DISCLAIMER: These characters and situations do not belong to me in any way shape or form. I have borrowed them as part of my sanity maintenance.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: As always, to darandkerry for the beta work and for keeping me company through all 12 stories.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
"So, you finally talked Helena into moving in, huh?"
Dinah grinned at her best friend, loving the way she could now tease her relentlessly.
"Hmm, I think the fire department had more to do with it than I did."
"TMI, Babs, TMI. I don't need to know how incendiary the two of you are, I can see you're good, that's enough."
Barbara smiled and took hold of Dinah's hand in a gesture of thanks. They stood quietly, just content in being back together, surveying their many friends.
In one corner, Gypsy was obviously telling Creote and Savant something very important as each man gave her their full attention. In another, Jim Gordon was teaching young Sin how to make paper chain decorations for the small tree Helena had acquired the night before.
Somewhere in the kitchen, Dick Grayson was chatting with Big Barda's husband, teaching him how to make his special eggnog, and Barda, herself, was dancing unashamedly with Zinda under the hastily erected mirror ball. Zinda had probably had a few drinks too many, but with Barda watching over her, Babs certainly wasn't worried that she couldn't find her way two floors below.
Dinah squeezed Bab's hand, directing her attention towards the arrival of Bruce Wayne. As she'd known he would, her father immediately took her mentor under his wing, walking him through to Dick's eggnog lesson in the kitchen.
The two women watched as Sin immediately bounded over to their vantage point, breaking their moment of togetherness.
"Mister Jim, he show me how to make a, how'd you say, a garland for the tree. May I put it on Miss Helena's tree?" Sin directed her question to Barbara.
"Of course, you may, Sin." In her peripheral vision, she saw Suzi and Roberto arriving with their delicious Italian food. Whirling in behind them was, of course, Renee, who, on seeing Barbara, ran full pelt to throw herself on Barbara's lap. Dinah just managed to grab the chair, stopping it from toppling backwards.
"Hey darling, what've you been doing?"
"I've been making Helena's favourite with Uncle Rob." She touched her fingers to her lips, just like Helena always did when she ate the Fieri's Scaloppini.
Barbara and Dinah laughed at her antics, before Dinah lifted Renee off Barbara's lap and put her arm around both young girls.
"Say, why don't you two young ladies come and help me put Sin's garlands on the tree?"
The three excited girls left Barbara to make their way to the tree.
Barbara looked round the room, anxious to catch sight of her girlfriend. Her internal chronometer told her it had been all of 75 minutes since they'd last connected, not a record by any means, but on days like this, with no business to attend to, it was unusual.
Instead, her eyes landed on a gaggle of youths trying to pretend they weren't excited to see the man walking towards them.
Corey Campbell, Tommy Jones, Raoul Fernandez, Josie Gonzales, Leroy Brown, Debbie, Suzanne, Joel, and what seemed to be the whole of Ms. Bertinelli's sixth grade class were laughing and joking together as they watched the over-stated arrival of Santa Claus. They may be old enough, and cynical enough, to not believe in Santa Claus, but on days like this, filled with the love of friends, they were not averse to believing in the magic of Christmas love. If that meant accepting a gift from Santa, so be it.
Barbara laughed inwardly; she knew what each child was receiving, and she wasn't afraid to admit she'd had a blast choosing the gifts for each child. She'd never realized, until getting together with Helena, just how important each child's individuality really was.
And then, she spotted her, now 82 minutes since the last time, Helena, over to one corner, chatting with two older women. She recognized them as Corey's mother and grandmother; the two women she'd been secretly helping out with a little transfer of funds issue. The family of the young boy that had finally brought two strong women to their senses just over a year ago, allowing them to build a relationship that had finally ended in this supposed house-warming party.
At last, Helena and Barbara were going public as a couple now living together successfully under one roof. Seeing the excited antics of Misfit, as she danced with a few of the kids, Barbara chuckled ruefully; at least they were a couple under one roof with a willful chaperone sharing their life. That was one problem her Oracle skills were going to have to remedy early in 2008, she was ready to share her private life with just Helena.
Barbara watched as the two women left Helena to go and watch Dinah and the girls decorate the tree.
Helena's gaze shifted to stare in adoration at her young charges as they waited patiently to meet up with Barbara's carefully designated Santa Claus. Today, each child would receive one or Oracle's 'special' gifts; it was all she could do to reward her lover who, every day throughout the year, whatever she was doing at the time, gave each child her own 'special' gift, her unreserved love.
Every day, Barbara watched her lover care for her children, and so, on this one day, Barbara was the one to offer her support and understanding; it was her way of thanking Helena for her acceptance into that special group worthy of her love. Even at Oracle's worse, and even when Babs' redheaded temper came to the fore, Helena just loved her.
It was enough, more than enough.
Lost in her thoughts, Barbara felt the connection to Helena pulling her alert, and she wasn't one bit surprised to see her girlfriend's eyes now resting intently on her face. She shrugged her shoulders in a gesture Barbara recognised as concern. She grinned and waved Helena across towards her children.
Helena accepted her lover's reassurance and wandered over towards Santa's small alcove, wanting to see the joy on her kids' faces. She'd heard Oracle organizing somebody to hand out her carefully chosen presents. She hadn't been convinced that Oracle's delving into her pupils online activities was fully ethical, but it certainly meant the kids received something they'd wished for, and by the look on Tommy Jones face, that was reason enough.
As he passed her, he grabbed her arm and whispered in an excited fashion. "Ms. Bertinelli, I know that guy. It's Batman; I've seen him busting the gangs around our place. It is, Miss, it is."
Helena laughed as she guided Tommy on his way. She then turned to look closely at the red-suited Santa. He did look to be the right build, but his large white beard hid any other evidence. As if feeling her scrutiny, Santa looked up, caught her eye, and winked. Damn Oracle and her contacts, it was indeed Batman under the seasonal disguise.
She laughed out loud; who'd have thought it?
"Miss, Miss, come and sit on Santa's knee; he's got a present for you in his sack."
Helena looked down into the beaming face of Debbie Brown and tried to shake her head. Debbie was having none of it and dragged Helena over towards the grotto. As she reached the sitting Santa, he stood and Batman's deep voice called out to her.
"Come Miss Bertinelli, we have a lovely gift waiting here for you. Come sit on my knee."
Helena looked around at the grinning faces of her homeroom class and decided to play along. She lounged across Batman's lap and spotted her lover and Nightwing, snickering together across the room. She covertly gave them the bird and then smiled sweetly at Santa Claus.
"Now, my dear, what can I get you for Christmas?"
"Oh, just a heavy dose of happiness will be fine, Sir."
Batman chuckled throatily. "I think that's already been arranged, don't you?" He swept his arm around the room, indicating the small groups of laughing, joyful friends, and at the children, all laughing and gay. There wasn't a sad face to be seen.
Reaching into his sack, Batman threw a few handfuls of sweets out to the children, using the distraction to share some private words with Helena.
He pointed towards Barbara. "Thank you, Helena; this and that smile are your doing. She'd never have given a party before you came along. This year, I've seen her let-up a little, be more relaxed, you know. Jim tells me she's the happiest he's ever known her to be, and for that "
Helena leaned over and kissed his cheek, stopping his words with her own. "I don't need your thanks, Bruce; she makes me happy and that's all that matters."
"As it should be, Helena; take care of each other, that's all I ask. We need you both."
With his words ringing in her ears, Helena took her gift, nodded in acknowledgment, and then turned towards her children. They immediately surrounded her, anxious to see just what Santa had given their favourite teacher.
After a while, she managed to extract herself from their excited actions; standing to scan the room in search of Barbara. Eventually, she caught sight of her lover, chatting animatedly with Bruce and Jim Gordon. She smiled; after Batman's recent words to herself, she was pretty sure they were only giving their blessings.
She walked across the room and interrupted the two men's monopolization of Barbara.
"Santa, Dad, please excuse me, I want to dance with my lady." She offered her hand to Barbara, saying, "May I?"
The men's happy laughter followed them across the room. Once in the centre, under the sparkling mirror ball, Helena gently sat on Barbara's lap and allowed herself to be spun slowly around the room. Without any thought to their watching friends, the two women sealed their love, and, most importantly, their first year together, with a very public kiss.
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