It was Valentine's Day. Sally stood at her window, watching the rain leave trails down the double paned glass.
Today had been a great day. This morning, Hooded Justice had sent flowers up to her apartment.
She'd posed for Norman Rockwell again. Sally had worked with him before; she'd posed with a Hitler look-alike for a war bond poster five years earlier. Being asked to sit for him a second time had been an honor.
The Minutemen had held an early meeting to keep the evening free for dinner dates. When she'd arrived, Hollis had given her a heart-shaped box of chocolates.
Larry had taken her on a horse drawn carriage ride through Central Park. When he'd walked her to her door he'd given her a bottle of her favorite expensive perfume and a chaste kiss on the cheek.
Where was Blake? She knew he wasn't the type of man who'd write a love letter, but she'd still harbored a spark of hope that he'd try to see her, on this of all days.
Their relationship was based on mutual understanding. At least, Sally thought it was. These past months had been spent with business as usual; she continued to go out and be seen on the arm of Hooded Justice, fighting crime and doing modeling jobs, and Blake continued his government work, in and out of the country, off to heaven-knows-where, doing God-knows-what. And from time to time, he'd find her; here, or out on patrol, or leaving a restaurant alone.
But he wasn't really ever around when she needed him to be.
Hating herself for it, Sally stayed up, looking down on the darkened streets, into the early hours. Hoping that he'd come. And praying that he wouldn't.
"How's everyone been?" Nelson Gardner's tenor rose above the din of voices, gaining the attention of everyone around the large meeting room table. The mahogany was polished to such a shine, you could see all in attendance reflected there. He sat at the head, Hooded Justice sat to his right, followed by Sally. Nite Owl, Mothman, and Dollar Bill sat opposite.
Sally flashed smiles at Byron and Bill. They were both so friendly and polite. It was kind of nice being the only girl. They all treated her like such a lady, although even the way she dressed suggested that this was far from the truth.
Most of these meetings were spent catching up, with just a small amount of time set aside to plan manoeuvres and next week's meeting. Talk this week was all about a shipment of Heroin, and trying to pin down who was involved. They were all hoping to connect this one to Moloch, regardless of whoever else happened to be in charge.
After everyone had greeted Nelson, he continued, "I hear that Edward Blake is in town."
"Pshhh," Hooded Justice's deep timbered voice turned the conversation away from Nelly's polite tones. "I, for one, like it better when he's out of the country. It's no secret that everyone in this room is glad he isn't a part of the group anymore." This statement was met with nods all around.
Sally was at a loss. Her silence might have been the most telling, for she was generally the most outspoken of all of them, and not so long ago, this would have been just the opening she'd needed to voice her own thoughts on the matter. She'd always wanted him back with the Minutemen. He'd been the silliest of them all, hiding his inner demons behind a mask of lighthearted indifference. Now that she found herself tangled up in some kind of forbidden relationship with him, she questioned not only her judgement, but also her ability to speak her opinion in an intelligent, if not eloquent manner.
"Well, if we should run into him while in costume, let's all be sure to remember our professional courtesy." Nelson admonished. "We shouldn't turn away help on this case. Even from someone like him."
Even from someone like him. The sentence lay thick and heavy over Sally.
Talk turned to tonight, and as Sally sat looking down at her folded hands on the tabletop with their brightly polished nails, it was decided that they would break into pairs, double up for tonight's assignments. Mothman and Dollar Bill would question some of the kids downtown, see if they'd heard anything about new product. Any information they could find on the streets would help get a handle on where the dealers were operating. Nelson and H.J. were going to shakedown some of their buyers; they weren't the most reputable of sources, but they were into things deep enough that they usually had more information on who was in the know. Sally and Hollis were assigned the shipyard. They were to speak to the harbor master's son; an oily punk by the name of Frankie. They'd been tipped off by one of the small time dealers that Frankie was a possible go-between for the drug's foreign and domestic counterparts. He was reputed to be ruthless and tight lipped, but to have a soft spot for pretty dames. They were hoping that Sally would be able to cut a deal with him, or at the very least, use her whiles to find out who was in charge.
The room began to empty; the masked vigilantees all saying their goodbyes and heading off in seperate directions.
So lost in thought was she, that Sally didn't notice that everyone had left until Hollis cleared his throat beside her.
"You, ah, ready to head out, Sally?"
Snapping out of her daze, Sally stood up from her chair. She looked up into his kind eyes and gave him a brilliant smile. She watched the tops of his cheekbones pinken. He was really a handsome man, and the way he responded to her was adorable.
She promised herself that she wouldn't let thoughts of Blake ruin another evening. She was in great company, and off to do what she did best.
"So Carl's this really cool chap down at the station. All the other guys really look up to him. I've always liked him, myself; he's got a really witty way about him, and seems really tough, too. Well, one day, Carl and I were getting donuts in this little joint downtown, when who should show up, but Captain Axis! Fully masked and everything. Who knows what he was doing in such a dive, but you should have seen Carl. He was scared to death of this guy. Told me later that he nearly lost his breakfast, he was so nervous."
They'd arrived at the large warehouse where they'd been told they could find Frankie. Sally was having a good time listening to Hollis's stories. Being alone with him felt almost like a date; he was so sweet, always rushing to hold open doors for her. And somehow, Hollis could run around barelegged and still look manly.
It was a crisp, clear night in the city; one of those nights that made you feel as if anything were possible.
"I had to practically carry Carl back to the station. He turned out to be completely useless; scared shitless that Captain Axis was going to rob the place or something." Hollis's laugh was infectious, so Sally couldn't help but laugh along with him.
"Then there was the time that I nearly got myself caught. I stopped a mugging one night, and the victim was none other than my Chief's daughter. She looked at me with such big stars in her eyes, the same crazy stars she wears whenever I come over for supper, that I was positive that's she'd recognized me. Turns out that she's just boy crazy, and she flashes those baby blues at every man she takes a fancy to."
They fell silent abruptly as they caught sight of the building's kicked-in door. Hollis held a gloved finger to his lips, indicating that they should remain silent, and led the way inside of the large structure.
They walked into a darkened office with glass windows that overlooked a large storeroom filled with boxes and shipping containers. Almost immediately, they could hear shouting and the sounds of a scuffle from inside.
"Tell me who it is, you worthless bastard. You think you can get away with all this? You think I'm just gonna let you?"
"Gah! Fuck you, mask! Why should I tell you anything?"
Before they'd even gotten sight of the room's occupants, Sally felt her stomach sink as she recognized one of the men's gruff voices.
This threat was met with silence. Sally and Hollis came upon the pair of men just in time to witness the Comedian's next words.
He was holding a well dressed man up by his shirt collar, and the thunks they'd been hearing appeared to have come from the man's head, which was being repeatedly slammed into the faded brown bricks that made up the wall behind him.
"I ain't telling you nothin'!" The man smirked, and as he spoke, realization set in upon Sally. This was Frankie!
"Then what good are you," Blake said flatly. There was a sickening crunch, and Hollis and Sally could only look on in horror as Blake slammed the other man's head into the wall one more time, effectively caving in the back of his skull.
Blood flooded out of Frankie's mouth as his last breath escaped him on a bubbling gasp.
"Jesus, Eddie, you've killed him!" Sally yelled, rushing forward.
Blake let the body fall. Sparing the two of them a quick glance, he headed back in the direction of the front office.
She and Hollis reached Frankie at the same time. He searched the body for a pulse then shook his head curtly at Sally.
Moving quickly, Sally entered the office, glaring accusingly at Blake.
"You heard 'im. Said he wouldn't talk. If you're here then you've gotta know all the bad shit he was into." Blake said as he riffled through the room's desk and file cabinets.
"But he was the link, dammit. Without him, we're back to square one," Hollis said as he stepped up beside Sally. His voice was thick with disgust, and grabbing Sally's arm, he started to lead her back and away from Blake. It was true that there was no love lost between the two men, but somehow Sally's mind was able to register Blake's narrowed eyes on the hand that Hollis had laid on her gloveless arm.
Apparently giving up his search, Blake turned and left the building.
Following close behind, Sally felt her cheeks burn.
What a mess.
Oblivious to the crowd that had begun to form outside, Sally lost it. "God, Eddie, do you realize what you've done? Do you even care?" She was beginning to feel hysterical. Blake turned and met her gaze. His confusion and indifference was obvious, which only made her angrier.
Letting her emotions play out across her face, and making sure Blake saw it, she turned to Hollis. "I need to... let's just go," she said. "We can call the cops and let them sort this out." She was mad and upset, and she just wanted to get away.
"Yeah. Yeah, let's go," Hollis said, looking at the people that were standing nearby, watching everything. He sounded as frustrated as she was. He had the mind of a cop, but he knew as well as she did that the law couldn't touch Blake.
They left him there, and a few streets over, Hollis was able to get them a cab.
Sally shut her eyes. Resisting the urge to lean on Hollis, she let her head rest back against the seat. They arrived at her building in no time. Sitting up, she turned to Hollis, who gave her a sad smile.
"So, um, you sure you don't want to go have a drink with me? You know, unwind?"
Looking up into his eager face, Sally realized that a drink was probably just what she needed. Tonight had been really fun until Blake had come along and messed up everything. Or so she told herself.
"Actually, that sounds fantastic," she said, returning his happy smile.
She was tipsy, and she knew it. She'd drank more than she usually did, but the more that she'd drank, the more fun that she'd had. Hollis was a handsome man, and as he'd walk her safely to her door, she'd been tempted to see what it would be like to kiss him. Would it thrill her down to her toes? Or leave her feeling empty?
As silly as the alcohol had made her, she was still smart enough to know that now wasn't the time to lead her good friend on. She needed to get her head sorted out first.
Giggling a little at herself as she stumbled over the threshold, she closed and locked her door, pulling at her single black glove. Getting out of her costume in this state was going to be a challenge, but she'd have to try. No way was she going to sleep in her bustier. She giggled again at the thought of calling Larry over here to help. The sight of her bare flesh would probably make him faint.
She bumped into an end table, nearly sending her delicate Tiffany lamp crashing to the floor. Reaching up with slender fingers, she pulled the chain, flooding this corner of the room with a soft glowing light.
She jumped as she noticed the black boots on the floor before her sofa, following them up to leather clad legs.
"Where have you been? Out with Owl?" His big body dwarfed the small piece of furniture. He was smoking a cigar, and the tip glowed red as he took a drag.
Sighing in exasperation, Sally propped a hand on her hip. "What are you doing here, Eddie? And since when have you ever cared who I have drinks with? We've never made any promises to each other. Hell, we never talk at all, really." She was too tired, and weary of being just a welcoming set of arms.
Setting his cigar down in the pink marble ashtray she kept on her coffee table, he leaned forward, propping his hands on his knees. "You really think Owl can give you what you need?"
His jealousy wasn't sweet or flattering, it was making her crazy. "Jesus, do you even listen when I talk? This isn't about him at all. Why the hell would you think it's okay to come here, tonight, and ask me where I've been? You do whatever the hell you want. Even if it messes everything up."
He stood, and approached with heavy steps. Reaching out, he wrapped his right arm around her, pulling her against him in a hug. Suddenly, Sally felt like crying. Why did he have to be the way he was? And could she love him if he was any other way?
She felt tears begin to dampen her cheeks. She wanted to yell at him, tell him to stay the hell away. But she couldn't.
He traced light, soothing kisses down the side of her face. His hands came up to brush away the pain.
She wanted to talk to him. Really talk. Ask him personal things, like where he came from. Why had he been alone from such a young age? She wanted to tell him about herself, things she'd never told anybody. Tell him about running away from her abusive father, and how Larry had found her working as a burlesque dancer.
What was his favorite color? It was probably black or red. The colors of pain and suffering.
Somehow their bodies always ended up doing the talking.
Soft, nibbling kisses soon turned bold and devouring as she clung to him and his familiar strength.
He delt with her costume the way he always did; with a quiet reverence, worshiping every inch of bared skin with lips and tongue.
The need she felt, just to have him here against her, his body warming hers, overcame everything else. Soon they were tangled up on her big brass bed, and he was strong and selfish; almost as desperate as he'd been the very first time. Perhaps he felt the conflict within her. He knew, as she did, that their days were numbered.
Blake blinked the sleep out of his eyes and squinted into the light of the morning sun coming in through frothy drapes. He noticed immediately that Sally wasn't in the bed beside him. Stretching, he yawned. Maybe Sal would be up for a bit of morning...
His brows drew together at the sound of harsh voices in the next room.
"Goddammit, Sally! Do you think I'm going to let this happen? I'm not grotesquely stupid, you know. I know you've been seeing him. Do you have any idea what a nightmare this would be if word got out?"
"Yes, yes, I know." She sounded tired, like a child resigned to sit and listen to a lecture that they knew they deserved.
"Why, for chrissakes? Do you think he gives a damn about you? He's treating you like... He's made you a whore, you know. A whore. You're not his girlfriend, or his lover. He'll never marry you.
"His whore; that's all you're ever going to be."
This last statement had Blake jumping up from the bed. The door hit the wall with a bang as he rushed Larry, still naked. His fist sank into the older man's face, and it felt good. So good that he had to do it again. And again. He punched and punched until the man was unconscious, a pale, bloody mess under his hands, and Sally's screams pierced the dark haze of his mind.
"Stop! Stop it, Eddie! Oh, God!"
He dropped the beaten man, letting him fall to the ground with a thud.
Tears running down her face, Sally fell to her knees beside him.
Watching her smooth some of the blood off of the fallen man's face, Blake reached out to her.
She shrank away. "Just, just leave. Go."
He gave her a long look, then gathering up his discarded armor, he did.
A/N: What do you think, guys? Should I continue this?
As you can probably tell, this is the beginning of the end for our OTP. :( Hell, I wish they could have a happy ending, but the tragic aspect of their relationship is its biggest appeal.
I'm trying to grow as a writer, and a big part of that is less porn and more story. Feel free to speak up if the lack of naughty bits kind of put you off this, though. Thanks to my 1st 2 chapters, I'm sure that pr0n is what some of you were expecting here. I'd like to think that I can put a little mystery in at this point, but again, feedback is key. It'd be great to hear from some of you about what works and what doesn't.
As always, I never beta my work, so please give me a holler if you notice something that looks wrong.