Arkham High

Chapter 3

"Hi, Harley! Over here!" called Alice, waving at Harley as she approached the football field after school. "The boys are just doing their warmup, so we're doing ours too!"

"Great. What's…uh…our team name again?" asked Harley.

"The Bats," replied Selina, doing some stretches. "We're the Arkham Bats."

"Makes us kinda sound like we're full of crazy people," said Harley, smiling. Everyone just looked at her. "That was…uh…a joke," she said, slowly. "Cause bats is a euphemism for crazy…"

"If you wanna tell jokes, hang out with the Joker," snapped Selina.

"Not for a million bucks," retorted Harley, putting down her bag. "So we're just stretching, huh?"

"Yeah. We can teach you a couple chants if you wanna," said Alice. "And try out a routine, maybe."

She pulled her jacket off, revealing her cheerleader outfit underneath. "Oh…wow," said Harley. "That's…uh…pretty skimpy stuff."

"Are you uncomfortable with skimpy?" asked Pamela, sarcastically.

"No, I just…don't normally show that much leg myself," replied Harley. "In fact, I don't normally…wear a lotta tight clothes."

"Yeah, you don't really have the figure for it," agreed Pamela. "I mean, you're thin enough, but what are those, like A cups?" she asked, nodding at her chest.

"Uh…yeah," stammered Harley. "Is that bad?"

"Let's just say guys usually wanna see some jiggling on the field," retorted Pamela, displaying her own prominent bust. "But don't worry – I'm sure you can pad 'em."

"If guys can stuff, so can we, am I right?" laughed Selina.

"Yeah," agreed Harley, slowly. "Sure…I guess I could do that."

She gradually took off her own jacket. "I'll show you a chant and some moves, Harley," said Alice. "Ready? We'll run and dive and knock you flat – no chance against us, we're the Bats! Go Arkham! Now you try," she said, handing her some pom poms.

Harley took a deep breath, preparing to copy Alice. "No, no, no, your posture's all wrong," snapped Selina, coming over to her. "Stand up straight, chest out – show 'em the goods! What little there are," she added.

Pamela giggled. "I thought you were a gymnast, Harley," she said, grinning at her. "You think you could be a little more graceful with that jumping! You look like a trained seal!"

"Guys, I think you're being a little harsh," said Alice, surprised. "It's her first try. Go ahead, Harley, ignore them," she said, turning back to Harley.

Harley began the routine again. Both Pamela and Selina snickered. "Wow, Harley, you need to try this at home in front of the mirror anytime you need a laugh!" said Selina. "It's hilarious!"

Harley put down the pom poms, biting her lip to hold back tears. "Excuse me," she muttered, grabbing her bag and heading away from the field.

"Harley! Come back! They didn't mean it!" called Alice after her, but Harley didn't listen. She wandered over behind the bleachers, putting down her bag and letting her tears fall.

She suddenly felt a hand on her shoulder. "Hey, you ok?"

She looked up, stunned, into the face of the Joker. "Why would you care?" she snapped, wiping her tears away angrily. "And why are you spying on me while I'm crying, huh? You wanna make fun of me too?"

"No," he replied, sincerely. "Who was making fun of you?"

"Never mind," muttered Harley. "I don't wanna talk about it."

"It was the queen bitches, wasn't it?" asked Joker. "Catwoman and Poison Ivy?"

"Why are they called that?" asked Harley.

"Well, Selina is called Catwoman because she's known to be very generous with her pussy," replied Joker. "And Pammie's called Poison Ivy because guys have been known to get a rash from her…y'know."

"That's pretty demeaning," replied Harley.

"They demean themselves," he said, shrugging. "The blonde's all right, though."

"Alice? Yeah, she's nice," agreed Harley.

"You ain't actually gonna hang out with them, though, are ya?" he asked. "You'd do better with the nerds."

"I dunno," she muttered. "Speaking of which, aren't you gonna try to beat me up for humiliating you today?"

He laughed. "Yeah. I saw you come over here and I was gonna drop a water balloon on you from the top of the bleachers," he said, nodding up. "But then I saw you were crying, and there wouldn't be a great joke in upsetting a gal who was already upset." He sat down next to her. "If I'm honest with ya, I was kinda impressed with you today," he said. "It's your first day, but that don't mean you'll take crap from people. I respect that. You got spunk, personality, a mind of your own. You don't conform like the rest of the freaks here. You stand up for yourself. I like it."

"Well, I guess I should be grateful somebody likes me," muttered Harley, drawing her knees up to her chest.

"What did they say about you?" he asked.

"I don't wanna talk about it," she repeated.

He was silent. "People say stuff about me too, y'know," he said. "Ya gotta learn not to let it bother you."

"Easier said than done," retorted Harley. "I've spent my whole life trying, God knows."

"Well, you wanna know my secret?" he asked.

She shrugged. "Sure."

"Treat it all like a joke," he replied. "If someone says you're too skinny, or ugly, or stupid, just don't take 'em seriously. Pretend it's a gag. It is, 'cause you ain't none of those things."

Harley sniffed, and he handed her a tissue. "You know, everyone says you're a monster," she murmured. "But you're not so bad a guy after all, huh?"

"Nah, I ain't so bad a guy," he agreed. "Don't tell anyone, though," he added, smiling. "I got a reputation to preserve."

"Is it true what Principal Leland said?" asked Harley. "That you ain't gonna graduate if you don't improve your grades?"

"Probably," he said, shrugging.

"Doncha wanna graduate?" she asked.

"Sure. But I can't improve my grades. Every time I try, I fail. I ain't got the kinda mind for memorizing facts and tests and crap," he said, waving his hand. "Some people say I don't have any kinda mind at all!" he added, laughing. "Shame, really. But I can't change who I am."

Harley studied him. "I'm doing this study group thing with Jonathan Crane and Jervis Tetch and Edward Nygma," she said. "If you ever wanted to…uh…come along, and try to improve your grades by studying with us…well, I'd be happy to help you out as best I can."

Joker laughed. "What, you, me, and the nerds?" he chuckled. "I can just see us now! What a riot!"

He chuckled, climbing to his feet. "Thanks, but no thanks, toots," he replied. "I ain't that desperate yet, and I hope to God I never will be."

"Ok, well…the offer's there if you need it," said Harley, softly.

He smiled at her. "You're a sweet kid," he murmured. "See ya around, huh?" he asked, striding off.

"Yeah…see ya around," she said, gazing after him and smiling.

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