Selfish Claims Deny
Author: ocean gazer: email@example.com
Date: 20 July 2003
Category: angst, massive angst
Warning: If you’re looking for a traditional happy
ending, read no further. You won’t find one here.
Rating: oh hell, I dunno … probably PG13 for melancholy
content and mildly bad language
Pairing: none … though it is clear that Helena and
Barbara have feelings for each other
Summary: Barbara’s in one of her rare, self-reflective
Archive: The Edge, Pink Rabbit – anyone else, please
Disclaimers: It all belongs to a bunch of people who ain’t
me <g>. (DC Comics, The WB, Tollin/Robbins, so on and so
forth.) I have received neither money nor bribes from this work
of fiction. I steal these characters and write about them as
homage to the show I so enjoyed. (Was that enough of a suck-up
to avoid getting sued? <g>)
First set o’ notes: A very big thanks goes to Thunder
for the kick-ass beta. Any errors or issues are entirely my
fault, especially since I added a bunch of text that she hasn’t
yet seen <g>.
Second set o’ notes: While I like happy endings as well
as anyone, I wanted to explore what would happen if Barbara
opted not to follow her heart. It seems to me, that because of
who she is as a person, this outcome would be as likely as any
"happily ever after" piece. I’d be very interested
in hearing feedback, if you have any interest in sharing. You
can reach me onlist, or at ocean gazer: firstname.lastname@example.org
Acknowledgment: The title is taken from a verse in
the hymn "Heart with loving heart united" –
translated from German by Walter Klaassen. (In case anyone
wanted a further reference, it’s taken from the
All Selfish Claims Deny
by ocean gazer
Barbara sighed heavily, pulling off her glasses and rubbing the
bridge of her nose. The gesture was a mostly futile one, since her
eyestrain-induced headache had started an hour or so ago. It was hard to
be sure exactly when the pain had started, since she’d ignored it and
kept working, just as she always did. She knew perfectly well that when
she hit the point where the text on the computer screen was blurred and
fuzzy, she really needed to shut down for the night. Not that it was
still night, by any stretch of the imagination, since a quick glance at
the onscreen clock told her it was nearly six am. Knowing that she
should do something for herself, however, didn’t mean she always did
She stretched in her chair as best she could, feeling the strain of
muscles gone stiff from too many hours cramped over her keyboard. Her
body was telling her, in no uncertain terms, that she wasn’t taking
very good care of it again. But she’d wanted to finish up the project
she was working on, and since it was the weekend and she didn’t have
to get up for school, she’d counted on being able to sleep late.
Originally, she’d thought she’d be done three hours ago, which –
according to her more nocturnal circadian rhythms – was a nice, normal
time to call it a night. But that plan hadn’t taken into account
Helena getting injured and needing to be doctored up.
At the thought of the younger woman, Barbara cursed herself under her
breath. She’d gotten so wrapped up in updating one of the Delphi’s
databases that she hadn’t checked on Helena in the last couple hours.
Rationally, she knew that Helena was in no real danger. The bullet
hadn’t done too much damage to the woman’s thigh muscle, and the
rest of her cuts and scrapes weren’t serious. And given the brunette’s
meta-human healing abilities, it was likely that she’d be mostly
healed up in a few days. But she should have checked on her regardless,
to make sure that she was sleeping comfortably and that the bleeding
hadn’t started again.
‘Got seduced by your imaginary little world again, Gordon,’ she
With a quick flurry of keystrokes, she settled the Delphi on standby
mode and wheeled herself away from her workstation. Time to go check on
Helena, and then see about heading to bed.
Deftly, she manipulated the joystick on her wheelchair, glad for the
electronic help. She had been reluctant to give up her manual wheelchair
– even though the electric models were far more comfortable –
because she’d liked the sense of physicality that pushing it allowed
her. But even she’d had to acknowledge at some point that when she was
overworked and tired – a state she let herself slip into too often –
it was nice to not have to expend the extra energy. Though she hated to
admit it, even to herself, her health was more precarious since the
shooting and she didn’t have near the stamina she’d once had. She’d
learned the hard way that she had to make a few concessions here and
there in order to live the life she’d chosen as Oracle.
She rolled down the hall to the spare bedroom where she’d left
Helena to recuperate. With a faint touch of amazement, she realized how
quiet the Clocktower was now that the Delphi was on standby. She lived
so much of her life in front of the screen that she sometimes forgot
about the normal sounds and rhythms of life. Not that her life was what
you’d call normal, what with the costumed crime fighting and the
secret identities. But with a tiny wave of sadness, she realized that
even Helena and Dinah led far more normal lives than she did. For all
the fantasy content of their night lives, both of them were more
anchored in reality than she was, because they weren’t leading secret
lives as a way of hiding from the world. She was, and had been since the
day she first put on the costume to become Batgirl. Obviously, her
desire to make a difference had played a part in her decision, but had
she just been motivated by a "do-gooder" mentality, she could
easily have found many less bizarre ways to accomplish her goals.
She quickly pushed that thought away, as she did almost any time her
mind tried to veer into such personal territory. It was no little ironic
that she – who did more thinking in an ordinary week than many people
did in a lifetime – was so out of touch with her own thoughts and
feelings. She could analyze the behavior patterns of notorious criminals
and could figure out how nearly any piece of technology worked. But ask
her how her own mind worked or how she felt about certain things, and
she was at a loss for words, feeling almost as if she were drowning in a
sea of the unfamiliar. There were certain things she’d had to deal
with and figure out, but some of the things that ran deepest and were
most complex were beyond her comprehension. Not because she couldn’t
have figured them out, but because she didn’t want to look that
closely, scared of the darkness she sensed in herself.
Giving herself a little mental shake, she found herself in front of
the spare bedroom. She gently opened the door, moving as quietly as she
could, not wanting to wake Helena. While she knew that the painkillers
she’d given the younger woman should keep her asleep for hours, she
also knew that Helena’s body metabolized things far faster than any
mere human’s would. Thankfully, the brunette was still asleep –
deeply asleep by the sound of her slow, steady breathing.
Barbara gave a soft sigh of relief and a wave of tenderness washed
over her as she looked down at the younger woman. There was a softness
in those gamine features – a kind of vulnerability that was rarely
seen when the woman was awake and in control. She wouldn’t go so far
as to say that Helena looked angelic when she was sleeping – that was
too poetic and flowery to describe it. It was something more subtle than
that, some quality that could only be seen when Helena was not
projecting her usual hard-ass, devil-may-care persona. The persona was a
survival mechanism; Barbara knew that. She was one of the few people who
really understood that under the younger woman’s sarcastic, angry,
nonchalant mask, there lay an understanding, caring, tolerant human
being. She was one of the few people Helena had ever let inside.
That reminder pained her, even as it warmed her.
Moving closer, she slowly pushed the blanket aside so she could see
the bandaged patch on the younger woman’s thigh. Her fingers, light
and dexterous, carefully lifted the tape holding the gauze so she could
see the wound beneath. It was ugly – a ragged hole – but at least
there was no new bleeding and no angry redness that would show infection
settling in. Barbara fumbled around, finding the tube of antibiotic
cream and squirting more onto the injury, before reapplying the bandage.
When Helena woke, she’d be sure to start her on oral antibiotics as
well, just to be on the safe side.
She’d half expected that the younger woman would be roused by her
ministrations, so it came as something of a surprise to realize that
Helena was still deeply asleep. She was grateful for that, however,
knowing that the woman needed sleep in order to help her body heal.
Bullet wounds, no matter how minor, were not something to take lightly.
For a long moment, she sat and just looked at her friend, watching her
sleep and feeling a sense of gratitude that she was safe.
Then, feeling safe in the knowledge that the younger woman was
asleep, Barbara reached out and let her fingers stroke unruly brown
bangs. Leaning down, she pressed a gentle kiss to Helena’s forehead.
It was a sign of affection she would never have allowed herself had the
younger woman been awake. Though she loved Helena dearly, she didn’t
dare show her how much. She couldn’t allow Helena to hold on to the
hope of something that could never be.
At that thought, Barbara felt a sudden chill that had nothing to do
with the cool air of early morning. A sense of sadness rushed through
her and she fought to put her depressing thoughts back in their usual
lockbox. With a soft sigh, she moved away from the sleeping brunette and
headed out of the room, easing the door shut behind her. As she rolled
down the hallway, away from her friend, it occurred to her almost
distantly that she really should head to bed and try to sleep. She knew
she was running on fumes as it was, and that her body needed more rest
than she normally gave it. She also knew that, as tired as she was, her
mind was now too keyed up for her to sleep without some kind of sleep
aid. And she didn’t want to take a pill, out of fear that if Helena
woke in pain and needed her, she’d sleep right through it.
Without quite knowing how she’d gotten there, she found herself out
on the balcony. There were faint streaks of pink and orange slicing
through the dark sky, and the stars were slowly starting to fade to dim
points of light. She looked out over the city she loved, the city she’d
sacrificed so much to protect. A shiver wracked her body, not because
she was cold, but because she was in one of her rare, reflective,
melancholy moods. She tried her damnedest to avoid going there, to avoid
allowing herself to think so much about who she had been and who she had
become. Unfortunately, being so close to Helena, seeing once again the
vulnerability and trust in that dear face, had done the near impossible
and brought her demons to the surface.
Intellectually, she knew why it had happened. If she could have taken
a step outside herself, she could have looked at it all logically and
analyzed it. And had the situation been applied to anyone but herself,
it would have been quite interesting to pick it apart and study it.
Since it was, however, something so personal, it wasn’t interesting.
It was painful.
She loved Helena. She’d never told her, but she did love her.
And Helena loved her too. The younger woman had come to her one night
and confessed her feelings – had told her that she’d been in love
with her for years. And all the brunette had asked of her was that if
she felt the same, that they give a relationship a try. No expectations,
no demands, and not even much in the way of pressure. Just a request
that if she felt the same, if there was any hope at all, that they give
it a chance.
She tried to fight the memory; tried not to let her mind wander so
freely down painful pathways. But she couldn’t. She was too tired to
stay in control, especially with something that intense. Given enough
distance and the distraction of work, she could have managed the trick.
She could have managed to stuff the memory down as she managed to
repress all the other dark little tidbits from her life. Often it seemed
as though her memories were full of blank spaces from where she’d
repressed the events of her life.
But it had only been three months since Helena’s confession and her
whispered plea. It had only been three months since Barbara had really
realized the depth of her own feelings. And it’d only been three
months since she’d told Helena, gently but firmly, that there was no
hope at all for them to be anything more than friends.
Practiced in the art of self-torture, her mind conjured up the
stricken look she’d seen on Helena’s face. As though it had happened
only yesterday, she could see the tears that had fallen in torrents from
those hurt-filled blue eyes. She hadn’t seen such pain on the younger
woman’s face since those first terrible weeks after her mother’s
murder. Even knowing it was for the best, it had taken all of Barbara’s
self-control to hold on to her resolve, to not offer Helena false hope
in an effort to soothe her pain. She had known – with a type of
dreadful certainty – that with a simple word of encouragement, the
younger woman would have waited for her. She knew that had she offered
any bit of hope, Helena would have waited forever for something that
never could be.
And while it might have made things easier in the short run – for
both of them – it wouldn’t have been right. It wouldn’t have been
Barbara felt a lump in her throat and fiercely willed herself not to
cry. She knew, in some distant corner of her mind, that crying might
actually be good for her, that it might help ease some of the burden.
But that would mean facing her feelings in their entirety and letting
them wash completely over her. And she couldn’t – wouldn’t – let
herself go that far. Tired as she was, she still had enough control for
She fisted her hands where they lay in her lap, only distantly aware
of the edge of pain as her fingernails dug into the soft skin of her
palms. With the discipline borne of years of practice, she focused on
her breathing, seeking to calm her mind as she calmed her body. After
several minutes, however, she had to admit it wasn’t working as well
as she’d hoped. The threat of tears was gone, but the melancholy
Of course, she thought with a sudden, grim sense of irony, her whole
life was built on melancholy. While on the outside she appeared as happy
as anyone else, it was only a façade, a face she wore both for other
people and for herself. Her life was nothing more than a series of
losses, and the choices she’d made were almost more about dealing with
limited possibilities than about any sense of purpose.
With the exception of becoming Batgirl, everything else had been a
matter of necessity, rather than desire.
While she’d survived her losses and overcome them, she’d never
completely dealt with them. She’d never found a way to shake the power
they had over her, over every aspect of her life. And now, even if she’d
wanted to change, she wasn’t sure she could. She wasn’t sure she
And that was the reason she could never give in to her feelings for
Helena. She might have screwed up her own life, but she’d be damned if
she was going to be responsible for screwing up Helena’s. At least,
not any more than she already had. While she knew rationally that Helena
was responsible for her own choices, she knew her quest for justice and
her passion for crime fighting had been quite an influence on the
younger woman. And her burning bitterness at being forced into a
wheelchair had helped fuel the brunette’s wellspring of anger. The
Joker’s actions might have been a catalyst for both of them, but
things might have turned out far differently had she not taken custody
At one point, she’d thought her influence on the younger woman had
been positive. Now, she wasn’t so sure.
Barbara sighed heavily, her eyes watching as the shadows of night
were chased away by the waking of the sun. She knew intellectually that
much of what had happened in her life wasn’t truly her fault – she
hadn’t asked to be shot or asked for an abusive father. She knew
enough of psychology to realize that just leading a screwed up life didn’t
mean that you yourself were a screwed up person. But, in a secret little
corner of her brain, she couldn’t help but wonder whether she did have
some blame to bear for who she’d become. She didn’t know whether it
was just innate personality and life events that had made her the woman
she was, or whether it was the way she’d simply avoided really dealing
with some of her demons. It was the kind of question to which the answer
could never be known. It was also one of the things that haunted her,
and that made her cringe away from allowing anyone to get too close.
While she could live with herself and her personal limitations, she
couldn’t bear the thought of hurting someone she cared about because
It should have been the physical limitations that worried her the
most. It wasn’t. Not that they weren’t daunting in and of
themselves. But what really haunted Barbara, that made her shy away from
anyone who got too close, was the knowledge that she could never be what
someone else needed. Not that she’d taken an opinion poll of everyone
who ever lived, to know what they all needed in a partner. But she was
so fiercely private, so fiercely independent, so unable to open herself
to anyone on a personal level. No matter how much she cared for someone,
there were walls around her heart and soul that she couldn’t tear
down. And then there was the fact that her identity as Oracle and her
work for justice would always come before anyone or anything else –
even her own needs. She felt in her bones that her moods, her emotional
distance, and her tendency to lose herself in her work were traits that
no would-be lover could tolerate for long.
Helena had been her friend and her work partner for several years
now, and even she’d had major bouts of frustration and anger when
Barbara lost herself in her own little mental world. And that was
without there being anything deeper than friendship … without any
promise of "to have and to hold." If she’d given in to the
younger woman, if she’d allowed them to pursue a relationship, she
knew it would have gotten very painful for both of them. The pressure of
Helena wanting to be let into her heart and her thoughts, of wanting
something she never could give, would have the potential to destroy them
She would never forgive herself if she hurt Helena that way. And she
was unwilling to risk making her own pain worse by letting herself love
Helena, and then having the younger woman leave her when things got
It wasn’t that she thought so little of Helena that she feared
Helena would just up and leave when things got rough. The younger woman
had more patience with her moods and her need for space than anyone else
did. It was ironic in that the brunette was not exactly known for her
patience, but Helena understood her in a way few people did. She had
nothing but respect for the fact that the younger woman had stuck around
through some truly dark times, even though she now realized that hope
and love were part of the reason why the woman had stayed.
But Barbara knew that Helena – for all her patience and
understanding – wasn’t a saint, and at some point, she’d get tired
of waiting. She knew that the younger woman would feel like she was on
the outside looking in, able to touch Barbara physically but not
emotionally. That’s what had doomed all her past relationships – her
lovers had gotten frustrated with never being able to share in all
aspects of her life. And Helena wasn’t the type to torture herself
forever, not even for love.
By denying them both the hope of more, Barbara was trying to keep
from losing the friendship if a relationship went sour. She could handle
anything, as long as she didn’t lose Helena completely.
Slowly, she unclenched her hands, feeling the twinge as her nails
withdrew from her skin. She hadn’t drawn blood, but she had purple
half moons imprinted on her skin. Looking up, she saw that the sky was
growing lighter. She only wished her own mood would lighten with it.
She knew she should still try to sleep, even if only for a few hours.
But with her mind spinning in circles, she wasn’t sure she could
manage it. This was one of the reasons she hated letting herself think
too much about herself. It was not only uncomfortable, but it made it
even harder for her to do the things she needed to do to preserve what
she could of her health. Not to mention her sanity.
She sighed, looking out at the faint rays of sun spreading a thin
veil of gold across the skyline. Deliberately, she tried to focus in on
something positive. She hadn’t lost Helena; at least that was
something. The younger woman had run out of the Clocktower and
disappeared for a few days after her confession of love had been
rebuffed. Much to Barbara’s relief, she’d come back and made it
clear that if friendship was all she could have, she’d settle for
that. She knew full well that Helena was still waiting for her, that the
younger woman was still hoping that things would change and that they
could try to build a life together.
But she’d also seen signs that Helena knew, at least
subconsciously, that there was no hope. The younger woman wasn’t quite
as open with her anymore. They were still close – years of shared
experience and trust couldn’t change that – but now there was a
subtle distance between them. And Helena was spending more nights at her
own apartment now, making more of an effort to create a life outside the
It saddened Barbara, even as she knew it was by her own choice.
She knew that Helena would wait for a while; it was not in the
younger woman’s nature to give up on something so easily. Anyone with
the moniker "Huntress" had to have some predatory instincts.
But Barbara knew the woman fairly well and knew that at some point, with
no hope to hold on to, Helena would give up on the dream and move on.
She knew the brunette would find someone who would be able to be open
with her, someone who could let her in, someone who would trust her with
When that day came, Barbara resolved to be happy for her. Even if it
broke her heart in the process.
She did, truly, want Helena to be happy. And she truly didn’t think
Helena could be happy with her. In the short run, perhaps, but not
The soft sound of movement inside the Clocktower served to shove
Barbara’s thoughts into the present, rescuing her from the solitary
mental pathways she’d been walking. Someone was awake, though she had
no idea whether it was Alfred, Dinah, or Helena. Her best guess would be
Alfred, since Dinah was the antithesis of a morning person, and with
luck Helena was still in a drugged sleep.
She let out a deep breath, the awareness that she wasn’t alone
doing wonders to restore her composure. She never let down her guard
like that when anyone was around to witness it. Casting one lingering
look at the brilliant sunrise, she wheeled her chair around, knowing she
needed to go back inside. If Alfred were awake, he’d likely come
looking for her soon, since it would be all too obvious that her door
was open and her bed hadn’t been slept in. If it was Dinah, it most
likely meant a nightmare had woken the teen and she’d be in need of
some reassurance. And if it were Helena up and moving, she’d be at
risk of aggravating her wound and would be in need of medical attention.
No matter who it was, Barbara knew she needed to go back inside.
She paused briefly on the threshold. She knew she’d be ok – she
was nothing if not a survivor. And it wasn’t, by any means, the worst
thing that had ever happened to her. She knew Helena would be ok – she
was young and would heal. And it wasn’t, by any means, the worst thing
that had ever happened to Helena. Their friendship was still intact, and
would only grow stronger as they weathered this storm and adapted to the
new landscape. It would all be ok, Barbara repeated to herself like a
But as she headed into the Clocktower, back to her friends and her
chosen duties, she knew that by sacrificing her own feelings for Helena’s
sake, she’d destroyed a tiny piece of her own heart.
She just hoped she hadn’t done the same to Helena’s.
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