So great was the extremity of her pain and anguish,
that she did not only sigh but roar.
As the car pulled away from the restaurant parking lot, Mack allowed her façade to fall to wayside, not entirely sure she even recognized the women back there. Had she really just threatened a mob man? She briefly replayed the events of the last ten minutes and came to the firm conclusion that, yes, she had- and rather convincingly at that.
What in the holy hell was happening to her? First, she suggests breaking a man out of prison, then she tells Two-Face to fuck off, and now she was threatening mob men with finger amputation. A shiver of fear ran down her spine, and she tried not to hyperventilate. She'd spent a mere weekend with Harv and his mob and already she was having difficulty recognizing herself. Was this what dating a mob man did to you?
In what was becoming a frequent exercise; she pushed her fear to the side and tried to control her emotions. Looking back on the previous situation, this was something she should have done to begin with. She should have known better than to push Harv like that, and she shouldn't have let Roush push her buttons either. But it had been a long weekend, and she'd let her temper get the better of her.
She was also rationalizing, and Mack knew it. Just another thing she was doing more off since meeting Harv. No matter how she twisted and turned the events in her mind, the only way to keep from going mad was to rationalize things.
If she'd had a mirror present she was positive she'd see fear in her face. Scared that her behavior was mere foreshadowing of what lay in store for her. Was she already 'acting the part.' as Harv had called it? Would she soon be able to flip it on and off like John, so practiced at pretending to be something that she'd actually become it?!
Mack swallowed convulsively, and promised herself she'd never let it be more than an act. Like playing dressing up in your mother's clothes, she'd let him drape expensive jewelry around her neck and be a good little Barbie, but she couldn't let it become a part of her. She didn't think she'd be able to live with herself if she did.
She clung desperately to the hope that once she was no longer surrounded by him and his expensive life style that it would be easier to retain her identity. She'd be home soon and there should be some comfort in that. Not that her house was quite the haven it had once been. Stopping to eat Chinese had been nothing but a stall tactic on her part. It was just one more way to delay facing the old homestead, and the place where she was almost murdered.
Her hands clenched convulsively in her lap. Glancing out the window, she recognized the gas station on the corner and knew she'd soon have to face the phantoms that haunted her at home.
She wasn't entirely sure what to expect. The last time she'd left her house it had been in shambles, with pieces of broken furniture and her blood spattered across the living room floor. Mack half expected the blood stains to have been removed, just another perk from dating a powerful crime boss. As for the rest, she'd wasn't sure, and no matter what the state of her house was, she knew that her bar was in complete disarray and most likely starting to smell. It had occurred to her more than once since her attack that if she'd stayed to clean up her bar, Harv would have had more than enough time to beat her home.
If Harv had found Peterson first then she wasn't entirely sure she'd even be in her current situation. She contemplated this for a long moment and then pushed the thought away. It wasn't going to do her any good to wallow in regret. Hell, wallowing in self-pity was bad enough. Raising her voice, she politely requested they turn the radio on, and then her thought were disrupting by the smooth guitar of Stevie Ray Vaughn.
Ah… that was better. God, but she needed to stop thinking. She felt perilously close to the breaking point, and she wasn't sure what she'd do when she finally snapped. Probably something reckless and stupid…
The car pulled into her driveway and she felt just a hair closer to the cliff's edge than she had been only moments ago. She'd been trying to put off this moment, but it seemed fate was conspiring against her and now she had nowhere else to run.
Larry's partner, Todd, exited the vehicle and proceeded to go inside the house, presumably to ensure it was safe. He returned moments later and then Larry was ushering her quickly inside, only to make her wait by the front door while he re-checked the interior himself.
He returned shortly, giving her the all clear before heading towards the back of the house, disappearing from view. Mack waited for a long moment; listening for some indication of what he was doing and then gave up. Cutting quickly through the kitchen, she turned the corner and found him standing next to her backdoor, looking eerily like a guard at Buckingham Palace.
Mack stared at him, waiting for him to go away, but he just stood there like a statue. "Not to be rude, Larry," she started, his eyes flickering to her as she raised a placating hand, "but how long until you…" Mack trailed off, not entirely sure how to tell him to get lost without being really rude.
Sadly, he wasn't going to come to her rescue and get the hint. He just stood there, looking confused, as if he wasn't sure what point she was trying to make. Mack sighed and tried again. "Look, I really appreciate the way you guys have been looking out for me, but I thought once I returned home my bodyguards would just sort of hang out in the car or something."
He blinked and then it seemed to dawn on him that she wanted him to leave. "Of course, Ma'am," he started, "I apologize for the miscommunication."
Before she could so much as utter another word, he unlocked the back door and stepped outside, before once again taking up his sentry post next to the door. Only this time he was standing outside, in the cold, where it might even rain. Mack narrowed her eyes and then swore loudly.
"Oh for the love of god," she muttered a moment later, reopening the backdoor and ordering him back inside.
"Larry, what exactly were you told to do, because I think maybe my expectations and reality are starting to clash."
For the first time since she'd known him, he seemed to actually look at her, and not through her. She sincerely hoped that he was just the sort of person who took a while to warm up, and that maybe they were about to interact like real humans, and not continue to be the robotic bodyguard she'd dealt with this weekend.
"Mr. Dillinger was quite specific that someone watches the front and back of the house at all times, and that you were not to go anywhere unaccompanied."
She pursed her lips at this, not sure why she'd expected otherwise, but disappointed all the same. Mack briefly surveyed the small space they were standing in. To her left was the small alcove that contained her washer and dryer, and to her right was a small folding table nestled behind the backdoor.
"Alright," she told him, an idea forming in the back of her mind. "Help me move this," she asked, pointing to the folding table.
He blinked at the odd request, but once witnessing her struggle with table, quickly picked it up and deposited it easily into the kitchen space she designated. Grabbing the closest kitchen chair she dragged it to the now empty space next to the back door, presenting it to him with a wave of her hand.
"Have a seat," she told him, before cutting through the bathrooms double entrance, to the hallway that lay beyond. She made it into her bedroom and shut the door before slumping against it. One hand went to the bridge of her nose and she sucked in a deep breath, trying desperately to accept that she was never going to be alone ever again.
Mack was a solitary person by nature. She hadn't shared her space with another human being in years, and now she was sharing it with men who couldn't even be classified as friends.
Sure, she surmised, she could be big bitch and make the poor man stand outside all night long. Which, she thought uncharitably, was probably what Harv and cohorts were counting on anyway – her good manners. Instead of ordering them to loiter in her living room, like they did at the penthouse, he'd just count on her inability to be mean to his employees, and it was working – the fucker.
Mack sunk down onto the end of her bed, her shoulders slumping forward. How the fuck had it come to this? She was trapped, a prisoner in her own home, hiding in her room like a four year old. She looked down at her hands, and for the first time, wondered if she should try to make a run for it - away from Gotham and away from Harv.
Even if, by some miracle, she could get away from the mob and stay hidden from them, could she turn her back on her entire life, and what distant family she had?
Maybe… She could probably get a job waiting tables and a cheap apartment. It couldn't be any harder than what she was already doing, working seven days a week.
Mack glanced around her room, the only home she'd ever known, and felt embarrassed with herself for even thinking about leaving. Since when had she turned into a quitter? Was she really going to let a bunch of crazies run her out of her own town?
For once, she couldn't quite summon up the energy to be outraged by the traitorous thoughts. Deep down inside, her soul was tired of the struggle. Maybe she clung too heavily to the past, using it as an excuse to stay just because it was comfortable.
Was the familiar struggle of her everyday life a good reason to stay, a good reason to agree to a hostile and potentially doomed relationship? Maybe there was no shame in taking the easy path for once. No one could possible blame her for throwing in the towel.
It was something she could have done years ago and maybe she should have, after her mother died. Though, admitting it sure as hell made her stubborn struggle for survival in Gotham a lot less noble. She huffed then, a strangled sound somewhere between a sob and a snort. Who the fuck was she kidding? It had never been noble. She'd just been too pigheaded to move on. It had stopped being noble and started being stupid long ago.
Why the hell hadn't she seen it before now? When had she become so good at lying to herself? Here she was, entangled in an unwinnable situation, with a man whose very presence in her life made her doubt and question everything about it. Who she was, what she wanted…
All these years she'd thought she was being a rebel, sticking it out and making it work when anyone else would have given up. Now she wondered if it was merely an excuse, something to hide behind while she hid from life she could have had.
Maybe she wasn't as brave or tough as she'd thought she was. Which choice was the brave one? Leaving? Staying? Did it even matter?
Which person did she want to be? The woman who was strong enough to stay, or the woman who was brave enough to leave?
Nightwing entered the watchtower through a small window, sliding in the far side of the topmost floor with practiced ease. He allowed the plastic bag he carried to rattle slightly, alerting Barbara to his presence before depositing it on the small round table set aside for meals.
"Hey Babs," he called, bending down to greet her with an affectionate kiss. She smiled up at him and returned his kiss before handing him the file he'd requested earlier.
"Did you remember the extra sauce this time?" she asked, turning her wheelchair towards him with a quick flick of her wrists.
He grimaced in response and took the file from her, before she could hold it for ransom. "Dick," she protested, "you didn't?!"
He sent her a wild, unrepentant grin before announcing, "No, I didn't, but I had you fooled."
She narrowed her eyes at him before playfully swatting him on the arm. He chuckled at her and took his seat at the table. "Did he give you any trouble?" he asked, hoping that Bruce hadn't given her too much grief over his sudden involvement.
"Nothing I couldn't handle," she shrugged, reaching into the bag to divide their dinner. Locating his General Tso's chicken, she waved the aluminum foil container at him with one hand, digging for a set of plastic silverware with the other.
Moments passed and she was still holding his dinner. "Dick," she prompted before looking up to find him staring in surprise at the folder she'd given him, "what's wrong?"
"I just saw her," he told her, "at Uncle Ben's not thirty minutes ago." He leapt to his feet, securing the file in some unknown pocket, heading toward the nearby window.
Barb sent a wistful look at her dinner, but reached for the button on her comm set all the same, "I'll have him meet you there."
Nightwing nodded in agreement before hurling himself out the window he had only moments ago entered through. Barb watched him launch his jump line mid-fall, pushing aside the familiar pang of jealously as he flew off into the night.
Mack stared at the wall of her bedroom, long past the point of being able to cry for herself. She wondered what exactly that said about her situation that she was too emotional broken and exhausted to mourn for the life Harv had rather effective killed. Of course after her very brutal and very recent analysis of said life, it turns out it wasn't much of a loss after all. Fuck, maybe he'd done her some sort of messed up favor by shaking her out of the perpetual holding pattern she'd been living.
Staring up at her ceiling she came to the realization that she could, in fact, leave. Mack didn't doubt for a second that she could manage to sneak out, grab enough cash from the bar's safe to get started, and leave Gotham before they could catch up with her. She'd have to be careful not to leave a paper trail, but she knew there were people who would pay her 'under the table' for work and places that wouldn't care if she used a fake name as long as she paid the rent on time.
Not that it sounded like much of a life, having to live off the radar forever. And she knew Harv well enough that it would haveto be forever. He was definitely the sort of man who carried a grudge.
None of which changed the fact that she could do it, if she needed to. There was something very comforting in knowing she could leave;that if things got too rough or too dangerous, she was willing to walk away.
Could doesn't always mean should though, and while she desperately wished things could be different, she wasn't ready to walk away from Gotham and the two of them just yet.
Was she tired of the two of them and the toll they took on her and her life? Yes. Was she ready to leave him high and dry, and not look back? No. So, she'd stay – for now. Not because he wanted her to, or because she was too afraid to leave, but because just this once she was going to do something she wanted to. Not out of some sense of duty or pride or habit, but because she wanted to.
She rolled carefully to a sitting position, mindful of her injuries, before climbing off her bed. Mack was tired of being miserable, and she was sure as shit tired of being stuck with nothing to listen to but her own thoughts.
She reentered the hallway, and headed for the living room, feeling only the slightest twinge of fear shiver down her spine. Apparently there were bonuses to being emotionally numb, and temporarily not fearing the place you were almost murdered was one of them.
Mack paused at the edge of the living room, finally prepared to face her demons and any remnants of her attack, and forced herself to really look at the living room. The blood stains were indeed gone, along with what appeared to be most of her original furniture. The coffee table which had broken her fall Friday night had been replaced with a close replica of her own, along with her couch, end tables, and curtains.
The replacement of her coffee table made sense, and it was possible an end table had been broken in the struggle, but as for the rest she could only surmise that it had been bloodstained. Truthfully, she wasn't entirely sure what she thought about losing some of her furniture. She'd made a lot of memories with her mother in this house, and now everything seemed like a cheap imitation of the original. She frowned, feeling like an impostor in her own home.
The walls were far too clean; years' worth of scuff marks and smudges had been erased with a new coat of paint. Even the carpet, while the same shade of brown, was too plush and new to have been more than a few days old. Mack stepped into the kitchen, and found it to be much the same: new paint, new carpet, even a new block of knives decorating the counter where her old ones had been.
That last observation was enough to stop her in her tracks, even in her current apathetic state. She stared at the block of knives, and was suddenly, irrationally angry. Mack snatched the block of knives off the counter and stalked towards the backdoor, wasting no time in breezing by a very surprised Larry before throwing open the door, and chucking the knives into the large trash can sitting on the backyard patio.
Turning sharply on one heel she slammed the door shut, and then headed back towards the kitchen, completely ignoring the wide eyed look Larry sent after her. She moved like a women possessed, her body moving before her brain could even register that she had entered the living room, and grabbed the closest end table.
Chest heaving, she dragged it towards the back door, completely ignoring the pain in her back, and with a quick flip of her wrist, once again wrenched the back door open and shoved the end table out the door and into the backyard. She heard the resulting thunk as it scraped against the concrete patio, and the intense feeling of accomplishment she felt afterwards was worth any momentary discomfort. Feeling empowered for the first time in what seemed like forever, she returned to the living room for the other end table and gave it the same treatment as the first.
The coffee table was marginally more difficult, but it too met the same fate as the other furniture, and Mack felt insanely gratified as she chucked the stupid thing out the door only to have a leg break off as it landed.
The living room curtains and two lamps she didn't recognize were added to the growing pile in her backyard, until the only thing left in her living room was the couch and entertainment center. If she could have maneuvered the couch out the back door by herself it would have gone too, but instead she settled for covering it with a large quilt. The entertainment center she was grudgingly forced to accept. It was either that or go without radio or TV. Mack settled for turning on and turning up her favorite Rolling Stones album before stalwartly ignoring that particular corner of the room.
Feeling incredibly pleased with her work, she grabbed a beer and took a seat on the couch, staring at her faded blinds in the dark.
It was spiteful, she knew, but she didn't really give a damn. Mack wasn't sure it was normal to go from depressed and distraught, to angry in less than ten seconds, but something about seeing her living look so alien had been more than she could take. She felt pushed entirely too far, and god help the next son of a bitch who wanted to upset what remained of her apple cart.
Nightwing crouched on top of a nearby building, staring down at Uncle Ben's, waiting for Batman to complete his investigation. He'd finished his own some time ago, but clearly some things never changed, and expecting Batman to trust the work of others was one of them.
Eventually Batman joined him and they watched what little camera footage they had available for a second time. The street front camera view had been useless to them. The inside footage was another story. Her bodyguards had been careful not to face the camera while speaking, but Jamie hadn't been as cautious, and inadvertently provided her side of a phone conversation with someone. Even without audio, it was easy to read her lips, and that one conversation was the most illuminating bit of intel they'd had all weekend.
Nightwing radioed Oracle, and filled her in on what they'd learned. When he was finished there was a thoughtful silence, as the trio digested this new bit of information.
"Let's start with what we know," Barb said quietly, a small creak echoing across the radio as she leaned back in her chair. "Two days ago, on Halloween, Leon Schultz moved against his Uncle Nick in a coup attempt. A coup that was sanctioned by all the other major crime families: Solvetti, Giovanni, Shaughnessy, and Two-Face."
"With the Schultz's distracted by internal affairs, the gangs in the Bowery started jumping territory, leading to a gang war. Black Mask, taking full advantage of the ensuing chaos sent his men into Gotham in the early hours Saturday morning. By Saturday night Batman had quelled the gang riots and Two-Face broke Blockbuster out of Blackgate prison," Barb finished, opening up the line to her fellow crime fighters.
"With Blockbuster back in Bludhaven, Black Mask had to pull his men out of Gotham to protect his own territory back home," Nightwing supplied.
Batman narrowed his eyes as a thought started to form in the back of his mind. "With Black Mask out of the way, Leon Schultz is able to search for his Uncle unopposed."
"But how did Two-Face benefit from helping Blockbuster?" Barb questioned.
"He's always hated Black Mask," Nightwing reminded her, "maybe Leon just benefited from a little old fashioned revenge on Two-Face's part."
"Maybe," Batman replied, before changing topics. "What role did the girl play?"
"She was seen with Two-Face's men on Friday night and presumably those were his men with her on Sunday evening," Barb clarified.
"Leslie thought she was Two-Face's victim," Dick offered, pulling out the photos from the clinic, "but the video clearly shows her referring to Harv as her 'date.' What if Leslie's assumptions were wrong, what if he was helping her?"
"That doesn't necessarily make her a willing a participant," Barb countered, "or tell us why he'd value her safety to begin with."
"Or tell us who attacked her," Batman muttered, mind racing as he tried to fit the pieces together. "Pull up a map of Gotham gang territories," Bruce told Barb, a suspicion starting to form. "Where on the map does Jamie Mackenzie's house and bar fall inside the boundaries?"
Barb did as he requested. "There's no clear oversight from the large crime families in her area. Most likely it wouldn't produce enough revenue to be worth the effort. But there are a few low level operators in the area." Barb added, rattling off a short list of names.
Batman noted them, and then nodded at Nightwing before disappearing from the rooftop. The list of names had been short, but there was one that had stood out. He'd dealt with Jerome before, and knew that with the right pressure he'd tell him whatever he wanted to know.
It took Bruce less than forty-five minutes to find him holed up in a grungy apartment building, and eight seconds to disarm and knock out his friends.
Jerome, for his part, accepted this intrusion with little surprise, and more than a little attitude. "Figured I'd be seeing one of you," he sighed, exhaling a cloud of smoke.
Batman narrowed his eyes, moving forward in the darkened apartment with a growl, "enlighten me."
"It's about Mack, isn't it," Jerome clarified. "You wanna know about Mack," he smirked, "and her new boyfriend."
"Go on," Batman prompted, fingering a batarang as a subtle reminder.
Jerome's eye flickered towards the motion, and his smirk dimmed and then disappeared altogether. "Look, I'll tell you what you want know, but you gotta bust us for something," Jerome gestured to himself and his friends. "Drugs, guns, anything..., but Two-Face can't know that I talked to you. You gotta make it look like you were just cleaning up the streets or something, or I'm not saying shit."
"Agreed," Batman nodded before adding a dark, "now talk."
"Dudes started coming into her place a couple months ago," he started, voice hushed, eyes darting from side to side as if checking to make sure no one else if listening.
"I recognized a couple of 'em right away, 'cause Westphal and Broderick they don't work for anybody but Two-Face. Then about a month later they start bringing their boss in, but he's careful not to show his face, and Mack, she doesn't even know until the Schultz's show up working some protection racket."
Jerome paused to inhale another lung full of smoke before rushing on, "So Leon Schultz shows up looking for protection money, and Two-Face reveals himself in time to throw them out and be the hero. Somehow Mack and Two-Face come to some sort of agreement 'cause he starts hiding out in the back room of the bar with no one the wiser."
"What kind of an agreement?"
"I don't know, and I didn't ask, but if it bothered her she didn't let it show. Hell, I even heard he broke up a bar fight for her."
Jerome snorted, "took exception to Two-Face poaching territory he wanted, and put out a hit on Mack for revenge. Two-Face saved the girl and Leon got the coup he wanted. She must be one hell of a piece of ass to go to all that trouble," he mused. "Now make this takedown look good. I don't wanna get shot 'cause you couldn't make this look real."
"Trust me, it'll look plenty real," Batman assured with a decidedly unpleasant smile, before reaching for an increasingly worried Jerome.
The back door to the bar slammed shut behind her and Mack scowled at Jason's retreating back as she watched Troy head for the front. She followed after him, her boots coming to a sudden and skidding halt as the massive mess that was her bar came into view.
Her hands clenched and then unclenched before she let a large sigh. This is what she got for running out early and not cleaning up after herself. A big fat mess and the shit kicked out of her. Yes, she decided, this was quite simply an epic fucking fail on her part.
"Fuck," she exclaimed loudly to the empty space. She surveyed her kingdom, derelict as it was, and then headed for the jukebox, temporarily settling for the pop and R&B mix still programmed for Halloween. That bit of business addressed, she dug around behind the bar and found a small bottle of Tylenol, taking two as a preventative measure before turning a critical eye back to the bar.
"Ah well," she muttered, doing her best to accept the inevitable clean up that was about to take place. At least the place hadn't started to smell yet. She'd clean up tonight and be ready to reopen tomorrow. Since Tuesday was a slower day of the week, she should be able to slowly ease back into the routine.
Pulling out a dish pan out from behind the bar, she started shoving everything into it. Twenty minutes later, she was stacking glasses in the sink and sorting bottles into the recycling bin, while her injuries subtly reminded her not to stack so many glasses on her tray at the same time. She bent over the sink behind the bar and set the dishware into the water to soak off the grime and nodded resolutely to herself.
With a few minor adjustments, she would be able to return to her normal routine without taxing her injuries overly much. Well, that and few bottle of pain relievers.
Once her bar was free of Halloween decorations and debris on the tables, she was pleased to see that the place was started to look as good as new – or as good as it always did. And somehow it made her aches and pain completely worth it. She dimly wondered if Harv and Harvey ever felt this good after putting it an hour or so of simple labor- then just as quickly assumed they staffed out any real labor to their subordinates.
"Don't even know what they're missing," she muttered to herself. Now that she had wrestled her bar into some semblance of cleanliness, she took the time to switch the jukebox back to the rock she preferred. Once she was finished, she made sure the jukebox was turned up to loud, and then headed into the walk in cooler to grab what she needed to restock the smaller coolers behind the bar.
Batman stared after her, motionless in his hiding place, while both her and her bodyguard remained oblivious to his presence. The stitches to her arm were still present as was some bruising at her shoulders and throat. Regardless, she was moving quite freely for someone with her injuries - no doubt thanks to the Tylenol he'd seen her swallow.
She was listed as the sole owner/operator and if the muscles in her shoulders and upper arms were any indication she was used to manual labor, perhaps even possessing a higher pain tolerance than he'd first believed. Her emotional state seemed to be stable, though the tension in her frame and her occasional muttering suggested a great deal of stress.
He could see no signs of fear from her, and she hadn't given the two men shadowing her a second look, not even when they'd entered the bar. Batman considered this and had to admit the evidence supported the recent rumors. Two-Face had been protecting her, and was continuing to do so. She might even know where he was hiding. Batman waited until she left the front of the bar unattended and then quickly incapacitated her bodyguard. He made sure to hide the unconscious form where she wouldn't see it, before also silencing the second bodyguard waiting in the car. Returning to the shadows of the bar, he waited for her to emerge from the walk in cooler, and then pulled the jukebox cord from the electric socket with a sharp tug.
Mack whirled around at the sudden silence, half expecting to see Troy standing there and then felt her heart skip a beat, as she came face to face with the Dark Knight instead.
Even across the room he oozed power, and she stepped out from behind the bar, not wanting to be boxed in if he should approach her. He did, gliding forward on deathly silent steps, his cape encasing him, looking every bit the grim reaper he was rumored to be. He fixed her with a blank stare, nothing but white slits for eyes; his very presence seeping through the bar like a dark cloud.
Mack said nothing, too numb from recent events to feel much of anything besides annoyance. Thought, a small part of her did have to admit that Nightwing and his aura of intimidation didn't have shit on this guy. This guy was the Optimus Prime of scary vigilantes. If recent events hadn't left her in a perpetual state of irritation, she might have been impressed.
"What do you want?" Mack asked bluntly, not the least bit interested in drawing their meeting out.
Batman ceased all motion at her question, a feat that Mack half believed was supernatural in its effect. Even his cape was motionless, as if he merely willed the space around him to do his bidding.
She raised a brow at him and had to admit that, nowshe was impressed. Seriously, Harv could take lessons from this guy.
"Two-Face. Where is he," His gravelly voice echoing eerily in the empty bar.
Mack scowled at him, and his obvious disinterest in her. Here she was, days out from almost being murdered, and months out from having harbored a known psychopath, and his only concern was said psychopath?! "I'm fine, by the way," she added pointedly. "Harv's nice enough not to beat me, but thanks for your concern."
Somewhere on the other side of town Harv's surveillance team was scrambling to patch the feed through to their boss. They succeeded just in time for Harv to catch the back end of Mack's less than pleased response.
"So you admit to knowing him," he confirmed.
Somewhere in the back of her mind a small voice suggested she not incriminate herself further and she promptly ignored it. "The entire criminal underworld knows that I know him," her voice turned downright sarcastic. "Excuse me for assuming you were in the loop."
"Is this a joke to you?" He growled in response. "Two-Face is dangerous. He needs to be behind bars."
"A joke?!" she exclaimed indignantly. "Do I look amused," she shot back, gesturing to her many injuries. "I am very aware just how dangerous he is."
"Then tell me where he is," Batman demanded harshly.
"I don't know where he is," she shot back, nonplussed.
What little she could see of his expression, betrayed nothing. "And if you did," he countered.
"If I knew, and told you. He'd kill me. Horribly," she insisted, remembering a blood covered Harv admitting to killing Peterson.
Batman heard the conviction in her words, and saw a hint of fear cross her face despite the brave face she was putting on. She believed what she was saying, which in his opinion was a good sign. It she wasn't harboring any delusions, he might be able to reason with her.
"Then you know that you can't trust him. He'll turn on you eventually," he promised with a scowl.
"And what exactly," she drawled scathingly, "do you suggest I do, turn him in?! Arkham is a revolving door for super villains, and the minute he escaped he'd kill me." Mack fixed him with a steely gaze, practically daring him to contradict her.
"So you're going to ignore the bodies that pile up at his feet while enjoying his protection?"
Her eyes flickered away from his, but not before he caught the sliver of guilt that crossed them. "What about my life?" she countered, shoving her guilt down and burying it. "Or aren't you concerned about my cold, dead body lying at his feet?!"
"So your level of loyalty is tied directly to your safety," he summarized shrewdly and with more than a little contempt.
Mack opened her mouth to agree, that yes, she'd drop him like yesterday's news if she wasn't terrified of him, but stopped because it wasn't quite true. "He saved my life," she admitted.
"He's the only reason it was endangered in the first place," he countered.
"I've already had this argument with myself, and with him," she admitted with a scowl. "You'll forgive me I don't feel like re-hashing it with you."
"Living through one argument doesn't mean you'll survive the next one."
"Oh for fuck's sake!" she exclaimed, losing her patience with constantly explaining herself. "It doesn't matter how many ways you remind me he's a murdering psychopath. I already know!"
"Christ," she swore, "you think I asked for this! It's not like I put up a sign asking for crazy people to drop by for a drink, and I sure as shit didn't ask to be used as leverage in some sort of giant pissing match between Harv and Schultz."
"Nor," she added, her voice moving into a rant-worthy octave, "did I ask for all this fucking unwanted attention from you, and the rogue's gallery, and the rest of the criminal fucking underworld!"
"You think I don't know the shit I'm in?! Trust me," she yelled, "I know."
"Then help me," he demanded. "Tell me what you know, where's he been, and I'll help you get out of the city."
She stared at him, and snorted in derision, "do you think I haven't already thought about it? The perfect way to ditch my bodyguards. The perfect way to leave this city in my rearview window, before Harv even realized I was gone. Because I have. In detail," she admitted.
"But if I do decide to leave. It'll be on my terms, my way. I'll be damned if I'm going to leave with you, and give him an extra reason to hunt me down."
"You aren't the first woman to think she was in control," he warned her. "A very young, very naïve Arkham psychiatrist once thought the same things about the Joker, and now she shares a cell next to him."
Mack felt the blood drain from her face, as the man in front of her compared her to Harley Quinn, "Fuck you," she snarled. "I am nothing like her."
"Where I stand, I don't see the difference. You're still harboring a felon, and looking the other way while he kills innocent people."
"And I suppose we'll just overlook the fact that she goes on crime sprees with him, and that she's just as crazy as he is," she defended, refusing to concede even his small point.
"Give it a few months. That's all it took for the Joker to scramble her brains like eggs." She fumed at him, but for once, didn't have a witty retort. "Or did you really think she started that way?"
"Or maybe he doesn't even trust you enough to make you his hench girl." She nearly throttled him for the condescension in his voice, but her sarcastic response died on her lips as she watched him pull a small electronic device from a crevice under the ledge of her bar.
"Say hello," he told her, more than aware that with this one move he'd planted enough doubt to splinter what loyalty she did feel for Two-Face.
"No," she breathed in disbelief; betrayal in her eyes. "Harvey wouldn't do that to me."
"Harvey died in that courtroom," he told her in a low voice that sounded a lot like pity.
"That's not true," she denied, voice laced with desperation. "I've seen him."
"Two-Face is a sociopath," he reminded her. "He puts on acts like you put on clothes."
She knew what he was saying was probably true. Harv was a sociopath, but she knew what she'd seen. Harvey was real. He had to be. "No," she denied, ignoring what was now unmistakably pity on his face. "Just get out."
She grabbed the electronic bugging device from his hand, and then flung one hand wildly at him. "Get out!" she demanded a second time, trying to ignore the defeated sound in her own voice, "Just get out."
He considered her for a long second, and decided that he'd done more than enough to plant the seeds of doubt in her. The next time he approached her, she'd be ready to talk. He placed a small bat shaped device on the ledge of the bar, along with a small note, and was gone.
Mack stared after him for a long second before turning her attention to the tiny listening device clutched in her hand. "He's gone," she whispered quietly into her palm.
There was no response, and she instantly felt stupid for thinking there would be some omniscient voice that would answer from thin air. She stared at it for what felt like forever, but in reality was only a few seconds. Finally, she worked up the nerve to ask the one question she both knew and feared the answer to.
"Harv?" she whispered again, pouring her grief, guilt, and depth of betrayal into a one word plea that she desperately hoped would go unanswered.
There was a blessedly long pause, and for one glorious moment, hope bloomed in her chest. It only hurt all the more when what little hope she had was crushed under the sound of Harv's ringtone filling the small bar. The techs never were sure whether it was a sob or mangled scream that ended her transmission.
Mack's chest heaved as she stomped her foot once, then twice on the small device. She ignored Harv's phone call, throwing her phone against the wall in a fit of anger. It continued to ring from where it lay on the floor, and she turned her back on it, growing angrier by the second.
She gave the note Batman left her a cursory glance, and then went back and read it once more.
This is a panic button that only I will hear. Cool it to less than 30°F and it will remain undetected.
Mack stared down at the traitorous device, more than aware that being in possession of something like this would be an instant death sentence. Still, his visit had done its job, and she now doubted Harv just enough to hold onto it – just in case.
Decision made, she went to the cooler door, bat-shaped metal held daintily between two fingers. Once inside she went to the freezer farthest from the door, the one she kept her high end, high proof liquors in. It was also the one she used the least, and was the best candidate for hiding her dirty little secret. She shoved the device into the farthest crevice, and covered it with several heavy boxes, making sure she scuffed up the entire cooler so no one could tell anything in particular has been recently moved.
She closed the lid to the freezer and then exited the cooler. Subconsciously she knew that she should be scared by her actions just now. She had just betrayed a dangerous and powerful mob boss – one of Gotham's infamous rogue's gallery. While she knew she hadn't personally betrayed him, she also knew Harv wouldn't see it like that. He though the only insurance she needed was him. Now she saw that wasn't necessarily true. So she'd keep her dirty little secret and hope like hell it didn't get her killed. Though at the rate she was going, the small bat signal would be the least of her worries.
Two superhero visits in as many days, was probably something of record, and judging by the electronic bug she'd destroyed, and the countless others that were no doubt hidden around her bar, Harv didn't actually trust her.
Turns out it only took a single visit from a superhero dressed like a bat to make her doubt him in return. Of course for all she knew, those stupid bugs had been there all along. They could be in her house for fuck's sake! The slow boil of rage that had started in her belly inched ever higher at that thought.
Well, she'd just see about this.
She had just retrieved her now cracked phone, when the back door opened and Brian crossed the threshold, followed by two men she didn't recognize.
"Ms. Mackenzie," he offered politely.
That one remark was more than enough to set off all sorts of little red flags. Brian never called her anything but Mack, and he never spoke to her in such a serious manner. It also meant that she wouldn't have to worry about calling Harv on the phone. Chances were good she'd be seeing him very shortly. There was no other reason that made sense, unless Brian was here to kill her.
"Mr. Broderick," she responded, trying for the same polite tone, but only succeeded in sounding just shy of openly hostile.
He sized her up in one quick look, able to read the barely restrained anger in the tenseness of her shoulder, and the way her nails seemed to dig into her palms. This was really not a good idea, he realized. They were going to kill each other. He made a mental note to not to let her in the office armed.
"Are you here to kill me?" she asked, her voice disturbingly calm, for such a question.
To his credit Brian looked vaguely scandalized. "No," he replied firmly – very firmly. "The boss would like to see you," he reassured her.
When her only response was a brief nod, he went ahead and asked for her gun just in case. You never could tell what a truly paranoid person would do, and it was best to head off any possibility of bloodshed from her side before they continued. Of course this did nothing to help her anxiety levels and for a brief moment he almost felt bad unleashing her on his boss.
Once he had escorted her to the car, they proceeded through an alarming number of security check points, not unlike the route she'd encountered after meeting Nightwing. Finally, after a number of car switching and back tracking that only served to further irritate an already angry Mack, they arrived at an underground parking structure in a neighborhood that just barely qualified as a 'nicer part of Gotham.'
She was ushered down a long and twisting concrete walkway, while just above her she could hear the steady traffic of Gotham's nightlight. They passed several exits and entrances, but finally stopped before an elevator. Brian turned a small key and they headed for the eleventh floor, exiting into a long hallway that lead past several offices to a spacious lobby where a red haired woman was manning the front desk. She glanced at Mack, not bothering to hide her curiosity.
"Is he free, Roxy?" Brian asked, not bothering to clarify who the he in question was.
"Go on up," she told him with a nod.
Brian ushered Mack up a nearby staircase, and then down another hallway, stopping before what was clearly labeled as a 'board room.' She snorted at the sheer ridiculousness of a wanted man having a board room, and shoved the door open, not bothering to knock.
Behind her Brian winced, and he sent a warning look at John, Mark, and Kevin who were scattered in various chairs across the room. This was not going to be pretty.
"I believe this belongs to you," she all but sneered at Harv, before tossing the crushed remains of his listening device onto the large table that took up one half of the room.
He spared her an irritated glance from the desk chair he currently occupied, "Are your hands broken," he bit back, referencing her inability to knock.
"Don't you dare lecture me on manners, when you clearly don't have any," she seethed, anger barely contained. "I want those things removed from my bar," Mack snarled at him, doing a fitting impression of Harv when he was angry.
"Or what?!" he challenged, baring his teeth at her- knowing full well that all the real power in this little relationship was firmly in his court.
The entire room watched in morbid fascination as her face slid through several different stages of anger. She finally settled firmly on violently hostile, as her left eye started to twitch.
"Or what," she hissed dangerously, nails digging into her palms as her fists clenched at her side. "Or what?!" she repeated increasing in volume, as all the anger Mack had been repressing suddenly coalesced. Her self-control shattered with an almost audible snap, sending her into a rage thatcould only be referred to as temporary insanity.
"I'll show you or what," she screeched, taking a sadistic pleasure at the shock on his face as the object nearest to her went flying across the room, and shattered only inches from his head.
From her left, Brian uttered a stunned, "Holy shit," before practically diving out of the way to join his co-workers on the far side of the room.
"I trusted you," she screeched, as Harv dodged a particularly expensive bottle of brandy.
"I did everything you asked," Mack shouted, brandishing a stapler before she sent in flying after the brandy. "I gave you everything you wanted, and it still wasn't enough."
"I can't believe," the three hole punch broke apart midair and showered both Harv and the floor with little bits of white paper, "for even a second that I thought you were worth staying in this shitty city!"
She groped at the next shelf wildly for another projectile, and in the few seconds it took her to grab a hefty binder Harv had already leaped the width of the table to grab her from her behind.
Any other day, any other time, Mack might have accepted his manhandling, but today, for just once, she wanted to hurt him like he'd hurt her. She moved before she was fully conscious of it, her head snapping back towards Harv's own. Only his highly honed reflexes saved him from a broken nose, as she narrowly missed her target. His arms loosened around her waist just enough that she was able to shove back against him using the table in front of her for leverage. They both stumbled backwards, but she was able to pull away and scramble in the direction he'd just come from so that once again the table was between them.
The look Harv sent her promised a very painful death in the near future. "You wanna play princess," he growled, a predatory look crossing his face. "Fine. Let's play."
He moved and she reacted as a small shiver of fear managed to worm its way through her haze of rage. Mack grabbed the large table, easily five foot wide and seventy pounds, and lifted it, doing her damnedest to flip the table on him, but willing to settle for turning it on its side. Any hopes she had of buying herself some time to maneuver died as she heard the thump of a shoe meeting the table side, and watched in awe as he vaulted over her five foot tall barricade one handed before the table even had a chance to fall.
Harv sent her a dark look as he shed his outer jacket, and started to casually roll up his sleeves. "Your move," he drawled through a disturbingly unpleasant smile, adding a mocking, "honey," as he slowly stalked towards her.
"Fuck you, sweetie," she retorted with a fake smile of her own, fully aware after his little acrobatic stunt that not only was she completely out-classed, but that he was deliberately toying with her.
"Is this it?" he asked, once again mocking her, "Is this the best you can do. This wasn't even worth getting up for." He smirked sadistically at the sudden flush in her cheeks as her anger came flaring back, once again overriding her good sense.
He was baiting her, and somewhere deep down she knew it, but she just didn't have the ability to stop responding to it- and all the while he was slowly, irrevocably advancing on her.
"Is this some sort of a game for you?!" she accused. "What gives you the right to fuck with my life?!"
"Because I own you," he told her savagely. Harv met her eyes and the hunger in them turned her stomach to knots, "and because your anger is almost as sweet as your fear, and you've just given me both."
Mack turned white in response, and his answering chuckle was as disturbing as his answer. She reached for a chair and shoved it at him, before turning and making a dash for the nearest side door. She wouldn't last more than a second if she let him reach her, and she desperately needed to put some distance between them.
She made it less than two feet before his hand twisted in her hair and pulled her back. Mack hissed in pain, and her elbow quickly found his midsection. He didn't make so much as a sound, but he released her, shoving her forward and to one side just enough that she stumbled and had to spin back towards him to avoid falling on her ass.
Some sick sort of sixth sense told her it was coming before she ever saw it, and Mack raised both her arms to protect her face. Her entire right arm went numb from the impact and her eyes widened in absolute fury as she realized he'd just tried to back hand her. Her left fist swung out in retaliation, a move he easily side step, as he used her own momentum to send her sprawling to the floor between him and the door she'd first entered.
Mack managed to roll out of it, and came to her feet fighting and furious, "don't you dare try to bitch slap me, you bastard. If you're gonna hit me then do it like a man."
She barely even saw him move, catching only the vicious gleam in his eye and a sinister and ominous sounding, "if you insist." Mack felt the hand on the back of her neck and she was barely able to get her arms between his knee and her midsection as he pushed her into the hit.
Pain exploded in her abdomen, and she slumped to the floor with a ragged wheeze, perfectly aware that the bastard had deliberately aimed for the stitched up slash in her stomach.
When he spoke his voice was closer than she'd expected, and she spared him a hateful glance to find him crouching down next to her. "You really wanna keep doing this," he asked her in that dangerously soft voice of his, "because I'm not even trying, yet."
The bastard has just kneed her in the one place he knew she was weakest, and was seriously enjoying fucking her up. If he thought this was over then he only had one oar in the water. She'd land a hit on him or die trying, which she had to admit might not be far off. "Try this," she muttered, grabbing a nearby desk phone that had been knocked over and swinging it at him.
He managed to avoid most of it, but she felt the most sadistic sense of pleasure as she watched the very corner of it glance off his perfectly chiseled fucking jaw. Harv snarled at her, no longer even slightly amused. They stared at each other for a second that seemed to span forever, her with a self-satisfied smirk and him with his coldly angry eyes, before he reached out and pulled her up by the shirt, hand wrapping around her throat.
Panicked bloomed in her, as she realized that she'd finally taken things too far. She dug her hands into his arm, hoping to loosen his grip, but he ignored her. "Let's have a talk, Mackenzie," he sneered, before dragging her by the throat into the nearby room she previously tried to escape into.
Mack scrambled to keep up with his long strides, and every time she fell behind his unrelenting grip on her throat only further constricted her airway. If she hadn't been so preoccupied trying to breath she would realized that they were entering his private office. Dimly she heard a door slam shut, but the one behind her remained open. Her eyes widened as she realized that his employees had left the board room. They'd just left her alone with him- with a murderous Two-Face.
Her back meet the hard surface of a nearby wall and his grip loosened just enough that she could speak. Her eyes flickered to his face, afraid of what she'd find there. The cold look in his eyes all but froze her solid, and her hands stilled, coming to rest on the arm holding her to the wall.
"Are you finished?" he asked.
"I don't know. Am I?" She was scrambling to form a scowl, refusing to cower in front of him even when asking if he was going to kill her.
"Oh, I think you are," he told her darkly, his hand constricting until it was again painful to breath.
You're not serious. Harvey scoffed.
Fuck yes I am. I've had enough. No broad is worth this.
Are fucking kidding me? That was one of the sexiest things I've seen in a long time.
I don't find being hit in the face with a telephone sexy.
You're a horrible liar. Violence turns you on and you know it. Look at her, completely at your mercy and still fighting. If that's not hot, I don't know what is.
Harv was silent for a long second, unable to contradict his other half.
Not to mention that she looks like she'd just been well fucked. Harvey murmured quietly, echoing one last observation before falling silent, knowing he'd already won the argument. It's a good look, don't you think…
Harv sneered derisively at the poorly disguised attempt at manipulation, but found his eyes wandering over her of their own volition. His gaze flickered over her mussed hair, flushed cheeks, and slightly parted lips, then down to her chest heaving with the effort to breath, and couldn't deny the observation. The hand around her throat stilled, and she felt something shift between them. Their eyes met and the heat in his wasn't just anger anymore. He shifted until his other arm was boxing her in, and for one tense second it seemed he was torn between killing her and kissing her. Under any other circumstance she might have been confused, but she supposed to a man like Harv, who probably got off on fear and violence, it wasn't a hard transition for him to make.
He left his hand around her throat, but unclenched it so she could breathe freely, enjoying the view of her chest as she took several deep shuddering breaths. She sent him a dirty look, still furious with him, but suddenly very aware of how close he was.
She was so angry at him and no amount of throwing things or hitting him had eased it at all. She wanted to make him pay. Wanted to make him bleed. To bring him to his knees the way he always brought her to hers.
"I really hate you," she swore vehemently.
"I know," he admitted, and from the look on his face it only made it sweeter for him.
Mack clenched her teeth and slid her hands around the leather straps of his gun holster. She didn't care what it took she was going to make this bastard submit one way or another.
In the next second his mouth was inches from hers, "never," he bit out through bared teeth, and it was only then she realized she'd spoken out loud.
"Fuck you," she breathed angrily, before yanking him to her and kissing him hard enough to challenge his dominance. He responded in kind, hand fisting painfully in her hair as he forced her to give into the pace he set.
She hissed, more out of fury than pain and bit his tongue in retribution. Harv pulled back long enough to snarl at her before sliding his hands under her thighs and hoisting her up, deliberately jostling her so that her back hit the wall again with more force than necessary.
Their battle of wills lasted until his hand found her breast, and she couldn't hide the gasp that told him she was enjoying his attentions more than she wanted to admit. He smirked at her in undisguised triumph, completely ignoring the hand that yanked at his hair, "that sounded like a concession."
"Never," she bit out through bared teeth in a perfect replica of his previous retort.
He leaned in, mouth finding the shell of her ear, "liar," he growled, voice dropping an octave into what was the sexiest bedroom voice she'd ever heard. Harv pulled her tightly to him and crossed the office to his desk, sweeping it clear with one swipe before depositing her on the surface. He wasted no time divesting her of her shirt, then her bra, and she quickly lost all track of time, as he made her forget everything but his name. Each time she reached for him, he took her in and turned her inside out until she couldn't remember why she was fighting him in the first place. He watched her lose herself, and relished twisting her every attempt to subjugate him into one more plea, one more please, one more desperate prayer in his name. Her every word was more intoxicating that a thousand men begging for mercy, and he couldn't get enough. Nothing would ever be as sweet as the power to make this woman beg for his touch.
Harv slumped down next to the desk, and Mack quickly followed him, unable to maintain her position on the edge of desk without his support. He managed to locate his cigarettes in the pants lying nearby, and then silence reigned supreme, broken only by the sound of his sharp inhale and exhale.
"Give me one," Mack demanded after a minute, and he huffed in irritation before tossing his cigarettes and lighter at her. Mack didn't normally enjoying smoking, but there was something relaxing about having something else to do. Anything to keep her from dwelling on her traitorous thoughts about how bloody good he was at, well… apparently everything. Arrogant ass, she added for good measure.
"Don't suppose you have anything to drink in this office?" she asked, breaking their self-imposed silence once more.
"Well I did. But someone smashed it," he replied acerbically.
She paused and then offered him a grudging, "sorry about your office."
"Like hell you are," he accused, sending a glare her direction.
Mack turned to look at him, and then turned away, worried that her uncontrollable smirk would appear disingenuous.
"Don't think for a second I don't see that," he growled.
This time her apology was more contrite, but they both knew she was only apologizing for not really being sorry.
"Forget it," he replied after a moment, shrugging casually. Too casually if you asked her; he wasn't exactly known for being overly forgiving. Mack looked at him suspiciously, wondering what he was trying to pull.
Now that he had her undivided attention he went in for the kill, practically oozing smugness. "It's not every day the great Jamie Mackenzie begs me for anything."
He took great delight in watching her blush and sputter in denial, his smirk turning down right wicked.
"You are such an ass," she accused, shooting him a venomous look. "And that did not happen," she argued, jabbing a finger in his direction.
His wicked smirk turned downright evil, "whatever helps you sleep at night, princess."
"Well it certainly won't be you, after a comment like that," she muttered under her breath.
He went quiet again, but it was the dangerous kind of quiet, and she wondered briefly if he'd heard her. Mack risked a glance at him from the corner of her eye, and was momentarily floored that someone could put that much heat, possessiveness, and pure unadulterated predatory intent in one look. Oh yeah. He'd heard her. Harv held her gaze for a long second and then ground out his cigarette on the side of his desk before moving purposely towards her.
Her eyes narrowed at him as he managed to convey a sense of stalking her, even crawling across two feet of carpet. "Hey," she protested indignantly, nudging him back with one foot, "you stay on your side of the desk."
In retrospect, she should never have offered him a limb to hold hostage. He wrapped one hand around her ankle, and before she knew what was happening she found herself sitting in his lap. "That sounds like a challenge, Mack," he drawled, hands coming to rest on her hips.
The ringing of his phone interrupted what Mack was beginning to recognize as something of a moment, and was almost disappointed when he displaced her to dig around for it. He glanced down at the display screen and made a face. Glancing back at her he gestured towards the far corner. "There's a bathroom back there if you need it."
With that he dismissed her, pulling on his pants and returning the missed call. She blinked, almost shocked as he pulled every scrap of almost human behavior back inside, and became the Harv she'd come to know so well, speaking into the phone with the same shitty attitude he'd always had. Mack hadn't even realized he'd been treating her differently at all, until now, and just like that he really did own her. She wanted to see that Harv again, and she be damned if she wasn't going to.
She climbed to her feet, grabbed for what clothes were in reach, and headed for the bathroom he'd pointed out. Mack addressed the necessities, and then slumped down on the top of the toilet. Slowly the adrenaline and endorphins started to wear off, only to be replaced by a creeping pain in practically every part of her body. Probably it hadn't been wise to have sudden death match with Harv, let alone right after having one with Peterson.
She paused as the reality of that settled in. I just... I threw a table at Harvey Dent, Two-Face. A soft giggle burst past her lips seemingly of its own free will, and her hand flew to her mouth as if trying to deny the insane sounding noise she'd just made.
It wasn't funny, and she knew it. She'd hit him with a telephone, and it was a miracle he hadn't strangled her, literally. She giggled again despite her attempts to hold it back, one hand pressed firmly to her lips. Dimly she was aware she was hyperventilating, and then a slick wetness was sliding down her cheeks and pooling in the crevices between her fingers. With horror she realized she was crying and laughing at the same time, and she couldn't seem to stop.
She knew her situation was beyond ridiculous, and it took her multiple attempts before she was able to slow her respirations and regain control. Dragging herself to her feet, she splashed cold water on her face, avoiding her reflection in the mirror. Once she was sure her eyes weren't unusually red, she re-entered the office, not expecting it to be occupied by anyone but the two of them.
She blinked to find both Harv and Mark look her way before resuming their conversation. Mack ignored them right back, finally realizing that she was standing in what was most likely his office, and that between the two of them it'd been completely decimated. The entire contents of his desk were scattered across the floor, including what looked like a rather expensive computer. Files were strewn every which way, the carpet littered with the oddest assortment of maps, blue prints, tax forms, and stock portfolios that she'd ever seen. Odder still was that it was all seemed rather generic. It wasn't anything that didn't seem benign or basic public information, and after further consideration, she realized that he wouldn't be the sort of person to leave a paper trail. Thought she did briefly wonder where he would keep his records. She doubted even Harv could keep everything in his head. Mack quickly moved away from that train of thought. She did not want to know.
Finally she located her over shirt, buried under a pile of hard back reference books, and she smiled softly as she realized they were his old law textbooks. Then, out of the corner of her eye she spotted a lone paperback with The Relic blazoned across the top of it. Mack set the text on the desk, and reached for the novel instead noting the dog eared page half-way through the book. Her smile widened as she found proof that he'd taken her advice and was reading what she knew to be an excellent series.
"Enjoying yourself, Mack…" Harv glowered at her back, not missing for an instant the nauseating smile on her face, or the source of it. Fucking Harvey, he groused. At least she managed to look appropriately chastised, even if she was fighting back a smirk. He snarled at her for good measure, and her smirk disappeared completely as she promptly put the book down. Harv narrowed his eyes, but apparently decided she been appropriately cowed because he turned back to Mark.
Dick, she thought uncharitably before stepping around the pile at her feet and headed towards his boardroom hoping to find her purse somewhere in the wreckage. She was really starting to need that aspirin. If anything the board room was in worse shape that his office and she was both simultaneously horrified and impressed that she'd caused most of that damage herself. Mack took a closer look at table, noticing for the first time that the base was almost solid wood, which explained why she couldn't flip it over. The base of it was far too heavy to tip over without a great deal more force than she'd applied. She remembered the way he scaled it and approached for a closer look, just barely able to make out the edge of a toe print in the middle of the hardwood.
"Jesus," she muttered. He would have had to launch himself at it with enough force to propel his body far enough up, and have the upper body strength to flip his body weight over the top. It was an impressive feat considering he'd done it completely on the fly.
Her stomach cramped then, reminding her not only to find her aspirin, but also the way he kneed her in the stomach. She sneered at the memory before finally locating her purse and dumping several tablets into her hand. If she didn't think he'd throw the "don't provoke Harv" clause in her face she'd be more than happy to remind him of his "don't hit Mack" clause. Glowering, she stepped into the hallway and headed down the stairs to find something to drink.
Three pair of eyes stared at her as she descended, and she nodded at John, Brian, and Kevin who were gathered around the empty receptionist desk.
They stared at her in silence for a second and then John spoke, a little bit of respect edging into his voice. "That was some ballsy shit, Mack."
She snorted at the compliment, fighting off a blush. "I think the work you're looking for is insane."
He didn't deny it, "still… not bad. Of course," he added with a rueful shrug, "we thought he'd killed you."
"I figured as much," she replied, before scowling at them, "especially the way you abandoned me like rats jumping off a sinking ship."
"Hey, not even my crazy ass would volunteer to stick around to see how he acts after he realizes he'd just murdered you," Brian told her bluntly.
Mack didn't bother staying angry at them. They might protect her from an outside threat, but none of them were going to save her from Harv himself. Mack started to nod in agreement, and then she blinked in confusion. "Wait. You left the building?"
"Everybody but Mark," Kevin corrected. "We just got back maybe ten minutes ago."
"Yeah, but what if something happens," Mack asked, "and Mark's the only one here?"
"Then I pity the poor bastards who try to take out the other boss," Kevin told her solemnly. She stared up at him, curiosity peaked, but Brian interrupted her train of thought.
"Soooo," Brian drawled unable to keep from teasing her. "How did you keep him from killing you?" The sly look he sent her was all the proof she needed that her already suspected what had happened, and now he was just pushing her buttons.
She sent him a flat stare, "trust me, it's nothing that would ever save your ass."
He waggled his eyebrows at her, "that's what I thought."
Mack narrowed her eyes, but let it go, knowing there was no use in denying it. Instead she deliberately changed the subject, turning her attention to the needed beverage. "You got anything to drink in this joint?" she asked the blonde, "or do I need to find a Starbucks?"
She wasn't entirely sure what she'd said that caused such a change in tone, but suddenly John was practically oozing devilish glee, and Brian was looking at her like she was the anti-Christ.
"You want coffee," John clarified, before turning to Brian with an evil smirk, and unnecessarily repeated her request, "Mack wants some coffee,"
"I heard her the first time," Brian growled at his best friend, quickly losing his jokester front in light of the sudden threat to his secret stash.
"Well far be for us to deny the boss's woman anything her little heart desires," John responded, oozing fake sincerity.
Mack received the distinct impression that she was witnessing some sort of old argument, and John had finally found the trump card he needed to one up his friend.
"Then go get some, John," he retorted, uttering his friends name with a hostility that took her by surprise.
John's smirk only darkened as he sensed weakness, "she didn't ask me, Brian."
"You can't make me," Brian glared, resorting to childish denials as he sensed the trap closing in on him.
"Oh but I can," John reminded him with sadistic glee, "I outrank you."
Brian snarled something incomprehensible before diving at his friend. John only laughed, a disturbingly eerie chuckle reminiscent of Harv's own, before Kevin stepped between them, his six foot three frame towering over his much shorter cousin.
"You're taking his side?!" he demanded, appalled at his cousin's sudden betrayal.
Kevin glowered down at him, before smiling nastily, "payback's a bitch, isn't it."
"I'll get you for this," Brian swore at his friends, though Mack noted that neither of them seemed concerned in the slightest. He whirled around, and Mack estimation of John and Kevin went up several notches, as she took an instinctive step back at the murderous glint in his eyes. If they weren't scared of this, she'd hate to see what did scare them.
"Brian," Kevin chided with a frown.
He flipped off the tall man, but reverted to the faux friendly he mask he wore with practiced ease. "Sorry, Mack," he told her with a wink.
"Jesus," she breathed, "You're all crazy."
"I'm not the one who threw a stapler at Two-Face," he pointed out, stalking off to presumably make her coffee.
Behind her, she heard Kevin remark to John, "I swear, what is it with women and staplers? Do you think it's the weight of it, or is it more of an act of convenience?"
"Fuck if I know. Maybe it's in their genes," John speculated.
Kevin nodded and then, "of course, I don't think Roxy would ever throw a table at me, but then Mack's always been a little special."
At this point, Mack knew they were deliberately poking at her, and she sent the two of them a wry look, "bite me."
They grinned at her, clearly amused, and she smiled back, not nearly as irritated as she was pretending to be. "So what's up with the coffee? I really wasn't trying to start a fight."
John explained about Brian's incredibly awesome coffee, informing her with a scowl that he refused to tell any of them the brand name, and until now they couldn't think of a way to make him 'fess up.
"Why didn't you just sneak some to Harv?" she asked, somewhat confused, "if it's that good, I'm sure Brian would tell him."
"Because that would be admitting we couldn't get it out of him ourselves," John explained.
Mack nodded thoughtfully, respecting if not necessarily understanding their private little war. Brian returned then, sulking down the hall and presenting her with a mug that read, 'Non-Flammable? Challenge accepted'. She laughed, and took the offered mug, sipping it carefully.
They nodded knowingly at her hum of pleasure. "Oh that is fucking awesome. Where on earth do you get this?"
Brian mashed his lips together and promptly ignored her, refusing to talk. "Wow," she murmured, to John and Kevin, "he really is hardcore about this, isn't he?"
They nodded in agreement, until Mark interrupted their commiserating by calling for her. "Boss wants you, Mack," he called out, meeting her halfway down the stairs as she headed up, tossing back her aspirin as she went.
He glanced at the mug in her hand and instantly recognized it. "Is that Brian'scoffee?" he asked incredulously. She nodded, and Mark looked around her to send John an impressed look, "well played."
John bowed mockingly, and Mack shook her head at the bickering that erupted once again between Brian and John as she headed upstairs to see Harv.
Harv stood at his office window, staring out into darkness, motionless except for the repetitive flipping of his coin in one hand. He ignored her entrance, but she didn't believe for a second that he didn't know she was there. Someone, mostly likely Mark, had brought in a second chair from the conference room and placed it in front of his desk. She ignored it, preferring to stand until she knew what was going on. Whatever comfortableness they had once established was gone now, replaced by the dark mood that seemed to hang over him.
It's not her fault she doesn't know any better. Harvey reminded his other half, who had finally gotten around to addressing Mack's conversation with Batman.
That doesn't change the fact that she's just confirmed every suspicion the Bat could have had.
We talked about this, Harvey gritted in annoyance. Multiple times! You knew there would be a learning curve.
Do you not fucking understand the position we're in! We can't afford any mistakes, Harv swore. Even your dumb ass should be able to realize that!
She's not stupid, you jackass! Tell her what she did wrong and how to fix it, and there won't be any more problems! This is why we assigned Roxy to bring her up to speed in the first place.
That won't undo the damage she's already done, you stupid fucker! Harvsneered.
You are being completely unreasonable! Harvey fumed. It's like arguing with a fucking child.
Fuck you Harvey. Harv shot back before tuning out his other half's continued protests.
Mack stood there long enough in the silence that when he spoke it startled her, and when she looked up at him he was far closer than she expected. He loomed over her, overshadowing her smaller frame with his own, and when he looked at her she could almost see the monster underneath. "If you lie to me right now," he told her in that soft voice that always seemed to promise violence no matter how quietly he spoke, "I will make you suffer. Do you understand?"
She nodded, mouth thinning out in irritation, but fully aware that he wasn't above hurting her if the justification was there.
"Sit," he demanded, pointing at the chair Mack had been trying to avoid.
For a split second she thought about ignoring him, but something in the way he looked at her told her that now wasn't the time. "This is about Batman, isn't it?"
He didn't even need to dignify her question with a response, it was obvious just from the black look that crossed his face that it was.
"We both know you heard everything I said. What more could you possibly want from me," she half asked, half demanded.
He reached behind him and grabbed a stapled report from his desk, holding it up for her. "Your opinion of me is heartwarming," he said flatly.
"Jesus Christ," she exclaimed, gesturing wildly at him, "you have a transcript."
He stared at her intently, and then, "any particular reason you admitted to knowing me, or were you just trying to make his job easier."
Mack stared at him in disbelief. Everyone knew that she knew him. "Are you fucking kidding me? If our association is supposed to be a secret it's the worst kept secret I've ever seen."
"So you went ahead and confirmed it for him," he replied scathingly, "how sweet."
"Well, excuse me for not being a better liar," Mack bit out between clenched teeth.
"Is this a joke to you," he hissed. "Batman got more information out of you in three minutes that he probably did all fucking weekend!"
He didn't miss the indignant look that crossed her face, and ignored it, not in the mood to hear her excuses or denials.
"You singlehandedly confirmed that I: regularly drink at your bar, protect you, saved your life, and that my interest in you was the catalyst for the Schultz coup," she stared at him, wide eyed, as he worked himself into a rant that was quickly escalating into a flat out roar.
"Followed by an absolutely stunning admission of weakness in which you admit you think about running away from me on a regular fucking basis. And then," she winced as he finally reached full volume, which for Harv, was pretty fucking loud considering how close he was, "you have the alarming stupidity to admit to arguing with me and walking away from it unharmed."
By the time he finished, he was practically seething and she had flattened her head back against the chair in an unconscious effort to put as much distance between them as she could. It didn't help. He leaned in until their faces were inches apart, "do you know that last time I put so much effort into keeping someone alive?" For once in her life, Mack kept her mouth shut at what seemed very much like a rhetorical question.
"Do you!?" He demanded furiously.
She licked her lips nervously. Apparently it wasn't quite as rhetorical as she thought. "Ne… Never," she offered hesitantly, not sure if she was more afraid of being wrong than she was being right.
"That's right Mack. Never," he hissed, angry both at and with his only weak link, and how much easier she'd made it for his biggest threat to box him into a corner. "Do you really think all that effort is going to go unnoticed," he demanded again.
"Probably not," she admitted nervously.
"No," he agreed mockingly, "probably not. So you probably didn't need to point out such shining examples of my fucking leniency and the huge red flag it raises considering no one else receives it."
"Harv," his eyes narrowed to slits at the sound of her using his moniker, not at all in the mood to allow her even the slightest bit of familiarity. She swallowed uncomfortable, fairly sure that she had interpreted his response correctly, but not entirely sure what else to call him.
Mack settled on simply not using his name at all. "I'm sorry. Truly," she told him sincerely. "I was angry, and I didn't think." Truthfully it never would have occurred to her not to censor herself in the first place, but somehow she didn't think he wanted to hear that.
"One of these days your temper is going to get you into trouble that you can't get out of. And the next time you see someone who clearly wants to see me in jail or dead, don't fucking say anything," he finished with a sneer, hearing what she didn't say just as loudly as what she did.
He gave her one last flinty look and then backed out of her personal space. She didn't find the way he leaned on the desk in front of her, arms crossed, and guns showing to be much more comforting. "Now tell me about this plan of yours to leave me," he asked, staring down at her in what seemed to be perpetual anger.
She blinked at the abrupt switch in topics and then, "Seriously?!" she protested, "I was angry, and put on the spot by a nut job in a bat costume. I don't have some secret plot to run off," she finished with a scoff.
She never saw where he pulled the knife from, but one second it was in his hand and the next it was embedded inch deep in the top of his desk. "Lie to me again, and see what happens," he dared her.
Mack stared at him in disbelief. He had threatened her on a very regular basis, but never had he ever pulled a weapon on her, even if it was just on display. She was starting to think she might have seriously misjudged the situation.
He raised the transcript once more as if it was further evidence of some sort of imagined slight and betrayal. Though if she could recall even half of what she said those slights weren't really all that imagined. She had said several unflattering things about him, and she supposed threatening to ditch him was particular insulting to a man this egotistical. "You have a big mouth, Mack, and you meant Every. Fucking. Word."
Okay. Now she was uncomfortable. He watched her shift in her seat, and waited. The silence would get to her eventually and he knew it. It did. "I don't know what you want me to say, Harv," she told him with a weary sigh. "You are a scary, dangerous, and ruthless man, who happens to be incredibly bad for my health, and who I am hopeless attracted to. Any woman in their right mind would think about leaving. And yet," she added with a self-deprecating smile, "here I am. Still here," she scowled, "putting up with you."
"Not to mention," she added before he could regain control of the conversation, "that while I understand why the whole Batman thing is important to you, it's pretty shitty for you to sit here and rake me over the coals for thinking about leaving you, when less than an hour ago, you were seconds away from strangling me. And don't even get me started on the surveillance equipment you hid in my bar without telling me," she added, forcing her voice to remain quiet and even, "so don't you dare give me shit about my trust issues."
His silence was almost as deafening as the way he'd yelled at her. She tried to ignore him, but failed miserably, settling instead for crossing her arms, subconsciously mirroring his own posture.
Wow… she's got you there.
Taking her side again – there's a shock.
Harvey froze, and then, Jesus, are your feelings hurt? he asked in disbelief.
No, Harv snarled, but it's still a shitty thank you for everything I've done for her.
So you're angry that she's not, what… Harvey scoffed, falling all over herself to thank you for blessing her with your mere presence?! You are aware that we've upset her life in a rather large way, right?
She's not the only one at risk here you jackass! You and your fucking sentiment have opened a fucking pandora's box of shit. We didn't have one single exploitable weakness until you fixated on HER!
Don't you blame this shit all on me! I'm not the one who just had some fucked up epiphany in which you decided fucking Mack was almost as good as torturing some poor bastard just to listen to him beg.
That doesn't mean I'M gonna fall apart and cry if she croaks.
This from the man who just openly admitted to your obvious leniency towards the woman, something you continue to extended despite never once offering it to any of our other women. Just admit it. You like her. You can't help it. And it pisses you off.
Then maybe I should go ahead and kill her now before my so called attachment can cause me any more problems!Harv threatened, fuming at the mere idea that he was going soft.
The silence inside his head was deafening, and in that silence he considered his suggestion, waiting for a protest from Harvey that never came.
Mack watched Harv's jaw clench and for one second she thought she imagined his hand twitch ever so slightly towards the gun hanging on his left side.
I'll do it you sorry son of a bitch, he sneered, baiting his other half, hell you can watch her bleed out right here.
He could do it, would do it if he had to, and still Harvey said nothing. No argument, no protest, nothing, and Harv froze at the sudden realization that he didn't actually want to kill her. That he wouldn't enjoy it. That all along he'd been counting on Harvey's worthless fucking protests so he'd have an excuse not to off her.
Disbelief followed denial, and then fury bloomed deep within, his nerves fraying to the point of being unbearable, and he was suddenly, intensely, fucking furious.
Mack almost fell out of her chair as the man in front of her went from stock still to so angry she could feel it coming off him in waves, in less than a second. The look he suddenly sent her held an intensity that bordered on hatred. For the second time today she was well and truly afraid of him, but instead of reaching for her he turned his back on her, hands digging into the hardwood of his desk hard enough that his knuckles went white. Whatever restrain he seemed to be looking for escaped him, and unlike Mack's previous attempt to flip his boardroom table, he managed to send his solid oak desk flying as it landed several feet away.
She took one look at him and ran, clambering out of her chair and like some child afraid of the monster under her bed, slid into the nearest corner. She tried to make herself as small as possible, taking what shelter she could behind the nearest bookshelf; far too afraid of being noticed to go for the door.
He wasn't even faintly appeased at the sudden destruction. Not this time. Not for this. Harv didn't even hesitate before pulling his gun free from the holster and emptying the clip into the desk, chest heaving in an anger that was only now slightly abating. He recalled every horrible thing he'd ever done, flipping through memories of blood, death, and screams as if trying to reassure himself that he remained unchanged. Slowly his heart rate slowed, as he held tightly to the knowledge that he still loved being a cruel, sadistic bastard.
Mack was simple a necessary evil, he continued to rationalize. Like Tater and Mark, just less disposable. If the day came when he truly needed to kill her, he would. Until then he'd enjoy tormenting the ever loving shit out of her. And Harvey… well Harvey could go fuck himself. Nothing had changed, he'd just rearranged his priorities a little. His every need, want, and desire remained firmly his number one concern. She'd just managed to wedge herself under that. Dead last really, considering he'd never had any priorities other than himself to begin with.
Cracking his neck, he reloaded and re-holstered his gun, feeling marginally better, only to turn around and find that Mack was no longer in her chair. He found her hunkered down next to a corner bookshelf, terrified and clutching an half empty mug like it was her lifeline.
"Next time you might try leaving the room," he quipped snidely, staring down at her.
"I was afraid you'd see me," she told him in a shaking voice, not quite able to fully voice her fear. The unspoken concern that he would have shot her hung in the air.
Harv didn't bother to correct her assumption. Just because he'd come to the realization that she'd most likely have to actively betray him before he seriously harmed her, didn't mean she needed to know. After all, a little fear was good for her, and it meant he could still threaten her within an inch of her life. Maybe she'd actually learn to think before antagonizing him now. He surprised her by offering her a hand up, the fact that he shook it impatiently at her notwithstanding.
The silence between them was thick and heavy, and then, "are we just gonna pretend the desk thing never happened," she asked timidly.
He sneered down at her, wondering how he managed to not kill her before now, "I have you literally backed into a corner, and your first thought it to ask me about a desk I just emptied a clip into."
"Good point," she agreed. "Let's forget I mentioned it," Mack added before trying to squeeze around him.
Frankly, she would have been more surprised if he hadn't stopped her. "No, you're right," he smiled viciously down at her, maneuvering himself until she was completely surrounded by him on all sides, "we need to finish our conversation. Allow me to educate you," he snarled, dismissing all her previous comments and excuses about wanting to leave and focused on the only one that mattered to him. "If you leave me, or even try to, I will find you, drag you back, and you'll wish you had even half the freedoms I currently allow compared to the sheer hell I will put you through."
Mack swallowed, not doubting his sincerity in the slightest, though she wasn't entirely sure how that particular statement was in anyway related to the desk. But, at this point there was no way in hell she was going to make the same mistake twice and ask again. Instead she simply nodded, and he bit out a sharp, "Good."
"As for the personal shit you said about Harvey and me…" he let it hang there, and then his dangerously quiet voice had returned. "I'm gonna do you a favor and forget I ever heard you say that. And you are never to open your mouth to anyone about us ever again."
Of all the things he'd been angry about, that was the one that seemed oddest to her, and her confusion showed on her face. She wasn't surprised he'd been offended by the unflattering things she'd said about him, but why the fuck would he care about Harvey, when they clearly couldn't stand each other?
There were times when Harv wished Mack was either a lot smarter, or a lot dumber, and this was most definitely one of them. He could almost see the questions swimming in her eyes disappear as she started adding things together and coming up with the right answers. "Stop," he hissed at her.
"Stop what," she hissed back, "I didn't say anything."
"Stop thinking about it," Harv ordered with a snarl.
He cut her off abruptly, shaking her once to make sure he had her undivided attention. "Do not push me on this. You keep your opinions about Harvey, about me – to your fucking self."
"Fine," she agreed with a glare, before taking the opportunity to change the subject to something she wanted to talk about. "Now how about you explain the bugs you had placed in my bar, and then," Mack sent him a flinty look, "you can tell me if there are any in my house."
"You are unfuckingbelievable," he muttered darkly. How could one woman unknowingly push his every button like a fucking maestro, and yet still be at risk of dissecting their psyche well enough that he had to warn her off. Fuck, knowing her she was probably being deliberately obtuse.
Mack ignored him, refusing to let him dodge the question, "are they in my house or not?!"
"No," he ground out harshly, "there aren't any in your house."
She stared up at him, desperately wanting to believe him, but not quite able to in light of recent events. "Let's say I believe you."
He didn't even need to speak, the low growl was more than enough to let her know she was on thin ice, "what about my bar? I want those things gone, Harv," she told him seriously.
"Why should I?" he demanded.
"Because it's a severe invasion of my privacy," she retorted, trying to control her temper and failing.
"Fine, let's say I have them removed. What do I get?" He watched her flounder for some response that wouldn't escalate their already strained conversation, and felt extremely vindicated when she failed to find one.
"You usually have something already in mind when you ask me that. So why don't you just tell me what you want," she seethed. Mack tried to cross her arms in irritation, but given how close he was, didn't have the room. Her scowled darkened as she realized the only other place she could put her hands besides at her sides, was on him. It was probably petty, but she let her hands fall back to the side, and then slid them behind her so she wouldn't even be tempted to touch him.
The sudden gleam in his eyes more than told her that somewhere along the line she'd miscalculated, but by the time she figured it out he'd already moved to secure both of her wrists behind her using only one of his hands. "Didn't really think that through did you," he taunted, his chest pressing against her own.
There wasn't any she could do short of kneeing him somewhere sensitive to get him to release her so she settled for just ignoring him. "And you didn't answer the question."
He didn't seem to mind the return to the subject as much as she though he would, but then he quite literally had the upper hand so why would he. "If I remove my surveillance equipment…"
"And promise not to put it back, in my bar or my home, without telling me," she interrupted more than familiar with him and his loopholes.
Harv clenched his teeth in annoyance, but agreed, "Fine. Then you will accept the consequences and responsibilities of your new position graciously," he stressed with a glower, "and withoutcomplaint."
"What consequences and responsibilities?" she asked suspiciously.
He dismissed her question as unimportant. She wanted her privacy a lot more that he needed her cooperation, "Going once…"
She sputtered up at him, "Hey wait a minute…"
He spoke over her, with a firm, "Going twice."
"Harv," she started to protest, but he cut her off with a sinister smile. "If you're not interested I could always have surveillance added to your house."
She blanched, "that's blackmail."
Harv tightened his grip on her wrists, subtly reminding her who she was talking to. "Fine," she fumed, "I agree. You remove that crap from my property and agree not to put it back, and I'll take whatever the fuck you're talking about," she sent him and his secretive attitude a dirty look, "with as much grace and patience as humanly possible. Deal?"
"Good, now let go of my hands so we can shake on it," she told him succinctly; though secretly she held out little hope he'd fall for that.
From the rather disbelieving look he sent her, he wasn't going to. "Nice try, princess," he drawled sinisterly before ducking his head down to catch her lips with his own.
For a long moment it seemed he was going to take it farther than a simple kiss, but with a self-control that she didn't think he had, he pulled back and released her.
She'd be a liar if she said she wasn't a little disappointed not to be getting a repeat performance, but thought she'd hid it well until she caught his arrogant, smug smirk, "Business first, " he reminded her, deliberately putting a hint of reproach in his voice just to irritate her.
It worked. Her eyes narrowed at his self-satisfied tone, and she instantly starting planning her revenge. After all, he was the one who started it! Mack waited until he'd stepped back enough to let her through, and then prepared to spring away after issuing a snappy, "do you hear me complaining?"
The second it took her comment to register was just enough time for her to move out of his reach, and from the glint in his eye he wasn't going to let her comment slide any more that had willing to let his, "You're playing a dangerous game, Princess."
Mack snorted from her position between him and the doorway. "Aren't I always," she admitted, edging backwards towards the door.
That predatory glint was back in his eyes, and that was all the warning she needed. He was quick, and if she'd tried to exit through the door he would have easily caught up with her, but she wasn't where he thought she be, having dodged left at the last minute. Harv spun back around with a curse, but he'd reacted too late and she used his momentum to shove him back against the door frame. She was up on her tiptoes, and reaching for his shirt collar just in time to catch the slight surprise that slid across his face. Mack pressed her mouth to his with a grin, and slid her other hand around him to hook over the door jam, ensuring that he wouldn't have an easy time turning the tables on her.
She felt his responding growl before she heard it, as one arm went to her back, holding her in place while his other hand wound its way through her hair. He kissed her back, allowing her a moment to think she was actually in control, and then Mack was glaring at him, as he pulled hard enough on her hair to essentially bend her backwards over his arm. Or, as much as he could, considering the death grip she still had on the door. Not that she'd be able to maintain it for long if he kept pressing, and she swore that if he didn't stop grabbing her by the hair she was gonna chop it all off. "Oh, you're gonna pay for that," he promised her with a wicked smile.
She didn't care. It'd been fucking worth it, and she said so. He responded by spinning them to the right, effectively removing her leverage on the door and reversing their positions at the same time, "you're paying for that too," he added fiercely.
"Maybe I should get you a pen and paper, 'cause that list is only gonna get bigger," she promised him archly.
He curled one lip up condescendingly. "You might want to find out the costs of those debts before you accrue more," he shot back.
"I'll take my chances," she countered, openly defying him just because she could.
One corner of his mouth twitched upward ever so slightly, as if he was fighting back a smirk, "clearly," he drawled.
She blinked and then laughed at the irony of her comment. He released her moments later, and she went back to look for the coffee mug she discarded earlier. She found it sitting in the corner of the room, and she picked it up, taking a sip.
"What's in the cup," he rumbled from behind her.
"It's what's left of my coffee," she told him, turning around.
He grunted in response and then took the cup from her, draining the remains in one quick chug, completely ignoring her protests. It was surprisingly good coffee considering it was luke warm. If it had been hot it would have been great.
"Where'd you get this?" he demanded to know.
"Maybe you should have thought about that before you drank it all," she muttered in irritation. He said nothing, letting his glare do the talking for him.
She frowned, but only dared to deny him for so long. "It's Brian's," she clarified, "apparently he's been tormenting your employees by refusing to tell them where they can get it."
"So he's had this for a while," Harv pressed her for details. She shrugged, not really knowing and he scowled at how spectacularly unhelpful she was.
He made an irritated 'hmph' noise and headed for the stairs, grabbing his jacket on the way. Mack shouldered her purse and trailed after him, curious to see how this little escapade would finish. His employees were still congregated in the lobby, and they all turned at the sound of footsteps on the stairs. "Explain this," he commanded, shaking the empty cup at them.
Mack had never seen the four of them react to Harv when the threat of violence loomed, and she was a little surprised how quickly they fell over themselves to answer his questions. She would have pushed back, held out to the last second, and still wouldn't have told him until he'd backed her into a corner. His four best employees instantly reacted like they were already in the corner.
He must have felt the weight of her stare because he half turned to look at her. "Hope you're taking notes, princess," referencing his employees behavior with a mere nod of his head.
The look she sent him was a mix of disdain and disbelief, and summed up what she thought of that statement. Once again she thought she saw hunger flash across his eyes, and it finally dawned on her that, to a certain extent, he liked her disobedience, if only so he could try and break her later. The sadistic smirk he sent her, as the light went on in her eyes, was hardly a comfort.
He turned back to Brian whose was currently in mid explanation. "Spare me the bullshit and have some on my desk my tomorrow," he ordered, throwing the mug at him not caring in the least if he caught it or not. He strode past them, leaned over the receptionist desk and located a small box setting on the surface, before turning to look up at her.
Harv snapped his finger imperiously in her direction, then made a decidedly infuriating come hither motion with his fingers. She was tempted to ignore him, but reconsidered after seeing the dangerous look in his eye. Apparently he'd taken all the attitude he was going to take for one day, and so she headed down the stairs, spine ramrod straight in irritation.
Three sets of car keys came out of the box and went into his pocket, and then he was handing her the box. No sooner had it touched her hands than he was letting go. She barely managed to keep from dropping it, and when she looked up he was already halfway down the hallway.
"Sometime today," he called impatiently.
She glowered at his back before heading towards the elevator where he waited for her. Mack climbed into the elevator car with him and then waited for an explanation. He said nothing, pressing the button for the basement.
"Where are we going," she finally asked in exasperation.
He looked at her and then looked pointedly at the button lit up on the elevator control panel. "Fine," she corrected, "why are we going to the basement."
"You should be less concerned with what we're doing, and more concerned with keeping your promise," he reminded her pointedly as they arrived at the basement and started the long walk towards the garage.
"You're completely insufferable," she told him conversationally.
"And you're not off to a promising start," Harv countered, before he muttered a considering, "maybe I should add video to that audio surveillance.
Behind him, she made a rude face at his back, biting back a retort before he really did decide to follow through on his threat.
They came to a stop before several black cars of varying styles and he pointed to the first three. "Pick one: Bentley, Jag, or Maserati."
Mack eyes flickered between him and the cars several times, "are you serious?!"
He refused to even dignify that with a response, merely staring at her, until she felt pressured enough to give in. "Fine. That one," she agreed, picking one at random.
Pulling the keys to the Maserati out of his pocket he started to unlock the doors, and then seemed to have second thoughts as he narrowed his eyes at her. "Can you even drive a stick?" he asked suspiciously.
He seemed marginally relieved until she shrugged and added a muttered, "sort of."
Harv scowled and immediately the keys went back in his pocket as he dug out the Bentley set instead; it was the only automatic transmission he had on hand.
"Hey," she protested, "what if I wanted the…" she paused to stare at the car she'd first picked. "Which one is this," she asked pointedly.
"I'm not letting you destroy the transmission in my Maserati," he ground out. "You're taking the Bentley," he said ordered, unlocking the doors with a quick press of a button.
She smiled crookedly at him, not caring in the least what sort of car it was, simply pleased to have gotten under his skin.
"Get in," he demanded, opening the driver's side door and climbing in.
"If it's mine, shouldn't I get to drive," she grumbled at him.
He shut the door on her request, making his feelings on the matter very clear. She heard the engine rumble to life, and she quickly scrambled into the passenger's seat, not putting it past him to leave her there.
Mack put the box at her feet and fastened her seatbelt. She stared at the all leather interior, and then glanced at the console. She blinked, and then stared a little harder. Seriously, how many buttons did one car need? Hell, she just wanted to turn the radio on. After a moment she managed to locate what was probably the right button and pressed it, pleased when it worked and a local radio station echoed through the car.
He glanced at her, and then rolled his eyes at how easily pleased she was. Mack waited for him to complain about her station of choice, but he must have found it bearable, because he said nothing. She was half tempted to change it from rock to country just to see what he did. Then she realized that a car this expensive, definitely had to have a CD player, and she was overwhelmed with intense curiosity as to what was in his. Assuming, she mused, that he drove this car enough to even have a CD in the player.
"You drive this one a lot," she asked, trying for innocuous.
It must have worked because he shrugged, issuing a terse, "sometimes." Then to her surprise he elaborate with another, "I prefer the Aston Martin."
She considered this, and then decided it was still worth a shot so she switched it from radio to CD. In retrospect, she probably should have suspected something like this, but it was still something of a shock to hear Limp Bizkit's Break Stuff coming through the radio.
He stopped the car at the exit to the parking garage, and sent her a disgruntled look before turning it up hoping to drown out any further comments from the nosy broad next to him.
The minute he entered traffic she forgot all about his music selection. "If you wanted to kill me," she told him, talking over Fred Durst, "you could have just shot me!"
"Chicken," he accused, sending her a reckless grin.
He headed for the I-90, cutting over two lanes of traffic in the process. "Jesus, are you trying to get pulled over?"
"Anybody who pulls me over, is gonna have a reallybad day."
She looked at the speedometer and then snorted, "well I guess they'd have to be able to catch us first."
"Relax, princess. The cops have more important things to do tonight than worry about us." He pointed out his window as they headed for the northernmost section of the Upper East Side. In the distance she could smoke rising.
"Arkham," he supplied helpfully.
"Oh great," she muttered uncharitably, slouching in her seat. "That's just what I needed to hear. Who is it?" she asked after a second.
"How the fuck should I know?!"
"Make an educated guess," she retorted, hoping that she would be spared even the remote possibility of coming into contact with the Joker; until she remember that he'd broken out last week. She snorted. And Batman wondered why she didn't what to rat out Harv. Hell, the best Arkham could probably do is keep him contained long enough for her to get a head start.
"Probably Eddie," he said after a minute, "He's been in there awhile."
"That doesn't really help me Harv, considering I don't know their real names."
"The Riddler," he clarified tersely.
She made a 'hmph' noise in response, not finding him to be much of an improvement of the Joker. Of course, all of his so called 'friends' were scary as fuck, so probably she wouldn't have been happy in any case. Especially if there was a chance she'd run into one of them while she was with Harv.
"Worried, Princess," he drawled, noting her expression with a smirk as he took the exit towards Dillion Avenue.
"Bite me," she grumbled, and looked around at the neighborhood they'd just entered. It was nice. Really nice in fact. Row after row of brownstones and their well-maintained curbs lined the street, separated only by the occasional bike trail leading towards Robinson Park.
Harv slowed the car when he saw where her gaze landed. "If you like breathing," he told her. "Stay out of the park."
"What?! Why? I've been there several times. It's a really nice park."
"Sure," he mocked, "as long as you don't run into Poison Ivy."
Mack's eyes widened. "Jesus, are you serious?" The dark look on her face more than answered her question. "I just can't escape you people, can I," she muttered.
"Just stay out of her way," Harv countered with a scowl, entering the private parking garage of one of the brownstones she'd been admiring.
Mack watched his expression, the corners of his eyes tightening ever so slightly. Despite her best efforts to read his expression all she saw was that anger that always seemed to be there. Even so, she couldn't shake the feeling that there was something he wasn't telling her.
"I thought you were on good terms with the other Rogues?"
"Who said I wasn't," he retorted.
"It was more what you didn't say," she pushed, smelling blood in the water.
Harv turned off the car and climbed out, shutting the door without answering her.
"You're avoiding the question," she pointed out, climbing out and following him into the elevator.
He was silent long enough that she didn't think he was ever going to answer the question. "We dated," he bit out darkly. "It didn't end well."
"You… wh…" Mack sputtered, not expecting that response. "Well that's a tough act to follow," she finally muttered.
"She loses her appeal once she tries to strangle you," he snarled as the elevator opened onto the uppermost level of the building.
"Can't say as I necessarily blame her though," Mack murmured impishly.
He bared his teeth at her, and she let the subject drop. As fun as it might have been to tease him, she didn't want him to start asking about her exes as payback.
They reached the front door, and she noticed it didn't have the same retina scan that the other apartment had. He ushered in side and then went to the security alarm panel to disarm the system.
He motioned her over and rattled off the security code, before showing her how to arm and disarm it. "Once it's fully armed the patio and roof is pressure sensitive for anything over seventy five pounds, and the outside of the windows on this floor are electrified."
"Jesus, Harv isn't that a little hard core? I mean what if I want to beout on the patio."
"Then disarm it," he told her slowly, as though he was talking to a small child.
Mack glowered at him.
"You have bodyguards for a reason, princess. This just makes it harder for anyone to sneak up on them."
"So is it on right now?" she asked, staring at the device with a great deal of suspicion.
"I thought you'd want the tour," he answered.
Not that she wasn't curious to see what it looked like, but that was just nosiness on her part more than anything. His statement seemed to carry more weight than helping her satisfy a curiosity. "Harv, why are we here?"
"It's yours," he told her with a nod to the space behind him.
"Mine," she repeated flatly.
He held out the keys to her, elevator key and all. "Enjoy."
Mack stared at them like it as a live snake, but took them once he shook them impatiently at her. "Please explain."
"Comes with the role I expect you to play," he told her bluntly. "And I'd think about that surveillance you're trying to get rid of before you respond."
He reached out and pulled the box from under her arm, and set it on the kitchen island standing a few feet away. She followed him reluctantly, and watched with increasing trepidation as he pulled out several velvet boxes and a large envelope from a rather exclusive downtown bank.
She held up one hand, hoping to slow him down, "before you tell me what all this is, why don't you tell me about the act I'm supposed to be putting on for your associates. The one where I'm your 'pampered well-kept mistress,'" she added, quoting something he'd once said to her.
"When are you going to realize how dangerous the game we're playing is?" he hissed at her with narrowed eyes. "Your life may depend on the Russians in Atlantic City and Black Mask believing that you're just a woman I like to fuck occasionally."
"I kind of thought that's what I was," she admitted evenly.
"You are," he retorted coldly, ignoring the hurt look that crossed her face before continuing. "And yet you're still breathing even after hitting me in the face with a fucking phone," he snarled.
She frowned, and had to admit that you couldn't be both a throw away piece of ass, and something he wanted to keep around badly enough to let that little "event" slide. For once Mack pushed aside her feelings and tried to think about the situation, and how it might look from the outside. "So Schultz tried to break your," she hesitated but managed to spit out a strangled, "toy and it pissed you off. So, naturally you buried him because you're a vindictive son of a bitch."
"And now you'd like them to keep thinking that I'm just a shiny new possession," she gritted out, "you find temporarily entertaining, but will eventually tire of and toss aside."
"Except that I'm not only those things," though she wasn't fool enough to think that wasn't how he mostly saw her. "And if I'm not careful they might find out that you occasionally tolerate my dissent, and show me the occasional kindness. And then… what?" she scoffed. "Do they actually think that you'd stick your neck out for me?!"
"Why wouldn't they," he spoke, voice dropping dangerously, "I already have."
She grimaced, suddenly very aware that he might have actually put himself at risk when he saved her. She sighed, resigning herself to her fate, if only to help save her own skin as well as his. "Someone will have to help me. I don't know how to act, or what to wear, or…"
"Roxy will call you tomorrow," he interrupted, not the least bit interested in continuing that particular conversation.
Mack agreed with a nod of her own, and then looked at the black boxes on the counter warily. "So what's in the boxes?"
He came up behind her and slid his hands to her waist, mouth tilting until it was just above her ear. "That's the noose I promised you," he murmured sinisterly.
She shivered, for multiple reasons, and then fortified her resolve. After all, she'd agreed to this willing hadn't she? Mack flipped up the lid of the largest of three boxes, and almost fainted. Staring up at her from the counter was a massive strand of diamonds, winking at her under the soft kitchen lighting. She leaned weakly back against him, suddenly very grateful he was standing there. If she had been with Harvey, she might have suspected that's why he'd stepped behind her. Knowing Harv, he'd just wanted to be a spooky bastard.
"Jesus," she whispered, "I've sold my soul."
"Baby," Harv chuckled darkly, mouth ghost across her neck, "you gave that to me a long time ago."
For once she didn't have a reply, and merely reached for the next box. The bracelet inside was more of cuff than anything, and while it still contained a truly disturbing number of diamonds at least she was prepared for it this time. She had to admit, both pieces were beautiful even if they came with a high price tag.
There was one more box, smaller in size, and when she opened it she was stunned for entirely different reasons. Nestled inside were two earrings. Hanging from the first thin strand was a single white die, and each side held chip diamonds instead of dots. The other earring was the same, except black.
She had no way of knowing if they had picked out the other pieces, or if they had simply staffed it out to someone. But this… this obviously from them.
"Did the two of you have these made for me?" she asked, loving the idea of a gift that they'd put some effort into.
"It's nothing but a very expensive 'do not touch' sign, princess. Don't get sentimental about it."
"That's not a no," she told him with a smile, before thanking him.
He grunted muttering a displeased, "whenever you're done making my skin crawl."
She chuckled at him, and felt him tense from where he stood behind her. Mack swallowed her next giggle, recognizing the signs of an irritated Harv starting to lose his temper. She set aside the box, reaching for the envelope, and dumping the contents onto the counter before Harv could take exception with her.
She wasn't sure which to stare at first, the stacks of cash that fell out, or the bank card with her name embossed on it.
"This is just petty cash," he added gruffly, waving his hand over, if the bands were correct, sixty thousand dollars. "For the few places that only take cash."
"Right," she agreed flippantly, "just chump change. I mean it's not like that's more than I make in a year." Mack took a deep breath and then reached for the card, more than ready for this very surreal experience to be over. "And this?" she asked. "Did you actually open a bank account in my name?"
"No. I added you to the credit account of one of my secure alias to avoid the IRS. The credit is unlimited."
"Unlimited?!" Her voice went up an octave at that particular revelation.
"You flinch every time someone buys you dinner," Harv observed snidely. "Somehow I think I'm safe."
"Oh no," she whirled around. "I'm not going to give myself an ulcer, worrying if I've spent too much money. Just tell me where I need to stop."
"Planning on buying a small mansion," he mocked.
"Just answer the question," she demanded.
"That would defeat the purposed of having a credit card with no limit, princess. Trust me," he sent her a distinctly non-reassuring smile, "if you spend too much I'll let you know."
This was not helping her anxiety. "Harv please, this is important to me."
He took the card from her hands, and chucked it back on the counter behind her. "I don't care," he growled, grabbing her under the thighs and slowly lifting her until she was high enough to wrap her legs around his waist. "Fucking live a little."
Harv started towards the hallway, and she let a wry smile cross her lips. "Are you giving me the tour, Mr. Dent?"
"Sure," he agreed with a smirk, "let's start with the bedroom."
Her smile turned a tad wicked, as she decided to take his word to heart and live a little. "Is this where you try and make me pay for all those things I said earlier."
If he hadn't been carrying her, she probably wouldn't have notice the way he froze for a split second, and she took a great deal of pleasure in the fact that she seemed to have surprised him. The look he sent her promised many things, not all of them necessarily nice, but as he carried her across the threshold to the master bedroom she found she really didn't give a damn. She'd always been to curious for her own good so when he started to promise that was exactly what he was going to do, she interrupted- baiting him a little more.
"Remember that time you offered to show me how dangerous you were," she murmured, her hand finding his hair and tugging just enough to make sure she had his undivided attention.
She heard his breath hitch, and Mack knew he remembered. Knew in that one moment that she might be able to make his iron clad self-control slip. He might never her let her be in charge, but she was damn sure going to make this man come apart somehow.
Mack took his face in her hands and moved to lower her lips to his. "I wanted to say yes," she whispered, her mouth barely brushing his own, "because it gets me so wet when you touch me, no matter how angry and dangerous you are."
This time he did freeze, and then he looked at her with enough intensity to scorch before tossing her onto the bed and crawling after her with barely restrained need. "You might regret saying that, princess," he promised her in that soft raspy voice that never failed to send shivers down her spine.
All of Mack' s jewelry is this chapter are real pieces from De Beer's, though I did guestimate the carat amount and then the price based on the cost of a flawless 1 ct. diamond. Anyhoo – If you'd like to see some truly stunning stuff, then head over to my profile page – the links should be there.
Hope you enjoyed!
If you would like more Mack, Harv, and Harvey please review!