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 email@example.com.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
What it Means to Be a Hero
Part 1: Getting Back On Your Feet
"Helena, would you care to read that out loud?"
Barbara felt guilty for calling her friend out in class, especially when several girls clad in multiple shades of pink giggled and whispered to each other while casting glances at the quickly reddening brunette. However, she could not always protect Helena. She was her teacher now and Barbara cautioned herself daily to treat Helena like any other student.
"Don't worry about it. Jack isn't looking," she heard the whisper as Gibson tried to comfort Helena, but chose to ignore it.
The tight clenching in her stomach forced Barbara back to the lesson. Whatever, whoever, some vicious part of her mind interjected, Helena chose to do with her time was entirely up to her. Helena Kyle may have been eating lunch with her, but the mind, the spirit, seemed absent. Lately being around Helena had left her feeling lonely.
The loud ringing of the bell was a welcome sound to Barbara, even if it was starting to drive her crazy after three years. Maybe she could suggest another means of signaling the students, perhaps one that didn't offend the auditory senses quite so atrociously.
As Helena walked up the aisle of desks, she was tempted to reach out and place a gentle hand on her shoulder. Vaguely she registered that she would not have to reach far, Helena had grown quite a bit over the summer. Her hand hovered a moment before she allowed it to fall. It wasn't the time. Whatever the problem, Helena should come to her first, not have Barbara interrogate it out of her.
Turning around, Barbara found Helena leaning against the closed door. Not sure if she was prepared for whatever the teenager had to say, Barbara inhaled deeply before replying.
"Yes, Hel. Is there something I can do for you?" Mentally she berated herself for sounding so formal. This was Helena after all.
"No, um, are you okay?"
"I'm fine, just a bit concerned for you, really."
"Oh. Don't be. I'm fine-good. I'm okay."
"Yes, that's very convincing." Barbara let the grin cross her face, smiling when it was returned.
"Is that any way to speak to your teacher?"
"Not my teacher, maybe my best friend."
"Well as your best friend, I think I need to tell you that you've been . . ." Barbara paused, searching for the word she wanted, "restless lately. I was wondering if there was anything you wanted to talk about."
"Barbara, I'm really okay. I'm just . . ." Helena shrugged her shoulders. What was she supposed to say? She felt tears sting her eyes and turned away before the other woman could see them.
"It's alright, Hel. You'll tell me when you can." Barbara felt terrible for pushing Helena to the point of tears. She always seemed to be saying the wrong thing lately, but really, Helena was as twitchy as a . . . well a cat. She was sure to keep that observation to herself of course. She had recently found out just how much the brunette hated any comparisons to genus Felidae. She wasn't likely to repeat the experience voluntarily.
"Thanks," Helena replied while surreptitiously wiping her tears away. "I'm just going through some stuff, you know."
"Yes, I do. It's called high school. Every child your age hates it. I'm not sure why we don't just abandon the whole enterprise." Barbara tried to get Helena to smile and was rewarded with a small twist of lips.
"But then you'd be out of a job."
"So I would. I guess there must be another solution. Duck tape? Chains perhaps?" Helena's eyes lit up and Barbara knew she had just shot herself in the proverbial foot.
"Chains, Barbara. Sign me up," Helena added with an attractive leer. "What exactly would you-"
"Never mind, Helena. I'm sure our current institution has prevailed this long for a reason. I'm just feeling a bit stressed, of course." Barbara fought the blush rising up her neck, knowing she was failing miserably.
"Yeah, mandatory attendance," Helena scoffed. Without warning, her stance shifted and her tone became concerned. "Are you alright?"
"Perfectly fine, Hel. Why do you ask?"
"Dunno. You just seem . . . upset. I thought maybe it was me," Barbara rushed to reassure her, but Helena forged ahead before she could speak. "You know, having me in class this year. I know I can be a pain in the as- butt," she amended quickly.
"You are not a pain, Helena. I'm extremely pleased that you're in my class. In fact, I have a good feeling about this entire year. Despite all the note passing that occurs under my very nose." Barbara tried to lighten the moon, but blue eyes regarded her skeptically. "What?"
"You have a good feeling? You? Feelings? Are you seeing what's wrong with this picture?"
"I'll let that slide for now; however, I expect an apology at the end of the semester, maybe in the form of a written essay." Barbara began to shoo Helena out of the classroom, even while the younger girl continued to argue.
"As if. I bet we barely survive this semester. Then you can write me an essay that praises my amazing precognitive abilities." Helena laughingly added as she walked out the door.
"I wasn't aware that that was one of your, admittedly, amazing gifts, Helena," Barbara laughed as well.
"Yeah, well, I don't tell you everything." Suddenly there was something in the tone of Helena's voice that Barbara didn't like. In fact, it sent shivers up and down her spine, and not in a good way.
"No of course not," Barbara watched the girl young woman walk confidently down the hall. "but you used to."
Sighing, Barbara went to sit at her desk to plan for the next day. She had told Helena the truth. She did have a good feeling about this year. Helena was in her class every day. Catwoman hadn't caused any trouble in months. Her Dad and the boys had stopped giving her grief for teaching, and Batgirl was at the top of her game. Yes, this was going to be a good year.
Helena trailed her fork listlessly over the spaghetti on her plate. She was slowly, but surely, separating the pieces of hamburger from the tomato sauce. The sound of her mother calling her name repeatedly brought her head up quickly.
"Kitten, what's going on?" Selena's bright green eyes regarded her, the gaze filled with compassion and no small amount of frustration.
"Nothing. I've been talking to you for the last ten minutes. Have you heard anything I've said?"
"Um . . ."
"No, of course not. You've been too busy picking apart the dinner I prepared for us." Helena looked down at her plate, unsure what to say. "Alright, Kitten, I've let this go on long enough. Talk to me. What's bothering you?"
"Nothing. I told you." Even if she wanted to, Helena didn't know where to start. Things were falling apart left and right. Recently her Mom had been going out almost every night. When Helena had followed her, Selena's alter ego had been meeting with different groups of men. Men that looked like Batgirl should be hauling them off to jail. Each time Selena appeared frustrated and left in a hurry. Helena didn't understand what was going on, but it scared her. She was almost to the point of asking Barbara for help, but she couldn't betray her Mom like that. Even to Barbara.
Then of course there was the whole school situation. Being voted the most likely to inspire envy was great, except when you envied everyone else around you. They didn't have to pretend to be winded after running one mile on the track. They didn't have to pretend that some boy, no matter how cute, was the sole reason for their existence. They didn't have to lie to everyone around them. They didn't have to hide their feelings every single day. They didn't have to sit in Barbara's class and wonder if she could ever love them when the odds seemed impossibly stacked against them.
And worst of all - Dick Grayson. The handsome, charming, stuck-up, pretentious, condescending asshole that Barbara was now dating. The fact that she seemed ridiculously happy only added to the misery. How could Barbara fall in love with her if she was blissfully in love with Dick? But what could Helena do; ask Barbara not to fall in love for another year and a half? That would go over well. She should have seen this coming. Of course Barbara wouldn't stay single. She was amazing, and finally someone other than Helena had noticed.
And she couldn't tell any of this to Selena, her own Mother. The knowledge that she couldn't talk to anyone almost made her burst into tears. Pulling herself together, Helena prepared to tell another lie. She was so tired of lies.
"I don't know." She quickly continued when Selena's eyebrow shot to her hairline, a clear warning sign. "I've just had this really bad feeling lately."
"What kind of feeling?" Selena asked in concern.
"Just like something bad is gonna happen. Really bad." Helena shrugged her thin shoulders. It was the best she could do, and it wasn't entirely untrue. She had had a bad feeling all week.
"Well, let me know if you figure out what's causing it," her Mom offered. Helena tried to give her a reassuring smile.
There was several minutes of silence while Helena continued to absently deconstruct her dinner and Selena watched her in concern.
"We haven't done anything together in a while. Just the two of us. A girl's night out." Helena lifted her head and cautiously smiled.
"Yeah, it's been a while."
"Do you have any plans for this weekend?" Green eyes sparkled at her and Helena was helpless to stop her grin.
"Hmm, let me think. Well I've got to figure out a way to end world hunger, but I should be free on Sunday."
"Always so cheeky. How could I have raised such a daughter?"
"Easily," Helena replied with a grin.
"Hmm, perhaps. Well, how about Sunday we go see a play? Just the two of us." Helena considered quickly. An entire night where her mother wouldn't be meeting strange men on rooftops and back alleys. An entire night where she could just relax and not think about Barbara and stupid Dick Grayson.
"That sounds awesome."
"Awesome," Selena replied wrinkling her nose in distaste of the word. "I'll call and get us tickets tomorrow. Don't make any plans."
"Okay." They sat quietly and finished their meal. As Helena prepared to take her dishes into the kitchen, she paused not looking at her mother. "Thanks, Mom. I'm really glad we'll get to spend some time together."
"Me too, Kitten. I'll try to make it happen more often. I know I've been neglecting you lately."
"It's cool. I know you've been busy."
"Yes, well, that's no excuse. I promise I'll always be here for you. Anytime you need me."
Helena just smiled and went to wash the dishes.
"Robin, we're heading into the tunnels. Stay alert. Watch the exits."
Barbara sucked in one last breath of salty air as she listened to Batman's communiqué. Flinging her cloak behind her, she prepared to follow the dark shape in front of her into the warehouse tunnels of Gotham's docks.
"Batgirl?" The young man's voice seemed to echo in her earpiece, matching the racing of her heartbeat.
"I'm here, Robin."
"Be careful." She could tell he wanted to say more. After almost six months of dating and several years as his partner in crime fighting, she could hear the unspoken words. I love you. I can't lose you.
"Always." With that, she turned her thoughts away from the man she thought she might marry some day and entered the dark pit that held their prey, the most feared and terrible of Batman's enemies. Jack Napier, aka The Joker.
Later it would seem like a dream to Barbara Gordon. The ambush in the tunnels. The fight with Batman by her side. The glimpse of green and white that seemed to glow in the shadows. The pain as kicks and punches landed or were blocked. The flash of light shot from a pale hand. The flicker of fire that ignited the very air around them. Finally, the sound of Batman's body striking the Joker as the roof beams crashed down from above.
As they ran to escape the spreading blaze, Batman dragging the mad villain behind them none too gently, Barbara felt the smoke grab her lungs, staining the air she desperately sought. Up, up, the air growing thin, death behind them and carried with them. Barbara shuddered when she realized the whole of the warehouse district was going to burn.
Oddly the first thought that entered her mind as they burst from the tunnel, debris falling like hail behind them, was Helena. With the fire raging all around her and the haze of smoke clouding everything, the sky above them remained blue. The same blue as Helena's eyes.
"Batgirl, Batman, where are you?" The voice was thin with static.
"We're at the tunnel entrance. We've apprehended the Joker." No one else would have heard the satisfaction in Bruce's voice, but Barbara did and gave a small nod to her mentor which was returned.
"Great! Is everything alright?"
"We're fine, Robin," Barbara answered, knowing what was really being asked. "I assume the fire department is on their way?"
"I notified them, but I'm pretty sure they already knew. You do know that the entire warehouse district is going up in flames, right?"
"We are. I'll stay and make sure our resident criminal is taken into custody. Robin, head back to the Cave. Barbara, head home." Barbara started to protest, but Bruce cut her off. "Go home. Get cleaned up and head over to the Cave when you're done. Call your Father first."
"Dad? Why would I-"
"Just trust me." Bruce's voice brooked no argument and with a final nod, Barbara moved to her bike and took off heading for her apartment. She could almost feel the hot water from the shower that she would take the instant she walked in the door. She hated the smell of smoke.
Helena felt the tears that stained her cheeks as the actors played out the scene in front of her. She couldn't even remember the name of the play, but now found the tale of love lost and found again to be wreaking havoc with her emotions. She felt Selena move slightly and started at the touch of her warm hand. Her own fingers had grown cold clenched in a fist at her side.
"Yes,." Helena replied, wanting in that moment to just tell her Mother everything. Why this play inspired her to tears, all her fears and troubles and sorrows. Instead, she slowly unclenched her hand and patted Selena's reassuringly.
As the play continued, Helena tried to sit quietly and project an air of enjoyment. It was a well acted play, if only the content were not so hard to bear. When the final line was given, Helena stood and applauded loudly, a second before anyone else in the audience. Selena glanced at her in concern then stood to offer her applause as well. Helena struggled to pull on her coat before heading out into the cold Gotham night. She was grateful when Selena grabbed the hair which hung to the middle of her back, and pulled it from her collar. One of these days she was going to get it cut, but her Mom always made such a fuss.
"Did you enjoy the play?" Helena could hear the real question hiding behind the words.
"Yes, very much. I don't know, it just kind of . . . struck me, you know."
"Hmm, yes." Helena tried to decipher the look her Mother was giving her, but the bright green eyes stayed inscrutable.
"Anyway, I'm glad we could see it together," Helena said sincerely.
"So am I, Kitten. So am I. We should do this again soon, don't you think?"
"Yes," Helena replied grinning happily as they started to walk away from the theater entrance. "We should."
Later, it would all seem like a dream to Helena Kyle. The man wrapped in a dark coat, black gloves on his hands. Watching the knife drip bright red blood onto the street. The screams that wouldn't stop. Her screams. The crowd that gathered to stare at the sight of a blonde woman dressed in a blue suit lying on the ground, blue and gray and red.
"Mom! Mom, can you hear me? It's Helena! Mom, you- you have to! You have to! You have to hear me!"
The pressure on her hands as she shook the body in front of her, almost able to feel the heat dissipating into the air.
"Is she breathing?" Someone speaking, asking a stupid question. Of course she was breathing. Looking up to see the man, the man with the knife. Still standing there, watching.
"Stop him! Somebody stop him! Somebody stop him!"
The slowing of time as the knife fell from his hand into a puddle of water. Watching him run away as no one even looked up from her Mom's-
Shaking, desperately shaking, herself and her Mother.
Laying her head down on a chest that no longer rose or fell with breath. Watching the blood on the knife dissolve into a pink tint that stained the puddle as she sobbed into her Mother's . . . the body. The crash of thunder.
Barbara stepped into the shower, letting the hot water run down her body. Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes and rested her head against the glass door. She listened to the building storm as rain pelted the brick building. She had left the TV in her bedroom on, letting the soft, comforting sound of the news travel into the bathroom.
Barbara's head turned sharply sending the spray across her right cheek bone as three words grabbed her attention; Selena Kyle . . . murdered. Quickly stepping out of the shower she grabbed the robe hanging on her towel rack and wrapped it tightly around her body. Walking to the nightstand, she grabbed the remote and turned up the volume.
"A shocking development here at Gotham Theater tonight, David. The respected arts dealer Selena Kyle was stabbed to death outside the front doors. It appears that she and her daughter, Helena Kyle, were attending tonight's performance. As the two exited, they were accosted by," here the pretty blond woman checked a clipboard in her left hand before looking back up at the camera, "a large man in a dark jacket, wearing black gloves. Witnesses say he stabbed the victim once, fatally, and then ran off before he could be apprehended. Authorities are looking into who might have had a grudge against Miss Kyle, but so far they haven't released any names. Commissioner Gordon is set to speak on the high profile murder later this evening. Back to you David."
"Thank you, Jessica. We're all grieving for the loss of one of Gotham's most vibrant personalities. Of course, our thoughts and prayers go out to Miss Kyle's loved ones at this time." Turning his body slightly, the man's tone of voice changed completely. "Next up here at GCN, Mike Kollwitz with sports."
Barbara quickly turned off the TV before sitting down heavily on her bed. Selena Kyle was dead. Murdered. Suddenly Barbara was standing without any memory of movement.
"Oh my God, Helena!"
Almost running to her closet, Barbara pulled out some jeans and the first t-shirt her hand touched. Throwing them on the bed, she was looking for some underclothes when a knock sounded on her door. Immediately her mind was filled with images of Helena. Of course, where else would the teenager go with Selena - gone?
Tying the robe tightly, she headed quickly for the door. As it opened her shocked mind could only register the differences between what her eyes saw and what her mind had anticipated. Instead of formal attire she was met with a purple suit. Instead of caramel skin, she found pasty white. Instead of dark brunette hair there was only garish green. Instead of the agony of loss, the eyes that stared into her own were clouded with the madness of violence.
The sound of the gun cocking was loud in Barbara's ears. The sound of the shot even more so. She felt no pain, only a pressure on her stomach and then, as if a switch had been thrown, she crumpled to the floor, her legs no longer able to support her. She sensed more than felt the blood that started to pool underneath her. Time slowed again that night as she watched the single shell casing clink to the tile floor.
"Knock, knock ..."
Slowly Barbara was able to turn her head to look at the man who had just shot her in cold blood.
The gun was still pointed at her stomach. She tried to take in his words, but her focus shrank to the dark abyss of the gun barrel that she knew would end her life.
"Batgirl ... past tense."
She could sense the blood spreading out through the grooves in the tile. She began to calculate how far the fluid would spread taking into account her body mass and the amount of blood a human being carried at any given moment. She flinched when she remembered dropping her utility belt and mask on the floor as she entered the apartment earlier. The leather would be ruined.
Insane laughter preceded a flash of lightning and crack of thunder. The apartment went dark until two sharp cracks and flashes of light lit up the room once again. Everything was fading, but Barbara could tell the difference between the shots and the storm. Her body jerked and jumped in a parody of life even as the metal entered and stole it from her. The last thought she expected to ever have rushed across her mind as utter darkness chased close on its heels.
She couldn't keep the promise she had made to Selena. Who would keep Helena safe?
Helena watched the tear fall. It splashed onto the faded off-white linoleum floor, breaking into thousands of smaller droplets as it exploded outward. That's how her heart felt, she mused. Like it had exploded outward from her chest and left her unable to feel.
Shifting uncomfortably in the hard plastic chair, she tried to trace how she had ended up here. First there had been the EMT's loading her Mother's body into the ambulance. They hadn't even tried to resuscitate her, merely shoved her into that black bag and zipped it up. Trying to leave without her, they had reconsidered after one look at her eyes. Helena didn't know if they had turned feral, but whatever they saw, she was allowed to ride to the hospital.
After they arrived, she had tried to follow the bag that contained what was left of Selena Kyle, but Doctor Biely had barred her way. For some reason the woman was imprinted on Helena's mind. She could recall every detail about her, from the dark blonde, almost gold of her hair, to the chocolate brown eyes. The off-white color of her name tag, a perfect match for the linoleum floors. The way her scrub pants were just a little too large and knotted twice at her waist. The small stain, brownish-black and shaped like a badly drawn cross that marred the hem of her top. All this Helena could recall perfectly. What she couldn't remember was how the doctor had managed to get her to sit in the uncomfortable chair.
Shrugging her shoulders, Helena acknowledged it probably didn't matter. This was where she'd ended up. When asked who they should call, the brunette gave the only response she could. Barbara Gordon. Yes, the Commissioners' daughter. Call Barbara.
And now she was waiting. Waiting for Barbara to show up. Waiting to see the eyes that would look at her with sympathy and caring. Waiting for the voice that would tell her it would be alright, even though it couldn't ever be again. Waiting for the arms that would wrap around her and finally break through the cold and numbness.
"Miss Kyle?" Helena looked up slowly, not recognizing the man dressed in green scrubs.
"Yes." God, was that really her voice. The sound grated on Helena's nerves as the one word grated on her throat after all the screams and sobs.
"Um, you did say to contact Barbara Gordon, right?"
"Okay, just one moment."
Helena watched as he quickly retreated to the nurse's station and began a rapid conversation with the on duty nurse, several police officers, and another doctor. They continued to talk animatedly with an occasional glance at Helena. For the first time in hours, she felt something force its way through her deadened emotions . . . fear. Something was very wrong- besides the obvious. She watched as the same doctor walked back to her, his expression unreadable.
"Miss Kyle, I'm afraid I have to give you some bad news." He stopped to pull off his scrub cap and run a hand through his wavy brown hair. "Less than an hour ago, Barbara Gordon was the victim of a shooting at her apartment. She's alive, but in critical condition. She's in surgery now, and will likely be there for several more hours. Is there someone else I can call to come get you? A relative perhaps, or someone your Mother-"
Helena didn't hear the rest. She had stopped listening. There was no one else, only Barbara, and she was in surgery, in critical condition. Helena felt the last of the numbness explode from her body, forced out by the rising flood of emotion.
George Tiller, PH.D, froze as the most frightening sound he had ever heard seemed to burst out of the small teenager in front of him. Growing up in Minnesota, he and had often gone hunting with his father and grandfather. To this day he remembered the time they had come across a lone timber wolf picking at a deer carcass. The growl that had almost made him wet his pants at fifteen was nothing compared to the sound that seemed to short-circuit his body now. He almost cried in relief when the girl pushed up from the chair violently before racing off down the hall. Looking down, he was relieved to see his scrubs were unsoiled.
Helena felt her eyes change, but didn't care. She had one goal, and one goal only. Get to Barbara. She kept her head down and moved fast until she was at the emergency entrance. Stopping she deliberately took a large lungful of the hospital air, almost choking on the smells of infection, blood, and disinfectant. Pushing past that, she was just able to scent the unique combination that equaled Barbara. Baby powder, leather, machine oil, something that was uniquely Barbara, and . . . blood, lots of blood. Shaking she began to follow the trail, not pausing when several people yelled at her for pushing her way through several swinging doors. And then there, right in front of her, was a glass window. On the other side doctors and nurses worked frantically around a still figure on the operating table. The figure was wearing a cap, but a loose tendril of red had found it's way free. It was Barbara. Helena had found her.
Oddly, Helena felt her body begin to shake even harder. She wrapped her arms around her chest and tried to stay still, but it didn't work. The last thing she noticed before her body tilted radically to the side, was the rush as her eyes shifted back. Then there was only darkness.
Pain. So much pain.
The darkness was everywhere. No light, no light anywhere.
Where was she? How did she end up here?
Distantly she felt frantic, disciplined hands on her body.
. . .
Something, a feeling, not felt.
Coming closer, she could feel . . .
She was here...
After passing out, Helena had woken up in some other part of the hospital lying on a cot. She had quickly snuck out of the room and gone prowling down the hallways, finally ending up at Barbara's room. Looking around, she saw several doctors and nurses, and sitting in another of those horribly uncomfortable chairs outside the door was a dark haired man in gray slacks and a white collared shirt. His head was hanging between his knees so she couldn't see his face. Cautiously she walked forward and sat a few seats away. Slowly the dark head rose and turned to meet hers. She took in the cerulean eyes and bronzed skin with interest, but what really caught her attention were the tear tracks down his cheeks and the redness around his eyes. He had obviously been crying. For some reason, the thought hit Helena that this was a man who didn't cry often.
"Hi," she offered tentatively.
"Hello." The reply wasn't unfriendly, just abrupt and said without emotion.
"Um, are you alright?" Helena winced. Of course he wasn't alright. He was obviously very upset. She sounded like one of the dumb hospital workers. Can I get you something to drink? Would you like a magazine? Is everything alright?
"Yes, thank you." He must have seen her regret because his voice was warmer. Helena didn't say anything this time, just allowed the silence to creep back. "I lost someone very important tonight, and I'm terribly afraid that I'm about to lose another."
"Oh." Helena wasn't sure how she should reply; finally settling on misery loves company. "I lost my Mom tonight."
"I'm so sorry." She could hear the genuine sadness and it almost made her start crying again. "What was her name?" Helena had to take a breath before she could answer.
Helena listened to the intimidating silence that seemed to slam down around them. She quickly lifted her head to look at the man, and found him staring directly into her eyes.
"Is this a joke?" His voice wavered badly and he had gone very pale.
"What?! No! What kind of sick person would joke about their dead mother?" Helena snapped back, her anger still fresh.
"I'm sorry, I just " He trailed off helplessly. Helena watched guardedly as he continued to stare at her, studying her hair and eyes, the shape of her face. She was starting to get creeped out.
"Look, I'm sorry I asked." Helena held her hands up, not wanting to continue the conversation.
"Selena really was your mother. You have her bone structure."
"You knew my Mom?" Helena's heart rate picked up.
"Yes. Did she do you know who your father is?" The voice was once again unemotional, but Helena could sense the strain behind it.
"Nah. I asked when I was younger, but she always said we didn't need him. That it might be dangerous to find him." Helena didn't want to talk about this anymore. Her Mom was dead and this jerk was asking about her missing father. What the hell?
It was silent for several moments before the man spoke again, hesitantly. "Miss God, I don't even know your name." He paused and Helena reluctantly gave it to him. "Helena, what if I could tell you who your father is. Would that be something you would want?"
Helena looked at him in total shock. This guy knew who her father was. How? Why was he going to tell her now? Was he lying? She opened her mouth to ask any of the questions that were racing around her brain.
"Yes." The hushed word hung between them.
"Your father was Bruce Wayne."
Helena looked at him in shock. The Bruce Wayne. Bruce Wayne the billionaire. Helena was so stunned she didn't see the doctor approach the man sitting next to her.
"Would you please sign here Mr. Wayne?"
Two pairs of identical blue eyes locked and held, leaving the unlucky doctor to back away slowly without the needed signature.
She was my daughter. I would've had to have been blind not to see it. She had Selena's face, her lithe, athletic body, but she had my hair, my skin tone, my eyes
God, her eyes were burning into me. Is this what I looked like when I faced down Gotham's criminals, all rage and pain and sadness? I couldn't look away even though I desperately wanted to. Why had I told her I was her father? Why now, with Selena just murdered, another person taken from me that I couldn't save; and Barbara, who in all likelihood wouldn't live out the night? Why now, when I could barely breathe past the sorrow and guilt that clogged my throat? Why now, when all I wanted was to crawl into the deepest, darkest pit I could find?
"Bruce Wayne, I presume." The words were biting and I felt the pain as they hit home.
"Yes." What else could I say? How do you tell a teenage girl that you didn't know she was your child until five minutes ago, that you'd even had a child?
"What are you doing here?" That I hadn't expected. What else could I be doing? I was here for Barbara.
"I came to check up on Miss Gordon." Her dark brows lifted over my eyes in suspicion. It was then that it hit me - she didn't know I was Batman, or that Barbara was Batgirl. Of course it would seem suspicious for playboy millionaire Bruce Wayne to be waiting at the bedside of school teacher Barbara Gordon. The World's Greatest Detective what a load of
"Why?" She was starting to look hostile. I could almost imagine the girl as some kind of guard dog for the injured woman; or perhaps more appropriately, guard cat considering who her mother was. Had been. Oh God, Selena, how can you be gone?
"I've been friends with the commissioner for years. I've known Barbara for most of her life." Those eyes burned into me again. In my shattered state I couldn't hide anything from this small girl in front of me. My daughter, some part of me screamed. I couldn't hide anything from my daughter.
"Want to try that again?"
"Alright," I sighed. How much could I tell her? How much would she really want to know? How could I tell her it was all my fault? I leaned in slightly and spoke softly. "Barbara Gordon is really Batgirl." I felt a small twinge at reveling Barbara's identity, but the girl just gave a slight nod of acknowledgement. That was odd. "And when I'm not busy spending my parent's money, I'm Batman," I tried a little humor. Her eyes went round at that confession. A small part of me wondered if she would be proud of me, this daughter I never knew I had. I quickly silenced it like all the other voices that had haunted me over the years.
"You're Batman." She barely whispered the words, but I looked around quickly out of habit. No one was anywhere near us. I waited anxiously for her reaction, prepared for anything I thought. I was wrong. "That's great!"
"Yeah! Now you can go kill those bastards. The ones who killed Mom and hurt Barbara."
"Helena, I don't kill!" I was shocked. She spoke so easily about ending another life.
"What?! Not even the asshole that murdered Mom?" I could see she was becoming upset again. I had to make her understand.
"I've already found the Joker, the man who hurt Barbara. He's back in jail for the rest of his natural life. I promise you, I'll find the man who killed Selena. I'll make sure he'll be in jail for the rest of his natural life too."
"That's it." Her tone clearly conveyed her disgust with my answer. "You're just gonna put them in jail. They killed my Mother and they almost killed Barbara, and you're just gonna let them live!" She was yelling by this time, attracting attention from the hospital staff. "Why am I surprised, this is all your fault anyway!" I shouldn't have been so taken aback, after all, I'd been thinking the same thing, but somehow hearing it from this girl who looked so much like my Selena pierced all the armor I had built around my heart. I felt her words carve holes out of my body as she continued. "Why did you even bother coming here? It's not like you can do anything for Mom now. She's dead and it's your fault. You didn't save her and you don't even know who killed her. And it's not like Barbara will want to see you. You let the Joker escape. He shot her because of you. She might die because of you. What kind of superhero are you?!"
She was almost shrieking now, and her voice blended with all the others I'd been fighting so long to ignore. The ones that blamed me for my parent's deaths. The ones that remembered every person I'd failed to save. The ones that said I would never beat the darkness because I was the darkness. The ones that wept and screamed that the only woman I had ever loved was dead. The one that said I had a daughter who hated me.
In all the noise, I heard one voice speak.
"I have to go."
It was my voice. Before I could question it, I had turned away from the only blood relative I had left in the world and walked out into the night. I don't remember if she called after me. I was too busy running from the voices.
Barbara slowly woke to the pain. Pain everywhere. She couldn't move, knowing in some animalistic way that to move would mean even more pain. She couldn't take any more pain. She would die.
Why wasn't she dead?
The odd thought momentarily distracted Barbara from the pain, but not for long. She felt tears squeeze themselves out of her eyes before she could stop them. A beeping sound started to increase in frequency. She realized she had been hearing the sound since she first - woke up, gained consciousness?
Daring to lift her head, she caught the entrance of a nurse into her room. A nurse? Obviously, she was in the hospital, but why? Barbara hated hospitals. They always brought back memories of car accidents and cancer. Two topics she avoided religiously.
"Oh, my!" The startled nurse looked at Barbara. "You're awake. I'll just go get the doctor. I'll only be a second.
Finding even the small movement she'd performed too much for her aching body, Barbara once again slowly lowered her head to the pillow. Hopefully she would still be conscious whenever this doctor arrived. She didn't have long to wait and soon blond hair was hanging down in her face and brown eyes stared at her cautiously.
"Hello Miss Gordon. I'm Doctor Biely. You gave us quite a scare." Seeing the confusion on Barbara's face she continued, "Can you tell me what you remember from before you were brought to the hospital?"
Barbara's head ached fiercely, but she dutifully tried to remember. They had been fighting the Joker in the warehouse tunnels. Not something she was going to be sharing with the kind doctor. Let's see, then she went home and had a shower. Something had happened in the shower. What was it? For some reason it seemed extremely important. Dr. Biely must have seen the frustration in her eyes because she gently laid a hand on her forearm.
"It's not necessary for you to remember right now, Barbara. The memories will come back to you in time."
"You don't understand," Barbara answered distractedly. Her voice was a mess, her throat scrapped raw from smoke and pain. There was something she had to do. Or was it was it someone she had to find. No, that wasn't right.
"Just don't force it. You could injure yourself even more."
She had to help someone. That sounded better. She had to help someone because . . . Barbara growled in frustration. Who would need her help?
"I'm going to give you some more morphine for the pain. It should help you sleep." Before the doctor could increase the drip however, Barbara's hand shot out grabbing her wrist tightly.
"Where's Helena?" Dark green eyes speared into the other woman's.
"You mean, Helena Kyle." Barbara nodded in the affirmative.
"I left her waiting for someone to come get her." Seeing Barbara didn't understand she tried to clear things up. "She came in with her mother's body. George was going to get her contact information." She sighed in relief when the hand was removed from her wrist, there was obviously going to be a bruise.
"Selena," Barbara whispered the name. "She was murdered"
"Yes, that poor woman. Did you know her?"
"Hel, I've got to get to Hel." Barbara stated before quickly shifting her legs over the side of the bed . . . except she didn't. Nothing below her waist moved. Slowly she tried to wiggle the toes on her left foot and then her right, with the same result. Barbara could feel her breathing become erratic. She knew in a moment she would go into shock if she didn't calm down. Turning to the doctor, she ignored the sadness that looked back at her. "Why can't I move?"
"Oh, dear. You've been seriously injured Miss Gordon. Why don't you lie back and we can talk about this when you feel better."
"I feel fine." Complete bullshit, but Barbara was not waiting for when she felt better. Some part of her knew already that she would never feel better. Something in her voice or eyes must have convinced the doctor.
"You were shot three times in the midsection. There were several major organs damaged, but those were repaired satisfactorily in surgery." Here she paused, obviously reluctant to go on. "It appears that the first bullet hit your spine. The damage was extensive and the surgeons did their best, but they were not able to repair it. I'm so sorry, but you're paralyzed below the third lumbar vertebrae."
Barbara knew some part of her mind was busy recording everything the doctor was telling her, but inside her head she just kept hearing the word paralyzed over and over and over. Eventually she realized the room was silent. Looking up she found brown eyes regarding her sympathetically.
"Why don't I leave you alone for a bit? I'll tell the nurse to come check on you in, say, forty-five minutes."
Barbara nodded her head mutely. The woman was very caring, but the redhead didn't have the capacity to acknowledge it at the moment. She watched as the door was pulled open and she was left alone.
It took her five minutes to absorb all the relevant data she had been given. It took forty minutes for her to cry herself into an exhausted sleep.
Several days later and Helena was still at the hospital. She didn't have anywhere else to go. An old man with an English accent had found her at the hospital and said he worked for Bruce Wayne. That any time she wanted she could move into Wayne Manor. She hadn't said a word to him in return. He had tried to bring her food, or convince her to go get tea (tea?!) with him, but when he was met with continued silence he had eventually given up.
No one had really bothered her. Social services had come by to inform her that her mother had left her in Barbara's care. Somehow she wasn't surprised. She was allowed to stay at the hospital until a definitive verdict was given by the doctors, whether or not Barbara would live or even regain consciousness. So once again, Helena was waiting.
Looking up from the same uncomfortable chair that her fath that Bruce Wayne had sat in before he disappeared, she watched a nurse enter Barbara's room. It was the same retinue everyday, and Helena had started to tune it out. However, this time the nurse came rushing back out again and took off down the hall. Minutes later the same doctor that had talked to Helena after Selena died was striding confidently into Barbara's room.
Unable to help herself, Helena used her Meta senses to listen in as the nurse started speaking . . . and someone answered! Stunned, Helena remained completely still just absorbing what that meant. Barbara was awake! She bounded from her seat and was almost at the door when she heard the words.
"Why can't I move?"
Barbara's voice was soft. Obviously it was painful for her to speak. Despite that, Helena heard the desperate fear in her voice. Helena felt the same in her heart. She listened while the doctor explained what Barbara would now have to deal with. She felt the first tears start to slide down her face.
She watched silently as Dr. Biely left Barbara's room. She listened to the silence and then the shattering sobs that must have been muffled by a pillow. She hadn't thought she had had any tears left, but somehow she managed to cry along with the woman she loved.
Helena slowly lifted her head. The crying had finally stopped. It had taken more strength than she knew she had not to bust into the room and hold Barbara as she cried. However, that was not what she needed. Barbara needed time alone and Helena wouldn't take that from her, even if what she needed desperately was Barbara.
Realizing that the older woman was asleep, Helena went to lay back in the cot the hospital staff had been kind enough to give her. She threw herself down and looked up at the white corkboard ceiling.
Selena was dead. Barbara would never walk again. Barbara was now her legal guardian until she turned eighteen in a year and a half. Dick would want to take care of Barbara. Barbara wouldn't want to take care of Helena. Helena had no where else to go.
Helena could not tell Barbara about her feelings.
If she told her now, it would, without a doubt, destroy their friendship. Right now, Barbara needed a friend not some kid professing their love for her. Barbara would get angry and she would be hurt. Hurt because Helena couldn't see that she loved Dick and that it would be wrong for them to be together. Helena was sure of this.
Helena was also sure that between Selena, Bruce Wayne, and Barbara, her heart had been shattered. The shards kept poking her in the chest, making her squirm, making her want to run as far and as fast as she could.
That wasn't the worst part, however. She could feel her heart already starting to heal, and instead of the love that had filled it before, Helena's heart was filled with rage.
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