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The Beginning Is The End
It happened one day as Helena was instructing her in the Clocktower's training room. Barbara had appeared at the door, watching them for awhile, observing both student and teacher. When they had stopped to wipe down, she smiled up at them, and murmured "You're doing well" before moving away again. Somehow, it left Dinah with the feeling that the praise was as much for Helena, as it was for herself.
Helena had watched the other woman leave, her eyes lingering on the doorway long after it was empty. She sighed, before turning back to the girl. "Come on. Try that combination I was teaching you again."
They both adopted a fighting stance, fists high to protect their heads. Dinah suddenly struck out with a right-handed punch, not connecting, but enough to drive the other woman back a step. She followed up with an uppercut and an elbow to the face, before blocking a punch of Helena's own.
"Watch your shoulders," Helena called out, dancing back on light feet. "You're telegraphing your punches too much."
Dinah charged again, this time leading with a kick. The other woman caught her leg in the cross of her forearms, before pushing her off. "Good. But snap it more next time."
She tried again, and again, earning an approving nod from her teacher. "Better." But on the third attempt, her foot was again caught by Helena. "Don't plant your back foot like that. You need to be ready to pivot in case someone sneaks up on you from behind." The brunette suddenly shoved her, dumping her on to her back. "You don't have meta instincts or reflexes, so you always have to be aware of people coming at you from all sides. Don't leave your stance so wide open. Always keep your feet moving."
She turned away to retrieve her water bottle, as Dinah struggled to stand up. "Couldn't you have told me that without dumping me on my ass again?" she asked, her tone a mixture of frustration and exasperation.
Helena gave her a charming grin. "Where's the fun in that?"
With a sudden growl, Dinah charged at her again, all thoughts of technique gone from her brain. She just wanted to wipe the infuriating smirk off the other woman's face. Still grinning, Helena easily side-stepped her charge and caught hold of her hand, twisting her arm in her socket and causing her to stumble. But it wasn't that which drove Dinah to her knees.
As soon as Dinah touched the other woman, her mind was assailed with a rush of images. She saw Barbara and Helena in the same training room, laughing and teasing each other, as the redhead instructed her student through some intricate combination. The images of them flirting continued, until Helena suddenly leant down and pressed a kiss to Barbara's lips. She watched as Barbara's arm slid around the younger woman's neck, pulling her closer and returning the kiss with surprising, equal fervour. It melded into an image of them in Barbara's bedroom in the Clocktower, and thankfully quick flashes of sweaty bodies rubbing against each other. And then finally, she saw a shot of the morning after, a lingering image of Barbara smiling as the other woman brought her breakfast in bed. It was a tender, loving smile, reflecting the emotions in Helena's eyes, and Dinah suddenly knew that what she had just witnessed was not a one-time event.
When she finally shook off the effects of the vision, she looked up to see Helena gazing concernedly down at her. But the brunette had experienced it enough to recognise the aftermath of one of her telepathic episodes, and she sighed, stepping back and allowing the girl to get up. "What sordid part of my past did you see this time?" she asked tiredly.
Dinah was still just staring at her, wide-eyed. "You... and Barbara?" she finally exclaimed, her tone aghast.
There was the slightest pause, before Helena drew herself up, eyes flashing hotly. "Look kid, I don't know what your hormonally driven teenage psyche made you see..."
The blonde snorted in disdain. "Oh, please. Like I'm stupid enough to fall for that. You and Barbara used to be together." It explained so much. The way that they looked at and acted around and spoke to each other, the odd tension between them, more than friends but too intimate to be sisters. How Barbara had glared at her when she let slip to Helena that Wade had asked her to go to the Bahamas. The totally lame and obvious way that Helena would flirt with Reese whenever she knew that Barbara was listening on the other end of the receiver. Dinah spoke again, her voice low and serious as she said "And it wasn't just a one-night stand either. You loved each other."
Noticing the determined jut to Dinah's jaw, Helena knew that she couldn't bluff her way out of this one. And the kid would keep pestering her and pestering her, until she got the full story. Her bravado deflating, she sighed and sank down to the ground, pulling her knees to her chest. Resting her head on her clasped hands, she gazed at an indiscriminate spot on the wall. Her tone was strangely flat when she spoke but Dinah could detect the husky edge her voice, as if she was trying to hide the depth of her emotions, and not quite succeeding. "What do you want to know?"
The brunette shrugged. "Four years ago now."
"How long were you together?"
The answer was unerringly precise. "Six months and eighteen days."
Dinah reached out again hesitantly, touching Helena on the arm, this time grateful that she didn't get another flood of images. "What happened?"
Another shrug of slender shoulders. "We were together. Like, full-on, seriously together. She was the first person I slept with... and it's still the only time I've ever been in a real relationship."
Though Helena had trailed off, Dinah had been around the moody, irritable brunette for long enough now to recognise those rare moments when she still had more to say. But she also knew that if she pushed her to speak or offered comforting words, the other woman would just clam up and retreat inside herself instead. So all she could do was sit beside her silently, noting the suspicious moisture in normally icy blue eyes, the huskiness in Helena's voice becoming more pronounced, when she finally spoke again.
"I was so happy," Helena whispered softly, eyes unfocused and staring into the past. "It was the only time in my life that everything seemed to make sense, y'know? Why my mom died, why my dad left. Even why she was in a wheelchair... everything led to us being together like we were. I'd come home from sweep, and she'd be waiting up for me. She'd clean my wounds, and hold me if I needed to cry. Then I'd kiss her and take her into the bedroom and we'd make love until the sun came up. I still lived in the Clocktower back then, and it wasn't just the superhero shit... we had fun, we were like a normal couple. We..." Her voice cracked, before she swallowed, wetting her lips. "We did everything together."
"Why did you break up?" Dinah asked curiously.
"She said she 'wasn't what I needed.' That she would only hold me back, that she was too old for me, that we didn't have time for a relationship. We couldn't be together because things were just too complicated." Her tone was genuinely pained and confused. "I never saw it coming. I... I thought she was happy, like I was. I couldn't stand being there, but not being with her so I moved out the next day. But I came back and started going on sweeps again the day after that." A wry smile curved her lips. "I told her I came back because this is who I am, where I belong. Truth is, I just can't keep away from her."
"You still love her." Dinah said it flatly; a statement, not a question.
Helena didn't respond.
"You have to tell her."
The brunette shook her head stubbornly. "She's with Wade now."
"Oh, please. Wade is such a dork."
Her comment dropped into silence for a moment, as Helena lifted her head and stared unblinkingly at her. Then the brunette chuckled, and Dinah breathed a silent sigh of relief. "Yeah, he really kinda is, isn't he?"
There was a sense of camaraderie in that amused reply which cut loose the gossipy teenager in Dinah. "I mean, he's a really nice guy and everything... but everyone at school thinks he's a dork, he's such a lame dresser, and we all make fun of him behind his back for trying so hard to be everyone's friend all the time, even though, you know, he's a guidance councellor and I guess that's his job..."
"Dinah. I get the picture." Then Helena sighed, her melancholy returning, as she leant her head back against the wall behind her. "It doesn't matter. Barbara likes that type. He makes her happy. That's what's important."
"So you're just going to let her settle for him because she doesn't think that she deserves better?"
"What do I have that he hasn't?"
"Spare me the self-pity!" Dinah exclaimed in a sudden fit of exasperation. "You've got billions of dollars to spend on her if you can just get over your stupid daddy issues. I've seen you making eyes in a mirror, so you know how hot you are. You know more about her than Wade ever will, and I've seen the way she looks at you, she still loves you, enough to let you go because she didn't think she was enough for you. I always thought that you'd be the emotional retard, but I know what I saw in my vision, you really loved her. Just, suck it up, do something about it and quit sitting there feeling sorry for yourself!" Having finished her diatribe, she suddenly noticed Helena glaring at her. Her eyes flashed yellow, the pupils narrowing into black slits. Dinah backed away immediately, scrambling to her feet. "Um... that is, if that's what you want." She quickly pointed in the direction of the bathroom. "I, uh, I think I'll go take a shower."
"Do that." Helena said gruffly, as her eyes slipped back into their normal hue.
But the teen paused at the door, risking one final look back. Helena was gazing down at the floor again, her arms wrapped around herself and suddenly looking very small and forlorn. "Helena. Make her listen. Let her know how you feel."
Helena shrugged, and forced a wan smile to her face. "Go take your shower, kid."
Her metahuman hearing picked up Dinah's footsteps as she made her way to the bathroom. She listened dully to the sounds of the shower running, waiting until the water stopped, before she finally got to her feet. Trudging down the runway and towards the now-empty bathroom, she suddenly paused instead at the rail overlooking Delphi. As usual, Barbara sat in front of the screens, her brow furrowed in concentration as she looked over some printouts. The sun was setting in the distance, sending a stream of late afternoon light through the high windows. It burnished Barbara's hair to a deep copper, brushing over tanned shoulders and making her skin glow golden. Helena felt her heart clench, as she gazed at the woman below her.
Her grip tightened on the railing. She was definitely going speak to her. She was going to make her way down the steps, march over to Barbara's chair, and tell her, firmly, that they needed to talk... tell her how much she loved her... needed her... wanted to be with her...
Her hands loosened and fell back to her sides. She took a deep breath, before stepping back. Disappearing into the shadows once more.
Tomorrow. She'd tell her tomorrow.
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