They say you don't realize what you have until it's gone, but what if it's not gone? What if it's not yours? What if it's wrong?
Something about the thought of having the Joker transferred has left me completely drained. I don't want him to leave Arkham, but I can't figure out why anymore. It's as though I've somehow gotten... attached to him. The idea is ridiculous, I know, but I can’t stand the thought of them taking him away and I'm not so sure that my complete rejection of the thought is from a professional psychiatric standpoint anymore.
He makes valid points about the world, points that none of the other doctors can see. He isn't crazy, he just sees things differently. The way he sees things is clear and spot on. He had shown me the world and all of the people in it and it is nothing like the quiet, boring world I've been living in.
The Joker had shown me how a psychiatrist would see me. She thought that I needed help, she thought that my choices were wrong. He had ripped my mask off in front of society and they had rejected me for something they hadn't even the slightest idea about. The more I thought about it, the more intrigued I became with everything he had said. It clicked, all of it, but why am I the only person who can see that?
My newfound perspective on the Joker's views scares me, but in a good unknown kind of way. It's as though I've stepped out of my world and into his. I've been doing so for a while now, but tonight I can finally see. I can finally see that his world is the real one and it is far from pretty beneath the surface. I can finally see what it is that he's been trying to show me all along. All it took was the possibility of losing him to Jeremiah Arkham's vengeful whims.
His mind is beautiful, the way he thinks is beautiful, and the thought of actually admitting that continues to keep me up and restless. At some point, I drift off to sleep, only to wake up sweating because of gunshots and clowns. Once I realize that it was just dream, I glance at the clock, a new desire burning within me. 3:01 am, it's still early enough for the office to be empty.
I have to see him.
It's irrational and it's risky, but I have to. I can't sit here all night tossing and turning over my thoughts, not again. I need to see him, I want to. I need to let him know that I understand, that I can see now what he has been trying to show me all along. I have this spontaneous, irrational feeling that it will somehow fix everything, that seeing him and talking to him will somehow clear my thoughts. It won't of course, but the feeling is pleasant and unfamiliar all the same.
Through these thoughts of grandeur and the desire to talk, I haven't completely lost all of my wits. I know, although I don't think he will by this point, that he could kill me at any given moment. He could snap my neck in his own cell and it would be no one's fault but my own. They wouldn't even find my body until morning roll call. Despite the odds weighing against me, I have a feeling that if the Joker was going to kill me then he would've done it already.
A thought trickles into my mind distractingly so. Does this mean that I like him? I want to see him, talk to him, and I can't stop thinking about him. Did I... do I have a crush on the Joker?
No, no, of course not, I quickly brush off. I just like talking to him, that's all. He makes sense to me and is starting to make more sense than anyone else around here. That doesn't mean I like him, it just means that I like his mind. I don't have a crush, just the urge to delve deeper into that wonderful mind of his. Right?
I get dressed quickly, putting on slacks and a red sweater. I run a brush through my hair, not bothering to tie it up, and pin my Arkham ID to my shirt. I grab my keys, briefly determining if I have enough time to get there, talk to him, and get out. The traffic would be pretty light right now, I could make it to Arkham in probably only twenty minutes. That leaves me plenty of time to talk to him, or at least I hope it does.
I get in my car, faintly cursing myself for not bringing a jacket, and begin the drive to the asylum. The only thing I have to worry about now is the security cameras and the guards. I am authorized to access the fifth floor holding cells, but I doubt that Dr. Arkham would be pleased to hear that I took a trip down to my ex patient's cell at three in the morning. That might not look so good.
I could pay the guard who's monitoring the security cameras to turn the fifth floor camera off for a little while, but I don't have enough cash on me and I doubt that I can threaten and intimidate my way through the guards either. I could always break into the control room and manually shut off the cameras, knocking out a guard in the process.
I laugh at the thought, trying to imagine myself stealthily breaking into the control room. That job is a much better fit for Selina than it is for me.
I pull into the Arkham parking lot and take the long walk up to the front of the building without a plan. The end results of my potential choices revolve around either getting in trouble with Dr. Arkham, bribing people, or hurting people, none of which I'm comfortable with. So, I settle on just going with whatever happens. It's not like Dr. Arkham can take me off of the Joker's case anyway. Besides, the Joker seems to get pretty far without a plan, maybe I'll have the same luck.
I enter the asylum and head straight over towards the elevator, half expecting Dr. Arkham or one of the other psychiatrists to come around the corner and demand to know what I'm doing. Thankfully that doesn't happen and I make my way up to the fifth floor accusation free. I enter the fifth floor hallway and stop in front of the night guard watching the Cell Block C door. "Good morning," I greet pleasantly. The guard glances at his watch, then looks back at me with narrowed eyes.
"It's a little late for patient therapy, don't you think?" he questions, crossing his arms. There's a loud thud on the other side of the door, then several muffled noises.
"What was that?" I demand, nodding towards the sound on the other side of the door. The guard sighs and gives me a passive look.
"It's exercise hour," he replies simply. I raise an eyebrow and cross my arms, knowing exactly what's going on behind those steel doors. The Joker isn't the only patient behind those walls who the guards take their anger out on. The guard stands up straight, then gives me an agitated glance. "Can I help you with something, doctor, or did you come down here to give me a slap on the wrist?"
"I'd like to speak to one of the patients in there," I tell him, an idea forming in my mind. "Off the record, that is."
"Ah, I see," he replies with a smug grin. "You want me to keep my mouth shut, is that it?"
"That's it," I promise. "I didn't see you or your friends up here tonight and you and your friends didn't see me. Sound fair?"
"I suppose," he mutters. "I can't allow you to go into any of the cells, though. If they find you with a broken neck back there, they'll have my job."
"They'll have your job if you don't let me go back there," I correct. It's not like me to threaten guards, I've only done it once before, but it feels so... empowering. Even though I'm not entirely sure that I can follow through on my bluff, knowing that I have something over the guard to get what I want is oddly satisfying. Just twenty minutes ago I had rejected the idea of manipulation and intimidation, look at where I am now. Then again, I didn't have someone's job to hold over their head twenty minutes ago.
The guard looks down at me with a mixture of annoyance and exasperation. "The security cameras are on," he tells me pointedly.
"No they aren't," I retort. "Your friends back there wouldn't be exercising on camera unless they wanted to be charged with assault."
"You think you're smart?" he challenges.
"You think you're tough?" I shoot back. "It's three in the morning, maybe I received a distress call or an anonymous tip from one of the nurses. Maybe I came up here to check on the patients and found you and your buddies up here beating one of them up. Who are they going to believe? A doctor and a patient with bruises everywhere or you guys?"
"You're a pain in the ass," he tells me flatly.
"Look, I just want to talk to my patient. I can handle myself back there. You don't need to worry about them finding me with a snapped neck," I assure him. "If you won't tell, I won't tell. Deal?"
"Fine," he sighs, giving in. He steps away from the door and I scan my ID. The door unlocks and I step inside, looking to my right to see two guards beating on Zsasz, which is a terrible idea in itself. Victor Zsasz has quite the reputation for breaking out and slaughtering Arkham employees in their own homes, but I'm not going to be the one who breaks that to the guards.
I tear my eyes away from the sight and continue down the hallway, a flutter of nervousness engulfing my stomach. The Joker could kill me, hold me hostage, or even torture me. He could manipulate me, he could do virtually anything he wants and yet, here I am. It isn't the Joker who frightens me, it's the fact that I'm willingly walking into this that does.
I stop halfway down the hallway, the doubt finally getting to me. I'm risking a lot of things by walking down this hallway, my life being one of them. There's no telling what the Joker could do and no matter how strongly I believe that he won't hurt me, the fact is that he could. I don't think that he will, but my thoughts, my beliefs, they couldn't stop him from killing me if he really wanted to. Nothing could.
Turn around, Harley. Turn around before it's too late.
"Harrrrley," a familiar voice down the hallway drawls. My head snaps up in surprise and I peer down the hallway. How could he possibly know that it's me? "Don't be shy."
I take another slow step down the hallway, then another and another, until I'm at his cell. He leans against the left wall closest to the Plexiglas. His eyes, such an entrancing brown, scour me, study me. A slow smile creeps across his lips.
"You should be asleep," I tell him pointedly, breaking the silence.
"So should you, doctor."
"I-I," I begin scrambling for some sort of appropriate response, then realize that I don't have to. It's three am and I just threatened a guard to keep his mouth shut about this entire ordeal. This interaction is completely unorthodox, I see no reason to keep this conversation professional. "I can't sleep," I finish honestly, having no better response.
"Nightmares, thoughts, things of that nature," I reply. "You know, they almost took you away yesterday," I blurt out. Of all the things to bring up, I just had to mention that one.
"Mm, but you stopped them."
"I didn't stop them," I correct. "I just... it was luck."
"You're better than luck, Harley," he tells me, wagging a finger at me from behind the glass. "People like us have to make their own." He places a hand against the glass, his eyes boring into mine. "Ya know, this glass separating us doesn't make for a very, uh, private conversation."
I touch my ID tentatively, then glance at the card scanner beside his cell door. Harley, no, don't do this. Don't make yourself so vulnerable. In one single motion, I scan my card and the door to his cell unlocks with a loud beep. He makes no move to leave the cell, his eyes watching me for a reaction. I open the door, eyeing him cautiously, and step inside.
"We wouldn't want you to get, uh, locked in here with me." The Joker hands me his pillow and I shove it in between the door and the wall, propping the door open. Getting locked in here would be a very bad thing.
I stand there for a long moment, trying to think of what to say, but I keep drawing up a blank. "I don't know why I'm here," I tell him. "I don't know why I came here."
"You came here because you want to talk," he tells me, taking a step towards me. "You're tired of listening to people, uh, babble on about their problems. You're tired of playing doctor."
I consider the theory for a moment, trying to decide whether or not it applies. I'm not tired of listening to people talk about their problems, that is my job after all, but I do want to talk. That's why I came here, isn't it? The last time I remember even voicing my problems, my deep rooted ones at least, was when the Joker forced me to. Am I really so desperate to talk that this is where my mind automatically turned to?
"You're afraid they'll chop you up into little tiny pieces," he tells me knowingly. "You think that all of your, uh, doctor friends out there will cut you down. You can't talk to them, not without them seeing who you truly are."
"I'm not a bad person," I tell him firmly. "I'm not." I take a deep breath and exhale slowly. "I didn't mean to kill your henchman. I didn't want to. It just... happened. I'm not a killer or a criminal, I'm just... I'm just..." I sigh, unable to finish the sentence. "When he died, I didn't feel anything," I mutter more to myself than to him.
"You think that makes you bad?" the Joker demands, bursting into a series of hyena like laughter. He continues to laugh hysterically for a few more moments, then takes in a deep gasp of air, and allows the cackles to subside. "Harley, my dear, killing is meant to be enjoyable. Although, sometimes it is more of a chore," he mutters.
"I didn't enjoy it."
"But you didn't hate it either," he points out. "That only makes you bad to them."
"Isn't that what matters?" I question. "Their opinion determines everything, doesn't it?"
"No, no, no. What they think doesn't matter, they're all just a bunch of hypocrites," he retorts, taking another step towards me. "As much as they, uh, think they do, they don't control anything."
"They've got you in here," I point out.
"I'm in here because I want to be. I have no desire to escape, not yet," he informs me, popping the last t. His tongue darts at the insides of his cheeks and I watch the movement curiously. "Wanna touch 'em?"
"What?" I stammer, caught off guard.
"My scars," he drawls. "Would ya like to touch them?"
"No, no," I quickly dismiss, although deep down I really want to. I wonder how they feel, if the skin next to the grooves is rough or smooth. If the skin around the scars is taut or healed normally. I wonder a lot of things about them, but it would be so... invasive for me to touch them.
The Joker abruptly grabs me by the wrists and puts my hands to his face and a wave of fondness courses through me. He's letting me touch his scars, I think to myself in awe and disbelief. I can't help but run my fingers along the lines that rest there, intrigued. The skin around the scars is bumpy and uneven, but the scars themselves are smooth and soft. The scars are jagged in places, as though they had been roughly carved into place. I trace the lines softly, faintly wondering why he's letting me do this. I gently touch the scarred skin for a few more moments, then let my hands fall by my side, staring up at him curiously.
"Why haven't you killed me?" I ask.
"You're in for a whole lotta fun. Besides, it seems... wasteful to ignore all of that potential," he tells me with a grin. "Tell me, Harley, what did you think when you were, uh, thrown off of the roof."
"I thought I was going to die."
"No, no, that's not what I meant," he dismisses. "What did you regret most?"
I hesitate before answering, wary of admitting he was right that day in the cafeteria. "I regretted that I didn't do much with my life," I admit. "That I didn't seize the moment, that I filled most of my life with work and studying. That I didn't have enough fun."
"Mm, and did you regret your, uh, special friends?"
The question catches me off guard. I had expected boasting or some sort of explanation, not a question about my friends. Selina and Pam hadn't exactly crossed my mind when I was plummeting to my death, but I know that if they had it wouldn't have been in the form of a regret. "No," I answer slowly. "No, I didn't- I don't."
"What about the dead guy on the roof?"
"No. He didn't even cross my mind," I reply, trying to work out what his angle is. I do catch onto the realization that I haven't regretted any of my bad decisions when faced with death, but what is he getting at?
"Decisions aren't bad unless you regret them," he tells me lowly. "Everything else is just all part of the fun." He glances at me for a moment, then tilts my chin up towards him. "You know why they're so afraid of me? I'm not bound by any, uh, morals or standards. I'm a wildcard, a loose cannon. They can't make heads or tails of me," he tells me with a short laugh. "Ya know why they're so afraid of you?"
"They aren't afraid of me."
"Oh yes they are," he tells me. "That's why the crippled Dr. Arkham tried to separate us. You were manageable, Harley, controllable. You were a pretty, rule oriented, young doctor at their disposal. They didn't want you to, uh, understand me or help me. They wanted you to get inside my head so that they could do the rest. But you weren't so controllable, were you, Harley? No, no, you started to stray from Dr. Arkham's plan so he cut you off and replaced you with more manageable doctors."
"How does that make them afraid of me?"
"They don't know what you might do," he replies simply. "They don't know how you might, uh, react."
"I react just fine to things," I reply. "At least in the moment I react appropriately. I might be a little snide at times-"
"You don't react how they want you to," he clarifies. "You didn't, uh, mindlessly go along with Dr. Arkham's ideal to send me to Blackgate."
"You don't belong in Blackgate, he just doesn't see that," I retort. "He's blinded by his own selfish intentions, he always has been. Half of the people who work here are driven by their own selfish ideals."
"Mm," he hums, then laughs. "I think you're finally starting to get it. Now run along, my dear Harley Quinn. You wouldn't want them to see you without the, uh, sheep's clothing." The sheep's clothing? Oh, the wolf in sheep's clothing, I realize. But how am I the wolf here?
"You want me to leave?" I question, somewhat hurt. I know I shouldn't even be down here in the first place, but he wants me to leave?
"Don't act so hurt," he retorts, running his tongue over his lips briefly. "I've got things to do."
"What things?" What could he possibly do in an eight by eight cell?
"Now that... that would ruin the surprise." I glance at him warily and remove the pillow from the door, then step out, more reluctant than I'd like to admit. What were you doing, Harley? I think to myself angrily, beginning the long walk down the hallway. How stupid can you be? He doesn't care about you, he just wants to mess with your mind.
"Sweet dreams, Harley," the Joker calls, breaking my train of doubtful thoughts.