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.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.


Chapter 10

Helena might have been in love with a world wonder but she was feeling pretty darned wonderful herself.

Top of the world, too sexy for her leathers, too happy for public consumption kind of wonderful.

Despite her almost complete lack of sleep the night before, the young woman had bounded through her day fueled by emotion -- and the Super Jumbo Bladder Buster Mocchachino she'd picked up shortly after bussing Barbara on the cheek and sailing off the balcony at 6:30am. During the course of the day, she'd done her bills, restocked her fridge, cleaned something deeply scary out of the shower, and completely caught up on her laundry.

She'd figured that last chore was a priority; after all, if Barbara was gonna be tearing through her unmentionables like that, Helena wanted to have a plentiful supply of replacements on hand.

So, really, the only thing marring her otherwise productive and cloud-nine kind of day was the fact that she had to work another double at the Dark Horse -- in her current state of euphoria, the young woman couldn't imagine why she'd agreed to Leonard's request two nights ago when he was working out the schedule -- and wouldn't be able to see Barbara until around 11pm.

Still, even that, even the fact that she was working the overcrowded, low tipping, weekly Pitchers Night couldn't really deflate her mood. In only a few more hours, she'd be off and making her way back to the only person she wanted to see; and, in the meantime, well, Helena was rackin' 'em and fillin' 'em like a bartender extraordinaire.

Whistling a few bars from "Great Balls of Fire" through her teeth, the brunette straightened from retrieving another stack of plastics from under the bar when the sound of a slightly breathy and somewhat familiar mezzo-soprano voice caught her attention.

"...don't think it will scale for the throughput you need. Have you considered telling your people the truth?"

Helena peered over her shoulder, missing the exact words that the speaker's companion grumbled but getting the gist of things from his tone. She didn't miss the original speaker's slightly exasperated response.

"Harv, it's clearly a cpu issue. You're simply going to have to throw more money at it."

Distracted by a call for refills, Helena didn't hear the rest of the conversation. A few minutes later, during a lull, she noticed when Harv gathered his briefcase and departed, leaving his companion alone at the bar. Taking a guess, the young woman filled a glass with ice and pink grapefruit juice and set it down in front of the solitary figure.

"Let me guess: you sell computers."

Big brown eyes flew open behind thick lenses, then widened further before the woman smiled and laughed.

"Helena! I didn't know you worked here."

Sabina peered down at the glass and frowned slightly, looking puzzled.

"Just juice," Helena supplied, "but I can get you something stronger if you'd like."

The brunette flashed a grin and offered a genuinely apologetic look before adding an explanation.

"Uh, just to make up for cutting out on you so suddenly the other night, you know."

She watched brown eyes blink in surprise as a hint of color dusted the other woman's pale features.

"Oh, I, uh, see. But, that's not really necessary, Helena."

The young woman smiled again and started to speak just as the other woman laughed ruefully and shook her head. Picking up the tumbler and raising it in a toast, her eyes sparkled.

"But, all the same, thanks. It was a bit of a disappointment, after all, even if the whole evening was a bit out of character for me."

She sipped, still visibly flustered. Helena found herself again charmed by the mousy woman.

"Er, a moment ago, why did you ask if I sell computers?"

The brunette blinked, then grinned again.

"Oh, yeah. Sorry about that, but I overheard a little of your conversation, figured you were pushing for a good commission."

"I wish."

Sabina pursed her lips wryly.

"Actually I'm on the software side of things, I guess you'd say. Hadn't you heard that, if you design software and there's a bottleneck, it's always, always, a hardware issue, Helena?"

The younger woman laughed and excused herself to fill a rush of orders. When she returned, the small woman was in the process of rescuing her laptop from the path of a half-dozen non-too-steady collegians and their oversized, Air Jordan-clad feet. Helena reached across the counter top and easily plucked the soft case from the other woman's grasp, setting it safely behind the bar.

"It gets a little hectic in here on Pitcher Night. Lotta NGU kids."

"So I see."

Sabina swirled the ice in her glass, seeming to feel the need to explain.

"I don't usually try to work in bars, but Harvey -- "

She gestured at the empty seat next to her, and Helena flashed on an image of a big white invisible rabbit.

"-- works nearby, and since I don't really know the city yet, this seemed convenient."

Helena smiled.

"New to our fair city, huh? I should have figured that you were into computers, what with the RDBMS-thing, but when we met, I thought..."

Having, as usual, started to speak before thinking, now the young woman was wondering if she should finish her thought, uncertain how it might be received.

What the hell.

"Well, I thought you might be a librarian or something."

To her credit, Sabina laughed. It sounded genuine, too.

"I get that a lot, Helena."

She looked down at herself with exaggerated dismay, adding, "For some reason."

The dark woman reached under the bar to grab a bowl of pretzels, using the motion as an excuse to rake her gaze over the woman across from her. Conservative pants suit over a too-skinny frame, but there was no frilly lace bow or high necked collar hiding the small swell of cleavage. Long, mousy brown hair, but it was hanging loose rather than in a bun. Pale, slightly pinched features, but the intelligence and humor couldn't be missed.

Helena decided that it hadn't just been the alcohol at work when she'd tried to hook up with the woman a few nights ago: Sabina was cute.

Pointedly ignoring some irritated waving across the room from Leonard -- heck, he could refill a pitcher as well as she could -- she offered a smile that was part apology, part harmless flirtation.

"Hey, don't knock it, Sabina. If the librarians had looked like you when I was in school, I might be doing computer stuff now rather than working back here."

Unable to help herself -- heck, flirting was just a second language to her -- she wiggled her left eyebrow up and down in her best Dudley Dooright impression and teased, "And, I sure would have made sure that I got my due date slips punched regularly."

That got her an honest belly laugh -- and a face full of grapefruit juice when the other woman spewed her drink.

The young woman blinked slowly, a little disbelieving, and reached for her bar towel.

"Oh, shit!"

And Helena had thought that Barbara held the record for fastest, deepest blushes.

"I'm so sorry! I can't believe I'm always getting you wet!"

At the words, the young woman very carefully finished mopping herself off, then deliberately refolded the towel and laid it on the counter. She allowed herself a raised eyebrow, but purposely bit her lip to hold back any of a number wicked responses. She just didn't think the other woman could handle any more blood rushing to her face.

Sabina observed Helena's reaction for a beat, then buried her face in her hands with a helpless giggle.

"Oh, god. Just shoot me now and put me out of my misery."

Topping off the older woman's juice, Helena took pity on her.

"Nah. And, don't worry about it. A little cleanup comes with the job."

Absurdly grateful brown eyes peered through small fingers before the other woman raised her head and smiled. When she reached for her tumbler, Helena took a measured step to one side and was rewarded with a wry smile.

"Okay, Helena. But, speaking of the job, will you be getting off soon? Perhaps I could buy you dinner -- or take you to a laundromat or something -- to make up for that?"

Helena flashed another smile, this one tinged with a tiny note of regret.

"Uh, I don't think so, Sabina. I'm kind of off that market now."

Forever, if she had her way about it.

And, forever is what the remainder of her shift seemed like after the older woman departed with a shy wave and Helena returned to the joys of pouring suds and avoiding groping hands. However, a full thirty minutes after the brunette thought she should have already been at the clock tower -- preferably in the master bedroom of the clock tower with the very naked resident of said bedroom -- Helena's shift did end. She ascended to the roof of the bar and turned towards the tower, then abruptly halted. Recalling her partner's damnable puritan work ethic, she smiled affectionately towards the heavens and activated her comm set.

"Oracle, do you copy?"

It could have just been her, but Helena thought it took the other woman a beat longer than usual to respond.

<"I'm here, Huntress. Are you available?">

The dark figure smiled broadly and poured every drop of lasciviousness that she could into her answer.

"Ready, willing, and able."

<"Wonderful, Huntress.">

The words carried a low burr that caused the brunette's stomach to flip-flop pleasantly. The next words stripped away some of the pleasure.

<"I was hoping that you could revisit the scene of the break-in that you foiled a few nights ago, specifically, take some enhanced res images of the door they were working on?">


"Want me to zip over to Bludhaven and pick up some of that sesame chicken that you like, while I'm out?"

Okay, maybe that had been a little snarky, but, crap, the bank job she'd foiled was thirty blocks uptown.

The measured response that filtered over the earpiece soothed a large measure of the brunette's irritation.

<"I'm not really hungry... for chicken, Huntress, but thank you for asking.">

Obediently setting off in the right direction, Helena mentally shrugged. Anybody who knew anything knew that whatever Barbara wanted, Helena tried to do. Even if that included taking pictures of a door... in a dark alley... at midnight.

Seventy-five minutes later -- Helena had stopped en route to foil a mugging and, just cuz she was a crime-fighter extraordinaire, to deliver a brief lecture to a jay-walker -- the young woman landed quietly on the balcony of the clock tower. Moving towards the French doors, she caught herself and jiggled the handle before slipping inside. Barbara -- what else? -- had her nose buried in the Delphi screens but glanced up with a warm smile.

Yeah, Helena realized, she had it bad. That smile alone made the sixty block detour and the hour delay all worth while.

Feeling completely whipped, and not altogether unhappy with that state of affairs, the brunette stood, transfixed, by the doors for a heartbeat or ten, returning Barbara's smile with one of her own. A smile which grew increasingly wide and, well, hungry.

The bemused quirk of a crimson eyebrow finally helped the young woman regain some motor control, and she shrugged out of her duster, catching it with two fingers and dropping it over a chair. Walking slowly, acutely aware of the way the amber lights from the secondary plasma displays seemed to halo around red hair, of how the slow clicking of one of the processors seemed to echo her thudding heartbeat, Helena ascended the platform and stepped to the older woman's side. She opened her mouth to speak but was brought up short when she detected the subtle scent of Barbara's shampoo -- ginger and orange blossoms -- a fragrance her nose had been buried in only the night before.

Mouth suddenly watering, Helena smiled and bent slowly, unblinking blue eyes fixed on green orbs which were dilating and growing ever wider. With her face only inches from the redhead's cheek, she paused and breathed deeply, lip drawing back over her upper teeth as a rush of heat traveled down her neck, through her chest and belly, settling between her legs.

She watched green eyes droop and then suddenly widen, puzzlement manifest.

"You smell... fruity tonight, Helena...?"

The young woman ducked her head, hiding under dark bangs, as she felt that previously pleasant rush of warmth move in the wrong direction -- up her neck to her cheeks. Straightening, she laughed over her confession.

"Just something from one of my many admirers at work. Occupational hazard, y'know."

The older woman's eyes twinkled as she considered the explanation.

"Is that so?"

Helena shrugged helplessly, feeling a bit off balance for some reason, until Barbara cocked her head to one side and placed a warm hand on Helena's forearm.

"Everything okay now, Sweetheart?"

Suddenly, the tension dissolved, and the younger woman answered on a slow exhalation.

"Yeah. I'm great."

Helena leaned down again, nearly jumping out of her skin when the older woman abruptly stiffened.

What the -- ?

"Hey, Helena! Was Barbara right about the bank?"

When the redhead removed her hand from Helena's arm with studied nonchalance, the dark figure peevishly thought that she'd never been less glad to hear Dinah's sunny voice. Judging from Barbara's sudden, rapt attention to one of the monitors, the sentiment was shared.

A rueful shake of red hair and a nearly inaudible murmur -- "This is ridiculous, Hel." -- calmed the young woman, and she was able to smile at the Kid with only slightly forced cheer as she handed the digi to Barbara.

"Yep. Looks like they weren't kidding in the police report that Red hacked. The only sign of attempted B&E was on the door on the other side of the alley."

As Barbara busied herself downloading Helena's high-resolution, late night still lifes of the doors in question, Dinah wandered up and extended an open bag of Flamin' Hot Cheetos. Winking, Helena dug out a handful and popped a few into her mouth.

"So, what's in the building next door that's better than a bank?"

The older woman turned to respond, but the teenager beat her to it.

"It's an office building. Barbara's still identifying all of the business in it, but so far everything is just paper-pushers and stuff."

Helena drew a cooling puff of air over her burning tongue and cocked an eyebrow towards her cyber-genius partner, who nodded.

"So far nothing that should have attracted the attention of the men you intercepted. There's an insurance company, a voter registration headquarters, and some telemarketing offices."

Heading towards the kitchen, the brunette looked back with a grin.

"Maybe they were just pissed that they got one too many calls during dinner or something."

Dinah's giggle followed Helena into the other room where she spent several minutes downing a tall glass of milk and then carefully washing her hands -- no need to leave flamin' red cheesy fingerprints all over her leathers. When she returned to the living room, she grinned at the sight of two heads -- one red, one gold -- bent over a monitor as Barbara patiently supervised the teen's efforts to optimize several photos. The older woman was simultaneously toggling through images on another monitor as she spoke quietly.

"Just like that, Dinah. Excellent. Now, let's set up a plot point comparison with these earlier scans..."

The brunette parked one hip on the back of the couch and watched long fingers flying across the keyboard. Sensory memories of those fingers on... and in... her the night before played across her skin, and she shifted restlessly.

"-- just a hunch, but we might be able to correlate this job with one of these other break ins."

The redhead glanced at the clock and powered the Delphi to standby, and Helena straightened marginally, blood thrumming through her veins.

"It will take a few hours to plot all of the data from these images. Time for us to turn in, Dinah; don't forget the pep rally tomorrow."

Helena ducked her chin, blinking twice, at the note of apology that underlay the older woman's brisk tone. Ignoring a tickling realization of the meaning beneath Barbara's words, the brunette opted to offer Dinah a sympathetic grimace.

"You go to those things, Kid?"

Her memories of high school pep rallies primarily included time spent under the bleachers in pursuit of other adrenaline-raising activities.

Dinah smiled sweetly.

"I do if I don't want to ride the bus to school."

Barbara laughed as she moved across the living room, then stopped near the hallway. Through lowered lashes, Helena observed the older woman's quick glance in Dinah's direction before the redhead spoke to her.

"You're welcome to stay," She gestured towards the big screen, then continued softly, "but I really do need to turn in."

Although the room was dim, the young woman easily detected the flush creeping up Barbara's cheeks when she added, with the ghost of a wink, "I didn't get much sleep last night."

Helena nodded and remained immobile until she heard the redhead's door shut. In a flash, she stalked across the living room, cornering Dinah before the teen could depart for her bedroom. Stepping into the blonde's personal space, the brunette offered a smile that was full of teeth but utterly devoid of humor.

Pale blue eyes widened, and Helena heard the girl swallow. Confident that she had Dinah's undivided attention, she spoke gruffly.

"Tomorrow. You. Me. Coffee."

The teen smiled, a bit tremulously, and nodded carefully.

"Uh, okay. Uhm, four o'clock okay with you?"

Softening a little -- hell, it wasn't the Kid's fault that Barbara was all with the propriety thing -- Helena stepped back and gentled her tone.

"Sure. I'll buy."

As Dinah beat a hasty exit, the dark figure eyed the big screen, knowing that it held no appeal with Barbara only a few paces away yet, apparently, completely out of reach for the night. Grabbing her coat, Helena stepped onto the balcony and threw herself into the night.

Chapter 11

"Get out!"

The high pitched yelp echoed through the coffee shop, immediately drowned out by the sound of chair legs scraping across the tile floor as Dinah bolted upright and flew around the small table to wrap Helena in an enthusiastic hug.

So much for any worries about breaking the news.

Smirking, Helena disentangled herself from the ebullient teen and attempted to salvage her dignity as the teen returned to her seat. Her efforts to maintain an aura of adult decorum dissolved rapidly under the younger girl's beaming happiness, and in short order the brunette found herself smiling back.

"So, uh, I guess this means there won't be any ugly teen scenes and slamming doors, huh?"

Dinah smiled harder, although Helena wasn't sure how it was possible.

"Duh. I've been waiting forever for you two to get a clue!"

Pale blue eyes blinked, and Helena started counting.

Five. Four. Three. Two. One...

"Well, not you -- "

And, Dinah was off.

"Just Barbara, I guess. Cuz, well, it's always been pretty obvious how you felt -- feel. And, I guess, not forever, either. But, maybe around the time she started dating Wade. I mean, he was just sooo not right for her."

Taking the blonde's pause for oxygen as a sign that it was her turn to contribute to the conversation, Helena nodded. Dinah plunged back in.

"It took me forever to figure it out, you know? Barbara didn't really seem all that happy, and I just couldn't figure out why she kept seeing him. But, I think after Alfred give him the codes to the tower and Barbara had to, uh, tell him about, uh, stuff... Well--"

Helena observed the slight wrinkle of pale blonde brows as the girl hunted for a way to explain the redhead's actions. For her part, Helena had no problem coming up with it.

After a beat, both young women spoke as one.


Dinah sighed and stared at her mocha latte, and Helena quietly sipped her cappuccino, thinking about how much her partner had sacrificed for that abstract concept. Still, the brunette brightened, looked like things were different now, like Red was cutting herself some slack.

Apparently, Dinah had entertained similar thoughts.

"But now," the teen smiled again, "Well, I'm just so happy for both of you."

The brunette realized she was gonna have to work on her game face, cuz she just couldn't come up with a convincing glower. For some reason, she was ridiculously pleased by Dinah's enthusiasm.

Rotating her tiny cup in its saucer, Helena narrowed her eyes thoughtfully and then nonchalantly pushed the last chocolate chocolate chip mini-muffin towards the teen with her index finger. After all, Dinah's blessing wasn't exactly all she wanted right now.

"So, D. Any chance you can hang out with Gabby tonight?"

A scant four hours later, the brunette strolled casually from the clock tower elevator, bearing an oversized pizza box with a much smaller, slender, rectangular box balanced on top.

"I didn't cook it, but I'll accept the accola--"

Belatedly noticing that Barbara was on the phone, she snapped her mouth shut and turned towards the kitchen, smiling cheerfully in response to the redhead's quick wave. Helena busied herself setting out plates and stemware, peripherally aware of the muted sounds of Barbara's one-sided conversation in the other room. Just as she finished easing the cork from a bottle of shiraz, the older woman appeared in the doorway and offered a puzzled smile as she took in the table.

Bowing slightly at the waist, the brunette gestured expansively at Barbara's usual place and affected a ludicrously bad French accent.

"Bon jour, mademoiselle. I am Francois, and I weel be your waiter zis evening."

The redhead laughed and spoke lightly.

"This is wonderful, Hel, but I didn't think I'd see you so early tonight."

The younger woman leaned over the table to light a thick candle, smiling her thanks as the older woman reached for the dimmer switch by the door.

"Where else would I want to be?"

"On a Friday night? Oh, perhaps out dancing with one of your many citrus-scented admirers?"

Helena laughed as she straightened and waved out the match.

"Nah. It's teen night. No booze allowed."

Anticipating the other woman's skeptical response -- "Teen night at every one of your many haunts?" -- the brunette was ready.

"Yep. And I told Dinah to check out each and every one. All night."

Barbara laughed again and moved to her spot before abruptly stopping as she caught sight of her place-setting. One hand flew to her mouth before she reached out and carefully lifted the long-stemmed flower from her plate.

Transfixed, Helena watched the redhead bring the small gift to her face, inhaling slowly, closing her eyes as a wistful smile crossed her lips. When the older woman finally looked up after a long moment, Helena thought she detected a trace of moisture in emerald eyes.

"Oh, Helena. How -- where on earth did you find a fuukiran orchid?"

Awed by the site of the delicate crimson and white "wind orchid" juxtaposed against the elegant lines of the other woman's face, Helena stepped quietly to Barbara's side and spoke truthfully.

"I couldn't find anything as beautiful as you, but I remembered how you told me how beautiful you thought these were when you were in Japan."

The older woman didn't often discuss her glory days on the international gymnastic circuit, but Helena was well aware of the treasured spot that the trip to Japan with the US Women's Team held in Barbara's heart.

"Sweetheart," the redhead's voice was husky, "you're too good to me."

Helena knelt by her side and slowly shook her head once, whispering, "No, I'm not."

Meaning it.

Stretching slightly, she scented the blossom that Barbara still held by her cheek and then tenderly nibbled at the redhead's ear, husking, "But, I'd like to be -- If you'll let me."

Also meaning it.


The other woman's exclamation was quiet, barely a sigh. Tracing the fine cartilage of Barbara's ear, then softly sucking on her lobe, Helena was distantly aware of movement as the redhead resettled the orchid on her plate. A moment later, strong fingers cupped the young woman's jaw and drew her mouth to warm, inviting lips.

The older woman opened to Helena instantly, drawing her in, and the brunette unconsciously shifted to the balls of her feet, stretching for more. More of the perfect warmth and soft suction, more of the hidden depths and knowing strokes against her, more of the connection with this amazing woman. Helena lost herself in a kiss that was improbably perfect, impossibly better than she remembered from only two nights before.

And, then, she heard bells, and, for one wild moment, the young woman thought it was entirely possible that she'd been spirited to heaven.

But, no, Helena grumpily mused two hours later as she made her way back to the clock tower, paradise probably wouldn't include the klaxon alarms of the Delphi, signaling a major event of some sort. Paradise wouldn't mean interrupting a quiet evening to respond to a three-alarm fire at the docks. And, paradise sure as shooting wouldn't have put the fire on a -- Helena shuddered violently -- garbage scow with two crewmen too scared to swim through the non-too-pristine waters of New Gotham harbor.


Landing noisily on the balcony, the young woman squirmed out of her duster and dropped it in a soggy heap. Before she could move, the doors opened and Barbara emerged with a huge stack of towels on her lap. Helena squelched over and accepted one with a damp nod, not missing the way the older woman flinched and recoiled when she got too close.

The brunette couldn't really blame her; her own eyes had been watering from the stench all the way back to the tower.

Draping the towel around her neck, Helena withdrew a few paces and plopped herself onto a chaise lounge to begin wrestling with the laces of her boots.

No need to go dripping water... especially this particular water... all over the place.

The older woman sat in silence -- Helena figured they'd pretty well covered the particulars on her way back -- her face a mask of sympathetic concern. Only because she knew her so well was the younger woman able to detect an amused glint in emerald eyes.

Dropping her second boot and standing to begin the battle with her pants, the brunette decided that, for her own peace of mind, she'd simply pretend she hadn't noticed her mentor's amusement. Unfortunately, her resolve was almost immediately put to the test -- around the time she wrestled her very tight, very wet pants down to her thighs -- by the sound of a snicker.

Suspicious blue eyes snapped upward, peering through dripping bangs, to find the older woman biting her lip and looking contrite. Satisfied that her distinct lack of shared amusement had registered, the young woman returned to wriggling out of her pants, only to be brought up short.

There it was again. Only this time, it had been more of a snort.

Very slowly, very deliberately, the young woman straightened and faced her partner -- her loving, supportive partner who, at that moment, dissolved into fits of laughter. Helena stood quietly, with what she thought was an enormous amount of patience, fixing the older woman with a decidedly cool stare as Barbara visibly fought to control herself.

"I'm so sorry, Sweetie..." Barbara apologized before snickering -- no, snorting -- again and raising a finger towards the brunette.

"You look like a drowned cat w-- w-- with--"

The brunette delicately dabbed at her face with the towel and waited for the other woman to finish.

"with St. Vitus disease," the redhead managed to finish, bringing herself under a modicum of control.

"But, I really am sorry, Hel," she added hastily, if a little belatedly.

Finally mastering the recalcitrant pants, Helena limited her response to a long-suffering sigh as she stripped off her shirt, leaving her in a soaked tank top and briefs. She caught the towel coming her way and sponged the worst of the water off her underwear before turning towards the living area and finally speaking, her voice just the tiniest bit cool.

"If no further floor show is required at this time, I think I'll take a shower, Barbara."

Moving into the hallway, the young woman smiled broadly and detoured at the last minute when she heard the redhead speak.

"Why don't you use my bathroom, Hel?"

The warm feeling that the words engendered dissipated just a bit when laughing words caught up to her.

"I put the disinfecting soap in there while you were on your way back..."

Not bothering to dignify the comment, the brunette squelched through the older woman's bedroom and directly into her bathroom, muttering softly and channeling Daffy Duck.

"Ha-ha, ho-ho, hee-hee. It is to laugh..."

Twenty minutes -- and gallons of hot water and four types of soap -- later, the young woman was feeling considerably less aggrieved. While she simply despised unplanned soakings -- probably a cat thing, she figured -- long showers were one of her many sybaritic indulgences, and -- in all fairness -- Barbara had been right about the industrial soap.

The fact that she was actually using the other woman's oversized shower -- and everything that signified -- was icing on the cake.

Launching into her twenty-fifth chorus of "Rubber Ducky", Helena again rooted through the capacious shelf containing umpteen varieties of bath gels. Caught up in a mental debate over the merits of vanilla musk versus sandalwood, the young woman jerked and reflexively stepped back, directly onto a pumice stone that she'd carelessly left on the shower floor, when the door cracked open.

The brunette's planned invective died in her mouth when she looked up to discover a very naked Barbara Gordon regarding her appraisingly.

"Need any help with your back, Hel?"

The tone was playful. The redhead's expression was anything but.

Helena licked her lips, feeling something low inside her begin to curl tightly. Stepping back from the door, she smiled as the redhead effortlessly transferred herself to the shower bench.

"Only if you'll let me do your hair, Red."

Green eyes caught blue and smoldered.

"I think something can be negotiated, Sweetie."

Oh, yeah, Helena was definitely all over the benefits of negotiation. A little give... a little more give...

Since she'd already enjoyed the benefits of the shower, Helena thought it only fair that the other woman have first crack at it. With all of her considerable powers of persuasion, she eventually had the redhead leaning back against her, almost humming in pleasure, as she rinsed the final bit of conditioner from long red hair. Helena continued to rub her fingers gently against the other woman's scalp, content to stay there -- with the other woman's shoulders pressing against her thighs, with her own fingers tingling from the delicious contact -- indefinitely. However, the older woman had plans of her own, slowly straightening and rotating to face Helena again.

"Your back?"

The brunette looked down, savoring her first unfettered look at the older woman. All of the blood left her head -- hell, felt like most of her internal organs, too -- and landed between her legs in a hot, wet rush.

Slowly, she sank to her knees in front of the redhead.

"No -- "

Barely able to hear her own utterance, Helena swallowed with difficulty and looked up imploringly.

"No, let me."

Not waiting for an answer, unable to wait lest she be denied, the young woman picked up a washrag and poured bath gel onto it, working it into a lather. Carefully, she lifted the other woman's right leg, positioning her foot on her thighs, and began a slow, firm cleansing.

Without hurry, with rapt attention to each nuance she discovered as she worked, with the complete peace in her heart counterpointing the restless ache growing inside her, Helena worked.

First, she scrubbed the top and sole gently with the terry cloth. Only when all of the soap had been transferred from the washrag did she set it aside to massage the lather into the arch and between each toe with tender strokes of her hands. Although she longed to bend further and brush her mouth to the impossibly soft flesh, the young woman was unable to miss the tension which radiated from her lover at the close attention. Thus, Helena kept her eyes focused on the soft skin under her hands, working slowly and methodically to rinse away the soap and celebrating the unhurried contact.

Retrieving the washrag, she carefully lowered the older woman's right foot, then repeated the worshipful cleansing with the left. Gradually, perhaps it was when she briefly lost herself in stroking the redhead's instep, she felt Barbara's rigid tension begin to wane. By the time she'd finished lathering and stroking the older woman's ankles and calves, the redhead had settled back against the shower wall, fingers of one hand idly twining through the hair by Helena's ear.

Ready to move up, the brunette straightened marginally and scootched forward, bringing her belly in contact with the other woman's knees. She picked up the washrag and then froze.

In all of their years together, during all of the sparring sessions and physio routines, even two nights before, Helena had never been granted an opportunity to view -- much less touch -- the other woman's lower half so closely.

Awed, her eyes caressed the length of lean thighs and then stopped at the neatly trimmed patch of fiery hair. So close was she that Helena easily detected her lover's most intimate scent, and -- for a moment -- she simply forget to breathe. Enhanced senses clearly noting the other woman's shallow breathing, she trailed both hands up the long legs in front of her and swayed forward slightly.

Belly tightening, nipples tingling as they brushed over Barbara's knees, the young woman shut her eyes and slowly lowered her head. Pressing her mouth reverently to a well-toned quadricep, Helena moaned softly as an aching need took possession of her and her breath came in short gasps.

God, she wanted -- so much ---

Strong hands in her hair coaxed the young woman's face up, and Helena looked up with eyes she knew were no longer blue.

Barbara's expression was almost fierce, her words ragged.

"Stand up, Hel."

The brunette worked her mouth without sound, so close to her desire that she was unable to speak her need. Panting softly, watching a deep flush traverse the redhead's chest, she remained helplessly frozen until Barbara spoke again.

"I need you, Helena. Now."

Unsure how she managed, Helena rose on shaky legs, brushing the older woman's mouth with hers as she straightened. A heartbeat later, Barbara's mouth was on her stomach... washing her with warm strokes... teasing with gentle, hungry, open-mouthed bites... and then, then, moving lower.

When strong hands grasped her hips, steadying her, Helena dropped her chin to her chest and moaned at the sight of that beautiful mouth on her, at the incredible, perfect heat and sensation coursing through her.

Panting raggedly, she trembled as the redhead's own low groan echoed against her, and she fought to keep her eyes open.

She had to see... to watch what she was feeling.

Helena jerkily reached out with one hand to steady herself against the cool tile of the shower wall. She carefully brought the other to the side of her lover's head, moaning -- almost screaming -- at the movement of the redhead's jaw against the heel of her hand.

It was too much, too unbelievable... that this beautiful, long-adored woman should want her like this...

Nearly weeping in her frustration -- in her own need to touch, to taste, to show the redhead how she felt -- the young woman finally let go. Once more, she surrendered her own instinct to take the lead. Again, she swallowed her restless hunger to pleasure her lover, accepting it as a part of the purity of the moment.

And then-- then Barbara's head twisted upward, and Helena was pinned by burning eyes.

"God, Helena, what you do to me."

The brunette blinked incredulously. Finally, in her very self-denial of what she wanted to do, she realized that she could offer, too.

"Are you ready?"

Swallowing thickly, the young woman bent to catch the other woman's mouth. Barbara kissed her deeply, thoroughly, and then pulled away.

"Turn around."

Dazed, Helena allowed the other woman to position her in the large shower, fighting a nearly physical pain from the loss of that beautiful mouth on hers. She struggled to control the trembling of her jaw and to steady her legs until, in an instant, none of that mattered.

There was only sensation... and emotion... and sensation swirling with emotion, consuming her completely: the cold tile of the shower wall burning her nipples; the warm spray of water rivuleting down her chest and back; the searing heat of a ravenous mouth; the incredible pressure of tongue and hands; the overwhelming knowledge that it was Barbara touching her, taking her, claiming her like this.

And throughout, there was Barbara's voice -- Helena dimly wondered if the older woman even realized she was speaking -- a rasping whisper of sin.

"You're so beautiful like this. You have no idea-- how the way you respond makes me feel... how long... much I've needed--"

The heat and the pressure surrounded her, filled her.

The words and emotions consumed and, then, fragmented her.

Unable to hold on any longer, Helena shattered.

Chapter 12

Helena realized that, oddly, she was curled into a fetal position. She was sitting, thighs drawn to her chest, arms clasped around her legs, head buried on her upraised knees. She was naked and wet and shaking, with tears streaming down her face.

She felt amazing.

The world still seemed to be pure sensation: warm moisture, dim light, gentle touches on her shoulders and back, a soft voice.

Grudgingly allowing thoughts to begin forming, the young woman wondered if what she was feeling right now was much different than when she was born.

Of course, not being the type of individual to let that sort of new-age sentiment get past her, the brunette snorted softly at herself. Sure, the earth had moved, and the heavens had collided, and there'd been a helluva lot of waves pounding up on the shores; but there was no reason to start banging on drums and throwing around words like 'karma' and 'rebirthing'.

But, still... Whoa.

A dazed and kind of dirty grin began to creep across the young woman's face just about the time that it dawned on her that she wasn't alone. That, in fact, the very person responsible for the smile in question was gently rubbing her back and talking to her... had been talking to her for quite some time probably, if the creeping nervousness in her tone were any indication.

"...okay, Sweetie? What do you need?"

Sucking it up -- she was a frikkin' superhero, after all -- Helena finally managed to lift her head and focus her eyes. She found Barbara observing her with an almost comically cautious concern -- almost like she was afraid that Helena was going to wash down the drain or something.

The brunette decided to give her voice a try.

"Uh, hi?"

The older woman exhaled and straightened up to lean back against the shower wall. Helena noticed that, at some point -- How long had she been babbling incoherently, anyway? -- Barbara had shut off the water and snagged two towels, one of which was draped over the redhead's lap, the other around her own shoulders. Barbara absently tugged at the towel covering her legs, blinking slowly several times, before she smiled sweetly and leaned back down.

The younger woman almost purred at the sensation of slender fingers softly combing the wet bangs back from her eyes.

"Hi, yourself, Sweetheart."

The redhead's normally brisk alto was low, intimate, and definitely, definitely pleased. Helena shivered pleasurably and snagged her lower lip with her teeth.

The older woman ducked her head slightly, and impossibly dark green eyes caught blue.

"Are you alright, Sweetie? I was beginning to get conce--"

Gently catching the hand that was still absently combing through her hair, Helena drew it down and pressed a tender kiss to the inside of the other woman's wrist. The feel and scent of the blood moving through veins, so close to the surface, provided tinder to the brunette's barely banked desire, and she fluttered her eyes shut.

Content to remain huddled on the floor of the shower indefinitely, Helena nevertheless realized that her lover was probably getting chilly. With a Herculean effort, she rolled to her feet with a soft grunt and tugged the towel off herself to place it around the redhead's shoulders. She coughed quietly to clear her throat and then mustered her best Bogart impersonation.

"Ya ready to blow this popsicle stand, Beautiful?"

When the redhead smiled and raised her arms, Helena bent and slid one arm under her knees, the other behind her back. Lifting the larger woman effortlessly, she inhaled quickly at the sensation of a full breast against her chest and stepped carefully from the shower. The young woman faltered for a beat by Barbara's chair, aching to bypass it, to carry the woman in her arms the dozen or so steps out of the bathroom and lay her on the big bed. However, when the older woman extended her free arm and lifted her robe from the hook on the wall, Helena smoothly helped her settle herself into the chair, wondering if her hesitation had been noticed.

Wordlessly, she accepted one of the towels and wrapped it around herself in a make-shift sarong, then helped the redhead shrug into her silk robe.

"Why don't you grab a pair of my sweats, Hel?"

Barbara's voice was slightly muffled as she vigorously toweled her hair.

"Then," she dropped the towel and reached for her brush, "let's get you fed."

Helena brightened, allowing her gaze to rake over the intriguing shadows of the other woman's decolletage. That earned her a laugh and a playful swat on the tummy.

"The pizza now, Helena."

Before the young woman could even muster a full pout of protest, Barbara's next words restored her playful mood.

"I believe you'll be needing the energy later..."

Forty minutes later, the two women were curled comfortably on the couch, the decimated remains of the pizza on the coffee table. Helena poured the final drops of the shiraz into Barbara's glass and carefully resettled the bottle on the table as the redhead discussed the results of the plot point comparisons that she and Dinah had run the night before.

"...correlated exactly with the entry technique used at the library. It also appears that the same method was used at the shoe factory. It's not as clear-cut, but, nevertheless, Dinah did a superlative job optimizing the scans."

"Maybe you better not tell Dinah that; don't want to swell her head too much."

The older woman rolled her eyes.

"Speaking of Dinah, Sweetheart, how did you manage to pack her off this evening?"


Eyeing the pizza box, Helena decided that there really wasn't anything left worth picking over.

"Oh, I just told her that we might like some privacy."

She looked up in time to notice Barbara's hand freezing in the process of bringing her glass to her mouth. The brunette decided that a little more explanation might be in order.

"We had coffee this afternoon, and I told her that you and I are--"

"You just came right out and told Dinah...?"

Slightly fascinated, Helena noted that the other woman's eyebrows seemed to be rising in tandem with the pitch of her voice.

When Barbara trailed off, clearly at a loss, the brunette smiled winsomely and supplied, "That we're in flagrante delicto? Uh huh."

Very slowly, very calmly, the redhead leaned over and set her wine glass on the coffee table. Noting how composed the other woman's features were, Helena sobered and caught her bottom lip between her teeth. Maybe she'd been a little hasty or something.

"I'm sorry, Barbara. I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable."

When the older woman's rigid posture eased marginally, Helena bent her head to catch worried green eyes with blue.

"She is a big girl, Barbara; and she's not dumb. If nothing else," the brunette hazarded a half-smile, "she'd gonna pick up on stuff when we spar."

O-kay. From the way Red had stiffened and blanched, maybe that last part wasn't the best thing Helena could have said. The young woman decided that not talking might be her smartest choice for the moment.

During the long ninety seconds that followed, she sat quietly, watching the other woman visibly processing the information that Helena had just shared. Finally, the redhead released a long breath and smiled, reaching for the younger woman's hand.

"Yes, you were right to tell her, Helena. Dinah is eighteen and, as you said, she's... intuitive."

The brunette laughed softly and brought the other woman's hand to her lips to brush a kiss to long fingers. Noting the color suffusing the redhead's features -- no guesswork required to figure out some of the images Dinah might pick up on during training sessions -- Helena lowered Barbara's hand and spoke quietly.

"But, seriously, Red. She was really -- really -- happy. She thought it was, uh, maybe overdue for you to..."

Embarrassed herself, the young woman trailed off, hoping she hadn't said too much. To her relief, the redhead smiled.

"Dinah's right. As were you, Sweetie."

When the older woman colored, the brunette raised her brows encouragingly. Barbara squeezed her hand and visibly steeled herself to continue.

"While all of this... the way that I find myself responding... Not to mention," the older woman offered a low, pleased chuckle, "the way that you seem to respond to me..."

Shivering at the tone, the brunette grinned broadly and waggled her eyebrows, eliciting a fuller laugh from the other woman. Encouraged, the brunette inched across the couch towards the redhead.

"Well, let's just say that I'm finding myself very pleasantly surprised -- Oh!"

Helena offered her own punctuation to Barbara's admission in the form of a quick nip to the redhead's jaw.

Still, uncertain, she needed to ask.

"Are you sure? I mean, I haven't really gotten to--"

The older woman turned, catching the brunette's face in her palm and smiling. Her next words were husky.

"I'm quite certain, Hel. You have no idea how it feels."

Green eyes squeezed shut for a split second before the older woman made direct eye contact, speaking with only a hint of self-consciousness.

"How it feels, after all of the other awkward attempts, to have someone reacting so honestly and powerfully to me. It's... it's been a long time, Sweetie."

Stupefied -- at the other woman's honesty, at the fact that anybody could not have responded to the redhead -- Helena blinked and turned to press a kiss to the hand on her face. She remained still until Barbara exhaled and then spoke lightly.

"I'm glad that you were so... persuasive, Hel. And, that Dinah approves as well; I think it's important that she--"

Feeling her eyes start to augment, the brunette lowered her head to the other woman's neck to taste that sweet flesh.

"Can we not talk about Dinah right now, Babs?"

The redhead arched at the contact, offering more of herself to Helena's teeth and lips.

"Hmmm -- And, oh -- What would you like to talk about, Hel?"

Succumbing rapidly to the sound of the older woman's voice, the scent of flowering passion, the heat blooming under her mouth, Helena raised a hand and drew her fingers up the sheer silk of Barbara's robe. Separating her fingers, she placed her index finger under the collar of the robe, languidly sliding the silk between her fingers, down the length of the redhead's chest.

"Tell you what, Red. You can talk about anything you want. I'm gonna use my mouth for other things right now."

"Is that-- Is that so, Helena? Did I mention my theory about the s-- shoe factory?"

Grunting noncommittally and lowering her mouth to the opening vee at the neck of the silk robe, Helena had to give the older woman points for effort. Of course, Barbara always had had amazing powers of concentration.

"Yesss... The fact that, that there were 411 left shoes, all without ton-- tongues."

Helena danced her tongue against the redhead's pulse point.

God, Barbara tasted so fuckin' good...

"The sin-- sinister metaphor of speechlessness..."

Experimentally, the young woman brushed a diamond-hard peak with her finger, thrilling at the other woman's gasp. Lowering her head a fraction more, she swallowed her own moan as she considered what sounds the redhead would make if she could just taste...

"Ohhh, sweet heavens, Helena..."

Sensing movement, the brunette raised her head in time to see Barbara's hand tugging at the sash of her robe, pulling the fabric back from her chest. And, then, feeling the older woman's other hand at the back of her head, she shut her eyes and joyfully surrendered to the welcome guidance.

Part 13

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