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 4

Naturally, Barbara hadn't just come right out and admitted it or anything.

First, of course, Red had tried the old 'I don't know what you're talking about' shtick. But, although Helena's Don't-Bullshit-Me look wasn't nearly as good as the one that Barbara had perfected in the classroom -- and with a trouble-prone ward -- over the years, it was good enough. Faced with the look of patent disbelief that the brunette offered while helping her mentor back into her chair, Barbara had crumbled like cookies in milk.

There'd been a whole lot of blushing -- which Helena had gallantly pretended not to notice -- and then some stammering about meeting a rep from a software company or something and sharing a late drink. Then there'd been some more muttering about how it didn't mean anything, that they'd just talked algorithms and data structures and was Helena aware that a new VLA-RDBMS was just on the horizon, by the way?

Smirking at the memory, the dark woman landed silently on the balcony of the clock tower.

She'd let the matter go at that last week. Let Barbara off the hook -- honestly, how healthy could that shade of protracted blushing be for a person? -- so that she could go check the billion e-mail messages that had built up and make sure that Helena hadn't futzed up the Delphi playing Doom. But, damned if she was going to let it go altogether.

After spilling her tiny little nugget of information, the redhead had closed down the topic -- damned near closed herself off when Helena had tried to dance around it any time in the last week. Uncharacteristically bitter comments about it not meaning anything had pretty much shut the door on any digging she'd tried to do. Still, as she stared into the night sky from the balcony, the younger woman couldn't deny what it meant: as painful as it was for her personally, maybe Barbara was ready -- or getting ready -- to let herself open up again.

Having lived with the woman, having interacted intimately with her -- in every way except the one that she craved -- for the seven years since the shooting, Helena had a damned good idea about the insecurities that Barbara carried around. Dating -- hell, even thinking about dating -- just wasn't something the other woman undertook lightly. When it had seemed like things were getting serious with Wade, it had been brand new territory for Helena.

For Barbara, too, she thought. After all, until then, the older woman hadn't had a "relationship" that lasted more than a half dozen dates.

Since that fucked up night almost a year ago, Barbara hadn't shown any sign of putting herself out there -- of paying attention to anyone or caring about anybody's attention. So, while a late drink and some techno-babble might not sound like much, Helena was acutely, painfully, aware of what it might mean.

Even if Tech-Expo-Geek might not be the one, it was a start.

And, as agonizing as it was to consider, Helena was determined to do what she could to coax her mentor away from her cloak of duty... and her insecurity masked as independence. If Red had a shot at something good... Well, by god, the younger woman figured that she'd be the last one to stand in the way of it. Hell, she'd throw herself down as a bridge over whatever troubled waters were keeping Barbara from taking a chance.

Contemplating that last Quixotic sentiment, Helena quirked her lips and made a rude noise as she unlooped the handles of the plastic grocery bag from her left wrist. She noisily rustled her leather duster, then cast blue eyes towards the night sky to pick out the brightest star in Orion's belt -- the one that her mom had always told her was the special Wish-Star of hunters. A wish -- nothing too huge or elaborate: just... just for a light touch and the courage to help the woman she loved make a move towards her own happiness.

"Hiya, Red."

Helena breezed in from the balcony with a dramatic swirl of her duster. Man, that was a great coat.

"Still can't find any crime for me?"


Barbara hadn't quite jumped, but she looked a little startled. The brunette wondered if she should start knocking when she landed on the balcony -- as if that wouldn't freak her partner out.

"I thought that you'd gone..."

The redhead clearly was at a loss for how to describe Helena's after-sweeps haunts.

"...that you'd knocked off for the night?"

Plunking the grocery bag on the coffee table, the younger woman shrugged out of her coat and leapt onto the couch, effortlessly snagging the remote on her way down to the cushions.

"I have."

Helena glanced over the back of the sofa and flashed her trademark cocky grin.

" 'Starship Troopers' is on tonight, and you know that it can only be properly appreciated on your big screen."

The brunette didn't know quite what it was, but she really liked that movie.

She raised her arm and began to flick rapidly through the channels, aware of Barbara's chuckle as she powered the Delphi to standby.

"I believe it's on 217, Sweetheart."

Helena smirked, but refrained from any obvious cracks. The fact that the older woman knew which channel it was on was probably just her eidetic memory at work rather than an admission that she liked the movie, too.

"Yeah, but you never know what else might be on. Serendipity, Red. See -- here's a new WWF Smackdown..."

Aware of the distinct lack of enthusiasm in the redhead's expression as she approached, Helena continued surfing.

"Oooh, 'Young Frankenstein'! Aw, shit, it's almost over..."

Finally arriving at the proper channel, the young woman toed off her ankle boots and placed them carefully out of the way by the end of the couch. She then extended one leg and dragged the grocery bag across the coffee table with her sock-clad foot until it was close enough to grab. Digging in the bag, she pulled out a jumbo package of Malomars and a double-fudge Yoohoo.

Helena grinned sheepishly in response to the somewhat queasy expression on her partner's face and dug into the bag again to emerge with a chilled low-fat Chai latte and a small package of gingersnaps which she handed over. Her reaction to the redhead's sweet smile of thanks -- an eruption of butterflies in her abdomen -- left the younger woman wondering if she'd be able to stomach any of her own snack.

Settled in companionable silence, the two women lost themselves in the movie and their respective sugar binges. Minutes later, when Rico plugged in his mail message at boot camp -- regrettably a Dear John letter -- Helena saw an opening.

Shifting to pick up her drink, she casually inquired, "Have you heard from that Tech Expo geek yet?"

She figured that the other woman's sharp inhalation -- not to mention the warning tone in Barbara's one word response, "Helenaaa" -- should have been answer enough. But, she cheerfully admitted that she'd never been big on warnings.

"What? I'm just asking..."

This time, the non-verbal response was a little more encouraging, being only a pained -- or maybe it was exasperated -- sigh.

"As a matter of fact, I've received two e-mails," was the somewhat stilted admission.

Helena's stomach sank to the vicinity of her ankles. Fortunately she guessed, that reaction seemed to push her voice up a half-octave, making her response sound -- she hoped -- plausibly light.

"Hey, that's good, right? And, didn't you say that the company is in Wayneboro?"

Helena thought she'd seen a glossy brochure about databases, with an address from the New Gotham suburb, by the Delphi last week.

"So, there'd be no problem seeing each other, right?"

This time, the older woman's inflection was... well... non-existent. The younger woman was familiar with that completely flat tone, having heard it often enough in the year after the shooting.

"Hel, just -- drop it. It's not something that's going to happen."

Recognizing the host of emotions that the redhead was attempting to quash, to deny, with her absolute rationalism, Helena briefly flirted with the idea of doing what Barbara had asked. In the end, she couldn't do it, couldn't let her off quite that easily.

Helena hit the mute button and sat up, turning to face the older woman. Heart clenching at the redhead's quick flinch, she kept her voice soft, her words gentle.

"Why not, Barbara? You can't go hiding your light under a bushel -- or whatever -- forever."

Pointedly ignoring the almost panicked look in those expressive green eyes, the brunette swallowed her own bitterness and shame. She smiled fondly and skirted the elephant in the room.

"I know it may be -- soon, but it doesn't have to be, you know, an affair to remember or anything..."

Fluttering a hand, she sought to clarify.

"It doesn't have to be everything at once, but you could -- I dunno -- have a little fun?"

Her limited supply of courage exhausted for the moment, she sat quietly and struggled not to cry herself as she circumspectly observed her friend's tightly clenching jaw, the measured blinking against moisture pooling in emerald eyes. Finally, Barbara seemed to bring herself under control, looking up, her expression raw and honest in a way that Helena had seldom seen.

"It's -- it's not that simple for me, Helena. Unlike you, even -- before it never was. And now,"

It wasn't hard to detect the bitter tint to the slightly strangled laugh as the redhead lifted one hand, making a fist that she brought down harshly on the arm of her chair. Saddened -- and awed -- Helena watched her dearest friend draw a deep breath and assume her implacable mask.

"Well, Hel, when people learn the true extent of my... limitations,"

There was just the slightest stumble at the word. Unable to draw a breath, the brunette waited as Barbara swallowed and then finished her thought, tone brisk, almost businesslike.

"Well, let's just say that passion seems to fade with remarkable alacrity."

Aw -- Just... just fucking crap!

Helena bit back her rage and sorrow that anybody could have ever made the older woman feel that way. She fought her disbelief that anybody could ever feel that way just because...

Knowing that those emotions were the surest way to shut the other woman down, the young woman instead forced herself to draw a deep breath and then reached for Barbara's hand. Clasping it loosely, acutely aware of the almost unnatural warmth radiating from those elegant fingers, she spoke quietly and with all the sincerity in the world.

"It doesn't have to be like that, Barbara. There are a lot of people out here who see you... who see how fuckin' beautiful and smart and sexy you are. People who would just fall down to be with you and wo--"

Helena snapped her mouth shut and averted her eyes as she swallowed the rest. She knew how close she'd come to speaking what she hungered to do: fall down and worship the other woman with her hands and mouth and body; find every nerve that still fired and do whatever it took to make the redhead believe that she was as beautiful as Helena knew she was.

Peering cautiously through thick lashes, balancing on the razor's edge between terror and hope, she waited for the redhead's reaction.

Slowly, in some odd morphing amalgam of shifting time, she saw Barbara raise her other hand, felt those slender fingers brush her cheek for a hairsbreadth of a moment.

Liquid green eyes, filled with the sadness of the world, met hers -- raw and honest.

"You just can't know that, Helena."

Helena Kyle thought she would scream.

Chapter 5

She hadn't screamed.

With a patience and fortitude she frankly couldn't believe, Helena had raised Barbara's hand -- still loosely clasped in hers -- to her lips and brushed a tender kiss to the back of Barbara's knuckles. With a quick squeeze, realizing that they'd both had enough, she'd let the other woman's hand -- and the moment -- go.

Snorting inaudibly in exasperation as she waited for Dinah to finish her recon inside the main branch of the New Gotham Public Library, Helena acknowledged that there was only so much she could do. Pushing too hard was the surest way to get the redhead's back up, so -- in the last ten days -- she'd pretty much let the matter drop, contenting herself with a cheerful wink the few times she caught Barbara checking e-mail.

For her part, the redhead had stopped looking totally exasperated with the younger woman's hints and now was simply pinning her with a completely inscrutable stare. Honest to god, Helena was beginning to feel a little like a bug under the microscope.

"Whadja see?"

The brunette smirked in the darkness as Dinah jumped. As quiet as the younger girl's approach had been, Helena had heard her coming from a hundred yards away.

When the blonde opened her mouth to launch into what would undoubtedly be a lengthy description of the situation in the library, the older woman summarily pressed her hand to the girl's lips and made a soft shushing noise.

Resisting a snicker, she wondered if the whole 'shushing' thing was too cliched outside a library.

Helena ignored her charge's indignant 'Mff?' of protest and dragged her behind one of the oversized animal sculptures adorning the lawn of the library just as two police cruisers rolled to a stop by the book drop in front of the building. New Gotham's finest, right on schedule, to investigate the alarm that had triggered forty minutes ago.

<"Huntress? Canary? I show that NGPD has arrived. Are you in the clear? Did you find anything?">

"Lotta books," the brunette muttered as she removed her hand from the teenager's face and then pointedly wiped her palm on Dinah's sleeve, smiling sweetly at the blonde's frosty expression.

"You knew what those were?"

"Fuh-nee. Look who's getting a sense of humor. For your information, I do read."

>>Centerfolds don't count.<<

<"Do centerfolds count, Huntress?">

Blinking rapidly and shaking her head against the simultaneous voices in her head and over the comm set, Helena sniffed and then sulkily turned to keep an eye on the uniformed officers patrolling the grounds.

<"Seriously, did you find what triggered the alarm?">

Since her sweep of the roof and ventilation shafts hadn't turned up anything, the brunette simply remained quiet as Dinah spoke.

"We didn't see anybody, Oracle, but it was kind of weird inside. It looks like every encyclopedia has been carted off the shelves in the reference area."

"School kids overdue on a research project?"

Helena realized that her contribution might have been a trifle petulant, but, honestly, if Oracle couldn't find some real crime for her to go fight, she simply couldn't be responsible for a bit of sarcasm.

"Probably not," Dinah piped up, seemingly oblivious to the dark woman's tone. "Kids today use the internet; they don't even know what a library is."


Barbara's voice seemed carefully neutral.

<"Perhaps a fraternity prank, though. However, I think I'll cross-reference the missing volumes through the library's acquisitions system, make sure that there weren't any rare editions and such.">

The sound of rapid keystrokes filtered through Helena's earpiece. Smiling fondly at the redhead's thoroughness, she carefully directed Dinah away from the library and towards a dark alley. Once they were safely out of view, she casually scaled a fire escape to the top of a strip mall, aware that the teenager was slowly levitating herself upward behind her. As Dinah landed with a tiny oomph -- her landings were still a little shaky -- Helena checked her watch and rubbed her hands together.

"Uh, while you're letting your fingers do the walking, Oracle..."

The brunette threw a wink at Dinah as she allowed an edge of naughtiness in her tone.

"do you have anything to keep our hands occupied?"

The response was instant; the tone was decidedly arch.

<"I'd say that you'll need to keep your hands to yourself tonight, Huntress; however I'm afraid of what you could do with that suggestion.">

Grinning widely as Dinah's pale blue eyes widened to saucer-size, Helena purred, "Gimme ten minutes to get there, and I could show you."

The laugh that filtered over the transceiver was as light as Helena had heard in weeks. Warmed by the sound, she led Dinah down another fire escape and onto the street.

<"As... educational as that might be, Huntress, I think I'll forego. And, it appears that the two of you can go as well for the night. The city is simply crime-free this evening.">

Helena blew an irritated stream of air through her nostrils. New Gotham just hadn't had the same criminal... verve since they'd tied up Quinn in a big red bow. Oh well, it was only 9:30 -- which could leave her plenty of time to hit a club or two and... If she couldn't blow off steam by kicking some criminal asses, there were always other ways.

"You want me to walk you back, Kid?"

The blonde smiled and shook her head. When she spoke, her words were directed as much to the person on the other end of the comm set as they were to Helena.

"No. If it's alright, I thought I'd hop the bus and visit Ga-- some friends. I'll be in by curfew."

<"That's fine, Canary. Be careful.">

"Sure," Helena added. "Going off comms now, Oracle."

Both women -- one light and one dark -- simultaneously switched off their transceivers.

Glancing at the nearly empty street, the brunette dropped down on the bench at the bus stop.

"I'll wait with you for the bus, D."

Despite the teen's instinctive response, Helena thought she saw a flash of relief.

"I can take care of mys... Well, yeah, thanks, Hel."

Dinah positioned herself on the bench, taking care -- the brunette noted -- not to come in contact with her. The two sat in silence until headlights from the cross-town bus appeared down the street.

"So, where are you headed now, Helena?"

The lithe figure stood and stepped back from the curb as the bus pulled up. Weighing any number of possible responses, she settled on the simplest.

"Dancing, Kid."

Thirty minutes later, nursing her double Grey Goose and watching the bodies slow dancing in the artificial smoke on the dance floor, Helena swayed slightly to the melancholy lyrics spilling over the speakers and fought a wave of hopeless anger.

I may not be your best
But you know good ones
Don't come by the score
If you've got something missing
I'll help you look
You can be sure
And if you want to be alone
Or someone to share a laugh
Whatever you want to do
All you got to do is ask

Again -- for the hundredth, or thousandth?, time in the last ten days -- she considered the conversation she'd had with Barbara the week before.

It was just un-frikkin-believable.

When would the older woman believe it? If not in Helena, then in herself?

Sure, Red had made it pretty clear that she didn't feel that way about her younger partner; but, why did that mean she couldn't accept that Helena -- and, by extension, other people -- could feel that way about her?

Don't go under the sheets
Under a tree
In the rain and snow
I'll be your fireside
Come running to me
When things get out of hand
Running to me
When it's more than you can stand

Scowling, the dark woman checked the time, then neatly downed her drink. It was late enough that she figured Barbara really wasn't gonna need her to thwart crime; and, since it was her first evening off since the older woman had returned -- Barbara had been keeping her busy catching up with the usual haunts and lowlifes -- she figured it was time to kick back and relax. For right now, relaxing meant downing a sufficient quantity of hundred-proof to loosen her up; later... well, that's what the dance floor was for, right?

She raised a finger for a refill, confident that one of the well-muscled bartenders was keeping an eye on her, and raked an appraising gaze across the dance floor. So far, nobody matching her "type" -- either a buxom, redheaded woman or a tall, swarthy man -- had caught her eye, but it was only 10:30pm. Plenty of time.

Helena nodded her thanks for the refill and signed to start a tab. Twirling the ballpoint between her fingers, she leaned against the bar, idly wondering just what the hell the alphabet soup that Barbara had rattled off two weeks ago meant.

With her usual uncanny timing, she gracefully stepped to one side just in time to avoid having her toes mashed by a mousy librarian-wannabe. Blue eyes narrowed slightly in amusement, and the young woman took a long pull of her drink, waiting to see how long it would take 'Marian' to get the bartender's attention.

Absently doodling on her napkin, she refocused on her earlier train of thought.

"DB": well, that was database, right?

Taking pity on the unnoticed woman next to her, Helena raised a hand casually and smirked as two of the buff barbacks snapped to attention.

"Can one of you fellows help out the lady here?"

So, what about the "VL"-something or other...?

Oh, crap, now she was getting sucked into acronym-city.

The brunette shook her head to dispel any further thoughts along those lines and raised her glass, wondering if maybe she'd already had just a bit too much. Shrugging philosophically -- she wasn't planning to do any driving -- she sputtered when the contents hit her squarely in the face.

"Oh, shit. I'm so sorry!"

The brunette blinked against the burning in her eyes and fought back some of her more creative invective. A narrow face, framed by long brown hair and filled by almost ludicrously wide brown eyes, swam into view.

Huh. It was Marian the Librarian, looking -- well, pretty mortified for one thing. And also -- Helena narrowed her eyes suspiciously -- maybe just a little amused?

A dark brow raised as Helena found herself a little charmed, watching the pale woman fumble for her bar napkin. A split second later, reaching out to accept the offering, the brunette raised her other eyebrow in disbelief when her companion squinted her eyes and withdrew the napkin, holding within inches of her own face to peer at it.

"RDBMS? Are you involved in data storage and management?"


Oh, the doodling.

Helena shifted a bowl of pretzels to one side and grabbed the stack of napkins from behind it. Dabbing at her face and upper chest, she gave the other woman a second look. Despite her decidedly non-prepossessing appearance, there was... something about the woman that appealed to her.

Helena grinned, as much at herself as at the other woman, and extended her hand.

"Nah, I'm more into people storage and management."

The other woman -- she appeared to be in her late twenties, perhaps five or six years older than Helena -- peered at the brunette's extended hand, blinking with some befuddlement.

"I'm sorry -- I don't un-- "

Smiling indulgently, the younger woman reached down and gently grasped her companion's hand, raising and lowering their joined hands slowly.

"Hi. I'm Helena."

She grinned brightly at the shy smile that crept over the other woman's face even as she absently noted the pleasurable warmth traveling up her arm from the contact with the woman.

Man, she was such a sucker for brainiacs.

Helena's smile transformed into a puzzled quirk when her companion abruptly dropped her hand and fumbled in the pocket of her blazer. A beat later, when the woman looked up with a pair of coke-bottle glasses perched on her nose, she grinned in earnest.

Man, she was such a sucker for brainiacs in glasses.

"I'm Sabina. And, I'm so sorry about your drink. Can I make it up to y--"

As the pounding bass of Soft Cell's "Tainted Love" spilled from the speakers, Helena reclaimed her companion's hand and led her towards the dance floor. Deliberately moving into the other woman's personal space, the brunette leaned close enough to make those big brown eyes cross and purred her answer.

"Yeah, Sabina. I think you can..."

Chapter 6

"Sunnuvabitch-- !"

Eyes crossing from the force of a blow to the jaw that she'd not be able to avoid, Helena began to wonder if, perhaps, she might be just a bit outnumbered. She also wondered just what had possessed her when she decided to interrupt an intimate dance with her "librarian" to answer the page from Barbara that had gotten her into this mess.

Shaking off that thought as she simultaneously shook her head to dispel the little cartoon stars and birdies circling her head -- until she'd started fighting crime in earnest, she'd always thought those were strictly the purview of Looney Tunes -- the young vigilante threw herself back into the fray.

No way fifteen garden-variety thugs were going to get the best of her.

<"What's the situation, Huntress?">

Sensing the oaf lumbering up behind her, the lithe brunette opted to ignore the silky voice in her ear for the moment. Instead, she tracked the three other goons charging from both sides. She needed to time things just right.

Three... two... one... Liftoff!

Gracefully, seemingly effortlessly, the dark figure leapt straight up -- not a high jump by her standards, only ten or twelve feet -- with an almost eerily precise timing that resulted in the four attackers running pell-mell into each other. Rotating smoothly in midair so that she descended crouched, with her hands and feet below her, she landed gracefully -- but with a bit more force than was usual for her -- on top of the pile of flailing limbs.

Smirking -- Cats always land on their feet, right? -- she cracked the skulls of the two liveliest together even as she shot out a foot, catching a third in the solar plexus and kicking him back a good twenty feet, where he sank to the ground with a pained "Ooomph". She straightened and smiled none-too-pleasantly at the fourth before knocking him into La-La Land with a blindingly fast left hook.

Now that the odds were back in her favor, the young woman took a moment to regroup, watching the remaining men as they circled her warily. She idly wondered if it was finally dawning on the men that a strategic attack -- as opposed to the previous uncoordinated attempts -- might be in order.

Apparently not.

The biggest -- a regular juggernaut of muscles -- stepped towards her from the encircling group.

Helena figured it hadn't hit them yet that they weren't dealing the average, run-of-the-mill New Gotham good citizen, then snorted softly as she raised her arms and beckoned the Great Wall of Flesh towards her with one hand.

Like any citizen of New Gotham woulda just stepped in to take on these half-assed burglars. Or, for that matter, like any semi-intelligent citizen would have been out strolling the dark alleys of the notoriously crime-ridden city after midnight.

Of course, she realized with an irritated blink, how bright was she -- giving up an almost sure thing back at the club to put herself in the middle of this?

An increasingly concerned voice interrupted her bemusement.

<"Huntress, please respond. Do you need backup?">

Neatly ducking under a ham-handed blow, the young crime fighter dropped to a crouch, extended a long leg, and spun -- sweeping the legs out from under her attacker. He landed on his backside with a surprisingly high-pitched squeal.

"Uh, little busy right now, Oracle," she managed on a growl.

Aware of the cautious approach of the remaining ten robbers, the deceptively small woman straightened and flashed a smile at the man she'd just dropped.

"Fuckin' bitch!" was the response as the big man attempted to scramble to his feet.

Shaking her head sadly -- you just couldn't be nice to some people -- the brunette smiled again and extended a hand to the man. Practically salivating in his rage, the large man lunged for the offered hand, surprise clear in his eyes when the dark woman easily jerked him upright.

The expression of surprise only grew -- becoming almost comical -- when the leather-clad crime fighter used the man's momentum to whip him into the air and swing him in a circle -- a variation of crack-the-whip which resulted in toppling each of the man's remaining cohorts. Helena finished her impromptu game by releasing her grip on her human whip and allowing him to impact the back wall of the bank where he slid bonelessly to the ground.

Smirking and whistling the final bars from "Pop Goes the Weasel", the young woman fished in the pocket of her leather duster for her ready supply of plastic riot cuffs and began restraining each of the men.

She spoke cheerfully into her comm set.

"Oracle, you copy?"

<"I'm here, Huntress. Everything okay on your end?">

"Hunky dory, Orac... Oh, shit."

Dark brows lowered in consternation as the lithe figure caught sight of her hand.

<"What's wrong, Huntress?">

The crime fighter reigned in her desire to kick one of the burglars as she grumpily used her teeth to trim off the blunted fingernail which had been broken in the altercation. Finishing her impromptu manicure, she growled menacingly at one of the men who was becoming restless and returned to her hand-cuffing activities.

<"Are you injured? Is everything under control?">


Her cyber-crime fighting companion was sounding distinctly concerned. Warmed by the tone, the young woman finished securing the final member of the gang and spoke lightly.

"Yeah, just a little boo-boo, Oracle."

Blue eyes glinted wickedly in the dim light of the alley.

"Maybe you can kiss it and make it better?"

The relief -- and amusement -- in the voice that filtered over the transceiver was impossible to miss.

<"Hmm, Huntress, I don't recall reading about that therapy in the Merck Manual, but if you feel it might be efficacious...">

The brunette swallowed thickly in response to the gentle flirtation, then husked a reply.

"Oh, yeah, Oracle. Especially for this type of injury."

<"And what type of injury is that? Don't tell me that you've managed to split your lip again?">

Kind of wishing that she had sustained a lip injury that might require the treatment in question, the brunette laughed softly and decided to push her luck a little.

"Nah, not there. I fell on my ass. Hard. You know, serious boo-boo requiring a lot of attention to make it better..."

The soft sound of typing filtering over the comm set halted abruptly at the teasingly purred words, replaced by the sound of a quick inhalation and quiet sputtering. These reactions were, almost immediately, followed by bright laughter.

<"Indeed, Huntress. But, if anyone should be kissing your ass, I'd think it might be the group you just wrapped up -- Or the police, to thank you for doing their job again.">

The voice became businesslike as the sound of sirens approached.

<"Speaking of which, NGPD is on the way to pick up your packages. Why don't you come back in for the night?">

Ascending the rusty fire escape to the roof of the bank in four lackadaisical leaps, the dark figure melded into the shadows, watching several police cruisers screech into the mouth of the alley. Satisfied that none of her "packages" would escape justice, she prowled quietly across the rooftop before sailing over another alley to the roof of an office building.

"Are you sure there's not anything else, Oracle? Something on the scanners? As long as I'm out here, you know..."

She continued her soundless journey across the rooftops of the city, enhanced hearing easily picking up the soft sounds of the mouse clicks as her partner presumably searched for other crimes for her to thwart.

<"Sorry, Huntress. Other than that little job, it's still completely dead out there tonight.">

"Crap. I mean, these goons were fun, but I'm just getting warmed up."

Aware of the whining tone creeping into her voice, the young woman decisively shut her mouth. After all, it wasn't strictly Barbara's fault that she'd pulled her out of the club in response to spotting these jokers on the bank's exterior camera just as she'd been getting decidedly chummy with Sabina. It also wasn't like her partner could just wave a magic wand and create a situation where her ass-kicking skills would be needed.

Probably well aware of the younger woman's feelings, the voice over the comm set was gentle and warmly sympathetic.

<"I know you're a little... frustrated, Huntress. But,">

A quiet laugh caressed the young woman's senses.

<"rest assured that -- this being New Gotham -- something wicked will come your way soon.">

Gamine feature twisted sharply as the dark figure snorted inaudibly.


That didn't begin to express the half of it.

"Warmed up" didn't really begin to cover it either.

Helena Kyle, the Huntress, was downright hot.

And itchy. She couldn't forget that. Her skin was almost crawling with the need for contact.

She checked her watch and realized that the clubs were closing down by now -- at least those that she'd usually be willing to go to.

Dammit. Energy to burn.

Sighing in resignation, wishing she'd drawn out her fight with the wanna-be bank robbers, Helena realized that socially acceptable outlets for her antisocial energy just weren't going to materialize. Apparently, she'd just have to take matters into her own hands. Again.

"Okay, Oracle. Guess I'll knock off for the night, head back to my place."

The silence over the tiny earpiece was almost deafening.

Finally, there was a response, quiet but implacable.

<"I'd really prefer that you stop by first, Huntress. It sounded like you took a pretty hard hit when you were dealing with those burglars, and I'd like to check you out.">

Cerulean eyes squeezed shut momentarily in frustration before the brunette dutifully changed direction, heading towards the clock tower.

Dammit, if only Barbara would check her out, would really see her, see the love and longing that had been directed her way for all these years. But, it just didn't seem to be something the older woman could -- or would -- get a grasp on.

Grimacing, the young woman landed quietly on the balcony of the clock tower and rustled her duster. Just because she was on edge, there was no reason to scare her partner with one of her notoriously cat-footed entrances. Reaching for the handle of the French doors leading inside, the brunette froze, gaze riveted on her partner as she toggled between screens of data scrolling from the Delphi.

God, the woman was so fucking gorgeous.

Enveloped by another wave of longing... need... desire, Helena grit her teeth and squeezed her eyes shut. Maybe she should just... make herself scarce for now. Seemed like too much contact with the older woman right now wasn't the best of ideas.

Eyes still tightly screwed shut, she stepped soundlessly back from the entrance to the living area and leaned against the low stone wall at the balcony's edge. She'd just take a minute... As soon as she got herself under control, she'd just breeze on in, assure her overprotective mentor that she was fine, and then get the hell out of there.

For long moments, Helena focused on her breathing -- that Zen shit that Barbara was always telling her would help with her control. She couldn't quite bring herself to 'go to a happy place', but she did lose herself in memories of her time on the dance floor with the surprisingly sensual woman at the club.

Man, you sure couldn't judge a book by it's cover: The shy woman had sure been well on the way to losing her inhibitions when Barbara's page had come through. Another song or two and Helena thought she could have --

"Everything okay, Hel?"

Blue eyes flew open at the throaty, slightly sympathetic words, and Helena barely suppressed a startled exclamation as she jerked reflexively.

"Shit, Barbara! Stalk much lately?"

The instant that the peevish words spilled from her mouth, the young woman regretted them.

After all, it wasn't like the older woman had exactly snuck up on her, and it sure wasn't Barbara's fault that Helena had been so caught up in her... meditation that she'd been uncharacteristically oblivious to her approach.

Observing the quirk of a crimson brow -- Helena wasn't sure if it signified amusement or consternation -- the brunette experienced a rush of embarrassment coupled with a flash of genuine empathy for the many times that her own soft approaches had startled her mentor from deep concentration. She stammered an apology just as Barbara spoke over a soft laugh.

"I'm sorry, Barbara... I didn't... I was just..."

"I didn't mean to startle you, Helena..."

Both women trailed off before the brunette dramatically shut her mouth, pursed her lips in a smile, and waved her hand in an airy "after you" motion. The fond smile she received was reward enough; unfortunately, it was also unneeded fuel for her barely-banked desire. As the redhead spoke, Helena exhaled slowly and moved a step or two away from her partner.

"I was saying that I'm sorry. It's so rare to catch you off guard, Sweetheart, that I suppose I never even consider the possibility."

Helena felt a shiver trail down her spine as emerald eyes regarded her appraisingly. The older woman moved closer and smiled teasingly.

"Are you sure you didn't sustain a head injury during the fight, Hel?"

Relieved that Barbara hadn't asked what she'd been thinking about -- Somehow, the brunette suspected that a half-assed excuse about contemplating sucking the strawberry filling out of frosted pop tarts wouldn't have gone over too well -- Helena shook her head in the negative and automatically sat on the stone wall, bringing her to eye level with her friend.

"Well, then. Where is this boo-boo you reported, Helena?"

The tone was light, but the older woman's expression was completely serious.

Offering a pained sigh, Helena dramatically raised her left hand and extended her index finger. She struggled not to smirk too broadly as she watched russet brows furrow in puzzlement. When confused emerald eyes sought blue, the brunette held her pose, blinking expectantly, as if the magnitude of her injury should be apparent.

Apparently bowing to the inevitable, Barbara fished her glasses from the side pocket of her chair and gently grasped the offered hand for closer inspection. Blue eyes fluttered shut momentarily at the vision of the fall of red hair covering the older woman's face, at the sensation of warm breath ghosting her fingers. A worried 'tsking' noise drew her back to the moment, and she opened her eyes to find her partner regarding her with an arch expression.

"A torn nail, Helena? Oh, dear..." The words were playful. "This may be beyond my triage capabilities..."

The brunette couldn't stop the smile creeping across her face.

Man, she loved this woman.

"Gee, Red. Ya' think we're gonna have to amputate or something?"

"Perhaps, Hel. I'll get the nail clippers."

Helena almost cracked up at the deadpan response. The redhead's next words -- and actions -- neatly removed the smile from her face.

"But, before I act too hastily, perhaps there might be merit in the therapeutic technique you suggested earlier..."

A playful blink of green eyes accompanied the teasingly thoughtful words, and Helena froze in shocked amazement when the older woman ducked her head to press a gentle kiss -- Oh, fuck, Barbara's lips were slightly parted -- to the finger she'd been examining. At the sensation of soft, soft lips... of warm, moist breath, the brunette bit back a moan as a spark of electric warmth shot from her hand directly to her core.

Seemingly oblivious to the effects of her action -- but, wasn't Barbara always?, Helena mused sourly -- the older woman straightened, becoming more businesslike.

"There we go. I don't think amputation will be necessary, Sweetheart. Now, let me take a look at your jaw."

Still disbelieving -- what would it take to buy the other woman a clue? -- the brunette watched her partner stretch up, felt finger tips slightly calloused from years of typing probe gently against her jaw. When the redhead touched the most tender spot, the resulting jolt of discomfort ratcheted the brunette's adrenaline level. She grimaced and twisted her head, immediately foiled in her attempt to escape the redhead's ministrations when Barbara cupped her chin and tugged gently, thumb brushing against her lips. Fighting to regulate her breathing, Helena obediently ducked her head as the redhead leaned closer to inspect the faint bruising.

Oh, god. The feel of that soft, warm skin against her mouth... Close enough to taste...

Inflamed by the soft contact and the nearness of the other woman, the young woman couldn't suppress a soft groan. She felt heat flooding her face at her lack of self-control, at Barbara's concerned look and soft reassurance.

"I'm sorry, Sweetie; I'm almost done."

Without thought, the brunette gently clasped the slender hand that was touching her face and turned her mouth into the palm before she spoke.

"No, it's not... it's..."

Breathing in the older woman's scent, warmed by the loving expression in melting emerald eyes which seemed so inviting, she tried. Helena really tried to explain.

"It's just... you... I..."

The slightest tilt of the other woman's head, bespeaking puzzlement... or amusement... or something Helena couldn't name, finally undid the younger woman's resolve. Awash in the sight and sound and scent and touch of the woman she'd loved so desperately for so many years, the brunette succumbed to the need to satiate one more sense.

Releasing Barbara's hand, she slowly wound her fingers into crimson hair and leaned forward. Unable to breathe, caught in the surreal vision of moonlight reflecting from curious green eyes, Helena wondered if time had stopped... if she could fall into this moment and spend her eternity here.

The older woman remained still -- shocked? the young woman distantly wondered -- as Helena slowly, tenderly, rubbed her cheek lightly against the redhead's. When she heard the tiniest hitch in the other woman's breathing, the brunette exhaled raggedly, then turned her head a fraction of an inch.


Finally, she brushed her mouth against the soft lips that had haunted her dreams for so many years.

Forcing herself to keep the contact gossamer light, the young woman parted her lips to draw in the redhead's soft murmur. Unable to hear, to comprehend, Barbara's utterance -- surprise? dismay? arousal? -- Helena nibbled gently before reaching out ever-so-slightly to taste.

Oh god --

The taste of those soft lips... Sweet and just a little spicy, something ineffably Barbara.

Oh fuck --

The feel of warm breath ghosting her lips... It radiated through the brunette, from her mouth to her chest to her inexorably pounding center.

The young woman swallowed her growl, quieted the restless shifting of her thighs, resisted her desire to deepen the contact. Instead, caught in the transcendent moment, Helena simply continued delicately touching her lips to the redhead's, eventually feeling -- rather than hearing -- Barbara's softly moaned question.


Blue eyes flew open, immediately darting away from the shining, curious green that sought her out.

Oh god.

What was she doing?

Oh fuck.

What had she done?

Part 7

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