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.
SERIES: This is the final installment of the "Elemental" series fics (Landslide, Watershed, Windshear, Veneer, Stainless, Obsidian, Nuclear and Dark Matter).
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.



Chapter 16

"Why can't you just give it up?"

"Jeez, Helena, why can't *you*!?"

Helena didn't even try to hide her exasperation. In fact, she made a point of rolling her eyes so that Dinah would get the full show.

This was going nowhere in a hurry. Of course, she hadn't expected much when Dinah had come sashaying through the main floor of the Dark Horse a little earlier and stopped by the bar where Helena was drawing a couple of pitchers.

Saturday nights were always good for some sort of sports on the big screen and lots of guys swilling beer.

"Hey, Helena."

Seeing as how the Kid was technically too young to be drinking for another year, Helena had flirted with ratting her out to the cops for even being in the bar.

But that would have been petty. Not to mention that she figured that either Dinah could kick the police's ass or Barbara would fix the records to make everything hunky-dory.

So, just to let her know that she wasn't going to have a stick up her ass -- at least about the petty stuff -- Helena had raised an empty mug and gestured toward the taps.

"What can I get you, D?"

Shit, if Barbara thought that the blonde was old enough to fight crime, a beer wasn't going to kill her. Besides, she had looked like she could use a little re-hydration: Dinah's normally pale features had been sweaty and flushed; under her coat, Helena had picked out the edges of her karate Gi; even in the miasma of sensory experiences that the bar offered, Helena hadn't had any problem picking up the tang of clean sweat. All of it had told her that Dinah was coming back from lessons instead of her work at Mushnik's Flowers.

"No thanks, Hel. I'm okay."

Dinah's bright smile had dimmed a little, and Helena had held her breath.

"I was hoping you could come up to the apartment when you get a break."

She thought that the Kid must have seen something in her eyes. Those pale blue eyes had gone wide, just a little pleading.

"Just for a few minutes, Hel?"

Helena had thought about telling Dinah where she could get off with her invite, but, shit, what was she going to do? It wasn't like she could go through the next weeks and months and years pretending that Dinah didn't live right above where Helena was working or, hell, even trying to ignore her when she came to the Tower.

So here she was. If the greeting at the door was any way to tell, this little tete-a-tete was going to be loads of fun.

"God, Helena."

Dinah was in sweats, her hair damp from the shower. Deciding to ignore the whole "teen huff" in her host's tone, Helena stepped into her old place and shut the door, watching while Dinah snagged two bottles of water and waved toward the fire escape.

"Want to go outside?"

Dark was good, even if Helena wasn't sure how she felt about Dinah taking over her old brooding spot -- well, one of them -- on the roof of the bar. Hell, she wasn't sure that having the Kid take over her old apartment on what was looking to be a permanent basis was going to sit well.

Maybe the lumpy mattress on the bed would be as hard on Dinah's back as it had been on hers.

"Barbara said you were hiding at the library all day."

Sitting next to Dinah on the low parapet that circled the roof, staring out at the flickering lights of New Gotham, Helena didn't look over.


The Kid had the good grace to back down a little.

"Well, that was my take on it, Hel."

Helena dipped her head once, deciding to let Dinah figure out whether it was to accept the retraction-cum-apology or whether she was acknowledging where she'd been.

Even if she hadn't spent the whole day hitting the books. Somewhere around mid-afternoon, she'd had enough of digging through ISI Web Of Knowledge and running searches on Silverplatter -- especially since she could have gotten all of the info for her mid-term papers light years faster on the Delphi. Somehow, she'd ended up in the University art museum, looking at the familiar exhibits and spending a lot of time looking at the new Pollack stuff that had come in on loan.

She'd also found herself doing a lot of thinking about her mom, who would have loved to get her hands on a few of the pieces.

Helena couldn't be sure, but she thought that Bruce might have been the only person that Selina Kyle had really loved in her adult life.

Other than her.

But no matter what she'd felt, her mom had gotten the hell out of Dodge, leaving Bats to his own broody schtick, when Helena had come along. Helena kind of thought that part of the reason was to protect her from Bruce, but she knew that more of it was to protect her from the stuff that Bruce just brought raining down on himself.

Karma was pretty fucked up sometimes.

"So, Hel? Are you going to turn into the team bookworm now?"

Helena twisted the cap on her water bottle tight and then turned to look at her companion.

"No." She held her eyes. "Maybe I'm going to be the *family* bookworm."

Hell, it made sense in a stupid way, what with the roles that she and Dinah were filling going ass-over-noggin in the last few months.

"Look, D."

Helena half-turned, tucking one ankle under the leg that was still swinging out into the empty space of the alley behind the bar.

"You've done a lot of growing up in a hurry."

She saw Dinah starting to open her mouth and raised the hand that wasn't holding the plastic water bottle, asking for a minute to finish.

"I wanted to say that I'm sorry that's happened."

Funny thing was, it wasn't until she said the words that Helena realized how much she meant them. At twenty, Dinah should have been in school, doing the romantic angst thing and trying to sneak into bars and dreaming of her future.

Too bad that it seemed like Dinah wasn't on board with that picture.

"No, Hel, it was time. Like you said -- "

For the first time in a long time, Helena saw the blonde tucking some hair behind one ear. She'd missed that little nervous tell.

"-- I can't play at this."

Choking back the words that wanted to spill out, Helena turned to face the city again, dropping her leg to kick both heels against the crumbling brick of the wall.

"You don't have to do it at all, Dinah."

The blonde didn't answer her directly.

"Helena -- "

She sounded horribly earnest, which immediately got Helena's guard up.

"It's not like I'm not a little familiar with some of what you're dealing with. With having someone... important at risk."

Trying to play fair, Helena thought back to that day just a little over three months before.

"Yeah, that was pretty rough with Gabby."

A cautious look to her side revealed an expression on Dinah's face that was at least a little doubtful.

"Really," Helena added.

She felt Dinah's posture relax a little.


The word bled away on the wind, and Helena remembered herself.

"How's she doing?"

The brunette hadn't seem Gabby in over a month. She knew that Dinah and her girlfriend were making a point of visiting each other every few weeks, but that didn't mean much when it came to dealing with the fallout of what Gabby had seen.

"She's... She's okay."

Helena was pretty sure that there was more, so she tapped her water bottle against her thigh and waited. It didn't take any time.

"She thinks that she wants to join the team."

Helena half-turned, her eyebrows stretching for the moon.

"You're kidding, right?"

Or, maybe Barbara was right when she talked about her students and how stupid could be contagious.

The shake of a blonde head was eloquence enough, and Helena chewed on the information, one conclusion blazing across her brain in nanoseconds.

"Barbara's going to shit a brick."

"No kidding, Hel."

Of course, Helena had to consider that her gung-ho former partner might just be all thrilled to have a bigger team and more chances to fight for truth, justice, and yadda-yadda. Since she really didn't want to think about that, she decided to go with just the facts.

"Well, does Gabby have any -- " She pitched her voice and made air quotes with her fingers. "-- special skills?"

Helena kind of thought of herself as pretty well-versed in the ways of the world. She was no blushing virgin. Still she almost fell backward off her seat on the parapet when she made out the look that Dinah was giving her: It was just too dirty for words.

"Superhero skills," she managed.

The blonde sobered.

"Nothing meta, but she's smart and she's strong and, well, I guess it'd be kind of like Batm-- Batgirl."

Helena let the near-slip go.

"But does she have that whole do-gooder mentality?"

She didn't elaborate. She knew that Dinah understood.

Apparently, she realized a second later, Dinah understood too well.

"It's always been important for Barbara to make a difference, Hel. You know that."

A pale hand briefly touched her knee, ghostlike in the darkness.

"And you know her whole responsibility thing, too."

God, did Helena ever know it. But that didn't mean that Dinah could dance off scott-free.

"Then why the fuck don't you back away so that she has the chance of not being responsible?"

The brunette had to give her companion credit: Dinah didn't flinch.

"Would that really do it, Hel? And, would that be the right thing for Barbara?"

The blonde swung her legs over the parapet, resting her feet on the rooftop. That's when Helena noticed that she was wearing slippers.

Bunny slippers.

"Helena, Barbara is a... a teacher. And a leader."

Something in the wind must have blown into her eyes. Helena scrubbed the heel of her hand across her eyelids, trying to rub away the burning.

"Why isn't that enough, D?"

Why the fuck did Barbara have to be so damned selfish?

She didn't think she expected an answer. When she got one, the words undid the progress she'd made in clearing her eyes.

"Because she's also human, Hel."


Helena stood up and tossed her bottle over the edge of the roof, confident that she'd landed it in the dumpster two stories down.

It was time to get back on the clock.

She also figured that Dinah would be out hitting the streets soon. With Barbara's voice in her ear, telling her where to go and what to do.

"Like I said last year, D, if you mess up and hurt the family, I'll be coming for you myself."

The fierce hug that she got wasn't what Helena had been expecting, but it did remind her of something else that was important.

"Fuck, Dinah. Don't mess up and get yourself dead either."

Naturally, the Kid didn't let it go. Hell, Helena had to figure that, even without the hug, Dinah was probably picking up on the emotions Helena had been battling all day.

"What are you going to do about Barbara, Hel?"

Which was, the brunette couldn't deny as she re-entered the noise of the bar a minute later, a pretty important question. One she didn't have an answer to.

Still, she was pretty certain that she wasn't going to figure out her answer any time soon with some damned Wilson Philips pop blaring out of the juke. Grabbing a few quarters from the tip jar, she stalked over to the offending machine and started feeding it.

She hadn't heard that remake of the Nancy Sinatra classic in a while, so Helena chose it first. Then, just because, she picked something she hadn't heard of by someone she hadn't heard of.

It didn't hurt that it was number sixty-nine on the juke's playlist either.

She'd been back behind the bar for only about five minutes, just long enough for Jessica to finish her promise to walk on out, when she sensed somebody stepping up behind her at the back edge of the bar. Helena was speaking as she turned.

"What can I get you?"

The professional smile that she'd perfected over the years -- enough to ensure decent tips without getting her hit on by every guy in the place -- hitched, then it got genuine when she saw the handsome features across the counter.


Wake up in the morning, stumble on my life
Can't get no love without sacrifice
If anything should happen, I guess I wish you well
A little bit of heaven, but a little bit of hell


"Some of your time and, well, whatever I can get from you."

Helena waved to get Janey's attention and motioned that she'd be at a table. Ducking under the pass-through, she threaded her way through the bar, leading Jesse Reese to a small table in the corner.

"Haven't seen you for a while, Jesse."

Beautiful chocolate brown eyes seemed to search her before the detective answered.

'Yeah, well, I -- Well, after you and Barbara -- " A strong hand gestured vaguely, and Helena thought she detected a hint of a blush in dark features. "I thought I'd just better lay low."

"Thanks," she mouthed, not sure what the proper etiquette was in this kind of situation.

Jesse's answering smile was tight.

'Well, I'm hoping that I''m not overstepping here, but I need to call in that favor."


This is the hardest story that I've ever told
No hope, or love, or glory
Happy endings gone forever more
I feel as if I feel as if I'm wasted
And I'm wastin' everyday


Something prickled the hair at the back of Helena's neck. She pushed the sensation aside and quirked a grin.

'What is it, Jesse? Dinner and movie?"


So much for trying to crack wise.

"Well, not just that, Helena."

His smile was quick, registering an emotion that Helena couldn't quite place, but she knew that she'd seen pain -- and hope -- there. For an instant, that damned tingling danced over her skin again; for a heartbeat, she thought about asking whether she needed to talk to Barbara.


This is the way you left me,
I'm not pretending.
No hope, no love, no glory,
No happy ending.
This is the way that we love,
Like it's forever.
Then live the rest of our life,
But not together.


Then, Helena remembered. She also remembered everything that she owed Jesse, everything they had shared.

He had been a good friend. He was a friend.

Her answer was out before she could reconsider.

"Anything, Jesse."


Chapter 17

While Barbara was willing to grant that it could have been little more than wishful thinking on her part, it did seem that, possibly, she wasn't completely irrelevant yet. Indeed, while she freely acknowledged that anyone who had the power of the Delphi would have quite an advantage in the arena of cyber-sleuthing, she suspected that a keen eye for details and the ability to pick out patterns that would drop below the radar of a program couldn't be discounted either.

And she, as she'd just demonstrated quite to her satisfaction after hacking into LexCorp's online financial system, apparently still possessed both.

Although she'd essentially been dabbling as she'd coursed through the national IRA databases earlier -- killing time during Dinah's sweeps in a bit of real-life Monopoly, as it were -- the sudden surge in account reallocations all originating from one I.P. address had been enough to peak her interest. Thus, while her partner in the field had been running sweeps in downtown New Gotham, Barbara had followed her hunch and tracked the leads.


<"Come again, Oracle?">

A bit belatedly, Barbara remembered that her comms were still active. Almost guiltily, she jerked her gaze from the terminal screen that she'd been focused on and checked the GPS. She was a bit surprised to note how many blocks Dinah had covered in the last few minutes of her abstraction.

"Nothing, Canary. Just a possible fly in the ointment elsewhere."

<"Anything you need me to check on?">

Barbara was certain that she detected a distinct up-tick in the interest that registered in her newest partner's voice, and she chuckled softly.

"Afraid not, Canary. How are our BDUs doing?"

After a relatively low-key patrol, with Dinah working to protect Saturday night party-goers from the typical street criminals of the city, Barbara had been about to suggest calling it a night. However, when Dinah had noticed two Big, Dumb, and Uglies emerging from an alley, the young woman had suggested tailing them.

<"Just for a few blocks. Something about them sets my teeth on edge.">

Unable to deny a fellow crime-fighter's hunch, Barbara had agreed. She suspected that neither of them had been surprised when Dinah's prey had started tailing three partiers near the docks not too many minutes later.

<"They've closed the distance a little on the frat boys,"> was the brief response.


<"Kappa Kappa Gamma hoodies.">

The redhead nodded briefly and toggled to the police scanners to verify that nothing more promising had cropped up.

"Have they done anything yet, Canary?"

For some reason, the exasperated huff that rasped through the headset was not what Barbara had been expecting.

<"Well, when I brushed by them two blocks back -- ">

The words reminded Barbara -- again -- of the difference in her newest partner's style: whereas Helena had preferred to stalk from the rooftops, Dinah seemed more comfortable on the streets.

<"-- the frat boys reeked of alcohol?">

There was a distinct note of hope in her partner's words, however Barbara didn't hesitate.

"I think we'll leave the public intoxication busts to the police, Canary."

They needed to stay focused on the mission, although the fact that their two BDUs hadn't jumped at the bait of a single young woman on the street could indicate that Dinah's sixth sense still needed a bit of honing.

"Any suspicious action from the two you're following?"

She was pleased that there was no trace of defensiveness in the response she received.

<"Nothing yet, Oracle, but what are the odds that they just happen to be following these guys for sixteen blocks?">

Immediately, Barbara worked backward from Dinah's current location, mentally flicking through the series of streets and alleys that had been traversed, not to mention the turns and meandering progress that they had tracked. When she ran the tally and did the math, the results were telling.

"I believe the odds are greater for a woman to get married after forty."

The instant that the words were out, Barbara regretted them. On-comms banter had simply become too... charged since the night before.

Green eyes ticked to the on-screen clock, confirming the time, and Barbara automatically corrected herself. Since it was after midnight, it had technically been two days since the little... showdown.

<"Uh, okay. How about I give the BDUs a little TK push to see if it kicks them into gear?">

Grateful for the distraction, Barbara was ready to give the go-ahead when she heard her partner snicker.

<"And, if that doesn't do it, maybe I can sober up the frat boys by giving them a push into the harbor.">

Although she allowed herself a smile, Barbara kept her response dry.

"Considering what, and who, may be floating in the waters of New Gotham's harbor, Canary, I believe that would be tantamount to attempted murder."

<"How about I just dump some on their heads?">

With a soundless chuckle, Barbara opted to table for later her curiosity about Dinah's marked antipathy for drunken university boys. At the same time, she determined that the wash of fondness for Dinah's doggedness -- no doubt reminding her of the same trait in her former partner -- would best be tucked into a box and shoved to the distant recesses of her mental closet.

It was best to focus on the matters at hand.

"Whenever you're ready."

Dinah's push did the trick, enraging the two thugs who turned first on each other and then toward the frat boys. When Dinah announced that she was stepping into the fray, Barbara deliberately chose not to offer any guidance. She was more than delighted when she gathered that her newest protege was relying on her martial arts training instead of her telekinetic ability to win the day.

As stunning as Dinah's meta-abilities were, it was safest to have other skills as well.

With NYPD dispatched, Barbara bid her partner a good night and began the process of closing down her workstation. Given the lateness of the hour, it seemed that there was little use in staying up: Helena shift at the bar had ended almost two hours before. Nevertheless, she was loathe to turn in, suspecting that doing so would turn into little more than an exercise in lying awake in the big bed.

So it was that, after checking on Katharine, Barbara found herself shutting off the lights in the Tower and then moving onto the balcony.

There was no moon, the darkness almost absolute; however, Helena had no trouble finding her footing when she landed soundlessly on the roof of the building that faced the balcony. She had even less difficulty making out Barbara's profile where the redhead had sequestered herself in the shadows.

God, she was so damned beautiful.

Unable and unwilling not to look, the brunette crouched two stories above, one knee resting lightly on the tarred gravel that covered the roof. Barbara's pale skin seemed to draw, then refract, the meager light from the city at night; her hair draped her shoulders like a cloak. As Helena watched, she saw her lover absently running her fingertips to the right side of her shirt placket, just above the swell of her breasts.

Helena hissed, and then swallowed something sour that clawed at her throat. Her own chest ached in the same spot that Barbara was touching.

She thought it always would.

When she saw Barbara shiver in the cool early spring night, Helena was on her feet and bridging the air between the buildings without thought.

She couldn't just stand back.

To Barbara's admittedly human ears, Helena's arrival was perfectly soundless. Nevertheless, she simply knew when the younger woman had joined her, and she turned, unerringly pinpointing her in the darkness.

"Hello, Helena."

Between one word and the next, Helena's duster was around her, cocooning Barbara. The heat from the younger woman's body lingered, warming her; Helena's scent mingled with the rich leather, making Barbara feel utterly secure.

This was right.

The words flashed behind Barbara's eyelids while she drew in a deep breath. Yet...

Barbara pried open her eyes, catching her lower lip in her teeth. When she spoke, she hated the hesitation in her words.

"I wasn't sure that you'd be ho--"

Something about the way the other woman seemed to stiffen forced Barbara to stumble. She continued carefully.

"--that I'd see you tonight."

There was a flash of teeth, white in the inky blackness. Barbara chose to accept it as a grin.

"Huh. It's not like I have your tolerance for hitting the books for days in a row."

"And nights," Barbara gently reminded her.

Digging the toe of one boot into the flagstone edging, Helena bit her tongue. She knew that Barbara was more than aware that she'd done her part, that she'd called part-way through the afternoon.

<<"Will you-- What are your plans for the rest of the day, Helena?">>

Helena hadn't been sure just what her big-brained partner -- her domestic partner -- had been thinking about asking, but what had come out hadn't been real encouraging. So, she'd told Barbara the truth.

"Leroy called. He has an extra shift for me so..."

For some stupid reason, she'd left it hanging. Barbara's answer had helped her make up her mind on the spot about accepting the offer from her boss.

<<"I understand, Helena.">>

The brunette wasn't so sure that Barbara did. She wasn't so sure that she could help her understand.

As the silence wore on, Barbara realized that her companion had chosen not to respond, and so she decided to probe a bit.

"You're... late."

Helena stepped from the deepest shadows, something self-mocking in her tone.

"Relax, I wasn't out doing black-market sweeps or anything."

When she saw nothing but calm acceptance -- and the curiosity that Barbara just couldn't fight -- in Barbara's features, Helena shrugged and turned to face the cityscape.

"I ran into... an old friend. We were catching up."

She really didn't know why she was nervous about fessing up. Nothing had happened, even if she had given Jesse her promise.

For a few beats, Barbara waited to see if there would be anything more. When nothing was forthcoming, it dawned on her that this might be the most she could expect. Screwing up her courage, she decided that one of them simply had to make at least a passing reference to the elephant that seemed to be cemented -- or wading knee deep in molasses -- on the balcony.

"Do -- Would you like to talk about -- ?"

Despite her best intentions, she faltered, wondering just how to describe the apparent unraveling of so much.

"-- the other night?"

Helena had faded into the dark edges of the balcony again, only the soft outline of her face visible in the blackness. Her voice seemed to float from nowhere.

"I... I don't -- "

Don't what?

Helena poked her tongue into her cheek, wondering if she wasn't ready to talk yet or --

"I don't think there's anything left to say, Barbara."

Although the redhead doubted that very much, she wasn't adverse to a bit of avoidance.

At least for the time being.

Accordingly she offered a noncommittal hum, and they fell into a silence broken only by the scree of the cold March wind.

"Beware the Ides," Barbara heard herself murmur.

"Caesar or Brutus?" floated again from the darkness. Since she simply had no answer, Barbara opted not to respond.

Pretty much instantly regretting her little fit of foot-in-mouth, Helena took a cautious step forward.

"Everything okay, Red?"


She couldn't tell if Barbara was clueless, or just lost in her own thoughts, or clueless and lost, or...

"With sweep--"

Something made it hard to say, even if it was something they talked about.

"Everything go okay tonight?"

Barbara pulled Helena's coat more snugly around her shoulders, allowing herself a smile as she nodded a confirmation.

God, Helena loved that smile. There was no way she couldn't respond.

"You're looking pretty pleased with yourself, Ms. Gordon."

Finally, something had been spoken without that damnable cloak of reticence. Almost giddy, Barbara allowed her smile to bloom.

"I am, actually."

The words had their intended effect, luring Helena another step closer.

"I noticed some suspicious banking activity and traced it back to LexCorp. It looks like the CEO is working out how to raid the employee pensions."

Helena's next step had a bit of spring in it.

"Not nice," the younger woman allowed, and Barbara seized on the words.

"Indeed. This impacts lives."

For a split second, Barbara held her breath. The snicker that she made out wasn't what she'd hoped for, but it was better than what she'd feared.

"What're you going to do? Send The Kid out to give him a stern talking to?"

When she saw emerald eyes spark, Helena shook her head.

"Joking, Barbara. Sheesh."

She slipped to the side, blending into the absurd shadows cast by the stone gargoyles above them.

"I know that, Hel," For some reason, Barbara felt the need to defend her own enthusiasm. "However, that is something that--"

Helena raised one hand, palm out, in a request for silence.

Or, Barbara wondered as her companion faded to the darkness again, perhaps it was a request for peace.

"I -- I don't think I want to know other than if she -- if everything is okay."

Dropping her hands to the wheels of her chair, Barbara rocked herself a few inches forward, then back, turning a few degrees in the process in order to track Helena's location.

"Sweeps went very well, Helena. I thought you might not want to hear the details."

The answer came from behind her, causing Barbara to jump a tiny bit.

"Just that everything's okay."

Somewhere in the street below, a dog barked. Then, Barbara jumped in earnest when Helena leaned down, one hand coming to the arm of her chair, the other lightly brushing the hair from her cheek.

She hadn't even sensed Helena's movement.

"You look like you're wired up."

Helena didn't even try to hide her half-smile. Hell, who knew better than she did how much of a buzz that Barbara got from a good sweeps or cracking some puzzle or striking another blow for the good guys?

And the vicarious thrill of the hunt, too, she was reminded when she picked up Barbara's scent.

Helena had always loved the way Barbara smelled, and the heat and faint hint of perspiration that rose from her lover was almost a caress. Closing her eyes, the brunette opened her mouth, breathing in the sweet familiar essence of her home, her life.

"I suppose I am."

Fighting the urge to rock her chair, Barbara knit her fingers in her lap. It did nothing to reduce the aching awareness of Helena's proximity.

"I was just thinking about some tea to wind down."

The wind rose, tickling Helena's lips with a few strands of crimson silk. Eyes heavy-lidded, she pushed Barbara's words around a little, trying to weigh them-- and the emotion behind them. Finally, she decided to take a leap.

"There are other ways to burn off that energy, you know."

The low burr in the younger woman's voice raised the fine hair on the back of Barbara's neck. Suddenly no longer the slightest bit chilled, the redhead felt gooseflesh erupt on her upper body.

"Is -- " She had to stop, to take the time to swallow and wet her dry mouth. "Is that so?"


The lone syllable was a touch, Helena's breath warm; her next words were little more than a rumbling purr.

"Let's go to bed."


Chapter 18

Fear was metallic in Barbara's mouth. For an instant, the taste brought with it the choking taste of copper and saline blood. Then, she looked up and for the first time in the awkward minutes that had passed since Helena's arrival, she saw her partner's face.

Her eyes.

Helena's eyes were not the feral yellow that she'd expected. Rather, they were deep blue, dancing tandem to the clearly indulgent smile that painted her lips.

Swallowing, Barbara raised her arms in request.

"Yes, Hel."

By the time they were settled on the bed in Dinah's old room, the terror that had briefly seized Barbara was a distant memory. It had been replaced with something softer, a deep affection that swelled larger with every trip that Helena made to the room: first carrying Barbara in, then returning with her chair, and finally ducking out to check on Katharine where she slept in their room.

"The Peapod is still sawing wood," was the verdict.

Shucking her boots and pants, Helena crawled onto the bed, swinging one leg across Barbara's thighs to straddle her lap. Without breaking the flow of her motion, her fingers came to the buttons of her lover's shirt, easily plucking them open.

She'd already stripped Barbara of her shoes and jeans when they'd come it, and there was no way she was beating around the bush any longer. She could smell the exciting coursing on Barbara's skin.

"You're ramped up, aren't you?"

Helena brushed the shirt from Barbara's shoulders and tossed it to the side, her free hand already cupping the redhead's breast and her thumb rubbing against the lace of her bra. Barbara pushed aside her urge to resist the contact and arched upward slightly.

This was, after all, good as well. It was certainly more than she'd expected when she'd moved to the balcony earlier.

"Yes," she managed a smile. "I suppose I am."

Helena's grin was sly.

"Any way in particular you'd like to celebrate the successful deployment of your newest operative?"

Barbara read no censure in the question, and she took courage from that.

"I was thinking -- " She wet her lips and made the choice to join in with Helena's play. "-- of something of a carnal nature."

Helena's grin grew wider.

"Why, Ms. Gordon," she batted her lashes, "is that your way of saying that you want to get naked with me?"

Green eyes regarded her levelly as Helena felt her hand brushed from her lover's chest.

"Buck -- "

The brunette caught her breath at the sight of Barbara's fingers working the front closure on her bra.

"-- naked, Hel."


Yanking her own tee off, Helena leaned down, bringing them skin-to-skin. When the shiver that always took her from that contact let up, she allowed her mouth to follow a wandering line down Barbara's neck to the leaping pulse at the side of her throat. As she washed the sweet flesh with her tongue, she felt the steady pulse of blood moving through her lover's veins, but it was more of what she wasn't feeling that got her attention.

"C'mon, Red," Helena whispered as she raked her teeth over delicate skin. "Celebrate."


Barbara's murmur set Helena's pulse to pounding, just like the way that Barbara was pulling her close and going soft and open beneath her. She pretty much figured that one more throaty whisper from the redhead would push her into---

Helena caught herself. She caught on to Barbara.

Pushing up on her forearms, she waited until green eyes met hers and crimson brows quirked. The affectionate amusement that painted those elegant features was nice, but it wasn't going to touch the energy that Barbara had said she wanted to work off.

Okay, it was time to haul out the big guns.

Buying herself a minute, Helena worked her hands under Barbara's back, letting her fingers automatically go to work on relaxing stiff muscles. Then she started reviewing the usual suspects.

There was flattery.

Talking to Barbara about her strong hands and the softness of her skin and the way that her hair felt washing across Helena's thighs could get pretty damned hot. Although, when Helena came to think about it, that kind of talk probably went further in getting her charged up than Barbara.

So, there was always talking filthy.

There'd been a lot of times when the judicious use of certain words -- usually those starting with the letters "t", "f", and "c" -- could light Red's fire. Helena had already leaned in when it struck her that this wasn't about that.

Pressing a tender kiss to the redhead's temple, Helena kept thinking.

Talking to Barbara in French sometimes got her going.

A few well-timed bits of poetry or, hell, just some romantic description had been known to get Barbara's motor revving. But, she admitted the second the idea came to her, this wasn't so much a hearts and flowers time either.


Helena figured she could go for the trifecta and try flattering her lover with a few dirty French words. But, it still wasn't the right kind of... energy.

They were here, in the guest room, because she'd suggested it. And Helena had suggested it because, well, this was Barbara. Yeah, sexy beautiful big-brained Barbara, but it was Barbara who was ramped up because --

Well, Helena knew why.

Closing the gap, Helena breathed a single word into her lover's ear.


Pleasantly relaxed -- and not entirely sure that she could rouse herself from that state -- Barbara felt her brows crease.

"La-- ?" she echoed, a trifle stupidly she suspected. Was Helena suggesting the use of the purple--


That cinched it. Barbara planted her palms against her partner's shoulders and applied a bit of pressure. Helena refused to be budged.


This last was delivered in tandem with the application of sharp teeth to Barbara's neck. Not quite sure why, Barbara thought she detected a stutter in her heartbeat.

"Baby powder."

Helena hadn't really planned on that one, but, hell, Barbara was getting kind of sweaty and Helena didn't want any, well, mental chafing. Besides, something about the scent always made her think of Barbara.

"Careful, Hel..."

Needing to know, the brunette pulled back a few inches. She saw that the warning was offered through a smile; however she also saw the glint in green eyes that were rapidly dilating to black. Without hesitation, Helena pushed up on her hands and narrowed her eyes in challenge.


Fisti-- ?

Barbara felt her eyebrows stretching for the head of the bed, and she struggled to stifle a thoroughly undignified snort. Undeterred, Helena went for the kill.


Very slowly, she walked her fingers up the silken skin that covered a muscular bicep, allowing the pads of her fingers to linger lightly at the spot just above Barbara's elbow that always made her squirm.


Helena swept her hands down the length of both of Barbara's arms and caught her wrists. She raised them both above her lover's head, pinning them loosely with her left hand.


She brought her free hand down to cup a full breast and squeezed.



It was Barbara's word finally, deep and husky. Helena just had time to make out another as Barbara sat up beneath her and flipped her to her back.


Somehow, the brunette managed one more salvo -- "Conquer--?" -- even if it was more of a moan than a continuation of their conversation. Then, with Barbara attacking her throat and her mouth and those strong hands digging in to her side, Helena didn't worry much about being coherent for a while.

There were better things to think about. Like the way Barbara was looking at her like she was chocolate in a room full of PMS-ing women.

Her own skin flushed from the verbal foreplay that Helena had initiated, Barbara began a deliberately paced, randomly mapped, trip down Helena's body. Using her tongue and lips and teeth, she brought an answering bloom to dusky skin. She lingered at Helena's breasts, working the smooth skin against her palms and painting Helena's nipples with her mouth. It was only when she noticed her lover's ragged breathing that Barbara reluctantly released the succulent flesh; however, she'd barely begun to explore the tantalizing planes of a washboard abdomen when she felt slender fingers in her hair, drawing her back up.

"Not that," Helena's whisper was thick. "I want... more."

Helena watched a crimson brow arching toward Barbara's hairline, eloquently expressing a great many things. She waited out the scrutiny, trying to breathe through the desire that fluttered in her belly.


The desire in the younger woman's face was apparent, as was the invitation. Barbara dropped her eyes, focusing on the subtle tensing of the muscles in Helena's legs. She ran the tip of her index finger across satin skin while she weighed what she saw in Helena's face against her own desires.

And her fear.

Heaven help her, Barbara knew that she wanted... wanted so much. Reared in the polite mores of middle class, Barbara accepted that such desires weren't something she cared much to consider. She understood an instinctive fear and distrust not just of how much she wanted this, but why.

Analytically, of course, she could grasp that some of the reasons certainly sprang from what had transpired at the hands of The Joker. Yet, whether the genesis rose from acting out rage over what she could no longer experience or it was one way to make up for what she could no longer do didn't matter.

All that mattered was before her, reclining in open desire before her. All that counted was her own willingness.

To trust.

Viscerally, the sheer power of what she sometimes wanted was terrifying. Yet, searching violet, hungry eyes, she couldn't deny the trust that Helena had offered to her in the last two years: time after time, Barbara had asked her partner to trust her with her needs, with her feral side, and Helena had offered her everything.

Could she trust Helena any less with her secrets?

"Sweetheart -- "

Barbara honestly wasn't certain what she planned to say. Her attempt was aborted when she felt Helena capture her hand, raising it to her lover's breast. Under Helena's guidance, she palmed the sensitive flesh, feeling her own nipples burn in an answering ache; however, when Helena covered the back of her hand and squeezed, it was the fire in Helena's eyes that set her aflame.

"C'mon, Red. Do me."

Something pounded low in Barbara's stomach, and she swallowed thickly. For another heartbeat, she regarded the younger woman, and then she smiled slowly. With intent.

The look made Helena's toes curl. But it didn't hold a candle to the words, rich and thick, that Barbara spoke.

"Oh, I shall, Helena. I shall."

Not giving herself time to second-guess, the redhead lowered herself to rest on one elbow, simultaneously tugging Helena towards her. When she felt her partner roll toward her, Barbara arched toward the contact, allowing her palm to land on firm glutes with just a hint of force. Instantly, she was almost toppled backward by the volume of the guttural growl that echoed between them.

For a split-second, Barbara hovered on the precipice. The sensation of Helena moving sinuously against her tipped the scales.

Oh, this could be very, very nice.

Once more, again with more intent than force, she brought her hand down. The dark head arched back, slender neck straining in a pure animal display of pleasure.

"On your knees, Hel."


Feeling her eyes begin to droop with anticipated pleasure, Helena shucked her underwear and boosted herself to her hands and knees. She had to fight to keep herself still, steady, and when Barbara's fingers came to her chin, it didn't help. Somehow, she held it together, dropping her chin to suck two fingers into her mouth.

Barbara's smile was indulgent.

And sexy as all hell.

"You don't come, Hel."

It wasn't like Helena was going to argue, so she just nodded, allowing Barbara to extricate her hand. Then, Barbara was extending her hand in front of her, palm out, and Helena felt the frown forming while she tried to puzzle it out.


Exhaling harshly, Barbara fought her own desire to push, to rush, allowing Helena to take her time as she languorously wet her palm with her tongue. Only when her lover pulled away did she give in.

She gave herself over, measuring her pace and tempering every blow. She watched the sweat rise on the bare skin of her lover's back, feeling an answering heat across her own upper body. She choreographed her movements to the arching, rolling undulations of Helena's hips, mouth watering. She grit her teeth against the need to whisper -- or moan -- as Helena's litany of pleasure sounded for both of them.

"Barbara-- god."

Eventually, she slowed, then stroked skin that was hot with blood and alive under her touch. And still Barbara needed.

"I need to see you, Helena."

The younger woman was on her back before the words had faded. The snarling hiss that bled out when her skin touched the sheets almost undid the redhead.

Again, Barbara battled down her need to rush.

Dancing her fingers through wet heat, she caught her lower lip in her teeth and tasted blood at the image of Helena grunting in pleasure, digging her heels into the mattress and thrusting up to meet her hand.

Slowly, delicately, Barbara worked her hand, then her fist, feeling the returning squeeze of velvet enrobed muscles. Transfixed, she held her lover's gaze, unable to breathe through the rigidity of sinewy muscles that were locked in a rictus of pain that, even as Barbara watched, bled to pleasure. Helpless, she leaned in to cover Helena's mouth -- rounded in an "o" -- with her own, unable to bear the light in gold eyes the offered transparency to her lover's soul.

For an eternity, for an instant, Helena's soft panting exhalations were the only sound to accompany the slide of skin against wet, succulent flesh. Barbara finally gave in, breaking the silence that threaded between them.

"Come, Helena."

She felt the younger woman's passion growing, moving upward through her limbs, centering in her body as she shuddered soundless. The pressure against the redhead's fist grew, and Barbara looked up again, pierced by blue eyes that were eternally fixed on her.

Without conscious volition, Barbara's free hand rose to the side of the brunette's face. Helena's smile coincided with her orgasm, and Barbara struggled upward to whisper kisses across her lover's cheeks and eyelids and mouth.

Dear heavens, Helena was so beautiful.

Unable to deny herself, Barbara demanded entrance to Helena's mouth, swallowing her soft whimpers before she backed away, once again pressing gentle kisses to her skin.

"Sweetheart, my -- I..."

Burying her face against a strong shoulder, Helena shook her head once. It felt so fucking right, and she just wanted to stay there forever. Almost like Barbara knew, she didn't pull out right away, and Helena curled into her, feeling her muscles spasming with the aftershocks and just... just having Barbara being a part of her.

"God. Damn."

Finally prying open her eyes, Helena peered up through her lashes to find Barbara smirking at her. She had to admit that it hadn't been the most eloquent way to wrap it up, but it had pretty well nailed the essence of the experience for her.

Still, it wouldn't hurt to try again, seeing as how Barbara was all about language.

"I want to do that again, Red."

For a moment, Barbara remained stock-still, attempting to collect her flabbergasted wits. Surprising herself, she stopped short of overthinking matters and allowed her laughter to bubble forth.

"I do, too, Sweetheart."

The smile they shared did little to dissipate the heat that built when Barbara slowly, regretfully, separated from Helena. Nor did the achingly content stretch that she witnessed when her partner rolled onto her side.

"My, but you're sexy, Hel."

Green eyes blinked once while Barbara acknowledged that it really had been her voice that had spoken the words. Apparently, the uncharacteristic utterance didn't faze her partner in the slightest.

"What does sexy mean to you, Red?"

Barbara obediently repositioned her arm to allow Helena to snuggle against her side while she considered the question. For a few moments, she weighed reason and rational linguistics against the mental photo album that she'd collected through the years with her partner.

She felt the blood rushing into her cheeks.

"It means," she finally decided to admit, "that I want to do unspeakably filthy things to you."

Slowly, the dark head that was resting on her shoulder rose, bringing bright blue eyes into view. When Helena spoke, her voice was a curious mixture of pleading and, well, leering.

"Speak a few, Baby."

Flirting with a demurral, the redhead heard herself swallow, and then she gave a mental shrug.

"I believe one might involve positioning you face down on the bed, securing your ankles and wrists to the far corners, placing a pillow or two under you, and -- "

Seeing the warm blush of arousal coursing up her lover's throat, Barbara stretched over to whisper the rest.

She decided to take the growl that she heard as enthusiasm.

"Want to go again, Hel?"

White teeth flashed.

"Like I'm gonna say no to that?"


Chapter 19

Dawn had long since come and gone, its advent occurring less than an hour after they had returned to their bedroom. Since then, Helena had been relaxed beside her, nothing but the low rumble that emanated from her chest suggesting that she was even breathing. Barbara, content with the arrangement, lay quietly, her right arm curled around her lover as she watched the shifting changes of light in the room and reflected on their night.

It was only when the younger woman's purring transformed to a soft whuffling against Barbara's underarm that the redhead dared to move. She worked a minute series of isometric stretches, feeling Helena respond by somehow, impossibly, plastering herself closer to her side.


Barbara felt a smile tug the corners of her mouth and turned her head to press a gentle kiss into the mussed locks that rested on her shoulder. In response, she felt Helena stretching exorbitantly beside her.


The murmur was almost lost as the younger woman buried her nose against her side, and Barbara worked not to squirm ticklishly when she felt soft inhalations against her breast. Determining that the brunette was awake enough to scent her, she swallowed and broke the silence.

"Are you all right, Hel?"

Unable to miss the fact that Barbara's skill with morning-after sorts of pillow talk wasn't improving in a hurry, Helena grudgingly dragged her eyes open. The view that she was faced with -- an extreme close up of Barbara's chest -- went a long way in reducing some of the crankiness that she felt.

"Almost as awesome as you are, Baby."

Helena felt her partner's measured inhalation. She felt Barbara's muscles tense. Pretty sure she was about to get a protest and damned near positive that her big-brained lover had probably been lying there worrying ever since they'd left Dinah's room and Helena had dragged her ass back to the big bed, she pushed up on her elbow, snagged Barbara's free hand, and brought it to the area of her anatomy she'd just been thinking about.

Then, Helena applied a little pressure to the back of the hand she was guiding. When Barbara took over and those strong fingers squeezed, Helena didn't have to think any more about reassurances.


Instantly, Helena was on top of her companion, her hands roving over her chest and sides and her legs starting to scissor against Barbara's.

Pillow talk was good, but she could handle some nonverbal communication, too.

"Hold on there, Hot Stuff."

Barbara was laughing, the sound sending heat straight to Helena's center. She ignored her body's outraged protests and stilled her hands long enough to look up into deep emerald eyes.

"Are you sure, Hel?"

Crap. Crap. Crap.


No pillow talk *and* no nonverbal, but, Helena accepted with something akin to resignation, there was going to be talking. Refusing to relinquish the prime real estate that she was perched over, she smiled and worked to figure how she could speed the chatting process along.

"Barbara," she waited a beat, making sure she had the redhead's full attention. When she was certain, Helena spoke slowly, carefully, hoping to impress Barbara with the depth and duration of her response. "I'm really, *reeeelly* sure."

Although Helena didn't so much as blink or crack a smile, Barbara forced a smile of her own across the tightening of her jaw. There could be little doubt as to Helena's sincerity; however, that didn't mean that she understood how her partner could be so... open. When she felt her hand gently grasped, Helena's thumb brushing over her knuckles, Barbara suspected that her lover had read her doubts.

"What's chewing at you, Barbara?"

Helena knew that the range of possibilities for that question was probably astronomical. It wasn't like Barbara ever had trouble finding something to fret over, and seeing what she'd let go with a few hours earlier...

"I suppose that I wasn't expecting--"

Mentally wincing at the sheer... formality of her diction, Barbara twitched the muscles of her face, hoping that Helena would interpret the gesture as the apologetic smile that was intended.

"I didn't think that you'd want to be..." Despite her best intentions, she faltered before soldiering on. "-- to engage in that sort of intimacy."

Gamine features wrinkled in confusion. When Helena spoke, her voice was deceptively light.

"What, the slap and tick--"

Fearing that the blush she could feel rushing up her neck might consume her, Barbara cut her short.

"Any intimacy, Hel."

The confusion in the younger woman's eyes only deepened. Dropping her hands to the covers, Barbara worked fists against the sheets and tried to clarify.

"Because we were-- we are--"

Helena got it.

"Because we're kind of fighting about sweeps and the business?"

Simultaneously relieved and embarrassed, the redhead nodded. Unprepared for the snort of laughter that greeted her admission, she schooled her features to something that she hoped approached disbelief. Helena seemed to be undeterred, merely dropping down to rest fully on Barbara's upper body, her laughter dissolving into a series of snickers.

As delicious as the sensation might have been, Barbara was not going to be distracted.

"Care to share with the class, Helena?"

"It's just -- "

A lingering snert tickled Barbara's chest before Helena pushed up on her elbows, her face -- and voice -- registering frank incredulity. Barbara honestly was unable to decide whether to be relieved or miffed by her partner's rather patronizing tone.

"Well, shit, Barbara. That would be like holding *my* breath to punish *you*, wouldn't it?"

As if that were all that needed to be said, the brunette grinned and then planted a kiss on the tip of Barbara's nose. Barbara felt an eyebrow hitch as she comprehended Helena's logic.


A beat later, she felt her brows furrow: There was simply no way that matters could be that simple.

Ready to turn her attention to more pressing matters, Helena felt Barbara's jaw work against her cheek, and she slowed down, calming herself. She knew that Barbara was tied up in the thinky aspects of sex, so it wasn't all that hard to figure that she maybe had it a little harder when it came to mixing up logic and love.

"Look, Barbara."

Helena scooted up just a little, allowing herself to rest her forehead lightly against her lover's.

"We're always partners. Just, well, here the dynamic shifts a little more."

Ignoring the suspicion that she'd gone a bit cross-eyed trying to see at such close range, Barbara focused on the topic at hand.

"Are you certain, Hel?"

It simply seemed too difficult to make such a transformation so... seamlessly.

"Bar-ba-ra..." was the reply that was sing-songed.

"Er, the... what about the specifics?" Barbara managed to clarify on a nearly strangled whisper.

She could hardly fault her own mortification: sometimes, she herself wasn't sure just what drove her. While she admitted that the frustration of being hobbled formed a part of it, she hoped it wasn't the largest part.

Apparently, she needn't have worried.


At such close range, Helena could see the doubt ready to hop right past concern and into guilt and self-castigation. Do not pass "Go"; do not collection two hundred dollars. Hell, it was probably going to bring along some friends like horror and propriety just for funsies.

She pushed up again, straddling Barbara's waist.

"It's like I said, Barbara: There's that -- " she waved toward the living area of the Tower and then lowered that hand to rest lightly over Barbara's heart. "and then there's family."

And, like she'd realized the night before when she'd been talking with Jesse, everything ultimately did come down to family.

She gave her partner a few seconds to mull on that, but when it looked like Barbara was still a little slow to get her ticket punched on the clue train, Helena hunted for a way to explain.

"You remember that guy with the laser a couple of years ago and how you had to come roaring out to rescue D and me?"

Quite vividly recalling the man who had indirectly unleashed an entire series of events through his attempts to contact a passing comet, Barbara merely arched her eyebrows. She was determined not to be completely left behind by the seeming conversational one-eighty.


"And do you remember what we talked about that night? In... in your bed?"

The redhead started to correct the pronoun that her lover had used to describe their bed, and then she remembered herself.

That night had, in truth, been their first night together.

As Barbara recalled that particular genesis, her infallible memory supplied not just the fact that they had been fumbling towards intimacy but also the greater intimacy of the conversation they had shared.

"It was a little possessive, Barbara. That whole 'Get the fuck away from my woman or I'll kick your ass' speech."

Barbara distinctly recalled the heat of a blush that had touched her cheeks. She also recalled that she'd managed a laugh and a salvo that had been surprisingly bold for her.

"And, don't you forget it, Sweetie."

She had expected a chuckle or a suggestive comment. Therefore, her partner's response hadn't just surprised her; it had floored her.

Blue eyes, achingly open and hopeful, had met hers. A soft, utterly happy smile had crept over gamine features before transforming smoothly into something soft and... wanting. Dark lashes had fluttered closed, and Barbara had lost the power to breathe when Helena had ducked to rub the top of her head lightly against her chin.

"I've always been yours, Barbara. I've just been waiting for you."

"In here," Helena's voice was gentle and oh-so serious. "I'm all about bottoming for you, Baby."

Struggling for oxygen, for something to kick start her brain, Barbara felt her mouth moving.


Deep blue eyes unflinchingly met her searching gaze, allowing Barbara to consider the declaration.

Allowing her to accept it.

"*All* about it, Hel?"

Finally, it seemed that the awful tension of the last days was finally fading.

"Uh huh." Helena's eyes were impish. "Want me to prove it?"

Struck by a wave of emotion, Barbara searched for some way to express what she needed to. More important, she realized with what even she admitted to be rare insight, she wanted to express what Helena needed.

"No," shaking her head slowly, she smiled. "I want to prove it to you."

The words hit Helena squarely in the solar plexus, the heat they created radiating outward like a supernova.


It was all that Helena had time to say before she felt Barbara tugging at her hips.

Cripes but Red was strong.

The realization -- and maybe just a touch of friction coming from moving across Barbara's stomach -- made her nipples burn. The intent behind Barbara's actions made her clit twitch.

"Up here, Hel," Barbara punctuated the words with another tug. "I want to use my mouth."

The brunette was already in motion when her conscience scratched at her, and she put on the brakes.


Helena lowered herself to take her weigh with her thighs, being extra-careful not to rest herself on Barbara's chest. She wasn't worried about her weight, just the distraction of having her lover's skin in contact with her throbbing center. Then, she smiled, hoping it came off as at least a little charming.

"I like to help you feel good too, you know."

Hell, it didn't seem much fair seeing as how Barbara had taken her to the exosphere three, no, four times last night. And there would have been a fifth if Helena just could have gotten her body to reform from the gelatinous state that she'd entered after that last go-round. A sultry chuckle roused her from some powerful and pleasant memories of just what it was that Barbara had done to reduce her to that state.

Who the hell would have guessed that the application of skillful fingers to *that* portion of her anatomy would have sent her through the roof like that?

"Oh, you will Helena."

Seeing the hesitation that remained, Barbara sobered and searched blue eyes.

"This *is* what I want to feel good, Hel."

Continuing to hold her lover's eyes, Barbara ran her hands down Helena's thighs where they flanked her ribs. Despite the enticing round of squirming that the action engendered, she remained focused, catching her own breasts and bringing her nipples to attention. When she saw deep blue spark to violet, she smiled an invitation.

"Indulge me?"

The younger woman responded with commendable alacrity, moving upward again and settling above her with a hungry grin.

"If you insist, Red."

Barbara kept it short and to the point.

"I most certainly do."

Since words, at that point, seemed superfluous, the redhead settled in. Brushing her face lightly against the thicket of dark curls, she inhaled deeply, achingly aware of Helena's heat and wetness. Delicately gathering a first taste onto the tip of her tongue, she was reminded once again of her surprise when she'd tasted Helena for the first time two years before. At that time, she'd been hesitant and uncertain. More bluntly, she admitted that she'd feared that she wouldn't respond. The instant that she had sampled her new lover's most intimate flesh, she'd understood how foolish her worries had been.

Helena was the air that she breathed.

At this point, Barbara simply couldn't fathom how she'd stumbled through three-plus decades before the understanding had come home.

"Don't," she pushed back into the pillow to hunt for her lover's eyes. "come too fast, Helena."

Helena's reply was muffled, but Barbara had no trouble deciphering the breathy whine.

"Ba- Baby, I don't think I can help..."

Determined that she'd see what she could do to help, the redhead laughed quietly into silken folds. The sensation -- on top of a bunch of other amazing sensations -- caused Helena to buck above her. Then, because Barbara had asked, the brunette sucked in a steadying breath and tried to relax, to give herself over.

She wasn't sorry.

Lightly calloused fingers whispered across her thighs and hips, over and over; once in a while, they'd dance upward to tease her breasts before Barbara would scrape her nails down her sides. On and on, Barbara's mouth, her tongue, was touching her and licking and working soul-deep kisses. Forever, Helena kept looking down to the spray of crimson hair that swept the pillows under her knees, seeing emerald eyes looking up to her.

Always to her.

Oh god oh god ohgodohgod.

Helena had to bend forward, leaning at the waist to bury her fists in the pillow above Barbara's head. The demanding pressure that was building inside must made it fucking impossible to keep herself upright by muscle and willpower alone.

And still it just kept building.

There was warm breath and soft lips and sharp teeth on her, and the pressure was building and building, and then Barbara's tongue was circling her entrance, and Helena knew she was going to explode the second that Red was inside her, and--


And then Barbara stopped.

"B-- Barbara?"

Helena didn't much care for the -- well, it had been a squeak in her voice, but there just wasn't much she could have done about it.

"Someone is at the elevator."

With the haze clearing a tiny bit, Helena finally made out the soft chime that announced visitors.

"Uh, since they're ringing the bell, it's probably not a surprise attack or anything, Red."

She rotated her hips a few inches, hoping to get Barbara back on task. The sensation of strong fingers drumming against her thighs suggested that her lover wasn't too impressed with her logic... or her hint.



The two spoke as one. Pushing up on her knees, Helena looked down and tried again.

"Probably just a door-to-door salesman."

A look was enough. Groaning against her protesting nerves -- and muscles and, hell, a few internal organs had been pretty poised on the brink -- Helena rolled out of bed and padded into the living room.

While she was gone, Barbara unentangled herself from the covers, bowing to the inevitable: regardless of how quickly Helena got rid of whoever was downstairs, the interruption had awakened Katharine. When the brunette returned in less than a minute and announced their visitor, Barbara found her nonchalance utterly maddening.

"It's your dad."

Green eyes flew wide open so fast that Helena half-expected to hear a comic-book "Sproing" noise.

"That's not funny, Helena."

Already gathering up her clothes, the brunette didn't bother dignifying that with a response.

It wasn't exactly her idea of how she would have been spending the morning.

"He said something about bringing Katie's backpack back."

Helena shimmied into her sweatpants, registering her partner's cautious nod.

"Oh, and he has honey-buns."

She snagged her tee shirt and worked to turn it right side out.

"I asked him to wait a minute before we ring him up, seeing as how we were all in flagrante delicto and all--"

Her explanation was interrupted by an indignant hiss.

"You did no such thing!"

The flutter of dark lashes, not to mention Helena's smirk, suggested that the younger woman might have done just that. Gritting her teeth, Barbara shifted into her chair, grabbed for her robe, and jumped into action.

"Would you get Katharine while I get the bookcases down and then we'll need to--"

Since Barbara was already heading down the hallway, Helena didn't try to hide her eye-rolling as she bent to retrieve their daughter from their crib.

"Are you gonna freak like that when your mom and I surprise you having sex?"

She decided not to consider just how bad Barbara would freak at that point; from the sound of the bustling and crashing coming from the other room, Helena figured that she probably had enough to focus on right now. She knew it was bad enough that Jim had caught them not just in bed but also that the Tower was in its usual state and Barbara was going to bust a gasket from all of the covering up she was going to try to do.

"Do I look like I've just been having sex?"

A little miffed by the sheer panic that infused the question, Helena strolled on past her partner, Katharine snuggled in one arm and a clean diaper in her other hand.

"Helena! I'm serious."

The brunette turned, her smile not a whit contrite.

"Sorry. You're fine on that count."

Since that was patently impossible, Barbara searched for a mirror. Her partner's next words brought her up short.

"You do kind of look like you've been hustling around trying to hide a secret identity or something though."

For the first time in minutes, Barbara slowed down.

"Not funny, Hel."

Once again, Helena bit her tongue, fighting the need to inform her big-brained partner that it hadn't been meant to be funny. Instead, she focused on a quick diaper change for Katie, watching from the corner of one eye while Barbara ruffled her hair with her hands, making it poke up in several interesting directions.

"I suppose it's showtime, Hel," she sucked in a fortifying breath before her nerves faltered again. "Honestly, Helena, do we look like we've been having--"

Helena gave up.


She tossed the wadded up wet diaper into a trash can and stood up.

"At least we don't look like we *finished* having sex." Not giving her lover time to respond with whatever piece of propriety might come out, Helena slid onto her lap and purred the rest into her ear. "But I could help with that while we send the elevator down."

Arching one eyebrow, Barbara ignored the one hundred and twenty pounds of invitation that was on her lap and moved toward the elevator.

"Mind on the mission, Hel."

Without bothering to wait for Barbara to stop, Helena hopped over the arm of the chair and regained her feet. She set her jaw and stepped back to the living area where Katie was making a beeline for the kitchen.

Screw it.

She knew that the prim reprimand had contained a fair measure of humor, but it still didn't make her feel less pissed off. It was only when she heard the elevator key turn and the unit whirring down to the parking garage that it hit her why it grated on her so much.

Her mind *had* been focused on the mission, but just like always, it was never going to occur to Barbara that they might be working different missions.


Chapter 20

As Monday night activities went, hanging upside down by her heels didn't generally rate at the top of Helena's list of favorites.

Well, unless the hanging was taking place with Barbara pulling the chains.

But, this wasn't. In fact, the reason that Helena was outside on a damp March night, hanging over some alley from a fire escape that was waaaay too close to a dumpster, had nothing to do with Barbara.

Or, she had to figure, maybe it had everything to do with Barbara.

Helena had already decided that if the do-gooder instinct was genetic, she had a fifty-fifty shot, at best. So, there had to be something more that had her inclined to blow off studying for her mid-terms -- not to mention her own plans to give up the hero shtick -- and hang. And, even if she knew that it was Jesse Reese who had set her in motion, Helena had to give credit where it was due.


It was Barbara who embodied -- who fucking personified -- the hero myth. It was Barbara who outdid Helena's dad because she fought with a conscious. It was Barbara who had put the stars of doing good into Helena's eyes; Barbara who Helena had needed to impress enough to end up on the streets; Barbara.

Unfortunately, Helena hadn't let Barbara in on her plans for this particular recon job. The whole issue was just too charged after the go-rounds they'd had in the last months.

Even if Helena wouldn't have minded the help.

She'd flirted with doing a little tete-a-tete with Barbara's dad when he'd come over the day before and scared the bejeezus out of Barbara. Ex-Commissioner Gordon still had a lot of good connections on the street, but Helena couldn't make herself ask: it would have meant coming up with some sort of lame cover story, and Babs' suave, cool, and collected mode over coffee and pastries had probably already sent Jim's radar soaring through the roof.

Hell, all of the chit-chat that he'd made about honey buns instead of muffins had almost sent Helena around the bend laughing. She hadn't had it any easier when Jim had been gathering up to leave. With Babs giving Katie a late breakfast, Helena had walked him down to the garage.

"It's been fun, Helena, but I need to run. I'm picking up Alethea for a matinee in a bit."

She'd been pretty sure that her double-take had been epic.


The question had barely been out before she'd seen the twinkle in gunmetal blue eyes.

"I do believe that I'll allow some things to remain a mystery, Helena."

Just like Helena had decided to leave Barbara in the dark about her dad's teasing: Red had already been plenty fried. Enough that Helena had decided not to try to grab some time on the Delphi to do a little research for Jesse's request.

It wasn't like she hadn't been able to handle it on her own through a few contacts at No Man's. A little leg-work yesterday, a couple of heart-to-heart chats with some low-lifes on the streets last night, and here she was: Freezing her ass off and trying to keep her hair from falling in her eyes while she dangled upside down.

Some pretty sour musings on the issues of nature versus nurture when it came to hanging like a bat were interrupted by the eruption of an odd melody from Helena's pocket. Since she was pretty well occupied with hanging on while trying to get a view through the greasy curtains of the apartment across the alley, it took her a few seconds to recognize that the sound was coming from her phone.

"What the fu--?"

She cut short the curse as she read the caller ID and thumbed the handset on.

"Why'd you go and change my ringtone?"

Okay, even Helena admitted that it hadn't been the best greeting, but she had just downloaded Macy Gray onto her phone not two hours before. Not to mention the choice that Barbara had made.

"I mean, come on, Barbara. ABBA?"

Not at all surprised by the salutation that she'd received, Barbara jumped in in the off chance that she could ameliorate her partner's ire.

"I'm sorry, Helena. I needed a way to confirm my GPS lock, and downloading something to your number was the most expedient method."

Helena's one-word response suggested that she still had some explaining to do.


Given the fact that GPS showed that the younger woman had been parked in the same location near downtown, suggesting that she was engaged in something, Barbara had expected a bit more pushback. Distracted by Helena's relative lack of histrionics, the redhead felt her brows knit.

"What's wrong with S.O.S.?"

Honestly, she'd been rather pleased by her choice. Helena apparently opted not to further enlighten her about the shortcomings of her taste in music.

<<"Riiight. So, what's up?">>

Barbara couldn't help but notice that Helena wasn't addressing the fact that Barbara had used the GPS on her; she wasn't certain whether the seeming lack of interest indicated that fallout would occur later, that Helena was simply accustomed to being on Barbara's radar, or that her partner understood that something pressing was afoot.

<<"I need your help, Helena.">>

The words were direct to the point of bluntness. There was no apology tempering them. Helena had a feeling that it wasn't a good thing.

"What is it?"

The answer she got almost caused her to lose her grip on the metal rungs of the fire escape.

<<"Dinah's in trouble.">>

Almost ready to panic, Helena realized that Barbara *wasn't* panicked.

At least not yet.

"What happened?"

<<"Do you remember the pension fund racket?">>

Helena felt herself grinning a little at the memory of that conversation, less at the memory of her suggestion that Dinah be sent forth to kick CEO-ass than the slew of sensory memories that assaulted her from the follow-up that she and Barbara had shared that night.

"Uh huh."

Detecting some movement from the apartment she'd been casing, she raised her night vision scope, confirming that the man she'd been hunting had just returned.

"It was a set-up, Hel."

Barbara elected not to go into the full details of how something that had appeared relatively cut-and-dried had gone so horribly wrong. The man who had appeared to be a corporate raider had, in fact, been blackmailed into creating the trail that had drawn her into the game. When Dinah had entered the picture, somehow the mastermind behind the plot had managed to capture her and now...

"I think she's been injured."

The admission was difficult.

<<"Is she in--?">>

The cyber-vigilante jumped in.

"I don't believe she's in imminent danger."

It was true enough. Barbara was comfortably certain that the self-claimed savant who was using Dinah as bait for her cooperation was too smart to destroy his only card.


Helena knew what that final word had probably cost her partner. Her first instinct was to jump in and head out to help, but she'd made a promise to someone else.

For a few seconds, Helena weighed the odds, and then she made a decision. Fitting her bluetooth to her ear, she tucked her phone into her pocket.

"I'm just this close to cracking the Baby Reese kidnapping, Red."

She pulled an inverted sit-up, wrapping her hands around the bottom rung of the fire escape and swinging her legs free. Finally right side up for the first time in what felt like days, the brunette shook her head and then took a practice swing or two from the fire escape, building up momentum.


Barbara suspected that her response had been sharp; however, she disliked surprises.

<<"His nephew.">>

Instantly, the redhead toggled through the police reports, running a keyword search. As she'd suspected there was nothing.

"I take it that Detective Reese kept things under wraps?"

Seeing the GPS blip moving, Barbara didn't expect a confirmation. As a police officer, Jesse would have ways to keep matters from the records until he was ready for them to become public.

"Are you going in?"

The crash of glass breaking provided a reasonable semblance of an answer to that, forestalling the need to suggest that Helena complete her business and then tackle a rescue for Dinah. Her hands hovering above the keyboard, Barbara listened to a litany of confrontational words between Helena and an unidentified couple. The ensuing fistfight, although not as clear as Barbara had become accustomed to over the comms, sounded entirely one-sided.

The thump of a heavy body collapsing, followed by Helena's growl, further reassured Barbara that Helena had emerged victorious.

<<"Okay, Lady, where's the baby?">>

A frightened whimper was the only response that Helena received, and Barbara felt herself wince as she heard a series of bangs, thumps, and crashes and then comprehended that Helena was ransacking the home.

<<"So help me, if you hurt him--">>

Mercifully, both Barbara and the woman that Helena was addressing were spared learning what the full extent of her wrath would be.

<<"There you are.">>

There was no way that Barbara could miss the totally different timber to her partner's voice.

"Is he all right, He--"

Suddenly conscious of the fact that, comms or no, Helena was effectively in the persona of her alter-ego, Barbara cut herself short.

<<"Yeah. They had him in a drawer.">>

Tension that she hadn't realized she was holding ebbed from Barbara's shoulders. A moment later, when her partner in the field murmured a few words, she felt a different edginess creep upon her.

<<"You wouldn't believe how good this baby smells.">>

Quite confident that she had just sprouted a few white hairs, Barbara swallowed around a lump in her throat.

"Why don't we discuss the joys of the New Baby Smell offline, Huntress?"

<<"Yeah. Let's do that.">>

Something about Helena's response set off warning bells, however with the younger woman on the move to deliver Baby Reese to his family, Barbara chose to ignore them. This was simply not the time to concentrate on domestic matters; she needed to be prepared to back up her partner when she rescued Dinah.

Mind on the mission.

At least that's what Helena figured to be running through Barbara's head when she went all clipped and tactical. And, about two seconds after she burst into the building that Red had directed her to, Helena had to agree that focus needed to be the name of the game.

"Holy crap..."

When she'd come barreling in, Helena hadn't been sure what to expect: a bevy of BDUs or a bunch of locked rooms to search for Dinah or who the hell knew. She hadn't expected to find Dinah dragging herself across the foyer at the bottom of a flight of stairs, both legs in heavy plaster casts and a dirty bandage wrapped around her head.

In a nutshell, The Kid looked like she'd been to hell.

"Watch out for creote, Huntress..."

On instinct, the brunette looked down to see what she might be stepping in. When a shadow -- correction, a huge fucking shadow -- filled the doorway, she realized she might have misunderstood.


She worked a tight smile at Dinah and jerked a thumb at the mountain of muscle that was coming at her.

"Creote, I presume?"

Helena had seen big guys. She'd fought big guys. This guy was in a totally new league. He had muscles on his muscles.

Shit, he probably needed extra muscles just to hold up his muscles.

Her admiration for Dinah's managing to make it past this guy and on her way to the door jumped ten-fold.

"How the fuck did you get past the incredible hulk here?"

She was already jumping over the younger woman, getting between her and the big guy.


Helena hated Dinah's raspy cough. From the corner of her eye, she saw the blonde raise one hand to her head, wincing.

"-- poked him in the eye."

Despite the lumbering threat coming at her, Helena couldn't help it. She turned and gave Dinah a look. The blonde's grin was full of spirit.

"Right after I hit him in the nuts."

The laughter felt good, right up until Muscles' fist impacted Helena's jaw. After that, it was all business. Distantly, Helena was aware of another dude entering the foyer, but she was too busy dancing and weaving and wiping the sweat out of her eyes while she tried to avoid getting pulped to pay much attention.

All she knew was that Dinah was trying to hold her own with the new guy, and she was feeling a little like Indiana Jones when he was facing down the big guy on the airfield who wanted to fight and he was soooo not into it.

With that image in her head, Helena ducked under the swing of a heavy fist and turned around, wearily gesturing for him to bring it on. Between her invitation and Creote's next swing, Barbara was yammering in her ear.

<<"Can you get to a computer, Huntress?">>

"Little busy here -- " was the best she could manage.

The distraction turned out to be too much: a casual flick of the big dude's wrist caught Helena square on the jaw, sending her slamming into a wall. With the plaster cracking against her ribs and white dust showering into her eyes, she suddenly realized that her rescue was going all wrong.

Part 21

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