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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: This is not beta-ed, so any mistakes are completely my own and I admit to it up front. Thanks for reading. Any comments or criticism can be directed to email@example.com.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Business as Usual
Everything was business as usual.
Except it wasn't.
The Clocktower had been renovated, and even though it drove Barbara insane to have anyone besides family in their home, Helena thought they had done a pretty good job. You could no longer see the damage caused by an all-out heroes vs. villains brawl. The staircase was repaired, the hardwood floors were good as new, and Barbara had even added some features to make the space more handicapped accessible. And one new bed.
Summer had come and Dinah was getting ready to attend Gotham U. She was already taking a summer lab class to get ahead, aided of course by Barbara. She smiled just as often as she always had, still tried to raid Helena's closet, and she had even been on a few dates with Gabby. All in all, typical behavior for the teen, and if she sometimes looked over her shoulder and wouldn't invite her friends to the Clocktower, even Gabby, well that wasn't so bad.
Barbara was teaching summer school. She helped Dinah prepare for college. She smiled and bantered with Huntress over the coms. The Delphi was rebuilt and new security features were designed for the Clocktower. She seemed happy, and if sometimes Helena caught her sleeping in her chair at the Delphi, or fingering the neural belt she had designed with a lost and empty look in her eyes, well that wasn't so bad either.
Helena still worked at the Darkhorse. She worked as many nights as she could, telling herself she was being more responsible. A simple mindless job that was familiar and kept her away from the Clocktower. She broke it off with Reese, saying she was confused which wasn't actually a lie. He'd smiled and said he'd wait. She thought he'd be waiting a long time, but didn't say it and kissed his cheek instead. She fought criminals, drank and went to clubs, worked, and sometimes injected herself into the lives of the people she loved most.
It was business as usual.
Except it wasn't.
"Hel, turn it down!"
"Muy anfds aff fufl."
"Iff sfaffd," Helena dropped the chip bag from her mouth, "my hands are full."
Green eyes peered at her over black frames. "And apparently your mouth as well."
"My mouth is always full, Barbara. Life's just better that way. You should try it," Helena shot back, eyebrow raised and a smirk tugging at her lips.
"I prefer to stuff my brain, thank you. Less chance of catching anything that might require medical attention."
"I don't know. You spend much more quality time with the Delphi and you might just pick up a virus. Do you really know where he's been?"
"Of course. Delphi would never cheat on me. I created him. I control him. He is mine to do with as I please." Two expressions twisted in distaste. "Too far?"
"Yeah, just a little."
"Right, moving on. Monitoring the Delphi is important, but so is time off." With one last flourish of the mouse, the redhead gracefully rolled her chair back from the desk and headed down the ramp towards the couch. "So what's on for tonight?"
"Well, we've got quite a mix. We've got romance, comedy, and the always popular creature feature," Helena stated fanning the DVDs out like a deck of cards.
"Hmmm, let's start with the comedy, break it up with the monster fest, and end with the romance if we're still awake."
"Sounds good grandma." Helena moved toward the DVD player while avoiding the glare aimed in her direction. "Dinah recommended this one, said it was pretty funny. Sucks that the Kid knows more about movies than I do right now."
"That's because you've been working too hard." Concerned green eyes met blue as Helena sat back down on the couch. Barbara's hand reached out to cover Helena's over the remote. "I know how many hours you're putting in at the Darkhorse, and I applaud that, but you should still have fun, Hel."
Helena patted her hand gently. "I do have fun. All the time. I'm just trying to, you know, be better." Helena stopped and ran a hand through her hair, avoiding looking directly at the other woman. "I just need to do better." Barbara's hand squeezed reassuringly.
"I know, Hel, but you're wonderful just the way you are. Please don't change too much." Now it was Barbara's turn to look away.
"Well let's start the movie. Don't want all these snacks to go to waste," Helena stated after an uncomfortable silence. Barbara glanced at the mound of chips, cookies, and other assorted junk food piled on the table.
"No, of course not." She removed her hand and placed it firmly in her lap.
The credits were rolling as Helena got up to put in the next movie. "I don't remember humor being quite so . . . disgusting when I was younger." Helena rolled her eyes safely out of Barbara's sight, even if she did secretly agree. Her mother would have had a heart attack!
For the next hour they sat together and watched as a mutated horror ripped apart freshmen on spring break. They commented on the low budget effects and suggested ways the monster could be improved. They both had plenty of experience to draw from.
The night wore on, and Helena found herself putting in the final movie, a sappy romance. Normally she would rather have sat through her high school pre-calculus class than watch a movie like that, but Barbara had specifically requested it.
As they watched the main characters were forced apart again and again, only to meet and fall deeper in love each time. Helena found it all quite boring and pointless, but Barbara seemed to enjoy it, and that was all that mattered. When it was over Helena turned off the TV leaving the Tower silent and covered in shadows.
"You still awake, Babs?"
"Of course, Hel. I'm not quite the decrepit octogenarian you seem to think I am. I've spent much longer nights at the Delphi." Helena held up her hands in surrender.
"Yeah but you got to admit that last one was a snoozer. I mean come on, how many times did they need to be hit over the head before they realized that it just wasn't going to happen?"
"True, but they ended up together in the end, no matter what life threw at them." Barbara shifted on the couch, preparing to transfer back into her chair. "They lost everything but each other and became stronger because of it."
Helena glanced over quickly, hearing a strange tone to the other woman's voice. "Right, but if they'd just accepted it, they wouldn't have had to go through all of that. It wasn't worth it."
"Sometimes it is, Hel, as long as you have something to keep going for." The redhead wheeled her chair away, heading for her room. "Are you going to stay tonight?"
Helena ran a hand through her hair. "Yeah, if that's okay."
Barbara turned to give her a warm smile. "It's always okay, Hel. This is your home too."
"Okay, see you in the morning," Helena whispered as Barbara's door shut.
She didn't feel like staying in her old room so Helena decided to bed down on the couch. She grabbed a blanket from the closet and shut her eyes. Half an hour later she gave up all pretence of sleep and sat up, throwing the blanket to the floor. Her mind churned with uncertainty. She was missing something important.
She was missing someone important.
Standing up, she padded silently to Barbara's door listening for sounds that the other woman was still awake. Hearing nothing, she opened the door, careful not to make any noise. Of course, sneaking up on the former Batgirl was never easy, not even for the Huntress.
"Hel, are you okay?" Helena stood in the doorway considering her answer. "Hel?"
"Did you mean what you said?"
"What?" Barbara sat up from the bed and leaned against the headboard. "What do you mean?"
"Is it worth it? Is everything we've lost worth . . . this?" Helena's hand waved vaguely about the room, encompassing both Barbara and herself.
Barbara reached out and turned on the bedside lamp. Helena blinked in the light, her eyes disturbed and a deep violet. Barbara looked away, knowing what she wanted to answer, but uncertain of the consequences. Finally she met Helena's troubled stare with determination.
"Yes, Helena, you're worth it. All of it." She watched as the dark figure released a large breath and slumped forward.
"Okay . . . okay." Helena moved forward toward the bed and peeled back the covers. Sliding in next to Barbara, she felt her turn off the light. She reached over and wrapped her arms around the other woman, amazed at the peace such a simple gesture brought her.
"We're alright, Sweetheart." And Helena believed her because they were still together through it all. And no matter how long it took them to find their way, that's were they would always end up.
It was just business as usual.
Except it wasn't.
The next weekend Helena left work early. She went to the movie store and rented some DVD's. She barely looked at the titles. Heading up to the rooftops, she opened her phone and left a voice message.
"Hey D, get your butt over to the Tower. I've rented some movies and I might even be tempted to share the popcorn . . . Oh, and Kid, bring your girlfriend."
Yep, everything was business as usual.
Except it wasn't.
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