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.
Dinah rushed around the vehicle to Huntress’ side. Dropping to her knees beside her, Dinah placed a hand on her friend’s shoulder, sending the pain of a thousand needles piercing flesh racing up and down Huntress’ back. She dropped to her hands, retching violently as the pain coursed through her.
“Oh my God! Huntress? What’s wrong?”
Huntress couldn’t hear her. The pain was just too intense and it took every ounce of her strength just to fight the blackness swirling around the edges of her vision, threatening to engulf her. With each heave, a new wave of pain crashed into her, carrying her closer to the state of unconsciousness.
Fear chilled Dinah to the bone as she knelt beside her ailing friend. She’d seen Huntress in pain before, but never like this. Dinah was afraid to look for whatever it was that was causing her so much pain. Just touching her shoulder had increased Huntress’ pain by tenfold. She was afraid of what a gentle probe would do. And the fact was, they didn’t have time for gentle probing. They had to get Barbara away from the warehouse before more of the Joker’s thugs appeared.
Just then, in the glow of the vehicle’s interior light spilling out onto the street, Dinah spotted the problem. Hunched over as she was, Huntress’ jacket had ridden up, as did the shirt she wore beneath it. The shirt, already a dark black, was much darker at the lower edge, and thin trails of blood traced lines across the skin on Huntress’ lower back.
“Damn!” Dinah exclaimed, just as Black Canary arrived.
“Dinah! What happened?” She dropped to a crouch beside her daughter.
“She must have re-opened the wounds on her back. Dammit! If the wounds weren’t completely healed, why the hell did she insist on being here?!”
Carolyn rose and positioned herself at Huntress’ other side. Carolyn looked directly into her daughter’s eyes. She knew that Dinah wasn’t angry with Huntress – it was worry that made her tone so harsh.
“You know the answer to that, Dinah. The same reason you raced off with a concussion to warn Barbara about the Joker and Harley.”
Dinah broke eye contact and stared at the ground. Her mother was right. There are things you do for the ones you love – sacrifices you make. This had been Huntress’ sacrifice for Barbara. Carolyn’s voice broke her out of her thoughts.
“Huntress, can you walk?” she asked, taking hold of Huntress’ right arm.
Her question was met by another series of retching, followed by a pain-wracked moan.
“I’ll take that as a no. Dinah, you’re going to have to help me get her into the car.”
Each taking a side, mother and daughter lifted Huntress between them. Unable to withstand the pain that attacked her at every slight movement or jolt, Huntress gave in to the blackness and her body went limp. They half-dragged / half-carried Huntress to the front of the Hummer and secured her in the passenger seat.
Taking a quick look in the rear to make certain that Barbara was similarly secured, Carolyn got a close look at the injuries inflicted on her friend. Anger coursed through her and she longed for revenge, but she knew that there were other important matters that had to be taken care of first. Revenge would have to wait for the time being. She turned to Dinah.
“Get them out of here, as fast as you can without getting nailed by Gotham’s Finest. Get them back to Wayne Manor. Alfred will know what to do.”
As Carolyn turned and began to head back toward the warehouse, a sense of panic seized Dinah like a vice, forcing the breath from her lungs. Unable to speak, she quickly grabbed for her mother’s arm. When Carolyn turned to face her daughter, she found Dinah’s face streaked with tears.
“Don’t go,” Dinah said, her voice strained.
“Dinah, I have to. Batman is still in there. He might need my help. And the rest of the plan…I have to go back.”
Dinah knew it was irrational. The plan had called for Huntress and Dinah to get Barbara away from the scene while Batman and Black Canary completed the plan, and she had been fine with that before. But now, one chilling thought continued to flash through her mind as she stared at her mother, the vision of the warehouse looming behind her.
“The last time I left you…I…you…” A sob prevented her from finishing the sentence.
Compassion forced a tear from Carolyn’s eye as she realized what her daughter was trying to tell her. The last time Carolyn had made Dinah leave her behind, she had been inside a very similar warehouse with Al Hawke. The warehouse had exploded behind Dinah and Huntress with Carolyn and Hawke still inside. Once feeling abandoned by her mother, Dinah was left feeling as though she had unwittingly returned the favor and had abandoned her mother to her death.
“Oh, Honey.” She pulled Dinah into a quick, but firm embrace. “I’ll come back,” she whispered into her daughter’s ear. “I promise. We’ll just finish up here and I promise that I’ll join you at the manor.”
Stepping back from Dinah, she held her daughter at arms’ length and repeated her pledge. “I promise, Dinah.”
Dinah, looking thoroughly unconvinced, glanced at the warehouse and then back at Carolyn.
“Dinah, you have to go,” Carolyn gently prodded. She turned Dinah to face the Hummer. “They need you,” she said over Dinah’s shoulder.
Dinah took in the scene before her. She wiped the tears from her eyes. Her mother was right – Barbara and Huntress were her family, too. They needed her to complete her assignment. Straightening, she began to walk toward the car. As she slid into the driver seat, she turned her head to watch as Carolyn ran back toward the warehouse.
Come back, she thought as she turned the ignition. Please.
The engine of the Hummer raced and the tires squealed as Dinah pulled away from the scene, racing for Wayne Manor at top speed.
* * *
Batman paced the room, contemplating the situation at hand. It seemed as though he had been chasing after the Joker his entire life. The Joker had become an obsession for him. Batman’s entire career had been one sacrifice after the other. His determination to bring criminals to justice required personal sacrifices. But he had never sacrificed as much to one criminal as he had the Joker. And the sacrifices he had made – his most precious, most painful, most heart-breaking losses.
Now, the time had come for a decision. He’d had the Joker in his grasp before and the decision had always been so easy. Hand him over to the authorities and let them handle it. Let the courts decide what the Joker’s final fate would be and stick by that decision.
This time, however, the decision was not so easy. He had let the authorities handle the Joker long ago and they had botched the job. His protégé was confined to a life in a wheelchair and his lover was lost to him forever. Since that time, Batman had nothing but time to think over his failings. He’d reviewed that night in the dockyards over and over and over again, with the same results. He hadn’t been able to kill the Joker then.
But since then, the Joker had been busy. Through his lover, Harley Quinn, he had continued his attacks on those Batman cared about. And finally, once free, he had come after Batman with no mercy, almost killing his daughter in the process. Barbara Gordon could very well be dead for all he knew, just because she refused to give the Joker any information he could use against his nemesis. And kidnapping Black Canary’s daughter – torturing her – what good could that have done. She barely knew Batman.
But the Joker wasted no opportunities in punishing his enemies, whether real or perceived. Being as close to Barbara and Helena as she was, Dinah had been caught in the crossfire, much in the same way as Selina.
Innocent victims. The Joker left a trail of them behind as he carried out his vendetta against Batman. And now Batman had a decision to make. One that for most would not be very hard. He had an opportunity before him. He had the Joker in his grasp once again. A man who had torn his life to shreds; whose actions had forced him to leave Gotham. And now he had a chance to stop him forever.
He heard his daughter’s voice in his ear as she called to Dinah for help with Barbara. Although gratified that Helena had found Barbara alive, there was a tone in her voice that suggested that they had gotten to her just in time. And something more – he could hear the strain underlying her words. He’d heard it before – at the Manor when she was recovering from her injuries. His daughter was injured, once again at the hands of his enemy.
Canary must have heard something to, for she called out to him asking if he needed her to stay. No, he wanted her to go. He didn’t want her to be here when he decided what to do with the Joker. He didn’t want her to be an accomplice should the decision be something of the more final nature. Better that she help the others get Barbara to safety.
He gazed down at the Joker, lying in a heap against the wall where Batman had tossed him like a rag doll. Fury had given him the strength of a thousand men and sent Joker crashing head-first into that wall. The Joker was struggling to regain consciousness and Batman wondered if he knew just how much of a struggle it was to decide Joker’s fate.
If he had any inclination, Batman knew that the Joker would be chiding him about it. The Joker had no such struggles. If he wanted someone dead, he just went out and killed them…or in Selina’s case, had them killed. He never thought twice about it. There was no struggle over what was right and what was wrong. There was no morality conflict, only finality.
Batman considered this. It must be so freeing to be so utterly devoid of a conscience. He longed for such freedom. Before he’d left Gotham he’d struggled a thousand times with his conscience over what would be best for the people of Gotham and what would be morally correct. Now that he had returned, perhaps he should turn over a new leaf.
He strode over to the Joker’s barely conscious form and hauled him up by his shirt collar. The time had come for Batman to make a decision – he just hoped it was one he could live with.