DISCLAIMER: I do not own anything, nor am I writing this for profit. The characters belong to the WB and DC comics. No copyright infringement is intended.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Phryne for your wonderful advice. I'm sure I gave you plenty of headaches, but thank you for all your grammar corrections.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thank you for reading. Any comments or criticism can be directed to adliren@gmail.com.
SERIES: Part one of the 'What it Means to Be a Hero' series.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

What it Means to Be a Hero
Part 1: Getting Back On Your Feet

By adliren



"Oracle, do you copy?"

"I copy Huntress. What do you see?"

A dark shadow lightly shifted its weight on the edge of a ten story apartment building. "Shit Oracle, there's like twenty guys with machine guns and they've got hostages! What's the plan?"

In the newly remodeled clock tower across town, Barbra Gordon, aka Oracle, frantically scanned her monitors as Huntress's panicked voice came over the coms.

This wasn't supposed to happen. She had sent Huntress out to run a sweep of one of New Gotham's residential areas. The most trouble Helena should have run into was a bored housewife catching sight of her as she soared over the rooftops. Now however it seemed that she had sent her protégé into a disastrous situation unprepared.

She had completely miscalculated. Again.

"Uh, Oracle, you there . . .?"

Barbara snapped her head up and focused once again on her screens. She had zoned out while Huntress was in trouble. What was the matter with her? She knew she wasn't fully recovered from Harley Quinn's attack on her home and family, but dammit that was no excuse to leave Huntress in such a vulnerable position.

'Pull it together, Babs,' she snapped to herself.

"I copy Huntress. What's the situation now," she asked, once again in full Oracle mode.

"Yeah, about that," Huntress' laconic voice echoed around the Delphi platform, "actually it's really dead out tonight. Funny how those guys just kinda disappeared."

Only because she had been living with Helena on and off for seven years and known the woman since she was twelve, was Barbara able to detect the note of apology in the other woman's response. Most people would have simply taken the words at their sarcastic face value. For this reason alone was Barbara able to keep from laying into the crime fighter.

"What do you mean it's dead out?! Are you trying to give me a heart attack? What the hell is wrong with you?"

Well she was mostly successful.

On the couch doing her homework as Barbara had commanded earlier in the evening, the tall blond teenager shook her head with a small smile. No matter how much their lives had changed since the Quinn incident, some things would always be the same.

As Huntress's snippy response came back over the coms and Barbara responded in kind, Dinah shook her head again and focused back on her calculus book.

Helena Kyle wandered into her apartment above the Dark Horse bar were she worked, glancing at the clock that announced it was after 3 am. She was pretty sure Barbara had kept her out so late because of her earlier joke. She realized that Barbara had been kinda worried about her which kinda made her feel like an ass, but she really missed the old days. Before her psycho therapist had tried to destroy their lives.

Before Quinn, Barbara used to joke around with her all the time. Yeah, it was still "Stay focused Huntress" and "You need to be alert at all times Huntress", but there had been teasing and innuendo too. Now if she could just get Red to say anything other than "I copy" and "What's the situation", Helena counted it as a huge success.

'Well what do you expect, you tried to kill her, the clock tower and Delphi were destroyed, and her boyfriend was murdered,' Helena thought to herself as she stripped out of her Huntress costume. 'And who's fault is that, oh yeah yours.'

And that was the worst part of the whole thing. It was her fault. She had told Quinn everything. The pass codes to the tower, that Barbara had been Batgirl and was now Oracle, and even about Wade.

Why did she have to tell her about Wade?

Helena was pretty sure Barbara would have forgiven her for everything else, even trying to kill her, but not getting Wade murdered. Just because she hadn't said anything to Helena didn't mean it wasn't true. Helena could see the blame and recrimination the few times she had worked up the nerve to look into Barbara's eyes.

"This sucks major," Helena muttered to herself as she finally managed to wiggle out of her leather pants. She really wanted to fix things, but even she, don't worry about consequences or forgiveness girl that she was, realized that it wasn't that easy, would never be easy.

And that was really the worst part the brunette decided. She could never fix things with Barbara.

With that cheery thought she headed into her small bedroom to stare at the ceiling until she was exhausted enough to sleep.

Sitting at her desk finishing off her second cup of coffee, Barbara waited for the first bell to ring. Until then, the high school English teacher was determined to enjoy some peace and quiet. That was if she could stop thinking about last night for even a minute.

Barbara realized she hadn't really been mad at Helena. The other woman had just been joking around like they used to. Granted, giving her false reports was one of the quickest ways to annoy the redhead, but she hadn't cut Helena any slack last night. In fact, the more she thought about it, the more she regretted her response. She wasn't angry with Helena, she was angry with herself. She just couldn't seem to get back to the way she had been before . . . before Wade.

'Before I got Wade killed,' she thought.

Barbara sighed softly and made a mental note to apologize to Helena later when they communicated for sweeps. Knowing the brunette though, she had probably already forgotten about the incident. The dark crime fighter had a lust for life and short enough attention span that holding a grudge was just not in her nature . . . except were her father was concerned.

Realizing that she wasn't scoring any points on that whole relaxing thing, Barbara was perhaps a little too happy when the door to her classroom opened. Consequently the smile that she bestowed on her youngest ward was perhaps a little too bright, causing Dinah to look at her somewhat strangely.

'Sizing me up for a white jacket and padded room,' the redhead thought to herself.

"Hey Barbara. I just wanted to say hi before I head to class," the young blond stated with a sunny smile. "I can't believe that school is almost out for the summer. I mean just two more weeks. It's just crazy. Do you think there will be some kind of like super cheesy assembly in the gym, you know like "go out and have fun this summer but stay safe", cause you know that's what we used to have at my old school. You'd tell me if we were right? So I could be prepared, you know to not show up or something. They try to trick you into going you know? So you'd tell me wouldn't you?

Barbara, by now used to the girl's amazing ability to talk rapidly and cover a multitude of seemingly random subjects, just nodded until the girl paused for breath.

"Of course I wouldn't tell you Dinah," she responded. "Those assemblies build character. Besides if I have to suffer through them, so do you."

"That's just mean. And not fair, really not fair. And did I mention mean. I can't believe Helena ever made it through one of those. I bet you told her when they were having one."

Barbara took a moment to compose herself, not wanting the blond to know that she had in fact told Helena when they were having assemblies, simply so the brunette wouldn't heckle the principle or pull some kind of stunt. Helena had been very troubled after her mother's death and throughout her last year of high school.

And just great, now her thoughts were back on Helena. Barbara took off her glasses and pinched the bride of her nose trying to ease the headache she felt coming.

Putting her glasses back on she focused once again on Dinah who hadn't stopped talking while Barbara's mind had gone off on her tangent. Once again she found herself more pleased than she perhaps should have been when the first bell rang, cutting off her young charge in mid-sentence.

"Oh there's the bell," the blond said reaching for the door. "I'll catch a ride home with Gabby if that's okay. Okay great thanks. See you at home." This last was shouted as the retreating figure hurried down the hall.

Barbara shook her head at the resilience of the teen. Quinn's attack hadn't seemed to affect the girl's sunny out-look on life. She found herself absurdly grateful for that fact. She may be falling apart, but at least the two most important people in her life seemed to be coping fine.

Wheeling her chair closer to her desk, Barbara grabbed a stack of papers and prepared to greet the rush of her first class.

"Hey all, I come bearing movies and pizza on speed dial," Huntress shouted as she breezed into the clock tower two weeks later. As she entered she noticed Barbara was set up at the Delphi platform apparently completely absorbed in whatever was being displayed on the monitors. She didn't see the Kid, but muffled sounds from the training room gave her a pretty good idea of where to find her.

'Unless Alfred has decided to take up Tai Chi.'

Smiling at her own wit, she tossed the movies onto the couch and bounded up to the Delphi.

"Hey Red, come on, did ya hear me? You, me, the Kid and an all night movie marathon to celebrate the close of another school year. Whatcha say?"

Barbara craned her neck to look over at Helena with a small smile. "That sounds absolutely wonderful Hel, but I doubt I would be considered a suitable guardian for Dinah if I allowed her to watch your sort of movies."

Helena had to laugh at this, especially when it was accompanied by the raised eyebrow and quirk of red lips that she was such a sucker for.

"Yeah well, those movies are for later, you know when the Kid's asleep. You don't mind keeping me company later and watching a little "quality entertainment" do you," Helena purred causing the redhead to blush. She really couldn't help herself, she flirted with everyone, it was just her nature, but with the shade Red was turning, she may have to consider toning it down.

Barbara seemed to pull it together pretty quickly however. "Well Hel, I've never minded a little late night viewing. I hope you rented something that can keep my interest. Otherwise I may be forced to take matters into my own hands." At this Helena was pretty sure her heart stopped for a minute then went into overdrive to make up for lost time. "I'm sure I remember there being a documentary on the evolution of the microchip on the History channel," Barbara continued after a moment. The redhead smirked at Helena and turned back to monitors to continue her scans.

Man she loved how Barbara could do that. It didn't matter what she threw at her, Red always just seemed to give it right back. Leaning down and putting her lips next to Barbara's ear she purred, "Well in that case I'll have to make sure I stick around. How could I refuse such a blatant display of self-pleasuring?" Chuckling at the redhead's involuntary shiver, she pulled back. "Until then I guess we'll just have to settle for Free Willy."

The chuckle became a full out laugh as she wandered back toward the couch with Barbara's voice following her. "You did not rent Free Willy, Hel."

"Helena," Barbara whined when the brunette didn't answer immediately. This soon deteriorated into the occasional mutters such as, "physically impossible for a twelve hundred pound whale to jump that high" and "no one actually likes the harmonica."

Helena just continued laughing and went to set up the DVD player.

Huntress was doing her fair share of the muttering later that night. Mostly it included phrases like "this is how I spend my Friday night" and "just stay down fucker," accompanied by the sounds of her fists and feet connecting with flesh.

The alert had come in over the Delphi just as they had all settled in to watch the second movie. Immediately Barbara had raced over and ordered Helena to get her Huntress outfit. Apparently there was a robbery at one of New Gotham's larger banks and a security guard had been killed. The suspects were still at large and the police were having no luck tracking them. With Oracle's technology, however, it would be a simple matter to direct Huntress to their location.

So instead of enjoying a quiet night with her family, Helena was out on the streets handing an ass whooping to the five masked men.

'My life is so fucked up,' the brunette thought to herself, not for the first time. Of course kicking the shit out of scum like this was definitely something she enjoyed. A lot, she added feeling the nose of one of the robbers break under her fist. It was just that she had been really looking forward to spending some time with a relaxed Barbara now that she was no longer at school and constantly reminded of Wade's absence.

"And whose fault is that?" Helena asked the men gathered around her, three already moaning or out cold on the ground. "Mine again," she clarified, punctuating her accusation with a round house kick to the fourth robber's jaw.

'And then there was one,' Helena thought to herself as she closed in on the last man.

Seemingly oblivious to the fact that this small, lithe woman had just decimated his companions, the man pulled a knife and began to taunt her, his eyes dark pits in a sallow face. "Come on baby," he crooned waving the knife. "Gonna make you feel things you never felt before, gonna make do things you never thought about doing, but you know you want to, yeah you do."

And just like that, all Helena could see was red - and then black because she wasn't seeing anything, just feeling the burn in muscles as she pounded her fists into something that occasionally whimpered and made wet, cracking noises.

Eventually a different sound began to pierce through her fog and made her take notice. A voice that sounded calm, but that Huntress knew from long association was starting to hold real fear. "Huntress, come in. Huntress, please respond. Helena!"

This last exclamation fully registered with the crime fighter and she slowed down the motion of her arms and then finally stopped. All she wanted to do was focus on the voice in her ear and let it calm her, but the blackness that had temporarily settled over her vision was fading and she was forced to see what she had done. Forced to look at the . . . body . . . that had once been one of the bank robbers.

'Before I turned him into hamburger,' the brunette thought, her stomach immediately rebelling.

And body was definitely the right word. With her enhanced senses, Huntress could immediately see that he wasn't breathing and hear that his heart had stopped beating. She quickly got to her feet and scrambled away.

Somehow she managed to focus in on the voice again, this time able to recognize that Oracle was trying to reach her, calling out again and again, asking if she was okay. At this Helena had to laugh, she was never going to be okay. She had killed a man. Not a super villain, not some kind of huge threat to the safely of all good citizens of New Gotham. No, just some two bit bank robber who had threatened her with a knife and said the wrong thing.

"We don't kill." Isn't that what she had told Barbara when she had her hands wrapped around Quinn's throat? She had been trying to save Barbara, not Quinn when she had said that.

"We don't kill." Well it looked like she did. So who was going to save her?

She quickly turned on her com unit and told Oracle to send the police and an ambulance to her location. Then leaping up onto the rooftops she removed her necklace and earrings and raced as fast as she could away from the robbers, the body, and the knowledge of what she truly was.

Furiously typing on three separate keyboards, Barbara Gordon frantically tried to understand what had just occurred. She had sent Huntress out to apprehend a simple gang of bank robbers and now all hell seemed to have broken loose.

At first things had seemed fine. Huntress had engaged the targets with her usual banter and occasional expletive, but then something had gone very, very wrong.

The communication device she had designed was very sensitive so it was easy to hear the sounds of breaking bone and cartilage as Huntress had attacked the man. Knowing she had to do something Barbara had called to the other woman and eventually resorted to using her real name even over her coms. That had seemed to reach her and suddenly everything went silent.

Then Huntress had asked her to call for the police and an ambulance. This wasn't that uncommon for the crime fighters, and normally Barbara wouldn't have been concerned. But there was something in Helena's voice that had shaken Barbara. Or maybe it was that there was nothing in her voice. The tone was completely dead, without emotion. For the amazingly boisterous Huntress, this was unheard of. Barbara knew the sound of Helena's voice very well. She might be angry, depressed, joyful, or any number of emotions, even at the same time, but Barbara could never remember hearing just . . . nothing.

Suddenly all the signals she was receiving from Helena's coms went dead. She had no way of communicating with or locating the brunette. Barbara had no idea what was going on and she was starting to get scared. Glancing over at one of the screens she saw the EMT's report from the scene. Three letters seemed to bore into her brain. DOA. And suddenly Barbara Gordon wasn't scared anymore, she was just numb.

Barbara knew. Of course she knew. Barbara Gordon was the fucking Oracle. She knew fucking everything. So it didn't matter that she had turned off her coms and hadn't told her what had happened. She would know. She would know that Helena had killed. That Helena had beaten a man to death with her own hands. And now instead of seeing just blame in Barbara's eyes, Helena knew if she looked she would see hatred, disgust, and maybe even fear.

She couldn't take that. Not from Barbara. Everyone else may think she was an asshole and a fuck-up, but Barbara had always believed in her. Since the very first day they had met at the gymnastics training camp Helena's mother had forced her to attend, Barbara had seen something in her. Helena knew it wasn't the same thing she had felt seeing redhead for the first time, but it had been real and it had allowed Barbara to stay with her when she was at her worst after Mom died. And now that was gone. Whatever good Barbara might have once believed was in her, she sure didn't believe it now.

As Helena wandered into her apartment in a daze, she immediately turned toward the bathroom. She had to get a shower. She was covered in blood and . . . other things. She needed to clean up. She needed to change.

And that was the heart of the matter, Helena realized. After Quinn she should have seen what she was capable of, that things couldn't continue the way they were. She should have fucking seen it. Things were going to have to change.

Helena stepped under the spray of hot water and began to make her plans.

Dinah Redmond was trying to be tough. She was trying to adopt what she thought of as her "Huntress face." The one that said she didn't give a shit about anything and nothing could touch her. She was pretty sure she just looked like a scared little kid.

She wasn't sure what had happened. They had just finished watching a movie and having a great time. Barbara had been relaxed and the tenseness she had seemed to be carrying throughout her body since Wade died had seemed to ease somewhat. Helena had been, well, better than normal, talking and joking, making popcorn, and even offering to share some of it with Dinah.

And then the alarm for the Delphi had gone off. Soon Huntress was out taking care of it and Barbara was monitoring her on the super computer, leaving Dinah to watch the movie alone on the couch.

She wished that Barbara would let her go out with Helena. Sometimes if nothing was going on, and she didn't have school the next day, and the planets aligned just right, Oracle would let her go with Huntress on sweeps if she promised to follow orders without question - but so far these opportunities were few and far between.

Dinah was interrupted from her internal ramblings by the loud and gruesome sounds coming over the Delphi speakers. She didn't have much experience, but that sounded like breaking bone, a lot of bone. Then Barbara was frantically calling Helena, and the sounds cut off.

Dinah was a touch telepath, meaning that usually she had to touch someone to pick up on their thoughts or emotions. But sometimes, if the emotions were really strong she could pick them up just by being in the same room as the person. This was one of those times.

The wave of fear that rolled out from the figure at the computer momentarily stunned the teen. She had never felt fear from Barbara before. She was usually so controlled that Dinah didn't pick up much of anything, but this was way different.

And the thing was, Dinah could tell that Barbara wasn't afraid for herself. This overwhelming fear was directed at another, a fear for that person.

Dinah quietly turned off the DVD and sat back on the couch. This was so not good.

As Barbara continued to stare at the data pouring in, Dinah wondered what had happened to Helena this time and how they would all make it through this new disaster.

Two days after the incident, Helena stepped into the elevator that would take her up to the clock tower. It was late afternoon and Barbara should be in. She had been calling Helena for the past two days on the hour, every hour. Helena hadn't answered once.

She had been busy getting everything together and finishing her preparations. She had considered not even coming by the clock tower, but she knew she owed Barbara, and maybe even the Kid, more than that. So here she was, loitering in the elevator trying to work up the nerve to do the hardest thing she had ever done.

She could do this. She had to do this, not for herself, but for Barbara.

When the elevator doors slowly slid open, the indifferent mask she had perfected after the death of her mother was firmly in place and she was able to step out and walk calmly toward the Delphi and the redhead seated in front of it.

Hearing the elevator, Barbara had immediately turned; desperately hoping it was a certain dark haired crime fighter that she hadn't heard from in over two days. When the visitor indeed turned out to be Helena she nearly shouted for joy. Noticing the familiar set to the delicate features and easy stride, she allowed herself to hope for just a moment that things would be all right; that they could talk about what had happened and just move on.

Barbara Gordon allowed herself to hope, that is until she looked into the eyes of her best friend and crime fighting partner. The dark blue eyes that she knew so well, that were always so full of life and passion were now empty and hollow. It looked as though Helena hadn't slept at all since the other night, and seeing this, Barbara's heart broke a little more. Those eyes were focused just a little above her left shoulder and wouldn't meet hers as the figure approached slowly. 'Almost as if she thinks I would run from her, or you know roll from her,' Barbara thought. 'Okay you know you're nervous when you start making paraplegic jokes, Babs.'

And that was the truth. She, Barbara Gordon was very nervous. Sweaty palms, shortness of breath, wanting to run and hide under the covers nervous. For someone who was always so in control of her emotions, who needed to be in control of every part of her life, this was very discomforting.

The truth was, she had a pretty good idea of how she expected this meeting to go. She was sure it was going to end in tears and probably some shouting by both parties, so of course she was nervous, big emotional scenes were not her thing. But looking into Helena's eyes, Barbara suddenly had the feeling that she actually didn't have the first clue as to what was going to happen in the next few minutes and her nerves got a whole lot worse.

Helena stopped a couple of feet away from Barbara and shifted her weight from one foot to the other. "Hey," she managed to get out through a throat that felt stuffed with cotton.

'Oh great one, you go off and kill someone and don't speak to her for two days, and the best you can do is, Hey,' she thought to herself.

Helena still couldn't bring herself to meet Barbara eyes, but from the way Barbara was sitting, she looked kinda nervous. For some perverse reason, this made Helena feel a little bit better and a little more determined. So when Barbara responded with a quiet, "Hello Helena," in a voiced filled with love, she was able to keep from breaking into tears and wrapping her arms around the other woman. Barely.

Instead, Helena forced herself to meet the beautiful green eyes that were studying her so intensely, then managed to choke out, "I think we need to talk."

"Yes Helena, I think we do," Barbara responded. "I think you may be under a false impression . . ."

"Barbara I killed someone," Helena interrupted. "Yeah he was a criminal, a first rate asshole, but he didn't deserve to die. And we don't kill." This last was said so softly that Helena scarcely heard herself, but somehow Barbara caught it.

"You're right Helena, we don't kill. You don't kill." Helena's head snapped up at this. "That's right Helena, he didn't die. The paramedics were able to resuscitate him. He'll be in the hospital for a long time, and he may never fully recover, but he's not dead. You didn't kill."

Helena felt the tears start to flow down her face hearing Barbara tell her this in a voice filled with love and understanding. For one wild moment she allowed herself to hope, to believe that everything could go back to the way it was before. Yeah, so she had beaten some guy to a pulp, what else was new, he had probably deserved it. Barbara seemed, well, not okay with it, but she didn't seem like she hated Helena or was going to tell her to take a hike and never come back. So everything was all right then, wasn't it?

But then she remembered the man's blood covered body. The silence that she had heard when she had finally come back to herself. And another image flickered behind her eyes and was gone. An image of a man with a knife stuck in his ribs and Barbara's tears as they fell on his slack face.

Helena knew what she had to do, it was for the best.

"Barbara," Helena started, almost choking on the name, "he did die. It was only luck that they were able to save him. When I left, he was dead," Helena said, tears still slipping down her face. "I didn't kill him, but I might as well have," she continued, no longer even sure what she was referring to. "This, this can't go on."

There, she had said it. Whatever happened now, she had actually done it.

Red seemed to jerk back in her chair a little bit and then stiffened all over. Her face stilled and it almost seemed like she was preparing for a blow.

"Helena, what do you mean," Barbara asked in her most controlled voice.

"I mean, I mean that I can't do this anymore. I can't be Huntress." When Barbara's face immediately went blank, Helena realized she needed to add something. "At least, right now." There was the slightest loosening of the other woman's muscles. "I need some time. I need to figure out what's going on with me and why I get so . . . angry . . . and hurt people and . . . well before it's too late, you know? I've got to well, uh, get away."

Barbara was completely still, but knowing the other woman as well as she did, Helena could see that super brain of hers going a mile a minute. Finally after a long silence she spoke, "Okay Hel, if that's what you think you need." Helena breathed a little easier at this. Barbara understood and was going to be okay with it. "So you take a few days or a week or two and then we'll talk again. Everything will be alright Hel." This last was accompanied by another sweet smile from the redhead.

With a sinking feeling, Helena realized that things were not going to be alright. Barbara didn't understand and now Helena was going to have to make it worse.

"Uh, Barbara, that's not really what I meant. When I said I had to get away, I kinda meant away, away. You know, um, like out of New Gotham away." Helena couldn't look at Barbara as she said this and instead turned her gaze to the floor.

"Out of New Gotham." Barbara repeated in a dazed sounding voice.

Helena, distressed by the tone of Barbara's voice, tried to sound enthusiastic. "Yeah you know, travel for a while. Just get away from everything. Do some soul searching, get a little culture. That kinda thing. It'll be good for me, right?" She was desperately trying to make things better.

"Get some culture." Barbara repeated again. "Helena what are you talking about?" Barbara's eyes began flashing, and her voice just kept getting louder. "What are you thinking? You almost kill someone, so you just decide that you'll go on vacation. You'll go "see the sights" and that will make sure that next time you go up against some criminal you won't beat him to death."

Barbara was angry. She was angry and really, really scared, so she did what she always did when this happened with Helena. She lashed out and expected the brunette to respond with her own verbal assault . . . except she didn't.

Helena felt like she had aged ten years in the last few days, and maybe she had, because instead of yelling at Barbara and telling her to back off, she recognized that the other woman was scared and so she tried her best to explain.

Walking over to kneel down in front of Barbara's chair she reached out and gently lifted one of the redhead's hands in her own. "Barbara it's not like that. If I stay here, nothing will change. I'll mope around my apartment for a couple of days, and then I won't be able to resist calling you or coming over here to see you." She gave Barbara a small smile which the other woman didn't return. Sighing Helena continued, "I've got to change Barbara. I can't keep being this out of control. You did your best with me. You saved me when Mom died. You taught me how to channel my anger and how I could use it to defend this city. But, it's not enough . . . I'm not enough."

Looking up into the green eyes so close to her own, she silently begged for the other woman to understand. After taking a short breath Barbara spoke in a near whisper. "You need to get away from me."

"No, I . . .," Helena automatically began, then paused. She needed to tell the other woman the truth. "Yeah," she said softly and felt Barbara flinch. "Barbara, you've always made everything better. Since the first time I met you. But, I don't think you can this time. I don't think I can let you. It's time for me to fix my own mistakes, to fix myself. I can't do that here with you. I'm too used to leaning on you for everything. We're totally co-dependent as I'm sure you've noticed," Helena said hoping to earn a smile and was once again disappointed. The redhead just continued to sit there.

"I'm sorry Barbara. I've made all the arrangements. You won't have to worry about anything, I've taken care of it. My apartment is all paid up for however long I'm gone. I've called around and found the best physical therapist to help you with your PT. They said they could either meet you at their offices or here at the tower. Dinah is ready to take over sweeps." Seeing Barbara about to argue, Helena rushed ahead, "I know, I know, but we've trained her well, and I also contacted Nightwing."

Nightwing, or Dick Grayson as he was known when he wasn't running around in cape and cowl, was her adopted brother. Bruce Wayne had taken him in and trained him to be his protégé. When Batman disappeared he had taken on a new superhero identity and was now defending Bludhaven, one of New Gotham's neighboring cities.

Barbara looked shocked. "Nightwing! You called Dick? You hate Dick."

"Yeah well it's mutual and I hate him as a human being, not as a crime fighter. He's actually okay at that." Helena felt like she was chewing glass having to get that sentiment out. "He can help finish Dinah's training and run sweeps for you. It will probably be good for her. Learning a new fighting style and everything. I'm not leaving you alone Babs, you can go on just like before. Oracle is still needed, right?"

"Helena," Barbara started and cut herself off. Instead she looked directly into the brunette's eyes. Helena felt like her entire soul was being laid bare and she wondered how much of her inner darkness the other woman would discover. Then Barbara closed her eyes and seemed to try and collect herself for several silent minutes. When green eyes opened again, Helena could only see some kind of determination shinning within them.

"When do you leave?"

Not sure she had heard correctly, Helena nevertheless replied. "Um, my plane leaves in," she quickly glanced at the clock face, "uh, four hours."

"I see," Barbara stated calmly. "When do you think you'll be back?"

"I . . . I'm not sure."

"Well take the time you need," Barbara continued in that eerily calm voice. "I'm sure we'll be fine."

Helena, unsure what the hell had just happened managed to stammer out, "Okay, well great, uh, thanks for you know being so understanding. I'll uh, try and send you, um, postcards or something, to let you know how I'm doing."

"I would appreciate that Helena," was Barbara's response.

Looking up into Barbara's eyes from where she was still kneeling, Helena saw that she had completely closed herself off. Even knowing the other woman as well as she did, she had no idea what the redhead was thinking.

"Well uh, okay then. I should probably be going. You know how long it takes to get through security these days," Helena tried to joke. Barbara just looked at her.

Suddenly it really hit Helena that she was leaving. Leaving Barbara. She wanted to just grab the other woman and take it all back, say it was a mistake, let Barbara make it better, but she couldn't, that wouldn't be fair. Instead she rose up and slowly leaned forward bringing her lip to brush softly against Barbara's cheek. She inhaled the scent that always drove her crazy and she supposed always would, trying desperately to burn it into her memory as it was already burned into her heart.

Keeping her lips resting lightly where they were, she whispered into the soft skin. "I'll come back."

Helena straightened and without another glance walked to the elevator and exited the clock tower, leaving the life that she knew and the woman she loved behind.

Part 2

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