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.
SERIES: Some readers were kind enough to point out that there are more than the traditional four elements which were covered in the original Elemental series (Landslide, Watershed and Windshear). This story is the fourth extension of the Elemental series following Veneer, Stainless, Obsidian and Nuclear.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Dark Matter


Chapter 1

Something was wrong.

Blearily clawing her way into consciousness, Barbara Gordon fought an instinctive urge to jerk herself upright in the big bed, to fling back the covers and assume a defensive posture. Instead, years of training kicked in and she schooled herself to stillness, keeping her breathing slow and steady in the darkness of her bedroom, acutely aware that panic would buy her nothing as she worked to determine just what was...

Perhaps, she realized as her waking brain began to kick into gear, "wrong" was too strong a word.

After all, none of the alarms in the Tower had been tripped. There was no fussing or crying coming from Katie's crib, just across the room. There wasn't even the trill of a phone, potentially alerting her to some issue outside the haven of her home.

Nevertheless, something had brought her forcefully to wakefulness in the middle of the night, and the pounding in her chest and the tingling in her fingertips couldn't be denied.

Something was... off.


With panic now ceding precedence to curiosity, Barbara blinked several times, hoping to accelerate the process of adjusting her vision to the darkness, and took in the bedroom. She easily made out Katie's new crib in its place against the opposite wall, and a sense that she was beginning to accept as "Mother's intuition" confirmed that the small bundle within the crib was her sleeping daughter, swaddled in the pastel yellow receiving blanket that Alfred had given them.

Since Katharine was clearly not in any sort of distress, Barbara released the lingering concerns on that front and turned her gaze to the side of the bed. The steady red glow of the bedside clock needlessly confirmed that not too many hours had passed since she'd marked her place in Malcolm Gladwell's analysis of tipping points, turned off the bedside lamp, and settled into bed.

Despite the fact that it was summer and she was not teaching, years of dutiful habit still had her starting awake in the morning. Nevertheless, the redhead admitted that it was much too early for that sort of autonomic reflex to be kicking her awake so forcefully.

Pursing her lips, Barbara exhaled slowly through her nose, debating whether she should prod Helena awake.

Heaven knew, her partner's keen senses would undoubtedly pick up on anything out of the ordinary, and Helena would certainly want to be made aware if something were amiss.

Having marginally salved her conscience, Barbara turned her head to the other side of the bed. Her mental promise to take Helena out for brunch later -- much later -- in the morning remained unfinished when she realized that it wouldn't be needed.

Helena's side of the bed was quite empty.

Apparently, not only would "apology waffles" not be needed, they probably wouldn't be wanted. No doubt, her partner had slipped out for a snack and some late night television, and it was her absence that had drawn Barbara from sleep.

Undecided about whether she was amused or horrified by her need for the younger woman to be beside her for a restful night's sleep, the redhead opted to table the debate for daylight hours. There was, after all, a good chance of dropping back into the arms of Morpheus if she kept her mind from slipping into overdrive.

It was a possibility that grew dimmer by the moment.

Barbara had just closed her eyes when she detected the hint of a rustle from the bottom of the bed.

Specifically, she thought, it came from under the covers at the foot of the bed.

This time, it only took a heartbeat for her vision to acclimate to the darkness of the bedroom, and a moment later, one russet brow arched upward when Barbara made out the small, Helena-sized lump shifting under the light blanket that covered the bed during the early summer nights.

Clearly, she'd jumped to conclusions in terms of Helena's whereabouts.

Since there was no question of guessing what her bedmate was doing buried under the covers at the foot of their bed in the wee, wee hours of the morning, Barbara opted for a direct approach and lifted the covers that were neatly folded across her chest. When she peered beneath, she found her lover seemingly entwined around her lower legs.


Barbara coughed softly, partly to clear her throat and partially to get Helena's attention, and was promptly fixed by bright yellow eyes.


The "what the hell" remained unspoken, but clear. The younger woman's response, something mumbled about "icky" and "bees", did little to clarify Barbara's confusion.

"Excuse me, Hel?"

Although the question -- heck, both questions -- had been pretty... low-key, Helena recognized the tone and shifted upward onto her elbows, bringing her mouth away from Barbara's legs. For a second, she thought about pulling out the hangdog look but figured that was serious overkill.

Heck, it wasn't like Red had told her that she shouldn't slip under the covers in the middle of the night, shimmy down to the foot of the bed, and...

"I'm licking the back of your knees."

Pursing her lips for the second time in the last three minutes, Barbara squeezed her eyes shut, then opened them. Deliberately, she worked the tip of her second finger against the corner of her eye, rubbing lightly to remove any vestiges of sleep.

"Is there something back there that needed attending?"

The response was a purring drawl.

"Oh, yeah."

Barbara simply raised her eyebrows, quite confident that Helena would make out the implicit question. The assumption was a good one, judging from the younger woman's soft sigh.

"I started out sucking your toes, then I remembered that I hadn't tasted back there for a while."

"I see."

Immediately, Barbara checked her answer and shook her head.

"Actually, I don't, Helena."

The smile that greeted her admission was radiant in the darkness under the blanket.

"I just figured I'd... work... my way... up."

Keeping it simple, Helena punctuated the last few words of her explanation by pressing tender kisses to the impossibly soft skin of her lover's inner thigh. She didn't even try to go into how much... how much more it all was now. All she knew was that she'd awakened earlier, her head pillowed in her usual spot on Babs' shoulder, Barbara's sweet scent surrounding her in a way she hadn't experienced in weeks.

Lying there in the darkness, she'd noticed that, for the first time in way too long, her cheek wasn't stubbled and catching on the butter-soft cotton of Babs' sleep tee. God, she'd wanted to rub her face all over her partner's body.

That thought had made her toes curl which had led her to other obvious thoughts.

Barbara's feet.

Red was fastidious about them. Helena thought that maybe it was because Barbara thought -- believed somewhere so deep inside that it wouldn't make itself known even to her big brain -- that she'd be walking on them again some day.

Helena had worked her way under the covers, brushing her cheek softly against her lover's foot. The soles of her feet were so soft... softer than Barbara's hands, almost as unblemished as Katie's feet.

Helena knew that from all the times she'd put their daughter's foot in her mouth.

Just to see if it would fit.

She hadn't thought that Babs' foot would fit. Still, her partner, her mentor, had taught her the value of empirical research. And after that, well, there was a whole lot of skin to explore.

"Was I supposed to be awake for this little exploration of yours, Hel?"

She allowed both eyebrows to arch as she wrestled with the fact that she'd been completely unaware of her lover's attentions. The dark head that was resting on her lower thigh dipped contritely.

"Well, I kinda hoped it would end up that way."

With that, Barbara let it go, chuckling softly as she tugged at Helena's tee to pull her upward. By the time her lithe partner was blanketing her from above, her nose burrowed against her neck, Barbara couldn't remember why she might have been perturbed. She simply wrapped her arms around slender shoulders, allowing her fingernails to scritch gently through the fine hair at the base of Helena's neck.

The redhead felt the minute trembling in taut muscles but held her silence, measuring Helena's shallow breaths against her skin until a shaky murmur caressed her ear.

"B- Barbara, I..."

For a beat, Barbara felt herself freeze, caught in her lover's eyes like a fly in amber. Then, she dropped her hands to the younger woman's shoulders.

"Say it again, Hel."

It was a command barely masquerading as a request, and Helena felt her eyes snap back to blue as she fought her confusion, as Barbara's fingers dug into her upper arms.


The older woman's grip was no less punishing, however when she spoke the note of command was gone.

"My name, Hel."

It was so softly whispered.

"Say my name."

Instantly, Helena ducked her head, bringing her mouth within millimeters of her lover's ear.


Small puffs of air touched the redhead's ear for both hard consonants. The tiny trill on the second "r" -- a convention that was Helena's alone -- brought an eruption of gooseflesh.

It was Helena's voice.


It was not the masculine version that her partner had carried with such poise for the last weeks. It was not the dulcet tenor that she -- then "he" -- had professed herself willing to keep for Barbara's sake.

It was Helena's voice.

In the hustle of the last few days, as Barbara had busied herself with soothing Dinah, with tracking the NGPD's minimal handling of Mike Mandrill, with moving the Mentachem wand into locked storage, with monitoring Helena for signs of damage...

Peeved with her excuses, Barbara blinked once and cut to the chase.

Somehow it had gotten past her that...

"Sweetheart, you're back."

Her partner's answer was no more than a sigh.


The silence of the night-shrouded room embraced them, and Helena held herself still in her lover's loose embrace. She slowed her breathing, matching the cadence to Barbara's, barely swallowing her murmur of pleasure as Barbara's chest moved against her... again... and again. She had no trouble hearing their hearts beat -- hers, a tripping tom-tom; Barbara's, slower, deeper, resonant.

Unable to deny the need, Helena shifted enough to slip one hand between them, under the ratty PALs tee that her partner slept in. Carefully, she brought her hand to her lover's chest, resting the tips of her fingers where the beat of Barbara's heart was strongest.

"So much."

Helena heard herself murmur something as she slipped to one side, taking her weight from Barbara and curling against the older woman's side. Slowly, she traced her index finger down her lover's chest, her touch light, almost random. She followed a run of muscle across Barbara's sternum, marveling anew at the redhead's strength, then touched the soft swell of a breast that was beginning to engorge for Katharine's morning feeding.

God, she hadn't remembered this.

Gently, Helena circled flesh that pebbled under her fingertip, then allowed herself to cradle the full weight in her palm.

"So fuckin' soft..."

Releasing the breath that she hadn't realized she was holding, Barbara ducked her head to the side and tried to catch her lover's eyes.

"Hel, it hasn't been that long since you--"

Her tender chiding died in her mouth when she heard Helena's response.

"Not with these hands."


Green eyes blinked, then focused on violet. There was no mistaking the wonder in those amazingly expressive features.

Blindly, Barbara reached under her tee and captured the hand that was so carefully -- almost reverently -- mapping her. Once their hands were free, she positioned them together above her belly, pressing palm to palm, fingers against fingers, almost as if they were joined in prayer.

Or possibly, she recognized distantly as she contrasted the size and texture against the shape that Helena had been forced to wear for the last weeks, as if they were giving thanks together.


The endearment was too much.

Already ready to burst with the emotions roiling through her -- hell, she'd been about ready to explode when she'd started sucking on Barbara's toes an hour ago -- Helena stretched forward, capturing soft lips with her own. When she opened her mouth, hungering for more, something -- some word or plea -- whimpered past her lips, but with strong fingers threading through her hair and Barbara opening to her, she couldn't be bothered to care.

God, how could she have forgotten that it was like this?

Somehow, she steadied herself, stilling the rocking of her hips against her lover's leg. Somehow, Helena pulled away from that welcoming mouth and leaned up, resting her forehead lightly against Barbara's. With no effort at all, she lost herself in verdant green eyes.

Not a whit concerned that she might be just a tad cross-eyed at the close range, Barbara shared a smile with her partner. Still focused on the tingling of her lips and the liquid heat that had begun to suffuse her upper body, she barely registered that Helena was guiding their twined hands to the side.

The younger woman's low moan, coming only milliseconds after Barbara found her hand cupping Helena's breast, managed to get her attention.

As did the sensation of nipples growing hard against her palm and of Helena's fingers covering the back of her hand, increasing the contact.


With difficulty, the redhead swallowed. With even greater difficulty, she worked to extricate her hand and display some good sense.

"Sweetie, you're still healing."

Heavens knew, even if this transformation hadn't been as laced with pain and violence as the initial one, the physical transformation from male back to female was bound to be traumatic.

"You need to take some time and--"

A velvet mouth moving against hers cut short Barbara's attempt at sanity.

"I don't care. I need--"

One look at the stark hunger, almost a visible ache, in gamine features told Barbara just what Helena needed. Bewitched, Barbara cupped her lover's jaw, smearing her thumb over those lush lips. Instantly, Helena turned into the caress, and Barbara shivered at the sensation of the stud in Helena's tongue flickering into her palm.

The motion telegraphed more than words, but Barbara still needed to hear it.

To hear Helena.

"What do you want, Helena?"

The whispered response was stark and needy, Barbara's answering question instant.

"Where, Sweetheart?"

This time, the answer was raw silk against her skin, electric current against her nerves.


There was no way that Barbara could consider denying the plea that breathed softly against her skin as Helena's beautiful mouth brushed her jaw over and over.

"Touch me, Barbara."


Chapter 2

It was, Helena thought, really a helluva thing to wake up to.

Not to say that she minded.

Per se and all.

Heck, she figured that it pretty much tended to give her a fresh perspective on the day, even if it was different.

Always before -- well, since she'd been old enough to be on her own -- Helena had kept it in the living room, but since moving back in with Barbara, she hadn't even considered anywhere but the bedroom for it.

Still half-asleep -- and probably pretty easily tipped in that direction again if Barbara kept running her fingers through her hair like that -- Helena stifled a yawn and peered through her lashes at the Gauguin print that was hanging over the head of the bed.

As far back as she remembered, she'd loved "Day Of God". No surprise there: her mom had appreciated it, too, enough not to acquire it when she'd had the chance.

When her own personal Day of God -- or Night of the Devil -- had come around, Helena had pushed crap like that aside. Art and beauty... and hope had all been pretty much been left in the pools of blood that had gouted from her mother, that has pooled under Barbara.

Fuck, she'd been too busy being flipping back and forth between rage and terror a lot of the time.

Sixteen years old, and her whole world had bled away in one night. And, even wrapped up in her own grief and loss, she hadn't missed that the firmament remaining -- Barbara -- was pretty shaky. Her new guardian was still coming to terms herself, with losing her legs and her life as a hero on the streets. In Helena's eyes, what Barbara had gotten in exchange -- namely, her -- wasn't much of a trade.

Oh, and the wheelchair.

More than one day, Helena had crept in from school to find door jambs gouged and scuffs on the hardwood and her guardian's face too freshly scrubbed, her voice a little too bright and brittle.

So, Helena had tried to tiptoe around, to play the game that Everything Was Going to Work Out. She'd tried to be good, and she couldn't. There was just too much that had needed to get out, to scream and rage.

But, no matter how bad she'd assed up, how much she'd pushed back, how hard she'd lashed out, Barbara had never given up on her, had never once hinted that dealing with Helena was too much.

Helena owed her for that.

And then her birthday, the first one after her world had tilted on its axis, had rolled around. And it wasn't going to be any big fucking deal, because, hell, Barbara had probably just been tolerating her anyway.

The way she'd felt when Barbara had given her the print still burned bright within her.

Probably always would.

Helena still didn't know how Babs had known. Somehow, Barbara always just knew.

Giving up on trying to understand why -- or even to analyze the painting upside down, the brunette contentedly burrowed her nose deeper under Barbara's arm. The movement was instinctual, just as it had been hours before when she'd awakened, curled tightly against her partner.

In the darkness, Babs had been just a little restless beside her, like maybe she hadn't gotten back into the groove of sleeping with her in this form.

In her right form.

"Mmm, I'm glad."

Barbara's murmur against her scalp roused Helena from a particularly vivid memory from a few hours before. Without opening her eyes, she smiled against the soft cotton of her lover's tee.

"Me, too."

Hell, she was damned near ecstatic but there was no need to go... crowing about it.

"...your hair, too?"

Pretty clearly, she'd missed a step or two in the non-conversation.

Still, hair?

"Uh," Helena pushed up on one elbow and peered at her partner. "What?"

Barbara laughed softly, careful not to wake Katharine, and pressed her cheek close to Helena's. Infallible memory notwithstanding, Barbara surprised herself -- as she had a few evenings ago when Helena and Dinah had returned,, nominally triumphant in their quest to force Mike Mandrill to return Helena to her feminine form -- with the realization that she was not feeling the burn of stubble against her skin.

Granted, Helena had only been in a male body for a few weeks, however, the change was... different.

The hint of a smile on full, soft lips suggested that Helena had caught her wool-gathering, and the redhead hurriedly backtracked their minimal exchange of words.

"I'm glad you never got around to cutting your hair, Hel," she finally supplied.

Helena considered the admission, mulling over the buzz cut that she'd been waffling about during her time as a man.

"What?" She ran her right hand over the top of her head, pulling the sleep-mussed locks back tightly. "You don't think the Demi Moore look would work for me?"

Her partner's answering purr shot straight to Helena's center.

"I'm sure it would, Sweetie."

Given the light that had sparked in Helena's eyes, Barbara thought she had a reasonable intimation of just where her partner's thoughts had gone. However, when there was nothing further from the younger woman, she gave in to curiosity.


The response was served up with a lazy grin.

"Just thinking that I'm glad -- "

And the waggle of dark brows.

"-- really glad that you didn't have to be up early this morning for school."

"Is that so?"

She managed a smirk of her own, not oblivious to the faint twinge of guilt plucking at her chest.

It was, Barbara supposed, that damnable work ethic that had taken root in her, goading her about the fact that for the first summer since she'd started teaching she wouldn't be covering at least one session.

She firmly pushed those thoughts aside -- this first summer of Katie's was simply too precious -- and waited for what she assumed would be an innuendo-laden response. Instead, the redhead saw something serious in her lover's expressive features.

Reaching over, she lightly traced Helena's jaw, struck anew by how openly the other woman accepted the caress.


The heavy blackout curtains shielded the bedroom from most morning light, and so it was difficult to detect any change of color in Helena's dark features; however, Barbara was comfortably certain that she felt the warmth of a blush under her fingertips.

"All those times, when I was younger and just getting a handle--"

Helena cut herself off, realizing that it was bigger than that.

Feeling a little shy all of a sudden by all of these fits of wandering down memory lane, she turned her head and pressed a kiss to Barbara's palm.

Which was, she realized instantly, maybe not her brightest move, seeing how the scent of her was all over Red's hand and there was no way that she wasn't going to think about a few hours before, how gentle Babs had been in giving her touch: Just the brush of her fingers across Helena's center had been enough, and she'd come with a stutter of her hips and a sharp hiss.

"Well," she worked a minute shrug, "I just never knew it would be so..."

For a second, Helena worked her jaw, searching for the right way to say it. Since Red was all about precision, she quickly threw out "awesome" and "incredible". She almost went with "mindblowing" before deciding that, if accuracy counted, there was only one word.

"-- everything."

Her partner's response was a little bemused.


Helena's answer was instant.


God, when would Barbara get how abso-frikin-lutely amazing she was?

"Coming with you."

Unable to deny that, Barbara smiled softly, considering the terrifying beauty of Helena's face during climax.

"For you -- "

Clearly not satisfied, the brunette shook her head once, roughly, and Barbara lowered her hand to the covers. When blue eyes, soft and open, sought hers, she held her breath.

"Because it's you, Barbara."

Her perplexity must have shown because Helena's indulgent look made an appearance.

"Look, Babs, you know I'm no blushing virgin, right?"

Instantly determining that it was in nobody's interest to dwell on that, Barbara nodded, arching her brows in invitation for Helena to continue.

"None of those times -- "

Helena gave in to her need, scooting a little closer, allowing her to butt her forehead gently against Barbara's, then rub their noses together. She didn't have to look to know that Babs was smiling.

"--and I mean none of 'em -- could hold a candle to you."

True enough.

Like last night, when Red had caught her under the covers, and Helena had picked up on something in her voice, but it hadn't mattered. With the scent of Barbara against her, the taste of her skin so pure in her mouth, her need had flared to life. When she'd moved Barbara's hand to her breast and Babs had started touching her, and it had been so good... so fuckin' good.

"Earth to Helena?"

Amusement threaded the murmured words.

"Just thinking about last night."

Pulling away, she ducked her head and settled in beside her partner again.

"This morning."


It sounded like some sort of encouragement to go on, but with Red's fingers back to combing lightly through her hair, it was hard to think about anything.

"S'nice, Baby."

Pressing a tender kiss to dark hair, Barbara worked her upper body a bit and snuggled in to Helena's side. They lay in silence for a few beats while the redhead fought her own curiosity.

Inevitably, she threw in the towel.

"How was the... sensitivity, Hel?"

She felt the younger woman's forehead scrunch up the tiniest bit against her shoulder.

Clearly, Helena was thinking hard about the question.


Barbara felt her own brow follow suit.

"More sensitive- or less sensitive-different?"

Helena nibbled at her lower lip, considering how sensitive that had been during her weeks as a man, how explosive her orgasms had been. She contrasted it with being touched by Barbara a few hours earlier, how she'd guided Red's hand to her breast, then -- unable to stop -- had scooted up in the bed, whispering her need.

When Barbara had tugged at her hips, her throaty whisper had been a touch unto itself.

"I want to taste you, Hel."

She'd obligingly pushed thoughts of fingers and hands away, working her way up her lover's body, pausing only to plunder Red's mouth.

"God, Barbara -- "

"Now, Hel."

There had been no way. There was just no way that Helena wasn't going to respond to the steel in her partner's voice.

Like always, Barbara had just known.

By the time Red's lips had touched her inner thigh, the results had been a foregone conclusion.

"Right different."

The lull in the hushed conversation had been just long enough that Barbara had almost lost track of her question. Instinctively, she started to turn her head to the right, then caught a clue.


Absorbing the abashed sincerity in her lover's voice, she gently touched her fingers to Helena's cheek.

"Then, I guess we made the right choice about Mandrill, Sweetheart."


Chapter 3

Decision time.

Finished with her shift at the Dark Horse, Helena threw Leroy a wink as she headed to her locker and tried not to crack up at the sour disbelief in his face.

Man, sometimes, he really reminded her of Squidward.

Her cheerful mood sort of flittered away by the time she fished her duster out of her locker, and for a while, Helena let herself just stand there. It was only when she realized that her hand was still on the cheapo Master Lock and she'd been lost in one of her favorite fantasies -- or, at least, her favorite since she'd turned back into her real body -- that she gave herself a mental smack upside the head and admitted that she was doing some serious avoidance stuff.

Still, with that particular fantasy, who could blame her? It was the one where she was on Babs' lap, facing her, her knees buried deep in the padding of the chair on each side of Red's thighs. Barbara was wearing that faded denim shirt that Helena had hated on principle for the longest time because she was pretty sure it had been a steal from some old boyfriend, but somewhere along the line, she'd realized how soft it was and how sexy Red looked when she wore it with the sleeves pushed up above her elbows and, like this time, had the buttons partially opened down the front.

Which, in all honesty, was the biggest piece of this particular fantasy that always reminded the brunette that it was a fantasy because her buttoned-up lover just didn't do the cleavage thing.

But, here she was. And, Barbara's glasses had slipped down her nose, probably while she'd been watching Helena's fingers work some of the other buttons on the shirt, and Helena's mouth was watering with the need to kiss her stupid and her fingers were itching to get under the soft denim and hear Barbara hiss when she scraped her nails across her nipples.

Only, the hiss was coming out of her mouth and a whole stream of words, most of which meant "Don't stop", because somehow Barbara had worked her hands into Helena's pants. Then, Barbara was twisting her fingers, and Helena was riding her and could practically taste the bead of sweat she saw meandering down Red's neck, and she was trapped by the intensity of eyes that were almost black, banded by green. The words, her words, transitioned to begging for more, and Barbara's fingers were inside her and she was fucking her and fucking her, and it felt so freakin' amazing that...


Not entirely sure she hadn't just teetered on the brink of some kind of mental orgasm or something, Helena shook her head and pushed her fists into the sleeves of her coat, not bothering to hide her smirk.

No secret that she wanted to head back to the Tower. Who knew? Tonight could be the one where that fantasy -- or some variation of it -- came true.

With summer in full swing, Babs was being true to her word and cutting back on work, even on their nocturnal avocation. That meant more time for movies and shopping and picnics and family naps... well, probably all of the stuff that families who didn't go out in search of crime to thwart did. And, eventually, Helena figured, it could mean getting around to fantasy time.

So, yeah, getting off of her regular job and getting home was a priority. It was just...

With a shrug, Helena dug into the front pocket of her jeans and fished out her cell. One speed-dial later, and her heart picked up a few beats.

<<"Hello, Hel. Are you off work?">>

No surprise that Babs knew it was her.


Probably no surprise that Babs waited out the silence either.

"But I've got a stop to make before I head home."

With some irritation, she tried to squash a flare of guilt. The dulcet tone of her lover's voice helped in soothing the lingering scratch of her conscience.

<<"Are you seeing her again, Hel?">>

"Yeah, hope so."

Moments later, standing outside the door of her old apartment, Helena decided that it was about time. The place had been sublet for just over two weeks now, and it was probably time to cover her land-lordy duties.

She remembered herself just before she slid her key in the lock. Stuffing the ring back in her pocket, she plastered a smile on her face and knocked, roughly keeping time with the thump of the bass from the jukebox downstairs.

The door swung open a few inches, the security chain halting its progress. She caught a glimpse of brown curls before the door clicked shut, the chain rattled, and the door opened fully.

Considering that Gabby stood blocking the doorway and didn't look much like she was moving, Helena thought the open door wasn't an invitation. Heck, from the expression on Gabs' face, you'd think she was there to collect rent or something.


It wasn't like she was there to see Gabby anyway.

"Hey, Gabs," she sing-songed, pulling out her best I'm-not-here-to-check-up-on-you smile.

No soap. Helena didn't even get a forced smile.

Seeing as how she was letting Dinah and Gabby use her old apartment for the summer, she thought that a little more hospitality might be in order. It wasn't even like she'd been coming by to make sure they weren't trashing the place or anything.

Feinting a hip-check that had the brown-haired young woman moving instinctively to one side, Helena slipped past her and breezed into the apartment. Without really meaning to, she gave the living area a quick once over, a little appalled when it hit her that she was, it seemed, checking up on the place.

Still, the look-around was useful: In the kitchen area, she could see the remnants of dinner on the table -- some sort of tofu and green bean thing. The scraps on the plates were congealing enough to relieve her of any concerns -- if she'd chosen to have them -- that she'd actually interrupted dinner. One plate was nearly empty; the other -- Dinah's, judging by the can of Jolt sitting next to it -- was barely touched.

"Nice poster."

Helena jerked a thumb at the Melissa Etheridge Breast Cancer Awareness piece that had taken a prominent position over the sofa, covering most of the spot where her Gauguin had hung. For a second, she thought she might get the same stony silence, but finally Gabby gave up a shrug.

Sheesh, what with the fact that she hadn't come by once in the last two weeks, had made a frikkin' point of not interrupting their private time, Helena thought that Gabby's greeting was downright unfriendly. Helena was all over the benefits of privacy and quality time, and 'til this evening, she'd kept her get-togethers with Dinah ... well ... casual. But, it had been too long since she -- or Babs or Alfred -- had heard from the Kid since she'd met her for coffee near campus 5 days ago.

Ergo, social time.

Deciding to decide that Gabby's shrug meant things were warming up, Helena cut to the chase.

"Where's Din--?"

"God, Helena!"

Feeling her hackles rise, Helena deliberately pulled in a slow breath before meeting the younger woman's eyes.

"What gives, Gabby?"

The look she got was pure righteousness made flesh.

"Goddammit, Helena, don't act innocent! What did you do to her?"

Righteous, alright.

Helena worked her jaw, but Gabby didn't give her time.

"Everything's different now."

The anger just seemed to leak from her words, and Helena fought another stab of guilt as Gabby sank down to sit on the edge of the coffee table.

"It's like she doesn't really even want us to be together now, Hel. Or -- "

The next words were a whisper, addressed to the floor. Helena was pretty sure that she wasn't meant to hear them, but she couldn't help her physiology.

"-- like she doesn't want to touch me."


Something low in her gut seemed to squeeze: a visceral pang of understanding... and guilt.

Helena got that.

Swallowing, she sank down next to Gabby on the edge of the coffee table, offering them both the privacy of not having to look at each other. She considered the myriad ways that she could go with Gabby's questions, her accusations.

Helena decided on the truth.

Or part of it, at least.

"She was there, Gabby, when that -- "

Helena clenched her teeth, worked her palms up and down her jeans-clad thighs for a second, before she found the right word.

"-- jerk changed me back. It... it was hard on her."

Blowing a long stream of air through her nose, Helena admitted that the explanation didn't begin to touch on everything D had gone through with her.

Fuck, for her.

Helena owed her for that.

Any idea of trying to total things up, again, got lost when her companion pushed to her feet and turned to face her. Helena was pretty sure that Gabby was trying for angry or, maybe, for defiant.

She thought it mostly came out a little scared.

"Can't you just leave her alone?"

Slowly, Helena raised her hands, scrubbing them over her face. She kept them raised, covering her eyes, for a little longer, wishing like hell that she could just leave things as they should be: Two co-eds, in love, hanging out in their first dump of an apartment and summer-jobbing.

But, shit, things had changed since Gabby had been in New Gotham for study week only a few weeks ago. She had changed. Dinah had changed.

Things were different, and she couldn't go back and unwind time and fix thing back to the way that, well, maybe they were supposed to be.

Clenching her jaw, Helena lowered her hands and stood up. She half-turned, taking a long look at Melissa and fighting too many emotions to untangle. Eventually, she worked a half-smile and met green eyes again.

"Sorry, Gabby," she shook her head once, slowly. "I can't do that."

Helena saw the defeat in the gesture when Gabby waved, wordless, toward the window with the fire escape. Figuring that her departure would be the best gift of all, she didn't bother to thank the younger woman as she slipped out the window on her way to the roof.


Chapter 4

Helena heard music before she reached the top rung of the fire escape that led to the roof of the Dark Horse.

Pink Floyd. Dark Side of the Moon.

Slipping over the low retaining wall, she silently settled herself on the tar and gravel surface. On the opposite side of the building, sitting on the parapet and resting her back against the neon sign, was Dinah. Since the blonde was looking skyward and was plugged into her iPod, Helena deliberately scuffed her boots as she crossed the roof.

No need to send the Kid flailing over the edge, even if she'd probably catch herself with her TK before going splat.

"Careful, D," she'd seen the younger woman start to turn so figured that it was safe to speak. "It looks like you're picking up all of my bad habits."

The words drew a smile from of Dinah, which made it worth it. For her part, Helena didn't want to think about the many lonely nights she'd spent up here, pacing the small area while the wind cut through her and the moon beckoned and she... yearned.

"Hey, Helena."

Dinah was up, and then in her arms, before Helena would have thought it possible. Surprising herself, the brunette found herself returning the hug, swallowing the teasing she'd planned about having a hot girlfriend waiting downstairs while Dinah was up here.

Somehow, maybe it was the darkness of the night, she didn't think that it was the right time for teasing.

Helena didn't know how long they held the embrace, only that both of them were holding on, long and hard.

Like they both seemed to need it.

Maybe Dinah picked up on that thought -- or, more likely, she picked up on Helena's feeling a little scared by the realization -- because it was right after the thought took form that the blonde pulled away.

"So, uh," pale fingers tucked a lock of hair, almost silver in the moonlight, behind her ear. "Hi."

Surrendering the hug, Helena took two steps back and pulled a big smile.

"Hi yourself, D."

Hell, she could do chipper as well as the next person.

"So, uhm, what's up, Hel? Is there something going on that--"

The brunette shook her head and broke in.

"Nothing like that, Dinah."

No way to miss the way the tension in the younger woman's shoulders eased.

"I just got off work," Helena gestured loosely toward the roof of the building below them and immediately fought the need to roll her eyes at the dumbness of the motion.

Shit, it wasn't like Dinah didn't know where she worked.

" -- and I thought I'd say hi."

Even with the garish neon of the Coors sign behind her, Dinah's narrowed eyes couldn't be missed. Without a shot being fired, Helena caved.

"Yeah, Barbara missed you at brunch yesterday, too."

Dinah's laughter was brief, and apologetic, but the tension seemed to ease.

"I'm sorry about that, Hel."

The blonde nibbled on her lower lip then shrugged minutely.

"Gabby was starting her new job yesterday and I--"

Despite the manners that had been drilled into her over the years by her mother, by Barbara, -- hell, by Alfred -- Helena had no problem interrupting her companion.

It wasn't like she needed to hear whatever excuse D came up with.

"Hey, did she get the spot at the photo studio downtown?"

Her enthusiasm -- heck, she could do avoidance as well as the next person -- might have been catching, because Dinah's smile finally became full.

"Uh huh. And, well, I guess that after church is a really hot time for spontaneous family portraits and stuff because Mr. Gribbly -- "

The blonde head ducked as Dinah interrupted herself.

"He's Gabby's new boss."

Biting the inside of her cheek against the urge to smile at the image the name brought to mind -- namely, some sweaty middle-aged guy with a pot belly and a bad comb-over -- Helena nodded her encouragement for the younger woman to keep barreling along.

"So, Mr. Gribbly just gave Gabby the word on Saturday but he told her that she needed to start right away since Sunday is one of his busiest times and all, but it's not like she minded since she will be getting some portrait experience and that's gotta be good for her portfolio."

Somehow, Helena bit back a comment about Gabby having to suffer for her art and smiled again.

"That's great, D."

And maybe it explained a little bit -- even a teensy bit -- of Gabby's grumpiness earlier. Helping pose babies and family pets against pull-down screen backgrounds all day couldn't be a genuine laugh riot.

"So," she half-turned on the roof to take in the view of the Clock Tower. "How's it going for you in the lab?"

Sure, since D had just finished her freshman year, she hadn't landed a plumb spot working directly for her idolized Biology professor. Rather, she was working for one of Dr. Connors' GRAs, enthusiastic about the possibility of working directly under Connors in another semester or two.

The question alone seemed like it was enough to jolt Dinah out of any lingering suspicion... and reticence, and Helena smirked when she saw the younger woman's face light up.

"Oh, wow, Hel, you wouldn't believe some of the cool stuff that I'm getting to do! I mean, just today, Toni had me helping with some rat experiments and I actually got to draw blood and -- "

Helena's attempts to smile gamely as Dinah started to describe stuff that featured words like bile and glands were mercifully cut short by the chirp of her cell phone. With a small shrug of apology, she retrieved her phone and checked the caller ID. When she saw who it was, she gave up all pretense of apology.

"Do you mind, D?" She gestured with the tiny handset, nodding her thanks when the blonde shook her head.

"Ice Cream-A-Go-Go," she answered brightly, taking a few steps toward the opposite side of the roof. "You name the flavor, and we'll deliver it, paint it on you, and then lick it off."

It didn't even earn her a chuckle.

Sourly, Helena glanced over at Dinah, then toward the fire escape that she'd ascended minutes before after facing down The Irate Girlfriend.

Seemed like she was dealing with a hard audience all around this evening.

For her part, Barbara was working to catalog -- and comprehend -- the riot of gooseflesh that had erupted across her upper body during her partner's greeting. Ultimately, unable to spare the phenomenon more than a millisecond, she opted to chalk it up to her overactive imagination responding to the phantom sensation of frozen dairy on her skin.

"I'm sorry to disturb you, Hel," she spoke briskly, hoping that her momentary mental segue hadn't been apparent, "but it's--"


Given her promise to cut back on regular sweeps, not to mention the fact that she was undoubtedly interrupting, Barbara couldn't fault the marked lack of enthusiasm in Helena's response. In her own defense, the redhead honestly hadn't intended to become involved in New Gotham's nightlife: the fact that she was having to contact Helena by phone rather than over her comm set was evidence enough of that.

Nevertheless, as she'd been puttering with the Delphi, banging her head on the installation of the new, experimental petaflop drive -- teraflops were, after all, too Twentieth Century -- to kill time, she'd had the police scanner on in the background.

Possibly, the redhead freely admitted, it was the Barbara Gordon equivalent of white noise. Not to mention the fact that it did seem to lull Katie to sleep in her snugli against Barbara's chest.

Having picked up the call, there was no way that she could ignore it.

"It's an L.O.D., Hel."

She didn't bother to apologize further. After their years together, Barbara knew that Helena would understand that a Life-Or-Death situation spoke for itself. The soft sigh that transmitted through the receiver suggested that her assumption was on target.

"There's a situation in the subway tunnel near--"

Helena's immediate response to this bit of information suggested that, perhaps, Barbara had been over-optimistic in her assessment.

<<"Awww, not the subway, Red. Can't New Gotham's finest handle it?">>

Hands moving rapidly across the keyboard as she triangulated the closest access point to the GPS coordinates she'd picked up from the scanner, Barbara absently pressed a gentle kiss to the mop of red curls that was burrowed against her chest.

"Would you like some cheese with that whine, Hel?"

The silence that answered that was overwhelming.

"NGPD is dragging its feet putting together a tactical squad, Hel, and there's simply no time to wait."

With a huff, Helena rolled her shoulders, fighting the tension that had been creeping through her for the last hour.

"I'm a cat, Red."

Or, at least a bird, she amended mentally in deference to her partner's chosen tag for the team.

"You know. Rooftops? Wind?"

The wind whistling across the roof of the Dark Horse seemed to amplify the silence from the tiny handset.

"Fresh air?" she tried one more time.

More silence greeted that.


Helena raked a hand through her hair and gave a mental shrug.

"At least tell me that it's near the park."

She knew Babs would understand the hope in her voice: the sections of New Gotham's underground mass transit that ran by Central Park were the best maintained. And the cleanest.

Barbara's silence was pretty much answer enough. Helena knew better than most people what it meant when her partner went silent: Bad news.


And, double crap. She'd just had her nails done. All that time when she'd been a guy and thinking about the femme stuff she'd do when she got her body back, and her nails had finally gotten long enough. She'd flirted with the idea of having different colors on each nail, plus maybe some decorations, but she'd decided on a simple French manicure.

The pedicure had been another story.

"Sorry, Hel, it's downtown off the Commerce Street entrance."

That was definitely not a well-maintained section of the subway.

The brunette groaned softly as she spun around on the roof, then brightened.

"No sweat, Red. I'll take Dinah with me."

Closing the phone, Helena dug into her coat pocket for her comm set, all the while working really hard not to think just how steamed Gabby was gonna be about having her girlfriend spirited off at midnight.

The vision of a blonde head shaking slowly from side to side erased her concerns about Gabby.


She moved into her companion's personal space, her hands working on their own to fasten the necklace in place.

"I'm sorry, Hel."

Affixing the earpiece, the brunette decided that she was getting tired of hearing those words.

And of feeling them.

"It's just that I'm not sure I want to--- "

Again, a lock of pale hair got pushed behind Dinah's ear, and Helena raised an eyebrow. The rest of the younger woman's admission came is a rush.

"I'm not sure that I can do this any more."

Helena -- and Barbara -- had kind of been getting that vibe, but hearing it soft and clear like that still hit like a fist to the gut.

She nodded.

"I get it, D."

Carefully, she draped an arm around slender shoulders and started walking back to the fire escape.

"But, well, while you're making up your mind, why don't you come along?"

She caught silvery-blue eyes with hers and nodded seriously.

"You can hold my coat."

Dinah's cautious nod was enough. Fighting the urge to whoop, Helena flung herself over the edge of the roof, confident that her younger partner was behind her.

Heck, after they wrapped this up, she might even treat them both to ice cream on the way home.


Chapter 5

Sucking too hard on your lollipop,
Oh love's gonna get you down,
Sucking too hard on your lollipop,
Oh love's gonna get you down.

One-masked crusader. Two-masked crusader. Three-masked cru...

Two and a half seconds for each rotation of the blades that were lazily slicing through the air.

With timing completed, Barbara felt as confident as possible about when to make her move. Holding her breath, she steadied her muscles, pulled back slowly, and waited...

... three-masked cru--

Dammit. No go.

Her companion seemed to have no such issues, taking a more casual -- perhaps intuitive -- approach and almost effortlessly threading through the spinning blades.

"There we go," was the surprisingly low-key murmur of success, and Barbara smiled gamely. "I told you that you wouldn't be any handicap at all, Katie Fe."

Mama told me what I should know,
Too much candy's gonna rot your soul,
If she loves you, let her go,
Cuz love only gets you down.

Say love, say love,
Oh love's gonna get you down.
Say love, say love,
Oh love's gonna get you down.

Doing her best to ignore the bubblegum pop rock that was tweeting from the speakers above them, Barbara held her position while her father, with Katie firmly strapped to his chest in her snugli, stepped around the miniature windmill and lined up his shot. Despite his protests to the contrary, she simply couldn't see how attempting to sink the putt could not be hampered by the merrily gurgling five-month old.

A wriggling five-month old wearing an absurdly huge sunbonnet, no less.

Of course, when she casually glanced down and totaled their scores so far for the miniature golf course, Barbara had to admit that she could use any advantage that she could get.

"And, there it is."

"Chortling" seemed the most apt description for Jim's glee in coming in two under par on the notoriously tricky windmill green. Barbara dutifully recorded the birdie or eagle or whatever it was and moved on to the tiny green to take another swing at threading her ball through the spinning blades. She tapped it through on her third try and circled behind the particle-board eyesore, disappointed -- but hardly surprised -- to discover that her ball hadn't rolled obligingly into the cup.

"This must be a little dull for you, Dad," she managed over a smile while she lined up the shot.

The sputtering cough that erupted somehow didn't cause her to flinch, and Barbara watched with satisfaction as the neon pink ball dropped into the hole.

"After last week, Barbie, I can use a bit of dullness in my game."

The redhead straightened from retrieving her ball and shook her head.

She still wasn't certain that she believed her father's tale of high speed antics during a golf date with his former chief of staff; however, it did make for an entertaining story.

"And, driving his golf cart into the country club lake hasn't, er," she joined her father for the short walk to the fourteenth green, batting her eyes innocently. "dampened Charlie's enthusiasm for the game?"

Gun-metal blue eyes twinkled before the elder Gordon chuckled.

"Not at all. But -- "

He gracefully bent, one hand cradling the back of Katharine's head, and seated his ball in the putting divot.

"-- it has given him a dandy excuse to shop for a newer model."

Barbara swallowed a comment about boys and their toys -- she was hardly one to point fingers when it came to collecting gear -- and waited while her father tapped his ball down the astroturf. Naturally, he banked it perfectly off the side, and it rolled smoothly across the tiny bridge leading to the cup.

"Would you have invited Helena to join you?"

She was pleased that the question remained low key. Looking around one side of the ruffled sunbonnet as he addressed his ball, her father's response was distracted.

"What do you mean?"

"Golfing with the boys at some point?" she prompted, coincidentally just as he missed what should have been an easy shot.

With her father's ball only inches from the cup, Barbara didn't object when he negligently scraped it in.

"Barbara -- about that."

Perhaps her father should have worn a hat: his face seemed to be picking up a bit of sun.

"I -- "

She looked over the tiny cardboard score card and raised her eyebrows.

"I'm overdue to apologize about that, Barbara."

He was beside her then, kneeling to bring them to eye level. Since they were the only ones at the New Gotham Wee Putt Golf Course on this fine Wednesday morning in June, Barbara didn't worry about holding up the game of anyone behind them.

"I don't want an apology, Dad."

She tucked the cardboard next to her leg and tapped the golf pencil against her knee. Completely unsatisfied by the lack of tactile feedback, she clenched it in her fist and met her father's eyes.

"Just an explanation about why it was suddenly appropriate to sponsor Helena on the force when she was a man."

For a moment, her father worked his jaw, and Barbara focused on not concentrating on the walrus images that Helena had painted for her in the past.

"I thought I told Helena at the time that it wasn't her gender, Barbara. It was simply -- "

Voice flat, the redhead quietly interrupted her father.


Pushing to his feet, her father nodded, not unkindly.

"You know that the height requirement exists for a reason, and I support those reasons."

After all of the years, the words were still difficult to swallow. After all of the arguments that she'd had with her father years ago when she'd been determined to join the force, after all of the indulgent smiles and excuses about her height, Barbara still didn't want to hear it.

She tapped a neatly trimmed nail against the rim of one wheel, fighting her temper.

It was either that or cry, she supposed.

All that she'd wanted, all that she'd dreamed about as a young woman, had centered around fighting for justice. Ideally on her father's wing on the police force.

Too short, indeed.

Of course, the local branch of the FBI had agreed as well when she'd turned to them as a last resort. It was a fact that still rankled.

Clearly Jodie Foster's diminutive stature hadn't been an issue when she'd been cast in "Silence of the Lambs", and Barbara still didn't see why her own vertical shortcomings should have mattered as well.

The redhead was quite familiar with the aphorism about the kingdom being lost for want of a horseshoe nail. She simply wouldn't -- couldn't -- allow herself to revisit dark thoughts about for want of two and a half inches in height, her legs had been lost. Yet, if she had been able to join the force, perhaps she would never have put on the latex and neoprene, would never have danced over the rooftops, would never have joined forces with Bruce and... brought herself to the Joker's attention.

Barbara shook her head once, roughly, from side to side and determinedly pushed aside thoughts of the miracles that might have been in the guise of a Mentachem wand and the bleak realities of possible last chances.

"No, Dad," she looked up and caught his hand in hers. "I'm sorry that I'm still being snarky about this."

It wasn't his fault that she hadn't inherited the height from his side of the family, nor could she blame him for seizing on the opportunity to have someone in the family follow in his footsteps.

The two shared a look, mercifully brief when Katie broke the moment by stretching a chubby fist up to grab her Grandfather's mustache. Barbara released her father's hand with a squeeze and a wink and settled her ball on the rubber tee-pad.

"It is a bit of a miracle that that wand fellow was persuaded to turn Helena back."

Focusing on her shot, Barbara waited to respond until her ball wobbled past the tiny bridge and plopped into the algae-laden moat that cut across the tiny green.

"Oh, porpoise poop."

Her father gallantly plucked her ball out of the water and settled it on the other side of the bridge. He did not, Barbara noted wryly, step away, clearly waiting for a response of some sort.

Since Helena had been returned to her female form a few weeks before, Jim Gordon hadn't missed an opportunity to fish for details on the miraculous change. Barbara decided to cave.

A bit.

"Dinah played a big role, Dad."

Judging from the speed that a bushy unibrow shot upward, this was not the explanation the former police commissioner had been expecting. Angled slightly over the low arm of her sports chair, Barbara focused on positioning her putter next to her ball.

"She has certain... persuasive powers," she elaborated, dropping her ball into the cup.

Clearly digesting that nugget of information, her father bounced lightly on the balls of his feet, eliciting a small riot of giggles from Katie. Since she was in no hurry to provide further information, Barbara silently added two more ticks to her score and moved on to the next green.

"Dinah, too, eh?"

Barbara managed to hold her smile under his steady gaze until her father bent to place his ball on the tee. At that point, his voice dropped, possibly meant for Katie alone.

"Well, good for her."

Since Barbara had some questions on that front, she opted to hold her peace, instead following the progress of her father's ball as it wound through the mini-maze that made up the green. Her companion also remained silent, nursing his ball down the green until it dropped into the cup -- a bogey -- with a small thunk.

"Well," his voice was a bit too robust, and Barbara readied herself for anything. "Did you hear about that poor woman on the subway last night?"

Ah, a change of subject.

The redhead pretended to think about the question for a beat, wondering just how much pretense mattered at this point.

"I did."

Although Helena hadn't made it home afterward for a full briefing, Barbara had, indeed, heard about the incident, in some detail, when her partners had entered the subway twelve hours earlier.

<<"Oh, fuck, B-Oracle...">>

Helena hadn't slipped with their code names for so long that Barbara had forgotten that it was a possibility. The sound of Dinah's gasping had only heightened her alarm.


She'd checked the GPS locator, confirming that Helena and Dinah were still over a thousand feet from the reported emergency site. Helena's brief response had been... illuminating.

<<"Dead rats, Oracle. Lots of dead rats.">>

That had elicited a sympathetic wince. The section of subway that Helena and Dinah had been jogging through had long been one of the city's most vermin-ridden. Apparently, the city council's plans to fumigate had been approved in time for the heat of summer to kick in.

"That bad, Huntress?"

The response had been immediate... and heartening.

<<"Jesus, Oracle, the smell could knock a buzzard off a dump truck full of baby diapers.">>

If her partner in the field could make jokes -- not to mention the fact that Dinah's affronted gasps had no longer been audible over the comms -- she'd felt certain that the situation couldn't be that bad. Nevertheless, acutely aware that Helena had still been breathing shallowly, and noisily, through her mouth, she'd chosen not to verbalize her observation.

The next word's she'd heard, with the GPS showing the two young women five hundred feet further down the tunnel, had been Helena's. The low purr, dark with suspicion, had informed the redhead that she hadn't been alone in making the observation about Dinah's relative lack of discomfort in the tunnel.

<<"Okay, Canary, what gives?">>

Since Dinah hadn't had a comm set with her, the response had sounded a bit muted.


Or, Barbara had realized a split-second before Helena's indignant yelp had ricocheted through her earpiece, like the worlds were coming from inside a...

<<"You did a TK air bubble and didn't include me?!">>

Dinah's silence had been telling; Barbara had easily visualized the fair young woman's blush. However, when Dinah had spoken, her voice had been calm and the acoustics over the comms had suggested that Helena was no longer separated from her by a cocoon of air.

<<<"No sweat, Huntress, c'mon in.">>>

Helena's laughter had been welcome; her response, telling.

<<"My knight in shining armor, huh?">>


The word had come unbidden and had continued to haunt Barbara as Helena and Dinah had enacted a rescue. A day later, she still wasn't certain what it foretold.

"Have you -- "

Suspecting that she was taking too long with her response, Barbara flicked her putter, neatly chipping her ball over the maze that wound across the tiny green. Amazingly, it appeared that the ball dropped within inches of the cup.

"-- heard how she's doing, Dad?"

Heaven only knew why someone had decided to abduct Pigeon Polly, the city's most-beloved bag lady and friend of certain birds in the park, and then to tie her to the subway tracks.

"Like something out of a silent movie," had been Helena's description when they'd reached the scene.

"A bad silent movie," had been Dinah's contribution.

Whether by design or ineptitude, the assailants had tied the unfortunate woman to the tracks for the commuter express line. Since that route ran only twice an hour, tragedy had been averted.

"My information sources told me that the hospital released her this morning, Barbara."

It was subtle, but the redhead was fairly confident that she'd picked up just a hint of emphasis on the word "my". Nevertheless, she had no plans for this meeting with her father to segue into the discussion they'd been dancing around for years, and so she simply smiled and led the way to the next green.

"However -- "

The elder Gordon interrupted his practice swing to resettle Katie's bonnet and then turned, tapping his ball almost negligently. Barbara's forced smile grew genuine when the ball rolled smoothly into the cup.

"Hole in one, Katie Fe," his pleased chuckle brought grins to both of the Gordon women. "Stick with me, little lady, and I'll show you how to play the game in a few years."

Suspecting that the expression on her face bordered on something that could be described as "doting", Barbara moved to the tee and positioned her ball as her father stepped to one side.

"But, as I was saying, Barbara, they didn't know how Polly was rescued."

"Good Samaritan?" she suggested softly, her attention focused on her swing.

His expression, when she looked up, indicated that he considered that possibility to be a remote one; however, eventually he nodded.

"I suppose so, Barbie."

The redhead's temporary measure of calm evaporated with a noisy pop when she comprehended her father's next words.

"Perhaps a Samaritan much like Dinah was for Helena with the wand situation, eh?"

Somehow having lost her enthusiasm for the game, Barbara was unsurprised when her father soundly swept the last few greens.

Part 6

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