Hello, everyone! Well, I finally got around to watching some Birds of Prey (more for Dinah Meyer's portrayal of Oracle than anything else). I found it... how shall I put this... delightfully cheesy. But the big question in my mind, out of the series' numerous problems, was this- where's Dick Grayson? What about Jason Todd, Tim Drake, or Damian? Or Cass Cain and Stephanie Brown? Where's the rest of the Bat-Family?
If you have no idea what I'm talking about, just disregard the above. But if you do know, hopefully you understand my frustration. And so, here are the answers to those questions, brought to you by fanon! I don't really consider this a cross-over story, more of a what-if. This takes place pre-series, at the beginning of that "seven years later" mark. Happy reading!
I don't own Birds of Prey, or anything else Batman-related; I'm just borrowing the toys!
Helena Kyle walked across the rooftops, fuming silently. The night dark, moonless, the stars obscured by clouds. It would have been the perfect night for patrolling as Huntress, New Gotham's most recent (and only) crime-fighter. But, as far as Helena was concerned, the super heroine was gone before she even got started.
The year she'd spent under the guardianship of Barbara Gordon had arguably been one of the best times of her life, despite having come in the wake of her mother's death. It had been filled with grueling physical training, difficult intellectual challenges, and ethical tests that made her question much of what she thought she knew. The rigorous training not only changed naȉve little Helena Kyle into the Huntress, a powerful and daring vigilante; it had quelled the pain of her mother's loss, as had Barbara's companionship.
Helena now realized she'd been wrong; the training had only acted as a temporary salve, numbing her hurts but not healing them. Only a month ago Barbara had deemed her ready to take what she'd learned to the streets.
"Baby steps," she'd said. "You're no where near ready for Two-Face's or Penguin's. We'll stick with the basics; street thugs, muggers, a rapist or two here-and-there. Maybe even a few drug-dealers, if you think you can handle it."
At the time, Helena had been sure she could; as the Huntress, she feared no one. Just one more thing she'd been wrong about. It wasn't like she couldn't meet the demands of the job; what she struggled with was the secret identity. Dealing with the loss of sleep, giving up her social life, lying and making excuses to what few friends she had left; nobody told her being a hero could suck this much!
She jumped from one building to the next with ease, her thoughts uninterrupted.
Still, she'd been determined to handle whatever came her way; she'd wanted to make a difference. But, beating up dummies and targets was a far cry from fighting criminals, and from seeing the victims. It wiped away the balm training had been, peeled back the scabs over her healing wounds... and suddenly, she couldn't control herself anymore. Her bottle-up emotions rolled out, full steam ahead, and nothing she did could reign them in. Barbara's assurances that this was normal for a new crime-fighter, that she had went through it too, fell on deaf ears. Only the night before, Huntress had failed to stop a simply robbery; what was the use of having a hero if she wasn't even any good?
"Barbara doesn't know what I'm going through. She can't," Helena spat at the night around her. "I've no business doing this; leave the heroics to the heroes." Or so she told herself.
Tomorrow, I hand my gear over to Barbara, she thought determinedly. One last patrol, and that's it; I'm done .
"Interesting philosophy," came a voice from one of the ornate old building's many shadows. "Kinda opposite your current situation, though." She wheeled around, trying to assess who the voice belonged to, when another came from the opposite direction.
"Kinda stupid's more like it," This voice was sounded younger than the first, and definitely more irritated. Helena tensed, willing her meta-human powers to activate- though, she soon found night-vision was unnecessary. The two figures made no move to escape or hide themselves, with the first one to speak going so far as to step out of the shadows.
It was a tall and athletic man, wearing a skin-tight bodysuit that matched the color of his unruly black hair. An electric blue insignia, almost a V-like shape, was emblazoned across his chest, the ends capping off his shoulders and running down his arms to the middle and ring finger of each hand. A black domino mask obscured his eyes- but Helena could tell by the scars peeking out from under the mask that something wasn't quite right with his left eye.
The other voice belonged to a much younger male; if Helena's quick observations were correct, he was no older than fifteen, at the most. His costume design was similar, though the symbol didn't continue past the shoulders, except for a hood that currently kept most of his face in shadow; Helena noted that he too wore a domino mask. The colors were also different; where the man's costume was blue and black, the boy's was a dull orange and red.
It was the masks, of all things, that caught and held her attention. Very few people dressed like that, and an even selector group kept their faces- their identities- hidden.
"Are you super-heroes?" she asked, unable to keep the disdain out of her voice.
"Something wrong with that, newbie?" the boy growled, unmoving from his perch on the edge of the building. She sent an irate glare his way, but was careful to keep one eye on the man. Widening her stance and planting her feet firmly on the ground, Helena readied to defend herself.
"We heard there was a hero in New Gotham, and figured we should come home to meet her," the man continued, his voice light. "But, turns out we were mistaken, apparently. No heroes here; just a little girl playing at her daddy's job." Helena's eyes narrowed angrily at his words.
"Are you going to take that, Huntress?" hissed the boy, right in her ear. She jumped, realizing that the split second she took her attention off him was all he needed to come up behind her. "New Gotham is supposed to be your city; prove it! Fight for her!"
Anger welled up inside her, along with her powers, and Helena lashed out, her fist headed straight for his face- only to be blocked by the braces along his forearms. The edges bore spikes, just like Batman's had.
Interesting... was all she had time to think, before, smirking, the boy attacked. She blocked hastily, dodging away from the blows, only to find herself facing off against the man. He struck out, almost leisurely, and jumped nimbly away before she could counter. A sudden and dull pain in her back reminded her of the boy's presence. Helena dropped to a crouch, one leg sweeping out to knock him down. The boy avoided it with ease, retaliating with several well-placed punches and kicks, most of which hit their mark.
"Easy, Flamebird!" the man ordered from the other side of roof. "Don't hurt her too much!"
Focus, Helena, she ordered herself, wiping blood from her now-split lip. Think about your options. He's faster, but you're stronger. And taller. She switched tactics from attacking the base, like she would have with a larger opponent, to the head and shoulders. Blocking a blow with one arm, Helena aimed a backhand at the boy, Flamebird, and landed it right across his face. Flamebird, who had up until now displayed unwavering ability and confidence, stumbled back, shocked by the extra strength in her blow, and perhaps from the action itself.
She only had a moment to gloat before Flamebird came back, anger fueling his attack. Helena ferociously resisted the urge to turn this into an all-out brawl, which she knew would end badly for her, and fought back with a balance of defense and offense. This time, she both blocked and landed a few blows successfully.
Despite becoming rather battered, Helena was still going strong- until Flamebird suddenly retreated from her range via some rather impressive flips, and didn't continue the fight. Stopping herself from going after him, she realized he was looking past her to the man. She turned just in time to see him pull a pair of short staffs off his back- escrima, she thought she remembered Barbara calling them- and ready himself as her next opponent.
"Not bad, little sister. Not bad at all." he murmured, so low and so quickly she almost didn't catch it. Bewildered, but none-the-less determined to win this fight, she changed to an offensive attack, executing a skillful kick. The man caught her foot with ease and used her own force against her, shoving her off balance. Helena stumbled, barely regaining her footing in time to block the oncoming escrima.
And so the fight continued, Helena attacking and blocking, the man nimbly avoiding her blows or turning them against her; only a few times did he use an offensive strategy, but when he did, almost every hit landed. Flamebird watched from the sidelines, eyes flashing as he waited for his chance to jump back in; clearly, the two knew how each other operated well.
Despite the strangeness of the battle, and of the opponents in general, Helena couldn't help but admit that it felt good. These two were clearly more trained than she was, using moves she'd never even dreamed of, but somehow she was holding her own. Fighting the man was especially strange; his gaze was never frightening or malevolent, a small smile in place as he countered her attacks. And, whenever she made a mistake, his next movement exploited it, a reminder to her to fix it. Almost like he was... teaching her.
They'd been fighting each other for about ten minutes, more like a bizarre dance than a battle, when Helena decided it was time to end. It was enthralling, sure, but it had gone on long enough; no matter how interesting they were at the moment, she still had no idea who they were, or what their intentions were.
Remembering the oddness about the man's left eye, she switched her current attack to a feint to his right, then sharply changed directions, coming up to punch him square in the eye. It was the first and only blow she'd managed to connect, but she made it count; the man hadn't realized her move until it was too late.
Before either could really react, though, Flamebird launched himself from his perch and tackled her to the ground. Helena struggled, but exhaustion pulled away her concentration, and her control over her enhanced strength slipped away. Even without it, she found herself unable to get up; Flamebird's strength defied his small size!
"Alright, little D, that's enough," the man chided playfully, pulling him off her by the hood with his free hand; his other hand was, Helena noted with some satisfaction, clamped over his eye. After depositing Flamebird on his feet, the man offered her a hand up. Helena ignored it, clambering back to her feet, ready to continue the fight. The man took no notice of her intent, smiling at her, while Flamebird insisted on examining his fellow's injury.
"Tt, just a bruise; it could've been worse," he said flippantly, pulling the man's hand away. "It wouldn't have happened at all if you had let me protect your blind side like I'm supposed to, Nightwing."
Helena, startled, let her guard drop a little. Nightwing... the alias rang a bell way more than it should have.
"Wait... Nightwing? As in the vigilante from Blüdhaven?" she asked cautiously.
"Yup!" he chirped, then gestured to the boy. "And this is my partner, Flamebird."
"Never heard of the kid," she said dismissively. Flamebird looked positively murderous.
"That's alright; he's not a big fan of the spotlight." Nightwing chuckled, ruffling his young partner's hair, despite the angry look he was given.
"So... if you're Blüdhaven's capes, what are you doing in New Gotham?" Helena questioned.
"Asking an old friend for help with a case," the vigilante replied. "But that's not why we're here. We need to talk with you."
"But not in this current position," Flamebird interjected. "Someplace a little more secure." Helena crossed her arms defiantly.
"What makes you think I'll go anywhere with you?"
"What makes you think you have a choice?" asked Nightwing, his voice still light; but his smile no longer seemed so friendly. The young boy snickered. Heart sinking, Helena realized he was right; she had put up a good fight, but not nearly good enough. And they'd been holding back. These two wanted a talk; and they were going to get it.
"Alright," Helena acquiesced. "Lead the way." With a short nod, Nightwing took off, Flamebird hot on his heels, and Helena followed. The duo led her across rooftops and over alleys, farther away from the slummy streets (and the area she was most familiar with) and into an older part of town. Almost all of the intact buildings were from years ago, back when New Gotham had still been Batman's city. While it was still not the safest place to take a midnight stroll, Helena saw why Nightwing had picked it; the buildings from the old Gotham were largely abandoned.
When they finally ceased rooftop-jumping, Helena looked cautiously around. It appeared to be a largely unimpressive building, at least from the roof. But, in the center, there was something she clearly hadn't expected; a large searchlight bearing the Batman's emblem stretched across it. The glass had been broken out from under the metal bat, but its purpose was still clear.
"Nice, huh?" Nightwing commented, walking over to it. He placed a hand on the edge, almost reverently. "You should've seen it back in the day, blazing across the sky; really brings back memories. I'm still hoping that someday there will be a Nightwing-and-Flamebird-signal for us over in Blüdhaven; but with the way the city is right now... Commissioner Rohrbach is doing her best, but even with us there, there's just so much corruption, both in the police and the streets."
"Is that what you brought me here for? To reminisce?" Helena asked testily.
"Ignore him; he does that whenever we come to New Gotham." Flamebird quipped from next to her. Nightwing gave a light sigh, a little wistfully, before turning back to Helena.
"Right, now; onto business," he said. Flamebird walked over to stand next to his partner, and together, they peeled off their masks.
A pair of dark hazel eyes, framed by long black eyelashes, glared out at her from Flamebird's tanned face; looking now, Helena could see that he was at least part Middle Eastern, and younger than her original guess. Now she would say no more than thirteen. She looked over at Nightwing, into his bright blue eyes- well, one of them.
Now she realized what was wrong with his left eye, why he couldn't see her punch coming; a deep, angry red scar slashed across his eye, the orb itself cloudy with scar tissue, rendering it completely sightless.
Nightwing's friendly smile returned, despite her open gawking.
"Well, Helena Kyle, it's nice to finally meet you," he said jovially. "I'm Richard Grayson, and this is Damian al Ghul. We're your brothers."
Helena gaped at him, and resisted the urge to rub her eyes and check if he was still there.
"I don't have any siblings-" she argued weakly, still trying to process what she'd just been told.
"Not from your mother; you have two parents, Kyle, in case you'd forgotten," Damian explained slowly, as if talking to someone very stupid. "Batman had several students and partners, some of which Bruce Wayne adopted. It's not uncommon knowledge that he had 'children'."
"Oh, sorry I'm not up-to-date on my-our- dad's life," snapped Helena. "Up until a year ago, I didn't even know who he was!"
"Well, now you do," said Richard, attempting to prevent a fight. "Sorry the rest of us couldn't make it; they all wanted to meet you, but everyone's become so spread out, it's hard to get a hold of them all at once." Helena had stopped listening; in fact, she hadn't heard anything after 'the rest of us'.
"There's... there's more?" she fumbled over her words. "Who-? How-? Where-? Wha-?"
"She's taking it better than I'd thought," Richard muttered to Damian, who shrugged noncommittally. "You'd better sit down, Helena. We've got a lot to talk about." Slowly, Helena sank to the ground, her thought still whirling from the new information. Her two new 'brothers' sat down across from her.
"Yeah, there's more of us; Jason Todd, Timothy Drake, Cassandra Cain. There's also Stephanie Brown; Bruce never officially adopted Steph, since she's not an orphan, but we tend to count her as one of our siblings. Learn the names well, and keep everything you know about them safe," ordered Richard, and Helena, who'd never been good with sticking to rules, knew that these were ones she couldn't break. "I'm only telling you this because you're our sister, and you deserve to know. You have family now, Helena, more than just Barbara. If secrets aren't kept, and kept well, lives get lost."
"Wait, what do you know about Barbara?" asked Helena protectively. Maybe she and her guardian didn't get along much, but Barbara was one of the few people who'd been by her side since her mother's death; her supposed 'siblings' sure hadn't.
"Relax. Babs is one of my oldest friends; I would never hurt her. We were Robin and Batgirl together," Richard's voice became sadder at the mention of the red-head.
"Robin..." Helena thought back to what she'd read and heard about Batman in his glory days. "Robin, as in, the little acrobat-boy in red, wearing scaly short-pants? That was you?"
Richard glowered; Damian snickered.
"Yes, that was me," he admitted. "I was Batman's first student, before Batgirl or anyone else. I was Robin first, but that identity's been worn by three others. Jason, Tim, and Damian were all Robin at one point, but gave it up when they became adults, taking on new identities. Or, in Dami's case, after Batman disappeared. You already know that he's Flamebird now; Jason became the Red Hood, and Tim goes by Red Robin these days."
"For a genius, that's a pretty stupid name," Damian grumbled. "And I still say that cowl makes him look like a condom-head."
"Cassandra and Stephanie's code-names are Blackbat and the Spoiler." continued Richard, as if his youngest 'brother' hadn't interrupted. Helena was silent as he spoke, trying to take it all in.
"Why did you become Robin? Why did any of you choose this life?" she asked quietly. Richard looked hesitant, his good eye full of sadness.
"That's the thing, little sis; not all of us did choose this," he began. "You know why Bruce became Batman; he wanted justice for his parents'-your grandparents'- murders."
"Yeah, Barbara told me about what happened to them," Helena said impatiently. "But what does that have to do with you?"
"If you had not interrupted, you insufferable interloper, you would know by now,"
"Don't be a hypocrite, Little D,"
"Grayson, call me that again, and I'll stab you in the face!"
"Aw, you say that all the time!"
"This time I mean it!"
"Is anyone going to answer my question?" Helena exclaimed, stopped her two arguing brothers. "What happened to you that was so bad you picked this?" Instantly, they were silent, and Helena was left with the feeling she'd said something very wrong. Sighing, Richard continued his story.
"I grew up in a circus with my parents; we were an acrobat troupe, The Flying Graysons, renowned for our daring acts on the trapeze- most specifically, the fact that we didn't use a net. Can you imagine being hundreds feet above ground, suspended by ropes and bars, with only the two people you trust the most to catch you? Most people would be terrified of the very idea, but that was how I grew up. And I loved it.
"I never doubted my safety up there; my parents were well-trained acrobats, and I knew they'd be there to catch me. And they always checked the ropes before we went up. Everything was great; until it wasn't." He ran a hand through his hair, and Helena pretended she didn't see how it shook. "One night, during our act, they fell; a mob boss had put acid on the ropes. He wanted protection money from the circus; and when he didn't get it, he turned that night into a show no one would forget. I was eight when it happened.
"Bruce was in the audience that night, and he took me in. I discovered his secret, and, well... the rest is history," he smiled ruefully. "We've all got a story behind why we do this. Jason was a orphaned street kid who, one day, decided it would be cool to steal the tires off the Batmobile; Bruce didn't really know what to do with him, so he made him Robin after I left. Stephanie is the daughter of the criminal called Cluemaster; she wanted to 'spoil' his plans. Cass ran away from her abusive father, and found us. Damian here was trained by the League of Shadows' assassins since before he could walk; all he knows is fighting. Only Tim actually wanted this; he was smart enough to figure out Batman's identity, and he petitioned him to be the next Robin after Jason became the Red Hood."
"I didn't... I didn't realize there were so many of you. I guess I'd forgotten Barbara wasn't the only one." Helena mumbled, embarrassed. "What... what are they like? The others?"
"Todd is border-line homicidal. Drake is a computer nerd with delusions of grandeur. Brown is an insufferable chatter-box. They are all impossible to work with and unworthy of their titles," Damian declared haughtily. "But, Cain is alright," he amended after some thought. "She's quiet, with an impressive right-hook." Richard rolled his eyes- or at least tried to, with the right moving normally and the left just kind of... twitching a bit.
"Ignore him; growing up with the assassins did a real number on his ego." Helena would have laughed, but a thought just occurred to her. It was so logical, so simple, she was shocked it didn't occur to her earlier.
"Why didn't you become Batman, after he disappeared. You said so yourself; you were his first student. You'd know him the best, wouldn't you?" she asked, too enthralled with her idea to notice the hesitant look growing on Richard's face. "You could have just put on the cowl, and pretended he never left; no one would have been the wiser! New Gotham would still have their Batman!" They'd still have the hero they deserve; the one I'm clearly not cut out to be.
Helena smiled broadly at him, thinking she'd found a foolproof solution to her problem; but Richard gave a small, sad shake of his head, and her glee faltered.
"Helena, I can't tell you how much I wanted to do that as soon as I heard, despite the circumstances. When I was a kid, I used to imagine Babs and myself all grown up; I'd be Batman and she'd be... I dunno, Batwoman, or something. Maybe I'd even have my own Robin," he ruffled Damian's hair affectionately, and she was surprised to see the boy not turn homicidal. "But, now, I couldn't be Batman even if I tried."
"But... why? You're a great fighter, and I could tell you were holding back on me! New Gotham needs a Batman!" she exclaimed, not understanding why Richard was being so adamant.
"Good grief, Kyle, what about this is so impossible for your cobweb-filled cranium to comprehend? He's half blind!" snapped Damian. Helena stared at the boy, dumbstruck. She'd almost forgotten about Richard's eye, hard as it was to do.
"That's... that's not the point-" she stammered.
"Yes, Helena, it is," said Richard sternly. "I lost the use of this eye a almost a year before Batman disappeared. My opponent took a knife to it in a fight while I was down. He probably would have killed me, too, if Damian hadn't disobeyed Bruce and come in as my backup."
"Who was it?" Helena asked, although she had the awful feeling she already knew.
"Joker," he answered hesitantly. At the mention of the criminal, Helena's hands instinctively clenched.
"That... that monster! He ruins so many lives, and he still gets away! Someone should have killed him a long time ago!" she spat angrily. It was Damian, of all people, who put a placating hand on her shoulder.
"I know it's difficult not to, but you cannot give into the blood lust. It never solves anything," the young vigilante advised, looking a little too knowledgeable in that area. She took a deep breath and forced herself to relax; Richard continued.
"The point is, I can't be Batman with only one good eye; you were able to exploit it with not even half the training I have. That's why Nightwing has to have Flamebird; he protects my blind side."
"So he could be Robin again!"
"No, he can't," he sighed. "You said it yourself; New Gotham needs a Batman, not a Batman and Robin. Partners depend on one another, and Batman can't be completely dependent on a Robin. If I can't hold my own against my little sister, how am I going to do that against some of the worst criminals in the country? Having only one eye is almost as bad as being completely blind; along with the blind side, it throws of your depth perception. I spent months relearning how to throw a bird-a-rang. My whole fighting style has had to be rebuilt around my blind side."
"What about Jason, or Tim? Hell, what about Cassandra or Stephanie? Anyone's better than teenager with only a year of training and a paraplegic!" Helena knew her description of Barbara was unkind, but she was becoming desperate.
"Red Robin's with the Titans, where he belongs; Tim isn't cut out to be the Bat, and he never thought otherwise. Blackbat was in Hong Kong last time I heard. And Spoiler and Red Hood are off traipsing all over the country, dishing out justice as they go; with Jason's tendencies the way they are, he needs her keeping him in line." Richard explained gently.
"But you- all of you- were trained for this!" she cried, still trying to find a way to win this.
"And you were born for this, Helena," he smiled at her. "You may not be ready now, but you will be; just give it time, little sister. Learn your strengths and your limits; find your blind side. When you need us, you'll have your siblings here for you." Richard and Damian stood up and replaced their masks, becoming Nightwing and Flamebird again. Her oldest brother held out a hand, and this time, she let him help her up. She was surprised, but a little pleased, when he pulled her into a quick hug.
"We have to be getting back to our own city now; it was nice to finally meet you, Helena. Tell Babs to call more often; we get lonely over in the 'Haven." he said wistfully.
"Alright, I will," she turned to Flamebird. "Do I get a hug from you?" The boy looked vaguely repulsed at the idea.
"Tt, I still don't understand this insatiable need others have for physical contact. I'll settle for a handshake." And so he did. The two stepped up onto the edge of the rooftop, and turned back to look at her.
"Well, then; till next time, little sister!" Nightwing said, with a smile and a wave; even Flamebird's glower lessened a little as he gave a curt nod.
"Till then. Bye Damian, bye Richard," she answered, still not quite ready to call them her 'brothers' out loud. Nightwing laughed.
"If you're nice about it, you can call me Dick; everyone does, even Damian here, sometimes!" Helena held back a snicker at the outdated nickname, but smiled just the same.
Pulling grappling hooks out of their respecting wrist-compartments, the vigilantes set off into the dark.
"Grayson, you are mistaken; I refer to you as a dick, not that ridiculous monicker you go by," Flamebird's voice echoed back to her faintly, and she chuckled. The kid was a brat, but a strangely lovable one. More than that, he protected his brother's blind side; and Richard protected his. Maybe someday, they and the rest of this bat-family would protect hers.
Helena watched them leave, two figures gracefully swooping through the sky. Its color had changed slightly, from inky-black to the darkest of purples. It wasn't her city, not yet; but it could be. Maybe what New Gotham needed wasn't a Batman; maybe it needed a Huntress.
Dick and Damian. Big D and Little D.
She snorted to herself.
"Yeah... I think I'll just stick with 'Richard'."
So... like? Dislike? Honestly have no clue what the hell is going on? That's alright; if you have any questions, or if you're a fellow comics fan who wants to talk about what choices I made for this and why, just send them my way. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this fic!
I'd also love a review. ;)