DISCLAIMER: "Birds of Prey" and characters are copywritten by Miller/Tobin
Productions, Warner Brothers, DC comics et al. This story is for
entertainment purposes only and no money exchanged hands. No copyright
infringement is intended. The original characters, situations, and story are
the property of the author.
WARNING: This story deals with an attempted sexual assault. I know this is kinda spoiling that chapter but I don't want anyone walking blind into a subject they may not particularly want to read.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
They needed new shocks. It was all Helena could think about. Big, fat, 2 inch titanium shock absorbers. The kind that would make the vehicle ride smoother than silk and softer than a feather. Sure, the van was brand spanking new. Still had that new car smell Helena adored. But, the shocks sucked. She felt every bump, every rock, crack and insect the vehicle rolled over.
The three broken ribs probably didn't help. Her body still felt tender, and sore, and a whole host of other things all filed under the larger category of 'pain'. The swelling on her face had already receded, but an angry patch of purple and red skin remained under her eye. Helena couldn't remember the last time she'd gotten a black eye, if ever.
Another bump in the road and Helena winced. She reached into her coat pocket, pulling out a container of aspirin. Popped the lid open not bothering to count the pills as they fell into her mouth, dry swallowing them. Another bump and Helena secretly wished she were back at the hotel, a receiver of Barbara's not quite legal pain remedies.
She had no idea when Barbara purchased the van. Maybe sometime between her ass kicking and regaining consciousness. A specialty vehicle built especially for them. Similar to a tv news van. Except, instead of electronic broadcast equipment, the walls were lined with various computers and monitors. All hooked up by remote modem to the Delphi. A tiny dish on the roof kept them connected to the larger computer system.
Barbara sat in a chair. The bottom, instead of wheels, fitted into a slotted groove imbedded into the floor. It allowed her to freely move from station to station.
"Damn." Barbara muttered under her breath.
"What is it?"
"You remember that hunch I had? I was hoping I was wrong."
"What hunch?" Dinah glanced from Barbara to Helena. The brunette shrugged her shoulders.
"It was just an idea." Barbara explained. "I cross referenced the names on the missing persons list with the meta human database. So far, 27 of the missing are meta.."
"Jesus." Helena grit her teeth.
"What does it mean?"
"I'm still in hunch territory but I'd say he's protecting his territory. He may have an ability to sense meta humans."
"But why take Charlie? Or the others?"
"I don't know." Barbara admitted. Right now, all she had were theories and hunches. Things Dinah didn't need or want. While verbalizing her thoughts sometimes helped her sort them out, stating them aloud wouldn't alleviate Dinah's fears.
Helena slowed the van. A shift in her demeanor signaling they'd reached their destination. Cars and trucks littered both sides of the road. Word had traveled fast. She parked the van on the opposite side of the crowd. Right before the edge dipped into a large slope. "We're here."
"Wait," Barbara slid towards the front of the cab. "Do both of you have your comm sets?" The two women nodded.
"Are they on?" She cocked a disapproving eyebrow towards Helena. "Until this is over they stay on. And no one goes anywhere alone. Got it."
"Yes." Dinah nodded.
"Yeah, I got it."
"Okay then, let's get to work."
Dinah grabbed her knapsack. The bag filled with an assortment of tools and weapons, just in case. Helena watched as Dinah slid out of the van. She positioned herself between the two front seats. Dinah turned to the woman. A puzzled expression on her face.
"You are coming, right?"
"Could you leave us alone for a second?"
"You mean right after Barbara told us not to go anywhere alone?" Dinah stared suspiciously at the brunette. "Why?"
"I want to apologize to Barbara."
Dinah leaned forward, looking for Barbara's reaction. She sighed, her view blocked by Helena. "Okay."
Helena waited until the door closed completely, sure Dinah was out of earshot. She stepped into the rear cab, closing the door behind her.
"Apologize?" Barbara raised an eyebrow.
Helena shrugged. "I didn't want her to hear what I have to say." Helena paused, shifted uncomfortably. "There's something I didn't tell you.. about the attack."
Barbara answered with silence.
"When I was attacked last night, he wasn't trying to kill me. He was," Helena paused again. Not sure how to find the right words. "He was.. he was trying to make me his bitch."
Barbara's hand reacted on its own, reaching out to touch Helena's face. "Helena."
"When you mentioned meta humans.. It just doesn't make any sense."
"No, it makes perfect sense, in a twisted Darwin kinda way. What are the rules of survival. The basic primal instincts we all carry within us?"
"Food, clothing, shelter." The lights clicked on. "Reproduction."
"Exactly, survival of the species. He destroys what he perceives as a threat, while searching for females he considers strong enough to continue his genetic line." She paused, thoughts rolling through her brain. "I just can't figure out why he's killing humans."
Helena shuddered. "This is just getting way too bizarre."
"Helena." Barbara sighed, placed a hand on Helena's forearm. "Maybe this time you should consider a weapon." Helena stiffened at the suggestion.
"Just consider it."
"Okay, I'll consider it."
"Good," She managed a smile despite Helena's obvious lie. "Now kiss me."
Helena needed no more prompting. She placed both hands on the armrests, planted a kiss. Longer than she should have, shorter than she wanted to. Barbara stroked her face, slid her fingers across the soft lips. "Tell me you love me."
"I love you."
"And the next time you're feeling impulsive and self-destructive, you'll pause for just a moment and think about how much I love you."
"How much do you love me?"
Barbara leaned in, kissed Helena deeply. Poured every emotion and thought she could into the contact. "That much."
The kiss broke. The two pulled away from each other no matter how much their bodies screamed for more. Helena moved towards the cab, sliding open the door. She paused, turned back to Barbara. "You're too good for me. You know that don't you?"
"Funny, I was thinking the same thing about you."
Dinah paced outside the van. Wondered what was taking the two so long. She hated feeling out of the loop. Alienated. Tired of the kid gloves used by both women on her. Suspicion and paranoia filled her brain. Couldn't shake the feeling that Helena and Barbara were talking about Charlie, about the case. Considered her too young, too inexperienced. Worse, she couldn't help feeling they also thought of her as too weak. She wasn't strong, like Helena. Or smart, like Barbara. All she could do was invade minds and move ashtrays at will. Which would be great if she'd run away to join the circus rather than New Gotham with aspirations of becoming a super hero.
She could also feel eyes on her. The crowd seemed to hush the moment she stepped out of the van. Like they were expecting something. Anything. Some of them, Dinah hadn't seen since she'd ran away. They nodded their hello's to her. But, they all stared. Stared at her. The freak.
The crowd parted. Whispers and murmurs rose above the hush. Alex Redmond waded his way through the crowd. A grim scowl revealed under the brim of his cowboy hat. Dinah marched towards him. The anger came quickly. A hidden reserve exploded within her.
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"Tell you what?"
"This." She pulled a folded piece of paper from her back pocket. Dinah didn't know why she was angry at the man. It seemed undirected, without purpose. It just made her feel better to be angry. To have some place to direct it. Right now, her foster father would do.
Alex took the paper from his daughter. The last drop of blood drained from his face. Jaw clenched. Alex folded the paper, handed it back to Dinah. "What difference does that make? It's history."
"The difference? He's family. My, OUR family! The difference is I should have known."
"Why? What could you have done? You're a child!"
"I'm not a CHILD!!"
The air turned thick. Car windows began to rattle. Alex could feel the hairs on the back of his neck standing on edge. The air crackled with energy. Seemed to gather around Dinah, from within and without.
"Dinah!" Helena stepped in front of her, between father and daughter. "Dinah!" She grabbed Dinah's shoulders, shaking her. Blue eyes softened, the angry glare dissipated. Focused on the worried brunette standing before her. Helena turned her head towards Alex.
"What did you do?" She hissed accusingly.
"He didn't do anything. Except, leave out the truth." Dinah handed the paper to Helena. It was a copy of a newspaper clipping, dated 30 years ago. A school picture of a young boy positioned under the headline.
'Search Continues For Missing Redmond Boy.'
"Okay Barbara," Helena spoke aloud, not caring who heard. "Remember that communication thing you're always talking about? It's a two way street."
"Yeah well, consider us even."
"Daddy," Dinah stepped around Helena. "Tell me what's going on?"
Alex shifted his eyes from her gaze. More murmurs erupted from the crowd. Sheriff Devlin waded his way through. Ignored the stares and obvious questions. He looked pale, sickly even. As if this was the last place on Earth he wanted to be. He made a beeline towards the Redmonds.
"Is it him? Is it Charlie?" Alex asked.
"I don't know."
"What do you mean you don't know?" Dinah's body began to tremble, a combination of anger and panic. "How could you not know?"
Helena could hear the pained exhale of Barbara. The grim reality of the situation plain to both of the seasoned trio. She placed a hand on Dinah's arm.
Carl pulled off his hat, ran it through worried fingers. "We've called for the Coroner from Burnam. He'll be in here in two hours." Carl stepped closer to Alex, his voice barely above a whisper. "We're going to need.. samples..from you and your wife."
"Samples?" Alex paled.
"They can't identify the body." Barbara explained into their ears. "They need DNA to do a cross reference."
Something twisted in Helena's stomach. The verbalization of her thoughts seemed to make it all more real. She thought the day couldn't get any worse. It pained her to realize she was wrong.
A slight whimper escaped Dinah's throat. Nightmare. That's what it all felt like, a nightmare. One Dinah wanted to end, one way or the other. If she had to do the unthinkable, then she would do it. Anything to end it all.
"You need someone to identify the body. I can do that."
"I can't let you do that." Carl stated.
"So you're going to rely on a DNA test? How long is that going to take, days, weeks? What if it's NOT Charlie?"
"Dinah's right," Alex interjected. "We have to know now, Sheriff. So I'll go."
"Not without me." Dinah huffed.
"No! I'm going."
"Well," Helena piped in. "Looks like we're all going."
"You?" Carl stared at the woman.
"Look at my face, Sheriff." She spat the last word. Pointed towards the purpling marks on her face accusingly. "If you think I'm leaving her alone with him, or that I trust her safety to you, you've got another thing coming."
They walked in silence. Carl led the way. Alex behind him with Dinah and Helena taking the rear. Carl attempted to fill the silence. Relayed how 'the body' had been found. Everything his department and the State Troopers had done. In the end, the silence seemed to overcome him. Words didn't seem enough to lift the feeling of death in the air.
Leaves scrunched under their feet. Along with the occasional silence breaking twig. Helena felt uncomfortable. They weren't walking stealthy enough. Every move seemed an annoyingly loud beacon to whatever darkness lurked in the forest.
She took some solace with Barbara in her ear. The steady breathing. Soft clacking of keyboards on fingers, a security blanket if she wanted to think of it that way.
They'd walked 10 minutes before reaching their destination. It wasn't hard. Yellow police tape circled a small clearing. They passed several hunters talking quietly amongst themselves. Hound dogs on leashes. The animals padded nervously from foot to foot. Projected their unease. Something bad was out there. Could smell it in the air.
A trooper muscled his way past them. Face pale. He took several hurried steps before bending over, vomiting onto the ground.
"Dammit Jesse," Carl barked. "You're puking all over the crime scene."
The young man, Jesse, stood on shaky legs. Embarrassed. He couldn't have been a day older than Helena. His eyes lacked the steely reserve of someone used to the darkness of 'the job'. A rookie, his greenness exacerbated by serving in small town Opal.
Several State Troopers, mixed in with Opal's own, surrounded the clearing. Nervous hands on gun hips, they stood outside the police tape. Each and every one of them stood with their backs to the clearing. Some had the same sickly paleness of Carl and Jesse. They'd seen the show, now were ready to cash in their tickets and call it a day.
"Are you sure?" Carl looked towards Alex then Dinah. Giving them both one last chance to back away.
Helena stepped forward. "I'll go first."
"Helena," Barbara called in her ear. "Use the goggles."
Dinah opened the knapsack hanging from her shoulder, handed the specs to Helena. The view snapped into focus on Barbara's monitor. It wasn't the 3-D visual she was used to, but it would do. Helena's hand waved back and forth.
"You getting this?"
Helena walked towards the police tape, almost casually. Carl Devlin close on her heels. A flash of blue caught her eye. The familiar form of a jacket revealed itself in the brush. It was small, a child's. Tufts of cotton poked through vicious rips and tears.
"It's Charlie's." Carl muttered. He kneeled down, lifted the collar. Charles Redmond stitched into the material.
"Where's the body?"
"Over there." Carl pointed.
Helena swallowed hard. She walked towards a safety orange flag sticking out of the ground. The smell hit her first. Faint, but unmistakable. Blood. She shouldn't have been able to tell the difference between human and animal. She shouldn't have been able to do a lot of things. Didn't change the fact that she could. The scent lingered in her nose. Sharp, metallic.
"Jesus," Barbara muttered in her ear. "Is that what I think it is?"
Flesh. It sat in a neatly arranged little pile, no higher than three inches. There was no other word for it, except maybe meat. Pieces and bits, almost indistinguishable from each other except the basic knowledge that the pile of flesh littering the forest floor used to be a living breathing human.
37 degrees and suddenly it felt like a sauna. Sweat popped onto Helena's brow and it became hard to breathe. She'd seen much in her years. Seen the darkness and pain man could inflict upon man. It was nothing like this. As if in one instance the last of her innocence had been stripped away. She'd seen violence, she'd seen pain. This was carnage. A human being reduced to nothing more than bits and pieces. Her hand shot to her mouth. And then, when her eyes couldn't take anymore and her brain screamed at her to make it stop, Helena turned away.
"Barbara." She stated weakly.
"I'm here." Barbara offered reassuringly. The monitors allowed Barbara a semblance of detachment. It didn't shake the reality. In reverse to Helena, she didn't feel hot. Instead, a cold shiver ran through her body.
Dinah watched her friend. Saw the cold reality of death on her face. She felt a hand clasping around her own. Her father's. They drew strength from each other. She didn't want to love him, or need him. But, she did. Tragedy had a tendency to bring out the best in people, even her father. If she had to draw on his strength to get her through this, she'd sap the man dry.
"Helena?" Dinah called to her friend. Helena offered a weak smile before turning back around. She could hear them, Helena and Barbara, conversing directly to each other. Whether they'd forgotten Dinah could hear them or passed the point of sugar coating their conversations for her, she did not know.
She'd often thought the two spoke code. Particular phrases and words intentionally meant to go over her head. Dinah understood better now. At times like these, the short hand was their 'language'. One of two people so used to working together, they could literally become one.
Helena squatted onto her heels. Tried to lean in close without getting too close. Carl knelt down beside her.
"Has this been moved or touched?" She asked.
"Nope," he shook his head. "Everything's just like we found it. Truth is, everyone's too damn scared to touch it."
Helena glanced around the clearing. From the remains, to the jacket. "This was meant to be found. It's too neat, too perfect. This guy hasn't been caught because he's careful. Look at where we are. There are trails everywhere. 15 minutes from the road."
A spec of white caught Helena's eye. She glanced back at the remains. Her eyes focused on the object, white, hard, half-way embedded in the remains. A tooth. Helena's stomach twitched hard. She quickly stood up, stifling the gag in the back of her throat. Her hand went to her ear, cut off the transmission to Dinah.
"Helena, what is it?" Barbara asked.
"I know what he's doing with the humans," she sucked in a large breath, shuddering reflexively. "They're food."
Dinah could see Helena's lips move, but the words didn't come. She'd been cut off. Again. It felt like she was teetering back and forth between rage and insanity. Dinah threw herself towards rage. She marched towards Helena. Alex grabbed her arm, muscled his way in front of her.
"What are you doing?"
"I have to know. We have to know."
"There's nothing there. If they can't tell.."
"I can." Dinah stated firmly. "If I just touch it."
"No!" Alex gripped her arms, his fingers digging into her flesh. "We'll find another way. Get the DNA tests. Anything but.."
Helena charged towards the man. She didn't know when the urge to hit Alex Redmond became a white hot need, it just did. She grabbed his shoulder, yanked him back until Dinah pulled out of his grasp and spun him around. A leaden fist connected with his jaw. The force tossed Alex onto his back. Hands balled into fists. She could feel Carl rushing behind her, his arms wrapped around her body, trapping her arms, feet temporarily off the ground.
"Don't you EVER touch her again!" She screamed at the man.
"Helena!" Barbara yelled in her ear, practically in symphony with Dinah. The blonde rushed to her father's side.
"Stop it!" She glared at Helena. "He wasn't trying to hurt me!"
Carl grasped tightly to the bucking brunette in his arms. The woman jerked out of his grip with a strength that caught him off guard. "Will someone tell me what the HELL's going on?"
"Nothing." Dinah helped her father to his feet. "We need someone to identify the body. I'm doing it?"
"Dinah," Barbara asked in her ear. "Are you sure?"
"No," She admitted, "But it's the only way to be sure, right?"
Dinah shouldered her way past the three 'adults' firing accusatory glances at each other. Helena walked behind her, maintaining a comfortable distance.
Helena watched the girl. She wasn't sure what had happened between then and now, but Dinah had changed. More mature, more assured. Something seemed as off as the distance she put between herself and Helena. And somehow, Helena couldn't shake the feeling that her status in Dinah's life had changed. Uneasy from the realization of rather than going up, she'd moved down.
A tuft of white caught Dinah's eye. She recognized the coat immediately. Charlie's. She knelt down to the tiny coat. Could imagine her brother in it. Smiling, laughing. The two of them lobbing snowballs at each other. The coat once vibrant and full of life, now tattered, ripped to shreds. Large black red splashes of blood all over it.
Mouth tense. Teeth grinding against each other. Dinah reached for the coat. Could feel her fingers clasp around the material.
A collective hush fell over the scene. They watched and waited. Air thick with anticipation and apprehension.
A howl erupted from Dinah's throat. Not a scream, but a blood curdling howl. One of pain, fear and death. Dinah recoiled from the coat, jerked onto her feet. Hand surreptitiously wiped on her jacket.
Helena reached out to Dinah. Her hand gently placed on her shoulder. Dinah jerked out of her reach, body shuddering.
"Don't touch me!" She choked. Helena jerked her hand back in uncertainty. She wasn't sure what to expect, just knew this wasn't it. Dinah's eyes were wide open in horror. The last drop of blood drained from her face.
"Dinah." Alex cautiously stepped towards his daughter. "Is Charlie.."
"He's alive." Dinah began to giggle. A strained choking laugh. As if it were the only thing she could do to grasp onto the last shred of her sanity. She coughed again, the laughter turning to tears. "He's alive."
She trudged past Helena, past Carl, walked towards her father. Allowed Alex to envelope her in his arms like he used to. Like when she was little. When her father was the biggest bravest man on the planet, and his arms were the safest place on earth.
Alex wrapped his arms around Dinah. Wondered what price they'd have to pay for the return of his son. Wondered if it was too much, the burden too heavy. His eyes pleaded with Devlin, voice barely above a whisper. "We have to get him back Carl."
"I know Alex."
A shiver ran down Helena's spine. In tandem with the hairs on the back of her neck now standing on edge. Her body tensed on instinct. She spun on her heel, faced the dense forest. Her eyes scanned back and forth.
"Barbara." Her voice was hard. Determined.
"What is it?"
A scent in the air. Dank. Musty. Unmistakable. The hound dogs, once docile and silent on their leashes, caught the scent. Growls, barks, whimpers filled the air.
"Barbara." Her eyes changed hue. "He's here."
Whether it was her words, the dogs, or the feeling of dread now palpable in the air, they all tensed. One right after the other, the men pulled their guns. Pointed towards the forest.
A dog jerked from his leash. Rushed into the forest. Carl grabbed its owner. Kept him from chasing after the dog into the forest. They watched, listened. The sounds of barking came from the dense foliage. A yelp cut through the air. Then silence. Suddenly, a black shape exited the forest, arced high above the trees. Landed on the edge of the clearing. The dog, dead, landed with a thud on the grassy floor.
A shape moved.
Gunfire erupted. Nervous, sweaty hands on trigger fingers pulled. Troopers, officers, civil servants fired into the forest. Everyone else, dove to the floor.
Alex pushed his daughter to the ground. Pulled his arms over her head. Carl, still in the center of the melee, did the same out of fear of getting his head blown off.
Helena clutched her hands over her ears. The gunfire exploded her eardrums silencing anything and everything else, including Barbara.
"Hold your fire!" Carl screamed at the men. "Hold your fire!"
Just as quickly as it began, the firing stopped. The gunmen nervously looked around. Thankful to be alive, fearful it was not for long. They could hear footsteps, dozens of people judging by the noise, rushed towards the clearing.
Helena rolled onto her feet. She pressed her hand to her ear, attempting to cut through the ringing of her eardrums.
"Barbara? Barbara, can you hear me?"
"Helena!" She yelled into her microphone. The connection was dead.
Something thumped on the roof of the van. Large, heavy. She grabbed the edge of the desk as the van swayed. Could feel her heart hammering in her chest. There were only two reasons why the van would sway, accidental or intentional. She wasn't taking any chances on an accident.
Barbara grabbed her escrima stick. Clasped it in one hand as her other grabbed a can of mace.
The van began to lurch heavily to one side, tilted on its edge. Metal creaked viscously. She could see the horizon through the windshield, slowly tilting from horizontal to vertical. Barbara leaned down, reached for both straps to her seat belt. Her fingers quickly tried to latch the metal pieces together. Only, it was too late.
The van tipped over. And over. Gravity took over. Pulled the van down the hill, increasing in momentum. Her body tossed inside the tiny room like flotsam. Up, down, left, right, her body flailed about. Computer equipment exploded and hissed. Anything not nailed down flew about the cabin. Thrashed against her body.
"The next person who fires a round is fired!" Carl barked again for good measure, brushing bits of grass off his chest. "Before you shoot someone you don't intend to."
"Barbara?" Helena held the comm close to her ear. People streamed outside the clearing, filled every available space. They seemed to be everywhere, like every last person waiting by the road had streamed into the forest. And then it clicked in her brain. Jolted her system.
Followed closely by faint slivers of fear.
"It's a trap." She stated aloud.
"What?" Carl blinked at her.
"He meant for us to find this," she explained, trying desperately to put the pieces together. "Wanted us to be here."
"I don't hear her." Dinah clutched her ear.
"Oh God," Helena's heart froze. "Barbara."
Throbbing. That's all she could feel. What she could feel. Her head span. She could feel something wet on her forehead. Blood. Dazed and disoriented, Barbara tried to get her bearings. Nothing was like it was before. Up was down and vice versa, except all skewed at an odd angle. Her chair hung from the ceiling. She pushed papers and broken bits of computers off her, trying to find a weapon.
The doors exploded outward. Daylight flooded her eyes, blinding her, then quickly disappeared as a large shape filled the entrance. He grabbed Barbara by the leg and yanked her out of the cab. Pounced on her, quickly pinned her arms by the wrists with his hands. His face hovered over her, sniffed around her. He lifted his head until their eyes met, pupils blazed red, a smile etched across his mouth.
"You smell like her." He growled, the smile still stretching his mouth. "She smells like you."
Helena tore through the crowd. Pushed and shoved anyone in her way. Her wounded chest screamed, bruised legs burned. Still, she ran wildly through the forest, ignored the pain. Cursed her body for not being healthy enough, for not being FAST enough. Branches snapped at her face, tore at her legs. Could hear the others behind her.
The trees parted. A whimper escaped her throat, catching sight a car. She was close. So close. Helena launched herself over the first vehicle in her way. Had to get to the van. Had to get to Barbara.
Helena skidded to a stop. Could see the empty space where the van USED to be. Black skids marks and deep grooves in the dirt led towards the edge of the road, towards the edge of the hill. She ran towards it. Eyes scanned the slope below. A square of white sat at the bottom, leaning against a tree. Frame dented and bowed, the doors to the cab ripped open.
She charged the vehicle. Climbed into the cab. Tossed the broken pieces of equipment over her shoulder. His scent was everywhere. Permeated the van. So was Barbara's. Her heart thumped wildly in her throat, the fear edged ever closer to a state of panic. Despite her best efforts, despite everything, Helena couldn't change the stark cold reality chilling her veins and freezing her soul.
Barbara was gone.
The crowd spilled onto the road. Stood shoulder to shoulder at the edge of the embankment. Stared at the crazy woman howling at the top of her lungs below.
Helena gripped one of the doors to the van. Tore it off the hinges. Tossed it wildly into the forest, not bothering to watch it land 30 feet away. She felt betrayed by her body. Panic pumped through her veins. Legs paced back and forth. Eyes scanned the forest looking for some sign, any sign. She wanted to give chase. To run after him, feel him in her hands as she beat the last breath of life from his body. Except, his scent was everywhere, led in every direction and no where at the same time. Muted the fading scent of Barbara that still clung to her nostrils.
"Son of a bitch!" Helena screamed. Punched her fist into the van, then the other. Her hands a flurry of motion as she beat her frustrations out onto the van, until her bones ached and her knuckles bled.
"Helena!" Dinah tested her mortality. Grabbed Helena by the jacket, flung her around. She pushed herself into Helena's space, grabbed the woman by the jacket collar, slamming her against the van. "HELENA!"
Her eyes darted about wildly as if just by thinking it she could make Barbara rematerialize out of thin air. Dinah clasped her hands onto Helena's face. "Helena!"
"He's got Barbara," Helena choked, pain mixed with anger. "I've got to.. I've got to.."
"You've got to what?" Dinah shook her again. "What can you do Helena? What?"
The insinuation hung in the air. The words stabbed Helena, yanked the wind from her sails. Dinah pressed forward. She'd always known Barbara was what kept Helena grounded, kept her sane. Just never realized how tenuous a grasp until now. "We'll get her back Helena. We'll get them both back."
Helena pulled limply out of Dinah's grasp. She staggered towards the edge of the forest.
"He's got Barbara."
"Lady." A tiny voice cut through the haze. "Lady, wake up. Lady, wake up."
Barbara groaned. Her head throbbed in tandem with other parts of her body. Her eyes shot open as her last memories quickly flooded into her brain. She'd been taken. Taken by Him.
She rose onto her elbows. Ignored the nausea and dizzyness from her bruised skull. The first thing she noticed was the smell. It hit her like a ton of bricks. A combination she didn't want to think too much of for fear of vomiting or passing out.
"You okay?" The voice asked.
"Charlie." Barbara recognized the boy immediately. Had stared so long at his picture it took her a moment to realize she was staring not at a picture but a living breathing lost little boy. "We've been looking for you."
"I figured." He shrugged.
"Your sister's here too."
"Dinah." The boy's eyes lit up. Just as suddenly, he darkened. "You shouldn't 'a done that. I think it's Dinah he wants."
"I know Charlie." Barbara pulled off her jacket, wrapped it around the shivering boy. She pulled him into her arms, felt the small arms wrap around her, clasped tightly to the human contact he'd been denied for more than a week. She stroked the soft hair. "They'll find us, Charlie. They'll find us."
Voices droned in her head. A rising, falling, never ending cacophony of voices, like in some faraway dream. They blended with the thoughts and images swirling around in her head. A soft smile, green eyes, red hair. At this point, Helena felt like she could separate her adult life into two distinct categories with Barbara and without Barbara.
With Barbara was a world of life. The most intense dream, where the colors were vibrant technicolor, sounds crystal clear. Where taste, smell and touch filtered through her various feelings towards the redhead.
Without Barbara was not a dream, but a nightmare. The nightmare world where her feet sunk into ground made of melted marshmellows, clawing and sucking at her feet. Colors subdued in drab gray tones. Where shadows lurched towards her. Darkness whispered in her ear, beckoned with promises of pleasure and betrayals with pain.
Helena didn't know how long she could last in a world without Barbara.
"Loquacious." She muttered aloud.
"What?" Dinah stared at her.
"Nothing." Helena shrugged. It wasn't supposed to mean anything. Just random bits of information that floated around her brain. Something to grasp at. Intangible nonsense.
Helena winced. Suddenly aware of her surroundings. She was in a house. The Redmond's, she ascertained. Helena couldn't remember when they arrived, how long she'd been there, or, Hell, why she was there. She just was.
A small crowd filled the room. Some she recognized. Carl. Alex. The others were unfamiliar faces. All whose eyes fell upon her in that way people tried to do when they didn't want to seem like they were staring.
She sat in an easy chair. The soft well worn cushions threatened to swallow her whole as she sank into the chair. Dinah knelt by her legs. The current source of her wincing. The blonde dabbed at her bloodied knuckles. Her touch wasn't like Barbara's, soft, gentle, fingers grazing across her skin in a way that was quietly erotic. Helena hated to admit it, but, before she and Barbara became lovers, she sometimes intentionally injured herself. Anything to feel those soft fingers against her skin. Even if the sensation caused her skin to burn, and her insides to coil so tight in sexual frustration she thought she'd explode. Went to sleep with thoughts of red hair, skin, sweat and moans.
A scream echoed in her brain. The voice distinctly Barbara's. Images flashed behind her eyes. Barbara. A man in a hooded coat. Claws. Blood. Death. Green eyes staring at her. Pleading with her.
Helena bit her tongue. Hard. Until she tasted blood. Cleared the thoughts of Barbara from her head. She felt a familiar hand on her shoulder, a lone friend in a sea of strangers. Helena opened her eyes, head tilted towards the familiar face of Alfred.
"I'm sorry," she whispered.
"It's not your fault."
"You're just saying that to make me feel better."
"You're right," he smiled softly. "There? Feel better?"
A hush fell over the room. Sarah Redmond made her entrance. It suddenly occurred to Helena, she'd never actually seen the woman. Dinah didn't have any pictures of her adopted family. No mementos of her former life adorned her walls, or frames, or the small snapshots people kept.
The woman wasn't like anything Helena expected. Then again, she wasn't sure what to expect, but, this wasn't it. Soft brown hair fell about the woman's shoulders. Brown eyes with alabaster skin and a softly angular face. If anything, Sarah Redmond looked slightly out of place amongst the rural folk of Opal.
Sarah also walked with a limp. A cane in her right hand to support the stiffened leg.
"Dinah?" The woman's voice trembled slightly. Despite her regal features she looked understandably haggard.
Dinah rose to her feet immediately. Ever since she'd returned to Opal, Dinah had felt torn. Torn between the two families she desperately needed love and approval from. She couldn't escape the intangible pull of the familiar, of the family who'd known her for half her life. A family, even despite the dark past they all shared, she still loved.
"Mom?" She rushed over to the woman, threw herself into the open embrace.
"I missed you so much," Sarah choked back her tears. The two walked towards the couch, Dinah helping the woman take her seat.
"I wanted to come before, really, I did, I just.."
"It's okay," she smoothed the blonde strands from Dinah's forehead. "I know."
Helena wasn't quite so forgiving. "What are we doing here?"
Alex moved away from the wall. He stepped towards the couch, keeping a wary eye on the brunette. "You said you wanted to know the truth. It's time."
Sarah took both of Dinah's hands, clasped them in her own. "I don't know where to begin. I, we just want you to understand. I mean, I was born and raised in Philadelphia. Until I met your father, I was a died in the wool city girl, went to Dartmouth, believed in facts and science and.."
Helena cut her off. "This is all really beautiful but could you cut to the chase here."
"Helena!" Dinah hissed at her. Helena snarled slightly. Leaned back in her chair, elbow on the armrest, chin on her hand.
"What I'm trying to say is," Sarah continued. "I'm not one for superstitions or ghost stories or anything of that sort. People don't take too kindly to strangers or outsiders around here. So, when I first heard of the Harvest and the 'tales', I just thought it was small town nonsense, you know, urban legends gone a bit too far. But I figured, why cause waves."
"Then you came along," she pressed her hand to Dinah's cheek, stroked it softly. "My beautiful little girl. And things started to happen and we realized you were special. I didn't understand why your father was so skittish around you. Why he would get so.. angry. Then the beatings started.."
Sarah turned her head, face red with shame. Alex lowered his head slightly. "Do you remember when you were 8? When I tried to take you away from here?"
Dinah nodded her head. The images came slowly into her brain, faint gossamer tendrils from some faraway dream. "You were gonna take us away. Me and Charlie."
"Yes, I couldn't take it anymore. Your father was talking nonsense. But, I was your mother and I did what I thought was right. Then we were attacked. I guess I should have shown you this a long time ago." Sarah turned her back to Dinah, lifted her shirt above her stomach. Four long gashes stretched across her back. Dinah reached out her hand, quickly pulling it back towards her. She resisted the urge to touch the scars.
"He.. it did this to me. Broke my hip."
Dinah stared at Alex. "I thought it was you."
"I know." Alex sighed. "My brother, Charles, he was like you. He could make himself go places. One minute you were in a room alone, the next, there he was," Alex smiled softly as he remembered. "My father told him to stop. Told us the Bogeyman would get Charlie if he kept on. But he was too old to believe in the Bogeyman, and too young to recognize the limits of his own mortality. And just like that, my father's warning came true. It snatched him away. For awhile, the memories started to fade and I thought maybe what I'd seen wasn't real. And then you came to us. And I didn't mean to hurt you, didn't want to hurt you. But I knew if you didn't stop he'd come for you."
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"How do you tell a child the Bogeyman's real? And that he wants to kill you?"
"So," Helena snorted, "You thought you could save her by beating the crap out of her?"
"Shut up, Helena!" Dinah glared at the brunette.
"What would you have done?" Alex asked. "You've seen what we're up against! What it can do. You think people haven't tried to kill it? They've been trying for years. Since before I was born. If getting Dinah to stop using her powers kept her ALIVE.. I did what I had to do."
Helena smirked. "Yeah, great parenting skills, I'm sure Dr. Spock would be proud."
"Helena," Dinah stood from the couch, facing the woman. "That's enough!"
"You're right, it is enough. I've had it up to here. Barbara's missing, your brother's missing, and all you people want to do is have a dysfunctional family reunion."
"He's my father, he was trying to protect me!"
"What? By beating the crap out of you." Helena snorted. "Some father."
"Yeah, because yours is such a prince. At least I know where to find mine."
Helena jerked out of her chair. "Don't you start with me!"
"And don't you tell me how to feel!"
Alfred stepped between the two women. Placed his hands on Helena's arms. "Helena, this isn't helping."
"You're goddamn right this isn't helping," she glared at Dinah. Her voice filled with rage and venom. She jabbed a finger at Dinah accusingly. "We did every thing for you. Everything! And now Barbara's.."
Her voice trailed off. Helena pulled out of Alfred's grasp. She walked to her chair, grabbing her jacket.
"Where are you going?" Dinah called after her. Could already feel the weight of her words pressing down on her shoulders.
"I'm leaving. You.." She gave a passing glance at the scene. The Redmonds, all of them. A vague sickly feeling in her stomach. "You do what you want."
Barbara squinted her eyes, tried to adjust to the subdued darkness of the room. They were underground, a basement of some sort. Tiny slivers of light spilled from cracks in the ceiling, created even darker shadows to the room.
She could hear him thumping about softly. He walked back into the room, his arms loaded with chunks of wood, dropping them to the floor. He flickered a lighter in his hand. Proceeded to wander about the room lighting various sized candles.
He no longer wore the coat, or a shirt. The light played off the chiseled features of his back and chest. Blond hair, caked with mud and dirt, cascaded past his shoulders. Obscured his face. She expected him to look monstrous. But, there was a certain plainness about his features. Aside from being above average in size, he appeared, at least superficially, human.
"What's your name?" She asked. He stopped, his hand still on the lighter. His head tilted slightly, like a child's when he's curious. "My name's Barbara. What's yours?"
"Meat doesn't talk." His voice graveled.
"This meat does. And I prefer it if you call me by my name. Like I'd prefer to call you by yours."
He walked towards the cage. Charlie pulled out of Barbara's arms, scurried until his back was against the wall.
"It's okay, Charlie. He's not going to hurt us. He needs us. Isn't that right?"
He knelt close to the cage. His hand whipped out, grabbed a handful of Barbara's shirt and yanked her towards the bars. His face moved all about, sniffing around her. She watched as his eyes changed, pitch black to a dull deep red. He released his hold, sat cross legged in front of her.
"Jonah," His eyes returned to their normal color. "My name's Jonah."
A slight breeze cascaded across the field. A temporary reprieve from the hot summer sun baking anything not in the shade. Dinah stood under the large oak tree, hands in her jeans, shifting nervously from foot to foot.
Across the street, several children squealed playing under the sprinkler. She watched as Charlie darted back and forth under the spray. He stopped at the edge of the yard. His eyes went wide as he saw his sister on the other side of the street.
"Dinah!" He yelled at the top of his lungs, running towards her.
"Hey! You forgot to look both ways." She huffed in disapproval.
"No one was coming," he beamed. His eyes went to the duffel bag resting next to Dinah's feet. The bright smile quickly faded. "You're leaving aren't you?"
"I have to Charlie, if I don't they'll send me to that place."
"Will I see you again?"
"Of course you will. You're my little brother." Dinah reached into her pocket, pulling out a silver chain. "Here, I want you to have this."
"What is it?" He clasped the tiny silver medal in his fingers, stared at the symbols on it.
"My mom, my real mom, she gave that to me. It's the medal of Saint Christopher. She said if I was ever lost, he'd help me get back home. I want you to have it."
"But what if you get lost?"
"Then I guess you'll just have to help me find my way home, won't you?" She wrapped her arms around him, held him tight. "I love you Charlie."
Dinah stared at the necklace in her hand. Fought with every fiber of her being to see something, feel something other than her own memories.
Except, her powers were gone. Like that part of her brain had shut itself off. Protected itself from any more assaults. Even the visions of before, the memories, seemed to be locked away.
"Anything?" Alex stared at her.
"No," Dinah exhaled in frustration. "Nothing."
"It's okay. We'll find another way." They sat in silence. A strange tension in the air. For once, Dinah didn't feel afraid in her father's presence.
"I'm sorry." Alex sighed. "For what I did."
"I hated you."
"And I don't think I can ever forgive you, or forget, or if I'll even be able to understand why you did what you did." Dinah reached out, clasped her hand around Alex's. Remembered when her father's hands used to look huge, seemed huge, now, he seemed so small, so human. "But, you're my father, and I still love you."
His face contorted as he tried to hold back the tears welling his eyes. Sisyphus finally given reprieve from holding the weight of the world.
"Are you going to stay here tonight?"
"I can't. I have try and help Helena." She sighed deeply. "She's a good person, Dad. Right now, she needs me."
Helena sat on the edge of the bed, elbows on her knees, face in her hands. Her fingers dug into her scalp. Worried against the flesh, dangerously close to ripping her scalp open. Everything hurt. Incomparable to the empty raw aching pain inside.
She'd even tried to call upon the rage within her. A knee-jerk response she fell back on because it was easy, something she understood. Dinah had seemed an easy target. Something to direct her anger towards, to make her focus. Even that had been an empty gesture. The rage subsided, exposing the hollow blackness from within. The hollow blackness Barbara used to fill.
Used to. Her body shivered at the thought. Soon followed by the nightmare images that had flooded her brain the moment she realized Barbara had been taken. Along with thoughts of pale wrists and sharp razor blades, pills chased with whiskey, or a simple gunshot to the temple.
She felt the bed dip slightly. A hand gently placed onto her back, rubbed soft consolatory circles. Alfred sighed slightly.
"Not her," Helena finally spoke. "It was never supposed to be her. She's the brains. I'm the brawn. I'm the one who's supposed to be disposable."
"I think Miss Barbara would beg to differ."
Helena retreated into silence. The words and images still intermingling in her thoughts. Everything seemed to be in there. As if every thought, every memory flooded into her consciousness. Overloaded even the simplest of tasks, like breathing. Twisted and spun, danced wildly near the edge of sanity. One misstep and she would be gone.
"I can't beat him, Alfred," she sighed in resignation.
"Of course you can't. You've already given up. And if you do, then everything Miss Barbara has taught you has been in vain."
"Don't you get it Alfred, it's always been in vain. I'm not like Barbara. I'm not even like my father."
Her life seemed to flash before her eyes. Large blinking signs at every cross road in her life. Signs that said she was meant to be alone. A bad seed bringing death and destruction to everything she touched.
"He'd know what to do, wouldn't he?" She lifted her head, gazed into the old man's eyes. "Do you know where he is?"
"I'm sorry, Miss Helena, I don't."
She sank her head back into her hands. Her shoulders sagged defeated.
"I can't lose her, Alfred." The words choked from her throat. Followed by tears. The emotions, corked tightly inside her, exploded from within. Until the tears felt like a flood, drawing from a well of pain called her soul. "Please God, don't let me lose her."
Alfred pulled her into his arms. Rocked her back and forth, shushed and cooed her. "You'll find her." He said the words. Even though in his heart, he didn't quite believe them himself.
Jonah stared at the strange woman behind the bars. She was strange for 'meat'. Meat didn't talk, or ask questions. Meat begged, pleaded, screamed. Oozed fear from their pores. Cowered and simpered. But this one, this Barbara. She wasn't afraid.
He sat across from her, cross legged. His chin propped on his hand. Sometimes he answered the questions that poured from her mouth. Other times, he just sat and stared. Tried to figure out the broken woman who did not fear.
"How long have you been here, Jonah?"
"Is it just you, or have there been others?" Barbara sat at the back of the cage. Charlie huddled in her arms. The boy's eyes glued to the man sitting in front of them.
"There was my.. father. And his father.. before him."
"What about your mother?"
"No mother.. Women always too weak.. Always die."
"Then why do you take them?"
"Why not?" He asked, slightly surprised at the question. "It's what I must do.. to survive. Must make more.. of me."
"You want a child?" Barbara shouldn't have been surprised at the frankness of his answer. It had seemed a theory before. That maybe he was trying to reproduce. But, it could just as easily been the reaction of a man aroused by violence. Something she wasn't necessarily unfamiliar with.
"Yes. I must survive. Like my father.. like before."
"And that's why you took Charlie. You knew if you took Charlie, Dinah would come looking for him."
"Yes," his eyes lit up. Went from pitch black to a dull red. "She is..special. Strong.. but not yet. Watched her.. waited.. for her to be ready..then she left."
"Except, it's not just Dinah who came back. That's why you took me? To get to Helena."
"Helena." The word rolled off his tongue in dazed manner. He gripped the bars, pulled himself closer. "Yes. Helena. She's.. strong.. very strong.." Jonah closed his eyes, inhaled deeply. "Can smell her on you.. Smell Helena.. Want Helena.."
He growled, low and menacing. His hands gripped the bars tighter, eyes blazed red. Barbara could see the adrenaline pumping through his system. His muscles flexed, quivered with every inhale. He snuffed and snorted around the bars.
Suddenly, his hand shot through the bars. Chest pressed against the metal, they bowed inward. His reach surprisingly long, he grabbed Barbara by the leg. Charlie yelped. His hands dug into Barbara's shirt in a futile game of tug of war. Jonah pulled her towards him. Hands clawed at her, until they were face to face. She thought he was enraged, but as she stared into his eyes, realized it was something else. Jonah was in heat. As if just the scent, the very thought of Helena, had thrown him into a sexual frenzy.
"Jonah!" She yelled at him. "JONAH!!"
Jonah snapped to. His eyes regained focus. He glared at the woman staring at him through the bars.
"You hurt me and she won't come. She won't come if I'm dead Jonah."
Jonah growled, pushed Barbara back as he released his grip. He grabbed a piece of wood. Tossed it wildly against the wall, then disappeared into the blackness.
Barbara scooted towards the back of the cage. Charlie immediately at her side. He looked up at the woman. "Can you stop talking to him now?"
Barbara exhaled, wrapped an arm around Charlie's shoulders. "Yeah, I think that's enough talking for today."
A soft tapping noise filled the air. Her ears concentrated on the noise, pulled her from the soft veil of unconsciousness. It had been a dream. A horrible, terrible dream. Helena's eyes snapped open. She jumped out of the bed, rushing into the living room. Heart stuck in her throat, she skidded to a stop.
The blonde sat in front of the computer, in Barbara's place. Fingers tapped the keys. Eyes glued to the screen. The air rushed out of Helena's lungs, reality crashed all around her. She walked deeper into the room.
"What are you doing here?"
Dinah jumped slightly at the sound of Helena's voice, head whipped around in surprise. "I came to help."
"Oh." Helena stood several paces away from the blonde, arms folded across her chest. Suddenly feeling uncomfortable in the girl's presence.
"Did you find anything?"
"No, not really. Barbara always said, when in doubt, research."
Helena stepped behind Dinah. Stood there staring at the back of Dinah's head, unsure what to say. "About earlier, I was a bitch. I'm sorry."
"It's okay," Dinah shrugged. "I shouldn't have said what I did."
"Nah, I did what I always do, I push. You've just gotten better at pushing back."
Dinah could feel the woman step closer. Her body stiffened, unsure what to expect. They'd made up, she thought, but the tension still hung in the air. Suddenly, she felt Helena's arms wrap around her shoulders. The brunette planted a kiss on the top of her head.
"Thank you." Helena whispered into her ear.
"For not getting back on a bus to Opal when I told you to. For being you."
"Lot of good that does us." Still uncertain from the random act of kindness Helena displayed towards her.
"Don't sell yourself short kid. I don't know what I would have done if you hadn't been here. And would you take a goddamn compliment when it's given to you? I don't get this mushy very often." Helena pushed Dinah's head playfully. Then stepped away from her, giving them both some space. "Have you found anything?"
"Not really," Dinah sighed. "Just the same old, same old. That's all we know."
"We know more than that. He wants two things, food and a mate."
"Since when did we know he was looking for a mate?"
Helena ignored her question. "Have we gotten the DNA results from Bludhaven?"
"No, do you think we'll need Nightwing?"
Helena's mouth clamped shut. The mention of Barbara's former boyfriend sent a wave of tension right to her brain. Her fingers on her temples, she attempted to massage the tension headache throbbing behind her eyes. She found herself staring at the large map of Missouri hanging from the wall. Barbara had placed red pushpins indicating every disappearance they'd come across. A large patch of red surrounded Opal, blacked out the four surrounding counties.
"Helena?" Dinah stared at the woman. "HELENA!"
"Can you print me a map?"
"We already have a map." Dinah pointed towards the one hanging on the wall.
"No, I need it bigger."
"How big?" Dinah searched for the map on the hard drive.
"Big. Alfred, get in here," Helena hustled into the living room. Began sliding the furniture across the floor. "I need your help."
"Miss Barbara?" She heard the tiny voice in her ear. "Miss Barbara, you asleep?"
Barbara's eyes shot open. She didn't know when she'd dozed off. Actually surprised that she could doze off. "No, I'm not asleep."
"Liar." Charlie managed a half-grin.
"Well, if you knew I was asleep then why'd you ask?" She smiled at him. Her eyes searched the darkened room. "Where's Jonah?"
"Does he do that a lot?"
"Depends," Charlie shrugged. "He goes out sometimes in the day, but not for very long. Mostly goes out at night."
Barbara pulled herself towards the bars. Tested their strength with her hands. They were old, but sturdy. Probably taken from an old jail cell. Where Jonah found bars from an old jail cell was totally beyond her. She wouldn't be surprised if he'd just carried the entire cell on his back.
"This would be so much easier if I knew where we were." She muttered to herself.
Charlie scooted closer to the woman, his voice barely above a whisper. "I know where we are."
Alfred and Dinah watched. They'd printed the pages, over a hundred of them. Each a piece of the map blown up in size, one page equal to about roughly ten square miles. Each page marked with red dots equaling a kidnapping, a post-it note with a name and date pinned next to the dot. Helena laid the pages down on the floor. The city of Opal the center of the room. Until the entire living room floor was nothing more than a giant map of the state of Missouri.
She paced back and forth. Her eyes darted back and forth, going from one red dot to the next. Trying to connect them.
"What are you looking for?" Dinah asked.
"A pattern. These are his hunting grounds. Every hunter has a den, some place they go to rest, to plan. He has to take them somewhere."
"But everything's so random."
"To us, yes, and some of it is. People in the wrong place at the wrong time. But see the concentration of kidnappings. He doesn't like to go far. Doesn't feel comfortable on anyplace that isn't his turf. Where he can't go to ground.." Helena's voice trailed off.
"Helena, what is it?"
"Gimme the marker," Dinah handed the pen to her. "Do you remember where we found Charlie's coat?"
"Yeah, about 10 minutes northeast of town. By that road there."
Helena crouched to the floor, placed a red dot on the corresponding point. The Redmond's farm lay directly on the opposite end of town. "Do you remember when we went to your house? The first time I ran into him. It felt like he was luring me into the woods. The same thing happened the other night. He was luring me onto his turf. He was luring me north."
Helena quickly stood up. She stared at the red dots on the map. Had attempted to line them up. It wasn't the space with the most dots on it that caught her eye, it was the one with the least amount of dots. A small patch of white just north of town. With the map on the wall, it would be indistinguishable. Lost among the dozens of tiny red push pins, but blown up, it stood out like a sore thumb.
"What's there?" Helena pointed towards the empty space on the map.
"That's easy, the zipper factory."
"You gotta be fucking kidding me?" She stared at the girl. "The zipper factory?"
"Oh my God."
"He's been here all along," Alfred added.
"You said it yourself, the entire town works there. He could watch any of them, and they wouldn't even know it because he was right under their noses the entire time," Helena could feel her heart pumping in her chest. She clung to the tiny morsel of hope, pulled it close to her. "Call Devlin, tell him to get his ass over her right now. And I want a map of the factory, blueprints, anything you can find." Helena marched towards the door, her hand instinctively going for her jacket.
"Wait, where are you going?" Dinah followed on her heels. They seemed to have done a complete 180, only she didn't know which direction they'd been headed before, and she certainly had no clue now.
"I'm going to get some weapons. I have a plan."
"I'm going to give him what he wants," she paused at the door, giving one last passing glance before exiting. "Me."
Samuel Glenn chewed the well worn toothpick in his mouth. His fingers scratched the stubble on his chin. He'd seen a lot in his 58 years on this earth. 35 spent as owner and manager of the Opal Gun Store. It needed no further embellishing on the title. It was a gun store, after all, plain and simple, just like Samuel.
All that came to a crashing halt the moment he met Helena Kyle. He'd heard about the woman the Redmond girl had moved in with. Heard the whispers and gossip about her 'interesting' choice in fashion and less than desirable attitude.
She'd barreled into the store 30 minutes before closing, asked about every weapon Samuel had in stock, and some he didn't.
He stared at her questioningly. Any reservations lulled the moment she pulled out the largest wad of cash he'd seen in his life.
She wasn't interested in guns, or sales pitches, or anything to dissuade her from purchasing the weapons currently laid out neatly on the counter. No, Helena Kyle wanted knives, lots of knives. The bigger and sharper, the better.
"I want that one too." She pointed to the dagger with head. Her hands busy strapping on the weapons he handed to her. Two strapped to each ankle, one to each thigh. Samuel handed her the dagger, Helena tucked it behind her back.
"You plannin' to go to war?"
"Something like that. Those too."
Throwing knives. Approximately 3 inches in length. 5 in all, neatly tucked into a leather bracer that strapped around the wrist. Helena bought two.
"And the sword."
"You want the sword?" This was beginning to border on the ridiculous, and Sam was beginning to wonder about seller culpability. Helena was a woman who knew her weapons, and looked like she knew how to use them. Sam opened the glass cabinet, pulled the 30 inch broad sword off the velvet lining.
Helena hated weapons. Considered herself to be one. Whatever genetic coding had been passed down from her parents, one thing was obvious, she was made to fight. Weapons were useless to her. Most were accessories carried by criminals too stupid to fight any other way. A cheap shot enlisted to create fear. But, there were the other weapons, the ones Helena specifically sought. Weapons that took time, needed training and skill. Until the weapon became an extension of the user, rather than vice versa. Weapons, Helena was born for. Helena hefted the sword in her hand, felt the weight of it. "And a sharpening stone."
Samuel turned to the cabinets behind him.
"Is that what I think it is?" Helena's eyes lit up.
"Yes it is," Sam hurriedly closed the cabinets. "And they're not for sale."
Helena waved the wad of cash in her hand. "Haven't you heard? The customers always right, if not, there's a ton more where these came from."
"Your move." Barbara cocked an eyebrow at the boy. Charlie sat cross legged, his elbows on his knees. Mouth pursed in concentration as he stared at the grid drawn on the floor. Even with dirt smudged all over his face, the fear paling his features, Charlie was such a doppleganger for Dinah, Barbara began to doubt the two didn't share DNA.
Charlie drew a circle in the top left corner of the grid. He tilted his head up towards her expectantly, waiting for her next move. Barbara stared at the grid. She's already calculated more combinations in her head than Charlie could probably count, but this game wasn't for her, it was for him. She drew an 'x' in the top center row, ignoring the obvious block of Charlie's two circles.
The boy completed his move, adding a third circle to his line.
"Darn," Barbara smiled, "You did it again."
"You're letting me win."
"I am not," Barbara protested.
"Yes, you are. I can tell. Dinah looks the same when she'd let me win. Besides, old people are always doing stuff like that, letting kids win."
"I'm old huh?"
"Not really," the boy blushed, not meaning to offend the older woman.
"How old do you think I am?"
"I don't know." Charlie shrugged. "Twenty two."
"Charlie, when this is over, I think I'm gonna have to marry you."
"And why not?" Barbara raised an eyebrow at the boy's refusal.
"I already have a girlfriend."
Barbara couldn't contain the laugh in her throat. It felt like she hadn't laughed in years. Charlie blushed harder, embarrassed as he shrugged. Barbara leaned over to the boy, planted a kiss on his head before ruffling the short blond locks.
"What was that for?"
"For being you, Charlie." She returned to her seat. Erased the grid then drew a new one. "It's your turn."
A growl cut through the air. Jonah entered the room. Charlie stiffened at the sight of the man. Jonah tore off his jacket, tossed it to the floor.
The plan had been simple. Wait until Jonah left, then find some way to send a signal to Helena, anyone outside. He hadn't stayed gone for long, maybe ten minutes, Barbara estimated. She'd continued playing her game with Charlie, anything to keep the boy's mind off their current predicament. But, she could feel Jonah's eyes on them, predatory, dangerous. A change in the man's demeanor and Barbara knew, it was time to alter her plans.
Jonah paced back and forth. Glared at the two in the cage. His hands flexed into fists, curled and uncurled, trying to release the tension in his body.
"Jonah, what's wrong?"
"Hungry." The man hissed. The word sent a chill down Barbara's spine.
"Well, go hunt. Find an animal or something."
"Don't want animal.. Want meat." He glared at Charlie, his eyes taking on a pulsating red glare. Charlie whimpered, scampered behind Barbara. She placed her arm protectively in front of the boy.
"You remember what I said Jonah. She won't come if you hurt us."
"No, you said.. she won't come.. if I hurt you.. Not the boy."
"It's the same thing, Jonah, you hurt Charlie and you're hurting me. She won't come."
"She'll come.. I want Helena.. Helena want Barbara.. She'll come." Jonah walked towards the cage, crouched until he was eye level. His hands gripped the bars, the metal creaked inward slightly. His eyes glued to Barbara's. "If not.. I eat."
"Are there any questions?" Helena stared at the small crowd of men and women gathered before her, State troopers, Opal Police, and civilians, all armed to the teeth. Her own private army. She'd weeded out the weaker elements, those people, while well meaning in their intentions, were wholly unprepared for what she had planned. Had seen the blood drain from faces as the realization of what they were about to do dawned on them.
As big as her aversion to all things police related, she needed them most. They were trained for this, life and death, placing duty above self preservation.
"Here." Helena handed the small ear piece to Sheriff Devlin. "Keep this on at all times. We'll be in constant communication. Keep them in check, Sheriff, this may be our only chance."
Carl moved close to her. His voice barely above a whisper. "Are you sure you can beat him?"
"This isn't about winning. It's about buying time to rescue Barbara and Charlie."
He nodded, placed the piece into his ear. He turned towards the crowd. They'd allowed the 'outsider' to relay her plans, but, in their minds, Carl was the one in charge. "All right now, you heard the woman, let's get moving."
The crowd quickly dispersed, heading out the hotel. Dinah hovered near the back. Helena grabbed her arm, pulled her back.
"Dinah, hold on." Helena reached into her pocket, pulled out a tiny piece of paper. She handed it to the girl. "Here, take this."
"What is it?"
"It's Dick Grayson's personal number. If anything happens to me.."
"What do you mean 'happens to you'?" She wasn't stupid, she could read between the lines. Just didn't like the words coming from Helena's lips.
"I mean, if I can't beat him, Dick may be our last hope."
"This isn't a suicide mission, Helena. Helena?" She stared into the icy blue eyes, tried to read the woman's thoughts. Tried desperately to call on her powers, anything to dissuade the fear chilling her veins.
"The world needs more people like you. Don't ever change, kid." For the first time, Helena understood what Carolyn Lance meant. There was a price to pay for fighting on the side of good. No matter the good intentions, it deadened the soul with the never ending pain and suffering that should be left to the worst nightmares, wistfully ignored like a bad dream. Helena had long ago lost that childlike naiveté, if she ever had it to begin with. Despite everything Dinah had been through, it was still there shining behind her eyes. Helena smiled, tilted her head slightly. She pressed her hand against Dinah's cheek, leaned in and softly kissed her on the lips. Planted another on Dinah's forehead. With that, the veil returned and her eyes turned steely cold.
The chair was old, weathered. Wood chipped and rotten, creaked with every flicker of movement. It added to the eerie sound cutting through the air. Jonah sat in the chair, a large machete in his hand, grazing the blade smoothly across the sharpening stone. The sound of metal scraping across oil and stone sent a shiver down Barbara's spine.
He sat on the other side of the room. A leery smile plastered on his lips. His eyes glued to the two people across from him.
Barbara knew it was all a show. Something he put on to illicit fear from his victims, to prolong the torture. Truth was, it worked. She sat trapped in a cage, no where to run (if she could) and no where to hide. A terrified little boy in her arms, and if she didn't do anything, would probably bear witness to his death.
The blade stopped. Jonah took the sharpening stone, tossed it onto the floor. It skidded to a stop inches from the cage. He stood from the chair, walked smoothly across the room. The machete tapping against his thigh.
There were two zipper factories in Opal. The second was a monument to the wonders of technology. Built in 1978, a vision of glass, steel and brick. Opal's stamp on the world. The building rested the grounds of a large field that overlooked the town.
The second factory lay on the same grounds, near the edge of the forest. Built in 1923, it had withstood floods, the elements, the occasional twister. But, it couldn't overcome a disgruntled former employee with a grudge to bear and a can filled with gasoline.
A desiccated skeleton of brick and steel rose from the ground. The pale moon cast an eerie glow over the building, giving the structure life where it would seem to have none. Even with her advanced vision, Helena couldn't peer through the dark shadows dripping off the broken machinery and fractured walls.
She wandered about the grounds. Inspected them, memorized every nook and cranny into memory. His scent hovered in the air, faint, light and unmistakable. She'd found his turf. Helena pulled the sword attached to her back from its sheath. Stabbed it into the ground, the hilt swayed from the force.
It was time.
Dinah crouched low on the edge of the factory grounds. Hid behind a slab of broken fence. Her night vision goggles cast everything in a greenish tint. She could see Helena wandering around the empty lot. Heart thumping wildly in her chest, she sat and waited.
The crunch of leaves behind her erupted in her ears. Dinah pulled the handgun tucked in her pants, hands surprisingly steady as she twisted and pointed.
"Dinah!" Alex gasped.
"Jesus Christ, you scared the crap out of me!" She whispered huskily.
"What are you doing here?"
"I'm here to help."
"I don't need your help, Dad."
"You say that now," he crawled closer to the fence. "I failed to protect you once, I'm not going to do it again."
She nodded begrudgingly. Hated to admit, even internally, she was glad for the assistance, and moral support.
"Hey! Meta-Bubba!" Helena screamed into the darkness. "Here Bubba, Bubba, Bubba!"
Hearts pumping in their chests, Barbara and Charlie pressed their bodies against the wall. Tried to put as much distance between themselves and the man tightening his hands around the metal bars.
Jonah's head whipped to the side. He tilted it slightly in curiosity. The smile on his face broadened. He released his grip on the cage, bounded towards the door. Just like that, he was gone.
"Barbara?" Charlie whimpered.
Dinah peered through the slats of the fence. She could hear something stirring in the distance. Gravel and earth sliding, scraping against each other.
"Helena?" Dinah spoke into her comm set.
A door. That's what it was. Flat against the ground, buried under dirt and mud, indistinguishable until opened. She saw a shape emerge. Him. He rose from the ground, smooth and deliberate, like a ghost, or a demon.
Helena sneered. Fists curled into balls on instinct. Muscles tensed, then relaxed, the calm before the storm.
"Helena," Jonah hissed. "You come.. for Barbara."
"I've come for them both," she paced back and forth, smoothly, slowly, drawing him towards her. "I know what you want. And I'm willing to give it to you."
He stepped closer. "You'll give yourself to me?"
"Hold on there Bubba, it ain't that easy. I have a deal for you." Two more steps back. "A little wager, we fight, and if I win, I get Barbara and the boy."
"And if I win?"
"You get me." The excitement seemed to roll off his body. His eyes pulsated brighter.
Jonah lunged towards her, rushed with a speed uncanny for a man his size. Helena anticipated it, rolled out of his reach, tumbling in the dirt. She crouched on her feet, sprung into the air, planted both feet into his chest. The blow knocked him off balance, whipped the air from his lungs. Helena pulled a knife from her boot, spun on her heel, jammed the blade into his forearm.
Jonah howled at the rush of pain in his arm. Backhanded the woman. Watched as Helena sailed into the air.
Dinah tried not to watch. Knew it was better not TO watch. But she couldn't help it. Everything in her screamed to help her friend. Helena was getting pummeled. Her body whipped back and forth, took the blows the man delivered.
"Dinah," her father called to her, "Let's go."
Barbara rushed towards the bars, pushed her arm through the cage. A piece of wood had fallen on the floor. Her fingers grazed the edge, Barbara desperate to grab the stick. Charlie scampered next to her, eyes wide with fear, his survival instincts kicked into full gear.
"What are you doing?" he whispered.
"Take off your shirt." She grunted, squeezing her shoulder through the bars. "Dip it into the water, get it totally wet."
Charlie did as he was told, yanked the flannel shirt from his body, saturating it in the water dish.
A finger scraped the edge of the stick. Barbara exhaled, shrank her chest, she just needed a little more room. She tried not to smile as she felt her fingers touching the wood. Luck seemed to smile on her, the wood tilted slightly, rolled into her grasp. She grabbed it, pulled her body back into the cage.
"Give it here." Charlie handed the shirt to her. She rung the extra water out, twisted the shirt into a rope. Pulled it around two of the bars, then tied the ends around the wood. Quickly, she twisted the make shift torque, turned the wood until the shirt squeezed around the bars.
"What are you doing?"
"I'm getting you out of here."
The door was heavy. Very heavy, Dinah and Alex tried desperately to pull it open. The dirt added more weight than either could lift, especially without an obvious handle to hold onto.
"We'll have to dig." Dinah groaned in frustration. They both dropped to their knees, hands clawing at the muddied earth.
"Aren't you glad I followed you?" Alex offered dryly.
Stars. That's all Helena could see. Lots and lots of shiny, sparkly stars. He'd smacked her with another backhand. Her body lifted off the ground, smacked into a wall. The momentum pushed her through the bricks. She thudded heavily onto a pile of bricks, parts of the wall crumbled on top of her. Something snapped, definitely another broken bone to add to her collection.
"Helena?" She could hear a voice in her head, male, the slightest sense of confusion trying to pinpoint the source of the voice. What was she doing in the middle of the night lying on a pile of bricks? She could see a shape charging towards her through her blurred vision. Everything snapping back into focus, Helena rolled off brick pile just as the man leapt on top of them.
"NOW!" She screamed.
Lights. Dozens of them flickered on in unity. The man illuminated in a sea of headlights. He howled. Defiantly. Growled at the dozens of people shadowed behind the lights.
They watched and waited. Carl squinted through his scope, the tension in his body drained as he concentrated on the man. 30 eyes, 30 guns, one target.
The bars creaked, groaned as Barbara applied more pressure. They bowed inward, opening more space between the bars. Charlie pressed himself against the bars, squeezed through the opening.
A breath of relief passed across Barbara's lips as the boy passed through the bars. Charlie turned to her, a slight smile of surprise over his new found freedom. He wrapped his hands around the bars.
"What about you?"
"I need you to get out Charlie, get out and run." It wasn't the greatest plan, but right now, it would have to do. She knew there wasn't much time left. Who knew when Jonah would return. And judging by the look in the man's eyes, their time had run out.
Charlie's lip began to tremble. "I don't wanna leave you."
Barbara reached through the bars, caressed the boy's cheek. "I'll be fine. You wanna know why? Because you're going to get out of here and you're going to get help. Can you do that for me, Charlie?"
The boy nodded. Barbara reached through the bars, zipped up her jacket.
"Okay, now go."
Charlie stood. He walked tentatively towards the open door. Stood in the open doorway. Charlie looked back towards the woman.
Her chest seized, actually seized as her muscles contracted and her ribs squeezed the air from her lungs, threatened to crush her heart.
Barbara's mind raced, tried to find some solution. Anything to buy the boy some time.
Charlie raced back towards the cage. He whimpered manically, fingers grabbing desperately at the make shift torque. Tried to squeeze his body back into the cage.
"Let me in, let me in, let me in," he repeated over and over, coughing through choked tears, bordering on hysteria.
"Charlie," Barbara wrestled with the boy's fingers, "I need you to hide." Charlie wouldn't listen. The two wrestled with the wet shirt.
A beam of light cut through the inky darkness.
"Charlie?" A voice called to the little boy. Charlie froze, his eyes focused in recognition.
He hurtled himself towards the blonde entering the room. Dinah lifted him off his feet, wrapped him tight in her embrace. "Oh my God."
"I knew you'd come," he whimpered into her neck, just as the sobs wracked his body. Days of fear, tension released in a series of aching sobs. The two were joined by Alex, the man wrapped his arms around his only children, unable to hold back his own tears.
Barbara rested her head against the bars. Let the wave of relief wash over her, even if temporarily.
"Barbara, oh my God," Dinah rushed over to the cage. The same frantic look in her eyes. "We've gotta get you out of here."
"Dinah," Barbara reached through the bars, cupped Dinah's cheek with her hand. "Dinah, listen to me, you need to get your brother out of here."
"I can't leave you in here."
"Yes, you can."
"But what if.."
"You need to get Charlie someplace safe, Dinah."
"She's right, Dinah," Alex placed a hand softly on Dinah's shoulder. "We need to help Charlie."
Dinah pulled the tiny ear piece from her ear, handed it to Barbara. "Here."
He placed Charlie into her arms, checked his rifle. "We'll come back for you."
Dinah moved towards the door, Charlie in her arms. Two pairs of blue eyes glued to the woman as they exited the room. The gut-wrenching feeling they were seeing Barbara, maybe, for the last time.
Jonah shut his eyes. Curled his body as the bullets flayed his skin. Most bounced off the hide of his coat, but some didn't. He felt the hot sting of metal boring into his flesh. grimaced at the onslaught. Each shot slammed against his body, pushed him back with the force. The bricks under his feet teetered, the shaky foundation crumbled under the weight. Jonah collapsed onto the ground.
"Hold your fire!"
Silence. Thick, heavy. Burning flesh, gun powder, blood, filled his nostrils. Still, he waited. Waited for them to calm, to assume the best.
Then, Jonah rose to his feet. Eyes blazed red hot with rage, he charged into the crowd. Took the hits as a few fired several more rounds into him.
He threw a backhand, one, two, three in a row, they flew into the air, collapsing onto the hood of a truck. Screams. Fear. They scattered like roaches searching for the nearest hole to bury itself. Jonah chased. Punched. Smashed. Killed.
Her eye stung. Helena rolled onto her back, hand groggily moving towards her face. Felt the sticky texture oozing over her forehead. Blood. Everything hurt. Worse than before. Except, she felt everything and nothing at all. An euphoric floaty state lifting her body even as the pain throbbed. For the first time, Helena thought she might be dying.
It accounted for the strange images floating in her head. Memories, stored long ago, fired from her synapses.
"Helena?" The voice was faint, floated through the fog in her brain. "Helena, can you hear me?"
"Barbara?" She whispered lightly. Her eyes shot open. A surge of adrenaline shot into her heart.
Alex cautiously stepped out of the door. He could hear the screams coming from the cars surrounding the abandoned building. Saw the large man pummeling his way through the crowd. Bodies as they flew threw the air. Others fired their rifles at him. Others ran for their lives.
"Daddy?" Dinah stepped behind him, Charlie still in her arms.
Jonah saw the man exiting his den. Saw the girl, and the boy. Hatred, pure and unadulterated pumped through his system. Until the hairs on the back of his neck stood on edge, and his body hummed with blood lust. He charged towards them, feet stomping loudly.
Helena tilted her head. Saw Alex, Dinah, Charlie in her arms. The slightest sense of relief washing over her. From the corner of her eye, she could see him, charging towards them.
Charlie screamed. A high pitched wail of pure fear.
Alex stepped forward. Placed the butt of his rifle on his shoulder. Saw nothing but chest in his scope and pulled the trigger. And still he kept charging. Again, and again, Alex fired. Watched the bullets disappear in the man's chest. And he still kept coming. Until his entire vision was nothing more than Him.
Jonah grabbed the barrel of the gun, yanked it from Alex's hands, the momentum spinning the man. One hand on Alex's face, the other on the back of his head, Jonah yanked his arms. Twisted the man's neck. Gloated as he snuffed the life from him. He released the man, Alex dropped limply to the ground.
"Noooo!" Dinah screamed. She dropped the boy from her arms. Something snapped within her. Whatever had been lost, came back in a rush of clarity. There was no thought, or purpose, or reason. It just was. The air crackled around her, thick and heavy. The ground began to tremble.
Jonah charged towards her. Arms outstretched, hands ready to wrap around her throat. Something smacked against his skull with a force so hard he span on his feet. Another against his shoulder.
The bricks were alive. They floated inches off the ground, hovered waiting their turn. Dinah hurled them at the man. One after the other. Pounded them against his body.
Jonah twisted on his heels, tried to fight the assault against him. Bones broke as he took another shot to the ribs. His head span. Blood poured from his fractured skull. Another shot to the back and his knees buckled under him.
Then, it all stopped. Her power left her. Drained from her skull as quickly as it entered. Dinah stood, eyes wide, muscles screaming from the tension. She collapsed onto her knees, drained.
Jonah slowly rose to his feet. "My turn."
Slow motion, that's what it felt like, everything was going in slow motion. Helena watched it all. Saw Alex and Dinah emerge from the den. As the man charged them, Alex desperately firing his rifle. She could still hear the sickening crunch as his neck twisted unnaturally.
But life wasn't in slo-mo. She figured she had to be dead because there was no way what she was seeing could be real. Bricks floating in the air. Hurtling towards the man, Dinah commanding them.
Then it all stopped. Anything still floating in the air dropped to the ground. He rose to his feet. Again. And there was no one left to protect them. No one. She'd live her last moments knowing she'd broken her promise. Hadn't stopped the nightmare. Hadn't saved Barbara.
The word tapped into a hidden reservoir within her. Released a flood of something beyond hate, beyond rage. Tapped into the very essence of who she was. She would not fail them. Barbara. Dinah. Herself. Staggered to her feet. Bruised legs heeding the call, she charged towards the man. Yanked the sword still silent from the ground.
A scream erupted from her throat, primal in its rage. She jammed the sword into his stomach, felt it slice through bone, muscle, sinew. Slammed it all the way in to the hilt. Jonah grabbed her by the throat. Lifted Helena off her feet. She watched as he wrapped his hand around the hilt, pulled the sword from his stomach.
"You.. can't.. kill.. me." He hissed.
"Wanna bet?" Helena reached into her pocket. Pulled out the only thing left in her arsenal. She brought the grenade to her mouth, yanked the pin loose with her teeth, then shoved it straight into his gut.
Jonah screamed in pain. Released her from his grasp. He could feel the thing inside him. Patted his hands around his stomach, desperately trying to pull it out.
Helena scrambled towards Dinah and Charlie, grabbed both by the jacket, pulled them with her into the brush.
It was instantaneous, effective. The explosion ripped through his body. Incinerated him as it removed him from the face of the planet.
"Is he gone?" Charlie whimpered into Dinah's shoulder.
"Yeah," Dinah lifted her head up. "He's gone. Helena.."
Helena lifted her body from the ground. She staggered drunkenly towards the door. Her body teetered on the edge of collapse. Eyes pierced through the darkness as she charged into the basement room. Could smell the death, the blood, the pain. She could also smell Barbara.
"Helena." Barbara sat in a cage. Her hands clasped around the metal bars.
A pained whimper escaped her throat. She'd long ago lost all sense of reason. She cried openly, freely. Pained sobs escaped her throat. She'd heard the voice in her head. Knew Barbara was still alive. But hearing it and seeing it were two completely different things. Her worst fears shattered around her. She wrapped her hand around the bar, foot on the wall, yanked with everything left within her. Ignored the screams in her body. She didn't care. She had to get to Barbara. It's who she was, what she was.
Barbara wrapped her arms tight around the brunette. Sobbed into her neck. She'd like to say it had been hope that had kept her sane. But, it had been Helena. A touchstone deep within her mind and heart, what she drew her strength from. The desire to see the woman again.
Helena slid her arm under Barbara's legs, lifted the redhead into her arms. She walked outside, into the open air. She'd done it. Had fought the nightmare that had plagued her since she was sixteen. When the image of her mother, bloodied and dead, had morphed into Barbara and Helena could do nothing but watch her die. The strength drained from her body. Her legs buckled and she dropped to her knees.
"I did it," whispered across her lips.
"Helena?" Barbara stared at the woman. Helena collapsed onto the ground. Her body wracked with coughs. Blood sputtered from her mouth with each strained breath. Then, her breathing stopped.
TWO WEEKS LATER
The funerals came and went, one after the other. Five in all died that night. Six, if the number included Jonah, but most people didn't include him in those numbers. His remains were cremated in a quiet ceremony with an audience of two, Sheriff Devlin and Barbara Gordon.
The last to be buried was Alex Redmond. Like all the others, it was attended by the entire town. To pay their respects to the man who gave his life protecting his family.
As the mourners meandered away, Dinah stood at the grave staring at her father's headstone. Stared at the epitaph, chosen by Sarah, that said very little and everything at once.
"He Did His Best"
The media came as well. Swarmed around the tiny town, spinning the tale of the tiny town that fought evil and won. They came with their cameras, and their microphones, and their questions. Some digging a little further with questions of the alleged mysterious woman in black who led the simple farming community into an army. Opal did as it always, hid the truth in a swirl of, not necessarily lies, but half truths.
When the spotlight dimmed and the world's attention meandered elsewhere, there would still be Opal. They did what needed to be done, protect their own. No longer mired in the past. They slowly began the rebuilding process, one with hope for the future.
Truth would turn to legend, to fable, and myth. To where the tales of the hooded man with red eyes would be tale spoken around a campfire for eager young listeners. No more real than the Boogeyman, or the Easter Bunny.
The grounds behind the zipper factory were still. Silent. The slight sense of dread still hung in the air. The kind of feeling that remained around all places of death. But, it wasn't as it once was. The feeling was of the past, not the present.
Before the den was razed, filled with dirt and rocks, it had been trampled through by dozens of police, Troopers, forensic scientists and a whole host of others trying to get into the mind of a murderer. There were more remains of victims found buried beneath the earth. Sent to medical facilities where the proper tests could be done and the lost souls given a rightful resting place.
None of that mattered to Helena Kyle. She stood in the center of the broken building. One hand wrapped around her still tender ribs. The other clasped to the handle of a sledgehammer. Maybe it wasn't her 'place' to do what she was about to. She hadn't been terrorized for years by the man. Or so haunted by memories of what once was, or the possibility of what could happen, that she would do the unthinkable to make it stop.
She didn't like to think of herself as a victim. Couldn't change the harsh reality that she was. By someone who had terrorized her and the small circle of people she called her family. To the point where brawn and brain had almost not been enough. Left behind a series of images in her mind and heart which would probably take years to get rid of. And for that, she had to make it stop. Some where. This place seemed like the best starting point.
It would hurt like Hell but, for once, it would be worth it. Helena ignored the screaming in her muscles. Clasped both hands around the handle, lifted the sledgehammer over her shoulder and swung with all her might. She was tired of barriers and walls. For once, she'd get to tear one down rather than build it. Shatter it brick by miserable brick.
Dinah stood under the large tree. Stared at the tiny form sitting way at the top. She thought about yelling at him, telling him to come down. Instead, Dinah reached into her pocket, pulled out her cell.
"Hey Mom, it's me. I found him. No, he's all right. Don't worry, I'll bring him home."
She placed the cell back into her pocket. It had been months since she'd climbed the old oak, but the memories came back quickly. Scaled the tree like she used to. Like she owned it. Dinah sat down next to Charlie.
"What are you doing up here? Everyone's looking for you."
Charlie shrugged. "Everyone says I don't have to be afraid anymore, but I still am."
"It's okay, Charlie. I'm still scared," she placed her hand on his back rubbing softly. They both stared off into space. Each lost in their own thoughts.
"Why do people have to die?"
"I don't know. I thought when I became an adult I'd have all the answers. But, I don't. All I know is sometimes bad things happen. All we can do is try to stop it and not let it keep us from being happy."
She caught the shy smile pulling at the boy's lips. She nudged him with her shoulder. "What's with the smile?"
"You're not an adult."
"I'm older than you."
"Don't mean you're an adult," he sighed solemnly. "Are Barbara and Helena still leaving?"
"Are you leaving with them?"
"No, I'm gonna stay here with you and Mom for awhile."
The day was cold. 'Booger freezin' cold, Charlie liked to call it. A light snow had begun to fall, dusting the scenery in a blanket of white. Made everything look clean again. Dinah buried herself in her jacket. Hands balled into fists in her pockets. She walked alongside Helena and Barbara, the three of them moving across the tarmac. She could hear the engines of the jet roaring to life. The pilot waited at the bottom of the steps signing release papers, waiting for his passengers.
They were leaving.
And Dinah, she was staying. Once again, she felt torn in two. Along with all the other emotions pooling inside her body. Helena and Barbara were first in a very long time who made her feel safe. Now, her security blanket was leaving.
"So, what was it, I mean, him, Jonah?" It had taken her some time to get used to the fact that her nightmare had a name. A past, all those things that made him less a monster, something tangible.
"He was a meta," Barbara explained. "That much is certain. His DNA was interesting to say the least. Not as defined as say you or Helena. If my research is correct, I'd say he was one of the first meta-humans."
"You mean like the missing link?"
"Exactly. Human evolution isn't a straight line. It happens in spikes. One minute we're swinging from trees, the next we're making tools and flying to the moon. I think Jonah, or his genetic line were the beginnings of a new start in human evolution."
Helena shuddered. "That's a comforting thought."
"Where did he come from? Why was he.. like he was?"
"Did you ever hear of the Donner party?" Barbara continued off Dinah's confused stare. "In the late 1800's a band of settlers were stranded during a harsh winter. In a nutshell, things became rough so they began to cannibalize to survive. While it's the most famous of these types of instances, it's not the only one. I believe Jonah's family line can be traced to a similar instance that occurred near Opal. If I were to guess, I'd say it fed into whatever meta biology he, or she had, and it passed down the genetic line. It wasn't human flesh he needed to survive, but meta human. Which also fed into his basic primal survival instinct which was to mate."
Dinah shivered. "I just can't believe he'd been in Opal all this time."
"At his core, he was just like the rest of us. He wanted something of his own, a family."
Helena stared down at the woman. "You're not starting to feel sorry for the son of a bitch?"
Barbara shrugged. "He was a victim of his own body. Separated from the rest of humanity, how could he know the difference between right and wrong? In his mind, he was doing what he needed to survive."
Helena nudged Dinah with her shoulder. "Well, it's over now. And everyone can learn what it's like to be normal again, that includes you too kiddo."
"I hate it when you call me that."
"Liar, you know you love it."
Dinah sighed, glanced from one woman to the other. "Do you have to go so soon?"
"We've been gone from New Gotham too long," Barbara reached out, clasped Dinah's hand. "You'll be okay."
"I know," Dinah sniffled, tried to hold back the tears. "I just hate goodbye's."
Helena draped her arm around Dinah's shoulder. "Don't think of it as goodbye then, more like 'see ya soon'. Just remember, if you, or your mother or Charlie need anything, call us, we'll come back." Helena kissed her on the forehead. "Take care of yourself, kid."
Dinah hugged the woman, sniffed into her shoulder. "I told you to stop calling me that." She pulled out of the embrace, moved to wrap her arms around Barbara. "Thank you, for everything."
"It's like Helena said, we'll see you soon. You're family now. Now go on, get out of here before you make me cry."
Dinah smiled, wiped her face with the back of her hand. She kissed them both again before turning and walking back into the airport. The two women watched her leave, waved one last time as Dinah gave a parting glance.
Helena could feel green eyes on her. She turned her head to see Barbara smiling up at her. "What?"
"And you said you weren't good with the sensitive stuff."
"I had a great teacher."
Barbara leaned back in the tub, rested her head against the inflatable pillow. She sipped languidly from the wine glass in her hand. Two weeks later and she still couldn't shake the tension coiled inside her body. Muscles ached and groaned, knotted in the oddest of places, making themselves known at even worse times. It would all be better if she could just relax.
Barbara closed her eyes. The lids immediately fluttered open to escape from the nightmare images displayed. She sighed in exasperation, wondered if sleeping pills were in order. Anything to get some rest.
The door to the bathroom quietly opened. Helena stepped into the room, wearing a robe. The two smiled at each other in a vaguely strained manner that had cropped up between them since returning from Opal. Helena dropped her robe and joined Barbara in the large tub.
"It's kinda weird isn't it? Just the two of us again," Barbara muttered as Helena straddled her lap, leaned in for a kiss.
"I kinda like it." Helena nuzzled her nose against Barbara's neck. Began a series of butterfly kisses against her jaw. Barbara wanted to lose herself in it, could feel her body relaxing slightly. It just all seemed off. They had won the war, but not the battle. Had returned home bruised and battle scarred. Internal wounds still raw. As pleasurable as it would be, sex was nothing more than a band aid. An act to cover the scars, not necessarily heal them.
"Helena." Barbara moved her face away from the approaching lips. Helena ignored the pass, kissed Barbara's cheek. Barbara placed a hand on Helena's shoulder, slightly nudging the woman back. "Helena." She stated a little more firmly.
Helena moved back a little. "What?"
"I'm.. I'm not in the mood."
"There's a way to fix that."
"I mean it," She stared into Helena's eyes. Confusion and hurt mixed with the twinge of anger reflected back. Could feel the body tense. Helena rose from the tub, grabbed her robe as she stomped out of the room.
"Helena," Barbara sighed. "I thought you wanted to take a bath."
Helena paused, turned her head slightly. "I'm not in the mood."
Barbara slumped back. Head thumped against the edge of the tub.
The sun slowly dipped under the horizon. Deep oranges and reds quickly faded to violets and blues. Helena loved sunset, and dawn, the twilight time between day and night, light and dark. The lights of the city twinkled on in a slow display of fireworks. Her city. Her home.
She never really thought of New Gotham as such. It was just a city, nothing more, nothing less. One of many she'd visited, lived in.
Somewhere between than and now, her feelings had changed. New Gotham had become her home. Helena decided she really had no problem with it. She felt the familiar presence joining her on the balcony.
"It's beautiful," Barbara sighed, staring out into the distance.
"I don't think I can do this anymore." Helena kept her eyes forward. Could feel the green gaze boring into her. "Being Huntress."
"You do what you have to."
"What? That's it?" Helena glared at the woman. "I tell you I want to retire and that's all you can say?"
"What do you want me to say, Helena?"
"Anything. That you love me, that you understand, that you'll be here for me no matter what."
"No, it's not. What you want me to say is I want the same thing you do. That because you want to give up being Huntress, therefore I should want to stop being Oracle. Well, I can't Helena. It's who I am."
Helena yanked herself off the ledge. Marched towards Barbara until they were inches apart. "And what about me?"
"You know that's not what I meant."
"Isn't it? You mean everything to me and when he took you.. I went insane, Barbara. You're my world. I can't be like you. Just soldier on. I don't want to go through that again."
Barbara stared into the pale blue eyes. A palpable hush fell between them.
"Fuck you!" Barbara spat. Her arm reacted on its own, slapped Helena across the arm. And again, and again, until a fury of pain and anger released from within her. "Fuck you, fuck you!!"
Helena grasped the flailing arms by the wrists, tempered the woman. This was not what she was expecting. Barbara was about control, and silence. She wrapped her arms around her until the arms could flail no more. Until she relaxed into Helena's embrace.
"157 seconds." She heard mumbled into her shoulder.
Barbara tilted her head up, until their eyes locked. "That's how long you were gone. 157 seconds where you didn't breath and your heart wouldn't beat. I could taste the blood in your mouth. And you tell me I could live without you? Do you honestly believe that? The only reason I'm here is because of you."
"I didn't know."
"Of course not."
"It's because you never tell me anything. Keep it all bottled inside until I have to poke you with a goddamn cannon to get anything out of you."
"I'm not like you, Helena."
"I'm not asking you to be me. I'm asking you to let me in."
She slid her arm under Barbara's legs, lifted the woman into her arms. She could feel the slight resistance, even as Barbara draped her arms around Helena's shoulders.
"Helena, put me down."
"No." Helena marched into the Clock Tower, into Barbara's bedroom. She didn't want to think about the rift between them. A chasm that suddenly formed when they both weren't looking. Or the thin line they dance across that bordered between a relationship and co-dependency. All she knew was she needed Barbara, like air, or food. She couldn't be denied any longer. Neither of them could.
She laid Barbara onto the bed, straddled her hips. Hands placed on either side of the woman's head, Helena leaned low. Until their faces were inches apart. "Tell me you need me."
She leaned in, nipped on Barbara's pulse point. Teeth digging into the flesh, bordering on dangerous.
Barbara didn't want to give in to the heat flaring through her body. Couldn't deny it either. The brunette was right, she needed Helena. More than she dared admit. Something that went beyond love, went to a place that frightened her in its intensity. Hovered over it, terrified if she dove in, she might never find her way back again.
She threaded her fingers into Helena's hair, gripped tight. Pulled Helena back until their eyes met. "I need you." She whispered through clenched teeth.
"Tell me you love me."
She stared into Helena's eyes. Wondered how there could be any doubt. But there was, there always was. Doubt and fear. The last wall still standing sentry around her heart. "I love you."
Helena purred, low and throaty, almost a growl. A spark of ferocity in her eyes as they changed hue. She'd seen the look in Barbara's eyes. That last barrier still between them. No matter what she said, or did, it was always there. She'd tear that wall down if she had to enter Barbara's soul and rip it down stone by stone.
Their lips crashed together. Consumed, tongues dueling, passion erupting into something hotter and darker. Hands writhed, fought for dominance, yanking their clothes off the other. Helena held Barbara's wrists with her hands, pinned them to the mattress.
"Say it again."
"I love you." Breathed huskily into her ear. Sent a shudder so deep it rattled against the coil of tension and she hovered over the edge.
"Why do you do this to me?" She asked and Barbara realized the seriousness of the question. As if what she felt was by choice and she could shut it off like a light switch. How they could know each other so well and so completely, and in an instant, see each other as nothing more than strangers.
Barbara pulled free from Helena's grasp. Gripped the woman in her arms, turning them both over until Helena lay pinned beneath her. Grasped Helena by the wrists. The younger woman acquiesced under her, even as she resisted. The hidden need within her to be taken, to be dominated. Barbara blazed a trail down her neck. Marked with lips, teeth and tongue. Fell into a state where consciousness took a back seat to her deepest desires.
She moved lower. Lips clasped around an erect nipple. Tweaked and suckled until Helena bowed beneath her. A hand in her hair, the other on her shoulder, pushing her, begging her to move lower. Barbara scraped her teeth across the sensitive stomach muscles. The scent of heat and desire clouded her senses, shaded everything in a hue of want. Barbara descended. Wrapped her lips around the sensitive bundle of nerves, drove two fingers deep into Helena. Felt the slick wet walls clasping around her fingers.
Helena groaned. Arched her back. Hips thrusting forcefully, until their rhythms matched and nothing existed but Helena, Barbara and the black cloud swirling behind her eyes. One final thrust, she fell into it. Enveloped in heat and electricity. Body jolted.
Barbara leisurely kissed her way up Helena's frame. Took time marking all the sensitive spots she missed on her way down. She rose onto her elbows, fingers pushed back the strands of hair plastered to Helena's forehead. Watched as the eyes slowly slid open, half-lidded with desire. The violet hue still blazed hot in her eyes. A feral ferocity that caught Barbara off guard with its intensity.
Helena shifted quickly, slipped out from under Barbara. Pinned Barbara on her stomach. Her hands grasped her wrists, held them to the mattress. A manner where light rough play turned to something else, something darker. Barbara could feel her heart begin to hammer, half out of desire, the other, a trickling sensation of fear. Helena knew her weak spots, the chinks in her armor that threatened to reveal secrets buried deep in her soul.
Helena straddled Barbara's hips, leaned low, her breasts sliding across the tense muscles in Barbara's back. Felt the slight waves of fear cascading off her lover, the tense resistance, allowed them to fuel the dark heat rising tumultuously within her. She leaned down, pushed the hair from Barbara's neck with her nose. Inhaled her scent, her want, her fear. Not physical fear, emotional. Fear Helena was getting to close.
"Why won't you let me in?" She slowly licked behind Barbara's ear. A long leisurely stroke that released a wave of shudders from the body beneath her.
"I can't," Barbara hissed.
"And if I make you?" The taunt hovered in the air.
Barbara hissed, gritted her teeth. If she wanted, she could make her stop. One word and Helena would end it. Truth was, she didn't want it to end. Knew Helena could reach inside her, push and poke and prod, take her to those deep dark places inside her soul. The places she hated to admit were inside her. The ones that called to Barbara just as easily as they called to Helena. If Helena wanted to expose them to the light, or crawl in and shut the door, Barbara did not know. Too cautious and guarded to let the brunette in. She wasn't protecting herself from Helena, it was vice versa. Without intent, knew it would feed Helena, fuel them both in a tangled web where no meant yes and yes meant no, and the line that separated them from the bad guys dissolved in a flash of passion and desire.
And still Helena pushed. Inflamed by the resistance Barbara offered. She felt Helena's hand threading through her hair. Turned her head.
"Open your eyes." Helena's voice purred in her ear. She did as commanded. Could see the mirror on the other side of the bed. It had been Helena's idea to bring the damn thing into her room. Their reflections stared back at them. One with eyes slightly filled with fear, the other set of eyes blazed with heat and desire.
"Watch me." She saw Helena's hand in the mirror, felt the fingernails scraping across her back. The strange redheaded woman who moaned, trembled under the touch. The sensations disappeared. She watched the hand dip between the rounded globes of her ass. A lascivious motion pressing against her center and her brain kicked in turning phantom sensations into something real, something tangible and she could feel the undeniable heat between her legs.
"Hel.." Whimpered across her lips.
Helena grinned. There were very few things she knew with absolute certainty. And she knew this. Pleasure. She kissed her way down Barbara's back. Consumed the salty sweat beading across Barbara's skin. Gripped the flesh with her teeth until Barbara shuddered and the skin threatened to break. Licked down her spine, hovered near the edge where sensation ended.
"I know what you're afraid of." She stared at the scar. The exit wound that sealed Barbara's fate. It was two inches across. She circled her tongue around the striated flesh.
Barbara shuddered. Hands balled the sheets into her fists. Could feel the hungry lips suckling her wound. The sensation sent a ripple of electricity as if she could feel the entire path the bullet careened through her flesh. A battle enraged inside her. She hated being reminded of that night, of her 'limitations'. And yet, on the other side, couldn't contain the well of heat churning and bubbling within her. The wound was a direct line to everything that was right and wrong with her.
Dark and light. Pleasure and pain. The past and the present. Who she was and who she could never be. And the woman straddling her legs who wanted neither. She, she wanted it all. She opened her heart, showed Barbara that, for Helena, there could be no other but Barbara. Her body spoke even louder, proclaimed there would be no other. She had fought for Barbara. And in one final test of her love, had killed for her. She'd like to say it was for justice. That there was no other way to stop Jonah and what Helena did was to protect society. The simple truth they both knew was Helena did it for Barbara. And it was a power far greater than Barbara deserved to wield. To know with just a word Helena would decimate the world for her. Helena gave and gave and gave. Only giving meant pushing and she pushed Barbara towards that place where she loved the power she held.
Their eyes locked in the mirror, heat versus resistance. Helena growled. She'd brought Barbara too the edge and still the woman held back. Hid behind the last barrier between them. Always something. She slid her hand under Barbara's stomach, forcefully rolled her over. Pounced on her frame until Barbara's wrists were once again restrained by her hands. Her body stretched across the lithe frame. Slid her leg between Barbara's until she felt the warm flesh against her thigh.
"Let go." She squeezed through clenched teeth. Pressed their mouths together, kissed until it felt like they would suffocate.
Barbara couldn't stop the slight twitches of resistance, a reflex, even as she knew it wouldn't deter the brunette but spurn her onward. She didn't know where this dark side of her came from, the one that wanted, no demanded to be taken, marked and claimed like a prize. The one moaning loudly at the obscenities whispered in her ear. Obscenities, that on any other tongue would sound crude and distasteful, but from Helena, made her tremble and quake with desire. Made her fear the darkness inside her just as intensely as she craved it. In the end, she decided there could be no other option but to give in. Despite the last dying gasp of her conscious, Barbara let herself go. Threw the gates wide open.
They moved as one, bodies covered in sweat, gliding and writhing against each other. Barbara slid her hands from Helena's grasp, raked her nails down the arched back. Eyes glazed over, half lidded, staring into each other as they fell over into the abyss and their screams rattled the walls.
Helena collapsed atop Barbara. "Tell me you love me."
"How can you doubt that after all this?"
Helena rose onto her elbow. Her hand caressed Barbara's face, peered deeply into the green eyes. Barbara watched and waited. Helena smiled, kissed her softly on the lips.
"I won't doubt you ever again." She rested her head against Barbara's shoulder. Barbara gently ran her fingers through Helena's hair. Could feel the steady rhythm of her chest, the languid beating of her heart as Helena drifted asleep.
Sleep would not come as easily for Barbara. She lay in the bed staring at the ceiling. She loved Helena, there was no doubt. But, she could no longer be the person she was. The one who took more than she could give. The one who's darkness threatened to consume them both.
She lay in bed, staring at the ceiling, arms wrapped around the one person in the world who mattered to her most. Even as they had come together, Barbara could feel them drifting apart because she couldn't stop the walls rebuilding around her heart. Brick by brick. Wall by wall. This time, only stronger.
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