"I'm going to marry Wade, Helena, he asked me tonight and I accepted." Barbara said in a soft and neutral voice, a voice that Helena, knew very well; one that didn't allow a single ounce of emotion, one that even she couldn't read.
Helena clenched her jaw and pretended to smile in happiness at the news, but she couldn't manage to hide the look in her eyes. On the contrary, at hearing the words she felt as if the Steelman had hit her in the solar plexus.
"Well then congratulations Barbara, I wish you the best in your new life" Helena responded trying to sound happy for her friend and turned towards the kitchen. She wasn't hungry anymore, when she had arrived at the tower the first thing that she had planned to do after greeting Barbara was to raid the kitchen as usual. But Barbara was waiting for her along with Dinah and without preamble gave her the happy news of her official engagement to Wade.
Barbara watched her go with a raised eyebrow, she knew Helen well enough to hear the cold tone at the news of the engagement. She looked over at Dinah, who suddenly took great interest on the Delphi screen and then after a moment excused herself to go do her homework.
When Helena returned with a packet of Pop tarts in hand, she asked, "Will you be my Maid of Honor Helena? You and Dinah?
Helena froze, for a moment she didn't move, as if in slow motion she turned and looked at Barbara right in the eyes as if they were lasers dissecting the redhead. "Whatever you want Red." She said with a silky voice and headed for the living room where with a jump landed on the sofa and with agile fingers turned on the TV without saying another word, knowing full well that Barbara was following her with her eyes
Once out of Barbara's sight, Helena closed her eyes trying to hold back the treasonous tears that were in her eyes. The pain was too much, she felt as if her heart had been ripped out of her chest and was slowly dying in front of her. Since when had she been in love with Barbara? She felt as if it had been forever. Probably since the age of 12 when she had first met her in a gymnastics class that her mother had insisted she attends so she could learn grace and poise. Barbara had been there in one of the advanced gymnastic classes. Because of Barbara's age she knew she was there because she had wanted to and from the moment they had met Barbara had taken her under her wing and taught her what she needed and then some things that only Batgirl could know, which of course she hadn't known back then.
Because of her age she hadn't known how she felt. At first it was just admiration and respect for the beautiful redhead. She was graceful, athletic and charismatic. As a child Helena only saw all this from a child's point of view. But as time passed and the adolescent hormones took hold, what was once childish infatuation turned to something else. Something that she continued to find hard to understand but that was definitely there. With time and maturity Helena soon realized how to understand her true feelings, why being so close to Barbara made her feel all tingly and breathless. Why she could sometimes spend hours observing her in silence while she performed her routines as if no one else in the world existed but them.
And with the certainty of her feelings also came the desolation. Not long after, her world began to crumble like a sand castle, all in the same night. The assassination of her mother in front of her by Clayface and the attempt against Barbara by the Joker that had left her paralyzed for life and in charge of a young adolescent. Helena had been full of rage, anger and pain from the death of her mother. Watching Barbara struggle to get ahead despite her incapacity had been too much for Helena. For a time the only thing she could think of was vengeance. She had gone from a young girl bursting of life and a future full of rose colored dreams with the woman of her dreams to a being hardened and full of fury that was ready to explode at the slightest provocation.
Of course Barbara was never aware of this but she was the only reason why Helena an inexperienced teen hadn't gone on a mad and possibly fatal search of her mother's killer. Barbara had been the only thing keeping her from going crazy with pain, knowing that she needed her even if Barbara never told her. Helena knew deep inside and being honest with herself she needed Barbara just as much in order not to sink into the darkness. There were moments that the anger blinded her, times that she couldn't help to sink into self-pity after Barbara would be summoned to the school director's office to tell her that Helena had been in another fight and know that once again Barbara would be disappointed. It was that look of sadness and disappointment from Barbara that little by little had made her try to control her anger.
With time eventually both began to heal if not completely from their emotional and physical wounds, at least enough to get on with their lives. Barbara took Helena under her wing, not only as her legal guardian but also as her mentor in the art of vigilante and super heroin. If Helena was surprised by the truth she never mentioned it. Finding out that Bruce Wayne alias Batman was her father was however another story. From the moment that Helena found out she hadn't wanted to know anything else. Her mother had never given her any explanations and the disappearance of Bruce Wayne after Selina Kyle's death was enough of an explanation.
Barbara became Oracle, being a genius at computer programming and having a photographic and an IQ worthy of Mensa permitted her to change from Batgirl to a cyber-vigilante. There was nothing that happened in New Gotham that she didn't know about thus making her into the brain behind the operation. Helena took on the mantel of Huntress with hypersensitive metahuman abilities that her mother had possessed. This combined with her own gave her extraordinary strength and speed as well as the ability to heal almost immediately which made her almost invincible; almost being the operative word.
After a time Helena decided that she needed to get away from Barbara, she not only saw her everyday because they were a crime fighting team, but having to live under the same roof was turning in to something rather painful. It was more than enough to see her going out with others, in this case with Dick "Fucking" Grayson, alias Nightwing, ex Robin, crime fighting partner of Batman and Barbara when she was Batgirl. What did that fucking asshole thought that he could just return to Barbara's life as if nothing had happened? And the worst part was that the redhead had fallen for his wiles. She looked for a job as a bartender and fortunately Leonard, the owner of the "Dark Horse" had an apartment for rent over the bar, that he let her rent for almost nothing. That way she would be able to close the bar and get there early.
With the perfect excuse Helena told Barbara that she was going to live on her own. Barbara took it very well smiled and gave her, her blessing. Helena also smiled, but inside she was dying, even if it was stupid she had hoped that Barbara would insist she stay, anything at all, but that didn't happen and since then even though Dick "fucking" Grayson was no longer in the picture, nothing was ever the same again. After awhile Dinah entered their lives and Helena at first was jealous of Dinah, but with the passing of time she began to love her like a little sister. However, Barbara began to go out with Wade, the stupid Wade Brixton, and everything seemed to be normal for a while. Helena had resigned herself to seeing if only occasionally a man's in Barbara's life. But things took a serious turn when Barbara met his parents; they told him, not realizing that Barbara heard that she was an undesirable in their perfect son's life. Even then Barbara had continued her relationship with him, which then was followed by an engagement. Helena at that point had her mind on anything except in being Huntress...
One night when everything looked normal, Helena went to stop a bank robbery that Oracle had told her about. There she found herself in a situation turned bad. Just moments before she had been bugging Oracle as usual with obnoxious comments and after listening to her instructions, and much to Oracle's displeasure, Helena had cut off communications. After an hour Huntress appeared, or in reality tumbled into the tower bathed in blood and barely alive. Barbara attended to her injuries, she was so upset and worried that when Helena recovered consciousness and woke up as if nothing had happened Barbara exploded.
"You almost got killed Helena! What were you thinking when you cut communications, you aren't Superman Helena! Don't you ever do that again, you aren't a little girl anymore that has to be told repeatedly. If you aren't able to take things seriously I don't want you to continue going out on patrols until you understand how serious this operation is."
Helena only stared at her furiously, her eyes dilated like when she went into feral mode. A part of her understood that Barbara's words were due to her being scare when she had arrived hurt to the tower. But how did she dare insinuate that she was incapable of doing a job that she'd be doing for five years? How?
"And just who is going to do it if it's not me Barbara?" Helena shouted in return. "You are marrying Wade in less than a month; is he going to be waiting patiently each night for you to get home while you play Oracle? Forgive me for saying so Barbara but I don't think so."
Barbara took a deep breath.
"He will be my husband and he knows and respects what I am!" Barbara exclaimed with barely contained fury.
"He knows you were Batgirl? He knows you're Oracle?" Helena gasped incredulously, she couldn't believe that Barbara would permit that a common and simple man like Wade Brixton would understand the double life she was leading. It just wasn't posible!
Barbara didn't answer, she limited herself to glaring at Helena who with a jump left the bed and put on her clothes ignoring Barbara's look.
"I'm leaving, you don't need me and I don't need you Barbara!" Helena said gritting her teeth and ran out of the room towards the balcony from where she jumped without looking back. Dinah who had been on her way to the kitchen stared stunned. Helena never jumped from the tower in the middle of the day, it was too dangerous, anyone could see her, but that didn't seem to bother Hel and when Barbara appeared in the hall Dinah could swear that smoke was coming from her head.
"Just one more fight between those two, what a surprise!!" Dinah thought before heading off to the kitchen in search of breakfast.
It had been just another fight yes but it was also the last.
It had been two years since Helena had come out of the tower full of pain, betrayed and hopeless. While Barbara was not yet married to Wade, she still hoped that Barbara would figure out that her decision was a mistake. That she would wakeup and realize that it was not Wade who deserved her love but her, the one who had desperately loved her since she had been a child; the one that would die for Barbara without thinking twice. Her! Even so, at the moment that Barbara had told her that Wade knew the truth about her, about Dinah and Helena's, she knew it would never happen. Barbara didn't have the slightest idea that Helena was hopelessly in love with her. Moreover, when she said that Wade knew about her double life, she knew that she had lost her forever. The pain was just too much; she couldn't stand seeing her with him, knowing that each night when she returned from Oracle's duties he would be waiting, she just couldn't. It was too much even for her who was accustomed to the pain and loneliness. Barbara was her light, and after losing her, there was nothing left except the darkness.
She made her mind up to get away from Barbara forever, she made a drastic decision to leave New Gotham. Not being able to stand the idea of seeing her with Wade and aware of the fact that if she stayed she would only end up hurting Barbara because she wouldn't be able to get close to her once she married him.
With that idea fixed in her mind, Helena had gone to the bank, for once grateful that her father, the multimillionaire Bruce Wayne had opened an account for her with unlimited funds. She was now 23 years old and her trust fund was now hers therefore not requiring any authorization from anyone -Barbara in this case- to use the money anyway she wanted. Helena asked for a cash withdrawal explaining with her usual charm that she was going to purchase a car. No one questioned her, after all if Mr. Wayne had left her the money it was for a reason. The bank had instructions to do anything Miss Kyle wanted; no one ever questioned Bruce Wayne's orders.
With money in hand, Helena went to her apartment over the bar where she worked, The Dark Horse
, she put some clothes into a backpack and put away the rest in some boxes since there wasn't much. After all, she practically lived in the tower; her apartment was only a place to crash every once in awhile. Her home was where Barbara was and now that she had lost her, she had nothing more.
The only things left were some clothing and a couple of knick-knacks. She wrote a short letter for Dinah, after all this wasn't her fault and besides she was aware that that Dinah knew about her feelings for Barbara. One day when they were training during the first few months after she came to live with them, Dinah who still wasn't able to control her telepathic powers read her mind and saw her true feelings. She had been distracted when Barbara had come in to do her exercises and Helena's libido kicked in. Dinah gasped when she saw the images causing her to blush. Helena looked at her with pleading eyes, begging in silence not to say anything and Dinah surprised her with a smile and a look of compassion and understanding that almost made her break down crying right there from sadness.
She went down to the bar to say goodbye to her ex-boss, she told him that the boxes were for Dinah who would stop by to pick them up and return the key. Leonard seemed to be sympathetic even a little disappointed that his best bartender was leaving but didn't ask any questions. He wished her a good trip and Helena left The Dark Horse
to not return.
Helena called Dinah's cell and asked her to go to her apartment after classes and pick up some things she wanted to give her. If Dinah noted anything odd, she didn't mentioned it and told her she would go. What happened after she didn't know because by this time she was too far away to find out.
Aware that if Barbara wanted to look for her it would be easy to find her if she followed the normal routes like buses, train or plane; Helena walked to the closest freeway and hitched a ride. Knowing she could take care of herself she accepted a ride from the first car that came to a stop, fortunately it was a tractor-trailer heading to Bludhaven. As soon as he pulled over, Helena thanked him, walked in the opposite direction from the City, and hitched again. This time it was much further. She was headed to Chicago, it would be perfect, and even so Helena didn't stop in Chicago she asked to be dropped off before arriving one more time; again she hitched another ride.
For almost a week Helena traveled by hitching rides, crisscrossing the country, avoiding any place that could have Law enforcement close circuit cameras so that Barbara wouldn't be able to find her if she were looking, which she doubted. She was sure it would be the other ways
around, the redhead would be relieved to not have to deal with someone so head strong. She stayed at motels a couple of times along the highway, just to rest for a while. The truth was that the times that she did sleep was more from exhaustion that the desire to sleep.
After several days, Helena had practically gone coast to coast, when at the last stop, she decided that San Francisco was a good a place as any to start a new life; quite aware that she wouldn't be able to be a vigilante if she planned to disappear forever. Knowing that if she continued with that it would soon become evident where she was, most probably there would be news of an unknown vigilante fighting against crime and what she least wanted was to call attention to herself. Of course, she knew that she couldn't help from doing her nocturnal strolls. That habit was something that was part of her and she would never leave that behind. Perhaps at some point if someone needed her help she would offer it, but not by her own account. Huntress was a thing of the past, a past that she would do everything possible to forget.
The first thing was to find a place, a nice decent hotel; she was tired of the ratty motels. She bought a newspaper to start looking for some place to live. Once settled at the hotel she had
bought something to eat, later Helena fall
fell asleep after so many days with little or no sleep. The next day after breakfast in a diner close to the hotel, Helena began to walk around the city. It didn't have the dark charm of New Gotham but it had something that the young woman liked. It had a strange vibe that caught her attention, perhaps it was the easygoing lifestyle of San Francisco, so different from New Gotham. The way the city's level of criminal activity was different from her old town. It was during those walks almost three days later after having arrived that Helena noticed in passing an art gallery that had a sign for a job opening.
No one was aware of her secret passion, as a small child her mother had noticed her gift for drawing and painting, and Helena from an early age had the best art and drawing teachers. Having lived in Paris the first ten years of her life was without a doubt a great help in forming Helena's passion for the arts, that when her mother died she left it behind because it had been too hard for her. Nevertheless despite the fact that she had stopped painting and drawing she had not lost the ability. Helena had taken some art courses at NGU without Barbara's knowledge. Barbara had been convinced she had no intention of going to college and with her decision to get away from her former life she walked into the gallery to ask about the job.
The first thing that she saw was an older woman perhaps about 50 years old behind an elaborate oak desk, working on a computer. As she heard the door open, she looked up arching an eyebrow when she saw the young woman dressed in black leather tight pants and a top of the same color and material, with a suede coat.
"Good morning." She greeted cordially. "How may I help you?" The woman asked amiably.
"Good morning, I saw the ad in the window," Helena said smiling, expressing her charm from the start, she wasn't sure why, but she really did want this job.
The woman in question looked at her in surprise, but she recovered herself quickly and asked her some questions.
"So what do you know about art? It is very important for anyone that wants to work in this art gallery to understand it," the woman said with a little awe in her voice, still surprised at Helena's candor.
Helena only smiled and proceeded to explain art history, of her knowledge and training in Paris and her courses at the university, without giving details of which university it was. She offered to bring her documentation as proof with her the following day if she gets the job. In fact, if she offered the job right there and then she would go gets
Kate Spencer, that was the gallery owner's name, decided to contract her immediately, she wasn't sure why but she felt that Helena was just what she needed. She felt that she would be able to confide in her right away. There was something in the young woman, an aura of sadness so profound that made her want to console her and take her under her wing.
All the paperwork was filled out, Helena had been careful to give her a social security number that would not identify her as Helena Kyle, but as Michelle Kyle, she couldn't risk Barbara finding her through one of her queries. Once Kate told her what she needed from her at the gallery and invited her to lunch to iron out the details. Helena asked to be called Hel, Hel Kyle to avoid any mistakes and asked if she knew of some apartment available for rent close to the gallery, she had only arrived in San Francisco about two days prior and she wanted something close. She also confided in her that she was planning on going to the University to get her degree in art history. Kate seemed to be pleased with that idea and told her that as soon as she found out what her schedule would be to let her know so that she could arrange her hours at the galleria.
When they returned to the Gallery, Kate took her to the back and showed her some stairs; they went up and went to the door at the end. Kate opened the door with her key and let them in to a spacious apartment full of light. It was empty with a few boxes and old chairs among other things.
"This building belonged to my grandfather," Kate commented upon entering, "When I inherited it from my mother, the first thing I did was remodel so I could start the gallery; I discovered this apartment over the gallery. I had thought to lease it out but although it has an entrance leading outside it also has and
entrance that leads down to the gallery and I didn't want to take a chance that someone might get other ideas. However, I know I can trust you Hel Kyle." Kate turned around and looked into the young woman's eyes, who without thinking and doing something totally out of character from her normal fiery and independent self; she wrapped an arm around Kate.
Helena was in so much need of emotional warmth for human contact. It had been some time that she hadn't permitted herself that kind of contact, she wouldn't even hug Dinah for fear of her reading how she felt or suffered. Moreover, with Barbara, God, hugging the redhead was torture and more so when she began to date Wade. It had been a very long time since she had, really had, a hug. She felt her eyes fill with tears, what the hell! Ever since she had taken the decision to leave everything behind without looking back, she had cried more than she had ever thought possible since her mother's death.
"Thanks Kate." Helena said. "I promise that you won't regret having rented it to me. Tell me how much do you want for it? So I can pay you six months in advance and start to buy the furnishings and..." Kate interrupted her with a gesture of her hand.
"Don't worry about it Hel, this place is being wasted, empty for years, if you take it I'll have someone to take care of the gallery, besides you'll just be starting work and you'll have a lot of expenses in order to furnish it. We can take care of that later, what do you think?"
"Thanks Kate, I won't let you down. I promise." Helena repeated, she felt, as if everything in her life was starting to make sense once again. Only hours after she had left Barbara, she had felt so lost and without direction and now, life was turning around for the better.
"What do you say we go downstairs and through the magic of the internet, one which I use frequently since I learned how to, and you can purchase everything you need with my credit card. That way you can just pay me in cash. What do you say?"
"That would be great Kate. I hate going shopping, well I don't hate shopping, but I do hate furniture shopping." She smiled. "In my other apartment I only had to buy a bed, a table with chairs and a sofa. That is all I needed. It was just a place to sleep." She confided with a shade of sadness without going into details, it was just too painful. How do you explain that your home was not there but at a Clock tower where your heart also was?
Kate smiled in agreement; she knew well enough what it was to have a house, but not a home. Since her husband's death, it was now only a house in which to live in, but her home had gone with him.
That same afternoon after Kate found the site to make the furniture purchases, she left Helena to make her purchase while she attended to the few possible buyers that came in. When there was no one she would come in and stand by Helena, making suggestions on what to buy and when it was time to close the gallery they had pretty much bought everything except for food and cleaning supplies. Helena had written down the credit card number and the bank name. The next day she would go and deposit the money in Kate's account. She wanted her to know that she was honest, that she hadn't made a mistake in trusting her.
Kate dropped her off at the hotel despite Helena's protests that it wasn't necessary. The older woman completely ignored her and drove her anyway. When she was leaving the car, she handed her the keys to the apartment, both to the outside door and the gallery keys.
"I will probably be there when you arrive, that way I can explain the alarm system to you and we can start your training. How does that sound?"
"Perfect," Helena smiled, "See you tomorrow Kate." Helena waved and disappeared into the hotel.
Once inside Helena decided that since she already had the keys to the apartment she might as well spend the night there. She would stop by the Wal-Mart that was on the way and buy some cleaning supplies, an air mattress and a set of bed sheets. There wasn't any point in staying at the hotel if she already had a place to live.
It was just past nine when she got to the apartment with all the necessary supplies to clean it. The first thing she did once she dropped of the things on the kitchen counter was to walk around the place to pick up the trash and stuff that did not belong. When she looked in the closet in the bedroom she found a box, she pulled it out and realized they were old pictures some old newspapers and things like that. Without reading them, she put them back. She would give them to Kate the next day. She was sure she would know what do with them.
After about four trips to the trash bin, Helena had cleaned up all the trash from the apartment. During the next two hours, the young woman dedicated herself to cleaning every square inch of the apartment until it was sparkling clean. Even though it was empty it didn't feel so abandoned and lonely anymore, on the contrary now it looked charming and ready to live in.
Helena smiled to herself, she had never done such a thorough cleaning job anywhere in her whole life. Tired but satisfied she went to the bedroom to setup the air mattress and get the bed ready. Even if she wasn't sleepy, she wanted to leave everything ready for when her body decided to rest.
She had bought all the necessities she needed for the bathroom. Kate had commented that the apartment had its own water heater but not connected yet so she would have to make a few phone calls to get the gas and telephone connected. Even if Helen had no one to talk to, she figured it would be wise to have one just in case. She also had to connect the satellite cable so she could have a TV signal and internet, even though it had never been her forte that was Barbara's area. Helena had decided on leaving everything behind, her main goal was to find her way back, the way she were or would be, before everything, before her mother's murder.
Before everything happened, Helena had been a child full of life and happiness. She had been one of the best in class, excelled in several sports, president of her class and was the most popular. The whole lot seemed to point to Helena having a great future, possibly even a brilliant career whatever she decided to pursue. However, after her mother's death and right in front of their own eyes Helena turned resentful, completely justifiable, the darkness, the hate, anger and pain invaded her being completely, so much, so that she went from the most popular to the pariah of the school. No one wanted to be near her, at first, they wanted to console her, but Helena turned them all away cruelly and with cold indifference, until they began to fear her or hassle her. Helena started so many fights and problems at her school that she had the worst reputation in the entire school. The young woman was a time bomb and only Barbara could manage to deactivate
her, to show her how to control her fury and anger until she became the Huntress.
"I know you are full of pain, I know how you feel." Barbara said one day after surprising her with a joint in her room. "I know you feel as if life has betrayed you, that nothing makes any sense." Helena snapped back furious. "You don't know anything, my mother was murdered right in front of my eyes and I didn't do anything!" She screamed in rage. Nevertheless, Barbara didn't back down. "I am confined to a wheelchair for life what about my life Helena? What is left of your mother's memory? She would die from pain to see you this way, to see you wasting your life like this. She would hate herself if she could see you like this! Don't you know that? You were her life, nothing was more important to her than you were. YOU WERE HER REASON for living Helena and if you really want vengeance for her death then show her how brave you are. Honor her life Helena not her death." Once she had said this Barbara left the room without another word, leaving her alone with her ghosts and demons.
A week passed and she barely saw Barbara, she spent her nights out, she went to school but always remained silent. She attended classes but paid little attention. Sometimes it was almost impossible not to react to the bullying, taunts and insults from some of the students. It infuriated her that if she reacted to them they would blame her without thinking twice. She clinched her fists so tightly that her nails would dig into her palms until they bled. However, she refused to react time and time again, until they appeared to grow tired of trying to upset her.
When Helena finally felt that she could control her anger, when she proved to herself that she was capable of controlling her visceral emotions against the unfounded provocations, she finally dared to go to Barbara and ask her to train her. Not long after she went to live with Barbara she found out that Bruce Wayne aka Batman
was her father. Barbara had confessed absolutely everything to her. Her mother's past as Catwoman
, hers as BatGirl
, Dick as former Robin and now Nightwing that had also contributed to her anger, the deception in her life. When she was more controlled, she asked her to train her and the result was Huntress. Something she would never do again and a more powerful sadness overtook her. Without Barbara, nothing made sense and the only think left to try was to pick up the pieces of what had been her life and start over. There would always be emptiness in her heart, nothing or anyone would ever replace Barbara but she would have to learn to live without her, there was no other choice.