Arkham High

Chapter 5

"What is the actual point of a pep rally?" demanded Nygma, as he, Crane, and Tetch sat squashed together in the auditorium with the rest of the school. "It's such a mandatory waste of time which could be better spent studying."

"I assume the clue is in the name," replied Tetch, not looking up from his book. "It's meant to rally your pep, whatever that means. Utter nonsense, if you ask me. We don't have such things in England."

"Yes, I mean, logically it makes no sense," agreed Crane. "Assuming you are the sort of person who enjoys sporting events, presumably you're already excited for your local team to be playing and hoping they'll win. And assuming you're not, being forced to cheer for them certainly isn't going to change your mind."

"It's just a self-satisfied display of mindless machismo and testosterone," continued Nygma. "All these athletic types patting each other on the back for something they haven't even accomplished yet, and forcing the rest of us poor souls to endure it."

"Yes, but there are…some benefits," sighed Tetch, looking up from his book as the cheerleaders entered the auditorium. "She's just so beautiful! And sweet and kind and perfect…"

"Oh, man up, Jervis!" snapped Nygma.

"Harley!" called Crane, waving at her as she entered the auditorium in different clothes. "Come sit with us!"

"Thanks, Johnny," said Harley, taking the seat next to him as he squeezed in next to Nygma, who didn't look pleased.

"I'm so sorry about what happened this morning, but may I say you handled the whole situation with the utmost grace and dignity…" began Crane.

"Thanks, Johnny, but I don't really wanna talk about it," said Harley, smoothing down her new clothes, which she thought looked even worse than the old ones had. "What hurts the most is that J came to comfort me after I got upset at cheerleading practice. He seemed like kinda a nice guy. Guess I was wrong about him, though. I'm horrible at judging people. And so socially awkward…"

"No, no, no," said Crane, hastily. "Oh no, you're not! Certainly not compared with me or Jervis or Edward…"

"Speak for yourself!" snapped Nygma.

"I guess I just learned my lesson about wanting to see the best in people," she murmured. "Some people are just rotten to the core…ow!" she said, as something landed in her hair.

It was a paper airplane. She pulled it out, looking around angrily, and spotted the Joker not far away from her, waving. She glared at him, about to throw it back at him, but he made an opening gesture with his hands. Finally, Harley realized that he wanted her to open the airplane, and she unfolded it. There was a note written inside.

Harley,

I'm really sorry about today. You're a sweet kid, and I didn't mean to make you feel bad. I hope this goes a little way toward making you feel better – it's the only way I know to show I'm sorry anyway. What happens next is all for you.

Sincerely,

J.

"What…" began Harley, but suddenly the lights in the auditorium went out. And then the fireworks began.

Screaming and chaos descended on the room as loud bangs and explosions started going off everywhere. In the glimpses of light, Harley thought she saw the Joker creeping toward the center of the room, where the football players and cheerleaders were huddled together in the confusion. The madness lasted for several long minutes before the lights switched back on…but the shrieking continued.

"Oh my God, get it off!" screamed Pamela, as she fought to free herself and Selina from a net which had firecrackers attached to it. They began screaming as the firecrackers started to go off, sending sparks flying onto their clothes and singeing their hair.

"Alice!" shouted Tetch, racing off the benches and grabbing her hand, pulling her out of harm's way. The football players began trying to untangle the net, which was difficult with Selina and Pamela screaming and struggling to get free.

Harley watched the scene in astonishment, and then turned to look at the Joker, who had returned to his seat and was now chuckling madly. "Not funny!" Harley mouthed at him, but as she turned back to face the panicked cheerleaders, she couldn't resist smiling a little to herself.

"Alice, are you ok?" asked Billy, coming over to his girlfriend when Selina and Pamela were free at last and being escorted, still screaming in rage, to the nurses' office.

"Oh yeah, I'm fine, Billy," replied Alice. "Wasn't even singed thanks to Jervis here. You're such a sweet guy, Jervis!" she said, beaming at him. "How can I ever thank you?"

"No…need," stammered Tetch. "Happy…happy to do it."

"Well, that ain't good enough for me," said Alice, smiling. She bent down and kissed his cheek. "Thanks, Jervis," she murmured.

Tetch managed a slow nod, staggering back to the benches. "I shall never in my life be as happy again as I am at this moment," he murmured, dreamily.

"You're so pathetic," snapped Nygma, slamming his book shut. "Anyway, I can't possibly concentrate on studying with all this chaos. And since I assume this ridiculous display is now cancelled, I'm heading back to the library. See you there."

"So, whaddya think, dollface?" asked Joker's voice from behind Harley. She turned to see him smiling at her. "Quite a show, huh?"

"Yes," agreed Crane, glaring at him suspiciously. "I wonder who could be responsible for it."

"Yeah, so do I," agreed Joker. "Must be a pretty dedicated guy, going through all that effort. I'd certainly be impressed."

"If only he could dedicate himself as much to his studies, he might have a chance of graduating," said Harley, lightly.

"Well, maybe he would if he had someone to help him out," said Joker. "You know anyone who'd be willing to do that, Harley?"

Harley smiled despite herself, standing up. "I'll ask around," she said. "Maybe if he continues to impress, I'll do it myself."

Joker grinned. "No problemo, toots!" he chuckled. "He ain't the kinda guy to disappoint, don't you worry!"

"Were the two of you speaking in some sort of code?" asked Crane, following Harley out of the auditorium.

"I think we were pretty clearly saying what we meant," said Harley, returning to her locker. She opened it to see that any remaining pie spills had been cleaned up. One of the prom posters was stuck inside, and for a moment, Harley wondered if it had been left there deliberately, maybe as a sort of shy invitation from the guy who had cleaned up her locker. But the thought vanished in an instant, and she smirked, crumpling the poster up. "Nice joke, Harl," she muttered to herself. "J trying to be subtle? Don't make me laugh."


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