DISCLAIMER: Birds of Prey and its characters are the property of Miller/Tobin Productions, Warner Brothers and DC comics. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: My first BoP-fiction take it as it is. Lyrics are from Cue Crazy; Barry White You're my first, my last, my everything; Roberta Flack First time I ever saw your face.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
My Kind of Wonderful
Part One First Touch
Thursday night Helena
I watch from the shadows as she removes her glasses and rubs her temples. She's sitting in front of Delphi, looking quite spent. I know it's more than the long hours and the late nights that take their toll on her and my heart bleeds when I see her like this, but as much as I want to ease her pain there's nothing I can do. The only thing I can do is to be there whenever she needs to talk, but it doesn't seem enough. I know for a fact it isn't enough. Not because I'm not as good a listener as I wish or because I don't know the first thing about psychology (unless you count the encounter I had with my own therapist the psychopathic Dr. Harleen Quinzel which isn't an event I care to recall), but because Barbara never talks about what troubles her. She doesn't close herself off to others, she just brushes away her own problems as if they aren't important enough to share and then guards her emotions so well that few realize something's wrong. The only reason I know something is troubling her is that lately she hasn't been able to conceal her true feelings as well as before and that in itself is disturbing.
"I know you're there, Helena," she suddenly says and raises her chin slightly.
I'm not surprised that she feels my presence she seems to have a sixth sense sometimes. I move from the high windows, step out in thin air and land smoothly on the floor a few steps behind the woman who means so much to me I could spend forever trying to find the right words to describe just how much.
Barbara turns around and watches me as I approach in the somewhat dim light of the Clocktower. It's dark outside and only a few lights illuminate the large room were Barbara sits in front of Delphi.
"Is Dinah back?" I ask.
The blonde girl had arrived too late to the crime-scene to make a difference and I sent her home before the cops showed up. There was no reason for her to stick around. Besides, I didn't really want her to have a friendly chat with Reese.
"She is," Barbara says with a slight nod. "She told me you did well."
I grin. "I always do well."
Barbara doesn't smile. Her eyes scan my face and discover the small cut on my forehead, just below the hairline. "You're hurt," she says with a small gesture. I watch her hands; beautiful hands, with perfectly trimmed nails. Strong hands. I know what it feels like being touched by them; she's tended to a lot of my wounds. Her touch is always gentle and soft, like no one else's.
She turns her wheelchair and finds a First Aid-kit in one of the drawers in her desk.
"It's nothing," I say, watching her. "It's just a scratch."
"Please let me tend to it, Helena," she says when she turns back to me and gestures to a nearby chair.
I don't know how to refuse Barbara anything when she asks with such concern in her green, beautiful eyes and so I sit down without a word. She gives me a suspicious glance and I shrug, again without comment.
"You should be more careful, Huntress," she says after a few moments, while tending to the cut. Her eyes are clinical and indifferent, but her voice reveals some of her concern. I usually detest seeing Barbara's eyes so reserved and cold, but right now I'm glad she keeps her distance. To see tenderness and worry in the depths of her intense gaze, while hearing the softness of her voice, would stir up emotions too strong for me to cope with. I would grow restless and my eyes would turn feral. It's almost too much for me already to feel Barbara's careful touch brushing my forehead, as she tends to the cut. I pretend to be indifferent and bored with the procedure, while I secretly wish to close my eyes and lean in towards her touch.
"I'm always careful," I say.
"I'm serious, Helena," she says.
Her fingers brush some dark curls from my forehead with a careful, almost caress. I fight an impulse to bite my lip and shrug instead. It's been some time since we were this close to each other; I had forgotten how strongly her presence affects me.
"They were five against one. I think I managed well enough. If I was more careful I'd be dead," I add, but regret the words as soon as I see the naked pain in Barbara's eyes. Damn it! I think, but don't know what to say to make the comment less awkward. The pain in her eyes soon gives way to sadness and then is gone as quickly as it appeared, but she lowers her hands and turns away from me.
"That wasn't funny, Huntress," she says, in a low voice.
"I know. I'm sorry."
"Did detective Reese pick them up?"
I nod, although Barbara can't see the gesture with her back turned. "Yes," I add. I lift a hand to touch the plaster on my forehead. I miss Barbara's tender touch and wish I hadn't made a stupid joke like that.
"Why did you come back? I thought you were staying with him tonight?"
I don't know what to say. It's been almost a month since I broke up with Reese, but I haven't told either Barbara or Dinah about it. I don't know why. Maybe it's because I feel some kind of freedom in roaming the nights not having to care about Barbara worrying about me. That's one of the reasons why I've stayed away lately: if I spend too much time with Barbara she'll know I'm hiding something. She always knows when something troubles me and right now with Wade's death and all I don't want her to worry about me. She has enough to worry about. Besides, I wouldn't be able to talk to her about this problem, but knowing her she would prod until she found out the truth. I could never hide anything from her.
Barbara always assumes I stay with Reese when I don't return to the Clock Tower. Or at least I think she does we don't really discuss it. I think she tries to be respectful. I remember the times in the past when she used to berate me for coming home late or when she disapproved of my choice of boy-friends. Now She doesn't see me as her protégé anymore and wants to give me space to live my own life. However, I miss her questioning me about my life and my decisions some part of me needs her to do it so I can tell her the truth about my feelings for her. At the same time I'm scared to death about her finding out the truth.
I'm around more during the days instead, but then she's usually at work or Dinah is hanging around. It doesn't give us time or opportunity to talk, although she knows I'm here if she needs me. I haven't really seen her cry since Wade's death three months ago and that worries me.
I went with her to his funeral. Wade's parents didn't seem to want Barbara there; they looked at her as if she was some kind of creepy insect, but she ignored them. She's the only person I know who can overlook people's behavior like that, although I know she was hurt the first time they looked down at her, thinking she wasn't worthy of their son. I hope she still doesn't think she wasn't. She's the most worthy person I know I'd give my life for her. All nine of them.
"You want me out of here?" I ask, only slightly affronted. Barbara glances at me over her shoulder.
"You know I miss having you around," she says softly and I swallow, not knowing how to react to the tender look in her eyes. She shrugs and adds: "Who were they? What did they want?"
"The gang? Just ordinary thugs. Reese's department will take care of them."
Barbara nods. "I know you're capable of taking care of yourself, Helena. I just want you to be careful."
"I am," I say immediately, soberly. "I am, Barbara. I promise."
"Good. That's good, Helena."
"Barbara " I say when she wheels off towards the elevator. She halts and again glances over her shoulder.
"Did you say something, Huntress?"
I don't know how to do this, but I know I have to do something. We've been kind of estranged since Wade's death and my relationship with Reese, and I don't want her to think I've abandoned her or that she doesn't mean more to me than some kind of teacher I'll forget as soon as I've finished school. I need her in my life and although she hides it well enough I know Wade's death still hurts her. She misses him the way I would miss her had she left me like that.
I take some steps in her direction and then, acting on impulse, I surprise us both by embracing her.
Barbara's first reaction is to gasp softly, almost inaudibly, but I hear it and I feel it through the quick ripple of air she inhales. At first she stiffens in surprise, but then she relaxes and returns the embrace hesitantly.
"I'm so sorry, Barbara," I whisper. "I wish there was something I could do."
Barbara leans in to my embrace and when I feel the fleeting, accidental touch of lips at my neckline I fight to stifle an involuntary shiver. "But you do," she says softly, holding me tight.
I do? I think. What am I doing? "It doesn't feel enough," I say, still holding Barbara in my arms, wishing I could stay like this forever.
"Be careful, that's all. I I don't want to lose you too."
The catch in Barbara's voice makes me close my eyes, and I'm hiding my face against her neck.
"You won't," I whisper thickly. "I promise, you won't."
"Don't worry about me, Helena," she says gently and moves slightly to the side to touch my cheek in a brief caress. Her touch is gentle and her fingers are soft. "Enjoy your life and take your time with Reese. That's the most important thing."
"I " I need to tell Barbara the truth, but somehow I can't find the words to tell her about Reese. If I do I have to explain why I've been lying and I'm not sure this is the right moment to have that conversation. "It's just been It's been three months now and "
"I know how long it's been, Helena," Barbara interrupts and pulls away.
"I'm sorry," I say haltingly, awkwardly looking down at the other woman. "I didn't mean it that way. I'm just worried about you, you know."
Barbara's expression softens and I know she wants to ease my pain. "I know you are and I appreciate it." She hesitates. "That's how I feel about you when you're off fighting. There's nothing I can do about it, other than trust you." Again there is a sudden pain in her eyes, before the veil falls and she hides her emotions behind an impenetrable mask. I so wish she would trust me enough to let me behind that mask. "That day, when we learned of Wade's death and you left When Reese found you at the bar he told me you didn't want to fight anymore because you were afraid you would lose the people you love. That you would lose him."
"He told you that?" I ask incredulously. I can't believe he did that, I think. Why would he do that? He had no right!
Barbara nods. "He did. Wade died because of something I believe in. Yes, I want to blame myself for that, but what ever happened The fight must go on, Huntress. As long as I believe it's worth it, Wade's death won't have been for nothing. It's tough, but I'll just have to go on living."
"But it was my fault," I say, almost inaudibly.
I didn't know I was going to say that, but I've blamed myself for his death and I'm afraid the barrier I've felt between me and Barbara these last months has something to do with Wade dying. Maybe she blames me too and doesn't know how to tell me. Maybe she feels she can never trust me again. If she ever could, I think dejectedly. "I'd understand if you don't want me around."
"No. No, Helena." She takes my hand in hers without taking her eyes off me. There's only concern and love in her deep gaze. "Never believe that, Helena. Never. It wasn't your fault and I've never blamed you. You had no part in this."
"No." She shakes her head, gently. The expression in her eyes is as soft and caring as her voice almost like a caress in itself. "I told you already, didn't I, that you made it up to me by preventing me from taking Quinzel's life. No one else could have stopped me, but you."
Barbara smiles and squeezes my hand. "Don't be afraid to love, Helena. Or to show Reese your love. Don't worry about me. Go find your own life."
But my life is with you! I want to object. "Barbara " I'm not sure what I'm going to say, but she doesn't give me a chance this time.
"I'll be fine. Go now. I'll see you tomorrow."
I wonder how Barbara always manages to turn the conversation away from herself. We began by discussing her but ended with her comforting me. I'm not sure she's fine, but Oracle always seems to manage somehow. Besides, I don't know what to say or do to ease her pain and I'm afraid I will open a can of worms I won't be able to handle if I do something rash. I nod.
"Sleep tight, Barbara," I say.
"You too, Helena."
When she's gone I don't know what to do. I consider leaving the Clocktower, and drift around town; to either find a willing prey to sedate my need for Barbara with or one or another criminal to pick a fight with to still the restlessness Barbara's presence always stirs within me.
While standing considering my options, slightly more indecisive than usual, Dinah suddenly turns up by the stairs at the top of the landing.
"Helena," she says, descending the stairs with hesitant steps and with a worried frown on her face.
"What's up, kid-o?"
Dinah shakes her head, not bothering with commenting on my remark. She halts by my side and hesitates. She's fully dressed, in the clothes I saw her in earlier the same evening: jeans and a pink top.
"I thought you'd gone to bed," I add, less amused. Dinah's troubled look concerns me. Again the teenager shakes her head.
"It's Barbara," she says. "You need to talk to her."
"About what?" I frown.
"About I don't know. Helena," Dinah says, obviously distressed and with tears in her eyes. "You know my powers have grown, right?"
I carefully nod. "Yes?"
"Every now and then I still lose control over them and lately Lately it has always been when Barbara's near. She's hurting so much, Helena. I can't stand it."
"What ? What do you mean?" I instantly grab Dinah by her arms and hold her gaze. "Tell me, Dinah. What are you talking about?"
"I don't know what it is, but it's been going on for some time now. Since Wade's death, I guess. Although it wasn't this bad to begin with."
"Bad? How bad, Dinah?"
Silent tears fall down Dinah's cheeks, but she doesn't seem to be aware of them. "I tried talking to her, but she Somehow she ended up comforting me "
"That's what she does," I mumble.
"You must do something. She'll listen to you. Get her to cry, to be angry Anything to get this pain out of her system."
"It's bad, you said?" I let go of Dinah and she nods.
"It's so raw. It's like an open wound and I know I feel it through everything." New tears trickle down Dinah's face. "She's hurting, Helena. She's hurting so much."
"Damn it!" I turn around, restlessly pacing the floor. "Why must she be so so God-damn-in-control!" I throw out my arms, looking angrily at Dinah. "I don't know what to do. You know I don't. I can't handle things like this."
Dinah moves towards me, looking slightly reproachful. "This is not a 'thing'. It's Barbara! No one knows her the way you do. You're the only one with a chance to reach her. Not even Wade "
I turn around with a quick gesture, making my coat swirl. "She loved him. He made her happy and it was my fault "
"Stop that," Dinah says annoyed. "It wasn't you that let him bleed to death, was it? Stop feeling so damn sorry for yourself and see to Barbara's needs. She might have loved him, but he didn't know her the way you do." The girl silences and frowns, before adding: "Why are you afraid? What are you afraid of?"
I stiffen, not wanting to give Dinah any indication about my true feelings for Barbara. Damn her metahuman abilities! I think, not for the first time. "I've been lying to you," I say and decide it's about time I'm honest about at least one thing.
"What do you mean?"
"I don't really know why I've been lying." I turn around to face the puzzled girl. "I'm not seeing detective Reese. I mean, we're not dating anymore."
Dinah arches her eyebrows. "You're not? Why not? And why haven't you told us?"
I sigh, again throwing out my arms but in a more confused gesture this time. "I don't know. I don't know any of it," I add, although that's not completely true. "He just wasn't " Barbara, I think "enough."
"I don't know. Not exciting enough, I guess."
Dinah smiles wryly. "I wonder what would be exciting enough for Huntress. Some death-prince with a whip, maybe?"
"Sure, Snowball," I snort.
Dinah doesn't take the bait. She lifts her face to the ceiling with a sudden anxious look. "You have to talk to her tonight, Helena," she says, fighting to suppress a sob.
I follow Dinah's gaze to the high ceiling, distractedly. "You can't stay here, kid," I say. "Could you stay with that friend of yours?"
"Gabby?" Dinah nods. "It's late, but she won't ask anything. She's cool."
"Go then. I don't " I hesitate. "I don't know what will happen, but it'll probably involve a lot of emotions. I don't think it will be good for you."
"The two of you shouting?" Dinah makes a face. "I had enough of that before Wade died." But she looks relieved at the thought of escaping the Clocktower for a while and nods. "Thanks, Helena," she adds sincerely and I shrug out of habit, but then smile softly.
"For you, kid-o."
I knock softly at Barbara's door, but when there's no answer I open it and step in. "Barbara?" I ask quietly. Again there's no answer.
Barbara's antechamber is empty. A set of couches stand in a corner around a table, with a television close by; a bookshelf follows and then two armchairs on either side of a smaller table. I feel a jolt seeing the chessboard on top of the table; the two sides facing each other in a silent, unspoken challenge. I remember when Barbara taught me to play chess; the rules I hated, the lessons I grumbled at and then the hint of adventure and the joy of trying to best Barbara at something. I sometimes succeeded, but I'm still not sure she lost by fair play or if she somehow tricked me.
It's been a long time since our last game. Barbara won that one, just a few evenings before she introduced me to Wade. That was the last of our chess-evenings together. I used to blame Wade for taking too much of her time, but I know the fault was mine. I began avoiding Barbara not to have to listen to her mentioning Wade Brixton. My avoidance hurt Barbara and we fought. We fought a lot at that time, just before Dinah turned up. We managed to keep it together then, for the kid, but we were still both hurt and angry at each other and sometimes the false bubble of peace would burst. Why did we fight so much? I think, even though I know the answer to that question: I was jealous. That is the real reason, even though Barbara has always thought differently thinking I blamed her for not telling me the truth about my mother's killer. Well, I was mad about that too, but not as mad about Wade invading my space with Barbara. She was mine. She's always belonged to me and I don't like to share what's mine.
I don't think Wade was very fond of me either. I don't mean to think ill of the dead, but I'm sure he saw a rival in me even though this thought never would have crossed Barbara's mind. She's the brightest woman I'll ever know, but some things are too close to home to be understood. She taught me that.
I hear a sound from the other room her bedroom and approach it, dropping my coat on one of the chairs. The door is slightly open and I catch a glimpse of Barbara's double bed before seeing her: she's sitting on the floor, leaning forward with a thick towel in her grasp. Her wheelchair is out of sight and the door to the bathroom a few feet away from her is closed. Her hair is slightly damp, fastened in a loose tail, and she only wears a thin, ruby red silk pajama, consisting of one set of trousers and a simple top with thin straps, showing Barbara's muscular upper body.
I feel my mouth go dry at the first sight of Barbara's back and exposed neck. The shape of her body draws me, arousing senses I can't control. Her skin is smooth and seems to be alive as soft shadows dance across it. I stand frozen to the spot, remembering the first time I saw her like this. I was young then, but even then I thought she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. I felt a slight pang of guilt feeling that way about her but I knew... I still know: she's the most beautiful woman I'm ever going to meet. And I want her badly.
Then I realize that she's crying and in an instant I forget my selfish needs and hurry towards her, to kneel by her side.
"Barbara " I place my hand on her shoulder, expecting her to pull away, but she lowers the towel that covers her face and looks at me with moist eyes and slightly swollen lips. For an instant I forget my resolution to only comfort her and my eyes linger longer than is appropriate at her mouth, before I gather my wits and meet her eyes.
"I thought you were gone."
I shake my head. I struggle to find the right words, to say something, but then think: Screw it, and take her face between my hands, leaning forward. I kiss her on the forehead, wanting to kiss those red, perfectly shaped lips, but know this is not the time to let my libido take charge of my senses. "I'm not going anywhere tonight," I say quietly and pull her towards me to hold her close; her mouth almost touches the exposed skin at my collarbone and I suppress a shiver. "Barbara," I say, stroking her hair with a soft touch. I feel strange doing this. I've never comforted her before; never thought she needed me like this. "I don't know what to do. I don't know what you need or what I can do to ease your pain. Please, just tell me I'll do anything."
At first she doesn't say anything, but her arms encircle my waist and hold me tight. "Please," she whispers in a broken voice I've never heard her use before. "Just Just hold me, Helena."
So I do. I know she's been hurting since Wade died, but I didn't realize just how much. She's so good at hiding her own emotions to deal with others. She's done it as long as I've known her. I always wondered who would care for her. I wanted to care for her and so I hated Wade when he took that away from me. Now... I wish I'd been nicer to him. Not for his sake, but for Barbara's. She deserves someone to make her happy. Someone not me all I ever do is bring her pain and worry, even though I'm willing to do anything to get her through this pain right now. I love her so much, I think. "I wish I could carry this pain for you," I whisper in her hair, holding her so close I can sense her heartbeat. She makes a small sound against my neck, like a sob. Then her shoulders shake and she cries as she did before I interrupted her. I close my eyes, holding her as tightly and as gently as I can, trying to convey my love for her without using words. I wish you were mine, I think. I'd kiss away the pain My lips linger dangerously close to Barbara's temple and I fight an impulse to press them to her soft, smooth skin.
"Helena " Her warm breath tickles my neck and I suppress a sudden gasp. "Don't go."
"I won't, Barbara. I won't leave you."
This sudden vulnerability within her makes me feel needed. I want to care for her, hold her chase away the dark and the sorrow she's burdening herself with; all those responsibilities she's carrying on her own. She's never trusted me like this before and I wonder if she let Wade see this side of her. Maybe Dinah was right, I think. Maybe I know her better than anyone. I hope it'll be enough.
I shift position and lift her up in my arms. Her hands automatically encircle my neck and our faces are very close to each other. Her eyes are deep and more beautiful than ever due to the sorrow in their depths. I hesitate for a brief second, trying to prevent myself from losing control, before I lower her on to the bed. "I'll stay right here," I say.
Barbara looks at me with an expression which send shivers down my spine. I've seen that expression in a few other women's eyes before and in a lot of men's. It reminds me of desire, but in her eyes it's deeper, more intense. I swallow, wondering what I've gotten myself into. Is Barbara drunk or something? She sure doesn't seem to be herself, although her eyes are clear and deep as always. "I'll make you some tea," I say. That's what Alfred always does when Barbara works too hard. "I'll be back in a "
"I don't want tea. Please, stay Helena." She reaches for me and grabs my wrist, pulling me towards the bed. Her expression is guarded again and I can't see what she's thinking. I feel confused and aroused at the same time it's not a good combination. At the same time all I want to do is comfort her and to take away the pain I caused her by letting Wade get mixed up with Harley Quinn.
I don't think this is such a good idea, I think with sudden panic, but before I know it I'm laying beside her in bed, holding her in my arms; her face by my neck. Barbara's smooth skin and the silk from her pajamas rubs against my bare arms, making it difficult for me to concentrate on comforting her. My mind races with images and fantasies about what I could do with her had the circumstances been different. The thin silk fabric in her pajamas neither conceals much nor protects much of her body when touched. My hands move tenderly in a comforting caress along her back, even though I fight myself to keep them at bay. The soft silk and the firm muscles of her back and shoulders create an instant sensation I can't deny. I know my eyes have changed to reveal my meta-human side and pray she won't look at me and notice.
"Are you cold?" I ask in a whisper when I feel her shiver, and slightly embarrassed notice the hoarseness of my voice. I pull some of the blanket we are laying on to cover her and hate myself when my hands still find their way beneath it to touch her. My arms encircle her waist and I hold her close to me, not moving. Barbara seems to relax; her breathing eases and her body doesn't seem so tense anymore.
"Try to sleep now," I say with my lips close to her ear. "I'll protect you," I add, not knowing why.
Barbara nods and moves slightly downwards until her forehead rests against my chin. My hands move upwards, feeling the softness of her body and the heat of her presence beneath the blanket. This is not right, I think with sudden alarm. I enjoy the intimacy with Barbara too much. I'm taking advantage of her. It's not right. If I ever tell Barbara the truth about my feelings for her she would wonder about this night. I don't want her to hate me, I think. I need to do the right thing, however difficult it is. I need to break my hold on Barbara, to sleep on the couch in the other room or in the armchair on the other side of the bed.
I take a deep breath and I'm just about to move and say her name when she moves her hand from my waist and upwards, sliding it alongside my body in a caress. I hold my breath, feeling my pulse speed as if I'm in a fight. God what's she doing? Involuntary I close my eyes, feeling Barbara's hand settle on my chest with fingertips touching the naked skin above the neckline of my top.
Oh, please I think, letting out my breath with a silent sigh. I fight the urge to ravage her body with my hands, to feel her warm skin beneath the silk. At the same time Barbara moves slightly and I can't entirely suppress a soft gasp when I feel her lips grazing my cheek. At first I think it's an accident, a chance occurrence following her move, but then she whispers my name in a throaty voice that sends an aching desire like a spear through my body.
Her lips trace the shape of my mouth, gently like the touch of a feather. At first I can't move; I lay still with my eyes closed, barely able to breathe. I feel a burning sensation in the pit of my stomach and an immense ache in my chest, as if I'm bursting into flames. She's kissing me. Barbara is kissing me I think, remembering my first kiss when I was in my teens; the tension, the nervousness, the burning sensation This is like being kissed for the first time, only so much more. It's nicer than anything I've felt before. Her mouth is soft and warm, melting in to mine teasing me. When she increases the pressure I respond immediately without thought, wanting more of this soft, melting sensation. My lips search for hers, find them, taste them... Tasting the sweetness of Barbara's mouth, her lips, her tears...
God what am I doing? I can't do this I feel a sudden sense of panic, but in the next instant Barbara's tongue prods at my lips and without hesitation or protest I open them to her. My arms slide along her body, pressing her closer while we deepen the kiss. God let this not be a dream!
"Barbara " I mumble incoherently, while my hands loosen the ribbon tying back her hair. Red hair falls like waves around us and I fill my hands with it, pulling Barbara even closer, tightening my hold on her. I want her so much.
"Please No talking. Not tonight," she whispers, tracing my cheekbone with her fingers. My eyes are those of a cat's, changed to vertical slits, but she doesn't seem to mind when she meets my gaze. "Let us just be who we are."
What we are, I think, feeling her kissing me again. All my concern and reasoning leaves me with that kiss. I can't think straight any more and I don't care to. I've longed so much, so hard and so long for this there's no denying me what I want right now. Desire claims me like a tidal wave and I follow in its wake.
There were no words spoken that night and none needed. Not until the sun rose in the world outside.
Barbara holds me close, burying her face against my neck. "Thank you, Helena," she whispers, before falling asleep.
I lay awake, holding her as if I never want to let go. Thoughts of that first kiss and what followed continue to flash before my eyes. What is this? I keep thinking, feeling naked skin against my own naked body. I love her, but what does she feel? She grieved Wade yesterday... And then this with me? Was I only a distraction?
What the hell happened?
I can't get the thought out of my head. I wish I could sleep as easily as Barbara, but with my secret desire fullfilled, fear claimes me with full force and the more I think about it the more I'm convinced Barbara will regret what happened when she wakes up. She was emotionally vulnerable and I took advantage of her. Granted Barbara kissed me, but if I'd been the least honorable I ought to have stopped her. God what have I done?
How will I go on living with the knowledge I now have about the night's pleasures, seeing regret and guilt in Barbara's eyes every time she looks at me from now on? If regret is the first thing I see in her eyes when she wakes up how will I survive? Looking down at the woman in my arms I know I can't take it; my heart will break.
Barbara looks so peaceful in her sleep, relieved of the burdens of New Gotham. I expect her to look vulnerable in her sleep, I've heard most people do, but she looks like Oracle: her face doesn't reveal anything. If I wanted a clue from her about how she felt about making love to me and falling asleep in my arms I'm disappointed. She guards her secrets well, even in her sleep.
I bend down to kiss her and then she smiles, snuggling closer. Maybe that's a sign. Or maybe she's dreaming about Wade.
I close my eyes and swallow. I'm used to anger and disappointment, but this... This is pain and fear and I'm so utterly confused I don't know what to do. I always talk to Barbara when troubled, but my heart won't survive if she looks at me with pity, saying she only needed a night's comfort. Thank you, Helena... Her words echo within me. What does it mean? What the hell did happen this night...
I disentangle myself from Barbara without too much effort, immediately missing the warmth and the softness of her, but being determined in my resolution. I dress and leave the room. As the door closes behind me my heart is breaking.
Thursday night Barbara
I turn from the desk and Delphi to face the blonde teenager, noticing her concerned look. I smile to ease her worries and gesture for her to move closer. She wears jeans and a pink top, with the black leather jacket Helena gave her a few months ago.
"Dinah. You're back early."
"Yeah, there wasn't anything for me to do."
Dinah fidgets with some of my pens on the desk beside me, glancing hesitantly at me over her shoulder probably thinking I won't notice. I know she's concerned for my wellbeing and even if she's not wrong about my emotions I can't discuss this particular problem with her. I'll just have to do my best to ease her worries.
"Helena took care of it. As always," she adds, somewhat dismayed.
"Taking the fun from you, um?" I tease. "Sounds like Huntress. Do you want me to ask her to save you one or two bandits the next time?"
Dinah smiles and the worried look leaves her face. "I told her so already. It feels like such a waste of energy rushing to her aid and then there's nothing left for me to do. I feel useless."
"Don't," I tell her determinedly. "Your powers are growing and you've learned a lot since you first came here. You're doing well."
"But Huntress does better," she says with yet another grimace.
"Oh, she'll always do better, Dinah," I laugh. "Don't let it get to you. Huntress is Huntress, after all."
The girl tilts her head to one side to look at me. I see a question taking shape in her eyes, but I don't give it time to reach her lips.
"Go to bed," I say, interfering with her inner processes. "I'll finish up here. I'll talk to Huntress tomorrow." I don't expect Helena to show up to the Clocktower tonight; she's probably with Reese already, but that's not a thought I care to consider.
Dinah nods, but adds: "You look tired, Barbara."
"Thanks, Dinah," I say dryly. "That's just what a woman wants to hear."
She blushes slightly, but then grins a smile she has picked up from Huntress. "Good night, Oracle."
"Good night, Dinah. I'll see you tomorrow."
I wait until I'm sure she's out of earshot in another part of the building before I sigh and lean backwards in my wheelchair. It takes its toll on me trying to convince Dinah I'm feeling all right. Not only do I need to give her a smile she'll be satisfied with, a smile that would fool anyone else that didn't know me so well, but I need to keep my swirling and lately hurtful emotions in check, otherwise her meta-human abilities will sense something is wrong. She tried talking to me the other day, letting me know she's worried about me, but I managed to hide the truth about my hurt from her. She believes like the rest of them that I'm grieving for Wade. I do, in a sense but not in the way they assume. I miss him, but I miss someone else even more.
"Huntress?" I call on the intercom, but the transceiver is dead. She's turned off her transceiver and I'm positive she's gone home with detective Reese. She's made a habit of staying with him since a couple of months back and one part of me is happy that she's finally found someone she manages to form a proper relationship with, while another part of me aches at the thought of her in his arms at night. I know I shouldn't be this selfish, wanting her all to myself, but I miss her coming home late at night: her strolling in like a cat that only just swallowed the neighbor's canary, our late night conversations and her quick, unexpected smile. I even miss our arguments; seeing her angry, with flashing eyes and the way she clenches her jaw always made me feel more alive. It's peculiar it took me so long before I realized the truth behind those feelings.
The thought makes me sigh. It wasn't as though I lived in complete denial of my not entirely proper feelings for my younger charge, but I never expected them to grow to these proportions. When I finally admitted the strength of my emotions Wade, Dinah and Reese managed to turn up almost at the same time, making it difficult for me to form some kind of conclusion about whatever I was feeling. Besides, my relationship with Helena, at that point wasn't much to rely on. We argued about anything and I feared I would lose her completely if I didn't walk a careful line with her. I did think I was going to lose her when she found out about her mother's killer and I'm only too grateful she's forgiven me in regards to that matter.
I reach for my glasses, remove them and place them at the desk before me. These days thoughts of Helena always fill me with a mess of emotions: guilt, grief, shame and longing. All of it contributes to the hurt and sadness within me that triggered Dinah's abilities and causes the girl to worry about me. I know I haven't felt this bad since the gunshot that changed my life all those years ago. The thing is I don't know what to do about it. I cry myself to sleep almost every night, waking up wanting to cry again. First I thought it was everything that happened with Wade that affected me this bad, but later I came to realize it had a lot more to do with Helena.
I rub my temples, suppressing another sigh. Maybe it's a good thing Helena isn't around as much at night. It would probably make things worse for me seeing her, not being able to tell her the truth. Why can't I? I think, considering my feelings for the younger, dark-haired woman. She's not a child anymore. Why don't I just tell her the truth? I don't know. Maybe I'm afraid she'll turn her back on me; maybe I'm afraid she'll hate me. Maybe I'm too proud and can't stand seeing pity in her eyes.
Thinking about it I suddenly wonder what will be so bad about Helena knowing the truth about my feelings for her. Maybe she'll cease to avoid me, realizing I don't blame her for Wade's death.
A slight movement in the corner of my eye suddenly catches my attention and I abruptly realize that I'm not alone. The thought of Huntress watching me sends a shiver down my neck. Sometimes before Wade's death and Reese's appearance I imagined she felt the same about me that I feel about her, but after Wade's death all that has changed. We used to be able to joke around about some things and to flirt in a way that friends sometimes do, but now we hardly talk. Thoughts of Helena returning my feelings are childish and have no substance. I'm a grown woman I ought to know better than to construct fantasies out of nothing.
I raise my chin.
"I know you're there, Huntress," I say.
She moves from the shadows above me and soon enough she prowls towards me across the floor like a lioness coming for the kill. She's dangerous, smart, funny sexy... I hold her gaze, not wanting her to know how much her presence affects me. Just seeing her makes me lose my breath for a moment.
"Is Dinah back?" she asks with a slightly worried frown.
"She is," I say and nod. "She told me you did well."
She grins; that broad, confident grin I fell in love with. It's years since I first felt this pang in my heart seeing her grin, but I buried my feelings for her so well it almost was as if they weren't there. Almost.
"I always do well."
I know, I think. "Just be careful," I add, not really in the mood to play games. I'm tired and her presence confuses me. Watching her I notice the dried blood on her forehead, only a few inches below the hairline. "You're hurt." I wish Dinah had told me, but thankfully I'm always prepared for all eventualities. This isn't the first time I need to tend to one of Huntress' cuts; I keep a First Aid-kit in one of the drawers at the desk, close by for an emergency.
"It's just a scratch," she objects. "It's nothing to worry about."
I need something to occupy myself with anyway, to keep my thoughts of her at bay. I didn't expect to see her tonight and haven't prepared myself mentally for this meeting. "Please," I ask, looking at her. "Let me tend to it, Helena."
Her face is blank when she looks at me and I can't tell what she's thinking. I used to believe I knew her so well, but since Wade's death and her time with Reese I can hardly tell what she's thinking anymore. It's as if we are strangers to each other these days and I hate the feeling. She's moved on with her life and I don't deny her the pleasures of being in love, of finding her own life my only wish is that there was some place left for me in that life. I never thought we would part so suddenly or so completely. It's not as if she's never at the Clocktower anymore, or that we don't see each other at all these days; she still comes by and I see her almost every day. The difference is that we don't really talk as we used to. We're like strangers, politely exchanging comments about our lives. We're awkward around each other and I know Dinah has felt it too. Thankfully she hasn't commented on it yet.
At the same time I know Helena worries about me; I see it sometimes in her eyes, in her face in the way she looks at me. She sticks around to make sure I'm all right. She's trying to be a friend in the only way she knows how and I'm really grateful. To lose her completely... It's not an option I care to consider, although I know I have to make her let go of me in time. It is truly time for her to find her own way in life. She needs to spread her wings, without being bound to those who can't follow her.
She moves to a nearby chair and sits down without a word of objection. The compliant act makes me suspicious and I arch an inquiring eyebrow at her, but she just shrugs.
I go ahead and clean her wound, thinking of all those times before I've done this. I wonder fleetingly if detective Reese tends to her wounds as well as I do, but reject the thought as soon as it makes itself known; it's unworthy of me. I have no right wondering about Helena's relationship with Reese.
I keep my eyes focused on the small cut on her forehead while keeping all other distracting thoughts at bay. One part of me wants to trace her face with my fingertips, touching her in a way only a lover would but Oracle within me is in too much control to do such a thing. Instead I pretend to be analytical about the situation; to be cold and efficient. It usually always works, but this time I can't help but feel a shiver of fear thinking of how much it would hurt me to lose her. "You ought to be more careful, Huntress," I tell her worriedly, failing to repress an impulse to brush some of her dark curls from her eyes with a soft touch.
"I'm always careful," she says with a half snort. I look at her, knowing her arrogance will be her downfall one day.
"I'm serious, Helena."
"Me too. There were five against me. I managed well enough, I think." She smiles, adding: "If I was more careful I'd be dead, Barbara."
I know she means well, but sometimes she doesn't think before speaking. I notice the hurt in her eyes when she sees my pain and I turn away from her, not wanting her to carry my burden. I'll have to hide my pain more carefully, especially considering she doesn't know what causes it. I don't want her to know, not yet.
"That was not funny, Helena," I say. Just thinking about losing her frightens me, although she probably thinks I'm remembering Wade.
"I know. I'm sorry "
"Did detective Reese pick them up?" I ask, changing the subject.
"Yes," Helena says after a moment.
I wonder why she didn't follow him home. This is the first night in a long time that she returned to the Clocktower. I don't know what I should think about that. I've missed her considerably, but having her here right now alone... I didn't know I would feel so much pain seeing her like this. What is it with her that makes me feel this way? Wade never made me react so strongly to his presence. "What are you doing here, Huntress? I thought you were staying with him tonight?" I have to ask, even though I fear the answer. I fear hearing she only came by to collect some of her stuff and that she'll be leaving again in a minute. I fear hearing he's waiting for her.
"You don't want me here anymore?" she asks, half seriously and half jokingly. I notice the hurt in her voice and glance at her. Maybe she's not that much of a stranger, after all.
"You must know I miss you," I say, holding her gaze, not wanting her to think I don't want her around. She seems somewhat bewildered by my honesty lost and young, in a way I haven't seen her for a while. I know it hurts her not knowing how to ease my pain and I don't want her to feel guilty about it. I shrug and change the subject again, not willing to discuss anything that could bring us back to Wade or my... condition. I've no doubt Dinah has discussed our conversation with Helena. Maybe that's why she's here, to check on me? "Those guys who were they? What did they want?"
"Those thugs?" She shrugs. "Just ordinary bandits. Reese's department will take care of them."
"I know you can take care of yourself," I say, reminded of her cut when I see her face. I don't want her to feel bound by me worrying about her. "I just want you to be careful." I just couldn't stand losing you.
"I am," she says, almost urgently wanting to reassure me, no doubt. "I am, Barbara. I promise."
"That's good then, Helena." I smile at her, turning my wheelchair and heading for the elevator; there's not much more we have to say to each other. Her voice stops me.
"Barbara " she says and something in her voice catches my attention. I wait for her, but she doesn't say anything more.
"Did you want something, Huntress?" I ask, looking at her. I'm still curious about why she's back at the Clocktower this late at night, but I'm not going to ask her again.
"Barbara " she says again, suddenly looking so vulnerable my heart aches. I want to reach out and touch her, but if I do I know I can't hide my true intentions anymore.
In the next moment Helena is by my side, hugging me. I gasp and stiffen, not able to hide my reaction. I inhale her scent, feeling her strong arms around me her cheek touching mine.
"Helena " I breathe, not sure she hears me. She doesn't let go and finally I must return the embrace, feeling the softness of her body pressing against mine.
"I'm so sorry," I hear her whisper and I close my eyes, wanting to lean towards her to feel her strength and her slender body holding me. "Barbara, I wish there was something I could do for you."
"You do," I tell her, giving in to the impulse and lean against her. Her grasp tightens around me. Just knowing she cares about me is enough for me. Even though she'll never know the truth about my feelings for her she'll always be my friend. "You're helping me."
"It doesn't feel enough."
"Just be careful. I " I falter, not knowing how much to tell her, how much to let her know about how important she is to me. "I don't want to lose you too," I whisper.
"You won't," she says, holding me even closer. Her voice is raw, making me want to comfort her.
"Don't worry about me, Helena," I say, moving slightly to touch her cheek. Her skin is soft and warm to my touch and I repress a need to let my fingertips trace the outline of her lips. "Have your time with Reese. That's the most important thing, that you take care of the time you have together." Even if I can't have her, at least I want her to be happy. Reese will make her happy.
"I " She falters. She buries her face against my neck and I feel the soft warmth of her breath, it makes me close my eyes. "It's been three months now "
Wade. She thinks I'm grieving Wade. I ought to be grieving him, I think distractedly. She's too close to me now I can't think. I move away from her, closing my heart to the intimacy between us.
"I know how long it's been, Helena," I say with an edge to my voice that has nothing to do with the memory of Wade and everything to do with her presence.
"I'm sorry," she says, looking lost again. "I didn't mean I'm just worried about you."
"I know you are." I relax a little, not wanting her to be hurt by my sudden reaction. I hesitate, again wondering how much I should share with her, but finally give in and add: "I worry about you when you're off fighting, but there's nothing I can do about it. I just have to trust you know what you're doing." I smile. "And most of the time you do."
She blushes slightly, which I find both surprising and endearing. Then I remember something Reese said almost right after Wade's death and I feel a sudden pang thinking of what Helena shares with him. I fight the pain and hold her gaze. "Do you remember that day when we learned of Wade's death? You left and Reese went to bring you back. He told me you didn't want to fight anymore because you were afraid you would lose people you love. That you would lose him." I find it difficult using my voice, but I fight the sense of loss I'm feeling when thinking of what I can never share with Helena.
"He told you that?" she asks, almost angrily.
I nod. "He did. Wade died because of something I believe in. Something I fight for. There's a part of me that wants to keep blaming myself for his death, but whatever happened The fight most go on, Huntress. Just as Reese told you. As long as I believe in what I'm doing Wade's death won't have be for nothing. It's been tough leaving the guilt behind me, but I'll just have to go on living."
"But it was my fault," she says, as I somehow knew she would. It's more of a whisper than anything else and the pain in her eyes hurts me more than anything. "I'd understand if you don't want me here anymore."
Don't want her around? Is that what she thinks? Is that why she stays away? "No, Helena," I say softly, taking her hand in mine. I hold her gaze, trying to ask forgiveness for the pain I've caused her by letting her believe this. "Never believe that, Helena. It wasn't your fault and I've never blamed you. You had no part in this."
I can see she wants to object, again wanting to tell me about that last therapy session with Harleen Quinzel, but I shake my head. "Don't, Helena. I've told you already, that you made it up by preventing me from killing Quinzel. No one could have stopped me at that time."
"But I "
She looks so young and vulnerable, lost in guilt and grief. I don't want her to hurt so much. I want her to find peace and happiness and I know someone other than me that can give her that. "Don't be afraid to love, Helena. Or to show detective Reese that you love him. And don't worry about me. Go find your own life."
I want to close my eyes hearing her speak my name like that, but I smile and squeeze her hand. "I'm going to bed. Go now. I'll be fine. I'll see you tomorrow."
"Sleep tight, Barbara," she says with low voice.
"You too, Helena."
I presume Helena returns to Reese for the rest of the night. She never really told me why she came back to the Clocktower, but I guess there were no reasons for her to do so. I take a quick shower, making myself ready for bed. I keep the thoughts of Helena at bay by thinking about work. School starts in two weeks and there're some things I need to prepare for.
I manage to forget about Helena until I return to my bedroom, when my eyes fall on the preserved rose at the small table near my bed. It was a gift from Helena for my last birthday.
Seeing the black rose with tinges of red I feel a sharp twist in my chest. Helena I think, before suddenly bursting into tears. I slide down my wheelchair to sit on the floor by my bed. I keep the towel in my hands and squeeze it as if it's the most important thing in the world. It becomes my lifeline to reality.
I remember that rose. I remember that day: my birthday only a couple of months before Wade's death. Helena never liked Wade and usually avoided him. He didn't think much of her either and considering the way she treated him I never blamed him, although I think they would have liked each other if they'd only tried to get along.
On my birthday Helena avoided me the whole day. It hurt me and at the end of the evening I thought she'd forgotten what day it was. I went to dinner with Wade and Dinah. Dinah gave me a paper press in the shape of a cat to keep at my desk. Every time I look at it I think of both her and Helena and I suppose that was her intention. Wade gave me a beautifully wrought gold bracelet.
I spent that night with Wade. It was nice. The next morning when I returned to the Clocktower I found a card and a small velvet case in my room and a single black rose with tinges of red. The card red: "For the one who once was a child of the night and now is the eyes of the world H." It made my skin tingle and I failed to suppress a gasp when I saw the gift in the jewelry case: a chain and a pendant in pure white gold. The pendant was in the shape of a flying bat, with emerald eyes. She must've had it specially made and the consideration brought tears to my eyes.
I never thanked her for the gift or told her how much it meant to me. We had another of our arguments that night and the topic hasn't come up since, but I preserved the rose and I look at it every night before closing my eyes. Tonight it was the sight of the rose's black petals that reminded me of Huntress and all those things still left unspoken between us.
"Helena " I whisper, hugging the towel trying to find some comfort in its rough material, but there's no comfort to be found. Why must it hurt so much, being in love like this?
I didn't know how much I wanted her until she held me close tonight. I didn't know I could ever feel like this I've tried not to let her know, but I think I must tell her the truth. I can't live my life like this hurting her, hurting me. If I tell her I'll know how she will react and then maybe I can move on.
A soft sound behind me makes me realize I'm not alone.
It's Helena. She places a careful hand on my shoulder and I hear the anguish in her voice. I know I ought to move away from her, but I can't. I'm not strong enough right now to deny myself the bittersweet pleasure of her touch.
What is she doing here? I think. "I thought you were gone," I say, holding her gaze. She seems to struggle with the words, but she remains silent and instead she takes my face between her hands and kisses me on the forehead. It surprises me and sends a slight shiver along my neck.
"I'm not going anywhere tonight," she says, pulling me towards her and holding me close. I close my eyes when I feel her soft skin brushing my face. "Barbara," she adds, stroking my hair with a careful gesture. "I don't know how to help you. I don't know what you need or what I can do to ease your pain. Please, tell me I'll do anything for you."
At least she cares for me, I think, leaning towards her. Maybe it'll be enough for tonight. I'll tell her the truth in the morning. My arms encircle her waist. "Please, just Just hold me, Helena," I whisper.
"I wish I could carry this pain for you," she whispers in a voice that makes me believe she feels something more than friendship for me. The thought brings more pain to my weary heart and I begin to cry again. I feel her mouth at my temple and her warm breath caressing my skin. Something moves inside me hope, fear, longing. I want you, I think, fighting my need for her. Fighting the impulse to lift my face towards her.
"Helena. Please, don't go."
"I won't, Barbara. I won't leave you tonight." Helena takes me in her arms and rises from the floor; her face is so close to mine I think I could kiss her right then and there. But I don't. "I'll stay right here," I hear her say as she gently places me on the bed.
I look up at her and I know I can't hide what I'm feeling any more. She must see the truth in my eyes now, but she turns away.
"I'll make you some tea "
"I don't feel like tea," I say reaching for her. "Please, stay Helena." I grab her wrist and pull her towards the bed. I want to feel her arms around me just for tonight. She looks startled but doesn't object, as I feared she would.
She takes me in her arms and holds me. I can hear her heart beating; it beats too quickly, too strongly like the beating of a fast drum. I wonder if she's angry with me for asking this of her. I want to say I'm sorry, but I don't want to move away from her. I don't want to break this contact with her. Then I feel her hands moving along my back and I fail to repress a shiver.
"Are you cold?" she asks and manages to cover me with the blanket. I don't want her to move her hands from my body, but in the next moment she holds me close again. Her hands touch me while encircling my waist. "Sleep now," she says. "I'll protect you."
I know you will, I think, sliding down in the bed to rest my cheek on her shoulder. Again I notice her pulse increasing. What if? I think. It would explain some things in the past But Reese ?
Reese is not here.
I don't know why I do it, except I want to feel her skin against my palms and my fingertips. I want to feel her heartbeat increase and her gasping for air. I want her and now, right this moment, I want her to know it. This is the truth and I don't want to hide it anymore.
I slide my hand along her body and feel her holding her breath. I feel her pulse beat faster and harder than before and experience butterflies in my stomach. I let my fingers linger at her neckline, feeling her pulse beat at her throat, sensing her soft skin. I'm not new to lovemaking, but this moment is the most erotic moment I've felt in my whole life. God I shouldn't do this! I think, but I know I've gone too far already to stop it. Unless she stops me I can't prevent myself from touching her. Then I hear her sigh and it's my undoing. I lift my face and touch her cheek with my lips, feeling her gasp softly beneath me. Helena God how I want you! She doesn't do anything to stop me and I grow bolder. Her skin is warm and soft and my lips crave more of her.
"Helena ?" I ask in a whisper. When she doesn't react I let my lips trace her mouth, tasting her asking her for permission to do what I'm doing. I half expect her to move away, to object, but another part of me knows she won't. Instead she holds her breath and then presses her lips to mine. I feel her hesitate for a heartbeat, but when my tongue caresses her lips she parts them without hesitation. Her hands loosen the ribbon tying my hair and it falls around us.
"Barbara " she whispers and her voice sends shivers through my body. I touch her face, holding her gaze. I see desire there want, need, longing She wants this too, I think, happier than I can remember feeling for a long, long time.
"Ssshh, don't speak. No words tonight Please Just Let us just be who we are."
"What we are " I hear her whisper, before she takes hold of me and I kiss her again, long and deep trying to convey my hearts desire to her. Love me, I think. Love me the way I love you and my life will be complete This is my last coherant thought for a long time.
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