Barbara Gordon was not a rule breaker. She'd never been one. Born the daughter of a police chief in a small Minnesota town called Gotham, there hadn't ever been much room for rule bending, let alone breaking. While most teens kicked, punched, screamed, and fought through their adolescent years, Babs kept her head down and did what she was told. It didn't provide for the most exciting experiences, granted, but it wasn't a bad way to grow up. She hadn't expected college to be any different than high school, because in her mind Steel City, New York wouldn't be too much of a change from Gotham, Minnesota.
Then she got to Steel City, where she met her housemates Raven and Kory. Crazy, beautiful, and seemingly unafraid of the limits and boundaries Babs held so dear in the previous years of her life, the pair had grown up together in the city and welcomed a hesitant Babs Gordon with open arms, open closets, and open bottles of liquid eyeliner. Back in Gotham, people often thought Babs had been pretty, if not a bit on the plain side. Her tendency to follow every guideline presented to her hadn't exactly helped. In a matter of weeks, however, Raven and Kory had transformed their small-town friend into someone who turned heads when she walked down the street.
"Make up," Raven Roth would often remind anyone who was listening, "is a powerful thing." She was Steel City's nineteen year old makeup prodigy, undiscovered but fabulous nonetheless. She was a relatively quiet person who had the tendency to blatantly ignore anyone she found unworthy of her time (which, luckily, did not include Babs), her hair was never the same color three months in a row, and her wealthy parents were the reason she could afford the largest portion of rent for the upscale Steel City apartment which they shared. Raven was often labeled as an ice queen for her frosty gazes and prolonged silences, but there were times when Babs thought she could see a softer, more delicate side that wasn't always obvious to the world.
Slowly but surely, Babs had shed the awkward skin of her younger, less experienced self and for the first time felt comfortable with who she was and where she was going. For a while she'd tried to cling onto her old, more responsible ways, and yet day by day she found herself slipping into the chaos that was Steel City with her two new friends.
But even the crazy city girl buzz that Babs had come to find familiar couldn't keep her from noticing that the car she was currently riding in was eating the pavement ahead of it at an alarmingly fast rate. She tried to ignore it, but it wasn't easy when the trees that lined the dark, empty highway the little black Jetta was practically flying down went by faster than her eyes could register. She was coming back from a three day road trip to some lake house that Raven's parents owned and Kory had visited in the past, but neither girl was actually driving. Babs tried to tune into the car conversation in hopes of blocking out the responsible warning bells that were shrieking at the base of her skull.
"Gar," Raven was saying from the passenger seat, "there's no possible way you can like this trash." Beside her, his hands loosely gripping the steering wheel, Gar Logan shot his girlfriend a grin.
"You're saying that you don't find deep philosophical meaning in the lyrics?"
"Hardly," the currently violet haired girl let a rare snort escape her before glancing out the window in an attempt to ignore the radio station her boyfriend had chosen, but smiled softly when Gar placed one of his hands over hers. Over the past few months, Babs had gotten used to their love-hate relationship, and even found herself laughing at their silly arguments as well as relishing in the warm, fuzzy feelings she got from their small acts of affection for one another.
"The song is called Bloody Tales of a Shattered Soul. I really don't get where you're getting all this idealistic reasoning," Kory remarked, straightening up in her seat behind Raven.
"Seconded," Babs decided to take action and clambered forward, punching various numbers on the radio control until she found a station she liked. Satisfied, she returned to her back seat beside Kory.
"A few months ago, you never would've had the guts to do that," Raven looked over her shoulder at Babs with a smirk. "You've come a long way since I met you, and I want you to know that you owe it all to Kor and me."
"Sure, whatever," Babs shrugged her friend's words off, but inside she glowed at the compliment. "While I'm at it, being bold and everything, you feel like slowing down Gar? I think you're gonna break the sound barrier soon if you're not careful."
"She's right, you're pretty much pushing eighty," Kory leaned forward and rested her head on the shoulder of Raven's seat to examine the dashboard more closely.
"That's how we live, Babs. Fast." Gar quickly brought Raven's fingers to his lips before dropping her hand, clutching the wheel dramatically, and flooring the accelerator.
"Yeah, until we're all paint on a tree!" Raven spat, her fingers wrapped tightly around the handle on the door. "Do us all a favor: stop showing off and drive like a sane person." Her words made Gar let up on the gas. A bit.
"You're no fun."
"If you're looking for fun, I'm probably not the girl for you then."
"Maybe, but you're good in bed."
"Say that again, Gar. See what happens. I dare you."
"Maybe, but you're good in-"
Kory groaned as she turned to Babs. "You getting sick of them yet?"
"They're cute," Babs shrugged, pushing a lock of red hair behind her ear.
"You say that until you're stuck in a broken elevator with them for three hours," Kory countered with a weary smile. "It happened back in high school, and while I love them both, it was pure hell in there. And this was before they got together, so the sexual tension was like, through the roof."
If there was one thing that could be said for Kory Anders, it was that she had the most genuine smile Babs had ever seen. She was an aspiring model, a fashion major, and so cheerful that she was sometimes thought to be inhuman. There was no denying that she had a temper when provoked at length (as made obvious one night when a barista at the local coffee shop wouldn't stop making crude passes at her), but even then her anger seemed just. Everything she did, she did from her heart, and that was all anyone could ask from her. Some thought Kory beautiful, and while her personality did indeed radiate true beauty, Babs had always seen her features to be more striking than anything else. Critically speaking, her eyes were slightly too far apart, her eyebrows were a bit too high and small, and her chin was just a smidge too long. Yet on Kory Anders, all the little imperfections that would've looked off on anyone else seemed to work together to create not a beautiful face, but one that you wouldn't soon forget. Sometimes people would say that Kory and Babs looked somewhat similar to one another, mostly due to their red hair and similar skin tones. But most of the time, Babs felt like her friend was on an entirely different level of beauty.
"That's such a pretty necklace!" Kory's eyes shone brightly as they swept Babs's neckline.
"What? Oh, thanks," she had unconsciously begun to bite her lip, a nervous habit. The car was going way too fast.
"Where'd you get it?"
"Ooh," Kory smiled, her reddish hair falling forward as she leaned down. "A wedding present?"
"Hardly," Babs rolled her eyes. Dick Grayson was one of the few things she'd held on to from what she sometimes thought of as her "past life." Dick and Babs had practically grown up together, although it wasn't until their junior year in high school that he 'grew a pair,' as Raven had put it when Babs was recounting her love life for her two new friends, and asked her to be his girlfriend. "He bought it for me a couple days ago."
"You guys have been going out for three years," Kory pointed out, catching the pendant in her hand and struggling to read the inscription without cutting into Babs's skin with the chain. "It might as well be a wedding present."
"Yeah, yeah. Here, it's easier to see when it's not attached to my neck," as she spoke, Babs reached back and unhooked the clasp, passing the jewelry to her friend after a small untangling bout with her hair.
"Wow," Kory palmed the heart pendant carefully, "I need to get a boyfriend as sweet as Dick, God."
"Speaking of which…" Babs had pulled a vibrating cell phone from the back pocket of her jeans and flipped it open. "Hello?"
"Babs! Hey, we still on for dinner tomorrow night?" Dick's voice sent all thoughts of how fast the car was going clear out of her mind.
"Miss dinner with you? Never." At her side, Kory raised an eyebrow and held up the necklace that still sat in her palm. Babs shook her head and raised a finger, asking for a moment of privacy. Kory was happy to oblige, closing her hand around the chain and pendant and shutting her eyes as though attempting to absorb the music playing. Or block out her two still arguing friends in the front seat.
"What're you up to?" Babs's attention returned to her boyfriend at his question.
"Breaking the law," she remarked sarcastically, playing with a loose lock of hair.
"Well, breaking the speed limit, anyways."
"How irresponsible of you."
"I'm always told that I'm too responsible. Maybe it's time to change it up."
"I like your responsibility."
"I like you," as she said the words, Babs could practically see Dick grinning, wherever he was.
"I'm touched." His favorite phrase.
"I know. What're you doing?"
"Hanging out with Wally and a couple of his friends."
"Beer and video games?"
"I should've known. Sounds intellectual."
"You have no idea."
"Gar! Slow down!" Raven was yelling. "You almost hit the-"
"I can't control the car! It's going too fast, Rae!" Gar's eyes were wild as the Jetta suddenly spun out to the right.
Kory was screaming.
"Babs? Babs, are you okay?" Dick's voice was in her ear. The car collided with something solid.
"Dick-!" Babs screamed as she was thrown against the car door and pinned in place by Kory's unconscious body.