Just A Matter of Time
A BoP TV Story (B/H)
Chapter 14 - Halloween
"Bruce, once again you've outdone yourself," Jim Gordon, or for tonight, Henry the VIII, said, looking around the large ballroom in the Manor that was full of costumed guests laughing and talking and clearly enjoying themselves.
"Well, I have a lot of people with very high expectations to please," Bruce, or for tonight, the Flash, said with amusement, eyeing the Commissioner.
"I'm very pleased you take your responsibilities seriously," Jim joked, pointing his fake lamb leg at the billionaire. "Although, I am curious about the reason you hired the Simpaticos . . . it wasn't to rub it in, was it?" he asked with a smirk, eyeing his friend closely.
"I just think they happen to be very talented musicians. Don't think you so, Henry?" Bruce smiled.
Barbara chatted with Dick and the Mayor's wife, but kept glancing over to Margay, who was actually dressed as her stage name, Snow White. The costume was almost perfect, slightly marred by the sunglasses Margay wore. She frowned, sympathetic towards the woman who had to deal with such sensitive eyes.
"It was nice talking with you," Mrs. Delaney said politely, and left Barbara alone with Dick.
"You should go talk to her," Dick, or for tonight, Superboy, said, sipping his soda as he glanced over to the piano player.
"There's nothing left to say. She's in love with someone else and I can't compete against that," Barbara, or for tonight, Robin Hood, said dejectedly.
"I'm sorry, Babs," Dick said, placing a comforting arm around her shoulder. "You two together would have been really hot," he said, causing her to jab him in the ribs and push his arm off her.
"Dick, you need help," she said, shaking her head. Dick grinned with satisfaction.
"You two kids having fun?" Jim Gordon joined them with a grin.
"Bruce always throws a great party," Dick said with a ready smile.
Barbara plastered on a smile. "How about you, your highness?"
"It's a nice diversion from the daily grind, that's for sure," Jim noted thoughtfully, glancing around the large room.
"Have you heard any more about that new gang?" Dick asked the Commissioner.
"New gang?" Barbara asked with interest.
"No shoptalk during the party!" Jim scolded them, then kissed his daughter's cheek. "I'm going to get something to eat. I'm in the mood for lamb for some reason," he said, looking at the plastic prop he held, then grinned, amusing himself at least. "Excuse me," he said to them.
Barbara frowned and turned to Dick. "What new gang?"
"I'll tell you all about it - if you dance with me," Dick Superboy Grayson said smugly, holding out his hand in challenge.
"You're a Super pain in the ass, you know that?" Barbara said, taking his hand.
"Come now, Babs, you know you love me," he countered as they headed out to the dance floor.
As they played a requested big band tune, Helena glanced over the dance floor, spotting Barbara swing dance with Dick. In spite of her choice of dance partners, Helena couldn't help but enjoy the teen's fluid and graceful moves. She was a natural and her love for dancing was obvious by her bright smile and laughter, Helena considered with a pleased smile that faded as she thought about the future.
The Simpaticos finished playing the last song of the set, prompting enthusiastic applause. "Merci, Merci," Monique, or for tonight, Dopey, said with a smile, waving at the audience with her floppy, oversized sleeve, causing a few chuckles. She glanced over to the piano player, or for tonight, Snow White, who just grinned at her, pleased at her success in convincing her seven band mates to dress up as dwarves and especially proud at convincing Monique to be Dopey.
"We will be taking a break. See you again in fifteen minutes," Monique said with a smile that disappeared as she walked towards Snow and placed her sleeve-covered hands on the piano with irritation, leaning menacingly towards the piano player.
"YOU are an evil woman, Snow White," Monique said flatly, lifting up her long sleeve to point to Helena, who bit her lip to not laugh at the ridiculous look.
"No, mon ami, that would be the Queen with that mirror and apple, remember?" Helena responded innocently, withholding a smile as she got up from the piano bench.
"I should have been the Queen," Monique said wistfully, getting a grin from Helena. "At least the guests are amused," she said in resignation as they walked towards the study, which had been designated the women's dressing room.
"That is important," Helena agreed with a smile as they entered the study.
They turned back to see the young redhead standing at the doorway uncomfortably.
Monique squeezed Margay's forearm before leaving.
Helena took an uneasy breath.
Barbara watched Monique, who shut the door behind her, giving them privacy. She quietly turned and focused on Margay, who looked rather good in her Snow White costume.
They looked at each other a quiet, awkward moment before Helena ventured "Peter Pan?" Helena tilted her head as she eyed the costume.
"What?!? I was going for Robin Hood!" Barbara said with annoyance, looking down at her outfit with a frown.
"Ah, sorry. I see it now. Definitely Robin Hood," Helena quickly offered with a small smile, looking at the woodsman outfit accented with a bow on her back and a brown pouch on her side.
Barbara looked at her another uncomfortable moment before offering "Uh, I wanted to apologize for the other night."
"You have no reason to apologize, Barbara," Helena said softly.
"I do. I acted very immaturely," she offered with a frown.
"Managing your emotions is hard at any age, Barbara. Trust me," Helena responded.
"Great," Barbara said flatly, clearly not thrilled by that idea. The two looked at each other a long moment before sharing small smiles. "Did you hear?" Barbara offered conversationally.
Helena eyed her curiously, hesitantly shaking her head no.
"There's a new gang in town," Barbara noted with a sparkle in her eyes.
"Apparently, their first victim was a star college basketball player. It was reported they attacked him the other night, broke his nose, gave him a big ol' shiner, among other bruises," she offered and eyed Margay, who looked at her digesting the information. Her eyes suddenly widened with surprise, finally understanding.
"Oh my! A whole gang you say?" Helena said with great interest.
"Yep. Apparently he couldn't identify them because they were wearing ski masks," Barbara noted.
"It would be hard to identify people in ski masks, I would imagine," Helena noted.
"Jerry's girlfriend made him go to the police when she heard about his terrifying encounter."
"The streets are not as safe as they used to be," Margay offered with a sad shake of her head.
The two looked at each other a moment before sharing a chuckle.
The knocking at the door made Helena roll her eyes. "It's probably Monique making sure your virtue is still intact," she sighed.
Barbara almost said something risqué, but bit her tongue. No use making Margay more uncomfortable, she considered with a sigh, wanting to keep her as at least a friend.
Helena answered the door and found Bruce on the other side.
"The Flash . . . or can I call you "The," she asked curiously.
He eyed her and elected to ignore her question. "I was told I would find Barbara in here," he said.
"Oui. Come on in, The," Helena said and stepped back, motioning for him to enter.
He walked past her, eyeing the odd woman, then focused on Barbara and smiled. "Care to join me in the Batcave . . . Robin Hood?" he said with a small smile.
"Sure," Barbara said slowly, eyeing Margay then Bruce, with surprise.
"You're invited too, Snow," he noted.
"I'd like that," Helena said with a pleased smile.
Barbara had not been expecting that Margay would be given access to the inner sanctum. But she realized that anyone who knew to call Alfred for help must have had some relationship with Bruce Wayne. She tamped down the irrational jealousy that bubbled up, recalling that Margay had said she was in love with someone else, from her home.
Barbara's latest research proved once again fruitless. She balled up her hand into a fist and banged the desk as she emitted a growl of frustration in a rare display of emotion.
"That isn't a good sign, is it?" Dinah blurted with a wince.
Barbara willed herself to calm down so she could explain the situation. "The field of temporal mechanics is too immature. It would take decades to even hope to develop a device to bring Helena home," she said tersely. "So that leaves me with trying to find out how the hourglass works," she noted logically. ". . . which is proving to be rather difficult since there seems to be no information on it anywhere!" she spat in exasperation, causing Dinah to cringe.
"I have never felt so helpless in all of my life, Dinah," she admitted, surprising the teen, who glanced down at the wheelchair curiously as Barbara took off her glasses and pinched the bridge of her nose.
"If you were Helena, what would you do to get home?" Dinah suddenly blurted, getting a curious look from her mentor. "I'm pretty sure she didn't just accept her fate to live through eighteen years to come back to us - do you?"
Barbara stared at her a long, thoughtful moment. Dinah smiled when she saw a flash of excitement in her eyes as her mind worked on the problem from a different angle. "No. She'd try to find someone to help her," she said thoughtfully, then added softly, "I was too young." Barbara frowned at all the implications of that truth, then grew silent, staring off into the distance as some memories gelled together.
"What?" Dinah asked.
"She was in the Batcave with us when Bruce presented me with my Batgirl costume."
"Oh. My. God! That is so amazing!" Dinah exclaimed.
Dick, Alfred, Bruce, and Margay surrounded Barbara as Bruce held out a small box.
"You're giving me a birthday present?" Barbara asked curiously, glancing at the group with a small smile.
Helena watched her father give Barbara a gift-wrapped box; a simple act he had never done for his own daughter. She eyed him without anger or hurt, but curiosity. How could a man so confident and sure, so noble, be rattled so much as to leave everyone he cared about behind without a word?
For the first time in her life, she bothered to put herself in his shoes. Looking at Barbara thoughtfully, she knew she too, would not be the same if she was the reason for Barbara's murder. Her eyes dropped knowing she, too, would be changed if someone permanently crippled Dinah to get back at her. And if both happened the same day, she considered, she too would have snapped.
Looking back at the billionaire, she also knew without a doubt, that unlike him, she would have let her pain drive her. She would have succumbed to revenge, not stopping until she found the people responsible . . . and killed them, every last one of them. A response neither Barbara nor Dinah would have wanted, she considered with a frown.
For the first time in her life, Helena Kyle began to feel sympathy for what her father, who had abandoned her, had lived through.
"You could have given it to me at the Manor," Barbara said as she opened it up. Pulling a remote control from the box, she looked at it, then Bruce. "Thanks?"
Bruce and Dick shared a smirk as Barbara carefully eyed the device, guessing what it could be for. After several seconds, Dick couldn't take it any more.
"Oh for GOD's sake, push the damn button!" Dick blurted with exasperation, relieving Helena, who was almost going to do that herself.
"I seem to be pushing someone's button," Barbara said dryly, looking at Margay, who looked at her with surprise then smiled. She's learning, Helena thought with amusement.
Barbara finally pressed the button which turned on a spotlight. A dark recess of the batcave was suddenly flooded with light, revealing her gift that hung majestically in a transparent cylinder. She sucked in a surprised breath as she slowly approached the amazing Batgirl costume.
The group smiled, sharing pleased glances with each other.
Barbara turned to Alfred curiously. "This isn't my design," she stated without any indication of approval or disapproval.
Helena noted the unflappable butler was, well . . . flapped; Alfred blinked, looking like a deer caught in headlights. Dick looked at Bruce, who cringed and looked at Margay.
"Of course not," Helena blurted confidently. "When you are out on the streets, you need a costume that will have more of a shock and awe value to it. This will give you a bigger edge than your other . . . utilitarian design," she explained carefully. "It also better matches Batman and Robin's costumes and I know you are going to look magnifique!" she said with enthusiasm then added with sudden, feigned worry. "Don't you like it?"
"She's quite good," Alfred whispered to Bruce, who nodded, eyeing Margay thoughtfully.
Barbara glanced at it again, then eyed Margay. "No," Barbara said, shaking her head, causing several concerned cringes. A big smile filled her face. "I love it!" she responded, prompting a collective sigh of relief.
"So you think she actually went to her father for help?" Dinah asked skeptically, knowing Helena was not enamored of the Caped Crusader.
"That is a very good possibility," Barbara said absently. "Bruce had invited her to the Batcave. They obviously had a trusting relationship."
"But, she . . . hates him," Dinah said hesitantly with a confused grimace.
"Desperate times call for desperate measures. There was really no one else with the resources to help her. And I think she knew she could trust him."
"Do you think he knew who she was?"
Barbara looked at Dinah and shook her head. "I don't think she would have told him. She never told me who she was . . . but then I didn't even meet Helena for another couple of years."
"Wow indeed," Barbara said, then grew silent as her mind worked on this new angle. After a few moments, she spoke again. "There were no traces of the hourglass at the scene. So I think Helena must have had the hourglass with her. I would assume it was broken or she would have returned home. If I had the pieces, I'd want to study the hourglass and reverse engineer it," Barbara said thoughtfully, looking off into the distance, making Dinah wonder what other thoughts were wandering through her mind.
"Get your coat," Barbara said as she rolled towards the elevator.
"Where are we going?"
"To the Batcave."
Chapter 15 - Good-byes
Helena looked down at the wrist device as Bruce placed a final screw in place after the last round of adjustments. "This is it. All you'll need to do is press the red button to activate it," he said, pointing to the button between the array of location and time dials.
Helena exhaled uneasily. "Why not green?"
"Uh, isn't the red button usually the one you shouldn't push?" Helena said, eyeing the wrist device with a wince.
Looking at her a moment, he elected to ignore the question and continue. "Once you get back, the device will need to be destroyed," he told her. "Our business is hard enough without having to chase after criminals through time," he said, putting the wrist device down and picking up the belt for some adjustments.
"So it can be used again??" Helena asked, staring at the device with a frown.
"Yes," he said, then eyed her. "Margay, I do have your word you'll go straight to the coordinates and time on the device, don't I?" Bruce asked pointedly.
"Yes, of course," she blurted uneasily, apparently appeasing him.
He nodded and sighed. "That much power would be too tempting, for anyone," he allowed.
"Even you?" she asked curiously.
"Especially me," he admitted, surprising her. "Imagine . . . the power to change events to right wrongs," he said with an intense look in his eyes. "But they say, absolute power corrupts absolutely. If I started to manipulate events, when would I be satisfied? And what if the alternate history is worse? I could be forever trying to fix the time line," he offered.
"Yeah," Helena said absently, glancing down to the device again.
"Nervous?" He asked.
"I didn't much like the last trip," she said with a grimace.
"I'm pretty sure this trip will be better," he said.
"Pretty sure??" Helena said with concern.
"I wish I could give you a guarantee, but I can't," he said.
"So this could send me off to nowhere," Helena said with a frown.
"Unlikely, I did run extensive tests. But there may be variables I have not accounted for which could be, worst case, fatal," he said honestly.
"You know, you really stink at the pep-talk thing."
"I don't believe in sugarcoating the truth," he countered.
"Apparently not," she offered with a frown.
"Well, it's ready. You could use it now," he noted, gently placing the device in front of her on the workbench.
"I didn't expect . . . ," Helena sputtered, looking at him uneasily. While hopeful it looked like this nerve-wracking trip might finally come to an end, she was saddened. "I need to say goodbye to a few people."
Bruce looked at her in understanding. "She's grown quite fond of you."
Helena glanced at him with surprise. After an uneasy moment, she nodded slightly and silently left.
"You can't just leave! What about the Simpaticos?!?" Jacque said with a frown, pacing in front of the two women in the empty club.
Monique rolled her eyes. "We survived before she came, Jacque," she offered, weary of his tantrums. "We will survive after she leaves."
"I am sorry, mon ami," Helena said with a sad wince for Jacque and explained "I must go home."
He stopped his pacing and stood in front of her, performing a critical inspection of her. "Snow is still a stupid stage name," he groused.
"Oui," Helena acknowledged with a small smile.
He quickly kissed her on each cheek. "Be well, Margay," he said with surprising emotion.
"Thank you for everything, Jacque," Helena said sincerely, getting a brisk nod as he took a sharp breath to tamp down anymore untoward emotion. He quickly left the two women alone.
Monique took a long look at Margay and sighed sadly before stepping towards her and pulling her into a hug. "I will miss you, sweet Margay," Monique said softly, feeling tears well up in her eyes.
Helena hugged her back. "You saved my life, Monique. When I had no job and no place to go and needed friends…."
"You are being too dramatic, but then, you are a natural performer," Monique offered with an uncomfortable laugh.
"It's the truth."
Monique frowned. "You would have helped me, of that I am sure," she said as tears rolled down her cheeks.
Helena gently wiped them away. "I am glad we met and I am so glad we became friends."
"Stop that or I will turn into a water faucet," Monique said with a frown, squeezing her arm.
"I'm traveling light. I hope you can use the clothing I am leaving behind?" Helena said with a small smile.
"Oui!" Monique responded happily, reminding her of Dinah. "Are you sure?" Monique asked hesitantly.
"Speaking of leaving things behind . . . have you talked with her yet?" Monique asked delicately.
"No. Not yet," Helena said with a sigh, knowing that would be the most difficult.
Monique reached up and caressed her friend's cheek. "I am so sorry your heart hurts, my friend."
"The story of my life," Helena said with a sad smile, receiving a gentle kiss on her lips.
"Things will get better, trust me. Perhaps I shall see you headlining in Paris, one day," Monique said with a raised brow and grin.
"Perhaps," Helena said with a small chuckle at the thought, stealing a final hug before leaving to finish her goodbyes.
"Barbara, honey?" Jim called over his shoulder. "You've got a guest," he said, returning his attention to the white-haired woman at his door.
"You do know what you've done to her," Jim said bluntly, causing Helena to freeze. "You've created a monster. She finds the most annoying times to hum twinkle, twinkle little star," he said with a smirk.
Helena exhaled and smiled apologetically. "Sorry," she said, adjusting her sunglasses.
"Don't be, that was a wonderful night with wonderful music," he said with a sincere smile.
"Merci," she said with a pleased smile.
"I didn't realize you knew my daughter," he noted curiously.
"Well, we've bumped into each other at the library…." Helena explained vaguely.
"Hmm. She does spend an awful lot of time there. Sometimes I worry she's not getting out and enjoying herself enough," Jim offered.
"I think she's enjoying what she is doing, Sir," Helena offered.
"Well, I hope so. Life's too short to let life slip you by," he offered sagely as Barbara came down the stairs.
"Oui," Helena agreed, looking up at the beautiful redhead. Her heart skipped a beat.
"Margay?" Barbara said with surprise. A smile of anticipation grew as she descended the stairs. Jim eyed his happy daughter then looked at the white-haired woman who suddenly looked uncomfortable.
"Daddy?" Barbara said, not so subtly turning her attention to the third wheel in the room to get him to leave.
"Uh, well, I guess I'll leave you two ladies alone. Nice talking with you, Margay," Jim said.
"The pleasure was mine, Commissioner," she said, watching the man retreat into the living room.
"Let's go into the study," Barbara said with a smile, taking Margay's hand and pulling her in that direction. "I'm so glad to see you. This is almost....normal," Barbara joked as they entered the study. Shutting the pocket doors behind her, she turned and found a serious expression on Margay's face. "What's wrong?" she asked, growing alarmed.
"Here," Helena said softly, holding out a box.
Barbara looked at her then the box a curious moment before slowly accepting it.
"I was going through my things and . . . I wanted you to have it," Helena explained with a shrug as Barbara opened the box to find a lovely watch.
"Thank you," Barbara said with surprise. "It's beautiful," she said softly as she traced her fingers over the unexpected gift.
"It even works," Helena offered with an awkward laugh at the irony. "I guess I could have given it to you on your birthday but I didn't think you'd want anything from me. I am glad we are on speaking terms."
"I hope we are more than on just speaking terms, Margay," Barbara responded, looking at her with growing anticipation. "Why are you giving this to me now?"
Helena saw the misplaced hope and felt horrible. "I am leaving, Barbara. I wished to say goodbye," Helena said softly.
"Leaving?!? You're going home??" Barbara responded with alarm.
"Oui. I have the means now and will be going home," Helena offered, hating she was the cause of the troubled emotions that washed over Barbara's face. But she just had to say goodbye….
"Are you coming back? Will I see you again??" Barbara blurted, feeling her heart race with panic.
"I have every intention of seeing you again, Barbara Gordon," Helena said with conviction, slightly appeasing the younger woman.
"But . . . when?" Barbara asked uneasily.
"Barbara," Helena interjected. "I just wanted you to know that time with you has meant a great deal to me. I will always cherish these memories," she said honestly, glancing down at the watch uncomfortably when she found it too difficult to continue to witness such sadness in those emerald eyes . . . a sadness she was causing.
Barbara stared at her, not wanting to accept that she was really going to leave. "I meant what I said, Margay," she whispered as a tear fell.
As Barbara had done to her several nights ago, Helena reached out and cradled her cheek and wiped the tear away. "And I love you too, Barbara Gordon," Helena offered her the truth, though the heartfelt words were bittersweet.
Barbara slowly leaned towards Margay, the words taken as invitation. She just had to taste those lips one last time, lips that uttered the words that should have made her happy, yet broke her heart a little more. Slipping her arms around the older woman's neck, she kissed her, knowing it was a goodbye.
Helena did not pull back, treating the gift as it deserved - a rare treasure to be cherished. Her arms wrapped around the younger woman, firmly pulling their bodies together as their tongues caressed and explored. It felt so right, as she had always known it would. Helena poured every ounce of love she had bottled up for so many years into each kiss and caress, knowing Barbara would never kiss Helena Kyle like this.
Each of them wanted this moment to last, this perfect, shared intimacy. Yet each knew it couldn't.
After their lips parted, Barbara fiercely hugged her as more tears fell. "It's not fair to feel like this and not be able to do anything about it," she said hoarsely, the sorrow almost suffocating.
"I know," Helena whispered raggedly, her own eyes watered as she selfishly held Barbara as she had always wanted.
After a moment, they reluctantly stepped back from each other, knowing the time had finally come for Margay to leave. With great sadness they walked to the front door together. Helena looked at the miserable teen before her eyes dropped guiltily. Silently retreating, Helena glanced one last time towards Barbara, who stood at the door . . . a sight she was determined to see again.
"Margay, dear. How may I help you today?" Mrs. Milner said with a smile for the white-haired woman.
"Bonjour, Madame Milner," Helena said weakly, her sadness seeping through.
"Something wrong, dear?" She asked with concern.
"No," she said softly. "I have come to say goodbye. I will be returning home," she said, managing a small smile.
"Oh, really?" Mrs. Milner said with disappointment.
"Oui," Helena said with a shrug.
"Well, I'll certainly miss you, Margay. I'm sure Barbara will too; have you said goodbye to her yet?"
"Oui. That was a most difficult goodbye," Helena admitted with a heavy exhale, getting a sympathetic nod from the older woman. "Before I leave, could I impose upon you one last time, Madame?"
"Ah, helping my favorite French visitor is never an imposition," Mrs. Milner said with a dismissive wave of her hand and added warmly "What do you need, dear?"
"Maps of the city that show longitude and latitude," Helena said.
Chapter 16 - Convergence
Barbara rolled up to the Batcomputer, surprised to find it was on. "Someone is here," she said, carefully reviewing the screen and the currently running computer program.
"Alfred?" Dinah asked, glancing around the huge, high-tech cave with a mix of awe and apprehension. It was kind of creepy in a cool, hi-tech gothic sort of way. She noted with interest the batplane, then the batboat on the stream below their platform on the other side of the cave. She vaguely wondered if Batman ever went fishing. . . .
"I don't think so," Barbara said, looking around the cave, noting new sensors mounted all over.
"Dick?" Dinah asked.
"No, more like Bruce Wayne," Barbara said as the weight of that conclusion settled on her. "He's monitoring for temporal fluctuations," she offered, glancing around the cave again for other signs of the billionaire, quickly concluding he was in the Manor.
"That means he's helping her," Dinah said with excitement.
"So it would seem," Barbara said neutrally, pushing down her growing unease as she rolled towards the closest elevator with great purpose.
Getting off the elevator in the empty study, Barbara rolled out into the hall with an excited Dinah in tow. Taking in the sights of the richly appointed Manor, Dinah was amazed.
"WOW! I can so not believe Helena would rather live in a ratty apartment over a bar than here."
"She has her reasons," she said, then stopped her chair and took in an uneasy breath when she spotted the main reason actually standing mere yards away in the long hallway. "Bruce?" she said hesitantly, squinting at him as if it were an apparition.
He turned and eyed the two a moment without reaction, save for the brief flicker of surprise that Barbara caught in his eyes. "Hello, Barbara," he said coolly, as if he had not been gone for several long years. She saw his eyes briefly drop to her wheelchair uncomfortably before he refocused on her face.
"Bruce," she said again as surprising emotions surfaced. After all this time her mentor had just returned, without letting anyone know. She couldn't help but feel . . . hurt.
"Hi," Dinah said with a crooked smile as she awkwardly waved. She had heard so much about this mysterious man . . . both the good and the bad.
"Oh. Excuse my manners," Barbara said with a wince, glad Alfred was not here, and made the introductions. "Bruce Wayne, this is my ward, Dinah Lance," she said. "Dinah, Bruce Wayne, my former mentor."
"Pleased to meet you, Dinah. I've worked with your mother," Bruce said, holding out his hand.
"I know," Dinah gushed with enthusiasm. "Barbara's told me all about you. I mean, not all about you, cause no one ever knows all about someone, but she's told me enough so that I'd know about . . . you," Dinah said then cringed at her rambling.
Barbara sighed heavily. Bruce withheld a smile.
"Uh, pleased to meet you?" Dinah said sheepishly and firmly shook his hand. She paused mid-shake as several images of a white-haired woman and the batcave flashed in her mind, accompanied by a feeling of great worry that washed over her. She looked into his questioning eyes with alarm. "Why are you worried about Helena?"
"Helena?!? What are you talking about, Dinah?" Bruce asked sternly. While he thought constantly about his daughter, he was not worried about her. She had turned out to be an exceptional young woman, in spite of him, he considered.
"Dinah?" Barbara asked.
"Uh, I didn't mean to read him," Dinah said, glancing at Barbara with a wince. "I'm a touch telepath," she explained to Bruce, whose brow rose as he wondered what exactly she had read from him.
"What about Helena, Dinah," he repeated firmly.
Dinah looked to Barbara uneasily then looked at the blue-eyed billionaire. "Mr. Wayne, Helena is . . . was Margay."
Both his brows rose, clearly taken by surprise with that revelation.
"Bruce, Helena went back in time using an hourglass device. We came here to see whether you had tried to help her come home," Barbara explained. "Did you?" she asked.
"Margay was . . . Helena?" Bruce said with amazement.
In the study, they sat around the coffee table. "Margay was Helena," Bruce repeated with amazement.
"Yes," Barbara said firmly. "I believe she did not want to affect the timeline so she needed to come up with a new identity that we wouldn't connect with her."
"For someone who wasn't trying to affect the timeline, she had an interesting way of going about it," he said with a disapproving frown, recalling her attention-getting performances.
Barbara nodded with a shrug. "Helena never did blend in well," she acknowledged with mild amusement.
"She played the piano and sang so beautifully," he said with a bit of pride for his talented daughter.
"She was . . . is amazing," Barbara acknowledged with appreciation, cringing slightly at the tense, not wanting to think in the past tense.
He silently looked at her as if putting more puzzle pieces together. His curious gaze made Barbara . . . uncomfortable.
"Why are you worried about Helena, Mr. Wayne?" Dinah ventured again.
"Until Mar . . . Helena returns to the correct time, I will be worried," he admitted. "There is no way to know whether the device I developed will work accurately over such a long time span; there were some variables I had to make an educated guess on and others I might have missed," he said, concern creasing his brow.
Barbara frowned. His confession brought new unease. "May I review your calculations?"
"The die is cast Barbara. I'm not sure what good your review would do now," Bruce said.
"Bruce, if you travel before the die is cast, mistakes can be fixed," Barbara noted simply, earning an alarmed gaze, clearly not enamored with that prospect.
"We've already tampered with the timeline too much," he offered with a frown.
Was he not interested in doing everything he could to make sure Helena came home safely, Barbara wondered with concern. Taking a breath to question him, she was preempted by Dinah.
"How did you figure out how to make a time travel device, Mr. Wayne?" Dinah asked with amazement.
"Well, it helped to have the broken hourglass parts that Mar…Helena had brought with her, along with the working one to reverse engineer," Bruce said. "I also had several noted physicists more than happy to answer my hypothetical questions," he added wryly.
"You found a working hourglass?" Barbara asked with surprise.
"As far as I know, I found "the" hourglass. There wasn't any evidence there was more than one," he offered, then added gravely "one's enough."
"Why not just use the working hourglass?" Dinah asked before Barbara could.
"Mar. . . Helena," he said, grimacing at his continued stumbling over her name "was concerned that if she used it to jump forward, she would not have been able to use it to go back in the first place," Bruce said.
"But . . . that would have solved the problem. Wouldn't it?" Dinah said with a confused wince.
"She was worried about Barbara," Bruce said bluntly, glancing at the redhead, who looked at him with surprise. "She thought there was a good possibility that if she had not gone back, Barbara could have been killed or at the very least, have her identity exposed her first night out," he added softly, glancing back at the wincing redhead.
"Wow," Dinah said looking between the older crime fighters. "So she was supposed to help Barbara become Batgirl??"
"Interesting question," Bruce allowed, glancing at Barbara who looked preoccupied with that as well as several questions of her own. Were they always meant to guide each other in their formative years? Were they always meant to be each other's first love? Were they always meant to break each other's hearts by rejecting that love? Was this their destiny - to be forever together but forever separated, she wondered with a heavy exhale, only really knowing one thing with certainty, she missed Helena terribly.
Barbara looked at her ward, when she felt Dinah grab and squeeze her hand. "Something tells me it's destiny," Dinah offered with a small knowing smile, surprising her mentor and Bruce.
"Is there something . . . you want to tell me, Barbara?" Bruce asked softly, looking at her expectantly.
Barbara glanced at him with surprise, uncomfortable with his scrutiny. She took a breath to answer but exhaled heavily, not really knowing what to say.
An alarm sounded at Bruce's desk, making Barbara thankful for the distraction.
"What's that?" Dinah blurted with concern.
"I'm hoping Helena," he said anxiously, standing up, and swiftly headed to the elevator.
"The temporal flux sensors?" Barbara asked as she rolled along side of him. Leave it to Helena to save her again, she considered wryly, feeling almost giddy at the thought of seeing her.
"Yes," he said as his guests joined him in the elevator. He pressed the down button causing the doors to shut.
Barbara did not want to get her hopes up but couldn't help but smile, feeling more excited as each second passed. Each second was one less she'd have to wait before seeing Helena again.
"So you knew she would come to me for help?" Bruce asked Barbara hesitantly. Logically, he would have thought so too, but emotionally? He knew his daughter did not like him or what he did after . . . that day.
"Helena would not have given up trying to get home and you were the only one who could have helped her," Barbara said, then added with a frown. "I certainly didn't have the resources at that time."
"I'm glad she came to me," he admitted softly. "Even if it was out of desperation."
Barbara saw a faint, pleased smile form on his face.
"Oh no!" Dinah suddenly blurted with worry.
"What?" Bruce and Barbara said in unison, looking at the young telepath with alarm.
"This is her sweater," Dinah said, biting her lip as she glanced between it and Barbara guiltily.
Barbara sighed and looked at Bruce, who blinked. "Aren't you happy I never borrowed Dick's clothes?"
"Actually, I'm happier Dick didn't borrow yours," Bruce offered dryly, earning a chuckle from his former ward.
When they emerged from the elevator, the first thing that struck them was how still it was.
"Helena?" Barbara couldn't help but call out anxiously, though there was no sign of her.
Bruce looked around and pursed his lips as he went to the Batcomputer to investigate the alarm.
"Could it have been a false alarm?" Dinah asked.
"I'm quite certain it wasn't. There was a temporal flux event recorded," Bruce said firmly as he flicked off the alarm switch, silencing the noise.
Dinah looked around with a confused frown.
"Are you sure she was supposed to be here?" Barbara asked, motioning to the cave.
"I had dialed the coordinates myself," he said. "And they were set for the Batcave," he offered confidently. "I doubled checked the location and time coordinates before she activated the device," he continued with a frown, rubbing the back of his neck which became incredibly tense. "I performed every conceivable test. She should be here," he said, at a loss. "What if I miscalculated? What if overlooked something?" He said worriedly, causing Dinah to look at Barbara with alarm.
Barbara looked around the cave thoughtfully, a disturbing suspicion forming. "So the device . . . could be used repeatedly?"
Bruce's eyes narrowed. "She gave me her word she'd come straight home," he said with a frown.
"She may have," Barbara countered as she rolled to the Batcomputer, worried about the implications.
"But why would she risk traveling ag . . . ?" Dinah asked, then stopped as her eyes dropped to Barbara's chair, knowing the answer to her own question.
Barbara looked back at her uncomfortably.
Helena stood in a dark, wet alley behind an apartment building; Barbara's apartment building. Heavy rain poured down, accompanied by occasional, bright streaks of lightning and loud, ominous thunder. She glanced down at her wrist device, really hoping it was waterproof as she carefully wiped some water droplets around the time dials, which now read March 15, 1996.
Another bright flash lit up the alley, followed by a noisy rumbling which caused Helena to jump a bit. She hated being out in weather like this. She didn't mind lightening storms in general, but nature's fantastic display was meant to be watched from the comfort of a couch, wrapped in a warm, dry comforter, holding a cup of hot coco. She frowned as the cold rain continued to fall, causing a chill to seep through her leather duster, silk blouse, all the way to her bones. But she knew she'd gladly endure this or any inconvenience to help Barbara. As she slowly inspected her drenched self, she was thankful that at least she wasn't hunched over, puking, like after the last trip through time.
Combing her fingers through her wet hair and brushing it out of her eyes, she looked up with a sly smile, pleased by the chance to fix a grave injustice. With graceful leaps, she ascended to the fire escape. She glanced around, finding no one stupid enough to be out in the alley in this weather with her, then jumped onto the roof top unseen.
Lightening crackled loudly overhead. She frowned, smelling the strong ozone as she slowly walked around the building's perimeter. She could feel the power in the thunder's violent rumbling as she glanced down to the street below. A suspicious-looking car caught her attention. The front of the car was up on the sidewalk, its rear jutting out into traffic. A few cars carefully maneuvered around the obstacle, honking at the inconsiderate, but missing, driver who was apparently too impatient for parallel-parking. Helena's heart raced, certain she knew who the inconsiderate driver was.
Running to the rooftop access to the building, she pulled at the doorknob, finding the door locked. With a heavy tug, she managed to only yank the doorknob off, making her growl with irritation. Tossing the doorknob to the ground, she reached through the new opening with her fingers and once again yanked hard, pulling the door off of its hinges. She tossed door aside angrily, not caring if she made any noise. Adrenaline coursed through her veins as she entered the building and jumped down the stairs, her eyes augmenting in anticipation of a fight. Opening a door, she burst out of the stairwell onto the 4th floor, Barbara's floor, quickly realizing she should have had a better plan when she came face-to-face with a startled Joker . . . and his gun.
"It's got to be her," Bruce said anxiously, looking at the sensor data that triggered a temporal flux alarm. He flicked the switch to silence the annoying noise.
"Is Helena finally coming home?" The teen crime fighter asked with excitement. He looked to his mentor, who joined the mysterious Bruce Wayne at the Batcomputer, carefully and thoroughly inspecting the data, not wanting to get her hopes up.
There was a flash of light causing the three to wince. They blinked a moment before being able to see the unmoving form at the bottom of the batcave.
"Helena!" Barbara blurted, seeing a frightening amount of blood, prompting her to run down the steps and vault over the railing near the bottom. "Helena!" she said, kneeling down to the drenched, injured woman. "Can you hear me, Helena?!?" She quickly felt Helena's pulse which was weak. Barbara nervously inspected her injuries finding several bullet wounds - far too many for her to apply direct pressure on all of them. She quickly picked what looked like the worst one, and pressed firmly against it.
"We need Dr. Landry!" Barbara called out, snapping Will out of his stupor and prompting him to rush off to contact their "family" physician.
"Barbara," Helena said groggily, looking into the beautiful face of her angel. She smiled contentedly.
"I'm here, sweetheart," Barbara said hoarsely, continuing to press against the worst wound. "We're going to patch you up and you'll be back out on sweeps before you know it," Barbara said uneasily, her heart pounding with fear.
With great effort, Helena lifted her wobbly hand to Barbara's face and reverently traced her fingers over her cheek with a satisfied smile. "You can dance now," she said with a tired but happy laugh that quickly turned into wet, bloody coughing.
Barbara shook her head not understanding how Helena could possibly think she would want to dance at a time like this. She looked up helplessly to Bruce, who was now kneeling at her side.
"She needs blood," he said, glancing at the red pool around them. "I'm going to move her to the examining room," he said, not waiting for Barbara's response, and quickly swept his daughter into his arms and ascended the stairs.
"Doc Landry will be here in about twenty minutes!" Will called out.
Twenty minutes was an eternity, Barbara worried as Bruce gently laid Helena down on the examining table. When he left her side to go to the synthetic blood, Barbara returned her red-stained hand over Helena's wound beneath the left breast as she stroked the younger woman's forehead.
"Hang on, sweetheart," Barbara said nervously.
"The Kid . . . can have . . . my clothes," Helena whispered, knowing she wasn't going to need them.
"Barbara?" Will asked in worried confusion as he looked between Barbara and Helena, wondering why she'd want him to have her clothes. He wasn't even the right size….
"Helena, you hang on, you hear me?!?" Barbara blurted, not understanding either, but that really didn't matter. Helena was accepting her death and that was unacceptable! "There won't be any need for you to give anything away. Do you hear me?!?" Barbara argued.
"I've always . . . loved you, Red," Helena whispered with difficulty, looking into terrified green eyes. She regretted not telling her that simple truth before.
"And I love . . . Helena?!?" Barbara called out anxiously, seeing the light in the blue eyes dim until there was no more light. "No," she exhaled in disbelief and frantically searched for a pulse that wasn't there. "Helena!" she called again. "Don't you dare die on me!" she cried out and started CPR.
Bruce came to their side with a cooler of A+ synthetic blood, Helena's type. Taking stock of the wounds, he exhaled uneasily, reluctantly concluding that even if they had a fully equipped operating room with a skilled surgeon at the ready, they would be unable to counter the massive internal bleeding in time - even with her Metahuman healing.
He couldn't save her. First the love of his life, and now his only daughter, he thought in anguish.
"Barbara, she's gone," he finally uttered, but she ignored him, continuing to perform CPR with grim determination. "Barbara, she's gone," he repeated more forcefully and gently touched her arm, causing her to angrily jerk away from his touch.
"No! Give her the Goddamn blood, Bruce!" Barbara said harshly, unwilling to accept failure. "She needs the blood!"
"Barbara! She's gone. The blood is not going to bring her back," he said firmly, grabbing her arm, preventing Barbara from completing her compressions.
"What the hell are you doing?!? She'll die if we don't help her!!" Barbara shouted, shoving him with enough force to make him step back.
"She's already dead," Bruce said, tears filling his eyes.
Ignoring him, she quickly returned to performing CPR. After the thirtieth compression, she positioned Helena's head and breathed into her mouth two times. She placed her fingers to Helena's neck, still finding no pulse. "Come on, Helena!" she growled and started another round of compressions, then breaths. After a few more cycles, she called out "Will, you need to give her the blood. You know how to do it, remember?" Not hearing any movement to comply, she looked up in frustration and saw the trail of tears on the teen's cheeks.
"She's gone, Barbara," Will said weakly, causing Barbara to shake her head defiantly. Helena was not going to die, she vowed, as she repeated the chest compressions and breaths. Pausing to check her pulse again, her fingers nervously roamed over her neck, searching for something that wasn't there. Several seconds passed as she kept feeling for a nonexistent pulse with now trembling hands. "Where are you, damn it. Where are you!!" Barbara hissed, still searching for a pulse that had to be there. It just had to be….
Two strong arms finally wrapped themselves around her and pulled her back from Helena. "NO!" Barbara cried out. "Let go! Let. Me. GO!" Barbara struggled but Bruce's hold was too strong. After several moments, her thrashing grew weaker as did her protests.
"She's gone," Bruce said softly in her ear.
"No," Barbara whispered in anguish, finally stopping her struggles to stare helplessly at the white-haired woman, who lay unmoving on the table. "No," she repeated softly as tears finally began to fall.
After several more, still moments, Bruce released Barbara, who stood uncertainly before slowly walking towards Helena. She hesitantly reached out and caressed the pale cheek, wincing at the evidence before her. The normal warmth was gone, the skin now cool to the touch.
Slowly, Barbara brushed her lips over Helena's forehead, just as she had done for so many nights to comfort the distraught teen who had struggled with her mother's death. Moving lower, a tear splashed on Helena's cheek as Barbara reverently pressed their lips together. She pulled back, blinking through the tears as she placed a hand on her shoulder, seeking the connection they had always shared through simple touch. But it was gone. Helena was gone, she thought numbly.
This was just wrong, her heart and mind jointly cried out as her hand wiped the tears from her cheek. Barbara paused, glancing at Helena's wrist. The solution was so obvious, she considered, almost dizzy with hope. Taking a calming breath, she quickly removed the device.
"Barbara? What do you think you are doing?!?" Bruce blurted with alarm.
"I'm going to save her," Barbara said confidently, fastening the device on her own wrist.
"You have no idea what effect your actions will have," Bruce argued, stepping towards her.
She spun around. "I know what effect our inaction will have!" She growled, briefly glancing at Helena's lifeless body. "So don't you even think about trying to stop me," she snapped, causing Bruce to hesitate then stop.
He shook his head. "Barbara, you can't tamper with time," he responded.
"For God's sake, Bruce, she's your daughter! She's not supposed to be dead!" Barbara said, her voice wavering with emotion.
"You don't know that," Bruce countered softly, glancing over to the body of his estranged daughter with a sad wince.
"I do! I know it, in here," Barbara hissed, pointing to her heart.
"I know you loved her, Barbara. But you can't change history to suit yourself. You have to let go," he urged emphatically.
She eyed him a moment as a surprising calm washed over her; she knew with absolute certainty what she had to do. "No," she countered firmly. "You gave up on her when Selena was murdered but I was able to help her. Now you are giving up on her again. But this time, instead of leaving me to clean up the mess, you are in my way," Barbara argued calmly, adding bitingly "I think I prefer the Bruce Wayne that runs away."
Bruce winced, the guilt for his previous actions still weighing heavily with him.
Barbara silently walked to the basin and washed her hands, pausing an uneasy moment as she watched the red-stained water wash down the drain. "Will? Please get me your portable GPS device by the keyboard," she said calmly.
Will wiped his eyes and stared at her uneasily.
"Are you going to give up too?" Barbara asked pointedly, her gaze accusing.
Will shook his head rapidly before dashing off to retrieve the GPS device. Bruce frowned.
"She has . . . had her comms on, amazingly enough. I should be able to get a fix on her," she said, thinking out loud as she grabbed a towel to dry her hands.
"Barbara," Bruce said sternly, needing her to understand the danger in her thinking.
"So help me, Bruce, if you try to stop me, I swear to GOD I will become the greatest enemy you've ever had," Barbara vowed coldly, strangling the towel in her hands.
He frowned at the unnerving gaze cast upon him; stormy emotions clouded her eyes.
"Barbara, listen to yourself," Bruce said with amazement, shaking his head.
Barbara sighed heavily, knowing her raw emotions were driving her. She pinched the bridge of her nose as she collected her thoughts, still convinced of what she needed to do and ready to do whatever it took. She glanced up, looking weary.
"Don't get in the way, Bruce. Please. I don't want to fight you, but I will. She's not supposed to be dead. I know she's not supposed to be dead," Barbara argued softly but with clear conviction.
Bruce stared at her a long moment, glancing thoughtfully to her ward, when he dutifully returned with the GPS unit he had helped to design. Many generations of guardians have taught the young with the ultimate hope that they not just succeed, but excel - perhaps even surpassing their mentor. He returned his gaze to Barbara, who in many ways had surpassed him, continuing the fight against crime that had branched out in ways he could never have imagined. Her skill with computers and their systems was remarkable, if not a bit disconcerting - especially if she were to become an enemy.
He wondered if his leaving had enabled her to grow to the exceptional woman that she had become.
He had left, though many had accused him of running away after the murder of Selena. But he wasn't really needed anymore. Barbara was the one who recaptured the Joker, managing to apprehend him in her own apartment building, clearly the Joker's second target that evening.
It was just a matter of time, he had thought, before another one of his enemies would come after those he cared about. So, he left, sacrificing the life he had known as a mentor and friend to Barbara and Dick and the life he had yet to know as a father to his new-found daughter. That's what he did - put others first and worked for the greater good, even at great personal sacrifice. That's what he thought would always be the right thing to do.
He looked at the bullet-ridden body of his daughter, who he failed to protect from harm.
Walking towards her, he knew he had always relied on strict logic and selfless codes of conduct to help him navigate through the emotionally distressing situations. He hesitantly reached out and gently touched Helena's shoulder, realizing he had a choice - try to bend Barbara to his cold logic and uncaring codes of conduct, or let the bright beacon of passion and conviction of his trusted former ward lead the way.
"You will be better equipped for contingencies as Batgirl," he said as he took a breath and removed his hand. His mind raced through the various scenarios, taking into account the stubbornness of his daughter. "While you change, I can analyze the device's signature and pinpoint the time target for your trip. You'll want enough time to find her, but you also don't want to loiter there unnecessarily," he said firmly.
Barbara looked at him with surprise, but did not move. She was not about to hand over the device to him and destroy her chances of saving Helena.
Bruce sighed, understanding her skeptical look.
"I don't feel right tampering with time for our benefit, Barbara," he said bluntly. "But, it would seem that Helena had tried to do so and this was the result," he said with a slight cringe, glancing at Helena's lifeless body. "So I suppose, we are attempting to fix her fix. And that also worries me - how do we know we are fixing the right thing? And when do we stop trying to fix the mistakes in time?"
"I don't know how I know, but I do. Helena shouldn't be dead. And I swear, all I am going to do is to stop Helena so she doesn't get herself killed. She may hate me for interfering and not trying to help her save her mother, but I swear, I just want to stop Helena," she said emphatically.
"I trust you, Barbara," he said. "And I promise I'm not going to interfere; I'd like to help you save my daughter," he said sincerely.
Barbara sighed with great relief, one less weight on her shoulders.
Batgirl appeared in a dark, puddle-filled alley, looking at her GPS display, shaking her head in frustration. She found that Helena's position was not where she had thought it would be - near the theater where Selena was stabbed. Instead, for some reason, Helena was across town, which simply baffled her.
As the thunderstorm raged around her, illuminating the sky as the rain poured down, she dialed different location coordinates and pressed the red button. In a flash, she appeared in an alley adjacent to her old apartment building. She looked up at the structure in confusion before seeing Helena, alive and well, standing only a few feet away, turning towards her. Barbara's confusion was quickly forgotten as she called out with raw emotion "Helena!" The pain from her loss was still fresh.
Before Helena could respond, she was roughly pulled into a desperate embrace and passionately kissed. Batgirl pulled back a quick moment to gaze upon her stunned love, then peppered her face with kisses. "Oh God," she murmured between kisses.
Helena blinked, a bit flustered and very aroused by the surprising and overwhelming display of affection. Reluctantly pulling back, she said in confusion "Hi?"
"Oh sweetheart, you gave me such a scare," she said breathlessly, pulling her into another possessive kiss, which Helena didn't protest. It felt so right . . . .
After they broke for air, Helena laughed uneasily. "Uh, not that I'm complaining but - what the hell?" she squeaked, confused as she glanced over the Batgirl costume.
"I don't know what you were planning to do here, but you can't do it," Batgirl warned her as she caressed her cheek, relishing the connection.
Helena cautiously stepped back, noting the familiar device on Batgirl's wrist. Her eyes narrowed. "From what I see, apparently I can," she said, looking appreciatively over the result of her plan - a perfectly healthy Barbara Gordon, or rather, Batgirl, standing before her. She really liked that cape….
"Helena," Batgirl said with annoyance. "Whatever you did here got you killed! I'm not going to let that happen."
"Oh," Helena responded with surprise, then looked at the ground for a thoughtful moment. "Well, I guess I'll just have to be more careful this time," she said with a sly smile and innocent shrug before leaping up onto the fire escape with ease. Helena looked down with an intense gaze. "Don't try to stop me. I want . . . need to do this."
"Do what ?!?" Batgirl called out in frustration. "Helena!" she growled in aggravation, watching her gracefully leap up and quickly disappear onto the rooftop.
Helena looked around the perimeter, glancing down at the street below. A suspicious looking car caught her attention. The front of the car was up on the sidewalk; the rear was sticking out into traffic. A few cars that were out in this weather trying to carefully maneuver around the obstacle honked in frustration at the inconsiderate but missing driver. After another thunderous rumble, Helena heard faint whooshing and suddenly bent back, dodging the batarang that soared past her.
Helena stood with her hands on her hips and frowned at Batgirl. "Is that really necessary?" Helena complained, wiping the wet hair out of her face.
"Are you going to listen to me and not do whatever you're planning on doing?" Batgirl countered.
Helena stared at her, crossing her arms over her chest stubbornly.
"Then you have your answer," Batgirl responded with irritation, throwing the batarang again which missed and returned to her as Helena leaped towards the rooftop door. Batgirl swiftly pulled out a small grappling batarang from her utility belt and threw it. If it had been anyone else, they would have been on the ground, hog tied by now. But Helena was too quick and dodged the hook, which buried itself into the door. Batgirl immediately released the wire from her belt, which fell to the ground.
"You know, you can try to waste my time," Helena said, circling around. "But we've got all the time in the world with these, don't we?" She said, pointing to the device on her wrist before leaping over her head.
Batgirl immediately whipped out an Eskrima stick and swung in a wide arc, hitting Helena's thigh and knocking her off balance. Helena landed, stumbling to the ground. Before Batgirl's next strike to knock her out, Helena rolled away and jumped up, rubbing her thigh with a grimace. "I'm not going to give up," Helena stubbornly grunted.
"However long and as many times it takes, Helena, I will stop you from making this mistake," Batgirl called out in frustration. "You shouldn't tamper with history!"
A lightening bolt crackled loudly above them as the rain continued to steadily fall.
Helena's face grew hard. "God DAMNIT, Barbara!" She cried with great frustration. "In a few minutes, the Joker is going to go to your apartment and shoot you!"
That detail got Batgirl's surprised attention as thunder rumbled loudly. Each woman could feel the vibrations.
Barbara recalled the night she had apprehended the Joker. Startling gun shots prompted her to grab a batarang and Eskrima stick and rush out into the hallway in her bathrobe. Without thinking, she launched the batarang at the frightening shock of green hair, quickly felling her arch enemy. It had always bothered her as to why the Joker had been so sloppy, enabling her to easily capture him.
"Not to kill you, but to cripple you," Helena snapped, running her hand through her wet hair.
She frowned, now knowing he wasn't sloppy. He was distracted - by Helena, who had become the target of his bullets. And that explained why there were no bullets found from the Joker's noisy ruckus, she considered as her heart raced.
"For many, many months, while you learned to get by without your legs, while you learned the full extent of your loss, you wished you were dead," Helena said, the pain of those memories evident in her face and by the distress in her voice. "And the only thing that stopped you was your responsibility; you had to take care of me," she said with a wince. "I saw the hell you went through, Barbara. I felt it! So tell me, why the HELL wouldn't I try to prevent that? Why the hell wouldn't I use this opportunity to give you back what that bastard stole from you!?!" Helena argued passionately.
Batgirl took an uneasy breath, digesting the disturbing news and Helena's emotional argument. She shook her head and spoke from her heart, the death of Helena still a fresh wound in her soul.
"Nothing, NOTHING, I could lose could ever be more important than you, Helena," she said with conviction, stepping slowly towards her.
Helena looked at her in disbelief. "You can't want to be paralyzed," Helena argued, shaking her head. "You don't know what pain you will suffer…."
"I don't want the pain of living without you! You are everything to me, Helena," Batgirl responded emphatically, looking into her surprised eyes. "Don't you know?" She argued softly as she stepped closer. "We are supposed to be together for a very long time," she offered, close enough to lean in for a kiss.
"But . . . what about Wade?" Helena said hesitantly, causing Batgirl to stop and look at her curiously.
"Wade?" She said with a frown. "Wade, who?"
"You're not involved with Wade Brixton??"
"Will's guidance counselor? Why on Earth would I . . . ?"
"Who's Will?" Helena interjected, blinking in confusion.
"Our ward," Barbara explained, looking at her curiously.
"What about Dinah?"
"Dinah??" Barbara responded with a cringe, shaking her head not knowing who she was.
Helena grew ill at the thought of Dinah being alone. "She's a touch telepath that we took in as our ward. Wade is Dinah's counselor and your . . . lover," Helena said with distaste.
"We're not lovers in your timeline?" Batgirl asked, completely stunned, finding it very hard to believe they would be together but not intimate - even if she was wheelchair bound. She cringed, beginning to appreciate just how different their lives would be had not Helena changed the events at this point in history.
Helena shook her head. "I have to say so far, I like your timeline better, except for the missing Dinah part. But we can fix that. When we get back, we'll find her. And with these devices, we can make sure she doesn't have to wait too long," Helena blurted excitedly, her mind racing at the things they might need to fix.
Batgirl looked at her, alarmed. Bruce had warned her about the potential addiction to fixing history. "You can't tamper with history, Helena. If you try to stop the Joker, things will change . . . ."
"For the better! I already know to be more careful with the Joker - problem solved," Helena argued stubbornly, unwilling to listen.
"Even if you survive, you don't know what might happen!" she responded heatedly. "You don't know that it will be better. You could be crippled or get yourself killed again! Listen to me, please," Barbara implored, taking off her cowl. Taking an uneasy breath, she looked into Helena's eyes earnestly. "I can't bear the thought of anything happening to you," she said with a wince as she stepped closer.
"Nothing's going to happen to me, Red," Helena said soothingly, closing the distance between them and kissing her on the lips. "We'll make this work. Trust me," Helena said softly, pulling Barbara into a hug as she nuzzled her red hair with a contentment she never dared hope for. "You mean everything to me, Barbara," she said, kissing her love's temple as Barbara's hand slid behind her neck. "You always have and always w . . . ow!" Helena blurted, jerking away from Barbara as she held her hand to her now throbbing neck. She looked at Barbara accusingly. "What the hell did you j . . . just . . . d. . .do!" Helena said groggily as her eyesight blurred and the rooftop started to spin.
"Making sure I don't lose you," Barbara answered somberly, grabbing Helena as she fell unconscious. Carefully laying her lover down, she picked up Helena's wrist and dialed in new time and location coordinates. Before pushing the red button, she looked at her pale face and leaned over, tenderly brushing her lips over Helena's, wondering with a trouble heart if that might be for the last time. Pulling back, she frowned sadly.
"How could I possibly not love you?" she whispered, caressing Helena's cheek.
Chapter 17 - The Return
"Oh no!" Dinah suddenly blurted with worry.
"What?" Bruce and Barbara said in unison, looking at the young telepath with alarm.
"This is her sweater," Dinah said, biting her lip as she glanced between it and Barbara guiltily.
Barbara sighed and looked at Bruce, who blinked. "Aren't you happy I never borrowed Dick's clothes?"
"Actually, I'm happier Dick didn't borrow yours," Bruce offered dryly, earning a chuckle from his former ward.
As they emerged from the elevator, Barbara just knew Helena was there. She could feel her. "Helena?" she called out, looking around the cave as Bruce went to the Batcomputer and switched off the noisy alarm. He read the sensor logs with surprise.
"Oh GOD, there she is!" Dinah said anxiously, pointing over a railing to the unconscious woman at the lowest level of the batcave.
Barbara cursed her chair yet again, unable to join Dinah, who rushed down the stairs to go to Helena's side. "Is she all right?"
Dinah nervously searched for Helena's pulse and watched for her breathing. Seeing her chest slowly move up and down and feeling a strong pulse beat beneath her fingers, she expelled a huge sigh of relief.
"Strong pulse and steady breathing!" Dinah called out her report with a smile that faded when she noticed a red blotch on Helena's neck around what looked like a pinprick. "I think she was dr. . . whoa!" she blurted as surprising images washed over her.
"Dinah?!? What's the matter," Barbara called out with alarm as Bruce joined Dinah's side and looked at her questioningly.
"Uh . . . she has a mark on her neck. I think she was drugged," Dinah hedged awkwardly.
"She didn't have that when she left me. Interesting," Bruce said thoughtfully, then glanced to Dinah, who smiled weakly. He looked at Helena a brief moment, before picking his daughter up in his arms and ascending the steps.
Barbara anxiously rolled behind Bruce as he took Helena to the examining table and carefully laid her down. "The marking is . . . ," Bruce said, motioning to the circular blotch on Helena's neck.
"Familiar," Barbara finished with mild alarm and many questions.
"The Batcomputer recorded two temporal flux events," Bruce noted as he removed the troubling device from Helena's wrist.
"What does that mean?" Dinah asked, looking between Bruce and Barbara, whose worried faces made her worried.
"Either there was another time traveler, or . . . Helena took a detour," Bruce answered, glancing towards his daughter with a frown as he placed the device in a disposal chamber.
"Why would Helena risk . . . ?" Dinah said in confusion, then stopped, certain that if Helena had the ability to travel through time, she'd definitely want to change at least one thing. "Someone stopped her," Dinah concluded with conviction, glancing at Barbara's chair then to her mentor, who took an uneasy breath. Like Dinah, she was certain she knew what Helena had tried to do.
Bruce tensed, looking at Barbara guiltily, knowing he was likely that someone. And now, he had at his fingertips a solution to her paralysis. But, he couldn't in good conscience use it. He took a breath to tell her it needed to be destroyed.
"Do it," Barbara interjected evenly, also knowing the power to change the past for her own benefit was far too tempting and . . . too dangerous. Her eyes drifted back to Helena, who apparently had no qualms about changing history. The thought greatly disturbed her.
He nodded curtly and immediately activated the disposal chamber, which provoked a rainbow of light to shine as the chronitons were released. When the light dimmed and extinguished, the housing started to glow orange and melt, quickly ruining the intricate circuitry. Another scientist might have lamented the destruction of such an amazing invention, but Bruce let out a small sigh of relief; the immediate danger was finally past. He turned to face his two guests, whose eyes had been glued to the impressive display in the disposal chamber.
"I suspect she'll be out for a while," Bruce said uneasily. "She'll be more comfortable waking in a bed," he offered, carefully scooping his daughter up in his arms. He glanced sadly at a very quiet Barbara before heading to the elevator.
When Dinah reached out to place a comforting hand on her shoulder, Barbara had already begun to follow him, leaving her to awkwardly grasp for air with a frown.
When Bruce gently put Helena down onto the bed, an envelope fell unnoticed from her pocket onto the carpet.
Dinah looked to Barbara. "How long do you think she'll be out?"
Barbara stared at Helena, unhearing. Dinah frowned and looked curiously at Bruce, who answered.
"Depending on the dose, it could be an hour . . . or several. I'm also uncertain how the time travel affects her," Bruce said. Dinah nodded and started to take Helena's boots off.
Suddenly stopping with a soggy boot in hand, Dinah asked "But, she'll be ok…right??"
"Physically," Bruce said, gazing at Barbara, who winced slightly. It certainly had impacted her, leaving her emotions jumbled and raw - and she wasn't even the one who traveled . . . or was compelled to change history.
"I'll be in the study. I don't think I'm the first person she'll want to see when she wakes," he said bluntly, glancing at his daughter's reddened neck with a grimace. "There are some dry clothes her size in the closet. Excuse me," he offered before he swiftly left the guest room.
"How did he know she'd need clothes?" Dinah said curiously as she pulled Helena's second boot off.
"Maybe he expected Margay might need them," Barbara guessed absently as she rolled to the closet and selected a pair of jeans and a sweater from the closet.
Barbara looked back towards Dinah curiously, surprised to find Dinah standing up with an envelope in hand, looking at the front with a confused grimace.
"What is it?"
Dinah looked perplexed as she walked towards her. "A letter. To you."
Barbara accepted the sealed envelope and read the rain-stained writing with a frown. 'Barbara Gordon' was written in her script, the ink slightly smeared by water droplets.
"It's not from Helena, is it?" Dinah said uneasily, already knowing the answer.
Barbara took an uneasy breath. "Dinah, I know you saw something when you touched her earlier; what did you see?" She glanced up from the envelope, eyeing Dinah pointedly.
Dinah shifted uncomfortably. "Uh…you told me never to…," Dinah said with a cringe.
"I know what I . . . ," she responded tersely, causing Dinah to wince. Stopping herself and taking a measured breath, Barbara continued with forced calm. "I think this time, you can make an exception."
Dinah glanced at Helena guiltily, knowing she hated it when her thoughts were read. "I saw you and Helena fighting on a rooftop . . . in the rain," Dinah revealed worriedly, biting her lip.
Barbara's eyes briefly dropped to her chair, not envisioning herself fighting Helena on a rooftop . . . in the rain. She glanced at Dinah in confusion.
"You were Batgirl," Dinah explained and added, absently touching her own wrist "and wore the device."
Barbara's eyes widened in surprise and alarm; Helena managed to change history so she could walk. And she didn't need much more evidence with her current wheelchair-bound condition and Dinah's vision to conclude that Batgirl had used the device to go back and prevent Helena from changing history.
Her normally analytical mind, which would have thoroughly evaluated all possible reasons as to why she would have stopped Helena and how she could have possibly known what had happened, was suffocating under an excruciating feeling of inadequacy. The only question to cut through the thick emotional fog was why Helena was compelled to tamper with the past. And she feared the answer….
"Are you going to read the letter?" Dinah ventured.
"I'm not sure I should," Barbara said tightly with a grimace.
"But if you wrote yourself, shouldn't you at least see what you had to sa . . . ?"
"Dinah," Barbara interrupted sharply. "How is this any different than Helena traveling through time to manipulate history?" she said with irritation.
"But it must be important, or you wouldn't have . . ." Dinah quickly responding, not understanding her mentor's darker mood.
"Dinah," Barbara snapped. "Perhaps you should see how Bruce is doing," she said, her tone brooking no argument.
Dinah sighed in frustration and silently nodded before leaving.
Alone with Helena, Barbara glanced between the envelope and the unconscious woman. She frowned, realizing they had not changed her out of her wet clothing. She shut her eyes in frustration, knowing she was unable to do that task alone without great difficulty. Just one of several hurdles her paralysis presented her.
She touched the name, her name, written on the envelope which she was terribly tempted to open. But should she? Wasn't that tampering with time? Did she have the right to do that? Apparently her walking self didn't think Helena had the right to alter history but conveniently did not apply the same rules to herself. And what was so damn important that she had to write herself a letter?
With a heavy sigh, she stared at the white-haired woman, her thoughts returning to a question she was afraid she knew the answer to - why Helena had gone against Bruce's wishes and tried to change history. As Margay, Helena had seen her in her youthful glory. Granted, she had seen her butt get handed to her in the alley, but she was also there for much better times.
She had felt Helena's eyes following her when she had danced at the benefit; the attention was surprising and exciting. She had felt surprising contentment and a sense of belonging when they strolled together in the park as Helena helped her figure her way forward with Bruce. She experienced a guilty pleasure with Helena's ridiculous, unrepentant cheering as she kicked Jerry's macho and very stoned ass. She had felt like an equal when Helena stood toe-to-glorious-toe with her, before pulling her into an embrace for a heartbreaking good-bye kiss.
As Margay, Helena had claimed that she loved her.
But who did Helena really love? Who did Helena really want? The person she was now or the person she had been? Barbara frowned, glancing down at her chair, the question weighing upon her heart. She was no longer the woman she once was, no longer able to dance, stroll, kick, or stand toe-to-toe….
Her dark thoughts were interrupted when Helena took a deep breath and shifted, starting to rouse. Barbara exhaled with some relief and trepidation, slipping the envelope into the chair's side pouch. Things would be different between them, she considered worriedly.
And after everything, how could they not be?
Helena felt a familiar presence before hearing the soft hiss of an electric chair rolling towards her.
"Helena?" Barbara said softly, watching the white-haired woman blink a few times before familiar pink eyes that she never expected to see again focused on her. After a long, silent moment, Barbara offered "Welcome back."
Helena nodded slightly as her eyes drifted to the chair that Barbara still needed. Her heart ached, knowing she had it within her grasp to give Barbara back what she had lost…but she let it slip through her fingers.
Barbara watched the flicker of emotions cross Helena's face as she stared at her chair. The great disappointment she saw . . . stung.
"Thanks," Helena whispered sadly as her hand rested on her wrist, reminding her of the missed opportunity.
"He destroyed it," Barbara said neutrally.
Helena nodded again as she slowly sat up. "He said he would." She took a ragged breath as she had to accept that the one thing she could have given Barbara that would have meant the world to her . . . was no longer possible.
"What happened . . . on your way home?" Barbara asked hesitantly, knowing they had to talk about it.
Helena looked at her with defeat in her eyes as her gaze dropped to Barbara's chair. "Does it really matter?"
"I . . . I need to know," Barbara said uneasily, her vulnerability making it impossible for Helena to deny her.
"I went to stop the Joker . . . from shooting you," Helena answered uneasily, confirming what Barbara already knew, though the words were startling to hear. "I failed," she offered, misery clear in her voice, unable to look Barbara in her eyes.
"Because I stopped you," Barbara countered confidently, surprising Helena, who still wouldn't look at her, shifting uncomfortably.
"I shouldn't have let you," Helena said weakly, remembering her error in letting Barbara get too close. Mind on mission, Oracle had always said. But Barbara's proximity and clear desire for her was . . . distracting. She should have known better than to let her guard down.
"Why?!?" Barbara snapped back as surprising anger and hurt burst forth. "Do you find me that inadequate, so . . . so broken that you had to fix me?!?"
Helena looked up in shock. The angry accusation was like a physical blow. Surely Barbara couldn't possibly think that . . . .
"I have accepted that I'll never join you running on the roof tops. And I'll never be able to do many things that "normal" people do, like take a stroll or go dancing," she snapped. "And you know what?!? I'm still active and I still help people, which is more than most people who still can walk can say. I even have someone who cares for me as I am. And he isn't hell bent on trying to change me into someone he wants me to be," Barbara continued, her words spewed forth like daggers, squarely hitting Helena's chest. "I don't need you or anyone to save poor, pitiful Barbara from this tragic existence or try to make her whole!"
Helena was stunned speechless, only able to numbly watch as Barbara turned and started to roll out.
"Take a shower. There are dry clothes in the closet," Barbara said tersely, over her shoulder, and rolled out of the room.
As soon as Barbara entered the hallway, her head dropped and her fists clenched in frustration, knowing she had made a huge mistake. God, she thought with a disgusted exhale for letting her insecurities cause her to lash out against the most considerate woman she had ever known, the woman who had always been there for her . . . who had just gone through what had to be a terrifying experience, she considered as her guilt skyrocketed. She quickly turned her chair around and reentered the bedroom, knowing she had to make amends - grovel if necessary.
"Helena?? I'm so sorry," she quickly blurted as she entered. "Please forgive…." she said, looking around the empty room. "Helena?" Barbara called out as her eyes drifted toward the bed, where the earrings and necklace of her comm set lay.
They rode the elevator up the Clock Tower in silence. Contrary to the teen's talkative nature, she was giving her mentor the silent treatment. Barbara didn't need to be a telepath to know Dinah was angry with her. Barbara also knew Dinah wasn't any angrier than she was with herself.
As Barbara rolled into the room, she glanced around anxiously. "Helena?" She called hopefully.
Dinah rolled her eyes knowing Helena would not just come back to the Tower after the horrible treatment she received from someone who meant everything to her. As she expected, the only sound that greeted Barbara was the soft chirp and bleeps of Delphi as it automatically scanned the city for unusual criminal activity.
Looking at her mentor, she shook her head, unable to believe the smartest person she knew could have been so stupid. She silently headed to her bedroom and left Barbara to figure out how to contact Helena and apologize. She hoped Helena could see past her own hurt and forgive Barbara, who clearly regretted her stupid words. What a mess, Dinah sighed heavily.
After an uneasy moment of staring at Delphi, Barbara rolled out onto the balcony with a fleeting hope that was immediately dashed. She grimaced knowing Helena was unlikely to return to the Tower. Why would she want to risk being cruelly attacked again?
With that disturbing thought, Barbara's hand quickly went to her eyes and rubbed them, unable to avoid the moisture that formed.
The shower was very hot, reddening her skin as she mechanically went about her nightly ablution, which was more complicated for someone paralyzed. But she had learned to deal with her limitations and manage. She leaned over, resting her head against the shower wall as tears began to fall. She always "managed." And she was tired of it.
More tears fell as she realized that unlike every troubled time before, when she could count on Helena for support, she was alone. She had made sure of it. She had allowed her fear to cruelly drive away the very person she had been terrified she would never see again. She had hurt Helena before Helena could hurt her. Before Helena revealed she wanted someone more adequate, who could keep up, someone who wasn't such a burden.
But Helena had never made her feel like a burden or inadequate, she considered. On the contrary, Helena had always made her feel good about herself…before and after the shooting.
It wasn't very comforting to recognize that it wasn't the paralysis that actually crippled her - but her own doubts. Helena's sage advice years ago of how it was a crime to give up and let your doubts win came flooding back. And if there was anything worth fighting for, it was Helena.
Sitting up suddenly, she wiped away her tears and took a fortifying breath as she turned off the water. Determination took root as Barbara reminded herself that she was a fighter, stubborn, and very good at solving problems.
She was going to find Helena, apologize profusely, then, hopefully, convince the woman to give her . . . them . . . a chance.
For the first time in several long days, genuine hope filled her heart.
Chapter 18 - Driven
If Barbara didn't know better, she would have thought Helena disappeared in time again. She hadn't been seen by Dinah on sweeps nor had there been any mysteriously solved crimes. She wasn't at her apartment, or the Dark Horse, or No Man's land.
After a week without a word or a glimpse of Helena, Barbara was starting to grow worried that she might not find her. She rubbed her tired eyes and sighed.
Alfred, back from his restful vacation, frowned, seeing the unrest in Miss Barbara, who stared at the monitor. She was in the same position he had seen her in when he left for groceries hours ago.
When he had stopped off at the Manor before returning to the Tower, he was pleasantly surprised to find Master Bruce had returned and stunned to find out about Miss Helena's adventures. Many things made much more sense now, although Miss Barbara's continued inability to see what was in front of her continued to perplex him to no end. She had always been rather . . . blind . . . when it came to matters of the heart.
He was worried about both women, who had a connection that a rare few would ever experience. He truly hoped that Miss Barbara could finally see and accept that. He sighed, not believing being apart for so long was helping either of them.
"Still no word from Miss Helena?" Alfred asked, though he knew the answer as he set down a cup of tea in front of her next to the plate of biscuits he served her.
Barbara glanced at him sadly and shook her head no, picking up the tea and sipping it. Alfred nodded. "Perhaps, you need to take a break," he suggested, seeing her frown and start to protest, he continued. "Master Bruce is still at the Manor. Perhaps . . . you might take some time and visit with him?" Alfred said innocently, getting a curious look from Barbara, who blinked and looked at Alfred suspiciously. Alfred never made trivial suggestions.
"Alfred?" she asked as her heart swelled with hope. "Is Helena at the Manor?"
"Miss Barbara, I would think visiting would answer that question," Alfred said with a pleasant smile before leaving for the kitchen to start preparing dinner.
Barbara's heart pounded as she sped down the long, tree-lined road in the Humvee. She wasn't exactly sure what she would say, but "I'm sorry" was definitely an important part of her speech. She bit her lip, hoping Helena was there. She had not called ahead, not wanting to give her warning and risk her leaving. She just had to . . . .
A loud bang, rapidly followed by another, startled Barbara out of her thoughts as the Humvee started to vibrate and become difficult to control. She quickly slowed down, fighting the steering wheel to keep the vehicle on the road. The Humvee seemed to have a mind of its own, deciding to come to rest in a large ditch on the side of the road.
Finally at a stop, Barbara's hands remained tightly wrapped around the steering wheel. After a few steadying breaths, she released her death grip and took stock of her situation. Two flat tires most likely, she considered with irritation. Wanting to get back on the road, she put the car in gear and tried to drive up and out of the ditch. However, the vehicle decided to slide deeper into the ditch, coming to a stop, at a notable list.
"Damnit!" she hissed, stopping any attempt to drive out.
She opened the door slightly, the weight of it pressing back against her. Even if she got it completely open, she concluded the angle of the vehicle was too great for her to use the chair lift. "Of course," she growled, letting the door slam shut.
Turning her necklace on, she called "Alfred? Dinah? Anyone out there?" There was no answer, making her roll her eyes as she remembered that Alfred had mentioned he was spending the evening playing cribbage with some friends and Dinah was at Gabby's . . . again. Turning her comms off, she glanced down and saw her purse, which was now on the floor of the passenger's side. She reached down and managed to snag a shoulder strap and pull it towards her, but the contents fell out, returning to the floor.
"UGH!" She blurted, seeing the object she desired - her cell phone - just out of reach.
She glanced around at the possible handholds and exhaled heavily. Grabbing the steering wheel, she unbuckled her seat belt and leaned down, her hand reaching for the phone, her fingers just touching it. As she stretched further, she felt some satisfaction when her hand clenched around the cell but her body slid down, putting all her weight on her hand clinging to the steering wheel. With a growl of annoyance, she knew she wasn't going to get back into the driver's seat without a helpful boost and released her hand, causing her to quickly slid and slam into the passenger's door. "Ugh," she exhaled sharply. With another heavy exhale of frustration, she opened up her cell phone and pressed the on button.
It didn't respond. "This can't be happening!" she hissed, and pressed the button harder.
The phone rang, causing Helena to look up from her book. She debated answering it but remained reclined on the study's couch, far too comfortable to move. Letting the answering machine pick up, she smirked at Alfred's polite greeting. Hearing a familiar voice, she bolted upright.
"Uh . . . Helena? It's me. Dinah. Uh, I'm just checking in. Alfred mentioned Barbara was going to the Manor and to see you and . . . well, I just wanted to make sure there were no homicides tonight . . . heh," she said awkwardly.
"Dinah?" Helena picked up.
"Where have you been?? We've been worried sick about you!!" Dinah scolded.
"You said Barbara was coming over?" Helena said with a frown, ignoring her rant.
"She isn't there yet?" Dinah said with surprise.
"But she left over five hours ago…. let me get her on her comms," Dinah said, picking up the head set. "Oracle? This is Dinah, do you copy?"
"Anything?" Helena asked impatiently.
"No. She must have turned them off," Dinah said with a frown. "I'm checking her GPS signal," she said, calling up the map. She frowned. "Helena? She's on the road, five miles out from the Manor. She isn't moving," Dinah relayed, then heard a dial tone. "Helena?"
Barbara stared at the dashboard blankly as tears fell down her face. Several uncomfortable hours had passed stuck in the Humvee with her being unable to do anything about it. She couldn't climb up and the passenger door was blocked by a large rock. The great Oracle indeed, she thought, wiping the moisture off her cheeks.
As the darkness fell, so did the temperature, making her situation even more uncomfortable. She rubbed her arms trying to combat the chill of the night, then blew on her cold hands as she began to tremble. Wouldn't it be her luck to die of hypothermia on the road to the Wayne Manner?
A flash of high beams caught her attention, quickly followed by the sound of a car racing towards her. She knew she should feel relief, yet all she could think of was now someone else would witness her inability to take care of herself.
"Barbara?!?" Helena called out in panic, as she got out of the sedan and rushed to the Humvee in a ditch.
"I'm here," she responded as fresh tears fell, seeing the white-haired woman look her over with concern through the driver's window.
"Are you okay?"
"Yeah," Barbara said without conviction.
Helena nodded hesitantly before quickly moving out of sight. The vehicle's sudden movement startled Barbara slightly, causing her to hold on. Within moments the Humvee was back on the street, prompting her to shift herself upright, onto the seat. She numbly watched as Helena came to the passenger's door, quickly opening it.
"Barbara?" she asked gently, startled by the tears. Barbara just didn't cry, Helena considered, then realized the reason; she could smell the urine and noted the dark stain on her jeans.
"I'm afraid I . . . I had a lot of tea this morning. I couldn't hold it," Barbara admitted as her hand quickly wiped at fresh tears. She was unable to look Helena in the eye
Helena's heart broke for the proud woman - but that was last thing Barbara needed to hear. "Well, you're not the only one who's a mess. Seeing you in the ditch scared the crap out of me. Good thing the Manor has a washer and dryer, eh?"
Barbara looked at her with surprise.
"Let's get out of here and back to the Manor, okay?" Helena suggested softly.
Barbara had no choice but to accept her help. She nodded and swallowed her pride as Helena's strong arms easily lifted her from the passenger seat. The gentle care Helena took with her caused new tears to dampen her cheeks.
"Can you get the door?" Helena asked as they arrived at the sedan, stooping down slightly so Barbara could reach the door handle, which she easily pulled open.
Once inside the warm sedan, Barbara mechanically pulled the seatbelt on and buckled herself in. In the darkness, she could barely see what Helena was doing as she pulled her chair out of the Humvee's driver's seat.
Returning to the back of the sedan with the chair, Helena called out "Can you pop the trunk? I think the button is someplace on the dash."
Barbara turned on the map light, which illuminated the dash. Pressing the button, she heard the trunk release, then a thud as the back end of the car jostled.
Helena opened the driver's side door and got in. "The trunk lid won't shut but I bungied it. I think we'll be fine for the couple miles to the Manor. Good thing I didn't bring the Batmobile. That thing has no trunk," Helena said disapprovingly as she started the car, turned the heat on higher, and headed to the Manor.
Barbara remained uncomfortably silent on the drive back as she battled her tears. Helena didn't press her to chat, turning on the radio. Helena smiled as the Cyndi Lauper classic, Time after Time, played. Eighties music really wasn't all that bad, she considered as the final strains of the song played.
If you're lost you can look and you will find me
Time after time
If you fall I will catch you I will be waiting
Time after time
Disturbing the relaxing mood was the next song, Life in a Northern Town, which came through the expensive sound system. "Dear God!" Helena cried out and quickly pressed the search button which found the next strong station, a more palatable classical station, prompting Helena to sigh with relief as soothing woodwinds played Smetana's The Moldau.
Barbara looked at her curiously.
"Please, please, PLEASE, don't tell me you like that travesty of popular music," Helena said, glancing at her with a grimace.
"I take it you don't," Barbara said with mild amusement.
"You didn't answer my question," Helena challenged.
Barbara rolled her eyes. "I'm not particularly . . . fond of it."
Helena nodded, relieved. "After the third time we played that one evening, I swear it deadened my sense of taste and smell the rest of the night," she offered. "The tequila was like water," she added with a frown, shaking her head.
"Perhaps it was the alcohol, not the music, that dulled your senses," Barbara suggested wryly.
"Have you ever listened to that song repeatedly?" Helena countered pointedly as she drove into the batcave, the most expedient way to the Manor.
"No, I can't say that I have," Barbara responded, a small smile finding its way to her lips as Helena smiled smugly and nodded with great satisfaction as if Barbara had just proven her point for her.
Stopping the sedan, Helena noticed Barbara's tenseness returning. Barbara glanced up at the platform uneasily, expecting more witnesses to her shame.
"Bruce is out of town for business," Helena offered smoothly, getting out of the car. "Which I had thought rather sudden, but I suspect that dear ol' Dad and Alfred had plans for us this evening," she said, pulling the heavy chair from the trunk with ease and setting it down. "And if they had anything to do with the Humvee going into the ditch," Helena offered, opening Barbara's door. "I will kill them . . . slowly," she vowed, then looked at Barbara expectantly.
Barbara nodded, reaching out for her as Helena picked her up again. "That's not exactly fair," Barbara said in a small voice as she sniffed, grateful and amazed that Helena was able to make this intolerable situation almost . . . tolerable. "I was in the ditch. I should get to kill them."
Helena rolled her eyes and gently set Barbara down in the chair. "Fine," she said with a disappointed exhale and stubbornly added "As long as I get to watch."
Another small smile made its way to Barbara's face. "Deal," she said, rolling onto the elevator as Helena joined her side.
Barbara glanced down at the well-designed bench and sturdy handholds around the shower, absently wondering when Bruce started outfitting his bathrooms for handicapped guests. She turned on the water and when it became warm enough, transferred herself onto the bench.
As the hot water fell and washed away the soil from her body, she almost felt normal. She had started her trip with great hope and conviction; that she needed to apologize to Helena and convince her to give her . . . them . . . a chance. But the day had been painfully long and her humiliation sobering, brutally exposing her original fear. Sure, almost anyone could tolerate one night, when she was in extremis and needed help - perhaps even a few weeks or months. But what about a lifetime of this, she considered with a frown, looking down at her numb legs. How could Helena not grow tired of having to deal with her limitations?
She shut her eyes, her tears mixing with shower drops. It wasn't fair, she thought, remembering how wonderful it was to hold Margay - Helena - in her arms and kiss her. Taking a fortifying breath, she turned the water off and grabbed a towel.
After drying herself, she donned a robe and shifted herself back into the chair, her many hours of physical conditioning almost making the chore easy. Returning to the bedroom, she was surprised to find that Helena had left out Gotham U sweats and a tee-shirt for her - along with really loud leopard-spotted underpants. Barbara snorted as she carefully picked them up between her thumb and index finger, almost as if they might bite, and inspected the functional but utterly tacky garment. Well, beggars can't be choosers, she considered with a heavy sigh, thankful for the clean clothes.
She made quick work of dressing, then stopped and sighed, unsure of what she was going to say to Helena. She rubbed her eyes, knowing she would rather die than become a burden to Helena. Helena had so much life and didn't need to be held back. . . .
The light knocking at the door caused her to jump.
"You decent?" Helena called from behind the slightly ajar door.
Barbara sniffed and answered. "Well, that depends on your definition," she said.
"Fine, don't answer. But don't blame me if you are . . . ," Helena said as she walked in and spotted a fully dressed Barbara. "oh. Not even a flash of leopard spots," she lamented with a frown, then grinned.
Barbara smiled weakly, not feeling comfortable with the flirting. She noticed Helena had also changed from her jeans and sweater to sweats and a large football jersey with a large zero on the front.
"The Humvee should be fixed in the morning," she reported, gaining a nod. "I also called Dinah," Helena added.
"To call off the National Guard," she explained. "It's a good thing she's nosey. You might have been out there all night," Helena said with a wince.
Barbara dropped her eyes in embarrassment.
Helena sighed with frustration, then suddenly asked with a grin "Are you hungry?"
"Uh . . . yes?"
To Barbara's surprise, Helena actually cooked dinner for them, nothing complex, just omelets. Though considering neither she nor Helena had ever really desired or really made an effort to learn to cook while they lived together, it was amazing to witness Helena expertly wield a chef's knife to the dice the onions, peppers, and ham.
Fully aware that Barbara was watching her every movement with great fascination, which boarded on disturbing, Helena didn't wait for the expected question. "I had to share in the cooking duties with my roommates . . . when I went back," Helena explained, glancing to Barbara uncomfortably as she finished grating some cheese.
"We didn't have any money for takeout," Helena continued as she retrieved the needed pans from the kitchen cabinets. "My first attempt at cooking was an omelet. My mom cooked them so how hard could it be?" Helena relayed with amusement. "For some reason, no one believed I deliberately made it black as part of a Cajun recipe. Of course, the smoke detector going off didn't help my case," Helena said wryly, looking at Barbara, who smiled with amusement, having set off her share of smoke detectors when Helena first came to live with her and she tried to make her a home cooked meal. Thank God for Alfred, she considered….
"Monique took pity on me, well, it was probably her survival instinct that made her take me under her wing. She wasn't . . . isn't . . . just a great musician," Helena explained, stumbling with the tenses, then shrugged - time travel will do that to you.
Monique again, Barbara thought as her smile faded, which Helena noted.
"We were never more than good friends," Helena quickly offered, eyeing Barbara carefully.
Barbara looked at her with surprise, cursing her sudden inability to school her emotions around Helena. "I'm glad she was there to help you," Barbara said sincerely, guessing how frightening it must have been to arrive in a different time with no idea how to get back home.
Helena nodded. "Me too. I needed a good friend . . . a job . . . roommate . . . cooking lessons," she noted with a small smile as she prepared the sauté dish and frying pan.
Barbara tried to imagine what it must have been like for Helena. Guilt washed over her as she had to acknowledge she had not bothered to listen to, nor help Helena upon her return. Instead, she had unfairly attacked her. She was lucky that Helena was still talking with her, let alone cooking her a meal . . . after rescuing her from the roadside humiliation.
What was she supposed to say now? Barbara had the general discussion points of their talk outlined in her head, which no longer seemed relevant. So she remained silent, taking some comfort in just being in Helena's presence. That was until curiosity got the better of her when Helena pulled out a small bottle and added a couple of dark drops to the beaten eggs.
"What's that?" Barbara blurted, wondering if that was some sort of French flavoring.
"It isn't just taste that is important in cooking, Barbara," Helena said sagely and whipped the new ingredient in. When the mixture became bright green, Barbara rolled her eyes.
"Green eggs, Hel?"
"And ham," Helena added with a smile of satisfaction as she motioned to the bowl of sautéed diced meat before quickly pouring the beaten green eggs into the sizzling pan.
"Isn't the ham supposed to be green too?" Barbara offered with amusement.
"Then wouldn't it be green eggs and green ham?" Helena asked innocently. "Bet Alfred never made omelets like this," she added with a bit of pride.
"Not for me anyway," Barbara offered with mild amusement.
Helena looked at her and smiled warmly before plating the first omelet and putting it in a warming oven before starting the second. The openness of her expression took Barbara aback. She could tell Helena was very pleased to do something special for her - the smile touched her heart.
"Alfred would be impressed," Barbara said, trying not to think too hard about her reaction to a simple smile, focusing instead on Helena's surprising ease in the kitchen as she assembled the second plate.
"Hopefully not too much. I like his cooking," Helena said as she went to the refrigerator and pulled out a bottle of champagne, surprising Barbara. "Trust me," she said preemptively, placing the bottle down and tending to the last omelet.
"I do," Barbara said softly, getting Helena's surprised glance before she plated the second omelet.
"That's all I've ever wanted," Helena said sincerely, gaining a curious look as she added "I hope you don't mind eating here. I don't like the dining room," Helena noted with a mild grimace as she placed the plates down and set the kitchen table with silverware and napkins.
"It is rather large," Barbara offered as she rolled into place, still curious about Helena's trust comment but she held her tongue, not sure she was ready for anything more than light conversation.
Impersonal was more like it, Helena considered as she smoothly served the champagne. "Bon appetite!" she said, raising her flute to Barbara, who raised her glass in hesitant response as she eyed the young woman.
With a gentle ping between the two flutes, they each sipped their bubbly beverage.
"Thank you for the home cooked meal," Barbara said as Helena sat.
"You might want to taste it before you do your thanking," Helena cautioned, taking a bite herself. Not too bad, she thought.
Barbara's brow rose as she picked up her fork and took a bite, noticing Helena eye her anxiously. She chewed, savoring the flavors. After swallowing, with the help of some champagne, she chuckled at Helena's concerned face.
"I don't know what you are worried about, Hel, it's delicious," Barbara enthused, grinning as Helena sighed with relief. "Must be the green," she added with a sparkle in her eye.
"It is my favorite color," Helena countered, her smile growing as she dove into her plate.
As they ate, a silence fell between them. It wasn't a comfortable silence for Barbara, who knew she needed to talk with Helena but wasn't sure where to start - or if she really wanted to begin something she had no idea how it would end.
"I could make you another," Helena offered with a pleased grin, noticing Barbara's empty plate.
Barbara bit her lip. "Ah, no thanks. It was delicious though, thank you," she said, surprised how hungry she had been, not really having had an appetite for the past week. But then, Helena had been gone again - this time because of her. She looked at Helena, who smiled and sipped her champagne.
"I owe you an apology," Barbara said with forced confidence, biting the bullet.
Helena tensed a brief second before putting her glass down. Here we go, she thought, preparing herself for whatever Barbara was going to say. She slowly poured herself more, then motioned Barbara's glass.
Barbara shook her head no. "I . . . I'm sorry," Barbara blurted. "After everything you went through, after everything you've done for me . . . I attacked you and . . . I was a horrible friend," she said guiltily, then exhaled heavily.
After everything they had gone through . . . .
For a word that sounded so light and carefree, its weight settled over Helena's heart, suffocating the fleeting hope she had desperately clung to - that the life she had dreamt of for so very long, the life she had a glimpse of on that roof top . . . wasn't going to be.
Eyeing the bottle, Barbara grabbed it and poured herself another glass. She stared at her glass a moment then looked up curiously when Helena clinked their glasses together.
"Apology accepted," Helena said softly, not wanting to prolong the awkward discussion.
"Just like that?" Barbara asked with surprise, expecting more anger or . . . something.
"Friends don't let friends grovel . . . or was that drive drunk?" she added with a smirk. "Either way, it's always good to have friends," Helena offered with a plastered on smile, shrugging as she took a sip from her flute.
"But . . . ." Barbara said with confusion and growing alarm, distinctly feeling Helena emotionally withdraw from her.
"You know," Helena interrupted. "Alfred will kill me if I don't clean up his kitchen," she said, standing up with a wry chuckle.
"Helena, we really need to talk," Barbara said with concern, surprising herself.
"Sure," she said with an easy smile. "Why don't I clean up in here and meet you in the study when I'm done? I won't be long," she offered, effectively dismissing Barbara, who looked at her an uneasy moment before nodding hesitantly.
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