Since Selina's the designated driver and I'm in a bit of hurry considering someone might have just been killed, we're forced to leave Pam alone at the bar. It really wouldn't be a good thing for her to be seen at the Arkham gates anyway. As much as I feel bad about doing it, I'm fairly certain that Poison Ivy, of all people, can take care of herself. She wouldn't be there for long by herself, forty five minutes maximum, considering the Iceberg Lounge is only around fifteen to twenty minutes away from Arkham. But, in spite of my panic to get to Arkham and find out what exactly is going on, I can't help but feel a tinge of guilt in the back of my mind.
In my haste to get to the hospital, I don't have time to change. My outfit isn't too bad for being a doctor, but something that covered more would've been preferable. Oh well, my thick strapped, ruffled red tank top, black cardigan, and black skirt will have to do. Although my heels are higher than usual, I'm fairly certain that I can run in them if I need to. If they proved to be too slow, I could always take them off. Hopefully, I won't have to do any running tonight, but the events ahead of me are a blur of unknown possibilities and that makes me incredibly nervous. I need to be prepared for any and everything.
Selina drops me off at the gate, where I quickly flash the guard my ID card and hurry into the asylum. I make my way up to the fifth floor, where several guards, doctors, and nurses are hustled about. I step out of the elevator and quickly scan the mass of people, looking for anyone in charge. I spot Dr. Leland, who's busying herself with ordering people away from the Cell Block C door, and dash over to her, roughly pushing my way through nurses and orderlies. The stress is clear on her face and I have a sinking feeling that the mess with the Joker is worse than I thought.
"Is he in there?" I ask, gesturing towards the Cell Block C doors. I don't even have to acknowledge who I'm talking about for her to understand. She nods, running a hand through her now slightly frazzled hair.
"He's been asking for you. He wants you to go in there," she tells me solemnly.
"I know, he called me from Dr. Arkham's phone," I quickly explain. "Give me a rundown of what happened after he took Dr. Brody hostage."
"He said that he wouldn't let Dr. Brody go until Dr. Arkham would go in his cell. There was about an hour and a half of arguing before Dr. Arkham finally agreed to go in. After he went in, the Joker didn't let Brody go and changed his terms. He said that if he sees anyone in the cell block, aside from you, he'll kill Dr. Arkham. If we hear gunshots, we have to wait five minutes before entering the cell block. About twenty minutes ago, he killed Brody. We went in there five minutes after the gunshot, but he quickly dismissed us. He wouldn't even let us take the body."
"Do you have eyes inside the hallway?"
"No, he must've paid one of the guards to tape over the cameras," she replies dismally. "It's a mess in there."
"I'm going in," I tell her. "Hold this." I hand her my cell phone and my apartment key, both of which she glances at warily.
"Harleen, you can't go in there," she tells me gravely. "You don't have any control over the situation. He could kill you, or turn you into a second hostage. Until we know what he wants, it's not safe for anyone to go in there."
"Apparently, I'm what he wants if he took the liberty of calling and inviting me himself. And if I don't go in there, he might kill Dr. Arkham," I point out. "Look, if he wants me in there, then it's obviously for a reason. If I can't talk him down, then maybe I can reason with him. I'll be fine," I assure her, although I'm not so sure myself. "We at least have to try." Dr. Leland nods and I take that as a go.
I push through the rest of the people blocking the door and scan myself in. I take a deep breath, square my shoulders, and begin to walk down the hallway. My heels clack loudly against the linoleum floor and each clack makes heart jump a little higher. My nerves are alive beneath my skin with nervousness. This is the first time that I'll be talking to the Joker in a completely uncontrolled environment. Anything could happen. People could die. I could be taken hostage. The uncertainty of it all is utterly and completely nerve wracking.
"Harley," the Joker calls from further down the hallway, hearing my echoing footsteps. The other inmates are oddly silent and I can't help but think that maybe they're holding their breath too, waiting to see what's in store for me.
I stop in front of the Joker's cell and turn slowly, afraid of what I might see. My worries aren't disappointed.
The Joker leans against the left wall of his cell, idly toying with the gun in his hands. On the cot behind him is Dr. Arkham who, judging by the thick red welt on his forehead, has been knocked unconscious. On the floor, laying in a pool of blood, is the upturned corpse of Dr. Simon Brody. Those beady eyes of his are empty, staring lifelessly up at the ceiling. Above them, in the middle of his forehead, is a single gaping bullet wound. I stare at him for a long moment, half expecting him to move, but his pale blue fingers don't even twitch.
The sight makes my stomach churn and I have the urge to be sick.
Too entranced by the sickening sight, I'm only faintly aware that the Joker has said anything at all. "Harley," he snaps, breaking my horror. I tear my eyes away from Dr. Brody to look up at him and he studies my undoubtedly sickened expression.
"It's Dr. Quinzel," I manage weakly, saying it just for the matter of saying it. There's no reason to be formal, not now. Not with a dead body in the room.
"I said, have you ever seen a dead body up close before?"
"In med school," I reply, still dazed at the sight in front of me. The Joker had actually done that, he had actually shot him. It’s no secret that he has killed before, but seeing it up close makes it real.
"I don't mean those cold things they refrigerate for days," he clarifies. "I mean the kind of body that's, uh, fresh. The kind whose skin is still warm."
"No," I reply softly. "Not until now."
"Have you ever felt someone die, Harley? Have you ever been there for the moment when what was inside the body just slips away, leaving nothing but a carcass behind?"
"You ought to try it sometime. People are their most vulnerable in death, especially in those last few moments. You see who people truly are. The cowards beg and plead and make promises they can't keep. The brave ones... now they're the most fun. Most of 'em put up a fight, but some of them embrace it. They take the fact that they're going to die like a champ. Our friend over here," he gives Dr. Brody's corpse a good kick to the ribs, "was a coward."
"Why did you do it?" I question softly, trying to keep my eyes on the Joker and not the body. I want to shut my eyes completely, drown out the bloody sight with darkness, but I need to be alert and focused.
"Uh, do what?"
"Kill him. Why did you have to kill him?"
"Because I wanted to," he replies. "Disappointed, doc? Did you want some grand explanation? Did ya want me to have done it for you?"
"No," I tell him firmly. I had never wanted Dr. Brody dead, I had just wanted him to leave Arkham. He was irritating and rude, but I had never wanted him to die. I had just wanted him to go away, not get shot by the Joker. "No, no, of course not."
"Right, that would be unprofessional," he growls. "Although, I do remember a certain, uh, hatred. Hmm, maybe I should've saved you the honor of killing him."
"I didn't hate him," I argue quietly, feeling my composure beginning to slip. "Dr. Brody was just... he was just doing his job. He was wrong and irritating about it, but he was just doing his job."
"Ya know what I think, Harley? I think you wanted him to die. I think that you're, uh, relieved that I killed him," he tells me, smacking his lips together. "I think you're glad he's dead."
"I am not," I reply firmly. I had never wanted Dr. Brody dead. Not once had I ever wished that upon him. Sure, occasionally I had wanted to strangle the arrogant man myself, but everyone thinks like that at times. I had just thought about it to keep my cool in the room with him. I hadn't actually wanted it to happen. Everyone thinkx like that to keep their composure at times, right? You're letting him confuse you, Harley, I tell myself, trying to squash any and all thoughts of Dr. Brody's death. He's toying with you. Don't let him get to you.
"Really?" the Joker quips, leaning towards me from behind the Plexiglas wall. "Denial doesn't suit you, Harley. But if you want to play it that way," he lets out a sigh, "then you can consider it a, uh, favor."
"How is it a favor if you didn't do it for me?" I point out.
"Now they can't separate us," he tells me with a gleeful laugh. "And that benefits you, doesn't it?"
"How does it benefit me?"
"Oh, I'm sure you can think of a few ways," he drawls. "Would you mind unlocking the door, doc? I find it to be, uh, rude talking from such a distance."
"That's not going to happen."
"I had really hoped to keep Dr. Arkham over here alive, but you can't win 'em all." The Joker raises the gun and I involuntarily take a step forward to stop him.
"I'll open the door, if you promise not to try anything," I propose. I know that this is an incredibly bad idea, but I can't just let Dr. Arkham die by my hands. If I have a chance to prevent his death and I don't take it, then I might as well have wielded the gun myself and I'm not so sure that I can live with myself if I allow that happen.
"Try anything?" he repeats, sounding hurt. "What kind of guy do ya take me for, doc?"
Ignoring that last comment, I step up to the door cautiously and swipe my ID card to release the door lock. The Joker pushes open the Plexiglas paneled steel door with a loud creek and steps out. I take a step back in precaution, my heart beating hard against my chest. He's unshackled, unbound, and guard free. He's virtually free to do anything he wants. It scares the living hell out of me to know that he's unbound, but knowing that he's carrying a gun too... the thought is almost too much to handle.
He takes a step towards me and I take another step back. He raises an eyebrow, but doesn't come any further. "I would've preferred to use a knife on our little chaperone over there, but Dr. Arkham wouldn't bring me mine. Guns are too quick for my taste, you can't savor all of the little... emotions. But, I suppose it'll have to do, for now." He pauses for a moment and squints, thinking something through. "What's that saying about beggars?"
"Beggars can't be choosers?" I suggest.
"That's it." He takes another step forward and again, I take a step back. "What's wrong, my dear Harley Quinn? You aren't scared of me, are you?"
I don't bother to correct the name as I continue to slink closer and closer to the wall, trying my very best not to read too much into the clown-like name. As hard as I try not to think about it, the thought adds to the fear of the moment. The hallway is empty of guards with guns or doctors with sedatives. There are no heroes around to save me. It's just me, my unconscious boss, a dead body, and the Joker. A free to roam around, unshackled Joker. A Joker who just addressed me by a clown-like name, which he has clearly labeled me as in his head. The situation looks far from good at this point.
"Are you afraid I might... get 'cha!" He jumps towards me and cringe against the wall, letting out a not-so-tough shriek. The Joker bursts into a mad cackling of laughter, coming up for air with long gasps between each laugh.
"That's enough," I try to tell him firmly. Much to my disappointment, my voice cracks at the end and it sounds ten times weaker out loud than in my head. The Joker takes a step closer, but I have no more room to step back. He's got me cornered, unless I can make a run for the door. But if I do that, Dr. Arkham will more than likely be shot. I simply can't win.
"You're not calling the shots anymore, doc," he tells me, stopping about a foot away from me. The closeness makes me nervous. He could strike out at any given moment. "I'm running the show now. Speaking of the show, can I ask you a question, doc?"
"Okay," I agree. I don't really have a choice, do I?
The Joker lifts the gun to my face and I shiver as the barrel of it touches my temple. I cringe away instinctively, but he grabs me by the neck to keep me in place. I feel the coldness of the gun drag painstakingly slowly along the right side of my face. You're okay, I tell myself. He's doing it to scare you, not to hurt you. If he wanted to kill you, he would've gotten it over with already.
"Would you please stop pointing the gun at me?" I request. He shows no sign of enacting out my plea and instead looks down at me in amusement. This is a bad situation, a very bad situation. A situation that will almost certainly end in bloodshed. The longer we stand here, the more I begin to panic. Think, Harley, think. How can you stop that gun from going off?
Talking him down is out of the question, he'll probably just laugh at any attempt I make. What I need to do is get the gun out of his hands, which would undoubtedly prove to be one of the most challenging things to do in my entire life. But maybe if I could manage to surprise him or even fight him off, then maybe I could get the gun and have the upper hand.
Allowing myself no more time to think about it, I shove hard at his chest, pushing with all my force and heaving myself off of the wall. He barely budges, so I resort to other tactics. I claw at the hand that's wound around my neck violently, attempting to break the skin with my nails. With my other arm, I grab the barrel of the gun and attempt to wrangle it out of his hands. I strike out with my left leg, kicking his thigh with my foot hard.
The Joker sighs and, using the hand that's wound around my neck, slams me back against the wall. As I cough and sputter from the pressure, he easily yanks the gun out of my grip and puts it in the pocket of his orange jumpsuit. I hit at his stomach and kick at him roughly, trying to give a good kick to the groin. He removes his fingers from around my neck and, while swiftly avoiding the blows, pins my arms against the wall, which brings him six inches closer than before.
"That's enough," he tells me, mimicking my tone from earlier. He then lets out a series of laughs, clearly unfazed by the entire ordeal. "Oh, Harley. Harley, Harley, Harley. You're a fighter, I like that. It makes this so much more... fun." I'm tempted to ask him what "this" is, but I'm afraid of the answer. He releases his grip on my arms and takes a step back, trusting me not attempt that again. I'm tempted to lash out, but it won't do me any good, not when he can easily overpower me a second time.
"What was your question?" I ask breathlessly. If I can't get the gun out of his hands, then I have no choice but to play his little game.
"You said you had a question," I remind him.
"What was it?"
"I don't know, you said something about the show," I try to reply calmly. It's becoming increasingly harder and harder to keep my professional composure at this point, especially with him free to do whatever he wants. Not to mention the metallic scent of blood pungently seeps out of his cell and fills my nostrils with the smell of Dr. Brody's death. I'm tempted to let go of my professionalism completely, but it's the only thing I have left to hold onto at the moment.
"Oh, I remember." He lets out a bark of laughter and waves the gun towards me. "Do you still want to, uh, help me, doc?"
"Of course I do," I assure him, pushing a blonde strand of disheveled hair away from my face. "Why wouldn't I?"
"Now you've seen the, uh, freak in the flesh. You've seen why they're afraid of me," he tells me, resting his hand against the wall beside my head. The gesture brings him even closer. "You, my dear, have gotten to see the death and destruction up close and personal."
"I've seen the news stories, Mr. J. I'm perfectly aware of why the DA and all of Gotham is afraid of you," I inform him. "I stand by the decision I made at Blackgate."
"Harley, Harley, Harley. There is no helping me. You, on the other hand," I shudder as his hand grabs my chin and tilts it up, forcing me to look up at him, "have so much potential." His hand is warm to the touch, and the heat surprises me. I had expected him to feel cold and not so... human. He drops his hold on my chin, but the skin that rest there burns with phantom fingertips. It feels electrified almost.
"Potential for what?" I ask nervously.
He smiles and then chuckles lowly. "Oh, you'll see."
With those reassuring words, he plucks my ID from its haphazard placement on the bottom my skirt and turns back towards his cell. He scans my ID, yanks the pillow out from under Dr. Arkham's head, and places it between the door and the wall, propping it open. He then grabs the chair, which has somehow been unbolted from the floor of his cell, and drags it out into the hallway, placing it against the far wall. He climbs on top of it, rips the air vent grate off of the top of the wall, and then takes something out of the vent.
"What are you doing?" I question, confused by the random array of movements. He steps down from the chair, revealing a towel bundle concealing several items, most of which I can't make out from their lumpy shapes beneath the towel.
"Me?" he repeats, reentering his cell. He leisurely drops the bundle on the bed beside Dr. Arkham, humming to himself. The bundle falls open, revealing two rolls of gauze, medical tape, and rubbing alcohol. The sight of a disinfectant and something to cover up a wound with makes me even more nervous.
"No, no, no. This is about you, Harley." He raises the gun towards Dr. Arkham. "You've got to make a choice here. So, which is more important? Running over to those doctors and telling them my escape route." He nods towards the air vent. "Or saving Dr. Arkham's life?" There's out a loud BANG as the gun goes off, followed by a hyena-like cackle of laughter.
"Tick tock, Harley," he calls, striding past me and climbing into the air vent. I stand there in pure shock for a moment, mouth agape. My boss had just been shot right in front of me. He had really been shot. Actually shot. And I'm the only one who can save him.
I regain control of my wits and sprint over to the Joker's cell, stepping over the pillow that's keeping the door open. I shoot a fleeting glance towards the air vent, but the Joker already appears to be long gone. I step over Brody's body, feeling bile rise up the back of my throat, and grab the rubbing alcohol out of the bundle. I yank Dr. Arkham's shirt up, looking for the source of the wound, and find it just below the right side of his chest.
"Stay with me Dr. Arkham," I call, pouring the alcohol over the wound. I rip off a large section of medical gauze, hastily fold it, and press it against the wound hard. I keep it in place with one hand and grab the medical tape with the other, messily tearing off four generous strips with my teeth. I tape the thick gauze down, but keep my hand on it, making sure that there's enough pressure. Please don't die on me. Please don't die on me.
"You're going to be just fine," I tell him, more for my own benefit than his unconscious one. There's an overwhelming urgency to the air, which makes my heart beat ten times faster. "You're going to be okay," I repeat, finding the gesture soothing. I keep my hands pressed on the wound, hoping that five minutes won't be too late.
At around midnight, Dr. Leland kindly drops me off at my apartment building. I would've gotten home sooner had the police not insisted we do an investigation minutes after Dr. Jeremiah Arkham was carted off to the emergency room. So, for several long hours, I sat in one of the interview rooms being questioned. I had found myself repeatedly having to explain that no, I didn't stop the Joker because I was too busy trying to keep my boss from bleeding out. I'm not sure why that was so hard for the police to comprehend, considering that Dr. Arkham managed to stay alive with a bullet in his chest without medical attention for five whole minutes.
I breathe a sigh of relief as I enter my apartment, heading straight over to the coffee maker. I turn it on and while waiting for it to brew, I make my way over to my apartment's tiny bathroom. I turn the shower on, wait for the water to warm up, then step in. I watch as Dr. Arkham's blood runs off of me and swirls down the drain, staining the water a dark red until eventually the remaining blood dilutes to a reddish pink. As soon as the pink tinge disappears from the water, I step out of the shower and enter my bedroom.
Now completely free of Dr. Arkham's blood, I toss on a pair of plaid pajama pants and a black tee-shirt, then make my way back into the kitchen. As much as I should want to sleep after a night like tonight, I know that I won't. There are too many thoughts running rampant through my mind for sleep. It would be nearly impossible to even doze off, so for now coffee would just have to substitute for rest.
I fill my coffee mug to the brim and take a deep sip, not bothering to add any sugar or milk. My desire for caffeine induced energy outweighs the bitter taste of black coffee. The hot liquid burns my tongue, but I'm far too wrapped up in my thoughts to react to the pain. I take a seat at the tiny table in the kitchen, absentmindedly and continuously taking sips of coffee.
These motions should have been soothing to me. A hot shower, a nice cup of coffee, and sitting in my own home should've been comforting, especially after a chaotic night like tonight. The normalcy of it all should've been inviting and looked forward to. Instead, I just feel... out of place, like I should be doing something more.
The Joker had the chance to kill me or do whatever he wanted with me, so why didn't he? I mentally wonder. He said that I had potential, but what did that even mean? That he saw something he could use in me? Was he saving me for some grand scheme? He'll undoubtedly get caught again, maybe he wants me at the asylum waiting for him. That is, if they sent him to the asylum again.
I sigh and trace my finger around the rim of my coffee mug, wondering the same question that has plagued me for three weeks. Why doesn't he treat me like the other doctors? What makes me so special? I doubt that it's just because I'm young and female. He saw something in me, but what? What potential could he possibly see in me?
Oh well, it doesn't matter anymore. The Joker’s gone, and in that absence I feel... empty. It's irrational, I know, but it feels like there's a hole in me. There would be no more therapy sessions, no more banter. There would be no more tedious diagnosing, no more staying up late in search of ways to treat him. There would be no more late nights consisting of me devouring every single page of his file, trying to understand him. He’s gone, along with all of the time I usually spend obsessing over his case. It seems like there's nothing left to do now, nothing left to occupy my time with. I don't why it affects me so deeply, so irrationally, but I can't help but feel hollow.
I stand up and walk over to the hall closet, having a strange impulse to glance at something. I grab the Joker's portrait of me and take it into the living room. I prop it up against the wall, step back, and stare. Nothing about the painting itself has changed, but something about it feels different somehow. My eyes scour every inch of the portrait and I stare at the masked face for a long moment.
Is this what he saw in me?