Disclaimer: The characters herein contained are the property of Warner Brothers, Tollin-Robbins Productions & DC Comics.

Toward Healing, chapter 1

The clocktower guestroom was cool and dark, the bed soft and warm, but still Helena Kyle could not sleep. She had long since stopped trying. Instead she lay flat on her back, staring at the darkened ceiling, her head filled with troubling thoughts of Barbara.

It had been seven days since Harley Quinn had been defeated and they had retaken control of the clocktower. It had been seven days since Wade Brixton died. It had also been seven days since Barbara Gordon had come out of her room. Although initially Barbara had appeared to accept Wade's death as an unfortunate side effect of the life she had chosen, the life of a crimefighter, she had since descended into a void filled with grief, regret and self-loathing. Helena could see it in her eyes after Wade died.

Barbara had always been an early riser, never failing to be the first one up in the morning, fully dressed and smiling over her coffee as Dinah and Helena, when she stayed over, stumbled out of their rooms, bleary eyed and grumbling as they groped their way toward the showers.

The day after the clocktower had been reclaimed and repaired, when their lives should have once again returned to some semblance of normalcy, Helena had stumbled out of the guestroom to find not Barbara, but Dinah monitoring the Delphi System.

"Good. You're up," Dinah greeted her brusquely.

"Good morning to you too," Helena grumbled. "Where's Barbara?"

Dinah moved away from the computers. "She hasn't come out of her room yet. I'm really worried."

Helena glanced at the clock. "It's almost noon."

"Should I go check on her?" Dinah asked, concerned.

"No. Let me." Helena trudged her way back to the penthouse, rubbing sleep from her eyes. She paused with her hand on the doorknob and tapped gently on the door. When there was no answer, she opened it cautiously. Barbara's room was dark.

Helena stepped inside slowly. "Barbara?" she called softly. There was no answer, though Helena could clearly see that although still in bed, Barbara was fully awake. "Barbara, are you okay?" Helena moved toward the bed.

"I'm fine, Helena. Just need to be alone for a little while." The softly spoken words sent a chill through the Huntress.

Helena sat on the edge of the bed and reached for her mentor's hand. There was something about the way the woman was acting that concerned Helena. In all the years that she had known her, Helena had never seen Barbara quite so...what was the word?

Barbara was propped up in the center of the bed with several pillows behind her back. The white comforter had been folded back, while the deep green sheets were pulled up over Barbara's chest. But it wasn't the position of the woman that concerned Helena. It was her eyes. Barbara's green eyes normally glittered, filled with a wisdom and intelligence that far surpassed her years. Her eyes were full of life, hope, and expectancy. They were eyes that Helena found comforting, familial, and familiar. The eyes that Helena now searched were distant, cold, and startlingly unfamiliar. They were...despondent.

Helena sucked in her breath as she finally thought of the word she had been searching for. She had never seen Barbara so despondent. Even when she had been shot and lost the use of her legs, and the identity that went along with them, Barbara had refused to give up. She had reinvented herself. Though she now fought in a different way, Oracle was every bit as strong as Batgirl had been. Maybe even stronger. The woman that Helena now studied had clearly accepted defeat. Helena glanced down at the hand she still held, realizing suddenly that she was gripping it dangerously tight. Barbara did not appear to notice.

"Is there anything you need?" Helena asked softly.

"No, Helena." Barbara's voice was flat, emotionless. "Please just leave me alone."

"Okay, Barbara." Helena gave her hand a gentle squeeze, then stood. "I'm going to stay here for a while, take a few days off."

Barbara didn't even glance in her direction.

"Let me know if there's anything you need," Helena said as she slipped quietly out the door.

That had been a week ago. Barbara had not come out of her room. She had barely spoken and ate only when someone forced her to. Helena didn't want to admit it, but she was scared. As bold and as brash as she was, it was Barbara who had always been the strong one. It was Barbara who had taken her in when she had nowhere else to go. It was Barbara who had taught her to fight, taught her to channel the rage that threatened to consume her. It was Barbara who had created a safe haven for her, who had given her the love and compassion that she so desperately needed, but refused to accept from anyone else. It was all Barbara.

Startled from her thoughts, Helena suddenly sensed a presence outside the room. Her eyes shifted feral as she listened to the careful footsteps and soft breathing near the open door. Then Helena felt her eyes change back to normal as she recognized the familiar presence.

To be continued…