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Author's Chapter Notes:

While working on "Liliripening," I found myself addressing the question of where Bud and Lou fit into the Nolanverse. Obviously, they could be the Chechen's Rottweilers . . . but there's something about the original hyenas that's weirdly adorable. Hence, this ficlet, which is strictly B:TAS/comicverse.

I labeled this both Drama and Humor because it has elements of both. Where it fits in is, I suppose, up to the reader. I hope you enjoy!

Disclaimer: Bud, Lou, Harley Quinn, the Joker, and all characters and concepts associated with them are property of the current owners of the Batman franchise and not of this author. This is a work of fan fiction, created entirely as a homage, and is not intended to draw revenue or otherwise defraud the owners of the original franchise. Please accept this in the spirit in which it was offered—as a work of respect and love, not a claim to ownership.

At heart, Bud and Lou were simple souls, even for hyenas. They liked to run, fight, chew on things, and play with each other, preferably all at the same time. They also liked to eat, and while a veterinarian would have a heart attack over a pair of exotic mammals subsisting mainly on raw meat, leftover Chinese takeout, frozen pizza, bits of discarded plastic wrap, canned tomato soup, and the occasional corpse seasoned a la Joker venom, it didn't seem to do Bud and Lou any harm. On the contrary, they thrived.

The two had no idea that they were technically stolen property; only the dimmest memories of the Into Africa! exhibit at the Gotham Zoo remained, characterized mainly by boredom. They did remember the period immediately after that, where they had spent a lot of time chained up in the corner of a big, empty warehouse, occasionally shivering at the mad laughter echoing around them. Then, Bud and Lou had curled up together and given each other a reassuring nuzzle, distracting each other from what sounded like one of their own gone horribly wrong.

The hyenas' lives had changed on the day She had turned up. Colors were only a vague impression to them, but the sound and smell of Her was unmistakable. They had had a lonely few days, with nobody around but them, and they were getting very hungry—when the door opened and She had danced in, supporting the laughing thing, who smelled like blood.

“Doggies!” She had squealed. “Oh, Mister J, can I feed them? Can I, please?”

The Laughing Thing had said something, and She had torn open a paper bag and thrown them glorious, glorious food. (“Now you're going to have to go get more groceries,” the Thing had grumbled.) Bud and Lou had torn into the steaks with glee, and afterwards sat attentively, licking their chops and looking at Her. She had laughed—a high-pitched giggle, much closer to their own than the awful hoarse sounds of the Laughing Thing—and the hyenas had moved tentatively towards Her, waiting to see if this new thing was going to try and kick them like the others. Instead, She had taken out another piece of meat, and divided it into two, one chunk in each hand.

“Come on, babies,” She had cooed. “Yummy yummy!”

They were Her slaves for life.

Years after they had joined the Thing and Her, a captured zoologist informed their owners (in between pleas for mercy) that hyenas were matriarchal, and might be thus naturally inclined to follow Her rather than the Laughing Thing. She had smelled like blood and sweat when She had next come to feed them, and Lou had licked her ear while Bud put his big head in her lap. At that, She had burst out crying and hugged them both, making the hyenas whine uncomfortably.

Sometimes, She would talk to them. They had no idea what She was saying, of course, but they could sense the emotional undercurrent to the words. She would bring them a dish of juicy bones, or a package of bacon, and sit with them while they tore into the food, letting some of Her loneliness drip away in the company of Her beloved babies.

“I still love him,” She had said more than once as She sat with them. Bud and Lou knew what those sounds meant—trouble between Her and the Laughing Thing. That was something they didn't understand. The Laughing Thing was clearly the dominant member of the pack, even though he was male, and She followed his orders and did what he asked. Sometimes the Thing would injure Her, or even make Her disappear for a few days—an act which Bud and Lou interpreted as the Thing's pack attacking their own, and would retaliate for with savage bites and yowls the next time the Thing ventured near them. Then later, She would reappear, bloody again but smiling, and it was like meeting again for the first time: She would squeal “Come to Mommy, babies!” and they would tackle her and lick her face furiously as they rolled across the floor in a tangle of flesh and fur.

That same zoologist had marveled at them, saying that nobody could ever train hyenas. Of course, he hadn't had a chance to examine them further before the toxin had reached his brain, but She had giggled and stuck Her tongue out at him. “Who'd want to train them?” She said. The Laughing Thing had laughed with Her and put one arm around Her shoulders, and Bud and Lou had whined as they smelled pheromones in the air.

Something seemed different, though. The Laughing Thing didn't attack Her, like he usually seemed to do when the pheromones were flying between them. Whatever happened next (it smelled like mating, but didn't look or sound like it. There weren't any screams, or blood), the hyenas didn't find it very interesting, so they trotted past the humans and went to sniff at the cooling corpse of the zoologist. Once, the Thing said something that made Her purr like a cat, but that wasn't nearly strange enough to attract their interest. They settled down to play tug-of-war with the zoologist's toupee.

Later, while She had slept on Her little cot in the corner, the Thing had come to see them. Normally, after the humans had mated, Bud and Lou would bite him straight off, but She was uninjured and they were tired after a spirited game of chase-the-tail, so they regarded him with hyenaish ambivalence.

“You're supposed to be my pets,” he said to them. Lou yawned, and Bud sniffed at the Thing's shoe. “But then, so is Harley,” he grumbled. The hyenas perked up slightly: while the point of names eluded them, they were bright enough to know that certain sounds meant certain people, and when the Thing made the “Harley” sound, he meant Her. Across the room, She shifted automatically in Her sleep, always ready to respond to the Thing's commands.

“Things are getting complicated.” The Thing wasn't so much talking to them, as talking at them. Whenever She got like this, Bud and Lou would nuzzle Her reassuringly, but they weren't going to do that for the Laughing Thing. Fortunately, he didn't seem to want it. “She's one daffy dame,” he mused, reaching out and giving Lou a scratch behind the ear. In recognition of the unusual attention, Lou didn't bite his fingers off.

“This can't continue.” Bud looked up, a little unnerved by the strange note in the Laughing Thing's voice, but Lou merely bumped the Thing's hand and demanded another scratch. The Thing complied, watching as Lou growled and rolled over onto his back, waving his legs in the air in pure bliss. “Harley's going to have to go.”

Twice the Thing had made the noise about Her now, and without anger. Bud had the feeling that something wasn't entirely right, but Lou's purring noises were annoying him. Snarling, he bit the tip of Lou's tail, making the other hyena yelp and shoot off across the room. The Laughing Thing watched as the two predators menaced each other for a few seconds, before the confrontation devolved into an admittedly violent game of I'll-Eat-Your-Face-First.

“And when she does,” the Thing said to himself in a low voice, watching the hyenas tumble, “you're going to have to go too.”

Bud and Lou didn't care. They snapped joyfully at each other, laughing and cackling just like they always did, completely happy with the world. Their humans weren't fighting, the Thing had mated with their pack leader without injuring Her, and Lou had got Bud's nose between his teeth and was trying to chew it off. Things couldn't be better.

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