “I’ve never been saved before. It’s nice to have someone watching my back.”

Harleen’s blush intensified. “I…”

Eddie rushed over to them. “Hey ah, thanks for the save, but…”

He pointed as Oscar, who seemed to have recovered, rushed at the three of them, pure rage on his now bloody face.

That was when someone shouted over the music. “What’s going on here?!”

Joker, Eddie, and Harleen turned to see three large men, all wearing the same black t-shirts come rushing over. Oscar stopped midcharge as the biggest man in the group stopped in front of Jack. “What the fuck is going…” The man’s gaze landed on Eddie. His angry expression changed immediately and the man smiled. “Hey Nygma! I heard you were here! What the hell happened?”

The woman in the zebra striped dress with whom Eddie had been flirting reappeared like magic. She pointed at Oscar. “That man just came out of nowhere and hit him!” She pointed at Eddie before coming over to drape her figure against Eddie’s side.

Eddie smirked and laid his arm around her. “Uh, that’s right Dan.”

Dan turned his attention to Oscar, his gaze taking in the other men who had decided to get involved. “All right boys,” Dan addressed the men with him. “Time to take out the trash. Eddie, have a drink on the house with your friends.”

Eddie grinned. “Thanks Dan. We still on for Wednesday?”

Dan grinned as he grabbed Oscar, who was protesting loudly, by the scruff of the neck. “Sure thing Eddie--I need a chance to win my money back.” With that Dan and his employees walked the troublemakers out.

Eddie sagged. “Thanks Jo...Jack, for the save.”

Jack smiled. He had released one of Harleen’s hands, but kept a light hold on the other. “Not a problem Eddie,” he assured the other. “We’re friends.”

Eddie smiled while zebra dress girl began cooing over him and cleaning the blood from his face with a glass of water and a rag provided by the bartender. “So, you guys want a drink? Apparently it's on the house.”

Jack turned to Harleen. “Would you like another drink ,my dear?”

Harleen smiled, adrenaline still pumping through her. “Yes, I would love a drink.”

*

It wasn’t long after the free drink that Jack and Harleen decided to head back to the hotel. Zebra dress girl and Eddie were making out (graphically making out Harleen noted, in front of everyone at the bar). By mutual silent agreement, Jack and Harleen headed outside.

Jack helped her lay her wrap across her shoulders before he took her hand in his again. Harleen saw that it had grown cold enough that she could see their breath.

“Would you like to walk a bit before I get us a cab?” Jack asked, his voice hopeful.

Harleen nodded. “That sounds nice.”

Jack smiled as they started to walk. “The nights are getting colder. I love fall and winter in Gotham, especially at night.” He glanced over at her. “The night hides all the city’s scars and the crisp air makes it feel magical to me. The nights are surprisingly quiet for a city and it’s even better when it snows. It’s like silence falls from the sky.”

Harleen smiled. “You sound like a poet.”

Jack laughed. “Nah, I just love Gotham--every part of her.”

They walked down the sidewalk their hands swinging gently between them.

Harleen glanced over at him. His profile was so handsome, a few locks of his green hair had fallen to frame his face and the lights of the city danced across his features in a way that made her think of carnival lights. He was the most exotic looking man she had ever seen, handsome, gentlemanly, a good dresser, but with a dark and mysterious past that made him all the more thrilling. And maybe even a little dangerous. She couldn’t believe she had been so lucky as to meet him on her first night in the city! He’d given her a place to stay, new furniture, this dress, and took her dancing! He was just perfect. For the first time in a long time Harleen thought she had a chance at being happy, really happy.

Harleen smiled again, pressing her lips together, and surprised her cheeks didn’t glow in the dark. “So, ah, I never asked you what you do. I mean, is owning the hotel it?” She wanted to ask about his memory loss and to find out what he did remember, but a first date wasn’t exactly the place to start asking those sorts of questions. Harleen decided to go with the ones that were date safe.

Jack glanced over at her with a smile. “I do other things, acquisitions mostly.”

“Acquisitions?” She asked, her brow furrowing in a way that made the Joker's heart skip a beat. He wanted to pull her close and kiss her. He wanted that more than anything, but he wasn’t going to kiss her. He had made up his mind, he would wait, wait until they were both dying for it, wait for that moment when a kiss was going to be the only thing that could save them both. Torturing himself for that kiss was half the fun he thought. He had never kissed anyone before--at least not that he remembered. He wanted Harleen Quinzel to be his first kiss, his only kiss...a kiss worth waiting for. His desire to have her, to complete her, made him tense with need. He had never wanted anything as much as he wanted her. He forced himself to relax, careful not to squeeze her hand. He turned his attention to the question and tried not to dwell on how pretty she looked…

“I acquire things from others. Sometimes I sell those things and other times I don’t.” He shrugged. “It's a strange field of work.”

Harleen nodded her understanding. “Like antiques, art, that kind of thing?”

“Yes, as well as other things,” he confirmed with a small smile.

Jack squeezed her hand gently and moved the topic of conversation away from him. “So, a nurse--any particular reason why? A calling maybe?”

Harleen laughed softly and Joker loved her laugh. “No--well. I wanted to be a doctor, but my mom and dad convinced me that being a doctor was too difficult for a woman. I mean my grades were good in high school and later in college, but I got to college on a gymnastics scholarship, not my grades. So I decided to go into the next best thing--being a nurse. I guess it might sorta be a calling. I have this aunt, my aunt Harriet. She's my mother’s sister. Anyway, she went crazy one day. She killed her husband and his parents. No one was ever really sure why.” Harleen shrugged. “I always liked her. I mean, she was always nice to me. My mom said my aunt killed them because there was something wrong in her head...I guess I wanted to understand why someone would snap like that.” Harleen glanced over at him. “Plus, when I went to visit her at the asylum where she was being kept...they found her unfit to stand trial...and she was still nice to me. I tried to ask her why she had killed them, but all she would ever do was smile and say that sometimes there isn’t a reason.”

Jack frowned slightly. “I suppose sometimes there isn’t a reason.”

Harleen nodded. “Yeah...but anyway, I guess that’s why I got into nursing, looking for a reason I suppose.”

Jack squeezed her hand. “Maybe that’s the thing Harley, maybe there are no reasons, only chaos, only actions and reactions, but no real reason for anything.” He frowned and Harleen watched his profile wondering what he was thinking before Jack added. “Well, I wager you are going to be a wonderful nurse.”

Harleen smiled and giggled softly. “You really think so?”

Jack nodded. “I do. You have sensitive eyes.”

Harleen blushed again and shivered. The night was becoming colder already. She glanced sideways at him again. “So, ah, you gonna run from me because I told you I have an insane aunt?”

Jack grinned. “You planning on killing me?”

Harleen paled. “No, oh gosh no, I mean I’m sane. I promise.”

Jack laughed. “Well don’t be too sane or you might lose interest in me.”

Harleen shook her head maybe a little too vigorously, but she didn’t want him to think she wasn’t interested in him. “No, never.”

Jack grinned bringing her hand up for a quick kiss. “Good.”

They walked in silence for a few minutes when Harleen shivered against the cold.

Jack felt her shiver. “Let’s go home and get you warm.”

He motioned and a cab seemed to materialize out of nowhere. Jack held the door open for her, giving her a soft smile as they climbed into the warm interior of the vehicle.

*

The ride home was fun. The cabby had the radio playing and Phil Collins’ “Sussudio” came on. Jack grinned at Harleen, then started to sing along, his voice warm, melodic, and perfectly pitched. Harleen stared at him, watching him as he really got into the song. Jack elbowed her playfully, encouraging Harleen to do the same. She blushed. She wasn’t a great singer, she could sometimes carry a tune, but Jack’s eyes sparkled and he kept motioning at her to join him. She threw caution to the wind and began singing. Soon the cabby had joined them and they were singing loudly along with Phil Collins on the way home, followed by Huey Lewis and the News, “The Power of Love.” By the time the cabby dropped them off at The Blue Moon, the three of them were laughing. The hotel was quiet when they entered. Joe was once more at the desk, though this time he had a book he was reading, The Hobbit. He looked up at Jack and Harleen when they walked in, nearly falling over himself when he saw Jack.

“Mr. Heart! I...ah…”

Jack laughed. “It’s fine Joe, go back to your book.”

Joe nodded, sinking back down though his eyes continued to be wide, not scared exactly, Harleen thought, but maybe adoring?

As Jack began to lead her toward the stairs, Harleen could hear the music coming from the bar and the sound of very bad singing. Jack made a face and muttered. “Sounds like Richie let Henry have the mic tonight.” Jack chuckled. “Must be a slow night. The kid is sweet, but he has a voice that could peel paint.”

He shook his head before turning his attention back to Harleen and smiled. “May I walk you to your room?”

Harleen giggled. “Yes, of course. Besides, it would be awkward if you didn’t since your room is right next to mine.”

Jack laughed. “True, that would be awkward, so it’s good you said yes.”

He continued to chuckle and waved to Joe who stared at them as Jack held her hand and walked with Harleen up to her room.

*

Outside her door Jack once more took both her hands, raising them up to his lips and kissed her knuckles. “I had fun tonight, though I am sorry about the fight. Fights seem to follow Eddie around.”

Harleen smiled blushing as Jack continued to kiss and caress her knuckles with his lips. “I had a lot of fun. I’ve never been to a dance club or gotten into a fight.”

Jack laughed. “Ah, an evening of firsts then. Have you ever been to a fish market?”

Harleen frowned, a little thrown off by the random question. “No, no I haven’t. Why?”

Jack rubbed the pads of his thumbs along her knuckles, and the sensation made her skin goosebump pleasantly. “Well, I thought maybe I could take you down there tomorrow afternoon for a treat before you start work on Monday, grab some fresh fish for Mrs. Geller, get her to make us some dinner. Then maybe tomorrow night I can take you for another walk...if you wouldn’t mind spending the day with me that is?” Jack looked into her eyes, his expression clearly hopeful.

Harleen’s heart was beat out a rapid pace and her hands felt as if they might catch on fire. Why was his kissing and stroking of just her hands so erotic she wondered; because it was!

Harleen smiled, swallowing her nervousness away. “I would love that.”

Jack’s smile was radiant. “Good. We’ll leave around noon then. I think Mrs. Geller is expecting you for breakfast again.”

Harleen started to protest. She didn’t want the older woman to feel like she had to feed her when Jack shook his head. “Mrs. Geller is happy to have another woman in the building she can talk to. I think she would be disappointed if you didn’t come.”

Harleen smiled shyly. “All right,” she agreed. “I liked her quite a bit. She seems so interesting and she’s very protective of you.”

Jack’s smile was small, but genuine. “She’s like the mother I never had.”

Harleen started to say something else, though she wasn’t sure what when Jack let go of her left hand and stepped closer, so close Harleen could feel the heat radiating from his body, the scent of him, spices and vanilla mixed together in a scent that made her dizzy. Jack looked down at her. His eyes were hypnotic and she could feel herself falling into his gaze. For a moment, she leaned in, sure he was going to kiss her, but instead Jack lifted her hand, cradling her hand between both of his.

His fingers were long and elegant, the pale white of his skin contrasting with her skin tone. He lifted her hand to his lips while staring into her eyes and pressed his lips against her palm just below her thumb, then slowly he kissed her palm. Wrapping his fingers around her hand, he placed another kiss on the ball of her hand before sliding his hand down to lift hers, kissing her wrist. He held her arm up, his lips pressed gently to her wrist with closed eyes.

Harleen’s heart beat at a rabbit’s pace as she watched him. When Jack opened his eyes, his lips still pressed to her wrist, Harleen was surprised she didn’t faint.

He smiled and she felt it against her skin before he released her hand and stepped back. “Good night Harleen. Sweet dreams.”

Harleen almost didn't trust herself to speak, but she managed to whisper. “Good night Jack.”

He smiled and turned to step to his door. Harleen watched him as he began to slip in, stopping long enough to blow her a kiss with the tips of his fingers before he stepped into his room.

Harleen walked into her room, flipped on the light, and closed the door. She dropped back against the wooden door, her eyes wide and whispered. “Oh my god, I think I’m in love!”

She squeaked pushing back and for a minute she jumped around her room like a highschool girl with her first crush, but she couldn't help it! Jack Heart was dreamy!!

She tossed herself onto her bed and screamed into her pillow, kicking her feet for a moment of pure joy before she finally rolled over on her back grinning at her ceiling.

“I love Gotham,” she said with a smile. “I love Gotham!”

*

Joker stripped off his clothes to lie down on his bed in only his boxers. He lit a cigarette and with one hand behind his head, he took a deep drag on the cigarette, feeling the burn as smoke filled his lungs before he let it out slowly, a smile on his face.

He was in love, deep, perfect love he thought. Harleen was everything he hadn’t realized he had been searching for...

Joker closed his eyes, took another drag on the cigarette as he pictured her, her beautiful face, the way the dress had hugged her figure, the way she felt in his arms when they danced. He smiled and bit the side of his lip, thinking about kissing her hand, the sweet vanilla of her skin. His mindseye caressed her, lingering on her lips, down her smooth throat to the swell of her breasts.

These images were accompanied by the sound of her laugh, the sweetness of her voice…

He needed her, god he needed her...

He leaned over and put the cigarette out before he rolled onto his side and yanked the covers up. His groin ached and he wanted her release. He had never felt like this, never been attracted to anyone before. It was frustrating and it hurt on a mental and physical level.

Next week he and Eddie were planning a job, maybe that would help him focus on something else for a bit.

He closed his eyes. At least tonight he didn’t think the dreams would come, the nightmares, because tonight he had something else to focus on, he had Harley…

Joker smiled with his eyes closed as he thought he would dream of her tonight.

*

That night she slept soundly.

If Jack had any nightmares, Harleen didn’t hear them.

The next morning she got up, showered, and dressed, pulling on a pair of black denim jeans, a long white collared shirt that came down to just above her knees, and a black and red tapestry vest and a pair of black flats. She combed and curled her hair, styling it just so, the curls big and full. She applied a small amount of make up with a pale pink blush of lip gloss on her lips.

She finished dressing and had just opened her door to step out when she stopped in her tracks. Sitting on the floor across from her door was Joanie.

Today the teenager was wearing jeans, a blue and pink sweatshirt with triangles of color all over it, and a pair of white sneakers. Her blonde hair was teased up and she had a pink band buried in it. She looked up when Harleen opened the door, a slight frown on her face, her eyes narrowed.

“So, how was your date?” Joanie asked trying to keep her tone neutral, but Harleen could hear a bit of anger in her tone.

Harleen frowned, not sure if there was going to be a correct answer to this question. “We had a good time. I had a very good time.” She frowned and rubbed her hand along her door frame. “I got to meet his best friend Eddie and there was a fight.” Harleen waited a beat before she added. “I got to kick some guy in the balls.”

Joanie blinked, then slowly grinned and rose to her feet. “You did?”

Harleen chuckled. “I did. He was sneaking up and Jack who didn’t see him so I yelled, grabbed his shoulder and when he turned around, I just kicked for all I was worth. He fell to the floor clutching himself and cried.”

Joanie gasped and laughed. “Gnarley! That’s so funny!! Did he squeal?”

Harleen giggled. “It was! And he squealed like a pig. Jack said I was his prince charming.”

Joanie smiled. “He did--rad. So…” She crossed her arms over her chest. “You two going out again? Are you guys gonna be a thing now?”

Harleen nodded. “He asked me to go to the fish market with him this afternoon, then for a walk in the park tonight.”

Joanie nodded with a slight frown. “So...ah...you really like him? I mean you ain’t planning on dumping him? Because if you do, I'm gonna kick your ass. Nobody hurts Jack.” The teenager narrowed her eyes at Harleen.

Harleen frowned for a moment. Were she and Jack a thing? Like going steady already? And if they were, did she want that? Harleen found that she liked the idea. No, she realized, she loved the idea! Jack was handsome, charming, talented. Yeah, Harleen thought, she wanted to see more of him, a lot more. It had only been two days and one date, but she liked Jack, liked him a lot-a lot. Besides, how could you put a timetable on feelings?

Harleen nodded. “I promise I won’t hurt him. I want to keep seeing him and…” She blushed. “I like him a lot. A lot-a lot, if you know what I mean.” Harleen smiled broader, blushing redder.

Joanie frowned with a slight twist of her lips in thought while she looked at Harleen, not exactly a glare, but close, then she asked in a hushed voice, her eyes going wide. “Did you kiss him?”

Harleen smiled shyly and shook her head. “No, we didn’t kiss.”

Joanie frowned. “Really, wow...Jack’s never kissed...Nevermind.” She shrugged. “Okay well let’s go get some breakfast! Mrs. Geller is making Polish breakfast sandwiches. They’re a bit weird, but real good.” She started to walk off. Harleen watched her take a few steps before Joanie turned around and waved with a smile. “Well come on!”

Harleen wasn’t sure, but she thought she might have just passed some tests she wasn’t aware of with Joanie. She smiled and hurried to catch up.

Joanie smiled at her. “So, Harleen right?”

Harleen nodded. “Yes.”

Joanie grinned as she started down the stairs. “Have you ever kissed anyone?”

Harleen blushed. “Ah...well…”

*

Soon the three of them were once more sitting around Mrs. Geller’s table, plates in front of them filled with open-faced sandwiches made with cold cuts, scrambled eggs and topped with a slice of tomato. There were sides of something that Mrs. Geller called quark cheese with radishes and kabanosy which looked like little hard sausages to Harleen.

Mrs. Geller poured them both some tea. “So I heard you had a successful date last night. Jack seemed quite happy this morning.”

Harleen perked up. “You saw him this morning?”

She nodded. “Yes. He would have stayed for breakfast, but he heading out to get you two some transportation for this afternoon. I think he said something about borrowing a car from his friend Eddie.” She smiled. “Taking you to the fish market he said.”

Harleen nodded. “Yes. I’ve never been to a fish market.”

Mrs.Geller smiled. “Well, I think you’ll enjoy it. There are a couple of young men who make a big show out of tossing fish. It’s quite humorous. Do you have plans after that?”

Harleen sipped her tea. “Jack said something about going to the park this evening.”

Mrs. Geller smiled. “Now isn’t that romantic.”

Harleen felt her cheeks redden.

Joanie ate like someone was going to steal her food.

*

There was a loud banging at the door.

Eddie rolled over with a groan and opened one eye. The first thing that threw him off was that he was on the bed. He didn’t usually use the bed he had. He liked ot sleep in his chair, the only time he used the bed was for sex, so…

He saw the woman he had come home with lying on her stomach next to him, the girl in the zebra dress. He frowned, remembered coming home with her, but he could have sworn he asked her to leave...unless he had passed out before he had a chance. Damn it, he hated it when they slept over. He liked to screw ‘em and push them out. No ties, no relationships…

Most of the women he met were average, not anyone that he felt like having more than a fling with and since he didn’t remember any stimulating conversations last night, he was pretty sure this girl fell into the screw and push out category.

The banging came again and the woman, whose name he couldn’t remember, muttered in her sleep. Eddie sighed and sat up, rubbing his eyes, wincing slightly since his face still hurt from being punched, before he reached over for his glasses and stuck them on. He yanked the blanket off the still dozing young woman and wrapped it around his waist, hoping she would get cold and get the hint to leave as he walked--more stumbled--to his door.

He opened it without checking to see who it was, still half asleep, but he blinked when he saw Joker, dressed in a black trenchcoat with a light blue three piece suit underneath, with a white shirt and striped gold and navy blue tie. His green hair was once more mostly hidden under a black fedora and his strange blue eyes hidden behind a pair of dark lensed sunglasses, standing in his doorway and smoking a cigarette.

Joker smiled, his lips a shiny red. “Morning Eddie. You look like shit.”

Eddie blinked bleary eyes. “What are you doing here? Again? So soon?”

“I need another favor,” Joker said, taking a drag off his cigarette.

Eddie groaned. “Fuck you.” He reached out and snatched the cigarette from Joker before he turned and walked back into his place. “Come on in.” He took a drag on the cigarette as he shuffled along, dragging the blanket around his waist with him as he held onto it with his other hand.

Joker smirked and followed his friend inside. He blinked, only slightly startled when a naked woman came walking into the room.

“Eddie?” she said rubbing her eyes.

Eddie sighed. “Get your dress and go home.”

The naked woman frowned. “That’s it?”

Eddie took another drag on the cigarette. “That’s it.”

She narrowed her eyes at Eddie and stomped back to grab her dress and shoes. She pulled her dress on. “You gonna give me cab fare at least?!” she yelled.

Eddie started to say something, but Joker replied instead. “I’ll give you cab money.”

The girl smiled as she slipped her shoes on. “Well, at least someone is a gentleman.” She walked over to Joker with a smile as he pulled out a few dollars for her from his wallet and handed it to her with a small smile.

“Hey, you ever wanna have some fun…” She started reaching out to lay a hand on Joker’s chest, but he frowned and stepped out of her reach. “No thank you, I have a girl,” he said simply handing her the money.

The zebra dress girl frowned, then shrugged snatching the dollars from Joker’s gloved hand.

“Well, if you ever get bored with her…” She turned to leave, but not before she gave Eddie the finger. Eddie made a face at her and gave her the finger right back before she stomped out of the door, slamming it behind her.

Joker watched her go, then turned back to Eddie. “You’re going to catch something, you keep this up.”

Eddie flopped down in his chair. “Whatever. Whatcha want J? And you have a girl? Harleen I guess...did you two..?” Eddie put the cigarette out in an overfilled ashtray on the table by his chair looking up at Joker as he made a rude gesture with his hands.

Joker felt a quick, hot rush of anger at Eddie’s being so tactless where Harley was concerned, but the intense feeling quickly faded. This was his friend after all and Eddie could be crass despite his great intellect. Besides, he didn’t know Harley yet, couldn’t understand.

“No, we didn’t. I don’t want to rush,” Joker said softly.

Eddie frowned at his friend. “You scared? I mean I know you are a virgin...at least mentally, since you don’t remember if you ever fucked anyone.”

Joker gave him a sour look. “No, I just want…” He smiled. “I want to draw this out...I want the ache to build….”

Eddie smirked, but nodded. “I guess I understand. So, what is it you want from me?”

Joker smiled as he strolled around Eddie’s living room. “I’m taking Harley out to the fish markets and I want to borrow one of your cars.”

Eddie frowned. “Really? Uh, well...okay. Which one?”

Joker frowned and tapped his chin in thought. “I was thinking about that white Datsun you have, the ‘72. I thought it would be nice and intimate.”

Eddie nodded with a grin. “Great necking car too.”

Joker turned away so that Eddie couldn’t see his expression. “So--may I borrow it?”

Eddie nodded pushing himself up. “Sure thing J, let me get you the key. You can bring it back whenever--just please don’t dent it.”

Eddie walked over to a row of computer screens and pulled out a medium sized cigar box with a topless girl on the lid wearing a Hawaiian grass skirt. The box sat carelessly at the corner of his desk. He flipped it open to reveal a box full of car keys. Eddie looked through the keys, rustling the other keys around for almost a minute before he found what he wanted and turned, tossing the key at Joker.

Joker easily snatched the key out of the air.

“Thank you Eddie,” Joker said with a nod, glancing at the key in his hand.

Eddie smiled. “Just have fun and try not to scratch it. Not like you did the last car I lent you.”

Joker laughed. “In my defense, the cops were chasing me.”

Eddie make a face and said in a mocking voice. “In my defense...oh, and kiss her this time.”

Joker snorted. “I’ll kiss her when we are both ready.”

Eddie shook his head while Joker walked toward the door. “I’m telling you buddy, you’re missing out. Once you fuck, you’ll never get enough!”

Joker smiled and gave Eddie a wave before slipped out the front door.

*

After breakfast Mrs. Geller insisted on teaching the girls a card game while they waited for Jack to collect Harleen. After a few minutes spent learning the rules, the ladies were now playing a game that Mrs. Geller called Mizerka. They had been playing for the last two hours without realizing the time. Harleen held her cards, trying to decide which ones to discard and which to keep. Joanie was on her left, leaning down on her elbows, her cards nearly smashed to her nose in a pose that made her look bored, but that Harleen had learned actually meant the teenager was focused. Mrs. Geller sat up straight in her chair, looking elegant in a brown turtleneck and matching slacks.

Harleen had just decided to throw in four of her cards when they heard a knock at the door. Mrs. Geller didn’t look away from her cards. “Come in!” she called out.

Harleen turned and suddenly her breath was sucked out of her lungs when she saw Jack Heart. He smiled, removing his hat and sunglasses as he came in. “Ladies…” His eyes turned to Harleen and he smiled wider. “Harley.”

Joanie made a face at Jack. “Hey Jack.”

Jack laughed. “Joanie, how are you today?”

She stuck her tongue out at him before she answered. “I’m fine. I sorta like her.”

Jack lifted a green brow at Joanie who added. “Harleen, I like her.”

Harleen turned to look over at Joanie. “Thank you. I like you too.”

Joanie shrugged. “Cool, maybe we can go shopping or something, like go to the Gotham mall…”

Harleen smiled at the girl. “I would like that.”

Mrs. Geller smiled and set her cards down. “You look very nice today Jack.”

He pulled his trench coat open and did a little spin that made Harleen’s heart skip a beat. “Thank you, Mrs. Geller. I do try.” He grinned at Harleen. “Ready?”

She nodded and set her cards down. “Maybe we can do this again?” she asked Mrs. Geller who smiled and waved her off. “Of course dear. You two have fun now.”

“Thank you.” Harleen hurried over to Jack. “I just have to run upstairs and get my coat and purse.”

Jack smiled and stepped out of her way as Harleen hurried up the stairs.

Mrs. Geller leaned her arm on the back of her chair, resting her cheek against her fist. “So, Miss Quinzel certainly has your attention, Jack.”

Joanie frowned. “Yeah, what's the deal with her? I mean I like her and stuff, but…” She shrugged, laying her cards down and laid her chin on her hands while looking up at Jack. “She’s really pretty, though she needs to lose the glasses.”

Jack smirked. “She’s beautiful.” He glanced at Mrs. Geller, his strange blue eyes going soft, something the older woman hadn’t seen much of in Jack Heart. “She’s everything I didn’t know I wanted,” Jack said in a soft tone, his voice holding a thread of awe at his own feelings.

Joanie blinked in surprise. “You’re in love!”

Jack looked over at the teenager and smiled crookedly. “I am.”

“Wow...radical,” Joanie said softly.

Mrs. Geller smiled at Jack. “Well, she certainly seems smitten with you.”

Jack smiled. “You think so?”

Mrs. Geller nodded. “Yes, very much so.”

“So you gonna like, marry her?” Joanie sat up. “Like in the stories after love at first sight?”

Jack began to answer, but that was when they all heard Harleen yell as she started back down the stairs, “I’m ready!”

Jack smiled flipping his hat around to place it over his green hair before sliding on his sunglasses. “Ladies.”

Mrs. Geller called out. “Bring something good back Jack and I’ll whip up something delicious for tonight!”

Jack smiled and gave her a nod. “Will do Mrs. Geller.”

He stepped out, closing the door as Harleen stopped breathlessly in front of him.

Joanie and Mrs. Geller could hear their muffled voices behind the door. Joanie frowned looking over at Mrs. Geller. “This is kinda weird, Jack being in love. I mean, is he allowed to be in love...isn’t he like, too young or something since he doesn’t remember anything?” Joanie looked both concerned and confused.

Mrs. Geller smiled with a light chuckle at Joanie’s “too young” remark as she picked up the cards. “Well, they say there is someone for everyone and Jack deserves a little happiness.”

Joanie frowned with a look at the door, but then Mrs. Geller drew her attention. “How about I teach you to play some poker, eh? Then you and I can challenge Richie and the others to a game and win ourselves some real money?”

Joanie’s eyes lit up. “Oh yeah!! That sounds like a plan!!”

Mrs. Geller grinned.

*

Harleen sat next to Jack in the car smiling so much her cheeks hurt. She kept alternating between looking out the window, (this was the first time she had really gotten to see Gotham City during the day and her first time going into the city) and staring at Jack. He was holding a cigarette between his teeth while he drove, the window down just enough that he could flick ashes out of it. The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” was playing on the radio, and Jack would occasionally join the chorus of the song, his voice sending chills up her spin, especially when he would sing while glancing over at her.

“So, ah, when are you going to be singing in the bar again?” she asked.

Jack exhaled a trail of smoke, flicking ashes out the window before he answered. “I might Monday night, why?”

She shrugged, blushing. “Ah, just asking. I would like to hear you sing again, I mean...without the radio…” Ugh, she thought. She sounded so stupid!

Jack grinned. “You would? Then I’ll definitely be singing Monday night.”

Harleen blushed, reached up to brush a strand of her blonde hair back behind her ear. Jack watched her from the corner of his eye, his fingers itching to do the same, to brush her hair back, to dig his fingers into her her hair while his tongue lavished her neck.

He shifted a little in his seat as his erection swelled at the thought of Harleen, writhing naked under him, making soft sounds of pleasure, his mouth moving to her breasts. Joker quickly dismissed the thoughts, banishing them to the back of his mind to examine later. He really wasn’t accustomed to these feelings of such intense sexual attraction.

He took another deep drag on his cigarette. “So, do you have any siblings?”

Harleen smiled. “I have an older brother, a lot older, about six years older than me. I don’t really know him well, since he joined the military as soon as he turned eighteen. I think I’ve only met him five times? His name is Barry. You?” Harleen cringed. She hadn’t meant to ask, she knew he had no memory…

Jack shrugged. “No idea.”

They were quiet for a few moments when Jack said, “See that…” He pointed at a large building that seemed to go on forever right up into the clouds. Jack frowned slightly. “... tallest building in Gotham--Wayne Tower. I don’t know if you’ve heard of Bruce Wayne, but he is Gotham’s golden boy.” Jack said this with a flatness to his voice.

Harleen nodded. “I’ve heard of Bruce Wayne. He pops up on Entertainment Tonight sometimes. He’s okay, I guess. Not really my type.”

Jack grinned. “Handsome, rich, and famous not your type?”

Harleen giggled. “Nope, not at all. He looks stupid. Have you even seen him on the air? He usually has at least two women hanging on him and he sounds like an idiot.”

Jack laughed, a full-bodied laugh that made Harleen giggle along with him.

*

They arrived at the docks, parking along the sidewalk that ran along outside a large building that read “Gotham Fish Market” across the top. Jack came around and opened her door for her, taking her hand and wrapping her arm around his arm. Outside, this close to the water, the chill in the air was intensified. The cold air rolling off the water made her shiver and pull her coat a little tighter around her. She wished she had brought a hat (she hadn’t wanted to ruin her hair by wearing a silly knit cap, but now she regretted letting her vanity win over not having cold ears.) There was a man outside sitting on a plastic bucket playing a steel string guitar, another bucket in front of him for tips, singing in Spanish. Jack threw a twenty into the man’s bucket as they walked past.

The first thing that hit Harleen when they stepped inside was the smell of fish; the scent of fresh fish and saltwater filled her nostrils. As she looked around, there weren’t just fish being sold here, but crab, scallops, lobster, crayfish, so many different kinds of seafood that Harleen couldn’t take it all in! Along with the fish, she saw a cafe, a bakery, a couple of the regular tourist oriented places selling Gotham City and Gotham Fish Market t-shirts, and other tourist type souvenirs. There were metal poles here and there (Harleen supposed to hold up the roof) wrapped with Christmas lights and decorated with fake fish, crab, and anchors along with runners of maritime flags. Then there were the places to eat, scattered throughout the building. She noted all sorts of places, from a sushi bar to a soup and sandwich place to fish and chips, and much of it smelled delicious. The next thing that really struck Harleen was just how crowded the place was. There were people everywhere. While a lot of them had that look of native Gothamites, she also recognized the tourists, people milling around with cameras.

Harleen wrinkled her nose. “Pew, I hate the smell of fish.”

Jack laughed softly. “Sorry Harley. You don’t like fish.”

She shook her head. “Oh I like them fine to look at, but not to eat.”

Jack frowned, wondered for a moment why she had agreed to go to the fish market with him. He felt foolish for not asking if she liked fish, then added. “I’ll make sure Mrs. Geller fixes you something without fish tonight.”

“Oh, you don’t have to do that!” Harleen gasped. “I don’t want to be any trouble.”

Jack stopped and gently grasped her chin between his thumb and forefinger. The leather of the gloves he wore did nothing to stop the heat of his hands transferring through to her chin (or at least that was what Harleen felt when he touched her.)

“You are never any trouble Harley. Never.” He gazed into her eyes with a smile on his red lips. She could just barely see his two colored eyes behind the lenses of his sunglasses, but she saw his gaze was intense and she felt a shiver run up her spine. “Thank you Jack,” she said softly.

Jack smiled, his eyes moving from her eyes to her lips. For a moment, he leaned closer and she was sure he was about to kiss her. She felt herself tremble, her heart beating rapidly, but then he pulled away, letting her face go and laid his hand over hers.

“Now, let’s find a good spot to watch,” Jack said and he moved them through the crowd.

Harleen remained close to Jack, their hips nearly touching. “Wow, I didn’t expect this place to be so busy.”

Jack held tightly to her arm, which made her feel more secure. “It’s become a tourist trap over the years, but it's still the best place to get the freshest fish for the best price. Besides, I think you’ll enjoy the little show they put on. One of the men that works at the Maroni Fish Company, Sal, is a friend of mine. His family also owns Maroni Butchers down on East 9th street. We’ll stop there after this and grab us a couple of steaks for tonight too. No fish for my Harley.” He grinned at her and Harleen felt a flutter at him calling her his Harley.

(Joker didn’t mention that Sal was also the oldest son of Luigi Maroni, the head of the Maroni crime family and a member of Gotham’s mobster underground. Sal was one of Joker’s inside people, for now at least, and only because Sal hated his father. Joker had no illusions that Sal would eventually flip, and become his enemy the moment Sal’s father opened his arms to his son and really took him into the family business. But, until then Sal was a great informant on the movement of drugs and weapons within the Gotham mobster underground.)

Jack led Harleen over to where the majority of the tourists were hanging out. It was a large space with an even larger sign that hung over the counter in letters that made Harleen think of the early 19th century. The sign read “Maroni Fish Co. est. 1930.”

The Maroni Fish Company had a wrap-around counter with large open stands in front of it filled with ice and fish. Along the back of the stands there were several sets of tanks holding fresh lobsters. Behind the counters in neat stacks were rows of canned goods, condiments, cheeses, packages of crackers, and dried fish. When Jack and Harleen came up to the stand, they saw a large crowd gathered and heard a lot of shouting. She could see four big, dark haired men behind the counter all wearing butcher type aprons and yelling in a combination of English and Italian at a couple of men similarly dressed on the opposite side of the counter standing among the tourists and customers.

Jack pointed at the man behind the counter, one wearing an orange knit cap. “That’s Sal.”

Harleen looked up at Jack who still wore his sunglasses even though they were now inside. “What’s going on?”

Jack grinned at her. “Just watch.”

Harleen watched as the man that Jack had pointed at as being named Sal, a man with a heavy dark mustache and trimmed beard, yelled something as he held up a large, grey fish. She watched as one of the men who stood on this side of the counter, dressed similarly in a hoodie and apron yelled back. She couldn’t quite make out what they were saying, but they were using their hands very animatedly as they spoke. The men shared enough similar facial features that Harleen would peg them as brothers.

Sal had stopped yelling and now he and the others had started to sing what clearly sounded to Harleen like a sea chanty.

“So we'll ro-o-oll the old chariot along!

An' we'll roll the golden chariot along!

So we'll ro-o-oll the old chariot along!

An' we'll all hang on behind!”

The crowd of onlookers began to clap in time to the singing. Harleen looked to Jack, but then to her complete surprise, Sal tossed the large fish in his hands at the man he had been yelling at. The man caught the big fish to the delight of the crowd who cheered loudly and then he tossed the fish back. While they sang, the men tossed the fish back and forth over the counter, sometimes from behind the back, or over head, the fish sailing it through the air with ease like it was alive and swimming through water. The crowd cheered and chanted along with the song while the men playfully threw the fish.

Harleen blinked, her mouth slightly open in surprise.

Jack laughed at Harleen’s expression. He leaned down, brushing her hair back with his fingers. Harleen stiffened, Jack was wearing gloves, but again she could feel the heat of his touch against her ear as he tucked her hair out of the way and leaned close, his lips near her ear, so she could hear him. Harleen felt the tickle of his warm breath like an exotic caress.

“They started tossing fish a few years back when one of the brothers was too lazy to come around and get the fish, and now they’ve turned it into a Gotham City attraction,” Jack told her. “It’s their gimmick, but as you can see from the crowds, it’s working.”

Harleen giggled.

Sal noticed Jack then and yelled. “Hey, laughing boy!! I got a fish just for you!! Just got this sucker in today too!”

Sal disappeared for a moment into the back.

Jack stood up straight just as Sal came back out. He held up a fish for everyone to see . It was large, at least two feet long with a grey body and six dark stripes, but the weird thing about the fish was that it looked like it was smiling--with human-like teeth.

The crowd gasped in surprise as Sal yelled out. “It's a sheephead fresh in from Cape Cod this morning!!”

Jack looked startled at the smiling fish. “What on earth…”

Sal grinned. “Catch!”

He threw the fish.

Jack let go of Harleen’s arm (thankful he was wearing gloves) and reached up to catch the fish easily to the cheers of the crowd.

Harleen stepped out of the way, laughing as Jack caught the ugly smiling fish, holding it up next to his face and smiled at Sal who yelled. “It’s got your fabulous smile Jack!”

Jack laughed smiling. “It does!”

Harleen giggled, then yelped in surprise, jumping when someone grabbed her backside. It wasn’t a little grab or pinch either, the man used his whole hand and really grabbed at her rear and squeezed almost painfully.

Harleen yelped and jumped, spinning around to see a man standing behind her leering at her. “Nice ass baby.” He smirked.

Jack spun around quickly at the sound of Harleen’s yelp, the fish still in his hand. His eyes were blazing with murderous rage when he saw the man leering at Harley. He reacted, didn’t think as he backhanded the man with the fish that was in his hand. The smack wasn’t gentle as Jack had put a lot of power behind it, holding the fish by the tail and flinging his arm out. The fish caught the letcher across the face hard enough that the man’s head spun around, taking the rest of his body with him when the fish impacted with his cheek. He slammed right into one of the poles hard, with a loud thunk of face striking against metal.

The man dropped to the floor.

Some woman wearing a tight black skirt, a little top with a fur coat, her hair teased up high with very large gold hoop earrings, and wearing way too much makeup, snarled, “You fucking hit Tony!! You shit!!”

The woman started to launch herself at Jack, but Harleen reacted with a scowl. She used her purse, closed her eyes and swung her purse, putting all her body into it. Harleen’s purse hit the woman in the face, knocking her clear off her feet. The woman hit the ground with a cry, landing on her ass, her legs spread out, looking slightly shocked by the sudden impact. When Harleen opened her eyes, she saw that the woman’s nose was bloody. “You bitch!! You bitch!!” the woman screamed, touching her bloody nose and glaring at Harleen who looked completely shocked at what she had just done.

Someone in the crowd screamed and someone else yelled. “Someone call the cops!”

Jack started to laugh, he laughed so hard that he had to bend over.

He dropped the fish as the crowd started to gather around to see what had happened and grabbed Harleen by the arm. Harleen was staring at the woman who was sitting on the floor sobbing, her face bloody next to her man that Jack had hit with the fish. The man’s face was also bloody and he still looked stunned, opening and closing his mouth like a fish out of water. Jack continued laughing so hard he almost couldn’t run, but he held onto Harleen’s upper arm, pulling her along with him as he took off. The crowd that had gathered around the injured couple, easily parted, letting them go. Not one of them tried to stop them, or tried to go after Jack and Harleen. (Harleen would later wonder if this was because violence in Gotham was so commonplace that the little incident at the fish market wasn’t seen as that important or if the crowd had simply been too shocked. Or maybe someone had seen the guy grab Harleen’s butt and felt that the ensuing violence was justified.)

Jack got Harleen to the car and opened her door, depositing her inside before he hurried around and dropped into his own seat and started the car. He continued to laugh as he pulled out, getting onto the street and driving away from the fish market.

Harleen had yet to say anything, but as Jack pulled away from the fish market and onto the street Harleen giggled, then giggled louder. “I can’t believe I just did that!”

Jack was laughing so much he had to remove his glasses to wipe his eyes. “I’m beginning to think hanging out with me isn’t good for you. You’ve assaulted two people in less than twenty-four hours.” He grinned sideways at her and Harleen felt as if everything would be right in the world if Jack would just continue to smile at her like he was right now.

Harleen laughed, put her palm up against the ceiling of the car for a moment as if to ground herself, and smiled at him. “Don’t say that, being with you has been the most fun I’ve had in my entire life!”

Jack grinned at her words. He kept his eyes on the road, but he reached out and laid his hand on her knee, giving it a gentle squeeze.

uHarleen smiled brightly. Moving to Gotham was definitely turning out to be the best decision she ever made.

Chapter Text

Dinner with Mrs.Geller, Jack, and Joanie was nice, the sort of family dinner Harleen had always wanted, but had never had, with good food and good conversation. There was something comforting about just being with people whose company one could enjoy. Harleen’s family did not enjoy spending time together. There had always been tension between them. Harleen had never felt loved or wanted by her own family, but right now, sitting next to Jack and listening to Joanie chatter on about her school, listening to Mrs. Geller adding little tidbits of information about her younger years…

And then there was Jack.

Jack sat next to Harleen while they ate, occasionally reaching under the table to squeeze Harleen’s knee. Never a hard squeeze or anything that made her uncomfortable, just a gentle touch, a little more intimate than simply friends, and it never crossed the line into sexual. Each time he touched her knee, the gentle squeeze was followed by him glancing sideways at her to grin as if they were sharing a secret joke. His hand never lingered, just a soft squeeze of her knee for her attention, followed by a shared look, usually while Joanie was saying something amusing or when Mrs. Geller made some off-hand remark that could be construed as racy or inappropriate causing Harleen to giggle softly.

After dessert Joanie went on a tirade about how a girl at school named Becky--who was a complete spaz--was trying to tell her that the singers for Tears for Fears were hotter than the lead singer of a-Ha. Joanie groaned. Becky was, as Joanie put it, ‘short of like, several brain cells’ and totally wanted to make Joanie, as she so eloquently put it, barf. Joanie continued to complain, much to everyone’s amusement, that people like Becky were total airheads.

Mrs. Geller laughed, talking about when she was in school all the girls were in love with Frank Sinatra (though Harleen noted there was a thread of sadness in the way Mrs. Geller said this, and also a hesitation in her voice, as if she were holding something back, but her smile returned and Harleen wasn’t sure she had seen anything at all).

Everyone laughed as Joanie made faces and complained about how Sinatra was an old man and that liking him was totally gross.

Jack laughed and Harleen was sure she had never heard or seen anything as wonderful as Jack’s laugh accompanied by his smile.

Dinner with Mrs. Geller, Joanie, and Jack ended up being one of the single most wonderful experiences Harleen had ever had.

*

After dessert, Jack spoke to Harleen quietly while Joanie helped clear the dishes. “I can’t stay for our walk tonight as I promised. I had a phone call from Eddie just before dinner and I need to head over to his place to discuss something regarding work. I would have told you earlier, but I didn’t want to ruin dinner.”

Harleen felt a small frown form on her face. “I’m disappointed, but it's all right. I should get to bed early anyway. I have to be at the asylum before seven in the morning.”

Jack picked her hand up and kissed her knuckles. “I promise I’ll make it up to you.”

Harleen blushed with a small shake of her head. “You don't have to do that…”

Jack purred softly, his breath warm against the back of her hand that he held for a moment longer. “I would like to.”

Joanie was watching the two of them with a slight frown as she gathered up plates. She didn’t say anything though Mrs. Geller leaned over and whispered into Joanie’s ear as the two of them turned to return to the kitchen with the dirty dishes. “Careful, your face may stay that way my dear,” Mrs. Geller said with a grin. “That wrinkle right there between your eyes will become permanent.”

Joanie continued to frown, turing to glancing over at Mrs. Geller as she put the dishes in the sink and whispered back. “You think he loves her?”

Mrs Geller shrugged, pulling the stopper closed on the sink and began to fill it with hot water after squeezing in some of the dish soap into the sink. “I don’t know dear, but it’s clear our Jack cares deeply for Harleen and Harleen cares about him.”

Joanie frowned then whispered back. “It’s a little fast.”

Mrs. Geller laughed and picked up a dish rag. “Love does what love does. Sometimes it's fast, sometimes it’s slow.”

Joanie shrugged, then said. “Well, I sorta like her. She doesn’t seem all that square and she’s pretty. I guess she’ll be okay for Jack.”

Mrs. Geller chuckled softly. “Well that’s good dear.”

*

Jack and Harleen said their goodbyes and thank yous to Mrs. Geller (with Joanie getting a quick hug from Jack and a handshake from Harleen before they left for the night.)

They made their way up the stairs. The building was quiet this evening, though Harleen could hear light music coming from the bar.

“I’m sorry I had to cancel our walk tonight,” Jack said. “Eddie needs me for some business that can’t wait until morning. But, I’ll be here waiting for you to come home. You can tell me all about your first day at Arkham.” Jack squeezed her hand that he held. “I thought maybe I could have dinner waiting for you here in the club...” Jack smiled again at her, and his mismatched blue eyes made Harleen feel as if he were looking straight into her soul. She liked looking into his eyes, knew she could stare into his eyes all day and never tire of it.

While they walked up the stairs, Jack brought their hand up and brushed his lips against her knuckles, causing a tickle that ran through Harleen’s center. She couldn’t have said no if she wanted to, not that she wanted to say no, not at all.

“If, that’s all right with you?” Jack added, lifting a green brow in query at her as they stepped onto the landing where both their apartments were located.

Harleen could see it, a sliver of doubt in his mismatched blue eyes, fear that she would say no. For all the confidence the man exuded, he wasn’t confident when it came to her. She found that endearing and attractive. That slight lack of confidence in regards to her made her like him just a little bit more. It startled her that he would be worried that she would say no! Jack, even with his odd coloring, was handsome enough that he could have his choice of women, but he wanted to spend time with her!

Harleen shivered with pleasure because she definitely wanted to spend time with him.

“I would like that a lot, but…” She frowned as they stopped outside her room door.

“I won’t be home until after seven tomorrow night though. I have twelve hour shifts for the next three days straight for the foreseeable future.” Harleen paled a little as the shift hours sank in. She hadn’t really thought about it when she took the job, she had been so focused on her freedom that details like her shift hours, or a place to stay, transportation--all the important things she probably should have thought about--had seemed secondary to the knowledge she was getting away from her parents. Long, grueling shifts were a small price to pay to have her own room, her own money, and to have met such wonderful people such as Mrs. Geller, Joanie, and Jack. In just a few days she already had something she had wanted her entire life, a home and friends that were quickly becoming family.

And, of course, there was meeting Jack.

Harleen smiled and bit her bottom lip. “But I get three days off in a row after that, though I’m on call too...but still…” She giggled and shook her head. “Sorry that wasn’t what you asked. I would love to have dinner here with you when I get home from work.”

Jack grinned, and his odd eyes twinkled in his pale face. “Wonderful...three days, eh? Maybe we could do something together one of those days? Maybe even two?” Jack asked hopefully.

Harleen felt heat rise in her cheeks. Her smile made her cheeks hurt since smiling was nearly all she had been doing from the moment she met Jack, but she nodded happily. “I would like that very much Jack.”

Jack gazed at Harleen, his gaze longing and his smile soft as he took both her hands and brought them up to his lips. He kissed her knuckles, lingering over her hands for a moment before he let her go.

“I hope tomorrow is successful for you, that you enjoy your work, and I’ll see you when you get home. Sleep well Harley--have sweet dreams,” Jack said as he took a step back from her. He turned and headed down the small hall, stopping when he arrived at the end of the hall and turned back to wave his fingers at her.

Harleen blushed, feeling like she was in high school, having just gotten noticed by her high school crush as she waved back with a smile and soft giggle. She stayed where she was until Jack disappeared down the stairs.

Tomorrow would be a very long day, but she would look forward to the end of the day when she could come back to her new home and have dinner with Jack.

She went into her room with a little dance in her step.

*

Later that evening, Joker arrived at Eddie’s place.

He drove his car around to the back and parked out of the way, leaving the car in shadows before he got out and headed around to the front of Eddie’s home.

Eddie let him in with a grin, dressed in green slacks and a black t-shirt, his feet bare despite the chill in the air.

“Hey, glad you called man!” Eddie held the door open for his friend. “I was just thinking about what we should do next when you called tonight! Funny I had just talked to Sal myself earlier today.”

Joker walked in, taking his hat off, and grinning ear to ear. “When Sal called me with an offer of easy money, who am I to say no and who else would I ask to be my partner but my best friend?”

Eddie smiled giving Joker a hard, but playful smack on the shoulder. “Aw, thanks man.”

Joker slipped out of his coat, laying both the coat and hat over the back of a chair, but kept his gloves on before following Eddie who had turned to head into the kitchen.

“Can I get you a drink first?” Eddie asked as he walked over to his refrigerator, opened the appliance up, and looked inside before coming out with a half empty bottle of vodka. “Sal should be here anytime now with his cousin Nicolo so we can talk about the details.”

Joker nodded and asked as he pulled out a package of cigarettes from inside his jacket pocket along with a book of matches. “You have any Scotch?”

Eddie grinned over his shoulder at his friend. “You sir, are in luck. Just won a bottle off of Easy Jimmy. Good Scotch too.”

Joker was lighting his cigarette but he gave Eddie an unimpressed look. “Easy Jimmy had good Scotch?”

Eddie shrugged. “Taliker, single malt scotch 1955.”

Joker lifted his eyebrows in surprise. “Really, well I definitely would like some of that.”

Eddie grinned, reaching down below into a cabinet to pull out the bottle of golden liquid just as there was a knock at his door. “Oh, that should be Sal and Nicolo, do you mind J?”

Joker took a deep drag on his cigarette and blew long lines of smoke through his nose. “Sure.” He walked over to the door, his long slender legs cutting the distance quickly. He pulled opened the door to see Sal, who Joker immediately noticed still smelled like fish, and a short man with model good looks, light grey eyes, chiseled chin and thick dark hair. The only thing the two men shared might point to their shared family biology was the same nose.

Sal grinned. “Hey J! Glad to see you here. This is my cousin Nicolo.”

Nicolo smiled and gave Joker a slow once over, his smile expanding as he put his hand out to Joker. “Un piacere.”

Joker narrowed his eyes slightly, then motioned with his head. “Eddie’s making drinks,” he said before he turned and walked back in.

Sal grinned, closing the door as he and his cousin stepped in though Nicolo looked slightly annoyed with Joker.

Sal threw his arms up as he walked into the kitchen where Eddie was pouring drinks. “Nygma!!”

Eddie grinned. “Hey Sal, vodka, scotch, or beer?”

Sal laughed. “Vodka--you got some orange juice?”

“In the fridge.” Eddie motioned with his shoulder before looking over at Nicolo. “You must be Nicolo. What would you like to drink?”

Nicolo smiled in response. “A beer.”

“In the fridge,” Eddie replied, handing Joker his drink before taking the orange juice from Sal and mixing Sal’s drink. “Once everyone has their drinks, we can discuss business.”

*

The four men sat around Eddie’s table listening as Sal began to explain what it was he needed their help with.

Sal used a salt and pepper shaker lying on the table to illustrate his plan. At the moment he was just sipping his drink and slowly spinning the salt shaker. “My father Luigi runs an illegal card game…”

Eddie nodded. “I’ve played a few times before your father had me banned.”

Sal nodded with a smirk. “The only reason you ain’t dead is because I spoke up for you, and said I’d make sure you never darkened my father’s game again.” Sal and Eddie laughed.

Joker sipped at his scotch leaning back in his chair, ignoring the flirtatious looks coming from Nicolo.

“So what is this plan you have Sal?” Joker asked as he set his glass down.

“Every Tuesday night my father has a cash car move the money from his games. That money is a low key transfer, done in such a way as to bring as little attention as possible to the move. So the money--which is usually in the thirty thousand range--is transferred in a regular vehicle with only three armed men. I say we hijack the car and take the money for ourselves.” Sal grinned,

“Thirty thousand split four ways isn’t bad for a small job.”

Joker slowly blew smoke from his nostrils before he spoke. “You know we would have to kill those men, correct? You can’t leave any witnesses. And you are sure it will only be the one car? No armed men following in another vehicle?”

Sal nodded taking a sip of his drink. “I’m sure. My father doesn’t want anyone to know when he moves the money so he doesn’t bring a lot of attention to it by using fancy cars, or armored trucks carring a lot of armed men. He moves it, low key, and in plain sight. Nobody knows but me, his regular escort mooks, and now you three.”

Joker smiled slowly, smoke flowed from between his red lips. “Perfect.”

*

The next morning Harleen dressed in a pair of high waisted black slacks and a simple white blouse with shoulder pads, and a plain grey jacket along with simple white pumps, though she had her nurses shoes in her purse. She didn’t worry too much about her clothing since she knew she would be picking up her Arkham Asylum nurse’s uniform when she arrived and would actually be working in her uniform all day.

She fixed her hair, using two combs to hold the sides of her hair back, the rest of her blonde locks were in full, large curls to her shoulders. She kept her makeup light and professional with just a light cherry red lip gloss.

Harleen took a deep breath, pushing her glasses up on her nose. “You can do this Harleen.”

She took a deep breath through her nose and grabbed her purse, heading out the door for her first day at Arkham.

*

On her way out Mrs. Geller had shoved a thermos of coffee into her hand, and a breakfast sandwich of toast, scrambled eggs, cheese, and bacon with instructions to eat it on the bus and to never skip breakfast. Mrs. Geller had also shoved a bag lunch into Harleen’s hand, telling her it contained a turkey sandwich, along with some homemade cookies.

Harleen had almost broken down into tears.

Growing up, Harleen had always had to make her own meals from the moment she was able to use a utensil. Her mother didn’t let her take food from home though, which meant no lunches at school. So Harleen went without eating an afternoon meal. But once one of the janitors, an older man named Mr. Schaeffer, had figured out young Harleen wasn’t eating, he had started to pay for her lunches. Mr. Schaeffer fed Harleen all the way to fourth grade before he passed away. Any time she tried to thank him, he would just smile and brush it off. Harleen began giving Mr. Schaeffer drawings and cards; every art project she made in school those first few years was given to Mr. Schaeffer until his death. So having someone care about her enough to fix her breakfast and make her lunch before she went to work almost set her off.

Mrs. Geller had hugged Harleen and told her not to worry about, it was her pleasure. Harleen had to sniff back tears.

Now Harleen sat on the bus finishing off her breakfast while looking out on the early morning Gotham sky, which was grey and foggy. This early in the morning, the bus wasn’t full yet, only a smattering of people were on the bus at this time of the morning going to jobs that started early and ended late. The sky was still dark, but she could tell it was going to be a cloudy day. She watched Gotham flow by as the bus traveled along the highway heading toward Channel Island where Arkham Asylum was located. Harleen pressed her face against the glass of the window looking out as the bus rode across the bridge. The water below was grey like the sky and a stiff breeze was whipping the water into small waves. She turned her attention from the water, looking toward the small island that held Arkham Asylum. She could see the structure in the distance, a dark shadow on the landscape. From this distance the place looked intimidating and she could only imagine what it would be like up close.

As the bus crossed the water, the fog thickening, and headed toward the asylum, Harleen watched with wide eyes, her lips slightly parted as the asylum loomed larger before she lost sight of it among the trees. From the brief glance she had gotten as they moved closer, she could see that the asylum was far larger than she thought and less like a hospital, looking more like a gothic castle where Dracula might set up residence. A few minutes later, she saw the gate to the asylum emerge from the fog ahead of her. The gates were intimidating, huge gates that made her think of an asylum she had read about in an Edgar Allen Poe story. As the large gates came into view Harleen could see the name of the asylum, ARKHAM ASYLUM, in massive Gothic letters over the top, which made her think more of a threat than an invitation.

The bus pulled up to the bus stop (next to which there was a sign that read: Hitchhikers May be Escaped Patients) and Harleen got off along with two other people: one a woman who might be in her sixties with dyed brown hair and large eyes behind her very large glasses; the other an older black man with snow white hair.

The older man glanced at Harleen in surprise. “Are you here to see a patient? Visiting hours don’t start until nine thirty am.”

Harleen smiled shyly and held her hand out to the man. “Ah no, my name is Harleen Quinzel. I’m starting today as a nurse.”

The man took her hand and gave it a firm shake. “Edward Engles, but you can call me Ed. I’m a janitor here. And this here…” Ed pointed with his thumb over his shoulder. “Is Mrs. Francis Jenkins, also one of the nurses.”

Mrs. Jenkins came over and shook Harleen’s hand. “You can call me Francis. So, you’re the new girl, eh? I heard we were getting fresh blood from our head nurse, Dorothy Duncan. Nice to meet you. We’ve been needing extra hands for weeks.”

Mrs. Jenkins walked over to a box on the side of the gate that had a button and a speaker. A short distance away Harleen could see a guard house obscured by fog. She could also see several guard towers littering the grounds near the fence and off into the distance like the shadows of giants in the fog.

Francis pushed the button and waited. “You’ll be taking over Georgia’s shift. She quit suddenly,” Mrs. Jenkins said with a shrug. “Though that happens all the time here. I don’t mind telling you, working at this place isn’t easy. I hope you have a strong stomach, not a lot of people can handle it...and that’s not just because of the patients.” Francis shook her head with a little twist to her lips.

“The doctors can be hard to deal with too--sometimes harder.”

Before Harleen could answer the speaker came to life with a hiss. “The asylum is closed to visitors.”

Mrs. Jenkins sighed and pushed the button leaning down to speak into the speaker. “Nathan, it’s me you idiot. Why do we have to go through this every morning?”

The voice on the other end laughed. “Sorry Francis, coming to let you and Ed in.”

Francis pushed the button. “You can let Mrs. Duncan know that new girl is here too, Harleen Quinzel.”

Nathan buzzed back. “She hot?”

Harleen blushed as Ed shook his head with a longsuffering look of a man too old for the crap of younger men while Francis buzzed back. “She’s standing right here Nathan and she’s way out of your league.”

This was followed by the guard coming out of the guard house, barely a shadow in the fog. Harleen watched as the shadow walked down the drive toward the gate, emerging from the fog into the form of a regular man. The guard named Nathan was only a few years older than Harleen and was attractive, though in a way that Harleen found dull next to Jack. No man was ever going to compare to Jack Heart Harleen thought with a soft secret smile, her thoughts drifting to coming home this evening and getting to see him. She pressed her teeth into her bottom lip as a wave of pleasure at the thought of Jack washed over her.

Nathan worked at the chain and lock that were wrapped around the two gates, pulling one of them back wide enough to let the three of them in. When Harleen came in bringing up the rear, guard put out his hand and gave her a charming smile.

“Nathan Docks, pleasure you meet you Miss Quinzel.”

Harleen took his hand. “Harleen Quinzel, nice to meet you too.”

Nathan grinned. “If you need any help navigating the asylum, just let me know. I’ll be happy to give you a tour.”

Ed laughed with a shake of his head at the guard. “Like that is gonna happen.”

Nathan flushed, but Francis shook her head. “Come on Harleen, let’s get you to the main offices so you can get your security clearance and uniform.”

Harleen nodded giving Nathan a smile before she hurried to follow Ed and Francis up the drive toward the asylum.

*

Harleen ended up walking between Ed and Francis up the drive toward the asylum. The house emerged like a giant dark spider from the fog, which made Harleen’s heart rate quicken. It was just a little intimidating, scary really, reminding her of the house in the 1963 film, The Haunting. Francis pointed at the ancient looking Victorian house that came into view as they made their way up the foggy drive.

“That is the original Arkham mansion, the Arkham family home was built around the 1870’s by Amadeus Arkham’s father. Amadeus added onto the house turning it into Arkham Hospital in the early 1900’s, named after Amadeus Arkham’s mother Elizabeth who went insane and killed herself.”

Harleen made a face, which had both Ed and Francis laugh.

Francis shook her head. “This place, you are going to find is full of horror stories and ghost stories. Arkham Asylum is not a happy place. Hell, Jeremiah Arkham, the man who used to be head of the asylum, is now a patient.”

Harleen gasped. “Really?”

She nodded. “Yep, went crazy. Found out he had been keeping three patients in another, unused wing of the asylum as his special pets. He’d done experiments on them.” Francis shuddered and

Ed muttered under his breath. “Bad business that.”

Francis continued. “It was a huge scandal a couple of years ago. Anyway, Hugo Strange--the man who now runs Arkham--found Jeremiah too mentally unstable to stand trial. So now he’s here with rest of the nutjobs.”

Francis pointed as they reached the steps that led up to the manor. “There, to the left, that’s the graveyard…”

Harleen frowned, she could see headstones in the fog as Francis told her, “It used to be only the Arkham family cemetery, but now it’s also the patient cemetery.” She pointed to the right. “That way is to the botanical gardens and the yard where the patients can get their exercise. You can also take lunch there.” Francis smiled. “It’s real nice in the spring, lots of tulips.”

Ed stopped by the steps. “Well, this is where I leave you ladies. I’ll see you around the place Miss Quinzel. I hope you like working here.” With a wave Ed walked off to the left.

Francis smiled. “Ed is one of the good ones. Now, let’s get your security badge and your uniform. I should warn you, though, Miss Duncan is a bit of a hard ass. But if you do your work and do it well, you shouldn’t have any issues.”

Harleen nodded but her eyes were wide and her heart beat rapidly. She wasn’t ashamed to admit she was a little scared.

*

When Harleen reported to Mrs. Dorathy Duncan’s office, she was met by a tall, stern looking woman who reminded Harleen of nurse Ratched from the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Duncan had those same hard eyes and thin lipped mouth, the sort of woman who didn’t put up with any nonsense. She didn’t greet Harleen or ask her any questions. She simply handed Harleen a clipboard with her paperwork and pointed to a chair where Harleen sat and quietly filled out her paperwork before handing it back to Nurse Duncan.

Once Duncan had Harleen’s paperwork, she gave Harleen a once over before sniffing. “You’ll need a medium uniform. After you are dressed, go to security where you shall ask for Frank Boles, the head of security. After you have been given your badge, you will return here where you will shadow one of my best nurses, Josslyn Corinthos, for the entire day.”

*

After two hours, Harleen was set to work. She had a badge hanging around her neck with her name and an employee number with her photo on the front of it. She was dressed in her nurse uniform, a pair of light blue scrubs with the name ARKHAM stitched on her left breast. She was shadowing another nurse named Josslyn Corinthos, but who insisted on being called Joss.

Joss smiled at Harleen. She was a bubbly brunette who had her bangs teased up, the rest of her hair in tight curls that made Harleen think of Jennifer Beals.

Joss smiled at Harleen. “Don’t let Nurse Duncan get under your skin. She’s like that with everyone.”

Harleen smiled nervously. “Thanks, I really thought she didn’t like me.”

Joss laughed. “She doesn’t like anyone but Dr. Strange. She adores Dr. Strange, so be careful to never say a bad thing about that man in front of her.” Joss held her hands up for a moment. “Not that there's anything wrong with Dr. Strange; he’s a bit odd, but so is everyone that works here.” Joss laughed as she patted Harleen on the back. “Anyway, Nurse Duncan put you with me because, one, I know what I’m doing; two, she wants to throw you in with the sharks and see if you swim; and three, you’re most likely to live with me.”

Harleen’s eyes widened behind her glasses and Joss laughed. “Sorry--bad joke. But I do work with most of the violent patients, so it's gonna be tough. Still, if you follow instructions and make it through today, you’ll be fine.” She gave Harleen a reassuring smile. “Now, the first thing we have to do this morning is go and clean up Mr. Stirk, which is never fun. That old man…” Joss rolled her eyes. “He insists that he has mind powers and he is always demanding we bring him the heart of someone to eat so he can remain young.” Joss laughed. “Which must not have been working for him before he was brought here, but he looks like a week old corpse.” Joss stuck her tongue out in disgust. “Anyway, let’s go give old Corny his sponge bath.”

*

On the way Joss gave Harleen a quick verbal rundown of the Arkham Asylum set up, which buildings held the female patients, which the male, where the common room was located, the cafeteria, the building that held comatose patients, which one held the more dangerous patients (which was where they would be spending the majority of their shift today.) The rec rooms, art rooms, the medicine closet, restrooms, nurses’ lounge, the location of every place that Harleen would need to know. Joss told Harleen a tour was useless and that the best way to learn her way around the asylum would just be roaming the halls herself.

“Don’t worry, though. You’ll figure this place out, I promise. We all do,” Joss said with a smile that didn’t reach her eyes.

The room that held Mr. Stirk was very much like a regular hospital room with a hospital curtain and a hospital bed that held a patient in a hospital gown, though he was held down, his wrists and ankles held in restraints attached to the bed frame. Cornelius Stirk was a skinny, bald old man with only a few teeth in his head, but Harleen had never heard anyone with a fouler mouth. He was tied down to his bed with restraints and was kicking up a storm while yelling at the top of his lungs.

“I NEED HEARTS!! HUMAN HEARTS!!”

Harleen tried not to react, but the man was covered in his own filth which he was making worse by his thrashing.

Joss motioned Harleen over. “Okay, I’m going to strip him, just hold him down. Cornelius here likes to bite, so be careful.”

Harleen nodded walking over to the head of the bed. The patient rolled his head toward her. His eyes were opened too wide and when he looked at her, Harleen would swear his pupils were red!

He grinned at her showing only a few teeth, but they looked razor sharp. “I bet your heart is delicious! So young and pure!!”

Harleen didn’t say anything as she went to put her hands on his shoulders to hold him down against the pillows, but when she brought her hand in, Cornelius Stirk suddenly jerked up his head, and bit down at the soft skin under her forearm.

Harleen screamed.

The next few minutes were a blur. Her scream brought in a couple of burly orderlies dressed in high, hard collared outfits with buttons down the side in dark grey that made Harleen think of the outfits mad scientists wore in old black and white horror movies. Both men scared Harleen with their deep frowns and matching uniforms. With practiced skill, they took over holding Mr. Stirk while Joss rushed out and came back a few seconds later with a syringe. Another nurse, who Harleen didn’t know, grabbed her and rushed her out of the room, taking Harleen to the nurses’ station where her arm was examined. The bite hadn’t broken the skin, but the bruise was going to be nasty; it was already turning a deep, dark bluish-purple.

The nurse taking care of her smiled. “Well, new girl, you are now part of the gang--you just got your initiation.”

Harleen frowned. “Yeah.”

*

Once Joss and the orderlies were finished with Mr. Stirk, the experienced nurse came to check on Harleen.

“You doing okay?” Joss asked.

Harleen held up her bandaged arm with a lopsided grin. “Never better.”

Joss laughed. “That’s the spirit. Well, old Corny is gonna be sleeping for the next week, so let’s go clean him up and head to patient number two, Mr. Lazlo Valentin. Hopefully he’ll be in a good mood today.” Joss leaned against the wall, folding her arms across her chest. “He used to be a doctor, a plastic surgeon actually, that was until he lost his marbles and started to castrate his patients and lobotomize them. We get to deliver his meds for him today.”

Harleen cringed at Joss’s description of the second patient, but nodded and took a deep breath. She could do this; she had to do this job. This was what she trained for. Harleen needed this job for her independence, her life, her own sanity. She couldn’t go back home, she just couldn’t. Not only would she lose her independence, but she would lose everything she had gained in the short days she had been in Gotham, a budding family that she had never before...and Jack. She didn’t know what was blossoming between her and the pale, handsome man, but she didn’t want to lose that! She didn’t want to lose Jack Heart.

Harleen knew she would put up with everything just to stay near him.

Harleen stood up with a determined set to her mouth, pushing her glasses up her nose. “I’m ready.”

Joss grinned at her. “That’s the spirit!”

*

The two nurses arrived at Valentin’s room, the door of which was closed. Through it, they could hear classical music playing at loud levels, an opera coming from behind the door with a barred window set in it. Harleen held a little paper cup that contained a large assortment of colorful pills, none of which Harleen recognized.

Joss smiled. “Lazlo likes his music, and it usually keeps him calm. Usually. He’s been good this week, which is why he was allowed his record player and records back this week. It’s also why he’s in one of our more private rooms--he earned his way back from one of the shared rooms.”

Joss knocked on the door, then called out. “Lazlo!! It’s Joss and I have a new nurse friend with me, we need to come in I got your pills right here with me.”

They both heard the sound of the record scratching followed by a voice that Harleen would describe as cultured, the voice of an educated man. “I do not want my pills today Nurse Corinthos. They make me sleep.”

Joss sighed. “Yes, well Lazlo, they’re supposed to. I’m opening the door--behave yourself.”

Joss opened the door and the two nurses stepped into the dimly lit room. The room held one simple bed, a night stand on which sat an old fashioned record player that looked as if it came right out of the 1960s. Standing next to the record player was a man dressed in simple patient uniform of dark, almost dusty blue scrubs. Lazlo Valentin was a large man, bald with a bizarre plastic look about his features. The left side of his mouth pulled too far up while the right side of his mouth was too far down. His eyebrows were also strange, riding too far up his bald head.

He frowned at the two nurses. “I’m listening to my music. I do not wish to take my medication at this time.”

Joss sighed, motioning Harleen forward. “Lazlo, this is Nurse Quinzel. She is going to give you your pills, so be nice.”

Harleen tried to keep a pleasant smile on her face. “Hello Lazlo, I’m Nurse Quinzel, but you can call me Harleen if you wish. I have your pills right here…”

Lazlo tilted his head at her in an eerie way that made Harleen’s skin crawl before he said softly, “You would make such a pretty doll.”

Harleen glanced nervously at Joss. She was unprepared when Lazlo lunged at her, grabbing her arm that held the pill, and dragged his nails down her arm. Harleen yelped in surprise and pain.

The man’s nails were sharp and drew tiny drops of blood. Harleen dropped the pills, which scattered everywhere while Joss jumped in to yank Harleen away from Lazlo while at the same time yelling for help.

The entire incident ended up as a repeat of the encounter with Cornelius Stirk.

*

Joss leaned against the wall while Harleen was getting her other arm disinfected and wrapped.

Joss laughed. “Well, you are certainly getting the Arkham special treatment today. You doing okay?”

Harleen smiled brightly putting on her best fake smile. “Doing great.”

Joss grinned. “Okay, well we have a few non-violent patients to visit before lunch, just some routine bed checks, medicine handouts before we tackle another fun patient.”

Harleen smiled weakly. “Goodie.”

*

The rest of Harleen’s morning went by swiftly with standard patient care that Harleen was familiar with that also didn’t result in any bruising or scratching.

After lunch, Joss took Harleen with her to visit with a patient named Warren White.

Joss led her to an elevator that took them down to the basement of one of the buildings on the east side of the main house. Here the walls and floor were all tiled in white, each room they passed had a barred door that didn’t allow the patient inside any privacy. As the two nurses walked by, Harleen could see the patients. She saw mostly men, though surprisingly there were a few women too. Some huddled on their thin cots, others sitting on the floor babbling to themselves while others were standing in the middle of their rooms turning in circles. The place had a sad, almost desperate feel to it. The air was heavy with misery and despair.

Joss continued to talk as the two women walked swiftly down the hall. “Warren likes everyone to call him The Great White Shark. Now there is a real piece of work. He got himself committed because he said he was insane, which was why he embezzled tons of money from the people he worked for…” Joss shook her head. “Anyway, being in here drove him really insane. It’s a really great story, I’ll have to tell you all of it sometime, but just be prepared, Harleen. He looks rather gruesome, lost all his hair, filed his teeth to points, even cut off his own nose and lips.”

Harleen’s eyes widened and she shuddered. “Why?”

Joss shrugged. “I guess he wanted to resemble a shark. Anyway, that was months ago, he’s all healed but he looks a bit unnerving--just wanted you to be prepared.”

Harleen asked softly. “So why are we coming to see him?”

Joss smiled. “Because we need to go check his feeding tube. He’s been refusing to eat, so we’ve been having to force feed him. Fun!” Joss laughed as they turned down a hall and walked past another handful of cells before stopping at one and looking inside.

Harleen looked too. Inside was a hideous looking man strapped to a bed with a feeding tube in his nose (or rather the holes in his face where his nose used to be.) He glared hatefully at the two nurses as Joss unlocked his door.

“Hey GWS, just here to check your feeding tube big guy. This is Nurse Quinzel--she is going to be helping me.” Joss walked in and over to the man on the bed.

Harleen came in with her, ignoring the man’s hateful stares as Joss went over the IV stand that held the pouch of liquid food with the feeding tube extending down into the man’s nose. “I know you probably know this stuff, but it's good to go over it again.”

Neither nurse had noticed that one of Warren’s feet was actually free from its restraint until Joss was showing Harleen how the tube was taped to the side of Warren’s head to prevent tangling. Warren chose that moment to kick out.

The man’s foot caught Harleen by surprise, slamming her in the hip with enough strength that Harleen was tossed across the room and slammed into the wall before she hit the floor, pain radiating out from her hip with such intensity that for a minute Harleen though she might have broken a bone.

Joss moved quickly, grabbed Warren’s leg and held him down with surprising strength as she secured his ankle with the restraint. “Damn it Warren…” Joss growled as she struggled with the man. “Harleen--you okay?” Joss called without looking over at her.

Harleen pushed herself to her feet, nodding as she tested her leg. “Yes, yes I’m all right.”

Joss gave her a smile over her shoulder. “Good girl. All right, I got him restrained again. Come on over here and let’s finish up.”

*

The next few hours after Warren White were quiet, which was a relief to Harleen. She felt as if she had been through a battlefield!

The day dragged on, but luckily she didn’t have any more violent attacks on her person; a few verbal assaults, one very graphic proposition from a patient, and one death of an older patient who had died from natural causes.

By the time six thirty rolled around, Harleen felt exhausted as well as dispirited, but she knew she couldn't give up. She had to do this, had to stay at Arkham no matter what happened.

She and Joss were at one of the nurses stations taking a break and chatting with another couple of nurses, a young woman around Harleen’s age named Dunya Farooqi and a young black man named Daniel Okafor.

Dunya was showing off her engagement ring, her smile radiant. “Isn’t it gorgeous?”

Joss was holding Dunya’s hand and examining the ring. “Wow, that is gorgeous.”

Harleen nodded. “It's really beautiful.”

Dunya grinned. “Isn’t it? I can’t wait to call my parents back home and tell them.”

Joss laughed. “They know he’s a white guy yet?”

A small frown creased Dunya’s features. “No.”

Daniel laughed shaking his head. “Girl, you are just asking for trouble.”

Dunya shrugged. “Well I don’t need their approval. Michael and I love each other and that’s all that matters.”

Joss was about to say something when an orderly, another man that Harleen thought of as a miniature mountain, came rushing down the hall. “Hey, I need a couple of you to help me! Dixon said he just saw Jane Doe shove a handful of pills in her mouth. Said she’s been hiding her pills for weeks…”

Joss stood up and grabbed Harleen. “I need you to go to the medicine closet and grab me some ipecac syrup--just bring the entire bottle. Now go!”

Harleen hurried off down the hall, glancing behind her to watch Joss and the orderly disappear around the corner.

*

When Harleen arrived a few moments later with ipecac syrup, she saw Joss and the orderly holding the patient, a slender young woman, bald, with skin that was too smooth, so smooth that she looked almost featureless. It was the most disconcerting thing Harleen had ever seen. The young woman was fighting against Joss and the orderly who were holding her arms with Joss hissing.

“Jane, you need to spit up those pills now!”

Jane moaned. “Nooo!! I want to die!!”

Joss saw Harleen. “Harleen, I need you to pour some of that in her mouth, we need to get her to throw up.”

“How much?” Harleen asked as she hurried over at Joss and the orderly as they pulled the struggling Jane to her bed and held her down. Joss hissed. “Just open the god damn bottle and pour some down her fucking gullet!”

Harleen opened the bottle and tried to open Jane’s mouth with her free hand while the young woman struggled. Harleen had to get on top of Jane, straddling the patient’s chest while with one hand she held Jane’s nose, forcing her mouth open. As Jane gasped for air, Harleen poured the liquid into her mouth, dropped the bottle, and clamped Jane’s mouth and nose shut, forcing her to swallow. As soon as Jane swallowed down the syrup, Harleen let go.

Jane screamed, then before Harleen could get herself out of the way the woman projectile vomited just like Regan from The Exorcist...all over Harleen.

Harleen gasped in surprise, her eyes wide.

*

Harleen leaned her forehead against the window of the bus, just barely looking out the window as the bus rolled along taking her home. She could, in an off-handed way, see the lights of the city reflecting off the water as the bus rolled across the bridge, though she couldn’t really admire how beautiful it looked because she hurt all over, and still smelled like vomit (or at least she imagined she did) even after changing her clothes and taking a shower at the asylum.

There was barely anyone on the bus, just a few random employees that Harleen didn’t know. Mr. Engles had left a few hours before her and Mrs. Jenkins had been picked up by her husband, not that Harleen felt like talking.

She sighed and closed her eyes, resisting the strong urge to cry.

*

Back at The Blue Moon, Joker dressed and nervously checked to make sure everything was perfect for when Harleen returned. Mrs. Geller had made them a candlelight dinner with truffled spinach and ricotta ravioli, with a bottle of red wine and German chocolate cake for dessert. He was waiting in the lobby with a bouquet of assorted flowers surrounding one red rose. He wore a three piece grey suit with a dark blue shirt that made his one dark blue eye stand out vividly in his pale face. He had painted his lips the same color as the rose and his green hair was slicked back except for the one stubborn curl that insisted on curling against his pale forehead. He wanted Harley to return home from her first day of work to a special celebration dinner to celebrate her accomplishments and to make her feel special.

Joker wanted to make sure Harleen always knew how special she was…

Mrs. Geller came in from the bar. The place had been cleared out tonight for Joker’s dinner with Harleen with only Mrs. Geller and Richie the bartender being in attendance. Joker even planned to sing to Harleen after dinner, with maybe a little dance before she went to bed.

Mrs. Geller smiled as she walked over to Joker and straightened his tie. “I don’t think I have ever seen you nervous before Jack.”

Joker wrinkled his nose. “I don't understand why she makes me feel nervous.”

Mrs. Geller laughed. “It’s because you like her Jack, a great deal. The first flutterings of love perhaps.”

She smiled and lay her hands against his chest. “It’s nice to see you showing interest in such a pretty girl.”

Joker actually blushed, then in a shy voice asked, “You think Harley likes me?”

Mrs. Geller laughed patting his chest before she stepped away. “Oh, that girl is already head over heels for you Jack dear--it’s clear as day.”

Joker grinned clearly pleased.

*

When the bus arrived at her stop, Harleen dragged herself down the steps and onto the sidewalk. It was dark and in this part of the city, the streetlamps didn’t glow nearly as bright. There were a few people on the streets, a couple of hookers, some teens loitering at a corner, but mostly the sidewalks were deserted. She began the trek home with a wide yawn, shoving her hand under her glasses to rub her eye when someone stepped out of the alley in front of her holding a knife.

“Give me your purse bitch.” The man was skinny, with dirty hair. The smell wafting off him was strong--clearly not having bathed in a while--and he had a tattoo on the side of his forehead that might have been a hammer or some other tool. He was rough looking even in the dim light; Harleen could see pock marks on his face.

Harleen groaned, too tired to be as scared as she should be. “Are you kidding me? After the day I had, you’re mugging me?”

The man looked confused, but stepped closer reaching for her purse and grabbed the strap. “Just give it to me, bitch!”

Harleen yanked back on her purse. “No!!”

She was tired, defeated. All she wanted to do was shower again and hopefully spend time with Jack. She barely had any money and she couldn’t afford to lose the few dollars she had. “No!! I’m not giving you my purse!”

The man snarled. “You stupid bitch!”

He let go of her purse and backhanded Harleen with enough force that he knocked her off her feet. Harleen hit the sidewalk hard, her glasses flying off and skidding down the sidewalk. As soon as she was down, the man grabbed her purse, yanking it out of her hand and took off down the street.

The hookers glanced over at her, but then went back to yelling at cars. The teens didn’t even bother to look. No one came to her defense, no one tried to go after the man who had taken her purse.

Harleen gasped in pain, her face throbbed, and when she reached up to touch her cheek her fingers came back bloody. She couldn’t help it, she had one of the worst days and this was just the culmination of all that. She covered her face with her hands and cried.

*

Joker was pacing. Harleen should have been back by now. He had thought about meeting her at the bus stop, but he had wanted to take time to dress for her, have the flowers and the club straightened, candles lit and waiting for her. Now he was regretting that.

Joanie came bounding down the stairs and stopped short when she saw Jack.

“Hey, I thought you were having a romantic dinner with Harleen?” Joanie leaned on the bannister of the stairs, frowning at him. She was dressed in jeans, house slippers and an oversized shirt with The Cure printed on the front.

Joker frowned. “She isn’t here yet.”

Joanie looked confused. “Seriously? I wonder…”

That was when the front door of the hotel opened and Harleen came in. Joanie gasped when she saw her.

The left side of Harleen’s face was swollen and turning into a nasty blue and purple bruise from her cheek bone down to her jaw. Her lips were bloody, the bottom one split, her glasses were broken, the leg on her left side was up at a weird angle and the glasses were not sitting on her nose; one lense was cracked as well. She looked dead on her feet as she shuffled in, sliding out of her coat which she dropped on the floor. This revealed the bandages on her arms.

Joker looked horrified when he saw. “Harley!”

He shoved the flowers at Joanie and rushed to Harleen, taking her into his arms tenderly. Harleen fell into his embrace and immediately started to cry against his chest. She didn’t want to, didn’t want to ruin his suit or to be weak in front of him, but she couldn’t help herself.

It had been an absolutely horrid day.

Joker held her close, stroking his hand over her hair, his other hand pressed against her back. “Shhh...Harley, you’re with me now.” He kissed the top of her forehead. “I’ll keep you safe.”

Harleen wrapped her arms around his waist and mumbled against his chest.

“Someone mugged me on the way home. They took my purse, my shoes were in that bag...some of my money, my lipgloss...I’ve had the worst day, Jack. I got bitten, kicked, scratched, a patient threw up on me, and on the way home some guy took my purse.” She squeezed her eyes shut and tried to stop her crying, finally ending with hiccups before she stepped reluctantly back from Jack’s embrace. “I’m sorry…”

Jack cupped her face gently between his hands, looking down at her. The tension eased out of her when she looked into his mismatched blue eyes, though she didn’t lose her hold on his waist.

He gently eased her broken glasses off her nose and dropped them onto the check-in counter.

“Don't be sorry, Harley. I’m here for you, always. Now…” He smiled as he gazed into her eyes, and his thumbs stroked her tear stained cheeks, careful of the bruise on her face, and the pressure cut along her cheek. “Why don’t you shower, put on some pajamas and I’ll bring dinner up to your room.” He grinned. “We can sit on the couch and watch TV together, would that be all right?”

Harleen sniffed, but she smiled. “That would be wonderful Jack.”

He gave her a reassuring smile. “Now, before you do that, tell me what happened?”

Harleen closed her eyes wearily and told him briefly about her day. Joker nodded, his lips in a thin like of displeasure upon hearing everything she had been through, but when she came to the part about getting mugged, he wanted every detail she could give him.

When she was done, Jack leaned down to kiss her brow. “I’ll be right up. You go ahead.”

Harleen smiled at him and whispered, “Thank you Jack.”

Joker smiled, giving her brow one more tender caress as he laid one more soft kiss on her forehead.

Harleen smiled at him then headed to the stairs. Joanie leaned out of her way, but she gave Harleen an encouraging smile.

After Harleen had disappeared up the stairs Joker growled. “I’m going to find each and every one of them who hurt her and slice open their throats,” he hissed.

Joanie frowned for a moment, but then shrugged a moment later. “That mugger she described sounds like Paul. His got a stupid hammer tattoed on the side of his forehead and he has ugly pock scars on his face. He hangs around the high school sometimes, bumming cigarettes and trying to sell drugs…”

Joker narrowed his eyes, his attention on Joanie. “You know where he might be tonight?”

Joanie frowned in thought before she answered. “If he got some money from Harleen, he’ll be hanging out around that dead end alley off of 12th street I would think. Probably be there all night getting high.”

Joker smiled, a slow, predatory smile that Joanie had learned led to violence. “I’m going to have my dinner with Harley first, then I will go and get her purse back.”

Joanie smiled to herself, wishing Jack would let her come along. She would love to see what happened to Paul…

But, it was a school night.

Chapter Text

There was a soft knock at the door.

Harleen had showered, dressed in a pair of light blue flannel pajamas with a peter pan collar, and some warm socks. Her hair was brushed back, still damp and just starting to dry, which caused errant curls to form around her head. She hadn’t bothered to try to dry her hair, she just didn’t have the strength. She just wanted to curl up with a blanket on her couch and watch the tonight show with Joan Rivers guest hosting. Not that she really liked Joan Rivers all that much, but she usually liked the guests and it was one of the few things on at this hour.

She grabbed a blanket off her bed and dragged herself to her couch. Her face hurt. She had brushed her teeth to get the taste of blood out of her mouth. Her lips were tender and still slightly swollen, the bruise on the side of her face looked and felt worse. Hell, everything hurt, the bite mark hurt, the bruises on other parts of her body hurt. Harleen groaned in irritation and fatigue.

Everything hurt.

She wasn’t wearing her glasses, having left her broken glasses in the bathroom. She had another good cry while she was in the shower, letting her entire day go as the hot water washed away the smell of the asylum and the stringent chemical smell of the disinfectant soap she had showered with while she was there. Her eyes were bloodshot and she looked like road kill Harleen thought when she saw herself in the bathroom mirror, but she didn’t care--that was until there was a knock at her door.

Harleen swallowed and shuffled over, dragging her blanket with her, and opened the door to see Jack standing there smiling, holding a tray of hot food, wine with two wine glasses, cake, and flowers in his hands.

Jack smiled and held up the tray. “I brought dinner.”

Harleen stared for a moment, her eyes filling with tears that spilled over and ran down her cheeks. “Oh Jack.”

Jack looked panicked. “Harley?”

She stepped back to let him inside, her lips trembling.

Jack looked confused as he hurried in and set the tray down on the small table in her room. Just as Harleen closed the door, he walked up behind her and wrapped his arms around her, resting his chin on the top of her head and held her tightly. “It’s all right now. You’re home.” He kissed the top of her head. “You’re safe now Harley.”

Harleen squeezed her eyes shut, but she couldn’t seem to stop the tears.

“Thank you,” she whispered.

Jack frowned. He hated this, hated to see her so upset, hated that he had not been able to prevent it. This wasn’t how things were supposed to be for Harley.

He released her and turned her around with gentle hands. He continued to smile at her, cupping her face between his hands. Harleen relaxed into his touch. His hands were warm against her cheeks and he was gentle, careful of the bruises (she had no idea of the rage he was keeping bottled inside. Seeing her hurt made him see red. He wanted to find the mugger and hurt him right now, but he knew Harley needed him. It felt strange to hold his rage, to bottle it up, but he would do anything for her, including waiting to make that mugger pay just so he could be here for her when she needed him. Caring so much felt so strange he thought, but not unwelcome where Harley was concerned.)

“Why don’t we sit down on the couch and eat?” Jack smiled softly, lifting his green brows in question.

“I don't know if I can eat,” Harleen said with a sniff. “I feel a little nauseated.”

Jack murmured. “You need to eat. I’ll feed you if I have to.”

Harleen laughed softly. “Oh Jack.”

He grinned at her and kissed her forehead. “Come on.”

Jack let her go and put his arm around her shoulders as he led her to the couch. Once he had her seated, he quickly retrieved the tray with their dinner before coming back to the couch. He turned on the televisioon, found the Tonight Show without asking her if that was what she wanted to watch. Harleen wasn’t sure why that made her weepy again except it was as if Jack had read her mind, he knew what she liked without asking her. It was just another small gesture that made her feel cared for, something she had never felt before.

He took the blanket from Harleen and wrapped it around her shoulders before he sat down and lifted his arm up with an expectant smile. Harleen smiled back and snuggled against his side. Jack wrapped his arm around her shoulders and pulled her close. He reached over to grab a plate, setting it on his lap.

“Mrs. Geller made this for us at my request. Here we have truffled spinach and ricotta ravioli, and German chocolate cake for dessert.” He looked down at her with a smile. “I have some red wine too that should help you relax.”

Harleen smiled up at him. “Thank you Jack.”

He smiled back. “You don’t have to thank me Harley.”

He leaned in and kissed her forehead with a whispered, “I will do anything for you, anything at all.” He picked up the fork to cut into the steaming ravioli and held up a bite. “Now, take a couple of bites and then we can have some cake.”

Harleen giggled softly, snuggling close to him. “All right.”

Jack smiled brightly. “That’s my girl.”

*

Joker was able to feed most of the ravioli to her, a few bites of cake, and half a glass of wine before she fell asleep. He held her, laying his cheek against her head taking in the sweet scent of vanilla and floral shampoo from her hair while he stroked his hand up and down her blanket covered arm, listening to the soft sounds of her breathing. After a little bit, he eased up to his feet laying her down on the couch. Harley didn’t budge, though she murmured in her sleep, saying his name, “Jack...” in her sweet, sleepy voice. He smiled and stroked her hair back from her face. The sight of her face with the bruises once more caused the rage in him to burn and bubble over. He touched the bruises lightly and felt a fury burn in his chest. He was going to kill the man who had hurt her. If he could get into the asylum he would kill every one of the patients there that had laid a hand on her too, but he would have to be happy with taking care of the mugger...for now.

He took a deep breath and walked over to her bed, pulled the blankets back before he went back to the couch and gently lifted her up. Harley murmured in her sleep again, snuggling close to him, her head against his shoulder. Jack smiled, holding her securely as he carried her over to her bed and placed her down on the mattress with care. He pulled the blankets up, tucking her in. Jack stood by her bedside, watching her sleep for a few seconds. She looked so sweet, so innocent.

He leaned down and kissed her cheek. “I’m going to get your purse back Harley. Don’t you worry.”

He slipped out of her room without a sound, stopping at his own room to grab his knife. He didn’t intend for this to go quickly.

*

Paul leaned back against the damp wall of the alley with a smile, dropped the syringe on the ground next to him. He closed his eyes and rested his hands on the woman’s purse he had stolen where it lay between his legs. There hadn’t been a lot of cash in the bag, but what there had been along with the lipstick, hair brush and the promise of a blowjob tomorrow had been enough to get him one fix to chase away the chill.

Next to him he could hear Boz sniffing. The man was a coke head, but he was one of Paul’s few friends, one of the only people Paul trusted to watch his back while he was getting high.

A few steps away he could hear Dirk and Alan. He could hear them talking accompanied by the smell of the weed they were smoking. The scent of weed blocked out the lingering scent of urine, unwashed bodies, and rot that filled the alley.

None of the men in the alley saw the shadow enter, none of them heard footsteps.

The man no one saw stopped, standing next to Paul.

Paul was only dimly aware of someone standing beside him, but he didn’t open his eyes until someone kicked him in the thigh.

“Get up.”

Paul opened his eyes and looked up into the smiling red lipped face of a ghost with haunting mismatched eyes and dark green hair.

The ghost narrowed its eyes at Paul. “You the one that took her purse?”

Paul frowned in confusion. “What are you?”

“Just answer the question: did you take her purse?” the ghost asked again.

By now the ghost had drawn the attention of Paul’s friends in the alley. Paul snickered slowly and rose to his feet, holding the purse in one hand. “You mean that blonde bimbo with the glasses?”

He snickered again. “Yeah, I took her purse, knocked her flat too.”

The other men in the alley laughed with Paul when he turned to look at them. “If I had time, would have taken more, but ya know, I was in a hurry.”

The pale man went still. It was weird, Paul thought, like the ghost stopped breathing, but he supposed ghosts didn’t need to breathe, did they?

“Give me her purse,” the ghost said through his teeth, eyes narrowing a fraction.

Paul frowned and shook his head. “Fuck no man, it’s mine.”

Boz stepped forward, pulling out a pocket knife. “Get going freak, we ain't got nothing for ya.”

Joker turned his attention to the man with the knife. “You have my girl’s purse.”

Boz glanced at Paul who shrugged. “Fuck me. I don't’ know what it's talking about.”

Boz hissed and stepped closer brandishing his knife. “Get the fuck out of here freak.”

Joker moved fast. (It was only then, when the ghost moved, that Paul saw the light glint off the blade that must have been in the ghost’s hand the entire time, a long wicked looking bowie knife.) He grabbed Boz by the shoulder and shoved the man against the alley wall next to Paul, and stabbed him in the gut with several quick hard jabs.

Paul didn’t move, but watched with a strange and horrible disconnected fascination, watching as the pale man stuck his friend several times, the sound of the blade entering Boz’s gut was weird. It made a strange thick thunking sound, like his father’s butcher blade would make when he chopped meat. Paul’s father had worked at a butcher’s shop when Paul was younger and Paul would watch him work.

Paul frowned in confusion. He hadn’t thought about his father or the butcher shop in ages. Paul watched as Boz’s eyes bugged, watched at bright red blood stained his friend’s sweat stained shirt. Paul watched as Boz dropped his pocket knife without using it, the small blade clattering against the cracked and dirty asphalt before the pale man stepped away from him, letting Boz slide to the ground.

Dirk and Alan yelled, charging at the pale man. Paul couldn’t seem to move.

Joker turned as the other two men came at him. One of them, a skinny bald man with buggy eyes, grabbed up the fallen man’s blade, with a yell he came at Joker.

Joker twisted and brought his right arm up, dropping the knife into his left hand in a smooth movement, his right arm blocked the bald man’s swing while with his left hand Joker drove his knife into the man’s thigh.

Dirk let out a startled yelp of pain. He pulled away just as Joker yanked his blade out, turning around to face the pale man, but Joker simply batted his hand out of the way, switched his blade to his right hand again, and stabbed Dirk in the stomach with three quick jabs. Dirk dropped to the ground before his friend Alan had even moved.

Alan only had a pair of old brass knuckles that he usually wore like a ring. Paul had never see the dope head do anything except smoke weed and bang Carla, so he was surprised to see Alan take a swing at the pale man.

Alan was a chubby man, but he could move surprisingly fast. He took a swing at Joker, but the pale man smiled and leaned out of the way, letting Alan’s swing carry him past the pale man’s shoulder. Joker spun around, keeping his movements tight and easy, his jacket flaring out when he brought his feet together and spun to avoid the ham-sized fist of the man wearing brass knuckles. The way the ghost moved reminded Paul of an old Fred Astaire movie he had watched while high. The pale man moved like a dancer, his movements too quick for the human eye, though Paul thought he could see them, that time slowed down for him when he was high allowing him to see the world move differently. He watched in morbid fascination, time slowing to a crawl as Alan turned around, but the pale man was ready for him and threw his knife. The blade hit Alan in the eye, burying itself to the hilt.

Alan dropped backwards and to Paul’s drug-addled mind, when Alan’s body hit the asphalt, all of Gotham shook.

Paul watched as the pale man walked over and yanked the knife out of Alan’s eye. He turned turned to face Paul, the knife gleaming in the streetlight while blood dripped in large, thick drops that hit the ground with splashes that smacked too loud in Paul’s ears.

The pale man smile, his lips ruby red. “Now--give me the purse.”

Paul threw the purse at the ghost. “Take it and go away!!” Paul screamed, but the pale man’s sinister smile spread a little farther. It looked to Paul as if his face was going to split in two.

“I’m sorry, but that just isn’t good enough.” Joker chuckled. “You need to pay for what you did to Harley, for hurting her the way you did...and I’m going to make sure you pay dearly.”

Paul backed away, blubbering with incoherent sounds as the pale man advanced on him. “No, no...please!! Please no!!”

Joker smiled, the light reflecting on his teeth. “Oh, it’s much, much too late for please.”

Screams could be heard coming from the alley, blood curdling screams, but this was Gotham, so no one stopped to see if anyone needed help.

*

Harleen woke to the sound of sobbing.

She frowned in confusion, sitting up and rubbing her eyes; they felt grainy and scratchy. At first she thought the sounds were part of a dream, but as she came more awake, the pain in her face and other minor injuries made themselves known, confirming to her that she was indeed awake. After a few more seconds, Harleen realized the sobbing was mixed with hisses and loudly muttered words, the sound coming from Jack’s room.

The last thing she remembered was leaning against Jack, his arms around her and feeling warm, happy, and sleepy. She smiled at the remembrance. She must have fallen asleep and Jack had carried her to bed. That was so sweet of him. She smiled, a warm blush spreading over her cheeks at the same time her heart twisted with emotion. No one had even taken care of her before, but between Jack, Mrs. Geller, and even Joanie, Harleen felt like she might just belong here with them. She wanted desperately to belong and she knew that her feelings for Jack were quickly rushing toward something deeper than friendship.

Harleen didn’t hesitate any longer. She hurried out of her bed, wrapping the blanket around her shoulders when she realized how cold the air had become in her room. She opened her door and nearly tripped. Her purse was sitting on the floor in front of her room with a note on top. Harleen picked it up slowly, a smile spreading across her face. She knew exactly how it must of gotten here--Jack. She slowly unfolded the note to see Jack’s elegant script.

“I got your purse back. Sorry, but the money was gone so I replaced it. Love, Jack.”

Harleen teared up again.

She checked inside noting that her wallet now had more money in it than before, but her brush and lipstick were missing. She smiled, setting the purse back inside her apartment with the note resting on top of it before she hurried out into the hall and over to Jack’s door.

She could hear him on the other side, gasping, crying, speaking in disconnected sentences.

She knocked, leaning her ear close to the door. “Jack?”

He didn’t answer, though he continued to sob, a heart wrenching sound that hurt Harleen to hear. She frowned, then reached for the door knob. She turned the knob slowly and eased the door open, peeking her head inside. The room was dark, but she could smell cigarette smoke and that something else that made her think of Jack, a scent that made her hot and bothered, her body reacting despite her worry.

Harleen slipped into the room and closed the door. She could hear Jack tossing and turning, muttering and crying. She followed the sounds of Jack’s distress to his bed where she lightly touched the bed. “Jack, Jack it’s me, Harleen...I mean...Harley…”

He didn’t respond, but she felt his leg thrash followed by another heart wrenching sob that broke her heart. Harleen wasn’t sure what to do for a few moments before she finally crawled onto the bed, using her hand to trace up his leg at the same time whispering. “Jack, it’s Harley…”

Jack muttered, shifting his position. “Harley...my Harley…”

She smiled when he said her name. She stroked his leg, which quieted him, the movements of his leg easing into small jerks. “Yes, it’s me, Harley.”

Jack didn’t wake, but the sound of her voice eased into the dark images of his dreams and soothed him, bringing light to the darkness that engulfed him in his sleep.

Jack lay on his side with his back to her. With painstaking care, she eased herself onto the bed, pulled the blankets up, and snuggled into Jack’s bed. He has started to cry again, but the sound was softer, muffled. She realized his face must be pressed into his pillow. Harleen laid down and wrapped her arm around his waist, her hand coming up under his arm until she had a good grip. She pulled him back against her, pressing her chest against his back, realizing that he wasn’t wearing a shirt. She rested her forehead against the back of his head, drawing her legs up behind his legs, her pelvis fitting against his rear. His hair was soft against her forehead, his skin warm. She smiled in the embrace. Jack smelled so good. She kissed the warm skin of his back and whispered.

“It’s okay Jack, I’m here.”

Jack jerked, fought her a little, though his movements were not violent. She hoped her voice was helping to sooth him and kept talking.

“Don’t cry Jack. I’m here. I’ll protect you.” Harleen kissed him softly, brushing her lips against his shoulder; her lips caressed the warm softness of his skin as she whispered. “I have you. I’ll never let you go.”

Jack settled, his frantic movements faded and his sobbing and muttering settled until, after a few long seconds, his breathing became steady. Harleen felt him settle more deeply into sleep, sinking into the bed, into her arms.

She closed her eyes and held him tightly. “I’ll always be here for you Jack.”

*

Joker woke sometime during the early hours of the morning, his eyes flying open in surprise. He could tell he had slept longer than he usually did, two hours to four hours was usually the most he slept when he did sleep. Every night, he was plagued by nightmares that always woke him at some point, whether he slept at night or during the day. The next thing that came to him was that there was someone here, a body pressed against his, an arm around his waist.

Joker started to reach for the gun he kept under his pillow, but stopped, frowning in confusion when he smelled the scent of warm vanilla mixed with a flowery shampoo that he had smelled in Harley’s hair late last night. He turned his head to the side, his eyes widening when he saw Harley in his bed, peacefully asleep. Her eyes were closed, her blonde hair curled around her cheeks and over her eyes. Her delicate mouth was partly open, she breathed steadily, and her arm lay around his waist. Joker could feel the warmth of her breath against his bare skin.

He frowned for a moment, wondering why she was here, but then decided not to question it. Instead he reached over for the clock on his bedside table. He fumbled with it for a moment trying to remember how to set the alarm (since he had never done it before), but he quickly figured it out and set the alarm for her, remembering the time that Mrs. Geller had told him she had left yesterday morning. He set it for an hour and a half before that to give Harley time to dress, then he set the clock back on the table.

Joker smiled, reaching for her arm, which he gently tugged around him, holding her hand between his. He brought her fingers up to his lips and kissed the tips of her fingers. He held her slack hand as if it were a precious artifact, closing his eyes while holding her hand at his lips. He relaxed instantly, the steady sound of her breathing lulled him back to sleep, the smile still on his face.

*

When the alarm sounded Harleen squealed and sat up, momentarily confused. She wasn't in her room! Then the memories of last night came flooding back to her; the mugging, Jack, dinner, coming to his room. She was alone and looked around at Jack’s room. It was a strange place with the dark purple walls and old fashioned looking circus posters. The drawings of smiling faces of bats was rather odd, making Harleen think of a twisted funhouse or haunted house ride at a carnival. She reached over and shut off the alarm with a smile, snuggling into the pillow for just a moment while her heart made little flutters of happiness.

Jack hadn’t been angry she was in his bed; in fact he had set an alarm for her! She giggled pressing her nose against the pillow and inhaling his fragrance. She closed her eyes, wishing she could steal the pillow case and take it with her to work so she could smell him all day…

Harleen sighed and got up, wondering where Jack might be, but she needed to get to work.

*

Harleen rushed down the stairs with a frown. She was running a little later than she wanted, but she had been doing her best to conceal the bruising on her face with makeup. It hadn’t worked, however. She looked hideous.

She had thrown on some plaid green and blue slacks, a green sweater (it wasn’t until she needed to leave that she realized the green sweater made her bruises look worse), and tennis shoes since she would be changing at work. She had tried to style her hair to hide the bruising too, again with little luck. She also had to dig around to find her spare glasses, old large framed black glasses that made her feel ugly, but it was all she had--the others were beyond repair.

As Harleen rushed down the stairs, she stumbled in surprise to see Mrs. Geller waiting for her, coffee in a travel mug along with another egg sandwich like yesterday, and a bag lunch.

Harleen frowned, a little teary eyed. “Are you going to do this every morning, Mrs. Geller?”

The older woman smiled. “Of course, my dear. You are part of the family and our Jack is smitten with you, so…”

Harleen blushed while taking the offered food. “He is?”

Mrs. Geller nodded, but the look in her eyes told Harleen not to be silly. “Yes, he is. Oh, before I forget, Joanie is cooking tonight, something she learned in her home economics class and she would like you and Jack to join us for dinner.”

Harleen smiled. “I would love to, but she knows I get home late right?”

Mrs. Geller nodded. “Yes, she does. She wants to wait for you.”

Harleen smiled. “I’ll be here.”

Mrs. Geller frowned slightly, reaching out to touch Harleen’s chin, lifting her face slightly so her blonde hair fell away to reveal the bruising on her face.

Mrs. Geller examined her face. “Oh, my poor dear. I have some techniques though that will help hide that. I’ll show you tonight. Oh and Jack told me that he will be at the bus stop waiting for you when you get home.”

Harleen teared up a little in relief. She had been so focused on getting ready for work that she hadn’t let herself think about walking home tonight, alone. But now, knowing Jack was going to be there waiting for her, she felt overcome with gratitude.

She whispered. “Thank you.”

Mrs. Geller smiled in a way that Harleen had never seen her mother smile, not once in her life. It was a motherly smile, a smile that told you that you were loved and would be taken care of.

“Now, you better get going dear--don’t want to miss your bus.” Mrs. Geller stepped aside.

Harley smiled. “Thank you for everything.”

Mrs. Geller laughed and waved a hand at her in dismissal. “Go on now--see you tonight dear.”

Harleen nodded and waved. “See you tonight.”

*

When Francis got onto the bus that morning, she went to sit with Harleen. She gasped loud enough to draw everyone’s attention. Harleen had been more than aware of the looks she was getting--the bruising was noticeable despite her attempts to hide it.

Francis frowned. “Honey, what happened?”

Ed, the janitor, had gotten on at the same spot as Francis and he came over too, frowning at the sight of Harleen.

Harleen blushed. She didn’t know why she felt heat rise in her cheeks, why she was embarrassed, but she murmured. “I was mugged on the way home last night.”

Francis cursed. “Fuck.”

Ed shook his head. “That’s Gotham for you. Everyone has been mugged at least once.”

Francis frowned and reached out to gently touch Harleen’s cheek. “Nothing’s broken?”

Harleen shook her head. “No, just…” She tried not to tear up, but she couldn’t help it. “It was awful.”

Ed frowned, rubbing a hand along his jaw. “You know, I could ride the bus with you to your stop, walk you home…”

Harleen smiled, wiping her tears. “Thank you, Ed, but my...ah...a friend is going to meet me at my stop.”

Francis smiled. “Boyfriend?”

Harleen blushed. “Not...I..don’t know yet, but, he owns the hotel were my room is…”

Francis’s brow furrowed. “He ain’t taking advantage of you is he?”

Harleen smiled. Francis had been around and she knew that sort of smile, the kind on the faces of those young and in love. “Oh no, Jack isn’t like that at all.”

“Jack, nice name. Well good, if he ever can’t walk you though, you let me know.” Ed pointed a finger at her. “A pretty young lady like yourself needs an escort at night.”

Harleen smiled. She had never been so well taken care of or cared for by so many people, people who didn’t really know her...it brought the cold uncaring nature of her parents more vividly to light, what she had missed…

“Thank you, thank you both,” Harleen said quietly, but with sincerity.

*

Joss and the other nurses all fussed over Harleen when they saw her. After Harleen changed into her uniform, Joss took the time to apply some makeup to help hide the bruising.

After Joss was done she smiled. “Well, it’s not perfect, but you look a little less horrific now than when you came in.”

Harleen laughed, saying with a little sarcasm. “Oh well thanks Joss, now I just look awful instead of horrific.”

Joss laughed. “You know what I mean. Okay. Well, today you are on your own, though don’t be afraid to ask questions or to send for me. I have…” She pulled out a folded piece of paper. “These are you assignments. Now after today you’ll be up on the board…” she pointed in the general direction of the assignment board that hung in the locker room, a chalk board where the assignments for floors, doctors, or other assignments for each nurse were written. She handed Harleen the folded paper.

Harleen unfolded it and looked at the written assignments, saw her morning tasks would be mostly dealing with giving patients their medicine, which seemed fairly easy. One of the names of the patients popped out to her, a man named Killer Croc, which required her to stay and make sure the pills were taken (not unusual), but there was a note about making sure she had at least one guard with her when she did so. Harleen saw that she was going to be assisting a Dr. Henry Cavendish in the afternoon with patient treatments, though the rest of the list were routine assignments.

Harleen looked up from the paper. “Who is this Killer Croc?”

Joss made a face. “Sorry about that, but it's sort of a tradition when Croc is in Arkham that all new nurses have to go down there.”

“Down there?” Harleen asked with a lifted brow.

Joss nodded. “Yeah, they keep him in the basement of one of the older buildings.” She pointed at Harleen’s paper where the words, ‘Stagg building’ were written.

“They keep Croc is a basement cell alone, usually chained to the floor too.” Joss said. “The man’s a monster, a cannibal..”

Harleen looked up at Joss with wide eyes. “Do I have to do this?”

Joss smiled. “It’s sort of a hazing thing, every new nurse has to handle Croc at least once. I won’t lie--he’s killed a few nurses and guards over the years, but if you don't stare, you should be fine.”

“Stare?” Harleen’s heart sped up and Joss smiled. “You just have to see--just without staring. Now, I gotta get going. Good luck, Harleen.” Joss gave her shoulder pat as she stood up and left

Harleen sitting in the locker room looking scared.

Harleen swallowed, folded the paper, and slid it into the pocket of her uniform. She told herself that today couldn’t possibly be as bad as yesterday.

*

Harleen had just gotten off the elevator, heading toward the pharmacy when the first event of her day began. She hadn’t even gotten fully down the hall, heading to pick up patient medications when she heard shouting followed by a high pitched scream.

“THE RUSSIANS!! THEY’RE COMING!! THEY’RE WORKING WITH THE ALIENS!! I HAVE A BUG UP MY ASS!! THEY PUT A BUG UP MY ASS!!!”

Harleen spun around, her eyes going wide when she saw a balding man that Harleen thought oddly looked like one of her professors from college, naked, running down the hall, his junk flopping back and forth like a grotesque pendulum. That split second of shock was enough for the man--who was sprinting with at least three orderlies, and Daniel, the male nurse she had met yesterday, all in pursuit--to run straight into her.

Harleen screamed as the man slammed into her, knocking her down. She hit the floor with a loud thunk, seeing stars for a moment only to have the naked man straddle her and start to yell.

“IT’S IN MY ASS!! GET IT OUT!!” He turned around to present his ass to Harleen. She screamed again bringing her arms up to block whatever was going to happen, but the orderlies grabbed the man just in time, hauling him off of her. The naked man struggled, his bare feet slipping and sliding along the floor as the two men dragged him back the way he had come. One of the orderlies, a large black man with a nice smile, put his hand down. “Here, let me help you up. You okay?”

Harleen got to her feet. “I can’t unsee that.”

The man laughed. “Welcome to Arkham,” he said before he walked away following the still screaming naked man struggling between the orderlies.

*

Harleen delivered her medications to her assigned patients without incident, which actually shocked her after the naked man who started her day. She saved the man labeled Killer Croc for last. She had to make her way outside and walk a good ten minutes until she found the Stagg building. Once she arrived, she found that the building had guards posted at each door. When she stopped at the main entrance, one of the guards, a man with a nose that had been broken multiple times, narrowed his eyes and chuckled. “Fresh fish I see. Let me see your ID.”

Harleen held out her ID card. The guard looked it over, then looked at her. “Harleen Quinzel, funny name.”

Harleen frowned and shrugged. “I guess.”

The guard looked her up and down in a way that made Harleen’s skin crawl. “You Jewish?”

“Yes,” Harleen said softly, but the guard didn’t say anything else. Instead he pointed at the door. “Go in and make a right. There’s a guard station, ask for Carl, he’ll take you down to Croc.”

“Thank you,” Harleen muttered.

The man leered at her. “No problem honey.”

Harleen kept her expression neutral as she walked up the steps to the main door, but she could almost feel the man’s eyes on her back.

*

The inside of the building was dark and the walls were painted grey, but rust colored water ran down the walls, leaving ugly streaks. Harleen looked up and could see some of the ceiling tiles were stained a dark brown and she was certain she smelled mold in the air. She saw the guard station, an open room that might once have been an office. There were five guards loitering around the desk, smoking and talking, but all of them stopped when they saw Harleen. She felt exposed as all five men gave her blatant up and down looks.

Harleen stopped several steps away from the guards. “I was told to ask for Carl. I’m here to give Killer Croc his meds.”

The men all laughed with one of them pointing at her. “You must be the new girl we all heard about. Nathan said you were hot, he wasn’t kidding. Get rid of the glasses and you’re a real looker.”

Harleen felt her face and neck flush. She hated being stared at and she didn’t know what to say except to try to ignore them.

One of the guards, a young man around Harleen’s age, with short cropped military style brown hair, with the chiseled features of a male model stood up. “I’m Carl. Come on--I’ll take you down there.”

He moved away from the other men and headed down the hall to the right without stopping to see if Harleen was following. She hurried past the guards, but the one that had told her she would be good looking without the glasses grabbed her ass as she rushed by. She squealed in surprise, turning to glare at him, but the guards were all laughing, making kissing faces at her and a few other rude gestures.

Harleen swallowed and tried to ignore them all as she rushed to catch up with Carl.

“I’ll give you the key to that monster’s cage, but I ain’t going in with you,” Carl warned her when Harleen caught up with him.

“What? But I thought…” Harleen protested, but Carl cut her off. “Look lady, I ain’t stupid and unless you wanna give me a blow job or something to encourage me to help you, I ain’t going near that freak’s cage.”

Harleen gave him an appalled look and Carl laughed. “Just what I thought.”

They made their way down two sets of stairs into a dark hallway with only a few weak, watery lights to provide any illumination. The walls and floor were all rough cement and Harleen saw several iron doors with only small barred windows to provide a view into the cells. The smell of old water, urine, and mildew was strong down here along with a deep bone chill in the air that made Harleen cough. Anyone kept down here was sure to come down with pneumonia.

“We don’t keep many patients down here, only the ones too unnatural to keep with the others. Besides, every time Croc gets out, he eats a few.” Carl laughed at the horrified expression on Harleen’s face before he continued. “We keep that freak in his own special cell here at the back.”

They had walked for a minute or two until Carl stopped and pointed. “Croc’s in there.”

Harleen could see a large metal door with a slide window in the middle. Carl made Harleen squeak when he grabbed her hand and dropped his keys in it. “There ya go. I’ll wait right here. I got another set. You start screaming, I’ll just lock the door.”

Harleen blinked. “What?”

“You ain't worth me risking my neck unless…” He waggled his eyebrows and thrust his hip at her.

Harleen snarled. “You’re disgusting.”

Carl grinned at her. “Whatever princess.”

Harleen took a deep breath and walked over to the door. She swallowed and knocked. “Ah, Mr. Croc...My name is nurse Quinzel, Harleen Quinzel. I’m here with your medication.”

She heard no answer, no sound of movement. Harleen’s heart beat so fast and loud in her ears she would be surprised if Carl didn’t hear. She looked back at Carl who made a rude gesture with his tongue at her.

Harleen narrowed her eyes and slipped the key into the lock, opening the door. She took a deep breath and stepped into the darkened room.

The room was dark even with the overhead light, which was weak. The room smelled strongly of reptile and there were puddles of water on the floor (at least she hoped it was water.)

“Hello?” Harleen asked softly.

“You must be the new fish. They like to send the new ones down here. Like me to scare them, or hurt them.” The voice had a thick accent, Cajun maybe, Harleen couldn’t be sure.

“I was told that,” Harleen said softly, trying to see where the man was, her heart beating hard. “My name is Harleen. I’m guessing Killer Croc isn’t your real name.”

There was silence for a few beats before the man answered. “Waylon.”

“Waylon, that’s a nice name. Are you from Lousiana? I’m not really good at placing accents,” Harleen responded, her eyes adjusting to the gloom of the room. She sensed movement and looked to a corner where a large shadow loomed, a darkness within the dark.

“Yeah, I’m from Louisiana originally, came to Gotham with the circus, then bad shit happened. Been in and out of here for the last few years,” Waylon said softly.

Harleen took a step closer. “Is it true that you’re a cannibal?”

Waylon laughed, the sound almost sounded like a growl. “Nah, though I don’t have an issue with biting off limbs and heads.”

Croc stepped closer coming into the light and Harleen hissed in surprise, taking a step back. The man looked like a human crocodile with green and brown scales all over his body, yellow reptilian eyes, an short snout and rows of sharp teeth. He was only wearing a pair of ripped up asylum uniform pants. She saw that his fingers and toes ended in long, wicked looking thick claws.

Croc snarled at her showing off his rows of yellowed teeth. “You scared?”

Harleen took an unsteady breath, but she said softly. “No, but I can see why they call you Killer Croc.”

He laughed. “Yeah, I’ve looked like this since I was a kid. It’s why I joined the circus, ran away from my aunt. Mom died giving birth to me, Daddy took off at the sight of me, so my aunt beat the shit out of me along with everyone else. So I ran away, joined the circus as one of the freaks.”

Harleen smiled. “I sorta of ran away from home too. Except I joined the asylum staff.”

Waylon laughed. “I think the circus was better.”

“You’re probably right.” Harleen smiled and Croc came closer.

He tilted his head at her, a frown on his reptilian features. “You ain’t scared are you?”

“Maybe a little, but I’m more scared of Carl out there than of you.” She gave him a sweet smile. “I don’t think you want to hurt people, just people are cruel to you, treat you like an animal. When someone treats you badly for long enough, anyone would start to react badly in return.”

Croc came closer still and sat down. “You ain’t like the other nurses...you ain’t like anyone else on staff here.”

Harleen moved nearer to him, and saw that he also had a small, but thick tail.

She smiled again and put her hand out to him. “Hi, I’m Harleen.”

Croc looked at her hand with amusement, but then took it, wrapping his large scaly clawed hand gently around hers. “I’m Waylon.”

“Nice to meet you Waylon. I brought your medication with me…” She pulled out the pills she had been carrying in her pocket. She frowned at them, then looked up at Waylon. “What do you take meds for exactly?”

Croc shrugged. “Some are supposed to help with my skin condition, but I think that’s shit. The others just make me sleepy. I don’t mind. Rather sleep, nothing for me to do in here.”

Harleen frowned looking around. There was no TV, no music, no books, not even a bed.

“Maybe I could bring you some books?” Harleen asked.

Croc smiled which was a frightening sight, but now that she realized he wasn’t that scary she could see the smile for what it was. A simple, sweet smile.

“You would do that for me?” Waylon asked.

Harleen nodded. “Of course. My job as a nurse is to also make sure you are comfortable. I’ll get you some blankets and a pillow too, maybe a new pair of pants. I wish I could get you a bed down here…” She looked around, then up at the ceiling. “And a better light bulb.”

Waylon smiled. “Thank you Harleen. You’re the first person even talked to me like I was a person. I--I appreciate that.”

Harleen smiled. “I know what it's like not to be treated as a person.”

Waylon smiled again and put his hand out for his meds.

Harleen frowned handing them to him. “I’ll be back later all right?”

Waylon nodded moving back into the darkness, but she heard him said softly. “Thanks Harleen.”

“You’re welcome Waylon.” Harleen smiled and left with plans to make Waylon more comfortable.

*

The last part of Harleen’s day ended up being the worse; even worse than yesterday.

Dr. Henry Cavendish was an older man, old enough to be Harleen’s grandfather. He was tall, almost as tall as Jack, rail thin, mostly bald with a long hooked nose, and a white goatee. He didn’t talk to her except to bark orders or insult her, talking down to her as if she were simple.

Harleen ended up being forced to help him with the treatments, being the one to strap the patients down, applying the gel to the patient's temples, inserting the rubber mouthpieces so that they wouldn’t bite off their own tongues or crack their teeth. She had to hold the patients’ chins closed on the mouth guard, holding the pronged device to their heads, then holding their heads down and their jaws shut after Dr. Cavendish turned on the machine. Harleen felt as if she were participating in a crime, but the doctor was making sure her hands were dirty, not his, so that she would be the one blamed for the patients’ pain, the one condemned for the torture, the pain, the convulsions, the loss of who the people were. Participating in the electroshock therapy was the single worst experience in Harleen’s life.

Harleen struggled not to cry, watching these poor people in pain, being tortured by a doctor who clearly enjoyed inflicted the pain as part of their so-called therapy.

*

By the time she was on the bus on her way home that night, Harleen was curled in on herself, tears slowly running down her cheeks, wondering if being a nurse at Arkham had been the best decision.

But she closed her eyes and thought about Jack. She thought about holding him, the feel of his body against hers, the press of his lips on her forehead...

*

While Harleen was still asleep that morning, Joker had slipped out, reluctantly leaving to meet with Eddie and Sal to work on last minute details of the job. He would have rather stayed in bed with Harleen, would rather have actually kissed her. He smiled wondering how her lips would feel against his, the taste of her tongue in his mouth.

He sighed, taking a hard, deep drag on his cigarette feeling the burn in his lungs. It was evening now, still a few hours before Harleen would arrive home from work. Joker hoped to have this done and be at the bus stop waiting for her before she arrived. Maybe he would have time to stop somewhere and grab her some flowers again.

Joker sat in a car that was idling in an alley waiting. He blew out a line of smoke from where he sat in the passenger seat of the car that Sal had provided for the hit and run. It wasn’t a flashy car, just a basic black sedan that wouldn’t stand out. Joker glanced out the front windshield through his aviator glasses with purple lenses, casting everything in a soft shade of plum mixed with the dim streetlight. He watched the few people walking by, the occasional car zooming past too fast to be actually going the speed limit, as he flicked ashes out through the small crack in the window. This time of the night, the docks were mostly deserted. They were sitting in an alley between two old buildings close to the docks. Overhead was the bridge leading across the water out of Gotham and toward Sommerset. The smell of fish was heavy here, mixed with all the usual scents of Gotham. All the dock areas were pretty much the same--dark, dirty, and smelled of fish.

Joker wore grey slacks with a dark blue shirt and jacket, no vest this time, but the tie he chose was blue and gold. He had a dark grey fedora on over his green hair, his guns in his under arm holsters, and his knife at his belt. He licked his red painted lips, glancing at his friend. Eddie sat beside him at the steering wheel dressed in dark green slacks and a black turtleneck, tapping his fingers nervously against the steering wheel while singing under his breath.

“near a tree by a river

there's a hole in the ground

where an old man of aran

goes around and around

and his mind is a beacon

in the veil of the night

for a strange kind of fashion

there's a wrong and a right

but he'll never, never fight over you…”

*

Sal muttered from the back seat where he kept fiddling with his gun. In the weak light from a streetlight at the corner of the alley, Sal looked shiny--greasy Joker thought, like an oiled pig. He smirked at his thought while taking another drag off his cigarette.

“Can’t you sing something else Ed? I hate that song.” Sal muttered sharing a glance with Nicolo who smirked.

Eddie looked in the rearview at Sal. “I happen to like that song, and it keeps me calm.”

Joker smiled, glancing sideways at Eddie. “Want a cigarette?”

Eddie shook his head. “Nah, but thanks.”

Sal looked at his watch. “Okay, it should be going by any minute now…”

Joker flicked his lipstick stained cigarette out the window, pulling one gun from his holster, flicked the safety off, and rolled down his window the rest of the way.

That was when the car, an olive green Chevy Caprice zipped by the alley. It wasn’t speeding, just going the speed limit, which to Joker’s amusement, thought made it stand out more than if the driver had been speeding.

Sal smacked the back of Joker’s seat. “There!! There it is!!”

Eddie sped out of the alley, twisting onto the road. He hit the gas, the sedan leaping to respond as they rushed after the Caprice.

Sal yelled. “Get along side it!”

Joker glanced at Eddie. “You get close enough I can shoot out one or two of the tires.”

Eddie nodded, his focus on the road and the car.

*

There were four men in the Caprice, Aldo, the driver, with Gerome, Maso, and Urso, Sal’s cousin all riding along as guards with the money they were transporting from the game in a large suitcase at Urso’s feet.

Urso was excited because this was his friend's job for his uncle Luigi, a chance to prove himself not just to his uncle, but to his family in general. Urso had been a fuck up most of his life, and this was his chance to change all that.

Aldo frowned, looking in the rearview. He saw a black sedan coming up quickly behind them. “Hey, I think someone’s following us.”

Urso and Maso turned around to look. Urso frowned. “I don’t see anything.”

Maso frowned with narrowed his eyes, but he couldn't see inside the car; it was too dark. “Maybe you should try to lose them. I mean, it probably isn't anything to worry about, but…”

The sedan sped up, coming up along the side, but still hanging back. That was when Maso saw a figure lean out followed by the flash and retort of a gunshot.

“FUCK!! They’re firing at us!” Maso ducked, grabbed Urso by his shirt, and yanked the younger man down.

Aldo cursed while Gerome rolled his window down and leaned out, trying to find a shot.

*

Joker didn’t move back. He saw the man leaning out, but he would have to fire over the roof of the car to hit him. He focused his attention on the rear tire. This time when he fired, he hit the left rear tire.

Joker grinned, sliding back inside. “Get me to the front,” he told Eddie.

“Man I don’t know,” Eddie muttered.

Sal snarled. “Just do it!”

Eddie hit the gas and the car leapt forward.

*

Aldo cursed as the vehicle lurched to the side when the tire blew out. He pulled on the steering wheel to keep the car straight, hoping Gerome would be able to take out their attackers’ driver. The four door Caprice wasn’t designed to race. Never in the entire time that Maroni had been running the illegal gambling had any of the cash cars that transported Luigi’s winnings ever been attacked. One, they were always careful, and two, no one was stupid enough to go against Luigi Maroni, so Aldo wasn’t prepared for a car chase.

*

Eddie pulled up as close as he could to the front of the car. “That close enough?”

They could all see the men inside the other car staring at them in shock. Sal cursed when he saw the men inside. It was clear that Maso recognized him.

“Fuck,” Sal muttered. “We’re gonna have to kill them all.”

The man in the passenger seat was leaning dangerously out of the car, firing over the roof at them, his shots going wild as Aldo struggled to keep the Caprice under control.

Joker laughed while he aimed at the front tire. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw one of the men in the back seat of the other car trying to roll his window down to fire back. “You’re just now figuring this out Sal? How did you think this was gonna go down?” Joker fired, his bullet taking out the tire, which caused the Caprice to veer wildly again.

*

Aldo yelled. “FUCK!!”

He struggled to keep the car under control, but then he spun too far to the right and clipped a parked Pontiac Fiero. The Caprice’s right front wheel hit the Fiero, mashing the smaller vehicle’s rear, and forced the Caprice to vault up and over to slam down on its side and skid another couple of car lengths.

*

Sal was yelling, almost shrieking. “PULL OVER PULL OVER!!”

Eddie yelled back. “Fuck!! I am I am!!”

Eddie yanked the car to the right and stopped just a few inches from the wrecked car. Everyone got out, weapons ready.

It was clear the driver was dead. One of the men, the passenger in the front, staggered out from around the front of the car. Joker didn’t think; he simply brought his gun up and shot the man twice in the chest.

Sal ran over, dropping to his hands and knees to lean into the back of the car. He pulled Maso out of the way. The man was covered in blood and mumbling incoherently. Joker walked closer and before either man could utter a word of protest, Joker shot Maso in the forehead. Sal blinked in shock, blood spattered across his face. “Wha…”

Joker smiled. “You said he saw you right?”

Sal nodded. “Yeah…”

Sal, with Nicolo’s help, pulled out his cousin Urso, who was also alive, but covered in blood.

Joker took aim, but Sal held up his hands. “No, he’s my cousin. I’m sure he didn't see me.”

Joker narrowed his eyes, but lowered his gun.

Eddie stepped closer and shook his head when he stopped to stand beside Joker. “Man, this was fucking messy.”

Joker shrugged. “Things like this usually are, especially when you think they are going to be simple. It’s why you should never steal from family,” he said softly only for Eddie’s ears.

Eddie nodded as the two of them watched Sal look for the money.

Sal poked his head out of the car. “I can’t reach it. Looks like it's pinned on the other side.”

Joker holstered his gun, glancing down at Sal’s cousin as he walked around to the other side of the wrecked car. He dropped to a crouch by the shattered back seat window. “I see it.”

He reached in and with several tugs, pulled the case of money out. It had a splash of blood on it, but it was intact. He came back around with it and saw Nicolo had Sal’s cousin on his feet.

Joker frowned, but walked over to Sal. “This it?”

Sal nodded, taking the case. He opened it up with a grin, and showed Joker. “Just like I said…”

Urso yanked himself away from Nicolo. “NO!!! This was my chance!!”

Joker saw the knife a split second before the man slammed into him, burying the knife to the hilt in Joker’s gut.

Joker blinked in surprise. He didn’t really feel any pain exactly, but he felt the knife like a twist in his gut, like a pressure that shouldn’t be there. The first thought that crossed Joker’s mind was that Harleen would be upset. He thought of her crying and that hurt him more than the pain that was slowly starting to spread out from his abdomen.

Joker’s mismatched blue eyes flared with rage. Urso looked into Joker’s eyes, his hand still on the hilt of the knife, but he could see what was going to happen, that he had made a mistake, another stupid mistake was all Urso had time to think before Joker pulled his gun out and shot the man in the face.

Sal screamed. “NO!”