A/N: This was originally meant to be a Captain!centric fic…but then When I Have a Little Girl had to rather muddy up those plans. So…Techie it is. This happens right after The Ride. Check my profile for the addy for the CATverse timeline site if you want to know where the devil (pun intended) goes.
It was very rare when one could say that rain was actually coming down in sheets, but the moment that the Captain, Al, Techie and Jonathan had landed in Baton Rouge, the heavens split and the beginnings of a flood started. It had pelted their poor car until they found a fleabag motel to call home for the night (they had driven in complete silence; Al wouldn't let anyone touch the radio) and then the Captain completely lost her marbles, floodgates that had nothing to do with rain opening up of their own accord.
Al was already shaken, given her encounter with 'Star', and she wasn't much use either, she just sat down next to the Captain and stroked her hair, giving into her mother hen tendencies and muttering comforting nonsense, while Jonathan could only barely discern what the hell was going on since the girls seemed to be speaking in code.
Techie, amazingly, was holding it together the best. It surprised her more than it surprised anyone else, but she always had been best in a crisis. Every day stuff? Not so much. The apocalypse falling on your head? She was first to react. Not necessarily in the most sane way, but given how their lives had gone thus far, sane really wouldn't have done much good anyhow.
Though she wasn't entirely sure she was holding it together by herself, either.
The second they had all taken refuge inside the motel and the Captain had started crying, Jonathan started demanding answers. Techie may have mentioned Faust, but he believed that premise about as much as he believed in the flying spaghetti monster.
She shot him the nastiest glare she had in her arsenal and said she didn't know all the specifics, but she was damn well going to find out.
Unceremoniously, she moved across the room and shoved Al away from the Captain, grabbed the smaller woman by the shoulders and shook her violently.
The other woman sobbed and tried to bury her head in Techie's shirt.
The snap of Techie's palm colliding with the Captain's cheek echoed more shockingly than a gunshot.
"This isn't you! Get a grip! Tell me when!"
The fierceness of her voice and demeanor startled even Crane.
"Kit--" the Captain hiccupped pathetically. "Born."
What followed was a few seconds of rapid, panicked babble that only Techie seemed to follow and then she released the Captain back into Al's embrace, almost as a shove. "That's all I needed to know."
She stomped across the room towards the duffle bag filled with their equipment and with singular purpose rifled around until she withdrew a .57 magnum.
It was the only gun they ever kept on hand, though it was rarely used. Guns, after all, were for amateurs and those who lacked imagination. She checked every chamber, pleased to find them full, and started for the door.
Crane stopped her with a shout, "Where do you think you're going?!"
Techie turned on her heel. "Out."
"Like hell you are! You can't leave me with them like--"
Her arm shot out ramrod straight, the barrel of the gun pointed directly between his eyes and possibly--for the first time--he realized why she'd been classified at Arkham as criminally insane. This wasn't the eccentric, this was the mad. "Fuck you, Jonathan. I'm going out."
The door shut with a soggy slam and Crane was left with the sounds of weeping and muttering.
He might have relished it, were he in Arkham or with a test subject, but in this case…
It just concerned him.
It's true that the henchgirls emotions weren't their own in this particular case. There were forces at work far greater and far more sinister than chemical imbalances, and it was one of these forces that drove Techie onward through the storm, ignoring the trickle of icy wet that slithered down her spine and searching for anything--any place--that had that particular air about it that said it was completely unnatural.
She walked for blocks, getting wetter and surlier every step of the way, and whatever was left of her rational thinking mind was insisting she was probably going to die of pneumonia because of this, but she didn't care. Somewhere in this town, there was somebody who wanted to have a nice long chat…she wasn't going to disappoint.
The weight of the magnum gave her a bit of comfort, and even if it didn't do any damage to whatever form the specter decided to take, she was still going to enjoy shooting him--or her--in the face.
Several more blocks passed without her really noticing the movement of her feet; she was too busy trying to pay attention to a sense that had nothing to do with the five that are generally accepted by medical science and then it hit her.
It slithered along her arms, goose pimples rising and the hair on the back of her neck doing what should have been impossible considering how wet it was--standing on end. Standing in front of her was the sleaziest bar to ever sleaze, the neon lettering over the door proclaiming sporadically that it was Chuck and Danny's Place.
She couldn't suppress the quirk of her upper lip. Charlie Daniels reference. Cute.
She probably shouldn't have had enough strength left to bust the door in with one heavy boot, but these--as we have already established--were not ordinary circumstances and that is exactly what she did.
The place was packed, jukebox pumping out something with a wailing saxophone that her brain registered as being familiar, and there were tables strewn everywhere, filled with couples drinking and talking, who all stopped to look at the crazy woman who had burst in on their Friday night festivities.
Her arm flew up of its own volition, seeking out a target in the bartender, who had paused in his cleaning glasses with a rag to stare at her.
He stuttered at her. "Is…is there a prob-problem?"
She strode further into the bar by two steps. "I'll be honest with you, I'm a shit shot from a distance, but I do pretty damn good at point blank range."
He visibly gulped and she crossed the rest of the distance between her and the bar, slamming the barrel of the gun up under his chin.
"I've always been curious about what color demons bleed…" She cocked the hammer on the gun. "Stop playing games or I test out my theory that it's black."
The music cut out, the lighting flickered from safe, warm yellow to flaming gold and the barman smirked, eyes flashing momentarily. If she had bothered to look behind herself, Techie would've seen that the other 'patrons' had vanished--leaving her alone in the bar with her quarry.
"You've got spunk, kid."
She pulled the trigger, not surprised that his head didn't move with the impact of the bullet but enjoying the feel of the recoil anyway.
"Feel better now that you've got that out of your system?"
She pulled the gun away and a small, flat piece of silver clattered on the bar; what was left of the slug that should have been embedded in his head.
"Immensely," she said coldly, cocking the hammer again.
Quicker than she could blink, his appearance changed to something more evil-appropriate--a towering man, draped in dramatic black, with cold grey eyes and hair like spun silver--and his hand closed over hers, crushing her fingers and forcing her to release the gun.
"Only the first one's free."
"Bastard," she spat.
"I prefer prodigal son," he said as smiled down at her and she shivered. She blamed it on the cold. Yes. The cold. She was wet and she was cold and that was a perfectly good reason to shiver violently.
That and the fact the mother frakking devil had her hand in a death grip.
But she didn't want to think about that. No. No. She had come here for a reason.
"What do you want with us?" It sounded cliché in her head and even more so when she said it aloud.
"Your souls, naturally. Isn't that what you expected me to want?"
"You can't have them."
He smiled, his lips spreading a bit too broadly and his teeth showing a bit too sharp. "I already do."
"No, you don't," she contradicted, wondering why the hell she was arguing when she should be doing something more practical…like fainting. "None of us have ever signed a blood binding contract. Any 'deals' you've made are null and void and only count as negotiation until we've signed our souls away of our own free will."
He smiled pleasantly, only making himself look more unsettling. "Been doing your research, I see."
"You caught me off guard before," she said with more bravado than she felt. "You never had the advantage."
He leaned in close to her, his breath a mix of smoke and sulfur as it ghosted over her face. "I always have the advantage…and when the time comes, you'll all give me what I want without so much as a peep of protest."
"You don't scare me."
Even she didn't believe it, but her pride demanded it be said anyway.
"I know what does," he brushed an errant lock of hair from her eyes in what might have been a tender gesture had he been anyone else--but from him, it merely came off as intimidating. "Ironic that a loner so desperately fears being alone. How easy it would be to make that fear a reality, hm? Snap those fragile threads that make up your only friends' lives. Your dear Evelyn…what is she? Your goddaughter? Is that what she is? More irony, there."
Courage surged up inside her, from a source she couldn't name. "If you do so much as slant your eyes at any of them the wrong way, I'll seek salvation in every church on the face of the planet until I find the one who's got a deity with a grudge against you and do everything to get myself into his employ just so I can kick your sorry supernatural ass, Mephistopheles."
His smile faded, but only slightly. "I don't want anything more from you than what you're willing to offer…when the time comes."
"I don't make deals with a used car salesman until I've had a look under the hood, bub. Strict company policy."
He tilted his head at her. "All three of you are extraordinary. Stronger men than you have folded under less pressure than I've been applying to you since you first caught my interest…"
"We're not extraordinary, we're unpredictably insane. That gives us the edge."
His smile returned, far more charming than before. "For now."
He clucked his tongue and released her hand, brushing his palm over her forehead in a fatherly manner. "Go to Madam Lavoux if that gives you any measure of comfort; but know that I do have a favor coming and it will not be refused. The wheels have already been set into motion and cannot be stopped."
Inside the motel room in Baton Rouge, the Captain was pacing back and forth at Techie's bedside. Al was applying a cool compress to the feverish woman's head and the Scarecrow looked on, wondering how exactly she had come down with a fever so quickly and without warning. One moment she was chattering in the car and the next she was slipping into unconsciousness. There was no damp weather, no virus that he could think of…
At first, they all thought it was just exhaustion--physical, emotional, it didn't matter--but when they made it to the hotel and tried to wake her, they found her entire body was burning up.
The Captain had fumbled for a thermometer after they had dragged her into the motel room and tucked her into bed--the girls stripping her and leaving her covered in a sheet as they started trying to cool her off--and the fact that her fever had spiked at 104 Fahrenheit was not promising. It had dropped to 102, but she still hadn't awakened.
"She…" the Captain gulped. "She used to get fevers as a kid. She told me. Out of the blue. Caused seizures. Almost killed her more than once." She dropped down on her knees and shook Techie by the shoulders. "Don't you dare die, Ops! Three is a magic number! We can't run the ship without you! Who'll fix the VCR when I blow it up? Who'll put out the kitchen fires Al starts?! Who'll teach Kitten to set a digital clock?! Damn it! Get better! You're not allowed to die! I'll never forgive you if you die!"
"That won't help," Crane remarked unnecessarily, pressing his hand to Techie's forehead as he administered another dose of acetaminophen intravenously. "We wait and that's all. That's all we can do."
The Captain huffed and shot him a glare that could have leveled a lesser man. "You don't get it! She's…she's…" Captain burst into tears and threw herself at Techie as gently as she could. "She's our McCoy! How can you not be worr--"
The grumble was barely audible but the Captain pulled back to look at Techie. Her eyes were barely open, but…
"And get the bloody hell off my spleen."