A/N: Well ladies and gentlemen…it's been a great ride. I had a heck of a time writing this story, and I can't thank all of you enough for your feedback. I hope all of you enjoyed it at least half as much as I enjoyed weaving. It was truly a challenge and I couldn't have done it without your support. By the way, one last question before I leave you to the close of this year long journey. In creatin gthis story I had three endings outlined and all three written down on paper. Should I post the alternate endings in the future? Or leave the story as is? You the readers will decide. My sincerest and most humble thanks.
ManhattanRoughly a year and a half after the Dock Wars…
Demona walked down the hall, engrossed in a report she had been reading regarding her recent business venture with Xanatos and Wayne. Things were looking very promising. Promising enough that she felt it was time to invest in a little more stability in the project. Perhaps she would open up a new division in New Gotham.
A faint noise down the hall, coming from the rookery wing suddenly halted her progress, and she quickly dropped her report and silently ran towards the protected area. How could anyone get past her security measures without tripping at least one alarm?
She flattened herself against the wall outside the rookery doorway, noticed it was half open, and swallowed against the sick feeling rising in her gut. Please no, she begged silently. Peeking in, she saw a dark figure reach down into the nest and burst through the door with a battle cry.
The figure sidestepped her attack without even looking back, and quickly leapt out of reach. "Easy Dee, it's just me," a familiar voice told her calmly.
Demona hesitated, and then relaxed completely as she recognized her 'intruder'. "Elisa? Where the hell have you been?"
"New Gotham," she answered as she moved towards the nest and leaned down to check on her egg. "He's grown since I left."
"You've been gone for a long time. The doctor feels he may hatch even earlier than they originally estimated. It could be as early as six months, if he keeps up his rate of development. Once the egg was free from the constraints of your body, his growth nearly tripled. So, why New Gotham?" she asked, already dreading the answer to come.
Elisa caressed her egg for a minute longer and then she motioned for Demona to follow her. The two walked silently over to Elisa's room, and Demona used the brief moment to study the human before her. Elisa had changed a great deal since she left. Her hair was even shorter than the last haircut, her cybernetic eye more visible now. She carried herself differently too. Elisa had by no means been another lumbering, clumsy human. But she now moved with a grace and stealth that spoke of training from a master.
Sure enough, when they entered her room she unzipped her garment bag and stepped back. "I wanted to be trained right," she finally answered in a quiet voice.
Demona stared at the costume inside the bag for several long minutes and then closed her eyes as she sighed sadly. "Elisa, I was there that night. When are you going to realize that what happened to him wasn't your fault. You have nothing to atone for. This," she stated gesturing to the bag as she turned to face the human, "will not bring him back. And trust me, this won't make the demons go away."
"Maybe not, but it's something I have to do for myself Demona. Goliath went out there night after night putting it all on the line to make this world a better place- even if it was juts one tiny bit at a time. I owe it to his memory to continue that fight. And if I can't do that as a cop then I'll do it as Manhunter."
Demona snorted lightly. "Manhunter hmmmm?" she asked as she looked back at the costume and picked up the red hood. "Isn't that a little close to what you fought against?"
Elisa shrugged. "Maybe in name, but not in philosophy."
"Well, the first thing I suggest you do before you start gallivanting across the rooftops, looking to get yourself killed, is call your family and your boyfriend. He's been tearing this city apart looking for your corpse. With his contacts in New Gotham, I'm surprised he didn't find out that you were up there."
"I already called my mom when I got into town and Dracon is not my boyfriend."
"Really?" Demona asked with an arched eyebrow as she fixed Elisa with a pointed look. "He's certainly been acting like it."
Elisa looked away. "I made a mistake. I was hurting, desperate, and confused. I slept with him a few times just before I left, and I shouldn't have."
Demona shrugged. "Don't see why not. The man loves you Elisa…always has and always will. Tony Dracon may have a number of undesirable traits but he is loyal to someone he cares about, and he cares a great deal about you. You were actually beginning to loosen up a little before you disappeared."
"Which is why I should have never gotten involved with him, and one of the reasons I left," Elisa admitted as she slumped onto her bed and ran a hand through her short hair. "I knew Tony loved me, but I could never love him back."
"Can't or won't."
"Doesn't make a difference," Elisa said firmly. "When the fog started to clear from my brain I realized just how deep in I was getting and I couldn't handle it," she admitted her throat closing up slightly with emotion.
"Tony is a good guy in the wrong business, and I can't just turn my back on everything that I've fought for all these years," she added after she had managed to regain her composure.
"The world isn't just black and white Elisa. Surely you realize that, if your willing to put on that damned costume to go out there and risk your life every night."
Elisa looked up at the immortal. "This is different. I may be working outside of the law now, but at least I'm working for it. Tony has cut back on most of his criminal activities, I'll give him that. But I know he hasn't turned his back on his past completely. You simply can't do that once you've gotten into the Family as deep as he has, and I don't blame him. At least with him running things around here again, I know the crime will be controlled."
Demona sighed and shook her head. "Well you should still call him. I think Brooklyn is going to throw him off the parapets if he shows up at the castle one more time asking them if they've heard from you."
"Yeah, I figured I should stop and check in with the Clan as well- let them know I'd be out and about starting tomorrow night."
"What, no heroics your first night back?" Demona asked sarcastically.
"I've been gone for almost five months, training my ass off with some of the best in this business. Tonight is going to be my first and only break in awhile. I just want to spend a quiet night home with my baby."
Demona straightened a bit, and Elisa didn't miss the gargoyle's slightly hurt look. "And in the company of a friend who won't judge me for what I'm about to do," she added hastily, but sincerely.
Demona's posture relaxed. "So have you considered my offer?"
"To be head of security? Yes…and I'd have to decline. I'm a street cop Dee, I don't think I'd be cut out for that kind of thing. I don't want to screw up something as important as being in charge of the security for a major corporation like yours."
"You were a Detective Elisa and a damn fine one. It doesn't take a genius to catch onto the game of corporate espionage. I need someone I can trust who can read people, build loyalty in the troops, and isn't afraid to take some risks every now and then. Trust me when I tell you there really is little difference between what you did and what I'm offering. "
"What about my schedule? I have other priorities in my life now."
"Helena and Bruce manage to do just fine playing busy billionaires and leading their secret night life," the immortal pointed out. "As Head of my Security division you'd be making your own schedule with only a few minor mandatory interferences because of social functions and so forth."
Elisa mulled that over for a few moments and then looked up at the immortal. "Alright, I'll think it over."
Demona smirked as she turned and walked towards the door. "I expect to see you there by eight on Monday morning to meet all the other department heads."
Elisa snorted lightly shaking her head. "And Elisa?" The raven-haired woman looked up. "It's good to have you home."
As the door to her room shut, Elisa laid back on the bed, and closed her eyes as she reached out to pet Cagney who had leapt onto her lap. The purr caused her to smile a bit, reminding her of memories painful yet good. But they were memories of a life that was no longer hers. In a single night her world had been changed.
Her friends in New Gotham had helped her to realize that her life wasn't over though. That she could take the tragedy and trauma that still haunted her dreams, and turn it into a weapon against the evil forces at work in the world. It had taken several weeks for her to realize that this new life was not about revenge- no matter how much she wanted it to be. It was about justice.
Elisa Maza may have had her life completely changed in the blink of an eye. Here she was, living in the home of the female she once considered her most deadly enemy. Monday morning she was about to become employed in a world she'd never imagined herself in. And she had an unborn child resting safely two rooms away within its leathery shell.
Her life was far from being over- it was just beginning. She knew there would be rough times ahead, but she had sworn to herself as she had sworn to her friends in New Gotham. She would never turn her back on justice.
"I still can't believe I'm standing here with all these superheroes!" Dinah whispered to Helena as the two girls watched the couple of the hour circle around the small clusters of tables to greet the guests.
"Hey don't knock yourself too much here Kid. You've etched your own name into their book after some of your incredible saves this past year. Big Wally said you'd have been invited into the JLA by now if it were still functioning."
"Your dad seems kinda bummed that Superman and Wonder Woman didn't show though," Dinah observed, blushing under the praise.
Helena glanced casually around the room and nodded. "Yeah, he said he's tried to contact them a couple of times since he's been back. I think it's been more than a few times knowing him. He's pretty set on trying to get all these new punks who think they're superheroes, set straight. Amazing thing is, he's admitting that he can't do it alone. But they've become so reclusive, they won't even acknowledge any of his attempts to contact them."
"I just can't imagine someone like Superman or Wonder Woman turning their backs on a world they've fought to protect for so long."
Helena raised and eyebrow. "Look what happened to us a couple of years ago Dinah," the brunette pointed out quietly. "Harley nearly broke us, and even Red was about ready to throw the towel in. Everyone has their breaking point D, some people are just a little tougher than others. You know what they about the bigger they are…."she answered trailing off.
"Do you think he'll find them?"
Helena chuckled. "He found them already. I doubt he's going to go much longer without paying them a little visit though. He understands their wish…their need for privacy. Everything they had all worked so hard for, came crashing down around them, and in the end everyone had lost close friends and loved ones. There is no retirement for those of us who chose this life though. We may all have to take a break at some point. But no matter what, when the world needs saving, we have to suck it up because that's who we are."
Helena looked back towards her father who was mingling amongst the crowd, playing gracious host as usual. "Like dad. Even he hasn't moved past the tragedies in his life. He just harnesses the anger and pain better than everyone else."
"You think Elisa will move past her own?" Dinah asked thoughtfully as she sipped on the glass of champagne Helena had snuck her.
"God I hope she will," Helena sighed. "She had the best teacher in the biz to show her how to control it. Elisa was a force to be reckoned with before. As Manhunter, she's someone Manhattan's Underworld is going to be afraid of in a very short time."
"Hey I've been meaning to ask you, do you think she has some meta in her? I mean she may not be as strong as you, but she has some lightening fast reflexes."
"Yeah I wondered about that. I mean, I don't know exactly what was involved with hardwiring that new high tech eye into her brain. I know it gives her night vision and a killer aim, but I have no idea what other little extras it does for her now. Maybe I should mention it to Red though. I know she got more than a few blood samples from Elisa during her training here," Helena chuckled in memory.
"You still haven't told me why the two of you got into that fight. You know I could just find out the easy way," the blonde told her with an air of superiority.
"Try it and I'll make sure you have nightmares for a week," Helena shot back with an evil smirk of confidence.
"Are you two fighting again?" Reese asked as he slid into his chair and leaned in for a kiss that bordered indecent.
"Yuck! Come on you two we are at dinner and it's not even your wedding!"
"Yes, but I am the Maid of Honor, therefore I have freedom to whatever I want," the brunette gloated.
"Like getting a room," Dinah muttered.
"This from the underage drinker," Reese grinned.
"Hey your girlfriend supplied me."
"Hmmm Dinah's been a bad girl Reese," Helena purred. "Maybe you should break out the handcuffs."
Dinah stared at Helena in shock as a crimson flush crept up her neck and turned her whole face red. "Hel!" she squeaked out.
Reese doubled over laughing and Helena nearly fell out of her chair. "Dinah by the looks of things you need some rescuing here. With a blush that bad I can only imagine what my corrupted daughter has just said to you, but I promise I'll try and make it up to you when she and I train next time."
Dinah smiled thankfully up at Bruce Wayne who was standing over her protectively, not quite glaring at his daughter. "Batman to the rescue….you know you take all the fun out of things," Helena said trying to pout, but giggling too much to pull it off. "And you only beat me yesterday because you pulled that cheap shot on me."
Bruce just smirked. "I believe you were the one who insisted no holds barred, no rules."
"Yeah well we'll see who wipes the mat with the other tomorrow night," she shot back confidently.
"Is everything a contest for you two?" a welcome voice laughed.
"Now you know how I felt when you and Dick used to try and one-up each other every night," Bruce grinned over at Barbara. "How are you feeling?" he asked as she sank gratefully into a chair.
"My feet are killing me!" she complained poking Dick in the shoulder. "I still don't understand how someone so graceful can have two left feet on the dance floor."
"What about the coupler?" Helena asked pointedly.
Barbara endured her unhappy and suspicious look, and simply smiled back reassuringly. "I'm fine sweetheart. With all the help I've been getting on this, it's been nearly perfected. But just to be safe, I'm only wearing it for the wedding and then I'll give myself a rest for the next few days unless I absolutely need it."
Which would probably be more than really necessary, Helena thought to herself, but she really couldn't fault the redhead. The birth of Black Knight Enterprises had been a success. Barbara and Dick had originally planned to be married almost a year ago. Then she found out about the focal point of the research being done by Dark Knight and volunteered her own services. Barbara Gordon who was never selfish, admitted to something that she desperately wanted and knew she could achieve. She wanted to walk down the isle of her own wedding.
And so the wedding had been postponed as progress was rapidly made. Dinah took the interim to travel abroad, fulfilling her own desires to reclaim some of her lost youth, and Helena and her dad spent the time bonding even closer, regaining the years lost to them as well.
Dick had never looked happier in all his life, as his bride walked down the isle, a beautiful smile lighting up her own face in a way even Helena had never seen before. She had almost cried at that moment, and took comfort in the fact that she had not been the only one to get misty-eyed. The wait had been well worth it, and she could not fault her best friend for wanting to test the limits a little in the coming days. She more than deserved the rewards of her life's sacrifices.
"More champagne?" Alfred asked as he came over with a tray laden with champagne glasses.
"Sure!" Dinah said as she reached for another glass.
Alfred deftly intervened her attempt to consume more alcohol, and placed a different glass in her hand. "And sparkling cider just for you Miss Dinah," he smiled back at her. The teen pouted as he passed out the remaining glasses, and then had to suppress a huge grin when he purposely brushed past her with a wink, letting her read his mind.
Helena snagged another waiter passing by and handed Alfred a glass of champagne as Dick pulled another chair over. "Take a break for a little bit and enjoy some time with you family Alfred," Dick told the aging butler who graciously accepted the offer. Dick waved Jim Gordon over, who joined the group nursing his well-aged scotch instead of champagne.
Dinah used the distraction to eagerly sipped from her glass, happy to see that Alfred's 'cider' was definitely spiked with champagne. Helena clinked a fork to her glass and stood. "Ok, so I know I'm supposed to make a toast for everyone else in a few minutes, but I thought I could make a little more private one with just the family for now."
Glasses were raised and Helena looked around the table with joy and love sparkling in her eyes. "When my mom was killed, I never thought I would have a family again. That I'd never know the joys, the trials, the love or bond that a family feels. Barbara you and Alfred helped to me to overcome the greatest tragedy in my life and realize that I did still have people who loved and cared for me. I love you both more than you will probably ever know, and I owe you both everything for helping me to become who I am today.
"Jim, despite your reservations about me because of my mother, you still welcomed me as a part of your family. You were there for Barbara and I when we both needed it, and you never let us doubt ourselves when things were at their worst. Thank you for having an open mind and an open heart.
"Dinah, when you crashed into the Clocktower, you brought an innocence and joy back into our lives that we had been missing for so long. It bugged the hell out of me, because I realized that the brooding thing I had perfected was a little boring at times," she grinned, earning a giggle from the teen. Helena leaned over to take Dinah's hand, letting the young woman read her open mind and heart, bringing tears to both of their eyes. "You have truly become a sister to me and I will always be here for you like you have always been there for me."
Her gaze softened a great deal as she looked at Reese. Everyone wondered for a second if she would finish the toast as they seemed to get lost in each other's gaze, and Dinah shifted at the intensity of the emotions rolling between the two. "Jesse, you showed me how to truly love someone again, and after everything I had done to push you away, you were still there for me when I needed you," she finally said simply.
She grinned over at Dick. "Bro, you gave me the kick in the ass that I needed. Thank you and I'll be more than happy to return the favor any time you need it." That earned a good laugh from everyone, and lightened the mood. "Dad…thank you for being there this past year and a half. I know you have other plans eventually, but we are a family, and I hope you realize that without you, we won't be whole. So here is to all of us…a toast to family."