Arkham High

Chapter 19

"You look just beautiful, sweetie," said Mrs. Quinzel, beaming at her daughter.

"Thanks, Mom," said Harley, smiling as she looked down at her dress. "I hope J agrees with you."

"He will – he's got great taste," replied Mr. Quinzel, emerging from the bedroom with a camera. "Now lemme get a picture. Big smile!"

Harley obliged him – she felt like smiling as she spun around in the beautiful dress. She didn't dress up often, so this made a nice change. She was wearing a black mask to match the black diamonds on the dress, and so she had traded in her glasses for a pair of contact lenses. Her blonde hair was done up in pigtails, and she wore white facepaint and black lipstick to complete the clown look.

"Gosh, you're so pretty and grown up!" said Mr. Quinzel, snapping picture after picture. "I'm gonna need some more film for when J gets here!"

"Oh, we'll get it, sweetie," said Mrs. Quinzel, pulling Harley toward the bedroom. "I just wanna pin Harley's dress a bit more."

She shut the door, and cleared her throat as she reached for the box of pins. "Look, sweetie, I know this is a little awkward, but…I just wanted to talk to you about…what can happen when a boy and girl love each other very much."

Harley gaped at her. "What, now?" she hissed, blushing. "Just before prom?"

"Yes, I can't put it off any longer," said Mrs. Quinzel, fixing her dress. "I mean, I know you know the gist of it, but…well…traditionally prom night is a time when couples think about taking their relationship to the next level…"

"Mom, I really don't wanna talk about this right now!" said Harley, blushing furiously.

"Harley, it's important," she said, looking up at her daughter sincerely. "Look, I'm not gonna tell you what you should or shouldn't do – you're old enough now to make your own decisions. I just wanna make sure that if you and he decide to…explore, well...it's really important that you use protection…"

"Yeah, Mom, I get it," interrupted Harley. "Can we stop talking about this, please?"

"I just want you to be careful, baby," she murmured. "Promise me you'll use protection."

"Yeah, yeah, I promise!" said Harley, hastily. "Now can we please change the subject?"

The doorbell rang. "That'll be Mr. J!" said Harley, racing out to answer it. She pulled open the door and smiled at the Joker, who was dressed in a purple suit with an orange shirt and a green bowtie. He gaped at her in astonishment.

"Wow!" he gasped. "You look great!"

"Thanks. So do you," she murmured, leaning forward to kiss him.

"Here – that's for you," he said, holding out a corsage to her. "Be careful with it. If you press it too hard, it squirts."

"You brought me a trick flower for my corsage?" asked Harley, in disbelief.

"Yeah," he said, his smile falling. "Why? Doncha like it?"

She grinned. "I love it," she murmured, kissing him again and pinning it to her dress. "Now come inside so Mom and Dad can get some pictures."

"J, don't you look handsome!" exclaimed Mrs. Quinzel, emerging from the bedroom with another roll of film.

"Thanks, Mrs. Q," he said, smoothing his hair back. "Though I'm sure a lotta people don't see a guy with green hair in a purple suit and think handsome."

"Well, it suits you," she said.

"Now can we have the Joker and Harley Quinn standing together, please?" asked Mr. Quinzel, holding up the camera. "Big smiles now!"

"Dad, we're gonna be late," said Harley, after about the hundredth picture. The smile was beginning to hurt.

"Ok," he sighed, putting the camera away reluctantly. "You two have a nice evening."

"I'll bring her home before midnight, Mr. Q, I promise," said Joker.

"Of course you will, J, you're a good boy," said Mrs. Quinzel, hugging him and her daughter in turn. "Have fun now!"

"Don't worry, Mrs. Q – it's impossible not to have fun in a limousine!" chuckled Joker, leading Harley down the stairs of the apartment. "It's kinda an unwritten rule!"

He opened the front door of the building and Harley gasped as she saw a huge, black limousine waiting outside, with a chauffeur holding the door open. "My dear?" said Joker, holding out a hand to help her inside.

"Mr. J, this is…amazing!" she gasped, climbing into the spacious interior. "How on earth did you afford this?"

"Oh, I have sources of income, sweets," he chuckled, sitting down next to her. He popped open a bottle of champagne, pouring two glasses.

"Mr. J, we can't drink!" whispered Harley. "We're underage!"

"Are we?" he chuckled. "Or are we 21?" he asked, handing her a fake ID with her picture on it.

"He believes we're 21 when he's driving us to a high school prom?" demanded Harley.

Joker shrugged. "We got held back a couple years. We're a really stupid couple, but this year we're finally gonna graduate! So I'm splashing out on prom. Can you blame me?"

"This is illegal," said Harley firmly, as Joker handed her a glass.

"Yep," he agreed, taking a long sip. "And I gotta say, it feels pretty good to be bad! C'mon, sweetheart. Try being a bad girl for once."

Harley looked at him, and then gently took a sip from the glass. She made a face. "Being bad doesn't taste very nice."

"It's an acquired taste," he agreed. "Try some more."

She obeyed, and grinned. "You're not trying to get me drunk just to take advantage of me, are ya, Mr. J?"

"Do I need to get you drunk to do that?" he chuckled, leaning forward to kiss her. "Or are you gonna let me get past second base tonight?"

"On prom night?" she murmured, returning his kisses. "That's such a cliché. You wouldn't wanna be a cliché, would you, Mr. J?"

"Hmm, would I rather be a cliché or get past second base?" he murmured, grinning. "I'm honestly not sure."

"Well, lay off for now, or you'll mess up my makeup," she said, pushing him gently back. She smiled. "And as for afterwards, let's just say you are pretty irresistible in that suit."

He smiled back, kissing her gently. Harley looked down at her hands. "Just…in case…y'know," she stammered. "Do you have…uh…protection?"

He reached into his pocket and held a packet out to her. "Just in case," he repeated, nodding. "Because, y'know, if you're not comfortable I don't wanna pressure you into…"

"I know. You're sweet," she interrupted. "I'll have to see how I feel by the end of tonight. Is that ok?"

He laughed. "Of course it's ok," he murmured, kissing her. "I want you to enjoy this, if it's your first time."

He studied her. "It would be…uh…your first time, huh?"

She nodded. "What about you?"

He smoothed his hair back. "There was a girl who went to Arkham a couple years back. Jeannie was her name and she and I…uh…had a little thing. A brief, meaningless thing," he added, hastily. "Nothing like how I feel for you. But she didn't have any problems…rushing into things. Y'know."

"Oh," said Harley, surprised, and a little jealous. "Was she…uh…pretty?"

He looked uncomfortable. "Yeah. Nothing compared to you, of course, not a total knockout and all. But yeah, she was…nice-looking."

She nodded, staring at the ground. "What is it?" he asked, gently.

She shrugged. "It's silly. But I guess I just kinda wanted…to be your first."

He took her hands. "Hey," he said, tilting her chin up. "I didn't love her. You are my first, with a girl I really love. You're the first time it's gonna mean anything. With Jeannie, I wanted it because I wanted to see what it was like. I did it for me. If we…do this, I wanna do it for you. I wanna make it a good experience for you. Because I love you, Harley."

She smiled, kissing him gently. "I love you too, Mr. J," she murmured. "Now let's just enjoy prom. I can't wait to see how much all your hard work has paid off."

"Yeah, the old gym looks pretty good, if I do say so myself," agreed Joker. "Course Pammie and Selina did most of the actual work. I just kinda told them what to do."

"Bet they loved that," replied Harley, grinning.

"I think they knew it was all for a good cause," he said, shrugging. "I'm kinda hoping it'll knock your socks off."

"That'll be hard, since I'm not wearing socks," said Harley, kicking off her shoes and putting her bare feet over his legs. He began massaging her feet as she sipped some more champagne. "Gotta say, Mr. J, this is great," she murmured, grinning at him. "A girl could get used to being a little bad, huh?"

"I sure hope so, sweets," he chuckled, kissing her. "I like you this way!"

"Wow!" exclaimed Harley, as Joker held open the door to the gym. "It looks amazing, Mr. J!"

And it did. Soft lights of all colors bathed the room, while a disco ball slowly turned on the ceiling, sending spots of lights in all directions. Streamers hung along the walls, and at one end of the gym stood a backdrop with height markings, similar to what you'd see behind a police lineup. There was a long table next to it, piled with food and drinks, and a stage at the far end, where a live band played music.

"Yeah, not bad," agreed Joker, nodding as he looked around. "Hey, Catwoman!" he shouted across the room.

Selina Kyle turned. She was wearing a tight, black catsuit with a tail attached, stiletto heels, and a black mask with cat ears, and she held the arm of a man who looked equally ridiculous.

Bruce Wayne was dressed in a black suit with a black cowl and bat ears, topped off with a long, dark cape. "Great job on the decorations!" shouted Joker, waving at them.

"Oh…thanks, J," said Selina, who had been expecting an insult. "You both look great," she said, nodding at them. "Red really suits you, Harley."

"Yep, and black suits you both," agreed Joker, nodding. "Literally!" he chuckled.

"Nice corsage too…ow!" shouted Selina, as she touched the flower and it sprayed liquid onto her hand. "What the hell is that?"

"Just a weak acid, Selina – it doesn't do any permanent damage," retorted Joker. "Who else is here?"

"Pamela and Harvey were, but they've wandered off somewhere," said Selina, looking around.

"They were here together?" said Joker, surprised.

Selina shrugged. "She couldn't find anyone else to go with. The only other guys who offered were Waylon Jones and Edward Nygma. I guess she thought Harvey was the lesser of three evils."

"Can't say I blame her," agreed Joker. "Where's Beauty and the Nerd?"

"Oh, you haven't heard?" asked Selina. "Alice told Jervis she was going with Billy at the last minute."

"Ouch," said Harley, making a face. "Is he still coming?"

"From what I understand, he couldn't cancel all his plans at the last minute," replied Selina. "So I think so. He's probably just come with a different date."

"Yep. Different gender and everything," laughed Joker, pointing at the door as Jonathan Crane and Jervis Tetch entered together. "I always thought you two would make a cute couple!" giggled Joker.

"Yes, laugh it up!" snapped Crane. "No joke you can make could be any more humiliating than dining at an expensive restaurant together while being serenaded by a string quartet, which then accompanied us during our carriage ride here!"

"For the last time, I told you I couldn't cancel it all!" snapped Tetch.

"Boys, boys, let's not ruin your first date with a lotta fighting!" laughed Joker.

"You feeling ok, Jervis?" asked Harley, gently.

He shrugged. "I'll live. And she was so very kind about the whole thing that I really can't resent her for it. She took me aside and told me that while she promised to go with me, she was in love with Billy. And she told me she would still go with me, if I insisted, but she was asking me kindly to release her from her obligation. I just couldn't refuse her."

"Yes, and I suppose the meal was good anyway," sighed Crane.

"I'm glad you came, Johnny," said Harley, smiling at him. "Prom wouldn't have been the same without you. And you just look great."

"Thank you, Harley," he said. "I've decided that the Scarecrow is an appropriate way to describe me. A straw man who nevertheless enjoys fear."

"I don't think you're a straw man, Johnny," said Harley. "If anything, I thought it was kinda an ironic costume. Y'know, the Scarecrow needing a brain, and you being the smartest guy in school and all."

"Well, we have yet to determine if I'm the smartest guy in school," murmured Crane, smiling. "But thank you."

"I'm the Mad Hatter," said Tetch, gesturing to his costume. "He loses Alice too, so I thought it would be appropriate."

"And he's had a mad hatter costume in his closet since he arrived," muttered Crane.

"That's not the only thing that's been in Jervis's closet!" chuckled Joker.

"Oh, do be quiet, J!" snapped Tetch. "As if I don't have enough to endure without you mocking me…"

At that moment, Alice and Billy entered together, looking very cuddly. Alice was dressed in a white, angel costume, and Billy had on a devil one. "Oh…hi, Jervis!" said Alice, smiling at him. "How was dinner?"

"Very nice, thank you," he replied. "I wish you had been there."

"Yeah, me too," she agreed. "But you're such a great friend for being so nice about all this."

She kissed his cheek and wandered off to get some food. "Angel," sighed Tetch, gazing after her.

"Yes. Talk about an ironic costume," muttered Crane, and Harley giggled.

Harvey and Pamela emerged from the bathroom, looking flushed. "Thought you weren't doing the whole Poison Ivy thing, Pammie!" said Joker. "You said it was demeaning."

"Well, Harvey and I decided that we'd both be good sports about our nicknames," replied Pamela, clasping Harvey's hand. "He's come as Two-Face."

"Yeah…you might wanna adjust your makeup there," said Joker, gesturing to his cheek. "Someone seems to have gnawed it off a little."

Harvey rubbed his cheek. "No hard feelings, huh, J?" he muttered, extending his hand. "You've done a great job with this prom thing, I gotta hand it to you."

"Well, the fun's just begun, Harvey!" chuckled Joker. "Don't thank me yet! Hey, why doesn't everyone go get your picture taken by the lineup while I just do some last minute preparations? Back in a second!"

Harley headed over to get her picture taken with the others, keeping one eye on Joker as he headed over to the food table, discreetly pulling out a hip flask and emptying it into the punch. She grinned.

The evening, as can be expected, turned out to be a very jolly one. Everyone was in an exceptionally good mood, laughing and dancing and chatting. Towards the end of the evening, Joker headed up on stage and made a gesture for the band to silence. He cleared his throat in front of the microphone.

"Good evening, fellow students!" he said. They began cheering and applauding him just for that. "I'm so glad everyone is having such a good time tonight, and I know we'd like to give credit where it's due for this wonderful evening. So if you could join me in extending a big round of applause to Pamela Isley and Selina Kyle, my two little minions for this prom."

"Screw you, J!" shouted Pamela. She was an angry drunk. "I ain't your goddamn minion! I don't serve any man!"

"He's trying to thank you, Pam," hissed Harvey, grabbing her glass away from her.

"Oh…thanks, J!" she called, waving at him. "You're all right!"

Joker cleared his throat again to silence the applause. "I'd also like to take this time to introduce our beloved Principal Leland, who's going to announce our Prom King and Queen. Here she is, folks, the lady of the hour!" he said, bowing as Principal Leland took the stage.

"Thank you for that lovely introduction, J," said Principal Leland, nodding at him. "It's so good to see everyone's having nice, clean fun tonight. I actually have a couple more announcements this evening, aside from our Prom Court. First of all, the results from finals are in, and I'm very pleased to inform everyone here that you've passed. Even you, J," she said, nodding at him. Harley beamed at Joker. "Which means we have our valedictorian," continued Principal Leland, as the cheering died down. "It was a very close race, but if you could all join me in extending a round of applause to Jonathan Crane, who has won it."

Everyone cheered as Crane just stared at her, stunned. "I…I can't believe it!" he stammered.

"And if we could also congratulate our salutatorian by a very slim margin, Jervis Tetch!" said Principal Leland.

More applause followed. "Yes, that's me," sighed Tetch. "Second in everything." He held out his hand to Crane. "Congratulations, Jonathan," he said, sincerely. "The best man won."

"I'd also like to announce that the scholarship committee has chosen its winner for this year," continued Principal Leland. "This individual is going to enjoy a fully funded ride to college. And this individual is Harleen Quinzel."

Harley clapped a hand to her mouth, letting out a shriek of joy. She hugged Crane, who was standing next to her, feeling tears come to her eyes. Joker smiled at her, blowing her a kiss from the stage.

"And so finally we come to our Prom King and Queen," said Principal Leland, reaching for an envelope. "As you all know, this is a secret ballot, and I've got the confidential results here in my pocket," he said, pulling out an envelope. "So here they are. Your Prom King and Queen are…" She opened the envelope. "J and Harleen Quinzel."

"That's impossible!" shrieked Pamela. "I deserve that title!"

"Now you know how I feel," muttered Harvey.

"Come up onto the stage, sweetheart," said Joker, holding out his hand to Harley.

She stared at him, stunned, but was nudged gently forward by the other students. "Oh…Mr. J!" she gasped, as a tiara was placed on her head. "I can't believe this is real! You should pinch me or something!"

He kissed her tenderly. "That feel real enough for you?" he murmured. "Better than a pinch anyway."

She beamed, kissing him again to the applause of her fellow students.

"Before I go, there are a few more things I'm supposed to announce," said Principal Leland. "J wanted to do these along with this prom thing, and I thought it was a great idea. So without further ado, I have some superlative awards to give out. Most Likely to Succeed: Harvey Dent."

"Yes!" hissed Harvey, fist pumping as he climbed up on stage to collect his award.

"Most Likely to Use Their Powers for Good: Bruce Wayne."

"I'm the hero Arkham deserves," agreed Bruce.

"Most Likely to Use Their Powers for Evil: Jonathan Crane."

"Evil is a matter of perspective," muttered Crane.

"Class Clown…"

"J!" shouted all the students unanimously.

"Wasn't much of a contest, was it?" chuckled Joker.

"Most Attractive – actually, it's a tie between Pamela Isley and Selina Kyle."

They both rolled their eyes at the other. "Whatever!"

"Cutest Couple: Alice Pleasance and Billy Dodgson."

"Rub it in," muttered Tetch.

"Best Dressed: Jevis Tetch."

Tetch brightened instantly. "What a pleasant surprise," he said, adjusting his hat.

"Most Annoying: Edward Nygma."

"How is that even a category?!" demanded Nygma, who was dressed in a green bodysuit covered in question marks.

"Most Unique: Harleen Quinzel."

"That's my girl!" exclaimed Joker, beaming. Harley beamed back. She had never been so happy.

"And now, ladies and gents, let's return to the party!" cried Joker, seizing the microphone from Principal Leland. "Hit it, boys!" he exclaimed at the band.

They began playing "Twist and Shout," which the Joker sang and danced to, with the encouragement and applause of the entire school.

"Ferris Bueller's a bit of an idol of mine," he explained to Harley, as he leaped off the stage after the song was over.

"I would never have guessed," she murmured, grinning. The band began playing a slower song, and Joker pulled her close as they danced together.

"Although I gotta say, I don't see much of his inspiration in you anymore," murmured Harley, smiling at him. "You've reformed into a complete good guy. Class president, prom king, hall monitor, decent grades, doesn't scrub up bad either. I kinda miss the bad boy I met on my first day, who ran into me and shocked me with his joy buzzer."

"Oh, don't worry, baby," he murmured, grinning. "He's still around."

There was a shriek as the lineup backdrop suddenly exploded. The sparks set off a bunch of fireworks which had been attached to the back of it, and they flew up into the air with loud bangs.

"That was you?" said Harley, grinning at him.

"Yeah," he admitted, nodding. "I wanted this whole evening to go off with a bang."

"Well, I do love fireworks," murmured Harley, smiling. "They make me feel all tingly inside."

"Yeah? Wanna see some more fireworks, sweetheart?" he whispered. He kissed her passionately as the explosions continued to go off around them.

The limousine parked in front of Harley's apartment about ten minutes before midnight. "Told you we'd be back in time," murmured Joker, opening the door for her.

"I trusted you, Mr. J," she murmured, grinning at him. "You know that."

She blushed. "You…uh…had a nice time tonight, huh?" asked Joker.

"Yeah," she agreed, beaming at him. "It was the best night of my life."

"Good. That's what I wanted it to be," he whispered, kissing her. "And…I mean…you're ok, right? After…y'know…you sure I didn't hurt you?"

"Nah uh," she murmured. "It was wonderful, Mr. J. Just perfect."

"I'm glad," he said, squeezing her hand. "It was much better than it was with Jeannie. Not that it's a competition. But if it was, you won by a mile."

She grinned. "It's kinda a big thing, what we did, huh?" she asked.

"Yeah, I guess so," he agreed.

"I'm glad we did it," she said.

"Me too," he murmured. "I love you, Harley."

She kissed him tenderly. "I love you too," she murmured. "See you in a couple days for graduation?"

"Yeah, you will," he agreed, smiling. "I'm actually graduating, thanks to you. It seems like a miracle."

"Well, I knew you were capable of miracles," she murmured, grinning. "Goodnight."

They kissed again, and then she headed up the steps into the apartment building. "Oh, will your parents be at graduation?" she asked, turning suddenly. "Mom and Dad really wanna meet them."

His face fell. "Oh…yeah. They probably will."

"Great," she said, smiling at him. "I can't wait to meet them either. Night, Mr. J!"

She shut the door to the apartment. He sighed, climbing back into the limousine and slamming the door. "What a crap way to end a great evening," he muttered, looking after Harley. "Prepare yourself for a disappointment, kiddo. A real big one."


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