On the Necessity of Explanation

July 28, 2018:

Harley Quinn - after the dreadful send off from Owen Mercer - seeks out the only person she's fairly sure will listen to her: Poison Ivy.

Gotham City Resevoir


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Owen Mercer, The Joker


Mood Music: None.

Fade In…

It’s two in the morning. Two. In the morning.

The text comes across Ivy’s burner phone—the one she hates so much—at two hours past midnight.

Because that’s when Harley is getting back into Gotham and she has been already to the Gotham Arms. Despite a frantic search, she’s not immediately found her red-headed gal pal anywhere.

Hence, the dreaded phone.

Where are you?

It reads calm. On the surface. But Harley very rarely is succinct, and she views exclamation points in her text messages as a declaration of her enthusiasm. The more excited she is, the more exclamation marks. Sometimes there are the simple, burner phone equivalents of emojis lined up behind. So many hearts or grinning faces in alpha-numerics.

The void of these things is suspicious, perhaps. An ill omen.

The thing that bugs Ivy at first is that the buzzing makes no sense. It’s 2 in the morning. She is working in the dark because she doesn’t really need to see to do the mixture of trimming and grooming on this out of place and suffering tree that it needs - the equivalent of fine micro-surgery, but on a slower timescale and with only her hands and a small razor blade stuck firmly into a piece of cardboard and held in her top.

What is buzzing? It’s not a cicada, is it? She thinks, before -

The phone!


It takes Ivy nine minutes to write a reply. Of that, about seven involved walking back up from the profound hush of the green up to the poorly-serviced trash can under which she had stowed her paltry few things. One dug the phone out. Another remembered how it worked. Then there was the drafting, but that was quick enough.

the reservoir
take mlk to marsh, turn left
there’s a trash can on the block between ash and yew
i’m there right now

Two minutes later come two more messages.

when you get here whistle and i’ll come

A minute after that:

but if you prefer i stay here that’s fine too

Ivy grits her teeth. Silently, she may be bad at texting.

It should, perhaps, seem like a weird set of instructions. But, in their relationship, this is not anything particularly concerning to Harley.

gimme 20

It’s not really twenty minutes; it’s more like a half hour. But to navigate to the Gotham reservoir, find a place to tuck her motorcycle out of view, and then get to where the trash can is… Well, it takes her longer than it should, probably.

But, the blonde does eventually get there.

With her hair a complete disaster, loose and in strings, the Quinn sets her chipped fingernails inside her mouth just enough for a shrill whistle to warble past her unpainted lips.

She’s wrapped in her white tank, and a pair of black jeans with thoughts scribbled all over them in red paint pen. Anxiously, she dances from foot to foot, waiting for Ivy to make her appearances and only growing more impatient.

It’s been a long drive from New York, after a long drive to New York, but neither commute seems to have any ability to quell the nervous, distressing energy that is just bubbling out of her like an unwatched pot. Her hands wring themselves; her brow is tightly knit into an unyielding field of creases.

C’mon, Red.

Ivy had not been immediately in visible sight when Harley came forth. When she whistles, though, out she comes.

Ivy is not wearing any of her usual overclothing, meaning that it’s just that singlet which started life as cotton and is now thoroughly grown through with leaves. She has a small box of them somewhere; it’s a distinctive look, but at least it’s good, right, that it’s clothing she pervades, not just something that comes out of her.

She has her hand on her hip as she steps out. Any faux-sashay - intended perhaps to brighten Harley’s night after something that had seemed only conventionally difficult - evaporates like morning dew on - well - a leaf; she steps forwards with determination and speed when she sees Harley wringing her hands.

Every step she takes closer tells her that it’s a good idea.

Once she is near enough she tells Harley, reaching out with a note of authority to take her hand, “Let’s go inside.” Meaning the tree cover, probably.

But she doesn’t pull. Instead she asks, more softly: “What happened?”

As soon as that hand reaches out for hers, Harley is quick to step forward to seize it. Whatever authority Ivy finds, it is debatable whether she has claimed it for herself or that the clown has thrown it desperately in the redhead’s direction.

“I don’t know,” she replies, voice transparently mournful as she moves to follow behind.

Completely missing are the cosmetics that typically render her so pale, leaving the flush of her face plain to view as she fights to keep from crying.

“I just got back from seein’ Mercer in New York. I…” Her voice trails off, then, deflating to curl inwards on herself a tad bit.

It didn’t go well, apparently, although she loses the words for her thought. There’s just a despairing look that she casts towards Ivy, wishing for one brief and fleeting moment that her best gal was a mind reader so they wouldn’t have to have a conversation about this for a shared understanding. That Ivy would just know.

Except that then there would be other thoughts that would get brought up, maybe. And that would be super awkward. So it’s probably best for Harley—and the world moreso—that Poison Ivy isn’t a telepath.

Ivy leads Harley, since it seems, even to someone who can’t read minds, like she needs it. Ivy is hardly a people person but some things require you to be actively oblivious or distracted, and for the most part Ivy isn’t either of these things. She says, in response, “I see.”

A few moments later she has led Harley to the tree line.

Her hand squeezes. “I’m going to do a little magic,” she says, which probably augurs weird tree business, now that she’s out of the view of the government.

“Are you alright with that? I’ll go slowly.”

The ‘magic’ turns out to be several willow trees down towards a little creek - practically just a tiny gulley was so - starting to distort their shape. It’s slow, leisurely - probably not even painful for them - but their trunks are flattening and forming bell-like curves. Seating, perhaps. Their foliage shifts, letting a spear of moonlight or stray street light in, but the view doesn’t point towards anyone’s window.

“Tell me what happened. As much as you can.”

Is she alright with the things that define so much of Ivy now? The things that she does? Harley nods without hesitation. Yes. Yes, her unnatural command of nature—however she sees fit to make use of it in this moment—is fine by the clown who sits safely under her protection.

She watches the work begin, settling her head on the redhead’s shoulder. Her fingers nervously move against the back of Ivy’s hand, not trying to free themselves from her hold, but rather just unable to stay still.

“Mistah J happened,” Harley confesses, her brow furrowing and her voice a hesitant murmur. “While you were in Belize… He…” Put her out of commission for a month by trying to burn her alive, after she thought they were coming to an understanding. It’s old territory, though, and she doesn’t really want to say what happened, for fear of the judgment that will surely come. And more judgment—the disappointed expression, the exasperated Voice—isn’t what she wants at all. It’s not actually the problem that has spun her up, So she trails off, instead, leaving the thought unfinished and herself in a No Man’s Land of sorts.

“Nevermind. Long story short, he came to see me and we didn’t see eye to eye.” It’s enough, isn’t it? To say that much? “But he waited a bit after our chat, and then he… he paid Mercer a visit.”

She shrugs against Ivy, the feel of her shoulder brushing behind the plant queen’s own. “And Mercer didn’t wanna…” She shrugs and deflates, helpless to say the word. ‘Stay.’

The destructive urge of guilt surges, followed quickly by the protective instinct of denial. They churn in her gut and her voice wavers and bubbles with uncertainty. “I tried so hard, Ivy.” Didn’t she? It felt like she did. Maybe she didn’t. But it felt like she did. The fingers of her empty hand play at her tank top’s frayed and worn hem, preening at it.

Ivy turns her hand around, fingers entwining round Harley's for a moment. It's okay, the gesture says. It'll be alright. Even if it's a lie, it's a reassuring one.

Especially when Mr. J comes up.

Ivy keeps her face still and calm as she listens. The voice is held in abeyance. Harley can probably read between the lines when she sees Ivy's face doing its best statue imitation but there are worse things.

Her eyebrows lift.

"Well," she says: "That's a shame. I thought he was alright, as alright as anyone can be given his background. He was certainly brave."

The seats are complete. Ivy steps up and leads Harley forwards. "You can't blame yourself. I imagine both of them were glad about the situation in their way, and it's simply too bad that they didn't consider your feelings in the process."

Ivy may have drawn a poor inference here.

“Was…? What? My… what?”

Something clearly didn't convey. It is a legitimate problem when you seem incapable of finishing your sentences. Harley is dragged forward by the comely redhead, out of her distress just enough for the tone of Quinn’s voice and the contortion of her features to allow notes of confusion.

She focuses to provide clarity as she slumps into the seat that Ivy has so kindly created for her. Arms fold in over her body. Her features are curtained on either side by strings of dye-tipped hair.

“Owen’s in New York. Don’t think he wants to see me anymore.”

Ivy blinks slowly.

He's alive. That's not what Ivy had expected. Perhaps this is temporary, she thinks, in that moment when her eyes are blinking. How do I feel about this? Do I care? If I don't care, does that mean I don't care about Harley's feelings?

No, she tells herself.

As her eyes open she says with a weak smile. "I see. My mistake."

Then The smile goes away. Her lips purse into a thin line. "And he hasn't even had the courtesy to tell you?" It would be hard, Ivy reflects to herself, to fault him if he feared for his life.

"Oh, he told me what he thinks alright," Quinn says, her feet sliding out in front of her so that she can study the scuffed up boots on her feet. It's a momentary consideration, as she draws them back in soon after and then crosses her forearms across her thighs so that she can fold herself in half and rest her torso upon them. "Same stuff, different day. Just a new person." Her shoulders shrug helplessly by her ears, and her voice trembles. "Thinks I'm crazy. It's not like he's wrong."

Ivy rankles quietly.

"You are not crazy," she says, reaching over to touch Harley's knee, the most easily accessible place. It is a brief squeeze. She might notice in the pale moonlight that Ivy looks less green than usual. "I could fix this for you if you want, but frankly, I don't think he'd be worth your time."

The touch on her knee draws Harley's pale gaze back towards Ivy, and her eyebrows lift in a challenge as her lips pucker up to one side. 'Really?' The words that find the air echo the sentiment."Oh, yes, I am." A self-deprecating laugh and smile emerge, as the blonde rolls her head so she lay its side flat along her arm. "Ya ask the right person, it's one of my most endearing qualities."

Her brow creases deeply, and then the frown returns with a vengeance as she sighs. "But… it's there, all the same. And he was mad 'cuz I'm… I'm me. Harley Quinn. Which means something he didn't like."

"You're creative, vivacious, unusual," Ivy says, with a squeeze of that knee. "If people want to call that 'crazy,' I suppose it's beyond my power to stop them. You know what I mean."

Then she is quiet. This is not something she can fix with a kiss, in either direction. The thought makes her lean back against the willow-wood, makes her go quiet. She listens to the tree. That is easier.

"I take back my compliments to him, then," Ivy then says. She pauses. It is an attempt, maybe, at humor.

Then silence, quiet and receptive and green, in case there is more to say. Pam Isley may be out of words, but wood listens.

Harley's fingernails dig along the dark and painted fibers of her jeans, even as she lifts her head to shake it softly. "Don't. I mean, Mistah J jes'…" Her head drops suddenly, and Quinn's fingers weave through the pale locks of the back of her head and hold there. "It's not his fault, Red. I shoulda known better. I mean, what else was gonna happen, anyway?"

Her voice trembles. "I jes' was really hopin' it wouldn't. That he'd… he'd get it."

Mr. J comes up again.

Ivy makes herself stay still. Harley speaks; almost squeaks. The tremble in her voice makes Ivy lean closer. Her arm raises, and slides round Harley's shoulders now.

"That he would understand you," Ivy says, though it's a half-ask kind of say. "That you wouldn't have to explain."

Harley lifts her head and her eyes are opened wide to take in the woman who cradles her. And then she nods - the movement small but emphatic - as she wordlessly starts to tear up. Yes. Yes, that’s it exactly. Her entire visage contorts with the emotion of it, and then she buries her face against the tops of Ivy's thighs as she begins to sob.

Quinn has always been the sort to lose herself in the feeling of the thing, dramatic and loud. Her despair is no different. After a long moment that might feel like an eternity, she asks, "How do you even explain?"

Ivy's hand runs over the dyed hair as Harley rests her head in her lap. 'Rests' is a bad word. Buries her woes there. She closes her eyes, having no need for them right now, not even the need to make Harley feel attended-to.

Her hand repeats the same slow smoothing motion several times. Harley asks a question, though, and gets a surprised little bark of laughter.

"If I knew," Ivy sighs, "you'd be the first to know."

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