A Return to Hell
by Melissa Minners
Disclaimer and Other Information: It should be noted that all of the characters and many of the locales in this fan fiction are not mine. They are owned by The WB. This fan fiction is somewhat of an homage to the series, though I have used a little liberty here with events. The story takes place some time after No Kill Policy, so if you haven't read that particular fanfic, I suggest you do before reading this one. Warning: Parts of this fanfic may be graphic at times. Reader's discretion is advised. I hope you enjoy.
Bruce Wayne took another sip of his water and glanced again toward the entrance to the restaurant. He was early to meet his contact, but he couldn’t help being impatient. Sitting here, out in the open, in a crowded diner was not exactly his style. Nor did he enjoy the feeling of being exposed. He had been away from New Gotham for quite some time and he felt out of place…especially in an establishment such as this. Bruce had been raised for finer tastes – classy restaurants with moneyed clientele – but his contact had insisted on this meeting place.
Bruce hated to admit it, but he was a bit nervous about this meeting. He wasn’t quite sure who the contact was. The contact had used an extremely old code in contacting him. He had warned Alfred that this might be a trap and that if it was, Alfred should contact Dick Grayson in Bludhaven to affect Barbara’s rescue. Alfred had raised an eyebrow at the suggestion, asking why Bruce hadn’t contacted Dick in the first place. Bruce had ignored the question at the time, but now, he had to admit that the reason he hadn’t contacted Dick was that there were too many unresolved issues between them.
Still, it would have been safer contacting Dick Grayson than meeting the unknown contact. Bruce thought about the message he had found on his computer. The code was old, but valid, and few knew how to contact him through the bat cave’s computer network. But the message was vague and cryptic, the tone urgent. And the contact knew things…private things…that had been inserted in the message as a way to instill trust.
A strikingly beautiful brunette walked into the diner and stopped in the entrance. Bruce watched as the woman scanned the room, seemingly looking for someone in particular. She seemed familiar to Bruce, but he couldn’t place the face…especially while she was still wearing the sunglasses she had on when she walked into the diner. Suddenly, the brunette focused in on Bruce’s table, and instantly he was certain that this was his contact. She moved deliberately toward his table and Bruce could tell that she was trying very hard to restrain the urge to run toward the table.
“Is this seat taken?” she asked, gazing down at him.
That voice….it can’t be. She’s dead…Alfred told me…
* * *
“Miss Helena, do you really think you should be doing that?” Alfred asked, a look of concern clouding his features as he watched Helena punch the bag in the Wayne Manor gymnasium.
“I have to get back into fighting shape. Something tells me that the Joker and Harley aren’t gonna let Barbara go just because we ask politely.”
“Of course not, Miss Helena, but you are just getting back on your feet. You need more time to recuperate.”
Helena paused for a moment, grabbing the bag to stop its swing. She turned to face Alfred. “Time is one luxury we don’t have right now, Alfred. We have to rescue Barbara now. If we wait any longer…” Helena was reluctant to finish the statement for fear that saying it would make it a reality. Instead, she went back to work on the punching bag.
Alfred watched for a moment longer, then left shaking his head. He knew that trying to talk Helena out of joining Bruce in rescuing Barbara would be impossible. In Helena’s eyes, Barbara was family. That made this rescue mission personal, and she was not about to trust something that personal to Bruce Wayne, even if he was her father…perhaps in spite of the fact based upon his past track record. Alfred returned to the main room just in time to witness Bruce Wayne’s return.
“Ah, Master Bruce! I trust the luncheon was rather…uneventful.”
“Well, it wasn’t a trap. But I wouldn’t exactly say that the luncheon was uneventful.” Bruce headed toward the study, but paused at the door. “Is Helena awake?”
Alfred sighed. “More than awake. She’s in the gym. I dare say she’s over-exerting herself in an effort to prepare for this rescue mission. Perhaps you could speak with her on the matter?”
Bruce arched an eyebrow.
“Well, it certainly won’t do either of you any good if she overdoes it before the mission,” Alfred explained.
Bruce stifled a laugh. Alfred tended to adopt a sanctimonious air when he knew he was right – something Bruce missed in all the time he’d been away. He turned away from the study.
“Yes, I’m certain you’re right. Good call, Alfred.” On his way to the Wayne Manor gymnasium, Bruce tossed back over his shoulder, “You’ll be pleased to now we’ll be having company soon. When they arrive, please show them into the study.”
* * *
Bruce entered the gym silently and watched as his daughter pummeled the unknown foe represented by the heavy bag. Her jaw was set in grim determination. Her whole concentration was thrown into destroying her enemy as she landed blow after devastating blow, each hit a resounding echo in the near empty gym.
Her attack grew more frenzied by the moment, all technique abandoned, and Bruce knew who it was Helena was imagining standing before her. Sweat poured down her face, trickled down her neck and back, as she continued to batter the heavy bag.
Finally, the quickness and ferocity of her attack began to wane as her strength faded. Helena threw a couple more punches for good measure, then grabbed the heavy bag to stop its pendulant motion. She leaned her head against the bag, struggling to slow her breathing.
She swiped at a stray bead of sweat trickling down the side of her face. Spying the towel she had brought with her lying on the ground a few steps away, Helena let go of the bag and took a step toward it. Helena gasped as a sudden sharp pain shot its way across her back. Bruce hurried to Helena’s side as she dropped to one knee.
“Are you alright?” he asked, concern etched on his face.
Helena frowned and tried to pull away from him, but the pain lanced across her back again and she almost lost her balance altogether. Bruce caught her elbow and gently eased her to a sitting position on the floor.
“Easy…You’re pushing yourself too hard. After what you saw on that tape, I know you ache to destroy the Joker and Harley with every ounce of your being. But you can’t help Barbara if you destroy what little progress you’ve made in your recovery. Save your strength for the real fight.”
Helena raised her head and glared defiantly at Bruce. But something in his eyes told her that Bruce wasn’t chiding her. Her features softened as she recognized something in those eyes she hadn’t seen there before. She turned away, unprepared for the feelings that threatened to overwhelm her at the look of care and concern directed at her by a man she had vowed to hate for the rest of her life.
Seeking to end the awkward moment, Helena made an attempt to rise. Bruce quickly assisted her to her feet, not letting go until he was certain she could stay upright without assistance. He glanced at his watch and cleared his throat.
“Well, you’d better go clean up. We’ll be having company shortly.”
Helena turned to look at Bruce questioningly.
“My contact…and she’s bringing a friend…one I’m certain you’ll be interested in meeting.”
* * *
Carolyn entered the apartment and found Dinah once again dejectedly staring out the window at the alley below. She secretly breathed a sigh of relief. Carolyn had been worried that her daughter would not be in the apartment when she got back from her meeting with Bruce Wayne. Although she had explained the importance of remaining hidden to Dinah, the frustration of remaining in the apartment, while Barbara lay in the hands of monsters, was taking its toll on the girl. The long hours of inactivity, coupled with thoughts of the dream she’d had earlier that morning, combined to make Dinah more anxious to do something…anything…to help free her mentor from her torment.
Dinah turned to face her mother as she crossed from the doorway to the chair in which Dinah was seated. She’d been crying again; the pain and desperation mirrored in her eyes was almost too much fro Carolyn to bear. She pulled her daughter close and held her tightly.
Dinah pulled back from the embrace and gave her mother a defiant stare. “I will be when I can stop hiding out and start helping Barbara.”
Carolyn couldn’t help bur grin – Dinah reminded her so much of herself at that age. “Well, you’re going to get that chance. The meeting went well…once Bruce got over the shock of seeing me alive, that is.”
Dinah abruptly rose from her chair and stalked angrily across the room. Carolyn sighed. She didn’t know how to convince Dinah that the Bruce Wayne she had met was nothing like the Bruce Wayne that Carolyn had befriended years ago. She walked over to where Dinah now stood and placed a hand on her daughter’s shoulder.
“Baby, I know how you feel about him, but Bruce wants to help. Besides, he says he has a friend that is chomping at the bit to get a little payback on the Joker and Harley Quinn. We’re supposed to meet them in an hour at the Wayne Mansion, so…”
“A friend?” Dinah turned to face Carolyn. “What friend?”
Carolyn shrugged. “He didn’t say. Just had this amused glint in his eye when he told me that you would probably get along very well this person. Oh, well – we’ll know in an hour anyway. I’m less concerned about the friend and more concerned about formulating a plan. Bruce said that the Joker contacted him – gave him an ultimatum and a meeting place. That means he’ll have surprises waiting for Batman should he arrive as scheduled. We have to account for all of that. And…”
Carolyn paused when she noticed the look of amusement showing on her daughter’s face.
“You must have worked with Barbara a lot in the past, huh?” Dinah asked.
“We worked with each other quite a bit. That’s how we became such good friends. Why?”
Dinah laughed. “Because except for the techno-babble, you sounded exactly like her just now.”
Carolyn gave Dinah a playful swat and a look of mock annoyance. In fact, she was secretly overjoyed at the change in Dinah’s demeanor. She chalked it up to the prospect of getting Barbara back. She hoped that Dinah wouldn’t be disappointed.