DISCLAIMER: Oh, we all know if I owned the characters, the show would have been far different … and Dina Meyer would have had a hell of a lot more screen time <g>. Ergo, I own nada, zip, zilch; that honor belongs to the wonderful and tolerant people of Tollin/Robbins, the WB, DC Comics, so on and so forth. I write for the creative outlet, not to make money. Hell, I can't even get any really good bribes <wink>.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I started out with every intention of writing a Christmas story. Though I've never actually seen the movie "It's A Wonderful Life" … the barebones idea of the story was stolen from it. And then I sat down and started writing … and it ended up being something far different than a holiday story … with a lot more angst than I'd intended. It's also the first time I've really focused on Dinah as a character, and I'm not sure I did a very good job with her. Given time limitations, I'm posting this without a whole lot of editing, so I'm sorry if it sucks. If you have comments to share, you can reach me here.
WARNING: One of the characters in this story is dead … but it's not really a character death story. In other words, the dead character is still an active part of the story … so it shouldn't have too high a squick factor. Nevertheless, you have been warned.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

The Weight of a Snowflake
By ocean gazer


"I wish I'd never been born!"

Dinah Redmond flung herself face down on her bed as she yelled those words. The action wasn't in some vain attempt to stifle the echo of her own voice, since she really didn't give a damn who heard her. It was mainly because she was about to burst into tears and wanted to be able to just bury her head in the pillow and let go of her emotions. Maybe if she cried hard enough and long enough, she'd be able to find the same sort of numbness that she'd found when she'd emptied the fifth of vodka she'd stolen from Helena's room. Without the killer headache, nausea, and general agony that the alcohol had left in its wake.

Dinah curled her fists into the yielding surface of the pillow, sobbing as though her heart were breaking. Maybe it really was, since she could feel an aching pain in her chest with every breath she took. Everything was wrong and it was all her fault and there was nothing she could do to make things right.

She curled tighter into a ball as she cried, barely able to focus on anything save her own pain. She scarcely even registered the dip of the mattress as someone sat down beside her. And the hand that rested on the small of her back seemed nebulous and ethereal. She pulled away from the hand, almost snarling through her sobs. Unworthy … she was unworthy of anyone's affection, anyone's kindness. The mere touch reminded her of all that she'd done wrong, all the ways in which she'd failed the people she said she loved. A fresh cascade of salt water flowed into the pillow at the mere thought.

"Hey … Dinah … come on, kid."

It was Helena's voice she recognized … Helena's hand on her back. It should have been Barbara there with her … it was always Barbara who came to her whenever her demons took hold of her. Not this time. Barbara couldn't come to her … the woman was badly injured and confined to bed. And it was all her fault.

She shuddered as Helena's hand once again found the small of her back. God, she didn't want to be touched right now … not with what she'd done.

"Please, Dinah, let me help you. I know how hard this is for you. We'll work through this together. It's just … I need you, kid … Barbara needs you. Please don't pull away from us … not now."

Dinah felt a welcome numbness creep over her as she heard Helena's words. She'd been carrying around an empty place in her heart for the last week … and as she listened to her friend, she felt the emptiness growing … consuming her. And she welcomed the feeling … welcomed the pain ebbing away … welcomed the nothingness that crept in to replace it. It seemed to fit, after all, because she felt like a nothing, after what had happened, what she'd done.

She rolled over, away from Helena's hand, and fixed her watery eyes on the brunette's face. "You don't know what it's like for me. You can't. You don't need me … Barbara doesn't need me … all I do is screw everything up." She could see the shock on Helena's face and couldn't quite decide if it was because of what she was saying or because of the monotone, dead voice she was saying it in. Not that it really mattered anyhow. "I wish I'd never been born, since all I do is hurt everyone I care about."

She could see tears glistening in Helena's eyes, and had she had the energy to actually care about anything at all, she would have found it touching. "C'mon, Dinah, that's not true. Please, don't say things like that. I know you're hurting, but it's not your fault … and we need you." The woman's voice lowered so that Dinah had to actually strain to hear her. "I need you, kid. I can't do everything alone."

And if I do anything to help you, I'll just make everything worse.

When that thought popped into Dinah's mind, the numbness receded for a moment, allowing the pain to rush back in. With a moan, she rolled over, burying her head in the pillow again as the tears flowed freely. "Go away, Helena," she cried out. "You'd be better off without me."

She could almost feel the indecision radiating off Helena, and in one tiny part of her mind, knew that the woman wanted to pick her up and shake her … or argue with her … or something.

She braced herself for Helena to go on the offensive … actually dug her hands into the sheets to prevent the older woman from physically flipping her over. But then she heard a pained moan crackle over the handheld monitor that Helena had carried into the room with her. Barbara's moan. Dinah cringed to hear the agonized sound, but at the same time, she was relieved. That meant the redhead was awake and that Helena needed to go to her … check her bandages, give her more medicine, coax her to drink something, and then soothe her back to sleep. Which meant that she'd have to leave Dinah alone.

She curled tighter into her pillow as she felt a wisp of breath against her cheek. Helena's voice was commanding against her ear, but she could easily hear the note of fear threading through the brunette's words. "I'll be back, kid … and we're going to talk. Don't even think about doing anything stupid."

Dinah didn't respond for a long moment, knowing that she'd not only thought about doing something stupid, but also had a plan already outlined for how to do it. She could sense Helena hovering over her, clearly not sure whether or not to leave her alone. The gesture should have been comforting, but it wasn't. It was just another way in which she was failing the people she claimed to love. She opened her mouth and whispered, "Just go. Barbara needs you. I'll be fine. I promise."

Ok, so she was lying through her teeth, but she didn't want Helena to worry. Not just because she'd caused them all enough pain and worry to last a lifetime, but because if Helena was worried, she wouldn't leave her alone. If she wasn't left alone, she couldn't do the stupid thing Helena was worried about. Even as the thought crossed her fogged mind, she realized it made no sense. Then again, nothing made any sense right now.

A gasp of pain echoed through the room, courtesy of the monitor. Dinah cringed again, but felt another surge of relief at knowing Helena wouldn't be able to leave Barbara much longer, no matter how worried she might be. She heard a soft oath and then the pad of feet as Helena made her way to the door.

"I'm trusting you, Dinah … that you really will be ok. Don't make me regret it."

And then, she was gone. Dinah felt the emptiness settle over her again … aware of just how alone she felt. Despite the worry and the care she'd heard in Helena's words, she still felt alone … worthless … numb. Moving as though she was in a dream, she rolled over and reached under her bed. Pulling out a cloth wrapped bundle, she rolled back into the middle of the bed and then sat up slowly, cross-legged. Placing the bundle in front of her, she lifted one corner of the cloth with a shaking hand, and then quickly pulled the cloth back to reveal a bottle of painkillers. Vicodin, to be exact. She just sat there, staring at the full bottle. Suicide had never been something she'd thought about before. She'd always been critical of people who took their own lives – seeing them as selfish and weak. But now she understood how they felt … that aching sense of emptiness … despair … the sense of everything being her fault and not being able to fix it. She wasn't sure she could go on living … not if she felt this way.

With a trembling hand, she reached out to grab the bottle. And was stopped by a voice.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?"

It was Gibson's voice. And sure enough, when she turned her head, she saw him standing next to her bed, watching her with disappointed eyes. Only, it couldn't really be him. He was dead. She'd seen him die with her own eyes. And she was the one who had killed him.

He's just a hallucination. If you ignore him, he'll go away.

Heeding the voice in her head, she turned away from the apparition so quickly that she nearly gave herself whiplash. She screwed her eyes tightly shut, fisting her hands in her lap. She wasn't going to think about him … not now … not like this.

Only, with her eyes shut, her imagination took over. She sat frozen on her bed, her mind playing over in merciless detail the last time she'd seen Gibson. The images flooded her, and she was powerless to stop them …

Sitting around a table in No Man's Land … Helena calling out a warning … turning to see Harley Quinn in the doorway, freshly escaped from Arkham Asylum with a machine gun in hand … Gibson ducking down … Helena's eyes turning feral as she balanced her weight to make a flying leap … the steely determination on Barbara's face as she pulled out a batarang and aimed at Quinn's hand …

Her own panic as Quinn's finger pressed the trigger … cups rattling as her mental powers took over, her mind shoving energy towards the armed woman … the bullets stopping in midair … Helena growling in satisfaction at the sight … the batarang hitting it's target and knocking the gun away …

And then the heavy glass tabletop shattering under the force of her mental push … thick, jagged shards of glass flying towards the doorway where Quinn stood … towards where both Barbara and Gibson were sitting … the look of horror on Quinn's face as she was showered with glass and knocked backwards with the force of it … Barbara's scream as pieces of glass sliced into the right side of her body and her head … blood dripping from the deep lacerations … the force of it knocking the redhead from her wheelchair to land in an unconscious heap on the floor … Helena screaming Barbara's name and racing to her side … Gibson lying on his back and looking up in surprise, a foot long shard of glass embedded in his throat … not even any time to scream, just a ragged sigh as the life flowed from his body …

As that image filled her mind, she jerked her eyes open, tearing her mind away from the memory. All her fault … she'd killed Gibson … hurt Barbara.

"You know I don't blame you, Dinah. Neither does Barbara."

She whipped her head around on hearing Gibson's voice again. Why the hell was she still hallucinating that he was here? As she watched, wide eyed and slack jawed, he walked over to her and sat down next to her, draping an arm across her shoulders. He felt awfully solid for a hallucination.

She pinched herself to see if she was dreaming. Apparently, she wasn't, judging by the stab of pain and the red mark on her forearm. And then she heard him laugh … a rich, deep laugh.

"I know what you're thinking, Dinah. You're not dreaming … I really am here."

She couldn't quite wrap her brain around that. Then again, nothing else in her life made any sense right now, so this was just par for the course. "But you're dead. I saw you die."

She felt his arm tighten around her shoulder as he pulled her closer to his body. Leaning into the embrace, she was struck anew at his solidity.

"I am dead. That doesn't change the fact that I'm here."

His voice sounded so reasonable to her confused ears and she was so tired of trying to make sense out of anything. At least the pain and the emptiness that had consumed her in the last week seemed to be letting up now that he was here and talking to her. Ok, so he was a ghost or a figment of her imagination … but at least he was being nice about the fact that she'd killed him.

As if he was reading her mind, she heard him speak softly. "It was an accident, Dinah. And you do realize, don't you, that if you hadn't been there and using your mental powers, we'd all have ended up dead? You saved Helena and Barbara, you know."

She pulled away from him at that, suddenly aware that he couldn't possibly just be a figment of her imagination, since that statement was so not anything from her own mind. And she definitely would never have imagined a dead Gibson being so accepting of his own fate.

"What? I mean, how? I mean … why are you here?" She winced at the lameness of her own words, but she really didn't even know what to say. Talking to a hallucination was one thing … but if he really was a ghost and really was here with her …

He frowned at her. "You're making some wishes that have some serious repercussions. I'm here to make sure no other spirits tempt you into going through with your wish." She watched as his frown deepened, a thoughtful look settling over his face. "I'm still figuring out how the afterlife works … it's complex and I've only been here for a week. But I do know that while most spirits move on to their next plane of existence and learn more about the role they play in the universe, there are those who hang around and torment the living. And any one of them would be more than happy to help you fulfill your wish to have never been born. I'm here to stop that from happening."

Dinah couldn't help it … she laughed. Not a relieved, happy laugh … but a bitter laugh. "You've got to be kidding me," she sputtered. "I killed you … and now instead of moving on to the next plane … or whatever … you're hanging around for that? If I had never been born, then you'd still be here … Barbara wouldn't be doped up on morphine because her injuries are so painful. Hell, my mom might still be alive … and Helena would have had Barbara all to herself, not having to share her time and attention with a wannabe crime fighter."

She was aware that she was shouting and that Helena might actually hear her, but now that the dam had broken, she couldn't just shut out her feelings. "Gabby's feelings wouldn't be hurt because I told her that she and Gina couldn't act like a couple when they hang out with me and Matt … and Matt's feelings wouldn't be hurt because I didn't trust my own boyfriend to accept that my best friend is gay … it's like all I ever do is mess things up and make things worse for everyone. My foster parents even told me sometimes that a freak like me should never have been born."

She felt the pain and the emptiness taking her over again, along with a bone deep despair about her value as a human being. On coming to New Gotham, she'd finally felt at home and cared for … and then she'd screwed it all up. And now she'd not only killed Gibson, but she'd kept him from moving on to … wherever. Really, couldn't he just see that all she did was hurt and destroy everyone she cared for?

She felt his arm slide around her again and risked a look up at his face. Surely, she'd managed to make her point and he'd agree that her wish was for the best. It came as a surprise to see tears in his eyes … ghosts couldn't cry, could they? Apparently they could, because when she reached up to touch his cheek, her fingers came away wet.

"Oh Dinah … you really do believe you're a curse, don't you? And not just because of what happened to me."

She nodded slowly, hanging her head in shame. Her whole life had left her feeling flawed.

She felt gentle, ghostly fingers under her chin, coaxing her head up. Tears still glistened in Gibson's eyes, but there was a look of determination and understanding on his face. "Tell you what, Dinah. Why don't we take a look at how the world would be if you hadn't been born? Then you can decide for yourself if you still think it would be a better place without you."

She started to shake her head. She already knew it would be a world of sunshine and roses for the people she cared about … and she didn't really want to see how much better life would be without her. But … then again … it would manage to convince Gibson that her wish really should be granted … and maybe he'd even help her with it. After all, it was a week before Christmas … and that could be her gift to the people she loved. That alone decided things for her.

"I'm ready … let's go."

Having expected some sort of cool special effects to indicate they were moving around in time, Dinah was understandably disappointed when all that happened was that she blinked and found herself standing in a grey room. Gibson stood beside her. She looked around and saw three plain grey walls and one wall that had a huge, blank television screen in the middle of it. There were no signs of anything from her life. Opening her mouth to ask the obvious question, she heard Gibson's voice.

"Just wait. I still don't quite know how this works, but I just know that it does. Oh, and it's going to be really random in terms of the images you see … life has a circular pattern … it doesn't move in a straight linear progression with everyone following a separate path, the way we Westerners think of it. I like to think of it as a giant spider web where everyone's life is a separate thread but still connected to the whole and part of the pattern." She could hear the touch of amazement in his voice, presumably from the discoveries he'd made since being dead. She didn't understand what he'd just said about linear something or other, but she understood that the images they were going to see would be random.

And then there was no time to try and prepare for what she'd see, because the screen glowed as though someone – or make that Someone – had turned it on. She narrowed her eyes, not recognizing the scene or the place, and then suddenly it clicked. It was the apartment she had lived in with her mom … before being shipped off to the Redmonds. God, she'd almost forgotten that place … she'd been so young … and there was something different about it.

She watched the scene on the screen, realizing that there were no toys scattered around … no plants in the windows … no child's drawings adorning the front of the refrigerator. In fact, apart from a lone chair in front of a folding table, there was no furniture at all. There was nothing to show that anyone was actually living there, but then Dinah's heart clenched as she saw Carolyn Lance walk into the room.

She saw that her mother was on the phone … one hand holding the receiver to her ear while the other hand carried the phone's cradle and base, the cord trailing behind on the floor. Right … she remembered the phone with the extra long cord so her mom could go from room to room and keep talking.

"Y'know, Barbara, I don't appreciate this."

Dinah felt her eyes widen as she realized just who her mom was talking to. Sure, she knew now that the two women had been good friends, but she'd never really seen the friendship in action. From what Barbara had told her, her mom had basically cut the friendship off, backed off on the crime fighting, and gone underground when she'd been born. Looked like that had never happened in this alternate reality.

"Look, I don't really give a shit if you are worried about me. Being reckless is part of being a crime fighter. If I want to risk my own life, it's not any damn business of yours."

Dinah gasped as she heard those words. Ok, granted, she'd never had time to know her mother as an adult – hadn't really seen her in her own element. But the anger and the attitude she was seeing from Carolyn right now just didn't fit her own memories, or the way her mother had acted when she came back to New Gotham, before Hawke and his people killed her. Hell, Barbara had told her time and again how her mother had always been very careful in her work.

"So what if Hawke is onto me? I don't care. It's not like I'm putting anyone else in danger … it's not like there's anyone depending on me … oh please, Red, spare me the 'I depend on you' speech. You stay there with Dickie and Bruce … and leave me the hell alone. You're a nice kid, Red, don't get me wrong … but you don't know what the hell my life is like so just stop trying to act like my fucking mother."

Dinah watched in disbelief as her mother slammed the phone down. The blonde woman shook her head and then pulled a piece of paper out of her pocket. She traced the words on it with a trembling hand and whispered, "I wish things had been different … that I'd had a reason to live." Then she shoved the paper back in her pocket, squared her shoulders, and marched out of the door.

Dinah felt herself shaking. She'd seen the words on the page. "Miscarried … May 31." The words were about her.

Before she really had time to process what had happened, the scene on the screen had changed. She looked on in horror as her mother was gunned down in the middle of a bustling street … and she saw Hawke's chortling face in the background. Her mother was wearing the same clothes she'd had on the previous scene. Tears rolled down Dinah's face as the scene shifted again, this time to a cemetery, where Barbara was kneeling in front of a grave … Carolyn's grave. The redhead was crying.

The screen went black and Dinah felt Gibson's arm around her. She leaned against him, her emotions raw from watching her mother die in front of her eyes. It hadn't been what she'd been expecting, that was for sure. She'd figured that without a kid dragging her down, her mother would have been far freer to do her work. The idea that her mother might actually have wanted a child hadn't ever occurred to her, since she was still so bitter that her mother had left her behind.

His voice was gentle as he spoke. "I'm sorry you had to see that, Dinah. If I thought you'd believe me if I told you what would happen if you'd never been born, I'd just sit you down for a long talk. But I already know you're not going to believe it unless you see it." She just stood there, not sure what to say or do.

Gibson held her close as the screen flickered to life again. Wiping away the tears with one hand, she squinted to try and make sense of the place and time in front of her eyes. Ok, that was the living room of the Redmond house. What the hell were they doing here? She already knew damn well her foster parents would be much happier without her presence in their lives. Her visions had scared them and they'd said on more than one occasion that freaks like her shouldn't have been born.

Frowning, she concentrated on the scene. Ok, there was her foster mom, sitting on the couch, a photo album in hand. And there was her foster dad, walking into the room, with a fifth of vodka in his hand. Wait a minute, she'd never seen him drink … he and her foster mom had found religion a few months after she came to live with them and had been teetotalers on principle because of it. She scanned the scene, desperately looking for something that would give her a date … so she'd know where the hell in time the scene was. Ah … a wall calendar … it was 1996 … so she would have been with them for over three years by then.

It didn't make any sense. All she'd done was bring misery to their lives … what the hell was she seeing this scene for? She watched as her foster mother looked up, an exasperated expression on her face. "Shoulda known you'd be drunk again."

She saw the sneer on his face as he shot back, "Shoulda known you'd be poring over that album again … like looking at pictures of Katie would somehow bring her back."

Katie? Ok, she'd heard that name before. She stared intently at the screen, concentrating on the photo album. A blonde haired, blue-eyed child stared up from the page, a smile on her chubby face, her features showing unmistakably that she was the Redmond's biological child. A sudden memory surfaced in Dinah's mind … of sitting at the table with her foster parents … being told how happy they were that she'd come into their lives because they'd lost their own daughter.

Wow. She hadn't known how similar she and Katie were in looks.

She wrenched her eyes away from the picture as she heard her foster mother's anger. "At least looking at the picture doesn't do any harm. In case you've forgotten, it was your drinking that lead to her drowning. If you'd been sober and paying attention, she never would have fallen into the pond."

Dinah recoiled in horror as she saw her foster father backhand the woman, knocking her off the couch. She'd never seen him hit anyone before … no matter how mean he'd been to her when she talked about her visions, he'd never actually hurt her physically. And he'd always seemed so devoted to his wife.

She could hear her foster mother's sobs and winced at the self-disgust in her foster father's voice. "Don't you think I would give anything to change what had happened? I DIED inside the day our Katie was taken from us. I would give anything to have our family back … but we can't have any more kids. And you won't even consider fostering a kid or adopting a kid … unless we find one that looks like Katie. My God, do you think I want to live like this … you're miserable, I'm miserable … what's the point?"

Dinah felt her jaw drop to practically floor level. She'd had no idea that her foster parents had any demons of their own … well, apart from being strict and stern and zealously religious. As she blinked at the screen, trying to make some sense of it all, the scene shifted and the screen was divided in two. On one side, she could see her foster mother, sitting alone in a house that was way too big for just her … curtains drawn, dust collecting on every surface, sadness permeating every corner. On the other side, she could see her foster father in a filthy apartment, empty liquor bottles scattered on the floor and a prostitute sitting on the edge of his bed, holding out her hand for money.

Instinctively, she turned her head away, not wanting to see the scene. "This can't be real, Gibson. That's just not how my foster parents are … they'd never do that."

She felt his arm tighten comfortingly around her, though his voice was firm. "They're not the same people you knew, Dinah. Remember, life is like a spider web. Any missing thread changes the overall design."

Ok, so now he was speaking in philosophical riddles. She stared at him, hoping for his words to change into understandable English. Instead, he just stared back at her, a sympathetic look on his face. "You still don't understand, do you?" he asked. She just shook her head.

Not surprisingly, the screen flickered to life again. Now the scene was in the halls of New Gotham High … right in front of Gabby's locker, to be precise. Dinah watched curiously, seeing Gabby's familiar face as she stowed her books in between classes. She saw Linda Bremer, a girl she didn't know well but who seemed nice enough, walk up to Gabby and start talking about how cute Matt was and how much she wanted him to like her.

It was definitely weird, Dinah thought, to be watching another girl talking like that about her boyfriend. But apparently in this reality, Linda had become one of Gabby's good friends, so the conversation made sense. Then she heard the twenty-five thousand dollar question fall from Linda's lips. "So what do you think of Matt? Do you think he's cute? Do you think we could switch lab partners so I can work with Matt and you can work with Gina? I know she's like his best friend, and I just kinda want to know if you want to switch so that maybe I can talk her into it." She remembered having a similar conversation with Gabby … and she remembered the response. Sure enough, as she watched the scene, she saw Gabby smile softly and say, "Well, he is good looking. But I'm more interested in Gina … so I'd be happy to switch."

Dinah felt herself tensing up as she waited to see what Linda's response would be. She knew that she was the first straight person Gabby had really come out to … and when they'd talked about it later, Gabby had admitted being scared about how she would react. So when Linda looked shocked and then pasted a smile on her face, Dinah was relieved. At least the girl hadn't flipped out. She listened as Linda said she'd talk to Gina about switching partners, and wondered why the hell she was seeing this scene. Everything was perfectly pleasant … pretty much just as she remembered her own conversation with Gabby.

Then the scene shifted abruptly, showing Gabby walking home. As Dinah continued to try and make sense of what the hell the point was, she saw Linda and three of the school's football players step out of an alley in front of Gabby. "Is that the fuckin' dyke who tried to feel you up?" asked one of the guys. Dinah actually took a step forward, wanting to protect her friend, wanting to tell these morons that Gabby hadn't done anything out of line. Instead, all she could do was watch as her best friend tried to run, but was tackled from behind. "Gotta teach you a lesson, you sick pervert."

Then, she couldn't watch any more as the guys, egged on by Linda, started pummeling Gabby. She buried her head in Gibson's shoulder, able to shut out the sights, but unable to shut out the blows and insults being hurled at her best friend.

When the shouts faded away, she risked a look back at the screen. She saw Gabby, face bruised and swollen almost past the point of recognition, lying in a hospital bed. Her parents, Gina, and Matt were all at her bedside, along with a white-coated doctor. Why were Gina and Matt there? Had they been the ones to find her? Or had this happened after Gabby had told Gina how she felt? That would make sense … that Gina would be there then … that Matt would be there with her. He was Gina's best friend, after all … and she suddenly felt ashamed of how she'd wanted Gina and Gabby to not act like girlfriends when Matt was around. She should have known better … known that he was cool about stuff like that.

"She'll pull through," the doctor said, looking from one face to another, "but it's going to take a while. She's going to miss the rest of the school year, at least."

Anything else he might have said was lost as the screen faded to black. Dinah felt herself crying again, almost surprised that she still had any tears left. Given how much she'd been crying in the last week, she thought she'd have run out of liquid by now. God, and here she'd thought that everything would be better if she just wasn't around.

As if he was reading her thoughts again, Gibson spoke softly. "Things aren't usually as simple as they seem."

Before she could ask any questions, the screen jumped to life again and she found herself staring at the inside of the Clocktower. Ah, now this, she knew, was where things would be better off without her presence. She knew that Helena had resented her presence in their lives the minute she showed up on their doorstep … and she knew that her presence had taken away from the time that Helena and Barbara spent together. It was no wonder that with her underfoot, it had taken them almost a year to finally admit that they loved each other … and she'd seen that from the moment she set foot in the Clocktower. Well, without her around there was nothing to keep them from acting on their feelings.

She shook off Gibson's arm as she watched the scene unfold. There wasn't going to be any need for him to comfort her here. And indeed, the action moved from scene to scene … all of them just showing Barbara in front of her computers or Helena coming back from sweeps and raiding the kitchen or Helena lounging in the background while Barbara graded papers. Compared to the earlier scenes Dinah had watched play out, it was, quite frankly, boring. No drama, no messy emotions, nothing much at all going on.

And then it suddenly hit her. The two of them weren't really interacting at all. Oh, they talked shop and cracked jokes and talked about their day jobs. It was all very routine … all very mundane … no conversations about their feelings or their hopes or their dreams. Granted, in the time that Dinah had lived there, much of the conversations were about the mundane or about the world of crime fighting. But there had been concerns and worries … she'd heard the fights about Barbara using the neural stimulator and about Helena being too reckless on sweeps. It hadn't been fun to hear the fights, but she'd also known they were sparked by caring … by love. The two women she was watching on screen obviously still cared for each other, but there was something missing there … something she couldn't quite put her finger on.

She looked up at Gibson, not sure if she was supposed to ask questions about what she was watching, but unable to restrain her curiosity. She just couldn't figure out what was so off here … especially since she'd assumed that with her out of the picture, there would be no reason to hide their feelings.

"You're what's missing, Dinah. You can see that they care about each other, but they've gotten stuck in a routine and neither of them knows how to break out. Barbara's too deep in denial and Helena's too stubborn."

She heard Gibson's sigh and empathized with him, since she'd known from the beginning that he was madly in love with Helena. And unrequited love really sucked. But he shook himself and continued his explanation. "You came along and broke up the comfortable habits they'd fallen into. Barbara came out of her shell a bit more when she had you to comfort and take care of … which helped her more easily show her feelings to Helena. And Helena had to stop taking Barbara for granted, once she had to compete for attention."

Dinah just stared at the screen, where scene after scene of boring routine flashed before her eyes. The pain and despair and emptiness of earlier had all but melted away, leaving her confused and floundering to make sense of things. She wasn't even sure how she felt about herself or her place in the world. Ok, so she'd seen pretty clearly that the world wasn't any better without her presence in it. And she could grudgingly admit that in some ways, the people in her life had been worse off without her being born. But she was left with an overwhelming feeling of guilt … because Gibson was still dead and Barbara was still badly injured … and it was still all her fault. She no longer felt like an overdose of pain pills was the answer, but she wasn't sure how she could live with herself, knowing what she'd done.

Gibson wrapped his arm around her once more. "Just watch," he said softly.

And the scene changed … back to No Man's Land … the night Harley Quinn had escaped from Arkham and come for her revenge.

Dinah watched as the scene played out … as she saw what would have happened had she not been there that night. It started out the way she'd seen in her memory … Helena's eyes feral and her muscles tensed to pounce … Gibson ducking out of the way … Barbara letting loose her batarang. But she saw that this time, there was no Dinah there to stop the bullets with her mental power … and Harley had time to fire off several before the batarang knocked the weapon from her hand. She saw Gibson fall, three bullets ripping through his body, killing him instantly. She saw Helena stagger back, not dead, but definitely wounded. And she saw Barbara's right hand blown to bits by one of the bullets, and as the woman jerked away from the source of the pain, she fell out of her wheelchair onto the floor.

She tensed in horror as Harley pulled a knife from a sheath on her belt, and threw it, burying it to the hilt in Helena's forehead, killing her instantly. And she found herself screaming as Harley walked over to where the paralyzed redhead lay wounded on the floor. Barbara had a fighting stick in her left hand, but Harley was able to knock it from her grasp and then pinned her left hand to the floor with yet another knife. "You're going to die a slow death, Barbara Gordon, and I'm going to enjoy every moment of it."

Once again, Dinah turned her head from the screen, feeling sick. But thankfully, the noise and the flickering light faded, so she didn't have to watch her friend and mentor suffer. She felt Gibson turn and put both his arms around her, and she snuggled into the embrace willingly. God, that was horrible. She'd never thought anything would be worse than her memories of the night Gibson died … now she knew just how wrong she was. At least she hadn't done it on purpose, and at least she had tried to stop Harley from hurting anyone.

"You see?" he said softly. "I would have died anyhow. I know that won't stop you from blaming yourself, but I hope that you can find a way to forgive yourself for it. You were trying to protect all of us, and it was an accident."

Dinah pulled out of his embrace, tears in her eyes, and just looked at him for a long moment. "I'll probably blame myself for a long time," she admitted in a quiet voice. "But knowing that you're still out there in the universe somewhere does help."

He smiled at her and snapped his fingers, and she found herself back on her bed, Gibson sitting beside her. Despite everything, she had to laugh. "That's a pretty cool trick."

He simply smiled wider and then reached out and snagged the bottle of Vicodin from the pile of cloth on her bedspread. "You don't want this any more, do you?"

She shook her head emphatically. "No, and I'm pretty much over the whole 'wish I'd never been born' thing."

"Good." He snapped his fingers and the bottle disappeared into thin air. "I went ahead and put it back in Barbara's medicine cabinet."

Despite his otherworldly knowledge of things, Dinah couldn't help but ask, "How did you know I stole it from there in the first place."

"Well, given that her name is the one on the prescription label …"

She smiled … the first genuine smile she'd had since the night he died. But when she spoke, her tone was serious. "Thanks for looking out for me, Gibson. I'm still trying to make sense of everything I saw … of what life looked like without me here … not sure what to think about some of it. But you've shown me that life wouldn't necessarily be better if I hadn't been born … and I do know now that I have a place in this world."

He smiled at her, and pulled her close for another hug. "And you have people who really care about you. That's not something to take lightly … and I'm just glad you're not going to, as Helena put it so eloquently, do anything stupid."

She sighed softly, feeling secure in his friendly embrace, relaxing against him … and then felt a hand on her shoulder, shaking gently. With a jerk, Dinah woke up, her arms wrapped around her pillow and her face feeling itchy from dried tears. She rolled over, blinking to try and wake herself up, and found Helena looking down at her.

"Hey there, kid. Sorry to wake you up, since you needed the sleep, but you've been out of it for almost 24 hours. Barbara thought we should wake you up and get you to eat something."

Dinah sat up, her head spinning in confusion. A dream … it must have been all a dream. Which was sad, in a way, because she really liked the thought of Gibson being out there somewhere; but it didn't change the fact that she felt more at peace with herself. She still was sad … still felt guilty. But she could live with it … and knew that she could, with the help of her friends, come to terms with it all.

"How's Barbara doing?" She winced at the memory of the pained gasps she'd heard over the monitor the last time Helena had been in her room.

She looked up and saw that Helena's face was lined with fatigue, but the brunette's brow was no longer completely creased with worry. "She's still in a lot of pain … and some of the lacerations are infected. She got hurt pretty badly, and since she's not a meta, she doesn't have any self-healing abilities. But she's going to be ok … it's just going to take some time."

There was a measured pause, and Dinah knew that the other woman had something she wanted to say, but wasn't sure quite how to do it. She wanted to tell her to just spit it out, but instead just waited. Given that she'd bitten Helena's head off the last few times she'd tried to talk to her about what had happened, she didn't blame the brunette for being cautious.

"Honestly … I think that one thing that would help in her recovery is if you'd come up and see her. She … well … you haven't been there since she got hurt … since Gibson died … and I think she's so worried about you that she's not able to fully concentrate on just getting well."

Dinah fought down the feelings of shame that welled up at the words. She should have known better … should have known that while she was going through her own hell, her two mentors were dealing with their own guilt and anguish … and worry … about her. But if she'd learned anything from her dream, she'd learned that she couldn't change the past and that getting mired in guilt over how she'd reacted would do nothing to make things better.

She took a deep breath, concentrating on releasing the guilt and letting go of the power it had over her. Reaching out, she took Helena's hand in her own, not missing the pleasantly surprised look in blue eyes. "I'll go up and stay with Barbara for a while … give you a break. I know you've both been worried … truthfully, I've been kinda worried … but I'm doing better now … honest."

She watched as Helena studied her closely, as though the other woman was searching to see if that really was true. A genuine smile lit Helena's face, and Dinah knew that her reassurance about doing better had lifted a huge burden off the brunette's shoulders.

And then she was caught up in a hug. "I'm glad you're okay, Dinah. I don't know what we'd do without you. And if I can do anything to help … you know … with what happened … just let me know."

It was probably the mushiest speech Helena had ever given her and she wrapped her arms around the woman, grateful for the friendship and the support. "Thanks, Helena. You really are like a sister to me … and I'm glad you're here."

They held on for a moment longer, before Helena pulled away, predictably embarrassed by the show of affection. "Why don't you head to the kitchen and grab something to eat. Don't want you making yourself sick or anything. And I'll head back up to see if I can get Barbara to eat something."

She nodded and the brunette shot her a relieved smile as she exited the room. Dinah took a deep breath, feeling as though things really would be ok after all. Wouldn't be overnight and wouldn't be easy … but she wasn't alone.

Looking back at the bed, she decided she'd better grab the bottle of pills and put it back in the medicine cabinet before it was missed. She'd already given her friends enough of a scare … she didn't need them stumbling across it and being worried all over again. Lifting the cloth in which she'd wrapped it, she was surprised to see that there was no bottle on her bed. Ok, if she'd been asleep and dreamed about Gibson, the bottle would still be here. She knelt down, looking under the bed, assuming it just rolled off while she was sleeping. Nothing. She sifted through the bedcovers, looking to see where the bottle had gone … but couldn't find it. It was almost as though it had disappeared into thin air.

Then, unexpectedly, she heard Gibson's voice in her ear. "It wasn't a dream, Dinah. I'm still out here, watching over all of you. Go live your life … and know that you have an important place in the world."

She turned, but he wasn't there … just the echo of his voice remained. The sound warmed her, and she smiled as she left the room, off to join her family.

She'd been given a precious gift … a second chance. She had no intention of wasting it.

The End

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