DISCLAIMER: These characters and situations do not belong to me in any way shape or form. I have borrowed them as part of my sanity maintenance.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: As always, thanks to Ann.
The water flowed easily over the woman's streamlined body despite the slight drag caused by the dead weight of her legs. Many years of practice and hard work meant Barbara could swim as well, if not faster, than when she was in her 20's, but it'd been damned hard to maintain that level. She'd had to crunch her abdominals day in, and day out now, for over 30 years; add to that, thousands and thousands of bar curls, and she was getting tired.
So, very, very tired.
Reaching the end of the final length of her daily quota, she sighed heavily and hoisted herself onto the waiting towel. Vigorously towelling off, she was soon sitting back in her manual chair, thoughtfully looking down at her lower limbs.
It still amazed her, despite all her research and all her knowledge, how she'd managed to maintain the muscle bulk in legs that hadn't actually worked under true muscular action for far too many years. She smiled; thoughts of Helena massaging her bulky calf muscles bringing immediate pleasure.
She wheeled herself into the changing room, ready to attach her most recently developed neural coupler to the two points built into her spinal column. The technology she'd advanced over the years had certainly allowed her to walk; everyday comfort, however, it didn't bring. The pain from the coupler still wasn't under enough control to allow 24/7 use, even now. Often, she'd walk quite happily out in the fresh air, only to revert back to her wheelchair status once she was home among family.
Pushing herself slowly into a standing position, she groaned out loud. The neural coupler might have allowed her to walk, but it hadn't stopped the degenerative changes from occurring; even the brain power of Barbara Gordon couldn't stop that from happening.
Sixty years of age and her body was beginning to feel it, and she knew for a fact that her partner had the same problems. At least, they'd made the decision to retire from crime fighting while they still could, ten years before, with enough time to spare to be together.
It had helped to know that a younger generation of superheroes were beginning to develop the same ethics as her renowned team of crime fighters, the Birds of Prey.
Glad to be home, Barbara made herself a coffee, switched off the coupler, and sank back into her plush electronic wheelchair. She looked around the tower for any signs of Helena and eventually found, propped against her pillow of all places, a small note.
'B, I left the note here because I knew you'd need a sleep after all that swimming. Why you still do it; I've no idea. Surely, you know your body's hot enough for me no matter what. Damn woman, it takes me all my time to keep up with you these days.'
Barbara laughed out loud at her partner's comment; Helena would probably be off teaching some rigorous martial art to the junior corps right about now and, more than likely, beating them into submission at the same time. Old Huntress was certainly still as fit as many half her age and certainly a match for old Oracle's body. She continued to glance at the note as she headed back towards the den.
'Just popped out to share a few sparring sessions with the kids, will be back around 5pm. Love you. H.'
The clock read 4:30 as Barbara tilted her backrest to an angle and laid her head against it to rest. Her nearby novel lay unopened as she took the chance to reminisce in the quiet respite. Twenty years, leading one of the world's crack crime fighting teams always allowed for memories, not all of them happy, but all of them important.
Today, her memories centred more on Helena Bertinelli, the woman that had stayed with her through thick and thin. Helena, who, in the beginning had driven her crazy with her maverick ways, and, not long after being allowed onto Barbara's team, had dared to tell her where to stuff her orders. That break-up had turned out to be the catalyst to the building of a rock-steady relationship of thirty years and counting.
She looked over to the mantle shelf and saw the picture that epitomised their life together, Barbara in her chair pointing outwards to something of interest, and Helena leaning over her, one hand resting on the back of the chair, the other gently resting on Barbara's shoulder, her gaze obviously intent on Barbara's vision. In life, as in the picture, they had shared everything they did; Barbara was the lead and the guide, but she hadn't been able to do it without the steadfast support of her lover always surrounding her.
The shrill tone of an incoming call broke through Barbara's sappiness.
"Hey Babs, you awake?"
Barbara grabbed the handset at the dulcet tones of Helena's sarcastic query.
"I'll have you know, I'm just in the living room, working at Delphi."
"Yeah, yeah, well just stop your wool-gathering and get some snacks ready; we've got visitors coming. Sin and Michael are here; they say they have something important to tell us."
Barbara took a moment to wonder if Helena really did know that she tended to sit and think rather than go on the computer bank these days; quickly deciding that, yes, she did. She smiled ruefully as she asked, "What?"
"They won't say until we're together, maybe you'd better put that bottle of Dom in the fridge."
Barbara chuckled at Helena's comment. "Barking up the wrong tree there, my dear, they're way too busy."
"I know, I know. See you in half an hour."
The click of the line going dead told Barbara that she had exactly half an hour to get ready for their guests.
Sin, the young woman that Black Canary had taken under her wing, had turned into a wondrous fighter for truth and justice. Barbara wheeled over to caress the photograph Dinah had presented to Barbara and Helena after Sin's coming of age party. It was a picture of all four of them enjoying a lunchtime picnic; a perfectly ordinary picture that belied the perfectly unordinary life they had all lead.
After taking Sin into her care, Dinah had spent a few years estranged from her friends in the Birds, only to realise that her friends were just what her adopted daughter needed. Barbara remembered, now, the phone call of apology from Dinah, and the subsequent reuniting of the three original Birds of Prey to lead Sin towards her true fulfilment. Alongside that development had been the welcome reestablishment of both Barbara and Helena's close relationship with Dinah.
Later, when Sin had become involved in one of the modern teams, the three older women had been more than pleased to find she'd developed a close working partnership with Nightwing's son, Michael. Another chuckle escaped Barbara's lips as she recited Helena's words of a few moments before; in her eyes, there was no way the working partnership was anything other than that and, yet, she only had to look at her own love life to know that things weren't always as they seemed.
Very soon, she heard the quiet sound of the apartment door opening and looked across to see Helena entering, closely followed by the tall offspring of Nightwing and the much smaller daughter of Black Canary. Their faces were serious.
Barbara caught the eyes of Helena as she came across the room to lean over and kiss her lips.
Helena shrugged at the question in her partner's eyes. She had no idea what was so serious that the younger couple had insisted they had to come visit right now. She turned to her guests and offered drinks; the sooner they were all settled, the sooner they would get their answer.
While Helena fetched the drinks, Sin and Michael greeted Barbara warmly and watched as she transferred onto the sofa. Within minutes, Helena had rejoined them, and they were sitting and chatting about mundane every day things. As always, it was Barbara's inquisitiveness that broke first.
"So, what's so important that you two had to come and spend an afternoon with us two oldies, huh?"
Before Sin or Michael could respond, she continued, "Not that we don't love having you, but we know how busy you really are, so "
The younger two looked downwards, their faces suddenly full of worry. Helena saw the look and could feel the degree of tension rise exponentially. She stood and crossed the room to sit beside Barbara.
"Come on, out with it. Surely, it can't be that bad?"
Sin looked up and locked her eyes onto Barbara's. The look in the younger woman's dark eyes made Helena grasp the hand of her partner
"We have a message from Batman " At 80 years of age, Bruce still insisted on being the kingpin in the local crime fighting masses, immediately knowing when anything important was about to happen. " it appears that, all those years ago, the Joker fathered a son."
Barbara's gasp at the mention of the Joker meant Helena knew her decision to grasp her hand had been the right one; she squeezed hard and felt the welcome squeeze in return.
"Jonathon, surprisingly, was a good man who became a big part of Gotham's industry world. He had no idea his father was the Joker. However, he too fathered a son, who is a different kettle of fish. Thomas Napier recently found out just who his grandfather was and "
Helena looked towards Barbara intuitively knowing what was coming next.
" is determined to finish the job."
Michael took over the telling, reaching first to touch Barbara's hand. "Babs, Batman has heard through the grapevine that this Thomas guy has made it clear he intends to become part of folklore by finally finishing off that bitch Barbara Gordon."
Barbara's face was pale, but she hadn't been though all she'd been through to wilt at the first sign of trouble. She reassured her friends she'd be fine and insisted they make their way back to Batman's lair to ask if he could forward all the details to her so that she could plan her defence, and, with his blessing, have access to as many of the new heroes as she thought she'd need.
Glancing at Helena, she knew her partner would know that, if she disagreed with her next words, she could say so. She didn't need to have an answer to know that she would.
"I know you're here to stay with me and protect me, but I don't want it. Helena and I are more than capable of being safe in our home. We'd much rather you were out there, stopping him."
Before the two could disagree, Helena jumped in to support her lover. "Yeah, go, we'll be fine. I promise we'll contact you if anything untoward happens and, damn, we've still got all Oracle's old warning systems up and running. As soon as you're out that door, we'll get Delphi booted up, and it'll be like Fort Knox. Now, go."
Reluctantly, Sin and Michael got up to leave, hugging both older women as they left.
As soon as the door closed, Helena pulled Barbara into a hug, and the two women just held each other. No words were needed to know all that had to be said.
Helena grinned when Barbara started to tug the shirt out of her pants. "Fuck Babs, sixty years old and you still have the same method of ignoring threats."
Barbara grinned back and continued her pursuit of Helena's skin. "Are you complaining?"
"Nu, uh, just saying; I kinda like it, you know."
"Yeah, I think I got that. So "
Helena took Barbara's lips into a hard kiss, reminding them both of the strength they'd always gained from that one simple act.
Slowly, deliberately, not quite as frenzied as early in their couplings, but still as intense and still as strong, the two women touched all the right buttons, stroked all the well-known places, and drove each other to that place they loved.
The Joker, Thomas Napier, and Delphi were all put back where they belonged until the two had renewed their strength.
Laying in each others arms, clothes straightened, and limbs repositioned safely, Barbara dared to say what she'd thought on first hearing Michael's words. "Whatever happens here, Hel, I need you to know that I love you, and that I always will."
"Hey. Don't be all soft now, Batman will sort everything out, and this guy'll be locked up just like his Grandaddy before him, you'll see."
"I know, I just "
"Don't say it, Barbara, I know what you mean, and I love you too, very much. Now, let's get Delphi fired up and see what we can do."
Getting up from the sofa, Helena crossed the room to switch Delphi on, and then made sure Barbara's chair was positioned near enough to transfer before heading into the kitchen to get a couple of beers.
Helena returned a moment later to see Barbara settling into her chair. She smiled at the vision and wolf whistled.
"Stop that, you hussy." Barbara laughed at Helena's snort of derision.
Suddenly, their pleasure was interrupted by two sounds; the doorbell and the voice of Batman over the airwaves.
"I'll get the door, you see what Batman wants," called Barbara as she wheeled herself towards the door. The shout of Helena warning her to be careful, coupled with the sound of Batman's worried voice, momentarily distracted Barbara, and she opened the door without checking her web cam.
She instantly froze. Of all the sights in the world, there was only one that could stun Barbara so.
A tall thickset man with a mop of unruly green hair was standing on the doorstep, a revolver steadily pointing at her head.
A cackle of laughter accompanied his words, dripping in sarcasm.
"So, Ms. Gordon, we meet again, and this time, this time, I'm going to make "
His words were lost in the swoosh of noise hurtling across the room towards her and the thought running through her head that Helena was still as swift.
She felt the arrival of her love in the split second she heard the first sound of rapid gunfire. Unable to move, everything happened in slow motion. All Barbara knew was an unearthly scream echoing around her head.
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