Arkham High

Chapter 18

"Well, today's the day," said Harley, holding Joker's hand as they entered Arkham High together. "Finals. You nervous?"

He laughed. "What have I got to be nervous about, toots? I've barely passed any test, and now I've got a whole bunch of 'em all at once! It's not nervousness so much as an acceptance of failure."

"You're not going to fail," she said firmly, squeezing his hand. "You're gonna do fine. Just remember everything I taught you. And remember that no matter what happens, I'll still love you."

He laughed. "That ain't good motivation, kid!" he exclaimed. "You should say if I fail, you'll stop loving me. Then I'll work real hard not to. As it is, you'll love me whatever happens, so why should I even bother trying?"

"Well, hopefully because you wanna make me proud, and not feel like I've wasted my time," retorted Harley. "But all right, Mr. J – if you fail, I won't love you anymore."

"Good. Now I'm properly motivated," he said, nodding. He was quiet for a moment. "You do…uh…love me, huh, Harley?"

"Uh…yeah," she said, looking down at her feet and blushing. "Don't you…uh…love me?"

"Uh, yeah," he repeated, grinning at her. "But I'll try to knock it off if I fail. Nothing more pathetic than loving someone who doesn't love you back, is there?"

"Maybe failing your finals," she replied, smiling. "So don't do it."

The bell rang, summoning everyone to class. "Good luck," said Harley, kissing him tenderly. "I love you."

"I love you too," he murmured. They smiled at each other, kissed again, and then headed off to their separate classrooms.

"Well, that was remarkably easy," said Jervis Tetch at lunch. "I didn't even study for mine, and it turns out I didn't need to."

"What do you mean, you didn't study?" asked Jonathan Crane. "You've been ignoring my telephone calls for weeks!"

"Yes, I've been working," replied Tetch, nodding. "On planning the perfect evening for Alice. I'm preparing a Wonderland of events for our prom date – we're going to arrive in a horse-drawn carriage accompanied by a string quartet. It's been terribly hard to find such a thing as a footman and groom for the carriage, but I've managed it. We'll also be dining earlier that evening at the finest restaurant in Gotham, and I've managed to forge two false identification cards for us so that we will be able to order champagne even though we're underage."

Crane stared at him. "How did you get ahold of fake IDs?" he asked.

"I am acquainted with a man who makes them," replied Tetch. "It cost an arm and a leg, but I think it'll be worth it."

"Who?" asked Crane. "Who could you possibly know that deals in illegal trade like that?"

"Here ya go, Tetchy," said the Joker, slamming two cards down on the table. "You're all set!"

"You?" demanded Crane.

"I know, where do I find the time?" sighed Joker. "Between my class president duties, studying for these goddamn tests, and forging these ID cards for most of the high school in time for prom, it's a wonder I haven't gone crazy. How did you nerds do on the exams?"

"Fine, I suspect," replied Crane. "I've spent weeks locked in my room with no social contact whatsoever…"

"And how is that any different to how you spend your time normally?" interrupted Joker.

Crane glared at him. "If you must know, I haven't even spoken to Jervis," he retorted. "Although he's been neglecting his studies."

"Jonathan, I've spent my whole life studying to improve my mind," retorted Tetch. "It's about time I did something enjoyable, and when such a perfect opportunity as Alice as my prom date presents itself, I would have to be utterly mad not to take advantage of it. If all goes well, it's entirely possible that we'll end up married…"

"Whoa, jumping the gun a little, aren't you?" chuckled Joker. "From prom date to wife?"

"My view is if you love a girl enough to want to go with her to prom, you should love her enough to marry her," retorted Tetch. "Are you saying you have no intention of marrying Harley?"

"Well, I ain't really…thought about it," replied Joker, slowly. "I mean, we're both young. Plenty of time to settle down…"

"Well, if you ask me, it's despicable to keep a girl waiting like that," retorted Tetch. "And it shows you have absolutely no faith in the relationship. Once you've found true love, why wait? And I have found true love."

"Yeah, I guess you're right, Tetchy," said Joker, nodding. "You've found a girl who wants to go out with you, and you're certainly not gonna do any better. Probably best for you to pin her down before she realizes she got a bum deal."

"Hey, sweetheart, how did it go?" asked Harley, entering the cafeteria and draping her arms around Joker. "Think you're gonna pass?"

"Nope," he retorted. "But that way if I don't, I won't be disappointed, and if I do, I can be pleasantly surprised."

She kissed him. "I like you better as an optimist," she replied, sitting down.

"How were finals for you, Harley?" asked Crane.

She shrugged. "I think I did all right in most of them. Chemistry and math were the toughest, but they always are for me. At least they're over now, though. Nothing left to do but wait."

"Yeah," agreed Joker. "And it's boring waiting in here. We should cut class this afternoon and do something fun."

"Cut class?" repeated Harley. "We can't do that!"

"Sure we can – I've done it lots of times!" retorted Joker. "And the school year's basically over – no one does any teaching after finals! You can spend the rest of this afternoon watching some boring movie, or you can spend it with me at the Ace Diner. What's it gonna be?"

Harley grinned at him. "You're very persuasive, you know," she murmured. "But I'm going to feel really guilty. I've never skipped school in my life."

"It's the end of senior year – time to live a little, wouldn't you say?" chuckled Joker. "See ya later, nerds!" he said, taking Harley's hand and leading her away.

Crane sighed. "Perhaps he's right, you know," he said. "Perhaps it is time to live a little."

He stood up. "Where are you going?" demanded Tetch.

"Elsewhere," replied Crane. "It's senior year, finals are over – it's time I took advantage of my freedom."

He left the cafeteria and went outside. He stood in the sunshine for a few moments, and then turned to go back in.

"Or perhaps not," he said, sitting back down next to Tetch. "Freedom is overrated."

Tetch nodded. "My thoughts exactly," he said, returning his attention to his book.

The Ace Diner was a popular hangout for the students of Arkham High – it was decorated and styled after a typical fifties diner, and served all kinds of cheap fast food.

"You gotta try one of the root beer floats, kid," said Joker, pulling out a chair for Harley. "In fact, we'll share one. Root beer float with two straws, please, sweetheart," he said to the waitress.

"Looks like we're not the only ones skipping school," said Harley, nodding at the table next to them, where most of the football team were seated.

Bruce Wayne noticed them and frowned, heading over to their table. "J, class presidents shouldn't be cutting class," he muttered. "And neither should hall monitors."

"Yeah? So what are you doing here, Brucie?" asked Joker.

"Monitoring…stuff," retorted Bruce.

"Looks to me like you're eating a burger," retorted Joker. "Just relax, will ya, Brucie? Get off the Nazi kick and cut me some slack towards the end of the year. Besides, if you report me to Leland, she'll know you were skipping too."

Bruce sighed. "Fine," he snapped. "But don't cause any trouble."

"Would I do that?" asked Joker, smiling innocently.

The door to the diner opened and Selina, Pamela, and Alice entered. "Hey, babe," said Selina, coming over to kiss Bruce. "How'd finals go?"

"They're over now, so let's not talk about them," said Bruce, leading her back to their table. Billy tried to get Alice's attention, but she ignored him, talking loudly to Pamela, who sat next to her.

"I'm really looking forward to prom, Pam, it's gonna be a blast," Alice said, pointedly. "Speaking of which, who are you going with, now that you and Harvey have broken up?"

"I don't…know," stammered Pamela, terror shooting into her eyes. "I…hadn't really thought about that." She looked around desperately. "Hey, Billy, since Alice has dumped you, you wanna go to prom with me?" she asked.

"Hey, you can't just steal him like that!" snapped Alice.

"Why not? You're going with Jervis!" retorted Pamela.

"Oh, thanks for the offer, Pam, but I wouldn't feel right going with anyone but Alice," said Billy. "She's the girl I love, after all."

Alice stared at him. "Wow…Billy…that's really sweet," she stammered. "I didn't know you were such a romantic."

"Well, I'm trying to change for you, Alice," he said. "I just wanna be the kinda man you want. Because I just wanna be with you."

"Fine, you're no good," snapped Pamela, looking around again. "Bane, you going to prom with anyone?"

"Qué?" he muttered, glaring at her.

"Prom!" Pamela repeated, loudly and slowly. "You…going…with…anyone?"

"No comprendo," he retorted, returning to his meal.

"Never mind," sighed Pamela. "Who else? Not you, Croc," she said, as Waylon Jones raised his hand hopefully.

The door to the diner opened again, and Harvey Dent entered. "Uh oh," muttered Joker, grabbing a menu and hiding his face behind it. Dent didn't see him, heading over to the football table.

"Hello, Bruce," he growled.

"Harvey," said Bruce, nodding politely. "You wanna join us?"

"Thanks," he said, casting a quick glance at Pamela. "How'd finals go for you?"

"Like I said to Selina, they're done, so let's not talk about them," Bruce said. "Now that they're over, I can finally look forward to prom. I've got a Batman costume all designed. What are you going as?"

"Haven't decided yet," muttered Harvey. "Plus I don't have anyyone to go with."

He glanced at Pamela again, who was staring intently at the menu in front of her. "Well, you'll find someone," said Bruce, encouragingly. "There are plenty of girls at Arkham. And I'm sure they'd all feel lucky to be going with the…er…uh…former class president."

"Former class president," repeated Harvey, angrily. "Thanks for reminding me."

He seized an empty glass and slammed it down on the table, so hard that it shattered. "When I get my hands on that lying, cheating piece of scum, I'm gonna break his face in two!" he roared.

"He's done an all right job, Harvey," said Pamela, lightly. "Certainly with prom. Probably much better than you could have done."

Harvey turned to face her slowly, rage written all over his face. "What…did….you…say?" he hissed.

"I said he's done an all right job!" she repeated, slamming the menu shut and glaring at him. "Probably better than you could have done! And if anyone needs their face broken in two, it's you! You pretend to be Mr. Charming Politician, but you're nothing more than a callous, heartless jerk!"

"You shut your mouth, you little tramp!" roared Harvey, lunging at her. Bruce tried to intercept him, fighting to hold him back.

"Harley, let's get outta here," whispered Joker, grabbing her hand and pulling her to her feet while Harvey was distracted. He headed for the door when he suddenly tripped over their table, grabbing at it to support himself, and knocking it over, which sent the root beer float splattering over one half of Harvey's face as Joker fell at his feet.

Joker slowly looked up at Harvey's furious face, dripping ice cream and glaring down at him. He grinned. "Uh…hiya Harv," he said.

Harvey roared, lunging at him. Bruce shouted at Bane to help restrain Harvey as Joker scrambled to his feet and raced out of the diner, dragging Harley after him.

When they were safely away from the diner, Joker started laughing. "You think we should call him Two-Face from now on?" he chuckled, grinning at Harley.

"No," she replied, firmly. "Not unless you wanna be in a wheelchair for prom."

"Yeah," sighed Joker, shaking his head sadly. "It's a shame how some people just can't take a joke."

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