A/N: This started as nothing much, but I decided to keep with it near the end. I have a few ideas that I'm bouncing around. Basically, in the coming chapters, there's going to be a fight and Joker will end up with a bloodied nose. That's as far as I've planned, to be honest, but I really like how this has fallen so far!
Also, this story takes place before TDK in a lovely world where Rachel Dawes does not exist. Just thought you should know. :)
There was not a single night that the Villiers' restaurant was not full to the brim. It was the same with each champagne glass in the place. You went to Villiers' to get away from the boring day-in and day-out, to feel special, to be kicked back to the good old days. The place had been a huge success since its opening in the late 30s, the present owner a descendant of the very first. Despite the changing world around the restaurant and dance hall, the demeanor in which you were greeted and served with had not changed. The songs that played from the four piece band at the front played the same tunes. The waiters and waitresses wore the same suits and dresses. They even seemed to smile the same honest, beaming smile.
Christine Villiers sat at the long glass bar, one ankle tucked behind the other, tapping her nails on the bottom of her wine glass. She was the daughter of the current proprietor. Even though she was young, scarcely skimming the surface of twenty, she seemed to have been pulled directly out of an old film. Her hair was long and dark, falling into waves around her bare shoulders, framing her pale, heart-shaped face. Tonight, the same as all nights before that one, she was dressed to the nines. Or, as many of the male customers of the establishment would have said, the tens. Her dress was a form-fitting pale pink number, sliding across her hips and down her legs, all the way to the floor. No number of bracelets and rings could punctuate her ensemble like the knowing smile at her full red lips.
Once a week, on Thursday afternoon, Villiers' was visited by one of Gotham's more noted figures. He would walk in alone, an aura of confidence and charisma melting off of his wide shoulders, gleaming in his white smile. Harvey Dent. District Attorney. Few waitresses could handle bringing him his glass of water, much less inquiring as to what he wanted. All it took was a soft smile from the man and they'd be sent into mild shock. And that was why, when Dent arrived, Christine was called upon. She stood from her place at the bar, checking her appearance quickly in the reflective surface, and made her way over to his table.
The table was a special one. It was the one that the original Villiers' himself dined at while he was still alive and kicking. After that, only the highest honored guests were allowed to sit there. Harvey had gotten the opportunity after wining and dining Christine's father, donating a hearty sum to Villiers' favorite charity. With that, he had been allowed into the "family," and had been given a seat of honor.
The moment that Harvey rested his eyes upon Christine, an even wider, dimpled smile melted across his lips. She replied with one of her own, glancing at the chair beside him with a questioning eyebrow. He stood, moving behind the chair and pulling it out for her. "Good afternoon," he chuckled as he held his hand out to her. She placed her fingers into his palm and slipped down onto the seat. He pushed her in, his hand squeezing hers softly, a hardly noticeable gesture.
"Afternoon, Mr. Dent," Christine said, smiling. "What are you to have?" She watched with an amused look in her eyes as he sat down and began to look over the menu. He always got the same thing - duck. 'It's the restaurant's specialty for a reason,' he would often say, content with his meal as well as his company. "The usual?"
"If I ordered something else," he said slowly, his striking blue eyes roaming over the menu, feigning interest in the other items, "would it surprise you?" He looked up at her as he said this, blonde hair falling across his high forehead.
Leaning back against the red brocaded chair, Christine folded her hands in her lap, "I'd ask you what you've done with Harvey Dent, to be honest."
Harvey chuckled at this, nodding. "I come here every Thursday for the duck. You always ask me what I want. I always pretend that I am going to surprise you." He placed the menu face up onto the table. "I'll be having the usual." He grinned, splaying his long fingers across the white tablecloth. "As usual."
"I expect nothing less," she murmured, her lips twisting into another wide smile. "And for your drink? A cocktail? Wine? Perhaps a beer?" She said this in a teasing voice, lacing and unlacing her fingers in her lap.
"Water," he grinned.
Christine laughed, "Water. Should I go tell someone, or do you think we should be waited upon?" She glanced around the large room. Harvey's table was raised above the rest. There was a staircase that spilled out onto the dance floor before the stage. Around the dance floor were many tables, all cloaked with the same white tablecloth and surrounded by the same red brocade chairs. There was a woman headed in their direction, a false smile on her face. Bless her; she was nervous.
Before she was even able to speak, Christine was already rattling off what Harvey intended to order. She did not need to even think about it, having given the order many, many times before to many, many different waitresses. "The Villiers' signature braised duck with a large glass of water. Light on the sauce, heavy on the duck," she said with a sure smile before motioning for the waitress to go on about her business. "Take your time, love."
When the waitress was gone, Christine turned and gave Harvey a shrug. He gave a short bark of disbelieving laughter. "I should let you make my speeches," he chuckled, glancing down at the table and running his fingers over the gilded edge of the menu. "I would have a higher approval rating, that's for damn sure."
"Eh." Christine reached over, patting the hand closest to her. "They'd miss you." She looked into his face, a warm melting feeling seeping into her muscles as she did so. From his strong brow to his chiseled features, his cleft chin, his steady, reassuring smile - he was every inch someone that she could trust in. That was part of his charm. "Anyway, I don't have your strong, manly presence. I doubt Gotham would feel very safe with a weak woman at their head."
"I don't think you're weak, Christine," Harvey said softly, turning his hand over and grasping hers. Her fingers fell open, exposing her palm, which he massaged with his thumb. "A weak woman wouldn't have turned down so many offers from a big, strong, manly presence."
The tell-tale prickle of a blush burned at her cheeks, but she did not give him the pleasure of watching her squirm under the weight of his personality. "I suppose I am a lot stronger than I give myself credit for," she laughed, sliding her hand away from his and bringing it back onto her lap. Turning her face away from him, she glanced in the direction of the bar. "Where is that girl with your water? Honestly." She turned back to him with a nod, "I'll go get it for you myself."
When she stood, Harvey reached for her hand to keep her there, but he missed, grasping merely air. He pulled his arm back to rest against the corner of the table, heaving a heavy sigh. If that girl wasn't so god damn stubborn…
Christine descended the stairs quickly, the short train of her dress pouring down behind her. She crossed the side of the dance floor and rushed to the bar, her chest rising and falling with quick breaths. The bartender came to her, leaning against the bar with a smile. "What do you want, Christine? The usual?"
"The usual for Dent, not for me," she chuckled, still a bit out of breath.
Beside her sat a man with a hat pulled down low over his features, obscuring them. "Afternoon, ma'am," he slurred in a low voice, "Is that Dent you're with one of the Harvey variety?"
Christine nodded absently, dusting her hair back away from her face. "Yes, he is." The bartender placed an ice cold glass of water in front of her with a nod, and she took it, casting a wary look at the stranger before moving away from the bar.
When she returned to the table, Harvey was leaning back against his chair, watching her. "You know," he began as she sat down this time by her own accord, "I am having quite a dilemma here. Would you like to hear about it?"
"I'm sure you're going to tell me," she muttered, sliding his water across to him. He nodded his thanks.
"You see, while you were over there at the bar, I realized how beautiful you are from a distance," he said offhandedly. Her blush deepened. "So now I'm trying to figure something out. Are you more beautiful when you're standing far away or when you're sitting right beside me?"
Christine cleared her throat, averting her eyes from his face. "How should I know? I don't have opinions on such things."
"Well, here's my logic, since I'm sure you're dying to know," he said with another genuinely amused chuckle. "When you're all the way over there, you're not able to turn a cold shoulder on me. I can merely admire your form, and even your laugh should you laugh loud enough." He leaned forward, turning her chin toward him with subtle strength in his fingers. She looked up at him with her wide hazel eyes, and he smiled. "But when you're this close, I can see every detail - your eyelashes, the upturned tip of your nose, the spot where your lipstick has rubbed off on your chin." He chuckled, passing his thumb beneath her bottom lip, wiping away the scarlet remnants.
"Please don't, Harvey," Christine murmured, her hand moving up to pull his away from her face. "You know that this can't happen."
Harvey took his hand back, stung, his brows knitted together. "Can't or won't?"
Christine sighed, rubbing her hand that had held his. "I suppose that I should've said 'shouldn't.' You know that daddy doesn't like me getting involved with customers, especially influential customers."
"How old are you, again? I seem to forget. With every mention of 'daddy,' I feel older and older."
"Don't be like this," Christine muttered, bending her neck to look into his downcast eyes. "Didn't you hear me? I said that it shouldn't happen. It just may. This isn't about me. You have paraded around the subject, avoiding it. You've never asked me to go anywhere with you, to leave the restaurant. You just assume that I'll understand your hints."
Harvey looked up at her, a faintly confused look in his eyes. "Well, you obviously do understand them, if you know that they're there."
Christine shrugged, her shoulders slouched slightly. "Just be straight with me, Harvey. It shouldn't be that difficult."
"What do you want me to say? Do you want me to tell you that I've come to this restaurant for the past year and half, once a week, to see you? The duck isn't even that good, not enough to have it every week. I just can't stay away. Do you want me to tell you that I keep hoping that you'll say something instead of me? Every time you go to speak, I hope that what comes out of it is a suggestion. I can't stand making every decision for myself. I'm so used to leading people in, persuading them to do what I feel is right. I don't know how to guide them myself."
"You should've just told me," Christine chuckled. Harvey's eyebrows seemed to dip even closer together. She was laughing at him. Laughing with him was not an option, since he had been rendered completely silent. "I think I need a drink."
She left once more, but not before leaning in and pressing a soft kiss to his cheek. A faint reddish pair of lips remained.
When she reached the bar, the tender was beaming at her. "Back so soon? Did Mr. Dent enjoy his water?"
"I dunno," Christine smiled, "I don't remember him even taking a single drink of it. Can I get, uhm, a glass of wine?" When he asked her what sort, she chuckled, "Surprise me!"
She rested her hip against the seat she stood next to and glanced at the man beside her. He was the same one from just a moment earlier. He did not turn to her, but he smiled a wolfish smile, staring straight ahead. "That's not a very good idea, Christine," he said in a low, teasing voice. It was not odd for someone she had never met to know her name, but it was the way he said it that made her uneasy. She moved her weight onto the opposite foot, biting at the inside of her mouth. "Not all surprises are good surprises."
"What do you mean by that?" she asked, clearing her throat in an attempt to steady the quiver in her voice. "Who are you?"
The man was dressed from head to toe in two colors - purple and green. The garish colors were not easy on the eyes, but neither was the fabric his ensemble was composed of. His jacket was a poorly constructed purple brocade. His slacks were the same color, but made of harsh, plain fabric. The shirt beneath the jacket was silk and lime green.
He brought his index finger to his lips and passed his tongue along the skin, bringing it back down against the edge of the wineglass and running it around the outside. There was a low hum from the belly of the glass, and the man smiled again. This one was more subtle. "An admirer," he chuckled as the hum grew louder. He yanked his finger away from the glass and the sound stopped immediately. "One of many, it seems."
"Don't let this weirdo bother you, Christine," the bartender laughed, quite amused by himself. He pushed the glass of rich red wine across the bar, giving her a reassuring smile.
The man beside her thought this was quite funny as well, much funnier than the bartender, and let out a rip of loud laughter. His laugh seemed to come from his toes, coursing through his very being, from his shaking shoulders to his lungs that pushed for bursts of air that were replaced with short wheezes. "Oh," he snickered, "Oh, you're a funny one. 'Weirdo,' he says!" Suddenly, he stopped laughing, his hand falling down against the bar, his fingers spread. When he next spoke, it was in a low growl. "You should be a comedian."
Christine picked up the glass of wine, taking a long, unsure breath before thanking the bartender and hurrying quickly away from the man at the bar. He glanced back at her, his eyes flashing and a sinister smile at his scarred lips.
"Who on Earth were you talking to?" Harvey said with a measured smile when she returned. "He doesn't seem like the typical Villiers' customer, that's for sure. What odd colors for a suit."
"His is nothing like yours," Christine smiled, her eyes moving from Harvey's impeccable suit to the man still sitting at the bar. He was hunched over his glass, his wide shoulders slouched inward, as if sharing a secret with his booze.
Harvey grinned, "You sure are forthright with your compliments tonight, Miss Villiers."
"I never compliment those that do not deserve it," she said with a similar smile. She sighed happily into the comfortable silence that fell around them. Being around Harvey melted the chill that had crept into her bones while in the company of the mysterious man at the bar. She felt so safe when he was around - admired and cherished. There was no greater feeling in the world. "Has your duck come yet?"
"I sent it back."
Christine shot him a shocked expression. "Was it not cooked to your liking, sir?"
Harvey stood up, moving around to the back of her chair, placing his hands on her shoulders. He leaned down, his lips mere inches from her ear, "Since my secret's out, I felt I no longer needed to pretend that I enjoyed the duck."
She flushed, lifting her hand and placing it lightly on his. "Are you leaving?"
"Not quite yet," he sighed, taking in a deep breath. Her hair smelled like the rest of her, the faint feminine aroma of flowers. "I was wondering if you'd care to dance."
Christine leaned to the side, looking up at him. He was staring down at her, a dimpled, boyish grin at his mouth, "I'd love to dance! But, I must admit that I am not the greatest dancer in the world."
"There's no need," he chuckled, taking her hand in his and lifting her up into a standing position, lacing his fingers with hers. "Neither am I."
When they made their way down onto the dance floor, everyone seemed to turn in their chairs and watch them. The band had just begun a new song, a familiar tune for nearly everyone in the room, Sinatra's "Come Fly With Me." Harvey pulled her close against him, holding her hand high in his and his other resting against the curve of her hip. They began to move back and forth to the music, along with the other couples.
Everything seemed to slow down around them. They had never been this close to each other. Their hands had touched. She had given him a kiss on the cheek. Never before had she felt him flush against her. The feeling itself was foreign to her, to be pressed against a body that hummed with life, sparsely muscled, and distinctly masculine. He, too, had been surprised at how she felt in his arms. This had been a good surprise.
At the bar, the man had swirled around on the barstool and now sat with one long leg crossed over the other, his foot bobbing up and down with the song. His elbows rested against the bar, holding him up, and he glanced over his shoulder at the bartender, who was watching Dent and the lady. "Do you dance?" Before he was able to hear an answer from him, the man giggled, "I dance. I dance a lot better than he does."
He spun back around in his chair and hunched over his glass again, turning his back to Christine and Harvey. He looked up at the bartender, who was doing his best to ignore him. A sneer was evident at his lip, but it was against company policy to be condescending to a customer. He had messed up once. He wouldn't do it again. "I wouldn't want to dance with you anyway." Laughing, the man reached forward, roughly tousling the man's dark hair. "I much prefer blondes."