DISCLAIMER: These characters and situations do not belong to me in any way shape or form. I have borrowed them as part of my sanity maintenance.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: (1) Written for December 19th of the FemSlash Advent Calendar: Dead of Winter 2005 (2) I have a sneaky passion for the angst ridden relationship between Huntress and Oracle of the Birds of Prey comic series. There is very little fiction written of this pairing and so I used the calendar to give inspiration. Only problem is I don't do angst very well *sigh*
THANKS: Go to my beta readers and to Christy for continuing to fuel this passion of mine.
SPOILERS: Any BOP comic prior to issue 86 I suppose.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Helena Bertinelli daughter of the Mafiosi, Huntress of the night, a strong, vicious woman, stood silently in the doorway and watched. She wanted this runt of the litter with a passion; wanted to possess her, mark her, claim her as her own, and yet, Barbara Gordon, Oracle of the night, was no shrinking violet just sitting waiting to be plucked. She may have been damaged but she certainly wasn't broken.
To Helena that was the problem she didn't know how to solve. At any other time she would just take what she wanted, chew it, use it and spit it out, forgotten, but this woman offered her so much less and yet so much more. Until now the Huntress had run from confronting her itch, now she was intent on at least giving it a gentle scratch. She took a deep breath.
Barbara Gordon had felt Helena's presence from the moment she'd appeared in the doorway, indeed had felt the presence of this feline woman since first meeting her many years before. Her disquiet at the troublesome manner of the Huntress' method had slowly given way to a growing respect for the woman's unorthodox ways. With the advent of a working partnership that was hopefully back on track after a short blip in the journey while Helena ran to confront her feelings at being part of a team, a completely new feeling had begun to develop, a feeling she couldn't quite describe, even with all the words in her arsenal. Yes, it was a feeling of need, ownership and even control, but it was also something warmer, and more gentle.
"You'd better come in, Helena."
"How'd you know ?"
Barbara spun round to look directly at Helena.
"Never mind how, come in."
The two women eyed each other warily and the tension was palpable. Neither could put a name to the feeling that cut through them like a knife but it was a constant in the tenuous relationship they had shared for years.
Helena crossed to Barbara's side and offered her version of a smile. Ensnared by the green eyes scanning her from head to toe she shivered. What was Barbara doing?
Despite what others felt to the contrary, Barbara had a need to know that her operatives were alright and, even though Helena drove her crazy with her individualism, this first meeting in weeks was necessary to put her mind at rest. Her scan finished she gave an imperceptible nod to the other woman and then held her eyes in a look that spoke volumes about their relationship.
Helena fought the look of control. Her recent understanding that Oracle needed this control to keep track of missions was still in its early stages in her mind. She'd finally worked out that when in the midst of a battle, it was hard to stay focused and that Oracle, in her position far away from the action, could stay remote from the passion and act in a sometimes more effective way. The reality of actually allowing the woman that degree of control whilst denying her own need for spontaneity was going to be difficult and, in truth, she wasn't yet convinced she could do it. Today was the start of her attempt to give it a try.
Breaking the eye contact first, Helena began to do something she rarely, if ever, attempted to do: apologize.
"Thank you for helping with my "situation", you didn't have to, not after "
Barbara raised her hand. She didn't need Helena's apology but she did appreciate the sentiment. She understood perfectly how Huntress and Black Canary worked; in her role as an information broker, she had never once lost sight of her life as Batgirl. The super-hero persona was something that was entrenched in her mind-set and yet it had had to be put away to the recesses of her mind, necessity overrode everything. As Batgirl, she would never have apologized for doing her mission in her way. So now, she didn't expect Huntress, or Black Canary for that matter, to apologize for breaking the rules; to understand why they had and why they shouldn't was a different matter, but it was a lesson that for now would wait.
Huntress nodded her understanding and reverted back to normal, "I'm back."
"Helena, I can see you're back. It's good " Barbara gave a genuine fleeting smile and dared to touch the other woman's hand, " but I have to go."
She turned her chair towards the door and glanced over her shoulder towards Helena.
"You staying." It wasn't quite a question. "Watch those monitors. If the blue alarms flash: call me, anything else deal. I have a date with a beautiful woman."
Wheeling out of the control room with a flourish, Barbara missed the brief glimpse of hurt that flitted across Helena's face at her flippant comment. As she descended to street level Barbara wondered why she had used that description of her lunchtime get-together with her friend, Suzi, it had slipped out without thought, but she chuckled at the meaning and its probable interpretation.
She had offered an olive branch and it had apparently been dismissed without a care. What was it with Oracle? Taking the opportunity Helena puttered around Oracle's new domain. She could see that Oracle's new communication system was as technologically advanced as before, if not more so, and yet there were already small pieces of Barbara here too. Helena chuckled; it was easy to forget that Oracle was Barbara Gordon at heart. Yet, here amongst the high tech were photographs lovingly displayed showing a glimpse of the deeper Barbara.
A picture to one side of a small cluster caught her eye. Picking it up carefully she was shocked to see it was a picture of herself and Barbara smiling towards the camera. It wasn't the fact that they looked happy in each other's company but the fact that it was displayed so prominently that stunned Helena. She'd always thought that Barbara hated her, but here was a sliver of evidence that the great Oracle considered the not-so-great Huntress her friend.
Oracle was this cold-hearted bitch of a woman that drove Helena crazy with rules and procedures whilst Barbara Gordon was this strong intelligent woman that ignored her own personal difficulties to make the world a better place. Helena didn't necessarily agree with that concept, having a much more self-centered approach to the crime fighting duties she performed, but at this second in time she could see the division within Barbara's life and it struck a chord.
Helena pondered this conundrum, had it been Oracle the crime fighter, or Barbara the librarian that had arranged for Helena to become a substitute teacher whenever she was home in Gotham City? Did it really matter since, to all intents and purposes, it was the same person? Was it Helena the teacher, or Huntress the vigilante that had cared enough for Corey to go up against the drug-lord in search of his safety? Whichever role both women played, deep down the end result was the same; they could be friends as well as enemies.
As a thought coalesced in Helena's mind she stood frozen to the spot, Oracle equalled Barbara equalled nice woman. Where the Hell had that thought come from? Huntress was still angry with Oracle and one photograph shouldn't change that fact. Once again, the thought crossed Helena's mind, where had the red-head gone that was more important than clearing the air with Helena?
Turning back to the bank of computer screens Helena located Barbara at Luigi's in downtown Gotham City. The dark haired woman grimaced: Suzi Di Canio was the beautiful woman that was more important to Barbara than Helena. For some reason that thought hurt the tall dark haired woman.
Suzi with the long black hair and beautiful warm smile. Suzi of Italian descent and with a happy contented family that welcomed Barbara as one of their own. Suzi with the loving daughter that was just ready to give sweet innocent hugs to a needy Barbara. And to cap it all, Suzi with the Scaloppini to die for. Helena admitted it, she was jealous.
Before that realization could take hold all hell broke loose. Suddenly the air was split with alarms and flashing lights. Panicking in a controlled way Helena turned to the screens and groaned. Two blue alarms were flashing, two screens were solid blue with obvious warning boxes winking and an electronic voice was chanting, "Oracle, Oracle, where the fuck are you?"
Letting out a laugh at the irony of finally being allowed a little trust by the great Oracle, big brave Huntress realized she needed help. Thumbing her communicator, she echoed the electric voice, "Oracle, where the fuck are you?"
" hate her. She's just so critical of the whole set-up, never listens, goes off on her own tangent, scares the hell out of me and yet, here's the kicker, I need her. For some crazy reason, I need her on my team." Looking up at her friend Barbara Gordon smiled and savored the gorgeous Scaloppini that was the sable haired woman's brother, Roberto's, speciality. "How stupid is that, Suzi?"
Suzi smiled back at the woman that had surprisingly become her closest friend in years. Barbara Gordon understood just how important Renee, her autistic daughter, was to her and never tried to interfere or change the relationship they shared. Barbara was the most supportive person in her life outside of her family and Suzi would do anything she could to help the redhead be happy. Grinning she offered her wisdom in the only way Barbara understood; cryptic.
"Well, you know what they say, Babs it's a very thin line between love and hate."
Looking up sharply, her immediate denial of that theory was halted as a shrill alarm pierced the air and a voice, that even Suzi could hear, came from her wallet.
"Oracle, where the fuck are you?"
Suzi looked up and met Barbara's already concerned gaze, "Talk of the devil."
Barbara didn't have time to ask how Suzi had known that her most recent rant had been about Helena and not Dinah. She did know that, for Helena to sound a little panicked, something important must be happening.
Offering a shrug of apology to Suzi, she grabbed up her communicator.
"Huntress, what's wrong?"
"Two of those damn blue alarms are going crazy. Zinda's on her way now. Ten minutes at the most she said. On top of the Police Headquarters. Be there."
Barbara thumbed off the communicator: no more words were needed. She wheeled around the table and grasped Suzi's hand.
"Sorry, I've got to go. I'll call, soon, I promise."
Suzi leaned across the wheel of Barbara's chair and hugged her close, "I know you will. Just go and take care of those two, huh? Come on, I'll walk out with you."
The two women crossed over the restaurant floor and Suzi indicated to her daughter sitting quietly that Barbara was going. Renee immediately ran across and flung herself onto the redhead's lap. "Bye Babs, see you soon. Love you."
Surprising herself, Barbara felt tears come to her eyes. She grasped Suzi's hand again and hugged Renee tight, "And I love you, both of you, very much."
With that, she put Renee down carefully and wheeled away at speed.
Oracle caught Helena's gaze as she entered the control room and nodded. Without preamble, she crossed to the two solid blue screens and pulled up the information on both.
Helena watched, mesmerized, as Barbara flicked between numerous screens with barely a pause to acknowledge the information. Seeing a frown cross Barbara's face as one brief image flickered Helena froze. The worried look that followed the frown alarmed her more and she immediately pulled her purple mask out of its hiding place. Oracle rarely looked worried and if she did, it was a certainty the Huntress was required.
"Fetch Black Canary now."
Huntress jumped, burnt by the rejection.
"I can do this Oracle, you don't need Dinah. When the fuck are you gonna give me credit? When will you trust me? I can do this, let me."
Barbara gritted her teeth and ground out her next words, her eyes never leaving the screen in front of her.
"I do trust you, Helena, just get Dinah, now."
"You don't trust me. Never have; never will. I fucking hate you and all this."
Huntress swept her arm around the control room and started to walk towards Oracle, intent on crowding her. Suddenly, she stopped. Barbara had turned towards her with a look she wasn't expecting to see; expecting to see hatred and anger Helena saw that Barbara's face was open, with a look of real fear in the eyes.
"Helena, please, just get Dinah. NOW!"
It was the quiet pleading said with such determination that finally got to Helena. She left.
Dropping two floors of the tower in Metropolis Helena barely had time to acknowledge the beauty of Barbara's new home and base all rolled into one before she and Dinah were back in the control room.
Helena's ire was barely controlled as she watched Dinah cross over to Barbara and touch her gently on the shoulder. Would she ever share with Oracle the easy camaraderie that those two shared?
Some of her ire died as Barbara purposely turned and called Helena across to the screen, "Come Helena, this is for you too."
Once Helena had joined the two women at the computer terminals, Oracle tabbed to a video screen playing in front of her.
Huntress heard Black Canary gasp at the sight. In sharp detail, Lady Shiva could be seen surrounded by around twenty armed men. Oracle rolled her hand over the mouse and hundreds more men could be seen at strategic intervals around the periphery of the scene. She panned back to Lady Shiva and closed in on her face. The eyes of Shiva were alert and bright, to any experienced in the art of fighting it was clear she was comfortable for the moment but as her eyes darted around the whole area it was also clear she was feeling a hint of apprehension.
It was hard to know how the finest practicing martial artist alive had gotten into this level of trouble but she had, of that there was no doubt. Despite the redhead's mistrust of Shiva's methods the dark haired assassin did have her good points and Barbara, though loathe to admit it, could not, in many ways, help but respect this deep woman. Amazingly intellectual Shiva continued to learn and grow, because of her utmost belief in the calm spiritual ways of the martial arts she was always looking for new forms to study and master, her myriad skills now included wonderful technique in the healing arts.
Oracle turned the screen towards Dinah and started work on the neighboring screen. Her hands flying, she intoned, "Lady Shiva is in Byzantium. Those men are the henchmen of Lord Dragonsblood, a drug baron who has used his riches to purloin the crown jewels of the country's ruler. For once Shiva appears to be working for the good guys and maybe maybe that's why she doesn't seem as well prepared as normal."
As she told her tale Barbara watched the face of her friend crumble in despair. She'd seen Dinah getting closer to her supposed enemy; had seen her come to care and so had purposely kept a close scrutiny on Shiva's recent missions just in case anything like this situation ever arose. Barbara cared enough for Dinah to know that if anything happened to Shiva the blonde would want to be there.
Hell, Barbara was beginning to realize, if Huntress were ever in the same situation she would want to be there; knew it would be hard to keep her chair planted in front of these screens, her body crying out to physically help. Shocked at this inner realization, she turned to Dinah, touched her cheek, and drew worried blue eyes to look into her own. Hoping her eyes showed just how much she supported her friend in this relationship, she spoke firmly, "She's bitten off more than she can chew this time. Zinda's up top with the engines running. Go."
Helena watched, fascinated, as Oracle turned Dinah away from the screen and pushed her towards the rooftop elevator. She heard the surprise in Dinah's voice as she turned back to Oracle, echoing Helena's words of earlier, "But how'd "
"I'm Oracle, you goof. I know everything. Now go get her, bring her home if you need to. Just go."
Dinah pulled Barbara to her in a bone-crushing hug then turned, nodded to Helena, and ran.
Within seconds, the sound of helicopter blades could be heard above the building. Helena turned a stunned face towards Barbara and asked the obvious, "What the hell was that all about?"
"Dinah cares for Shiva. I care for Dinah Ergo."
"Ergo? What the fuck sort of answer is that?"
"Ergo, you get the job of dealing with problem number two. Anything else can wait till later."
Helena knew a brush off when she heard it but for now let things go, she would follow things through whenever problem number two was dealt with.
"A crazed man has fifty nuns trapped in Gotham cathedral. He's ranting about Catholicism and how it is the embodiment of evil and only the death of all Catholics will heal the world. He's threatening to kill one nun every ten minutes until his demands are met."
"That Gotham City releases his partner from Arkham Asylum and allows him to leave the city with a public pardon."
"He single handedly murdered five separate families of Italian descent saying that the Mafia was controlled by Catholics and therefore the only way to stop crime was to kill all Catholics."
Oracle watched carefully as her words sank in to Helena's understanding. She of course knew of Helena's background and upbringing and that this scenario would be very close to Helena's heart. She also knew that Helena needed to stay focused on this one more than ever before.
The red-head waited, sitting in silence until Helena met her gaze and whispered, "Ok Oracle, what do you want me to do?"
"Go to the cathedral and wait. He's given the city council until 12 midnight before he starts his killing spree. At the moment the Council have no intention of giving in to his demands, so we need to make use of the next " she checked the time, " 3 hours and 23 minutes to find the safest means of negating his threat and saving these people."
"And then I kill him." Helena's words were deadly serious, a statement of intent.
Oracle smiled and pulled Helena down to her level. Once Helena was kneeled in front of her she reached out her hand and stroked her thumb along the strong jaw line. She had never initiated any contact with the Huntress before, had never cared enough to try and deliver this particular lesson, but instinctively she knew she did care now, cared deeply, and this was the only way she knew to get through to Helena; knew that using softness and the truth was the only way to break though Helena's inbuilt protective walls.
"Huntress, we do not kill and I know you enough to know you understand that. Whatever your thoughts, Helena, you must not allow them to detract from your mission."
Seeing an argument begin to surface Oracle decided to cut to the chase, maybe if she offered her own olive branch back to Helena the situation would resolve itself and the nuns would be safe and the mission over.
"Don't say anything, Huntress. I do trust you and I know you'll do whatever you need to do to make this right. Just go and do it. I'll be here if you need me. Ok?"
Helena was stunned into silence. She looked up into Barbara's eyes and saw trust and belief. It was enough. It was everything she had wanted; to have the belief of someone as strong and true as Barbara Gordon. She could and would do this. Turning her head to the side she pressed her lips softly into the palm that still rested on her cheek.
The dark haired woman climbed off her knees, pulled her mask over her face, and murmured, "Later, huh?"
Just before Huntress exited the door, Oracle called out quietly, "Make sure you get your ass back here safe, we need to talk."
This was the time Oracle hated, isolated and alone, unable to help physically and unable to offer her own brand of assistance, she waited. Three hours had passed with barely any interaction with her operatives and she was quietly fretting.
Huntress had called more than three hours previous to say she had arrived at the cathedral, that she was going in and that she wouldn't be able to use her communicator in the near future. Oracle had sighed as she heard the deactivation of the communicator; that was another discussion she needed to have with the woman, leaving the communicator activated allowed Oracle to feel the action whether her agent could converse with her or not.
Zinda had communicated the arrival of Black Canary in Byzantium an hour ago and constant surveillance of her video feed showed that Dinah and Shiva were managing to hold their own but with no obvious escape route. Oracle had exhausted her immediate contacts and was resigned to watching her best-friend struggle to survive.
The redhead fidgeted and checked her screens once more. Black Canary and Lady Shiva continued to fight side-by-side and slowly and inexorably appeared to be gaining the upper hand. Gotham cathedral was surrounded by police officers and SWAT marksmen had their guns trained on every window and doorway as the city council announced their refusal to give into the demands.
Oracle checked her watch again, fifteen minutes to midnight.
Suddenly, machine gun fire shattered the eerie calm of her control centre. Oracle spun back to her screens to see that Canary was bent over the downed Lady Shiva with henchmen converging from all angles, and Gotham cathedral was being stormed by the massed police ranks.
Her fingers flew across the keyboard and in exactly twenty keystrokes; she flopped back in her chair and sighed.
If the last three hours had been torture, the next moments would be hell. Her work done, all she could do now was to wait.
Forty five minutes later a noise startled the motionless Barbara, apart from her ingrained pressure sore management Oracle had remained intent on her inert monitors. Since losing satellite contact with Byzantium she'd waited, desperate for news of both her colleagues.
In the background of her thoughts, she'd heard continual police updates on the situation at Gotham Cathedral. Police officers claimed that no civilians had been injured in the GCPD's indiscriminate storming of the building and that the villain was already trussed upon their arrival, pinned like a sacrificial lamb to the altar by two cross bolts. Further reports indicated that an unknown nun had disarmed the villain receiving an injury in the process, but that no trace of this heroine could be found.
The Byzantium screen fired back up slowly allowing a hazy view of the battle zone. Oracle could just make out scores of downed bodies but no signs of Black Canary or Lady Shiva. Leaning forward she hunted carefully for evidence of her friend, seeing nothing, she rubbed the bridge of her nose in thought. Quickly keying in a set of coordinates she allowed herself a small smile, in the far distance she could just make out a fair-haired woman leaning against a derelict building, where there was Zinda there was hope.
Oracle changed her mind; this was the time she hated.
As she waited, her mind wandered back over the events of the night and how she had given away her control of the situation twice; once through necessity but the second time through choice. The redhead had finally accepted that she wanted to work with Huntress and to do so she needed to allow Helena in as a partner, allowing her to be a part of all decision making, in the same way that she worked with Black Canary. Allowing herself a rueful smile, she also accepted that, for some deep reason, the situation with Dinah was slightly different and that was maybe why it had taken so much longer to allow Helena behind the walls, Dinah was a friend, Helena was a Spinning around quickly, all senses on alert, she never got to finish her thoughts.
Oracle glared into the darkness and carefully pulled her Escrima sticks from the pocket of her chair. One swift lunge later, she was looking down into the fiery eyes of the very woman she had just been contemplating.
Huntress stared up into her attacker's eyes with barely contained anger.
"Jeez Barbara, a little warning next time, huh?"
Barbara chuckled and couldn't resist a sarcastic retort, "Huntress dear, what is the world coming to, flattened by a puny little cripple in a wheelchair?"
The glare she received from below left no doubt that the dark haired woman's next words were more than genuine.
"You're no fucking cripple " Helena whispered before saying in a much more forceful tone, "So, not funny, Babs, don't ever "
Oracle lifted her hand and nodded in acknowledgment. "So, where's the stealth you're so famous for, huh? You ok? The reports said some nun stopped the guy are you injured? God Helena let me look at you."
Barbara realized she had gone into babble mode and quickly quietened, pulling Helena belatedly from the floor. As she did she saw there was blood on Helena's shoulder and immediately reached out to touch. "You're hurt. What happened? Come here, let me look."
"Jeez Barbara, let me say something, please. I'm fine. It's kinda hard to creep about with a bullet in the shoulder. That punk managed to get a shot off as I pinned his first hand only winged me though soon stopped that little action. Once I could get away, I came back here, knew you'd sort " Helena's words trailed off as she remembered something else, " God, Barbara, how's Canary doing?"
Barbara sighed as she indicated the empty screen behind her, guiding Helena towards the treatment room at the same time. "I lost visual about an hour ago and now there's no sign of either Dinah or Lady Shiva. Zinda's still at the rendezvous point and not been in contact so I'm just waiting. She'll be fine, don't worry."
"I'm not worried. Never worry these days, don't need to. Fuck Babs, what're you doing?"
"Shut up, Hel, it's only a scratch. Let me clean it up while you tell me what happened back there, huh?"
Oracle marveled at the woman before her. Helena's wound was slightly more than a scratch: a through and though gunshot wound of her right shoulder. As Helena told her tale of hiding in plain view, sheltering her crossbow under a voluminous nun's habit until she could get an unhindered clear shot of the thug, Oracle cleaned the wound thoroughly.
Miraculously, the man must have been falling backwards as he shot, allowing the bullet to enter in an upwards and backwards projection, just below the collar bone, to travel out of the posterior shoulder. Thankfully, Oracle realized, as steady fingers palpated the bones, it barely scraped the collarbone and avoided the tip of the lungs by millimeters; if Helena's strong deep breaths were a fair indicator. Hopefully, with no fractured bones to heal, Helena's fitness and determination would soon overcome the torn soft-tissue damage.
Helena's tale finished and Oracle's ministrations finished, the two women sighed.
"You were damn lucky with this one, Hel. I'm just gonna give you a shot of something to help the pain."
The shortened version of her name surprised Helena more than the gentle ministrations she had received. If she didn't know better she would have thought that Barbara cared.
Earlier, sitting quietly biding her time at the Cathedral, Huntress had lots of time to think. She'd come to the conclusion that working as a team with Barbara, Dinah and Zinda was actually just as fulfilling as the lonesome life and that, once she was out of her mess, she was going to say that to the team.
The hardened fighter rolled over at Oracle's gentle touch to get the promised pain killing shot, then rolled back to look up at Barbara.
The redhead murmured, "I'm just going to see where Zinda is now. Lay back and rest, that's good stuff it might knock you out for a few "
"Naw, not me. I'm resistant to that stuff, you know," Helena boasted before dropping her eyelids a little to glance back at Barbara. "Bab's, I need to say something. I "
Once again, the atmosphere was shattered; Barbara groaned and really hoped this was the last problem of a too busy night in her new home of Metropolis. So much for the quiet life.
Rushing out to the control room, Barbara's chair was nearly tipped over by the agitated Black Canary careering into the treatment room with an obviously unconscious Lady Shiva thrown across her shoulders. Gently lowering her cargo to the empty bed, Dinah glanced quickly towards Helena and saw two bright eyes staring back at her in concern. Barely taking time to acknowledge Helena's gaze she looked up into Barbara's eyes and pleaded, "Please Babs, do your stuff, please."
Barbara nodded, already assessing the damage to her supposed enemy's shattered body; glancing towards her best friend, she took a moment to touch Dinah's hand before indicating with her head that Dinah should go clean up.
Helena, already a little woozy from the pain-killer and still trying to understand Barbara and Dinah's complete insistence on a 'we do not kill' policy struggled to comprehend the devotion she could see in Canary's eyes as she tenderly cradled Shiva's head. It was obvious to Helena that Dinah was deep in something with the known killer and, from the amount of anguish she could see, it was probably love.
Huntress watched Dinah leave the room, Canary's eyes never leaving the injured woman lying on the treatment couch. The dark haired woman remembered Dinah once saying that Shiva was a fighting Van Gogh; that Shiva made a fight into whatever she wanted it to be and that in some countries, to be killed by Lady Shiva was actually a deep honor. Yet, here were two women, who practised the "peaceful" method of crime fighting, working desperately to keep this killer alive.
Seeing the drama unfold and unable to offer any meaningful assistance, Helena idly wondered if Shiva's injuries were in someway related to her relationship with Dinah. After all Helena knew from experience how persuasive Black Canary could be, how passionate she was about her crime fighting but more importantly how passionate she was about her martial art ideals. If Shiva had listened to Dinah, might she have been persuaded to curtail her killing technique a fraction thereby leaving herself more vulnerable to effective attack? If Shiva, the world's most deadly assassin could become less effective from Dinah's influence, Helena pondered if she too might become less effective.
Helena watched Barbara working quickly, amazed at the tenderness she saw in the fingers gently cleaning the wounds. She was awed by the redhead's strong, demanding voice giving orders, at first to Zinda and then on her return to Dinah, and finally astonished to see the great upper body strength the red-head used to manipulate Shiva's badly dislocated left knee back into position. Dinah had been so intent on controlling blood loss she'd had to prioritize her interventions on the flight back allowing the muscle spasm to grow around the malformed joint so that all of Oracle's medical skills were tested to the limit.
Her eyelids beginning to drop Helena made one, last, conscious effort to look at Barbara. In that same instant, as if drawn towards the sable haired woman, Barbara looked up and locked eyes with her. The look that passed between the two women was electric. Helena could see that Barbara cared for her, and that it really didn't matter how Dinah and Barbara influenced her actions, this woman working tirelessly for an enemy who just happened to be her best-friends lover would never stop watching her back. Finally, she knew; Oracle would never truly let her down and her decision to return to the Birds of Prey fold was the right one. At last, she drifted off into a drug-induced sleep.
Oracle, Canary, and Zinda continued to tend Shiva's broken body until no more could be done and she too was resting in a drug-fueled stupor.
Eventually, Barbara and Dinah were able to spend a quiet few minutes together while Barbara tended Dinah's more superficial wounds.
Black Canary held her friend's hand and smiled gently before murmuring, "I don't know how you knew, but thank you for knowing about me and Shiva. You know I'd never let my feelings for her affect the work we do together, don't you? What we do is so very important but she "
"I know that, Dinah, and I trust you to do what is right for you. Shiva works in a different way to me, to you even, and I wouldn't think twice about stopping her, you know that, but that doesn't mean I would ever hurt her or allow her to be hurt if I could stop it." Barbara looked towards Lady Shiva and saw she had regained consciousness and was listening to her words; she shared a look of silent communication that spoke volumes to the injured fighter, before whispering, "I hope you both know that."
Oracle squeezed Dinah's hand and drew her up from sitting, directing her to the bed where Shiva was waiting. As she left them alone she turned one last time to see Dinah weaving gentle fingers through Shiva's hair, smiled at Shiva, then rolled wearily to her own room to get some rest of her own.
Waking a few hours later to the lazy sounds of a jazz singer coming from her music system, Oracle smiled ruefully at the difference a few hours could make. Wheeling out into her living quarters, she saw Helena resting back on the couch, eyes closed, and obviously enjoying Barbara's choice of music selection. On further investigation, she saw that Helena was dozing quietly.
Stopping to Helena's side, being careful not to disturb the resting woman, she echoed the comfort Dinah had shared with Shiva, gently threading her fingers through the dark hair at Helena's temple, grazing her thumb gently over a darkening bruise.
Without thought, Oracle whispered the words that had lodged themselves in her mind somewhere during this important night, words of trust that should have been shared so much earlier in time.
"I do trust you, Hel. Oh, you drive me crazy with your maverick ways but, for some Godforsaken reason, I can't do this without you, not anymore. I need you."
Hearing the words spoken with such feeling Helena smiled inwardly. Knowing how much that sort of admission cost a strong woman like Barbara, she wasn't going to gloat or anything stupid but the glow she felt inside was more than enough to last her until the next time they both let their guards down. She opened her eyes slowly before making a light-hearted but genuine reply, "I didn't hear any of that but thank you." Then, not wanting this shared moment to finish, she quietly added, "For everything."
Oracle grinned openly and once more tenderly brushed the hair back from Helena's face. For once in her life, deciding to take a leap of faith, Oracle followed her heart and not her head.
"Maybe, if you want to that is, you could come and meet Suzi and Renee when you feel up to it, the Scaloppini is "
" to die for, yeah I know. Hmm, I think I'd like that.
Helena grabbed the hand at her hairline and cradled it gently to her cheek. With a genuine smile on her lips she decided to take a small leap of faith herself whispering the words this dramatic night had shown her, "Just so you know, I came back for you."
Information for this story gleaned from numerous sources, most specifically my Birds of Prey comics but also
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