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Disclaimer: Jeanne, Rodin, Enzo and Bayonetta were created by and are the intellectual property of Hideki Kamiya. No copyright infringement intended.
Beware! This is the most potty-mouthed thing I've ever written!
The doors flew wide open, and Jeanne strode into The Gates of Hell. She swept across the floor, and the jukebox abruptly malfunctioned, spluttering to a halt. The clientele, the patrons, the customers, the corrupt alcoholic motherfuckers that populated this dissolute den of degeneracy, became quiet all at once, plunging the club into a sharp silence. They sat in their seats, bent over their drinks, and stared, several dozen pairs of eyes following this striking woman as she advanced towards the bar.
There was one man in this place that was more of a scheming, lying, treacherous, untrustworthy bastard than the rest, and as he watched from a dark corner, he perceived a lethal intent in the woman's demeanour. He had been acquainted with an Umbra Witch for many years, and he had plenty of practice in figuring out what mood they were in. He took one look at Jeanne, and he could tell that she was here to knock skulls. He could tell that she was here to break furniture. He could tell that she was here to smash chairs over people's heads. He could tell that she was here to start shit.
"Aw, fuck," said Enzo. "Can't a guy just have a quiet drink?"
Jeanne closed the distance to the bar, and planted a forearm on the counter. She stared rigidly at the man standing on the other side. She held his gaze a few moments, and then spoke.
"So, you're the one that's responsible for corrupting my Cereza."
A lesser man might have raised an eyebrow in puzzlement. A lesser man might have stared gormlessly, before blurting out: "What? Sorry?"
But if you described Rodin as a lesser man, you'd soon learn the meaning of fear. Oh, you think you know the meaning of fear? Tell Rodin that he's 'lesser'.
In his left hand, Rodin held an empty champagne flute. In his right hand, he held a cloth. He said nothing, for a while. He simply ran the rag over the edges of the glass, watching her.
"Lady," he uttered at last, and at the sound of his voice, every single person in the club that wasn't a centuries-old Umbra Witch flinched. "If you're gonna come in my bar and make accusations, you're gonna buy a fucking drink first."
The two stared at each other for a few moments, indifferent to the utter silence in the place. Enzo grumbled to himself, and hunched down, ready for action. He may have been a fat, lazy, stubby-legged, six-chinned pig, but he knew that when bullets started flying through the air, adrenaline tends to kick in, and when people are screaming and bars are getting all shot up, it's not that difficult to grab a table and use it as a shield while you're running for your fucking life.
Finally, the witch's prim lips parted. "Pinot Noir," she said.
"Très bien," replied Rodin, and he turned to the shelves of bottles displayed behind him.
The crowd relaxed. A few nervous laughs drifted up into the air. Then, a few snippets of conversation, until eventually The Gates of Hell was filled again with the clamour of scumbags and opportunists. Someone rammed a fist into the jukebox, and the tinkling of piano keys started floating through the air once more. Enzo leaned forward in his seat, and cupped a hand around his ear. "Hey! Hey! Pipe the fuck down! I wanna hear what they're sayin'!"
Rodin placed a glass before Jeanne, and she nodded in thanks. She raised the glass to her mouth, but then paused as it hovered at her lips. She considered the glass for a moment, gazing at the wine flowing about within. As she concentrated on the object in her hand, the surrounding sounds faded away.
Perhaps it was simply a trick of the light. Perhaps this accursed place tainted everything inside it. But the wine seemed thicker than normal. It seemed to cling to the sides of the glass.
Was she about to gulp down a mouthful of blood?
She sipped at the glass. Just wine. Piano and conversation and laughter and clinking glasses rushed back.
She set the glass down on the counter, and looked at Rodin. Her expression was softer, this time. His expression had softened, as well…no, no, Rodin could never be soft. He simply appeared less threatening.
"Now, then," said Jeanne. "Why is Cereza such a slut?"
A lesser man might have cringed in shock and embarrassment. A lesser man might have shifted his gaze awkwardly to the side, perhaps appealing to innocent bystanders for help. But Rodin simply kept his eyes fixed on her, and waited for her to volunteer more details. He didn't need to waste breath asking her to elaborate. That wasn't his style.
"Cereza was a little angel," Jeanne began. "Though heaven knows I was the only one who was able to see that. Every other one of those hags in the Order thought she was impure. They thought she was spoiled, contaminated. In actual fact, she was the most pure girl out of the lot of us. It used to make my blood boil, having to listen to those lying, back-stabbing, manipulative bitches spit in her face and tell her that she was unclean. Goodness, I would have been just like them, if it weren't for her. If she had never been in my life, if I had never been…blessed with her friendship, I would have turned out to be a bloodless, scheming, self-righteous, know-it-all harpy, just like every other Umbra Witch in the Order. Cereza showed me what it was to be a woman, a decent human being. She was the kindest, most generous, most gentle soul I've ever known."
A wistful look passed across her face, but it was only fleeting. Her features darkened, and her eyes narrowed.
"Then," she hissed. "After four hundred years, I meet another woman. Her name is…" Jeanne grimaced with distaste. "Her name is Bayonetta. She looks like Cereza. She sounds like Cereza. But she can't be Cereza, because Cereza was a little darling, and Bayonetta is a filthy, crude, foul-mouthed, promiscuous, sadistic, immoral, greedy, wanton, exhibitionist trollop! She consorts with criminals! She doesn't give a damn about right or wrong, she only cares about money! And she strips naked in the middle of battle! We're only supposed to do that in an emergency!"
"Lady," growled Rodin. "There's not a damn night that goes by without some sorry son of a bitch landing his ass on that stool and pouring out his guts to me, and whether you like it or not, you're no different from any of them. And every damn night, I'm standing here listening, not saying a word, but the same damn question keeps running through my mind: what the fuck does this have to do with me?"
Jeanne pointed a trembling finger at the demonic barkeep. "When Cereza woke up, twenty years ago. Who was it that took her in?"
"That would be me."
"Precisely! She fell into your hands! It's your fault that she became this way. You're an arms dealer! An occult arms dealer! No wonder Cereza turned into such a barbarian! I should have buried her next to a convent, or a monastery. Perhaps then she would have remained as virtuous as she used to be."
"You're welcome," said Rodin.
"What?" asked Jeanne.
"I said you're welcome. You weren't around when your delicate little flower woke up. I stepped in and took care of her. I taught her the ways of the world. I showed her the rules. I taught her to survive. I made her the delightful little package that she is today. You're welcome." Finally deciding to expend the energy necessary to move his facial muscles, Rodin raised an eyebrow. "That is why you came in here, right? To thank me?"
Jeanne sagged in her seat. She exhaled deeply. "Yes, it is, isn't it?" She became lost in thought for a moment, and then looked up at Rodin with an earnest expression. "I was so worried that I wouldn't be there for Cereza when she woke up. I was so frightened that she'd be taken in by crooks and thieves. Well, you are a crook and a thief, but…Cereza is well. She made her way in this world, even though I couldn't be there for her. You were there for her. Thank you."
Rodin inclined his head. You're very welcome, said the light playing off his skull.
"It's not very becoming behaviour, is it?" sighed Jeanne. "For a woman to come marching into a drinking establishment and accuse the proprietor of immorality. I protected Cereza when she was little, did you know that? Oh, she was such a wallflower! She always needed me to protect her. It was I that taught her to fight. I wasn't a very stern teacher, however. I could never be very harsh with Cereza."
"What the fuck?" gasped Enzo, peering at the scene from across the club. "Is this broad proppin' up the bar? She's gonna get smashed! Is that why she came here? She's gonna be knockin' em' back all night, mooning over another broad?"
Jeanne continued: "I was so sure this world would devour her. I was convinced that she wouldn't last a minute if I wasn't there for her. And of course I wasn't there for her, was I? And when I finally caught up with her, twenty years too late, she's transformed into some psychotic streetwoman."
Rodin studied the witch as she rambled on. Normally, patrons worked up a buzz before they started vomiting their troubles up in front of him. He pointed a finger at the wine glass standing before her. It was almost full. "Are you gonna be drinking that, or will you be needing something with a little more force?"
Jeanne pondered this question for a moment, and then came to a decision.
"Gin," she said.
"Jeanne!" exclaimed Bayonetta. She was preparing breakfast when her Sister shambled into the kitchen. Jeanne's eyes were ringed with dark circles, and for once, it wasn't the make-up that the woman usually smothered herself with. "You look like you've had a rough night."
"Rodin decided to experiment on me," moaned Jeanne. "I don't think I've ever felt more hungover in my life."
"Ahh, I see." A faraway expression came across Bayonetta's face. "It was such a glorious day when I finally worked up a resistance to alcohol. Rodin was so furious when I kept knocking back whiskey shots and he couldn't get me drunk! It was the only time I've ever seen him angry, come to think of it."
"I suppose the days of you being an innocent angel are long behind us," muttered Jeanne, as she rubbed her temples in anguish.
"Believe me, Jeanne, if you drank as much good booze as I have, and if you smoked as much good pot as I have, and if you had as much good sex as I have, you'd forget about virtue and all that nonsense in a flash."
"Ugh. Some of us have self-control, Cereza."
Bayonetta smiled wryly. "You just decided to forget that self-control of yours at Rodin's last night, hmmm?"
Bayonetta turned back to the kitchen counter. She pressed a knife through the flesh of a banana, cutting it into slices.
She did not hear Jeanne approach. Arms reached around her, and Jeanne pressed into her back. The knife ceased moving. Bayonetta could feel Jeanne resting her forehead against the back of her neck.
They stood in silence for a moment. Then, Jeanne murmured:
"I'm glad I have you back, Cereza."
She pushed herself away from Bayonetta, and trudged upstairs to wash and dress. Bayonetta stared at her retreating form, bewildered. She could think of nothing to say.