DISCLAIMER: Birds of Prey and its characters are the property of Miller/Tobin Productions, Warner Brothers and DC comics. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thanks to ladyvictory and fallon ash for the beta! This takes place after the series ended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
The Fear of Falling
By Inspector Boxer
Music throbbed from the club across the street, so thick and heavy Kincaid could feel it in the soles of her boots. The shop window behind her vibrated a half beat behind, and she spared it a quick glance, wondering if she'd chosen the wisest place to stand and watch the entrance to wait for her prey.
The smell of rain hung heavy in the air, but the drops had yet to fall. Lightning flashed overhead, arcing across the night sky and striking one of the skyscrapers that rose from the streets of downtown New Gotham. The ensuing crash of thunder was drowned out by the deafening music.
Kincaid watched the lightning fade before her gaze tracked back to the entrance of the club, fixing on the door with angry intensity. The air felt charged, and she breathed it in, waiting for the moment, waiting for her chance.
"Hey, baby," a young man called to her as he passed by with his friends. They were all twenty or less in age, clearly with nothing better to do on their Thursday night than troll the streets. She didn't even turn her head as she felt their eyes crawling all over her.
"I'm talking to you, sugar," he tried again, running an impetuous finger down the sleeve of her black leather jacket.
She looked at him then, seething that her focus had to shift from her target. His dark blue eyes were decidedly glassy, and Kincaid muttered a few choice epithets in her head. Just what she needed. Four horny and high frat boys.
"Go away," she said simply, but there was an edge of warning to her voice they didn't heed.
"What's a fine looking thing like you doing out on the street? You turning tricks, hon? I'd like some of that action," he said with a drunken, lewd laugh.
Her jaw bunched. "You couldn't afford or handle me," she replied.
Frat boy's friends all shoved him and snickered. She didn't have time for this. Her eyes went back to the front door, assessing.
"Wanna bet?" He looked her over, liking what he saw. She was definitely older, maybe in her early thirties. Her blonde hair framed her face in gentle shoulder-length waves. He reached out to see if the strands felt as silky as they looked.
The next thing he knew he was on his knees.
He screamed as his wrist was bent backward with negligent ease. He pawed with his free hand at her grip, but it didn't move or lessen.
His friends started forward to help only to freeze when Kincaid lifted her pale blue eyes to their faces. There was something in her gaze that rooted them in place.
"I'm going to say this one more time," she leaned over and breathed next to his ear to be heard over the pulse of the music. "Go away." Giving his wrist a final squeeze to emphasize her point, Kincaid then watched with little interest as tears sprang to his eyes.
He staggered back when she released him, cradling his injured wrist against his chest. His eyes were wide as he regarded her with both rage and fear.
"Don't be stupid," she muttered, reading which of the emotions was close to winning his internal debate. "Walk away while I'm in the mood to let you."
"Come on, Joey," one of his companions said. He gave her a quick, jerky nod before dragging his buddy to his feet.
The other two boys nodded in rapid agreement. Kincaid almost had the urge to smile.
Joey stuck his good hand out at her and pointed with attempted bravado. "Watch your step, bitch. I catch you down here again I'll "
"Right," Kincaid drawled impatiently. Her gaze went back to the door, dismissing him.
The four boys stared at her, sensing they were playing with something they shouldn't. Grumbling, they wandered off in search of safer entertainment.
Kincaid sighed as she felt her heart beginning to slow. A flash of relief swept through her at the knowledge that she wasn't going to have to put four frat boys in traction for picking the wrong girl to tangle with. Hopefully now, however, they'd think twice before messing with any other member of the female persuasion tonight.
The door to the club suddenly opened, and Kincaid tensed. A man emerged and nodded at the two bouncers. He exchanged words with them before pointing at three young women waiting in line. They all squealed with delight and were ushered inside.
Kincaid scowled at their sheer shallow stupidity before her gaze focused with laser intensity on the man walking away down the street.
Her eyes tracked him before her feet finally followed. He had to be the one. Near six four, sandy blonde hair, a cut and hard physique clear through the tight fit of his clothes. His suit probably cost more than most people made in a month. But he wasn't most people.
Neither was she.
Arrogant bastard. Kincaid followed him around the corner, out of the line of sight of his goons working the door to the club. The fool was making it too easy. He was walking toward his black Mercedes. No guards. No protection. Like nothing could touch him.
"We'll see about that," she whispered as her steps took her into the street, angling toward him at a leisurely pace. A few drops of rain splattered her knee-length black leather jacket, but she paid them no heed.
Kincaid paused at the low, feminine voice that unexpectedly came from the shadows. The man turned and looked into the alleyway near his car.
"Yes?" he asked slowly. His hand went none to casually to the gun hidden on his hip by his jacket.
A woman emerged from the darkness, and Kincaid was as stunned as Draco to see she was in a motorized wheelchair. Kincaid forced herself to keep walking, hopping the curb and continuing on down the street until she could hide in the shadows and listen.
Draco relaxed when he saw the woman who had addressed him. Obviously no danger there, he assumed. His cold gaze swept over her, noting her beauty. He wondered if her legs were the only things that weren't working below her waist. A smile carved across his features. "Who do we have here?"
"Barbara Gordon," she answered evenly as she brushed a stray lock of red hair away from intense green eyes.
"The Commissioner's daughter." Draco's smile broadened in bemusement.
Barbara said nothing.
"So what can I do for you, Ms. Gordon?" Draco asked with just a hint of suggestiveness. He planted one foot on the curb and gazed at her with open curiosity.
Watching from the shadows, Kincaid wondered if the redhead had any idea who she was talking to what he was capable of doing to a woman. Determined not to let Draco hurt anyone else, she slipped a small throwing knife from a scabbard at the back of her belt.
"You've been dealing at my school. You're going to stop," Barbara explained.
Kincaid took a sharp breath. Whatever had happened to the woman's legs must have messed with her mind as well. You didn't just go ordering the biggest drug lord in New Gotham around unless you had a death wish.
Draco laughed, a grating sound. "Oh am I now?" he asked, not bothering to refute her comment. "And what school is that?"
Barbara's eyes narrowed. "We had three students overdose this past week. Two of them are dead. One is a vegetable. You come near my school again with that garbage, and you're going to wind up like they did."
"Dead or a vegetable?" he teased.
"Depends on my mood," Barbara answered.
Draco came closer, enjoying the evening's little diversion. "You don't look like you're in a position to harm anyone." His eyes drifted lazily over her legs, noting for the first time that her chair was more technologically advanced than he had ever seen. "Nice wheels."
Barbara stared at him blandly.
"Look," he said with a little more force. "No one tells me what to do. And no one goes around threatening me. People who do wind up like your precious students."
Kincaid took a step toward the edge of the shadows.
Barbara glanced in her direction. "Don't do anything stupid," she said with a little more volume before her gaze lazily drifted back to Draco as if the words had been meant for him alone.
Kincaid blinked, realizing that the redhead knew she was there.
"I can do anything I want, Ms. Gordon," Draco laughed. "And not you or your precious father can stop me."
With a quick lunge, he went for her. Draco wondered what it would be like to fuck a woman who couldn't run away. He'd take her in the alley. Right in her damn chair.
Kincaid bolted from the shadows as he moved only to draw up short when Draco unexpectedly howled in pain. The drug lord dropped to his knees, reminding her of the frat boy she'd so easily dispatched earlier. Barbara had some kind of stick against his throat and wore a very bored expression. Those green eyes lifted and met Kincaid's for a string of heartbeats.
When Barbara finally looked away, Kincaid was painfully aware of how hard her heart was pounding. It seemed to be slamming in time to the distant music, making her almost cough with the force of it.
Barbara leaned closer to Draco, upping the voltage on the eskrima stick in her hand. Adding an electrical charge to the weapon had seemed like overkill, but Helena had insisted. Now she had to admit the upgrade was coming in handy. Draco whimpered, his body twitching as the current lapped through him. His gaze met the hard emerald of her eyes, and his soul told him something his brain had been unable to see. Chair or no chair this was not a woman he wanted to cross. He could feel it in his blood, an instinct he never ignored that had managed to keep him both in business and alive.
Still jerking, Draco lifted his hands in surrender, and Barbara lowered the stick. He sank back against the dampening concrete. "I'll stay away."
"This is temporary," Barbara vowed. "I'm going to stop you permanently. Just not tonight."
Draco looked at Barbara with disbelief. "I know who you are. After tonight, I'll know where you teach. I can get to you at anytime."
"You can try. Could be fun," Barbara practically purred. "Now I suggest you move on. If I find out you've dealt at my school again, I won't be quite so polite next time."
His eyes darted over the chair and the woman, confused by the contradictions. Nodding once, he got unsteadily to his feet. Draco looked around, glad that no one had witnessed his humiliation at the hands of a cripple.
Staggering to his car on shaky legs, Draco slipped inside. His eyes went to Barbara's face one last time, seeing the cold, calculating look on her pretty features. He shivered.
His perceptions now completely altered, Draco started the car and roared away.
The sky chose that moment to open up with force. A loud crack of thunder sounded overhead, and a deluge of rain sheeted down soaking everything almost instantly. Barbara barked out a harsh laugh as she collapsed her weapon and tucked it into the side of her chair. "Great, I take down a drug dealer with negligent ease, but my wheelchair will probably short circuit on the way home."
Kincaid wasn't sure, but she suspected she was the one being addressed. Her anger at Draco had tumbled to the back of her mind, her curiosity with the redhead taking precedence. Carefully, she stepped into the glow of the street lamp.
Barbara looked at her then, having only caught a glimpse of the woman as she had crossed the street earlier. She was about five six with very pale blue eyes. The stranger looked dark and feral in her leather jacket, boots, and jeans. Her wet hair only added to her air of danger. "What did he do to piss you off?" she asked just loud enough to be heard over the rain and music.
The tempo in the club changed into something darker, more seductive. The pulses of bass drawn out and heavy.
"He killed my sister with his poison," Kincaid finally replied after an intense moment of studying the other woman.
Barbara took a breath. She had assumed it had been something like that, but it made her feel no better to have her suspicions confirmed. "I'm sorry," she said sincerely.
Kincaid came closer, only aware she was doing so when she stopped in front of Barbara. "I'm sorry about your students."
Barbara closed her eyes for a brief moment before opening them again. She looked up through the rain at the other woman. "You were going to kill him."
"Yes." Kincaid didn't bother to deny it. "You wanted to. Why didn't you?"
"We don't kill."
Barbara took another deep breath. "I don't kill," she clarified. "Makes me no better than him."
"You would have felt better."
"For a fraction of a second there would have been satisfaction," Barbara agreed. "But it wouldn't be worth the price on my soul."
Kincaid blinked and looked away feeling both chastised and chagrined. "It's just "
"I know," Barbara answered solemnly. "You want justice. Trust me. In the end you'll get it. But not that way. That isn't justice."
"What would you call it?"
Kincaid's stomach rolled. From the truth or being denied what her heart begged for she wasn't sure.
Coming to a decision, Barbara moved forward. "Come on. Let's get out of the rain. I kept you from becoming a killer tonight. Least you can do is buy me a cup of coffee."
Kincaid glanced around the all night diner. The place was mostly empty save for a young couple completely lost in each other in the back corner booth and a couple of cops sitting at the counter. A waitress was setting their coffee cups right side up and filling them with something that smelled strong enough to peel paint. Kincaid cupped her hands around the warming ceramic but didn't drink.
"Thanks," Barbara told the waitress and received a tired smile in response before the older woman shuffled away. Her gaze shifted back to Draco's would-be killer. In the dim lighting, she could make out the other woman's features more distinctly. Classic lips, a defined jaw, prominent cheekbones She wondered if she was as beautiful dry as she was wet.
For some reason, the thought brought a blush to Barbara's cheeks. She covered by taking a sip of her coffee. "So," she said when she'd swallowed.
"So," Kincaid echoed neutrally. She suddenly wished she was back in Chicago sitting in clean, dry clothes as she watched a Cubs game on television. Her finger traced the rim of her cup. "You do that often?"
"Do what?" Barbara asked as she watched her.
"Confront powerful drug dealers in nothing more than your wheelchair and a smile?"
The question struck her funny, and Barbara laughed. "Did it seem like I needed anything else?"
Kincaid lifted her gaze from her study of the chipped Formica of the tabletop to the intense green of Barbara Gordon's eyes. A smile twitched at her own lips. "I guess not. What was that you hit him with? A cattle prod?"
The laughter wound down, but the smile remained. "Just a custom made toy."
"Some toy," Kincaid muttered but she let the subject drop. Questions about her late night coffee companion crowded her tongue but went unspoken. "That's quite a chair you've got there." She reached out and fingered the console closest to her. Barbara had parked it next to the table before sliding easily into the booth.
Barbara watched the stranger but made no move to stop her. "Thanks. It suits my needs." She regarded her, seeing the questions in her companion's eyes. "Go ahead and ask."
"What everyone always wants to know," Barbara murmured as the blonde continued to study the chair with naked curiosity. "How I got to be in a wheelchair in the first place."
"I imagine you're tired of answering that question," Kincaid said with more understanding than Barbara was prepared for.
"I " For the first time that night, Kincaid watched Barbara Gordon at a loss for words.
Barbara took another sip from her coffee. "I was shot. Joker had a vendetta against someone I knew. I was a convenient target."
"Joker?" Kincaid tasted the name. She suspected she'd heard it on the news on one of the rare occasions she turned it on.
"You don't know who the Joker is?" Barbara asked with some disbelief.
"I'm not from around here."
"You ladies ready to order?" the waitress inquired as she returned.
"I'll have the pancakes," Barbara replied and handed the menu over without ever having opened it.
"Sure thing, Ms. Gordon. And for you miss?"
"Sure, pancakes are fine." Kincaid waited until the waitress was gone and then leaned forward. "I heard Draco say you were the Commissioner's daughter."
Barbara folded her hands on the table. "I am."
"You work for the police?"
"Not hardly," the redhead answered archly. "I'm just a teacher."
"Just a teacher," Kincaid drawled. "Right."
Barbara smiled. "What about you? I'm guessing skulking in the shadows for drug lords isn't your usual occupation." She had yet to ask the stranger for her name, hoping the blonde would supply it when she was ready.
Kincaid leaned back. "First time for everything," she muttered. "How did you know I was there?"
Her question neatly evaded, Barbara shrugged. "I heard your jacket creak."
Barbara merely gave her an enigmatic smile and took another sip of her coffee.
Kincaid thought about that, deciding there was no way Barbara could have heard her over the music. The woman had to be jerking her chain. "So is that something like your other senses became more enhanced when you lost your legs?"
"Did I lose my legs?" Barbara asked. She glanced down. "Huh, they still look like they're there to me."
Fortunately the waitress chose that moment to return with their food, giving Kincaid a chance to extract the foot she'd shoved tonsil deep into her mouth. "Sorry. I didn't mean "
Barbara held up a hand. "It's okay. I'm just messing with you."
"Doing a right fine job of it," Kincaid confessed in a grumble as she poured syrup on her pancakes and began to methodically slice them up, noting that Barbara was doing the same.
Suddenly, Barbara tilted her head as if she were listening to something.
"What?" Kincaid asked.
Barbara didn't answer for several tense seconds. "I'm sorry. I just remembered something," she lied easily, having had plenty of practice. "I'm afraid I'm going to have to take a rain check."
Kincaid realized she wasn't ready for the conversation to end. She reached out and covered Barbara's hand with her own as the other woman started to lay money down on the table. "My treat, remember?"
They both stilled at the contact.
Barbara pulled her hand away, a confused expression on her features. "Thanks. I'm really sorry " She moved gracefully into her chair.
Kincaid opened her mouth to say something only to close it with a click when Barbara's chair moved back without any apparent command from the woman sitting in it. "Barbara, wait," she said when she found her voice.
The redhead looked up, impatience in her eyes but polite interest on her features.
"You said you were going to stop Draco. Let me help."
Barbara hesitated, torn between finishing this conversation and getting to where her friends were in sudden and dire need of her assistance. Even now Dinah was yelling into the communication device nestled in her ear.
Kincaid reached into her pocket and withdrew a slim wallet. She pulled out a card then wrote something on the back of it before handing it to Barbara. "Call me when things calm down."
Barbara took the card and glanced down at the name. Nicole Kincaid. Surgeon. "Things never calm down," Barbara admitted. "But I'll call anyway."
"She ditch you, honey?" the waitress asked a few minutes after Barbara had left the diner.
"Apparently," Kincaid drawled, but without rancor. She pulled over Barbara's pancakes and dumped them onto her own plate. "More for me, I guess."
"Don't fret none," the waitress said gently. "Ms. Gordon is a right busy woman. We see her in here all the time. She's rarely gotten to finish a meal."
"That's too bad. The pancakes are great."
The waitress beamed before walking away, leaving Kincaid in silent contemplation. What in the hell would keep a wheelchair bound teacher out so late so often?
She vowed to find out.
"You are such a piece of work."
"If you hadn't gone all Gorillas in the Mist on his ass "
"Is that a crack about my animal side? Because if it is "
"Ladies!" Barbara yelled impatiently and was rewarded with sudden, blessed silence. "Thank you." She turned away from the other Birds, both as damp as she was, and wheeled herself over to the Delphi terminal as the elevator door closed behind the other two women.
"Smartass," Helena added to her younger companion.
"Better than a dumbass," Dinah shot back before stomping up the steps to her room and slamming the door.
Barbara bit her lip on that one. The young blonde was coming along in the comeback department much to Helena's frustration.
"I know you're smirking, Barbara," Helena muttered. She ran a hand through her short, choppy black hair. Her eyes followed Barbara's movements with affection that she'd managed to keep out of her voice.
Barbara's smirk turned into a full-fledged grin. She felt Helena's warm presence against the back of her chair as the younger woman looked over her shoulder.
"So have you found the one who got away, yet?" Helena leaned closer, soaking up Barbara's heat and taking a deep, appreciative breath of her perfume.
"Give me a second to at least check," Barbara drawled as her fingers worked the keyboard. As the system began running, she glanced to her left at Helena's profile and frowned at the nasty bruise staining her friend's cheek. Barbara reached out and lightly touched the injury. "You okay?"
Helena met Barbara's gaze at close range before her own fingers brushed her friend's as she touched the purpling injury herself. "Fine. It'll be gone by tomorrow."
"Probably," Barbara admitted. "But it looks painful right now."
The redhead sighed and let her hand drop reluctantly, knowing that was all she was likely to get from the younger woman. They'd been friends, practically family, for eight years. Sometimes she wondered why she still asked.
Data started to stream across the computer screen, and Barbara turned her attention to it, barely aware when Helena put her hands on either side of her chair and leaned in over her left shoulder.
"What are you wearing?" Helena asked unexpectedly.
"What?" Barbara asked, distracted.
Helena smiled and moved closer, almost nuzzling the older woman's neck. Her gaze drifted up over the slope of Barbara's cheek, and she watched as her friend's intense green eyes scanned the incoming information for clues. Barbara was so beautiful, Helena thought wistfully. Beautiful and blissfully ignorant of the effects that beauty had on the people around her.
"I said," Helena pitched her voice low and watched with interest as goose bumps rose on Barbara's skin in response. "What are you wearing?"
The typing stopped and Barbara leaned back. Helena shifted to give her some space, but kept her hands on either side of the chair. Barbara felt fenced in but oddly it wasn't unpleasant. "What do you mean 'what am I wearing?'"
Helena gave her a crooked smile. "Your perfume."
Barbara cleared her throat and looked away as she felt an unexpected blush heating her cheeks. "I don't know. Something Dinah gave me for my birthday."
"The kid has good taste," Helena murmured before releasing her grip on the armrests and standing upright again.
Barbara shot a quick peek at the younger woman as she scratched the side of her nose, wondering what to say or how to react to the compliment. "Uh "
"Look. There's your guy." Helena nodded at the image that had popped up and was now filling the monitor.
Grateful for the distraction, Barbara returned her attention to the computer. "Robert Vargas. Age 26. Single. Arrests for assaults, B and Es, attempted murder. Nice."
"Just the kind of guy you bring home to mom," Helena muttered. "Well, actually that would be true in my case," she joked.
Barbara shook her head. "Catwoman had more taste than to run with scum like this guy." She gave Helena a backward glance. "And your mother sure as hell would never have had someone like this around after you were born."
"What?" Barbara continued to skim the arrest record.
"How you defend my mom sometimes considering everything she did."
The hands on the computer went still. Barbara took a breath before turning her chair partway around so she could face the woman behind her. "Your mom became a very different person after you were born."
Helena held up her hand. "I didn't mean to invoke some serious chat about my mom here. It was just a random observation."
Chase or retreat? Barbara tilted her head as she regarded her friend, weighing which option was best for their moods and mindsets. "Okay," she said easily. "But you know if you ever do want to talk about your mom "
Helena shrugged, only to wince as the motion caused other injuries to make themselves known.
"What's wrong?" Barbara's voice sharpened with concern.
Helena waved a hand as if the pain were nothing. There had been a lot of bad guys tonight, and they'd been pounding on her something fierce when Barbara and Dinah had gratefully shown up. Then her anger had nearly gotten the best of her and she'd gone well, ape, apparently, if Dinah's Gorillas in the Mist crack had been accurate.
The wheelchair rotated again, and Helena took a step back. "Where are you hurt?" Barbara demanded, wondering if this would be one of the rare times when the younger woman let her help.
"Helena, those guys got in some good hits before we got there."
"They sure did," Helena replied drolly, trying to play off the pain. Then she felt warm fingers grasp her right hand, and her well of words ran dry. Barbara always had that effect on her.
"This is going to take a few minutes," Barbara said with a nod at the terminal. "Why don't we get you fixed up?"
Helena started to protest only to give in and sigh. With a truth she didn't dare study too closely, she liked having Barbara tend to her. "Fine," she muttered as if she were being put out.
Barbara didn't buy it for a second, but she didn't let on either. She tried to tamp down the flicker of pleasure that flared at Helena's acceptance.
Dinah's door opened at that moment, and the blonde teenager stomped down the stairs and into the kitchen, a towel around her neck, without sparing either of them a glance or a word.
Helena and Barbara watched her progress only to burst into laughter once the teen was out of earshot. Helena shrugged. "So it was a good comeback. She's entitled to one every now and then."
Barbara squeezed the hand still safely ensconced in her own. "Which one? The Gorillas in the Mist thing or the dumbass comment? Personally I liked "
"No comments from the peanut gallery," Helena smoothly interrupted. "I'm going to go get a shower." She held up her hand to forestall Barbara's protest. "Then you can patch me up. I've got motor oil, ash, and God only knows what all over me. You need to get out of your wet clothes, too."
With a sigh, Barbara relented. "Fine. Hopefully I'll have some good news by the time you get out. And I'll change in a few minutes." Helena looked at her dubiously. "I promise."
With another wink, Helena departed. Barbara watched her friend bound up the steps with feline grace. Even when her legs had still worked, she never had been able to move like Helena. Then again, no else could either.
Shaking off her thoughts, Barbara turned back to the terminal, watching the various scans run. A thought niggled at the base of her brain, and she fished in her pant pocket, pulling out the slightly creased business card.
Barbara frowned as she fingered the corner of the card. Several quiet minutes passed as she drifted in her thoughts, the Delphi computer running its scans.
"What's that?" Dinah asked as she emerged from the kitchen. Her gaze flickered over the room, looking for signs of her tormentor.
"She's taking a shower," Barbara replied to the unspoken question. With only a twinge of guilt, she handed the card to the blonde. "Do you get anything off this?"
Dinah set down a grilled cheese sandwich next to Barbara's elbow. The redhead realized the food was for her and she grinned, thinking about the pancakes she'd given up earlier. Barbara slipped off her glasses as Dinah took the card out of her hands, her face going momentarily blank.
"Thanks," Barbara said as she took a healthy bite of the sandwich. "You getting " her voice trailed off when she saw the tears on Dinah's face. She snatched the card out of the girl's hands and watched in horror as Dinah slumped to the floor, unconscious.
"Helena!" Barbara screamed. With a curse, she let herself slide down her chair and crawled to the blonde's position. Her fingers went to Dinah's throat, finding a steady but fast pulse.
"What?" Helena was suddenly there, dripping wet with a short blue robe wrapped around her. She knelt next to Barbara. "What happened?"
"I gave her a business card. I wanted to see if she could get anything on the woman who gave it to me." Barbara pulled Dinah's head into her lap and began to stroke the girl's forehead.
"Apparently she did," Helena muttered.
"Dinah? Dinah, can you hear me?" Barbara mentally kicked herself for not running a check on Nicole Kincaid first.
"She hurts " Dinah whispered as she drifted toward awareness. "God, she hurts "
"Who does she hurt?" Barbara demanded.
Dinah's eyes blinked open, staring at the ceiling. "No she's she's in pain. Her sister "
Helena blew out a breath that stirred her damp bangs. She reached under the girl and hefted her into her arms, feeling the tension slide into Dinah's muscles as they stood. "Easy. I'm just moving you to the couch."
Dinah released a shaky sigh as reality returned. She felt the cushions on the couch give under her weight, and she sank into the softness gratefully. Her head came up as she heard Barbara utter a curse. Helena was now trying to get the redhead back into her chair, but Barbara was resisting, insisting on doing it herself. Barbara didn't see the ghost of hurt that crossed Helena's face. It was gone by the time the redhead was back in her chair.
Helena turned and for a second her eyes met Dinah's, a sad understanding passing between them.
"I'll get you some water," Helena choked out to Dinah before heading toward the kitchen.
Barbara ran a hand through her hair, waves or irritation radiating off her.
"She just wants to help," Dinah complained.
Green eyes snapped up to the blonde, and Dinah worried she was in for a full Barbara Gordon blow out. Instead, the redhead cursed and looked away.
"I'm not mad at Helena. I'm mad at myself. I should have checked her out before giving you the card."
"Nicole?" Dinah asked for clarification. She heard water running in the kitchen.
Barbara didn't answer.
"She isn't evil or anything," Dinah murmured, trying to be reassuring. "It's okay to be attracted to her."
Barbara's head whipped around just as they heard a glass hit the floor and shatter. They both turned to see Helena standing in the doorway, her eyes wide.
"Shit," Barbara hissed under her breath, not knowing why she didn't want Helena to have that particular piece of information. "Dinah "
The teenager realized she'd just made things worse, not better.
Helena retreated into the kitchen without a word. Her stomach was now in knots and she felt the burn of tears. Barbara was attracted to a woman? When had Babs switched teams? Or did she always bat for both, and Helena had never realized it? Her instincts prickled with awareness, and she turned to see Barbara in the doorway.
"I was just getting another glass of water for the kid." Helena sprung into motion, retrieving a glass from the cupboard.
"Helena, look at me," Barbara pleaded.
"Everything's cool," Helena could hear the lie and knew Barbara wouldn't buy it. "The glass it just slipped " She swallowed around an odd, crushing sense of betrayal. With more force than necessary, Helena turned on the water and thrust the glass into the cold stream.
"Hel " Barbara tried again. She rolled into the kitchen, doing her best to block Helena's most likely choice of escape.
"You're probably tracking glass," Helena said as she shut the water off. "You don't want to puncture a tire." She leaned against the counter, still unable to meet those green eyes.
Barbara took a breath, wondering why she felt like such an ass even when she'd done nothing wrong. "They can't puncture," she muttered. She stared at Helena's back, wanting more than anything to see the blue of her eyes. "Look at me."
Knowing that she was only delaying the inevitable, Helena finally turned and lifted her gaze to Barbara's.
"I " Now that she had Helena's attention, Barbara wasn't sure what to do with it. "Dinah just "
"She picked up this woman's emotions as well as yours. You both touched the card. Stands to reason," Helena said a little hoarsely.
"What she picked up on," Barbara continued, wondering why Helena seemed so bothered by Dinah's declaration. It wasn't as if the notion of being attracted to another woman was something new to Helena. She was pretty sure the younger woman had sampled the other side of the fence more than once. "She picked up on . a moment. Nothing more."
Helena took a breath, wanting the reassurance. "You're attracted to her?" she asked unsteadily.
Barbara moved closer. "I there was just a moment where I don't know." She shook her head and sighed. She heard the Delphi alarm beep and grimaced.
"We should check that." Helena started past her, forgetting the water entirely, when she was suddenly brought up short by Barbara's warm touch around her wrist. Her breath hitched at the contact, and she prayed Barbara didn't notice.
The redhead tilted her head back to look up at Helena's familiar features. "Nothing is going to happen with her," Barbara felt the need to say. "It was just an instant. An instant where "
"You found her attractive," Helena breathed, but she made no effort to pull free.
"Yeah," Barbara said softly. She tried to lighten the mood. "I guess I've been out of the dating pool too long since Wade "
Helena sunk down to her knees so she could look up at Barbara. "I'm sorry," she almost whispered. "I don't know why. That just threw me for a loop." She ducked her head only to raise it again when she felt Barbara's fingers on her chin.
"Something tells me you think I'm utterly bland and boring when it comes to sex," Barbara teased with a glint in her eyes.
Helena's brain was screaming at her to say something, but the words wouldn't come. "Uh you were my teacher," she croaked as if that explained everything. Her breath came out in a barely controlled shudder as Barbara's hand went from her chin to cupping her cheek.
Something thick and heavy seemed to settle between them at the contact. Barbara watched, fascinated, as Helena's pupils contracted and then narrowed into feline slits. "I see," Barbara replied slowly, her voice descending an octave. "You probably think I only know the missionary position."
"Barbara!" Helena spluttered in mortification, doing her best not to let her mind imagine Barbara in that very pose.
Barbara responded with a wicked chuckle as her thumb unconsciously began to stroke Helena's cheek. "I was once a daredevil like you, Helena," she murmured. "Remember? I used to run the rooftops of New Gotham at night. I took my fair share of risks and loved the rush of the adrenaline as a reward."
Barbara's playful little game was one Helena knew well but had never dabbled in with her friend. It was a line she occasionally stared at but never crossed. With growing courage, she stepped up to the edge of it. "Well, if you ever want some tips on getting a rush with a woman, you know where to find me," Helena managed, letting a little of her sensuality shine through and knew that Barbara had noticed when the older woman's eyes widened fractionally. Playing with fire, Helena ducked her head and leaned closer.
For a dizzying moment, Barbara thought Helena was going to kiss her. A breath before their lips met, Helena detoured, threading her hand through Barbara's hair and pulling her forward before placing a swift kiss on Barbara's forehead. Then the younger woman stood, snatched the glass of water, and disappeared through the doorway.
Breathe, Gordon, Barbara had to tell herself. She sucked down an aching breath as a shiver slid through her. "What the hell was that?" she asked the empty kitchen.
Return to Bird of Prey Fiction
Return to Main Page