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Sometimes Dead Is Better

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Sara let out a shuddering breath as she walked around the living room of the house she’d rented, touching the figurines scattered along the shelf that hung on the wall. It’d been hours since she’d called her dad and told him that she was going to be in Ludlow, Maine for the foreseeable future. She’d given him the address of where she was staying but had refused to tell him why she was there.

“Is this something to do with the League, Sara?” he asked.

She shook her head despite the fact that he couldn’t see her. “No. I’m here because of some information I got from someone that I brought in to the League but it was information I asked for.”

“You’re not going to tell me anything else, are you?”

“No.”

She had called Mick right after that and left him a message that was simple and to the point.

“There’s a way to bring Laurel back. I’m going to be out of town because of it. I’ll call you after. Don’t get in to any trouble while I’m gone, Mick.”

Her phone had a few missed calls from Mick since then but she hadn’t answered and hadn’t listened to the messages that he’d left. If he was calling to tell her not to do it, she didn’t want to hear it. If he was calling to ask where she was, she wasn’t going to tell him. If he was calling to tell her to wait for him to join her, she didn’t have time for that.

Sara glanced at the clock. If what she’d done was going to work, it would be another few hours before it would take effect. Most people would assume that midnight is when everything would happen, she knew.

Sara knew better. Midnight might be known as the witching hour in more recent years but the witching hour had traditionally been 3:00 am to 4:00 am. If this was going to work, that would be the time.

Three hours to go.

“Ta-er al-Sahfer.”

Sara sucked in a breath as she pushed herself to her feet and turned away from Laurel’s grave. “Hello, Talibah.” She hadn’t seen the woman in years but she had kept up with what was happening with Talibah. Talibah had been one of the few that stayed loyal to Nyssa when Malcolm had become Ra’s al Ghul. She was one of the few left in the League that Sara felt could still be trusted.

“I was sorry to hear about your sister,” she said, ticking her eyes to the grave behind Sara. “I wanted to come to show my support for you but that was impossible.” She was right, of course, Sara knew. Almost everyone in Star City believed that Sara had died on the Gambit. Someone that Laurel had never met showing up in honor of Sara would have caused too many questions.

“Thank you.” Sara raised an eyebrow in silent question, noting the small smile that appeared on Talibah’s face at the gesture before it disappeared.

“I know what you want to do, Ta-er al Sahfer.” She paused. “It is possible.”

Sara’s gaze sharpened. “How?”

“There is a stretch of land in Ludlow, Maine that allows a person to return to life if they are buried there.” As Sara sucked in a breath, Talibah shook her head. “However, just as it is with the Lazarus Pit, there are consequences. What you bring back will not be the sister you know, Ta-er al Sahfer. She will be something else entirely.”

“Like I was after the Pit.”

“Very much like it, yes. She will not be Laurel Lance in spirit. Her body will walk and talk but she will not have her soul. There will be a...void. One that evil will be able to easily fill.”

Sara nodded in understanding. “I understand. Do you know exactly where this land is?” When she received no immediate answer, Sara narrowed her eyes. “Talibah.”

“Yes,” was the reluctant response given. “You’re determined to do this then.”

“She did no less for me.”

Talibah sighed and gave her an address. “Behind that house, about a mile out, is a pet cemetery. Once you pass through to the other side of that cemetery, you’ll have keep going for another twenty minutes or so up to the top of a mostly stone area and then you’ll have reached the stretch of land that you’re looking for. All you have to do is stay on the path, no matter what you hear or see along the way.”

Sara gave her a small smile, dipping her head in acknowledgement of how difficult it was to give up that information for Talibah when she clearly had doubts about what Sara wanted to do. “Shukraan.”

Talibah nodded once. “Kunn hadhiraan,” she said. “And Ta-er al Sahfer? You’ll need to build a cairn.”

She was gone before Sara could reply.

Sara dropped on to the chair near the window. She would have loved to have come straight to Ludlow but instead she’d forced herself to plan it out. She couldn’t afford to rush and get caught. She’d used one of the few League connections she had left to book a private plane, one used for transporting supplies so that there’d be no questions, to take her and Laurel’s body to Ludlow. Another of her contacts arranged to have a truck with a covered bed waiting for her so she was able to go straight from the plane to the truck without having to speak to anyone. She’d looked up the address in Maine and noted that it was currently empty which suited her just fine.

Part of her had wanted to just break in to the house and use it but she hadn’t wanted to run the risk that someone would show up to rent the house if it was believed to be empty. So she’d gone against one of her rules and left a bit of a paper trail by renting the house for the next month, with an option to add another month.

There was no telling how long it would take Laurel to adjust to being alive again, after all.

In the next room, her phone went off, the sound of the ringtone letting her know that it was Mick again. Rather than answer, she looked at the clock.

Two hours to go.

She hadn’t liked doing it but she didn’t want to risk getting lost on the way to the house so she’d made sure to land in the late afternoon. It had been difficult to get Laurel’s body off the plane and in to the bed of the truck without anyone noticing but, with some help from her League contact, she’d managed. She could have lied on what was wrapped in the tarp obviously but it was just easier if no one asked any questions.

Once she’d found the house, she’d taken Laurel’s body inside, very deliberately avoiding thinking of the way Laurel’s body was too lax. Instead, she gently placed Laurel on the couch before she stepped away.

“I’ll be back,” she said softly.

Sara didn’t look back as she left the house and looked around. It only took a few moments for her to find the path that Talibah had mentioned and she began to follow the path in the backyard that led out in to the woods. It was easy to recognize where the “official” backyard ended—the path was mown as if someone came and took care of it but the grass on either side of it went higher than her waist. She paused as she reached the top of the first hill and glanced out, stopping completely at the view.

It looked, Sara thought, like a painting. The river curved out, a pretty navy blue with just a hint of white in the distance from where the water crashed over rocks. On either side of the river, there was nothing but various shades of green, yellow, and red as the leaves had already begun to change colors. Further out, she could begin to make out the way the road curved alongside the woods, parallel to the river.

Maybe she’d bring Laurel here. It reminded her of the painting that Laurel had bought her when she’d said she was going to settle in Central City after she was done traveling.

“I thought a landscape would be good. It’s peaceful. We could use a bit of peace,” Laurel had told her with a smile, dimples flashing.

Sara nodded to herself. She’d bring Laurel here.

Decision made, she began to walk again. It wasn’t long before the path became packed with pine needles on the floor and she began to go downhill. There was no more grass on either side of the path; instead she was now in to the woods. As she continued, she noticed the way there were wilted flowers in pots and old coffee cans alongside the path. If Sara had judged the distance right, she figured she’d only gone about a quarter mile so far. She pushed on, following the path as it continued even further down, winding between fir trees and cutting through a tangle of undergrowth. The ground was soggy here and she shook her head at the thought of having to do this while carrying Laurel. She didn’t want to trip and drop her sister, after all.

It became so marshy at one point that she had to stop and consider how to get through the area. She ended up stepping on the tussocks scattered through the area to get across. She assumed that was how anyone else that tried to get up here did it.

The path began to go uphill again and she pushed forward easily. Briefly she wondered if she had actually answered when Mick called if he would have made the climb as easily as she did. She knew that, for her, it was because of her time on Lian Yu and with the League that she wasn’t even breaking a sweat. She wondered if what the Time Masters had done to him to turn him in to Chronos would allow for the same thing.

Maybe one day she’d take him on a hike and see what happened.

Eventually, she reached the top of the second hill and the path went through some underbrush as well as a swath of bushes that towered over her. Just beyond that, Sara could see an old wooden archway with the words PET SEMATARY spelled out in faded black letters along the top.

She ignored the various slabs of stone and wood, the wooden crosses and the handmade tombstones for people’s pets as she looked around. The area was well tended, the grass was cut and formed a circle of about forty feet. Three sides were lined in underbrush but it was the fourth side that drew Sara’s attention. It was made of fallen trees and looked just as deliberate as the underbrush.

That was what she was looking for. She could feel it. There was a difference in the air as she neared the area and she stopped, tilting her head as she took note of where she’d have to step to climb before nodding and turning to head back.

She needed to see if there were any gardening tools at the house.

Mick had stopped calling.

Sara sighed and looked down at her cell phone. She’d moved to the kitchen and dropped in to a chair at the table. The screen showed no more missed calls and she briefly considered opening up the text messages or listening to one of the voicemails before shaking her head. She still didn’t know what he wanted to say to her and she’d never know if she didn’t check but right at that moment she just couldn’t care. She felt sick to her stomach, wondering if it was going to work, if Laurel was going to walk in through that door later. Until she knew, she couldn’t talk to Mick or anyone else.

Hot chocolate, she decided. She’d make some hot chocolate. Not the microwaveable kind but the kind that Laurel had always insisted was the best. She’d make it from scratch.

Mind made up, she stood and pulled out the chocolate that she’d need to melt, grateful that the house had come fully stocked with groceries already. As she began to search the cabinets for a pot, she stopped and pressed her hands to the countertop, lowering her head so that her hair fell around her face.

Sara closed her eyes and let out a shaky breath. “Please let this work,” she whispered. She looked down at the clock on her phone.

One hour to go.

She had researched the land that she was going to bury Laurel in before coming here. She knew it was the Micmac burial ground. She knew that there was a chance this could go seriously wrong.

It was a chance she had to take though. For Laurel.

Sara looked outside, nodding to herself when she saw that it was dark now. Quickly, she went to the door and swung the small duffle bag over her shoulder, letting the weight of the pick and shovel settle before she went in to the next room and carefully picked her sister’s body up.

It took her about thirty minutes to get to the pet cemetery this time, the weight of Laurel causing her to stop a few times. Vaguely, she noted that the path had been lit up thanks to the moon shining down. She hadn’t even needed the flashlight that she’d hung from her wrist.

Gently, she set Laurel down and sat down next to her, eyeing the fallen trees.

She let herself rest for another twenty minutes before she picked Laurel up and stood once more, a sigh escaping before she could stop it. Shaking her head, she took a deep breath and stepped on the first dead tree trunk.

The change that came over her was instantaneous. She felt lighter, the exhaustion still there but it was as if it didn’t matter. It was as if Laurel and the tools she carried weighed nothing.

A smile spread over her face as she climbed steadily to the top without having to stop once. By the time she reached the top, the wind was whipping her hair back over her shoulders before changing direction so that it flew in her eyes. She ignored it and climbed down the other side as easily as if it were a set of stairs. It took less than a minute to reach the ground.

As she continued to follow the path, she felt as if everything about her could reach out and touch the woods around her. It was as if she could hear the soft whispers winding their way through the trees towards her, urging her on.

The path wound between the trees, going up and down, and Sara still pressed on, turning sideways every now and then to keep Laurel from getting tangled in any underbrush or branches that she had to pass through. Eventually, the path only continued downwards, becoming steeper as she went until the ground beneath her become soft and wet enough that it felt like she was being pulled down in to quicksand. She pushed forward, ignoring the way the water splashed up against her shoes until she found the first tussock and went from one bunch of grass to the next, the moon lighting her way.

Mist started to slowly creep towards her, covering the ground first and then simply rolling over her shoes. It crawled up and over her ankles and higher still until she was completely surrounded by it. Despite the fact that this should have made it even more difficult, she could still see perfectly, the path had never been clearer.

And then suddenly she heard a high pitched laugh that turned in to a sob. It was silent for a moment and then the laughter returned, its pitch rising higher and higher until it was a shriek and Sara winced, unable to fight off a shiver.

“Sara!”

Sara froze at the sound of her name said by a voice she thought she’d never hear again.

“Sara!”

“Leonard,” Sara whispered. She’d know his voice anywhere.

“Sara, look at me.”

It came from behind her and she let out a shuddering breath at the desperation in his voice.

Leonard was here. He was here somehow. All she had to do was turn around and he’d be there. She could have him back just as easily as she could have Laurel.

“Look at me, damn it!”

The words that Talibah had told her suddenly rang through her head, clear as if she were there with Sara.

All you have to do is stay on the path, no matter what you hear or see along the way.

“Sara!”

That wasn’t Leonard. That wasn’t him. He wasn’t here. No, this was a test to see if she’d give up on bringing Laurel back. She steeled herself to ignore Leonard’s voice and began to walk again.

“Sara, turn around!”

As if to encourage her to keep going, she heard Laurel’s voice from further up the path, her tone one that Sara recognized from countless pep talks such as the one that had convinced her to get on the Waverider in the first place.

“Keep going, Sara. You’re almost there.”

Sara’s hands clenched around Laurel’s body and she bit her lip, ignoring Leonard’s cries until they faded away.

Ahead of her, a large black canary seemed to be floating in the air, staring down at her. Its beak looked impossibly sharp and its green eyes blazed. The beak opened and closed as if it was speaking to her though she couldn’t hear it. A green arrow suddenly erupted from its stomach as if someone had stabbed it from behind and a loud, piercing shriek ripped through the air. Around her, dead black and white canaries fell from the sky and it was enough to get Sara moving once more.

“Stay on the path, no matter what you hear or see along the way,” she whispered to herself, ignoring the way her stomach clenched and fighting the urge to stop and be sick.

The ground became firm once more as she continued and up ahead, Sara saw another fallen tree, though it looked as if it had simply broken and fallen over rather than been chopped. The break was fresh, still oozing with sap as she maneuvered her way over it and then fell in to a large indentation. She looked around and took note of the way the foliage had been flattened as if someone had stepped on it and shook her head, scrambling up and out so that she could continue down the path.

Beneath her, the ground went from packed with pine needles to stone and she felt a shiver of relief make its way through her.

She was almost there. She could feel it.

There were steps cut in to the rock and she began to climb, her lips twitching as the feeling from before returned. She felt lighter than just moments before, the worry and exhaustion seemed to melt away so that all she felt was determination to get to the top. The wind picked up again, whipping her hair about and causing the tarp wrapped around Laurel to beat against her, the sound loud in the silence of the woods.

Sara looked over at the rock wall and saw that it wasn’t smooth. It had been picked and gouged at until shapes looked to be coming out of the wall. Animals, humans, even a boat. She blinked at the face of a man with hooded eyes frowning at her before shaking her head again and pushing herself to climb faster.

Once she reached the top, she stopped and fought the urge to simply drop to her knees. Her entire body ached. She was used to walking and running for long distances but not with a body in her arms. The League taught them to get out and if someone couldn’t keep up, you left them behind. It was something they all learned early on. It was just one of the ways to guarantee that each member would work that much harder.

Forcing herself to remain standing, she looked around and realized that it looked like the Pet Sematary, only made of rock. It only took a few moments for her to choose her spot and she moved quickly, kneeling and setting Laurel down before finally letting the duffle bag drop to the ground as well. It was with those movements that Sara felt like she’d just come back to herself. Doubt filled her as she looked at Laurel’s body and she wondered if she could really do this, if anything good could come from this after what she’d seen on the way here.

But then, she’d heard Laurel, hadn’t she? Laurel had told her to keep going; that had to mean something.

She’d heard Leonard too, a tiny voice that sounded remarkably like her dad reminded her. Leonard had wanted her to turn around.

But how could she? How could she not take this chance after everything that Laurel had done for her?

She had to do this. If it went wrong, she’d deal with it.

Her jaw clenched and she nodded, resolved, as she took hold of the pick and slammed it down in to the ground below her. She continued this, slowly forming the hold that she’d have to bury Laurel in and taking the time to set some of the stones to the side for the cairn as she did so. She kept at it, using the shovel once she’d broken through the rock and completely shaped the hole. It was easier to shovel the smaller rocks out of the hole.

Sara let out a breath once she was done and looked at Laurel, still wrapped in the tarp, before reaching out and carefully lowering her in to the hole. She cut the ties on the tarp and loosened it but left it covering her sister’s body. She didn’t want to refill the hole without something protecting Laurel.

The adrenaline pumped through her veins as she used the shovel to refill the hole, evening it out as much as possible on that sort of terrain. The cairn came next, carefully put in place as Sara piled the stones up, the base wide and then getting smaller with each layer of stone until it was complete. Sara shoved the pick and shovel back in the duffle bag and pushed to her feet, swinging the bag over her shoulder again as she studied the cairn for a few moments. Nodding in satisfaction, she stepped back and turned to leave.

All that was left was to go back to the house and wait.

Sara blew out a breath and drained the last of the hot chocolate from her cup. She couldn’t really remember the walk back to the house but it had felt like something was trying to get her to just stop and stay right there. That feeling had been enough to get her back to the house without once stopping to rest this time.

She flexed her hands and stared down at them. They were cut and bruised though she’d cleaned the blood and dirt off of them earlier. She’d washed all evidence of what she’d done off in the hot shower she’d taken once she’d gotten back. The only evidence left were the pick and shovel in the small duffle bag and the way her hands looked.

Sighing, Sara stood and went to the sink, watching the way the water swirled down the drain for a few moments before she rinsed the cup and left it there. She’d wash it in the morning.

Briefly, Sara wished she’d thought to grab a book or the deck of cards that had once belonged to Leonard. But she hadn’t been interested in a book and the cards were tucked safely away in her apartment back in Central City.

She allowed her thoughts to wander back to the Waverider and countless card games where one of them would inevitably accuse the other of cheating and the accused would smirk and challenge their accuser to prove it.

Behind her, the back door opened. Rather than turn, she closed her eyes on the grief that came when she thought of a voice that had lost all traces of a drawl when talking to her about something important (That’s how a killer thinks. And that’s not you anymore.) and eyes that had seemed to see right through her (I’ve been wondering what the future might hold for me. And you. And me and you.). She listened to the scraping shuffle of footsteps behind her and thought of the way her sister had smiled widely and brightly, showing off her dimples, lighting up the room and the way she was always there with a ready hug, arms wrapping tight around Sara as if she’d hold on forever if that’s what Sara needed.

She sucked in a breath and nearly gagged at the smell that she’d pointedly ignored the whole time she’d had Laurel’s body near her before. Now it seemed like the smell of something rotten was taking over everything, making it hard to breathe.

A hand touched her shoulder and Sara opened her eyes, staring at the space above the sink. Laurel’s voice was grating, full of dirt and rocks when she spoke.

“Hey, sis.”