Sand Drains Away
Daniel Osbourne and the true face of Batgirl sat at a table in my library perusing photographs. These were copies of the pictures Mister Osbourne's group had taken of Mister Punch's cell walls. Harley was slouched in one of the overstuffed armchairs reading a first edition of Andrew Lang's Red Fairy Book, and my Slayer was doing her homework at the main writing desk.
Oz, as he requested I call him, and Miss Cassandra, the Batgirl's real name, had begun spending more and more time over at my estate. I initially felt quite wary of Oz, as of all the residents of the city, he was the only one who knew exactly what I was capable of. Apparently though, he had decided that I was telling the truth about my attempting redemption, and was willing to give me the benefit of the doubt. For an action by someone I didn't know that terribly well, I found it quite comforting.
Miss Cassandra was even more taciturn than Oz. She too only spoke in short sentences and monosyllabic words, and was even more difficult to see into than her mentor, the Dark One. When she became tired of research, she would look over towards Miss Emma or Harley and head towards Miss Emma's training area in the basement.
The three of them would spend hours sparring. Miss Cassandra's reflexes were the slowest of the three but still faster than any other non-enhanced human I had ever seen, Harley was the physically weakest but only in comparison to a Slayer and a beyond world master combatant, and Miss Emma had the least amount of practical combat experience and actual training but this too was in comparison to her sparring partners.
Harley's healing had gone well and she had demanded the opportunity to "Stretch out a little and maybe lift some weights." So I had shown her the second basement and when my Slayer had found out she had gone down to help her, "Work out and stuff..." Then when Miss Cassandra had arrived and discovered the gymnasium...
At these times Oz and myself would stand by the sidelines and observe or he would help me with my meditation to lock my beast away while still maintaining a more coherent face to the world. Occasionally I would give demonstrations of swordplay techniques and I found Oz's training from the Slayer and her Watcher was actually quite good.
Sir Jason stopped by occasionally and we enjoyed reminiscing about the nineteenth century and various places we had traveled. We also discussed means of regaining souls and keeping them fixed in place once they had been stuffed back where they belong, but the actual matter of practical application was something that must be left for the future.
In some ways I felt more happy than I ever had in my life even with the premonition of imminent death and destruction overhanging the city. I had begun making actual friends, the first I'd really ever had since William left and before that since I was last human. My beast stayed locked within its cage, but I could feel it constantly straining against its restraints. Testing, flexing its limited range of movement, probing with lashes of wrath and flights of vanity. I managed to keep it constrained, but I knew it would not be possible to lock it in forever.
I found myself spending quite a lot of time with Harley. Her nightmares initially were quite noisy and I would sit next to her stroking her hair and telling her silly stories that my real father had told me when I was a small girl, until she was calm and could sleep again. She was quite embarrassed and apologetic when she found me beside her as she woke screaming.
When she was awake she demonstrated an absurd sense of humor, much like that of the music hall's and vaudeville, and enjoyed puns, riddles, and other word play. She played the role of gullible fool quite well, but I could tell that was purely facade. For when I looked into her, I could see that she possessed a brilliant mind and was quite a skilled physician as well. I asked her why she always acted the clown when she had so very much more to offer? Her response was to hug me and weep. I felt a great kinship with both her and the Dark One, all three of our lives destroyed by the darkest parts of humanity. Carefully planned or casually accidental, we all, in our heart of hearts, understood what evil truly could be.
Then in the third week of May, my solicitor's office building exploded.