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
By Jinx


Part Three – Hope

Saturday – Helena

"I can't believe we're doing this," Barbara grumbles, tugging at the sleeves of her blouse. She wears black trousers, boots and a soft green blouse matching her eyes.

She's walking. And she moves as if she'd never seen a wheelchair in her life. Apparently she's made some changes to the neural charger connecting the damaged spine to her muscles. I didn't know about that, but I wasn't hurt she hadn't told me about it. Dinah was as surprised as I was when we found Barbara moving like a fighter in the practice room this morning. I've never seen her so agile – it's like she's never been injured. Apparently she has trained her muscles too these last months. "I've had a lot of spare time," she said when Dinah asked her about it. No wonder she felt so muscular to me the other night.

My eyes slide down Barbara's body. I walk a few steps behind her and Dinah, hearing them discussing the White Lily, where we're heading. I watch her back and her shoulders. I've always loved her shoulders. She has a small tattoo I didn't know about before three days ago just between her shoulder blades, in the shape of a bat. I remember kissing that tattoo, feeling her body heave beneath me.

"It'll be good for you," Dinah says. "You're too isolated in the Clocktower, now school is out."

"Yes, mummy," Barbara says teasingly and links arm with Dinah. I watch them walking arm in arm in front of me, staying out of the conversation. That is, until Dinah pulls me in.

"I've hardly seen you smile lately," the girl says to Barbara. "You need to smile more. I miss you smiling. Don't you, Helena?"

I lift my eyes glancing briefly at Barbara before nodding. "Yes – yes, I do. Dinah's right." I manage to hold Barbara's gaze for a brief moment, before she turns her eyes towards the busy street. It's Saturday night and there are a lot of people moving in the shadows of the early evening. I can't read anything from her face, but I didn't expect to.

"Right – I'll keep it in mind to please the two of you, then," Barbara says and I blush, taking her words very personally, but Dinah laughs.

"It's the price we ask for taking you out to dinner and dancing."

"Dance too? I'm lucky I brought my walking legs."

"Funny," Dinah says dryly.

The White Lily is an exclusive place. They have a doorman opening the doors for us when we arrive and a waiter leads us to our table. Dinah has managed to get us a table by the large windows overlooking the garden: green grass, trees and with a fountain in shape of a mermaid holding a trumpet to her mouth. The restaurant is divided by a railing encircling a large dance floor further in the back. The area has plenty of green plants, several aquariums, sculptures and large, wonderful paintings. It's an attractive place and it's usually difficult to get a table, but Dinah was lucky. Unless it had something to do with the fact that the owner is an old friend of Bruce Wayne's – my father. It wouldn't be beneath Dinah to make use of such a connection. Not that I blame her, knowing Barbara loves this place.

"I love this place," she says right then, looking around wide-eyed as a child.

This isn't the first time we've been here, but it was a while ago now. It hasn't changed much from what I can see.

"You don't mind the dance floor?" Dinah asks, but Barbara shakes her head.

"I used to love to dance," she says and I wonder why I never knew that.

"You did?" Dinah says as surprised as I.

"Yeah." Barbara smiles softly at some past memory. "It's one of the things I miss the most – not being able to dance."

"You'll try tonight, won't you?" Dinah asks with a careful glance at the older woman. Barbara nods, looking in the direction of the dance floor.

"Wine?" the waiter asks, placing the menus on the table for us, lifting a wine bottle from a small tray beside him.

"Yes, please," Barbara says, smiling at him. The young man smiles back with a slight blush on his cheeks, making Dinah look away with a grin. Barbara pushes some dark red curls from her face and while doing so I notice the necklace she's wearing. Dinah does too. When the young waiter has left our table the girl leans slightly forward, looking at the chain and the bat in white gold with emerald eyes resting at Barbara's throat.

"It's beautiful," Dinah says breathlessly. "I love it. Where did you get it?"

Barbara's hand goes to the bat, touching it almost like a caress. I see a slight blush on her cheeks. "Me too," she says softly, slightly embarrassed. She doesn't look at me, but I can't take my eyes off her. I've never seen her wear the bat before. Why does she now? What does it mean?

"I've never seen you wear it before." Dinah echoes my thoughts. "Is it new? Did Wade give it to you?"

"Helena did," Barbara says, still softly. "For my birthday."

"You did?" Dinah looks at me. "I thought you'd forgotten her birthday."

I blush angrily, but before I have a chance to say anything Barbara reaches for one of the menus.

"She didn't," she says and opens the menu.

Barbara's act closes the conversation and I reach for another menu. The table is for four; it's round and I sit closer to Barbara than to Dinah, but more by chance than by choice. If I stretch my legs they'll touch Barbara's. I want to, but I don't. I don't dare – I know bodily contact with her will increase the feelings of frustration and awkwardness I'm already struggling with.

"I need the ladies," Dinah says and stands up. "Helena, will you please order for me?"

"What? Me?" I look up.

"You don't trust me, girl?" Barbara says with a wink. Dinah laughs.

I wonder why she can call her girl without her taking offense, I wonder fleetingly, feeling a pang of jealousy seeing Barbara wink at Dinah. I know the jealousy is unfounded, but Barbara used to wink at me that way before Wade turned up.

"No offense, Barbara – but you'd probably order squid, or something."

Barbara laughs and I can't keep from grinning.

"Squid it is, then," I say and Dinah makes a face at me.

"Be nice," she admonishes before leaving us alone.

At first it's all right. We concentrate on the menu, finding what we want to order and then the young waiter is there. Barbara flirts with him a bit and he blushes again, but takes our orders. When he leaves the silence between us grows uncomfortable and I wonder if she feels as awkward as I do. Dinah has been a welcome distraction between us, keeping us from hurting each other – but also from mending our relationship. If there's even something left to mend anymore.

We haven't been alone since last night, when I told her to stay out of my life. I try looking at everything else in the restaurant, but in the end my eyes are drawn to her.

When I look at her I notice her watching me.

"I did that, didn't I?" she asks softly, glancing at and nodding towards the bruise on my neck.

I don't know what to say. I don't know if my voice would carry right now. Why does she always do this to me – sneaks up on me when I least expect it? "Yes," I say in a low voice and nod. She nods too, as if she'd been expecting the answer.

"I'm sorry," she says, looking straight at me. Her eyes are soft, filled with tenderness and affection. Will I ever know the depths of this woman? Will I ever understand her the way she understands me or have the inner strength that she does?

I'm lost in her eyes. They're like green gold – like sunlight on dark leaves. I remember the way she looked at me the other night. Without a word she held me down on my back in bed, letting her eyes travel the length of my body. She didn't speak, but her eyes were filled with need, longing – love. I was lost in them then, as I'm lost now. Then, that night, she touched me. Her hands caressed my skin as if I were a delicate treasure, or a fragile flower. Her hands… I love her hands. Her hands… her shoulders… her eyes…

She holds my gaze. I'm not sure she's sorry about the accusation she made yesterday, or about the bruise in itself. I don't want her to be sorry about the bruise. It's more precious to me than she'll probably ever know.


She tilts her head to one side, listening – waiting. Then her eyes move to something behind my back and I know Dinah is returning.

"We'll talk later," Barbara says softly and touches my arm. I feel her fingers linger on my bare skin and her eyes hold mine slightly longer than necessary.

"Did you know they have a jukebox with only Elvis Presley songs?" Dinah says as she sits down.

"Yes," I say and nod. "Do you remember?" I add lightly, looking at Barbara, trying to ease some of the tension between us.

Barbara smiles. "I do."

"Well, I don't," Dinah says. "Tell me."

I make a face. "It was one of Barbara's blind dates…"

"Barbara had blind dates?" Dinah looks sharply at Barbara, who laughs.

"Don't look so disgusted, girl," she says, leaning forward to touch Dinah's hand. "It was just for fun. One of my colleagues thought I needed to get out more, so she set me up."

"Well, none of them knew…" I say, remembering that night.

"Wait…" Barbara raises one hand, holding me back. "First things first…" She winks at me and I blush, again remembering the other night; there's a glimpse of something in her eyes that reminds me of the way she kissed my neck then. "First you need to know… I refused to go on a blind date on my own, so I asked Helena to accompany me. Which she did…"

"And?" Dinah looks questioningly at us.

"And her date looked like Meatloaf on a really bad hair-day." Barbara frowns at the memory.

"So?" I say. "He was charming."

"As charming as a troll. He burped in every second sentence…"

"Not every…"

"Every second sentence," Barbara repeats, holding my gaze, challenging me to disagree with her. She arches an eyebrow and I grin.

"I still maintain he was charming – and cute."

She snorts. "If that was cute Alfred is a newborn."

Dinah laughs. "You never told me this. What about your date, then?"

"Well…" I exchange an amused glance with Barbara. "None of us knew he was an Elvis Presley impersonator."

Dinah laughs with sparkling eyes. "Really?"

"Really," Barbara says and shakes her head. She smiles at me. "We had a great night, though – although not what we expected. We were quite tired of Elvis Presley the following months."

Dinah grins when I make a face in agreement. "I can imagine." She looks expectantly at me. "Did you see that Meatloaf guy again?"

"She dumped him for a Ken-doll," Barbara says dryly. "A beach-boy with a golf-addiction."

"Boring," Dinah says and pretends to yawn.

"Exactly my point. That's why I dumped him for the bulldozer…"

"No, no," Barbara interrupts. "You had that Yoda-guy in between…"

"God – Helena!" Dinah looks at me. "Did you date the whole of New Gotham's underworld?"

"I think there's a few of the lowest thugs left," Barbara says dryly. "Don't be gross, Dinah."

"Excuse me!" I object, but they are both laughing at me now and I can't help but grin. It feels good having the Barbara I know back again. She catches me looking at her and silences. Her eyes linger on me and I feel the warmth from them and from her presence so close to me. What if I tell her all of those guys were just a way of forgetting her – or to make her jealous? What would she think about that?

Her eyes are too intense, too green… I can't tell what she's thinking and the way she's looking at me makes me remember: softness, skin like velvet, rippling muscles and craving lips…

I'm just about to look away when something behind my back catches her attention. I see her following someone with her eyes and there's a look on her face, as if she's seeing someone she hasn't seen for a while and wouldn't expect seeing here. Her eyes move closer and then she's looking at someone standing behind me. I turn in my chair.

There's a tall, blond man with sparkling blue eyes standing two steps behind my chair. A younger girl, about Dinah's age, stands beside him; blonde and slender, but not quite as tall as Dinah. It's she who reacts first, noticing Barbara.

"Barbara!" she exclaims, rushing to Barbara's side of the table and hugging her. Dinah looks curiously at me, but I shrug. I've never seen either of them.

"Julie," Barbara says and returns the embrace. "You've grown."

"Thankfully," the girl says laughing. "I wouldn't care to be a midget."

"There's nothing wrong with little people, Julie," the man says, exchanging an amused and slightly intimate glance with Barbara.

I feel my heart contract in sudden pain. I suddenly know who this man is. I've never met him, but I've heard Nightwing and Barbara talk about him. Alfred mentioned him once, but Barbara refused to discuss the matter with me.

"Barbara," the man says, not taking his eyes off her. I see determination in the sharp blue of his look. He's made up his mind about something.

He wants her, I think, looking directly at Barbara. He never stopped wanting her. I can't blame him – neither would I.

"Mike," Barbara says, with a slight nod and an imperceptible smile, but there's amusement in her eyes and it twitches my heart. Mike grins.

"You've hardly changed. Still as beautiful," he says.

"Thank you. Ever the charmer, aren't you?" Barbara returns his smile while Dinah arches both her eyebrows, looking from one to the other. I can see her thinking, planning.

"Hi," the girl by my side says and extends a hand. I take it. "Julie."

"Helena," I say shortly.

"That's Dinah," Barbara says, indicating in Dinah's direction. The girls regard each other with curiosity.

"I'm Mike," Mike says, shaking my hand. I look at him and say nothing. I feel Barbara's eyes on me.

"We were just about to eat," Julie says, looking back at Barbara. "It's been such a long time – can't we sit by you?"

No! No, no, no! something within me shouts, but I see the look Barbara gives the girl and know I've lost.

"We're waiting for our food. Please join us."

"Are you sure?" Mike asks, looking at Barbara. "We don't want to intrude."

"You're not intruding," Dinah says with a smile. "Friends are friends. Join us."

I feel like throwing up.

"Helena?" Barbara asks carefully, looking cautiously at me.

Thankfully I'm saved by the waiter, who brings us our starters. I know I need to conceal my anger and jealousy, but the pain is too intense at the moment. Mike talks to the waiter as Barbara tries to catch my eye. Finally she gives up and takes me by the hand.

"Huntress," she says softly, hardly audible but for my enhanced hearing. Her tender grasp forces me to look at her. "Don't be mad. It's been a long time since I've seen these people. It would be rude not to talk to them."

"I know who he is," I say, holding her gaze – challenging her to deny the truth. She gives me an odd look.

"What difference does it make?" she asks and I gasp softly, not sure what she's getting at. Does she mean what happened between us – or between them?

"Barbara…" Mike looks down at her and pulls out the chair on the other side of her. She turns towards him. I look at my food, not at all hungry anymore.

"How do you and your father know Barbara?" I hear Dinah ask Julie as the girl sits down by Dinah's side in a chair the waiter brought for her.

Julie flashes Dinah a quick smile. "Don't you know?" she says. "Mike is not my father. He's my uncle – my father's brother. My father was killed in an explosion here in New Gotham."

Julie grins and Dinah smiles politely. I think Dinah likes the girl, but she's not sure were this conversation is heading. I wonder if her meta-human ability picks up on my raging emotions. All I want to do is throw the table across the room, kick the chairs out of the way and hurl Mike through the windows. But I fight the impulse – it wouldn't be civilized behavior.

"Mike adopted me. He and Barbara used to be engaged."

"What?" Dinah says, loud enough to make both Mike and Barbara turn their eyes towards her. "What?" she repeats, looking at me. At first she wants to ask me something, but then she sees me and thinks better of it. She reluctantly turns back to Julie. "I never knew Barbara was engaged."

"They were to get married, but never did…" Julie glances at Barbara and Mike, who once again are engaged in their conversation; I can't hear what they're talking about because of the pounding of my heart. Barbara eats the salad she got for starters while talking. "Mike never forgot about her…" Julie said.

"But you're not from around here?"

"We moved when Mike and Barbara ended their engagement."

"Right," Dinah says thoughtfully. I notice the inquisitive look she gives Barbara and want to kick her. Stay out of this, kid-o! Don't meddle with things you don't know anything about. I want to grab her by the ear and tell her not to interfere in Barbara's love life. It's my business. "Right," she mumbles again, looking at Mike.

I hate Mike. I always did. When I was younger I hated him so much it hurt – because she used to belong to him. I sometimes found her reading letters he sent her, or old letters she'd saved. I asked her about him a couple of times and she told me the background: they were engaged to be married, but broke it off. I thought it was Mike who broke it off after the gunshot that bound Barbara to the chair and so I hated him even more.

It was Nightwing that finally told me the truth. It was Barbara that broke the engagement. He didn't know why – or if he did he never told me. The only thing he did tell me was that Mike was the love of her life.

I look at them now and see how easily it is for both of them to find their way back to each other. If my single night with her ever meant anything to her I doubt it will now.

"I think it had something to do with an accident," I hear Julie say. "And a child she needed to care for. I heard Mike talk about it once – he said she had to make a choice between married life and a life in the shadows, whatever that meant."

I look at Dinah and see her glance in my direction. I wonder if this is true. Did Barbara give up her life for me – for what happened to my mother? If she did – how much do I owe her then? How much must she resent me?

"Excuse me," I say and rise from the table. Barbara immediately turns and grabs my wrist. Her reaction both surprises me and makes me remember the other night – what she asked of me: Don't go. I left. I left her then. If I leave her now it'll be forever. I can see in her eyes that she knows it too and she fears it. "I'm not going anywhere," I say, wanting to ease her worries. "Just to the ladies. I'll be back."

She hesitates, but finally let's me go. She still holds my gaze, though, and I'm so confused by what I see in her eyes. I hate the feeling of being confused. I want to flee, but know I can't. Wherever I go in the world she'll be the one thing I can't leave behind. My heart will always pull me back to her – she's my centre, where I belong. I can never be happy in a place where she's not present.

Barbara nods slightly and turns back to Mike, not looking at me again. I leave them, to visit the ladies-room. I will return – I know I have no other options.

Saturday – Barbara

It feels strange seeing Mike again. It's been… seven years. He's still as handsome as ever – and as charming, with his white teeth and sparkling eyes. I missed him immensely to begin with, but I never regretted the choice I made. I wanted him to stay in New Gotham, but he said he wouldn't be able to live close by with no option to be with me. I knew he was right – I had to focus on Helena at the time and would only have been distracted by his presence. He took Julie and left. We kept in touch for the first few years, but later… I don't know what happened. I thought I would love him forever and that our love would only grow stronger over the years, but we lost touch. I think it was my fault mostly. With Helena in my life I didn't seem to need anyone else. At first, when I realized I seemed to be attracted to her, I put it down to me missing Mike. I assumed that I transferred my feelings to her, because I had no one else to care for and nowhere to direct those unresolved feelings for Mike. I believed it would go away, but it didn't – it only grew stronger.

I've known Helena since she was a child of nine or ten. She was a lovely child, full of mischief and fun, with that grin drawing attention from everyone. Strangely enough she seemed to be quieter in my company than with others. I never knew why. I still don't know why. I used to think she didn't like me, but she kept coming around always asking things, wanting to spend time with me. Selena worried I would be annoyed having her around, but I enjoyed the girl's company. I had no problems with her then – it was later the troubles begun. Later: a few years after she'd come to live with me. She was angry and hurt and I had to keep her close to prevent her from ending up in trouble. She did anyway – with that event that brought her to Dr. Harleen Quinzel.

Mike's filling me in on what's been going on in his life the past years and I listen, but more from courtesy than with any real interest. My mind is filled with too many thoughts of Helena to be engaged in something else at the moment, even though I realize Mike's flirting with me a bit.

"And what about you? Get hooked yet?"

I shake my head with a soft smile. There's only one I would want to marry – but I can't. That's why I chose to fall in love with Wade. I had to move on in my life. I give Mike a quick summary of my life, mentioning Wade and the fact that I'm able to walk at the moment. When I silence he watches me with an intense expression. I hold his gaze, not looking away and finally he smiles. I remember what he used to say, that I was one of the few who could look him in the eyes when he wore his 'tell-me-all-about-it' look. There were few criminals who didn't shrink beneath young Mike's gaze. He must be even better at making people talk today, with the years and his experience in the court-room behind him.

"I've kept the ring," he says, serious again. I remember him being this way: he took what he wanted without apologizing for it. He said he didn't know how to be any different. I used to love him for it. I still would– if it hadn't been for Helena.

"What?" Dinah suddenly says out loud and we turn to look at her. I glance briefly at Helena behind my back, but her face is tight. She's not happy.

I noticed the hostility within Helena when Mike introduced himself to her; the look in her eyes, the way she set her jaw and clenched her teeth. "I know who he is…" Why would it mean anything to her who Mike is, if our night together meant nothing to her?

I'm confused by the messages she's sending me. When I had time to think about it last night I realized the love-bite on her neck must've been made by me. I still blush thinking about it. It's no wonder she got hurt by my remark yesterday.

But the way she looks at me… I'm so confused. Could this young, sexy woman really want me the way I want her? Could I mean more to her than one night's pleasure? I was sure I did, but… Do I dare believe her actions yesterday were based on fear and hurt? Her leaving in the morning light and then telling me to stay out of her life?

I'm flattered by Mike's attention and the expression in his eyes as he regards me, but I'm too aware of Helena's presence behind me. I want to turn to her, to touch her or to squeeze her hand, but if I do… I want her badly. If I touch her I know my eyes will reveal the same need for her as they did two nights ago. I wouldn't be able to hide it and we're not alone now. I wish we were alone – I so want her to make love to me again. I need to feel her mouth craving me, her hands touching those soft parts of my body only lovers ever get to know. She was so good at it, the way she… I cut the thought before it makes me blush, but the thought of the other night still lingers in my memory. She'd been gentler than I expected, showing me a tenderness it's difficult to believe she has in her when looking at her inscrutable face.

She kissed my whole body, exploring it as if she wanted to memorize its every mark and curve. No one would do such a thing if the love-making didn't mean more to them than one night's pleasure.

Or was she just being a friend?

How will I know? I want to turn to her now and ask, but Oracle within me is used to too much control and won't give in. Beside, there are too many people present.

One part of me is engaged in conversation with Mike, as another part listens to the girls in the background. Helena is silent. She's too quiet for it to be a good sign.

I've just finished my starter when I hear Julie's remark about me leaving Mike for a child. Girls that age are not always as tactful as they ought to be and I know Julie still hopes for Mike and me to get back together. She was only a child at the time he and I were engaged, but we were close. If I'd married Mike she'd be like my own. Making the decision to leave them was difficult, but I never regretted making it. Helena has given me so much in life, much more than she's probably aware of.

I instinctively know Helena heard the remark and I know what she thinks: she'll start questioning her place in my life and wonder if I ever regretted taking her in. I don't want her to doubt what she and I have shared over the years. She's too precious to me.

When she rises from the table I'm prepared for it and turn around. I catch her wrist and look at her, silently asking her not to leave me. If she leaves me now I know she'll keep on running and maybe never come back. I need to let her know… something. Will she see the truth in my eyes?

"Don't worry," she says softly. "I'm not going anywhere."

She said the same thing the other night – and then she left. I just have to trust her now. She squeezes my hand before she lets go and I don't know what that means. I'm so confused about her behavior: every now and again she looks at me as if she's remembering how she touched me that other night – how I touched her. Then she's indifferent and aloof again. If I trust my instincts they tell me she's afraid of being hurt and that's why she left that morning. If I listen to my brain it tells me she was only looking for a one night stand – to count me as another of her conquests.

I hurt her by my remark about the bruise on her neck yesterday. I was foolish and insensitive – letting my fear and pride get the better of me. If only I could get a chance to talk to her before we hurt each other even more. I need to tell her the truth. She ought to know already, I think distractedly. She should know I don't sleep around with just anyone. Then again – I was lost and in need of comfort that night, she might think that was all it was for me: a one night stand.

I need to talk to her, I think as I see her make her way to the ladies. I consider following her, but realize it would be awkward trying to talk to her right now. She's upset – I'm not sure about what or what it means that she is, but I know talking to her right now won't be a good idea. I'll just have to be patient.

When the main course arrives Helena has returned. She seems to be in a better mood and even smiled at me as she sat down. She's eating and that's always a good sign. Mike tries to involve her in a conversation as we enjoy our dinner, but she doesn't seem interested and he soon gives it up. Although, as he turns to me she's suddenly very talkative, being awfully curious about his occupation as a lawyer and his various ex girlfriends. He tries to talk his way out of the last question, but Helena is persistent and I watch with amusement as they try to best each other in stubbornness.

Later on, at dessert, Helena is involved in a discussion about some popular figure on television I don't know anything about with Dinah and Julie, who both take the opposite opinion from Helena. It evolves to a witty argument with Helena surprisingly in the lead. She finally wins the argument with a flourish, leaning back in the chair with her arms crossed and looking smug. I can't help smiling at her – she's so charming like this.

"Will you excuse me?" Mike says and rises from the chair. He looks only at me, not bothering with Helena's almost fierce expression as she looks at him. There has been a somewhat tense atmosphere between the two of them since Helena returned from the ladies. "Nature calling…"

I nodded at him and watch him go.

"'Nature calling'…" I hear Helena mumble disdainfully at my side with a grimace. When I look at her she gives me an innocent smile. "Nice man," she says and I arch an ironic eyebrow at her.

"We'll be back in a sec," Dinah says as she rises from the table with Julie. "I'll show Julie the jukebox."

"Go ahead," I say, welcoming the time I'll get alone with Helena. I turn to look at her, but her eyes are focused on something far out the dark windows and her expression is indifferent and aloof. I hesitate for a moment, not sure what I should do. Finally I give it up and eat my dessert.

When I look up again after a moment I find Helena watching me with a question in her eyes. First I don't understand, but then I hear the song playing from the dance floor. Do you remember? her eyes ask me. I do, but I don't know what it means that she does – if anything. I don't know what anything means in our relationship anymore.

The song in the background is Bonnie Tyler's old song: Holding out for a Hero. I remember young Helena telling me that was the kind of man I needed – a real hero. I teased her, saying I didn't need a hero – I had her. She looked at me intently and then grinned. "And don't you forget it," she told me. "Don't you dare trade me for a tin-soldier."

I didn't forget, but I traded her in. I remember her remark about Wade, how angry she was with me for settling for a guidance-counselor. "He's a lame-ass, a puppy – a puppet on a string. He'll follow you – but even kittens do that. You need something more, Barbara – why do you settle for someone like him? He's too safe for you. He won't love you the way…" I waited for her to say it; for her to finish the sentence the way I hoped she would, but she never did. "The way you need to be loved," was all she said before she left. She's always leaving.

If she's afraid to tell me she loves me I need her to find the courage to do so. I know there are many reasons for her to be afraid, but if I tell her the truth I need to know she's strong enough to believe in it. When she held me the other night, before… Before anything… I felt safe then, protected. That's the Helena I need – not the one running away at daybreak.

I look at her now and wonder what she's thinking. Will you be my hero? I think. We're alone at the table; if I speak now – will she stay, or run away?

"Helena…" I say. "About the other night…"

I see it instantaneously: the fear claiming her, before her eyes grow dark and hard.

"Yes – what about it?"

Always so defensive. I reach for her, wanting to take her hand in mine, but at the same time someone's shadow falls across the table and Dinah sits down beside me.

"That Elvis jukebox is cool," Julie says, sitting down at Dinah's former place.

"Sure is," Helena mumbles, lowering her gaze.

"Hi, stranger," someone says right then, surprising us all.

I look up at a tall, red-haired woman beside me. She doesn't seem to notice me, but looks only at Helena.

"So, we meet again. It must be fate."

"Hmm," Helena says looking at the woman. "Don't believe in fate," she adds, holding the stranger's gaze.

Helena's quite rude, but the woman doesn't seem to mind. Dinah looks curiously at her and Julie looks intrigued. I'm not really sure what I think – I'll have to take my cue from Helena and she doesn't look pleased with the woman's appearance.

"We never got properly introduced. I'm Scarlet." The woman extends her hand to Helena, who only arches an eyebrow at her. The woman shrugs.

"I'm Dinah," Dinah says with an amused smile at Helena. "Never mind her, she didn't get much sleep last night."

"No, I know…" the stranger says, looking quite amused at Helena, who interestingly enough blushes. I'm not sure what I should think about this. I guess this is one of the people Reese has seen Helena with. She looks a little like me, I think, watching Scarlet. I wonder if that's her real name…

"Well – I'm not going to stand here looking like a fool. Do you want to dance, stranger?" Scarlet says, holding Helena's gaze. Helena sets her jaw and I can see her wanting to face the challenge in Scarlet's eyes, at the same time hesitating.

"You should, Helena," Dinah says, still amused. "Go – have fun."

"I don't want…" Helena silences. She doesn't look at me, but I get the feeling she wants to. She's struggling with something, but I can't help her this time. Suddenly she looks at me after all, asking me something with her eyes. What? What does she want from me? Leave to go – or me asking her to stay?

Before I have time to make up my mind Mike stands by my side.

"Barbara – they have a great dance floor here. Let's dance, shall we. Do you remember?" He holds my gaze, smiling. "Do you remember the way we used to dance?"

"I do," I say, nodding. I glance at Helena, but she stands without looking at me and takes Scarlet's hand in hers. My heart cramps seeing it and I stand too. "Yes – lets dance," I say, wanting nothing more than to grab Helena and prevent her from leaving with that… that woman.

It should be me, dancing with her, I think, feeling hurt and jealousy mingle with sadness and regret.

"Great!" Dinah says, joining us on the way to the dance floor.

It's been so many years since I last danced. I used to love it and I've missed it over the years. It's a lot like riding a bike, though – even though it was a long time since my last dance my body still remembers how to move to the music. The dance floor is not too crowded and Mike knows how to make use of the space. I laugh at him when he swirls me about, pulling me close. We used to have so much fun together and I see the memories in his eyes as he grabs me and swings me about. I know those memories, but they belong to another woman, not me. I was different then. Still I return his smile and dance with him – sharing the past.

In the background I notice Helena dancing with the redheaded woman and feel a pang of jealousy. It should be me with her. I wonder what it would be like, I think, watching Helena move her arms above her head and sway to the music as Scarlet's hands trace the shape of her body from behind. To my immense relief Helena steps aside and even seems uncomfortable with the intimacy. It makes me feel a little better.

"I've missed you, Barbara," Mike says and holds me close as we dance to a slow song. I tear my eyes from Helena and look into his startling blue eyes. He smiles softly at me. "Have you missed me a little?"

I can't help caressing his cheek. It's good to see him again and I know… I will always be very fond of him. But he's not Helena. "A little," I say. His arms are not Helena's and his grasp is not hers. I want to feel her arms around me the way I did the other night. I want to belong to her as I did then. She craved me and she filled me as no lover before her ever has. How will I be able to explain? There were no words between us and even though I regret not telling her what she means to me – what doing what we did meant to me – the silence was like thunder within me. I felt her through it – it created a space around us where nothing else mattered than the way we touched each other, the way we kissed. The silence was like an ocean surrounding us, keeping us safe and bringing us closer. If I close my eyes I can see her face as it was then – her eyes looking into mine… I wanted her so much and she felt my need… She didn't hold back – I still have marks on my body reminding me of that night – but she was also gentle in a way I know she can be but rarely shows.

She was mine that night and I want her – need her – that way again. I need her to make love to me as she did… Her hands tracing my naked skin, my hips, my breasts… She kissed me softly, driving me to the edge… taking her time about it… I whispered her name more than once, wanting her to touch me… to feel me, to make me feel… And I couldn't get enough of her – wanting to melt into her, like some second skin.

The mere thought makes me tremble and when I look up, feeling Mike's lips touching my cheek, I realize I've forgotten all about him and where we are. I step back, smiling, still holding his hand.

"Let's dance, cowboy," I say and he laughs. Dinah and Julie dance close by and I know Helena is someplace near us, but I don't turn to look at her. I won't be able to bear it if I see her dance so close to that woman again.

Part 4

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