Mary is unconscious on the ground. Renee is holding a knife, kneeling in the dirt next to the lifeless husk of her ex. Alice spits a mouthful of blood onto the dirt as she looks up, still dazed from the baton Renee had used to knock her down.
Pamela Isley’s withered form is blossoming. Her desiccated cheeks are turning pink and her toes sink into the bloody ground like roots. She takes a deep breath and Renee is crying tears of joy and she throws the knife away from them, far off into the trees that Alice won’t be able to reach. The gun she still has trained on Alice is steady despite the way her free hand lifts to brush some of the dirt off of her ex’s nose.
“Pam,” Renee is saying and she isn’t looking and maybe Alice could get to her. Maybe Alice could tackle her to the ground and take her gun and kill her but there’s still the fact that she doesn’t know what to expect when Poison Ivy wakes up. And the fact that Mary is bleeding way too much onto the rich soil on the edge of the river. Whatever she’s going to do, she has to do it fast.
Alice grabs Mary and tumbles backwards into the river.
It’s always this river. Always this cold, awful river.
Renee is standing on the shore with her pretty poison princess, both of them wearing Mary’s blood like the latest fashion accessory, and she doesn’t notice until it’s too late.
The current is strong and it pulls them towards Gotham, back to civilization. She has to fight to stay above water and she’s just glad that Mary is as tiny as she is. She ends up having to kick off her skirt, leaving her only in her leggings, before her coat snags on a rock.
She drops Mary, who immediately plunges beneath the surface, and curses as she yanks herself free of her jacket before she dives to grab Mary. Mary coughs up water when they hit the cold air and Alice honestly isn’t sure if they’re going to make it. It’s getting dark and it’s cold and the stupid river is even colder and Renee had taken a lot of Mary’s blood to revive Pam. The deal had been a few drops of fresh blood to bring Poison Ivy back to life but Renee had been greedy and sliced open Mary’s wrist to force it far too much blood into Pam’s lifeless mouth like this was some B-grade vampire movie.
Alice is shivering so hard that it’s hard to keep Mary above water but Mary is still. So still that Alice knows that she’s already hypothermic. All she can do is hope that whatever plant stuff that’s running through her veins is enough to keep her alive through all of this.
It feels like hours. She can barely feel her limbs as she simply lets the current carry her. She lays back with Mary resting on her chest, Mary’s motionless head propped up on her shoulder. They both choke on water where the current is harder and Alice is so, so tired. So cold. Like the water has seeped so far into her bones that she’s freezing from the inside out. Gotham’s skyline looms closer as Alice fights the urge to sleep and she barely registers it when the sun starts to disappear. She sees the stars in the sky, though, and she knows that she won’t make it.
Alice will die in this river. Just like Beth had. It’s almost poetic, really, since it’s January again. Maybe it’s even her birthday. Or the day of her bat mitzvah. Maybe Kate will lose her sister again on this day. Maybe Mary, too.
Light hits Alice’s face and she blinks hard because it’s so bright but the sun is gone and someone is talking. Yelling. Something. She doesn’t feel anything touch her but she’s being pulled toward the shore and all she can do is focus on keeping her arms locked around Mary’s chest as she finally lets herself go limp.
The icy water disappears and Alice doesn’t shiver despite the cold air. It stings in a way that feels like it’s too hot and she doesn’t understand. Except she does. It used to feel like this on the coldest days of the year in her basement bedroom as she huddled under her thin, useless blanket.
She can’t stay awake anymore; she lets go.
There’s no weight against Alice’s chest. She isn’t cold, at least, but her lungs hurt with each inhale. Everything hurts. She moves a little but there’s something around her wrist that keeps her from moving too far. A handcuff, she thinks as she drifts sideways somewhere.
She doesn’t know how long it takes for her to open her eyes but she does and everything feels like it floods back as she finally focuses on her surroundings.
She’s in Mary’s clinic. She turns her head and sees Sophie sitting next to her. Looking at her. Looking worried. Like she cares that Alice is still alive.
She can’t see Mary, though, and she feels her heart break. It twists in her chest because she knows that Mary is dead. There had been too much blood and the river had been so cold and Sophie looks almost as upset as Alice feels. Despite her best effort, she hadn’t been able to save her.
It had to be in the river, of course, because the river always took so much from her. Her life as Beth. Her mother. And now Mary after she’d finally found herself embracing her own humanity with her stepsister.
“Is she gone?” she manages to ask as she turns her head away from Sophie, unwilling to let her see that she’s upset.
“She doesn’t look great but she’ll live,” Sophie says quietly. “She lost a lot of blood, Alice, and she was so hypothermic that it’s a miracle that she made it all the way to the clinic. I saw you keeping her above the water. You saved her.”
She’s alive. Mary is alive . Alice might have done enough.
“Mary’s people took care of you. You fell under the ‘moderately hypothermic” category and you were several degrees warmer than her. The doctor suspects that Mary’s altered biology kept her body prevent frostbite and other tissue damage.”
Alice nods but doesn’t have the energy to say anything. Her throat still feels raw from all the water she had choked on.
“Can you tell me what happened? Luke had been tracking Montoya’s cell and we followed her when she left the city and headed in the direction you and Mary had taken. Ryan and Luke didn’t trust her and it turns out that they were right about it.”
Alice turns to face Sophie again because she doesn’t feel quite so broken now that she’s had a few moments to compose herself. “Renee dug up Pam. She got in contact with us and Mary wanted to help bring her fellow plant lover back. Mary agreed to give a few drops of blood.. Renee double crossed her.”
Sophie is quiet for a long moment and Alice has to keep blinking to keep herself awake. She wants to sit up but she’s still too weak to even lift her head. She keeps her eyes on Sophie who looks like she’s struggling to decide if she believes her or not.
“Ryan went after Montoya. We’ll make sure she faces the consequences for what she did to Mary,” Sophie finally says.
Good , Alice thinks. She can’t stay awake any longer and her eyes close despite her best efforts. Sophie’s hand comes to rest on her cheek a few moments later, her fingers warm and soft. “Thank you for saving her. I’m glad that we weren’t wrong to believe in you.”
It’s strange and confusing but she can’t think about it for more than a few seconds.
Someone sits on the bed next to her and Alice opens her eyes. She feels a little better now and she focuses on Mary’s face. Mary, who’s sitting next to her. Mary, whose hand is on hers, fingers curled around her palm gently. She’s wearing a plain white shirt that’s too big for her and her long hair is tucked behind her ears. Her once bright green eyes have faded into hazel and her red hair is faded to auburn. Like the serum had bled out of her. Alice looks down and the wrist that Renee had sliced open is healed with only a thin red scar lingering.
“Thank you,” Mary says. “You were there for me when I was terrified. You helped me breathe .” She takes a moment before she continues. “Luke thinks that my powers were halved when Pamela Isley woke up. I don’t feel so–out of control anymore. We’re still keeping me out of the sunlight for as long as possible but Ryan and Sophie agreed to let me out on bail, so to speak.”
Poison Mary is gone. It shouldn’t hurt but it does because they had had something . The kind of something that Alice hadn’t felt since before she fell into Wonderland.
“This doesn’t change things between us,” Mary adds like she can read Alice’s mind. “I never thought I’d be Team Alice but here I am.” She smiles, soft and slow, and Alice finds herself believing her against her own instinct. “Neither of us are going back to Arkham. We’re going to figure this out.”
It won’t be as easy as Mary makes it sound. Mary might not be cured. Alice might still mess things up. Renee might kill them herself. But, right now, it’s okay because Alice is warm and safe and Mary is smiling at her. They’re family. Real family.
Alice rolls her eyes. “Like Arkham could handle us,” she says and Mary laughs and holds her hand a little tighter.
“Yeah, between us we’d be out of there in an hour.”
This time Alice laughs and she squeezes Mary’s hand. “I can’t believe I actually like you.”