DISCLAIMER: Birds of Prey and its characters are the property of Miller/Tobin Productions, Warner Brothers and DC comics. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: These last few chapters/ scenes are a sort of Epilogue to the Dark Prodigy story. There may be some changes in POV, but it just felt better to write these last few chapters like this, so please bear with me. Thank once again to all who dropped me a line to let me know they enjoyed the story and glad you enjoyed it. Cheers! P.S. If you read this on ff.net I did spice up the first part a bit so there is a little difference between this and my original version ;)
WARNING: With that out of the way, here's another disclaimer: This story is dark and graphic and deals with some pretty strong subject matter. I wrote this story a few years back when I was in a dark place and what is now the prologue was actually just a one shot I posted on another forum. But everyone wanted to see more, so I ended up writing an entire story. It will eventually have a light at the end of the tunnel but if angst and character torment is not your thing well you have been duly warned.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To xfiredancerx[at]gmail.com
Epilogue I: Shelter
I see your face
And know I'm finally yours
I find everything
I thought I lost before
You call my name
I come to you in pieces
So you can make
~ "Pieces" by RED ~
As I roll out onto the balcony, I find Helena sprawled boneless across the back of the gargoyle that adorns the upper cornices. She reminds me of a cat, lazily basking in the waning evening sunlight on a windowsill. A tender smile lifts my lips and for a few minutes I find myself entranced with the sight before me.
Helena has been coming out here regularly each evening for the past week to think, and knowing how fragile and critical this stage of her healing is, I haven't disturbed her need for some privacy. Ever since her fight with Dinah, Helena has changed a great deal. I almost don't even recognize her anymore. The anger has finally fled and not just over everything that has happened this past year. It's almost like she has finally accepted the death of her mother - and everything else surrounding that tragedy - and is ready to move on. If that is truly the case, then this new and improved Helena is going to take some getting used to.
She's still evasive as ever. Last night's not so subtle questioning in the med lab resulted in Hel dodging and changing subjects, proving that she still wasn't ready to open up about everything. But then neither was I at this stage of the game, so I finally cut her some slack and allowed her to steer the conversation away from something that was obviously too emotionally charged for her to address.
With a quiet sigh, I finally tear my eyes away from her lithe and relaxed form and look out over the city that has taken so much from us. If I'm really honest with myself, a tiny little part of me that I keep locked deep in the darkest corner of my heart, resents what happened to me and to my family. Dinah shouldn't have to be locked away in the Watchtower trying to cope with powers that she wasn't ready to bare. Helena should still be able to have a mother to love her and not know what it's like to be filled with so much pain, rage and guilt that she finally tried to take her own life. And I shouldn't be stuck in this fucking wheelchair for the rest of my life, half the woman I used to be. Some days I hate this city, even if I will never utter those words aloud.
Helena says I'm still the same person I used to be, and she presses me every time she knows I'm getting into a funk to prove that I'm more than capable than most people who can walk. She never let me down during my recovery, knowing just when I needed to be pushed or distracted. She'd always let me have my moments of weakness, understanding all too well the need to rage at my loss and grieve for the life I would never have again. But she never let them last long, and early on I began to realize just how amazing Helena Kyle was.
She hid her sensitivity behind a mask of cockiness, tough attitude, and bravado. Most people never saw past the Bad Ass Helena Kyle, to see just how intelligent and kind she really is. But I saw it, and have been drawn to it for years. Truth be told, I need her in my life. So much so, that it scares the hell out of me to think what it would be like to not have her in it. I never really thought about it until after that whole nightmare with Quinn.
I cringe, thinking of how badly I blew things by letting my anger get the best of me. I reacted in a way I never in a thousand year would have imagined, and took my pain out on the one person that meant the most to me. What was even worse, was I was so blinded by my pain and guilt, that I didn't even realize for those two weeks that it wasn't her I was angry with. And then I almost lost her for good, and hadn't had the chance to tell her how sorry I was and how much I love her.
How much I love her.
How much do you love her Babs? I snort softly to myself, forgetting I have an audience that can still hear me quite well. That question has been something I have successfully avoided thinking about for longer than I care to admit. But over these past many weeks, I have come to realize that I can't ignore my feelings about her any more. Especially after everything we've both opened up about during this last week.
In a way, I am glad Helena and Dinah had their fight- as brutal and as painful as it was for all of us. Helena was right earlier when she told Dinah that it got a lot of things out in the open and cleared the air. We've all had too many secrets lately and have been hiding things from each other and from ourselves. Which is why I tried my luck at questioning Helena last night about what triggered her brief burst of vision.
It didn't get me anywhere .or maybe it did and I'm just trying to pretend it didn't so I can say I was imagining things. I sigh quietly again, and Helena's soft chuckle finally reminds me that I'm not alone out here.
"Yanno you sound like me right now. I've been out here every evening doing the same thing." I look back at her, and she has a lazy grin on her lips, her eyes still closed.
"Heavy thinking this week?" I ask, trying to deflect some of the attention off me. I don't know if I'm ready to discuss what's got me sighing.
Her eyes finally open as she rolls head to gaze in my general direction. "Yeah," she admits. Then the smile turns playful. "For once, right?" she laughs, making fun of her own appearance of being nothing more than the muscle of this operation.
My eyes crinkle in amusement. "Oh you can't fool me," I chuckle back. "You scheme with the best of them. In fact I'm starting to wonder if I should be worried that you've spent this much time out here thinking. Heavens knows what you could be thinking of. The last time you spent this much time out here you were trying to figure out how to talk me into supplying you with a motorcycle for sweeps."
Helena stuck her tongue out at me. "Yeah, and I think I had a pretty damn good argument too. You were such a spoilsport. I'm kinda glad I got in with the Animals because at least I finally got a bike out of it. And I didn't do nearly as much damage with that as I did with the Hummer."
I note two things in that statement. The first is Helena's past tense usage to a task that she can no longer perform. It is a good sign that she is really coming to terms with the changes in her life and accepting them. But I let that slide and focus on the other. "Nearly? That thing was in the shop practically every other week Hel. At least the Hummer lasted a month or more between trips."
"I was thinking more along the lines of property damage."
"Oh god," I groan. "I don't even want to know," I chuckle shaking my head.
She just flashes a wicked grin in my direction and then rolls her face towards the west. "Is the sun setting? I can't feel it on my face anymore."
"It's just getting ready to," I answer looking back to the sky.
"Describe it to me," she asks softly and I feel my breath catch at the request.
This is the first time she's asked anyone to tell her what something looks like since her being blinded. It is a massive step forward, and I know all too well what that simple request is probably costing her right now. It is humbling to have her trust me so much right now and I suck in a deep breath to try and calm the sudden butterflies in my stomach.
Releasing it slowly I look around us and begin describing everything I see in as much detail as I can. "The sun is just about to dip down past the estates in the distance. There are large cumul . fluffy clouds out this evening and the ones over the water are already transforming from gold to pink. The sky is a deep violet in the east the color of your eyes when your emotions are high. And the sun in the west is blazing gold, the same gold when you are feral," I breath.
"Above us, the sky is a swirl of pinks, golds and violets that I haven't seen in a long time, and the clouds are floating lazily along since there isn't much wind coming off the shore tonight."
My eyes track the last bits of sunlight, caught up in my description now, and really seeing the sunset for the first time in a very long time. "The sun is almost below the hill, and the last rays are reflecting off the buildings downtown. Wayne Tower is brilliant right now, like a shining prism, standing tall and proud in a sea of glass. With little breeze, the water is calm tonight and reflecting the sky perfectly. It looks like the river and harbor are on fire."
I fall reverently silent for a moment, only aware that Helena has moved when a slender hand feels for my shoulder. I immediately reach for it and tug Helena into my lap, barely conscious of what I'm doing. All I know for sure, is that I want her as close as possible to me right now.
Helena folds herself into my embrace, burying her nose into the juncture of the my neck and shoulder, sending a shiver down my spine. I feel a faint vibration against my chest and look down to see her eyes closed and a peaceful look on her face. It takes me a moment to realize the vibration is a sub vocal purr. She's happy and content right now and that brings me more joy than I can describe. I rest my chin atop her dark hair and squeeze her a little tighter when I feel her strong arms wrap securely around my waist.
I watch the sun finish its decent and continue narrating it. "The sun just dipped out of sight with a final flare. The sky to the east is a dark purple and above us the multi-colors are deepening into violets and purples as well. The clouds are outlined in silver and pinks and the skyscrapers are all reflecting the colors like the water. It's one of the most beautiful sunsets I've seen in a long time Hel," I whisper into her ear.
She lets out a sigh, and I can tell it's only with slight regret. "It is," she agrees softly and I stiffen slightly as hope kicks in.
"Can you ?" I ask gently.
She smiles, a bit sadly, and shakes her head. "I may not be able to see it Red, but you sure as hell paint a vivid picture in my mind. And the fact that I'm here to share it with you that just makes it all the more beautiful."
I think that is all my brain needs to hear, because as soon as she tilts her head up and I gaze down into her beautiful face, everything in my world fades away. If ever there were a single moment in my life that I would never want to forget, it would be this moment. Blind though they may be, the depth of love, trust and emotion in those violet eyes is enough to override any fears or reservations I might have been feeling, long enough for me to lean down and gently kiss Helena.
It is brief, tender, and a bit timid on my part. And then my brain catches up with what I am doing and I jerk back with a gasp, my body tensing. Christ, what was I thinking?!
But Helena's hands are moving up to the back of my neck and pulling me back down for more and everything that I had been suddenly afraid of, melts away once more as she claims my mouth in a deeper more passionate kiss. God, but she can kiss.
When we finally do break away several minutes later, both of us breathing heavily, I rest my forehead against hers and clear my throat a couple of times, not quite trusting my voice. When I finally open my eyes, I find thin pupils banded in gold meeting my gaze. I can't help the smug smile that tugs at the corners of my lips.
"Now?" I ask, wondering if that was really my voice.
"Hell yeah," she chuckles huskily.
My grin fades a bit though as I take stock of what just happened between us. She senses it, whether from what she can read from my body, or just because we know each other so damn well. But she reaches a hand up to cup the side of my face and works to lay my concerns completely to rest. "Barbara, this is what I've been working up the nerve to talk to you about all week," she confesses finally.
"I've been trying to hide from the truth for so long, because I didn't think you would ever see me as anything more than your friend and partner. But I love you more than anything else in this world. That's why I took what happened with Quinn so hard because I had failed and hurt the one person that I let inside my heart again. I thought I had lost you forever, and I couldn't live with that .I'm nothing without you in my life Barbara."
I've forgotten to breathe during her beautiful declaration, and feel more than a little light-headed when I finally suck in a reflexive breath. Dear heavens above she loves me. She really does love me. Something in my chest breaks free, and a sense of utter euphoria floods through me, leaving me almost giddy in it's wake. I can't help the ridiculous smile that I know is spreading across my face and I lean in for another kiss as my arms tighten around her.
This time when we move apart, she's grinning. "I'm going to go out on a limb and say that I should take that as a positive response?"
I chuckle and run my fingers through dark hair, enjoying the shiver that runs through her body with that simple action. "A very positive reaction Hel," I answer softly as my own hands cup her face and I stare into her feral gaze.
"You are the one person to ever make me feel whole again Helena. You never saw me as someone limited by my chair. You helped me put my life back together after the shooting and I became the woman I am today because of you. I love you so much, and it wasn't until I thought I had lost you for good that I began to realize just how much you mean to me. I was so scared," I admit in a shaky whisper, as I fight the tears that are threatening to spill.
Helena leans over though, and places a reassuring kiss over each eye, and I feel myself calm under her gentle touch. "I promise to never leave you like that again Barbara. I will do whatever it takes from here on out to come back home to you .to come back home to this," she swears solemnly before she leans in and kisses me deeply once more.
With that promise, everything fades away once more, and it's just her and I and a love that I know will withstand even the worst of storms yet to come. She is my shelter from the world and I am hers.
I lay in Barbara's large bed, wrapped snugly against her and watch as the colors of my vision finally start to fade away. It doesn't bother me as much as it used to, because I at least have this much and possibly even more to come. It's honestly more than I had hoped for or ever expected. Barbara has plans to help me though and I chuckle at the memory of that.
"Care to share with the rest of the class?" my lover asks drowsily.
I turn away from my perusal of the room to let my last bits of vision be of her. "Was just remembering your workout plan for my vision," I say with a grin that is probably bordering on a leer.
"Things starting to fade for you?" she asks quietly, becoming more alert.
"For now," I answer unconcerned. Without warning, Barbara uses her considerable upper body strength to push me on my back and leans over me. I can just barely make out the smirk on her face before she leans down. "Time for your next set of exercises then," she whispers in my ear before she nuzzles a sensitive spot just below it.
My breath catches for a second, and then my vision flares to life again as my body immediately responds to her. I pull her down for a kiss and want to cry as a myriad of emotions flood through me. God, I love her so much. I never thought we would reach this point in our lives, and to be here now, experiencing this kind of happiness with her it is the most indescribable feeling in the world. All I know is that like her, I will fight with everything I have to keep this. Nothing will ever stand in our way again.
She raises her head for a moment and looks down at me, her smirk growing even wider when she realizes my vision has returned. "My aren't you looking cocky," I laugh.
"I'm Oracle," she shoots back.
"Well this is a workout plan I could definitely get into," I can't help but chuckle, before her mouth seeks out mine once more.
And then she is doing things to me that I had only fantasized about for years. I'm barely aware of the growls and purrs that are coming from my chest, but I hear her whispering in my ear how much the noises turn her on as those oh so talented fingers search out new areas that cause me to react even more vocally. Her hands move over my body, setting my skin on fire, stoking my passion and need higher, her lips and teeth marking me as hers. That animal part of me that I keep locked away and under tight control suddenly breaks break, and my eyes go wide at the snarl that break loose from my throat as I suddenly flip us so that I am pinning her down.
I struggle for control, fear suddenly welling up inside me as that rational part of my brain worries about hurting Barbara. But she is looking up at me with more than a little mischief in her eyes, a triumphant smirk on her face and she's .chuckling.
"Was wondering when Huntress would come out and play," she tells me in a husky tone that shatters what little control I was retaining.
It's a bit surreal to watch yourself mate with another and be a part of it but not. I watched as I held her down, her struggles enough to keep me on the edge, but not enough to indicate fear or discomfort. I smelled Barbara's scent and arousal curl through me and fill me as Huntress leaned in, mouth open, and taking in the scent of her chosen mate. And then I watched in horrified fascination as I marked Barbara as my own, my teeth breaking flesh as she gasped in pain, but thrust up against me not away. I certainly wasn't expecting her to return the gesture, and when she did everything went white as Huntress howled her joy and completion.
Everything was jumble of sounds, sights, tastes, and sensations after that. When I finally managed to reassert some of my consciousness, I found my hand buried in Barbara's warmth, her taste and scent filling my senses, her incredibly strong fingers tangled tightly in my hair to the point of discomfort as her incredible body writhed wantonly beneath me, my name on her lips like a repeated mantra.
Panting, I paused for a moment to simply drink in this moment and her eyes snapped open with a desperate cry of 'NO!'. A shudder ran through me as I was nearly undone right then and there.
Covered in sweat, blood and tears of joy, her hair fanned out about her, her chest rising and falling in rapid breaths and whimpers of need, her eyes burning with arousal, hunger and love, her body trembling with pent up desire ..all of it was for me and because of me all of me. Barbara knew me, loved me and accepted all that I am with willing and open arms.
I was unaware of the tears that suddenly tracked down my face or the emotion that was pouring from my gaze. But she shuddered, and with one final push, I whispered "I love you," as the words, the sensation, and the true emotion behind my words sent her screaming over the edge.
With both Huntress and myself sated for now, I drag myself up her quaking body and hold her tightly as she slowly comes down from the heights she was just soaring along. Long minutes pass as our breathing slows, and my vision begins to dim once more partially because I am happily exhausted and sleep is tugging at us both. I don't know if I will ever fully recover my vision, but I realize that it doesn't matter any more. I have everything I need right here in my arms. No matter what life decides to throw at us, we will always have our love for each other. Barbara is my shelter from the world and I am hers.
Epilogue II: Excalibur
I enter the Clocktower and take note of the utter silence even though it is well into the late hours of the morning. Having seen both the Hummer and the van Miss Barbara occasionally used both parked in the garage, I can only deduce that she and Miss Helena went out for a walk, or were still asleep.
Given Miss Helena's nocturnal schedule it would be no surprise for her to still be slumbering for another couple of hours yet. However it would be a highly unusual thing for Miss Barbara to still be asleep when, even during summer break, she is prone to rising early. But, with her and Miss Helena finally on the road to mending, I have often found both of them napping and sleeping in later than usual. And almost always in the close presence of the other.
It warms my heart to see this family finally piecing itself back together. The night I walked into the three of them locked in that dreadfully violent struggle, I had feared the worst. I had wondered if I was witnessing the irreparable fracture of the three women I held dearest to me. I will admit that my composure had indeed slipped for a few brief moments, and had probably spoken with much more harshness than was professional. But then, given that all we have been through, I believe any emotional reaction I displayed that night was quickly forgiven and forgotten. Miss Barbara would have none of my apologies the next day.
When Miss Dinah departed shortly after her fight with Miss Helena, my concern only grew. And when she did not return, I could no longer remain a passive observer. I knew where she would go and since Miss Barbara had been preoccupied with Miss Helena, I programmed the Delphi to keep strict watch out for any signs of disturbance in the cell of the mad woman that has wrought all this havoc upon our family. As I suspected, Miss Dinah did indeed finally try to lash out at Quinn.
But not even I could have suspected just how far over the edge she had begun to slip. Nor did I think that Miss Helena would be the one to break through to young Miss Dinah and stop her. It was a close call indeed and I was relieved that Miss Barbara finally set her pride aside and realized that all of this had spun out of her control and made the call to the Martian Manhunter.
It was with great relief that Miss Barbara informed me last evening that the young miss is recovering from her ordeal, and is finally getting the peace of mind she has so desperately needed. I must say though, the discovery of her long lost father was a wonderful surprise. It has been a long time since I have seen Master Queen, and it will be a pleasure to have his presence around on a more regular occasion again.
It will be interesting to see just what doors this may open for Miss Helena and her own father. I do hope they can finally come to some kind of peace with each other. I think Miss Barbara's harsh, but necessary words in the hospital that night finally got though to him. Master Bruce and I have talked much about his unwise choice to abandon both his city and his family when they needed him the most. While I understood his need to escape the tragedy that had befallen him once more, the length of his absence was what did the real damage. Even I have to admit that I found that inexcusable
He regrets deeply not being there for his daughter and his former protégé. It is a failure he will have to live with for the rest of his already burdened life. But one can never be too old to learn a lesson the hard way. Not even I, it would seem, I muse wryly, thinking of my interference in Miss Barbara's personal life.
I set the bag of groceries on the counter and go about quietly putting things away and tidying up the kitchen. A noise captures my attention and I see Miss Helena making her way carefully into the kitchen where she collapses into a chair with a groan and reached up to rub her temples. Her hair is completely out of sorts, and her clothing - what little of it there is- is quite disheveled. I allow myself the tiniest of smiles, realizing that to get to this state, Miss Helena must have had quite the evening. It warms my heart to know she is starting to enjoy life once more and move past this tragedy.
"Good morning Miss Helena," I greet with more cheer than she probably appreciates.
"Please tell me you have a massive bottle of aspirin nearby and some coffee in that bag," she groaned.
I chuckle softly at the desperation in her voice and start a fresh pot of coffee while I fetch her the needed analgesic. "Long night Miss Helena?"
She gives me a low chuckle that I haven't heard in quite some time actually and I feel an eyebrow arch.
"You have no idea Al."
"Dare I ask if I need to restock the liquor cabinet?"
"Huh? Oh, no. We didn't get plastered last night. But Barbara was um .running me through quite the um exercise program for my eyes " I feel my other eyebrow join the first as I notice a tell-tale blush creep up her cheeks and pink the tips of her ears. "Anyway, it always leaves me with a headache afterwards," she finished in a rush.
"I see." I answer neutrally as I take in Helena's disheveled appearance once more. And notice several new marks along the skin of her neck and shoulder. My eyes squint a bit. Dear heavens is that a bite mark? My my, Miss Barbara, I muse to myself, thankful that Helena is unable to see the barely repressed smirk that is trying to lift the corners of my lips.
"Will Miss Barbara be joining us soon?" I ask as the coffee finishes and I begin pouring Helena a large mug.
"She's uh we were up pretty late and I think she was pretty wore out. I can hear her snoring still from here."
"Well, exercising will do that to one," I can't help but reply.
She has just accepted the mug, but her head tilts to one side and her eyebrow lifts as she hears the amusement in my voice. She takes a slow sip and then sets her mug down and fiddles with it. "So," she says slowly before falling silent.
I spare her by sitting next to her and resting my hand on hers. "I must apologize Miss Helena. I have known for quite some time of your feelings for Miss Barbara and hers for you. However you both seemed unwilling to act on them and then Miss Barbara became involved with Master Wade and you with Detective Reese. I regret letting Master Wade in on your secret, and into the Clocktower. Perhaps-,"
Helena's hand had turned over in mine and her strong fingers gripped mine as she smiled sadly. "We have all been doing what-if's Alfred. I never thought you would be doing them with us, but I've come to realize there are just too many variables in life to worry about choices we have made in the past. All we can focus on is the future. And all that matters is that we are all still here and we still have each other. I may never heal fully Alfred, but there is nothing I can do about that. And you know what? I don't care any more. I've got you and Barbara and Dinah, and that's good enough for me."
I smile at the suddenly wise and mature young woman sitting in front of me. Miss Helena has indeed come a long way during this past week. It makes me even happier that she and Miss Barbara have obviously opened up to each other about everything. Throwing propriety to the wind for a moment, I lean forward and hug this amazing young woman briefly and sigh in contentment when she returns it fiercely, burying her head in my shoulder for a minute.
"I am happy for you and Barbara, my dear," I tell her softly.
I hear her sniffle a tiny bit and look down to see her with a huge smile on her face, her eyes slightly moist. "Me too Alfred. You know you have always been like a father to me right?"
Despite decades of life and years of practicing control over my emotions, I cannot help but feel a small lump in my throat. "I do my dear. And I would be honored to have someone such as yourself as my daughter. The thought of losing you any of you .is something I never want to revisit."
"I promise to take good care of myself and my family from here on out Alfred. Nothing will ever destroy us like that again."
I can hear and see the conviction in her with that declaration and know that never again will this family be shattered. Time will probably test the bonds more than once, and I'm sure we will be faced with some kind of catastrophe in the future once more. But I cannot help but draw upon the analogy of a blacksmith forging a sword for his king .
These three remarkable young women have had their mettle tested by the hottest of fires and endured. The impurities have been filtered, the fires have cooled. They have been shaped and strengthened by their experience, their rough edges smoothed and sharpened. They are entering the last stage, a stage that requires great love and patience and perhaps just a little bit of magic and luck. A sword forged for battle can be wielded by anyone, but one fit for a king must be oiled, buffed and polished until it seems that it is glowing from within. Sitting here with Helena, I am beginning to see that glow And I know that once all the pieces of this family are back together again, they will be brilliant and indestructible.
They too will become legends.
Epilogue III: Respite
I can still feel her sometimes. Or maybe it's the small part of her that I became. It's a little hard for me to tell any more. But it doesn't bother me now. If anything, it serves as a reminder of what I almost became of what I still could become if I let my power control me instead of me controlling my power. I don't think I will ever get used to just how much I can do now, and it scares me to think of why I have been given such power. Diana says that the Goddess must have a great destiny in store for me. Sometimes I have nightmares of just what that destiny might be. But they are becoming more and more vague as time passes. I know that it makes a few others who know my secrets nervous as well- but not my family.
I have seen into their minds and their hearts and they trust me implicitly. They have more faith in me than I do in myself I think. But then Barbara said that we are always hardest on ourselves and I think I might have to agree with her. Just look at how this whole mess started.
It took me six weeks to recover from my breakdown and to learn enough control that returning home would finally be safe for everyone. J'onn even gave Barbara the designs for the special shielding he uses around his room, and by the time I got home, she'd had my room shielded. A place where I could find sanctuary and rest peacefully from the rest of the world. It's funny because I find Helena lurking about it more than she used to and even she admits that she finds some kind of quietness in it as well. Given how much her already augmented hearing was advanced during her blindness, I don't doubt that my room works on an audible level as well as a psychic one. I should talk to Barbara about that see if she can install some kind of modified noise shielding in their own bedroom. God knows I would appreciate it for more reason than I'd like to admit out loud. It's bad enough with Hel walking around my teenaged hormonal self, practically screaming desire every time she gets within fifty yards of Barbara. Just .so wrong.
Thankfully, her vision is on the road to being completely recovered though, so maybe her other senses will go back to their normal levels. She let me see things as she does the other night and it's incredible. I saw in memories how things used to look when her vision was augmented. It was remarkable, but nothing compared to what she has been experiencing lately. Her normal vision is beginning to reassert itself, but she still sees things mostly in infrared, which forces her to wear dark sunglasses all the time. Kind of reminds me of that character Vin Diesel played in the movie Pitch Dark.
It makes her look all the more badass, and after telling her that, she grinned and said that maybe she had just found the right 'mask' to go with her outfit. I was ecstatic to hear her refer to anything even remotely related to going back out on sweeps again. I think Barbara was too, but I could see and sense her apprehension as well. Not that I blame her.
It's been six months since Quinn attacked the Clocktower and nearly destroyed our family and our lives. Half that time was spent in hell, but these last couple of months? All of us have finally learned that this is what it is like to be a real family.
The fact that Hel and Barbara FINALLY admitted their feeling for each other was a huge relief and reason for teenage exuberance. Not to mention all the teasing I get to do now when I catch Helena being all sappy. Serves her right for all the times she's teased me about my own past crushes. But they are finally content and at peace and I sensed that the first time I visited after their relationship changed. It makes me happy on a level that I don't think either of them will ever understand, because they will never really be able to 'see' what I do.
We just need to work on their level of discretion now and Helena controlling her urges .and Barbara's sudden need to push the limits of propriety. Geez, the woman takes a break from being Oracle (well mostly) and she turns into like this rebellious rule breaker. I'm supposed to be the teenager here! *sigh*
Getting to know my dad has been .awesome. Yeah he can be frustrating at times, and I have totally called him on starting the overprotective thing more than once- much to Helena's amusement. But then again, who am I to talk. He knows I purposely spilled my soda on his date for that social function the other night. I of course tried to act all innocent, and that .gold-digger managed to believe me. My father knows better though. Someone who can thread a needle, wash dishes, and lift a two ton vehicle with their mind all at the same time, doesn't just go and 'accidentally' spill their drink all over someone.
We are still feeling each other out, but overall, having him in my life has been one of the most wonderful things to have happened to me. And the fact that he has become a part of my family with Helena, Barbara, and Alfred makes it all the better. He makes Barbara laugh, and they tell stories of the old days, and even though I can feel Hel grow a little jealous at times, she appreciates that Barbara has an old friend back in her life. Several now actually. Kal-El and Diana visited last week, and I thought Barbara was going to fall over in shock when they showed up at our doorstep, despite the fact that they promised me they would do so soon. It was nice to see them again .especially Diana.
She and I spent a little time out on the balcony together that night, talking about how things were going for me. She'd become my emotional shelter while I was on the Watchtower my Barbara away from home. J'onn guided me through my new abilities, but it was Diana that had emotionally nurtured me back to health, and for that I will be forever indebted and grateful to her. She wants to take me to her home island some day. I'm sooooo excited about that. She says I would make a fine Amazon, which still makes me blush because even with my powers, I still feel awkward compared to her when we sparred. I may have untold powers at my fingertips, but she is grace and finesse in one beautifully deadly package. I would totally be a Gabrielle to her Xena.
And wow. I think I just totally swooned when thinking about Wonder Woman. Oh well. Even Helena thinks she's hot.
"What are you smirking about?" interrupts my sunbathing.
"I'm not smirking."
"The hell you aren't. Now fess up .you aren't peeking into my day dreaming about last night are you?" Hel asks with a mock growl.
I snicker. "You are broadcasting that so loud anyone with any iota of talent on this island could probably pick up on your thoughts Hel. But no, I started blocking them since it's all in the TMI category for me."
"Well then if you aren't reading my mind .why do you have that look on your face? You charm the cabana boy last night after Red and I took off?" she asks with a conspiratorial grin.
I burst out laughing. "NO! Although he is pretty cute and I might have to take advantage of that fact before we leave."
Helena curls up on her blanket and laughs hard. I smile, feeling the relaxed joy and amusement radiating off her. This vacation to Hawaii really was an awesome idea. "You know Kid, if there was one good thing that Quinn left you with, it's a wicked sense of humor. I like it. It wasn't quite as much fun when I would tease and threaten you and you would back off afraid I was gonna pummel you or something. And I know Barbara likes it when you sass me right back now."
I flash even white teeth at her. "So tell me Huntress, you gonna be the one to back off now?"
"Moi? I'm to thick-headed for my own good it seems. Probably get my ass handed to me, but there's no way you are going to intimidate me blondie," she smirks at me. And she means it. Even though she acknowledges that I am now the stronger fighter, it doesn't scare her. She trusts me with her life, and that envelopes me with a sense of love and belonging all over again.
"You still haven't answered my question."
"Huh? Oh yeah .no I was just thinking about Diana."
"On a first name basis with the Amazon Princess are we?" she teases.
"Don't even start with me because I KNOW you think she's hot. But then like 99.9% of this planet thinks she's hot."
"Does Barbara think she's hot?"
"Hel!" I laugh as I swat her arm. "I am not your personal spy device!"
"All right, all right!" she chuckles and then settles back onto her blanket. I can't help but smile wickedly at her closed eyes though.
"Your dad thinks she's really hot though," I purr and then leap up and run screaming and laughing down the beach as Hel gives chase, intent on dunking me in water.
I watch from my spot on the shady porch as the girls go running along the secluded beach, screaming and laughing, chasing and being chased, and feel a sense of contentment inside of me that I have never felt before.
For a time, I didn't know if we would ever recover from this blow. Helena and I had already been through so much in our lives, and Dinah .Poor Dinah, I think with a sad sigh. When she showed up on our doorstep, all sunshine and eagerness, I couldn't have said no even if I wanted to. She brought something into our lives that Helena and I had had missing for so long. Sometimes I even wonder if I ever had anything like that in my life.
And then the day came when Dinah realized just how much a hero could sacrifice in this life and for a time I wondered if her spirit had already been crushed beyond recovery. But she bounced back, and life resumed and things seemed to get better until .Her.
My teeth unconsciously grind at the thought of that blonde haired bitch that stole an innocent man's life and very nearly took the rest of us down as well. I shudder to think of what would have happened had Bruce not shown up that night to save Helena. If she had died, I know deep inside I would have given up. Dinah would have slipped over the edge. And Bruce? I think this would have broken him completely. In the end, Joker would have won thanks to his psychotic girlfriend. I doubt even Dick would have gotten through a disastrous mess like that unscathed.
But fortune finally decided to smile down on us a tiny bit. It was yet another hard road- one that pushed all of us to our limits once more. Diana thinks that our paths are being directed by the Gods and Goddesses. I don't know if I truly ascribe to that notion. But some days I feel like our mettle is being tested and refined more and more as the months and years pass. I can see the changes that are being wrought upon us, and realize that in the end some good or some strength has been gained from the trials we have faced.
I can't even begin to imagine what it must be like to possess the kind of power that Dinah now does. Or to know that they could continue to grow and expand with time. If Diana is right, then I can understand why Dinah was tested so severely at such a tender age. That doesn't mean I can't resent all of this just a bit though. If we are having our mettle tried and tested, I don't even want to think about what we are all being prepared for.
So for now, I am going to soak up some much needed sun, watch my girls regain some of their youth and joy, and truly relax for the first time in ..well maybe ever.
"A drink Miss Barbara?"
I smile up at Alfred, whom we have all insisted that he dress casually even if he isn't going to stop being the proper butler, despite the fact that our private villa comes with a full staff already. I accept the tropical looking drink and wave for him to join me.
Without protest he settles down onto the lounge chair next to me and actually picks up the second drink from the tray he has rested on the small table between us and sips from it. I know I'm grinning happily. "Glad to see you do know how to relax Alfred," I smirk.
"I have been known to enjoy several holidays each year Miss Barbara," he reminds me.
"True. But this is the first time you have done so with all of us."
He nods. "Indeed. This past year has taught me quite a bit and made me rethink my priorities in a few areas."
"Oh?" I ask, my eyebrow arched in extreme curiosity.
"Mainly that you three extraordinary women have become like family to me, and perhaps it is time I showed that on occasion. It breaches protocol, I know," he sighs dramatically.
I can't help but chuckle as I reach out my free hand and rest it on his arm. "Alfred, you ARE family to us- have been for as long as I can remember. You are always there for us, with the right words at the right time. We would be lost without you."
His lips twist upwards just a fraction. "Most certainly in the kitchen," he teases gently and I laugh heartily. I like this Alfred. The one who is here with us not as our butler but as a lifelong friend and guardian angel.
He pats my hand. "I feel the same about you Miss Barbara. It has made this old man's heart rejoice that all of you were able to overcome this latest adversity and have found so much love and acceptance within each other and for each other in the process."
I can only agree as my smile widens as the girls go pounding past the porch laughing as they trade barbs and taunts with each other.
In a week, we will return home, and try to resume our roles once more. We all know that it will be a bumpy road. But we have each other to lean on, and we have learned that if we stand together, nothing can make us totter.
With that reassurance, I sip down the last of my drink, enjoying the buzz from the alcohol and the warmth of the sun and let it lull me into a blissful doze.
As we run by the porch I grin at the picture of Alfred actually relaxing next to Red, sipping on a drink while she gives Dinah and I one of the happiest smiles I've seen from her. My heart almost stops at that smile and I stumble slightly, before Dinah's taunting spurs me back into action. I leap at her and she allows me to take her down in the warm sand, and we roll around for a minute fighting for dominance as a tickle war ensues.
God, when was the last time I was ever this care-free?
That thought distracts me and I get dumped on my ass in the sand as Dinah gains an upper hand. Unfortunately, my glasses slide off and with a sharp hiss I slam my eyes shut from the blinding glare that that instantly causes my over sensitive eyes to water. Dinah freezes, apologies on her lips, but I'm quick to take advantage of the situation and eyes still closed I surge beneath her and have her face down in the sand, her arm twisted behind her back with one hand while the other unerringly finds her ribs and causes her to squeal and plead for mercy.
My move may have caught her off guard, for we have discovered that my instinctive reactions are thought too quickly for her to clearly pick up and react to, but I know that right now, she could telekinetically toss me off if she wanted to. But she's enjoying this bit of normalcy just as much as me, and doesn't want it to end, even if she is the first to cry uncle.
With a smirk, I roll off her and then barely crack an eye open as my hands begin searching for the lost shades. Jesus, even a sliver of light is painful. "Here you go Hel," she says, still giggling, as she places my glasses in one of my hands. I tap them against my side to shake loose any sand that might have gotten in them and slip them on and sigh in relief as I safely open my eyes.
Now I can smirk triumphantly at her and witness her sticking her tongue out at me. We grin at each other and begin shaking sand out of our hair and bathing suits. "You see Alfred?" I ask with a chuckle.
"About time he loosened up and had some fun. I didn't even know he owned something so casual." She pauses. "Well ok I did, cause you know," she said with a sheepish grin. "But still. I know it's been ages since he's really relaxed like this. I'm glad he came with us and is enjoying himself as he promised."
"Surprised you didn't ask your dad to come with us," I say casually. Truth be told I'm a little glad Ollie didn't tag along. I mean I like the guy- he's been great for and to Dinah, and he's pretty cool to hang with. But its still a painful reminder of what I could have had with my dad if things had been different.
"And ruin our girls only vacation? Well okay girls only and Alfred."
I chuckle and lean back on my elbows, soaking up the sun once more. "Thanks D," I tell her simply, knowing that she can probably sense my thoughts and know what I'm not saying out loud.
"Any time Hel," she responds with quiet sincerity, letting me know she understands.
I'm quiet for a few minutes and then without opening my eyes say what else she probably already knows. But I've been hesitant to really talk about it with anyone, especially Barbara and Alfred, because I know they are both a little biased.
"Dad called me right be fore we left. Asked if I would come by the Manor sometime and he could show me around."
Dinah met my dad, but she has been the most neutral whenever his name has been brought up. Maybe it's because she, like me, never really knew him as Batman. We both only really know him as the man who left Barbara and I when we needed him the most. I think that's why I'm most comfortable talking about this with her.
"You thinking of taking him up on that offer?"
"Maybe. I mean I guess it would be pretty cool to see the Cave and all right? See where this whole gig got started?"
"Hel," she sighs and her tone makes me look over at her. She's sitting cross-legged now, giving me that look that says 'please, this is me you're talking to.'
I sigh as I stand and begin pacing, running my hand through my hair. "I don't know what to do Dinah. I mean I see you and your dad and think maybe we could be like that. Maybe we can finally put all of this behind us. But then I start thinking about how badly he hurt all of us by leaving. Hell I'm not even really sure I'm mad at him for leaving me anymore. But I'm sure as hell pissed at him for abandoning Barbara like that."
I watched Dinah look at the sand for a moment and come to a decision. She stands and walks over to me. "I want to show you something something that he would never share with anyone, and would probably kill me for sharing with you. But I think you deserve to know this and maybe it will help you understand," she tells me quietly as she holds out her hand.
I look at it, feeling a moment of hesitation. But I shove that aside and take her hand firmly and jerk slightly as I am transported into her mind .and my father's memories. What feels like a lifetime, but is only a few moments later, I drop to the sand with a gasp, Dinah kneeling beside me, offering silent support.
The anguish, guilt, and utter sense of failure that she read from him during her brief proximity to him in the hospital, rolls over me in waves. "Jesus, is this what he feels all the time?"
"Since the night you lost your mother and Barbara lost her legs," Dinah confirmed quietly.
I realize he is so much stronger than me in that moment. All of those things were nothing new- for they were the same emotions I had felt after Quinn's attack. But I had tried to take the coward's way out. My father left, but thanks to Dinah's abilities, I was shown that he had never been far. Those nights when I felt like someone had been watching over me? It really had been him.
That revelation left me in a small state of shock and Dinah simply sat there next to me, allowing me the time to work through everything. Finally I sucked in a sharp breath and looked up at her. "Well .that certainly changes things huh?"
She shrugs. "A little. I still think he could have stayed around or at least you know checked in instead of lurking in the shadows on occasion. But I think you can at least relate with how he feels and thought that maybe you should know that. He does genuinely regret what he did though."
As I continue to digest everything I was shown, I also realize that he and I will probably never have the same relationship that Dinah shares with Ollie or that Barbara and Jim share. But then a part of me realizes that in that respect, he and I are very much alike and I don't think I could handle something like that either.
With a wry grin, I shake my head and chuckle quietly. "Guess I am a chip of the old block huh?" I ask, thinking about all the similarities between us, now that I've been given this special insight to the man who is my father.
Dinah laughs. "Kinda scary sometimes isn't it? Guess there really is something to be said about genes and all that huh?"
I have to agree. With another shake of my head I stand up once more and look back towards the beach house, smiling as my love dozes next to Alfred, who lifts his glass up towards me in salute, and gives me that special smile of his.
I feel a warmth that has nothing to do with the sun, spread through me. I reach out, snagging Dinah around the shoulders, and know she can feel the happiness and love I feel for my whole family right now. Out of the corner of my eye I see her quickly wipe away a tear, and then steer us back towards the house. "Come on, let's see if we can get Alfred drunk," I whisper conspiratorially and she bursts out laughing. It's music to my ears.
I suppose I should be concerned that I will loose my privileged position within the Personal Assistants Association lest they discover I have indeed broken the boundaries of remaining a profession distance from one's employer. I ponder that for a moment more as I nurse my drink, the third for the evening, as I know that Miss Helena is trying valiantly to get me snookered, and watch my three girls interact. Miss Barbara is admitting to a rather embarrassing run-in with Catwoman and as their laughter fills the room at the end of the story, my own quiet chuckle is added as well.
To hell with the Association.
"You ready for a refill there Alfred?" Helena asks me, a smirk on her face. While her eyes are hidden behind her protective glasses, I have become quite excellent at reading her features.
"Miss Helena, I should warn you that I was holding my liquor well before even your father was born. Your attempts to get this old man inebriated are futile," I reply, overplaying the air of British superiority for their amusement.
"Busted!" Miss Dinah snickers.
Miss Helena seems undeterred however. "That sounds an awful lot like a challenge to me Al," she says in that long familiar, playful growl.
I merely sniff and down the rest of my aged scotch and place it in front of her. I quirk my eyebrow at her. "Do your worst Miss Helena."
I can't help but allow a tiny smirk of satisfaction creep onto my face as I see all three women freeze in absolute shock. None of them can believe I just rose to a drinking challenge from one Helena Kyle. My challenger sits there blinking at me for several seconds and then swiftly rises to her feet and saunters over to the bar.
"Pick your poison old man," she drawls.
"The same if you will Miss Helena," I reply, as I stand as well. "If you ladies will excuse me for a moment?" I request before heading off to my room.
Miss Dinah and Miss Barbara can only nod, still in shock it would seem as I make my way back to my room. Once there I, close my door and head over to the dresser. I pause for a moment and look down with great fondness at the picture resting there. It is something I carry with me wherever I may go- a picture of my three girls.
I trace a finger across their smiling faces, allowing one to freely lift my own for a moment. They have brought much joy into my life- more than they will ever know. It comforts me to know that as is inevitable, I shall perish one day- but I will do so surrounded by the love of my family. It is my sincerest wish that Master Bruce and Miss Helena mend the rift in their relationship, but I know that is a bridge they alone must cross. I am overjoyed that Miss Barbara and Miss Helena have found their true love in each other, for both have endured so much and are well deserving of discovering that kind of joy. And I am infinitely relieved that Miss Dinah has found herself once more. This trial was by far, one of the harshest, but in the end, what was gained far exceeds what was lost.
In a way, I am almost thankful towards that dreadful woman. Almost.
I reach into my dresser drawer and pull out a small metal vile and slip it into my pocket before exiting my room. Miss Barbara and Miss Dinah are staring at me as if I have grown a second head. I arch an eyebrow at them. "Is something the matter Miss Barbara?"
"I well no I you ." It silently amuses me that Oracle is left speechless by my actions.
"I believe you three were the one to insist that I 'relax and unwind' with you on this vacation. Well I have been known to enjoy a few drinks with old friends whilst on holiday."
"Yeah but they don't think you can out drink me," Miss Helena chuckles.
"Miss Helena I would never dream of trying to go up against your unique metabolism. I simply pointed out that I was more than capable of handling my liquor," I pointed out.
"Guess we'll see now huh?" she says with that mischievous grin, pouring herself a healthy glass of her own favorite poison.
I claim mine from the counter, palming the small vial and distributing a tiny amount of the powder stored inside it into my glass as I walk back to the chair I have been reclining in. Swirling my glass a bit, I make a show of enjoying the fragrance for a moment.
Across the room, Miss Helena lifts her glass in a silent challenge and I smirk behind my first sip. I saw Miss Dinah's head lift a fraction, and her gaze discreetly finds mine. A sly smirk lifts the corner of her lips as she realizes that the compound in my glass will neutralize the effects of the alcohol without ruining the taste of the fine scotch. She has also caught the silent challenge that has just passed between Miss Helena and I.
I suppose I should feel a tiny bit guilty, for Miss Barbara will ultimately suffer from Miss Helena's over imbibing tonight as well. But Miss Dinah winks at me and I feel obligated to carry through with Miss Helena's request. She would expect nothing less.
And besides. Every good butler has his secrets.
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