A/N: Another lovely chapter. I'm pumping these out, for some reason. Keep your fingers crossed that this keeps up, else I'll have writer's block for another six months. Ugh.
4. Ours Are the Late Hours
The church bells rang solidly, marking the hour for those still awake to see it pass by. The reverberations seemed to shake the very foundations of the building, startled a few roosting birds, and caused a car alarm to go off somewhere on the streets below. Eerie, yet fitting, or so Two-Face thought.
He sprawled in the front pew, the one closest to the podium, elbows resting on the back and his legs crossed at the knee. A cigarette dangled precariously from his mangled lip and he glanced around the room, bored to death. The other empty pews stretched out behind him, black, lonely rows that looked less inviting and friendly than they did every Mass. The pipe organ behind the podium loomed threateningly against the wall, all black shadows and presence, and more so were the Virgin Mary statues. They were lifeless and dull, shadowed, frightening, and expressionless. Shouldn't the mother of God be happy?
The church did not look like a church in the dark, and Two-Face mused that perhaps nothing looked like itself in the dark. He hadn't even liked church when he was whole, and now he just hated it. Bullshit, all of it. There was no God; there were men, and then there were men who made themselves into gods. He intended to become the latter, someday.
Don't think things like that! Harvey moaned in the back of his mind.
Or what, we'll get struck by a lightning bolt? Don't be a fucking queen.
God, Two-Face, not in a fucking church, c'mon!
Sometimes he despised sharing a body with a goody-two-shoes. Harvey Dent made everything a hell of a lot harder than it had to be, always complaining or protesting one thing or another. He never shut up. Fuckin' pansy.
What're we doin' here again?
No shit, but what are we waitin' for?
Not 'what'. Whom.
As if on cue, a large door creaked open, loud enough to be worthy of any horror flick where the dumb bitch with huge tits goes in search of the creepy noise. Two-Face didn't flinch, but took a long drag from his cigarette and blew the smoke into a small cloud above his head. The sharp clicking of heeled shoes reached his ears and he smiled dirtily, licking his bottom lip as a woman approached. He didn't bother to stand.
The woman wore a stern expression on her rounded face, and tiny, far too matronly spectacles sat on the bridge of her pinched nose. Though she was only twenty-six, she walked with a clipped gait and a limp, as if arthritis pained her knees, and she dressed so conservatively it would take a well timed trip to catch sight of her ankles alone. She was short, slight, and had a no-nonsense air about her. Two-Face didn't even know the color of her hair, she kept it all under wraps with that damned lace cap of hers. And that stupid rosary constantly clutched between her spider-like hands.
"Harvey," she acknowledged sharply, arching a slender eyebrow at his relaxed pose.
"Sister Margaret," he purred in response, tipping an imaginary hat.
Ugh, a nun, I should have known.
Yeah, you probably should've.
"To what do I owe the pleasure of your company? And so late?" she asked, her tone biting. She never bothered with pleasantries or small talk; always straight to the point and with an edge to her tone, like she wanted nothing more than to get rid of him. But then, he supposed he deserved her apathy, after all he put her through.
"I need a favor," Two-Face said, flicking his cigarette away, among the darkness between the pews. Sister Margaret watched it disappear with a tiny frown on her face.
"And why should I owe you a favor?" she asked, folding her arms over her chest. "If you'll recall, the last time I did you a favor, you repaid me by burning down half the monastery. For no reason other than the fact that you seem to be entirely juvenile when it comes to your…toys."
"The rockets malfunctioned. The Bat is the one to blame for that, not me, babe."
"And yet the monastery was very nearly destroyed."
"I paid to fix it, you uptight, righteous—"
Sister Margaret fixed him with a steely look, reserved and cool, but toxic nonetheless. He stopped mid-tirade and cleared his throat.
Don't piss her off, you douche!
"Fine," Two-Face snapped, "sorry. It won't happen again, I promise."
He bristled with barely restrained rage and turned around, fishing another cigarette out of his pack, ignoring the noise of disdain and disapproval behind him. Fuck her, he'd smoke wherever he damn well pleased.
"You come into this Holy Sanctuary expecting me to cooperate without a fuss," the Sister sighed, "despite our differences in the past. I thank you for what you did for me in the beginning. You gave me a new life, a new meaning, a new purpose, but this must end, this deceit mustnot continue."
He watched her in silence, smoking and contemplating his options. Same old song and dance, every time he came to see her. His visits were infrequent and unpredictable, but she always acted like she expected to never see him again. And he had almost burnt down the monastery last time…although it was mostly Batman's fault, but he preferred to bury that particularly embarrassing memory.
"Marge, babe," he schmoozed, grinning that charismatic grin of his, "there's no deceit involved at all, and it's not like I'll be holding a gun to your head or anything. C'mon, I'm offering cash."
The look in her eyes wasn't promising. He could almost hear the gears turning, could almost see her expression going through subtle changes as she weighed the consequences of her actions against the money he was offering. Maybe he had underestimated her; maybe she had turned into a little goody-two-shoes after all. Damn, he'd have to kill her.
"Let's say I were to agree to this favor of yours," Sister Margaret mused, circling around so she could look Two-Face in the eyes. "What is this favor, and, more importantly, how much are you willing to pay me?"
"Need you to get me some information," Two-Face growled, flicking the cigarette with a finger before lighting it with carefully cupped hands around his lighter. "I got some business to take care of down at the docks in a few months and I want to know if I'm being played, that's all."
"What sort of business? Drugs?"
"Yeah," he reluctantly admitted, "but there's something really fuckin' strange about the whole damn thing. I get the feeling I'm being double-crossed."
"You've become twice as paranoid in the past few years. Who are you dealing with?"
I like this one. How come I've never been introduced?
"The Russians. I don't fuckin' trust them. No offense."
Sister Margaret flinched and her hand automatically covered her forearm. Her expression turned glossy and unfocused, as if she was seeing something that wasn't really there. He knew very little about her childhood, only that she migrated from Russia with her older brother, who died on the passage over. He didn't pry, never cared to, and she never offered any intimate details.
"Harvey," she said after a moment, slowly, as if every word pained her, "I owe Russia nothing. What sort of information do you need me to get, and what's in it for me?"
"I want to find out exactly what kind of drug they're transporting over here. I need to know if it's safe."
Sister Margaret sighed and sat down on one of the pews, her back ramrod straight and her hands folded neatly in her lap. The wooden rosary curled over her thigh like a long, skinny worm. Two-Face puffed on his cigarette, looking up at the Virgin Mary statue looming over him. She looked so very sad, for the Mother of God.
"And why do you care if the drug is safe or not?" she asked softly, curling and uncurling her fingers.
"I don't mind being grouped with the rest of the drug lords," Two-Face said. "but it's another thing to be labeled a terrorist. It's the subtle differences between cocaine and anthrax that sets them apart, and there's no way in hell I'm gonna get listed on the FBI's Most Wanted. I just want to know what I'm dealing with. My Russian contact is a man named Vlad Borikoff. You can start there. As for your half of the deal, I'll pay you double what I did last time, and I might even throw in a little something extra, just for you."
Sister Margaret laughed, a shrill, staccato sound that sent chills down his spine.
"I stopped using a look time ago," she sighed, getting to her feet and clasping her hands in front of her, "but whatever you pay me will be enough, I'm sure of it. The church roof needs repairs."
Can we go home now?
You Nancy-boy, yes, we're goin' home, fuck.
"Then we're in business?"
A coy smile that looked way too much like a grimace turned her lips upwards.
"Yes, Harvey," she said, "we're in business."
Three-forty in the AM and Harley couldn't fall asleep to save her life. It wasn't the bed or the room or anything—far from it! The bed was a dream, all plushy and soft and so snuggly she couldn't believe it! As for the room…well, there was nothing scary about it, not at all, so it wasn't like she was too scared the sleep. Her door even had its own lock! Her own lock! So what was it then? Why was she wide awake, curled around her pillow in pajamas trying to count sheep?
Maybe because she kept picturing said sheep with their wool coats dyed purple and silly little grins on their little sheep faces.
Yeah, that was it.
She missed her Puddin' somethin' terrible.
A small dry sob worked its way out of her throat and she felt like crawling into a hole for the next month or so and waiting for Mistah J to come rescue her from this horrible place. And yes, it was horrible and awful and so much worse than Arkham, ever! At first, things had been nice: she took an hour and a half long bath and didn't worry about the water going cold or about anyone coming in and trying to drown her. She shaved and lathered herself up with bubbles and made a little hat out of the foam. After the bathwater drained, she wrapped herself in a massive fluffy towel and spent the rest of the day lounging around until dinner was called.
Dinner was the worst! Oh, how she wished Mistah J would take her away! She just wanted to go back to their kitchen in their hideaway and cook something horrible so that he'd yell and throw dishes at her head! Seth was alright, she supposed, but the German guy and the twins were just weird. German-guy kept staring at her, and the twins gave her the creepiest-crawliest looks! Like they were…oh, she didn't know, undressing her with their eyes! If Mistah J was there, they wouldn't have eyes to undress her with!
Another sob wrenched itself away from her vocal chords and she coughed. A glass of water. Or warm milk. She needed a drink. Her bare feet touched the carpet and her toes curled in at the softness tickling her soles. Armed with only her wits and a small flashlight, she slowly made her way downstairs, using the stairs and not the elevator. She didn't trust this place well enough, and wouldn't, not until Mistah J came for her. Maybe she'd get him to try an' burn it down or somethin'…
The kitchen was all abandoned darkness and leftover smells from dinner (which had been delicious, she wasn't gonna lie; the twins were annoying, but booooooy, could they could cook!). The linoleum froze her feet, but the fridge, it was so close! She could almost taste the milk that she knew was inside, a whole gallon of it!
"Sneak, sneak, sneak!" she whispered to herself, tiptoeing across the floor and cracking the fridge open just a little bit, until the interior light came on. Yes! Wholesome whole milk, infused with Vitamin D and…well, she didn't know what else, but it was good for you! Setting her light down, Harley found a cup in the sink and washed it out real well before pouring a generous glass and downing half of it in three greedy gulps.
Ahhhh, nothing like a good glass of milk to help calm the nerves and send her straight off into la-la land. At least there was food in the fridge, if nothing else. Her stomach rumbled and she pet it, contemplating making herself a sandwich or something. S'not like anyone would miss it or anything, with as rich as Twofie was, right? She scoured the fridge (it was a nice fridge, not like the cruddy mini one she and the Joker got) and came up with lettuce, tomato, onions (blegh!), and roast beef.
"Yummy!" she said to herself, and threw all the ingredients onto the counter. A loaf of bread later and she was ready to bite into her delicious sandwich to silence her tummy.
Harley froze, her sandwich poised at her open mouth as the strange sound reverberated throughout the room. It sounded like a door unlocking, and though normally that wouldn't mean anything, but for Harley, this was a strange ol' place, with strange people, and she didn't trust anyone. She ducked down behind the island counter, her sandwich forgotten. Just because someone had a key to a place didn't mean they belonged there. This was Gotham, after all.
She opened one of the cupboards and rummaged around until she felt the long handle of something large and, hopefully, blunt. Hey, a skillet was better than nothing. The door creaked open and the sound of heavy footsteps and muffled cursing filled the hallway. Beyond that, she heard the steady patter of rainfall hitting the pavement outside. It must have just started raining, then. The footsteps stilled for a moment and then started toward her, toward the kitchen. She tightened her grip on the skillet and gulped. It was now or never.
Harley prepared to spring and strike—the tension left her coiled muscles the moment her feet left the floor, and, at the same moment, a switch flicked on and light flooded the kitchen. Harley tried to squeak, tried to make her arms stop, tried to halt herself from making the biggest no-no on the face of the planet…but, try as she might, she couldn't stop herself from swinging at Two-Face, who stood there in the kitchen, half soaked, with his coat draped over his arm, his finger still on the light switch, and a very surprised look on both halves of his face.