DISCLAIMER: I don't own 'em. DC Comics, Tollin/Robbins, the WB, and probably a whole host of others do. No money has exchanged hands … I write to entertain myself and to try and understand life, the universe, and everything.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is a fairly rough experiment into writing in second person. Not an easy task, hence the reason this is rough. Hope it provides you with a couple moments of entertainment.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SEASON: Set about a year after the finale.

By ocean gazer


You rub your eyes – vision blurred from lack of sleep – and try to focus on the Delphi. Usually, it's not a struggle – the screens beckon to you like a siren song with their melodies of data and their lyrics of knowledge. Usually, you can't wait to caress the keyboard with your fingertips, to lose yourself in the computer for hours – until exhaustion forces you to quit or Alfred comes over to clear his throat in a silent lecture about working all night.

Not tonight.

Tonight, the multiple screens and the rapid fire green text have no allure at all. You have cataloguing programs running, a correlation program running, a half written program for mining data that you wanted to have finished three weeks ago, and 350 kb of police department data that you haven't yet looked over in your hope of finding a pattern to a set of seemingly random burglaries. It's all a challenge, to be sure, balancing all that work with monitoring your partners while they're on sweeps, grading poorly written essays on literary symbolism, and serving as guardian to a new ward, not to mention trying to keep your former ward from getting into too much trouble. Normally, you thrive on challenges.

Right now, you dread them.

And why? Because they take time. And right now, time seems all too precious to you, all too fleeting. You wonder why you've never noticed it before … why you've never really seen it.

Maybe it's that you're an adrenaline junkie – living your entire life in a way to maximize your thrills, regardless of how much or how little time you spent pursuing them. After all, you couldn't have been a world class gymnast if you begrudged the time needed to practice. You couldn't have been Batgirl if you worried about how many hours you spent on the streets. And there's no way in hell you could have risen from the ashes to recreate yourself as Oracle if you thought – really thought – about how much time and energy it would suck from the rest of your life.

For you, the thrills have always outweighed the sacrifices. So maybe that's why you've never really thought too much about time, or the lack thereof. Of course, it wasn't just the thrill seeking aspect of your personality. Your childhood wasn't exactly something that you wanted to see play out in slow motion. Even as a child toddling around, you wanted time to pass by more quickly. It wasn't just out of an impatience to grow up and achieve the privileges of adulthood. It was because if time went by in a swift blur, there would be fewer fight, fewer slaps and kicks, fewer chances for your father to make life miserable.

You learned long ago that too much free time really did invite in the devil.

You stuffed your days as full as possible with things that needed doing, a city that needed saving, a role that needed filling. You dated men you weren't in love with when you still had an hour or two a week that was unscheduled, that needed to have something filled in on the calendar. Whatever sense of guilt or dissatisfaction you had with how your life was going, you pushed aside and focused instead on all the things you accomplished, all the important things you did. It's true that your single minded need to keep busy led you to fill roles that needed filling; if not for Batgirl and Oracle, the world would be a far more dangerous place. And it's also true that you truly love your self-chosen roles – that you wouldn't trade them for anything.

You got the right results … just not always for the right reasons.

But now … now …

In a handful of months, you've realized it wasn't enough. You've realized that quantity is no substitute for quality, that less really can be more. You've realized that sometimes time needs to be free, needs to move slowly so that happiness has a chance to blossom.

You'd love to be able to take credit for suddenly coming to your senses and absorbing the truth of these life lessons. Lord knows Alfred and others have hammered away at you about this for years. But honesty compels you to admit you can't take the credit. It wasn't you. It was Helena who made you see this, Helena who flipped your perceptions around so they landed sideways, but right side up.

More specifically, it was two little sentences, ten words total. Two sentences spoken after your second showdown with Harley Quinn, when you put on your neural coupler again and confronted the escaped madwoman who had kidnapped Helena and Dinah. Two sentences spoken after you collapsed on the floor, having been beaten nearly to a pulp to keep Quinn distracted until the police could arrive to free your partners and help in the fight. Ten words spoken right after a sharpshooter killed Quinn to keep her knife from finding a target more fatal than your arm.

Ten words spoken when Helena skidded to a halt by your side and pulled you into a protective embrace.

"I couldn't bear to lose you. I love you, Barbara."

You were nestled in Helena's arms, clutching at her in shock and pain, feeling her breath ghost over the top of your hair as she held you close. Maybe it was the adrenaline that broke through the careful walls you'd built around your heart over the years. Maybe it was the fear of losing her to Quinn, the fear that had made you risk using the neural coupler again. Maybe it was the fear of dying. But lying there in shock, bleeding from the vicious attack, you heard Helena's words and you felt your heart grow three sizes and you whispered back in a blinding moment of truth, "I love you too."

In the blur of days that followed, you didn't have the energy or time to think about just what that meant. There was the dreaded hospital bed for over a week, and then another week of being hovered over by Alfred and Dinah. You and Helena spent time together, to be sure, but with the unspoken caveat that the conversation didn't go any deeper than weather or the world of crime fighting.

Not that your eventual conversations were all that deep or complex. You went into them with the same intense focus on order and planning that has defined your life. You were ready to draw a map to define just what it meant for you two to be in love and to plan out a life together, as though an idyllic life were as simple as making a road map.

Helena just laughed at you -- at you, not with you – and reminded you pointedly that love wasn't like a math problem or computer program. There are no "if X,Y, and Z, then Q" outcomes. You weren't offended. You knew you were being a bit uptight, a bit anal-retentive. It's hard for you to not live a life of complete control – a life where you don't have set certainties. Ironic as it is, while you never know exactly what will happen in your life of crime fighting, you know your role and what you will be doing. Certainty in the midst of chaos. You told this to Helena. She understood. She knows you very well – better than anyone else alive – and she loves you anyway. You just haven't quite figured out why.

You listened – really listened – when she put it all in perspective with her customary bluntness. And you knew she was right. Nothing in your lives would really change drastically, except that your free time would be spent together, and you'd both start thinking about life in terms of "us" rather than "me."

You were surprised by the lack of flowers and white picket fences in her fantasy about a relationship, and you told her so. She just offered up her most enigmatic smile, and pointed out that she was no easier to live with than you are – and that neither of you could expect your relationships to be any more conventional than the rest of your lives. She had a definite point.

You smiled then, feeling relief from a pressure you hadn't even known you were under. It hadn't occurred to you until then that you were worried about having to try and be someone and something you're not. That had always been a problem for you before – which was why your only moderately successful relationship to date had been with Dick, who actually knew about your secret nightlife. And in an act that took far more bravery than facing a barrage of bullets, you opened up to Helena and admitted some of your worries, some of your fears. You were surprised that – with the sole exception of being paralyzed – her fears were exactly the same as yours. It made you both feel a bit better.

During the past several months, you've been happier than you remember being in a long time. A very long time. Two days a week, you and Helena carve out a few hours alone together between your day job, her day job, your night lives, and your obligations to Delphi and the role of Oracle. You know she would love to have more time together. So would you. But there's too much to do, too little time to do it. She moved back into the Clocktower so you have small moments in passing, or over breakfast with Dinah. And you have a life-sized teddy bear to cuddle up with when you finally drag yourself to bed every night. Other than these changes, your daily routines are pretty much the same as they were before.

You aren't sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing.

You realize your happiness isn't because your schedule is somehow less harried or that your lives are less stressful. It's because you have someone to share it with – someone who supports you through the bad times. That's always been there between you – but the declarations of love and the focus on building a relationship has just amplified it. Your whole relationship is essentially the same, only more – though it sounds rather simple and silly when you say it that way.

Except for the sex, of course. That part is new. Even so, despite Helena's tendency to flirt with anything more mobile and sentient than a houseplant, it's not one of her biggest priorities. Yours either. Not that you have a lot of time to spend getting the sheets sweaty anyhow.

But now, as you sit staring at the Delphi with reluctance, you wish that wasn't the case … that you had more time to explore all the new elements of this relationship. And you wonder just when it was that your priorities started to shift. When did you start thinking of your beloved work as … well … work? When did you start wishing for more time for yourself, instead of for more time to devote to your sense of duty and calling?

You already know the answer, of course, your brain had it figured out before you even asked the question. It was when you realized that you love Helena … when you realized that you honestly had a chance to make yourself happy. It's when you realized that time is neutral – an enemy only if you spend it unwisely, if you don't find something to make its passage pleasant. It's when you let yourself entertain the – up to that point – heretical notion that maybe you deserved to put as much time into making your life happy as you have into making everyone else's lives better.

The mere thought scares you, even as it kindles a very familiar sensation in your chest. Longing.

You doubt you could give up being Oracle any more than Helena could give up being Huntress. There's something wild in both of you which needs the night, which needs a life outside the boundaries, even as it follows its own codes. The night is where your real lives and your real selves are. The day jobs are passions too, in their own ways, but not even close to the lives of crime fighters. Those jobs are to have resume references to fall back on, to earn money to pay for the expenses of daily life. Not that you've got many expenses, realistically. The Clocktower is owned free and clear and you know perfectly well that Bruce set up a fund with the Wayne Foundation that Alfred uses for groceries and miscellaneous bills.

And Helena recently has mentioned that she wasn't as opposed as she used to be to the idea of actually living off the trust fund that her father set aside for her. You suspect she'd be even more open to really doing that if it meant the two of you wouldn't have to keep burning the candle at both ends and the middle just to find a few moments together. In fact, you don't just suspect; you're sure of it. You know her well enough to know that even bringing up that particular idea – especially more than once – means that she's already made up her mind to do it.

You wonder briefly if making time for this relationship is worth giving up teaching for. It takes barely thirty seconds to decide that it is.

The End

Return to Bird of Prey Fiction

Return to Main Page