Book One: First Person
Present Continuous


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“Bad Grammar” is a fan fiction based on, and derivative of these copyrighted and trademarked properties i.e. the work exists in violation of copyright. However the author would like to acknowledge that no commercial profit is being made from the distribution of this work and the author is in no way a serious challenge to the commercial dominion of the copyright holders.

SEX AND VIOLENCE DISCLAIMERS: This literary work contains violence, and profuse usage of profanity not appropriate for readers under the age 13. This work also describes same-gender, homoerotic relationships and graphic depictions of sexuality – if you are considered a minor, or if representations of homosexuality are considered illegal in your particular geo-political location this is not suitable reading material for you.

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Chapter 15


What kind of idiot would turn down thirty million dollars? An insufferable, stuck up, straight and narrow, by the book police detective who believes in things that go bump in the night but doesn't like them. Unless they're pretty girls who flirt with him - like me for example.

That's the good Detective Jesse Reese for you - so moral and righteous; so hungry for justice; so naïve and earnest. There are strange things that happen at night, and I'm going to find out. I took one look at him and had to fuck with him.

Jesse is my version of "Oh My God! This tastes awful, here try some more." Detective Reese whom no one believes when he says strange things are happening; Detective Reese who would sell his soul to meet Batman; Reese whose last name is Hawke. Of course he has a secret identity, and of course I know. I have unfailing radar for people with secret identities. And father issues. And trust issues. And abandonment issues. But I come by it honestly. Really I do, just see who my parents and my guardians are.

He wanted me. I could see it in his eyes, the way he followed me wherever I moved. He was caught between wanting me and wanting to smash me. He hated that I could appear and disappear on him. Hated that he didn't know anything about me. Hated that I was better at crime fighting. But the wanting me won out. How could I miss the wanting? It rose off his skin like a perfume. And I've always had a thing for hard bodies. And his was.

Oh God he's so good. So on the side of justice. So full of the law. So filled with wanting to make up for who his father is, ready to take on the mob all by himself. But so dumb. Jesse Reese is like that really dumb dog that just doesn't have the sense to get out of the way. So you have to adopt it or it'll end up dead. It doesn't matter that he carries a gun to work every day, he barely knows how to use it. I mean he can shoot it, but he doesn't know how to use it. But he was a good guy, a really good guy - one who wouldn't know a bad thing if it popped up in front of him and kissed him. There are only two other people I know that good. One is the damn annoying kid. And the other is... yes, I know, an unhealthy fixation.

Are people who are good the same no matter who they are? If you're in love with the most good person you've ever known, can you love some one else who is good in the same way? Maybe. At least that's what I told myself. But being in love with Barbara and waiting for her to see me, oh boy! Like the man said, 'That's a long wait for a train don't come.' So maybe I decided to take a train going somewhere - anywhere - for a little bit. If she won't see me, I said, maybe it's time to go with someone who does.

Have you ever done something that you knew from the start was stupid? Like open the top of the blender when the motor's running? Like put your finger in the flame of a candle just to find out how hot it is? Or maybe take the side road when driving cross-country just to see what's there, knowing all the time that you'll probably get lost? Or open the door marked "Do not open" just to see what would happen? I have.

When I was thirteen I had an iguana that I liberated from some dumb kid who decided it was too much trouble. It was the ugliest lizard you ever saw. It must have been in some kind of territorial fight with another iguana, because one side of its face was chewed up and it had a series of crescent shaped scars going down its side. I called him Quincy.

Quincy drove Bast crazy. Bring Bast near Quincy's enclosure and she went wild, hissing and clawing. Of course, it drove mom up the wall. One summer Quincy got out of his cage and hid in some inaccessible corner of mom's bedsprings, Bast went wild and shredded the sheets. Mother was no big fan of Quincy that day. I don't think she liked lizards.

Actually I don't like lizards either. I'm not a big fan of iguanas, they're weird and I don't know how to talk to them. And there's something in me that recognises their potential as prey. Take me to the reptile enclosure in a zoo and it drives me crazy when I see those big fat lizards just sitting there under the light of their artificial suns, their skin fat with flesh bulging from their bodies. The vibration starts in my teeth, and then spreads to my nose and tongue. I just want to bite into their fat bodies and feel the spine crunch between my teeth. But Quincy was so ugly I was mesmerised. With his chewed up face and scarred scaly skin he was fascinating. I reached my hand out to touch his skin and the scars were soft and smooth unlike the toughness of the rest of him. Maybe he reminded me a little of Nibs. But he was so grotesque I grew attached to him. And I kept him. Mom just shook her head and shrugged. "You're feeding it," she said and left me to my own devices.

Mom should never have let me have Quincy. I was cruel to him - less so than his last owner but still. All I ever did was stare at the poor deformed iguana and taunt Bast with him. But ever so often, when no one was looking I would hold Quincy and stroke the soft skin of his scars. If I put him on my stomach the heat would put him to sleep. And when he closed his eyes when I stroked his side, it was as if he was purring. Or whatever the reptilian equivalent was. I'd have the damnedest time extricating his claws from my pants. I didn't have Quincy very long though. One time that I didn't latch Quincy's cage, Bast got him and shredded him. When mom and I got home she was sitting by the window cleaning herself very smugly, and entirely ignoring the iguana tail sitting on the sill. I wasn't very upset. I was more interested to find out if the cat would be sick from the iguana meat. Yes, sometimes I was a creepy little teenaged nerd.

Detective Jesse Reese reminded me of Quincy. Oh, Jesse isn't ugly, but I was grotesquely fascinated by him in the same way. Jesse Reese was so far from what I was that I tried to picture myself with him. The whole idea was obscene. Picture it: Jesse the earnest, do right by the world dork that he is. Trust you? How can I trust you, you won't even tell me your name. What a whiner. And then me, the... well, me.


So I pictured it even more thoroughly. Normal Jesse and his normal cop life. After all it was difficult to meet regular guys when I spent all my time body-slamming scumbags. And if Barbara thought that didn't sound like me that was her own damn problem because she obviously had no trouble meeting normal regular Wades who actually bought the whole muffin-top routine. We could go on normal dates and have normal conversations. And after we had been on a couple of normal dinners and movies, we could have normal, straight sex and he could fill me with his normal children. It was a completely normal fantasy for a normal girl. And when I laid his head on my stomach he could go to sleep from the heat, and I could stroke his scarred side and he could purr, or whatever the reptilian... oops!... normal equivalent would be.

And yes, sometimes I'm a creepy little adult.

Chapter 16


I have watched Helena grow up in my house. Literally.

In the first year that she lived with me, she grew an inch and a half to reach her final height of five feet nine inches. I actually observed her grow out of two of her favourite pairs of jeans. I saw her shirts get tighter as her shoulders filled out. Each day the gawky coltish young girl was erased out of existence and was replaced by this complex young woman I had no hope of understanding. I was not at all prepared to play the parent to her. I wasn't prepared to play the parent to anyone. When I absently agreed to let Selina make me Helena's guardian, I never thought it would actually come to that. After all, I was the one with the dangerous vocation.

And the day Helena offered to join me in my vocation was the hardest of all. It was not something Selina would have wanted for her child. It was not something I would want for my child. I tried to remind her of her dreams of being an art collector, perhaps a curator for the world's museums. But she had let all that go.

Can you imagine that? My Helena in spectacles and a magnifying glass, perhaps poring over a sample under a microscope, pronouncing the authenticity of a disputed work? Or maybe Helena in a power suit, seducing the richest men and women in the world to surrender their prizes to an exhibition like no other. She could have done it.

On one sun streaked weekend as we worked out in the high school gym, before we were joined by the rest of the team, she stretched and kicked in a mock karate battle with imaginary foes, and told me how she would conquer the art world. In the inimitably indomitable way of all youth she had pronounced, "I'm going to be the chief curator for the Louvre." Then she stopped to consider her words. "Or maybe the Prado. The Tate's great but... it's all English. And who the hell can get into the fucking Vatican?" And then entirely without my prompting said, "Sorry," to apologise for the swearing.

I had only smiled to myself - for her ambition, and for the incorrigible precision with she had lasered in on the one profession in which her grades would count for less than her skill and intelligence. But seeing her rotating on her heel as she kicked out at the ray of light, I had seen that future open out from the million possibilities of chaotic future. In that moment when her foot contacted the floor and her hair had lit up like a dark halo in the sun, I had seen the parallel paths of our lives slip away in divergent vectors. It was in that second I understood what it meant to be a teacher; to be witness to generation upon generation of possibilities that form and escape into the future.

How little I really understood chaos. How little I really understood about life. Simply because a future is illuminated doesn't mean it's real. Clarity is not always the way of existence. I had never imagined for a moment that I would be the one seeing her grow into a woman instead of her mother. I had never imagined that she would grow up in Gotham, much less in my home. How could I have? I had never even imagined a world in which I might blow out my knee and be relegated to a life of only minor athleticism, much less be crippled and confined to a wheelchair.

Helena in my house was like caging the whirlwind. Her energy was too great to be contained in any given moment. She was filled to bursting with the feeling of being anywhere but there. When she turned eighteen I imagined that she would up and disappear never to be heard from again. It had, after all, been our agreement. She would behave until she was eighteen and then she would go on her way once I had been absolved of all legal responsibility. Inexplicably - past all hope, past all sense, past all expectation - she had stayed. She had stayed and become my helper, my aide and my partner. Sometimes, I think I had allowed her to become my crutch. I let myself sink into melancholy glooms that only she could chase away. I stubbornly goaded her into outbursts just so that we could argue: I revelled in the absolute fixity of her opinions or emotional attitude. I allowed her to stay out nights doing god knows what with god knows who just so that I could rail at her.

But in the gusto with which she lived her life, in the brio of her joy I found her to be my equal. Whether it was the appalling puns over the comms during sweeps, or the wisecracking jaunts in the park for ice-cream, or the grace with she recovered from her injuries, we were joined. We were evenly matched. But at no point was I ever her parent. Even her own mother had barely been her parent.

If you ask anyone, they will say that I am the maternal one in the relationship - because I'm older, more responsible; I was her guardian and all that stuff. It's not true. All appearances - and teenage wards - to the contrary, I really don't have much of a maternal instinct. I'm really more of an older sister or the attentive aunt, a guide rather than a caretaker. I can watch over but I can't care for; especially not babies and children.

Helena on the other hand, knows how to care for things, for people. In her own way, she used to look after her mother; and she certainly cared for me after the shooting - as much as I would let her anyway. Sometimes she'd pick up strays and bring them home; cats mostly - she missed hers. Sometimes birds - she'd nurse them on the balcony of the tower and then watch them fly away. Or squirrels from the park. She'd pretend gross fascination with them and gruffly poke at them, but really she'd line the boxes with feathers and towels, steal droppers from my lab, and feed them.

I don't have the patience. I want to do things. Give me a lost puppy and I can outline a regimen for it's regulated growth and psychological well-being. I'll gladly tell you what sort of formula to mix up so that it gets proper nutrition. I'll tell you how to line the box and put a clock in the lining so that the creature is comforted by the simulacrum of a heart. But I wouldn't be able to play with it, or hold it so that it didn't feel bad or sad or lonely.

Take Dinah for example. I know that I can't abandon her. I know that she needs love and stability, a proper home where she is accepted for herself. I know how to rein her in if she gets too excited during missions or distracted during sweeps. I know how to encourage her when she feels like a freak. But let her come to me as a girl who likes a boy and wants some advice on how to tell him she likes him, and I don't have the first clue. Let her turn to me to be her protector when her mother wants to deny who she is and wrap her up in cotton puffs and I concede the game. Helena on the other hand has an instinct for protection. I had to practically twist her ear to stop her from punching Carolyn out. She's always cared for helpless things. Even when the helpless little things turn out to be genetically engineered super-assassin meta-humans.

Which is why seeing her with Guy was like that moment in the sun, when all the possibilities of life had lain before us, and one had been illuminated only to be dissolved in the shifting waves of Time.

I know that the thing I should remember about the whole affair is sweet Guy and his tragically short life. But what I really remember is Helena screeching at me like a grandmother for driving too fast in the Hummer with a child in the car. Want to hear something funny? The second night after we found Guy, she came to talk to me. She was worried, she said, that Guy thought violence was solution to his problems. That he was depressed by his meta-ness and completely convinced that he couldn't overcome his genetic programming for targeted aggression. All she wanted for the little guy, she said, was for him to feel okay in the world. She looked so serious and sad; so lost for answers when she spoke. I didn't know how to tell her that those were all the same things I ever wanted for her too, and after seven years she still hadn't got it, so she really had no chance with Guy in three days. He'd either get it or he wouldn't.

I never was able to tell her that the reason I didn't cry when Guy died was because of a lesson living with her had taught me - life is like a fistful of water. The tighter you hold on to it the faster she slips away from between your fingers.

Chapter 17


So I thought she was a lying troublemaker when she first came around. She was.

First I have to rescue her from some idiot on the street. Then she gets me yelled at because Barbara thought I let her follow me to the tower. As if? And then she scrunches her face in that 'boo-hoo I'm an orphan all alone in the world I'm going to cry' look and next thing I know she's sleeping on my couch, has moved into my old room and is wearing my clothes. Is it my fault I hate her?

Yes Barbara. No, Barbara. I want to go to school, Barbara. Whatever you say, Barbara. Explain all the science stuff to me, Barbara. I actually want to sit at your feet and learn all about your lab experiments Barbara. Watch me tuck my insecure neurotic hair behind my ear for the gajillionth time, Barbara. I've had a terrible childhood but I'm still sunny and perky, won't you love me, Barbara. I want be a superhero won't you please sign me up, Barbara. I'll do anything you say, Barbara. Will you show me how to run the Delphi, Barbara? Teach me everything you know Barbara.

Fucking teacher's pet.

The kid can read minds for God's sake. And Barbara can read books. Between the two of them they're perfect. Fine! So, the TK's a useful power to have - it's kinda cool. Like when mom used to do tricks for me and I thought she really was magic. Man, you could've knocked me down with a feather that time she pulled that nunchuk off the rack and threw it at my head without touching it.

And she has a cunt of a mother. Black Canary my ass, what a whiny bitch. So one day she decides the guilt of abandoning her daughter is too much and she just shows up and says she's taking her away, after all the trouble we've gone to. We give the kid a home. Barbara hacks the DCS databases and fixes it so that she's her guardian. I train with her for hours so that she doesn't run screaming like a girl the first time someone threatens to kick her ass. So after something like nine years the kid is finally happy and that's not good enough for the precious trailblazing crime-fighter. I mean she wears fish net stockings. What does she know?

She's not like you. Of course not, who could be like me? And what exactly did the bitch mean by calling me the daughter of a thief? Like my dad didn't count for anything. Okay, so he didn't but that's not the point. My mother did more for Gotham City than she ever did. Judgmental bitch. Her and Wade. Both of them bleeding on a leaky raft in the middle of the shark infested Pacific with an open tub of diesel fuel, and me with a match. That's what I'd like to see.

Fuck, if I had her interfering self-righteous self for my mother I'd volunteer to go live with the Redmonds in Opal fucking Missouri - where exactly is that, the middle of the back of nowhere - just to atone for the sin of being born her kid.

And what about Barbara? My God Carolyn, this is what we do. We take in and mentor those like us. Except when their dumbass mothers show up and say, 'Pack up we're leaving.' Then we give up without a fight because they can pull the I'm-a-mother-and-you-can't-understand-what-it means card. The kid was practically begging Barbara with her eyes. And what does Barbara do? She chickens out. What was that about? Don't think I didn't see them all huddled together and circling around each other backing and advancing to a fixed and constant distance of three feet. Want to lay bets that the two of them were more than just friends way back when? Puke.

At least the kid had the good sense to flip her mother off and run.

I have to say right now, I wasn't too thrilled about putting together a rescue party for the bitch. But letting Hawke get one over me was even less thrilling. I have to give the kid credit. She held it together - well most of the way. And used her head to get us out of a jam. That thing she did with the lock around Canary's throat. That was what, the second time ever she'd done anything like it?

No, think about it. The kid's fifteen, sixteen years old, she drives into a warehouse full of mob guys with guns and explosives to rescue her mother. She risks her life for a mother she's barely known; one who abandoned her and what does she get for it? Does she get a thank you? Does she get a good job kid? Does she get a pat on the head from her mom? She kinda did. But she also gets a butt load of guilt for not being able to rescue her mother. She gets the heartache of pretty much watching her mother die. Canary is dead. Long live Canary.

We didn't find a body. We barely found genetic samples. And let me tell you, the explosion wasn't that bad. We found every other body in there. So she lets her daughter think she's dead. 'Cause she finally realised that her kid was better off with us. The really screwy part was how quickly the kid adjusted to the idea of a dead mother. I didn't have the heart to tell her that her mother was a sneaky bitch like that. Espionage agent, hello! They can't help it. They breathe lies like air. It would have broken the kid's heart to know that her mom had run off and left her alone again. Okay so this time her choice of family was a little better, but she'd still run off. It was better to let her think Black Canary was dead.

She really isn't all that bad. I wouldn't take her shopping or anything, but I'd let her cover my back anytime. She's turning into a good fighter. Push her hard enough and she'll even fight dirty. She's pretty okay for a teenager - in that... annoying... little kid... sister way. Even her issues aren't as stupid and complicated as mine. If only I could just get her to stop with that tucking-my-hair-behind-my-ear-when-I'm-nervous thing, and train her not to wear my clothes. Our body types aren't even the same, what is she thinking?

Okay fine! I admit it. I like Dinah.

Chapter 18


Let me tell you about my best friend in school. No, it was not Barbara Gordon dammit. It was Sandra. Sandy. I met Sandy when I moved to Gotham at the very annoyed age of 6. I was actually quite happy living in London. The move from Paris, didn't bother me so much, neither did the move from Luxembourg - I was too young then. But leaving London was a bit of a punishment, I had only just started to make friends with the other kids my age. So, it was wonderful to embark on a new adventure but I was a bit annoyed. Once mother sat me down to explain that really she was moving home, and there would be no more moving, I resigned myself to it. After all, I had never seen mother's home. And if it was mom's home, then in some way it was mine too. And it would be good to go home.

As usual, I made a dramatic arrival. The move had thrown mother's schedule all off and I arrived in school after the year had begun. Three weeks after. There I was. Sitting in a corner of the playground while the others were playing running and catching - tag, I now had to call it. And there was this dark haired Asian girl who was the fastest one in the group ducking in and out because she was smaller than everyone else. When suddenly, the whole game turned into a game of shove. A proper fight actually.

"You're out," she yelled at some curly haired boy a whole head taller than she was.

"No, I'm not!" he yelled back.

"Yes you are. I saw. She touched you."

"No she didn't!"

"She did too."

I suppose he had enough, he pushed her. "Did not!"

"Did so!" she said and pushed back.

Now, I was six, but even then I could see the craziness of this girl. The boy was big, and had that expression that schoolyard bullies have. You know the one - the one that says 'if you're in my way I'm going to step on you'. She must have noticed that I was watching intently. She turned right to me and said, "Ask the new girl. She was watching."

The boy who didn't want to be pushed around by a brat of a girl dismissed the notion. "She can't see. She's too far away."

The girl just marched over to me and asked, "He's out isn't he."

I really didn't know how to be rude to that kind of directness so I said, "Yes."

"Hah!" she exclaimed in triumph. "You are so out."

In the meanwhile, the boy who was rather steamed stepped up to me and said, "Liar."

I stood up and brushed the dirt off my skirt. "You liar." He was. I saw the whole thing the light haired girl had brushed her hand against his back. He was so out. I saw his hand coming back up. He was going to push me. So I pushed him.

The little Asian girl took the whole exchange very badly. She wheeled around on her heels and pointed her finger at the boy, "You're a cheater, Joey. And a bully. I'm not going to play with you anymore."

That must have been the cue, because everyone else agreed with her and abandoned the game. She held her hand out to me. "I'm Sandy," she announced. "You're the new girl. What's your name?"


"Helena." She said my name differently: Helen - Ah. Well, it wasn't a terrible sound, so I nodded. "So," she asked, "how come you're late to school?"

"I just came from London."

"Oh. Are you a foreigner? You sound funny."

"You sound funny too. And you're short," I retorted.

It was a great introduction. She stood around and insulted me for five minutes and then I told her how weird she was. The next day we decided that we would sit next to each other. It was like that for the rest of school. Sandy and Helena.

She was great. She'd never ask me dumb questions whenever I was off throwing a sulk in some corner. She would make fun of me, and my dark glasses. She'd make fun of my grades - when they good or if they were bad. She made fun of my philosophical moods. She would make fun of my pep squad self. She would make fun of my fussy clothes, my trendy clothes, my fashionable clothes, and my frumpy clothes. She would make fun of me if Nibs drove me, or if I took public transport. In short, she made sure I wasn't getting my head up my ass, taking myself too seriously. I could just hang with her, you know.

Did you ever have a friend like that, where you could stalk the entire length and breadth of your neighbourhood together and not say a word for an hour and still be able to say you had a great time? Well there were also all those times we got our underage selves booted from bars and clubs and had a great time. Sometimes I got the feeling that there was something she was hiding, which is why she was able to deal with my moodiness - she never once asked why the hell I sometimes got all secretive and cranky. If I ever missed a day of class, she would without a doubt let me fudge her notes. Sometimes she would come over to my place and we'd practice martial arts. I'd practice the forms mom taught me and she'd teach me some stuff she learned at home.

In the big fat mess that was my feelings about my gymnastics teacher, the complicated dance that was my mother, and the fuck up that was my hormones, she was an uncomplicated and sincere friend. It wasn't like I had so many real friends of my own that I could afford to have the one good one I had just leave. But there you have it - gone. No word from her, all we got was from the teacher - has transferred out because of family issues. Her family had moved and there was no way for anyone to reach them.

I was kind of pissed off. I had come to rely on her. She taught me how to behave. She taught me how to live in high school amongst the superficial creeps while being myself. She was also the one who shamed me into standing up to bullies. She had a wonderful notion about honour and face, and the duty of the strong to stand up for those who are not. It was a real eye-opener seeing her face down some bone-headed creep in the hallway and threaten to kick his ass for him. Even better was her giving a tongue lashing to some over coiffed bitch and putting her in place. She was the first person aside from mom who asked me to take a look at myself and wonder if I were turning into a person that I wouldn't want to talk to. If I were a different person, I would say that I loved her.

So when she left, I floundered a bit. Sometimes I would wonder if the last two years of high school might have been better if I had had someone like her telling me I was being a perfect pain in the ass, and making me laugh all the time. At the very least I would have been less of an asshole to Barbara when she was learning to deal with the chair.

So when she called me to say that she was coming back to Gotham and would like to catch up with me, something in me that still craved the uncomplicated relationships of childhood jumped up for joy and said 'Yes!'

She had changed. She used to be quick and full of humour, now she was serious and full of sadness. Of course, I was once a sincere, annoying pain in the ass. Now I'm was a raging, moody bitch. So I was hardly one to talk. When she asked me about how it felt to have mom die I wondered who she had lost, she asked me with such urgency. But I was so preoccupied with Barbara keeping secrets from me that I didn't really listen.

And then Barbara tried The Stupidest Fucking Stunt In The Whole Goddamn World. I don't care what I've done or not done, but her spinal neural coupler stunt is without a doubt The Stupidest Fucking Stunt In The Whole Goddamn World. She could have died from the feedback. Hell she could have died at Lady Shiva's hands, but did she care? No!

If she wanted punishment, all she had to do was ask me, I would have happily given her a beating she'd never forget. Dumb fucking... turned out she killed this Shiva chick's older sister and Shiva was out for a little revenge.

Great, a cause I can get behind and the target is Barbara. My Barbara. And the homicidal maniac out to get my Barbara is my best friend from school. Can you appreciate my moral crisis?

Imagine that all you can do is hate. That hate is a ball of fire you carry inside you. It warms you on cold and lonely nights, it's the light by which you walk in the darkness, it's the reason for living; it stokes everything you do - jump, hit, punch, climb, wake up, sleep, laugh cry. It even lets you be some kind of decent person, because you have something to compare the rest of your life to. You turn every action and feeling around in the light of this corroding fire and you ask yourself, "Is this anything like the fire inside me?" If the answer's yes, you're a bastard, but if it's no, then you're okay that day. In fact you learn to live in a world of hate-filled people simply because you understand why they're bastards, because you know you're one hate-filled bastard yourself. Then one day, one of those other fires gets too close to your life; so close that even the roughest imagining of hell wouldn't make you flinch; and you hate that person for having that fire. What right does she have, you ask yourself, to be jury and executioner? What right does she have, you ask yourself, to hurt the ones I love; hurt anyone just because she's hurting? Only in a split second you see yourself standing in front of a mirror asking the reflection the exact same questions. And then...your entire life crumbles before you like dust in the wind; your entire reason for living; all the justification of your rage, your anger, your hate - gone, just like that. How do you live? How do you die? Who will save you?

* * * * *

Why don't I wear a mask, why have I never worn a mask?

Good question.

I have a better one. Why does Barbara - smart Barbara, intelligent Barbara, IQ through the roof Barbara with an eidetic memory, Barbara who can perform spinal taps on her self to use a neural coupler - not have a better cover story than an online fucking baking company? Or, here's another one. If Barbara is so concerned about our "secret identities" - and see how I double quoted that phrase - why does she hang out at Dark Horse and bitch at me about it where every drunken asshole, and Leonard, can listen to our conversation?

Now I'll tell you why I don't give a flying fuck about all this. It's because I don't give a flying fuck. I don't.

What secret identity?

Do I have a life? Kids, a husband or a wife? A dog, a frog, a pet that lives inside a log? A parrot that knows to play trombone, a love that I can call my own? You'll ask around and ask about, you'll ask a clown, you'll ask a trout. You'll ask high and you'll ask low. But the answer will always be, 'No!'

Identity. What is my identity? What is the red-hot deal that separates me from others? What is my distinguishing characteristic or personality trait? What is it outside of sweeps, or body slamming scumbags? What is it? Is it the fact that I'm meta-human? But that has to do with fighting crime. Is it that I am (when my head isn't up my ass) a really cool crime fighter? *eernt* Has to do with sweeps, so that doesn't count. Is it that I'm Batman's little girl? *brrzzt* Still has to do with body slamming scumbags. But you're getting close, I can feel it. C'mon, c'mon, c'mon. Is it that I'm in love with Barbara? *EENNRNNRTT* NO, that's still about the FUCKING CRIME FIGHTING. That's why I do it. So I'll be a good person; have something to do other than run through mom's trust-fund, and daddy's billions and be a fucking playgirl. So that I'll be worthy, be a true equal in her eyes. Not some over-privileged, over-neurotic poor little rich kid fuck up.

So do you have the answer yet? Good. Yes, I know it was trick question, kind of. That's right, the answer is...

Nothing! I have no identity outside of what Barbara has made me, outside of what I have let her make me.

Are you seeing the pathology here? Do you think Victor von Frankenstein could have loved his monster? Do the lion tamers treat their feral companions as equals? Is the creation equal to the creator?

And still I'm here. Kicking ass and taking names like the good little kitty that I am, bringing home the little jail-birds to lay at her feet.

The only identity I protect is hers. If people were to find out that Barbara is Oracle, the entire operation is fucked. Lots of bad guys out there have it in for her. That's the only reason Helena Kyle has to protect her identity, because if someone makes the connection between Helena and Huntress, and the voice in her ear, Oracle is screwed.

And now I have an even better question. Why doesn't she insist that I wear a mask? She could make me. All she has to do is say that she's going to take away my little expensive-as-a-Maserati transmitters and leave me out there by myself if I don't. She could say, 'You can't protect my city anymore if you don't.' And what choice would I have. So why doesn't she insist?


* * * * *

When you deal with a madman who feeds on pain, having pain is good - you have something to trade with; not feeling the pain is bad, he won't tell you jack. When you go to kill the man who killed your mother, wanting to tear him apart him is an excellent motivational factor; one and a half inch plexiglass walls are a hindrance. When you go to confront your mentor about knowing who killed your mother, wanting to kill her is an excellent objective; loving her is a hindrance. Wanting your best friend to hold your hand when you cry after you finally find out who killed your mother is okay. Having your best friend put you down because she thinks all you want to do is kill is not okay. Hating your best friend in the whole world for constantly reminding you that you're one step away from being a killer is awful. Hating yourself for being one step away from being a killer is worse.

* * * * *

I've been lying all my life. Ever since I've been old enough to tell a story I've been lying. That time at the hotel in Cairo, with the ink stain in the carpet? It wasn't the feral cats sneaking in through the balcony. All the times mother went about her business leaving me alone - I missed her. But when she asked, I always said I could cope. When I first started to realise that the world was a different place to me than it was to 98% of the people around me including my mother, I didn't tell her until she had me cornered and I had no choice. Mother may have named it for me, but I knew what was going on, and I hid it.

When I went to see that statue in the museum and almost got killed, I never said. All those months that Barbara hid in her fucking room and wouldn't come out to see the light of day, I wanted to beat the living shit out of her but I put on my game face and dragged her out to live. All the time everyone thought I kept Barbara alive and living out of love. I wanted her to live because I wanted to punish her for lying to me; for being alive while my mother was so much mulch in the ground; for lying to me just as easily as mother had, and then trying to teach me the principles of justice. To have lost her legs after she had been who she was? What greater punishment than to have to live with me. I could walk, I could run, I could fuck like a motherfucker. I made sure I dragged my life in the messiest possible way through hers.

When she met Wade, I said go for it when all I wanted to do was sneer his vanilla ass to death. All the time I flirted with Reese, telegraphing to the rest of the world what a normal little girl I was, I wanted someone else. And I made sure to conduct my affair in the most obvious possible way in front of her. And poor dumb Dinah. Looking all thrilled for us because we had our precious widdle boyfriends. I think being a telepath has made her fat, dumb, and happy. She's gotten so used to reading the minds of unsuspecting normals, she's forgotten how to read what was in front of her.

* * * * *

Do you know when I finally knew I was all grown up? It was when I stood in the wreck of No Man's Land and listened to that psycho bitch Harleen Quinzel tell Barbara about Wade. It was in that second her face froze when Harley mentioned Wade; Wade who after dating Barbara for six months still didn't know she hated tulips. In that moment her face crumpled in sadness and unspeakable pain when Harley confirmed what we all already instinctively knew. In that second an unspannable chasm opened up between the two of us. It was a gap that not even I could cross with all my meta- human powers. Barbara Gordon was going to cry. She was crying. Except for when she was recovering after her shooting, she had never cried. I had never seen Barbara crying. Not when I had almost died; not the time an assassination attempt on her father almost succeeded, not ever. And for the first time something hurt me more than the thought of my mother's death. That was when I knew I was all grown up. I had shed the pains of my childhood, for the pain of adulthood. I would have to live for the rest of my life knowing I had done something that even I couldn't forgive myself for.

She wanted to kill Harley. She might have done it too. I saw that snarl of rage on her face when she had her bent back over the railing. Barbara would have snapped her spine and thrown her off the balcony. But I saw the pain, too; she would never have forgiven herself. She would have made herself less. All because of mistakes that I made.

I made her want to kill. That thought made me sicker than anything else in the world I have ever experienced. But she didn't kill Harley.

I would have killed Harley for her. In that second, I would have done it. It wouldn't have mattered what I had just told Barbara, I would happily have snapped her scrawny little neck and drank all her blood, except there was this one thing. Barbara - she put her arms around me and held on like her life depended on it.

* * * * *

"God, I miss him," she said.

She missed him. So I said was sorry, but not for him - for her. Only for her, and the way she felt about him

"You never chose any of this," she assured me. But I had wished it. Oh how I had dreamed it. "And what you did to set it right... you know what you did." I know what I did. I saved myself in the only way possible. I had been spending so much energy trying to knock her off her pedestal, but that day I finally realised that it was because I was in the gutter.

"You know who you are, Helena," she said with all that trust in her eyes, all that forgiveness and compassion.

Yes, after years of running from it, after all the anger and the passive aggression, after the snide remarks, the jealousy, the insubordination, and the insidious undermining, after years of proving how strong I was, of trying to break her, I knew who I was. I was nothing. She was still stronger than me. She was the true believer. And I was the faithless bastard who did everything to break her heart in every way I could.

"Yeah. I kind of feel like... maybe now I do. Maybe I'm not Batman's little girl anymore."

No, I'm Helena Kyle, who's irretrievably in love with Barbara Gordon. I am now her girl and there's no getting away from it. After seven years I can't even use my hate to kill. I am worse than a pussy fag Hamlet, at least he let himself be killed when he failed. I am useless. I still want to live. Live and be close to her. If dad's looking over our shoulders, he's laughing, just like I am - with hollow irony. I truly am my mother's daughter now. I have learned to keep secrets and lie to those I love best.

Yes, let Barbara believe I have come to my senses. I have. I can't be worthy of her. Let her train Dinah, who wanted to sign up to be a super hero. I'll be the kid's shield while she learns. But one day I'll get careless, maybe I'll leave the comm off for too long or maybe I won't care if a gun that faces me points to my head or not, and maybe that's the day I can put it all to rest.

Helena's list of top 10 people to kill, 2002 - I

  1.) Wade
  2.) Clayface
  3.) Wade
  4.) Lady Shiva
  5.) Wade
  6.) Al Hawke
  7.) Joker
  8.) Harley Quinn
  9.) Dr. Melfin
10.) Alfred

* * * * *

Helena's list of top 10 people to kill, 2002 - Il

  1.) Harley Quinn
  2.) Self
  3.) Harley Quinn
  4.) Self
  5.) Harley Quinn
  6.) Self
  7.) Self
  8.) Self
  9.) Det. Jesse Reese
10.) Self

continued in Book 2: Bad Grammar