After day break, I drove Selina back to my place, where she rested for the next two days. I keep a close watch on her, disinfecting the wound and changing the bandages around every six hours or so. Dr. Elliot had included some antibiotics and painkillers in the bag that he gave me, which I administer on cue at their specific times. She had gained most of her color back within the two days and had gained most of her clarity and awareness back after only six or seven hours after the operation. She only sleeps when the pain becomes unbearable and she has to take the painkillers. Other than that, she insists on staying awake.
When she does sleep, I don't have much to do, which leaves me mainly to my thoughts. Most of which revolve around the Joker. I have an unbelievably strong urge to see him, to talk to him. My view on the world had been changing before he left, I see that now, but things in my mind have changed drastically since then. I want to tell him about it. I want to tell him that the good guys aren't so good anymore.
I twirl the Joker card in between my fingers, lost in thought. Part of me wants to help him, not that he needs it. Part of me wants to join him on his chaotic rampage through the city and help him with it. Deep down, I know that it's crazy and irrational and illogical, but I want to do it anyway. His ideals are starting to be the only thing that makes sense in my now upside down world.
"What's that?" Selina asks from her spot on the couch, breaking me out of my thoughts.
"Huh?" I question, only half hearing what she said.
"You've got something in your hand," she informs me slowly, as if I'm the drugged patient here. "What is it? A playing card?"
I pocket the Joker card quickly, feeling the need to keep it a secret. "Yeah, I was playing solitaire earlier and this one slipped out of the deck," I lie.
"They've got a computer game for that, you know," she tells me pointedly with a smirk.
"How are you feeling?" I ask, swiftly changing the subject. I examine her for a moment, looking for any positive or negative changes. She's still a little pale, but I'm taking it as a good sign that she hasn't regained any color in her cheeks. It means that she isn't running fever, which means that the chances of her having an infection are slimmer. Nothing else has really changed. I glance at the clock to see if I need to give her medicine or change her bandages, but only three or four hours have passed. She'll be good for around two or three more.
"I'm fine, Dr. Quinzel," she retorts, sarcastically emphasizing my doctoral name. "When do we begin the psychoanalyzing?"
"I don't need to analyze you. Your diagnosis is pretty plain and simple," I begin with a grin. "You're a compulsive kleptomaniac with an incredibly rare disorder in which your mind thinks that you're actually a cat. Don't worry though, you aren't alone. Batman suffers from a similar disorder."
"Oh shush," she scoffs. "I'd throw a pillow at you if it didn't hurt to move." She sits up as best she can, moving her leg as little as possible. "You know, you don't have to sit here watching me bitch and moan and sleep. I can take care of myself."
"I know you can," I tell her with a sigh. "But you could fall off the couch or something. Besides, you can't exactly walk to the kitchen by yourself if you get hungry."
"I can too," she exclaims diligently. "It just takes me a little while, that's all. Stop being such a mom and go do something. Don't let me keep you here. Go rob a bank or have fun or something. It's boring here, you don't have anything to do but fuss over me."
"I think I've had plenty of excitement the last few days, considering I broke more laws in one night than I have in my entire life."
"You can't deny that it was fun," she points out. "Well, not the part where I got shot. That kind of put a damper on things, but everything else was exciting. Don't tell me you didn't like it," she warns and I roll my eyes.
"It was fun, but-"
"Oh, don't start with that, Harls," she cuts me off. "Go do what you want to do, not what you think you should do. I'll be fine. Besides, cats always land on their feet."
"It's probably not a good idea for you to land on yours right now," I tell her. There is a place that I want to go, but I really shouldn't. It's insane and probably a bad idea, but I want to do it anyway. "Alright," I announce, giving in. "I'm going to go get ready then."
I exit the living room, much to Selina's apparent surprise, and go through my wardrobe. What do you wear to talk to one of Gotham's most fearsome criminals? All of my clothes seem too formal for that kind of business, inappropriate even. I settle on the outfit Selina had given me, which has been washed several times to get the bloodstains and the smell of gun smoke out of it.
"You're really going out?" Selina questions as I shove my feet into the pair of red ankle length boots by the door.
"Mm-hmm," I mutter, looking for my keys. I spot them in my purse and dig them out, stuffing them in my pocket. "Is that alright with you?"
"Yeah, yeah," she assures me. "I'm just surprised you didn't put up more of a fight. You must really want to go to wherever it is you're going."
"I've been thinking about it for a while," I mumble. That is true, I have thought about revisiting the wool factory ever since I left it. I don't know what I'll find upon visiting it again, maybe nothing, but the prospect of something keeps me intrigued. I'm fairly certain that the Joker is residing there, maybe not all of the time, but sometimes. Why else would all of his stuff still be there?
"So, where are you going... on a date, perhaps?" she suggests. "Or to a bar to meet a tall, dark stranger?"
"No, no, nothing like that," I tell her, laughing out loud. I wonder if she'd be as happily suggestive if I told her that I'm going to an abandoned factory to meet a clown. The thought of her reaction plasters a large smile across my face.
"Where is the doting little Dr. Quinzel going?" she muses.
"I blew up a building... with a bazooka," I tell her flatly. "I poisoned two cops and convinced a professional surgeon to come down to an abandoned house and perform an illegal, career threatening surgery on you. I think we can throw the word 'doting' away from the list of adjectives that describe me."
"Ah, pardon me my fellow criminal," she replies with a smirk. "I hope you have fun at this mysterious, dangerous, deep dark place."
I let out another short laugh. Dangerous barely even touches the surface of what I'm getting myself into.
I pull up a ways away from the abandoned wool spinning factory and sit in my car for a few good long moments. I want to go in, I know that, but there are so many things weighing against it, so many things that could badly affect me in the long run. I know, I really do, that this is stupid and compulsive and irrational, but I want to go in there. I want to. That want is overpowering my logic, but I find myself somehow okay with that. I find myself allowing the facts and odds and logic to subside. I find myself giving into the want.
But how does one go about entering a dangerous criminal hideout without being shot, that is, if the criminals are actually there? I can't exactly walk up to the front door and explain myself. They'd probably shoot me before I got anywhere near the door. So, how do I show them that I'm not an enemy but, in a sense, a friend? I have to do something, make some gesture, unless the Joker himself is outside of course. It would make everything go a lot smoother if he just so happens to spot me first, but I doubt that will happen.
An idea strikes me and I quickly pull the joker card out of my pocket and hop out of the car, allowing myself no more time to debate. I hold the card out in front of me as I begin walking through the tree line towards the side of the factory. Part of me is worried that they won't be able to see what's on the card, but if that's the case, screaming "don't shoot" like a raving mad woman is always an option.
I step through the last of the brush and nervously examine the sight in front of me. There are two white vans parked in front of the factory with men unloading guns and various weapons out of them. Some of the men are in clowns masks, others are maskless. Those clown masks mean one exciting thing: that the Joker really is here. It isn't some irrational, obsessive figment of my imagination leading me on. He's here, in the factory only a few yards away from me.
I step towards the factory, one hand holding the card, the other held up in a nonthreatening gesture. "Hey," I call, figuring I'd better announce my presence before they notice it. The two goons outside sharply turn their heads towards me, swinging their guns up to aim at me. I take another slow, careful step forward, my heart beating hard against my chest.
The two henchmen turn to each other, clearly confused as to what to do in this kind of a situation. One of them nods towards the card in my hand, while the other seems to be discussing their options. I take another step closer, keeping my hands raised. They don't shout at the gesture. Taking that as a good sign, I take another step towards them.
I stop dead in my tracks as one of them heads towards me. I'm tempted to flee back the way I came, but I resist. Maybe this is a good thing. Maybe he's coming over here to talk, not to quietly stab me or do any of the other horrible possibilities running through my mind.
"What's that card supposed to mean?" he asks, stopping a few feet away from me. He crosses his arms, giving me full view of the handgun in his waistband. Behind him, the second goon has a shotgun aimed at me.
"It means don't shoot."
"And why shouldn't we shoot?" he questions.
"I'm a, uh, friend of the Joker's," I answer. "My name's Harley. Harley Quinn. You can ask him." I have a feeling that the Joker might be more inclined to listen if he heard the clown like name he'd given me as opposed to the full title of Dr. Harleen Quinzel. Besides, he has called me that several times and he pointed it out when we first met. It proves that I'm not an imposter or something like that.
He studies me for a long moment, peering at me suspiciously. "Why should I believe you? The boss didn't say anything about no girlfriend."
"I'm not his girlfriend, I'm just a close friend and you don't have to believe me if you don't want to," I tell him. "But your boss might not be too happy if he comes out here and finds me on the ground with gunshot wounds from your guns. He might get angry and do something... impulsive," I quip, not quite sure where these manipulative skills are coming from.
"What'd you say your name was again?"
"Harley. Harley Quinn."
"You wait right here while I go talk to the boss. If you take a step in any direction, my buddy over there's going to put a hole in your skull," he warns. "Am I clear?"
"Crystal," I reply smoothly, successfully keeping any trace of fear out of my voice. The henchman grumbles to himself, informs the second one of his plans, then disappears inside the factory. I wait nervously for a few minutes, which seems like eternity, until the goon reappears. He ignores the second goon completely and comes striding directly up to me, which I convince myself is a good thing.
"Boss wants to see you," he tells me, grabbing me by the upper arm. He leads me into the factory, which has now been stocked full of weapons. Several goons loiter around the once empty first floor, rearranging guns and setting aside explosives. I find it incredibly funny that everyone's going about their criminal business without a care in the world.
The goon leads me up the stairs and up to the two secluded offices. I was right, these are the Joker's quarters, I think to myself. He knocks on the door to the right three sharp times and I remember clearly that this is the door to the bedroom. My heart rate has slowed down surprisingly and I feel somewhat calm. I had thought that being inside the factory would make me a nervous wreck, but I guess not.
"Come in," the Joker's familiar voice drawls. I glance at the goon to see if he's going in first, but he prods me towards the door then disappears down the stairs. I take a deep breath, my heart rate picking up a little speed, and open the door. I step inside and shut the door behind me, my eyes quickly scanning the room for the Joker. He stands next to the bed, a deck of cards in his hands.
He looks... good, better than he did at Arkham anyway. His greasepaint is, for the most part, in place with only a few smudges and missing blotches here and there. He isn't wearing his signature purple coat, instead it's thrown haphazardly across the bed, but he is wearing the other elements of his purple suit. His hairs messy and his tie's a little loose, but the outfit suits him much better than an orange jumpsuit. I wouldn't say that he necessarily looks healthier, but he seems somewhat brighter in his own element.
The room has also changed since I last saw it, considerably so. There are various items of clothing strewn haphazardly across the room. Of the several argyle print socks thrown around the room, I can't find a single pair that matches. From the mess, I'm guessing that he couldn't either. There are several knives laid across the banister above what has long since been a working fireplace. There are a few guns in the corner and several crumbled up pieces of paper on the floor. I spot a few coffee mugs lying about, some of them (I worriedly notice) are chipped and broken. From the utter disarray of this room, I wonder what his office now looks like.
"I think you're missing one," I tell him, holding out the joker card I'd picked up. He steps towards me and takes it from my hand, his fingers brushing over mine, sending a pleasant chill through me. His fingers are stained with smears of dried greasepaint and I faintly wonder where his purple gloves are. Probably in the pocket of his coat, I bet.
"Ya know, I was hoping I'd see you around," he tells me, pocketing the deck of cards. "I missed our little, uh, conversations, doc."
"I'm not really a doctor at the moment," I inform him, tempted to tell him that I missed our conversations too. I don't, realizing that I might sound like a clingy, wide eyed schoolgirl if I did and that is certainly not the image that I want to get across.
"No?" he muses, his tongue probing at the insides of his cheeks.
"I was suspended," I admit. "Put on a permanent vacation for a few weeks. I sort of went against a direct order. Dr. Arkham is, uh, poisoning my friend."
"Oh?" he muses, an eyebrow raised.
"They're trying to control the danger level," I tell him somewhat bitterly. "Filling her cell with some sort of poison is clearly the best way to do that. He didn't want me to talk to her or see how she was doing, he said that I would screw everything up."
"Mm, and did you?"
"I was dragged away by a guard on Dr. Arkham's command before I could do anything." He clucks his tongue at me, his green eyes studying me closely. "My other friend was shot two days ago," I blurt out, not sure why I'm telling him this. "By police officers."
"Ah, those pesky authority figures," he says. "Always showing you just how wrong the world truly is." He strides past me and opens the door. "Let's continue this, uh, conversation downstairs." I follow him down to the first floor, where he promptly heads outside and towards one of the vans. He pulls out two shotguns and hands them to me. "Hold that, would ya?"
He climbs into the back of the van, sorting through the guns and weapons that rest there. "You were right," I tell him, "about people. The good guys, they don't seem so good anymore. They're selfish and cruel. They don't care about other people, they don't even know what's wrong with themselves. What they stand for, their principles, it's all wrong."
"Mm-hmm," he clucks, climbing out of the van to stand in front of me. "And, uh, how do ya figure that?"
"They aren't poisoning my friend for her benefit. They aren't trying to help her get better. They're torturing her so that they can study her and use her abilities against her and to their own advantage," I answer angrily. "They're selfish and consumed by this horrible idea that they're torturing her for the sake of others. And my other friend, she was just seen running from an abandoned house when the cops started shooting at her. They didn't have a justified cause to shoot her, they did it because they figured whatever she was doing must've been bad. They figured that they'd reap in some kind of reward off of her. If not, they probably wouldn't have even taken the blame for the wound."
"Not the, uh, outstanding citizens you expected, huh?"
"No, they aren't. They can't see it either, they think they're doing the right thing."
"Mm, that's why you've got to make them see," he tells me pointedly, wagging an index finger towards me. He takes one of the guns out of my hands and throws it back into the van. "You've got to rip those little masks off and dangle 'em for the whole world to see." He takes the last gun out of my hands and starts back towards the factory.
"I used the bazooka," I tell him abruptly, following him into the factory. He stops near the first group of henchmen and looks down at me, intrigued.
"Really?" he muses. "I knew you'd like it," he replies fondly. He steps inside the house, his foot kicking something. He picks it up and examines it for a moment, then sighs. "Is it really, uh, wise," he announces loudly, drawing the goons' attention, "to leave the explosives near the door?"
The room is silent for a full moment before two goons come over and hurriedly grab all of the explosives and move them over to the back wall. "Ya gotta do everything yourself," he mutters, waving around the small package of C4 that he had almost stepped on. He hands it to a nearby goon and drops the gun in his other hand by the door.
"I want to join you," I tell him. He turns his attention away from the goons to look down at me, a smile creeping across his scarred lips.
"Now why," he begins, smacking his lips together, "why would ya want to do something like that?"
"You make sense," I reply simply. "Your ideals, everything, it makes sense. It's the only thing that makes sense. I can see that now." After a moment, I add, "But I can't stay for long, not tonight anyway."
"You can't or you won't?" he quips, his tone darkening. "The two are, uh, very different things, Harley."
"I want to," I tell him. "But like I said, my friend was shot. She can't really move about on her own right now. I've got to change her bandages, give her medicine, etc., etc."
"You've got to play doctor," he deduces, his tone lightening.
"In a sense, yes," I admit. "I can't take her to the hospital, they'll arrest her. I'm her best bet at any kind of smooth recovery."
"Hmm," he muses, tapping a finger against his chin. "Go run along and play doctor, there isn't much to do tonight anyway," he allows. "Tomorrow, on the other hand, will be full of surprises," he tells me gleefully.
"What kind of surprises?" I question.
"You'll have to wait and see." He makes his way towards the stairs, but stops halfway and turns towards me. "Come back tomorrow, Harley. You'll be in for a real treat." With that, he disappears up the stairs, leaving me to wonder just what I've signed up for.
"Hey," I call, stepping into my apartment. I kick my shoes off by the door and drop my keys on the table. "How are you feeling?" I question, walking into the living room where Selina's watching TV. Upon further inspection, I see that she's got a bowl of popcorn in one hand and on the table in front of her is a soda.
"I'm fine," she mumbles, her mouth half full of food. "How was your super secret fun time?"
"It was fine," I tell her lightly, eyeing the bowl of popcorn suspiciously. "Did you make that yourself?"
"No," she replies casually, changing the channel on the TV. "Bruce did." She sighs as a sappy romantic show comes on. "You know, these shows are why people undermine women and not just in the criminal industry either. They make us out to be these weak creatures, desperate for love and admiration. This is why I always end up having to kick someone's ass, to show them just how much of an idiot they really are for undermining me. I might be a little unhinged and flirtatious at times, but I'm not some sappy, vulnerable girl who shouldn't leave her house after dark and I certainly won't fall apart without a man."
Ignoring her entire rant completely, I'm more focused on the fact that she had let this so called Bruce, who I'm guessing is Bruce Wayne, into my apartment. "Someone made you popcorn," I announce slowly.
"Yeah, Bruce did. I already told you that," she retorts, changing the channel. "He spilled something on his shirt earlier, I think it was coffee. Anyway, he's in the bathroom trying to get the stain out if you want to talk to him," she informs me nonchalantly.
"You're letting your boyfriend walk around here freely?" I demand in disbelief.
"I don't like that harsh tone," she tells me pointedly. "I got bored, so I decided to call him over here. He hasn't touched or moved around anything of yours. He just made me some popcorn, got me a soda, and made himself a cup of coffee. That's all, I promise. You know I wouldn't let him mess up any of your stuff or go through your things."
"I'm not worried about my things," I begin, a surge of nervousness going through me. "I'm worried about the illegal, stolen poisons and toxins under my bathroom sink. Not to mention you were shot. How did you explain that to him?"
"Calm down, Harls," she tells me dismissively. "I already took care of that. Yes, I hobbled over to the bathroom by myself, grabbed the poisons, and stuffed all of them under your bed. These painkillers may be strong, but I'm not that out of it. And I told him that I was shot, simple as that. I said it was an accident, that a few friends and I got together and had a gun laying around. We were toying around with it like idiots and it went off."
I breathe in a sigh of relief and uncross my arms. "He bought it?"
"Mm-hmm," she quips, taking another bite of popcorn. "I didn't even have to lie about having surgery," she tells me with a smirk. "Anyways, tell me about your night."
"There's not much to tell really," I lie. "But, I do need to go out tomorrow morning, is that alright with you? I don't know how long I'll be exactly, but it could take a while. I'll change your bandages and give you your medicine in the morning, but I'll have to leave right afterwards. I can set out your next dose of pills in case I'm not back in time, but I'm a little worried about your bandages. Do you think you can-"
"I can do it," a familiar voice offers. I turn my head to see Bruce Wayne coming out of the hallway. There's a wet print on the chest of his shirt, but he seems to have gotten whatever stain out. "She can stay over at my place, if she wants. I'll be at home all day, but I do have somewhere I need to be tomorrow night. I can watch her tomorrow, but if you need more time than that, Alfred, my butler, can watch over her."
"I don't need a babysitter," Selina grumbles. "I'm a grown woman."
"I don't know how long I'll be gone," I repeat to Selina. "Are you sure that you want to stay here alone?"
"I suppose not," she replies with a sigh. "Thank you, Mr. Wayne, I accept your offer," she tells him formally, her tone half sarcastic.
"No problem," Bruce replies smoothly. "I think it's time for me to leave. Nice seeing you, Harley."
"You too, Bruce," I reply casually. I watch his figure disappear out the door with a feeling of relief.
"Now that my big bad boy toy is gone. What are you doing that's so special tomorrow anyway?" she asks, turning towards me.
"I promised a friend that I'd help him move," I lie, even though there aren't any listening ears besides Selina's. I haven't a clue as to what I will be doing tomorrow, only that it will more than likely be something illegal. And although half of me is nervous about what to expect, the other half of me is excited to find out.