Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Bat?

August 09, 2018:

Batman goes to ask Harley some questions and check in on her. It's Harley, so he definitely doesn't walk out happy.

Harley's Hideyhole

Harley's crappy apartment in the Narrows of Gotham.

Characters

NPCs: Bud and Lou, the best hyenas in the world.

Mentions: The Joker, Red Hood

Plot:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

The Narrows of Gotham are, by nearly every metric that exists for evaluating such things, the worst neighborhood of the entire city. It is a patch of earth, developed and abandoned by civilized society and now so far fallen that the GCPD won’t even dare cross the territory lines much less act upon their authority beyond them.

That means, practically speaking, that their authority doesn’t exist at all here. It is an artificial construct, abstract to the point of meaningless.

This all means that the one solitary metric by which it can elevate itself and shine..? Is the one valued most by the worst of Gotham’s population. Its blind eye.

For one Harley Quinn, that has qualified it as the perfect place for a secondary hideout away from the Gotham Arms that had so long been her solitary refuge. A refuge compromised by the sloppy ramifications of fraternization, and that has not always been pet-friendly. So, here she is, where the cops won’t come with an overzealous interpretation of what constitutes a parole violation.

Of course, it would probably help if Harley kept cats or dogs. Hell, even ferrets. But no, the furry loves of her life are the hyenas presently happily gnawing on enormous cow bones from a local butcher.

The blonde presently sits with a deceptive serenity, legs folded tailor style under her as she sits on her bare mattress. Steadied on her knee with one hand, a cup of rooibos tea has cooled to a comfortable lukewarm temperature. On the other, she has a dog eared copy of some trashy paperback romance novel she paid a whole quarter for in a used bookshop. Her raggedy black leggings and fitted red camisole top—the latter of which leaves her heavily bandaged left shoulder bare to view—make it seem that she has no intention of going out tonight. Dyed tip hair sits in high, messy buns, with pink ends fringing one and blue ends fringing the other.

Her apartment—a rathole on its best days that she’s made the best of—has seen better days. One of the two windows has been smashed in, but she has done her best to patch it with cardboard wrapped in layers of shopping bags and tape.

It’s surprisingly peaceful as Harley sips daintily from her teacup. Sssip.

There is no crash that interrupts Harley's peace, no explosion, no shattering of glass. Instead, there is a flutter. It sounds almost like leathery wings, however, it's simply a long cape catching in the wind of descent as a familiar cowl-shaped figure lands in the shadows of Harley's safe haven. That, really, should be an announcement all in and of itself.

Batman lands far enough away from the hyenas that should they wish to attack, he has some time to tranquilize them. He's here to speak to their mistress and would prefer to come away without wild animals gnawing on his costume.

"I hope I'm not interrupting." The gravelly voice is not digitally enhanced, he just has a harsh way of speaking. The tone is not threatening - it would make a good surprise entrance to a fight. Nor is it playful - it's also good as a flirtatious announcement…if Batman flirted. No, this is a simple, dry statement. The tone is completely neutral. While he does not truly seem to care if he is interrupting, he is - at least - polite enough to announce his presence so she doesn't spill her tea.

"I thought I would check in." Especially as Harley has not, is the unspoken end to that statement.

—-

Quinn startles, and her cup of tea spills all over the mattress as she draws herself up behind the protective cover of her book. It’s a momentary lapse, and her expression immediately betray her surprise. “SCHNIKES,” she exclaims angrily, her focus suddenly dropping to the pool of tea that has soaked her bed and leggings. She misses that her pets have backed up against her perch protectively and have started their bizarre, territorial laughter.

As she grabs a dirty shirt from nearby to start sopping up the mess, she holds her book protectively high as though a flood were the actual threat. Her voice, a shrill and grating shriek betrays her raw nerves. “DON’T YOU PEOPLE EVER KNOCK?!”

Her hyenas’ barking laughter grows louder as they start to edge closer, but Harley screeches at them next with a heated flush in her cheeks. “KNOCK IT OFF, BOYS.”

Continuing to dab at her naked bed as her pets slink back to their mattress, her other hand outstretches towards the door with an emphatic forcefulness. “I own a door. Or, I… Have one, anyway.” The course correction draws her thoughts sideways, but she quickly recovers with a grunt of disgust as she looks in Batman’s direction. “UGH! Whatever! Why does no one ever knock on it? Are ya scared you’ll bruise yer dainty knuckles or somethin’?”

Also, hi.

The spilled tea, the flood of Harley's emotions? They're all watched and calculated from his place in the shadows. Batman let's his cape drape back over his shoulders and he looks little more like a pillar than he generally does.

It's hard to tell if he actually looks back to the door that Harley gestures at, but there is a slight raise of one of the white tinted slits that indicate the eyes of his cowl. "You mean the door that is wired with explosives and poisonous gas?" Again, dry. It's hard to tell if he's amused or pointing out the obvious.

Hello, Harleen Quinzel.

"You haven't actually spoken to your wellbeing."

Whether her anger is truly that or distraction, he does not seem to be willing to move off the topic at hand.

When Batman clarifies the nature of the door. Harley pauses, tilts her head head slowly to one side, and looks at the wiring around the door. It’s not gas, but it’s definitely got more than its fair of bang on it. Her gaze is vapid, and then she drawls, “Ohhhhhh yeah. Fergot about that.”

And her demeanor suggests that it might actually be true. True or not, it defuses the blonde’s rage, and she shrugs one shoulder helplessly. “Eh.” Then she smiles sardonically, teeth gleaming in Batman’s direction. “Clearly, I shoulda gone fer the window.”

Pushing out of the bed, she slips past her whining furballs to get to the sink and wring out her old shirt. “But yeah, I’m hunky dory. I love sportin’ giant holes in my shoulder. One closes up, I’m back to the best knife-guy in town, askin’ him to put in another.”

The unmade clown leans against the sharp edge of her kitchenette’s cheap vinyl counter and offers another shrug of her good shoulder. “Everyone’s gotta have a hobby, yanno?”

Whether or not the window is what Batman actually entered through is up for debate. Nor is he willing to divulge that information. And so, he simply glides on into the rest of the conversation.

"You know there's a place to get better if you'd accept it." Batman's voice does not at all change, but it is still an offer. It would still involve trials and lawyers, but there wouldn't be giant holes in her shoulder. As far as he sees, it's quite a good deal.

"You were a doctor, Harleen. You know on a fundamental level that what you are doing is wrong, that what you need is help, not more of what you are currently surrounding yourself. You'd be safe from him."

He would be remiss if he did not offer the chance. This is about justice and people can surrender themselves to it…they do not need to be forcibly dragged onto the scales. He feels as if it is absolutely and utterly unnecessary to say who the 'Him' is.

Don’t.” The word is low, full of warning, as Harley’s entire countenance changes. Gone are the light-hearted barbs—the airy threats. This, her tone advises, is ground that he doesn’t tread upon. Stop; go no farther. “Ya don’t get to talk about it like you know.”

Her slender arms cross, the young woman altogether aware that she now has the man in black between herself and her boys. She considers the arrangement of the room, snorts, and then recrosses the worn wooden floorboards in order to get back to them. She stops at the kitchen table, instead, and leans her backside against it. Her voice, when next she finds it, just sounds… resigned.

“What d’ya want?”

There is a long pause. Batman is quite a detective, but he needs no training or extraordinary perception to get what it is that Harley is saying, which lines are crossed. The silence stretches for awhile as he either debates whether he has the ability to talk like he knows or he lets Harley think about it.

Either that, or he weighs the other information that he is here for against this other - much larger - discussion that is still due between them. "I know what I know," is what he settles on. He's not the type to simply back down. He does not, though, push onward. Instead he lets that stand for a few moments.

Then, his hand tosses something toward her and her kitchen table. Much like the batarangs, they careen toward her with impressive accuracy. Unlike the Batarangs, they are not sharp, or at least not sharp enough to give her anything more than a papercut. They are, instead, grainy surveillance photos of a cafe in Gotham. They show a woman in white wolf mask, though there is not extreme amounts of definition there. They have shifted from a rescue mission to information gathering.

This deals with what he wants: "Do you know anything about a new player in town?"

Were Batman willing to dig in just a little harder, he might find the depths of Quinn’s venom stores. But he wisely stops just shy of that toxic pool’s edge. He can think whatever he wants, but she remains unconvinced. Pale eyes turn down towards the photos, although Harley neither fully turns herself nor uncrosses her arms in their defensive posture.

She considers them at length and then shakes her head.

“Ain’t seen her before. I had a new guy with a grudge who gave me the nick,” she continues, indicating the shoulder wound with a dip of her head in its direction, “but was definitely a member of Team Testosterone. I ain’t seen anyone like this.”

Not yet, she quietly thinks to herself. It’s not an altogether secret thought process, as she takes the photographs in hand a beat later and starts studying them. The intensity of her perusal is lost, perhaps, beneath her casual air.

“Who is it?” she asks, as she crosses the room again. Moves back to her space, safely behind her wall of unhappy hyena, and clambers onto a dry patch of her bed at the foot. She lies down, but there’s really only enough for the upper half of her, leaving her legs to melt off the edge like a clock painted by Dali. “I mean, was that a rhetorical question?” She pauses, and then drops her voice to grumble mockingly along an octave lower as she rests the photographs upon her belly. “‘Do you know anything about a new player in town?’” Her voice cracks as it bottoms out, but then…? Then another question. “Should I?

Then her eyes narrow, accusing, as she turns her head to rest her cheek upon the mattress and look in the Bat’s direction. Then yet another question.

“What exactly do you think I’m up to, Batsy?”

As attention is brought back to her wound, Batman frowns for a moment. "New guy?" He generally thinks he knows all the aggregators in Gotham - or at least the ones that would attack Harley and leave her with such a wound. There are many that might hold a grudge against Harley - or hold a grudge against The Joker and think the best way to go about that is through her. However, in his mind, it is never a curse to know more.

"What grudge did he hold against you?"

If Harley truly were uninterested in the photos, he doubts she would give them more than a cursory glance before tossing them away. There's a reason why he thought to ask her. Instead of pressing, he lets her talk her way through to a conclusion, not answering her multitude of questions until she has reached a finality to what it is she truly wishes to ask. Once they arrive there, he waits a few moments before answering.

"She is part of a pair, or perhaps a team. I believe them responsible for multiple murders. People who stir up their kind of trouble tend to make some waves and you tend to swim in or just outside those waters. I thought it possible you might have heard something."

It doesn't sound as if he is accusing her of running in their pack. Instead, as if he is asking her for information. His tone is even, measured. There is little threat to it other than the general coarseness that imbues all his words no matter the target.

“Naw, ain’t heard nothin’,” Quinn replies easily once the air has cleared a little, and she goes back to flipping through the photographs that she holds between her face and the ceiling. Every so often, she draws the image closer and squints hard at it. Her feet dance on the rail of her bed, alternating resting the balls of her feet and her heels. Right heel, left toes. Left heel, right toes. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

“And guy wanted Mistah J.” She doesn’t look in Batman’s direction, but he might notice the way her feet quicken in their pattern. “Honestly,” she continues, “I thought he was one of yers. Swung in, busted my window, smoke grenades, tranq’d Bud and Lou. But then he started in with the guns and knives.”

She twists her head anew, “Have you ever tried to get hyena puke cleaned up?” Harley makes a face, tongue sticking out demonstratively.

Knives are within the Batman code. Guns, however? Not so much. Too easy to accidentally kill someone. At least part of his hypothesis that whoever was after Harley might have actually wanted the Joker was accurate. It's a hollow victory, but a victory nonetheless.

Swinging in with smoke grenades through the window is definitely a technique he has taught to his proteges. "What did he say? What was he wearing?" That will also help in the identifying. While he does not believe it to be one of his, the fact that there is a copycat out there means something.

The question about hyena puke is not met with an answer. Instead, he moves forward, hand outstretched for the photographs. If she hasn't heard of the woman, then he'll take his surveillance photos back. "If you do, I believe you know how to contact me."

Harley's expression flattens as Batman asks what her assailant was wearing. "Smoke bombs, Batgenius. I couldn't see crap except his stupid shiny red helmet. Leather jacket, maybe?" Quinn shrugs and then looks at his hand. Looks at the photographs. Looks at the hyenas between those two points. Raises her eyebrows. "What? You didn't make copies?"

Unbothered, she goes back to studying the photos. "Well, that was a stupid mistake."

Neither impressed nor dissuaded, Batman continues forward. The mention of a shiny red helmet is met with a slight narrowing of eyes, but his forward motion is not stopped. The hyenas are paid some mind, but not enough for him to stop. The pointed look to her pets is met with a smirk. "Remember your hatred of cleaning up hyena vomit?" It's not exactly a threat so much as him telling her that he will tranq those hyenas if they attack him. Though….that is something of a threat.

"Copies or no, those are mine. I would have them back."

As the Bat of Gotham draws closer, those hyenas start laughing louder and snapping in a much more visceral threat.

Harley just lets her head roll back sideways, and then she rolls her eyes. Very, very, very hard. With only a slight wince, she rolls back up and then pushes herself onto her bare feet. She strides forward, and then places herself between the man and her beloved pets. "You know," she says, expression nothing but undiluted belligerence as she pops a hip to one side and then flops her hand in his direction with the photos in it to offer them back, "yer tranq darts probably cost way more than reprints at the drugstore. 'm jes' sayin'. Someone should teach ya' a bit of fiscal responsibility."

She knows how to get ahold of him, but she doesn't speak on that. No, the ribbing of Batman deserves the entirety of her focus. The ribbing… and the less obvious distrusting bracing for him to try something.

It's not that Batman blames Harley for mistrusting his intentions. Nor would he unjustly punish the hyenas for simply doing what is in their nature. However, he means to have those photographs back and so he continues his slow stride forward.

"I like to think of myself as an artist. I would never allow my prints to be handled by someone else." Was that a joke? It's truly hard to tell as his intonation barely changes. It is, perhaps, amusing to think of Batman in his full outfit over a chemical bath, checking on light meters and dodging prints to get these grainy and - at best - clinical prints that Harley holds in her hands.

His hand remains out as he approaches Harley's hyena guarded safe hold. There is no other motion. It seems that he truly is only there for the prints. There are no hidden handcuffs, nor are there smoke bombs. Instead, The Bat merely stands there, expecting the prints he gave her to be handed back to him.

It must be said, of course, that he is rigid in his own stance. He is similarly braced for her to try something against him.

Harley turns the photos to face him. "Yer a lousy artist," she tells him frankly, not missing the opportunity to cast her aspersions in the rare opportunities that she finds to do so. "Might wanna take some classes when ya got some free time. Better hobbies; better Bat?" And then she relinquishes them into his hands, taking her time in drawing it back in some sociopathic rendition of a children's dare game.

'Look, I'm not scared,' that hand says, even as she lets it fly upwards with fingers splayed. Even as she turns her back on him to go walking back to the bed, back behind her guard hyenas. 'I'm not scared of you at all.'

The truth is a little more visible than she'd like.

"Perhaps night school is in order." Another joke? What is going on? Batman keeps the hand outstretched. The photos are turned over, just as tense as a hostage exchange. Batman continually waits for Harley to betray him and sic the hyenas or for some sort of poison to explode on him.

The photos transfer and he takes a firm grip on them and pulls them back, slipping them into his cape. They then disappear into wherever Batman hides things like that. Slowly, he takes a few steps backward from Harley. He does not turn his back on her - much as one does not turn one's back on the ocean. Turn your back on something like that and it can knock you onto your face.

Whether Harley is scared of him or not is not taken advantage of, nor is it accentuated. Instead, he returns to his more familiar distance. "You know how to contact me should you need it."

Knowing exactly how Harley reacted to him simply wishing his photos back, he realizes another statement might need to be made. Gruffly, he says, "It's only a signal for you to use if you need it. There is nothing else embedded into it." Whether she believes him or not is up to her.

Quinn picks up her trash novel from where it's fallen, and then resettles onto the bed. This time, however, it's back at the foot of her bed. He explains that she has the button - a button she used previously to actually be in this state now where she's still, yanno, not crispy fried - to use if she has another brush with The Joker. A hand starts waving dismissively, shooing the mighty Batman to disappear the same way he appeared, as she tries to find her spot in its raggedy pages.

Except that he doesn't. Not right away.

But then he offers extra clarification and she looks up from her book. The tiny gesture could very easily betray that she has indeed considered the notion that it could harbor such technology, now that he knows that she carried it. "Woulda never dreamed otherwise," she lies after a moment's hesitation as her eyes close, her eyebrows lift, and her good shoulder shrugs. "But thank you fer clearing' that up fer me."

In the time that he gets the photos and she moves back to settle on the bed? Batman is gone. There is not flutter of cape, no smoke bomb. Instead. She turns to go back to her bed and when she returns to look at him, there is nothing there. The shadows hold no Bat-shaped figure.

The hyenas smell nothing. Much like he entered, Batman left. He talked to her about what he wished to know: things that only Harley would know. And once he got what he wanted or knew that he could not discern if from her? He left. Nothing else is pushed at the time being. Instead, Harley is left with the idea of a mysterious woman in a wolf mask and the fact that Batman will possibly look into the man that stabbed her in the shoulder. Everything else? Well, that's up for debate.

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