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 28

Neither Barbara nor Helena spoke, both presumably lost in their own thoughts, as they made their way out of Sabina's building and back to the parking lot. When they reached the van, the redhead silently tossed the keys to her younger partner. It wasn't until they had settled themselves and Helena had merged onto the highway back into the city that the brunette dared to glance over and give her friend a long, surreptitious look.

Whipping her eyes back to the road just in time to dart around a slow vehicle with out-of-state plates, the young woman decided that Red looked a little sad, maybe a little relieved, and... thoughtful.

Really, really thoughtful.

From long experience, Helena knew that the older woman's mental gears were probably turning a mile a minute. Still, despite all of their years together, she simply could not -- *would not* dare -- guess what was occupying the woman so.

The dark woman removed one hand from the steering wheel, reaching out toward the dashboard before snapping it back. She figured that fiddling with the radio might not go over too well at the moment. Nervously clearing her throat, she focused on the late rush hour traffic.

It was Barbara who finally broke the deafening silence.


The word was quiet and definitely too short for Helena to gauge the inflection behind it. Looked like the older woman was putting the ball in her court.

"Uh, yeah..."

The brunette turned her head a little bit and risked a quick smile. She forced a note of cheer into her voice.

"Uh, that went pretty well, huh? I mean, at least Sabina isn't involved in all this shit."


Again, the noncommittal reply was too brief to give the younger woman any direction in stepping through a potential minefield. Unfortunately, it *was* just enough to clue her in -- belatedly -- to the fact that she might have been a little too unspecific about which particular shit she'd been referring to. She fought the urge to smack herself in the forehead with her palm and decided to be a little more clear.

"You were right on target about her and the packet wrapper, but she's not a criminal with a few screws loose, right?"

Finally, the redhead spoke more than a single syllable.

"That is a relief, Helena."

The brunette laughed softly over a sigh.

"Sure is. So, I guess the door's still open for, uh..."

Why couldn't she just stop talking? Without even turning her head, the young woman was acutely conscious of crimson brows raising and emerald eyes fixing on her expectantly in the dim interior of the van.

"You can keep seeing her. Or something."

For some reason, that hadn't come out as light and casual as Helena had planned.

"No, Helena, I don't believe that... that particular door was ever truly open for me."

Having absolutely no idea how to tackle the older woman's words -- spoken softly but banded with iron -- the brunette chewed at her lower lip and moved a little towards the shoulder as a big Bond Bread truck roared past.

Man, where did those guys get their drivers' licenses anyway?

That slightly petulant thought allowed the young woman to focus her nervous energy on something else for a beat, and she consciously let go of her tension. When Barbara was ready to talk about... whatever, she'd get around to it. In the meantime...

"So, you wanna swing by ol' Harvey's office or house and have a talk with him, Red?"

The hopeful question seemed to release a little of the other woman's tightly coiled tension as well, and a soft laugh filtered through the van. The redhead didn't answer her protege's question directly. Instead, when she spoke, she sounded a little surprised by her own words.

Helena certainly was.

"Actually, Hel, I'm hungry. There's a wonderful little diner off the next exit that I used to come to late at night."

The unspoken reference to Barbara's own late night sweeps of the city as Batgirl circled through the van, and Helena obediently flipped on her turn signal as the exit approached.

If nothing else, the young woman certainly appreciated the demands of an empty stomach.

Three minutes later, the brunette hopped lightly from the driver's seat to retrieve her partner's chair and help her out. Caramel features flushed slightly in the dusk when the young woman's stomach reacted to the savory aromas emanating from the diner. Grateful that Barbara pretended not to notice, she laughed softly and closed the door behind her partner.

"Sure smells good. But, what about Harvey?"

The older woman's reply, delivered casually over one shoulder as she moved briskly into the building, was remarkably blase.

"Perhaps we can send Dinah to put the fear of God in him. It sounds like she was remarkably effective with his... business associate, Mr. Martin."

In the process of helping the redhead off with her coat, Helena threw back her head and laughed, loud and long.

God, that felt good.

Bringing herself marginally under control, she finished helping the redhead and then shrugged out of her own coat, dropping into a chair, before another wicked snicker escaped.

Amused green eyes caught blue, clearly waiting to be let in on the joke.

"Honest to gosh, Barbara," she managed to work out over another bout of giggles, "you should have seen the expression on Rocko's face when the Kid started doing the TK poking thing. I thought he was gonna wet his pants right there in his own living room."

The redhead joined in with the younger woman's mirth, her throaty chuckle playing across Helena's nerves like live wires. The brunette quickly checked *those* feelings, smiling her thanks to the waitress who appeared to fill their coffee cups and take their orders. She blew across her steaming beverage, not even trying to hide her fond smile.

"So, Dinah may have a future with the CIA... or the Gestapo or something, huh?"

Raising her own cup to her lips, the redhead paused, speaking thoughtfully.

"Perhaps I will ask her if she'd like to visit with Harvey when she gets back tomorrow -- "

Blue eyes blinked once. Helena had almost forgotten that the Quiz Bowl team was spending an extra day in DC to take in the sights.

"---provided," Barbara continued with a glint in her eyes, "there's someone willing to accompany her?"

The brunette offered a pained sigh but, aware that the waitress was approaching with her burger and the mountain of food that Barbara had ordered -- Red hadn't been kidding about being hungry -- withheld comment. It wasn't until their server departed and both women were tucking into their dinners that she finally spoke around a mouthful of ketchup-covered fries.

"Sure, I'll go with her. Gotta be there in case she gives ol' Harv a heart attack, and he needs CPR, right?"

She raised her mug of coffee to chase the fries and added lightly, " 'Sides, that's what I do, right? Showing her the ropes and all."

Warmed by Barbara's enthusiasm for her capacious blue plate special, relaxed by their easy banter, and reveling in time with the older woman that was untainted by worries about crime and packet wrappers and cow manure, the young woman was unprepared for her dinner companion's response. She almost choked on the mouthful of hot coffee that she'd just sucked in when she heard Barbara's seriously spoken words.

"You do more than that, Helena."

A warm hand moved across the table to rest gently over the hand that Helena still had poised above her fries, and the redhead lowered her voice.

"A great, great deal more than that."

Swallowing with no small amount of difficulty -- was it possible to burn your own tonsils out? -- the dark figure focused on the normally simple act of lowering her cup to the table. Task completed without any embarrassing spills, she looked up and flashed her trademark cocky grin.

"Hey, that's me. Jack of all trades, right?"

She gave the older woman's hand a quick squeeze and then play-swatted that same hand when the laughing woman snagged one of her fries.

"Don't you have enough of your own?"

Her playful grousing, barely audible around the giant bite of burger she bit off, just caused the redhead to laugh harder as she forked an enormous bite of mashed potatoes to her mouth.

"Not hardly, Hel."

'Not hardly'?

The young woman smiled affectionately, deciding that her partner's blood sugar must be really low if she was coming out with something so completely non-grammatical.

Whatever. Red was laughing, and -- as far as Helena was concerned -- that was always a good thing.

A few minutes later, masticating another big bite from her burger, the young woman realized two things: First, that she might have to rethink that whole idea about Barbara's laughing being a good thing; and, second, there was a pretty good chance she wasn't going to be able to enjoy the rest of her dinner.

The older woman spoke casually. Too damned casually, Helena realized sourly.

"What did Sabina mean about the two of us?"

The brunette struggled mightily to finish chewing and swallowing the suddenly tasteless mass in her mouth even as she mentally borrowed the woman in question's almost-patented expression of surprise or dismay.

Oh shit.

She took an extra minute to take a small sip from her water glass, wondering how her companion could just... keep eating her dinner like that. When she finally answered, she recognized the surliness in her voice but was powerless to reign it in.

"Nothing. Just... nothing. Okay?"

The redhead serenely speared some green beans and regarded her evenly.

"Not 'nothing', Hel. You were seeing her, weren't you?"

Sulkily admitting that she wasn't going to escape this particular conversation, the young woman picked up a fry and used it to prod at the pool of ketchup on the side of her plate. She finally replied without looking up.

"I just... I guess... I thought she'd... you know, uh, some laughs, but, well..."

Despite the noise of the diner, Helena clearly heard her partner finish chewing, then swallow. From the corner of one eye, she saw elegant fingers place the fork precisely on the edge of the plate, tines down, pointing at the redhead's salisbury steak. The silence stretched between them for a long few beats, but the brunette refused to look up from the designs she was crafting on her plate with condiments.

Finally she heard a sigh, and Barbara snorted softly.

"No. I think not."

The young woman still didn't look up, and the other woman spoke again. Her voice held a note of something that the young woman had trouble identifying. Nevertheless, she sounded quite certain as she refuted Helena's strangled attempt to dismiss her time with Sabina as nothing more than one of her usual casual dalliances.

"You found out that I was dating her and stopped seeing her, didn't you?"

Abandoning her french fry, which was by now too soggy to do her artwork justice, Helena raised her hand and chewed at her thumb nail. Despite the fact that the redhead was seeing through her like a thin shirt in the rain, she tried again to play it off like it didn't mean anything.

"Yeah, so what?"

The brunette was so determinedly focused on her impromptu manicure that she was surprised by the sensation of gentle fingers wrapping around her hand and coaxing it down to the middle of the table. She followed the movement for a split second, then looked away, hiding behind her bangs, when the other woman brought her other hand up to stroke softly at her wrist.

Helena wasn't certain, but she thought that she detected something like wonder in the older woman's voice.

"Why, Helena?"

Completely at the limits of her endurance -- for this painful conversation; for the redhead's seemingly complete unwillingness to accept that someone could, and would, worship her like she did; hell, even for the soft touches that, even now, were inflaming her -- Helena jerked her hand away and lowered it to her lap. Ducking her head further, she squeezed her eyes tightly shut, aware that the strength of her emotions was causing them to augment.

Her words came out roughly.

"Stop, Barbara. Please, just stop it."

Hearing the older woman's quick intake of air, the brunette was immediately hit by a wave of anger with herself for having upset her companion. When she heard the redhead shift, then felt a warm hand against her cheek, she was struck anew by entirely different emotions.

Barbara's next words were noticeably flustered.

"Stop what? What did...? Why won't you talk to me, Sweetheart?"

Helena clenched her jaw tightly, then had to bite back a burst of wild laughter when an incongruous thought flitted through her mind. Considering all of the teeth-grinding and jaw-clenching she'd been doing lately, it'd be a wonder if she didn't turn up with TMJ problems.

The young woman was distracted from her own mental perambulation by a quiet request.

"Hel... Look at me please, Sweetie."


The dark head shook once, but Helena was frustrated in her attempt to turn further away by that soft, strong hand tenderly cupping her cheek.

"Please, Helena."

This time, it sounded like Barbara was almost pleading.

Unable to allow the woman she loved to beg for anything, the brunette sucked in a long breath and looked up, opening eyes which she knew were not their usual blue. Green eyes met hers unflinchingly, filled with nothing but love... and some kind of disbelieving wonder.

Surprised, she watched the redhead open, then shut, her mouth, almost as if words were escaping her normally fluent friend. When Barbara finally did find the words, they were hesitant.

"How can you still...? After everything?"

The young woman blew a stream of air through her nose and dropped her eyes to the table, wondering if this... these words were what she'd been hoping to have the opportunity for just the evening before. Naturally, this led her to wonder what the hell she'd been thinking when she thought she'd wanted to have this sort of conversation in the first place.

Then, the dark woman looked up again, taking in the vision of the redhead across the table, and it all came back to her. Unable to do anything else, Helena opted for the truth.

"It's just how-- who I am."

Infinitely weary -- after all, hiding her emotions had never been her forte -- she drew in a deep breath and dropped her gaze. Her next utterance, barely a whisper, left her feeling completely naked and raw.

"I love you, Barbara. I want you to be happy. Nothing's gonna change that."


Helena decided that the lengthy silence which followed her declaration was what truly capped off that whole 'naked and raw' feeling.

When Barbara finally did reply, it almost seemed that she was speaking to herself.

"Of course that's what you'd say... and feel."

A heartbeat later, the redhead voice's strengthened, and she drew Helena's gaze back to her with the hand that still rested against her face.

"But, you never tell me -- truly tell me -- what you want, Helena."

Dark brows drew down over eyes that had just reverted to blue. The redhead last statement -- question? -- left the young woman feeling completely off balance.

"I-- I just did. I want... I want you to--"

Finally lowering her hand, Barbara summarily cut off the brunette's stammered attempt to explain.


The word was sharp, but, somehow, Helena got the feeling that the other woman's emotion wasn't directed at her.

"You're always so... so in control of your space and your surroundings that I forget that, on a rare occasion, you can be startled. And, this is just like that, isn't it?"



Completely brushing the brunette's question aside -- or, perhaps answering it -- the older woman continued.

"You're out almost every night, making your life seem so easy and -- uncomplicated. Even making me believe that if I can only embrace your joi de vivre that... that I could share a little piece of that with you."

The older woman's face hardened for a split-second, pain and self-directed anger flashing across the elegant features, then gone.

"And, you make it seem so easy and care-free that it's not hard to believe that it is the entire truth, Helena. But, it isn't, is it? There's more, isn't there?"

Helena stared incredulously at the pain and undisguised emotion in emerald eyes that would not allow her to look away.

What the fuck was the older woman saying? That... that somehow the all-seeing Oracle hadn't seen? Or, that she couldn't see because...

The brunette blinked, several times, trying to understand how the emotions that she thought she wore on her sleeve could be hidden in plain sight.

But, she barely could comprehend the puzzle, much less take time to study it, in the face of the older woman's naked sorrow. Barbara normally kept her emotions so carefully hidden; seeing her like this was seriously... unsettling. Hearing the pain -- one step away from tears -- in her voice flayed at the younger woman's heart.

"What do you want for *you*, Sweetheart?"

Clenching her jaw again, Helena fought tears but refused to look away. The effort not to cry became much more difficult when she witnessed the moisture pooling in expressive emerald eyes.

"I understand that you may not think... may feel that you can't trust me, Helena, but you can. I never meant to hurt..."

The older woman blinked, then finally broke their locked gaze. Helena followed her eyes to the table, watching one elegant hand play with the fork resting on her plate.

"...or not to see. You."

The redhead whispered the rest.

"I wanted to, Sweetie. I think that I... just couldn't let myself be the only one experiencing it... or holding you down. But, you can tell me, Helena."

The brunette shook her head quickly and swiped at her eyes while she digested that. Ultimately, she realized that she had to trust the older woman; if she couldn't trust the person she loved above everything, then there just wasn't a helluva lot left, was there? Accepting that without another thought, she then struggled to identify, then express, her heart's desire.

Never overly confident of her own facility with words -- at least the important ones -- her reply was an embarrassed mutter.

"I don't want to sleep with you."

Uh oh.

The measured blink of green eyes, covering a fleeting look of horror, suggested that she could have -- should have -- tried harder for the right words. Unable to have Barbara believing what she seemed to be inferring, Helena rushed on, not stopping to consider how she was saying it.

"That's not what I meant, Barbara. I mean, I do want to 'sleep with' you,"

She raised her hands from under the table to encapsulate the euphemism in quotation marks, then added miserably, "but that's not all."

Crimson brows raised slowly, clearly not sure what to expect. Helena almost -- almost -- smiled at the familiar expression.

"I wanna *sleep* with you."

She'd tried to put a whole helluva lot of emphasis on the word, but -- judging from the way those russet brows were now furrowing -- Red still seemed to be at a loss.

Shutting her eyes for a heartbeat, the dark woman shook her head from side to side and smiled dotingly.

Smart women -- or, rather, *this* smart woman. She had such a weakness for her.

Wide, open, blue eyes met green, and the young woman spoke her heart's desire.

"You know, Babs -- Sleeping, waking up. Drooling on your chest while I sleep. Staying awake listening to you sno-- breathe."

She saw the beginning of a soft smile breaking across those elegant features.

What the hell. May as well go for broke.

"Every night. Forever."

As the older woman's smile got bigger and bigger -- Helena thought it might be approaching face-splitting territory -- the choking terror that had been gripping the brunette's heart started to melt away.

The redhead's first words, after a pretty protracted silence on her part, were warm and fondly teasing.

"A woman with long term plans, eh?"

Fully cognizant that the older woman was quite aware of her... reputation, Helena decided to go for the trademark cocky grin. Unfortunately, she suspected that it came out looking like her dinner -- the little of it she'd gotten to enjoy anyway -- had given her gas pains.

"Didn't think I had it in me, didja?"

Barbara's soft laugh was rueful.

"I didn't think you couldn't do it, Sweetheart. You've just never, er -- I didn't dare think..."

The throaty voice became wondering.

"... or hope that you--"

Then, it became almost strangled.

"...could -- or would -- Me?"

For a beat, maybe two, the brunette cocked her head and studied the older woman, wondering just how much more garbled and stilted her words -- her vulnerability -- could become. Snapping back to the moment at hand, recognizing that Barbara *had* to be reaching her limits, Helena spared her.

"I've been holding back for the right girl."

Seemed like she might have gotten the words right this time if the broad smile on Red's face could be trusted.

"Is that so?"

When the older woman suddenly became serious, the brunette blinked and wondered about whiplash.

"But, Helena? After everything... I've been so... How can you...?"

Not again.

Or, not more of it.

Obviously, this was going to take a lot of work, even now, to get Red to believe in her... and in herself.

In them.

Helena decided to get started right away.

The young woman shook her head gently from side to side until Barbara trailed off and allowed her to speak. She smiled, unveiling every bit of emotion she had for the other woman, to remove any sting from her next words.

"Let's try this again, Red. This time, try to let it sink through that hard head of yours."

When green eyes softened, the young woman spoke very clearly.

"I. Love. You."

For an eternity, the young woman hovered over the brink. As she waited, she had time to decide that this was waaaaay worse than that night a few weeks ago after the shoe factory.

Yet, somehow, when the other woman playfully checked her watch and then pulled out her wallet to toss three twenties on the table... Somehow, Barbara said exactly the right thing.

"Let's go home and go to sleep, Hel."

Standing shakily -- not quite sure how her legs were holding her up -- the brunette helped her partner into her coat, then grabbed her duster and followed her to the door. She remained silent -- she didn't think her voice would have worked even if she'd had any words -- as they crossed the parking lot and got settled in the van. It wasn't until she put the key in the ignition that something struck her.

Drawing in a slow breath, she turned to look at the woman she loved and made a request.

"Can we run by my place first? I want to pick up my plant."

Chapter 29

A slow, rhythmic pounding, a noise that demanded that her own heart alter its tempo to match, gradually drew Helena Kyle into wakefulness. Blue eyes grudgingly inched open, easily discerning the faintest blush of pre-dawn peeking into the room. Muscles which were absolutely relaxed in peaceful lassitude began to tense pleasurably when the young woman reoriented to the long-coveted sensations surrounding her.

Soft breathing whispered through unruly dark hair, and Helena realized that the minute shift of her bedmate's head had probably awakened her. She smirked at the arms wrapped possessively around her.

An underlying accompaniment to the gentle breathing came from beside the young brunette.

Rather, underneath her.

The steady, powerful beating of a strong heart emanated from the warm, pliant body that Helena was spooned tightly to -- and on top of. The young woman's nerves leapt up to greet the day, shouting a cheery hello to the blood which rushed to her chest and belly, at the realization that she was half-lying on top of her bedmate's right arm and upper chest. Smiling in gratitude, and with complete satisfaction, the brunette twisted her head to bury her nose in the spill of crimson hair which covered the shoulder she was resting on.

The scent of her bedmate's shampoo, coupled with the unmistakable impression of strong hands stroking her arm gently in sleep, brought a flood of emotions from the previous evening, and the dark woman purred with delight.

Wow. It was wonderful.

Snuggling impossibly closer to her older companion, Helena inhaled slowly, deeply, in awareness of the treasured form that she was pressed against. Heart rate accelerating from the memories alone, she corrected herself.

It was amazing.

Completely indescribable even.

Who would have thought that "just" -- she snorted soundlessly at the word -- sleeping together could be so fulfilling?

The brunette nuzzled further into the shoulder under her cheek and shifted her legs against the burning in her lower abdomen. Despite her resolve not to awaken her companion, who would have to get up soon enough, she was unable to keep her right hand from trailing down the firmly muscled expanse of the other woman's abdomen, unable to suppress her soft hiss of pleasure when her fingers -- exquisitely attuned to the body beneath hers -- slipped under the hem of a cotton tee shirt and experienced the achingly soft skin just above the waist of her bedmate's boxers. The electrifying shiver from that silken contact traveled up her arm, across her chest, and directly to the growing need between her thighs.

Helena's gentle movements -- her very ability to breathe -- stopped abruptly at the sensation, and her mouth watered with an insistent hunger. Parting her lips to better draw in her companion's sweet scent, she managed to pull in a jerky breath and then resumed her minute caresses.

She wasn't sure exactly what it was, but, at some point, she became aware that the cadence of her bedmate's breathing had changed, becoming less regular... a little faster... a little more shallow. A sleepy stretch from beneath her confirmed it.

"Good morning, Helena."

The voice, still raspy with sleep, was nevertheless warm... inviting. Helena purred in response and pressed a melting kiss to a muscular shoulder.

"Did you sleep, Sweetie?"

The dark woman twisted her head enough to catch slightly bleary emerald eyes with blue. She smiled -- a little tremulously, she feared -- and then spoke, realizing that her partner might have missed her expression in the dim room.

"Never better, Barbara. I -- "

Swallowing, the young woman hunted for the words. The older woman spared her the effort.

"Yes. Me, too, Hel. Since you moved out, I've missed this-- I've missed you."

The throaty voice stumbled, "I've been so afraid... to believe, or to hope--", and then gained confidence.

"I love you, Helena."

At the declaration, the brunette was split by a bolt of pure joy which left her tingling all the way to her toes -- emotion bleeding into physical sensation -- and worked to speak. When Barbara continued, somewhat hesitantly, she immediately snapped her mouth shut again.

"But, it's not... "

'But' ?

Blue eyes widened in helpless disbelief and dark brows rose, disappearing under shaggy bangs. Absolutely *needing* to see the older woman when she finally finished her thought, Helena squirmed up and fixed her eyes on the other woman's face. Although the room was still dim, she had no trouble watching emerald eyes that had lost focus and were tracking slightly to the left.

Helena held her breath when the redhead finally, apparently, found the words she'd been hunting for.

"...it is *not* just your fantastic fashion sense and sparkling wit, Helena. Nor,"

Barbara's tone lightened a fraction, becoming slightly arch.

"--the fact that you help me break through my mental blocks."

So relieved that she almost sagged on top of the older woman, Helena wryly wondered if Barbara would ever get any better at the whole pillow talk thing.

Oh, well, sounded like there would be time for the younger woman to work on her. For the moment, she opted to keep things light.

"So," she purred with a playful lick to an angular jaw line, "I guess those are just perks, huh?"

The redhead's groan of agreement -- Helena decided to take it as such, anyway -- was surprisingly enthusiastic. As was the way that the older woman suddenly drew the brunette's hand to her chest and smiled wickedly.

"Definitely perky, Hel."

Feeling the indisputable evidence rising under her palm, the young woman ducked her head to rub her cheek against her partner's upper chest. Again, her mouth watered, and she fought the hungry trembling of her jaw, the restless itching in her palms.

God, she wanted... so much...

Unable to stop herself, the dark woman whimpered softly as she tenderly caressed the heavy flesh under her hand. The fingers on the back of her head, which had been subtly guiding her lower on her companion's chest, abruptly stilled.

"Sweetheart? What is it?"

The dark head raised, and stark blue eyes fixed on green. The young woman's words were hoarse.

"God, Barbara, how can you...?"

Helena lowered thick lashes and bit her lower lip. Opening her eyes fully again, she looked imploringly at the other woman and reached out to grasp Barbara's left hand in her right. She guided the woman to the juncture of her thighs, pushed aside the elastic at the leg of her underwear, and placed those elegant fingers against herself.

Emerald eyes flew open, then dilated. Warm -- and oh-so-skillful -- fingers tensed almost convulsively against her for a beat until the redhead gentled her touch.

"Sweetheart -- You're so-- "

Helena gently captured the fingers which had begun to stroke through liquid silk and removed the older woman's hand. Again, she guided wordlessly, bringing their joined hands to the redhead's mouth.

She felt her eyes flicker briefly to gold as she watched the older woman reach out, touching her tongue to her own fingers, an expression of sybaritic enjoyment gracing features which began to harden, to tense, unmistakably.

The young woman released her partner's hand and trailed her fingers along the redhead's jaw, finally completing the other woman's utterance.

"Wet. Really, really wet, Barbara."

Unable to maintain her gaze, she ducked her head, hiding behind her bangs. Her voice dropped to a shaky whisper.

"And, that's just from thinking about it... Thinking about touching you--"

Overcome, the young woman stumbled over her words and everything that they meant. Summoning her courage again, she licked her lips.

"...and about tasting you, Barbara."

Blinking against tears, she bit at her bottom lip again, then looked up, blue eyes open and honest... and pleading.

"Let me touch you. I'll -- "

She swallowed through the thickness in her throat. Sensing that the other woman was preparing to speak, the brunette shook her head quickly as her voice roughened.

"-- do... or you can..."

Helena looked at the woman she loved and whispered a plea.

"Just let me show you how beautiful you are, Barbara."

Other than a sharp inhalation, there was no response from the older woman for a long moment. Something instinctive urged Helena to drop her gaze, to bury her head against the other woman's neck, to cover her face and the naked need she could not disguise. She battled the fear with every bit of strength she had, unwilling to hide any longer.

"No, Sweetheart... "

The older woman's words were thick. Helena thought they sounded like they were full of tears, and she fought a wave of shame for pushing too fast.

"God, I'm sor--"

Strong hands came to each side of the young woman's face, and caramel features smoothed in awe when the redhead stretched up to press melting kisses to her cheeks and forehead.

"No... Don't, Hel. Don't take it back. And don't ever--"

The older woman pulled back just enough to fix blue eyes with green.

"-- Never think that you need to... negotiate."

The older woman lowered her head to the pillow again and continued quietly.

"I know that I've been..."

Peeking out from under her bangs, Helena thought that the redhead's expression was an equal mix of embarrassment, sadness, and deep -- deep -- sensual satisfaction.

"...selfish. The way that you respond is -- You're amazing, Hel."

Dark lashes lowered over blue eyes, and the young woman leaned in to place a butterfly kiss to a strong jaw.

"Only for you, Barbara."

The other woman was still for a moment. Finally, she breathed a soulful response.

"Oh, Sweetheart--"

Helena felt the redhead swallow, heard her draw in a steadying breath, then felt her tenderly brushing the shaggy bangs back from Helena's forehead before speaking hesitantly.

"And, I simply didn't think you'd... didn't know how long you would want to..."

Looking up again, the brunette fixed open emerald eyes with hers and whispered her truth.

"Forever, if you'll let me."

A sad, knowing smile transformed the redhead's elegant features, and tension vibrated from her upper body. Her next words were almost choked.

"You know that it may not... Er, that I may not be able to..."

When she trailed off miserably, the brunette turned her face into one of the hands at her cheek, parting her lips slightly to scent the other woman. She flicked her tongue out to taste Barbara's palm and didn't even try to halt the long rolling thrust of her hips that the action engendered.

Catching green eyes, she purred another truth.

"I will."

Helena left it at that, allowing her eyes to speak the remainder. Both women knew that Barbara *could*; Helena eyes promised that she would do anything and everything to insure that the redhead *would*.

She felt the redhead's slow inhalation, then heard her swallow.

"Will you make love to me, Helena?"

Just seven soft words.

Just nine hesitant syllables.

But they contained such enormous power... and courage.

The brunette blinked rapidly, dizzied by the request and by the way it had caused her eyes to shift from blue to gold and then back to blue in the space of a single heart beat. The feeling of spinning vertigo increased when long fingers softly brushed her face, the whisper of skin against the downy hair of Helena's cheek causing her eardrums to rumble -- almost like a yawn but infinitely more pleasurable. She turned her head to capture one of those clever fingers with her lips, kissing softly and teasing the tip of her tongue against the faintly calloused surface.

At the sound of the redhead's faint gasp, the younger woman's nostrils flared hungrily and she felt her eyes shift, this time remaining augmented as her passion began to thrum through her veins. A beat later, strong arms tugged her fully on top of her larger bedmate, and Helena stretched languorously, rubbing the entire length of her body sleekly against the other woman.

Slowly, the brunette lowered her head and brushed her mouth to those soft, full lips, savoring the older woman's sleepy, warm breath.

"Good. God. Helena."

The young woman swallowed the throaty groan and continued the slow worship of her lover's mouth. Unhurriedly, she traced the full contours with her tongue. Deliberately, she nipped and sucked tenderly at a pouting lower lip. Leisurely, she breathed in and out, drawing the very air she needed from the other woman.

The redhead's hands, wound through dark hair, continued to scratch gently at Helena's scalp; otherwise, the older woman remained almost passive for long minutes under the dark woman's caresses. However, finally, Barbara's iron control broke, and her lips parted hungrily on a low moan. Helena had no recourse -- or desire -- but to slide inside.

The young woman's first movements were soft, exploratory and teasing. When strong hands began to tug at dark hair and an insistent tongue pulled at her, Helena joyfully accepted the guidance and deepened her strokes, regretting only that she couldn't stay connected to the other woman forever.

And, it was only a brief eternity before the brunette pulled back a few inches, feeling -- hell, hearing -- the blood rush to her center at the older woman's disgruntled whimper. Effortlessly supporting herself on her forearms, the young woman insinuated her hands beneath the other woman and began a deep massage of the always-tight muscles of the redhead's upper back. She watched emerald eyes droop in pure pleasure in the creeping daylight and marveled at the power of the emotions which consumed her from offering something so simple. Feeling her own eyes begin to hood in anticipation, Helena ducked her nose into the crook of a long neck, groaning long and low at Barbara's clean, sweet taste.

"Oh, dear heavens, Helena. Oh, yessss-"

The words, impossibly thick with arousal, raised the young woman's blood to the boiling point. Growling softly, she licked, then sucked powerfully at her lover's pulse point. Absently noticing how her center was throbbing in tempo with the blood rushing just beneath the redhead's skin, she gentled her mouth and rasped gently at a sharp collarbone.

"Don-- don't stop."

Mouth otherwise occupied, the dark figure shook her head in the negative.

Nothing -- abso-friggin-lutely *nothing* -- was going to pull her away from the heaven of Barbara's arms, from the sweetly saline taste of her skin, from the indescribable pressure of her breasts -- nipples firming -- against Helena's chest.


<"Good morning! Rise and shine, New Gotham. It's looks like another cloudy day in our great city and we've got the music to get you rolling...">

What the fu---?!

Nothing except that.

Helena lowered thick lashes over eyes that were reverting to blue and sighed in pained frustration. Aware of how the older woman had started almost violently at the sound of the radio, of how -- even now -- she lay beneath her with her muscles trembling minutely, the young woman squeezed her eyes shut and pushed aside her own feelings.

Sighing again, this time in resignation, the lithe figure rolled lightly off her human mattress, struggling against what she suspected was a completely immature desire to pull the pillow over her head and scream and kick her heels against the bed. Instead, she lay still, stared at the inside of her eyelids, and tried to think Zen thoughts -- breathe in, breathe out; no, don't think about the scent of the other woman; breathe in...

She felt her bedmate reach over to the night stand and then settle back on the bed. To Helena's surprise, Barbara hadn't shut off the alarm, and the brunette sighed softly when she recognized the opening strains of the song sounding from the radio.

The dawn is breaking

A light shining through

You're barely waking

And I'm tangled up in you

I'm open, you're closed

Where I follow, you'll go

I worry I won't see your face

Light up again

The mattress dipped a fraction when the redhead turned towards her, and Helena finally peeked through one eye, only to find the cordless being held a few inches above her chest.

"You want to call in for me, or shall I, Sweetheart?"

The teasing quirk of those kiss-bruised lips seemed distinctly at odds with the low burr of the older woman's voice.

Gulping at the sweet promise in dark, dark eyes, the brunette automatically accepted the handset and dialed the school number from memory. Her ability to formulate any sort of plausible excuse for her partner -- hell, to formulate the English language -- was severely hindered by the sight of her companion pulling herself up in the bed and then matter-of-factly stripping her tee shirt and boxers off.

Somehow, the young woman managed to regain her bearings -- just enough -- to stammer some sort of excuse for the redhead before hastily ending the conversation and allowing the handset to drop to the floor on her side of the bed.

Long fingers walked over her tank top -- up her stomach, between her breasts -- to tease at the scooped neck of the small shirt.

"All squared away, Sweetie?"

For some reason, Helena found that she was having a helluva lot of trouble maintaining eye contact with her companion as she gasped out an answer.

"Uh, yeah..."

She dragged her hungry eyes back up the redhead's creamy neck, finding very amused emerald eyes regarding her. Helena didn't care. Smiling back happily, she shifted onto her side to face the older woman.

"Uhm, they hope you feel better and, ah,"

Distracted by fingers whispering across her chest, she gasped, then captured the errant hand, drawing it to her lips to nip lightly at those beautiful fingers.

"...said to stay in bed..."

Helena instantly forgot the rest of the message -- if there had been more to convey -- when the older woman unhurriedly settled onto her back and then reached out to tug the smaller woman onto her. Barbara's voice was rich... and aroused.

"Advice which I intend to follow to the letter today, Hel."

Instantly deciding that she approved of the idea as well, the young woman settled into the arms which where holding her tightly and allowed a soft rumble to bubble from her own chest. The vibration echoed between the two women bringing with it a rush of heat to the brunette's suddenly heavy breasts.

Squirming slightly, she dropped her face to the older woman's neck and washed that creamy flesh with warm strokes. Drawing her mouth across a sharply delineated clavicle, she teased her tongue under the redhead's arm -- eliciting a quick snort which instantly transformed to a gasp when her mouth moved to the inside of Barbara's elbow, sucking and laving at the sensitive flesh.

"Oh, lord -- Hel..."

The redhead was decidedly breathless as she arched her back in search of more contact. Unable to resist the invitation, Helena suddenly reared back on her knees, thighs on each side of her lover's slim hips, and reached behind her head to grasp her tank and yank it roughly over her head. She flung it to one side, immediately forgetting in, and started to lower herself in search of the skin-to-skin contact she craved.

Then, the young woman froze and slowly straightened.

When puzzled -- and slightly frustrated -- emerald eyes flew to meet hers, Helena could only smile helplessly.

She had no words at the moment.

Even the best fall down sometimes

Even the stars refuse to shine

Out of the back you fall in time

I somehow find, you and I collide

Licking her lips, she slowly drew her gaze down the other woman's face, across every inch of the beautiful flesh that had been revealed to her. When her eyes reached the spot where she was resting lightly over the older woman's hips, Helena drew in a halting breath and looked up, disbelieving.

"It's really true? You'll let me love you? I can...?"

The puzzlement which had possessed the redhead's features seamlessly transformed to something beatific. Barbara's brief response, Helena decided later -- much later -- was eloquence itself.

"Everything, Helena. Everything."

The End

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