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The final kiss of a lover's fist

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It's a strange place to meet – as strange as any, really, given the circumstance. Black and white alternate on a floor so clean-swept it mirrors the round lamps suspended overhead. A sign in front of the two rows of booths that fill the generous space between the windows and the counter bids her to seat herself. A quick scan of the mostly empty diner tells her where.

Apart from the initial surprise – and, yes, suspicion – she'd felt at receiving the distress call, Kate still wonders why they couldn't have rendezvoused in a more private location, like a rooftop or an abandoned warehouse somewhere, far out of earshot from nosy neighbors. It would have been quieter there, without Frank Sinatra crooning from the speakers.

On her way to the corner booth, she takes stock of all the reflective surfaces in her line of sight, acutely aware she'd be sitting with her back to the entrance. She greets the figure sitting opposite her, wondering if she's recognizable enough in her short wig and ill-fitting clothes. Not her preferred wardrobe, but the disguise is for both their sakes. As Kane heiress, she draws unwanted attention like honey draws ants, and the tabloids like to blow her late-night escapades out of proportion. Kate is tired of it.

Apart from the initial greeting, silence stretches long and thin between them. Kate may be patient, yet she still appreciates the waitress who comes to the rescue.

"Can I get you anything?" The girl smiles, a bit too cheerily for this late hour perhaps, and casts nervous glances at Kate's silent partner. Trying to hide her unease. And well she might. Anyone wearing a trenchcoat indoors and concealing their face beneath a wide-brimmed hat is going to look suspicious.

"Just coffee, please."

Once the waitress has scurried away again, Harley speaks. "Thanks for coming." Her voice is tired, her shoulders slumped.

About three months ago, Harley had abandoned their insurgence for good and vanished without a trace. Around the same time, news about Joker sightings had cropped up all over Gotham. Which should have been impossible, the man was dead, but Kate soon found out he was a visitor from another Earth, and not the only one.

"Mind telling me what this is about?" she asks, although she can guess.

She's been taking stock: the deep shadows around Harley's eyes that are in fact bruises, the swelling of her cheek, her right arm that's been sitting motionless on the table like a heavy bit of machinery, not part of her at all. It's hard to tell in the diner's dim light and with Harley's fingerless gloves but her hand might be discolored and swollen, too.

More worrying than any of the physical signs, however, is the fact that her food has hardly been touched. She's been pushing the soggy fries around the drooping burger on her plate with a lone fry that's become more prop than food item by now. Even her milkshake only sports the faintest rim of red from her lipstick on the straw. Harley doesn't waste food like that.

Finally, she lets out a breath. "Heck if I know. I just... needed to get away, be with someone. Someone I can talk to. I can't trust myself to be alone right now."

"Is that why you chose this location?"

Harley nods, slowly, as if afraid any sudden movements would upset something inside of her. "The waitresses are always so nice. It's their job, I know, but I prefer fake friendliness over sincere burning hatred at the moment. I've had enough of that in my life."

The waitress arrives with Kate's coffee and looks unsure whether to clear Harley's plate. Kare sends her away with a thanks.

"I mean," Harley resumes, an aimless babbling that must have been weighing her down before, "I'm not a poster child for rage control, I know that, but what Superman did? It still makes me so angry I can hardly contain myself. Well, you know what I'm talking about."

Kate does; she chokes on the old familiar pain gripping her chest. Helena. Renee. They've lost so much.

"My puddin'," Harley grimaces around the word. "Ollie and Dinah... they'd helped me over my grief before Supes killed them too. They helped me find back to myself. And I thought I had done it, I thought I was finally free of his shadow. I was doing so well, I believed it myself. And then he came back, just like that, and what do I do? I fall in love again. So stupid. I thought, surely it's going to be different now, because I've changed, and he's from a different Earth. We can make this work."

Harley is gritting her teeth, clenching her fist, doing her best she can not to explode. Kate surprises herself by placing her hand on top of Harley's. "You don't have to tell me any of that."

Harley looks up at her, surprised, and Kate thinks she's blinking tears away. "It's... actually cathartic to do so. As was beating him up when he laid a hand on me that last time, but." Harley grabbed Kate's hand and squeezed it, as if hanging on for dear life. "I just... I was so angry, but in the end, I still couldn't kill him. I couldn't finish it, couldn't free myself of him. And now there's no Superman anymore to do it for me."

Kate wonders why Harley didn't call Batman instead of her. He would have been better suited for helping her through this particular moral dilemma. Then again, he's Batman. You have better luck conversing with a stone. After a long, deliberate inhale, Kate says, "Much as I hate to say it, but you did the right thing."

"But did I?" Harley peers down onto her plate again, as if the random array of fries held the answer.

Kate has all manner of acidic comments burning on her tongue, but instead of spewing any of them, she is silent for a while. "You know, back when you first joined us, I didn't want to trust you at all. I doubt you can blame me given your background and what happened in Metropolis." Harley's mouth twists. "But Batman was ready to take you in, to give you another chance at redeeming yourself. Sure it was a rocky ride, but you proved to us all that you could do it. Don't throw your hard-won humanity away because of him. Revenge didn't help Superman, and it won't help you either."

Harley let out a long breath that turned into a weak laugh at the end. "Thanks for the motivational speech, B."

She unhands Kate who flexes her mangled fingers to work circulation back into them.

"Actually, there is something you can do for me." Harley produces a pen from somewhere inside her coat, picks one of the napkins, and starts doodling on it. Once done, she slides it over to Kate. "I left him at the freightyard. Or, what's left of him anyway."

Kate glances at the napkin. Harley had drawn a map onto it. "What do you want me to do with him?"

Harley shrugs. "Send his sorry ass back to where it belongs, take him out with the trash, I don't care. Just make sure I don't ever have to see his pasty mug ever again."

Stuffing the map into her pocket, Kate answers Harley's sour expression with a grim smile of her own. "You can count on it. He won't bother you again."