DISCLAIMER: The characters herein are used without permission. No infringement intended.
SPOILERS: Set post "Gotham Central" and "Infinite Crisis." Pre "52."
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
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Long Night's Journey into Day
By Sharon Bowers
She did not interfere in her detective's private lives. Especially the ones who had turned in their badges and who weren't her detectives any longer. Captain Maggie Sawyer pushed a short hank of white blond hair over her forehead and thought again about what an incredibly bad idea this was. She pushed her way through the door at Molly's anyway.
"You a member?" the voice at the door asked her.
She was aware of the eyes that roved over her, more an appraisal of curb appeal than of a security risk. She could flatten this woman in two seconds. Heaven help them if anyone with an assault rifle got their mad on.
"It's a private club."
In Gotham, "private" clubs kept the liquor flowing after the City-set hours, kept off-books business off the books. Kept cops out of the way. On the other hand... it also allowed those that the demigods of the city deemed unacceptable to congregate in peace. "I thought this was just a bar," Maggie said, aware she was now being appraised in a wholly different way. A part of her itched for the throwaway piece she'd left at home, even though she knew she wasn't being threatened. "My kind of bar," she added. "How do I join?"
"I need ID."
She thought about flashing her badge-- she could leave her piece at home but not this-- just to freak the other woman out, but instead handed over her driver's license as the voice handed her an application. "You're kidding me."
"There're seven other bars on this street."
The badge in her back pocket practically screamed. Instead she quietly said, "I'm a friend of Renee's."
The voice's face turned into "Oh shit..." Then it said, "Cover's still five bucks."
Maggie paid it and walked in.
Music assaulted her.
She wasn't too up on it-- The Pretenders: The Singles was as about as up-to-date as she got-- but she vaguely recognized the singer's voice. Something Stacy at the desk played quietly when all the detectives were out on calls.
Detectives like Renee.
It didn't take her long to spot her. Sitting at the bar, a glass of something in her hand. Whiskey, probably. On the few occasions they'd had to socialize that was what she always ordered. There was a woman sitting close beside her, nearly nuzzling her ear. Renee's hair was loose and flowing, unlike the pony-tail she always wore at the MCU, and she wore a tank top that showed her arms to their best advantage, along with a pair of tight jeans. It was completely unlike the boxy suits they both wore on shift. The ensemble made it plain she wasn't carrying.
And she was smiling. But Maggie wasn't sure she liked the look on her face.
She stopped a moment. Asked herself again what she was doing here. Renee was on a road that Maggie didn't want to travel. Too much had happened. Cris' death had changed them all, but Renee couldn't see past herself. On the one hand, she couldn't blame her. He had been her partner, and if what Esperanza had told her was true, she had put herself in a jackpot to keep Cris out of one. And still hadn't been able to keep him from getting five in the back. Renee had a lot of reasons to be angry.
Except, Maggie thought, looking at the other woman, Cris' death hadn't been the start.
This had been coming for a long time. Two-Face had seen to that.
She shook her head. She had been head of Metropolis's Special Units and had seen her share of things, but Gotham's freaks-- there was no other name for them-- still staggered her. Being the focus of one of them-- she didn't want to imagine it.
She looked again at the woman at the bar. Her shoulders were already straight but she felt her spine stiffen anyway as she walked towards them. "May I cut in?" she asked with a glare that interrupted anything the girl beside Renee might have said.
The tilt of Renee's head went from right to left. Fogged eyes recognized her and turned sober as if on a dime. 'We aren't dancing."
She watched as Renee swiveled her gaze to the other woman. She didn't even have to say the words. The woman evaporated to other parts with a look on her face.
Everybody in this bar would now think that Renee was her lover.
Except she wasn't. Never had been. Never would be
"Have a seat, Captain," Renee said after a long moment, gesturing towards the stool just vacated.
Maggie took the one on the other side. She wanted to tell Renee that she wasn't her captain anymore, make it clear that she was here.... Good God, why was she here? She gave a mental shrug. She was here. Renee was beside her.
Maybe that was good enough.
The bartender was at them in a second. Poured Renee another one without asking and looked expectantly at them. Her body language screamed tension. Apparently Renee was not averse to starting a few fights, and the bartender knew it. She wondered how Daria had handled it all. Then she remembered. Daria had handled it as long as she could. Word on the street was that she had given up.
Just like Toby was giving up on her.
She shook her head at the mental non sequitur and answered the unasked question. "Lit. In the bottle."
That seemed to mollify the bartender somewhat, although Maggie thought she should have worried a bit more about the possibility of a broken glass shard ending up in someone's neck than she was. But maybe the women who drank with Renee weren't the problem. She glanced around, noticed the venomous stare of the brunette who had been summarily dismissed.
Thankfully the bottle arrived before she could think anymore. She took a long pull and considered what to say.
Renee seemed content with the silence.
The music sang about sheets and desire and soaking, and it was one that she did recognize-- a male voice in this female place-- but she ignored it. Looked at Renee instead.
"You've gone off the reservation," she said, instinctively using the language they all used.
"I'm not a cop anymore," Renee stated bluntly, draining her glass, reminding her of the obvious. "Don't talk to me like that."
Maggie leaned in closer. She could smell the heat of the summer-- or maybe it was the bar's lack of air conditioning-- on Renee's skin. Saw the scars that run-ins with bads-- big and small- had left on her. "But you still called me 'Captain'."
That gave Renee pause. She finished her glass and nodded at the bartender and shrugged. "I assume your rank is still current." She flicked a glance over the other woman, taking in the t-shirt and jeans. "Unless you tell me different."
In that glance Maggie knew she was being searched far more thoroughly than any kind of pat down.
She felt that gaze on her and hated herself for thinking about it. The night Toby first met Renee, she later remarked, "She has the most incredible eyes." And Toby was right. They were a light caramel color, and could melt with gentleness or harden into an unnerving rock solid intensity. Maggie had always thought, no matter what their mood, Renee's eyes were beautiful.
She hadn't told Toby that. She had certainly never told Renee that. And she wasn't telling herself that now, no matter how intimately those very same eyes probed her. She allowed it a moment longer and then her own pale blue eyes turned to ice. "I'm not in the box here, Montoya." The edge in her voice was the Captain's, and she saw Renee instinctively back down. Despite everything, at her core Renee was still police, still respected the chain of command, and Maggie felt ashamed of taking advantage of that. Her eyes dropped to the bottle of Lit. "Neither are you," she added in a low undertone.
Instead of swallowing the new drink in front of her, Renee sipped it and then sighed. "Then why are you here?"
Which is what she had been asking herself the whole time. She could say that the unit was worried about her, that MacDonald of all people had asked her, "What are we going to do about Renee?" She could tell her about the phone calls she'd had from Dore, Cris' widow. She could tell her about her own sick worry. But none of that would do any good. All of that would just set Renee off again. Instead she placed her hand on Renee's. "Maybe..." she hesitated. "Just to be."
They sat through two more rounds in near silence, and Maggie could see that the denizens of the bar weren't too sure of what to make of it. She was actually surprised that Renee had not only allowed the touch, but had returned the pressure briefly before withdrawing. Renee's instinct was always fight or well... fight. It gave her the strength to survive being held hostage by Two-Face for four months during NML, and then again when he outed her in some sort of twisted declaration of love. It allowed her to survive being abandoned by her parents-- whom Maggie knew Renee loved unconditionally-- after the outing. To stand on the ever-thinning blue line between the innocents and the freaks.
But what Renee had never realized was that very strength sapped her as much as it gave the ability to endure. And looking at the other woman right now, Maggie knew that was all she was doing. She wasn't living, that much was for sure. What she thought she could do to help the other woman... Maggie had no idea. She placed her hand over Renee's once more. What the hell, she thought. She was tired of the eyes and the swirl of smoke, the smell of alcohol. "Let's get out of here."
Renee glanced at her. Turned her palm upright so that their fingers were clasped and slowly nodded. Together they rose, hands still clasped, and if the denizens of Molly's still thought they were lovers, this time Maggie didn't care.
"My car's over there," Renee gestured.
"Neither one of us is driving," came the reply. As Captain of the MCU, Maggie was technically entitled to a car and driver at all times, but she had never used the privilege and wasn't about to start tonight. Instead, she flagged a cab down and settled them both inside. Without hesitation, she rattled off Renee's address when asked "Where to?"
The short ride was enveloped in silence, and when Renee exited the cab she seemed to take it for granted that Maggie would follow.
"Elevator's out." Renee gestured towards the stairs. "Mind four floors?"
Maggie half smiled. "My aerobic workout for the day."
The look Renee gave her was enigmatic at best, turning towards the stairs instead of answering. Silence returned.
"Place is kind of a mess," Renee finally said when they reached her door.
Maggie doubted that Renee's idea of mess coincided with anyone's idea of the same. She had been to this apartment only a handful of times-- the happiest being a dinner party where she and Toby and Cris and his wife had been the guests, the most recent when she had come to deliver the news of Cris' murder. She had watched Renee absorb the shock, seen the slump in her spine that had never gone away begin, and hoped that Daria's love would help make at least some part of Renee feel right.
It hadn't. And now they were here.
She credited Renee. Her hands-- despite the amount of whiskey she had shipped-- didn't shake as she inserted the keys into the three different locks that barred her from Gotham's city streets. Or maybe, she reflected, it was because of it. The alcohol dulling the pain just enough so that Renee could pretend it was just an everyday thing.
She nearly collided with Renee's back as the other woman stiffened upon entry, senses immediately alert and wary.
Shit, they had to walk in on a burglary now? Both of them unarmed. And she doubted that waving her badge at a tweeked out banger looking to cadge Renee's Playstation would do much good.
Instinctively they fanned left and right, each hugging close to the wall as they circled towards the sounds coming from the bedroom. Several lights were on, and Maggie wondered if Renee had left the apartment that way or if the perp had been stupid enough to turn them on. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Renee twist-turn the tumblers on her gun safe and retrieve what she hoped was a licensed .38. She had turned in her Glock with her badge, but no cop-- even if they were ex ones-- ever surrendered their back-up. Renee sighted the gun towards the bright silhouette of the door and began a slow stalk towards it as a figure emerged.
Maggie screamed a warning, but Renee had recognized the other woman first and shouted a string of obscenities in a language Maggie was grateful she didn't understand. She was even more grateful that her weapon immediately lowered even as she hated seeing the alert cop return to her slumped ex-cop form.
Maggie couldn't see Daria's expression clearly, but she didn't need to. It didn't take a genius to see the other woman was terrified, although Maggie noted, she hadn't taken a step back. Maybe confronting Renee with a gun wasn't atypical. Maybe that was part of why she was leaving.
Because she clearly was, if the bag she had slung over her shoulder was any indication. Daria Hernandez wasn't a small woman in terms of height, but she was slender and-- to Maggie-- the combination had always given her an air of uncanny resilience. Something that should be blown down by the slightest wind, but never was. She knew that Daria and Renee had been on-again-off again for years before the detective had been outed, had credited the chef for her belief in Renee and in that one day they would be together.
Just like Toby had believed in her.
She shook away the thought that sometimes belief died and there was nothing you could do about it. This wasn't the time for ruminations like that.
The space between the three seemed to shimmer, until the slight shift in Daria's expression as she took in Maggie's presence shattered the illusion.
"I didn't think you'd be back so early," she said bluntly, indicating that Renee's nights were usually far later.
Maggie wondered how many times Renee had come home smelling of someone else. Didn't want to think about Daria assuming that she was one of those times.
"Dee... I..." Renee began helplessly. "What are you doing?"
The gun hung limply in her hand, and more than anything Maggie wanted to go over and take it from her, lock it safely away and maybe even change the combination. Somehow she knew even that act, touching Renee even in this circumstance would be incontrovertible evidence in Daria's eyes. She didn't want to do anything to further damn Renee to the woman she loved.
Daria ran a hand through perpetually tousled auburn curls and rubbed the back of her neck wearily, clearly at the edge of her patience.
Renee wasn't the only one who had been simply enduring of late.
"I just wanted to get the last of my things, Renee."
"But..." Renee shook her head. "We said we were going to sit down and talk first. Before you..." She rubbed the heel of the hand holding the gun against her forehead.
Maggie's heart jumped.
Renee turned and walked towards the long breakfast bar that separated the kitchen from the living room. Maggie remembered their housewarming party, Daria telling her the reason they picked this place was because of the kitchen's counter space and how Renee liked to sit on the opposite side of the bar and watch her cook. For the first time, she glanced around the apartment and noticed how the usually immaculate space was cluttered and well, dirty. Empty liquor and beer bottles covered the bar, the coffee table, the end tables. There were even a few scattered across the floor. Papers and unopened mail littered other surfaces, and Maggie noted several pairs of the kind of underwear that she didn't think Renee was inclined to wear scattered about.
And Daria had walked into it all, if only so she could walk away.
But Renee's attention wasn't on the mess. Or the other women. She was intently studying a piece of paper, her mouth working silently, as if wanting to sound out each word of whatever it was that was written.
She put the gun down, and Maggie breathed a silent sigh of relief.
And picked the paper up.
"This was how you were going to say good-bye?" Renee's tone wasn't angry, but resigned-- as if to one more inevitable loss.
"I don't know how to say good-bye to you, Renee," Daria replied simply. "But I don't know how to do this either."
"Dee... I know... Things have been rough lately..."
Maggie tried to retreat into the shadows in this seemingly light-filled apartment. She shouldn't be here. Shouldn't be hearing this. She didn't want to see a woman that she respected and liked in this eviscerated state.
"You're lost, Renee," Daria was saying. "I didn't-- I don't-- want this. I tried... I thought if I just held onto you tight enough we'd be all right. But we can't be. Because you aren't all right. You haven't been for a long time."
More words Maggie didn't want to hear. More words she knew were true.
She watched Renee blanch away from the charge and then accept it, adding another guilty plea to her soul with a slight downward tick of her eyes.
"So I get a Dear Jane letter," Renee said into the silence, her eyes still downcast, returning the paper to its place on the bar, fingers running lightly over the words.
Maggie hadn't realized how softly and swiftly Daria could move, because the other woman was at Renee's side before she even knew it.
Daria placed a gentle hand against the small of Renee's back beneath the thin fabric of the tank, her mouth close to Renee's ear. "Maybe you didn't read the last part." She kissed Renee's temple. "The part where I said I love you and I always will. That will never change, Renee."
Renee turned, and the two women were in each other's arms, clinging tightly to the remains of something they had both thought would last forever. When Renee turned her face towards Daria as if to kiss her, the other woman shook her head softly and pressed her fingers to Renee's lips. "I have to go forward, not back," she said, a wry smile twisting her lips. "As much as I would like not to."
Their embrace crumbled as quickly as it had come together.
Renee's eyes returned to the paper as her hand found the bottle sitting next to it.
Maggie thought it was only a marginally better choice than the gun on the other side.
Daria brushed her hand as she was walking out the door in a silent "Come with me" gesture.
Renee was oblivious, so Maggie followed her as they stepped out of the apartment, just to the right of the still open door.
"I don't know what's going on between the two..."Daria began.
"Nothing," Maggie hastily interrupted. Whether to reassure Daria or herself, she wasn't going to think about.
"Listen to me, Maggie." Daria always called her Maggie, even though Renee rarely did. "I can't..." She shook her head. "I want to...."
"Don't feel guilty about saving yourself," Maggie answered the unspoken plea. She placed a hand on Daria's arm, absorbed the warmth of the other woman's skin.
"I don't," Daria replied. "But somebody needs to be there for her. And if it's you instead of the parade of..." She gestured helplessly towards the apartment.
So Daria had noticed the underwear too.
"You forgetting I have a partner?"
Daria leveled her with a glare. "No. But I'm also not forgetting how Renee looks at you sometimes. And how sometimes you look back at her."
Maggie slowly shook her head. "Don't," she advised. As if discussing the possibility of a liaison with one of her detectives-- ex-detectives, she reminded herself-- was an everyday thing.
This time it was Daria's hand on her arm. "Somebody has to keep care of her, whether she knows it or not." A rueful smile crossed her face. "And it's probably best for everyone if she doesn't know. She'd never..."
"I know." That much about Renee she did know. Pushing away tenderness because accepting it meant admitting pain. More than once she had seen Renee rubbing the scar at the base of her throat. The doubled female talisman Daria had given her had been turned to a molten lead scar by Dr. Alchemy, outing her in a far more permanent way than Two-Face ever had. She couldn't imagine the kind of physical pain Renee must have felt when a simple necklace given in love became a weapon, searing itself into her skin. "I don't think I can do what you're asking," she said instead of all the things she was thinking. Could she save Renee when Daria couldn't? Would Renee take away all the pain that Toby's slow drift away was bringing?
She ducked her head away from the other woman's determined gaze.
Yes, she admitted to herself. The latter if not the former. She could lose herself in Renee so easily, but in doing so, she knew she would probably lose everything else along the way. She wouldn't be able to save either one of them if that happened.
Hell, she was having a hard enough time saving herself right now.
No wonder Daria was pulling up stakes.
"I don't think I can do what you're asking," she repeated.
And was answered by a weary sigh and a skewed grin. "Renee has a way of changing women's minds."
"I'm not a woman to Renee," Maggie replied, growing more confident. Apparently there were things that the thin blue line didn't cross. "I'm her Captain." Her shoulders straightened as Daria's hand retreated from her arm. "Even though Renee turned in her badge-- she is one of mine. And I will never relinquish that responsibility. Understand that."
Owning up to it. This thing between Renee and her. Choosing instead to take up where Gordon had left off.
Daria waited a moment and then nodded in recognition. Maggie may never be Renee's lover, but she would never abandon her, no matter how bad things might get. And they both knew that things would get a hell of a lot worse before they got better. If they ever did.
"Then go take care of her." She gestured towards the still open door.
Maggie glanced towards the apartment, caught the glimpse of Renee's spine slumped at the breakfast bar, eyes still fixed on Daria's note.
"I'll try. As best as I can."
They left it at that.
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