Title: The Key
by Erin Griffin
Pairing: Gabby/Dinah (eventually)
Summary: As Gabby meets Dinah, she slowly realizes that the new girl is much more than a mystery.
Disclaimer: I don't own any of these characters. Maybe later on, I'll introduce someone new, and I own them, but the cool people, I don't.
Author's Note: This is the first really long story I have written since The Slayer of New Gorham, and I am hoping that the muses will be nice to me long enough to let me finish it. I know where this is going so far, so I have a good 4 chapters in me. Enjoy, even though it isn't beta'd.
Chapter Twenty One
Dinah and I stood there staring at each other not unlike the way we had the day before. This was interesting to me. I'd already said what I wanted to say, and I waited for something else to come up, something else for us to rip apart and analyze away. Nothing came up. I couldn't seem to make my exit. Partially because I was right in the fact that I couldn't seem to walk away form Dinah, and partially because she was my ride and it would be a long walk home. I wanted to escape, get out of this uncomfortable situation, but what would running have done? If I went down to the Delphi computers, I would be interrupting whatever talk Helena and Ms. Gordon were having, and I couldn't do that. Not when they needed to talk like they did. Suddenly Dinah asked, "So... You said that your parents called?" Okay, change of subject. I can play that game. I nodded. "Where were they?"
"Las Vegas," When my friend's eyebrows shot up, I smiled. "That's what I said." I looked at the alarm clock. It said it was nearing one in the afternoon.
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"I don't know. You were at my porch looking almost the same as you had when your mother came back and my abilities started to show. I forgot," I lied. I didn't forget, but where in a 'break up' scene do you casually mention that your parents are missing?
"So you were there in the middle of all that madness, your uncle was babbling about pixies, your parents were gone, someone thought you were Madonna, and the one who claimed to be your best friend walks away from you. You must have felt so alone." I did, but it was over, and I told her as much.
"Well, sure, but things got better when we patched things up yesterday and Uncle Leonard got to my house." Still, I knew she felt bad for not being there when she felt I needed her the most. I shrugged. "Either way, nothing can be done about it now. Just- don't do it again, I guess." That earned me a small chuckle, and I smiled in return. There was a knock on Dinah's bedroom door, and after Dinah hollered for the person on the other side, no doubt Ms. Gordon, to enter, then door opened.
"May I borrow Gabby for a few minutes?" Dinah nodded, and I followed my teacher out of Dinah's room. Ms. Gordon told my friend that it would have only taken about fifteen minutes tops. We went down the ramp together in silence until we got to the Delphi computers where I watched the activities on each monitors. I felt I could watch them all day and understood why Barbara seemed to be glued to them all the time. I would have been, too if I were her, especially after what had happened. Ms. Gordon motioned for me to sit down in a lonely computer chair that seemed to only be used when Dinah or Helena were looking up something, which was a rare occurrence, as Ms. Gordon didn't want them, especially Dinah, who didn't know the ins and outs of the Delphi yet, near it. The poor chair was cast way off to the far edge of the system. I sat down and stared at the monitor nearest to the chair, which had snowfall and the entrance to a whole in the wall type of shop called No Man's Land Collectables. If I remember right, it was a shop owned by a friend of Helena's from high school, but there was something special about the shop, something I had forgotten. "Are you alright?" I was pulled from my thoughts by this question. I nodded slowly, looking from the monitor to her.
"Yeah. Dinah said I'd over excreted myself by using my abilities past their limits." Ms. Gordon nodded, bit I knew she wasn't just asking about that. Did she sense something from me? Could she see how shaken up the kiss had left me? She watched me for a second, and I eventually looked away from her green eyes back to the monitor. We were quiet for a moment, and I felt from Barbara that she was trying to figure out how to say something, but as usual, her mind was racing so fast, I couldn't grasp onto a single thought long enough to understand what that thought was. It was like they flashed about in bits and pieces at a lightning rate, only to be put together later if you were to understand the sequence.
"Remember when you were saying that you thought Dinah was the reason for some of the changes in you powers?" I nodded. "I've been thinking about it allot since yesterday and I think you're right. Dinah's not the best at keeping her powers under control when her emotions are high. So of course when she ran to you, she was feeling the hurt and betrayal of her mother."
" 'Abandoned' was one of the first words I heard from her," I said., and Ms. Gordon nodded this time.
"I'd assume the part of your mind that had locked your powers away must have recognized what the static was, and it must have been stimulated enough by it to allow you to hear voices and feel emotions."
"Just like that?" I asked.
"Not everything in life- in 'the life' is complicated. As humans- and metahumans, we have a tendency to make it so. Dinah's powers radiated outside of her body awakened your power, 'just like that'. Of course, other things could have easily factored in, but that seems to be what it all boils down to."
"That makes sense. And the fact that we are both telepaths, I would assume that played a part in why it was so easy to hear things from Dinah, or it was easier to hear some things from Dinah at first than anyone else."
"Could be." I looked around, not hearing anything else. I didn't feel Helena's thoughts or grief. I felt Dinah's regret and confusion, and more than that, hunger, but I tried my best to block that out. I felt Barbara's slight concern, the pain of the last few days, and something else that didn't quite belong within her considering the moment- curiosity.
"Hey, where is Helena?" I asked.
"She didn't want to talk. She wasn't ready," Barbara said in a small voice if I ever did hear one.
"She wasn't ready to forgive herself," I countered, and I watched as Ms. looked away, lost in thought. This time, I didn't try to keep up. If I wanted to, I could just close my door. As it was, it was open slightly, so I heard the thoughts still, but like the humming if I wanted to, I could tune them out. "I'll bet it's hard. I can't imagine what it's like for her right now," I murmured, looking at the clock face, covered in black plastic covering.
"I can't either. It's going to take some time." She looked at me square in the eye, and she watched me for a second before adding 'for all of us." It was another one of those statements that had a hidden, deeper meaning if the look in her eyes has anything to do with it. Did that include me? I thought. Of course it does, my mind countered. Why else would she have looked at me like that if it didn't. Finally, she asked, "Will you be okay?"
"I'm still here," I said, thinking more about Dinah than the fact that I was still in one piece and in fact okay.
"Yes, you are. Thank you," I felt that she too was thinking of Dinah. She was talking about the things she'd said that week Dinah wasn't in school after her mother died. She was right, too. Things definitely got worse before they even thought about getting any better, but hopefully I w as there for her when she needed someone the most. Hopefully I will continue to be there for her no matter how complicated our friendship got. "You'll let me know if that changes?" Ms. Gordon surprised me by asking.
"It won't," I didn't mean for my tone to be clipped. I didn't mean to show that I had taken any offence to that sincere question, but I actually had. It felt as if she thought I was just going to leave when things got hard, but things were already hard. As if I had passed some sort of test, Ms. Gordon smiled at me, though it didn't reach her eyes. I understood then what Dinah had meant about her eyes 'making jewelry jealous'. I remembered earlier in the semester when she would smile at the students, myself included. This smile was so much dimmer than those, and I wondered, as Dinah must have, if anyone would ever see that smile again from her.
"Good," she said, almost absently. We were in silence after that when a couple of minutes later there was a slow low toned beeping noise at the Delphi, which sounded almost like a dying battery. Ms. Gordon wheeled over to one of the monitors. She didn't seem worried, but I was a little bit nervous that it might have been some of the people who'd gone mad enough to kill someone possibly causing more problems now that they knew everything.
"Is everything okay?" I asked. She didn't answer me at first as she typed in commands in that looked like HTML, but at my angle of where she was, I couldn't quite read it even if I did know the code. Then she turned to look at me. She studied me again, then smiled before waving me over. I stood up and slowly approached, not sure why I felt something big was about to happen.
"Yes, everything is fine now. I've been downloading security programs from the computers of the New Gorham PD. The last time I had done this, I almost got caught, but they couldn't tell where the hack had come from until after I was done and disconnected from their system. Now, I am undetected. Anyway, this program has been updated, so if anything bats an eye around here or in Bludhavem I'll know about it."
"That is so cool in a creepy stalker sort of way," I told her, and she laughed.
"Yes, well... This creepy stalker keeps the city safe, or at least I used to..."
"You still do, and when this water under the bridge settles, you will," I assured her, but she shook her head. I looked away when she didn't say anything, but felt her eyes on me. I wanted to scream at her 'WHAT?! Do I have a zit that I don't know about?', but I respected Ms. Gordon too much to actually say that to her. I just wish I wasn't under her microscope. I looked from my shoes to the computer. "So... what does this program do? Are there, like, cameras and motion sensors that are hooked into the main computers at the police station- and the Delphi, that would set off an alarm or something? 'Cause that would be so cool."
"You're almost dead on, only it's not just security cameras and motion detector. It's walkie talkies, any sort of radio wave some computer systems in large businesses, what have you." My eyebrows rose in surprise.
"Anyone who acts up now is going down." I said. Ms. Gordon seemed glad to seem y enthusiasm. "No one can use the other night as an excuse to get off on a temporary insanity plea, can they?" I asked her, trying to read anything on the computer monitor, but only saw numbers and symbols meshed together in a way that would never make sense to me.
"I doubt it. Anyone who confesses to what they've done will get jail time, I'm sure, but because of how many there are, I doubt they'd stay there for long. It's get crowded quickly. This program will have a watchful eye on them, and can decipher if they acted normally before and after the crime." I nodded, trying to follow her.
"So, you can't do anything about that night, huh?"
"Nothing more than to watch the surveillance cameras that we have of their whereabouts. If we have that feed, that would be the only thing that would prove their case, but other than that, nothing can really be done about that right now." I nodded.
"That's good, I guess. Who knows what would hit the fan if they could just say, 'oops, I was insane, must have been in the water'..." Barbara smiled at my sarcastic impersonation of a criminal. Dinah slowly walked to the ramp and looked down at us.
"You ready to go, or..." She looked from me to Ms. Gordon to me again with a question in her eyes. Though my door was open, I couldn't read what she was thinking. I felt the hesitation and nervousness, though. She was wondering if we were done talking. Something told me we weren't, that Ms. Gordon had more to discuss with me, but she waved me off.
"Yeah," I said, "I'm ready." I looked back at Ms. Gordon. "Good luck with your program," I said, and she smiled at that.
"Thanks, but I'm not sure I'll need it."
"Just in case... See ya'," I said.
"Bye Gabby." I followed Dinah to the elevators, stealing another glance at my teacher, who was glued to the screen.
"So what did you talk about?" Dinah asked nervously, her hands fidgeting with the frayed strings on her sweater.
"You. Apparently out of curiosity, Ms. Gordon went looking for your records when you first got here to New Gorham and found some records and some elementary school pictures, which she shared with me." Dinah's eyes went wide as she pushed the button for the basement level.
"She didn't!" Dinah said in almost a gasp, and I couldn't help the laughter that escaped me.
"No, she didn't-" I got a swat on the arm as my shoulders shook with my laughter.
"You brat!" I continued to laugh, as Dinah crossed her arms and waited for me to calm down.
"Seriously," I said after a moment, "it was sort of confusing. Half of the time, I wasn't sure what we were talking about. Sometimes it would be about one subject, or so I thought, but then she'd say something that makes me think she was talking about everything."
"That's Barbara for you."
"Yeah. Other than that, she was showing me a little bit of the program thing she'd be downloading, which I think it way cool," I said. We reached the Hummer, and as Dinah turned the radio down from when it was blasted before on the way over, I looked at the clock on it. It was about half past one.
"I'm sure you did. Don't get too lost in the enigma that is Barbara. A lot of her facade is pretending she knows everything, and though she knows a lot more than most people, nobody knows everything." I didn't say anything, but nodded in my agreement. "So... that movie theater by the mall is due to re-open next week... You want to see something? With me?" The way she asked was nervous, almost as if- 'No, I can't get my hopes up. She's already said no, and after that kiss... well, it is obvious that her answer is still no,' I thought.
"Sure," I said, keeping my voice neutral. "I'm sure by then things will be cool at home, too." Why was I speaking to her as if I was speaking about the weather? It was snowing a little harder, by the way, so Dinah took me straight home before we got stuck somewhere, though I doubted the Hummer could get stuck anywhere.
"I'll call you," Dinah said before I got out of the Hummer. I nodded.
"I look forward to it." As Dinah drove off, I heard the door open, and saw Uncle Leonard, who immediately started to resemble a mother hen as he waved his arm, gesturing for me to get in the house as if he was afraid of snow.
"You're going to freeze to death. Get inside. Your parents just called from the airport in Vegas. They're on their way home. I just hope the snow can hold off long enough to let them land." I nodded again, feeling as if my neck would snap and my head would roll to the side with all the nodding I have done in the last hour alone. I walked into the house after stamping my boots against the outer wall of the house.
Chapter Twenty Two
I wished, as I sat on the couch watching TV, that I could be like Anastasia. You know, that movie that came out about eight years ago about the Russian tsar's family, the Romanoff's. Well, the family was all killed except for, apparently, the youngest daughter, who had lost her memory and was taken to an orphanage. Well, I was watching the movie, which was what had made me think of this. Unlike her though, I have to go to some mad scientist for my memories, whereas Anastasia got a couple of hers from a music box. I wish there was an item somewhere, hidden in my parents' bedroom perhaps, that I could just pick up and BOOM, all of my past comes back. Of course, there wouldn't be. I'm sure I would have seen of felt or smelled something that would have brought more than just a familiar feeling to me whenever I experience it. Thinking back, I know there was a lot of things that felt almost like deja vu or familiar to me, even if I was sure it had never happened to me. For example, when I first got into Janet Jackson, I could have sworn I knew all of the dance steps or had made up my own dance steps to Rhythm Nation, even though that was the first time (that I knew of at the time) of seeing the music video.
I wondered if the death of my brother was why I was so afraid of water. Maybe I was always afraid of water, even before he died. I wanted to know what his name was, and if we fought a lot. I wondered if I was even correct in the assumption that I had a brother to begin with. After the movie was over, I slowly got off of the couch as to not disturb 'Sleeping Uncle Leonard', and went into my room. I had much to add to my timeline on my computer and felt I should have gotten it done before I forgot any of it . Part of me worried that something might happen and whatever I have been given as a memory the past five years will be erased, but I knew that was silly.
Sometimes it still amazed me that the legend of Batman, something I heard here and there throughout the time I lived in New Gorham, were actually real. I always thought that Batman was just a myth, so learning that he was real, as were the other heroes everyone claimed to be saved by was amazing to me. The city was lucky to have these people watch over them, and like batman, half of them didn't even have a metahuman ability to protect them, just their brains and their courage. That was what was so strange to me though, this whole thing with Batman. I mean, from someone looking in on the whole thing they would assume that he was just some rich guy with too much money to do anything with, so he used it to create a secret identity. He was much more than that, but I swear, I admire the guy. He had no shield to protect him with, but still he did it, at first for revenge for his parents. It amazes me though that after all he's fought, and after all that courage he needed t fight it, he had to run away from the city (sorry for the pun) like a bat out of hell.
As I sat down and turned my computer back on, I felt my mind go through everything that had happened, ending with Dinah's kiss and the conversation I had with Ms. Gordon. Since when did I star in Day of Our Metahuman Lives? Or no, it was starring Barbara Gordon, Helena Kyle, Dinah Lance-Redmond, and introducing Gabby Andrews. I wish I knew what Dinah wanted from me. I don't think there is an in between road for friendship and lovers, and if there was one, I doubt I'd want to travel along it. I had no choice but to go back to my original plan to wait this out and hope it goes away. I know my heart wasn't planning on doing that. Not since Dinah had told me she loved me too. After the computer loaded completely and I was staring at my desktop, I clicked on the untitled document, and reread what I had on it so far, then added
Tuesday December 1, 2002-
Chapter Twenty Three
Fortunately for my parents, the snow that fell when Dinah had dropped me off stopped after about an hour and melted slightly. I played a good ten rounds of UNO with Uncle Leonard, and got this feeling of glee from him. I was surprised when I lost seven out of ten of those games. Of course, he tricked me by claiming he was a beginner and didn't know how to play and leading me on by letting me win the first round, then beating me five times in a row. After our UNO-athon, we watched TV, some crime show. I'd lost interest in the first few minutes, but zoned in and out at the good plot points. When the show was five minutes to being over, the phone rang. I jumped up faster than if a bee had stung me in the ass to go answer it. My mother sounded happy to hear from me, but exhausted by the flight. "I'm just calling to say we've landed and we shouldn't be more than an hour and a half give or take the traffic in the snow."
"How was your flight?"
"More turbulence than I was comfortable with, but we'll talk about all of that when we get there. We'll see you in a bit."
"Okay. Bye Mom, I love you."
"You know I love you too. Bye Sweetie." I hung up feeling like a kid. I really did. As far as I could remember, I hadn't been away from them that long, and it was weird to me. My uncle and I spent that hour watching another crime show and I watched it all the way through because the main suspect was a well known vigilante' who thought it was in his right to kill this guy who had raped this girl in the streets. Turned out that it was not the vigilante', but some other chick, his step sister or something, who he was taking the fall for. He still had to be locked away for the two or three other murders he claimed were just. The whole episode reminded me of my friends in the Clocktower, and I wondered if the snowy weather was enough to keep the bad guys inside for the night. I imagined Dinah and Ms. Gordon at their little kitchen area with mugs of tea while Helena looked in the cupboard for some animal cookies or some other tasty treat she'd stashed away, sending Dinah a look of death just in case my friend had filched them. I smiled at that thought, then wondered what a family night was like for them.
Did they rent movies (or stream them over the Delphi) to watch? Did they have their family time during dinner? When the door to the house opened almost forty-five minutes later, I shook the thoughts away. Both Uncle Leonard and I got up to greet them with the thought of 'that was quicker than we all thought', Leonard grabbing my mother's bag (which was new and probably bought in Vegas) and hugged her, while I hugged my dad. "I missed you both so much," I said, close to tears. I was almost shaking with relief.
"We missed you too Sweetheart," my dad said. Then I hugged my mother, who brushed hair behind my ear and seemed to see me for the first time. She smiled at me and a tear fell down her cheek. Seeing her cry made what tears I tried to fight back fall.
"You're becoming a very beautiful woman, Gabrielle," she said, pulling me towards her again. The tears continued to stream down my face. It was physical proof that they were in fact okay. I looked over my mother's shoulder at my father, who nodded and smiled his small smile in agreement.
"Thank you," I whispered, to who, I wasn't sure, but I was grateful to them all. My mother backed away, and Uncle Leonard cleared his throat.
"We have so much to talk about."
"Is it about..." I was afraid to say the exact words I wanted to say, so I chose in stead, "the past?" I looked down.
"Yes," my father said, his voice as soft as mine.
"Uncle Leonard, will you stay?" I asked, which I am sure surprised everyone, if I'd read their looks correctly. I felt I needed them all there to tell me what happened. He looked to my parents again, who nodded at him before he nodded as well. Then he went to the kitchen and made sandwiches and filled up the water pitcher. I joined him and got four glasses and plates out and put them on the table. My uncle nodded his head towards the living room and I set them on the coffee table instead. After the sandwiches were eaten, and after Uncle Leonard had refilled the water pitcher for the second time, there was silence. My parents looked at me, but I had closed my door a few minutes after they said they had much to discuss with me. I wasn't sure why I did, really. I was afraid to see the exact images of whatever it was that had happened to me. I didn't want to hear what I wasn't supposed to. I wanted to prove to myself that their word would be enough, and that I trusted them enough to tell me everything. I could tell that my parents were trying to find the strength to talk to me.
My mother finally looked at me, her eyes deep, seeming to find my secrets within me, and she shook her head. "I don't know where to begin."
"Well, maybe..." I said, taking a deep breath, "maybe I should start. I can... tell you what I know and you can fill in the rest?" I asked. I almost regretted asking, they went so still, but after an exchange between them, my parents both nodded. I sighed, feeling more relief, then I told them all I could without naming anyone but those present at the time and my grandparents. When I was done speaking, they seemed at a loss for a reply. I could tell they were surprised by how much I actually knew, but only through stringing bits and pieces together. Once I had told them that I had leaned to use my powers only when I wanted to, and that I preferred to keep it closed because I didn't want to see more than I had to, Uncle Leonard seemed more comfortable around me. I saw stiff shoulders relax instantly after I'd said that. "I wish the Institute wasn't destroyed," I said.
"What? Destroyed?" My mother asked, looking baffled. "Was the branch in Bludhaven destroyed when the city... went crazy?"
"I heard it- the entire organization was destroyed." I said, mimicking my mother's look. Maybe it was then someone could say we looked alike.
"No, there are branches all over the US, and who knows? Possibly in other countries too," my father said, and my gaze went to him. "Only one branch of the Institute is gone now, and that was the one you had gone to, but that will all be explained." My parents exchanged another look while I thought about this. Why would Ms. Gordon lie? Did she know about there being more than one branch? She had to. How else would her Metahuman Database get to be so big? She's certainly not stupid. Did she think I was? Did Dinah and Helena know that Ms. Gordon was lying to me when she told me it was destroyed? Why would they go along with that lie? When my father spoke again, I forced my hurt feelings away, and focused on his words. "I might as well continue, since I'm already on a role. I guess... everything began really the day I was born, but I won't go into that. It was when I had gone off to college that the story- our story picked up.
"I've always been in love with the water as a kid. Anything that had to do with water- swimming, surfing, water sports- I did it all. I was a swimming champion in high school, which was how I got my scholarship to UCLA. When classes got a little rough, I noticed odd things would happen, mostly when I went to the pool. The water would seem to ripple and make waves even if I hadn't put any limbs in yet. No one else would be there. In the shower, I'd see water part in two directions, and on my really stressful days, it would flow around by body, but never touch, even when I moved my arms and legs to try and reach it. I never told anyone about it, but in my third year, I met your mother, and I fell madly in love." At this, he looked at my mother, who blushed. It made me wonder why Uncle Leonard seemed to think they weren't still in love with each other. I saw it even then, and looking at Leonard, he seemed surprised as well. Maybe he didn't know. Or maybe he did, and when they went to Vegas and got married again, it all changed, and they realized (after agreeing to tell me everything) that they did love each other, and that whatever happened shouldn't change that. "I brought her over to meet my parents, and we were both so nervous. Your grandmother was always a little overprotective of me, being an only child, and she never approved of some of my previous dates. No need to worry, my mother loved her the moment they met, and everything was good. Until the conversation turned to majors in college and what I was planning, which I still wasn't sure then. I got anxious, and suddenly the water in everyone's glass- including the ice- floated out of the cup, and stayed in a sort of orb above the table. It scared me, knowing that I had done that, and it was then that your grandma told me. She'd always known that this strange gene would pass to me but didn't know when I would show the signs of it."
My uncle leaned forward and tapped my knee with a smirk on his face. "Sound familiar?" He got a small slap from my mother, who was right next to him.
"Hush. Go on, Jason."
"I was sure that your mother would run away screaming, but she told me calmly as she held me later that she'd just found out not long before that that her brother's new boyfriend could produce and manipulate electrical currants from his hands. He had just told Leonard about it." My father looked at my uncle. "You sure you want me telling her about this, man?"
"I won't be able to, and she needs to know everything now." My father nodded.
"Mark worked for an upcoming organization for metahumans, a new term then given to us by some organization or another claiming we were dangerous and so on. Mark wanted a PhD in child medicine but his main interest was always anything dealing with metahumans. Anyway, we all graduated, your mom and I moved in together, got married, and almost two years after the honeymoon, we had our first child... A boy..." He tried to swallow the imaginary bricks in his throat, but couldn't seem to continue.
"Avery Jason Andrews," my mother said, continuing for him. "You were right when you assumed you had a brother. Avery was constantly moving; even before he was born, he would kick and punch and move about. As a baby and toddler, he would get into everything, even more than some of the other kids we'd been around. That changed when he was about three weeks away from turning four. That was when you were born. When Avery first saw you, I think it was love at first sight. He'd set it upon himself to make sure we were taking care of you correctly. We knew as well as your grandmother did that you were both going to end up with the metahuman gene, but what surprised us was how quickly Avery's power had showed up. One night, Avery came into the room telling us that you needed us. He wouldn't say why, or maybe he didn't know exactly why, but right as we got to your crib you had started to cry. Then he just said for us to hold you, and you would be okay, so we did, and sure enough, you were back to sleeping within a minute or two. He was so in tune to your emotions, and sometimes ours as well, but he read you the best. You did everything together. As soon as you could talk, his name was your first word that wasn't just baby babble."
"It was?" I asked, surprised. I was told it was 'Da-duh'.
"Well, 'Avie' was. That was what we called him from then on, and he didn't mind it. I remember Avery's first day of school. You cried all day, and I didn't know what you wanted. All you knew to say was 'Avie', and that was all you did, cry and scream for 'Avie'. Only when you saw Avery did you stop. All he said was 'She missed me,'. That was a no brainer." My mother smiled weakly. "Because your birthdays were so close together, we would pick a day in between the two and celebrate them both. It was on you guys' sixth/tenth birthday party at the beach that it... happened."
"When Avery...?" I asked, and my parents both nodded. There was silence for a moment, then I looked at my dad, willing him to meet my eyes. 'Look at me,' I thought, but not directly to him, 'Look at me and tell me what happened.' My father nodded his head to the ground, then looked up at me, and then he nodded again.
"Yes. Everyone was there with us that day. We'd set up an umbrella. Both sets of grandparents, Uncle Leonard, and at the time, Uncle Mark, all set up the party while you, Avery, your mom and I all played in the water. We all had the cake and ice cream, you two opened up presents, and then you and Avery went back into the water while Grandpa Andrews watched over you. I'm not exactly sure what got Avery out so far. I think one of your toys had floated away, and he'd gone after it. I heard my father shouting for Avery to get back in, but he was struggling to swim. I ran into the water, but in my fear, my powers caused the water to ripple and make waves, which only made it harder for him to swim back. I used my powers to move the water around him, to lower it enough for him to swim better or even walk along the bottom, and for a few seconds, it worked." My father stopped talking, and the guilt and grief was there. I could feel it strongly then. He looked at his hands and played with his wedding ring. Quietly he said, "Something happened. I lost my concentration. The water crashed down on him and he... he-" His shoulders shook, and I knew what had happened.
"I tried to get to him, even when Jason had moved the water, but I couldn't get to him in time. It was too late," my uncle said, then he looked me in the eyes. "Unfortunately, there is more, but if you want, we can stop now and tell you more in the morning." I shook my head.
"If you can tell me now..." I said, getting uncomfortable at the sight of my father's tears. "I've waited for a couple of months now for the truth, and..." I looked away from my uncle. "And I think you've been waiting a while to tell me the truth."
"True," Uncle Leonard said. These seemed to be the magic words, and my mother caught my eye.
"Nothing stayed the same after that. For days we all cried for our loss, but you... It broke my heart to see you acting the way you did. You didn't ever want to sleep, and when you did, you had nightmares. You never let go of this green toy boat, which was the toy Avery had gone out to get for you. It had washed up by itself later when the ambulance had come, the irony. You were so afraid of water that you refused to go near the bathtub. We had a half bath with a sink and toilet, but the only way you would get clean is if I had a small bowl of warm soapy water and a wash cloth. You wouldn't let your father near you, and it hurt him so bad." I looked at my father, and felt horrible. Though I didn't remember that, thinking of how I would feel in his shoes made me feel hurt, too. Feeling this, I knew that the memories were hurting him. He tried to save Avery, and that guilt of failing him must have tore him up then, but me being afraid of him must not have made the guilt go away at all.
"It was real bad," Uncle Leonard said, and nodded to emphasize his words. "Your parents tried everything, but nothing helped. Then one night when I was living with you to help out around the house, you woke up screaming, and I mean, it was loud. The Boogey Man, Bloody Mary, Freddy Kruger, Jason and the Easter Bunny were all after you. You wouldn't speak, not for a long time, but when you did, you kept saying, 'I killed Avie,' " I saw that my father had gone completely still, and I stared at him. He was tense again, and I knew he didn't like this part, but I sensed something else from him, the sense that he wasn't saying something. "Your powers started to show then, and the fact that you could see everyone else's memory of that day was making it worse. So all of us adults got together. You were asleep on the floor, the first time you slept more than a couple of hours since before Avery drowned. We told everyone not to think about it in your presence, so you didn't have any nightmares. It appeared that when we thought about it when you were asleep, you woke up with the nightmares. If we thought of something else, your sleep was almost peaceful. Together we came up with the idea of possibly repressing the memory of that happened through hypnotherapy. Well, Grandma and Grandpa Cook didn't like that. They didn't think it would work, but we convinced them that it would if we got rid of anything that would remind you of Avery. So we set a plan in motion. The week after that was spent slowly remodeling your grandparents' houses, rearranging furniture, taking down pictures of Avery, getting rid of toys you used to have over there... You stayed with each of your grandparents for a few days at a time while we did the same to the condo and got rid of anything with significant memories attached to them. Well, they're in storage now, right?" My parents murmured their agreement.
"When all that was done, it seemed to help calm you down. We took a few days to train ourselves not to think of Avery or anything like that. It was rough, but we wanted you to be happy again. We went to a friend of Mark's, who had turned his power of hypnosis into his career, and he could repress anything for a long time. He did this for free as a favor to Mark. You went home that afternoon happier than we'd seen you in almost three months. You still had your powers, and you were good controlling what you could or couldn't hear, something I think you taught yourself, but we still kept songs in our heads, even the really annoying ones we knew would be stuck there for days, just to keep you from reading something that you weren't supposed to. Your grandparents, the Cooks, moved away not long after that, and Mark got a transfer from the San Diego branch of the Institute, to a new branch in a small city I'd never heard of before then called Bludhaven, and I went with him. I don't know much else except for the fact that the repressed memories lasted about three years, when it was supposed to be longer than that."
"Three and a half, and Dr. Sage had said that his hypnosis would last longer than that, even." Dad said, lifting his head. My mother slowly stroked his arm, and he seemed to draw strength and courage from the touch. It made me wish Dinah was there so I could be protected by her arms as I listened to this, knowing that the story was about to get worse. "You yourself had just turned ten, and in the first month of the fourth grade, your class went on a field trip to the San Diego Zoo. I was a chaperone, and together we'd gone to all of the exhibits. We were at the polar bear exhibit, and they were playing pretty rough. They got rowdy, and were splashing. About a cup or two of water got you, and- I don't know, your face went from happy to terrified. Again, the only thing you would say was 'I killed Avie.' You went right back to the way you were right after Avery died. For some reason though, you weren't too afraid of the water to take baths, as long as your mother was there. Mark's friend, Dr. Dage, had followed your uncles to Bludhaven, but had suggested we go to Dr. Alder at the San Diego branch. He had the ability to take memories from someone and restore it whenever they wanted it back. So we had gone to him in the Institute, and he had taken away the memories of Avery. He had a regular hypnotherapist hypnotize you so that you wouldn't ask any questions about your lack of a memory-"
"When did this happen?!" My uncle was staring at my father in disbelief. Apparently, he didn't know about that. If that was the case why would my father keep that from him? Was he against it?
"That same day." My father didn't look at Uncle Leonard or me. No one said a word for the next minute or two. "Well," my father said slowly, "you went back to being happy, but the thing was, you lost your powers. You forgot completely that you even had powers. I stayed in the Institute for a while after that. I wanted to learn to control my powers, but I had no clue how to go about doing that, so I learned with a few of the children who were also trying to learn. I wanted to, in turn, teach you how to control your powers a little better than the way you had. So, while Dr. Alder stifled through your memories to get the one memory of your power back, I was in a different room trying to get better with my own powers. It was the strangest thing... It was as if he found that memory-or one close to it, but it was blocked off to him. I don't know why, but he had the memory inside his own head, he had taken it, but he couldn't access it once he had it. He could only hold on to it..." I frowned in confusion.
"We had planned to give you your memories when you turned eighteen, and I wasn't prepared to give this talk with you for another two years... but well... You never got your powers back because Dr. Alder wasn't sure if the memory hiding your powers was one of the memories that would trigger thoughts of Avery. So we left it. But Dr. Alder was fascinated by you. He couldn't figure out why he couldn't get to this memory. Why he couldn't see it as more than a blank piece of paper resting within his mind, which is how he described the memories. He was convinced that you still had your powers within you, and that what he had was merely a memory of having and using the powers, not the powers by itself, so he started up a series of tests with our permission to see if there was another way you bring your powers out. I was fine with it. We planned to go to these tests, erase the memory of the tests so the thoughts of the Institute won't scare you. All he seemed to do was give you small blood tests, 'do you see what I think you're seeing', sort of tests, but when I was gone... Gabby I'm, so sorry. When I left you in Dr. Alder's care, I didn't know what he was doing to you. The tests were... horrible, and he would simply erase the memory of that day.
"The main thing they were trying to do was to scare the powers out of you, or make some emotion strong enough that your powers would surface. That was the common way people started to notice that their powers were real." I saw both of my parents get a look of almost murderous proportions while Uncle Leonard's eyes got dark. It was silent, and I felt uneasy. What could have happened to make them this angry?
"Then he... He got the idea that you should relive the day Avery died. At least, I think that was what he was going for, because I was in my training when I felt this... fear. I felt I had to go to you. When I did, you were unconscious next to a large tank of water in a room they never had you tested in before. Your Uncle Mark was there, shouting at Dr. Alder and a few staff. I don't know, I lost it. I got so angry that they would use your fear of water against you without my permission or even supervision for protection if things went wrong, which, from the looks of it, they had. Anyway... The water in the tank sloshed about, and I made it leave the tank. I made it destroy a few things, computers mostly. I think a man or two were knocked around pretty good. I got out of there. I took you and got out of there. Not long after that, they closed it down. I am not sure why they didn't just keep it running after that, and I am sure the damage could have been fixed up, but they closed it down and destroyed the building. They must have rebuilt it or found a new location in San Diego, because a month ago, a doctor that I didn't recognize, a younger doctor from the Institute called about records they still had on you."
"What about Dr. Alder? Do you know if he lived?"
"I don't see why he didn't. I doubt anyone drowned that day. I looked at them all one by one before asking the one question that had been burning within me ever since my theory of having my thoughts taken, not repressed became a reality.
"Do you know what you would have said or done if this doctor had died before I turned eighteen, when you had planned for me to get my memories back from him?"
Chapter Twenty Four
"It was one of the many things we had worried about when we'd decided to do this. More than anything we were worried that something would trigger your memories and you'd start asking questions, but you were fine, and when you got in a fight with a girl at school because you had kissed her, it was the perfect excuse to get out of San Diego and as far from there as possible. We told you that it would be better for you to be near someone who would understand your feelings for girl, but we really just wanted the memory of the Institute as far from us as possible. If Dr. Alder had died, we would have told you everything," my mother said. "I know it wouldn't have been anything like getting them back. I guess it would have been... exactly like this." I nodded. I could see it being that way as well. What other way could there have been? I looked down at my hands in thought, wondering what 'Avie' looked like and I tried so desperately to conjure up an image of him. I was about to ask for one from the adults in front of me. I swallowed as a tear fell. I knew that this had to have been the one I had cried for on Thanksgiving day.
"Gabby..." My mother was crouched in front of me and was brushing hair away from my face with her fingers. then she wiped away the stray tear.
"Where is he, Mom?" I asked.
"What do you mean?" She was confused, but determined to answer my questions.
"Where's Avery? He's not buried near Grandma Cook. I kind of remember once going to her gravesite, and never did I see a headstone for an Avery Andrews."
"You wouldn't, sweetie. Not by Grandma Cook. We had him placed on the other side of the cemetery for that reason."
"What about U- um, Mark?" I wondered, looking at Uncle Leonard. He shrugged, but answered my question as if it meant nothing to him. It was a lie though, and I felt it sting.
"I found out he was a part of some of the tests you were given when your father was there. We fought about it, and I refused to be with him while he worked in the Institute. He didn't want to leave his job there despite what had happened to you because he believed that the Institute did more good than harm to metahuman children. I didn't believe him, so we got a divorce, or shall I say the equivalence of. I turned the empty spaces of the Dark Horse Bar in to two apartments, and the rest, as they say, is history."
I looked around at them. My mother, who was still crouched in front of me, got to her feet with a groan and a mutter about getting old with bad knees. Then she sat back down next to my father. I linked my hands together in my lap and looked down again. My mind, not for the first nor last time, went crazy with thoughts. I could almost see these bits of my past being fitted together like a crazy game of Tetris, but still there were small gaps in my memory. The mystery was solved, but still gaps remained. The three adults in front of me waited for me to speak. I had a feeling, as I opened my mouth many times with nothing coming out, that they'd be waiting for a while. I felt that it got a little harder to swallow because my mouth was dry, and I busied my hands with filling my glass with water and drinking it. Then I slowly stood up as they all watched me, wondering loudly what I was doing.
Finally, I said, "I think... I think I'll go for a walk. I need to- to think..." I refused to look anyone in the eye. I didn't wait for a reply, but I heard a couple of 'okay's from my parents as I retreated to my room to get warmer clothes. As I put on my boots, I felt a presence in the doorway and looked up to see my mother. She was wondering if I hated them now, and the truthful answer was that I had no clue. About anything.
"I understand that you've got a lot to think about, but it is cold out there tonight. Don't be out too long, and take your cell phone with you. Keep it on so you can hear it if we call." Numbly, I nodded, just so she knew that I heard her. My mother didn't seem to know what else to say, so she left, and after I got my scarf and hat on, I followed her movements out to the living room, grabbing my cell phone off of the charger on my way out.
"I'll be back in an hour or so," I said to them.
"Okay, be careful," my dad said, and my uncle nodded and put his hand up in the air in a half wave. I turned and opened the door. The air wasn't as cold as I thought it would have been, but I was glad I bundled up. The sky dropped large, but delicate snowflakes, and the wind picked up just enough to force them against my cheeks and nose. I walked the three blocks to the high school, curious about its progress. The bottom windows we replaced, but the windows on the top floor weren't yet. I went up to the new windows and looked inside. The floor looked cleaned up, but the spray-paint was still everywhere. Who knew what 'Soscudadika' meant. Maybe the person who left the odd message had, but if they'd looked upon that word the morning after they wrote it, would they have known its meaning?
I took a right after that at the main sidewalk, and walked almost a mile towards the southeast entrance of New Gorham Park. the whole time I walked, I felt strange, watched almost. From what I know about Helena, I would have heard her thoughts before I even felt her presence, but I didn't know who was following me then. the wind picked up, but it wasn't blowing in my face once I had changed directions in my walking. I followed the small trail and got to the playground. Slowly, I brushed snow from the first swing in front of me and sat down. It was cold on my rear, but I let it warm up. It was on the swing that I thought about what I was told. Was that everything? What more could there possibly be? My life went from being average and almost boring to that of a TV show heroine in the course of days. People I barely or didn't know existed played a major role in my past, present and future. I had a brother- a brother I apparently loved more than anything, yet I had no memory of him. I didn't even know what he looked like. Did we look a like? Did he too take on my father's features, or did he look more like my mother? I slowly used my knees to rock myself back and forth on the swing as I thought. I could hear the tiny creaking sound the swing made with my movements, and the wind whispered past me in various directions. I didn't know how long I was there, really. I know I promised to be back in an hour, but I didn't even know what time I left the house. I still felt watched, but whoever it was wasn't out to hurt me, as I had been a sitting duck (literally) for quite a while, and they could have easily hurt me. It was still slightly creepy, in the moments I tuned into my surroundings before going back into heavy thought, to know someone was just there, watching me and not knowing why. I just knew it wasn't the Huntress, nor Dinah, and that may have been the thing that creeped me out the most.
There was the sound of footsteps, and to me, they sounded deliberate. I looked up to see Dinah there, the darkest figure in all the white. I stood up as she approached me. She had on a long trench coat, jeans, boots, a black cap, and what looked like ski gloves, but they were mostly buried in her pockets. "Helena and I are on sweeps. In this weather, anyone walking around alone seemed suspicious, so Helena followed you. She's convinced someone else is here with you, and she went looking for them, but I came here. Are you okay? You look dazed. What happened?" I didn't know how to answer that, really. I know I should have been a little worse off than I was, but to be honest, to me it sounded like a bedtime story. 'Once upon a time, there was a princess named Gabby who had a brother, but the brother died, and Gabby was so distressed, that she cried and cried. One day the king and queen said, 'I can't stand her crying so, we must do something'. So they took her to a great wizard who magically took her brother's memory away, and she was happy again...' I felt bad for the characters, but there was no real attachment. I knew I should have felt worse. A lot worse. I mean, my brother is dead. The thing was, though I had guessed already about Avery's existence, it was still hard to think that I even had a brother, since I went ten years thinking I was an only child. I looked away from Dinah, then slowly sat back on the swing.
"My parents got back tonight," I told her, leaning to my left where the other swing that wasn't for babies was. I busied myself with the task of brushing the snow away from that swing, then gestured for Dinah to sit down, which she did.
"So they're okay?" she asked, not exactly sure where I was going with the conversation.
"Yeah, they're fine." I turned my head to look at her. She was watching me closely, and I closed my eyes to focus on my door. I opened it a little. '-she doesn't get sick out here.' "They told me everything."
"They did?" I nodded. "Wow, so what did you learn?"
"I did have a brother. His name was Avery Jason Andrews."
Dinah stayed silent while I retold her the story. It felt good to talk to Dinah about this. She was a good listener. In her mind, I knew she connected the dots in all of the places I had, but never showed much on her face, which made telling her a lot easier. Only when I told her about having to leave the house to think it all over did she speak.
"Wow," she said, "and I thought mine and Helena's pasts were interesting." She placed her left hand over my right, which was rested on my knee, and I flipped my hand over long enough to intertwine our fingers. "So, she started to say, sounding a little flustered, "what are you going to do now? Go to this institute?"
"I'd like to " I replied slowly, "but my father had destroyed one of the lab rooms in San Diego. Surely that would have pissed them off a little."
"I don't know. Why would they have called him specifically for a check up for you if they just wanted to get back at him?"
"Good point," I said, but thought about it a little bit. "If I were an organization such as the institute, and I had invested so much time into it- even as an" I put my fingers up in quotation mark gesture " 'employee'. and some angry guy comes along and destroys part of it, I highly doubt I would be inviting him over for a cup of coffee five years later." I lowered my voice to sound like an overly jolly guy, " 'Yeah, we almost killed his daughter and he destroyed my life's work, so I guess we're even now. HA HA HA!' "
Dinah shook her head with a smile that clearly said she thought I was nuts. I frowned in thought. I looked over at my friend after a while, then to our linked hands, wondering if I should still consider her a friend. I felt better with her there. I stared at the side of Dinah's face before she looked at me, and our eyes met. there was ice in her eyes, which had melted as soon as she saw that I was watching her. She was thinking about the possibility of the phone call being some sort of trap for both me and my father, but I had a feeling that they weren't even concerned with him. Just me.
"Come on," she said, "It's getting colder now. I'll walk you home." Our hands still linked, she stood up, pulling me with her.
"But I live almost a mile away." Dinah gave me an almost blank look that said, 'So?'. you might get stuck in this. Her look didn't faultier. I sighed, which made her smile. I decided then that I wasn't getting anywhere with this, so I started walking in the direction of the entrance/exit of the park. we were silent as we walked along the sidewalk towards my house. After that first block, I felt contentment from Dinah, as if her life finally felt at peace. Walking hand in hand with Dinah down the quiet sidewalk, I felt at peace as well.
As we walked up the steps to my house, Dinah slipped her fingers away from mine, and I reluctantly let go. "Would you like to come in for something to warm you up before you go home?" Dinah smiled, but shook her head slowly.
"It's late. you should rest on thing, and I should go before the weather gets any worse." I nodded and pulled her into a hug.
"Thank you for being here tonight."
"Anytime." I released her, but only long enough to put my hand on the back of her neck and bring her head towards mine in a kiss. This kiss held no passion- okay, that was a lie, but there were no promises in my kiss. It said little more than 'thank you' and 'goodnight'/ I felt her longing and pulled away before I could respond to that longing by deepening the kiss and making things worse. We stared into each other's eyes, and I felt the static of her abilities, which told me that her emotions were high. I didn't mean to do that to her. "Uh- goodnight, Gabby," she said, and her voice was low, almost a grumble from the far depths of her throat. It was hot.
"Goodnight, Dinah. Be safe," I said. I watched her walk down the street a little ways, and a figure emerged from almost out of nowhere. They walked together a few steps, and I heard that words were exchanged between them before the figure bumped into Dinah purposely. Dinah playfully hit the figure on the arm. I smiled at Helena and Dinah's snowball fight before I heard the door open behind me.
"I thought I saw Kyle down the street," Uncle Leonard said. I nodded. He wanted to ask me if I was okay, but as I watched the 'sisters', I had to laugh. Helena had kicked a tree with her mighty leg, and snow tumbled down on both of them. I could hear their giggling almost a block and a half away. "Come inside," my uncle said, and I took one long look at the two fading figures, laughing and throwing snow at each other, before I did as I was told. Seeing them together, it seemed as if they'd been in each other's lives for for years, not a couple of months. For one such as Helena who was used to growing up an only child, she seemed to have taken to the 'older sister' role well. I couldn't tell that they still had a hard time adjusting to each other sometimes, especially after the attack on their home. At the same time, I knew that Helena's used the cover of 'adopted sister' enough that is had started to grow on her.
I knew Dinah's grown on her. I felt the warmth of the house immediately. Without a word, Uncle Leonard went to the cabinets above the refrigerator and got out two packets of ramen noodles, and a pot of water. About five minutes later, my coat, hat, scarf, boots, and gloves were off and bundled almost neatly in a chair next to me. both of us had a bowl of instant noodles in front of us. My mother said once that she hated the smell of them, but I could live off of them if nutrition wasn't an issue. I smiled. 'When in doubt, make soup' must have been my uncle's motto. Between us, we passed back and forth a bag of Goldfish crackers, which Uncle Leonard dumped into his broth one at a time, the fish (ha-ha) them out with his spoon. I watched him closely, not only because of was sort of odd to see a grown man doing this, but also because it seemed familiar to me. As if to sense my confusion, he said, "Avery never was interested in eating the soup, He would rather eat the crackers, and play with everything else, while you devoured your Top Ramen. I see that hasn't changed." I smiled.
"Some things never should," I added in agreement. We were companionable as we finished off both the Top Ramen and later the Goldfish crackers during our third round of Uno. I think the more Uncle Leonard had stayed with me, the more comfortable I had become, and it felt to me that he had known this all along. He never tried to get me to talk, but a few times, he'd put in comments like, "Avery once beat Mario Three in about six hours without skipping any of the levels, even the hidden ones," or "I think Avery was a little bit in love with Janet Jackson," and then, "Once Avery had to read The Phantom Tollbooth for school, but you wouldn't leave him alone long enough to let him read it, so he started to read it out loud to you. I don't know how he had done it, but you two were sitting on the couch all afternoon, and you were quiet the whole time except for when there was this part- something about moving grains of sand with a pair of tweezers..." I looked up at this part. I remembered reading the Phantom Tollbooth for school as well, and I remembered being amazed by that part then, too, for some reason.
"I remember that part of the book," I said.
"Yeah." Not long after our fifth round of Uno, which was the tie breaker between us (he won, although I just know he cheated), I excused myself, gave my uncle a hug and a kiss on the cheek, then went to my room and got ready for bed.
I look at my new husband, then back at the two children who walk in front of us in the toy store in the mall. Avery has a hold of Gabby's hand and they are both drooling over a toy boat. Gabby tries to get her had from Avery's but he wouldn't let go. "Avie, lemme go."
"I'm holding your hand until we get back to the car so you don't get lost like you did last time. You scared me."
"I won't wander off this time. Promise, Avie, promise." Gabby says, but the little boy only shakes his head and his sister frowns. "Promise!"
"I can't let you go wandering off, Gab-thing. I'll have to keep holding your hand. Tell me what you want to look at and we'll look at it together, okay?" Gabby's frown doesn't go away, but Avery pretends not to notice. "Look Gabby, this boat has a motor on it, and can be controlled like my remote control truck." Avery says.
"I don't need you to hold my hand all the time. I am a big girl." Gabby says, and I could tell that this hurt Avery's feelings.
"I know. I just want to protect you-"
"I don't need to be protected." Gabby tries again to get her hand back from Avery, but his grasp is still firm.
"That isn't the point. Dad said you must always protect the ones you love no matter what, so because I love you, I will always be there to protect you until the day I die- no, even after I die."
Gabby stays silent as we walk down to the next group of Tonka toys. She doesn't try to be independent from Avery again.
"Yeah?" Avery asks looking down at her. They are silent for a second, and Avery's head turns to the side as he watches her, almost as if she were whispering in his ear.
"Do you really love me?"
"Yes, I really really love you."
"Better than cheese crackers?"
"Yes, I love you better than cheese crackers."
"Better than army man toys?"
"Even better than that."
"Better than birthday cake and ice cream?"
"Better than a thousand birthday cakes and a million billion ba-jillion scoops of ice cream." Avery says, and Gabby's eyes went wide of thoughts of all that ice cream.
"Wow," she says after a while.
"Yeah," Avery agrees. As they look at the Ken dolls it is quiet between them.
"Avie," Gabby says in a whisper, looking around. Avery leans in to hear her better.
She plant a kiss on the cheek and says, "I love you better than all those things too." I look at Leonard and see him give me a smile and a wink that clearly said 'ditto'-
This is her now? Has to be. Looks practically the same.
Happier though. Have they told her? Has she gotten her powers back? Will she ever? If she has, she'll know I'm here. She'll have some sort of memory, if the power is the same as it used to be. Hopefully she's gotten a good memory from me-
Chapter Twenty Five
I woke up at around nine-thirty the next morning. There was a familiar smell of pancakes and honey, and though I had goldfish crackers mere seven hours prior, my stomach growled. I got up, took a shower, and changed into a sweat suit and slippers. Then I went into the kitchen, where my mother was cooking the pancakes while my father and uncle watched the news in the living room. There wasn't as much tension between them after the truth came out and I knew everything. I debated on telling them about my dream the night before, and had decided that I would. No more secrets now, right? It had to have been Mark's memory I dreamed about. 'Uncle Leonard wouldn't be anyone else's new husband,' I thought. I got the feeling that he was the one who watched me the night before on my way to New Gorham Park. I had guessed at first that it was the Huntress, but I knew otherwise, as Helena tended to think heavily, and I would have easily picked up on it. The only thoughts I heard last night were my own and Dinah's. Uncle Leonard and the rest of my family had learned to shield their thoughts from me, and at the time, Mark WAS family so...
"Someone looks ready to hibernate this winter," my mother said, giving me a small smile to test the waters.
"If school never opens up, I just might," I joked back, but even if I could physically do that, I don't think I would want to. Who knew how many memories I would pick up in that time.
"How did you sleep?" my mother asked as she poured more batter onto the skillet.
"I had a dream of someone's memory. It was about Avery," I said the last sentence in a whisper.
My father, who had been listening from the kitchen since I entered, asked, "Was it a good memory?" I nodded, not sure if my father could see it.
"Do you want to tell us about it?" My mother ventured.
"Sounds like group therapy," I commented absently, "but yeah."
"Lenny, Jason, breakfast is almost ready," my mother called, and like a whip being cracked, both my father and uncle got up, my uncle turning off the TV and my father getting juice and glasses from the cupboard. He poured apple juice into my cup and his own, then filled two mugs of coffee for my mother and uncle. I noticed, as I watched this, that my father and I are so alike, and it lead to thoughts of 'If I were in his shoes, would I, too, have taken my daughter to the Institute or would I have found another way? Would I have tried to hypnotize her again?' I looked down at the table then up again to see eyes on me.
"This feels stupid, me telling you about my dream like this. It's something that under different circumstances I'd talk to Kelly, Gina or Dinah about." I said.
"Who's Gina?" my father asked, and I had forgotten that I never mentioned Gina before, since we weren't really friends before New Gorham got attacked.
"A new friend at school," I told him. "She's funny. I think she is more obsessed with Charmed than I ever will be with Xena." I paused and smiled, thinking about Gina's wings sprouting from her shoulder blades. I still thought they were very beautiful, and I felt sort of envious that someday Gina could just spread them out and fly away to anywhere she wanted to go to get away from this crazy place.
"Anyway, this memory had Avery in it, and... it was very good. I wish I could have remembered it for myself. Uncle Leonard, you would remember this; you were there at the toy store with us. He was afraid of letting go of my hand because he didn't want me to get lost again. He told me that he was to protect me no matter what because he loved me. I kept comparing his love for me to other things in his life that he loved-"
"Like cheese crackers and army men," Uncle Leonard cut in and I nodded.
" 'Even better than that,' " I added. I took a bite of the small stack of pancakes that was set in front of me. They were perfect. My parents were out of the loop, and I felt bad, but I didn't know what more to say to get them more involved in this. "Then I told him that I loved him better than those things, too." Both of my parents gave weak smiles, and my mother looked as if she might cry. "The thing is... it wasn't in Uncle Leonard's point of view. It was in Mark's."
"I've learned lately that nothing is ever as it seems," I said, looking at my uncle, who had spoken. My family all looked hurt, sad, and angry, which was what they felt towards Mark. I didn't know what all he was involved in, so I didn't feel much of anything towards him. I'm sure I was supposed to be angry for authorizing a test that almost killed me, but I wasn't. All I knew was that he truly did love my uncle better than anything else at one point in his life, and for that alone I'd have been willing to hear his side of the story. "When I went walking last night, I felt watched, but I knew they weren't going to hurt me, and they didn't. Whoever it was obviously was blocking their thoughts from me, and apparently you all are the only ones who know to do that around me, so I am assuming it was him. I just didn't hear any footsteps or leaves... and I didn't see any other footsteps other than my own and Dinah's. It was all very weird."
"He had to have been near you though for you to have gotten his memory, so I believe that." I heard him think 'If he comes near her, I'll kill him,'
"That is what I think too," I said, ignoring my father's thought. I was silent for a moment, and then looked up. "I guess Mark was a big part of my life back then, wasn't he?"
"Yes, he was there for many things."
"Though you always told the story of how you met Mark, it never triggered any memories... I guess that was because when I was eleven you called him Brian." My father looked up and glared at Leonard, and I interpreted his look. 'You weren't supposed to say ANYTHING!'
"Do you know," my mother cut in after clearing her throat, " What you want to do now that you have all of this information?" I nodded, and we all knew that I wanted to go to the Institute, wherever it may be, and get my memories back, and I didn't even have to voice this.
My father reached over and put a hand on my shoulder. "Maybe now that you know what had happened before hand, it won't be a big shock to you if you were to see it all play out this time around." I nodded, hoping he was right. Maybe this time around the images won't shock me as much. Not like when I was ten. Maybe the shock of what I'd already seen and learned the last few days mostly, may have prepared my mind for the shock of seeing my brother's death. But if I loved Avery like they said, and the emotions of that all came back along with the image of it all, then maybe I wouldn't be able to handle it. Then again... Well, I've already felt the emotional anguish of other people after Harley Quinn turned the city upside down, and Helena, Ms. Gordon, and Dinah's grief from that night was so strong that it already felt like my own. Maybe that was what it would feel like when I remember that Avery died... but then I remember that their pain wasn't my own. What if my own grief is so much worse?
Chapter Twenty Six
The four of us spent the rest of the morning semi-sort-of talking about plans for going to the Institute, nothing definite. I hoped we could afford to go anywhere to get my memories back after my parents' trip to Las Vegas. I was all around nervous. I was afraid of what I'd see, and how it would affect me this time. Would I be the same as when I was six and ten years old, screaming and crying at the thought of water, convinced that I had somehow killed my brother? Maybe it was better that I got my powers and memories now. Once or twice I would get the feeling that it wasn't my mother or father's decision on whether or not my powers showed, whether I remembered or not, but Avery's. I knew even as the feeling came to me that it was silly. Avery was dead.
As I thought of him, I wondered if he had kept his word to protect me even after his death, like if he performed miracles or something to keep me safe, but I doubted it. Then again, many things could have gone horribly wrong when I was on my way to the high school in all the madness. I could have gotten hurt by someone who thought I was somehow dangerous, but everyone I had met was harmless. Not having anything better to do after my parents got ready for work and Uncle Leonard took a nap on the couch, I went off to my own room and read Xena fanficiton and news on the message boards. Talk about the virtual season that was going on, which I had yet to look over, and the fanfiction was alright, slow building, but pretty good kept me busy for the better part of a couple of hours. It was better than any attempt I would ever make. Checking my email after getting to chapter nineteen in the story, I found a message from 'babybatsglasses' at some email provider that I hadn't heard of. I knew it had to be Ms. Gordon. I knew of no other 'bats', with or without glasses. The email read:
I hope this finds you well. Really, I do. This is just a quick note to let you know that you are welcome at the Clocktower anytime. In case of an emergency, not that I predict any, your pass code is your numeric birthday plus your currant age. Please don't be afraid to call if you have a question or just want to talk.
Whether or not Ms. Gordon knew this, this was big. What was she saying to me by opening up the Clocktower door so willingly after it was attacked? And to me of all people? Knowing what I knew of Ms. Gordon, there had to have been something else. That was all it was with her. She said a thousand things with few words and maybe one action. Of course, this still didn't excuse the fact that she lied to me by telling me that the Institute had been destroyed, leading me to believe that each and every one of them were gone, not just one branch. I wondered again why she'd lied to me. The only logical (like logical really explains much in my world anymore) explanation I could come up with was that she knew I would have tried to go to the Institute if only I'd known where it was, and she didn't want me to.
I contemplated a reply, but all I could seem to think to say was 'thank you'. Would that be enough? I mean, I didn't even know what all she was really offering me. Maybe saying 'thank you' was not enough for whatever it was she was saying under the name 'babybatsglasses'. Then again, it could just mean that I can come over, and that I was safe with them, which I already knew I was. Before I could click on the link to reply, my screen flickered a couple of times, then a man's face appeared, scaring the shit out of me. He had mostly grey hair with some brown still left in it, sad, green eyes, and a scar on the side of his face. He looked me in the eyes as I backed out of my chair and heard it roll a couple extra inches away from me. I screamed, but being the only one in the house I'd assumed, no one came rushing in. He opened his mouth to speak, but my screen had gone back to normal. I took a step backwards and watched it for over a minute before I cautiously reached out and turned the computer monitor off. I had enough of the computer for the day. I could continue the Xena story some other time. But who was that man? He seemed to know who I was if the look on his face was read correctly, but where had I known him? In San Diego? Could that have been Mark? I resisted the urge to call the Clocktower, or rather, the Delphi, but I've called or seen them everyday for the last few days since the attack. I was sure they were tired of seeing me everyday, despite the email I had just gotten.
I went into the living room to find no one there, and Leonard must have gone back to the Dark Horse Bar and his apartment. With nothing else to do, and being too afraid to get back on the computer, I put my coat, hat, boots, gloves and scarf on before going outside in the snow. I heard the door to the house next door open after I had made three snow angels and was halfway done making the base of a small snowman. Looking up, I saw two green eyes and four small brown ones watching me. I smiled. "Hey strangers. Can Kelly, Vern, and Wesley come out and play?"
"Hey Gabby," Kelly said as she knelt down to button each twin's coat, then wrapped her scarf more securely around her neck. "Yeah, we can play for a bit. Your yard or mine?"
"Either. By the hour's end we'll have made use of the snow in both yards." I watched as the siblings moved from their gate to mine.
Two hours, three snow sculptures made and ruined, ten now angles, and a snow fort later, Kelly and her brothers were called inside for lunch, and though I got an invite, I politely declined. I lingered outside, not quite ready to go inside yet. Though I was cold, mostly on my hands, toes, and knees, I knew I would be bored if I went inside. I wasn't ready to snuggle up watching the ABC Family channel's Twenty-Five Days of Christmas specials, nor was I in the right mind set to start comparing Whitney Houston's version of 'Do You Hear What I Hear' to Vanessa Williams' version. I still had over three weeks to get into the Christmas spirit. Also, if I had gone inside, I'd be surrounded by my thoughts, and I wasn't ready to do anymore heavy thinking just yet. I was glad my family told me everything, I really was. It just felt so unreal. Along the gate, there were still some patches of snow, but I was done with the snow as well. It wasn't as fun to play in by myself, anyway. I half- wished that Uncle Leonard was still there to play Uno and tell me stories of Avery, but the Dark Horse Bar was his way of making a living, even if I doubted anyone would travel in this weather for a four dollar Corona. However, after finally meeting 'Kyle', I would understand if they went through the snow for a glimpse of her. Just don't tell Dinah I thought that.
I looked up when I saw the porch light started to flicker exactly as my computer monitor had earlier, and I took a step back, somewhat knowing what to expect, though I didn't believe it. Mark manipulated electrical currants, but could he travel through them? That would explain the lack of footprints that followed me the night before. The porch light sparked, and then blew out. With a flash of light, what looked like a lightning rod shot from the light bulb and straight down to the porch, slowly taking the shape of a human being. My eyes widened at the sight of the man in the computer screen, who stood on the porch where seconds ago there was no one. "Gabby, don't scream, please," he pleaded. "I didn't mean to scare you before." I kept my distance, but I didn't scream this time. I could only stare at him, unsure why he was there. He didn't speak either at first.
"Are you- Were you Uncle Mark?" I finally asked, and he nodded. I sighed, now that this man had a name to me. "I should be pissed at you, but since I don't remember what happened, I'm not. I know that my dad will flip if her were home to see you, though." Mark only nodded again as he slowly walked off of the porch and towards me.
"I know, and I'll bet Lenny's been the mother hen, trying to protect and care for you in the only way he knows how, which is to offer you some sort of food or drink item, watch TV, play some sort of board or card game, or just leave you to your own devices in your room. I stared at him. When he got to arms length, I backed away. I didn't think he was dangerous, but I still wanted to be careful, just in case. If he wanted to hurt me, he had many chances the night before, but still I wanted to stay cautious.
"That's him, alright," I muttered, then smiled warmly. It may have been his way, but I still felt protected with him. I felt comfortable. I stared at one of Wesley's crumpled snowmen. "So... Why are you here?"
"I'm sorry I scared you earlier. I didn't even mean to go through the socket your computer's plugged into. I'm still trying to figure this power out ever since it evolved a few weeks ago." I couldn't hear his thoughts, but I felt his presence, his concern in my head. Not feeling any guilt or nervousness as I usually did when someone lied to me, I knew he was telling the truth on that. As if to sense my approval of his explanation, I felt his relief before he continued talking. "I came to see you. I wanted to see if you're okay-'
"If I've been told what happened," I said, cutting him off. Mark sighed.
"Yes, I was curious to see if you found out. I'm assuming you know everything now?" I shrugged.
"There are a few things here and there that still don't make any sense, but I know what happened to Avery. Thanks to you, I know what he looked like. Thank you for that memory, by the way."
"You two really were good kids." It became quiet between us. I thought about the memory of Avery that I had dreamed about the night before. "So when did you find out everything?"
"Last night was when I got the whole story, but I've gotten my powers back over the last two months or so, and everything before that was just a bunch of guessing."
"That recent? I would have thought you had them a little longer. You have an aura that says you know much more than that." I shook my head, even though it was true. "After all the-" He looked ashamed, and I saw a flash of the room I must have been tested in when I was in the Institute.
"You can say it, 'testing'," I prompted sarcastically.
"Yes, well... I was going to say 'after everything we'd done, it was an irony that it all would come back on their own.' " I wasn't about to tell him that my more-than-best-friend's wayward abilities had awaken mine, or so a cyber genius in the guise of my Lit teacher had told me. I just let him think it was all me and timing and all that jazz. 'Probably sounded more sane to the non- metahuman ear, anyway. "Look, I know that saying 'I'm sorry', no matter how sincere and remorseful I am about it won't undo what happened. I thought it was the right thing to do at the time, that I was fighting for the right cause, but it turned out to be so horribly wrong. If it makes things any easier, I lost everything I held dear in my life- Leonard, you kids- to a cause that wasn't, in the end, anything I was for." I shook my head.
"It doesn't make anything any easier. You and Uncle Leonard are miserable without each other, my memories are still gone, and Avery's still dead. The only difference between then and now is the fact that you thought there was a reason for giving everything up, and now there isn't." It was Mark's turn to stare, his surprise clear even to a random passerby.
"That's very insightful, and unfortunately... very true."
"I'm not ten anymore. I know stuff now." I said, wrapping my arms around my waist to warm myself up a little more.
"You were always a smart one, Gabby."
"Well, I am sort of in the same boat," I said, but I didn't say anything else or explain my sentence as I started to think about Dinah. It was true, and Mark's situation wouldn't have been put into those words if it didn't almost mirror Dinah's. Her cause was a good one as well, and she'd sacrificed love and her innocence for it, aging years in the course of a few weeks, mostly in one night. But when or if she loses her will and forgets her reasons for fighting, where will we be? Where would I be? Would I have left New Gorham- and Dinah's side- despite my promise? How many more attacks like Harley Quinn's would Dinah be able to take before she throws up her hands in defeat and says 'screw you, you can't be saved'? Then what? She'll be in Mark's position, only what she'll have paid would be much more than this. Who else will die? What would break her? I guess one of the hardest things about that was the fact that I can't do anything to help her when she's out there. All I'd do is sit at home and pray for her to make it back. Even if I was a fighter, which I am anything but, my powers would be useless in the hand to hand forms of combat preferred by the everyday thug. I'd only be making things worse if they had to watch my ass all the time.
"Hey Gabby... I have to tell you something." I looked up at him. "About your memories..." He knew he had my attention then just as well as I did. "About your memories... Well, there is no easy way to tell you this, Gabby but... Well... Dr. Alder died last year."
The upper half of my body felt as if someone had slammed their whole body into it, yet I didn't fall or something. I felt as if I would step on my own heart if I were to try to walk anywhere. My dismay turned to rage, though I tried with everything not to show it. Will anything about this ever be easy?! 'Aw, fuck!'
Chapter Twenty Seven
Dr. Alder really had died? Is this how the great mystery ends? Was I to relive my childhood vicariously through others? Mark put a hand on my shoulder, and I let him. I doubt I could be hurt- physically or emotionally- more than I already was at that moment. Mark was silent for a moment, thinking something over, as if he wasn't quite sure he should tell me in fear of getting my hopes up.
"I'm not sure," he started slowly, "but Dr. Alder was never without a back up plan. He knew that he'd have people coming back for their memories long after he was gone, and having made contracts for every person who he's got memories for, including you, he may have left those memories somewhere. Rumor has it, he gave them to another doctor in the Institute. The only thing is, how would we get them from the new host back to you?"
What I want to know," I put in, "is how he got it from him to his new host to begin with. How could he transfer them in the first place unless, of course, you're lying? You may be in the some league with top scientists, but even they wouldn't be able to make some machine to do that, can they?"
"Listen to me, Gabby. I know you have no reason at all to trust me, but I want you to at least hear me out and at least think about what I am about to tell you. It may sound weird, but... just listen. You as well as I know that Dr. Alder couldn't have traded in those memories unless he had some sort of mind power to transfer them. He looked around for a metahuman with telepathy of some sort so that he could give them the powers so that they could hold on to them even after his death so that they could return them to their rightful owner. I caught on right away to what he was trying to say to me.
"Me," I said, "but that is crazy. I couldn't have gotten his memories from him to hold within me. That would take away from the whole 'trying to get rid of Avery' thing."
"So say he found a way. Any guesses on who this new host might be?" Mark shook his head, and I felt exasperation within me. I wanted to scream about how much of a help he wasn't to me right then, but I said nothing. Has anyone leave the Institute shortly after he died? The only thing I can think of right now is that whoever may have the memories left behind one way or the other would be trying to run."
"I did, three months later. No one before me, and I don't have anymore ties to that place since." That was another thing that ate at me a little bit.
"Why did you leave the Institute after all these years?"
"The same reason your father did. The Institute had changed their initial goal. Somehow bettering the lives of both metahuman and non-metahuman children became a plot to turn the newest generation into one of metahuman genealogy, all the wile keeping their top doctors and scientists in the dark about their true intentions." I stared at him.
"And... That included me?"
"I think so. You and your neighbor friend, Kelly-"
"No, not Kelly," I said, looking from Mark to Kelly's house. I saw the flicker of the TV before I looked back at my 'uncle'.
"I'm afraid so. Her newfound metahuman powers make her a great asset to anything we may try to do in the Institute."
"You can't-" I stuttered, "No, not Kelly," I said again. "I won't let them lay a hand on her." How I was going to do that was beyond me, especially since I can't fight, nor do I really want to fight.
"Sadly, they already have, Gabby," Mark said, his eyes looking down. It helped, I guess that his voice sounded as sad as is words suggested. "Over three years before they ever laid a hand on you." I did the math and my chest seemed to constrict a little. The 'experimental drug' that had cured Kelly's cancer was given to her by the Institute.
"But... Why? She was a normal girl." I wanted to add in 'until you messed with her'. I guess I shouldn't get too angry about it. They hadn't come after her since she was cured, and they DID cure her to begin with. Still, part of me didn't want to give anything positive to the Institute, even if I didn't remember what they had done to me personally. Mark sighed and looked down at our boots.
"I have to start from the beginning, Gabthing-" Mark corrected himself quickly as if remembering that he had no right to call me by a family nickname (I guess) when he wasn't family any longer. "Gabby. When the Institute started out, all they wanted to do was to gather enough information about metahumans so they can inform and educate the public, mainly to end hatred from non-metahuman people. Dr. Alder was a professor of pediatrics, and some of his colleagues had asked him to work with them at the Institute, which was then a secret organization even to metahumans, and had maybe twenty people involved. It wasn't until they knew for sure that it was genetic that the Institute branched out across the United States. We had found out that we could single out the metahuman gene, but it was easier to do in children than adults. A year after that, we found that we could take the gene entirely from the body.
"We could have used that knowledge to 'cure' future children of their metahuman abilities, and the future wouldn't even have metahumans. We decided instead to do tests to see what would happen if a child born of the gene went without it. Later on, we put the gene in children not born with the gene to see how it affected them."
Mark looked anywhere but at me as he spoke. "The results were often fatal to both. It turned out that there was a specific procedure to extracting the gene as well as administering it to the non-metahuman children. Once this method was found, tests showed that children who had their genes taken from the body got sick, whereas one child who was given the gene had gotten over her cold within an hour." Mark shifted his weight from one foot to the other. "Using that information, we made various experimental treatments and drugs for anything and everything under the moon. Kelly was one of the first to be given the drug. As you can see, it was one hundred percent successful. To all children given the drug. Everybody gets sick, though. And eventually, everyone would have been given one drug or another, and end up with the same results as Kelly's. Many at the Institute didn't like that thought, with good reason, but I am sure many did like it as well. They were overruled by the rest of us, and went back to the labs to try and find what- if anything specific- about the gene had the healing aspects, which was why metahuman children seemingly never got sick and often healed quickly from wounds. Most believe that Dr. Alder found it, what IT may be." When Mark stopped talking, I started thinking about it, but couldn't seem to connect the dots between my past at the Institute versus Kelly's.
"What does the research of metahuman genes have to do with me?"
"Nothing. Not anymore."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Remember when I told you that I didn't know who Dr. Alder may have given is memories to?" I nodded. "I might have lied to you."
"Might have-?" Mark shushed me, and I frowned.
"And remember when I said that you and Kelly both may have played- and still play- a big role in some of the Institute's plans?" Again, but slowly, I nodded. "I think at one point you USED to be part of Dr. Alder's plans. He wasn't a young man anymore- he knew this- and he knew that sooner rather than later he would need someone to take over the tasks of returning the memories he'd taken over the years if people came back for them. He didn't take many other than yours, but he still, like I said, made contracts for each and every one of them and had to return them somehow. He was an honorable man. When Avery went to him after you broke down for the second time, Dr. Alder became interested in your ability to read thoughts and to project thoughts and had hoped to use you. I'm sure he had thought it through, but not until after a wile of working with you. He hadn't expected for your powers to disappear after your memories were taken. He wanted to give the memories to someone, but needed a way to transfer them to the rightful owners. I think maybe he DID give them to someone after all, possibly to wait until you got your powers back and until you understood what happened with Avery, but no one really knew when that would be. He would have given those memories to someone like me or his daughter Olivia, but even we weren't guaranteed to keep them for long. Being young, you would have been able to return all of them; at least, you had a better chance of it than the rest of us old farts. Of course, no one knew for sure what the future would bring. I'm guessing he hoped that giving you the memories would do both that, and hide the secrets of his research. Whatever it is, I am assuming it is big. Or he just doesn't want to take the risk of hurting more metahuman children like before." "But how could I have done any of that if my memories were also taken? Wouldn't I have gotten them back and saw Avery die all over again, defeating the point of going to see him in the first place?"
"Absolutely, which is why I'm glad his plan fell through. Still, he was determined to get your powers back, and that to this day still bothers me as to why, exactly. I'm just hoping that there still wasn't something up his sleeve. Even with whatever it was he may still have had planned for you, I know he really didn't mean to hurt you. Still, I thought it was a good plan to get your powers back to learn control over them so that what happened to Avery doesn't happen again."
"What do you mean?" I asked, squinting my eyes at this."
"What do you mean by 'so that what happened to Avery doesn't happen again'? You made it sound like I- Did I?" 'Oh god, Jason didn't tell her everything- Shit, and she heard that, didn't she?' My face got a horrified look on it, and Mark shut his eyes tightly and shook his head in a way that said, 'Damn it damn it damn it!'
"Shhhit!" Mark hissed.
"I happened," I said softly, thinking about my father's telling of that day Avery drowned. "Dad said, 'Something happened, and I lost the wave,' and now you're speaking as if it were me-" I stopped. From what Jason told me, you screamed 'Daddy' in his head, and it scared him so bad that, yes, he lost his concentration."
"So when I was crying and screaming that I had killed my brother, I really... did."
"But nobody blames you. You father never told anyone but Dr. Alder and myself, and he never blamed you."
"I did," I said.
"Yes, and I guess that is all that matters, isn't it?" We were silent after that, and I tried to imagine what it must have been like. My mind brought me back to the dream I had on the night Harley Quinn attacked the city, the one where the figures were fuzzy, but the scream of 'daddy' was clear. That must have been that day, but was it my own memory? No one else was near me when I had it, so it couldn't have been anyone else's. If Dr. Alder had all of my memories, then how could I have remembered that, if only a little bit? I didn't want to think about this anymore. I wanted to talk about something else, but with Mark, someone I didn't even remember from the past, there really wasn't anything else to talk about, really.
"So, what happened?" I asked him suddenly.
"What made you give up your marriage- or union or commitment, whatever- to my uncle? Why didn't you just leave the Institute after what all happened with me. Why did it take you until a yea ago to leave? What was still so good about the Institute?" I asked, realizing too late that I was rambling. I knew that there were so many questions, but that seemed to be all I ever had anymore, and damn it, I wanted more than a few answers here and there that only raised more questions.
"You must understand that giving up the only family I had left was not an easy choice-"
"But it must have been for a bigger cause- in your opinion then- and that is what I want to know. What was that cause?" 'Geese, Gabby. Let the man speak,' I thought to myself.
"I knew around the time you went to Dr. Alder that some of the doctors in the Institute were there under suspicious intentions. We all did. Dr. Alder though had friends in high places that kept people relatively good, and slowly, we were getting back to our roots after a lot of people gave up on the medications using metahuman gene. It was decided that they were to put the experimental treatment away and never work with it again. Many voted to destroy all of it, but others wanted to keep it around in case they did find the perfect way to take the healing aspect of the metahuman gene without hurting any parties. Things went back to normal, mostly, but people started acting strange after Dr. Alder died. They started wondering about the memories and wanted to work on the treatments again. It would mean great breakthroughs, and, they hoped, good reputations for metahumans. Somewhat good intentions, I suppose, but they turned against me, many of my closest colleagues, and Olivia eventually told me that my best bet for my safety and the safety of the rest of the research, I should leave. So I did, and here I am."
"But Uncle Mark, why fight that? You'd think isolating the healing portion of the metahuman gene would cure cancers in children and it won't make the metahuman children sick," I protested. "Maybe- and I'm not saying I am on Dr. Alder's side, here- he found away to take out just the healing aspect of the gene, and only a little bit, so that the metahuman child doesn't get sick."
"Sure," Mark agreed, "it would seem that way, but think Gabby: Isolation of that portion of the metahuman gene means we still have to remove the gene from the child first, which would make them sick, as it appears the metahuman gene is fit there with the metahuman's immune system. We never tested this, but I don't want to think about what would happen if we gave the metahuman back their own gene without the healing aspect. They'd remain sick, possibly lose their powers while they were at it. In testing this alone, whatever it is that Dr. Alder may or may not have found while he was alive, I don't think he wanted to risk it for the children who'd be tested on this, and as is friend and colleague, I want to respect those wishes. I just hope that whoever has those memories and the theories would as well." I nodded. "I think... that that is it. The whole story on my end, anyway, as far as I know. Can I ask you one thing?"
"Sure, I guess." I shrugged.
"Can I- It's been so long since I've seen you, and you've grown into a smart young woman... May I get a hug?" At this- and I wasn't sure exactly why, I backed away from him a little bit. He didn't exactly look surprised, just saddened by this.
"I'm sorry, but all this talk about shots and drugs and labs and metahuman genes gives me weird thoughts about a syringe to the neck and a drug developed to paralyze the metahuman gene, and wile you'd tell me that wouldn't happen and you wouldn't do that to me, I'd believe it because you were in my family when everyone learned to keep their thoughts from me."
"This is true and smart. Paranoid, but smart... I am not offended. Maybe another time," he said. I shrugged, not giving him any real answer.
"What will happen now? You know, to me and Kelly?" Mark looked as if he were thinking about it.
"I don't know exactly. I know about what happened to Kelly, and so do others in the Institute, so they are waiting for her to heal from that before they try to talk to her about her metahuman abilities. They've been rubbing their hands together and in a sense licking their chops waiting to get to her though. As for you, Olivia at times still would talk to me about you, wondering if perhaps her father found some sort of back door way to get his methods and theories to you. I will keep my head in the Bludhaven Institute in order to see if I can figure out who has the memories now. I just don't know how to get them back to you, as no metahuman we know of besides you can enter the mind, you know, touch the mind enough to transfer them. I guess we can try it with you, but I don't know if you just seeing the memories then bouncing them back to someone else would work in the same ways the owner actually getting their memories back." I nodded. "I keep a look out, and I promise to do my best to keep you posted. I should go though, before your father or Leonard come out here and kicks my ass." Again, I nodded, not sure what else to say. I was still worried about Kelly. I didn't want her mixed up in the Institute like I was. I wanted to Institute to be her past, and my past, but if they got their way, they could keep Kelly with them for however long it took to test the children.
"Bye Mark. It was nice talking to you. I am glad I got a chance to hear your side of the story." I watched him look around, and then fade into the electric currant. He ran to the front porch and seemed to jump into our porch light. I was once again alone. I'm sue my parents knew I was just in the yard, especially with playtime laughter that occurred there earlier and probably wondered if I was ready to come inside yet. I wasn't, but I was cold and I'd been outside for almost three hours. That was my record as far as snowy playtime went. I followed Mark's footsteps and went to the porch, took off my boots, and went inside.
Chapter Twenty Eight
Despite what I had said earlier, I ended up settling down on the couch at eight that night watching The Santa Clause. Not that I paid much attention to it. I knew that if I holed myself up in my room and played the broody teenager that I didn't used to be, my parents would have gotten worried about me, and I knew that I wouldn't have been able to pull off my innocence for very long. Soon they would have known that something was wrong, and I would have had to tell them all that Mark told me. Frankly, I didn't feel like more discussion on Avery then. Avery was dead. Couldn't we just get over it? Apparently not, if I was in this predicament to begin with. My night, despite my thoughts, was fine. No new development to my great mystery, which was a good thing for me for the moment. I would have exploded if I had anything else coming to me.
I didn't think deeply on Mark's words until I went to bed. I wondered if he might have been lying about any of it. Even if he could block his thoughts, though, he still didn't know that I had Avery's power of empathy. I would have felt some sort of guilt or nervousness or anxiety. I guess an exception to that would be the fact that he could have convinced himself that what he said was true. That was how people got past lie detector tests, anyway. I had a dream that night, though, that somewhat bothered me. It wasn't enough to scare me or anything, but it did make me think. In the dream, I was standing in a large tank. Though I knew what was going on and what was going to happen, I didn't freak out... much. I was controlling my fear of the water, instinctively knowing that it was important for me to do so. 'If I don't, something bad will happen,' I kept thinking. Out loud, I told someone that the water was warm, and it was surprising to me. I imagined it to be a bath, and the fear lessened inside me.
That was it. Me in a tank filling with water. Didn't get past my waist before I woke up. The thing that bothered me was the fact that it felt so real, like it really did happen. Like it was my own memory. I was looking down at the water filling at my feet, then my knees, then my hips and then I woke up. I wasn't some doctor or scientist watching some ten year old girl in a tank before writing a note or two down on a notepad. That can't be. Dr. Alder had them, so what's the deal? Well, no. He transferred them (or so the story's told) to someone else. The only reasoning for the dream to be a memory is if they were somehow near me that night, but why? Who? But then, it could have just been a dream. Only a dream. Right?
My mind wandered as I got out of bed, and when I started thinking (again) about the day my brother died, I felt the sudden urge to speak to Helena. Though to be honest, Helena made me a little nervous, I felt as if she would be the only person who knew what I was going through right now, and I guess vise versa. I also needed to talk to Dinah. I knew that no matter who Dr. Alder had given my memories to, I would have to get them back through her, literally. Knowing Dinah, she would be all for it, but I still had to talk to her about it all.
As I got ready for the day, I decided I was going to see if the subways were running again and if they were, I'd go see Helena. No one was in the living room when I got there, and there was a note on the kitchen counter telling me that both of my parents had to get to work that day. How convenient. At least they wouldn't ask me where I was going and I wouldn't have had to lie to them to protect everyone's identity. And I wouldn't have to explain why I was going to the Dark Horse Bar when I knew my uncle would be sleeping... Well, not to them. To Helena, yes. Thinking it over, I decided to wait until at least noon before going over there. Helena stayed up late even after her shift at the bar, so it might be easier to talk to her (and she'd be less scary) if she wasn't cranky.
It was after ten when I got out of the shower and got dressed. I did my usual routine of checking my email and reading the Xena story I started. The plotlines I admired fanfiction writers for coming up with seemed plain to me then, though I still liked most of their writing styles. I guess it wasn't the same anymore. It was so easy to be amazed with what people came up with because I knew that it wasn't real. Now, knowing that some of it WAS real, well it killed time to read it, but the excitement in it was gone.
At noon, I checked the online schedules for the subway train I'd be taking to the Dark Horse. "Okay," I thought out loud, "I just missed the last train, so if I leave in ten minutes, I should get to the station in about fifteen minutes with five to spare. I better get my stuff on." About forty-five minutes later, I was walking towards the Dark Horse Bar and saw a grey and black striped cat at the door. When it saw me, it started screaming as it trotted between my legs looking for food and attention, and almost tripping me.
I bent to pet its head for a moment, then heard, "That's Guinness." I looked up to see Helena with a small bag of cat food in one hand and a small, empty margarine container in the other. I wasn't surprised by the fact that I didn't hear her approach. I looked at the cat, then back at Helena.
"Heh, don't look at me. I didn't name him. Your uncle found him last year in a box that held bottles of Guinness, hence the name. He's been trying to adopt us, but he doesn't like staying inside for more than a day or two, so we just feed him when he comes by." As Helena filled the cat food, she pet the cat and then said, "It's been a while since I've seen you around, Guinness. I thought you'd found another family." I watched as cat and meta-cat bonded before Helena looked up at me. She almost looked embarrassed. "So, you here to see Leonard? He'll be a little pissed you woke him up before three."
"Uh-No, I'm here t-to speak to you."
"To me? Why?" An eyebrow rose, but when I didn't say anything, not knowing how to explain tings to her, she sighed and unlocked the glass door. She gave the cat a quick pat on the head, but having gotten his food, he ignored her, and Helena held the door for me. "Come in, I guess." She locked the door behind us, and I followed her up the stairs to her apartment. There wasn't much in her studio, but I guess it served its purpose when she wasn't in the Clocktower, which I'd assumed wasn't often. As Helena sat on the bed, I leaned against the wall and let my back slide down it until I sat on the floor facing her.
"The last two months- The last two weeks especially- I've been learning a lot about my abilities and about my past. It's a long story, one I already told Dinah and won't bore you with, but my family on my father's side all seem to be metahuman. My father has the ability of water, and my grandmother- Actually, I never asked what ability my grandmother has." I made a mental note to do that. "Anyway, I had a brother. I don't know how to explain this to you, b-but be patient with me. I do have a point, I promise." I actually hadn't planned to start out my little speech with all of this, but once I started, I didn't know how to stop under Helena's stares. I was nervous, and I know she knew this, but I think she was just as so, not sure why 'the kid's friend' needed to speak with her, since I barely knew her. "My brother drowned when I was six. He had gone out too far or something to get a boat for me, and couldn't seem to swim back in. My father tried to help him by moving the water and... And he dropped the waves because of me. I used my ability to scream in his mind. He lost his concentration and Avery, my brother, drowned. My parents say I broke down and had nightmares, the works so they hypnotized me into forgetting. Long story short, I eventually had my memories of my childhood taken out because of this, and now I know of Avery because my parents told me about it. The thing is, even though I was told everything-or at leas I think I was told everything, I don't really feel that bad... because I don't remember anything. I mean turning the situation around over and over in my head, I imagine how I should feel, what it should be doing to my mind and conscience, but it just isn't there. How can I feel bad about something I don't remember?
"But then I think that I am being somewhat cruel for seeming not to care because I don't feel as badly as I should- or-or as badly as I think I should, and that, THAT is what messes the most with me. More than the horrible act I did, I feel worse because I don't feel badly that I did it because I don't remember any of it. I was wondering if maybe in those twenty four hours, right before you started to remember... I mean, you heard everything said and done, what went down when you were hypnotized... but you didn't remember. It was all other people's versions of what happened and not your own." I looked up at Helena to see she was watching me, but she didn't seem angry at me for bringing it all up like I thought she might be. "Well... did you feel this?"
"Yeah. You worded it rather well, I think. I felt all of that. I didn't like Wade. I didn't hate him, but I didn't like him. But... I hate to admit this now. I didn't like Dinah either. It was all just a territorial thing with me. I would have never wanted him to die. He made Barbara happy, and I was glad that my best friend was happy for once." Her eyes sought mine, and I felt frozen in place by them. "I don't think it was quite that which makes me feel the worst. I feel so shitty about the whole thing because I told Harley Quinn everything before she hypnotized me. I let everything go, and told her about the true identity of not just me, but Barbara and Dina as well. I am the one who did this. Had I not told her about the Clocktower, there wouldn't be so much chaos in New Gorham right now. And what really kills me is the fact that it is a lasting affect, and Harley Quinn is laughing maniacally in her Arkam cell as we speak." "She's a psychotic bitch. A really sneaky, really smart psychotic bitch. I am sorry Helena." I looked at my boots, and realized that I had probably gotten the carpet wet.
"Look, I know you don't want to talk about it, and I am really surprised that you told me as much as you did."
"Well, we're somewhat in the same boat, you and I, and I hate to admit it, Barbara was right all those times she told me that talking things out made them better, and at the time, talking things out helped, but I talked to the wrong person and it hurt us all in the end."
"About Ms. Gordon, Hel-"
"I don't want to go into that."
"Can I just say something, though?"
"Alright, as long as that is the last we'll ever speak on this subject." I nodded, trying to think of something good and lasting to say to Helena before she closed the door on the subject completely.
"All those years after Avery died; I think my father has been trying to get my forgiveness, maybe in the same way you're going to be trying to get Ms. Gordon's forgiveness. You and my father... Well- If I get my memories back, I might need that forgiveness too, from my brother... My father seeks my forgiveness and you seek Ms. Gordon's forgiveness because... Mr. Brixton and Avery can't give it. They're gone. Thinking about it all, though- and I have been thinking enough to give me migraines for years- Thinking about it, it's not Mr. Brixton or Avery who need to forgive the wrong doing. It's you. It's my father. And once I see it all and feel all the remorse I know I will feel once I see it for myself... It'll be me. Knowing what little I know about my brother and Mr. Brixton, I know that they would tell us all that there was nothing to forgive. If you spoke to Ms. Gordon, I'm sure she's already forgiven you, if she felt there was any need to at all to begin with. She hasn't given you the lead shoulder, and I've seen her try to speak with you, so you know that is a good sign." I stopped babbling and studied Helena to see if she was about to kill me. She body looked tense, but not defensive or angry... yet. She was thinking about this, I knew, and I could feel a little bit of doubt, but the heavy guilt I usually felt when I was near here slowly seemed to fade, if only slightly at a time. I saw a tear fall, and I hadn't expected that at all. I crawled to her and looked up at her. "I didn't mean to make you cry, Helena."
"No, its okay, Gabby. You... You're right. You hit the nail right over the head."
I nodded and sat back down for a minute, then asked, "Do you need me to leave you alone for a while?" Helena nodded.
"Okay." I stood up and wrapped my coat around me tighter, and walked to the door.
Before I left Helena to her thoughts, I heard, "Gabby," I stopped right as my hand touched the door knob, "maybe you should- you know, talk to your dad. Maybe he needs to hear this too." "Yeah, maybe. I don't know why, but talking to my dad about this is going to be harder than it was for me to talk to you, and don't take this the wrong way, but you scare me."
"Uh... yeah. I mean, you intimidate me is all, I guess. I know so much about you, and I imagine this fiery woman about to explode on you if you say the wrong thing, but I know it isn't true. You're just strong, and strong women scare me. Always have."
"I don't feel so strong anymore." Helena might not have meant for me to say that, but I had. She continued, answering my earlier statement about my father. "I know what you mean, though. Talking to Barbara will be a lot easier said than done." I gave a weak smile and nodded in my agreement. "Anyway... Thank you for gathering enough courage to come talk to me. I can see why the kid's crazy about you."
To that, I lifted my head, but said nothing before I opened the door and left.