FANDOM: Birds of Prey TV
Web Site: Enginerd’s Fan Fiction.
Barbara stared at the computer screen. She hated when Helena didn't follow her orders. She hated worrying. She hated waiting. And right now, she hated having to keep her cool in front of her youngest charge, who was anxiously hovering behind her.
"I could . . . ." Dinah offered, desperately wanting to help.
"No," Barbara interrupted abruptly. She took a breath, glancing at the young blond apologetically, knowing if she could still walk, she would already be out the door. Hell, if she could walk, she wouldn't be Oracle - she would still be Batgirl and she would have been with Huntress on sweeps and maybe have prevented all of this, Barbara considered with a flash of guilt she fought to tamp down. She couldn't lose her focus with guilt and self-pity, she scolded herself.
"The police and an ambulance are en route. You wouldn't get there before them," Barbara explained with a forced calm. "And it's a school night," Barbara added, ever mindful of her guardian duties.
"But it's . . . mmm," Dinah started to argue, but stopped, suspecting Barbara wouldn't appreciate being reminded that it was summer at the moment. She eyed her mentor, wanting to help ease her poorly hidden worry. Though like Helena, Barbara was difficult to help. When someone actually tried, they became defensive and even more emotionally closed off, she considered with frustration. "I'm sure she's . . . ." she offered anyway.
". . . Fine," Barbara finished for her uneasily, then forced a smile. "Of course she's going to be fine. You know how hard-headed our Huntress is," Barbara joked tightly, eyeing her computer screen, waiting for the paramedics' report.
After what Barbara thought was a ridiculous amount of time, the paramedics reported they were transporting an unconscious woman to New Gotham General. Dinah sighed with some relief.
"I'll tell Alfred we are going to the hospital," Barbara said numbly, dialing Wayne Manor.
As Dinah drove the Humvee, Barbara stared out the windshield.
It was supposed to have been an easy surveillance. Power sources, cutting edge computers, radioisotopes, and crystals, and a variety of chemistry and laser equipment that had all been of interest to the New Gotham underworld for a reason she had yet to understand.
Barbara sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose recalling how pleased she was when Huntress had spotted a laboratory robbery in progress. As Helena followed the criminals to a warehouse, she couldn't help but think that now she would be able to solve the aggravating mystery. As a matter of normal precaution, she had told Huntress to wait outside while she accessed the security cameras - a logical and safe course of action, which Huntress had no patience for, especially when it came at the expense of action.
How Helena could infuriate her! Barbara thought, recalling their discussion earlier that evening.
"Uh, Ora...shhh..., you're shhhhh....break....g. I'm hea...shhh...in now," the young crime fighter had said over their link with an amused grin.
"Huntress, don't you dare," Barbara hissed. "Huntress!"
Helena had always been difficult, Barbara considered. From a willful girl under her guardianship to a willful Huntress, who had become an integral member of her crime fighting family, Helena Kyle had always exuded a cocky confidence. It wasn't entirely unjustified, Barbara considered, since Helena was dangerously charming, a formidable fighter, and sexy as hell. And oh how she flaunted it, Barbara considered with a heavy sigh.
But recently, she had been even more . . . difficult . . . testing the limits of Barbara's patience, which she found, had limits. It was as if Helena was making it a game to get her mad, Barbara considered with frustration.
Then without an all clear, Helena . . . Huntress had entered the building. Hearing a scuffle and Helena's stream of cursing, which was amazingly clear with no static what-so-ever, Barbara couldn't help but remind her "I told you to wait."
"Not a . . . pro. . . blem!" Huntress argued as she gasped for breath, battling an unseen group.
Barbara had exhaled with frustration, punching in another code into Delphi, irritated at both Huntress and the painfully slow technology. When the security camera image finally came up, she squinted at the poor digital image, trying to understand what it was showing her.
"Oh Fuc. . ."
Helena's new round of cursing was interrupted when a blinding flash had filled Barbara's display as a blood curdling, almost inhuman scream filled her earpiece. Before she could utter Helena's name, the scream and image were abruptly cut off.
Barbara recalled how she had felt when Helena's GPS signal had disappeared from her map. She feared she had lost Helena. She knew it was a possibility in their line of work, but she had never thought it would actually happen. Not Helena. Her heart painfully clenched at that very real possibility.
"Barbara? We're here," Dinah said gently, snapping Barbara out of her recent memories. She nodded absently, surprised to find they were already parked in the hospital's parking lot.
Barbara and Dinah entered the Emergency Room waiting area. Seeing Dinah wince uneasily as she looked around the hospital, Barbara squeezed Dinah's forearm for reassurance. If it had been someone else they were coming to see, she knew Helena would be by her side, providing her with reassurance . . . even with their current difficulties. She almost jumped when the doctor joined them.
"Ms. Gordon?" The doctor asked the former legal guardian, who remained Helena's point of contact in case of an emergency.
"Yes," she answered softly, searching his face for any clues.
"I'm Doctor McKenzie. Ms. Kyle is stable," he reported, lifting a huge weight from Barbara's chest. "She suffered a concussion and some minor scrapes and bruises. She is conscious now."
Barbara eyed him curiously. From that scream, she didn't expect just a concussion and scrapes and bruises.
"Good thing she's hard-headed," Dinah said in a half-hearted joke.
Barbara nodded, eyeing the doctor's face which tightened at her ward's comment. "What else?" She said bluntly, bracing herself for the worst.
The doctor seemed surprised at the woman's keen perception. "She has some memory loss. But there is a very good chance it will not be permanent."
"Memory loss??" Dinah squeaked with concern.
"How much memory loss?" Barbara's jaw tensed.
"We don't know the full extent, but she is unaware of her name or what city she is in," the doctor replied gently.
"Can I . . . we see her?" Barbara asked.
"Certainly. Familiar faces may trigger some memories for her," he said encouragingly. "We have taken her to a room for observation . . . ," he noted, then seeing Dinah concerned look, quickly added "as we do with all concussions."
Barbara and Dinah entered the hospital room, immediately seeing Helena in bed, staring vacantly out of the window. Just seeing her caused an unusually strong desire to roll up and hug the living daylights out of her. But Barbara knew that Helena wouldn't appreciate that, she considered sadly, once again pondering the distance the young woman had put between them.
"Helena?" Barbara called softly, causing the young woman's head to turn towards her visitors.
"That's what they say," Helena said cautiously, eyeing the two women curiously. "You are?"
"A friend," Barbara said, then looked up at Dinah. "We both are," she added with a hopefully reassuring smile, getting a neutral stare from the young woman.
"Good to know. But when I call out "hey friend!" which one of you will answer?" Helena asked with mild amusement.
"Uh . . . of course. Sorry, uh, I'm Barbara Gordon and this is Dinah Redmond," Barbara said awkwardly with a small blush at her faux pas, surprising Dinah.
Helena thought the shade of pink was quite . . . attractive. "Pleased to meet you, Barbara Gordon and Dinah Redmond," Helena said politely.
"Hi," Dinah said and waved shyly, then felt like a complete dork, causing a small smile of amusement in the patient, who for some reason, could tell they were good friends.
"How are you feeling?" Barbara asked, her eyes searching Helena's tired blues.
"A bit banged up," she answered, then looked at them conspiratorially. "So, any chance my friends can spring me from this joint?" she said, then glanced around the room. "I really don't think I like hospitals," she added with a grimace.
Barbara looked at Dinah with a hopeful smile. Helena definitely did not like hospitals.
The dull throbbing in her head grew, pulling her out of a restful sleep. The mattress was amazingly comfortable and she didn't want to get up but she had to do something about the ache. She blinked as she looked around the room taking in the tastefully decorated surroundings. Definitely not the hospital, she concluded.
"You're up," Barbara said with a warm smile as she rolled into the room.
"Not by choice. My head feels like it is going to explode," Helena said with a grimace. A concerned look flooded the redhead's face. Barbara, Helena reminded herself.
"I'll get you something for that," Barbara said, on a mission to the bathroom.
Helena slowly sat up, feeling the aches and pains from . . . well, from whatever the hell happened to her. Slipping her legs over the side of the bed, she spied the clock radio. "I guess I slept through the night."
"You slept through two nights," Barbara informed her, returning from the bathroom, getting a surprised look. "And you wouldn't have, unless you needed it," she added quickly, holding up a glass of water and some pills.
"This is so weird," Helena said honestly, looking at the beautiful woman's sympathetic face a moment before taking the water and pills. "Thanks," she said, swallowed and immediately added "All better."
"It will take some time before the pain relief starts to work," Barbara said with a smirk. "Are you hungry?"
"Good. Alfred has quite the spread for you," Barbara grinned.
"Alfred?" Helena asked hesitantly. Was this Barbara's . . . husband? Helena wondered, quickly looking down at the woman's left ring finger which was absent a ring.
"Our butler and family friend," Barbara explained with a warm smile.
"You have a butler," Helena said slowly, not believing.
"Actually, we do," Barbara clarified.
"Okaaaay," Helena said a bit skeptically, though suspecting there were far worst things to discover about yourself. As she got out of bed, a wave of dizziness washed over her. "Whoa."
"I'll be fine - once the room stops moving."
"How is Miss Helena doing?" Alfred asked as he poured Barbara a glass of orange juice and the subject of their conversation took a shower.
"She woke with a headache and was dizzy getting out of bed," Barbara said then sighed heavily, giving a smile of thanks for the juice before continuing. "She still has memory problems. But other than that, she seems . . . fine."
"I am sure this will only be a temporary affliction," Alfred said, then noticed Helena approach. He and Barbara fell silent as they greeted her with smiles
"You know, when people stop talking when you approach, there's a good chance they are talking about you," Helena said sagely, with an easy smile as she entered the kitchen. Barbara couldn't help but smile back.
"Good morning, Miss Helena," Alfred said as Helena joined Barbara at the breakfast table.
"Good morning, Al. How's it hanging?" She asked with a big smile as Alfred cringed as if he just swallowed something that tasted horrible.
"It's Alfred, Helena, not Al," Barbara said gently with a sympathetic wince for the older man.
"Uh, sorry, Alfred," Helena said with embarrassment.
"Nothing to worry about, Miss Helena. I am pleased you are well enough to join us this morning."
"I'm pleased too. This place sure beats the hospital," she with a smile that Barbara couldn't help but return. Helena's smiles seemed contagious, Alfred noted.
"So did the doctors get a good look in here?" Helena pointed to her head as she glanced at Barbara.
"They didn't see anything unusual, thankfully, on both counts," Barbara said with a warm smile.
Helena looked at her, not understanding. But with so many questions, she had to settle on her most pressing one. "So it's a waiting game? Hoping something will trigger my memory?"
"I'm afraid so."
"Well, if you ladies will excuse me, I have a few errands to run," Alfred said and looked at Helena. "It is good to see you home, Miss Helena," he said with a small smile and polite nod.
"Thanks, Alfred," Helena said with a warm smile and watched him leave. Her eyes drifted back to her breakfast companion, whose green eyes had been closely watching her before dropping with mild embarrassment. She really was beautiful, Helena thought.
"He said I was home. Do I live here?" Helena asked, eyeing the large area with interest.
"You used to."
"Why did I move out? It's a pretty cool place."
"I suppose you wanted some privacy," Barbara said uneasily, never really getting a good reason from Helena. Although, she had to admit, she never pressed her for an answer.
"That doesn't sound right."
"Really?? What does sound right?" Barbara asked with growing hope. The brain worked in mysterious ways, perhaps an innocent discussion on housing arrangements might be the unexpected key, she considered.
"I . . . don't know," Helena said and sighed, wishing she did.
"Well, you do have a healthy . . . social life, Helena," Barbara noted softly, looking down at her toast.
"You mean I'm a slut?" Helena said bluntly, causing Barbara's eyes to widen with alarm.
"NO! I would never say that," Barbara sputtered.
"But you think it," Helena said curiously, without anger. For some reason, knowing what this woman thought of her was important.
"I'm your friend, Helena. I'm not here to judge you on what you do on your own time," Barbara said, the words not ringing entirely true to her even as they left her mouth. She had tried to caution the young woman about promiscuity and think about what she wanted from a relationship. Helena had just smiled cockily and informed her pointedly "I'm an adult and I know what I want. Settling for someone who isn't right for me isn't going to happen." Before Barbara could respond, Helena quickly left for what Barbara assumed was another "date."
"Besides, it is no longer any of my business," Barbara added uncomfortably, picking up her glass of orange juice and taking a sip. That was one way of stopping her mouth from saying anything more. So much for an innocent discussion on housing arrangements . . . .
"No longer your business? Did we break up or something?" Helena asked.
Barbara almost spit out her juice. "I was your guardian, Helena" she responded with great discomfort - a level of discomfort that Helena found interesting.
"Wow," Helena said easily. "You seem kind of young for that daunting task."
"Many thought so," Barbara admitted, glancing down at her breakfast again.
"And you told them to go to hell, didn't you?" Helena suggested with admiration, causing an uncomfortable blush. "So what happened?" Helena asked, leaning forward with interest.
Barbara looked at her uneasily, truly hoping that bad memories were not the ones to trigger her memory.
"I'm guessing it wasn't good, or I wouldn't have needed a guardian," Helena offered, really wanting to hear.
"Your mother was killed," Barbara said softly, watching Helena digest that news with an unusually thoughtful calm - a calm Helena had never before possessed when discussing her mother's death. For a fleeting moment, Barbara was almost grateful for Helena's memory loss for it spared the young woman the pain of that memory.
"What about my father?"
"Did he . . . ?!?" Helena asked with alarm.
"No! He would never kill someone. He was an amazing and good man," Barbara said with a conviction that Helena didn't understand.
"Who left," Helena repeated simply. Barbara nodded as her heart ached with sadness for her former ward. "But you were there for me?" Helena asked, looking at the red-head with clear appreciation.
Barbara nodded but was compelled to add "You were there for me too, Helena, after I was shot. I don't know how I would have gotten by without you. We helped each other."
Helena listened and glanced at the wheelchair. With so many questions running through her head, it was almost overwhelming. Looking up at Barbara, she instead chose to acknowledge the extraordinary gift of friendship this woman once again offered. "You are here for me right now."
"Of course, I am. I'm not doing anything you wouldn't do for me," Barbara said easily.
Not wanting to dismiss her friendship as easily as Barbara had, Helena said "Thank you anyway." Helena noted the surprise in those beautiful green eyes. "I gather I'm not one who usually expresses gratitude for . . . anything," Helena cringed.
"You never had to thank me and you never have to, Hel," Barbara protested, feeling a bit uncomfortable.
"Don't make excuses for me, Barbara. Apparently, I'm slutty and a JERK," Helena exhaled with disappointment. Barbara deserved a better friend.
"Helena . . . ." Barbara said wearily.
An alarm sounded, startling Helena. "What the hell is that?"
"Delphi," she said, promptly rolling towards the elevator with Helena following.
"Oh," Helena said, still not understanding.
As Barbara left the elevator and rolled up to her workstation, Helena looked around at the multiple monitors then eyed Barbara. "I've heard that some people have a really unhealthy obsession with the internet."
"Delphi is a highly advanced computer network that monitors . . ." Barbara tersely explained as she punched in her command codes and brought up the details on the alarm.
"I'm just saying, if you want help, I'm sure we can find a twelve step program for it," Helena interrupted with an innocent shrug, earning a glare, which made Helena grin. Barbara rolled her eyes as she fought a smile and returned her attention to the main screen.
"Another theft of laboratory equipment. Just like the one you were investigating before you got hurt," Oracle reported.
"Am I some sort of detective?" Helena asked with surprise.
"What DO I do for a living?"
"You're a bartender."
After a digesting that tidbit, Helena noted "I must be damn good if I can afford a butler."
"Helena . . . mind on the mission."
"Dinah was in the area, she should be on scene by now," Barbara said, ignoring the question.
"Oracle? Do you copy?"
"Go ahead, Dinah," Barbara said with a satisfied smile.
Oracle?? She wondered, then asked "What's the kid doing?" as she looked over Barbara's shoulder. A bit closer than usual, Barbara noticed. She could feel the warmth emanating from the younger woman and smell the shampoo she had used in the shower.
"I'm at the lab - looks like it's been raided. And there's no trail to follow, which is really annoying. Speaking of annoying - is Huntress up yet?"
Barbara looked over at Helena, who looked confused. "Yes. But she's . . . still adjusting."
"Huntress??" Helena said with surprise. "Huntress," she said again, and again, testing the sound of that name and finding she liked it - a lot. Barbara rolled her eyes.
"Still not firing on all cylinders?"
"We'll discuss it when you get back later. Oracle out."
Dinah sighed as she looked one last time around the lab. As she started to leave, a dark shadow moved across her path. She sucked in a startled breath. Against better judgment and nervousness, she went to follow it outside.
Getting to Know You
Barbara took Helena on a tour of the clock tower. She found herself enjoying the young woman's company, reminding her how much she had missed her. Barbara hoped this new-found ease between them would not evaporate once Helena got her memory back.
"So we are not detectives, but go out to investigate crimes in our free time?" Helena said skeptically. "Is that how we can afford Alfred??"
"No. We are crime fighters, Helena. It's what we do," Barbara said, motioning to the computer center. "And contrary to your suspicions, all this is not to surf the internet," Barbara said, eyeing her.
"What kind of computer system is it, if you can't even surf the internet?" Helena complained with a look of disapproval.
"I never said I couldn't . . . ," Barbara responded with irritation but stopped, seeing amusement in Helena's eyes.
With a belabored sigh, Barbara continued. "All this helps me to see and understand what is happening in the city, discover trends, and hopefully, with your and Dinah's help in the field, stop crime and protect the people."
Helena looked at her, liking the idea of protecting the people. "Are we any good?"
Barbara smiled with satisfaction "I think so."
"You aren't a bartender too, are you?"
"No, I'm a high school teacher," Barbara said with a smile.
"What? Why do you find that amusing?" Barbara said, with a tinge of defensiveness.
"Were you ever my teacher?" Helena asked instead.
"Not in the traditional sense, no."
"Was I good in school?"
"You . . . passed," Barbara said carefully.
"Great," Helena said with a sigh, somehow suspecting that had been a disappointment to this intelligent woman.
"You were too smart for your own good and easily bored," Barbara offered.
"I'm sure I would have paid attention if you were my teacher," Helena said, eyeing the woman who always seemed to defend her. Though, Helena didn't know if paying attention to this attractive woman would have actually helped her grades any.
"I doubt that. For some reason, you seemed to delight in not listening to me and getting into trouble at home. We had quite a rough time for a while," Barbara said with a smile that Helena didn't share.
"Great. . . a slutty stupid jerk," Helena said rolling her eyes, really pissed at herself.
"Helena, stop putting yourself down," Barbara scolded her.
"Well, Red, it's kind of hard not to when I keep finding out things about myself that I really don't like."
"You are a sensitive, compassionate woman, Helena Kyle. You've been through a hell of a lot but have managed to become an amazing individual - in spite of some rough ed . . ." Barbara responded, then was suddenly distracted with another thought. "Did you just call me Red?"
"That's your hair color. If it annoys you I won't . . . ."
"No, I was wondering if it was something you remembered," she said with a small exhale of disappointment.
"Nope. So . . . what's your favorite color?" Helena asked.
"Color? What's your favorite color?" Helena repeated.
"I am aware of what you asked, I just don't understand why, out of all the things you could possibly want to know, would you want to know that," Barbara said, dumbfounded.
Helena grinned. "Cause I just do."
"I see," Barbara said, not really seeing at all as she rolled down the platform.
"Soooo?" Helena asked, following behind Barbara.
"Blue. All right?"
"Yep. So . . . what's your favorite pop-tart flavor?"
"Helena," Barbara growled, but couldn't fight the smile that curled her lips.
Dinah looked around in the alley, still feeling the ominous presence. It was broad daylight and she pondered how she could feel it surrounding her yet not see one lousy thing. As she felt the presence fade, she frowned and started back to the clock tower.
"Meatloaf?? Your favorite food is . . . ?" Helena asked incredulously then stopped in her tracks as Barbara rolled into a large room. "Holy crap, you've got a gym in this place?" Helena said as she finally entered the well-equipped workout room.
"We all spend a good deal of time training," Barbara said stopping in the center of the room. "And you happen to like Alfred's meatloaf too," she noted.
"Uh huh. So we train . . . to beat the bad guys," Helena said, looking around at the equipment.
"Yes. Unfortunately, they don't respond as well as we'd like when we politely request them to cease their corrupt ways."
"Funny," Helena said flatly with a smirk. Talking with Barbara, she learned not only was the beautiful redhead intelligent and caring, she was just fun to be around, she considered. Helena wondered why she moved out.
"Would you believe I used to do standup - but not so much anymore," she said, glancing down at her chair.
"You're on a roll," Helena countered, not finding Barbara's joke all that funny, then eyed her with challenge. "So, you any good?" she asked, nodding towards the various weapons displayed on the wall.
"What could a wheelchair-bound woman possibly do?" Barbara said innocently as Helena smiled and walked around the room, inspecting the weapons more closely.
"I'm thinking. . . ," Helena said, looking over the redhead with blatant appreciation. Barbara's stomach fluttered. ". . . I'd like to find out," Helena added, suddenly tossing nunchucks at her.
Distracted by her surprising reaction, Barbara almost didn't catch the weapon.
"I . . . I'm not so sure that's such a good idea so soon after . . . ." Barbara sputtered, feeling decidedly uncomfortable.
"Helena, you just got out of the hospital," Barbara argued with mild irritation.
"Chickaaaaaaan?" Helena repeated once more, with feeling.
"Helena, that's so juvenile. Even for you."
Suddenly, Helena's face was in hers, causing Barbara to blink with surprise. Her heart pounded at the unexpected thought that Helena might actually lean in and kiss her. After what felt like an eternity, Helena uttered a quiet, single "bruck."
With an odd mix of relief and startling disappointment, Barbara made a show of rolling her eyes at her friend's antics as she rolled slightly back.
"Brrrrr. . . ," Helena started to repeat her slanderous taunt but was interrupted when Barbara's eyes narrowed. She quickly tossed her the nunchucks back into Helena's chest. As Helena took a step back, fumbling to grab the weapon, Barbara whipped out the Eskrima sticks hidden within her chair. With lightning speed, she swept Helena's feet from beneath her. Instead of the expected back-flip, Helena crashed to the ground, hard.
"Helena! Oh God, are you all right?"
Staring at the ceiling gasping, Helena struggled to catch her breath. "You sure know . . . how to sweep a girl . . . off her feet," Helena said breathily as she slowly got up, chuckling with difficulty.
"I knew it wasn't a good idea," Barbara said guiltily.
"Somehow I knew you'd kick my ass," Helena smirked.
"It's not funny. I could have hurt you."
"I have no doubt you could have, if you wanted to, Red," Helena said, not helping to prevent a deeper frown from forming on Barbara's face. "Relax," Helena said easily and briefly squeezed her hand, wanting to put Barbara at ease. "This just means I have a few things to learn - like never call a redhead chicken," she added with a grin.
Barbara tried to stay upset, but Helena's playful side wormed its way into her heart. Oddly enough, even with the frightening aspect of losing her memory, Helena seemed so much lighter in spirit. And not as aloof as before, Barbara thought, glancing at Helena's hand on hers.
"So, if I'm going to be useful around here, you know, protecting the people and all, shouldn't you be training me??" Helena asked with raised brows of anticipation.
"Helena! You just got out of the hospital and. . . ." Barbara responded with frustration.
"Pleeeeeease. I'll go stir crazy. And apparently I'm a lot of trouble when I get BORED," Helena pleaded her case, crouched down by Barbara's side. "Pretty pleaaaase?"
Barbara sighed heavily, knowing she should say no, knowing Helena should rest more before trying to workout, knowing she was unable to deny the young woman. "Perhaps some work with weights to get your muscles warmed up. I don't want you to over . . . ."
"I'm on it!" Helena interjected happily, sliding beneath the bench-press bar.
". . . do it. You know, you never liked to work with weights before," Barbara said.
"Oh. Should I rebel or complain a lot?" Helena said with a sparkle in her eye.
"No, no. Please don't. I'm enjoying this agreeable side to you," Barbara said, selecting the weights for her former ward, trying to ignore the mysterious smirk on the younger woman's face. "Just a few reps."
"Gotchya," Helena said then pushed, finding the bar not moving. "Funny Barbara. But how about a weight I can lift?"
"It's only two hundred, Hel," Barbara said, knowing Helena could lift much more without breaking a sweat.
"Pounds??" Helena said with surprise.
"Yes . . . ?" Barbara said hesitantly.
"Can you lift that?"
"Then how the hell am I supposed to?"
"Barbara?" Dinah said, returning from sweeps finding Helena sitting in front of a brain scanner and Barbara setting up the computer to receive the data. "What's wrong with Helena? As if there wasn't enough already. . . ."
"Thanks a lot, Kid," Helena said dejectedly with a frown, causing Dinah's smirk to disappear. Helena was clearly worried and that made Dinah worried; Helena was not hiding it with her usual bravado.
"I'm sorry . . . I . . . I'll just shut up now," Dinah said with a wince.
"I'm sorry too. I'm a bit . . . sensitive to not being all here," Helena said, glancing over to the very surprised metahuman, who now was even more worried. Helena was discussing her feelings AND being apologetic??
"Great, I was a jerk to everyone, wasn't I?" Helena looked over to Barbara guiltily.
"Helena, at times you were bitingly sarcastic and closed off, but we both know you care for us and would never want to hurt us," Barbara said firmly, then returned her attention to her keyboard and the computer image.
Helena sighed and looked at the equipment surrounding her head warily.
"So what are you looking for," Dinah said, walking up to her mentor.
"I'm looking for Meta activity," Barbara answered, pushing up her glasses and tapping the computer keyboard to initiate another scan.
"Meta what?" Helena asked, eyeing the annoying beam light that now traveled across her face.
"Meta humans have unusually high brain activity. Humans use about 5 % of their brain. Metahumans average about 30 %. Dinah uses over 50%."
"Great. What does that have to do with lifting weights?" Helena asked, eyeing the brainy kid, who looked a bit embarrassed by the disclosure.
"Your brain activity is one indicator that you have metahuman abilities. Your meta "side" provides you with significant strength and cat-like agility. I'm thinking that maybe whatever is inhibiting your memory may also be inhibiting your abilities."
"Was I able to fly??" Helena asked with great interest.
"No. But you could leap far. Sit still."
"I'd like to fly," Helena said with a disappointed sigh. "Can you fly?" She asked Dinah.
Dinah looked at her oddly and silently shook her head no.
"Shhh." Barbara scolded her patient and repeated "Sit still."
"Fine," Helena muttered.
After a few moments, Helena saw confusion on Barbara's face. "What did you find?"
"The question should be - what didn't I find?" Barbara said with worry.
"So what does this mean?" Dinah asked with worry, looking between the two women.
"I can't fly," Helena said with a sigh.
"But you couldn't fly before," Dinah said with irritation.
"It could mean someone has developed a weapon against the metahumans to inhibit their abilities," Barbara said gravely.
"Why would someone want to rid people of their meta...meta-ness?" Helena said.
"To eliminate the freaks," Dinah said in depression. "This sucks."
"Aren't you supposed to be the optimistic one in the group?" Helena asked.
"Do you remember that?" Dinah said with hope.
"No. From what I know of Barbara - she's way too practical to indulge in blind optimism and I'm apparently the stupid slutty jerk . . . ."
"Helena," Barbara said wearily.
". . . which really doesn't fit with an optimistic personality, so that leaves you to be optimistic one."
Barbara rubbed her temples, trying to ignore Helena's commentary. Dinah just stared at her a moment.
"So what meta-abilities do you have, if you can't fly?" Helena asked the younger girl.
"I can see things and sometimes, when I touch someone, I can see snapshots of their thoughts and learn things about them . . . but I'm not that good at controlling that yet," Dinah said with a wince.
"Could you see what is blocking my memory?" Helena asked, surprising both women.
"I don't kno . . . You would allow that?" Dinah asked with surprise.
"Why not? Especially if it gets me my memory back, sure," Helena said, looking curiously between the uneasy women.
Dinah looked over at Barbara with alarm.
"What?" Helena said, hating that she didn't understand their reservations.
"Well, you almost tore Dinah's head off for accidentally reading your thoughts before," Barbara said with a wince, glancing at Dinah, who looked down with a blush. Dinah had never told her what she had learned and Barbara didn't ask, suspecting she didn't want to know.
"GOD! I'm out here on a windy corner with no memory and apparently none of my meta skills, so excuse the hell out of me for asking for some unconventional help!" Helena shot up from her chair and started to pace, running a shaky hand through her hair.
"I'll help," Dinah quickly said. "Really."
"You're not alone in this, Helena," Barbara said sympathetically.
Helena looked at the two women sadly. "I don't even know what I've lost - except memories of you guys. And that part, I am missing. I'm worried I'm not going to get that back," she admitted softly.
"I know," Barbara said. "But if you don't, it won't be the end of the world, Hel," she said.
"You'll make new memories with us," Dinah said with a warm smile, putting a hand on her shoulder.
"What about the meta thing? How can I contribute out there if I'm not like you - spike the criminals' drinks??" She asked, looking at Dinah, who chuckled. "Ask her," Dinah suggested and motioned to Barbara, causing confusion in Helena's face.
"A few regular humans have gone out to fight crime, Helena," Barbara said firmly.
"She was Batgirl," Dinah said proudly, then launched into explaining what that meant to a very interested Helena, who kept looking at the uncomfortable redhead as her ward's stories became more and more animated until Barbara couldn't take anymore.
"Dinah, I think she get's the point," Barbara said abruptly, causing her ward to smirk.
"There's more, I'll tell you later," Dinah whispered to Helena, who had to smile at the young girl's enthusiasm.
"Thanks," she said softly, then looked at Barbara guiltily. "I guess I sound like an idiot whining about not having meta abilities," Helena said uncomfortably.
"NO. Never. I understand loss, Helena. And I admire how you are holding up," Barbara said with a conviction that eased Helena's concerns a bit. Though the young woman was suspecting she really had no idea what she had lost.
"OK. Ready?" Dinah said, sitting next to Helena on the couch as Barbara watched.
"How, exactly, am I supposed to know if I'm ready or not?" Helena asked flatly.
"Uh . . . ," Dinah sputtered, then glanced at Barbara for help.
"Just do it," Barbara said impatiently.
Dinah nodded and grasped Helena's hand. Immediately, a frown filled the young telepath's face, prompting a similar expression on Barbara's. A fleeting smile, then another frown on the girl's face made Helena impatient.
"So?" Hel asked.
After a few moments, Dinah released Helena's hand.
"I'm sorry. I don't get any memories before the hospital and here . . ." Dinah said, then suddenly added "I can't believe you challenged Barbara," then looked at Barbara with a disapproving frown. "And that YOU accepted!"
Barbara winced guiltily.
"Do you think this will this be permanent?" Helena bluntly asked Barbara.
"I . . . don't know," Barbara said uncomfortably, wishing she knew - regardless of the answer. Without knowing, you couldn't focus on a solution.
"Well, if someone zapped me and changed me, can't someone unzap me to fix it?" Helena said with a shrug.
"That makes sense, doesn't it??" Dinah said with a ray of hope.
"There you go - optimism!" Helena said with a playful shove that prompted a small smile from the kid.
"I don't even know how this happened," Barbara said dejectedly.
"Well, I've got a plan!" Helena announced.
"You do?" Helena heard in stereo as she got up from the couch.
"All we need to do is find this meta-zapper thingy that zapped me. Barbara will study it, go find some good reference material from the internet, and determine a way to reverse the effects," Helena suggested simply and headed towards the kitchen. "Got any peanut butter? I'm hungry," she asked, heading towards the kitchen.
Barbara shot a look up to the heavens and exhaled heavily.
"Well, there is a bright side to all of this," Dinah reflected, gaining Barbara's interest. "At least for a while, she won't know if I'm wearing her clothes," Dinah said with a pleased smile.
- Part 2 -
Over the next few days, Barbara studied the inventory of the heists. Even with an understanding of the effects of the end product, she couldn't begin to replicate this device. The only thing she could come up with was a particle beam weapon and she suspected vaporizing her friend wouldn't be appreciated.
Barbara was studying her computer screens when she heard Helena and Dinah return from their workout. "Hey . . . how'd it go?" Barbara asked a bit anxiously, seeing a frown on Helena's face.
"She did really well," Dinah offered uneasily, glancing at the still-frowning sparring partner.
"You kicked my ass," Helena groused, rubbing said area with a grimace.
"Actually, only once. We were actually more evenly matched for a change," Dinah said, crossing her arms and looking at Helena.
"Really?" Barbara asked with interest.
"Really," Dinah said as the two women looked at Helena.
"That's excellent," Barbara said. "I didn't expect you to get up to speed so quickly."
"Uh huh," Helena said skeptically.
"What do you mean, uh huh?"
"Helena," Barbara said sternly, clearly demanding an answer.
"Look, I don't need you guys to treat me like the off-key wannabe, whose parents praise whatever stupid song comes out of her mouth."
"She has issues," Dinah said wisely to Barbara, and went to the kitchen.
"It will take time before you become comfortable, Helena," Barbara said.
"I'm not sure I'll be completely comfortable with a big-ass gap in my memory," Helena said as the Delphi alarmed again, causing her to jump.
"Geeze, that thing is annoying," she complained as she joined Barbara's side, while the redhead typed on the keyboard and brought up the latest disturbance.
"A dead man was found in the alley down by Roosevelt and West Main."
"Cause?" Dinah asked, eating a pop tart.
"We had pop tarts?" Helena asked with a bit of annoyance.
Dinah shrugged. "They are next to the cookie jar," she offered.
"We have a cookie jar?!?" Helena asked.
"Focus, you two. The man's throat was slashed open. No apparent struggle."
"Should we check it out?" Helena asked, getting Barbara to look up with concern. "I mean, there's probably some information we can find out that even Delphi can't get you," she said.
"It's been only a few days since you were . . . injured, Helena. Dinah can go see . . . ." Barbara started, but stopped, seeing Helena's expressive face close down into a neutral mask. "Helena, I think it's too soon for you to go on sweeps," Barbara said firmly.
"I see," Helena said and turned to an uneasy Dinah. "Well, kid. You heard her. You have some investigating to do," Helena said and retreated to the guest bedroom.
"Barbara?" Dinah asked uneasily, seeing her mentor pinching the bridge of her nose.
"Go on, Dinah. And be careful," Barbara said offering a weak smile.
Even without her meta-enhanced hearing, Helena could tell Dinah was already back as the teen's excited voice wafted through the clock tower and her room, though she couldn't make out the words.
"Helena?" Barbara called softly, slightly pushing the cracked-open door.
"Dinah have anything interesting to report?" Helena asked, putting a book down on the night stand as Barbara entered the room.
"The man was clearly overwhelmed," Barbara said, briefly glancing at the surprising book. "No sign of struggle and three slashes across his throat . . . looks like it was made by a claw," Barbara noted, slowly moving closer to Helena's bed.
"A metahuman killer?"
"It would seem so. The victim was identified as Ian Russick, a convicted rapist. He had just been released and apparently picked up where he left off. He is suspected of having committed sexual assault just before meeting his end," Barbara offered that interesting detail. "The DNA samples from the sexual assault and murder victims are on their way to the lab."
"Well, someone doesn't like rapists very much. Not that I can blame them," Helena said thoughtfully. "Any ideas?"
"Delphi is running a cross-check on possible metahumans in New Gotham that might be able to leave those marks, but something tells me it won't be that easy," Barbara said, with a sigh. "Helena, about the sweeps . . . ."
"You'll let me know when you think I'm ready. I understand that," Helena said with a neutral expression, which made Barbara uneasy.
"I know you don't agree, but I just don't want to risk you getting hurt by having you out there too soon," Barbara said quickly.
"I can get hurt, regardless of how ready or "meta" I am," Helena offered calmly, causing Barbara to wince. "And don't feel guilty about my stupid mistake," Helena added firmly, causing Barbara to hopefully glance up with a questioning look. "Dinah told me," she explained, causing a small sigh of disappointment.
"I don't know if I'm going to get used to this," Barbara said.
"Used to what?"
Barbara looked at her. "Before your injury, you would have gotten very angry, yelled, stormed off, cooled down, and come back," Barbara said.
"And then you would have gotten your way," Helena guessed, getting an embarrassed nod.
"That's a lot of energy to expend," Helena said. "Why don't we just let you have your way for a week and save me the trouble?"
"A week?" Barbara asked, alarmed. She was thinking months . . . .
"After a week, I'm going on sweeps."
"Helena . . . ." Barbara objected.
"No. I should be able to train and prove to myself and you that I can do it - even without my meta side. But I'm not going to wait for your approval, Barbara. I need to get out there and make myself useful," Helena said firmly, picking up her book and opening it to where she left off.
"I see," Barbara said, looking at the reading Helena, who was now ignoring her. At least she had a week to convince Helena otherwise, she considered with a sigh. As she started to leave, curiosity got to her. "What are you reading?"
"The Price of Progress," Helena said, holding up the book, displaying the cover.
"A New Gotham history book?" Barbara said with astonishment.
"I haven't forgotten how to read, you know."
"I know, but I never thought you would voluntarily . . . ." Barbara said with amusement, then winced at the annoyed glare she was receiving. "I mean . . . you just never showed any interest," Barbara said uneasily.
"Good night, Barbara," Helena said with a sigh, returning her gaze to the book.
"Right," Barbara said, biting her lip, realizing it was time for a tactical retreat before she said anything else to annoy the young woman. "Have a good night, Helena," she said softly and left.
Barbara watched Helena attack her training with gusto, impressed by her clear dedication. She was nowhere near as swift or powerful in her combination kicks as she was before "the injury." But she was accurate and more agile than Barbara had expected. She guiltily realized she had attributed all of Helena's abilities to being a metahuman.
Suddenly, Helena calmed and began Tae Kwon Do forms Dinah was fond of with a patience Barbara had never seen exercised before. Helena never had the serenity to appreciate the forms or include them in her workout regimen. While there was no doubt Helena was dangerous before, she had been driven by a raw, undisciplined passion. This control she was displaying was something much more dangerous, Barbara thought, mesmerized by the sight of the younger woman's sinewy form slowly moving with graceful, purposeful strength.
As the younger woman promised, she was doing her damnedest to convince Barbara she was still formidable and ready for sweeps. And begrudgingly, Barbara was beginning to believe she was, though an uneasy feeling still settled in her stomach when she thought of Helena out on the streets without her metapowers.
She knew it was hypocritical to think someone couldn't go on sweeps without special powers. But if anything else happened to Helena . . . .
"Barbara? YoooHoo, Barbara?" Helena said, waving a hand in front of the redhead.
"Huh? Oh, hi," she said sheepishly.
"You OK there, Red? You spaced out there a moment," Helena said, toweling off her sweat from the intense hours in the gym.
"Just thinking," Barbara said, glancing down with mild embarrassment as she tucked a strand of hair behind her ear.
"I'll bet. Any new arguments to keep me off of sweeps?" She asked with a smirk.
"I wasn't thinking about that . . . exactly," Barbara hedged.
"I meant what I said," Helena said as they walked towards the guest room.
"I know. You have shown a lot of improvement . . . ," Barbara offered uncomfortably, rolling behind her.
"Not so much to actually make you comfortable," Helena replied knowingly.
"Hel, I know you think I'm being a bit over protective. . . ."
"It's hard not to want to protect the people you care about," Barbara admitted uncomfortably.
"Hey, you want to go get an early dinner? I'm kind of interested in going out," Helena said, tired of discussing Barbara's doubts in her.
"Oh . . . I can't," Barbara said with a cringe.
"Hot date or something?" Helena asked with a smirk, thinking Barbara spent far too much time in front of the damned computer.
"Well, Wade did call and I need to spend some time with him," Barbara said with a shrug. "Thankfully, it won't be dinner with his parents this time," she added with a sigh.
Helena felt like she was sucker punched. Her stunned look was interpreted by Barbara as confusion.
"Wade is my boyfriend and his parents don't think I'm good enough for him since I'm a cripple," Barbara explained in a nutshell. Very neat and concise, very Barbara, Helena thought.
"Ah. Wade obviously has great taste and the parents are idiots," Helena declared, causing a surprised but pleased smile on Barbara's face. "I'm gonna take a shower and head out - have fun with Wade," she said with a plastered-on smile, feeling the need to get away.
"I will," Barbara said, then added "You too . . . ," as the quickly retreating woman disappeared into the guest room. ". . . Hel."
The water rained down like disappointment over the exhausted woman as she leaned against the shower wall, her head resting against the warm surface. This wasn't how it was supposed to be, she thought as her hands clenched into fists, although she didn't really know how it was supposed to be. But she felt it. Barbara with this Wade guy just felt . . . wrong.
Standing up straight with a deep breath, Helena shook off that uncomfortable feeling and finished her shower. She just needed to get out and see the city sights and not think too hard about . . . anything.
"Big D!" Helena called out from behind the teen, almost causing her to spill her coffee onto the book she was engrossed in reading.
"Helena? What's wrong?" Dinah looked at her with concern, then around the street as if there was a pending attack.
"Nothing. You come here often?" Helena said with a saucy smile and waggled her eyebrows as she joined the teen at the outdoor table.
"Uh . . . this is new," Dinah said uncomfortably.
"What?" Helena asked with a curious smile.
"You allowing yourself to be seen with me . . . in public," Dinah said hesitantly, immediately feeling bad for causing that look of discomfort on Helena's face. "So in honor of this momentous occasion - you can buy me another," Dinah quickly added, closing her book with a big smile.
"I'm on it," Helena said dutifully and turned to find a waitress.
"Miss?" Helena said, motioning to the harried waitress, who just finished cleaning up a messy table, two tables away. She pushed up her glasses and tucked loose strands of light brown hair behind her ear as she made her way towards them. From the large stain on her chinos and apron, she had been in the way of some massive coffee accident.
"And how can I help you today?" she said with a weak smile, trying to be pleasant, though it was clear she was having a bad day.
"I would like to buy my friend here another . . . ." she looked curiously to Dinah, who supplied "Latte."
". . . Latte," Helena repeated with a nod, then added "I'll have a milk."
"Milk?" The waitress looked at her with surprise. Dinah smiled with amusement
"You know, 'does a body good' milk?" Helena responded with a shrug, not missing Dinah stealing a look at the waitress' pleasing form.
"It sure does," the waitress said appreciatively, pulling her glasses down to give her a long appraising look. "Latte and milk coming right up," she said with a grin and left to place the order.
"God! Do women do that to you often? Wow," Dinah said in an amazed whisper, leaning towards Helena.
"More people should drink milk," Helena offered, having no idea how to answer the younger woman's question.
"More people would if they got the reaction you just did," Dinah noted, looking in the direction of the waitress.
"You like her? She's pretty hot," Helena probed, getting a blush.
"I don't want to even go there," Dinah said, holding her hands up in caution.
"You like guys," Helena guessed.
"Not as much," Dinah admitted with a different shade of pink creeping up her neck. Helena smirked.
"I could try and get her number for you."
"I don't need help getting a number!" Dinah growled.
"Hey, I didn't mean to insult you - you just seem a bit shy. Why not ask her yourself?"
"I don't think so," Dinah said uncomfortably.
"So then, you're not into the graduate-student intellectual type?"
"That's not . . . how would you know that's what she is??" Dinah frowned.
Helena leaned towards her as she kept her eyes on the waitress, who was giving their order to the lady behind the counter. "She's obviously not concerned with looking bookish - wearing glasses instead of contacts. And she's working in a place where academics hang out," Helena added, looking around at the many examples sitting at tables reading a variety of books. "She's definitely not a teeny bopper. Seems to have a good sense of self. You've even commented on how bold she is. She's probably working her way through grad school," Helena concluded. "Might be a good influence on you . . . it could be educational," she suggested with a grin as she waggled her eyebrows.
"Helena, she's . . . nice and all . . . but I'm with Gabby," Dinah sputtered, trying not to think about the type of education Helena was suggesting.
"Uh . . . my girlfriend," Dinah said.
A small thoughtful smile filled Helena's face. "There's a lot to catch up with, isn't there?"
"You'll catch up soon enough," Dinah said with encouragement, knowing how much Helena was struggling to deal with her gap in memory. Feeling the need to keep the conversation upbeat, she brought up Helena's favorite subject. "So . . . where's Barbara?"
"She said she had to pay attention to Wade. So I'm on my own," Helena said with a smile that didn't reach her eyes.
So much for upbeat, Dinah thought with a small cringe. She knew it was inevitable Helena would find out about Wade and things would start to change, but they all had been getting along so well and she had selfishly hoped . . . .
"Hey, you don't happen to know where my apartment is, do you?" Helena asked.
"This is . . . . nice," Dinah said hesitantly as they entered the dark space and Helena turned on the light.
"Don't start lying to me now, Dinah. You can call it a dump," Helena said, loudly tripping over a pile of cardboard boxes and empty bottles.
"What a dump," Dinah said, lifting up a nice but wrinkled sweater to see what was beneath it. The moldy half-eaten pizza slice made her groan. "I can't believe you'd do that to your poor clothes."
"Well, I'm sure after I clean this place up, it'll be livable," Helena said, looking at the room and past the thick layer of grime and dirty clothes to see potential - although, she did have to squint really hard.
"Ah . . . are you thinking of moving back here?" Dinah asked with concern.
"Well, I can't stay with Barbara forever," Helena said, going to the kitchen to find a trash bag. It looked like whoever had lived there had just stopped caring, she thought uneasily.
"You . . . she REALLY doesn't mind you staying," Dinah said with an uncomfortable understanding. She hadn't seen her two mentors smile and laugh so much in a long time, if ever - even with Helena's disturbing loss of memory and metapowers.
"I'm not going to mooch off of her any more," Helena responded, then added absently "I wonder if I can rent a sand blaster."
"You're not mooching, you know . . . ." Dinah tried to explain as Helena curiously looked through cabinets.
"How can it be that I actually have more food here than what's in the clock tower?" Helena looked back at Dinah with amazement as she pulled out and displayed a large jar of peanut butter, crackers, pop tarts, and animal crackers.
". . . your estate is footing the bill for the Tower and everything in it," Dinah said awkwardly with a smile, getting Helena's attention.
"My . . . estate?"
"Hooboy," Dinah said with a cringe.
"Are you mad at me?" Dinah asked Helena worriedly as they walked back to the Clock-tower.
"NO! I'm . . . ," Helena exhaled. "I'm just fucking frustrated finding out about my life in bits and pieces, you know?" she said to Dinah, who nodded with a wince.
"I wish I could help," Dinah said in a soft voice.
Helena looked at her with a sad smile. "You do, Kid. But these little bombshells keep reminding me I have large parts of me still missing and . . . it's hard to stay chipper all the time. I don't mean to take it out on you - I'm sorry," she said with a sigh.
"Hey, that's what friends are for," Dinah said, nudging Helena with an elbow.
"Care to go exploring??" Helena suddenly said, getting a surprised and very interested look from Dinah.
Wade and Barbara smiled at the waiter, who finally brought their meals. Barbara glanced at her watch again, wondering what Helena was doing.
"Enjoy your meal," the waiter said with a slight bow and left them alone.
"Are you OK, Barbara? You've been very quiet," Wade said with a sympathetic smile.
"Oh, sorry," Barbara said uneasily, poking at her food with the fork.
"I've been told I'm a pretty good listener. Of course, I am a professional - being a guidance counselor and all," Wade joked easily, provoking a small smile from Barbara.
"It's Helena," Barbara exhaled.
"Surprise," Wade said knowingly with a small smile.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Barbara asked with irritation.
"Well . . . she's just been through a head trauma and lost her memory," Wade explained, making Barbara feel guilty for snapping. "It can't be easy to live with a loss of memory."
"She's doing . . . oh I don't really know," Barbara said in defeat. Before Wade could respond, she continued. "She's so much like the Helena I know, yet she has a calm about her that she's never had before. She's not as argumentative, or rather, she's less volatile than before . . . she still disagrees with me," Barbara said with a sigh.
"Going back to work so soon after the accident," Barbara said.
"Well, is she physically unable to tend bar?" Wade asked curiously.
"I . . . no," Barbara said uncomfortably.
"Hmmm, what?" Barbara said.
"She doesn't seem the type to enjoy being cooped up all day, even with a memory loss," Wade said, sipping his wine. "Maybe it would be good for her to get back to work," he offered reasonably, causing Barbara to sigh.
After they finished there entre, Barbara started looking at her watch more frequently.
"I gather you won't be staying with me this evening," Wade said with some disappointment, though it wasn't unexpected. He knew Barbara's thoughts were preoccupied with her friend.
"I'm sorry, Wade. I need to go home."
"Hel? Dinah?" Barbara said as she looked around the surprisingly empty clock tower.
"Helena?" She called again, quickly determining she was the only one there. She rolled to Delphi.
Had Dinah told her she was staying with Gabby? Barbara didn't think so. Looking at the map for their GPS signals, she frowned. How could they both have disappeared?
Helena didn't convince Dinah to go on sweeps, did she?? Barbara wondered with growing worry that something bad might have happened to them and dialed the phone.
"Wayne manor, Alfred speaking," Alfred answered the phone.
"Alfred? It's Barbara. I don't want to sound like an alarmist but - do you know where Dinah and Helena are? I haven't been able to contact them on coms and I'm not picking up their GPS signals," Barbara said with a wince. It was nine o'clock and no sign of either of them. So help them if they had gone out on sweeps and turned their signals off!
"I believe they may have turned on the jamming signal while they were . . . spelunking. I did warn them not to touch anything," Alfred responded with irritation.
"They're with you? At the manor??"
"Indeed," Alfred said tightly, miffed at the blatant disregard of his warning. "I'll need to check if anything else was inadvertently activated or deactivated," he said with a sigh.
"What are they doing now?"
Alfred looked over his shoulder at the women on the big leather sofa. "Both ladies are watching a movie. Would you like to speak with Miss Helena?"
"No that's . . . ." Barbara said, hearing muffled voices.
"Barbara?? Is everything ok?" Helena asked with concern.
"Hi, Helena. Everything is just fine, now that I know where you two are. I was a bit concerned with both of you gone, no note, and your GPS signals were not registering on Delphi . . . ."
"You are tracking me with a GPS signal?" Helena said with irritation.
"Hel, it's part of your com set - it's standard issue," Barbara explained.
"Oh," Helena exhaled.
"I should have explained it to you," Barbara said with a frown.
"I want to apologize now for anything else I'll get upset about for no good reason," Helena said with a wince.
"Well then I should apologize now for anything I might say or do that upsets you. I hope you know I . . . I care for you a great deal, Helena."
"Kinda figured, you seem to have a habit of taking care of me."
The warmth in Helena's voice made Barbara smile. "You'd to the same. Well, I didn't mean to interrupt your fun with Dinah," Barbara said, pleased Helena was getting along well with her ward.
"I wouldn't necessarily call it FUN. Did you know Dinah has really bad taste in movies?"
"Actually . . . ," Barbara admitted with a smirk.
"Hmm. Thanks a lot for the warning," Helena grumbled. "Well, at least the night's not a total loss - it is amusing to make her jump at the scary parts," Helena said enthusiastically, causing a soft chuckle from Barbara. "So . . . how was your big date?"
"Uh . . . nice. Wade took me to a nice, quiet restaurant. It was very nice," Barbara said, never comfortable discussing her romantic ventures.
"How . . . nice," Helena said with a frown, firmly believing Barbara deserved far more than nice. "Well, I'll get Dinah back to the clock tower after the movie. I expect it'll be around eleven. Is that OK?"
"That's fine, Helena. I'll see you then."
Barbara glanced at Delphi when it alarmed. Rolling over to her console, she scanned the screen to find the police had found another murder victim, killed under familiar circumstances. Putting on her headset, she sighed, reluctant to interrupt the young women's evening - but duty called.
"Oracle to Dinah."
"Oracle? What's up?" Dinah's chipper voice came through loud and clear.
"I'm sorry to interrupt your movie, but there was another murder about three miles from Wayne manor . . . I'd like you to check it out."
"Uh . . . what about . . . Huntress?"
Barbara sighed and closed her eyes, making a decision she hoped she wouldn't regret. "Take her along - but be . . . ."
"We'll be extra careful, Oracle! Huntress out!"
After a few moments, Barbara glanced over to her map to confirm their GPS signals were also back on line. Thank you Alfred, she thought.
Old and New Friends
"Oracle? We're here. The body has slashes all over it," Dinah said with a wince, watching as the coroner continued to inspect the body as a police photographer took pictures of the surrounding area. "I'm going to look around," Dinah said, getting Helena to nod.
"Oracle, there are three distinct slashes at the neck that look like the killing blow, just like the other victim," Helena added, her eyes fixed on the dead body. She winced at the gory sight.
"Looks like we've got either a serial killer or a copy cat on our hands," Oracle said.
"I knew you'd show up," Detective Reese said, startling her.
"Oh. Hey," Helena said uncomfortably.
"That's Detective Reese he's a . . . friend. But he only knows you as Huntress. He doesn't know of Dinah or me," Barbara said uncomfortably.
Barbara suspected they were more than friends from the way Helena had flirted with him before, but she didn't ask. She really didn't want to know.
"You don't know what's happening, do you?" He asked pointedly, crossing his arms lazily over his chest.
"Nope. Do you?" She asked.
"So how many does this make?" She asked.
"Three," he said.
"Really? I knew about the other one - the rapist. Who was the third?"
"Gregory DeMarco. A real piece of work. I can't say that I'm sorry he's gone, but it would have been nice to be the one to bring him in."
"Huntress, DeMarco was behind the drug trafficking on the waterfront. Reports didn't disclose the cause of death," Oracle supplied.
"A pusher, rapist . . . what did this guy do?" Huntress asked the detective, glancing at the body curiously.
"The deceased, Harold Hickman, was a wife beater," he noted. "The wife was taken to the hospital. She actually filed charges against him this time. We were out looking for him."
"You found him," Helena said with a grimace as she glanced back at the body.
"So you don't know anything?" He asked again, eyeing her suspiciously.
"Oddly enough, I'm more in the dark than ever," she said with a sigh, gaining a curious look from the handsome man.
"Uh, look. Uh, maybe we can go for . . . coffee or . . . something later?" he asked awkwardly.
"I . . . I've got to go. But thanks. . . Detective Reese," she noted uneasily and started to walk off.
He looked at her oddly. "Hey . . . aren't you going to disappear mysteriously?" He called out.
"Nah. It's a nice night for a walk," Huntress said with a shrug and headed away from the scene.
"Is he gone?" Barbara asked uneasily.
"Yeah. He didn't follow. Where's D?" She said, looking over her shoulder.
"Waiting with the Hummer, two blocks on your left."
"Got it, Huntress out," Helena said, then shivered. Looking around the darkness she listened intently, but didn't hear anything. She shook her head trying to shake off the odd feeling.
"What do you mean??" Barbara asked Dinah.
"I didn't see anything, but I sensed someone or something was watching us," Dinah said, uncomfortable under the displeased glare she received from Barbara.
"Why didn't you tell me right away?" Barbara asked with annoyance. "You know you shouldn't keep something like this from me."
"Give the kid a break, will yah?" Helena said, patting D on the shoulder. "I felt something odd too."
"You did?" Dinah asked curiously.
"I can't believe you two! This could be important, Helena," Barbara said tersely, upset that Helena was not understanding her concern.
"I just felt it . . . a presence. I couldn't tell if it was real or not," Dinah said.
"Same here. Kind of like someone walking on your grave," Hel said with a shiver.
Barbara rolled her eyes.
"Nice image," D said with a frown then added "I looked for it, but didn't see anything."
"You went looking, without backup?!?" Helena snapped.
Relieved Helena was finally onboard with the program, Barbara glared at Dinah, who winced.
"You were busy with Reese, and I wasn't sure what I felt," Dinah said with an uneasy shrug, not thinking it the best time to bring up her feelings the other day, when she also went after the presence alone.
"What did you feel?" Barbara asked.
"Something dangerous, but . . . I didn't feel frightened . . . I don't know," Dinah said, shaking her head. "There was a definite, unnerving presence."
"Our vigilante?" Helena said, sitting on the desk by Barbara.
"Could be. But why haven't we seen more evidence? Why didn't Dinah see him?" Barbara said.
"Well, I'm pretty sure we are not going to solve this mystery tonight and I'm tired. I'll see you both in the morning," Helena said, hopping off the desk and headed towards the elevator.
"Hel?" Barbara asked with surprise.
"Thought I'd try my apartment out," she explained with a shrug, jingling her keys.
"This isn't about the GPS, is it?" Barbara asked with concern.
"No," Helena responded with surprise. "I guess I'm trying to get back to normal . . . well, as best I can," Helena said with an apologetic smile and shrug.
"Of course. Good night, Helena," Barbara said, attempting to cover her disappointment with a weak smile.
"Goodnight you guys," Helena said and entered the elevator.
When the doors shut, Barbara blinked, turning distractedly to Delphi. Why did she have to leave??
"I told her that you didn't mind her staying here," Dinah offered, tucking her hair behind her ear.
"She's a grown woman with her own apartment, Dinah," Barbara said tightly.
"Whose memory started a week ago," Dinah countered.
"I can't force her to stay," Barbara said with irritation.
But you could ask her to, Dinah thought sadly, knowing Barbara had yet to figure that out.
"Maybe being around her apartment will trigger her memories," Barbara added with forced optimism.
"Yeah. Maybe," Dinah said, not convinced.
On the way back to her apartment, Helena stopped by a club for a drink. She ordered a beer and took in the music and lights, trying to cheer herself up. She hated how she felt - confused and ignorant. Ignorant about the important things like . . . Wade. How could Barbara want just . . . nice, she wondered, then sighed realizing she didn't know him. Maybe what Barbara had with him was more than nice, she considered with mixed feelings.
This whole memory loss sucked. It was odd not knowing people who apparently knew you, like Detective Reese. But she had to wonder, if he was really a friend like Barbara says, wouldn't they trust him with their secrets?
When the cold beer was placed in front of her, she smiled at the bartender and paid. "Keep the change," she said, causing a pleased smile at the healthy tip.
She felt a hand on hers briefly, immediately getting her attention. "No milk this evening?" The woman said with amusement.
"Hey!" Helena said with welcome surprise and smiled at the coffeehouse waitress. She certainly looked much more attractive in her silk blouse and jeans than her coffee-stained work garb. Her sandy brown hair was teased just right, Helena thought appreciatively. Her makeup was not overdone and her scent was a subtle gardenia. The only thing Helena missed seeing was her glasses, concluding she must be wearing contacts.
"Hi," she said, returning a pleased smile. "I saw you come in and had to harass you about your beverage choice."
"I like variety," Helena said, tipping the neck of her bottle towards her pretty companion in a polite salute before taking a sip, causing the pretty woman to grin.
"Good to know. I came with some friends, you want to join us?"
"I'd love to, but I can't stay much longer," Helena said apologetically.
"No problem, I'll take whatever I can get," she said, sitting down next to Helena at the bar, getting an amused look. "Let's start with names," she said, holding her hand out. "Gwen Turner."
"I'm Helena Kyle, pleased to meet you," Helena said, firmly shaking her hand. Gwen's grip lingered longer than she expected as she was being sized up.
"You seem a bit more relaxed than earlier today," Helena said with a smirk.
"I'm never going to step foot in a coffee house again - except as a customer."
"How . . . ? Yes, I am," she answered with an amused grin. "Impressive."
"You are the impressive one. What degree are you getting?"
"Uh . . . Genetic engineering," she said, suddenly shy as she gauged Helena's reaction when she added "and physics."
"Now THAT's impressive," Helena said with genuine enthusiasm. "Masters?"
"Doctorates," she said with a bit of pride.
"Wow. What luck, I happen to like brainy women," Helena said with a big smile.
A relieved smile filled Gwen's pretty face, making it beautiful. "A lot of people are put off by a woman with intelligence."
"That just shows how ignorant they are. Why, if you date a brainy person, it takes all of the pressure off you having to know how to program your DVR."
"That keeps you up at night, does it?" Gwen asked with amusement.
"Oh yes," Helena said gravely. "I toss and turn, turn and toss, wondering if I'll miss something good . . . ."
"Well, I wouldn't want you to miss something good," Gwen said with a very interested gaze.
"No?" Helena asked innocently, slowly leaning towards the young woman and eyeing her lips.
"Do you have a pen?" Gwen asked as she pulled back, causing Helena to frown - for two reasons - missing the kiss and not having a pen.
The barkeep, having heard the conversation, silently produced a pen and pushed it towards Helena.
"Why of course!" Helena suddenly said, holding up the pen that magically appeared by her hand. Gwen laughed and took the pen as Helena gave the barkeep a smile and nod of thanks.
He shook his head and walked away, drying a glass.
"My number," she said with a sly grin and proceeded to write on the tender part of Helena's forearm. "If you are still worried about missing something good, call me," Gwen said as Helena smiled, glancing at the number.
"See you around," Gwen said and started to leave, but paused and turned back towards her. She eyed her a moment before gently kissing Helena on the lips. "Bye," she breathed softly.
"Bye," Helena answered in a whisper.
Opening the door to her apartment, Helena sensed something was off. She looked over to the window and found the curtains gently rustling in the breeze. She couldn't recall if it was open when she and Dinah had left earlier that day. Turning on the lights, she scanned the living room and found nothing out of place.
Feeling tired and grimy, Helena peeled off her clothes as she headed towards the shower. She turned on the spigot. After a moment, she stepped under the warm water and exhaled with pleasure as she started to shampoo her hair. What an interesting night, she considered. Exploring "her" estate, sweeps with Dinah, well sorta . . . seeing a crime scene with a mutilated body, she amended with a grimace. But the night did end on a very promising note she considered, unable to help the smile that grew on her face as she thought about meeting up with Gwen and the sweet kiss.
Her smile suddenly evaporated. "Crap!!" She said jumping away from the water to check her forearm. Breathing a sigh of relief that she could still read the numbers, she gingerly rinsed off and got out of the shower in search of something to write with. Settling on the small bar of hand soap and the mirror, she transcribed the phone number to another temporary home.
Drying off, she thought about the kid going off alone, looking for what was giving them the heebee-geebees. What if Dinah needed backup? Was she really equipped to do battle against a meta killer? She had gotten her ass whipped by both Barbara and the kid, she reminded herself with a frown. Why did she ever think this was ever a good idea? Helena sighed as doubts grew.
Pulling on some silk boxers and a sleeveless tee, she padded back into her bedroom, which was dark again. She froze, distinctly recalling turning on the lights. A chill washed over her - she could feel a dark presence.
"I thought . . . I was alone," the breathy voice of an intruder admitted curiously.
Helena squinted to see the source of the voice, which was to her right. It sounded female, but that didn't make her feel any safer.
"That makes two of us," Helena said nervously, only making out a shadow.
"I saw you tonight. The Kid was with you. She could . . . sense me."
Helena felt a slight breeze. Now the voice was behind her saying "She is difficult to avoid."
Helena's heart pounded at how swift this being was, knowing it could easily kill her or anyone she set her sights on. Somehow she knew her visitor was behind the three deaths. Maybe more, she amended with a cringe. "She's a good kid. Don't hurt her," Helena said, blinking trying to get her eyes adjusted to the dark.
"Are you her protector?" The being said with an incredulous laugh. "How do you plan on doing that? You couldn't have even lost Reese if he decided to tail you."
"I'll do what I need to," Helena bravely vowed, then felt the sharp tips of a claw swiftly swipe at her bicep, leaving three bloody marks. "OW! What the hell did you do that for?"
"To remind you how pathetic you are, human."
"Says the insane monster who's going around murdering people?" Helena snapped, holding her arm.
The visitor laughed. "Insane monster? We both have wanted to dispense justice. I'm just the only one willing to actually do it."
"Justice? You call mauling that last guy, Harold Hickman, justice??"
"Did you see what he did to his wife? If you did, you would know he deserved more than what he got. Even YOU would have wanted to do it to him."
Helena frowned and protested uncomfortably "I've never wanted to kill anyone."
"Really?? You've never wanted to make your mother's murderer pay for every moment you watched her bleed to death in your arms?"
Helena blinked. Her mother died in her arms?
"You've never wanted to make the Joker really pay, once and for all, for robbing Barbara the use of her legs?"
Helena frowned as she let out an uneasy exhale, feeling some anger grow.
"You didn't want to tear apart those men who killed Black Canary, destroying Dinah's chance of finally getting to know her mother?" she taunted.
"Dinah's mother was a Black Canary??" Helena asked uneasily.
"You don't know??" The intruder asked with surprise, walking around her. The shadowy figure wasn't as big as Helena would have guessed from the substantial presence she felt. "You don't know . . . ." she repeated that fact and exhaled with interest.
"How do I know any of that is true?" Helena snapped, feeling even more frustrated with her memory gap.
"No memories. No pain. That must be . . . ," the intruder said, searching for the correct word, then added softly "wonderful."
"Who are you?" Helena said with frustration, reaching out to grab the uninvited visitor's arm. She suddenly found herself thrown into the wall. "Ooof." Helena crumbled to the ground.
"Don't. Touch. Me," the female growled.
"Oookaaay," Helena said, getting up on her feet slowly. Once on her feet, curiosity, or a sudden bout of insanity, took hold. Her hand darted to the wall to turn on the lights, allowing her a brief look at her antagonist who recoiled and growled at the sudden brightness.
The intruder bore distinctive cat-like features, her eyes were unnerving, inhuman slits, her cheek bones were slightly pronounced, her skin was covered with delicate golden hair. Her ears were decidedly pointed as were her nails, which, Helena could personally attest, were sharp as hell.
Before Helena could blink, the cat-woman had fled.
"Damn it!" Helena hissed and rushed to pull some clothes on.
Helena looked up at the building tops against the night sky with frustration, realizing her hopes of catching up were futile. There was no way she could find this cat-woman if she didn't want to be found, she thought miserably.
"Hey, sweet thing. Tonight is your lucky night," a barrel-chested man said, approaching her with a smirk and a few equally slimy friends. Helena looked at the men and realized she was in a heap of trouble. She might have been able to take two, possibly three. But FIVE?
Her hand went up to her ear to call for help. Her stomach dropped when it touched bare flesh, remembering she had left her coms on the bathroom vanity.
"You know, I really don't think it is," she responded with resignation, keeping her eyes on the men who surrounded her.
One man grabbed at her from behind but a hammer fist to his groin quickly put him down with a high-pitched yelp. She was charged by another goon on her right, who she dodged and pushed into a pile of trash cans that made a loud racket.
"You like rough, Sweet thing? We can do rough," he pulled out a switchblade and approached her as another charged her from the left. She couldn't dodge both the knife and the other man's punch. She avoided the knife and received the blow to her side. She fell to one knee as the man with the knife swiped it at her again, cutting through her sleeve and nicking her skin.
"Ugh," she grunted as she got up and side kicked the puncher.
"It doesn't have to be this way you know," the man with the knife said reasonably. "We just want to party."
"I really don't appreciate your invitation," Helena said, standing up and finding four guys still very much a threat.
Two men charged her, she managed to kick one in the head but was slammed into a dumpster and exhaled in pain. Blindly reaching in the trash, she found something to use. She swung the broken broom handle back and hit another man hard in his arm, causing him to stumble back.
She swung the make-shift weapon to another man's temple, knocking him out cold.
"Bitch!" His buddy snarled.
She turned towards the man with the knife and glanced at the two other men who were circling her. She was getting tired but adrenaline kept her going. There was no way she would let them "party" with her.
"I've just gotten started," she spat at him, taking the offensive and pushing the guy with the knife back as she blocked his jab and solidly hit his jaw. She had no time to congratulate herself when he stumbled and fell; The two remaining guys charged at her. She successfully dodged one attacker but was tripped by the other, falling to the ground hard. Scrambling up, she received a kick to her stomach that took her breath away.
The pain was excruciating in her already bruised side as she was tackled to the ground. With partial success, she blocked the fists that rained down upon her. She tried to squirm out from beneath the man who straddled her but found him too heavy. He laughed, his bad breath making her wince. She felt his large, hard arousal as he rubbed himself against her and promised "All that's for you, sweet thing."
Suddenly, she grabbed his shirt and pulled herself towards him, successfully head butting him and breaking his nose.
With a stream of curses, he rolled off her but her small victory was short-lived when the other man started to kick and hit her with the broken broomstick. She scrambled to get out of the way but the blows kept landing. . . .
Helena felt the breeze on her face. She felt like she was flying. She always wanted to fly. That would be so cool, she thought as she blacked out again.
Barbara Gordon woke with a start. Blinking, she tried to push aside her grogginess and get her bearings. She looked over to the nightstand to see the red numbers of her clock read 2:33 AM. Hearing something in the living room, she sat up, suddenly more alert. Grabbing her robe, she shifted herself swiftly to her wheelchair and sought out the source of the noise.
In the living room, she felt, rather than saw something. "Helena?" She called out automatically, surprising herself with her guess. Since Helena had lost her metapowers, it was unlikely she would be startled by her sudden appearance.
Her eyes drifted curiously to the balcony, where the door was open and swaying gently. A pained exhale made her jump. She sought out the noise, gasping at the bruised and bloodied body of her friend on the couch. "Helena . . . ." she said with concern.
"Don't go . . . ." Helena mumbled as Barbara dabbed the younger woman's forehead with a cool wash cloth.
"Helena? We're not going anywhere," Barbara said softly, looking at her friends bruised and cut face with a wince.
Helena's eyes blinked as she blurted with agitation "what??"
"It's OK, Helena," Barbara said, caressing her head tenderly, the washcloth forgotten. "You're OK now."
The sound of her voice settled down the injured woman, whose eyes were open but trying to focus. Not knowing where she was right away, her eyes darted around uneasily until they settled on concerned green eyes.
"Barbara . . . ." Helena exhaled with quiet relief, knowing she was safe now.
Barbara awkwardly retracted her comforting hand from her head.
"You know, you have a really bad habit of scaring the hell out of me," Barbara said with a pained wince as her hand returned to rest on Helena's shoulder.
Dinah silently watched, knowing Barbara's touch not only comforted Helena. She concluded Helena understood that as well when Helena slowly covered Barbara's hand with hers. "Sorry," Helena said softly, still groggy and weak from her injuries.
Barbara's tense expression softened a bit. "What happened, Hel?" She asked gently, searching tired eyes.
"Did . . . Did you see her?" she said weakly, looking around the room uneasily, causing Barbara to frown.
"See who?" Dinah asked as Helena exhaled with exhaustion for that small movement.
"Cat . . . woman . . . ." she mumbled before fatigue overcame her again and she shut her eyes.
"Shouldn't we get her to the hospital?" Dinah asked with a wince as she joined Barbara's side at Delphi.
"I don't think it's necessary," she answered, glancing at the balcony thoughtfully before pulling off her glasses to pinch the bridge of her nose, a small indicator of Barbara's stress. Dinah didn't have to read her mind to know that what was going on with Helena weighed heavily on her mentor - both the "accident" causing the loss of her metapowers, as well as the latest injuries.
"I've dressed her cuts and bandaged her ribs and thankfully, there isn't a fever," Barbara said, then offered "But I will call the "family" doctor to have him come as soon as he can to be on the safe side." She absently glanced at the balcony again and said "she doesn't heal like she used to."
After Barbara finished with the call to the doctor, Dinah said uneasily "she asked if we saw her mother."
"She saw . . . . someone. . . who looked like a cat," Barbara corrected with confidence, glancing at the balcony again as the evidence started to form into a disturbing theory.
Dinah sighed at the continued mystery then glanced back to Barbara's room. "Why didn't she call for backup?" Dinah grumbled.
"I don't know," Barbara said tightly, frustrated at her general lack of knowledge about Helena's entire situation. Glancing at the balcony, she considered her injured friend's surprisingly stealthy appearance and asked hesitantly "How do you think Helena was able to enter the clock tower through the balcony?"
Dinah hadn't really thought about it and looked at the balcony curiously. "Either she got her metapowers back - which wouldn't make sense with the condition she's in now," she said, then added uneasily "or she had help."
"I felt . . . a strong presence, Dinah," Barbara offered uncomfortably.
"I told . . . !" The teen said triumphantly - then blanched. "Oh no. It knows where we live?!?" Dinah squeaked with concern.
"I don't think she means us harm - she helped Helena," Barbara admitted with surprising confidence, though hating the absence of crisp and clean answers to all her questions.
"But Helena's arm . . . those where the killer's claw marks, weren't they?!?" Dinah asked in confusion. "Why would she mark her then help her??"
Delphi alarmed, preempting further discussion. Barbara swiftly rolled towards the console and brought up the information on the main screen.
"It's a police report," Barbara said, looking at Dinah. "They found five dead men. All suffered from multiple slashes - like the others."
"Do you think they were connected to what happened to Helena tonight?"
Barbara was not one to normally rely on a gut feel in the absence of proof, but she couldn't help but answer "Yes."
- Part 3 -
Barbara was roused from an uneasy slumber hearing Helena stir. She stretched her back with a wince, never finding napping in her chair very comfortable.
Helena blinked as her eyes grew accustomed to the dark room, lit only by moonlight spilling through the window. As Barbara rolled slightly closer, the moon glow seemed to embrace the redhead. A beautiful angel, she thought, mesmerized by the sight.
Barbara noticed Helena was silently watching her.
Barbara had many questions, but right now, in this moment, she was not compelled to ask any of them; she knew Helena didn't like being given the third degree when injured. But more selfishly, she indulged in the surprising peace that just being with Helena brought. Helena was safe and finally where she belonged, Barbara considered - then suddenly blushed, realizing Helena was, in fact, in her bed.
Thankful for the darkness, she glanced down uncomfortably and started to move an errant lock of hair off her brow, but Helena's hand got there first. Barbara's startled green eyes shot up as Helena's fingers guided the hair back, then tenderly traced along her brow and down the side of her face. Her heart pounded as she struggled with the unexpected sensations the intimate touch provoked.
Delphi chimed, causing Barbara to suck in a startled breath.
Helena pulled her hand away from the redhead, who was torn by relief and regret. "Another emergency?" Helena asked softly, glancing out the door towards Delphi.
"N . . . No, the doctor," Barbara said simply, tensing with irritation at how her voice cracked.
Helena nodded in understanding.
"I . . . I'm going to get him," Barbara said awkwardly and left Helena's side.
Helena shut her eyes and sighed, dejected by how uncomfortable she had made Barbara. Why couldn't she just keep her hands to herself, she silently cursed.
"Thank you for coming on such short notice, Dr. Landry," Barbara said with a smile.
"Not a problem for my favorite crime fighter," the kind looking, older man said easily. "What happened to Helena?"
"She was injured in a fight . . . ." she said uneasily as they entered the bedroom.
Helena looked at him neutrally, not knowing this man who apparently knew her.
"So what happened?" Dr. Landry asked as he put his black bag on the edge of the bed.
"I got caught off guard while I was looking for someone. I was out numbered," Helena said honestly. She was unable to see the surprise on the man's face as he looked in her ear with an otoscope. But she wasn't answering for the doctor's sake. She knew Barbara needed to know. She felt horrible seeing her friend's worried expression and knowing she caused it.
After checking her other ear, he announced "Ears look all right."
Barbara relaxed slightly.
"You know, Oracle could have provided you with help," he scolded her as he pulled out an ophthalmoscope and looked in her eyes.
"Yeah, I know," Helena responded with a sigh, wincing as the man got uncomfortably close and shone his light in her eyes.
"Eyes look fine," he said, getting a nod from Barbara, who relaxed a bit more.
He returned his instruments to his bag and felt her head for fractures. A bit redundant to what Barbara had already done, she considered with a frown. But if it gave her friend some peace, she'd put up with it.
"When I realized I needed some help, I also realized I forgot my com set. Trust me, I knew I was in over my head and needed help," Helena explained, needing Barbara to know she wasn't deliberately being careless . . . like when she went into that warehouse and got blasted with that meta-zapper thingy.
The admission again surprised the doctor . . . and Barbara, who winced at not being able to provide the help Helena needed.
"Some bumps, but nothing indicating a skull fracture," he announced after finishing his inspection. Barbara relaxed a bit more as the doctor pulled out his stethoscope.
"Take a deep breath," he said, placing the cold metal diaphragm of the stethoscope against her chest.
"Yeow! Did you deliberately put that thing in the freezer?!?" Helena complained. Barbara wisely bit back a chuckle.
"Take a deep breath," he repeated, ignoring the question. She frowned and complied. "Again," he said, tilting his head as he evaluated the sound of her heart. "Again," he said, after placing the diaphragm on her back. With an exhale, he placed his equipment back in the bag and sighed. "Well . . . everything checks out," he said. "Just remember your coms next time, will you?"
"Trust me, I'm not looking forward to getting my ass kicked again, Doc," she said.
"I'll see you out," Barbara finally spoke, glancing at Helena uneasily before she left with the doctor.
"Thank you for not giving him a hard time," Barbara said with a tentative smile as she returned to the bedroom.
Helena nodded then glanced at the older woman. "She was in my apartment," she offered bluntly, finally feeling free to discuss the weird things that had happened.
"Ye . . . how did you know??," Helena said with surprise.
Barbara rolled next to the bed and glanced at Helena's arm that sported a bandage over the evidence. "It looks like you ran into her. Why did she scratch you?"
"She wanted to remind me of how pathetic a human I am," Helena said, then added dejectedly "she was right."
"Helena . . . ," Barbara said with a frown.
"No Barbara," Helena interrupted. "Look at what happened with those street thugs last night - I got my ass handed to me . . . I would never be able to protect Dinah."
"Did she threaten Dinah??" Barbara asked with alarm.
"No . . . not . . . no," Helena said with a confused wince, recalling the odd conversation.
"What is it?"
"She said things . . . ." Helena explained hesitantly.
"You were shot . . . by the Joker," Helena said, looking into surprised green eyes. "Was it the Joker?"
"Yes. Why would she mention . . . ?"
"Was the Black Canary Dinah's mother?" Helena interrupted with an agitated look.
"Yes. Helena, why . . . ?" Barbara responded with confusion.
"Do a lot of people know that?" Helena interrupted.
"No, but . . . ."
"Was my mother murdered in front of me?" Helena interrupted again, needing to know. "Did she bleed to death in my arms?"
"Yes," Barbara said reluctantly with a pained wince.
"I don't remember any of it," Helena said softly in a defeated tone, staring at her hands that rested in her lap. "Yet she knew," she noted, looking up at the saddened red-head. "Why did she know, Barbara?"
"You said she looked like a cat?" Barbara asked uneasily as puzzle pieces started to fall into a very odd picture.
"Cat-like," Helena corrected then eyed Barbara, who winced, like she had just figured out something that she really didn't want to believe. "What?"
Barbara tensed and bit her lip.
"What?!?" Helena insisted.
Barbara rolled her chair closer to Helena. "I have no idea how it's possible but . . . I . . . I don't think your metapowers were lost because they were suppressed or destroyed. I think they were . . . separated from you."
"Into someone else," Barbara said with a cringe, her mind racing at how that was physically possible.
"So that . . . metabeing . . . was part of me??" Helena said uneasily.
"It would . . . fit," Barbara said, looking down, wondering where the metabeing had gone.
"That was me?" Helena repeated with a whisper, trying to wrap her mind around that.
Barbara looked up at the troubled woman sympathetically. "Given your loss of powers after being . . . zapped . . . and everything you've said about her looks and knowledge - her appearance in your apartment, it would seem you met your meta-self," Barbara explained her logic.
"I'm a murderer?" Helena asked softly, clearly distressed.
"No, Helena! You didn't kill anyone," Barbara asserted.
"But if she did, than that means I did . . . doesn't it?" Helena asked, as a heartbreaking lost look filled her face.
Barbara took a breath, unable to answer directly. "From the history of the criminals she killed . . . she feels she was doing the right thing," Barbara countered instead.
"Are you saying she, I, don't know right from wrong?" Helena challenged.
"No . . . I . . . the definitions of right and wrong are not always black and white, Helena," Barbara said.
"In a civilized world it is, isn't it? I mean, you can't just go around murdering people you think are pushers, rapists, and wife beaters? Can you?" Helena asked with concern.
"No. Of course not . . . ."
"So what I am, is a murderer," Helena said with quiet anguish.
"You are not a murderer," Barbara protested.
"But I am if my metaside has no problem with "dispensing justice," she argued, then asked uneasily. "Did I kill before?"
"Helena . . . ," Barbara sputtered, feeling helpless. And feeling helpless frustrated her.
"Great," Helena said.
"Helena, you've fought the desire and controlled your feelings. You didn't let them get out of hand. Yes you struggled at times, but don't you see? You've always made the choice not to kill."
Helena listened to Barbara's words, but was not comforted by them. If her meta-side could easily choose to kill without the tempering of her human side, how close was she to killing if her human side happened to agree? How the hell was she supposed to choose the right thing then?
Barbara rubbed her eyes after staring at the computer screen. She was grateful Helena agreed to stay with her while she healed. If she paused to reflect, she would have to admit she had always felt more comfortable with Helena nearby. But she was too busy for self-reflection now, having to find Helena's meta-self. She frowned. Surely the metabeing would know she would be welcome here, Barbara thought.
She returned her gaze to her computer screen in the unsuccessful look for leads, but was too easily distracted, wondering what was keeping Helena's meta-self away.
In a fleeting thought, she questioned whether her theory was wrong, that maybe the cat woman Helena had encountered wasn't a part of Helena. That would explain why the vigilante wouldn't come home. And although that line of thinking would return a nearly impossible situation to just inordinately difficult, she could feel the truth in her theory. The metabeing knew too much to be anyone but a part Helena. But why was she staying away?!? Barbara wondered with a deeper frown.
"Any luck with the lab parts?" Helena asked, limping slightly as she joined Barbara, who was startled out of her ponderings.
"Uh, no," she said, recovering quickly. "Unfortunately, I'm going to need the blueprints or the actual machine to reverse engineer. Even knowing what it should be able to do, the list of stolen parts isn't getting me anywhere," she said, removing her glasses, and pinched the bridge of her nose. A mug of tea appeared before her.
"Looks like you could use it," Helena offered with a small smile.
"Thank you," Barbara said with a smile and immediately took a sip. "Perfect," she said with a bigger smile.
"No odd metabeing injuries or recent robberies?" Helena asked.
"No," she said, looking at Helena, who sported a black eye that was now an ugly shade of purple and yellow and a few scrapes on her face, injuries that used to heal in a day. It was disconcerting to see Hel still injured.
"Maybe they are perfecting the MZT," Helena said with a shrug.
"MZT?" Barbara asked in confusion, certain her lack of sleep the past few days was contributing to her poor concentration.
"Metazapperthingy . . . MZT," Helena explained as she glanced at Barbara's screen curiously, missing the roll of her eyes.
"Maybe," she allowed, then asked rhetorically "But to what end?"
"Well, I can see two possibilities," Helena said, surprising Barbara, whose interest was peaked.
"Someone either wants to purify the human side, or the meta side. And I'd bet the meta side would be more lucrative. Just think about the strength of a metabeing army? It would surpass a meta-human army."
"But wouldn't an army need a leader?" Barbara countered. "Who could lead an army of independent, primal beings?"
"Hey, I never said it was a good evil plan," Helena said dryly, getting a small smirk from Barbara.
They looked at each other a silent moment before Helena smiled weakly and stepped away to a more respectable distance, using an inspection of the various screens of Delphi as an excuse.
Barbara noticed what she was doing and glanced down, feeling confused. She wondered if Helena remembered the other night, where she literally reached out for her. Barbara certainly did. She couldn't forget that caress and the unexpected feelings it stirred within her, which was partially to blame for her inability to sleep. She had, of course, found a logical reason for those disturbing feelings, quickly attributing the surprising response to merely being the byproduct of an intense emotional situation finally catching up to her. And Helena's situation had continued to be an emotional strain.
That actually made sense to the woman, who had to admit she didn't normally "do emotions" well. She had deliberately lived her life above the emotional turmoil that could cause normally rational people to behave like Arkham inmates. This avoidance of entanglements had served her well as Batgirl and Oracle, and even as a newly paralyzed guardian of an emotionally troubled teen. But her years of successfully living above the messy fray caught up to her when she suddenly found herself without the tools to deal with the emotionally troubled teen who had suddenly grown up into an amazingly complex woman, who no longer volunteered important information, who no longer discussed her problems, who made Barbara's considerable skill of avoidance almost seem amateurish.
The once easy dialogue between ward and guardian crumbled under the weight of awkwardness and uncertainty. She knew she had allowed Helena to drift away before.
And that . . . hurt, Barbara acknowledged, having relished the chance to be closer to the woman again. She had to do something to not let that happen again.
Barbara frowned, knowing she would likely blunder her way through and make some painful mistakes, but she was determined not to make the same, unforgivable mistake of silence. With a deep fortifying breath, she bit the bullet.
"Helena, we need to talk . . . ," she said firmly, then groaned at the interrupting phone call that Helena thought was the most wonderful sound she had ever heard.
Helena knew she screwed up the other night. Her brilliant plan was to pretend it never happened. She certainly didn't want to "talk" about it.
"Barbara Gordon," she said impatiently, then looked uncomfortable.
"Oh, hi, Wade," she said, then listened a moment. "That sounds nice, but I really can't . . . ," she said, then saw Helena wave at her. "Would you please hold for a minute, Wade?" Barbara looked at Helena with mild irritation. She did NOT like being interrupted. "What is it?"
"He's asking you to dinner, isn't he?"
"Yes, but we need to talk and I need to figure out how this . . . meta . . . zapper thingy works," Barbara said, frowning at her inability to come up with a better name for the damn device.
"We don't need to talk," Helena offered a little too eagerly, causing Barbara's eyes to narrow with irritation. "We can always talk, Barbara. And you need a break," she quickly added.
"Yes. You have been at this screen for how many hours?" She asked, pointing at the computer screen accusingly.
"It doesn't matter," Barbara said.
"It does! How many times have you had a revelation when you weren't even trying to solve a problem?" Helena said with conviction. "Like in the shower . . . ," Helena added then winced, wishing she hadn't brought up that mental image of the red head . . . naked . . . and wet. "And besides, fun is a critical element in successful problem solving," Helena said with great authority.
"Is it?" Barbara asked.
"Absolutely. The likelihood of you solving this MZT mystery is directly proportional to your fun-to-work ratio," Helena noted.
"I see," Barbara said patiently. Something was telling her Helena really didn't want to talk.
"If you think too hard about this problem, you'll build up pressure here," Hel said pointing to her head.
"Sounds bad," she said flatly, knowing she couldn't force the woman to talk if she didn't want to.
"Terrible. So, out of concern for your well being and a selfish interest in solving my problem - Go. It'll do you some good to spend some fun time . . . with Wade," Helena added with a forced smile, briefly wondering if her meta-side ever felt like killing Wade.
Seeing Helena's smile suddenly fall, Barbara rolled towards her.
"What's wrong?" Barbara said worriedly, taking Helena's hand.
"Eh," Helena said dismissively, unable to look Barbara in the eye. "I guess I could use some down time myself. Maybe a mindless movie or two - there are plenty I don't remember seeing," Helena joked with a smile and shrug.
Barbara still looked concerned.
"Barbara, it will make me happy to think you are enjoying yourself . . . with Wade," Helena added, trying to sound sincere. "So go and have a good time, will ya?" Helena said, taking and squeezing Barbara's hand. "Maybe a break is just the thing we need," she added.
"You're somewhere else," Wade said with a knowing smile, buttering his role.
"Sorry," Barbara said with an apologetic wince. She had been apologizing to him a lot lately.
"Anything I can help with?" He offered sincerely.
He was always sincere, she noted. And nice, she thought, though not sure why. Out of everything in her life she juggled, she kept putting him last. But he never seemed to complain and she never felt the need to change her priorities.
She shook her head no and took a sip of water. Shouldn't she want to put him first? Or at least feel more guilty for not putting him first, she wondered.
"So what's Helena doing tonight?" He asked, eyeing her.
"She's home, watching movies . . . why??"
"I guess I'm surprised you are here with me - not that I'm complaining," he said with a warm smile. "She is still recovering from that mugging the other night, isn't she?"
"Yeah, well . . . Helena practically forced me out the door," Barbara muttered, causing a chuckle from her date. Barbara frowned.
"Smothering her, are we?" Wade said with amusement.
"I do not smother," she immediately protested and then suddenly worried that Helena might think that.
Wade lifted his hands up in surrender. "Well, it just seems like she can't get a break," he said with a shrug. "Must be rough."
"She has been through a lot recently," Barbara allowed, poking at her potato.
"And no progress on the memory front?" He asked, sipping his wine.
"No," she responded with a sigh. He really was a nice man. He actually made an effort to ask what was going on with her, though at times it was difficult to navigate the conversation around what she really spent her time on. But he was a patient man - unnaturally so at times.
"Are you happy, Wade?" She asked suddenly.
"Deliriously," he joked, but Barbara frowned.
"Are you happy . . . with us?" She asked more specifically.
"Uh . . . yes? Why?" He said, looking curiously at his date, who normally steered away from personal discussions.
"Why are you happy . . . with us?"
"Why?" He laughed then saw her face was deadly serious. "Uh, well . . . I enjoy being with you. You're funny, though not at the moment," he teased with a grin, then noticed she wasn't smiling. He continued, after clearing his throat. "Okay . . . uh, you're intelligent, you care about others . . . the fact you're gorgeous doesn't hurt," he said with a grin then saw her contemplative look. "And I . . . I honestly think this will lead to something more . . . permanent," he added uneasily.
"W. . . What?" Barbara sputtered.
"Marriage. I know it's a bit early to be talking about it. But, I'm thinking about it. A lot."
She looked at her plate intently trying to wrap her mind around that thought.
"Hey," he said softly, brushing an errant lock of hair off her brow. Her head shot up with surprise at the familiar gesture that had preoccupied her thoughts for days, though provoking strikingly different feelings.
She found loving blue eyes gazing at her. Though not the clear, striking blue of her former ward, that usually sparkled with mischief and made Barbara wonder if she should be worried. With Wade, there was no mischievous sparkle, no devilish streak that kept Barbara wondering what was going to happen next.
"I didn't say that to scare you off, Barbara," he said softly, gently caressing her brow before tenderly holding her hand.
She knew she shouldn't have been surprised Wade would at some point want to discuss marriage. He was old-fashioned and it was a logical progression to their courtship.
He really did care for her, she concluded, feeling him squeeze her hand. Each time she had slept with him, he was loving and attentive, though at times, almost too . . . polite, she thought - though sex was much better than she had expected. With him, she almost felt normal. But even when she could walk, she did not lead a normal life, nor did she seek one out, she considered. She lived with a passion to help and protect others. She thrived on the danger and excitement crime fighting brought. Yet, ironically, she avoided that passion and excitement in her love life, opting for . . . nice.
"I know you need time to think things through. And there isn't any rush."
Why would she settle for anything less in her love life? She wondered, glancing at their entwined hands.
"But someday, we will have that conversation," he promised warmly, squeezing her hand and releasing it.
Because she, the former Batgirl and now Oracle, was afraid, Barbara concluded with disappointment.
"How about some apple pie . . . a la mode?" he tempted her with a smile.
"That sounds . . . nice, Wade," she said with a small smile.
It was Saturday evening and Helena was alone in the clock tower, fast forwarding through another stupid movie. She sighed and turned off the DVD, tossing the remote on the couch as she got up, rubbing a sore neck. Dinah was with Gabby and Barbara was with Wade, and she still felt like a throbbing pile of crap.
She quietly walked around the clock tower, assessing it all, especially Delphi, with a critical eye. She wondered if anyone would ever truly appreciate what Barbara was doing for the city. Not if Oracle had her way, she acknowledged and found herself wandering across the dark gymnasium to a corner room that contained Barbara's Batgirl costume.
She turned on the lights, which caused an impressive glow around the costume. She expected the costume looked even more impressive on Barbara.
Dinah had regaled her with what Helena would have thought unbelievable stories about Batgirl, had Batgirl been someone other than Barbara. She wondered how the woman had the strength to carry on after being shot, how she could so amazingly overcome her disability to still help others. Sure Batgirl was an accomplished crime fighter, and Oracle was the criminal's omnipresent nightmare. But Barbara Gordon, the woman, was simply . . . extraordinary.
"You shouldn't be in there."
The sudden voice shattered the reverent silence, startling Helena. She turned towards the metabeing, who hovered back in the shadows of the dark gym.
"Why not?!?" Helena said with irritation, not liking being surprised.
"It's her private room . . . Whoa, you look like crap." The metabeing noted as Helena emerged from the room to join her in the gym.
"I know who you are," Helena said tersely.
"Did you remember what happened - or did Barbara figure it out?" The metabeing asked, causing Helena to sigh with irritation. "So you still don't remember anything before the blast? Interesting."
"I'm tired of it."
"You should enjoy it while you can," the metabeing said absently, then asked "Dinah is with Gabby?"
"And Barbara is with Wade," the Metabeing said knowingly, getting an uncomfortable nod. "It's strange isn't it?"
"What? Me talking to my meta-self?" Helena asked.
"Well, there is that," the Metabeing noted wryly. "I have to say, so far, I'm not very impressed with the human side," she said, eyeing the still bruised Helena.
"And I'm not exactly impressed with you either, murderer," Helena snapped.
"You say murderer, I say vigilante," the Metabeing said, then noted thoughtfully. "Nothing has changed," she said, then saw the frown of confusion. "We fought over it before too," she explained.
"Something tells me we fought a lot."
"Oh yes," the metabeing said with an amused snort.
"Care to share?"
Helena tensed. "You wanted to kill him . . . ." she said with dread.
The being laughed. "It wasn't just me. But even I knew that was off limits, though I had hoped he would turn out to be an insane criminal or something," she said, then sobered. "But no, he's too boring to be an insane criminal."
"I've never met him," Helena said with a cringe.
"Another thing you are not missing. We never could understand why she was so . . . attracted to the guy. I could understand if he were a psychopath -at least he'd be interesting."
"Did we ever ask?"
The metabeing frowned. "No," she said tersely.
"Why not?? Are you serious?"
"Well, yeah. If we both know how ill-suited he is for her, why not ask?"
"Because of YOU! YOU were afraid he actually meant something to her!"
"Oh that's convenient. Blame me. I don't remember so you could say anything," Helena snapped.
"I've never lied to you before," the Metabeing said, insulted.
Helena looked at her a moment, then begrudgingly said "All right. But I'm not holding you back now. . . ."
"You ask her! Ask her why the woman who should be my mate lets another fuck her!!" she roared with startling anger, that was suddenly overwhelmed by a deep hurt.
"Ask her why. Why she doesn't see?" the metabeing said with disturbingly quiet anguish.
Helena sighed, wishing she knew what to say. She knew she too was attracted to the amazing redhead. But she also knew Barbara had Wade and something told her it was fundamentally wrong to interfere with that. There were no comforting words forthcoming - only questions.
"She's been wondering why you stay away," Helena said softly, taking a few steps towards her meta-self.
The metabeing's eyes flashed with anger as she laughed harshly. "I think I might actually kill him if I smell his scent on her one more time."
She wanted to tell her to let it go or it would drive her crazy. Though she knew it wouldn't be well received, besides being too late. "I understand," Helena said with a wince, knowing how uncomfortable it was to just know about Wade. She was only able to image how hard it must be to be faced with that evidence, up close and personal.
"You understand nothing!" she hissed, swiping at Helena's arm with three sharp nails.
Helena hissed in pain as she cradled her freshly bleeding arm.
"Do I LOOK like I need more cuts?!?" She snapped, taking a swing at her. Helena was surprised that the punch actually landed.
Cat eyes narrowed and Helena felt a little fear. "Uh . . . now don't go getting all feral on me," Helena said with concern.
"You don't feel the pain!" the metabeing said angrily.
"Like HELL, I feel plenty of pain, goddamnit!" Helena responded, managing to dodge another claw swipe. However, she tripped into the weapons rack, causing it and herself to crash to the floor, scattering a variety of weapons. She immediately rolled and picked up the sais, holding them defensively as she scrambled to her feet.
"You don't remember!" the metabeing hissed, jumping behind Helena and harshly shoving her to the ground.
"Ooffff," Helena blurted then quickly jumped to her feet. "Look! I didn't choose to lose my memory, damnit!"
"You are the perfect little human now, just like you've always wanted to be," the metabeing taunted, swiftly swiping at the human.
Once again a claw got through and sliced through Helena's clothes. "Damnit! Would it help if I said I was sorry," Helena said, getting hit in the stomach with a solid kick that propelled her against the wall.
The being growled as Helena fought to catch her breath.
"I guess . . . not," Helena said, coughing.
"I thought it would be easier not to have you hold me back . . . but it isn't!" The metabeing cried angrily. She swiped at Helena again, but took three chunks out of the wall when Helena dove to the ground.
"I am more powerful than ever, but no longer fit in the human world," she cried out, her claws again missing Helena, who ducked. The heavy bag behind her took the brunt of the nails that sliced easily through the leather sheath.
"Well it might help if you worked on that anger and stopped killing people!" Helena offered with annoyance, blocking another swipe with her sais. With quick jabs, she got through the metabeing's defenses and landed two blows.
The metabeing stepped back and growled with irritation. "You are better, but you'll never be good enough . . . ." the being said, then easily batted Helena to the ground. Before she could strike again, the metabeing tiled her head and took a deep breath, savoring the air like a fine wine. "She's back."
Helena pulled herself off the floor as she heard the distant sound of elevator doors opening.
The metabeing was already gone.
"Hel?" Barbara called out as she looked around the oddly quiet clock tower.
"In the gym." The response surprised her. As she rolled towards the gym she felt something was off.
"Helena?" She called as she entered what looked like a war zone. "My GOD, what happened?" She asked as she moved towards Helena, who was uprighting the weapons rack with a groan.
"Meta-me came by," Helena said sarcastically with a tired sigh.
"She attacked you?" Barbara said with alarm as she took stock of Helena's latest injuries.
"We had a . . . discussion. One that involved claws and sais," Helena said.
"Come on, let's get you patched up," Barbara said firmly.
"Again," Helena said with a heavy sigh.
"Hel, what happened?" Barbara asked softly as Helena sat on the edge of the bed. Helena stared at the small metal basin as Barbara submerged the washcloth in the water and began to clean her wounds.
"She came, got angry, and left," Helena mumbled, hissing as Barbara dabbed on antiseptic.
"Sorry," Barbara said with a wince. "What got her so angry?" she asked softly, applying the antibacterial cream to another set of claw marks. Not hearing an answer, Barbara looked up from the wound to see moisture forming in the young woman's eyes. "Hel?"
"Everything is so fucked up," Helena said, angrily wiping an unwanted tear from her eye.
Barbara looked at her, feeling helpless, unable to imagine what she must be going through. Pushing down her incredible curiosity and the plethora of questions at the tip of her tongue, Barbara instead offered what little comfort and quiet support she could. "This is the last one," Barbara said softly, gingerly moving the shredded top aside to expose the marks on her stomach. "Lie back. I'm going to get some clean water and more dressings. I'll be right back," she said, getting a sluggish nod from Helena, who complied.
Barbara returned quickly and silently continued to gently wash the cuts, finding the act of tending her wounds oddly comforting, knowing at least she could do this for the young woman.
After a few quiet moments, Helena broke the tense silence with a quiet question. "Was I always an angry person?" She asked, staring at the ceiling.
Barbara looked up, startled. "No, Helena. You had a temper and you could get very angry. But no. You were not an angry person. You are a loving young woman who cares about others, even if you had trouble admitting that," she offered, then continued to clean the wound.
The quiet stretched on as Barbara applied the salve.
"She said . . . ," Helena said softly and paused.
Barbara's ears perked up though she forced herself to focus on applying the bandage, not grilling her former ward.
"She said we fought about a lot of things," Helena finally offered, her moist blue eyes still staring at the ceiling. "Kind of makes me wonder if I really want to go back to that," she said uneasily.
Barbara looked at her in shock, not having anticipated Helena might not want to return to normal. "It's . . . not like you have to decide now," she said hesitantly. "I still don't know how to . . . fix this," she added, feeling the situation just become more daunting.
After Helena went to bed, Barbara nursed a mug of tea as she sifted through the latest research papers on genetic engineering. She placed her mug down with disgust at her inability to focus on the reading. Not that she was close to finding anything helpful. Each paper Delphi called up from her search parameters seemed to concentrate on small genetic manipulations to enhance the resistance of crops to disease or drone on about "exciting" new DNA information from small-scale laboratory work. She was almost tempted to enter "Meta Zapper Thingy" just to see what Delphi would do with that.
Rubbing her eyes, she rolled back from Delphi and headed for the balcony and some fresh air. She honestly didn't expect that Helena might not want to return to her metahuman form. While she had always seemed to enjoy her abilities, the human Helena had no recollection of them. Her only experience with her meta abilities were unfortunately directed at her in a painful way. Barbara frowned, wondering why Helena's metaside would physically fight her human side.
She looked out over the skyline, hoping to see the metabeing Helena. Besides the not-so-trivial matter of needing both Helenas, which she knew was necessary to accomplish the merging even without knowing "the how," she had so many questions for the metabeing.
From what Helena relayed, she felt angry . . . and alone. But she didn't have to be alone, Barbara sighed sadly, wishing she would just come home. But something had been keeping her away. And without understanding that, she had no idea what it would take to make her want to come home.
In Helena's sparse apartment above the Dark Horse bar, she curled up on her bed, trembling. The deep throbbing bass of the music below seemed to aggravate her pain. The metabeing glanced at her hands, which she clenched into fists, angry at her inability to keep them from shaking. It was getting worse, she knew with a sinking feeling.
"I'll have a latte," Dinah said energetically to the waiter who smiled, then looked at Helena, who sighed and said flatly "milk."
Helena turned to see a handsome man approach their table.
"Wade . . . I mean Mr. Brixton," Dinah said with surprise.
"Since we're not in school, I'll let that slip," he joked then looked at Helena and her piercing, critical gaze. "You don't remember me, do you?"
"Sorry. No," Helena said neutrally.
"Well, you're not the first woman who didn't remember me," he joked, surprising Helena with his self-depreciating humor. "I hope things are going all right?" He said cautiously, eyeing her bruises and cuts with a wince.
"I guess they could be worse," Helena offered, though she couldn't think how. From where she sat, things pretty much sucked. Wade smiled with amusement, making him even more handsome, she thought with annoyance.
"Well, I'll leave you ladies to enjoy your day. Take care, both of you," he said, getting twin nods.
Dinah remained quiet and bit her lip as she toyed with a sugar packet. She looked at the saying on it and frowned. It's always darkest before the dawn. Great.
"So. That was Wade," Helena said absently as Dinah shifted uncomfortably and quickly shoved the sugar packet and its unwanted nugget of wisdom into the small container.
"Yeah," Dinah said with a weak smile.
"He's really . . . nice," Helena said, watching the man disappear into the crowd. He looked like he worked out too, she thought critically.
"Yeah. So! I wonder where that cute waitress went," Dinah asked, wanting to change the subject.
"Gwen just graduated - I would hope she got a better job," Helena said, glancing out at the street at the oblivious citizens of New Gotham. There was a dangerous undercurrent of crime that was ready to pull them under at any moment. And they didn't have a clue, she thought morosely.
"Gwen? You know her name? You know she graduated??" Dinah asked with concern.
"We bumped into each other when I went to my apartment the other night, you know, the FIRST time I got the crap beat out of me?? She gave me her number, a lot of good that will do now," Hel said with a heavy sigh.
"What's wrong with the number?"
"Nothing's wrong with the number," Helena said with exasperation. "It's just I never called her and too much time has passed," Helena said as the milk was placed down in front of her and a latte in front of Dinah.
"Shouldn't I be the judge of that?" Gwen said with a grin, surprising the two women.
"You know, I should go to . . . well, over there. Away from you two," Dinah blurted with awkward honesty as she picked up her latte and left for a distant table.
"Hi," Helena said with a hopeful smile.
"I don't mean to be rude but - what happened to your face?" Gwen said with concern.
"I was mugged?" Helena said with a wince.
"Oh my god. Are you all right??" She asked, sitting down and inspecting the bruised eye that was less purple and more yellow now.
"I'm healing. You should see the other guy," Helena said, then joked. "Not even a scratch."
Gwen looked at her with mild amusement. "Well, if I had a choice, I would prefer you as a lover over a fighter any day," she said, causing Helena's eyes to widen at the bold comment.
"Oh . . . Uh, why are you still here? Decided your doctorates are great - but serving coffee and milk is your true calling?"
"Hardly. Just helping out a friend and I'm off now. Care to go for a walk?" Gwen asked, eyeing Helena.
"I'd love to," Helena said. "Let me tell Dinah she's on her own."
"She could come with us," Gwen offered graciously with a shrug.
"Not a chance," Helena said, causing a pleased grin.
"So I am now working here . . . for my Dad," Gwen said with a bit of embarrassment, pointing to one of the pictures on the wall as they entered an impressive glass and chrome building.
"He's a genetic engineer?" Helena asked, glancing at the picture of the distinguished looking man, then around the modern building with interest.
"Yep. And one of the reasons for my interest in the field. He is a Vice President of research at Garrow Industries."
"A brainy family. Wow."
"No cracks about nepotism?' Gwen asked uneasily.
"I take it people are giving you a hard time."
"Not outright, thankfully," Gwen said, then smiled at the guard behind the front desk as she showed her badge and signed them in.
"Ma'am, do you have some ID?" the guard asked Helena, who quickly pulled out her wallet and showed him her driver's license.
"Thanks. Can't be too careful these days. The company had some equipment stolen a couple weeks ago. They'll steal the shirt off your back if you sit still long enough," the guard grumbled.
Helena looked at the guard and Gwen curiously. "What did they take?"
"Lab equipment," the guard said again, looking at her as if she were a bit slow.
"Very expensive lab equipment from what my father said," Gwen said.
The lights flickered, causing the guard to sigh and pick up the phone. "Hey, George? It's Dan, the lights are acting up again. Oh. All right. You'd think New Gotham Electric would be a bit more reliable. Yeah. Bye," he said, then hung up.
"Any thing wrong?" Gwen asked.
"We've been experiencing power interruptions for a few hours now. Electric company says it's unanticipated usage. But it's not like it's smoldering out there and people need their air conditioning . . . .," the guard complained, then looked at Gwen sternly. "Make sure you escort her at all times," he said handing the badge over to her.
"I won't take my eyes off her," Gwen said with a smirk, then clipped the badge on Helena. "Congratulations! You are my first guest."
"Cool. Am I going to see your equipment?" Helena asked, waggling her eyebrows.
"If you're lucky," she said softly into her ear and headed to the elevator. Helena quickly followed.
Eager lips descending on Helena's as the elevator doors shut.
When the elevator doors opened, Dinah marched out, fuming. Everything was just screwed up! And what was even more screwed up was that NO ONE seemed to acknowledge how screwed up everything was!!
Barbara looked at her curiously. "What's wrong?"
"What's NOT wrong?!?" Dinah said bluntly. She had vowed to stay out of their personal business - even if it was all screwed up. She kept hoping that when Barbara got a clue, which she knew she would eventually, the path would be clear for Helena to finally say something. But if Helena was off getting cozy with a new girlfriend, one who appeared to be much more serious than her typical boy-toy or bimb-ette . . . she might just have to say something!
Seeing patient, but tired green eyes on her, Dinah sighed. Not today.
"So, any new robberies?" Dinah said, changing the subject, joining Oracle at her computer.
"No. But there have been some unusually high power usages on 4th and Merchant Street. They are causing fluctuations on the grid in the surrounding neighborhoods."
"Should I check it out?" Dinah said, eager to do something productive to help Helena, even if she was busy screwing up her life.
"Eh . . . I don't want you going alone," Barbara said.
"But we haven't had any leads, in like, forever! Come on, Barbara - I'll be careful. Promise. And you'll be giving me guidance which I, for one, have no problem following. You know as well as I do that we need to have a break and this is the closest thing to an actual lead we have had," Dinah rapidly blurted without taking a breath, which made Barbara wonder if that ability was due to her metapowers - or just being a teen.
"All right," she said reluctantly, knowing Dinah was right. They hadn't had a good lead in a long time.
"Cool," Dinah said with a big smile and quickly left.
Barbara sighed, suddenly wondering where Helena was.
"So this is your lab?" Helena said, looking around the area with interest. There was something sexy about a beautiful, smart woman surrounded by lab equipment and powerful comput . . . . Helena silently cursed her thoughts that drifted so easily back to the clock tower.
"Yep," Gwen said, slipping her arms around Helena from behind, and pulled her into a hug. "I'm working with three others on a project that will take my Doctoral research to the next level," she said softly into her ear before kissing her earlobe.
"Really? Isn't that . . . unusual for a recent graduate?" Helena said with a smile, turning around in her arms and stepping back a bit.
"I guess it pays to have family on the research board," she said, eyeing Helena almost in challenge.
"I don't think a company would risk any money on a pet project of one of their Vice Presidents. No matter how persuasive his beautiful and brilliant daughter is," Helena countered, pleasing the young woman, who always seemed to expect the worst. "So what are you working on?"
"You're really interested?" Gwen asked, once again surprised by the brunette.
"Yeah. I mean, I may not understand what the hell you are talking about but . . . I'd really like to know," Helena said honestly.
Gwen smiled warmly. "You are something else, Helena Kyle," she said softly, leaning in for a gentle kiss. "What do you know about the 21st chromosome?" she suddenly quizzed and pulled Helena's hand, leading her to her computer.
"It can legally drink?"
Gwen rolled her eyes then continued. "Are you familiar with the genetic disorder called Down's Syndrome?" she said, pulling out a chair for Helena as she turned on her computer screen.
"Yeah, a little," she said, sitting down. "People with it are academically slow, requiring special education and, don't they have distinctive features?" Helena said uncomfortably, not sure how politically correct she was.
"Yes. Of my family of ten siblings, two had Down's Syndrome," Gwen said, pointing to the family picture over her computer. The look of horror that filled Helena's face filled Gwen with great disappointment.
"Just how many bathrooms did you have growing up?!?" Helena asked with great concern, causing Gwen to laugh.
"Two and a half. And thank GOD for the half," Gwen said, shaking her head with a big smile on her face. Helena Kyle was something else.
"You said . . . two siblings had Down's Syndrome?" Helena asked gently, getting an uncomfortable nod from the young woman.
"My oldest sister, Kathryn, died two years ago. She drowned rescuing a toddler who was caught by an undertow. She saved him, but they couldn't revive her. She was one of the kindest people I have ever known. Such a pure, unselfish heart. Like my sister Grace. It's amazing that with all the difficulties they lived with - the social rejection because of their appearance, and the struggle day-to-day just to keep up with things that we take for granted -they could always enjoy life and always give of themselves. They've helped me to not take the simple things for granted."
Gwen fell silent as she remembered.
"So how does that all fit in with your work?" Helena asked, getting a smile.
"The genetic defect occurs when there is the presence of all or part of an additional 21st chromosome. Geneticists call it trisomy 21," she explained, showing a graphic of the defect on her computer screen.
"And??" Helena still wasn't following.
"Well, I've found a way to mark and isolate the extra 21st chromosome in mouse embryos. I've also been able to extract the defect without damage to the remaining chromosome. Unfortunately, I could never get the embryos to survive long after the splicing. But that's what we're working on now. I think before the year is out we will successfully extract this defect from mouse embryos and get them to grow into healthy baby mice," Gwen said with enthusiasm.
Helena took an uneasy breath. "Could any . . . genetic mutation . . . be extracted by your method?"
"That's my hope someday. It's theoretically possible to mark, isolate, and extract any part of the gene. And once we can do that . . . just think, no one would ever have to live with a genetic defect again."
At Oracle's suggestion, Dinah crawled her way through a ventilation system towards what appeared to be the source of the power fluctuations.
"Oracle?" Helena suddenly called on her com set, surprising the older woman, who sat at her usual place in front of the main computer console in the clock tower.
"Huntress, I'm kind of in the middle of something right now," Barbara said, eyeing the map and Dinah's GPS signal.
"Is D on sweeps?" Helena asked.
"Yes," Barbara said as she scanned the security cameras around the warehouse for unwanted guards. She unfortunately couldn't seem to find cameras within the building.
"Oh. Great," Helena said without enthusiasm. "Could I get that list of stolen lab equipment emailed to me?" She asked impatiently.
"Helllllooooo! I'm still crawling through a dark and icky vent!" Dinah called out with irritation, waving away a cobweb with a grimace.
"Hey, Kid." Helena greeted then asked "Why didn't you just go through a window or something?" She wasn't sure but she could have sworn she heard a low growl from the younger woman.
"Do you really need the list right now?" Barbara asked tersely, checking the police scanner for what turned out to be an unrelated disturbance across town.
"If I wanted to wait, I could have come home and picked it up myself. I think I have a lead and I'd really like to explore it now," Helena said impatiently.
"Where are you??" Barbara asked curiously, glancing at her map that she panned out. She noticed with surprise that Helena's GPS signal was only a few blocks from Dinah's.
"In the vent!"
"No . . . Huntress," Barbara clarified. Dinah exhaled loudly.
"Garrow Industries," Helena responded.
Dinah shook her head and carefully approached a vent duct opening and found a high-tech lab that was very out of place in the old warehouse.
"Why are you at Garrow Industries?" Barbara asked with surprise.
"Hellllooooo again. Just me, the junior crime fighter coming upon a reeeeally disgusting scene!" Dinah said as she glanced down from the vent into the room, spotting a big pile of bumpy goo. She was pretty sure the bumps were undissolved body parts.
"What do you see?" Helena asked with interest.
"Huntress, do you mind?" Barbara scolded. "What do you see, Dinah?
"Oh that's a much better question, Oracle," Helena said sarcastically.
"I'm getting a lot of static from your camera," Barbara said, trying to ignore Helena. Something that was never easy to do.
"It looks like someone was made into a pancake . . . I don't feel well," Dinah said with a grimace but still took the vent duct cover off and climbed down quietly.
"If you feel you're gonna hurl, find a trash can," Helena offered helpfully. "Should I go join her, Oracle?" Helena asked.
Barbara frowned. Helena was hardly in any condition to go on sweeps, especially after her latest "discussion" with her meta-side. "Not necessary, Huntress. Dinah, does it look like an energy weapon did it?" Barbara asked.
"We're talking pancake people, Oracle. I'm pretty sure there was massive, super unfriendly energy involved," Dinah said with a grimace, stepping around the remains.
Barbara rolled her eyes wondering if everyone was PMSing tonight.
"Why would someone just dissolve into a puddle and not fully separate like Hel . . . eh, Huntress?" Dinah asked.
"I'm not sure. Perhaps some meta powers are not separable," Oracle guessed.
"It's theoretically possible to isolate any part of the gene," Helena responded with great authority. "Therefore, all meta powers are separable."
"Theory and practice are two different things, Huntress," Barbara argued.
"Fine. Can I have the damn list?" Helena asked.
"Well I'm fine, thanks for asking. Yep. Just taking a leisurely Saturday night stroll in a lab of what I am pretty sure is a mad scientist, who really doesn't care about lab cleanliness," Dinah said, glancing back at the pancake person queasily. "Nope. No worries here."
"Mind on mission everyone", Barbara said authoritatively.
"Thank you," Dinah said tersely.
"Do you see any computers?" Barbara asked.
"Yep - lots of computers and what look like a couple of unfriendly energy weapons," Dinah said, taking inventory.
"Can you turn your camera light on and zoom in on the main server?"
"So I'm not getting the list?" Helena said with an irritated sigh.
Dinah walked over and focused her headset on the biggest computer. "Are you getting an image, Oracle."
"Yes and would you stop moving your head around so much? You're making me dizzy," Oracle complained.
"Sorry," Dinah said sheepishly. "I think this is it."
"Can you place the thumb drive in the USB port?" Oracle asked.
"I'm on it," Dinah said, pulling out the little device and quickly placing it into the port. "Done," Dinah said. The computer responded with a melodic sound acknowledging the addition of the drive as a window that popped up, identifying the addition of an unrecognized external drive which activated Oracle's spyware. As the spyware bypassed the firewall and initiated its downloading routine, Dinah heard some footsteps at the door. "Oracle, someone's coming," she said with alarm.
"Dinah, get out of there," Oracle ordered.
"But, we may not get another . . . ," Dinah argued, looking at the computer with regret.
"Don't worry about it - GO!"
"Oracle, the address!" Helena barked with concern.
"4th and Merchant," Barbara said quickly, cursing her decision to reject Helena's previous offer to go there.
Dinah didn't have to be told twice and darted to the vent duct opening. As she started to climb up, the door opened.
The teen's camera fell to the floor and tumbled until it rested facing the wall as an alarm sounded. "Dinah! What's going on?!?" Barbara called out.
"Stop right there!"
The unnerving voice was followed by the chilling sound of shots being fired. Before Barbara could pray Dinah wasn't hit, she heard a crash and a pained "oof" followed by another voice.
"Get out of here. Now!"
"Huntress," Barbara exhaled with relief, recognizing the metabeing's voice, though never having heard it.
"But the computer . . . ," Dinah argued.
"NO. Too many guards are coming, get . . ." Huntress blurted harshly.
"Watch out!!" Dinah said.
Barbara tensed when she heard the ensuing scuffle. A deep chill washed over her when she heard a low, feral growl that she knew did not mean good news for anyone daring to oppose the metabeing. Barbara's hands clenched into fists, the only thing she could do besides listen to bodies loudly crashing into lab gear with moan after new moan filling Dinah's coms.
Then there was a loud explosion.
Barbara's breath caught in her throat when she saw the discarded camera now showing only snow. "This can not be happening again!" she thought with a growing panic, calling up the GPS signals on her screen. Dinah's signal was still there, she considered with some relief.
Taking a deep breath, she forced herself to focus on the mission.
"Dinah? Dinah, do you copy?!?" Barbara called out, frowning when she didn't get an immediate response.
"Oracle to Hun . . . Helena, do you copy?" Barbara called uneasily. Not hearing any response made her want to hit something. "Helena, do you copy?" Barbara called again, now looking for her GPS signal. She was rapidly closing in on Dinah's position at a surprising speed.
Minutes of silence stretched on for what felt like an eternity. Finally, a familiar voice, sounding out of breath, reached out to her like a lifeline in a stormy sea.
"Oracle, it's Helena. Dinah is all right. Huntress is down. You should contact Dr. Landry and have him meet us at the bat cave. We don't have much time."
Barbara blinked, trying to digest what Helena just said. But there was no time for questions, only action. "I understand. We'll meet you there."
Meeting of the Minds
"Why don't you want us to take her to the hospital?" Gwen asked as she drove the odd trio in the opposite direction. "She's . . . dying," she added nervously.
"Gwen, the bullet wound is not what's killing her. I think . . . we need your help," Helena said uncomfortably, looking back at a very worried Dinah, who held a trembling metabeing in her arms.
"How do you know I can help??"
"I don't, but you've got to try . . . please."
"Besides the bullet in her shoulder, I don't even know what's wrong with her, Helena. Why does she look like a cat?? Is she a mutant?"
Helena winced, hearing a slight growl from the back seat. "Yes," she said tightly. "And I think the equipment we brought with us is to blame for her condition."
"You think someone has altered her genes??"
"I know it," Helena said with conviction.
"Dear God!" Gwen said with horror.
"Yeah," Helena said with a sinking feeling as she watched Dinah continue to hold the shivering metabeing.
"Why would someone want her to become a cat?"
"What's wrong with a cat??" Helena asked with irritation.
"Helena??" Gwen asked with confusion.
"She's the meta-part of a metahuman, Gwen. She was derived," Helena explained.
Gwen glanced at her uneasily then stared at the road. "I've heard stories of metahumans. But even if they really existed, to genetically separate out an entire independent being and have them live - that's impossible," she said with uneasy disbelief.
"Gwen . . . I'm the human part of the metahuman."
With another uneasy glance of disbelief, Gwen swallowed hard at the serious look on Helena's face. "That's . . . a lot to digest, Helena," she said carefully.
"Yeah. Don't I know it."
"Is that . . . Is that why you were . . . interested in me? Because of my genetic work?" Gwen asked timidly.
Dinah looked at the woman in disbelief. Of all the questions she could ask after everything she heard, the teen considered with amazement. Hearing a soft, disgusted snort, Dinah looked down to the metabeing and found cat eyes rolling at the inane question.
"I am attracted to smart women who can program DVRs, Gwen. But I swear, I did not put two and two together until you took me to Garrow industries."
Dinah smiled at the surprising kindred spirit, feeling the odd desire to touch her furry cheek. Her hand was suddenly stopped in a tight, clawed grip as cat eyes bore into her, sending her a succinct mental image of dismemberment. Dinah received that warning loud and clear. As the grip was released, the teen gingerly reclaimed her hand with a cringe.
"I'll do whatever I can to help," Gwen vowed uneasily.
"Thank you," Helena said with quiet gratitude.
"But I have no idea what I can do," Gwen said wearily, then looked around the unfamiliar road. "Where ARE we going?"
"We're going someplace better equipped to handle this than your lab or a hospital . . . and it's private," Helena said mysteriously as Gwen noticed the road abruptly ending ahead.
"Helena!" she yelled, spotting the barricade and warning signs that suddenly appeared around a bend in the road.
"It's ok," Helena quickly said, calmly staring ahead at the rapidly approaching wall.
Unable to believe that with a solid wall coming straight at them, Gwen slammed on the brakes, which squealed as smoke billowed from the tires. "Hold on!" Gwen cried out, bracing herself for what she prayed would only be a small crash when the rock wall seemed to just . . . fall away.
When her car finally came to a stop in the dark cave, a black cloud seemed to come straight for them as it emitted disturbing clicking and hissing noises. "AH!!!" Gwen sucked in a startled breath.
"Bats," Helena explained as the cloud of bats separated around the car as it went around.
Gwen's head dropped to rest against the steering wheel as she whimpered "Oh God."
"You can trust me. I won't lie to you, Gwen," Helena vowed, squeezing her shoulder. "Come on, we need to get meta-me to the examining room," Helena said to Dinah as she got out of the car and helped extract their meta-patient from the backseat. "Gwen, please bring what's left of the lab equipment," she said, prompting the shocked geneticist, who was trying to recover from heart failure, to nod weakly.
When Alfred appeared, Helena smiled at him. "Alfred, could you please help Gwen? Bring everything, even the broken pieces."
"I would be delighted to assist, Miss Helena," he said with a nod and joined the young doctor. "Welcome home, Miss Huntress," he said, surprising Helena and Dinah.
With considerable effort, the injured metabeing looked the unflappable butler in the eye and softly grunted with a slight, but respectful nod "Alfred."
As they entered the elevator, Dinah looked at Helena. "Do you really think it wise to give Gwen a heart attack - especially if you want her to help?"
Before Helena could answer, Huntress responded "Yes."
Dr. Landry frowned as Barbara and he entered the service elevator, leaving a perfectly good mansion to descend into a damp cave. Although he had visited the bat cave in the past for some serious injuries, which were all adequately taken care of in the well-equipped bat clinic, he was still of the opinion a cave was no place for healing.
"Why must you continue to use the bat cave?" he finally asked disapprovingly.
"It is better equipped," Barbara offered neutrally as her hear raced in anticipation of what mess she would soon find.
"Dinah?" Barbara said, as she and Dr. Landry entered the sterile, glass and steel examining room. Except for sheer white curtains that could be slid around the two beds, there was little privacy in the small clinic - not that it mattered at the moment.
Dinah looked up from the injured metabeing with a frown. "She's not doing well."
Dr. Landry immediately went to the patient. Years of seeing the unexpected enabled him not to gasp too loudly at the metabeing's cat-like features.
Barbara noted with worry how the metabeing was shaking as Dr. Landry examined the shoulder wound. She suspected the bullet wound was the least of their worries. Thankfully the bat-computer could do some DNA analysis to determine what . . . .
Her thoughts were derailed when she glanced towards the bat-computer and found a strange woman using the keyboard . . . and Helena was letting her!
"Dinah, come with me," Barbara ordered and rolled out of the clinic, towards the computer. "Helena," Barbara said firmly. "Helena!" Barbara snapped impatiently, finally getting her attention. "A word?!?"
Helena nodded at her and put down a computer card she had just pulled from one of the boxes. To Barbara's dismay, Helena placed a hand on the shoulder of the young woman and leaned in closely to say something into her ear. Barbara frowned as the woman patted Helena's hand and smiled before continuing to tamper with the bat-computer.
An unhappy look filled Barbara's face as she rolled away from the computer to a more private location. When Helena joined them, Barbara turned to look at the intruder again then glared questioningly at the two women. It was clear the senior crime fighter was not pleased.
"Whoa - don't look at me, this was her plan," Dinah said, holding her hands up.
"What's going on here?" Barbara asked tightly, trying not to be upset that some strange woman was now hooking up some strange lab equipment to the bat-computer.
"Huntress is dying, Barbara. She was hit by a bullet but there is something more fundamentally wrong. Gwen thinks . . . ."
"Gwen?" Barbara interrupted, glancing at the strange women, then glared questioningly at Helena and Dinah. The teen bit her lip and glanced intently at her shoes.
"Dr. Gwen Turner, she's a geneticist who is doing research on extraction of genetic defects from mouse embryos."
"Mouse embryos??" Barbara asked incredulously, glancing to Dinah, who was now inspecting the light fixtures in the overhead.
"Yeah. She has developed a method of marking defects and extracting them from the chromosomes . . . though she hasn't gotten the embryos to grow. But she thinks by the end of the year they'll be able to successfully extract the defects and incubate the embryos into healthy mice," Helena offered as if this all made perfect sense.
Barbara pinched the bridge of her nose, trying to remain calm. "Let me get this straight. You brought a stranger into the bat cave and gave her access to the bat computer because she happens to be an expert on . . . mouse embryos?"
"Oh she's no stranger to Helena," Dinah muttered with a snort, then realized with panic she said that out loud. "Maybe I should go help . . . Dr. Landry," Dinah blurted, then fled.
"What kind of plan do you call THAT?!?" Barbara snapped, glaring at Helena's new girlfriend, who was now violating the bat computer's access panel to rewire something!
"I call that desperation!" Helena snapped, startling the redhead. "I was dealt these cards, Barbara. And they suck! But we don't have time to debate just how much they suck because she's dying. And as much as she scares the hell out of me, I can't just watch her die. For God's Sake, Barbara, I need your help not your criticism."
Barbara looked at her distraught former ward with an ashamed wince. "You've got it," she offered softly, apology clearly in her demeanor.
Helena nodded with a sigh of relief. With Gwen and Barbara, they might just pull off a miracle. She eyed Barbara curiously. "Wait a minute. Just to be perfectly clear, what exactly do I have? Your help . . . or your criticism?"
Barbara saw the sparkle in Helena's mischievous eyes. "As always, Hel . . . both."
"Oh," Helena said. Barbara couldn't help but smirk when Helena muttered with feigned irritation "crap."
"Come on, Hel. Let's play those cards," Barbara said, rolling past her with great determination.
Helena eyed her a moment, smiled and followed.
Dinah cringed as Dr. Landry dug into Huntress' shoulder causing the metabeing to suck in a pained breath. "Sorry, I thought the local anesthesia was working. Your system must have processed it faster because of . . . ."
"Just. Finish," Huntress hissed, trying to control her trembling.
Dinah winced, clenching the small metal basin in her hand in reflex.
"Oh. Sorry," he said and finally dropped the bullet into the basin with a clunk.
Dinah glanced down at the bloody bullet and grimaced. As the doctor handed her the bloodied forceps, she cringed, wondering why she didn't think to help Alfred.
Barbara and Helena joined Gwen, who was looking at the DNA results from their feline patient.
"Gwen, this is Barbara Gordon. She's going to help too," Helena said.
Gwen nodded absently at the two women and motioned to the results on the computer screen. "I've never seen anything like it," Gwen said with amazement.
Barbara sighed, unsurprised; even a high school student would know DNA from a mouse embryo was different than a metahuman's.
"The bond strength within the nucleotides is fluctuating."
"Why?" Barbara immediately asked with alarm, before Helena could ask the significance of that.
Gwen blew out a long, thoughtful breath. "Well, given the DNA was spliced to produce . . . two individuals, I would say the resulting chains are unstable and seeking its original, stable state," she said.
Helena suddenly found concerned hazel and green eyes on her.
"I'd like a sample of your blood," Gwen said to Helena with concern.
"Eh . . . we haven't even been on a proper date yet," Helena joked uneasily.
Barbara glanced away uncomfortably.
"Well, I can tell you this is not what I had envisioned us doing tonight, that's for sure," Gwen said.
"Hel," Barbara suddenly blurted with irritation, needing to bring the two back to the problem at hand. "She needs to confirm whether you are also experiencing similar genetic instability," she explained with irritation.
"Oh," Helena said, frowning at the latest problem. "Then what?"
"I . . . don't know yet," Gwen said apologetically, getting Helena to nod absently and seek out Dr. Landry.
Both women watched Helena leave then glanced at each other for an uncomfortable moment.
"I want to access the information from the warehouse. I'm hoping it sheds some light on the situation," Barbara said, eyeing the keyboard pointedly.
"Oh!" Gwen said, realizing she was in the way, and quickly moved her chair to the side.
"Thank you," Barbara said politely and rolled to her familiar spot in front of the main computer's keyboard.
Gwen rubbed the back of her neck, the stress of the situation starting to catch up. "Are you a geneticist too?" Gwen asked, hoping to share the burden of finding answers.
"No," Barbara said as she accessed the information her spyware had successfully transferred from the warehouse server to Delphi.
"Oh," Gwen said with disappointment, then asked "engineer?" knowing an engineer would be handy too.
"No, school teacher," Barbara answered, downloading the information on the bat-computer. There was over three thousand terabytes including a large collection of schematics, lab reports, and many terabytes of raw data from various experiments. She didn't know whether to be delighted or discouraged by the amount of information they had to sift through.
"Biology?" Gwen asked weakly, causing Barbara to glance at her.
"Literature," Barbara answered, noting Gwen looked a bit queasy. Turning back to the bat-computer, she started her review of the information with a faint smile.
". . . when exposing the cells with z-particles during the metaphase of mitosis, translocation can be induced to counter natural . . . ." Barbara read an excerpt of a promising document aloud then glanced at Gwen, whose eyes widened.
"They stole my extraction technique!"
"So you induce translocation during the metaphase because it makes the targeting of the z-particles easier?" Barbara asked curiously.
"Yes," Gwen said, pleasantly surprised. "Once the mutation was located and marked, there were two key hurdles to the extraction. One was to facilitate the targeting and the other was to find the right particle that could break the nucleotide bonds without getting attracted to naturally occurring ions."
"Zero electric charge particles . . . hmm," Barbara nodded with appreciation. She suddenly tilted her head and eyed Gwen curiously. "So, a device constructed to perform this translocation . . . could be called a Metaphasic Z-particle Translocator?" Barbara asked hesitantly.
"Yeah, I guess," she said with a shrug. "I never got around to naming the particle accelerator. And mine is nowhere near as powerful as those we found in the warehouse" she added thoughtfully. "Why?"
"Just asking," Barbara said vaguely, shaking her head as she scrolled down in the document, both women reading for any helpful clues.
Barbara glanced at Gwen a moment, then back to the screen. She was good looking and brilliant too, Barbara thought critically. And Helena certainly didn't waste any time finding someone, she considered with a cringe, curiously noting she had always attributed her dating tendencies to her meta-side. She frowned realizing she had more important things to think about then Helena's dating habits.
She looked back to Gwen when she sucked in a startled breath.
"There are dozens of test subjects . . . they deliberately experimented on people to accelerate their progress on the extraction process!" Gwen said with horror.
"They made significant progress," Barbara offered. "Well, the pancake person and anyone suffering from the instability problem might disagree," she said and pointed to the screen. "And, according to this report, a few test subjects died by spontaneous cell disintegration because the metaphase was missed and particle acceleration was too great," she said with a frown. "Gwen, how could they have caused Helena's cells to all be in the metaphase? And even if they had a technique, isn't it DNA specific? There was no way they could have planned for Helena to show up that night."
Barbara looked at the distraught geneticist, who was staring at the screen in shock. "How many have died because of my research??" she asked, then looked at Barbara with great distress. "Oh God, if Helena dies because of it...."
"Gwen," Barbara interrupted sternly. "We've got to focus on the problem at hand, not on what may or may not happen."
"How can you just sit there so calmly?!? There is a very good chance we can't help her!" Gwen blurted in almost panic. "I have never experimented on people, only mouse embryos!"
Barbara looked at her sharply. "I am well aware of the significance of the problem. However, any energy spent on worrying is energy not spent on solving the problem. And I intend to spend all my energy on solving this problem. Losing Helena is not an option," she said tightly, her intense gaze daring Gwen to waste more time with emotional displays.
Gwen looked at her a long, uneasy moment, then finally nodded in acceptance and offered "All the equipment suffered some sort of damage. There was one device that only had damage to the power relay interface, which I think we should focus on."
"I'll work on the interface," Barbara volunteered and rolled back from the computer as Helena came up to them with a vial of blood and Dr. Landry.
"Don't say I never gave you anything," Helena said, handing over the blood to Gwen, who smiled weakly and placed it in a tray on the bat computer to begin her analysis.
"Doctor, how is Huntress?" Barbara asked, glancing at the glass-enclosed examination room. It warmed her heart to see Dinah watching over their feline patient.
"Remarkably well, considering what Helena has been telling me about genetic instability. Her healing abilities are much more accelerated than before. The bullet wound was healed by the time I was ready to sew her up. That would have been nice the last time you were shot," the doctor said, eyeing Helena.
"You were shot before?" Gwen asked with concern.
Helena looked at her uncomfortably, unable to answer. She looked questioningly to Barbara, who cringed and nodded. Gently touching the spot, Barbara offered "leg."
"You don't remember it??" Gwen asked with amazement, glancing at Barbara's hand, which was retracted awkwardly.
Helena shook her head, admitting with a frown "I don't remember anything before the accident."
Dinah hovered nervously by the examining table, concluding the surgery must have taken a lot of energy out of Huntress, who was now sleeping. Tucking a blond strand behind her ear, she indulged in her curiosity and stepped closer to look carefully over the metabeing, from her amazingly striking face to the dangerous claws, which sported long, sharp nails that could easily slice through flesh. And the metabeing was not afraid to use them, she knew, recalling the slashes she saw on the dead bodies with a wince.
"You are not going to try to pet me again, are you?" The metabeing suddenly growled.
"NO!" Dinah blurted and took a healthy step back, liking her limbs too much. "I didn't mean . . . I mean . . . I did before, but I didn't . . . . this time."
"Do you ever actually listen to yourself, Kid?" Huntress asked curiously, cat eyes now staring at the teen, who frowned a moment.
"Are you thirsty?" She suddenly asked, determined to be nice to the scary being.
"No . . . ," Huntress said, then saw the enthusiasm quickly drain away and replaced by disappointment. "Actually . . . I could drink something," she said uncomfortably.
"I'm on it!" Dinah said, eager to please. Almost as quickly as she started to leave, she stopped, turning with a question. "Water??"
"Right!" She said with gusto and smiled as she left to retrieve the water.
Huntress stared at the ceiling from the examining table, thinking she might get a little peace and quiet but breathed in a familiar, intoxicating scent and heard the distinct sound of an electric wheel chair approaching, then stop. What followed was quiet, but it was anything but peaceful as she waited for the woman hovering at the door to say something.
Dinah had wondered why there was no kitchenette in the bat cave as she hiked to the mansion's kitchen, from the elevator, through two sets of stairs, one secret and one not, and down a ridiculously long hallway. Alfred, who was preparing a snack for the team, had explained that it gave him an excuse to look in on Master Bruce from time to time. She smiled at that thought, knowing Barbara also needed someone to look after her at times when she became consumed by her work.
Finally returning to the bat cave with a tall glass of water, Dinah saw Barbara entering the examination room, knowing she shouldn't interrupt. Barbara had a few things to discuss with the metabeing . . . like why she stayed away. Heading over to the bat computer, she couldn't help but return the big smile Helena greeted her with.
"Thanks, D!" She said, grabbed the drink and guzzled it down. "How did you know I was thirsty?"
"I didn't!!" Dinah sputtered then did an angry about-face and marched back to the kitchen.
"Helena?" Barbara said softly as she entered the room.
After a painfully silent moment, the metabeing responded. "She's Helena . . . I'm Huntress."
"You're both Helena to me," Barbara responded honestly. She grew mildly annoyed as the metabeing continued to stare at the ceiling and refuse to look at her. But that didn't stop her from taking a long, hard look at the metabeing. Ever since she had learned of her, Barbara had been curious - to the point of distraction. And now, facing her, her curiosity about her appearance was at least satisfied.
She was definitely cat-like in her features - high, pronounced cheekbones, a fine layer of what looked like soft fur covering her skin, slitted cat eyes, and sharp, deadly nails extending from her fingers - and still beautiful, Barbara thought.
"Thank you for helping Dinah," Barbara offered.
"Someone had to," the metabeing responded. "Your human Helena wasn't there."
Barbara was startled by the anger in those words. "She was in no condition to be on sweeps and I think you know why."
"Yes. She is weak."
Barbara frowned. "Have you always felt that way?" Barbara asked, both fascinated and disturbed.
"She's always been weaker . . . until now, that is," the metabeing snarled.
Barbara looked at the metabeing, amazed at that animosity for her human half. She wondered if Helena's human memory was intact, would she have the same level of animosity towards her meta-half.
Helena shuddered, unable to stop shaking.
"Are you cold?" Barbara asked.
Barbara took a calming breath, wishing it wasn't so difficult to talk with this metabeing, who would still not look at her. Though, she had to admit she was starting to have difficulty communicating with her human side. And even before the accident, communicating with Helena had been difficult.
Glancing out towards the computer, Barbara watched the human Helena discuss something with Dr. Landry and Gwen. "Your human half isn't weak. She has amazing courage - especially facing this problem without any knowledge of her past," Barbara was compelled to point out.
"Courage!?!" the metabeing spat in disgust. "You are blind," she said in a low, angry voice.
"Why am I blind, Helena?" Barbara demanded, rolling closer.
The being stiffened, but did not answer.
"Damnit, Helena! Answer me."
"No!" the metabeing roared, sitting up with a groan and finally looking her in the eye.
Barbara's eyes widened slightly in surprise, but remained confidently fixed on the metabeing.
"I am not your pet! I do not sit up and beg because the almighty Oracle so commands," the metahuman said and got off the table, away from Barbara, who was startled and baffled by the anger directed at her.
"Helena . . . ." Barbara said with concern, seeing the metabeing suddenly grab the table to steady herself.
"Barbara, are you all right?" Helena asked with concern as she entered the room, glaring at the metabeing.
"Ah, your lap dog is here. Go command her. She'll accept whatever scraps you throw her," the metabeing said and started to leave the room.
"You're in no condition to leave," Helena said, grabbing her arm and finding herself flying across the examining room, hitting the wall, and crumbling to the floor in a thud.
"Helena!" Barbara called out with concern as the human Helena awkwardly picked herself off the floor.
"I am so fucking tired of this!" She growled and launched herself across a table and tackled the metabeing to the floor.
"No! Stop it! Stop it right now!!" Barbara yelled at the combatants, who got to their unsteady feet and looked at each other. "Thank GOD. There is no need to . . . STOP IT!" Barbara called out as the Metabeing launched at Helena and the two crashed through the glass wall.
Helena blinked, wincing at the lights in the examination room. She turned her head, groaning at the painful motion. Her eyes narrowed, spotting the metabeing, unconscious on the examining table next to her. As she sat up, her eyes widened, realizing her hands and ankles were restrained. "What the f . . . ."
"Barbara thought it would be a good idea," Dinah interjected uneasily.
"I'm going to get something to eat," Dr. Landry said tiredly and left them.
"Dinah! Get me out of this! She's the dangerous one," Helena complained, nodding toward the feline being. She tested the bonds which easily held.
"Not a chance."
"Oh come on, D. This is ridiculous," Helena said in frustration, pulling against the bonds again.
"Barbara made her promise," Huntress offered calmly, startling both of them.
"Well, fuck," Helena said, angrily lying back with a thud. "Ow!"
"Yeah," Huntress agreed then shuddered.
"Well, they are both awake," Dinah said as she approached Gwen and Barbara, who were busy programming simulations on the computer.
"Tea, Miss Barbara?" Alfred asked, holding the pot at the ready. She shook her head absently as she continued to focus on the computer. "Anything for you, Miss Gwen?" he asked, also getting a shake of the geneticist's head. Alfred sighed.
"How is she?" Gwen asked Dinah.
"They," Barbara corrected without looking away from the computer screen.
"Uh . . . how are they?" Gwen repeated uncomfortably.
"Serves them right," Barbara said angrily under her breath.
"Barbara?" Dinah said softly. "If they hate each other so much, why would they ever want to recombine?" she asked with a wince.
Barbara stiffened at the very concern she shared ever since the human Helena planted that seed of doubt. With the animosity between them resulting in an out-and-out brawl, it was never more evident that Helena had lived a life in significant turmoil, pulled in two directions. It would not be surprising if neither of them wanted to recombine.
"Barbara?!? We don't even know how to stabilize Huntress. How the hell are we supposed to combine them?" Gwen said with panic.
"And do they even want that?" Dinah added, looking to Barbara for some insight and a solution.
"I. Don't. Know," Barbara ground out tightly, clenching her hands into fists at the three words she despised, now more than ever. "I'm . . . going to get some air," Barbara blurted, rolling back from the computer and towards the elevator without waiting for a response.
Dinah bit her lip, wondering if she should go talk to her mentor. Barbara had always had what Helena jokingly said were veins of ice, leading them through harrowing times with amazing calmness. But right now, Barbara was just like everyone else, uncertain and afraid.
"If you'll excuse me?" Alfred said before leaving with the tea pot and a small tray of regrettably unused cups.
Gwen watched the redhead roll into the elevator. "She loves her . . . them," she amended, prompting a nod from Dinah. "And Helena, both Helenas . . . love her," Gwen said looking at Dinah, who nodded again. "And they're not . . . ?" she said vaguely, looking at Dinah who winced, shaking her head no. "That actually seems harder to believe than any of this," Gwen said wryly, motioning to the bat cave around them with a weak wave of a hand.
"Well," Gwen said, taking a deep breath. "There's still a lot of work to do to address the instability. Do you know anything about genetic engineering?" Gwen asked the surprised teen.
"I . . . I'm just in high school," Dinah sputtered.
"And Barbara's just a literature teacher . . . ." Gwen said, pulling out a chair for her young recruit and looking at her expectantly.
A Tenuous Truce
"Alfred! Can you please get me out of this?" Helena asked with new hope.
"Miss Barbara had you two restrained for a reason," he said, pulling out a stool and sitting down facing them. "And I must say, your recent behavior does not inspire sufficient confidence to grant your request for freedom."
"Aaaagh," Helena growled and plopped back in defeat, causing a sharp pain from her new wounds. "Ow."
"I must say, I am disappointed in you. Both of you," Alfred said, pouring himself a cup of tea. Both women winced.
"She started it," Helena said, glaring at the metabeing.
"And I'd like to finish it," Huntress hissed.
"Ladies!" Alfred sputtered, appalled. "Your continued barbarianism is most distressing. You are not only causing yourselves injury, you are injuring Miss Barbara," he scolded them.
"Barbara?" Both blurted.
"She's hurt?" Huntress quickly asked. "Did she get hurt by the glass?"
"Did you hit her?!?" Helena accused, glaring at Huntress who harshly pulled at her restraints and growled at that accusation.
"Ladies, quiet!" Alfred said sternly, causing them to immediately silence and stare at him uncomfortably. "Not since right after her shooting, has she been so uncertain and frightened. But after the shooting she had you to rely on. You gave her purpose and strength when she needed it most. Unfortunately now, you are too busy fighting each other to see how all of this and you are tearing Miss Barbara apart. I had been under the impression that you cared for her more than you cared for yourselves. It breaks my heart to see that I was mistaken," he said with a disappointed shake of his head as he pushed his now unwanted tea aside.
Huntress and Helena looked at each other a long, uncomfortable moment, wanting to blame the other. But each knew it was both of them causing this problem.
As he got up and started to leave, Helena called to him. "Please release us, Alfred. We need to speak to her."
"We need to stop hurting her," Huntress said guiltily, looking at Helena who nodded with a cringe.
Alfred looked at the two for their sincerity and was pleased.
As Alfred unshackled the final wrist cuff, Helena looked at him. "Alfred, in case things don't work and . . . well, they don't work out, I want Barbara and Dinah taken care of. I want them to have . . . everything," she said, motioning to the mansion above. "If that's OK with you," she quickly added, looking at Huntress.
Alfred said warmly "There's no need to worry, Miss Helena. I don't believe Miss Barbara or Miss Dinah will let anything to happen to either of you."
"But if it did . . . ," Helena persisted, knowing the odds were not so good.
"We already have a will," Huntress offered. "And they inherit everything."
"Oh," Helena said softly. "Good."
As they rode in the elevator, the human and metabeing silently glanced at each other, knowing there was only one thing that really mattered. And they had hurt her.
Huntress was the first to break the silence and offered begrudgingly "You are not as stupid and weak . . . as everyone thinks."
Helena looked over to her. "Thanks," she said flatly. "Do you always approach things so . . . passionately?"
"It's who I am. A terrible weakness," the metabeing admitted, looking down at the ground, ashamed.
"Not when you control it. It's an amazing strength," Helena said as the metabeing groaned then shuddered suddenly. "Are you OK?" Helena asked.
"I take it back. You are stupid," Huntress said, reaching out and steadying herself against Helena, who brought her arm around her to help.
"Well, that's why I have Barbara," Helena said sarcastically.
"Do you?" Huntress asked sharply.
"Maybe not . . . the way I want," she said hesitantly. "But she has always been there for me," Helena said.
"Yes. She has always been there for us," Huntress allowed.
After an oddly companionable silence, Huntress offered. "You might not want to let Dinah know about the inheritance. She really likes our clothes."
"I thought she was wearing my clothes," Helena said with irritation.
"Right," Helena blurted uncomfortably, helping the metabeing out of the elevator.
Barbara sat on the balcony, numbly staring out towards the New Gotham city lights on the horizon. She knew there was still so much to do. But she had never felt more impotent, even when she had learned she couldn't walk.
She had plenty to worry about. They had no clear method to perform genetic recombination, which might mean the Helena she mentored, lived with, and watched grow into a beautiful woman would be forever gone. And they were running out of time. Huntress' genetic instability was killing her. But if they tried to rush and combine them with a faulty process, she could end up killing both Helenas - assuming they actually agreed to recombine, which, after that fight, was a likely "no."
And on top of all that, she couldn't help but feel amazingly guilty that she, as Helena's guardian and mentor, and supposed best friend, had no idea Helena had been so conflicted.
Growing up, Helena had been a bright and gregarious child. Selena had raised her with unconditional love and a good sense of self-worth, even with an unknown father. After her mother was murdered, Helena had withdrawn. It was understandable. They both had ridden the roller coaster of emotions after experiencing great losses. Yet, after she thought the mourning of Helena's mother was over, Helena never seemed to regain the balance she had as a child. Constantly fighting over her decisions and challenging her, Barbara didn't realize that Helena wasn't just fighting her, she was fighting herself.
The inner turmoil the young woman had endured made her heart break.
Hearing two sets of footsteps made her stiffen and her heart pound uneasily. It was them. She could feel them - both of them. She vaguely wondered why she had always been able to tell when Helena was around. She frowned, wondering how Alfred could have possibly considered it wise to let them go and how long it would take for them to kill each other. She was on the verge of melting down and in no condition to referee any more violent outbursts, let alone talk without breaking down into a useless emotional puddle. Barbara took an uneasy breath when she heard the footsteps stop just behind her.
"You should apologize first," Helena suggested quietly to Huntress.
"You think I'm a better speaker?" Huntress whispered with surprise in her voice.
Barbara's brows furrowed in confusion at the actually civil tone between the two.
"Nooooo. Because you started it," Helena said as if it were obvious.
Here it comes, Barbara thought with a wince.
Barbara relaxed slightly, surprised by the calm question from Huntress.
"What do you mean when?"
"Well, before the split, you had been pretty antagonistic towards me. Pushing my feelings down, making me be . . . nice . . . and all. You started it."
"That doesn't count," Helena said dismissively.
"I don't remember it."
"It's not my fault you don't remember it," Huntress said tersely.
"Well, no. But the time before the spit shouldn't count."
"I think it should."
"Well, I know one way to settle this," Helena said with irritation.
"Me too," Huntress growled.
Barbara tensed at the impending eruption.
"Ask Barbara," both said in unison.
Barbara blinked as tears sprang to her eyes. A hand went up to her mouth as she unsuccessfully fought against sobs.
The two Helenas moved around her chair and dropped to their knees on either side of her.
"Barbara?" Huntress asked, concerned with her unusual display of emotion. When watery green eyes looked at her, she felt a stab in her heart knowing she caused it.
"We came to apologize," Helena said.
"We need you," Huntress said weakly.
"Please don't give up on us," Helena pleaded, taking a hand and looking into her eyes.
"We need you," Huntress whispered longingly, resting her head on Barbara's leg, unable to look in her eyes for fear she would actually see the physical need.
"And I need you," Barbara whispered, squeezing Helena's hand and placing a hand on Huntress' head and caressing it. "Don't ever forget that."
"Yeoow!" Dinah said, getting a small shock when she turned the device on for a test.
"You ok?" Gwen asked, looking at Dinah who sucked her finger and nodded hesitantly. Gwen peered into the device then went to the bat-computer, reviewing the schematic.
"OK. I think I know the power problem - swap the red wire with the white wire," Gwen said, squinting at the computer screen over her glasses.
"Are you sure?" Dinah said skeptically, staring at the device on the work bench with a frown.
"As sure as I am about any of this."
Dinah eyed her uncertainly, then sighed and swapped the wires. The device suddenly discharged, sending a powerful blast of energy across the bat-cave, past Dr. Landry and Alfred, who were sipping tea, barely past the three women who had just returned, and directly into the examining room.
All stood, stunned, looking at the large hole in the walls, the melted medical cart and examining tables between them and the new smoky hole in the rocky wall that finally managed to stop the beam.
Helena looked at Huntress. "Do you think she knows about the inheritance?"
Barbara looked up curiously.
"I wouldn't worry," Huntress said, glancing at Helena's outfit. "She likes that jacket."
"Hmmm," Helena responded as she and Huntress approached the terrified teen.
Although confused, Barbara found this truce very . . . interesting.
"Whachya doing?" Helena asked Dinah with a thin smile.
"I am SOOOOO sorry," Dinah winced, looking at the two nervously.
"We made some progress," Gwen offered as Barbara rolled up to the computer.
"I can see that," Barbara said, glancing back at the beam's path of destruction.
"The computer simulation you programmed works. I think within a few more days of tests, we should be able to refine the device's settings . . . ."
"Huntress!!" Dinah called as the metabeing collapsed to the ground.
"What can we do?" Helena asked anxiously.
"Nothing, we don't have all the parameters accounted for," Gwen said with a wince.
"Barbara?" Helena asked, not liking that answer. "We know enough to try, don't we?"
"No!" Barbara blurted with concern, looking up from the results of the simulations. "Gwen's right. There are too many variables we have no idea how to set."
"We'll be lucky if she survives the next hour, let alone the night!" Helena cried out angrily. "We can't wait around for more simulations. We've got to try now."
Barbara looked at her with frustration. "Helena, listen. We can't attempt it now. The chance you both could die is too high," she argued.
"Helena, you don't need to do this. You are stable," Gwen argued, then winced at the sharp glare from Helena.
Helena quickly dropped to her knees before Barbara.
"Barbara, they couldn't have known what would work," she argued passionately. "You've read about the string of failures. We saw a pancake person even after they separated me, for God's sake. It was just dumb luck that I'm alive now. There's a lot I don't know - but I know, in my heart, I'm not supposed to let her die. You can't just sacrifice one part of me for another that's not even supposed to be," Helena said, seeing the pain in Barbara's face.
"This is the right thing to do," Helena urged softly and waited for a response . . . and waited.
After a painfully long moment of silence, Barbara looked at her. "I can't lose you," she whispered miserably, then winced as she glanced towards the metabeing, who was lying on the ground by the damn device, being looked after by Dr. Landry.
Barbara shook her head. Surely Helena had to see that killing both of them in a desperate, ill-prepared attempt to save one was not sane.
"Barbara," Dinah said firmly, standing behind Helena. "You have already been living with only part of Helena," she said gently, causing Barbara and Helena to look up at her curiously. "You'll never be happy with that," Dinah said gently.
"This is not about me," Barbara snapped defensively, then felt guilty for the lie. It was about her - selfishly clinging to whatever piece of Helena she could get.
"No. It's not," Dinah agreed, placing a hand on Helena's shoulder.
"I need to do this, Barbara. Trust me," Helena said pleadingly.
Barbara looked at the young woman before her uneasily. She couldn't help but think of the Hermann Hesse quote "Some of us think holding on makes us strong; but sometimes it is letting go." As she finally nodded her reluctant agreement, she felt anything but strong, knowing she could very well lose Helena. She frowned, unable to understand why a happy smile appeared on Helena's face while tears ran down hers.
"You can't be serious," Gwen said to Barbara in horror as Helena got up and walked over to the metabeing. "We have no way of knowing what we would be doing to her."
"We know doing nothing . . . will kill her," Barbara said, wiping what she was determined to be her last tears. She had work to do and she had to focus on it, she reminded herself.
"But Helena is stable . . . ." Gwen argued weakly, not understanding why Barbara would agree to risk Helena's life.
"Only part of her, Gwen. Helena is so much more than the woman you've met. Please, help. Helena has made her choice," Barbara said.
Glancing between Barbara and Helena, who glanced back at the redhead with a warm smile, Gwen acknowledged that there was never really any choice.
It was time, Barbara thought with dread, having finished repairing the power cells and calibrating the instrument the best she could with Gwen's extrapolations.
She turned to see Dinah hovering over the two Helenas, helping them reposition to the far wall, away from anything that might be damaged by the particle beam. Glancing at the still smoldering rock wall behind the examining room, Barbara tried not to think about the damage that could be done to Helena.
"Go ahead, I know you want to," Helena said, holding the sleeping metabeing in her arms and looking down at her fuzzy cheek.
Dinah looked at Huntress' face, then Helena, vigorously shaking her head no. "Not on my life," she said then sucked in a startled breath when a clawed hand grabbed hers. "I wasn't going to!" Dinah whimpered, shutting her eyes. One eye hesitantly peeked open when her hand was firmly pulled towards the metabeing's cheek. To her amazement, the fur was softer than she had imagined. She looked at Huntress and Helena with a surprised smile.
The smile fell as Dinah realized that in a few minutes, everything was going to change. Tears sprang to Dinah's eyes as the teen feared the worst.
"Hey, what do you say, after this is all over, we finish watching the movies upstairs?" Helena quickly offered.
"But . . . there are hundreds, maybe thousands," Dinah warned with a sniff.
"We know," Huntress said, closing her eyes tiredly.
"Based on our calculations, a Metaphasic Z-particle Translocator burst of 14.2 seconds should be sufficient to dislocate and reassemble all of Helena's cells," Gwen informed everyone as she got up from the bat-computer and joined Barbara by the device.
Helena's ears perked up. "Uh, the Metaphasic Z-particle Translocator??"
"The device," Gwen explained. "You can call it an MZT, if you want," Gwen offered, glancing at the equipment and worrying about all the variables. She looked at Helena, wondering why she was smiling when there was a possibility she was going to become a pancake person.
Barbara looked at Helena's smirk and shook her head with a small smile of her own. Aiming the MZT at her, that smile faded into an uncomfortable frown, Barbara winced apologetically.
"Are you sure about this, Helena?" Gwen asked, catching the uneasy look, hoping she would change her mind.
"Yes," Helena answered with confidence, shifting her arms around Huntress almost protectively. Gwen dropped her eyes at the answer she didn't want to hear.
"I guess this is it, then," Barbara said weakly, trying to smile bravely as she looked at the confident woman.
Helena glanced around the bat-cave, feeling humbled by the amazing group of people who had united to help her. Dr. Landry, who likely had the coldest stethoscope known to man, had dropped everything to come to her medical aid. Gwen, the brilliant but clearly unhappy geneticist, who was going against her instincts to thankfully help someone she hardly knew. Alfred, a dear, dear friend, who was able to kick her in the ass and put both of them in their place - while, of course, maintaining his usual, well-mannered demeanor. Dinah, who had a disturbing affinity for her clothes, was a surprising source of strength and compassion for one so young. And Barbara, who . . . took a deep breath and fired.
A powerful beam shot from the device, greedily consuming energy from the dedicated bat-cave generators, and caused the lights to flicker. The beam hit the intended target, propelling Helena and Huntress against the rock wall, pinning them there. Their features quickly blurred as their unnerving cries of pain were swallowed by a bright glow. No one could look directly at them; the light radiating from their bodies was too great.
The power consumption ramped up unexpectedly. Barbara winced, hearing the crackle and popping of various fuses as sparks from various electrical panels around the bat-cave flew. At 13.8 seconds, exactly, Barbara watched with alarm as the device flared, consuming itself as it imploded.
The resulting pressure wave knocked over anything not bolted down, including Barbara and her chair, to the ground.
After the wave passed, there was an eerie calm throughout the pitch-black cave.
Barbara shook her head and exhaled heavily as she pulled herself up to a sitting position. She looked around to assess the damage but there was no light. "Is everyone all right?"
She heard shifting around and a few groans, giving her some measure of relief.
"Uh, I'm here Oracle," Dinah said. "Just a few bruises."
"I am also well, Miss Barbara. I will look for some emergency lighting," Alfred offered.
"Perhaps a cave wasn't such a bad idea," Dr. Landry muttered.
"What about Helena?" Gwen called out with concern, fumbling in the darkness and loudly colliding with an unexpected obstacle. "Damnit," she hissed.
Barbara, still a bit disoriented, heard movement ahead of her and started to crawl towards the noise. "Helena," she called uneasily, reaching out in the dark and coming across a leg. "Helena!" she said and felt a second leg. There was no time for modesty as her hands traveled over the young woman for signs of partial recombination since the MZT beam had not lasted the full 14.2 seconds. She exhaled with tremendous relief finding only one person before her. Hearing Helena whimpering and feeling her shiver uncontrollably, Barbara pulled her into an embrace without a second thought.
"It's going to be all right, Helena," Barbara said soothingly, pressing her lips against the younger woman's forehead. "It's going to be all right," she repeated, though it was more for herself as the unresponsive woman she held continued to tremble.
Barbara and Dinah nervously watched as Dr. Landry examined Helena, who was fading in and out of consciousness and still shaking. With advanced brain wave and heart monitors hooked up to her, it almost looked like she was in a hospital. But the plush curtains and expensive paintings and furniture surrounding them reminded everyone they were in the master bedroom of the Wayne manor.
"It's a miracle she's doing as well as she is," Dr. Landry said. "Her heart and lungs are strong," he noted, looking up at Barbara, who nodded absently as she watched Helena.
The recombination appeared to have worked - there was now one Helena, without any oddly placed body parts and no obviously feline features. But Helena was incoherent and still shaking. And the brain wave monitor was showing erratic traces, making Barbara worry about the effect of those missing 0.4 seconds of Metaphasic Z-particle Translocation.
Gwen limped into the room with an uneasy look. She handed over a report to Barbara. "The bond strength within her nucleotides is fluctuating," she announced with a wince.
Barbara flipped quickly through the report. "But not as much as before," she said, looking up from the data with forced optimism. "Maybe another, shorter burst of Z-particles will help her stabilize," Barbara suggested quickly. One of about 0.4 seconds, she thought.
"The equipment is destroyed and we don't have sufficient power, Barbara. I'm lucky I managed to test her cells with the damage down there. I had to reroute the power from the manor - the bat-generator is fried," Gwen said with a frown, glancing at Helena as Barbara watched Helena's brain waves continue to fluctuate irregularly.
"What does this mean?" Dinah asked anxiously, looking around the room of frowning faces.
"We wait," Alfred offered simply.
Sitting off the balcony of the master bedroom, Barbara looked out over the horizon, watching the sun come up behind New Gotham. As Batgirl, then Oracle, she had been awake for countless sunrises, but never really took the time to enjoy them - until convinced by Helena. She smiled, recalling her friend's unique style of persuasion for one particular sunrise. . . .
"Come on, Barbara. Delphi won't mind if you run your diagnostic after the sunrise."
"Helena, you go ahead. I really want to get it done."
"For God's Sake Barbara, you've been sitting on your butt in front of that damn computer for so long - I bet you can't even feel it now!" Helena complained with exasperation, getting the older woman's undivided attention.
"I can't believe you said that. That is just so wrong . . . on so many levels," Barbara said, amazed.
"Fine. Lecture me during the sunrise - outside," Helena said, swooping in, picking up the startled woman from her wheel chair.
"Helena!" Barbara sputtered then angrily snapped "put me down!" as Helena marched with her to the balcony.
"As you wish," Helena said and placed her down on a plastic lawn chair, one of two she had out there.
"See, you need to get out more, Barbara. These are plastic lawn chairs," she explained, as if Barbara was a small, simple child.
"I know what they are," she said tersely. "I just don't understand . . . ."
"And this is a hot mug of tea. Be careful not to burn yourself," she said slowly as she cautiously handed the mug to the stunned woman.
"Why . . . are you doing this?" she asked, honestly baffled.
Helena looked at her a long, thoughtful moment before answering. "Because you are woefully behind on your sunrise watching - it's embarrassing. Shhhh! It's coming!" Helena said excitedly, as if they were going to witness a rare, once-in-a-lifetime event.
Barbara watched her friend's profile a moment before turning to observe what she thought was perhaps the most beautiful sunrise she had ever seen. The sun burst from the horizon and through puffy clouds, reflecting off of the windows of the many New Gotham sky scrapers in a dazzling splash of color. As the moments passed, the colors changed and the reflections shifted, reminding Barbara of a giant kaleidoscope. "Oh, Hel," she exhaled softly, staring with wonder at the unexpected beauty.
The sun rose higher in the sky, ending the brief spectacle of light that, unbeknownst to her, occurred every clear day. Turning to her friend with gratitude for sharing it with her, she found Helena quietly watching her just before she suddenly blurted. "Ok then! For being such a good sport, I'm throwing in breakfast too. What do you want?" Helena said, hopping to her feet. "I have an impressive assortment of pop-tarts or, if you prefer something else, I'm sure I can accommodate you," Helena said with a grin and a twinkle in her eye.
"Oh, uh," Barbara said with a wince. "I've made breakfast plans with Wade," she explained apologetically. Seeing Helena's smile falter and a flicker of disappointment cross her face, she quickly offered "I can call him and cancel."
"Nah. Go and enjoy your date with Wade. It's just breakfast. We can have it another time," Helena said with a weak smile and shrug.
Barbara frowned, recalling she would have preferred to spend more time with Helena. Each moment with her tended to be . . . unique, she noted with a small smile. Even routine post-sweep briefs or quiet dinners or chats . . . which unfortunately had grown more infrequent as she started to date Wade and Helena moved out.
Barbara sucked in a startled breath as the sequence of those events finally hit her like a 2 by 4 of disturbing clarity. Even the human part of Helena, who had suffered from amnesia, seemed to know what had happened. "Did we break up or something?" Helena had innocently asked. She hadn't even considered that possibility, taking for granted what they shared and inadvertently letting it slip through her fingers as she pursued a traditional, safe relationship.
Soon after she moved out, Helena started to shamelessly flaunt her carefree approach to "dating." Barbara truly hated Helena's caviler attitude. When she mentioned her concern about her too-active social life, Helena's response echoed loudly in her thoughts "I'm an adult and I know what I want. Settling for someone who isn't right for me isn't going to happen." Barbara realized with a sick feeling that the comment wasn't defensiveness; it was an accusation.
Barbara no longer had to wonder why Helena moved out. Just as she didn't want to think about the gruesome details of Helena's hyper-active sex life, Helena didn't want her relationship with Wade thrown in her face.
How dense could I be?!?
Barbara silently moaned as her face dropped into her hands with self-disgust. Not only had she been oblivious to the young woman's inner turmoil - she had been adding to it!
How dense could I be!?!
"Barbara? Alfred has made up a bed for you," Dinah said hesitantly as she joined her side.
Barbara lifted her head and smiled weakly. I'm such an idiot.
"You need some sleep," Dinah said.
"I'll be fine, Dinah," Barbara said unconvincingly, wrapping her arms around herself as the cool evening breeze washed over her like a weary exhale.
I'm so stupid they are going to revoke my Mensa membership.
"You're not going to solve anything if you're sleep deprived, Barbara. Try to get some?" Dinah pleaded, gently touching her shoulder.
I'm embarrassed to call myself Oracle. Oracle! What a joke! Just because I can say idiot in several languages doesn't make me any less of one.
Ahmak, bedak, blbec, fjols, heimskingi, idiota, mu??is... .
"You're projecting," Dinah said with a wince, pulling her hand away uneasily and looking away uncomfortably. "Really loudly."
"Great." I'm so stupid, aptal, bobo, dum, enfaldig, g?upi, hloup....
"You're not stupid," Dinah offered sympathetically, then suddenly looked with surprise at her hand then Barbara's shoulder, which she was no longer touching.
Barbara looked up at her ward not believing that for a moment. "Perhaps not with facts and figures. . . though facts about Helena have obviously eluded me. GOD I'm such an idiot." Barbara blurted and dropped her face into her hands again, shaking her head with a groan.
Barbara looked up suddenly. "You knew, didn't you?"
"That Helena is in love with you?" Dinah said bluntly, causing Barbara to wince at the words finally said aloud.
How could I have missed it? Does Alfred know too??
"Yeah, he knows," Dinah said, getting a startled, then annoyed look from Barbara.
"Hey! I already told you you're projecting! Any you're really tired. You let your guard down when you're exhausted."
"You read my mind . . . without touching?" Barbara asked, suddenly aware of her ward's altered power.
Dinah shrugged. "It just happened . . . and you were pro . . . ."
"Projecting. Great," Barbara sighed. "Why didn't you tell me about Helena?" Barbara asked, then suddenly held her hand up and blurted "No, I understand - you shouldn't unfairly reveal what your powers had . . . ."
"Barbara," Dinah interrupted, rolling her eyes. "I didn't have to read her mind. All I had to do was look at her look at you. It's like soooo obvious," she said. "Ask Alfred."
"Dinah, that really doesn't make me feel better," Barbara said with a frown.
"I don't know what to tell you, Barbara. Maybe there's a reason you didn't see it," Dinah said.
Yeah, I'm an idiot.
"But it is there and you see it now, right?" Dinah asked, ignoring Barbara's projection.
Barbara nodded uneasily. How could she not see it?
"So the question is - what are you going to do about it?"
Barbara rolled back into the master bedroom, needing to see Helena again before finding the guest room set up for her. She rolled to a stop, warmed by the sight of a guest cot by Helena's bed. Alfred had always been the most insightful of them all, she acknowledged, then exhaled with irritation at her own blindness.
She turned to look at her former ward, slowly rolling closer. Glancing between the monitors, she noted nothing had changed. Her eyes dropped guiltily, knowing that wasn't entirely true. She had changed, she considered, reaching out and tentatively caressing the young woman's face.
Barbara finally realized that everything Helena did screamed "I'm right here!" Only she didn't hear it.
"The last thing I would ever want is to hurt you," she whispered sadly. "But I did, didn't I?"
With a thoughtful sigh, Barbara took Helena's hand and placed a kiss upon its back before resting it against her cheek.
Failure to Communicate
"Miss Barbara," Alfred said with disapproval.
Barbara woke with a startled breath at the sudden voice and sat up, awkwardly releasing Helena's hand which had left a red imprint on her cheek. Her back ached, causing her to wince in pain as she straightened up after another night sleeping in her wheelchair.
"Alfred," she greeted him tiredly.
"The cot was not placed there for decoration," he scolded her, pointedly looking between Barbara and the temporary bed.
"What time is it?" She asked curiously as she looked around the room for a clock. Her eyes settled on Helena, who hadn't moved during the night.
"9 O'clock. Brunch will be served in one hour," he noted.
"I'm not hungry, Alfred," Barbara said, rolling her head around to loosen the kinks in her neck. "I'll just stay here."
"You shall do no such thing. You need a break and have the medical pager to alert you of any changes. You must eat and keep your own strength up. You know that," Alfred admonished.
Barbara sighed and nodded reluctantly. As he started to leave, she called out uneasily. "Alfred?"
"Yes, Miss Barbara?"
"Why didn't I see?" She said vaguely, looking at Helena with a pained expression.
"I take it you are referring to Miss Helena's feelings for you," Alfred said.
She glanced up to him with a grimace and nod.
"Ah," he said then looked at Helena thoughtfully. "Perhaps you were not ready to see," he said simply, glancing back to Barbara before he nodded politely and left.
"Have you figured out who's behind this, Barbara?" Dr. Landry asked, sipping his coffee, glancing at her across the rather large table.
"Uh, not yet," Barbara said uncomfortably. While Helena was her immediate concern, she hated the fact the people behind this mess were still on the loose, doing GOD knows what to other people.
"Does the data from the warehouse have any clues?" Dinah asked, then bit into her toast.
"There are no traces of where the data was processed or where the other experiments occurred," Barbara noted with frustration. "The warehouses used the two times we know of lead to dead ends," she added.
"What about the test subjects, are there any trends or patterns with them?" Dinah asked, getting a pleased smile from her mentor.
"Not obvious ones," Gwen answered. "They were a mix of metahuman and human."
"The equipment seemed expensive. Perhaps you can trace the large purchases," Dr. Landry offered, taking a mouthful of scrambled eggs.
"It was stolen," Barbara noted with a sigh.
"Most of that equipment was stolen from Garrow Industries," Gwen offered with a frown. "But the police couldn't figure out who did it - even with the most advanced security system."
"The police report identified the company had inadequate security," Barbara responded with surprise, eyeing her curiously.
"That's ridiculous, Garrow Industries is a daughter company of Ryland Technology - they provide security systems for all their holdings," Gwen said.
"If that's true . . . ." Barbara said, falling silent as her mind worked through the implications.
"It could have been an inside job?" Dinah asked, looking at Gwen, who looked startled.
"Whoa, slow down. The people who wanted the advanced equipment are likely very intelligent, intelligent enough to by-pass a security system - even an advanced one," Gwen said.
"Why would the police report say the security system was inadequate?" Dr. Landry asked.
Barbara took a thoughtful breath. Gwen eyed her. "What is your theory? You must have one," Gwen challenged.
"If the police thought the security system was inadequate, then they would be less likely to focus on an inside job," Barbara said.
"But . . . the people with access to the security codes to the lab are the security guards and the lab personnel. None of them would do that," Gwen said defensively. "And how would they hide the fact we had an advanced system?"
"The police made a mistake?" Dr. Landry offered.
"Or were bought off," Barbara said with a wince.
"Damn it. This is bad," Gwen blurted with frustration. "I need to tell my dad," she said getting up.
"Your dad?" Dinah asked with surprise.
"He's one of the VPs at Garrow Industries. I don't want to just start accusing people I work with. He'll know how to . . . ." Gwen said, interrupted by two separate beeps.
Barbara and Dr. Landry quickly pulled out their pagers and looked at them with alarm.
"What's wrong?" Dinah asked as Barbara rolled back from the table with a worried look.
"Helena's heart beat and brain activity has stopped," Dr. Landry said as he got up.
Barbara was last to enter the room, frustrated by her limitations. She found everyone standing around the bed, blocking her view. Swallowing uneasily, she rolled closer to the bed. As Gwen and Dinah stepped aside for her, she saw Helena sitting up with a bunch of wires and electrodes in her hand.
"Sorry . . . they itched," Helena said defensively, looking at the wires then everyone with a frown. Dinah smiled and Gwen chuckled happily. Dr. Landry shook his head.
Barbara closed her eyes and released a silent, emotional breath.
"How do you feel?" Dr. Landry asked, pulling out his stethoscope.
"I'm . . . ," Helena said then paused, looking down at her hands thoughtfully. She took a deep breath. "Something feels . . . off, I'm not sure what," she said, glancing to Barbara, who quietly stared at her.
"But other than feeling "off," do you have any pain?" Landry persisted, putting the stethoscope's eartips in as he stepped towards Helena.
Helena watched with surprise as Barbara silently rolled up and took the stethoscope diaphragm and put in between her hands to warm it up. Dr. Landry rolled his eyes. Superheroes could be such wimps at times, he thought.
"Aches and . . . I feel tired," Helena said, unable to take her eyes off of Barbara and her hands.
"What do you remember?" Dinah asked hesitantly as Barbara, satisfied with the temperature, released the diaphragm to Dr. Landry.
"Thank you," Landry said flatly and placed the warm diaphragm on Helena's back, ordering "breathe in."
Helena complied and took a deep breath before answering Dinah. "We've got a lot of movies to watch," she said, glancing at Dinah, who smiled brightly. Helena smiled back then glanced to Gwen thoughtfully.
Gwen smiled weakly, feeling decidedly uncomfortable every time she looked between Helena and Barbara. "We should take another blood sample and see how the nucleotide bond strengths are acting," Gwen offered, getting a nod from Dr. Landry.
"Great, more blood," Helena said unenthusiastically as Dr. Landry pulled out a needle and empty vial from his bag.
"You know, you've seen a lot more blood during fights," Dinah said with a smirk.
"Not my blood, D. Not my . . . . ouch," Helena muttered as Dr. Landry stuck her with another needle, quickly filling the vial. Helena glanced to Barbara, noting with sudden unease she had not said one word and was still looking at her.
"I'll go check for bond stability," Gwen said, glancing between Barbara and Helena. As if they heard me, she considered as she took the vial from Landry.
"Thank you," Helena said with a sincere smile, surprising the geneticist, who smiled warmly in return. After Gwen left, Helena looked at Dinah and Landry. "You guys mind if I talk with Barbara?" she said.
"I've got to call my wife anyway," Dr. Landry said, leaving Dinah, who waved at him before turning to Helena and Barbara with interest.
"Alone??" Helena clarified, staring at Dinah, who rolled her eyes.
On her way out, Dinah smiled and waggled her eyebrows at Barbara, then frowned when Barbara continued to stare at Helena.
As Helena got up from the bed, Barbara took an uneasy breath. She really wasn't prepared for any of this, Barbara considered with trepidation. She was adrift, helpless in the sea of emotions that surrounded her. Helena was alive. Helena loved her. And she loved . . . .
"I don't know what to do about Gwen," Helena said with frustration, causing Barbara to blink. A few more emotions were added to the churning sea now drowning her.
Helena's hand shot out and grabbed the footboard to steady herself.
"Helena?" Barbara asked with concern, rolling closer.
"I'm OK," Helena said with a smile and dismissive wave of a hand. "Really."
Barbara nodded hesitantly. "Welcome back, by the way," she said softly, getting a bright, beautiful smile from Helena.
The smile faded as she looked at Barbara solemnly. "Thank you . . . for trusting me . . . for everything," Helena said.
"You would have done the same for me," Barbara said easily with a small smile.
"Not exactly the same," Helena admitted, getting a curious look from her former guardian. "I would have given you some warning before I shot you," Helena said with a pointed look.
"I gave you warning," Barbara said defensively.
"Right . . . "I guess this is it" . . . blam!" Helena recounted.
"Fine. The next time you are split in two and need to be shot with . . . ," Barbara responded but was interrupted by Helena's hand on her forearm.
"Let's agree not do that again," Helena said with a serious look.
Barbara nodded weakly, looking into intense blue eyes as goose bumps marched up the arm Helena was touching. "W . . .Why are you . . . unsure . . . about Gwen?" Barbara asked carefully, predicting the possible responses with uneasy anticipation.
"I saw her father at both warehouses," Helena said gravely.
That particular response was certainly not among those anticipated, Barbara thought as she looked into the young woman's worried face.
As they rode the elevator down to the bat cave, Barbara saw the frown on Helena's face.
"Are you feeling all right?" Barbara asked, startling Helena when she took her hand and squeezed.
Barbara didn't normally initiate comforting touches, Helena noted with pleasant surprise, squeezing back.
"As much fun as it was having my cells ripped apart then squished back together, I'm thinking it will be even less fun telling my girlfriend her father is behind all this," Helena said sarcastically. "This so sucks," Helena said with a heavy sigh, dreading that conversation as she rubbed her tired eyes.
Barbara tensely nodded in silent wholehearted agreement as the elevator doors opened.
"Gwen?" Helena said softly.
"Hey! You're much more stable than you were!" She said with clear excitement, pointing to the computer screen.
"I'm going to assume that's good," Helena said peering at the screen then glancing at Gwen. "That's good right?"
"That's very good. While I can't predict with any accuracy when, the two blood samples we took after the remerging, right after the blast and after you woke, indicate your cells will eventually stabilize on their own," she said with a smile that faded, seeing Helena's tense expression. "What's wrong?" The geneticist said, looking at her frown then glancing over to Barbara, who sat uncomfortably at a respectful distance, giving them their space. "Oh," she said with a sad sigh. "You don't have to tell me."
"I don't?" Helena asked with surprise.
"No. It wasn't too hard to figure out."
Barbara stared at the mess in the bat cave thinking about the sad irony of it all. When she finally figured out how Helena had felt about her, she had moved on.
If this had been one of those casual flings Helena was prone to indulge in, it wouldn't be so painful. Not that she liked the idea of anyone . . . with Helena . . . that way. She didn't. But she knew that if Helena's heart was not part of the deal, there might be a chance. But with Gwen, she sensed something more serious. She couldn't fault Helena for her choice. Gwen was an intelligent, attractive young woman, who, in extreme circumstances, proved herself a very good friend. And Gwen could offer the very active crime fighter what she couldn't. The geneticist could go on hikes, dance, or just simply stand to give her a full body hug that she had desperately wanted to do when she saw Helena complaining about itchy electrodes.
"No," Gwen said sadly. "I was hoping we'd at least go out once but . . . ."
"Gwen, we can't let the actions of our fathers dictate how we live our lives. Do you actually think I would not date you because of your father?!?"
"My father? Helena, what are you talking about?" Gwen looked at her with a confused grimace.
"I thought you knew about your father . . . ."
"What about my father??"
"NO!" Gwen said, pacing.
"I saw him."
"NO! You're making a mistake. You never MET him. He would NOT condone experimentation on PEOPLE!"
"I know it is hard to accept but the picture of your father . . . ."
"You are making a mistake - you don't know him . . . ."
"Then let me meet him tonight. I know he saw me . . . as I am now. I'm pretty sure he wouldn't forget that night."
"Hel? I don't think that's such a good idea . . . ." Barbara said, rolling up to them.
"Yeah, because you'll learn your theory is insane," Gwen snapped.
"You haven't been . . . whole again for even a day," Barbara said uneasily.
Helena looked at Barbara and patiently offered "I'll have my coms and you can listen in. Dinah can provide backup. We've got to stop the experiments," she added with a pleading look Barbara found hard to resist.
"This is ridiculous!"
"Gwen," Helena said, grabbing her shoulders gently and looking into her eyes. "Believe me I don't want it to be true either. But the fact is, I saw a man who looked like your father at that warehouse. We've got to stop this madness before anyone else gets hurt. Let me meet him. Don't you want to know - one way or the other?"
"Oracle, we're going in," Helena said softly, caressing Gwen's cheek tenderly before taking her hand and leading her to the front door.
"Understood, Huntress," Barbara said, sitting in front of Delphi. "Dinah, are you in position?"
"Yes," Dinah said flatly from behind a bush. She exhaled with displeasure as she glared at the couple holding hands.
"Something wrong?" Barbara asked.
"You didn't talk to her did you?" Dinah said with irritation.
"Mind on mission, Dinah," Barbara said tersely. Now was NOT the time for this discussion.
"I'll take that as a no," Dinah said flatly.
"Pumpkin!" Frank Turner happily greeted his daughter as he opened the door. "I'm glad you decided to come over for dinner. Your mother has been nagging me about how you've been doing in your job - now she can nag you directly," he said with a chuckle. His smile never wavered when he saw the woman behind his daughter.
"You must be Helena," he said pleasantly, holding his hand out.
Hesitating only a moment, Helena smiled back and shook his hand.
Gwen sighed with relief.
"Dr. Turner," Helena said, getting pulled into the house by Gwen.
"Call me Frank, Helena. Gwen had told us she had met someone that she thought was . . . special. I'm glad she brought you so we can see for ourselves."
"Dad!" Gwen said with embarrassment.
"Frank? Are you scaring Gwen's girlfriend already?" An attractive, older version of Gwen joined them. "Helena, I'm so glad to meet you, I'm Rachel, Gwen's mother."
"Pleased to meet you, Mrs. Turner," Helena said, feeling like she was being watched by another person.
"Rachel," she scolded lightly.
"Rachel," Helena amended with a smile, then glanced over to the hallway where she heard a noise. She tensed, catching a glimpse of someone, who quickly retreated.
"I'm just finishing up in the kitchen. Make yourself at home, Helena," Rachel Turner said.
Helena kept glancing at Frank, who didn't seem to have any reaction towards her. Could she have been mistaken, she wondered.
"Helena? I'd like you to meet someone very special," Gwen said, glancing back at the hallway. "Grace? Come on out and meet Helena, Grace," Gwen said with a smile.
Grace came out reluctantly, eyeing Helena warily. "Come on, Grace," Gwen said, holding her hand out encouragingly.
"Helena, this is Grace. Grace, this is Helena," Gwen said with a proud hand on her sister's shoulder.
Helena smiled. "Hello, Grace. Gwen's told me about you and all your brothers and sisters and your two and a half bathrooms."
"Thank GOD for the half," Grace said, nodding solemnly, getting a grin from Helena. "Are you Gwen's girlfriend?"
"Mom? Where is Helena going to sit?" Grace said, grabbing Helena's hand, clearly taking responsibility for the guest.
"Next to Gwen," Rachel called back from the kitchen.
"Come with me," Grace said, leading an amused Helena to the dining room table. "Gwen normally sits here. You will be sitting next to her."
"Thanks," Helena said to the bossy sibling.
"You're welcome. I'm going to help my mother in the kitchen," Grace said.
"Yes. I am a good cook. Do you cook?"
"Not so much," Helena said with a wince.
"I could teach you," Grace said enthusiastically.
"Grace . . . ," Gwen said uncomfortably.
"I'd like that, Grace. But I'm afraid I've tried before and just haven't been able to master the skill," Helena said with a shrug.
"You just need to keep practicing and not worry about making a mistake. Anyone can cook if they just try," Grace said and added ". . . and have a lot of food."
Helena had to smile. "I'd like that. Maybe you could teach a friend of mine too."
"Huntress . . . ," Barbara said with warning.
"She really needs the help. She is worse in the kitchen than I am," Helena offered with a grin.
"Did it ever occur to you that I might not want a cooking lesson?" Barbara huffed, but couldn't help but smile.
"OK," Grace said. "Sit. I am going to help Mom bring in the food."
Dinah finally smiled. Not because the ache in her back and legs from squatting in the bushes went away, but because there was hope for them yet. Her smile disappeared when she heard a click at her feet. She looked down and saw a sprinkler that had just popped up.
"That was really good," Helena said, dabbing her lips with a napkin. Grace smiled brightly.
"Yes, a wonderful meal once again, Honey, Grace," Frank said warmly. "So Helena? Can I interest you in an after-dinner cognac?"
"Frank, isn't it a little soon for the third degree?" Rachel scolded with amusement as she got up from the table to start to clear it off.
"Honey, my daughter has brought someone home. I'm just trying to get to know her, unless she is uncomfortable with the idea," Frank said, turning towards Helena.
"No, sir. I'd like to talk with you," she said with a smile as she stood with the father.
Gwen stood as well, looking between the two uneasily as she started to follow them.
"Honey, please help your mother and Grace clean up in the kitchen. Helena and I need to chat about her intentions toward you," he teased, causing Grace to snicker at her sister's look of panic.
"Dad! You can't be serious. . . ." Gwen said with embarrassment. "Indulge your father, honey," Rachel said. "It's been a while since you've had anyone here," she said, causing Gwen to flush with more embarrassment.
As she sat on a comfortable leather chair in the den, she glanced around the room. The dark wood paneling spotted with golf pictures, bookshelves crammed with books and golf knickknacks, and comfortable leather chairs told Helena this was Frank's retreat.
"This is the good stuff," Frank said amicably, pouring them both drinks from a crystal decanter.
"You shouldn't drink anything, Huntress," Barbara warned uneasily.
"Thanks," Helena said, taking the glass and swirling the amber contents as he sat on a leather chair adjacent to her. She gently sniffed it. "Hmm. Oak, raisins, a touch of licorice and something I can't quite identify" she said, briefly glancing up at Frank, who shifted in his chair.
He eyed her closely as she swirled the glass again and sniffed. "Vanilla, honey . . . this is Delamain Trs Vtnrable," she said confidently.
"Remarkable nose. I'm impressed you named the cognac."
"Some of my customers like the good stuff too - I'm a bartender," she said with a sly smile.
"Really? I wouldn't have thought that," he said sipping his drink.
"Oh? What did you think I did? Live off my billionaire father's inheritance?" Helena said with a smirk, finally sipping her drink.
Frank chuckled. "We should all be so lucky. Try this truffle," he said, offering her a chocolate from a small tray next to the decanters. "Chocolate is my secret passion, beside cognac," he said conspiratorially.
"Huntress, I'll buy you all the chocolate you'll ever want if you just DON'T take his," Oracle said tensely.
"It is tempting. But I really shouldn't."
"Good - you don't need to risk getting yourself poisoned," Oracle said with relief.
"Can you guess the chocolatier?" he said in challenge.
"I'm not as well versed with chocolate," she eyed the chocolate then shrugged. "I guess it's too late to worry about indulging too much now. What the hell, you only live once - unless you're a cat," Helena said, taking the small wafer.
"Are you trying to tell me something, Huntress?" Oracle asked with irritation.
Frank smiled as Helena popped the truffle in her mouth and said appreciatively "yes." The chocolate was very good but had a flavor that was out of place.
Dinah and Oracle frowned.
Helena looked at Frank sheepishly. "You know, I don't know why I'm constantly worried about my weight. I can really eat anything. I'm blessed with a very . . . aggressive metabolism," she said conspiratorially.
"Huntress! You can't assume your metabolism will just take care of poison!" Oracle said incredulously.
"Don't tell Gwen. She has to watch everything she eats," Frank offered with a smile.
"So, why did you really ask me here, Frank?" Helena asked.
"Well, I thought I'd get to know you better," Frank said with a smile.
She tried to focus on his increasingly blurry face. He's definitely in his comfort zone now, at his home, with "the threat" poisoned, she considered, expecting him to be ready to reveal his hand. Not feeling like she had a lot of time to waste waiting for him to volunteer something, she blurted "I saw you at the warehouse." Her husky voice caused by her amazingly parched throat.
"Dinah, get into position to respond quickly," Oracle stated, surprised at Helena's direct approach.
"Yes. You did," he said, placing his glass down on the coffee table between them. "I'm amazed you survived that blast. I still have a long way to go in understanding the variables we need to control. There have been so many unfortunate experiments," he said with a regretful shake of his head. "But we learn something with each of them," he offered with a shrug.
"Huntress, why is he suddenly talking so freely?" Oracle said uneasily.
Helena blinked at the mild manner killer "Something was in the chocolate."
Frank nodded. "Ever hear of Belladonna?"
Oracle's eyes shot up to the heavens with frustration. She had told Helena not to ingest anything.
"Night shade," Helena responded, unable to focus clearly.
"Dinah, I'm sending Alfred with physostigmine. Just sit tight," Oracle said calmly, though her heart raced.
"Physostigmine??" Dinah asked.
"It's really a shame I have to get rid of you. You were the first person my daughter had shown genuine interest in."
"She knew she'd be poisoned, didn't she?" Dinah said with frustration.
"That's my guess," Oracle said, removing her eyeglasses and pinching the bridge of her nose with a heavy sigh.
"Why . . . did you kill those people?" Helena said as the room seemed to rotate.
"As I said, they were unfortunate results," he said. "But don't you see, once we perfect the process, we will be able to correct terrible mistakes of nature. Even after living with them for so long," he said, glancing at a family picture, including his two less-than-genetically perfect children, with a frown.
Helena looked up through blurry eyes, understanding. "You want to change Grace?"
"Yes!" he said as if obvious. "What father wouldn't want to fix that genetic mistake in his child?!? She has gone through hell growing up because of an odd fluke of nature. She'll never be able to compete and get a good job, let alone be self-sufficient, unless I do something. I will do anything I have to, to make her normal."
"Including killing people?" Helena said as her heart rate accelerated uncomfortably.
"We may have a few more unfortunate results. But that's the price I'm willing to pay. However, I may make some progress examining your cells. Luckily, I can still analyze your cells after you die."
"We? You had help . . .who? Other parents?" Helena said.
"Just business speculators for the technology," he answered, tilting his head as he watched Helena slump down in her chair.
After finishing up in the kitchen, Gwen returned to the den to find her father shaking his head, shutting the door behind himself.
"Oh, Gwen," he said, wincing. "Helena sends her apologies. The cognac didn't sit well, apparently. Well, it might have been the chocolate . . . ," he said with a shrug. "In any event, she didn't feel well and left. She said she would call you," he said with an apologetic smile. "I feel bad making her have the cognac . . . if I had known."
"How is she getting home? I drove her here," Gwen asked with growing alarm.
"I'm not sure. I think she said something about phoning a friend . . . or something. She felt bad for leaving but she said she hated looking sick in front of someone she was trying to impress," he said with a smirk.
Gwen heard a crash in the study and pushed past her father to enter, but he grabbed her arm.
"No," he hissed. "Leave it be, Gwen."
Gwen looked into frighteningly mad eyes of her father. "It's true . . . ." she whispered in horror as the front door flew open.
"Where is she?" Dinah growled.
"You have no right barging in my house!" Frank demanded, stepping towards her. Gwen grabbed his arm. "No dad," she said, her heart breaking as she pointed to the den.
Dinah rushed in the den to find Helena unsteadily getting to her feet, then plop onto the leather couch.
"I've got the antidote," she said uneasily, giving Helena a pill. She immediately swallowed, chasing it down with cognac. "Though I don't think you deserve it after deliberately getting poisoned," Dinah said angrily.
"Why are you all wet?" Helena said with a grimace. She curiously pulled at the wet clothing as she looked over the disheveled and drenched crime fighter, unaware of the battle Dinah lost with the sprinkler system.
Dinah batted her hand away as she blew out a frustrated breath.
"We still have to . . ." Helena said as she and Dinah stood, but was interrupted by Frank.
"Hold it right there," he said, pointing a .38 caliber revolver at them as he pulled a box out of a desk drawer. He dumped the box's contents on the desk. A couple of vials and needles fell out.
"Dad, it's over," Gwen said coming into the den, watching him pick up a vial and needle in one hand. "Don't make it any worse than it already is," she added as she stood in front of the two crime fighters.
"Huntress?" Oracle said anxiously.
"Gwen, you're not bullet proof," Helena said uneasily, worried her father might actually hurt her. Bad things happened when criminals get backed into a corner, she considered.
"And you are?" Gwen snapped.
"Honey, you don't understand. These women are in the way of my work. They want me to abandon it. I can't do that."
"Huntress? Dinah? What's going on?" Oracle demanded.
"Oracle, we're being held at gunpoint by Dr. Turner. Gwen is trying to get him to give up," Dinah said.
"W . . . Who are you talking to?" Frank looked at the teen in confusion.
"Oracle," Dinah said with a smile as she pointed to her ear piece.
"Who is Oracle??" Frank said with alarm.
"Oracle is your worst nightmare. She makes it her business to put murderers like you away," Dinah said sassily.
Frank darted around the room in panic.
Helena eyed her with a smirk. The Kid was developing quite the crime fighter attitude. Good for her.
"Dad, please, don't make it any worse. They've heard everything," Gwen pleaded.
"Oracle has your confession to Helena and is calling the police right now," Dinah said, hoping the last part was true.
"Please, Dad. Put the gun down. Please. It's over. We'll get through this, I prom. . . . ," Gwen said, then jumped at the loud bang.
Picking up the Pieces
Several hours later, after the paramedics came and took Dr. Turner's messy remains away in a body bag, after the police came and interviewed the family, Helena sat on the clock tower ledge, numbly looking out over the dark horizon.
She supposed she should be thankful Reese wasn't on call and she was interviewed by another detective about the suicide. Her supposed secret identity was safe another day. Gee. What luck she had.
As Helena was wondering how the situation was going to play out, Mrs. Turner had suddenly told the police it was her fault. She was an emotional mess as she told them how she let him stop his medication because he "felt fine" and really loved his cognac. The police and Barbara confirmed his medical condition of severe depression, which was fully documented since the birth of his first Down's child.
When Mrs. Turner was asked what would have prompted Mr. Turner to shoot himself now, she told them he probably felt he was losing another daughter, with Gwen finally bringing home someone special. Gwen was too numb to really say anything and Helena just played along. She, Dinah, and Barbara had agreed there was no reason to tarnish the family's memories with accounts of Frank Turner's deadly experiments. Barbara had Dr. Turner's records and names of his "business" associates and they had recovered what was left of the stolen equipment. They were very confident no one else could pick up where he left off.
In a moment of compassion for the distraught wife, Dinah had placed a comforting hand on Mrs. Turner's shoulder. Who would have thought she was aware of his work? Helena shook her head with amazement that people could still surprise her. At the Turner's dinner table, she experienced what she had always thought a normal family would be like, if you discounted the murdering father. But even he seemed a "normal" and loving father.
Goes to show - even "normal" parents weren't normal, she considered, though she really didn't know what normal parents were like. But she did know unconditional love. Her mother had succeeded in providing her a loving, stable home, in spite of the temptation to revert to her old, Catwoman ways. A sadness welled up within her as the old wound opened wider. She had so much to tell her mother, to share with her. She was the only one who really "got" her.
A tear fell down and she wiped it away with a sharp sniff. She couldn't imagine her mother wanting her to still be weeping for her death. She was too much a free spirit and a lover of life to let loss bring her down for too long. She was a happy person, even when the man she apparently loved above all others was not interested in being with her. That had to hurt, she considered, unconsciously glancing back through the clock tower doors to Delphi.
She actually admired her mother's decision not to let Bruce Wayne know he had a child. Although it would have been an easy way to convince him to stay with her, Helena guessed from what she knew about the man. But Selena Kyle wanted more than a dutiful husband. She wanted someone who loved her above all others, including the innocent people he served and protected. It took great wisdom to know that his presence would eventually be resented. Her love couldn't withstand the constant reminder that he only stayed because of a child. "If you love someone, set them free. If they come back they're yours; if they don't they never were." Selena learned the painful lesson that he never really was.
With a heavy sigh, Helena considered how the caped crusader, her father, was supposed to be a noble soul, a protector of the innocent. She had always wondered why the hell the child he eventually learned he had, had not been worth protecting, hating the fact that he disappeared right after Selena was murdered. She sighed, supposing she should be happy he wasn't bent on "fixing" her mutation.
Growing up, she had wondered what it would be like to just be human, to not be pulled in two directions - to not feel so much. Of course, she never thought she would actually experience that. When she did, she could honestly say being just human was . . . nice. For a short time she was free from the oppressive anger about her unfair past and present. But she had also lost her memories about her past. And as painful as they were at times, there were very special memories about her mother and Barbara, and even Dinah, that she would never want to give up for anything.
Conversely, there was the thrill of being a metabeing. An amazing, raw power - like she had never experienced before - coursed through her as she stalked her prey. Everything was so much more intense. Her senses were heightened, her instincts more focused, and her additional strength enabled her to completely overwhelm the criminals. But it was way too easy to kill and more frighteningly, it was almost . . . addictive. And as much as her metabeing self tried to ignore it, she started to feel a nagging guilt with her brutal actions. She supposed she should take some comfort that her meta-side actually had a conscience.
Helena knew it was ironic that it took not being herself to enable her to finally understand who she was . . . and what she had. She had a supportive family with Barbara and Dinah, and even Alfred, even if it wasn't exactly the way that she wanted it. She frowned, knowing she had almost thrown away that precious gift. It was about time she grew up and learned to live without suffocating self pity and anger, she considered. They didn't deserve it and she realized for the first time, neither did she.
The horizon grew lighter as the sun slowly woke. Helena's head tilted, noticing the quiet hiss of an electric chair approaching, followed by a familiar, intoxicating scent. Helena had to smile. Dependable Barbara.
"How's Dinah?" Helena asked, still looking out at the horizon.
"She is upset, but trying to be brave and not show it," Barbara said disapprovingly with a sigh.
"Ah, our little bird has learned "the code" of the crime fighter," Helena said sarcastically.
"A lesson I had hoped she wouldn't learn so well," Barbara said with a frown.
"But Barbara, she had two great teachers," Helena offered wryly, looking at Barbara almost daring her to argue. Barbara couldn't. Unfortunately, Dinah had learned from the best.
"You'd tell me if you were feeling any side effects of the merging, wouldn't you?" Barbara asked bluntly, frowning when Helena softly chuckled.
"Yes," Helena said firmly, getting up with a deep breath. "I'm very tired, imagine that. I think I'll head out and catch some z's."
"Hel, why not stay," she said, then added quickly "for the sunrise?" she looked at her hopefully and glanced out over the skyline.
Helena eyed her suspiciously. Barbara Gordon never volunteered to stop and smell the roses.
"I'll throw in pop tarts for breakfast," Barbara said temptingly.
Helena perked up, looking at her with great interest. "Pop tarts??"
Barbara smiled. "Pop tarts," she confirmed with a nod.
Without another word, Helena grinned and suddenly sat cross-legged on the ledge, right next to Barbara, to watch the city light up for the morning spectacle.
Barbara sighed with relief that Helena was staying a bit longer. Though Helena would never admit it, Barbara knew she needed more emotional support than Dinah right now. While witnessing a criminal commit a messy suicide was shocking, Helena had been through an unfathomable physical and emotional trauma with the separation and remerging, and on top of that - the suicide of her girlfriend's father.
From years of living with Helena, Barbara knew she needed to be patient. Helena was not inclined to immediately volunteer her thoughts or feelings and quickly clammed up when pressed too hard. The best Barbara could do was to just be there for when Helena decided or needed to talk.
She did not feel, but heard Helena shift. Looking down, she saw Helena lean and rest her head against her thigh. Barbara's emotions welled up, making it difficult to breathe. Tentatively, she reached out and placed a hand upon the brunette's head, almost afraid the act would provoke Helena to flee. Yet she was unable to help herself. The need to touch her was overwhelming.
Seeing Helena sigh heavily, not inclined to budge, Barbara relaxed. She gazed upon the younger woman tenderly, continuing her slow caresses, wishing she could ease Helena's burdens.
The spectacular sunrise was forgotten, paling in comparison to the young woman beside her.
After Helena finished her second package of pop tarts, she smiled. "Nothing like chocolate-topped fudge pop tarts for breakfast," she announced and drained her milk glass.
"Glad you enjoyed," Barbara said, still not quite sure why Helena loved pop tarts so much.
"I did. Thanks for breakfast," Helena said, unable to hold back a yawn. "Sorry, I really need to catch some z's," Helena said with an apologetic wince. "I should get going," she said, standing up.
"Why?" Barbara blurted, getting an odd look from Helena, who started to repeat why but Barbara continued. "I . . . I mean, there's a perfectly good guest room only a few short feet away," Barbara said, motioning to the bedroom in question.
Helena looked towards the room, then eyed her a thoughtful moment.
"I would like you to stay," Barbara said softly, surprising Helena, who nodded hesitantly. Barbara Gordon had never asked her to stay.
"I'd like to stay," Helena admitted uncomfortably, then quickly added as if needing justification "And I'll be here if Dinah needs to talk or something."
"Good point," Barbara readily agreed, trying not to smile too widely.
Helena woke to a noise. She listened and heard a faint crying, quickly waking her. Getting up, she padded to her door, finding the noise coming from Dinah's room. She sighed heavily and quietly approached Dinah's door, which was slightly cracked open.
"Hey, D. Can I come in?" Helena called softly. She frowned at the lack of response and the sudden quiet. "I know you're awake," she said, then heard a sniff. "Come on, invite me in."
Dinah sighed and wiped her tears away as she got out of bed.
When the door opened, Helena smiled softly and entered the room.
"I'm fine," Dinah said weakly.
"Well that makes one of us," Helena said, sitting at the foot of the bed and eyeing the uncomfortably teen, who sat next to her.
"What's wrong with you?" Dinah had to ask. She immediately winced. "I mean . . . ."
Helena smirked. "I'm sure many will agree - there's a long list."
Dinah smiled with begrudging amusement.
"But at the top of that list tonight is the sick feeling I . . ."
Dinah frowned and interrupted. "Sick feeling? From the remerging?? Oh God, Barbara said you didn't get the full 14.2 seconds, you only got 13.8. Oh God, we need to tell Barbara right away. She'll figure out what to do," Dinah said in a rush, hopping off the bed. Her march toward the door was quickly stopped by a firm grip on her forearm.
"Hold your horses, bucko," Helena said. "I am not feeling any instability or MZT side effects. I'm just feeling tired. I was talking about the sick feeling I get thinking about Dr. Turner blowing his brains out," Helena said bluntly with a grimace.
Dinah cringed at the memory and sat back down.
"I know he would have killed me without a second thought, but . . . I wish Gwen didn't have to see that. Or you. Or me for that matter," Helena said with a sigh.
"Yeah," Dinah said weakly, shivering at the horrible memory. "It was so . . . gross. I mean, it was worse than pancake person. I didn't see him...her...them alive before. But with Dr. Turner, he was there one moment, scaring the begeebees out of me, then . . . ." Dinah said, trailing off with a wince, recalling the messy splatter. "A part of me wonders if I could have stopped him from killing himself . . . or something," Dinah admitted with a weak shrug.
"I know what you mean. I sometimes wonder if I do enough. But I'm actually glad you didn't try to stop him - you could have gotten hurt. Or Gwen," Helena said getting a frown from Dinah.
"Or you?" Dinah asked.
"Or me. I know I'm not bullet proof," Helena admitted.
"Do you?" Dinah said guardedly, surprising Helena. "You scared me . . . getting poisoned."
"I didn't mean to, Dinah. I really felt I needed to do that to get the guy to talk and I really thought I would be OK. Believe it or not, I do appreciate being back in one piece. I don't have any desire to waste a single moment by being an idiot."
"Really?" Dinah asked skeptically.
"Really," Helena answered with a smirk, which faded when she noted the odd smile on Dinah's face. "What?"
"Nothing. I just hope you mean it."
"Okay," Helena said, eyeing her. Something was going on with Dinah but she wasn't sure she wanted to know what that was. "Uh, anyway, I suppose I should finish up the "sometimes shit happens but we don't have to deal with it alone" speech," Helena said.
"But you do . . . deal with things alone," Dinah countered.
"Yeah, well, that's a stupid habit that's not exactly healthy. You may not want the bad guys to know your weaknesses, but you don't have to be superhero woman to your own family," Helena said, bumping Dinah's arm. "And I know I need to do better at practicing what I'm preaching," she admitted begrudgingly.
Dinah smirked at the comment, then realized what she had just said. "You think of me as family??" She asked with surprise.
Helena looked at her seriously. "Yeah," she admitted, then challenged. "You got a problem with that?"
"No! No problem," she blurted with a big, pleased smile.
"Good," Helena said, then got up. "Well, I've run out of pearls of wisdom for now - other than get some sleep while you can," she warned and started for the door.
"Helena?" Dinah said, causing the woman to stop and turn. "It's OK to hug family, right?" She asked nervously.
"Uh . . . as long as it's not in front of the bad guys," Helena mumbled uncomfortably.
"OK!" Dinah said, eagerly lunging for a hug.
"Or the police," Helena said with a wince, awkwardly hugging her back.
"OK," Dinah said with a happy smile.
"Or in public, or . . . ."
"Helena," Dinah groaned, rolling her eyes.
Back in the Saddle
The next morning, Dinah woke to an alarming Delphi. She rushed out of her bedroom to find Barbara rolling into her spot at the main computer keyboard. Helena stood by Barbara's side, not very pleased as she crossed her arms and stared at the screen with a frown. Dinah had to smile at the two of them. This was how it was supposed to be, she considered.
"What's happening?" She asked, joining them.
"My pop-tarts are getting cold," Helena growled.
"Helena, you can always re-microwave your pop tarts," Barbara said as she accessed the police logs.
"What?!? You don't microwave pop tarts," Helena gasped in horror.
"Right," Barbara said absently, searching for cameras in the troubled area.
"It's morning?" Dinah said with surprise, looking outside at the light, then her watch.
"Yep. You slept through the day and night," Helena said with a shrug as Barbara successfully located cameras and sent the images to the screen above them. "Too bad Ms. Gordon here can't seem to take your lead and get proper sleep."
"I slept," Barbara countered, pushing her glasses up and looking at her.
"Did Delphi really need a diagnostic last night?" Helena asked pointedly.
"I was wound up and couldn't sleep right away," Barbara said defensively.
Dinah eyed Barbara curiously.
"You could have had a chamomile tea and a back rub," Helena countered.
Dinah eyed Helena with surprise.
"Is it a crime to want to be productive while I was up?" Barbara said with exasperation, scratching the back of her neck uncomfortably. A back rub would certainly not have had a relaxing effect, she considered.
"It's a crime you really don't know how to relax, Red," Helena said, shaking her head.
Dinah nodded in quiet agreement and glanced to the computer. "Speaking of crimes - there is a bank robbery in progress at Gotham Metropolitan," Dinah noted, pointing to the police report on screen.
"In broad daylight? What a set of . . . ." Helena said, impressed.
"Helena," Barbara interrupted, then noted with surprise "The police have . . . apprehended them," Barbara said hesitantly, looking a little lost.
"Ha! Ballsy but incompetent criminals. Gotta love that. I'm going to finish my pop-tarts and read the paper," Helena announced happily and headed back to the kitchen table.
"Can I have the comics??" Dinah asked eagerly, following Helena.
"After I'm done with them," Helena warned.
"How about the cross-word?" Dinah asked.
"That you can have."
Barbara watched the two with amusement. This is the way it is supposed to be, she considered and smiled warmly. Suddenly, she frowned.
"Hel? Why can't you microwave a pop-tart?" She asked, rolling after them.
As Dinah worked on the cross-word puzzle, Helena put two plates in front of Barbara. "OK, which one tastes better?" she asked, sitting across from her and eyeing her eagerly.
Barbara looked down at the pop-tarts then rolled her eyes. "Hel...I really don't like pop tarts," she said. Helena's mouth dropped in amazement.
"What's a ten letter word, ending with a "d" for unfulfilled?" Dinah suddenly asked, tapping the pencil on her lip as she looked up from the paper she had neatly folded.
"Frustrated," Barbara answered the teen, prompting a small smirk from Dinah.
"Thanks," Dinah said, then wrote on the newspaper.
"Dear GOD, you don't mean that," Helena said, aghast.
"I'm afraid so, Helena," Barbara answered the disturbed crime fighter.
"Maybe it's because you microwave them," Helena offered, grasping for a suitable reason for the horrible admission. Barbara shook her head and sipped her tea.
"What is the "blank" fruit of the granadilla? Seven letters," Dinah asked.
"Passion," Helena offered, then looked at Barbara. "Just try them - you'll see - the toasted one is much better."
"Fine," Barbara said with a sigh, and took a bite of one as Helena watched anxiously.
"Type of sofa . . . starts with a T. Nine letters," Dinah said as Barbara swallowed with a weak smile.
"Tte--tte," Helena offered as Barbara sighed and tried the other plate's pop-tart. "Well?"
"Thanks," Dinah said with amusement.
"This one," Barbara said, pointing to a plate.
"You can't be serious," Helena said with a frown, staring at the microwaved pop-tart in disbelief.
"Maybe your metabeing taste buds enable you to taste the difference?" Barbara offered.
"What is a five letter word for rendezvous? Middle letter "y". . . ." Dinah asked.
"Tryst," Helena and Barbara answered in unison then looked at each other uncomfortably before averting their gazes.
"That works," Dinah said, biting her lip to keep from laughing. "Six letter word ending in "e" - what is a system of opposing forces?" Dinah asked as Helena busied herself reading the paper.
"Dinah? I thought the point of doing the puzzle was to test yourself," Barbara said with narrow eyes.
"OK, fine. If you don't want to help, that's fine," Dinah said with an innocent shrug, looking at Barbara's glare with amusement.
"Oh!" Helena said with interest. "There's a Daniel Shurman exhibit at the New Gotham Museum of Modern Art . . . last day is today," Helena said, looking up from the paper to Barbara. "Wanna go?"
"I . . . I have a lunch . . . to go to," Barbara said awkwardly, getting a frown from Dinah.
"Oh. Well, I'm sure we can catch it the next time it comes to town," Helena said with a forced smile, then looked back through the paper. Barbara saw the flash of disappointment in Helena's eyes.
"When does the exhibit close?" Barbara asked.
"Three," Helena said looking at Barbara curiously.
"What if I catch up with you, say at twelve thirty?" Barbara asked.
"You sure? I don't want you to have to rush through any lunches," Helena said.
"I won't be rushing. It won't take long," Barbara said confidently. "I'd like to go."
"Sounds boring to me," Dinah said with a smirk. "I think I'll pass," she said unnecessarily.
Barbara took a fortifying breath as she rolled into the 1st street Cafs. She immediately found a smile greeting her. "Barbara, you look . . . like you need some sleep," Wade said honestly, leaning down to kiss her cheek.
"Well, it's been a rough few days," she admitted.
"Specialty baking can have its moments, I suppose," he allowed with a grin.
She smiled weakly.
They sat at a nice table in the back of the restaurant. "I'm a bit surprised you rang - but glad you did," Wade said, pulling a napkin on his lap.
"Yes . . . uh, I did have a reason for asking you to lunch, Wade," Barbara said uneasily.
"You were hungry?" he guessed with a smile.
"No - in fact, I don't think I could eat a thing at the moment," she said honestly.
"Don't tell me you enjoy watching me eat - that would be a bit disturbing," he said jokingly.
Barbara looked at him with a sad smile. He really was a charming man. "No. I didn't have a sudden desire to watch you eat, Wade," she countered.
"Ok then, tell me. Why did you ask me to lunch?" he asked.
Helena stood staring at the large, colorful oil painting, tilting her head as if it would help her understand what she was seeing.
"Does it help?" A young woman asked, moving to stand next to Helena. She tilted her head at the same angle as she looked at the picture.
Helena looked at her and said "nope."
"Maybe the other side?" the young woman suggested, tilted her head the other way, getting a smirk from Helena. "I'm Megan," she introduced herself.
"Helena," she responded. "Did it help?"
"Nope. Do you come here often?" Megan asked with a grin.
"Not as much as I'd like."
Barbara rolled into the large museum and looked around for Helena among the throng of visitors. When she spotted the brunette, she found her talking with a pretty woman, who seemed to be unaware of the concept of personal space. She frowned, noting Helena wasn't objecting. Barbara wondered if her arrival would be an unwelcome interruption to . . . whatever was happening between the two. She didn't have to wonder long. When Helena's eyes fixed on her, the smile that bloomed on her face made Barbara feel ridiculously happy. She almost felt guilty for causing the frown that now appeared on the face of the woman next to Helena. Almost.
"Barbara, this is Megan," Helena said as Barbara rolled up. "Megan, this is Barbara."
"Nice to meet you," Barbara said with a smile.
"Likewise. Well, I'll leave this fine piece for you two to ponder," Megan said and quickly left.
"Who is she?" Barbara asked, glancing at the retreating woman then Helena, who had a smile on her face.
Helena shrugged. "Somebody who likes art, I guess...."
And beautiful brunettes too, Barbara suspected as she smiled, relieved with Helena's indifference. The smile faded as she wondered if Gwen was the reason for that indifference.
"So, how was lunch?" Helena asked, sticking her hands in her pockets uneasily.
"Quick, like I predicted," Barbara said, then scanned around the museum curiously. "How much have you seen?"
"Just this," she said, pointing to the big colorful picture. "And the paintings on the way in. I wanted to wait until you got here," Helena said a bit shyly.
"So I could explain them to you?" Barbara joked.
"Well, there is that. Like this one," Helena said, pointing to the interesting modern composition she and Megan had been discussing. "I can look at that and think the colors are nice but . . . what's that about? I tilt my head - no better understanding," Helena complained.
Barbara gazed upon the oil a moment with interest, then looked back at Helena. "Well, I'm not surprised - it's upside down," Barbara said.
Helena looked at her a thoughtful moment, then chuckled. "You are so full of shit."
"Ah, but now you are wondering if I'm right," Barbara said with an amused smile.
Helena frowned and looked back at the painting critically, then at Barbara with feigned irritation that made Barbara chuckle.
"Come on, Gordon. There are plenty of paintings left to admire."
"I do hope they are hung properly," Barbara said dryly.
Helena surprised Barbara when she leaned in incredibly close to look into her green eyes intently.
"Yep. Thought so. They're brown now."
"Mom would have loved this one," Helena said, sitting on a bench as Barbara rolled next to her. The young couple who had been admiring the painting strolled away, hand-in-hand.
"It's beautiful," Barbara said, looking at Helena's profile as the younger woman studied the painting of a Parisian country side. Seeing a sad sigh, Barbara asked "You OK?"
Helena looked at Barbara with a sad smile. "Yeah. Though every once in a while, I really miss her."
Barbara nodded and placed a hand on Helena's. "You're entitled to feeling blue, Helena," she said softly. Helena looked down at Barbara's hand with mild surprise.
"Not when we're supposed to be having fun together," Helena countered.
"I don't need to be entertained, Helena. I enjoy . . . just being with you," Barbara said with uncomfortable honestly.
Helena looked at her curiously. Barbara "didn't do" sentimental, but she wasn't going to complain. As she took a breath to respond in kind, her cell phone rang.
Barbara released Helena's hand reluctantly as Helena frowned and pulled out her phone.
Helena looked at the incoming number, surprised. "Hello?"
"Hey Barbara, how was the exhibit?" Dinah said, greeting her mentor who rolled off of the elevator.
"It was very nice," she said flatly.
"What happened to Helena?" Dinah asked, looking back at the empty elevator curiously.
"She got a call from Gwen. She went to see her," Barbara said with forced nonchalance. She knew she had no right to feel so irritated. Helena's girlfriend had just lost her father, who was involved in disturbing criminal activities, and her mother had known what he was doing. She probably really needed Helena's shoulder right now. And it wasn't Gwen's or Helena's fault that she had been too dense to see what was right in front of her, Barbara considered with annoyance.
"Oh. Did you two get a chance to talk...about things?"
"That's not why I went, Dinah," Barbara said with a heavy sigh.
"Then why did you go? You had a burning desire to see the exhibit?" Dinah said with a smirk.
"I happen to like spending time with Helena. All right?"
"You are going to talk with her...about things, aren't you?"
"Dinah, please just drop it. There is nothing to discuss," Barbara exhaled tiredly.
"NOTHING?? You can't be serious. There's TONS you two need to talk about."
"Dinah..." Barbara warned, not liking the teen's tone or disapproval of her position, for that matter.
"You can't possibly think it's a good idea to wait to tell her how you feel??"
"You have to admit the timing isn't good," Barbara snapped. "And Helena really cares about Gwen, Dinah. Even if her father didn't commit suicide - I wouldn't want to interfere. I won't," Barbara said with finality.
"So you think she should be with Gwen? That Gwen will make her happy?" Dinah asked incredulously.
"It doesn't matter what I think - it matters what Helena thinks."
"You're not being fair . . . ," Dinah said with frustration.
"That's exactly what I'm trying to be," Barbara responded with exasperation.
"Tell me, Oracle, how can she possibly make a good decision if she doesn't have all of the facts?"
"I am not going to interfere, Dinah. And that's final. And no interference from you either," Barbara warned with narrow eyes.
"You're making a mistake," Dinah urged.
"Promise me you won't interfere," Barbara insisted.
"This is so screwed up. You're doing the same stupid thing Helena did with Wade!"
"Promise me," Barbara demanded.
"I promise not to interfere," Dinah said pointedly, making Barbara frown, not exactly sure what that meant. "Just so you know, you are not just being unfair to yourself, you're being unfair to three other, very good and decent people who don't deserve being second best," Dinah said glaring at her.
Barbara's eyes dropped uncomfortably. "I broke it off with Wade."
"Great. Only two other people will be screwed up by your silence," Dinah said with an annoyed sigh.
"Dinah, that's enough," Barbara said, her anger bubbling up. It wasn't her place to criticize, she thought with annoyance.
"I'm going to go to Gabby's for a couple days," Dinah blurted, clearly disgusted. "Helena will start asking why I'm so angry with you and I'm not going to lie," she warned and left for her room to pack.
Barbara looked up to the ceiling, growling with frustration.
Helena returned to the tower to find Dinah exiting the elevator with an overnight bag. "Hey, going somewhere good?" She asked, eyeing the large bag curiously.
"Gabby's. See you in a few," Dinah blurted, continuing to walk away.
"Yep. Gotta go," Dinah said, clearly anxious to leave.
"Have...," Helena said as she watched Dinah hightail it out of there. ". . .fun."
With a confused grimace, Helena rode the elevator up to the clock tower, wondering what would make Dinah forgo an opportunity to talk her ear off.
Stepping off the elevator, she looked around for Barbara. Oddly, she was not planted in her usual place in front of Delphi. She paused a moment when she caught a very strong scent of her. Barbara was working out Helena concluded and headed towards the gym.
As she approached the gym, Helena could hear the grunts and thwacks, then found Barbara furiously beating the heavy bag with her Eskrima sticks.
"Whoa!! Who pissed you off?" Helena said with amusement. Barbara exhaled and rolled towards the towel rack.
"If you don't mind, Helena, I'd like to be alone," Barbara said, clearly making a statement - not a request. Helena noted Barbara's eyes never met hers as she grabbed a towel and dabbed her damp forehead.
"Really?" Helena said with interest. "Dinah practically flew out of here and you are beating the crap out of the equipment. Is there something I should know about?"
"I . . . I don't know," Barbara exhaled with honest frustration, as she started to question every decision she had made - thanks to Dinah's emphatic and aggravating arguments. She looked down to the towel in her hands which she unconsciously started to strangle.
Barbara was bothered for some reason and Helena was determined to find out why.
"I think you need a sparring partner," Helena suddenly offered. "Someone who's able to hit back," Helena teased, patting the heavy bag.
"No, I don't think so," Barbara said tightly. She knew having Helena around would not make it any easier to think. And she needed to think....
"If you are worried - I'll tie one hand behind my back," she said, egging her on. Helena knew Barbara had a healthy ego, which she could occasionally exploit.
"Helena...." Barbara groaned, recognizing Helena's blatant tactic.
"Or...are you chicken?" Helena said, eyeing her with a smirk.
"Damn it, Helena. I said NO and I mean NO," Barbara snapped and immediately regretted it. It wasn't Helena's fault. She sighed heavily, rubbing the bridge of her nose.
Helena looked at her thoughtfully. "So what you're trying to say is . . . you'd like a sparring partner?"
Barbara shook her head, in an odd mix of frustration and amusement. "For someone with metahearing, you don't listen very well."
"Hmm?" Helena said absently as she walked to the weapons rack and picked up the nunchucks, inspecting them with interest.
Barbara rolled her eyes, almost missing the flourish that signaled the start of Helena's attack. With a somersault, Helena landed in front of Barbara and proceeded to whirl the weapon with surprising skill. Barbara had to work harder than she expected to not let the nunchucks get past her defenses. Helena obviously had learned some weapons skills when she trained as a human, Barbara noted with appreciation.
As quickly as the attack came, Helena backed off. Barbara's eyes followed her as she leaped gracefully across the room, back to weapons rack, and turned to wink at her. As much as she had admired the human Helena's dedication to training and surprising ability to quickly learn, Barbara had missed Helena's cocky flair.
When she exchanged her nunchucks for a staff, Barbara found herself truly interested to see what she could do. She never saw Helena use a staff.
With another impressive flourish that clearly demonstrated that she had picked up those skills along the way too, Helena leapt into the air and came down behind Barbara.
Barbara blindly swung her Eskrima sticks behind her, but Helena deflected them. Quickly, nudging her joystick on her chair as she deflected the powerful and rapid staff strikes, Barbara was able to see her opponent again and attempted to sweep her legs out from beneath her.
Helena had to smile at Barbara's aggressiveness and did a back-flip, avoiding the blows.
While interesting, Helena grew tired of the staff. She somersaulted over Barbara's head, deflecting a few blows targeting the airborne opponent.
Barbara wiped her forehead with her forearm, glad for the small reprieve as Helena put the staff down and let her fingers trail over the other weapons as if she were shopping. When her hand touched the Eskrima sticks, she glanced over to Barbara with a challenging smirk and a sparkle in her eyes.
While Barbara resisted the urge to roll her eyes, knowing she had to keep them focused on the woman before her, she couldn't resist a good challenge. "Bring it on, Hel," Barbara invited with a fire in her eyes.
Helena smiled, leaning leisurely against the weapons rack with arms crossed with Eskrima sticks in hand. "You sure you're not too tired to keep up, Red?" She said, lazily scratching her cheek with the tip of an Eskrima stick.
"What's the matter, Hel? You worried about a cripple beating you with her favorite weapon?" Barbara shot back, knowing Helena loved to trash talk.
Helena's smile grew wider at the perfect opening. "Well, I am worried - about whooping your ass and you not being able to feel it," she said sassily.
Barbara's mouth dropped in shock. "What did you just say?!?" Barbara said tersely, amazed at the young woman's gall. There was trash talk - but THIS . . . THIS crossed the line. Helena had better apologize, she considered with narrow eyes.
"I said I'm worried about..." Helena repeated, chuckling at the disbelief on Barbara's face, then suddenly launching an attack that Barbara found herself really straining against.
Though Barbara's ability to fight in the wheelchair was considerable, it was limited. Her success out on the streets with the few encounters she had was due to the element of surprise and the ability to execute precise and swift attacks in that moment. It was hard to accept she had been reduced to that fighting style - but she had no choice.
But sparring with Helena made her almost forget her limitations. The continued attacks and blocks and dodges, now spanning over several grueling minutes, required her to dig into her physical and mental reserves. Her muscles began to ache and sweat poured from her. The familiar challenge thrilled her.
While she knew Helena could easily take out her chair and completely dominate her, Helena didn't. Instead, the young woman used her considerable skills to push Barbara harder than anyone could - even with her outrageously rude trash talk, she considered begrudgingly. She wondered why she had not engaged in all-out sparing with Helena before, unable to recall the last time she had such a challenging partner - even when she could walk.
But that was Helena - always a challenge. Pushing her limits, not to mention buttons, and pulling her in directions she wasn't necessarily prepared to go - but needed to. For some reason, Helena knew that. There was no time for self-pity or laziness around Helena, Barbara considered, trying another attack combination that was met blow for blow with a passion and joy that was infectious. She wondered if that passionate and joy extended to the bedroom . . . .
It was unclear who was more surprised when Helena slipped through her defenses and whacked Barbara in the head.
"Ugh," Barbara moaned, her hand shooting up to her head. Serves you right, she thought with irritation.
"Are you all right??" Helena said worriedly, immediately by her side. She dropped the Eskrima sticks, which bounced noisily on the floor, and felt for the bump through the damp red hair.
"Helena, stop," Barbara said uneasily, pulling Helena's hand away from her head, angry for allowing her mind to wander during a fight, let alone become highly aroused at the thought of Helena in bed...with her.
Helena tensed with worry, breathing in Barbara's unmistakable scent of arousal, knowing she was helpless to stop her own from igniting and engulfing her.
Barbara frowned at the concern on Helena's face. "Look, it's not the first time I've been hit . . . in the head," she finished slowly, gazing into beautiful blue eyes that started to change. It was mesmerizing. "You . . . You're aroused, aren't you?" Barbara whispered in awe and hope.
Helena looked down in shame, knowing her eyes would someday betray her. She had finally learned to not go primal with the scent of Barbara's sweat, but there was nothing that could have prepared her for such a powerful, euphoric scent so close.
"Hel . . . look at me," Barbara said softly. "Please."
Helena looked up, unable to deny Barbara's gentle but powerful request. "I'm sor...," she said miserably at her lack of control.
Barbara pressed her fingers to Helena's lips, stopping her apology. The contact was sweet torture, fueling Helena's desire to burn even hotter.
"Don't ever apologize for that," Barbara said firmly, confusing the metahuman. "You must know . . . I'm aroused too?" She asked. For the first time, Barbara Gordon was not embarrassed by saying something so personal aloud. Even with past lovers, she did not like to talk about things like that. But with Helena, right now, it was . . . natural.
Helena nodded helplessly. "Your scent . . . consumes me," she admitted huskily.
The raw admission shot through Barbara like molten liquid, washing over her erogenous zones and pooling in her sex. Her body's startlingly strong response made her wonder whether it was possible to climax from mere words. Though, that was an experiment for a later day, Barbara concluded, currently desiring to engage all her senses - now. She reached out and slowly slid her hand along Helena's forearm, her intent clear.
Helena's eyes widened as her breathing became more ragged. She couldn't look away from the want reflected in those beautiful green eyes. A want for her! A want she had always longed to see but didn't dare hope for. Her scent, her eyes, her touch, all made Helena tremble with need.
Her fingers traced up Helena's arm, over her bicep, her shoulder, then found purchase behind her neck. Gently, but firmly, she guided Helena towards her. Barbara's heart pounded with anticipation as the distance between them slowly disappeared. Before their lips could finally meet, Helena stiffened and pulled back slightly.
"I can't . . . ," Helena said in agony, causing Barbara to freeze with fear.
Gwen, Barbara thought with dread, feeling like her heart would shatter.
"I can't share you," Helena said uneasily, unable to look into Barbara's eyes, knowing her willpower was only so strong....
Barbara exhaled with incredible relief. She tenderly lifted Helena's chin and looked her in the eye. She was amazed to find tears in them.
"Oh sweetie," Barbara exhaled sadly, knowing she had caused this young woman so much heartache. "It's over with Wade. I told him at lunch."
Helena looked at her, almost not believing. "Why? Did he do something?" Helena said with a tense look.
Barbara's heart broke at Helena's insecurity. "No. It was because of what he couldn't do. He couldn't make me love him," she admitted, caressing the back of Helena's neck. Helena blinked and remained silent, afraid to speak. "I honestly don't know why it took so long, but almost losing you woke me up, Helena. I hope . . . it's not too late for us," she said with a wince, looking at her questioningly. "Because I can't share you, either."
Helena thought she might melt into a puddle of relief. She was almost too overwhelmed to answer, but Barbara needed an answer.
"I . . .uh, Gwen is taking Grace and leaving New Gotham," Helena said, struggling to speak coherently. "She knew. That you would always be first in my heart."
Barbara exhaled with relief, looking into beautiful cat-like eyes that were focusing intently on her, waiting. Silently, Barbara reached out and reverently caressed Helena's face, her fingertips gliding over her forehead, her brow, down the side of her face.... She was startled when Helena suddenly grabbed her hand with surprising speed. Slowly, Barbara's hand was pulled towards Helena's lips. There was no rushing as each and every finger tip was savored, teased, and caressed. Helena's warm, wet mouth and skilful tongue made the rest of Barbara's body ache with jealous need.
"God," Barbara exhaled in a whimper, her arousal skyrocketing.
Helena's appreciation for her wet need manifested itself in a low growl that vibrated through her fingers to Barbara's core.
Unable to remain a passive recipient of the intimate attention, Barbara suddenly whipped her hand away, grabbed Helena with both hands and pulled her into a bruising, needful kiss.
Helena growled again, this time pulling Barbara out of her chair and on top of her. Helena hit the floor with a thud that only momentarily interrupted their kiss.
In a flurry of activity that rivaled their sparring, their hands roamed as frantically as their tongues dueled. There was nothing remotely tender about their hard, urgent kiss, possessive hands, or moans and growls, as long pent-up passion boiled over, finally free from self-imposed barriers.
Tender was for another day as the desperate women were too busy making up for lost time... almost too busy to notice Delphi's alarm.
With amazing strength to overcome nearly debilitating desire, both women parted with ragged breaths and silently collected themselves, neither daring to look at each other. Helena took a deep, fortifying breath and silently scooped Barbara up from the floor. Barbara could feel how tense Helena was as she was carried the short distance to her chair, marveling at the young woman's control, knowing her own was tenuous at best.
Both relieved and disappointed at the loss of contact when Helena gently deposited her to her wheelchair, Barbara took an uneasy breath as she quietly forced her trembling hands to straighten her shirt that was in the process of being removed. First to leave the gym, she numbly rolled towards Delphi, still refusing to look Helena in the eye, not trusting herself.
Helena silently followed, her whole body thrumming with need as her eyes darted around everywhere but directly at Barbara. She vaguely wondered if this was what an addict who was going through withdrawal felt like.
Barbara remained silent as she mechanically called up the police report. She hoped, really hoped, it would be another case of New Gotham's finest apprehending the criminals without need for their help. However, her previously neutral mask turned into a frown when she learned that was not the case. There was a standoff with two, well-armed jewelry thieves in a now barricaded store on 4th and Greeley . . . and there were hostages. Police had the building surrounded and were calling in a negotiator.
Needing to dispatch Helena, she bit her lip as she turned to her uneasily. She hoped she could speak coherently and that both of them could stay focused. With a sigh of relief, she watched only a blur of Helena as she swiftly left for the scene, leaving the balcony door to gently sway in the summer breeze.
Barbara exhaled heavily, willing herself to not think about Helena's sexy eyes, amazing kisses, responsiveness to her touch, and that incredible passion . . . dear GOD, she thought, blinking with frustration. How was she going to keep Helena's mind on the mission too? She didn't even like baseball, she considered absently as she checked the GPS monitor. Helena's signal was rapidly approaching the scene.
"Oracle?" A surprising voice called over the coms.
"D...Dinah? Where are you?" Barbara said, then cleared her throat as she glanced at the GPS monitor which gave her exact position.
"Two blocks from the standoff," Dinah said with surprise. Oracle could have just looked at the GPS monitor....
"G...Good. Hel...Huntress is on her way. There are two armed jewelry thieves," Barbara said, trying to focus. "They have hostages. They are armed....uh, there are two of them."
"Uh, Oracle. Are you all right? You sound a bit...out of it," Dinah said with a frown.
Barbara cringed and told herself to snap out of it. She had a job to do and couldn't afford to screw it up. People's lives could be lost, including Helena's and Dinah's.
"Or...Oracle?" Helena said uneasily.
"Go ahead, Huntress," Barbara said with surprising confidence. She could do this.
"I see them," Helena said in a strangled voice.
"Are you . . . all right?" Barbara hesitantly asked with concern. The last thing Helena needed was to be distracted.
After a long pause, Helena cleared her throat and answered. "Yes. Just reevaluating my career choice, Oracle," she said with annoyance, making Barbara smile. Helena would be all right if she could joke.
"You are not the only one," Barbara offered with a heavy exhale, surprising Helena, whose tense face finally relaxed into a smirk.
"I've got an idea," Helena offered conversationally.
"Oh? What's your idea, Huntress?" Barbara said, unable to help herself.
"Why don't we really go into the muffin top business? I understand baking is actually a science - so you should be able to actually pick that up in no time," Helena offered with enthusiasm.
"Why do you assume I would be the one to bake??" Barbara asked.
"Because you can't even taste the difference between a microwaved and toasted pop-tart. So, naturally, I would have to be the company taster person, leaving you to do the baking," Helena said with a smile at her logic.
"So your official title would be company taster person?" Barbara laughed.
"What the hell are you two talking about?" Dinah asked in frustration as she spotted Helena on the rooftop, peering down through a skylight.
"Just exploring business possibilities, big D," Helena said nonchalantly as Dinah joined her side.
"Hey, why are your eyes already like that?" Dinah said.
"Mind on Mission, Dinah," Oracle suddenly said.
"Great, you two can chit-chat all you want, but when I have a question it's mind on mission," Dinah grumbled.
"You'd better hurry. The roof tops are going to get crowded soon. The police are sending a swat team with the negotiator," Oracle said.
"Come on, Kid. Let's get this over with. I have much better things I could be doing," Helena said and jumped through the skylight.
"Great," Dinah said with a wince, looking down through the new hole wondering how she was going to get down.
"Hello, boys," Helena said as she landed. She grabbed the .357 magnum out of one criminal's hand as she kicked the other, causing him to fly across the room and hit the wall, hard. He scrambled to get up and fire his weapon, but she leaped to his side and grabbed it. She pulled it up and the man held on. With a frown, she head-butted him, causing him to let go and slump back down against the wall.
The other criminal ran at her and tried to grab her. She gracefully jumped up and over him. "You want this?" she taunted, holding up his weapon with a grin.
"Bitch," he said, grabbing for her again. She stepped aside and kicked him, causing him to collapse to the ground.
"I read somewhere that carrying a weapon this size . . ," she said, as he scrambled to his feet, furious and lunged for her again. She easily dodged his attack with a somersault. "Is to compensate for another short coming," she said, glancing at his family jewels pointedly.
"Bitch," he said again, finally getting clobbered into unconsciousness by Huntress.
"Not very original, I must say," Huntress said, tsking as she tied them up. "Oracle, the packages are secured with no shots fired," Helena said as Dinah finally joined her side.
"Oh, I wouldn't say that," Oracle said dryly, getting a chuckle. "Well done, Huntress and Dinah."
"Why thank me? She took care of everything before I could get down from the roof!" Dinah complained.
Barbara bit her lip, wondering how to respond.
"Sorry, D. Next time, I'll try not to be so anxious and let you kick some butt," Helena said, surprising Dinah with the apology.
"Really," Helena said, playfully nudging her arm with her elbow.
"Huntress, will you be . . . returning to the tower?" Barbara asked uneasily.
"Ah that's a ten-four, good buddy," Helena said, getting Dinah to chuckle. The fighting had definitely taken the odd edge off of Helena, she considered, enjoying her playful side.
"Uh. Understood. Oracle out," Barbara said.
Barbara was practically rolling around in circles as she waited for Helena's return. Spotting the wine rack, she smiled. She was certain they could have a civilized, romantic glass of wine and even talk a bit, about expectations and whatnot, before they.... Barbara swallowed hard, as she started to feel very warm again at the thought. Now she wasn't so sure she could wait.
With determination, she grabbed the wine and two glasses and placed them on the coffee table with a firm nod of her head. They could be adults about this and not go at it like rabid rabbits. Quite honestly, she had never ever, EVER, lost control like that. But then, no one had ever aroused her so completely, she thought with a shiver as she recalled Helena's growl. Stop it Gordon and get a damn cork screw, she scolded herself and rolled to the kitchen.
As she searched the kitchen drawers, which, she had to admit, contained many wondrous and fascinating things, she considered actually taking a cooking class. Wouldn't it surprise Helena to come home to a dinner she made? Until then, she considered, she would just have to rely on Alfred or her supply of pop-tarts.
When she finally found the elusive cork screw, she heard Delphi announce the elevator was in use, which surprised her. She was expecting Helena to make a dramatic entry and use the balcony. Although it did give her some warning, she considered as she quickly returned to the living room and shifted herself onto the couch, knowing that would be much more comfortable for both of them.
She picked up the cork screw and the doors finally opened. Barbara smiled anxiously and greeted her soon-to-be lover. "Hel...ena," she said, spotting Helena emerge with Dinah, who was chatting away. Helena looked at Barbara and shrugged apologetically.
Barbara exhaled evenly, wondering if this frustration of wanting but not being able to do anything about it was her punishment for being so dense about Helena. If there was some deity at work here, she was pure evil, Barbara concluded.
"Dinah, what a surprise," Barbara said flatly, trying to smile but failing. Her young ward's eyes dropped guiltily.
Barbara looked over to Helena, who was looking at her intently. Barbara swallowed hard, feeling like prey, and dropped her eyes.
"I need to speak to both of you," Dinah said, looking at Helena seriously. "Maybe you should sit down."
Did she have to look so damn sexy just standing there? Barbara thought with irritation.
Helena looked at the earnest teen curiously, then shrugged, sitting down next to Barbara on the couch as Dinah paced to gather her thoughts.
Barbara cringed, able to feel Helena's body heat, wondering why she had to sit so close. "Could you move over a bit?" Barbara asked, not looking at Helena.
Helena scooted closer with a knowing smile, causing Barbara to curse herself for not being more specific.
Noticing the wine on the table and the two glasses with interest, Helena looked over to Barbara with a pleased smile. Glancing down to Barbara's hand, Helena noted the cork screw.
"Now, I wanted to tell you two how much you mean to me," Dinah blurted earnestly, glancing at the two uneasily before continuing to pace. "You are family, and family doesn't just stand by and watch serious mistakes being made."
With a thumb and index finger, Helena grabbed the end of the cork screw and pulled up, finding Barbara's hand moving with it.
"So I have to tell you what huge mistake you are making," Dinah said firmly.
"Let it go!" Barbara hissed, still not looking at Helena, who smirked.
"I will NOT let it go Barbara," Dinah countered, shutting her eyes with frustration. "I know you asked me to not interfere, but I don't think this as interfering. And even if it was - that's what we do for a living, right Helena?" She said, glancing to Helena.
"Yeah, let D speak her piece, Barbara," Helena said innocently, earning a glare from Barbara.
"What are you two doing?" Dinah asked with exasperation, seeing both Helena and Barbara holding a cork screw.
"I wanted to open the Chardonnay, but Barbara is hogging the cork screw," Helena offered, holding up the object in question, which still had Barbara's hand attached to it.
"Wine? Why do you have wine?" Dinah asked.
"My guess is that we are celebrating," Helena said reasonably. "Could it be my first sweeps after the merging?" she asked, looking at Barbara innocently.
Barbara blinked and looked over to the confused teen and offered "That's a good reason to celebrate, isn't it Dinah?"
"I'm sure Dinah won't mind us having wine, even if she's too young to indulge. Right, D?"
"It's just not right, Helena," Barbara said uneasily.
"Look, while you two argue over having wine or not, which frankly I don't care about, one way or the other, I have something really important to tell you guys," Dinah said almost whining.
"Go ahead, D," Helena said, letting go of the cork screw to Barbara's relief. The last thing she needed to have around Dinah was wine which would make her less sharp. And the teen really didn't need to be hearing her thoughts at the moment.
"Thanks," Dinah said, starting to pace again. "As I was saying... I feel compelled to speak up only because I love you two. The fact is you two are ignoring what is right in front of you!" Dinah said emphatically, turning towards the two women as Helena grabbed the bottle of wine and unceremoniously jammed her pinky finger down the neck, pushing the cork into the bottle. A little wine splashed back onto her face and clothes, but Helena still smirked proudly, holding up the open bottle to Barbara, so she could see her accomplishment without the cork screw.
Barbara rolled her eyes and sighed as Helena smiled with amusement and poured two glasses.
Dinah sighed heavily, annoyed that they would so blatantly ignore her - especially when she was TRYING to help them. She was about to tell them they were hopelessly doomed when she was distracted by their silent communication.
Helena offered a glass to Barbara, who begrudgingly accepted the inevitable as she shook her head at Helena's persistence. Eyeing Helena's damp face, Barbara reached out and started to wipe a drop away from her cheek.
To Dinah's amazement, Helena grasped Barbara's hand and tenderly kissed her palm - and Barbara didn't pull back! Instead, Barbara smiled warmly and gently tapped their glasses together, causing a soft, crisp ping.
They each took a sip and smiled.
Dinah's eyes widened when Helena leaned in and kissed Barbara tenderly.
"Yes, well," Dinah blurted uneasily and cleared her throat. "I'm glad I could finally talk some sense into you two," Dinah said awkwardly and fled.
"She may never speak to us again," Barbara noted with a sparkle in her eyes.
"If I had known I could get rid of D by kissing you, I would have done it sooner," Helena joked.
"I hope that's not the only reason you have for kissing me," Barbara said, looking into Helena's blue eyes, anxious to see them change again.
"Do I need a reason?" Helena asked, taking the wine glass from Barbara and placing it on the coffee table next to hers. "Other than I love you?"
Barbara sighed contentedly, caressing Helena's face. "I love you too, Hel," she said, leaning in for a slow, sensuous kiss. When their lips parted, Barbara whispered "Take me to bed and let me show you."
With an abruptness Barbara didn't expect, Helena scooped her up and ran to Barbara's bedroom, leaping over chairs, tables, stairs, and railings with a frantic urgency. There was no question of what Helena wanted.
"Whoa!" Barbara said, unable to withhold her delighted laughter as they entered her bedroom. "Careful or I might get motion sickness," she warned with a big smile.
Helena grinned, gently depositing her precious cargo onto the big bed. "You might want to invest in Dramamine, Red, 'cause life with me is gonna be a roller coaster ride," Helena cockily warned, then took her left hand hers and gently squeezed "...for better or worse," she softly vowed with surprising vulnerability, lifting Barbara's hand to her lips and kissing her knuckles reverently.
Barbara's heart swelled as she looked at the amazing woman who just promised her . . . everything. "I hope so, Hel. God, I hope so," she admitted earnestly and pulled Helena into a heated kiss.
~ The End ~