Disclaimer: None of the characters herein belong to me - seriously.  However, I can honestly say that story is all mine so.... If you’re still reading my stuff at this point, you pretty well know what you’re getting into.  If you don’t have an open mind, why exactly are you still reading?  If you do read it and you find something you think needs disclaiming, you are still more than welcome to let me know.  It won’t change anything, but it may make you feel better.   Ugliness will earn you a smack to the back of your head.

Thanks: To Phil and Mac - who continue to faithfully read for me and pick up the trail of dropped letter and extra commas that make their way across the page.  My stories are a much better read due to their diligence, and I appreciate their efforts on my behalf more than they will ever know.

Author’s Notes: Yet another part of the next multi... which I am (finally) currently working on beyond the Halloween bits that have been written over the last few years.  Thanks to Steph for inviting me to play again – it’s always an honor, Boss! :-)


A Walk in the Dark

By D


“Dinah, are you certain you should do this?”  Barbara held up a hand to stave off her immediate answer.  “I know you’re strong, but this seems a lot like tempting fate.”

“I’ll be fine,” offering Barbara a smile as she tucked her hair behind her ear.  “You saw Helena strengthen my barriers before we came here, and I haven’t had any problems.  Besides, we see real monsters every day.  I don’t think any of this is truly authentic; I think it’s a bit of fun the locals put on for tourists to make a little money.”

“You sure you don’t want to go, Red?” Helena asked with a hint of longing.

Barbara pinched the bridge of her nose.  She knew Helena meant well, but she was fast developing a headache.  She released a breath slowly, then looked up at Helena with a smile.  “I’m sure, Kitten.  I don’t have any desire to go rolling up and down the road in the dark, and I’m pretty sure the cemetery isn’t made for people like me.  And no... you’re not going to carry me, so don’t even ask.  Besides, I’m going to be downstairs with the caterers setting up food and drinks for the party when you guys get back.”

Dinah’s eyes brightened.  “Oh yeah... did you see the menu they’re bringing in?  It’ll be better than Pop-tarts.”

“Watch it,” Helena growled.  “Nothing’s better that Pop-tarts.”

Barbara grinned slyly, though she couldn’t stop the blush than ran up her face at the thought running through her mind.  “Really, Hel?  Nothing?”

Helena leered at her.  “Nothing I’m willing to share with the Kid.”

“GUYS!” Dinah cried as she clapped her hands over her ears and slammed her eyes closed.  Helena took the opportunity to kiss Barbara fast but thoroughly.  She pulled back, licking her lips, then pulled Dinah’s hands from her ears.

“Let’s go, Kid.  Time to find some ghosts to scare.”

The Story

“This should be fun,” Kara whispered to Diana as they stepped onto the elevator together.  “I’ve never done anything like this before.”

Diana grinned.  “That’s because you fight real scaries on a regular basis.  But yeah,” she agreed as the door slid open, and they crossed into the lobby of the Bourbon Orleans Hotel.  “It should be entertaining at least.  I’m glad we’re going in small groups, though.  At least we should be able to anticipate any funny business they’ve got planned.”

Kara frowned.  “You think there’ll be funny business?” pulling her glasses down just slightly and scanning the room over the rims.

“I think it is all good fun, and if they can do things to scare folks, well... that would just make it a better experience, right?  Either way, we’re going to have a good time.”  She looked up and nodded, then ushered Kara toward Xena and Gabrielle.  “C’mon.  We should be starting soon.”


Emma was standing next to Gabrielle, hands tucked in her jeans as she scuffed her foot along the floor.  She was a little embarrassed that her parents thought she needed a minder - she was fifteen years old, after all - but she really wanted to go on this tour.  So, she kept her mouth shut and waited for her mother to finish talking.  While she was waiting, she felt Carter come up behind her, barely touching her arm to let her know of his presence without scaring her.  She smiled bashfully and knew he was doing the same in return.  She wasn’t surprised to hear Cat Grant speak into the silence that followed her approach.

“Are you sure you don’t mind keeping an eye on Carter, Xena?  He really wants to do this tour, but I’ve got so much....”  She stopped talking when Xena held up her hand - a fact that still surprised her whenever it happened.  Cat was used to being one of, if not the most important person in the room.  But she knew well enough to recognize when she wasn't and naturally deferred to the one who was.  She waited for Xena to speak.

“I promise you, he’s in good hands, Ms Grant.  We’ll look after him like he was ours,” Xena said, giving Carter a wink.  He smiled.  They had only been here a couple days, but he already liked Xena and Gabrielle, and, of course, Emma and her family.  He looked at his mother, and grinned when she nodded her head and gave him a fond smile.

“All right.  You all have a good time.  Thank you, ladies.”  She turned to Carter, who reluctantly gave her a quick hug.   “I’ll see you later, Carter.  Have a good time, okay?”

“I will, Mom.  Thanks.”  She strode off without a backwards look.  Olivia and Natalia stepped up beside Emma. 

“Same goes for you, Bean.  Don’t get into any trouble, all right?  And have a good time.”

“I will, Mom.  You and Ma enjoy your dinner.”

Olivia brushed a kiss across her forehead, then stepped aside for Natalia to do the same.  “We’ll see you when you get back, Jellybean.  Love you.”

“Love you too, Ma.”  Then she shooed them away.  “Go... have fun.  We’ve got this,” motioning to the circle of people around her.  They laughed and Olivia and Natalia walked away with smiles on their faces.


Catherine nudged Sara with her elbow.  “What do you think?  Is it all going to be fake like the haunted house we go to in Vegas?”

Sara smirked.  “I think it’ll be a little better.  New Orleans has had time to get this down to a science, after all.  But yeah... I’m pretty skeptical of the validity of the whole spirit thing.”

“Careful, Sugar,” Wendy deliberately drawled like her half-sister.  “To hear Nikki tell it, this stuff is real.”

“So, you believe in this stuff?”

“Let’s just say I’ve seen enough not to dismiss it out of hand.”

Sara shook her head. “I think it’ll make for some good stories to share with the guys when we get home, but other than that....”

“Other than that, there’s fantastic food waiting for us at the first two stops, and I for one intend to eat my fill.” Gail Peck said with a smile as she looked around at the Vegas contingent. “Good evening, ladies,” greeting the group to which she’d already been introduced.  “Have any of you seen my better half?  She promised to meet me down here, but I’ve been round the room twice and have yet to spot her.”

“Your girlfriend - ‘bout my height, brown hair and eyes, oblong glasses, and talks like a nerd?” A gravelly voice spoke from behind her.  Gail whirled to find one of the triplets - as she’d come to calling the three women that looked so similar they should have been - and tilted her head to meet a woman twinkling brown eyes and her hand extended.  “Jane Rizzoli.”

“Gail Peck.  And yeah... how’d you know?”

“Because mine caught yours and a Claire Washburn and a Temperance Brennan in a discussion about coronary arial psoriasis and autopsies or something.  I figured I’d let them... do their thing until the tours start.  It’s not like I was getting one word in ten anyway, and we may not all end up in the same group together.”

Gail nodded.  “So, what do you do, Jane Rizzoli?”

“I’m a trainer with the FBI in the Boston office,” tucking her hands under her arms.  “You?”

“I’m a Constable Second Class in Toronto.”

“You like it?”

Gail shrugged.  “I like being a training officer.  Not quite as crazy about walking a beat.  But you do what needs to be done, right?”

Jane smiled.  “Yeah.  I felt the same.  I was so happy the day I got my gold shield... mostly because it got me out of that uncomfortable uniform.”

Gail made a face.  “Yeah... not a big fan of those either.  It’s like they deliberately made them as ugly and uncomfortable just to make us miserable.  But I’m also not sure becoming a white shirt is the right career path for me.”

Jane nodded.  “It’s not for everyone, that’s for sure.”  She looked up as her name was called.  “Looks like they’re splitting us into groups.”  She held out her hand.  “It was nice to meet you, Constable.”

“Just Gail,” she said, accepting Jane’s hand.  “It was my pleasure.  Maybe we can talk again later?”

Jane smiled and nodded her head.  “I’ll look forward to it.  See you,” she said as she moved to catch up to Maura.  Gail watched her go, then smiled when she saw Holly coming her way.

“Making friends?” Holly asked as she approached.  Gail took her hand and twined their fingers together. 

“Maybe,” she said with a sly smile.  “Are you done geeking out for a while?  I’m hungry.”

Holly rolled her eyes, then tugged her towards the entrance where their group was standing.  “C’mon, you heathen.  We’re in the next group to leave.  I’m sure there’ll be plenty for you to eat along the way.”

Gail leaned in and tucked her nose into Holly’s neck.  “Omnomnom,” she muttered, causing Holly to blush and laugh out loud.  The rest of their group smiled, and they made their way out the door.


Xena and Gabrielle watched as the groups slowly made their way out of the lobby and into the night.  They hadn’t expected quite the overwhelming response they’d gotten for the tour, and as a result, had ended up breaking the larger group into several smaller ones to accommodate their needs.  Nikki and Nora had called on some of their friends to lead the other tours, though suspiciously, none of them was Darius.  Xena and Gabrielle both had recognized him as fae and figured he was going to provide some of the more special effects they anticipated seeing.  Xena particularly wished she knew what he was doing - she wanted to have a little fun on her own... especially since all the superheroes were part of their group.  Still, she knew she’d be able to figure out something - she’d learned to think on her feet a long time ago.

They watched as Nora took the next to the last group, and turned back to Nikki who was smiling at them.  “All righty, y’all.  I think most of you know me, but just to be sure, my name is Nikki Beaumont, and I’m going to be your tour guide tonight.  For the record, I was born and raised here in the Big Easy, and I have done this before - I am a certified tour guide here in New Orleans.  We actually put together this tour specifically for the conventions, and we will be the only ones out there tonight, because we mixed up two or three other tours to choose the spots we wanted to take you.”  She looked around at the group, noting excitement, skepticism and humor among the women standing in front of her.  She grinned.  “C’mon, y’all.  Let me show you a part of New Orleans most people never get to see.”


“Our first stop is the Omni Hotel,” she said as the stepped inside the building, leading them into a conference room that was set up with several choices of bite-sized desserts and some craft beers and wines.  There were a number of comfortable chairs and couches scattered around the room, and she encouraged them to help themselves to food and beverages before taking a seat.  Kara spied the chocolate pecan pie, and made a beeline in that direction even as Helena started towards the raspberry white chocolate cheesecake.  Alex and Maggie figured out the snickerdoodle creme brûlée was a safe bet in the meantime, and soon everyone else was following in their wake.  They descended like a horde of locusts, and Xena and Gabrielle watched with amusement as the staff scrambled to keep up - none of the other groups had been quite so ravenous, and they had expected much the same from this group as well.

Nikki let them go for a few minutes, enjoying the beer she’d chosen, and observing with delight the enjoyment she could see around the room.  She was thrilled to know these women she called friends were happy to be in her hometown.  She spied Darius just beyond the doorway, and he nodded shortly to let her know he was ready whenever she was.  Because despite the reality of ghosts in these buildings and her hometown in general, ghosts could be rather stubborn creatures, and she wanted to guarantee that these women - all of them - were able to experience some of its more fantastic aspects for themselves.  She didn’t ask, and he didn’t tell, but Darius had enlisted a few of his friends to ‘go along’ with each group to ensure there were at least a few paranormal sightings.  Though she didn’t understand why, Nikki just knew with him being there, their chances had increased dramatically.

With a shrill whistle, she brought silence to the room, then looked around with a smile.  “I’m so glad you ladies decided to join me tonight for our little tour.  I know a number of you are skeptics, and I really can’t blame you.  You’re all women that require facts and proof in your jobs - it’s what makes you good at what you do. But I promise you that what you’re going to see tonight is real.  Every place we’re going to visit has documented ghosts and paranormal activity.  Some of the ghosts are fun and playful; a few are mischievous.  But some?”  She shook her head.  “Some are downright terrifying.”  She looked up with a teasing grin.  “I know you don’t believe me now, but I guarantee you’ll be singing a different tune when this is all over.”

She looked around the room again, noting she had their rapt attention, even amongst the skeptics.  She dropped her voice until it was little more than a whisper.  “I have it on good authority that several of the ghosts that should be present at our host hotel - the Bourbon Orleans - have temporarily vacated the premises due to the presence of some of the more… formidable members of our gathering,” drawing laughter from around the room with many covert looks in Xena and Gabrielle’s direction.  “That’s kind of a shame, because I was really hoping to introduce you all to the smoking man… or the lonely dancer.”

“Wait… what smoking man?”

Nikki whirled, not expecting the interruption… especially from the woman who reminded her more of a human puppy more than anything else.  She took a couple steps, moving her closer to where several groups of women were clustered closer together.  “What’s your name, Sugar?”

A nervous hand pushed a pair of glasses up her nose and continued on to sweep back an errant lack of hair.  “Oh… um, me?” waiting for Nikki to nod.  “I’m Kara… Kara Danvers.”

Nikki took her hand, surprised it wasn’t ice cold by the way the other woman was reacting.  She clasped the hand she held and tugged Kara toward her gently.  “Tell me, Kara Danvers - what did you see?”

Kara shoved up her glasses again.  “Oh… just….”  She sucked in a deep breath and tried again.  “I was down in the lobby this morning early, and there was a man there.”  She frowned as she thought back on the encounter.  “I didn’t think anything of it; I-I mean… p-people read papers and smoke cigars before breakfast, right?”  She giggled nervously and adjusted her glasses again.

Nikki looked at her seriously.  “Could you describe him?  Describe what he was wearing?”

“Uh… yeah, yeah.  He was wearing a three-piece suit.”  She scrunched up her brow as she called up the memory.  “He had a weird looking tie… you know, the kind that kind of folds over instead of knots?” biting her lip while her eyes darted back and forth.  “He was reading a Times-Picayune, but he had a couple more tossed on the seat beside him.  I noticed it because it was… weird.  They were….”  She glanced down at her feet before looking back into Nikki’s brown eyes and shaking her head..  “I haven’t really seen them around here.”

Nikki nodded sagely and prompted softly.  “Did you speak?  Or rather… did he speak to you?”

“Um… sorta?” Kara hedged.  She would have been twisting them together if Nikki hadn’t been holding them.  “I said ‘Good morning’; he kinda grumbled back at me… something about the state of the world today.”  She shrugged.  “I didn’t really… I mean, a lot of people do the same thing, like… all. the. time.  When he didn’t look up from his newspaper, I just went upstairs to get ready for the day.”

Nikki squeezed her hand briefly and grinned.  “Congratulations, Sugar!  You met the smoking man.  He’s one of the most consistent apparitions in our hotel.”

Kara beamed as Nikki released her grip.  “Really?” she asked, excitement clear in her gaze.  “That is so cool!”

Her enthusiasm was contagious, and the women clapped and cheered as she returned to stand next to Diana.  “So…” Nikki said as the noise died down and she looked around the room.  “We’ve already had one ghostly encounter.  What about the rest of you, hmm?  Has anyone seen the dancing lady? Or the Confederate soldier? Or the kissing bandit?”  She waited, but no one stepped up to confess.  She smiled.  “That’s okay… we’ve got all weekend, and odds are, we’ll run into some of our haunters tonight.  After all, we do love a good show here, and everybody loves to show off,” garnering more laughter from her group.

“Now,” she continued without missing a beat, “here at the Omni Royale, the most famous….”  Before she could continue, the lights flickered three times before settling into complete darkness.  The staff, who had stepped in to begin their cleanup, simply reached to their sides and removed flashlights from the holsters that were attached to their belts.  They snapped them on and continued their work in the eerie glow. 

“As I was saying,” Nikki spoke into the strange light, gathering the attention of her group slowly, “The most famous ghost here in the Omni Royale is the 18th century maid who lives on the second floor.  She tucks guests into bed, runs baths… even flushes the toilet.  However,” she motioned around her, “as you can see she’s not the only one.  Many of the ghosts that live here like to play with the lights and follow guests around the property.” 

She saw Helena Kyle, Kara Danvers, and Diana Prince clap their hands over their ears at the same instant Dinah Lance tilted her head and shook it, as though to rid herself of a buzzing annoyance.  It only lasted a moment, but it was long enough to catch Nikki’s attention.  The very next second, the lights came back on and the staff grabbed their flashlights and shoved them back into their holsters without even a pause in their work.  Nikki looked around and saw Darius giving her a thumbs-up and she turned back to the women now watching her with more interest and slightly less skepticism.

“What do y’all say to moving on to our next location?”  The women gathered quickly, not wanting to miss anything.  They looked around carefully as they exited the conference room and stepped back into the lobby.  The lights flickered again, though they didn’t go out again, and a gasp went up from the group as they saw an ethereal woman pass through them as though they weren’t even there.

Nikki didn’t stop but led them outside and toward their next stop - the Hotel Monteleone.


They stepped into the lobby and through to the convention room that had been reserved for them.  Nikki noted that Kara and Helena were a little slower to move toward the food that had been set out this time, though the rest descended upon the numerous bar bites snacks that had been chosen for this venue.  Alex Danvers noted that her sister didn’t even give the potstickers a look, which was so unusual that she released her girlfriend’s hand and, with a whispered word in Maggie’s ear, made her way to stand beside Kara.

“Hey,” she greeted, frowning when Kara tilted her head slightly to glance at Alex with an unhappy expression.  She grabbed her by the shoulders and turned her so their eyes could meet fully.  “You all right?”

Kara shook her head.  “There is a high-pitched….”  She shook her head again.  “It’s gone again,” she smiled. 

“Again?  Is that why you grabbed your ears earlier?”

“Yeah… it was… unpleasant.”

Alex nodded and looked around, seeing the other women that had reacted similarly to Kara, finally moving towards the refreshment tables.  “You feeling better?  Ready for some potstickers?”

“Always,” Kara confirmed. “Though I also want to try the crab and crawfish beignets, and maybe the po’ boys and the turnovers, and the….”

Alex laughed and took Kara by the elbow, leading her toward the tables.  “I get it.  You’re feeling better, and you’re starving… again.”

Kara would have pushed her sister, but they both would have fallen over.  Besides, Alex had told the truth - she was starving.  Instead, she laughed and pulled them closer to the table, stopping to grab Maggie’s hand and drag her with them.


Xena and Gabrielle watched their antics with a hint of a smile before turning back to one another.  “Are we going to say something to Darius?” Gabrielle asked.  “I don’t think Nikki knows the truth of his fae heritage, but Helena, Kara, and Diana are sensing it, and I fear for him… if Helena especially figures it out.  Despite her maturity, she has little tolerance for what she would perceive as him making a fool of her.”

“We’ll keep an eye out.  He hasn’t really done much… yet… aside from emitting that infernal pitch,” Xena growled, rubbing her ear.  “It just makes the women more susceptible to Nikki’s stories.  They’re lucky they can’t hear it.”

“Even through the earplugs?” Gabrielle asked.

Xena nodded miserably.  “Yes.  If I’d thought he was gonna do something like this, I’d have brought the industrial strength ones instead of relying on the over-the-counter kind.”

“At least they block the worst of it.  We’re not hearing what the supers are.  Maybe we should share?”

“I’ll take care of it,” Xena frowned.  “His antics have kept me from playing with them a little bit.  A little teasing is one thing, especially since I’m pretty sure Helena and Diana, at least, kinda expect it, but I can’t do that if he’s causing them actual discomfort.  The only reason I didn’t duct tape his mouth shut is the earplugs.  Can’t guarantee the others won’t if they figure it out before we get done with this tour, and without them to block some of that noise.…”  She lifted her chin.  “Looks like Nikki is ready to start.”  She slid up beside Diana and whispered in her ear, covering the hand the lifted automatically at her request.  Diana smiled when she realized what Xena had given her.  She put her own set in with relief and indicated she would take care of the rest of the superheroes in their midst.

Nikki stepped to the front of the room.  “Everybody getting plenty to eat?” she asked, chuckling when various foods and beverages were lifted in her direction.  “Great!” she cheered.  “The Monteleone has some of the best bar food in the Quarter.  Now let me tell you about some of the ghosts that reside here.”  At that moment, the sound of jazz music could be heard as well as the echoes of singing.  Nikki gestured around the room.  “The jazz singer is one of the most popular apparitions here; her music has been enjoyed for decades.  She is usually accompanied by the original owner, but you’re only aware of him if you see her… not if you simply hear her.”  The music faded away, but before Nikki could continue, it resumed, only louder and more mournful than it had been.  They listened for a long moment, looking around in the hopes of spotting the elusive singer.  Without warning, the music stopped and the lights went out, but before the women could even react, they flickered back on.  “Well,” Nikki said, looking around the room.  “I guess she wanted to make sure y’all noticed her before we left.  Fortunately, we haven’t seen the masked man.  He nearly made my eyes bleed… running around in his all-together like that,” causing the women to howl in laughter at her horrified expression.  “I’m guessing his Mama didn’t teach him better… especially since his all-together wasn’t all that impressive.  My Grandmere would have walloped my behind but good for showing out my ass like that!” causing the room to break into laughter again.  “As we leave, y’all take a look at the grandfather clock in the lobby.  There is a clockmaker that tends to it all hours of the day and night.  If we’re lucky, he’ll show up for us.  He’s here a lot, but he’s a little unpredictable in when and how he appears.”

“Nikki?” a voice called out, and she turned to meet Penelope Garcia’s eyes, curious as to the sadness she could read in them. 

She tilted her head in question.  “Penelope?”

She shook her head and wiped at her eyes to hide the tears.  “Are there children here?”

“There are several,” Nikki confirmed.  “The two most famous are a little girl who will come up and hold your hand momentarily before she turns away and disappears.  The boy named Maurice lives on the 14th floor, and he’s searching for his parents.  They died suddenly while they were all staying here, and his parents weren’t with him when it happened.  There are a few others, but they seem to go in and out throughout the lobby area.” She looked where Garcia’s attention seemed to be focused and swallowed hard when she saw a little girl that disappeared even as she watched.  She shook her head; she wasn’t supposed to seeing apparitions like that… wondering a little too late if she shouldn’t have left well enough alone and not relied on Darius to help her out.  She cleared her throat.  “Anyone else?”  She nodded firmly when no one spoke up.  “All righty then… time to head to the cemetery.”

Helena hung back, grabbing Diana by the wrist.  Diana looked down but met Helena’s gold eyes without flinching.  “Something is going on here… besides this tour.  Someone’s playing with us.”

Diana tilted her head.  “Are you certain?”

Helena cocked a disbelieving eyebrow at the question but nodded tersely.  “Yeah.  Whatever that sound is?  Yeah… it’s not human.  Besides, something is setting off the Kid’s squick meter, and we both know if this was just a fun, little squeeze to make some money from the tourists, it wouldn’t even register for her.  Not with the shields she’s got up.  We strengthened them deliberately before we came here.  Gotham isn’t as haunted as this place is rumored to be, and it’s still draining for her some days.  This?  Yeah… it was the only way she could come.”

Diana covered the hand that still held her wrist.  “Here,” she said placing two pairs of earplugs in her palm, and smiling at Helena’s unspoken question.   “A gift from Xena.  It won’t block it all, but it will make it more bearable.  Meanwhile, we’ll keep an eye out.  Aside from that unpleasant sound, have you seen anything that…?”

Before she could finish her question, Xena and Gabrielle came up beside her.  “Is everything all right?” noting the gold flash of Helena’s eyes.  They watched as the younger took a deep breath, having learned not to snap out an impatient answer.  Diana patted her hand.

“We’re not sure, Consort.  We think someone is playing with us, but we haven’t decided if it’s all in good fun or something more… malevolent in the works.  Thanks for the plugs.  I need to make sure Kara has hers.”

Helena wanted to ask, but instead turned back to Xena and Gabrielle.  “Thanks,” she said, holding up the hand that held Dinah’s earplugs.  “I should go find D before that sound starts again.”  She rubbed her ear.  “Can’t say I’m a fan of this whole haunting thing so far.”

Xena nodded and ushered them out the conference room doors and towards the lobby - only to find the majority of their group standing around the grandfather clock Nikki had mentioned.  There, broad as daylight, knelt a man working on the innards as though it was an immediate necessity.  It wouldn’t have seemed quite as unusual a feat… had he actually opened a door to reach them.  After a moment, he stood and looked around casually, then walked away as he disappeared into the ether.

The women fell into complete silence, stunned by what they had just witnessed.  In another moment, Nikki cleared her throat.  “I did tell y’all there was a lot going on around here. C’mon… we’ve still got a lot of ground to cover tonight, and we don’t want to get back too late.  Pretty sure the party scheduled for the end of this tour is not to be missed.”  She grinned.  “I’ve seen the menu.”

With that, the women relaxed and began chattering among themselves again, speculating on what could possibly top what they’d already had.  And so they walked on towards the St Louis Cemetery.


Carter sidled up beside Kara, who struck him as more nervous than usual, which explained why she literally jumped when he grabbed her hand.  He held on but took a step back, watching as she put a hand over her chest and took a deep breath and released it slowly before she spoke to him.  “Carter?!  Are you all right?” looking him up and down.  “What’s wrong?”

He dropped her hand and put his on her shoulders.  “Nothing’s wrong, Kara.  I’m okay.  I was just hoping you’d tell me more about the ghost you saw this morning.  It’s like the coolest thing… I mean, not like meeting Supergirl cool, but it’s pretty high up there.”

Kara closed her eyes and took another deep breath, calming her heartbeat, though she couldn’t quite hide the smile his words brought to her face.  “I promise to tell you all about it,” she swore.  “We’ll meet for breakfast in the morning, all right?” giggling at the face he made because she knew it was going to have to be early.  “I’ll tell you everything I remember.”

“Okay,” he agreed slowly, then smiled at her.  “Thanks, Kara.”

“Anytime, buddy,” she said, and watched as he moved back to walk with Emma Spaulding.  She smiled, remembering not too long ago when he shied away from any sort of human contact that wasn’t from his mom.  She liked to think she had a little to do with that.  She felt Diana come up beside her, and she turned her smile that way.  Diana smiled in reflex.  “What?”

“I was just wondering what that smile was for,” asked as she handed over a pair of earplugs.  Kara looked at them a moment, then her eyes widened, and she shoved them in her ears.

“Well, it doesn’t block everything, but it’s sure better than nothing.  Thanks, Di!” she said with a grin, then nudged her chin in Carter’s direction.  “I was just thinking about how much he has changed in the few years I’ve known him.  I wouldn’t recognize him from the boy I first met if I hadn’t seen him grow up.  And I like to think I had a little to do with that change.”

Diana’s smile widened as she nodded her head.  “You probably did.  Kara Danvers is a pretty special person.”

Kara blushed, but before she could retort, Sara came up to stand on her other side.  She extended a hand, which Kara accepted without hesitation.  “We haven’t met, since we’re on opposite sides of the room,” referring to the conventions, “but my name is Sara Sidle.”

“Kara Danvers.  This is my friend, Diana Prince.  Nice to meet you.”

“Likewise,” Sara replied, waving at Diana, who nodded her greeting since they had already met.  “I was wondering - if you meet another… anomaly… would you give me a call?  I’ve got a couple theories I’d like to test out, but given my skepticism, I don’t think they would approach me.”

Kara’s brow furrowed.  “You think he talked to me because I’m gullible?” getting just a little defensive and angry.

“No!” Sara answered firmly.  “I figured you were probably a little more open-minded… you know, since you’ve already talked to one.”

“Oh,” Kara said, deflating.  “I never… I didn’t think about it like that.  Um… I guess I could.  Do you, um… how can I reach you?”

Sara grinned, showing the gap between her teeth.  “Here,” proffering a card.  “That’s my cell and work numbers, but if you call from a hotel phone, my room is 208.”

Before she could say anything further or Kara could respond, her head swung towards Nikki, who was calling for their attention.  She didn’t see Diana or Kara wince, but she certainly felt compelled to move further into the cemetery to see what was going on.  Sara walked in through the gate, not surprised when several hands reached out and pulled her towards them.  “Can you feel it?” Catherine whispered.  Sara stood still, looking at Catherine, then glancing around to see if anyone else was doing the same.  She noticed most were looking around as though trying to discover the source of their unease.  Into their midst wandered Nikki Beaumont, now wearing a long, draping cloak.

“You can feel it, can’t you?” she asked as she passed among them.  “You can feel the restlessness of the spirits that abide here.”  She looked around solemnly.  “I’ll tell you - Katrina was hard on these folks.  Because New Orleans is below sea level, our bodies are buried above ground.  But Katrina… she was strong enough to push even the most restless spirit up and out of their grave.”  Nikki shook her head.  “I won’t lie to you - Katrina was a bad storm for this city for a lot of reasons, but mostly because of what she did to our dearly departed.  It was a long time before they settled down again, and even now they tend to act out more when the weather turns.”

As if on cue, the wind picked up and the rumble of thunder could be heard in the distance, even as rain started to lightly fall on them.  The women began to murmur, not truly happy with being rained on but resigned to endure it until they could move on to some place drier.  Nikki chuckled and pulled her hood up, not surprised when a number of women popped open the umbrellas she’d advised them to carry.  They circled in closer until everyone was covered and Nikki raised her voice to be heard over the patter of raindrops.

“I want to introduce you to my friend, Darius.  Darius comes from a long, proud line of voodoo practitioners.  He’s going to share with you the story of our next spiritual encounter.

“Good evenin’, ladies,” Darius offered as he stepped from behind a crypt nearby.  More than one woman jumped at his surprise entrance.  “One of the most famous peoples here in Ne’Orlins is Marie Laveau - the Voodoo Queen.  Marie Laveau and I are kin, though I have never seen a priestess as powerful as her in my lifetime.  Now, despite what you’ve prob’ly heard or seen on television, lots of what Madame Laveau practiced wasn’t evil.  She just had a flair for dramatics and made a lots of money from it.  That’s not sayin’ she wasn’t a powerful priestess - by everythin’ I’ve ever been tole, she was.  But mostly, she was known for bein’ a good person and helpin’ others.  However,” Darius said, pulling a token from his pocket and placing it on the gravesite, “it never hurts to pay your respects.”  He gave the listening women a smile.  “Sometimes, she even listens and’ll grant the requests made by those that ask… provided their offerin’ is acceptable, of course.”  His laugh was charming even as his eyes flashed, and many of the women smiled as they dug into pockets and purses to come up with suitable tribute.  They never noticed him slip back into the shadows, though a few eyes saw him disappear.

Xena and Gabrielle stood back and watched, amused; glad the women were not only enjoying themselves but also willing to play along.  They noted that the four ‘supers’ were standing back, separated from the rest and still showing signs of discomfort, though it was minimal compared to what it had been.

As the group started to follow Nikki out of the cemetery, she turned back, suddenly solemn.  “I realize everything up til now has been a lot of fun.  Most of the experiences we’ve had or I’ve told you about so far have been playful or sad, or in some cases, entertaining.  But our next stop is none of that.  Our next stop is the LaLaurie Mansion, and it is nothing short of terrifying.”  As a whole the women slowed their steps - no longer able to dismiss the possibility of ghosts out of hand because of what they had seen - but unwilling to miss out on the next part of their nights’ adventure… even if it was a little scary.  After all… that’s what this Halloween tour was all about, right?

Gabrielle turned to Xena as they brought up the tail end of the group.  “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”

Xena nodded slowly and looked around, taking Gabrielle’s hand in her own.  “Yeah… so do I.  Keep your eyes and ears open; there’s something going on here that hasn’t happened in our other visits.”

“So, it’s not reacting to us.  You think it’s the ‘supers’?”

“I’m thinking this might have been a bad idea.”  They moved quickly to keep from getting separated from their friends.


Nikki waited until all the women from her group were gathered at the corner of the LaLaurie Mansion before she started to speak again.  “I’m sure most of you have heard of the LaLaurie Mansion and Madame LaLaurie herself.  To this day no one really knows what changed for her… what caused her to chain and mutilate and starve the slaves that belonged to her.  Until she met Dr. LaLaurie, no special notice was made of her mistreating her slaves in such a fashion.  Regardless, when the fire broke out, she was discovered, and her horrible atrocities were brought to light.  The neighbors - black, white, Creole, rich, poor - destroyed her mansion and chased her in an effort to exact retribution.  She was able to escape, however, and went to France where she remained until she died fifteen years later.”  Nikki looked around the group slowly.  “Despite the destruction that was wrought here in an effort to provide justice,  the savagery that was committed here by her became embedded in the walls and floors of this place.  You can feel the misery of those that lived here, but sometimes it’s stifling.  Sometimes, you can hear the screams and their cries; sometimes you can smell the blood and the excrement they left behind.”  She shuddered, and several of the women did as well as a chill breeze skittered around them, exacerbating the rain that still fell.  “Sometimes, you can still see them as they were when they were found.”  She looked around again, noting the sombre expressions reflected back at her.  “I’m not saying this to scare you.  I’m telling you this so you can be prepared when we go inside.  This place, more than any other in the City of New Orleans, has made true believers out of the staunchest skeptics in the world.”  She stepped forward and unlocked the door, motioning the women inside.

They stepped slowly, one by one, over the threshold, each turning around to view their surroundings, spreading out until they filled most of the downstairs foyer.  Diana and Kara came in towards the last and crossed the threshold together - Kara with her glasses down her nose so she could use her x-ray vision to look around; Diana with her head tilted to better listen for any hint of an attack.  Helena and Dinah walked in behind them side by side - Helena, with her eyes feral and her senses set to detect the slightest anomaly; Dinah keeping hold on Helena’s arm… for her sake as well as Helena’s.

No one saw Darius hidden just out of sight… until Xena and Gabrielle walked in last and met his eyes unflinchingly.  His eyes widened and glowed as he bowed his head slightly in deference, then several things happened at once.

Sara Sidle and Catherine Willows both shivered as they felt the cold touch of a hand cross their shoulders.  Miranda Priestly gagged at the scent of blood and shit that filled her nose.  Maggie Sawyer closed her eyes at the waves of misery she could feel.  But all that - and every other minor reaction that could be felt - was dismissed when Dinah screamed and clutched at her head.  She would have dropped to the floor had it not been for Helena’s quick reflexes in scooping her up into her arms.  She turned to Xena, but before she could utter a word, Xena turned to Darius and simply raised an eyebrow.  He moved around the room like a proverbial ghost, stopping when he was standing in front of Helena.  He reached out a hand….

… but Helena growled and took a step back from him, turning to put herself between him and Dinah.  Darius walked forward again, though this time he didn’t move his hands away from his body.  Instead, he let his eyes glow just slightly and met Helena’s without flinching.  “I can help,” he said, so softly she almost missed his words even with her enhanced hearing.  She glanced at Xena and Gabrielle, both of whom gave her the slightest nod.  She studied him again for a long moment, then nodded.  “C’mon. Little Sister… let’s find a quiet place away from here,” he said, motioning her towards the door.  Helena hesitated, until she felt Gabrielle come up beside her and place a comforting hand on her back.

“C’mon, Hel.  Let’s let Darius take care of Dinah.  I promise he won’t hurt her, and he can help.”  Helena stared for another moment, then moved forward until they were crossing the threshold and being met by a limousine.  Gabrielle smiled at Helena’s startled look.  “I have many skills,” she parroted, but it got her the smile she was looking for.  In an instant, the four of them were ensconced in the back and headed back to the Bourbon Orleans.


“Well,” Nikki said into the silence that followed their departure, “that was… unexpected.  Most reactions to this place aren’t that strong.”  A beat.  “Is everybody else doing all right?  No sharp pain or dizziness?”

Everyone looked around at each other and shook their heads.  “Is she going to be okay?” Holly Stewart asked from a far corner of the room.  All heads turned her way, then immediately swung back to Xena, who was casually leaning on the wall next to the now closed door.  She straightened up and nodded.

“She’s in the best possible hands,” Xena responded.  “I know several of you in this group are doctors,” acknowledging Holly primarily, “but the fact is, this is probably more supernatural in nature.  Might be for the best that we let the voodoo doctor help her first.  He’s more in touch with all of this than any of us are.”

Heads nodded in agreement before one voice rang out above the murmurs of the rest.  “I wanna know how he knew just where to be at the right time. Seems awfully convenient and suspicious if you ask me.”

Before Nikki or Xena could speak up in Darius’ defense, Abby Sciuto stepped forward.  “Darius is a good friend,” she said into the mumbling, and it became quiet once more.  “I’ve known him all my life.  If he was here, there was a good reason.”

“Like trying to make us believe in ghosts?”

“No… because ghosts and the supernatural are real; you’ve seen that… especially here.  But there is every chance that he was warned about something like this happening - something his skills would be necessary to help someone else - and he did what he could to make sure he was where he needed to be when he had to be there.”  She looked around at the crowd of women listening intently to her words.  “For now, I would love to get out of here and move on to our next spot.  This place has always given me the creeps.”

“Me too,” Nikki agreed.  “So unless anyone just has to go upstairs, I say we move on to Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar and pick up a Hurricane before we head back to our hotel and the party that should already be in full swing!”

A rousing cheer met her words, and it was almost enough to completely drown out the mourning that could still be heard coming from upstairs.  The women were quick to get out of the mansion and follow Nikki down the road, relief evident in both their voices and mannerisms.  They were louder now, and occasional nervous laughter could be heard coming from one or another of them, and it was in this rowdy mood that they entered Lafitte’s.

Xena hung to the back of the group again once more, waiting for a pale-faced Carter and Emma, who were holding hands to hide their shaking.  She placed a hand on each of their shoulders, stopping them just before they went into the bar.  “Hey… you two all right?”

Carter nodded and swallowed hard.  “Yeah… yeah.  That was kinda intense, though.”

Xena smiled wanly.  “For everyone,” she agreed.  “It was certainly… unexpected.”

“And scary,” Emma whispered.  “I wasn’t… I didn’t think….  How’s Dinah?”

“She’s gonna be all right - Gabrielle will make sure about that.  You gonna be all right, Em?  Would you prefer to go back to the hotel?  I know Nikki arranged for a special non-alcoholic drink for you both, but if you’d rather….”  Carter and Emma exchanged glances, then turned back to Xena, shaking their heads though they never released each others’ hands.  She smiled.  “All right - go on in, but let me know if things bother you later on.  Gabrielle and I will be available if you, ya know… can’t sleep or something.”

Without warning, they both leaned up and hugged her tightly, only releasing her after she returned the embrace.  Xena stood back and watched them enter the bar, bumping each other’s shoulders and grinning nervously again.  She smiled, and wasn’t at all surprised to feel Diana’s hand on her arm as she came up behind her.  “That was really sweet of you,” she whispered as Kara walked past them to catch up to Alex and Maggie who were waiting at the door.  It was only when the three of them stepped into the bar that Diana spoke again, ignoring Xena’s glare.  “Any news, Consort?”  Xena held out her phone, and Diana accepted it with alacrity and a hint of relief.  Gabrielle had sent a picture of Dinah sitting up against Helena, looking tired but happy.  Darius was beside them giving a thumbs up, and Helena didn’t appear to be particularly disgruntled.  Diana nodded as she handed back the phone with a smile.  “Can’t wait to hear that story.”

Xena grinned, then accepted her phone back and slid it into her pocket as she opened the bar door.  “C’mon.  It can’t really do anything for us, but I could still use a drink.”


The door had barely shut on the quartet when Helena turned and glared at Darius.  “First you’re gonna tell me who you are and what you did to her.  I’m pretty sure you’re the reason we’ve been miserable all evening,” staring at him hard enough with her feral eyes that he could almost feel the burn in his soul.  He bravely held her eyes, putting a hand on Gabrielle’s knee to keep her from interjecting.

“I’m fae - a siren, to be exact.  I can… influence… people’s minds; ya know… make them more open to suggestion.  I didn’t know there was other fae in the audience, or I wouldn’t have been quite as enthusiastic in my efforts.”

“Metahuman,” Helena growled, sighing loudly at his raised eyebrow.  “We’re not fae - we’re metahuman.”  Interest dawned in Darius’ golden eyes, but he held his tongue.  He could literally feel Helena’s impatience roll over him like a wave, and he swallowed the nervousness it made him feel.  Before he could speak, Helena continued.  “What did you do to her?” glancing down at Dinah, who was still unconscious in her arms.

Darius shook his head.  “That wasn’t me,” holding up his hands when Helena’s lips pulled back from her teeth in a snarl.  “Let me clarify.  That high-pitched sound you heard - the buzzin’? - that was me.  As I said, I was helpin’ open some minds to the… possibilities… Nikki was showin’ ‘em.  But Madame LaLaurie?”  He shook his head.  “Uh uh… I don’t mess with that juju.  Very dark… very evil.  I was only there to keep an eye on things because Nikki asked.  I don’t like bein’ there.”

Helena snorted.  “Yeah… I can see why.”  She glanced back at Dinah.  “So, what happened to her?”

Darius reached out a hand, then hesitated to meet Helena’s eyes.  “May I?”  She stared at him a moment, then nodded.  He placed his hand in the middle of Dinah’s chest, and put two fingers from the other hand at her temple.  Then he closed his eyes… and gasped.  His eyes flew open, but he was unseeing, the glow coming from them reflected in his hands where they touched Dinah.  He moved his mouth silently, and Helena felt Dinah take a deep breath as the glow began to fade.  Darius sat back with an exhausted smile, and Dinah looked up and grinned into Helena’s face, though she did nothing to leave the strength of her arms.

“You all right, D?” Helena asked in a whisper.

Dinah nodded slowly and offered a half smile.  “I feel like I got hit by a bus, but yeah.  At least my head doesn’t feel like it’s gonna explode anymore.”  She closed her eyes and winced.  “What was that anyway?”

“That, young lady,” Darius said from a darkened corner of the car, “is what happens when a sensitive goes into a place that’s full of misery.”  He opened his eyes and she turned her head to meet his, gasping when she saw the residual glow in them.  “Didja not know to leave well enough alone?”

A hand on Helena’s arm was enough to keep her still, and Dinah turned enough in her arms to be able to look Darius in the eye.  “I’m a touch telepath, and I actually have an incredible amount of shielding.”

Darius leaned forward, his arms on his knees.  “Maybe, but there’s no amount of protection people like us can use to hide from that kind of terror.  It reaches out and grabs, and for compassionate people like you, it holds on as tightly as it can.”

“Lesson learned,” she said tiredly.

“Hey,” Gabrielle called softly, “do you feel well enough for me to take a picture to send to Xena?  You know she’s gonna worry until she hears something.”  For answer, Dinah scooted up enough that she could keep her head on Helena’s shoulder, and Darius leaned forward and offered a thumb’s up and a smile.  It only took a second before it was on its way, and Dinah slumped back down slightly.  “I told the driver to take us back to our hotel… unless you all feel like stopping at Lafitte’s?”  She chuckled at the look they gave her.  “Right… didn’t think so.”

“No,” Helena purred softly.  “I’m going to tuck Dinah into bed for the night, and then Darius and I are going to sit down and have a little chat.”  Darius nodded his head, and Gabrielle sighed.

“Do I need to be there?”

Helena looked at her directly.  “You can if you want to, but I promise it won’t be necessary.  We’re just going to talk.”

“All right,” Gabrielle agreed with a smile as the car slowed to a stop.  “Let’s get Dinah upstairs and then I’ll go check in on the party while you two have your talk.”  She opened the door and slid out, before ducking her head back in.  “Do you need some help or…?”

“I c’n w’lk,” Dinah mumbled as her head lolled into Helena’s neck.  Helena chuckled and brushed a kiss over her forehead, flexing her arms just a little to curl Dinah into her a little more.

“What? And miss the excellent to-the-door taxi service I provide?  I don’t think so.”

“S’fest pl’ce inna worl’,” she muttered before falling back asleep.  Helena blushed, but no one commented on it as she stepped from the vehicle.  Darius followed, then motioned her ahead.

“I’ll help ya get her settled, then we can go wherever you want to talk.”  Helena nodded and strode in, and he rushed to get ahead of her and open the elevator doors.  Gabrielle watched until they closed, then turned and made her way down the hall to the convention hall, where she could already hear the revelry emanating from behind closed doors.  She smiled, glad at least some of their guests were having a good evening.  She turned back and made her way toward the lobby, hoping Xena and the rest would be joining her soon.


Xena and Diana crossed the threshold into Lafitte’s and were met by a server carrying a tray of Hurricanes.  They helped themselves and took a deep draught as they looked around the room, studying the layout with practiced eyes.  They smiled as they noted Carter and Emma sitting at one corner of the bar - out of traffic where they could watched everything and laugh at the antics they’d be telling their kids and grandkids about in years to come.  It was plain to see that all the women of their tour were relaxing and having a good time.  They were pretty mixed together at this point, sharing stories and laughter without barriers, and it was nice to feel the difference in the atmosphere.  Then Xena turned towards the bar and nodded slightly at the deep bow the bartender afforded her.  Diana turned and met her eyes.

“Did that bartender just…?”


“But isn’t he…?”


“Okay, so how…?”

Xena chuckled darkly.  “Remember your queen has been around for a very, very long time.  She actually introduced me to Jean… or rather, his ghost, the first time we came here together.  She knew him when he was still alive.  Pirate that he was, he was a good friend to her, and she never forgot him for that.”

“And the women here can’t tell he’s just a ghost?”

Xena shrugged.  “After what they just witnessed, I don’t think they care… especially since he seems to be plying them with alcohol.”  She raised her glass in his direction, and he nodded and grinned in return.  “C’mon.  I think we need to round everyone up and get back to the hotel.  It’s not that late yet; I’d prefer to be there when it is.”

“Don’t want to have to try to get everyone home by curfew, Consort?” Diana asked with a smirk.  Xena just glared and then crossed her eyes before both of them laughed.

“Something like that,” she said, and started wading her way into the middle of the room.  As she passed, she could hear various bits of conversation and smiled at the concern she could hear for Dinah, and the curiosity about whether the bartender was real or another ghost.  She made her way to the bar, and before anyone could actually move out of her way, she gave her warrior yell and flipped over them all to land neatly on the bar itself.  Her actions garnered her attention and applause.  She bowed and grinned as the cheering grew louder.  “Thank you, Ladies, thank you,” holding up her hands.  “I’m guessing you’ve enjoyed the Hurricanes Jean here has prepared for you,” which was answered with the raising of glasses and raucous cheering.  She smirked.  “However, it’s time for us to go and join the rest of our friends back at the hotel,” cocking an eyebrow when they started booing.  “Don’t forget - the party’s already started there, and I have it on good authority they’ve got more booze.”  Another cheer.  “So, grab your drinks, and let’s hit the road.  Oh,” she added.  “Don’t forget to tip your bartenders,” motioning to the young man and woman currently behind the bar.  She did a lazy flip into the clear space the women made at her motion and moved to the door where Diana stood with a curious look.  “What?”

“That’s not….” gesturing towards the bar.  “What happened to…?  Where’s the pirate?”

“Right here, lass,” a voice whispered from behind her.  “You be needing something from me?”  Diana whirled so quickly she almost fell over, only to find a pair of sparkling, ghostly eyes twinkling back at her before looking at Xena.  He put a hand to his chest.  “Was it something I said?”

“Likely,” she laughed.  She waited while he looked around her pointedly, then turned back with a clear question in his eyes.  “She had to take care of someone; one of the young women on our tour was unduly affected by the LaLaurie House.

Lafitte made a face, his expression full of distaste.  “Never did care for that woman.  She gives the rest of us a bad name.”

“Yes, well… she also makes for good tourism, unfortunately.”

Jean snorted.  “Not like I can complain.  It’s done all right for me.  Give Gabrielle a kiss for me, and try not to be so long between visits next time,” he said as he disappeared.

Diana smirked.  “Glad to know it’s not just the Amazons.” 

Before Xena could comment, Nikki came up beside her.  “We’re ready whenever you are, Sugar.”  Xena opened the door and held it as she beckoned the rest to follow.

“Lead the way,” she instructed Nikki.  “You’re still the tour guide here.” Nikki didn’t reply; she simply led the parade back to the hotel to meet up with the rest of the conventioneers.

The Epilogue

Gabrielle remained in her seat as the women passed her on the way to the hall where the party was being thrown.  She was happy to escape their notice if only for a few minutes.  She knew immediately, of course, the moment Xena crossed the threshold.  She tilted her head in acknowledgement as Diana offered her a swift nod before she was swallowed up by the Danvers sisters and their friends.  They made their way down the hall noisily and soon disappeared behind the large doors concealing the remainder of the party sounds from the rest of the hotel and its guests.  She smiled and looked up when a tanned hand reached out to her and helped her to her feet.  She wrapped herself around the solid body, and they swayed in place to the sounds of their heartbeats for a timeless moment.

“How’s Dinah?” Xena whispered, her cheek pressed against the top of Gabrielle’s head.

“Better than Barbara,” Gabrielle said, eyes closed and a contented smile on her lips.

Xena waited, but when Gabrielle didn’t continue, she prompted, “That bad?”

Gabrielle leaned back until she could meet Xena’s eyes.  “I don’t know.  I looked in to make sure everything was going well inside. Lucy and Barbara had everything well in hand, and folks seemed to be enjoying themselves.  So I came back out here to sit for a few, ya know?  Just a few minutes of peace and quiet; besides, I was waiting for you.”  Xena nodded, but she didn’t interrupt.  “I hadn’t been sitting here very long when I saw Barbara come racing down the hallway toward the elevators.  I started to get up, but when the elevator doors opened, Darius stepped out.  He actually signaled me to stay put, while he had a word with Barbara.”

“Was it a good word?”

Gabrielle smiled.  “It was a good word, and apparently the right word as well, because he got her calmed down, and she allowed him to push her onto the elevator and ride back up with her.  I haven’t seen or heard from them since, so I’m assuming everything worked itself out.”

Right at that moment, the elevator doors pinged open again, and Darius emerged, not only intact, but with a secret smile across his face.  He noticed them hiding out in the corner and raised his eyebrow in question, only angling their way when he had gotten nods from both of them.  Xena seated herself and pulled Gabrielle down beside her, motioning Darius to a chair across from them.

“Everything all right?”

He smiled.  “Everythin’s good.  Helena and I have come to an understandin’ or two; Dinah will be fine after a good night’s sleep; and Miss Barbara has calmed down consider’bly since she was able to see things for herself.”

“And how are you?” Gabrielle asked, her head tilted in observation as she carefully looked him over. 

He smiled.  “I think I’m okay.  Even better, I think I may have made some new friends.”

Gabrielle grinned.  “That’s a good thing.  You can never have too many of those.”

Darius snorted.  “Specially in our business.”  He looked around carefully, then leaned forward.  “Listen, I know it may not be my place, but y’all need to be careful.  I think that what happened tonight… what I’m sayin’ is - what happened tonight wasn’t normal.  Goin’ to Madame LaLaurie’s house is always a crapshoot with how bad it can get, but I’ve never seen - or felt - it as bad as it was tonight, and I’ve been livin’ here all my life.  I don’t claim to be no seer, but I’m tellin’ you, there was somethin’ else goin’ on there.  Somethin’ bad… evil bad.”

Xena met his eyes squarely.  “Can I asked why you think that?  Why you’re describing it that way?”

Darius sighed.  He’d hoped to avoid questions like that.  “It’s just a feelin’,” he finally said after several moments of consideration.  “For all the misery and discontent I’ve felt in that house - and I’ve felt it a lot - it’s never been like that.  It’s never been so… angry.”

“And do you think the anger was directed at Dinah, or was she just a case of wrong place, wrong time?”

Darius stared at Gabrielle as he thought about her question.  “All things taken into account?  I’m gonna say wrong place, wrong time.”  He sighed and shook his head, looking down and studying his feet.  “I’m pretty sure I didn’t help with that, but I didn’t know… I didn’t realize….”

“You wouldn’t have.  Her shields were strengthened substantially just to allow her to come here.  That’s one reason she didn’t react the same as Helena did - she had a barrier against it.”

“Why didn’t y’all…?” his eyes widening when Xena opened her palm and showed him the earplugs.

“They didn’t eliminate the sound, but they filtered it enough to make is more tolerable.”  She looked at him hard, and he straightened, knowing whatever was coming was less a request and more of a directive.  “I want you to keep an ear out - put it out to your network to do the same.  If something vindictive or malicious is happening here… whether it’s at the LaLaurie House or somewhere else in the City, I want to know about it.”

“You think there’s somethin’ evil lurkin’ ‘round here?  More than the usual haunts, I mean.”

“I think I don’t want to be caught by surprise by it if there is.”

He studied her for a minute, then nodded his head.  “You’ll be the first I call as soon’s I hear.”

“Thank you, Darius.”

He stood, then took her hand and lifted it to his lips, doing the same to Gabrielle before he straightened to his full height.  “We take care of our own,” he promised, then headed out of the hotel without a backwards glance.

“This is gonna get complicated, isn’t it?”

“It already is, my bard. I think it already is.”