Birds Of Prey Fan Fiction
- Part 3 -
Barbara was roused from an uneasy slumber hearing Helena stir. She stretched her back with a wince, never finding napping in her chair very comfortable.
Helena blinked as her eyes grew accustomed to the dark room, lit only by moonlight spilling through the window. As Barbara rolled slightly closer, the moon glow seemed to embrace the redhead. A beautiful angel, she thought, mesmerized by the sight.
Barbara noticed Helena was silently watching her.
Barbara had many questions, but right now, in this moment, she was not compelled to ask any of them; she knew Helena didn't like being given the third degree when injured. But more selfishly, she indulged in the surprising peace that just being with Helena brought. Helena was safe and finally where she belonged, Barbara considered - then suddenly blushed, realizing Helena was, in fact, in her bed.
Thankful for the darkness, she glanced down uncomfortably and started to move an errant lock of hair off her brow, but Helena's hand got there first. Barbara's startled green eyes shot up as Helena's fingers guided the hair back, then tenderly traced along her brow and down the side of her face. Her heart pounded as she struggled with the unexpected sensations the intimate touch provoked.
Delphi chimed, causing Barbara to suck in a startled breath.
Helena pulled her hand away from the redhead, who was torn by relief and regret. "Another emergency?" Helena asked softly, glancing out the door towards Delphi.
"N . . . No, the doctor," Barbara said simply, tensing with irritation at how her voice cracked.
Helena nodded in understanding.
"I . . . I'm going to get him," Barbara said awkwardly and left Helena's side.
Helena shut her eyes and sighed, dejected by how uncomfortable she had made Barbara. Why couldn't she just keep her hands to herself, she silently cursed.
"Thank you for coming on such short notice, Dr. Landry," Barbara said with a smile.
"Not a problem for my favorite crime fighter," the kind looking, older man said easily. "What happened to Helena?"
"She was injured in a fight . . . ." she said uneasily as they entered the bedroom.
Helena looked at him neutrally, not knowing this man who apparently knew her.
"So what happened?" Dr. Landry asked as he put his black bag on the edge of the bed.
"I got caught off guard while I was looking for someone. I was out numbered," Helena said honestly. She was unable to see the surprise on the man's face as he looked in her ear with an otoscope. But she wasn't answering for the doctor's sake. She knew Barbara needed to know. She felt horrible seeing her friend's worried expression and knowing she caused it.
After checking her other ear, he announced "Ears look all right."
Barbara relaxed slightly.
"You know, Oracle could have provided you with help," he scolded her as he pulled out an ophthalmoscope and looked in her eyes.
"Yeah, I know," Helena responded with a sigh, wincing as the man got uncomfortably close and shone his light in her eyes.
"Eyes look fine," he said, getting a nod from Barbara, who relaxed a bit more.
He returned his instruments to his bag and felt her head for fractures. A bit redundant to what Barbara had already done, she considered with a frown. But if it gave her friend some peace, she'd put up with it.
"When I realized I needed some help, I also realized I forgot my com set. Trust me, I knew I was in over my head and needed help," Helena explained, needing Barbara to know she wasn't deliberately being careless . . . like when she went into that warehouse and got blasted with that meta-zapper thingy.
The admission again surprised the doctor . . . and Barbara, who winced at not being able to provide the help Helena needed.
"Some bumps, but nothing indicating a skull fracture," he announced after finishing his inspection. Barbara relaxed a bit more as the doctor pulled out his stethoscope.
"Take a deep breath," he said, placing the cold metal diaphragm of the stethoscope against her chest.
"Yeow! Did you deliberately put that thing in the freezer?!?" Helena complained. Barbara wisely bit back a chuckle.
"Take a deep breath," he repeated, ignoring the question. She frowned and complied. "Again," he said, tilting his head as he evaluated the sound of her heart. "Again," he said, after placing the diaphragm on her back. With an exhale, he placed his equipment back in the bag and sighed. "Well . . . everything checks out," he said. "Just remember your coms next time, will you?"
"Trust me, I'm not looking forward to getting my ass kicked again, Doc," she said.
"I'll see you out," Barbara finally spoke, glancing at Helena uneasily before she left with the doctor.
"Thank you for not giving him a hard time," Barbara said with a tentative smile as she returned to the bedroom.
Helena nodded then glanced at the older woman. "She was in my apartment," she offered bluntly, finally feeling free to discuss the weird things that had happened.
"Ye . . . how did you know??," Helena said with surprise.
Barbara rolled next to the bed and glanced at Helena's arm that sported a bandage over the evidence. "It looks like you ran into her. Why did she scratch you?"
"She wanted to remind me of how pathetic a human I am," Helena said, then added dejectedly "she was right."
"Helena . . . ," Barbara said with a frown.
"No Barbara," Helena interrupted. "Look at what happened with those street thugs last night - I got my ass handed to me . . . I would never be able to protect Dinah."
"Did she threaten Dinah??" Barbara asked with alarm.
"No . . . not . . . no," Helena said with a confused wince, recalling the odd conversation.
"What is it?"
"She said things . . . ." Helena explained hesitantly.
"You were shot . . . by the Joker," Helena said, looking into surprised green eyes. "Was it the Joker?"
"Yes. Why would she mention . . . ?"
"Was the Black Canary Dinah's mother?" Helena interrupted with an agitated look.
"Yes. Helena, why . . . ?" Barbara responded with confusion.
"Do a lot of people know that?" Helena interrupted.
"No, but . . . ."
"Was my mother murdered in front of me?" Helena interrupted again, needing to know. "Did she bleed to death in my arms?"
"Yes," Barbara said reluctantly with a pained wince.
"I don't remember any of it," Helena said softly in a defeated tone, staring at her hands that rested in her lap. "Yet she knew," she noted, looking up at the saddened red-head. "Why did she know, Barbara?"
"You said she looked like a cat?" Barbara asked uneasily as puzzle pieces started to fall into a very odd picture.
"Cat-like," Helena corrected then eyed Barbara, who winced, like she had just figured out something that she really didn't want to believe. "What?"
Barbara tensed and bit her lip.
"What?!?" Helena insisted.
Barbara rolled her chair closer to Helena. "I have no idea how it's possible but . . . I . . . I don't think your metapowers were lost because they were suppressed or destroyed. I think they were . . . separated from you."
"Into someone else," Barbara said with a cringe, her mind racing at how that was physically possible.
"So that . . . metabeing . . . was part of me??" Helena said uneasily.
"It would . . . fit," Barbara said, looking down, wondering where the metabeing had gone.
"That was me?" Helena repeated with a whisper, trying to wrap her mind around that.
Barbara looked up at the troubled woman sympathetically. "Given your loss of powers after being . . . zapped . . . and everything you've said about her looks and knowledge - her appearance in your apartment, it would seem you met your meta-self," Barbara explained her logic.
"I'm a murderer?" Helena asked softly, clearly distressed.
"No, Helena! You didn't kill anyone," Barbara asserted.
"But if she did, than that means I did . . . doesn't it?" Helena asked, as a heartbreaking lost look filled her face.
Barbara took a breath, unable to answer directly. "From the history of the criminals she killed . . . she feels she was doing the right thing," Barbara countered instead.
"Are you saying she, I, don't know right from wrong?" Helena challenged.
"No . . . I . . . the definitions of right and wrong are not always black and white, Helena," Barbara said.
"In a civilized world it is, isn't it? I mean, you can't just go around murdering people you think are pushers, rapists, and wife beaters? Can you?" Helena asked with concern.
"No. Of course not . . . ."
"So what I am, is a murderer," Helena said with quiet anguish.
"You are not a murderer," Barbara protested.
"But I am if my metaside has no problem with "dispensing justice," she argued, then asked uneasily. "Did I kill before?"
"Helena . . . ," Barbara sputtered, feeling helpless. And feeling helpless frustrated her.
"Great," Helena said.
"Helena, you've fought the desire and controlled your feelings. You didn't let them get out of hand. Yes you struggled at times, but don't you see? You've always made the choice not to kill."
Helena listened to Barbara's words, but was not comforted by them. If her
meta-side could easily choose to kill without the tempering of her human side,
how close was she to killing if her human side happened to agree? How the hell
was she supposed to choose the right thing then?
Barbara rubbed her eyes after staring at the computer screen. She was grateful Helena agreed to stay with her while she healed. If she paused to reflect, she would have to admit she had always felt more comfortable with Helena nearby. But she was too busy for self-reflection now, having to find Helena's meta-self. She frowned. Surely the metabeing would know she would be welcome here, Barbara thought.
She returned her gaze to her computer screen in the unsuccessful look for leads, but was too easily distracted, wondering what was keeping Helena's meta-self away.
In a fleeting thought, she questioned whether her theory was wrong, that maybe the cat woman Helena had encountered wasn't a part of Helena. That would explain why the vigilante wouldn't come home. And although that line of thinking would return a nearly impossible situation to just inordinately difficult, she could feel the truth in her theory. The metabeing knew too much to be anyone but a part Helena. But why was she staying away?!? Barbara wondered with a deeper frown.
"Any luck with the lab parts?" Helena asked, limping slightly as she joined Barbara, who was startled out of her ponderings.
"Uh, no," she said, recovering quickly. "Unfortunately, I'm going to need the blueprints or the actual machine to reverse engineer. Even knowing what it should be able to do, the list of stolen parts isn't getting me anywhere," she said, removing her glasses, and pinched the bridge of her nose. A mug of tea appeared before her.
"Looks like you could use it," Helena offered with a small smile.
"Thank you," Barbara said with a smile and immediately took a sip. "Perfect," she said with a bigger smile.
"No odd metabeing injuries or recent robberies?" Helena asked.
"No," she said, looking at Helena, who sported a black eye that was now an ugly shade of purple and yellow and a few scrapes on her face, injuries that used to heal in a day. It was disconcerting to see Hel still injured.
"Maybe they are perfecting the MZT," Helena said with a shrug.
"MZT?" Barbara asked in confusion, certain her lack of sleep the past few days was contributing to her poor concentration.
"Metazapperthingy . . . MZT," Helena explained as she glanced at Barbara's screen curiously, missing the roll of her eyes.
"Maybe," she allowed, then asked rhetorically "But to what end?"
"Well, I can see two possibilities," Helena said, surprising Barbara, whose interest was peaked.
"Someone either wants to purify the human side, or the meta side. And I'd bet the meta side would be more lucrative. Just think about the strength of a metabeing army? It would surpass a meta-human army."
"But wouldn't an army need a leader?" Barbara countered. "Who could lead an army of independent, primal beings?"
"Hey, I never said it was a good evil plan," Helena said dryly, getting a small smirk from Barbara.
They looked at each other a silent moment before Helena smiled weakly and stepped away to a more respectable distance, using an inspection of the various screens of Delphi as an excuse.
Barbara noticed what she was doing and glanced down, feeling confused. She wondered if Helena remembered the other night, where she literally reached out for her. Barbara certainly did. She couldn't forget that caress and the unexpected feelings it stirred within her, which was partially to blame for her inability to sleep. She had, of course, found a logical reason for those disturbing feelings, quickly attributing the surprising response to merely being the byproduct of an intense emotional situation finally catching up to her. And Helena's situation had continued to be an emotional strain.
That actually made sense to the woman, who had to admit she didn't normally "do emotions" well. She had deliberately lived her life above the emotional turmoil that could cause normally rational people to behave like Arkham inmates. This avoidance of entanglements had served her well as Batgirl and Oracle, and even as a newly paralyzed guardian of an emotionally troubled teen. But her years of successfully living above the messy fray caught up to her when she suddenly found herself without the tools to deal with the emotionally troubled teen who had suddenly grown up into an amazingly complex woman, who no longer volunteered important information, who no longer discussed her problems, who made Barbara's considerable skill of avoidance almost seem amateurish.
The once easy dialogue between ward and guardian crumbled under the weight of awkwardness and uncertainty. She knew she had allowed Helena to drift away before. And that . . . hurt, Barbara acknowledged, having relished the chance to be closer to the woman again. She had to do something to not let that happen again.
Barbara frowned, knowing she would likely blunder her way through and make some painful mistakes, but she was determined not to make the same, unforgivable mistake of silence. With a deep fortifying breath, she bit the bullet.
"Helena, we need to talk . . . ," she said firmly, then groaned at the interrupting phone call that Helena thought was the most wonderful sound she had ever heard.
Helena knew she screwed up the other night. Her brilliant plan was to pretend it never happened. She certainly didn't want to "talk" about it.
"Barbara Gordon," she said impatiently, then looked uncomfortable.
"Oh, hi, Wade," she said, then listened a moment. "That sounds nice, but I really can't . . . ," she said, then saw Helena wave at her. "Would you please hold for a minute, Wade?" Barbara looked at Helena with mild irritation. She did NOT like being interrupted. "What is it?"
"He's asking you to dinner, isn't he?"
"Yes, but we need to talk and I need to figure out how this . . . meta . . . zapper thingy works," Barbara said, frowning at her inability to come up with a better name for the damn device.
"We don't need to talk," Helena offered a little too eagerly, causing Barbara's eyes to narrow with irritation. "We can always talk, Barbara. And you need a break," she quickly added.
"Yes. You have been at this screen for how many hours?" She asked, pointing at the computer screen accusingly.
"It doesn't matter," Barbara said.
"It does! How many times have you had a revelation when you weren't even trying to solve a problem?" Helena said with conviction. "Like in the shower . . . ," Helena added then winced, wishing she hadn't brought up that mental image of the red head . . . naked . . . and wet. "And besides, fun is a critical element in successful problem solving," Helena said with great authority.
"Is it?" Barbara asked.
"Absolutely. The likelihood of you solving this MZT mystery is directly proportional to your fun-to-work ratio," Helena noted.
"I see," Barbara said patiently. Something was telling her Helena really didn't want to talk.
"If you think too hard about this problem, you'll build up pressure here," Hel said pointing to her head.
"Sounds bad," she said flatly, knowing she couldn't force the woman to talk if she didn't want to.
"Terrible. So, out of concern for your well being and a selfish interest in solving my problem - Go. It'll do you some good to spend some fun time . . . with Wade," Helena added with a forced smile, briefly wondering if her meta-side ever felt like killing Wade.
Seeing Helena's smile suddenly fall, Barbara rolled towards her.
"What's wrong?" Barbara said worriedly, taking Helena's hand.
"Eh," Helena said dismissively, unable to look Barbara in the eye. "I guess I could use some down time myself. Maybe a mindless movie or two - there are plenty I don't remember seeing," Helena joked with a smile and shrug.
Barbara still looked concerned.
"Barbara, it will make me happy to think you are enjoying yourself . . . with Wade," Helena added, trying to sound sincere. "So go and have a good time, will ya?" Helena said, taking and squeezing Barbara's hand. "Maybe a break is just the thing we need," she added.
"You're somewhere else," Wade said with a knowing smile, buttering his role.
"Sorry," Barbara said with an apologetic wince. She had been apologizing to him a lot lately.
"Anything I can help with?" He offered sincerely.
He was always sincere, she noted. And nice, she thought, though not sure why. Out of everything in her life she juggled, she kept putting him last. But he never seemed to complain and she never felt the need to change her priorities.
She shook her head no and took a sip of water. Shouldn't she want to put him first? Or at least feel more guilty for not putting him first, she wondered.
"So what's Helena doing tonight?" He asked, eyeing her.
"She's home, watching movies . . . why??"
"I guess I'm surprised you are here with me - not that I'm complaining," he said with a warm smile. "She is still recovering from that mugging the other night, isn't she?"
"Yeah, well . . . Helena practically forced me out the door," Barbara muttered, causing a chuckle from her date. Barbara frowned.
"Smothering her, are we?" Wade said with amusement.
"I do not smother," she immediately protested and then suddenly worried that Helena might think that.
Wade lifted his hands up in surrender. "Well, it just seems like she can't get a break," he said with a shrug. "Must be rough."
"She has been through a lot recently," Barbara allowed, poking at her potato.
"And no progress on the memory front?" He asked, sipping his wine.
"No," she responded with a sigh. He really was a nice man. He actually made an effort to ask what was going on with her, though at times it was difficult to navigate the conversation around what she really spent her time on. But he was a patient man - unnaturally so at times.
"Are you happy, Wade?" She asked suddenly.
"Deliriously," he joked, but Barbara frowned.
"Are you happy . . . with us?" She asked more specifically.
"Uh . . . yes? Why?" He said, looking curiously at his date, who normally steered away from personal discussions.
"Why are you happy . . . with us?"
"Why?" He laughed then saw her face was deadly serious. "Uh, well . . . I enjoy being with you. You're funny, though not at the moment," he teased with a grin, then noticed she wasn't smiling. He continued, after clearing his throat. "Okay . . . uh, you're intelligent, you care about others . . . the fact you're gorgeous doesn't hurt," he said with a grin then saw her contemplative look. "And I . . . I honestly think this will lead to something more . . . permanent," he added uneasily.
"W. . . What?" Barbara sputtered.
"Marriage. I know it's a bit early to be talking about it. But, I'm thinking about it. A lot."
She looked at her plate intently trying to wrap her mind around that thought.
"Hey," he said softly, brushing an errant lock of hair off her brow. Her head shot up with surprise at the familiar gesture that had preoccupied her thoughts for days, though provoking strikingly different feelings.
She found loving blue eyes gazing at her. Though not the clear, striking blue of her former ward, that usually sparkled with mischief and made Barbara wonder if she should be worried. With Wade, there was no mischievous sparkle, no devilish streak that kept Barbara wondering what was going to happen next.
"I didn't say that to scare you off, Barbara," he said softly, gently caressing her brow before tenderly holding her hand.
She knew she shouldn't have been surprised Wade would at some point want to discuss marriage. He was old-fashioned and it was a logical progression to their courtship.
He really did care for her, she concluded, feeling him squeeze her hand. Each time she had slept with him, he was loving and attentive, though at times, almost too . . . polite, she thought - though sex was much better than she had expected. With him, she almost felt normal. But even when she could walk, she did not lead a normal life, nor did she seek one out, she considered. She lived with a passion to help and protect others. She thrived on the danger and excitement crime fighting brought. Yet, ironically, she avoided that passion and excitement in her love life, opting for . . . nice.
"I know you need time to think things through. And there isn't any rush."
Why would she settle for anything less in her love life? She wondered, glancing at their entwined hands.
"But someday, we will have that conversation," he promised warmly, squeezing her hand and releasing it.
Because she, the former Batgirl and now Oracle, was afraid, Barbara concluded with disappointment.
"How about some apple pie . . . a la mode?" he tempted her with a smile.
"That sounds . . . nice, Wade," she said with a small smile.
It was Saturday evening and Helena was alone in the clock tower, fast forwarding through another stupid movie. She sighed and turned off the DVD, tossing the remote on the couch as she got up, rubbing a sore neck. Dinah was with Gabby and Barbara was with Wade, and she still felt like a throbbing pile of crap.
She quietly walked around the clock tower, assessing it all, especially Delphi, with a critical eye. She wondered if anyone would ever truly appreciate what Barbara was doing for the city. Not if Oracle had her way, she acknowledged and found herself wandering across the dark gymnasium to a corner room that contained Barbara's Batgirl costume.
She turned on the lights, which caused an impressive glow around the costume. She expected the costume looked even more impressive on Barbara.
Dinah had regaled her with what Helena would have thought unbelievable stories about Batgirl, had Batgirl been someone other than Barbara. She wondered how the woman had the strength to carry on after being shot, how she could so amazingly overcome her disability to still help others. Sure Batgirl was an accomplished crime fighter, and Oracle was the criminal's omnipresent nightmare. But Barbara Gordon, the woman, was simply . . . extraordinary.
"You shouldn't be in there."
The sudden voice shattered the reverent silence, startling Helena. She turned towards the metabeing, who hovered back in the shadows of the dark gym.
"Why not?!?" Helena said with irritation, not liking being surprised.
"It's her private room . . . Whoa, you look like crap." The metabeing noted as Helena emerged from the room to join her in the gym.
"I know who you are," Helena said tersely.
"Did you remember what happened - or did Barbara figure it out?" The metabeing asked, causing Helena to sigh with irritation. "So you still don't remember anything before the blast? Interesting."
"I'm tired of it."
"You should enjoy it while you can," the metabeing said absently, then asked "Dinah is with Gabby?"
"And Barbara is with Wade," the Metabeing said knowingly, getting an uncomfortable nod. "It's strange isn't it?"
"What? Me talking to my meta-self?" Helena asked.
"Well, there is that," the Metabeing noted wryly. "I have to say, so far, I'm not very impressed with the human side," she said, eyeing the still bruised Helena.
"And I'm not exactly impressed with you either, murderer," Helena snapped.
"You say murderer, I say vigilante," the Metabeing said, then noted thoughtfully. "Nothing has changed," she said, then saw the frown of confusion. "We fought over it before too," she explained.
"Something tells me we fought a lot."
"Oh yes," the metabeing said with an amused snort.
"Care to share?"
Helena tensed. "You wanted to kill him . . . ." she said with dread.
The being laughed. "It wasn't just me. But even I knew that was off limits, though I had hoped he would turn out to be an insane criminal or something," she said, then sobered. "But no, he's too boring to be an insane criminal."
"I've never met him," Helena said with a cringe.
"Another thing you are not missing. We never could understand why she was so . . . attracted to the guy. I could understand if he were a psychopath -at least he'd be interesting."
"Did we ever ask?"
The metabeing frowned. "No," she said tersely.
"Why not?? Are you serious?"
"Well, yeah. If we both know how ill-suited he is for her, why not ask?"
"Because of YOU! YOU were afraid he actually meant something to her!"
"Oh that's convenient. Blame me. I don't remember so you could say anything," Helena snapped.
"I've never lied to you before," the Metabeing said, insulted.
Helena looked at her a moment, then begrudgingly said "All right. But I'm not holding you back now. . . ."
"You ask her! Ask her why the woman who should be my mate lets another fuck her!!" she roared with startling anger, that was suddenly overwhelmed by a deep hurt.
"Ask her why. Why she doesn't see?" the metabeing said with disturbingly quiet anguish.
Helena sighed, wishing she knew what to say. She knew she too was attracted to the amazing redhead. But she also knew Barbara had Wade and something told her it was fundamentally wrong to interfere with that. There were no comforting words forthcoming - only questions.
"She's been wondering why you stay away," Helena said softly, taking a few steps towards her meta-self.
The metabeing's eyes flashed with anger as she laughed harshly. "I think I might actually kill him if I smell his scent on her one more time."
She wanted to tell her to let it go or it would drive her crazy. Though she knew it wouldn't be well received, besides being too late. "I understand," Helena said with a wince, knowing how uncomfortable it was to just know about Wade. She was only able to image how hard it must be to be faced with that evidence, up close and personal.
"You understand nothing!" she hissed, swiping at Helena's arm with three sharp nails.
Helena hissed in pain as she cradled her freshly bleeding arm.
"Do I LOOK like I need more cuts?!?" She snapped, taking a swing at her. Helena was surprised that the punch actually landed.
Cat eyes narrowed and Helena felt a little fear. "Uh . . . now don't go getting all feral on me," Helena said with concern.
"You don't feel the pain!" the metabeing said angrily.
"Like HELL, I feel plenty of pain, goddamnit!" Helena responded, managing to dodge another claw swipe. However, she tripped into the weapons rack, causing it and herself to crash to the floor, scattering a variety of weapons. She immediately rolled and picked up the sais, holding them defensively as she scrambled to her feet.
"You don't remember!" the metabeing hissed, jumping behind Helena and harshly shoving her to the ground.
"Ooffff," Helena blurted then quickly jumped to her feet. "Look! I didn't choose to lose my memory, damnit!"
"You are the perfect little human now, just like you've always wanted to be," the metabeing taunted, swiftly swiping at the human.
Once again a claw got through and sliced through Helena's clothes. "Damnit! Would it help if I said I was sorry," Helena said, getting hit in the stomach with a solid kick that propelled her against the wall.
The being growled as Helena fought to catch her breath.
"I guess . . . not," Helena said, coughing.
"I thought it would be easier not to have you hold me back . . . but it isn't!" The metabeing cried angrily. She swiped at Helena again, but took three chunks out of the wall when Helena dove to the ground.
"I am more powerful than ever, but no longer fit in the human world," she cried out, her claws again missing Helena, who ducked. The heavy bag behind her took the brunt of the nails that sliced easily through the leather sheath.
"Well it might help if you worked on that anger and stopped killing people!" Helena offered with annoyance, blocking another swipe with her sais. With quick jabs, she got through the metabeing's defenses and landed two blows.
The metabeing stepped back and growled with irritation. "You are better, but you'll never be good enough . . . ." the being said, then easily batted Helena to the ground. Before she could strike again, the metabeing tiled her head and took a deep breath, savoring the air like a fine wine. "She's back."
Helena pulled herself off the floor as she heard the distant sound of elevator doors opening.
The metabeing was already gone.
"Hel?" Barbara called out as she looked around the oddly quiet clock tower.
"In the gym." The response surprised her. As she rolled towards the gym she felt something was off.
"Helena?" She called as she entered what looked like a war zone. "My GOD, what happened?" She asked as she moved towards Helena, who was uprighting the weapons rack with a groan.
"Meta-me came by," Helena said sarcastically with a tired sigh.
"She attacked you?" Barbara said with alarm as she took stock of Helena's latest injuries.
"We had a . . . discussion. One that involved claws and sais," Helena said.
"Come on, let's get you patched up," Barbara said firmly.
"Again," Helena said with a heavy sigh.
"Hel, what happened?" Barbara asked softly as Helena sat on the edge of the bed. Helena stared at the small metal basin as Barbara submerged the washcloth in the water and began to clean her wounds.
"She came, got angry, and left," Helena mumbled, hissing as Barbara dabbed on antiseptic.
"Sorry," Barbara said with a wince. "What got her so angry?" she asked softly, applying the antibacterial cream to another set of claw marks. Not hearing an answer, Barbara looked up from the wound to see moisture forming in the young woman's eyes. "Hel?"
"Everything is so fucked up," Helena said, angrily wiping an unwanted tear from her eye.
Barbara looked at her, feeling helpless, unable to imagine what she must be going through. Pushing down her incredible curiosity and the plethora of questions at the tip of her tongue, Barbara instead offered what little comfort and quiet support she could. "This is the last one," Barbara said softly, gingerly moving the shredded top aside to expose the marks on her stomach. "Lie back. I'm going to get some clean water and more dressings. I'll be right back," she said, getting a sluggish nod from Helena, who complied.
Barbara returned quickly and silently continued to gently wash the cuts, finding the act of tending her wounds oddly comforting, knowing at least she could do this for the young woman.
After a few quiet moments, Helena broke the tense silence with a quiet question. "Was I always an angry person?" She asked, staring at the ceiling.
Barbara looked up, startled. "No, Helena. You had a temper and you could get very angry. But no. You were not an angry person. You are a loving young woman who cares about others, even if you had trouble admitting that," she offered, then continued to clean the wound.
The quiet stretched on as Barbara applied the salve.
"She said . . . ," Helena said softly and paused.
Barbara's ears perked up though she forced herself to focus on applying the bandage, not grilling her former ward.
"She said we fought about a lot of things," Helena finally offered, her moist blue eyes still staring at the ceiling. "Kind of makes me wonder if I really want to go back to that," she said uneasily.
Barbara looked at her in shock, not having anticipated Helena might not want to return to normal. "It's . . . not like you have to decide now," she said hesitantly. "I still don't know how to . . . fix this," she added, feeling the situation just become more daunting.
After Helena went to bed, Barbara nursed a mug of tea as she sifted through the latest research papers on genetic engineering. She placed her mug down with disgust at her inability to focus on the reading. Not that she was close to finding anything helpful. Each paper Delphi called up from her search parameters seemed to concentrate on small genetic manipulations to enhance the resistance of crops to disease or drone on about "exciting" new DNA information from small-scale laboratory work. She was almost tempted to enter "Meta Zapper Thingy" just to see what Delphi would do with that.
Rubbing her eyes, she rolled back from Delphi and headed for the balcony and some fresh air. She honestly didn't expect that Helena might not want to return to her metahuman form. While she had always seemed to enjoy her abilities, the human Helena had no recollection of them. Her only experience with her meta abilities were unfortunately directed at her in a painful way. Barbara frowned, wondering why Helena's metaside would physically fight her human side.
She looked out over the skyline, hoping to see the metabeing Helena. Besides the not-so-trivial matter of needing both Helenas, which she knew was necessary to accomplish the merging even without knowing "the how," she had so many questions for the metabeing.
From what Helena relayed, she felt angry . . . and alone. But she didn't have to be alone, Barbara sighed sadly, wishing she would just come home. But something had been keeping her away. And without understanding that, she had no idea what it would take to make her want to come home.
In Helena's sparse apartment above the Dark Horse bar, she curled up on her
bed, trembling. The deep throbbing bass of the music below seemed to aggravate
her pain. The metabeing glanced at her hands, which she clenched into fists,
angry at her inability to keep them from shaking. It was getting worse, she knew
with a sinking feeling.
"I'll have a latte," Dinah said energetically to the waiter who smiled, then looked at Helena, who sighed and said flatly "milk."
Helena turned to see a handsome man approach their table.
"Wade . . . I mean Mr. Brixton," Dinah said with surprise.
"Since we're not in school, I'll let that slip," he joked then looked at Helena and her piercing, critical gaze. "You don't remember me, do you?"
"Sorry. No," Helena said neutrally.
"Well, you're not the first woman who didn't remember me," he joked, surprising Helena with his self-depreciating humor. "I hope things are going all right?" He said cautiously, eyeing her bruises and cuts with a wince.
"I guess they could be worse," Helena offered, though she couldn't think how. From where she sat, things pretty much sucked. Wade smiled with amusement, making him even more handsome, she thought with annoyance.
"Well, I'll leave you ladies to enjoy your day. Take care, both of you," he said, getting twin nods.
Dinah remained quiet and bit her lip as she toyed with a sugar packet. She looked at the saying on it and frowned. It's always darkest before the dawn. Great.
"So. That was Wade," Helena said absently as Dinah shifted uncomfortably and quickly shoved the sugar packet and its unwanted nugget of wisdom into the small container.
"Yeah," Dinah said with a weak smile.
"He's really . . . nice," Helena said, watching the man disappear into the crowd. He looked like he worked out too, she thought critically.
"Yeah. So! I wonder where that cute waitress went," Dinah asked, wanting to change the subject.
"Gwen just graduated - I would hope she got a better job," Helena said, glancing out at the street at the oblivious citizens of New Gotham. There was a dangerous undercurrent of crime that was ready to pull them under at any moment. And they didn't have a clue, she thought morosely.
"Gwen? You know her name? You know she graduated??" Dinah asked with concern.
"We bumped into each other when I went to my apartment the other night, you know, the FIRST time I got the crap beat out of me?? She gave me her number, a lot of good that will do now," Hel said with a heavy sigh.
"What's wrong with the number?"
"Nothing's wrong with the number," Helena said with exasperation. "It's just I never called her and too much time has passed," Helena said as the milk was placed down in front of her and a latte in front of Dinah.
"Shouldn't I be the judge of that?" Gwen said with a grin, surprising the two women.
"You know, I should go to . . . well, over there. Away from you two," Dinah blurted with awkward honesty as she picked up her latte and left for a distant table.
"Hi," Helena said with a hopeful smile.
"I don't mean to be rude but - what happened to your face?" Gwen said with concern.
"I was mugged?" Helena said with a wince.
"Oh my god. Are you all right??" She asked, sitting down and inspecting the bruised eye that was less purple and more yellow now.
"I'm healing. You should see the other guy," Helena said, then joked. "Not even a scratch."
Gwen looked at her with mild amusement. "Well, if I had a choice, I would prefer you as a lover over a fighter any day," she said, causing Helena's eyes to widen at the bold comment.
"Oh . . . Uh, why are you still here? Decided your doctorates are great - but serving coffee and milk is your true calling?"
"Hardly. Just helping out a friend and I'm off now. Care to go for a walk?" Gwen asked, eyeing Helena.
"I'd love to," Helena said. "Let me tell Dinah she's on her own."
"She could come with us," Gwen offered graciously with a shrug.
"Not a chance," Helena said, causing a pleased grin.
"So I am now working here . . . for my Dad," Gwen said with a bit of embarrassment, pointing to one of the pictures on the wall as they entered an impressive glass and chrome building.
"He's a genetic engineer?" Helena asked, glancing at the picture of the distinguished looking man, then around the modern building with interest.
"Yep. And one of the reasons for my interest in the field. He is a Vice President of research at Garrow Industries."
"A brainy family. Wow."
"No cracks about nepotism?' Gwen asked uneasily.
"I take it people are giving you a hard time."
"Not outright, thankfully," Gwen said, then smiled at the guard behind the front desk as she showed her badge and signed them in.
"Ma'am, do you have some ID?" the guard asked Helena, who quickly pulled out her wallet and showed him her driver's license.
"Thanks. Can't be too careful these days. The company had some equipment stolen a couple weeks ago. They'll steal the shirt off your back if you sit still long enough," the guard grumbled.
Helena looked at the guard and Gwen curiously. "What did they take?"
"Lab equipment," the guard said again, looking at her as if she were a bit slow.
"Very expensive lab equipment from what my father said," Gwen said.
The lights flickered, causing the guard to sigh and pick up the phone. "Hey, George? It's Dan, the lights are acting up again. Oh. All right. You'd think New Gotham Electric would be a bit more reliable. Yeah. Bye," he said, then hung up.
"Any thing wrong?" Gwen asked.
"We've been experiencing power interruptions for a few hours now. Electric company says it's unanticipated usage. But it's not like it's smoldering out there and people need their air conditioning . . . .," the guard complained, then looked at Gwen sternly. "Make sure you escort her at all times," he said handing the badge over to her.
"I won't take my eyes off her," Gwen said with a smirk, then clipped the badge on Helena. "Congratulations! You are my first guest."
"Cool. Am I going to see your equipment?" Helena asked, waggling her eyebrows.
"If you're lucky," she said softly into her ear and headed to the elevator. Helena quickly followed.
Eager lips descended on Helena's as the elevator doors shut.
When the elevator doors opened, Dinah marched out, fuming. Everything was just screwed up! And what was even more screwed up was that NO ONE seemed to acknowledge how screwed up everything was!!
Barbara looked at her curiously. "What's wrong?"
"What's NOT wrong?!?" Dinah said bluntly. She had vowed to stay out of their personal business - even if it was all screwed up. She kept hoping that when Barbara got a clue, which she knew she would eventually, the path would be clear for Helena to finally say something. But if Helena was off getting cozy with a new girlfriend, one who appeared to be much more serious than her typical boy-toy or bimb-ette . . . she might just have to say something!
Seeing patient, but tired green eyes on her, Dinah sighed. Not today.
"So, any new robberies?" Dinah said, changing the subject, joining Oracle at her computer.
"No. But there have been some unusually high power usages on 4th and Merchant Street. They are causing fluctuations on the grid in the surrounding neighborhoods."
"Should I check it out?" Dinah said, eager to do something productive to help Helena, even if she was busy screwing up her life.
"Eh . . . I don't want you going alone," Barbara said.
"But we haven't had any leads, in like, forever! Come on, Barbara - I'll be careful. Promise. And you'll be giving me guidance which I, for one, have no problem following. You know as well as I do that we need to have a break and this is the closest thing to an actual lead we have had," Dinah rapidly blurted without taking a breath, which made Barbara wonder if that ability was due to her metapowers - or just being a teen.
"All right," she said reluctantly, knowing Dinah was right. They hadn't had a good lead in a long time.
"Cool," Dinah said with a big smile and quickly left.
Barbara sighed, suddenly wondering where Helena was.
"So this is your lab?" Helena said, looking around the area with interest. There was something sexy about a beautiful, smart woman surrounded by lab equipment and powerful comput . . . . Helena silently cursed her thoughts that drifted so easily back to the clock tower.
"Yep," Gwen said, slipping her arms around Helena from behind, and pulled her into a hug. "I'm working with three others on a project that will take my Doctoral research to the next level," she said softly into her ear before kissing her earlobe.
"Really? Isn't that . . . unusual for a recent graduate?" Helena said with a smile, turning around in her arms and stepping back a bit.
"I guess it pays to have family on the research board," she said, eyeing Helena almost in challenge.
"I don't think a company would risk any money on a pet project of one of their Vice Presidents. No matter how persuasive his beautiful and brilliant daughter is," Helena countered, pleasing the young woman, who always seemed to expect the worst. "So what are you working on?"
"You're really interested?" Gwen asked, once again surprised by the brunette.
"Yeah. I mean, I may not understand what the hell you are talking about but . . . I'd really like to know," Helena said honestly.
Gwen smiled warmly. "You are something else, Helena Kyle," she said softly, leaning in for a gentle kiss. "What do you know about the 21st chromosome?" she suddenly quizzed and pulled Helena's hand, leading her to her computer.
"It can legally drink?"
Gwen rolled her eyes then continued. "Are you familiar with the genetic disorder called Down's Syndrome?" she said, pulling out a chair for Helena as she turned on her computer screen.
"Yeah, a little," she said, sitting down. "People with it are academically slow, requiring special education and, don't they have distinctive features?" Helena said uncomfortably, not sure how politically correct she was.
"Yes. Of my family of ten siblings, two had Down's Syndrome," Gwen said, pointing to the family picture over her computer. The look of horror that filled Helena's face filled Gwen with great disappointment.
"Just how many bathrooms did you have growing up?!?" Helena asked with great concern, causing Gwen to laugh.
"Two and a half. And thank GOD for the half," Gwen said, shaking her head with a big smile on her face. Helena Kyle was something else.
"You said . . . two siblings had Down's Syndrome?" Helena asked gently, getting an uncomfortable nod from the young woman.
"My oldest sister, Kathryn, died two years ago. She drowned rescuing a toddler who was caught by an undertow. She saved him, but they couldn't revive her. She was one of the kindest people I have ever known. Such a pure, unselfish heart. Like my sister Grace. It's amazing that with all the difficulties they lived with - the social rejection because of their appearance, and the struggle day-to-day just to keep up with things that we take for granted -they could always enjoy life and always give of themselves. They've helped me to not take the simple things for granted."
Gwen fell silent as she remembered.
"So how does that all fit in with your work?" Helena asked, getting a smile.
"The genetic defect occurs when there is the presence of all or part of an additional 21st chromosome. Geneticists call it trisomy 21," she explained, showing a graphic of the defect on her computer screen.
"And??" Helena still wasn't following.
"Well, I've found a way to mark and isolate the extra 21st chromosome in mouse embryos. I've also been able to extract the defect without damage to the remaining chromosome. Unfortunately, I could never get the embryos to survive long after the splicing. But that's what we're working on now. I think before the year is out we will successfully extract this defect from mouse embryos and get them to grow into healthy baby mice," Gwen said with enthusiasm.
Helena took an uneasy breath. "Could any . . . genetic mutation . . . be extracted by your method?"
"That's my hope someday. It's theoretically possible to mark, isolate,
and extract any part of the gene. And once we can do that . . . just think, no
one would ever have to live with a genetic defect again."
At Oracle's suggestion, Dinah crawled her way through a ventilation system towards what appeared to be the source of the power fluctuations.
"Oracle?" Helena suddenly called on her com set, surprising the older woman, who sat at her usual place in front of the main computer console in the clock tower.
"Huntress, I'm kind of in the middle of something right now," Barbara said, eyeing the map and Dinah's GPS signal.
"Is D on sweeps?" Helena asked.
"Yes," Barbara said as she scanned the security cameras around the warehouse for unwanted guards. She unfortunately couldn't seem to find cameras within the building.
"Oh. Great," Helena said without enthusiasm. "Could I get that list of stolen lab equipment emailed to me?" She asked impatiently.
"Helllllooooo! I'm still crawling through a dark and icky vent!" Dinah called out with irritation, waving away a cobweb with a grimace.
"Hey, Kid." Helena greeted then asked "Why didn't you just go through a window or something?" She wasn't sure but she could have sworn she heard a low growl from the younger woman.
"Do you really need the list right now?" Barbara asked tersely, checking the police scanner for what turned out to be an unrelated disturbance across town.
"If I wanted to wait, I could have come home and picked it up myself. I think I have a lead and I'd really like to explore it now," Helena said impatiently.
"Where are you??" Barbara asked curiously, glancing at her map that she panned out. She noticed with surprise that Helena's GPS signal was only a few blocks from Dinah's.
"In the vent!"
"No . . . Huntress," Barbara clarified. Dinah exhaled loudly.
"Garrow Industries," Helena responded.
Dinah shook her head and carefully approached a vent duct opening and found a high-tech lab that was very out of place in the old warehouse.
"Why are you at Garrow Industries?" Barbara asked with surprise.
"Hellllooooo again. Just me, the junior crime fighter coming upon a reeeeally disgusting scene!" Dinah said as she glanced down from the vent into the room, spotting a big pile of bumpy goo. She was pretty sure the bumps were undissolved body parts.
"What do you see?" Helena asked with interest.
"Huntress, do you mind?" Barbara scolded. "What do you see, Dinah?
"Oh that's a much better question, Oracle," Helena said sarcastically.
"I'm getting a lot of static from your camera," Barbara said, trying to ignore Helena. Something that was never easy to do.
"It looks like someone was made into a pancake . . . I don't feel well," Dinah said with a grimace but still took the vent duct cover off and climbed down quietly.
"If you feel you're gonna hurl, find a trash can," Helena offered helpfully. "Should I go join her, Oracle?" Helena asked.
Barbara frowned. Helena was hardly in any condition to go on sweeps, especially after her latest "discussion" with her meta-side. "Not necessary, Huntress. Dinah, does it look like an energy weapon did it?" Barbara asked.
"We're talking pancake people, Oracle. I'm pretty sure there was massive, super unfriendly energy involved," Dinah said with a grimace, stepping around the remains.
Barbara rolled her eyes wondering if everyone was PMSing tonight.
"Why would someone just dissolve into a puddle and not fully separate like Hel . . . eh, Huntress?" Dinah asked.
"I'm not sure. Perhaps some meta powers are not separable," Oracle guessed.
"It's theoretically possible to isolate any part of the gene," Helena responded with great authority. "Therefore, all meta powers are separable."
"Theory and practice are two different things, Huntress," Barbara argued.
"Fine. Can I have the damn list?" Helena asked.
"Well I'm fine, thanks for asking. Yep. Just taking a leisurely Saturday night stroll in a lab of what I am pretty sure is a mad scientist, who really doesn't care about lab cleanliness," Dinah said, glancing back at the pancake person queasily. "Nope. No worries here."
"Mind on mission everyone," Barbara said authoritatively.
"Thank you," Dinah said tersely.
"Do you see any computers?" Barbara asked.
"Yep - lots of computers and what look like a couple of unfriendly energy weapons," Dinah said, taking inventory.
"Can you turn your camera light on and zoom in on the main server?"
"So I'm not getting the list?" Helena said with an irritated sigh.
Dinah walked over and focused her headset on the biggest computer. "Are you getting an image, Oracle."
"Yes and would you stop moving your head around so much? You're making me dizzy," Oracle complained.
"Sorry," Dinah said sheepishly. "I think this is it."
"Can you place the thumb drive in the USB port?" Oracle asked.
"I'm on it," Dinah said, pulling out the little device and quickly placing it into the port. "Done," Dinah said. The computer responded with a melodic sound acknowledging the addition of the drive as a window that popped up, identifying the addition of an unrecognized external drive which activated Oracle's spyware. As the spyware bypassed the firewall and initiated its downloading routine, Dinah heard some footsteps at the door. "Oracle, someone's coming," she said with alarm.
"Dinah, get out of there," Oracle ordered.
"But, we may not get another . . . ," Dinah argued, looking at the computer with regret.
"Don't worry about it - GO!"
"Oracle, the address!" Helena barked with concern.
"4th and Merchant," Barbara said quickly, cursing her decision to reject Helena's previous offer to go there.
Dinah didn't have to be told twice and darted to the vent duct opening. As she started to climb up, the door opened.
The teen's camera fell to the floor and tumbled until it rested facing the wall as an alarm sounded. "Dinah! What's going on?!?" Barbara called out.
"Stop right there!"
The unnerving voice was followed by the chilling sound of shots being fired. Before Barbara could pray Dinah wasn't hit, she heard a crash and a pained "oof" followed by another voice.
"Get out of here. Now!"
"Huntress," Barbara exhaled with relief, recognizing the metabeing's voice, though never having heard it.
"But the computer . . . ," Dinah argued.
"NO. Too many guards are coming, get . . ." Huntress blurted harshly.
"Watch out!!" Dinah said.
Barbara tensed when she heard the ensuing scuffle. A deep chill washed over her when she heard a low, feral growl that she knew did not mean good news for anyone daring to oppose the metabeing. Barbara's hands clenched into fists, the only thing she could do besides listen to bodies loudly crashing into lab gear with moan after new moan filling Dinah's coms.
Then there was a loud explosion.
Barbara's breath caught in her throat when she saw the discarded camera now showing only snow. "This can not be happening again!" she thought with a growing panic, calling up the GPS signals on her screen. Dinah's signal was still there, she considered with some relief.
Taking a deep breath, she forced herself to focus on the mission.
"Dinah? Dinah, do you copy?!?" Barbara called out, frowning when she didn't get an immediate response.
"Oracle to Hun . . . Helena, do you copy?" Barbara called uneasily. Not hearing any response made her want to hit something. "Helena, do you copy?" Barbara called again, now looking for her GPS signal. She was rapidly closing in on Dinah's position at a surprising speed.
Minutes of silence stretched on for what felt like an eternity. Finally, a familiar voice, sounding out of breath, reached out to her like a lifeline in a stormy sea.
"Oracle, it's Helena. Dinah is all right. Huntress is down. You should contact Dr. Landry and have him meet us at the bat cave. We don't have much time."
Barbara blinked, trying to digest what Helena just said. But there was no time for questions, only action. "I understand. We'll meet you there."
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