It was two in the morning when the excitement ended. Reese, a New Gotham cop (who had been seeing Helena on and off for a few years), eventually showed up and brought the clown to Arkham. As soon as the door of the cop car was closed and the clown was no longer a threat, the events of the evening seemed to just dissolve in thin air. All of the tenseness and fear just faded away. It was as if being a superhero was exactly like a 9-5 office job; you do what you have to do, and then you're free to go.
After "work", Helena, Barbara, and I decided to go get some food at a nearby diner. Still dressed for the gym, I felt like the biggest idiot on the planet. Then I remembered that Babs was dressed just as ridiculously as I was, and I felt much better. We got a table in the back, and sat quietly while eating sweet potato fries until Barbara decided to break the silence.
"So Claire, after seeing what you saw tonight, have you put any thought into what you want to do?" She had caught me off guard by asking this. I was far too shocked to give anything any thought, especially not something this important. However, before I could stop myself, I blurted out a hasty answer. "I want to help you guys. I'm in."
For the next hour and a half or so, Barbara and Helena took turns rambling on about my training and other things we needed to start thinking about; setting up an alter ego for me to fight as. It probably would have been a great idea for me to pay attention to all of this, but my mind was far too tired to receive any more information without some sleep. Just twenty-four hours before, I was packing to leave Pennsylvania, expecting to come to New Gotham and live an average city life. Now, I was sitting at a diner with Oracle and Huntress after crime fighting discussing whether or not I should include tights and a cape in my costume.
Three o'clock came and went, and eventually the manager of the diner politely asked us to leave. He was an older man, looking tired and seeming to ache for a comfortable chair and a cigar.
We pulled out our wallets, managed to gather enough money for the food and a decent tip, and went home; Helena to the Clocktower, and Babs and I to our apartment.
The trip home and up to the eighth floor was almost silent. I was brain-dead, and any attempt Babs made at starting a conversation with me almost instantly went to shit. It was as though I was on autopilot; I mindlessly followed her to the apartment, grunted a "good night", and headed over to my room to throw on some pajamas and crash.
But it was one of those nights during which you're so tired you can barely stand, but once you get to bed, you physically can't sleep. It was like my brain, but only my brain, was on Meth. It just kept going faster and faster. Completely irrelevant thoughts occupied my time and attention, and robbed me of the ability to get some rest.
By four o'clock, I was wide awake and wanted a snack from the kitchen. I slowly opened my bedroom door, attempting not to wake Babs. While sneaking out into the living room, I heard a muffled cry coming from Barbara's room. Not only was she awake; she was sobbing.
I knocked on her door, and then quietly opened it and slipped into her room before she could protest my entry. "Babs, you okay?" I asked gently, taking a seat next to her on her bed. "I'm.. I'm fine," she said, gasping for air between sobs. She was crying heavily. The kind of crying that makes you hiccup your words. The kind of crying that makes your whole body shake with sorrow.
"Clearly, you're not," I responded seriously. I knelt on the ground in front of her, so she was forced to look at me. Her blue eyes shined behind the accumulated tears. She tried to hold them in; to stop them from falling, but it was at the point where she didn't have power over that. "Talk to me," I demanded softly. "I'm here for you. You know that." She nodded, sniffling. I looked over at her night table to my right and found a convenient tissue box sitting upon it. I grabbed a tissue and handed it to her. She took it. "Thank you," she said, breathing in and out to try to calm herself down. "What's got you this upset?" I was concerned at this point. I had never seen Barbara be anything else but strong. Here she was, falling to pieces right before my eyes.
"Nothing's right," she whispered. "How so?" She sighed. "Well, first of all, there's Wade." This response surprised me. "That guy you used to see? What's wrong with him?" She began to sob again. "He was killed by Harley Quinn a year ago. It's my fault. I'm the reason he was at the wrong place at the wrong time." She down at her lap, and then looked up at me with sad, helpless eyes. "I'm the reason he's dead." I shook my head. "No, Babs. It's not your fault. You know that."
I wrapped my arms around her and held her tight, and she rested her head on me, still sobbing, my shirt absorbing her tears. "I don't want to put you in danger too," she gasped. I shook my head. "You're not. I want to do this, okay? And after you train me, I'm sure you won't have to worry about me at all." I released her, and she sat back up. I smiled. "Hell, I'm the luckiest girl in the world. I'm getting trained by Batgirl herself," I said, trying to cheer her up. She was quiet for a moment and then started to cry again.
I felt my smile fade. "You must miss it, huh?" She nodded sadly. "Don't get me wrong," she replied slowly and shakily, "I love what I do. Being Oracle is great, and I really feel like a more effective member of the crime fighting community. And I mean, kicking ass is one thing, but having all of the answers to help people kick ass more efficiently - it's great." She sighed. "But yes, there's a part of me that misses it a lot. The freedom, the respect, the strength, the feeling of being so empowered; as if nothing could tear you down.."
I stopped her. "Babs, you said it yourself before; the fact that you're in that chair doesn't make you any less capable, powerful, or strong. You are the strongest person I've ever met. Whether or not you're being a hero on the streets or behind a computer screen, or even behind a desk in a classroom educating people, you're always my hero." She smiled and hugged me. "Thanks, Claire. I love you." "I love you too," I replied, smiling and squeezing her tight.
"Woah, it's four in the morning," she exclaimed, pulling back from me. "You, my dear, had better get to bed. Big weekend ahead." "Shit.. Yeah," I said, getting up from the floor and making my way to the door. "Night, Babs." I left the room and went into mine. "Night, Claire!" she called from the other room.
None of my concerns and fears had been confronted during that conversation. I wasn't any less terrified or apprehensive about the unknown road that lied ahead for me. But for some reason, as soon as I lay down in bed the second time, I felt at peace with everything. Almost instantly, I shut my eyes and drifted off to sleep.