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/WARNING: This story deals, in part, with the aftermath of the night Barbara Gordon was shot. I have taken a few liberties as far as the show's canon is concerned, mixing that plus the events in 'The Killing Joke' graphic novel. It may be a trigger for some, but nothing is graphic.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To annebar76[at]gmail.com
"Wuh Why are you Duh Doing this "
"To prove a point."
The Joker kneeled where Barbara lay bleeding on the floor, slowly unbuttoning her blouse. She didn't want what came next, but she knew that it was about to happen. She also knew she was helpless to prevent it. She tried, though. She truly tried, but when her weak punches had only garnered maniacal laughter, her arms fell to her sides as she prepared for the worst
"Ms. Gordon?" one of her students asked from the other side of her desk. "Are you okay?"
His words brought Barbara back to the present, and she quickly tried to brush off the terrible images in her mind. Hopefully she hadn't done anything embarrassing while she had been waltzing down her not-so-happy memory lane.
"Sorry," she said, offering a smile she didn't feel. "Are you finished?" She nodded at the paper he held in his hand.
"Yes, ma'am." He gave her his test before leaning toward her a little. "You were crying," he whispered so that no one would hear. "I don't think anyone else saw though."
I guess I did do something embarrassing, she thought as she tried to wipe her damp face as surreptitiously as possible. She didn't think she was very successful at it. She hated crying. It was completely unlike her.
"Thank you, Mr. Crandall," she said as gratefully as she could under the circumstances.
Jason straightened, as though he felt like he had done his good deed for the day. "Later, Ms. G."
Barbara swallowed the lump in her throat and nodded by way of goodbye to him. She glanced around the room and noticed there were only a few students who hadn't finished their exam, and she breathed a little easier. Soon she would be safe. Soon she would be with Helena and in front of Delphi, the only places in the world where she didn't feel truly helpless.
While she was waiting for the students to finish, she wheeled to the blackboard and started to erase the writing. It was impossible not to be reminded of the awful events from so many years ago; especially when she could physically see the scars from that horrible night whenever she was awake, and many times when she was asleep.
She shook her head before going back to her desk. Somehow, in the short span of time it took Barbara to erase the board, everyone else had turned in their tests. She chided herself for not noticing the movement and its accompanying noise; it was something she had been trained to notice since she could remember. Batman wouldn't be proud.
But he's not here, is he? She thought angrily. Bruce Wayne had abandoned New Gotham the night she had been shot and she couldn't even think the word. He had abandoned her.
Helena Barbara pictured her face and smiled before returning to her melancholy.
Helena had also lost her mother, Selina Kyle, that night to the Joker as well in a cruel twist of fate. The two women had been out together when Selina had been stabbed, and Helena had held the former Catwoman as the blood had seeped out of her body.
Minutes after Selina had died, Helena had gone looking for Barbara. She then had to hold Barbara's naked, bleeding form while she called 911. Even after so many years, Barbara remembered Helena trying to pull on her torn clothes before the ambulance arrived.
Barbara honestly wasn't sure if that night had been worse for her or for Helena, but she supposed it didn't matter because they had both lost every semblance of life as they knew it.
She hated being so maudlin, but the anniversary brought it out in her more than any other. That morning she had awoken to the sound of her alarm as she always had, but when she had looked at the chair in the corner of her room, she had seen Helena looking back at her.
"You know what today is," Helena said sadly. "Six years."
Barbara propped herself on her elbow. "It feels like yesterday," she responded with the same sadness.
"Are you coming with me later?" Helena came over and sat on the edge of the bed. "I mean, you don't have to, now that you have the Dinah and all "
Barbara rested her hand on Helena's. "I'm coming."
"'K." Helena looked at their joined hands with longing? Barbara couldn't tell, and she wasn't in a place to analyze it. "I'll meet you at school then," she said as she stood, effectively breaking all physical contact.
"Hel," Barbara said when Helena was halfway to the door, "Does it ever get better?"
Still facing the door, Helena simply said, "No."
When Barbara was the only one in the room, she let a few tears slip out before getting ready for work.
When she had gone into the kitchen, Helena hadn't been there. Even though Dinah was at the kitchen table, Barbara had felt so alone. It was a feeling she had become acquainted with over the years, but every time she was reminded that Helena didn't live in the Clocktower anymore, her loneliness threatened to overcome her.
It was difficult for her to acknowledge that she needed anyone, but Barbara knew she needed Helena. It was a need that had stretched on since before their lives had changed so drastically. Their lives had been violently thrown together though, and Barbara wondered sometimes if they would have still been friends had Selina not been killed.
But that didn't matter, and even if it did, Barbara knew somehow that they would never have left each other's side. As Helena had grown, so had their friendship. By the time Helena was in high school, they had already become very attached to each other. Barbara used to reason that it was just hero worship on Helena's part and nothing more, but somewhere deep inside she knew differently. Why else would Helena gone to her side that fateful night?
It wouldn't do her any good to dwell on the past though. Their relationship was what it was, and Barbara was content in that. Their friendship had survived through more hardships than most people dealt with in a lifetime, and they were stronger for it.
With that last thought, Barbara again came back to the present. As she did so, she struggled to figure out how and when she had wheeled herself over to the window, but that was exactly what she had done while thinking about Helena. As she idly wondered if she was losing her powers of observation, she sensed movement behind her. The familiar scent that floated past her nose made her close her eyes and smile a bit. She turned and faced her friend.
"This place is more depressing now than it was when I was a student," Helena started as she pushed off the doorframe.
It was obvious to Barbara that Helena was upset. To anyone else, she just seemed a little more tightly wound. Barbara knew better; she knew Helena better than anyone ever had, perhaps even better than Selina had.
"You did make the place come alive," Barbara smiled, though the expression didn't touch her eyes.
The hollow grin was returned before it quickly faded. "Ready?" she asked in a voice thick with emotion.
"As I'll ever be," she responded as they left the room and started for the parking lot.
Neither of them needed nor wanted to speak on the long drive to the cemetery. Barbara felt as though she was flailing helplessly, and she couldn't figure out why her emotions were higher than usual. Perhaps it was because death had personally touched the Birds yet again that year.
Barbara had talked herself into a relationship with another teacher at the school, and while she had kept him at arms' length for a long time, she had finally told him who she truly was. Watching him die in front of her during an attack by Harley Quinn had not only made her feel the loss of someone she cared about; it also brought back all the helplessness that was always buried just surface deep.
Had she loved Wade? In her more honest moments, Barbara could admit that she hadn't. She didn't think she had the ability to let herself be that vulnerable with anyone. There was one exception to that, and that exception was driving the SUV. It frightened Barbara to death.
With a sidelong glance, Barbara saw the strain on her friend's face. Every time she saw that strain, and even when she didn't, Barbara wanted to take Helena in her arms and shield her from everything bad in the world. They had both seen enough of that to last them two lifetimes' worth, but the only problem was that Barbara didn't see any end to it.
That was one of the flaws with the superhero business. The fight for the greater good cost, and sometimes its cost was more than the physical. Dying wasn't always the worst thing that could happen to a person.
Helena parked the car and wordlessly stepped out. Barbara unbuckled her seat belt, opened the door, and grabbed her racing wheelchair with practiced movements. By that time Helena was standing in front of her, and she opened the chair and set it in front of Barbara but did no more. After so many years, Helena knew exactly how much help Barbara was able to accept.
Their silence continued as they wound their way through the headstones. After so many visits, they no longer needed any kind of map to get to the grave. The path was engraved in their minds. They carried no flowers: Barbara hated them, and Helena didn't see the point.
Selina was buried at the top of a ridge with a perfect view of New Gotham, but the location was a concept that was lost on Helena. Cemeteries were for the living. The dead didn't give a rat's ass, as Helena had so eloquently put it, about views. They had worms for eyes.
When they reached the graveside, they stood side-by-side and looked at the headstone. It was the one thing that Helena had insisted on picking herself, even though it took her a year to do it. It was smooth, grey granite with a very simple epitaph:
It was from Selina's favorite poem, and Helena still had the 19th century first edition of the book of poetry that had been her mother's. It had been the only memento Helena had taken with her from her old life. Barbara had quietly put the rest in storage, thinking that one day her young ward would want something more, but Helena had never shown any regrets in leaving the majority of that life behind her.
Out of habit Barbara lifted her hand, and out of that same habit Helena laced their fingers together. They still didn't speak. There was no need. Each woman knew what the other would say and how she would respond.
It occurred to Barbara as she sat beside Helena that the younger woman was, and always had been, so much more than just a child to her. Even before that fateful night, Barbara had been amazed at Helena's intelligence and lust for life. The girl had been curious about everything, so much so that Barbara couldn't lie to Helena the way parents lied to their children. Helena knew that the Tooth Fairy wasn't real even before she lost her first tooth.
The first drops of rain began to fall, but still neither woman moved. Barbara squeezed Helena's hand, and was comforted by the squeeze she received in return. Looking up, Barbara saw that Helena had quietly started crying when the rain had started, and she cursed the fact that she couldn't just wrap Helena in her arms and never let go. Yet again, she was helpless.
The rain poured, and still they stayed there. Barbara wasn't sure how long it lasted, but the setting sun started to poke through the clouds by the time Helena dropped her hand and started back for the car. It was with a heavy heart that Barbara followed.
"You don't have to do sweeps tonight," Barbara said when they were finally driving back to the Clocktower.
"Will you be at Delphi?" Helena asked as she ran her fingers through her short, wet hair, causing errant locks to spike.
Helena glanced her way before returning her attention to the road. "Then I'll be doing a sweep."
"Then what?" Barbara cursed herself. She was about to be needy, and she hated doing that.
"If you want me to come over," Helena sighed, "Just ask."
"I just " Barbara stopped, unable to say the words.
"Nothing. I know you would rather be at the bar tonight. Activity will help today."
Helena parked the SUV in the garage and looked at her friend. She didn't look angry; she looked like someone who didn't have the energy to be angry. "Nothing will help today, Barbara. The only thing that makes this day bearable is you."
Without preamble, Helena swiftly got out and opened Barbara's door. "So yeah, I'll be over after sweeps."
Once Barbara was out and situated in her chair, Helena punched the button for the elevator. The doors opened, and they took their places in the box. As they traveled up, Barbara felt Helena's hand on her shoulder.
"It's just a hand," Helena responded, obviously trying to make light of what Barbara was saying.
"You know what I mean," Barbara said, taking her friend's hand again.
There was silence for a long moment before Barbara heard Helena's voice, and it sounded pained. "I know."
The doors opened, and they went into the Clocktower. Barbara instantly went to Delphi, checking to make sure nothing big had happened while they were at the cemetery. After noting that nothing had, she checked her email, and she breathed in sharply at one of the senders.
"So Dicky-boy is back," Helena said scathingly from over Barbara's shoulder. She strode to the sofa and flopped onto the cushions, simultaneously grabbing the remote and turning on the TV. "What does he want?" she asked as she changed the channels.
Barbara, who had simply been staring at the screen, finally opened the email. After quickly reading it, she turned to Helena. "He wants to come for a visit."
Helena's entire body stilled before she put the TV on mute. "So this'll make what, the third time you've actually seen him since that night?"
He was a sore subject on the best of days, mainly because Helena didn't like the way he had run from Barbara's life after the shooting. The fights the two women had had over that treatment had led to some very tense moments.
"Don't what? Are you going to let him visit? He abandoned you, Barbara. He's not the go to guy, and you know it."
The words stung Barbara badly. "You wouldn't understand," she said quietly as she looked anywhere but at the other woman.
"You don't know everything," Barbara whispered without raising her head.
Finally Barbara looked at Helena, flinching when she saw the anger. "You don't."
"I was there. Dick wasn't."
After spending every moment since that night hiding the full truth from Helena, Barbara still didn't want to speak it. Unfortunately life didn't always give what was wanted, and she sensed that she may lose Helena for good if she didn't. Or maybe she would lose herself. She wasn't sure anymore.
"The Joker," Barbara swallowed in a desperate attempt to keep the bile down, "Didn't just shoot me." She saw Helena's expression change to a different kind of anger.
"I know," Helena went over to Barbara and kneeled before her.
Hating every single tear that fell down her face, Barbara tried to find the words. "He why can't I just say it?"
"You don't have to," Helena said as she brushed a tear from Barbara's cheek.
It was then Barbara realized she had never had to hide anything. Helena had known all along. At the same time, Barbara needed to free herself from the bonds of secrecy.
"I do though. Don't you see? No one else but you knows. No one. Not even my father knows, and he was there for part of it." She took a ragged breath and gathered her courage. "He took pictures after he shot me.
"But he did so much more than that, Hel. I was Batgirl, and he made me helpless. After he left, I lay on that floor and I wanted to die. If he had left the gun he shot me with, I would have finished what he started."
"Why?" Helena asked through her own tears.
"Why didn't I tell you, or why did I want to die?"
"Why didn't you tell me. I understand the other. I wanted to do the same thing that night," Helena said as she stroked Barbara's hand.
"It was too much. No one wanted to hear that everything had been taken from me."
Helena inched even closer and kissed Barbara's cheek. "Not everything."
Barbara sighed raggedly. "I don't want to depend on just you. You don't need me hanging around you like a weight."
The expression on Helena's face changed several times in the span of a second, and Barbara feared she had finally said the wrong thing. The other woman surprised her by closing the distance between them yet again and kneeling down.
"In case you didn't realize it, you dummy, I'm the weight." Helena took her friend's hand again. "So don't you dare go pushing me away, because my lead feet don't exactly move very easily," she attempted a smile and failed miserably through her tears. "Be my weight for a while, 'k?"
A sad smile spread across Barbara's features as she nodded. "Just tell me if it gets to be too much."
Helena tucked a stray lock of hair behind Barbara's ear. "No can do. You could never be too much."
"I distinctly recall you saying something different when I made you finish high school," Barbara said as some of the sadness left her face.
Helena snorted, effectively breaking the gloomy mood in the Clocktower. "I let you think you made me," she said.
"Somehow that doesn't surprise me," Barbara said, and they both laughed a bit at that.
"It shouldn't," Helena said with a smile. It faded quickly, and her face grew somber again. "So what exactly happened with Dick?"
After staring at Helena for a moment, Barbara decided it was time to tell Helena the truth the entire truth. That put a distinct damper on any peace she might have been able to have that evening.
"It won't be the third visit. He was here a couple of days after that night..." Barbara said, starting the story she had never told a soul.
"I'm sorry I wasn't here to help," Dick said as he held her limp hand in his.
Though Barbara knew Dick thought she was sleeping, she tried to talk, or even move, but it hurt too much. Nights were always the worst for her because there wasn't any activity in the room to distract her, so instead she lay on the bed, listening as her friend and sometime lover wept for her.
"I could have protected you from that maniac."
The words filtered through her pain ridden mind and she wanted to scream at him. She was Batgirl, and Batgirl didn't need protection. Then she realized she wasn't Batgirl anymore, and she felt such a sense of loss that she could barely contain it. It was the moment the reality of her injuries truly hit her.
She was pulled from her thoughts by more of Dick's ramblings. "That weird Kyle kid has been in the hall since you've been here. I heard her mother wanted you to be her guardian, and I hope you don't do it. I could smell trouble on the girl before, and she'll be worse now.
"I know I was bad after what happened to me, but Bruce wasn't dealing with what you're dealing with. You just can't do this in the situation you're in."
Had Barbara been able to, she would have slapped him and yelled for him to leave. Of everyone who had been floating in and out of her room, Helena was the only one who hadn't treated her differently. It was true that the she cried sometimes when she sat beside the bed, but she also cracked jokes and attempted to make things a little normal for them both, in spite of the horrible situation they were collectively in.
"How could this happen to us? I I bought a ring once, you know. You were the one I always thought I'd end up with, but now I guess that isn't going to happen."
Barbara couldn't bear it anymore. Her image of her suddenly former friend was crumbling rapidly, and she wanted him to leave. Immediately. Feeling the call button that was in her other hand, she pressed it and waited, hoping he wouldn't say anything more to inflame or destroy her.
It worked. There was a commotion outside her door, and Dick left quickly out the window, having been there without permission.
"Barbara?" Helena was the first one through the door, followed not so closely by the nurse.
"Miss, you'll need to leave. I have to check the patient," the nurse said dismissively.
"Not on your life, Nurse Ratched."
Barbara could sense Helena standing over her protectively, and in spite of what Dick had just said, she wanted to smile.
"You'll get out or I'll call an orderly," the nurse warned.
Barbara opened her eyes in time to see the nurse reach toward the emergency button, and with all of her strength she shot out her hand and grabbed the nurse.
"No," Barbara rasped. "She stays."
The nurse stared at her for what seemed like forever before dropping her hand and leaving, mumbling all the way out. Barbara knew she was going to pay for that bit of rebellion in one form or another, but at that moment she just didn't care. She instead turned to face the one person who was making life a little less hellish, and she couldn't care less about anything else.
Though concern was evident in Helena's eyes, she cocked her head to one side and grinned. "You rang?" she asked a little saucily as she picked up the hand Dick had just been holding.
"Hey, Red," Helena said in a more concerned tone. "You've been crying."
The young woman reached over to the bedside table and grabbed the tissues. In a way that no one else would have expected, Helena gently dried Barbara's tears before retaking her hand and sitting beside the bed.
"Hel " Barbara started, not sure of what to say.
"You're not alone. Ever. I'm always going to be here for you, no matter what. I guess you're kind of stuck with me now."
"Not stuck." She squeezed Helena's hand. "Never stuck."
Tears of relief trickled down Helena's face. "That's good to know."
It had been the one brief conversation they had ever had concerning their living arrangements. Everything else had been acknowledged as being a universal truth between them. They had become their own family unit overnight.
The few times she had seen Dick since that night had been hurtful ones. He had no knowledge that she had been awake and had been witness to his utter breakdown in character, so he acted as though nothing had happened. Barbara, on the other hand, knew everything, and he was tarnished in her eyes.
It was a tarnish that would never go away, especially after she saw the way he treated Helena during his first visit to the Clocktower. He wasn't even polite about his feelings toward her. He thought Helena shouldn't be in Barbara's life, and he let the young woman know that every time he had a chance.
Barbara had distanced herself from him even more after that, and no matter how much he begged to see her, she would always make one excuse or another to get out of seeing him. Helena had the impression that it was Dick who didn't want to see Barbara, and she let the brunette think that. It was far easier than telling her the painful truth, even if Helena had picked up on his disdain.
"I'll kill him," Helena said through gritted teeth. She moved to stand, but Barbara tugged her back down.
"Don't. It was a long time ago, and I don't want to dredge anything else up from that time, okay?"
Helena stared wide-eyed at her with eyes of gold, and Barbara wasn't sure the other woman had heard her. "Hel "
Helena blinked and her gold eyes turned to blue again. "Anything for you," she responded with a weak smile.
"Thank you." Barbara knew what it took for Helena to calm down from anything emotional.
"If you change your mind, let me know."
A small, yet genuine, smile crept across Barbara's face. "My hero," she said as she cupped Helena's face. "What would I do without you?"
"Boss Dinah around some more," Helena smirked.
"Smartass. Go watch some TV."
"Don't have to ask me twice," Helena said as she went to the sofa and tuned in to the latest episode of some action show.
Barbara shook her head and started responding to the email. As her fingers flew across the keyboard, she resolved to officially end her personal relationship with him, such as it was. She was still Oracle and he was still Nightwing, but they would never be Dick and Barbara again. That became the overall tone of the long overdue email.
She must have been typing a long time because before she knew it a takeout menu was being held in front of the monitor. Despite the seriousness of the email, Barbara couldn't help but grin at Helena's pitiful expression.
"If you order, I'll pick up," Helena said hopefully.
"When you put it like that "
"You can't resist me?"
For the first time that day, Barbara laughed. It was small, but it was there. "I never could."
"My feminine wiles are indeed irresistible, huh?" Helena wagged her eyebrows at her friend.
"Keep doing that and I'll be able resist them just fine." Barbara smiled as she sent the email and grabbed the phone. "The usual?"
"You got it," Helena replied as she sat back down.
Barbara placed the order and turned to the brunette. "Hel, about today "
"Don't," Helena said, turning away from the TV. "You don't have to say it."
"How do you know what I'm going to say?"
"You're either going to say you're sorry, or you're going to thank me again. Either way, just don't." From anyone else, the words would have sounded harsh, but Barbara knew Helena well enough to know why she didn't like hearing those words.
She wheeled to the sofa and climbed out of her chair to sit next to Helena. Taking the hand that wasn't holding the remote, Barbara held it between her own two. "Don't do a sweep tonight," she said after a few moments.
Helena looked at her like she had grown a second head. "Don't do what?"
"You know what I said. We still have things to talk about, and it's been slow. If the alarm sounds, you can take care of whatever happens. Just don't run a sweep tonight."
Barbara couldn't understand why she was so desperate to talk to Helena. It wasn't as though they didn't do that every day. Then again, days like the one they were having didn't come along often, and Barbara needed Helena in a way she never had.
Not that they hadn't needed each other before, but for the first time since that night, Barbara knew that Helena knew everything. Just that thought lifted a weight off Barbara's shoulders she hadn't even been aware of, and she hoped that they could either talk more that night or just watch a movie in companionable silence.
Helena gazed at her, and Barbara began to squirm a bit under the intense scrutiny. "Okay," Helena said quietly.
Before Helena looked at the clock, Barbara thought she saw something unknown in the clear blue eyes, but she dismissed the notion.
"Gotta bolt, Red," Helena said as she stood. "I'll be back with sustenance. Should I get entertainment, too?"
Barbara grinned. "Sure," she started. Helena was to the door by the time she finished. "Nothing cheesy!" she called as the other woman leaped off the balcony.
Any respite she had been having in the past few minutes fled the moment Helena left the Clocktower. There was almost too much in her mind, and for Barbara, that was saying quite a bit.
Helena had always been there when Barbara had needed someone the most, and she was eternally grateful for that. Normally the day would have brought misery to both of them, and with Dick's email added on top of the already growing pile of anguish Barbara had thought her day was going to be in the proverbial toilet. But Helena had yet again pulled Barbara away from the edge. How she did it, Barbara couldn't be sure, but one look or word from the younger woman could relieve her pain, even if it was only temporary.
She couldn't help but think back to a time when she had needed respite the most, and Helena had been there for her in a way no one else could have been.
Barbara tried to hold on to the bar, but the sweat on her hands caused her to slip. Having no lower body function, she immediately crumpled to the floor. Unlike the seemingly hundreds of other times that very same thing had happened that day, she didn't get back up. She simply curled up the best that she could and closed her eyes tightly against the reality of her situation.
It had been six months since she had been shot, and she hated what she had become. The old Barbara would never have felt sorry for herself, but her paralysis had changed the game. Almost every dream she had ever had was gone forever, and she was floundering. More than that, she was dead inside. The Joker may as well have shot her in the heart that night.
"Are you in here?" Helena asked as she came in.
As quickly as she could, Barbara tried to right herself. It would do neither one of them any good if she completely broke down.
"Here," Barbara said, causing Helena to look down at her.
Helena, instead of rushing to Barbara's side, put her hands on her hips. "Taking a nap?" she asked with a smirk. The good humor didn't quite touch her eyes; she looked concerned.
"Ha-ha. Grab my chair, will you?"
Wordlessly she wheeled the chair to Barbara's side and put the brakes on. Helena made no other move to help, opting instead to look at the trophy case. Once Barbara was seated properly, she looked at her young ward. Barbara hadn't been within ten feet of the case since the shooting, and she knew she would never again admire her medals. The thought filled her with sudden anger, and she hit the punching bag next to her.
"Barbara?" Helena's concern had made it to her voice. She didn't ask what was wrong, and at the time Barbara hadn't understood, and she had even believed it unfeeling of Helena. They stared at each other for a moment. "Let's grab some dinner. I'm hungry."
Feeling quite crabby, Barbara snapped. "Get it yourself, Hel. I'm not your servant."
Helena took a deep breath. "You need to eat."
It was a supreme feat of self-control on Helena's part to not snap back, and Barbara knew it. "I'm sorry, and you're right. I'll call Alfred."
Barbara's hand was almost to the phone on the wall before Helena stopped her. "I thought I would cook tonight. I even have ingredients."
Though Barbara knew Selina had taught her daughter how to cook, she was a bit dubious, but all of that disappeared when she first tasted Helena's food. It had been delicious, and for one evening they were both able to push the fact that their lives had been torn apart out of their minds. They just enjoyed each other's company.
The next morning when Barbara had gone into the workout room, she happened to glance at the case. The trophies were gone, only to be replaced by fishing lures. While Barbara had no idea what the significance was of a fishing lure, she did find that she was laughing a little as she pulled herself onto the bars. It had been a good workout that day.
She went back to Delphi, and as she pulled her chair into place, the comm crackled to life.
"Oracle," Helena's distinct husky drawl flowed over Barbara's senses.
"Go ahead, Huntress."
"There's an emergency."
Instantly Barbara's fingers started flying across the keyboard as she attempted to find out why Delphi's alarm hadn't gone off. "What kind of emergency?"
"The worst kind. Do I get butter or kettle corn?"
Hands that had been moving fast stilled instantly, and she startled even herself by laughing.
"That is an emergency," Barbara said after she calmed down.
"So? What's your vote?" Helena asked expectantly.
"Hm, butter. I'm in a more savory mood this evening."
"Really?" Helena's voice, which was always sexy at the best of times, was downright dripping sensuality. "Mind if we experiment with that?"
Barbara could almost see Helena's hands going up in mock surrender. "All work and no play makes Jill a dull girl, you know."
From the monitor before her, Barbara could see that Helena was on her way back, and she grinned. "That isn't exactly the quote."
"Whatever." There was a pause over the link. "Gotta put the merch up for a sec. Mugging outside."
The link went quiet for a moment, and then she could hear the sounds of banter and fighting. While she paid close attention to Helena's activities, she couldn't help but ponder their conversation.
Helena was flirty, even on her bad days. That had been the way she had been since Barbara had known her, and she didn't think Helena would ever change. It didn't bother her; Helena's outgoing personality had enabled her to get out of some tight spots in the pasts, and Barbara was grateful for it.
The only problem was that it made it incredibly difficult for her to gauge whether or not Helena was being serious. No matter what, Barbara couldn't believe Helena was serious about her flirtations, at least not where Barbara was concerned. It wasn't a luxury she could afford. When it came down to it, the mere possibility of anything happening between them was so remote that Barbara felt the new Gotham baseball team had a better chance of winning the World Series than Helena having any feeling other than pity for her.
Though she hated thinking about one pivotal night in their relationship, Barbara couldn't help it. It was one of the most painful nights they had had since most everything had been taken from them, and Barbara hated to think about it. Still, the images came unbidden to her mind.
"Why do you always treat me like I'm a child?"
"I only treat you that way when you act like one," Barbara said as she threw the keys on the table.
Helena turned around and glared at her. "I'm not your ward anymore, Barbara. See, there's this thing called adulthood, and I've been giving it a go for what, about two years now. Personally, I think I'm getting pretty good at it."
"Not being a Minor doesn't make you an adult. Besides, do you call getting arrested 'pretty good'?" Barbara asked in disbelief. "What the hell were you doing, anyway?"
Helena mumbled something Barbara couldn't quite understand.
"Could you repeat that?"
"I was trying to get you a present," she said, "And there was a guy there "
Barbara closed her eyes, disgust washing over her. "You tried to pick someone up while getting me a present?" Why that bothered her, she didn't know. She just knew that it did.
"He looked suspicious," Helena said pointedly. "I tried tailing him, and I guess I didn't do a very good job. He doubled back and tried to throw a punch at me."
"So you naturally punched back, without asking to see his badge."
"The badge thing isn't exactly a brilliant plan when the guy is trying to pound your head into the ground, you know."
Though still upset at having to pick Helena up from lockup, Barbara could see the humor. "Maybe we should paint 'good guy' on your duster," she smirked.
Helena's mouth fell open, and she stared at Barbara with the same smirk. "Don't you mean 'gal'?"
"Oh, right. You aren't a guy."
"No, but I've played one on TV," Helena grinned.
Barbara smiled back as she went to Delphi. "What was it?"
Helena followed closely behind. "What was what?"
"The present," Barbara said with a nonchalance she didn't quite feel. When she received no response, she looked up and saw Helena looking decidedly undecided. "What?"
"It was this," she said sheepishly as she held out a small box.
Barbara stared at the present, not knowing what to do. The wooden box was intricately carved in a Celtic knot, and when she looked closer, she could see the pattern on the top was that of a Celtic compass.
"It's so you never lose your way," Helena said quietly. "But there's more."
Barbara glanced away from it for a second. Something in Helena's voice was off, but Barbara couldn't figure out what it was. She shook it off and opened the small box, shocked at what was in it.
For anyone else it would have probably been only a bauble, but for Barbara it represented so much. The tiny Green Lantern play ring was the first present a teenaged Barbara had given Helena so many years before; before all the sadness and pain, but also before their new life together.
A smile played at her lips as she put the small ring on her pinky. "How did you remember?" she asked, holding her hand up to admire the gift.
Helena's hand covered Barbara's. "You always remember the present your first crush gives you," she whispered, and there was nothing sheepish in her voice anymore.
"I was " Barbara stopped and reassessed the situation in front of her. "Hel, don't do this." Fear coated her words. She knew what direction Helena was heading in, and Barbara wouldn't couldn't let it happen.
"Stop thinking for one second and really feel," Helena said as she moved ever closer.
Soft lips touched Barbara's, and a hunger awoke inside her that she thought had been killed a long time before. Giving into the sensations flooding through her body at just that one soft caress, she deepened the kiss. Her hand the one with the ring found the back of Helena's head and pulled her closer, and before Barbara knew it, Helena was on her lap.
Without thinking, she quickly pushed Helena's shirt up, touching bare flesh with raw need and moaning when she arched into Barbara's touch.
"Barbara " Helena whispered into Barbara's lips.
Her name stopped her cold. Barbara's hand stilled, and she pulled her lips away from Helena's. "We can't," she said, all but pushing Helena out of her chair.
Helena, who was still in a desire-induced haze, fell to the ground before kneeling in front of her. "Why not?"
Barbara looked at her harshly. "I'm no one's pity fuck. Leave me alone."
The look on Helena's face had tortured Barbara for months, but not quite as much as watching Helena move out the next day without any explanation, even though they both knew the reason. It had taken weeks for Helena to come into the Clocktower at all, and months before they had even started to rebuild the easy banter between them.
Barbara had shoved that memory, and all of the feelings that came with it, deep into her subconscious. They never mentioned that night, but as Barbara sat at Delphi, she knew Helena felt the pain of that evening as much as she did, if not more. She had been so cruel to Helena, and without explanation.
It had been then that Helena had started sleeping with anyone she could, male or female, and she never had relationships. They were just warm bodies to her, and she had told Barbara that much one day. It had made Barbara feel sick inside.
"Oracle?" Helena's concerned voice rang through the Clocktower.
"Sorry, Huntress. Lost in thought."
"Care to share?"
Barbara hesitated. "Maybe later?"
"Okay. Almost back to base. Huntress out."
Barbara went to the kitchen, taking a bottle of wine and a couple of glasses back down to the living area. After putting everything on the coffee table, she wheeled onto the balcony. Helena would be coming in via the elevator since she had food, but that wouldn't be for a few minutes. It was good that she had a bit of time. Barbara needed to gather her thoughts.
There were so many excuses for not telling Helena why she had really broken their kiss, and because she was Barbara, she began to list them in her head. First, Helena was younger. Second, Helena had been her ward. Third there was no third. There wasn't even a first or a second. There was only one real reason. She was scared.
"Do you want company?" Helena asked cautiously as she stepped onto the balcony and stood beside Barbara.
"Didn't you bring food and entertainment?" Barbara said with a lightness she didn't feel.
She looked up at the brunette, and the feelings that she had tried to keep down for so long came rushing into her broken, twisted shell of a heart. Helena was beautiful. There was a depth to her that Barbara had never seen in anyone else, and she knew then as she had known years ago that she loved the woman who stood beside her; the woman who had always stood beside her, in more ways than one.
Helena didn't return Barbara's gaze; instead she continued to look at the night. "Don't," she said.
"Look at me like that. It's confusing."
Barbara blinked several times and looked back to the skyline. "Sorry."
Helena took a deep breath. "So, are you up for a Tom Cruise movie, or a rom-com?" she asked with a grin, returning to her normal, easy manner.
"Surely you're not being serious," Barbara groaned.
"Of course I'm being serious. And don't call me Shirley," Helena said in mock seriousness.
Barbara laughed at the old movie joke. "Did you get that one?" she asked hopefully.
"Of course I did," Helena replied as they went back inside. "I also got A Mighty Wind."
"But that's a bit of a musical."
"It's also funny, so give it a chance, Red," Helena said as she opened the bag and held up the DVDs. "Which one first?"
Barbara acted like she was truly considering the options before saying anything. "Airplane."
Helena grinned and set the system up while Barbara the small boxes of food onto the coffee table. It was so well coordinated that neither woman thought about their roles in the preparation anymore, they just did what needed to get done.
Barbara was on the sofa and pouring the wine by the time Helena finished. "Looks good," she said as she approached, and from the way Helena looked at her, Barbara wasn't sure if she had meant the food or her. She was beginning to understand Helena's confusion.
The movie started, and as usual, they sat next to each other in the middle of the sofa. They didn't take the food out of the containers when they started eating, opting instead to pull one container after another out and sample it together. It was the way it always had been with them and Chinese food.
After they finished eating, they both sank into the cushions. By the time the credits rolled, Helena was asleep with a small trail of drool coming out of her mouth. Barbara thought she looked beautiful.
"Hel, it's time for the next movie," Barbara said without touching Helena. She and her long-healed broken nose had learned through experience that it wasn't a good idea to do that.
Helena snorted as her head jerked up. "Huh?"
Barbara motioned at the blue screen. "Movie?"
"Oh yeah," Helena said as she wiped the drool from her face. "Hang on. I'm going to make popcorn."
She started to stand, but Barbara touched her arm. "Stay a minute, please."
Her brow furrowed, Helena sat back down. "What's up?"
Now that Helena was staring at her expectantly, Barbara wasn't sure where to start so she blurted out the first thing that came to mind.
"Dick isn't coming to town."
Helena rolled her eyes. "Really, Barbara? You interrupted popcorn for that announcement?"
"Wait," Barbara rushed to say when Helena started to stand again. "We should talk."
"I'm all talked out."
"There's something else. Something we never seem to want to actually talk about."
"Yeah, and I still don't want to talk about it."
First placing her hand on Helena's, and then moving it up to cup her cheek, Barbara shook her head. "We need to. We never have."
"And I like it that way. Now if you'll excuse me " Helena stood, and went to the kitchen.
Defeated, Barbara stared at the blank TV in front of her. "I know I'm not good enough for you," she whispered, hoping that Helena hadn't heard her over the sound of the microwave.
She closed her eyes to reality again. She would forget the love she felt. It wouldn't be the first time, but hopefully it would be the last. Helena could never truly love her in the same way, Barbara knew. She could never want her in the way Barbara wanted her.
In a flash, she glimpsed the next few years. Helena would eventually find someone, as would Dinah. They would leave the proverbial nest, leaving Barbara to find new Birds to help with the great fight. All the while, Delphi would stay with her, becoming the only constant in her life. It was something she could live with. She felt powerful at the desk, or at least a little less stranded.
It was then that she realized that Helena was standing over her with her hands on her hips. "What did I hear you say?" she asked angrily.
"It doesn't matter," Barbara replied while turning here attention back to the screen.
"I know what you said, and you can't take that back."
Barbara's face shot up to meet Helena's intense gaze. "It's true though, isn't it? There's no reason for me to take it back because it has always been there."
The brunette's face softened as she sat next to Barbara. "Only for you," Helena said sadly.
"I may not understand everything, but I understand a lot more than most people think," Helena answered.
"Our lives before were wonderful, and I'll be the first to admit that I still don't like to think about everything we've lost, but there's a problem with that. See, some great teacher of mine once told me that if we don't learn from history, we're doomed to repeat it.
"So the way I figure it, if you and I don't think of anything that happened before that night, we'll lose everything again. Maybe not to the Joker, but we did almost lose it to Harley Quinn. You want to know what I thought that night Quinn attacked us?"
Barbara nodded, feeling a little overwhelmed. "What?"
"That if we got out of that mess, I was going to make you listen to me." Helena's gaze faltered a bit. "But when Wade was killed, you weren't ready. You weren't even ready before that, and after today I understand why."
Barbara could only stare.
Helena smiled. "You're so cute when you're speechless," she said before turning serious again. "I know you think you're damaged goods, and I have news for you: so am I."
Barbara could feel fear growing inside her. Helena was going to strike down all of her reasons, whether they real or imagined. "But Hel "
"No buts. We both are, and that's one of the reasons why we fit so well. We've seen each other at our absolute worst and neither one of us walked out, and you can't bring up me moving into my own apartment, because I never really had any intention of leaving for good."
"Are you finished?" Barbara asked.
"Not even close, because I know you have a lot of reasons for us not to be together. And here's the important bit none of them matter."
"Why would you believe that?"
"After everything we've been through, how can you even ask?" Helena cupped Barbara's cheek and placed a light kiss on her forehead. She pulled away enough to look Barbara in the eyes and asked the most important question.
"Do you love me?"
Tears welled in Barbara's eyes. "You already know I do," she said.
Helena wiped the wetness from Barbara's face. "Why are you sad about that?"
"You have a life outside of these walls. I don't. You have the bar and friends, and this entire area of your life that I'm not a part of. Look at me," she said, motioning to her body. "You're damaged, but I'm broken through and through.
"I can never be involved in that part of your life. I can't physically or mentally do it. God, I get nervous when we leave the Clocktower, and after what happened with Harley Quinn, I'm not even sure I feel safe at home anymore. You "
"And you got that impression from "
"From the way you live your life. I used to be that way. I used to fly along the rooftops, take out the bad guys, and be home for dinner with my dad. Damn it, Hel. I used to fly. Now I roll."
"Barbara, I'm only going to say this once, and if I don't convince you that I'm telling you the truth, then I give up. So here goes.
"You're envious because I work in a bar and I sleep around? Did you ever wonder why I do those things? Why I hardly ever stayed around after sweeps?
"That night the night we kissed would have sold me on you forever if I hadn't been before. Nothing has ever made me feel the way your kiss made me feel. No one has ever made me feel the way you make me feel. I want you in a way that makes me feel like I'm on fire. And on top of all that, you make me feel like I'm home. Do you understand?" She whispered as she pulled Barbara closer.
Barbara was shocked. "But why did you sleep with so many people?"
"I knew I was in love with you a long time before I gave you that ring, and when you told me no, I also knew that I could never leave you. At the same time, I knew that by doing that I would never be able to have a real relationship with anyone else. See, I only plan on giving my heart to one person, and I gave mine to you years ago."
Barbara looked down at their joined hands. She wanted so much to believe Helena's view that they were made for each other. She wanted to be happy again, but life had beaten any hope of happiness out of her for so long she had stopped believing it could ever happen. Yet when she looked back up at Helena, she couldn't quite understand why they weren't kissing already.
"We take things slowly," she said as she drew the brunette to her.
"So we'll be having sleepovers starting " Helena whispered with a grin.
"Just kiss me already."
When their lips finally touched, Barbara felt her walls break apart. There would be wreckage to sift through, but as Helena pressed her lithe body into her broken one, Barbara knew she didn't have to do it alone. Not anymore, and not ever again.
"Nothing. Abso-frikkin'-lutely nothing."
"I wouldn't count that in the bad category, Huntress," Barbara couldn't help but smile.
"Neither would I. This doesn't even deserve the bad category," There was a thud as Helena landed on another rooftop. "Boring is more like it. There are much more exciting things I'd rather be doing."
"Oh, really? Like what?" Barbara asked innocently. She knew very well what those things were, and they sent shivers of need through her. "Were you planning on participating in extreme sports?"
"Only if you're involved," Helena whispered into the transceiver, causing Barbara to turn a deep shade of red.
She cleared her throat. "I think that's enough then," she said, sounding very much like a boy whose voice was changing. "Come back to base."
"Sexiest thing I've heard since I've been out here, Oracle. Keep 'em coming."
Barbara laughed. "I'm not stepping into that one. Just come home."
Helena's returning laughter filled her senses. "You don't even have to ask. Huntress out."
A small smile played at Barbara's lips as she watched Helena's progress through the city. So much had changed in the past day. Usually the depression both women felt around the anniversary of the most terrible day in their lives lasted a week. That feeling hadn't beaten them the day before; they were, in fact, happier than they had been in years, or perhaps in their lives. She felt the warmth spread through her when she thought back to what had happened after the kiss.
"I need you," Helena rasped when she finally pulled away.
Barbara gazed into feral eyes, not quite believing that she was the one who had inspired such lust? The intensity frightened her. She smiled nervously. "Hel, we should talk first."
"Talking's over." Helena almost growled.
Then Helena's mouth was claiming Barbara's, and her world was reduced to nothing but her newfound lover. Barbara wanted to give in to everything, to give herself to Helena completely. When Barbara felt herself being lifted from the sofa she groaned, appreciating the fact that she was literally being swept off her feet. When they reached her bed, though, she put a hand on Helena's chest to stop her.
"I want this. I want you," Barbara breathed. "We need to talk."
Helena hungrily stared at her for a moment before feral eyes turned blue. "What is it, Barbara?"
"I'm scared," Barbara said. Even with Helena, it wasn't something she admitted often.
"You're safe with me."
Barbara shook her head. "I know you won't hurt me. It's just," she motioned to her deadened legs, "I'm not " she trailed off, unable to elaborate.
"Sh," Helena said as she placed light kisses along Barbara's jaw. "We'll work it out as we go. I just want you. Only you. Always you." With the last words, her mouth descended onto Barbara's, efficiently quelling any fears she had.
After that, nothing had been awkward. Their lovemaking had been passionate and gentle at the same time, and even as she sat in her chair, she felt her body react to the memories of Helena's touch. She couldn't wait until the brunette landed on the balcony. She wasn't sure they would make it to the bedroom this time, and she had the errant thought that she was glad Dinah was staying at Gabby's again, and that Alfred was still out of town.
"Does it have fingers and toes?" Helena's words broke through the wanderings of the Barbara's mind, and for a second she couldn't figure out what the question was about.
Barbara laughed at Helena's impatient tone. "I didn't see any, but it was covered," she responded, looking at the large envelope from Wayne Industries that had arrived earlier that day.
She could hear Helena's sigh as clearly as if she had been standing next to her. "You aren't making this easy for me, Oracle."
"Maybe not, but hearing you guess is making my life absolutely fun and exciting."
"You really should get out more," Helena said, and the static on the line indicated that she was in the air.
"Why would you say that?"
"How else are you going to meet someone decent to shack up with?"
Barbara smiled. "Who says I haven't already found someone decent?"
There was a sound as Helena landed on a roof across the city. "I have it on good authority that you've been seen with someone who is quite indecent."
"Maybe I like them that way."
Helena's laughter rang through her before it stopped short. "Hang on, we may have trouble," she said seriously.
"What's the situation, Huntress?"
"Nothing big. Looks like kids working off some steam. I'll get it." Helena didn't turn off her transceiver, but she said nothing more to Barbara as she approached the group.
As with every time Barbara sent Helena to the front lines, she sat and listened, waiting for any indication that she may need to call for assistance.
"Is this an equal opportunity beating, or can anyone join the fun?"
There were mumbles and sounds of movement around Helena, and Barbara tensed. She hadn't been given any details of the scene, and that effectively made her blind. She didn't know if Huntress was facing two or twenty people. Two she could handle. Twenty would be stretching it a lot.
"Hey, you're pretty." A male voice slurred in Barbara's ear.
"Ah, and you wonder why you don't have a girlfriend. You're so eloquent and not smelly at all." There was a loud crack and Barbara could distinctly hear the young man groan in pain.
"That did it," Helena said, and Barbara could hear the fight explode.
After what seemed like an eternity, but was actually only a couple of minutes, Barbara heard Helena's voice again. "Are you okay?"
"My arm's broken," a man said.
"Oracle, we need police and ambo to my position. One, two, three they may want to bring a couple of ambos. Huntress out and heading for base."
Even as she typed in the necessary commands for the authorities to be called, Barbara couldn't resist smiling. Her girlfriend kicked ass, and for a living no less. It sent bolts of adrenaline and desire through her.
After finishing her task, she smugly sat back in her chair and waited for Helena to start their conversation again, but none came. A minute passed, and Barbara checked the GPS to verify that Helena was still heading back to base. She wasn't.
"I have a quick errand to run. Won't take a sec."
"About this getting out more "
"I don't know, sometimes being decent while out isn't nearly as fun as being indecent inside your own home. There are advantages to both, or so I'm told."
Barbara wasn't quite sure if she was following Helena's logic properly. Did she want them to go on a date, or did she want them to stay in? She took off her glasses and pinched the bridge of her nose, all the while grinning like a cat that ate the no, that wasn't a good expression. Not for her group.
Her eyes roamed over the monitors, looking for any signs of trouble. It was past the busy crime portion of the evening, and most of what had happened during Helena's sweep had to do with school kids causing mischief. While they had known that would come with the boredom of summer, Barbara hadn't expected it before the break.
The night seemed to call her out of her thoughts, and Barbara went onto the balcony to relax. It was a cool night for June, but she took it for what it was. She mused for a moment that someone may have taken a weather manipulator from a lab somewhere, but she laughed at the thought. If making the normally sweltering hot summer mild was what the person wanted to do with their stolen merchandise, she was okay with it.
"Hey sexy," Helena's sultry voice washed over her.
Barbara turned to the brunette and smiled. "I could say the same to you. The disheveled look is very in right now."
"Hm, want to see if we can make you disheveled?" Helena closed the distance between them and leaned down. "I'd give the project 110%. What do you say?" she whispered.
Helena brushed her lips across Barbara's, though she didn't make any move to intensify the kiss, and after a moment she pulled back and smiled. "How would you feel about being seen around town with someone who's a little on the indecent side?"
Barbara traced Helena's jaw, thoroughly enjoying the feel of the soft skin below her fingertips. "It would be bad for my reputation but I suppose I could for the right person."
"Good, I'll let that weird guy down the street know you'll go out with him this Saturday."
"Does this work on all the girls?"
"Only the one that counts. Well?" Helena asked expectantly.
Barbara acted like she was pondering the possibility. "The symphony is playing. I suppose " she started in a not-so-subtle hint.
Helena dropped all pretenses of the game they had been playing as she leaned in, her mouth almost touching Barbara's ear. "I had something a little more intimate in mind," she murmured.
Barbara couldn't control her shiver of anticipation. "In that case, is seven-thirty okay?"
Helena began slowly kissing her way along Barbara's jaw. "That's very okay " she said against the perfect skin.
She reached Barbara's lips she devoured them hungrily, and when Barbara responded by pulling the brunette even closer, she moaned into the other woman's mouth.
She wants me, Barbara was struck by the stray thought, and she suddenly felt the old doubt creep in. How could Helena want her? She broke the kiss, and instantly missed the contact.
"You okay?" Helena breathed.
Barbara smiled. "Of course. I'm just hungry," she said as she started for the door.
"You're not the only one," she distinctly heard Helena mutter behind her.
She had the feeling the brunette wasn't talking about food, and she chose to ignore the comment. "What did you bring?"
Helena caught up to her quickly. "Your favorite."
"But Hel, monkey's brains, though popular in Cantonese cuisine, are not often to be found in New Gotham," Barbara said with a smirk.
It didn't seem to throw Helena a bit. "No quoting movies. And besides, if I recall correctly, and I do, you literally lost your lunch over that dish."
Barbara laughed easily at the memory, and at Helena's gentle ribbing. "And I thought my trip to the ladies' room was a bit more surreptitious than that. Honestly, I don't know how you've let me get away with so much over the years."
"I was waiting," Helena said softly.
They had made it inside by then, and Barbara turned around to face Helena. "We both were, only I didn't know it," she said, her voice packed with all the emotion she felt.
Helena leaned over and rested her forehead against Barbara's. "You are pretty thick-headed."
"If I recall, I'm not the only one," Barbara said in a vain attempt to sound nonchalant.
In truth, she was in no way feeling nonchalant. She truly wanted to devour the woman who was so close to her; so close Barbara could breathe in Helena's scent, and though she smelled of the city, Barbara still wanted and needed Helena to be writhing in ecstasy below or above her. It didn't really matter which at that point.
Helena shifted so that her lips were almost touching Barbara's ear. "You have so much restraint, Barbara, but you've never been able to fool me."
That was it. Barbara actually gulped. "Fool you at what?"
"An answer right now would be no fun. No fun at all." Helena placed a soft kiss on Barbara's earlobe before progressing slowly toward her mouth. "And you know how much I like fun."
"Are you saying you're going to bring out my inner animal?"
Helena nipped at Barbara's bottom lip and growled, "You mean I haven't already?"
"Not. Even. Close," Barbara said, a little shocked at herself for feeling suddenly so confident.
Helena's eyes turned feral, and she began backing Barbara toward the sofa. "Show me."
And she did. They made love until the dawn's early light shone through the high windows of the Clocktower, and after Barbara called in sick, they stayed in bed the rest of the day.
"How was school?" Barbara asked Dinah as the younger woman stepped out of the elevator.
"Fine. You didn't miss much. Jason Crandall hit on me. Again." Dinah dropped onto the sofa and began surfing the channels.
"He's a senior," Barbara said distractedly. She was going through her much ignored emails while resolving to never let passion get the better of her, just before she knew her resolve would crumble the second Helena walked through the door.
"And a boy," Dinah mumbled.
That stopped Barbara short. She looked up from the computer screen and turned to face her young ward, not quite wanting to have the discussion they were most likely about to have.
"Hm?" Dinah didn't stop staring at the TV.
"Are you gay?"
There was a moment when Barbara thought there would be no answer, just the monotonous sound of an infomercial in the background, but Dinah finally spoke.
"Yeah," she said softly.
The girl was so tenderhearted, and Barbara saw a tear slip down her cheek before it was wiped away by a battle-roughened hand. The dichotomy of it did not escape her.
Barbara had to chide herself. She wasn't handling the conversation with the aplomb she normally did, but then again, she didn't usually have conversations like the one she was currently having.
"Six months." With a push of a button, Dinah shut off the TV. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you," she said, sounding apologetic.
Barbara shook her head and wheeled over to Dinah. "Are you happy?"
Dinah turned her gaze to Barbara immediately, and with more determination than she had ever seen in the young woman, said, "Yes." A slow smile spread across Barbara's face, and Dinah seemed to brighten. "You mean you're okay with this?"
Barbara's smile widened. "I would be a hypocrite if I weren't."
"What? Wait, did you and Helena finally ?"
"How did you -? No, I know how, and I don't want to know what you've seen and what you haven't," Barbara said pointedly, referring to Dinah's telepathic abilities.
"Ooh!" Dinah was instantly off the sofa and heading for her phone. "We have to double date."
"It's early days yet, Dinah. Don't get ahead of yourself."
Dinah looked up from dialing. "You haven't been out on a date yet? No. Way."
"No, we haven't."
Just then there was a thump as Helena landed on the balcony, and Barbara breathed a sigh of relief. At least she would have Hel backing her up.
"No, what?" Helena said as she seemed to glide through the doorway.
"Barbara says you two haven't been on a date yet."
Helena stared at Dinah with her mouth agape before turning her eyes to Barbara. "You told her?"
Barbara shrugged helplessly. "It seemed to be a good time. Apparently, she's been dating "
"Gabby. Yeah, I've known about that since forever. I figured you did, too. Hence the no 'very special episode' thing."
Burying her face in her hands wasn't helping what was rapidly turning into a surrealist painting, so she tried groaning. That didn't work either. Nothing did, until a hand touched the top of her head.
"S'okay. It's all out in the open, and no one's upset. Hell, the Kid is already sending out our wedding invitations."
As she looked up from her hands, Barbara stared into her lover's deep blue eyes and knew Helena truly wasn't upset. "Already?" she replied, going with the joke.
"Uh-huh. She wants lavender, but I told her I'm more of a tangerine dream kind of girl," Helena smirked.
"You know I can't stand orange. Can't we have one we can both agree on?"
"Really? 'Cause black won't do for a wedding," Helena said as Dinah joined them.
"How does tomorrow sound? I think I can get reservations at Corelli's," Dinah said with excitement.
Helena held up her hands. "Whoa, Trigger. Give us a couple of weeks. We're still in the honeymoon phase."
Barbara's eyebrows shot up. "A couple of weeks?"
"You thought maybe one?"
"I thought I'm not sure." Again, Barbara lost her confidence. She couldn't help wondering where it went.
Helena seemed to sense that, and leaned in closely. "Don't worry, Red. I'm in this thing for the long haul."
Letting a breath she didn't realize she was holding, Barbara kissed Helena's cheek. "Thank you."
"'S what I'm here for."
"Do I need to split you two up? I need to spar, and I need to do it now. Gabby and I are going out tonight," Dinah said happily.
Helena didn't budge though, keeping her gaze on Barbara's. "Give us five, Kid."
Once Dinah was gone, Helena's face changed completely. "You want to tell me what that was all about?" she asked, concern lacing her tone.
"I don't know what you mean," Barbara said, though she knew Helena would see through the lie.
Helena stepped away. "No games. You'll tell me or you won't, but don't lie to me," she said sadly as she started for the training room.
As the other woman left, Barbara was still sitting in the same spot and wondering why she felt she had to lie to the one person who knew her best. She reasoned that it was that precise reason that Barbara lied. Helena knew what Barbara wanted her to know and nothing more. There was so much she had hidden from the younger woman, as evidenced by the admission of just what happened with Dick. Of course Helena hadn't known about the full extent of the aftermath of that night. Barbara had never once mentioned it.
She wheeled herself back to Delphi to find something to distract her from her morbid thoughts. Spying the envelope from Wayne Industries that had been sitting on the desk for a couple of days, she itched to open it. It would mean an evening of work, and she knew it couldn't be urgent or they would have contacted her directly. She would get to it the next day.
She couldn't stop the wave of sadness that was crashing down around her. Suddenly she knew she would mess up her relationship with Helena so badly they wouldn't be able to even be friends, and that knowledge was something she wouldn't tolerate. Ending things before it became too complicated was the best recourse.
But then, it was already complicated, wasn't it? Dinah knew, and that in and of itself was a huge complication. The worst was one she didn't want to admit; she truly didn't think she could live without Helena in her life, and Barbara knew an unmovable wedge would be driven between them if they ever split up.
So there was no way out. She would mess things up one way or the other. The tightness in her chest she wasn't used to anymore came back full force. Did she even want a way out? Why couldn't she accept Helena's obvious love and devotion? These questions wracked Barbara's mind and heart, and even as she typed feverishly at her keyboard, she knew the answers. She didn't want a way out. She couldn't accept Helena's heartfelt gifts because she didn't think she had anything to give back. As Barbara herself had said, she was broken through-and-through. What could she offer?
"You think too much for your own good, you know that?" Helena said as she leaned against the table with a towel in one hand and a water bottle in the other.
"Has it been an hour already?" Barbara asked, not really wanting to answer the question.
"Two, actually. You were in so deep in thought that the Dinah and I felt you should ride it out." After wiping a few beads of perspiration from her brow, Helena continued. "She's in the shower now. Talk to me."
Barbara, who had turned her gaze to Helena, looked away. "I don't have anything to say."
Without looking, Barbara heard Helena let out a deep breath. "Let me know when you do." With those words, she left.
For a second, Barbara thought Helena had left the Clocktower altogether, but when she heard the distant sounds of flesh beating on the leather of the punching bag she somehow felt comforted by the fact that Helena hadn't left her.
Was Barbara wrong? Could she really find happiness, despite her broken mind and body? When she was in Helena's arms, she was invincible. She knew she had to hold onto that feeling, especially when the doubt crept in. She also needed to be honest, and with that resolution, she left Delphi and went to the training room.
The sound of Helena hitting the punching bag rang harsh in Barbara's ears, and when she turned the corner into the room what she saw startled her. Her mighty warrior looked like she was crying as she hit the bag. It shocked Barbara, but only because she hadn't realized just how much she could hurt Helena.
Resolving to be more rational about their relationship, she reasoned that Helena never did anything she didn't want to do, and being around Barbara seemed to be the younger woman's most passionate thing in life. The realization hit Barbara hard, making her smile even as a tear of relief fell onto her shirt. Helena loved her, really loved her. Otherwise she wouldn't have stayed around through all the terrible first years together. Just because that love had morphed into what it was didn't change matters. The love was still there.
They would hurt each other in their lives, to be sure, but hadn't they done that to each other already? Helena had already proven her devotion time and time again, so Barbara decided she was going to let her doubts go. They may come back, but then she knew they probably would. For the time being she accepted those doubts for what they were: irrational. She had lost virtually everything else in her life; she wasn't about to lose Helena.
She wheeled herself farther into the training room and saw Helena by the windows as she took her hands out of their protective wrappings. Barbara wheeled to her, but instead of saying anything, she stared out the window as though she was trying to see what Helena saw. In reality, she wasn't sure what to say.
The sound of the tape from Helena's hand hitting the trash can startled Barbara, and she looked up at her lover. "I'm sorry," she said, somewhat lamely.
Helena didn't move from where she still stood, staring at the setting sun. "I don't want you to be sorry. I want you to talk to me."
"Where do I begin?" Barbara said softly.
"This is freaking you out. I get it," Helena responded in the same tone, "but I'm freaked out a bit, too. You're so beautiful, and you want me. Me. Not just the Huntress. No one has ever made me feel that way.
"So when I tell you I want to be with you, I'm not lying. I would rather be with you than anyone else. Hell," she laughed a little, "that's pretty much been the case since I met you, before I could put a name to my feelings. Don't ever doubt my love for you because it, and I, will always be here."
It was then that Helena turned to look at Barbara, and it was evident she had been right about Helena's crying. It wasn't like her to do that, and Barbara realized just how much hurt she had caused in the span of a few hours because of her second guesses.
"I want to believe that, Hel. I really do, and on some level that certainty is there."
"But my doubts aren't about you. They're about me."
"Don't tell me you think you'll screw this up, because we've done everything we could to do that, and it hasn't happened yet. I don't think it ever will."
Barbara slowly and gently took her hand and laced their fingers together. "Apparently we can't get rid of each other," she said with a lopsided grin.
It was a grin that was returned as Helena placed a soft kiss on Barbara's forehead. "Nope. Not in a million years."
"In that case, maybe we should get those invitations."
"Nah, I'd rather live in sin with you for a while."
Barbara laughed. "You mean you don't want to make me an honest woman?"
Helena, her face serious, kneeled down. "I don't need to make you that, but if you want me to marry you, I will." Barbara opened her mouth to ask the question, but Helena put a finger to her lips. "Don't ask. You can be romantic. I know you have it in you."
Helena lightly kissed her cheek and started for the door. "Besides, I might beat you to the punch," she said over her shoulder.
It was a few minutes later that a mildly stunned Barbara left the large room in search of Helena. She couldn't figure out if Helena was truly being serious, but she decided she wouldn't concentrate on that until later. She wanted to enjoy the moment.
"So, exactly how long have you known?" Barbara asked as she continued her quest to empty her email.
After the discussion they had had earlier, neither one of them had felt like going out, so they had opted to stay in.
"About as long as they've been going out," Helena replied, placing the last fork on the small dining area table. "They weren't exactly careful. I caught them one day when I was picking you up."
Barbara glanced away from the screen for a second. "And you didn't tell me?"
Helena merely shrugged. "There wasn't anything to tell, Red. Plus, the Kid did beg me to keep quiet. I think there might have been bribery involved."
Turning her gaze back to the computer screen, Barbara snorted. "I didn't think you were corruptible."
"Only for the right woman." Helena wiped her hands on the small kitchen towel on her shoulder before stirring the wine sauce.
If Helena said anything after that, Barbara didn't notice. She had picked up the envelope with the intention of giving it a once over before dinner, and the contents shocked her into speechlessness. As she read the words on the pages she knew she was going into something akin to shock.
"Barbara? You okay?" Helena's voice seemed to filter in through Barbara's fuzzy brain.
A large swallow and a shake of her head were barely enough to stop the flood of emotions coursing through her. "No," Barbara croaked.
Almost immediately Barbara felt Helena's presence behind her. "What is it?"
Barbara mutely showed Helena the front page and heard her breathing speed up. "Is this true?" Helena's words were choked.
After screwing herself back together, Barbara turned and stared into the loving, frightful eyes of her partner in every sense of the word. "If he asked them to send this, then it is."
"You look happy," Helena said, pulling away from the hand Barbara had offered.
"I am, Hel. This will be good for me. For us."
"Didn't you read what it said? Risks. You know what those are, only instead of being permanently paralyzed, you would be permanently dead. That is not in any way 'good' for either one of us."
"But if it works, it would be good for both of us," Barbara said, her excitement beginning to take over.
By then Helena had started pacing. "And we don't have enough goodness in our lives? We have each other, and we have the Kid. Not to mention Alfred. We're happy, Barbara." The pacing stopped then. "Unless you aren't."
"I am," Barbara said quickly, "but I wish I could jump across the rooftops with you."
"You do, every night." Helena kneeled down and took Barbara's hands in her own. "You give me everything I need fight the good fight."
Barbara ripped her hands from Helena's, suddenly feeling furious. "You wouldn't understand," she said as she wheeled onto the balcony.
Helena followed closely. "Then make me understand why you would risk everything good in your life for a one in a million chance."
Whirling around to meet Helena's hurt and angry gaze, Barbara practically yelled, "Because I would rather be dead than be half a woman anymore!"
The second the words were out of her mouth, Barbara regretted them. There wasn't any way to take them back, though, and if the hurt on Helena's face was any judge, the words had cost both of them dearly. Neither woman spoke as the wind swirled around them, and Barbara could see the tears on Helena's face even as they stung her own.
"Dead?" Helena whispered finally.
Helena held up her hand. "You'd rather be dead than have this life? With me?"
"It doesn't have anything to do with you."
"Damn it. I'm part of this part of you. Or have all your words been hollow?"
Barbara tried to search for the words that had always come so easily to her. "How can you ask me that?"
"Because the woman I love more than life told me she would rather be dead than have to live her life the way it is. Pardon me for questioning her love," Helena spat.
"I do love my life with you, but there's always been something missing since that night, and you know it. Both our lives were ripped apart, and we rebuilt them the only way we could. I'm not saying we did a bad job, but Hel, I need to at least try. Please respect that."
Helena stood still, so still Barbara didn't think the other woman was even breathing. "I will, but don't ask me to stick around to watch you die. I've seen enough of that in my lifetime," Helena said before starting for the ledge.
"No leaving," Barbara called just before Helena jumped.
That stopped the brunette cold, and she stepped back from the edge. "What do you want me to do?"
"Look at what he sent. It may not be anything more than a wild goose chase, but we won't be able to find out if we don't start somewhere. Besides, contrary to popular opinion, I do need you," Barbara paused. "You're the only one who can keep me anchored in this."
"Will you promise me something then?" Helena said through gritted teeth.
"If we do all the research and tests and the risks are logically too great you won't do it. This life you have? It's pretty good if you just give it half a chance."
Barbara offered a sad smile. "I know it is, and I promise."
Though she knew her promise didn't quite satisfy Helena, Barbara still felt relieved when they went back inside. The dinner was far more subdued than they had planned, and after cleaning up after themselves, they went to bed and just slept in each other's arms.
Barbara waited anxiously for Doctor Patel to come out of his office, where he was contemplating her scans. It was one of the perks of being in league with Bruce Wayne; she never had to wait long for medical test results. She had never minded the short time before, but now even those couple of hours felt like agony. After all, there was a lot riding on them.
It had been a week since she had opened the envelope from Wayne Industries, and after the initial discussion Barbara refused to call it an argument she and Helena's relationship had been tense. It was obvious Helena didn't approve of the decision Barbara was making, and she didn't understand how Helena could think that watching other people do the work Barbara was called for was acceptable on any level. She knew that everything hinged on the results she was about to get, and there was a large part of her that was glad Helena wouldn't be there to hear them firsthand. It would be easier not to hear an 'I told you so' if the tests didn't turn out well.
"Ms. Gordon?" Doctor Patel said from the doorway. The small, slight man had a slight accent, and she briefly wondered what part of India he was from. "I've read the results. Come."
Barbara wheeled herself into the office and positioned herself across from where he sat at his desk. She wasn't one to have butterflies in her stomach, but she had them in spades just then. It wasn't a feeling she enjoyed in the least. The wait would be over soon; she just needed to hear the verdict.
"What did you find?" Barbara asked.
"The serum Mr. Wayne found will be an easy one to replicate," Dr. Patel started as he pressed a button, showing a large image of her spine on the wall, "But your spinal column was injured yet again when you used the neural coupler. The serum will have a lesser chance of working in your case."
"How much less?"
He turned from the image. "Forty, perhaps fifty percent. The chances of you dying; however, is something we cannot calculate."
"Oh." It was the only thing she could say. The possibility of her ever walking again was going quickly down the drain.
"That isn't to say we wouldn't perform the procedure. We will if that's your wish, of course. I'm simply giving you the facts."
"What's your opinion? Am I good candidate?"
The shake of his head crushed her hopes. "I'm sorry, but no. Had you not used the coupler, perhaps, but we'll never "
"Do it anyway." Barbara knew what her promise had been, but it was a promise she would have to break. Walking was a dream she needed to make every attempt to get.
"What?" His shock was obvious.
"I want you to perform the procedure."
"Even after what I've told you?"
"Yes." She didn't see the need to explain herself further.
He seemed to think for a moment before picking up his phone and dialing a number. "This is Doctor Patel. When will it be ready? That soon? Yes, we have a candidate."
Barbara didn't hear the rest of his end of the conversation. She was too overwhelmed by the thought of what was within her grasp, and also of all she could lose. Helena was part of her, and had been for so long. How could she leave that all behind for something that might kill her? Barbara knew she was being selfish, and that her life was a full one, but she couldn't help but know there was more. She wanted that, and with a clarity that was characteristic of her, she knew she couldn't pass up the chance to get her legs back.
When she came out of her thoughts, he was looking at her expectantly. "Sorry. It's a lot to take in."
He shook his head and smiled. "I understand. It's not every day one gets a chance like this, but I must stress the risks again. Death surely isn't better than what you have now."
"No, but having my legs back is. I'm willing to take those risks."
The rest of their meeting went by in a blur as they had arranged the day and time of the procedure, and even Barbara's keen mind had to look again at her notes to be certain of what they had chosen. One thing was certain: Helena would be furious that Barbara hadn't talked everything over with her.
And Helena had every right to be, Barbara acknowledged. They were supposed to be partners, and that was the only reason she was regretting her decision as the elevator took her up to the Clocktower. It might even destroy their relationship. That thought stopped her cold, and when the doors slid open to reveal an obviously furious Helena, Barbara knew she was about to have one of the worst conversations of her life.
"You want to tell me why you went to the doc's without taking me?" Helena asked as she glared at Barbara.
Barbara wheeled out of the elevator and deliberately put her keys on the table while trying to come up with an answer. Finding none but the truth, she opted for that.
"I didn't want you there."
"Why not?" When Barbara didn't say anything, Helena's eyes flashed with betrayal. "You're going to have the surgery."
"It's not exactly a "
"I don't care what it is. It could kill you, and from the dazed look on your face, you didn't get good news about that."
"Does it matter? You still wouldn't want me to do it even if he had told me I would be the perfect candidate," Barbara said, her anger rising.
"You're right, I wouldn't. I love you, and I don't want to see you kill yourself!"
They were toe to toe, and Barbara felt something snap inside her. "It's my body!"
"So no one else matters, not even me," Helena said quietly, sadness lacing her voice.
"I didn't say that," Barbara said in the same tone. Her anger was gone.
"Yet you're willing to do this no matter what."
"I'd rather have your blessing, but yes, I'm going to do this." Barbara tried to take Helena's hand, but Helena dodged the touch as she turned away. "Please, don't pull away. I need you to be here for me through this."
"I can't watch you die."
"You're so focused on my possible death, have you considered that I might get my legs back?"
"Yes," Helena said even softer than before.
The brunette turned and focused her gaze on Barbara, and she saw with great sorrow that Helena had been crying.
"It would be what I've dreamed of since that night," Helena whispered.
"Can't you focus on that then?"
"Things don't usually work out for us that way though, do they?"
Barbara reached out and felt a bit better when Helena accepted her hand. "Maybe they will this time."
With her free hand, Helena wiped her tears dry. "When is it scheduled?"
"A week from today."
Helena stared at her for a moment, and Barbara could see the warring emotions on her lover's face. Anger, despair, and reluctant acquiescence all surfaced, but Barbara chose to focus on one in particular: hope.
"It will be okay, Hel."
A small, sad smile crossed Helena's face before fading rapidly. "If you say so. You are the genius, after all."
"You're no slouch either," Barbara responded with her own small grin. "Helena?"
Barbara hated hospitals. She hated the disinfectant that invaded her senses, the deceptive cleanliness of them, and most of all, she hated the patronizing nurses. It wasn't that most of them didn't mean well; Barbara just hated it when people tried to take care of her.
It was that care that had made her grumpy as she was wheeled through the halls by a chattering nurse in a wheelchair that wasn't her own. Helena and Dinah stood on either side of her, both continuing their silence that had started when they reached the car that morning. Barbara missed them both, and she desperately wanted to hear them say something anything as long as she knew she wasn't alone.
The only problem was that no matter how much her family stayed with her, Barbara was still very much alone. If everything went well, she would have their support of course, but if things didn't go well no, she wasn't going to think about that. She couldn't bear the coldness of death again.
They made it to her room and, after her IV had been started, she was grateful when Helena kicked the nurse out so Barbara could get into the bed without the aid of a stranger. It was humiliating to her that anyone would assume she couldn't take care of herself, but she found she was lacking in her pride. She felt she was lacking in a lot of things as she maneuvered herself onto the bed.
Once Barbara was situated, Helena went to the window and looked out at the cityscape. Barbara knew the torment her lover had been through over the past week, and they had had more than one argument about what was about to happen. Dinah had stayed away for the most part, not wanting to get caught in the crossfire. It had only taken one sparring session to convince the young woman of that.
"Please don't do this," Helena said from where she stood with her back turned toward Barbara.
"You know I have to," Barbara replied sadly. She would do anything not to hurt her love, but she had to if she had any chance to be able to walk again.
Helena said nothing. It was as though the fire had left her, like there was no fight left. Her normally straight, proud shoulders were slumped, and her beautiful hair lay limp on her head. She hadn't bothered to do anything with it before they left for Wayne Industries that morning. Barbara wished more than anything she could give her lover back that fire, but it wasn't to be, not with what was about to happen. Helena had to be allowed to have her feelings.
The door swung open, and Doctor Patel walked in. "Good morning, ladies," he said to the three women.
When he received little response, he shrugged and started reading Barbara's chart. "Your blood work looks good, Ms. Gordon. How are you feeling this morning?"
Barbara tore her gaze from Helena and looked at him. "I'm fine," she lied. She was more nervous than she had ever been, but she wasn't about to let him see that.
"Good. We'll be proceeding on schedule, and provided everything goes well, you'll leave here a new woman."
The snort from Helena was unmistakable, and Barbara was glad when Dinah went to the brunette and began talking softly to her.
"Do I need to go over the risks again?"
"I understand them."
He nodded as he snapped the chart shut. "In that case, transport will be here in about an hour to take you to surgery."
"Don't thank me yet, Ms. Gordon. Thank me when you walk again," he said as he left.
Dinah moved back to Barbara's side immediately. "What's up?"
"Would you mind leaving the room for a few minutes? I'd like to talk to Helena."
"I'll be back before transport gets here, okay?"
"Sure. And Dinah? I " Barbara found she couldn't continue her sentence. Revealing her emotions wasn't something she ever did; at least she didn't if that person wasn't Helena.
"I know," Dinah said, squeezing out the still closing door.
Barbara couldn't think of what to say to Helena that hadn't already been said about the procedure, but there was one thing about them that she hadn't spoken aloud yet. "I want you to move on if I die."
"How can you ask me to do that?" Helena didn't move.
"I can because I want you to be happy. Self-destructing isn't going to do anything but hurt Dinah, and she'll need you after this."
"Do you think you won't be here?"
"I hope I will, but I like to prepare for every contingency, you know that." Barbara was shocked at the short bark of laughter that escaped from her lover.
"Tell me about it," Helena said as she stepped back to the bed. "You're nothing if not a planner."
Helena sat on the edge of the bed, careful not to move the IV the nurse had started. Barbara cupped the brunette's cheek and wiped a tear from her face. Suddenly Barbara felt herself choking up as well.
"I need you," she said.
Without asking what she could do, Helena moved so that she was lying beside Barbara and curled up the best she could, considering the circumstances. Barbara felt safe as the warmth of the embrace flowed through her.
Helena kissed Barbara's neck with a tenderness no one else ever saw in the young woman. "Do you remember the first time you took me ice skating?" she asked in Barbara's ear.
Barbara smiled at the memory. "You were nine, and I couldn't believe Selina hadn't already taught you."
She could feel Helena's smile against her skin. "That's the thing. She had taught me when we were in France."
Despite her fear of the immediate future, Barbara chuckled. "And you somehow forgot?" she asked, even though she knew the answer.
The realization hit Barbara like a ton of bricks. She had known Helena's feelings had existed even before the night the Joker stole their lives, but she hadn't thought they reached back to when they first met.
"We had only known each other for a month," Barbara said quietly.
"And you were my world from the moment I met you."
Fear clutched its ugly fingers around Barbara's heart. She couldn't, wouldn't be someone's entire world. "And now?"
"Now you're the best part of it."
The fear released itself and drifted away. "And you're the best part of mine, not to mention a great actress. You fooled me that day."
Helena laughed, and it vibrated on Barbara's skin. "If I recall, it took me a month to 'learn' to skate."
An involuntary groan escaped from the redhead. "You deserve an Oscar."
"I'd like to thank all the little people "
Barbara smacked her arm. "You're an absolute rake, you know that?"
"I take offense to that. I'm not a man." Helena sounded horrified.
"Yes, but you have been a player since you were born, I'm sure."
It was Helena's turn to groan. "Don't ever say that word in that way again. It goes against everything Barbara Gordon stands for."
"Truth, justice, and the grammatically correct way?"
Helena shifted them so she could look into Barbara's eyes. "Of course. What else is there?"
"Well, to hear Superman tell it "
"Superman isn't here, and besides, good grammar is very important."
Shaking her head slightly, Barbara closed the distance between them and placed her lips softly against Helena's. The kiss was gentle, with both women pouring all the love and affection they felt for each other into that one touch. After a moment, Helena pulled back and leaned her forehead against Barbara's.
They lay like that for some time, both women talking about little things and laughing as much as they could. Barbara forgot for a while that she might not make it through the day, but when the door opened and two people from transport walked in, reality came crashing down around them both.
Helena went with her down the hall, and Dinah met them halfway down. Barbara noticed the young woman had been crying, and she reached out a comforting hand. Dinah took it and smiled down at Barbara as Helena broke off to scrub so she could be with Barbara during the procedure.
"Promise me you'll look after her," Barbara said just as they reached the double doors.
"I won't need to. You're going to be fine."
"If, and that's a big if, you don't come through this, I promise," Dinah said seriously. "We still need to go out on that double date." That time she seemed a little less serious, but Barbara knew the young woman meant it.
"You do have a point," Barbara laughed, thankful for just a little more happiness.
"Ma'am, we need to take you in now."
Barbara let Dinah's hand go. "I'll see you soon."
Tears welled up in Dinah's eyes, though she smiled. "Definitely."
And then she was gone as Barbara was taken through the short hall to the surgical floor. She tried not to grimace as they lifted her onto the surgical gurney and shifted her body so that they could perform the procedure, but she couldn't help it. She tried to comfort herself with the thought that it would be the last time they would do anything to her spine, no matter what.
A woman with unmistakable blue eyes gracefully walked into the room and, after getting gloves on, settled next to Barbara. "Hey, Hel."
"Hey yourself, Red. Fancy meeting you here."
"We do like to hang out in the best places," Barbara said, a false smile painted across her lips.
Helena turned serious, and she took Barbara's hand. "I love you."
"How else would you put up with me?" Barbara tried to keep things upbeat for just a moment more.
"I don't know, but I want to do it for the rest of my life."
Barbara knew what the unsaid question was, and she wasn't about to answer. "Ask me again later, okay?"
She had never seen Helena cry so much as she had lately, not even after that infamous night, and when she saw more tears threatening to flow, she broke contact long enough to wipe them away before they fell.
"I'll be okay, Barbara."
Just then, the anesthetist came in and began preparing the syringe. "Ms. Gordon, this will feel cold going in."
Barbara could only nod, not taking her eyes from Helena's.
"I want you to count back from ten when I tell you to, okay?"
She gave another nod.
He was right, the anesthesia was cold as it began flowing in her veins, but that soon subsided as she started counting. Helena held her hand as she slipped into unconsciousness, and Barbara's last thought was that she regretted not having told Helena she loved her one last time.
A gentle squeeze to Barbara's hand brought her back from the darkness. Without opening her eyes, she took in her surroundings. The steady beeping of the monitors she was connected to was a harsh reality of what she had just been through, and she wished desperately for them to stop, or at least not be so achingly loud. Disinfectant, of course, filled her olfactory sense, and she longed for the homey smell of the Clocktower and Helena or Alfred's cooking. She simply longed to be home, period.
The hand holding hers felt like Helena's, and Barbara relished its warmth and allowed it to anchor her. With that touch she knew that no matter what, she would be okay. She could endure lying in the hospital bed for however long it took to heal as long as Helena was there with her.
"Barbara?" Helena's sleepy voice asked just as Barbara opened her eyes.
A small smile curled on Barbara's lips and she squeezed the hand holding hers. "Hey," she whispered hoarsely.
Helena instantly sprang into action. "I'll get you some ice chips," she said, reaching over to the small table next to the bed. She grabbed a cup and a spoon, digging some ice out before lifting the utensil to Barbara's mouth.
"Thanks." Barbara said before she wrapped her mouth around the ice. It cooled her dry, aching throat, and she asked for more by opening her mouth again.
Helena smiled and gave her a couple more chips. "It's good to see your eyes."
Barbara swallowed and grinned back. "It worked?"
Even as she asked the question, Helena lifted the sheet away from Barbara's feet. "Try 'em out."
Barbara's eyes went wide when she first realized she could actually feel the rough hospital sheets on her legs, but when Helena had exposed Barbara's bare feet to the air, she reveled in the coolness she felt on them.
"You can move them, too, you know," Helena whispered in her ear.
At first, her toe only moved a bit, but then Barbara began slowly moving her feet. Tears of joy started streaming from her face as she laughed. She couldn't believe what she was seeing and feeling. There would be no more wheelchairs, no more access ramps, no more not-so-conspicuous stares from people, and above all, she would no longer feel like a burden. Barbara knew there would be physical therapy, but she also knew it was only a matter of time before she was swinging across the rooftops side by side with Helena and Dinah.
"Is this real?" she murmured.
Apparently Helena heard. "Yep. You're as good as new. Maybe even better."
At that, Barbara turned her gaze away from her feet and to Helena. "What do you mean?"
"The doc has all the big words for it," Helena said as she ducked her head slightly.
Just then Doctor Patel came in the room. "I'm glad to see you're awake, Ms. Gordon. As you can probably tell, the procedure was a complete success. You'll likely feel some tingling for the next few weeks, but other than that, you'll have full use of your legs."
Barbara suspected something was up when Helena had looked away from her, but the doctor was fidgeting a little as well. "Were there any complications?" she asked as noncommittally as possible.
Doctor Patel looked her in the eye. "We lost you at one point."
"Oh," Barbara replied, instantly looking at Helena. She knew it must have been hell for the younger woman to witness that. She gave Helena's hand a squeeze, hoping that would do until they could be alone.
"We were obviously able to bring you back, but you'll have side effects."
"We had a couple of units of blood that was your type, and we needed to do a transfusion. You were losing a lot of blood as your body knitted itself, and we hadn't been prepared for that."
"Get to the point, doctor."
"The units came from Ms. Kyle," he said.
"You gave me metahuman blood? Why would you do something so dangerous?"
Helena finally looked up from the floor, and there was anger in her eyes. "Because you were dying. They needed my healing properties, and we were a match. Would you rather be in the morgue right now?"
Barbara brought her hand up to cup Helena's cheek. "I would much rather be here, with you. I didn't mean it the way it sounded." She reluctantly looked to the doctor. "What kind of side effects?"
He rubbed the back of his neck nervously. "We're not exactly sure. The effects may be temporary and not pronounced "
"Or I could become metahuman," Barbara said before taking a deep breath. "It's a lot to take in, but not bad in any way." She gazed directly into Helena's eyes, realizing the younger woman needed to have the comfort of knowing Barbara didn't feel as though she was a freak because she might be metahuman.
"How long before she knows?" Helena asked.
"We'll do some scans later today, and if the blood is going to affect you we should know by then."
"Doctor, would you mind leaving us alone for a moment? Helena and I need to discuss some things," Barbara said without looking away from Helena.
"Certainly. Just press the button when you need someone."
Both women just nodded, not saying anything until he left.
"You died," Helena said softly through tears that had started to fall.
"You saved me," Barbara responded as she reached up to kiss her love.
Helena pulled back before their lips met. "I'm still mad at you."
Barbara's brow furrowed. "For dying?"
"Yeah, but you coming back makes things better," Helena said with a grin. "You have your legs again."
Barbara's smile couldn't come close to expressing the joy she felt. "I have my legs back, plus some bonus material I hadn't counted on."
"You're not mad about that?"
"Why would I be mad? It's unexpected, but I've learned to roll with that."
Wiping her tears away, Helena's lips drew into a smile. "Bad pun intended."
"Oh, most definitely," Barbara said, finally succeeding in bringing their lips together in a tender kiss.
It wasn't a kiss that burned with desire; it was a healing touch. For Barbara, it cemented the reality of her new life. She was whole in so many ways, and she couldn't fathom how she had ever been able to resist the woman who was kissing her. Having her legs back was icing on the cake.
With Helena resting her forehead on hers, Barbara took a moment to just feel. She felt no pain miraculously enough, but she felt more. The phantom pains were gone, only to be replaced by the very real itchiness of the hospital sheets. It was an itchiness she welcomed. It stood in dichotomy to the softness and warmth of Helena, and Barbara suddenly wanted more softness and warmth than anything in the world.
Helena looked at her with a crooked grin. "Giving orders again? You are feeling better," she said as she pushed down the bed guard and nudged Barbara over.
When Helena's body was next to her own, Barbara breathed the other woman's scent. It was somehow more prominent but no less intoxicating, and Barbara buried her face in Helena's neck and savored the sensation of Helena's body touching the length of hers. It was an impossible dream that had come true.
"I love you, Hel," she whispered softly.
"Love you too, Red," Helena murmured as she kissed the top of Barbara's head and smoothed out the red hair. "So what are you going to do if you're metahuman?"
"Leap the rooftops and fight the bad guys with you."
Barbara could almost feel Helena's grin. "You're such a romantic."
"Don't get me started, Miss Animalistic. I've had to replace three shirts since we started our new life."
"You sound like you're complaining."
"Not at all. I'd gladly replace everything in my wardrobe if it meant I could feel your skin against mine," Barbara said as she nuzzled Helena's neck, causing a small purr to emanate from the younger woman.
"And that's not romantic?"
"A dinner at a nice restaurant, an evening at the symphony, and a walk in the park is romantic."
"So you admit you are romantic then."
Barbara sighed and nipped at Helena's jaw, causing the brunette to jump a bit. "With you, I'm hopeless."
Helena drew Barbara's face up to her own. "Same here. Want to be hopeless the rest of our lives?"
"Do you even have to ask?"
"Nah, just wanted to say it. I'll get the Kid started on the invitations tomorrow."
Barbara playfully smacked Helena's arm. "That's not happening yet. See the aforementioned romantic night. I expect flowers and chocolates."
"Don't you hate both of those?"
"Maybe, but maybe I'm asking you to be creative."
"And asking you to marry me in a hospital bed after you've almost died isn't romantic?" Helena smirked.
"It's unusual, yes, but not necessarily romantic."
"Then you'll have it all in that case. All the nighttime stars, all the sunsets, and most importantly, all the nights with me by your side."
It seemed to Barbara that she could hear Dinah before the young woman was even in the room. "Hi, guys," she said as she opened the door. "The doc told me you were awake, and I wanted to make sure it was true."
Barbara laughed. "I'm very much alive and well."
Dinah came to the side of the bed and grabbed Barbara's hand. "I'll bet you guys want to be alone right now, don't you?"
Barbara squeezed Dinah's hand. "You're family, and you aren't leaving."
"Really, Red? I don't think there's room on this bed for the three of us," Helena remarked.
"I'm happy with the chair," Dinah laughed. "Besides, I can't stay long. Someone has to man Delphi."
"Is there anything I should know about?"
"Not anything I can't handle," Dinah said as she shrugged. "I was wondering what would you think of bringing Gabby in on things?"
"Why would we?" Barbara asked, a little perplexed at the request.
"Because you won't be manning Delphi every night anymore, and she's excellent with computers. She would catch on quickly, and I already think she has her suspicions about me."
Barbara looked at Helena to gauge her reaction. "What do you think?"
Helena shrugged. "I think they're pretty solid in their relationship, and the Kid's right about Delphi. The three of us couldn't manage everything with all the changes."
"She doesn't have any fighting skills though," Barbara said.
"Actually, I've been teaching her, and she's no slouch in that department either," Dinah replied.
"Let me consider it. I've had a bit of an eventful day, so I'm not at my best."
All three women chuckled at Barbara's remark, and she felt things were returning to normal, except nothing was normal anymore. She could walk, and she may very well be metahuman. The signs were already beginning, she knew. Her senses seemed more pronounced, and her legs were feeling stronger by the minute.
Rationally, she knew that it should take weeks, if not months, to get back all the strength in her legs. No amount of physical therapy could prevent atrophy of paralyzed muscles, but Barbara already felt like she could run a marathon, which meant her healing abilities were accelerated. She was certain that came from Helena, along with the elevated senses.
"I should get back to the Clocktower. I'll be back tomorrow after school," Dinah said as she released Barbara's hand and stood.
"Let me know if anything strange pops up," Barbara said as Dinah opened the door.
Dinah smiled. "Of course I will. See ya."
The door closed, and Barbara looked back to Helena, who was studying her closely. "Something's up. Are you feeling anything?"
Barbara told her what she was feeling, and if Helena was surprised, she hid it well. "Sounds like your turning into me," she smirked.
"I don't know, Hel. I feel something else. I'm not becoming cat-like, there's something different at work."
"What makes you say that?"
"We'll know more after the brain scans, but I think my mind is changing."
Helena began to look concerned. "How so? Do you think you're becoming telepathic?"
"I doubt it. It's something I can't put my finger on just yet."
A man from transport came into the room. "I'm here to take you for your scans, Ms. Gordon."
Helena got out of the bed and squeezed Barbara's hand. "I'll be waiting for you here."
Barbara grinned. "You'd better be."
Her eyes were locked with Helena's until the door closed between them. Barbara felt stronger than she had in her life, in more ways than one. Her new life was beginning, and she couldn't wait to get out of bed and start living it.
Barbara pulled on her jeans, still in awe that she could feel and move her legs so gracefully. It had only been a day since the procedure, and she was already running on the treadmill. She smiled at the thought. Not only was she running, she was leaping higher than she thought she ever would. If she hadn't been hindered by the high ceiling in the rehab room, she knew she could have jumped even higher. She knew she had to thank Helena for that.
Doctor Patel had been amazed at her scan results. While it was difficult to see most changes, her brain scans rivaled that of Dinah's. While Barbara hadn't felt any telepathic changes, she felt her clarity of mind becoming even more of a honed instrument.
She hadn't noticed any change in her intelligence, but then she had already been a genius. Her cognitive abilities would most likely not be tested until she was in the real world, so she would just have to be patient about that.
Barbara grinned as she pulled the t-shirt over her head and smoothed out her hair. Patience was normally something she had in abundance, but she found that since she had her legs back, that patience was a bit thin. Not with Helena or Dinah, but with testing her newfound gifts. It was good to be finally going home.
Thinking of Helena, she could hear the soft footfalls before the younger woman came breezing in. "You ready to blow this pop stand?" she asked with a smile as she wrapped her arms around Barbara.
"You wouldn't even believe how much," Barbara said, reaching behind Helena's neck and pulling her into a kiss. "I still can't believe how good it feels to be able to stand up and kiss you like this."
"You and me both," Helena whispered. "We should get you home and test that strength of yours."
"Are you challenging me to a sparring match?"
"Maybe, maybe not," Helena said, grinning as she kissed Barbara.
"You're a wicked woman, did you know that?" Barbara asked, fully knowing what Helena was implying.
"In so many different ways," Helena said as she released Barbara and grabbed the bag on the bed.
After taking Helena's hand, they walked out the door. Barbara grinned. She was walking. Would she ever not be in awe of that fact? It was something that was humbling to her. One thing she knew she would never do again was take that ability for granted. Knowing what it was like to be without it was reminder enough.
They rode the elevator down without speaking, though their hands were linked. When they made it outside, Barbara was almost relieved it was a typical dreary day in New Gotham. For some reason it held a certain comfort for her as they went to the car. After throwing the bag in the back seat, the two women got into the car. As the engine roared to life, Barbara braced herself for what would surely be a wild ride. It usually was when Helena was in the driver's seat.
Barbara wasn't disappointed. Her lover's heightened senses allowed her to weave in and out of traffic with ease, and they made it back to the Clocktower in record time. Barbara couldn't help but wonder if she would be able to do that, and when she could try it out. A thought crossed her mind, causing a wide grin to grace her features.
"What?" Helena asked as she cut the engine.
"I was just thinking about getting a motorcycle again."
"Are you still going to be Batgirl?" Helena asked as they stepped out of the car and went to the elevator.
"I hadn't given it much thought, but now that you mention it, I don't think so. I've changed, and so should my moniker. What do you think?" Barbara asked, pressing the button for the top floor.
"Well, Brainiac is taken, and he's a bad guy anyway. You can't exactly stay with Oracle, since Gabby's going to take over that role."
"I haven't agreed to that yet," Barbara said, grabbing a bottle of water out of the refrigerator and sitting at the table.
"You will. I know you, Red. If you were going to say no, you would have already done that."
Barbara laughed. "You really do know me. I just have to consider the logistics. Gabby won't be graduating from high school for another year "
"She's eighteen. Why can't she move in here?" Helena took the seat next to Barbara.
"We can't take in every stray that comes our way, and you know it," Barbara said with more than a little exasperation.
"Maybe not, but she isn't exactly a stray. Besides, she may not even want the job."
Barbara groaned. "Fine. We'll get Dinah to bring her by tomorrow. With school out now, they'll be able to come by early."
"Why early? Do you have plans I don't know about?"
Barbara took a sip of water. "Maybe," she said impishly.
"Should I ask?" Helena asked seductively, placing a hand on Barbara's knee.
"Mm, I think not. Let it be a surprise."
"I do have ways of making you talk, you know."
"And I have ways of making you scream my name," Barbara countered, bringing her hand up and pulling Helena into a deep kiss. "What do you say we try out my new legs?" she asked when they parted.
Helena opened her eyes, and Barbara was very pleased to see that they were the feral gold. "Okay, but you get to sweep me off my feet this time," she purred.
"That's not a problem," Barbara whispered before she stood and put her arms under Helena and easily carried her into the bedroom.
They spent the rest of the day exploring new avenues of pleasure, and when Barbara thought they couldn't explore anymore, Helena kept showing her new ways to feel loved. For Barbara, it was the best night of her life, and it was only the beginning.
"You should bring Gabby by today," Barbara said over breakfast the next morning.
Dinah just stared at her with a fork full of cooling eggs stopped on its way to her mouth. "What?"
Barbara shrugged nonchalantly. "I think your idea is a good one, and though there are some logistics to be worked out, I think we could at least let her into the family."
"What kind of logistics?" Dinah asked before putting the fork in her mouth.
"She's going to need to be trained, Kid. Plus, there's her family to consider," Helena said.
"Her family is pretty strict, and I don't think they like her very much."
"See, that's where Red and I think we can help. We were wondering how you would feel about her moving into my old room."
"What?" Dinah squeaked.
"If you don't want to do it, we fully understand," Barbara said before grabbing more eggs and sausage. Ever since the procedure, her appetite rivaled Helena's.
"It's not that, I just never expected this."
"It's not something we offer lightly. Both of you would have to adhere to some fairly strict rules," Barbara said seriously.
"Anything. If she says yes, I'll do anything," Dinah said, and Barbara could see the barely contained excitement of her young ward. "Would you mind if I called her now?"
"Eat your breakfast first," Barbara said.
"'K," Dinah responded as she began setting the world record for speed eating. She was soon finished with her meal and had even cleaned her dishes. "I'll be in my room."
Once Dinah was gone, Helena took Barbara's hand. "I think you've made her year."
"We'll see. If Gabby says no, it will be hard for her to take."
Helena took a bite of food, chewing and swallowing before responding. "I don't think she'll say no. I'm pretty sure she's head over heels for the Kid, and the same is true the other way around."
They ate in companionable silence for a while, Barbara's hand resting absentmindedly on Helena's knee. "I have some work on Delphi I need to catch up on this morning. Do you have any plans?"
"Just beating the crap out of the punching bag. We should do some sparring later. I want to see just how strong you are."
"I thought we had established that last night," Barbara smirked.
"I meant with fighting. Sex is a completely different beast."
"No kidding," Barbara muttered.
"I heard that."
"I know," Barbara said with a wicked grin.
Dinah came back into the kitchen then. "I'm going to pick her up in a couple of hours. Is that okay?"
"Just remember the blindfold, k? If she freaks, we don't want her finding this place again," Helena said.
"I think the big clock on one side is a big tell," Dinah said.
Helena threw her napkin at Dinah. "No pointing out the obvious. Fine, no blindfold."
"Great. I need to seriously clean my room now," Dinah said before leaving again.
"She's a tornado. That's her real metahuman ability," Helena grumbled.
"You wouldn't have it any other way, and you know it," Barbara said.
"Yeah, but don't tell her that."
Barbara stood and took her plate to the sink. "I'll get those," Helena said. "I'm sure you're itching to get to Delphi."
"You know me so well," Barbara said as she set the plate down.
Helena wrapped her arms around Barbara from behind and kissed her neck. "Like the back of my hand," she whispered.
The words, coupled with Helena's warm breath on her ear, made Barbara shiver. "If you keep that up, I won't make it to Delphi."
"Don't let me stop you," Helena said as she kissed her way up to Barbara's jaw.
Suddenly raw need took over Barbara, and she turned in the embrace and pulled Helena's legs around her hips, shifting them both so that Helena was sitting on the counter. "I won't," Barbara purred before kissing Helena voraciously.
She had Helena's shirt halfway unbuttoned when Dinah came back in the room. "Oh wow," Dinah said, covering her eyes immediately. "I did not need to see that."
Helena nonchalantly buttoned her blouse, while Barbara blushed furiously. "No big, Kid. It was bound to happen sooner or later."
"I'm just going to leave now." Dinah backed slowly out of the room without taking her hand from her eyes.
Once she was gone, Helena burst into laughter.
"I fail to see what's so funny here," Barbara said.
"We were just caught making out like two teenagers. What's not funny about that?" Helena howled.
Her lover's laughter was infectious, and soon Barbara was laughing as well. "We are behaving like a couple of teenagers. I can't keep my hands off you, so I'm surprised Dinah hasn't walked in on us before now."
Helena finally calmed down a bit, but she was still holding her sides when she said, "We probably shouldn't let that happen again. Her head might explode from sheer embarrassment," she said before she started laughing again.
"I'm so glad you find what just happened amusing," Dinah said, having reappeared in the kitchen. "I will have you both know that seeing parental figures about to have relations...is very traumatic."
"And here I always thought we were sisters," Helena grinned.
"Whatever. Just behave when Gabby gets here. I don't want to scare her off on the first day," Dinah said as she rolled her eyes and picked up the car keys. "Remember to keep your clothes on," she said as she pressed the elevator button.
"We will, Mom," Helena replied, earning her a smack on the butt by Barbara.
"Ugh." Dinah disappeared behind the doors, looking thoroughly disgusted with them.
Helena sidled back up to Barbara. "Should we continue what we started?"
Barbara smiled, even as she gently pushed Helena away. "We can't. If we do, we'll be in bed all day, and even if Gabby weren't coming over, I would still have work to do. We'll get a sparring match in later if you're lucky though."
"That's close enough. We can try out the training room. I'm sure we can find plenty of good positions in there," Helena said, looking very lascivious.
"Are you determined to have sex in every room?" Barbara asked. A tingle raced down her spine at the thought.
"Only if you're up to the challenge."
"I am, but another day. One when we aren't getting a visitor. Then you're in for it."
Helena pulled Barbara close and kissed her soundly. "So are you," she whispered before disappearing down the hall, leaving Barbara breathing heavily.
It took her a few minutes, but she finally was able to go to Delphi and begin her work for the day. The sounds of Helena in the training room were clear in her sensitive ears, but she ignored them, or at least she tried to. It was difficult to do when she kept thinking of Helena's words. She kept it together somehow, and soon was engrossed in her task.
She made a mental note to get a better chair for the desk. She had been used to her wheelchair, and the one she was sitting in at the moment was the spare one they used for when either Dinah or Helena sat at Delphi, which wasn't very often or for very long. It wasn't all that comfortable for long-term use, so she put in an order for four identical chairs the moment she could, just in case Gabby joined them.
After that, she realized she would need to put another station in the area. Luckily there was plenty of room for it, Barbara long ago having allowed for maps and other paperwork to be laid out. The technology of the system had changed so that the space wasn't really needed anymore. She then realized she would also need to overhaul the system again. There were a lot of upgrades she needed to make.
The sound of the elevator startled her, and she realized she had lost complete track of time. Glancing at the small clock at the bottom of the screen, Barbara turned away from Delphi and went to the kitchen, where she sat at the table. It would probably be the best place to talk to Gabby, since there was enough room for the four of them. Plus, it was far away from Delphi that Gabby wouldn't learn much if she didn't want to join the fight, or even be involved in their secret lives.
Just before the elevator doors opened a sweaty Helena came into the kitchen while taking a swig from her water bottle. "They're here already?"
Barbara just nodded, her mouth suddenly very dry at the post-workout sight of her lover. Something on her face must have given her away, because Helena flashed a smirk at her as the doors opened.
"This is it," Dinah said, holding Gabby's hand and practically dragging her into the Clocktower.
"You really live here?"
"Yep," Dinah said, noticing Barbara and Helena. "Come on, we have things to talk about."
"Hi, Ms. Gordon," Gabby looked at Helena with what Barbara thought was a little fear. "Helena."
"You can call me Barbara here."
Gabby nodded, and Barbara didn't think she had ever seen the young woman so quiet. "Would you like something to drink?" Barbara asked.
Dinah bounded to the refrigerator and peered inside. "Helena! You drank all the soda again!"
"Sorry, Kid. I'm a growing girl," Helena smiled. "We do still have water."
Dinah looked to Gabby. "Do you mind water?"
Gabby nodded. "That's fine."
"You should ask your friend to sit down," Helena said.
"I'm so sorry! Sit down, Gabby. No one bites around here. Much," Dinah said, eyeing Helena, who didn't always fight fair.
Barbara was watching everything with great interest. The only one who seemed completely at ease was Helena, who was leaning against the side of the wall seemingly without a care in the world. Gabby looked like she was about to jump out of her skin, and Dinah was just, well, jumpy. Barbara felt nervous just because she was concerned about the possible changes in the situation. She had been through almost every permutation, and there were only a few that turned out well for everyone.
Once Gabby was seated and had her water, Dinah sat between her and Barbara. "So this is where I live."
Barbara sat silently, waiting for Dinah to say something more. Helena, on the other hand, was tapping her fingers on her water bottle, and was the first to speak up.
"So I guess no one else is going to say this," Helena started, "so I will. We're a trio of elite crime fighters known as the Birds of Prey. She's Canary, I'm the Huntress, and we don't have a name for her yet." Helena pointed to Barbara for the last one.
"Helena!" Barbara exclaimed. First, she was shocked that Helena would just come out and say all of that. She corrected herself: she wasn't shocked, it was expected in Helena. But second, claiming that Barbara didn't have a codename was ridiculous.
"What?" Helena asked. "You aren't Oracle anymore."
That deflated any retort Barbara may have had. "You have a point."
"Wait, really?" Gabby said excitedly. "I knew you could fight, Dinah, but I didn't know you did this."
"You don't have a problem with it?" Dinah asked.
"It explains so much. The late nights, the way you suddenly had to break our dates, all of it. It also explains why you never brought me here before. Is this your secret lair?"
"Yeah, so don't tell anyone about it," Helena said, her tone full of warning.
"I won't, I promise."
"There's more to it than Helena so succinctly put it," Barbara said, glancing Helena's way and receiving a shrug of the shoulders in response. "We risk our lives every night to keep the city safe. We do what the police aren't equipped to do."
"Like the Joker and stuff?"
Barbara stiffened at Gabby's mention of the Joker, but she tried not to show it. Helena's hand on her shoulder told her she had shown it at least a little. "Exactly. We're what they call metahuman; we have certain abilities that help us in our work."
Gabby looked at Dinah, who had been suspiciously quiet. "What can you do?"
Dinah turned her gaze to the table quickly. "I do some TK work, and I have subsonic call that incapacitates my opponents."
"And I'm a touch telepath," Dinah finished under her breath.
"You're a what?" Gabby asked, and the shock was evident in her voice.
"I've never used it on you, I swear. I only use it if we're trying to get information out of a suspect."
Gabby reached over and grabbed Dinah's hand. "Relax. I was the one who asked you out, remember? If you didn't use your telepathy on me to find out if I liked you, you wouldn't use it on me now."
Dinah took a deep breath and smiled. "Thanks."
"That's all you get as far as powers goes for now," Helena said. "We don't want to give you the keys to the city just yet."
Barbara folded her hands on the table. "I need to stress the seriousness of this. We get injured, and sometimes the injuries are severe. Are you sure you want to know about our lives, and perhaps be a part of them?"
"Be a part of them? How would I do that?" Gabby asked.
"Do you see the computer area down there?" Gabby nodded when she looked in the direction Barbara pointed. "We call it Delphi, and it essentially is the information hub of our network. Not only do we use it, but Delphi also helps out heroes in other cities as well.
"Up until a few days ago, I was Oracle. I sat behind that desk every night and led Dinah and Helena to crime scenes. They are the eyes and ears of this place, but Delphi acts as the brain."
"And Delphi was created by Barbara, if that tells you anything," Helena said, making Barbara blush furiously.
"Why aren't you manning Delphi anymore?" Gabby asked.
"That's a long story."
"Not it's not, Red. Just show her."
Barbara slid her chair back and stood. "I can walk again, and I'll be joining Dinah and Helena out there."
Gabby sat where she was with her mouth agape until Dinah closed it for her. "You really couldn't walk before?"
Barbara shook her head and sat back down. "This is why we need you."
"I don't understand."
"I want to train you on Delphi and make you Oracle. Dinah says you're a wiz on the computer, and that's high praise as far as I'm concerned. While I realize this may be a lot to take in, please give it some thought.
"Consider the training period also to be a trial period. If, at any time, you feel you don't want to do this, just say the word and we'll stop. The same goes for me. If I feel you aren't up to performing the job, I'll tell you."
"Why me?" Gabby asked, confusion clouding her face.
"As I said, you come highly recommended. I trust Dinah's judgment, even if she is a bit green, and when she recommended you be told our secret I felt it might be a good time to bring you into the fold, so to speak," Barbara replied.
"I would love to, but my parents are strict about me being home pretty much all the time."
Barbara looked to Helena, who nodded. "Listen, we have something else to offer you. The Kid's told us a little of your home life, and we want to offer you the spare room. I'm not using it anymore."
"You wouldn't have to decide until after the training period was over. School is out, and my idea is to tell your parents you're taking supplemental lessons from me. It gives you a good cover, and it also isn't a lie. Do you think they would agree to that?"
It dawned on Barbara that they were piling too much onto the young woman too quickly. In truth, it was difficult to be offering so much so fast, but Helena had convinced her that it had to be like a band aid. Looking at Gabby's shell shocked face, Barbara decided what they had told her was a mistake, and was about to rescind the invitation when Gabby finally spoke.
"I'll ask them, but I can't guarantee anything. I would like to help though."
"Why?" Helena asked, though not unkindly. Barbara felt it was a valid question.
Gabby took a deep breath. "I've seen the reports of what the news calls vigilantes, and I always wondered if there was a way I could help. Never in a millions years did I think my girlfriend and English teacher were a part of it. I know it's dangerous, even though I'll be behind the desk, but I want to do this.
"I don't know what Dinah has told you about my parents, but they aren't overprotective. They're overpowering. I've watched my father beat my mother for years when he gets drunk. Even though I've tried my best to hide my own bruises, it's been difficult. Especially with Dinah."
Dinah reached out and took Gabby's hand. "Why didn't you ever tell me?"
Gabby looked down at their joined hands. "I didn't want you to feel sorry for me. It was such a relief when you started teaching me self-defense that I almost told you then, but I still couldn't."
"That was the real reason why you knew I had never used my telepathy on you."
"Yeah," Gabby said quietly. "I can't leave my mother alone with him though, and she won't leave him."
"Maybe we can help with that," Helena said.
"Hel," Barbara warned.
"I meant by investigating him. Give me a little credit, Barbara," Helena pointedly looked away and to Gabby. "If he's a violent drunk, we can use that. It's a pretty safe bet he's shown violent tendencies in other ways, and I might be able to get him picked up on an assault charge."
"You would do that? My mom isn't dependent on him for money, so that won't be a problem. She might need some help in other ways though."
"We can arrange that as well," Barbara offered. "There's a shelter that will be able to help her. We've referred more than a few women there, and we know it's a good one. Even when your father gets out of prison, and we'll see to it that he spends time behind bars, he won't be able to find your mother."
"But won't that mean I won't be able to find her either?" Gabby asked, visibly distressed.
"Not necessarily. She'll probably be in a new city, but we'll still be able to contact her. You'll even be able to visit her," Barbara said.
"It's a lot to think about," Gabby said before her face hardened. "Would you be able to do that even if I didn't help you?"
"You're one of ours, no matter what you decide to do," Helena said. "We look after our own."
"Take care of my father, and I'm yours."
Barbara knew she should be happy. They had hopefully solved the problem of who would run Delphi and had successfully added another person to their tightknit group. All she felt was anger and sadness. Gabby was always so full of life at school, but as Barbara looked at her from across the table, she saw a broken young woman. Perhaps that was a prerequisite for being part of the Birds of Prey.
"Dinah, show Gabby around before I show her Delphi. I'd like to talk to Helena for a moment," Barbara said.
Dinah nodded, and she and Gabby went back to the bedrooms and workout area. Barbara waited until they were out of earshot before she spoke.
"I'm sorry, Hel."
"I know not every problem has a violent solution. Gabby doesn't need more of that in her family, and I wouldn't want to be the cause of it if it were to come into her life. I'm not a gorilla."
Barbara took her lover's hand. "I know."
"Then why did you send me the glaring look of death?"
"We see so much violence out there, and it's an easy trap to fall into, for all of us. It was my initial reaction anyway and, when I heard your response, I thought you had also decided that was the best course of action as well."
Helena sighed and sat on Barbara's lap. "For a genius, you can be stupid sometimes."
"That's what I've been told. If I remember correctly, it's always been by you," Barbara said, a small smile forming on her face.
"You're the one with the eidetic memory, you tell me," Helena said, leaning in and nipping at Barbara's bottom lip.
"Hel, we really shouldn't start "
"Start what?" Helena asked innocently. "I would never do anything inappropriate."
Barbara kissed her slowly and deeply. When they broke apart, Barbara was pleased that Helena was breathless. "Of course not. I'm the corrupter in this relationship."
"You said it, not me."
"Pure semantics. We both know you're the one who started it."
"Yeah, but you finished it," Helena grinned.
Barbara pulled Helena closer, and felt content when Helena rested her head on Barbara's shoulder. They sat like that for a moment, and Barbara cherished the trust between them.
"Our lives are going to change again," Helena said.
"We've been doing a lot of that lately. Are you okay with that?"
"It'll be weird having another kid in the house, but yeah. Gabby's one of the good ones. Don't you dare tell her I told you this, but I trust Dinah."
"I promise I won't. By the way, you should probably move your things into our room now. I have the feeling Gabby will be living here very soon, depending on when we get her family situation sorted."
"Those two better not touch my clothes." Helena raised her head up. "Speaking of which, how am I supposed to find room in our closet for said clothes?"
Barbara laughed. "We'll figure something out. I need to clean it out anyway, so there might be a couple of inches for you."
"Laugh while you can. You know I love my fashion."
"We'll get an armoire or something. Trust me, you will not be lacking in the space department."
"Oh yeah? What about the soundproofing?" Helena said, and Barbara felt a blush creep across her face. "You are a little on the loud side."
"I could say the same for you," Barbara countered.
"Mm, but I'm not such a prude about it."
"I am not a prude."
Helena leaned in and whispered in Barbara's ear. "You aren't when you're writhing in ecstasy. I love the way you look when you let everything go."
Barbara shivered. "Only for you, you know that. It's only ever been for you."
"That's good, because I feel the same way," Helena kissed her softly. "I should get off your lap before we embarrass the Kid again."
"Yeah, I can hear their conversation winding down in the workout room."
Helena looked shocked. "You can hear that much detail?"
"I can't believe this. What else are you better at?"
Barbara grinned as Helena stood. "We'll just have to see, won't we?"
"I swear, if you can leap higher than I can I'll have to throw in the proverbial towel," Helena said, putting her water bottle in the recycling bin.
Barbara laughed as she went to Helena and wrapped her arms around the slim waist. "You might have to."
Helena turned and kissed Barbara's cheek. "I'd gladly do it, just to see you fly across the rooftops again."
"We should try it out tonight."
"We won't do anything big just yet. Consider it a trial run," Barbara said.
"Done. But Barbara?"
"We need to get you a costume and a name. You aren't Batgirl anymore, and you sure as hell aren't Oracle either."
"You've mentioned that once or twice. What about Phoenix?"
"That kind of makes sense," Helena said appreciatively.
"I thought so."
Helena grinned. "I like it. Now we just have to figure out your wardrobe."
"I had an idea for that as well. Leather and lycra don't suit me, but I checked out something Wayne Industries is working on and found a different fabric."
Helena grinned. "Don't keep me in suspense."
Dinah and Gabby took that opportunity to walk into the kitchen, and Barbara was pleased to see a smile on both women's faces. At least Dinah was smiling until her eyes popped out of their sockets. "Guys, come on."
It was then that Barbara realized her hands had been on Helena's butt the entire time they been talking, and Helena had been casually rubbing Barbara's side under her shirt. They broke apart, but not quickly. Barbara decided she wasn't going to be ashamed of not doing anything distasteful. She reasoned that had Gabby and Dinah chosen to show up five minutes later there might have been some nudity involved, but she quickly pushed that uncomfortable thought away. As casual as their poses had been, Barbara realized she was more than a bit aroused. Helena just made her feel that way.
"Sorry," Barbara said, though she didn't mean it.
Helena, on the other hand, did not apologize. "So? What did you think?"
"The bedroom is huge, and I can't believe the training room. It's amazing."
"Wait'll you see Delphi. Barbara? I think that's your cue."
Barbara nodded. "Follow me," she said, going down to where Delphi hummed.
She waited until Gabby caught up with her at the main station. Barbara showed her the basics, which were nothing more than what could be learned in any computer class, so Gabby caught on quickly. The tracking system was a bit more complex, but she seemed to grasp the basics of that as well.
Barbara was impressed. She had known Gabby to be intelligent, but she was proving to me far more intelligent than Barbara would have guessed. In a little over an hour, Gabby could access maps and building plans for all of New Gotham. It was more than Helena and Dinah had known on their first day, and they were no slouches to begin with.
"I think that's enough for the day. What did you think?" Barbara asked as they headed back to the kitchen.
"I liked it. I mean, everything you showed me looks so high tech, and I'm pretty sure you were just showing me the easy parts."
Barbara laughed. "The flashy parts come later. Trust me, if you like what you've seen today, you'll love the rest." She heard the distinctive sounds of sparring from the training room. "Let's go see what our better halves are doing."
"Are you sure you're okay with me staying here, considering the fact that I'm dating Dinah?" Gabby asked as they walked down the hall.
"Dinah knows the rules, and so will you. I trust that neither one of you will breach them," Barbara said as she opened the door.
"Never. I like it here too much."
Laughing again, Barbara put her hand on Gabby's shoulder. "We won't kick you out, but we might ground you. You may be eighteen, but you're still a teenager."
"I can live with that."
Both Barbara and Gabby turned their attention to Helena and Dinah, who were sparring in the middle of the room. Along with Dinah getting a few good hits at Helena, she was also using her TK abilities to challenge her friend. Helena was taking it all in stride, but Barbara could see that she was using all her skills to avoid the oncoming projectiles.
Gabby's voice startled Barbara for a second. "You've never seen Dinah use her abilities."
"It's kind of scary."
"Don't be scared. It's unusual now, but in a few weeks you won't think it's frightening at all."
"That's enough for today, Kid," Helena said after dodging one particularly large punching bag. "I have to save something for Barbara."
Dinah nodded, breathing heavily. "'K," she said as she walked over to Gabby. "I wanted to take you out to lunch anyway. Just let me grab a shower."
"Sure," Gabby said with a small kiss to Dinah's cheek.
Barbara suddenly had plans of her own, and they didn't involve sparring. She had more prurient interests in mind, and she was fairly certain Helena wouldn't mind. With a smile, she left the room with the rest of the group. It was definitely a good day.
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