SEASON ONE Sensation & Wonder
West Mercy Hospital's Rooftop - Eleven Months Ago ♦ Gotham
'If somebody asks you who you are, what do you say? Lots of people would respond with their name, maybe a nickname they go by. Sometimes they'll tell you their job title if its important enough to them: they're a cop, or the president, or a professor at Harvard. Maybe they're a 'proud parent,' or 'born again Christian.' We all like to believe we're self-made, that who we are comes from inside us, but that isn't really true. Identity's a funny thing, that way, 'cause no matter what we want to believe it always comes from outside ourselves. Its the name our parents gave us, or how we relate to the world around us.
Some old, dead guy said it better than I ever could: 'Self-consciousness exists in itself and for itself, in that, and by the fact that it exists for another self-consciousness; that is to say, it is only by being acknowledged or recognized'.
Barbara Gordon stood on the rooftop of West Mercy Hospital, looking out over the rest of Gotham City, trapped in a memory. It was snowing. Years ago, she'd stood on this same rooftop, and watched her home burn. It was maybe a month or two into reconstruction. There were still more ruins than rebuilt homes. Smoke filtered into the air in the distance- some of the smaller gangs clung to their territory, even with the National Guard patrolling the streets. She could hear the pitter-patter of small arms fire, the explosion of a mortar round a neighborhood over. The war to reclaim Gotham was being fought street by street, door by door, inch by bloody inch. They were winning it, slowly but surely.
The earthquake and the hell that followed had taken a heavy toll on all the city's residents, even on her. Her mother was dead, shot through the face by...him. Barbara couldn't even think his name without her jaw shaking. His was one of two lives she'd ever considered taking. Was she ashamed of it? Guilty she didn't have the resolve to finally end his reign of terror? Maybe neither, probably both. What kind of hero couldn't even protect her own goddamn mom? Batgirl. What a joke.
Her father was at the end of his rope. He had fought tooth and nail for Gotham, even when everybody else had given up on it. Even at the end of the world, Jim Gordon soldiered on. She had no idea how he did it. He didn't either, really. Its sort of funny. She went into that conversation with him hoping for a silver bullet of fatherly wisdom that'd cure all her self-doubt and instead she just made him cry. No amount of medals could ever replace what he'd sacrificed.
It was all so many years ago but her mind still drifted back there any time it was quiet. Like a song stuck in your head that you just couldn't get out, no matter how many times you listened to it again.
'Great, now I'm brooding. I never brood.' She'd been on this rooftop too long with only the ambience of the city and her own memories to keep her company. It was hard as all get out to setup a meeting with any bat, but this one in particular had a reputation for taking their sweet time. Always working, always striving, in that way people like them did. Never much time for chit-chat. Still, this was too important to her to put off any longer. It was something she'd thought a great deal about. This wasn't a decision to be made off the cuff.
'Don't exactly need any more time to think about it, though, so she can show up any day now-'
Thought cut off by the sound of boots crunching in snow. Barbara turns to see Batwoman emerging from the shadows. She was taller than Gordon at just under six feet, and had a mane of hair redder than the sun. It was supposedly a wig, but that didn't stop the envy rolling in Babs' guts. It was hard not to compare herself to Kate Kane, especially considering what Babs had called her here to discuss.
"You wanted to talk," Batwoman strode forward, draped in her cape, to block out the cold- or maybe her. "So talk."
Stoic, gruff, tough as hell. That was her reputation, and Batwoman did more than live up to it. It reminded Babs of the first time she'd stood face to face with Batman. Him, a towering wall of black- discerning, critical. Her, a teenager in purple biker leathers and the symbol she'd 'borrowed.' She'd gotten over being scared of him a long time ago, but Batwoman? Batwoman still alluded her. She was like a question that judged you for not knowing the answer. This was going to be harder than Babs thought.
"Thanks for coming, I...this isn't going to be easy, but I've given it a lot of thought and its the only way forward, far as I can see." Barbara took a deep breath. "I can't be Batgirl anymore."
The other woman didn't flinch. "Elaborate."
"Have you met the new girl yet?" She asked, to which Batwoman gave a grunt that probably meant no. "She's great: dedicated, eager, tough as hell." She smiled at a joke only she'd understand. "What we do excites her, galvanizes her. And I think she needs it. Br- Batman- had me evaluate her. My professional diagnosis? She's been through hell."
Batwoman turned to look out over the charred corpse of Gotham without saying anything. Not that she needed to.
Barbara paused to consider her response. "The cowl can't fix everything, but it will help her. She shares our, I don't know, sickness."
A scoff. Batwoman must've thought that melodramatic, but the careful frown that followed said she understood. "So you share the name. Fine. Why tell me?"
An uncomfortable laugh. This was when the difficult part began. "Figured you'd ask that. I think she needs Batgirl to be her own. She's in a crucial period of her, uhm, recovery, and having me around would only make her question her identity. God knows I couldn't stop comparing myself to Robin when I first started, and he'd only been at it a little longer than me-"
A very long pause followed.
"Never mind, continue."
Barbara took a moment to recover from that hook right outta left field, and continued. "Right. Yeah. She needs to be the only Batgirl, and that means I either retire myself or let Batgirl grow up. I've called myself that since I was sixteen, y'know. I have a master's degree now. Its been a long time since the name fit, and, if I can be frank with you? I'm tired of living in his shadow. Don't get me wrong, I'll always be grateful for everything he and the rest of the family did for me. There's a good chance I wouldn't have walked again without him- hell, maybe I'd just be dead with how many times someone's taken a shot at me outside the tights."
She set her jaw. "But Batgirl's always going to be Batman's sidekick, and I know for a fact I'm way more than that now."
"I want to be Batwoman."
Kate Kane's face scrunched up beneath the mask. Her frown deepened, her brow creased. She went quiet, retreating into her mind to consider all that Barbara Gordon had said. She looked at the other woman- the girl- with a gaze that could've burned a hole through steel. "You don't have what it takes."
"You don't have the drive."
"You damn well know I do!"
Batwoman threw open her cape, and a trio of crimson red batarangs came flying out. Batwoman sprinted forward right behind them. "Then prove it."
This shouldn't have come as such a surprise to Babs. Bats were obsessed with their tests. She'd had to prove herself to Bruce when she first called herself Batgirl, and now she'd have to prove herself to Kate if she wanted to be Batwoman. The current Batwoman was already in her face, throwing a series of controlled punches. Gordon slipped by most of them before she planted a boot in Kane's chest, backflipping off of her to make space- too much space, it turned out, as Babs found her feet falling through empty air when she expected to land back on the roof. They'd started the fight too close to the edge. Fall from this height would be fatal. Gordon scrambled for the grapple on her belt, firing it up so the hook caught on the ledge.
She went swinging through a pane of glass, landing in the top floor of the hospital. It was nearly pitch black in here aside form the moonlight filtering in from the night. Above her, the ceiling was knocked out to get at the guts beneath. She could see the shape of scaffolding, buckets of tools and piles of materials littering the hallway. This wing was had been under rennovation ever since the earthquake. It'd suffered a flyby firebombing by Gotham's favorite arsonist, the Firefly, and the work was never quite done. Maybe it'd never be. That was good, though. Meant the place was abandoned by workmen and patients alike at this late na hour. Civilians wouldn't be a concern while Babs was kicking Batwoman's ass.
'That same old dead guy believed self-consciousnesses recognizing one another wasn't all positive. To become aware of the other meant becoming aware of your own negation: that there exists something else that is not you, something not bound by your will, it must mean you have no will at all. This other makes you doubt if you're even real. The only way to prove you're real, in that case, is to kill that which makes you doubt your identity.
He said: 'In the same way, each must aim at the death of the other. The other's reality is presented to the former as an external other. As outside itself. It must cancel that externality.''
Batwoman came flying through the same window Gordon had like a bat out of hell. She bumrushed Gordon, closing the distance with a spinning kick that absolutely would've taken Babs's head off if it hit. It didn't, thankfully- Barbara ducked fast and came back up faster, planting her boot into Kate Kane's throat. She kept up the barrage. Rapid jabs across the face and chest. Stay close, don't let her use her reach advantage.
'Course, if you rely on others to confirm your own identity, you can't exactly kill them- that other is the only reason you're even aware of your own self-consciousness. So, what are you to do?'
Finally, Batwoman rallied, grabbing Gordon's fist out of the air. She squeezed, hard. Something popped, and Babs had to hold in a pained yelp. Kane pushed down on Babs' wrist, dragging her down with it so Gordon's jaw was lined up with Kane's knee- the two met in a violent slamming of flesh to flesh. More popping. The breath forced from Barbara's lungs. Have to get out of this hold before her wrist snapped in twain.
'Do you dominate the second self? Bring it to heel, force it to serve you? The old, dead guy thought that was pretty unsatisfying. Humans crave recognition from an equal. Not to mention all the pain those chains would cause the other. So what's the answer, then?'
Gordon spotted her out. She grabbed the grappling hook from her belt again, and took aim. It fired out, latching onto the leg of a piece of scaffolding. When she pulled back the whole setup collapsed, sending wood, pipes and a whole lotta power tools cascading down on top of Batwoman. Babs managed to slip free in the deluge, scrambling to get distance, and drawing a concussive batarang from her belt.
After a struggle, Kane managed to pull herself free as well, though her stance was considerably more compromised. She stood on unsteady legs, and had a palm pressed against a cut on her forehead. Head must've hurt like shit if the infamously hard-headed Kate Kane was off-balance. Still, that didn't mean she was down and out. The two of them could've leapt at each other's throats again at the sound of a pen hitting the floor.
They stood across from one another for several, tense seconds, eyes locked.
Suddenly, Kane dropped her hands to her side. "Fine."
"...Fine?" Gordon repeated, cautiously, batarang still in the air.
"For now," Kate nodded. A grin began to spread across her face, growing wider and wider, despite the obvious pain she was in. "Just don't ruin my rep, Batwoman."
'Hegel called it synthesis. Me, though? I call it 'Kate Kane was actually screwing with me that whole time.' Not quite as catchy, admittedly.'