No Good for Nobody

June 17, 2018:

Owen returns to Gotham to try and apologize for pulling a runner on Harley. Few things get worked out, but at least some things get acknowledged.

Gotham Arm's

It's the crappiest apartment building you can imagine, but it's home. Kind of.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Emery Papsworth, The Joker, Taskmaster

Plot:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

If Harley only knew that there was a camera watching, she might not have chosen to stay in Owen Mercer’s apartment. She might not have cared, so long ago disabused of the notion that anyone ever has an inalienable right to privacy. She might act differently if she knew; she might not. But she doesn’t know, so it doesn't matter.

She dragged herself in about a week ago from the Thompkins Medical Clinic with a comforter from her apartment upstairs. The harlequin picked the lock since she’d never gotten the key from her boyfriend—she’d used the word, not knowing if he’d approve her use of it—and hasn’t left a whole lot since. Boyfriend. Well, if he’s not here, he can’t complain about her using the word. If she keeps calling him just ‘B’, she muses at one point, then he’ll never know the meaning has shifted. …yeah. Maybe she’ll do that if she doesn’t kill him.

For two days, one might have assumed that she was dead, and maybe not have been far off the mark. She slept a lot. Or stared vacantly at the wall from her cocoon. Or stared vacantly at the revolver she put on the floor about a foot from the bed. …or occasionally under her commandeered pillow, because what’s gun safety anyway? Every so often, she’d laboriously haul herself out of Owen’s bed, drink out of the tap with the same Dixie cup, check out the window, and then go back to bed. Maybe disappear into the bathroom for a while.

But no one bothered her. For better or worse.

She called Jessica Jones at the three day mark of occupation, still looking like death but mobile. Jones had come to visit, gone through Owen’s stuff, and left again. Quinn alternated hugging and writhing on the floor for hours after that.

But as the clown princess grows stronger, so too does her capacity for acting upon the whims of madness. It feeds on her isolation, and there are plenty of instances between calm lulls where she’s broken out into fits of seemingly unprovoked laughter. Of inconsolable sobbing under her blanket. Of lethargy. Of pacing as she tries to talk herself in and out of things since no one is there to counter her arguments, although that particular exercise is usually short lived.

She awkwardly changes bandages with supplies from the clinic. She orders delivery Chinese and pizza and she’s bad about taking out the boxes.

On day 4, she brought down four more things from her apartment to put in Owen’s. A kettle. A tea cup and saucer. A teapot. Her secret tea box. Then began the tea parties for one, fragile china suspended between unsteady fingertips.

Then, on day 6, she was gone most of the day. She came back in the evening, came in with a gift bag and left a… colorful voicemail for Jones. She laughed herself to sleep, and slept the sunlight hours of the next day away. She went out that night.

Then she got a couple text messages. Sent a couple. Got a voicemail. Sent a text message. She waited for a long time sitting at the foot of the bed, but a day proved to be more than she could handle. She broke the phone against the wall in a pique, cried after she calmed down and realized what she’d done, and then tried for hours to put it back together again without success. More crying. And then she carefully collected the parts into one of the takeout bags, dragged them to the street outside, and dutifully emptied her revolver into them for their betrayal. Then she reloaded, muttering all the while, and did it again.

This? Is why Gotham struggles with potholes.

Which leads us to right about now. Where she’s sitting crosslegged on Owen’s bed with a twizzler hanging out of her mouth, wearing pair of hot pink running shorts that looks like they were timetravelled right out of the 80s, an oversized hoodie that hasn’t been washed since she commandeered Mercer’s apartment, and all of her assorted wrapped body parts on full display.

She’s staring, expressionless, at the door and barely blinking.

*

The camera was meant to find other people coming for him. Other clowns specifically. The first time she showed up on camera Owen didn't think much of it. He had told himself that what they had was just a fling and soon enough she would just shrug and move on. She's mercurial, not a phrase he normally would use, but her unpredictability somehow translated into emotionally fickle. But then she starts staying at his place. And Owen can obviously tell that she's not doing well. He tries to ignore it, telling himself he's moving on, but when he becomes a messenger boy it's almost too much, but he wimps out only leaving Deadpool's package outside her door.

The final straw is when Owen finds out that not only has Harley not moved on she's managed to invade his New York life to find him. And it was then, hearing other people casually refer to her as his girlfriend that he realized that's how he thought of her, that's what this is. It's an actual relationship. Or was. Until he left without a word.

So after a couple light scoldings and a pep talk from Emery of sorts Owen decides to face it. He has no idea what her reaction will be. He isn't sure what he even wants out of the conversation, other than to not be a shit heel towards someone he cares about. He has his bulletproof underweave on, something that he had jokingly said and later reconsidered more seriously. He doesn't knock on his door, he lives there.. or did. No, he just puts the key in the lock and opens up, dropping a duffel bag just barely inside.

"Hi."

The place is small enough and especially empty enough that he doesn't even need to take a step in. He stands in the door a pained half smile on his face, unsure of what comes next from himself let alone from her.

*

Underweave was probably a smart call, if for no other reason than Owen's sense of safety. Sure, he's a speedster, but Quinn is batshit crazy half the time and… well. She has a revolver tucked under one gauze-wrapped knee, it's metallic barrel just barely poking out. Her hands, however, are in plain view. Well, they're wrapped in gauze and half-hidden inside of the sleeves of the stinky jacket, but they're settled demurely upon those knees.

Harley's movement is barely perceptible, wide and glassy eyes focusing and centering Mercer in her gaze. Her head slowly, ever so slowly, leans to one side, leaving her haphazardly pulled up pigtails to hang askew.

And she doesn't say a word.

*

Owen's never been particularly good at facing his problems. Running away he has done to an art form, but actually doing the work, having those talks or facing the facts; those are all underdeveloped skills to say the least. But he's gotten a bit of practice over the last week. And some good advice.

He walks in slowly and sits down on the floor facing her. He reassures her, "Hey, it's me. Owen. I'm here and I'm sorry." He can't remember her ever talking about not being sure what's real but she looks like she's in rough shape and it's the only opener he's got.

He wants to say more, to start the conversation, to explain or try to explain why happened. And beyond that he has questions, some trivial and other ones that are make or break. He can feel all of that rising but he tries to push it back down. He left on his terms, the least he can do is let her deal with it on hers.

*

Harley does not have a problem with realities, typically. In fact, that is not her problem now. Owen sits, and he reassures.

And Harley calculates.

"If I blink," she postulates as the Twizzler falls from her mouth, "Are you gonna run off again? Because my eyes are dry as hell, and they fucking hurt, and I really want to freakin' blink already. But if you're going to try to run when I blink, I have a fucking amazing plan B that doesn't end so well for you."

*

"You can blink. I am not gonna run off. Unless you shoot at me with that shiny little gun. Then I am going to scream like a little girl and run away… but probably come back." He has noticed the gun on the video, but Harley with weaponry about wasn't even something that Owen thought to be concerned with, until now.

"Harley. We should talk. And if that talk involves you screaming at me, or hitting me, or giving Zook a little exercise I get it. But my no murdering Owen rules even applies to you, I'm sorry, it's non-negotiable. Even for super cute girls that have slept with me in the past."

He tries not to eye the revolver that is oddly placed but easily accessible. He's fairly confident that even at this distance, even from sitting, he could dodge. But he would rather not have to worry about such things. Maybe he should have thought about that before he up and left without a word.

*

Owen really should have thought about that before he left.

The blonde waits a beat, her lower lids lifting in a small measure of distrust. But even if she doesn't want to, she needs to blink. And so, with a tiny twitch of an unhappy sneer for her own weakness, she leans forward and closes her eyes. And covers her eyes with her hands to try to rub moisture back into them somehow with the palm of her hands.

"Damn it," she curses, voice thick like she's spent most of the morning smoking and painted with a tone that is both euphoric and beyond annoyed, "you just wait until I can freakin' see again, and then I am going to punch the ever-loving cracker jack out of you. You left!!! You left. You left. You asshole. And I had an amazing speech ready to rip you apart while I beat the ever-loving cracker jack out of you.. And then I had two of them. And then, before you know it, I had four of them, and now I can't decide which one is the one to eviscerate you better with! IF I HAD ELEPHANTS RIGHT NOW, I WOULD BE STOMPING YOU WITH ELEPHANTS. HUGE ELEPHANTS. WITH TINY HATS."

*

It's probably ill advised to smile right now. Owen tries his best to hold out against it. But the eye closed rubbing and elephants in tiny hats breaks his resolve and he has to bite his lip not to laugh.

"I left."

He doesn't argue or try to explain, he just lets her yell at him and does his best to not smile, because it's not funny, it's just the eye rubbing and the elephants are a bit funny. But he keeps still, sitting in front of her.

"I left. I left instead of asking you a question, Harley. It was a question I really needed an answer to, but I freaked at the thought of what you might say." Wait, what the hell is he doing? Right now any outside observer would have the horrible dropping sensation in their stomach as they ask each other *He's not about to…?*

But no. Not that type of question.

Owen looks at her and says "Look. I'm about to ask something that might mean you shoot me. But I ran aways last time instead of ask, and I won't do that again. So I'm gonna ask … And I need you to really think about it. And really answer me. No more funny pretend life where we don't talk about real shit."

Wait, is he scolding her? Why is he so serious now and not groveling or at least getting pummeled or smashed with a giant mallet. And for the love of Pete what is this damn question?

*

"I am exceedingly glad that ya understand that there is definitely a possible outcome where I shoot you," Harley growls, not yet out of her mood. Her sneer becomes more apparent. She's not done being angry - not by a long shot - and he's asking her to be reasonable, listen, and think.

Clearly, Owen is not familiar with her.

She lowers one hand, however, as she still massages the other. A blonde eyebrow pricks upwards, even as that one newly liberated hand unrolls in Owen's direction to give a queen's permission. "Proceed."

And then she notices that she just completely wrecked what was left of three-day-old eyeliner, it now smudged along her gauze. There's a grunt of disgust.

*

"You were flippin' shit when we pulled that job with Task."

It's not a question, and it's not phrased all together kindly. But Owen's had a lot of time to think about what flipped his switch to flight and it's important now that he get some answers. And considering the current state of their relationship, it's not exactly like he's risking much by getting some answers.

"If he showed up. If the Joker showed up" That's a milestone right there. It's the first time Owen has said his named outloud to Harley. It's like he's the Voldemort of their relationship just waiting for the name to be spoken to appear. Anyway, Owen continues on despite a small pause to emphasize that he's never spoken the clown's name aloud.

"If he showed up and said he wants you back. Would I matter? And I want you to really think about it Harley. Because I didn't even plan on asking you anything about him. Or your past. Or whatever but then.. then something changed. And we weren't just a fling. And I .." He sighs, "I wanted to mean something to you and I can't tell. And maybe that's my fault for just trying to keep shit light and happy and not talking about anything real. Because when I needed a real answer… When it came down to it. I didn't know. And I couldn't ask. But I'm asking now."

Yes, there is a roughly 80% chance he's getting shot at somewhere in the speech so hurray for the ability to dodge bullets.

*

If ever Owen feared for his life, now might be a good contender for that moment. Harley's expression distills to pure vitriol and venom at the sound of her ex-lover's name, but she listens to the question in its entirety. She lowers her other hand, too, and she is silent for a long time after.

And then she starts laughing. It's not a sound of amusement. It's dark and pained and low, despairing. "What do you want me to tell you? I ain't ever made a secret of the fact that I ain't right." She shrugs as she just keeps laughing, until interrupted by a cough.

"What do you think I do when yer not around, huh? Daydream about how he asks me to come back, I tell him no, and SO HE TRAPS ME IN A FUCKING BURNING BAR TO DIE?!" Her eyes open wide, with all the fringe of madness around them, as her gauzed hands spread demonstratively. "OH WAIT. HA HA HA."

*

Dammit. Owen's teeth clench just slightly at the answer, barely. He needed to ask. Even though he was pretty damn sure that he knew the answer. His face goes cold as he looks at her. He starts to reply to her but then she tells him exactly how she got hurt. Owen had assumed that was just some job gone wrong or some hero shit, but it stops him cold when she 'explains'.

"Harley. Shit. I'm sorry. Of fuck me, I'm sorry." And of course he now realizes he should have maybe asked what happened first? Nice job at this 'apology' thing Mercer.

"Harley, I didn' know. I thought… are you okay? I mean not just physically. Are you.." Is she what? Handling the stress of this without have a psychotic break? Does she have those? Has that ship just sailed to crazy town forever? Owen has felt unprepared to deal with Harley's mental state before, but this is whole other level here.

"I'm sorry Harley. I'm sorry I wasn't here. I'm sorry I didn't know how to deal with us. I still don't."

And that's the truth. Owen has no concept of what a healthy relationship looks like even on the best day. Add in Harley's complicated past, Owen's own issues and the fact that they had merrily decided to not discuss anything difficult and well, it brings them here.

He moves now, closer to her, kneeling down in front of her. He tries to say something but all he wants to do is hold her and tell her that he's going to make it better. But is he? When has he ever made a situation better? Owen might be a screw up, but he is at least a fairly self aware one. He tries instead to gently take her hands in his and just hold them for now.

*

It had been a mutual decision to not talk about this stuff. Aside from the one Incident where she tried to get around the unspoken agreement, they avoid it like the plague. It's every bit like Harley started to tell Jessica: they don't talk like that. So the clown laughs, letting her head fall back and only getting more lost in it.

Because, as Taskmaster told her once: crying clowns are depressing as fuck. Harley Quinn, perpetual punchline.

But then Owen takes her hands. She rolls her head to the side of one shoulder, and then quiets. And listens. He apologizes. Confesses his insecurity.

She doesn't counter it.

Instead, she shrugs helplessly, although even trying to talk just brings her back to her unsettling swaying from side to side as she laughs softly. The sound is not gentle; it's not kind. It's one bad thought away from turning a fist into Owen's jaw. "Hey, it's okay. Yer just sayin' what everyone else is thinkin'. 'Harley Quinn, maven of mayhem. The Joker's girl. His right hand clown. His muse. His scapegoat. His punching bag. Jes' a matter of time til' she's back at it again.' I thought about it."

"I ain't ever gonna be good for you," she tells Owen as she continues, reciting back the Joker's poisonous thinking as it rings like the gospel truth. "I ain't no good for anybody." The laughter doesn't stop, save for when she talks. And even then, it's painting her tone. Then she moves to take her hands back, to cup Owen's jaw if he'll let her. To get her face close so she can set her eyes nearer his with that spark changed in them just so. She won't protest if he won't. "Betcha ya never thought you'd find somethin' worse than what ya could do to yerself."

A pause. A smirk. "Funny, ain't it? But here I am. Harley Quinn, atcher service. Nice to meetcha."

*

The laughter for once is unsettling to Owen. Normally it's contagious and brings a big smile to his face. But now it just hurts. Because of what it's covering and what it's replacing.

"I'm /not/ sayin' that, Harley. I ain't tellin' you who you are. I'm askin'." His voice is getting a little hoarse with emotion. He is conflicted in what he wants. On the one hand hearing her at least admit that she understands that's his fear is helpful and that she doesn't deny that it's possible is almost a relief. But on the opposite hand he wants her to slap him. To say how could you even think that!

"I'm not exactly a good guy, Harley. I'm an addict. I should have just said it and talked about it, but I didn't. And that's like the tip of my fucked up iceberg."

She takes his face in her hands and he lets her. His eyes looks tense and almost pained as he tries to sort through a whole litany of emotions he's done his best to ignore, insecurities he'd rather run and hide from, and truths they are just now getting around to even saying out loud.

"I ain't ever opened up to anyone like this. I've never had anyone I cared about like you. But if we're too screwed up to make this work, that's not just on you Harley. You know that, right? I'm the one who ran. Not you."

*

Blue eyes close, Harley looking briefly like a guru about to espouse some great pearl of revelation and wisdom. A hand comes back to herself, brushing up and over her features, and she uses it as an opportunity to cement her smiling facade. Her arm reaches up, outstretches every bit a showman. She breathes in deep, and then… proceeds to curl in on herself and cough into her arm.

When she catches her breath back again, she just keeps on smiling blithely. And she opens her mouth to say something, and… Again. Nothing comes out. This time, however, it's because she's oozing from her space on the bed, past the revolver under her, to the place beside him.

She just wants to be close, and moves to settle her head wherever she can convince him to allow - his lap, his side, his shoulder. Her words are a murmur. "You don't trust me. And that's okay. I don't trust me, either. Except for a great gag. I'm usually pretty dependable in that arena."

*

Owen's face goes from pained introspection, to concern, to mild confusion to WTF? But then she starts moving and he accepts it. He pulls her close and leans his forehead against hers.

When she murmurs to him, soft almost exasperated exhales escapes his lips. He shakes his head slightly and assures her, "I've never been there for anyone. Ever." He's working on that. Really.

And so he tries to decide. Is he going to stick to his guns? He knows that the feeling of being second, and not just second but second to a psychopathic clown, is going to eat at him. That the feeling of what he's inviting into his life, and others by continuing to be with her isn't just going to go away just because he doesn't want to hurt her. The thought that all of their issues and problems aren't solved just because they actually admitted they exist weighs heavily on Owen.

But old habits die hard.

"Listen, Emery, the Irish leg humper that you met gave me a swanky place to crash in New York. Why don't we blow this depressing hole and go live it up for a while. I know it won't fix everything, but … it'll be good for a few laughs? And I think we both could use that about now."

She's already a part of his New York life. Who knows, maybe getting out of Gotham for a bit will do her some good. Or do them some good. Maybe? It's at least worth a shot.

*

"That sounds terrific," Harley allows, the corners of her mouth still turned upwards and eyes still closed. She leans a little heavier into her comfortable space against Owen. "As long as they don't have huge elephants. Because if they have huge elephants, I'm afraid that I'll have to view it as a sign of fate that you really, actually, genuinely need a really good stomping before I'm back to full kick-yer-ass power."

She giggles again,"Who am I to deny the calling of the universe? Were I you, I'd check t'make sure there ain't a circus in town before we go."

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