DISCLAIMER: I do not own the characters. They are the property of DC comics and the WB network. I'm just borrowing them for a short period of time.
MUSIC DISCLAIMER: Song lyrics don't belong to me either; no profit gained or infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.


Chapter 16

A bolt of light -- energy -- arcing through the night sky above New Gotham triggered the Delphi alarms and, ten seconds later, every panic response in Barbara Gordon's body.

It had been a laser-like power surge pulsing from the western outskirts of the city. Chillingly aware of just what was located in that area, the redhead slammed open a new terminal window with one hand even as she toggled through readouts on another screen with the other. A few seconds later, she completed her stealthy hack into the weather satellite over the city and began to pull data down to the workstation. What she found utterly terrified her.

"Huntress? Canary? Do you copy?"

<"We copy, Oracle. What's up?">

The brunette sounded distinctly puzzled by her remote partner's hail. Given that Dinah and she had been, presumably, still waiting for the police to arrive at the scene of the convenience store robbery they'd just foiled, some confusion was natural. After all, Barbara usually waited for a signal that her partner was available before sending her to other jobs.

"There's a..."

The older woman uncharacteristically found herself at a loss for words.

"...situation on the west side of town."

Dinah's soft gasp sounded clearly over the transceiver; the brunette's almost inaudible hiss was less marked. Both younger women were also aware of what lay on that side of the city.

"How quickly can you get there?"

The redhead heard the sound of rapid movement.

<"The clerk can keep an eye on these bozos. We're on our way.">

Gratified by her proteges' unquestioning response, Barbara returned to the satellite feeds, using them to overlay a geographical plotting routine which would provide her with the exact coordinates for the explosion. She still had no idea what, exactly, had hit the area, but judging from the damage, it had been powerful.

After relaying the address and a succinct description of the energy pulse, she began a methodical process of accessing every likely satellite in the off chance that one had captured an image of the... event. Not only would this help determine what they were dealing with, it could also help pinpoint its origins. As she waited for her password routine to bypass the security of a government satellite, a thought struck the cyber-genius, and she brought up another terminal window. With a few economical keystrokes, she programmed a fleet of 'bots to scour airline control traffic for descriptions of having witnessed the pulse of light.

A low whistle over the comms drew her focus from the government satellite's video capture of New Gotham from ten minutes earlier. Barbara pointedly chose not to consider just why the machine had been recording the city.

"Huntress? Canary? What is it?"

<"We're here, and, whatever it was, it packed a real punch, Oracle.">

Oblivious to the fact that it was a voice-only feed, the older woman nodded. The weather images had suggested as much, providing a hazy image of a smoking structure in collapse.

Dinah provided a bit more detail.

<"Looks like an old farmhouse. Whatever it was hit the barn.">

<"I don't smell any barbeque, so I bet it was empty.">

The redhead managed a rueful smile at the description. If Helena felt capable of interjecting a bit of levity, the situation probably wasn't too bad.

"That's good news. Please check it out. Carefully."

<"Will do, Oracle.">

Barbara listened to the sound of soft footsteps for half a minute before the brunette's voice filtered through her earpiece.

<"Canary, look for a hose or something. Let's see if we can douse this fire.">

The older woman felt one of her eyebrows rise a fraction of an inch.

"Fire, Huntress?"

It was Dinah who responded first.

<"Uhm, yeah, but it's small. Maybe some gas cans in the building or something.">

Relaxing marginally, the redhead turned back to the video she'd dumped. There was a clear image of the bright blue-green line transecting the sky; however, its genesis was obscured by a patch of clouds. All that had been caught was a split-second flash over western New Gotham.

<"Hey! Are you okay?">

The cyber-crime fighter snapped to attention.

<"Huntress? What's happening?">

Again, it was Dinah who provided an answer.

<"There's a man. He was behind the barn.">

Barbara instantly toggled to her backdoor hack into the city hall computers and entered the farm's address to the accompaniment of Helena's soft calls to the man they'd spied.

<"Hey there -- Can you hear--">

A distinctly shaken male voice finally sounded over the transceiver.

<"Who...? What are you...?">

<"It's okay.">

Dinah's words were soft, reassuring.

<"Are you alright? We, uh, saw and just wanted to help out.">

Frank Loewen. City records and a hasty cross-check of DPS revealed that he was forty-five, the owner of the small property, and paid his taxes in a timely fashion. Barbara hoped that his property owner's insurance was similarly up-to-date.

<"Er, yes. That is, I'm fine. Thank you.">

The homeowner sounded marginally less frightened.

<"I... I don't know what...">

Helena interrupted the man's somewhat bewildered attempt to make sense of the events unfolding around him.

<"Do you have a garden hose or something?">

The older woman listened as Helena occupied the man with the practical matter of putting out the small fire, mentally applauding her younger partner's field psychology. By the time the fire was extinguished, the man had clearly calmed down.

Still polling various satellites, Barbara half-listened as her partners explained that they had heard the explosion and come to investigate. Still sounding slightly dazed, the man was nevertheless effusive in his thanks.

<"I don't know what could have happened. I was right out here trying to get a fix on the Machholz comet.">

When the man interrupted himself to digress enthusiastically about the celestial body, Barbara shook her head in bemusement.

<"You know, it will only be visible for another few days. If you think about all of the interstellar bodies that man has been charting for thousands of years, it's simply remarkable that this two-tailed comet was only discovered a few months ago. Can you believe it?">

The redhead's smile broadened when she detected the effort that Helena made to remain patient.

<"Yeah, it's pretty cool. I got a peek at it at the astronomy center two nights ago. But, speaking of, uh, unbelievable stuff...?">

Dinah's snort of amusement at the rough segue was clearly audible, but she jumped in brightly.

<"Uhm, yes. What happened, Mr. ...?">


Barbara suddenly experienced a flash of empathy for the dismayed homeowner and fought back a sympathetic chuckle. Apparently happily settled for an evening of stargazing, the man had seen his outbuilding inexplicably demolished and, while he'd been investigating the phenomenon, two young, nubile, leather-clad good samaritans had appeared on the scene.

<"Oh, yes, of course. Loewen. Frank Loewen, Miss ...?">

<"Wayne. Helena Wayne, and this is Dinah Redmond.">

The brunette had never been overly fond of the entire secret identity concept, but Barbara gave her points for not using their real last names.

<"Yes. Well, er, as I was saying, I was attempting to get a fix on Machholz, and then... then the shed just... exploded.">

Well, that description certainly jived with a sudden energy pulse...

The older woman returned to her research while her partners unsuccessfully attempted to coax anything useful from the man -- anything other than trivia about the comet -- and finally extricated themselves.

Half an hour later, the two emerged from the elevator, the sound of their bickering preceding them.

"I still say he was a huge Poindexter, Kid. Standing there polishing his glasses and fussing about missing his chance at seeing the damned comet even after something nuked his barn. He should just go to the planetarium."

Dinah's retort was impatient.

"Geez, Helena. Maybe he moved out there so he'd get a good view for stargazing and wouldn't have to go to the astronomy center. And, maybe he was a little... shook up or something?"

Rotating from her monitors, Barbara removed her glasses and interceded.

"Gir-- Helena. Dinah."

Appearing appropriately chastened, the younger women came to a stop by the Delphi platform. The redhead somehow hid her affectionate smile.

Helena, naturally, recovered first, bounding onto the platform. Dinah trailed up the ramp more sedately.

"Did you figure out what it was, Barbara?"

The brunette approached slowly, clearly attempting to read the older woman's mood. Barbara reached out to clasp her hand quickly, earning a sweet smile.

"I've pinned it down to a laser frequency..."

The cyber-genius reseated her glasses and turned back to the display, aware of two pairs of interested eyes peering over her shoulders. Toggling through the images and data that she'd put together, she continued crisply.

"I've found a few clear images of the beam in the sky, just before Mr. Loewen's building was hit, but nothing conclusive about where it originated."

"Could it have come from a satellite or a plane?"

Barbara responded to the question in her right ear by showing plots of the east-west arc of the beam of light.

"The trajectory isn't right, Dinah."

A low whistle from her left side interrupted her unplanned geometry lesson.

"Sure looks like its coming right at his place from further out in the country."

"Exactly, Hel. I've been running some models based on assumed strength, trying to pinpoint a likely origin..."

The redhead brought up a map showing the plots from her simulations.

Silence reigned for a few long moments as her companions digested the data that Barbara had worked up earlier.


Helena's voice was oddly flat, and Barbara found herself surprised by her partner's lack of affect. Her own reaction, one she'd barely managed to tuck into one of her emotional lock boxes just before Dinah and Helena's return, had been a bit... stronger. Atypically for the normally controlled woman, it had involved drawing upon her sizable and creative store of invective, pounding her fists, and fighting down a wave of nauseated fear.

The fact that Arkham was the country's premiere super-maximum security prison for the worst of the criminally insane -- Hannibal Lector wouldn't even make the waiting list for the place -- accounted for only the smallest part of the cyber vigilante's reaction. No, it was the ever-pervading knowledge of just who was housed at the facility which evoked her intense response.

Jack Napier -- aka The Joker. The arch-villain responsible for Helena's mother's murder. The madman who -- on that same night -- had personally pumped four bullets into Barbara while cackling with gleeful malice. He was locked layers deep in the bluff the prison sat against, straight jacketed and drugged twenty-four hours a day. However, if there was the slightest chance that the facility's security had been compromised -- and, a laser originating from the prison seemed like a damned good indication...

Well, suffice to say, Barbara had expected a bit more from her partner's reaction. Dinah's high-pitched gasp was, in fact, more along the lines of what seemed appropriate.

"Why would someone at Arkham want to blow up Mr. Loewen's place?"

None of the women bothered to question how one -- or more -- of the Arkham inmates might have managed to assemble and set off an energy beam. The residents at the facility were, undeniably, a resourceful bunch.

"I have no idea, Dinah."

Immediately after sending warnings about a possible security breech to the facility and the police, Barbara had run extensive background checks on the man, cross-referencing them with every inmate at the prison. She'd been unable to piece together even the most tenuous link.

"It's possible, of course," she continued quietly, "that Mr. Loewen's house was not the target."

"You mean it could have been a test shot... or somebody could have fucked up the aim?"

"Possibly, Hel," the redhead allowed.

At a soft exhalation from her right side and the sensation of the teen leaning toward the monitors, Barbara remained quiet, curious as to whether Dinah would arrive at the same deduction that she had.

"Oh... shit. Barbara?"

The girl's concern was unmistakable.


Helena's tone, by contrast, was decidedly irate.

"What are you two big brains seeing?"

Pushing back from the desk, Barbara found herself pinned by two sets of blue eyes. She nodded a confirmation to the teen, then exhaled and straightened her shoulders.

"The path of the beam was on a direct line to the clock tower, Helena."

Chapter 17

"Don't be silly, Helena."

The younger woman looked up from her over-energetic domestic activity. Her expression suggested how very, very unmoved she was by the redhead's words.

"I am not being silly, Barbara. I just wanted to fluff the cushions before I throw down a sheet."

Barbara ignored her partner's deliberate misinterpretation and spoke calmly.

"There's no reason for you to sleep on the couch, Hel."

"I'm not just sailing on back to my place, leaving you and the Kid here when who-knows-what is going on at Arkham, Barbara."

The older woman felt a fond smile creeping across her face at the brunette's belligerent tone. She knew that she had a better chance of getting up and walking across the room than she did of changing her overprotective partner's mind.

"I simply meant, Hel," she clarified mildly, "that you can sleep with me."

Fearing whiplash on Helena's behalf, she managed not to laugh at the other woman's double-take. Fascinated, she watched a veritable army of emotions race across gamine features -- surprise, happiness, doubt, desire, and -- oddly -- something that looked like worry.

"Are you sure? I don't mind the couch, Red. Hell..."

The brunette affected an easy grin and shrugged casually.

"I end up sleeping on it a lot of nights anyway."

Barbara kept it short.

"I'm sure, Sweetie."

Turning toward her room, she paused, waiting until bright blue eyes caught hers.

"Just turn off the lights and come in when you're ready."

In less time than she'd expected given the younger woman's evident trepidation, the redhead looked up from the final chapter of her X-Men book at the sound of her door opening quietly. She laughed softly.

"I'm still awake, Hel."

The dark figure closed the door behind her, quirking her lips in amusement. As the brunette efficiently stripped down to her tank top and underwear, Barbara busied herself finding her bookmark and positioning the book just so on the night stand. Regardless, she still found her gaze oddly drawn to the end of the bed where an entirely distracting amount of long, tanned leg and sinuously muscled shoulder was being revealed.

Mentally rolling her eyes at her own hormones running amuck -- honestly, the two of them had slept... shared a bed countless times -- Barbara waited for her companion to slide lightly under the covers before reaching out to turn off the bedside lamp. A period of protracted, profound silence ensued.

Was Helena even breathing?

"Still with me, Hel?"

The older woman allowed her bemusement to filter through in the question, and the tactic had the desired effect. Her bedmate exhaled, then shifted onto her side with a laugh.

"Yeah, I'm here. Just, well... you know."

Reasonably confident that she did know, Barbara didn't belabor the issue.


Instead, she snaked out her arm and worked her hand under the younger woman's shoulders, tugging gently.


The brunette traversed the foot of space which separated them with pleasing alacrity, spooning loosely to Barbara's side and draping an arm across her waist. Satisfied -- deeply satisfied -- by the arrangement, the redhead allowed herself a long sigh, relaxing into their easy contact. It had been a long time, but it still felt so... natural.

"Been a while, huh, Red?"

The younger woman's voice was muted by Barbara's shoulder, and the words were slow and relaxed; still, the redhead had no trouble understanding the meaning. She turned her head to press a lingering kiss to the dark head resting on her shoulder.

"It has. I've missed this, Sweetie."

The brunette shifted her head to look up, bright blue eyes visible in the moonlight peeking through the curtains.

"Are you happy now, Barbara?"

The soft question, carrying with it the twin emotions of past memories and the place they were finally mapping together, pierced the older woman with poignant joy. In an instant, heat and excitement flared through her chest, and the still-functioning portion of her brain supplied that, for one of the first times in her life, emotion had bled into physical sensation.

Twisting her upper body a tiny bit, she brought her free hand to her companion's jaw, lowering her own head even as she coaxed Helena's face higher.


The kiss was soft, a tender brushing of lips and melding of breath, with the younger woman remaining almost passive under the contact. Control, however, was not what the redhead wanted... needed. Slowly, she outlined full cupid's bow lips with her tongue, seizing the brunette's gasp and slipping into the warm haven of her mouth. Deliberately, she stroked deeply, repeatedly, amazed by the pleasure of being so intimately connected with the treasured woman in her arms.

A tiny, helpless whimper escaped the younger woman's throat, and something hot and hungry reared up inside the redhead.

"Sweetheart -- Let me..."

She lowered her free arm, fully embracing her companion's slender torso, pulling her tightly against her side. Helena finally met her questing strokes, dancing against her, playing the piercing in her tongue wickedly against the redhead's lips. Gripping the younger woman's back tightly, she cupped the back of her partner's head with her other hand, unwilling to risk the chance of separation.

A low groan sounded through the dark room. Remotely, the redhead wondered if it had been hers. Finding herself surprisingly indifferent to unraveling that little puzzle, she lost herself in sensation. Long, lovely minutes later, just as Barbara deciphered the movement under the covers -- the agitated shifting of her partner's legs -- she felt warm, slender fingers trailing over her tee shirt.

Helena's touch was impossibly light, terribly cautious. Barbara experienced the feathery scrape of the back of her partner's nails across her abdomen, then the slow whisper of her fingertips up her side. Squirming under the ticklish touch, the redhead struggled against her instinctive panic, recognizing that -- where Helena was concerned -- there was every reason to believe she might actually enjoy...

The delicate touch slowed, then stopped, the brunette's palm resting lightly on Barbara's side, a few inches below her armpit. The redhead couldn't miss the sound of her partner's ragged breathing, nor the pounding of her own heart. One, then two, painful beats passed before Barbara identified something more -- a burning... or perhaps it was more of a tingling swelling... or, even...

The redhead abandoned her lexical flailing, deciding that it would suffice to describe it as 'wonderful'. Yet... incomplete.

Cautiously, lest the sensation escape her, she unlocked her rigid hold from her partner's back, raising her hand to the brunette's shoulder. Placing her palm fully against the wiry muscles, she followed the slender arm down, across her upper body, to the hand still lightly resting on her side. Then, gently, she guided.

Good. God.

It felt... heavenly.

The heretofore unexperienced strength of her own reaction, coupled with the volume of Helena's thick groan, didn't give Barbara much time to enjoy the experience. She jumped, and a burst of delighted laughter erupted from the older woman. While the unexpected release was... enjoyable, regrettably, it seemed to detract a bit from the mood for Helena.

The brunette shifted up onto her elbow and blew out a long breath before fixing her with a bemused smile. Barbara -- later -- had to admit that the younger woman exhibited enormous patience as the entire situation suddenly struck the redhead, dissolving her into fits of laughter.

It was only after Barbara's ill-timed eruption of giggles calmed to an occasional undignified snort that the brunette finally spoke.

"I bet they make pills or shots or something for that whole ticklish thing, Babs."

Well, that comment certainly hadn't helped matters...

Eventually, the older woman controlled herself, tugging her partner down to her shoulder and pressing an apologetic kiss to her forehead.

"I am so sorry, Sweetheart."

The truth of her words registered.

"Extremely sorry," she added without irony.

Helena shifted, curling companionably against the redhead.

"S'okay, Red. There's more than one way to... release a little tension, y'know."

The teasingly purring emphasis on the words left little doubt as to the dark figure's meaning. Barbara's response was a trifle dry.

"So it would seem."

The two snuggled comfortably for half a minute or so until the older woman felt her companion shift, then tense slightly.

"What is it, Hel?"

The brunette exhaled, then rose onto her elbow again, blue eyes searching in the dim light.

"So, I guess it's been pretty much all about penetration for you, huh?"

Somewhat to her surprise, Barbara did not feel the warmth of the expected blush. Of course, given their activities of only a few minutes ago, embarrassment seemed otiose at this point.

She sighed softly.

"That's true, Hel. The... sensation and the connection... At least," she added, "it used to be."

The older woman resolutely pushed aside the sharp anger which flared inside her at the painful admission. The brunette lowered herself, again resting her head on Barbara's shoulder, and the redhead recognized that Helena was offering a measure of privacy for the charged conversation.

"So, what about since then, Red?"

Barbara lowered her lashes and concentrated on steadying herself. She recognized that her partner's question wasn't prurient... or spurious; the soft words held only concern and a genuine desire to know.

The quiet sound of Helena's breathing, the warmth cocooning against her side, the sweet scent of her companion's hair gradually enveloped the older woman with a measure of calm. She was able to speak with relative tranquility as she attempted to explain.

"It... it still can make me feel... close to my partner, Hel."

The younger woman was quiet for a long time after that, and Barbara began to wonder just what was running through the brunette's very vivid imagination. Helena's next question impressed on her the foolishness of her assumption.

"What about you? Your pleasure, Barbara?"

The redhead finally felt the long-overdue blush begin to crawl up her neck. Perhaps she could just call Dick and beg him to handle this conversation with the younger woman; he'd never been overly concerned with modesty.

Summoning her courage, she tried to be factual without becoming overly clinical.

"Er, I suppose that using my mouth has been..."

Completely at her limits, the older woman faltered. How could she explain that, well into her second attempt at a relationship after the shooting, she'd finally found at least one way that offered the semblance of sensation and union that she'd enjoyed before?

Helena spared her the need when Barbara noticed the younger woman shift restlessly against her. She wasn't positive, but the redhead suspected that it was a broad smile she was feeling against her neck.

Curiosity piqued, she forgot her embarrassment.



The purring monosyllable, accompanied by the distinct undulation of Helena's hips against her, spoke volumes. Instantly, every thought in Barbara's mind was summarily pushed aside by a vivid, vivid, technicolor vision: Helena, naked above her, writhing and wet as she lowered herself...


The brunette's next words were decidedly pleased.

"You got that, huh? Maybe Dinah's telepathy is rubbing off."

"No te--"

The older woman paused to clear her throat.

"I assure you, Sweetheart, no telepathy was needed."

Helena stretched up to press a long kiss to the redhead's jaw, then snuggled sleepily against her.

"Good, Red. Just hold that thought then."

Doing just that, Barbara snugged the younger woman tightly against her, marveling that she was no longer thinking "if", but "when". Somehow, some way, the beautiful woman in her arms was bringing heat and light into a landscape which Barbara had long believed to be frozen. The older woman's last thought before she succumbed to the lure of Morpheus was that it was a wonderful feeling.

Hours later, the redhead awakened, feeling deliciously rested and relaxed -- and incredibly, unbearably hot. Apparently, at some point while she'd been sleeping, someone had entered the clock tower and spirited Helena away, replacing her with a blast furnace. There was simply no other explanation for the heat blanketing the older woman's back, from shoulders to waist and -- presumably -- all the way to her ankles.

Smirking, Barbara pried open her eyes, surprised by the brightness of the room. She was even more shocked when she checked the time.


Even though it was a Saturday, she simply never slept that late.

Smiling cheerfully, determined not to be bothered one whit by her shameless indolence, she focused her attention on how she had ended up on her side. Turning herself in bed required a sequence of choreographed movements which, often as not, simply didn't seem worth the trouble. As a result, she spent most nights fixed on her back, a sleeping position that had never been her favorite; however, as with most of the compromises necessitated by the shooting, she'd grown accustomed to it.

Yet, at some point during her long sleep, she and her companion had shifted. She was positioned comfortably, limbs arranged neatly, and cocooned by the human blanket behind her.

Again, the analytical woman found herself content with a mental shrug, attributing it to another mysterious benefit of sleeping with the other woman. Long sleep; comfortable sleep; warm sleep...

That last consideration drew her back to her earlier presumption: namely, that her human blast furnace was in contact all the way down her body. Strictly in the interest of fact-finding, she reached behind her. When her hand came in contact with Helena's hip, what she felt instantly consumed her with a warmth that had very little to do with shared body heat.

The sleeping woman behind her, with her soft rumbling purr tickling the redhead's neck, was pressing her hips gently and rhythmically against the older woman. The sinuous movement was unambiguous, and the redhead clasped her hand convulsively against the firm flesh of her partner's hip. The response -- both Helena's and her own -- was immediate.

The brunette awakened with a gasp, tightening the arm wrapped over Barbara's waist almost painfully against the older woman's abdomen.

"Oh fuck -- "

For her part, the redhead was struck by a bolt of something primal and desperate. She jerked her upper body in reflex, roughly rotating partially onto her back. Catching her hair with a practiced gesture, she swept her arm over her head to position the heavy fall behind her neck, then stretched out to grab the younger woman's shoulders.

"Helena --"

Before bright golden eyes had fully opened, Barbara brought their mouths together in a deep, hungry kiss. Dimly aware of her partner clasping her hip and helping her shift fully, she dragged her hand to the younger woman's waist and yanked the hem of her tank top up. Heat poured off the tan skin, and the redhead splayed her hand against the velvet covering the trembling muscles of the other woman's abdomen.

"Helena, I need to feel you."

On a snarl, the dark figure wrenched away, rearing onto her knees. Breathless at the spectacle above her, the older woman allowed her partner to shift her onto her back, then blinked when slender fingers efficiently pushed her tee shirt up, bunching it at her neck. For an uncomfortable eternity, the brunette raked her burning gaze over the exposed skin, and Barbara struggled not to flinch as those stunning eyes lingered over the scarred terrain of her torso.

When Helena reached back over her head, yanking her own shirt swiftly up and off, the redhead forgot her discomfort, and her arms seemed to levitate of their own accord toward the heavy swells of flesh above her. Some sort of murmured protest escaped her when the brunette eased her hands down, however she forgot her annoyance as the other woman lowered herself -- slowly, deliberately -- to bring their upper bodies into contact.

"You're so fuckin' beautiful, Barbara."

The older woman felt beautiful.

"You feel so fuckin' good."

The redhead had to agree with that as well. She -- and Helena -- felt... amazing.

In the past, Barbara had always been largely baffled by her male lovers' undisguised delight with this particular activity, the sensation. She'd usually been amenable to indulging them, but she truly hadn't seen what all the fuss was about.

No more.

The graze of silken skin against her own heated body... the pressure of heavy flesh against her own swollen breasts... the tease of diamond peaks against her own unbelievably sensitive nipples... It was exquisite.

Helena continued to hold her weight on her forearms, moving lightly, brushing her body delicately, sleekly, against Barbara's. The barely-there touch was torturous -- even incendiary. One word, and one word only, welled through the older woman's chest.


The brunette shoved herself up, and Barbara gasped, writhing at the loss. Determined not to be without the heavenly contact, she grasped her partner's shoulders and tugged. Because of her gymnastics background, the redhead had long had above-average upper body strength; after the shooting, she'd worked assiduously to increase it. Regardless, she was no match for the younger woman's meta-human power. The dark woman easily supported herself above her, eyes twinkling -- or flashing.

"Shhh... Here."

On a sillibant whisper, the brunette gracefully rolled away, onto her back, using their momentum to carry the larger woman with her. Finally able to put her upper body strength to good use, the older woman leveraged herself over her partner's chest then slowly descended. For long, heady moments, she experimented with the sweep of her own heavy breasts against the younger woman's skin, thrilling to the reflexive rise of the fine hair on her arms in response to the nearly electric tingles coursing through her. Eventually, with a moan which was echoed by her companion's hoarse groan of pleasure, she relaxed the muscles in her arms and sank into her partner.

The dark head below her on the pillow thrashed once from side to side, then Barbara experienced the rise and fall of her entire body as the younger woman bucked under her.

"God, Barbara -- please..."

Not at all inclined to resist the younger woman's whimpered plea, the redhead pushed herself down the brunette's torso, the drag of her flesh against the other woman's heated skin almost unbearably erotic. Mouth watering at the rose-hued tip beneath her, Barbara unhesitatingly brushed her lips tenderly against the pebbled peak, darting out to touch and taste.

"Dear heavens... Sweetheart --"

Barely aware that she'd spoken, the older woman tested and teased for only a beat longer; her partner's increasingly urgent whimpers and the force of the blood thundering in her own veins would permit her no more time. She opened to take in and -- alternating long strokes with avid suckling -- embraced this new and amazing territory.

Holy cats!

And lions and tigers and bears, too... Nothing had ever felt... tasted... like this.

Sweeping the puckered flesh with her tongue, the redhead sucked deeply, from the back of her mouth. She wanted -- needed -- to take the soft-hard flesh inside...

So caught up was she that it took Barbara some time to register a change in the range and tempo of her partner's movements. The younger woman's slow undulations beneath her had ceased, with the lithe figure spreading her thighs to thrust agitatedly against the redhead's lower body.

A heady sense of what she could do... what she could offer... what she needed to give... buzzed through every functioning nerve that the redhead possessed. Again, there was no hesitation as Barbara slid her hand between their bodies, fumbling at the waistband of the brunette's underwear, insistently seeking the warm wetness that she sensed only inches away.

"Hel... Let me..."

A tiny whine ghosted through red hair, and the older woman squeezed her eyes shut to make sense of what she thought she'd heard.

"No -- "

Barbara stilled her eager movements and lifted her head in confusion as she was ever-so-gently eased from her partner's body. Her confusion increased tenfold, then transformed to something akin to fear, when the brunette stiffly turned onto her side -- back to the older woman -- and curled tightly into herself.

Baffled, and not a little concerned, the redhead inched closer and cautiously placed her hand on the younger woman's bare back. Every muscle seemed to be bowstring taut, quivering and jerking minutely as the lithe figure panted raggedly.

"Helena? Sweetie? Did I...? Are you...?"

The dark head shook once as the younger woman reached back to capture Barbara's fingers, drawing the redhead's arm across her waist and driving their clasped hands against her belly. Wrapping herself to her partner's back, the older woman bit back a moan of sympathy... and arousal. It might have been years for her, but Barbara had no trouble recognizing the fluttering contractions under their joined hands.

What she did not understand was her partner's reaction. For some reason, Helena was battling her own insistent desire, visibly struggling to control -- to halt -- her body's response.

Swallowing thickly, Barbara worked to find her voice.

"Helena? Do you -- "

Having discovered her voice, the older woman now searched for words.

"... do you not want me... to touch you?"

There was no immediate answer. Instead, Helena steadied her breathing and stilled her agitated trembling before turning in the circle of Barbara's arms. While the brunette's words were rueful, there was nothing but bright, shining love in her wide blue eyes.

"More... more than anything, Barbara. But, I need -- "

Crimson brows furrowed, and the older woman reached up, tenderly brushing chestnut bangs from her companion's eyes.

"What do you need, Sweetie?"

She traced the pad of her thumb across the younger woman's full lower lip, shivering when Helena caught her wrist and pressed a butterfly kiss to her palm. The brunette's reply -- so quietly uttered, so earnestly phrased -- left her quaking.

"I need to make love to you, too, Barbara."

There was simply no way to escape... nowhere to hide from the words -- the request. Attempting to ride out the avalanche of emotions crashing within her, Barbara realized that she didn't need -- or want -- to escape at all.

Still lost in blue eyes, she cast about for some sort of footing or solid ground. However, before she could marshal the wits or the wherewithal to respond, a tremendous crash from the living room -- followed by Dinah's startled cry -- echoed through the clock tower.

Chapter 18

In a heartbeat, Helena was out of the bed, grabbed her tank top from the floor, and disappeared through the door. Only seconds behind, Barbara maneuvered herself into her chair, automatically checking under the armrests to verify that her batarangs were available.

Snorting in irritation with herself -- just what the hell did she think she could do with a batarang against an energy pulse? -- she grabbed the cordless phone, gritting her teeth against the fact that calling for help was probably the most valuable assistance she'd be able to provide. She gave the wheels of her chair a hard push, then raised the phone from her lap and stabbed the Talk button, checking for a dial tone.

Although the redhead didn't think her response had been slow, by the time she reached the bedroom door, it was all over.

Her younger partner reappeared in the doorway with an extremely embarrassed-looking Dinah trailing reluctantly behind her. The brunette entered the room wordlessly and moved to stand next to the older woman. Green eyes didn't miss the hard look being directed at the teen from intense blue eyes.

Surmising that the front half of the clock tower hadn't been hit by a death ray, Barbara exhaled steadily, attempting to slow her pulse to something less than 120 bpm.

"Helena? Dinah?"

The two young women spoke as one -- Helena, accusingly; Dinah, apologetically.

"Can you believe the little tw--"

"I'm really sorry. It just sli--"

Barbara lifted her hand in the universal gesture for "stop" then lowered her lashes and continued the upward motion of her hand, pinching the bridge of her nose.

Given a) her lack of coffee and b) what she'd been focused on prior to the abruptly heart-pounding distraction, she felt that short, sweet, and monophonic seemed advisable. Largely in appreciation of the fact that her younger partner hadn't told her to stay behind -- or some other overprotective twaddle -- when she'd run pell-mell from the bedroom, Barbara turned to her.

"Now, Helena, what happened?"

"Other than the Kid scaring the hell out of us for no reason?"

Since the redhead had already arrived at a similar impression, she found the younger woman's snarky response less than enlightening. Raising one crimson brow, she marshaled The Look. It had its desired effect, and Helena dropped her eyes to study the pattern in the hardwood flooring.

"Seems like the K-- Dinah was digging around in the storage closet for an even bigger suitcase..."

The brunette managed to imbue the words with a sizeable dose of mocking disbelief.

"...and knocked a bunch of stuff down."

Apparently reaching the limits of her endurance for silence, the teen piped up in her own defense.

"I am sorry, Barbara. I just wanted to have room for everything."

Dinah was to depart on Sunday, again with Gabby and her parents, to investigate her final college. While the redhead was under no illusions that either girl would be pursuing higher education in Fort Lauderdale, she fully understood her ward's desire for a complete wardrobe for the trip -- even if it seemed unlikely that all of the beachwear that the teen had laid out would be needed for her faculty interviews. Accordingly, she mustered an understanding smile.

"That's fine, Dinah; no harm done. You just... startled us a bit."

When the girl blushed and opened her mouth to speak, Barbara forestalled the lengthy follow-up apology-cum-explanation which she anticipated.

"Since we're up now, I think I'll get dressed."

She didn't miss the long look directed her way before Helena turned toward her bathroom. It sounded like she'd muttered something about a cold shower, however it was the words she heard Dinah calling over her shoulder as she retreated down the hallway that truly captured her attention.

"I'll put some coffee on..."

Eventually adequately caffeinated, the cyber-crime fighter immersed herself at the Delphi, attempting to ferret out any clues that she might have overlooked from the images and plots she'd collected the night before. Leaving Helena to her mixing bowl of Frosted Sugar Cocoa Snaps -- with extra sugar -- and, of all things, a Smurfs marathon airing on the WB, the redhead enticed Dinah to join her for several hours of detailed analysis of the energy pulse.

Somewhere around noon -- Barbara noted the time only because she found herself absently munching on one of the tuna sandwiches which the brunette had wordlessly placed by the monitors -- she finally put her finger on what had been bothering her about the images; however, she deliberately held her tongue, waiting to see what the teenager might pick up on. Dinah continued to pour over the images for another ten minutes before looking up in confusion.

"This is wrong, isn't it, Barbara?"

Unwilling to sway the girl's perceptions, the older woman spoke carefully.

"What makes you think that, Dinah?"

The blonde gestured at a monitor which was filled with spectrometer readings, then set her sandwich aside.

"Well, we're pretty sure it was a laser, which is -- basically -- a beam of light, right?"

The redhead nodded and allowed a tiny smile to show. The teen appeared to be reaching the same conclusion that she had.

"But, other than refraction -- hitting a prism or something -- light should travel in a straight line."

"Straight lines are too dull."

A deceptively blase voice wafted over the back of the couch, and Barbara chuckled.

"That may be true, Sweetie, but dull and predictable can be good when we're dealing with scientific laws."

"Yeah," the blonde chimed in.

Barbara thought she detected a trace of self-righteousness in Dinah's short utterance, possibly a reaction to the razzing which Helena continued to inflict over the suitcase incident. She smoothly drew her charge's attention back to the problem at hand.

"So, why would this beam have arced, Dinah?"

The redhead waited patiently as the teen reexamined several of the images and plots, seeming to work methodically through various ideas. Pale blue eyes, narrowed in puzzlement, finally met green.

"It could have bounced off something in the atmosphere -- like water vapor?"

Nodding her agreement, Barbara gently reminded the teen, "But, it was dry and predominantly clear last night."

The disembodied voice from the couch chimed in again.

"What if whoever fired it off sent it though a prism or... something?"

The older woman pursed her lips against a smile when the blonde fixed the back of the sofa with an impatient glare.

"Oh, come on. Why would they want to do that?"

Possibly sensing the hostility directed toward the furniture she was resting on, a chestnut head popped up, and Helena regarded the teen serenely.

"I dunno, D. Maybe they were trying to bend it."

The leader of the little team nodded again, impressed -- but scarcely surprised -- by her younger partner's almost intuitive grasp of the situation. Under her don't-give-a-damn, too-bad-for-her-leathers attitude, the brunette hid a keen intellect.

Pale blue eyes blinked in perplexity.

"Like, trying to curve around something... or compensate for something?"

"Exactly, Dinah.", the redhead confirmed crisply. "So, what lies between Arkham and New Gotham which would need to be circumvented?"

Catching the wicked light in cerulean eyes, Barbara held her breath in anticipation.

"Loewen's big telescope? Or, maybe they were trying to avoid his thick glasses and pointy little head."

When Dinah giggled, the older woman rolled her eyes. If there was one thing that Helena didn't need when she was in a mood, it was encouragement. Unfortunately, it appeared that the teen's amusement was all that had been needed because the two were off...

"What about the city water tower with the stylized bat motif on it?", Dinah suggested.

"No.. wait," the brunette chimed in, "how about that big new billboard for Hooters they just put up? Lot of curves to get around on that."

Recognizing that she had no recourse but to allow this little episode to play itself out, Barbara shook her head minutely and began to toggle through some data, half-listening as the two younger women attempted to top each other.

"What about the whole city?"

The brunette had no problem countering the teen's laughing idea with a brainchild of her own.

"Don't forget about that whole -- "

From the corner of her eye, the redhead saw her partner making quotation marks with her fingers.

" 'curvature of the earth' thing, Dinah."

Laughing brightly, Barbara finally interceded before the two young women decided to expand their efforts into rediscovering the laws of gravity from the balcony or some such thing. She shooed Dinah off to pack while Helena sank back onto the couch, and then the cyber-genius skillfully hacked in to the police computer and Arkham's system to peruse security reports.

Although the NGPD's investigation into the incident had been cursory so far, it seemed that Arkham had conducted a thorough search of the facility after receiving her anonymous alert the night before. Unfortunately, nothing had been found; nevertheless, the cyber-vigilante began a careful review of the detailed reports in the off chance that the security staff had overlooked something.

Several hours later, the redhead blew an exasperated raspberry, then straightened and rotated her neck, popping the tight vertebrae. She picked up her cup of tea and absently blew across it, then blinked.

When had the still-steaming beverage appeared by her mouse pad?

Shaking her head, she listened to the sound of conspiratorial whispering and -- was that...? Yes, definitely giggling -- laughter emanating from Dinah's room. At some point, Helena must have given up on the Saturday afternoon television selections and offered to lend her expertise to the teen's packing.

Obviously, now she'd need to make a concerted effort not to learn what the blonde ultimately decided to take with her.

The older woman slowly turned from the monitors which flanked her on three sides and stared at the living area. If she ignored the specific nature of what she'd been working on -- not to mention the sheer uniqueness of the Delphi itself -- she almost could pretend that it was all normal. Working on the computer, watching television, sorting through a teenager's wardrobe -- not unlike how other families might spend a chilly late-winter afternoon. Rolling that thought around in her mind, Barbara decided that she liked it, especially the "family" aspect.

Regardless, it was time to stop wool-gathering.

With a soft sigh of resignation, she pivoted and regarded the Delphi balefully. The super-computer was, without a doubt, a powerful tool which allowed her to serve justice in ways she'd never dreamed of during her days and nights on the streets so many years ago. Yet, at moments like this -- on edge from a shadowy threat and stymied by tenuous clues which only seemed to reveal more mysteries -- the redhead yearned for something more, something else.

At times like this, Barbara admitted that she would cheerfully walk away from the computer and all the good she could accomplish through it. She'd walk away without a second thought if only she could... walk away. If only she could hop on a cycle and hit the streets, wind in her face and nothing but the purity and adrenaline of action on her mind.

Understanding her own itching restlessness and recognizing, from hard experience, that her thoughts would lead nowhere good, the redhead debated spending some time in the training room. Perhaps some time shellacking the heavy bag with her staffs or working herself to exhaustion on the parallel bars would allay her edginess. Anything other than spinning her wheels, so to speak, at the Delphi...

Fortunately, the very thought of spinning reminded the redhead about another pressing matter. It was her turn to plan a date with Helena, and she'd be hornswoggled before she allowed Arkham, the Joker, and whatever possible threat was facing them to interfere with their lives completely. She'd locked away the sickening terror which had seized her the night before; at this point, the cyber-crime fighter planned to channel her energies into her usual roles and responsibilities: tracking down the source of the threat, protecting her charges and the city, and... continuing to weave the delicate threads of a changing relationship with Helena.

Smirking, the redhead admitted to herself that redirecting her thoughts wasn't strictly about maintaining normalcy and refusing to give in to the shadowy terrors facing them. Quite simply, planning an outing with the younger woman would be a great deal more pleasant and relaxing than either working out or wallowing in frustration at her workstation.

Since Helena had claimed that the bowling expedition the week before had lacked appeal, Barbara decided that she'd need to come up with something truly worthy. Accordingly, she ticked through the likely events she'd noted in the morning paper.

WWF Live?

As much as she'd enjoyed The Rock's movie and as much as Helena appreciated well-muscled bodies, Barbara still suspected that an entire afternoon of muscle-bound actors engaged in poorly staged wrestling matches would simply be... an embarrassment of testosterone.

Sword & Leather Convention?

The older woman had surmised that this involved a gathering of overly enthusiastic fans of a certain Warrior Princess. While Helena certainly displayed a marked fondness for both leather and weaponry and she, herself, was in possession of a not-very-secret stash of Xena DVDs, Barbara couldn't help but wonder if the event might degenerate into an estrogen-fest for her overly enthusiastic partner.

Green eyes suddenly twinkled when the cyber-genius' eidetic memory served up the perfect event.

The Living Canvas Tattoo Exhibition.

With her interest in art -- and scantily clad bodies -- Helena would certainly approve. Frankly, the redhead suspected that she'd find the showing to be to her liking as well, provided that she could keep her companion from persuading her to get matching "I'm With Her" designs permanently inked on their shoulders.

Pleased with the idea, Barbara opened a browser, intent on locating an online ticket vendor. Humming softly while she brought up the schedule for the show, the redhead realized that, with Dinah off on her trip, they could easily rearrange the normal Sunday schedule. Perhaps they could give Alfred a break from his usual waffle-iron duties and go out for brunch, then hit the exhibition in the afternoon.

Barbara completed her reservation for two tickets, smiling broadly at the idea of playing hooky from the usual routine. As she recorded her confirmation number, she suddenly stilled, and green eyes narrowed speculatively. Inexorably, her happy smile morphed into an even wider, distinctly dirty sort of grin.

With the clock tower to themselves for the day, perhaps she was being hasty in making plans to go out. After all, they were two intelligent, creative individuals; certainly they could find some ways to occupy themselves, or burn off some ener...

The redhead hit the keys to toggle open a terminal window with such speed that she thought she heard a whine of protest from the Delphi's cpu's.

How she could have such a very, very high IQ yet miss the obvious... Honestly, sometimes she felt about as bright as a small appliance light bulb.

Of course, the cyber-vigilante mused as she effortlessly hacked into the city utility department, that was exactly the point: light. Rather, the power required for a burst of high intensity light...

Several hours later, the redhead pushed back from the keyboard, feeling entirely self-satisfied. NGPL had, indeed, registered a huge drain moments before the previous night's event. Meticulous cross-checks hadn't revealed the exact location of the demand -- the power company really needed to refine and update its software -- however, it had occurred in a grid on the western edge of the city. With that information, it had been a simple -- albeit tedious -- job to add some monitoring and tracking code to the company's mainframe. Now, as soon as the laser was powered up, she'd be alerted.

Catching herself rubbing her hands together in an altogether too Machiavellian fashion, Barbara glanced around the empty living area.

Just what were Helena and Dinah up to?

Glancing toward the window, she guiltily noticed that the sun had set and darkness was falling fast. Quiet music drifted from the direction of Dinah's room, alerting her to the location of at least one of the younger women.

In your eyes, I can see
Something, Something, So sure
In those eyes
As bright as the stars, As blue as the sky
I could die In your eyes
In your eyes, I can see
Something, Something, So sure
And those eyes are not for hurting
You have the power
In those eyes, in your eyes
As bright as the stars, As blue as the sky
I could die In your eyes

As she picked out the words accompanying the spare melody, Barbara felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand in reflex. A moment later, she noted that -- rather than Joan Armatrading's evocative lyrics -- there was something else triggering her awareness.

Unhesitatingly, she covered the short distance and quietly pulled the doors closed behind her on the balcony. The redhead was unsurprised to find her partner perched on the parapet surrounding the starlit terrace. However, when the brunette turned in response to her low greeting, an emotion... or sensation... akin to surprise seized the older woman.

Only a few weeks before, Barbara could -- and would -- have dismissed her response as mere surprise, but honesty prevented the easy obfuscation now. While her heart had begun to pound and her blood had begun to rush through her veins, it was something other than astonishment which had been triggered by the sight of Helena's glittering feral eyes.

"What are you thinking about, Hel?"

Somehow, the redhead managed to make her inquiry calmly. The dark figure's hoarse reply neatly stripped any remaining measure of calm from her.

"About you, Barbara."

"About... me?", the older woman repeated, somewhat stupidly, she feared.

Helena rose from the low wall and gracefully approached to kneel by the redhead's side. The dark head nodded once, slowly... confidently. When the younger woman looked up, her eyes were heavy lidded with promises meant for dark bedrooms.

"Yeah. About how you'll look when you come... about how you'll look when you make me scream."

Swallowing volubly, Barbara Gordon could not, for the life of her, remember why it was taking -- had taken -- so long for her partner to find out. Reaching for the brunette's hand, she could find only two words.

"Come here."

Instantly, the lithe woman flowed forward, onto the redhead's lap, straddling her legs with her knees buried deep in the thick padding of the chair. Raising her hands instinctively, Barbara cradled the other woman's face, stroking her thumbs across full lips then gasping at the provocative dance of a warm tongue against her finger.


Their mouths met hungrily, and the older woman swore that she felt Helena's rumbling growl from the top of her head all the way to her belly. Every functioning nerve ending fired a salute, and Barbara stroked deeply, capturing that teasing tongue.

Their almost frenzied movements gradually slowed under her languid suckling. To the accompaniment of her partner's ragged breathing, the older woman dragged her fingers through silken hair, over wiry shoulders, across the twitching muscles of the younger woman's back. Almost leisurely, she clasped Helena's slender hips, rocking her partner against her in time with the pull of her mouth.

Slim fingers danced through her hair, then down her neck to tease at the upper swell of her breasts.

"Barbara... I need-- "

The redhead arched forward on a hiss.


Another purring growl tickled her jaw just before sharp teeth nipped at her pulse point. Warm hands palmed the suddenly heavy flesh on her chest, massaging tenderly in rhythm with the deep suctioning, the wet strokes, the rasping pressure at her throat. Fire blossomed at the genesis of the erotic torture and radiated down and out until Barbara's fingers itched for contact, the strong muscles of her arms flexed convulsively, and her nipples tightened and burned.

Urgently, she reached between them, fumbling at the buttons of her oxford shirt. Freeing the top four, she wound her fingers in dark silk and guided, with more resolve than finesse.

"Oh god, Helena... Suck me -- please."

Golden eyes swam into view for a nanosecond. Then... then, Helena's mouth was on her, a perfect melding of teeth and tongue and lips. Barbara's head fell back as she arched her shoulders in search of more -- more pressure, more of the wet strokes, more of her being... consumed by her lover's shockingly talented mouth.

Somehow loosening her spasming fingers from Helena's scalp, Barbara frantically yanked the younger woman's shirt up and raked blunted nails along each side of her spine. The dark figured groaned thickly and bowed into the twin trails like some sort of stretching jungle cat, then raised her head, returning her mouth to the older woman's. Mourning the sensation on her breast even as she thrilled to the brush of kiss-bruised lips against hers, the redhead finally deciphered the movement of her partner's mouth against her.

"I love you."

Not even a whisper, just a hint of motion. Over and over.

Something more powerfully overwhelming than any physical sensation that she'd ever experienced at the hands of a lover raced through the older woman. For the second time in her cautiously controlled life, emotion and physicality bled together.

Amazed and awed, she disengaged herself just enough to look into the burning, passionate gaze of her lover.

"Oh, Sweetheart. I love you, too. So much."

Witnessing the upward curl of the younger woman's top lip, another feeling ran through the redhead. Cautiously, Barbara ran her tongue over the edges of her lips, scarcely breathing when Helena spoke.

"I want to touch you -- to taste you -- everywhere. Every inch of your body."

Wanting that too, with a dark desperate ache, the older woman swallowed thickly and hunted for speech. Helena, however, wasn't finished.

"Then, do you know what I want? What I need, Barbara?"

Dumbly, the redhead shook her head, immobilized before this passionate... huntress.

"Then, Barbara..."

Helena's words were low and heavy, sweeping across Barbara like thick velvet.

"...I need my fingers -- my hand -- inside of you. So deep inside that I'm a part of you."

Something clenched powerfully, low in the older woman's belly. However, even in the face of overwhelming passion, she could not escape the insidious tendril of fear winding up her spine. Unwilling to give in, Barbara forced herself to speak, urgent and honest.

"Dear heavens, Helena, I want... I want that, too. But -- "

Shamed, she nevertheless refused to look away.

"...but I want to... to feel that -- you..."

"Us.", she finished awkwardly, hating the cost of her inadequacies.

A moment later, Barbara was grateful that she'd not looked away when yellow eyes fluidly morphed to blue. A slender hand rose to rest lightly over her heart, gentling its frantic fluttering. When Helena spoke, her features were so open and sweet, so filled with love and desire, that the older woman feared she might cry.


The younger woman's words were filled with perfect conviction.

"--how could you not feel it? Feel us loving each other?"

There was simply no way to deny the truth of her lover's words, and so Barbara rasied her arms in invitation.

"Take me to bed, Helena."

Chapter 19

I've paid my dues -
Time after time -
I've done my sentence
But committed no crime -

Of course, it had been at that moment -- with Helena rising gracefully and bending to carry the redhead to the bedroom -- that the alarm at the Delphi had triggered. With the very real threat facing them -- or some other nearby target -- there had been no choice.

Inhaling deeply to clear her erotic haze, Barbara had straightened her shoulders, tendering a genuinely apologetic smile. Her partner's answering smile -- just the tiniest bit forced, the older woman had observed -- was absolution. Briskly assuming her post at the computer, the quiet words she'd heard were an assurance.

"Soon, Red."

That was all it had taken. With a quick squeeze to the younger woman's hand, Barbara had reassumed her role as a protector of the city, her partner leaning expectantly against one edge of the table, her newest charge fidgeting behind her.

As expected, she'd found that a huge power drain had just begun in the NGPL's western grid. Waiting for her tracking worm to pinpoint the exact location of the energy drain, she'd expertly hacked into her favorite satellite, ready to capture another image of the pulse of light.

The cyber-vigilanted had fervently hoped that said image wouldn't be the last thing she saw before the clock tower was blown into orbit next to the weather satellite.

Within seconds, she'd had the location, just as a bolt of light had blazed through the western sky above Arkham. Green eyes had widened, and the redhead had grit her teeth in angry dismay when she'd realized that she had been terribly, terribly wrong.

The laser wasn't originating from Arkham. Perhaps more chillingly, it was aimed at the facility. Aimed, specifically, from Frank Loewen's property.

And bad mistakes
I've made a few
I've had my share of sand kicked in my face -
But I've come through

Barbara had finally spoken with almost nonchalant calm.

"Helena? Dinah? By any chance was Mr. Loewen losing his hair?"

She'd easily detected the teen's uneasy shifting behind her, witnessed the startled blinking of deep blue eyes.

Clearly her younger partners had been wondering if she needed a long vacation.

"Sure was," Helena had nevertheless confirmed with gratifying alacrity. "Big old comma-shaped bald patch..."

A line of dialogue from the movie "Shrek" had popped out of the redhead's infallible memory. Mentally shrugging, she'd summoned her best Scottish accent.

"Well, that explains a lot."

Apparently, if the looks she'd received were any indication, quoting cartoon characters in the midst of a crisis had not done much to reassure her companions about her mental state.

Regardless of how she'd expressed it, the sentiment was right on target. Specifically, they had resolved the little mystery of their finicky jewel thief. The burglar -- Loewen -- had apparently been in search of suitable lenses to amplify and refract a laser.

No wonder the man had been so disoriented by the appearance of the two young crime fighters the night before. After their run-in at the pawn shop a few weeks ago, there was little chance he wouldn't remember them. He had probably been almost panicked when they'd appeared to investigate the effects of a powerful beam of light.

A beam of light which was now positioned to collapse the prison, killing inmates and guards alike... and freeing any prisoners not injured by the blast.

Barbara had succinctly explained the situation to the younger women as she'd monitored another drain on the utility company's western grid. Moments later, she'd tracked another bolt of blue-green light in the sky with a feeling of panic. Although Loewen seemed to be having some trouble aiming -- on this attempt, he'd reduced the top of the bluff that the prison nestled against into a shower of rock -- eventually, he'd find his mark.

"Can't you just shut down the power?"

Dimpling her cheeks in frustration, the older woman had replied factually, even as her younger partner hopped from the platform to retrieve her coat.

"The control isn't granular enough, Dinah. Without actually climbing the right pole and manually bypassing a transformer, I'd have to take out the entire western grid."

Helena's hiss from across the room had spoken for them all. Shutting down the power in that section would throw Arkham onto auxiliary power -- reducing most of its high-tech security features to nothing more than impressive decorations.

The brunette had snagged the keys to the Humvee and turned toward the elevator with a growl.

"No sweat. I'll just go out and shut his little toy down manually."

"Hurry, Helena. Even if he doesn't hit the prison, it appears that there's quite a bit of back feed from his device. Perhaps enough to take down the grid..."

Helena had departed with a laconic wave and a predatory smile while Barbara had conscripted Dinah's help in monitoring the satellite even as she'd programmed pseudo-random power fluctuations into the grid.

Not quite a brown-out but, hopefully, enough to slow the recharge of the man's weapon until her younger partner could reach the scene.

I've taken my bows
And my curtain calls -
You brought me fame and fortune
and everything that goes with it -
I thank you all -

The strategy seemed to have the desired effect; at least, there had been no further evidence of laser activity during the long twelve minutes that it took for Helena to reach the man's farm.

Conversely, the strategy had an unintended consequence if the furious banging and shouting which had echoed over the transceiver upon the younger woman's arrival were any indication. Frank Loewen had been one very frustrated -- enraged -- individual. His profane cries -- presumably to the heavens above -- had sounded clearly through the comms.

<"Goddammit! What's wrong with the power? Why won't this piece of crap power up? I need more power--">

The brunette had provided a sub vocal play-by-play from her vantage point in the woods.

<"Looks like he's got the... contraption moved just outside the ruins of the barn. Butt-load of wires and cables and stuff all over... Uh oh...">

Barbara hadn't cared for the sound of that.


<"Uhm, he's firing up a generator -- probably gonna try to boost the power. I'm gonna try to calm him down.">

Before Helena had had the opportunity to do more than call out -- <"Hey there, Frank. Can we tal--"> -- things had gone terribly wrong.

There had been another energy drain from the western grid -- smaller than the previous usages but none-the-less impressive -- followed by two sounds over the comms: a powerful, electric crackling and the young vigilante's scream of pain.

Since then -- the redhead's internal chronometer supplied that it had been nine minutes, nine agonizing minutes -- there had been only silence over the unit. Logically, suspecting that her partner had been struck by some powerful voltage, Barbara knew that the transceiver had certainly been destroyed. Illogically, the deafening silence seemed to signify something much more dire.

When Helena's cry had echoed through the clock tower, Barbara had -- quite deliberately -- allowed herself ten seconds for her terror to possess her. For ten seconds, she'd succumbed to an eruption of awful images and thoughts which paralyzed both her upper body and her mind. For ten long seconds... and not one second more.

After that avalanche of emotion had buried her, she'd flailed to the surface, bundling her terror into a small, sour bundle which sat somewhere near her stomach. Then, she'd briskly pushed away from the Delphi, grabbing two spare comm sets and hustling to the storage closet. Digging inside, she had quickly found what she needed -- extra batarangs, some escrima sticks -- and, with an indignant shake of her head, had also grabbed her black motorcycle jacket and thrust her arms into the sleeves.

If she were going to go barnstorming in on a rescue mission, Loewen should at least know that all three women were on the same... team.

Seventy-five seconds after the comm link had been severed, Barbara had been at the wheel of the van, peeling out of the parking garage as Dinah frantically attempted to secure her safety belt. It had been quite a while since she'd been on a bike and, granted, the van had four wheels, but as she'd zoomed around the first corner, the crimson-haired vigilante had discovered that she was still quite capable of doing some two-wheeling.

But it's been no bed of roses
No pleasure cruise -
I consider it a challenge
before the whole human race -
And I ain't gonna lose -

Nearing their destination, the older woman reached out and summarily shut off the vehicle's sound system. She'd noticed the tape in the pocket of her jacket a few miles back -- a long-forgotten favorite from when she'd prowled the city -- and decisively pushed it into the tape deck.

Heaven knew, a dose of inspiration and adrenaline wouldn't be a bad thing.

Several hundred feet from the entrance to the small farm, Barbara pulled the van to the side of the road and nodded at her companion. Both women checked their comm units a final time before the blonde hopped lightly from the vehicle.

"Be careful, Dinah. I'll give you sixty seconds to get into position."

Since there was simply no way for the redhead to make a stealthy approach, Dinah was to move toward the farm through the woods and remain hidden. Barbara's plan, quite simply, was to roll on in and... do whatever it took.

Fifty seconds later, the teen spoke breathlessly through the transceiver.

<"I'm... I'm here. He's got Helena tied up with some sort of... electrical cables or something. He...">

The blonde's voice hushed with horrified anger.

<"He keeps shocking her, Ba-- Oracle...">

Distantly, the older woman picked up a whimper of pain -- definitely Helena -- and almost sobbed in relief.

"Stay out of sight for now, Canary. I'm heading in."

Carefully checking her side mirror, the redhead automatically flipped on her turn signal and pulled onto the road, almost immediately changing to the other signal as she swung into the long driveway toward the farmhouse. She deliberately kept a light hand on the accelerator -- no need to startle the man -- and bumped slowly toward the building.

Approximately fifty feet from the farmhouse, she spied the remains of what must have been the barn, wryly noting that there had, indeed, been quite a bit of energy feedback from the pulse Frank had fired off the night before. The man had moved his equipment from the barn, positioning it next to a huge telescope, and crimson brows furrowed as she tried to make sense of the long, extremely slender tube which apparently made up the laser's barrel.

Twenty or twenty-five feet long, it appeared to be a series of slender cylinders which had been crudely welded...

Oh, good grief.

Transferring herself to her chair, the redhead rolled her eyes when she identified just what the man had utilized in building his Rube Goldberg-esque contraption: the rifle barrels which had disappeared from the sporting goods store over a month ago. Presumably, if the odd welds visible along the tube were any indication, the missing gemstones would be found secured throughout the length of the makeshift accelerator.

Cautioning herself against over-confidence, the redhead opened the door to the van and lowered the lift. Regardless of what the laser looked like, it quite obviously -- as Helena had described it the night before -- packed a punch. Briskly, she muscled herself across the snow-covered ground and around the side of the van to confront the unit's designer.

A balding, bespectacled man, bundled in an oversized parka, stood next to Helena and glared suspiciously at his approaching visitor. The younger woman was lying on her side near a humming transformer. She was secured by copper wiring which was hooked -- green eyes rapidly followed the maze of wiring which covered the ground -- to a 220-volt outlet.

It appeared that, after disabling the dark woman, Loewen had been keeping her under wraps through the use of periodic shocks.

"Heya, Red."

The brunette tendered a small smile, but Barbara didn't miss the pain flooding caramel features when her tormentor toggled a switch and filled her slender frame with electricity again.

With something approaching preternatural calm, the older woman retrieved a batarang from her chair. Her words, however, belied her composure.

"Get the fuck away from her, Loewen."

The man held his ground, peering nearsightedly through the darkness.

"Who the hell are you?"

If circumstances had been different, the redhead thought she might have laughed at the confused disbelief in the man's voice. However, circumstances were not different, so she spoke decisively.

"My name is Barbara Gordon, and I'm the woman who's going to kick your ass."

"Atta girl..."

Helena was sounding decidedly foggy; no telling how many shocks the deranged man had already inflicted.

When the balding man's fingers twitched against the switch, Barbara decided that Helena -- and she -- had had enough. The redhead raised her weapon, aiming effortlessly and fully prepared to take the man's head off. In the instant before releasing the batarang, Barbara managed to stay her rage and alter her aim, neatly severing the electric cable rather than the man's head.

Blinking in disbelief, Loewen delivered a sharp kick to his captive's ribs, then turned and stalked toward his newest visitor, raising something in his other hand. Green eyes narrowed speculatively as the older woman coolly assessed the item.

It was pistol-shaped, with a veritable rat's-nest of wires trailing from the grip of the weapon before getting lost in the warren of cables littering the yard. Presumably some sort of home-made taser -- and probably the weapon he'd used to subdue Helena.

Barbara spoke almost sub vocally as he raised the weapon.

"Plug it, Canary."

Despite her confidence in her hidden teammate's TK prowess, the redhead was unable to suppress a quick flinch when Loewen squeezed the firing mechanism. To her considerable relief, Barbara found herself neither shocked nor fried; rather, she watched with some bemusement as the unit visibly began to overheat in the man's hand. A moment later, steam practically coming from his ears, the balding man threw the weapon on the ground.

"Why are you doing this to me? What did you do to the electricity? I need to power up my unit now!"

Whirling, he roughly twisted a dial on a control panel near the gawky laser, and green eyes blinked in dismay when the knob broke off in the agitated man's hand. The quiet clicking of the unit attempting to power up transformed into a low buzz while the lights inside the farmhouse flickered.

The redhead quickly surveyed the warren of cables littering the yard. There was simply no way -- short of conscripting an army of grandmothers to start winding them up into neat balls -- to determine which, if any, was the primary power line. The consequences of cutting the wrong one, or ones, were sobering.

Nevertheless, even at full draw, they should have a few minutes before the laser was completely powered, given the still-fluctuating power in the western grid; however, the acrid stench of burning wiring suggested that an overload wasn't far off.

Hoping to slow the process, Barbara almost negligently tossed another batarang, knocking the man's generator into blissful silence. The incensed scream from next to the laser suggested that the device's inventor also believed that her action had been deleterious to his endeavor.

"Canary, will you please come get Huntress?"

<"On my way...">

The leather-clad vigilante waited until she spied the blonde emerging from the trees, then turned her attention to the man frantically toggling switches and turning dials.

"Mr. Loewen, you need to stop. There's no way you'll have the power to blow up Arkham now."

The man momentarily abandoned his twiddling and fiddling as his jaw dropped.

"Arkham? Why would I want to blow up Arkham?"

Sensing the beginning of a massive tension headache, the redhead ignored the urge to pinch the bridge of her nose. Instead, she casually positioned another batarang in her lap as she moved a few feet closer to the befuddled man.

"Then why have you been firing at it?"

Barbara watched in disbelief as the balding man colored and affected what appeared to be an embarrassed laugh.

"Er, I wasn't aiming at the prison. I've just had a little trouble fine-tuning my atmospheric refraction coordinates. I'm attempting..."

At this, he busily returned to his twiddling, puffing up with pride.

"...to send a signal to Comet Machholz."

Aware of smoke beginning to waft from the laser's base, the older woman turned to check on her two younger partners. Dinah had freed Helena and was helping the brunette to her feet.

Then, wondering just when she'd stepped... or rolled... into the twilight zone, Barbara cocked her head to one side and inquired, with as much politeness as she could muster, "Send a signal to the comet...?"

Loewen temporarily halted his fiddling again and fixed her with a stare suggesting that he thought she might be a few bricks shy of a load in the intellect department.

"Well, yes, of course. So that they'll know that we got their signal."

Crimson brows began to climb up the older woman's forehead.

" 'They'?"

Once again, it appeared that her conversational skills had been reduced to parroting words back in the form of a question. Fortunately, the bespectacled man seemed too occupied by his attempts to coax more power to his device to notice.

"Yes, whoever sent the green satellite. You don't think that it's a real comet, do you?"

Barbara drew in a slow, fortifying breath and glanced behind the agitated man to her two companions. Helena was standing under her own power -- thank heavens for the younger woman's meta-human recuperative abilities -- and twirling her index finger in a circle by her temple. Not much inclined to disagree with the brunette's evaluation of Loewen's mental state, the redhead assessed the state of his laser.

The unit's buzzing had morphed into a high-pitched whine, and the cyber-genius suspected that one of two events was imminent: either a power surge which would take down the western grid or an earth-shattering ka-boom at their current location.

From the corner of her eye, she noticed the brunette inching forward, preparing to lunge at the inventor, and shook her head minutely. No telling what other nasty shocks he might have, and -- with the younger woman already weakened -- it wasn't worth the risk.

Instead, Barbara caught Dinah's eyes and inclined her head in question, glancing at the base of the laser. The blonde shrugged, then scrunched her eyes in concentration, hopefully having read her guardian's signal correctly and trying to isolate the motor in a TK "thought bubble". The redhead detected the barest blip in the unit's whining before she saw the teen stumble backward, almost falling into Helena's waiting arms.

It was the dark woman's low purr which whispered through the transceiver.

"Canary can't get through the power flow, Oracle."

Barbara nodded her comprehension, fingering the batarang on her lap as she attempted to identify the most likely spot to disable the laser without causing unforeseen, unpleasant results. Honing in on two circuits, she frantically searched for a hint about which would be better.

Why couldn't these mad scientists include labels like "Emergency Cutoff" on their devices?

She decided to give negotiation one last try.

"Mr. Loewen, you do not have the power -- "

The redhead pointedly ignored her younger partner, who was clearly mouthing "or the aim", and continued bluntly.

"-- to reach the com... er, satellite right now. If you don't power down, however, you will have an explosion on your hands."

The inventor visibly waffled before gesturing at the mess of melted plastic on his control panel and speaking plaintively.

"I couldn't if I wanted to. Besides, tonight is my last chance before it's out of reach and mankind loses it opportunity to--"

The grandiose declaration was interrupted by a ten-foot blue-green bolt of energy crackling from the base of the laser. Decision made, Barbara mentally crossed her fingers and flung her weapon. Almost in slow motion, the batarang arced through the air, unerring in its path toward the circuit which, the older woman hoped, would shut down the unit without blowing it up.

Twenty feet from the laser.

Ten feet.

Five feet.

Approximately eighteen inches from the unit, the weapon... wobbled, abruptly slowing its trajectory. Flipping in midair, one tip of the stylized batwing clicked lightly against the circuit board that Barbara had selected, neatly flicking the 9-volt battery she'd spied in the board to the ground. Instantly, with neither a bang nor a whimper, the entire unit simply... shut down.


The redhead barely refrained from pumping her fist in the air when she noticed Loewen's eyes widening incredulously behind thick lenses before beginning to -- of all things -- tear. The balding man sank slowly to his knees in the snow, burying his face in his hands, as Helena approached cautiously with a length of electrical cable in her hands.

Emerald eyes widened -- revenge had never been the brunette's style, but Loewen had been pretty brutal -- before the older woman verified that the wire wasn't attached to a power source. Several interesting knots and one anonymous call to the police later, the three crime fighters piled into the van and withdrew to where Helena had parked the Hummer to watch two police cruisers roar by.

"How crazy could he be, thinking that the comet -- "

"Forget that, D," Helena smoothly interrupted, "How bad could his aim be?"

Relief and release coursing through her, Barbara laughed brightly.

"It would seem that your guess earlier today about compensating for the curvature of the earth wasn't too far off, Hel."

Two pairs of blue eyes fixed on her disbelievingly, and the redhead clarified.

"More precisely, the atmosphere around it."

She waited as her proteges digested that idea, observing some pointed eye-rolling from Helena and a slow nod from Dinah.

"Do you think the laser really could have, uh, escaped the atmosphere?"

The cyber-crime fighter considered the teen's question carefully.

"I doubt it, Dinah. Even light needs a great deal more velocity than Loewen was generating."

The other member of their party summarily ended the impromptu science lesson.

"Speaking of velocity, Kid..."

Helena swung open the passenger door and dangled the keys to the Humvee in front of the blonde.

"...think you can keep it under ninety on the way back?"

Dinah clambered over the brunette and snagged the keys on her way out, then obligingly headed toward the boxy SUV. After opening the door, she turned, and the redhead felt heat creeping up her cheeks in response to the pointed look being directed her way.

"I'm not the one you need to worry about."

Barbara waited patiently as her dark companion cracked up at the comment, nearly rolling out the open door in her glee. Only after Helena had collected herself enough to shut the door did the older woman put the van in gear. Allowing Dinah to lead, she bit her tongue and pulled sedately onto the road, acutely aware of twinkling blue eyes fixed on her.

"Well, now we know the real reason you're not out in the field more, Red."

Helpless to stop herself, the older woman heard herself asking, "Why is that, Hel?".

"Too many speeding tickets."

The suggestion of a smile played over the redhead's features, but Barbara opted to ignore the dig. Instead, she serenely reached out and powered on the sound system. Two chords later, the hint of a blush which Dinah's comment had evoked transformed into a full-blown riot of color in response to her companion's disbelieving exclamation.

"You hot-rodded out to rescue me blasting Queen on the stereo, Barbara?!"

This time, the older woman's smile was full and supremely self-satisfied.

"I found it... inspirational, Sweetie."

Without another word, she picked up the familiar words, joined -- a few beats later -- by her partner.

We are the champions - my friends
And we'll keep on fighting - till the end -
We are the champions -
We are the champions
No time for losers
'cause we are the champions - of the world...

Chapter 20

Smoldering heat. Musky silkiness. Divine wetness.

Sweeping brushes. Rough circular touches. Long, languorous strokes.

Through thick hair and across her scalp. Over the full sweep of her back. Across the curve of her stomach.

And still more... more heat... more driving wetness.

No doubt about it, few experiences could rival a completely self-indulgent, leisurely shower. Especially one complemented by vanilla musk bath gel and a long-handled loofah brush.

Shaking the fall of wet red hair from her eyes, Barbara reconsidered that thought.

Judging from the dwindling supply of hot water -- and her own internal clock -- perhaps she had overindulged just a bit. Still, the redhead rationalized as she made a final pass with the loofah, the heat did feel wonderful after her stint in the cold and snow at Loewen's place a few hours earlier.

Unquestionably, while the Ducati had been fun and exciting -- and sexy as all hell -- empirical wisdom clearly revealed the advantages of a nice, warm, enclosed van on a night like this.

Smirking at herself and debating whether she should apply for her retirement pension yet, the crimson-haired crime fighter finally shut off the water and grabbed her towel from the low hook just outside the oversized shower stall. She efficiently buffed her upper body, then put herself through the minor contortions required for her lower half. It had taken over eighteen months after the shooting before she'd been proficient enough with the process to avoid unknown drips and wet spot on her clothes; at this point, it was simply habit.

Still seated in her shower chair, she slid into her boxers, then finally transferred herself to her chair and ruthlessly attacked her hair with a second towel. Barbara just didn't feel like blow drying, so vigorous toweling would have to suffice. Granted, the whole mess would probably resemble a disgruntled hedgehog after sleeping on it, but she didn't recall any appointments with visiting dignitaries on her calendar for the morning.

Satisfied with the relative dryness of the heavy mane, she pulled on her tee shirt and turned off the bathroom light before opening the door to her bedroom and quietly approaching her bed. The small lamp on the side table softly illuminated the room and the soundly sleeping young woman in the bed. Helena, exhausted and still recovering from her ordeal at Loewen's hands, had grabbed a quick shower and retired a few hours earlier. Now, she was sprawled across the big bed, wrapped possessively around Barbara's pillow.

A crimson brow quirked in amusement as the older woman regarded the scene. Helena certainly looked adorable, however there was a question about where she'd be able to fit herself on the bed, given the brunette's diagonal, center-of-the-mattress location. The redhead decided that a rear approach might work best and slid onto the edge of the mattress.

The slight movement seemed to rouse the younger woman, who shifted minutely, arching her belly forward in a sleepy stretch. The action thrust her backside up and into sharp relief in the muted light. Amazed, and a little overwhelmed, Barbara noticed her mouth watering, her nostrils flaring as she inhaled sharply at the vision of firm flesh straining against the pale yellow, high-cut underwear.

Shocked by the strength and the sheer... immediacy of her response, she worked frantically to organize her thoughts and categorize her questions, ultimately deciding that, indeed, the whole "woman thing" did not seem to be much of an issue. Pondering, the analytical woman remained utterly still for a good thirty seconds until a sleepy voice broke into her thoughts.

"Breathe, Barbara."

The redhead accepted the advice with a self-depreciating smile and pushed herself down on the bed, spooning tightly behind the slender brunette. Wrapping an arm around her bedmate's waist, she murmured, "I didn't mean to wake you, Hel. I know you're tired."

She felt, rather than heard, Helena's chuckle.

"What about you, Red? Roaring in to save my ass like that...?"

Conflicted by her dismay that a rescue had been required and by her satisfaction in having effected said rescue, the older woman pressed a lingering kiss to a sharp shoulder blade. She decided to keep matters light.

"I happen to believe that your ass is eminently worthy of rescue."

The brunette wriggled a little in her embrace, and Barbara glanced down to confirm that Helena had, in fact, pressed the area of her anatomy in question tightly against her upper thighs. For some reason, the vision seemed to evoke a sharp spasm in her lower abdomen, but, of course, that would be impossible...

"Still," the younger woman tangled her fingers with the older woman's against her stomach as she continued unhurriedly, "it was pretty butch of you, Babs."

It was Barbara's turn to chuckle softly. Her reply was arch.

"Shall I fetch my leather jacket, Helena?"

Instead of the laughter or provocative rejoinder she'd expected, there was absolute silence for several seconds. Finally, the younger woman twisted her upper body in the circle of Barbara's arms, twinkling blue eyes catching green.


A tiny laugh tickled over her lips even as the older woman felt heat begin to suffuse her upper body. Surprisingly, this didn't seem to be one of her usual blushes.

Perhaps she needed to reconsider that Sword & Leather convention, after all.

Helena wriggled again, ending up facing the redhead, grinning impishly.

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

This time, the redhead determined that the heat touching her cheeks was definitely a blush. Nevertheless, she laughed again.

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

Again, she'd expected a chuckle or a suggestive comment. Therefore, her partner's response didn't just surprise her; it floored her.

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

Struggling for oxygen -- something to kick start her brain -- the redhead whispered, just loudly enough to hear herself over the younger woman's rumbling purr, "Helena?"

The smaller woman sinuously pulled back a few inches and met her searching gaze.

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

Without further ado, the brunette captured the older woman's lips for a long, warm kiss. When the two finally separated, the redhead found herself, again, breathless and... hungry for more. Fully cognizant of the implications of her reaction, she concentrated on calming her breathing, on slowing her trip-hammering heart.

"I think I've finally gotten it, Hel."

The dark woman smoothly turned them both, supporting herself with an arm on each side of the older woman. Green eyes widened helplessly as the sensual woman laved the side of her neck with warm, wet strokes.

Definitely something which was better than a hot shower.

"You will," Helena whispered, the thick heat in her words causing Barbara's functioning muscles to twitch in reflex.

For a delicious moment, the redhead forgot herself, arching her neck to the amazing contact. Regrettably, her conscience followed her.

"You... you should rest... sleep."

Unbelievable how difficult it had been to put together that semblance of a sentence.

The dark head raised, and Barbara was pinned by a disbelieving stare.

"I'm not tired."

Lifting one hand from her lover's strong shoulder, the redhead smiled softly at the faintly petulant words and traced her index finger over the younger woman's perpetually raised left eyebrow.

"Sweetheart, you had a rough time tonight..."

The brunette cut her off with a purring smile. That smile, Barbara realized with a flutter somewhere in her chest, held a great deal of dark knowledge.

"I just had a catnap."

Blue eyes twinkled.

" 'Sides, I'm feeling kind of... charged up."

The older woman couldn't stop the chuckle which spilled over her lips; however, when Helena shifted slightly, a teasing flicker against her ear neatly ended the sound, replacing it with a choked inhalation.

"Now..." the younger woman continued with a sharp nip at her earlobe, "I want..."

The brunette's speech seemed to be becoming disjointed. Or, perhaps, Barbara posited, it was her own powers of comprehension which were failing.

"I need..."

The redhead felt sharp teeth grasp her shoulder where it met her neck, and the other woman playfully shook her head from side to side.


Winding her fingers through chestnut hair, the older woman distantly considered the... request. While Helena had consumed a fair portion of the two large pizzas they'd picked up on the way back -- given her own activities of the evening, the redhead hadn't even balked at triple cheese on both -- the young woman had foregone her usual after-dinner sweets. Claiming that she was "a little tired", the brunette had grabbed her duster, preparing to return to her apartment. Two words from Barbara -- "Stay, Hel." -- had seamlessly diverted the dark vigilante's steps from the balcony to the bedroom.

Regardless, the redhead wasn't sure that this was exactly what she'd had in mind for the night. Helena did have amazing recuperative powers, but... but...

A powerful suction just below her ear gave Barbara's body the opportunity to weigh in with its opinion on the matter. The surprisingly loud moan which had just echoed through the dimly lit room had been hers.

"What about...", she gave it one more try, "...Dinah?"

Caramel features bobbed into view, dark brows waggling naughtily.

"If we keep her awake, she can always sleep on the plane tomorrow."

The older woman cast about for any other sort of impediment while the brunette drew random trails up Barbara's arms, across her chest, and around her clavicle. Warm fingers slid under the hem of her tee -- to the detriment of her concentration, the redhead distantly noted -- and ghosted circles around her navel. Blue eyes remained fixed on the movement of her hand as the younger woman seemed to speak to herself.

"I want you, Barbara. I need to touch you, to taste you."

Oddly, in that she was already horizontal in the security of her own big bed, the older woman felt herself falling, vertigous in the face of the naked desire in the blue eyes which rose to meet hers. She was trapped in quicksand, in a shifting, enveloping cocoon of heat and sensation drawing her inexorably into its depths. Flailing against the erotic inertia, she cupped her partner's face with her hands and gently drew her down, bringing them eye to eye, nose to nose, mouth to mouth.

"Yes. I want you, too, Helena."

Tenderly claiming that lush mouth with hers, tracing cupid's bow lips, Barbara slid the younger woman's tank up. Helena pulled away long enough for the redhead to yank the material over her head, then the brunette swooped down to her neck. The older woman arched into the harsh pull against her flesh, soon finding herself urgently thrusting her upper body under her lover. She roughly pushed against the smaller woman's shoulders.

"Help me up."

The younger woman gracefully shifted, sliding a hand behind Barbara's back and unobtrusively supporting her as the redhead tore her own shirt over her head, tossing it to the far side of the room. Even as she ignored her own self-castigation -- too far to reach that in an emergency -- the older woman pulled on slender shoulders as she fell back, wordlessly asking...

Wordless at the sight of Helena hungrily licking her lips, at the vision of golden eyes traversing her bare flesh.

The brunette hovered above her, lightly brushing against her chest with velvet skin before taking her weight on one arm and again tracing random trails of fire. Somehow, Barbara's heart was beating faster and slower at the same time in response to the teasing paths that her partner made across her belly and arms, at the kisses whispered against her elbows, at the flicker of a tongue in the hollow of her navel. The brush of red lips across the heavy swells of her breasts caused the redhead's nipples to tighten, stiffening as if to meet those lips which offered so much.

Abandoning her efforts to guide -- or even to guess her lover's next move, Barbara surrendered to sensation, stroking her fingers softly across Helena's shoulders and back, twining through dark silk. Aroused in a way that she'd never experienced, the redhead found herself pressing tiny, hard kisses to the dark woman's hair, her arms, her face... any portion of the younger woman which flowed into reach. The sweetly saline musk of her companion's skin permeated her senses, and she licked her lips in search of more.

Dear heavens, how she wanted to... consume her lover.

On one slow pass of soft lips and wet tongue, the older woman's mouth came in contact with the long column of her partner's throat, precisely as Helena's wickedly meandering hand looped a fluttering figure eight around her chest. Well past decorum or propriety, Barbara grabbed her lover's wrist, dragging her hand to the site of her need.

"Please, Sweetheart -- "

It was all that she could manage before closing her teeth in a delicate vise over the brunette's pulse point.

It was enough.

Barbara arched under her partner's convulsive grip, under the long-delayed, wonderful pressure. Her upper back torqued, and she rose weightless in response to the urgent thrust of her lover's hips against her.

"Oh, fuck... yeah..."

Helena's voice was thick with sin... and want.


There was no recourse but to cede to her lover's plea. Barbara bit harder, sucking deeply, thrilling to the hammering pulse under her tongue, to her partner's growling whine, to the damp heat being spread against her side with Helena's every thrust.

She needed more... to touch...

Barbara snaked a hand between them, gasping when the brunette abruptly reared back. Green eyes wide in disbelief, she watched the dark woman lean in, gasping again at a soft nip against a diamond peak.

How tightly swollen could she get?

The older woman's fleeting ruminations about spontaneous implosion of erectile tissue vanished when Helena caught her gaze. The younger woman's face was hard, tense.

Barbara suspected that it nearly rivaled her own tension.

"Will you turn over?"

The brunette's voice was breathy and ragged, and Barbara's chest ached in sympathy.

"Will you let me help you turn over?"

Frankly, at that point, Barbara realized that she didn't care if the brunette wanted to suspend her upside down from the ceiling with her therabands. Anything... anything as long as she didn't stop.

She nodded, unnecessarily, while she twisted her upper body, aware of her partner shifting her lower half. Crossing her arms beneath her chin, the redhead felt the mattress dip, heard rustling, and peered over her shoulder in question. The younger woman had just completed the process of kicking her underwear off and was crawling up the bed to rest with her hips over the redhead's thighs.

Detecting the glint of moisture in the thicket of dark curls hovering inches above her own skin, Barbara slowly shut her eyes, completely overwhelmed. The sensation of warm fingers playing at the elastic waist of her boxers and a hushed question -- "May I?" -- coaxed green eyes open again, and the redhead nodded.

Barbara felt herself lifted, the movement levering her torso down fractionally into the mattress. The soft cotton scraped against her nipples like sandpaper, and she dimly wondered when her 300-thread count Egyptian cotton had become so rough.

And then, then...

All questions faded because Helena was finally fully on her, chest pressing against her back, hands insinuating under her to claim her breasts. Both women moaned, Barbara arching her neck back, her lover thrusting her chest and belly down.

"Dear... heavens... Hel..."

On the horns of a dilemma, the older woman remained locked in a rictus of her own pleasure. She fervently wanted to grind herself deeper onto those knowing hands beneath her. On the other hand, so to speak, she experienced a nearly overwhelming need to push upward against the heavy swells and puckered flesh touching her back. With her entire upper body seemingly enveloped in delirious sensation, Barbara could only attempt to hold strong against the nearly terrifying onslaught of her own arousal.

Soft lips grazed her ear -- "Soon..." whispering across her flesh -- and she twisted her head, hoping to catch her lover's mouth. The brunette's sharp chin raked her shoulder before a warm tongue danced against hers.

"Fu-- Barbara... I--"

A rumbling growl interrupted the other woman, reverberating through the older woman's back and tickling her chest from within.

"I need to taste you..."

With that, the delicious pressure on her back disappeared, leaving the older woman biting her lower lip in frustration. A split second later, the mourned sensation was replaced by the press of full lips, the scrape of sharp teeth, the wash of a wet tongue. The younger woman's oral assault was, again, apparently haphazard -- her younger partner always had been wont to go where her desires dictated -- and all-the-more maddening for it. The redhead found herself whimpering as her lover nipped at her neck, washed the ticklish flesh on her side, flickered her tongue into the cavern of her underarm. She arched into a slow, sensuous bath of her spine which terminated with a protracted soul kiss at the small of her back.

There was no way to predict... or to guess. Unable to see, the relentlessly analytical woman quieted her brain's insistent desire to know, jumping when the brunette drew one hand from her chest and added the dance of slender fingers to the sensory cacophony.

Eventually, Barbara felt the lithe figure moving lower, and she drew her upper and lower lips between her teeth to hold back her whimper when the sensation of sweet kisses simply... ended. Hit by a wave of frustration and panic, the redhead pushed up on her elbows and looked back.

Even as the brunette continued the delicate strokes of her hands against Barbara's back and chest -- where she could feel -- Helena was slowly tracing her mouth along the back of her right leg. The older woman's eyes narrowed at the vision of her lover pressing an open-mouthed kiss to her knee, washing her calf muscle, then lowering herself to rub her cheek against her instep.


The purring command left Barbara no option. She stared in amazement as her partner shifted to her knees, dragging her hands down the length of her legs to raise the right foot... enough, just enough, to rub her chest sleekly against the uncalloused sole. Pressing a soft kiss to the instep, the brunette slowly lowered her leg, and green eyes widened at the image of her lover rocking forward, curling her arms around her abdomen with a shuddering gasp.

How could... just... that affect Helena so?

Recognizing that, in her current state, her brain couldn't do justice to the question, Barbara turned to look over her other shoulder while the younger woman resumed her leisurely explorations on her left leg. She gasped in sympathy with her partner's hiss of pleasure when she dragged her hips across Barbara's ankle, wishing -- oh, how she wished -- that she could have felt the motion. When Helena neared the flesh of her hips, the brunette slowed, nosing the juncture of the older woman's thighs before drawing higher to press her breasts roughly against her ass.

The redhead bitterly noted that only the slight dip of the mattress gave her any physical indication of the unbearably erotic movement she'd just witnessed. Arousal and frustration at war within her, the older woman's voice was tight.

"What... what are you doing, Hel?"

Golden eyes met hers, flickering to blue, then back to gold in a heartbeat.

"I'm loving you, Barbara."

Despite all of her not-inconsiderable upper body strength, Barbara's arms turned to wet noodles at the soft reply. She lowered herself to the bed, then -- frustrated by being an observer -- reached back and down, desperately catching the other woman's shoulder with one hand.

"Helena, I... I need you, too."

Her lover shifted, pressing a ghost kiss to her forearm before slender fingers brushed her lips. Barbara opened her mouth in reflex just as the wetness, the intimate scent of her companion registered.

"Oh, god, Sweetheart--"

The older woman sucked her lover's first two fingers into her mouth over her throaty moan, hungrily lapping at an ambrosia she'd never thought... or dreamed... that she could want like this.

Of course, she'd tasted her own essence, but this... Why hadn't she known... or how could she ever have doubted...? How could she not have understood how the intimate taste of this beloved woman would unravel her so?

Closing her mouth over her soft "Oh" of surprise, the redhead sucked deeply at the slender digits, taking her partner within. She stroked her tongue along the underside of the joined fingers, fluttering the seam where they met, then insinuating between them. The symbolism of her action dizzied her and, apparently, didn't escape her younger partner.

A warm body flowed up her side; full lips brushed her ear.

"Turn over?"

Barbara finally released her lover's hand, twisting eagerly to grasp the brunette's shoulders and dragging the younger woman in for a ravenous kiss. While their tongues pirouetted, she clasped the rich flesh of her partner's hips, pulling upward with intent.

"Please, Hel," she whispered through their gulping contact, "I want my mouth on you."

The movement against her mouth slowed and gentled, ending with a delicate back and forth brushing of full lips against hers.

"Soon, Red..."

Green eyes blinked in consternation. Barbara decided that she was developing a marked antipathy toward that word.

Loving kisses fluttering over her cheeks soothed her ire. The sweep of a tender hand over her chest made her forget it altogether.

Arching to the touch, nearly incoherent in her pleasure, she could only wait...


The question was low, tickling her skin like champagne bubbles. The beginning and ending "R" of the word burred together through the brunette's growl.

"Remember what I need?"


The cyber-genius cast about, discovering that under some circumstances, her memory was apparently more fallible than she'd presumed.

"Sweetheart? What--?"

Warm fingers lightly swept over her belly, the sensation vanishing almost painfully when the brunette ventured below Barbara's waist. The memory returned with a vengeance as Helena whispered in her ear.

"In you, Barbara. So deep..."

The older woman raised her head to see, confirming the play of a tan hand at the top of her thighs. That inexplicable flutter returned to her lower abdomen, and -- wildly -- she allowed herself to hope.

Perhaps... perhaps, this time.

She wanted this so much, more than she'd ever wanted anything... Maybe, this time, when it really meant something... Mind -- and heart -- could triumph over matter.

"You're so fuckin' wet... So hot."

The brunette's voice was breathy and ragged, and when Barbara looked up again, she was stunned by the avid rapture suffusing caramel features. When the younger woman deliberately raised her hand to her own mouth, the redhead shivered at her partner's soft groan as she delicately sampled the moisture amply coating her fingers.

"You taste amazing..."

Overwhelmed, Barbara tracked the descent of slim fingers on her body, distantly registering the words her lover breathed against her throat.

"You... I can't tell you how good you feel... Perfect."

For the life of her, the redhead wished that, if only for one instant, she could tell. How she wished that she could feel her partner's divine touch.

She watched, her throat tightening over the thickness of suppressed tears. She wanted -- dear god, her body wanted this touch; her soul craved this union. Yet, faced with the reality before her eyes, Barbara felt that she was being buried alive, encased in an immobilizing cast as the molten heat of her passion cooled.

More aroused, and more emotionally connected to a moment than she'd ever -- ever -- dreamed, she was still a damned spectator to her partner's lovemaking.

Fixing on her breathing, the older woman worked to do what she did best: she focused. Barbara Gordon resolutely focused on the reality of nerves which could feel, which were still singing from the brush of velvet skin against her side. She concentrated on her lover's rapt expression and slow, reverent explorations, on the soft trembling of her partner's jaw and the minute aroused whimpers against her neck. She reflected on this moment and the reality of finally -- finally -- reaching this place with the other woman.

It could be... it was enough. It was more than Barbara had ever considered, much less hoped for.

It would have been enough, that is, until Helena moaned her pleasure -- just from touching? -- and the low, thick reverberations caused the older woman's nipples to tighten, forced her belly to clench. And Barbara was struck anew by the force of her want.

A starving woman at a feast, she averted her gaze, stroking her hands lightly over her lover's shoulders.

"Stay... Oh, please, stay. Be with me, Barbara."

It took the redhead a beat to hear, then decode, the words. Wet green eyes searched the younger woman's face.

"Yeah... With me, Red."

Barbara gaped when the brunette reached up, gently lifting her hand from a slender shoulder, and guided her down the lithe woman's torso. Down, down to impossible heat and wetness and softness.

Cautiously she touched, barely parting silken folds, awed by the textures and flavors racing from her fingertips, through the nerves of her arms, to her heart.

Under her hand -- just her hand, lightly exploring this new and amazing landscape -- Helena hissed and bucked. The dark head rose, eyes glinting feverishly, and something fierce reared up within the older woman. Barbara moaned and stroked more deeply, more confidently, in time to her partner's rough plea.

"Yeah, Red. Sh-- show me."

Crimson brows furrowed.

How could she possibly show her decidedly more experienced partner...?

Disbelieving, she saw the brunette's slender hand dance into her range of vision, and she followed its progress back to her own center.

"Show me, Barbara."

Helena's words were high and earnest.

"Show me what you're feeling... what you want to feel."

"Oh, heavens... Sweetheart."

The redhead thought the exclamation had been hers. Given the pounding pulse in her ears, the audible rush of fire throughout her body, she simply couldn't be certain. There was no longer anything frozen... or fixed in place; molten heat coursed through her body, swelling her abdomen and chest.

Barbara thrust deeply, transfixed as she watched the movement mirrored; and her arousal waxed even as her uncertainty in this new terrain waned. The brunette dropped her chin to her chest, a wicked snarl painting her face. Her next words were uneven, gasped between their shared touches.

"Damn, Bar-- bara. I didn't know -- uh -- I... I was that good."

The older woman's laugh was a release of it's own, unfettering the final tendrils of fear and sorrow, opening ample space for less familiar -- and much more welcome -- sensations and emotions.

Stroking confidently, she purred, "Oh, you are, Hel. Most definitely... you are."

Long, wonderful minutes later, happily enmeshed in boneless lassitude and fully blanketed on one side by her own human blast furnace, Barbara considered her words, determining that, indeed, there could be no doubt that Helena was that good. Even if the earth hadn't quite moved, the redhead had definitely felt some shifting.

Somehow, in the process, she'd effortlessly found a new footing.

The thought elicited a soft chuckle, and a tousled head rose fractionally from the pillow of her chest.

"What's funny, Red?"


Barbara pressed a lingering kiss to dark silk while she formulated a way to explain.

"Well, Sweetheart, I was just thinking that, perhaps, we should get matching tattoos."

The End

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