|From all things, Helena has been (detached) wrote in doorslogs,|
@ 2014-03-19 02:18:00
|Entry tags:||door: marvel comics, gwen stacy, huntress|
Who: Helena and Gwen
What: Cupid meets Valentine
Where: New York, Marvel Door
When: Post Valentine's Day, pre-Crane
Warnings/Rating: Lots of talk about depressing things and suicide.
Her hand hovered on the door jamb, fingers working slow over the grain of the wood. It wasn't Helena's first time through this door, nor even the second time. The third time had been when Billy let her through to their shared apartment. It had been vaguely creepy then, slinking in and quiet as she laid out her presents and then slipping out as if she'd never been there at all. And as long as she hadn't kept the thought rolling around in her skull, it had been easy enough to ignore after the first fleeting moment of it.
And now, like then, Helena stood in the doorway to an apartment that wasn't hers and didn't belong to her family. Her fingertips rubbed against the grain of the wood for a moment longer, leaving behind little streaks in the finish before she gave up Gray's body for her own. Shorter, more compact, but he was a bit like a daddy long legs, all arms and legs and long lean lines of muscles and tissue. His suit changed to her dark hoodie that hid most of her sins and dark jeans that she'd developed a taste for since Christmas. Her thumbs pushed through holes already worn into the soft fabric at the base of the cuffs, the rest of the fabric pulled taut across her knuckles, hiding the bandage around her palm.
Helena entered slowly, not masking the sounds of her booted feet, the rubber soles did that enough on their own. The door shut behind her with a final sounding click and she turned to stare at it for a moment. She could open it again, leave, plead out for one reason or another, but she'd made it this far. What were a few more steps on the path she'd already trod upon? She could give Gwen this. "Hello? Gwen?"
Gwen didn't have time to clean the apartment, and it was a mess. In the past twenty-four hours, she'd sent Erin through the door at least a dozen times to find comics with Doc Ock in them, and she'd had the quiet girl bring through movies, books, anything she could find that might assist in her new endeavor to understand the bonding agent that had allowed Otto Octavius to steal Peter Parker's body. The books were everywhere, and the comics were torn apart and separated into only pertinent parts, which had then been stacked by chronology and possibly pertinent information about different things - the arms, the spiderbots, etc.
The only thing Gwen had managed to do was take a shower, which she hadn't done in the twenty-four hours prior, and she'd just slipped on a pleated grey mini and a purple sweater when she heard the door. She tugged purple stockings past her knees, and she ran into the living room with her chunky black shoes in her hand, and a grey headband sliding into place over her long, blonde hair.
Gwen had already figured out that her cupid was female. She had used various indicators, such as speech pattern, tempo, and content, in addition to Billy's not-contradiction on the subject of her cupid's gender. Plus - and perhaps it was clinging to stereotypes that should have been long dead - but she couldn't imagine any boy she knew going to the lengths that her cupid had. She'd also assumed her cupid to be young, but that had just been her gut talking.
And, as always with Gwen, she was really pleased with her correct deduction.
Gwen assumed the girl at the door to be close to her age, and she wasn't surprised to see the dark clothing. Her conversations with the girl had been macabre and morose, and she hadn't expected someone in bright colors and a smile. And, maybe, that was a stereotype too. But she smiled warmly, and for all her social inadequacies Gwen had always been easy with smiles. Sadness still sat like a foreign entity on her shoulders, and someone who didn't know her well probably wouldn't notice it there at all. "Hey," she greeted. "You're not orange, and you don't have purple spots," she pointed out observationally, that smile still in place.
Helena had seen comics with Gwen in them, that was how she'd known the girl belonged in the Marvel door once momma cat had given her the key, but it was always a little strange to see real people in favor of illustrations done by varied hands. Sometimes they got it right, sometimes they weren't even close, the details lost depending on the artist. She was always blonde though and the blond that appeared looked close enough to her that even if she hadn't said anything, Helena would have guessed this was Gwen.
Unlike the girl in the skirt, there was no pleasure in the deduction. It came as natural as her body sought breath. "I'm not," Helena said with a wry little smile, a humorless thing where once it might not have been. It'd been so long since she'd been in anyone's company that knew the truth and wasn't related to her. The woman in the rabbit hole didn't count -- she hadn't known the truth in the few words they'd said to one another. She tugged on the cuffs of her hoodie, but refused to draw her arms around her body. Maybe there was something about the anonymity that the hotel could promise.
"I don't think it would have really stopped you if I was," Helena added, not coming closer in the mess of media on the floor. A closer look revealed some method to the madness -- some was definitely trash, but some were definitely piles. "Working on something?" She asked suddenly, gaze jerking upright, words ready on her tongue to excuse herself to whatever Gwen was working on.
"What should I call you?" Gwen smiled when her visitor indicated that she was not, in fact, orange with purple dots. "I didn't even need my microscope to make that assertion," she stated, winding around behind Helena in a swirl of skirts and expensive perfume, neroli and something like ozone that clung to her hair as she moved. She closed the door to the apartment in an unthinking move that trapped the other girl. Or, perhaps it was not as unthinking as it appeared, but it did appear to be an unthinking effort to keep the biting New York cold from seeping in from the communal hallway.
"It wouldn't have stopped me," Gwen concurred, walking back into the center of the room the wake of her cupid. "It would have made me want to get to the bottom of your mutation, but it wouldn't have stopped me." There wasn't much point pretending otherwise. After all, she kind of had a track record when it came to that kind of thing. "I think you're prettier how you are, though," she added honestly. The girl in the room was pretty. She wasn't like Mary Jane, red hair and something that felt like sex without any logical reasoning. But she was pretty in a cool, elegant way. Whereas Gwen was pale and delicate, something that looked like she might break if the wind hit a certain velocity, but the girl in the hoodie was different. She was capable elegance, and Gwen looked her over with a scientist's curiosity.
The question about what she was working on made Gwen immediately stand a little taller, and her expression made it obvious that she liked talking about her work. Eagerly, she pointed at the piles in the room. "Peter Parker is back, but he's apparently been taken over by a villain, and I made my counterpart through the door collect existing documentation about said villain, so that I can devise a way to separate them. I also have to appropriate a dangerous symbiote, and knowing more about Doc Ock - the villain - might increase the probability of success." But the piles were looked away from, and cupid wasn't getting off that easy. "But that can wait. Are you ready to go?" she asked.
Helena watched her move with a muted, casual interest. Gwen wasn't a threat. She was smart, she had the knowledge of science in spades, but this wasn't like walking into Ivy's Greenhouse or the Joker's hideout. (And if it had been, that might not have stopped her either. She went to her elevator friend's door without knowing what to expect.) All of her appearance, down to the scent of neroli, the gray head band, the purple sweater -- it was all catalogued down to the scent of ozone in her hair. (As far as Helena could tell, she only smelled of rain and old roads.) It brought to mind the lab of Dr Frankenstein, with all his potions and equipment and the spark of lightning.
Was that what her lab was like? The shut of the door, the lack of cool air at her back was also noted, filed away while her eyes tracked the escape routes out. Not because Gwen was a threat, she wasn't, not even as broken as Helena was, but because her father had taught her to do so. Always have a way out. "I'm not a mutant," she said quietly, but with a distinct lack of derision. They had mutants here, didn't they? She seemed to remember that. "I am the daughter of a cross species mating though. Bat and Cat." And though it was meant to be a joke, and she even gave a little smile, it was nothing more than a quick curl of her lips as if holding it required far more energy than she had to spare.
Not even Gwen's energy, freely given when she spoke about her project, was enough to wear off on her. Peter Parker was known only distantly and she had no idea who Doc Ock might have been, except that he was a villain as Gwen explained. She would have offered to help, almost did, but then she was being asked if she was ready. It took her a moment to remember what they'd said on the journals -- it was getting harder to remember anything but the most distant, most basic details -- and she gave a sharp nod. It was something new, this city, and that might be very good for her. "And you can call me Helena."
"I know," Gwen said of the girl not being a mutant. "I live with two mutants," she said easily, and she would have gone on at lengths about mutation to DNA, had she felt the need to fill the silence. Gwen, as she'd been in high school, had a high degree of social awkwardness to her, but it was countered with pale blonde features and a delicateness that kept her from being the brunt of jokes. All in all, she'd done well for a girl that tended to boss people around and speak in solely monosyllabic words. And, normally, she might have filled the silence of Helena's perusal with those words. But things had changed in the past few month. Dying changed a person, and Gwen wasn't the same girl she'd been before her return to Midtown.
The comment about being the daughter of a cat and bat, that made Gwen stop and re-examine her new friend. She looked for anything that revealed DNA that might not be human, because such things were literal in her world. Maybe her cupid was like Peter, and none of her alterations were visible to the human eye. She hummed softly, considering. "You could be serious, and the result of your non-human DNA could be something that isn't visible. Or you could be utilizing metaphor, or referring to something that is normally occurring in your world," she mused, and it was obvious that the pale girl in the knee highs liked the puzzle presented by the girl in the hoodie.
But most of all, Gwen noticed how tired the other girl looked. Tired and sad, and she wondered if going out was a good idea at all. It took her a second to slow down and actually notice, because Gwen was more accustomed to examining things through a microscope than in person. But she did, eventually, notice. "You don't actually want to go anywhere, do you?" she asked, the bravado and insistence from the journals faltering slightly. She'd always been pushy, but that was something that tempered with enough rejection, and she could still vividly remember Harry's most recent rejection in the back of that club. "We don't have to go, if you don't want. I just wanted to show you some things," she explained, and now she was babbling like a schoolgirl, and she had to remind herself that she was a 20-year-old professional.
She didn't look like a twenty-year-old professional in that moment.
Helena wasn't used to being the object of interest. Not next to her parents who were figures larger than life. Not next to Diana, and Kal, and Kara. And she'd been fine there, she was okay with being the one that wasn't immediately striking in a world full of people that were. It offered her the chance to hide in plain sight, to sneak while others shone. Perhaps it had something to do with the alter ego's of her parents. "All of the above," she said evenly and left it there. For another she might try to explain, but not for Gwen. Everything about the other girl suggested that she liked having something to solve, a puzzle, a conundrum, DNA.
DNA was endless options and now Helena had only two. The girl in front of her looked so much younger for a moment, a schoolgirl instead of a professional, vulnerability instead of stubborn bravado. She knew what that was like, broken pieces hidden and tucked away until everything shattered. It was her choice now, like it had been her choice to come through, and she knew before she ever crossed the doorstep what Gwen wanted from tonight. "I know," she whispered, with a heavy blink where it seemed like everything might fall down, but then she took a deep breath and it didn't.
And maybe it was hope, or just a challenge. Or maybe it was an offering from one girl who lost too much unexpectedly to another as she offered a small smile. "Show me something new. Show me your city and I'll tell you about mine."
Gwen would have been surprised to learn that the striking girl in the dark colors wasn't considered extraordinary. Youth had given Gwen confidence, but high school had knocked down the walls of you can be anything that her dad had so carefully constructed around her during her girlhood. In Helena, she saw someone sad but lovely, and lovely in a way that her own scientific awkwardness would never permit. But - and Mary Jane was the perpetual exception to this rule - Gwen was not prone to jealousy. She was interested in the girl that currently stood in the apartment living room with her, and it showed in curious cornflower eyes and feet that shuffled in their chunky black shoes.
Helena's all of the above made Gwen smile. She loved puzzles; Helena was right about that. "You realize I'm going to spend the remainder of our time together collecting clues about who you are, in order to match those clues up with the statements you made about mutations and altered DNA," she said, a moment of bright happiness at the prospect of a new friend that was also a puzzle.
But that heavy blink made Gwen go quiet. It was like when Peter's uncle had died, and she hadn't known what to say. But, no, it was different now. Now she knew what it was to lose everyone, to be alone without any real hope remaining. She waited until Helena took that deep breath, because time seemed the most logical option for a (maybe) okay outcome. And then Helena smiled that small smile, and Gwen felt the same pleasure that came from a correct hypothesis, one proven with a more than adequate sample size and with no room for scientific doubt. She smiled her own smile, pallid and bright, and she reached for Helena's hand and tugged her toward the door before the other girl could change her mind.
Hand still held, Gwen hailed a cab outside, all without saying a word that could ruin the unexpected capitulation of the girl in the hoodie. For the moment, she felt young again, and youth wasn't something that settled into her bones very often lately. She asked the driver to take them to the Liberty Science Center, which was a quick ride, not even fifteen minutes in good traffic.
"We spoke once, on the journals, before Cupid." Helena confided at the promise that Gwen would glean as much information from her as possible. Maybe Momma Cat and Daddy Bats weren't mutants like the ones they had here, but they had gifts that had been passed from them to her. Knowledge too, but that came later.
Her eyes went wide as Gwen grabbed her hand and they were going. She could have broken it if she wanted to, but it startled a laugh out of her, brief and shocking. It was not followed by a plea to wait as she followed the other girl on quieter feet, the rubber of her boots absorbing the sound of her footsteps. It felt good to laugh, even if was brief and couldn't last.
Gwen didn't let herself focus on the comment about having spoken before until they were in the moving cab. She turned on the long black seat that stretched across the back of the yellow car, and she looked at Helena with that same look of intent curiosity, which - if they spent much time together in the future - Helena would come to know very well. "We did?" she asked, though it was just repetition to allow herself to process the information, as opposed to being a true question. "I know you don't know me well, but I'll go back once you've left and make a list of all my conversations with unknown persons, and then I'll use speech patterns and other indicators to narrow you down." She smiled at the prospect, because it was something to keep herself busy. She had more of those things now, but anything was better than sitting still and silent. Thoughts came when she had nothing processing in her head, and she didn't want those thoughts.
The cab stopped, and Gwen stared a little longer. It was the kind of look that indicated a certain level of social awkwardness. Courtesy demanded that she look away, but Gwen wasn't highly versed in social norms anymore. Flash and Mary Jane had forced her into humanity, but that was a long time ago, and these days her social interactions were limited to microscopes and men in the back rooms of clubs, her knees getting rug-burned and salt on her tongue.
A second later, Gwen paid the cabbie, and she tugged on Helena's hand again. She paid, and she was quiet all the way to the fourth floor of the huge building. Her shoes clunked against the floor, and she stopped in front of the touch tunnel, which was blissfully empty at that time of day. A whispered request into the ear of the old attendant, who she'd been seeing at the museum since childhood, and they were promised privacy for their crawl. She looked at the girl at her side, and then she motioned to the crawl space that led in. "After you."
Had she used her name when they spoke before? She wanted to say yes, that she had, because people were suspicious if someone didn't, but she couldn't be sure of that anymore. However, she didn't give up that clue, not yet, because she thought Gwen might like the challenge. What wasn't a challenge was her gaze, though it remained on her. Social etiquette did demand that she look away (staring was rude) but when she didn't, a switch somewhere in her brain did flick on and Helena looked right back.
Like Gwen's, there wasn't criticism in her gaze as many rich people seemed to hold, but equally assessing. The gray tended towards feminine professionalism -- men tended to choose a darker gray rather than a lighter one, but the pleats suggested youth and gave it more of a flirty rather than work feel. People that chose purple tended towards passion with a side of level headedness, with their feet firmly on the ground and driven by whatever they loved. Hairband to keep her hair out of her face, helped when one was looking into a microscope until she got so frustrated it went back into a ponytail. Her hair was long enough. Chunky shoes were comfort rather than sharp edged style or rubber soled silence like her own and the tights -- the tights were warmth while drawing attention to her legs. Unless they were hiding something, but that required seeing her move more.
Her head tilted slightly, curiosity making her gaze sharp as she slid out of the cab and followed Gwen into the building. The whispered comment to the attendant got an eyebrow raise, a fresh tally made in her head, but there was still a question there even as she ducked down to look into the tunnel. A grin, a real grin, fresh and bright and sharp pulled at her lips as darkness gazed back. Some people found the darkness threatening, but she'd lived most of her life there, either in a very real sense or metaphorically and it held no fear for her as she crawled in. Her training kicked in, touch and hearing immediately at the fore as she moved deeper into the tunnel. "Is this the science-y version of make out hill?" She asked lightly, almost teasing.
Gwen had charts documenting most of her conversations on the journals. Or, rather she had before her last return home. Since she'd come back to Midtown, she'd been less than diligent about everything, including making notes about her conversations. Everything had fallen apart in a way that was entirely not logical and not productive, but she'd been helpless to keep it from happening. And, now, she couldn't remember if she'd spoken to anyone named Helena on the journals. She would have to review conversations, unless Helena gave her a hint, something jogging. "Did we talk about anything in particular?" she finally asked, after waiting a few long minutes to see if Helena looked away. She didn't mind the return stare; again, another indicator of social graces that were lacking in the blonde girl with the chunky shoes and the cornflower eyes.
Gwen was assessing as Helena was, though she'd already painted a mental picture of the girl in the hoodie, one that further observation during the outing would either validate or invalidate. Gwen, like any good scientist, was patient. The girl in the petri dish would give up her secrets without Gwen needing to poke at her, or so Gwen thought, if simply given enough time.
And unlike Helena, Gwen had no training in perceiving things in a tunnel that was devoid of stimuli. She crawled a little ways in, and then she sat in the cramped space and waited to see if Helena could tell that she'd stopped moving entirely. She wanted to see if the other girl crawled back in the darkness, because it might lend credence to the comment about non-human DNA. Though, even if Helena did crawl back, she'd already begun to discount that claim as something metaphorical. The question about makeout hill almost made Gwen laugh, and she managed to stay quiet a few minutes longer before responding, her smile audible in the darkness. "I think the only making out I've ever done in a museum was in front of an exhibit on cro-magnon man. I don't know what that says about me, but I'm fairly sure it's worthy of further study."
Helena paused in her trek to consider. Had they talked about anything of import? Not that she could remember. "No, only that I was new." Selina had just given her a key to the Marvel door and it had seemed important to get to learn some of the people there before she came through. Gwen had just happened to make a public post at the time and it seemed like the time to say hi to someone on that side.
The lack of noise behind her, coupled with the fact that Gwen's voice wasn't quite as close made her pause. Was she going too fast? But no, there was no slither of sound as hands and knees moved over the tunnel except those that she made. Was Gwen afraid? She'd brought her here, but maybe she was the type to feel claustrophobic or afraid of the dark. Without saying a word, Helena turned around and started crawling back the way she came, pausing every few feet to listen. Sound was her strongest sense once she lost the ability to see.
"Are those the ones that gave us 'reptile brain'? If that's true, then yes, it's probably worth more study." More listening. She moved slower now, as Gwen sounded closer. Closer. Full stop when she felt it, that little tick in her brain, warmth of another body near her fingers, heard the quiet intake of breath, normally not audible unless there was absolutely no other sound. Few places were like that, there was always the hum of electricity, of appliances, or the sound of cars and people in the city, and in the country the low hum of living animals. But here, in the city, in this little tunnel, there were few sounds other than the ones they both made. "Why'd you stop?"
It was hard for Gwen to pinpoint a conversation without any descriptional markers. Hard, but not impossible, and she had to force herself to stop from thinking about the best way to go about locating said conversation. Helena was there now, and she didn't want to waste the time thinking about charts and lists, however much she loved charts and lists.
"Cro-magnon were the first humans, as far as physiological structure goes. They were from the European Upper Paleolithic, and they were like us," Gwen explained, keeping the jargon to a minimum. She could have gone on about brain weight and physiological difference between cro-magnon and the neanderthals, but she refrained.
Why had she stopped? "I wanted to talk a little," Gwen said, none of the demurring that might come with the desire from someone with more advanced social skills. She didn't tease or flirt to make the response seem less significant than it was. She wanted to talk, and so she stated that plainly. "Do you mind the dark?" she asked. Gwen had no fear of voids, but she knew it was a prominent phobia. Too, she thought maybe this was the closest thing to death that she could offer Helena. She didn't remember being dead herself, though she did remember dying. Dying was nothing like this nothing, but maybe being dead shared certain similarities.
"I came here after prom, in high school, when the museum was closed. They were cleaning up for the night, and the attendant let me in. I was in this stupid dress, and I crawled in here and cried. My reasoning was that no one could hear me here, and it was almost like it never happened." Gwen smiled a little in the darkness, sheepishness in her voice. "It was the most illogical thing, but I felt a little better after. I looked terrible, though."
This was nothing like dying. Dying was the marble of her sink, the porcelain of Helena's tub, an easy coolness that seeped in and whispered and lured into the deep, deep darkness. It was a flash of red on white, it was peace and it tasted like hope. This was nothing like that, but it was dark, and warm, and it reminded her of caves a bit. Not the cave, there was far too much room down there, but there were tunnels that were like this.
"No," Helena said quietly, her grip slowly relaxing on the cuffs of her hoodie. She was fairly sure that Gwen couldn't see in the dark and so there was nothing to hide, not for the moment. "I don't mind the dark," she added, with a hint of amusement as she sat down, legs crossed with her feet beneath her thighs.
Helena smiled (audibly) a little at the story. "I look terrible all the time now and I don't care," she confessed. "Feelings aren't always logical. I quit crying for a long time because I just couldn't do it anymore. I was tired of lying in my bed at night and feeling tears in my hair because I couldn't get back home. My world was gone and there I was, crying over it. Like that was ever going to bring it back." Helena shook her head, because there were times she still wanted to cry over it. "But I did. Sometimes I still do. It's not the loss that hurts, its what it means that hurts. Its failure that digs deep."
Gwen couldn't see in the dark. Unlike most of the people currently inhabiting her life, she had no mutations and no powers that didn't come from years of diligent study and a determination to be the head of her class come graduation. Now, all that work seemed like such a waste of time. She'd gotten her dream job, but it had been taken away from her without even the hint of consideration for all the work she'd done to attain it. That had taught her a lesson; everything could be stripped from her. Her dad dying had begun that lesson, and losing Peter had just made it more real, but losing her job at Oscorp at Harry's whim, that had solidified it. And now she was gainfully employed again, thanks to the efforts of the girl sharing the space with her in the dark, but she didn't trust any of it like she once had. Once, she'd thought she would retire from Oscorp, beloved for all her years of service, Nobel Prize in hand. The silly little girl that had believed those things was gone, and Gwen wasn't really sure what remained in her place.
"You don't look terrible," Gwen countered. She had no idea what Helena looked like before, but she didn't think the girl looked terrible now. "You look sad, but not terrible. You have interesting eyes and great cheekbones," she added, not at all concerned about issuing compliments to a girl she'd just met. Gwen had never had girlfriends in school, because Mary Jane didn't count, and her bluntness came from too much interaction with adults as a child. She thought Helena was striking, and she wasn't afraid to say it aloud. "Feelings are never logical," she added, acquiescing. "Everyone thinks I always make logical choices, but I don't. I've done some of the stupidest stuff ever, and all because I love someone who so doesn't love me back." Honesty was easy there, in the dark, with someone who didn't owe loyalty to Peter or Harry or Mary Jane. She went quiet a few seconds, thinking about what Helena said, and she leaned back against the wall and exhaled. "I don't think it ever occured to me to miss home, not like you're saying. And when I did go back, people were different from the ones I'd connected with here, and I missed these people. It should have been perfect, but it wasn't. I'm not sure I actually belong anywhere anymore."
Interesting. Gwen thought she had interesting eyes. It was enough of a departure from her normal conversations that it made her stop and refrain from disagreeing further. "I have my father's eyes," she said quietly. When she was younger, she had wanted the bright green of her mother's eyes, that shade that only she seemed able to possess, but she'd learned to appreciate her own, so like her dad's.
"Sometimes they are," Helena countered, rising to her knees as she spoke, because here, finally, was something she felt overwhelmingly passionate about. . "When you're angry about injustice, that's logical. It shows compassion, that you aren't separate from the world you live in. And you use that anger to your benefit, to galvanize you into action so you can protect those you love and help those that can't help themselves." Spoken like a true vigilante, or the daughter of Batman, who absolutely believed in what her father stood for and why all the little birds followed him.
"We're sad when we lose something we love. That's logical too," she added. Logic and illogic aside, there was simply a part of her that didn't believe in discounting what people felt. It had happened to her and she hated it. "And even when they aren't logical, it doesn't change the fact that you feel them. And if you feel them, you feel them for a reason." Rocking back, she returned to her cross legged position, teeth sinking into her lower lip for a moment. "That came off as really intense, didn't it?"
"Gray is one of the rarest eye colors in existence," Gwen said. They hadn't spent much time in the light, but Gwen had noticed the odd color and committed it to memory. Her own eyes, cornflower blue and pale, were much more common, and she'd never yearned for anything different. Until her jealousy regarding Mary Jane bloomed into a full-tilt obsession, Gwen hadn't wanted to change anything about herself. For all of her lacking social skills and nerdishness, she'd always been confident. She credited her dad with that, and she knew her dad would hate to see what that confidence had deteriorated into over the years.
Gwen wasn't expecting the movement in the dark, and she wasn't expecting the passion to filter into the voice of the dark-haired girl that had seemed so done with the world a moment earlier. It made her smile in the darkness, success at the microscope and the thing beneath the petri dish was showing her things she'd never expected from it. "You sound like the Peter I knew back in high school. We used to argue about that kind of stuff all the time. I would tell him that saving the world wasn't his job, and he argued that it was. We never saw eye to eye on that, but it was just because I didn't want him hurt. But he sounded just like you, all that passion for helping others. And I think a little of it rubbed off. I've done some completely illogical things. Like now, I need to go find a symbiote that could kill me, and I need to help take down a supervillain, and I'm not exactly good outside of a lab coat." She was smiling in the dark, and it was a genuine smile. This wasn't anything she needed to be ashamed of, and that was a novelty as of late.
And Gwen couldn't argue about logic dictating that they should be sad when they lost someone. She shook her head in the darkness, and she tapped the heels of her chunky shoes against the floor, knees hugged up against her chest and her chin resting on them. "I like intense. I've always liked intense. I kind of don't think I have a middle ground." And wasn't that the truth? "But you're right. I guess hurting is logical. When my dad died, I thought I would die. That's how much it hurt. And I kept telling myself it wasn't a logical reaction, but it wouldn't go away, even then. Is that how you feel about losing the people you lost?"
Yeah, intense. All her broken pieces couldn't fit back together and make her whole again, but there were still some parts that weren't broken. "My dad used to not want me to follow in his footsteps for that same reason. He thought I'd get hurt." In the end, it wasn't the villains that did the most damage to her, it wasn't Crane, or the Joker, or Ra's al Ghul that had done the worst to her. They might have pushed a little, tore perforations into her mental landscape, but it wasn't because of them that she cracked.
"All the research, in your apartment, that's about the supervillain right? The one who took over Peter?" That was something she could help with, but the way the other girl glossed over it, she had a feeling that she didn't want to talk about it now. Or maybe she just didn't want help with it, wanted to prove she was more than just the girl in the lab coat. It was hard to tell and she scrubbed at her temple with her fingers as if that would help the answer come easier. But there was the smile she could hear. "If you need help, even if you just need another pair of eyes, or ears to listen to your ideas, I can do that." Her choice, and if she wanted to do this solo, then Helena wasn't jumping in where she wasn't wanted.
There were already plenty of places where that was true, she didn't want to go adding to them. Besides, thinking about the supervillian, and the symbiote (whatever that was) was easier than the last question that she asked. Was that how she felt about it? No. There was no more delaying as she shook her head and pulled her knees up to her chest, her arms wrapping around her legs. "My home, it's not just inaccessible. It's gone." Supergirl could send her back to the last Gotham she'd been in, but never home. "And I think everyone there is dead. Murdered. They're all gone," she whispered. She couldn't save those people and her father had managed only to save her and Kara. "My mother died in my father's arms, and I had to watch as people I knew since I was little died in order to stop Darkseid. My father died to save my best friend and I. To give us a chance. And that was all before I came here." To the hotel, where she'd loved and lost and lost some more. "So how do I feel? Dead. I don't feel anything at all. And on those few rare moments when I do feel something, it hurts so much I'd rather be gone than keep going."
"My dad made Peter promise to break up with me, just so that I would be safe. It was the last thing he did before he died, while he was dying," Gwen explained, a small shrug in the darkness to accompany the words. "Peter managed to do it for a little while, but it didn't last, and I died because of it." She said it like it was nothing, and maybe it wasn't. She'd lived with it for years, both in high school and in college, and it had come to fruition, and maybe that had sapped the very act of dying of its value. "You did it anyway, didn't you? Regardless of what your dad said, you followed in his footsteps?" It was almost a rhetorical question. "What's it like in your door?" she asked then, a scientist's curiosity budding in the words.
Gwen nodded in the dark. "The research is about Doc Ock. It's something to concentrate on, which is welcomed, even with my renewed responsibilities at Oscorp." She sat forward, her next sentence a little less physically distant than the one before. "Harry's dad is back, so Harry loses Oscorp, and he's taking it hard. But his dad was fine with me being back there. His dad wouldn't have ever fired me," she admitted, because Mr. Osborn was too conscious of the competition and he would have wanted to keep all available research about the symbiote close at hand. And she would have been considered part of that research. She considered Helena's offer to help for just a few seconds, before an enthusiastic nod that was almost audible. "I'm meeting with Doc Ock to steal the symbiote back, and I could absolutely use containment help. I don't think you have an interest in science, but I bet you're better at handling escaped aliens than I am."
All Gwen's rustling in the darkness stopped when Helena began talking about her home. She was as attentive as she'd been as a girl in an AP Biology class. "Would it be stupid to ask what your dad would want you to do?" Gwen finally asked. "I ask myself that all the time. My dad died saving me and the city, and I try to think about what he'd want for me. I suck at that," she admitted, "and I do a lot of stuff I know he wouldn't be happy about if he was alive. He would ask why I was being dumb about a boy, and he'd ask where all my aspirations had gone. He'd be sad that I was depressed. He'd be angry too, and disappointed that I gave up on something I should never have given up on. Sometimes, that helps, thinking about that." But maybe Helena was too far gone for that. Gwen wasn't good with feelings, and she couldn't really tell. "I'm sorry if I suck at this. My friend Billy, he always tells me that I'm terrible at making people feel better. I know he's right."
"Of course I did." Lately Helena hadn't though, she'd hung up cape and cowl in her room of shattered mirrors at the Manor and left it there. Talking about Oscorp was easier than thinking about what she'd left behind in Gotham. "Because the research is part of Oscorp and you're a part of that research. He thinks of you like property?" She asked, and it was definitely a question because if she was right -- it was bad news. Men that considered others property (for whatever reason) were never good and Helena knew that. "I'll give it a look when we go back." While she didn't know much about aliens except for Kryptonians, she didn't need a cape or a cowl to gather evidence.
And then it was back to Gotham and her father. She'd managed to skirt around the edge of it earlier, but now it was time to jump. Jump, like she thought about every time she approached the edge of a building. The only thing that stopped her was that something about a Bat committing suicide by jumping off a building in Gotham rang as much too sad for her. The only reason she'd be up there now was if she was giving chase and if she actually managed to get her hands on someone, she was pretty sure either they or she wouldn't be walking out. The latter she didn't mind so much as the former. If she was going to reduce someone to hamburger, she didn't want it to be some low level Gotham thug. A high note was needed. The suit remained at home. "It's violent and the city is painted in all the colors of a bruise." She answered as she shifted, rolling back so her feet and legs came out, the toes of her boots touching the opposite wall. "There's a lot of crime and corruption." The mob families, the gangs, the paid off lawyers and judges. "And there are a lot of good people too. People trying to make it better for everyone." A family of Bats with a League behind them.
Helena took a deep breath at the onslaught of questions. "You're making the assumption that everyone does, that they can make me feel better." She gave a little shake of her head, hair moving audibly over the softened threads of her hoodie. "No one can make me do anything and I'm not broken in a way that can be fixed by what people say," she said sadly, quietly in the darkness between them. After this, yeah, after Gwen had gone home for the night and she went back to Gotham, it was time for her to either buck up and finally fall, or buck up and finally get some help for herself. She wasn't sure which, but she was goddamn sure that she was the only one that could help herself. "My dad would want me to be happy. And safe. He lived a large part of his adult life trying to make our city safe again. I don't think he would have cared what I was doing so much as that I had those two things." She licked her lips. "Peter? Is that the boy you're being dumb about?" She nudged her shin against Gwen's thigh. "If you were dumb about it, it's time to get smart about him. What would you do if he came back?"
Gwen thought it was nice, in a completely emotional manner, to follow in the footsteps of a parent. She'd never considered law enforcement, because her love had always been Oscorp and science, but maybe it was worth looking into some integration of the two. She wasn't as certain about her future in Oscorp anymore, since she suspected that a few more nights spent with guilt heavy on his shoulders might make Harry reconsider the arrangement he'd made with her cupid. She considered Helena's question, though, about Mr. Osborn and, eventually, she nodded. "Mr. Osborn thinks he owns everything. He's a businessman, not a scientist. But he's known me since I was a little girl." Which didn't stop him from throwing her off a bridge, but that wasn't the point of this discussion. It also hadn't stopped him from sleeping with her in their old home, but she had a feeling that wouldn't do anything to ameliorate the disapproval she heard in Helena's voice. Instead, she turned her attention back to Helena's comment about her dad. "You followed in his footsteps to help those people," she said of the good people in the city that sounded dark and terrible to Gwen. She'd had a taste of bad in Midtown, but nothing like what Helena was describing. "It sounds like it's considerably different from here," she commented, which was an understatement of epic proportions; she didn't even need a magnifying glass to verify how big that understatement was. "Don't you like it here better?" she asked, and then a metaphorical lightbulb went off in her mead. "You're the girl that was asking about the spiderbots!"
"I told you I'm not very good at helping with emotional things. I don't know if I can make you feel better, but I do think science has a lot of ways to help people. Some are pharmaceutical, and some aren't. Doctors have studied the human brain for years, and there are lots of branches of science dedicated to behavior. Do you know that brain scans actually show lower levels of chemical activity in people who are depressed? No, I don't think people can be fixed overnight, and I think desire has a lot to do with it, but I don't like giving up. I guess that's why I'm still here too, because I just can't give up." Gwen shrugged in the darkness. She knew that she wasn't good at hugs and platitudes. She'd always been too logical for those things. Even when - as a girl - she'd dreamt of living in a house made of chocolate, she'd been planning the cooling system so the chocolate didn't melt.
Gwen smiled for a second, and her voice turned wistful. "Your dad sounds nice. My dad was nice too."
But then there was a headshake. "No, I'm dumb about Harry, who is engaged to someone else and in love with Mary Jane Watson." And she sighed, quiet in the nothing void. "Can I tell you something that I've only told like one other person?" But then Helena nudged her shin, and the smile was back. There was movement in the void, a scrape of thick shoes on the floor as Gwen moved forward and sat herself right beside Helena, right at the other girl's hip, and personal space was something that (like social graces) Gwen wasn't very aware tell. "And you tell me something no one else knows," she said.
The fact that Mr. Osborn had known Gwen since she was a little girl didn't mean much to Helena. It didn't make him good or bad, but the other little details that she'd given filled in the picture just fine, even without the added details of Gwen's death or her having had sex with him. Put together a businessman and add in a dash of egomania, particularly the type that thought they owned everything, including a young female employee and it was going to end up as bad news. Especially for Gwen. "You know he's bad news," she said very quietly in their little tunnel. She didn't need to see her face for confirmation, didn't need to see if it shocked Gwen. Already from the minor defense she launched on his behalf, the picture was painted in fluorescent technicolor, bright swathes of color on Gotham's dark walls.
"I don't like anywhere better," she said just as quietly. They'd visit Mr. Osborn again and maybe she'd pay him a little visit off the books and far from Gwen's gaze. "There are just places that hurt less and places that hurt more." Gotham was an open wound with rock salt grinding into it every time she went back. Going back to the house in Micronesia was out of the question and the penthouse in Wayne Towers was the breeding ground for the darkest places of her mind. The penthouse here didn't mean anything to her yet, but the sounds of Marvel's New York kept her from getting any sleep. It was easier to slip back into being Gray and letting him handle all of their living arrangements. "Yeah, the spiderbots," she said with the smallest of smiles. She remembered those. She remembered smashing them with her shoe, too.
And she remembered was it was like to not give up. Gwen might not have been good at emotional things, but she was optimistic and hopeful, something that Helena had lost in the past few months. It was dangerous to trust to hope, much like it would be dangerous to trust Mr. Osborn. Yeah, he needed a little visit. Maybe Harry too. She didn't know this Mary Jane, except the references she'd found on the sites she'd seen with characters from Marvel.
"Stop being stupid about a boy, Gwen," she said, her voice light, verging on teasing as the other girl moved next to her. Personal space took on different dimensions in the dark, lending itself better to the extremes: closeness wasn't abhorred, but those that weren't wanted close needed to be far, far away. "You can tell me whatever you want to. And my dad was nice. He's the best man I've ever known." As for her, what secrets did she have left? There was the bandage wrapped around her hand, the trail of broken mirror shards that she tended to leave wherever she was living, but maybe, maybe she should just wait to hear Gwen. Secrets had their own system of scales, what was given had to be equal to what one received.
The simple statement that Mr.Osborn was bad news was something that Gwen couldn't argue with. "Harry's dad is really important to him," she said instead, because that was the most important thing about Mr. Osborn these days, at least to Gwen's mind. She was quiet for a few beats in the darkness, long enough to hear the attendant at the entrance, trying to get their attention in order to let new people inside. But she didn't rush, even so. "Your door hurts more for you because it's wrong, and here isn't so bad because there's nothing associated with it?" Gwen reasoned. The emotion behind it didn't compute precisely, but there was a kind of logic to it that she suspected people with better empathy would understand. "Do you want to stay?" she asked without hesitation. "There's an empty room." She didn't have a family anymore, and she didn't mind filling the apartment with whoever happened to need a bed. It was better than being alone, even if she wasn't particularly close to anyone these days. But spiderbots, that made the girl in the dark smile, and they made Gwen smile too. "They're Peter's spiderbots. Well, not Peter, but the person who's taken over Peter's body."
Gwen couldn't help but laugh when Helena told her to stop being stupid about a boy. "I'll just find something else to be stupid about," she explained. "I think it balances out the genius brain or something." She was teasing. She wasn't a genius. She was smart, but everything she'd accomplished had come from a lot of hard work. She wasn't Mensa. "I got pregnant at the end of high school, and I tried to tell the dad, but he didn't want to talk about it. And I didn't know what to do, so I gave the baby up." She shrugged in the dark, her shoulder jostling against Helena's. "That's my big secret, and I wish I could have met your dad." In fact, she was really curious about Helena's world now. Gotham, because she knew superheroes existed there, and she had a key she'd never used. And for Gwen, scientific curiosity was a powerful thing. She already knew, sitting there, that she would go see Helena's world, because she wanted to understand what made the girl at her side. "Thanks for coming out with me, even if it was just to sit in the dark, and even if you didn't tell me a secret."
Wrong. Was that right? Helena shook her head in the dark, because no, that wasn't quite it. It was wrong in places and sometimes wrong in things, it wasn't home, but then it would have hurt from the very beginning if that was it. "It hurts because of everything I've lost there," she finally clarified. Kara, Tim, herself, Damian. Too many losses and not enough gains with who remained. But before she could lose herself in those memories, Gwen made an offer she wasn't expecting. Did she accept? She had the penthouse here, but that belonged to Selina, not that she ever saw the other woman there. "I don't know how often I'd be there," she finally stated. As much as Gotham hurt, it was still home. She was used to the players there, not the Spiders of here.
And maybe it was just the type of change she needed. "Let me think about it. Okay?" It would depend on what happened when she got back to Gotham, but there was a little crack, a little impurity in the sadness that seemed to hang on her shoulders. She listened quietly to the secret and the side of her mouth quirked up when Gwen mentioned meeting her dad. "You should meet Bruce. He's good." He was shaping up to be the Bruce that she knew, the one that had raised her. "I don't have any secrets like that," she confessed to Gwen's earnestness. She did have one thing though, and she reached out, fingers closing over Gwen's arm, a little shuffle of palm and digit until she reached her wrist. She brought it up slow and careful, so as not to alarm the other girl, until she pressed her fingers to the scar at her throat. It was much smaller than it would have been if she'd been treated by human doctors, but it was there all the same, a little smooth patch, pink in the light and hidden in the dark. "That's where I shoved a piece of mirror into my carotid. I broke all the mirrors in my house because I can't stand what I see in them. Nobody knows that last part, just you. And I'd be dead if a Kryptonian hadn't taken me to her Sanctuary and healed me." A pause, a heart beat, a breath. "I hate her for it," she added, voice cracking over the word hate.
"Maybe you need some time away from the memories," Gwen suggested. "When my dad died, I left home. I couldn't be there anymore. I go back sometimes now, but it isn't home anymore. I don't actually think I have a real home now, but I guess I still hold out hope that can change." She reached over in the dark, and she found Helena's unbandaged hand and squeezed. "You can come whenever. There'll always be a bed for you." There was, perhaps, little logic in promising to keep a sleeping place empty in a city like New York, where she could charge an arm and a leg for a room, but Gwen didn't care. She had a feeling Helena would have a better chance of surviving her depression here than at home, and that was really all that mattered. It was a completely emotional and illogical conclusion, one with no foundation in science, and Gwen still felt as certain about it as she would have if a microscope was involved.
"Think about it however long you need to," Gwen said, and she smiled when Helena said she should meet Bruce. "I'd like that. If you think he's a good guy, then I think he's a good guy. I'll warn you, though, a shrink would probably inform you that I'm susceptible to the endless search for a male father figure, since I lost my dad when I was still at an impressionable age." She didn't add that she'd always thought her dad was the most amazing person in the world; she thought Helena might actually get that without her saying it. She was considering that when Helena took her hand, and it took a moment for Gwen to understand what the scar beneath her fingers was. She was glad Helena couldn't see the sadness that crossed her features just then. "Don't break any more mirrors," she finally said, once she was sure that sadness wasn't going to suffuse her voice. "I think what's in them is kind of fantastic, and I think the fact that you survived is even better." There was a beat, one, before she admitted. "I think I'd hate anyone who stopped me, too, but I'm still glad she did." She didn't know what a Kryptonian was, but that didn't matter; the sentiment was still a valid one.
"Then you're in luck. Bruce has been searching for a family since he was younger. My dad was only a father to me, but before me there was Dick. Now he's got," she paused to count them. "Eight? Damian's gone now, and I don't know his history with Babs, but she's around too. And some of us know different incarnations of him, but he's pretty much adopted us all now." Whether he liked it or not. Though, she suspected even with all the trials that they threw at him, that Bruce loved having a family close.
Just as she suspected that they both felt similarly about their fathers. And maybe, too, Gwen was right about needing a break from Gotham. Helena nodded to her own thoughts before the thoughts of that day came rearing back. "I can't offer any promises on the mirrors," she said, with a faint undertone of humor. She couldn't even offer a promise that she wouldn't try to hurt herself again, but she knew when she went home again, it was time to either shit or get off the pot. Do it, or find help, because she couldn't do this on her own any longer and there was no one that could help her like she could help herself. Unbidden, a memory of her father rose to the surface of her thoughts. Why do we fall?
The answer stuck like thick chalk on the back of her tongue, never to leave, always there as a reminder. "I'd like it if you kept that room open," she finally confessed quietly. Then, a bit louder, "But I think if we don't get moving we're going to be invaded."
"Eight?" Gwen asked incredulously. That was a lot of kids, and she wondered if things would have ended up different when her dad died if she'd had older brothers, instead of younger ones. But she thought all that family sounded like a good development, and she wondered what they thought of Helena's depression. Maybe - she hoped - she'd find out someday. She was currently of the opinion that the percentage of probability of a good outcome was higher than the probability of a bad outcome. That might have been overly optimistic, but she decided she'd take it.
"No mirror promises required," Gwen agreed, and she slid to her knees in preparation for the crawl out of the darkness. "And the room is yours," she said with a certainty that she hoped carried as belief that Helena would decide not to sing that last swansong. "After you," she said, and she poked at Helena playfully, and then she began to crawl.