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.


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*.

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.


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.


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.


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.