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Last Pantomime, The

by Te

     Subject: [glass_onion] Batman (Beyond): The Last Pantomime
     Date: Saturday, October 05, 2002 2:40 PM

     The Last Pantomime
     by Te
     October 2002

     Disclaimers: No one here is mine. DC owns all.

     Spoilers: Major ones for Return of the Joker, vague
     ones for "Mad Love" and even vaguer ones for
     assorted episodes of Batman: The Animated Series.

     Ratings Note: R.

     Summary: Harley looks back, and does her best to
     avoid looking anywhere else.

     Author's Notes: At the end of the story to avoid
     spoilers.

     Acknowledgments: To Livia, for fostering my
     adoration of the coolest clown ever, and to Debchan
     for audiencing and support.

     Feedback would be wonderful. thete1@earthlink.net

There was, of course, only one place Harley could go after it all got messed up. Well, a lot of places -- Pammy could always find rich folks willing to give up the kind of money for greenhouses and arboretums that they never would for actual people -- but even though she'd missed the rocks in her fall off that stupid cliff, her leg was still pretty banged up.

And yeah, the plants still recognized her, and the big one in the arboretum with all the... thingies did its best to straighten out her leg and hold it in position while the little blue guy -- Harley calls it Orton, but Pammy once said it had another name in Latin that was better -- squeezed out something milky and bitter that made her sleep and sleep, but...

It got lonely with only the rustle-whisper of all the plants that had nothing to do with whether or not the wind was blowing through the few broken windows.

Lonely this far away from the heart of the city -- her city -- and her man, and her baby boy, all dolled up handsome from the perfect (hold still, hold still or Daddy will come back) coif of his hair to the bright bright shine of his shoes.

And none of the plants, however helpful, could tell her a thing about what happened out at bad old Arkham after she'd fallen.

So. After she convinces the big one to let her go, and thanks it oh-so-politely -- it doesn't pay to be impolite to any plant Pammy's had her hands on, oh no -- for the vines she uses to wrap her leg up tight enough to limp on; after she takes one more hit off little Orton for the road, she makes her way back out into the night.

Tries to pretend she's not flinching at the shadows in the sky.

It's not like she's helpless. It's not like she has anything to feel (shh, shh, baby, he'll hear you and why can't you just cooperate?) --

Her bad knee makes an ominous creaking sound that she can feel all the way up into her throat, that she's sure every pathetic homeless loser in a two block radius could hear, and it freezes her up hard against an alley wall.

Heart thundering in her chest and rotten old brickwork crumbling under her nails. She doesn't know where her gloves are.

She doesn't...

At the end, or close to it, just before the end anyway, while she still thought she could convince her puddin' that they wouldn't have to tell the Batfreaks anything about their family, it was so good.

Just her and Mr. J and their little boy -- theirs -- and he was everything she'd ever wanted. Smiling so big and looking so handsome in his perfect little suit. He'd even learned to stop crying all over it.

Such a smart little boy -- hers -- and if Mr. J had to smack him around a little to make him learn faster, well, no family was perfect, right? It just made the little ones stronger in the end. Tougher...

And little Junior would have always, always had her around.

To make it better.

She keeps walking, and the way is familiar enough, though sooner or later she's gonna have to find a car to hotwire. Something old and (unnoticeable) and fast. It's a long way to the dump.

And it's not like she can't drive -- hell, it would be a fuck of a lot easier than walking (and is that the sound of her laughter now?), but driving would get her there, and would get her answers. And...

She knows what they say about her. She's always known. Whether it was that she must've been using to always get such high scores when she was a gymnast, and that was why she never went pro (she wasn't), or that she slept her way through college (she did, why not?), or that she's an idiot...

She's not.

There's only so much knowledge and information you can actively avoid, after all, and the reason she chose psychiatry in the first place was that it was so interesting...

So interesting.

She doesn't want to hear about her puddin' in jail again, or that he's... she'd seen that look on the Batfreaks' faces before running out of there. She knows that look. Hey, she's lived with Mr. J for more years than she feels like counting right about now. They even got themselves hitched that time ol' Harv declared himself a judge and took over a courthouse...

That had been a good night.

Of course, the next night hadn't been so good, the one where Harley accidentally fed the hyenas too much to attack Batman the way they oughtta... and yeah, she knows that look real well.

And she doesn't want to hear it.

And maybe...

She looks down at her feet, squinting against the gloom uselessly for long moments before working her nerve up to step into the edges of an old gaslight's glare. Her boots are caked with dried river mud, no sign of the vivid red or black even after her days in the arboretum.

The bells are long gone.

The old coveralls she'd pulled on to hide the still half-alive vine around her leg hide the rest of her suit, too, and when she reaches up to touch her pigtails she finds only tangles and knots.

She could be anyone, out here, tonight.

Something very small and familiar and hurtful shrieks a little at the thought but Harley's old enough, tough enough to shut voices like that right up. Because...

Well, isn't that how the whole wild ride started?

That green-lipped smile, like something out of the fairy tales only the smart kids got to read, the ones adults trusted. Promising that nothing would ever be normal again. That smile didn't keep all its promises, or even most of them, but it sure kept that one.

The thing is, though...

Even the best fairy tales have gotta end sometime.

Right?

It's the work of a few limping, painful minutes to backtrack. There's a 'community' shelter every woman who spends enough time in this neighborhood knows about, funded by the kind of people who'd probably never give Pammy the time of day.

Pammy...

The vine twitches on her leg like it knows what she's thinking about, what she's turning her back on, and if she didn't need it to keep standing she'd rip it off right then and there.

Pammy won't miss her.

Mr. J... is no one she needs to think about right now.

And somebody else is holding her little boy tonight.

End.

I've wanted to write this story for a long, long time. Hell, since I first heard about Return of the Joker. I finally got to do it. This takes place after the battle at Arkham, long, long before Batman Beyond canon begins.


If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to Te

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