Disclaimers: None of the characters herein belong to me - seriously. Birds of Prey: Tollin/Robbins Production, The WB, created by Laeta Kalogridis and DC Comics. The story, however, is all mine, so.... If you're still reading my stuff at this point, you pretty well know what you're getting into. If you don't have an open mind, why exactly are you still reading? However, if you do read it and you find something you think needs disclaiming, you are still more than welcome to let me know. It won't change anything, but it may make you feel better. Ugliness will earn you a smack to the back of your head.
Thanks: To Phil, Mac and Jeanne for beta reading this for me. They picked up all kinds of dropped letters and missed quotation marks because Pink and Fluffy tend to leave a trail of them so they can find their way home again on those occasions when they take field trips without me. Their diligence is greatly appreciated. All errors belong strictly to me.
And thanks to Steph for inviting me to participate in the Academy's Valentine Invitational this year.
Author's Notes: This is the second part of what is currently a two-story series. So this needs to be read after “Dear Diary”, to make both stories flow correctly and get the full effect of the companion piece. The Storyteller's Cardinal Rule is in effect.
This is the sequel to Dear Diary
Rolling Down Memory Lane
Barbara watched Helena's progress as she walked out of the Clock Tower, a book clutched tightly beneath her arm. Helena was so engrossed in her thoughts and destination that she didn't feel Barbara's eyes tracking her from the loft area above the Delphi. Barbara knew why Helena was retreating to the balcony – it had always been her safe haven... the place she'd gone when she just needed a little space without needing to get away. After Harley Quinn's attack, it had become an escape.
Barbara knew that Helena hated the new... well, the new everything, quite frankly. Nothing remained from the time that Quinn had cut a destructive swath through their lives. All that was left of that time was their memories. And maybe her security was a *little* on the obsessive side, but she'd learned the hard way that there was no such thing as ‘too safe'.
Barbara recognized the book Helena carried as her diary and followed Helena's movements until she settled herself on the parapet and opened the diary to read. She remembered Selina telling her about Helena's diary. It had been not long after they'd officially met.
Barbara Gordon had identified Selina Kyle as Catwoman almost the identical moment the older woman re-stepped foot into Gotham City. What stopped her from confronting Selina immediately was the young girl accompanying her. Barbara had recognized the child even though they had never met – she obviously belonged to Bruce Wayne... same eyes, same bearing, same smirk. But she'd have been willing to bet her secret identity that Bruce wasn't aware that he and Selina'd had a child together. So instead of forcing the issue, Barbara had simply decided to wait and see what Selina did, fully expecting Selina to demandthat Bruce acknowledge Helena as his daughter and heir. Why else would she have returned to New Gotham after close to a decade away?
Instead, Selina had brought eight-year-old Helena into her gymnastics class, and Barbara had known in that moment that Helena was something special. The joy and enthusiasm she showed was contagious and Barbara had shown off just a bit... wanting to impress them both.
After the third or fourth class, Selina had taken Barbara aside after class and inquired about allowing Helena to watch Barbara practice before and after the scheduled class. It had been unusual, but a look of pleading from Helena's sparkling blue eyes had made Barbara capitulate before she realized she'd said yes.
Helena had immediately pumped her arm in victory, then run to sit on the bleachers and pulled a leather book from her backpack. Barbara had looked at Selina for an explanation of what had happened, certain she'd missed something important.
“Her diary,” Selina said concisely, though her tone was proud. “She's kept one for years... since she learned to write.” Barbara's brows went into her hairline and Selina shrugged. “It was easier for me to get her a diary than to try to keep up with sheets of paper strewn all over the house.” Selina paused, then continued, keeping her eyes on Helena. “Thank you... for letting her have the extra time with you. She's done nothing but talk about you and gymnastics since our first visit.”
Barbara blushed, embarrassed by the attention... and the compliment. “She's a special little girl – exceptional really, but considering whom her parents are....” breaking off when Selina turned a force ten glare in her direction.
“I am a single mother, Ms Gordon – there is no other parent. Are we clear?”
Seventeen-year-old Barbara Gordon had wanted to argue, but she was brilliant – she didn't need to be told twice that Selina meant business about this. And though Barbara didn't think Selina would actually do anything to physically harm her, she did believe Selina would take Helen and leave if she felt threatened. To Barbara's surprise she discovered that she didn't want to lose them from her life, so she simply nodded her agreement, though she did chance to wonder again why Selina Kyle had returned to Gotham if she was determined to keep Bruce out of Helena's life.
Barbara couldn't stop the small shudder that ran through her frame at the memory – even now... almost twenty years later, she could still feel the change in temperature Selina's words and attitude had caused when she ensured Barbara Gordon understood that Bruce Wayne was not Helena's father. She wished she'd had the courage to ask then, but the opportunity had passed and Barbara had never gotten an answer to that particular question. She sighed silently, her eyes never leaving Helena while her memories turned back to her further immersion into the Kyle family.
Jim Gordon had thought Barbara was the wrong side of crazy when she volunteered to help Selina Kyle with Helena's ninth birthday, but he just shook his head, knowing that there were some lessons that a young woman who was as headstrong as Barbara was would have to be learned the hard way. He conveniently forgot that she managed them by herself three days a week – even if it was only for an hour at a time - and Barbara knew Selina really had no idea what a circus twenty-one kids on a sugar high could become.
Fortunately for Barbara, all the kids in her gymnastics class idolized her to varying degrees... especially Helena. And Helena was a natural leader – she did and the rest followed – a fact Barbara was devoutly grateful for... most of the time anyway.
The day had been exhausting, but filled with so much fun and laughter that even now the memories of what had been brought a genuine smile to Barbara's face. She recalled the look of adoration Helena had given her when Selina had laughed aloud at Barbara's corralling expertise. She pondered then what it had been all about. Helena had never shared, and Barbara had never asked. She wondered if she was missing something important.
Barbara's smile became wistful – she'd known she'd impressed Selina when Selina had asked her to babysit Helena – though the words Selina had used had been ‘look after'. She'd believed that she'd made real progress with Helena up to that point... and then had come the first evening she'd stayed with Helena while Selina had gone out. What a nightmare that had rapidly dissolved into.
Barbara had explained to Dick that she couldn't go out... that she had given her word to watch Helena while Selina Kyle went out. Dick, of course had felt the need to make a disparaging comment, and Barbara had hung up on him... determined to spend some quality time with Helena. She sensed even more now after more than a year of interaction with Helena just how gifted she really must be.
Yet, before she and Helena could even sit down to watch their first movie together – complete with popcorn and soda – the doorbell had rung and Dick Grayson had entered the Kyle home. Knowing the confrontation was going to turn ugly very quickly, Barbara had sent Helena to bed. She been brusque... almost harsh about it, but she'd wanted Helena well out of harm's way before Dick got nasty about Selina Kyle. Personally, Barbara wasn't ready to clean up the mess *that* would cause if Helena heard him.
Barbara had known Helena was furious with her, but she'd also learned from Selina about Helena's deep-seated disdain for Dick Grayson. Somehow, she couldn't see that having them together in the same room would end well, so she'd sent Helena upstairs.
Her fight with Dick had been monumental – she was surprised that Helena hadn't come downstairs when the shouting started. It was only when she left for home hours later – after giving Dick a black eye and summarily dismissing him – that she had an inkling of why that was. It had taken her a month to get the Limburger cheese out of her vents, and another three to remove the smell.
However, she had accepted Helena's payback. At least she hadn't been walking funny – she couldn't really say the same for Dick Grayson.
Barbara wrinkled her nose at the memory, then snorted in disgust. She could still taste that smell on the back of her tongue when she thought about that night. Of course, she still felt the same incredible anger at Dick Grayson for causing the entire scene in the first place. He'd always been a little possessive of Barbara's time and friendship, but his jealousy of a nine-year-old child was uncalled for... even if it did turn out to be somewhat prescientafter he swore Helena was coming between them.
At the time, he'd just made her furious, and undone much of the effort she'd put into her friendship with Helena and Selina – though Selina had understood much more than Barbara realized at the time. It was the reason she'd allowed Barbara to continue to remain in Helena's life... both as a teacher and a caretaker.
It had helped that after Helena took her revenge on Barbara's car and Dick's body, that she'd gone on as if nothing had happened.
Barbara sighed and marveled anew at the resilience of children and questioned when she... and Helena... had lost that innate, intrinsic ability – though a glance down at her chair showed she already knew the answer to that question.
Barbara let her mind drift to the first time she'd actually witnessed Helena and Dick together.
Selina had called several days prior, though twenty-year-old Barbara Gordon had been overrun with school – working on the theses for her doctorates in mathematics and literature – as well as her nightly crime fighting activities, but somehow when it came to the Kyle's... and especially to Helena, Barbara was unable and unwilling to say no.
She'd already been scheduled to attend the museum gala as her father's date – much to Dick Grayson's dismay – but she'd been happy to agree to keep an eye on Helena while Selina conducted museum business.
Helena had looked amazing... much more grown up than her eleven years would have suggested. Barbara had noticed more than one speculative glance in Helena's direction from Bruce Wayne, and speculated why he didn't just man up and introduce himself to his daughter.
Dick had wandered over and made a smart-assed comment to Helena, who promptly sent him slinking away with his tail between his legs, knowing that neither Bruce, Selina nor Barbara would allow him to give Helena the thrashing he felt she so richly deserved. Barbara had been unhappy that he continued to try to antagonize Helena, and that translated to anger at him on her part and, she realized, that of Selina and Bruce as well.
Otherwise the night had gone very smoothly. Helena had been the model of decorum, and her mother's tutelage showed in everything about her – her words, her gestures, even her posture. Barbara watched in amazement as she charmed the room person by person... all except for Bruce Wayne, whom she studiously avoided.
Barbara knew then that Helena suspected the truth if she didn't actually know. She for one had been glad to leave the gala early.
Selina had mentioned the restaurant to Barbara, and she had promised to try and be there for Helena's twelfth birthday. She'd been more than a little surprised that Selina had chosen to take Helena to the opera, but at least she couldn't fault her choice, though secretly, Barbara still preferred the Looney Toons version of Figaro over the live version any day of the week. She knew Helena still went to that particular opera every time it visited New Gotham, but she had yet to be invited to share that experience, and it wasn't something she felt comfortable pushing her way into.
The party, though – that had been one for the memory books.
Helena had looked lovely in herred cocktail dress... until her blushing had made her skin almost the exact same shade. Barbara had worried something was seriously wrong that Helena was in danger of passing out... or worse. Then she realized that Helena was embarrassed by the attention of so many of her mother's friends and acquaintances.
And remembering herself all too well at that awkward age, Barbara had offered Helena a smile and a wink. She'd watched as Helena straightened and accepted the accolades as her due. Then she'd shared the cake around and Barbara had made it a point to go speak to both Helena and Selina before the night was over.
Selina had been gracious to everyone, but Barbara hadn't missed the sparkle in her eyes. Helena had been effusive when Barbara approached, taking her by the hand to ensure she joined them for a few minutes at least, and enthusiastically telling Barbara about the opera she'd seen. Barbara listened attentively, noting that though Selina continued to greet people as they stopped by the table, she appeared to have one ear tuned to the conversation between Helena and Barbara.
Her hunch was confirmed several days later when Selina called and asked to speak to Barbara privately. Barbara never even suspected what eventually came out of Selina's mouth.
Barbara's heart went to her throat – the same feeling she'd gotten when Selina had asked her to become Helena's guardian should anything happen to Selina herself. Barbara remembered feeling like she'd been blindsided – whatever she'd expected Selina to say, Helena's guardianship hadn't even been on her list of possibilities.
She pondered now if Selina had known something then – if she'd had some sort of premonition – or if she was simply erring on the side of caution to ensure Helena would be take care of without forcing Bruce Wayne into Helena's life.
Barbara bit her lip thoughtfully, wondering if they hadn't all been wrong in keeping Bruce and Helena from one another. Perhaps if he'd been a part of her life as a child – by his choice or Selina's demand – Helena wouldn't be so conflicted as an adult.
Barbara turned back to her observance of Helena, remembering clearly the awkward transition Helena had known as she left her childhood behind and took her first tentative steps into adulthood.
When the phone rang, Barbara had fully expected it to be the school informing her of a closing due to the dreadful storm that was blowing through New Gotham... causing even the criminals to put crime on hold. What she got was Helena croaking at her from the depths of the flu to cancel the plans they'd had to go shopping for Helena's birthday. Barbara had known it was serious – Helena had been ecstatic when Barbara had agreed to the shopping trip.
Selina had confided how Helena felt ugly, and though Barbara found it hard to believe given what she knew of Helena – inside and out – she still remembered the sting of not fitting in because of her age and intelligence. So she'd been more than willing to spend a little extra time with Helena so she knew she was beautiful and special and loved.
Helena's phone call, however, sparked a different kind of concern, and Barbara had quickly called her father to apprise him of the situation as soon she she'd hung up with Helena. He'd swiftly prepared some of his famous chicken soup for her to share with the Kyles without hesitation – a fact Barbara had been infinitely grateful for... especially since Jim didn't have the propensity for catching the kitchen on fire that Barbara seemed to.
The soup had been well received, and she'd done her best to make Helena understand that the beauty that she already was would soon blossom into thestunning beauty of a majestic swan. Despite her efforts, Barbara got the distinct feeling Helena didn't quite believe her words or appreciate the sentiment.
She wondered if Helena even remembered her words now... or if Helena realized she had developed beyond an ordinary swan and into something to be treasured and loved for the uniqueness and beauty that was Helena alone.
Barbara easily recalled her shock when Selina had called and invited both Barbara and Jim Gordon to celebrate Helena's fourteenth birthday. Jim had been invited to dinner with them a couple of times after contributing his chicken soup to help speed their recovery with the flu. But it had never been quite as personal as Helena's birthday.
When Selina had asked for Jim's help... not as the Police Commissioner, but as a gentleman, Jim had been quick to oblige, and more than once Barbara had wondered what had been said between them to cause Jim Gordon to agree without hesitation.
She suspected it had been a turning point in Jim Gordon's life, and a milestone in Helena's.
Barbara had seen some of the boys who suddenly found Helena Kyle much more appealing with the addition of hips and breasts. Logically, she remembered the same problem when she'd been growing up. But personally, she didn't understand why they hadn't figured out how interesting Helena was before then. Of course, she was alsoacquainted with Helena on more levels than she knew most of them to have at this point in their development. They were so busy thinking with the little head that they missed the more intriguing aspects of Helena's personality.
A call from Jim Gordon had informed Barbara that they would be joining the Kyles for Helena's birthday, and it didn't occur to her to ask questions until the night was long over.
The restaurant was crowded, but their table by the dance floor had been reserved. Jim had been seated between the Kyle women and across from Barbara, and he had taken it upon himself to ensure that Helena was comfortable with his presence. He talked to her like he spoke to Barbara – as though she was an adult with thoughts and opinions that mattered.
He showed her the same old-fashioned courtesy he offered Barbara and Selina, and Helena had found herself liking him for himself and not just respecting the fact that he was Barbara's father. They found things to talk about and Helena appreciated the fact that Jim Gordon took the time to really listen to what she had to say... even when they didn't always agree on what was being said. Other than her mother and Barbara, Jim was the first person to really hear what Helena said and Helena liked that most of all.
It was when Jim asked Helena to dance that Barbara figured that Selina was trying to show Helena that those boys who currently saw her as just a pretty girl would one day value the whole person that Helena was... and would become.
Barbara couldn't help but chuckle at the frazzled look of relief on Jim Gordon's face when she'd told him she would be teaching Helena Kyle to drive. As much as Jim Gordon enjoyed the dinnerencounters he and Barbara shared with the Kyles on occasion, as Police Commissioner he knew what a menace Selina Kyle was to the driving public at large. At least with Barbara teaching her, Helena Kyle had the chance to become a lawful, safe driver.
Barbara had forbidden Dick Grayson to come anywhere near them – she knew the experience would be nerve wracking enough without him trying to provoke Helena into doing something stupid. It didn't take her long to figure out that he'd done something stupid instead.
Barbara didn't understand why Dick couldn't just leave Helena alone, and knew after their first lesson that he'd ignored her and spoken to Helena anyway. No one walked that way by choice, and it had to be even more painful in latex. It was especially frustrating because though she and Dick were on-again, off-again fuck buddies, they had never been a couple in the truest sense of the word. And yet he sometimes acted as though they were practically engaged. The fact that he was most threatened by a fifteen-year-old child was far more entertaining to Barbara than it should have been.
She was fairly confident Helena found it equally amusing, though they never actually discussed it. Instead, they focused on her driving skills. Helena was a quick learner and when the day's lesson was over, they spent a little time talking about their day. For Barbara, it was the most relaxing part of her day – after school was over and before the demands of an evening of crime fighting settled in.
She wondered what Dick would say if he knew she enjoyed the time she spent with Helena instead of seeing it as the imposition he wanted her to view it as. She conjecturedthe possibility of them ever being convinced to put aside their dislike of one another and learn to get along, though she knew the likelihood of her success was nil. Dick Grayson had started off on the wrong foot with Helena Kyle, and Helena had a long memory and very little tolerance.
Barbara kept her eyes on Helena as her memories moved to Helena's Sweet Sixteen birthday party. It had been a huge blowout with all of Helena's classmates and more than half the city turning out in their finest attire for what was dubbed THE event of the year.
Jim Gordon had missed it, though not by his own choice – at the last minute, he'd been called away for an emergency at Arkham Asylum and it had taken him more than half the night to take care of things there. Everyone else had been there, though – even Bruce Wayne had made a very brief appearance before disappearing into the night. So that had left Barbara and Selina to introduce Helena to society, and oh what and experience *that* had been.
Helena had looked amazing and deliriously happy despite her embarrassment at all the attention she was receiving from so many people she didn't even know. She'd been enjoying herself, dancing with everyone who asked. She been disappointed at Jim's absence, but had accepted Barbara's explanation without question. Jim had always been straight up with her and Helena knew if he wasn't at her party, it was with damn good reason.
When Selina was ready to debut Helena to Gotham's society, Helena had insisted that both Selina and Barbara be in attendance for her presentation. They'd agreed with very little fuss – it was Helena's night after all – and walked in with her, one on each side of the taller, younger woman.
After her presentation to everyone and a rousing verse of ‘Happy Birthday', Selina had danced with Helena, escorting her onto the dance floor as the music started. Barbara had seen the exact moment Selina had promised Helena a return to Paris. Her eyes had lit up like stars and her face had been graced by a huge grin.
When their dance was over, Helena raced to Barbara's side and dragged her onto the dance floor, eager to share the news. Despite how much Barbara would miss Helena... would miss them both... she couldn't help but smile at Helena's excitement. She knew how much Helena had missed Paris.
At least she had Selina's promise that they would return to finish Helena's schooling in New Gotham with her friends before they returned to Paris to live. Barbara would worry about how much she would miss them when they moved, and not a moment before. Certainly not tonight – when Helena was radiant and on top of the world.
Barbara's smile turned melancholy – that had been one of the brightest nights of her life and she still looked back on it with only happiness and good memories. However, memories of then did nothing to lessen the pain and anguish of what she knew now.
Oh, if she had only known then....
Barbara felt fantastic – the Joker was headed to Arkham Asylum and her father was denying any ‘Bat' involvement in his capture. She left the TV on as she climbed into the shower, letting the hot water run over her tired, sore muscles. The firefight they had been a part of on the docks may have been unofficial as far as the law enforcement community was concerned, but Barbara's body remembered it as being very real. She was halfwaythrough soaping herself when she heard the news change, shifting to report Selina Kyle's murder.
Barbara's first thought had been of Helena and she grabbed her robe with one hand as she shut the water off with the other. She snatched up her phone just as the power went out, only to drop it andrush to the door in the darkness when a knock resounded throughout the room. Thinking Helena had come to her, Barbara jerked the door open without looking – an action that would haunt her to her grave.
Instead of dark-headed Helena Kyle looking at her with deep blue eyes begging silently for comfort, she was met with an image nightmares are made of. The sight of flaming green hair stunned her long enough for Jack Napier, aka the Joker, to raise his gun and fire four bullets across her midsection. The last thing Barbara remembered seeing before hitting the floor was the look of mad glee in his black eyes. The last thought she had was to pray for Helena's safety... and her soul.
Barbara didn't remember Helena finding her bleeding to death on the floor or calling the paramedics; she didn't remember her father's arrival at the hospital or Helena's refusal to leave her side. Anything she knew from that night after the shooting came from what others – the hospital staff, her father, Alfred – had told her. She and Helena had never discussed that night.
It wasn't that they didn't need to – it just seemed there was never a good time to bring it up. They were so busy in those first few months - trying to... adjust... to things. And then so much time had passed that it seemed a little ridiculous to bother. Barbara wondered if perhaps she'd dropped the ball on the whole situation... if she'd allowed them to gloss over something that needed to be discussed if only so they could truly move beyond it instead of it remaining the spectre it had become – and still was - in their lives.
Barbara recalled very clearly waking up in ICU encased in the halo device. Her first reaction had been one of terror, quickly followed by fury, then despondency and depression. If it hadn't been for Helena....
The pain Barbara had felt had been excruciating. She couldn't believe her lower body was dead... not given the levels of agony she was suffering through every day in her back and legs. And knowing Selina Kyle was dead and her murderer was still on the loose just made Barbara's soul ache. The depths of anguish and heartbreak in Helena's eyes, however, made it clear that at least part of the nightmare was true.
Then had come her realization that every bit of the nightmare she'd imagined was in fact the very real story of her life – Barbara Gordon no longer had the use of her legs. No more walking; no more gymnastics; no more Batgirl. And for the first time in her life, Barbara Gordon had simply given up.
Or at least she wanted to – God, how she wanted to. But there was an annoying teenager pushing and prodding and quite frankly pissing her the hell off. And Barbara had known, deep in her soul and in the very back recesses of her considerable mind that she couldn't quit... she didn't want to quit... not with Helena depending on her.
Still, there were some terrific fights – fights that Jim Gordon let Helena handle for two reasons. First he recognized that Helena loved Barbara -which meant she would struggle to do whatever was necessary to help Barbara not only survive her ordeal, but live in spite of it. The second reason he stayed out of their initial conflicts was because Helena needed Barbara just as much as Barbara needed her if they were both going to recover a semblance of whom they had once been.
It had been a very steep learning curve, however, for both of them. Helena's anger and Barbara's ability tocompartmentalize her life would be obstacles they were still working to overcome.
Barbara let her attention drift back to Helena, marveling at the rare, real smile that graced her face. So much of their lives after that fateful night had given them little to smile at, and Barbara appreciated each one she witnessed. Even as she watched, Helena's expression became pensive again, and Barbara turned her mind back to the first time that countenance had been focused on her.
It seemed as though life was nothing but a minefield since the shooting, multiplying that disaster exponentially without warning. Barbara had thought that losing her mobility was the worst possible thing that could happen to her. Then she realized that was only the beginning of her humiliation – she had to relearn how to take care of her most basic needs as though she was a child again.
Her only saving grace had been Helena – Helena, who needed her; Helena, who never left her side; Helena, who pushed and pulled and pissed her off and comforted her. And then they'd threatened to take Helena from her.
Helena hadn't said anything, but Barbara knew she was terrified of losing the only thing... the only person... in her life she had left – one that she cared about and that cared about her. And Barbara had decided the moment she'd seen that lost look in Helena's eyes that she wouldn't let them win. She and Helena might be a mess, but they would be a much better mess together than they would be apart. She was fairly certain neither of them would survive very long apart – though she was unwilling to examine that sentiment too closely.
It had taken a lot of serious work on both their parts – some days, motivation was harder to manage than others, but eventually they settled into a routine that worked for them. Helena read everything that Barbara did, attended every session of therapy and learned when to step in and when to step back. But in the end, after months of working at it together, things had resumed a more natural state and they settled into what would become normal for them to this day .
Thankfully, normal included Alfred in the kitchen and Jim nearby if they ever needed to ask for his help – something they had rarely done. Still, it was nice to know he was there... and that both men were part of the family unit Helena and Barbara had created in the aftermath of disaster.
The snarl on Helena's face told Barbara that Helena's thoughts were currently consumed by Dick Grayson. She couldn't fault Helena for feeling the way she did about him. Despite his good qualities – and he had many good qualities – Helena had never been witness to them. Dick Grayson seemed to push every button Helena had, and she felt no compunction about pushing back. The fact that he'd put Barbara into a tailspin after she'd been paralyzed just made him a bigger target in Helena's book.
Barbara wondered if she shared what had happened that day with Helena if things might be different between her and Dick. Or if it would have kept Helena from taking a leap off the deep end.
Barbara didn't know where Helena had disappeared to again. Since they had moved into the Clock Tower, Helena had been out and about at all hours ‘running the rooftops' as she called it. She wasn't doing anything except exploring the city as far as Barbara could tell, but it was still more than a little unnerving for a woman would never again be able to do the same thing as the crime fighter she'd once been. Still, Helena had shown some exceptional abilities that might allow Barbara to continue fighting the good fight – it had been one reason Barbara had chosen the Clock Tower as her new base of operations.
When Dick had called her, she'd invited him over – after all, he was in the vigilante business as well. He knew the importance of keeping a secret. So he'd come to the Clock Tower, given it his seal of approval though Barbara was only in the very earliest stages of transforming it into a state-of-the-art crime fighting lair. Then he'd dropped his bomb on her – he was leaving Gotham City.
Barbara had sat dumbfounded as Dick explained that with Bruce gone and Barbara effectively incapacitated, he'd decided to move to Bludhaven and get a fresh start. He was ready to be the superhero instead of just the sidekick, and he felt the time had come to make the move. He'd even decided on a new secret identity and costume to go with the new look. It didn't hurt that he'd found legitimate work as a detective in the police department there.
Barbara had listened patiently, then wished him well and sent him on his way with... well, if it hadn't been a smile, Dick had been too excited and preoccupied to notice. He'd promised to check in... keep an eye on things in Gotham as the opportunity arose, but Barbara told him not to bother – that she had it under control. He'd looked at her strangely then, but she refused to divulge anything further. So he'd accepted her word and with a brush of his lips on her cheek, Dick Grayson disappeared from Gotham City, and Robin, the Boy Wonder was no more.
Barbara didn't blame him... not really. She and Dick had spent a number of nights patrolling the streets while they discussed the possibility of solo careers, but she'd never really expected it to actually happen. At least he'd had the courtesy of telling her he was leaving instead of just vanishing from her life as apparently Bruce Wayne had done. That hurt... and it would in all likelihood turn into a complete cluster if and when Helena discovered who her father really was.
Barbara sighed and swallowed hard when she thought back to those dark, dark days. She hadn't realized how angry she'd been at Bruce's and Dick's desertion of them – or how much her anger and depression affected Helena - until she discovered Helena's self-destructive behavior. Even now, Barbara couldn't pinpoint her exact emotions – she'd been furious and terrified and any number of lesser sentiments.It had been the first time she'd been thankful for Helena's meta-human abilities, but it wouldn't be the last.
She'd sought Helena out and they'd had a knock-down, drag-out blow apart fight. When the smoke cleared, Barbara had proposed to teach Helena how to channel her aggression into something more productive than drugs and alcohol. Helena realized that Barbara needed her as badly as Helena needed Barbara – if not for the same reasons - and she'd agreed.
Barbara wondered what her motivation had been.
Helena had taken to crime fighting like a duck takes to water – she was a natural... not that Barbara had expected anything else given her heritage. In some ways, it made things simple for Barbara – she didn't generally have to explain a concept to Helena more than once. It made teaching her relatively easy. In other ways, though, it was a nightmare come to life.
Helena was good and she knew it - and she had the strength and speed to back up the badass attitude she tended towards these days... even with Barbara. Fortunately for Barbara, she had the experience to handle Helena's arrogance... for the time being.
But what really concerned Barbara wasn't the cockiness – though that was disturbing, she figured it would only continue until the first time Helena got her ass handed to her on the street – it was the utter disregard for the rules. They were vigilantes – it didn't mean they were *above* the law... it meant they worked *outside* it. Barbara hoped that by becoming a vigilante, Helena would be able to harness the fury Selina's murder had caused – and find that finding justice for others could put some of her own demons to rest. Instead, Barbara was afraid that Helena's lack of concern for herself and everyone around her - her rage - would get her killed. And more than anything, Barbara wanted Helena to find some peace.
Barbara did take comfort in the fact that Helena still came home every night. Every night they would curl up on the couch for a little while after sweeps and watch whatever trash TV was on, until Barbara gently woke Helena from her lap and sent her to bed.
Then school had started again.
Barbara let her mind slide back to Helena's senior year of high school. That had been a nightmare of epic proportions. Looking back, Barbara could readily understand Helena's reluctance to return, but at the time all Barbara knew was that she'd promised Selina to take care of her daughter, and making sure she had an education seemed a good start. It would be good for both of them to get back to normal... relatively speaking.
She hadn't realized how pervasive the changes she and Helena were living through had been – affecting every part of their lives and not just the private ones. Their first month back had been a very loud wake-up call.
Rolling towards the principal's office for the thirteenth time in four weeks, Barbara seriously considered if putting Helena back in school hadn't been a colossal mistake. The only reason Helena hadn't been expelled for fighting yet was because someone always acknowledged that she wasn't inciting the fights – she was ending them. Still, it was obvious that the bright, personable young woman Helena once was had died beside Selina that night. Not for the first time, Barbara questioned her decision to make Helena her partner in the vigilante business.
Still, it was done and there were no take backs in life – you played the cards you were dealt and moved on.
They'd gotten through yet another session with the principal, whose face nearly met Helena's fist at the mention of therapy. When Barbara was sure Helena wasn't going to go across the desk at the woman, they took their leave and headed back to the Clock Tower though Helena refused to offer an explanation for her actions or her attitude. They never had to return to the principal's office that year, though much of that term saw Barbara coaxing Helena to finish school. Barbara got the distinct impression the only reason Helena capitulated was to shut Barbara up. When it came time for graduation, however, no amount of pleading or cajoling or outright demanding could entice Helena to walk down the aisle with her classmates.
She had disappeared before Barbara had left for the ceremony, and Barbara hadn't seen hide nor hair of her for two days after that. When Helena returned to the Clock Tower, Barbara hadn't asked and Helena hadn't told, and thus they set the pattern that had ultimately allowed Harley Quinn to destroy them from the inside out.
Barbara cringed in memory. Helena hadn't given a crap about school or anything related to it and it showed. When she'd turned eighteen in the middle of her senior year... what arow *that* had caused. Barbara supposed she should have been happy that Helena was showing some initiative and finding a job instead of having to be pushed into doing something productive that didn't involve ass kicking.
But Helena having a job in a dive bar wasn't really on her list of productive outlets. And then she'd started bringing home phone numbers....
That had been more than a little embarrassing for both of them. Barbara wasn't thrilled about giving Helena a safe sex talk any more than Helena was about being subjected to it. Helena reminding Barbara that she was legally an adult had put an effective end to it, but it hadn't stopped Barbara from worrying.
On the plus side, Barbara was fairly confident Leonard wouldn't let Helena get into trouble at work – he had too much to lose if she did. And Barbara noticed that Helena argued less about finishing school now that she had a place where she wasn't the freak whose mother was murdered in front of her... she was just Helena. Barbara took comfort in the fact that it would only be for a few months, and then Helena would be off to college.
She still hadn't figured out what she would do about the vigilante business once Helena was gone, but she reckoned to worry about that when the time came. In the meantime, she still had to get Helena through high school as an adult without losing her to one of the many random phone numbers she collected every night. Being reminded that Helena was an adult didn't really help matters either, especially when summer gave way to fall, and Barbara found out that angry adult Helena was a much more formidable opponent than angry teenage Helena ever had been.
Barbara could still remember the fury that raged through her veins when Helena announced that college wasn't part of her plans – that she didn't rightly care what Barbara did about Bruce Wayne's money and assets as long as Helena didn't have to be involved. She could and did take care of herself – she didn't need anyone. Barbara had gasped at the pain that had caused to cut through her soul.
Then Helena had blindsided her and disappeared before she could recover or respond.
Barbara had known that what Helena had said wasn't exactly what she meant – that what she meant was she didn't need Bruce Wayne or his money. But it didn't hurt any less to hear the words “I don't need ANYONE' come out of Helena's mouth. Even Helena following it up with a sincere compliment hadn't soothed the anguish Barbara felt, and knowing that ultimately there was little she could do to change Helena's outlook was heartbreaking.
She'd spent some time that night remembering the happy child Helena had once been, wishing she could do something to help Helena to recover the beautiful spirit Barbara knew her to have. Obviously keeping Bruce Wayne out of their home would be a good start. Anything else would have to wait until she could talk to Helena again, and she knew from experience it wouldn't be until early morning at the earliest before Helena returned to the Clock Tower.
Barbara sent up a prayer for Helena's safety... and their sanity.
Barbara saw the sneer on Helena's face - confident towards whom that look was directed and Barbara trembled as the still-remembered anger flowed through her veins once more. She'd been furious at Helena's accusations about Dick Grayson. She'd been even more livid at Dick for his presumptions.
She'd sent him away with his tail between his legs, then called Helena and eaten crow. It had been bitter on her tongue, but it had led to some of the most satisfying conversation she and Helena had ever shared. Still. Barbara felt there was more that needed to be said... more she needed to know, but she had yet – all these years later - to breech that barrier that was between them or figure out what it was that she so desperately needed to know.
Even intercepting both Selina's and Bruce's lawyers hadn't bridged the gap that had formed between them when Selina had died and made Barbara Helena's guardian.
Barbara had gotten the phone call from Leonard as soon as Helena had left the Dark Horse, and though she wished he had called her earlier, so was glad he'd seen fit to fill her in on what was going on. So when the lawyers from both Bruce's and Selina's estates had called her, Barbra was more than ready to deal with them.
She'd had them put Helena's legacies in trust, accessible if Helena ever decided to use it, but otherwise – out of sight, out of mind. It occurred to Barbara as she was giving these directives that the only reason she had any legal say in any of this was because of her position as executor for both Bruce and Selina. As of that day, she was no longer legally responsible for Helena in any way.
Barbara snorted at that thought – she had only been as responsible as Helena allowed her to be. When it came to irresistible force meeting immovable object, they could have been poster children.
She wondered what would happen to them now – would they stay friends? Because Barbara was honest enough to admit that they had always been friends, and despite their fights and arguments and disagreements about just about everything, they were still best friends. Despite their difference in ages and temperaments and sometimes moral values – despite her firm belief that Helena was keeping secrets... at least one of them a monumental secret... from her, Barbara still took fierce joy in their friendship and great pride in the odds they had survived together.
She wondered if Helena felt the same.
Remembering Leonard's first phone call brought Barbara's mind around to another... this one for a happy occasion. He'd called to ask about giving Helena a birthday party, and Barbara had numbly agreed that it sounded like a great idea, silently speculatingwhy she hadn't considered dong something similar for Helena herself before now.Helena had mellowed out quite a bit since her mother's death, as if being legalmeant no one could take anything away from her ever again. Barbara would have called the change a form of maturity, but Helena proudly disdained any attempt to call it such by acting out in the most unexpected of ways.
Still Barbara was happy to give Leonard her blessing for such a get-together, promising to be there herself if it was at all possible. How was she to know that the vigilante business would get in the way once again? But she could tell Helena was more than a little put out about the whole thing, and not for the first time did Barbara wonder how long Helena would stick around now that she had no obligation to stay.
Helena's frustration had been a palpable thing when she entered the Clock Tower and Barbara had to wonder at her mussed look. Even though there had been business to take care of first, surely she had gone to the birthday party Leonard had thrown for her, hadn't she? Helena always looked beautiful and sexy and... wait – WHAT?? Barbara had shaken her head and tried to put out of her mind the image that had formed as well as a possible reason for Helena's ‘just out of bed' look.
Helena immediately put her mind at rest by grumbling about almost missing her own party, then giving Barbara all the details of the event. By the time Barbara had wrapped up things on her end, she'd decided it was too late to try and go out. Helena's description of the night had her wishing she had chosen differently, but made her glad to know that Helena had enjoyed herself. Maybe they would be able to do something together the following year – Barbara knew without a doubt that both her father and Alfred would be thrilled to be a part of such a celebration.
She never did learn the explanation for Helena's ‘freshly fucked' look however. She wasn't entirely sure she really wanted to know.
Barbara had been more than a little disappointed when Helena had been ordered into therapy, though she supposed she shouldn't have been too surprised. She'd been trying to get Helena to go into therapy since Selina had been killed, but unlike the judge, Barbara hadn't been able to enforce her point with the threat of jail.
It occurred to Barbara as she sat watching Helena that their first few years after Selina's death had been a roller coaster ride of epic proportions that they had ridden together. They'd been as close as two people could be – having survived so much together – and yet there had still been a veil between them. Barbara was hard-pressed to understandwhat secret Helena still felt the need to keep close to her heart.And it concerned Barbara more than she wanted to admit that Helena saw her lack of killing as an adequate measure of her anger control. So despite her disappointment over the fact that they wouldn't be able to celebrate Helena's birthday together, Barbara took comfort in the fact that Helena might finally find the peace she deserved. Barbara had hoped Dr. Harleen Quinzel was up to the task a woman as complicated as Helena Kyle would bring to the table... if she ever decided to trust and share the truth of who she was and not the bad ass most of the rest of the world knew.
And at first they'd made progress – Barbara could see the difference in Helena. She was still a bad ass, but she was a bad ass with control... with less anger and more stability. And though Helena still guarded the secrets she held, she was also more settled and at peace than Barbara could remember since Selina's death. And things had been wonderful.
Then Barbara had introduced Wade Brixton....
Dating Wade had been something Barbara had tried because the opportunity had presented itself to her, and she'd been curious to know what ‘normal' felt like now. Dick had been the last man to show interest in her and at least Wade seemed to appreciate her mind as well as her body. She hadn't even thought twice about introducing him to Helena – she figured that of all the people in the world, Helena would be the one to understand Barbara's desire to be like everyone else – even if it wasn't working out quite the way Barbara had envisioned it would.
So she'd been more than a little disturbed and very angry when Helena dismissed Wade with only the barest acknowledgement of his existence. She couldn't fathom Helena's outright rudeness to a man she had never even met before.
Then Helena moved out of the Clock Tower without so much as a by-your-leave.
Barbara hadn't thought she could be more enraged at Helena than she'd been over her attitude with Wade. But discovering Helena had simply left – without a word.... Being reminded by Helena that she was an adult and didn't owe Barbara anything was cutting. The fact that she refused to respond to Barbara's demands for answers while upping her sessions with Dr. Quinzel burned like acid in an open, festering wound.
It certainly didn't help that Barbara had tried to break things off with him, but Wade kept begging for another chance. And even though she had refused every offer he made to go out with him again, he always seemed to be nearby as if waiting for his chance to be her knight in shining armor – a position that had long ago been filled by Helena Kyle.She knew her world was completely off-kilter, but was at a loss to know how to fix it – because despite Helena's assurances, she wasn't around as much as she'd been before, and Barbara did miss her... very much.
Barbara realized as she kept her eyes on Helena's smirking form that she still missed Helena... more than ever. Helena had been withdrawing from her since well before Harley Quinn's attack, and Barbara's heart sank as she acknowledged that their days together were probably numbered. If Helena wouldn't... or couldn't... share what was keeping them separated, they would lose one another as surely as if Quinn had succeeded in destroying them.
A chuckle from Helena brought Barbara's head up, and Helena's countenance reminded Barbara very much of her expression when she'd brought Dinah home for the first time... however unintentionally.
Dinah had been a pleasant surprise for Barbara, and gave her something besides Helena's absence and Wade's unwelcome persistence to focus on. Barbara had been thrilled when Helena immediately assumed responsibility for Dinah's physical training, but she was more than a little frustrated at Helena's continued avoidance of her. It didn't help that Jesse Reese seemed to be becoming a much more permanent part of Helena's life outside the vigilante business.
Barbara was smart enough to recognize that she was jealous of the time Helena spent with Reese – time that had once been hers... even when they were fighting... was now dedicated to someone else. It never occurred to her that Helena was doing with Reese what Barbara herself had done with Wade. And Helena never saw fit to correct her... especially once Wade was given the codes to the Clock Tower and walked around like he owned the place.
Barbara hadn't enjoyed any aspect of that particular surprise, and had let Alfred know in no uncertain terms that his interference was unacceptable and unappreciated. Alfred had tried to sputter out some nonsense about it being part of his duty to watch out for her best interests when she wouldn't, but Barbara had cut him off at the knees, proverbially speaking, making it clear to both Alfred and Wade just exactly what Wade *wasn't* to her. Not that her honesty with the two of them helped alleviate the resentment towards them about the snarl she'd allowed her life to become because of the two of them. And that didn't begin to touch the frustration and jealousy she was still experiencing because of Helena's actions.
Barbara blinked slowly as her mind truly appreciated the thought that had just passed through it. She. Was. Jealous. SHE. WAS. JEALOUS. For the first time, she acknowledged the absolute rightness of that sentiment. She HAD been jealous – of Quinn... for the opportunity to talk to and counsel Helena; of Reese... for the time he spent with Helena that had once been hers to share; of Dinah... who was able to train with Helena in a way Barbara wasn't allowed anymore.
Barbara sat perfectly still as the implications of her realization went round and round in her brain. How long had this been going on? How long had she been jealous of the things she was missing in Helena's life? How long had she resented the things that seemed to create a barrier between her and Helena – that had precluded Barbra's participation as Helena's best friend?
She caught a glimpse of her reflection in the window and immediately recognized it as similar to one she'd seen on Helena's face as she read through her diary. Did that mean Helena was jealous of something as well?
Barbara pinched the bridge of her nose between her finger and thumb, wondering when exactly she'd learned to hide from her emotions and Helena's as well – and better yet, why she'd felt the need to. Maybe Helena could help her figure it out. She took a deep breath – this was going to need some serious time and thought before Barbara would be prepared to tackle all the implications of the things she had discovered about herself tonight. And then there was Helena – it was going to take time and effort to repair the damage they had done to themselves and each other by losing their ability to really communicate with one another.
She watched as Helena took a pen from her pocket and started writing in her diary. It didn't take long – apparently Helena was as verbose in her writing as she was in her speech. Barbara observed Helena's look around the balcony – studying it as if she was trying to memorize it and she realized right then as tendrils of fear climbed up and down her spine that time had just run out. If she wanted to keep Helena in her life, she was just going to have to jump into the deep end and hope Helena was there to catch her before she drowned.
She rolled forward as Helena stood and stretched, waiting in silence until Helena turned to her. Barbara swallowed hard, knowing she was throwing everything on this roll of the dice, but she couldn't not take the chance – she had too much to lose if she didn't take this risk.
Green eyes met blue and Barbara said softly, “Sweetheart? I think it's time we talked.” Then she held her breath and waited for Helena's response.
Helena had physically flinched – despite her earlier resolve... despite her decision to leave Barbara and New Gotham behind her... Barbara's words had sounded ominous and threatening to Helena's ears and she froze at the implications. Then she allowed herself to look – REALLY LOOK – at Barbara, and what she found in the depths of those bright green eyes made the breath catch in her lungs and hope to bloom deep in her heart despite herself. She cleared her throat.
“What would you like to talk about, Barbara?” hearing the unsteadiness in her words and clenching her hands tightly to keep from fidgeting. Somehow, facing Barbara to say goodbye was a lot harder than Helena had imagined it would be... especially considering the bitterness and frustration she'd been feeling earlier as she'd read through her journal. It wasn't fair – really... it wasn't fair that Barbara's mere presence could tame Helena's ire so easily, but Helena was honest enough to admit it had always been that way.
“Where did you go?” Barbara asked when Helena's attention returned to her.
Helena offered Barbara a half-smile and shook her head. “Nowhere. I was just sitting here thinking about you,” she replied honestly, causing Barbara's eyes to widen. Helena chuckled at the reaction.
“Do I want to ask?”
Helena shrugged. “You might want to, but it doesn't mean I'm going to tell. So what would you like to talk about?” Helena asked with studied indifference, not quite meeting Barbara's eyes. Because despite what she thought she'd seen earlier, Helena wasn't convinced this conversation was going to be at all pleasant for her.
The silence that met Helena's question caused her to look at Barbara, swallowing hard when she realized Barbara was simply studying her intently. “C'mon, Barbara – you said those four dreaded words... we have to talk,” she said with forced levity. “So let's hear it.”
“Why are you leaving?” the pained words causing Helena to catch her breath. But before she could respond - could negate the impact of the accusation with denial - Barbara shook her head. “Please don't lie to me, Helena. Of everything we've had together over the years, honesty is one of the few things we haven't lost along the way. Please don't change that now.”
Helena met Barbara's gaze briefly, recognizing the pleading behind the words and nodded her agreement before letting her gaze drop to the ground. “Can we take this inside? I don't want you getting a chill and if we're going to be honest with one another... completely honest... it's going to take more than a few minutes.”
For answer, Barbara spun her chair and deftly wheeled inside with Helena hot on her heels. Helena turned and locked the door by force of habit - because it was a certainty no one but her used it as an entrance and Barbara and Dinah tended to respect it as her personal space when she was lounging on the parapet or one of the gargoyles. When Helena turned from the door, she found Barbara had already moved from her chair to one corner of the leather couch. Helena moved to the bar and cocked an eyebrow.
“What can I get you?”
“Club soda with a twist,” Barbara said after a moment's thought. “I'd like to be sober for this.”
Helena bit her lip. “Yeah... me too, actually. Be right back.” Helena slipped into the kitchen and returned with a jug ofmilk. She poured a glass and stowed the rest in the bar fridge, then quickly assembled Barbara's drink of choice and smoothly moved over to the couch. She offered Barbara her club soda before taking a deep draught of her milk, sighing in satisfaction and taking the seat opposite.
“Talk to me, Helena. I want to know why you're running away from here... away from us.”
“There is no ‘us', Barbara... there never has been. And if you're talking about the Birds, well... you have Dinah now. She can be your legs on the street.” It wasn't said to be hurtful – Helena's tone had been resigned and sad. But that hadn't made the dagger's pierce any less agonizing as the words cut through Barbara's being. She couldn't stop the gasp that escaped. Helena looked at her despondently.
“Helena,” Barbara whispered, holding out a hand and hoping against hope that Helena would accept it. She did, enveloping Barbara's ice-cold hands with her much warmer ones and tenderly stroking the soft skin covering them.
“Barbara... it's not your fault. It's not my fault either, really. It's just the way of things. I've done all I can do here and more than I probably should have... given what happened and how things turned out. It's just time for me to go home is all.”
“DAMMIT, HELENA!!!” Barbara wasn't screaming, but the change in volume from a whisper made it feel like she was to Helena. “THIS is your home!! WE are your family.”
“And look what I did to my family, Barbara!! I nearly killed you – I *did* get Wade killed. I let some psycho destroy our home... destroy your boyfriend... nearly destroy you – if not physically, then certainly emotionally. I'd think you'd be thrilled to have me out from underfoot after that.”
Barbara shook her head and muttered under her breath so low that she missed most of it, though Helena did catch a reference to a ‘dim bulb'. She would have taken offence had Barbara given her a chance, but before she could draw breath to refute Barbara's assertion that the bar fridge was brighter than she was, Barbara pinned her with a look and spoke loud enough for her to understand what was being said without shouting.
“Helena what did you think of Wade?”
It was so unexpected a query that the naked truth sat raw on Helena's countenance for a split second before she managed to get the mask in place. It was long enough, however, for Barbara to see and recognize anger and disgust and pain among the more identifiable emotions. Helena struggled to formulate an answer that was both truthful and wouldn't hurt Barbara's feelings too much. In spite of her decision to leave, she had no desire to hurt Barbara anymore than she had been. Besides, ragging on a dead boyfriend just seemed so classless. Helena mentally ran through her vocabulary, wincing internally when the best she could come up with was ‘nice' and ‘decent sort' and ‘polite'. She opened her mouth to speak, praying for inspiration, when Barbara spoke up again.
“Maybe I should let you in on the truth about a few things first, Hel,” Barbara said, letting her eyes focus on the far wall to minimize her embarrassment as well as Helena's. “I started dating Wade because I was curious – I wanted to know what normal felt like after the chair. Dick was the last man to show an interest in me, and you know how that turned out,” squeezing lightly on the hand still clutching hers in response to the sub-vocal growl she felt rumble from Helena's chest. “Wade was the first man to show any interest since then, and to his credit, he made an effort to appreciate my mind as well as my body. And it was nice,” Barbara admitted. Then she sighed deeply. “For a while.”
“Unfortunately, that was all it was – nice... and boring. It wasn't Wade's fault, really. That was just the kind of man he was – nice and safe and boring. And for a little while, I enjoyed it, because it was different from anything I had ever known.”
“But...?” Helena prompted when the silence dragged on for too long. Barbara sighed.
“But different certainly didn't mean better, and when Wade announced he wanted to ‘take care of me', I knew it was time to end it.”
Silence again while Helena mulled over Barbara's words, then she asked softly. “So why did you act like he was the coolest thing since sliced bread? Why did you give him access to the Tower and the ‘muffin top business'?” wrinkling her nose at the last. Barbara didn't see the action, but she heard it in Helena's voice, and she chuckled wryly.
“I didn't,” she said simply, wincing when Helena clenched her hand reflexively. Barbara set her glass down and covered their joined hands, turning to meet Helena's eyes. They had gone feral, and Barbara could see the energy crackling around Helena's frame.
“Excuse me?” Helena whispered, holding Barbara's eyes with her own almost hypnotically. Barbara smiled gently.
“I didn't. I didn't think Wade was the coolest thing since sliced bread, and I never, EVER gave him the codes to access the Clock Tower.”
“I broke it off with Wade – before you brought Dinah home - but Wade was so sure I would let him b e what he thought I needed him to be if he kept trying. Then Alfred gave him the access codes, and I was stuck.”
“Why didn't you say something?” Helena asked quietly. “I could have pitched him from a rooftop or something,” giving Barbara a half-smile.
Barbara couldn't stop the smile that formed – not at the threat to Wade's life, because she knew Helena would never have actually hurt him... especially as long as she thought he was important to Barbara's happiness. Instead, the smile formed because she knew Helena would have been by her side trying to find an equitable solution had Barbara simply been completely honest instead of dancing around the truth for so long. Then she lost her smile.
“My mess... my responsibility,” Barbara finally replied with a shrug, refusing to release Helena's hand when she tugged. “Besides... you had Reese.”
Helena frowned. “What the hell does one have to do with the other, Red? Reese is my friend. He'd like to be more, but....” She shrugged. Now Barbara frowned, her expression morphing into one of confusion.
“But what about your reunion? I thought you decided to give Reese a chance.”
“Yeah... that didn't last very long. He um... he's a little too fascinated with my meta side. And more than a little afraid of ‘what' I am,” smirking when fire blazed in Barbara's eyes. “It's cool, Red. He and I have come to an understanding, and actually, it's kind of nice to have someone ‘normal' to hang with sometimes,” Helena finished with a shrug. “So why didn't you say something about you and Wade breaking up? I thought you were happy together.”
Barbara pinched the bridge of her nose. “Apparently you and I have lost the ability to communicate with one another... either with words or without them. And the fault for that lies with both of us.” She sighed, then met Helena's eyes again, not surprised to see they were still feral. “You've been keeping something from me, Helena – you have been for a long time,” feeling Helena try to withdraw from her again. She lifted her hand from the one that covered their joined hands, and cupped Helena's cheek until their eyes met. “Don't run from me, Helena. Talk to me.”
“I was jealous, you know,” Barbara offered without releasing Helena from her gaze. “You pulled away from me.I don't know what I did to drive you away- I still don't know how to fix it. And as you've reminded me on several occasions, you're an adult. Maybe it's just a case of us outgrowing one another,” unable to keep the pain from her voice or her eyes.
Barbara tried to withdraw her hand from Helena's. Helena held on tightly enough to cause Barbara to wince at the unexpected strength. “NO!” Helena growled fiercely. “No,” she repeated in a softer tone. “You didn't do anything. This was about me.”
“Then what, Helena?? Why were you leaving me? Because you were leaving, weren't you?”
Helena dropped her eyes to their hands and nodded. “Yeah... but apparently I can't do that right either. Otherwise....”
“It doesn't matter,” Helena said, shaking her head.
“It does,” Barbara barked, causing Helena's head to jerk up in surprise. “It matters to me.”
“Isn't it enough that I'm sticking around? Can't that be enough?”
“No, Helena, it can't. Talk to me.” Silence... again. “Why did you hate Wade? Why do you hate Dick?” almost smiling when Helena's nose wrinkled in distaste. “Shall I tell you what I think?” without waiting for a response from Helena. “I think you were jealous of them - and of the place you thought they had in my life... and in my bed... and in my heart. I'm not going to lie, Hel – they each had a place in my life and my bed for a while. But neither of them ever had a place in my heart. That place has been filled by the same amazing woman for years – it just took me until now to understand that.”
Helena's response wasn't verbal, but Barbara heard the words as clearly as if they'd been spoken aloud. For the longest moment in both their lives, they simply looked at one another, their eyes communicating truths they needed to share before Helena finally blinked and whispered, “I'm gonna kiss you now.”
Barbara nodded and leaned forward, lashes fluttering shut as Helena's warm breath caressed her face. Then their lips met, and Barbara sighed. It was more than she hoped for, but less than she expected. She pulled back slightly and met Helena's elliptical eyes.
“All of you, Hel. I want everything,”
“Are you sure, Red?” giving Barbara a chance to think about it... a chance to back out. “Once we do this, there won't be any going back.”
Barbara gave Helena a droll look. “God, I hope not.” She sighed. “Helena, I know I've been a little slow getting here, but trust me when I tell you I've waited a lifetime for you.” Barbara wrapped her arms around Helena's neck and tangled her hands in Helena's hair, scratching gently at the nape of her neck as she tugged Helena forward. “I love you, Helena Kyle. You're the best thing in my life.”
“I love you, Barbara Gordon, and I'm gonna spend the night showing you just how much.”
Barbara's eyes widened at the implications of Helena's words, then slammed shut when Helena's mouth claimed hers passionately, plundering Barbara's mouth with teeth and tongue until she was whimpering. Barbara pulled away long enough to take a deep breath before she fainted from a serious lack of oxygen in her lungs, then she smashed their mouths together again, not even realizing when Helena lifted her into her arms.
She felt the world spin, then the softness of her bed was at her back. Barbara blinked at Helena in surprise, utterly charmed by the tender smile Helena offered as she began to gently undress Barbara. Barbara reached up to help, only to find her hands brushed aside by Helena's hands.
“Let me, please? I've dreamed of this.”
Barbara cupped Helena's face in her hands and pulled her in for a kiss, then just as quickly released her, laying her hands on the bed in a gesture of surrender. Helena started to reverently undress Barbara before shucking off her own clothes and climbing into the bed, allowing her naked body to just skim along Barbara's, smiling at the shudders and goosebumps that followed in her wake.
“Please, Helena... God,” Barbara begged softly. Those words were her undoing, and Helena settled down to her most pleasant and rewarding task. It was indeed going to be a long night.
“Whatcha doing?” Barbara asked in a raspy voice as Helena capped the pen and dropped the diary onto the floor beside the bed.
“Nothing much. Just updating my diary,” Helena confessed with a smile at the self-satisfied tone in Barbara's voice. Helena looked around Barbara's bedroom and cuddled deeper into Barbara's embrace, purring when Barbara let her nails rake lightly over the naked skin of Helena's back. She felt her eyes go feral as she propped up on an elbow to meet Barbara's green ones, then she leaned down to scrape her teeth over Barbara's pulse point. Helena smiled at the tremor that shuddered through Barbara's body at her actions and tucked her nose into the warmth of Barbara's neck, scenting her gently. Barbara chuckled and Helena arched an eyebrow in question.
“That tickles,” she replied with a smile, gently pushing an errant lock of hair off of Helena's face. Helena turned her head and brushed a kiss over the palm of Barbara's hand.
“I love you, Barbara Gordon. I think I always have.”
“I love you too, Helena Kyle. I'm sorry I made us wait so long,” kissing the fingers that covered her lips.