DISCLAIMER: The characters herein are used without permission. No infringement intended.
CHALLENGE: Submitted for the first International Day of Femslash.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
A Birds of Prey Christmas Carol
By Erin Griffin
Selena Kyle was dead to begin with. You, my readers, must remember this as I retell this tale or nothing on this page will be extraordinary. This, though, is true, for Helena Kyle, Selena's beloved daughter, saw the blood mix with the rain, her cries for help drowned in the thunder of the angry night sky. Helena's life forever changed that night as her helpless tears became a powerful rage that only one woman, a paralyzed school teacher, could soothe. That rage soon became a weapon, one used for good in the lost city of New Gotham as Helena became the Huntress, a defender of the weak, and she was good at it. That is, until a mad woman tore through her life seven years later, destroying the one place she ever knew of as home, Barbara Gordon's heart. It was then three weeks later to the day that this story begins, one snowy Christmas Eve night.
<One of the security cameras on Rainier street shows a girl approximately twenty, twenty one years of age walking with a suspicious man about thirty years old a couple hundred paces behind her.>
"Finally, some action," Helena murmured, watching her young partner fidget with her new costume. She hated to admit it, but it looked nice on her, and Dinah looked so much like her mother in it. "You keep doing that and it will itch more, trust me. Leave it alone."
"Says the woman who never wore a mask," Dinah shot back.
"Don't get smart with me," Helena snapped.
"You know the routine. Rainier's three blocks ahead. I'll be up top," Helena said as if Barbara hadn't spoken.
"Meet you there," Dinah said, putting her mask a little higher on her face. When she looked back again, Helena was gone and Dinah rolled her eyes.
Fourteen stories up, Helena peered over the edge and down at the young blonde, who started running towards Rainier. The half-metahuman silently wished Barbara would let her start training Dinah on the cables to make the sweeps go by faster. She hated looking over her shoulder every few minutes to make sure the girl didn't get hurt. If she were to get herself killed, Helena would never hear the end of it from Oracle, and she already had a headache from the awful Christmas music Leonard insisted on playing since the day after Thanksgiving. Helena leaped from the fourteen story building - a bank headquarters - down to a nine story office building. She felt almost free as she listened to her boots crunch the snow under her, and was momentarily thankful for footwear that was slip and fall proof. Crime fighting was so much easier when you weren't falling on your ass every few minutes.
Helena was surprised by the scene as she looked below her after jumping to a five story apartment building, as there was a young woman standing on a well lit, but secluded sidewalk facing her attacker with a blank face. The girl, from Helena's angle was lanky, seeming to look her attacker in the eye, challenging him. The man had a gun pointed at her chest and was shouting at her. Still, the young woman didn't move or speak. This girl was either brave or stupid, Helena decided, and then figured she was a little bit of both, but said nothing out loud. She wanted to make sure her interference won't get her killed, so she stayed where she was and watched. The girl was indeed about twenty-one, and looked to be of Native American ethnicity. Her black hair in the light had a bit of brown in it, and it was long, down to the middle of her back.
About a block away, Dinah appeared, but once she saw Helena, she stopped, waiting for some sort of signal from her. The two crime fighters locked eyes, and Helena nodded visibly to her, allowing her to slowly walk the rest of the way. Helena waiting for the girl to get close enough, then jumped down to the ground behind the man. Before he could figure out what was happening, the brunette woman had an arm locked around the man's neck and kicked at his hand, the one holding the gun. Dinah got to the scene and kicked the gun away from the grappling pair. Then she hid the black haired woman in the doorway of a business and out of sight of the man and Helena, even though Helena could still sense their presence.
The man soon passed out from the lack of oxygen, and Helena walked over to where the two young women were. "You can come out now. I took care of 'im." Helena hauled the man over her shoulder and watched as Dinah coaxed the young woman out of their hiding place and onto the sidewalk more, Dinah rubbing her back as she spoke to her. "Get her home, then you get on home, too."
"Will you be by later?" Helena stared at her blankly before speaking.
"Why?" She hadn't meant to sound as if it was the dumbest idea she had ever heard, but she couldn't take the words back once they had been said, and Helena had the sense to know that a simple 'I'm sorry' wouldn't do the trick, so she stayed silent. To give Dinah credit where it was due, she hid her hurt well, but there was the smallest of posture changes that Helena had picked up.
"No reason, I guess," she said, though Helena could hear the unspoken words she wanted to say. 'It's only Christmas, but never mind.' "What about tomorrow?"
"Don't count on it," the brunette said in a tired tone. Helena turned and walked towards the police station and heard a sigh behind her.
"Alright. Well... Merry Christmas, then."
"Yeah, you too, Kid," Helena replied absently. She kept her head down against the wind as it blew white flakes against her, picking up speed at the same time she did. She kept her senses open, knowing that no one was near her except for the two women behind her, and they were going in the other direction. Slowly, a small police station appeared in her vision, and she wondered if the great detective was still there, filling out paper work while criminals were asleep in their cells hoping Santa would bring them packs of cigarettes for Christmas. She peeked in the window and saw that, sure enough, Detective Jesse Reece sat at his computer, typing up notes from his notepad onto his document. He looked up and sighed at the sight of the man on Helena's shoulder. They both knew that it all meant that Reece had yet more paperwork to do in order to cover up Huntress' involvement in this man's arrest. The dark skinned man was tempted to throw all of the untyped paperwork into the shredder, let the criminals go with a slap on the wrist and a firm verbal warning, and call it a night.
"What'd he do? Correction: What'd he almost do before you whooped his butt?" That actually earned him a small smile before Helena replied.
"Attempted robbery and who knows what else. He was stalking some girl on Rainier street, and Oracle says that there's a security camera over Anthony's Pizza on that street that caught the whole thing if it will make the paperwork go by faster," Helena supplied.
"It won't, but thank you for the tip."
"You got plans for tomorrow?"
"Mom's got my dad on some heart healthy diet, so I told them I had to work tomorrow. I'll drop by, probably after the Tofurkey's gone." He made a face.
"You could hang with the family. Bloodhound, Oracle, Canary, The Butler, The Kid's Little Blonde Friend, you know-"
"Wait, Dinah's got a friend who knows about headquarters?"
"No, Oracle's hosting the shin-dig over at her place. She and Canary have been living there instead of headquarters like before, and they go there on weekends and after school." Jesse nodded, and Helena unloaded the man onto the floor. He groaned and rolled into a more comfortable position, but said nothing, hoping that playing dead would make things easier on him. "Anything else you need from me?"
"No, I'm pretty sure I've got everything. I'll just use a statement from another guy you've bagged for us, and reword some things."
"Ah, good fun," Helena muttered, and Reece rolled his eyes. "Well, I will see you around, Detective."
"You're not going to the shin-dig tomorrow?"
"Nope, I'm going to make like a bear and hibernate until Easter. I don't much like all this snow."
"What about Canary and Oracle?"
"They'll live. I'll be around. I just can't handle it all right now," Helena said with a shrug.
"Now is the best time to be with family-"
"Like you and the Tofurkey."
"Touché'." Reece looked at the wall clock. "Wow, eleven-fifteen. I better get back to work. I really do hope things work out for you."
"You too. If you're serious about all that family stuff, maybe you should give Tofurkey a try so your dad won't have to suffer alone." Reece smiled and nodded, and Helena left. "Oracle, I am going offline. See you around."
<I thought you were going to watch 'It's A Wonderful Life' with us tonight. You did promise Dinah that you would.> Huh. Dinah didn't say anything like that back on Rainier street when she was taking care of the girl. She tried her best to be strong and pretended to shrug it off. Helena shrugged, knowing Oracle wouldn't be able to see it.
"She's tough. She'll get over it," she said somewhat coldly. There was a sigh, and Helena knew it had disappointment all over it, but she ignored it.
" 'Night." She jumped from roof to roof, climbing the fire escapes and landing on balconies, but once she got to the top of the tallest building in the area, she froze. "No, that's impossible."
Now, you must remember that Selena Kyle died more than seven years before, her body barely more than a skeleton by the time this story took place. A chill went down Helena's spine that had nothing to do with the snowy weather all around her, for she felt a presence near her that shouldn't have been there at all. Being on a rooftop at eleven-fifteen on Christmas Eve, no one should have been there- not even the brunette- but the half-meta knew that something was wrong. She felt her mother there just as she had when she was in the school play at the age of fifteen. She had known she was there, but never saw her in the house seats. It was, as Helena said, impossible for her presence to be there then. Selena was dead.
Helena broke into a run. Surely she was just imagining things because she missed her mother so much, especially this time of year. She didn't stop until she reached the Dark Horse Bar, her home sweet home for the time being. She put her key into the lock and something caught her attention. She looked at her reflection in the glass. Standing elegant as she had ever been was Selena Kyle. Though feral, her eyes were sad as Helena's matching feral eyes were angry. Selena wore the same blue business suit she had died in. They locked eyes in the glass, and Helena couldn't move or speak. When her mother's reflection moved to touch her shoulder, she cried out in surprise and fright, and moved away. Her sharp cry echoed in the night, but no one seemed to hear it. When she looked back at the glass, her reflection was alone. The woman frowned, convincing herself that it was all in her head, that she was just tired and she'd be better in the morning.
Helena walked slowly up the stairs after locking the glass doors behind her and made her way to her small studio, where she spread her coat over the back of her desk chair and opened her refrigerator door. "Hmmm," she murmured to herself, as no one, not even a presence, was there to hear her. "Slim pickin's tonight." She closed the door and sat on her bed, turning the TV on. A black and white movie was on, and remembering her promise to the blonde girl to watch 'It's A Wonderful Life' with her, as was the tradition she and Barbara had continued about six years ago, she switched the channel. Not out of guilt, she told herself firmly, but because the movie was boring... Yeah, boring. The news was on, and when she saw that it was a bunch of carolers, she turned the TV off completely with a muttered, "Humbug,". She looked at her blank TV screen for a moment, and then settled down to sleep.
She hadn't been asleep for very long when something woke her about a half an hour later; a sudden chill across her slim body caused her eyes to open and her whole body go feral. Looking around, she saw nothing out of the ordinary. She looked at the clock and saw that it was midnight on the dot. She checked her window and saw that it wasn't open. In fact, it was tightly shut, and she couldn't seem to explain away the sudden chill as she rubbed her arms. When she turned around, however, she was face to face with her mother, and Helena jumped at the sudden sight of her, having not heard or felt her first. She put a hand over her eyes and counted to ten, then lowered it. When she looked again, her mother was gone. Helena sighed with relief. "It hurts me to see you this way, Kitten. It's so much colder inside than it will ever be out there." Helena turned quickly to see her mother sitting on her bed where she had just been a moment ago. Her right leg was crossed over her left, and she was watching her. Selena went on, "You've got people in your life who love you, and you're pushing them away. You're lucky they're willing to push back." Helena couldn't seem to find her voice. "I've seen your future, sweetheart. I know exactly what will happen if you continue to be this way, and I love you too much to let that happen to you." Selina got up and approached her daughter. "You're a strong young woman, Helena, and I know that you can rise above this pain if you'll just hold on." The older Kyle looked thoughtful, the said, "I have a few friends who will come visit you-"
"Oh Mom, you're not going to pull a Dickens on me are you?" And there's the proof she needed that she'd flipped. She decided then that she was completely insane. It was one thing when she saw the images, but to speak back? Can you say 'coo coo'? Either way, Selena smiled a slow smile, and the young woman couldn't help but grin back. Yup, craziness on a stick.
"I know... I know, but it is the only way I think you will see what is going on in your life, Helena. So. You know the drill. Expect your first visitor when the clock strikes one. I wish I could stay, but I was only given a moment or two to give you that message." She wrapped her arms around her daughter, and Helena was surprised by the fact that she could feel her mother, that she was solid. She forced herself to not just physically let go of her mother. "Remember Kitten, when the clock strikes one, so I suggest you get some sleep. Tonight is going to be a long night for you." With those words, Selena Kyle vanished and was gone.
Helena sat down on her bed and could only think one word. 'Fuck.' Really, just 'fuck'. She knew that no matter what, this wasn't good. If she hadn't just imagined all of that, then she was about to have a ghost fest worthy enough to make that kid from 'The Sixth Sense' piss his pants. If she HAD just imagined all of that, then... Well, she really had some problem on her hands, and she might as well keep Arkham Asylum on speed dial. Maybe it was just stress. If anything, she could take her mother's ghost's advice and get some sleep. It would all go away in the morning. After all, she HAD told Reece that she wanted to hibernate the winter away. She sat above her blankets, then slowly lay her head down and drifted off to sleep.
Not long after Helena fell into a short, dreamless sleep did she awaken. Again, someone was in her room. At her window was a glowing figure who approached her. "Rise and shine, Sleeping Beauty!" Helena sat up and looked into the eyes of her crime fighting partner.
"Dinah, what the hell are you doing at my apartment? Better yet, how the hell did you get in here?" The blonde grinned, and Helena felt her anger rising.
"I am actually not Dinah." If Helena hadn't heard the thick accent, she would have said that the figure was lying and to go home and never go to her apartment again, but she stood up and watched the figure closely.
"Are you the 'friend' my mother told me about?"
"Well... You don't need to take the shape of Dinah. It sort of creeps me out."
"Yes, your usage of the word 'Hell' makes me very much believe that you're creeped out. You know what I think?"
"I didn't ask, and no, I don't care."
"I think you don't like the sight of Dinah because you've got a guilty conscious. Which is good, you know. It means there's a heart in there somewhere. Either way, I will switch into another form. One that won't so called 'creep you out'." The image of Dinah grew a few inches and darkened. The muscles on her arms got larger, and the hair shortened and darkened. Before her then was a tall African American man who looked as if he could really do some damage to her, meta or not, if she pissed him off. "Better?"
"Yes. Thank you." She said, not out of politeness, but out of habit when someone says 'Better?'.
"My name's Edgar, Eddy, Ed... Ghost of Christmas Past if you will. Or Past for short."
"You don't shut up, do you?" Helena muttered.
"I heard that, and yes, I do. I just choose to keep talking simply to piss you off, and you can't do anything because, why? Because you can't hurt a dead person. Now, let's get going. I have lots to show you. Ready?"
"Will I ever be ready for some Ghost to show me a past I've tried to forget? Probably not."
"Come on. I've got lots to show you," he said again. A thought occurred to Helena that made her curious.
"How will we get there? To the past, I mean?" Her snarkiness slowly leaving, she looked up at the tall Spirit.
"Somehow, I should have seen that one coming."
"Take my hand, and we'll jump. If you don't, you'll just land on the ground like normal, but if you take my hand, we'll enter the past with my uber cool spirit magic." Helena smiled at that.
" 'Uber Cool Spirit Magic' sounds like the name of a teeny bopper girl group," Helena said, and Past shrugged. Helena reached out for his hand and felt a sense of familiarity about the Ghost. "Tell me Spirit, have we ever met in life?" Helena asked. To this question, both seemed to calm their battle of sarcasm, and Edgar answered her seriously.
"Oh no, I lived- and died- long before you were born. Long before your mother, even."
"Then how'd you come to be friends with my mother?"
"It's a big place, Heaven," he said as they went to the window together. On the count of three, they jumped from the window. What would have been the sturdy ground under them became a bright white light beneath them. It seemed to swallow them up. They landed on a solid surface, and Helena was less than a foot away from a little girl sitting on her apartment's fire escape- her at age eight. Helena remembered this day immediately, especially when her mother, younger by eight years, came out of the apartment to join her.
"What's the matter, Helena? You've been sad all week and you're not talking to me. You always tell me what is going on." The girl still didn't say anything, knowing that her concerns were stupid. "Come on, now. It's Christmas Eve. You should be happy and excited. You get to open a present tonight, we're gonna watch 'It's a Wonderful Life', make hot chocolate, and while we're sleeping, Santa will come-"
"No he won't, Mom," the young girl said glumly. Selena played with the girl's hair and took out the rubber band that tamed it, letting it fall to her back. That was the only time other than when she washed it that it wasn't in a long braid or ponytail.
"Is that what has been bothering you, sweetie? Are you afraid he won't come this year?" Young Helena nodded. "What gave you that impression?"
"Bobby Gheller found out last year that is dad was Santa Clause because he fell or somethin' and his beard came off. He was telling everyone about it. And I've been thinking. That song 'I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause' makes sense now. But..." The girl wiped her eyes. "I don't have a dad, so there is no Santa Clause for me... No one for you," young Helena explained to her mother. Selena stood up and picked up the eight year old.
"It makes sense now how she was able to carry me around so easily if she needed to. I just thought that all mothers were strong enough to carry their children no matter how big they got," the older brunette said. Selena carried the small girl inside and sat with her on the couch. Inside, the apartment was decorated with Christmas lights, paper snowflakes, and a couple of gingerbread houses, one missing most of its peppermint roof due to Helena's constant picking at it. Selena stroked her daughter's hair and thought of a good way to explain things to her.
"Maybe Bobby Gheller was right about something, Kitten. Maybe his father IS Santa Clause- Nonono, listen," Selena said when the girl started to protest. "Santa Clause is not completely a person, okay? Santa Clause is the spirit of Christmas. He represents what Christmas is all about. You know what Christmas is about, right?"
"Family and giving and receiving and togetherness," the girl rattled off.
"Right you are. It is a celebration of life and family. That man in the red suit is just what all of us recognize, but if he is the spirit of Christmas, then that means that anyone can be Santa Claus. If they've got the spirit of Christmas within them, then they are Santa Clause. Even you're Santa Clause, Helena. If you let the spirit of Christmas touch you, then Santa Clause will always come to you. You must always remember that, all year 'round. Do you understand?"
"I think so. Santa Clause will come tonight because I have the spirit of Christmas within me."
"That's my girl. As for me... I've got someone special in my life and that is you. I don't need anyone else." She watched her daughter for a moment. "C'mon. Let's make some hot cocoa, put on 'A Charlie Brown Christmas', and snuggle up."
"What about 'It's a Wonderful Life'?"
"We can watch that tonight, after dinner. Right now, I think we need some holiday cheer." Young Helena smiled, and kissed her mother.
"Thank you, Mom."
"I love you."
"I love you too, Mom." Young Helena got up off of her mother's lap and Selena gave her a pat on the butt before she, too, got up and went into the kitchen while the girl rifled through the VHS tapes.
"Your mother was a wise woman," Past murmured beside the grown up Helena.
"Yeah, she was amazing."
"Let's jump from here. There's more." Past reached out, and Helena didn't hesitate to take it. Part of her wondered what more she would be shown, but most of her already knew. They climbed the rail of the fire escape, and again a bright white light swallowed them up into another scene. She felt movement coming towards her and ducked, but she was too late, as a Santa Clause ornament went through her and shattered against the wall behind her.
"Helena! Alfred was only trying to help!" Barbara, looking tired and sad, newly paralyzed, wheeled over to the teenaged Helena, about seventeen then, and grabbed her arm. The girl had fire in her eyes, and her cat-like powers had just come to her, making her grief into a rage that wouldn't ever settle down. She'd taken a pair of scissors the week before and chopped her hair until there was hardly anything there, and Barbara had worked on it a little more to make it presentable. Though the teen could have easily broken the hold on her arm, since Barbara had gotten out of yet another surgery and was weakened, she lowered the 1995 ornament that was about to meet the same fate as jolly old St. Nick. "Just leave them up, please. For Heaven sake, it's Christmas Eve-"
"Christmas is dead!" Helena's teen self startled even the grown up shadow by her outburst, even though she remembered that night as well. She remembered her anger, feeling as if she was betraying her mother's memory if she enjoyed any of the traditions the Kyles had done in past years with anyone else. Helena hadn't wanted to do any of them with Barbara or Alfred, even though she knew that they were her family now. It was sometimes a hard thought to get into her head then. Helena only wanted her mother back for Christmas, knowing that was the one thing she couldn't have, and that... That was what pissed her off the most. That was what killed her inside.
Both Helenas saw the desperation on Barbara's face. Both knew that it was a hard time for her as well, having just been paralyzed as well as having to take in the teenager of a woman she had thought of as an enemy for a while. Barbara never had to look out for anyone but herself for most of her life, except for when she was Batgirl, and even then, Batman and Robin were able to care for themselves ninety-nine percent of the time. And truth be told, neither Helena or Barbara knew for sure just WHY Selena Kyle had chosen Barbara as a guardian, but it was apparent that it was her choice for quite some time. "Helena, one thing I knew about your mother is that she never stole around Christmas time because she believed that you gave more than you received at Christmas. She believed that there was a magic about Christmas that made people better. And she believed that Christmas was never, EVER dead."
Everyone in the apartment, Spirit, image, real or not, knew that Barbara's words rang true, and the younger Helena seemed to fall to the floor, her whole body shaking with her sobs. All the fight was drained from her. Helena, the older woman, looked over at Past to see he was studying Barbara intently, and there was something there, something that was mirrored in her own eyes when she sometimes looked at the redhead. Helena looked back at the scene and saw that her teen self had her head in Barbara's lap and Barbara was stroking her hair.
"Shh...I know, Helena. The world will miss out on an extraordinary woman." The redhead looked down into tearful blue eyes. "Would you be willing to start some new traditions? Not this year, but next year? When we've both healed a little more?" There was the smallest of nods.
"I miss her so much, Barbara. It feels so much like the pieces will never fit right again."
"Your mother wants you to have a good life with or without her."
"It's Christmas... You're supposed to be with family, but she's gone." The older Helena saw the slight hurt on Barbara's face, and tried to reach for her.
"I never meant that you weren't my family- What am I doing...? You can't hear me," the older woman said softly to the redhead.
"No, she can't, but I think she knew that you were in a rough spot then." Past seemed thoughtful as he studied both Helenas. "You've had six or seven other Christmas Eve's with this woman, but I sense that there is one in particular that is important to you. You know of which I speak, do you not?" Helena looked up at the Spirit, her eyes looking almost fearful, for yes, she knew exactly of which Christmas he spoke of.
"I don't want to see that day, Past. Just take me back to my apartment. I promise to be good until the Ghost of Christmas Present gets here-"
"I'm sorry, but I must show it-"
"I see it, Spirit. What you're about to show me? I see it everyday when I yearn for her," Helena said, and the Ghost looked surprised as the scene before them faded, decorations and all. They were in the same apartment, but the furniture was moved. There was a sound that was almost foreign to Helena, which came from the couch: Laughter.
"Red looks good on you, Alfred. You look like a stud." On the couch, Helena and Barbara sat, watching as Alfred Pennyworth tried on his new red scarf and black gloves. A perfect fit, and everyone in the room had to agree that twenty-one year old Helena was right. He looked nice.
"Thank you, Miss Helena. Now I won't be so cold on my way to the Manor."
"Do you have to go, Alfred? You're family, and it's Christmas Eve."
"I fear I must. If I have to watch 'It's A Wonderful Life' one more time, I'll go absolutely mad, but you ladies have a wonderful evening, and I will be back tomorrow afternoon." Helena stood up and hugged the butler.
"I'm British, I'm always safe, Miss Helena. Good night." The two women watched him leave, and the twenty one year old reached under the tree, in the far back, where she put Barbara's present. Then, she sat back on the couch.
"I got you this. I can't believe how busy it's been at the Dark Horse, but I've put in a bunch of overtime. Anyway, I thought you might like it," Helena said shyly. The older Helena put a hand over her eyes, embarrassed. She didn't want to see the scene play out, but she still heard Barbara gasp.
"It's beautiful. I've never owned a locket before."
"Don't get too excited. I couldn't find a picture small enough to put inside it, so it is empty."
"I'll think of something," Barbara said, "Thank you." Twenty three year old Helena looked at Barbara and took in her beauty even though the worse was about to come. It'd been a while since Helena had seen Barbara so happy and she knew it would be a long time still. She looked at the 'B' on the locket then quickly looked away as her twenty-one year old image helped the redhead put it on. "Barbara, there's something I've wanted to tell you for the longest time..."
"I knew there was something going on in that head of yours-"
"Please, I need to say it... Barbara, I love you."
"I love you too, Helena-"
"No, I mean, I love you. A lot... I, I..." Barbara studied the locket, and then looked at the twenty-one year old, who was expecting the words to come next.
"Helena, this is beautiful, and we'll always, ALWAYS be a family, and we'll always be a part of each other lives... But Helena, I can't... I can't love you like that. Like you want me to. Do you understand?" The younger Helena nodded, slowly leaning forward. She covered her face, then stood up.
"Yeah, I understand."
"Helena? Hey, where are you going?" The younger Helena shrugged.
"I don't know, but when I get back, I don't want to talk about this. Ever." Barbara nodded, but neither Helena saw it, as the younger Helena walked through her older shadow to retrieve her coat behind her. The twenty-one year old Helena shivered, then left, jumping from the balcony and onto the sidewalk below them. The twenty three year old Helena watched her younger self disappear before turning to look at Barbara, who slowly took off the locket, put it back in the box, then gently placed the box on the coffee-table in front of her. She then stared at the balcony young Helena had jumped from, and the twenty-three year old looked at Past, who was also lost in thought. It almost looked to Helena as though he was guilty.
"She never did," Helena said. Past looked down at her, confused.
"She kept to it. We never spoke about it, life went back to normal for a while, and Lord knows what she did with that locket. Then she met HIM. I loved- well, love- her so much, and I hated him. But it wasn't his fault; Wade had no control over the situation. It wasn't his fault that Barbara could love him like that and not me, but that didn't stop me from hating him when they started dating, and even more when he started hanging around the Clocktower. So you want to know something, Spirit? When Wade was murdered, I felt at first... disappointed that I hadn't done it before Harley Quin did. It was a split second thought, but I knew even under hypnosis, that the thought was my own."
"Why are you telling me this?" Past looked uncomfortable, and Helena felt smug for making him feel that way when he made her look at her most painful memory.
"Is that what you wanted from me? For me to see my past and see the darkness that I have in my life?" Helena asked coldly.
"Yes, but I wasn't supposed to get some sort of dark confession from you. I'm only supposed to show you the key points in your past around Christmas. I am not who angers you, Helena."
"Just take me back! I want to go back!"
"Fine. My time is up anyway." He took Helena's hand, and as soon as they got back to Helena's apartment, Helena threw the Ghost's hand away from her. "Look, you know the story of the Christmas Carol, so you know what I am about to say next. These are just images of your past, Helena, of things that have been. They're there. They're over. Choices were made, prices were paid. You can't blame me for that."
"Then as your Ebenezer Scrooge, you know what I am about to say next: Fuck off!" Helena shouted.
"He actually says, 'Leave me!'," Past corrected.
" 'Leave me', 'Fuck off'... Either way, just go!"
"Scrooges these days... Gotta love their Spirit... Oooh, I made a funny..." With that, Edgar, or Spirit or the Ghost of Christmas Past- whichever one preferred- vanished, leaving Helena once more alone in the darkness of her apartment, where she continued to torment herself with thoughts of that night two years ago to the day. She hadn't much time to dwell on it, however, as the clock on her DVD player read two minutes to two in the morning.
At precisely two o'clock, there was a soft glow in front of her in the middle of her living room/bedroom, which got brighter until a figure appeared inside of it. There was what seemed to be the presence of someone she knew there, which was comforting, except for when she realized who the presence belonged to. She was surprised when the glow left, and the newcomer wasn't the person she was expecting at all. Helena looked at this woman, an Asian woman in her late twenties. She looked to be no more than four years older than Helena, and she had a pretty smile. She was warm, and Helena couldn't help but feel comforted by her. She looked like Sandy, but she knew it wasn't her or her sister. Perhaps her mother? Helena had met her mother, who was older when she had Sandy and her sister, so no, that couldn't be it.
"I wasn't expecting for you to be awake. Usually, the Ghost of Christmas Present wakes Scrooge again." When Helena only looked down at her knees, the Spirit continued. "I know that the past is hard to swallow again after a long time of trying to repress and forget it."
"How would you know?" Helena asked, not really expecting a response, and definitely not the one she got.
"Normally, I'm cast as the role of The Ghost of Christmas Past because I am one of the younger Ghosts who do this line of afterlife work. There's angels, spirit guides, and those that act as an outer conscience- You know, the 'angel versus devil on the shoulder' sort of thing." It seemed a little far fetched to Helena, but she nodded anyway. "Your mother specifically asked me to play the Ghost of Christmas Present for you. I didn't ask questions and waited my turn." Another nod from Helena.
"I got pretty pissed at Past, and he didn't deserve it. Maybe my mother wanted to save you from my fury because you're nice and all."
"Thank you, and maybe. If you need a moment or two, I can spare it. I am pretty sure that what I have to show you won't take long."
"No... Let's get this over with. I am already emotionally exhausted, and I still have at least six images to see, am I right?" There was a sympathetic look on the Spirit's face as she nodded. Helena stood up and held out her hand. "Before we go, can I get your name just in case I get tired of calling you 'Present'?"
The Ghost took Helena's hand and let the scene shift all the while saying, "In life -and the other three hundred sixty-four days of the year- I am Francine. 'Present' doesn't sound so bad though, even though I am used to being called 'Spirit' or 'Past', like Edgar, who is usually the Ghost of Christmas Future, the Michael Clark Duncun in a hood of doom." Helena smiled, thinking back on the big Ghost. "So, here we are, welcome to the Present."
"Wow, I didn't even notice the scene change. I thought we were going to jump."
"That is Edgar's preference, but I am not to keen on heights myself."
"Okay." Helena looked around and saw that she was in Barbara's apartment once again. This time, there were no decorations at all, no tree, nothing like the years past. Was Dinah serious when she said she didn't want a tree and all that if Helena wasn't going to be there to help decorate it? She saw no signs of gifts, though she remembered hearing Dinah once fretting over what to get her best friend. Maybe she was the only one Dinah shopped for. Had they all known already that Helena wasn't going to come, so there was no need to exchange gifts?
Barbara, Gibson, and Dinah were all on the couch, Dinah with Barbara's legs rested on her lap, and a blanket over the three of them. They were watching 'It's a Wonderful Life', and it looked to be on the last couple of scenes. Helena watched Dinah and Barbara's blank faces as they looked dutifully at the screen, but paid little attention to the people moving on it. When it ended, Barbara touched Dinah's shoulder and the teen smiled, but it all was halfhearted.
"She's not angry with you or anything, Dinah. Surely you know that. It's just been rough." The blond nodded, but she didn't seem to believe her words. Dinah looked over at Gibson and studied him as Barbara took the blanket off of her and shifted into her wheelchair. No one made a move to help her, as they knew she wouldn't accept that help. "I'm going to turn in. Don't stay up too late or Santa won't come."
"Please," Dinah said with an unlady-like snort, "I stopped believing in Santa when I was nine." The two shared a smile as Gibson looked over at Barbara.
"You're gonna be warm enough on the couch? Will you need another blanket?"
"No, I will be fine, thanks." When Barbara left, the young man looked at Dinah. "Why so young?" he asked, wondering about the blonde's comment.
"Oh, it's stupid. I mean, I played along with my foster parents until I was thirteen, but deep down, I'd known the truth since I was nine somehow."
"Why, though? I'm sensing with my bloodhound senses that the daughter of the late Black Canary isn't telling me everything."
"Must you bring her up?"
"Sorry." Dinah sighed.
" 'S'fine..." she mumbled. "I told you about the dream that brought me here, right?" Gibson nodded. "And you never told Helena, right?"
"My loyalty to you is as deep as my unrequited love for Helena; My lips, therefore, are sealed."
"After I had that dream of Barbara's shooting, and of Selena's murder," At this, Helena looked surprised. She had a dream about that? It made sense after all. She'd said when they first met, 'I hoped you two would be together,', but to be honest, Helena had just thought the girl was on drugs or something. "I asked Santa for one thing and one thing only for that Christmas. I didn't think it was a big request. It wasn't even a toy. I figured if he knew when you were sleeping and if you were bad or good, then he would know if someone was alive or not. I wanted to know if the redhead was alive or not, and I wanted to know what happened to the girl after the mother died. If nothing else, I wanted a clue on how to find them." Dinah paused and laughed harshly. It was a sound Helena had never heard from the girl before, and she felt it didn't fit her. "I got My Little Pony instead."
"But you found them," Gibson said, hoping to make things lighter.
"Sure, I found them, but with no help from Santa Clause. I took a chance, bought a one way bus ticket with the babysitting money and the allowances I got. My foster parents thought I was saving up for a car, but what did they know? I've run away before, always carted back by a sheriff friend of theirs who knew me, who knew I was their little trouble making freak. I'm sure they're thinking good riddance right now at the thought of me, or maybe they're surprised I actually left the state this time. Or... Maybe they really just don't care. Well, fuck them. Fate or God or Luck or Serendipity or SOMETHING let me find them both, and I've been happier than I have been in over a decade... except Helena hates me." At this, Helena was so shocked by all of this that she took a step back. She wasn't sure if it was the hurt she heard, or if it was the way Dinah had worded everything, but it felt like a slap in the face. This wasn't right. Dinah was happy, perky no matter what. Had she really been the cause of her look of self loathing? She looked at her boots, ashamed to be her. If you could make someone like Dinah depressed, then you really were a shmuck. After all, it wasn't at all her fault she felt any of this anger and grief. She really was stuck in the middle of everything, and had even fought for the Clocktower with her Telekinetic Blasts of Doom (which, Helena had to admit, were pretty cool).
"She doesn't hate you, Dinah," Gibson said, grabbing the remote and putting the commercial for some after Christmas sale on mute.
"You don't have to say that, Gibson. I'm a touch telepath, remember? I don't have to touch her to see what she thinks of me. I've come to terms with the fact that she never really took to me. There were moments here and there where I thought we might work as a team, like the night she didn't kick my ass for trying to gut her like a fish, which surprised me, but something about me just rubs her the wrong way, and this whole idea of me being here was a mistake."
"Don't say that, Dinah. Barbara and Helena love you. You know this." Dinah glared at him. "They do," he insisted. "Look, I'm not just taking her side because I am madly in love with her-"
"Not helping your case, Gibson-"
"Okay, but- Lady Shiva," he blurted, "When Helena figured out that she was after you, she was quicker than quick trying to get to you. Damn it Dinah, listen to me!" Dinah's head turned to him obediently, and there was a look of evident surprise on her face. "Helena doesn't hate you, okay? She hates herself. She hates Harley Quinn. She hates the situation and the fact that doesn't know how to make it magically disappear. She's all for instant gratification. Kick that bad guys' ass, problem solved, but we'd kicked Harley's ass, and the problem still remains. The strain is still in her family- and that involves you too, might I add, though I shouldn't have to, since you're a smart girl and should have figured that out on your own- and it all frustrates the hell out of her." Just when Helena thought she had been thoroughly shocked for the moment, she stared at Gibson. He had put everything she felt recently into words, and they actually made sense. The brunette felt as if she'd get down on one knee and ask him to marry her (knowing he would accept in a New Gotham minute), if only she wasn't so in love with Barbara.
"You're right. I am sorry for my 'woe is me' rant." Gibson put a hand on her shoulder.
"No need to apologize. I am your friend, Dinah. That is what friends are for. Besides, it has been a bad Christmas season for all of us." Helena decided right then and there that it would end. This will not carry on into the new year. She wanted 2003 to be better. For everyone in her family, which included Gibson as well.
"I know you don't mean to, but actions really do speak louder than words," Present said softly, and Helena jumped. She'd forgotten that the Asian woman was even there. "She's smarter than you give her credit for, and her perkiness is just another mask she wears." Helena nodded at that, understanding completely.
"I really hurt her. Is it too late? I have to say I'm sorry..."
"It is never too late to apologizes... as long as you're both around. In life, there were so many things I had to apologize to h- to apologize for. But then, I died, and it was too late then." Helena caught the slip of the tongue and wondered how Francine knew Dinah. "Come on, there's more. This has already taken up more time than I had anticipated." The Spirit started walking in the direction the redhead had gone a few minutes prior.
"Why are we going in there?" Helena didn't want to walk in on Barbara changing or anything. She looked back at Dinah, who regarded Gibson and nodded, though Helena couldn't hear what had been said. Then, Dinah laughed and sounded like the girl she knew.
Helena followed Francine into the room. She was startled to find that her best friend and former guardian was fully dressed still, and she was staring out the window with a familiar box in her hand. Barbara looked as if she dared not open it, but wanted it near just the same. Helena knew what was in the box. The redhead's fingers moved delicately over the box as she thought, then she looked down at it, then back at the clouds and falling snow. She looked as if at any moment a tear might fall, but Helena knew that Barbara wouldn't cry, even in privacy of her own room. "She still has the locket," Helena breathed.
"And that surprises you?" Present asked.
"She said should couldn't love me romantically. I thought she got rid of it or locked it away somewhere, never to look at it again or something." Present looked out the window as if to think of something; a debate of some sort was going on in her mind, and that made Helena curious.
"I'm not supposed to do this, but...this is like my apology- I like you. Helena, take a closer look." Helena stared at Present, and again regarded her suspiciously, but not in a bad way. She seemed to ask the Spirit 'Who ARE you?'. "Go on, she can't see or hear you." At that, Barbara opened the box, and slowly let herself take out the locket. Helena walked closer to the redhead, her heart pounding the closer she got to her. Barbara's head shot up, and she looked around, startled.
"Helena? Are you here?" Helena froze, looking up at Present, who also looked surprised. The Ghost shrugged before Helena could say something along the lines of, 'I thought she couldn't see or hear me.'
"She's had seven years of practice- to know when I am there, because I am so silent..." Helena said as if to explain it all away. She saw the look of disappointment on Barbara's face when she felt and heard no other movements. Helena then crept closer and stood so close to the redhead that she was surprised Barbara hadn't tried to reach out and touch her. She gasped when Barbara opened the locket, for inside was a small black and white photo of Helena with her eyes tightly shut, her mouth open in a shout, and her and making a 'rock on' symbol. Her hair was purposely tousled for the shot as she sat on Barbara's lap. The older of the two had her eyes crossed and her tongue hung out the side of her mouth. Helena laughed softly, knowing that it was the best of the four pictures taken of them that day. She remembered when that was taken, about a month and a half before Dinah had appeared. They were just walking in the mall, sort of under cover, and Barbara just HAD to go get the photo booth thing done. Helena thought it was weird behavior of her, and seemed pretty spontaneous for the redhead, but went along with it. They had a blast. She realized then as she looked at the locket picture, that it might have been her plan all along to get the picture for the locket. There was a soft laugh from Barbara before she closed the locket again and looked back out the window, her face going almost expressionless. She looked again as if tears were about to fall.
Then she whispered, yet all figures in the room heard her, "I lied to you Helena, wherever you are. I can... and I do." Helena was sure she had heard the redhead wrong, but her heart seemed to pound at an even faster rhythm, then she felt that same ache she felt two years ago when Barbara said she didn't love her that way, only it felt different somehow. The sadness on her face told the brunette that there was more to it all. She knew there was. If she could, if she did, then why didn't they? Why Wade? As if to hear her inner questions, Barbara said, "I'm so sorry Wade. I tried. I really did." She said nothing else, and she didn't move after that. The snowflakes outside got bigger, yet they still fell at the same slow, leisurely rate.
"One more place to go before my time is through."
"Yes?" asked the Ghost, prompting the young woman to finish her question. Helena sighed.
"Can we go see if the kid's alright?"
"She will be-" but Helena was already gone, and Francine did her best to keep up with her. She walked quickly into the living room where she heard 'Buzz ate all my cheese pizza!' They were watching 'Home Alone', and it was at the beginning. Dinah, who was slumped on the couch, looked as if she was about to fall asleep at any moment, and Gibson sniffed the air, frowned, then shook is head, as if he couldn't have smelled the scent he smelled. Then he looked at Dinah to see if anything was amiss with her.
"I think he smelled me," Helena said with a small giggle. "Okay. Thank you. I am ready to go."
"Alright." The scene shifted, and Helena saw that they were in the hallway of an apartment building. Francine pointedly looked around, and Helena, who caught the hint, did so as well. She saw that she was at the end of a hallway, last door to the left of an elevator. On the door was the number fourteen. She saw that at the end of the hallway, on the wall behind her, was a window looking out into the night. There were no curtains, and Helena saw across from her, a bank and a Starbucks wannabe cyber cafe'. She'd gone there once or twice. The cocoa was great, the baristas weren't, and the Internet minutes were expensive. One out of three wasn't good. Helena turned back to the door, and reached out to touch the fourteen, but her hand went through. She looked at Present, who nodded at her, then she went through the door, which was the oddest sensation she ever felt.
It was dark inside, but she heard water running in another room, the bathroom, she assumed. She shifted her whole body so she could see. The apartment was slightly bigger than Helena's own studio, and the brunette was a little jealous at that fact, but then remembered that she didn't pay much for her apartment, and she hardly spent much time there, anyway. Present waved her arm, and a ghostly light illuminated the room. When Helena looked over at her, she said, "She can't see it."
"She?" Present pointed at a newspaper clipping on a computer desk. It had a girl named Misty Pinal on the picture, with three smaller pictures under hers. She was crying, eyes tightly shut, and the three other pictures were individual portrait shots. She knew that this was the girl they had saved earlier that night. The clipping told of a bombing in an apartment building across town near the Bludhaven city borders. It shook Dinah pretty badly when it happened about a month after her arrival, as it was one of those things that as a hero, they couldn't do anything about. They had no idea it was going to happen, and Dinah had no dream about it, but they had done their best to save survivors. Apparently, Misty's mom, dad, and younger brother were all in that apartment building, and none of them survived. Helena looked at the door to the bathroom and walked to it. When she heard sobs as well as water, she walked through the door, Francine following silently behind her.
On the floor in her bathrobe sat the young woman the duo saved that night. Helena looked at Present. "Why are we here?" she asked, knowing, but still afraid of the answer. Present refused to look directly at her.
"Let's just say... She's your Tiny Tim, Helena." The brunette was about to say something to that when Misty's sobs had turned to hiccupped words.
"You shouldn't have saved me. Whoever you are... you shouldn't have saved me. I wanted him to kill me." It was then that the brunette saw the scars and scabs on her legs and fresher, barely healed wounds on her arms. "I wanted to die."
"Oh my god," Helena murmured.
"She's had a rough three months," Present said, her voice just as soft. "Her last three months were about as bad as your last decade." Helena looked at Francine.
"No, it couldn't have been that bad."
"Helena," she said softly, "you lost one person. She lost three. All in one day. You got Barbara that day, where she's got no one."
"A grandmother in Bluhaven who doesn't remember her own name half the time, let alone the fact that she has a granddaughter. Misty'd gone to visit her tonight and was on her way home from the bus station when she was attacked." Misty turned suddenly, reaching behind her and into a drawer. Her hand emerged with what looked like a blade for a boxcutter.
"NO!!" Helena screamed, "Don't, please! Hold on! Hold on-" Startled, Francine reached out for Helena, who was trying to get to the girl. Helena tried to grab the blade, but her hand had gone right though. Misty shivered, but her movements still were as she planned. She made that first cut, and Helena screamed out as the girl watched the blood make a small trail down her arm until it slid to the side, dripping onto her knee. "No!"
"Helena! She can't hear you, you know this!" Francine screamed over Helena, her eyes sad. The young woman looked back at her, and Present was surprised to see her eyes had gone feral.
"Spirit please, take me back so I can go to her!"
"I can't do that. Future will be there to show you what's yet to come, and you need to be there to see it." As she said this, Francine made the seen fade away, and looked into Helena's sad but feral eyes. She watched as a tear fell from them, and she was startled by it just as much as she was startled by the woman's desperate cries for Misty to hold on.
"I don't want to know what is yet to come. I don't want to look at headstones of my family, who lie broken in the snow. I don't want to hear my name spoken like a disease in the night by people who barely ever knew me. Surely that is all to come, isn't it? And Misty... Tell me she won't die tonight."
"You know I cannot tell you that even if I did know. That is the job for the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come. I only know the now, Helena, right this moment. You must go with Future, and learn from it first, then you can fix the present. They might answer all your questions- Future can, where I cannot."
"I know what will happen, Present. I must save her before she really hurts herself. What good am I as a hero if I can't save people?"
"Tonight is designed to help you, Helena, for if the hero can't be saved, then who really can be?"
"I don't want to see what the future holds for me," Helena said again, wiping her tears.
"Do you fear you'll see the unexpected, or do you fear you'll see the future exactly as it plays in your mind right now? Either way, you must, Helena, or this night will be a waste. Trust me. Do you trust me?" At this, Helena knew that, yes, she did trust this Spirit somehow. "Then trust me when I say that your lesson will not be learned if you only know part of it. My time now is up." Francine placed a kiss on Helena's forehead, and Helena watched as she started to fade away slowly. "Merry Christmas, Helena. I wish you everything your heart desires..." With that, she was done.
Behind the very spot Franine stood was a shadow that made Helena jump. She felt cold all over at the sight of this Spirit, and she hated to admit to herself that she was scared stiff. She felt no presence with this Spirit, and didn't like that. At least with the first two Ghosts, she felt some sort of presence, and even a sense of familiarity about both of them. Slowly, Helena stood to her full height, trying to shake the fear away, and stared at her new visitor. "Of course," she said, hating the fact that her voice actually trembled, "Why couldn't there ever be a 'Christmas Carol' without some hooded bastard?" There was a careful shrug, but the figure's head was down and the hands were in the sleeves. Obviously, the new Spirit didn't want Helena to see who they were. Which was just as well; she wasn't up for the sight of some badly burned guy or a skeleton with flesh, rotten with a strong odor of death still attached to it. The figure nodded behind them and the scene changed to a cemetery. "Classic. A graveyard. This is where I see my own grave-" A careful shake of the head, and then the head nodded in the the direction in front of them, and Helena looked ahead of her.
There in front of them was a woman that she recognized, but, at the same time, didn't. She had long curly blond hair, green eyes, and she was tall. She wore a costume, though, which was black and blue spandex with an 'N' on her blue cape and black chest. On the slope of the 'N' was a thunderbolt, and a cloud surrounded the 'N', as if it were a rainbow. Her green eyes were sad, lost. In her hand was a dark blue mask, and she swung it around carelessly with her index finger in the right eye of the mask. She didn't cry. That was something Helena had expected from the graveyard scene, lots of sobbing, but she just stared at the headstone in front of her and sighed heavily. Helena looked at the headstone and saw what she expected to see. Dinah Lance, 1986-2009. The fact that she died at Helena's current age was not lost on the brunette.
"Well," the fallen superhero said, "that's it. We've had no choice now but to move Underground. No more Superfriends, which is just as well because we're all crap. We've had a combined ten years of training, the four of us have, and there's no effin' way to find Huntress. She's been gone for years, I know, but Barbara would have wanted us to keep looking for her. I went to visit her- Barbara. She'll be there for another Christmas, at least. She's just not coming around. She doesn't know me anymore, and seems to have forgotten all about everything else. Doesn't help that she's THERE. Alfred died last month. Just when I thought he COULDN'T die, he went to bed one night and just didn't wake up. Good for him, I say. Maybe you were there for him. He wanted to be taken back to England, where his wife was buried. Seriously, I didn't know he ever had a wife, but it was there in his will.
"Gibson is fine. He's been a little odd the last few times I've spoken to him. He seems convinced that there is no reason for me to speak to him now that we no longer have you or Helena or Barbara in common. Now he just watches his back so that they don't know that he's in line with the superheroes and get in trouble. They've destroyed everything. Those who haven't run Underground or out of the city just take it. Matt 'n' I try to fight the small fights, but more and more we've gotten our asses beat. Gina's still in the hospital after the last one, and doctors are starting to wonder about domestic abuse or something, not to mention the 'weird blood' she's got. We can't risk anymore.
"I feel I have failed you. I wanted to be what you and Huntress and Barbara all were once. But as soon as you died and Barbara lost it, I've done nothing to help this city. Gina, Matt and me... That is all that's left. I can't lose anymore. This whole fucking city is lost. Maybe there is no saving this city. Maybe Batman knew it all along, but just couldn't get out until he did. Maybe you knew it, too. But you still fought, didn't you? There was a beauty in the city, and maybe there still is, but I am horribly outnumbered. Reece... Well, he won't talk to me. I'm connected to you, after all. He thinks I could have stopped you from killing Al Hawk, but I could never stop you from doing anything if you really wanted it. But he deserved it this time. Huntress was there the first time after he killed your mother, but when he sent one of his goonies to attack us, you couldn't hold back. I understood. Things weren't supposed to be this way, Dinah. We were supposed to have more than two months together, even though I've loved you forever. We were supposed grow old together and like Alfred, die in our sleep." Helena looked at the young woman, the person she referred to now and then as 'Kid's Little Blonde Friend' for lack of knowing or caring to remember her name. She was silent after that. Both Helena and the blonde watched the gravesite, and then the fallen hero moved behind her and held fresh flowers. She replaced the old flowers with the new ones and moved the snow away from the grave site. "I'll love you forever," she whispered, then put her mask back on.
She looked around her and then a strong wind came, and it made her float away. 'So that was her power,' Helena thought. 'Wind.' She'd felt the first time she met Dinah's friend that there was something a little off with the girl, but she was good for Dinah's health, so she said nothing. She never would have guessed that she was a metahuman, though. Then a thought occurred to her. "Barbara's not here, is she?" At the head shake, Helena felt relief until she asked slowly, "What about Misty?" The figure turned away from her, shoulders slumped, and walked to the other side of the cemetery. Helena didn't want to see it, but forced herself to look at the four gravesites that looked untouched. Helena heard soft crunching of snow and looked around. "Someone's here," she said, but Future made no movements to indicate that Helena was heard. Looking at Misty's tombstone, which only had a name and a year, she saw Christmas 2002. "You didn't hold on," she said, feeling hot tears come to her eyes as she felt anger inside her. "You stupid girl! I said 'Hold on', not that you could hear me..." There was silence in the cemetery, and after a moment, the shadow made a movement with their elbow and head that said 'come along'. The scene shifted, and Helena followed Future into a new scene.
Immediately, she felt her blood boil. Barbara was standing- Standing? Had she over the years found a way to make her spinal machine work without hurting her? It wasn't the fact that she was standing that made her angry, it was who she was standing next to. Harley Quinn stood with Barbara playing Patty Cake. The redhead had her hair on two long pigtails, looking almost like an overgrown Pippi Longstocking. She giggled-giggled like a school girl, and Harley Quinn smiled. It was a genuine smile, and that worried Helena. She felt a little helpless because Barbara looked, well... HAPPY. But why with her? Why with Wade? 'Why not with me?' The one question that burned her inside the most, she asked aloud. "Spirit, what happened? How did she get here?" When she looked at the Phantom, she saw a hand- a slender, olive colored hand- move under the hood and she heard a soft sniffle. "You- Who are you? You've got a human hand. Not at all like the Ghost described in Dickens' book." The Figure didn't move except to put the hand back in the sleeve of the robe. Future's silence angered Helena now, and made one quick movement; the shove backwards startled the figure. The hood came down and Helena gasped and took a couple of steps backwards. Standing now before her was an exact replica of her younger self, the long haired girl who had just lost her mother. Long brunette braid, trusting blue eyes, and a wide expression completed the picture as the figure caught her balance. "This is a joke to you?!" Helena asked, enraged now. Finally, the figure spoke.
"I wish it was."
"Tell me who you are!" The words that came next were not ones she wanted to hear.
"I'm you, Helena-"
"Cut the crap!" Helena snapped, her eyes going feral. The figure sighed, not at all impressed. She also seemed to get annoyed as Helena asked again, "Who are you? I won't ask you again!"
"I told you, 'I'm you'. Not to get mellow dramatic, but I'm the part of you that died." Both Helenas stood staring at each other, but the currant twenty three year old broke contact first, knowing deep down that part of her was indeed missing, whether it took form now before her or not.
"Which part of me are you, then? The part that believes in Santa Clause and peace, love, and joy for everyone?" she asked, her words and tone snarky.
"To be blunt, yes," her figure replied, her words crisp. "I trusted people. I loved, but then Mom died and for a long time, I struggled just to hold on. Things got better for you and Barbara as time went on, but still... I had little to hold on to. You- the part of you that is more Huntress than anything- didn't seem to care one way or the other and left me to die until Dr. Harleen Quinzell came into our lives. I thought she could help. I- I really did." A tear ran down her cheek, and Helena felt the faint wetness on her own cheek, but when she went to rub it away, nothing was there. "When she betrayed us, well, I slipped away completely. I couldn't hold on any longer, so technically, I'm dead."
"If you died, and we both miss Mom so much, why didn't you go to her?"
"I didn't want to believe that you would let me go so easily. I'd hoped you would take me back, me being naive and all. Going to Mom- as much as I love and miss her- would have been admitting defeat, and even I don't do that." When Helena said nothing to that, her shadow continued, "You wanna know what happened Helena?" The twenty-three year old nodded, although she had a feeling she already knew. "Alright, this is what happened. I couldn't be your hopeful shadow forever, and so I faded away this night, since there had been no intervention. I couldn't return. Yes, Misty killed herself. I believe that was what got the ball rolling. You were so angry that you saved her and she ended up killing herself, so what was the point to all of it? I'm surprised you recognized her at all, since the would-be victims and criminals all looked the same to you. It shook you, though, somehow. You knew she shouldn't have died that day. I think you visit her gravesite but never left any sign you were ever there. The shadow you felt was your future self visiting Misty and Dinah. About a year later, February of 2004, you got tired of dancing around some invisible burning bush with Barbara and had a fight. Really, it was something stupid to have a fight about, and frankly, petty arguments are beneath you. You left. Barbara gave you a week to cool off, as usually you'd stalk off and come back for sweeps, but you never did. She looked for you, but not even the Delphi knew where you'd run off to, which means you know Barbara well enough to know how she'd find you and found a way around it. Her search for you became an obsession after a while, but it was then just Barbara, Dinah and Alfred for almost two years until they found out that Dinah's best friend Gabby- who Dinah's been in love with for about a month in your currant time- is a metahuman with the ability to create and manipulate wind. She trained, then became Nimbus. Slowly, a couple of other people came with their abilities, and there was a new generation of superheroes in the Clocktower... but none of them were enough to fight off what came next for them.
"It was like a new breed of evil popped up from Hell to terrorize them. They did anything and everything under the moon, yet they couldn't be stopped. Working together, the new superheroes did what they could to ward them off for a little while, but they just kept coming. These... people were the worst because they weren't after fame or money or revenge. No. They just wanted to kill. So they did. Everything that could be done was done, but still they were outnumbered. Barbara went to find you, went to see everyone you ever knew to see if you may have said something to give away where you might have gone. Not only did they need you, Barbara missed you like crazy. She even spoke to Lady Shiva-Sandy. She may have been an enemy of Batgirl's, but she was still your best friend. She knew that there was something going on in New Gotham that shouldn't have been, and was cooperative. Finally and reluctantly, she went to Harley Quin. She was your therapist for almost three months, so if anyone were to have known anything, it would have been her. Jesse Reece went with her.
"Something happened, I am not completely sure, but somehow she got a hold of Barbara, making her think she was young in the mind. Harley was the only one she recognized somehow, and she fought anyone who took her away form Harley. They eventually left her in the cell with Harley, and she has been, well, not fine, but she caused no more troubles. When Barbara hadn't come back that night, the Clocktower got attacked, and Dinah, who was the only one there who knew anything about the Delphi, died in that fight. The rest of the team was forced out, and they hid out in an old apartment building a little bit always from No Man's Land... It's weird," Helena's shadow said slowly, "It's almost like Harley is happy taking care of Barbara." Both women watched as the shadows settled down for the night.
"Do you know any Christmas stories?"
"Well, not all the way through."
"Will you make one up for me?"
"I'll try, but you've got to go to sleep right afterwards, alright?" When Barbara nodded, she smiled. "That's my good girl. Let's see... T'was the night before Christmas, and all through New Gotham, ugly men started killing, and no one could stop 'em-"
"Please!" Helena cried, not wanting to hear anymore of Harley Quinn's sick bedtime story. Who knew how many other such stories Harley Quinn told this woman in her state. "This is not a future I want for my family. I was shown these images so that I can change. Tell me how I might do that."
"We've got to work together, Helena. I've got to let you fight and protect, and you've got to let me love and trust. There's a time and place for all of it."
"I understand that now. Without you, I'm not completely living in this world. I get that now." Helena's shadow put a hand on her cheek and shook her head slowly as if she was misunderstood.
"Without you, we can't protect them. Without me, we can't love them. Together we are one, Helena." Both figures nodded in understanding as this realization passed between them. "I know you try to hide it, but I really do like the kid. She's gonna be great, I can feel it. And..." Helena saw more tears fall, and again felt the phantom streaks. "And I really do love Barbara. With all my heart." Helena's eyes filled with tears as well, real tears that were hers as well as the shadow's.
"Me too. I do too," she whispered. Not knowing what else to do, and feeling suddenly very hollow, she reached out for her figure, and in an embrace, the two united, having finally come to an agreement after seven and a half long years. She closed her eyes and smiled a soft smile as her shadow, who she realized was no shadow at all, but her missing self, sighed, and the voice of Harley Quinn faded.
When she opened her eyes, there was no one but herself in the apartment, yet she still felt the presence. It was there inside of her where it belonged. She realized that where her arms had embraced the presence before was now her pillow. Her smile grew until something inside of her, the part that was no longer missing, screamed out one name, which caused her to also shout it out. "Misty!" With that, she shot from her bed and threw on her coat, glad that she had 'slept' in her clothes. She didn't care for once about her bed head; she ran down the stairs and to the bar. Looking up, she saw the mistletoe decoration above her. "What do you think, Future?" She asked, "Should we?" She grinned, then looked around. When she saw that no one could see her through the glass windows, she let her body turn feral just long enough to leap into the air and snatch the mistletoe from the string hanging from the ceiling. Which was just as well. Helena herself had to put the damn thing up and got both men and women trying to catch her under it all fourteen days in December she was forced to work. She'd have been honored to rip it down and destroy it... later. She had another plan for it in the mean time. Shoving the mistletoe in her jacket pocket, and surprised she hadn't messed up the decoration completely, she felt her pockets for her wallet and keys, then ran out into the snowy streets.
Snow in New Gotham (or anywhere in New York for that matter) never seemed to stay fresh and pure for very long, as people walk by at constant times of the day and night, making tracks, letting their dogs turn it yellow, the cars mixing in the mud with their tires as they attempt to drive in it. None of that bothered Helena. She looked at the various buildings, wondering which one of them would be crazy enough to be open in this weather on Christmas day.
Helena ran, at first on the sidewalks, then on the rooftops, where the snow was more pure and untouched. Beautiful. If she didn't find beauty in Barbara's eyes, then it was surely there on the silent buildings. She searched for the crappy cyber cafe' and the bank. She knew that was what she was looking for. Misty lived not far from the Clocktower, less than a mile. When she saw the building she was looking for, she turned around and saw the apartment building and sighed. Somehow she thought she was imagining most of what she saw within the images, places, people... but it was real, and she had to stop this one from coming true. She knew what would happen to a Helena without her other self reacting to this loss, but how would she as her whole react to it? She didn't want to know, and she ran inside. She took the elevator, mainly because she knew were to go from there. Last door on the right, number fourteen. She looked briefly at the door and touched the number. Unlike the night before, her hand was solid, and her index finger traced the one, then the four before her whole hand balled into a fist and she started to pound on the door. She was sure she sounded like a claustrophobic trapped in a locked closet, and a small image of Dinah entered her head then, picturing how it must have been for her in the Redmond's.
"MISTY!!" she screamed, continuing to pound on the door. Exactly twenty-four seconds later (Helena had counted, telling herself that if Misty didn't answer after a full minute, she was breaking the door), the door opened and the young woman's eyes widened.
"What the hell-?" Helena grabbed Misty's shoulders and Misty screamed. Helena let go quickly, Misty calmed down, then Helena grabbed her shoulders again. This time, the girl didn't make a sound as Helena shook her.
"Hold on," Helena said to the young woman, "Please hold on... Don't kill yourself." At this, Misty looked surprised.
"Heh-How did you know?"
"I just do. If I told you anything past that, you would have me committed, and trust me when I say that half of Arkham Asylum hates me... The other half are doctors." Misty stayed quiet, and Helena said, "I'm sorry about your family, and it's harder around this time of year, but you know... Something will give in if you don't first." There was a look of slight recognition in Misty's eyes. Helena spoke the idea she had been thinking since she woke up that morning, after she'd taken the mistletoe from the bar. "Come with me- Spend the day with me and my family. Today is not a day to be alone." Misty hesitated, as if it all was too good to be true.
"I-I don't... know you," she said, her voice so small that Helena wouldn't have been able to hear it had she been any other person.
"My name's Helena," she said. She took one of her hands off of Misty's shoulder long enough to extend for the Native American woman to shake. Misty stared at it, then slowly shook it, seeming unsure of what else to do with her. Helena knew she looked and sounded crazy, but maybe all of this will throw her off guard enough to say 'yes'. She was actually surprised by how patient she was with Misty. Maybe that was the work of her other part. "I really think you will have fun in spite of yourself. My sister will be there, and you're between our ages. Her friend might come over for a little while. Who else will be there..." She let go of Misty completely and took a step back, giving the woman her space. "Gibson, my friend from high school, lost his power a couple of nights ago, so he's staying with us for a bit, and my cop friend Reece might drop by. There's also Barbara, and Alfred- Alfred... He'll be cooking, and you haven't lived until you've had his cranberry sauce, I'm telling you." When Misty didn't respond, Helena saw the look on her face. "Sorry, wrong figure of speech." Misty shook her head.
"No, it's not that. I- Well, I don't know what to say." Helena smiled a warm smile.
"That's easy. Say 'Yes Helena, I'd love to come to your get together. I'll even bring my (insert title to Christmas movie here). I just hope I am not intruding,' To which I will say, 'No not at all! The more the merrier!' and then we get going. Simple."
"Look at it this way: Would you rather take a chance with a stranger to see if maybe- Mmm, maybe you could find happiness in the midst of these new people, or would you rather stay at home, do what we both know you had planned, and never know for sure? Chances are, the worst I could do to you, you've already got planned for yourself if you stayed home, so come with me. There's more out there. There really is." Helena's last words were whispered and women's eyes shimmered.
"I don't know how you know all that, but you do have a point." Helena wiped her eyes before any tears could fall. 'No more crying,' she ordered herself, 'It's Christmas day. A fresh start for all of us.'
"I have a friend- Barbara- who can patch that up in a way that will make you forget it is even there," Helena said, nodding at the younger woman's bandaged wrist, which rested on her stomach. She pulled her robe sleeve down, and Helena shrugged out of her jacket and rolled up her sweater's sleeve, showing Misty her own ugly scar, a white line against her tanned skin. "I should know. I uh... I did this seven years ago." Misty was quiet for a long time, looking at the scar, and Helena held it out for her to study for as long as she needed to. Then, Misty nodded.
"Will you wait here while I go get dressed?" Her question, which Helena hoped was more of a request than anything else, was soft and unsure.
"I'm not going anywhere," she said reassuringly as she pulled her sleeve down and put her coat back on. Misty nodded again, then awkwardly stepped backwards into her apartment and closed the door. Helena sighed loudly with relief. For a moment there, she was sure Misty was about to say no, and then she would have to take drastic measures, like... Well, she didn't know, call the police, break down the door and watch her like a hawk, she supposed. She was willing to GO THERE, where ever that may or may not have been. She was determined, she knew that much. Misty no matter what, was NOT dying that day or any other in the near future as long as Helena was around.
Helena paced the length of the floor between apartments twelve, thirteen, and fourteen as she thought about her game plan for the day. She had a lot to do that day and, she realized, not a whole lot of time to do it in if she wanted to spend as much of it as possible in harmony with her family. She was surprised by how quickly Misty had gotten dressed when she turned to see her closing and locking the door behind her on her seventh or eighth time to the elevator. Or maybe she was too lost in thought to feel much of the wait time go by. When their eyes met, Helena smiled warmly at Misty in a way that the brunette hoped was reassuring. "Ready?" Misty nodded and let a white plastic bag hang from her good wrist. "What movies did you bring?"
" 'White Christmas', 'Home Alone', 'Home Alone Two: Lost in New York', and 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas'," Misty replied, and Helena smiled at the choices.
"Dinah saw 'Home Alone' last night, so she might want to see the second one today. I haven't seen 'White Christmas' in ages, and I am pretty sure 'Mr. Grinch' has always been my favorite Christmas song on the radio." There was a look of some sort of emotion that Helena didn't know Misty well enough to trace on her, but she was almost certain that it was suspicion. "What's the matter?"
"Nothing," Misty said a little too quickly, and looked down at the snow in front of her as they left the apartment building and walked onto the sidewalk. Together the two walked about a block in silence. "Wait, you're PRETTY sure 'Mr. Grinch' was your favorite?" Misty asked, giving Helena a genuine smile. Helena smiled and added a wink in return.
"What can I say, I could never just pick a favorite anything, and I am still the same now, but if I had to hear any of those songs twice in a row, it would be that one. What about you?"
"Oh- uh, that Bing Crosby and David Bowie version of 'Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth'."
"That's a good song, too," Helena agreed, then let out a large refreshing sigh. "So, our first stop is the grocery store. I've got to pick up eggnog and holiday candy for the family. If there's anything you want, now is the time to tell me."
"No, nothing," Misty said again.
"What's your favorite Christmas candy?"
"Chocolate candy canes," Misty said without hesitation. Helena nodded, then continued her short shopping list.
"I'll get you some of those, then. I think Gibson likes those things, too. I know for a fact that Dinah likes those chocolate oranges that you smack on something and they split like orange wedges?" She'd ended her sentence in a question, as if to ask Misty if she knew what they were. Misty nodded, knowing what she was talking about but honestly had no more of a clue of what they were called than Helena had. "Anyway, I'll get her a couple of boxes, plus one or two for her little blonde friend if she comes over. Barbara's getting peanut M&M's, and some other such candies for Reece and Alfred, as I haven't a clue if Reece is coming over or what they like." Helena paused and looked over at Misty, who only kept nodding, listening to what she had to say. She seemed interested in what was being said, but not knowing any of the people she was going on about, Misty couldn't respond to it. "So talk to me, do you have any Christmas traditions? I think Barbara was trying to mesh all of ours together somehow this year, but... Well, it didn't work this time around. Maybe next year."
"When we were kids, we would go see Santa in the mall, then go caroling when we lived in Nevada. That happened the week before Christmas. Then, as we got older, and after we moved to New Gotham, my parents let us host a Christmas party where we would decorate the house, wrap presents, stuff like that. My parents were really big on Christmas."
"So was my mom. I wonder if it's just an adult thing, but here I am at twenty-three and I am not half as nutty as she'd get."
"Give it time." Helena let out a laugh that came from deep in the throat, low and genuine. The trip to the grocery store was quick, as everything (except for the eggnog) was right at the door with a tag marking everything there fifty percent off as they got ready for Valentine's Day. Helena sent Misty off on a mission to get the eggnog, plus anything else she thought might add to the party, and then grabbed a basket, piling bags of candy into it. Five minutes later, Misty came looking for her and had not only the eggnog, but also a Christmas CD with music done on the piano, which cost ten dollars, and a bottle of apple cider. "Good job. Mission accomplished. The CD will be a nice touch to the day," Helena commented.
After that, Helena paid for the items, bid the cashier (named Tabitha, she noted) a Merry Christmas, and the two young women continued their walk. Each woman carried two bags, Helena holding the bag with the cider and eggnog together as well as a bag with half of the candy, and Misty with a bag with the other half of the candy and the CD, plus her own small bag with the movies. As they got further away from Misty's lonely apartment, and the more questions that were asked of her regarding Christmas, Helena was glad to see the plastic bag holding Misty's movies swung a little bit in merriment as the younger of the two walked along, a new spring in her step. She was actually getting excited by the thought of meeting new people and not being alone, and she knew how much she owed the woman next to her. There was a new spring in Helena's step as well.
When Helena and Misty got to the entrance to the apartment complex Barbara lived in, the half-meta looked up at the balcony and saw no lights from any tree, no tree at all, as she had the night before when the apartment was just an image. She felt herself stop, and she tried to hold back her tears at how she'd been lately. "I'm going to introduce you to the gang and pass out peace offerings, then I'm going to leave you with Gibson to have a heart to heart with my sister."
"She mad you didn't go home last night and spend Christmas Eve with her?"
"Yeah-" Helena quickly looked at Misty, who had her gaze fixed to the sidewalk ahead of them. When Helena had stopped walking, she did as well. "How did you know?"
"I guessed," she lied, but it was easily detected.
"Bullshit," Helena said, but she didn't sound mad, just surprised. She stepped in front of Misty and asked again, "How did you know?" The younger girl looked at Helena after a moment, and sighed softly, and the twenty-three year old knew that she was scared to tell her.
"Two things, really," she started slowly, "It was too much of a coincidence to me that I got saved by a masked hero, and then was awakened the very next morning by a woman with the same hair color, height, body build, and voice. I uh..." The Native American woman hesitated.
"Believe me or not, I had a weird ass dream about you- nothing kinky or anything."
"Why would I believe it was kinky?"
"People look at you weird if you tell them that they were in your dream the night before and automatically think it was a sex dream."
"That's happened to me before. Tell me about your dream," Helena said, her demand not firmly spoken.
"Like I said, it was weird- and it scared me a little bit, really. I was standing next to you in my bathroom, watching... this," Misty raised her bandaged wrist to Helena, "It was like I wasn't even me, but some spirit. Usually when my people dream of spirits, they take place as animals or some form of nature, but this was... There's no way to describe it, Helena. We were both ghosts, and there were two of me. One watching, and one cutting. When I made that first cut, you went wild, and your eyes got the way there were last night behind your mask when you handled that guy. You were screaming at me, the one that cut, probably for me to stop, and maybe to hold on. When you said that this morning it was like a flashback to the dream. The me that was standing by you was startled. I guess I saw you almost as someone without much feeling for others because of... Well someone else, I think, and I tried to hold you back from trying to stop the other me, the one that cut. You turned to me and said something like 'Take me back so I can go to her', and then there was nothing. I woke up to the sound of you trying to kill my door. I was shocked to see it was you, and at first I thought I was still dreaming until you grabbed me." Helena was quiet for a long moment, and felt a chill up her spine that had noting to do with the snow all around them. If Misty hadn't seen the steam move from Helena's slightly opened mouth, she would have sworn she was talking to a statue.
"Look," Helena said after a long moment, "we've had some hard times lately. I trusted the wrong person with this secret. It took everything not to kill this person when she betrayed me and hurt my family. Next time, I will not hold back." Her tone was low, and she stared Misty in the eye, and the younger woman stared right back.
"Well," Misty said slowly after a minute more of this staring contest, "if I wasn't already suicidal, I'd think you were threatening me." At this, Helena laughed to relieve a little bit of the tension between them, even though the subject matters- both the suicide and the matter of her secret- were not funny at that moment. "Seriously, I have no one to tell, other than the people I meet today, and I'll bet they already know, right?" Helena nodded. She had a point. She considered this for a moment.
"Pretend you don't know, okay? If anyone were to get in trouble for your knowing, it would be me, but it's an issue for another day. I want today to be a good day- a good Christmas for all of us, alright?" Misty nodded, and Helena went on as an afterthought, "However, if Barbara- who is one smart cookie- were to find out, I will not lie to her." Another nod from the Native American. "So, like I said, 'pretend you don't know anything', make nice, be yourself. Some things to give you extra brownie points: Reece- if he even shows up- and Barbara love firm handshakes. Your grip doesn't have to be bone crushing, but lock your wrists for sure and keep the brief eye contact as you say your 'how do you do's or whatever. Dinah and Gibson are pretty easy to talk to. Even if they have no clue what you're talking about, they'll nod and try to understand. Dinah's into musicals and movie soundtracks at the moment, so if you've got any 'West Side Story' trivia up there in that brain of yours, now is the time to dust it off and use it. Just keep the singing to a minimum." She winked at Misty, who grinned back. "Let's see, Alfred is a friend of ours who spent a majority of his life as a butler, and I guess old habits die hard. Take whatever he offers you with a smile, say thanks, all that. Gabby might stop by. She's been Dinah's best friend almost as soon as Dinah started school at New Gotham High, and between you and me, they're the only ones in New Gotham who don't know that they're more than friends."
"Oh," Misty said, surprised. Helena had an eyebrow raised as she looked at her.
"That bother you?" The younger woman gave an unlady-like snort that made Helena laugh.
"Please, my brother was gay. I think he was the only one who didn't know it."
"Oh," This time Helena was surprised.
"So... firm handshake with Reece and..."
"Right. Talk about 'Sunset Boulevard' with Dinah and her best friend. Take anything from Alfred, talk anything with Gibson... Missing anything?"
"Be yourself and have a good time," Helena reminded her, surprised that Misty's memory was as good as it was.
"Right." The two women walked into the apartment building that Dinah and Barbara lived in, and Helena knocked on the door, knowing that she could have just walked right in. She didn't want to surprise anybody with Misty's presence. Dinah opened the door, looking excited and eager until she saw who it was. Helena put the bags down and wrapped her arms around her in a hug. The blonde girl stiffened and didn't respond. Helena hid her slight pang of hurt, knowing that she deserved the reaction, or lack thereof.
"Merry Christmas, Dinah." Dinah stared at Helena for a moment in silence, then her eyes slid over to Misty. Her light, light brown eyebrows rose when she recognized her, then she looked at the brunette for an explanation. "Later," Helena said. At this, Dinah turned from them, leaving the door open behind her, and Helena picked up the bags and motioned for Misty to follow her inside. "That went well," she said quietly, and was surprised that she felt tears threatening to fall. 'Please, not now, Future,' she thought to her reunited self. 'She'll come around if we grovel enough,' she promised herself.
"Guess who's here," Dinah said, Helena assumed, to Gibson.
"Santa?" Helena walked into the living room, where Gibson still had his clothes from the night before on, and opened the box of chocolate candy canes, giving one to both Gibson and Misty.
"No, but I come baring gifts all the same," she said, digging in the bag some more, to find nothing but Kisses and what Helena thought of as 'Reece's Reece's', and looked at Misty. "This is my new friend Misty Pinal. Misty, this is my sister Dinah and my friend Gibson." Misty had already figured as much, but smiled shyly. "Give me that other bag- no, the one from the store," Helena said when Misty absently offered the movie bag. "Here, Kid. I know you like these, and I got a couple for Gabby if she comes by today," she added. Dinah accepted the chocolate, but set it in front of her and stared at it, and nowhere else. She said nothing. 'Yup,' Helena thought, 'Lots and lots of groveling, and I'll bet she'll love every minute of it.'
Slowly, Misty opened her candy cane, almost as if she was afraid of making sudden movements that would get her noticed. She watched as Gibson broke his into four or five pieces and ate the candy cane piece by piece.
"Thanks Helena," he said around the curved piece in his mouth.
"Thank Misty. She's the one who suggested them. They're her favorite candy."
"Be still my heart Then my humble thanks goes to you." Misty smiled, deciding she liked Gibson. If she was honest with herself, he was cute in that geeky sort of way, which was exactly the type of guy she crushed on in school. Barbara and Alfred emerged from the kitchen to see what was going on, and both pairs of eyes shifted from one newcomer to the other, mostly landing on Misty. The Native American woman seemed only slightly taken aback by the wheelchair, but she recovered quickly and extended her hand to Barbara, which pleased Helena.
"Misty Pinal," she said as the redhead took her hand. Helena saw that it was a good shake, which made her smile. More and more she was liking the younger woman, and she was glad that she was taking her advice to heart.
"Nice to meet you, Barbara," she said, keeping eye contact, but releasing her hand.
"Likewise," Barbara said, and the brunette knew she actually meant it. Misty had done it. She'd made a good impression on Barbara, which meant that if she knew that Misty knew about their secret, she wouldn't be too opposed to it. The redhead gestured behind her where the butler stood and added, "This is Alfred Pennyworth."
"Hello, Alfred," she said politely.
"How do you do, Miss Pinal?"
"Is Reece coming by?" Barbara asked Helena after Misty nodded at Alfred's greeting.
"I hope so, if the Tofurkey doesn't kill 'im first." Helena replied with a grin. Now that introductions were out of the way, Helena walked over to her friend and gave her a kiss on the cheek and a hug. Misty saw the slight look of surprise, and a look passed between Barbara and Dinah. Misty could only guess that Helena wasn't usually this touchy-feely. Helena looked into the two bags of candy and gave Alfred the Kisses and Barbara the M&M's. "Green like your eyes and red like your hair. The perfect gift for you."
"You're welcome." She lowered her voice and looked almost mischievous. "Now if you excuse me, I've got to go have a heart to heart with my sis. Be back soon," she promised. Misty and Barbara exchanged a quick look, then a shrug. Helena crossed the room and asked, "Can I speak to you alone?" Dinah shrugged, leaving the unopened chocolate and Gibson on the couch as she stood up. The two went into Dinah's room and shut the door. Dinah sat on her bed, and slowly, Helena sat next to her. Dinah made no movement that acknowledged her. Helena sighed and put a hand softly on Dinah's shoulder. "It's been rough, these last couple of months, hasn't it? We've seen a lot of people come and go from our lives. Mostly go. We- You, me, Barbara and Alfred- We've been constant. I've come to expect that. I am sorry I haven't been the best mentor and person to be around, Dinah. Throughout everything, I didn't realize I was taking any of my anger out on you, hurting you and not caring that I was. I do care. You didn't deserve that treatment, and I don't at all hate you." There was silence, and Helena was sure Dinah was about to give her the silent treatment for the rest of the holiday, but she finally looked at her, unsure.
"Did you mean it, Helena?" This stumped the brunette.
"Mean what, exactly?"
"When you introduced me to Misty as your sister, did you mean it?"
"Yes, of course. Ask her, I've called you my sister at least twice."
"I've always wanted a sister. When I used to dream about you in Missouri, I'd wish you were my sister, because I knew somehow you would make me forget the things I went through with the Redmonds."
"I am," Helena said, her tone- or perhaps her reunited half's tone- leaving no room for doubt for either woman. Dinah's smile lit the room better than any Christmas lights. "Do I get a real hug this time?" Helena ventured to ask. She knew only then would she know she was truly forgiven. Dinah nodded, and turned her whole body so that she was facing the brunette, and the sisters embraced. "We'll all be okay," Helena whispered to her.
"Yes," she responded, though she wasn't quite sure what the blonde was really asking.
"Why is she here? She's nice, but you don't know her," Dinah said.
"True, but I've learned that beating someone up in the course of a minute or so- as fun as it is- doesn't always save a person. You saw her last night, Dinah. She stared at the gun as if she wanted it to kill her. That image didn't sit well with me." It wasn't a lie, but it wasn't the complete truth, either, and both women knew it.
"Does she know, then?"
"She guessed," Helena replied, and Dinah looked at the door as if to look through it to see the woman in question.
"I trust your judgment." Helena was surprised by that, and was even more surprised by how that simple sentence made her feel after everything that happened three weeks ago.
"Are we cool?"
"Yeah. Let's go rejoin the group before they send a search party. Besides, Gabby's supposed to be here soon."
"Hey, speaking of, as your sister, can I give you some advice?"
"If you've got feelings for her, tell her how you feel before it's too late. You know our lives, especially in our line of work. You may not get too many chances to, not to get morbid on you." Dinah looked at Helena with a look of surprise. Lots of surprises this holiday. Though everyone around them knew that they were mad for each other besides themselves, Helena shrugged playfully. "Call it a hunch," she added. Dinah smiled fondly as she thought of her best friend and love interest. From the looks of it, she knew as well that many knew of her crush on Gabby, but she still tried to work up the courage to tell her. That was second on her Christmas wish list, the first being a Christmas with Helena. So far, so good. Perhaps she should try her luck now, while it was getting good. She nodded at her sister.
"Call it a hunch, Hel, but take your own advice. She feels the same, trust me."
"I do trust you, and I will." With that, Dinah opened her bedroom door and rejoined the group as she said. Helena slowly got off of the bed and followed the blonde. She went back to the redhead's side and said, "Your turn. We need to talk." Barbara only nodded, and this time Helena led the way to Barbara's bedroom. Once there, neither one of the women spoke up until Barbara could no longer stand the silence.
"Misty is a fine young woman, and I know you've got a good reason for bringing her here. That bandaged wrist of hers might be part of it and I'll say no more on the subject unless you want to bring it up. I am just glad that you're happy today. That was my Christmas wish for you. I hope it lasts."
"I hope it does, too." Helena let her fingers run over the mistletoe decoration in her jacket pocket, then slowly approached Barbara. "You know," she said conversationally as she stood, then knelt next to Barbara, "there is one Christmas tradition that I do enjoy," Helena felt herself getting nervous, and she wanted to back down, but Future screamed at her to at least try, "And I know it won't mean anything..." she took the mistletoe out and held it over their heads and tried to look charming. "But it IS tradition."
"You're wrong," Barbara said as Helena leaned in. This threw Helena off a little bit and froze for a second before she felt Barbara's hand on her cheek. Their lips met, and it was everything Helena had ever dreamed of and more, as clichéd as she knew it was. When they parted, the redhead continued, "It means everything." There was another kiss, then Barbara smiled softly. She seemed thoughtful, then she reached out to her bedside table and took out the box with the locket in it. "I still have it."
Helena resisted the urge to say, 'I know,' and said instead, "So I see." She looked at the picture and laughed even though she already knew what was there. "HA! And you've got that photo booth picture in it, too! Had I known it was going in here, I would have posed better."
"I like it, Helena. It's the most you." Helena smiled at Barbara, then looked down at the picture again. They did look happy and almost free together. "Help me put it on?" Helena nodded, knowing what it meant. This time she could, and this time they would. She carefully undid the clasp and put it around Barbara's neck. When she moved back to look at the redhead, she saw that her eyes were shimmering with tears. "I'll never take it off," she promised, and Helena was so overcome with emotion, she could only kiss Barbara as a reply. She let herself get lost in the feel of the redhead's lips as she felt every angry rage within her die as a new fire roared in its place. Suddenly, Barbara broke the kisses Helena left, and she caught her breath. "If we don't go back out there soon, I don't think we ever will." Helena liked the sound of that, but she nodded.
"If you want... We can talk. Later."
When they got back into the living room, both women were surprised to see that Gibson had Misty's bad wrist in both gloved hands and was gently working on re-bandaging it. From the looks of it, the new bandage would stay on longer than Misty's one handed work would have. Misty seemed embarrassed by the wound itself, not the fact that a guy was working on it. In fact, she was talking animatedly about something else as Gibson worked, his face twisted in a look of deep concentration as he made the appropriate comments to keep her chatting. Helena looked at Dinah, who shrugged. She could tell that the blond thought it was sweet.
After Misty got bandaged up and advised by Barbara on how to keep the wound clean enough so that it healed faster, and after everyone got their hot chocolate, tea, coffee or cider, there was a small debate over which movies to watch in which order before the group settled down. Twenty minutes into the movie, there was a knock at the door, and Dinah jumped up as if someone had lit her pajama pant leg on fire, passing an amused butler on the way. She put a hand on the door knob and turned to Helena, who nodded in encouragement. It was Gabby at the door, carrying a wrapped package under one arm and hugged Dinah with the other one. Dinah rushed to her room where she got Gabby's gift, then grabbed the two chocolate oranges Helena had bought when the brunette held them up for her. "This is from me, and this is from my sister," she said shyly, shifting from one foot to the other in the doorway.
"I can spell!" Helena called from the living room, and Misty giggled from her spot next to Gibson on the floor.
"Sorry," Gabby called back, "And thank you!"
"Can I speak to you in the hallway?"
"Sure." Dinah disappeared outside the door, and Helena snuggled into Barbara as she continued to watched 'White Christmas'.
Outside on the balcony of the apartment, the Ghost of Christmas Past and the Ghost of Christmas Present stood, hands held as they watched the oblivious people inside. Edgar looked at Francine, who smiled back at him. "We done good?" Edgar asked.
"Very good, but something is missing."
"I don't know, but it's a feeling I've got."
"A woman's intuition can't be wrong."
"Now I know why I like you," Francine said with a grin. "Oh! We've got to say 'God bless us, everyone!' "
"Oh yeah, but who? Our Tiny Tim is a little busy at the moment, besides, don't people get weird when God is mentioned anywhere?"
"Good point," Francine said. After a silence, she asked, "Was it weird? Your experience with Helena?" When she turned to look at her companion, the dark skin lightened, the black hair turned brown, and the brown eyes turned green. Edgar was no longer there, but Wade Brixton was.
"Yeah, it was very odd to hear that for a small amount of time she wanted me dead." Wade looked over at his companion to see that the woman's eyes were no longer slanted, and they turned green, her skin also lightened, she grew an inch, and her hair went from black to blonde. Where Francine stood, Carolyn Lance took her spot. "What about you?"
"Yeah, it was. I never thought I'd see her the way I had last night. So scared. And her will to fight me to get to a stranger's side surprised me as well. She is not at all like I thought she was when I was alive."
"I knew you two could do it," said a shadow inside the apartment. Selena Kyle walked through the glass and joined them outside. She smiled at them, and looked proud. Then she looked at their joined hands. "Well now, when did this happen?"
"Lasy night. Mistletoe incident at Bing Crosby's Christmas party not long after you'd asked us to help your little Scrooge," Carolyn said, all in one breath.
"You two look cute together. So I had my reasons for casting you in the roles I did. For you, Wade, Helena needed to say it, and you needed to hear it. If she felt somehow that you could hear them, you could forgive her, and she would know it. You weren't sure exactly why things were so bad that night, and in a way that was your unfinished business. Now you can both move on. And Carolyn, I know you didn't think highly of Helena because of me, and I know you were worried that Dinah was looking up to the wrong person. Now that you've seen Helena in a different light, and you know that she is really a good person, you know that Dinah is right where she belongs."
"I do," Carolyn agreed.
"Thank you both. She wouldn't have made it through the night without your words to her."
"No problem," Wade murmured, then shook the joined hands. "You ready to go, Present?"
"Just a second, Wade." Carolyn looked through the window once more and saw Dinah walk back into the house, a book in her hand, but Carolyn was too far away to see what it was. Her face was red with a blush on it, and she had an elfish grin on her face. Dinah looked over to Helena who had a question in her eyes, which only made Dinah's grin wider, and Helena gave a thumbs up. "Okay, now I can live my afterlife," she said. With that, they said their goodbyes to Selena and jumped, something Carolyn didn't exactly appreciate despite her past using cables as Black Canary.
Selena looked in the window again and saw Helena looking down at the young man and woman on the floor. She knew the look on her face immediately. Helena took out the mistletoe decoration and waved it above them, and Selena saw a chant of some sort on her lips. Gibson looked up and rolled his eyes. He tried to grab for it, but Helena yanked it back as if she was playing with a kitten. Misty, however, was blushing on the floor and tried to ignore the two friends as Helena tried to get them to kiss, and as Gibson tried to grab the mistletoe from the brunette. Then, after a moment, Gibson gave up and settled back down. Helena dangled the mistletoe above them again, and Barbara touched her arm, but the mistletoe suddenly left Helena's hands, and floated in the air, right above Gibson and Misty. Gibson looked over at Dinah in a look that said 'traitor!'. Dinah shrugged, and Gibson looked at Misty. He shrugged, with his arms out, saying what looked to Selena like 'Let's get it over with' in that gesture. There was a quick shrug in return, and she kissed him quickly before he could really see what happened. There was a happy holler from Helena, and another blush from Misty.
Then suddenly, Misty looked up at her and their eyes locked. There was curiosity in her eyes, but she didn't seem frightened. She seemed to ask why she was outside and not inside like most spirits she knew of. She gave a small wave, and slowly, Selena waved back. When Gibson saw the movement, he looked at where Misty's eyes were cast, but couldn't seem to see Selena. Misty shook her head and dismissed Gibson's curious look and went back to the movie. "Merry Christmas Kitten," Selena said to her daughter, who reached down and patted Gibson, then Misty on the shoulder and then snuggled up again into Barbara, "I'm so proud of you." Selena turned from the window and looked out at the white sidewalk. She watched as Gabby walked and ate the chocolate orange with a happy grin on her face. Selena thought she heard her humming 'Somewhere' from the 'West Side Story', but she was soon too far for even Catwoman to hear her. Then Selena looked off in front of her, her suddenly feral eyes seeing nothing in particular, then she said suddenly, "Oh Hell." She grinned and said, "God bless us, everyone," then slowly, she faded away.
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