DISCLAIMER: I own the thoughts in my head, maybe <g> but the characters of BoP are not mine. No infringement harm intended & certainly no profit is made.
DEDICATION: A big huge thanks to April who beta'd this for me & gave me sound advice when my brain was stuck. Any still existing typos are completely my own fault when I revised a final time.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: If you like fluffy fic, I don't think this will be it. Call it a hunch, & fair warning.
SPOILER: After the events in Devil's Eyes with a bit of essential creative retelling of events.
FEEDBACK: Please let me know what you think Always appreciated, especially as this is my first BoP fic
ARCHIVING: If you like & want? Just ask.
Where Angels Dare Not Tread
My last visit here makes it easy to know how to bypass the security & get in this time. Last time it was to face my mother's murderer. Now it to face the woman who turned me into one.
The stale air, harsh lighting & tight confines of the room already send my instincts on edge. I don't want to be here. Through the unbreakable transparent prison she sits there, smiling at me.
"My, my Helena," Harleen Quinzel, no, Harley Quinn purrs, not a blonde lock out of place on her psychotic head. "I've been waiting for when you would visit me."
She stands & walks leisurely to the see-through wall, looking me over like she owns me. I snarl softly. "And just look at you Helena, all filled with such fury." She sounds so damned pleased with herself as if it's all because of her. I wish it was but she can't take credit for all of it. "You look as ravishing as ever. And you even have blood on your hands. Now don't tease a girl Helena. Tell me who's blood it is." She arches an eyebrow at me & waits like we're back at her office & I'm her patient. Like we're not in this cage.
I can barely speak, the fury is overriding everything but I have to know. In three quick strides I'm at the glass & pound it once,a statement to the violence roiling inside me. "What have you done to me?!"
"What have I done?" she asks, amused. "Helena, this prison is treated so that I can't hypnotize anyone. Anything you've done, you've done because you wanted it. Who did you hurt this time Helena? You're precious Barbara?"
"Reese." I hiss.
"It felt good didn't it?" Quinn leans up to my face, only the barrier separating us, her eyes dark & intimate she whispers, "Why don't you tell me all about it?"
I push away from the glass. I want to kill her so badly. I pace back & forth, stalking around the room.
"Why should I tell you anything?" I finally get out.
"Because you want answers & I can give them to you." she tells me matter of fact. "I've kept your secrets so far haven't I? I didn't tell anyone about your Clock Tower, or Barbara...or your little part in her lover's death-"
"Shut up!" I slam against the glass again.
She claps her hands in delight. "You haven't told them either have you? How descrumptulicious!! Oh Helena, you really are a prize."
"I'm not something you can win." I growl.
"No?" She arches that damn eyebrow again, playing coy with me. "Tell me about what happened with Reese & maybe I'll tell you a secret."
"You'll tell me what's happening to me?" I ask her.
"Yes." She smiles Cheshire evil at me.
"I told him I wouldn't be his picture perfect girlfriend & he wouldn't take no for an answer." That was almost the truth.
"You're lying Helena." Her voice is brisk, every bit the professional psychiatrist again."Why did you really attack Reese?"
Her demeanour makes it easier to answer, like I'm on automatic pilot. "He threw Barbara's trust in her face."
She's regarding me, saying nothing.
"Well? What have you done to me?"
"It wasn't me Helena. This is about you. Did you kill the detective?"
"Kill him? Of course not."
She doesn't look happy about that but she goes on. "Did you break any bones? Maim him?"
"Helena, Helena...still holding back. As long as you do things will only get worse."
"What do you mean?"
"Humans my dear, are actually not so complex when you break them down. If a person represses their needs & desires, those needs & desires don't go away. They fester & grow & worm their way inside you until they find another way out. Sometimes a less direct, les conventional way. It wasn't Reese you wanted to really hurt."
"Than who was it?" I demand.
"It wasn't Reese who betrayed precious Barbara." She watches me & waits.
I scowl at her. "You're not making sense!"
"Oh no?" Quinn smirks. "Try this then. You projected your feelings of anger & hate onto someone else, Reese. You really feel that way about yourself because you were the one to betray Barbara, not him. Is that simple enough language for you?"
"Was only human, and a target." She cocks her head to the side, her smirk growing."But he wasn't your real target so those feelings of rage & hate are just going to grow & grow until you no longer need an excuse to hurt anyone."
My fists clench. "That's not true."
"Oh it is. You're a monster Helena, one of the bad guys. No one decent like virtuous Barbara which is why you-"
"Shut up I said!" I growl.
Quinn squeals in delight. "Oh, this is so much fun Helena! Really, what did you think would happen? Your pathetic pining away for her. Your feelings of inadequacy brooding along. And trying so hard to control something you can't, yourself."
"I can control myself."
"Obviously, which is why you have blood on your hands. But you're missing the point my dear, you shouldn't be trying to be something you're not. It's this very attempt to repress what you are, a feral animal, that causes you to not have focus."
"Oh, I can focus." I warn her.
"I was there remember?" Quinn's not intimidated, instead she seems excited by the threat of violence. "You know I don't want to hold you back Helena. I want you to fully actualize your potential."
"To be a killer!" I accuse her.
"To be what you are!" Her voice is so intense now. "Your 'true love' would never allow you to be yourself. That's why you try to keep yourself in check like a good little pet for her. That's why you never told her how you feel, because you know deep down that she would reject you! Poor, poor Helena, wanting so much to belong to the one person who will never accept her. Barbara's a fool. She could have had you & all that you are & she tossed the chance away."
"No she didn't!" I protest readily, instinct making me defend Barbara. "She doesn't know. She didn't toss me away!"
"How very Freudian of you. I didn't say toss 'you', I said she threw away her chance with you. Come now Helena, if she's as much of a genius as you think than how could she not know how you really feel? What you truly want? She knows. And she's ignored you. And that's why you hate the one you love. That's why you want to hurt her. That's why you have hurt her."
"No! You had me hypnotized that's why I hurt her because of you!"
She leans against the barrier, palms flat, eyes hot on mine. "Here's the secret Helena. Hypnosis is a funny thing. You can implant false memories easily enough & you can make people do all kinds of things but you can never, ever, make a person do something they're not truly willing to do."
I stop my pacing. I stop dead. "You're lying. " but my voice sounds like more of a plea than a statement.
"Do some research. It's true. You can't make people kill unless they're a killer. I couldn't have made you hurt Barbara, unless, deep down, you wanted to hurt her. And who can blame you? She spurned you-"
"Shut up!" I snarl.
"She gave it up to that dullard Wade."
"Shut. Up." My eyes have changed, Quinn licks her lips at the sight.
"Which is why you wanted Wade dead. For having what you could never have. And she has nothing of you because she wants nothing from you Helena. While I have all your secrets, your pain, your rage, everything. I own you & I'm going to keep you. After all, unlike me, she never kissed those sweet lips of yours &-"
"ENOUGH!!" I fly at the partition & it's almost like before with Clayface. She's laughing at me & all can do is bang away. I breathe fire inside as I taste my own blood in my mouth. An animalistic noise comes out of me & I rush it again.
The world crashes into a million shards of pain. One of my arms won't work, the other feels like it's on fire, broken. I lift my head dully from the inside of the barrier that I just crashed through. One arm & my head are in with the weight of my body against the remainder of the wall. My vision is dulling into a fog but I see Quinn there one the ground in front of me, a hand to her face where it's bleeding three streaks of violent red, with more of it coming from her mouth & nose.
With the last vestiges of my consciousness I tell her, "I may never have Barbara, but I put you in your place you evil psychotic bitch."
Oblivion claims me in shades a reds & black.
Stabbing, horrible pain in my head, my shoulder & arm, all over my body aches but even as it all tried to call me back up from the abyss I fell into I pulled back, wanting the all consuming darkness again. Voices I recognized kept filtering through it, tugging the other way, trying to tear back up into that life of harsh light & pain.
"Is she going to be okay?" Dinah. The poor kid sounds frantic.
"She will be." Barbara's voice, more desperate & scared than I've ever heard her. Lower, she says, "She has to be."
The darkness lulls me & when I next hear her voice I don't know how much time has passed. Her strident tones cuts into my waning consciousness of the outside world. "We're losing her!"
Dinah sounds right next to her. "What's happening?"
"She slipping into a comatose state." Barbara tells her, voice tight with anxiety.
"We're losing her?" I hear crying but that can't be. I'm not worth anyone's tears."What if I tried to reach her?"
Dinah's next words are filled with strain. "I'm trying but...it's hard, there's so much pain, not the physical kind...I don't know that I can get through-"
"Dammit Dinah try!"
"I can't! I can't reach her, maybe she'll hear you?"
"Helena, hold on! Do you hear me?" I've never heard Barbara sound so angry, so helpless & terrified. If she knew the truth, she shouldn't be.
"Are you listening to me Hel? Don't you give up! Don't you dare leave me!"
I'm not worth it.
It's better this way. I don't want to remember anymore. I don't want to go back there.
I fall into the abyss that wraps me in it's cold arms. I pray that wherever I go I don't dream, don't think, don't remember except for her, tattooed on my heart.
The voice is as familiar as my own. I hear it everytime I close my eyes, everytime I try to sleep she comes to haunt me with the truth. I know where I am so I don't bother to open my eyes. I'm in my own head, reliving what happened. Like I have every night since it actually happened. And I know from past experience that this is a nightmare I can't end.
"What about Barbara?" I ask same as I did in real life, I can even smell the wood polish of Dr. Quinzel's office, the scent of her leather chair, the sickening sweet odour of her perfume. I keep my eyes closed just as she had asked for the exercise, my body beyond my control for the moment as one of my worst moments comes back to torture & mock all my previous good intentions.
"Do you realize your voice gets softer everytime you utter her name?" Dr. Quinzel circles my body tightly, like a shark with it's prey. If only I had recognized it at the time. Part of me had known it for a game, known she wanted me but I was a fool who thought I liked those kind of games.
"She's my friend."
"And you love her?"
"Of course, she took care of me. She's my best friend." I wince at the defensiveness of my tone.
"And this Wade person, he makes her happy?"
"Yeah...yes," I strive to sound more sure, more loyal, strive to be a better person than I am, "he makes her happy."
"There's something you're leaving out Helena. Remember, I can only help you if you're honest with me. What troubles you about Wade & Barbara?"
"I-I guess I feel she's settling. But she's the most important person in my life. It's normal for me to want the best for her."
"So this Wade person doesn't make her as happy as she could be."
"You know how you feel though don't you Helena." Dr. Quinzel is doing that question as a statement thing, like she knows the truth & wants to sink her claws into it & drag it out of me."Tell me."
"I feel she's settling."
"Because you feel she deserves the best." Doc Quinzel's circle just got tighter.
"She deserves the best." I tell her with such certainty, thinking I stepped off the slippery slope I was on.
"And are you the best Helena?"
"What?" My eyes fly open panicked, caught. "No, I didn't mean-"
Quinzel is in front of me, so close are mouths are almost touching. "You must keep your eyes closed for this exercise to work Helena. You have to say what first comes into your mind, your heart even, no matter whether your answering as Helena or Huntress. You must be completely honest so that I can help you. You can trust me. You do trust me don't you Helena?"
"You want me to help you don't you?"
"Good. Now close your eyes."
I close them.
A beat, she's moving around me again. "Do you think you would be a better match for Barbara?"
"I...I don't know. She's a hero."
"You fight crime as well. Aren't you a hero?" Her tone is more intensely curious now.
"Not like her." I shamefully admit in a whisper.
"How are you different?"
"She does it because it's who she is. Because it's the right thing to do & she's the type of person who always does the right thing. Because it's her calling."
"I do it...because I want her to be happy. Because I know she wants me to."
"So you do it for her."
"Yes. But if feels good too, to save people. To kick some ass."
"You like the opportunity to fight."
"Yes. It's fun."
"Does Barbara think it's fun?"
"Are you kidding?" I scoff. "No way. We always butt heads about that."
"And who wins."
"Barbara of course. She's right, I shouldn't let my baser instincts control me."
"You don't want to disappoint her."
"And would it disappoint her to know how deeply you love her Helena? Remember, it's important for you to be honest with me."
"Would she?" Dr. Quinzel pushes.
"Yes." I whisper, feeling my head drop. The feeling of despair is back full force knowing she could never accept me.
"Even though you're a much better match than that Wade person?"
"Yes." This time the answer comes out tight. The hurt turning to anger.
"It makes you angry doesn't it Helena, this man who's invaded your life, taken over the relationship you should have with Barbara." Again, she's throwing statements at me more than questions. She's got me pegged too well but it feels kind of good in a guilty way to finally let this out, to have someone know & understand.
"Yes." This time it's a near growl as my fury at him grows. He has no right in her life! It should have been me!
"And she's with him even though you're the one who's been by her side all these years, sacrificed so much, even who you are, keeping yourself locked inside yourself...all for her. And this is how she repays you Helena? By allowing this Wade to take your place. Knowing he shares her life, shares her bed, her body...How does that make you feel Helena?"
Snarling, I whirl around to face her, my eyes have changed to vertical cat slits but I don't care. "I hate it alright? Everytime he walks into the Clocktower I-" No, mustn't say it, mustn't think it.
"You want to do what Helena? You have to get this out. I'm here for you, unlike Barbara who's turned from you to be with Wade-"
"I want to tear him limb from limb alright? I want to pound him into paste on the nearest wall, floor, what have you. I want to kill him for having what I can't!"
A sharp gasp that wasn't mine or Quinzel's draws me out of the memory. I open my eyes, the scene is frozen but there's a third person here that wasn't before.
"Barbara." I say the name, my mouth suddenly dry seeing her stricken expression. She usually shows up in my nightmares but a little later. And she normally doesn't look like she does now.
Freed from the memory, the tableau frozen except for me & dream Barbara, I walk over to her. "Barbara?" I say again, wondering why she isn't doing her usual; cursing at me, putting me down, telling me off, hitting me, & worse.
Eyes filled with sudden understanding she looks deeply at me, pain etches her beautiful features. "This is what you've been hiding from me."
Here it comes. The scene changes as feelings & thoughts in my head slip & slide us from one place to another. I'm back up at the gargoyle & Barbara's with me. The cold gale buffets us both. I know how this will go one way or the other. I step onto the head of the gargoyle & spread my arms wide. "Go ahead Barbara. I know the drill. What are you going to choose this time? Hit me? Beat me? Tell me you hate me?" It causes me to wince internally hearing how my voice cracks at that one, to know the real Barbara would hate me if she knew but that's why this is my nightmare, my punishment. "How about laughing at me for daring to be in love with someone as perfect as you when I'm nothing but street trash, messed up meta garbage? Or maybe just push me off this ledge? You've already done all of them a hundred times since Wade died. Everytime I sleep I end up going through this, Quinzel, than you, this. So what's it to be today?"
"I do that? Hurt you? Laugh at you?" Barbara's still shocked.
My throat tightens at the sight of her. She's even wearing the same clothes she did that night, the leather pants, black & yellow motorcycle jacket & white tank top under it. "You usually like to laugh at me."
"Helena..." She stops what she was going to say but she takes a step towards me, a clenched hand over her chest, her heart. "In here I can feel the agony you're in. You're my life, feeling you're pain, how could I do anything but feel for you? Feel your pain with you?"
This, this isn't normal at all. I hop off the head of the gargoyle, my eyes never leaving tear filled green ones. "Maybe I should bash my head in more often if this is what you're like in my mind afterwards."
Tears fall from her eyes. Tears for me. "That's a terrible joke."
The wind around us calms immediately. And unlike the person who I have to try to be outside, in the real world, here I'm free to do something I never would out there. Here in my head I can get close to her & touch her. With trembling hands I wipe the tears from her cheeks.
"Please don't cry for me."
Her hands move up & cover mine & they're so warm & mine are so cold, the warmth travels right up into my chest. Verdant eyes search my face in wonder, "I'm crying for us both. Why didn't you ever tell me any of this?"
"How can I?" And the reminder of all the reasons makes me pull back. "You heard what I said to Quinzel. Besides, that's not all."
Her hand recaptures mine, pulling me close again. A hand tilts my chin back up from where it dropped. Her touch is as entreating as her voice. "Show me."
"No," I gasp, honestly scared even though it's only the Barbara in my head. It feels so real & I don't want this dream to become more of the same nightmare. "I don't want to go back there. I don't want to remember anymore. Why do you think I don't sleep at night anymore? And when I do, I have to drink myself into unconsciousness so I won't remember, won't dream."
Her grip tightens. "Is that why you bought the bar? So you could drown your sorrows Helena? That's what made you finally use Bruce's money?"
I try to pull away but her grip only tightens further. "No, I didn't use his money for that. I actually bought the bar on my own. I can save cash you know." I strive to lighten the mood with my old attitude that doesn't fit so well anymore. "I still have too many daddy issues to really take his money."
"Helena, I'm scared for you. The memories, the hiding, the drinking...What did you use the money for?"
I can't believe I'm embarrassed to admit this even to someone who isn't real & just in my head. "I used my own savings to buy the bar. I probably would have been fired otherwise. I also wanted something of my own so I bought the Dark Horse. I actually am a pretty good bartender. The funds from Wayne Industries I put towards a research grant."
Barbara's got that adorable, furrowed brow puzzled look that I melt for. "Research for what?"
"For you. You keep fighting to walk again. I looked into the Industries' resources & there's some very high level geeks who might be able to help. so I delegated funds & sent copies of your research to them. I figure some fresh brain power from some of the world's top scientists in the field might help. I actually transferred more money than I told you about because I knew you'd ask why. And despite the changes you made the neural coupler still hurts you."
Still puzzled, she frowns at me, "I managed to reduce the pain significantly. How did you know it was still hurting me?"
I smile without humour. "Because I notice everything about you Barbara. You just never noticed me."
Her expression steels itself & her words now don't leave room for argument. "The rest of it Helena. Show it to me now."
I try to protest anyways, knowing this must be where it all turns bad again, where she'll hate me. "I don't think that's a great idea. On the idea scale it actually rates 'sucks'."
"You have to show me Hel, It's killing you. You have to do this, for both of us."
I search the tangible fear in her pleading verdant regard. I could never tell her no, even in my head.
We're back in Quinzel's office. It's later, I'm under hypnosis. In position, no longer near Barbara. I go through the memory as it happened.
"Why didn't you kill Barbara?"
I look at Quinzel puzzled. "Maybe because you didn't order me to?"
"Of course." She smiles at me like twisted sunshine."We'll have to fix that. Next time you see Barbara you will kill her for me won't you?"
Something must pass over my face because Quinzel stands up, draws me closer to her. "I told you before people are essentially selfish Helena. She took you in for you to save her. For her own reasons. She ignores you, already she has a young blonde replacement. a real hero to take your place. You were never more than her lap cat. A pet she cast aside., parading her lovers in front of you..."
A feral snarl escapes my throat.
"That's my bad girl, all fangs & claws. I'll give you everything Barbara never will." The thing I dread happens. She steps in & kisses me, owning me. Her arousal overcomes my feral senses. But that's not why I kissed her back. I've been so lonely for so long & she was right, Barbara will never give me this. I knew I lost my soul right then because in that one moment, I hated Barbara for loving her. When Quinzel pulls back her eyes are that eerie dark starlight pulling me in, twisting me deeper. "You kill Barbara for me. The next time you see her you'll remember how she threw your love away, how she laughed at that strong fierce heart of yours that you have & pushed you aside so that she could have dull, stupid, boring Wade. I'll even reward you Helena. You kill her. And I'll kill Wade for you. You want Wade dead don't you? Remember, you can't lie."
"Yes what Helena?"
"Yes, I want him dead." God help me it was the truth, I wanted him gone.
"Than go. See to your little friends for me. Kill them all.Oh, & Helena? One more thing. Unlike anyone else under my influence, I want you to remember every excruciating moment of this when I take you out from under my call. I know it will break you & than you'll be mine completely because the one person you love will hate you."
The scene blurs with my tears & sudden changes. Now I'm facing off against Barbara. Reese & Dinah trapped in the lift. She's at one end of the pool table walking around to me slowly, wary but oh so trusting. I tried to warn her.
"I'll hurt you." Part of me hoped she wouldn't listen.
"I don't think you will." She keeps coming. She didn't hear the eagerness in my voice mixed in with the warning. Then again, she never has truly listened to what I've always tried to tell her.
"Well it just goes to show the all-knowing Oracle doesn't know everything."
And it happens like before. I charge her, we fight. She's good, I never fought her like this before. This is the first time I learned she can really move on her legs & knee a body good. It excites the animal part of me. It's so much more personal that when we spared & her using her Jo sticks. I may not be able to have her in my bed but this is almost the next best thing. Us grunting & sweating against each other. When I have her down on the ground straddling her body, feeling the pulse of her neck against my hands, it's all I can do not to slide myself down & take her like I want to.
Unlike my memories, the flash doesn't happen. Her eyes are so sad looking up into mine. Her hand reaches up & caresses my face.
"You remembered. You remembered everything you did, everything Quinzel said & did to you. I won't ask why you lied. I understand."
My hands release her neck, knowing that the memory has frozen & it's me & dream Barbara again. My voice comes out a broken thing. "I tried to kill you. She killed Wade because of me but I tried to kill you Barbara."
I scramble off her. I want to wretch. I stay on my knees on the floor.
"It's not your fault." She sits up.
I stare at her horrified that she could say such a thing. Desperate that it could possibly be true. Despair, knowing that it can't be, that this is an elaborate lie in my head.
She crouches in front of me, her face & voice intense, her hands warm on my thighs. "Listen to me Hel. You wouldn't have killed me."
"Barbara, how can you say that when I -"
"No Hel, if you had really meant to kill me than I would be dead right now.Your feral side is strong enough & fast enough that you could have killed me within seconds if that had been what you really wanted. But you held back."
She cuts me off again, making me flinch, her tone implacable."Yes, you did.You know your physical capabilities.You could have snapped my neck in a single blow. You didn't. In fact, your eyes didn't even go feral except for a split second when you had me on the ground. And I think that didn't have to do with the violence. Your real feelings, who you really are, held you back from truly hurting me."
I utter words I'm sure will damn me. "I told her to kill Wade. He's dead because of me."
"No!" Her hands are holding my face so that I can't look away from her green eyes blazing into mine. "She murdered him. Not you. You felt betrayed, angry, hurt, jealous...those are normal feelings Helena. You told Quinzel how you felt but you never once were anything more than a little rude to him. That person, who tries so hard to the point of breaking herself to protect me & make me happy, that's the real you Helena. You're noble, " her voice breaks as her bottom lip trembles & tears threaten to fall, "and you tried to give me so much I didn't even know. You've suffered so much because you love me. If there's anyone who should be sorry, it's me."
I can't take this. I fight her, struggling to get out of her reach. I curl into a tight ball. I don't deserve this, this kindness. I don't deserve her gentleness or her tears. I feel cold wind biting into my skin through my clothes. I know where I am. Back where I always feel the most like home except when I'm with her. I'm back at the ledge with the stone gargoyle.
"Helena, please, don't shut me out anymore."
"Please stop this." I beg her. I could handle the harsh words, even the hitting & the laughing but her compassion is hurting me worse than any of those things. I weep harshly into my drawn up knees, my hands a vice like grip around my legs as if I could hold all that pain in. I can't though. It comes out in wracking sobs & ragged breaths. Hot tears scald my face. How can a person not die from this pain?
Arms, her arms, warm & soft & strong all at the same time pull me into her. If this were the real world I would have fought. If she were the real Barbara I would have run away but the only thing real here is my pain. So I let the lie live on a little & do something I would never do otherwise, I let her hold me. I cry out all my agony, feeling the comfort of her touch, soft words murmured in my ear, sweet & low & soothing. It feels like an eternity before my body stops shaking & the crying stops. Her hand keeps running through my hair, her own tears drying with mine.
"How do you feel?" Her voice floats down to me where I rest in her arms.
"Like I can breathe again." I tell her just as softly. I can't help but add, "And like I just went through a demolition derby but without a car."
With my ear against her chest I feel her chuckle shake her body & hum through me. Moist lips touch my brow. "You really are incorrigible. But the description does seem apt."
"Why do you keep coming back here?" She asks after a moment.
"You mean this ledge?"
"Yes, that gargoyle's ugly. I just can't see the appeal."
It's such an absurd observation, such a Barbara thing to say that before I realize what I'm doing I'm laughing. A real full out laugh. Within seconds Barbara's joining me & we're both laughing, releasing the last of the tension we felt. It feels wonderful.
When we quiet down I'm wiping my eyes for a different reason than before. "That felt good." I get out a few remaining chuckles. "I can't remember the last time I laughed."
An elegant hand sweeps some strands of hair from my face. Barbara has that amused half smile of hers that drives me crazy for her. " I missed hearing it. And you're right. That did feel good."
I sit up a bit more & respond, "To answer you previous question I come here because it's my favourite place to fly."
She arches a crimson brow at me. "Fly? Do you have meta powers you haven't told me or does this require further elaboration?"
"Geez Barbara," I tease her, smiling for the first time in what feels like years, "Can't you just ask a girl 'What do you mean?"
Her lips quirk upward "What do you mean?"
I push at her playfully & stand up. "It's actually falling more than flying but this is a great place to jump off. The wind catches you, you tumble & than race across roof tops. My sort of flying."
Barbara stands up & peers critically over the ledge."That's a long way down."
"It's such a rush Barbara." I tell her excitedly, grinning like a fool. "You'd love it. And it's not like when you used to do it, with cables & stuff. I just use my speed & strength. Meta human flying at it's best."
She looks over the edge, than back at me. "Alright," she holds a hand out to me, "why don't you take me for a spin?"
"What? Really?" I never thought she'd say yes so I never asked. But then again, this is all just my bashed in head anyway so why not? "You really want to?"
"I trust you." She tells me evenly, sure. Than she gives me a grin to match mine. "Plus I want to see what it's like to be you & fly without the 'cables & stuff'."
I consider the height & her weight. Finally I just take her up in my arms. She's surprised but she puts her arms around me firmly holding on.
I step up to the ledge with her. "Okay, you hang on good & tight. I'll be doing some free falling tumbles so just let me hold you tucked into me & go with it okay?"
She nods, her eyes not even on me. Instead she's looking over the edge eagerly. I've never seen this Barbara before.
I add gallantly, "If you want to stop you just let me know & I land & ground us. I promise."
Her smile widens & her words are a challenge. "I won't be the one to say 'uncle'. But if you can't take it you let me know."
"Lady, you are on." I tell her, feeling giddy & nervous.
I tighten my hold on her & jump.
The strong winds lift us for a moment, than we free fall, our hearts in our throats. I do some somersaults with her cradled tightly in my arms to slow our descent. Within moments I land on the rooftop, my knees bend taking the extra weight of the woman in my arms. I barely hear her catch her breath before I take off at a run & hurdle us over the chasm between buildings to land on the other side. I don't stop for a moment, racing along the top of the city with Barbara in my arms, the wind in our hair, the night in our blood. I hear Barbara laugh a wild free sound & I smile. It's the most wonderful feeling in the world.
I hurl us both over the edge & into the air.
Hours later I land us onto a rooftop close to the Clocktower. I look at the charge in my arms, her red hair wind blown, her eyes brighter than I've ever seen them, & the widest smile that has ever graced her lips.
"I've never heard you laugh like that before." I tell her panting from the exertion of our trip. It was worth every burning muscle to see her like this & hear that laugh.
"Well," She pulls off like she's feeling completely casual but her own breath is short, "you never took my out rooftop racing before. Thanks for the ride."
"You're welcome but honestly, you're a great passenger." Which is true, she followed my cues for every tuck & tumble & landing like she was almost a second skin.
She pats my arms appreciatively. "This feels like the safest place in the world." She murmurs contemplatively.
"It's not though." Sadness drains what's left of my strength. I gently set Barbara on her feet.
"It is to me." She tells me, her tone as sober as mine.
"I wish this dream wouldn't end." I confess, feeling the sorrow & anguish return.
Barbara closes her jacket against he sudden cold wind rising. "It doesn't have to end Helena."
"It always does. I wake up. Or this time, not. But the dream will change & the nightmares will come back."
"Not if you come with me." She extends a hand to me, waiting, hoping. "Come with me Helena. Let me take you out of this place. Wake up."
I step away from her. "Aren't I supposed to be the crazy one here? I can't ever go back. I can't face the real Barbara."
Barbara frowns at me, not following. "The real Barbara?"
We're back at the gargoyle again & I want to run. "Yeah as in, not the Barbara my subconscious has created? As in the real world Barbara that's in that real world where I did all those horrible things? God, she got me out of there, out of Arkham. She might know what we said, Quinzel & I." The thought of being discovered, every nasty secret, sickens me. I kneel on the cold stone, clutching my churning stomach. "I don't want to see what she looks like hating me for real rather than just in my head."
There's a long silence. I wonder if maybe my mind erased the Barbara here but boots step into my vision, & then long leather clad legs bend into view as Barbara crouches down in front of me. I look up at her & she has the most inscrutable expression on her face. I don't know what to make of it.
"What if I told you the real Barbara is just like me? That she's not the monster that torments your subconscious here. That she wants you to wake up, more than anything."
I can't escape her intense regard. "She couldn't be. She has to blame me..."
Barbara shakes her head. "The only one blaming you is yourself. The only one punishing you is yourself Helena. Do you really think I'm such an ogre?"
"You'd have every right. She couldn't forgive me."
Her hand finds mine, warm & reassuring, her eyes swallowing me whole. "She already has."
I don't want to hope. It's the worst feeling when they tear it from you. Like cutting up your insides & choking you with them afterwards. "If I go back, it will be the same. She's the hero remember? She belongs to the city. She'll never belong to me."
Barbara has taken up her Oracle face, that enigmatic serious expression. "Is that what you want?" She asks. "To own me?"
I look down at the hand covering mine. "I don't know. How could you be mine when you belong to everyone else because of your sense of duty?"
"Helena," she answers me gently, "I do what I do because I love it. Because it helps fulfill me. Like flying, I loved that, what we did together. I felt complete being in your arms, trusting you. How did it make you feel?"
I considered than answered simply. "Happy. Free."
"Did you feel like you owned me then?"
I frown, thinking. "No, not at all. It felt like belonging. Like we belonged like that." My eyes widen at the realization. "I just wanted to keep feeling that way, to see you smile & laugh. To know I was the reason you were that happy."
Barbara nods at me. "That sounds like love Helena. Love is when you want to make someone else happy. A real monster, the kind of monster Quinzel is, can't understand that. They can't love because they don't have that depth of emotion. A real monster can't love."
"The less we feel, the less we are." I repeat Barbara's words from that day.
It's not enough though. "You've seen what I've done. What I feel, what I can do. That's not human!"
Barbara has the saddest & yet gentlest smile gracing her face. It's the most complicated smile I've ever seen. "Being confused & scared when you're in love & making mistakes because of it...is one of the most human conditions that exists."
Barbara stands up, putting her hand out again. "If you come with me, you might find out that your Barbara has made some of those very same mistakes. Because like you, she's only human."
"I'm meta too." But I can't tear my eyes away from that hand.
"Yes, but it doesn't make you any less human. In fact, with the hardships you've gone through, I think you have the most human heart I've ever known."
I frown. "I should stay."
"Even if it means hurting Barbara?" The Barbara in front of me persists, pain filling her words. "Because if she loses you it will hurt her Helena. It will hurt her so badly that she might never recover from it. After everything we've been through, don't you think we both deserve the chance to set it right?"
"Barbara deserves the best. That isn't me." My heart shatters at the admission, remembering Quinzel's earlier words.
Angry now, Barbara voice hits me like steel. "That's nothing but self-pity Helena!" She takes a breath to calm herself, than continues, her voice softer, the words no less sincere. "And you put me on too high a pedestal. If you take my hand & come with me, you might learn that Barbara has more flaws than you want to admit. If you notice them, maybe you won't love me anymore."
I look sharply up at her at that. The way the last words choked out of her but she stands still, meeting my gaze with all the strength I don't have. I tell her with all my heart, "I could never feel less for you Barbara. Not ever."
"Than please, don't let me lose the most important person in my life. Don't let me lose my best friend."
My hand reaches out, hesitates, hovering over hers. "It will hurt."
"But I'll be there to help. And everyday it will get a little bit better. I won't leave you Helena. I'd like this chance but you have to help me do it. You have to take my hand."
My breath catches at all the implications of facing the world. "If I say no, will you leave?"
With the same quiet certainty as before, she answers. "Not without you."
Meeting her gaze I know she means it. I could live here forever with this dream Barbara & never face reality. It's so tempting. Apparently though, even I can't live with myself being that much of a coward. Despite my terror & self-loathing, I clasp her hand.
The scenes all fade as I slowly return to consciousness.
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