An Expected Obstacle.
He arrived just after dusk as I knew he would.
I was in the parlour reading Carroll. I had given Harley a sedative so she would sleep more easily, and hopefully without dreams. Emma had gone out hunting and Clement was with some of his friends, playing cards.
"Good evening Dark One, " I said without looking up, "Would you like some tea, or perhaps something stronger?" He was both angry and surprised at being detected, as if he were a small boy caught with one hand in the sweets' tin.
"That is still not my name."
"But it suits your nature. It is your true face, " I looked up, straight into his eyes and truly understood, and for the first time, I was not scared.
"What happened last night?"
"Didn't Batwoman and the Question inform you?"
"They told me something, but I'd like to hear it from you."
"Well certainly then, " I gestured to the couch next to me as I laid down my book, "Please sit and I'll tell you."
"I'd rather stand."
"Then, you can let yourself out, " I picked my book back up.
"Tell me!" his growl had built to a low roar.
I looked back up at him. He resembled a towering pyre of dark fury, barely contained by his mortal flesh from ripping free and casting a huge cloud of black flame upon my meagre form solely to render it to ash. But I had seen into him, and I understood.
I laughed, "You have no power over me except destruction, and until I tell you what I know, you can not risk that. Please sit, and have some tea."
I could see him slump slightly, internally, and a vague sensate of frustration wafted off of his iron clad will. Then he sat on the couch next to me and pushed back his cowl, revealing his false face.
"You know exactly what I'm feeling don't you?" I nodded slightly in response. He leaned back and sighed and I poured him a cup of tea.
"Sugar or milk?"
"Neither thank you. I've been researching you Drusilla."
"You're a mass murderer."
"You should be destroyed or in prison or in Arkham at the very least."
"What am I going to do?"
"With me?" he nodded.
"Well, that is your decision."
"From what I've read, you could have influenced me to ignore you at any time. Why didn't you?"
"As I told you before, I am seeking redemption. I did not ask to be thrown into this existence as I am sure you know. And from what I can see of your past you were the same, only without a demonic entity replacing your soul and guiding you towards cruelty and murder."
He growled at the reminder.
"Well then, If you wished to know the status of the villain known as the Joker. I can tell you he took his own life, or rather he released it from his body to gift it to some other being. He was intending to gift Doctor Quinzel's life, but we prevented that occurrence so as he had completed the ritual and a life was forfeit, he gave his freely rather than having it wrenched from him."
"What's the difference?"
"The same as paying for services received or having to be arrested for fraud. You need not pay penalties or visit the dock if you pay willingly and you gain the benefits of the services. And considering the sorts of beings he might have been trafficking with, you would truly not wish to pay their concept of penalties..."
"Who or what did he make a deal with?"
"I have no idea, except that it was extremely powerful and old. I could feel its poisons creeping through the air and trying to gain freedom."
"So it was trapped?"
"Yes! Yes it was locked away deep underneath and across great distance as well. It was dead but still lived. I can still feel the faintest traces of it skittering across my brain, behind my eyes. It is old and wrong. Much more wrong than my kind, " I shuddered at the sensation.
"Can you tell where it was trapped?" his voice had switched from angry to professional in tone and his posture had returned to that of a great predator questing for a scent.
"No, but it will be coming here when it rises. This city is where it was called, so this is where it must go."
"It's not ready yet, I can tell that much. The sudden change of gift has confused it, and it must make adjustments of some sort. Doctor Quinzel is still very important. That is why I brought her here. She would not be adequately protected in a hospital or even a gaol."
He nodded unconsciously in agreement, "All right," he pulled his cowl back on, "So we have some time?"
"Oh yes. At least a fortnight, most probably longer."
"Good, could you call Blood and ask him to meet here tomorrow night? I'll be bringing some more friends."
"Of course, and if it's a council of war I'll be bringing some friends as well."
He scowled and then nodded in assent.
"Thank you Batman."
"Thank you...Dru, " he turned and headed towards the French doors then stopped, "Thank you for the tea."
"It was my pleasure, you are always welcome to drop by wearing whatever face you chose. I'll always know it's you."