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stained for the rest of your life

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For the past ten minutes, Harley's been lying on the round kitchen table Mr. J uses as strategic planning center. He'd be livid if he could see her – head dangling off the side, pigtails extending like devil's horns, occupying the space on top of his maps and plans and notes that are as detailed as they are cryptic. But he doesn't see her, nor has he noticed anything else since dropping off.

Some smart cookie once said that if you're stuck, change your perspective. Harley would've taken on this position without anyone's dubious comment, twisting her bubblegum-cute hair around her finger and contemplating her puddin's half-naked slumbering form, but some guys prefer to know the reasons behind her actions and this one's as good as any. (You're welcome.)

The thing is, Harley's bored.

Helplessly, hopelessly, hilariously bored.

She's done everything that would be fun enough doing alone – robbing the corner store for a few cans of soda and some sweets (twice!), dipping her hair in baby smurf blue and cotton candy pink (which makes her hungry), masturbating in the shower (yeah okay, that one would have been more fun with her puddin' but she ain't complainin'... yet). She's lugged him to the mattress in the corner, taken out the trash (some hipster wannabe vigilantes who followed her after the second heist and who don't know the first thing about knocking), beat up Mr. J's useless goons out back (who let those guys pass), and intercepted a delivery of guns to add to her collection.

The latter turned out to be tattoo guns and ink, but Harley's creative, she can make use of a lotta things. And so she did. The saran wrap around her thighs crinkles every time she moves. It was a simple extension of scribbling childish love confessions on her notepads. Now everyone could see whom she belonged to even without her jacket. Win-win.

Yet despite all her time-consuming solo-adventures, her puddin's still sleeping sweetly as if rehearsing for the role of Snow White – or was it Cinderella? Either way, she'd like to kiss him awake like his own Prince Charming, but her previous attempts proved fruitless. (Not even his anatomy reacted to her teasing!) His hundred-year slumber's not over yet.

You see, he's been working tirelessly, drumming up supporters and planning his next big coup, until fatigue finally shut down his body after several days without a wink of sleep. Harley understands. She does, and yet she knows her puddin' would have had some inspired ideas on how to spice up her life again. Caffeine is a poor substitute for adrenaline.

What's a girl to do? You can only paint your face and nails for so long. Once the color dries, you have to clobber new people, blow up new stuff. Harley's ready for that.

She flicks her puddin's forehead as she snuggles up to him and the cling film squeaks in a way he would've made fun of any other time. The lack of reaction now frustrates her. Until a new idea pops into her head. If he won't wake up by conventional means – and well he shouldn't, for he needs his sleep – Harley can finally do all the things he never let's her do while he's awake. Her puddin's always so active, unable to sit still for two minutes. It's endearing (at times), but often he's so occupied with his villainous schemes he forgets to take care of himself. Even the easy things like eating or showering.

You would think he'd have fun soiling the bathroom she takes so much care to scrub, but instead he uses the dingy old thing that's barely big enough to house a shower cubicle, as if they had to have different bathrooms to be considered a married couple. Or did they use different beds? (They do that too if only because they sleep at different times, Harley curling up in the master bedroom while her puddin' hunches over his table, not letting anything so mundane as weariness get in the way of his vision.)

Anyway, she's glad he leaves "her" bathroom alone. It's the cleanest room in the house, so clean in fact it'd make the same squeaky sound as her saran wrap if it could. Harley takes great pride in it, because she hasn't destroyed it yet. She still has romantic notions of spending some time in the tub, together with her puddin', surrounded by a sea of candles and a scattering of rose petals.

Those notions will have to wait, although she does fill the tub with water. No candles or rose petals, however. Not when her puddin' can't enjoy them and she doesn't have any. One thing after the other.

She carries him into the bathroom, drops him into the tub, and washes his hair (nearly drowning him), then cuts the split ends and cleans his grille (this time without drowning him). Taking care of him gives her a rush and she can't help smiling all the while, every now and again following the urge to decorate his now clean skin with lipstick prints. He's pale enough to be disintegrating into the white background.

As she kneels beside him on the gray-brown rug, white shirt soaked and nail polish chipping from handling too much water, she thinks that without his makeup and the fading color in his hair (should try Directions next) he looks less like Marilyn Manson and more like Tim Skold. The Scandinavian complexion suits him well enough, but it's lacking contrast. Harley has an inkling on how to provide that: she would simply immortalize some love notes on him, too!

Grinning with glee, she drapes the toilet seat with towels to shield him against the cold, heaves him onto it, and pulls up her chair. From the teak cabinet in the corner, she takes a pair of gloves she snaps on, stored there with gauze and needles and thread for medical emergencies. (Her puddin's none too gentle with his thugs, treats them like she did her barbie dolls and toy cars. Always on collision course.)

She starts on his neck and trails down his chest to his stomach. When the hairs on his arm are in the way, she shaves them off with a clean razor before drawing a huge smile on his forearm. The lineart, aynway. She has to learn how to do shading with this thing.

She tinkers for a while. The artificial light robs her of any sense of time and the only thing attesting to the hours that fly by is the growing ache in her back and shoulders. And the growing pile of tissues she uses to wipe down the areas she's working on.

When she's got session one down, they both look a sight, she like a real artist with her gloves and forearms blotted, he like roadkill. The thought amuses her. After scrubbing them both down, she applies ointments to the tats and wraps him up like she did herself earlier. It's a miracle he hasn't said anything yet – his normal reaction would be to scream her name – so he's either still conked out or really good at suppressing his reactions. Blowing a horn and pinching his nose does little to return him to the living.

Nothing to it but to drag him back to the mattress, groaning under the weight of her own fatigue, where she sinks into his arms for her own round of well-earned, blissful sleep. Already she's looking forward to taking care of his tattoos in the coming weeks. (She's never gonna turn down an excuse to touch him, wink wink.) He's certain to appreciate her demonstration of love. Now even the last idiot could see she and Mr. J belonged together and that they were serious about it. She nods off, sighing happily.

Her blissful sleep, however, wouldn't last long.

"HARLEEEY!" it's so rudely interrupted.

Ah, same old, same old.

"Yes, Mr. J?" she drawls and rubs her eyes.

"Harley, darling," he croons, looming over her, "why do I look like a space burrito?"

"A space burrito, Mr. J? But I didn't add any tinfoil."

"That's beside the point, pumpkin pie. The point is you wrapped me up like a mummy in the first place!" Clamoring, he tugs at the cling film, trying to tear it off.

"Here, let me..." she offers to help, but he slaps her away.

"I think you've done enough."

"Don't you like it?" she asks as he runs his fingers over the gleaming new body art and grimaces in disgust.

"Like it? Hah! You crazy little minx. It's brilliant! No one will ever take me seriously again."

"That's good, right? You don't like serious."

"I was being sarcastic!"

"But, puddin'. Think about it. If your enemies don't take you seriously, they'll underestimate you and you'll be sure to trump them!"

"Harley, Harley," he shakes his head. "I don't want them to underestimate me, I want to see the brilliance in my plans, and to try and foil them. I need challenges, not cheap thrills."

"You can have both?"

"I'm going to take a shower," he sneers, "clean off this slime."

"Don'tcha worry, Mr. J. I'll take care of everything."

"That's what I feared."

Harley jumps up and follows him. He'll need someone to scrub his back. He's being a mean old coot right now, but she knows he'll come around eventually and thank her for it. Change is hard on some people. Although she didn't think her puddin' would be one of 'em.

In any case, she's proud of her labor of love. And if he continues to belittle it, why, she'll be the one laughing once the itch sets in.