DISCLAIMER: I do not own anything, nor am I writing this for profit. The characters belong to the WB and DC comics. No copyright infringement is intended.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Thank you, thank you, thank you to Jean. Your kind and thoughtful comments were welcome beyond my ability to express. As for the beta-ing skills for which I hired you, yeah, those are pretty awesome too.
SERIES: This story is a continuation of the series What it Means to Be a Hero. If you haven't read the first part, Getting Back on Your Feet, or the second, A Different Way of Thinking, don't worry. This is the prequel. It is not necessary for you to have read the others first, but they were intentionally written/posted in this order, so you might miss some of the more subtle developments that I worked so hard (two and a half *years* later) to write. Use your own judgment . . . hopefully you have some.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thank you for reading. Any comments or criticism can be directed to adliren@gmail.com.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

What it Means to Be a Hero
Part 1: Getting Back On Your Feet

By adliren



Barbara felt the brush of air as the metal pipe swung over her head. Her left foot whipped out connecting and breaking the thug's knee. He howled in pain as he made a desperate grab for Barbara's waist as he fell. The chink of a belt releasing went unheeded among the noise and confusion. She shrugged the man off, but heard others following as she ran deeper into the alley desperately trying to find a tactical advantage or enough time to make an exit; the hiss and scrapes of multiple sneakers and steel-toed boots chasing behind her.

"You've done it this time Barbara," the redhead panted to herself. Unknown to her, a shadow above heard the words clearly, giving a soft growl in reply. "Batman, Robin, I need assistance. I'm in the alley off of Jordan. Please Respond." Barbara felt her heartbeat pick up even further when only silence answered.

"Here chickie, her chickie, chickie."

The taunts of the men followed her on the desperate race atop the hard concrete. Finally she came to end of the alley, hemmed in on all sides by brick and hostile forces. She took a moment to grab for her grappling gun then another to realize her belt was completely gone then one more to wonder about the cost of replacing the leather and assortment of gadgets. Clearing her mind, she got into a defensive stance. The men stopped in a loose semi-circle in front of her. The leader shook his blond hair and flexed muscles that looked like he spent all his free time in the gym crafting. He pulled a switch knife from his pocket and waved it in front of Barbara.

"Well we caught ourselves one of the Bats. To bad it couldn't be the big one or his friend. What's that little cock-sucker's name, Robin? What kinda fucking name is that?"

Barbara felt her fury rise at this taunting, but forced it down. If Batman or Robin were on their way, they were going to be too late to help her now. If she wanted to survive this night, she was going to have to keep her head.

"What, don't feel like talking, chickie? I thought that's what all you girls like to do, talk, move your mouth around. Maybe I can give you something to help you it around, huh. Wouldn't you like that?"

And just like that he was at her, slashing low and aiming for her stomach. She moved to the side, catching his arm and breaking it at the elbow. She kicked his right knee, sending him to the street on his knees, before elbowing him in the face.

"One down," she panted, already breathing heavily. There were still six more thugs and three of them had almost reached her. She blocked the first few attacks, finally dropping one assailant with a spinning kick that sent him slamming up against the wall. She quickly and efficiently stripped the baseball bat away from the next and used the end to pummel the last in the face, knocking him out cold before spinning the weapon around and quickly returning it to its owner's stomach.

Whirling around she was surprised to find only one assailant was still on his feet. He looked like he'd seen a ghost, his skin pale and the white of his eyes showing. He took one look at Barbara and his fallen compatriots and ran back the other way as fast as he could. Barbara let him go. They could always pick him up later.

Looking around she tried to find Batman or Robin. Surly one of them was responsible for taking down the other two thugs, but there was no one but her and groaning semi-conscious bodies in the alley. Confused, she didn't pay attention when the blond man stirred. She was still trying to figure out what had happened when the man picked up the knife with the hand he could still use. Turning, she was just in time to find the weapon inches from thrusting into her chest. She only had time to exhale before a strange whistling filled the air and the knife leapt from the man's hand and skittered away across the concrete. At her feet the man lay sprawled, his arm sporting a break through which blood poured around the bone and dripped to the ground, several of his fingers obviously broken as well. Looking down, Barbara was surprised to see a good-sized brick, now broken into several smaller pieces, next to him.

Turning her eyes to the roofline, Barbara tried to spot her savior, but the rooftops showed only shadows, no masked avengers. She leaned down to examine the pieces of the brick, quickly deciding it probably weighed close to six pound originally. Whoever threw this had incredible strength and amazing aim.

Barbara notified the police where they could find the gang members while she tied them up one by one so they wouldn't escape. Feeling confident that she had done her job, Barbara climbed the nearest fire escape to check out the rooftops. She scoured all the nearby buildings coming up with only one possible clue. There were recent boot marks on the roof farthest into the alley. If Barbara had to guess, she would say that a single woman or young adolescent had sat and watched the fight, using the bricks as ammunition to take out some of the thugs and save Barbara's life.

Still, who could it have been? A small shoe size but an arm that could throw six pound bricks with perfect accuracy? That didn't sound like anyone Barbara knew or any of the files Batman kept. At least, not anyone who would help Batgirl. So who was her mysterious champion? Maybe she was assuming too much. Maybe another crime fighter was working in Gotham now, but the boys hadn't mentioned anyone. It was unlikely that Bruce wouldn't know about someone working in their territory. Barbara was led to the conclusion that either the mystery person was another vigilante being very discreet, or he or she chose to help Barbara specifically. She tuned her masked face left and right, observing the empty rooftops around her. In order to help her tonight, her defender must have followed her on her sweep. She just didn't get the feeling that this was a random incident.

Pulling out her grappling hook, she quickly made her way back to her motorcycle, aware the entire way of a prickling sensation centered on the back of her neck. Someone was watching, always from the shadows and the corners of her eyes. As she gunned the throttle she realized she should feel more disturbed by this fact. Instead, she felt comforted for some reason. That didn't mean she wouldn't find this person. Barbara Gordon hated mysteries, especially ones that involved her. She would get to the bottom of this.

Helena felt the presence behind her before she turned around. Mark Barrett, captain of the football team, casually walked up and placed his arm around her neck. The heavy weight settled on her shoulders, making her scramble to reposition her books.

"Hey, babe." Mark's deep voice came from somewhere over her head.

"Mark," Helena managed to get out before he was guiding her down the hall. Many of the students stared at them, whispering to each other, but of course she heard every word.

"Aren't they just the cutest?"

"I heard he dumped Alison the moment he saw her."

"It's the perfect match. The meathead and the slu-"

Helena stopped listening, concentrating instead on holding onto her books and keeping one hand around her boyfriend. She stared straight ahead until a flash of deep red caught her eyes. Barbara was just coming out of her classroom as they approached, her eyes widening when she saw the younger girl. Helena felt her face burn and quickly removed her arm from Mark's waist, but he merely pulled her tighter to his side.

"Helena." Barbara's voice sounded surprised, and her emerald green eyes were wide.

"Hey, Miss Gordon." If it was possible, Barbara's eyes seemed to open even wider at Helena's use of her title. She always called her Barbara, no matter what the circumstances. The teenager cursed silently, she was so nervous and unsettled. She once again tried to pull out of Mark's hold, but he just absentmindedly tightened his grip while talking to another jock in Gotham letter jacket.

"I was wondering if you would like to eat lunch today, Hel. It's been awhile."

"Um, sure. That sounds good." Helena had to stop the shiver that started when Barbara smiled widely at her response.

"Great. I'll see you at 11:30."

"'Kay, see you then" Helena couldn't look Barbara in the eye, instead focusing on the floor as Mark walked her to homeroom.

Her classmates were right of course. Helena had joined the pep squad this year and who better for her to hook up with than the junior quarterback. She wished she didn't need him, but he was step-one in getting Selena off her back. It seemed every week her mom would find a way to work Barbara into a conversation and she would have to watch what she said and how she said it. Since she had started dating Mark, those talks/interrogations had stopped almost completely. Unfortunately, so had her visits with Barbara. Helena had done her best to avoid Barbara. She couldn't even look at the woman who took up most of her waking thoughts with some guy attached to her hip.

It was so hard. She wanted to shout how much she cared for Barbara to her mom, to her classmates, to Mark, but she couldn't. Telling anyone would guarantee Barbara never took her seriously. Not now at least. For now she had to pretend that Mark was everything she wanted. But seeing Barbara in the hallway while hanging off of some boy was killing something inside of her. Her stomach felt sick and at that moment she wanted nothing more than to run to the girl's restroom.

"What's wrong, babe?" Mark asked.

"Nothing. I don't feel well," Helena replied desperate for her boyfriend to focus on anything else but her- which was usually his habit anyway.

"You should go to the nurse," was the wisdom he administered.

"I'll do that." She tried to smile up at him, thinking it probably looked like a gross parody of a happy gesture, but it seemed to satisfy him. He gave her a quick kiss on the cheek and continued down the hall. Helena did her best not to wipe her cheek. Lunch with Barbara today was going to be a nightmare.

Barbara's mind was definitely not on the ungraded essays in front of her. She kept going over her surprise meeting with Helena earlier in the morning. Helena had seemed almost terminally embarrassed running into Barbara while walking down the hall with her- her boyfriend. Of course the high school gossip circuit had guaranteed the redhead had prior knowledge about Helena's choice to date in the past weeks. At first it had felt as if a weight had been lifted off her chest. Helena was obviously more interested in having a sophomoric romance with the quarterback, most girls' high school dream, and that was fine with Barbara. It obviously meant that Selena was wrong and they both had nothing to worry about.

Helena was growing up. Barbara would just have to accept that the younger girl would no longer need her childhood friend. She was a teacher and Helena was a student. She was only fooling herself if she thought Helena would want to spend as much time together as they used to. Still, she didn't want to completely lose Helena from her life. It had hurt that Helena didn't want her boyfriend to see Barbara.

There was a tentative knock on the door and Barbara slowly looked up from her papers, surprised to see Helena in the doorway. Helena, in the redhead's experience, never did anything tentatively. The younger girl made no move to enter the room however, and finally Barbara had to gesture for her to come in.

"Hello, Helena. I haven't seen you for a while."

"Yeah, I know." Helena's eyes flashed for a moment and her tone was sarcastic in a way Barbara had never heard before.

"Well, I'm glad we could meet today," Barbara heard herself say into the suddenly charged silence. Helena's head dipped forward slightly hiding her eyes for a moment. When she looked back up, she was smiling though to Barbara it looked a little forced.

"Me too. Sorry, it's been a rough day."

"Oh, is there anything I can help with." Barbara was keeping the promise she'd made to Selena Kyle over the summer. She'd been careful to run into Helena as little as possible in the last month and a half. In all that time she had only seen her from a distance twice and talked with her once. Considering they spent seventy percent of their days in the same building that was quite an achievement. One her subconscious continued to nag was not statistically possible, well, not unless Helena had also undertaken the same goal. She had simply rejected that hypothesis. Until this morning.

"No, I don't think so." Helena looked at her with sadness, and unless she was greatly mistaken, longing. It was gone in the blink of an eye, but for some reason it disturbed Barbara greatly. Perhaps Helena and Selena were having problems.

"Are you sure, Helena? I'll listen without judgment. I promise."

"Yeah, I've heard that before," Helena scoffed, and Barbara felt her heart clench in her chest. Since when did Helena talk to her like this? "Look, Barbara, I know you saw Mark and me this morning. And yeah, we're dating, but it's not that serious. You don't need to save me from `making a mistake that could ruin my life'." Helena used her fingers to indicate quotations and Barbara flinched. She had always hated that particular gesture.

"Yes, I did, but I wasn't going to bring it up, you did. To me that suggests at some level you want to talk about it." Barbara took a deep breath before speaking again. "Are you two sexually active? Do you need someone to talk too? Is he pressuring you?" Barbara had half risen from her chair, but the shocked and repulsed look on the brunette's face had her sitting back down quickly.

"Ewww, Barbara, no. Mark's cute, but we're not sleeping together. Ewww, no." The redhead tried her best not to laugh at the look on Helena's face. "We're just dating, you know `cause he's the football captain."

"Because he's the football captain? Is that the only reason you're with him, Helena?" Barbara questioned, suddenly feeling slightly sick to her stomach.

"Well, he's nice and um, cute. Did I already say that?" Barbara refrained from answering, her eidetic memory easily supplying the answer. Helena dropped her head until she was staring at the desktop, her next words so quite Barbara could barely hear. "I'm just using him to pass the time."

Barbara reigned in her first impulse, instead giving Helena's words the consideration her friend deserved. Helena was obviously bothered by something about her relationship with the quarterback. Whether she recognized it or not, Helena had come to her for advice, and Barbara would do the best she could to help, even if emotional problems were not her forte.

"Does he care for you, Hel?" Blue eyes looked up and for the life of her, Barbara couldn't read the feelings they expressed.

"I think he does, maybe." The words were whispered and Helena continued to stare directly into Barbara's green eyes.

"Well, that's not very fair to him then. He deserves to know you don't feel the same."

"But I need him." Barbara watched with trepidation as Helena's eyes turned glassy, almost dropping the tears that hid behind them before she focused her gaze on the fists in her lap.

"You need him, sweetheart?" Barbara didn't even realize she'd used the endearment until Helena's eyes whipped to hers only to snap away a moment later, a forced laugh rising between them.

"Yeah, you know, gotta keep that high school reputation going. Mark is the quarterback after all."

"Helena . . ." Barbara trailed off, not knowing what to say in the face of the teenager's response.

"Don't worry about it. I'll tell him. He deserves to know I ne-want someone else."

"Someone else, Hel?" Barbara wanted desperately to lay her head against the desk, the rapid changes in conversation making her thoughts spin. Helena finally looked up at her and once again their eyes locked. There was a message held in the deep cerulean orbs that stared at her almost desperately.

"Jack Barrett," Helena blurted, breaking eye contact.

"Jack Barrett?" Barbara repeated stupidly trying to take in the answer she hadn't expected.

"Yeah, Jack Barrett. He's dashing, ripped, hot, and doesn't even know I exist."

"Well I'm sure you can get his attention, Hel," Barbara managed, slowly regaining her equilibrium.

"One day, right Barbara." Helena replied seriously.

"Yes, quite right." She opened her mouth to continue, but the bell interrupted her. Helena shot out of her seat like it was on fire.

"Thanks for lunch, Barbara. We should do this again."

"Of course, Hel." Barbara called to the brunette's quickly exiting back. Sighing with relief, Barbara laid her head down on her desk with a soft thump. This was why Barbara was never going to have children- they eventually turned into teenagers.

All joking aside though, she was worried about her younger friend. She didn't believe for a minute that Helena was suffering from boy troubles. It was just too . . . teenager-y. Barbara mentally smacked herself for daring to even think such a heinous crime against vocabulary and English grammar. Still, it was applicable. Helena wasn't an ordinary teenager. She loved to cause mischief and could wrap herself in an amazing amount of drama, but she had always shown a maturity that Barbara appreciated. This Mark and Jack nonsense just rang false to the English teacher.

If that was true though, what was bothering Helena so much that she would avoid Barbara and then speak so cryptically when they finally talked. Whatever it was, she was determined to find out the cause. Helena was her friend. She would do whatever it took to help the younger Kyle. For some reason, she simply couldn't do anything less.

"Well that could have gone better." A long sigh followed the pronouncement, blowing dark bangs upward for a moment before they once again settled over deep blue eyes.

"What was I thinking? `He deserves to know I want someone else.' He deserves to know what two plus two is. `I need him.' Like I need a hole in the head," Helena mocked Mark and herself. She was in a sharing mood. "Why not just come out and say it's her you want. You know you just made her curious and with Barbara that is never good." The stone statue next to her didn't respond.

"So what do I do now? I can't keep dating Mark. He's so boring I'll end up setting myself on fire for a little variety. I guess I can tell him I'm waiting for someone else, and then make it really obvious that I'm waiting for Jack to notice me which he never will. That should still keep Mom off my back and Barbara will accept it eventually.

"So, awesome. I get to spend three years pretending I'm lusting after Jack, Mr. dashing, ripped, and completely straight edged, while instead, I'm really lusting after the female English teacher who is eight years older than me and who I need to avoid as much as possible."

It was silent as an ambulance passed below them, barely audible even for the young meta-human, and Helena took the opportunity to express her opinion. "High school sucks!" The scream that followed her announcement, however, seemed to resonate in her eardrums and for one confused second, Helena thought she had uttered the sound in her frustration. When it was repeated however, without conscious thought she leapt from the Clocktower balcony, landing on the building closest to where the cry for help had originated. Running fearlessly to the edge she saw a disturbingly familiar image. A woman dressed up for a nice evening on the town was backed against the wall of the alley, and a group of young men in camo and baggy clothes surrounded her. Helena's sharp eyesight caught the glint of lights from multiple weapons, including guns from two of the men.

Looking around for a split second, Helena determined there was no help approaching. Gotham's vigilantes must have been busy tonight. Without wasting another second, Helena leapt for the fire escape to watch and listen.

"Just give us the valuables, lady." The woman looked at him with terrified eyes and clutched her purse tighter to her chest.

`Wrong move,' Helena thought

"Listen, bitch, we just want your money, but we'll gladly take whatever we can get from you if you give us trouble, you understand what I'm saying." The man's voice was a low growl, but the woman didn't react except to begin crying. This seemed to frustrate the man who took a step closer his hand raised, but before he could hit his target a large brick slammed into his arm, easily snapping it and sending him to the ground.

"What the fuck?!"

"Where the hell did that come from?!"

"Was that a fuck'n brick?!"

The men quickly pulled themselves into a tight circle around their fallen leader. They scanned the alley, but only the (still) crying woman and their unconscious leader meet their frantic eyes. Finally one of them stepped forward and raised his voice.

"Who's there?!" His answer was a brick that slammed into his stomach, knocking him to his knees where here retched several times. His gang watched a minute before quickly returning their eyes to the surrounding darkness. Each man could feel something watching them in the dark. Suddenly a pair of burning golden eyes seemed to hang suspended from the dark fire escape. Nothing but the eyes could be seen lending it an eerie disembodied look. Unable to move, the men stared until another brick exploded in the center of the group, sending stone shards painfully into the men's backs.

That was enough. The men broke and ran as one. The shadow smiled slowly reveling cerulean blue eyes in place of searing gold. Helena laughed as the men's final words drifted back to her.

"It's a demon, man. A fucking demon!"

"Fuck that, it's a ghost. Some dead motherfucker's ghost."

"A ghost that throws bricks?!"

"A really pissed off ghost, yeah!"

"Shut up, keep running. We've got to get ba-"

The rest of their words were drowned out by the sound of police sirens, and Helena looked over to see the woman with a cell phone to her ear. The woman didn't bother to look around, and Helena was grateful. She couldn't let this woman she what she had done, not even to accept her thanks.

Even over the sound of the sirens, the teenager gave a start when she heard the racing footsteps and the sound of a grappling hook being fired and recoiled. One of Gotham's vigilantes was on their way which meant she needed to make herself scarce. Taking one more look, she disappeared into the night just like she had been taught, a smile on her lips that remained all the way back to her bedroom and followed her into sleep.

Once again Batgirl was dodging kicks and punches aimed at her from multiple opponents. Only three this time and they were all intoxicated. As she spun and twisted avoiding all of their clumsy strikes easily, her gaze would focus briefly on the rooftops that surrounded them. She tried not to be too obvious; after all, she didn't want to scare her prey off.

The fight began flagging, the men simply too inebriated and out-of-shape to put up much of a challenge. Batgirl was relieved when the small black box on her hip emitted a sharp beeping tone. Backfliping to make space, she dropped into her fighting stance. The men paused for a moment, looks passing between them at the change in the air, but too stupid to realize what it meant for them. Wasting no more time, Batgirl took the fight to them. In less than sixty seconds, all three men were unconscious on the ground. Barbara dusted her hands off as she looked at her handiwork.

"Batman, Robin, just checking in. I handled the situation. I'm notifying the authorities now," Barbara radioed while discretely lifting the box from her hip. A green screen showed lines placed in descending circles from a central point. One red dot shifted marginally on the screen and the redhead resisted the urge to smile.

`Got you now.'

She proceeded to tie up the perps and then casually ascended to the roofs. Checking one last time she moved several blocks before quickly circling around and coming back from a different angle. According to the motion sensors she had placed earlier in the day, before leading the three thugs inside to help bait her trap, the target was crouched behind the industrial air conditioning unit for the apartment building.

Using every stealth technique she knew, she made her way to the other side. Taking a deep breath, she quickly moved around the side swinging a restrained punch low to the ground, hoping to knock the wind out of her stalker. The punch went high since the figure was crouched lower than Barbara had anticipated. A leg shot out and Barbara quickly backpedalled to keep from ending up on her back. The figure was on her in seconds and Barbara raised her hands in a frantic defense only to realize her assailant had hurdled over her and was escaping. Barbara growled and got to her feet. No way was this little punk going to get away from her.

As the figure approached the edge of the building, Barbara watched in amazement as he simply leapt the distance to the next rooftop which happened to be higher than the one she was currently standing and gawking atop. She shook herself and pulled out her grappling hook and began following the figure on a night tour of Gotham. After fifteen minutes Barbara had gained to the point where she could see the figures black cap and sweatshirt clearly. He or she was fast, but they didn't know Gotham like Batgirl did, and finally using a particularly good short-cut Barbara was able to tackle the figure to the ground.

Immediately she was reminded of her Aunt's cat. Every time Barbara had tried to hold Simon, the large black feline had hissed, spit, and batted her around the arms and head. Frustrated, Barbara tried to hold the figure still so she could see his face, but his movements were too wild. It suddenly occurred to the redhead that her suspect was only trying to escape, not harm her; in fact he appeared to be taking care not to injure Barbara in any way. The only sound was the panting of two lungs trying desperately to inhale oxygen in order to continue the struggle.

"Stop! Just stop! I'm not letting you go." Barbara shouted, finally getting a good hold on the figures arms after accidentally kneeing him in the stomach hard enough to force the air out his lungs.

Just like that, the figure went limp. Carefully, the vigilante moved a hand toward the hat that was pulled low over her quarries head. Barbara felt him shudder beneath her but she didn't stop. Pulling up and away in one quick motion, she was met with dark hair topping young, tanned features, but what held her gaze was the two blazing gold, slitted eyes that stared at her with equal amounts anger and frustration.

"Helena?" The name was barely a whisper. The dark head turned away breaking her gaze. Moments later she turned back and Barbara was faced with the familiar deep blue eyes. "Helena."

"Um, hey Barbara. Do you think you could maybe get off?" Startled, Barbara looked down at their bodies, hers straddling the smaller girl's at the hips. She quickly pulled herself up and reached a hand down which Helena gratefully accepted with a small smile. Silence settled around them once again. Barbara was unsure what to say, her mind completely unprepared for finding Helena as her unrequested champion. "So . . . I guess you probably want to know what I'm doing here, right."

"That would be one of the questions I have, yes." Barbara couldn't take her eyes off of the younger girl. She was dressed all in black. Her dark hair and coloring making her almost a part of the shadows they stood in. For some reason Barbara had the odd thought that Helena belonged out here, in the night, on the rooftops.

"Well, I've kinda been watching you, and uh, helping out whe- if you need it," except for the small slip, Helena spoke casually as if she were merely describing to Barbara why they might meet on the street after school.

"Indeed, Helena. Does Selena know that you've been involved in these extracurricular activities?"

"No." Helena looked at her defiantly. "And you're not going to tell her."

"Excuse me, Hel?"

"You're not going to tell her because," here she seemed to falter, "Because if you do, I'll never see you again."

"Why is that?" The brunette heaved a large sigh and turned away from Barbara. The vigilante realized she had been intensely focused on Helena's eyes. Had she really seen what she thought she had seen? Did she really just think that sentence?

"She doesn't know I know you're Batgirl. She doesn't know I've been following you."

"Why have you been following me?" Barbara watched in frustration as Helena shrugged and refused to answer. "Fine then how about this, what can you tell me about your eyes?" Helena sucked in a breath and wrapped her arms tight around her body in an instinctive defensive posture, almost making Barbara regret asking.

"I'm really not supposed to talk about that."

"I promise I won't say anything, Hel. I just want to understand." The teenager didn't respond simply continued to look away from Barbara. "Please, Hel."

"I- Mom says I'm special, but that I need to act normal. She says it's a sort of gift. She has most of them too." Helena looked up with panic in her eyes after she spoke and Barbara could guess the cause.

"I won't reveal Selena's secrets either, Helena. I promise. But what other gifts?" Barbara was puzzled. Helena wasn't and never would be normal in Barbara's eyes, but she had at least thought she was human..

"Ok. Well, I guess I just have really good balance, quick reflexes, better senses, more strength and speed-"

"Well I guess if that's all you have." Barbara tried to joke and was rewarded with a weak smile.

"And then there's my eyes." The words were whispered and full of some emotion Barbara couldn't pin down. Perhaps a mixture of shame, belligerence, and again fear. For some reason it bothered the redhead deeply.

"They're quite beautiful." She watched in some surprise as Helena's head whipped up, the eyes they had been discussing wide and focused on Barbara.

"Oh." Barbara didn't know what to make of the blush that quickly stained the younger girl's cheeks. "Thanks," she answered quietly. "Mom said never to let anyone else see them. I might get taken away and experimented on or something." Barbara's skin literally crawled at the matter of fact way Helena presented this information. Especially since it was more than likely true.

"She's done a good job of protecting you." Barbara wasn't sure who she was convincing, Helena or herself.


"What am I going to do with you, Hel?"

"You could forget you ever saw me and pretend like none of this ever happened. Or not," she quickly amended taking one look at Barbara's face.

"Helena, it's sweet that you think I need protection, but I don't. I've trained for this and therefore I can take care of myself."

"But what about that night-" Barbara cut her off quickly.

"That was an isolated incident. I would have been alright. I may have been injured, but that's something I accepted when I started being Batgirl. I will not however, allow you to do the same. If I have to get Selena involved I will. Promise me you won't be shadowing me anymore," she added seeing Helena about to argue. The brunette huffed for a moment, causing Barbara to fear she would not agree. If that was the case, Barbara would have to talk with Selena. She would not allow Helena to be hurt. Still, a small part of Barbara's mind couldn't help but think that with extensive training, Helena would be an amazing vigilante. Ashamed, she stuffed that thought down into her deepest subconscious.

"Fine. I promise." The words were clipped and angry, but Barbara knew she meant it. Helena didn't give her promise lightly, letting the redhead breath a sigh of relief.

"Good. I think it's time for you to head home."

"What about you?" Helena questioned.

"I still have sweeps. You however have homework."

"Oh great, Barbara, kick me when I'm down. Oh wait, you already did that." Barbara couldn't help but smile at Helena's smart-alecky remark.

"Off, go, learn."

"Yes, Ma'am. Hmm, calling you that when you're in all that latex and leather-"

"Go!" Barbara managed to utter, her face heating.

"I'm going." Helena held her hands up in surrender before turning and jumping off the building almost faster than Barbara could follow. Heart pounding Barbara ran to the edge just in time to catch a flash of black disappear around the corner.

"Show off."

Barbara set off to finish the rest of her sweep, thinking about everything she had learned tonight, and how much she still had to discuss with her young friend. It occurred to her three blocks later that she had never learned how Helena knew she was Batgirl. She doubted that Selena had discussed it with her. Sighing, she added it the list of questions she would ask Helena the next time they met.

Later, heading back to the Batcave, Barbara realized she had spent half the night contemplating Helena's amazing, fascinating – beautiful – golden eyes. It was obviously some form of mutation. If the teenager and Selena could survive with such a genetic abnormality surly there must be others. Her curiosity peaked; Barbara made a mental note to secure some time with the computer system Bruce had cobbled together.

She shoved the knowledge that she had spent a quarter of the night going over Helena's quip about her Batgirl suit. That really wasn't appropriate. She considered speaking to Helena about it, but figured it wouldn't do much good. Like mother, like daughter. She just hoped Helena had gotten it out of her system. She was already well aware that her face could turn the same shade as her hair, thank you very much.

Things were finally back to normal.

Helena smiled contemplating the idea while sitting in Barbara's classroom. They were once again enjoying one of their monthly lunches together. It was a schedule they had adopted freshman year after Selena had insisted they spend less time together. After Barbara discovered Helena on the rooftops, they had started them up again. Barbara had a lot of questions, mostly ones Helena couldn't answer for one reason or another.

It had been a stressful time for Helena. When Barbara had first seen her eyes she was sure that would be the end of their friendship. Instead, she had seemed fascinated. She had even called them beautiful. Helena still couldn't help the smile that spread across her face whenever she thought of that moment.

Many of Barbara's questions had related to her gifts. She had asked Helena to demonstrate some of her abilities which the brunette was more than happy to do. Of course Barbara hadn't shared anything she'd learned, just mumbled something that sounded like . . . meta-human, and that was the end of it.

Eventually she had stopped asking Helena the tougher questions, such as why she had been following her and why she knew about Batgirl. Helena was forced to use all of her charm and wits to deflect Barbara's questions. In the process, however, she found that she couldn't seem to help flirting a bit with the gorgeous teacher. She knew it wasn't a good idea, but the words just came out without her control. The staggering blushes that always met her teasing were just too much to resist. Of course Barbara always got even. Always.

Now it was nearing the end of her sophomore year. Everyone around her was thoroughly convinced she was pining away for Jack Barrett. Everyone thought she and Barbara were just good friends. Everyone thought Helena was perfectly sane. Everyone except Helena.

Being so close to Barbara was driving her crazy. She wanted to shout that she was completely head-over-heels in love with her and instead had to settle for lunches once a month. Still it was better than nothing, and things were finally back to normal. Even Selena had relented and next semester she was scheduled to be in Barbara's junior English class. Helena prayed nightly that she could survive being so close to Barbara with her sanity intact. So really, everything was back to normal.

Part 4

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