Title: Once Child of the Night
Fandom: Birds of Prey
Ratings: PG, I guess
Spoilers: the last episode (probably others too).
Disclaimers: I don’t own Birds of Prey or any character created by WB’s used in this story. I’m making no profit on this and wouldn’t want to – as it’s ‘borrowed gods’. This is pure fun – and an entertaining way of passing the time when one is bored out of ones mind (although Mr. M.D. is my own creation...).
Author's Notes: This series was sort of created as a response to Nailbunny’s ‘Kiss’ (great story!). I don’t remember much of BoP-details and the only episode I watched more than once was the last, so excuse any mistakes not in agreement with the series. Some events mentioned might be a little ‘off’ the original timeline to fit the story. The story is told in first person POV – you’ll figure who's as you read. Also – English is not my first language, so please excuse any strange wordings or spellings.
Special Thanks: To Aeryn Sun for beta’ing the six stories in this series. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! J
Additional Note: The stories in this series are created as a ‘thanks’ for all the wonderful, exciting, sexy and purely entertaining stories on this site, which I have enjoyed reading. Just wanted to make a contribution: one should not only take, but give as well... Especially thanks to Aeryn Sun, Harper and Green Quarter (and all others out there...).
When I woke up this morning, I wasn’t really sure if Helena had been in my bedroom the night before, telling me she was worried about me, or if I had imagined it all. It had been a strange occurrence. I don’t know what woke me during the night, but suddenly I knew she was there. I felt her presence, her scent, the awareness of her… It made my skin tingle and the tightening in the air woke me. At first I thought it was a dream (a lovely dream with Helena in it) and then I worried something was wrong. She wouldn’t be in my bedroom unless there was something wrong.
She had been so… young, somehow. No, not young – vulnerable. I wanted to touch her, to ease her worries and the pain I know she’s still carrying, but it wasn’t the right place or time to tell her the truth.
I wonder what she was doing in my room, why she was there. And there is a slight tingle down my neck telling me I know the answer to that question – telling me that I have known the truth all along. If I only dare believe in it.
Now when I’m rolling into the kitchen to the lovely smell of coffee and… pancakes, I find her amazingly enough at the stove turning flapjacks with an apron around her waist, softly humming a tune I don’t recognize. Dinah is sitting at the table, eating cereal and reading the newspaper. I stop dead in my tracks to watch Helena, knowing she is aware of my presence. I wonder if this is some sort of distraction she’s created to make me forget last night’s curious event.
“Good morning," she says with a smile when she turns to me with a plate of pancakes in her hands. “Breakfast is served.”
“Whoa – wait a minute!” I exclaim, pretending to be disturbed. I point at her. “Who are you and what have you done to my Helena?”
My Helena? I cringe inwardly, but don’t show it. If that little pronoun didn’t give me away I don’t know what else would. I could kick my self – if I had the ability to use my legs, of course. Helena blushes slightly with an odd look in her eyes, but if it’s a reaction to my overly sentimental display of affection or just to my comment I’m not able to tell. I notice Dinah’s slight smile behind the newspaper and turn my gaze towards her.
“And how dare you take advantage of this kind stranger in this way, letting her serve you like this?” Dinah almost chokes on her milk.
“What?” she pipes in and throws her hands in the air, the newspaper falling to the table. “Don’t get me in the middle of this," she adds. “I woke up… and there she was almost forcing me to eat. What could I do?” The girl looks innocently at me and I know she enjoys teasing Helena this way; I can see it in the slight and not-so-innocent gleam in her eyes.
“Watch it – or you can serve yourself," Helena growls and places the pancakes on the table.
“Oh, yeah?” I say, not taking my eyes off hers.
“Yeah," she says, with her hands on her hips and with a new sparkle in her eyes. Her lips twitch slightly and I know she’s fighting the laughter I can see in her dark gaze. I have to hand it to her, she knows how to get me in a better mood – I give in and laugh before she does. She smiles then, pleased with her self.
“You know," I say when I wheel up to the table, shaking my head briefly at her. “I think I know you and then you do things like this, making me believe I don’t know you at all.”
I notice how my remark causes her pain. This was not my intention – I meant what I said as a compliment – and I wonder at her sensitivity. Dinah looks worriedly at Helena – a look I didn’t expect and don’t fully understand. To take away some of the pain in Helena’s eyes I add: “I love the way you always manage to surprise me, Helena.”
Helena turns her back to me, pretending to be busy with her pancakes at the stove but I know she’s hiding something from me. My last comment caused her more pain and I just don’t know why. I try ignoring it – better let it go before we end up arguing again.
I take my fork and look down at the pancakes, wiggling my nose. “Pancakes this early in the morning. I shouldn’t, really. I have to think of my figure.”
“There’s nothing for you to worry about," Helena says as she turns over another pancake and glance at me over her shoulder. “You’re slim as a birch.”
“Well, you should know after last night, shouldn’t you?” I mumble, still conscious of the way she had looked at me then; her gaze had been like a caress against my skin and it had taken all my self-control not to ask her approach the bed. Not to tell her the truth. I can see her blush now – again – and I want to laugh at the sight. Helena rarely blushes and now I’ve managed to make her embarrassed twice in a morning. However, I don’t think she would appreciate me laughing at her at this point, so I lower my gaze and keep the smile to myself.
Out of the corner of my eye I see the odd look Dinah gives Helena. The girl doesn’t seem surprised. Instead there is a blend of emotions on her face when she exchanges a glance with Helena: tenderness, almost compassion, but also amusement. There’s something going on with the two of them I’m not aware of and this knowledge triggers something within me. Maybe I’m not that far off the mark, after all, I think with a slight nervous tingle in my belly.
“I’m… um, sorry ‘bout that. Didn’t mean to wake you," Helena says. Her voice keeps me from reaching a proper conclusion at the moment, but I’m not willing to forget. I raise my head and watch her closely.
“I told you not to worry about it," I say gently. She’s so sweet when she’s embarrassed. “I appreciate you worrying about me. It’s sweet of you, Helena.”
Again she blushes and again I notice that odd look on Dinah’s face.
“But," I add in a drawling voice, looking down at my plate, finding a way to change the subject. “Where the hell is my orange-juice? This place is seriously lacking in service. I’m going to file a complain to the manager.” I look at Helena and hear her snort with suppressed laughter. Opposite to me Dinah grins and returns to her breakfast.
“You’re a spoiled brat, Miss Gordon," Helena says with a wink when she serves me my orange-juice and her comment makes me laugh.
“What are you two doing up this early on a Saturday, anyway?” I ask a moment later. I glance at Helena and add, indicating the pancakes: “These are lovely, Helena. Thank you.” I hold her gaze for a moment, feeling the softness of those blue eyes. She’s so much, this young woman; so much I wish I could reach for and keep. She only nods, but I can see she’s pleased with the appraisal.
She’s finishing up now and then loosens the apron from her slender waist. How I wish I’d be allowed to reach around her waist, grab her and pull her towards me. I let my eyes linger a moment longer, but then push the distracting thoughts of Helena’s body out of my mind. I have to be careful – we are not alone now and Dinah is very perceptive for her age.
“I have a school-project I need to finish at the library with some friends and she…” Dinah indicates in Helena’s direction, waving with her spoon and dropping milk at the table. “She went to bed before me, yesterday, amazingly enough. Maybe you’re right – someone might have traded her for a clone when she went on patrol yesterday. We should check her out.”
“Kid," Helena growls. “Don’t you have someplace to be?”
Dinah laughs and stands up, clearing away her breakfast. “See you later, both of you.” She heads for the exit, waving at us, but I call out to her and she turns around.
“You know that problem with your friend? Did she solve it?” Dinah blushes slightly and her eyes dart towards Helena – only for a brief second, but noticeable. I glance at Helena, but I can’t tell what she’s thinking.
“Um, well… She’s kind of… She’s working on it.” Dinah shrugs uncomfortably and I nod, letting her off the hook.
“Have a nice day, Dinah.”
“Um, you too.” And she’s off with the speed of a bullet, no doubt to avoid further awkward questions.
I find myself alone with Helena again. We’ve barely been alone since that first talk we had after Wade’s death, early one morning. We’ve spent time together, but always with other people around us: Dinah, Alfred, Nightwing. “Where’s Alfred?” I ask, suddenly reminded of the old man’s absence.
“It’s the butlers conference this weekend," Helena says, looking at me as if I’ve completely lost it, finally. Well, she would, wouldn’t she? After all, I’m the one usually remembering things like that. Alfred left yesterday afternoon and will be gone the whole weekend. I ought to have remembered.
“Of course," I say, not letting her unspoken statement faze me. Her eyes are unreadable when she looks at me and then shrugs. She begins clearing the table when I’m done and I watch her movements. She’s graceful. A hunter and a stalker. My Huntress, I think tenderly. “You haven’t eaten," I state.
“I ate earlier," she says, almost curtly and I feel the tension building up again. It wasn’t there yesterday and I don’t know what I’ve done to bring it out this morning.
“Well, thanks for breakfast. It was really nice, Helena.” She only nods and I continue: “You haven’t been working lately?”
“The bar? No, I took some days off. Found a good man to replace me.” She lifts her head and meets my gaze. “Needed a break from crowded rooms and noisy people.”
“You, Helena?” I arch an eyebrow in her direction and she smiles and shrugs self-consciously.
“What can I say? Needed to get away from the rut.”
I nod, thinking she might be right.
“How about you?” she says, as if she’s reading my mind. “What’s school like without Wade? Do you… cope?” I nod again.
“I… cope," I say, even if that is all I do at the moment. I love my job, but lately I’ve been preoccupied with other things. Helena has always been on my mind, but since Wade’s death even more so. Before he died, Helena and I… we fought and hurt each other for no good reason. She was so angry at that time and nothing I did or said would ease her animosity. It hurt me so much, not being able to soothe her pain – me being the cause of her anger. Then, after Wade’s death, she began avoiding me. That hurt too. I felt that I’d lost her then. Every time I reached out, she would dart off, hiding from me – leaving me behind. I didn’t know what to do. She was hurting, fighting her own pain – again pushing me away. And now…
Since our first proper conversation after Wade’s death, Helena has been her true self; smart, funny, incredibly sexy… Not a thought I ought to dwell on at this moment, I add mentally to myself. She’s been everything I have always known her to be behind the mask of Huntress. She’s still wild, she’s still dangerous – she’s Huntress, what else could she be? – but she’s also that lovely woman I knew was hiding beneath the darkness of her soul. I love her for the darkness and I love her for the sweetness. She’s everything I ever wanted – and I can’t have her.
“Hum?” I’m at the computer now, pretending to go through some papers while I’m considering how to tell Helena the truth about my feelings for her. She’s behind me and has been watching me for a while. She probably noticed I didn’t get much work done.
“What’s this?” She handles me a slip of paper and I take it in my hand, knowing what it is before I touch it.
“Oh, it’s part of a poem I read once. It got stuck in my mind. It’s old," I add, not knowing why. “I’d forgotten it a few years ago, but remembered it again yesterday when you went for your pizza and I wrote it down.”
This explanation triggers something with her. Her head snaps back and she watches me intently. I suddenly remember she was worried about me the night before due to the way I sounded on the phone. She’d told me so when I found her in my room. I can see her pondering what I just said, wondering what this piece of paper means to me. I look down at it, read it in my mind: “Sweet, never weep for what cannot be, For this God has not given.” It’s part of a poem, the name of which I can’t remember, by Elizabeth Siddall. I close my fist, crumbling the paper and then throwing it in the dustbin below the desk. I was young when I read those lines the first time – much younger than now. The words spoke to me, echoing my pain, and somehow I found comfort in them. Not anymore.
Helena averts her eyes from me, looking at something at the desk and fidgets with her sleeves on the dark blue blouse she is wearing. “You never… um, told me about what you wanted to tell me that… um, morning.”
“No, I didn’t," I say softly.
“It must have… um, been difficult for you being in love and not be able to…” She doesn’t finish the sentence. I get the feeling she doesn’t really want to know, but still she needs to ask.
“It was difficult," I say with a low, still soft voice. I remember those first days when I realized what I felt for her. She was young then, barely grown into womanhood. I cursed myself for letting her down that way. She was young and vulnerable, needing a safe place to grow up, someplace where she could come to terms with her powers, as well as with the difficulties of the adult world. She wasn’t a child, but a part of her was still very young and she trusted me. It was very difficult for me to keep that proper balance between caring adult and loving friend, not crossing the line to become a woman in love. Maybe sometimes she felt she couldn’t reach me because of this. I think it’s a small price to pay. Rather have her thinking I’m emotionally closed off than wrecking her life by snatching away the only thing that has been constant and stable in her life: me.
I’m not being vain or presumptuous by stating this. I know I’m the one thing she could ever count on – until she figured I lied about her mother’s killer, that is. That changed everything. I wonder if that’s what’s still bothering her, or if there’s something else she’s not telling me. Something she’s been hiding from me for a long time. I wonder…
“Helena," I say and she looks at me with blue eyes. “I want to go to the park. Would you care joining me?”
It surprises me that she’s joining me with nothing more than a shrug – no protests, no joke about how mundane it is to have a picnic in the park. She’s so docile I’m waiting for the Big Bang to catch up with us.
It’s a lovely day: warm sun, soft breeze, and blue sky. We’re enjoying ourselves, doing nothing more than sitting at a blanket eating the food we brought, drinking our sodas, while we watch children play, squirrels fussing and dogs chasing balls. We don’t say much; just enjoy each other’s company in comfortable silence. I’ve missed this, I realize. Just to be with her, not craving more from life than her strong presence beside me and her occasional glance in my direction, always followed by a soft smile.
“I’ve missed this," she says, echoing my thoughts. She seems to do that a lot lately.
“Me too," I say, watching her. She sits close to me, leaning on one hand, following a bird with her gaze. “It has been too long since we did this the last time. I can’t even remember…”
“Last summer," she says, not looking at me. “Me, you and Wade… I lost a nickel and a dime to the toothless lady with the bags…”
I remember. She engaged in a wager with the intention to loose, not to make the old lady feel embarrassed about taking money from her. “You left without a word," I say, remembering. I felt so hurt when I realized she had just left us in the park, not bothering to tell us where she was going or even that she was leaving. Wade saw my hurt and wanted nothing more to do with Helena after that; he thought her insensitive and rude. She never liked Wade anyway. I don’t think she ever cared what he thought about her. The occasional times they actually met before that day in the park she didn’t really show him her best behavior. It’s a pity; he would have liked her had she just treated him differently. He was a good man. I wonder why she never liked him.
“I’m sorry," I say, placing a hand over hers beside me. “I really pushed you away after I met Wade, didn’t I?” She shrugs, but she doesn’t pull away her hand as I expected her to.
“It’s natural," she says. “You know, when you find someone you want to share your life with of course you need to spend time with them. Want to spend time with them," she adds mumbling, as if to correct herself.
“Not at the cost of your friends," I say lowly, not taking my eyes from her face. I see her profile; she looks down in her lap, pretending not to notice my hand on hers. Her hair covers her eyes, but I see the slight quiver of her lips before she speaks.
“You didn’t really push me away," she says, so softly I almost miss it. “You were always there.”
I squeeze her hand before pulling away, distractedly following a couple of children passing us with my eyes before looking back at Helena. She doesn’t move and before I have time to repress the impulse I reach out and push some of her soft, dark curls behind her ear to see her face. Again she neither cringes nor pulls away.
“You should watch it," I say softly, teasingly. “Before you know it you’ll be all domesticated.” My fingers linger slightly longer than necessary at her cheek, before I reach for my can of Pepsi. She slowly turns her face to watch me, a silent question in her eyes. Then she grins with an amused look.
“Oh, don’t worry. I’ll soon need to get laid, then I’ll start to play up again.” I almost choke on my Pepsi and she laughs at me. That was just a little too much information about her love life than I needed right now.
“Um, yeah?” I ask, more than a little embarrassed. She grins.
“What? Are you all prim and proper, Miss Gordon? I thought the former Batgirl could take more than a little mentioning of what a man and a woman would do in bed?”
I blush even deeper when she laughs at me, cursing myself for the first thought that went through my mind. There are a lot of things I’d like to do to Helena in bed, but to imagine what other people would do to her is not something I care to consider, much less discuss.
She grows silence after awhile, watching me with a still amused smile on her lips. “What was Wade like?” she wonders seriously and I have to avert my eyes from her face. There’s something too deep, too intense for me to meet in this moment. I look at the sky, seeing white, soft clouds changing shapes, following the breeze.
“He was… fine.”
She doesn’t say anything at first, but then comes the question I was waiting for. “Fine?” There’s a question in her voice as well. “Barbara? Fine?”
I don’t look at her and soon she reaches out for me, touching my arm.
“He was the love of your life," she says. “Are you so… modest you can’t talk about what he was like in…”
I turn my head and she grows silent. “He was not the love of my life," I say solemnly, holding her now worried gaze. “Wade was… fine. He was gentle and sweet, but he was not…” He was not you, I think, almost drowning in her eyes. I falter. “There is… there is a part of me that’s still Batgirl. I used to be like you, you know. I loved the danger, the wild nights, the fights…” Riding my bike in the dark, where nothing moved but the creatures of the night. I lower my gaze, looking at my hands.
“Barbara…” She reaches for me, but I shake my head, looking to the branches of the tree above us. I can feel her concern, her willingness to help, but I need to do this on my own. Need to let her know what it’s like not to be able to reach, not to be able to mend something that was broken like this.
“Then life changed and grew… dark, in another way than before. I changed. I had to, in order to survive. I learned to… I grew up.” I look at her and smile gently. “But – there is still a part of me which is that girl, that young woman married to the night. I can’t go back to her, but she will always live within me and sometimes… on some occasions, she needs more than daylight and tenderness. Mostly… Mostly I free her when making love, when loosing control the way Oracle can’t afford to.”
Batgirl was different from Huntress, I think. There was much less anger in the young woman I used to be. More of a longing for adventure and with a wish to break free from following the conventional path expected of the daughter of the towns Chief of Police. I know what it’s like to feel the calling of the night, the pull of the fight. I feel it still, sometimes – the sweet allure of the dark, tempting. I felt it fighting Harley Quinn – it filled me then, as it had before. It will never leave you; you will never be free from it. Once a child of the night, always a child of the night. It will be the same for Helena.
I look at her and in her eyes I see the woman she is, not the child she was. She is all grown up now. I told her so after Wade’s death, that she knew herself now. It was true. She is not my protégé anymore. She is a friend, a true friend, and a crime-fighting partner. She’s the only one that could ever understand my need for the dark. Yes, I’ve never let her know it’s there within me too – I needed to lead her home first. And now…
“That’s why you always knew me," she says with a gentle smile and touches my hand. “That’s how you understand me.”
“Wade… couldn’t reach Batgirl in me," I say, holding her gaze. “He was fine for Oracle, but Barbara Gordon is more than Oracle.” This time I don’t look away and I can see a slight blush creeping up on her cheeks. She’s averting her eyes and I reach for her, to take her chin in my hand and to raise her face towards me, but in that same instant – just before my fingers touch her skin – a shadow fall across our blanket, caressing us.
“Barbara? Barbara Gordon – is that you?”
I turn my head, squinting against the sun. “Yes?”
The shadow solidifies into the shape of a man and I blink, seeing him.
“Mike?” My voice is dry. I feel Helena’s presence beside me, her wondering gaze. “Mike? Is that really you?” The blond man laughs out loud, with open arms. Clear blue eyes and white teeth flashing in the sunlight.
“In the flesh. I’m back, Barbara. Say you missed me?”
“I…” Conscious of Helena beside me I repress a broad smile and nod. “I did. I sure did, Mike.” I turn to the dark-haired woman close to me, introducing the strikingly handsome man before us. “Helena, this is Mike Drake. Mike, my friend Helena.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you.” Mike extends a hand to Helena, who shakes it without taking her steady gaze off him. He arches an eyebrow in her direction, then turn to me and bend down to kiss me on the cheek. I return the favor with a smile.
“We’re having a picnic, please join us," I say. “It’s been such a long time.”
Mike glances at Helena and so do I. I can tell she’s not happy, but she’s trying really hard not to show it. She’s probably wondering who the hell this guy is and why I should invite him to our private picnic. The truth about that… I’m not really ready to tell her the truth about that just yet. However, it seems Fate with a capital ’F’ has something else to say in this matter.
“You’re welcome," Helena says, with only a hardly noticeable edge to it that makes Mike arch another eyebrow in her direction. He’s not at all a man like Wade – Mike never backed away from a challenge and he is a worthy opponent, even for Huntress. “How do you know Barbara?”
“Me?” Mike looks at me with a wry smile and my heart thuds. He’s going to tell the truth if I don’t interfere and God knows what Helena will think. Just when I was going to tell her…
“Mike…” I say, but he holds my gaze.
“I was engaged to be married when I met Barbara the first time… And a fool to let her go.”
Helena glances in my direction. “Really?” I hear her say, completely void of emotions. Mike turns to her and nods.
“Yeah. She was the most… perfect creature I’d seen and I let her go. Mistakes like that…” He looks at me with an almost grave expression. “It’s rarely you get a chance to rectify mistakes like that.”
“Mike…” I say, not knowing what to do, or what to say. “Sit down with us. Tell us what you are doing here.”
“I’ve moved back, Barbara.” He’s still holding my gaze, not moving. “I’ve got a new job at the Criminal Court of Justice, as a prosecutor. Hear it’s a busy occupation here.” He winks at me and I smile, sharing the secrets of the past. “I hear you’re a teacher now?”
“I’m… sorry.” He makes a small move with his hand, an apology although there’s nothing for him to apologize about. “I heard about the gunshot. I wish… I wish there was something I could have done.”
“There wasn’t anything anyone could have done," Helena suddenly says. She’s been surprisingly quiet. “I remember… You sent her a card and some flowers, didn’t you?”
Mike looks taken aback for the first time. “I did. How would you…?” He looks questioningly at me, but I have no idea how Helena would know about that, unless… I inhale sharply and look at her.
“I just happened to come across it one time when I was… bored.” She shrugs when I look at her and then turns to Mike. “She’s saved the card and flowers," she adds.
“You have?” Mike expectantly turns towards me.
“Um… well…” Actually I had forgotten all about it. I have a vague memory I put the card in a box somewhere, but the flowers? In any case – that was even before Helena came to live with me. I can’t believe she went through my stuff – or that she even remembers something as insignificantly as that. Unless it never was insignificant to her? I glance at her, noticing the clenched fists at her sides, the tight jaw and the predatory gleam in her eyes beneath the innocent face she’s putting up at the moment. Jealousy? I wonder, racking my brain for more substantial evidence that she actually feels the same about me as I feel about her.
“Um… well, you know.” I shrug, tilting my head to look at Mike. “How’s your… wife? My apologies… I’ve forgotten her name.”
“No need to remember. We divorced a year and three months ago. I found her in bed with another man.” He shrugs and forestalls any comments we – or I, more like it – would have come up with by saying: “No ones fault, really. We grew apart.”
“Yes, that happens," I say, not knowing what else to add.
“It does," Mike agrees, finally sitting down – at the same time Helena stands up.
“I‘m sorry, Mike," she says looking down at him. “I have to leave now, but it was nice to have met you.”
She could have fooled me with her sincerity. I frown, looking at her. “Helena…” I reach for her, but she gives me a soft smile.
“Have some stuff to take care of at the bar.” Surprisingly enough she takes my hand and squeezes it gently. “I’ll see you later.”
“But…” I want to go with her, to tell her there’s no need for her to be hurt, but she turns, giving me a wink and a broad grin over her shoulder.
“I might get lucky tonight," she says, before leaving. “To keep me domesticated.”
I blush, suddenly not so sure she actually feels the same way about me anymore, not if she so easily makes jokes about sleeping around with others.
“You have a dirty mind, Miss Kyle!” I call after her and she laughs, waving her hand.
“She’s cute," Mike says, watching her disappear behind a tree.
“She’s a pain," I mumble. I know I will lay sleepless all night imagining Helena in different positions with a number of different naked men. Curse upon you, Miss Helena Kyle! I think vehemently.
I know she lied to me. She didn’t leave to visit the bar – she left because Mike is here. She’s leaving us due to jealousy and hurt, just as she left Wade and me that day last summer. I know she never liked my friendship with Wade and not all of her stubborn behavior had to do with her dislike for the man. She’d had me alone for such a long time before he came into my life and suddenly she had to share me with someone else. I know it wasn’t easy for her. I wonder if that’s what she feels about Mike interfering with our “bonding”. She was nice about it, though. Or tried to be.
“So, Barbara… what have you been up to lately?” Mike says with a smile.
I look at the man I once loved so much I would have given him anything had he but asked. He never asked and, I think, that’s why I loved him so. “Well, you know… the usual. Saving the world…”
He laughs and I laugh with him, knowing – feeling it in my bones; my skin is crawling – that Helena is still around, watching us.