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Day 812
Thanks to the Spike for betaing, and to the Te for an early read-through.

Harley is sane.

She pays for her bagel while the armored goons drag away the old coot who'd complained about his runny eggs, and really it's not hard to be sane at all. You're never fully dressed without a smile in the new Gotham, and Harley always has a smile on her face and a song in her heart, no problem. It's easier for her, looks like, than for some of the other mooks at the run-down diner. They’re staring at their food like it was going to bite them back, but none of them have the nerve to push it away.

She thinks about the time that she and Mr. J had switched the salt with sneezing powder at the Gotham Policemen's Benevolent Fund dinner. Batman had arrived with the antidote before anybody could sneeze themselves to death, but they’d gotten away in the new car that was the grand prize...and then suddenly being sane is hard. She wants to laugh and laugh, and make everybody else laugh, too, until she tumbles the world topsy-turvy and the sad things aren't sad anymore. But that'll get the armored goons after her, too, and that wouldn't be any fun at all. Not like the old days.

So she digs her nails into her palms until the feeling passes and she can get up to go home. Everything is right as rain. Right as rain, Miss Lois Lane, up in your tower like a princess, and, oh, if only Harley could get to you, what jokes you'd have together, laughing at your mean old prince. If only the tower weren't so very tall and Harley so very alone.

"Puddin', I'm home!" she yells as she opens the door, but it doesn’t work. There's no one there. It's never worked yet, but Harley Quinn's not a quitter, no-siree.

She's lived in this one-room fleabag dump for six weeks. The rooms all look the same now: no bright colors or wacky contraptions to give them a little personality. Batgirl made her promise. She keeps two changes of clothes and the Toybag in the one closet, and a tiny jade plant on the windowsill. The plant died a month ago, but Harley still waters it. She couldn't keep Selina's cat after it died; the last landlord complained about the smell.

The cleaning lady's uniform--costume, she always tells herself--lands on the back of her one chair and she steps into the shower. The water puddles around her feet in dingy grey, the runoff from the black dye in her spiky hair. The drain isn't working right again, but complaining would only draw attention to herself. She makes a little face, soaps up her hands, and runs them over her body. When she reaches her special place, she stops and circles, thinking of Ivy. Tickling, twining Ivy, who would creep up her thigh and make Harley shriek with giggles. She shudders and rests her head against the cold tile so she can let it all out. It's only safe to think of Ivy here, where her tears will be lost in the spray.

She's whistling again by the time she's wrapped up her hair. She switches on the radio when she comes back into her room. It's all easy-listening now, every channel, but Harley has found the one AM station where that means Cole Porter and Richard Rodgers instead of Celine Dion and Dido. "Tell me," she sings along as she gets ready for bed, "why should it be, that you have the power to hypnotize me?" She and Mr. J used to swing to this in the moonlight until she fell down. She can let it help her pretend for another day--

But then the song explodes into a burst of static, jolting her from her doze, and a voice comes in, low and urgent. "This is Dan Rather, once of CBS News. I'm coming to you with this special report from an undisclosed location. The Justice Lords have apparently lost their powers and been overthrown. Superman has been torn to pieces by a furious mob in front of the Daily Planet in Metropolis..."

Harley can hear screams in the hallway, pounding feet. It reminds her of Arkham during one of the breakouts. She goes under the pillow and pulls out the gun. It's solid and heavy and has the LexCorp logo embossed on the handle. Mercy might have been a stuck-up little bitch, but she had died with a grin on her face that Mr. J would've been proud of.

She sits on the bed and listens and waits as the sun climbs up the sky. It's the best bedtime story ever, and Dan Rather tries to sound all serious, but Harley knows. She can always hear the glee that isn't supposed to be there. "A sniper has gunned down Hawkgirl in Edge City...Green Lantern is reported to have taken refuge in Kenya...The Russian Republic has launched a nuclear attack on Themiscyra, where Wonder Woman was said to be hiding...The Martian Manhunter has simply disappeared..."

And finally, finally, at dusk, the most important story of all. "Another mob is reported to be besieging Batman’s once-secret headquarters on the estate of noted industrialist Bruce Wayne."

She shrieks, and accidentally smashes the radio. She'd been afraid the trickiest one would get away somehow, but even he wasn't clever enough in the end. It's like Halloween and April Fool's Day all rolled into one. She needs her real costume for this, so she flies to the closet and opens the Toybag.

Wayne Manor is already on fire when she gets there, like the castle in Frankenstein. The crowds have found the secret entrance and battered their way down the passages. There are bodies on the ground. Ordinary people, and people in uniforms, and...that sweetie Nightwing. Such a jolly crucifixion! She smears some of his blood on her face to make it look extra cheerful. A girl has to keep the color in her cheeks.

The throngs all stare at her, murmur and part for her. She takes it like a queen--Harley Queen!--nodding and waving. Down in the Cave itself, Batman is holding the crowd at bay with a flamethrower. Silly Bat. Tricks are for kids, not Lords.

"Can I play?" she cries over the din, and it all goes quiet.

Batman turns and sees her, and his big mean square face breaks apart. "Harley? I thought you were..."

"Pushing up the daisies?" she laughs. "Batgirl sure did a good job. Ivy always said she was the real brains of the team. I oughta write her a nice thank-you note--oh, wait, I can’t!”

"She didn't talk," he says, mostly to himself. "Not even at the end."

"Gee, your own teammate lied to you? Now there's a kick in the pants! Whoever would've thunk it?"

His mouth hardens. He aims the flamethrower in her direction, and then lowers it, letting it fall from his hands. Men rush in to grab him. One hits him hard behind the ear, knocking him unconscious.

"Don't hurt him!" she shouts. "It'll spoil the fun."

A husky man gripping Batman's wrist asks her, "What fun?"

"He's a very, very sick man. He hurt my puddin'. There's really only one place for him."

"Yeah. Hell."

"No, silly. Worse than that. Arkham." She giggles. "I'll treat him myself."

They bring him out behind her. Below them, the city burns and burns, the prettiest thing she's seen in a year. Mr. J's kind of party, she thinks, as she leads the parade, and she doesn't let herself cry, because they mustn't see.

Besides, it’s time to laugh again. As long as she wants.


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