There is a darkness that resides inside of me. It is so much a part of my soul I can barely remember a time before hate filled a part of my heart. There was a time, before my mother was killed by that murdering bastard, Clayface, when I remember being happy and laughing for no reason what so ever. I may smile and laugh now, but it’s mostly just for show, to keep probing questions at bay.
As a matter of fact that’s why I’m in the situation I’m in now. Reese called me, wishing for my presence, stating he wanted to talk about something, and I know what he’s going to say. It’s what everyone says once they try to scratch the outer exterior. Good looks and sexy promises are not something to base a relationship on, that’s why I don’t have any. I can’t trust people with the part of my soul that scares even me.
Time crawls as I wait for him, wishing for him to get here so I could leave and pretend nothing ever happened between us. I hadn’t intended for it to happen, it had been my last wish. Our relationship merely occurred because he was there when I was at my weakest.
I’ve always had one weakness, and it’s one I try not to share with anyone, as a matter of fact I’ve kept it a secret even from the person who is my weakness. Yes, my green-eyed beauty who has held the part of my heart that hasn’t been hardened by hate doesn’t even know she’s my weakness. It amazes me that she hasn’t seen it, hasn’t caught on to my love for her. I catch myself from time to time, saying things that I know are just going to give me away, and the only thing saving me is that overactive brain of hers is normally ten miles ahead of regular everyday conversation. Lucky me, I guess.
I had always thought one day I’d get enough courage to just tell her how much I care, how much I love her. But I never have been able to get that courage, and due to that she found a love, Wade. He seemed nice enough, and Barbara even got out of the house, something few people had managed. Even I had to pull teeth to get her to go get dinner when Alfred wasn’t around. Then next thing I know, he’s in the Clocktower, if I hadn’t been jealous before, I was definitely seeing the green eyed monster then. That had been my undoing.
Most people feel that if you run from a problem, it just might go away. In my case I ran from Barbara and her happiness, hoping to find some of my own, only to end up running into the arms of a man I didn’t really desire, and trusting a psychopath with all our secrets.
There is no room in my life for happiness, I found that out the hard way when Harleen Quinzel, a.k.a. Harley Quinn, Joker’s psychotic girlfriend, wound up in my home. Not only did she invade my home, she destroyed everything involved with it by hurting Barbara. Wade just happened to be the innocent bystander who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
What sickened me in that entire mess though is something I don’t wish to share with anyone ever, and I fear for my own mental stability just by thinking it. I had almost been happy by the knowledge of Wade’s death, it meant Barbara was free again, and I might have a chance. That’s why I left after the fateful phone call with Harley; I didn’t give a rat’s ass at that time that Harley had a meta power that could affect everyone in New Gotham. I wasn’t feeling at all guilty that in some way it was indeed all my fault, I mean I clocked Barbara and gave the madwoman all the codes to get in the building.
No, my demon then was I was glad Wade was dead. And it was that darkness and glee in it that frightened me. So again I ran, I ran to the next best thing that I was so familiar with. Alcohol. It had been a crutch when I was a teen trying to deal with a mother’s death and trying to figure out how to pull my mentor, the woman I was slowly falling head over heels in love with, out of a depression so deep that all she could see was darkness with no way out. So I ran to alcohol again, so I wouldn’t have to see the pained look in Barbara’s face that I knew so well. It was a look she had so often after Joker shot her, a look of complete loss, of utter heartbreak. And as her heart broke, so did mine.
As luck would have it, good ole reliable Reese followed me. He had a knack for finding me when I really didn’t want him to be around. He gave me a speech, something I tuned out since I had made up everything I told him anyway. I had in no way planned on giving up on my family, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to let that bitch stay in my home, but I couldn’t tell Reese how I felt. So I made something up that I knew he would jump all over, kissed him when it was time to kiss and went on. It was very much like a school play.
And a play is how things have been since that fateful night in the Clocktower. I left the “birds” behind after that night; I didn’t want to harm them anymore than I had already. I couldn’t bear to see that look of pain and disappointment in Barbara’s eyes anymore. And the kid, well she was tired of being in my shadow, she had wings she needed to spread and I would only hold her back from doing so. I had become so far removed from the person I had envisioned I’d be when becoming the defender of New Gotham. I wasn’t even close to the type of person Barbara would need.
So, I started bartending full time, and I moved in with Reese. And everything has been going downhill since then. That’s why it was so strange when he called and asked me to meet him at this small coffee house, a place, I might add, that would be the last place I would look for the detective. This morning we had been at each other’s throats; I had even packed all my stuff per his request. I was contemplating how I might dip into some of my father’s funds without the all knowing Oracle figuring it out when the phone rang and it was him, asking me to meet him here.
Sighing, I caught my waitress’ eye, gesturing for her to fill up my coffee. At least the service was good, even though the coffee left much to be desired. Perhaps that’s why all the waitresses were so cute, to distract from the harsh bitterness of the really bland concoction they passed off as coffee.
It was my firm distraction on my waitress that a familiar voice caught me by surprise, and catching me by surprise is a rarity all it’s own. The melodic tones were those I wished to hear so often at night, that I almost didn’t believe my ears. Too bad I’m meta and firmly believed in my hearing, then maybe I could have been surprised, instead of scared witless.
“You know, they say caffeine isn’t good for you.” The whirring of wheels preceded the voice; she had been sitting behind me. How long had she been sitting behind me?
I wait till she pulls around in front of me, moving the wooden chair out of her way expertly, then leaning forward, placing her elbows on the wooden table. She was the picture of beauty, and I couldn’t stop my breath from catching as she threw me that small all knowing smirk that always melted my heart. Now was no different.
Leaning back, tipping my chair, I try desperately to through on an air of nonchalance, hoping she doesn’t pick up on my uneasiness. “Yeah well, I’ve been known not to listen before.”
With elegance that comes so easily only to her, she waves at the waitress, bringing the woman over even quicker than when she had been waiting on me. The woman formerly known as Batgirl, now known as Oracle, has no idea she has that affect on people. Even now she was none the wiser. She turned to me after placing her order, and raised her eyebrow in the look I had come to know as her teasing look. “No! You? Not listen? Who would ever think such a thing?!”
Before I can respond with anything the waitress returns, smiling warmly at Barbara as she drops off my mentor’s coffee and chocolate cake. It always amazed me that Barbara ate chocolate cake; she always struck me as a vanilla type person. As the waitress leaves, I lean forward, my questions outweighing my teasing. “So, Red, what’s the deal? This is pretty far out of your territory isn’t it? And isn’t it a school day?”
My questions don’t phase her, not that I’m in the least bit surprised. She takes a sip of coffee to wash down the cake before she decides to tackle my questions. “You know, you are the only person who could call me Red and live to tell about it. And it’s Saturday.”
I sat, waiting for the rest of her answer, used to her rattling on and on about minute details and being very well spoken. I don’t even recall ever getting a sentence as short as the one she just provided me with. Not to mention, it was so far from left field I felt like I had gotten smacked with a pop fly. A few moments and a couple more bites of cake later I pulled my brain cells back together, coming to the conclusion I wasn’t going to figure out what exactly Barbara meant by that sentence.
Putting on my best-bored tone and leaning back as bonelessly as I could in my chair, I tried to come up with the best question possible. Too bad I could only come up with, “So what’s that supposed to mean?”
She was testing me; I know she was, because who else would decide to finish their cake before answering a direct question? Ok so maybe she was trying to drive me insane, but if I was going to be able to walk away from her and still keep with my decision to no longer be the Huntress, I need to keep my air of not caring. Only, that was becoming harder and harder as the moments of silence passed.
Finally she finished, and I sighed an inward sigh of relief. She leaned back in her wheelchair, taking me in, sizing me up. It was unnerving. After a few moments and gesturing to the waitress to bring more coffee, she decided to take me out of my misery and start a real conversation. “You’re waiting here for someone, right?”
Is it really possible for someone I’ve spent years of my life with to be able to strike me dumb, not once, but twice in a fifteen minute time period? “Yeah, Reese is supposed to meet me. Though he’s late, and that’s really unlike him. He’s the epitome of on time, he would even get mad if I specified I’d do something in so many minutes and I still didn’t have it done when that time frame came and went.”
Barbara leaned back on the table again, and a look crossed her face that I could only explain as embarrassment. She smiled and looked down at the table, refusing to meet my eyes. If I hadn’t thought something was up before, now I knew something was up. “Actually, Reese called for me. He came over, telling me things were rough between you two, he wanted me to talk to you, only, after the way you left...us, I knew you probably wouldn’t meet me if I called.”
I couldn’t help the anger that sparked, it needed so little to spark anyway, but I could never handle people doing things behind my back well. Especially when I’m duped into something because of it. “So in other words, it’s like an intervention? Pep talk the unruly Helena so she can resume her place as the old lady for Reese? Because Reese and I was such a wonderful couple to begin with? Reality check, Reese and I were on our way away from each other before we were walking the same path.”
My blood boiled, the animal inside me did that, would take the smallest things and blow it so out of proportion because it thrived on the conflict. It’s why I had been such an unruly teen, my mother understood my animal, warned me how to keep alive but at the same time satisfy the hunger of the beast. It took Barbara a while to understand the beast, and the first few times she bailed me out of jail had proved to be interesting trips home. She had been silent, and a calculating look had taken residence across her brow. It was the same silence and look she gave me now.
“I came here because I wanted to talk to you, to see how things were going, to know you were doing ok! Why does everything have to be so dramatic with you? Reese came to me, talked to me, told me you had completely shut him out of your life and that he was washing his hands of you, is it so horrible that I try to find you to offer my help when you need it?” As she finished her small speech she moved her chair, I feared she was going to leave all together, but she only moved to the side of the table nearer to me. It was a small relief in a so far incredibly shitty day.
Turning my chair so I could better face Barbara I took a breath to offer an apology, only she raised her hand, stalling anything I was going to say. “Do you remember how things were when...well, when I became your full time guardian?”
It was so far from anything I could imagine she’d bring up; I couldn’t do anything more than shake my head and listen. “When we first moved out of my old apartment, into the suite downstairs from the Clocktower, things were...well, they were difficult. For both of us. I had lost everything I had held close to my heart, everything, everything I prided was gone. I had engulfed myself in such a depression I couldn’t even begin to see a light. I did everything in my power to push everyone away, even you to an extent, but no matter how hard I tried to push you away, you’d pull some stunt and I’d have to pull myself out of my despair long enough to pick you up from jail.
“It was in those car drives home when I slowly came to a small realization, something I didn’t think was even possible for me since I considered myself broken beyond any kind of repair. It was also in those car drives home that I came to understand the part of you that you so desperately hide from everyone.”
Could she understand what I hid from everyone? Did I really want to know if she really did? Why do things always have to be so damn complicated between us? “So, all knowing one, what is it you think you’ve figured out about me?”
She leaned forward with a gleam in her eye that had me fear she had maybe figured out my hidden longing for her. “I’ve figured out your darkness. How you think no one else can have the darkness that you have inside of you.”
In a conversation full of something new’s, this wasn’t the something new I wanted to contemplate. I wanted to bolt, the feeling was welling up inside of me to just drop money and run, god knew there was no way Barbara could catch me, much less follow me. As though she were reading my thoughts, Barbara reached out and wrapped her hand around mine, planting me in my seat before I could flex a muscle to leave. “How can you know of my darkness, Barbara? Hell sometimes *I* don’t even understand my darkness, it’s just there, a part of my soul, a part of the animal that lies in side of me. As time goes by though, I have a harder time distinguishing between what of that darkness is me, and what of it is my feral nature! How can you understand that?”
An almost shocked look slowly spread across Barbara’s face. I couldn’t tell if it was from the fact I gave away so much that was so close to how I really felt, or if it was something deeper. “Jesus, Helena, how could I not understand your darkness? How can I not understand hate? One minute I was at the top of my game, a gold medallist when it came to gymnastics, and a formidable opponent when it came to the scum who walked the streets at night. I had almost everything I dreamed of, but with one bullet, one damn bullet, it was all stripped from me. Don’t pretend I don’t understand hate, Helena. I do. For months after I woke up in that hospital bed with feeling stopping at mid-thigh, there was nothing I wanted to do more than hunt the Joker down and make him feel the pain I felt. I couldn’t do that, so I decided to take the pain out on myself.”
It was a step into Barbara’s brain that I never imagined I would be privileged to. It was so much more than anything she had ever told me, and the knowledge that maybe she understood more about me than I gave her credit for gave me hope. Well, until I remembered the main reason I decided to leave Barbara and Dinah behind. “Barbara...there’s something...well, it’s about. Jesus, why does it have to be so hard?” A small squeeze on my arm forced the words to tumble without check. “It’s about Wade’s death. You might not like me after you hear this, but I have to tell you, you have to understand. Wade was a great guy, and he made you happy, and that made me happy, but...but a part of me was...glad...when Wade died.”
The proverbial pink elephant that had been ignored by me everyday since that fateful day was out in the open. I had actually managed to give voice to the one thing I truly hated about myself, and I had uttered it to the one person it would affect the most. I had expected her to scream, throw her coffee at me, leave, or something to that effect. I had not expected the warm smile and another reassuring squeeze on my arm. I was moments from asking Barbara if she was one of the pod people, when she beat me to the floor. “I already knew that, Helena. To be honest, part of me was too. It was one of the harder things I had to deal with after the Harley incident, and to be honest, the guilt is still there, but I got through it. Now you need to.”
She knew? How did she know? “How did you know?”
That all knowing Oracle smile danced across her lips, and before she answered she dropped a healthy tip for the waitress and tugged me out of the door. We had rounded the building to the alley near Barbara’s Hummer when she stopped and turned to me. “I may be scatter-brained, but I do catch on Helena, sometimes it just takes a push or two to get me going.”
“Ok, is this like the riddle of the Sphinx? Am I at least going to get a clue or something?” I think my brain was actually beginning to hurt from the roller coaster of a ride this whole conversation had been. Though, as much as I wanted it to end, I wanted it to go on for forever.
Barbara wheeled her chair closer to me, until the tips of her boots brushed up against my shins, it was the first time I could recall her purposely maneuvering herself this close to me. As unnerving as it was, it also sent a glorious rush of heat through my body that had been non-existent since my move in with Reese. “Ask me why you are the only one who can call me Red and get away with it. I know you want to.”
She was right, I did, and if there was anyone I would follow a request for, Barbara was the only one. However I had a reputation to uphold, so I rolled my eyes and sighed as though I was put out by doing so, before answering. “I’ll play along, why do I get the privilege to call you Red, Red?”
A hand made it’s way slowly up my arm, and even though there was a thick layer of leather serving as a wall of sorts, the touch left a trail of overly excited skin in it’s wake. As I tore my attention off the wandering hand that I swore belonged to Barbara, I turned, coming literally face to face with the redhead. It was a scene almost directly from one of my more pleasant dreams, so that’s what this had to be, right? I snapped my eyes shut and opened them, the cure all for dreams, only Barbara was still almost nose to nose with me. I did it a second time, same result, only an amused smile now caught my wandering attention span.
A low throaty chuckle made it’s way to my overly sensitive ears, and if I could melt, I’m sure I would at this very moment. The wandering hand makes it’s way to the back of my neck and suddenly my mouth feels almost as dry as the Mohave Desert. “You get to call me Red because only people who get to do this can use a nickname as endearing as that.” And with a small tug, my lips crash into hers, and the animal inside me does a happy dance of joy.
The kiss doesn’t last nearly as long as I would have liked it to because laughter bubbled it’s way up from a place in me that I never knew existed. The amazing part is, I don’t remember it feeling this good. As I stand here in the embrace of the one woman I never thought I’d hold, laughing with joy that I never thought I could possess, suddenly the darkness doesn’t seem as permeating as it once did.
I feel the smile as it dances across my face, and a sudden realization hit me. “I just realized, you never said what that one thing was you realized about yourself on the way home from those many trips from jail.”
A hand tangles it’s way in my short hair and I can’t keep myself from leaning into it. My eyes slide shut as her soft tones dance to my ears. “My realization about myself was that even though my body only had half of it’s feeling, my heart didn’t. My heart still had the capacity to feel, even to love, only I just didn’t realize the true depths of love then.”
She had my attention, that was for sure, but there was still one thing she had said earlier that was niggling at the back of my brain, and it was her statement that brought the question to the fore. “Wait, you said you needed a push or two, has the kid been peeking again?”
Barbara slides back down into her chair and smiles impishly, a definite sign that I had busted her out. Surprisingly though, I didn’t really care, my inner beast was still merrily dancing and didn’t feel the need for a fight at the moment. It was a rather refreshing feeling to be free of anger. “She only told me of the few glimpses she had caught while you two sparred after Reese mentioned you being so distant because you were in love with someone else.”
“Hmm…the kid deserves a cookie after I give her a wet willy for peeking in my brain again.” As I look down into the eyes of the woman I loved for so long, I can think of only one thing more to say as we both step off into a future neither of us probably ever expected. “Come on, it’s time to go home, Red.”