Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
She had the vague sensation of being wet. She could feel the material of her robe clinging to her body, hugging the sides and front and back of her torso, sticking to her, molding itself to her fresh. But she couldn’t really feel it. It was like she was only slightly aware of it, like the feeling of the dentist sticking a needle into your gum under sedation. You could feel it going in, you knew what was happening, but it didn’t hurt so it didn’t feel real.
But this was real she was fairly certain. It would have been a rather elaborate dream. A long one too.
She was so numb. So cold.
Her ceiling was the worst thing she had ever seen. It was white. Just white. There wasn’t a distinguishing mark on it. Not one single thing to focus on. It was blurring together until she wasn’t even certain she was looking at anything. There was just a sheet of white enveloping her vision.
Maybe it wasn’t the ceiling though. Perhaps it was her brain. Maybe it was shutting down. Maybe everything was finally shutting down and that’s why she was so cold and so wet and so numb.
She was tired. She felt like she’d been awake for a long time.
How long had she been lying there? Cold and wet and numb? How long had she been staring at the ceiling?
‘I should move’, she thought to herself. ‘I should call someone about this’ she thought as her eyes rolled into the back of her head.
Her eyes flickered open and she dragged in ragged breath after ragged breath. It was getting difficult to breath now. Now matter how much she sucked in it didn’t seem to be enough and every one brought in less than the one before it.
‘I’m going to die’ she thought to herself.
Her body jerked and she sputtered. She licked her lips and tasted blood.
‘I’m going to die.’
She bumped against the side of the elevator door as she walked out, having turned to the side too quickly. She stumbled to the left towards the middle of the hallway, left foot moving before right. Everything around her seemed hazy and dull. She didn’t know where she was going, and she felt like she was going to be sick.
She tripped, her hand coming down in front of her to rest of the floor stopping her from falling flat on her face. She got back up on uncertain feet and turned to her right.
She felt like she was going to be sick.
She was standing in front of a plain white door.
It was partially open. She reached for it tapping it with her finger, opening it some more. She automatically took a step forward and stepped in.
Red. It surrounded her boot. It was all over the floor.
Like a pool.
A pool of red.
She looked forward. There was a white blotch in the middle of the red. Still and small. Overwhelmed by the brightness surrounding it.
She stepped back out into the hallway and closed the door. She then stood staring at the lettering blinking. She couldn’t even make out the numbers.
She reached for the knob. It was cold against her hand. Or maybe it was her hand that was cold.
She kneeled down beside the body. She could feel the blood seeping through the material of her pants. It was cold and wet. Thick. Her knees slid a little.
She reached out and touched Barbara’s neck.
The skin was warm.
Her skin was warm.
She was alive.
"Uhg," Barbara wheezed, her eyes flying open as her body jerked before closing again her body shaking faintly before stopping.
She jumped back, her hands falling behind her into the blood on the floor causing her to slide and fall onto her side.
Barbara’s lips and chin were now covered in blood.
Barbara had coughed up blood.
She lay there for a moment staring at Barbara as she lay in her blood. It was seeping into her jacket now.
The colours clashed. Pink and red.
She turned her head to the side. The phone was lying on the floor a few meters away next to the hallway table.
She began to crawl towards it slowly. Her movements impeded by the liquid coating her hands and knees.
She tracked blood across the apartment.
Red streaks ran across the gray buttons as her fingers shakily pressed the buttons.
"Hello," she said into the receiver. She jerked back. Her voice sounded strange. Hoarse. She’d screamed too much that night.
>>911, how can I help you? <<
"Gotham Towers. Apartment 912. There’s been an accident," she said softly, looking over towards Barbara’s now prone body. What had happened? Why hadn’t she wondered that before? "There’s lot’s of blood," she added. She looked down at her hand. There was lots of blood on her.
>>A unit has been dispatched. I want you to stay on the line with me. Are you still there? What’s your name? <<
"Helena," she said into the receiver crawling back across the floor, following her previous bloody trail. "I … she’s alone … I," Helena pressed the ‘talk’ button and dropped the phone down.
She took her now bloody pink jacket off. There was some dried blood at the bottom of the sleeves that hadn’t come from Barbara.
She draped it over the redhead’s body and sat beside her cross-legged looking towards the door.
The next night …
["But why can’t I have it for dinner?" the child asked pouting. She looked severely disgruntled standing there looking up at the woman with her little arms folded across her chest.
"Because it’s not dinner food," the blonde woman responded, her lips twitching as she looked down at the small figure in front of her though she managed not to smile.
"If I eat it for dinner, it’d be dinner food," the young dark-haired child responded staring up at the blonde.
"No it wouldn’t," the blonde woman replied. She was surprised and actually kind of impressed by the little ones childlike logic. And technically she supposed the little girl was right, but that was beside the point.
"Why?" the little one asked defiantly.
"It’s not wholesome," the blonde responded. "Dinner foods should have proteins and carbohydrates and other things that are good for your body and help you to grow up and be big and strong," she continued, reaching for the child and smoothing back her rich, almost black hair.
"Strong like you?" the child asked looking up at her. Big, sparkling blue eyes, looking into paler ones that had once thought they’d forgotten how to sparkle but had learned again looking into the eyes of a babe.
"Just like me," the blonde responded smiling and picking the child up as she raised her arms asking to be lifted. "Soon you’re going to have to carry me," she continued poking the child in the nose, making her laugh and grab at her finger. "Hey, give that back," she said as the child held her finger in her tiny hands. She actually had a pretty firm hold on it.
"Uh uh," the child said smiling as her mother tried unsuccessfully to pull her finger out of her hand. "I got it. Fair and square," she added. Everything was fair and square with her, even if it wasn’t fair and square at all. The blonde was certain the child had just figured out that it was a funny sort of saying that tended to stump people and liked using it.
"Fair and square huh?" the blonde asked thoughtfully.
The child nodded her head.
"Things should be fair and square?" the blonde asked the child, looking very serious.
The child nodded gravely.
"Okay. We’ll be fair and square then. If you eat your macaroni you can have a piece of cake for dessert," she said nodding at the girl.
The child nodded, and the blonde tickled her in the stomach, making her laugh and burry her head in the blonde’s shoulder as she giggled.
"I love you," the blonde said wrapping the arm she’d been using to tickle the child around her holding her to her tightly.
"I love you too," the child said her words muffled against her mothers shoulder.
"How much?" they asked together smiling as the blond set the child back down onto the floor.
"This much!" they answered together spreading their arms as wide apart as possible.
"Go wash your hands," the blonde said ruffling the little ones hair.
"Hey," the child said raising her hand up to her head and smoothing her hair down. "Watch the hair," she continued still patting it before trotting off towards the bathroom.]
Helena wrapped the blanket around her more tightly, bringing it up until it rested just under her nose as she stared through the open bedroom door into the hallway and further still into the living room. She inhaled deeply and sighed, bringing the blanket up to cover her head.
It still smelled like her. The blanket, the pillows, the whole room still smelled like her mother.
A tear rolled down her cheek and she turned her head into the pillow closing her eyes as she breathed in deeply once more.
Three days later …
Barbara blinked rapidly trying to get the three blurry images swaying in front of her to come together to form a nice blurry whole. She was constantly dizzy and confused. Barely cognizant. She’d wake up with this terrible pain in her chest, her skin feeling lumpy and uncomfortable where tubes and I.V’s were sticking from her body, but she could never feel it for long. She’d start to feel lightheaded and drift off again.
"Hello?" Barbara managed to get out, closing her eyes. She still hadn’t gotten the image to focus and it was making her head hurt looking at the three blobs.
"Ms. Gordon, hello," said a voice Barbara didn’t recognize. "You don’t know me, my name’s Annabeth Green I’m with Children’s Services," the voice, Annabeth Green, continued. "I’m truly sorry to be imposing upon you after you’ve suffered such a great trauma …"
"Annabeth," Barbara said weakly cutting the woman off. "I’ve only got about five minutes before the fitful morphine sleep kicks in … if that, so if you have a point you better rush to it," Barbara went on swallowing with difficultly. She wanted water, but didn’t know where it was if there was any. She didn’t want to chance opening her eyes again. Her head was throbbing less than usual at the moment.
"Right," Annabeth said. "Sorry. You … I mean, the hospital said you were in a coma and …you probably haven’t been keeping up with the news. That’s why I’m here. Um, Selina Kyle was mur … passed away the night that you were … injured."
"Wha…" Barbara said her eyes squeezing more tightly together as her head began to throb again. She tugged at the morphine drip unconsciously. Where was her unconsciousness …no, she couldn’t go back to sleep, the babbling blob in front of her was saying something …it was about … Selina … the news report … "Helena," Barbara finally whispered a few moments later. She remembered now that the memory had been prompted. That was why she had been running to the door, why she opened it without looking. She’d thought it was Helena, she’d been worried that the girl had been hurt. Annabeth thought she sounded worried, but it was hard to tell.
"She’s okay," Annabeth said quickly seeing the ashen woman jerk her shoulders a bit as if trying to get up. "Please don’t do that," she said resting a restraining hand on Barbara’s shoulder. A hand she quickly removed when the redhead hissed in pain. "I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean, you just shouldn’t be moving around like …"
"Helena," Barbara said again, blinking at Annabeth. The woman was talking again but she wasn’t saying anything. She just wanted to know where Helena was. She had to see if Helena was okay, she’d promised Selina she’d…
"She’s in the hallway," Annabeth said seeing Barbara jerk again. "Please. Lay still, I’ll go get her. Would you like to see her?"
Barbara simply nodded, stopping her rather ineffective efforts to move. She wasn’t sure she could’ve kept it up for much longer anyway. She was so tired. Always tired and sore and hurting.
"Okay. But before I do that," Annabeth said feeling distinctly uncomfortable. "I need to talk to you about Helena’s …"
"I know," Barbara said turning her head to the side. Her mind was clearing a bit; she could focus on the woman now. "I know I’ve been named her guardian," she said.
"Yes," Annabeth said shifting a bit now that she could feel Barbara’s eyes focused on her. "That’s what I wanted to talk to you about … before you see Ms. Kyle. You see, with circumstances being what they’ve become there’s been some concern about whether …"
"Stop," Barbara said, weakly lifting up her hand. She may have been a bit slower than normal but she was still quicker than most and even in this state of being she knew where this was going. "I know what you’re going to say," she continued coughing softly, her hand falling back down. "I’m twenty-five, barely employed and newly … paralyzed," she went on, the last word coming out chocked. "You don’t think I’m fit to take care of her," she continued sounding more than a little bit offended. "But I am. I gave my word to her mother that I’d take care of her and that’s exactly what I intend to do," she pressed on her voice firm if a bit raw. "And if you or your superiors have a problem with that then you can just kiss my lower back for all I care," she finished her eyes fluttering shut for a moment, exhausted with the effort of talking, before opening again to look at the woman beside her.
"Lower back?" Annabeth asked, taken back and impressed by the woman’s speech.
"It would be a vindicating moment," Barbara wheezed slightly. "I’d like to be able to feel it," she continued, her voice deadpan as she peered at Annabeth. "You can bring her in now."
Helena walked into the room, quietly closing the door behind her. She stood there staring at it for a moment and then sucked in a deep breath turning around. Barbara was looking at her so she made quite sure not to gasp or clasp her hand to her mouth, or do anything like that. She just walked over by the side of the bed and sat down, like she was used to seeing people as pale as snow with wires and tubes sticking out of every visible patch of skin, while a quartet of I.V’s poured into them.
She could almost feel Barbara’s blood on her hands again.
"Hey," Barbara said softly. Helena was slumped over in the chair looking like she was trying not to cry.
"Hey," Helena responded looking over at Barbara again even though she didn’t want to. "She’s dead," Helena said a moment later. It wasn’t what she meant to say, or wanted to say. But it’s what she said.
"I know," Barbara said, blinking rapidly to contain tears as she looked at the brunette. "I’m sorry Helena," she said reaching out and grasping the young girl’s hand weakly.
"They were operating on you. I couldn’t watch. I went home, but there was nobody there," Helena said her eyes drifting around the room. She wanted to squeeze Barbara’s hand to make sure she was real, that she was really there, but it was so small and weak. She thought she’d break it. She didn’t want to do that; it looked like the only thing on the redhead that wasn’t broken yet.
Barbara didn’t know what to say to that. She was sure that she could’ve thought of something, helpful, meaningful … something. She was sure of that, but her morphine drip had kicked in again and she was starting to feel lightheaded. She had to concentrate to keep Helena in focus.
"I’ll be here," Barbara finally managed to get out as her eyes drifted close. She wasn’t sure anymore if that related to what the girl had said, but she figured it was a response good for any occasion.
"Will you?" Helena asked finally looking back over at the redhead.
Her eyes were closed. She looked dead. Helena pushed the chair back suddenly causing the redhead’s hand to fall limply onto the side of the bed. She looked dead.
"Barbara?" Helena asked. There was no response. She turned her head to the side and looked at the various monitors over the bed. One was beeping steadily showing wavy lines flowing across it at regular intervals. She looked back to Barbara and saw her bandaged chest rising and falling.
She pushed the chair closer again and rested her elbows on her knees dropping her head into her hands.
She looked at Barbara waiting for her to wake up again.
A week later …
Barbara looked forward, staring straight ahead of her at the small television set attached to the back wall, her jaw clenching and unclenching unconsciously, her nostrils flared slightly as her chest rose and fell in a steady pattern. The screen of the television was black and she could just make out her reflection on the screen and that of the man seated beside her bed.
"Barbara," the man said softly reaching out to place his hand on her arm. His large calloused hands coming to cover the tubes sticking out of her veins and her identification bracelet. "Barbara," he said again sighing worriedly.
Barbara looked over at him finally, a frustrated sigh coming out of her throat as she made eye contact with him. She stared at him for a moment and then looked away once more sighing again.
"You have to talk about this," the man said despite Barbara’s obvious irritation. He knew that she wanted to be left alone, but she had been alone and she needed to talk now. "If you don’t want to talk to me, I can call a …"
"Don’t," Barbara said interrupting him her eyes drifting around the hospital room. "Finish that sentence Dad," she continued. "I don’t need to see a shrink. I’m fine."
"You’re not fine," Commissioner Gordon said looking at his daughter’s tense features and hard expression. He’d never seen her like this before. The only time her features softened at all since waking from her coma had been when Helena was around, but Barbara always became morose and withdrawn again when the brunette had to leave in the evenings to go back to the group home. "You’ve gone through an extreme trauma and …"
"And what? Talking about it is going to magically fix my spinal cord?" she asked turning towards him sharply. "There’s nothing wrong with me that talking is going to fix," she continued her voice harsh as she glared at him. "You can save the weepy, motivational speeches for the press conferences, cause I don’t wanna hear it."
"Barbara," Commission Gordon said in a warning fatherly tone. He sounded like she had come home three hours after curfew. "Look at me."
"Go away," Barbara whispered turning her head as far away from him as she could. It hurt her to look at him.
"No," he told her simply. His hand still covered hers. The doctors had warned him about this. That after the initial shock wore off, and the second and third and fourth and twentieth consultation had been made and yielded the same response, that the anger would come. Especially, the doctor had said looking down at the chart that held Barbara’s medical history noting ankle sprains from over ambitious vaults and cracked collarbones from falls from the high bar, for someone like your daughter.
"Suit yourself," Barbara muttered blinking back tears. She turned her head to look up towards the ceiling. She was sick and fucking tired of ceilings. She closed her eyes. It was easier to pretend he wasn’t there, that nothing was there, when she couldn’t see anything. When all of her was still and dark, what wasn’t happening below her waist didn’t seem as jarring and odd. It was almost like being whole again. At least for a moment.
Three Weeks Later …
Barbara slowly moved the spoon around the mug stirring the liquid languidly and then lifted the spoon and tapping it on the edge of the mug before resting it on the saucer. Sensing a presence beside her she leaned back away from the table her elbows had been resting on allowing a plate of food to be place in front of her.
"Thank you," she said softly, briefly glancing up at the young waitress as she stood back up. The girl smiled at her softly and then moved around to the other side of the table setting down another plate. She then looked back over at Barbara for a moment, staring at her before she noticed that the redhead’s green eyes were focused on her too. She smiled apologetically and quickly walked away.
Barbara sighed and poked at her eggs with her fork. She was getting tired of that. People looking at her all the time. She was news, at least for the moment. The police Commissioner’s daughter gunned down in her own home by a madman that had escaped from police custody. Brilliant, young student and athlete wounded in Gotham’s endless struggle against crime. Photos of her had been all over the news for weeks, but it was finally starting to end. People were getting bored and moving on to a new tragedy. But she was recognizable now, at least for the moment, and she was looked at.
It was extremely depressing.
She hated going out.
"Did you finally call the physiotherapist back?" Jim Gordon asked watching as Barbara poked at her food. He wondered if she was going to actually eat any of it. She didn’t look like she had been eating much of anything lately.
"Hmmm," Barbara said leaving the food alone for a moment and picking up her mug. "Saw him two days ago," she continued looking up at her father finally. "I told you I’d take care of it."
Commissioner Gordon remained silent for a moment watching as she went back to playing with her food.
"Are you going to actually eat any of that?" he asked.
Barbara looked up at him and rolled her eyes. "What are you my … oh, right," she said smiling briefly before finally putting some food in her mouth and making an ‘mmm’ sound as she patted her stomach.
"I don’t mind if you humour me," Jim said in response. He was pleased to see that smile not matter how brief.
"He’s a chipper guy," Barbara said in between bites. She was actually hungry now that she’d started eating. She couldn’t remember the last proper meal she’d had. She chose not to think about it. She was getting good at that, ignoring what she wanted to. "It’s irritating. Apparently, I’m very lucky," she went on darkly making a face as she spoke. "If I’d gotten to the hospital any later I would’ve died, he said," she continued. "I’m surprised he didn’t break out into some up with people song like ‘Come On Get Happy’."
"You are lucky," Jim responded frowning slightly. He didn’t like it when she mocked surviving like that. He worried about that mentality. At least she hadn’t made a bad joke about dying. It was something at least. "A few more minutes and you would have died."
Barbara looked up at her father at that, considering him for a moment before going back to her food. She wasn’t feeling particularly lucky even if she was, and she didn’t want to get into it with her father again. Her attitude sucked, she’d been informed. But now it was becoming at bloody, beaten horse between them.
"Where’s Helena?" Jim asked sighing slightly knowing Barbara wasn’t going to respond to anything along their previous line of conversation.
"With a social worker for the morning," Barbara replied exhaling noisily and clenching her jaw a bit.
"You sound … upset," Jim commented searching for a polite way to describe Barbara’s response.
"Things have been a bit difficult," Barbara replied after a long moment, sighing deeply once again. "Helena … she was in shock for the first couple of days, and then emotionally drained for a few more," she continued stopping momentarily to look around the café. "And then … well, she was concentrating on helping me get … somewhere near self-reliant again," she went on picking up her mug, and then quickly putting it back down. It was cold. "But now, for the last little while," another sigh, "the anger and resentment have kicked in with a vengeance. Since I brought her home. She’s become somewhat unruly … I wasn’t expecting it," Barbara finished rubbing at her eyes tiredly. The truth was that Helena was more than unruly. She had become self-destructive and violent to a degree that was seriously starting to alarm Barbara. She’d known that she would be in store for some behavioral problems, it was to be expected, Helena’s mother had died right in front of her after all. But the degree to which the brunette had moved into the dark, worried her. She barely recognized the girl anymore.
Jim opened his mouth to respond, knowing that whatever was going on in Barbara’s house was more serious than she was letting on, and thinking not for the first time that his daughter had taken on more than she could handle.
"I know what you’re going to say," Barbara said stopping him before he could start. "I’m too young, I’m too emotionally unstable, blah, blah. You’re probably right," she admitted. "But it doesn’t matter," she went on with more conviction than Jim had heard in her voice since the shooting. "This is how things are."
"You shouldn’t have left the hospital so soon," Jim said shaking his head. She was so stubborn. As soon as the doctor’s said that it was no longer necessary for her to stay, though they would’ve liked her to for observation, Barbara had headed to the nurses station signing her release papers while simultaneously on the phone with Children’s services arranging for Helena to be brought to her apartment. One of the orderlies had had to stop her as she wheeled out, having spotted a monitor on her that hadn’t been taken off.
"I didn’t like it there," Barbara responded shrugging. "Too many people. Besides once the bleeding stopped and the tubes were taken out, there wasn’t any more that could be done there than anywhere else," she finished reaching for her mug again, before remembering that it was cold and taking her hand away.
Jim looked at her for a long moment after that. He’d been noticing that Barbara had been becoming increasingly anti-social as time wore on. She’d never been what he would’ve described as a social butterfly, constantly surrounded by flocks of people. But she was a sociable person, always with a smile and a hand out to help. It broke his heart to see her so small and broken.
"Besides," Barbara pressed on, getting uncomfortable with the silence. She didn’t like giving her father too much time to ruminate on one particular subject because then he’d never let it go. "Helena’s been … a big help … to me," she continued her face scrunching, almost wincing as she said it, as if she was in pain. She’d found it frustrating, embarrassing and demeaning to need Helena’s help sometimes. More times than she cared to admit. Admittedly she hadn’t needed the girls help to bathe or go to the washroom, but that was hardly empowering. At least her previous profession had given her the upper body strength needed that she didn’t have to be completely dependant on Helena in the beginning. "I should be getting back home Dad," Barbara said finally looking over at him. "The social worker will probably want to talk to me when she gets back with Helena. We’ll do it again soon," she said smiling softly, and what she hoped was reassuringly.
She planned on ignoring his calls for the rest of the month.
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