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 6

When Helena stepped from the elevator that evening, she was surprised, really surprised, not to find Barbara waiting for her in the living area. Or, maybe more likely after the night before's unplanned rescue, perched at her station in front of the Delphi.

Just... somewhere close.

Helena hadn't made it home the night before: after the rescue of the bird lady, her offer of ice cream with Dinah had turned into a long midnight snack at an all-night diner. Then, walking D back to her apartment had turned into something more and by the time she'd made it back to the Tower, Red and Katie were already gone. Before they'd returned from visiting with Barbara's dad, Helena had been back at work, pulling the low-tipping late-afternoon shift in exchange for the chance to spend an evening at home.

Considering that this was supposed to be a laid-back summer vacation, it suddenly wasn't feeling like she was getting to spend much time with Barbara being... laid back. Helena had kind of been hoping that her partner felt the same way.

Still, as the elevator doors slid shut behind her, the brunette had to admit that it didn't take a rocket scientist... or a cyber-genius... or even someone with meta-human senses to figure out just where Barbara was: Helena just followed the awful din that was coming from the kitchen.

Sure enough, Red was in there.

Oddly enough, she was in her electric chair. Less odd, she was completely occupied with beating on the kitchen ceiling with the handle of a broom.

A quick sniff and a brief look around told Helena everything she needed to know. She didn't even try for a greeting, choosing action instead. An easy leap took her to the top of the kitchen counter and within range of the smoke alarm -- what Barbara had been aiming for with the broom. Opting for the direct approach, she silenced it by popping the plastic cover and yanking the batteries out.

With the bedlam quotient reduced, Helena hopped down, stepped across the room, and turned the stove burner -- the one still lit beneath the charred saucepan -- to the off position. The pan itself was empty, save for the blistered nonstick coating; next to the stove, an empty measuring cup with a few drops of water still in it provided a clue about what Babs had been heating up.

"You really can't boil water, can you?" she inquired cheerfully as she turned to her partner with a smile.

Eight years and counting, and Helena still couldn't figure out how someone as whip-smart as Barbara could become so utterly inept the second she crossed the threshold of a kitchen. Maybe some of her disbelief was registering in her face, because when Babs answered, she sounded just a teensy bit defensive.

"I certainly can with the microwave."

Well, sure, the high-tech approach was simple for the redhead.

"Uh -- " Helena wrinkled her nose against the acrid stench of melted teflon. "Then why weren't you microwaving?"

Barbara suspected that there was no way that Helena would mistake the heat she could feel touching her cheeks for the aftereffects of her exertion with the broom. Sucking it up, she inclined her head toward the familiar blue and white box that sat on the counter next to the stove.

"The instructions said that the stovetop method was preferred."

She easily read the puzzlement in her partner's eyes.

"You wanted some mac-n-cheese?"

Pursing her lips, Barbara straightened her shoulders.

"I thought that you might be hungry when you got in, Helena."

The words, Barbara knew, had been a little stiff; however, the entire day had thrown her equilibrium off-kilter. In honesty, it probably hadn't been her brightest idea to stretch her boundaries -- culinary or otherwise.

"You were cooking for... me?"

Helena's blue eyes were wide, almost comically so. Her question rose a half-octave on the final word.

"Obviously, I forgot my limi--"

Barbara stumbled over the word. Aware of how stilted her response had been she looked down, lightly touching the control for the electric chair.

"Well, let's just say that this is a valuable reminder that all of the cooking I need to know is on the speed dial."

She managed a smile by the time she finished, but there was no way that Helena couldn't clue in to the embarrassment in her partner's words.

"It's just, I had my fill of Kraft dinner when I was first starting out in my apartment."

The glint in green eyes told her that Barbara wasn't buying it, so Helena smiled broadly and moved away from the stove.

"But, you were right about me being hungry, Red."

That got a soft smile.

"Not a huge stretch, Hel."

"Still -- " she stepped around the bulky electric chair and grabbed the handles of the plastic bags she'd dropped on the kitchen table on her way to play fire fighter.

"-- I come bearing food."

"Indeed? What--"

Blue eyes twinkled under dark lashes, and Barbara prepared herself.

"What else, Red? Deli."

The reminder of something they'd both eaten too much of back in the early days released Barbara's lingering tension. Laughing, she kicked her chair into gear -- naturally, it worked flawlessly this time -- and plucked the plastic bags from Helena's fingers on the way out of the kitchen.

"Balcony?" she suggested, already on her way.

It would, after all, give the smoke time to dissipate.

By the time Helena retrieved Katharine from the bedroom and set her up in her bouncer chair on the balcony, Barbara had arranged their impromptu picnic. Since summer had officially started, there was still a bit of orange from the setting sun in the evening sky, negating the need for further light.

Altogether, Barbara had to admit as she tucked into her turkey and sprouts on whole wheat, the interlude was just what the doctor ordered.


The question was muffled by a huge bite of corned beef on rye, however Barbara got the gist of it, nodding as she dabbed a bit of mustard from her lip with a paper napkin.

"This is perfect, Hel."

She punctuated the pronouncement by taking another bite, then cocked her head quizzically.

"Yeah," Helena's grin was conspiratorial. "I had 'em put extra bacon on it."

Perfect, indeed.

Yet, Helena's thoughtfulness was hardly surprising: if there was one thing that Barbara had recognized during the odd weeks when her partner had been... changed it was that Helena was not just capable of taking things into her own hands but she was, apparently, also comfortable doing so.

"My arteries may be complaining, but I appreciate the indulgence, Hel."

Seeing the gusto that Red was putting into her sandwich, Helena couldn't doubt it. Popping open her soda, the brunette took a long swallow and debated pushing her luck.

What the hell.

"Uh, speaking of indulgences -- "

D'oh. Man, had she really said that?

"-- what's up with the high-tech wheels tonight?"

The answer was light.

"I didn't want to forget how to use it."

Helena worked on another bite of her sandwich and nodded, deciding not to think about how much Barbara had always hated the motorized chair. Judging from the mess in the kitchen, Red was out of practice.

"I'm sorry I didn't make it in last night."

She sucked a dollop of mustard from her thumb and corrected herself.

"Or this morning."

Barbara studied her companion in the twilight. She detected nothing but sincerity in Helena's voice, however, there was something in her eyes that she couldn't read.

"Did... Were you with Dinah?"

After her younger partners had rescued Pigeon Polly and gotten her to the hospital, Helena had informed her that they were going for ice cream. A half-hour later, she'd gotten a call from her lover who had decamped to an all-night diner, suggesting that she not wait up.


Barbara's interest in her small container of potato salad waned when she saw Helena drop the remaining half of her sandwich into one of the plastic bags.

"We, uh, talked."

Deep blue eyes searched the skyline for a heartbeat.

"Not about anything in particular or anything."

Reaching for the lid for the styrofoam container, Barbara offered a minute nod and a smile of encouragement.

"And after we left the diner, we walked."

Quite cognizant of the power of silence, Barbara remained still, watching as Helena cracked the knuckles of her right hand. Finally, blue eyes met hers again.

"We walked a lot, Barbara. It was like, every time we got near the Dark Horse, she'd duck back somewhere else."

Crimson brows knit as Barbara considered that. She definitely had a sense that there was something more to the story.

"I dunno. I mean -- "

Deliberately, Barbara attempted not to be conscious of the fact that Helena's phrasing was very much mirroring Dinah's.

"-- I guess she didn't want to see Gabby after we gave her the slip."

Slender shoulder's shrugged in the growing darkness.

"But, still, I get the feeling there's something more, Barbara."

Barbara watched her companion chew at her lower lip, detecting a flicker of something in her eyes that could have been worry... or guilt. Her decision was made.

"I believe that it's time we both spent some time with her, Hel."

It had been ten days since she had last seen Dinah, almost a week since a brief phone call from her ward.

"How will you get her to--"

The redhead kept her response light.

And very certain.

"We'll make her an offer she can't refuse, Hel."

It took her a beat to comprehend the gesture when Helena raised her can of soda between them. When she did, Barbara touched her bottle of water to the can, returning the toast, and shared a smile as she brought the bottle to her mouth. Before she'd finished swallowing, Helena was on her lap, her warm breath tickling her ear.

"So, Don Gordleone, you want I should--?"

Wincing over her laughter, Barbara cut short the dreadful impression from The Godfather movies.

"Please, don't Brando me."

Feeling her lover relax from the wary tension that had be evident since they'd started talking about Dinah, Helena joined in the laughter.

Then, she turned her head and kissed her.

It was a long, slow, thorough kiss. It spoke of more than Helena could ever find the words for. Maybe something beyond words, at once filled with promise and heavy with need.

Unable, unwilling, to stop herself, Helena settled her knees into the unpadded seat on each side of her partner's thighs. Gently, she lowered her body... just enough to bring her center into contact. For long moments, she forced herself to be still, inhaling the sweet scent of Barbara's shampoo, feeling the ache spreading through her sinews and muscles.

Through her heart.

God, it was so much.

Concentrating on the sensation of Helena's soft lips brushing lightly against her neck, Barbara almost missed it when slender finger slipped into the placket of her shirt to sketch a teasing pattern over the fabric of her bra. She was long since past the time in her relationship -- her physical relationship -- with Helena when the sly sweep of her fingers on her chest irritated her. Rather, Barbara admitted as she felt her flesh respond, it appeared that she truly did appreciate such attention.


The redhead captured the roving hand and tugged it upward to press a gentle kiss to her lover's fingertips.

"Why don't we turn in early, Hel?"

Of course, it wasn't that simple. Between clearing the detritus of their picnic from the balcony and giving Katie a late evening snack and simply maneuvering the damned electric chair down the hall, over an hour simply flitted by before Barbara finally relaxed into the softness of the big bed.

Immediately, her partner -- who had made it under the covers only minutes before -- pressed against her side, her nose burrowing under Barbara's arm. A fond smile snuck past her defenses, an expression that morphed to something a bit more puzzled as the minutes slipped by.


The brunette wasn't asleep, of that Barbara was quite sure.

A non-commital murmur was the only response.

"Are you... trying to sleep?"

Frankly, after the interest that Helena had displayed earlier, not to mention her own willingness to rise to the occasion, Barbara was puzzled by the possibility.

"Listening to your heart."

Feeling her eyebrows knit, Barbara examined that from a variety of angles. Eventually, she decided to go with the most obvious.

"Is it that loud?"

Gently, she combed her fingers through dark silk, feeling the slight hitch in her bedmate's breathing.

"It is for me."

The words were a bit muted by her own tee-shirt clad torso, and so it was perhaps inevitable that Barbara first misunderstood. In fact, her mouth was open to say something about Helena's meta-enhanced senses when the meaning behind the words struck.



The dark head finally shifted, and golden eyes met hers.

Lost in verdant green, Helena didn't even try to add the rest: The beat of Barbara's heart set the tempo for her own. Instead, she chose the language of the nonverbal, melding her mouth to satin lips and working one hand under Barbara's tee.

Sure, Babs hadn't much been into the physical stuff recently; she was still treating Helena a little like glass and, heck, she was distracted by Dinah. But still, during all those weeks that Helena had been doing the three-legged thing, Red had pretty much shown that she was okay with Helena taking the lead.

And, god, Helena was sure feeling something, a wild kind of itch that she'd damned near forgotten about in the last two months.

The sound of Barbara's breathing hitching and the sensation of a nipple coming to attention against her palm was all that she needed. Fighting the need to beg, the brunette pushed up and forced herself to speak softly.

"May I touch you?"

Although she had been concentrating on sensation and focusing on letting go to Helena's pace, Barbara didn't have to think about her answer.

Mutely, she nodded. Breathless, she waited out Helena's scrutiny, then arched a brow when the brunette leaned away from her. Clarity dawned when she realized that her lover was stretching for the drawer in the nightstand, the drawer that held their... toys. She wasn't surprised when she saw what Helena had retrieved: the item that they'd simply dubbed "the purple thing."

Barbara swallowed thickly and searched violet eyes. Making her decision, she reached for the hem of her tee and efficiently stripped it over her head. Her voice was husky when she spoke.

"Yes, Hel. Touch me."


Chapter 7

"You have got to get your hands on this."

Pale blue eyes that were as excited as Barbara had witnessed in far too long peeked over the top of the pages that Barbara had printed from a recent issue of "Applied Physics Letters."

"I can't believe they're getting transmission rates that fast."

Sharing her youngest protege's enthusiasm, Barbara grinned and leaned backward a few degrees, resting her palms on the concrete that surrounded the turquoise waters of the swimming pool. She had to agree that 90% of the speed of light did defy belief.

"I'd like to test it myself, Dinah," she allowed, suspecting that there was no great surprise in the admission. The possibilities for the nano-scale coax were simply too exciting to ignore. "The latency factor alone--"

"You two are pulling my leg, right?"

The question was accompanied by the appearance of one long, tanned leg -- and then the rest of Helena Kyle's sleek form as she vaulted out of the pool to stand beside them. Unperturbed by the interruption, Barbara looked up with a smile that she immediately feared would become a permanent fixture on her face.

Helena's natural tan was highlighted by the cobalt blue of her surprisingly modest racing suit. Water sheeted through the dark hair that was plastered to her. Every muscle was highlighted by water droplets and the afternoon sun.

She was, quite simply, fantasy brought to life.

Perhaps mercifully, the fantasy disappeared when Helena shook herself, spraying Barbara with a light misting of water. Automatically, the redhead looked over to Dinah, who was holding Katie on a lounge chair, to see if she'd been caught in the shower. With the blonde shadowed by a huge sun umbrella it was difficult to be certain, however Barbara thought that Dinah's expression was oddly intent as she focused on Helena.

"We're at New Gotham's swankiest country club," Helena continued as she stepped past Barbara to grab a towel, "with this gorgeous empty pool, and the two of you have your heads buried in a stack of printouts?"

Sure, she had to give Barbara her due: she'd been right, as usual, that cajoling Dinah with the promise of Kat's first swimming less had been an offer that D couldn't refuse. Scoring admission to the almost unused Country Club pool, courtesy of Charlie O'Hara, hadn't hurt either. But, still, it didn't seem like Red had to keep sweetening the pot with the techie crap.

With an disbelieving shake of her head, Helena fastened the towel sarong-style around her waist, then snagged the sun block from the table beside Dinah.

"Lemme get your back again, Barbara."

It was probably too late to do anything for Dinah: The Kid had insisted that she didn't need any help with her back and had come out of the pool a few minutes before with a clear case of lobsteritis. Barbara had immediately spritzed her up with after-sun and tucked her under the umbrella with Katie, but D was still going to be feeling that burn for a while.

Barbara, on the other hand...

For several delicious minutes, Helena worked, oblivious to Barbara and Dinah's chatter about nano-somthings. Concentrating utterly on the sensation of slick lotion and soft skin, she fought the stirring in her belly, the beginning of a growing ache that the night before hadn't begun to touch.

She had to figure it was good that she wasn't still a guy: when Barbara had done that thing with yanking off her own tee shirt, she would have lost it right there. As it was, somehow, she'd managed to keep it slow, working Barbara up, warming them up while Babs slowed down and let Helena do her thing.

Luxuriating in images of Barbara, her head thrown back in passion, her neck arched in offering, Helena focused on nothing more than the slow sweep of her palms over sun-warmed skin. The slickness of the lotion did nothing to hide the knotted muscle near her partner's shoulder, and she worked it gently with the pad of her thumb.

No surprise that Red was tense: Being Barbara, there was no way she was going to let it go until she found out what was going on with the Kid.

An almost sub-vocal purr, a sound of pleasure so minute that Helena thought Barbara might not have been aware of making it, almost undid the brunette. As casually as possible, she stood; she made herself stop touching.

"Here, D -- "

Wiping her hands on the towel wrapped low around her hips, Helena stepped over to the lounger.

"I'll take the Peapod, and you and Red can hit the water again."

Pointedly, Barbara decided not to be surprised by the seeming suddenness of Helena's suggestion. She had, after all, been occupied with her conversation with Dinah, part of her enjoying the feel of Helena's hands on her back, another part guardedly observing the manner in which Dinah's eyes had seemed to track from her to the skilled hands lingering on her back.

It wouldn't be the first time that she'd missed some sort of nonverbal clue on the part of her partner.

"Thank you, Hel," she managed, captivated by the sight of the brunette slipping carefully into the pool with Katie grasped securely in her arms. Just as she had done earlier that afternoon, Helena took her time introducing their daughter to the warm water -- first toes, then legs, until a bit of vigorous kicking and happy gurgling reassured them all that the youngest member of the family was enjoying herself.

"Dinah, are you sure you should get more --?"

Barbara's inquiry about her companion's sunburn stalled when Dinah rose from the chair, shaking her head.

"No. It's a lot better."

When the blonde stepped from the shade of the umbrella, Barbara had to grant that the wicked burn had... disappeared. Nevertheless, she beckoned with a finger and reached for the spray as Dinah obligingly dropped down to sit camp-style in front of her.

"She'll be swimming before she walks, won't she?"

Satisfied with the application of the protective spray, Barbara followed Dinah's gaze to the pool. Helena was in the shallower end, floating on her back and blowing water out of her mouth with Katharine on her lap. Their daughter's delighted giggles were a far cry from the affronted hisses Katie had come out with when they'd first introduced her to the pool a few hours before.

"A duck to water," she murmured, fighting a pang of something she was afraid to label envy.

There was, after all, no sense in dwelling on the fact that she couldn't frolic in water of any depth with her daughter. There was no reason to fixate on that or myriad other things -- such as teaching Katie to ride a bike or leading her on scouting hikes -- that she wouldn't be doing. For now, she would be grateful to splash in the shallow end and share long bubble baths in the big tub.

Smiling, Barbara slipped into the water and focused on Dinah's question.

"I've heard that swimming before walking is possible, Dinah."

When the younger woman joined her in the water, Barbara broke into a lazy sidestroke, pleased when Dinah mirrored her. Opting to separate herself from a conversation that was hitting a bit too close, the redhead gave voice to her curiosity.

"When you touch Katharine, Dinah, can you--"

Barbara glanced over her swimming partner's shoulder, focusing briefly on Helena and Katie.

"-- read anything from her?"

She could detect nothing but sincerity in Dinah's grin.

"Not-- Well, just a happy feeling. I mean, I guess it just makes me happy holding her."

Laughing, Barbara came to a stop at the far end of the pool and held herself with one hand on the edge.

"I think it makes her happy being held by you, Dinah."

Since she'd never been one to let an opportunity go to waste, she pressed the advantage.

"She's missed you recently." After a moment's consideration, she added the remainder of the truth. "We have missed you."

She waited, more or less patiently, while the blonde leaned back to wet her hair and then pushed it from her forehead.

"Well, I know that you guys are doing the family thing for summer, and I didn't want to--"

Barbara was having none of that.

"Dinah, you're part of this family."

For a split second, Barbara almost believed Dinah's answering laugh to be genuine.

"Yeah, but, well, Gabby's back, too."

Something squeezed sharp and hot in Barbara's chest, and she narrowed her eyes slightly behind her Ray-Bans, wondering just when her ingenuous ward had learned to lie so well.

"Dinah," she chided softly.

Barbara felt reasonably certain that no telepathic abilities were required for her former ward to understand the message. When Dinah lifted herself from the pool to sit on the side, Barbara waited her out. The silence lengthened as the blonde kicked her legs slowly in the water, her attention focused intently on her knees.

"Are you pissed that we took on Mr. Mandrill without you?"

The redhead couldn't help but note her companion's uncharacteristic choice of language. And, she realized as she swept her free hand lightly through the water, the way that Dinah had referred to the source of their collective... upset.

However, even if it weren't the phrasing -- or the inquir -- that she'd anticipated, she still had a question to address.


The reassurance that Barbara found ready to spill over her lips was pure instinct. Frankly surprised that she'd caught herself, she swallowed the words and gave Dinah's question its due.

She owed her youngest partner that much.

"Yes, I suppose I am, Dinah," she finally allowed.

Pinned by wounded eyes -- Helena's hangdog look appeared to be facing serious competition -- Barbara released her hold on the side of the pool and rested her palm gently on the Dinah's knee. She looked over the top of her sunglasses, seeking sky-blue eyes that were veiled by cornsilk lashes.

"Probably not as much as you're thinking."

Watching Dinah struggle to mask her disbelief, she idly determined that Helena probably would have scoffed outright. Nevertheless, having surprised herself with her admission, Barbara hardly thought it fair to fault Dinah's skepticism.

"Really, Dinah."


Nodding, Barbara removed her hand to the side of the pool again and continued slowly, working to find her way. Somehow, she didn't believe that this issue was at the root of things; however, if it opened the door, she wouldn't refuse to roll through.

"It left you both out there without backup, which was simply irresponsi--"

"We didn't want you -- "

Dinah was speaking before she finished and, almost as quickly, blushing over her interruption. Barbara quirked one corner of her mouth and spoke quietly.

"Didn't want me?"

Out of the water, Dinah's golden hair was already beginning to dry, and before answering, the young woman pushed a stray lock behind her ear.

"We didn't want you to see."

Barbara felt her eyebrows tic upward, but she remained silent.

"To hear when I made him change Helena back."

There could be no doubt that Dinah was getting better at hiding her emotions. The shuttered blankness that Barbara saw saddened her no end, even as she recognized the necessity of learning to compartmentalize some things.

"I suspect that it would have been... difficult, Dinah."

To say the least.

"It was..."

Dinah seemed to be finding something of great interest in the middle of the pool. Barbara chose to keep her focus on Dinah.

"It was hard."

Her response required no consideration.

"Nevertheless, Dinah, I want to be there for you."

A beat later, remembering who else had had a very difficult time of it, she sighed quietly and added, "For both of you."

The answering nod was brief, almost a formality, then Dinah placed her hands on the edge of the pool and scooted forward. Before she slipped back into the water, she stopped, rocking back and forth a bit.

"I don't know if I could make Mandrill do another transform, Barbara."

While Barbara readily admitted that she wasn't the brightest emotional bulb in the marquee, she wasn't oblivious; however, somehow she'd assumed that the weight of guilt on this particular front was resting largely on Helena's slender shoulders.

The shadowed guilt in her protege's eyes quickly disabused her of that notion. Of course Dinah, too, would bear a burden for not being able to offer her a miracle.


A sudden screech of infant delight from the other side of the pool momentarily set the redhead's heart to racing. Somehow, she collected her wits enough to look over with a smile and waggle her fingers at Katie who was busy using Helena's stomach as a human trampoline.

The interruption also gave Barbara just enough time to ravel together the threads of her thoughts and the shards of her emotions. Calmly, she rested one hand on Dinah's, certain that any thoughts that Dinah might pick up would pass muster.

"It's fine, Dinah."

There was, simply put, no way that she would ask her partner to go through that sort of ordeal again.

Casually, she lowered her hand and backstroked from the edge before adding the rest.

"I'm fine."


Chapter 8

Throughout her life, Barbara Gordon had never much availed herself of the sybaritic possibilities inherent in Saturday mornings. As a young child, she'd been too conscious of being careful not to wake parents who had perhaps stayed up too late the night before. In her teen years, there had been books to read and experiments to pursue. Since then, she was usually the one recovering from late nights of battling Friday night lawlessness.

This Saturday was going to be an exception.

Barbara had awakened just after 8am to discover herself quite alone: apparently, her notoriously late-sleeping partner had been up early and taken Katie out for some Mama-Daughter time. Barbara had promptly decided to accept the quiet time as the gift that it was.

Turning to the next page of the paper, the redhead made a neat crease in the newsprint and, without looking up, poured herself another cup of thick black coffee from the percolator on the table. In the spirit of the morning, she was using the delicate bone china cup with hand-painted periwinkles around the rim that May Parker had given her when she'd graduated from high school.

All things considered, it was something of a miracle that the lovely piece hadn't been broken -- or lost -- during the years since.

The unmistakable awareness of Helena's return drew her from thoughts of the various moves she'd made to different living quarters since high school. Hearing the younger woman heading down the hall toward their bedroom, she called a response to Helena's greeting, smiling at Helena's next words.

"Be right back, Red. Katie's ready for a nap."

She'd been doing it for so long that Helena didn't even have to think as she changed Kat's diaper and settled her into her crib. She'd given her a bottle of breast milk before tucking her into the snugli and heading out for a run a few hours earlier. By the time Helena had hit her third mile, her precious cargo had been making her sleepy noises; unfortunately, those miles -- and the five more she'd piled on after that -- hadn't had the same kind of effect on her.

Helena had energy to burn.

Snuggling with Barbara on the couch after her shift the night before had been nice, but damned if she didn't want... well... something.

There's a line that I can't cross over
It's no good for me and it's no good for you
And that feeling deep down inside me
I can't explain it and you're wondering why

You say we been like strangers
But I'm not the others you can hang by your fingers

The soft sound of the kitchen radio caught the brunette's attention, and she paused just outside the doorway to the breakfast nook, trying to place the song. It was something ancient, something by Sid and Marty Krofft -- or somebody and Croft -- that went waaay beyond Red's usual taste for 80's retro.

Darling if you want me to see, see only you
Then see only me

There was a time I would come running
Drop everything for the touch of your hand in mine

"Hey, Gorgeous."

Gallantly, Helena decided not to comment on Red's off-key humming. The way that her tonally challenged partner was absorbed in the paper, she probably wasn't aware that she'd been keeping time with the radio.

Besides, focusing on Barbara in that blue silk robe -- and nothing else if she weren't mistaken -- definitely had her mind on other things.

And I can't go on living
Wondering if you'll be here tomorrow
People change and you're changing
And I've given you my all
That no one can borrow


Barbara peered over the top of her glasses, taking in her partner's rumpled heather-gray sweats and the faint sheen of perspiration on her forehead.

"Did you and Katharine having a good outing?"

Maybe it was the coffee. Maybe it was that Babs probably hadn't spoken yet that morning. Whatever it was, her voice slid over Helena's skin like whiskey on her palate: smooth and smoky, then just sharp enough to set her nerves to tingling.

"Little run," she granted, turning to yank open the refrigerator door.

Something cool, maybe.

Cocking one eyebrow slightly at the laconic response, Barbara gave a mental shrug and tapped one nail against the headline on the second page.

"Did you know that someone broke into the City Hall Clock Building last night and filled it with --"

Here, she paused, rapidly rescanning the late-breaking article from the morning paper.


When Helena emerged from digging in the refrigerator, the carton of milk in hand, her amusement was apparent.

"Bats in the belfry?"

The brunette had to admit that it was pretty funny, as was the quirk-lines she saw flash between crimson brows and the exasperation she could see waxing in those amazing green eyes.

Maybe they should hang some paper bats up in the living room or something.

Somehow, Helena managed not to choke on her mouthful of milk -- straight from the carton, of course -- when she saw Barbara pursing her lips.

God. Damn.

"As amusing as the concept is, Hel, I do have to wonder -- "

The redhead paused, tapping the folded newspaper absently against her chest. The motion fluffed the silk collar of the robe, revealing tantalizing glimpses of light and shadow.

No longer thirsty for milk, Helena licked her lips and fumbled the carton back into the fridge, bumping the door shut with her hip.

"Wonder what?"

She stepped closer, her thighs almost bumping one armrest on the chair. She could smell the intoxicating fragrance of Barbara's sandalwood shower gel and figured that her partner had indulged in a long shower while she'd been out with the Peapod.

"If someone is sending us a message, He--"

Helena took a quick step to the side and dropped to her knees in front of her partner.

She didn't know about some phantom "someone", but she sure as hell was sending a message.

"Us?" she managed, her eyes tracking the lighter blue piping on the hem of the robe, where the fabric caressed Barbara's knees.

The question, not to mention Helena's sudden action, enticed a smile from the redhead, and she considered the options.

"It is a long shot," she granted, quite aware that in their line of work coincidences seldom were coincidences.

Helena seemed, frankly, indifferent to the admission. Indeed, the younger woman appeared to be more concerned with tracing the hem of her robe with one slender index finger.

"I suppose," Barbara chewed at her lower lip, considering other options, "it could be something for Bruce, even if he hasn't--"


Helena jerked her gaze upward, not really surprised to find Barbara pretty much oblivious, clearly in her Deep Think mode.

Still, this was seriously not the direction that Red should be going.

Especially now.

"Can we not -- "

Eyes still focused on her partner's face, Helena lowered her head, bringing her mouth into contact with the soft skin on the inside of Barbara's left knee.

"--talk about this now?"

She so didn't want to hear about her dad. Or Barbara's dad. Or Alfred. Or, well, anybody but the two of them.

With the blood rising in her, filling her belly and senses, Helena couldn't believe that she'd forgotten this during the weeks she'd been a man. She washed the skin of Barbara's lower thigh with her mouth, struggling to become reacquainted with the insistent hunger that, until not too long ago, she'd tried to assuage with dark assignations in darker bars and alleys.

"What would you like to tal--"

It dawned on Barbara that her companion's attention was not on the conversation, that her attentions were, in fact, more than the affectionate playfulness Barbara had assumed when Helena had dropped to her knees.


Slowly, almost languorously, the dark head rose, and Barbara felt her heart give a staccato tap against her chest. Helena's eyes were gold, a fact which was, in all honesty, hardly a surprise. The sheer rapt fixity of Helena's gaze as she looked down to follow the progress of her hands as they stroked ever-further under the hem of the robe was, however, unsettling.


Helena's response sounded very little like an acknowledgement of the semi-question. Rather, Barbara realized as her partner removed one hand from under the robe and brought her fingers to dance along the neckline of the garment, it seemed to be an affirmation.

A decision, perhaps.

At a loss, the redhead remained still, her eyes ticking between the graceful fingers that were causing gooseflesh to erupt on her chest and Helena's face, almost austere in determination.


Her insight fled the foreground when she witnessed both of Helena's hands moving to her thighs again, pushing the robe aside.

Then, coaxing her legs apart.

"Sweetheart, is there something on your mind?"

Purposely, she'd tried to keep the question light. Helena's response -- to bare her teeth, then move her lips up the inside of her leg -- was anything but.

"I want you."

Although she couldn't feel it, Barbara still gasped softly when she saw her lover's lips mate to her, her mouth fully on her. The vision of Helena Kyle lost in the act of... pleasing her was unequivocally one of the most erotic sights that Barbara could name.


"Helena, I'm not su--"

How could she explain that it just couldn't be that simple for her?

"You can read the paper if you want."

Kind of distantly, Helena thought that her answer might have been a little blunt, but there was nothing for it. She was here, burying her tongue inside Barbara, relishing tastes and textures. Her entire body was electric, humming with the desire to forget propriety and just take her.

Still, she couldn't just ignore the tension -- a different sort of tension -- that she felt snapping through Barbara's upper body. She also couldn't ignore the sensation of Barbara's hand in her hair, tugging lightly.

Or the whisper that shredded at her.

"Helena, I can't."

So she didn't.

No way she was gonna do something that Red wasn't into, but damned if she wouldn't try a little persuasion.

In a heartbeat, she was on Barbara's lap, her body undulating gently against Barbara's chest, her mouth on the side of her neck, devouring. Working for some measure of sanity, Helena managed to pull herself back, yet, almost of their own volition, her hands crept out to feather over her lover's throat and chest. Distantly, she heard a sound, soft and helpless.

She wondered if it had been her voice.

God, how she wanted this. Needed this. Needed this woman.

Barbara saw something in Helena's eyes, something wild, just before the brunette leaned in to her again. Then, instead of the washing heat of Helena's mouth and tongue, she felt the sensation of sharp teeth digging into her neck where it met her shoulder.

Dear. Heavens.

Squirming against a pressure that was just the wrong side of pleasure, Barbara threaded her fingers into dark hair and attempted to coax her partner back.

To no avail.

Barbara clenched her jaw as those wicked teeth dug harder, deeper. She felt Helena's hips rolling in her lap. The brunette's growl raised the fine hair at the back of her neck even as her pulse fluttered against the delicious suction on her skin.

For just a moment, Helena thought that Barbara was fighting her, that the hands in her hair were trying to push her away. Then she heard it: Barbara's heart rate picked up, the sound deepening unmistakably. She smelled it, too, the musky tang of her lover's skin ripening.

Helena closed her teeth, moaning at the rush of wetness across her tongue, and suddenly Barbara's motions reversed themselves. Red was clinging to her, holding her tightly to her even as she arched her neck in offering.

When Helena finally pulled away, her mouth was rimmed with crimson. Breathing hard, her entire upper body on fire, Barbara searched her eyes, her gaze darting from Helena's eyes to her hands to her mouth.

Unable to bear it, she brushed the pad of her thumb to the younger woman's lips, circling, her own mouth watering. Unable to tear her gaze from eyes that promised nothing but sin, the redhead fumbled for her lover's hand, pulling it upward to press a kiss to the palm.

Helena's whisper was sere.

"God, I need you."

Barbara was placing an arm around strong shoulders and urging Helena to her feet before the words were done.

"Take me to bed, Hel."


Chapter 9

A waking dream, perhaps.

Or, more accurately -- and Barbara did profess to pride herself on accuracy -- the events of the last twenty-six hours seemed to be a waking wet dream.

A very, very wet dream, which had ended with a resounding thud not an hour earlier, when she'd figuratively rolled over her own feet with Dinah.

Heaven knew, her former ward certainly had every reason to be unsettled, edgy even. Barbara was equally certain that they'd barely begun to scratch the surface during their conversation at the pool a few days before. Yet, Dinah had kept her promise to come to the Tower today, nominally for some time on the Delphi and a bit of sparring with Helena.

With an uncanny accuracy rivaling Helena's ability to know when an oven timer went off, Dinah had arrived just as Alfred had plated their traditional weekly brunch. Barbara had barely been out of bed and quite certain that she was hiding the fact from no one.

As Dinah had entertained them all with a long tale involving a cage of lab mice, a rusty hinge on the door, and an illuminated globe, Barbara had picked at her bowl of oatmeal. She hadn't missed that Helena continued to dip her index finger into the sugared cream in her bowl, offering the treat to a very happy Katharine.

It had been pleasant, almost normal.

At that, Barbara pursed her lips and blew a silent raspberry at her own expense. Abandoning her mouse for a moment, she retrieved her tumbler of iced tea and swirled the ice cubes that were slowly melting.

It had, truthfully, been going well until she had suggested to Dinah that they invite Gabby for dinner, or dinner out, some night that week. The suggestion had been received with a level of interest on Dinah's part that was no more convincing than Barbara's own attempts to look like she hadn't just rolled out of bed thirty minutes before. Shortly thereafter, the blonde had excused herself to the training room with Helena right behind her.

Clearly, there were some days when it didn't pay to get out of bed.

Or, as Alfred had counseled her, perhaps she couldn't expect to be on her mark all the time.

The tink-tink-tink of the ice touching the sides of the glass seemed to echo the noises that filtered through the door to the training room: The younger women working the free weights, Barbara assumed. Ready to turn back to her scan of the police activity logs from the last twenty-four hours, she felt heat flame in her cheeks when she recognized what else the noise was reminiscent of: the clink of handcuffs against the headboard.

The morning before, Helena hadn't so much as blinked when Barbara had issued her request to be taken to the bedroom. It had been the last time that Barbara had felt in control of the situation for many, many hours.

Needlessly, the redhead allowed her eyes to tick over to the the tiny calendar program that ran in one corner of her over-sized plasma display. Given the time of the month, not to mention that Helena hadn't dealt with her cycle the month before, she knew that her lover's behavior was hardly surprising.

It had, however, been overwhelming.

By the time Helena had carried her to Dinah's old room -- presumably so as not to disturb Katie -- the brunette seemed to have given over completely to her... needs. Her movements had been stilted, almost uncoordinated. Barbara had felt her lover's attempts to be gentle as trembling fingers had pushed at the robe to reveal her skin.

"Anything you need, Hel," she'd managed.

Resettling her iced tea on it's coaster, Barbara allowed herself a tiny grimace as the small movement drew her aching breasts taut against the soft cotton of her nursing bra.

No regrets.

The day before, she'd melted into her lover's touch, into her mouth. She'd panted quietly against the sensation of her nipple being worked between Helena's tongue and the ridged roof of her mouth, the suction alone enough to drive her mad. Helena's rumbling growls had radiated ripples of fire over her skin until Barbara hadn't been able to stand it. She'd buried her fingers in dark hair, pressing as she'd hissed her need.


Remembered sensation -- heat and pain and delight -- bloomed in her breast, just to the side of her nipple. Very carefully, Barbara placed her hand on her mouse, hoping to kick-start her brain back into work mode.

It was of no use.

The memory of Helena's bite, her second bite, unravelled her.

When Helena had reared back, crimson around her mouth, Barbara had reached for her. With the fire burning across her skin and her lover's growl still echoing in her ears, she'd needed the connection. The request had been denied.

"Don't touch me."

Her voice had softened, just enough, as she'd added one more word.


Barbara had only managed to nod, her robe already being stripped from her and her fully-clothed lover grinding against her. At some point, perhaps when Helena had finally ripped her sweatshirt off, Barbara had realized that the younger woman had already climaxed twice.

"Skin is good" were the words she'd managed to decipher before Helena had pinned her wrists to the bed and mated their naked bodies. She had stopped, finally, after four explosive climaxes, slipping out of bed and padding from the room to return with Katie, who had just begun to fuss.

After everything, Barbara was still surprised by how acutely conscious she had been of her nakedness as she'd cradled their daughter to her and Katie had begun to suckle. As ridiculous as it might be, she had been intensely aware of Helena's scrutiny as her partner had reclined on the bed on her side, one fist propping up her head.

Her hand still resting on the mouse, the redhead felt her eyebrows skip upward when realization struck: the day before, during each of Katharine's meals, there had been a distinct leonine grace and protectiveness about Helena: almost as if she had been guarding her pride.

Her attempts to push that thought aside for later consideration were of limited success as Barbara recognized shades and echos of the same behavior that had continued. Helena, still wordless, had departed the bedroom, returning just as Katharine had allowed her nipple to slip from her mouth with a noisy pop. The brunette had been carrying a grilled cheese sandwich and a cup of hot tea on a lap tray. Barbara's thanks had died in her mouth when she'd grasped the look in the younger woman's eyes.

Clearly, this particular act of thoughtfulness had been less about Helena's usual care-taking than about keeping up Barbara's strength.

Accordingly, Barbara had managed a smile that had been, she suspected, a bit wan and had taken her time -- quite a bit of time -- chewing every bite thoroughly while Helena had cuddled and tickled Katharine. Throughout, she'd been achingly aware of how Helena had seemed tuned to the disappearance of every crumb of the sandwich, every sip of the warm tea that had soothed her scratchy throat. Her lover hadn't rushed her in the slightest, however, as soon as she had finished and Katie had dropped off, they'd been off again.

Later -- Barbara had lost count of the specific number of... milestone moments that had occurred -- they had made their way to the couch. When Helena had appeared with a bowl of ice cream for her, the redhead knew that she'd nearly flinched. Helena's laughter had been easy and reassuring.

"Relax, Red, it's just ice cream."

Nevertheless, Barbara had been roused to wakefulness three times more during the night.

Good. Heavens.

She was sore in places that she had no active nerve function.

Somehow finally pushing her memories aside for the moment, Barbara returned to her work at the computer. There had been no unusual activity recorded by New Gotham's finest, although a report of birdseed having been found in one police cruiser's gas tank did catch her eye, and she closed down the program.

Very deliberately, the redhead inhaled slowly and held the breath for a count of thirteen. Equally deliberately, she released the breath slowly and, hopefully, some of her tension with it.

Granted, she, rather, they all were attempting to have a low-key summer. Nevertheless, curtailing her crime-fighting activities to occasional monitoring of the police scanner and routine crawls with the Delphi was simply not something in the realm of recent experience. It was true that New Gotham had been obligingly crime-free for the past few weeks, leaving her little to do if she had been on the clock. With the exception of several pranks -- if she could call the potential murder of Pigeon Polly a prank -- there had been little to sustain her interest.

Regardless, a low-crime New Gotham seemed troubling in and of itself, and Barbara couldn't help but wonder whether, in shirking her usual due diligence, she was missing something. Her fair city simply didn't do normalcy.

A series of muffled thumps from the training room, noises that usually accompanied hand-to-hand sparring, drew Barbara from her abstraction and her isolation.

Perhaps enough time had passed since brunch that she wouldn't be unwelcome.

Coasting down the ramp from the Delphi, she decided that a bit of a workout might be just the ticket, even if yesterday's activities should have taken care of the need for PT for the next week or three. She paused at the door to the training room, attempting to school her expression and reminding herself that, given the direction of her thoughts, she would need to avoid contact with Dinah.

Of course, avoiding contact with Dinah didn't seem to be the problem since her youngest protege probably wanted very little to do with her.

The fact that Dinah's reticence about contact and closeness did not extend to the other member of their little team was driven home quite clearly when Barbara cleared the entrance to the training room.

Dinah and Helena had, indeed, been engaged in some hand-to-hand, and it appeared that Helena had allowed herself to be pinned, or perhaps Dinah had been using some TK. Regardless, Helena was on her back, her wrists locked against the mat by Dinah's hands. The youngest member of the team was straddling Helena's hips.

It appeared that Helena had given the match to Dinah since she wasn't struggling.

Fleetingly, it occurred to Barbara that the position was eerily reminiscent of the one she'd found herself in the previous morning.

Mustering a smile for her two slightly breathless companions, Barbara moved to the free weights.

She could only hope that whatever latitude Helena was extending to Dinah in the training room would not imperil any of them later.


Chapter 10

"Oh, come on, D. It's not like we're even gonna be in costume."

The way her younger companion gave her a long once-over was impossible to miss, so Helena took a break from her cajoling to look down at her attire.

Black leather, black leather, black leather.

Okay, not so much different from her usual sweeps-wear.

"Well, you know what I mean." She gave a half-shrug before adding, "It's not like I have my duster."

Hell, she was pretty amazed that she had her comm set with her.

She'd been on campus to pick up a registration form for fall and just happened to decide to pop into the Biology building. After a bit of hunting, she'd found Dinah in one of the labs, buried up to her elbows in cleaning the animal cages. Parking her butt on one of the lab benches -- after making sure there was nothing grody on it -- she'd drummed her heels against the drawers built into the side of the table and talked course options with Dinah while the blonde finished up her work.

Helena hadn't felt any particular urge to jump in and offer to help: she got quite enough of that at home with Studs, the rat they'd picked up to be a guinea pig with Mandrill's wand.

Come to think about it, she got enough of that with Katie's diapers.

So, they'd been narrowing down Helena's options for fall classes and Dinah had been washing up when Barbara had called. After a little apologetic hemming and hawing -- like Helena didn't know that Babs listened to the police scanners while she was nursing -- Barbara had gotten to the point: during a fifteen minute stretch, every bodega between Commerce and Franklin Street had called in reports of malicious mischief.

No way that her hyper-conscientious partner wouldn't ask her to do at least a walk-by.

Pretty sure that D wasn't sold on keeping her company for said walk-by, the brunette dug her comms necklace out of her front pocket and twirled it around her index finger.

"C'mon, D, it'll be fun."

She picked up on a sound from over by the wash sink that could have been a snort and reconsidered her statement.

"It's not like we're going to be taking on any bad guys," she amended. "Just talking to some store clerks to see what the fuss is."

She paused in the act of fastening the comms unit around her neck and waggled her eyebrows.

"We can get a latte at Java Joe's."

That got her a laugh -- small but it sounded genuine -- and then her companion stepped behind her, neatly taking over fastening the tiny clasp.

"You're buying, Hel."

An hour or so later, Helena decided that she might not have agreed so readily to buy if she'd known what Dinah had in mind to pick up from New Gotham's newest, trendiest coffee shop. The jumbo Cinnamon-Nutmeg Iced Pumpkin Latte that the Kid had chosen was not just... disturbing; it was also the most expensive drink on the menu.

Working on her own iced mocha, with extra mocha and extra cream, Helena gave a mental shrug as they strolled in the general direction of the Tower and the Dark Horse.

"That was pretty weird. Even for New Gotham, I mean."

The last part of Dinah's statement was almost lost as the blonde took a long draw from her straw, but Helena got the gist of it. She had to agree.

They'd chatted up six different storekeepers, and even with Barbara feeding questions to her over the earpiece, Helena still didn't have a clue about why somebody had decided to tear the bottoms off of all the Pop Tart boxes that had been on the shelves of the little stores.

She knew it had to be driving her partner back at the Tower batshit.

"I dunno," she tipped her head back to swallow the last drop of cream from the bottom of her cup before continuing. "Maybe some kids couldn't wait to send off for the bling from the Pirate movie."

The quiet chuckle that filtered through the headset told her what Barbara thought of that idea. Helena didn't think it was that out-there: the projection clock in the shape of a skull was pretty cool, and it did require a lot of UPC symbols.

At least Dinah seemed to be taking the idea seriously.

"Maybe, Hel, but none of the clerks saw any kids in their stores around the time it happened."

The brunette arced her empty cup into a trash can and nodded.

"Yeah. Too bad I couldn't get my hands on that guy they told us about."

Clerks at two of the stores had described a similar figure that they'd noticed in their stores around the time of the vandalism; however, since the "short guy in a black trench coat and hat" hadn't come near either's register, there was no video to work with.

The best that Helena had been able to do was to buy one of the mutilated boxes of pastries from each store -- at a discount -- for Barbara to do the forensic thing on.

"I'm not."

Dinah's tone was flat. Her words were decisive, reminding Helena that she'd strayed into sensitive territory.

"I didn't mean it like that--"

The quick shake of a blonde head cut her short.

"No. It's okay. I mean -- "

From the corner of her eye, Helena saw Dinah transfer her quart-sized latte cup to her right hand then push a lock of hair behind her left ear.

"-- I know what you meant. It's my problem right now, I guess."

For a few steps, they walked in silence, Helena gnawing at the corner of her bottom lip with an incisor. Finally, she shifted her six individual grocery bags, each holding one ragged box of Pop Tarts, to the other hand and reached over to touch her companion's shoulder.

"It doesn't have to be, D."

Certain she had her attention, Helena stopped and waited for Dinah to face her.

"I get that you're working through some heavy stuff, and if you want to talk or something..."

She let it go at that, biting back her instinct to steer Dinah in Barbara's direction. For some reason, maybe because her younger partner had gone through it all for her, Dinah seemed more open with her.

This time, it was the blonde who chewed at her bottom lip. When pale blue eyes searched hers, Helena tried not to blink.

"How did you know that it -- "

A pale hand waved in the general direction of Helena's clothing, then the rooftops. Dinah's voice lowered to a whisper.

"-- you know, that fighting crime was right for you?"

Whoa boy. The big question.

"Well, I do get to beat all hell out of people."

Instantly, she realized that her flip answer -- while not untrue -- wasn't what her partner was looking for.

"But, what if -- "

Again, the unruly lock of blonde hair got pushed back.

"-- well, what if that's not really my thing?"

Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.

Sucking it up, the brunette searched for a way to explain without having to resurrect the long and painful process that she'd gone through, the realization that she didn't want other to have to face what she'd seen on that dark, bloody night nine years before.

"I know, Dinah." She quirked the corner of her mouth. "I guess there's also that whole -- "

Raising her free hand, she made air quotes with her first two fingers.

"-- 'helping people' aspect of things."

Dinah's nod was slow.

"Yeah. Sometimes it's hard to remember that when... well, you know."

They started walking again, their steps not erasing the painful silence where Dinah had left off. Still, Helena didn't have any trouble filling in the blanks.

She did know.

It was hard to remember the helping part when you had to hurt -- or violate -- someone to do it.

"So, uh," Dinah's voice was, Helena thought, ultra-casual. "Do you think you might sign up for the Intro Physics course?"

She was also a little too chipper, but the brunette was okay with a return to the conversation they'd started back in the Biology lab.

No surprise that Science-Girl was plugging for that course.

"I dunno, D," she snagged her companion's cup and danced away from her. "The Japanese language class could be neat."

She'd always been good with languages, and, shit, it'd be cool to be able to swear in another language.

Laughing at the irritation in pale blue eyes, Helena worked on a long, noisy slurp of the weirdly orange-colored coffee drink.

"You know they don't teach you the dirty words."

Not quite sure how much of a coincidence Dinah's input had been, she managed to swallow her mouthful of syrup and gave the blonde a sidelong glance. She got a sunny smile in return.

"At least," Dinah's voice was innocence itself, "not in the introductory levels."

Hell, maybe she had been reading her mind. Whatever.

Helena kept her own response breezy.

"Well, Barbara speaks Japanese."

Who knew what kind of cool pillow talk they could have?

Helena's thoughts along those lines, as well as her unsuccessful attempt to foist the giant cup back off on Dinah, came to a screeching halt when she made out the younger woman's next words.

"What about you and Barbara?"

Pretty sure that her confusion showed, Helena gave up on the cup and lobbed it into another waste receptacle.

"What about us?"

She didn't have to look to know that The Kid was blushing. Hell, she could almost feel the heat from Dinah's face as they walked side by side.

"I just... Well, how do you know... Or, maybe I mean how did you--"

Helena stopped walking. It took her companion another two steps before she glommed onto the fact that she was stammering into thin air and turned around. Helena closed the distance and narrowed her eyes at the constant self-interruption. She was pretty proud that she didn't actually growl at Dinah to get to the point.

"Know what?"

Yep, that was a pretty good blush The Kid had going.

"How do you know that you two are supposed to..."

Finally, Helena thought she got it, and, well, whoa mama: The bigger question.

"Like, maybe we're not supposed to be together, D?" she tried.

The blonde didn't answer her directly.

"Or, how do you know that she's the one for you, Hel?"

For some reason, the question took Helena back three days, and instantly she was lost in the the sensations -- and emotions -- that had filled her on Saturday. That day, she hadn't been able to question her need: her hunger to touch and taste every millimeter of her lover's skin; her desire to hear Barbara moaning against her teeth; her absolute need to be with her, inside her. There had been no way that she could have let Barbara touch her even as she'd licked and bit and ground against her, climaxing over and over.

But, somewhere not too far along the line, Helena had needed to question Barbara.

"Are you okay?"

Her voice had been rough. Getting the words out had been an exercise in relearning the power of speech.

"Is this -- " She'd managed a gesture at the disarray of bedclothes. "-- okay?"

Something brought Helena back to the moment, and she blinked her eyes, hoping that Dinah hadn't picked up on the violet she was sure they'd morphed to. It was then that she realized what had caught her attention: a sound, almost inaudible and almost directly in her ear.

It had been the tinny click of the comm set being deactivated remotely.


She was so used to the damned thing that she'd forgotten it was still on. She could only hope -- for a whole lot of reasons, D's privacy being only one of them -- that Barbara had gotten busy tracking box-top crimes, had forgotten about the unit, too, and had just flipped it off out of habit.

"Because she's Barbara," was her answer.

It felt like a long time had gone by since Dinah had asked her question and Helena had managed her answer. It felt like the blink of an eye before Dinah turned and started walking again, her next question sounding almost like an afterthought.

"Well then, how do you know that you're the one for her?"

Which was, Helena realized as she took a couple of jogging steps to catch up, a whole other question completely.

Part 11

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