Mourning In The Morning
[[QUICK PRE-FICTION NOTES & WARNINGS:
ATTENTION: LOCATIONS AND PERSONS © DC/WARNER.BIOHAZARD: KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN.TV-14: VSLDCAUTION: MAY CONTAIN F/.
Welcome to my Batman-universe masterwork. Or, well, I tend to think of each fiction I write as a masterwork. That's not saying it's the greatest thing since buttered toast - only that it's one of the best things I'VE ever done, which is saying very little. As with 84 per cent of my work (NOT an accurate cross-section), it is in first-person perspective. Though I successfully shyed away from it with my Sabrina opus, Larkie-pie here features the infamous POV-SWITCHING, which is a catchy term for "I couldn't decide who ought to narrate the whole story, so I compromised." Unlike my X-Men:Evolution fic, however, in this one I've limited it to the two characters. I've tried to use a system of wider dividers to notate when the P.O.V. switches between BG and HQ... hopefully you'll pick it up fairly easily. If not... I apologise?
And that's enough from my yap. Sally forth into fields of barley!]]
There wasn't much else to do. In a shocked stupor, I stared at the scrap of cloth between my gloved fingers, almost uncomprehending. My teeth were still rattling with the screams careening between the concrete and rebar I was clinging to. I tried to convince myself it was the steady sting of raindrops causing my eyes to squeeze shut as it all sunk in... but the real reason was reason enough.
Harley Quinn was gone.
It seemed incongruent that I'd be on the verge of tears over a lunatic like Harley: a lunatic that now knew I was really just Barbara Gordon under the mask and cape, and could expose me whenever she pleased; a lunatic that had nearly removed me from existence more times than I cared to count. Damn her and her cheaply-made costume! But her eyes... those scared blue eyes peering out from under that floppy black-and-red cowl, down into the abyss, around, up at her would-be saviour, imploring me to hold back the Reaper by pulling her to safety. Eyes stretched wide in consternation and the onset of anguish that locked with my own for an eternal moment, both of us understanding what was coming next. The girl had almost a nanosecond to mourn her own death before...
As I pulled myself onto the ledge, I couldn't help thinking it was my fault. So what if Harley had leveled a bazooka at me seconds before we'd fallen into the pit? So what if my fist had connected with the demented queen of the jesters' face dozens of times before that? Regardless of sanity or moral fibre, a human being had just met her doom several decades ahead of schedule... because I couldn't stop it. That I hadn't actually heard the impact was one of the few comforting details.
I sullenly moved up onto the next ledge, and the next, mulling the details over in my mind. There had to have been some way to save her - if only I'd seen it! One hand on the ledge, the other grasping Harley's frilly wrist-cuff... I tried to pull Harley's hand to the same ledge, but the cuff tore, and...
Sheer determination was all that kept my mind from going past that dark point again. Okay, so what about a Bat-Rope? Was there even time to launch one? Probably not; even if I'd thought of it instantly, I'd still have to retrieve it from my utility belt, aim, and fire. Diving after her and firing two in either direction would most likely have resulted in both of us going splat - a puddle of multicoloured goo with a pair of useless ropes attached. And could I have actually caught her with my legs while struggling with the ropes?
"Legs..." As the tedious climb was over and I was standing weakly on the main floor of the old, abandoned Arkham Asylum building, the futile answer dawned on me; instead of trying to get Harley directly to safety, I should've offered the support of my own damn legs. They were solid enough for Harley to hang onto, to give both of us a moment to regroup before trying to achieve the ledge, right?
But it didn't matter. She was dead now. No other words could come, so I repeated myself over and over as my boot soles slogged through collecting pools of rainwater, like a needle trying to escape the deep, disfiguring gash ruining an otherwise steady groove on vinyl.
"Damn me... damn, damn, damn..."
. . ᴥ . .
The maniacal laughter that reached my ears as I neared the doors marked "Operating Theatre" was so strained, so forced... it had to be Tim. The Joker's laugh was more sinister and less false because he honestly enjoyed his misdeeds, but his "influence" on Tim had taken its toll; the poor kid now looked and acted more like a miniature, mentally-challenged version of Joker than the Robin I knew.
As I burst into the room, I wasn't sure of what my eyes were seeing. The Joker was slumped face-down on the floor, a crimson puddle forming underneath him. Bruce's lip was bleeding and he was on his knees, looking like an empty husk of the crimefighter he normally was as he struggled to rise. And off to one side stood what was left of Tim, holding a smoking gun and sounding to me like he'd been tickled for two hours too long.
I turned out to be right; seconds after my entrance, the gun fell from his limp hands and he sunk to the floor, the laughter beginning to sound more like sobs. Quick as I could, I ran over to my young partner, kneeled next to him, huddled his pale form for a moment and wiped away his tears.
"It's okay, Tim... it's okay."
But no, it wasn't. Somehow, even as Batman moved toward us and I whispered that everything would be all right now, I knew it was an empty promise.
. . . . . . . . . . . . ۞ . . . . . . . . . . . .
My pinky hurts.
It was the first thought that stood up and said "Hello" when my mind regained consciousness. Except it wasn't just my pinky - ribs, back, face, tailbone, skull, knees... all of it hurt, and bad. If I had any energy, I'd have started screaming in agony... but just trying to force air to vibrate vocal cords was painful. Maybe after I regained some energy, I'd call for help.
'At least I know I'm not dead,' I thought bleakly. 'But I think I'd rather be.'
How awful! How terrible! Me and my Puddin' were on the cusp of my lifelong dream; we were going to be a family! That cruel bastard Batman and his little sister - or little mistress? - were ruining everything. Why couldn't they just realise that there was no more Tim Drake... that there was only J.J.? If I survived, I only hoped they hadn't foiled our plans once again.
Slowly, the last few moments of consciousness returned. The bazooka misfiring, the ground crumbling, the fall...
'Wait a minute...'
Batgirl - Commissioner Gordon's kid, as I now knew - tried to help, grabbed my hand. We'd both gone down, fallen a ways... Babs caught a lip of concrete, tried to lift me up... but my beautiful cuff couldn't take the strain of my weight (not that I'm fat or anything!). Then...
Agonisingly, I reached up toward the crown of my head and found only damp hair... which I hoped was only water. On the way down, my cowl must've caught on some rebar or something, ripped it clean off. It had been a painfully sudden stop, but that momentary delay in my descent was probably all that saved my life.
...well, and Batgirl.
. . . . . . . . . . . . ۞ . . . . . . . . . . . .
"Rest in peace."
I could tell he didn't mean it. He wanted to say, "Burn in Hell for all eternity, you sadistic bastard," but he couldn't bring himself to. The man was dead, and there was no point in ranting about his past deeds, now; Bruce accepted that. That's just how he is. Still, neither of us felt a great deal of remorse - The Joker's death was meted out by his own handiwork. Oddly fitting.
As we left the mound of earth shielding the madman's corpse from the world and made to exit the basement, Robin looked up. The wild, demented look in his eyes was still there, and he was still trying his best not to grin like a rabid dog, but something caught his attention.
"What is it, Tim?" Batman asked quietly - I noticed he was already calling him "Tim" instead of "Robin"; he'd already made up his mind. The poor child started laughing quietly, unable to keep from doing it for too long, as he pointed down a hallway. When I listened hard, I heard it, too.
"Someone's down here," I whispered.
"Yes," Batman said after a moment. "There it is. But who on Earth would be lurking around this shambles...?"
"They're in trouble," I said as I started down the hallway.
"Wait," he said, placing a hand on my arm.
"It's okay, I got it." I nodded toward Tim. "Stay with him. I'll be right back." He hesitated for a moment, then sighed, placing a hand on the boy's now-emerald-green hair.
. . . . . . . . . . . . ۞ . . . . . . . . . . . .
The pain worsened with every passing second, and I began to lose feeling in my legs; it was probably a good thing. I took in another breath to call out, but it hurt so badly that I coughed instead, which hurt even more. Was there even anybody out there? Nobody but Puddin' and Team Bat could hear me, that was for sure. At that point, I didn't much care who got the message.
When you're immobilised amongst the rubble of a condemned building, your mind starts to wander. The longer I lie there, bleeding into the water, the more the inevitable conclusion to all this closed in on my mind.
I was going to die. Sooner or later, my internal injuries and blood loss would catch up to me, and I would kick the bucket, shuffle loose the mortal coil forever and join the circus in the sky. Could this really be the end? Stranded in the basement of an abandoned asylum, dying alone with only a third of my life under my belt? That's kind of... lame. Talk about anticlimactic.
The world would keep going without me, duh, but what would Mr J do without me? Would he find a replacement for his Harley, or become the one-man big top he'd always been before I careened into his life? Somehow, the latter seemed more likely - he didn't need me, not really. He was plenty enough villain all on his own.
And then there was Batgirl. That dear, sweet thing had almost bought the farm trying to save me - moments after I tried to blow her away! Why did she do it? As much as I'd always seen her as Batman's right-hand pest, I was forced to admit that there might be more to her than a blinding sense of justice.
Her eyes... I was scared witless at the idea of falling into a bottomless pit like that, and the entire situation faded into a single thought: "Please don't drop me." And there, in her eyes, I saw it; she didn't want to. Maybe she just didn't want the blood on her conscience, or maybe she wanted to leave me for the boys in blue to cart off, like any decent superheroine, but either way... she actually gave a rat's ass if one of her sworn enemies became a greasy splotch.
As my head swam again, dipping back into the water, a weird little notion came to me that I wasn't sure I liked. If she hadn't slowed my freefall down a smidge, I would probably be dead already instead of bleeding to death slowly. No matter how many lethal pies-in-the-face and whoopee cushions that came her way courtesy of yours truly, Batgirl still did her best to save my sorry keister.
'Oy... I think I owe somebody...'
. . . . . . . . . . . . ۞ . . . . . . . . . . . .
Following the sound seemed to get harder as I got closer; the voice was fading, growing weaker... or more hopeless. I fought back the impulse to call out; my solo training and Bruce's additional tutelage had ingrained in me that this was one of the most obvious ploys to lure one's enemies into a trap, so I had to be careful. Finally, the voice - female, I realised - gave a sudden moan, leading me to a door with a steel beam in front of it. I strained at it for a while, but it seemed to like its position. Sure, I had the moves, but sheer muscle mass was needed.
"Batman," I whispered into my radio.
"There's a girder blocking my way... I can't budge it. Help me out?"
"On my way."
A few minutes later, we had it on the floor, and the moan was instantly louder, starting to sound like words. As I opened the door, I heard a "Who... who's there?"
My eyes met rubble sticking out of the water; there was a huge gaping hole in the ceiling and the floors above, and rain was starting to flood the partly-demolished room. After staring around in confusion for a moment, a patch of yellow among the muddy brown water caught my eye, and I rushed toward it.
The hair, perhaps shoulder-length, was wet and limp, mostly in the water. In fact, most of her was in the water; without a body shape, I could only guess she was between twenty and thirty. It also didn't help that the woman had a black eye, a bloody lip and a small cut on her cheek, which had already started to coagulate. Upon closer inspection, I noticed patches of red in her blonde hair. She was a mess.
"Oh, God..." I knelt next to her and elevated her head gently. "Are you okay, Miss?"
As her eyes fluttered open, she mumbled, "'Course not, ya crazy... do I look okay?"
Then her eyes focused on my face, and she smiled weakly. "Hey there, Babs. Miss me?"
"H-Harley?!" That hit my brain like a ton of bricks... and, inexplicably, I felt my heart leap. "I- I can't believe it! You're alive! Oh, thank God!!"
"Sorry," I whispered, releasing my deathgrip on her shoulders and letting her settle against the underwater debris again. "Guess you feel as bad as you look."
Her grin was so fragile-looking, but genuine. "Yeah, I'm pretty banged up... but I'm still tickin', thanks to you!"
"You saved my life," she said, uttering words more sober than I'd ever heard from her mouth. "I... I was tryin' to kill you, and y-you saved my life."
"No, I didn't... I let you down." I turned away slightly. "I didn't think fast enough to stop you from falling to your would-be death. You must've saved yourself somehow."
When I looked back, her eyes were still boring into me, shining with gratitude. "Okay, so my hoodie caught on something up there, but if you hadn't grabbed me... I'd have been fallin' too fast for it to matter. Face it; I owe you one, kiddo."
Before I could reply, I noticed two figures standing to the side. Bruce's face was his usual mask of indecipherable stone, and Tim's fake smile was frowning as much as it could.
"Oh, the other Winged Crusaders." Harley moved her head slightly to get a better look at them, and she noticed Tim's slight scowl. "He doesn't look too happy."
No shit, I seriously thought for a moment that Batman would haul off and kick her in the nose, but he restrained himself. Tim just laughed. Ice flooded through my veins as her role in the boy's current state of derangement came back to me.
"Will he ever be normal again?" I asked her, an edge in my voice.
"He looks fine to me."
This time, I grabbed her by the collar. "Answer me, Harley!"
"Okay, okay!" she blubbered, eyes squeezing shut against the searing pain that was no doubt biting through her from my sudden action. "I... I'm sorry, Babs, I didn't mean anything by it..."
"Stop calling me 'Babs'!"
"I'm sorry!" I couldn't believe it - tears were streaming down her cheeks. At the time, I convinced myself it was rainwater, but that was for my own peace of mind; obviously she was distraught by my behaviour, and she felt like she couldn't stop messing up. "Really, I am, I didn't want Puddin' to do it! I... I didn't want it like this! All that 'steal little Timmy and turn him into our son' mishagosh was Mister J's idea, I... I only wanted a couple kids, a real family, I swear! I'm sorry, Bab- Batgirl."
God knows why, but I believed her; maybe Harley would kidnap a kid to keep for her very own, but she didn't have nearly the criminal genius to rearrange their mind like that. "Can we turn him back or not?"
"I... I dunno," she whimpered. "I know where the serum is, and I'll get it for you, but... but the shocks and the mindgames and stuff... that's not such an easy fix, y'know?"
"Where is the antitoxin?" Bruce's level voice broke in.
"There isn't any. Who needs it?" When he only glared in response, she cringed. "But the toxin... it's upstairs, in the kitchen. Behind the mayonnaise." Suddenly she convulsed, coughing and clinging to my arms. When the fit subsided, she went on. "I'll help you cook up a cure. I'm not as dumb as I look, y'know."
"That won't be necessary." Those words were meant to make it clear that he didn't trust her near his laboratory, but she didn't seem to pick up on that.
"But I have to! It's the only thing I can do to make it right, it-" She shuddered violently, then fell back, clutching her sides and moaning. "Oh God, I'm gonna die... I- I'm really gonna die..."
"We need to get her to Gotham General," I said. "Broken ribs, some kind of head wound... probably a lot of organ damage... maybe a concussion."
"Fine," he replied gruffly. "I'll retrieve the serum. You take Tim and... THAT to the Batmobile." Then he fired a Batrope through the makeshift skylights and was pulled out of view.
"I deserved that," Harley whispered.
"Brucey doesn't even think of me as a person," she went on. "Guess I ain't."
That wasn't fair, but a quick glance at Tim kept me from arguing the point. "Can you stand?"
"What, are you cracked?" She glanced up at me, then frowned meekly. "Sorry... didn't mean to snap. No, walking's a bad idea. Really, I think I'd fall apart if I tried."
"Here," I said resignedly, slipping my arms under her body; sure enough, I could feel her bones shifting unnaturally as I carried her toward the door, and my stomach lurched. One of her legs looked more like a Krazy Straw than a limb. I guess Harley caught the horrified look on my face, as she smiled through the pain.
"Don't worry about me."
"Who's worried?" I replied indignantly.
"You are," she whispered, slipping an arm around my neck to steady herself. "Can't help it, 'cause you're one of the good guys. I know, I'm barely better off than a fly on the other side of a meat grinder, but I'll be okay. Besides, who cares if one more crook in Gotham City kicks the bucket?"
Maybe if I hadn't been so pissed off I would've tried to convince her otherwise, but at the moment I just wanted to get her out of my sight and help the young man following us. As I reached the stairs, her head lowered to my shoulder; it was oddly comforting and disquieting at the same time.
"I was serious."
"When I said I owe you one." I could feel her lungs expanding with the extra volume of a deep sigh. "I swear, I'll help you guys bring Timmy back, no matter what it takes."
"Thanks, but no thanks."
"You forget," she said wickedly. "I know where you hang your cowl. I can drop by and offer advice any old time."
"Not from New Arkham, you can't."
Her head shot up in alarm. "No... c'mon, please, don't throw me in the funhouse, not again!"
"It's the law. You're a nutcase, and that's where nutcases go. And if you weren't, you'd be headed for the state pen."
She bit her lip for a moment, then lowered her head again. "Yeah... I guess you're right. I've done the crime, and now I have to do-"
"What is it with you villains and clichéd phrases?"
The expression changed into a smile. "What, and you guys don't say stuff like 'The jig is up, Penguin' every friggin' time?"
"Point taken." I tried as hard as I could not to smile back, but she made it impossible. "You know, Harley, if you weren't a twisted psychopath that just ruined Robin's life, I might like you."
She blinked. "What? Really?"
"Don't take it to heart," I said smugly. "I don't like you."
"Batgirl..." She looked hard at me. Inner conflict was probably an understatement for what was going on behind her clear, blue irises. "I have a lotta junk to answer for... all those attempted murders, blowin' up stuff, the thing with Robin... it's not gonna do much good to keep apologising, but it's all I got. I'm lousy with sorry."
"Yeah, I know, I know."
When the quietly-giggling Tim was buckled in the backseat, I eased her next to him and strapped her in, trying to ignore the sickening squish and her moans of pure agony. As an afterthought, I took out the black first-aid kit, bandaged her head wound and a gash on her arm, and gave her a mild painkiller and a canteen to wash it down.
"Why are you going to all this trouble?" she asked meekly while I was still tending the wounds. "Why waste all that gauze on some evil tramp?"
"What else am I supposed to do?"
"Leave me here to rot," she said after swallowing the pills, clutching the canteen. "I wouldn't blame you one bit."
"Can't have you wandering free," I replied as I leapt into the passenger seat. "You'll just start wreaking terror - maybe team up with Poison Ivy again."
"Oh no, I won't," she said earnestly. "Especially not with that chlorophyllous cuntrag." She hesitated, as if she wasn't sure she could believe her own words, then took a steadying breath. "If I survive, if I ever get back on the streets, I swear I'll go straight. No more of this lunatic rampage business for Harley Quinn, no sir!"
"I'm not a 'sir'," I mumbled before grabbing the Batmobile's CB mic. "Bat One?"
"You find it?"
"Affirmative... right where she said it was. Is she with you?"
"Hey, Bats," Harley piped up weakly. "Nice set o' wheels you got here. How many miles to the gallon?"
"I don't suppose The Joker kept the formula for this anywhere nearby?"
"Uh-huh. There's a safe behind that painting of the Mona Jester; you're lookin' for a manila folder. Uh... just ignore all the golden joy buzzers and 'Crocheting Monthly' magazines."
"Right. Bat Two, you go ahead and take our... guest to Gotham General. Make sure they keep her under close observation. I'll catch up with you and Tim in the Batcave."
"Got it." As I stashed the mic and moved into the driver's seat, I called over my shoulder, "'Crocheting Monthly'?"
"I was gonna be a mommy, wasn't I?" she said with a bitter laugh. "Guess I can throw those out."
"You were really set on that, weren't you?"
"It's all I ever wanted - a hubby, rugrats, white pickety fence... maybe a nosy next-door neighbour to gossip with. Too bad the daddy had to be a supervillain; always the unconventional way with them, ain't it?" She paused to cough into her fist, staring out the window as I started the car and guided it away from the crumbling building. "Mister J's not gonna be happy when he finds out Junior's back at Wayne Manor... but I guess it wasn't meant to be."
Shit. Suddenly, I had to break the news to her. How do you tell an unstable schizoid something like this? Maybe I should wait for Bruce to-
"Whassamatter, Red? Bat got yer tongue?"
"Harley... I'm sorry."
"You're... sorry?" I could almost feel her lean forward suddenly, then wince and sit back again. "Wh- what are you sorry about?"
"The Joker... Jack..." In the rearview cameras' displays, I could see her look up at me in dismay at the use of his given name - she already knew what I was going to say, but was still hoping against hope that it would be something different. "He commanded Tim to... to shoot Bruce with that 'BANG!' flag gun of his. But Tim fought against his- his programming, or hypnosis or whatever, and... turned the gun at the last second."
I heard the canteen hitting the floor, spilling water all over her and Tim's feet. "Oh no... no, no, NO!"
"The flag went straight through his heart... he didn't have a prayer."
"Puddin'..." Her lip was quivering, and something between a sob and a chuckle floated out. "Well... at least he went out with... with a..."
She broke down before she could even deliver that one last punchline in his memory. Villain or no, it's only right to give someone time to grieve, so I drove on in silence for several long minutes, her crying mixing with Tim's quiet laughter. The more I watched her bawl, the more I felt like joining in, so I eventually switched off the screens, but it didn't help; the sound of her cries was heart-wrenching with or without the visuals.
. . ᴥ . .
"Okay," I said softly when Gotham General came into view. "This is your stop."
"Barbara... please, just kill me."
"I don't wanna live," she sniffled. "The love of my life is shishkabob. There's n-nothin' left for me in this world besides a cell in Arkham and a few leftover acid-squirting flowers. Just... just finish me off. Shouldn't take much, I look like a wad of used chewing gum."
I parked across the street from the hospital, whirling in my seat to look directly at her. "Don't you even THINK that! You were just saying how badly you wanted to turn your life around, and I don't think ending it's what you meant!"
"Poo on what I said!"
"Come on, Harley... you're not completely worthless. Weren't you a psychiatrist once?"
"Oh, yeah," she sobbed, rolling her bleary eyes. "Even if I do get outta Arkham sometime this century, what do I put in the Yellow Pages? 'Harleen Quinzel, The Psycho Psychiatrist: Watch Out, Her Couch Might Eat You'? I can pretty much kiss that career goodbye."
"You'll figure it out," I soothed. I couldn't believe I was doing this for HER, but there's really no worse way to go than suicide, is there? "You could go back to school, learn a new trade. Maybe something to pay restitution for the trouble you've caused the people of Gotham."
"Hah! Like welding or baggin' groceries will make up for all that," she sniffled. "Next you're gonna say I oughtta-"
I waited a few seconds, but all she did was stare hard at me - like she was really seeing me for the first time, and was awestruck. "You oughtta...?"
"N-nah, it's stupid." She glanced at Tim, then looked up at me shyly through her curtain of now-ratty blood-stained hair. "You'll just say I'm a bimbo and that I could never hack it."
Still squirming, she finally went on. "Maybe... maybe while Robin there's laid up... I could stand in for 'im?"
I blinked. "You were right. You're a bimbo and you could never hack it."
"Don't be mean," she said, pouting. "I'm serious... how else can I really pay my debt to society but join the side of righteousness? It'll help more than watchin' mold grow on bars."
"Supervillains don't become crimefighters at the drop of a cowl," I informed her sternly. "And I don't think Bruce'll just welcome you into the fold because you feel bad about past sins - he's already foaming at the mouth because you know too much!"
"I told you it was stupid," she mumbled, biting her lip for a moment (which only made it bleed more). "But a girl can dream, can't she?"
I heaved a frustrated sigh, as well. "Either way, while Tim's getting better, you have to get better, too. Let's go."
"Okay..." She looked up at me sadly as she unbuckled her belt, tears still running down her cheeks. "You'll ring me if you need any help with the antidote, right?"
"Oh, sure." Catching the sarcasm in my voice, I coughed. "Really."
"And... and could you at least mention the Robin thing to the boss?"
"Please... I got nothin' else. I never thought my whole mixed-up, crazy life would fall apart in one night."
Yeah, I know I said it just to make her feel better... though I don't know why I felt so obligated to. "Fine. But don't be surprised if he shreds your résumé without so much as a glance."
She smiled a little, then turned to Tim. "If- if you can hear me in there, kid... I'm awful sorry about all this. You can hate me, I don't blame you, but... well, I'm sorry."
He giggled, but nodded; Harley burst into tears. She berated herself and bemoaned her lost love quietly as I carried her across the street and toward the Emergency Room doors, then apologised for everything again when I left her on the stretcher outside. It was all I could do not to give that poor battered freak the same hug and sentiment I gave Tim earlier, but she was still an instrument of evil. With a quick look back at the EMTs swarming around her, I washed my hands of the matter.
Yeah. Sure I did.
[[MORE NOTES: Right then, so THIS one. It took yours truly the better part of THREE YEARS to get this yarn spun - due, by and large, to the utter exploditude of my computer. That was a devastating event on SO many levels... but I am quite secure in the knowledge that you don't care, either because it's never happened to you, or it has and is old hat, or both (what?!). There were also my having something close to a life and my other fics to distract me. Luckily, it took nothing more than watching Batman Beyond: Return Of The Joker again for the first time since 2005 to reignite the passion, and after recovering the most recent surviving version from an old email attachment, I spent many hours at work (when I was supposed to be, you know, working) completing it. Anyway, at least it's done, and now you have it, and yes. Huzzahs are in order.
On that... if you hadn't picked up on it immediately, this DOES pick up exactly where the flashback in BB:ROTJ leaves off. That five- to ten-second scene of Barbara trying to save Harley was enough to inspire a novella. My muse is a snarky little beast.
Continuity-wise... I took my cues mostly from The Animated Series, though I mixed in a smidgen from the comics for flavour. I also used nutmeg. Liberally.
I've reasoned that this should be rated "T" for a reason, and I see no reason to give further reasons than that they exist. That may perhaps be the most inscrutable sentence I have ever written. Anyway, know that there shall be some language, sexual situations, and a little violence (not that much, actually), but none of it any worse than I've seen in a PG-13 film. Also, the drinking. Also, drugs, though not what you would call "controlled substance abuse". Also, at some point, a pretty dress is ruined. If you disagree and think this deserves a higher rating, please tell me as much; I'll be more than happy to nudge it up.
And by the way, we are NOT done. NO. There are over a dozen chappies left, all as long as this one (but I'll not provide the exact number, just so it's still an ambiguous surprise when you find yourself at the plot climax/end of the story - unless, of course, you're finding this after it's been completed, and in that case you'll know going in and find this paragraph pointless and laughable).
Reviews are appreciated. See you in Session 2!]]