DISCLAIMER: I do not own the characters. They are the property of DC comics and the WB network. I'm just borrowing them for a short period of time.
MUSIC DISCLAIMER: Song lyrics don't belong to me either; no profit gained or infringement intended.
WARNING: This story deals with the subject of sexual violence.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.


Chapter 13

Shit. This was all messed up.

The brunette rocked forward, attempting to curl in on herself until agony abruptly halted her movement. She grunted softly, then hissed at the pain that had caused. She cut short her attempt to swallow. Just breathing was hard enough right now; swallowing around the stricture in her throat sure didn't seem like such a good idea.

Blue eyes blinked in the dark apartment, and Helena looked down at her hands where they rested on her thighs. She flexed her fingers, puzzling over the resistance of the drying blood that coated them.

This was not good. How could she have let this happen? What could she possibly say to Barbara -- all of these years, trying, holding herself back, hoping...

The dark woman leaned forward slightly, raising her right hand to scrub at her burning eyes. For some reason, her left arm refused to move. Opening her mouth, she scented the blood on her hand, trembling violently in recognition.

She just needed to think. Only problem was, her brain just wasn't coming up with anything. Maybe if she gave it a minute... if that loud rumbling would just stop... if she could just sit here and think -- not think.

Helena rested her forehead against her palm, shut her eyes for a minute. Maybe two.

A hushed voice distantly caught her attention.

"Why's she over there in the corner?"

Dinah? What was the Kid doing here?

"It's like I told you, like I saw her. Doesn't look like she's moved. I didn't do anything. Didn't want to -- you know -- scare her or anything."

And Leonard?

The dark head rose fractionally.

Yeah, that was Leonard. Why hadn't she ever thought to change her damned locks?

"That's fine, Leonard. I'm so glad that you saw her."

Helena's mouth twisted, and, this time, she did swallow, ignoring the clenching agony in her throat.

Barbara, too? How'd she get up here? There wasn't an elevator. Leonard woulda had to carry her up, and Red didn't let anyone to carry her.

The brunette glared in the direction of the voices.

He'd better have kept his hands to himself, or she'd take a piece -- a very specific piece -- out of him.

"Dinah, would you check the bedroom and bathroom? Find some blankets and towels, please?"

God, Barbara sounded so fucking good. She could help her figure it out... But, no, that was wrong!

Cautious blue eyes peered from under long bangs as someone turned on the table light, as Barbara's chair came close.

Fuck! The redhead shouldn't see her like this, couldn't know...

Then, that beautiful face leaned down, red hair spilling over her shoulders; a hand softly touched the brunette's hair.

"Hello, Sweetheart."

Helena whined softly and tried to back away, but she was trapped in the corner where she'd collapsed. Nevertheless, she pistoned her legs, futilely trying to escape from the older woman's compassionate gaze.

"Shhh, it's okay. It's going to be all right, Helena."

The Kid was back, standing behind the redhead's chair with a stack of towels and Helena's favorite afghan. And Barbara was -- What was she doing? Sliding out of her chair onto the floor, moving herself next to the younger woman.

"Thank you, Dinah. Just set them here."

Liquid green eyes attempted to catch frightened blue. An elegant hand tentatively touched a bloodstained arm.

"Let's get you covered up, get you home, Sweetie."

Panic consumed the brunette.

They couldn't see her like this, couldn't know --

She jerked her arms up to cover her head and was struck by a bolt of agony. Just before fading out, she managed to rasp, "Don't let Dinah touch me."

After that, there were disjointed images, voices, sensations.

Barbara's throaty voice: "Leonard, we're going to need your help -- Can't move her like this."

The sensation of the big man holding her from behind, causing something instinctive in the dark woman to struggle.

The redhead's face swam into her vision. She said something, tried to soothe the younger woman as she gripped the brunette's left arm near the elbow.

Tension. Grinding. Pain. A helluva lot of pain.

The feel of stumbling down the stairs, Leonard supporting her with an arm around her waist before she slumped down on the bottom step, waiting for something.

Looking up, seeing a crimson halo'd angel being carried down from above; watching the angel -- Barbara. It was Barbara. -- settle herself in the chair that Dinah must have brought down.

The inside of the van and movement.

Dinah must be driving cuz Barbara's strong arms were wrapped around her, snugging her tight in the other woman's lap. Helena rested her head against the other woman's shoulder, heard the strong heartbeat.

Gentle lips pressed to her forehead. Soft words whispered over her, but she didn't know what they meant. Something wet fell on her face.

Then, there was the ceiling of the van again -- No, Helena thought she must have lost a little time somehow. She was in the clock tower, on Barbara's bed? So, it was the bedroom ceiling, eggshell white, no -- red?

The older woman was touching her, bathing her neck, her chest and stomach, with a wet, warm cloth. What had happened to her shirt?

The brunette hissed as long, cool fingers played over the side of her right breast.

It hurt.

It felt heavenly.

That elegant hand cupped the underside of her breast, thumb delicately tracing the heavy flesh on the outside, moving up towards a nipple that was suddenly hard and tight. Helena struggled not to whimper and arch her back at the touch she'd been waiting for all her life.

What was...? Why...?

The dark woman panted softly through slightly parted lips and attempted to lie passively, waiting to find out, to feel what the other woman was doing. She turned her head, needing to see the older woman's face.

The redhead looked so sad as she raised her other hand, holding a small tube of something, some sort of ointment.



Blue eyes shut tightly, and Helena clenched her hands, feeling some sort of tape wrapping the right, aware of something stiff constricting her left wrist.

The younger woman's jaw trembled when the older woman finished putting a bandage on her chest, helped her slide into an oversized button-down shirt. When she felt Barbara's hand move to her pants, pushing them down her hips, the trembling spread to her entire body. Helena clenched her jaw to quiet the audible sound of her chattering teeth but couldn't still the movement.


Not this. Not like this. Not when she was like this.

Lying in the other woman's bed, surrounded by the scent of her, feeling Barbara's hands on her, Helena's body was on fire. The delicate brush of those long fingers down her legs left trails of pain in their wake. The dark woman knew she was already ramped up from earlier; now, a relentless, thick liquid heat suffused her, leaving her swollen and throbbing, and Barbara's hands were coming to her underwear, tugging at them gently, relentlessly.

Helena shifted her legs, clenching them together, ignoring a sickening, drowning sensation that accompanied the move. She pried open her eyes to catch the gentle gaze turning to her, concern and confusion in the green eyes. She fought the choking tightness in her throat.

"Please," she whispered. "Don't. Don't do this."

Barbara spoke softly, but the younger woman couldn't hear her over the blood roaring in her veins. She could only feel a soft hand resting lightly on her hip, feel that terrible throbbing that urged her to rock her hips and find contact.

She couldn't breath, couldn't think. The only thing Helena knew was the spasming need in her lower abdomen, the sensation of a gentle hand on her hip. If Barbara would just -- just touch -- just for a minute...

It was all she needed; all she'd ever wanted.

Panting softly, the dark woman moved her right hand, bringing it to rest lightly on top of the older woman's; forced herself to keep her touch light while trying to draw that cool hand to her need.

Horrified, Helena jerked her hand away and turned her face in shame. Shutting her eyes against the tears, she clenched her hands again, willing her body to cease its restless shifting, begging herself not to plead for the touch, the release, the comfort she needed.

The young woman focused on the constricting pressure on her left wrist and realized what she needed to do. She minutely raised that arm, ignoring the ache radiating from her shoulder, and focused with everything she was until she felt the grinding pressure in her wrist.

Moments later, the stabbing agony offered the oblivion she craved, and she gratefully fell into it.

Chapter 14

Confusion etched the older woman's features briefly after her patient, who had been fitfully resisting her efforts to help her, suddenly relaxed bonelessly under her hands. Green eyes flew to Helena's face, noting the dots of blood where the woman had bitten her lip.

The young woman was unconscious, although Barbara hadn't -- yet -- found any injuries that should have caused her normally robust partner to pass out.

The redhead furrowed her brow as she drew her gaze down the lithe form. Her features hardened at the bruising on the other woman's face. She fought a wave a nausea -- again -- at the horrific marks on Helena's neck, at the outline of the bandage beneath the oxford shirt, at the still-awkward skew of the woman's shoulder. Then, her eyes fell on the younger woman's splinted left wrist.

The metal supports in the brace were twisted sharply inward, leaving the fractured joint painfully tensioned.

Barbara didn't even attempt to hold back her horrified gasp. Tears rimmed her eyes as the meaning behind her friend's action constricted her stomach with the force of a physical blow.

She shut her eyes and breathed deeply, recognizing that Helena's action would, at least, permit her to complete her examination, allow her to finish cleaning and treating the young woman. She returned to her task, ruthlessly shunting aside the rage and sorrow that billowed through her for later reflection. For later action.

Wheeling across the room, she cracked the bedroom door and found Dinah sitting in the hallway, knees drawn up to her chest. The older woman smiled softly at her ward, aware of the teen's feelings of helplessness, appreciating her nearness.

"Dinah, would you find another wrist brace? Oh, and a few of the cool-paks in the refrigerator?"

Barely hearing the girl's acknowledgment, the redhead returned to the bed, tugging a pair of her boxers up Helena's legs. The garment was a bit large on the smaller woman which was, the older woman suspected, a good thing.

Barbara accepted Dinah's offerings and sent the blonde on another errand while she re-splinted the brunette's wrist and wrapped the shoulder which had been so painfully dislocated. After a moment's thought, she tucked the injured wrist into the wrapping, snugging it gently, but firmly, against Helena's chest.

Hopefully, that would keep her partner from further exacerbating the fracture.

Noticing the blonde head peeking into the room, the older woman wheeled into the hallway to accept the bottles of water and juice that the girl had procured, thanking her briefly. Her hasty return to the bedroom was arrested by a softly spoken question.

"Is she... Will Helena be okay, Barbara?"

The redhead visibly sighed. She wished that she knew.

For now, she opted to take the girl's question at face value.

"Her... injuries aren't too severe, Dinah. You know Helena..."

Barbara was well aware that the half-smile she directed toward Dinah didn't reach her eyes.

"Some of them will be gone by tomorrow; the rest should heal within a week."

If Helena didn't keep re-injuring herself, she noted grimly.

She continued, "I'm going to stay with her, in case she wakes up -- needs something. Why don't you -- "

The redhead trailed off, completely at a loss for what she might suggest the girl do. The teen didn't wait for her guardian to come up with something.

"Uh, okay. I'll just be out here. Uh, homework. Just yell if you need something?"

Barbara smiled her thanks and returned to her bedroom, stripping down to a tank top and boxers before positioning herself on the other side of the big bed. Helena mercifully still appeared to be unconscious, or sleeping deeply. With the practical, physical, issues taken care of, there was now little that Barbara could do, save wait for her friend to awaken.

Then, the older woman acknowledged sadly, the difficult part would begin.

Again, she drew her gaze over the smaller woman's form. With Helena not awake -- even though Barbara wasn't altogether certain that the younger woman had truly been aware of everything when she had been conscious -- the redhead didn't try to keep the anger and sorrow from her expression. She could not stop the tears that fell.

The marks around Helena's neck -- deep impressions from some type of large chain -- coupled with the matching impression around her fractured wrist and the dislocated shoulder, evidenced a horrifying brutality. From her not inconsiderable experience with the worst elements of society, the older woman suspected a choking force, somehow tensioned brutally against the delicate bones of the young woman's wrist, all at an angle that had resulted in the eventual dislocation of the woman's shoulder.

Just viewing the outcome was appalling; Barbara could only begin to imagine the agony of the actual experience.

Unfortunately, little imagination was required to comprehend the other injuries that the woman had sustained. The bruising on the brunette's face and knuckles, the split lip were clear indicators of a fight. The deep cuts on the palm of her right hand had been imbedded with glass, as if ground in by a large boot heel.

It had taken an hour of careful digging to remove all of the debris from the sluggishly bleeding gashes.

Barbara inhaled slowly as she considered the rest. The brunette's ripped clothing; the deep, vicious bite mark on her breast; the bone-deep finger-sized bruises all over the younger woman's thighs and hips; the blood on her inner thighs.

These injuries told their own story.

The older woman scrubbed roughly at her face, bringing her fingers up to massage deeply at her forehead. She clenched her jaw as her expression steeled.

What sort of new threat had come to New Gotham? What, or who, could be strong enough and fast enough to have taken Helena off guard and done... this?

By god, when she found the... the animals responsible for this, they'd be lucky to survive so that they could wish they'd never been born.

With the force of will that had gotten her through so much in her thirty-two years, the redhead deliberately focused on her breathing, on calming herself and compartmentalizing her fury and horrified sadness. All of that would be there later, and she could -- would -- re-examine it and use it as needed as she sought out those who were responsible. For now, she needed to be available for Helena.

The older woman was fairly confident in the assessment she'd provided to Dinah about the brunette's physical state. The amazing woman would heal handily. Barbara had done all that she could to help: antibiotics, a few stitches, the brace. She'd swabbed -- the redhead pinched the bridge of her nose angrily -- so that she could test for STDs, and she had a few RU486 pills by the bedside, although she suspected -- hoped -- that the young woman was on the pill, given her rather lusty approach to life.

Having done what she could to help the woman physically, now the older woman could only wait to see how Helena would react, what she would need.

That thought triggered the memory of the brunette's reactions, and what she had done, when Barbara had attempted to examine her. The young woman had been decidedly -- the redhead searched for a description, waffling between "agitated" and "restless", finally settling on 'keyed up'. Barbara hadn't missed the fleeting sensation of having her hand drawn from Helena's hip before... before the younger woman had so decisively stopped herself.

Barbara knew that the brunette often had trouble winding down after a fight; it was not, she supposed, surprising that -- after something like this -- the woman's body might remain... keyed up. The redhead only wished that her charge had addressed whatever needs -- or urges -- she had directly, by whatever means necessary -- color flooded the older woman's face as she replayed the tactile memory of having her hand coaxed towards the brunette's center -- rather than re-injuring herself.

The redhead sighed noisily and settled against a stack of pillows to observe her charge by the soft light of the bedside lamp. Helena seemed to be sleeping --almost peacefully -- now, almost entirely still and silent save for a minute, restless shifting of her legs.

Exhausted and emotionally drained, lulled by the reassuring rise and fall of the other woman's chest, the redhead dozed lightly only to be yanked awake an hour later by Helena's pained cry when the dark woman jerked into a sitting position, clawing at herself. Disoriented, heart trip-hammering in surprise, Barbara watched for a split second as the brunette struggled with the bandage on her shoulder, panting harshly and whining softly.

The movement, the fear rolling off the younger woman, suddenly clicked into place, and the redhead struggled to reach the other woman.

Great flaming sausages of shit! What had she been thinking? How stupid could she be?

After the younger woman had been painfully restrained and horribly attacked, what had her friend and mentor done? Restrained her.

"Off -- off. P-- puh -- lease, get it off."

The brunette's heart wrenching plea was little more than an agonized, hoarse whisper. It tore at Barbara's soul.

"Shhh, Sweetie, shhh. Let me help."

Stroking Helena's back gently with one hand, the redhead stilled the other woman's frantically plucking hand with the other.

"I'm sorry, Helena," she whispered as she started to free the splinted wrist from the bandage, "I didn't think. I wanted to keep you from re-injuring... I'm sorry."

Hand finally freed, the brunette crossed both wrists across her chest and bent at the waist, rocking slightly. She continued to tremble violently, breathing in short, terribly silent gasps. Sitting next to the brunette, Barbara continued her tender stroking of the other woman's back, whispering apologies and reassurances until Helena turned suddenly and curled into her arms.

The unexpected move threw off the redhead's precarious balance, and she put a hand behind her to lower them both slowly to the bed. Instantly, she wrapped both arms around Helena's slender shoulders, holding the woman where she was curled by her side. The woman's trembling didn't seem to be subsiding, and she began to move jerkily against Barbara, whimpering and panting softly.

With Helena's legs tangled on top of her, the older woman couldn't turn to hold her more firmly. Therefore, she tugged gently, coaxing the brunette onto her further until the young woman's head and upper body came to rest on her chest, her right hand resting on Barbara's abdomen.

The redhead clearly felt the dark woman's jaw chattering, struggled not to twitch against the restless hand kneading delicately at her side. She continued to rub Helena's back with one hand while bringing the other up to cup the back of her head tenderly, all the while murmuring soft reassurances.

Gradually, the older woman became aware of a change in the cadence of Helena's breathing. The young woman was no longer gasping and panting; rather, she was breathing shallowly through her mouth.

Scenting her, the redhead realized with a rush of adrenalin.

Hoping to help the brunette re-orient, she whispered softly, "It's all right, Sweetie. It's just me. You're home now."

The redhead felt the dark head lifted slightly, enough for Helena to move her cheek -- her face -- softly, sleekly against Barbara's chest. The younger woman gingerly drew her knees under her -- Barbara distantly noted the restless rocking of the slender hips -- and gently placed her mouth against her former guardian's neck.

At a loss, the older woman waited, then felt Helena inhaling deeply, heard a soft whimper. The brunette dragged her face lightly down the older woman's chest, pausing in the valley between her breasts to turn her face so that warm breath ghosted across Barbara's breast as Helena rubbed her cheek from one side of the redhead's chest to the other. At the same time, the redhead was aware of that restless hand at her side plucking at the bottom of her tank, tugging it up enough to expose a hand-width of skin which slender fingers stroked tremulously.

Stupefied, the redhead managed to continue her soft rubbing against Helena's back as the dark woman, still trembling, drew her face down to the exposed skin. The brunette drew in a long breath over a shaky moan before pressing her mouth lightly to Barbara's stomach, becoming absolutely still for a moment.

The older woman felt herself flooded with heat... and something deeply, darkly alluring. She immediately bit back the feeling and then forgot about it entirely when the brunette raised her head, entire body trembling again, and drew herself back up the redhead's chest.

Emerald eyes blinked, fought tears, at the vision of unseeing, tear-filled blue eyes which were absolutely filled with agony and... and a hopeless, helpless need.

One tear escaped Barbara's control when she finally made out the single word panted hoarsely, repeatedly, by the younger woman as she held herself over the redhead, muscles twitching and jerking minutely.

"Ba -- ba -- ra... Ba -- ba -- ra."

Without hesitation, without a thought to modesty or propriety or even mortification about the ribbons of scars on her torso, Barbara fumbled a hand down her side and tugged the front of her tank up to her neck, baring her skin. With the other, she urged the young woman down until the dark head, the impossibly soft, tear stained cheek came to rest on her chest. She slid a hand under Helena's shirt, rubbing small circles on her back as she spoke.

"It's all right, Helena. I'm here."

Chapter 15

Helena came awake by inches, one sense at a time.

First, her sense of hearing detected deep, peaceful breathing and the steady resonant thump of another's heartbeat.

Next, her sense of smell was enveloped with a well-known scent -- oranges and ginger, and the complex, subtle scent of her bedmate's sweat and skin.

Tactile sensations flowed to life then, and she recognized the softness of her pillow for what it was: the impossibly satiny, sweet skin of Barbara's chest.

God, it felt good. It felt so very right and good that the brunette never wanted to move again.

Blue eyes fluttered open, staring in puzzlement at the sight of one of the older woman's breasts -- full and milky white, nipple firm and rose-colored -- inches from her suddenly watering mouth.

Taste was last as the brunette finally comprehended the sensation in her mouth -- blood -- and fought not to gag.

Fuck. Helena hated the taste of blood in her mouth.

Relieved beyond measure when she recognized the blood as her own, the young woman touched the tip of her tongue to the split at the corner of her mouth -- it was still seeping -- and eased herself gingerly off her human matress. That slow movement reawakened some other sensations -- in her shoulder, her wrist, her throat; the whisper of her oversized shirt against her skin as she settled onto her pillow inflamed her breast, creating an answering ache in her loins.

Ignoring the discomfort that the move engendered, she reached over and snagged the hem of her bedmate's tank top -- still bunched around the redhead's upper chest and throat -- and drew it down to the other woman's waist, all the while resisting the powerful desire to drag her fingers lightly over the exposed skin, to steal another sensation. That done, Helena wrapped her arms around her own chest and lay on her side, panting softly and trying not to shift her legs, simply looking at the other woman's profile.

The morning sun was edging through cracks in the deep burgundy curtains which provided bright adornment to the eggshell walls. The color choice had required a lot of cajoling on Helena's part years ago when her mentor had been picking out some sensibly bland ecru drapes.

The warm, rosy light highlighted the older woman's porcelain skin, making her appear slightly flushed. Barbara's hair was fanned around her head on the pillow, and Helena shut her eyes at the memory of running the fingers of her taped hand -- once, twice -- through that soft mane during the night before mapping the woman's face ever-so-tenderly with her fingers. The redhead's lips were slightly parted, and the younger woman shivered at the memory of their incredible softness against her fingertips.

The dark woman didn't shift her hungry gaze lower; she didn't need to. The sensations from the night before were indelibly branded in her memory.

Blue eyes burned, and the young woman swallowed convulsively -- at least that was possible today -- as she attempted to understand what had transpired, what Barbara had given her. The older woman had somehow understood Helena's instinctual need for comfort, for soft skin, for something to quiet the raging, aching thing inside, and she'd been there, giving.

The brunette slowly shut her eyes, awash in shame.

She knew she hadn't -- didn't -- deserve any of the sweet tenderness that the redhead had given her. Not after... after she'd just gone and fucked up so badly.

She'd tried and tried forever, held that part of herself back, waiting and hoping that it would matter. And, in a stupid instant, it just didn't any more.

Shit. Shit. Shit.

It was pretty obvious that Red hadn't figured it out last night, but she would soon enough. She'd know.

The insidious question gnawed at the young woman's heart: When Barbara figured it out, then what?

Helena tightened her arms around herself, drawing her knees up to her belly. She had no tears, no whimpers. There was only a vast hole inside her, a maw beckoning with promises of the purity of pain and oblivion. She stared into swirling reds and blacks, wondering if she would fly, or swim, or simply drown in them.

A change in her bedmate's breathing, the awareness of being observed, gradually coaxed blue eyes open, and the brunette started, trying to pull back, as she found herself transfixed by warm emerald eyes. She watched the other woman shift, turning herself slightly onto her side, facing Helena; she saw the tentative smile transform worried features.

Again, Helena tried to pull back, turn away, unable to stand the close scrutiny, the love radiating in the other woman's gaze.

Why couldn't she move? Why could she only lie there, something thrumming painfully inside her -- causing her to tremble and pant shallowly?


The word was, could have been -- before -- a benediction, a blessing. The dark woman wanted to take the quietly breathed syllables into her mouth and swallow them like a sacrament. Helena shut her eyes, trying to draw in the other woman's sweet breath; something to hold inside herself.

"How are you feeling, Sweetheart?"

Blue eyes opened hesitantly, watching uncomprehendingly as Barbara's hand seemed to move towards her in slow motion. She felt the soft touch of cool fingers against her forehead, a gentle brush against her cheek, and the young woman hissed quietly at the burning ache that followed.

Green eyes widened fractionally at the sound and flickered down the brunette's body, then back to her face.

"Are you in much pain, Hel?"

The younger woman furrowed her eyebrows slightly, baffled by the words. She prodded at them from various angles, trying to understand what the question meant.

Her body?

She swallowed with some difficulty. Yeah. No. She'd heal. She was stiff and sore as all hell, but she'd been there before. It didn't matter. Not really.

Barbara had to know that. She had to know that it was just the dues she paid in her job, that the younger woman was already healing. The redhead was all too familiar with her protege's meta-human healing abilities.

So, what was she asking?


Blue eyes remained open, unblinking, as Helena thought about the word, wondering if it described the feelings inside her. There was that swirling empty ache whispering to her. There was that thrumming trembling that controlled all of her organs and muscles. There was, somewhere in her, nothing.

Was any -- or all -- of that pain?

In the end, she could find no meaning, no answer. She decided the question wasn't that important, really, and so simply remained silent, staring at the redhead in puzzled confusion.

Barbara pushed herself up on one elbow, concern etched across her beautiful features, and reached out to cup the side of the younger woman's face. Helena closed her eyes at the touch, at the feel of the redhead's thumb tenderly tracing her lip, skirting the cut at the side of her mouth. The brunette panted softly, every muscle torqued to the point of tremor -- as if a low volt current were running through her. She moved her jaw, seeking words -- something to relieve the other woman of her worry -- but, again, came up empty.

She opened her eyes, focusing again on the redhead in time to see her sigh, watch the emerald eyes blink slowly as the woman seemed to come to some sort of decision. Barbara turned away briefly to retrieve something from the night stand, then spoke again, the tone still soft, the words practical.

"Can you drink, Hel? Rinse out your mouth?"

The older woman twisted the cap off some water, hesitantly extended the bottle and a cup.

This time, it was the younger woman who blinked as she grudgingly drew her eyes away from the redhead's face to stare at the objects being offered to her. She moved her jaw, noting the lingering taste of blood still present, and touched her tongue again to the cut on her lip.

Would water get rid of it? Would rinsing really cleanse her?

Aware that Barbara was still waiting -- the young woman distantly recognized that the redhead wanted her to do something -- Helena turned onto her back, then pushed herself up. She accepted the bottle and makeshift spittoon, holding them loosely in her hands, temporarily at a loss again. A soft murmur -- "Just small sips, Sweetie." -- prompted her, and she brought the water to her lips, swallowing a few mouthfuls with difficulty.

That was -- enough. Enough, it appeared, to satisfy the redhead, who visibly released some of her tension as the brunette drank.

Helena sat the open bottle and unused cup on the table next to her side of the bed and jerkily lowered herself to the mattress again. Turning onto her other side, away from the concerned gaze directed at her, the young woman curled into herself and shut her eyes, willing sleep to overtake her.

Chapter 16

In the face of a nearly overwhelming desire to do something -- anything, Barbara nevertheless remained still, watching her younger partner silently turn away from her and assume a fetal position. The distressed rumbling emanating from Helena's chest -- her only vocalization so far, if it could be called such -- was mercifully quieter than the night before but still impossible to miss.

The redhead lifted a hand, moving to stroke dark hair but stopped herself at the last minute.

She thought she'd detected the barest stiffening in already rigid shoulders as her hand drew near, and she absolutely refused to be the cause of any further distress for the young woman. Sighing soundlessly, she pulled herself upright against the headboard and circumspectly observed the other woman.

Physically, the amazing woman seemed to be recovering at her usual phenomenal rate. Although her few movements had been stiff and awkward, she appeared to have full mobility. Barbara suspected that the young woman's throat might be bothering her most: Helena had clearly experienced some discomfort when she drank, and the pain could partially account for the dark woman's hesitance -- unwillingness? the redhead wondered -- to speak. The redhead planned to re-examine the other woman's injuries thoroughly later.

External injuries, she corrected herself, with not a little frustration.

She considered the brunette's withdrawn silence of this morning, attempting to reconcile it with the younger woman's desperate need for contact during the night.

When Helena had come to her, not asking for anything, yet her need so achingly apparent, there had been no choice for the older woman. She had -- she would always, Barbara realized with a startled blink -- offered the dark woman anything she could give her.

Last night, just the feel -- and taste, the redhead recalled with a shiver -- of her own skin had, apparently, been what the younger woman needed. Helena had softly stroked the other woman's abdomen, her rib cage, the side of her chest with hesitant fingers. She had drawn her face ever-so-gently across Barbara's chest, pressing her mouth -- just once -- meltingly over the older woman's heart, trebling the redhead's heart rate when she felt the stud in the brunette's tongue flicker briefly against her skin. The terrifying trembling possessing the young woman's muscles had slowed when the dark head lifted and brilliant blue eyes impaled the older woman. Helena had raised her bandaged hand to sift delicately through red hair before tracing Barbara's brows, her cheek, her lips with her fingertips. The dark woman had then settled herself lightly on the redhead's chest again and dropped into quiet slumber.

Sleep had not come nearly as easily for the older woman.

Watching the measured rise and fall of Helena's chest now, Barbara wished she knew what to offer the younger woman this morning.

Physically, yes, the brunette was on the mend.


The older woman shivered at the memory of those beautiful blue eyes, fixed on her so openly only minutes before. The younger woman had not attempted to avoid Barbara's gaze, to divert her eyes; yet, the eyes themselves revealed nothing save confusion and a piercing, haunting emptiness.

Sighing, the redhead prayed that sleep, indeed, might help knit the raveled sleeve of care for her younger partner.

She extricated herself carefully from the big bed and grabbed a pair of sweats on her way from the room, leaving the door ajar. There was nothing more she could do for the moment, and she knew that some sort of productive activity might help settle her own unease.

Barbara found Dinah in the kitchen, prodding listlessly at a bowl of cereal. In response to a worried look, the older woman paused on her way to the coffee pot and directed what she hoped was a reassuring smile at the teen.

"She's sleeping again, Dinah. She, er, managed to rest well through the night and doesn't seem to be having too much physical discomfort."

The teen still looked worried. Well, the redhead had to admit, her reassurances had been a bit on the clinical side.

She tried again.

"She's going to be fine, Dinah." Please let it be true. "Though it might take a little time..."

Barbara poured herself a cup of coffee and snagged an oversized muffin from the counter. Headed towards the door, she remembered that she had two charges.

"How are you doing, Dinah? Did you get some rest last night?"

The blonde dropped her gaze and poked at the soggy flakes in her bowl again.

"Uhm, a little, I guess. There was a lot of, uhm... I couldn't really help it, uh, picking up on some really, uh, strong emotions."

A russet brow crept up. No doubt where the emotions had originated. Small wonder that the brunette had asked Barbara not to let Dinah touch her; the emotions and memories that the young telepath would undoubtedly pick up from direct contact would be overwhelming.

The teen continued.

"It, uh, was especially at first. And, uh, then again a few minutes ago..."

She trailed off rather helplessly and threw in the towel on her breakfast, standing and carrying her dishes to the sink.

Barbara felt rather helpless herself. What was the protocol for shielding her newest ward from the horrors that the brunette had experienced, would doubtlessly be reliving in the days to come? Should she pack the girl off to a friend's house for a few days or...

The redhead's puzzled ruminations were interrupted as pale blue eyes caught hers.

"It's okay, Barbara. Really. I just wish I could, I dunno, help take some of that away from her. You know?"

Warmed, the older woman smiled sadly.

"Indeed, I do, Dinah."

She exhaled, straightened slightly before turning towards the living area.

"I'm going to start processing some samples while Helena is sleeping."

Presumably, the girl would assume that her guardian was referring to the samples from the hospital which they'd found by the door to Helena's apartment on the way out. The container had been battered, but the individual specimens were still intact. Lord knows how the brunette had managed to hold on to them after... everything.

While the cyber genius certainly had no intention of ignoring the hard-won evidence that Helena had heroically held on to, other samples were more pressing at the moment. She needed to analyze the swabs she'd taken last night, both to check for disease and to check DNA, to try to determine who -- or what -- had attacked her younger partner.

"Would you mind keeping an ear open in case Helena wakes up?"

Reassured by an eager nod, the redhead situated herself in the lab area, losing herself -- at least for a short time -- in the clarity of data. She breathed a sigh relief as preliminary scans indicated that STDs were probably not going to turn up. Minutes later, she removed her glasses and stared, unseeing, at another screen, puzzling over what the results of that particular test meant.

Helena's assailants had been human.

The redhead simply could not comprehend how a presumably small group of humans -- the damage hadn't been extensive enough to be the work of more than a handful of individuals -- could have overcome the brunette. After all, Barbara had witnessed the younger woman easily holding off gangs of a dozen or more on several occasions.

Perhaps, she mused, they'd been in possession of some sort of weapon that Helena couldn't overcome.

A soft cough pulled the older woman from her introspection, and she turned to find Dinah hovering near the hallway that led to the bedrooms.

"She's awake now."

Smiling her thanks, Barbara swung by the kitchen to warm some tea and honey in the microwave before heading down the hallway. She detected soft music -- was that Rufus Wainwright? -- as she approached the bedroom and assumed the brunette had chosen to alleviate the silence with the clock radio.

There was a time you'd let me know
What's real and going on below
But now you never show it to me do you?
Remember when I moved in you?
The holy dark was moving too
And every breath we drew was hallelujah

Barbara deliberately bumped the door with her chair, swinging it open widely before entering. She found Helena sprawled against a stack of pillows at the head of the bed, legs drawn together and knees bent against two pillows in the middle of the bed. The younger woman was absolutely motionless, blue eyes focused somewhere on the ceiling.

Maybe there's a God above
And all I ever learned from love
Was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you
It's not a cry you can hear at night
It's not somebody who's seen the light
It's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah

"Hello, Hel."

She approached the brunette's side of the bed and lifted the warm cup from between her thighs.

"Warm tea with honey. It might help your throat, Sweetie."

There was absolutely no reaction, no movement from the dark figure.

Barbara closed her eyes for a moment, regrouping, attempting to focus on the practical. If nothing else, it seemed like a better alternative for the moment than beating her head against the night stand.

She set the mug on the night stand as she spoke again.

"I also need to take a look at your injuries, check your bandages, Helena. Will you let me do that, Sweetheart?"

This time, the younger woman responded, silently swinging her legs stiffly over the side of the bed to face the redhead and extending both hands. She sat passively -- reactionless -- as Barbara replaced the bandage covering the cuts on her right hand, then checked the circulation and mobility in her left hand and stretched up to probe at her shoulder. The older woman contented herself with a visual inspection of the still-livid bruise encircling Helena's throat, then reached towards the top button on the brunette's shirt, speaking quietly, carefully.

"I'd like to change this bandage, as well, Hel. Do you mind?"

She detected the briefest shake of a dark head before the brunette averted her face and shut her eyes.

Painfully aware of a single tear coursing down the other woman's turned face, Barbara rebandaged the injury as efficiently as possible -- it, too, was healing rapidly -- and buttoned the young woman's shirt with slightly shaky hands. That task completed, she reached for the last item on the night table and waited silently for Helena to open her eyes, steeling herself.

When blue eyes finally turned toward her, she extended her hand, palm up, offering the pills.

"Do you need to take these, Hel?"

Puzzled blue eyes sought out hers, and the older woman offered a short explanation.

"Morning after."

The young woman dropped her gaze to focus on the tablets, then reached out to delicately remove them from Barbara's palm. She chewed, then dry-swallowed. The redhead suppressed a grimace of sympathy as she considered how the chalky fragments must have felt going down.

Again ignoring the tea that Barbara extended, the brunette sat quietly.

Poised, the redhead determined with a shiver.

Helena was waiting for further instructions or... or... The redhead simply didn't know.

In the end, she opted to go with her instincts, tangling one hand loosely with the fingers of the young woman's bandaged hand.

"What do you need, Hel?" she begged softly.

For a long moment, there was no movement, no answer. The older woman began to wonder if one would be forthcoming when haunted blue eyes finally flickered up to meet hers and Helena whispered an anguished plea.

Barbara's heart broke at the words.

"I just want to go home, Barbara."

Part 17

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