Darker Shades of Grey
FANDOM: Birds of Prey TV
PAIRING: Barbara/Helena, Dinah/Gabby
RATING: NC17 (language, themes etc).
DISCLAIMER: None of this is owned by me.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thanks to Kelley for her quick beta. You're the best.
She's here again tonight standing vigil over the place where she fell from grace. Where she failed and she - we - lost something we both love.
"See anything interesting?" I ask as I stop by her side and stare at the pavement below us. There's still a spot, red and cracked concrete. It silently mocks me. After spending hours scrubbing that patch of pavement with soap, bleach, scourers, brushes and there's still a red spot. Helena will freak if she sees it.
"Not really," she admits quietly as her concentration breaks away from Wayne Tower and she runs her hand through her new short hair.
"Are you ready to go home?" It's the same question I ask her every night when I find her here. Sometimes she comes home, most of the time she sprints off into the darkness and on the very odd occasion she just silently sits here with me. Quiet companionship.
Sometimes she makes me feel like a failure. When she disappears I can never keep up. Even with all the training Barbara insists I do, I still can't keep up with her.
I never wanted to be a superhero -- that was Dinah's gig. I accepted her decision but that didn't mean I wanted the black eyes, bruises and late nights. But Barbara still insists I do the training if I want to hang around the Clocktower I have to know how to take care of myself.
I'm lucky tonight it looks like I won't need the training. Not that she's the best anymore. All her conditioning and training seem to be disappearing as she refuses to use it. She barely leaves the Clocktower for school let alone to do a sweep. She doesn't care anymore.
Barbara says she'll be alright. What did she call it? Barbara said it was her Calling. Whatever the hell that is.
She's still standing beside me, her attention back on the piece of pavement.
"Hey," I reach out and squeeze her shoulder. I choose to ignore the flinch that automatically flows through her body. "Are you ready to come home? Barbara's worrying again."
"I wish she wouldn't," she tells me softly as she shakes short bangs out of her face. "I'm old enough to take care of myself."
"She just worries sweetheart ... because she cares."
Her head turns sharply towards me, her eyes blazing with an untamable anger that seems to have been growing bit by bit over the past nine months. "That's a laugh. She doesn't care she just pretends to care."
"You know that's not--"
I know I can't fix this. I want to but I can't. She makes it impossible. When ever I try to start a serious conversation with her she either stands up and suddenly has something *very* important to do with her homework or looks at me with eyes filled with desperation and lust.
Just like the eyes that are trailing along my hips right now.
I tilt my head to the side and consider her for a second. She seems happier when we're loving each other. Maybe I could just give in this once. Let her put everything behind her just for a half an hour. No it wouldn't work. She'll just go back to avoiding everything.
"Please," she whispers softly as she pushes herself against me. Her lips seek mine and I give in without another thought.
"Not here," I beg as she shoves me against an air conditioner unit and runs her lips along my chin.
"Isn't this what you want? Isn't this what you said you wanted? You said you wanted love. You wanted Dinah Redmond, Zipper Girl to love you. I'm loving you Gabby, what else can I do?" she purrs into my ear. Her voice is filled with desire, anger and something else I've come to know as desperation.
Is this what I want? What do I want? And if this isn't what I want do I even want her to stop?
I may not know what I want for me but I know what I want for her.
I want her to be safe. I want her to be better. I want her to be sane.
I know there's nothing I can do to stop her now.
There's nothing I want to do to stop her.
Her fingers slide down my body teasing my belly button and pushing at the buttons of my jeans teasing me mercilessly while her lips claim mine in a hungry kiss.
Desperation, it's always about desperation.
"Please," I moan as she rips her lips away then bends to pull my jeans and panties down my legs.
My back hits the cold metal of the air conditioner unit and I squeak. She doesn't even look at me to make sure I'm alright. She lifts me up and I perch on the end of the cold steel. She gets on her knees in front of me. I think I might freeze if I sit here to long.
She's not paying any attention to what I want -- she's forgotten what I want -- as she lifts my legs over her head not even bothering to remove my pants.
Her head bobs as she finally looks up at me. Her eyes are so filled with lust that they burn in their intensity. She's to far gone to stop -- even if I asked her to.
She gasps in a mouth full of air as she finally lowers her head to the liquid heat between my legs. I groan but bite my lip to stop myself. We could still get caught.
I know that this is a diversion born of abandonment and desperation. She's also stalling trying to keep away from the Clocktower and Barbara -- and Barbara's lectures about right and good.
Their relationship is up the proverbial creek without the paddle.
She bites my inner thigh -- hard. It hurts like hell but we're on top of a building in the middle of New Gotham boinking like over rabbits, it's wrong and quite possibly illegal which just adds to my excitement.
She bites my other thigh and I cry out as hot waves of pleasure radiated through my tight body.
I yelp again as I feel her disappear from between my legs. She's gone before I'm even finished.
I jump down from the unit and pull my pants. Part of me is disgusted with myself. I shouldn't have taken advantage.
"Bad idea, bad," I whisper.
I catch a shadow merge with other shadows out of the corner of my eye and a slight rustle reaches my ears. I know it's fruitful to think it's her, more likely to be a sicko waiting in the shadows to kill me but still I call out to her. She might have stayed around to make sure I get home safely.
My behaviour disgusted her. I took advantage. I know I hurt her. I saw the look in her eyes as I pulled away from her. I saw the disgust.
I do it far too often but she's still here. She's always there, ever since I slipped.
She hangs by the Delphi as Barbara, Helena and I have our pre-sweep talk. She sits at the kitchen table watching me do my homework. She even waits by the window while I pretend to sleep at night.
I sigh to myself. At least right *now* I can't disgust her - unless she's dreaming about me. She tells me she does sometimes.
She's naked beneath the dark red sheets on my bed. I can make out the slim curve of her hips and the fullness of her breasts. She's beautiful. As beautiful as the first time I saw her. More beautiful than the first time we slept together.
I reach out and touch her collar bone. There's a deep red bite mark from our earlier liaison on the air conditioner unit.
I was rougher than I meant to be.
At least I didn't break her perfect white skin. I've broken enough people lately.
I have two choices now. I can pull off my leather and crawl into her arms. Arms that I don't deserve to have wrapped around me. Or I can go out to the Delphi platform and check the Arkham systems, Make sure Quinn is still safely locked away. Barbara would be there. She'd be tapping away at her keyboard waiting for my return. I know she'll have a nice long responsibility speech all planned out for me. Maybe even some diagrams to go with it.
Loving warm arms or pissed off Barbara.
I slip my jacket from my shoulders and lay it across my desk.
As I watch the leather drape loosely over my note books, pens and pencils my head almost clears. Something is different. My head is quiet, my thoughts are ... organised and clear. No more grey area, no more darkness. Crystal clear.
I tried to kill Barbara because of Harley Quinn, it wasn't my fault.
I fell off a building, spent time in hospital and almost died, all of that wasn't my fault.
Now I'm shutting out the people in my life that care, the people who were willing to help and love me unconditionally.
My eyes hurt.
I haven't cried since ... I wish I had sooner. It feels really good, like I'm letting something go. It makes my heart hurt.
"Oh NO, please tell me you aren't going to cry," the mocking, exasperated voice asks from behind me.
Well, this is just what I need right now.
"Shit. The little baby birdy needs her mummy again. I could go find her if you want. I'm sure her dead ass is around here somewhere."
"Shut up," I clench my hands, my teeth, my entire body. The pain in my jaw and palms helps to clear my head again, a little bit, but I can feel the control on my mind slowly slip. Things become dark again.
"I gotta say Blondie. Even dead the Black Canary has one *fine* ass, just like her pretty little birdy offspring."
Gabby jumps awake on the bed, her eyes and voice are weary with sleep. "Dinah?"
"Just shut the hell up! You don't know what you're talking about! Shut your disgusting mouth!"
I spin around -- ready to let my fists take over from my words.
A flash of red hair and even white teeth and she's gone.
"Dinah," Gabby's scared timid voice calls from the bed. "Dinah ... honey? You're scaring me. What do you see?"
I blink stupidly at Gabby then check the space where I am sure Barbara had been just seconds ago.
"I could have sworn ... " I shake my head quickly and want to finish my sentence but the look of horror on my lover's face is enough to shut me up.
"Nothing. It's nothing, just a little tired ... "
Gabby looks at me for a few seconds, she's studying my face and the tense state of my body. I don't blame her for not believing me. "Barbara said she'd like you to check in before you come to bed."
I'd rather crawl into Gabby's arms and accept the comfort I know I don't deserve. I could pray for dream-free sleep.
My mind hurts now. I'm lonely in here. I miss the happiness I used to feel. I even miss the clarity of just five minutes ago.
I run my fingers through my hair roughly. I pull at the short strands until it hurts. I won't see things again. I can't start seeing things again. I won't.
"Yeah. I'll go check-in," I whisper to Gabby then storm from the room.
I hear the typing before I hear anything else. Barbara's back is to me, her face barely inches from the computer screen as she does something brainy with her millions of dollars of technology. She's an amazing woman.
"You're in late," she says without even turning around. I catch my reflection in the computer screen. Yes, she's obviously brainy.
"I had some stuff to do," I murmur and hope she doesn't start pestering to find out just what I was doing and whom I was doing it with.
"Did any of this stuff include getting a better attitude cos I'm just fucking sick of the one you've got now," her chair spins around and she glares at me with an evil smile. "You thought I wouldn't show up again, huh?" she looks amused.
"You aren't real."
"No need to tell me that baby D, I know." She grins again, sliding her glasses down her nose and crossing her legs.
I close my eyes and ball my hands into fists. "Not real, not real," I repeat over and over under my breath.
"Baby doll give me a break I've been torturing ... oh sorry, talking to you for months and you still don't believe I'm real! And anyway you think wishing and hoping is going to get you anywhere? You think holding your breath and counting to ten is going to make me disappear? You're a complete nutcase if you think so ... .oh wait," she's amused by her own joke. She's annoying and scary all at the same time.
"Why won't you leave me alone?" I ask stupidly.
"Hmm, let me think ... because you won't let me leave you alone. Barbara needs to get her revenge somehow and she certainly isn't going to do it on her own." She stands and walks towards me, circling me slowly her eyes begin to roam. I feel dirty. Very, *very* dirty.
"See, I'm your way of making you feel better about what you did Dinah." She continues to circle me. She's graceful, moving slowly but stealthily.
"You're completely ... psycho," she crosses her eyes at me and grins.
"I'm not. You aren't real, you aren't real."
She chuckles at me and runs her hand around my waist, "oh sweetheart, are we having a bad dream? Is big bad Barbara getting too much for you? Helena can handle me ... Helena handles me quiet well actually."
I flinch. She sees it.
Her body closes in on me and I want to run away. I can feel her breath on the back of my neck.
"Helena knows just where to ... handle me. Helena makes me want to be handled. And you know what ... baby birdy?"
I shake my head but I close my eyes.
"When I touch Helena ... I know just how to handle her too." She chuckles into the back of my neck and I feel her finger tips brush the small hairs away from my ear. She leans forward I can physically feel her presence around me. It's scary.
"Poor, frustrated, sexually charged, teenage Dinah. Can't have the woman she wants, can't please the woman she has."
My eyes fly open in surprise.
"Oooh yes, I know all about that. Gabby and I are close ... real close. Tell you what D if you don't hurry up and do something maybe Gabby will get fed up and crawl into my bed. That would be really ironic. Then I'd have both your dream women and you'd have nothing."
"No," I whisper closing my eyes again. This isn't happening this isn't real.
"Sure it is. You want to hurt me now don't you Dee Dee? Sorry, what was that? I couldn't quite hear you."
"Yes," I scream at her. She's got a grin on her face that just manages to piss me off even more.
"So take a swing baby, don't be such a little pussy. Hit me."
Without a second thought I grip my fist and swing wildly, blindly. I expect her to disappear or for my hand to go straight through her. I'm surprised when my fist connects solidly and with a sharp crack Barbara is on the floor laughing her ass off.
"What's funny," I sneer as she curls into a ball and looks up at me, still smiling.
"You are sweetheart."
"Why? What did I do?" I ask as I eye her off.
"You ... you want to forgive and forget and go back to being a big happy family ... but you're willing to hit me. The holier than thou Barbara Gordon, the woman who took you in when you had no where else to go. The person who agreed to teach you the tricks of the superhero trade, the loving lady who so selflessly told your mother she'd take care of you. Do you have no shame Dinah? How could you do such things to a woman who has done nothing but love and care for you?"
I stop but only for a second. She isn't real, yet she is in my mind.
"You don't love me," I sneer though clenched teeth. "You never loved me." I swing my foot catching her in the ribs. There's a wet thud and another sharp crack. She starts to laugh. I kick harder.
"You never fucking loved me. You wouldn't have sent me there! You wouldn't have sent me away if you loved me! NEVER! You wouldn't have sent me away!"
"You forget Dinah," she says gasping from the floor, "You're the one that wanted to go to that place. You're the one that checked yourself in. We did nothing but support your decision. We love you. We love you Dinah. And you're killing us."
She smiles at me one more time, the mocking and sarcasm is gone. She smiles sweetly, softly and her eyes show a great sadness, "Because who you choose as an enemy Dinah, because that is who you become most like."
Her eyes glaze over and she becomes still. Blood is pouring from her nose, the corner of her lip is split and her eyes are almost black. I did it. I actually did it. I killed Barbara.
I let out a bark of laughter because it was never supposed to happen. She was never supposed to die, just suffer. Suffer for the crimes she had committed. For taking something that wasn't hers. For taking that from me.
I take a step back and hit a wall. My knees fall out from under me and I only just manage to control my lifeless slide down egg shell white. I watch the bloody and broken woman in front of me. It's real now. I'm a *real* murderer.
I don't deserve anything anymore but I got what I wanted. She isn't going to be with Helena anymore.
I curl my legs up to my chest and bury my face into my knees as the tears I've been holding onto for months start to spill.
I should be at home with Barbara. I should be cuddled up in her arms smirking as she tells me just how wonderful I am and how great I make her feel.
I should be. I could be if I could just get Mr. Jerk-o-rama to quit asking for drinks and let me go home. He's already completely off his face, how much more can he possibly drink before he's just a decorative door mat? Not a very attractive or stylish decorative door mat.
"You missy are one ... two really attractive ladies. Are you twins?"
He's seeing double! I cheer loudly in my own head. Can't be much longer until he passes out and then I can leave.
I grab a dish cloth and polish a shot glass. "Yes sir, identical," I grin. I put the shot glass down and pour him another shot. He grins at me, "Cheeky, cheeky."
"Only when I work." This is so boring.
"Well ... " he hiccups loudly, "maybe when you finish work you two beautiful ladies could show me how cheeky you are when you aren't working."
I think I might throw up.
This is ridiculous. I'm bored out of my mind I can't believe I'm talking to the last drunk in the bar. Surely we can throw him out. I quickly scan my surroundings. No boss, no other patrons. I grin at the drunk and he jumps from the shock.
"Well sir," I say seductively as I run my finger along his jaw. "Maybe I could show you some of my moves." With a gentle tap to the side of his face his eyes roll into the back of his head and he slumps unconscious onto the floor.
"Last drunk is down!" I call out as I throw my dish rag away and hop over the bar, "I'm going home."
I grab my jacket and whistle as I push open the front door and make sure it locks behind me.
I feel like singing. Or dancing a jig. Or writing my own Broadway play.
I sigh into the cold night air.
This is what that woman does to me. She turns the wild cat, Helena Kyle - The Huntress - into a little fluffy kitten. Somehow I don't think 'The Fluffy Kitten' will strike fear into to many hearts.
*She* might find it cute though and I wouldn't mind that. She finds a lot of things cute about me. She says I cross my eyes when she touches my cheek and apparently that's cute. She says I scratch her lightly when I hug her and that's cute. She says that when she's upset and I purr for her she finds me irresistibly cute.
Irresistibly cute? Even my mother never described me as cute. Wild, untamable, beautiful but never cute. Maybe adorable.
I wonder if she's in bed by now. I doubt it even though I told her if she wasn't there would be consequences. She's not scared of me, not even a little bit.
Dinah isn't scared of me either but at the moment Dinah thinks she's invincible. Nothing can hurt her. She survived a big fall so she can't be harmed again. Of course that's not true, no one is invincible I know from experience that she'll keep pushing the line until something big and bad happens to her again. That's when everything will come crashing down.
I just hope I'm there when she needs me.
I remember when Dinah first moved to New Gotham and she was easy to please, a smile here, a compliment there. I didn't realise at the time that she just wanted my approval, someone to love her.
She was untainted, innocent. She saw everything in black and white, good and bad, right and wrong.
She doesn't anymore. It's obvious.
She's seen the grey in the corners. She's feels that when she's hitting a perp its ok to hit just a little harder than necessary because he deserves it.
She's seen the line between the grey and the black where it's ok to hit but not to kill.
She's seen the line between the grey and the white where it's ok to stop but not to give up completely.
Barbara says she has the calling. Barbara says she'll be alright. She says it a lot actually and each time I wonder if she's trying to convince me or herself.
At night I listen to Barbara cry herself to sleep. Dinah does sometimes too but I never see the tears I just hear the whimpers and the sobbing. Her pillow is never wet and Gabby never says a thing.
Barbara wants to help. Dinah doesn't want help.
Dinah wants to be left alone. Barbara is alone.
Barbara can't walk. Dinah can't cry.
Dinah's losing her mind. Barbara's losing her heart.
I feel so completely helpless, Gabby is the same. We sit in the background while they argue and scream and curse. Then when they're finished Barbara hides in her computers and Dinah hides in the darkness of the New Gotham streets.
Sometimes Gabby goes to Barbara and I stay with Dinah. Sometimes we go to our lovers and comfort the only way we know how. Other times Gabby and I sit together on the balcony with the doors open and listen to the hurtful words being exchanged, sometimes for hours at a time.
I never thought it was possible for Dinah to even know some of the words she yells. I never thought it was possible for my heart to break and pound so viciously all at once.
Well, that was before. Before that night.
When Dinah lay in puddles of dirty rain water. Her left leg obviously broken, blood pouring from her nose and the back of her head.
I thought I would lose her and my heart broke.
That's when I realise I was a cold hearted liar. I told Dinah I didn't love her. I lied.
I may not be completely in love her but there is a part of me that yearns for something that I know only Dinah can give me.
There is one thing I'm sure of. I told Dinah I didn't love her. I lied.
It's past midnight and I won't sleep until Dinah is safely in her room. Or on the couch. Or on the balcony. Or even in the Clocktower, locked in the basement where she can never escape from me again.
My bed is uncomfortable which is strange because for the last two years it's been perfectly fine. I hate having to be so worried. About Dinah, about Helena, about Gabby and even about myself.
It feels like we're riding in a rickety truck at 200 down a road filled with pot holes and broken branches. One of us will fail and *all* of us will fall.
Just like Harley Quinn wanted us to.
"This is ridiculous," I sputter to myself and reach over to flick on the light. My digital clock reads 1:12. Helena should be home soon.
I smooth back my hair, which has finally started to get longer, and lever myself into my wheelchair. I wrap myself in a blanket before I stealthily head towards the Delphi platform to track Helena's path home. I'll be calmer knowing she's ok.
A quiet sob stops me at my bedroom door.
I pull open the heavy door and crane my neck around the side to see into the Clocktower.
I don't recognise Dinah at first. Her skin is so pale in comparison to her hair, her face is gaunt and she's so tightly curled up into a ball that it's hard to tell where she begins and ends.
Her cheeks are stained with dry tears, she looks tired and she can't be comfortable sitting in the position she's in. I want to know how long she's been sitting there.
"I'm sorry," she mumbles as she stares at a spot on the floor in front of her. "Barbara, I'm so sorry."
I can't sit here and watch her beautiful heart break. I slowly approach her like she's a wild animal and I'm the timid trainer, we're meeting for the first time.
"Dinah, can you hear me?"
I get no response, no movement, nothing to show that she realises I'm sitting right in front of her. I decide that if I'm going to help her I need to be at her level. Slowly I lever myself out of my wheelchair and onto the floor in front of her shaking form.
"Dinah, sweetheart, can you hear me?"
I reach out and lightly touch the top of her head. My touch works miracles. Her head jumps up and she glances around the room with her wild eyes until they settle on my face, fear and hate. Within seconds the horrible emotions are gone and seem to be replaced with remorse and even hope. She stares at me as if she never thought she would again.
In two quick motions she surges forward and wraps her arm around my neck. I have to control the panic that immediately bubbles up inside my stomach. There's a deep natural instinct that has built up over the last year. When ever I'm around Dinah I am constantly on my guard. It's survival instinct.
I'm cautious as she starts to cry into my shoulder. It's strange to feel the salty wet on the back of my neck. My eyes don't seem to want to focus.
I have no idea how to react but I don't want her to hurt, I want to comfort her, so I do.
I wrap my arms around her shoulders and rock her steadily as she mumbles apologies over and over again in my ear. I soothe her as best I can until she's just a limp mass of flesh leaning against me as if I'm the only thing holding her back from the ledge.
"Dinah? How long have you been out here?"
She can't seem to reply around the coughs, splutters and sobs that still erupt harshly from her throat. "I'm sorry," she mumbles again, "I didn't mean to. I didn't want to."
"Didn't mean to what?" I ask as I stroke her head trying to flatten one piece of shiny black hair. "Dinah look at me," she seems to have trouble focusing on my face.
She blinks, "Barbara?"
I nod and touch her puffy red cheek.
For a second everything seems ok. She's sitting in front of me and not screaming. We're having an almost reasonable conversation. She's not running. The hope and euphoria I feel at the slight improvement we've made is abruptly squashed as she shoves at my hands and yells, "Get the hell away from me!"
Within seconds she's on her feet and storming towards the balcony. Before I can call to her she's on the edge of the balcony, arms spread ready to swan dive off.
I silently curse Helena for encouraging the young girl to learn how to 'fly'.
I let out a breath I didn't know I was holding when I see her appear on the top of the apartment building across the road.
New Gotham looks so lonely and empty from here. The top of the New Gotham Bank building is one of the highest up in the city. It's a good vantage point. I can see everything.
I can see the smoke from several houses in the suburbs but other than that I wouldn't be surprised to find that the world had ended and I was the only living person on the earth.
That would be terrible.
I'd go ... well not crazy, I'm already crazy.
I'd go crazier. Maybe start befriending alley cats and eating out of garbage bins. Wearing paper bags for clothes and looting stores only to forget how to operate a television set. Yep that would be me. Wild Dinah. I'll take what I want when I want it and be Queen of my jungle.
My legs are killing me from taking the brunt of all the falls from the air as I jumped telekinetically from roof top to roof top. My head is aching from all the thinking I've been doing. Trying to sort myself out when I don't even know where to start. My heart is pounding unsteadily in my chest but I don't know why, I haven't strained myself beyond my limit. I haven't got any heart problems that I know of. But then again ...
My mind and body are telling me I killed Barbara even though I couldn't have. I saw her she was sitting right in front of me stroking my hair and talking to me softly. I don't believe in ghosts or angels.
The only way I can think to explain it is that I was hallucinating again.
It's not like that isn't something I've had happen to me before. I've seen thinks before, believed things that weren't real. I saw Helena dead and Barbara as some sort of evil dominatrix, I even saw my dead mother. None of those were real.
Some small part of my brain is yelling at me that it doesn't matter, that nothing will matter in the end. I'm doomed to live a half life.
Barbara's pissed. What's new? I feel sorry for her. I feel guilty that I could hurt the woman that has loved and treated me as though I were her own daughter. I almost killed her. I'm guilty .I don't hate her. It's just easier if I pretend I don't care.
Helena, a beautiful bag of contradictions. She loves me but she can't be *in* love with me. She doesn't want to see me hurt but she easily kicks my ass in the training rooms. She can't stand being around me but she always touches me in a small way if I'm in the room, as if to make sure I'm real. Maybe she's having hallucinations as well.
Then there's Gabby ...
Gabby. Gabby. Gabby.
When I was sixteen and had only been kissed twice I never knew that I could fall so helplessly head over heels in love with someone. Let alone another woman.
When I was seventeen and just starting to find myself at New Gotham High I didn't realise that the flutter in my stomach when I saw Gabby was the beginning of lust.
When I started to look at Gabby as more than just a nice person I didn't realise that it could turn into full blown love.
When Gabby started to look back at me ... well I didn't realise that I was more to her. More to someone. I meant something to someone.
I'm in love with Gabby.
But what the hell is love?
Great, I'm getting philosophical while I watch the paper delivery man sneak into a deserted alley for a piss.
Life is complicated. Oh! How fun! Why don't I just add 'You can't outrun bullets' 'Drink. Drive. You'll be sorry' and 'Marijuana, you don't know what it could do to you' to my little arsenal then prace around the school with a cross and a bible filling unsuspecting teens with information about how God loves everyone.
This is frustrating.
I'm getting no where.
"You could jump again, that might get you somewhere," a smooth voice says from behind me. Of course I expected her to be here. She's always around me when I don't want her to be and never when I need her to be.
"Hell yeah! Or I could just survive again," I sass back.
She smiles indulgently and shakes droplets of water off her jacket. She's dressed in leather from head to toe as usual.
Together we stand quietly looking over the city we swore to protect. If only I hadn't given up. If only I cared again. If only she would just love me.
"Evil is excreted from every orifice in this city," she murmurs.
She surprises me. New Gotham is her home. Her mother is here, Barbara is here, this is where she grew up and found out about her father.
"But you ... "
She cuts me off sharply, "I know what you're going to say but don't you see it. Darkness and evil seeps from every corner, every alley. It's in the darkened corners and the burnt out cars. It plunders and rapes and steals."
"No. I don't blame you for losing it a little bit. It's a terrible horrible place. It's filled with drugs and villains bent on destroying as many people as possible in as short a time as possible. Even the villains who don't wear costumes, the petty criminals, the child abusers. Want to do something bad? Move to New Gotham." She throws her arms up into the air and shakes her head.
I continue to look at her as I watch her beautiful face fall. "No Helena. NO! How could you think that! This city made Batgirl, Batman, the Huntress and Oracle. How could you hate it? This city bought you to Barbara. This city bought out your inner vigilante, it helped you to become the woman you are today and I'll tell you what, she's a pretty damn great mentor and friend."
"So you're saying you don't hate it here?" she grins.
"Of course I do."
Her smile falls dramatically fast, so fast that it's almost comical.
"I hate every corner, every 'orifice', every villain and every child abuser. I hate the pavement, the cars, the shops ... the goddamn leaves. I hate it all with a vengeance that I could never put to words."
She stops staring at me and obviously decides it's easier to just look at Wayne Tower. "Then why do you stay here if you hate it so much?"
I expect that question and yet it still catches me by surprise.
"Because I have no where else."
I take a deep breath and think of all the things my heart and head have been stewing in for the last year and a half.
"Because I have no family and my only friends are here. Where do you expect me to go ... run back to a home I ran away from in the first place? No. I don't think so. I stay because of Batgirl and the Huntress." I'm starting to feel drained, my emotional vacuum is on high and I'm losing control of the emotional barrier I set up around me.
"So, did you come up here to jump?" she asks as she sits down but firmly keeps her eyes on Wayne Tower which still sits proudly on the horizon.
"Why should I believe you?"
I roll my eyes and snap at her.
"Gee I dunno Helena. Maybe you shouldn't. Maybe you should just send me away again, see how well that goes."
Before she has a chance to toss my own words back at me I throw my arms out to the side and easily lower myself to the building below us. She's beside me before I can even start running.
She grabs my shoulder and by instinct I throw her over it. She hits the pavement ungracefully and let's out a grumpy snort. I know I can run away and probably have just enough time to make it far enough so that she can't follow me. For some reason I stand perfectly still.
"Gee Kid, I thought you'd be at least a little off since you haven't been training with me."
"Don't ever underestimate me," I tell her darkly and start to walk off.
"Well, obviously from now on I won't." She dusts off her behind and follows me. "We never wanted you togo there.."
"Go where?" I ask as I skirt around a full garbage can.
"To that place, that rest home."
I spin around with my mouth open to protest but I know she's right. I sent myself there. I'm just angry that I went at all. I'm failed, admitted defeat. I'm not strong like they are. I never was.
I shake my head and continue walking. She stops in the middle of the alley.
"I said I wasn't in love with you. I never said I didn't love you," she yells.
I throw my hand at her and send her crashing to the ground again.
"Fuck off," I hurl over my shoulder as I retreat.
"This is my city Dinah. I'll protect it and anyone in it. That includes you."
I keep walking away.
That'll teach me for looking up while I walk. If 'd kept my eyes at street level I never would have seen Dinah's lanky form standing proudly on the side of the New Gotham Bank building.
If I had kept walking I probably wouldn't have such a sore ass right now. Then again if I'd kept walking then Oracle might have sent me straight back to talk to Reese about a suicide off the top of the New Gotham Bank building.
That's not a pretty thought. Seeing Dinah mushed up like the forgotten cupcakes I sometimes find in the back of my car. I wouldn't be able to stand that. Just seeing her in the hospital with all those tubes and respirators and machines hooked up to her was enough to send me straight to the bathroom. It was sickening. Then watching Gabby cry by her lover's side that was heart breaking. Needless to say by the time D had regained consciousness and was ready to come home I was worn out again.
She's worse than Barbara in some ways. Dinah blatantly ignores her physio appointments, just like Barbara did. Even thought the doctors told her if she did there would be more nerve damage and possibly loss of feeling in her legs. Strangely enough the only appointments D will keep are the ones with her shrink. I thought after the debacle with Harley Quinn hypnotising her she would try anything to get out of seeing another shrink. Guess I can't always be right about everyone.
Some how I've managed to walk six blocks while I was think. I almost laugh at my own surprise when my body automatically stops in front of the Clocktower. If I squint upwards I can just see Barbara's chair on the balcony.
I make quick work of the building, landing silently beside my troubled lover. Her face is scrunched up, she looks as though she's been crying. I want to slap Dinah senseless.
"Dinah's missing again," she whispers to me through the darkness around us.
I sigh to myself and sit beside her, "she's fine just letting off some steam somewhere in the city. I caught up with her on the way home from work."
"Is she ok?"
Is she ok? I've been asking myself that question ever since she first tried to kill us all. I decide to stay with a semi-positive answer. "No different than normal." There's no need to share my thoughts on the young girl trying to jump off the building that would just upset everyone.
"Can you do me a favour Hel?"
I look at her. Any other time I would jump at the chance to help her in any way but there's a look in her eye that makes me suspicious. "What?"
"I need you to discretely *check* Dinah's things."
I raise an eyebrow warily, "you want me to ransack her room?"
"NO!" Barbara insists quickly, "Just check things ... make sure she isn't keeping anything important from us."
"Like what Barb?"
She sighs heavily and I can see the world rise with her shoulder. She continues to stare out at the city, "haven't you noticed Helena. She's withdrawn, emotionally and physically, she's always tired even though Gabby says she sleeps for hours at a time, deeply. She's just plain mean and grumpy and I think she's seeing things again."
I wave my hands around in front of me to get her to continue but she doesn't. "So what you're saying is ... "
"She may be taking something."
Barbara turns to me her eyes are filled with hope. I can see where this is going now. She wants it to be something else. She doesn't want Dinah to be mentally unstable. At least if Dinah is taking something there are ways Barbara can stop it. Dinah's health is out of both their control and now Barbara's starting to panic.
"Ok," I whisper against my better judgement, "I'll take a real quick look."
I spin on my heel and head into the Clocktower. At least I have less chance getting caught if Dinah's out of the Clocktower.
The door to her room is slightly ajar. I won't have to break anything, good.
It's a mess inside. Leather thrown hazardously over chairs, dirty clothes piled in corners, school books, novels and papers lying on the floor, the bed unmade. There's even the stale smell of sex and body odour deep underneath it all. I cursed my sensitive sense of smell then glazed around in wonder, how could Gabby sleep in here?
I'm sure that if I looked under the bed there would be some sort of biological hazard or mini world forming. I promise myself that I'll look everywhere ... except under the bed.
I step towards the desk and pull open the first draw. Spare pens, pencils, paper and several small boxes of candid photos. Nothing incriminating, deadly or illegal here. The next three draws are the same. In completely disarray but not harbouring anything Barbara might like to look out. Well except for the half used box of condoms -- I'll have to find some way of asking about that one later.
I turn to the bed and check under the mattress, the covers and then the draws beside it. When I've searched everywhere reachable, not including the underneath of the bed, I check the wardrobe. Yet still nothing.
I stand in the middle of the room facing the window. I let my hands rest on my hips and I consider any other places Dinah may have hidden things. The loose floor board where I used to keep the odd bottle of JD or pack of cigarettes hasn't been touched since I last used it. The small hidden draw in the back of the bedside table is in the exact same condition. Maybe I need to teach the kid these things.
"Are you looking for Dinah?"
I spin around and come face to face with a sad looking Gabby. "Ah ... um ... er ... " LIE! YOU HAVE TO LIE HELENA! "Actually I was just ... "
"It's ok," she says softly and walks into the room. She wrinkles her nose in disgust at the dirty dishes on the floor near the door. "It's needs a clean huh?"
I nod then grin, "It's not much different from when I was hunkered down in here actually." Aside from the mess and possible anthrax growing under the bed.
"So, what were you looking for? Maybe I can help?"
LIE! LIE! LIE!
"My jacket," I spit out quickly, "D borrowed it last week. You know the black leather one with the big pockets? You know the one?"
Gabby considers me for a second before getting on her knees beside the bed. "Yeah, I remember," she says as she ducks her head underneath the covers spilling off the bed on to the floor. I wonder if I should rush for the oxygen tank and first aid kit in the training room. Gabby's got guts.
"Look something like this?" she asks as she holds up a small white container. She pops the top open and spills three brown capsules out onto her hand. She offers them to me and I take them. Carefully she puts the container back under the bed. I slip the tablets into my coat pocket. This will keep Barbara the Science Nerd happy for a little while.
"Her psychiatrist gave them to her but I don't think they're helping ... maybe you could get Barbara to do her thing," Gabby suggests as she grabs several shirts off the floor and lobs them into a washing basket. I nod and turn towards the door.
"Actually Helena," she calls. I turn back around and wait.
"She's been having strange dreams. They're always of her mother or Barbara and they're always ... wrong. I dunno how to explain really. They're always just so rude to her blaming her for things that she didn't have anything to do with."
"Like what?" I ask and step back into the room.
"Like Barbara blaming Dinah for her paralysis and others where she's actually walking but still ... taunting her about the incident after the dinner. Or her mother screaming at her that she's the reason she's dead."
"And you saw these dreams?" I ask.
She nods. "It's hard not to when your sleeping right next to her and she's sort of accidentally pulling you into them as an added bonus."
I turn away again, "That's one cool talent you got there Gabs." I grin.
"OH! And Helena?"
I turn back to her again.
"Next time you want to lie about why you're in a room."
"Maybe you should check which jacket you're wearing."
I look down; sure enough the jacket I described to Gabby was the one I wore to work. I grin, slap my head and, in an excellent Homer Simpson impersonation, mutter, "doh!"
My Meta power first showed when I was fourteen. I didn't have a clue what was going on, just that I had strange dreams about giant bubbles.
I remember waking up partially in the early morning and I could hear the birds, the sound of someone making coffee in the kitchen, I even felt the sheets under my back but I couldn't open my eyes. This, I now know, is the perfect time to let my powers out. To give in to the pull of the dreams of a couple of hundred thousand people entering REM or D-Sleep. The time when they dream of their faults, happiness and humiliation.
The first ever dream I accidentally walked in on was that of a six year old girl.
A little girl dreaming of things that any normal six year old dreams of, the beach, her family, a big yellow dog, balloons. It was confusing at first as the little blonde girl ran along the beach with the dog one second and blew out the candles of a cake the next. Her mind was working much to fast for me to keep up.
I worked my power like a muscle and slowly I started to gain control. I could feel the deep throb at the back of my head, like someone was squeezing my brain lightly, massaging it. It caught me off guard at first but I soon realised that it was the 'on' switch.
When I concentrate on the tight pull darkness starts to wash over me.
It's like being caught in a rip, with water pushing in at my mouth and face, no way to breathe, no way to see, no way to scream. It's like warn bath water but heavier like milk washing over my skin.
I've taught myself to find it relaxing. Every time I use my power I calm down further as bright colours float in front of my eyes. Bright bubbles like balloons with beautiful gold, yellow, red and silver strings attached to each one and leading to even more bright balloons.
Soft music, like birds singing in harmony, always surrounds me. It's like floating through a sea of bubbles, each one brushes my legs or arms and I always shiver as my over sensitised skin constantly tingles at the contact.
As each bubble brushes past me I can feel something new, a new emotion, a titbit of knowledge or even a small memory that I have no recollection of ever experiencing.
It was months before I could purposely will myself into my special dream land. Not long after that I realised I could enter the dreams just by pressing my body against a bubble and letting it pop around me.
I soon learnt the sounds of my friends dream orbs. I could put myself into their dreams or take over if they were already dreaming about me. I learnt a lot about my friends that first year of dream walking. Like Jessica Parsons had a reoccurring dream about me in a swim suit. Candy Thompson was crushing on her step-brother and Richard Kenny had a panty fetish.
But not all the dreams are funny, ironic or hold good blackmail material. Some of them are horrifying. Fantasies of rape, murder, assault all unfulfilled and waiting in their owner's heads.
There is an entire corner of my dream scape that I dedicate to the dream orbs of Arkham and the people that work and live there. In the beginning I would accidentally stumble across the psychotic dreams of an axe murderer or a serial rapist. They all got shoved to the back of the dream scape and never do I want to touch them again.
But to quote Uncle Ben 'with great power comes great responsibility.'
The first really important secret I accidentally learnt was the security code to New Gotham High's systems. I knew then that I had to be responsible with my gift. I had to always keep a control on my mouth and mind so things didn't accidentally slip out, for my own protection as much as anyone else's.
The second *really* big secret I learnt was about the vigilantes of New Gotham. I honestly don't know what surprised me more Helena Kyle, Dinah's kind of adoptive sister, being the Huntress or the fact that the Huntress was in love with my English teacher.
Even now, years later, I can't see why the two of them hadn't gotten together sooner. Helena's sweet, yet steamy, dreams about Barbara were nothing compared to Barbara's. The amount of leather, latex, costumes and darkened alleys that woman featured in her dreams made me wonder if Barbara had a few fetishes of her own.
Of course the blush factor to all of these dreams was another thing I had to be careful of. Seeing my respected English teacher wearing very tight fitting leather and latex, dressed as Batgirl was one thing but seeing her in the middle of a steamy sexual encounter was another.
Those dreams are ones I try to stay out of as much as possible.
Then there were Dinah's dreams. In the beginning I felt bad about them. I felt so guilty that I knew what she was going through and I didn't say anything to help. She had nightmares about her mother's death and her foster parents. The dreams were violent and terrible, filled with screaming people and pain.
I stood outside the orb and only ever went in when I could. If she were alone for a few seconds or about to be hurt again but the rest of the time there was nothing I could do. It hurt me to watch her in so much pain.
Now when she sleeps she murmurs things. She tells people to stop hurting her, that she is sorry and she won't do it again. She pleads with them to leave her alone. When I'm sure she'll either start crying in her sleep or wake up screaming she drags me inside her head. Wether intentionally, sub consciously or accidentally my presence seems to calm her a little bit and she thinks more clearly, even blocking out some of the cruel words or kicks.
At least she turns to me. I'm the one that saves her in the end
But now ...
The tablets worry me. She takes them three times a day and just seems to get worse after every single dose. I hope that Barbara can work this out.
I'm selfish I want my Dinah back.
I want things to be normal.
That would include having a semi-tidy room. I hate cleaning.
I groan as I push myself up off the bed, enough thinking time for action. First the dirty dishes, then loads of laundry, then some dusting I wonder if Barbara actually knows where the vacuum cleaner is.
Then church even though I haven't been in years.
God knows I feel guilty about giving away Dinah's secrets. Even if it was to help her.
Carolyn would be disgusted with me.
It's all my fault and Carolyn would be horrified at what I've done. I destroyed her daughter.
She wasn't happy about Dinah's involvement in 'the life' to begin with. She didn't like that her only child was facing all the danger she did. But I convinced her. I was the one that told her I could take care of Dinah. I could train her to be a hero. I was the one who told Carolyn that Dinah would be safe with Helena and I.
The little capsules mock me from their secure place under my microscope. I could walk the other way, not get myself involved in this and hope like hell that it's me being paranoid and Dinah really is just having some mental troubles.
Maybe she's depressed and the tablets are anti-depressants.
After all Dr. Fraser is a very highly sought out and qualified mental health professional. She couldn't possibly be an associate or in any way associated with Harley Quinn or any other criminal.
No way. I should just leave this alone. Go to the kitchen and drown my troubles in the half gallon of fudge ripple Helena bought home yesterday.
Fudge ripple or drug analysis.
"You're living in a dream world Gordon," I whisper to myself as I turn my wheelchair and head for the kitchen. There can't always be a criminal reason for everything people do. Some people are just evil or disturbed or even medically insane. Not everyone is out to get me.
"She's not insane," I whisper angrily at myself.
With fudge ripple in hand I transfer myself to the couch and stare at the blank TV.
I don't understand why Dinah hasn't been getting better. She knows we love her. She knows she's safe with us ... or at least I hope she knows. It's not like I don't tell her I love having her here.
She couldn't possibly think that I only need her here because I need another hero around the house. One hero was enough, Dinah's just a bonus. When was the last time I actually told her I love her?
Maybe she's lonely.
"Maybe she's just completely nuts," I snort into my bowl. Stupid brain.
I spoon a glob of ice cream into my mouth and almost choke when I hear a soft thud behind me and Helena's voice in my ear. "Maybe you should just go and test the damn things before you make all of us crazy?"
"But ... "
"No! No buts, if you don't go and do it the scientific way. I'll go and do it the Kyle way."
"Yeah, I'll test the damn thing on myself and wait for a reaction."
"What?" she says shyly from behind long brown bangs. "It works about 90% of the time you know and it's not like I've died yet."
"Yeah." I agree. "Yet."
Helena stands to full height and points to my lab. "Go."
"But ... "
"Barbara," Helena says calmly, "If you use any more buts on me I'm going to have to do something drastic."
"Drastic?" I ask innocently with a not so innocent grin.
She raises her eyebrows, "spanking may be in order."
I consider that for a second. "But ... "
Helena's mouth turns into a frown and she points to the lab again, "Go! Now!"
I throw a half grin at her and get back into my chair. I suppose she's right. It wouldn't hurt our collective sanity to check the pills.
"Have you been dreaming about that night again, Dinah."
Her voice is so soft, so soothing and calm. Everything about her calms me in some way but her voice is my grounding point. I hold onto the soft waves of her sweet low down southern drawl as I let myself reminisce each week.
"Yes," I tell her softly. I sigh into the open air of her office. She has a window open, she always has a window open and sometimes when I come in I can detect the smallest amount of second hand smoke. I don't think she smokes cigarettes though. The smell is woodier, deeper like the cigars my foster father used to smoke on balmy summer nights.
"Tell me about your dreams Dinah."
She always asks me. Everyone asks me. Except Gabby but she's got a sixth sense about those sorts of things. I grin to myself. My own private joke.
"I'm standing on the building and Helena and Gabby are there." I pause for a second sometimes my memory fails me here. I don't always remember if I got on the ledge before or after they arrive. "Then I hear this crack, I remember thinking I might have broken a bone."
"But you didn't ... "
"No. Not yet. My foot just slipped. The tile was slippery, I didn't fall on purpose. But I remember the weightless feeling as I fell. If I weren't about to die I think I would have enjoyed it more."
"But you didn't die, Dinah," her voice reminds me. I can't see her; she's hidden behind her big oak desk.
"I know, I'm alive but at the time I didn't realise that I wouldn't die. I'm not a psychic you know." I don't mean to sound so angry. She doesn't like it when I get angry. I can almost feel her shoulders tense up, even though she's on the other side of the room and no way in contact with me.
"I'm sorry," I whisper before she can express her distaste for my tone. "I had an argument with ... well everyone."
"Do you want to tell me about it?"
She's still so calm. Her shoulders relaxed as soon as I apologised.
"I pushed Barbara and Helena gave me another one of her we-love-you- don't-be-crazy speeches."
"Did you hurt her?"
"Which one? Barbara or Helena?" Now I'm being sarcastic she doesn't like that either.
"I'm sorry," I say again, still meaning it. "Both of them I think, emotionally. I couldn't ... physically hurt either of them. Not again."
"What happens in your dreams when you start falling?"
"I keep falling," I tell her simply, "It feels like forever sometimes. I'm falling forever and then Gabby's there."
"Gabby?" she asks softly. Her voice is still apolitical.
"Yes," I nod my head. She can see it move but I can't see her. I don't know why she insists on sitting behind her big desk. She makes me sit horizontally in front of her, my chair to the side facing her giant bay windows. The view is impressive.
"Gabby just appears and suddenly everything is alright. I'm safe again."
I tangle my fingers together in my lap and watch her pen fly across a note pad in my peripheral vision. She writes a lot about my dreams and she takes even more notes about my hallucinations. My fears and insecurities. She has a voice recorder hidden in the back of my chair and she doesn't know that I know it's there.
"And how is your relationship with Gabby, Dinah?"
I shrug. "Bad. Worse. Almost finished? I can never tell if she's hanging around because she feels bad for me or if maybe she has some feelings left for me even after the way I've treated her."
She opens her mouth to say something but it's my turn to talk now so I butt in. "I mean it's not like she doesn't tell me she loves me because she does. She tells me all the time that I'm everything she's always wanted, her true love ... she even went as far as to tell me I was her soul mate. That's so cheesy, so Gabby."
"How do you feel Dinah?"
"I feel ... I don't think I do anymore, Doc. You know? I just sort of stumble forwards hoping that I'll find something or someone that actually means something to me. A purpose. A way of living ... or I suppose it's a new way of living, something different, with a meaning. Like Superman."
"Yeah you know, he has a job, a love life and then he's got these really cool powers that he uses to help other people. He has a meaning, he's fricken Superman!"
"Do you want to help people Dinah, like Superman?"
"How could I? You need super powers to help people like Superman does ... although I wouldn't mind being able to fly."
She leans forward in her seat; she actually looks at me this time. It's getting to the end of our fifty minutes she's going to say something insightful and meaningful then rush me out thinking I've been stumped by her insight and I'll be thinking about it all week until I see her next time. What an idiot.
A rich idiot. That pearl of wisdom costs Barbara three hundred dollars a week.
"Well that's our time for this week Dinah."
Oh so predictable.
"I'll see you this time next week." She stands up and walks to her door then holds it open for me. "That's it?" I ask in a flustered voice. She's thrown me right off.
"That's it. I have other patients this afternoon." She smiles brightly and waves her arms to rush me from the room. I shake my head and stand up.
As I step through the door she grips my shoulder lightly, "just remember. Be careful who you chose as an enemy Dinah. Because that is who you become most like."
She gives me a light shove and I'm so immersed in memories of Barbara's evil cackle and broken body that I let her.
The lasts words of the hallucination Barbara I killed, just before her eyes glazed over and I broke down.
It's a coincidence. There's no way she could possibly know about my hallucinations. I've been lying to her about them, I've been lying about a lot of things.
No Doctor, I haven't been seeing people.
Yes Doctor I have been feeling a lot better since I started taking the medication.
No Doctor a giant winged evil dinosaur looking thing didn't fly through my window last night and insist I conceive its children.
The street looks extra lonely and depressing when I step out of the giant white building Dr. Fraser uses as her torture chamber ... I mean office.
Torture Chamber. Office. I fail to see the difference.
Helena's supposed to pick me up but she isn't here. Figures. So caught up in her own life she forgets the insignificant little details.
It's not too far to walk home but the clouds around me make me nervous. I don't like the rain anymore.
I used to. I used to run into it when I was a young girl. I used to open my mouth and try to catch the little drops. I loved the feeling of the big wet splodges hitting my arms and legs and face sending instant cold chills through my body. I was never scared of storms. I liked the thunder and the lighting. The big heavy clouds, huge hailstones, big drops of rain and the sweet calm that followed them.
She knows about that.
Dr. Fraser knows how I don't like the rain anymore, how sometimes I miss feeling safe in them. She knows that the reasoning behind it is because of a night. One night when I made a decision, went to execute it, slipped and fell from my perch.
I broke my leg in two places that night.
The solid impact was enough to shatter my lower ribs.
I sprained some important parts in my spine. They said I'd never walk again, I did.
My wrist needed surgery.
I cracked my skull. The doctors were worried about brain damage for weeks I could hardly remember my name, how to tell the time, sometimes how to spell things. But, like Barbara kept insisting, I was strong.
But that's not the worst part.
Sure the breaks, strains and sprains all hurt like hell but they were nothing compared to the hypothermia. That's why I can't stand the rain anymore.
The ambulance took its sweet time getting to us. I felt every rain drop hitting me. I felt myself getting colder and colder. I felt the shivers start to attack my already hurting body. Even with Helena's thick leather jacket draped over me I was still cold.
I hate rain.
"Holy sh ... Magic Mushrooms!"
I grin to myself and tear my focus away from the television long enough to give Barbara a meaningful glance, "Holy Magic Mushrooms, Batgirl?"
If Dick were around I'd be chopped into little pieces, cremated and sprinkled over Australia by now.
"Helena. Not funny."
"Sure it was."
Barbara's grin is enough to let me know that she actually finds it funny but out of respect for her old partner in crime fighting she's controlling the giggles within. She shakes herself off and rolls around the couch so that she can get my attention.
She parks right in front of me. For a few seconds I try to see past her head to the guy without a crash helmet trying to jump a lake on a trail bike. Obviously the guy has no brain either.
Barbara's head moves in front of mine as I crane my neck. I sigh and look her in the eyes. "Did you need something?"
"I've finished with the drug analysis."
"And ... ?" I ask as my attention dwindles between the guy riding a motorcycle without a helmet and the over excited redhead sitting in front of me.
"Someone's been poisoning her. Dried magic mushrooms," Barbara says with a happy giggle.
I stare at her for a few seconds before deciding that she must be serious, or she's been smoking something 'organic' for the last two hours.
"That's," I mumble, "that's ... that's fricken' terrific!" I jump from the couch and encase my lover in a bone breaking hug. I don't know wether to get angry, or cry, or get angry and cry. Maybe a celebration is in order.
"What's going on?" Gabby's voice asks from behind us. She has a load of dirty laundry in her hands she looks tired. I spin in a little circle; the urge to do a jig is back and stronger that ever.
"Dinah's psychiatrist has been poisoning her with magic mushrooms!"
Gabby's face remains bland for a few seconds as Barbara's words sink in then the laundry flutters to the floor and she darts forward to join our human tangle of limbs in a hug almost as tight as mine had been.
"This is great!" she yells with us and suddenly starts that jig I had wanted to do.
"Da-dah-da," I sing as Gabby grabs my arms and we hop in a tight circle. There's a lot of squealing and Barbara's deep happy laughter. I silently thank who ever may be watching over us that Alfred has the day off and Dinah's at her ... .
"Dinah's with her shrink!" I suddenly exclaim and break away from Gabby grabbing at the jacket I threw over the back of the seat an hour before.
"Comms Helena," Barbara yells as I race for the elevator. I'm not surprised when Gabby joins me. Before I can tell her to stay she locks her hand over my mouth. "No arguments, she's mine too you know."
And how can I argue with that?
"We really should plan to get to her without dying, Helena," I whisper softly to myself, I don't mean for my driver to hear me. Some how she makes out my words.
"I am planning. I'm speeding."
I grit my teeth and hold onto the sides of my seat a little harder. "This thing has an airbag on the passenger side, doesn't it?"
"Gabby. Shut. Up. Already. I'm trying to concentrate."
"You wouldn't have to concentrate so much if you were going a little slower," I snap at her. My frustration is starting to emerge.
"Gabby! Dinah's out there with a psychopath. God knows what that woman could be doing to her. We have to get to her. Fast."
"Do you honestly think she'd choose today to start whatever she has planned? Who's to say she isn't already ... using Dinah some how? Getting us killed won't help anyone. Now take your goddamn foot off the gas pedal and get out of the car. I'm driving."
The car slows a bit and I reach for my seat belt. If I have to smack her across the head with one of Barbara's batarangs' I'm not going to let her drive us to our deaths.
"Gabby ... I ... "
>>"Huntress. Listen to her,"<< the calming voice of Oracle filters through my ears. As soon as Barbara gives her request Helena's foot falls from the gas pedal and we roll to a stop at the side of the road.
"I'm scared," she whispers as we swap seats and I try to control the shaking in my hands so that I can put the hummer into gear. The innocence and barely contained control in her voice leave me wondering about the Huntress' own sanity. I know what she's capable of. Many months of sitting with Oracle as the Huntress knocked down bad guys and saved good guys has taught me all about her mood swings and untapped power.
"I know Helena but you need to stay strong, not only for Dinah but for me too." Nothing like a little pressure to bring out the best in a superhero.
She sighs, smiles at me softly and rests her hand on her chin. "So, no pressure then?"
I reach over and take her hand without letting my eyes leave the road. "I'll be there for you Hel. We'll do this together."
"Can you?" she asks. In the corner of my eye I can see her sparkling blue eyes watching me worriedly.
"Can I what?"
"Can you keep up with me? Your field experience is ... well almost non- existent. I don't want you to get hurt Gabs. That's the last thing I want ... plus Oracle would probably take me down for getting her back- up killed on her first night."
Nervous laughter bubbles up my throat and I squirm in my seat. "That's not helping! I'm not ready to die yet, thank you very much."
"Good." She nods. "You'll go in, get Dinah out and leave the rest to me."
"But what if ... " She cuts me off with her hand. Her skin smells like roses.
"No what if's, ok? If I need help then I'll have you and Barbara there for me. But don't ... Never Gabby. Don't you ever put your life in danger for me. Do you understand? I couldn't live with myself if I ... if you ... because of me. Promise me? Promise me you'll take care of Dinah and ... You're so much more ... than me. I can't ever be what you will some day be." She pulls her hand away from my face and I smile softly.
"Well done Helena, that was the longest thing you've ever said to me and it didn't make any sense at all."
She smiles. "You do understand don't you?"
I nod. "I know exactly what you mean. But you're wrong. You've already proved that you're worth more. You've already made yourself into a caring, wonderful woman. If anything I hope that one day I'll be even half the woman you are today."
She turns from me and stares out the window. We drive silently through downtown New Gotham. The worst part of the city.
"Gabby?" she asks as we near Dr. Fraser's building.
"Yeah?" I reply, trying desperately to keep the shaking out of my voice and not let my nervousness get the better of me.
"Are you trying to get in my pants?" her cocky Huntress grin is firmly in place. I laugh, all of my courage returning at the ease she shows before a big fight.
"Oh baby. If Barbara couldn't hurt me then I'd say sure but since it's likely that she could have me pissing myself in ten seconds I think I'll have to go with, of course not!"
>>Good answer<< Barbara's not so serious voice bubbles over our line.
I chuckle to myself and feel more of my nervousness disappearing.
>>The Doctor hasn't left yet. She's still signed into the security monitors. I'm trying to hack into her office security cameras but I'm having a little trouble. I'll have the feed in a few minutes.<<
"We're going in without it," Helena states firmly and slams her door shut.
>>Huntress.<< Oracle warns over the line. >>I don't think that's such a great idea.<<
"Come on Oracle," Huntress says as she walks to the front entrance and slides the door open. "It's not like she's expecting us. It's not like she knows we're onto her."
>>We don't know that, Huntress.<<
"Well I guess we're about to find out," she snarls and punches the button to the elevator.
We ride in silence. Even Barbara is quiet aside from the constant clicking of computer keys.
I watch the numbers on the door. It feels like a count down. Like when the doors ping open there's going to be an all mighty boom and Helena and I will be nothing more than pieces of kibble spread around a destroyed building.
Ok, not really helping myself there.
Helena pulls a small white box from her pocket and taps the top. A small red light starts blinking. I look at it sceptically but she doesn't pay any attention.
"We'll go in together. Assess the security. I'll take down the boss lady. You get Dinah out of there," Helena tells me softly. "This is just a precaution in case the lift is bugged. If it is she knows we're coming but she doesn't know what we've got planned." She holds up the white box then shoves it back into her pocket as the doors to the lift open and Helena strides out as if she owns the place.
I don't know what I expected to see. A torture chamber, maybe. Walls painted dark colours and evil looking statues? It wasn't what I was subconsciously expecting.
The cream coloured walls, soft leather couches and tall oak reception desk that makes the entrance hall looks like any other therapists office. There's no secretary though, she must have already left for the day.
Soft music filters over the speaker system and I spin in a tight circle to take in all my surroundings.
>>Gabby I want you to keep me in constant contact,<< Oracle tells me stubbornly. <<I want you to tell me absolutely everything that happens. You'll be my constant commentary.<<
"Yes, Ms. Oracle," I whisper sarcastically. I can't help myself. I need to let my nervousness out somehow.
Huntress' constant sarcasm during sweeps suddenly makes a lot more sense to me.
"She knows," Huntress whispers as she stares at the door in front of her. I watch her as she glares at the gold writing across the glass front.
"She knows that we were coming." Huntress whispers softly.
>>What is it? What do you see?<<
Helena's graceful arm rises from her side and points to the lettering on the door.
"Oh my goodness," creeps past my lips as I finally see the order of letters, the name that shouldn't be there.
>>What? What is it! Gabby?<<
"On the door ... " I whisper softly into my necklace. "The door, the name on the door to her office, it's says ... it says Dr. Harleen Quinzel."
"That's impossible; she's locked in Arkham I have her cell video feed running right now. She can't possibly be there," I try to sound sure but I'm not.
>>We're going in,<< Gabby's young nervous voice tells me softly.
I take a deep breath and rest my head in my hands. A pounding headache is starting to build behind my eyes. "Just get in and out. Make sure Dinah is ok, subdue the therapist and get the hell out of there. I'm ready to send in the P.D. Please, Helena. Just ... be safe."
A loud crack fills my head phones, startling me so much I almost jump clear out of my wheelchair.
>>Er ... Oracle, I don't think she's listening.<<
"What did she do?" I ask softly as I try applying pressure to my temple to stop the headache. It doesn't work.
>>Kicked in the door. Dr. Fraser looks mighty shocked to see us,<< I can hear the pleased tone in Gabby's soft whisper.
>>Well, well, well, if it isn't the remarkable Huntress and her little side kick ... dream girl.<< That's not the voice of the woman I spoke to months ago while setting up appointments for Dinah's recovery. This voice is pure evil. It send chills down my spine.
>>You know, I prefer Gabby.<<
False bravado, just like Helena when she started out in the superhero business.
I wish I could see what is happening. I wish I had thought to put a camera on Gabby somewhere. I wish I could get into the security cameras.
I wish I could be there with them. Standing, fighting for my family.
>>Never mind. Your name really isn't all that important. You see *Gabby* I don't care what your called, who you are or what you've done. I just care that your holding back my Dinah.<<
>>Uh, *your* Dinah. Hardly. Last time I checked she didn't belong to anyone.<< Huntress snorts and I can hear her ruffling her jacket.
The sharp, psychotic laugh cuts through my ears and I grimace.
>>See that's where you, my dull minded superhero, are wrong. See, I know for a fact that if you were sleeping with Dinah you'd consider her to be yours. Gabby is, I'm sure Gabby feels that Dinah is hers. Of course she's wrong but who can really blame her. So young, so innocent, so utterly stupid.<<
I hear Helena growl threateningly, the only warning I get before I hear a flurry of leather creaking and Gabby's yelp of surprise. >>Huntress, NO!<<
Another loud crash echoes through my head. I pray that Huntress has just kicked in another door.
>>Oracle,<< Gabby's frantic voice comes over the line, << She's ... <<
>>Shut. Up. Sweetheart.<<
"Gabby? Gabby tell me you can hear me." I sit straighter in my chair. All I can do is stare at the rows of code on the screen in front of me.
>>Can Batgirl come out to play?<<
A sharp cackle follows the cruel voice slowly seeping through my speakers before the fuzz of static overcomes my senses.
This is just my luck. Four blocks from Dr. Fraser's office and the rain starts to beat down like nothing I've ever felt before. The tiny drops slice into my face. I don't know if the rain is just getting more violent to match the city or if I'm just becoming more sensitive.
I look around for somewhere to wait the rain out but the shops around me have already closed for the night, pulling in their chairs and umbrellas so they wouldn't sustain any damage from the storm.
I can't just walk up to any old house and ask if I can sit in their porch because I don't like to get wet and cold.
So I have two choices, I could run the sixteen blocks back to the Clocktower or I could go back four blocks to the relative safety of the Doctor's office. She said she had other patients but surely she wouldn't mind if I waited with her receptionist. Sure a nice girl, if a bit rough around the edges. She reminds me of Helena in some warped, I dreamed of you when you were happy, kind of way.
Slowly I turn and start the walk back to my therapist's office, keeping close to the buildings on my left so they can shield me from just a bit of the hard rain.
A few lone people pass me as I creep along. They have umbrellas to keep them reasonably dry and shelter them from the tough wet drops falling from the heavens.
"Damn you Helena," I grumble at my feet. If only she would care about me enough to pick me up. It's not like I'm asking her to marry me. It's not like I ask her for a hell of a lot.
I didn't press matters when I remembered her turning me down. I didn't insist that we sit down and go over the experience, the total heart break that followed the remembering or the fact that even though I share a bed with Gabby I constantly see Helena in my dreams.
Just one lousy car ride. Fifteen minutes of her fucking precious time.
Who am I kidding? She's probably been held up by Barbara.
Barbara who monopolises all her time and has made it perfectly clear to me - and everyone else - that Helena is hers and shouldn't be looked at, touched, spoken too.
I can't even be her friend?
Do I even want to be her friend?
Maybe I should consider setting up another appointment with the Doc this week instead of next. Obviously I need my medication kicking up or a little solid guidance.
My feet stop before I realise what I'm doing. I look up. There's the Doctor's building again.
Four blocks is all it took me to completely hate Helena, then love her again and then doubt her. Well done Me ... And the crazy contradictions award go to.
I pull open the door to the building and step inside. As soon as the hard rain disappears from my back I start to relax. I pull off my drenched leather coat and hand it to the door man who smiles at me softly, almost sadly, and hangs my jacket up to dry.
I smile back at him. I even continue smiling as I walk to the lift and press the button for my Doctor's floor. I can't remember the last time I smiled. Genuinely.
It's so strange. I don't know why I haven't smiled more. I have no reason not to. Good things have happened to me. There have been jokes and amusing stories. Like Helena's tendency to bring home impossibly wrong but extremely funny blonde jokes. I never laughed at them but they *were* funny.
Or the stories that Gabby told me to make me laugh. I don't know if they were true stories or not but they were funny. Old Dinah would have laughed. This Dinah, this strange, non-fun, hardly sane person I've become. It's not me. There's something wrong with me. Something very, very wrong.
My mental sweat session is cut off by the sharp ping of the lift doors.
Dr. Fraser stands with her back to me, rifling through papers at her receptionist's desk. She doesn't even turn when the sounds of the opening doors echo around the empty room.
A sharp gasp escapes my sometimes friend/sometimes doctor and she spins around to look at me. "Dear God Dinah! You scared the pants off of me. What are you doing here?"
"Sorry." I blush and smile softly at her. This smiling thing is something I think I'll have to get used to. "It's just ... it's raining and I was hoping it would be alright if I gave Helena a ring and waited for her up here. She was supposed to pick me up but she seems to have forgotten."
Babbling. Another thing I haven't done in a fair while.
Doctor Fraser's smile drops slightly into a frown. "Dinah, have you been taking your medication?"
"Er." I blush again. Two blushes in three minutes, unbelievable. Something really must be wrong with me. "I haven't taken it today, I ... er ... I forgot. I'm sorry. I'll take it as soon as Helena drops me home."
The doctor frowns softly again and turns back to her paper work. "You can use this phone right here if you'd like. Just press one of the purple buttons and dial six to get an outside line."
"Thank you," I whisper softly as I carefully pick my way around her and sit in the receptionist chair before picking up the phone.
I dial Helena's cell phone and wait as it rings.
Three beeps and Helena's smooth voice filters through the phone. >>You've reached Helena Kyle. I'm bound to a post at the moment while a lavish redhead has her way with me. Please leave a message and I'll call you back when I regain consciousness.<<
Another sharp beep and I find myself blushing again as a detailed image pops into my mind, supplying me with a techno colour, sound surround clip of just what Helena's words may mean.
"Helena, that's disgusting. Barbara can't know you've got that on your message bank. Look. You said you'd pick me up after my appointment and you aren't here and it's raining. I said five thirty Helena. It's now six, where the hell are you?"
I sigh and hit the button on the cradle to end the call then dial the Clocktower, hoping ... well not hoping that Helena is there because I have a feeling if she is her message bank would be more than accurate. Stupid teenage hormones.
I hope Barbara knows where Helena is or has enough time to come get me herself.
Doctor Fraser watches as I listen to the click that signalled the line had finally been picked up. >>You've reached Barbara and Dinah, we can't get to the phone right now so please leave a message and one of us will get back to you as soon as possible.<<
"Barbara? Are you home? It's Dinah. Please pick up the phone, I need a lift bad. Barbara, please."
I sneak a look up and notice Doctor Fraser watching me intently. A small smile on her face. I smile back slightly.
"Barbara ... I ... "
Doctor Fraser moves around the desk and stand next to me, bending over the keyboard to type something into the computer.
>>Yes Miss Dinah. Please, listen very carefully. Ms. Barbara, Ms. Helena and Ms. Gabby aren't here right at the moment. I think something may have gone awry.<<
So maybe charging the crazy lady wasn't the best thing I could have done to help get Dinah back. I was angry, I let my emotions get the better of me, I screwed up, Batman would never have let his emotions predict his moves ... then again, I'm here aren't I?
Sick thoughts. At least they take away the throbbing pain in my head.
"Honestly Harleen you look marvellous. You're just like cheese, you only get better with age."
Oh ... barf.
"What were they feeding you at that place? You must have lost at lease ten pounds! Then again, you inherited mother's figure so I guess it's not that surprising really!"
Jeez ... would she stop already.
"Well Harley! I guess you know what to do next. It seems our Huntress is finally waking up. Honestly how silly I thought I was going to have to drug her to wake her up."
She lets out a big sigh and laughs jovially.
"Drug her to shut her up, drug her to wake her up ... I feel a song coming on!"
No really. Please, control yourself.
"Ok ... Deli, darling, this would be the time for you to be quiet so we can question the witness," the familiar drawl of Harley Quinn's voice comes to me softly.
I don't think I have ever been so happy to hear her voice.
She, Dinah's doctor, Dr. Fraser, Harley's ... acquaintance, sister? Finally shuts up.
"Helena, we're quite aware that you're awake. You might as well open your eyes," Harley says to me softly.
Very slowly I lift my left eye lid. It hurts to move my eye around, it hurts to move my neck around and I'm sure that when I try it will be hard to move my limbs around. They seem to be attached to the metal chair I'm sitting in.
"I thought you were in Arkham," I manage to grind out. My throat hurts as well.
"Well Helena. We all know that you aren't the brains of your little operation, so it's really not that surprising that you didn't know I was out on a ... well sabbatical I guess you could call it."
She stands from her plush leather chair and slowly walks towards me.
Her hand makes my head scream as it settles on my forehead.
"My dear, you have a fever."
Dinah's doctor steps forward and places her hand next to Harley's. My head sears at their combined touch, it throbs and pulls, it feels as though fire ants are trying to nest in my hair.
The sudden burst of pain is enough to shock me into screaming.
The sound that rips from my throat is long and loud, enough to perforate ear drums and shove the smile from Carolyn Lance's face if she ever heard it.
Or at least that's what it seems like to me. It doesn't seem to even bother the two women in the room with me.
"Hurts, doesn't it?" Dinah's doctor says with an evil smile. "Yes, I made that little serum all by myself, no external help and I'm rather proud of it. Ultra sensitises all your nerves, your senses ... not much unlike a psychotic episode. I guess you and Dinah could get together and compare side effects but I've noticed that the pain doesn't really go away for a very long time ... this should be fun!"
She walks across the room, I'm so glad her hand isn't on my head anymore, and sits in another beige leather chair. Maybe beige leather is a family fetish.
"Harleen, would you care to sit with me."
Harley grins at me and presses two of her fingers into my temple. It's an instant migraine. Times a billion. My head explodes into white flashes across my eyes; my body aches as though I've just run the New York Marathon. Three times.
I have to loose consciousness any second now. No one, even me, could take this much pain and not be knocked senseless.
Blonde hair and blue eyes flash through my mind. If they're doing this to me, what are they doing to her?
"Dinah?" I ask as I close my eyes tight and try to concentrate on the ache of the metal bindings on my wrists. The more I concentrate on it the less my head feels as though it's about to explode.
"She's quite well Helena, a little bit tired I believe. I just gave her the medication she forgot to take today ... she'll be just like new in no time." Dinah's doctor says with a smile.
"Mush ... you gave her the ... "
"Indeed. I can't have my favourite barely controlled psychopath getting all normal and sane on me! Think of all the bad press I'd be sure to get!"
"Bitch," I spit from between my clenched teeth. "Oh? OH! We haven't been properly introduced yet. You see Helena, I hear so much about you during my sessions with Dinah I feel like I've known you all my life. My name is Delenda. My family always called me Dellen though, sort of a nick name I suppose ... of course it was such a help when Harley and I got together to think up our plan."
"Plan?" Hey, if she's feeding me the information, who am I to stop her?
"Well yes," she slowly stands from her chair, she's more graceful that Harley as though she's had a hundred years to learn every muscle in her body and she knows just which ones are working when she walks.
"You see something like eight or nine years ago a very dear friend of mine was thrown into a very disturbing place. Harley and I have always moved in the same groups you know, so we got together to save our trapped one."
She dreamily floats around the room, her hands on her hips with a wistful expression on her face.
"See, the Joker was the reason Harleen was able to ... release her inner harlequin, I guess you could say. He was also the reason I was able to release my inner," she coldly smiles at me again, "delinquent."
It's so lame I have to stop myself from laughing by pinching the skin on my inner arm. It's a lot worse than I expected, sending hot strikes of pain all the way up to my elbow and back again. But I don't laugh.
"So when the Joker was thrown into Arkham by that awful Batperson Harley and I thought we'd get together. Have a little cheesecake and plan a little revenge. Normal Sunday really."
"So ... it may have taken us a decade but we've finally got the perfect revenge. Do you want to know what it is?"
I nod then instantly regret it when the room spins around and I feel like bringing up my breakfast. Again.
"Well it started out simple enough. Find out who Batman was, kill his family, friends, work associates, drag him back to Gotham to defeat us ... then he's so overcome with guilt that he's distracted and we shoot him where he stands. Straight away, no need to play around. We want revenge not mess. Then we break Joker out and run this city together."
She waves her hands around her head and laughs.
"Of course it wasn't lost on the underworld when Batman disappeared straight after Catwoman was murdered. We may sometimes decide on stupid plans but we aren't all blind."
She looks at me as thought this piece of information shouldn't be new but it is ... here I was thinking they all really were stupid, blind, and maybe a little deaf.
"It's not like everyone didn't know who Catwoman was. Selina never really was any good at keeping her identity a complete secret. So ... we went after Selina Kyle's family. You. It also wasn't that difficult to run the DNA tests. Batboys little baby girl. Who would believe? Of course we made sure he knew. A few secretly placed phone calls, a birth certificate or two. It was absolutely classic to watch his face as he saw all the information drop into place. World's greatest detective my ass!"
"So ... " she says softly and rests her hand on my shoulder. I wince. "That's where you and Harley came in. She played around with you for a while, did as much damage as possible, then let you take her in. I come to town, also do as much damage as possible then break her out.
"But you see this time it was different. We didn't realise at the time but we were doing the damage in the wrong places. See, Helena, you have a complete and firm grip on what's wrong and what's right. It may be just a little blurred in some areas but you'd never cross the black and white line.
"Now, Dinah on the other hand ... "
She creases her lips and walks back across the room to smile at Harley.
"Dinah is very unique," Harley fills in for her sister. "So very powerful and not yet clear on exactly how far she can push the line before she's staring over the cliff."
Understanding is starting to dawn on me.
"So much tragedy and pain all locked up behind a sunny smile and a happy disposition, didn't you know Helena? The sunniest smile hides the deepest pain." Harley tells me in a faux sincere tone.
"So we moved our plan around a little bit. We'd have a little fun with you, I dunno, some torture, a little brainwashing, maybe even as the finale we could have Dinah kill you. Which she is perfectly capable of by the way. Then we'd kill the rest of your cronies, take down Wayne Corp and finally have the Joker back on his throne where he's supposed to be."
"Shall we get the party started," Harley asks from the back of the room.
"I believe so, times are a wastin'." Dinah's doctor walks across the room to the metal door to her left. She pauses as she rests her hand on the door handle.
"Oh, one more thing, Helena?"
I drag my head up and sneer at her.
"Do you love Dinah?"
My mouth drops open just a tiny bit and I know I've given myself away, not for the first time at least. I catch myself and sneer at her again. "You can kiss my as ... "
"Now, dear no need for vulgarities but remember your life might depend on a correct answer."
"Go get fu ... "
"I have a limited supply of patience, Helena," she returns across the room and glares at me, her face barely inches from mine.
"Go ahead you psycho bit ... "
Her hand slices through the air and connects with my cheek. The pain in my head triples and I allow myself a single grunt.
"For future reference, Helena, don't make me repeat myself. It makes me irritable."
The doctor raises her voice and clears her throat loudly.
"You can come in Dinah darling!"
Metal scrapes along concrete as the heavy door is shoved across the room. It hits the opposite wall and my ears ring.
Dinah floats through the opening, her feet barely touching the ground.
Her hair, so dark and short like mine, is wilding biting at her cheeks. Her eyes are filled with nothing but hatred and her face is a mask of pain.
"Helena," she says darkly, "You forgot to pick me up."
It's going to be a long night.
I may not have much experience in the superhero world but there are some things I can figure out by myself.
1. If you wake up in an alley after almost being killed, there is a good reason.
2. When senior superhero almost has a heart attack when you return home an hour later than you should be and without her partner you should assume that something very bad has happened.
And 3. If Alfred looks frazzled someone is probably grievously injured.
"Where have you been? What happened? Where's Helena? Why are you here? *How* did you get here? What happened to never going off comms? Oh god, you're bleeding, sit down, let me help you."
Honestly, she never talked that fast when it was nearing the end of a Friday afternoon English lesson.
"I was at Dinah's shirks office. The shrink went bad. Helena was captured. I'm here because I had no idea where to go. I took the buss and I didn't mean to go off comms. It seems someone stole mine. I'm fine, really, it's just a little scratch ... attached to a bigger bump. Maybe I should sit down."
The room swarms around me for a few seconds until I feel the cool of a metal kitchen chair under my rear end. As Barbara starts to clean the scratch on my forehead I launch into a slightly hysterical recount of the events in Dinah's physiatrists office.
"When I woke up I was in the alley across from the Dark Horse so I took the 107 to Grandview walked four blocks north and took the 61 to Heights then walked the last part to the Clocktower ... Where's Dinah?"
Barbara's hand freezes on my head. "She's missing."
"Missing? What the hell do you mean missing? She had already left the Doctor's office I'm sure," I argue. My hysteria is obvious, even to my own muddled mind, but I can't seem to control it.
"How sure are you?"
"I'm ... " I cut myself off and shake my head. First rule of crime fighting, accept the evidence.
"Dinah called us from Dr. Fraser's office. Alfred took the call. We had to ... play along. Dinah's aware of Helena's disappearance ... she thinks you're with Hel ... I was just about to ... " Barbara turns towards her computers and sighs deeply.
"I'm coming with you."
"I know," she says without pause and logs onto the Delphi. "But the two of use need back up."
"I've got a few ideas ... Alfred!"
Alfred appears beside me before I can even open my mouth to ask why Alfred is coming with us.
I look up at him and grimace at the pained look on his face.
My irrational mind almost laughs at the deep wrinkle in his neck that bobs up and down with his head.
"Yes, Ms. Barbara?"
"How operational is the bat-cave?" Barbara asks as she opens more windows and switches screens a few times.
I laugh. "Bat-cave?"
"Master Bruce had me keep the computers and vehicles in good condition just in case ... "
"Right," Barbara nods and looks at the old man, "and the extra suits?"
"Extra suits?" I mumble, I can see the plan forming in front of me.
"All in good condition."
"Good. Let's go."
The first step is pure agony. The second isn't so bad. By the third I'm anxious for the fourth.
The fourth step leads me to the giant bay of computers and Alfred, who types quickly and frowns at my reflection in one of the monitors.
I estimate four seconds before he starts to respectfully lecturing me, or trying to stop me from leaving the bat-cave.
"Ms. Barbara do you really think ... "
Damn him. Off by barely a second and half.
His voice drones on as I settle my cowl over my eyes and brush at my cape. After such a long time it seems like more of a hindrance than a help. I do know better. The bullet proof material is also fire resistant and strong enough to hold up under a rapid decent. It's been so long. Maybe too long.
"Are the vehicles ready?" He simply stares at me for a few seconds before he decides he is wasting his breath and sighs. "Yes, Ms. Barbara."
"What about the others?" I ask and settle myself in a chair beside him to check on Helena and Dinah's GPS signal. They're still in the same place they were half an hour ago. No one seems to be moving, my only problem is going to be searching the sixteen floors. Dr. Fraser owns ten of them, the others are for commercial usage but she could still be hiding in one of them.
"I believe they're almost ready," Alfred informs me and returns to his monitoring.
"Ready might not be the best way to describe me," Gabby's voice nervously speaks up from behind me.
I'm taller than her, so the suit is slightly saggy around her ankles and a long strand of curly blonde hair hangs out from beneath her dark red wig. She looks absolutely ridiculous as my doppelganger.
I smile and tuck the errant strand of hair up into the cowl. "You'll be ok, Gabs," I tell her softly.
"Did you really wear this thing every night?" she asks suspiciously.
I chuckle softly and raise one eyebrow at her, "Yes, why?"
"It itches," she grimaces as she pulls at the front of her get-up and wrinkles her nose.
I smile and look over her shoulder, "How are the others?"
Gabby covers a sudden laugh with the back of her hand and eyes the change room. "They're ... well ... one of them is having just a little too much fun with the front of your suit. The other one ... has some serious issues."
Without even a flinch I crumple up my forehead and ask, "Oh? You've only just realized this now?"
"Boys," I raise my voice and it echoes through the cave around me, "Are you ready?"
Two dark figures hesitantly move from the darkness of the changing rooms and slink towards us.
The third Batgirl skips up the stairs and smiles grimly. "When I said I wouldn't mind getting into your suit I didn't realize this is what you had in mind," a slightly harsh voice tells me softly.
I smile at his lame attempt to lighten the mood and turn to the menacing looking Batman standing behind Gabby.
"You know what you have to do?"
Batman nods and slowly makes his way towards the bat-mobile. "I don't need a permit to drive this thing, do I?" he asks as he pops the door and climbs in.
I shrug. "You tell me."
As the engines fire up and Alfred opens the cave wall to allow the bat-mobile to leave for the first time in eight years I turn to the third Batgirl and point to the red and black motorcycle. "That's yours," I tell her and grab Gabby by the arm to lead her to my own old bike.
As the bikes begin to follow the bat-mobile I flick on my comm. set and talk to the other Batgirl. "Take Lexington and Firth, try not to make a big scene that's the last thing we need right now. Nightwing will meet you there. I'll meet you on Luthor Avenue."
"Affirmative, Batgirl ... how fast does this thing go?"
I roll my eyes as I lead the way down an old long forgotten road. To my left is Wayne Manor, I purposely don't look at it.
"I can't remember," I tell the Batgirl riding beside me. "Oh, and Gibson?"
"Stop playing with your ... er ... my chest. I mean the costume's chest. It looks bizarre." I slip my head sideways enough to catch the smile on his face.
"Gotcha Batgirl. See you at the meeting point."
He veers off to the left and Gabby and I are left with the bat- mobile looming behind us. "You know what to do Batman, keep a cool head and everything will go fine ... you might want to consider leering and growling a little more though, really play it up. I'm sure Bruce won't mind."
"Are you sure about this Barbara?" His soft voice whispers through my head and for a minute I'm almost convinced that instead of Jesse Reese its Bruce back in that car.
I shake the cobwebs away and steady myself.
"Yes, Jesse. Let's go get them back."
"Quit squirming! It'll only make me want to kill you sooner."
A hard backhand across Helena's cheek makes her grunt. She won't scream, no matter what I do. If only she'd scream, just once. It would make things so much better.
"Scream," I demand out loud. She simply shakes her head.
Her eyes are sad but the rest of her face is a hard mask of defiance.
"I'll always love you Dinah, no matter what you do," she rasps softly. "You can beat me to a pulp but you'll never be able to hurt me."
I roll my eyes and press at the deep cut in her chin, she gasps. Her head snaps back trying to escape my hand but I reach around and rip at her hair to stop her from getting away.
"This hurts doesn't it?" I demand. "Doesn't it Helena, tell me the truth!"
She slams her lips together and refuses to answer.
I let go of her head and drive my hand into her nose. There's a sharp crack and she groans under her breath. Her eyes close slightly.
"Oh, no you don't. We aren't finished yet. Scream! Just fucking scream and I'll leave you alone. That's all you have to do. Just scream Helena."
"Go easy young one," Harley Quinn says softly from behind me, momentarily looking up from her Good House and Home magazine. "It's no fun anymore if they pass out on you. Slowly, remember?"
I nod at her and she turns another page. "Wow, beige is back."
Helena looks so small in the large metal chair. I've never seen her broken before and all under my hand. I have the power over her now. I can do whatever I like when ever I feel like it. It's tantalisingly sweet.
I sigh. I still love her though.
I kneel down and brace my hand on the chair beside her leg. I run my hand along her arm and she flinches away. The serum Dr. Fraser gave her must still be in her system.
"Helena, sweetheart, look at me," I say softly and gently push her chin up with my thumb. "Come on, look up honey."
Her eyes very slowly focus on mine and I smile sweetly at her. She blinks then smiles back. "Why won't you just scream for me, just once?"
She smiles again and I smile back.
"I'm not going to scream, Dinah."
"Why?" I huff.
"That's not really an answer," I say as I roll my eyes and take a seat on the floor in front of her. I touch the smooth skin of her ankle and she looks down at me.
Her shoes are gone, her leather jacket is missing and she doesn't seem to be wearing any sort of communication device.
"How's Barbara?" I ask softly as I touch the soft pink flesh of her lower leg. She shakes her head and looks at me very strangely.
I hear Harley's magazine rustle from the back of the room.
"Do you think she'll come and save you?" I run my hand along the heavy steel manacle holding her foot to the ground. "Does this hurt?"
She shakes her head, even though there is a thick layer of dried blood around the weighty ring.
I slide my hand onto the lock and touch it with my finger.
"Locks are silly little things aren't they," I grin at her and she softly smiles back. "Just a hunk of metal, a set of tumblers in a heavy case, so easy to pick and manipulate yet they protect our most prized and expensive possessions."
"Your Mother knew how easy locks were to break didn't she?" I push slightly on the ankle and Helena hisses through her teeth.
"She knew that locks could easily be broken. She taught you that? Of course she did. The daughter of a thief and a hero would know how easy but important locks are. What else did your mother teach you Helena?"
Helena's eyes widen a little more as her cuffs slide down her leg. I grin evilly and dig my thumb into a small wound.
"Did she teach you about love? Pain? Growing up?"
Helena gasps as I dig another finger into the free flowing wound.
"When you fell in love with Barbara did you feel the pain when you realised all the complications? Did you give up hope?"
I stand up quickly and walk to the other side of the room. I can feel Helena's eyes burning into my back.
"Of course you did, Helena. You were how old? Seventeen? Eighteen?"
"How did you ... "
"I *am* a telepath Helena."
"Oh ... "
I pull the cloth cover from a long foldable table and look at the instruments carefully placed on top. So many shiny things, so little time.
"You went to Barbara when you were young didn't you? You shared your own declaration of love and Barbara practically threw you backwards. That's why I thought you, of all people, would understand. You know what it's like to love someone older, more experienced ... and apparently quite depraved."
Her eyebrows head for the ceiling as I pick up a nasty looking silver corkscrew.
"What? You think Gabby never took a few sneak peaks into your dreams and shared with the group? Please. Power is made to be abused."
"That's a girl," Harley mumbles from behind her magazine as I walk back across the room tapping the cork screw on my left palm.
"I know all about the bat cave fantasy and the oh-so- naughty 'mistress' interlude."
Helena's eyes light up in recognition.
I rest the corkscrew under her chin and make her look me in the eye.
"This could get rough baby, feel free to scream."
I wish I could lose consciousness. It would end a lot of my pain, I'm sure.
"This is great but just so unfulfilling," Dinah's voice whines in my ear. Just as if she were complaining about my pop tarts.
I lick my lips and taste blood. I shouldn't be surprised but the tangy after taste is enough to make me want to gag.
"Well Dinah darling, maybe you should mix things up a bit, as the young kids like to say these days. Do you have any ideas?" Dr. Fraser says as she moves around the room. She's fussing around fixing things having disappeared almost an hour ago.
"Well," Dinah draws the word out, tapping her finger on her lip and smiling softly. "You know, the human body is 60% water, or something like that."
"Yes," the Doctor encouraged my young blonde friend.
"And water is a great conductor?" Dinah suggests.
The Doctor laughs jovially and wraps Dinah in a fierce hug. "I knew you'd get the hang of this fast. I'll see what I can do."
As the Doctor starts to head out of the room Dinah stops her with a hand on her back.
"There's something else."
The Doctor smiles and raises an eyebrow in question.
"I was wondering if maybe Helena and I could ... spend some time alone, get to know each other a little better if you get my drift," Dinah smiles seductively leaving no confusion as to exactly what she was suggesting.
"Of course my dear, young people have needs too," the doctor agrees quickly and motions for Harley to follow her out of the room. "But don't take the cuffs off. I doubt she'd be able to escape in her condition but better safe than sorry."
With a quick flourish and a delighted laugh the Doctor swings the door shut behind her.
"Fuck, I thought she'd never leave," Dinah gasps as she rushes over to me and finishes unlocking the cuffs around my ankles.
"Did you really have to dig that cork screw in so damn far, I'm gonna be limping for weeks," I moan as she unlocks my arms as well.
I rub at my wrists and try to stand but the serum the Doctor injected me with makes standing feel like I'm walking on hot coals.
"You know," Dinah says as she roots around in the pocket of her blue jacket, "if you'd screamed I could have given you this much sooner." She hands me a light blue pill and I eye her suspiciously. "It's the antidote to the ultra feeling serum thing."
"What were you going to do?" I ask with a grin as I dry swallow the pill.
"Lob it into your mouth and hope you didn't choke," she tells me seriously and quickly touches the wall. "No guard."
"Is Barbara coming?" I ask as she tosses me my shoes and my leather jacket.
"I think so. I didn't get to talk to her much before we were cut off. The good *Doctor* told me the storm blew out her phone line."
Dinah rolls her eyes and helps me to my feet. My boots rub on the wounds on my legs. "Remind me not to piss you off anymore," I whisper in her ear as I lean on her shoulder.
She smiles softly, "I'm really sorry. I didn't want to do it."
"It's ok," I whisper back and touch her cheek. "A little bit of pain for my life seems fair enough."
Dinah shrugs and turns away. "We have to get out of here. Just in case Barbara can't find us."
Dinah turns to me and purses her lips slightly. She frowns softly. "If I remember correctly on my way here I saw a window down the hall with a fire escape. If we make it down the hall we could go through the window."
"Sounds like a plan," I agree and we start to hobble towards the door.
"If anything happens you head towards the window and I'll keep them back as much as I can," Dinah tells me softly.
"I'm not leaving you," I whisper back. We stop and she turns her head to look at me.
I can see the sadness in her eyes. It's not anger or a blank nothingness, just sadness.
"Helena, I ... "
"No, Dinah. We leave together or we don't leave at all."
"Alright, but don't hurt yourself more by picking fights. Let me protect you for once."
"You can do that? And hey! Fights find me, I don't find fights," I grip her shoulder harder as the sharp pains start to leave me.
She grins at me, "I have many skills Helena."
"I'll bet you do," I can't help myself; the teasing seems to natural and real. If I'm going to die I might as well tease Dinah as much as possible before I do.
"Hold still for a second," Dinah says as she concentrates on the huge door and it silently slips open inch by inch.
Her power is amazing. She's been practising while I wasn't looking.
"Do you think Barbara will want me home after ... everything that's happened?" Dinah asks as she nervously looks out into the hall.
"Of course she will," I tell her seriously. She decides it's safe and helps me out the door and slowly down the hall.
She was right. There is a window but I can't see a fire escape. We share a quick glance but keep heading towards our escape route.
"Hold it right there! Dinah, how could you? I'm so disappointed."
Dinah holds me as we turn around to face Dr. Fraser and Harley Quinn.
"I thought we'd had this talk Dinah. Did you take your medication like I asked you to?" the Doctor takes a step forward and Dinah tenses by my side.
"Now, it's ok. I didn't expect you to initiate yourself into the fold right away. I knew there would be hiccups but its ok now, Dinah. Just put Helena down and come to me. We can start out with someone less connected to you. How does that sound?"
I know the shock and horror on my face is clear as I watch Dinah slowly nod and give in. She let's her arms slide away from my shoulder and I collapse heavily against the wall.
As if in a trance Dinah slowly walks towards the Doctor's outstretched arms.
"No, Dinah," I pant as the pain in my body doubles with my efforts to remain standing. "Please, Dinah. Help me, come back to me. I love you Dinah."
"That's a good girl," Harley purrs at my blonde friend. "Come back to us, where you belong."
"Actually," a deep masculine voice says from the darkness of the furthest corner behind the two psychopaths, "I think she'd like to come with me."
A cape swirls languidly from the dark and settles around the imposing figure.
"And me," a softer female voice says as a dark Batgirl steps from the shadows behind Batman.
"And me," another masculine voice says happily. Nightwing appears beside me, I can't see where he could have come from but, just my luck, that's the way the bat family has always worked.
"Dick?" I growl at him.
"I'm trying to save your life here. Let's leave the petty jealousy until later," he whispers back to me from the corner of his mouth.
"I can save myself," I mutter as I weakly slump against his side bleeding from several places and almost unconscious.
It takes all my will to stop from rushing towards Helena and fussing over her cuts and bruises. I know she'll be fine. Dinah wouldn't let anything happen to her.
"Batgirl," Harley Quinn smiles at me and winks seductively, "I heard you'd been ... terminated from the life. Don't you just hate it when perspective careers are shot to hell?"
I can smile or rip her face off. I doubt that'd go down well.
"Well Harley, stories of my demise have been greatly misunderstood. You see, I was in Bermuda ... learning to surf ... with hippies. I'm sure there were hippies ... It's hard to remember ... you know ... with all the pot smoking."
Harley's grin disappears fast. "Cut the crap Barbara Gordon. I'm so sick of you." She launches herself at me before her partner can stop her. With a simple roundhouse kick she's lying on her stomach on the floor moaning softly.
"You'll pay for that," Dr. Fraser snarls at me before turning her attention to Batman. I can see Jesse's eyes squint through the cowl and a sneer appears on his partially exposed lips.
"Give it up, Delinquent. You won't get past me and you won't hurt Dinah," he snarls back at her. They face off as I watch Dinah from the corner of my eye.
She's confused, shaking her head sideways as if she's trying to brush off a haze or re-focus her eyes. I try to catch her attention as she shakes and looks over at Batman-Jesse with a childish awe.
I slip my mind away from the dialogue Dr. Fraser seems to be holding Jesse to and slowly inch side ways. If I can get to Dinah I can get both her and Helena to the window then to the safety of the street.
"One more inch, Batgirl, and I'll blow her brains out."
Harley Quinn looks up at me from the floor. A steady hand holds a long black pistol directly at Dinah's head.
Dr. Fraser and Jesse stop their taunts to look over at my situation.
"You don't want to do this Harley," I tell her softly.
She just laughs and slowly gets up off the dirty carpet, keeping the gun steady and leaving me no way to put myself between Dinah and the gun, or knock the weapon from her hand.
"Quite the contrary Barbara. I've been waiting to stick it to you, so to speak, ever since I woke up in Arkham. You see, I don't like being beaten, knocked unconscious and thrown in the loony bin." As her anger mounts her hand starts to shake just a tiny bit.
Before I can respond a dark shape looms in from my right and places itself directly in Harley's line of fire.
"Harley, what happened to your plan," Dinah's calm voice seeps through the air around us. She smiles softly and reaches her hand out but Harley doesn't relent.
"You had it all planned out, remember? The forced insanity, Batgirl's own stay in Arkham ... don't let your anger mess it up now."
"Dinah," I whisper softly. Her elbow connects solidly with my chin sending me sprawling onto the floor behind me. Helena shuffles forward and I gently touch her shoulder to stop her.
"See Harley, no need to shoot. You can take her where ever you want, do what ever you want and there's no need to get violent ... yet," the young blonde finishes with an evil smile.
Harley responds with her own smile and slowly lowers the gun.
With a speed I've never seen her possess in the many hours of fine tuning and training Dinah jumps forwards, grabbing the gun and shoving a sharp corner of it into Harley's face. The blonde psychopath drops like a dead weight.
"You bitch," Dr. Fraser howls as she throws herself at my ward. Jesse dodges forward to help but the Doctor simply side steps him and he crashes into a wall.
Dinah's hands come up out of pure reflex and a white bolt of force shoves the Doctor away from her.
A loud shout echoes down the hall, re-enforcements are on their way.
"We have to leave," I yell out to my ward who simply smiles and waves her hands towards the window at the end of the hall. I cock my eyebrow at her and bite my lip.
"The Doctor and I have a few things we'd like to discuss, get Helena out of here and I'll be right behind you," she tells me as she advances on the dazed woman slumped against the opposite wall.
"Batman," I call out to Jesse who rushes to my side and grabs Helena into his arms. All three of us stumble towards the window while Dick appears behind Dinah.
"Go," he says softly, "I'll bring her out."
I nod and check the window. I can see two lines dangling down from the roof. Gibson and Gabby have outdone themselves.
I sigh loudly and eye Gibson. "Would you stop playing with that damn suit."
"I can't help it," he squirms in his seat, "It's to weird having my own set of ... "
I arch and eyebrow and he shuts his mouth.
"And the crotch is too tight." His eyes suddenly grow wide, "you don't think that a lot of pressure would cause any ... damage."
I grin to myself. "Dunno, Gib. Maybe."
A loud thump vibrates through the ceiling and we share a quick glance. "Show time," I whisper as I grab a line from my belt and tie one end around the top of the long deceased fire escape. I pull on the thick cord to check for stability then let the weighted end drop over the side of the building.
I watch as Gibson follows my lead and lets his line drop. I lean out over the side of the building to see two identical lines hanging perfectly in front of the tenth floor hall window.
"Did you hear that?" Gibson asks from behind his Batgirl cowl. His voice is scared, his eyes are wide and I hope he doesn't lose his edge before we get everyone safely out of the building.
I stand back and take a deep breath as I hear the window shatter. "Helena's coming up," Barbara's voice echoes through the still alley below us. I lean over the side of the building again and take another deep breath as Helena grips the line.
"I don't think I can pull myself up," I watch her tell Barbara.
"Just tie it, we'll drag you up," I call out to her. Helena ties the line and Jesse's Batman covered face appears next to her. He shoots another line which Barbara grabs and expertly swing out into the alley then up onto the roof.
She smiles as she lands beside me and grabs the line to help me drag Helena up the side of the building.
"Dinah?" I ask.
She doesn't react but I can tell she's nervous from the rapid movements of her eyes. "She's dealing with the Doctor."
"Cops?" I ask through clenched teeth.
"Oh their way."
I strain my arms as Barbara lets go of the line to help Helena crawl over the lip of the roof. They both collapse painfully onto the cement.
I estimate it to take Barbara no more than five seconds to extricate herself from Helena's limbs and get to me. I take no chance and grab the extra line, swinging over the building and back onto the window ledge below.
Jesse exits, looking at me strangely but I ignore him and drop myself into the hallway.
Dick is heavily involved in hand to hand combat with several burly looking thugs. My Dinah is slowly circling her Doctor. She seems calm and in control but over the last year Dinah has seemed like a lot of things that she wasn't.
"You won't be leaving here alive, Dinah," the Doctor sneers, "It's me or no one."
"No offense, but you aren't my type," Dinah sasses back and sneers as she rushes Dr. Fraser her hand finding purchase on a slightly bruised cheek. My blonde friend rains blows down on the woman in front of her. A flurry of burning rage and hate.
The Doctor seems to slump as Dinah continues to hit and punch and kick at her but I notice the happy grin slowly spreading across her face. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see what she's doing.
"Dinah, stop!" I scream at my partner. She hesitates but pauses with her hand set to strike again. "Don't you see what she's doing?" I ask softly, "She wants you to kill. She knows that if you go that far you'll never forgive yourself. You'll be likely to do it again."
Dinah catches my eyes and recognition flares. "Gabs?"
"Yeah, D, come on, let's go home."
She looks at me softly as if she's only just seen me for the first time. I see the love in her eyes. "Come on," I whisper and hold out my hand.
She steps back and looks down at the Doctor.
"She'll never give you what I can," the bloodied woman says. "She'll never be good enough."
Dinah grins, "I'll never have to worry about that. The only thing I'll have to worry about is not being good enough for her."
"It's over Dick," I yell out as he delivers a final blow to his final thug. He turns and smiles at me.
For a guy.
"Oh no little girl, it's no where near over," Dr. Fraser rips her jacket off.
Dinah's eyes lock on mine as I catch the bright red glow attached to three yellow packages on her chest.
"Get down, she's got a bomb," I scream out to Dick as I throw myself over Dinah.
The moon dances just outside my line of vision. I can see enough of the deep purple and splays of red-gold just lingering on the horizon to know that I'll have to work soon.
New Gotham is quiet tonight; barely a sound passes through the twisting alleys and long main streets of my city.
No one screams. I like it this way, no bad guys to bruise my knuckles on, no imminent threats to my new manicure, no one to tell me I'm wanted, needed, relied upon to save countless lives, cars and kittens.
I know I complain, my mind tells me I complain constantly and my heart tells me to quit whining while I still have enough breath in me to finish the job. I do love this though. The terrified screams suddenly turning into grateful sobs and clasping hands of faith and gratitude.
Maybe it would be different if I didn't have my friends around me. Maybe things would be harder and I'd be just a little less sane than I am now. Maybe if Helena were dead I'd ignore the screaming and torment that rings in my ears.
No, I wouldn't.
I never could.
Even if I were barely holding onto my collective sanity, even if I were near breaking point I would still follow the ear splitting torture that seems to breed among the citizens of New Gotham.
I'll always hear those screams and I'll always take that leap of faith over the edge to go and help someone I don't know. But I care about them all. Any victim is cared for by someone. They're mothers or fathers, sisters and daughters, brothers and sons to someone who is very happy that a masked vigilante dropped from the sky and kicked bad guy ass.
I can live without their thanks. I know that deep down they're happy and if I make them happy, that's thanks enough.
She never made anyone happy but herself. She was selfish and wrong to manipulate and steal.
She's better off in the cold ground. I never needed her anyway. I may have thought I did. I might have been so caught up in her psychotic babbling that for a few minutes I believed that I couldn't live without her by my side.
I guess even heroes need some comfort sometimes.
I've always wondered if I would go to hell for seeking comfort in the arms of one of the bad guys.
"Rough night?" she asks from behind me, just like every other night this week. We're setting up a schedule, maybe tradition, I'm not entirely sure.
I follow the script anyway.
I turn to her and grin. She's standing stock still in the damp grass, if I didn't know any better I'd think she was gauging my need to be alone.
Oh ... she is.
"Same old, same old," I mutter, staring at her.
She smiles and steps closer.
"You feelin' alright?"
I sigh, then lean over and wrap my arm around her shoulder. She leans in just enough for me to rest my head on her shoulder.
"I dunno Hel."
"I know the feeling kid. Imagine me, ok ... are you paying attention?"
I nod and turn my head to watch her talk.
"I was just cruising the other week, ok I was cruising home to Barbara and I saw you. And ... "
I raise my eyebrow at her. The expression is so like hers that she laughs. Maybe she realises that we're more alike than she thinks. Maybe she just thinks the expression looks ridiculous on me.
"And I thought that maybe ... in a completely different time and space ... and world ... I could be in love with you."
Both my brows head for my hair line and I put a respectable distance between us. Just for safety reasons.
"Oh don't worry Kid. I'm sure if I ever really decided that I could Gabby would make me fight to the death before she ever let me have you ... and well ... knowing Gabby she'd probably haunt me afterwards making me feel so bad about seducing you ... well, you get the picture."
She smiles at me and scrunches her nose. It's awfully cute.
"So?" I finally ask as a chill settles on my spine.
"So what, D? I think we're both realising that what ever lust, or ... or longing we have it'll slowly burn out. I need you as my friend, not my lover."
I nod silently, then take my place back on her shoulder and stare out at the city again.
"Growing up sucks," I sigh loudly into the chilly air around us.
Helena bursts into laughter, slapping the stone she's sitting on.
"Its not one of the greatest things in life D ... but don't worry ... you'll always be the kid sidekick to me."
I roll my eyes at her, but I can't help smiling just a little bit.
>>Canary, Huntress, this is Oracle. Do you copy?<<
"Guess that's it then Big D," she says as she jumps up from her position and smoothes out the lines of her jacket.
"Are you sure? Can't I just sit here all night? My head still kinda hurts," I pout.
She looks at me and I know what's coming.
"I'm sorry D, but we gotta go. There's so much to do and so little time."
I sigh at the city, then at Helena. She barely notices me as she pulls at the front of her white t-shirt.
"What is that?" I ask as I squint at her shirt.
I slap her hands away from her shirt and peer at the bright red dot decorating her front.
"Helena?" I ask slowly. "Is that ketchup?"
Helena starts to retreat as I growl at her. "YOU! You went for Danny's Hot Dogs and YOU didn't bring me any?"
She raises her hands slowly, trying to ward me off. I won't let her.
"Dinah!" She yells. "You need to calm down before I make you calm down."
I squint at her.
I catch just a glint of her beautiful blue eyes twinkling tenderly before she turns tail and runs across the grass towards the Hummer parked at the curb.
Girl makes googley eyes at other girl.
Girl falls in love with other girl.
Girl desperately tries to cling to her failing relationship even when her girl is near psychotic.
If that isn't commitment, I don't know what is.
Now, something simple. Easy to understand. Fun to play with.
Girl drowns her sorrows in greasy food ... becomes worlds biggest woman. See, love can take you to all types of places you'd never even dream of going.
"How many packages of curly fries would I have to eat before I looked like Anna Nichole before surgery?"
I heard rapid clicking for a few seconds, but receive no answer.
"Maybe you should put the curly fries down and use the treadmill in the training room instead. When I was your age I wouldn't sit around moping all night just because my girlfriend was out saving the world on date night."
I roll my eyes, such an old person thing to say. I'd expect it from Alfred, but Barbara?
"Barbara, baby," I squeal in my best 'just outta Vegas' accent, "if you dated in high school then I'm a monkey's plaything."
"Hey!" my redheaded teacher shouts indignantly as she wheels around the kitchen wall and directly to my plate of curly fries. I try to slap at her thieving hands but I just can't say no to her when she looks at me with those big puppy dog eyes.
"You know," Barbara says around her mouthful of greasy, curly goodness, "I think I preferred you when you were shy and couldn't look me in the eye to lie about why you hadn't finished your English assignment."
I sigh wistfully and lean back in my chair, intent on reminiscing, "those were the good old days. Dinah went by her maiden name of Zipper Girl. Helena still stared at anything with two legs and you ... well, you were the untouchable, unmentionable, ever virginal redheaded goddess of New Gotham High."
"I resent that ... I was the redheaded goddess of New Gotham. Period."
"Oh ... ha ha. That was so funny in so many ways. Let us count them."
Barbara rolls her eyes and sneakily grabs another of my fries before I can intercept her hand.
"This coming from the teen wonder at home with her teacher on date night ... "
I glare at her for a second before I realise that it is a waste of time and I should really be trying to save the leftovers of my comfort food from the ravenous Oracle.
"Do you think she's ok?" Barbara asks as another curly fry disappears between her pale red lips. I wonder how many she can actually fit in there. Her black hole of a stomach seems to be just as big as Helena's at times.
"Who now?" I ask as I quickly save the last of the crispy fries from the plate.
"Dinah," Barbara rolls her eyes at me and tries to snag another curly fry from my protective grasp.
I take pity and offer the plate. Barbara smiles and steals half the contents ... again.
"She'll be fine. She's got the new powers and stuff now, she's like ... indestructible or something." I let my eyes go wide as the thought really hits me between the eyes. My girlfriend, indestructible. I guess those Karma Sutra positions really wouldn't be so dangerous now.
"Don't tell her that," Barbara says with a frown.
I blush, I really should stop thinking sex when the possibility for embarrassment is so high.
I flail desperately to catch the end of the conversation I so readily redirected from for those lust filled thoughts.
"Ummm ... oh? Are you kidding me?" Snap, think Gabby, think.
"Oh right!" I drag in a quick mouthful of air, "She protected us from the blast of a bomb, Barbara! Three sticks of Semtex and she throws up a little barrier to keep us alive. Goddamn it. You saw how it ripped apart that room Babs, you saw how it ... ripped up the Doctor. Then she just flips all that debris off of us like it's a piece of fluff on her jacket ... all with the power of her mind. If you ask me the girl deserves to feel a little indestructible."
I jump up, ending the conversation. We both know just how hard it can be to rehash everything that's ... happened.
"I know Gabby ... but you know what comes after meta."
I roll my eyes and sigh, "Yeah. I've been noticing that a lot lately."
Barbara touches my hand softly but I twist her off and smile reassuringly, "I'm fine."
The elevator pings softly before she can drag me into yet another deep and meaningful.
"At least your lying has improved since high school," she whispers.
"Where's Dick?" Helena asks as she storms into the room and collapses at the table. When she starts picking at the last few precious curly fries I slap her hands and drag the plate away from her.
"Gone to the Manor," Barbara answers easily as she heads back to her computer, "He's leaving tomorrow ... said he had some loose ends to tie up before he left."
Dinah floats in as the two older women continue their verbal bantering.
"Helena? Are you sulking? Oh my ... you're pouting."
Barbara's laughter makes no difference to me, Dinah's smile does. She watches from outside the room, detaching herself from everything, yet able to make contact with any one of us if she wants.
"I just don't see why you had to drag in the boy wonder?!"
Dinah flips her shoulder length hair back over her ear and runs her hands through the restored blonde. She looked much to dark as a brunette.
"Ah hello, Helena? If you don't remember, we were down by two ... remember?"
"Oh so now you're going to talk my head off about that whole ... rushing into a situation without back-up thing."
Dinah turns her head and looks me straight in the eye. I know that she knew I was staring at her, before she actually caught me in the act.
I turn away blushing and tune into the Helena/Barbara showdown taking place in our kitchen.
"No, I'm not going to talk your head off. I did that last week. Repetitiveness really isn't my style," Barbara grins and flips her hair at Helena.
"See now that's where you're wrong, last night you repeatedly -"
"MY POINT! Was, that if you don't want the friends and family of vigilantes' coming to the rescue you simply have to watch your back just a little more."
I grin to myself; they're more entertaining than my Uncle Roy at Christmas Day Happy Hour.
I want to share my insights with Dinah ... just because I can. Because she'll listen and not run off into the night if something upsets her.
She isn't standing in the doorway anymore.
Without letting Barbara or Helena know I slip from the kitchen and head towards Dinah's bedroom.
It's strange to find her in there. Lately I would have been asleep long before she even stepped foot inside the Clocktower. It feels funny to watch her sleeping peacefully, curling her body around her Garfield cushion.
I close the bedroom door and join her on the bed. I might as well keep her warm ... and make sure she has safe dreams.
--- The door to the training room is wide open. I've never seen Dinah so determined before. She's so focused on the job at hand. Her tongue is sticking out of the side of her mouth as she pulls herself up on the silver bar Barbara uses for her upper body workout.
She's truly beautiful. The way the muscles in her arms ripple as she pulls up then relax as she lets her momentum carry her back down. She grunts softly as she crosses her legs at her ankles and bends her knees up so that her feet don't touch the ground.
She watches me in the mirror. I had no intention of spying on her. I wanted her to know that I was watching her.
She smiles softly at the mirror and I smile back.
"Are you stalking me?" she asks through heavy breathing. I shake my head slowly then change my mind and nod instead.
"I have to stalk you to spend time with you." I don't mean for it to sound so accusatory but apparently it comes out that way anyway.
She drops her feet and easily lands on the floor. Hardly a second passes before she's standing in front of me, her hands limply by her sides and a sorry expression on her face.
"How about we go out Saturday? Just you and me, somewhere quiet?" she smiles softly and touches my elbow. Her soft skin sends sparks up and down my entire arm.
"You and me," I whisper to her, I pick up her arms and wrap them around my waist then wrap my own arms around her neck. "It's a date."
I hug her, hard.
She grunts softly and I let go just a little bit.
"Maybe we should go and ... "
"Just a second," I whisper before attaching my lips firmly to hers.
My quick peck turns into a long, unhurried splurge of pent up passion. It's been way too long.
I break away gasping for breath and bury my head into her shoulder. I smile.
"We should ... "
"I know. Let's go, but next time D. Maybe you should leave the exercising until you're actually awake."
Dinah turns to me and smiles, "but I don't get all sweaty when I dream lift."
I laugh as we head toward the light ... and another full day together, finally at peace with each other.
I turn my chair to look at them. They're smiling and looking at Dinah's recently painted finger nails. Helena smiles happily as she takes Dinah's hand in hers and inspects the bright pink. My lover leans down and ghosts a soft kiss to the back of my ward's knuckles. A flare of jealousy sits in the pit of my stomach.
"I think you should have done them purple," Helena whispers to her friend and smiles again. Dinah looks at her with wide eyes and smiles back giddily. The jealous monster rears its head and screams.
They're just friends.
"You think I should do purple next time?" Dinah asks as she sits on the couch and Helena sits beside her, taking her hand and squeezing it gently. Helena smiles again and Dinah smiles back just as brightly.
"Yeah, dark purple, it'll give you a little mystery," Helena jokes and rests her feet on my coffee table.
"Mystery? You mean I don't have enough mystery as it is? I need more mystery Helena?"
Helena nods, "Yeah D. You need to hop up on the mystery. Be like ... " Helena's eyes flick up to me and a near leering smile appears on her face. "Be like Barbara over there. Spy material. Hot, sexy, and full of surprises."
'Hot, sexy, and full of surprises'? Apparently I'm not the only one full of surprises. Talk about low self esteem, Dinah and Helena?! Oh make me laugh.
I grin sheepishly at my computer screen.
"Oh, you mean like your voicemail? Hey Barbara, have you heard Helena's voice mail?" Dinah smiles as she looks at me. I can't remember the last time she looked at me, or smiled at me.
"No, I haven't," I answer politely. "It's a real kicker, you'll have to check it out some time. I'm sure you'd be interested in bed posts and a beautiful dominatrix redhead."
I raise both my eyebrows at Helena who quickly jumps from the couch, mumbling about helping Gabby with her right hook. She's gone before I can even glare at her.
I look over at Dinah and smile.
I notice the single tear that slides down her cheek. I also notice that she doesn't smile back at me. I suppose I shouldn't expect radical changes in her so quickly, it's even likely that some of the drugs in her system still haven't been flushed out.
I turn my chair towards the computers to give her the privacy she needs. Looking at Harley Quinn's re-admittance papers to Arkham is distracting enough. At least we didn't have to deal with the consequences of her escape.
We were lucky to have only been faced by a semi lucid Dr. Quinn. The doctors at Arkham may let a patient escape once in a while but at least they are smart enough to drug the patients that need it.
"Lucky she wasn't at her best," Dinah says from behind me. I don't know when she stood from the couch and made her way behind me and her voice startles me a tiny bit. I control the urge to jump.
"Very. Just imagine the damage two Quinns could have managed."
"Barbara," Dinah says softly, "Please, look at me."
I turn reluctantly to the tear stained face. She barely makes a sound when she cries. I doubt she'll be able to ever again.
"I'm so sorry for what I've done. I'm so sorry that I've hurt you and Helena and Gabby. I'm sorry that I couldn't see the evil in front of me and I'm even sorrier for not being more careful and telling you I was taking medication."
"Oh Dinah," I whisper softly as I reach out to gather my distraught friend into my arms. "This wasn't your fault, you have to understand that. You placed your trust in someone who should have been trustworthy. Hundreds of people do that everyday. It's normal and healthy to do it. This isn't your fault."
"No buts, I never blamed you for the things that other people brainwashed you into doing. I'm not angry or upset with you. You're truly a light in my life. Do you understand me?"
Her watery eyes plead with me. She wants me to punish her.
"But I did those things. All the times I yelled at you and all those ... horrible things I said?"
"I remember saying a few nasty things myself," I remind her, "And I wasn't under the influence of any drug. Can you forgive me?"
She smiles, "Like I need to forgive you. You've taken care of me and made sure I was happy and healthy ever since you let me stay with you."
I pull her head to my shoulder and let her cry.
"I guess this means you love me, huh?"
I feel her smile into my shoulder, "Guess so."
"Do you want to talk now?"
She nods and leans back, "there's lots to say."
"I'll put the kettle on."
"It doesn't look good does it?"
"Not really. It depends on what you're thinking of ... you know what you're capable of, so its your decision."
"What if I make the wrong one? What if I ... what if this isn't me? What if this is the decision of someone grieving?"
"Sometimes the hardest decisions, the hardest situations are forced upon us and there is nothing we can do to change them. We just have to roll with the punches, chose our consequences wisely because there's sometimes no way back."
Barbara smiles, she's so adorable when she's dishing out the wisdom.
"You know," Dinah says as she moves uncomfortably in the chair opposite my lover. "That helps me in no way at all ... you realise you've just put out some high and mighty bull so you don't have to help me."
Barbara frowns slowly, a tiny wrinkle appears between her eyes and for a second I'm sure that the hour long conversation between mentor and student is about to end just like the confrontations of the past months.
"I can't help you, remember? This is completely up to you. Your crime. Your punishment. Your soul."
Dinah shakes her head.
I change my position on the gargoyle I'm sitting on and try to run the numb flesh out of my backside. The pain doesn't mean much, I'd rather hobble around for a month than miss this semi loving reunion between my friends.
Dinah shakes her head quickly, "I don't think ... "
Barbara raises one eyebrow and sits patiently waiting for her charge to figure out the difference.
"Ok, you wanna know the truth? I'm pretty much running on empty here. I can actually deal with it this time. It's a wrong thing, in a wrong place and I understand that this time. No money, no conditions, nothing. It's plain and simple and there's nothing I can do to warp it."
"Either way you should be sure."
Dinah thinks for a few seconds before nodding positively. "I am."
"Do you want me to drive you?"
"No. Gabby said she'd drop me off and hang around until it's finished."
Dinah stands and brushes her hands along the black pants she's wearing.
Barbara reaches out and clasps the blonde girl's hand, "I'll be here when you get back. We'll talk again, ok?"
Dinah nods, smiles softly then disappears into the depths of the Clocktower, I assume to find her ride.
"You can come out now Helena," Barbara says to me as she turns back to her computers.
I'm nearly shocked. I was being my quietest, barely moving except to relieve some of the pain in my muscles and joints.
"How'd you know I was there?" I ask as I lower myself to the Clocktower floor and wince at the stiffness of my knees.
"You left your comms on."
I roll my eyes, in my rush to secure seating to the make-up talk of the year I'd missed the most crucial step to hiding.
"I'm ... damn it."
Barbara laughs as she logs her computer off and turns towards me. Her chest rises as she drags in a deep breath, which quickly flies from her mouth as a sigh.
"She's going to the doctor's funeral."
We sit in silence.
"Wanna go get hot chocolate?"
"Starbucks or that LavaPiza place on the corner?"
I roll my eyes.
"Starbucks it is."
Barbara digs her keys from the pocket on her wheelchair. "Oh, I was meaning to ask ... Dinah said something about an inappropriate inbox message on your cell phone. You wouldn't happen to know anything about a dominatrix redhead and a bed post would you?"
I'm sure that if I wasn't a super hot crime fighter my eyes would have been as big as saucers and my cheeks would be bright red. "Me? Innocent Helena Kyle? I wouldn't know anything about that type of ... thing."
"Well ... maybe I know a little something," I smile at her, I leer just a tiny bit.
"Right," Barbara agrees. "You know Starbucks will be there tomorrow morning."
I nod, "And the morning after that."
Barbara smiles, "We don't have to go yet."
"The kids are out. The Clocktower is quiet. The psychos are taking a night off."
Barbara leans forward in her chair and grins at me. "How about the vigilantes take the night off and try some of their own 'normal' life activities."
I swallow hard.
"I had this idea ... let's just say it might not be so normal."
Barbara raises her eyebrow at me.
Normal is good.
~ ~ ~