There are a handful of hereditary traits in the Wayne bloodline.
Height, for one—at twenty-one, Helena doubts she has any growth spurts left in her, but she already stands at a respectable five feet, nine inches. It's dwarfed by the looming presence of her father's form, but in a pair of dangerous heels, Helena can split the difference.
Blue eyes are another. The opaque lenses in Helena's old domino mask had not only offered her infrared and nightvision, but concealed arguably one of her most recognizable features—irises to shame a diamond's own blue.
"Like a pair of stolen sapphires," Mother used to joke, ruffling her hair fondly, and Father would snort from his desk, not even looking up from his paperwork to quip back, "Why do they have to be stolen, Selina?"
The list goes on—slightly upturned nose, sharp jawline, high cheekbones, deathly pale skin that Mother's darker complexion had overruled. There is undoubtedly a Wayne look, and Helena fits it to a T.
But beyond the physical, there is a unifying trait passed down from generation to generation in the Wayne family—unseen but no less potent—and that is the unique ability to get mixed up in the most fucking ridiculous, stupid shitshows known to mankind.
Such as the one she's in now.
Helena loiters like a ghost in the shadows of an alleyway, one hand on the curve of her crossbow, an annoyed cut to her jaw as she tries to figure out where the fuck she is.
She knows where the fuck she's supposed to be—Apokolips, the hellish, high-tech industrial wasteland that Darkseid rules over. Since his invasion of her home—since the death of her parents and near-every member of the Justice League—Helena has been working nonstop to find a way to take the fight to him. If she can find a way to lure Darkseid back to his godforsaken planet, she has the power to keep him there.
Well, she thinks she does, anyway. Constantine and Zatanna had sworn up and down that the little plan they'd hatched would totally work, we swear but Helena tends to take up Father's point of view when it comes to magic and those who use it, and that point of view is miles and miles of mistrust.
Then Darkseid had wiped out a quarter of the people living in Old Gotham with a sweep of his hand, and Helena had gotten on board with the pair's shaky-at-best plan pretty fucking quick.
But none of that explains why she's currently in an alley at what—by her estimation—is ass o' clock at night. She leans back against the graffiti-laden brick, finally sliding her weapon back in its holster. As big a fan as she is of problems that can be solved with a crossbow bolt, she knows that's not what she's faced with now.
Her instinct is to say she's still in Gotham—that the interdimensional transportation method that had been given the ungodly unfortunate name of Boom Tube—had failed. Their plan failed. She failed.
And while Helena Wayne is usually first in line when it comes to blaming Helena Wayne, even she feels the need to take a breath. Give herself space—perspective. She can handle this—she's the goddamn Huntress.
Even thinking the name of her chosen mantle has her standing up a little straighter.
So she's not in Apokolips—fine. That much is obvious. But she's still somewhere and despite the odd sense of familiarity granted by this dingy back alley, she knows she's not in Gotham. She can't be. Nights there have been different ever since Darkseid came—and Helena knows in her bones that genocidal alien monstrosity isn't anywhere near her.
Taking a breath, Helena pushes off the wall, easing out of the shadows and feeling more like Father with every step. When she'd run with him as Robin, she'd been so damn chipper about the whole thing—so bright and shining and eager to please. She used to love Gotham's nights, sprinting across rooftops flanked by her parents, utterly unconquerable.
And then dawn never broke, and night lagged and loitered until Helena quite forgot what daybreak looked like. Her parents passed like so many others, and the mantle of Robin faded with them, leaving Helena behind to gather up the ashes and from them fashion the Huntress—a dark, distorted reflection of herself left lingering in her father's footsteps.
Still, she moves out of the alley, forcibly reminding herself that she isn't Batman as she begins to carefully pick her way along the street the alleyway empties into. The familiarity is blinding—everywhere she looks reminds her of Gotham, and it only frustrates her further as she continues along, boots scuffing along cracked concrete.
She wonders if homesickness is clouding her judgment, but she can't really be homesick for a place she was in not five minutes ago, right? Besides, it looks like Gotham—the feeling is just off.
She suddenly goes very still.
Has she gone back in time?
The thought draws mixed emotions. On the one hand—elation. Gotham before Darkseid is all she's ever wanted and exactly what she's never allowed herself to pine for—an impossibility impossibly out of reach.
Her hope—in typical Wayne fashion—quickly falls apart, reassembling itself into doubt and scrutiny. Stranger things have happened, it's true, but possibility is not probability. Just because it can happen doesn't mean it has. Members of the Justice League have dabbled with time before, but those were very precise instances prompted by very precise circumstances. One does not just stumble ten years into the past.
She hears footfalls far before she suspects the owners of those footfalls thinks she does, and coolly holds her place, tilting her head to the side just enough to sharpen her hearing.
Two sets, two figures. One lighter on their feet than the other. Low, anxious chatter shared between them. Helena holds her breath, listening.
"Hey!" a rough, reedy voice calls. "What the fuck you doin' over there?"
Helena subtly shifts her weight, evening out the distribution, preparing to move in any direction.
"Listen, this is our turf, alright?" a high voice—rather youthful as well. Helena frowns. "If you wanted in, you shoulda been here when they were carvin' it up months ago."
A gun cocks, and Helena narrows her eyes.
She may not know exactly where she is, but she's under no illusions as to who she is, or what her purpose in this life is.
She throws herself into a back handspring, twisting midair and kicking out with her leg at the peak of her arc with a satisfying crunch from the heel of her boot as the woman's face snaps sideways, jaw thoroughly broken.
Helena's landing—spectacular as it is—lasts only a moment before she's rolling away as the man's gun cracks twice, splintering the concrete where she'd been a moment before.
Batman typically fought with batarangs. Catwoman favored the whip.
Their daughter had taken to neither of them.
Her hand-crossbow is drawn in a moment and before the man can reorient his shot, Helena's taken hers.
Two bolts—one for his wrist, one for his shoulder—and the man rears away from her with a howl of pain, dropping the gun in favor of curling in on himself, cradling his wounded arm as he dissolves into explicit babbling, eyes wide with pain and shock.
Helena dives forward to catch the falling weapon—her first night patrolling as Robin she'd let a gun drop and it'd discharged at a civilian—and turns the maneuver into a somersault, using her momentum to throw herself forward and knock the man to the ground, effectively pinning him beneath her, forcing him to look down the barrel of the gun he'd held on her the last time he'd blinked.
She offers a jaunty smile as she settles astride him, adrenaline making her feel like a bit of a shit, as it always does.
"First time getting hit with a crossbow bolt?" she asks pleasantly, deftly disassembling the gun and throwing the guts of it off to the side, disinterested. She notes that his eyes have drifted away from her face to settle on something over her shoulder, and she arches an eyebrow.
Helena lifts her crossbow and—without looking—fires off another bolt directly behind her. The woman with a busted jaw goes down hard in a flurry of curses as the shot hits her just above the left knee.
She holsters the crossbow and notes the man's attention is most definitely back on her. "You were saying?" she asks, blowing an errant black curl out of her eyes with a quick huff.
His chest is still heaving, and Helena accidentally-on-purpose shifts forward, planting her hands on both of his shoulders and maybe applying a bit more pressure than needed on the one with ten inches of razor-sharp aluminum sticking out of it. He hisses with pain and she smirks.
"Ow, yes, okay? Yes. Who the fuck—a crossbow? Really? What the fuck?"
"Effective, you have to admit," she tells him conversationally.
"Who the fuck are you then?" he snarls at her, remarkably aggressive considering the position he's in. "Huh? You don't have a goddamn bat on your chest so you're—what?" His eyes sweep her uniform, taking in her mask, utility belt, and the stark white cross that almost burns against the pitch of her suit. "Fuckin' cross girl?"
Helena's eyebrow climbs higher as she digests this information.
One: Batman—or some masked vigilante with an aforementioned goddamn bat on their chest—exists in this place she's in now.
Two: His inability to identify her means that for whatever reason, Huntress does not exist in this place she's in now.
Three: Criminals still have abysmal imaginations. Cross girl? Really?
Still, she has a situation to settle before she tries to solve anything else, and looks around for something to restrain her would-be gunman with. When a quick sweep of her surroundings leaves her empty-handed, she just sighs, leveling a look at him.
"Look, we're in Gotham, right?" she blurts out.
A beat of silence follows her question, and Helena grits her teeth. There were more elegant, clever ways to go about solving that particular mystery, probably.
He pulls a face. "Are you serious? Of course we're—where the hell else would we be?" He squints at her then. "What are you, patrolling drunk? Is that why you forgot your bat? Huh? Grabbed the wrong Halloween costume?"
Helena rolls her eyes, flexing her fingers where she grips the man's shoulders and drawing a low string of "owowowowow ok-ay," from him as she does.
"I'm going to leave you and your friend here for the GCPD to find," she tells him, eyebrow still lifted seriously. "And I'm going to leave my crossbow bolts, because the alternative is a bit messier than what I'm in the mood for right now. But if you make a break for it, the next one's going ten inches deep right here."
She taps him lightly between the eyes. He flinches.
"Good, now that that's settled." Helena flashes another cheery smile as she swings off of him, allowing all of her weight to bear down on his gut for one moment and smirking as the air is forced from his lungs in a strangled wheeze before rising fluidly to her feet.
She runs a gloved hand through her hair to settle her curls, idly tossing her gaze around as she decides her next move.
"Well, who are you then?"
Helena freezes, looking back over her shoulder. The man hasn't moved—because he can't or because he won't, she can't quite tell—and he glares up at her with all the indignity he can muster.
Considering the events of the last three-and-a-half minutes, he can muster quite a bit.
Helena peers down at him. "Pardon?"
He gestures at her profile with his good arm. "Your name, you masked jackass. Or are you leavin' it up to me? Because I'm more than happy to—"
"Huntress." She cuts him off coolly and holsters her crossbow. "My name is Huntress."
"Never heard of ya," pipes up the woman from a few feet away, words jumbled due to her busted jaw. Helena throws her an annoyed glance and sees she's hauled herself up to sit against they alley wall, content to wait for the GCPD to roll up, apparently.
"Well then, I'll rent out some fucking billboards next time, alright?" Helena snaps back.
"I liked Cross Girl better, to be honest," the man tells her, drawing Helena's gaze again. He shifts on the ground, preparing to settle in. Clearly, this is not the first time they've been apprehended and told to wait for the police. He nods helpfully to her suit. "Suits your costume better, too." He mimes the sign of the cross in the air, like some kind of ragged, back alley Pope.
Helena smiles back tightly. She's in hell. The Boom Tube took her to fucking hell. Unbelievable.
"I'll take it under advisement," she tells him stiffly.
She leaves the pair to their own devices—after convincing herself that shooting him again would be a waste of a crossbow bolt—and slinks off to ponder her situation.
She isn't in hell, as charming a thought as that might be. Gotham isn't hell to her—it couldn't possibly be. Even her Gotham, the one under Darkseid's thumb, is still where she wants to be, above anywhere else. She loves Gotham more than anything else—can't even picture her city without herself in it.
So why did neither of those delinquents recognize her?
Maybe the Helena of this Gotham never became Huntress? That makes sense, actually. She took up that mantle because her parents had been killed and she'd needed a new identity—she couldn't be Robin if Batman was dead.
So, if this version of her never became Huntress, then this version of Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle-Wayne must still be alive, meaning she's still—
A whisper—the softest hiss of leather-on-concrete—has Helena whirling around, crossbow drawn, lips pulling back in a snarl at whoever has the goddamn nerve to try and sneak up on someone they just watched take down an armed criminal with hardly any effort—
Helena's eyes go wide behind her mask. What the fuck—
A boy stands before her—and she truly does mean boy. She can't see him too clearly—his features are cast into shadow by the hood of his cloak, and a domino mask guards his eyes—but it's obvious he clears five feet by the narrowest of margins
Her eyes rove over his suit—familiar shades of scarlet, gold, and emerald—and settle on the patch over his heart that bears a capital R.
Helena's world goes sideways.
Robin. Holy shit.
Helena can only stare—crossbow still trained on him, though she doubts she could muster enough brainpower to make her finger pull the trigger.
A boy. A boy in the middle of this maybe-Gotham, in the Robin uniform. No—in her Robin uniform.
Helena's cold shock melts to white-hot anger in a moment.
"Why are you dressed like Robin?" she snaps, taking a step forward and milking her height for all it's worth and more as she looms over him. She's grown to be so much like her father—probably too much, if she's being wholly honest with herself—but with some boy wearing her goddamn uniform she's not exactly worried about that right now.
He sneers at that, and she watches—stares, really, Wonder Woman herself could come waltzing in from stage fucking left and Helena's not sure she'd be inclined to redirect her gaze—as his hand disappears behind his back to reach for—
I'm sorry, is that a fucking sword?
"Because I am Robin."
Helena is a woman who has seen shit—she watched her mother die in her father's arms, then watched her father die in her own arms. She'd seen Darkseid march into Gotham—her city, her home—and kill sixty-odd civilians in a heartbeat. She's been locked in Arkham Asylum, pursued through The Narrows, beaten within an inch of her life in the Burnley District. She's been witness to countless assassinations, deadly explosions, acts of terrorism—for god's sake, she had a ringside seat to the death of fucking Superman.
And yet—and yet—the cruelty that coats this boy's simple sentence gives even her pause.
Helena's mouth is bursting to speak but her mind is absolutely blank. She is completely thrown by the course of events that have transpired and doesn't quite know what to do about it.
She works her jaw for a moment, sizing this—her mind flinches to even think it—Robin up as she tries to figure out how to salvage the situation.
"And you are?"
His voice is totally void of any kind of Gotham accent—not the arch lilt of the Diamond Distract or the coarse drawl of Crime Alley. It makes Helena frown.
"I'm Huntress," she tells him shortly—because fuck she has to say something—and for once she's wishing her chosen costume offered a bit more identity protection. It never mattered in her Gotham—a place where Batman was dead and the world teetered on the brink of annihilation—the line between Helena Wayne and The Huntress hardly existed. No one cared if Bruce Wayne's orphaned daughter prowled around at night with a crossbow—they only cared if they survived to see morning.
And so few did, these days.
But now, with this boy staring at her incredulously from behind his domino mask—Helena has to catch herself from thinking her domino mask—she longs for a cowl to vanish beneath. She settles for sinking deeper into her cloak, allowing the garment to swallow her form as she regards him coolly.
"You seem dissatisfied," she notes, arching an eyebrow at the boy's continued silence. His uniform isn't quite like hers had been, she notes, unsure how that information makes her feel. She'd never been allowed a hood, and she certainly never carried a sword.
"Tt," the boy scoffs. "I suppose that's not the worst moniker I've ever heard."
Helena's eyebrows climb—if possible—higher. Because one: rude. So rude. Unbelievably rude. Two: what ten year-old has the word moniker in their lexicon?
"I wouldn't throw stones, Boy Wonder," Helena replies icily, because she has no idea who this tiny bastard is—a younger Dick Grayson? No way—but she knows it's insulting and she's banking on there being enough similarities between the Gotham she knows and the Gotham she's in for it to sting properly.
His expression sours magnificently. Helena tries not to feel too proud. He is still a ten year-old.
"I'm no Boy Wonder," he growls at her—yes, growls, sounding more like a dog than Helena thinks some actual dogs do—and his words are accented by the shriek of his sword as he starts to draw it again.
"Hey hey hey," Helena says quickly, stepping forward, crowding him, hands up in surrender. She swears his hackles raise, like some kind of alley cat, teeth bared in a sneer at her approach. "Easy, Robin—" she gives herself a gold star for not vomiting at calling him as such "—just…no swords, okay? I can't believe I have to say that, but no swords. We're not enemies."
He looks utterly unconvinced.
"Oh?" His tiny little ten year-old fingers are still wrapped very firmly around the hilt of his sword, but he's no longer actively drawing it, so Helena scrambles to continue.
"We're not," she insists. "You're Robin. You—" she breaks off, suddenly. Because holy shit—what if she's wrong? What if this is some kind of parallel universe? Where up is down and right is left and Robins carry swords and—and fuckin' kabob people or whatever it is people with sword do. Helena wouldn't know. The weirdest weapon she's ever seen is Aquaman's trident and she's willing to give him a pass on that one.
"You're—you're one of the good guys," she forces out, desperately hoping he's not about to, like, scoff at her words and slice her hand off, even though she's kind of totally prepared for that to be his next move. Her fingers itch to reach for her crossbow, but she resists.
Robin can't be bad. He can't be.
Batman and Robin are a team—the epitome of partnership. And not just because when she'd been Robin, it'd been a father-daughter deal. Even when Dick had donned the uniform, it was like a switch was thrown. A connection that ran bone deep. She and Mother had always been inseparable, but every time she threw on that cape, she was wholly and singularly Batman's partner. That's how it worked.
If Robin's evil, that would mean—it would mean Batman—
Helena sets her jaw. Squares her shoulders.
Nope. Not evil. She's not buying it.
"You're good," she tells him firmly. "And I'm good too. So that makes us…" she trails off, half-forgetting where she was even going with this.
"…not enemies?" he prompts, voice absolutely dripping doubt.
Helena nods stiffly, trying to convince herself she circumvented a fight by using diplomacy instead of acknowledging the fact that a child wearing her old uniform was a just a moment away from running her through with a sword.
Silence falls between them—it's awkward and tense. Helena is about to turn and leave just to break it, when the boy speaks.
"Batman isn't very fond of civilians trying to join in," he tells her, and god she wishes he'd choke on that harsh, posh lilt to his voice. He's only ten, Lena, she reminds herself, again.
"Well, I'm not very fond of children carrying swords," she snaps back because yeah, she hasn't really forgotten that he's still actively drawing one of those. "What's Batman think about that?"
She hadn't really meant to say it—she was actually trying to avoid the b-word, if she's being wholly honest with herself—but to her surprise, Robin looks away, a muscle ticking in his jaw. Curious.
"You still shouldn't be out here," he insists, turning his glare upon her once again. "You could get hurt."
Helena cocks a brow at the peeved disinterest he speaks with. Yeah, he sounds like a concerned superhero alright. Robin, her ass.
"Show me your permit to prowl around at night in a costume and I'll show you mine," Helena retorts, annoyed.
He snorts at that—she's not sure if it's in humor or irritation, but given all she's gleaned from this boy in the delightful ten minutes she's shared his company, she's betting on the latter.
But he finally releases his sword, and Helena lets loose a soft sigh of relief at that.
It's not that she wouldn't have fought him. It's not even that she thinks she couldn't have. But goddamn—show her someone who'd willingly engage in a sword fight in the twenty-first fuckin' century and she'll happily pass her mantle on to them.
Still. While she's glad there are no sword fights on the horizon, she knows she's overstayed her welcome here, and she feels her gaze playing across the surrounding rooftops, searching.
Wherever Robin appears, Batman is soon to follow.
She still has fuck-all idea where she is, but that's as good as a law of physics. She needs to move. Now.
"Well, not that this hasn't been enchanting," Helena drawls, taking a step back and watching him closely for a reaction. Mostly his sword hand. Or what she assumes is his sword hand, anyway. He's probably ambidextrous, the little shit. "But it's time for me to go. So."
Holding his gaze for just a moment longer—the boy radiates pain and anger in a way that would make her heart ache for him if it weren't for the fact that he's baring her sigil on his chest—before she turns around with the casual grace lent to her by the Kyle side of her lineage, carelessly giving him her back.
She hopes he sees the simple action for what it is—a silent declaration. An allegorical middle finger.
Yeah, I'll turn my back on you, Boy Wonder. And I won't fuckin' think twice about it.
She hears that "Tt" noise again, harsh with anger, and smirks to herself. Good. So they're all on the same page.
"I will find you again." It sounds like a threat.
"Not unless I want you to," she returns, voice cold with confidence as she draws her grappling gun.
She can feel his gaze on her as she vanishes into the night, scaling a nearby building and hunkering down in the shadows among a set of gargoyles that guard the overhang. She waits until the icy sharpness of the boy's eyes leaves her, and peers over the edge of the roof to catch the gleam of his cape's golden lining as he too takes his leave.
Helena sighs, leaning sideways up against one of the gargoyles and letting her feet dangle off the side of the ledge. She props her elbow up on the head of the one beside her, turning to give a sidelong look of exasperation to its neighboring statue.
"This sucks," she tells it conversationally.
The gargoyle continues to sneer malevolently down at the city streets below. Helena just sighs again as she tries to figure out what the fuck she's going to do.
Her first instinct—unbridled and immediate—is home. Wayne Manor. That's where she'll find answers.
But it's also where—statistically speaking—roughly sixty percent of her problems are probably lurking, not to mention the fact that after meeting this Gotham's Robin, she's not particularly keen on meeting its Batman.
Very clever, her subconscious coos sardonically. Call him Batman instead of Father. That'll keep you emotionally stable.
Gritting her teeth, Helena rises to her feet, giving the gargoyle an affectionate pat on the head before smoothly descending back down to the streets below, making it a point to stick to the shadows. She'd talked a big game with Robin, but if he's actively looking for her, she's at least not going to make it easy for him.
She wanders through the city, finding that this Gotham is as rife with crime and violence as hers is as she breaks up two muggings, a robbery, and a violent domestic dispute. Those she rescues all have the same reaction, she notes—extreme gratitude, followed by slight confusion when their eyes sweep over her suit and apparently don't like what they see there. Or rather—what they don't see.
You don't have a goddamn bat on your chest, the man back in the alley had snarled.
Helena puts it out of her mind. One thing at a time.
She finally emerges into the Diamond District—home to Gotham's wealthiest citizens and most upscale businesses—squinting slightly as she finds herself blinded by a gargantuan neon sign that tops the several-stories tall building across the street from her, its wattage impressive enough to cut through Gotham's signature gloom.
Helena pauses, disoriented for a moment. The Gotham she'd just drifted through had been fairly familiar—she'd passed under the shadow of Old Gotham's Clocktower, ghosted through the abandoned subway beneath the Burnley District, listened to the lull of the ocean at Midtown Pier, and even scaled an apartment complex to get an eyeful of Arkham Asylum across the Gotham River.
She knows the Diamond District as well as any part of Gotham, but as she scans the building, she finds herself at a loss. Granted, most of the buildings of her Gotham have long-since been destroyed or abandoned, and this Gotham is far from identical to hers, but something like this ought to have stuck with her.
Brushing hair out of her eyes, Helena tilts her head back to see what it's advertising—maybe the name will tip something back into place.
WAYNE ENTERPRISES stares down at her. Helena works her jaw, rocking back on her heels.
Well, that certainly tracks with the kind of day she's having, now doesn't it?
Quickly lowering her eyes, Helena stalks out of the sign's electric-blue glow and sinks back into the familiar comfort of the city's shadowy fog. She's going to sew a hood to disappear beneath onto her cloak before this shit show is over. She just knows it.
Still, unsettling as the sign is, it's information she can't afford to waste. The Wayne Enterprises of her Gotham was undoubtedly impressive, but on a much smaller scale. Still easily the largest and most successful business in the city, but that thing she'd just seen was positively monstrous.
For the first time, Helena doubts the presence of her Mother here. Batman exists, so Bruce Wayne is here in one capacity or another, but if her mother is married to her father in whatever world she's in, it hasn't been for very long—Selina Kyle-Wayne wouldn't let something like that stand for a second, thank you very much.
Thankful for the late hour and absence of pedestrians, Helena steps out of the shadows a good distance away from the looming Wayne Enterprises to approach a trashcan. She paws through it, pushing aside a handful of coffee cups, receipts, a busted umbrella and other miscellaneous items before coming across what she'd been hoping to find.
Sidestepping to better situate herself beneath a nearby streetlight, Helena extracts the item of interest and tries her best to mop off the coffee it's been soaking in as she scans the back of the magazine, which includes some credits for the publication in her hands: The Gotham Globe.
Tabloids. Possibly the worst source of actual information, but bursting with the kind of news she needs right now. She's Bruce Wayne's goddamn daughter—her face hasn't left the front page of a gossip magazine in all her twenty-one years. If she exists in this Gotham, she'll be here.
Flipping the magazine over, Helena's eyes skim the cover and she very nearly hurls into the conveniently located trashcan.
Bruce Wayne stares back at her. He looks exactly as she remembers him—looks exactly like her.
Tall. Piercing blue eyes. Pitch black hair. Sharp, regal features.
Helena swallows and tastes bile.
She takes a moment. Then another. Her eyes track a stray cat as it scampers about nearby, waiting for sense and rationale to return to her. Her hands shake where she holds the publication and she pretends not to notice.
The cat seems to sense her gaze, and its eyes snap to her in the gloom of the night, wary, before vanishing into the darkness.
Helena forces herself to look back at the cover.
Inside the glamor of the annual Wayne Gala the headline blares, which pulls a frown from Helena, because she's never heard of a fucking Wayne Gala, especially one that occurs on a yearly basis. It sounds like something she and Mother would invent and then gush about in horribly posh accents when they got bored at whatever social event they'd been forced to attend this time, and Father would give them his I'm amused but you still need to knock off your shit look.
Chewing her lip, Helena flips to the suggested page, and a glossy, full-page photo falls open in her hands.
Helena can only stare.
Gotham's Princes is the title, apparently, and is it ever an eyeful and a half.
Her father sits, flanked on all sides by…boys. Helena squints. No, seriously, who the fuck are these guys?
The caption very helpfully names them for her, and her eyes drift over their faces, committing them to memory.
Timothy Drake-Wayne is listed first—he stands to the left of her father, looking roughly her age, perhaps a bit younger. At a glance, he could pass for a Wayne, but Helena can see in his face he's not. Features too soft, frame too willowy, smile too unpolished. He's no more a Wayne than she is a Kent, but he exudes the confidence to at least play the part. The last name snags her—Drake-Wayne—but she tries not to dwell on it or the roughly one hundred and six meanings it could have.
Richard Grayson is next, and despite everything, Helena smiles softly. He's younger in this timeline—older than her, she guesses, but a few decades off from the somewhat harried ex-Robin of her Gotham. He's taken up post over her father's right shoulder, all lean muscle and effortless finesse. He offers the camera a winning smile, and Helena can't resist the urge to smile back at her adoptive older brother. She'll take the familiarity, even if she knows it'll haunt her later.
Jason Todd looks just as tall as Dick and twice as sturdy, Helena notes when her gaze finally travels to him. He stands opposite Dick over her father's left shoulder—dark haired as the rest of them—with a curious swath of white curling through the pitch locks. The skin beneath his eyes is bruised dark with sleeplessness, and Helena tilts her head as she assesses his poor posture. If Timothy Drake-Wayne had been unpolished, this Jason Todd is downright unrefined. There's a look of self-assurance in his eyes though—just a spark—and it's enough to make Helena withhold judgment.
Last is Damian Wayne, and Helena's eyebrow quirks as she stares down at what is possibly the angriest looking boy she's ever seen. He stands ramrod straight at her father's side, arms folded stiffly behind his back, giving the camera a severe look. His young features clash terribly with the stern cut to his jaw, and she can't decide if his perfectly fitted suit looks like something he'd wear to First Communion or a court case. Helena's eyes get caught on his last name: Wayne. He must be a blood son—he looks almost as much a Wayne as she does. But what is he doing mixed in with all these interlopers? Why does he look so cruel?
And just who is his mother?
She very skillfully and pointlessly skips over her father's name, skimming the rest of the article for anything else that might lend itself as a clue. It's nothing but walls and walls of text overflowing with praise for the gala's signature opulence, gossip about which celebrities showed and which didn't, commentary about the boys' suits—
Helena curses under her breath, flipping ahead to scan for more pictures. All she finds are more images of her father, Gotham's Princes—she rolls her eyes every time she reads the phrase—and one particularly artful shot of Wayne Manor that elicits so many emotions, Helena just snaps the magazine shut.
Nothing. No mention of a Helena Wayne. Or a Selina Kyle-Wayne, for that matter, which only winds Helena's anxiety tighter.
None of those boys had the Kyle look, either—not even in passing, like she did. Damian and Jason could pass on skin color, but they lacked any of her mother's other telltale features—cheekbones sharp enough to cut a man, full lips prime for smiling and shit talking, eerily bright green eyes—
Helena catches herself, cursing lowly as she flips the magazine open, gaze flickering back to where Damian stands stiffly beside her father. His eyes are green. Really fucking green.
She stares hard. Could it be? Could he really be the son of Selina Kyle and Bruce Wayne? Her brother? Was this Gotham's Helena Wayne swapped for Damian Wayne?
The thought unsteadies her at an uncomfortably intimate level—unseats her very sense of self.
Was she...not good enough?
Nope. No. Absolutely not. Helena grits her teeth, tossing the gossip column back in the trash and pulling a mental E-brake. She has enough going on right now, she doesn't need to create more problems for herself. If anything, she's the only thing she can truly count on right now—the only trustworthy being in the bizarre, parallel Gotham.
She's Helena Martha Wayne—only child of Bruce and Selina Wayne, heiress to Wayne Enterprises, beloved daughter of Gotham, and the Huntress. Nothing—not a bunch of boys in fancy suits, not an enormous neon sign, and not a ten year-old asshole with a sword—can take that away from her.
Emboldened, if just for the moment, Helena turns her back of the sprawling sign of Wayne Enterprises and grapples back across the city, putting as much distance between herself and her lack of self as she can.
Back in the familiarity of Old Gotham, Helena spares a moment to check in on the criminals she'd apprehended earlier. The alleyway is a bit more crowded than she'd left it—two uniformed GCPD officers are in the process of cuffing them, and as Helena skirts by on the rooftops, she catches snippets of the conversation.
"No, no, Officer, you aren't listenin'. It wasn't Batman, it was the Huntress. Ain't that right, Marsha?"
Marsha gurgles something vaguely affirmative, and Helena steals a glance to see her jaw getting checked out by a paramedic.
The officer being addressed just scoffs. "Huntress, huh?" he drawls, using his free hand to open the rear door of his car. "That's a new one."
The man splays his cuffed hands as far as he can. "Right? That's what I said!"
Helena watches as the two are piled in the back of the cop car before swinging across the street to the building she'd climbed earlier, smiling softly at the sight of the gargoyles.
"Hey boys," she greets them lamely, holstering her grappling gun. "Late, huh?"
She sighs, leaning against the statue and frowning moodily down at the streets of this Gotham But Also Not Gotham she's found herself in.
She's alone, she's broke, and she didn't even bring her fucking cellphone.
But still…Gotham. Some form of it, anyway. One where her father is apparently not married to her mother and is instead the guardian of four boys. One of which may actually be his son.
His son. Not daughter. Because she doesn't exist here.
Helena wonders idly if she's in some personal circle of hell. A world that's just enough like her old life—the life she'd loved, the one before Darkseid—to make her bask in the familiarity, but so different in so many ways it makes her heart ache and her head spin.
A Gotham without Mother and Father—without them ever having existed together—isn't one Helena is interested in occupying, thank you very fucking much. Not to mention a Gotham she was never born in.
But fine. Fate thinks this is the worst it can throw at her? What a fucking joke.
She spins on her heel sharply enough to make her cape flare out behind her—a needlessly dramatic move she'd unconsciously picked up from years of watching her father—and stalks across the rooftop, destination decided.
If she can't be Helena Wayne, she'll have to go to the place where Waynes go to die.
A light drizzle begins to fall as she steps off the ledge and drops down into the inky blackness below. For a moment, she just falls—gives herself up to the pull of gravity and lets the wind rip through her hair and her cloak—relishing in the brief sensation of weightlessness before she's firing her grappling gun and swinging—
Crime Alley rushes to meet her.