DISCLAIMER: Birds of Prey is not my copyright. This story is not-for-prophet, no money is being made from it and access to it should not be bought or sold.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: (Story:) it's loosely based on the show's storyline, but there will be some differences of course – also, I did try to make it as reader friendly as possible, so if you haven't watched the show, you should hopefully still be able to read this without any problems (Beta Reader:) many thanks to Wolfe for her help (Spoilers:) there are a few; primarily draws from episodes 8 and 9, 'Lady Shiva' and 'Nature of the Beast' (Key:) "speaking" ~ [thoughts] ~ //voice on the phone// ~ accent on the word (Warnings:) some violence as the story requires; crime scene related, including an instance that shows the fallout of domestic violence, as well as a few scenes involving gun violence and hand-to-hand fighting – the story is not very violence prevalent though, so I don't imagine you'll see these things terribly often.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Murder, Said The Killer
By Jessica Knight


Part 1

It was a warm mid-spring evening outside, another day having drawn to a close not long ago. The city at night was settling into its motions. There would be moonlight, bright and glittering in the clear sky above us. Stars shimmering for any pool of water or surface of glass open to their light. The darkness gilded in a glowing soft light for only her to see.

Tonight though, the Huntress couldn't see any of that. As Helena Kyle, she was far too busy staying where she was needed. And tonight, that was by the bedside of a teenage girl still grieving for the loss of a mother she'd only just barely started to know and raging at the injustice of her killer still walking free out there they knew not where.

Helena was a twenty-something bartender by day, and meta-human vigilante by night. Her black hair, dark eyes, and matching wardrobe went well with the life her spirit had somehow come to demand of her. She had been sitting there by the bed in the room that used to be hers and saying whatever she could to try to help, though just mostly determined that Dinah not have to go through this alone. That the girl not have to feel alone, in a time she knew from experience could make you feel the most alone in all the world. She had been doing that, but now she sat and Dinah slept and, for a moment, she didn't know quite what to do with herself next.

Sighing, her moment of indecision gone, Helena got up from her chair and made to leave.

Dinah Lance was a teenage orphan with meta-human abilities that she and Barbara had taken in and given a home earlier this year. She had long blond hair, a good heart, and eyes that told you she hadn't quite found her way in the world just yet. Her abilities let her move objects with her thoughts and see into other's minds with only a touch. Helena had been with Dinah for well over two hours talking, or not talking as was sometimes the case. Once there had been yelling. Not serious yelling. Just the kind that happens when emotions are on edge and you've been allowed to dwell on it more than is perhaps wise to dwell. But now the girl was finally asleep, and Helena wasn't needed anymore.

In the hallway, she gently slid the door closed, making not a sound except for another small sigh. Relief, empathy, sorrow, outrage, maybe a little of a let down that there she was alone without some immediate need drawing her focus to it? A lot to be found in a small sigh, no?

She walked away down the hallway and towards Delphi center... Soft jazz was piped into the main room and Helena closed her eyes a moment at the faint beat and smooth rhythm of the music, trying to relax and get her nerves to settle. It worked, somewhat anyway. But opening her eyes again, she came into the main area and glanced around and quickly found the woman she expected to find. A soft smile played on Helena's lips seeing the intent look on her friend's face as she focused on the screens in front of her, and somehow her raggedy nerves weren't much of a problem anymore...

So she walked in. As a courtesy, she made sure to make a small amount of noise as she went. The room was very spacious with a high ceiling going up to a second story you could see from the center. Lit from within in a soft glow aided by streaks of moonlight from the outside world and located at the top of a building that was part sky scraper, part modern day clock tower, this place had once been her home - in some ways, she supposed, it still was. At least, it still felt that way anyway...

Taking a breath. "That kid is in no fit state for company." Helena spoke with some deliberate good humor in her voice as she emerged from the hallway. Things were tense in this place today, and rightly so, but she tried to make it better in what small ways she new how.

Her partner in crime-fighting, Barbara Gordon, was going over police reports and such on her very expensive and cutting edge computer center, codenamed Delphi. And like the Delphi of Greek renown, this one too also had it's Oracle, and that was Barbara. This modern day diviner of truths looking out through channels of information the like of which the Greeks of ancient times would scarcely be able to fathom, and as of now she was using all of this in the hunt for one man. Albert Hawke - the man who, not too long ago, had killed Dinah's mother and wound up hospitalized for it. Rightly so, in Helena's opinion.

Apparently getting no response from Barbara, Helena went up and stood behind her. "Any luck?" She asked, leaning over to look curiously at the datum on the screens.

"Wh? Oh. No. Not yet." Barbara only spared her a moment's glance. It'd been quite a scene when Dinah had heard that Hawke had escaped, and while Helena had focused on keeping her young comrade company as best she could, Barbara had focused on finding some sign of the man. "I'll find him." Barbara said.

"And I'll personally make sure his ass lands back in jail." Helena added. "You want me to get you some coffee or something?"

Barbara sighed. "Yeah, that'd be great." She spared Helena a grateful smile. Barbara Gordon, long vivid red hair, glasses, nice smile, thoughtful eyes, shoulders that one could imagine carried several portions more of the weight of the world than most would ever attempt to. She has been Helena's long-time friend, partner in crime-fighting, and the woman who took her in and raised her after her mother died. The last item on that list made all the more remarkable by the fact that she'd been confined to a wheel chair that same night by a gun shot, was dealing with a painful recovery, and was just starting out on her own at her teaching carrier that year after having graduated college. Add in on top of that a teenage girl who was dealing with a loss no one should have to deal with, and it had been no mean feat to say the least. Getting through it together though, had bonded the two women in a bone deep way - and truth to tell, the fact that Helena had needed her, and that Barbara had had the younger woman to talk to and support her emotionally when she needed it... as much of a hardship as it had all seemed at times, it had also been a boon to her that she'd needed more than she'd ever found a way to say to anyone.

"Be right back." Helena went to get the coffee, as well as make some pop tarts.

In the kitchen, Helena leaned back against the counter and thought for a moment. Thoughts of her mother came unbidden, feelings of despair and abandonment that still haunted her. She smiled though, thinking of the family she now had, the woman in the other room who'd helped her through all that, and the girl now fitfully sleeping in her room whom she now had to help through something a little too similar to her own past for her comfort.

The pop tarts popped and Helena took them, juggling them a bit until they cooled off, then pouring a couple cups of hot coffee from the coffee maker. She managed, bartender extraordinaire that she was, to carry them all out into the other room while making it look easy.

She set the coffee down beside Barbara. "Here you go. Any leads so far?" She asked.

"No... And God bless you." Barbara thanked her as she took the coffee in both hands, sniffed it appreciatively, then took one sip and then another.

"I made pop-tarts too. You want?" Helena asked.

"Hm? Oh, no, not hungry. Thanks." She took another sip of coffee, set it down and went back to work.

"Mm." Helena shrugged. "More for me." She guiltlessly took another bite of pop tart and a sip of coffee and started to wander around the large central room of their clock tower sanctuary.

She considered just going home to her apartment above the bar she worked at, but decided against it. She wanted to be here if Dinah needed her, and she knew she couldn't trust Barbara not to stay up all hours slaving and obsessing over Delphi, looking to make things right. It was how Barbara coped, and Helena could relate to that. She thought she'd just let her keep working for a while though before calling her on it. It wasn't all that late yet anyway.

She found a comfortable spot to finish her treats and drink her coffee, absently watching Oracle work with a curious sort of fascination. She wondered, was it the cat in her? That made it so easy for her to watch like this without moving or getting bored? It was a little weird, but at the same time she liked to think it was true - if for no other reason than it made her feel a little closer to her mother, perhaps knowing a little of what it must have been like to be her. Her mother, you see, had been a lot like her. Her name had been Selena Kyle. A meta-human whose abilities were based on those of a cat. Heightened reflexes, vision, strength, speed, all those things and perhaps even a little more. And Helena had inherited them from her at birth. It was a rare and precious gift, and something of a minor miracle as well, seeing as meta-human abilities rarely happened the same way twice like that. When she'd learned that fact from Barbara as a teenager, it had affected her deeply. In a way, she'd taken it as a sign that her mother was still watching over her, that she'd left her something tangible to hold on to that was only from her.

The minutes ticked by, and finally her coffee was all gone.

"Maybe I'll do a quick sweep out there?" She put forth, getting up and walking around the room, circling Barbara a little. "Anything going on?" She asked, coming up beside her.

Barbara stopped in mid type, a little surprised, not having really heard Helena walk up to her. It was so easy to lose track of her in a room sometimes, she could usually sense that she was around though. Barbara looked over her shoulder and then down at the hand covering hers. "I'll look." She said, feeling a little fidgety for some reason. "Robbery, police are there. Domestic disturbance on 38th, possibly violent. Oh, a murder was just called in, drug related. Location is..."

"Thanks..." Helena could see the information on the screen. "I'll see you soon. Watch out for the kid."

"Helena, be..." Barbara turned and her words trailed off, Huntress was already gone. She shook her head. "More like her dad every day." She said with wry humor in her voice.

Unnoticed were Helena's com-set laying on a table not too far away...

Outside in the night, the air was cool and soothingly clean smelling coming in from the water on a favorable air current. The sounds of traffic and voices and city life on the wind were a comforting familiarity. At times like this, Helena felt the world was truly hers to belong in.

She passed relatively silent from one rooftop to the next. Strength and force coiled and released in the workings of her limbs, centered from the heart that beat evenly in her chest, and animated with a skill and easy experience of the memories and instincts that hid behind eyes now shifted to those of a cat's. Her meta-human ability made it easy for her to find her way and gave her the physical prowess and stamina to navigate the building tops in a way not even the most physically perfect base-line human being could equal.

It was something to treasure, a gift that she tried to honor and make use of every chance she got. To do what was right, or, she admitted, sometimes just to do what was fun... Tonight wasn't a night for fun though, tonight she felt like she needed to do something heroic, something good and right that she could point to and say: There? See? If you try hard enough, life can actually be fair sometimes...

And so she had decided on her destination. She'd considered the murder, but felt more drawn to 38th street. There, at least, there was someone alive to help. At the murder scene, the damage was already done. With this she could maybe make a difference before damage like that was done, if she was needed.

The building in question was a two-story apartment complex - 121 38th Street, apartment 2-A. Helena dropped to the fire escape on the second floor where she guessed apartment A might likely be. The damp metal under her feet shuddering a little at the added burden of her weight. She could almost imagine she could smell the combination of wet metal and rust in the night air, and maybe she could.

As she made her way cautiously to the window of the apartment though, all seemed quiet, until she heard a scream and a faint, dull thud. Not from the window she was near, but from the next one down.

Eyes widening and cursing to herself under her breath, Helena quickly made to leap over to the apartment that was one window over. She landed with a slight screech as her shoes met the damp mettle of the second fire escape. Quickly moving into position with no regard for stealth, she looked in.

Through the window, she saw a man standing with a lamp in his hands. He was of middling build, in his late thirties, Caucasian skin on the tan side, a mop of disordered dark brown hair on his head, his face showing signs of a kind of violence filled rage that made the eyes look a sort of crazed. She saw him drop the lamp, saw the blood, her eyes shifting at a small movement and catching sight of the scrawny and traumatized looking boy with a black eye and bloody lip in the hallway. He couldn't be older than twelve years... She saw the look in his eyes as they met hers. It was like a physical blow to a place in her soul she couldn't quite name the impact that boy's eyes had on her, and she was kicking in the window before she could see anything else.

"What did you do?!" Helena demanded. The man turned and looked at her, her appearance there so out of the context for his already shaken mind, that he just stared at her for a moment.

"I... It's not... I didn't mean..." He looked at his hands and saw the blood and Helena looked past him and saw the half dressed Latin-American woman on the floor, her head bloody, eyes blank. She looked younger than him by at least six or eight years, strong cheekbones, soft features, shoulder length black hair, hands that showed she was no stranger to a hard day's work. This time of day she should have been safe in bed, or staying up late and reading a book, maybe sharing that time with someone she loved who loved her back. But instead, she looked like she'd just gone a round in a boxing ring...

Helena's gaze fixed back on the man who'd done that to her, who'd taken those things away from her and left her for dead bleeding on the floor.

"She just, she wouldn't... I didn't mean to..." The man tried to come up with something more to say. A rationalization perhaps...

"Didn't mean what?" Helena walked towards him, a cold fury growing steadily in her dark eyes.

Before the man could react, a fist seemed to come out of nowhere and he was flat on his back, looking up at her and seeing double. By the bewildered look on his face, his mind was clearly not making sense of what he saw.

"Didn't mean to beat some poor woman to death? Didn't mean to do it in front of her son!?!" She was at him as he tried to get to his feet again. Grabbing him and hauling him up by his collar. She looked him in the eyes, her hands shaking a little with anger. "Oh yeah, I'm sure you didn't mean it. I'm sure it was just, what? Let me guess, you were just having a bad day? Was THAT it!?!" She shook him and slammed him hard against the wall, not giving him much a chance to reply.

As she watched, his eyes rolled back into his head and his body lost all the coiled and fearful tension it had just had.

Helena saw it and stepped back, letting him go as if he were on fire. He just crumpled bonelessly to the ground, blood coming from the back of his head.

[He's dead.] She thought it and felt a shiver, and she looked over to see the boy still standing there, now pressed back against the wall. Tears in his eyes shining through the thick bangs of dark hair falling over his forehead. But as her eyes came upon him, he turned and ran away, making this frightened squeaking sort of noise. A scared mouse instinctually recognizing the hunter when he saw her. A smart mouse, you see, will always flee from the lion... Even when they have nothing to fear.

Numbly, Helena looked down at the man on the ground and knelt down to check for a pulse. There wasn't one. [Oh, God.] His head was bleeding, his neck could be broken... She was more than strong enough to have done that, especially with the rush of adrenaline that had shot through her in sheer reaction to what she'd seen. She looked up and saw the indent in the wall's sheetrock and she felt like she might be sick.

She shook herself a little. "Take it easy, Hel. He was a bastard, he..." She couldn't quite get herself to believe it though. The thought of what Barbara would think of her alone not letting her believe it. She quickly pushed those thoughts aside though, and an idea came to her and she went over to check on the woman. She knelt down, hesitantly brushed aside the hair from her bared neck... and this time when she felt for one, miraculously, she found a pulse!

Sudden joy and such relief flooding through her, she reached for her earpiece... only to realize her communicator wasn't there. There wasn't time to worry about that though, she needed to act to keep the woman alive. She went and found something to wrap the woman's head in to stop the bleeding. She tried to make the woman more comfortable. "I'll get help, don't you worry. You'll be alright." She said in a worried shaky voice still tinged with relief and a cautious happiness at this miracle she'd been given.

"Is my mama going to be alright?" She heard a small, thickly accented voice ask her.

Head jerking up, she saw the boy peering at her hesitantly from around the corner. Apparently afraid to approach.

"Yeah. Yeah, I hope so, kid." She tried to look non-threatening. "I... I just got to get her some help. Can... Maybe you could come over here while I call an ambulance? Her head's hurt, they say you should keep talking to a person, when that happens." She said, sounding a bit disconnected. That seemed to be enough for the boy though, because he gave her a small nod and started to go to his mother's side. That settled, she got to her feet and searched for a phone.

Once she found one and called a special encrypted number she knew by heart, Barbara's voice answered her. "Who is this?" The question was brusque.

"It's Hel... Huntress." She spoke.

//Helena, where- Why aren't you on coms?// Barbara's voice having immediately changed to concern upon hearing who it was.

"Never mind that!" She snapped. "Get an ambulance over here now, I'm at the place on 38th. A woman's hurt really bad, guy bashed her head in with a lamp." She said, her vision worriedly fixed on the woman who's son was now sitting next to her and talking about what had happened when he was at school that day.

//How's her pulse?// Helena could hear keys clicking in the background as Oracle spoke.

"I don't know, weak I guess... I stopped the bleeding and tried to make her comfortable."

//Did you elevate her head?// Barbara asked, keeping her voice soft and even in deference to her friend's obviously shaken up state.

"No, I..."

//Do it. Use a towel or blanket or something soft.// She instructed. //Help's on the way. E.T.A., three minutes. Police there in two.//

"Got it." Helena hurried to do as instructed.

//What about the perp?//

"He's... Listen, I've got'a go."

//Helena, wai-// Helena hung up the phone and made sure the woman's head was well supported.

"What's your name?" She asked the boy.

"I, ah... Christopher. I am Christopher." He said quietly, looking uncertainly between him and his mom, whipping at his face self consciously, apparently embarrassed that he'd been crying.

"Hello Chris." Helena said. "Listen, the paramedics and the police are gon'a be here soon, and I have to go before they get here. Just let them do what they can for your mama, o'kay?" He nodded. "Is... is that your dad over there?" She asked hesitantly, indicating the man she'd killed. His complexion was fairer than his mothers, and...

The boy looked at the man, then back at her. "That is Trent." He said, the love of a son for his father so clearly not in his voice when he did.

"So, not your dad then?"

"He... He is my mama's... her boyfriend. He is... he hurts her... he is dead?" Christopher asked.

"I... yeah, Chris. He's dead." Helena looked at the boy sadly, before looking down at the wounded woman again. The woman actually started to groan a little and a wave of relief went through Helena at that small sign of life. She didn't wake, but it was something.

"Then I am glad." Christopher finally said.

"What?" Helena looked up at the boy, some confusion evident on her face at hearing that.

"He deserves to be dead." Christopher said looking at Helena, clear bitterness and a kind of despair behind his words that made him seem older. "For what he's done, he deserves to be dead..." He repeated.

Helena regarded him as if seeing him for the first time and reached over to wipe the tears that were again falling from his face. Truth to tell, she felt a little like crying herself right then. She heard sirens in the distance.

"Listen, I've got to go..." She said, meeting his eyes and trying to convey some small amount of comfort to him. "Just... Stay with her, o'kay?"

The boy nodded, returning his somber gaze to his mother's mostly still form.

As Helena went out the window, she heard the boy call to her. "I wanted to stop him... " He said. "But I am too small." She turned and he looked up to meet her eyes again. "...Do not be sad." He told her as though looking right into her soul. "You do not deserve to be sad."

His eyes were confused and hurting, but apart from the compassion directed at her, she could also see some hope in them now and that was something to be glad of in all this. "I... Thank you." She spoke. "I um... Stay safe, all right? Look out for her." Her voice sounding faint.

She turned and left.

Onto the fire escape, up to the roof, she stood a moment, hands on the brick railing of the rooftop she was on, and looked down at the window of the apartment she'd just left. Off in the distance, she heard the sirens blaring in herald of the police and maybe even the medics trailing soon after them. Closing her eyes, she voiced to herself a silent wish that the boy and his mother would survive the night with their family intact. That the future she had bought for them in blood would be a better one.

With resignation, she turned walked off a ways and then found herself looking up at the moon instead of going back into motion to head home. The moon was two-thirds on it's way to full and it was a beautiful sight. She tried to think of nothing... She went to sit on the edge of the building facing away from the apartment building from which she'd just come. She looked out at the city spread out in front of her, trying to get her mind to follow her eyes as they traced moving lights. Her mind would not let itself be still though, at least not while her body was still as well, and in the silence and noise of the night time, sirens getting closer in the background, a fear clutched her stomach and made her heart feel lighter and more shaky in her chest.

The world was silent for a moment.

What Helena could imagine seeing in those familiar eyes when Barbara found out what had just happened, what Helena had just done. The image was startlingly clear in her mind's eye and she closed her eyes against it. Heroes don't kill. She'd heard words to that effect from Barbara Gordon more than once. Most recently just this night when Dinah had spoke passionately of her desire to wreak her revenge on Al Hawke in no uncertain terms. Helena had had her doubts whether the young girl would have been able to actually do it, she suspected not... The difference, it seemed, was that Helena herself might. She searched herself and realized it was true. Most of her heart, mind, and soul told her that she would take the higher road if she could, but the part of her that had been stirred by the pain and despair in that boy's eyes, the part of her that saw Dinah hurting so much because of what someone's hate and cruelty had done, that part wasn't as sure. She knew, if it was for Dinah, or for Barbara, or for another child out there like Christopher, if she saw another parent lying in their own blood with and man standing over them with a bloody lamp and she had to look into the eyes of another child who had been beaten and forced to watch, that she might kill again. And try as she might to feel differently, to make herself into the woman that she knew Barbara thought she was, the woman who would be like her father was and do everything she could, risk everything, to stop herself from taking a life, to do the right thing... She thought of her mother, of her father letting her mother die, and she knew life couldn't be that simple for her. What was right? She didn't know some times. Barbara always seemed to though. That was one of the things she liked most about being around her actually.

[I didn't mean to kill him.] Her inner voice sought to give her some comfort.

It made her sad, and it hurt her. She wanted to be that person, wanted to be that person for Barbara Gordon if for no other reason... Belatedly, she realized she had started to cry.

It was twelve minutes later that found Helena standing on the balcony of the clock tower, oblivious to the cold night breeze blowing her hair gently and to the familiar yet still gorgeous view of the city going out to the bay. Instead she was pacing, just giving her self a pep-talk over what she was about to do.

Resolute, she put on her best 'just another night on the town, nothing to worry about' look, set her shoulders and walked in.

"How's it going?" She asked.

Barbara turned in her chair, surprised to see her friend was in the room. "Helena!" She exclaimed. "Don't do that!" She had come up within feet of her and Barbara hadn't sensed or heard a thing.

"Sorry." Helena had the grace to at least look a little repentant. She usually remembered to make at least a little noise when approaching her friend, so as not to startle her, as a courtesy. [Way to go, Kyle. She'll never suspect anything now.] "Any news on Hawke?" She asked, walking over beside her friend.

"Oh, um. No, not yet." Barbara looked over at her oddly. "What happened out there? Why'd you go without your coms?"

Helena was quiet for a moment. "You had enough to worry about." She said honestly. "I thought you could use the quiet."

Barbara nodded. "You didn't need to do that. I'm perfectly capable of multitasking."

Helena gave her a barest smile. "Yeah, I know you are. And everything went fine, nothing big."

"The ambulance got there and took the woman to the hospital, it looks like she's going to make it." Barbara reported.

Helena nodded, happy to hear the news, and also happy to hear that apparently Barbara hadn't learned of what had happened yet. The police were probably still working the scene or something. Now if only she could distract her enough for it to stay that way.

"Do you know her name?" Helena asked, knowing full well that if she avoided the topic too much, Barbara would want to look into it more.

Barbara gave her a smile. "Her name is Belicia Marquez. You probably saved her life tonight, you know that?"

Helena gave her an engaging smile that didn't quite reach her eyes. "Yeah, I know."

"Have I told you lately, how proud I am of you?" Barbara asked, regarding Helena with a look that conveyed just those sentiments.

Helena felt a wave of renewed guilt, but stubbornly refused to let it show. "Hey, that goes both ways lady." She patted Barbara's shoulders and walked around to sit on the desk next to the other woman. "Is Alfred here? I could really go for something hot to eat." She looked past them at the kitchen area on the upper level, hoping to see some sign of the kind old butler. Guilt and having to lie was a very grating thing, it made her feel helpless and slightly queasy. It only increased her need for a distraction right now. The temptation just to blurt the truth out and damn everything else was too dangerous.

"No, I'm afraid not. We could order pizza?" Barbara offered.

"Mm... I guess." Helena looked around. "Or..." An idea occurring to her.

"Or what?"

"Well, we're two girls home alone...." Helena trailed off.

"Yes..." Barbara allowed, not sure where this was going.

"We could cook. I mean, it would be pretty embarrassing if we couldn't, right?" She offered, a clear dare in her voice and her eyes. They were, neither of them, what you would call gourmet chef material, and Helena knew it.

Barbara laughed. "Well, I guess I could use a break... Sure, why not." She gave Helena an indulgent look. They had had something hours earlier, with Dinah, but none of them had really eaten much, and she had to admit, she was starting to feel the lack of food.

As Helena followed her companion along, she very covertly set Delphi to stand-down mode (so there would be no alerts), just in case...

Time went by and soon it was ten minutes later, the clock was just turning to midnight, and the two amateur chefs were hard at work.

They'd decided on spaghetti and meatballs, and a salad. Helena, after some debate, had been relegated to salad duty. Barbara apparently not trusting her with anything else.

"So, how are things with you and Wade?" Helena asked, not really wanting to know, but stuck for something else to ask about.

Barbara regarded Helena for a moment, the other woman was opening a can of olives. "We're going out next Friday, or at least that's the plan anyway." She went back to mixing the meatball mix.

"So, you like him then? Do you think it'll work out? Between you two?" Helena drained the juice from the pre-sliced olives and threw out the lid.

"Well, I hope so of course... but no, I don't think it will." She admitted honestly.

"Why not?" Helena dumped half the olives onto the salad. "What do I do with the rest?" She asked rather helplessly.

Barbara turned and saw the olive can. "Put them in a covered bowl, in the refrigerator." She provided. Helena nodded and went to get the bowl. "And I guess, you know, the whole cripple thing, the secret life... He's really nice. I don't know... I guess I just figure he's going to get tired of me, sooner or later. Then it'll be over." She confided, rolling her first meatball.

She couldn't see it, but Helena shook her head. "He'd be an idiot if he did that." She said quietly.

"You think so?" Barbara turned and asked.

"Yeah. Of course I think that." Helena looked at her, no trace of anything but frank honesty in her words.

"Thanks." Barbara said simply. "That's really nice to hear." She admitted.

Helena regarded her seriously for a moment as Barbara went about her meal preparations. She nodded her head and went over to her. Barbara turned and looked at her upon hearing her approach. Helena wordlessly bent over and, touching one of the other woman's cheeks lightly, moved in and kissed Barbara very softly on the lips.

Moving away, she gave a startled Barbara a charming yet plainly honest smile. "Don't sell yourself short, o'kay?"

Barbara brought her fingers up to her tingling lips, and only just barely stopped herself before she touched them with raw hamburger meat on them. It hadn't felt anything like a friendly kiss. "Helena..." Barbara asked.

Helena, who was on her way back to her salad, turned around to face her. "Yeah?" She asked.

The look on her face, Barbara couldn't tell at all what was behind it. The woman could be a sphinx sometimes, and it was dammed annoying. "Nothing." She turned around and went back to her meatballs.

Unseen, Helena gave Barbara a speculative look, and then smiled to herself a little at the warm and happy feelings that kiss had given her all the way through. It had been too long a time sense she'd felt that feeling so strongly for someone. She thought about it from different angles and, yes, it was a very stupid idea. Suicidal even. [And since when has that ever stopped you from doing anything?] ...She felt conflicted, but for some reason, the feeling just wouldn't go away and be quiet again. It was under her skin, and the state she was in, she had little defense against it. Besides, if she didn't do something, she was pretty sure she would lose it soon and either start yelling, or just plain run away and hide.

And so it was some time later, and Helena and Barbara were sitting down to eat. Just the salad for now, as they were still waiting for the spaghetti to finish cooking. A timer ticking away over on the counter a ways away.

Helena had served her up the salad with a little of a flourish, and Barbara could tell that she was proud of herself for making it. And she had to admit, for Helena, salad was an impressive accomplishment.

"This is really good." She praised, having taken her first bite of salad.

"Yeah, we should totally start our own cooking show." Helena smiled at her.

"What would that be? 'Cooking for the crime fighter on the go'?" Barbara joked, absently noticing just how much cheese, olives, tomatoes, sweet peppers, and other things where piled on the salad. [You'd think she had something against the taste of lettuce.] She thought wryly. "Alfred would be so proud." Barbara bantered back, and they both broke into a nervous laugh, thinking of that.

"I'll have to remember to tell him." Helena replied, looking curiously at Barbara, who she noticed had been studiously avoiding eye contact for the most part. "You have really pretty eyes, you know that?" She found herself saying, her voice kind of soft and wistful.

Barbara looked up at her, actually meeting her eyes, a look of shock on her face. "...I uh...What?" She asked helplessly.

Helena just looked at her, sphinx like, and then the timer went off. "I'll go get that." She said, seemingly without a worry in the world.

"Helena!" Barbara shouted, whirling around to look at the woman who'd walked past her a moment before.

Helena leaned back against a counter and looked at her. "Yeah?"

Barbara could almost imagine that sounded a little shy, and it was really creeping her out. She found herself actually gulping, before she cleared her throat and set her eyes in the best no nonsense Oracle mode gaze she could muster. "What is going on with you tonight?" She asked point blank.

Helena actually gave her a somewhat nervous sounding laugh. "Well... I guess, I'm trying to seduce you or something. I mean, that has to be it, right?" She asked, turning to head into the kitchen.

Barbara just sat there, shell-shocked.

In the kitchen, Helena was feeling kind of stupid, and disgusted with herself, but she was really trying not to think about that, or much else either. This was what she was doing, so what was the point in analyzing it, right? Whatever came of it, she'd just have to deal.

The big bowl of spaghetti and meatballs in her hands, Helena stepped back out into the room, only to be met with confused and almost actually frightened looking eyes. The look hit her like a stack of bricks, and she stopped in her place for a moment, not able to look away. Sighing, her heart felt heavier somehow as she went over to the table and set the bowl of food down for them. "Sorry." She said, studying Barbara's eyes with interest. She went over and knelt by Barbara's side then looked up at her.

"You're really serious about this, aren't you?" Barbara asked, looking at her.

Helena moved forward slowly, and captured a non-moving Barbara's lips with hers again, and this time the kiss was not light or slow, but needy and possessive. She moved over Barbara's body and touched her face, leaning her back in her chair slightly. The other woman's lips parting for her and allowing her entrance, a hand tentatively touching her back. Then a jerk, and a whimper, and a voice telling her to stop and she felt herself being pushed back and she let it happen, falling back onto her knees.

Barbara looked at Helena and saw this cute sort of dazed look in her eyes. "W... What... Where is this coming from? Helena, I mean... you're straight! I'm straight. Why... what the hell is going on with you?" She asked, clearly going a little out of her mind.

Helena blinked her eyes back to normal. "I'm really not you know." Said quietly. "Straight? Not since high school." She told her, getting up and standing to go to her own side of the table.

"...You never told me..."

"You never asked." Helena said, her eyes, once again maddeningly sphinx-like, looking into hers without blinking.

"I'm not interested." Barbara said.

"...You seemed interested to me." Helena replied, her voice wavering and a little unsure.

"God! This can't be happening. Why didn't you tell me?! What about all those guys you said you went out with?!"

"Oh, I don't know." A little defensiveness creeping into her voice. "Maybe because I thought you wouldn't understand? And I never said they were guys, now did I?" There was bite to the words, but not very much. Not as much as Barbara might have expected there to be. "We should really eat, before it gets cold." She got up and made to serve Barbara the spaghetti.

As she moved towards her though, she stopped, seeing the flinch of defensiveness in return from her friend. "You want me to leave?" Helena asked, and that time Barbara could see a definite undercurrent of fear in Helena's voice. But even that, it didn't really seem to add up.

"No, I, we need to talk about this. I mean, I had no idea you..."

Helena smiled. "I'm a mystery wrapped in an enigma alright." She spoke.

"You really are." Barbara said in realization, allowing Helena to serve up the spaghetti for her. She waited for her to resume her seat before speaking. "...So, you said you'd been... like this... since high school?" Barbara asked.

Helena looked at her, just looked at her, and there was something like panic in her eyes, beneath the surface,. It was only there for moments though, then gone again. Replaced by what seemed like the regular her. "Yeah... but of course, like the cliché always goes, I think I actually knew before that. I always did sort of have a little of a crush on you, even back then."

Barbara looked at her, a little at loss. "Why?" She asked rather plaintively after a moment's consideration. It wasn't the first question to come to her mind, but none of this made much sense to her so far and it's what she ended up asking for some reason.

"Um, why?" Helena got this charmed look and smiled. "You find out I'm into girls, and you wan'a know why I'd have a crush on you?" She laughed a little. "You want a list?"

"A list?" She asked. Feeling uncomfortably like this was a pop quiz and she hadn't even been in class that week.

"Yeah, a list. The why I'd be attracted to you list. It's impressively long, you know." Helena teased.

"It is?"

Helena nodded. "Smart, beautiful, heroic, funny, knows how to make spaghetti and meatballs. Like that, you know, except for way longer."

"Really?" It was more of a remark, slightly flippant actually, than a question. "And... Wait, are you telling me you had a crush on me when I was your baby sitter?"

"Only a little one." Helena admitted, fighting the very real urge in the pit of her stomach to run away and hide about now.

"God, well... um, really?" She asked again. "I guess.. I guess I'm flattered then." Barbara's cheeks were feeling very warm. "That's um, that's really nice to hear actually... I guess..." She said. "But, God! Why didn't you tell me any of this?" Barbara met Helena's eyes and it was a kind of challenge. "I think I should be really mad at you right now."

Helena gave her a kind of a crooked smile that was only just a little apologetic looking, it faded quickly though. "Yeah, probably so." She admitted in a quiet honest voice.

"Why didn't you tell me? If not about... At least that you... Did you really think I couldn't handle knowing that about you?" Barbara asked, honestly feeling hurt.

Helena regarded her for a few moments, then looked down for a moment before meeting Barbara's gaze again and answering. "You know, I really didn't... It wasn't like that."

"What was it like then?"

"...it was a tough time... In high school, we didn't tell anyone. My mom knew. Never my dad though. At least, if he did know, he never said anything." Helena sighed. "Then Sandy left, and my mom died. And I guess..."

"You didn't talk a lot back then." Barbara remarked, remembering the younger girl coming to live with her.

"You were busy with college, with the recovery... and I guess I didn't want to rock the boat. It's stupid, I know... but at that time, everyone in my life - everyone I really loved, who I really let in - they were all being taken away. You almost were too." Helena felt the well of emotion at bringing up all of this, things she'd never actually said out loud before. "I guess, some part of me always thought... If I let you in all the way... one way or another..."

"You'd end up alone." Barbara finished, emotion wrapping tight around her heart and not letting her meet her friend's eyes.

"Yeah... Pretty stupid I know." Helena looked away too. "I guess, I grew out of thinking that... but I guess, it was just easier to keep things like they were. You know, 'cause I like how we are. My life? All this? I like it. And I don't want to lose it."

This time Barbara met Helena's eyes. "What changed?"

A tentative smile crept across Helena's lips. "I don't know... I guess, all this going on with Dinah... What happened on my sweep... and then... you're not boring. You're not someone who anyone would get bored of if they had half a clue at all. I guess I just hated the idea of you thinking otherwise." She admitted. And what she said was absolutely true. "So I just..." Helena got up and came around the table and kneeled in front of Barbara again. "Felt like..." She touched Barbara's face with gentle caresses from both her hands, then moved closer. "...I should kiss you." And so Helena did, softly, with care and reverence and all her emotions.

Barbara allowed the kiss, not able to help herself from returning it. This latest, sweetest kiss sent feelings all the way through her. Was it her imagination, or could she feel it even to her toes? She swallowed as it ended, and she could breathe again. "I..." Her heart was beating fast and she felt really warm all over after hearing those words and experiencing what came after. "I think that's just about the nicest thing anyone's ever said to me." She looked into Helena's earnest and open eyes that seemed to be looking just at her. Really at her, like she was really seeing her. She felt, well, she didn't know what really. But she knew she could barely breathe all of the sudden.

"I love you." Helena spoke it in a low voice that seemed to vibrate right though her.

Barbara's eyes went wide. "God!" She exclaimed. "Helena, stop that!" She looked away, all at once feeling completely flummoxed and very without a clue as to what she was even feeling.

"See? I knew you were interested." Helena's almost teasing voice could be heard saying, a distinctive air of triumph there.

"Can... Can we just eat already, and talk about this later?" Barbara asked plainly, looking over at Helena and beseeching her with her eyes for a reprieve. She really, really needed time to think.

Helena sighed, and looked down at her plate. "I'm going to go eat on the couch. Call me if you want me." She told her, and took her plate and went off.

The glimpse of Helena's eyes that Barbara caught showing a naked storm of emotions that couldn't quite be placed.

"I swear. If this is some kind of joke, I'll kill her." Helena could just hear her friend mutter.

Part 2

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