Nyssa's day began as usual: get up, shower, get dressed, go to the gym, go home and rest. Repeat. If Talia was serious about her threats against the city, and Nyssa never knew her elder half-sibling to bluff, Nyssa had to help defend it. As much as she was loath to admit it, Starling had become her second home. Unsurprisingly, Nyssa al Ghul was not one for fraternization. She had a job to do at this gym, and that was to get into shape. Not that she wasn't already in shape, but Nyssa prided herself when it came to maintenance of the physicality a life in the League afforded her. She was forty-five minutes into her daily eight-hour workout when a familiar voice called out to her.
"Don't forget to turn your hips," the person quoted her. "It's where the power comes from."
Nyssa continued pulverizing the punching bag but allowed her eyes to dart over in order to acquire knowledge of the identity of the individual who dared break her concentration.
To her relief, the person was Laurel.
"Why don't we go for dinner after this?"
"No," was Nyssa's flat refusal.
"Why not? What could it hurt?"
"Talia has made a habit of harming those I have come to care for. I know Malcolm Merlyn is responsible for my beloved's murder, but I sense Talia's hand somewhere."
"So you don't want to actually have a life for fear of your crazy sister screwing it up?"
"Precisely." Another strike to the bag.
Laurel responded to Nyssa's lack of attention to the conversation by putting her full weight on the other side of the bag and forcing Nyssa to stop.
"Laurel, you are being childish."
"Then listen to me."
"I have already offered to train you."
"And I accepted that offer."
"Don't you have something better to do than annoy me? Why don't you have dinner with that scruffy monster hunter of yours?"
"Dean isn't available. Besides, we're just friends."
"Right," Nyssa shot her that look. You know the one.
"We are! I mean, he's nice and he helped me when I was in a really dark place in my life. I told him a few times I wanted to join him on the road, be a hunter like him, but he's refused both times. I mean, he's cute. I've kissed him twice, but I think I'm over it." 'And I like you', she wanted to tack onto her explanation, but she respected that Nyssa was still mourning Sara. She was still mourning Sara, too. Then, all of a sudden, Nyssa seemed to relax. She was still sweaty and gross, she was still drinking water and Gatorade, but she was listening. Intently. As if she had picked up on the gleam in Laurel's eyes. Shit! Laurel had to stuff those feelings down and do a better job at hiding them. Too bad hiding her feelings was not a thing Laurel did. It was fundamentally incongruous with her character. Besides, wouldn't dating a teammate be unprofessional?
"I'll call Cassandra," Laurel broke the uncomfortable silence. "Reserve us a place."
Now that was a name Nyssa hadn't heard in ages, much less dared to speak, as the name brought with it memories of the worst experience of her life.
"Yeah, she owns the place and she's a friend of mine" Laurel grinned, oblivious to the connection. Why would she know anyway? Nyssa had told no one of her past, and they all assumed she was just an assassin. Just a killing machine. Sure, Laurel believed her to be a good person, but was she? She did nothing when it happened, to prevent it from happening. Cassandra. The person Nyssa should have protected was named Cassandra. That was the name Nyssa gave the poor, defenseless child.
October, 2002- A WARM NIGHT
The room was bare, save for the mattress in its center and the candles all around. Six, Nyssa counted in a bid to distract herself from the tightening and gradually increasing pressure that accompanied the contractions. Nyssa paced the small room for what had to be the hundredth time in the last three hours. She was hot again, but the girl had nothing left to shed. Her father had taught her modesty. To the Fire with modesty. It served only to make her horrendously uncomfortable, more than she already was. She wouldn't have that! Without warning, another contraction began to flow through her, tightening her abdomen as though she were a rubber band pulled by some invisible force, and she dropped into a deep squat while moving her hips clockwise and counterclockwise. "Oh oh oh uhhh uh uh uh," she breathed, her eyes gently closed. The child in her huge orb of a belly would come whether she wanted it to or not, so what point was there in fighting her body? Nyssa inhaled and exhaled as she lowered herself onto her knees. She chuckled, feeling the infant still squirm about. It was almost maddeningly uncomfortable, especially when the movement coincided with a contraction, but adorable still. The pressure between her legs built and built, like a sword being shoved through an assailant. Nyssa could not deny the urge any longer. With a squeal and a deep breath, Nyssa tucked her chin to her chest and pushed. "Mmmffgghhugh!" She relaxed as the contraction tapered off. That wasn't so bad. Her confidence was short-lived.
"Nyssa?" Laurel moved her hand in front of Nyssa's face. "You okay? Looked like I lost you for a minute there. I got us a table for tonight at 8:30."
"8:30," Nyssa nodded and repeated. "I will be there."
Flustered, she gathered her belongings and departed the gym.
Nyssa awoke with a start, bolting upright and glaring into the darkness. She hadn't expected the innocent, unconnected woman who happened to have the same name as the child she lost to affect her so. Get a grip, Nyssa! Sighing, she lowered herself back down onto her side, curled up, and attempted to return to sleep.
"Nnnngggghhh!" Nyssa grunted loudly. The child was finally moving, if slowly. The candles were growing lower, burning a bit less bright now. She'd been here a while. "Hhhhrrrmmmfff! Come- come out!" She snarled. "Is this enough, Father? Am I passing this test? Did you make Talia do this when Damian came?! Nnnngggrrrmmggguhh!"
No one would help her. She knew this. It was the law: if a female member of the League was impregnated while on a mission, she was given the choice of an abortifacient or continuing the pregnancy. If a woman chose the latter, which would disqualify her from assignments for close to the next year, she was taken down to the lower levels of the city when the time came to bear the child alone. Without aid. It was an atrocious and antiquated test of strength, as Nyssa's father- David Cain, as he had been referred to prior to his initiation- called it, but even he was not one to break with tradition. If she could survive unassisted childbirth then she could survive anything. What abusive hell was she born into? Still, she continued. Tucking her chin to her chest, she pushed once more. She had to do this. She had to.
After the third such flashback rendered her unable to sleep, Nyssa resolved to get up. Stay awake. Who cared if it was only 4 am? She was at least vaguely awake at this time anyway, grumbling as she trudged into the bathroom.
Gazing into the mirror, she panted. Nyssa did not expect this turn of events. What the hell? Was this some sort of parlor trick by her sister? Did Talia endeavor to distract her by bringing up a particularly traumatic part of her past? The birth itself was terrifying for sure, a she was but a teenager and she did it alone, but it wasn't traumatic. No, the trauma came after.
The candles had burned out entirely by the time Nyssa collapsed back onto the mattress and the infant began squalling. At least it was alive. She already had better luck than most. Then the door opened.
"No… please…" she mumbled, without energy to look up or even stop what was about to happen.
She dimly became aware of another presence in the room.
"Talia, don't… let her stay…"
"I cannot. You know the law. I must carry it out. A physician will be here shortly to inspect you, to help you heal."
And Nyssa was alone again. She cried. Hard. The rest of the night, the brunette sobbed and shuddered. She did it, but there would be no reminder of her sacrifice. Her father hardly even acknowledged her during the pregnancy. To him, to Talia, and to the League, it was as if this had never occurred. The child was gone. Nyssa was in solitude, nothing but her own mournful sounds to keep her company.
Laurel had once asked Nyssa if she had known pain, beyond Sara's demise. The assassin lied and replied negatively, but as she punched the glass, as her knuckles became bloody, and as she stared with a fire and fury into the cracked glass, Nyssa whispered to herself:
"Yes, I have known pain. I have known loss. My sister was responsible- is, still- for that loss. And now she wishes to take even more from me. No more. She will fall by my sword before any others suffer in the name of the League's twisted codes or laws."