DISCLAIMER: "Birds of Prey" and characters are copywritten by Miller/Tobin
Productions, Warner Brothers, DC comics et al. This story is for
entertainment purposes only and no money exchanged hands. No copyright
infringement is intended. The original characters, situations, and story are
the property of the author.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: With apologies to and shamelessly pulled quotes from Nietzsche, Sir Walter Scott and Sam Raimi!
SERIES/SEQUEL: This story follows the events in The Harvest.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
The Clock Tower was silent. Helena didn't bother to call out. Noticed the dimmed lights, and stilted silence. She walked deeper into the room, flopped onto the couch.
She could hear sounds coming from the Training Room. Fists hitting a heavy bag. Dinah, judging by the asynchronous rhythms and stiff thumps. She'd have to correct that one day. But, Helena figured, Dinah taking her frustrations out on inanimate objects was probably a good thing. Any other day, she'd fight Dinah for the bag.
She wanted to hit something. Wanted to feel angry. Instead, Helena felt tired. Whether from the pregnancy or everything else in her life, which ironically revolved around her pregnancy, it drained the strength from her.
The biggest thought rummaging around in her brain Reese. He was plummeting over the edge and Helena couldn't help him. Couldn't shake the feeling it was all her fault. There had been flirtations between the two. Hell, Helena flirted with every one, that was just her. Maybe she should have seen that Reese responded to her differently. Should have stopped when the line between flirting blurred into something else.
All her fault. All of it. If she hadn't gotten angry, hadn't left Barbara. She wouldn't be pregnant. Barbara wouldn't be distant. Reese wouldn't be, what ever he is. All her fault. She leaned forward, elbows on her knees, face in her hands. Only if she didn't feel so tired.
Another whap jostled Helena from her thoughts. Seven years she'd punched that bag. Knew the training room by memory. Every creak, every groan. From the whistle in the air, to the groan of the metal chain attached to the bag, it had tilted off axis. The result of another indirect blow.
"Dammit Dinah!" She called out. "Keep your center of gravity low."
The Clock Tower went still. Then footsteps, loud, heavy, Dinah stomped into the main room. She glowered at Helena. "Where is she?" Dinah demanded.
"She's not here. That's for sure. Dinah, what's going on?"
The elevator slid open. Barbara moved into the Clock Tower. Dinah marched towards her. Steam coming out of her ears.
"Is it true?" Dinah yelled at her. "Is she alive? Is my mother alive?"
Barbara seemed to pale at the accusation. "Who told you that?"
Helena stepped towards the girl. Grabbed her arm. "You've seen Hawke."
"Yes," Dinah jerked out of Helena's grasp. "And he told me my mother's alive. Said if I didn't believe him I should ask my friends. So, Barbara, is it true?"
"I don't know."
"What do you mean, you don't know!?!"
"It means, I don't fucking KNOW!!" She hissed at the girl. "The fire in that building was so hot, there was nothing but ash left."
"Hawke was lucky."
"But, if she were alive, you'd know, right? With your computers and everything, you'd know." She stepped closer to Barbara. "Would you tell me if you knew? God! Why does everyone keep treating me like a child!?!"
"Because you keep acting like one! Look around Dinah. It's not all about you. We're all up to our armpits in crap. And right now, I wouldn't trust you with a grocery list let alone the where about's of someone wanted by the mob," she growled at Dinah. Her face red with anger. "What did you want me to tell you, Dinah? That she's dead, but I can't say for sure? That after months of searching, I've come up with nothing. And if it was true, if she really were alive, don't you think she would have contacted me by now? She may have wanted to keep it hidden from you, but do you really think she would have hidden herself from me? You want the truth, Dinah? As much as I've hoped and prayed for her to still be alive, there's nothing and I mean NOTHING I can find that gives me one shred of hope. So the next time you come in here throwing accusations at me, I suggest you consider your source."
The fight drained, Dinah dropped to her knees. She wanted to believe. Desperately hoped it were true. It wasn't. Another lie. The truth punched hard in her gut. And she was reliving it all over again. Hands to her face, she sobbed uncontrollably. Barbara moved towards her, gently stroked her hair. Dinah pulled her face into Barbara's lap. "I just wanted it to be true. I wanted her back."
"Shit," Barbara mumbled under her breath. "I know. And so does Hawke. He's using your mother's death against you. Against us. You can't forget that. Look at me Dinah." She slid her hand under Dinah's chin, pulled her face up. "We're under attack. And they're going to use every trick in the book. It'll be hard and it's going to hurt like Hell, but I need you to be strong. Can you do that, Dinah?"
Rich stood in front of the opened refrigerator. He jabbed the icepick into the large block of ice, not caring about the bits and pieces of frozen water spraying onto the floor. Placed the larger pieces into a cloth and pressed it to his swollen eye. The rest went into a short glass, followed by a healthy dose of scotch.
"Fuckin' Hawke!" He spat aloud. Everything was so much better after Hawke went to prison. Rich was making his way up in the world, leaving his mark. Sure, he was still smalltime comparatively speaking. But, Rich was his own man, standing on his own two feet. That is, until Hawke came back into town.
"I'd watch my mouth if I were you."
Rich spun on his feet. He'd tried reaching for his pistol. Tried and failed. Frankie stood five feet away from him, pointing Rich's loaded gun straight at his heart. Rich sighed, flopped into his easy chair.
"I told Hawke the guns would be here this afternoon. No need for more muscle."
"You heard me," Frankie sat across from Rich. Spread his arms nonchalantly on the back of the couch. "I have a proposition for you."
"Tomorrow night there's going to be a raid on the lab for Fantasy. I want to get there first."
"Wait, doesn't Hawke own that?"
"Don't interrupt. Tell Hawke his guns won't be in until tomorrow. Find some boys and I want you to raid the ship. Leave enough for the police. Make them think they scored a major bust."
"What's in it for me?"
"One third the total profit."
Rich whistled. "And if I take it all for myself?"
"You'd be dead before sunrise. C'mon Rich, don't be stupid. You know this is a cherry of a score."
"How's Hawke not gonna find out?"
"Hawke's a little.. preoccupied these days. So what do you say, Rich, wanna make some money?"
Frankie smiled deeply. He reached into his jacket pulled out three photos. He carefully laid them out on the coffee table pointing each one towards Rich.
"Something extra," a finger pointed at each of the profiles, blonde, brunette, redhead. "I don't care how you do it, but I want them dead. A million each."
Helena slowly stepped out onto the balcony. Barbara sat staring at the skyline. "Ward, don't you think you were a little hard on the Beaver?"
"Was there something you wanted to tell me?"
"Oh, by the way, Hawke's back in town," she walked towards the ledge. Held Reese's communicator ring in front of Barbara. "And we can take Reese off our Christmas card list."
Barbara took the ring, twirled it slowly in her fingers. They'd lost another ally. "Please tell me you have some good news in there some where."
"I haven't thrown up in two days. That's good news."
Barbara leaned back in her chair. Couldn't help the mournful sigh escaping her lips. "I think you were right. I think you should retire. Leave New Gotham. Get as far away from here as possible."
"Get away from you, you mean."
"Especially me," Barbara hissed angrily through clenched teeth.
Helena knelt before Barbara. Hands placed on the woman's knees. Her eyes stared at her, filled with fear. Hovered dangerously close over a precipice, the one that revealed something deep inside Barbara. For a moment, Helena didn't know if she wanted to dive in or run far away. Knew the only thing worse than asking the question is hearing the answer.
"Barbara, what's going on?"
"I.. I can't be what you want. No.." Barbara shook her head. Had spent years hiding from those certain places in her soul. Now forced to stare into her own soul, to really see who and what she was. The information clouded inside her brain. "I can't be who I am anymore."
"Do you love me?"
"Then, I don't understand."
"Because I'm using you. And it's getting harder to restrain myself. You killed a man, Helena. For me. For me! And it's killing me because I can't protect you." She stared into Helena's eyes. Could see the fear and guilt reflected back at her. Her hands wrapped around Helena's, gripped them tight. "All my life I've been running from who I am. Hiding behind masks, rebuilding myself, into someone, something, better. Except, it keeps coming back to haunt me. And now you tell me you're carrying my child. I'm the last person on this earth who should be procreating. The last thing I want to do is hurt you."
"You're not your father, Barbara."
"Are you sure?"
A slight smile crept across Helena's lips. "Why is it that when everyone looks at you, they see the best. But when you look at yourself all you can see is the worst?"
"Because they don't know what's inside me."
Helena stood. Placed her hands on the armrests. Leaned in close to the woman, until the only thing she could see were pale blue eyes. "You think I don't know you, but I do. You think just because the only person I've known is the one in the wheelchair I don't know you. It's not the wheelchair that makes you incomplete, Barbara." She pressed her hand to Barbara's head. "It's this. You think too much."
"And you don't?"
"Not when it's about you."
"Then why do you keep leaving me?"
Helena winced at the question. "For the same reason you keep pushing me away. We keep mindfucking ourselves until we're backed into a corner and the only option is to fight our way out. Except the only people we're fighting is us."
"Which puts us right back where we started, doesn't it?"
"No," Helena moved closer, straddled Barbara's lap. "I'm not running anymore. The only thing running has taught me is how much I need you. Do you need me?"
Barbara shivered as the soft lips grazed her ear, repeating the question. "Do you need me, Barbara?"
She didn't want in anymore. Didn't want to know Barbara's thoughts, feelings, desires. Just needed to know that whatever was inside her, it included Helena.
"I can't do this without you Barbara. I need you," she wanted to tell her about how she spent their time apart. About how being without her, even for three weeks, felt like Hell. Until her lungs choked and her heart felt like it would stop at any moment. Terrified her to know life wouldn't exist without Barbara. Couldn't exist. How she felt alone, and empty, and all those other things that made her feel less like a human than an empty shell on two legs.
Instead, Helena kissed the soft lips. Caressed away the slight protestations, until strong arms held her tight and pulled her closer. Until it wasn't just she kissing Barbara, but Barbara returning the kisses. Strong hands gliding up her back, fingers threading into her hair, gripping tighter and harder. Until Helena's neck strained and she acquiesced offering vulnerable flesh to hungry lips. God how she needed Barbara, needed this. The rake of teeth across her flesh, of demanding hands on her body, the thrust of her own hips which cried for harder, deeper, more. More of this, more of Barbara.
Barbara dug her teeth into Helena's shoulder. Shivered at the gravely purr exhaled across Helena's lips. She needed it, so bad. To be close to Helena, with her, inside her. Yet, her subconscious fought her every step of the way. Little Barbara's perched on each shoulder whispering incriminations in her ear. Cursing her because even now, she was using Helena, consuming, taking them both to the edge, plunging over. And she didn't care. No, she screamed internally. She cared. Just couldn't stop.
Strong arms wrapped around her neck. Clung to her. Barbara softly brushed her hair. "We have to stop doing this on the balcony."
She felt Helena shivering in her arms. Assumed the hiccups coming from Helena's chest were that of laughter. She realized, instead, Helena was sobbing.
Helena pulled back slightly. Until their noses were millimeters apart. "Please don't leave me Barbara."
For a fleeting moment, Barbara thought Helena had been in her mind. Had seen all her thoughts, fears, desires. Knew exactly what the woman was thinking. The only thing scarier than knowing what was inside her was Helena seeing it as well. In the end, she realized Helena hadn't responded to what was inside, had no need to. Barbara had been pushing her away for years.
"Never, I'll never leave you." Maybe it was a lie. Maybe it wasn't. It had the affect she desired, it made Helena feel better. That's all that mattered.
Frankie stepped out of the complex. He inhaled deeply, enjoying the night air. Things were starting to fall into place. He'd waited so long to take over Hawke's empire, was poised to take over and, lo and behold, the son of a bitch gets out of jail.
A figure stepped out of the shadows. Frankie reacted, but not fast enough. Felt the air whoosh out of his lungs, a fist to the gut. His body slammed against a car.
Reese pressed his hand to Frankie's neck. Shoved his face hard onto the hood. "How's it goin' Frankie?"
"Well if it ain't Wonder Boy. How ya doin' junior?"
"Tell me why I shouldn't throw your ass in jail?"
"For starters, I'd tell the world about Hawke being your Dad. Then, oh maybe pass on how he's free and you haven't done a damn thing to put him back in jail."
"Right. Like anyone would believe you," he kicked Frankie's legs wider apart. Ruffled through his back pocket, pulling out a gun. "Especially after I showed them this. This wouldn't be registered, would it? And hey, look at this," Reese pulled a small bag of pills from Frankie's other pocket. "Fantasy. That's an awful lot of jail time you're looking at, Frankie."
"What do you want, Reese?"
"Scum like you off the streets but, for starters. What were you doing talking to Rich Fastle?"
"Don't play dumb with me, Frankie? Or maybe you want me to tell my Dad who you've been chatting it up with."
"How quickly they forget. And did it ever occur to you that your Dad is the one who sent me here? Jesus, Reese, don't be so friggin' stupid. Or is that quit being such a hypocrite. Look at you, acting so high and mighty, thinking you're better than us. Hiding behind your badge."
"I'm doing what's right."
"Is that what you call it? When you're bashing some guy's head in after you've got him in handcuffs. Or when you're paying off some hooker 'cuz your little girlfriend won't have anything to do with you."
Reese pulled back. Slugged Frankie across the chin. "Don't push me Frankie."
"Or you'll what? Hit me some more. Why don't you. All this time you've been running from who you are, what you are. You wanna do good. Do you really think you can do it as a cop? You're Hawke's son. You walk into a room, flash your badge and people will just as likely put a cap in you. You say you're Hawke's son and they cower in fear. All that power and you throw it away because you have Daddy issues. If I were you.."
"You aren't me, Frankie."
"Maybe I'm not. But at least I DO know who I am. Like I said, you keep acting like you're better than us. You're not, you're just like us. You're just like your father."
"I am NOT my FATHER!!" Reese grabbed Frankie by the back of the head, slammed his face against the hood of the car. Frankie's head ricocheted off the hood, body crumpled to the ground unconscious. Reese stood over him. Body trembling. Eyes cautiously glanced around, making sure no one saw. Then, Reese turned and fled.
Hawke ran his hand across the back of his neck. Kneaded the knotted flesh, massaging away the tension. It didn't work, but it felt good to try. Hawke never was a night person. Hated to admit he might be getting old. But he felt the aching in his body. Bones and muscles, worn down by time, crime and every pleasure and pain he'd ever experienced, screaming for rest.
Hands on the knobs, Hawke's body tensed. The door to his bedroom was slightly cracked. Subdued morning light spilled through the tiny crack. He reached behind him, pulled his gun from the hidden holster. Carefully pulled back the hammer, slid the barrel through the slight opening.
In a sudden movement, Hawke kicked open the door. Body braced for anything. Except, this.
Harmony lay sprawled on his bed. She stretched languidly, sheets falling off her naked body.
"Have you thought about changing your name to Night Owl?" She purred. Her hand drifting lazily across the empty space. Blue eyes sparkled with seduction. One of the reason's Hawke hired her. Blue eyes and a body that didn't quit. He uncocked his gun, tucked it back into his holster.
"Why aren't you with Jesse?"
"He kicked me out. Your baby boy's in a bad mood."
Hawke approached the bed. Began unbuttoning his shirt. "That makes two of us if you don't tell me why you're here."
Harmony pouted slightly. She moved onto her knees, scooted to the edge of the bed. Her hands went to Hawke's chest, helped him with his shirt.
"I had a visitor," she paused, noting Hawke's raised eyebrow. "She was rustling around Jesse's apartment."
"What'd you tell her?" Hawke pounced on the bed. Pinned Harmony by the wrists.
"Just what you told me to. Why's she so special?"
"Then why'd you drug Jesse and have me pretend to be her?" She smiled lightly. Could feel the heat cascading off his body.
"Easy," he nipped her earlobe. "I'm protecting what's mine. Jesse has an empire just waiting to be his. He'll have it. One way, or the other."
Barbara slid cautiously out of the bed, careful not to wake Helena. She made her way to the Delphi system. The one place she truly felt comfortable. Felt whole. Her fingers danced across the keyboard. Eyes scanned the information scrolling at light speed. The clues were scant, almost infinitesimal. But, it was enough, anything to keep her mind off of Helena's pregnancy and the possibility the child might be hers.
Their partnership seemed simplistic. On the basest of terms, Barbara was the brain, Helena the brawn. A partnership of equals, Barbara the 'yin' to Helena's 'yang'. Somewhere along the way, it wasn't enough. The lines blurred, the colors mixed. She couldn't tell if it was because Helena was becoming 'bigger' or she was becoming smaller.
It created a need in her. Something to tip the scales. Bring back their lost equilibrium. More specifically, HER lost equilibrium. She wasn't one for self-inspection. But, she'd made a promise to Helena. She'd never leave her. Barbara wasn't afraid it would kill her. Hell, she expected it. She feared, in the end, staying with her would kill Helena. The guilt from that thought alone pushed down on her so hard she thought her bones would break.
Her fingers slowed. Realized she was no longer alone. There was a time when Helena could enter a room and she'd never know the difference. Now, Helena could be within a five mile radius and Barbara would know exactly where she was. "You should be in bed."
"So should you," she leaned against the desk, stared at the information. "Anything new?"
"You and Dinah are right, Hawke's back in town."
"There was a riot at Statesville three months ago. According to this, Al Hawke was put into a coma, had his face slashed and everything."
"But?" Helena tried to process the information. Mouth clamped shut in frustration.
"Every six months all the prisons re-fingerprint the inmates, part of some new crime bill or something. Anyway, they printed Hawke two weeks ago, so I ran a comparison between the new prints and the one's in my database."
"It's not Hawke."
"No, someone's gone through the entire criminal database and switched Al Hawke's prints with who ever's lying in that bed in Statesville. As far as the world's concerned, Al Hawke's still in prison."
"Jesus," Helena groaned. "He did this to me, didn't he? Why?"
"Whatever he's planning, he needs you out of the way. What better way than to give you what you want."
"Excuse me? You think I WANTED this? To have this thing inside me."
"No, that's not what I meant."
"What did you mean?"
"You said it yourself, you want to retire. Maybe not today, or tomorrow, what better reason to retire than a baby?"
Helena's eyes changed from blue to violet in an instant. Blood boiled hot in her veins. "Fuck you!" She spat, turning on her heel.
"Dammit, Helena," Barbara snapped her arm out, grasped Helena by the wrist. "Would you stop walking away from me!"
"Why? It's all my fault anyway."
"For fuck's sake! It's not your fault. It's MINE!!" She glared at the woman. "I should be the one out there, not you. This was never your choice. You do it for me, and I let you. It should be me with the bruises and broken bones. They took you.." her thoughts jumbled fell out of her mouth in a hurried whine. "He took you. And there was soo much blood and you wouldn't breathe. I couldn't.. I should have died. Don't you understand? It should have been ME! It should have been me."
The heat subsided in a wave of clarity. "Barbara, I.." She reached out her hand. Barbara jerked from her touch. Twisted until they no longer faced each other.
"Go to bed, Helena."
Helena stood, shoulders sagging. She wanted to say the words that would make Barbara feel better, make the pain stop. Had even tried earlier in the evening, only wound up resorting to sex. She'd always wanted to be the one for Barbara, to fill the ache in the woman's soul. This time, there would be no words or consolation sex. There was a certain finality in Barbara's revelation. She did need Helena. Except, this time, Helena wasn't enough.
Dinah stabbed at her plate. The pancakes seemed a good idea at the time. Alfred had made them just the way she liked them, plate sized, an inch thick, stacked a mile high, dripping with homemade blueberry jam. All with a tall glass of ice cold milk to wash it down. Except, even though she knew she was hungry, Dinah couldn't seem to muster the energy to eat.
"That looks good. Is there any left?" Barbara moved her way towards Dinah.
"Don't know," Dinah shrugged. Suddenly feeling embarrassed and angry, she stuffed a huge forkful into her mouth. Anything to not have to talk, or share her pancakes. She could feel the green gaze on her, inspecting her, analyzing her. Dinah took a huge gulp of milk, leaned back in her chair, crossing her arms. "You gonna lecture me now?"
"No, I'm not," Barbara stated dryly. "Besides, it's not a lecture you want. It's punishment. And nothing I can say will make you feel any worse than what you already do. I just don't understand why you didn't come talk to me. Why you didn't trust me enough to tell me what you were feeling."
"You wouldn't understand."
"I wouldn't understand?" Barbara gritted. Her hands gripped the arms rests of her chair. Fingernails dug into the material as a wave of heat jolted throughout her body. "I wouldn't understand? Why? You think I haven't seen death, or pain, or suffering. I've seen things NO human should ever have to see. Been to Hell and back. Have seen people I care about, that I love die right in front of my eyes and you have the NERVE to tell me I wouldn't understand."
She pushed herself away from the table. Dinah sat back in her chair, stunned. A little frightened, but, most of all, she felt slightly better. Not because she'd made Barbara angry, but for once, Barbara had let her in. Showed the person behind the mask. The one with doubts, fears, and frailties. She'd always been super Barbara to Dinah. The teacher, Oracle, former Batgirl, protégé to Bruce Wayne. The woman she saw before her was none of the above, this Barbara, she was human. As selfish as it sounded, it made Dinah feel better to know she wasn't the only one who hurt, made her feel less alone.
"I'm sorry," Barbara's words carried softly into her ears. Dinah stood up from her chair, walked to Barbara, kneeling before the woman. She placed her hands on Barbara's knees. "Barbara, what's going on?"
"She died Dinah. I held her in my arms and she died. I felt so.. helpless."
"But, she didn't die. That's good, right?"
"Yeah, it is," Barbara sighed. "I just.."
"You just can't stop seeing it."
"It's worse than that, it's like replaying the past and the future all at once. I can't help shake the feeling that things are about to get worse. We're being watched, and manipulated. For what purpose, I don't know. This last time was too close for comfort. I'm not sure we can survive another near miss. I don't think I can."
"Well, if I've learned anything in the past couple days, it's that it's okay to ask for help. I'll stop trying to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders if you do. Deal?"
Barbara cracked a smile. At least some of her teachings were getting through. "Deal."
The two pulled from their embrace as Helena made her way down the stairs. "What's going on?"
"Nothing," Barbara sighed as she and Dinah pulled out of their embrace. "Just girl talk. What's up?"
"Dr. Reynolds just called. The paternity test is in."
Elijah hated working with people. Hated the whole partners thing. Which shouldn't have come as a shock, he'd been working with the same partner for over five years. Swift was a stark contrast to Elijah, slight compared to Elijah's thick, bulky build. Rail thin, young, cocky with an itchy trigger finger and an even itchier mouth.
Swift thumbed through the pictures, whistling. "Man, you didn't tell me these girls were hot."
Elijah shrugged. "We're here for a job, not dates. Besides, in a coupla days, you'll be 1.5 million dollars richer. You can buy all the women you want."
"I'm just sayin' man, these girls are hot. Kinda seems like a waste doncha think."
Elijah spit out the well worn toothpick in his mouth. He could see the gleam in Swift's eyes, which only meant one thing there'd be another mess to clean up. Elijah hated cleaning up after Swift. They were hitmen, not thugs. Something Swift never seemed to get through his thick skull. He sighed. It was his own damn fault. He was a loner. The loner spirit ran thick in his blood. He longed for his military days. The life of a covert operation, where he was allowed to think for himself, be by himself, kill his targets himself. The loner spirit ran thick in his blood. Except, the only thing that ran thicker was blood. Swift was family. And you always took care of your own, even if they were dumber than a bag of hair.
His eyes quickly shot to the garage entrance. The door swung open, a van pulled out of the underground garage.
"There they are," Swift panted like a dog in heat. Anxious for the kill. Elijah pulled the cell phone from his pocket, dialing a number.
"Rich, it's Elijah. Quit yer belly aching, this call is untraceable." His jaw clenched as the man on the other end continued to berate him.
"Don't worry. We've got it covered. They'll be dead by sundown."
A nest of vipers. That's what her stomach felt like. As if a nest of vipers were in there, slithering around. Stabbing her insides with their teeth, filling her with venom which caused her head to spin and her lungs to ache. Helena's pacing didn't help either. They didn't speak a word on the way to the clinic. A strange tension in the air, thicker than anticipation, oilier than apprehension. Fear and dread, mixed with an odd flickering of hope.
The door to the room opened. Both women collectively held their breath. Dr. Reynolds stepped into her office. Neither said a word as she walked around her desk, took the seat across from them.
"What is it?" Helena blurted.
"Helena, please sit down."
"Not until you tell me what's inside me."
"Okay," Dr. Reynolds inhaled deeply. Pulled several papers from Helena's file. Her hands visibly shaking. "They ran the tests three times."
"Dr. Reynolds," Barbara cut her off. "Please."
"It's yours," she stared straight into Barbara's eyes. "According to the test results, the child Helena is carrying matches your DNA. It's yours."
Helena suddenly had the urge to sit down. Legs shaky, she collapsed onto the chair next to Barbara.
Dr. Reynold's eyes darted from Helena to Barbara and back again. "I'm not sure if I should say 'congratulations' or.."
"Barbara?" Helena stared at the woman next to her. The blood had drained from Barbara's face. She clasped her hand around Helena's. Helena winced slightly as the redhead put a vice grip on her fingers. Eyes that seemed to be glazing over with shock glanced in Helena's direction, the slight trace of a smile on the woman's lips.
"I'm going to be a.. Daddy?" The elation was short, followed quickly by a release of something that twisted her gut. A slight whine escaped her throat. "I think I'm going to throw up."
Dinah paced back and forth. Chewed on a fingernail. She'd tried talking to Alfred, but his answers had been short, curt. Words spilled from his mouth almost like he hadn't been paying any attention to what she said. He stood perfectly still, bowler in his hands, fingers worrying over the brim.
The door to Dr. Reynolds office opened. Helena stepped into the hallway, face pale. "Alfred, could you get some water, for Barbara?"
"Of course," he didn't move a muscle, just stared at Helena expectantly.
"Well," Dinah blurted. "Are you gonna tell us?"
"It's Barbara's. The baby's Barbara's," she mumbled then headed straight towards the bathroom. Dinah watched the door close. She turned to Alfred.
"Does this mean I'm going to be an aunt?"
"It doesn't mean anything," Alfred sighed. Dinah looked at him confused. "She didn't say she was going to keep it, did she? If you'll excuse me, I must get Miss Barbara some water."
Helena stood in front of the mirror. Her hand reached towards the hem of her shirt. Slowly, her fingers grasped the material, pulled it up, until her stomach was exposed. She ran her hand over the smooth surface, as if she could feel the tiny life inside. The realization hit her like a punch. She was carrying a child Barbara's child.
"What's it feel like?"
Helena jumped, practically out of her skin. She jerked her head. Dinah stood in the doorway. Hadn't even heard her enter.
"Don't know," Helena shrugged. "Other than the nausea, I really don't feel anything."
"Can I touch it?"
"There's nothing there, Dinah," she saw the slightly wounded expression on the girl's face. Blew a sigh across her lips. "Okay, fine."
Dinah tentatively approached the woman. Her hand slid slowly across Helena's stomach. Rested lightly, her thumb grazing the surface. She wasn't sure what to expect. There were no flashes or insights. Just her touch and the random thoughts rumbling around in her brain. She didn't realize her hand had lingered too long until she felt Helena's fingers pulling her hand away.
"Dinahs" Helena chided softly. "You really need to stop that."
"I know," she could feel the crimson heating her face. Arms folded protectively across her chest.
"Listen, I'm not going to tell you how to feel. Or that what you're feeling is any less than what it is. It's just that we, I can't love you the way you want me to. I love Barbara."
"It won't be easy. It'll probably hurt like Hell, but you have to get over this."
"I know," Dinah mulled over Helena's words. "Can I kiss you?"
"I.. I," she paused tried to make her brain work in tandem with her mouth. "If you were my age and Barbara told you what you just told me, could you just get over it. Wouldn't you want to know?"
Helena squinted her eyes slightly. Slight pangs of resentment creeping into her system. Couldn't believe how easily the people closest to her really knew her. Knew her buttons. In some ways, she knew Dinah was right. The hardest part of loving Barbara was the unknown. If she had to do it all over again, she probably would have asked for a kiss.
"Close your eyes," Helena smiled softly at Dinah's confusion. "You heard me, now, close your eyes."
Dinah did as instructed. Arms still folded defensively across her chest. Helena bridged the distance between them. Saw Dinah stiffen at the closeness now between them, uncertainty written across her features. Helena cupped Dinah's face, thumb tracing the soft line of her lips. Felt the trembles instantly rattling Dinah's body, breath turned jagged in anticipation. Helena made a silent prayer hoping to whatever that she was doing the right thing and closed the distance between them.
Dinah had done as instructed. Closed her eyes. Assumed it was one of the many tests the two women were always quizzing her with. But, then she felt Helena close, real close and suddenly her heart began to hammer and everything got warm, real warm. Then, Helena was touching her, kissing her. After all their sparring and training, Dinah never in a million years imagined Helena's touch could be so gentle. Nothing compared to her lips. All cognitive thought was lost. Everything disappeared, except the blackness covering her eyes and the soft lips pressed against her own. No melding of the minds. And when she opened her mouth slightly, grazed her tongue against Helena's lips, body shivering at the acceptance, Dinah decided if God struck her dead right then and there it would be okay because she'd already been to Heaven.
"Helena, I.." Barbara stammered as she swung the door to the bathroom open. The two women immediately parted. More like Dinah pushed Helena away, her face colored in pure terror.
"Barbara, I, we, I.." Dinah stammered.
"Dinah," Barbara cut her off. "You've been through a tumultuous couple of months. We all have. So, for my general sanity and your personal safety, I'm just going to pretend that I didn't see what I just saw. Now, could you find Alfred and get the car."
Dinah nodded. Made a beeline towards the door. Barbara waited until the door closed completely before turning to Helena. "You going to tell me what that was all about?"
Helena sighed. "Closure." She walked towards Barbara. Gently grasped her hand around Barbara's and placed it on her stomach.
Barbara stared at Helena's stomach. Could imagine the tiny life inside. "You want to keep it, don't you?"
"Yes," she looked up at Helena. The slightest trace of a smile pulling at her mouth. "And we should go back to the Clock Tower and have a talk. A long talk. But, right now, there's someone else I have to go see."
"Jesus," Swift placed his hands on the heater. "How long does it take to get a fuckin' abortion?"
Elijah, hands clenched on the steering wheel, kept his eyes glued to the front, towards the clinic. "Do I look like a doctor?"
"There they are." He pointed towards the clinic. They watched as the old man entered the van, followed by the brunette. The redhead going in one direction, the blonde in the other. "Aw for fuck's sake."
"Doesn't matter. They'll all be dead by the end of the day. Frankie said the brunette's dangerous, we'll save her for last."
"Can I have the blonde?"
Elijah gritted his teeth. He hated that sound in Swift's voice. He turned towards his brother, his foot already out the door. "Swift, no messes."
"Only if you want sloppy seconds."
Southside Mall was, well, a mall. Three stories, several thousand square feet of architectural wonder. The largest mall on the Eastern seaboard. Who could want anything more? Shops selling wares of every kind. Three food courts, two multiplexes, an amusement park, ice skating rink, all located under one conveniently located roof.
Dinah stood on one of the second story walk ways. Leaning over the railing, she stared vacantly at the people milling about below. She remembered staring in slack jawed amazement at the sheer size of the mall. Thought she could live the rest of her days just on the west end. Now, the place seemed inconsequential, small, meaningless. Envious of the people milling about, living their regular everyday lives.
She'd wanted to be someone, important, meaningful. A super hero. Had dreamt of it for as long as she could remember. Now, she felt like a failure. How could she BE something to them if she couldn't even save them?
"Hey," Dinah managed a smile as Gaby joined her in people watching.
"Hey," she paused, glanced at her friend. "Do you hate me?"
"Nah," Gaby nudged her with her shoulder. "I could never hate you. You're too cute. Scared the shit out of me though. For a second there, I actually thought you were going to, you know." She nudged Dinah again with her shoulder. "Still think you're going insane?"
Dinah snorted her answer.
"Thinking about your parents?"
"Yeah, it's like I can't stop seeing it, you know. Like a bad dream where I keep seeing them die, and I try to help but there's nothing I can do."
"Dinah, what makes you think you could've saved them? C'mon, you're only human."
A small chuckle escaped Dinah's throat. It erupted into a giggle, then a full born belly laugh. She held her stomach, laughing at the tragic irony of it all, a super hero who couldn't save anyone. Neither Barbara the smart, nor Helena the strong, just Dinah. Faster than a golf cart, able to leap tall foot stools in a single bound. Dinah Lance, meta-human UN-extraordinaire. She plopped onto a nearby bench. Looking up at Gaby,
Dinah laughed even harder at the confused expression. "I'm sorry, Gaby."
"Okay," Gaby crossed her arms. "Now you're scaring me."
"I'm sorry," Dinah couldn't stop another giggle. "Just being stupid. Kinda like when I kissed Barbara."
"Whoa, back up there," Gaby scooted herself next to Dinah. Voice barely above a whisper. "Did you just say you kissed Miss Gordon? Our teacher. The redheaded hottie on wheels." Her mouth hung open as if she had more to say just no idea how to get the words out.
"Sorry, just went to a happy place. Why'd you kiss her?"
"Because I can't stop thinking about her, and sex, or Helena, and sex. I thought I'd just snap out of it, you know. Helena told me I had to. I thought maybe it would be easier if I kissed her too, get it out of my system."
"You kissed Helena?" Gaby reached over, cupped Dinah's face with her hands. Planted her lips onto a very surprised Dinah.
"What was that for?"
"Six degrees of separation. You kissed Miss Gordon and Helena, I kissed you, therefore, I have now kissed Miss Gordon and Helena."
Dinah chuckled slightly. "You're not helping."
"Sorry, didn't mean to break up your Dinah McAngsty routine." She sighed, ran a hand through her hair. The kiss had broken the tension. But not much, soon enough, even with her sudden laughing fit, Dinah quickly reverted to her depressed state, staring vacantly at the wall. Gaby stared at her friend, tried to get to the heart of the matter. "So you can't stop thinking about sex. Welcome to being a teenager. If you can't stop thinking about it, why don't you just do it?"
"I mean, if you were a guy, I'd say you needed to get laid. But you're a girl and we're not supposed to say those kinda things to each other. Society says we should be chaste and virginal and wait until marriage. Which is like perfectly fine. But, c'mon, it's just sex. Some people need to just get it out of the way."
"I tried, remember, Skylar?"
"That was different. All I'm saying is if it's that important, do it. Find some one you trust, some one you're attracted to, and boink like bunnies. I'd do it."
Gaby shrugged. "Sure."
"You'd have sex with me?"
"Huh," she stopped, as if the words pouring from her mouth had finally registered in her brain. Gaby shifted nervously. The weight of her words, and their implications, washed over her. "Do you want to have sex with me?"
Dinah's heart twitched ever so slightly. Adrenaline sporadically fired through her system. It was as if she were seeing her friend for the first time. Something she'd never seen before. Attraction. She leaned over, her face inches from Gaby's. There was a moment's hesitation, when Dinah wondered about right and wrong. Hovered over the precipice, wondering whether to dive towards the dark, the unknown, or run back to the light. She chose the unknown. Maybe she was just a normal girl. But, she was tired of feeling hurt, and alone. So she dove over, pressed her lips against Gaby's. Felt the slight trepidation turn to acquiescence. Where like and love mixed with hormones, lust, blurring the line between friendship and something more. They pulled apart only when their lungs cried out for oxygen. Dinah placed her hand on Gaby's chin. She wanted to look into her eyes, just couldn't stop staring at her lips.
"Can we go to your place?"
The room was dark. Shades drawn so tight only the faintest sliver of a light could ink into the room. Reese sat in his easy chair, a bottle of bourbon in one hand, a crumpled piece of paper in the other. There had been no phone call. No face to face with a sensitive yet placating medical professional. Nope, in the end, it was a UPS guy with an envelope.
He should have known it was bad. Could feel it in his gut as his heart hammered and his head spun out of control with every fantasy imaginable. His fingers ripped open the envelope. Eyes, scanned the information. In the end, his fantasies, his dreams, shattered with the delicacy of a sledge hammer to a glass window. Helena's child, his child, only, it wasn't his at all. Reese grabbed the nearest bottle, slumped in his chair. Where he remained for the rest of the day.
Harmony quietly entered the room. She sat on the edge of the coffee table, placed her hand on Reese's knee. "You should come back to bed."
"Not tired," he took another swig from his bottle. "Have you ever been in love?"
"She really did a number on you, didn't she?" Harmony sighed. She pulled the bottle from his hand, taking a healthy pull before screwing the cap back on. "Yeah, I was in love once. Which is why I'm several thousand dollars in debt and work as a stripper. Why's she so special?"
"Because," Reese leaned forward, placed his head in his hands. "When I was with her I felt alive. Like anything was possible. She saw the man I could be and I liked who I was when I was with her."
"But it was a lie wasn't it?"
He winced at the statement. Teeth grinding against each other, anything to fight back the tears he could feel stinging the corners of his eyes. Along with the rage. "I think you should leave. At least for a little while."
"Because. I'm about to get.. angry. And I don't want you to get hurt."
Harmony chuckled slightly. Reese lifted his head, staring at her. "What?"
"You're the first guy who's ever thought about whether or not I got hurt," she tilted her head. "Mom was wrong. There are nice guys in this world."
"I'm not a nice guy."
"Maybe," Harmony shrugged, rose from the coffee table. "But you're the closest I've ever gotten to one."
Harmony took his advice and left Reese alone. Reese may have been a nice guy, but even nice guy's have their breaking point. Reese just found his.
A cold front swept across the bay, chilling the air, painting the sky in deep grays. Barbara moved towards the edge of the pier. The perfect spot where she could gaze over the blue black waters.
"There are only two kinds of people who come outside on a day like today." Barbara smiled as she heard the familiar voice in her ear. She turned her head. Jim Gordon stood next to her. Hands stuffed in his pocket, collar flipped up on his coat. He gazed down at his daughter. "The insane, and those who love them."
"For a fleeting moment, I thought this was a social call. Then I remembered, my daughter doesn't do social calls. At least, not anymore."
Barbara sighed at the slight chastisement.
"That bad, huh?"
"Helena's pregnant." A stilted pause filled the air. Barbara hadn't exactly planned on what she would say to her father. There really seemed to be nothing more than the obvious. She turned to gaze up at Jim. Saw his face twisting in anger, automatically knew what he was thinking. "The baby's mine."
He stared down at her. Tried to keep his jaw from hitting the floor. Several more moments passed while Jim processed the information, watched his daughter's reaction. "Congratulations?" He chuckled slightly. "I know that look. The 'what the Hell have I gotten myself into?' look. You do want this child don't you?"
"Yes. YES. I want Helena to be happy. But me? I just wanted it to be different. I wanted it to be right. I wanted to be right. There's just so many things going on. With me. I feel like I don't know who I am anymore."
"Dad. You don't understand."
"It's just like a child to think their parent doesn't know anything about them." He sat down on the bench across from her. Grabbed both her hands. "You're a teacher and a vigilante. That says everything there is about you. You have this clear, finite definition of what you think the world should be. You teach that to the youth. And then you protect that world with everything you have. You want order. And black and white and the line that separates the two to be a mile wide and just as deep. Only it's not. The line that separates humanity from brutality is whisper thin. It wavers and wriggles. Just when you think you have it under control, it's snatched from your grasp. Now you have a child on the way and the world isn't how you want it to be, especially not for your child and it's terrifying. Here's a tip for you Barbara, it will always be scary. The scariest thing you'll ever do in your life."
Barbara ran her tongue over her lips, mouth suddenly dry. "But, what if I'm not good enough? What if I fail?"
"Did I fail you?"
"Dad!!" Barbara gasped. "No, God no. How could you think that?"
"I'm a parent," he sighed solemnly. "I couldn't protect you from.. Him. And I couldn't take your pain away. Not all of it. That's what this is about isn't it? Your biological parents?"
"I know in my heart of hearts that I would never hurt Helena or the baby. Not like that. But, then I keep thinking, I've seen people, good people, do evil, heinous things, all because they wanted to do what was right. And I have this irrepressible need to protect them. Only I can't figure out if I'm protecting them from the world, or myself."
Jim cocked a half smile, a soft chuckle escaped his throat. "You sound like Bruce."
"I know he's been a huge influence, probably more so than me," he raised his hand at Barbara's protestation. "Just, don't be like him. Don't turn your back on your child just because you think it'll spare them pain. You'd never hurt your child. I know that and deep down, so do you. You turn your back on them and the person you'll hurt the most is yourself. You've had so much pain and anguish in your life, Barbara, don't you think it's time you had a little happiness?"
Jim rose to a standing position. He leaned in, kissed Barbara on the forehead. "Don't take so long to call your old man next time."
Barbara watched her father walk away. "Dad."
"You don't think she's right for me, do you?"
"You're my little girl, always will be, no one will be good enough for you. But Helena," Jim paused. "She comes pretty damn close."
"It's what parents are for." His face broadened into a wide smile. "You'll see."
Heart in her throat, stomach somewhere around her ankles, Gaby shifted self-consciously. Suddenly, shy and embarrassed under Dinah's blue gaze. The ride to her house was short, palpably quiet. What once seemed like a spur of the moment decision when hormones overrode her sanity, now filled her with self-doubt and fear. She questioned everything she knew about Dinah, everything she FELT about her. Sure, she liked her, maybe even loved her, but what kind of love, Gaby did not know. Now, she felt exposed, in more ways than one. She had offered herself to her friend, proverbially and literally, the decision weighted her down with fears and doubts, that maybe one night of intimacy could ruin a life long friendship.
They stood across from each other. Gaby's bed stood sentry between them. Hands shaking, Gaby slipped out of her jeans, fingers moving towards the buttons on her shirt. Her eyes shifted towards the bed, suddenly no longer wanting to see Dinah's face, and the possibility of rejection.
"Do you want to stop?" Gaby asked nervously.
"No," Dinah realized she'd been staring at Gaby's chest, looked up at her friend. A half smile on her face.
"I just.. Can I?"
Gaby nodded. Mouth suddenly very dry. Dinah walked on her knees across the bed. Bodies inches apart. The air seemed to crackle between them. Time seemed to slow. Like twilight time between a dream and consciousness. Dinah unbuttoned Gaby's shirt, careful not to touch her skin. Gently slid the material off her shoulders, exposing the bare skin underneath covered in goose pimples. Gaby shivered, watched her friend. Suddenly realized she'd forgotten to breathe. The air came in ragged breaths, caught between stark terror and unbridled lust.
Dinah softly placed her fingertips to Gaby's chest, carved a trail until her fingers cupped one of the firm globes. In all her dreams it had been with Helena, or Barbara, but never in her dreams was it like this. Real, soft, hot. The kind of hot that sent cold shivers down her spine, caused her head to swim, heart hammering in her chest. She grazed her thumb over the erect nipple, felt Gaby gasp at the contact.
"You're beautiful," she whispered before capturing soft lips with her own. The heat between them, a match thrown onto dry kindling saturated in kerosene. Tongues dueling, she pulled Gaby onto the bed, laid her on her back. Between soft kisses, explored the soft flesh with her fingers. Every touch, every sensation written to memory. When her fingers reached the line of Gaby's panties, Dinah pulled their mouths apart, stared down at her friend.
"Are you sure?"
"Yes," Gaby panted. "Dinah, please."
Dinah tilted her head towards her hand, watched as her fingers slid between skin and silk. Delicate curls tickling her flesh before sliding across a wall of soft wetness and heat. Gaby moaned, hips twitching at the contact. Dinah stroked the soft skin, marveled at the soft texture, heat, wetness saturating her fingers.
Dinah's fingers becoming bolder in their exploration and suddenly she didn't want to just touch, she wanted to see, to feel, to taste. Body sliding between Gaby's legs, Dinah pulled off the barrier between her and her goal, tossing it to the floor. She leaned down onto her elbows, inspecting the delicate flesh, first with her fingers, then, tentatively, with her tongue. Gaby moaned loudly, back arching, offering herself to Dinah. It emboldened Dinah, along with the heady tastes and smells overwhelming her senses.
Curiosity, instinct, desire all seemed to take over and she consumed Gaby. Lips wrapping around the tiny bundle of nerves, a shaky hand threading in her hair, Dinah licked and sucked until Gaby writhed under her. Screaming her name in between gasps, moans and unintelligible words. Dinah kissed her way back up, snuggling with her friend.
"Wow," Gaby nibbled on Dinah's neck. "I thought you said you'd never done this before?"
"I'll show you beginner's luck," Gaby rolled into her, pounced on the lengthy frame. Her lips attacked Dinah's neck. Tomorrow would definitely be a turtleneck day. She felt the heat in her body building, a clammy, goose pimply kind of anticipation, as her clothes were quickly peeled from her body. Cognitively, Dinah wanted slow, gentle, a return of the gentle touch she had given to Gaby. But her body responded in a different manner, heat tapping into the primal part of her that cried out in need. Hands pressed down on shoulders, until curious lips and tongue were on her, between her, inside her. Hips thrusting involuntarily, craving friction and heat. Her eyes snapped shut. Body possessed with lust and Dinah fell over the edge.
A hard wind jostled Barbara from her thoughts. She shivered in her coat, noticed dull gray clouds had turned darker as darkness fell across the landscape.
"Dammit," Barbara glanced at her watch, noting the time. Hadn't intended to stay at the pier for so long. Arms above her head, Barbara stretched languidly, working out some of the kinks in her body. The pier was empty. Not even the casual jogger or dog walker within site.
Something tickled the back of her neck. The feeling she was being watched. Barbara casually slipped her hand down her left leg, fingers wrapping around the end of her baton.
Barbara turned to the sound of her voice. The muzzle of a gun filled her vision. Instinctively, she pressed the button on her baton, the weapon shooting from one to three feet. She swung it backwards with all her might. It connected with the man's wrist just as his finger pulled the trigger. The dull snap of a silencer. Flash of gun powder filled her vision, stung her eyes. Barbara screamed at the pain.
Elijah had been warned. Been told the redhead knew how to protect herself. But, she was in a wheelchair, and all alone. How prepared could she be? Yet, the baton came from no where. He gritted his teeth as the metal cracked across his wrist, breaking bone. His gun skidded to the ground. The air whistled as the baton came around again. Elijah ducked, but not fast enough. It caught across the back. He had to hurry. They were alone, but this was a public pier. Anyone could walk by at any second.
Barbara swung the baton blindly. She could feel him close, but with her vision gone, had to quickly rely upon her training. A fist to the jaw sent her head spinning. Then, she could feel him against her, his shoulder jammed into her side. The squeak of rubber and wood scraping against each other. He was pushing her. Hard. She clasped her hands together, battered her elbows against his shoulders. She slammed against the railing. Wood splintering apart like firecrackers. Then, she felt nothing. No chair. No attacker. Just air.
Barbara realized, she was falling.
The water slammed against her body. Squeezed the air from her lungs. Instantly, the icy cold water enveloped her body. Heart skipped from the shock. Arms flailing, Barbara tried desperately to pull herself to the surface. Only, she couldn't. Her chair, the mechanical stand-in for her legs, thousands of dollars of modern mechanical ingenuity, weighted her body down like an anchor, dragging her to the bay floor.
She thudded against the sea floor. Her hands went to her legs. She was pinned under her chair. The damn chair. Tugging, jerking, twisting, anything to get out from under that damn chair. Her lungs screamed for air. Throat convulsed as she tried to suppress the urge to breathe.
She needed air. The water seemed to close in around her. Squeezed her body, tightened around her chest, taunting her to breathe. She could feel the inky shadows closing around her vision. If she could just get her legs free, everything would be all right. She could get to the surface. She could get to Helena.
Instead, it all went black.
Elijah stood over the broken section of railing, staring down at the inky black waters. He'd watched her go down. Had seen, up close and personal, just how tough Barbara Gordon really was. Just not tough enough. If she came to the surface, he'd shoot her. He watched the bubbles erupting across the smooth surface of the bay. Quickly, they slowed. Until there was nothing but smooth black water. Elijah smiled, pulled his cell phone from his pocket.
"Hey Rich, it's me," he smiled, took one last parting glance at the water below. "One down, two to go."
Frankie emptied the last of the gasoline tank. Tossed the empty container onto the pile. Technically, this was grunt work, and Frankie hated doing grunt work. But, choice wasn't an option when Hawke was the one commanding. He watched last of the bodies slung onto the pile. He stared at the crimson slick on the floor that trailed from the door. A Security Guard in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Frankie always had a simple ideology keep your mouth shut, your eyes open, and your gun loaded. Everything else, he'd learned from Hawke. The biggest lesson, the secret to keeping and maintaining a crime organization, never let the left hand know what the right is doing. Of course, no one really questions the boss anyway. So, when Hawke said camouflage a van to look like an ambulance, no one questioned. Or why he'd put tails on Reese 24/7. Or the purpose of a prostitute. Or drugging Reese's girlfriend and taking her to some secret location. Each puzzle piece with its own role, its own rules, never asking what the other pieces were up to.
Only three people saw the big picture, and one of them was dead. Frankie had no intention of being corpse number two. That was another of Frankie's rules stay alive, no matter what it takes.
Frankie stood next to the man. "That's it."
Hawke's eyes remained glued to the growing pile in the center of the room. His hand twirled a box of matches surreptitiously between his fingers. "Are you sure?"
"Jesus, yes, I'm sure. Nobody knows about this place, Hawke. It worked. Your plan worked."
Hawke sneered. "Here's one more lesson for you Frankie, no plan is fool proof. There's always some little detail, some unknown variable you never see, never thought of. A sharpened knife waiting in the shadows, ready to cut your Achilles heel."
"What do you do?"
"You clean it up. All of it. Every file, every scrap, every piece of paper, the tiniest bit of minutia, burn it. Eradicate it from the face of the earth and pray to God you didn't miss a damn thing."
Hawke struck the match on the box. Tossed it onto the pile. They watched as the flame ignited the gasoline. Bathed the room in orange and yellow light. It was an empty warehouse. Abandoned. No one could have known about the smarmy little doctor with his machines and test tubes and willingness to do anything for a price. All of it going up in flames.
Frankie wanted to believe Hawke was wrong, that a plan could be fool proof. But, Hawke had never been wrong before. Frankie was still alive because of him. And as he watched the flames lick the ceiling, he too wondered if his plan had been fool proof.
The wind whipped hard. The first tentative drops fell from the sky. Soon, the rain would come and come hard. Shower the city. Wash the dirt and grime off the streets, as best as it could. Helena ignored the wind, and the rain. Stayed kneeling on the soft grass, eyes glued forward. It had been a while since she'd last been here. Seven months, eight days, and sixteen hours, if she thought about it.
The grave had been kept as she requested, actually paid for. Grass immaculately cut and groomed. The headstone as shiny as the day she purchased it.
"Hi Mom," Helena sighed, ran a nervous hand through her hair. "I guess telling you I'm going to have a baby would be kinda redundant, huh? It's weird 'cuz I don't know how to feel. It's like being given the best gift from your worst enemy." She chuckled lightly. "I guess it is. I swear, if Hawke were here right now, I'd give him a giant kiss. Then I'd knock his lights out."
Helena quieted for a moment, gathering her thoughts. "I wondered if you felt the same way. But, you and Bruce were different, weren't you? If you loved each other, why couldn't you make it work?"
"God, now I know why you chose a life of crime. It's easier. You don't have to care, or think, or trust, or worry about anyone but yourself. You don't have to save anyone. But, I want to save them, Mom. It's just that I don't think I can. They're all falling over the edge, Dinah, Barbara, Reese."
Helena wrapped herself in her arms. Head bent low, she stilled the shivers wracking her body.
"I thought I saw him. Once. It was a couple years ago, around Christmas. You remember that store you used to take me too? With all the toys in the window? It was weird. It was like I felt him. Then I saw a reflection and for a moment my heart stopped. It was the first time in my life I didn't hate him." She inhaled deeply.
"I miss you, Mom. I miss you so much it hurts. And God help me, sometimes I miss him." Helena rose to her feet. She pressed three fingers to her lips, placed them at the top of Selina's headstone. "I'm gonna do right by you, Mom. I'm gonna save them. I'm gonna make it work."
Rich stared at the long table. Guns, lots of guns placed neatly in rows lay before him. His heart hammered in his chest. This was big. Really big. After this, no more small potatoes for Rich Fastle. Arms folded across his chest, a hand at his mouth nervously chewing a fingernail.
No more little league, it was time to join the Majors. But, he'd stayed alive in the little leagues. Earned more money than he really needed, or wanted. Stuff like this got people killed. Just the thought of it all made his hands sweat and his lungs to freeze.
One of the men approached the man. One of the mercenaries Rich had contracted. Hired guns willing to do anything for a price.
"Is it time?"
Rich inhaled. Fingers clasped the tiny gold cross hidden under his shirt. He was in too deep now and there was only one way out. "Yeah, it's time."
Reese picked up the piece of paper for the umpteenth time. Stared at the information, could recite it backwards. Even after reading it over and over, it still stung. Just like the first time. Not his child. He wasn't sure what he felt for Huntress. Not quite love, but not quite anything else either. And their night together, replayed between scientific facts typed on the crumpled page. She'd meant something. He'd felt something. He thought she felt the same way too. But, it was all there right in front of him. Whatever Reese felt for Huntress, she didn't feel the same way. Had sought comfort in someone else's arms, and now carried a child that should have been his.
Should have been.
A world built on secrets, lies, fantasies. Of what would never be. He wanted to be all those things he fantasized about, a hero, a detective, a father. It would have been so good, he and Huntress. If only he hadn't failed. That's what it had boiled down to. Reese had given everything of himself to Huntress and in the end, it hadn't been enough.
If only he'd been more like his father.
Reese crumpled the page in his hand. Blood boiling hot, he threw it at the wall. It wasn't enough. It wasn't hard enough, or loud enough. His hands shot under the coffee table, body jerked to a standing position, Reese lifted the table, tossed it across the room. Fists flew, legs flailed, he punched, kicked, threw anything within reach. Chairs went against walls. Doors came off hinges. Fingers clawed into the couch, ripped the material to shreds. Tore. Ripped. Shredded. Destroyed. He stood in the middle of his destroyed apartment. Hands balled into fists, breath exhaled in jagged breaths.
Something pink caught his eye. A tiny speck on the dark carpet. Reese walked across the room, knelt down towards the tiny little pill. He held it up to the light, noticed the trademark 'F' indented into the pill.
"Fantasy." He crumbled the pill in his fist, pink dust falling delicately to the ground. Reese stomped towards his bedroom, yanked opened the footlocker at the end of his bed. He pulled out the top drawer, began pulling out the stash of guns. He may not be a good boyfriend, or father, but there was one thing left that Reese was good at - a cop.
"Jesus, what the Hell happened here?" Detective McNalley stood in the center of Jesse's living room, eyeing the carnage.
Reese walked into the living room, tucked the revolver in his pants.
"What are you up to Reese?"
"I'm taking them down."
"Taking who down?"
"I gave them the address," Reese hissed, pointed towards the window. "And it's still there. That ship is still pumping that shit out onto the streets."
McNalley held up his hands. "Whoa, hold on Reese. We're detectives, not DEA."
"We're still cops, McNally."
"Yeah, we're cops, which means we enforce the law, we aren't the law."
Reese sneered. "Someone should change that."
"C'mon, you're talking crazy now. Let's calm down, take a breather," he stepped in front of Reese, placing himself between his partner and the door.
"Out of my way."
"I can't let you leave, Reese. Not like this."
"Get out of my way," he hissed through his teeth.
Reese slung the butt of his rifle, smacking McNally across the jaw. McNally went down like a sack of potatoes. Reese pulled him deeper into his apartment. He removed McNally's phone and his gun, handcuffed him to the radiator.
There was no light at the end of the tunnel. No shimmering of consciousness, or past family members waiting to greet her. Just an empty blackness. Cold. Hard. Thick. She could feel her life draining from her. Fading like a dying sun.
The blackness surrounded her, along with the cold. She didn't want to die. Not like this. Lost. Defeated. Alone. She'd left them all alone.
A figure stood at the end of her vision. She recognized it immediately. The black cape and cowl obscured his features.
"It's not your time, Batgirl." His voice was low, gravely. Barbara's mouth opened and shut, the words would not come. So many things to say, to ask. He leaned forward, kissed her on the forehead. "Take care of my little girl."
He placed his hands on her shoulders. Then, shoved her. Hard. Barbara flailed backwards. Back into the darkness, and the cold. Could feel the cold, black water, once again, around her body.
Her eyes shot open. Lungs choked, convulsed, pushed the water out of her body in spasms as she gasped for air.
Jim Gordon never considered himself a religious man. Could count the number of times he'd been to church on one hand. But, he owed someone, somewhere, a big debt of gratitude. "Barbara?" Choked from his throat as he tilted Barbara onto her side.
"I came back to ask you over for dinner," he explained. "I saw the skid marks on the pier." He paused, swallowed hard. He owed someone big time. He lifted Barbara into his arms. "I'm getting you to the hospital."
"No!" Barbara gripped his shirt collar. "Take me home. I need to find Helena."
"Daddy," she lifted her head, stared into his eyes. "Please."
Gaby shifted slightly. Eyes glued to the ceiling. She didn't want to concentrate. God knows it was hard with the soft hand tracing circles on her stomach drifting ever lower, or the dull throbbing deep in her belly growing stronger with each pass of Dinah's fingers. But she couldn't stop thinking.
"Dinah," she whispered huskily.
"You wanna do it again?"
"What does this mean?"
Dinah leaned up, could see the fear in Gaby's eyes. "You think this was a mistake, don't you?"
"It's okay," she hustled off the bed. Grabbed her clothes. "I'll leave."
Gaby pulled the sheets up over her body, suddenly feeling self-conscious. "That's not what I meant."
"You wanted this."
"So did you. I don't know where we go from here?"
The phone in Dinah's jacket began to ring. She pulled the device, stared at the number on her caller ID. "God, not now. Hello?"
"Dinah," Barbara's voice barked in her ear. Immediately, the tone set Dinah on edge. "Where are you?"
"I'm at Gaby's."
"Go home. Now."
"Barbara, what's going on?"
"Someone just tried to kill me."
"Oh my God, are you.."
"I need you to get to the Clock Tower, Dinah. Now!"
The hairs on the back of her neck stood on edge. The slight faint sound of a click carried into her ears. She stared at her friend sitting anxious on the bed. "I can't."
Dinah swallowed hard. Could feel the dread twisting her stomach. "We're not alone."
"Dinah, you have to leave."
"Barbara, I can't. I'll call you back," she hustled over to the bed, handed the phone to Gaby.
Dinah clamped her hand over Gaby's mouth. Whispered softly. "There's someone in the house. Take my phone, hide in the closet. Don't come out until I say so. It's okay. I know what I'm doing."
The hallway seemed longer somehow. She knew how long it was. Could walk to it with her eyes closed if she wanted. But, she couldn't. Just stood at the end of the hallway contemplating if she should go to Reese or run as far as her feet could take her.
The first steps were slow, tentative. She approached Reese's door, something she'd done a million times before. Hand hesitated over the wood. She heard a slight thump. A moan. The thoughts of catching Reese in post, pre, or any type of coital mode turned her stomach. Except, the moan came again, the moan of a person not in pleasure, but pain.
Helena kicked open the door. Detective McNally sat on the floor, handcuffed to a radiator. She ran over to the man.
"What the Hell happened?" She pulled a small lock picking tool from her back pocket. Freed McNalley from the restraints.
"It's Reese. He's gone over the edge."
"He went to the shipyard. He's gonna take down the Fantasy supply house."
"Alone?" Helena gaped at him.
"Yeah," McNally stood on shaky feet. Ran a hand over his head. "We're gonna have to call for some.." He turned only to stare at empty space.
Huntress was gone.
"Huntress. Come in, Huntress! Dammit!" Barbara pounded her fist on the desk. Helena's comms' were off. Again.
She'd done all the hacking, referencing, and computing she could do. With Dinah silent and Helena missing, all she could do was wait. She hated waiting. Nothing made her feel more useless than sitting in the Clock Tower, staring at her monitors. A contract had been put on her life. It was safe to assume there may be one on Helena and Dinah's heads as well. And all she could do was wait.
"Barbara," Jim stood behind her. His arms folded across his chest. "What's going on?"
"Not now, Dad."
"Not now? When? The next time I pull you from the bottom of the bay? What is all this?" He rubbed his face with his hand. "You didn't stop. After all these years."
"Dad. Can we not talk about this now."
She pushed her chair towards the elevators, passing Alfred on the way out.
"Try and get in contact with Dinah. Tell her to get her ass here immediately."
"Where are you going?"
"I have to find Helena."
Dinah climbed out of the second story window. Leapt from the roof, landing softly on the grass below. Quietly, she walked towards the rear of the house.
Her first clue, pieces of broken glass pooled at the bottom of the french doors. She crouched down. Inched her way to the door. Pulled the handle, slowly, gently. The intruder was inside. If she was lucky, she might be able to catch him by surprise.
The kitchen was as it always was. Dinah had been in the room dozens of times. Now, it seemed ominous. Her hairs stood on end. Body tense. Like she could feel him in the room. Bare feet padding on the floor, Dinah dashed towards the entrance.
A glint of white hair caught her eye, attached to the shadow lurking in the living room. Not much taller than she. He skulked about the room, checking every nook and cranny. She saw a flash of metal, the flick of a wrist as he cut the cord to the phone, began wrapping the cord around his wrist. Dinah could feel her heart begin to hammer. This guy wasn't here to steal. Here was here to kill.
He walked towards the staircase. Casually. Coolly, as if he didn't have a care in the world.
The sound of footsteps on carpet carried into her ears. She saw him tense. Gaby crept towards the stairs, phone in her hand. She froze in her tracks. "Hello there little bird." He took another step up the stairs. Dinah could see the flash of metal as he pulled a large knife from the scabbard tucked in his jacket. "Ready to play?"
Gaby's eyes went wide. Body frozen in fear. He continued up the stairs, each step a calculated move, body humming in anticipation. She was afraid. He loved it when they were afraid.
Dinah felt stuck. Her body a giant chunk of cement where nothing moved except her eyes. Skin clammy and wet. Heart thudding in her chest. Just like before. Frozen in fear, she was going to watch her friend die. Like her mother. Like her father. And there was nothing she could do but sit and watch.
The sound of her voice jolted her body. Adrenaline. Fear. Hope. Rage. Her hands curled into fists. Pupils dilated. Dinah charged towards the stairs. Faster than she knew she could run. She jumped onto a table, launched herself over the railing, between him and Gaby. Her palm on the railing, she pivoted on her arm, spun her body. Kicked outwards, a foot connecting straight into his chest.
He never saw it coming. Flew backwards. Body thudding onto the ground. Swift jumped to his feet, crouched low. Knife steady in his hands. Elijah said no messes. Fuck Elijah.
"You're gonna pay for that, bitch," he sneered at her.
Dinah stood her ground. "Make me."
He charged towards her. Swung his arm, the blade hissing through the air. Dinah jumped out of his reach. Felt something hot slice across her shoulder. She dodged the next pass of his knife. Blocked his arm. Delivered a blow to his kidney. His ribs. Another to his jaw.
Swift took the impact. He still had a knife, and he was gonna use it. He backhanded her across the face. Watched the girl spin, lose her balance. He pulled his arm back, knife held steady. Ready to plunge.
Dinah landed in a crouch. Head throbbing from the blow. But, she was ready. No longer pieces of the hurricane, flotsam and jetson. She was the storm. Massive. Powerful. Controlled. She directed all that energy to her right hand. Tiny bolts of lightening arced across her fingertips. He came towards her. Dinah lifted her hand, pointed it towards his chest and fired.
Swift flew backwards into the air, over the couch, the table. Slammed against the wall, body slumping onto the floor. Unconscious. Dinah leapt over the couch. She grabbed a lamp. Ripped the cord from the device. Turning Swift over, she hog tied his arms and legs together.
And then it hit her. She stood up. Body suddenly over come with trembles. The adrenaline left as quickly as it came. She lifted her hands, stared at the outstretched fingers shaking violently.
"I did it," she mumbled to herself. Dinah the loser, the weak, the nobody had had thrown herself into a fight by herself and won.
"Dinah?" Gaby nervously approached the blonde. "What..?"
She turned towards her friend. A little taller than she was before. "Did you call the police?" Gaby nodded. "Tell them you hit him over the head with a bat. I gotta go."
She kissed Gaby lightly on the lips before running to get the rest of her clothes.
Faded soft light spilled across her face. Barbara stared at the tall cylinder of glass, staring at her ghost.
It wasn't conscious, just an overwhelming sense of need. She needed Helena. Their unborn child. Needed them here, to know they were safe. That need drove her here, staring at her ghost and the desire to do what ever it took to insure their safety.
She wrapped the prototype around her stomach. Felt the tiny tendrils of sensation cascading down her legs. She rose from her chair. Walked towards the display case. Her hands shook as she pulled her costume into her hands.
She needed Helena. Needed her safe. No matter what it took.
No matter the cost.
The Lucky Lady was a small cargo ship. Three hundred feet from fore to stern. Innocuous amongst the larger vessels in the harbor. The perfect hiding place for a drug making operation in plain sight.
A guard stood at the edge of the ramp leading towards the ship. Reese jumped from behind several crates, slugged the guard with the butt of his rifle. He stepped cautiously up the ramp. Checked the windows for signs of life.
He wove his way across the deck, heading towards the cargo area. Light spilled from a cracked door. Reese edged closer.
A figure exited the cargo hold, hand speaking into a mic. "Blackwell, come in Blackwell."
Reese waited. Body coiled like a snake ready to strike. Swung the butt of his rifle, catching the man on the back of the head. He caught the falling body, pulling him into the shadows, handcuffed him to a pipe.
Taking a swallow of courage, Reese kicked open the door to the cargo area. "Freeze! New Goth.."
Men in lab coats were in the middle of the room. All were on their knees, hands clasped behind their heads. Eight men, all dressed in black, surrounded the workers, guns aimed in various directions. Immediately, their heads turned towards Reese.
"Oracle, can you hear?" Helena leapt off the roof, landing silently on the street below.
"Huntress?" She could hear Barbara in her ear. "Where are you?"
"I'm at the docks."
"Huntress, you have to turn around."
"I'm sorry, Oracle, I can't do that."
The air crackled with gunfire. Reese hustled to his left, running towards the far wall. Bits of wall exploded behind his head. Bullets whizzed past his ears.
Reese launched his body towards a stack of crates. Shoulder skidding across the grown as he landed haphazardly. He turned into a crouch, pulled the handgun from his belt and fired over the edge of the crate. Wood splintered, bits and pieces raining down on him as semi-automatic gun fire ripped the crate to shreds.
The men scattered, fanning out into a semi-circle to surround Reese. They ignored the scurrying lab workers. Some caught in the crossfire, bodies falling to the ground.
A figure fell from the ceiling. Right into the center of the melee. Huntress didn't skip a beat. She grabbed the muzzle of a rifle. Flung her leg out, kicking the man in the stomach. He jerked, bending over from the impact. Helena used his momentum, turned on her heel and threw the man into the merc standing behind her.
Reese could hear the men screaming. He dared a peek over the crates. Could see Huntress in the middle of a fight. Two down, six more to go. He vaulted over the crate, landing in a dead sprint. Guns pulled, he pointed and fired. Pink dust filled the air. Reese charged between two extended rows of tables. Caught in a duel he raced across the length of the room, firing at his opponent. Scores of drug equipment, jars, glasses, trays, exploded in his path. Another round, and Reese caught him right between the eyes. The man flew backwards, body thudding onto the ground.
Reese grabbed the edge of a table. Pulled it onto its side, using the top as a shield. He could see Rich Fastle hiding behind a desk ten feet from him. The man glared at him.
"What the fuck's the matter with you?" Rich growled.
"I'm a cop. This is a drug lab. You do the math."
"You moron. Are you trying to get us killed? This is a drug lab. You're firing you're gun in a fucking drug lab."
Something sharp impacted into Helena's arm. She clenched her teeth, ignored the pain from the bullet. Another grazed across her thigh. The pain streaked up her leg firing into her synapses. She raced towards the edge of the room, towards cover.
Her feet stumbled under her. A wave of nausea jolted her body. Overrode her senses until her eyes lost focus and her legs went rubbery.
Instinctively, her hand covered her stomach. "Oh God, not now."
"Oracle," Helena's voice whimpered in her ear.
"I'm coming, Helena."
Barbara hopped off her motorcycle. The sound of gunfire popping like firecrackers filled the air. She raced towards the ship. Her legs strained from the attempt. She'd exercised, kept her limbs in shape through physical therapy, even worked out with the prototype when she was alone. But, her body wasn't prepared for the strain she now put on herself. Her lungs ached. Muscles screamed. Still, Barbara kept moving, kept going forward towards the ship.
The table began to disintegrate. Reese yanked out of his jacket, grabbed two more guns harnessed at his calves.
Rich glared at the man. "Would you stop before you get us all killed?"
Rich reached into his jacket. Pulled his own gun. He was tired of hiding. If he wanted to live, he'd have to stop this himself. "No, fuck you."
He saw the glint of metal. Reese braced his back against the tabletop, kicking his legs so the table tipped over, he fired his guns at Rich. The bullets exploded into Rich's chest. The man jerked upright. Fingers caught in a death grip, he fired wildly. Firing straight into a canister of hydrogen.
The tank exploded.
Barbara wove through the lab workers racing out of the cargo ship. Some were alone, others carried their friends, the wounded, the dying. She prayed things didn't get worse.
A large explosion ripped through the night air. A concussion wave rippled outward from the ship. The workers toppled over, taking Barbara with them.
"No," Barbara groaned. "Helena."
Black smoke billowed outwards from the entrance. Barbara clambered to her feet. Charged towards the ship. She wove her way into the cargo hold. Acrid smoke floated towards the ceiling. The air filled with the sound of gunfire. Even now, with the ship on fire, the gun fight continued.
Helena groaned. Her entire body seemed to hurt. Shoulder. Thigh. Eyes. Lungs. Hands clawing at the cement, she crawled deeper behind the crates. Could hear yelling from the men, the fire of gun shots. Reese's voice. Wondered how any of them could see through the black smoke filling the hold.
A scream cut through the chaos. More gun fire. Faster now, more chaotic. The sounds of fists connecting with flesh. Metal connecting with metal.
"Huntress, where are you?" Barbara's voice filled her ear.
"Where are you?" Her voice was higher, almost panicked. Boot heels on cement approached from her rear. Helena tensed, rolled onto her side. Fought against the pools of black forming at the edge of her vision. She wondered if she was dying. That could be the only explanation for the vision before her. The black clad figure knelt beside her, Barbara's voice filling her ears.
"Hold on, Helena."
Barbara cradled Helena in her arms. Drew on every last ounce of strength she had as she made her way towards the exit.
The gun fire stopped. Reese pulled his t-shirt over his mouth. Blinked back the tears forming in his eyes from the smoke. He thought he saw the outline of a shadow heading towards the exit. Instinct screamed at him to follow.
He stumbled out into the night. Blinked at the red and blue lights flickering into his vision. The sight of police, lots of police, swarming the docks. Their collective gaze focused on him.
Barbara gently laid Helena in the sidecar. Heart squeezing as the brunette's head lolled to the side, followed by a low moan. Her face incredibly pale. Barbara jumped onto the bike, gunning it to life.
"Alfred? Dinah? Are you there?"
"Yes, Oracle," Alfred spoke in her ear.
"Call Dr. Reynolds. Tell her to meet us at the Manor."
"Yeah," Barbara glanced down at Helena. "Helena's been hurt bad, and the Clock Tower's not equipped for these types of injuries."
Dinah stood on the sidelines watching the chaos unfold. The Manor had it's own medical room, a type of triage center they called it. Dr. Reynolds had brought an assistant, some guy named Fred. The two worked like a well oiled machine, with Alfred, Mr. Gordon and Barbara playing assistants.
She'd had to put her hand over her mouth when she saw Barbara carrying Helena in her arms. Blood dripped from Helena's leg. More pooled down her arm. And she looked so pale. Like the life itself was draining from her. Now, she lay on the table attached to machines, tubes from IV drips and blood connected to her arms. She'd already seen her friend die once. She wasn't sure if she could do it again. More than that, she wasn't sure if Barbara could live through it again.
"Stand back," Dr. Reynolds barked at the redhead. Barbara didn't move. "You heard me, stand back."
Alfred placed his hands on Barbara's shoulders, gently eased her away from the medical gurney. "Let them work."
Barbara, her eyes never leaving Helena, made her way next to Dinah. She'd removed her mask, but her eyes remained an impenetrable mask.
"What happened?" Dinah asked.
Barbara folded her arms across her chest, brought a hand to her chin. "I don't know. When I got there she was already unconscious."
Dinah placed a hand on Barbara's shoulder. "Helena's strong, remember? She's going to be fine."
"Is she?" Barbara turned to Dinah. She saw the bandage wrapped around Dinah's bicep, the bruises across her face. Her jaw clenched in anger. "They tried to kill her. They tried to kill my family."
Dinah pulled her hand away. Struck by the intensity of rage emanating from the woman. Barbara's eyes darkened. She turned on her heel, began walking out of the room, Dinah on her heels.
"Stay here," Barbara warned.
"Where are you going?"
Barbara grabbed her mask sitting on a table. She slid into onto her head, turned to Dinah one last time.
"I'm going to end this. For good."
A torrent of water, unleashed from the sky, pounded the city below. The air crackled with lightening. The scent of ozone hovered in the air. Barbara let the water wash over her. Eyes steady forward. Ignored the dull throbbing from bruised knuckles. The warm, rubbery feeling of legs once dormant brought to life and screaming for rest. The ache in her back. Ignored the warning signals in her brain. Focused her energies on one thing, one man. She would find him. Even if it killed her.
She'd spent the night turning New Gotham upside down. Found every rat hole. Every nook and cranny. The screams still echoed in her ears. Yellow gloves splotched with crimson from broken bones and other fleshy bits pounded between her grasp. It didn't matter. None of it mattered. She'd come back to the night. Danced on the razor thin edge where justice and insanity danced. A war she didn't want. A fight she
never asked for. But, she would finish it.
The alleyway was dark. A long stretch of tall, red bricked buildings. Shadows accentuated by the long streaks of water blurring the scenery. A red neon sign flickered on and off sporadically, painted the shadows blood red.
"Shit!" The doors to the alley burst open. A distraught Frankie stomped out into the night. He was flanked by two thugs. Two large, pitbull shaped men hired as much for their skill as their looks.
Barbara felt her jaw clench. The anger swelled within her. Until she saw rage. Until she saw red. Legs striding beneath her, she fired her body towards the men. Hand on her bata-rang, she flung it at a guard, catching him across the skull. His body snapped backwards by the impact. The second guard raised his gun. Barbara stepped inside his line of fire, grabbed the top of his wrist. Spun backwards, into him, smashing her elbow into his nose. His body buckled from the impact.
Frankie, realizing he was under attack, made a run for the limo. Barbara reached for the trigger and fired. Frankie howled. Hands reaching for the knee that was no longer there. He jerked towards the limo, grasped at the door handle, yanking the door open.
Barbara pounced on the man. Grabbing him by the shoulders, she flopped Frankie onto his back. Backhanded him across the jaw. "Where's Hawke?"
She grabbed Frankie's arm, slid it between the door and the car with vicious ferocity slammed the door shut. Another howl of pain erupted from the man's throat.
"Abashed the devil stood, and felt how awful goodness can be," she leaned closer. Green eyes blazed hot. Her fingers wrapped around the break in his arm. "Do you want to feel how awful goodness can be?"
Then, she squeezed her hand. Felt the bone crushing against each other. The pain was excruciating. The kind of pain that lit every nerve ending on fire. Frankie whimpered through clenched teeth. Stared up into green eyes. The kind of eyes nightmares are made of.
The underworld had its rules. Rules about honor, loyalty, silence. Frankie had rules too, and they were all based on one simple philosophy stay alive, no matter what. He gritted his teeth. "Safe house. 137 Ocean Drive."
"I mean it, Reese." The man was in his late fifties. Balding head, bowling ball of a stomach. But, when the Chief wanted to, he could be imposing, downright frightening. Like right now, his eyes blazed, stared at Reese with white hot intensity. He outstretched his hand. "Hand over your badge, and your gun."
"Come on, Chief," Reese clenched his jaw. Bit his tongue until he tasted blood. "Can't we work around this?"
"Work around? Work around!! I've got a burning drug lab, five dead perps, twelve more injured, including two cops all because YOU thought the rules didn't apply. And you wanna work something out? Hand over your fucking badge!!"
Begrudgingly, Reese handed over his badge. He walked out of the Chief's office. Felt the stares as a hush went over the crowd. He'd always been persona non grata. That guy. The weird one. But, he'd always had his pride, and his job. Now, he had neither.
He walked out of the precinct. Reese inhaled deeply. A sense of loss washed over him. He had no where to go. Sure, the thoughts of booze, maybe sex filled his mind. But where after that? He reached into his
pocket, dialed his phone.
"Yeah?" Hawke answered on the other end.
"Can I come home?"
"You know you don't have to ask."
Barbara stood at the edge of the property, immersed in the shadows. She'd spent half the night searching for this place, searching for Him. Hawke had gotten cocky. The mansion overlooked the East Bay. She could see armed guards walking the perimeter.
He stood in a window, staring out into the night. The ember from a cigar illuminated his face. Him. Her hands balled into fists. All doubt, all fear erased by her rage. She charged silently across the lawn, towards the first guard in sight. Fists connected to jaw. One by one, they fell. One by one, Barbara was closer.
"You son of a bitch," Barbara stood in the doorway. Hawke turned to look at the woman, any surprise hidden behind his own mask.
"And you are?"
"Did you think you could get away with it?" She stepped deeper into the room. "Get away with hurting my family."
Hawke sneered, "I've hurt a lot of families. Could you be a little more specific?"
"Not too happy about the little bun in the oven. Too bad."
"But you couldn't stop there, could you. You had to try and kill them."
Hawke stiffened at the accusation. Mouth clamped shut to keep his jaw from dropping open. A double edged sword where the truth wasn't acceptable, and a lie would probably get him killed. Not that either one was an option. Blood was in the air. His. A fait accompli he'd accepted along time ago. It just couldn't be today. He was so close to getting everything he wanted. His empire. His son. Everything. All that stood between him and his goals, a woman in a cape and mask.
"What are you going to do?" He edged closer to his desk. Towards the gun hidden under a stack of papers.
"The right thing. Put you back where you belong." Her entire body throbbed. A deep seeded ache, started from her back, cascading outwards. Body on the edge of collapse.
"And if I say `no'?"
"No's not an option." Quickly, she glanced down. Saw the edge of a barrel in the soft light. "Don't do it, Hawke."
"I've always known how this story would end. Do you?" He reached for the gun. Fingers tight around the grip, yanked his arm up, pointed towards Barbara and fired.
Her reaction was quick. Years in a wheelchair had yet to temper her mind, it was sharp as ever. But, her body, that was another thing. Dormant muscles recently brought to life, taken to the edge. She was still fast. Just not as fast as she used to be.
White hot pain streaked across her bicep. Barbara lunged to her left. Hand on her bata-rang, she flung the metal disc towards Hawke. It zipped through the air. Towards Hawke's gun. A calculated move. One she'd done hundreds of times. Back when she was whole, when she was young.
Her eyes went wide. That's all it took. A twitch of a muscle, a nanosecond off her mark. The disc flew past Hawke's gun, past his arm. The sound of muscle, bone, flesh splicing open filled the air. The bata-rang embedded in his chest.
Not yet. Not like this. Hawke swayed on his feet. Stared down at the piece of metal sticking out of his chest. His knees went out first, body slumping to the ground. He dropped his gun, hands working on their own gripped the metal, pulling it from his chest.
Barbara groaned. "Oh God, no."
Panic flooded her system. Heart hammering wildly. She could hear voices in the distance. The unconscious coming to life. She crawled across the floor, towards Hawke. He lay sprawled on the floor. Chest gasping for air in deep wet sucking breaths.
Not like this.
The urge to run was overwhelming. More than the guilt. Or the pain. Barbara staggered to her legs. Tucked the bloody bata-rang back into her belt.
He knew the house had been sold. Years ago, after he'd left his father, before Hawke had gone underground. He should have known it had remained in Hawke's possession. Reese had grown up in this house. Knew it like the back of his hand. He often liked to think this place was bad, one of evil and dark memories. Truth was, his childhood was a happy one. When his parents loved each other and doted over him.
Now, he was back. Tail tucked between his legs, returning to the only life where the world seemed to make sense. Strangely comforted by the sense of home.
He raised his hand to knock. The slightest brush from his fingers and the door swung open ominously. On instinct, Reese reached for his gun. Hands grasped at the empty place on his side, his gun, his life still sitting on the Chief's desk.
Reese edged the door open. A guard lay motionless on the floor. Reese ran towards the man. Grabbed him by the lapels, jerking him upright.
"Hey!" He shook the man. Watched as glazed eyes flitted open. "Hey! What happened?"
The man licked his lips. "Ambush."
"Where's Hawke? Where's my father?"
"Study.. south end."
Reese tried to stifle the groan escaping from his lips. Or the dread twisting his stomach into knots. He released his grip. Sprinted towards the south side of the house. He passed more guards, either slumped on the ground unconscious or slowly rising to their feet. Didn't bother to wonder why they weren't dead, if it was an ambush. Just wanted to find his father.
The door to the study was already open. Reese threw caution to the wind. Charged into the room.
"DAD!!" He ran towards Hawke. Dropped to his knees, hands cradling his father in his arms. The wound was deep. Fatal. "Somebody help!"
Hawke reached up, his hand weakly holding onto Reese's lapel. "Jesse."
"Hold on, Dad. You're gonna be okay." He wanted to be strong. To fight the tears stinging his eyes, or the soft whimpers in his throat. He'd seen enough to know when death was imminent. "Who did this to you?"
Hawke could feel his life fading from him. Wanted to say the words that would comfort his son. Just couldn't process what he'd seen. What he knew into a language Reese would understand. Just one word. He inhaled, fought the urge to cough from blood filling his lungs. Just one word.
"Dad, who did this to you?"
Something Reese would understand. Something he could comprehend. Just one word.
Barbara collapsed onto the floor. Her body, pushed to its limit, revolted against her. Jerked and spasmed. The pain was intense. Every nerve ending, every cell in her body on fire. She reached for the prototype, yanked it off her body, throwing it across the room.
She felt stupid and angry and guilty. Hawke's death replayed on a synaptic loop in her mind. It wasn't supposed to be like this. She wrapped her arms around herself. Stilled the shudders.
Now, if only she could stop the pain.
THREE DAYS LATER
Pain. Or at least the awareness of it. Helena shifted lightly. The bed felt strange. She opened her eyes slightly, gained her bearings. She was in the Manor. The fucking Manor. The room was big. Huge actually, the size of her apartment. Long velvet curtains pulled tight over the windows, only letting a sliver of light into the room.
A small beeping sound caught her attention. She tilted her head to the side, noticed an array of machines and IV stands next to the bed. Streams of wires and tubes snaked towards the bed, towards her. Could feel the small circular pads stuck to her chest. The scent of wounded flesh that hovered over her body. Her body.
Her hand shot to her stomach. "My baby."
"The baby's fine," she turned her head towards the sound of a man's voice, deep and booming. Jim Gordon sat in a chair across from the bed. "Doctor Reynold's says the baby's like you, strong as a horse."
"Why am I in the Manor?"
"Bar.." he grimaced slightly. "Barbara thought it would be best. The Clock Tower had been compromised."
Helena squinted her eyes. Let them cut through the dark shadows the man hid in. "Where is she?"
"You were shot Helena. You lost a lot of blood and.."
"Don't placate me, Mr. Gordon and don't change the subject. Where's Barbara?"
He leaned forward. A sliver of light illuminated strands of gray. "She's gone. Left the night you were shot. Hasn't been back since."
Her heart began to pound. A wild fluttering motion accented by the machines beeping wildly. Her eyes began to flit about, air sucked into her lungs. Deep spasming breaths. The weight of Jim's words crushing down on her. Not now. Not like this. "She's not gone."
"Helena," Jim rose from his seat, moved towards the bed. "Calm down."
"No," she inhaled again. This time deeper, letting the scent linger. It was there, faint. Unmistakable. Maybe it was her imagination, but right now, the faint lingering scent was all she had. The words choked out of her mouth. "She's not gone."
She jerked upright into a seated position. Winced again at the flare of pain erupting across her body. Her hands immediately began yanking at the various tubes extruding from her body. The machine monitoring her heart let out a loud squealing sound, the connection gone.
Jim placed his hands onto Helena's wrists. Anything to still her motions. He could see a small dot of red spreading quickly on her shoulder, she'd ripped open her stitches. "Stop it, Helena!"
"No," she shoved him with the last of her strength. Seeds of panic, desperation taking root, growing like an infestation. "I need Barbara."
Jim gained his footing. Helena was strong, he always knew that. But, not in this condition. He scooted onto the bed. Grasped Helena's wrists, this time harder. The two fought for control. Helena twisting and writhing her arms, screaming into his face.
"Dr. Reynolds!" Jim shouted at the closed door. "HELP!!"
The door burst open. Dinah was the first to enter the room. Her eyes wide as saucers. She charged towards the bed, helped pin Helena, hands placed firmly on the brunette's shoulders. She fought the surge of pain electrifying her system, ignored Helena's pain, all of it, especially the pain from within.
The woman bucked under their combined weight. Screamed as Dr. Reynolds entered the room. Saw the syringe pulled from a black medical bag. Helena whimpered. Eyes flitted from person to person, pleading. "She's not gone. I can find her." A pin prick of pain. "Please, let me find her."
The sedative was quick. Dinah and Jim continued to pin Helena to the bed. The woman languidly struggling as the drug took hold. Secure that she was unconscious, Dinah and Jim released their grips. Dinah stared down at her friend, brushed the hair from her forehead. "Barbara, where are you?"
Philip Glass pulled off his fedora. Wiped his sweat soaked brow with a handkerchief. Something was wrong. He'd felt it the moment he dialed Hawke's number. Now, standing between two beefy guards, Tony and the
adequately named Dog, marching him down the hallway, he felt like a lamb being led from the stockyard to the slaughter house.
His stomach reeled as the guard opened the door. Blood. It was faded, but there nonetheless. A scent that always sent his olfactory senses into overdrive and his stomach to lurch.
A large blackened pool lie in the middle of the rug. Philip stopped dead in his tracks, bumping into Dog. "Jesus, what happened here?"
"What can I do for you?" He didn't recognize the voice. Or the man standing in the window, back facing him.
"You're looking at him," Reese turned towards the man, a half smile on his lips. "What do you want?"
Philip sighed. Ran his arm over his forehead, a handkerchief just wouldn't do right now. He reached into his jacket, pulled a manila envelope, overstuffed with papers, from his jacket pocket. "Hawke wanted me to find someone. I did."
Tony took the envelope from Philip's hand. Passed it over to Reese. Philip swallowed hard, wondering what kinda gangster he was dealing with. Reese opened the envelope. Stared at the contents.
"How much did Hawke say he'd pay you for your services?"
"A hundred grand."
Philip couldn't contain the relief sighed across his lips. Wasn't sure whether to piss his pants, or leap for joy. Dealing with gangsters was always a tricky business. Tony walked over to a wall safe. Pulled a stack of bills from inside the compartment.
"Mr. Glass? I know you're used to things being run a certain way. I'd like to change that. I hope, in the future, if I need your services I can count on you."
"Is that a question or a statement?"
"That's up to you."
"Well then," Philip tipped his hat. "It'll be a pleasure doing business with you."
Reese sat down at the large desk, staring at the pages in his hand. He grabbed the phone. "Yeah, I need a plane asap. To where?" He plucked one of the photos from the stack. The photo was of a woman, blonde. A post-it note attached to the picture. The words `Carolyn Lance' scrawled across it.
"I'm going to Alaska," Reese laid down the picture and smiled. "Meeting a friend of the family."
There was a time when she hated the quiet, and the dark. Now the two were steady friends. She was a Shadow Person now. One who lived in the dark, the night.
Dinah shifted her legs slightly. When they'd first arrived at the Manor, after she'd explored every nook and cranny that hadn't been blocked by some unknown code, Dinah went to the roof. Before, it was a place of solitude, where she could spend time alone with her thoughts. But, as she became accustomed to her new hiding place, and her role changed from ward to Protector, the roof had become her perch. A place where she could see all, hear all. If someone dared coming after then again, here, she would be the first to know. The first to attack.
Slightly startled by the vibrating on her side, Dinah reached into her pocket, pulling out her cell phone. "Hello?"
There was a pause on the other end. "Hey Dinah."
"You haven't been at school in like a week. I just.."
"A lot of stuff's been going on."
"Yeah, I figured." Another long pause. She'd forgotten how much she missed her voice. "Are we still friends?"
Dinah gasped slightly. "Of course we are. How could you think.."
"After everything that.. happened. And what I saw. Dinah you.."
"Gaby," Dinah cut her off. "I don't know if I can ever tell you everything about me. Or if I should. But, I care about you. You mean something to me. Isn't that enough. I mean, at least for now?"
"Yeah. I guess so," Gaby sighed softly. Ran a nervous hand through her hair. Dinah caught the soft giggle on the other end.
"Nothing. Who knew you were so mysterious. I think it's kinda sexy."
"Yeah, well, I think you're kinda sexy too," she could feel Gaby smiling on the other. Just imagining seeing her friend smile caused Dinah to do the same. She leaned back, lying down on the rooftop. A hand snaked behind her head for a pillow. She stared up at the sky. Things might not ever be the same. All things considered, she wasn't sure if she wanted them back as they were. Out of all the great changes that had happened in her life, it had never occurred to her that the greatest one would be her. Lying on her back staring at the stars, listening to her best friend, Dinah decided maybe it all wasn't so bad.
The machines were gone. Along with the IV drips, yards of tubing attached to her body. The pain in her body had reduced to a dull ache. Helena ran a weary hand over her face. Memories rushed into her consciousness. Thoughts of before, of how she came to this place. Her heart began to race. Companion to the dull aching need. Groaning softly, she slid her legs over the edge of the bed. Limped towards the stack of fresh clothes folded expertly on a chair.
Helena quietly entered the hallway. It had been years since she'd been in the Manor. It was just like she remembered it. Larger than life. Commanding. Hollow. Just like her father.
She inhaled again, deeper this time. Could smell Barbara underneath it all. Jaw clenched in determination, Helena made a decision. She would find Barbara, if it took everything she had.
"Miss Helena." She could hear Alfred gasp behind her. "What on earth are you doing out of bed?"
"Don't try to stop me, Alfred."
"I don't think I could if I wanted to," he reached into his pocket pulling out a set of keys. He outstretched his hand.
"There's a car waiting outside for you. I figured in your.. condition, perhaps driving would be the better alternative."
Helena cocked a half-smile, took the keys from the man. "Thanks Alfred."
"Miss Helena." She turned to stare at him once more.
Walking slowly into the darkened room, a shiver ran down Helena's spine. She was used to the Clock Tower being empty, or quiet. She wasn't used to the lifelessness. It wasn't some old abandoned building. The paint wasn't cracked and dirty or covered in dust or cobwebs. The air still smelled of Alfred's food, or Dinah's newest perfume. But, it was all latent, there wasn't the freshness of life she'd become accustomed to. In a word, the Clock Tower was dead.
She padded tentatively into the room, as if afraid of disturbing some great spirit, or demon. The soft hum of the Delphi gave her some hope. Along with Barbara's scent. It was there underneath it all. There, but faint, and fading fast. Barbara's wheelchair, now empty, sat before the long desk. Helena slumped into the chair, body already weary and sore. She heeled fast, but even bullet wounds needed their time.
It felt weird, sitting in Barbara's wheelchair. After all these years, Helena had never actually sat in the chair. Never without Barbara in it. The act a veil lifting off her eyes. Even now, with her legs functioning, she could feel the slight oppression of it all. A sort of claustrophobia. Squeezing around her. Choking her. Her leg began to bounce animatedly, a reminder that she could leave at any time. That her legs were still working.
A swipe of the mouse and the computer screens flickered to life. A deep inhale of courage and Helena leaned forward. Brought her mouth close to the microphone.
"I know you're listening. You're always listening," she smiled softly, ran a shaky hand through her hair. "It's weird isn't it? Me in here, you out there. Listening."
Weary, exhausted, Helena wrapped her arms around herself, trying to hold back the emotions wound tight inside threatening to bubble over. Tried to hold back the loneliness. Blinked away the salt stinging her
eyes. "Please don't leave me, Barbara. Don't.. be like him. Don't let our child grow up resenting you." She snuffled slightly. "Tell me you don't love me, tell me you don't need me. Anything. Just.."
She paused. Wiped her face. Stared at her tear stained palm, amazed at how freely they flowed when it came to the thought of losing her. "You once begged me to never leave you. Told me you couldn't do this without me. What makes you think I can do this without you? I need you, Barbara. You're my touchstone. My heart. My soul. The only thing in this fucked up world, in my life, that makes any fucking sense. I just thought maybe if I did this super hero thing, I could, I don't know, make some sense of it all. Of him, of Mom, of you. But, I keep screwing it up, and I don't want to be alone. But, everyone I love leaves me. Please.. don't leave me."
It all came crashing down, the veil of control wrapped around her emotions. Along with the interminable weight crushing down onto her shoulders. It had all become too much. Helena bowed her head, unable to stop the tears or the sobs wracking her body.
"Please," a voice softly filled Helena's ears. "Don't cry. I hate it when you cry."
Her heart began to throb wildly in her chest. The air thick with apprehension. She snuffled slightly, not quite ready to believe her ears, afraid she might sever the only tether tying the two together. "Yeah, I hate it when I cry too. Ruin's the mascara."
"It's not the mascara that makes you beautiful."
Another long pause where nothing but silence and the wind echoed through the speakers. Helena dared a look out the window, wondering where Barbara might be. Tried to will herself into the woman's head.
"Tell me why."
"I want you to be happy," Barbara answered.
"And you think I can be happy without you?"
"No, I think you'd be better off without me."
"Without you?" Helena grit her teeth. "God, you stubborn, thick headed bitch! Dammit, why are you so willing to be just like him?"
"I'm not like Bruce."
"Then why are you willing to repeat his mistakes? Do you think I didn't know? Despite how kind and caring she broke the news, I didn't know they were lies. That I had a father who would rather be out there somewhere than with me? Is that what you want, Barbara? And what about me? What about my choice? Don't I get a say in my own life, in our child's life? God, you're just like everyone else. You're just like Hawke!"
"Hawke's dead." A heavy silence followed. "I killed him."
Helena softened. "Did you mean to?"
"Does it matter?"
"Is that what this is about? You broke the rules so we all have to suffer?"
"Don't Helena me. After all this time, this is what it boils down to," she clenched hard, Tasted blood in her mouth. "You used me. Lied to me. About everything. You'll fuck me, talk sweetly in my ear. But you don't trust me. You don't love me. You never loved me."
"Don't EVER say that!" The words rumbled through Helena's body. Realized the words hadn't come from the speakers, but from behind her. She turned in her chair, towards the presence she could feel behind her.
Barbara stood in the balcony entrance, etched in shadow. Cape draped around her body, subdued shades of red falling about her shoulders. Helena rose from her seat, didn't think her heart could beat any faster than it already was.
"Don't ever think I don't love you," Barbara slightly growled.
"Why not? It doesn't change anything, right? You're still leaving me. I mean, look at you. All proud and standing tall, wearing something that will probably kill. But, oh, that's okay `cuz you did it all for
"You don't know the sacrifices I have made."
"I DO know," Helena stomped towards the woman. Finger jabbing towards her. "I've been by your side for seven fucking years, Barbara. Don't think I don't know you. Everything has to have order, compartmentalized and organized. And if A happens, then B must follow and fit in slot C. And hey, if Batman finds out he has a kid and skips town, so should I."
"This has nothing to do with Bruce."
"This has EVERYTHING to do with Bruce. Look at you. All Batgirl'ed up. Thinking, if only I had my legs then I can be Batgirl again and everything will be as it should. Let me ask you this? Do you think he's happy? Out there somewhere thinking `man, leaving my kid was the best thing ever?'," Helena threw her hands up. "Fuck it. You know what? You want me out of your life, fine. I'm tired of this. Congratulations, Barbara, you win."
Helena turned on her heel. Barbara moved forward. Helena never realized just how fast the redhead could move, had never been in a position to see her move. A hand clamped on her elbow, held her tight, spinning her around.
"No," Barbara's eyes blazed hot. "It's my turn now. You think this is what I wanted? You think I never loved you, was just using you? Yes, I lied, about a lot of things. But, I've died for you, Helena. I've killed for you. Made tiny concessions, little compromises chipping away at my morals. Anything to keep you near, keep you safe. But, how long until the compromises aren't small anymore? How long until what I do to love you isn't about them, but about us, until the one I'm hurting is you?"
"Barbara, you're already hurting me." She could see the woman flinch at the accusation. "You're not Bruce. And I'm not my mother. I can't throw it all away and start over. Not without you. Not alone." Slowly, Helena reached up until her hands touched the Barbara's mask. She could feel the trepidation radiating off the other woman. Pulling the mask off, Helena cupped Barbara's face until their eyes connected. "I just ask for one more concession, one more compromise. Instead of living by their rules, can't you, just this one time make your own? Aren't we worth it?"
"I," Barbara darted her eyes away. "I just wanted to be the person you need."
"Barbara, you already are."
"Stop it!" Helena pulled Barbara's face towards her. Until they again were eye to eye. "Stop trying to THINK your way out of this. What do you want, Barbara? Not society, not Bruce, not anyone. You!"
All Barbara could think was how tired she was. How she just wanted to rest. But, Helena was right. She couldn't stop thinking. The big brain that had accomplished so much became a vice around her heart, thinking her way out of any emotional entanglement. Even now, she could feel a part of her trying to think out a solution. A way to make slot A fit into slot B, make it all work out, logically. She didn't want to live by her brain anymore. Wanted to feel. She had never been one for throwing caution to the wind and following her heart instead of her head. Maybe, it was time.
She snaked her hand up, thread it into Helena's hair, pulled the woman towards her. Until their lips connected and the world melted away. No thought, no compromise. She'd often been lead by her desires, but never allowed her desires to think for her. To make the final decision, one that wasn't clouded with cognitive thought. The kiss wasn't soft, or gentle but a demanding, heated reconnection between the two.
"I want you," Barbara's voice whispered in quiet desperation. "I need you."
"Tell me you love me," Helena panted softly onto her lips.
"I love you."
They pulled into each other again. The heat electrified Helena, until hidden resolves of energy pumped adrenaline into her body. She wrapped her arms around Barbara's shoulders, fingers weaving into red hair. Anything to pull the woman closer. Felt strong hands caressing the terrain of her back. Fingers pulling at the hem of her shirt.
Lungs screaming for oxygen won the round, pulling them apart. Barbara licked her kiss swollen lips. Purred at the salty taste on her tongue. Her lips curled into a devilish smile. "You know how long I've wanted to do this?"
Helena stared at her curiously. In a flash, Barbara bent over slightly. An arm snaked under Helena's knees and she was lifted into Barbara's arms. Lips connected again as she carried Helena into their bedroom.
Passion erupted in a flurry of motion. Arms eagerly groping, pulling, yanking on clothing. Helena was astounded at the softness of Barbara's suit. Always assumed it would be heavy based on its appearance. But the material was feather light, she delighted in the texture of it. More in peeling Barbara out of it.
"Tell me you need."
"I need you," Barbara growled.
Maybe it should have been slow, gentle. God knows, Helena wanted to take her time. Explore every inch of Barbara's flesh. But the need between them destroyed all thoughts of slow and gentle. Strong hands pinned her wrists to the bed. Helena arched into Barbara. Into the teeth nibbling on her neck. The smooth firm body already covered in sweat gliding over her own. The tease of erect nipples. Slid her thigh between the once dormant legs, purred at the heat, the wetness slicking her skin.
Fingers wove into each other until their hands were clasped together. They worked together, a mass of flesh conjoined in friction and a rising rhythm. Voices, speaking a tongue only lovers know, cried out into the night. No thought. No niggling doubts of conscious. They were together. They were one. Finally, and hopefully, forever.
It felt good. Enveloped in warmth, comfort, safety. Sure, Helena felt like Hell. Her body still ached dully. But, it had been worth it. Anything to feel Barbara in her arms again. To know she was staying for good, no more running, no more hiding. From the world, or each other.
Barbara's voice carried into her ear, low and soothing. "Untroubled, scornful, outrageous that is how wisdom wants us to be: she is a woman and she never loves anyone but a warrior." Helena lifted her head. Saw a sea of red just below her breasts. Barbara's head lay on Helena's stomach, face turned towards her stomach. In her right hand, she held a book between her fingers, reading the text softly aloud. "You tell me: `Life is hard to bear.' But if it were otherwise why should you have your pride in the morning and your resignation in the evening?"
"What are you doing?" Helena giggled quietly. Barbara lifted her head, turned her face towards the brunette.
"Reading to our baby," she smiled softly. "Studies show reading to a child in the womb increases its intelligence."
"Uh-huh, great, just what I need? A girlfriend AND a child smarter than me. Could ya at least choose something a little less nihilistic? No one likes Nietzsche in the morning."
Barbara squinted curiously. The book was old, used. A small paperback she'd bought years ago. The cover, wilted and worn, had disappeared soon after. "Why do you do that?" She paused off Helena's raised eyebrow. "Pretend you're not as smart as you really are?"
"I don't know," Helena shrugged. "People don't expect as much from you when they underestimate you." A coy smile stretched across her face. "I like being full of surprises."
"That you are," Barbara kissed a patch of skin between Helena's breasts. Received a throaty moan for her efforts.
"Besides, who wants to wake up to Neitzsche? Not exactly a precursor to `good morning sex'. Jackie Collins maybe? Oooh, the Karma Sutra?" Helena rolled the two over, until she had Barbara pinned beneath her. She began on an earlobe, teasing the flesh between her teeth.
"It's not that bad," Barbara breathed.
"Uh-huh," she kissed her way across the offered neck. "God is dead.Man's motivation is desire and power. Not exactly sweet nothings."
"But, you forget, there's hope. The world may be a dark, dangerous place, and man is full of his vices. Yet, within each of us, we carry the power to change the world."
"No, not each of us, a select few. The self-proclaimed SuperMan."
"God, I love it when you talk dirty."
"Aw baby, that's just what we call pillow talk. Now, shut up and gimme some sugar!"
Helena hungrily pressed her mouth to Barbara's. Purred and danced her tongue across soft lips. Only when her lungs screamed for air did she break the kiss. Raised onto her hands, staring down at Barbara. Her eyes turned serious, studied the redhead's face, searching for a sign.
"You're really staying aren't you?" She half-smiled with a bemused expression.
Barbara stared up into Helena's eyes. Caught off guard by the sudden and serious turn of conversation. But, that was Helena. Reaching up, she brushed strand from Helena's forehead. "Yeah, I'm staying."
"Terrified," she admitted. "There's nothing in the User's Guide to Vigilantism about raising a child."
"Just promise me one thing?" Helena arched a playful eyebrow. "No minivan."
"We have two Hummers. I think a minivan would be downsizing."
Helena giggled. Slid to the side of Barbara's body, propped her head onto a hand, the other lazily drifting across Barbara's chest. Her eyes followed her hand, moved towards the smooth plain of stomach. Noticed the missing prototype. "Why'd you take it off?"
"It's not a miracle cure. It's better than it was before, but it needs some work."
"I think I understand now. I won't ask you to stop. I just.. want you to be safe."
Helena moved her fingers to the etched patch of skin on Barbara's stomach. Felt and heard the slight hitch of breath at the contact. Strong fingers wove into her hair. She continued to dance her fingers across the puckered flesh. Watched as Barbara's skin began to flush.
"You're the only one who.. touches me."
She smiled at the admission. Dipped her head down. Traced the wound with her tongue. Softly, gently, she began suckling the patch of skin. Felt the hand in her hair gripping tighter, to where fingernails scraped across skin. Excited sighs exhaled on jagged breaths.
There would be time for conversation. There would be time to face the world. It would just have to be later.
Dinah could smell Alfred's latest all the way on the south end. She hustled towards the Dining Room. Ignored the growling sounds erupting from her stomach. That's not what caught her attention. It was the
voices. The throaty sound of laughter, Helena's laughter, carried into her ears. She couldn't help the smile pulling at the corner of her mouth, or her legs from stomping loudly as she ran through the Manor.
She skidded to a stop. Barbara sat just off from the dining room, facing a window. Dinah padded tentatively towards the woman. She didn't want to be angry. She was happy to see her. Felt her heart squeeze at the sound of the woman's voice. But, it didn't stop the seeds of anger tickling the back of her neck. "You back?"
Dinah folded her arms across her chest. "For good?"
"For good. Dinah.."
"You gonna yell at me now?"
"Dinah," Barbara reached out, placed her hand on Dinah's forearm. "Jim told me what you did. How you watched over Helena. You don't know how much that means to me."
"It was nothing," Dinah blushed slightly, embarrassed at how much the compliments coming from Barbara meant to her. "It's not like anyone tried anything."
"That's not the point and you know it," Barbara smiled softly. "Sometimes it's hard to see how much a person has changed. Especially when it happens right before your eyes. You've grown, Dinah, you've changed. Your mother would be proud. And so am I."
"Okay, if you're trying to make me cry, you're doing a really good job."
Barbara reached into her jacket, pulled out a manila envelope. She handed it to Dinah.
"Carolyn," Barbara inhaled deeply. "She told me if anything ever happened to her, she wanted me to give this to you. I was supposed to wait until you were eighteen. But, I think you've earned the right to know now."
She patted Dinah on the arm and moved towards the Dining Room.
She watched the woman disappear around the corner before returning her eyes to the envelope. Her hands began to sweat, heart thudding strongly in her chest. A thousand questions sprang in her mind. None would answer until after she opened the envelope.
Her fingers deftly opened the clasp, flipping open the flap. It was filled with papers, nothing she could read in the subdued light of the hallway. There was a photo amongst all the paper work. Her eyes went wide as saucers as she examined the photo.
It was of her mother and a man she didn't recognize, green eyes, wheat blond hair, a goatee'd chin. They were posing in front of a tall structure. The Space Needle if she recalled correctly. Dinah had seen dozens of pictures of her mother, none where she looked as happy as in this one. She flipped it over, dated almost seventeen years ago with the words `Me and Ollie' scrawled on the back.
She pulled out another piece of paper. Her birth certificate. She'd searched long and hard for this particular piece of documentation. Stared at the small rectangular box titled `father's name'. Had always expected the space to be empty. Dreams where she'd searched only the words were in some foreign text her mind couldn't comprehend. Yet, here it was. Right before her eyes in black and white.
"Oh my God." Her hands began to shake, eyes darting from the photo to the birth certificate. She slumped back to the wall. Feeling all the world like a large chunk of her soul, one she never realized was missing, had been filled. Of all the losses she'd suffered she'd never given pause to this part of her life. A world of `almost was' switching on a dime to one that could be.
ONE MONTH LATER
Voices, loud and booming echoed off the walls. The men screamed, yelled, barked at each other. Wild dogs fighting over nothing and everything. Frankie sat in his chair, fingers massaging away at his temples. He pulled a pill bottle from his pocket. He'd been properly medicated since `that night'. Didn't stop the pain from coming back. His arm had healed, for the most part, but he'd spend the rest of his life walking with a cane. The kind of damage where even the slightest change in weather caused his leg to throb.
It hadn't been as bad as he imagined. No, things were much worse. The Fantasy supply house had gone up in smoke, along with all his money. No one knew where the cook was. And Hawke, well, he'd assumed they'd all fall in line once Frankie took over. He'd assumed wrong. He'd stabbed his mentor in the back, literally, only to find sharpened knives now aiming at his. Those loyal to Hawke, few as they were, disappeared with the man himself. The others, well, they'd proven a bad choice on Frankie's part. Loyalty had to be earned, and these guys weren't loyal to anyone.
"..there's no way I'm taking my eyes off you.."
"..we should burn it all.."
Frankie pounded his fist on his desk. "SHUT UP!"
"This is all your fault, Frankie!" One of them charged towards the desk, finger pointing angrily.
"Yeah, you said we'd be rich."
"Where's our money!?!"
"You ungrateful, whiny little bitches!" Frankie growled. "You think this is easy? Yeah, you're all tough when there's money involved."
"You're the one who said if we followed you instead of Hawke.."
They started again. Voices raised chaotically, shouting at each other, at him. Frankie groaned sank back into his seat. Body shifted slightly, a small rumbling motion. "You feel that?" He stared at the glass of water on the table. The water rippled across the surface. He could see the faces of the men, the realization that he wasn't the only one feeling the trembles.
"What's going on?" They all began to look around. The building began to shake. A tinny wail carried into the room, growing louder. And louder. Until it increased into an ear shattering pitch. Panic began to creep into the room. Hands over their ears, they began to jerk from their seats. Others dropped to their knees from the ear shattering wail.
The front door exploded inward. A concussion wave rumbled across the room. Tossed over tables. Men flew through the air. Crashed against the walls. The table flipped over, crashing onto Frankie.
A woman stepped through the door. Face obscured by a hood. Those who could gain their footing, pulled weapons. She turned her face towards them. Head tilted up, she directed her scream towards the roof. Within seconds, the ceiling undulated from the sonic waves. Cracked and groaned, collapsed on top of the men.
She closed her mouth. The rest of the building creaked and groaned, on the edge of collapse. Frankie gasped for breath, crawling out from under the debris.
She walked through the carnage. Stepped over bodies, the wounded, the dead. Towards Frankie. With a booted foot, she kicked Frankie onto his back. He stared up at the woman, his eyes wide in shock.
"You!" He coughed. Hands raised in submission. "What do you want?"
Carolyn Lance yanked the hood off her head. Black locks now replaced her signature blonde hair. She pulled a handgun from her pocket. Raised and pointed it at Frankie's chest.
"Wait!!" Frankie shrieked. "Can't we work something out?"
"You should have thought about that before you went after my family."
He stared at the thumb pulling back the trigger. Fought desperately to find the words that would keep Death from his door tonight. "Wha..? Wait! I didn't.."
Carolyn lowered her gun. The building groaned louder. Sparks from electrical wire caught sail on insulation. Flames licked at the sides of the walls, stretched over the floor. Carolyn pulled the hood back onto her head. Turning on her heel, she moved towards the door. She ignored the wails of the wounded, the dying.
She stepped out into the night. Continued walking as the building collapsed behind her. Exploded in a fiery ball that painted the sky in orange and red. Nothing had ever been as clear as it was at that moment. Nothing mattered except finding the ones who destroyed her family.
A boat propeller underwater. That's what it sounded like to Helena. A boat propeller underwater. Stared at the monitor trying to comprehend how all that could be coming from inside her. Wondered whether her mother felt the same way, when an abstract formed into something more, something special.
"Doctor?" Barbara sat on the other side of the gurney, hand clasped around Helena's. Her cheek rested gently against the back of Helena's knuckles. Her eyes radiated, darted from the monitor to the doctor.
The Doctor cleared his throat. His full name was Doctor Michael Davis. Not that Helena could remember it because she kept calling him Doctor Claus. Because, by all appearances, that's who he looked like - Santa Claus. More specifically Helena thought, Tim Allen playing Santa Clause. He had the full round face with an immaculately trimmed white beard, white hair combed back across his scalp. A large pot belly that jiggled whenever he laughed.
It had been at Doctor Reynold's insistence that Helena seek Davis' expertise. Reynold's hung at the back of the room, along with Alfred and Dinah on Helena's insistence. She wouldn't go to the specialist without her. Trust did not come easily to Helena, especially concerning something as important as her child.
Dr. Davis leaned back in his chair, eyes peering over his wire-rim glasses. "So far, so good. She.."
"She?" Helena raised her head.
"Yes, Miss Kyle, a perfectly healthy little girl, all 14 centimeters of her." He stared at her, realizing the gender of the child was a surprise. "I'm sorry, I didn't realize. Considering the unusual nature of your conception, I thought you knew. Genetically speaking, the only possible gender could be.."
"A girl," the words exhaled in a sobbing gasp. She'd been holding her breath and hadn't even realized it. Dr. Claus continued talking. Not that Helena heard a word he said, her eyes remained glued to the small monitor, staring at the tiny life-form inside her body. A tiny little girl. Rolling her head towards Barbara, Helena blinked away the tears in her eyes.
"We're having a little girl."
"Yeah," Barbara sniffled. "I heard." The redhead leaned up, pressing her lips against Helena's.
Dr. Davis coughed, cheeks blushing red from the amorous display on the table. Not that he hadn't seen hundreds of times before, it still made him turn several shades of red. The two broke their kiss, breaking into a fit of joyous giggles.
Dinah couldn't help but roll her eyes slightly. The two had been kissy face ever since Barbara returned. She used to be jealous, but even she, in her teenaged hormonal state, could only take so much. Alfred turned his head towards her, an exasperated tone in his voice.
"I take it you'll be studying late?"
"Yeah," she folded her arms across her chest. "What'll they call this the first post ultrasound sex?"
"Hello? Helena muttered. "Pregnancy hormones."
Dinah huffed. "Right. Hormones. Now just explain the before you were pregnant stuff."
Helena playfully stuck her tongue out. She returned her attentions to Barbara. The redhead's eyes remained glued to the monitor.
"We're gonna have a daughter," she snuffled again.
"Yeah, I know. What do we do now?"
Barbara shifted her eyes towards Helena. Her face breaking into a wide toothy smile.
A perfect day. That's how Barbara could only think of it. Clear blue sky, the air warm with a hint of spring. It was even better at the pier. The place seemed full of life, joggers, dog walkers, businessmen and students on their lunch break. The scent of food from sidewalk vendors, hot dogs, pretzels, anything and everything that could be cooked and sold on a cart. The exact opposite of the last time she'd visited the pier.
Exiting her car, Barbara was immediately flanked by two large uniformed police men. The first one took off his hat, a handsome baby face that screamed `fresh out of the Academy' stretched into a polite smile. "Miss Gordon?"
"I'm Officer Joyce, this is Officer Mills, we've been asked to escort you to the pier."
"An escort, huh. And what'd my Dad offer you for this special honor?" The two men looked at each other curiously. They both had that hero worship gleam in their eyes that Barbara had seen one too many times. Jim Gordon just had that effect on people. She raised her hand, signifying the slightly humorous tone of her question. "Where is he?"
Jim sat on a park bench staring out over the waters. Legs crossed, an arm leisurely tossed over the back of the bench. His face broke into a smile at his approaching daughter. "Barbara."
"Hi Dad," she smiled at the offered kiss on a cheek. "What's with the guards?"
"The last time we were here I pulled you from the bottom of the bay. You'll have to forgive me for not taking any chances this time."
Barbara rolled her eyes, chuckling as she did.
"Are we still on for dinner tomorrow night?"
"Of course," Barbara reached into her pocket. "I have a surprise for you. Now, close your eyes and hold out your hands."
Jim squinted suspiciously. Barbara egged him on. "C'mon now, close your eyes."
He did as instructed. Barbara pulled out an envelope from her pocket and placed it in his hands. "Okay, open'em."
He gawked curiously at the envelope in his hands, then at Barbara who continued to smile. Opening it, Jim pulled out a small 4 by 6 black and white photo. "What's this?"
"That," Barbara beamed. "Is your granddaughter."
His chest squeezed tightly. His heart a jackhammer beneath his breastbone. If he hadn't known better, Jim Gordon would have sworn he was having a heart attack. It all left him with a numb euphoric sensation. The moments in his life where he'd experienced true happiness had been few and far between, this was one of them.
"She's beautiful," managed to creep across his lips. Barbara reached up, gently wiped a tear stain from his cheek with her hand. Wondered if this is what she looked like when that moment had occurred within her. She stared at her father. Watched his features change from euphoria to a solemn expression.
"What're you thinking?"
"I was thinking about jumping for joy and then calling my best Friend," he paused, eyes still glued to the picture. "He should be here. He should be sitting here staring at a picture of his granddaughter. Our granddaughter."
"I know. Maybe, one day he will."
Jim tilted his head up, staring at his daughter. "Does this mean you're staying?"
"Why does everyone keep asking me that? Helena's the one with traveling feet syndrome."
"Helena couldn't stay away from you if she tried. She's been in love with you since before she knew what the word meant. You," he nudged her softly on the shoulder. "You get an idea in that thick skull of yours and you see it to fruition. No matter what the cost."
"Kinda like my old man."
"Yeah, I guess it runs in the genes. Sorry."
"No, it's okay. I've been thinking a lot about who I am. Who I want to be. I guess it finally occurred to me that I'm a little bit of both."
"And who are you?"
She grinned proudly at her father. "I'm a Gordon."
It felt weird. Almost scary. Everything was like she remembered. Not that it had been years since she'd last been here. Hell, it had only been a month, but it still felt like an eternity. It was all like she remembered. The same exact number of steps from the curb to the elevator, to his front door. It didn't stop the slight sheen of sweat from popping onto her brow, or her heart from steadily beating faster. Hell, maybe she should just chalk it all up to pregnancy hormones.
Helena inhaled deeply, lifted her hand, rapped her knuckles on Reese's door.
"It's open," his voice boomed from the other side. Helena tentatively opened the door, peeking her head into the apartment.
"Reese?" It was as she remembered. Except, clean, spotless. Gone was the chaotic disorder from before. The blinds were partially closed. Sunlight blasted into the room in horizontal slits.
"Yeah." He lay on a work out bench, wearing sweatpants. Chest covered in a sheen of sweat. Gone was the short cropped cut of his hair, now completely bald, with goatee to match the new look. Reese exhaled
slow, methodical breaths, as he bench pressed the heavy weights.
Helena walked over to the far side of the room, leaning against a wall, arms folded across her chest. "Like the new look."
"Thanks." Reese never slowed, continued pumping away on the bar. "I call it suspension chic."
She sighed, ran a nervous hand through her hair. "I'm sorry about your Dad."
"Yeah, well, I'm not gonna believe it until I see a body. I've beared witness to way too many of Hawke's Lazarus routines to fall for it this time."
"I guess." Pangs of guilt crept into her system. She knew it was an accident. Barbara hadn't intended to kill Hawke. Yet, she somehow felt responsible for it all. For the pain she knew went beyond the death of Reese's father. "How're you doing?"
"If I'd known how much reading I'd get done, I woulda gotten suspended years ago."
"That's not what I mean."
Reese chuckled. He placed the bar back onto the rack, raising himself to a seated position. His back towards Helena, he stared blankly out the window. "Do you ever think about what you would do if you lost
everything? I mean, about your place in the world?"
"I try not to think too much. Not a big fan of the whole fate/destiny thing."
"That's what my psychologist says. Stop thinking so much. It's part of my rehabilitation." He used finger quotes on the last word. "Anger management issues."
"Welcome to my world."
Reese rose from the work bench, draped a towel around his neck as he turned towards Helena. He wasn't used to seeing her in the day, or in anything not black. Wondered if this was part of her other life. Burgundy turtleneck with matching plaid slacks. Almost normal. The woman she could have been with him. "How are you doing?"
"You look good." He stepped towards her. Laid a hand on Helena's stomach. "You're starting to show"
"Yeah." A half-grin pulled at her mouth.
"I never stood a chance, did I?" His hand drifted higher until fingers gently rested around Helena's neck. Reese tilted his head down, pressed his lips against hers. For all intents and purposes, Helena knew it was a goodbye kiss. Even as he pressed a little deeper. She couldn't help the warning bells going off inside her. It was Reese, her friend. But, his eyes were a little darker, even if his words had been soft and his touch gentle. She could feel his thumb snaking around her throat, caressing her larynx. All of it gentle and sweet, and yet she still felt threatened.
She pulled away from the kiss. Reese exhaled, a slight disappointed tinge in his throat. "You know I would have married you. Even if it wasn't mine."
"I know," Helena folded her arms across her chest. Took another step backwards. "I have to go."
"See ya around, right?"
He watched her leave. Grabbed a water bottle off the table, squirted a healthy dose into his mouth.
The door to his bedroom opened. Carolyn Lance stepped into the living room. She closed the distance between them, standing next to Reese. Reese continued staring at the door. "What a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive. Hawke taught me that."
"She still cares about you, you know?"
His face darkened. "She shoulda thought about that before she killed my father."
She stared up into his face. Eyes squinting slightly as she examined his features. "You still love her, don't you?"
"So, what's the plan?"
"You'll like it. It's very biblical." He smiled. "Do unto her, as she has done unto me. I'm going to strip her of every thing she loves, one by one, her family, her friends, her ideals. Until she has nothing left. Until the nothingness, the pain, consumes her. Wraps around her soul like a vice. And then, I'm going to squeeze."
"Then I can kill her."
Reese sat back down onto the work bench, laid onto his back gripping the metal bar. "Then you can kill her."
"God, I hate this," Helena ran a hand through her hair. She stood at the edge of the stairway, barking upstairs. "C'mon Dinah, it's a patrol, not a goddamn cotillion!"
"Helena!" Barbara pulled off her glasses to stare at the brunette. "Leave her alone. This is a big deal for her."
"Doesn't mean she has to take forty fucking forevers."
"It'll be fifty if you keep badgering her," she held out her hand. "Now c'mere."
"What for?" Helena smiled coyly, padding towards the woman. She took Barbara's outstretched hand, allowed the redhead to guide her until she was half-straddling/half-standing in front of Barbara's chair. Beaming, she watched Barbara lift up her shirt, pressing her lips softly to Helena's belly.
"Hello little one." Barbara spoke to Helena's stomach before tilting up to meet smiling blue eyes. "It's been awhile since I've done that."
"Yeah, like twenty minutes." She propped her arms onto Barbara's shoulders, sliding fully onto Barbara's lap. Purred as soft lips began nibbling on her pulse point. "Remind me why I'm doing this."
"We made a deal, remember? No more patrolling for you. No more experimental prototypes for me."
"I didn't say `no more', just cutting down. How that turned into me not patrolling the streets at night.."
"I told you. When people start calling you Warrior Princess, you can patrol while pregnant. You've had two close calls already, I.."
"Barbara," She placed a finger on the redhead's lips, silencing her. "I know. I'm just, you know, nervous. Our little girl's going solo and I'm not used to being on this end. What am I supposed to do with all this free time?"
"I'm sure we can find something to occupy your mind." Barbara purred, dipping down to find that perfect spot on Helena's neck. A soft gasp rewarded her efforts.
"Okay!" Dinah's voice cut through the Clock Tower. "I'm ready!"
Helena groaned. "Perfect timing as always." She extricated herself off Barbara's lap, taking a standing position next to the woman.
The door to Dinah's room opened. The blonde exited her room, body draped in a long black duster. She nervously made her way down the stairs. Hands tucked in her coat pockets.
"Well?" Helena huffed.
"Promise you won't laugh."
Helena rolled her eyes. "Dinah, I don't have x-ray vision and unless there's a clown suit under there.."
"Helena," Barbara placed a hand onto Helena's forearm. "She won't laugh."
Dinah unzipped her duster, pulled it off and placed it on the railing. She wore a thin jacket of neoprene reinforced leather that ended mid-thigh. The chest and back were hunter green, with the sleeves and sides black. The pants were a slightly darker shade of green with black stripes down the sides. She'd thought long and hard about the color scheme. Endless doodles on notebooks designed the outfit. The black for her mother, the green representing her father, and the yellow dashes on her sleeves representing herself.
"It's green," Helena tilted her head slightly.
"What'd you expect a corset and black fishnets?" Dinah sneered. "Not everyone can wear street walker chic. Besides, it's not green. It's.."
"Perfect," Barbara finished for Dinah. "You look great, Dinah."
An impish grin pulled across the blonde's lips. "You think so?"
"Yes. Have you thought about a name? We can't keep calling you `Dinah' over the comms."
"Yeah, I have. I've been thinking a lot about who I am, and who I want to be." She paused. Eyes suddenly cast downward. Dinah inhaled, lifting her head up. "Black Canary. I wanna be called Black Canary."
Barbara beamed. "I think she would be honored."
Helena stepped towards the blonde. She pulled a tiny box from behind her back, handing it to Dinah.
"Just open it."
Dinah ripped off the wrapping paper, opening the box. She pulled out the metal object, staring at it curiously. "Brass knuckles?"
"They're gold plated." Helena grinned proudly. "Practical and fashionable."
Helena placed both hands onto Dinah's shoulders. Her eyes steely and firm in their gaze. "You remember the rules, right? Always leave your comm on. Do what.."
Dinah rolled her eyes. "I know. I know. If things get hairy, no heroics, no showing off. Just do what Barbara says." Dinah stopped. Stared into Helena's face. "Are you crying?"
"No!" Helena stepped back, wiped her face with her hand. "I just have something in my eye.. and the other one." She sniffled, stomped towards the Delphi, flopping into a chair and crossing her arms across her chest. "Goddamn hormones!!"
"Ooookay," Barbara stared at the brunette for a couple beats before turning back to Dinah. "You ready?"
"As ready as I'll ever be."
They watched as Dinah walked towards the elevator. The blonde stood in front of the doors. Adjusted her jacket, taking a healthy inhale of courage as she pressed the button. She turned around to see her two mentors staring proudly back at her. Dinah smiled. It hadn't happened overnight, and she still had a long way to go. Maybe it was in her genes. Maybe it was who she chose to be. She'd chosen long ago who she wanted to be. But, for the first time in her life, she felt like a hero.
The two women watched the elevator doors shush closed. Helena exhaled, moved towards Barbara, straddling the woman's lap. "God, I thought she'd never leave." She purred lasciviously.
"I heard that!" Dinah's voice boomed through the speakers.
"Stupid comms." Helena grumbled. She reached behind her switching off the microphone.
"We have five minutes."
Barbara stared into Helena's eyes. "I thought we have the rest of our lives?"
"Yeah," Helena leaned in close for a kiss. "That too."
Return to Birds of Prey Fiction
Return to Main Page