The box wasn’t nearly as heavy as she’d thought it would be. It was surreal as she sat in the back of the car, staring down at the wooden top and the small metal plate bolted onto the top of it. It didn’t look nearly big enough to hold the contents of a human body, even burned and reduced to ash. Her father had been a tall man. There should have been… more. It hurt that there wasn’t more.
She smoothed her hands over the polished wood as the car rolled to a stop, dark tinted windows making the bright sunny day outside seem fitting for the sobering mood. But that didn’t last long as the driver stepped around the car and pulled the door open, letting in all that light and sound of happy chirping birds. The man offered his hand to her and she waved it off, instead clutching the box to her chest as she stepped out of the car of her own accord.
The funeral director that had arranged everything was talking in her ear but she didn’t or wasn’t listening to him. The day felt wrong. She felt like it should have been raining and dark, like the world might stop just for a few seconds to let her mourn in silence. She suddenly regretted not calling Dick and asking him to come with her. But after the way their last meeting had gone she wasn’t sure she could have handled him saying no. It was easier just not to ask. Not that she needed anyone else. She could do this herself. She just didn’t want to have to.
She ignored the man standing next to her and started walking across the grass, pausing after a few steps to step out of her heel, leaving them where they sat as she continued on her path through the marble and granite stones. She didn’t need anyone to tell her where she was going. She’d walked this path to many times to count. She stopped in front of a white granite stone, and closed her eyes, tilting her head back to let the sun beat down on her face as she dug up some inner strength inside herself. Taking a deep breath she turned her head down to stare at the stone, they’d already engraved it, her father’s name, birthday date, death date. Alongside her mothers name, birth, and death. She didn’t have to look to the side to know that the same death date as her mothers was on her brothers stone. She knew exactly how rough the stone was on the top of the markers. She knew how every letter of the etched in names felt under her finger tips. And now she had one more name to memorize the feel off.
Taking a deep breath she finally looked down at the small hole that had been dug. She didn’t have to bury him, she could have left him at the house, could have stuck him on a mantel somewhere. The dead didn’t care anymore. But she cared and it felt right to put them all together again. So that was what she did as she knelt in the grass, bracing herself as she lowered the to light box into the ground. She pursed her lips to fight back the well of emotion that was boiling up inside her but it was a losing battle. No matter how strong of a person she prided herself on being, there were some things that no amount of strength could hold back. She thought that she’d cried all the tears that she was going to cry but that was a lie, just like she knew these tears that ran hot and heavy down her cheeks wouldn’t be the last to fall either. There would always be something small and innocent that would remind her of him that would make the tears spring to life again. Just like it had when her mother and brother had been murdered. There were even days, even twenty years later that would make her cry.
She sat in silent staring at the stones in front of her as small wrens chirped in the tree over head. In a strange way the birds made her feel less alone. It was a silly thought yet comforting. She turned her head up to watch them for a moment, jumping from branch to branch. It gave her something to focus on and long enough for her to get herself back together. Slowly she pushed herself back to her feet, kissing her fingers before touching each of the stones in turn then walked away before she let herself start crying again.
Walking back to her shoes she paused long enough to step back into them, forcing herself not to look back at the standing stones before she slid into the back of the car once again. Her hand slid over to the side, picking up the purse that she’d left behind when she’d gotten out. Moving it to her lap she squeezed it, feeling the bumps of keys, her wallet, and the bottle of pills. She didn’t need them at the moment, but it didn’t stop her from sliding her hand inside and pulling out the bottle. She focused on it, staring at the pills behind tinted plastic. The urge, the need, the want rose to the surface of her mind, overriding the pain. She hadn’t even realized she’d opened the bottle until the pills tapped out into her hand and she was staring at the white capsules. And then she was tossing them back, dry swallowing them and closing her eyes. It didn’t work that fast, but the thought that she’d soon feel that rush through her head was enough to appease the monster in her brain.
The drive home was lost in a blur of everything else as the drugs kicked in and suddenly the blur became hyper focus. The car pulled up in front of her, no, her father’s house and let herself inside. She dropped her things by the door, locking it behind her, kicking her shoes off without a care, so unlike her to leave them in the middle of the floor. She made her way to his office, opening the door she hadn’t had the nerve since that first night back in the city. The police report of his death was waiting there in the middle of the desk as she picked it up and slid down to the floor, crossed her legs and started spreading out the papers one by one, letting the gory details sink into her head, page by page.
She’d read the words over and over again until they stopped making since and she gave up, leaving the reports scattered across the floor. She went back to the entryway, pulling out her bottle of pills from her purse and tossed back a few more, thoughts of rationing them out as had been her original plan tossed out the window along with what she felt like most of her sanity. Which just put more silly and stupid thoughts in her head as she walked back to her room.
An hour later she sat on the edge of the Gotham Opera house. Whatever show had been playing that night was still underway, the voices and music muted through the building. Even muted it helped smooth out the hurricane of different feelings floating around in her head. There were to many things to focus on. Her father. Being home again. Being in Gotham again. Dick. Batman. Whatever that was that had gone down in the harbor. At least the latter things gave her something to think about that didn’t dissolve her into tears again.
The military part of her brain told her to just find some company to look after the house, lock it all up and go back to work. The idea was appealing in so many ways right now. She could focus on work and shove all of this behind her, ignore it until it didn’t hurt so bad. She’d left Gotham once to get away from her family, would this by any different? The only difference now was that there wasn’t anyone to leave behind. And the Huntress wanted to hunt. She wanted to throw herself into a hunt and let that side of her brain that had been twisted and tweaked into what it was have control.
Helena wanted something different though. She wanted to stay. She wanted to find out what had happened to her father and track down whatever trash had killed him. She wanted to see justice done. She wanted someone to pay for it. But after looking through all the police reports, all she had were dead in and questions. She’d always heard of death by a thousand cuts but she’d never actually seen it done to a living being. And that was exactly how her father had died. Cut over and over, by some kind of razor sharp blade, and poisoned by every one of them. The poison wasn’t anything that they could identify either, at least not at a local level. If there were any samples of it left she needed to get them and send them back to NOWHERE and have someone there look at it. It was her only real lead. And that was frustrating.
That wasn’t all Helena wanted either, but Dick had his own life that she didn’t fit into. Nor should she. It wasn’t like she had plans to move back permanently. Did she? Did she even want too? Could she give up everything she had to come back to this city? How much would she lose? Just part of her skills? All of them? Because leaving NOWHERE meant no more of the drugs that kept that enhanced half of her brain working properly.
She made a frustrated sound in her throat as she reached up and pulled her goggles down over her eyes, flicking through the spectrums as she scanned over the city. She wasn’t sure what she was expecting to find. Nothing mostly, but on the off chance that one of the cities vigilanties showed up again she wanted to watch them again. They were a fascination to her, people that bucked the system that she worked for. And right now, they were a perfect distraction. But mostly, she was watching for the Batman. He’d facinated her as a teenager and the fact that he was still out there doing what he did now so many years later just made him that much more interesting. And meeting him at the docks the other night had just made her want to hunt him down again too.