Don't Fear the Reaper

June 13, 2018:

Harley meets Emery. Because Owen Mercer definitely needs to regret his disappearing act.

Girlz, Girlz, Girlsz - A Gotham Girly Bar


NPCs: The occupants of a bar, the thugs that work there, and a psychic. Or their corpses, anyway, for the most part.

Mentions: Boomerang, Red Robin, Jessica Jones, Iron Man, Deadpool, The Joker


Mood Music: Don't Fear the Reaper

Fade In…

Gotham is just the worst. It’s filled with crime, smog, crime, pollution, crime, cheesy names, crime and more vigilantes than a comic convention. But it is just corrupt and lovely enough to have churches where the priests don't bat an eye during your confession when said confessions include murder on a regular basis. Murder is like a bad habit that you try to kick, but it’s more insidious than the worst of drugs because the withdrawls often come with the vendetta of survivors or do-gooders who don't know or care about your reasons.

Emery Papsworth happens to have a membership card to the Sam’s Club version of the Murder Club.

Gotham is also the best place to find dives. The type of dives that may have gamblers, prostitutes, alcohol, or drug dealing in them…sometimes all of the above. If you keep your nose to the ground and your ear to the right walls though, you learn about the dives that hide both the mundane and the mystical. This particular dive is down an alley, through a door with the flashy and tacky 'Girlz, Girlz, Girlsz' sign, complete with typos hovering above it, most of the paint scraped off. Only in a dive like this would you have a Chinese Place, Cheapass Bar, and Strip Club all combined in one. It smells like gunpowder, beer, body oil, and egg rolls and there's a hush, a still to the air like all the iniquity drenched debauchery that took place was put on pause. Some rap song about money and butts is playing, wheezing through a damaged boom box. Bras are hanging off of chairs and some fried rice is burning and it is empty, save for a couple of waitresses quickly bustling out of the front door, half dressed and trying to hide bundles of cash under their coats.

The importance of the dive is not the food or the boobies, no. Its because past the den, through the dirty kitchen that is more beige than white…with a few people who may be chefs slumped down on the floor, propped up against the fridge and the stove with eyes wide in shock but their necks snapped…is one of those cliche beaded curtains where a different type of iniquity takes place. Mystical in nature and that's why this Den is Important. The old woman slumped over at a card table, her tea spilling over her tarot cards and onto the floor. A genuine psychic. Dead. Because she had the secret to the location of a certain 5 year old.

…and her father is currently settled down in the room, slumped against the wall drinking from a bottle of whiskey and eating an egg roll. He wears a pair of dark jeans, black boots, currently he only has on a fitted black tank-top, leaving his tattooed arms exposed, his hair is disheveled and he has a hint of stylish scruff, a few blood stains on his wrists because he's wearing black fingerless gloves as he eats quietly and sips whiskey, staring off into space. His leather jacket resting over a random chair.

Harley Quinn, for the unaware, is not a gal at all in tune with the mystical, the magical, or the otherworldly. She is, however, very much a woman who is aware of the calls of flesh, and a sign that is advertising GIRLZ GIRLZ GIRLSZ should do the job she needs just fine.

And if she gets to see a GIRLSZ in the process of her noble mission, hey, who is she to complain?

But, right. Focus. Focus.

The blonde in her pigtails and baggy boyfriend hoodie - so big as to make it look like that's ALL she's wearing over her fishnet stocking and tights - slowly makes her way to the front door, only to be bumped by a waitress who is flying out the door like she had a winged monkey after her. The clown is not at all understanding. "HEY," she bellows, immediately regretting it. Her voice scratches, and she clears her throat to try again. "WATCH WHERE YER GOIN'. CUSTOMER WALKIN' THROUGH."

Well, not really a customer, because she doesn't intend to spend a dime. But that's neither here nor there. The lack of bouncer doesn't immediately register; she just tromps inside with her combat boots comedically loose.

Then the scene registers. "Oh my gawd," she crows. "It stinks like something… burned in here." It also smells like death, but that's less concerning. She is still very sensitive to the smell of burning. A baggy sleeve comes up over her nose, bandaged hand somewhere lost inside it beyond the cuff.

"'ey! Anyone in 'ere?"

Sensitive hearing comes in handy, Emery pauses in mid swig of his drink, head tilting to the side for a moment before he sighs softly and closes his eyes. Waste not, want not or something, he devours the rest of the eggroll and idly licks his fingers as he thinks.

Then after a moment, he just takes another swig of his whiskey, leaning to the side to unholster the glock he keeps there and idly flicking off the safety as he keeps the handgun trained on the entrance to the hidden room. "Mmm…sorry luv, nobody 'ere but the ghosts and teh reaper, if ye lookin's for your pay, the till behind the bar's unlocked be opened." Come the lilting Irish reply as he takes another swig of his drink.

His eyes dare not dart too far left or too far right, taking in the unconscious bodies of the bouncers half dragged behind a tacky floral so far, or the confirmed dead bouncer who fell in a seated position on said couch with an extension cord wrapped around his throat. He is still processing. Swig of whiskey and shake of his head.

"Well, I wasn't lookin' fer my pay," Harley calls, eyes opening wide. …She can detour. Owen would understand a detour. "Don't work here, buuuuuuuuuuut~" She takes a few side steps towards said till before just turning fully to move in its direction.

As she slides it open more fully, there's a hoarse cheer. "WOOHOO." And that would be when she starts pulling out every bill in there to start stuffing her stolen sweatshirt with it. "Thanks fer the freebie, Bailey's."

There's a pause halfway through her succinct work - her bandaged hands at least very familiar with the work of emptying a cash register - and then those baby blues lift to take in Emery's direction anew. Her nose twitches in the shadow of the hood she's got pulled up, blonde pigtails hanging out of it, and then she starts splitting the stack. Hers is certainly the more generous cut, but she is sharing. "Nice work. I always appreciate someone who knows how to woo a crowd. It's thankless work sometimes. What was the grudge? Fire yer fave or somethin'?"

Emery pushes himself to his feet, idly rolling his shoulders and cracking his neck as he sighs, and re-holsters that gun in its usual home at the small of his back. His jacket is snatched up and draped over an arm. He pauses to take another swig of his whiskey.

He does take a moment to look over his handiwork, jaw setting and giving another shake of his head. It just seems to follow him, past the cooling corpse of the soothsayer/psychic, and he stares at the tea drenched 'death' card she had turned over. Flash back to the arm around her neck and he closes his eyes, fist opening and closing as he shakes it off.

Then through the kitchen, he's got bruises on his body, fading on his face but probably heavier along his torso from the swings they got in. Standing up, there's the knife wound in his thigh more obvious, but that knife was confiscated and is now in an inner pocket of that leather jacket. He has enough butler in him though to get a towel and turn off the stove, damn burning rice.

Finally he makes it to where Harley is cleaning out that till, and he flashes dimpled grin, shaking his hair out of his face. "I tink in this day and age, all women are entitled to freebies." He sides up to the bar, setting his bottle down (Its mostly empty) and then resting his jacket beside it as he studies the woman thoughtfully for a moment, namely her hooded profile, head tilting to the side at the question before he exhales softly. "Someone was spreading secrets that were not their own. Dangerous ones." He rests an elbow against the bar and bows his head, running fingers through his longish locks and shrugging a shoulder. "Sorry if I spoiled your fun darling."

“Eh. Snitches get stitches. Kinda a major violation of protocol ‘round these parts.” Quinn’s lips purse up as she looks at Emery, considers him at length, and then slowly climbs up onto the back counter with a hiss to go for the higher quality stuff that sits just beyond reach on a top shelf, shorts peeking out from under the zippered sweatshirt’s stretch knit hem at the new angle. “Makes me wonder who you been tattlin’ on, though, Bailey’s.” Like she’s one to talk about looking like Hell. She’s cut holes in the cuffs to keep the sweatshirt sleeves pulled low over them, but she has wrapped healing skin of her hands. Under the hood, old makeup makes the dark rings under her eyes seem impossibly deep. Tights with runs under the fishnets hide more.

Tall people, she complains to herself, thinking they rule the world. Setting things at inconvenient heights. She grabs a single malt scotch, a bottle of bourbon, and a bottle of Jameson. The dressed down clown then oozes back off the counter carefully, and plunks down her prizes.

“1,” goes the bourbon. “2,” goes the scotch. “3,” goes the Irish whiskey.

“I make my own fun, so ya don’t gotta worry. They call me… Well, they call me lots of things, but the name’s Harley. Harley Quinn.” A bandaged hand reaches out to shake.

Yup. Lots of dead guys, an empty cash register, and dusty bottles of rarely ordered good stuff. Quinn feels right at home.

There is no judgement in his dark gaze, but he takes in the various details from head to to, eyes lingering on the wrapped hands and flicking from old make-up down to the fishnets. “A quaint yet tedious little rhyme isn’t it? When in reality, snitches far more often end up in ditches if the secrets they spill are worth enough, hm?” Emery drawls softly, gaze sweeping the empty room. “It took me months to track down this little tattletale but…people you love can be inspiration on the mostly hopeless of quests.”

He looks back to the young woman with a quirk of an eyebrow and a small curve of his lips as she recruits new allies in the form of alcohol. “Oh my porcelain goddess, it is as if ye intercepted me prayers to the saints themselves this evenin’.” The Irishman nods towards the Jameson. “Do ye mind if I hog that beautiful bottle of genteel yet whoring liquor for myself?”

At the introduction, he reaches out to take the bandaged hand gently if allowed and raising it to his lip to kiss the back of it before releasing it with a small smile. “A pleasure to meet ye Miss Harley Quinn, I only wish it was in a better setting under better circumstances.”

The gentleness is appreciated more than Emery might realize, but the kiss absolutely charms Quinn by all outward appearance. She coyly tucks her chin and her eyes brighten with the unexpected pleasure of it. The Jameson is happily pushed in the Irishman’s direction when she reclaims that hand, along with “his take” of the register that she’s doled out for him.

“Ya keep talkin’ like that, Mister, ya can have whatever the Hell ya want!” A tickle in her throat brings a cough up, but she politely muffles it in the crook of her elbow.

“But let’s see if we can get ya’ something fer all that bleedin’, huh?” Because people who charm Harley get to see her kinder side. She starts looking under the counter for a first aid kit. “I mean, don’t get me wrong,” she continues in her nasally voice, rough in the way of smokers. “I always think a little blood gives a place a little more local color and scars can be hot as hell, but people don’t usually like bleedin’ everywhere when it’s their drippy stuff. And by ‘people’, I mean ‘me’, but I figure y’ain’t gonna object to somethin’ fer that leg.”

To banish some of the shade from her vision and see better as she searches the bottom shelves, she finally pulls the hood back and just keeps on talking. “Y’know, I don’t think I’ve ever been here when the place was actually open fer busi—” She stops, considers that statement, and then walks it back. “Oh, wait, no. Yeah, I think maybe I—” Another pause, and then she shakes her head. “Maybe not. I dunno. The cheap dog and pony shows all start to look the same after a while. Gotham ain’t real good at makin’ ‘em memorable.”

Finally finding a beat up, cheap (because what else would it be) plastic first aid kit with a label on it so old that it’s peeling off down at the far end of the rail, the blonde pushes back up out of the squat she’d adopted to find the damned thing with a wince. She pauses, hands on the countertop, and then pushes a smile on her lips—covered in grape-flavored gloss, not paint—as she drags it back down in Emery’s direction.

“Which, honestly, I think is a shame. If yer gonna give it a go in Gotham, ya definitely need to step it up. Otherwise, yer jes’ gonna get shown up by the next gal who gets super crazy in this town and tries to take it over with rats or somethin’.” She shrugs. “Cuz, ya know. Gotham girls. We make crazy an art form.” Definitely and happily not excluding herself from that description, the blonde beams in his direction as she leans in on the bar, expecting confirmation and more praise from Emery.

Because why wouldn’t you praise a lunatic?

The man hasn’t run away screaming at the sound of her name, so clearly he a) doesn’t know who she is or b) doesn’t care. There’s also the fact that he’s not presently trying to kill her, so he’s probably okay to hang out with for a minute or two.

She’s been very lonely pent up in Mercer’s apartment for so much of the time without much interaction, and the conversation is a compulsive and desperate need.

There is a glance down to his leg distractedly as his fingers curl around the bottle to drag it even closer. Emery ahhh softly as if just noticing it and he hmmm softly. It must not have hit anything too major because its not dripping blood, or he heals more quickly than most. But his attention, as always is more on the well-being of others.

The Irishman listens to her speak with a small raise of his eyebrows and a hint of amusement in his eyes, nodding slowly in quiet agreement.

There’s an easy enough smile, faint peek of dimples as he looks back to his leg and then finally over to the first aid kit that probably is just filled with Hep and Tetanus. “Beautiful and caring, today is indeed me lucky night.” He clears his throat. “I’ve grown used to shedding me own drippy stuff, but it's sweet of ye to be concerned.”

With a soft sigh he turns his attention to working the bottle of Jameson open before taking a long swig, setting the bottle down, exhaling through his teeth and just regarding Harley for a moment, dark gaze sweeping over her again. “I have never understood why we label that which we cannot fully understand as mad. And then consider that which we are used to, sane. The definition of insanity be doin’ the same ting over and over again expecting different results. So, those who embrace the unexpected and seek solace in random spurts of innovative creativity…are they really crazy, or have they simply embraced life in all its beauty?”

The Irishman takes another swig of his whiskey before setting the bottle down. “Who hurt ye luv? Hm?” He asks softly.

As Emery waxes poetically about the truths of her being and the definition of madness, Harley only grows more deeply charmed. How could she not? Her joy brightens her expression and secures the strength of her open and teeth-baring grin, and her eyebrows lift encouragingly as her two mummy hands extend towards him without reaching for him. Yes! Yes. Exactly that.

But then he asks a question, and her demeanor shifts noticeably. “Aw,” she tells him dismissively as she chuckles roughly and tries to move quickly past the inquiry, one of those hands waving off the question as her lips purse up more conservatively to one side. She leans in, across the bar and right to the edge of the dark haired man’s side. Sure, she’s supporting her weight on her elbows as she lifts up off her feet to get the extra height to manage the feat, but she manages. “This ain’t nothin’, Bailey’s.” Sliding back down onto her feet, she moves for the bottle of American bourbon, and wipes out a dirty shot glass to pour into. “Other than a reminder that I probably shouldn’t be hangin’ out in bars. Granted, in bars is better than behind bars, so… yanno.” She pours the shot, and then begins drinking the bottle.

Because the bait and switch punchline never gets old. Her eyes don’t immediately come back down from their place on the ceiling.

“But I guess I wouldn’t be too sad if this place went up in flames.” She laughs, loudly, and then lazily drops her gaze down to Emery. The movement of her head appears too loose upon her neck, like a doll that’s been played with too much, and her gaze holds an extra wideness. “Long as you got out. I like you.”

Because that’s precisely what you tell someone who just wiped out a bunch of folk.

When Harley replies in such a nonchalant manner about her own injuries, Emery tsks softly and shakes his head slowly. “Such an unfortunate reminder for a young woman who is probably the life of any bar she walks into. And you also do not deserve to be caged.” He raises his drink in a mock toast as she takes her first swig.

There’s a long pause before Emery looks thoughtful. There’s a soft laugh, low and rumbly when she bestows her favor upon him in the form up declaration. He rests an elbow back against the bar, taking an easy swig of his drink with his other hand. “Keep sweet talkin’ me luv, and there will be more than flames that bring heat to this particular locale.”

Then he has to ask, looking around casually and resting his bottle on the bar, idly tracing the mouth of the bottle with a finger tip. “Why’s a sweet ting like you out prowling peep shows alone?”

At the retaliatory flirt from Emery, The harlequin waggles her eyebrows and licks her teeth. “I do love a good funhouse.”

Stepping backwards, she then gently rests the small of her back against the counter as she continues nursing her own free drink. “And you did buy me a round and all. In a manner of speakin’.”

But why is she here? The question elicits a long—if shallow—breath in and a slow exhale, as well as a look at the toes of her boots as Quinn shrugs. “Got a boyfriend MIA. I know he ain’t dead, which is somethin’, I guess, but I’m startin’ to run out of places I could look.” When she looks back up to Emery, her expression is equal parts an acknowledgement of how pathetic it sounds and a dare for the handsome stranger to call her on it. “It—” she starts to explain, only to take a drink instead. “—is probably the worst thing I coulda brought up next. Heh.”

A hand spreads and wavers at her side, a showman’s spread and dazzle. “But I have a rare talent fer talkin’ too much. Wind me up,” she says, looking up at last with a wide smile full of mixed sentiments behind the pearly whites and a turn of her hips just so. “Watch me go…”

“Mm…do you?” Emery asks softly, eyebrows raising as he takes a slow and thoughtful swig from his bottle, lips curving in a hint of a smirk, “Ahh, is that the story you will tell? The way I see it, ye plied and seduced me with liquor…and I was helpless to resist your adorable charm.”

Another soft chuckle before his head falls forward at the mention of the MIA boyfriend. There it is. A flicker of concern in his gaze and he leans forward, watching Harley, turning down the dial of smolder and replacing it with empathy. Emery reaches out to gently rest a hand against Quinn’s arm. “Hey. Ye wouldn’t have mentioned him if you didn’t care for him.” He replies softly.

He pushes off of the bar and rolls his shoulders, reaching down to pull his shirt up a tad, just a tad to confirm that the skin of his abs are starting to darken in the expected bruises and he sighs softly, dropping the hem of his shirt and leaning back against the bar beside Harley. “So, tell me about this missing arsehole, and lets see if I may be able to help you find him. Just promise me…to tie him down and ‘ave your fun for a few days after we do find him.”

The story’s turned and Quinn’s amused by every word of it; even exhausted eyes can betray their sparks of mischievousness. It happens when you’re filled to the brim with a penchant for trouble. But her blabbermouth confession dashes all of that post-murder work of building Emery up, and the touch that finds her is not the one that she was expecting.

It’s gentle. And she doesn’t really know what to do with it. She’s momentarily caught off-guard by it.

Her brow furrows, her head tilts, and she blinks several times in Emery’s direction. And as he shows off his bruises, Harley’s confusion settles into a sort of suspicion.

“Really?” she asks, slowly and disbelieving as she stifles a cough. “What’s the catch? I mean, that’s kind’ve a given as long as he doesn’t get all whiny about it, but… I mean, really. What’s the catch? Like… are y’gonna watch or somethin’?” Harley rears her head back at that, pressing the bourbon bottle and her other bandaged hand against her hoodie covered sternum as she tilts her head and explains with wide eyes as she rambles on past the realm of suspicion in order to continue the conversation along. “I mean, I don’t care. I ain’t real judgy about that stuff. Everyone’s got their itch, yanno? But, two to tango. Three to…”

She stops short, and then looks like a deer caught in a pair of headlights for a moment before she leans in towards Emery and asks lightly, “Psssssssssst. What’s another dance name that starts with T?”

The suspicion is met with another raise of an eyebrow as he lets his head fall back as he laughs, a low and raspy chortle that he coughs softly to come out of. “Oh, luv. No catch…nothin’ like that. Heavens above…” Emery whews and rubs a hand over his face, coughing softly and shrugging a shoulder. “As beautiful as you are, I cannot imagine a man when freshly reunited with you would be antsy to have an audience.”

There is a full dimpled grin though as he listens and offers. “Three to tap dance?” Then he winks and chuckles. “Although, if he ever wants to get ye anything for your birthday /and/ ye just find yourself hankering for a taste of Ireland, I happen to enjoy tap dancin’ with two of the right type of partners.”

Somewhere the universe is just screaming ‘YOU DO NOT KNOW WHAT YOU ARE SAYING. ITS MERCER, ITS MERCER ABORT!’

But he cannot hear that, because he’s taking a swig of Jameson and idly cracking his neck. “So tell me about this long lost lad.”

The bottle is set aside as Harley keeps that closer proximity with her new plaything, leaning onto the bar again with her best come-hither eyes. Well… The best come-hither eyes that one can make, anyway, in yesterday’s flaking mascara and smudged eyeliner.

“Tap dance! Yes!” There it is. The harlequin praises Emery’s choice by standing up and offering a thoughtless clap of exuberant glee, which both gets muffled by the gauze on them and draws a sharp hiss out of her mouth as she shakes her hands. “That—Owww!”

She does not hear the universe screaming at Emery, either. Perhaps because the universe already knows that this is Harley Quinn, and Harley Quinn makes Bad Choices. She continues on, oblivious to it, as she shakes the stinging pain off with one eye squinted shut and abandons the attempt to look at all sexy in the wake of it.

“He ain’t long lost. Jes’ a month. No calls, no texts. Cleaned out his apartment. Leaves a vague note and a bag of stuff from some other guy in front of my door.” She rolls her eyes upwards in a mark of exasperation. “Which is really weird if ya’ think about it. I mean, the photos from this other guy? Totally my kind of whackadoodledoo.” She fans herself demonstratively.

She bites her lower lip as a proverbial light bulb illuminates over her head with very literal ramifications for her expression. “Maybe he wouldn’t mind a tap dance or two?” she ponders under another cough. “I mean, it could totally mean that, right?”

Her blonde head shakes as she refocuses on the matter at hand. FOCUS, HARL. “Except that he’d still have to show up fer that and he’s still gone like yesterday’s sideshow.”

Stop complaining. Get to the point.

“Anyway, so, this is like a super bad time for him to do all of this. Because—” She stops, she narrows her eyes with another small measure of suspicion, and then she course corrects. “Because it is. But that doesn’t really matter, because it’s just super rude to leave a gal like a penny tip for a bad server. I mean, I’m worth way more than a penny—”

And, there she goes… Not shutting up again.

It's musical to Emery. The melodic method of madness that creeps around and starts edging through the cracks in the wall that holds back the darkness. An old familiar tune playing from an ancient music box kept locked away on a shelf in a room filled with remnants of the past. He listens to the woman speak, hearing the inflections and cadence of voice and tone, eyes going half-lidded as if listening to a favorite composition.

The soft hiss though that brings attention back to the signs of conflict or trauma, is what cuts through the playboy and tugs on the heartstrings of the caregiver and so Emery is listening, lips curved in a small smile and he nods from time to time.

The description that she gives though of her lost man, makes his head tilt to the side. Flashing back to a recent search of his own and he squints at his bottle of Jameson. It has no answers for him, to reassure him that it's just a coincidence or just random thing.

All he can do is turn to Harley with a slow nod. “Well, men tend to be horrible at communicating when they are ready for tings to get spiced up in the bedroom luv. But I doubt he’d just up and leave unless he was tryin’ to keep ye safe or somethin’ like that.”

He starts to remove his gloves carefully, exhaling softly. “You are worth more than a penny darling. Here…” He gestures slightly, holding out his hands. “Let me see those pretty hands of yours, and ye can tell me where you have looked so far.”

With all of the obedience of a trusting child, Harley promptly thrusts out her hands in their dingy gauze with their fresh coat of red with black letters, lazily painted over a chipped older coat, towards Emery. LAFFS reads one. TEARS reads the other. She doesn’t ask why; she simply complies.

“Aw, they’re better than they were,” she tells him, and it’s the truth. They’re healing still, faster than they should if he only knew where she was two weeks ago, but the burns and blistering were significant. Her hands have just been the hardest of the injuries to hide; she talks with them too much.

He tells her she’s worth more than a penny and calls her darling in that tender lilt of his, and she drinks in the praise like a parched river bed in the rain.

“I ain’t been able to look many places yet,” the jester confesses, and then the floodgate opens.

“I called this PI,” she begins. And then the words just keep coming, flowing and only occasionally interrupted by a hacking cough as her still-sore throat and lungs protest the overuse. “Who… turns out to be a friend of his? Small world, right? So she’s been looking. And then I caught a ride to New York—” a generous description of the Über hijacking event that got her there “—and met Tony Freakin’ Stark (who by the way, is way hotter in person than the photos make him out to be). Who also is a friend of his? (I mean, seriously? Tony Stark?)”

Her eyes widen, desperate to convey the importance of this point. “So now Tony Richer’n God Stark is lookin’ fer him. So then, I came home. Well, Tony Freakin’ Stark drove me home, and I didn’t even have to blow up any of his stuff to get ‘im to do it! But then, I got the care package from Mr. My-Kinda-Whackadoodledoo with B’s note last night on my porch while I was snoozin’ at his place, so… I figured he had to be somewhere around. Right? Right. But… I promised the guy who got me out of a burnin’ bar a couple of weeks ago that I wouldn’t go back to bars fer awhile, but then Mer—I mean, my boyfriend would probably be in a bar if he’s in Gotham, so I thought, maybe it’d be okay if I jes’ went to the places that didn’t have lots of people in ‘em. Which didn’t take me long. So, then I thought: I didn’t say nothin’ ‘bout the girly bars. So… this was girly bar, number 2.”


Thank God.

By the time she’s wrapped up the story, she’s out of breath.

The hands are taken and held gently, as Emery relies on a skill he has honed throughout the years. Listening closely. He studies the hands, holding them carefully, and occasionally turning them ever so slightly to examine them more closely.

Then his brain jerks and stutters for a moment as she continues in her story about the friends of her missing boy toy. PI…Tony Stark…

The Irishman blinks slowly and then when she stops at ‘Mer-’ and corrects herself he closes his eyes and bends his head to gently press his forehead to the hands he’s holding, then he lifts his head and gently kisses the back of each hand and gently guides each hand to each of his biceps as he concentrates.

“Shhh, luv…it seems like ye’ve been through it, hm?” He reaches out with his gift, to use the very faint skin to skin contact he can maintain like this and create a light link. He reaches out for the pain and discomfort she may be feeling, muscles tightening as he braces himself for the onslaught of somebody else’s pain. “Mr Stark is a lovely piece of eye candy isn’t he? And it seems like ye’ve started in all the right places…”

He doesn't want to ask, no he does not. But he does. “When ye entered you asked if anybody was here. And I said nobody but the dead and the reaper. Reapers are jest angels with shitty jobs. So, mebbe I was sent here to help ye out too, hm? Is…this boyfriend’s name Mercer by any chance luv?”

Curiosity grips Harley tight as Emery goes about his work, her head tilting sideways and eyes widening as though it would help her comprehend the mystery of what is to come. If he wants the pain, he’ll find it. It’s seared lungs that are only just turning the corner on an infection. It’s a healing concussion. It’s her hands with fragile, healing, and too tight skin just starting to take hold. She’s had a number worked on her, it’s true, although she just shrugs when she’s asked about it. The little thing is stronger than she has any right to be and it’s all healing.

Her curiosity is sidelined by the thought of ‘Ooh, biceps,” however, as she proves herself unable to stay serious. She squeezes them playfully, with her shiny lips in the shape of a perfect ‘o’.

Except that then the rest of what she abandoned—Owen’s last name—hits the air without prompting in conjunction with talk of a reaper with a shitty job. Her expression changes immediately, darkening with all the rush of a summer storm. It’s the violent seize of a deep suspicion. It’s the uncomfortable and unfamiliar surge of fear. The desperation born of a desire to protect that is crippled by uncertainty. Damage runs deeper than the body.

Quinn moves to pull her hands back, breath shallow.

“Aww. Please,” she pleads, already despairing the departure of the fun and flirting. Her pale features melt with it, her head lolling to one side. Oh, how she despairs, for she liked this one. She liked him, and here she is—played for a sucker. “Don’t make me kill you fer that. How do you know Mercer? Did Mistah J put you up to this?”

That was the confirmation that Emery needed and he holds his hands up with a shake of his head. “Easy now darling. I know Mercer very well, and if that’s who your boyfriend is luv…I can see why he said he really liked ye.”

The Irishman does let her go, and with her, the pain getting released back into the small woman as his concentration is broken. He exhales shakily and keeps his hands where she can see them. “I came here today, because I love someone very deeply. She is my reason for living and out of all the tings that have been created from my actions, she’s the only ting that’s good and pure in this world.”

He slowly reaches into his pocket to tug his cellphone out of a back pocket, and holding it up so she can see it as he unlocks the screen and then scrolls through the pictures until he finds one of Owen and a small girl with curly brown pigtails and light brown skin that speaks to her mixed heritage, making ridiculous faces at each other over bowls of totally healthy (not really) cereal.

“Mercer is one of the few people in this world I trust with her…and I’ve been looking for his smart mouthed fuck stick flinging arse for the last few weeks…do ye really think it’s just coincidence that we’ve met here today? And not the work of a higher power?”

“Oh my gawd,” Harley declares as relief comes flying back, pleasure mingling with the return of her pain. It’s not the glowing love of a father that earns the exclamation. It’s not the picture that earns such a declaration, oh no. It’s the description of Owen that brings Harley’s eyes wide, and a smile back to the corners of her gaping mouth. “YOU DO KNOW HIM!”

She exhales a breath, and her hands come away from her hoodie pocket. “I’m so glad!” she prattles on, “Because I was really not lookin’ to get all…Yanno.” Fingers fold into hand-puppeted guns, firing in Emery’s direction. Then they evaporate in a spread of fingers, like the end of a magic show. “I mean, if I had to, sure,” she confesses, bending forward at the waist as she laughs and revels in her newfound freedom. “…but I didn’t want to.”

The young woman then steps forward to spread her torso over the bar, and there’s the dull ‘clunk’ of cloth-wrapped metal as her holster hits the bar under her hoodie. She doesn’t seem to notice. Rolling onto her back without any care for the arch of it that’s required, she then fluidly curls upwards and then uses her planted elbows to slide herself up and back through them onto the bar to sit.

Turning, she then pulls a booted foot onto the bar and dangles her other leg off the side nearest her newfound friend-through-her-boyfriend. She leans her temple against her knee as she sways her foot lazily. “That was a nice trick,” she says of the earlier relief—the one that let her breathe for the first time in two weeks without pain—although she certainly feels it now all the more acutely for having briefly enjoyed its absence. “Was it hypnosis? It was a great!!! Man, they tried making me do hypnosis therapy once. WHAT A CROCK. All I remember is comin’ to with a serious hankerin’ fer Swedish Fish. If that was hypnosis, you really are missing out on a fortune. Those rich fabbie dos up in those huge places in Manhattan will pay a freakin’ fortune fer something they think’ll make them lose weight without havin’ to give up the all-night martini bar and bonbons.”

Then, her face lifts off of her leg to look at Emery, desperate and hopeful. “Did he really say he really liked me? Or just, like, he liked me? Because there can be a lot of difference between likin’ someone and really likin’ someone.”

Yes, Quinn, begs. Tell her more wonderful things all about her, please.

God. Damn. It. Emery profanes in his head, exhaling softly at the exclamation from Harley and looking up in time to see her creatively and flexibly…pull herself up on the bar.

Give him a second.

The phone is repocketed as he presses his hands together as if in prayer, pressing it against his lips as he just nods slowly. “…ye wouldn’t need what just thudded against the bar luv, you would’ve just slayed me with the poetry written by the lines of your deceptively fragile form…”

Then he’s leaning back against back against the bar, resting on his side to study Harley from her side profile. “Hm? Nope, not hypnosis. Just somethin’ I can do to help give people a bit of a break. “Miss Quinn…when we recover your boyfriend, I’ll pay for ye both to have a penthouse for a week just to her selves to enjoy martini bars and bonbons and lots of tap dancin’ with partners of your choice…no hypnosis needed.”

Then his expression softens again as he is slipping his fingerless gloves back on, eyebrow raising slowly. He thoughtfully reaches out tracing a finger along the thigh of the leg dangling off of the bar, finger not quite touching, just millimeters away. “Yes, Miss Quinn, He is absolutely…smitten with ye. He likes likes you. He would not have left you unless it was to protect you.”

The affirmation earns Emery a dark laugh from Quinn, low and throaty and perhaps altogether discomforting. It ends in a cough as it tickles the wrong parts of her throat. Agitation flits across her features as it disturbs her sultry routine, but she’s right back to it a moment later as she continues to hug onto her knee and bites her lower lip in a tease.

The finger that lingers so close is met with a glance and the steadfast maintenance of her leg’s position, amusement in her gaze when it comes back. “Jes’ call me Harley,” she encourages. “That's what my friends do. Jes’ Harley. We don’t need all that ‘Miss’ nonsense gettin’ in the way.”

Another friend who knows of her, in the vague impersonal way of a silhouette labeled ‘girlfriend’, but didn’t know who she was. Mercer is three for three; friends everywhere apparently that she knew nothing about.

Nice friends. Kind friends. The sort of friends that do things without bargaining or, at the very least, say they will. Even if they're lying, they're kind lies. She’ll gladly indulge in the short-lived comfort of a lie or two like that right now.

The blonde does her best to ignore her cutting awareness of that fact, shoving herself into Owen’s cultivated circle without care for the fence he seemingly built around her to keep her hidden.

“I mean,” slender shoulders shrug under the too-big hoodie, “we can be friends, right?”

That finger is steady, stroking the air up and down in a thoughtful manner as Emery angles a look up to meet Harley’s amused gaze. “Allow me my fantasies, Missss Harley. It's such an elegant name, it deserves an elegant title.” He fakes a hint of a pout before winking.

“Mercer, saints preserve his irritating yet well shaped arse, cares for you deeply. And I would very much like to be your friend.” He offers a kind smile and bows his head for a moment, letting his finger drop to tap on the bar surface. “Friends help each other, aye?”

How do you tell a man ‘no’ when he’s calling you elegant? You don’t. Harley doesn't. She just smiles and laughs quietly if fiendishly, her tongue curling out of her mouth and around her front teeth. “Alright,” she concedes in a drawl after a beat. “But,” she continues, a finger popping up to point in Emery’s direction with the back of her hand towards the ceiling. The rest of her fingers are left to limply hang, obscuring half of her face as she moves to duck her head and coyly peer along that finger in the man’s direction. “But only you get to call me that, Bailey’s.”

On the matter of friendship, the woman lowers her hand and tilts her head at a sharp angle quizzically. “Yeah, they do. Or so they say. Mileage varies on that particular clown car sometimes.” She uses the scuffed up toe of her dangling boot to gently nudge at the Irishman’s side—away from the bruises she saw earlier—to get his a attention back. “Why? You need somethin’?”

A hand moves to his heart as he smiles slowly. “I shall forever be honored by this special permission luv.” Emery finally wraps his hand around the bottle of Jameson and pulls it close so he can take another swig.

Then at the question he purses his lips thoughtfully. He nods towards the pile of money she set aside so kindly for him. “Just a tiny favor. I need ye to take some of what ye gave me there and go buy yourself the biggest most ridiculous ice cream sundae or milkshake with everything you like on it. You can even take me number and send me a picture. Then I need ye to never tell anyone that ye saw me here. There won’t be anything left but ashes and the memories of sinners fading in the wind.”

He holds up a one moment finger, “And I will help ye look for your lost boyfriend, and when ye reunite…I will cook dinner for you both.” He holds out a hand. “Deal?”

Secrets are something which Harley is, appearances to the contrary, very good at when it suits her. And what Emery offers to her is so tiny a thing, so very tiny, that it barely even processes.

Or so it maybe seems at first. Pivoting on the bar’s top, Quinn turns to get up onto her knees and crawl the barely two paces that set her at the closest possible proximity to the Irishman. When she pushes back up to put her face as near his as she can—where he’ll be able to smell her, bourbon and artificial grape and some cloying dime store knockoff perfume—her blue and glassy gaze takes him in.

“Saw ya where, Bailey’s? I ain’t been out all night.” She picks a ten out of the pile, stretching one slender arm past him to take it. “Except to go get somethin’ to eat. Always had a terrible sweet tooth.” She chomps her teeth demonstratively.

“But yeah,” she says, smoky voice suddenly much more of the garden variety as she snakes her hand towards the one she’s offered to shake it at a peculiar angle. “Ya find him, I ain’t ever gonna say ‘no’ to someone feedin’ me.”

Sitting back down on her butt, she crosses her fishnetted legs tailor-style and fishes out her cheap burner phone. She holds it out for Emery to take. “So… Picture. Does that mean yer gonna give me yer digits, then?”

The Irishman’s lips part as Harley draws nearer, nostrils flaring as he inhales deeply, committing to memory the aroma of crazy and unique taste. He can only grin, dimples peeking out and gaze darkening a bit. “Ahh…you are such a naughty minx, aren't you?”

When she reaches for the money, he does slip in a bit, studying her features even closer and keeping his voice soft and low. “And you deserve it, darling, yes you do…” A hand lifts to ghost along her jawline, again never touching just millimeters away.

Then he gently squeezes the hand in his, very gently, raising it again to kiss the back of it and release it. Emery reaches for the burner phone. “I am giving ye some digits, aye.” He looks up to meet Harley’s eyes, making a promise and asking a question at the same time. “Let’s find your love, shall we?” And then he enters in the number.

He has a busy hour ahead of him. Bodies to move, petrol to spill around, cheap tequila to drench things with, prayers to say…things to light on fire. But through it all, he is prioritizing what he does best.

Caring for others.

The blonde on the bar only giggles with her own dark amusement as Emery accuses her, another unsettling and mad sound. There is no protest of innocence. At least, not tonight. Naughty, indeed.

When Emery tells her in a murmur that she deserves her small reward with softness and music in his voice, touches her face without touching, Harley is entranced by it. Enraptured. She closes her eyes and savors it.

But then the moment is gone, the spell he weaves is broken, and back she is in her own muddled and mixed up little world. The one where she’ll drag her sorry butt back after this to Owen’s empty apartment and keep waiting. The one where thoughts will grow unnaturally large in the shadows, the monsters that consume her in the dark.

The reaper kisses her hand, gentle as nightfall, and gives her his number.

“‘ll call tomorrow,” she promises.

And with that, the petite thing exhales and carefully oozes to the floor by squeezing herself into the space between the taller Irishman and the bar. With eyes never leaving her new friend, she plucks the phone from his hand as she lands and the bourbon bottle from the bar with a small reach, then pushes both new ten and phone into her pockets.

After a last throaty chuckle, she then takes her leave, crossing the room like she owns it with a pleased step that carefully twists her feet across the centerline of her body and bids her hips follow. Not quite a sashay, but rather her slow and exaggerated gymnast’s walk, as though there were some line leading her out.

But, just at the door, she turns and bends forward to blow a huge kiss off of her fingertips and brightly call “Toodles!” She then straightens the whole of herself ramrod straight, wiggles those fingers in farewell, and pulls her oversized hood back up. Plunging her hands into her pocket, Harley then disappears back through the door, leaving behind the smell of burning rice to trade it for Gotham stink.

The bar may burn tonight after her presence here, so Red Robin’s prophecy holds true, but at least she’s not in it this time.

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