Title: Gather Not My Soul (With Those of Sinners)
Author: Vesper (Regina)
Characters: Vic Sage/Helena Bertinelli
Summary: Question thought Huntress needed salvation. Huntress never wanted or needed that. One-shot. 1,394 words.
Disclaimer: Vic Sage created by Steve Ditko, Helena Bertinelli by Joey Cavalieri and Joe Staton. Characters belong to DC. The story is mine.
Archival: If you wish to archive, please link to my website. Please keep all my headers intact.
Beta-reader: Blueliath. Thanks for humoring me and making this better than it was. And, um, putting up with me when I was in despair over ever getting it right.
Notes: Continuity follows directly from Batman/Huntress: Cry for Blood. Title from Psalm 26:9, actual wording from Mass of the Roman Rite.
Helena reaches her apartment in peace and opens her door. She walks through the apartment, turning on lights. She looks out the window, sees no one.
She wasn't expecting anything less. She walks back through, turning off the lights. When she's done, she curls up in her bed, still in her clothes, and forces her mind to think of nothing.
She watches the week dwindle away, overtaken by the necessary--interviews, eating, training, planning, watching, fighting. She finds herself on Sunday, standing in front of her neighborhood's Catholic church, thinking that it's been a long time since she's gone to confession and that, maybe, she should.
She can't do it, though, and she doesn't go in.
Vic's voice whispers at the edges of her memory, "I don't think you have a single friend left in this town...except for me, that is." She disappointed him, like she's disappointed everyone who ever gave her a chance. He's not coming back. Why should he? She's used to not being given second chances. Why should he be any different from anyone she ever tried to get cl--no, she will not go down that path. It's not worth it.
Until the night she opens her door, it's enough to tell herself that. She has no choice but to do so.
She looks up, her eyes adjusting to the dim evening light and sees the blue fedora perched on the back of one of her kitchen chairs, right where the light from behind her would illuminate it. She fights against the joy that wells up in her, because this could mean anything, this could mean...
"Vic?" she asks.
"Here," and he separates himself from the shadows with the ease of long practice. There's nothing of his perpetual amusement on his face--only a serious expression she's not used to seeing.
She avoids that piercing look and slides her door shut. She tries not to think of all the possible reasons he might have for coming back and wishes it's the one she wants it to be--that he's forgiven her transgression.
She says, "You're here." The question of why goes unsaid.
She risks a glance at his face and only sees the same mask of impassivity.
She crosses her arms in front of her, the wool of her sweater prickling uncomfortably against her skin. She shifts her grip around herself and says, "You have a question, don't you. That's the only reason you're here. Well, ask it, Vic. Don't waste my time."
"How could you?" There's enough accusation there that it sends a shiver across her shoulders. She shakes it off and says, "It's been awhile. Refresh my memory."
With a few rapid strides he's standing directly in front of her. She doesn't flinch or back away. She expected this. She knows the tactics; she's used them herself.
"You didn't tell me. That was your plan--sacrificing a man's life--using your uncle."
"My choices were limited. You knew that."
"You were ruthless."
"Says the man who bashed me in the head."
"I put my trust in you."
"I thought you knew. I'm not to be trusted. This is who I am, this is my heritage. Blood and vengeance. That's all there is."
"Is that enough for you? Is that all the answer you need? If so, I'll thank you to leave."
"No. It's not enough."
She closes her eyes, tired of this, tired of it all. Cassamento--trying to use his own daughter as leverage. Her uncle Tomaso manipulated by herself. Never belonging, never accepted, always lying to herself that she's better off alone. She doesn't know what to do, faced with this...this stubbornness of Vic's and she can't fight against the weariness settling deep in her soul.
She turns away from him, this man with his eyes full of questions, puts distance between them, shaking her head. Falls back on the one thing she knows won't fail--herself.
"I don't need anything from you, Vic, least of all salvation." She knows it sounds like a lie, but it's not. Salvation isn't for the likes of her. Never has been.
She hears his soft curse and his swift footsteps, but doesn't turn around. Not even when she feels the firm grasp of his hand on her shoulder as he pulls at her. She doesn't resist, but she doesn't look up until what he says surprises her into doing so.
"You say blood and vengeance is all you are, but there's more to you. Do you even know who you are?"
"What? Of course--"
"We all wear masks. Two faces or more. Hiding ourselves. Who are you--Helena or Huntress?"
"I'm neither. I'm both." She shakes her head. "I'm just me."
She watches him blink, his gaze turned away from hers, as if processing an unexpected thought.
"I was mistaken," he murmurs, more to himself than to her.
"I did think you needed salvation. I was wrong. The only thing you need is absolution."
She blinks, feeling the sting of tears in her eyes. No, no, she will not cry.
She says, "No. I don't."
"Lie, if you wish. But it's what we all want, what we all need."
She tries to pull out of his grasp, but his hand slides down to grasp hers. She stares at it, caught for a moment by the feel of his fingers against her palm.
"Helena." He speaks softly, as if to a feral kitten.
She pulls hard but he doesn't budge. She tenses, prepared to do whatever necessary to get free, but isn't prepared for him to give a hard jerk on her arm, sending her crashing against him, or for him to grab and trap her hands between them. She could get free if she wanted, but when she looks up at him, any desire she had to do so vanishes. She sees his gaze flicker to her lips and then back up to meet her eyes.
She grits her teeth and then says, low and even, "Let me go, Vic, or I'll make you regret it."
This is her own test, her own question. He should know the answer to it, if he's anything of what she thinks he is.
When he lets her go, steps away, shakes his head, she feels as though, in winning, she's lost.
She watches as his hand comes up between them, a finger raised, almost accusing, until it wavers, and he lets his hand fall, turning completely away from her. It's then that she realizes it's not accusation--it's acquiescence.
It's more bitter than she expected.
He's shaking his head and muttering to himself, "No, no, no. This isn't--this isn't what I wanted."
She reaches out, touches his arm. She says, "Vic?"
He turns to face her.
She says, following from before, hoping he'll understand, "I can't accept it. I never will be able to."
She looks down and sighs.
"I fail everyone. How can I--"
His hand comes up to curve along her cheek, gentle, warm, coaxing her to look up. She catches her breath, holds it. She stares at him, watches as his eyes soften and his mouth curves into a familiar smile.
She says, "You're still here. Why are you still here?"
His thumb strokes across her cheekbone, back and forth.
"I had some questions."
She manages to ask, "Did they get answered?"
"Not in the way I was expecting."
She wishes he'd stop touching her, because this will just make it harder to let him go.
"What were you expecting?"
"Something...something I can't have."
There's something there she can't quite grasp, a meaning that escapes her, but she understands the feeling all too well. There's resignation on his face and she knows he's about to say goodbye.
"Thank you, for everything."
The barest hint of a nod, a flicker of his eyes, and...
He kisses her, then, a kiss meant to be the merest brush of their lips, but she makes it more, clings just long enough to express everything she can't say aloud and then lets go.
She says nothing when he looks at her, searching her face for...what, she doesn't know. She just holds his gaze, unashamed. Finally he nods and turns away.
It's enough, she thinks, as she watches him collect his hat and leave.