The mirror was huge, but old, dirty and cracked. The man standing in front of it didn't seem to mind, though; he was more focused on perfectly knotting his tie. He looked perfectly debonair in his black suit, bowler hat in hand, but the effect was marred by his toothy, too-wide grin and his eyes that sparkled with malice, madness creeping in to them.
The man behind him, dressed snappily in pinstripe, rolled his eyes. "Jeez, Jack, hurry up. And stop grinning like that, if gives me the willies."
"Shut the hell up," snapped Jack, carefully positioning his hat. "I want the last thing this Bruce Wayne chap sees to he us looking oh-so much more important than him." The other henchmen sniggered, and Jack Napier turned to face him with fire in his eyes. They instantly fell silent.
Suddenly, the phone rang. The pinstriped goon picked up the sturdy, enameled device, and Jack returned to his preening.
"It's... it's for you, Jack," said Pinstripe, hesitantly. "Your wife and your kid... the police..." the man faltered, staring at him.
"What is it? Tell me, you little bastard." Jack's hand was on his gun.
"They killed them. Shot them both through the head. We think they were in the pay of one of the rival gangs, they -"
Jack's grin was still there, but fixed and fake. He smacked Pinstripe in the face and walked past the other stunned mobsters into the dark, rainy streets of Gotham. He stared at his gun for a while, remembering everything his father had ever said about him, straightjacketed and raving at him through the asylum bars. His grin turned more feral and violent than ever before, suddenly genuine again, and he knew what he had to do. The madness was in his blood; what was the point in fighting it? This world was dirty, disgusting, depressing. The party needed livening up.
His laugh echoed down Crime Alley.
Harleen Quinzel's life seemed to revolve around newspapers these days, newspapers and nights dancing in the speakeasy. She remembered when she'd first read about this enigmatic man, face masked by greasepaint and blood. It was almost six years ago. She'd been sitting in her father's study while he looked through various news and police reports on this mystery Jack, the Joker, the self proclaimed Clown Prince of Crime, trying to build a psychological profile. Even her father, a star in the rising world of psychiatry, couldn't make head nor tail of him. But she could. This man, this beautiful, flawed man...
She sighed and reapplied her lipstick, straightening her dress. She loved it; it was a flapper dress, out of style now that the "Roaring Twenties" had been ended by last year's Wall Street Crash, but the black and red diamond pattern on the skirt fascinated her. It was just too damned pretty.
"Time to dance, ladies!" The curtain call, the nightly moment of truth. Time to step out into the limelight in front of the drunken mobsters of the Gotham underworld. She made her dainty way to the stage, waiting for Tallulah (a stage name which eclipsed her own rather sad "Harley") to finish her song.
But the end note never came. Instead, it was replaced by a shot, and screams.
The other girls ran for the trade exit, and Harley was about to do the same, but she heard a voice that made her stop in her tracks and walk towards the curtain that served as a backdrop. She peered through, and gasped.
"A hearty hello to the elite of Gotham!" shouted the man on the stage, and he laughed, a high, violent sound. She recognised the face, painted up as a clown, huge grin, strong nose... "Now, I suppose you're all wondering why the enigmatic Joker would be paying you all a visit tonight. And I can't really think of a good reason why, so let's just say I'm terribly bored and quite fancied an encounter with the Bat himself. You see, I've sent a little message to the Gotham Police Department... our friendly neighbourhood flying rodent should be visiting us within the next hour, or I will personally shoot every one of you. That gives us a while to get to know each other, doesn't it?"
Harley gasped. The sound alerted the Joker to her presence, and suddenly she was looking down the barrel of a gun.
"D-d-don't shoot. I want to help you," stuttered Harley. She didn't really know why she was saying it; perhaps a combination of curiousity, obsession, and the desire to survive this. The Joker raised his eyebrows, but didn't put down the gun. "I buy every paper you're in, I swear."
"What's your name, dollface?"
"Harleen Quinzel. But my friends call me Harley. My daddy used to call me his little harlequin..." She fluttered her eyelashes a little, and made sure her cleavage was showing. That always had the desired effect.
"Hmm. That could work." The clown was talking more to himself than her, but his eyes showed he was definitely interested. Harley suppressed a smirk.
Of course, what she didn't know was that the Joker hadn't really concerned himself with her feminine wiles. He'd noticed, sure, and under it all he was still a man, but that wasn't what was getting his attention. He didn't trust the police, idiots that they were, to ignore his requests and just storm in with their guns loaded. She'd be a good diversion. They could take her down while he made a run for it.
"How about it then?" Harley looked up at him, blue eyes wide. He put down the gun, and smiled at her.
"You tie everyone up, I'll wait for the Batman."
"YAY!" She flung her arms around his waist and he kicked her off.
"There's a call from the Police Department for you, sir." Bruce Wayne didn't look up from his work. "They say that the Joker has taken the patrons of an illegal club in the down-town area hostage, and that he is asking for you."
"I'm sure Miss Isley won't mind you canceling your dinner meeting, she seems quite... persistent."
"It's not that. I've just been having my doubts about all of this. I've been Batman for so long, and it seems like nothing's changed. In fact, things seem to be getting worse."
"I doubt that Batman can do anything about the national economy, sir."
"You're right, Alfred, you always are. And the city needs me."
"So it does, sir."
Bruce stood up and smiled grimly. "Bring me the suit."
Harley was sure she'd never been so happy in her whole life. The most dangerous man in Gotham, all hers! He'd even kissed her in front of all these people! Of course, she'd had to persuade him a bit, but it was all worth it. He was an amazing kisser.
"Am I doing okay, Mistah J?" She hadn't wanted to call him Jack in front of all these people, after all, she was one of the few people who knew that name thanks to her "investigations" in her father's desk, but Joker seemed so... impersonal.
"You're doing fine, Harl. Now be quiet."
"Yes sir!" She saluted, and giggled. He rolled his eyes, but his smile was almost tender.
When Batman burst in Harley couldn't help but squeal and sing. "Mistah J, Mistah J! He's here, he's here!" She danced around the stage, not caring that her dress kept riding up around her thighs. The Joker didn't even push her off when she hugged him this time.
"Hello, Batsy." The Joker's neat black suit was stained with blood; he just hadn't been able to resist the temptation to finish off a few of the tied-up two-bit gangsters. Their bodies were slumped on the floor in a mess of their own innards. It had made Harley want to throw up, but her Jack was even more magnetic in the flesh than on paper. Plus she rather wanted to live. It was easier just to go along with it so she could watch him, all laughter and light.
"Who's your little friend?"
"I'm Harley Quinn, sugar!" She span around, smiling widely.
"She's just some girl I seem to have picked up. Cute little thing, isn't she? Apparently her name's Harleen Quinzell, but as you heard I much prefer Harley Quinn. The very spirit of fun and frivolity!"
Harley cocked her head to one side, blonde bob a mess. "Are we gonna shoot him, Mistah J?"
The Joker looked at her for a moment, then slapped her in the face. "Damn it woman, shut up. The Bat's mine."
Harley sniffled. "Okay."
"Thatta girl." He kissed her on the bruised cheek; she flinched then giggled girlishly. The Joker turned back to face Batman. "Sorry about that, haven't quite got her trained yet."
"You don't have to do this, Miss Quinzel -" began the Dark Knight. She stuck her tongue out and began giggling hysterically again. Of course she had to! Her whole life had been building up to this!
"As much as I love chewing the fat with you, this wasn't what I did this all for," snapped the Joker. "Joke's over, I'm bored, and I think I will shoot you." Harley readied herself to cheer, but the Bat was too quick for both of them and in a flash of cape he'd knocked the gun from her precious angel's hand. Harley flew into a rage. Directly ignoring the Joker's command she lashed out at Batman's smug face, knocking him out.
"Not just a pretty face!" she squealed. "Come on, Mistah J, let's scram before the cops get here."
But the Joker's face wasn't as pleased as she'd hoped. "You little bitch," he hissed. "He was mine, and you had to go and knock him out!"
"But I saved you!" Harley pouted. "Can't you see that? He was gonna hit you, I couldn't let that happen!"
Joker was silent for a moment, considering whether the girl's annoying nature was worth having a permanent and apparently physically skilled henchwoman of his very own. He sighed. "Alright, Harl, let's go. But dammit, if you EVER do anything like that again..."
"I won't." Their eyes met for a moment, then he turned away.
"You do understand we'll have to paint your face. It goes with the image, and what good's a clown without a painted face, eh?"
She squeaked, hugged him (ignoring the pained look on his face) and they ran.