Story: The Joke\'s on You (chapter 3)
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[Author's notes: I feel like people urge me to continue writing this in hopes that it will end happily, but it arose from my own need to express my dissatisfaction with the circumstance in which Harley and Ivy find themselves. So no matter how matter chapters I add, this story will never have a happily ever after ending. The more I write the more melancholy I bring to the characters and as is the story will end with the next chapter. For better or for worse.]
Pamela Isley tapped her forehead with her pen thoughtfully. This clutch of rats was doing much better than the previous nine. “Is it working?” Harley Quin called from her other lab table, the clipboard she was doodling on clattering to the floor.
“Well it’s been three days and they’re still alive so the initial injection didn’t kill them. I’ll begin testing toxin sensitivity tomorrow.” She answered absently, her mind already drawing a list of common poisons to begin testing with.
“So then you’re free until tomorrow, then right?” The blonde probed.
“Well I had planned on monitoring their use of the wheel to determine increase in stamina and strength by percentage.”
Harley eased off the counter and padded with thief’s feet to flank Ivy. “Look Red, you’ve got to take care of yourself. How long has it been since you ate or slept, or even left the lab?” She queried in a soft voice.
The Eco terrorist frowned and cast her gaze down. “A day, maybe two.” She lied, knowing that it had most likely been over a week. “But I need to constantly monitor the rats.”
Harley returned her frown. “The cameras are trained on the rats, and the wheel is hooked up to a monitor that will make a graph of the energy output. You can sleep and eat, even relax until tomorrow at least.”
The plant woman eyed Harley. “That would waste time. I could just watch them and not have to worry about checking the camera recordings.”
“There’s no reason to watch them, unless they die. Then all you have to look for is the time of death on the camera system before you autopsy them.” The blonde returned matter of factly, crossing her arms. “Just come sleep, and then I’ll make you breakfast and we can talk about tomorrow over that? Please for me?”
“I’m doing this for you Harley!” She snapped.
“C’mon Red, this isn’t what I want. Not you workin’ yourself half to death for nearly a month. Y’know, as much as you two dislike each other, you sure are a lot alike. Once ya get into somethin’ ya just get lost in it.”
“Please don’t compare me to that maniac.”
“If the shoe fits.” Harley quipped.
Ivy frowned, furrowed her brow and narrowed her eyes but after huffing a frustrated sigh she nodded her ascent and stalked out of her lab through the greenhouse. She jabbed the security code into the pad to open her vault door before continuing through the foyer, up the stairs and into her bedroom. Her attitude changed completely as she entered her bright sunny room with its large windows. She quickly stripped off her clothes before diving onto her bed to soak up the wonderful life giving rays.
She smiled as she heard Harley reach the top of the stairs. The girl was not in costume so slipping from her clothes was a quick endeavor. Harley slid into bed, wrapping herself in blankets and dragging part of one over Ivy as well. The few loose bandages that remained scraped roughly on her withered skin, but she snuggled closer to the Jester anyway.
Despite her earlier protests, Pamela felt exhaustion take hold of her quickly and sleep consumed her conscious mind easily.
Poison Ivy allowed her eyes to open a crack, testing the amount of light streaming through her window. Amber light basked the room in the presence of dusk, allowing her to fully open her eyes. The plant woman stood, feeling her muscles and joints extend completely.
The heap of blankets to her left stirred and yawned. A blonde mop of messy hair popped out followed by two fists. The blankets fell away to reveal Harley rubbing the sleep from her eyes. “Morning Red.” She chirped. “You go get a shower and I’ll make breakfast.” She leaned in and nuzzled Ivy’s cheek. “Then we can talk about tomorrow.”
Pamela let a smile quirk up the corner of her mouth. “It’s nearly dark Harley. I think we’ll be having that discussion over dinner.”
She rose from the bed, striding confidently to her bathroom to start her shower. She discovered that warm water felt even better after sleeping in a sun soaked bed. So good in fact that she ended up spending nearly twenty minutes under the water before regretfully shutting off the water and stepping from the bathtub.
Pamela dressed quickly and padded down the stairs to her kitchen. Harley was twirling around, a swirling entity with two knives. She observed from the doorway as Harley made trips from her refrigerator to the cupboards and ended up back at the counter. After a few trips, Harley halted and dumped the knives in the sink before whirling around with two plates in hand.
“I’m not too sure if it’s the best, I just kinda replaced the meat with vegtables.” Harley explained holding out a plate of kebobs slathered with something sweet smelling. “The sauce is my own idea, just some sweet and tangy stuff mixed together.”
Ivy accepted the plate and picked up a kebob and took a careful bite from the top of the stick. She hummed in delight. “This is fantastic Harley, how’d you warm the bok choy like this?”
Harley retrieved a blow torch from the counter. “Heated up the veggies before you came down.” She pulled up a chair at the table and set down her plate. She cleared a whole kebob in her single movement, chewing noisily wile Ivy settled down opposite her. “So I was thinking that we could go shopping today or tomorrow cuz stuff’s pretty much closed now and shop lifting is no fun when you don’t have to be sneaky.” Harley proposed around the mouthful of vegetables.
Poison Ivy frowned and took another bite. “I understand that you want to spend time with me, but getting this done is important as well.” She cut herself off, her pride choking back an admission of weakness on her part. Every minute was an opportunity to make a mistake, to allow her judgment to falter just enough to allow her lips to touch some thin skinned part of Harley and it would all be over. If she was working until the vaccine was completed, then she would be less tempted. Harley had a knack for complicating everything.
“Red, I know that this is important, but it’s my job to keep you in check and drag you away once in a while.” Harley devoured her second kebob, munching loudly away on it while the other woman brooded.
“I supposed that I could take a break for a few hours. Since everything is closed now we could go monitor the rats for now.” Ivy proposed. The blonde frowned at her but shrugged.
“I guess it can’t be helped, Red. We’ll just have to play with the rats for now.” She conceded.
“Oooh, what about this one, Red?” Harley exclaimed. “It really brings out your eyes.” Harley exclaimed snatching another blouse off of a rack and adding it to the heap of assorted clothing in the cart.
“I’m sure it’s lovely Harleen.” Pamela replied absently as she looked between two formal gowns. “Which do you think best suites me. I need something for the Thanksgiving Ball that Wayne Enterprises is destined to throw.”
“It’s only the end of March. Shouldn’t you wait for the fall fashion line?”
“Dear, all fall fashion lines look the same. Some drab color with a heavy encumbering skirt. Wearing something from the spring line however brings bright colors and flattering cuts. It allows one to stand out in the crowd, a perfect way to catch the eye a rich bachelor.” Ivy replied. “Rich bachelors will pay quite a lot to remain alive once you reveal that you are a deranged terrorist.”
Harley studied both dresses for a minute before pointing to a short number with the color of perfectly ripe cranberries and a strapless bodice. “The color will work with your skin tone and the cut is flattering but classy. You wanna to try it on?”
Ivy contemplated the other dress, a strappy but long cut robin egg colored gown. “I’ll try on the strapless one, in hindsight, this one is clearly TOO springy.” She draped the chosen garment carefully over the side of the cart. “I think we should move on Harley. I doubt we’ll be able to carry more.”
Harley paused for a moment to glance back at the cart, presumably the first time since they had entered the store. “Aw, Red we can carry more. I mean we’re both super strong super villains.”
Pamela shook her head. “I disagree Harley. We’ll try this stuff on and decide what we like then keep shopping for more.”
The jester pouted for a moment, but ceased arguing as they headed back to the fitting rooms.
“Red!” Harley whined as she trailed behind her friend. “These bags are way too heavy for one person! You should help me carry them! Half this stuff is yours anyway.” She protested as she and Ivy trekked across the mall parking lot.
“I don’t know Harley, you are a strong super villainess. How could you ever need my help?” The plant woman couldn’t stop her sarcastic tone from edging into her voice.
“That’s not funny at all.” Harley replied indignantly. Ivy did her best to stifle a smile as she looked back at her only human friend. She had expertly laden Harley with twenty heavy shopping bags. The twist had been stealing the bags and convincing the mall security that there were just too many bags and they had no idea where the receipt could be.
Her mirth was cut short by the unmistakable whine of the Jokermobile’s engine approaching from the street. She heard the bags hit the ground as Harley swooned. The ecoterroist turned back to snarl at Harley but quickly thought better of it. It wasn’t Harley’s fault that she was a brainwashed victim of constant horrid abuse.
The red head watched with a frown as the scourge of Gotham closed in piloting his eyesore. Predictably, the clown skidded his jalopy to a halt next to them with the driver door less than a foot from Harley. The only pleasing portion of the scene before her was the clearly disgruntled expression Joker wore.
“Harley!” He screeched. “I told you that I needed a getaway driver today! I told you three days ago and I find you out shipping with this failure. Get in before I find someone with a better sense of humor to waste my time with!” He extended his body from the car to move his face mere inches from Harley’s as he spoke.
Ivy stepped forward. “Get lost Jokerman! Harley and I have plans today. I’m not about to let one of your half-baked gags get in the way of them.” She fired back evenly. The Joker scowled at her.
“How about you stop meddling where you don’t belong, Vines!” He seethed.
“Hey you two, play nice!” Harley interjected, stepping away from the Jokermobile to stand evenly between Ivy and The Joker.
Joker growled, his arm snapping out and catching Harley in the jaw. He used the sway of her body as a chance to grab and pull her into the car.
Pamela narrowed her eyes. “Get your hands off her, clown!” She gritted out. The creep smirked at her.
“Or what? Is Pammy going to get a plant to kick my butt?” He taunted, tossing Harley into the passenger seat. “If you’ll excuse me-“
He was cut off as Ivy grabbed him by the lapels of his jacket and roughly yanked him from the gaudy vehicle. She slammed him against the side of the car, leaving a sizeable dent. The stupid man smiled up at her and let a loose a small chuckle. Perhaps his most annoying trait, the damned clown couldn’t groan when hit, no he laughed, guffawed, chuckled and giggled unpleasantly.
She transferred his weight to one arm, moving to punch him in the face. The clown was of course too resourceful for such a straightforward tactic. He caught her hand and twisted, breaking her wrist with a sickening pop. She fought the wave of nausea long enough to dodge the brunt the other villain’s right hook. She dripped him and took a moment to land three good kicks to his abdomen before backing away, vaguely aware of Harley screeching at her. She offered the blonde her uninjured hand. The other woman shook her head and bent to help the Joker to his feet.
“Just get outta here, Red.” She breathed. “I’ve gotta take care of Mista J.”
The words stung like a slap and Ivy found herself unable to speak. She nodded dumbly and spun on her heel, striding proudly the last hundred yards to her flashy sports car.
The Jokermobile’s engine whined loudly as Harley peeled out of the parking lot. Ivy found herself speeding angrily in the opposite direction, her wrist forgotten.
Once she returned to her hideout, the eccoterrorist became a veritable whirlwind of curses, tossed articles of clothing and general unpleasantness as she moved to wrap her wrist. She would heal fine, but if she wanted to get any work done in that time, she’d need something to contain the swelling.
Ivy plopped down in front of her computer, her wrist bandaged and her usual blouse and skirt thrown on for lab work. She immediately got to work scouring the data that had been recorded in her absence. Towards the late afternoon she had no choice but to conclude that the current vaccine seemed to be the best strain she had produced. She spent the early dark hours crunching numbers to decide if it was possible to create a better strain.
Pamela retired in the early hours of the morning, satisfied with her current strain. The next challenge was adapting it for humans. The calculations for the conversion would take days. She wasn’t looking forward to it, but the intellectual challenge to too exciting to give up on.
The next morning Pamela woke early and snatched up a small breakfast of an orange and a handful of cherries. She spent the morning hours beginning her calculations. The size difference as well as organ tolerances gave her the most trouble as she essentially calculate her own formulas and constants based upon the data from earlier tests. Figuring out the human equivalences with any certainty was nearly impossible so many of them were temporary estimates until she could find some human test subjects to dial in her numbers.
A loud buzzing sound interrupted her revelry, she glanced up to her monitor to find her best friend. She made a mental note to wire an override switch in the vault door to avoid having to leave her work to allow Harley inside as she wordlessly pressed the button to open her front door. The plant woman rose and made the journey to the front of her hideout.
She stepped into the foyer and greeted Harley. “How are you Harley? You certainly don’t look well.” The jester was out of costume, allowing the discolored and swollen skin of her bruises to show. She’d expected the marks on her jaw and the black eye, but the puff of her cheek and the limp she was undoubtedly walking with based upon her posture.
“I’m fine, a little sore. I’m pretty sure that I got myself thrown out again. Do you mind if I stay here?”
Ivy waved Harley to the kitchen. “We’ll talk about this over some food. You look famished.” The red head turned to lead her friend. She motioned for Harley to sit. The blonde obediently parked herself on the suggested chair and observed Pamela moving around the small space absently.
She nearly jumped when Ivy plopped a bowl of Fruity Pebbles down in front of her. She looked up at the beauty curiously but found that her purposeful strides had already taken her around the table to stand with her hands grasping the tall wooden back of the chair opposite Harley. She didn’t like the look her best friend carried.
“Harley, I’m going to ask you for just once to listen carefully to me. I want you to think about what I’m saying. Then after I’ve finished and you’ve thought about it, you can respond. That’s why I’ve given you something to eat, to keep your mouth busy.” The blonde responded with a nod.
“Good.” Ivy took a deep breath and released it. “I love you, Harleen. I understand that you love The Joker, I do. However, he doesn’t love you Harley. Not in any healthy way. Love doesn’t cover you in bruises and throw you off of roofs and out of windows. Love doesn’t break limbs and throw you out every week or for every mistake you make. I’m not asking you to leave him.” She stopped to meet Harley’s eyes. “I’m asking you to grow a spine and stand up to him. Scream at him, hit him because he’s not going to stop and it’ll only get worse as time goes on. Harley, I love you and I’m tired of always seeing you in pain.”
Harley was nearly silent, her jaw at work munching down on the sugary cereal bits while Pamela’s words sunk in. After a few tense minutes, she set aside the bowl. “Mista J loves me Red. I know he does, I mean he spent so long seducing me and convincing me to be with him. How could he not?” She began softly. “It’s hard for you to understand. I don’t think you can because you don’t see how sweet he can be. A lot it is misunderstanding, his sense of humor is so well developed that his jokes come off as macabre, but I see them, Red. He’s just so passionate that it boils over when he has to deal with a screw up like me. I know you don’t like to see me hurt, but don’t lie to me and try to say that he doesn’t love me.”
Pamela scrutinized the hard look on Harley’s face for any sign of doubt that she could exploit. Much to her disappointment she found none. “I know that you feel like he loves you. I thought he did too for a long time, but yesterday convinced me Harley. He doesn’t love or care for you in anyway. You’re just a convenience to him. He pursued you in Arkham to have a man on the inside to spring him, but then that didn’t work out and you became a side kick. The literal sense of that word pains me because you just follow around at his heels while he kicks dirt in your face and blames you for being dirty. You’re a free goon that will never give up on him Harley. That’s not love, he’s using you.” She paused to observe the blonde. As expected her friend had bowed her head, both hands cradling her face. The slight tremor in her shoulders was a clear tell for the tears brimming in her eyes. The eccoterrorist steeled herself for the last part of her speech. Just as she opened her mouth, however she quickly snapped it shut. Harley had looked up, fire in her teary eyes.
“You think I’m some kind of idiot, don’t you?” She asked, too softly, too quietly. “You think I can’t tell when I’m being manipulated? You think I don’t see that you’re acting? You know that he loves me!” Harley stood. “You know that, but you still try to tear us apart. Why can’t you just be happy that I’m happy with him, Red? Don’t you see that true love has a price? In this case, it’s a few scrapes and bruises! Are you jealous, is that it? Why are you doing this?” Harley started strong but with each sentence her voice quieted until she seemed to be musing with herself.
Ivy felt a strangling knot of emotion in her throat. She hadn’t expected this; she hadn’t planned on breaking her friend. Sure a soft teary mess for a few minutes before she swooped into lift Harley’s spirits with the thought of gradually building her self-esteem and winning Joker to truly love her. But this, she could feel Harley’s mistrust and pain.
“I know it’s not normal Red! You think I like being slapped around and having to convince everyone it’s my fault?” Harley wailed. “No siree I don’t, but I know that Mista J loves me, but it scares him. It scares him to care about someone and to have someone care about him, it’s all so new to him Red. He’s never trusted or loved anything without it coming back to bite him. Sure he’s not a sweet rich guy like Harvey, but love is new for him and he’s trying his best.” The blonde ground her palms into her dripping eyes with a hiccup.
Pamela felt as though her chest was incased in ice. She’d miscalculated everything; it was all out of control. “Harley dear I know all that but he’s not ready for love. He needs time to cope with his affection. Or it’ll never stop. Space is-“
“Just stop Ivy!” Harley screamed at her. “Just stop trying to get me to leave him. You just want me for yourself. You don’t get to rip my life apart and put it back as you want!” Now the plant woman was truly floored. She felt venomous hate rolling off Harley’s tongue, biting into her frozen heart. She didn’t move to stop the girl as she stood and pushed past her. It wasn’t until she had banged closed the front door that Pamela thought to start after her.
“Harley!” She called into the street. “You don’t have anywhere to go!”
The blonde turned. “I’m going to Selena’s. She’s bound to be a better friend than you!” She spat.
“She’s more likely to call Batman!”
“What’s he gunna do, send me to Arkham so they can mess with my head? Sounds like a better deal than here!”
Pamela slumped and returned to her house thoroughly cowed. She fell onto her couch and curled into a ball. Never had she felt so horrible. She couldn’t shake the pain in the blonde’s eyes or the anger in her voice.
After a few moments of wallowing in her sorrows Ivy decided to go back to work, deciding to direct her attention elsewhere.
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