Primal Instinct II: 0.4 Seconds
A Birds of Prey (B/H) story
Chapter 13 – Moving Forward
"Yes!" Dinah cried out excitedly as she read the screen. Bolting up from her chair, she ran towards Barbara's bedroom shouting, "Dick found her! Dick found her!"
Jim and Alfred emerged from the kitchen and watched Dinah bound up the stairs, two at a time. Glancing at each other, Jim sighed with relief. "Thank God."
Dinah rushed into the bedroom and repeated her news. "She's alive and coming home, Barbara! She's coming home!"
Barbara turned to look at her not sure she could believe the unlikely news. "Wh…where was she?"
"She was on a cargo ship!" Dinah gushed, seeing the surprise on Barbara's face, she added, "I know, right?!" She giggled. "Oh! I should help Alfred prepare her some food or something. Dick said she's very hungry!" She started to leave but hesitated. "He also said she's a little banged up," she said with a little worry. "I'll get the medical kit ready for you and Alfred can do the food without me… of course – duh. This is so GREAT!" She blurted excitedly and left Barbara's room.
Barbara stared at the doorway where Dinah departed. After a few moments, she saw her father in the doorway. They looked at each other in silence for a moment. "You ok, honey?" Jim asked his daughter.
She blinked and absently nodded before plastering on a smile. "Now I am."
He eyed her a skeptical moment then nodded.
From her bedroom, Barbara could hear the squeals of delight from Dinah that almost rivaled the Black Canary's. They were here, she considered; a numbness had settled upon her prevented relief or happiness. Many long moments passed before she finally heard the familiar voice she had longed to hear.
"Barbara?" Helena called softly.
Barbara shut her eyes. Helena was actually here. Her numbness started to fade away as her ache welled up. The person that meant everything to her had survived.
Helena looked at her lover with concern. Jim had discreetly mentioned that she had thought Helena didn't survive the blast and took it really hard.
Quietly, she entered the bedroom and slowly approached the redhead, who was now looking at her with an unreadable expression. Kneeling before her, Helena lowered her head to Barbara's lap and sighed with relief.
She was home.
Tears filled Barbara's eyes as she leaned down to embrace this precious gift, still not quite believing the danger had truly passed and Helena survived it. She exhaled unevenly as tears fell, relishing in the feel of her lover.
"We did it," Helena exhaled softly.
Barbara sat back up and shook her head regretfully, though her fingers reverently combed through the brunette's hair, needing the contact.
"No," she softly argued. "The only thing I did was almost get you killed," Barbara said guiltily. Her gaze dropped to the tear in her jacket and blood.
"Barbara…" Helena said with surprised concern and looked up, clearly not in agreement.
"You're hurt. Let's get you patched up," Barbara said with authority, relieved to have something productive to do…and a distraction from her chaotic emotions that were bubbling up. She wondered if numbness wasn't better; she never really did emotions well.
"It's noth…" Helena said dismissively.
"Helena," Barbara said sternly, grabbing Helena's hand. "Please," she added earnestly.
"Ok. Ok," Helena relented, unable to say no. "Training room?" she asked, getting up.
"Bathroom. Dinah put the kit in there," she said, not meeting Helena's gaze. In fact, she seemed to avoid looking into her eyes.
"Are you OK?"
"I will be when I get you patched up," Barbara responded firmly with a nod and rolled into the bathroom with a worried Helena following behind.
Quietly, Helena put the seat down on the commode and sat, watching Barbara roll to the counter and pick up the medical kit. A task that Barbara had repeated for her too many times to count.
"What can I do?" Helena said softly, noting Barbara's…off…behavior.
"Take your jacket off," Barbara said, absently motioning to Helena, who frowned and did as asked. The tear and red stain on her silk blouse brought a displeased look to Barbara's face. "Your shirt too," she added as she washed her hands.
Helena took off her shirt and noted Barbara's frown. "I'm afraid there's really nothing to stich up. You'll scar," she said in guilty resignation, inspecting the damage.
Helena watched her start to clean the wound with a damp cloth. Barbara usually had steady hands but at this moment, they trembled. "What's going on, Barbara?" Helena said softly, gently grasping her hand, stopping her from tending the wound.
"N…" Barbara was going to deny anything was wrong and dismiss Helena's concern but the lie got caught in her throat as her emotions welled up and nearly suffocated her. Seeing fresh tears welling up, Helena pulled her into a protective hug. Her hands slowly caressed her lover's back as Barbara desperately clung to her, needing her comfort.
"The crisis is over, Barbara. I'm ok," she whispered into her ear. "I'm here now," she said soothingly.
"No thanks to me," she responded guiltily as tears fell.
"Barbara, you're wrong," Helena said firmly, not going to let Barbara wallow in unfounded guilt. "I'm alive today because of you," she said with a tighter hug.
Barbara wiped at her tears, continuing with her self-flagellation. "I couldn't think," she admitted with disgust. "I couldn't think!" she said incredulously. "I…I've been in stressful situations before but this time…I couldn't think. I was so worried about losing you and…and I can't let my emotions paralyze me and put you or Dinah in jeopardy. I have to be able to think to keep you safe. I failed you…." she said miserably, breaking down into sobs, clutching onto Helena desperately.
"Oh God no, Barbara. You're human. So this mission threw you. It happens. But you always have a way of adapting and overcoming challenges. That's one of the many things I…"
"I can't… I can't live like this," Barbara interrupted miserably as tears fell. "I can't do this anymore, Helena," she announced regretfully, pulling back from their hug to look her pleadingly in the eye.
Fear washed over Helena, who had envisioned a far different homecoming – one that did not involve them breaking up. Tears welled up as she wondered how she could possibly live without loving Barbara. She immediately recognized she would always love her, even if denied the ability to be with her. Oh God, Helena thought, wondering if the unbearable ache that gripped her heart would actually shatter it.
"I … just want you happy," Helena said hoarsely, truly meaning it, even if she was not to share in that happiness. She vowed to walk away if Barbara asked but she never expected to have to honor that vow.
Helena had mixed feelings at the relief that flooded Barbara's smiling face.
"Thank you," Barbara said emotionally, cupping Helena's cheek and looking at her intently before leaning into a heart-felt kiss.
Helena blinked in confusion. Was this a good-bye kiss? Before Helena had a chance to make the most of the intimacy, Barbara pulled back with a serene smile.
"I do love you. And I know that during this mission it wasn't the most romantic setting for me to ask you and well, this really isn't either but I want you to know I really meant it," Barbara said with a shy smile. "I want you to marry me. Will you, Helena? Will you marry me?"
Helena's eyes widened. Barbara's smile started to fade a little more with each silent moment that passed.
"You don't want to get married?" Barbara said hesitantly, crestfallen.
"What? No! Yes. I mean…of course I do! But…," Helena blurted, clearly confused.
"So what were you talking about before?" Helena asked, baffled.
Barbara looked at her not understanding.
"Not being able to think because of me, ring a bell? Not being able to do your job worrying about…," Helena stopped when it hit her, "you're quitting?!"
"Yes," Barbara answered with confusion. "What were you thinking I…" Barbara stopped when it hit her. "You thought…I was choosing crime fighting over you?" she said, hurt.
"Barbara," Helena said and took both of Barbara's hands in hers. "I know how important it is to you."
"You don't know how important you are to me?" Barbara asked with concern.
"I know I am important to you but I guess…I never expected to be more important than crime fighting."
"I am so sorry I ever gave you the impression you came second, Helena," Barbara looked at her sadly. "I honestly never expected to find someone that was more important. But you are, Helena Kyle. I love you with everything that I am," she declared and squeezed Helena's hands tightly. "I wish I could manage my fear but this last mission made me realize I can't. I lost focus too many times. And that puts everyone at risk. I used to be able to bury my feelings but I can't with you, they are too powerful. But I also realized - I don't want to," she said gently, caressing Helena's cheek.
Helena remained silent, listening to Barbara bare her soul. She could understand the fear, but she still couldn't imagine Barbara giving up on what had been her calling.
"I've never felt like this about anyone, Helena. And I am not about to give it or you up. I've paid my dues and I want to have a life where I'm not terrified of losing you. I want us to grow old together," Barbara said, then shrugged and shyly offered, "maybe have kids."
Helena blinked, still digesting what she was saying when Barbara asked a little uneasily "so, what do you think?"
Helena reverently kissed Barbara's hands. "I want you happy. And if giving up crime fighting will make you happy. I want that," she said carefully, expecting that after the emotions settled down, Helena was sure Barbara would see that she was overreacting. But she knew now was not the time to point that out. Now was the time to provide Barbara with piece of mind and unconditional support.
"Thank you," Barbara said and pulled Helena into a deep kiss.
Barbara and Helena finally made it down to Delphi. Barbara was surprised to find several anxious faces; the crisis was over and Helena saved New Gotham and survived.
When a happy smile filled Barbara's face, there was a collective sigh of relief from her friends and family. "We have two announcements to make," Barbara said eagerly, taking Helena's hand in hers. "I asked Helena to marry me and she said yes."
"Awesome!" Dinah said. Alfred nodded with a smile.
"Congratulations, Barbara. Helena," Jim said, patting Helena on the back and shaking her hand.
"Guess Barbara is determined to make an honest woman out of me," Helena joked, slipping her arm around her love, who softly nudged her with a shoulder and shook her head at the bad joke.
Barbara and Helena looked over to Dick, who looked at them quietly. He gave them a small smile. "What are the chances your second announcement is that one of you is pregnant?" he joked, attempting to remain calm. He knew he would always harbor doubts about them, but had come to accept Barbara was determined and apparently totally in love with Helena. And it really did appear that Helena loved Barbara.
"That would be an interesting announcement," Barbara responded with a smirk.
"She didn't ask me to marry her because she knocked me up," Helena rolled her eyes and added. "But she would so totally do the honorable thing if she did."
Barbara stared at her. "What?" Helena asked defensively.
"Well? What's the second announcement?" Dinah blurted excitedly.
With some hesitancy, Barbara looked at Helena, who rubbed her shoulder and nodded with encouragement, even if she thought Barbara would eventually change her mind. She knew what Barbara needed now, and that was her support. "Helena and I will also be leaving the crime fighting business. We've decided to retire from that part of our lives."
"You can't be serious," Dick blurted incredulously, looking between the two, as if waiting for one of them to laugh and tell them it was just a bad joke.
Alfred frowned and whispered to Jim, "that was unexpected."
"Was it?" Jim asked softly, knowing Barbara had gone through a horrible scare that she would do everything to avoid again.
"But…who will teach me?" Dinah said worriedly, looking at her apologetic mentor.
"I was hoping, that you would take a break too, until you're older," Barbara said.
"Are you asking me to quit?!" Dinah blurted anxiously.
"No. I can't ask you to do that. When I was your age, I made the decision to pursue crime fighting," Barbara noted.
"Without my input," Jim grumbled softly, getting a small smile from Barbara.
"Dinah, I trust you will do what is right for you. And if that is to still pursue this calling," Barbara said, glancing from Dinah to Dick, "I can think of no better mentor than Dick," she said with confidence in her eyes. "You could stay here in New Gotham until Dinah decides what to do next…."
"Now hold on, Barbara," Dick blurted with irritation. You are telling me you can easily quit being Oracle? After you fought tooth and nail after your shooting to get back into crime fighting and make a difference?" Dick said incredulously.
"Yes," Barbara said simply, getting Dick to shake his head in disbelief. "Dinah, know that you are always welcome to stay with me…us," she amended when Helena squeezed her shoulder, "but I will not be Oracle. And truth be told, I would feel better if you did and retired from this," Barbara noted, motioning to Delphi, "life."
"Did you put her up to this?" Dick barked at Helena, who could understand his surprise. Barbara was giving up what she had fought so hard for and believed so thoroughly in.
"It was my idea, Dick," Barbara quickly responded.
"But we are in this together," Helena offered, getting a warm smile from Barbara.
"This is wrong, Barbara. You have done so much for people. Are you really willing to turn your back on …" he argued, pointing an accusing finger at Barbara as he stepped towards her.
"STOP!" Helena growled and stepped between them. "What else do you think she needs to sacrifice before it is too much?!" Helena spat.
"I just…" he started to explain but was interrupted.
"And don't you dare say she is turning her back on anyone! Don't. You. Dare," Helena seethed.
"Helena," Barbara said softly, wanting to stop this from escalating.
"Why don't you go find your hero, Bruce, and lecture HIM about turning his back on the public…his family," she spat at him, hitting a sore spot.
"Dick, I can't do this any more. It's best if …" Barbara explained, hoping he would see the truth in her words.
"The Barbara Gordon I know would never quit!" he interrupted heatedly.
"Then I suppose you don't know me as well as you thought," Barbara said coolly, getting annoyed by his constant judgment of her.
"Finally! Something we can agree on," he spat and glared at the two women and stormed off, leaving an uncomfortable silence behind.
After several moments, Helena spoke up. "I really thought he would have a bigger problem with our marriage announcement," she said thoughtfully, squeezing Barbara's shoulder and giving her a peck on the cheek. "Got any food, Alfred?"
"Certainly," Alfred said and gratefully retreated to the kitchen with Helena in tow.
Dinah looked lost.
"Do you think New Gotham would have survived without you and Helena?" Dinah asked, needing to make sense of this.
"I almost got us all killed, Dinah," she said, startling the teen. "I was making mistakes because I could not keep my emotions separate from the mission. I will not be put in that position again. I though you of all people would understand that," Barbara said pointedly.
"And you are making Helena quit too? Even with her new power that can help even more people?" Dinah asked, causing Barbara to frown uncomfortably.
"I…I'm not making Helena do anything. She supports me and if you recall, she never wanted to be in this business to begin with," she argued, which did not sound very compelling to her own ears.
"I think it is a mistake to quit, Barbara," Dinah said honestly and sighed heavily before retreating to her room.
"Do you think I'm making a mistake too, Dad?" Barbara challenged as she watched a depressed teen climb the stairs.
"I'm sure you are doing what you think you need to do. Everyone has their limits, honey," he acknowledged sagely. "And learning that can be terrifying. I hope you know I am proud of you, Barbara. And that is not tied to what job you have or how many people you save. I am proud of who you are. An intelligent and strong woman," he added softly.
"Thank you, Dad," she said, receiving a hug.
"What do you say we try to get something to eat – before Helena cleans Alfred out," Jim joked.
That evening, Barbara and Helena sighed contentedly in each other's arms after tender lovemaking.
Helena noted how happy Barbara seemed with her decision, like a huge burden had been lifted from her shoulders. Helena had always thought Barbara took too much responsibility for, well, everything, which made her worry that if crime flared up again and people got hurt, Barbara would feel responsible and bear the guilt for not being there to help. But she would support Barbara's decision, she silently vowed. Even if it didn't last very long, she considered, expecting that Barbara had too much crime fighting DNA to give it up entirely. But whatever ultimately happened, they would be going on this uncertain journey together, Helena thought with determination.
"What's wrong?" Barbara asked, noting the look of contemplation on Helena's face.
"Should I wear a tux?" Helena asked out of the blue.
"Now?" Barbara asked dryly, lifting up the sheets to look at Helena's nude form.
"For the wedding!" Helena moaned, getting Barbara to chuckle.
"I'm sure you'd look beautiful in one," Barbara said honestly. "And I'm sure you'd look equally as beautiful in a gown."
"What do you want to wear?" Helena asked.
"I really haven't thought about it," Barbara admitted. "What do you want me to wear?" she asked curiously, propping her elbow on the pillow and resting her head in her hand.
"Anything you want, or nothing at all," Helena declared boldly.
"I suppose we could go to a nudist colony for the ceremony," Barbara said, making Helena snort. "No, really, what would you like me to wear?"
"Is this an indication that you don't want to do the planning?" Helena asked, rolling on her side to face Barbara.
"Why were you assuming I would be the one to plan?"
"You are a planner. I am a doer. Surely this is not news to you?" Helena said, tracing her hand over Barbara's body and pausing at a nipple that stood at attention.
"Are you saying I'm not a doer?" Barbara said with challenge, rolling Helena on her back before kissing her deeply.
Helena chuckled. "Nope. You're most certainly a doer. You do me; exceptionally well, I might add. You are the complete package, Barbara Gordon. A planner and a doer."
Barbara smiled. "I love you," she said with a chaste kiss.
"Good. Because marrying me would really be a mistake if you didn't," Helena said.
"I love you and I will always fight for you, Helena Kyle," Barbara vowed seriously, surprising Helena, whose mouth was claimed with a passionate kiss that lead to more doing.
After each woman was sated, the past several days started to catch up with them; both were close to drifting off.
"Thank you for saying yes," Barbara said softly, her eyes closed. Feeling safe and loved within Helena's comforting arms.
"Don't thank me. I'm the luckiest . . . woman on the planet," Helena responded with a yawn, her eyes closed.
"We'll have to agree to disagree," Barbara said sleepily, shifting a little.
"Well done, Red," Helena said than yawned. "My woo-meter just …spiked," Helena said drowsily. "I'll have … to… hmmm," Helena said and fell asleep.
"Hmmm," Barbara responded and drifted into a restful slumber.
Author's note: I appreciate the comments and the concern of being off the Fan Fic scene for a while. Difficult family issues popped up and took my time away from my favorite hobby. I have many ideas in this and other fandoms and do intend to continue to write. But time is tricky. I hope you've enjoyed this latest offering.