DISCLAIMER: I do not own anything, nor am I writing this for profit. The characters belong to the WB and DC comics. No copyright infringement is intended.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Phryne for all comments, suggestions, corrections, and just plain work that goes into beta reading any story – but especially one of mine.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thank you for reading. Any comments or criticism can be directed to adliren@gmail.com. This story is a continuation of the series What it Means to Be a Hero. If you haven't read the first part, Getting Back on Your Feet, I suggest you do so now (but really, it's up to you).
SERIES: Part two of the 'What it Means to Be a Hero' series.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

What it Means to Be a Hero
Part 2: A Different Way of Thinking

By adliren



"Let's go to bed Helena."

Blue eyes lit up with what could only be joy as Barbara lost herself in the sweet smile she hadn't seen for eight years. Leaning up, she tangled her hands in dark hair and pulled gently, loving the small resistance that was quickly surrendered, allowing full lips to come into contact with her own.

Barbara moaned deep in her throat at the first taste of the younger woman. Her entire focus was concentrated on the soft pressure and heat radiating from her mouth to the rest of her upper body.

Suddenly she felt rough sheets scratch along her back. When did they get into her bedroom . . . and how had she managed to lose all her clothes?

Barbara lost interest in the question as she noticed that Helena had also managed to shed her clothes and was standing gloriously naked by the side of the bed. Her eyes had shifted and were now gazing hungrily at Barbara with golden intensity. Giving a wicked smile – really more of a leer – Barbara beckoned to the dark figure and was rewarded with a soft growl. Before she could blink, she found herself straddled while her lips were deliciously attacked.

Not to be outdone, the former Batgirl was determined to give as good as she got. A sharp nip to the bottom of a full lip opened Helena's mouth, allowing Barbara to force her tongue inside the wet heat. Normally she wasn't very vocal, but in this case, she seemed helpless to stop the steady stream of moans and whimpers that escaped her mouth and were swallowed gladly by the brunette. She arched her back as much as possible to allow Helena more access to her throat, feeling the soft bites along the column of her neck and down to her collarbone.

Although thoroughly enjoying the attention, Barbara was almost equally focused on what her hands were discovering as they ranged over the other woman's form. Though she had often been forced to patch Helena up after a night on the streets, she had never noticed the irregularities that her fingers were encountering. Small scars and imperfections that were almost invisible against the tan skin were instantly imprinted on her fingertips and palms, and Barbara knew with her eidetic memory, she would never forget even one - not that she planned to.


The single word purred directly into her ear caused a shudder from the top of her head down to her waist, and if she didn't know it was impossible, to the tips of her toes. She felt Helena smile against her cheek as a slim hand skimmed across her stomach, causing her to jump. This time the brunette laughed before moving her mouth to Barbara's neck.

"Do you know how long I've waited for this? How long I've wanted to make love to you?"

Barbara was sure if she could just catch her breath, she could respond to the questions. The best she could manage, however, was a slightly breathy, "Hel?" More of a question than a reply.

"So long." The words were mumbled against her pulse, and Barbara jumped again as teeth grazed her skin hard enough to be painful. "I've done everything you've asked me. I've been your ward, your substitute crime fighter, and your friend. I've even watched you give yourself to Wade, when you should have given everything to me."

Abruptly, Barbara wasn't in the mood anymore. The delicious tingles she had been enjoying turned to shivers of dread flowing up and down her damaged spine.

"Helena?" Barbara tried to put force behind the name. Something wasn't right.

She pulled away so she could meet eyes that had been an erotic gold and were now a merciless cloudy yellow.

"I told you I couldn't control it, but you didn't listen." She struggled as the dark head bent once again and she felt teeth hover over her pulse. "How could you ever think love would be enough to save you?"

Barbara cried out when she felt those same sharp teeth tear into her skin, leaving a trail of agony that slowly faded into a consuming numbness. Analytically, she knew that she was dying, that Helena had torn her artery and she was going into shock from blood loss, but she couldn't seem to focus. Her attention was entirely consumed by the beloved face that hovered over her, the features showing equal parts horror and a fierce primal joy.

As everything began to grow dark, Barbara felt a hand sticky with her blood softly stroking her cheek.

"It's okay now Barbara. Everything's okay. Go to sleep."

The first thing Barbara became aware of, after her eyes violently snapped open, was the cold. Some time during the night she had managed to throw the covers off her upper body, leaving her exposed from the waist up. Her oversized button-down shirt was soaked with sweat and the cool air of her bedroom was causing her to shiver violently.

Dismissing the temperature, she noticed two things simultaneously - her heart was beating erratically in her chest and her hands were wrapped in the sheets, gripping with a painful intensity. She tried to focus on her breathing and slow the blood rushing through her body as she individually pried her fingers from the covers.

Having dealt with the physical signs, she was left her with no choice but to face the mental and emotional aspects of her dream.

Barbara was used to having nightmares. After the shooting, it had been rare for her to go two nights in a row without waking up in a cold sweat or crying out in fear. Helena had often snuck into her room in the middle of the night to keep her company, haunted by her own dreams of her mother's murder. This had led to them sharing a bed in a completely innocent way, on and off, when Helena still lived in the clock tower.

Thinking of sharing a bed with the brunette forced Barbara's mind back to the dream.

She couldn't remember ever feeling so aroused. She knew it was a dream, but still, it had felt so real. She had felt Helena's hands on her skin. She had tasted the brunette's mouth and tongue, and it had been wonderful . . . right up until the part where Helena had ripped her throat out.

Barbara brought a hand to her neck, reassured when she felt only chilled skin instead of the gaping wound she unconsciously expected.

Those whispered words, so full of desire and hatred . . .

She knew she was projecting her own insecurities onto the brunette in her unconscious state, but that didn't make it any easier to deal with. The thought that Helena might still resent, or even hate, her if they did manage to work out the difficulties between them, left Barbara with a sick feeling, and was no doubt the cause of her most recent nightmare.

Trying to shake off the last vestiges of the dream, Barbara slowly maneuvered herself into the chair that waited by the bed. The careful choreography required for such a simple task had severely decreased her late night wanderings over the years. When she was younger, she used to think nothing of getting up to get a glass of water, or just to stand by the window, looking out at the sleeping city. Now, when she went to bed, Barbara went with the knowledge that she would most likely remain there until morning – anything else being too difficult and time consuming.

It was funny, but it never ceased to cause a flare of resentment and anger when she transferred herself over the gap from her bed to the waiting seat of her chair. A small moment when her arms trembled, not from the stain of lifting her weight, but from the knowledge of what had been taken from her and all that she had lost in the blink of an eye.

Wheeling herself into the bathroom, Barbara began to unbutton her shirt with fingers that still trembled slightly. Once it was removed, she felt the cold begin to seep into her bones and quickly reached for the handle on the specially designed shower. She began to relax as steam filled the tiled room, fogging up the mirror and hiding her haunted appearance, for which she was grateful. Barbara often considered her eyes to be her best feature, but not when they were surrounded by bruised skin from lack of sleep and worry.

Forty-five minutes later found her sitting in front of the Delphi, going over the data from the cargo ship again, hoping she had missed something the first six times. Whoever their murderer was, he hadn't left any evidence for them to use. Helena and Dick were trained to pick up on any clues left behind at a crime scene, a necessary skill in their occupation, but neither had found anything - just blood, bodies, and a deserted ship.

Barbara reflected briefly that the description read like a line for a low-budget horror movie, likely starring anorexic young women in bikinis, on a cruise ship, stalked by a murderous psychopath with an axe. In fact, now that she thought about it, she was fairly certain Helena had forced her to watch just such a movie. The younger woman had a fondness for bad horror films that Barbara found slightly disturbing – especially when the brunette explained that she rented them for the dialog.

Wearily lowering her head into her hands, Barbara admitted that she really missed the occasional movie night with Helena. It was a tradition they had shared even before Helena came to live with her, started when Barbara began to baby-sit under the watchful eye of Selina. Of course, the content of the movies had changed as the brunette had grown older, but never the sense of comfort and closeness that had gone along with a night spent together - Barbara criticizing her choices and Helena laughingly defending her selection.

Now everything had gone so wrong, Barbara wasn't sure it could be fixed.

She was still angry about the way Helena had handled the revelation of her feelings. How many times had she told the brunette that running didn't solve anything? But at the same time, she was also disappointed in herself. In her rush to confront the younger woman, she hadn't taken the time to consider what Helena might be experiencing. Feelings she had hidden and repressed for years were suddenly dragged out into the open, and Barbara hadn't made it easier by suddenly declaring she was ready to enter into a physical relationship.

The more she had thought about it, the more Barbara had begun to realize that Helena must have considered her . . . offer as some kind of pity. That was certainly not how she had meant it, but she did admit it was out of character. It was just . . . her own desire and need for the other woman had surprised Barbara with its intensity, causing her to make her rash proposal. Based on Helena's previous relationships, it had seemed like a safe assumption.

Now she wished she could take it back. Obviously, Helena wasn't impressed with her response, and Barbara couldn't blame her. She had basically taken a heartfelt declaration of love and responded with the equivalent of "let's fuck."

Even as her mind flinched from the crude wording, Barbara had to admit it was accurate. She knew she wasn't good at expressing her emotions, but this was an all-time low - and now Helena wasn't even speaking to her. How was she supposed to fix things if she couldn't even talk to the other woman?

Sighing, Barbara resolved not to think about the brunette anymore. It was late and she was exhausted. Any thoughts she had were only going to depress her further, something she really didn't need.

Turning back to the screens, she continued her scans, searching for any information regarding suspicious activity on large ocean-going vessels in the last six months, desperately searching for a connection. In the back of her mind however, was the knowledge that she would pass on whatever she found to Dinah to give to the brunette. Helena had made it very clear she didn't want to hear anything else from her.

"So basically, we don't know anything."

Dinah nervously tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. "Pretty much, yeah."

"Great," Helena huffed, clearly in a bad mood.

Not for the first time, Dinah wished she wasn't the one who had to keep the brunette updated on Birds of Prey business. Helena never took it well. Dinah knew the anger and frustration weren't directed at her, but it managed to hurt her feelings just the same. After all the months she had been living at the clock tower, she still felt insecure at times.

What if Barbara decided that she was too much trouble to have around now that Helena was gone? Or that Dick was capable of handling the crime fighting and she wasn't needed?

The feeling of a warm hand coming to rest comfortably on her shoulder snapped Dinah out of her panicked thoughts. Smiling sheepishly, she glanced at the other member of their impromptu meeting. Gabby smiled back at her and instantly Dinah felt better. She really needed to stop getting herself so worked up about things that were never going to happen. Barbara would never get rid of her; they were family – even if their family was a little broken at the moment.

"So what exactly are you doing here again, Blondie?" Helena said regarding Gabby with an antagonistic gleam in her eye.


"What? I was just asking." Helena honestly looked confused.

Dinah couldn't believe it. "Hello? Rude much?"

"Um, no. Simple question, much."

"God, you're impossible!"

Dinah became aware that Gabby had been watching the entire exchange, her head moving back and forth between them as if she was watching a verbal tennis match. A wide grin stretched her face, causing Dinah to blush.

"Sorry about that," she apologized to her best friend. "We haven't been able to train her yet."

Dinah sported her own grin as Helena spluttered. She knew she would pay for it later, but it was worth it to hear Gabby laugh.

"It's cool. I know you guys are still getting used to having me around." Taking a sip from her coffee, the blond regarded Helena steadily. "I wish I could help out more."

Dinah decided Helena must actually be having a good day when she didn't immediately come back with a sarcastic remark. Instead, cerulean eyes wandered around the coffee shop lazily before tracking back to their small group. "You do fine. You're there for Dinah. That's what counts." Helena seemed to sink farther into her depression as she finished speaking, and Dinah knew she was thinking about Barbara.

Obviously it wasn't her meta abilities kicking in because Gabby gave the brunette a sympathetic look as well, but was smart enough not to let her see it. Helena hated it when anyone thought she was weak.

"I was thinking . . ." Gabby stopped, clearly hesitant to say anything. Finally she seemed to make up her mind and continued, ". . .Maybe Barbara could teach me some computer skills. I know I could never take her place," Gabby spoke quickly, already anticipating Helena's response, "but I might be able to give her a break sometimes."

Helena seemed to withdraw into herself, clearly thinking it over. For her part, Dinah was regarding her best friend in disbelief.

"When did you decide this?" She spoke in a hushed whisper even though she knew Helena's meta-hearing would pick up every word. "You never talked to me about this."

Gabby blushed slightly. "Yeah, I know. It's just . . . I really want to do more. I kinda feel like I'm just in the way, something else you guys have to worry about, without contributing anything." Gabby's blush deepened. "Also, I thought it might let us spend more time together. You're always on sweeps, and there's nothing for me to do."

Dinah hadn't known she felt that way. Some telepath she was. She promised herself she would pay more attention to her friend from now on.

Helena coughed to focus their attention away from each other. "It's not my decision. You'll have to talk to Barbara, but I don't have a problem with it."

"Thanks." Gabby gave the brunette a smile which was barely returned.

"No problem. Just don't come crying to me when you're bored out of your mind. Barbara tried to teach me once and I almost slipped into a coma."

Gabby smiled crookedly. "Did you ever think the problem was that you only tried once?"

"No. Can't say that occurred to me."

Dinah tried to get between them. Helena's eyes were narrowing, indicating she was starting to get annoyed. The brunette could only take so much teasing.

"Well at least you didn't crash her computer. That would have really pissed Barbara off."

Dinah winced as Helena's face flushed. This was not good. Gabby had unwittingly brought up one of the things about-which-they-did-not-speak. The teen quickly tried to come up with a way to protect Gabby, and herself, from the coming tantrum. For some reason her mind kept insisting that cowering under the table was her best option.

As she waited for the explosion, Dinah almost fell off her chair when she heard laughter instead.

"You've definitely got some nerves, Blondie, I'll give you that. Hasn't anyone told you I can be violent when provoked?" Helena seemed genuinely amused by it all, which was better than the moping and brooding Dinah supposed, and the violent rages, couldn't forget that. However, it left her nervously waiting for the other shoe to drop.

"I'm not worried." Gabby waved her hand negligently. "I'll just give you a ball of string to play with. That should keep you occupied."

Helena and Dinah watched her walk off with vaguely stunned expressions, both thinking the blond was obviously suicidal.

"Care to explain that?"

Dinah turned in her chair to regard her glowering partner. "Uh . . . she asked me what your power was. What was I supposed to say?" Dinah tried in her best put-upon voice. "We didn't tell her about your abilities when she came to the tower, and then you and Barbara had your big fight and she didn't get to come over again, and how was I supposed to know she . . ."

Dinah cut herself off, realizing too late what she had done. She knew she was the only one that Helena allowed herself to talk to about her problems with Barbara . . . but only when the brunette brought it up. Dinah starting the conversation was the quickest way to piss her off, or even worse in the teen's opinion, get her to pull away.

Sneaking a glance, Dinah was relieved to see that Helena looked . . . pensive instead of enraged or lost. Dinah had seen more than enough of those expressions on the faces of the two most important people in her life.

"I'm sorry . . ." Dinah began to apologize.

"Don't be." Helena shrugged her slim shoulders and looked at her with something approaching gentleness. "I know you didn't mean anything. I know it's hard for you, and I just wanted to say I'm sorry. You didn't ask to be thrown into the middle of this, and after everything that's happened with your mom and Harley, well . . . I wish I could make it better."

Dinah quickly glanced out the window so she could get herself under control. That was the nicest thing Helena had ever said to her. Of course before, the nicest thing had been "Move before I hurt you" – mostly since Helena had actually warned her - but this was way better.

"I, um . . . sure no problem." She decided it was definitely time to lighten the mood. "And just for the record, I'm pretty sure I did ask for this – even after you punched me in the face." She was happy to see a smirk appear on the tan features. "I wanted to live with you and Barbara and train to be a super hero. I love you guys; I just want both of you to be happy."

"Thanks." Dinah could tell that Helena meant it, but there was something else. With the flash of insight that sometimes hit her at unexpected times, she realized Helena truly didn't expect to be happy again.

It always stunned Dinah to realize that Helena wasn't the badass she pretended to be around almost everyone else. Sometimes, Helena needed someone to hold her and tell her everything would be all right just like Dinah did, even if she would never admit it.

She was forced to bite the inside of her cheek to keep from wrapping her arms around the woman she considered to be her older sister. She knew it would be completely unwelcome and probably earn her some bruises, but it would almost be worth it if she could help Helena in some small way.

Dinah still didn't know exactly what happened between the two women, but it must have been horrible. She had come home from Gabby's the morning after they had rescued Helena from the sewers to find everything had changed.

She had expected to be scolded by Barbara because of the deaths. It had bothered Dinah, but there was nothing she or Helena could have done. However, she'd known Barbara would feel it was her responsibility to lecture her about being more careful before her mentor offered to talk about how she was feeling. In its own way, it had become a comforting ritual between them.

So, prepared for the scolding, Dinah had walked blindly into the clock tower, only to stop dead when she'd seen what awaited her. Dishes and various computer components had littered the floor, gleaming dully in the light from the Delphi monitors, the only illumination in the building. For a moment, she'd had a horrible thought that somehow Harley had escaped from Arkham and attacked the tower again. She'd taken several stumbling steps towards the com speakers, before she'd noticed the figure through the balcony doors.

Slowly, she'd made her way outside, the click of the doors closing behind her causing her wince in the complete silence. She had wanted to lay her hand on Barbara's shoulder, to ask if she was all right, but something made her hesitate. When the older woman had finally turned to her, she was glad she had. Whatever had caused Barbara to cry so hard and leave that kind of devastation on her features, was not something Dinah wanted to experience first hand.

"I'm sorry about the mess."

Dinah had actually jumped at the cracked and broken voice. She hadn't known what to say, or how to ask what the hell was going on, but Barbara had seemed to understand.

"It's complicated. Helena and I had a . . . falling out." Barbara had chuckled a little, but the sound contained no humor.

Without thinking, Dinah had blurted out the first thing that came to mind. "Oh God, she's not leaving again is she?"

Barbara had visibly flinched. "No, she promised she wouldn't." The redhead had sounded like she was trying to convince herself. Looking at Dinah with determined green eyes she'd continued. "We will work this out Dinah. It's just going to take time. Try to be patient."

And Dinah had tried. She had given them space, run messages back and forth, and generally tried to help wherever she could, but things were getting out of hand. She knew that Barbara had confronted Helena about her feelings – which made Dinah feel like an idiot.

How could she not have known that Helena was in love with Barbara? It was so obvious when she took the time to think about it. Looking back, Helena had done an amazing job of hiding it for so long.

Somehow Barbara had figured it out though, and this had led to their fight, but what Dinah couldn't understand was why. If they were both in love, why didn't they just put it behind them and be together?

The sound of footsteps drew Dinah out of her thoughts, and she couldn't hide her relief when Gabby sat back down clutching a croissant, neatly ending the awkward conversation between the two crime fighters. Helena gave her a sardonic, but strangely sympathetic smile before pushing herself away from the table.

"Well, I've got to go. Things to do, people to beat up. Never a dull moment," the brunette said airily as she edged her way toward the door.

Gabby gave a half wave, her mouth full of the pastry.

"Bye, Helena." Dinah knew she sounded as lost as she felt when Gabby placed her hand gently on her knee. Meeting the concerned hazel eyes, she tried to look reassuring.

She hoped Barbara and Helena worked everything out soon. She really needed to talk to Helena about a few things, namely, how exactly did you ask another girl on a date?

Helena was aware that most people assumed she wore black as a statement of her dark and brooding nature, and that was definitely part of it, but the truth was, in Gotham's dim and seedy alleys, black provided the best camouflage. Now, red on the other hand didn't blend in quite as well, and that's how she finally tracked down her prey.

A tall figure stood between a brown dumpster and discarded trash bags, the blood-red of his robe blatant against the bleak colors of the alley. As she prepared to perform her patented drop from the rooftops, Helena noticed that the man was unnaturally still. She couldn't even hear him breathe. Looking more closely at his robes, she could see darker patches marring the fabric in irregular splashes. This was definitely their guy.

"Oracle, I've found our guy. I'm going in."

Not bothering to wait for a response, Helena let herself fall over the edge, adding a perfect somersault, before her boots lightly touched down on the asphalt. She had deliberately made more noise than normal, hoping to startle a reaction out of the figure, but he continued to stand calmly with his back to her.

Helena decided she was being too subtle.

"So, are you an extra for the new Harry Potter movie? Because I've got to tell you, I've always wanted to get into acting. Can you give me the number for your agent?"

At the sound of her voice, the figure finally displayed some life, a slight ripple moving throughout the rich fabric. Helena watched, alert for any threat, as he slowly turned to face her, revealing what had been concealed by his frame.

Helena gasped at the protruding eyes in the white face. She was suddenly back in the cargo hold of the Fallen Star, vainly trying to escape the same accusing stares of the crew – those that still had faces to stare with. Focusing back on the present, her eyes were drawn to the gaping wound in the woman's neck. Her entire throat had been ripped out, leaving pale ribbons of flesh to hang down her chest, while straight chestnut hair stuck to the bloody edges.

Turning away from the horrifying scene, Helena looked at the figure as he casually allowed the body to fall at his feet with a sickening smack. Blood formed a sinister waterfall down his chin and joined the old stains on the front of his costume. A white skull embroidered on his hood caught the weak light and glowed feebly. Red eyes the color of his robes peered out of the hood. Helena felt like she was drowning in the crimson glare.

"Huntress, do you copy? What's the situation?"

Oracle's voice snapped her out of her trance, and caused Helena to take several steps away from the figure which had yet to move or speak, but merely continued to stare at her with his hypnotic eyes.

Not quite as bad as Harley, but she definitely needed to be more careful.

"I copy, Oracle. I've got him cornered, but he's already killed the victim." Helena spoke softly into her necklace and watched as the man tilted his head slightly in curiosity.

"Don't engage until we're sure what we're dealing with, Huntress. What can you tell me about him?"

Still keeping a wary eye on her prey, Helena responded. "Well, he's wearing red robes with a skull symbol on the hood, and he's got glowing red eyes. Oh, and he likes to drink blood. So I'm pretty sure this guy's a freaking vampire."

"Forgive my manners, but I don't usually take the opportunity for conversation."

Helena jumped when a third voice entered their exchange. The tones were low and rasping, but somehow liquid, as if they were spoken through a viscous fluid. The entire effect was incredibly unnerving and set Helena's teeth on edge.

Ignoring Oracle's voice in her ear, Helena addressed the figure. "Well, at least you can talk. It'll make beating the answers out of you a lot easier."

The man – vampire – made a casual signal of dismissal. "I'm waiting for a different defender of the night. You are inconsequential. If you leave now, I might spare your life."

"Funny, I was just about to make you the same offer, and if you're waiting for another super hero, you're going to be disappointed. New Gotham is my city." Who did this guy think he was, calling her inconsequential? She'd go inconsequential all over his ass.

The figure gave a gurgling chuckle, and if Helena had been disturbed by his voice before, this sound was enough to get her a room at Arkham. She forced her hands to remain at her sides and not cover her ears. She watched as the vampire studied her and then seemed to dismiss her with a glance.

"So you're his replacement. An interesting choice. He always did have a soft spot for his women. Perhaps you will tell me about it before you die."

For a second, Helena was stunned. If they were talking about what she thought they were talking about, then just . . . eww.

She held up both hands palm out. "Whoa, you so have the wrong idea. It's not like that; it's more of an inheritance thing."

The vampire's eyes flashed with interest, and Helena considered the possibility that she should have kept her mouth shut.

"Well, if I can't have the Bat, I'll just have to settle for the next best thing."

Helena felt the adrenaline surge through her body, she was tired of talking. "Come and get it Dracula."

The figure chuckled again. "You may call me Niccolai."

"I don't know, Dracula has better ring to it."

"Perhaps, but Mr. Stoker's monster was purely fiction. I, on the other hand, am the genuine artifact."

"Artifact is right. Does the nursing home know you're missing?"

The thin lips pulled back in a smile exposing the sharp fangs to the weak illumination. "You're actually quite amusing. Something you inherited from you mother I take it."

"Leave my mother out of this!"

Helena charged at the vampire, swinging her right fist in an arc to his jaw. Her eyes widened as she watched the man remain still, letting the punch connect. His entire head snapped to the left, but without any visible signs of discomfort. He merely turned back to face her, still smiling. Before she could blink, one pale hand flashed out and caught her wrist, squeezing tightly. The pressure was enough to cause her to grunt in pain as the bones ground together.

"What the hell?"

Helena cried out as his arm flexed and a sharp snap echoed in the alley. Looking dazedly at her hand, she could see that the back was now touching her arm. She had never paid much attention in biology, but she was pretty sure the bones didn't go that way – and they weren't supposed to be outside her skin.

She couldn't stop the soft whimpers that escaped her throat as she was shoved up against the alley wall, and the man's lips softly brushed her ear. His breath smelled like old blood and Helena did her best not to gag, her shattered wrist already making her nauseous.

"Don't cry little bat, I'll take away the pain." She felt his lips move down to her throat and shivered as sharp teeth rested against her pulse.

Suddenly, words that Barbara had drilled into her head when she first started training flashed into her mind. When in doubt, hit them where it hurts.

"Nobody calls me a bat!"

Helena brought her knee up sharply and was rewarded with a bellow of pain from the figure in red. Not stopping for her usual retreating banter, she simply fled, scaling the fire escape in two leaps and taking off across the rooftops, her injured wrist cradled against her body.

She stretched her senses desperately, trying to detect any pursuit, but there was nothing. Helena pushed herself to greater speed when she realized why. The man was a hunter like her. He would be willing to wait for his prey to come to him - and Barbara was playing right into his hands.

Anyone unfamiliar with Barbara Gordon would think that the woman was completely calm as her hands moved confidently over the multiple keyboards of the Delphi system. The composed set to her features lent credence to this observation. Nothing could be further from the truth, however. Not having heard from Huntress in over twenty minutes, Barbara Gordon was, in fact, more than anxious.

Huntress' last communication had been unusual, even considering what her team normally dealt with. Helena had identified the suspect as a vampire, but Barbara didn't believe in vampires or the so called supernatural in general. She would always be a scientist at heart. The man was most likely suffering from a particularly aggressive mutation, coupled with a psychotic personality.

Her criminal database hadn't turned up any matches given Helena's description, which she found very disturbing. Barbara had designed the program herself, and it was capable of searching any police record or case file in the world. If their suspect had killed before, and it only seemed logical that he had, the Delphi should have picked up on it. Instead, she was left twiddling her thumbs and waiting anxiously for Helena to return.

There was however, one place she hadn't looked yet.

Barbara had never linked the Batcave computer to the Delphi in all the years Batman had been absent from New Gotham. It would have been a simple matter, but respect for the privacy Bruce Wayne valued so highly and the very real danger that an enemy would gain access to the Delphi – as Quinn had almost done – had kept her from attempting the procedure. Now she was left cursing her reluctance, since it would mean an actual physical trip to Wayne Manor.

A welcome thump from the balcony pulled Barbara away from her musings on how best to get her chair into the Batcave, a fortress designed to make entry difficult for anyone, let alone someone in a wheelchair. Rolling herself away from the Delphi, she quickly ascended the ramp leading to the balcony and pushed open the doors, surprised Helena hadn't beaten her to it. Whatever scolding she had intended to deliver died on her lips when she saw the pallor of the younger woman, and the way she held her right arm against her chest.

"Helena, are you injured?"

Huntress didn't respond, but continued to watch her with slitted, golden eyes. It was still jarring to meet that familiar gaze, now surrounded by a simple black mask. Sometimes Barbara wished she had never suggested the idea. She missed the carefree confidence that Helena had displayed with her casual disregard for her secret identity. It seemed that lately everything about the brunette had become guarded.

Barbara was careful to move slowly and not offer any threat. It wasn't something they ever talked about, but the few times Helena had been seriously injured, her feral side seemed to take over and she became a danger to herself and everyone around her.

The first time it happened, Helena had just started running missions for her as Huntress and a would-be rapist had gotten lucky with a switch blade. After the teenager managed to drag herself home, Barbara had been too caught up in her own guilt to recognize the danger. When she tried to get a look at the wound, Helena had lashed out violently, injuring herself further in the process. Only Barbara's highly trained reflexes had saved her from a severe concussion, and she had still had to come up with an excuse for her black eye at school the next day. She had eventually calmed Helena down by speaking soothingly and giving her space, but she had learned her lesson.

It suddenly occurred to Barbara that this incident may have been the beginning of her current troubles with Helena. She knew it had seriously bothered her friend at the time, caused her to doubt herself, but somehow she had to find a way to convince the brunette what she already knew to be true – Helena would never intentionally hurt her.

"Helena, can you hear me? I was so worried about you. I really think you should let me take a look at your arm. Can you let me do that, Hel?"

It seemed like her babbling was having the desired effect. Helena's muscles were slowly unclenching, and when her eyes returned to their normal blue, Barbara knew it was safe to approach.

Without a word, Helena held out her arm and Barbara almost cried out in shock. The scaphoid, capitate, and radius were obviously broken, maybe even shattered. The skin was punctured in several places where bone had pushed through and ligaments had been torn away. She couldn't imagine the force necessary to injure Helena so severely.

Barbara quickly did a mental inventory of the supplies she would need to set Helena's wrist. It would be an extensive procedure. She would probably have to sedate her even though the young woman had a high pain threshold and hated any kind of medication.

As she gently led Helena inside, she considered that might be the easy part. Helena's healing abilities were simply incredible, but an injury of this magnitude would be a challenge for even the meta-human. She might never regain full use of the hand no matter what Barbara did.

Filling a syringe with the strongest tranquilizer on the market, Barbara considered how to break the news to Helena. However, one look into haunted eyes convinced her she had more important things to focus on at the moment.

The lines of pain began to relax on Helena's face and blue eyes began to droop as the medicine took effect. Reaching out with her good hand, the brunette covered Barbara's hands with her own.

"I couldn't save her . . . hunter . . . looking for Batman. Don't give him a reason to . . . find you." Helena's speech was slow and halting.

Barbara didn't respond as she soothed the unruly bangs back from her forehead and gently pulled the mask from slackened features. Helena was obviously not thinking clearly.

When she was sure that her friend was asleep, Barbara began preparing to realign the bones in the slender wrist before starting the more complicated surgery. She couldn't resist running her fingertips up the tan arm, the friction of the small hairs causing a shiver to travel down her spine until the sensation ended at her waist.

With renewed determination, she began to work. First she would make sure Helena was alright, and then she would find out who this "vampire" was, and then Barbara would make him pay for hurting the woman she cared for.

Part 3

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