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A Drowning Life

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Nobody wanted your dance,

Nobody wanted your strange glitter, your floundering

Drowning life and your effort to save yourself,

Treading water, dancing the dark turmoil,

Looking for something to give.

~Ted Hughes, Birthday Letters




Earth-1 Star City now

 

Laurel stepped into the doorway of a shop when he stopped and looked over his shoulder. Why the hell was she following him around? He wasn’t her father. Her father was dead. Killed by a drunk driver nearly twenty years ago. He didn’t even look like her father. This Quentin Lance was old. Gray and grizzled looking. And a drunk. She tried to feel disgust for him. He was a weak, pathetic old man who needed a bottle to make it through the day. Someone just like the drunk who’d killed her father.

Only she couldn’t seem to manage anything more than sadness. He’d had both daughters die, more than once in the younger one’s case, and had his wife leave him when he needed her the most. Now he had someone who was a dead ringer for his oldest daughter walking around trying to prove she still had a heart of ice.

Since coming to Star City last year, she’d felt cracks forming and it frightened her. She felt more disgust for herself than she could muster up for him. The walls she’d built up around her heart to protect herself from anything or anyone that would make her feel more than anger and hate were weakening.

Ollie’s death had put up the first of many layers. Before she could even begin to recover from losing him, everyone else left in her life had died. One right after the other. “And the hits just kept on coming.” She muttered.



Earth-2 Central City 2013

 

The move to Central City for a fresh start had been a spark of hope that was quickly crushed. She’d thrown herself into the endless work of the city’s legal aid office, coming in early and staying late so she’d be too tired to do more than nuke a frozen dinner and collapse into a dreamless sleep most nights. Weekends she volunteered at a battered women’s shelter from breakfast to lights out for the same reason.

Any night she didn’t fall asleep immediately invariable led to not sleeping at all or worse, leaving her mind enough energy to dream. Ollie was there in her dreams. Laughing, smiling, kissing her, holding her in his arms, and making love to her. Then waves would begin crashing into them, pulling him away, ripping him out of her arms no matter how hard she tried to hang on to him.

He’d struggle to stay above the water, screaming at her to help him, begging her to save him as he was pulled under. The last thing she’d see was his eyes, the jade green eyes wide with terror as he vanished beneath the waves. No matter how deep she dived or how long she stayed under, she could never find him. She’d wake screaming his name and feeling his loss as if it was the day she’d heard the Gambit had gone down instead of years later.

One night, coming out of her office, exhausted and barely able to keep her eyes open, she’d been jumped by three men in the parking lot. One of them had grabbed her and shoved her against her car, screaming in her face. “You’re the bitch that’s keeping my kids away from me!”

She recognized him as the ex-husband of one of her clients. “You’re keeping your kids away, not me. You’re the one who beats their mother. Now get your hands off me!” Her father was long dead, but he’d taught his only daughter to defend herself and she’d swung an elbow into the guy’s face with enough force to send him staggering back with a broken nose.

That might have been the end of it, if not for his friends. If she hadn’t been dead tired from a twelve hour day of court appearances and paperwork, she could have handled them, but she was and while she was kicking the second man in the ribs, the third one got behind her and grabbed her around the waist.

She struggled and kicked vainly as they began dragging her behind her car where they couldn’t be seen from the street. When she began screaming for help, one of them punched her in the face. He grabbed a handful of her hair and pulled her head back to punch her again and again. Her vision began to fade and her muscles went slack even as she fought to stay conscious. They lifted her like a rag doll and carried her behind the car.

Cold seeped through her clothes and she realized they’d laid her on the ground. Their voices and laughter filtered through the buzzing in her brain. “Tired of bitches like this telling me what I can and can’t do! They’re my kids!” “She needs a little lesson in who’s the boss.” “I say we teach her.” “I got the thing she needs right here.” “Fucking rich bitch, let’s see if your pussy is any better than any other bitch’s pussy.” “Get her shirt open, let’s see those tits.”

Strength began to return and she started struggling against their pawing hands. “She’s still got some fight, that’s even better.” “Pretty panties, I’m keepin’ them so I can remember you, sweet thing.” They’d ripped her shirt open and one of them had jerked her bra down and was sucking on her breasts, another had his fingers wrapped around the waistband of her panties and was pulling them down.

“She’s wet and ready, she wants it!” Fingers shoved into her and she cried out in pain and tried to kick at him. “We’re just getting started, bitch. Hope you like pain.” No matter how hard she fought, she couldn’t get free. They were stronger and she was dizzy from the blows to her face. “I’ve always wanted to do some bitch like this, I’m so fucking hard I’m gonna lose it before I stick it in her.” “Hey, get your camera, man.” “You’re gonna be a porn star, bitch!”

They were going to rape her and there was nothing she could do. “Come on, baby, open up your mouth for daddy.” “Who’s first?” “Don’t matter. Two holes, no waiting.” Her legs were forced up and apart and she felt a hand between her legs, pushing something against her. There was nothing she could do to stop them. There was nothing she could do.

There was nothing she could do but scream.

And so she screamed. Finally giving all her pain, grief, despair, loneliness, loss, and rage a voice. She screamed at the unfairness of a life that continued to kick her while she was down.

Suddenly the weight was gone and there was something wet splattering on her face and chest like rain. There were screams coming from someone other than her. Struggling to sit up, she saw one of her attackers rolling on the ground, clutching his head and screaming and moaning in pain. Another was slumped unmoving, his face smashed in as if by a giant hammer.

It was a struggle, but she got to her feet, staggering as a wave of dizziness hit her. Using the car for support, she walked around to the driver’s side, tripping over something in the dark and nearly falling. Pain lanced through her head and she clutched it with both hands until the pain faded enough to let her to move again. When she lowered her hands, she saw they were bloody; as were her arms, chest, and most of her body. There were white lumpy things scattered all over her. When she realized it was brain matter, she’d doubled over and thrown up.

She knew was she had to get away while she could. Her purse and car keys were lying on the street next to the driver’s door of her car, she grabbed them and hit the unlock button before she realized all the windows had been blown out. She’d started the car and was about to put it in drive when she noticed something the middle of the street. It was the body of the third man. Her panties were clutched in his lifeless hand.

Getting out, she staggered over to his headless body, staring down at it for a moment before reaching down and grabbing her panties. “You’re going to have to remember me without these, sweet thing .”

Her car, like her clothes, had been covered in blood and brains. Her first stop was to a car wash where she sprayed it inside and out with hot, soapy water. Using what was left of her shirt, she’d washed herself off as well. She hadn’t been a cop’s daughter and a public defender without learning some tricks about hiding evidence. She didn’t know what had happened to her attackers, but nobody was pinning it on her.

Stopping at her apartment, she’d taken a handful of aspirin and downed an energy drink before putting on clean clothing. Jeans, black t-shirt, black ball cap, and tennis shoes. The shoes were white and she spent a few minutes coloring them black with a sharpie.

She’d driven her car out to the edge of town and torched it. It was a long walk home, her head was pounding and she had to stop when she’d get too dizzy and throw up, but she kept walking. It was a long walk home and she grew angrier and angrier with every step. Who did those fuckers think they were? What gave them the right to attack her? Because she was weaker than they were they thought they could use her? She was not a life support system for a pussy! She was not a victim! Not anymore.

Her alarm woke her at six like always. Instead of showering and heading in to work, she reported her car stolen and explained the black eye and bruises from having been grabbed and pulled out of her car before the man she wasn’t able to describe had driven it away. It had all happened so quickly.

The Central City police were sympathetic and didn’t question her story. Why should they? She was well known as someone who worked hard to help people and her father had been a cop. Of course they believed her, she was one of their own.

The news story about the bodies found next to her office building caused a flurry of excitement. It wasn’t every day a headless body was found in the middle of a city street. She waited nervously for some piece of evidence to surface that would tie them to her but the police had bigger things on their hands.

There’d been a sudden rash of strange crimes in the city. People having powers straight out of the comic books were stealing, killing, and causing havoc. The dead bodies were chalked up to the one of the ‘meta-humans’ as the press began calling them. Just another meta-human crime in a wave of them.

She had plenty of time to think about what had happened while recovering from the beating she’d taken. The concussion kept her from sleeping and she put that time to good use. There’d been some sort of explosion at S.T.A.R. Labs and shortly afterwards meta-humans began popping up, leading to the theory there was a connection. The explosion had been the same night she was attacked and if the news reports were right, at approximately the same time. It had exploded. She’d screamed. They’d died.Two and two equaled four as far as she was concerned.

Figuring out if she really had some kind of superpower was a little tricky. She couldn’t exactly try it in her apartment or somewhere in the city where someone might see her. Using the insurance check for her car, she bought a motorcycle. It made absolutely no sense for her to do it and that’s exactly why she did it. She’d loved riding a mini-bike when she was younger and later a motorcycle, when the hell did she stop having fun? Oh, yeah. When Ollie died. Well, that life was over. She was all about having fun from now on. She was living from now on.

Out in the middle of nowhere, she rode into an empty field, parked her bike and began screaming. At first, she got nothing but a sore throat. Maybe it had been some random meta-human that had seen what was going on and saved her. Just as she’d given up, she’d nearly stepped on a snake while walking back to her bike and jumped back, screaming in fright. The snake and a good chunk of ground in front of her exploded across the field in a spray of dirt and grass.

The proof that she had killed those assholes and saved herself gave her the first joyful feeling she’d had in years. Her days of being a victim were over. Nobody was kicking her while she was down ever again.

Dinah Laurel Lance wasn’t going to be life’s bitch anymore.