Arkham High

Chapter 7

A flyer was shoved in Harley's face the moment she entered the school the next morning. "Vote Dent!" said Harvey Dent, who was standing by the door handing them out to every student who entered.

"Uh…thanks…I will," stammered Harley, taking it from him slowly as she headed over to her locker.

"I don't even know why he's bothering with all this campaigning," said Crane, unpacking his books. "He's running completely unopposed, as usual."

"I imagine he has some form of conscience," said Tetch. "And doesn't want to feel like he's getting something for nothing."

"What is he getting, besides a huge headache?" asked Harley. "Nobody in their right mind would wanna be in charge of this place!"

"Well, the class president has complete control over all student activities and social functions," explained Tetch. "It's as much power as one can possibly wield as a student. And Harvey enjoys his power, and the respect from his peers that goes along with it. True, he has a great deal of responsibilities, but he enjoys them too. And in all honesty, he's very good at them."

"He seems like a decent guy," said Harley, impressed. "What's he doing dating Pamela?"

"There is a stereotype that certain men value looks over personality," replied Crane. "I would associate Harvey with that stereotype. But you never know – a cutthroat, ruthless woman might be just the thing to have on your campaign trail."

"I just wish we didn't have to put up with all this rigmarole," sighed Tetch. "First the mandatory pep rally, and now this stupid campaign assembly – it just wastes valuable time!"

"Speaking of wasting time," muttered Crane, seeing the Joker approach them. Tetch ducked into his locker to save Joker the trouble of shoving him in, but Joker didn't appear to be in the mood for it, knocking past them and heading for one of Harvey's newly printed campaign posters. He pulled out a can of blue spray paint, whistling, and began defacing the posters a second time.

"Why are you doing that?" demanded Harley.

He shrugged. "Dunno. It's fun, I guess," he said, moving onto the next one.

"It's not fun to destroy other people's hard work!" snapped Harley. "It's just cruel!"

"It's fun to me, all right?" snapped Joker, rounding on her. "It's fun for me to teach everyone a lesson about taking themselves so goddamn seriously! Those nerds and their grades! Harvey and his campaign! They're just so wrapped up with meaningless crap! None of this matters, and the fact that they think it does is massively irritating to me, all right?"

"People taking things seriously annoys you?" demanded Harley. "Is it because you're incapable of taking anything seriously?"

"What's there to take seriously?" he retorted. "Life's one big joke."

"I hope you won't always think that," hissed Harley.

"No, I'm pretty sure I will," he replied.

"Then I feel very sorry for you," murmured Harley. "You'll never have any sense of accomplishment, or any pride in your own achievements. You'll live your life mocking other people's, but never truly having one of your own. I take my grades seriously, because I have to get into college on a scholarship. That does matter to me, because I'm hoping to improve my life. And it's a shame that you can't dedicate yourself to something that will improve your own life, rather than tearing down everybody else's. But I guess I shouldn't have expected anything else from a heartless bully."

She turned to go, but he grabbed her arm, ripping her back to him. "Is that really what you think of me?" he demanded, seizing her shoulders.

"Why? What else are you?" she asked. It was a strange moment for Harley, because although she appeared outwardly calm, her body was shaking and her heart was pounding wildly as his hands gripped her shoulders. He didn't say anything in response – just glared at her, the intensity of his eyes almost hurting her. She could feel the heat radiating from the closeness of his body, and she felt the heat from her own body responding, drawing him in. His face came closer to hers, and she shut her eyes, feeling every breath from the nearness of his lips…

"God dammit, J!" shouted Harvey Dent suddenly, breaking the spell. Her eyes snapped open to see Harvey storming toward them. "Leave my goddamn posters alone!"

Joker released Harley and raced off, with Harvey rushing after him. Harley stood there, still shaking slightly, and feeling an overwhelming sense of disappointment that he hadn't kissed her.

She didn't know why she should be disappointed about it – she didn't really like the guy. And he wasn't objectively handsome, so it shouldn't really be a matter of physical attraction. She was still trying to puzzle it out as she shuffled into the auditorium again for Harvey Dent's campaign speech.

"Fellow students, it's such an honor to be standing in front of you again, hoping to be trusted by you again to be your class president," said Harvey, smiling his usual, charming smile. "As you know, I take my responsibilities very seriously, and I can assure you if I'm re-elected, this year's prom will be our best yet. My girlfriend, Pamela Isley, has already volunteered to organize the decorations, and I think you'll be just as excited as I am to see what kind of themes she has in mind. But before I can put those ideas and many others into place, I need to be re-elected. And I realize this isn't a difficult task, standing as I am completely unopposed…"

"No, you ain't," said a voice suddenly. Everyone turned to see the Joker striding down the aisle. There were murmurs and shouts of anger as he took the stage next to Harvey.

"J…what are you doing here?" hissed Harvey, furiously.

"I'm running against you," he said. "Thought this would be just the time and place to announce my candidacy publicly! Everyone who's anyone is here!" he chuckled.

"If this is a joke, J, it isn't funny!" snapped Harvey.

"It's no joke, Harvey," retorted Joker. "I'm running against you. Granted, it'll be tough for me to win a popularity contest like this, but I'm a guy who likes a challenge!" he laughed.

"J…you can't…" stammered Harvey. He looked pleadingly at Principal Leland. "He can't, can he?" he asked.

Principal Leland nodded slowly. "Actually, he can."

There was an uproar from everyone at this. "Now just calm down, everyone!" said Harvey. "I mean…maybe he can actually run for class president, but I'm almost positive there's no chance of him winning it."

"We'll see about that, Harv!" said Joker, grabbing the microphone from him. "So, time for my big speech now, huh? Well, you folks all know me! The Joker, the J-Man, the Big J! I'm the guy who's brought untold smiles and laughter to your face for the past four years! But I'm standing here today trying to be taken seriously for once, and believe me, I'm as surprised about this as you are! But y'know, a guy can't spend his life just mocking other people's. He's gotta achieve something on his own. And I wanna achieve this class presidency."

"Why the hell are you doing this?" hissed Harvey, furiously.

Joker shrugged. "I dunno. Maybe I'm making a point about what a joke this whole class presidency thing is. Or student politics in general. Or just politics in general, that a clown like me can even run in an election!" he chuckled. "Maybe I wanna give you some kinda competition, Harv, just so you don't get bored. Or maybe…I want someone out there to think of me as more than just a heartless bully," he said, looking at Harley. "But whatever the reason, the fact of the matter is, I'm running against you. And I'm gonna win."

Harvey's rage was shaking his whole body, but he resumed his usual, charming smile. "Ok, J," he said. "I'll still beat you, so I don't know why it really matters. The students of Arkham aren't stupid – they aren't going to vote for some joke of a nobody after my years of dedicated service. So yeah, run if you want. I'll look forward to running you into the ground."

He turned back to the assembled students. "So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen," he said. "Vote for Harvey Dent, proven leader, or this clown. I know you'll make the right choice."

He stormed off the stage as the assembly was dismissed. Harley had been staring in astonishment at Joker since he appeared on stage, and now rushed over to him. "Why are you doing this?" she demanded. "Really?"

"You heard my answer to that, toots – take your pick of whichever one you like best," he replied.

"You'll never win," she said. "You should save yourself a big humiliation and back down…"

"You wanna bet?" he interrupted.

"What?"

"You wanna bet that I ain't gonna win?" he asked.

"Yeah…sure," said Harley, slowly. "What do we bet?"

He held out his hand. "If I win, you come with me to the prom, all expenses paid."

Harley stared at him. "You can't be serious…"

"Do I look like I'm joking?" he asked, grinning. "C'mon, sweetheart, take the bet. Unless you're afraid I am gonna win."

Harley shook her head. "You won't," she retorted firmly. "Not in a million years."

"Deal then?" he asked, holding out his hand.

She looked for a joy buzzer, and then shook it slowly. "Deal," she agreed. "Now I…better go. I guess I should wish you good luck, but it doesn't matter. Harvey's gonna win, fair and square."

Joker stared after her, smiling to himself. "Well, you know what they say," he chuckled. "All's fair in love and war!"


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