DISCLAIMER: I do not own the characters. They are the property of DC comics and the WB network. I'm just borrowing them for a short period of time.
MUSIC DISCLAIMER: Song lyrics don't belong to me either; no profit gained or infringement intended.
SERIES: Some readers were kind enough to point out that there are more than the traditional four elements which were covered in the original Elemental series (Landslide, Watershed and Windshear). This story is the fourth extension of the Elemental series following Veneer, Stainless and Obsidian.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
WARNING: Heterosex contact ahead.



Chapter 11

Thoroughly trained by her first months of motherhood, Barbara dragged her eyes open just after 5am. To her very pleasant surprise, Katharine was still sleeping. To her even greater pleasure, Helena was still with her.

When Helena had finally crawled in with her not too many hours earlier, Barbara had given even odds that the brunette would disappear during the night and that she'd find him dozing on the couch again in the morning.

Being wrong had never felt so good.

Granted, it had seemed a bit dicey last night when Barbara had tried to encourage her partner to stay... to stop isolating himself or whatever he'd been doing with his grief and rage. When Helena had finally nodded his assent, circled the foot of the bed, and striped out of his sweatpants, Barbara had been hard pressed not to laugh in joy. Then, Katie had stirred in her bassinet.

"Let me give her a snack."

She'd paused in the act of buttoning up her sleep shirt and reached for the girl.

"Perhaps we'll be able to sleep until the alar--"

Her heart had leapt to her throat as Helena had backed toward the bedroom door.


"I, uh,"

Disbelieving, Barbara had seen her partner's vague wave toward... somewhere.

"--pee, shut off the TV, uh--"

She had arched a brow, had briefly considered seeing how many other excuses her partner could come up with. Ultimately, she'd simply raised Katie to her breast and nodded.

"I'll be here, waiting for you, and computing pi."

The promise had been clear enough: she was expecting him to return. Typically Helena had turned it into a joke although Barbara hadn't detected much levity in his voice.

"So, do you want me to hurry or not, Red?"

Barbara hadn't cracked a smile.

"Don't make me go past a thousand decimal places, Hel."

And, her partner hadn't, soundlessly stealing into the room moments after Barbara had returned their daughter to her bed.

And now... Now, not quite five hours later, he was still with her, spooned tightly to her side.

With the changes to Helena's size, it had taken some reorganizing from their usual position: normally, the brunette slept in the crook of her arm; however, this was nice. Helena had one arm hooked above the pillow that was under her head, the other draped possessively over her waist, his hand kneading gently in rhythm with his low rumbling purr.

Barbara smiled into the dark room as Helena's purr tickled against her skin, wondering how it was that -- between Helena and Katharine -- she didn't dream of catnip and scratching posts.

With a mental shrug, she raised one hand and rested it lightly atop Helena's. Gently, she brailled the strong hand, tracing the knuckles, feeling the tendons flex beneath skin that was just a little less soft than she remembered.

Dear heavens, it still felt so... right.

After Helena had gone missing last fall -- presumed dead at Quinn's hands -- Barbara had had to force herself to get into the empty bed each night. When Helena had returned to her, the redhead had vowed not to endure nights without her if at all possible.

She'd be damned if she let this trauma -- or Helena's reaction to it -- come between them.

A slight change in her bedmate's breathing alerted Barbara to the fact that, possibly, both of them had become attuned to Katharine's schedule. If Helena wasn't awake, he soon would be.

Helena was pretty sure he had to be dreaming, and with the comforting warmth of Barbara curled in his arms, with her sweet scent tickling his senses, with the soft solidity of her body under his hand, he wasn't inclined to wake up. It was the first real sleep that he'd had for a week, the first time that he'd closed his eyes and not seen that shining wand, felt...

Something about that thought forced Helena to stop nuzzling against Barbara's hair. There was a reason he'd been wary of this.

The involuntary hitch of his hips brought it all back.

Oh god. Damnit.

He'd known, damnit; he'd known.

It was bad enough waking up alone on the couch with... with no way to deny or pretend. Helena had fucking known that being this close to Barbara would only make it worse.

Maybe it was his training that kicked in, all of those hours and years in the training room with Barbara hammering at him that he couldn't always just react. Sometimes, acting -- planning -- was the way to go. Whatever it was, Helena resisted his instinct to jerk away; instead, he moved by inches and millimeters, working back just a little, getting ready to roll onto his back and keep on rolling right out of bed.

Now completely certain that Helena was awake -- and doing his damnedest to pull away -- Barbara lay still in the dim grey light before dawn, keeping her breathing slow and deep. She felt her lover work to extricate his arm from beneath her head; mentally, she charted his slow retreat to the side of the bed. She felt her brows knit in puzzlement as she worked to make some sense of it.

Then, Helena rolled onto his back, and Barbara found a clue.

A sizable clue that tented the bedcovers near his hips.

Of course. If she only had some sensitivity below the waist -- or, a little voice chimed in, a little more sense above the neck -- she would have realized.

Instantly, she worked her upper body so that she was on her side and placed a hand on her lover's chest.

"Don't go, Hel."

Helena froze. He might have thought his heart had stopped except for the rush of blood he could feel coloring his cheeks.

Some sort of noise escaped the back of his throat, but he refused to open his mouth and give it voice. As if she could feel the way his muscles burned with the need to move -- to run -- Barbara was rubbing gently over his chest.

Oddly, he found himself noticing the scratch of the cotton of the tee shirt bunching against the hair that was just growing in on his chest.

"It's alright, Sweetheart."

It was like she was trying to soothe him like she would a wild animal or something.

"It's okay, Hel. It's perfectly natural."

The words -- those words anyway -- had pretty much the opposite effect.

Turning his head, Helena fixed his gaze on the wall on his side of the bed.

"Sure it is. For a guy."

The words were barely decipherable, fraught with rage and anguish and something that Barbara couldn't name. Her eyes stung, but Barbara blinked the sensation away. Somehow, she even managed not to point out that, prior to the change, her libidinous partner had often enjoyed a bit of early morning... togetherness.

For some reason, a logical approach just didn't appear to be her best tactic.

"Sweetheart, it's all right."

She continued the light strokes of her fingers across the tee, relieved when the trembling tension in his muscles relaxed marginally.

"I can get up," she offered quietly. "Katie will be waking soo--"

She felt her lover's head shake and pursed her lips.

Granted, modesty had never been one of Helena's concerns, however --

"S'not that, Red. I just don't..."

Realization dawned, almost blinding Barbara with the insight into what those lengthy morning showers had been about. Even for Helena, the duration of the showers had approached legendary.

Not to mention the fact that there was always hot water available afterward.

"Hel, why haven't you--?"

The words were out before she could think better of it.

After all this was Helena: the same person who had cheerfully informed her, not too many months after the change in their relationship the year before, that she subscribed to a philosophy of ten orgasms a week. Minimum.

For health and happiness, had been Helena's smug explanation.

Not completely sure that he was really having this conversation, Helena worked for some way to explain, some way to make sense out of the fact that he was lying next to the woman he adored, turned on like Christmas, and all he wanted to do was get the hell out of there.

"I guess I didn't want it to get..."

He couldn't speak the last word.


He didn't want the whole goddamned thing to get real.

If he didn't look when he peed or showered, if he kept it out of the way in the fitted boxers he'd picked out, if he just didn't use the fuckin' thing, maybe it would all go away and he could be... Helena again. And then they could be together, hands and mouths and bodies touching the way they should. And afterward, lying together in a sweaty jumble, they could laugh about that weird time when she -- he -- had been... like this.

The wild thought flitted through his head that he was glad he wasn't trying to write it all down: getting the pronouns right would be a bitch.

For better or worse, he didn't have time to consider a budding career in science fiction writing. Barbara's silence let him know that her big brain was probably going off in all directions with his not-quite-admission, and Helena decided to cut that short before the redhead turned into Dr. Freud.

"And, I still don't know how to work this thing."

"Ah, I see."

There was more to it; of that, Barbara was certain. Yet, Helena's first words were too opaque, and this, at least, was something she could work with. She managed to relax a wee bit, almost smiling when she made out the brunette's grumpy addition.

"Damned thing's just so... out there."

Not giving herself time to think about it, Barbara worked herself a little closer, her hand still resting on Helena's broad chest. She didn't need meta-enhanced senses to make out the pounding of his heart.

"That can be a good thing, Hel."

In the dim light of the room, she thought she saw Helena peering suspiciously through his lashes at her, and she nodded slowly. Hoping to tip matters a bit in both their favor, she slipped her hand beneath his tee, stroking the smooth skin of his belly.


Channeling her best Shrek, she quirked the corner of her mouth.

"Really really, Hel."

Helena's snort reminded her of where her hand lay, and Barbara trailed her fingers across the ridges of sharply cut abdominal muscles as she considered just what it was she was... proposing.

True, it had been a while since she'd given, well, bluntly stated, a hand-job. Unless one recognized that a great deal of her more intimate contact with Helena prior to the transformation might be described as...

Barbara firmly pushed that thought away, reassuring herself that it was like riding a bicycle.

Green eyes blinked once when Barbara realized that, given how long it had been since she'd been on a cycle and given the reality of how poorly she'd fare if she tried to ride one at this point, the analogy was perhaps not her best hope of bolstering her own confidence.

Che sara.

"Let me, Hel."

Helena shut her eyes against the quiet request. She had to wonder if this was what Adam had felt like when Eve had come wandering up with the apple. Almost instantly, she decided against it.

This was more like right after he'd taken that bite and recognized his own nakedness and shame.

Swallowing with an audible gulp, he balanced on the horns of the dilemma until Barbara's whisper brushed the skin of his neck.

"I want to, Hel."

For the first time in the whole bizarre conversation, he met her eyes. They were bright and open and -- just a little dilated, and Helena couldn't doubt her. Working up all his courage, Helena moved one hand to touch the strong fingers that rested on his belly.

A soft cry almost escaped Barbara when she felt Helena's hand cover hers, guiding her hand down. He only moved their joined hands a few inches, just to the elastic waist of the baggy boxers that he slept in, then Helena's fingertips slid away.

Leaving it up to her.

And, truly, Barbara knew in the space between one heartbeat and the next, there was no decision to make.

Soft as winter snow, she let her hand fall.

It covered a long, straight erection, a shock of hardness through the slightly damp material of Helena's boxers, and Barbara battled back an urge to hurry, to know everything at once.

Of course she'd seen Helena after the transformation, notably on the night of the attack when she'd tended to his injuries. There had also been the following morning, when Helena had been searching to understand.

Yet, those had been nothing like this. During those inspections, Barbara had been almost clinical, detached in a way that enabled her to do what needed to be done. Now, here, in the haven of their bed, she could not be that person.

Not with this Helena.

She was not the physician, healing an injured comrade. She was not the analytical detective, searching for clues to effect some miracle. She was only Barbara, and this was only Helena. He was Helena, her Helena, who for whatever reason or reasons, had been unable to come to her, had been unable to seek any comfort.

She would not let him regret this trust.

Underneath her hand, Helena's hips rose, pressing his need into the crease of her palm. Barely breathing, Barbara waited.

The low noise that escaped her lover tore at her heart. It also served to set her pulse pounding.

Yearning for more, she moved her thumb, finding the swell of the glans and rubbing lightly. Again, Helena's hips slowly rose, pressing the hot flesh into her hand.

"Oh Bar--"

Helena couldn't finish the word. Instead, his legs fell open in invitation, and he felt his hips lift again. His eyes remained fixed on his lover's face, enraptured by the fixed concentration in her face.

And the hunger in her eyes.


He couldn't -- They couldn't be doing this. It couldn't be him, feeling like this.

God, it was... It was all heat and pressure and those amazing fingers touching him, squeezing him. It was that strong, capable hand making small upward pulls, working the cotton of his boxers over his flesh, working skin over engorged tissue. And then, Barbara's hand was working under the elastic waist of his boxers to touch bare flesh, and Helena bit the inside of his cheek against the need to cry out.

So soft... So strong... So capable... Those hands of Barbara's.

Helena's breaths were short and soft, opening out into whispery huffs as his lips parted. Barbara longed to stretch up and capture those soft sounds with her own lips, to save them forever in the treasure chest of her heart, but she refused to be distracted.

Dimly she recalled something and curled her middle finger around to tease the sweet spot behind Helena's testicles. It had been a long, long time; however, with Helena, it all came so naturally, so easily.

"Baby... I ... "

The redhead waited, but no more words came. She scraped a fingernail lightly over Helena's balls, allowed that same fingernail to trail up the shaft, and placed the lightest of touches around the head.

Sweet almost-numbness was creeping up between Helena's legs, the sustained red haze of being very close to letting go.

Just thinking about what he was about to do -- what Barbara was doing for him -- made his balls tighten into an ache that danced the line of pleasure and pain. It felt like all of the blood was draining from his arms and legs and head and was swelling up into his groin, and Barbara's hand was wrapped around him, pumping long and easy now.

Not quite sure, not quite ready, he fisted his hands into the sheets by his sides.

Barbara knew that her lover was close: the harsh, panting breaths, the way he was drawing up under her touch, the silvery dimness in his eyes. Laying her fingers along the shaft, she worked with short, careful milking motions. The angle was a little awkward, working from her side under the barrier of the cotton briefs, but she refused to shift to a better position. Rather, she held her lover's gaze, awed by the trust he offered.

Dear heavens, she didn't know if she could have been so open.

So fearless.

With Barbara's fingers on him, Helena couldn't remember what he'd been afraid of. He was here; they were together. Barbara was touching him, learning the new shape of him, searching out the sweetest places.

Places he'd never imagined.

Helena was dissolving into orgasm before Barbara even firmed her strokes. He tried not to yell, but the soft sound he made turned into a long moan as his eyes had to shut and Barbara kept... milking him and massaging him with her fingertips. It felt like he came for a long time, deliciously hot and wet.

The surge ended, but Barbara kept stroking, prolonging his pleasure he recognized with dumb gratitude. Her fingers moved more lightly as Helena softened until they weren't moving at all, just cradling him, limp and spent. Working forward a few millimeters, the redhead pressed a hungry, open-mouthed kiss to his shoulder while he was still pulsing sweetly in the curl of her fingers.

Slowly, by inches, Helena came back to himself, finding that Barbara was so close, her eyes still fixed on him. He worked his jaw once, then rolled away to face the side of the bed. Squeezing his eyes shut, he pulled his knees to his chest, cradling them in his arms. His breath still came in puffing gasps.


How had he... What had he done?

Pretty sure that his brains had turned into spaghetti, Helena tried to remember what it was Babs had drilled into him about taking stock of new situations.

Right. Take stock.

Okay, he could do this.

The covers, still tangled around his lower body. A sweat-soaked tee-shirt starting to chafe. Sheets, dampened by sweat, beneath him. His boxers...

Well, just, ugh.

And somewhere, probably on the wall above the headboard, was the top of his head which had blown off when he came.

Behind him, Barbara remained quiet, gently rubbing small circles between his shoulders. Given -- everything, she was content to wait as long as it took. However, since she'd long-ago admitted that she was not a patient individual, it was fortunate that it didn't take long.


"Hmm," she supplied by way of response.

"So that's what all the fuss is about."

Finally, Barbara allowed her smile to show itself.

"It is, eh?"

Without warning, her lover flopped onto his back, barely giving her time to yank her hand from his path. Amused, she watched as he plucked at the elastic waist of the Scooby Doo boxers, his expression of distaste almost comical.


Making herself comfortable, Barbara snuggled close and rested her head on a broad shoulder.

"So, what is all the fuss about, Hel?"

She hardly thought that she could be faulted for a little curiosity.

The brunette's mouth opened, then shut with an audible snap. Taking pity, Barbara pressed a lingering kiss to Helena's jaw, relishing the prickle of early morning stubble against her skin.

"Perhaps," she suggested as she dragged her fingernails across his chest and felt Helena's answering smile, "a little more research might help you describe it."


Chapter 12

When Helena finally realized that his partner was stone cold serious, the words spilled out without thinking.

"Barbara, how can you...?"

He wasn't entirely sure what he was asking. After what Barbara had done -- hell, seemed like she'd enjoyed herself pretty much -- it didn't seem right to be questioning her.

Questioning himself -- his own readiness -- well, that was a whole 'nother kettle of fish.

The redhead shut her eyes against the pain in the words. Collecting herself, she wrapped her wandering hand around Helena's chest and managing a firm one-armed hug.

"I love you, Hel."

Warmed by the solidity of Barbara's embrace as much as her words, Helena turned that around in his mind for a bit; then he turned his face into the mussed shock of red hair by his chin. Opening his mouth, he quietly drew in Barbara's scent, willing himself not to forget.


"I love you, too, Barbara."

Another squeeze was his answer, and they lay in stillness for several heartbeats. When he felt Red's mouth quirk against his shoulder, he had to give into his curiosity.



Still enraptured by the feel of having her partner in her arms again, it took Barbara a moment to recognize that her contented hum might not suffice.

"I was just thinking -- "

"Now that's something new."

The interruption earned Helena a soft thump to his belly. Ignoring his overly dramatic "Ooof" of protest, Barbara continued primly.

"I was just thinking that it doesn't hurt that you're damned sexy, Hel."

For the first thirty-four years of her life, Barbara Gordon had never -- well, almost never -- imagined that she could be attracted to another woman. In the course of the last fifteen months, her beautiful sexy partner had taught her otherwise: Man or woman, sexiness came from within.

It was a valuable lesson, one that Barbara was determined to remind Helena of.


The soft exhalation was so unlike Helena's usual cock-sure brashness. Barbara pushed up on her elbow and sought those stunning blue eyes.

"Absolutely, Hel."

Something seemed to twist a little in Helena's chest at that, a sensation that didn't get any easier when he tracked the movement of Barbara's eyes to his mouth. A little slow on the uptake, he realized it might just be -- things coming to life.

For better or worse, the sounds of sleepy stirrings from the bassinet on Barbara's side of the bed averted the need to determine just what his recuperative abilities truly were.

"I think somebody's tired of waiting."

Slipping from the bed, he crossed to the other side and lifted Kat into his arms. He cuddled her to his chest, careful not to put his face against her skin in case the frikkin' beard stubble scratched her skin.

When Barbara had propped herself up and had the top buttons of her shirt open, he handed over their daughter. The vision of Katharine rooting for Barbara's nipple, the shadows falling across milky-white breasts, the rarely-seen tranquility in his lover's eyes stirred him as always.

God, Barbara was meant for this. He wondered if he was... ever would be.

Slowly, Helena backed toward the master bathroom, waving loosely toward his boxers. They were still damp -- kind of sticky, really -- but rapidly developing a thoroughly gross sort of crustiness.

"Now, I think I really do need a shower."

To Helena's gratification, this shower -- unlike those of the last week -- only took a few minutes. And, it included hot water.

Given the poor quality of sleep that she'd enjoyed for the last week, not to mention the limited quantity on this particular night, Barbara supposed that it wasn't surprising that she felt her eyes drooping a wee bit. With Katharine busying herself with breakfast and the memory of Helena's slightly dazed expression as he'd headed to the shower, a bit of lassitude was more than welcome.

However, when the drum of water from the shower ended and, shortly thereafter, she heard the door from the bathroom to the hallway open, Barbara suspected that it was time to rouse herself. She was pleased that she had when Helena padded back into the room several minutes later, a pair of sweatpants -- and nothing else -- slung low over his hips and a steaming cup of coffee in his hand.

"I wasn't sleeping."

She thought her words had been a little... slow. She was positive that the brunette's smile bordered on what might be termed "indulgent".

"I know."

Her partner placed the mug on her bedside table, then circled around to crawl onto his side of the bed.

"Mmmm, you're an angel, Hel."

Granted, she wouldn't touch the cup until Katie was finished and away from the risk of scalds, however the aroma alone was bracing.

"Huh. That's not what you said when I was in high school."

She almost laughed aloud when the patented waggle of dark brows made an appearance.


Instinctively, Barbara looked down when her daughter weighed in on the issue, charmed beyond all good sense when Helena leaned in, rubbing his nose softly against Katharine's.

"You aren't done already, are you, Kat?"

The question was more rumbling purr than words, but Barbara got the sense of it. Katharine, too, apparently understood some of it when Helena brought a finger to her mouth. The girl's eager suck was answer enough, and the redhead smiled fondly as Helena guided Katie back to her nipple.

For a few moments, all was still save for the minute noises of feeding and the low hum that Barbara had come to recognize as Katharine's purr.

"God, you're sexy, Barbara."

There was no misunderstanding that. Of course, Helena had never made a secret of her -- his -- appreciation for Katie's mealtimes.

With a mighty effort, the redhead ignored her instinctive blush and fixed her lover with a long look.

"I was thinking the same about you."

Barbara couldn't fight a shiver as Helena ran his fingertips through her hair.

"Do we really have to go today?"

Ah. Barbara's monthly dinner with her father. She could understand Helena's hesitation to face Jim Gordon, however, it didn't appear that the brunette's peculiar situation was going to resolve itself any time soon. Ergo...

Sympathetic, she shook her head.

"I'm afraid not, Sweetie. You know that Dad's been fussing since you gave his mornings with Katie to Alfred all week."

She wasn't disappointed by Helena's response. Exorbitant pout notwithstanding, his words were solidly reassuring.

"Okay. The Peapod and I will pick you up after school."

And, really, Helena had to admit nine hours later as the three of them strolled up the walkway to Barbara's dad's house, he had to face Jim sometime. He'd handled Dinah and Alfred and -- hell -- all of the students in class and his coworkers at the Dark Horse. How bad could seeing his lover's father... the ex-commissioner of the police department... the man who made him want to stand up strait and salute... be?

Sucking it up, Helena stuck out his index finger and firmly depressed the button for the doorbell.

Jim Gordon was... family now, right?

He heard someone striding down the entry hallway and half-turned, seeking Barbara's eyes. When he saw what she was occupied with -- extricating Katie from her snugli -- he forgot his own agenda.

"Uh, Babs, you might want to wait on that."

He easily heard the click of keys being worked on the security alarm's keypad inside the house as Barbara looked up. She was in full befuddled mode.

"Why should I w--"

Helena didn't bother to explain: the deadbolt was being thrown, and the door would open. He knew it was Jim's practice to swoop in and relieve whoever was holding Katie of his granddaughter at first sight.

Gently, she patted Katharine's head as if to stuff her back into the security of the pouch wrapped around Barbara's torso.

Somehow, Helena just didn't think that the right time for Jim to see the recent changes in his family was with Katie in his arms.

"Well, I must say -- "

The cheerful words coincided with the opening of the heavy wooden door, and Jim Gordon stepped forward, unlit pipe clenched in his teeth.

"-- that I never seem to have to worry that you'll be late for my Salisbury ste--"

"Hi, Dad."

Helena thought that Barbara's voice was a little... tight, so he plastered on a smile to compensate.


Beneath the resplendent handlebar mustache, the ex-police commissioner's jaw worked soundlessly. With his usual grace, Helena stepped forward and caught the falling Meerschaum.

"-- ake?"

"Yeah," Helena agreed, his smile waning. "I guess you just have to wonder about other things."

Barbara had a fairly good suspicion that her father was functioning on autopilot as the little group made their way into the living room. However, with her attention torn between him and Helena, she simply couldn't get a read on either one.

She held her tongue while Helena returned the pipe to the big ashtray by the easy chair, unable to miss the way her father followed his every move.

Well, no time like the present.

"Dad, do you remember those estrogen attacks across the city about eight months ago?"

Finally, those sharp gun-metal blue eyes turned to her as Jim stroked his mustache, only now beginning to recover its fully glory after the abrupt denuding from one of those attack. Barbara hid her smile, wondering if he was even aware of the protectiveness of the gesture.

"Are you telling me that Helena was caught in... testosterone spray of some sort?"

A brushy unibrow caterpillered upward on his forehead.


She shot her partner a look, and he returned to his inspection of the family photos on the wall.

"Not exactly, Dad. It was the city's latest super maniac," she supplied. "The one who's been transforming storefronts."

Fighting the urge to rock her chair, Barbara focused on freeing Katharine from the snugli.

"I see."

Blue eyes narrowed, and the white head shook.

"Actually, Barbara, I don't. What was Helena doing at any of those places?"

This was the part that Barbara hated: having to obfuscate. She had spent so much of her life hiding from her father, tap-dancing around truths that could not be spoken. Rather than becoming easier with time, it was proving more and more difficult.

Strolling in from his exploration of the living room's perimeter, her partner saved her the effort.

"Trust me, Jim."

Barbara smiled her gratitude as Helena relieved her of their daughter and turned to her father with a very genuine grimace.

"I was seriously in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Jim accepted his granddaughter with an absent nod, and Katharine promptly stuck out one tiny fist and yanked at his nose.

"Odd how that happens so often in this family."

The tone was absolutely bland. Refusing to blink, Barbara met his searching gaze evenly.

"The efforts of New Gotham's finest notwithstanding, Dad, this city is still a dangerous place."

The words sounded hollow to her own ears. They tasted of ashes on her tongue.

They were, quite simply, too close to the essence of one of Barbara's long-standing internal debates: whether the presence of so-called superheros truly helped the city. There were some days -- some years -- that she thought that they only served as an enticement to the super-nuts who might otherwise leave her city to its own devices.

For the moment, she simply gave that worrisome thread a sharp push to the background: truly, given Bruce's forging by fire at the hands of Jack Napier, it was a chicken-or-egg exercise.

Her father's grudging nod allowed her to breathe again, recognizing that he wasn't going to pursue the matter.

This time.

Helena felt some of Barbara's tension depart. When he saw Jim turn his full attention to him, he realized that it was his turn.

"Well, this is certainly, er..."

"Sure is," the brunette agreed.

He cracked his knuckles and waited while Jim offered Katie an index finger to tug on in lieu of his mustache.

"Well, then, Hele-- "

The white brow rose in question, and Helena searched frantically, trying to figure out why he hadn't given any thought to a different name.

He came up blank.

Sure, when Dinah's dorm buddies had swarmed all over him, the thought had crossed his mind. Kyle would be natural enough, but "Kyle Kyle" was just dumb. Hunter: yeah, he probably could answer to that, but, well, there went his cover on the streets.

Helena gave a mental shrug.

"Helena's still fine, Jim."

The brisk nod let him know that the older man had gotten the message. Jim's next words confirmed it.

"How are you going to be able to, er, undo this?"

Without an iota of guilt, he turned to Barbara.

Hell, she was the brains of the operation.

Recognizing a buck being passed when it hit her in the face, Barbara shot her partner a pointed look. Unsurprisingly, it was met with the patented hangdog expression.

"Well, Dad, we're hoping that the authorities can capture him, and his wand can be used to reverse Helena's transformation."

Even as her father bounced his granddaughter gently in his arms, Barbara could see him switching into detective mode.

"From what I've heard, this fellow's going to be difficult to capture."

He stepped closer and handed Katharine back to her, then began patting at his pockets, presumably in search of his pipe.

"He breaks into stores without any pattern. He's in and out before the black and whites even get a notice from the security firms."

Barbara focused on her daughter's face, clearly reading the subtext in her father's words: What if their mystery criminal were not captured? It was an option that she herself had wrestled with during long nights of the previous week. As she had on each of those worry-fests, the redhead simply decided that NOT retrieving the wand was not a possibility.

However, unless she got herself on track and came up with a game plan soon, chances of helping Helena were slim indeed.

Helena, busying himself behind the wet bar, distracted her from her self-flagelation.

"--and if that wand is so fu--"

A soft cough was sufficient, and Helena seamlessly shifted gears.

"-- so freaking powerful, why does he bother to break in and steal stuff? I mean, why not just... conjure up what he wants?"

It wasn't the first time that the question had come up, however before Barbara could respond, her father spoke.

"Well, my guess would be that he enjoys the thrill of it."

The redhead nodded once. That, or Mr. Cape might be limited somewhat in terms of what he could transmute.

Barbara belatedly realized that she'd missed a few fragments of the conversation when Helena returned, offering a stiff sherry to her father.

"Yeah, I am. Everything. "

Knitting her brows, Barbara attempted to determine what direction the conversation had taken. The pieces clicked into place when the brunette waved loosely at himself and nodded.

"Lock, stock, and -- uh -- barrel, Si-- Jim."

She pursed her lips when her father downed his drink in one long swallow.

"Ah. I see."

Jim carefully settled the small glass on the coffee table.

"Well, how are you doing with everything, Hel?"

When she heard Helena's answer, Barbara felt her eyebrows head toward her hairline.

"Well, there's one thing I was really hoping you could help me figure out."

Judging from the color flooding her father's face, Barbara suspected that a strategic time out might be in order. Before she could suggest checking on dinner, her father met her partner's gaze.

"What might that be?"

Strong, slim fingers rose to touch a still visible nick on the brunette's jaw.

"I was really hoping you could teach me how to shave."

Jim looked almost flabbergasted for a moment, then Barbara picked up the twinkle in his eyes.

"I believe I may have a rusty straight-edge and a strop somewhere around here."

Helena blanched, and Barbara cast a reproachful look toward her father.

"Just kidding, Hel."

When Jim clapped the younger man on the back, Barbara thought that her partner stood a little straighter.

"Barbie, can you watch the potatoes while I show this youngster his way around a close shave?"

This time, when her father threw an arm around Helena's broad shoulders and spoke, she was certain that Helena almost preened.

"Okay, let's go, son."


Chapter 13

"Do you think I should wax my chest?"


Engrossed in her research, Barbara responded by reflex. When her brain caught with her ears, she slipped an index finger into the stack of printouts to mark her place and gave her lover her full attention.

"I hadn't really thought about it, Hel. Why do you ask?"

For some reason, she thought that Helena's shrug was a little too casual.

"I dunno... just..."

Pencilling a small check on the page, she set the sheaf of printouts detailing Matter Master's history on the table next to the sofa.

"Just what, Sweetie?"

The brunette rested his chin lightly on Katharine's head, apparently finding something of great interest on the muted big screen. From what Barbara had determined as she'd been reading, Helena had been attempting to teach the infant the finer points of channel surfing before he'd come out with his question.


Cautiously, she rested on hand on his forearm.

"I was just thinking about whether I could wear any of my old clothes."

Barbara's mouth opened, and she tasted air. Acutely aware of the fact that it couldn't be her best look, Barbara shut her mouth, wincing at the audible click of her teeth. Helena seemed not to notice.

"I'd probably be an awful drag queen, but most of them fit --"

That was true enough; Helena hadn't bulked out significantly with the transformation. Nevertheless, over the course of the last nine days as Barbara had continued to look for signs that altered hormone levels were kicking in, she hadn't anticipated this.

"-- and they aren't really Dinah's style."

Finally, Helena turned and met her eyes.

"Or yours, right?"

They shared a smile. A very brief smile.

"I just hate the idea of giving it-- them up."

A light bulb finally began to glow.

"You'll be wearing them again soon as a woman, Helena."

She didn't blink under her partner's scrutiny; however, she did release the breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding when she made out his slow nod.

"In the meantime," she cast about for a positive spin, "perhaps you can actually enjoy some of the perks of being a man."

The arch of a dark brow spoke volumes.

"Well, for starters, there's no more societal expectation for you to shave your legs."

She thought that the look she received was, at best, dubious. However, when thick dark brows furrowed, Barbara breathed a cautious sigh of relief. Her partner's next words, accompanied by a wicked twinkle in blue eyes that hadn't changed at all, confirmed that her stab at humor hadn't been amiss.

"Yeah, and I can scratch in public now."

Helena settled his dozing daughter in the crook of one arm and nodded at that. He'd never really gotten why it was okay for guys to dig in just about anywhere they wanted to on their anatomy while if a woman had an itch in her armpit or something, well, she had to squirm and contort and pretend like that wasn't where she was scratching.

And God forbid if there was something that needed scratching in the whole ass region.

A response that sounded just the teensiest bit cool ended his musing about things he'd done -- before -- when his female ass had developed an itch in public.

"Hel, you've been transformed into a human male, not a Cro Magnon man."

Pretty much indifferent, Helena shrugged.

"Kinda hard to tell the difference, what with hair growing in strange places and all."

He raised his free hand, inspecting the sparse dusting of dark hair that fringed the outer side of the back of his hand. He had to figure that knuckle hair and tufts of fur coming out of his ears probably weren't too far off in his future.

Despite her best intentions to steer matters toward the positive, it was difficult for Barbara to find the words. Helena had always been a striking woman, a woman who was acutely aware of her appearance and who reveled in it.

This change wasn't easy.

For a half-dozen heartbeats, Barbara observed her partner. His studied nonchalance was very much at odds with his words, and, in what she instantly recognized as a rare moment of blinding insight, Barbara realized that words were not the truth that was called for.

It was time to remind Helena that, despite everything, some things had not changed.

Not to mention attending to some desires of her own.

Allowing her smile to show itself, Barbara worked herself across the seat of the couch, half-turning to face the brunette. Then, she took his hand, running the pad of her thumb softly across the fine hair that was beginning to grow.

"I rather like it," she admitted quietly, raising Helena's hand to her mouth.

She brushed the hair with her mouth, hearing the catch in her partner's breathing. Still softly mouthing his skin, she saw the pupils of Helena's eyes morph to vertical slits. Instantly her fingertips tingled with the tactile urge to brush the long lashes, to map that perpetually raised left eyebrow. She wanted to stroke around the delicate cartilage of his ear and raise the feathery hairs on the soft lobe. She wanted to stroke those beautiful lips, trace the sharp angle of his nose, touch the strong pulse in his neck and feel it pound in response to her.

She allowed her desire to work through her, pressing gentle kisses to the tips of his fingers.

"Hel -- "

The night before, after returning from dinner with her dad, neither had been in the mood for much more than dazed reflection on how well the evening had gone. This evening, however, was another matter.

Shit. Was Barbara serious?

Carefully, Helena shifted on the sofa, snugging Katie to his side and bringing himself knee-to-knee with his partner. Her eyes were wide open, offering him...

He swallowed roughly when he figured it out.


Instinctively he leaned in to meet her when Barbara carded her fingers through his hair and tugged him closer. Something electric seemed to spark between them, raising the fine hair all over his body.


Gently, the redhead bumped her nose against his. Then she trailed her hand down his neck, tugging tenderly at the tiny strands of hair that were growing just below the hollow of his throat.

It felt... Hell, he didn't know what it felt like, just that it wasn't bad at all.

Barbara had always considered Helena to be the more physically attuned of the two of them; however, there was no denying the thick, sweet arousal coursing through her own body.

"Red, are you su--"

She wasn't willing to hear any more. Effectively, she silenced Helena's questions and uncertainty with a kiss. A long, thorough kiss.

Their first real kiss, Barbara realized with some surprise, since the transformation.

That thought, as much as the sweet press of her mouth against Helena's, was enough to set her pulse racing. The low sound of pleasure that Helena made was all the invitation she needed to continue, to press forward and to coax him to her.

The kiss was warmly erotic, a slow exploring dance of lips and tongues. And, while Helena remained gentle -- almost hesitant -- Barbara couldn't miss the masculinity of the encounter: the light rasp of beard shadow against her jaw, a mouth broader and deeper than she was used to. Regardless of any differences, the kiss sent a sweet warmth through her torso, a honey-slow arousal.

It lasted for a long time.

By the time they broke apart, Helena realized that Barbara had led their joined hands to her breast. The heavy swell of flesh filled his palm, and he had to fight his own urge to deepen the contact.

The sensation of Barbara's other hand walking the inside of his thigh almost undid his resolve.


With a helluva lot of effort, Helena managed to quirk a grin.

"Why, Miz Gordon, I do believe you're trying to seduce me."

It was extremely fortunate, Barbara decided, that she was so completely focused on physical matters. There would have been no other way that she could have ignored -- well, largely ignored -- the qualms that she'd repeatedly battled concerning the age difference between her partner and her. As it was, she barely hid a wince at Helena's dreadful impersonation of a young Dustin Hoffman.

Still, her training from years on the streets and rooftops of New Gotham didn't fail her: in the face of doubt, Barbara increased the pressure on the strong hand she held to her breast and rotated his palm against her nipple, buried under what she instantly recognized as too many layers of material.

"Is it working, Hel?"

The answer was less than a heartbeat in coming.

"Oh, yeeeeah."

Unfortunately, her normally action-oriented partner seemed compelled to keep talking.

"Does this mean I'm gonna be your boy-toy?"

Barbara blinked and drew back slowly.

Well, that hadn't helped her plausible deniability defense.

The shy duck of her companion's head stripped away any reservations. They were both well past the age of consent.

"Absolutely, Hel."

With that, she guided him to her mouth again for another lingering kiss. Long, luxurious minutes later, Barbara reluctantly left his lips to nibble at his throat. Helena's hitching gasp more than made up for the stubble that felt sharp and dangerous against her mouth.

It had, truly, been a long time.

Still, Barbara could no longer ignore her own body's reactions, especially to the sensation of her lover's roving hand playing at her breasts. When she pulled back a few inches and looked down, she recognized her error: on one side, it was Helena who was driving her to distraction; on the other, however, it was her daughter -- still cradled in Helena's arm -- who was mouthing at her.

And evoking entirely different reactions.

Feeling a trifle schizophrenic, Barbara looked up to capture her lover's eyes. Helena's grin was blinding.

"The apple didn't fall far from the tree, huh, Red?"

Barbara didn't even try to hide her smirk as she leaned in to lick her partner's eyebrow.

"Is that so, Hel?"

She seized his earlobe between her teeth and tugged lightly, earning a heartfelt groan.

"Maybe we can just neck, Babs?"

Her answering chuckle was interrupted by the sensation of a tiny head butting determinedly against her chest, and Barbara's immediate fantasies evaporated with a noisy pop. Her laugh as she leaned back and began unbuttoning her shirt was on the rueful side.

"Sounds lovely, Hel, but I think that Katharine has other ideas."

Helena pouted, but he handed over their daughter without protest. It was only after she was settled in with the girl in her arms that Barbara finally, really, noticed what was playing on the big screen.

An hour earlier, engrossed in her reading and plotting for Mr. Cape's capture, she hadn't paid much attention to Helena's exultant whoop. His whisper to Katharine about having found a classic on the movie tier had piqued her interest enough to glance up in time to catch a title as Helena had turned off the on-screen guide, and she'd had to agree: Any movie with Jack Nicholson was a winner. One with Susan, Michelle, and Cher to boot was a classic.

Apparently, however, her cursory view of the guide had been amiss.

Barbara simply didn't remember anything like this in the movie.

"What in the name of parental lock-outs are you watching?"

With her free hand, she snagged the remote and hit the onscreen guide.

Great suffering V-chips.


She fixed her partner with a long look.

"You are NOT exposing our daughter -- "

A thought struck her.

"-- or me to 'The Witches of Breastwick'!"

Truth be told, Barbara expected a hint of embarrassment in Helena's face, at the least the appearance of the hangdog expression. Thus, when the young man shrugged cheerfully and responded, she had to wonder if the long-awaited testosterone poisoning was finally making an appearance.

"Hey, I had to. 'Alabama Jones and The Busty Crusade' isn't on until later."


Chapter 14

Barbara didn't let them even finish the movie. Helena couldn't say he was too surprised. He wasn't even really disappointed since he had a pretty good handle on the plot and how things would turn out.

Besides, it was cable: it'd be on again.

And, with some dull as dishwater show on The Hallmark Channel droning in the background, it gave him plenty of time to enjoy the Peapod's late night feeding. And, to wonder about what had gotten into Barbara a little earlier.

Red was always the careful one. Making sure she had all her t's crossed and stuff. And, yeah, he understood that she was trying to help him look on the bright side or something, but practically jumping him on the couch?


Really nice, though.

By the time he finished brushing his teeth and changing into the Wonder Dog boxers that D had talked him into buying, Helena decided just to chalk it up to one of those inexplicable Barbara-things.

That, and maybe some maternal hormones going wild.

The thought brought a grin to his face, and he was still smiling when he emerged from the bedroom to find Barbara settled into bed, wearing that silky sleep shirt that he liked. He detoured on his way to bed long enough to press a tiny kiss to Kat's temple, then slid under the covers.

"Man -- "

He shook his pillow inside the case, trying to get it fluffed up just right. Since his shoulders had gotten a little broader, he needed a little more poof under his head when he slept on his side.

"-- after she eats, she's really out of it."


He took that for agreement and flopped back onto the pillow.

"Are you gonna read some more?"

Helena knew that Babs was doing the Major Strategy Thing on Mr. Cape. Since it was probably his best chance at getting turned back, he sure wasn't going to gripe if she wanted to keep the light on.

Besides, he could watch her reading with those fuckin' sexy glasses on.

"No, Hel, I've done enough --"

The redhead flirted with using the word "research" but decided that it was simply too blatant.

"--reading for tonight."

She turned on her side, facing her partner. Unable to miss the way puzzled blue eyes flicked toward the lamp on her bedside table, she sighed. Somehow, she managed not to roll her eyes.

So much for subtlety.

"Kiss me, Hel."

The request... command... whatever the hell it was... shot straight through Helena. He was pressed up to Barbara's side before he even processed the words.

"Uh, okay."

Looked like Red was still... in a mood. He could deal with that, right?

And, for long blissful moments, Helena did. Over and over, their mouths met, his fingers tracing her cheekbones, her hands on his chest. Then -- oh god yeah -- then Barbara's tongue was teasing against his mouth, and he wanted...

Oh, god how he wanted.

The pressure, the wet heat promised him, and the ache kept growing inside, building in his belly. Without planning, he worked a leg over the outside of Barbara's thighs, ready for her.

Then, reality reared up to greet him.

Damnitall. He couldn't do this... couldn't have...

Helena tried to move back, however the most that Barbara would allow him was turning his face into the pillow.

Aching for her lover's confusion, Barbara brushed her mouth against his temple.

"Shhh, Hel. It's okay."

She punctuated the reassurance with a soft kiss.

"It's just us, Sweeteheart, loving each other."

Barbara felt his entire body stiffen at that.

"Do I need to beg, Hel?"

The dark head turned, and blue eyes fixed her, blue eyes that were completely her Helena's, and she smiled. Her entire body registered the roll of his hips against her.

Yes, that was her Helena.

"Barbara -- "

There was a question in the name.

"-- It's not.... I'm not..."

It was, Barbara thought, David Hume who had claimed that the idea of a permanent I was a fiction. Each person's mind is made up of a collection of different perceptions that succeed each other so rapidly and are in such perpetual movement that the self that inhabits one's body today is only similar to the self that will inhabit the body tomorrow. As for the self that will inhabit the body decades away? A virtual stranger.

Catching Helena's mouth again with hers, Barbara nodded minutely. Helena's transformation was more visible, perhaps faster; however, this was still Helena.

"You are."

Helena was a little surprised that Barbara wasn't going on, some longwinded ramble about soul and psyche or something. However, he had to admit that a silent Barbara Gordon could be mighty persuasive, too. Especially when her tongue was teasing his ear and he was wrapped in her arms and -- oh, fuck --

Unable to help himself, Helena arched up into the scrape of neatly blunted nails down the skin of his back. The movement seemed pretty much to put him where Barbara had been intending because the next thing he knew was the sensation of lips and tongue and... teeth at his throat.

Pleasure and pain ripped through him, the universe flashing silver behind his eyelids. Terrified that his roar of pleasure would rouse the Peapod, he buried his face in Barbara's neck. When he'd recovered enough -- barely -- Helena pulled back, feeling something wet on his throat, smelling the copper of his own blood.

There was no doubting that his eyes had augmented.

"Fuck, Barbara."

Those red, red lips smiled in wicked promise, and a growl rumbled forth.

"God, I want you."

He bathed her mouth with his tongue, still able to make out her throaty response.

"You have me, Hel."

Barbara held her breath, as much in surprise at her own wantonness as in anticipation of Helena's response. The latter -- a spine-tingling growl -- erased all concerns about the former.

Before she could blink, she found herself blanketed by her lover's firmly muscled torso, Helena seemingly determined to press his bare chest through the silk of her sleep shirt. Arching into the delicious contact, Barbara had to agree with the sentiment, if not the approach.

"Get -- "

She tried to insinuate her hands between them to work the buttons of the shirt.

"-- this off me."

Instantly, her lover rolled a few degrees to the side, enough for strong fingers to begin working their way down the placket. Rapt, Barbara followed the sure progress of Helena's hand until she thought to look up and took in the raw hunger in his face.

"Just rip the damned thing, Hel."

The softly hissed command sent a tendril of panic coursing through Helena. Sucking in a slow breath, he forced himself to calm down. Very slowly, he palmed a full breast under the silk. Very deliberately, he caught a nipple through the fabric, rolling it -- with a little more pressure than he might have before -- between his thumb and index finger.

Babs didn't seem to mind at all.

"I happen to like this shirt, Red."

He really, really liked it. The way it felt against his chest, the way Barbara's body felt under it against his chest, it all just set him on fire.

Maybe they should get silk sheets.

Focusing again on the buttons, he registered Red's brief nod even as he felt her hands at the elastic of his boxers. Normally so graceful and sure with her hands, Barbara's actions seemed fragmented and jerky, but he didn't really have time to consider that. No sooner had he spread the material of the shirt than her hands were in his hair, pushing him down to her breasts.

Oh, man.

Somehow, he forced himself to slow down, to be gentle, deliberate. He pushed aside images of claiming that sweet flesh with mouth and teeth and hands, softly breathing in Barbara's scent, nosing one firm nipple. He drank in her soft murmurs, mouthing the weight of her breast against his chin until he remembered.

"Oh, shit, I'm sorry, Barbara."

On the cusp of madness -- would Helena never cease the gentle teasing? -- Barbara blinked against her complete bewilderment.

What in the name of faltering foreplay had stopped him?

The sight of her lover touching his chin brought matters into focus. As did the stinging skin of her chest.

Glancing down, she could see a hint of redness marking her pale skin from contact with his beard shadow. Unhesitating, she clasped her fingers behind his neck and pulled him down, brushing their mouths lightly.

"I don't care, Hel."

And, she didn't. It was true that, with her coloring, she tended to get a rash just thinking about this sort of contact. More than one lover in her checkered past had grumbled about the lack of spontaneity created by having to shave before intimate contact. Others had simply shrugged and accepted that face-to-skin contact would not be a part of unplanned encounters.

However, this evening, there would be nothing between Helena and her.

The pressure against the back of his neck increased: crap, but Barbara was strong. The sudden understanding that his partner was rubbing her face against his, deliberately marking her fair skin, sent a bolt of heat and want straight to his groin. Trapping the throbbing thing between their bodies, Helena worked for full body-to-body contact, a long, slow body hug. The pressure of her breasts under his chest generated a phantom ache, a brief flickering emptiness; but the feeling was immediately subsumed by the very real ache lower on his body.

God. It was like having a couple dozen clitorises, all doing a Rockette's happy dance across every erogenous zone in his body.

Barbara watched the dazed wonder growing in her partner's eyes. She could distantly make out the rocking of his pelvis against hers. Fighting a long-standing reticence, demanding nothing less of herself than she asked of Helena, she reached down to position her legs.

"Yes, Hel."

She turned her mouth to his ear, tonguing the delicate shell to get his attention.

"I want you to be inside me."

Helena's choked groan left little to the imagination. His expressive face almost undid her, clear in his disbelief that this was truly occurring. Yet, even as Barbara attempted to capture the moment in her eidetic processors, she saw Helena's expression changed to uncertainty.

"Baby, I don't know -- "

She followed the rise of his hand, the somewhat helpless wave toward his pelvis. She poured every ounce of reassurance that she could into her answering smile.


She waited until violet eyes focused on hers.

"I've never --"

She paused, adding a measure of emphasis to her next word.

"-- ever doubted your sense of rhythm."

That got her a small smile.

"We'll figure out the rest together, Sweetie."

Barbara simply refused to consider how little help she might actually be able to offer once things were focused... there.

"Are you sure?"

Overcome by tenderness, she brushed shaggy bangs back from his eyes.

"Very sure."

Ducking his head, Helena worked for a smirk until another thought struck him.

"Holy crap, Barbara. I'm a virgin."

He didn't think he'd meant to say that out loud. Still, Barbara's totally fuckin' sexy smile distracted him from any embarrassment, much less thoughts about how the hell long it had been since he -- she could have said something like that.

"Not for long, Helena."

Then, Barbara's hands disappeared from view, and he nearly crawled out of his skin at the sensation of those soft, strong fingers on his stiff need. Somehow, Barbara wriggled herself around a little beneath him, one hand still wrapped firmly around his hardness, until she was exactly where he suddenly knew that he needed her to be.

Fuckin' hell, he was so stiff he thought the damned thing might break in half. The heat of her, the amazing wetness against his glans, was making his erection twitch like crazy, and his hips itched to join in.


He could barely hear Barbara's whisper around the rush of blood in his ears; still, somehow, he remained quiescent, allowing her to slide him in carefully until he was stunned by her wet heat.

"God...," was all that he could manage as Barbara turned her head and nipped at his shoulder.

Helena managed one... two long slow slides in and out. Then, his hips weighed in on the matter with a sharp thrust, the sound of slapping skin just incredibly wet and sexy. He didn't want to take his eyes off her -- the round 'O' of her mouth, the sweat beading on her chest -- but when he heard his grunt of pleasure echoed in Barbara's gasp, when he saw something in her face, Helena froze.

"You felt that."

Indeed she had. It was like nothing she'd experienced since -- gracious, possibly even before -- the shooting.

Barbara fought for breath, trying desperately to coax a few drops of moisture to her mouth. She hunted for something to help reassure Helena, who remained locked in position above her, his muscles vibrating urgency, his eyes telegraphing confusion.

Finally, she swallowed and ran the tip of her tongue around the edge of her lips.

This wasn't about her.

"I feel you, Hel."

Before Helena could forget what matters were about, Barbara swept her hands up her own torso, palming her breasts. As she'd hoped, those amazing eyes -- finally -- flashed back from violet to gold. With a final tweak to bring her nipples to aching attention, she resettled her hands on his hips and tugged.

Lord, if she could only use her own lower body.

"Keep going, Sweetheart."

There was no way -- just abso-fucking-lutely no way -- that Helena could deny the invitation. Pressing a hard kiss to lush, red-rimmed lips, he worked to recapture his movement. Awed by the soft, needy whispers from his lover, he deepened his thrusts, damned near ready to explode. But, when he heard Barbara's hiss again, he knew.

He fuckin' knew that she'd felt it.

Yeah, her face wasn't giving anything away. Like always, she wasn't letting it be about her.

Carefully, he worked to match his previous thrust, and the power surged through his body when those amazing green eyes grew wide. The angle was kind of funny; he didn't think he could hit it accurately like this. Still... An image, viscerally powerful, flashed behind his eyelids: Him, taking her, giving Barbara this, making her let go.


The sheer thought inflamed him. The want almost stole his reason.

Working his knees under Barbara's soft thighs, he slammed his hips against hers. Without planning, his hands were rubbing up and down her sides, and he heard his own soft moans with every thrust.

"Hel-- Hel -- "

Somehow, he pried open his eyes, registered that Barbara's hands were on his arms, pushing -- positioning him to take his weight on straightened arms.

"Oh, yeah--"

It came out on a whisper as he grasped the intent.

Helena had to admit that the position gave him more leverage, allowing his hips to rock with gravity, Barbara's fingers digging into his gluts, guiding. He missed the chest-to-chest contact, but maybe when -- if he got better at this...

"Helena, yes, Sweetheart."

He heard Barbara's voice. It cloaked him -- something about letting go -- and Helena knew everything was okay. He felt his scrotum tightening and even if he was no expert in male orgasms, he had a pretty good idea that this one was shaping up to be a winner.

Barbara's teeth digging into his forearm almost drove him over the edge.

"Oh, god, Baby -- "

His whole body was out of control, his hips stuttering against her, the pressure building, and he was... was...

Helena's eyes flew open. Urgent and uncoordinated, he yanked out of his lover, exploding across her. For the longest time, he held himself above her, pulsing and shivering.

Oh. My. Fucking. God.

Boneless, he slid down beside her, his skin flushed and beaded with sweat and sex. Somehow, Babs worked an arm under him and stroked his back, the soft shush-shush of her fingers on his skin accompanied by the almost inaudible drip of his sweat -- and fluids -- hitting the sheets.

Man, changing the sheets was apparently going to be a daily thing.

"Hel? Why did you --"

Barbara had been as patient as possible. If something had been... amiss for Helena, she intended to find out sooner rather than later.

Not to mention, things were starting to itch.

Her lover's languid stretch was reassuring, and mouthwatering. The impish light in his eyes when he rose on one elbow and smiled, even more so. When she made out his dramatically hushed words, there was nothing for it but to join in with his laughter.

"Do you know what your dad would do to me if I knocked you up again so soon?"


Chapter 15

"Honestly, I don't understand why other mothers say that it's so difficult to find a babysitter, Hel."

Barbara absently nodded her thanks as Helena extended the bread basket, and she selected a petite scone.

"We seem to have them beating a path to our door."

She paused at that, considering just how secret their base of operations was when it seemed that everyone they knew, plus all of Helena's favorite pizza joints, were in possession of the public access codes to the elevator. Nevertheless, this morning, with both Alfred and her dad vying for dibs on sitter duties, Barbara couldn't fault their visibility.

"Sure, Babs -- "

The brunette speared a healthy bite of salad and raised his fork to his mouth.

"--but just wait until Katie's a few years older and she doesn't have than new baby smell and all."

She nodded slowly, watching him chew with gusto.

"Well, I can hope that, by then, they'll be attached to her."

The napkin that Helena touched to his lips captured most of his laughter.

"Huh. But, by then, Red, we'll be way too uncool to come to places like this."

Almost choking on her water, Barbara looked around the restaurant. Granted, it was just Sunday brunch; however, it was brunch at the historic Roosevelt Hotel. Barbara honestly couldn't remember the last time she'd indulged in a fancy brunch; yet, when Helena had claimed that he felt like celebrating this morning, the art deco atmosphere at Gotham's oldest hotel -- not to mention cooked-to-order smoked salmon and caviar omelettes -- had filled the bill perfectly.

"Not you, Hel."

She smiled broadly, easily detecting the hint of red tinging her partner's normally blush-proof features. She still couldn't believe that he didn't see how absolutely attractive he was -- woman or man. This morning, decked out in draped wool slacks, a cream Jefferson collar shirt, and a silk vest, Helena was absolutely striking.

Pinching off a bite of her blueberry scone, she looked her companion over again. Although the current hairstyle -- pulled back in a ponytail -- wasn't a particular favorite, Barbara couldn't deny that Helena was eye-catching. He just needed a porkpie hat, she decided, to complete the Annie Hall look.

Green eyes narrowed, and Barbara mentally tossed out the hat: Helena already looked remarkably like one of the characters in the movie adaptation of a certain Anne Rice vampire novel.

"Nah. Couple more years, and I'll have to be around home to fetch Kat down from the tops of the bookcases."

Although she had to wonder if it would take that long, Barbara opted to keep her own counsel on that. For now, she would concentrate on the blessings they had.

"This is a wonderful idea, Hel."

The redhead gestured loosely with her grapefruit spoon, then felt the need to insure that she hadn't overstepped.

"Are you sure that you don't mind that I -- "

She still felt a little guilty for turning their romantic brunch into a something a bit less romantic; however, at some point during the night, held securely in Helena's strong arms, inspiration had struck.

"Decided to make this a three-way?" her companion supplied, almost causing Barbara to aspirate some grapefruit juice.

She allowed one arched brow to express her feelings at Helena's wording. Naturally, he was unfazed.

"As long as you don't let her come home with us. After all, we have -- "

Barbara felt the blood roar into her face when she spied the look in bright blue eyes.

"-- plans for this afternoon."

The accompanying waggle of dark brows was, Barbara thought, completely unnecessary. As was Helena's cheerful addendum.

"All afternoon."

Yet, in the face of a relentlessly cheerful Helena Kyle, Barbara simply couldn't remain stern.

"After a stop at the drugstore, Hel. Until we verify whether you can impregnate me, we need to be careful about --"

The lecture on safe sex that she'd never imagined having to give trailed off under the force of her partner's vigorous nodding.

"Yeah, I was thinking that if we went to that warehouse store where we get Kat's diapers, we could buy cheaper in bulk."

No doubt about it. This was her Helena, growing starry-eyed over bulk purchasing.

Barbara worked her jaw. Her attempt to articulate just why they didn't need to buy two hundred and fifty condoms, all labeled for individual resale, was mercifully interrupted when a familiar voice sang out from behind.

"Barbara Gordon. Is that you?"

Barbara thought that she might have laughed at the panic in Helena's eyes if she'd not shared a small measure of it. Glaring a warning at her partner, she pasted on a smile and pushed back from the table to meet their visitor.

"Hello, Alethea. What are you doing here?"

The instant the words were out, she wanted to yank them back. As polite greetings went, her attempt was simply dreadful; fortunately, her shoot-from-the-hip co-worker didn't seem to notice.


The blue-haired history teacher nodded briskly.

"I try to make it for brunch every few months. A bit of a treat."

Still re-gathering her shell-shocked wits, Barbara nodded and smiled, a bit wildly if Helena's smirk were any indication. Pulling in a steadying breath, she got herself together and returned to her place at the table.

"It's wonderful to see you. Will you join us?"

True to form, the older woman didn't mince words.

"No, thank you, Barbara. I'm on my way out."

Observing the way that Alethea pointedly checked the tiny watch that was affixed to her bosom, Barbara steadied herself.

"One can't lolligag in bed all morning if one wishes to have the freshest fruit and fluffiest pancakes, you know."

A cough came from the far side of the table, an expulsion of air wrapped around two syllables that sounded suspiciously like words referring to fertilizer from a male bovine.


"Excuse me?"

The brunette's smile was utterly guileless.


Barbara narrowed her eyes while Alethea removed one liver-spotted hand from her chest.

"You have to get here early to get the best biscuits," Helena continued brightly.

The blue-white head nodded slowly as the history teacher peered over her glasses.

"I see. And,"

Barbara felt her posture improve just a bit when she was pinned under her friend's gaze.

"-- just who might this be, Barbara?"

So much for Helena's keeping a low profile. Heaven knew, it had been difficult enough for Alethea to accept Helena into her life... before. No telling what --

Suddenly realizing exactly what her friend from work might be thinking and hoping to forestall the gossip mill that ran full-steam in the teachers' lounge, Barbara spoke up.

"Alethea, you remember Helena?"

There was simply no way that she would be accused of cheating on her lover with... her lover.

Although he thought that the old biddy's confusion was almost laugh-out-loud funny -- not to mention the fact that it was none of her damned business -- Helena couldn't just leave Barbara hanging there.

Besides, he'd had his manners drilled into him by the best.

Setting his napkin by his plate, he rose to his feet and turned to face the teacher that had been the bane of his existence not too many years before.

At least, she'd been one of the banes.

"Mrs. Harkness."

For a minute or two, the superannuated history teacher just stared at him, catching flies. Then she took one, then a second, step closer, ending up so close that Helena began to wish he hadn't chosen the garlic aoli to go with his salad. When she kept staring at him -- and making no bones about where her eyes were lingering -- the urge to shout "Boo!" right into her face was damned near overwhelming.

A discrete cough from the other side of the table persuaded him to take the higher ground.

"Heeelena Kyle?"

He smiled broadly.

"At your service."

Accurately judging the situation, he stepped around the table and snagged a chair.

"Please, sit."

She dropped like the proverbial bag of rocks, and Helena helped ease her chair under the table before returning to his place. Inspiration struck before he reclaimed his seat.

What the hell, he could give the old fuss-budget a little something to think about.

Slowly, deliberately, he smoothed his shirt, then reached down and adjusted himself.

Didn't want her to think it was just a pair of tube socks -- okay, two pairs -- rolled up down there.

Reclaiming his napkin, he resettled it on his lap, thinking that Babs' frown would have been more convincing if he couldn't make out the twinkle in her eyes.

"What on earth, Barbara?"

Heck, he'd known the silence was too good to be true. But, since Miz Harkness was Barbara's friend, he left it up to his partner, opting to snag a clover roll from the bread basket and neatly separating the rounded pieces with an extended caressing movement of his thumbs.

"Well, Alethea, you've read about the criminal who has been... changing things?"

Focused on buttering the bits of roll, Helena observed the white-haired woman's nod. He knew that her eyes were still fixed on him and had to fight the urge to squirm.

"Well, Helena got caught in the cross-fire."

"Ta-da?" Helena supplied, popping a piece of bread into his mouth.

Entirely unimpressed with her partner's contribution, Barbara vainly wished for the use of her legs -- or, Great Ahab's Ghost, just one leg -- for long enough to kick him under the table. Mercifully, Alethea seemed too caught up in the story -- speaking of gossip potential -- to mind.

"Oh, you poor dear!"

Barbara touched her napkin to her lips as one spidery hand captured Helena's wrist, none-too-subtlely pinching at strong muscles.

"This simply must be so traumatic for you."

She was glad that she'd chosen the napkin instead of her water glass when the older woman barreled along, simpering about the trials and tribulations of...

Red brows hitched skyward.

Had Alethea just said the words "brutish masculine equipment"?

Dear lord, sometimes it was difficult for Barbara to remember that the woman wasn't a spinster and had, in fact, been married for many years.

The sight of her partner leaning in conspiratorially and speaking with exaggerated seriousness to their guest distracted her from ruminations about how long it took to become a born-again spinster.

"--and you wouldn't believe how hard it is to get used to p-- "

A cough cut short whatever Helena had been planning to say.

"Well, let's just say -- "

The brunette's expression was contrite, but Barbara wasn't fooled for a second.

"-- that I'm just doing the best I can until the authorities get it straightened out for us."

This time, as Alethea patted Helena's arm -- bicep this time, she noted -- Barbara did roll her eyes. Much more sympathy and Alethea would be discovering Helena's choice in underwear.

"Still, Helena, you do make a very striking young man."

When Alethea turned her way, Barbara grit her teeth, attempting to prepare herself for the requisite lecture on cradle robbing. She was surprised.

"I must say that I've always heard that younger is better, Barbara. Is that true?"

Helena couldn't help it: he blew chunks of bread clear across the table.

At least it seemed to give Barbara time to battle back the flaming tomato red blush from her cheeks.

While the two women at the table brushed bits of partially masticated clover roll from themselves and Helena chugged from his juice glass, it hit him how bizarre this frikkin' town really was: For a good portion of the last year or so, Alethea had given Barbara no end of grief about dating him -- when he'd been a woman; and it wasn't just the same sex thing as much as the age difference. Now that he was a guy, she wasn't fazed by it.

Hell, she wasn't really fazed by the fact that he was a guy.

Waving down the wait-staff for fresh place settings, Helena realized that he'd just gotten it: this town that Barbara fought so hard to protect was seriously screwed up. Or, just screwed.

An overnight sex change barely raised any eyebrows. His classmates mostly seemed curious. Red's dad was ready to invite him into the son-in-law club. Dinah's friends wanted to date him. And, heck, even the patrons at the bar didn't much give a damn.

Helena checked himself at that thought and made a mental correction: Some of the frat boys had stopped hanging around during his shifts.

Still, instead of being freaked or anything, even Leonard had even seemed kinda excited about having another burly bouncer around; at least until Helena had pointed out that he'd done just fine bouncing folks out when he was a woman. Then Leonard had realized that some of the clientele coming in on Helena's shift had changed, and Helena heard him muttering something about the Dark Horse turning into a gay bar.

That had nearly cracked him up.

Now, Helena wasn't sure it was quite so funny.

Finally crumb-free, Barbara sipped from a fresh glass of water, noting that Helena's glee had deflated rapidly. Since this scarcely seemed the time or place to see what was going on, she focused on their impromptu guest and her last question. Considering how much obfuscation and outright lying she did in her day-to-day activities, she simply couldn't fathom why she was having such difficulty in coming up with an answer other than the truth: that she and Helena simply hadn't had much opportunity to engage in field research.

Mercifully, the third member of their breakfast party spared her the effort.

"Sorry it took me so long, but I had to call everyone to let them know I wouldn't be at our study brunch, and then I couldn't find my bus pass, and by the time I did --"

The deluge of words abruptly halted as Dinah came to a stop by the table.


Barbara smiled her greeting as the teen pushed a lock of hair behind her ear.

"Hi, Mrs. Harkness."

True to form, it didn't take Dinah long to land on her feet, catch her breath, and zoom off on a different conversational superhighway.

"It's great to see you. I mean, it seems like forever since I've been by school which is really kind of dumb since I'm just across town still -- "

By the time Dinah wound down and headed to the buffet, Alethea had recovered herself and said her farewells. With a distinct sense of dread, Barbara acknowledged that she would almost certainly find herself pinned to the wall of the teachers' lounge during break the next day.

"Thanks for inviting me for this, Barbara. Hel."

Wondering if the Kid was using her TK to balance all of that food on the two plates that she was juggling, Helena reached out and pulled out the chair that Alethea had been occupying.

"I mean," Dinah dropped into the chair and reached for the syrup. "this is waaay better than the cafeteria's food."

Helena pushed back, ready to head over to the omelette station.

"I've told you that you're welcome to join us at home for any meal, Dinah."

He snorted softly, registering Barbara's nod when he inclined his head toward the omelette area. Helena had already figured out that Dinah usually showed up at the Tower for meals only when she knew that Alfred would be cooking.

By the time he returned with a cheese-n-swiss for Barbara and a meat-with-meat omelette for himself, the two were deep in discussion about Babs' plans for taking out Mr. Cape. Dumping a little hot sauce on his pile of food, Helena tucked in, pretty much tuning out their technobabble about triangulating the areas where the S.O.B. seemed to be hitting most frequently.

"-- seems to show a preference for the stores near the business district, so we'll limit sweeps to that area."

When Babs told him where to go, he'd be there.

"And, if you're sure that you can join Helena each night -- "

Carefully, Helena settled his fork on the edge of his plate and looked up, trying to read the Kid's reaction to that.

"-- don't want to focus on capturing him, Dinah. If Helena can keep him and his BDUs busy, then you might be able to use your TK to grab the wand."

With Dinah nodding into her pancakes, Helena turned his attention back to his own brunch. He had to admit that Babs had nailed it: without the wand, Mr. Cape wasn't gonna be any threat to New Gotham, and -- more important -- they could get on with fixing him.

A measure of his satisfaction evaporated when he picked up on Dinah's next words. A big measure.

"So, I'll come back to the Tower this afternoon, and maybe Hel and I can run some scenarios in the training room?"

Redoubling his attack on his omelette, Helena gave a mental shrug.

What the hell. He'd finish up here, hit the drugstore on the way home, and still be ready when the Kid took off later.


Chapter 16

As if drawn by a magnetic field, Barbara leaned closer to her monitor. She was still hunting for any tidbits that might help them in their fight with Mr. Cape, and so she'd been delighted when her information-gathering 'bots had sent an alert not too many minutes earlier: to her delight, they'd unearthed more information on Matter Master and his wand.

It was, the cyber-vigilante mused, simply fantastic the things one could find on Wikipedia.

Unfortunately, further details on Mark Mandrill notwithstanding, she still wasn't any closer to grasping how the Mentachem wand worked or, perhaps more importantly, how it had made its way from the property room of the Metropolis PD to the hands of some two-bit burglar in New Gotham.

A soft thump from the balcony, coinciding with that unmistakable frisson of awareness that she felt in Helena's presence, clearly signaled her partner's return from his appointment and drew Barbara from her abstraction.

"Looo-cy, I'm home."

Rolling her eyes -- how many times had she heard that particular homage to her hair color? -- Barbara turned from her monitor. One jaw dropping moment later, when Helena strutted through the French doors, she was glad that she had.

Right Said Fred.

Even busy cataloging what she was seeing -- from chained motorcycle boots to skin-tight leather trousers to a half-buttoned midnight blue shirt -- Barbara's mind automatically supplied the name of the one-hit-wonder who had come up with the lyrics that pulsed through her.

Too sexy, indeed.

"Hello, Hel."

She allowed her smile to show itself. She simply hadn't seen her partner moving with such a healthy display of self-esteem in much too long.

"I take it your appointment went well?"

Not quite sure what Red was getting at, Helena moved into the living area and considered the question.

Yeah, it had been good of Dr. Frine, their long-time gynecologist, to work him in so fast this afternoon. And, yeah, after Gloria had given him a good earful about the change being the weirdest damned thing that had come through her door in a good long time -- including the Peapod's curing Red's cancer -- the doctor had been happy to help out.

"Yeah, I guess," he allowed with a shrug.

Helena decided not to mention some of the colorful invective involving Ursula K. LeGuinn that the spritely doctor had come out with. It wasn't like Babs needed any more ammunition for her own creative cursing.

Still, he thought he might need to look up those Gethenians and that pheromone sex-changing thing they did.

"She did say -- and I quote -- " Helena held up both hands, visibly supplying the air quotes, " 'If Barbara believes any of that twaddle about not getting pregnant while she's nursing than we need to revisit birds and bees for first graders'."

He waited as his companion carefully removed her glasses and slid them into the pocket on her chair.

"Did she?"

Nodding, Helena just waited.



He nodded once.

"You mean that we can -- I can -- you can -- ?"

Helena decided to spare her the other three pronouns, although he didn't doubt for a second that his big-brain lover could find a way to work them in.

"Uh huh. I can -- "

Narrowing his eyes, he cast back for Gloria's clinical assessment.

"-- well and truly put a bun in your oven."

Since suspicion and verification were two entirely different matters, Barbara found herself at a loss. Although Helena's change had been at a cellular and hormonal level, the concept that her partner -- her formerly female partner -- could create a life with her, sans interference from supervillain-created nanotechnology, was mind-boggling.

Perhaps Helena correctly read her disbelief. Perhaps he had some inkling of the song that had played through her mind when he'd made his entrance. Regardless of the reason, she found herself rapt as the brunette fixed her with a cheeky smile and began to shimmy out of his duster.

"That's right, Red. I've got concentration..."

Barbara certainly couldn't deny that, although what it had to do with the topic at hand escaped her. When he stepped toward the Delphi platform with a swivel of his hips and continued, she began to catch on.

"... and motility..."

That, too, was true.

The redhead carefully wet her lips with a rather dry tongue when Helena bounded onto the platform.

"... and morph-- That morphy one."

"Morphology," she supplied on a croak.

"And," his voice dipped a half-octave as he planted his hindquarters on the table, negligently pushing her mouse aside with one strong thigh, "lots and lots of vitality."

Barbara's laughter escaped her as she moved close to him. It certainly sounded as if Gloria had checked for all of the requisite factors for healthy sperm.

"So, in words that I understand, Red -- "

Blinded by Helena's smile, Barbara didn't have time to be irritated with his habit of putting down his own intellectual abilities.

"-- I've got lots and lots of happy little swimmers."

Snagging his right hand, she pressed a kiss to the knuckles and managed a wink.

"It's a good thing then that we did pick up a few condoms, Hel."

She saw his face change -- just a bit -- and took a guess. Smiling very warmly, she let one hand creep up his leather-clad thigh. With the other, she dug into the side pocket of her chair and pulled out a ribbon of foil packets.

A long ribbon that Helena had brought back to the Tower after their brunch the day before.

"Don't worry, Sweetie, I doubt we'll have time to get through all of these before we get the wand."

The brief shake of a dark head told her that she'd guessed wrong. The hint of pink at the tips of Helena's ears spoke volumes.


Really, Helena figured that he was pretty much being an ass about this: Babs was offering him -- that on a silver platter, and he still couldn't just grin and enjoy it.

Last night, when they'd finally put them to the test had been -- awesome, as much for how he'd felt as for how Babs had acted. His lover had been all over him until he couldn't think of anything but touching her, making her feel as good. But, still, once her hands had crept across him and rolled that thin piece of latex into place -- and, oh man, like that hadn't felt incredible -- it just hadn't been as intense or something.

"Doesn't feel as good," he admitted to the slender hand resting on his knee.

A whole gob of quiet followed that, enough that he finally had to peer through his bangs to see what his partner was thinking. He straightened up with a blink when he saw Barbara toss the streamer of foil-encased latex over her shoulder.


Oh man, had he just blown --

That thought -- and every other -- simply vanished when the redhead positioned her chair between his legs, effectively pinning him in place on the table, and those amazing hands came to the button on his pants.

"There are -- "

Dark eyes rimmed with green looked up, fixing him in place. Almost from somewhere outside himself, he heard the click of the zipper of his pants, moving with painful slowness, an erotic counter-tempo to the thud of his heart.

"-- other ways to avoid pregnancy, Hel."

Suddenly, the tight strain against the seam of his pants was almost unbearable. He was hard as a rock, so hard it ached, pushing painfully under the fly of his pants. Helena swallowed -- damned near swallowed his own tongue -- and ducked forward to seek his partner's eyes. He was only partially successful since it seemed like Babs was determined not to look up.

"Are you serious, Barbara?"

Still working Helena's zipper against the growing pressure against it, Barbara contemplated the question, and Helena's reasons for asking.

The day before had been a full one, pleasingly domestic she could grant, in a their own unique way. After she and Dinah -- and then Helena -- had returned to the tower from brunch, the two younger members of the team had undertaken an extended workout in the training room. After that, Dinah and she had strategized at the Delphi for several long hours while Helena had kept at it with the heavy bag. After an impromptu pizza dinner, after Helena had driven Dinah back to the dorm -- with a stop for ice cream on the way, not forgetting to bring a pint of decaf java fudge back for her -- after Helena had returned and solicitously inquired whether she needed anything, after Helena had bathed Katharine, after her partner had cracked his knuckles and fidgeted through four back-to-back episodes of 'Cops' on the big screen, after she'd fed Katie and they'd finally crawled into bed...

In other words, only after they had both fulfilled all of their self-appointed obligations and duties had they released themselves to --

Well, "rocked my world" was one of the more printable phrases that her vigorous partner had used to describe their activities.

Red lashes slid shut and Barbara turned her head, pressing an open-mouthed kiss to the soft leather covering the inside of Helena's thigh, just above the knee. His restless shifting recalled her to the question.

Last night, when Helena had joined her in bed and turned bright eyes to her, Barbara had wanted, needed, something for herself.

"I'd like to touch you, Hel," she'd whispered, oddly hesitant with this new body in their bed.

She'd heard him swallow, but his sultry smile as he'd turned onto his back had left little room for misinterpretation. Then, finally, for the first time since the transformation, Barbara had been able to explore the new-old planes of her lover's body. She'd been able to trace runs of sinew and muscle, to map out flat planes where there had once been lush curves, to braille the new textures of skin and hair that sheathed Helena's trembling form.

"Don't wax yet," she'd murmured, her mouth brushing the nascent hair on his chest, wanting to feel this difference against her skin.

She'd wanted to touch, to taste everything; however, when her nails had scraped Helena's nipples, the slow roll of his hips and his soulful groan had returned her to his needs. Helena was still learning his body and his reactions, and she would allow him to set his own pace. Accordingly, she'd slid from his body and beckoned him to her. To her surprise, she'd not fumbled too badly with the condom. Helena had arched into the contact, whispering something that had sounded like 'amazing', and then Barbara had readied herself in invitation.

It had been slower, Helena's movements more deliberate, as if he were exploring the experience. Likewise, and unlike their joining on Saturday night, Barbara had been able to observe more, to follow the shifting patterns of her lover's urgency, to begin to learn him. There had been no nails and teeth this time, only the slide of skin on skin, Helena's breath teasing her skin, the flex of his powerful muscles as he'd moved above her.

His climax, she'd thought, had been less explosive; her own response had been a warm surge of emotion that had yet left her wanting... more.

This act that she was requesting was, as she'd told Helena months before, one of the few ways that she truly felt... involved, when she'd been with previous lovers. While Helena always -- always -- insured that she was more than merely a spectator at their lovemaking, Barbara still wanted to feel his response, to contribute actively to it.

"As a heart attack, Sweetie," she finally supplied, not looking up.

The words were hot and moist on his newly bared flesh. Wildly, Helena thought he was going to lose it right there, just watching the hair fall over her face and spill across his thighs, from feeling those sexy, sexy fingers tugging his fitted boxers out of the way.

"Barbara," Helena had to stop and wet his lips. "I'm-- uh, this is -- "

When she looked up, Barbara's smile was sympathetic.

"Think baseball statistics, Hel."

He managed a return smile before his brows dipped in confusion. Naturally, Red caught it.

"Er, how about drink recipes?"

Helena's smile felt a little more genuine. He could do drink recipes.

He saw those lush lips purse, felt a cool breath across his most sensitive flesh and frantically cast about for something he might whip up at the bar. Unfortunately, the only drink that popped into his head just wasn't helping.

"Uh, Slippery Nipple, Red?"

He thought the heavy exhalation he felt might have been consternation, but when Barbara looked up, her smile was serene.

"Alright, Helena. Visualize Alethea -- "

Barbara couldn't help herself: she couldn't let this end before it began; and so she allowed serenity to transform to something impish. Impossibly deep blue eyes crinkled in response... until she finished.

"-- in the shower."

Not giving Helena time to become too fixated on that image, she rested her right hand on him and lifted a little, offering a tender caress of her thumb over the soft skin of the head. The helpless sound he made, the way his fingers formed claws against the edge of the computer table, her own desire were all the encouragement Barbara needed. She inclined her head, resting her cheek on the pulsing warmth of him, her breath whispering through his pubic hair.

"Oh, fuck, Barbara."

"Don't rush me" she chided, then nosed against him.

His penis jumped under her hand, and she caught it in her mouth. The size and the weight were perfect, and she allowed herself a few heartbeats to memorize tastes and textures, to acknowledge the hot ribbons of arousal that coursed through her body.

"Oh, fuck," was the best Helena could manage.

He knew he wasn't asking; the words were a prayer, a mantra. Maybe a covenant.

Helena felt Barbara humming her agreement as her tongue wound around the head of his cock. Her fingers played with his balls, then she licked him slowly, flicking the most amazing spot with the tip of her tongue.

Oh, god, he'd never imagined... He hadn't even allowed himself to think about wanting... It was too much, too one-sided, and he couldn't ask...

And, then he couldn't imagine or think or remember his own frikkin' name when Barbara swallowed him whole, letting go so slowly, her tongue pressing hard against him. Something reminded Helena to open his eyes, and he heard his own groan echo through the great room at the vision of Barbara, her crimson hair falling on his thighs, her head rising and falling.

"Christ -- "

Ecstasy seeped through him, winding him so tight with pleasure that every part of him was singing, vibrating, almost in pain.

Helena closed his eyes, briefly. He swallowed, the sound loud in the silence. Helpless in the face of something he'd never expected, he flexed his hands against the edge of the table, needing to ground himself or... to touch.

Like she just knew, Barbara captured his right hand and guided it to her hair where he could feel her jaw working. Then, she pulled away a few inches and met his gaze, her eyes heavy-lidded.

"Just try not to thrust, Sweetheart."

"Tr-- try," he managed.

Barbara still saw conflict in his beautiful face. Given her own discomfort with being on the receiving end of this particular act, she thought she had an inkling to the origins of Helena's feelings. Yet, this was something that Helena had always enjoyed, and something snapped within her, determination made steel. Purposely, she licked him warmly, wetly, with the broad flat of her tongue. She touched the tip of her tongue lightly to the head, tracing the ridge and promising more. When Helena's fingers cupped the base of her skull, she smiled and took him fully into her mouth again, sucking him down to the back of her throat.

Oh, heavens, but it had been a long time. Even, she thought to recall, with Helena... before. Yet, the taste of him -- of her Helena -- was unmistakable.

As was his choked cry of pleasure.

No longer able to deny that this was happening, that he wanted it to happen, that Barbara wanted it, Helena leaned forward at the waist. He wanted to bury his face in her hair, to press melting kisses to her temple, to shower her with every gratitude and every amazing sensation she was giving him.

When Barbara's lips closed over him again, Helena felt his orgasm surge up, but he fought it back. His lover took him in deeply, then drew up to tease his head, that sexy mouth ringing his shaft just below the ridge of the glans. Through the heat and glory, he heard himself making noises -- a lot of noises that couldn't hide how amazingly, earth-shakingly good this was.


She understood the warning in the hoarse whisper. She didn't care.

Barbara closed her mouth over him, concaving her cheeks and sucking fiercely with just a tease of tongue, her hand pumping his shaft. Every moan that she heard was a caress against her skin; every helpless twitch of his hand in her hair, a stroke to nerves she'd long forgotten. When he came, flooding her mouth, jerking helplessly under her hands and arms, she felt almost close enough to join him.

"Oh god -- "

At least, that's how Helena thought it had started: it came out as a single glottal moan. Then, all he knew was white hot ecstasy and Barbara's mouth sucking, her hand pumping, Barbara taking it all until there was nothing left but dumb amazement. And still, still, she was touching him, milking every drop of pleasure that anyone could ever possess until he knew that there wasn't -- couldn't be -- anything left of him.

Barbara pulled off with a light slide of her lips, but she stayed where she was. She battled her eyes open against the lassitude taking possession of her, drinking in the vision of her lover, his dark bangs sweat-dampened to his forehead, his chest rising and falling against his shirt, his jaw still clenched in rigid pleasure. Idly, she noted that a stack of carefully arranged printouts had somehow fluttered from her table to paper the platform floor.

She didn't care at all.

Through a tender ache of affection, she felt something more, something possessive and triumphant and joy-filled. Breathing in their mingled scents, she prodded at those emotions, adding one more: humility.

After a while, Helena murmured her name, and she pressed a gentle kiss to the wiry hair next to her face.

"As long as you want, Hel."

She took him in, just a bit, and sucked tenderly.

"Whenever you want, Sweetheart."

She met his eyes, pulling softly. It felt incredibly real to offer this, to take part and to increase what Helena felt. To be trusted like this -- to be given the opportunity to guide and to feel every nuance of her lover's pleasure -- was almost overwhelming.

"I love this, Hel."

She waited until slightly-unfocused blue eyes met hers again and spoke the rest.

"I love you."


Chapter 17

"I'm not asking you to give it to me. I just want to borrow it for the night."

Seated on the edge of a rooftop, drumming his heels lightly against the side of a brownstone eight stories above street level, Helena chewed at his thumbnail and considered the request.

Sure, he'd been pretty hesitant in the past to let the Kid borrow his clothes. Barbara had always said that because he was an only child, he didn't share well. Helena had always figured that it was just because he didn't want his clothes to get messed up and come back smelling like sugary non-alcoholic drinks and clove cigarettes and kid-smell. But, he had to admit that over the years Dinah had shown that she didn't get his...

He swiped his damp thumb on his duster and forced himself to think the words.

Dinah didn't get his former clothes too gunked up. And, hell --

He didn't look over, and he kept his voice gruff.

"Well, if Gabby's coming down for the weekend..."

Immediately, he held up a hand, palm out to silence her squeal.

It wasn't like he didn't understand hormones -- from both sides now. With Gabby off at State, Dinah didn't get to see her girlfriend much at all anymore, and he wasn't going to stand in the way of true love -- or lust, or whatever.

"But I want it dry-cleaned and back in my closet by Monday night."

A few paces behind him -- Dinah still wasn't too keen on heights -- his companion bounced on the balls of her feet for a few seconds. Helena's hopes that he'd bought himself some silence while the blonde mentally picked through his closet were short-lived.

"So, Huntr-- uh, Hunter. What is that dry cleaning stuff anyway? I mean, I've taken chemistry and I still don't really understand how --"

He let her rambling sort of fade into background noise, not really caring how dry cleaning chemicals worked. It did the job, and, something he'd never told Barbara, the smell of it gave him a buzz. At least -- he felt his brows scrunch together a bit -- it had before.

Since the transformation, he'd noticed that his senses weren't, well, as sensitive. Sure, he was still head-n-shoulders above most non-metas when it came to the big five, but it wasn't like before. It had been sort of interesting in one of those clinical Babs-working-an-exeriment ways, the first few days after the transformation: he'd realized that oranges didn't smell as good and silk didn't feel as soft and chocolate didn't taste as intense and colors on the big screen didn't seem as sharp and Kat's high-pitched coos, the ones that only he could hear, weren't quite as immediate. But, it wasn't until he'd finally gotten around to the important stuff -- stroking Babs' skin, tasting her mouth, listening to her throaty whispers, smelling her hair, seeing the shifting patterns in her green eyes -- that he'd realized how much he'd lost.

What the fuck. He had a lot more stamina to make up for it. Not to mention, he could pound all hell out of the heavy bag, bare-fisted, without any real discomfort.

Still not listening to Dinah -- didn't she realize that stakeouts were supposed to be about stealth? -- he surveyed the streets below, absently twirling the keys to their vehicle on his index finger. He flirted with the idea of dropping the keys over the edge, just to see which one of them could snag them before they beaned some pedestrian who was unlucky enough to be out in the dark of downtown New Gotham at this hour, until a change in Dinah's tone got his attention.

"Why do you always get to drive anyway?"

Helena turned a few degrees in time to see her plant her fists on her hips. He thought she looked like some kind of wispy elf that was trying to do macho.

"Geez, Hunter, we've been out three nights now, and you haven't let me drive once."

He weighed several answers to that and, after checking to verify that the comms were still off, decided to go with the one that would be the most aggravating. Accordingly, he puffed out his chest and dropped his voice an octave.

"Me man." He thumped his chest lightly with the hand holding the keys. "Man drives Hummer."

That got him the indignant squeak he'd anticipated.


The brunette didn't care that D had broken the whole code-name rule. Who was gonna hear 'em up here?

"If Barbara heard you say that she'd soooo kick your ass."

Very slowly, Helena turned fully to face the young woman, and he painted on a leer.

And a lie.


He blinked when the blonde immediately stuck her fingers in her ears and emitted a chant of "La-la-la-la-la's". Then, he cracked up.

"Hey, Canary, chill. I didn't say anything."

Calming as Dinah slowly pulled her fingers from her ears, Helena raised a brow and waited.

"Yeah, but you were thinking really loud."

He turned back to the view of the street with a shrug, and finally silence ruled for about two seconds. Since that was just long enough for him to start thinking about the intimacies that he and Barbara had shared in the last week, he wasn't completely pissed when Dinah piped up again.

It was all still too... confusing or different or something. The way Barbara was responding to him, the way he was responding to that, it was all... weird. In a really, really nice way, of course.

"I can drive the Hummer, too."

Figured the Kid couldn't let it go.

He knew he couldn't really deny what Dinah had said: heck, he'd taught her to parallel park himself just the year before.

"Tell you what, Canary," he offered a guileless smile. "When we get a team VW Bug or something, it's all yours."

Not completely oblivious to the effects of a TK push when he was standing on a ledge eighty feet above the street, Helena fought back his snicker at the image of the blonde buzzing through the streets of New Gotham in a car with a souped-up sewing machine for a motor. He guardedly glanced to the side, seeing blonde brows furrowing.

"You mean like the Geek Squad?"

Okay, one small snicker shouldn't hurt.

"If the car fits, Canary."

Since the steam was almost visible coming out of her head, Helena took pity on her and fished in his pocket, emerging with a key on a Corona ring.


When he held out his hand, the Kid lost her pout and automatically extended her hand, palm up, to accept the key.

"What's thi--"

"Key to my old place above the bar," he cut in.

When he saw those sky blue eyes going wide, he should have grabbed a clue. Instead, Helena found himself enveloped in a rib-crushing hug that nearly sent them both toppling over the side of the building.

"Oh, wow, Hel! Thank you!"

For a second, he worked to catch his balance on the ledge, then gave a mental shrug and returned the embrace with a gruff one-armed hug.

"Yeah, well, just clean up when you leave."

Another thought struck.

"And leave some beer in the fridge."

Finally, the teen let him go and skipped backward with a laugh.

"Sure, like it's so far to head down to the bar and get--"

He cut her off with a slash of his hand.

"That's. Not. The. Point."

Movement on the street below and one block over kept him from having to explain just what the point was. Already shadowing across the roof toward his target, the dark vigilante toggled on his comm unit.

"I think we've got him, Oracle."

Considering that Red had been cut out of the conversation, she answered just like she'd been with them all the time.

<"Copy that, Hunter. Which store?">

He flowed down a fire escape, noting that Dinah was levitating herself down behind him.

Show off.

"Uh, looks like one of those eBay storefronts."

That was another one of those inexplicable computer-geek things that he just didn't get: a physical store to sell stuff online. Still, he had to admit that it probably had a lot of goodies that might interest Mr. Cape.

It seemed like his partner at the tower agreed.

<"There should be quite a few portable valuables there. Remember -- ">

He heard fingers dancing over the keyboard of the Delphi and figured that Barbara was trying to hack a security camera or contacting the police or hacking into eBay to find the owner of the store.

Or all three.

<"-- don't try to capture him. We want the wand.">

Helena's grunt of acknowledgment coincided with Dinah's chipper "Copy that, Oracle." Moving into stealth mode, Helena brought an index finger to his lips, then pointed to an awning across the street. Dinah got the idea, slipping across the dark street and up to her perch. Helena held his position in the mouth of the alley until the little group he'd spied from the roof -- Mr. Cape and three friends -- were close enough for him to smell their cheap cologne.

The scent -- carrying with it images of being strapped down in a warehouse -- didn't bring back pleasant memories.

Still, Helena had to admit thirty minutes later as Dinah helped him limp off the elevator and into the tower, it had all gone according to plan. Sure, Mr. Cape had slipped away in the fray, but Helena had taken down all three of his Big-Dumb-and-Uglies in a fight that, frankly, had been a lot of fun... mostly. Dinah had snagged the wand and snapped a couple of pictures with her digi. And, all it had cost was --

Well, Dinah had finally gotten to drive the Hummer.

"Ow, Kid," he bent at the waist, wheezing -- actually fuckin' wheezing a little -- when she abruptly jostled him against the coat rack, "Take it easy!"

He realized his error the second that he saw the red head snap up from the monitor at the Delphi.

"It's okay, B--"

Barbara was having none of it. The last she'd heard after a raucous interlude between Helena and the BDUs was that the hired help were tied up in a bow awaiting the arrival of New Gotham's finest and that Dinah had gotten the wand. There had been absolutely no indication of an injury either before or after her partners in the field had gone off comms.

"What happened?"

She waited as Helena gingerly lowered himself to perch on the edge of the wing chair, her eyes automatically ticking across his body for signs of blood or broken bones or ...

"I want a cup."

It took Barbara a second to process the words that he'd gasped out. The sight of his hands clasped protectively in his lap cemented the pieces for her, and she felt her mouth automatically rounding in an 'O' of surprise. Immediately, she tightened her lips, thinning them against the urge to smile.

"Probably a wise precaution, Hel," she murmured, moving close to rest a hand on her partner's strong shoulder.

"Ya think?"

Blue eyes sparked, then the dark head dipped contritely. Barbara simply continued the slow massage of tight neck muscles.

"Next time, I'm gonna cuff their ankles, too," Helena ground out. "Why the hell would any guy fight with a liability like this -- "

Acutely aware of the way that Dinah seemed to have found something of great interest in the kitchen, Barbara watched Helena wave a hand in the vicinity of his lap.

" -- just hanging out there."

Barbara opted simply to raise her brows. Her partner, possibly reading her expression, rolled his eyes.

"Aside from all of the philosophical blah blah about why anybody would fight at all, of course, Barbara."

Ignoring the sarcasm, the redhead smiled and shook her head, catching her lover's strong hand in hers. With her other, she retrieved a golden wand from his coat pocket.

"With a little luck, Hel, the whole thing won't be an issue much longer."


Chapter 18


Empty spaces - what are we living for
Abandoned places - I guess we know the score
On and on, does anybody know what we are looking for...


A little luck, indeed.

With a long sigh, Barbara tugged her glasses off, fixing the item occupying an evidence tray on the corner of the desk with a baleful stare. Rationally, she knew that directing her ire at the Mentachem wand was pointless; however, at this point, it seemed as good an approach as any.

When Helena and Dinah had brought the thing back to the Tower the night before, it had been so easy to believe that it might be the answer to Helena's dilemma. Now, however, it seemed clear that matters might not be so simple.

Acutely aware of the ponderous ticking of the big clock, Barbara tapped the stem of her glasses against her lower lip and reviewed the last twenty hours or so. After she'd gotten Helena settled in front of the big screen with an ice pack, she'd asked Dinah to stay: it was the beginning of the weekend, and having a bit of TK assistance with a potentially volatile implement was more than welcome.

Not to mention, Dinah had a sharp mind for scientific methodology.

They'd begun by handling the wand gingerly, Dinah suspending it in a mental balloon while Barbara tested it for conductivity, radiation, electric pulses, and -- eventually -- traces of psychotropic drugs. Some time after midnight, they'd deemed it... inert, and settled it on the evidence tray that had become its new home. Naturally, Helena had immediately appeared, snagged the wand, and pointed it at Barbara's state-of-the-art optical laser mouse.

"Er, Hel --" had been her only concession to concerns about possible smoking plastic. It had been too late apparently, as her partner had tossed the wand back in the tray with a grunt.

"Damned if I know how to work it."

That had been the first harbinger.

Regardless, Barbara had set up a controlled environment for testing: a cube of bullet-proof glass with a lone pencil inside. Then, she and Dinah had really gotten to work, doing their utmost to change the pencil to... well, anything other than a pencil, only breaking for a few hours of sleep somewhere around dawn. She'd naturally recorded every action and attempt, every variable and permutation, in a spreadsheet; however, she didn't need to look at the neat rows and columns to know where matters stood: At square one.

They -- she -- simply couldn't get the wand to transform matter.

"Maybe it's the cape," had been Helena's suggestion on one pass through the living area during the afternoon.

Barbara had begun to wonder if it might be. According to Helena's descriptions, and based on the somewhat fuzzy images that Dinah had captured on her digital camera the night before, there had to be some reason that a grown man would wear something that garish.

Snorting, the redhead tossed her glasses onto the mouse pad.

Slowly, she drew in a long breath, working to calm herself. She'd finally sent Dinah back to campus several hours before, and now she just needed to organize her thinking, to determine logically what lay beneath the wand's power.

There was, after all, no such thing as magic. Logic and technology could approach magical levels. Genetic enhancements were certainly reasonable. Visitors from other galaxies could be explained. Even luck was a random force, an x-factor that could be accounted for.

Raising one hand, Barbara pinched the bridge of her nose between her thumb and forefinger, the habitual gesture meant to stave off the headache she felt pounding behind her eyes.

It appeared that it could be luck, and luck alone, that would allow her to capitalize on the capture of the wand.

Luck, that must have played a part in allowing Helena to escape his captors just two weeks before.

Fortune, that had contributed in Helena's ability to adapt to the violation of his person.

Chance, that had kept the citizens of New Gotham from encountering Mr. Cape during his unpredictable burglaries.

Fluke, certainly, that had enabled her partners on the street to disarm the criminal so quickly.

Destiny, perhaps fate, that had forced this change on Helena.

An accident, like so many others in their lives, that they struggled together to overcome.

Barbara brushed her hair back, hoping that she'd succeeded in some small measure in helping Helena. Heaven knew, the... adaptation had been unusual and unexpected; however, she remained committed to offering no less than she demanded from her partner.

If Helena had to deal with this, she could certainly -- adapt.

With a rough shake of her head that brought her hair spilling back down, Barbara focused again on the wand. Yet, even as she bitterly acknowledged that she'd allowed luck to play too great a role in their lives lately, her mind insisted on tossing out one more synonym.

Inexorably, her gaze was drawn to the open doors of the balcony, needlessly confirming that Helena was outside with Katharine, and the word whispered again through her: Blessing.


Another hero, another mindless crime
Behind the curtain, in the pantomime
Hold the line, does anybody want to take it anymore


"You know how lucky you are, Kat?"

The question was barely a whisper into the silken red curls pressed to his chest, but Helena thought that his daughter had heard. He'd been showing her how to pick out the best air currents based on the swirl of the detritus on the streets below when a flock of birds had swooped past. Katharine's agitated squirm in his secure hold let him know that she'd seen them, too.

"Well, I'll tell you," he continued when she didn't seem inclined to chime in. "In six months or so when you start crawling, you aren't going to have to worry about any bird poop out here."

Huge blue eyes framed by the longest red lashes ever seemed to grow a little wider, and Helena clearly picked up the milky scent of the girl's breath when a gummy smile followed.

"Yep," the brunette unleashed a smile of his own. "There's a reason that birds never nest on our balcony."

To make his point, Helena spun them in a slow circle, his free hand gesturing to the gargoyles that were, as described, nest-free. When he came to a stop, a chubby little fist grabbed his upper lip, and Helena allowed his smile to transform to a snarl. A low growl accompanied it, but his daughter simply gurgled vigorously.

"Yep. I scare 'em off, Kitty."

Carefully, he pried her fingers free.

" 'Nother couple of years, and you can take over on balcony duty."

When the words caught up with him, he stepped close to the low parapet, letting the warmth of the setting sun bath his face. Even as he wondered what Babs would come up with to baby-proof the balcony -- hell, the Delphi -- he heard the sound of vigorous typing resume from inside. There was no doubt that his partner was still beating her head against the wand.

"You know why else you're lucky?" he whispered against a tiny ear.

He let the familiar clatter of the keyboard wash over them for a few seconds.

"Your mom, she's amazing."

Inclining his head to one side, he caught the girl's eyes and nodded gravely.

"She's f-- freaking brilliant."

It was, he was well aware, only one of his partner's many amazing quality; however, he didn't think that Katharine was ready just yet to hear him go on about all the other things he found amazing. Somehow, he kind of figured that he'd never be ready to share some of them with his daughter.

It'd be enough if, soon, Katharine had both of her moms back.

"Buh-buh-buh," seemed like agreement to him. Still, the sound of soft music coming from the disc that Babs had popped in after Dinah left forced him to be completely honest.

"Other than some really bad taste in music."

He didn't think he'd ever get the Queen fetish, but Helena decided that he couldn't fault his partner that one little foible: She'd been in there busting her hump for him for almost a whole day, nonstop; She'd come up with the plan -- like always -- to get the wand; she'd pretty much let him set the pace on this little caper while he'd pulled himself together; and whatever Babs' feelings were about the transformation, she'd been there one hundred percent for him.

Swallowing against something in his throat, Helena added the most important part: Barbara had pulled him together.

Cold chased hot through his body as he replayed it all, everything she'd done, all that she'd given to show him... The sensory memories ran through him, creating an aching emptiness that he didn't want to look at.

The last rays of the evening sun disappeared into the artificial canyons of the city, and Helena stepped back from the ledge. Bending in, he took one of Katharine's tiny hands in his, marveling at the contrast of her fair skin against his dark coloring, at the softness of her against his toughness, at the smoothness of her against his scars.

Then, with a shrug, he cradled her tightly with his other arm and began to dance his daughter around the balcony.


Whatever happens, I'll leave it all to chance
Another heartache, another failed romance
On and on, does anybody know what we are living for?


Perhaps, Barbara conceded, it was a case of mind over matter.

Straightening her shoulders, she grasped the wand between her thumb and the first two fingers of her right hand and lifted it from the tray. She held it steady, breathing slowly and finding her center before pointing it at her mouse.

The hell with smoking plastic.

For long seconds, she concentrated on channeling her chi, her eyes nearly crossing as she focused. Eventually, she surveyed the results of her efforts.


Not giving herself time to think -- perhaps thinking was the problem -- she raised the wand again, this time simply visualizing her mouse replaced by a crystal replica.

This exercise was, admittedly, less taxing; however, the end result was the same.


The invective had no force behind it. She'd tried this before. Helena had tried. Dinah, who easily had the greatest mental prowess of them all, had tried.

Already planning her next steps, ones that she'd hoped to avoid since disassembling the wand carried a real risk of not being able to reassemble it, Barbara allowed herself to wonder if her lack of success stemmed from hesitance on her part to use the wand on Helena.

Heaven knew, she wanted her partner to return to his true physical form. As brave a front as Helena put up and as lovely as some of the... experiments they had conducted were, she knew that the brunette wasn't truly settled in his new skin.


Yet, from what she'd gathered from Helena's clipped accounting of his time in the warehouse -- not to mention the shape that the brunette had been in when he'd made his way back to the Tower, the ordeal that her partner had undergone for the first transformation had been hellishly painful. The mere thought of inflicting that sort of agony on anyone -- much less on Helena -- was... distinctly unappealing.

A soft beep from her primary terminal distracted her from considerations about how she could test the transmutation of flesh -- before restoring Helena -- once they got the wand working. Instantly, one hand flew to the mercifully still-functioning mouse, and she clicked on a flashing icon. It was, as she'd hoped, results from her facial recognition software.

The night before, after Dinah had cleaned and enhanced the digital photo that she'd gotten of Mr. Cape, Barbara had unleashed her programs. It had been months since she'd allowed this particular program to run unchecked across the Internet; however, the need to identify the person behind the criminal was too great to worry about petty issues such as bandwidth and being flagged as a worm.

"Well, I'll be -- "

The cyber-vigilante heard her own soft whisper as she digested the information that had turned up, then she almost found herself laughing.

Amusement, however, was the furthest emotion from her at the moment.

Great flaming fraternity, Mr. Cape was none other than one Mike Mandrill. Apparently, Matter Master had the ubiquitous unknown younger brother who had somehow risen from anonymity to take possession ---

Three dozen rapid keystrokes slipped the final piece into the puzzle: Mike had a rap sheet for petty burglaries, and his latest capture in Metropolis had coincided with the period when the wand had gone missing.

It was as bad as she'd feared.



I guess I'm learning, I must be warmer now
I'll soon be turning, round the corner now
Outside the dawn is breaking
But inside in the dark I'm aching to be free


Helena heard the soft exclamation from within and decided not to guess whether it was a good thing or bad.

"Let's go check on Mommy," he whispered as he stepped into the living area.

Hell, if nothing else, it was time for Red to take a break.

He settled Katharine into her bassinet by the couch, cautiously surveying the area around the Delphi. Nothing appeared to be... changed, but that didn't really tell him what Barbara's curse had been about.

"Hey, Red."

Helena hopped lightly onto the platform, hoping that he wasn't hovering too much. Something in the green eyes that turned to him let him know that Barbara might not be sure either.


God, he hated that lost look in her face, the hollowness he heard in her voice.

Carefully, he nudged the evidence tray from the edge of the table before resting a hip on the wood.

"What's up, Barbara?"

His mother, and Barbara, had always impressed on him the importance of getting right to the point when it was important. Helena thought this qualified.

"I'm afraid that there's a bit of a -- "

A host of self-castigating words -- many having to do with hubris and complacency -- came to mind, urgent to spill forth. Setting her jaw, Barbara refused to allow herself the indulgence: this situation simply wasn't about her.

"-- a setback, Hel."

She searched her lover's eyes, somewhat startled to find nothing but calm acceptance in their depths.

When had her headstrong younger partner become so mature? Rather, she realized with an flash of insight that was not altogether happy, what had led to the change?

"So, uhm," the brunette brought his fisted hand to his face, tapping it lightly against his chin. "Saying 'abraca-pocus' didn't work, I guess?"

Barbara managed a soft smile.

"Nor 'Hocus-cadabra', Hel."

Or any other of the ten-dozen combinations that she and Dinah had come up with. Given what she'd discovered about the wand's owner, Barbara now had a better understanding of just why that was so.

"So, what next?"

Helena deliberately kept it low-key. He knew that Babs always had another card up her sleeve, and she had said 'setback', not 'dead end'. When his partner straightened up and turned toward her monitor, he knew he'd been right.

"We capture Mr. Cape."

Forcefully putting aside his feelings about encountering the cheesy bastard who'd done this to him, Helena rose from his slouch and nodded.


He cracked his knuckles, then bounced on the balls of his feet. Figuring that Babs was too caught up in her planning to catch on to the fact at a little more intel might be useful, he caved.


Helena didn't know just what he'd been expecting, but Barbara's answer wasn't it.

"Because the wand isn't magic, Hel."

In spite of his confusion, he heard the hint of relief in her voice and had a pretty good idea about the cause.

Barbara just didn't do metaphysical.

"Well," he finally decided, not bothering to hide his grin, "that's good to know."

Flirting with exasperation, Barbara gave her partner a long look.

"I suppose," she allowed before opting to reveal what she'd learned. "The wand is powered by the user. In this case, by Matter Master's younger brother, Mike."

Helena's laugh surprised her.

"You mean that Mr. Cape is really just -- "

She waited as the brunette chewed on his lower lip.

"-- Just Matter Minor or something?"

Nodding, Barbara turned her gaze to the wand.

"Apparently. A genetic link would explain why he can use the wand and we can't."

Since she had never doubted Helena's keen intellect, Barbara wasn't surprised when she saw the comprehension dawn in bright blue eyes.

"So, somebody in Matter Master's family has to use it?"

Helena didn't really need Barbara's nod of confirmation to help him understand why his lover was feeling so dejected. No doubt, she was kicking herself for encouraging them to let him slip away.

Still, it didn't sound that bad, so he turned on his brightest grin.

"So all we have to do is catch Mikey, and we can make him turn me back."

Hell, it kind of sounded like his first plan from almost two weeks ago. Things were slowed down a little, but it wasn't impossible.

Taking another look at his partner's slumping shoulders, he made his decision.

"C'mon, Red. Time to take a break."

The way she jerked her head up, he almost worried about whiplash. Instead, he focused on persuasion.

"You know, a little delivery food, watch a little Max-X, and -- "

Turning up the wattage of his smile, he grabbed the remote for the stereo and waved it toward the unit.

"-- turn off this weird music."

That got him a nod and a laugh, and with a dramatic arch of his wrist, he hit the power button with a flourish. Unfortunately, it wasn't before the final chorus filled the great room.


The show must go on
The show must go on

Inside my heart is breaking
My make-up may be flaking
But my smile still stays on.



Chapter 19

Man, Barbara was sexy when she was thinking.

Pretending to watch some bozo doing something stupid involving a bowling ball and a trampoline on Maximum Exposure, Helena considered the fact that he wasn't surprised that his partner was busy thinking during the time she was supposed to be relaxing.

It wasn't like Barbara could just turn off her brain; it wasn't like he didn't appreciate that she was trying so hard. It was... well, Red needed to cut herself some slack.

And, hell, she was sexy when she was thinking.

Since he'd never been much for self-censoring, Helena muted the television and turned to his partner on the couch.

"God, you're sexy when you're thinking, Barbara."

Suddenly aware that there was no longer sound coming from the big screen, Barbara registered Helena's words, hearing her own laughter bubble forth.

The line wasn't a new one.

Nevertheless, Barbara wasn't completely oblivious to what Helena was doing and, grudgingly, acknowledged that he wasn't totally off target. There was little more that she could do this evening, and she owed him more than distraction and self-castigation.

"Thank you, Sweetie."

She snagged his hand and brushed her thumb across the knuckles.

"You, of course," she had to add, "are sexy all the time."

It was all the encouragement that Helena needed. Instantly, he shifted to straddle Barbara's lap, his knees sinking into the soft cushions of the couch on each side of her thighs.


He thought that the question was almost playful. At least, Helena decided to take it that way.

"So, what say -- "

Deliberately, he lowered his voice, allowing a hint of a purr to tickle against Barbara's ear.

"--that before I go corral Matter Minor, we take this body out for another spin?"

Barbara twisted enough to brush her mouth across Helena's.

"A spin?"

She felt his nod even as her lids drooped shut.

"Mmm, something dizzying."

Helena pretty much figured that Red's murmur was a go-ahead. The way her mouth opened under his and her body arched up toward him sure were, and he'd never been one to refuse.

And, so, he didn't.

The flickering blues and whites from the big screen faded away; the lights filling the living area seemed to dim; even the ever-present whir of the gears of the clock got lost. There was nothing but Barbara: the shape and warmth of her mouth; her breath hot on his face; her hands sliding over his shoulders. As slowly as possible, he made love to her with his mouth alone: his hands sifting over and over through Barbara's hair, he pressed soft kisses to her eyelids; he teased at her ears with his tongue; he sucked at that spot just under her jaw that made her make that sound that...


Barbara's hands plucked at the nape of his neck, then tightened to pull him close. There was no answer for it except to trail his fingers across her breasts. Helena felt her shiver; he ignored the answering ache in his own chest.

"I want to touch you, Barbara."

He punctuated the request with a nip to the slender column of her throat. When he felt a nod, he pulled back enough to work his hands between them and work the zipper of her jeans.

God, zippers were sexy.

Even though Helena knew that Barbara couldn't feel it, he took his time inching his fingers beneath the worn denim. The sensation of wiry curls against his fingers, the softness of the skin of her thighs against his knuckles, almost caused him to come undone.

No way he was gonna blow it.

Slipping his hand free, he brought his fingers to his mouth and knew the second his eyes augmented.

"And you smell good, Baby."

When he felt Barbara moving her hand between them, obviously intent on returning the favor, Helena allowed his lips to twist before he snagged her hand gently and pressed a kiss to her knuckles.

In the course of the last week, he'd learned a lot about this body, the way it responded to her touch. He'd also learned a little more about how Barbara responded to him -- inside her. Helena thought he was getting pretty decent control: it wasn't all Lightning McQueen now, but...

"Gimme a chance here, Red."

Her throaty laugh was more powerful than the hint of her touch.

"As you wish, Hel."

Returning to her neck, he nibbled with his teeth while his fingers returned to their haven.

"I want."

Almost of its own accord, his free hand rose to the outer swell of Barbara's breast, the rasp of his fingertips against soft cotton loud in the silent room. Mouthing a soft patch of skin just below her ear, Helena slowly insinuated two fingers between Barbara's legs.


Barbara's low sound of approval was as good as a shout: Red had never been vocal. But, the real reward was the thin trickle of moisture the Helena found, the slow swelling of tissue that couldn't feel -- but that could react.


He fought his urge to rush, the instinct to take. Instead. Helena kept his focus on the areas that Barbara could feel. In return, he felt that insistent hand on him again, slender fingers teasing at the crease of his body and thigh.

Since he was already plenty aroused, Helena couldn't tamp down on his response. The sensation of his lover's sly grin against his temple said that she'd felt it, too.

Tempering her smile to something else, Barbara turned to her lover, opening her mouth to his questing strokes. Even as she swallowed his soft moans, she worked to catalog the riot of sensations that he was creating with his mouth on hers, his hand teasing her breast.

How had she ever come to believe that she wouldn't respond to this?

Nevertheless, as... distracting as Helena might be, she refused to lose her own focus. Since her partner was attired in loose sweatpants, it was a simple matter to slip her hand under the elastic, to delve into the sexy fitted boxers and to...

"Oh god, Barbara."

Memories of another time, almost a year before as they'd explored new intimacies, danced behind Barbara's eyelids. Her infallible memory insisted on supplying words that one of them had breathed in the afterglow of a particularly stunning moment, something about a second coming. Awed by the roads they'd traveled in the last year, she nipped at Helena's jaw and worked her hand into a fist around him. Catching a drop of pre-ejaculate from the tip on her thumb, she worked it over pulsing hardness and then began to stroke slowly.

"I love you, Hel."

The words alone almost undid him, but Helena held it together. He couldn't stop the sudden buck of his hips against her palm, the movement driving his own hand more firmly against her drenched center.

Realization struck, and he twisted his face into her shoulder, squeezing his eyes shut. He could hear Barbara's pulse rate trebling. Stilling his hand against her, he felt the moisture pooling against his fingers as Barbara stroked him, her labia pulsing against his hand in time with her movements.


He heard a soft sound and clenched his jaw when he recognized it as his own. He hoped to god that his lover thought that the noise signaled his pleasure.

But, this wasn't going to be about him.

Resolve renewed, he raised his head and captured his lover in a bruising kiss, separating to bring them forehead to forehead.

"You need to let go, Red."

Helena felt an eyebrow twitch against his, made out the word 'why' from the way her mouth moved into a soft 'o'. He answered with a slow smile.

"Cuz I'm gonna stand up and carry you into the bedroom now."

Barbara pulled away, allowing her head to rest on the tall back of the couch as she searched her partner's face. Helena met her inspection evenly, the dark violet of his eyes unmistakable. When he shifted to stand, she inclined her chin to the oddly shaped bassinet next to the arm on her side of the sofa. Instantly, Helena's expression was serious.

"Don't worry, Barbara. I'll hear her if she wakes up."

Despite the reassurance, Barbara felt a cold ribbon of uncertainty wind around her spine. She easily recognized that it had nothing to do with their sleeping child, and, perhaps, Helena saw and understood it as well. He remained still before her, arms loose at his sides, palms out.

Waiting for her to decide.

Swallowing her discomfort, the redhead nodded once and raised her arms. Before she could catch her breath, she was in her lover's strong arms, her own arms instinctively wrapping around his neck as his mouth came to her throat again.

"Hel -- "

Uncharacteristically, Barbara wasn't certain what she'd intended to say. It didn't seem to matter, her partner's soft growl answer enough. By the time they reached the bedroom and he settled her on the bed, two big pillows propped behind her, Barbara decided that words might be unnecessary altogether.

For several long moments, Helena remained still at the side of the bed, one knee resting on the mattress. Transfixed, Barbara watched the measured rise and fall of his chest, working not shift herself on the bed under his stare.

There was something almost palpable in his intent, his need. Unsettled that she couldn't put a name to it, she reached back, gathering her hair from behind her neck with a practiced gesture and moving it to one shoulder. She saw his nostrils flare before strong hands grasped the bottom of his tee, working it over his head with a mouthwatering ripple of tight abs.

Her mouth instantly went dry when Helena settled himself beside her, the lean length of him pressed against her side as he supported himself on one elbow. Barbara tried to catch his eyes but his concentration was fixed on his free hand, moving down her chest, popping open the buttons of her oxford with confident ease.

Dear heavens but Helena possessed concentration.

She was vividly, vividly reminded of her lover's unwavering focus when he moved to her nursing bra. Helena was so close, his hand tracing her aching nipples through the cloth, his breath hot on her chest.

Barbara struggled to breathe as, with excruciating patience, Helena coaxed her nipples through the fabric, his lips gliding over the full swell of her breasts. She felt the barest flicker of tongue on one rigid peak before violet eyes rose to view, a sensuous smile curving the brunette's lips.

"You want to keep going, Red?"

The redhead heard her own laugh, somehow rueful and strangled and desperately, desperately needy all at once.

"I don't think that saying 'no' is an option at this point, Hel."

Barbara's smile flashed bright in the dim room; the brush of her hand through his bangs pulled him toward her like a Siren.

"Thank god," he managed as he stroked the clothes from her body.

His own disrobing was faster and decidedly less graceful, as was rolling on the damned latex, but when Helena lowered his body fully onto Barbara's he didn't care. Full body, skin-to-skin, Barbara's breasts cushioning his chest, the heat between her legs causing his erection to twitch against her belly: it was amazing all over again.

"You -- "

It was all he managed before he felt her tongue tracing his lips. Ensnared, he allowed her in, forgetting everything when their mouths mated and he worked to pull her into him further. His hips pistoned and instinct reared to life. Helena already had his legs spread, ready to mount Barbara's leg and grind himself to heaven, when he came back to his senses.

Not... that.

Gently, he disengaged himself from her lips and worked a smile.

"Minx," he murmured softly, refusing to be taken in by his lover's pout.

He had... plans. Plans that he almost forgot again when slender fingers dug into his shoulders, pushing him down to Barbara's breasts. For an eternity, he lost himself, painting pale aureoles with his tongue, then watching the flesh pucker as he blew softly across it. He nibbled gently, rocking slowly against her hip when he pulled one straining peak into his mouth to suckle.

The sensation of hands in his hair, pulling him closer still, reminded Helena that it wasn't about that.

"Harder, Hel."

Or, not just about that.

Those clever, clever fingers swooped across his back, then danced between their bodies to circle his navel, dipping lower. Skittering back a few inches, Helena grunted softly. Since he'd figured out that she liked a hint of pain with her loving, he raked his beard shadow against the softness of Barbara's breasts.

The way she arched under him set him on fire.

Ignoring the pulsing low in his belly, fighting against the desire to meld into her, Helena came up on his hands and knees. Hovering above all that satin skin, the brush of her curls against his erection almost caused him to forget himself. Barbara's whisper recalled him.


There was no demand in the question, only the elegant arch of a finely sculpted brow giving away Barbara's uncertainty. For a heartbeat, butterflies thundered in his chest, and Helena caught his lower lip in his teeth.

The stroke of her hand against him, the flare of arousal in emerald eyes, sealed his resolve, and he stretched a little to the side to snag a few pillows from his side of the bed. He didn't miss the way Barbara's eyes followed the line of movement in the muscles in his chest or the frank appreciation in her eyes, so he gave it an extra flex -- a little more show -- on the way back.

"I want to turn you over, Babs."

He kept his voice low, factual, and punctuated the words with a nip to her ear, gratified by the shiver that ran through her upper body.

"Mmm? Is that so?"

For her part, Barbara kept it cool. It wasn't terribly difficult, given that her ardor had just ratcheted down a few notches with two almost-audible accompanying clicks.

Helena's voice was a warm burr, his tongue tracing her ear. It was all distracting enough that Barbara first thought that she'd mis-heard his words.

"Yeah. Then, I want to get you up on your hands and knees."

Barbara's stomach clenched with sour terror. Only years of training kept her from scrabbling upward in the bed.

Dear god, she couldn't -- She didn't have the muscle control.

Fingers swept across the underside of her breast, the movement patient and steady. Barbara managed to swallow, got her breathing under control, and felt Helena's nod.

"I wanna feel you pushing back on me -- "

When Helena's tongue danced against her ear, working a shallow rhythm that had little to do with matters above the waist, Barbara found herself visualizing the picture that her lover painted.

"-- feel you taking what you want."

Swallowing dryly, she looked down and saw Helena's erection twitching against her hip. Cautiously, she rested her hands on his lower back, feeling the play of muscles wound taught.

Something hot pulsed through her when she realized what she was feeling: Helena was struggling not to thrust against her.

Yet... Yet, how could he ask this? He knew that she couldn't...

Barbara squeezed her eyes shut, aware that Helena hadn't moved save for the slow sweep of strong fingers across her br--

Understanding dawned, and she corrected her perception: Helena's hand was over her heart.

The thunderous pounding under his hand was indication enough, so Helena kept it slow, letting Barbara get used to the idea. He could feel -- hell, smell -- the fear rolling off of her and wanted to give her time.

Cripes, it wasn't like he hadn't thought about it and had to screw up his own courage, but after everything in the last week -- after feeling the way Barbara almost responded to him and the way he couldn't quite help her -- he figured it was his best shot.

When her breathing slowed, when he saw her eyes open, he moved away from the tempting flesh of her ear.

God, she had sexy ears.

The flesh of her throat was too close to ignore, and so he raked the tendon lightly with his teeth.

No biting. Yet.

Her hands moved to his back, trying to coax him down, onto her. He didn't give in, but he did raise his head and rested his forehead lightly against hers, waiting for wide green eyes to meet his.

"I've been thinking about this, Red."

Helena allowed himself one slow rolling thrust of his hips. He knew that Babs hadn't felt it where his lower body touched hers, but her sharp hiss let him know the message had been received.

Man, had he been thinking about it.

There was no way that Barbara could ignore the frank desire in violet eyes, and she swallowed roughly, hunting for a way to explain.

"It's not something I can do, Hel."

Helena hated the thinly veiled bitterness that colored the words. He clenched his jaw against everything Barbara was denying.

Fuck, he'd seen enough -- Hell, he'd heard a few not-revellations -- over the last year and some-months to guess that his lover had a few desires of her own.

"You can with me, Barbara."

Worrying at her lower lip with her teeth, the redhead decided that she would simply will herself not to fall into the trap.

This... what Helena was suggesting... or offering... or asking for... was something she'd forced herself to stop wanting. During those long and mostly lonely years after the shooting, she hadn't ever allowed herself to imagine recreating a connection that she'd adored so back in the day.


"-- I'll hold your hips. You hold your upper body and push, and my hands can be the... pivot."

In the face of geometry and logic, embarrassment fled, and Barbara got it.

Dear heavens, he had been working the angles.

"Fulcrum," she murmured, threading her fingers through thick hair.

Helena felt something turn a little in the redhead. It wasn't a one-eighty, but he was more than willing to meet her part way.

Brushing his mouth against hers, he tried again.

"Try it for me?"

Helena's eyes were blue, Barbara saw. Unable to form the words, she finally nodded. Helena's answering smile was a promise that she took deep within her as he helped her turn onto her left side.

By the time Barbara was partially over, she was already reaching for the extra pillows, and Helena quirked his lips.

Nobody could ever say that once Barbara committed herself she didn't jump in all the way.

Still, he didn't want to rush, so he reached over her and wrapped his fingers around her wrist, gently tugging her arm back. Spooning tight to her back, he pressed a kiss to the thick hair that covered her neck and worked his hand to her breast.

"That's my girl," he whispered, cupping her breast, the nipple pebbling against his palm and setting his hips to rocking.

For a few seconds, Helena indulged himself, allowing himself -- just for an instant -- to pretend that he still had breasts and flesh that responded to that sort of touch. He could almost feel the pressure, the heat and ache and the letting go.

The loss.

Roughly, he pulled himself up on one elbow and surveyed the long body stretched out against him.

"God, you're so fuckin' beautiful."

He licked her shoulder, jerking at her shiver of pleasure. After a moment of internal debate, he screwed up his courage and spoke the rest.

"So beautifully fuckable, too."

The words startled her, carrying with them a coarseness that she'd never much cared for; however, Barbara tamped down on her gut response and weighed her lover's meaning. She'd heard the hesitance when he'd spoken; she could feel the steel tension in his muscles against her; and she knew that he was waiting for her judgment.

He was waiting in fear of her reaction to wanting her.

Barbara twisted her upper body, just enough to find Helena's eyes.

"Show me, Hel."

There wasn't enough air in the room, but he made himself speak.

"I will, Baby."

And, he did.

Helena was so gentle, his movements so certain and tender, as he moved her into position. Almost, Barbara grasped, reverent. It was, she acknowledged, the only thing that helped her through being... handled as he positioned her, helped her settle herself over a mound of pillows.

Dear heavens, had she really ever done this? Had she ever allowed herself to be so exposed?

Naked, propped ass-upward over stack of pillows, the redhead was assaulted by a kaleidoscope of images, courtesy of her eidetic memory, confirming that, yes, she had indeed.

The sensation of Helena pressing his length against her, blanketing her from head to toe from behind, ended the slideshow, replacing it with a different memory. Barbara gasped against the sheets at the remembered sensation of the first time Helena had done this, the electric awareness of a woman's breasts against her skin. Now... it was hot skin and hard muscle and...

"Ready, Baby?"

And, it was still Helena.

Swallowing audibly, Barbara nodded, then pushed her hair from the side of her face. Carefully, Helena helped her come to her knees, pausing only to bend in and press an open-mouthed kiss to her waist.

"God, just thinking about you... riding me like this..."

The words were enough to bolster Barbara's flagging courage. She felt her legs being arranged a little, the strength and solidness of her lover's arm around her waist reassuring.

In the eight-plus years since the shooting, she had never done this. She'd never allowed it. It left her too dependent, too... open. Yet, when she heard the quiet whimper from Helena behind her, Barbara suddenly found that her fear had vanished.

Helena had always shown her what true vulnerability and courage were.

Looking back, Barbara found that Helena had mated the front of his thighs to the back of hers. Before she could look up and refocus on the headboard, she lost the sensation of the arm that had been holding her. Her heart thumped into her throat until a stubbled jaw brushed her shoulder.

"Easy, Babe. I've got you."

She glanced down and to the side and saw that her partner had a firm hold around her hips, just above where her thighs creased into her torso. She couldn't feel the hold, but it was exactly where it needed to be for the leverage that Helena had described.

Behind her, Helena surveyed the arrangement. It was hard to focus on the mechanics of the operation, what with all of that soft skin in front of him and Barbara's muscles tensed and ready, but he thought it should work.

It would work.

His left arm secure under her pelvis, he palmed her hip. The sweet flesh was warm and ripe under him, and he wished that -- just once -- Barbara could feel it.

Feel him.

Shaking that off, he moved in, reaching between them to guide himself. Before the head touched her swollen lips, he felt the moisture, and arousal surged through him like electricity.

How could she be so fuckin' ready? Her thighs were wet.


Green eyes peered back through a fall of long hair, and he sucked air through his gritted teeth.

"Hang on a sec, Red."

Still supporting Barbara's lower body with one arm, he leaned down, covering her back with his chest. When the thump of his heart came into rhythm with hers, he rose to his knees again and sought wet heat, sliding home.

Maybe it was the angle, but she felt... Oh, yeah, Barbara was tighter than any of the other times.

"You're so beautiful."

Slowly, he pulled back, stopping when a tight band of muscle ringed the head of his cock. Sucking in a long breath, he slid in again, the ample lubrication erasing any resistance as he was fully enveloped. Another second to regroup, and then he feathered his free hand across Barbara's shoulders, dragging his finger tips down her back. The redhead's shudder transmitted itself through his fingers, through their joined bodies, and Helena heard a whisper that was almost masked by the thickness of passion... and tears.

"You make me beautiful, Hel."

His own voice was rough when he managed to speak, as he panted softly against the urge to move.

"Is this okay?"

Barbara cautiously pushed against the mattress. As promised, her body moved backward, her hips the promised pivot point. Although there was no sensation for her, the trembling that she could feel in the strong hand that stroked her back let her know that Helena was enjoying this.

Nevertheless, there was no need to assume that there weren't other options.

"I need a little more leverage," she admitted, working her arms directly under her torso.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Tentatively, Barbara pushed herself backward again, and lights fired behind her eyelids.



Dear heavens --

"T-- there, Hel."

Had that been her voice?

The question was distant, clearly unimportant. Her lover's response was more than enough.

"I'm not moving, Baby. It's all up to you."

For a moment, she froze, then tried again. And, then, Barbara Gordon was lost, rocking against her lover, feeling -- actually feeling -- Helena inside her, touching her over and over.

One spot...

Nobody but Helena.

Only Helena, designed just for her.

Behind her, Helena moved his free hand to her hip, working to stabilize Barbara. He didn't want her to have to worry or think or do anything except... feel. The muscles in his belly clenched, and he bit at the inside of his cheek.

He was going to keep his promise. He wasn't going to move.

But, god, it was gonna be a killer, watching the muscles in Babs' forearms flex, seeing the drops of sweat beading on her back, hearing the slap of flesh against him.

He just was not going to think about what he was feeling as Barbara finally took control of her own pleasure; but, the sound that Barbara made shattered his resolve: Helena felt his nerves go light and noise; his balls drew tight against him; the muscles in the back of his thighs cramped against the need to thrust.

That noise, Barbara's cry: it was low and hoarse and needy and just totally fucking into it.

Helena knew that he'd never heard that kind of sound from his normally controlled partner. He kind of thought he'd never heard it from any partner before it.

God, Barbara loved this. She ab-so-fucking-lutely loved this.

Ducking his head, Helena sank his teeth into his bicep, buying himself some time. The sharp tang of blood in his mouth didn't help much, but the flare of pain was just enough for him to keep it together.

Barbara was glorious.

Strands of hair were sticking to her neck and face. She was arching against him, her movements measured and forceful. Smooth muscles knotted under her skin and her face --

Helena had to look away.

The rapturous hunger was too much.


The gasping invocation was all that Barbara could manage. The orgasm was building hot and heavy inside her, waiting to burst like a summer storm. Like the moments before a storm, she could feel the electricity sparking on her skin, and she knew that she would be torn apart.

She was exhilarated.

And terrified.

"I'm here, Barbara. It's okay."

With five words, her mind cleared, and she put herself in Helena's hands and let go.

She soared.

And when Barbara's arms gave out and she started to fall, Helena caught her, cradling her to the mattress and blanketing her shivering form with his body.


Helena's arms trembled beneath him, and he lowered himself, grinding his chest against his partner's back. He came up empty.

There just wasn't any of that pressure and pain and burning heat that he'd had before, when his body was built... for that. Something cold and sharp lanced him, and he held Barbara closer, understanding that now things were different.

He was built... for this. For Barbara.

Barbara loved this.

His erection softening, Helena grunted softly and pushed his hips against his partner before he pulled out. He didn't know if Barbara was paying much attention, but she didn't need to think about it.

Reaching down, he stripped the empty condom off and let it fall to the floor before settling behind her. The brunette nosed Barbara's armpit, then sampled a drop of sweat from her shoulder.

God, how could something so amazing hurt so much?

Feeling blinded, dumbstruck, pole-axed -- not to mention utterly, utterly limp -- Barbara dragged herself to some semblance of awareness when something tickled her back. She arched into the sweet contact and laced her fingers with Helena's, utterly confident that she was taken care of wrapped in Helena's arms.

"Dear god, Helena."

Words failed.

Barbara honestly didn't know the last time she'd given control like that.

If ever.

Red lashes drifted shut, and Barbara relaxed in the knowledge that, even as he'd asked so much from her, Helena had still left it all in her hands.

Helena wouldn't let himself pull away: he snugged Barbara closer, allowing his hand to be coaxed up to cover one of her breasts.


There weren't any words for this.

Still awed, he ignored the ache between his legs and, deep inside, the bigger chasm of his own feelings. When he got up, when he got into the shower maybe, he'd push 'em all into a lock box somewhere inside his rib cage and forget all about them. For now, there was Barbara and the hint of a tremor he could feel that probably didn't have anything to do with post-orgasmic glow.

Barbara's rough swallow confirmed it: she was close to tears.

Helena kept his peace, brushing tender kisses to his lover's back, giving her time to come to terms. Eventually, a deep breath hinted that she was finding her center, and Helena spoke quietly.

"You ready for some water?"

"N--not yet."

Red's voice was rough, maybe a little lost still; and so Helena distracted himself by scootching down the bed to follow the trail of sweat down her back with his tongue. He stopped only when he reached her waist, where he knew that sensation bled away to emptiness.

"What are you doing?"

With the emphasis on the second word suggesting amusement more than anything, Helena smiled against the rich flesh of his partner's hip.

"Told you I wanted to lick your back."

Since Barbara did recall her lover mentioning that, she contented herself with a sigh and rolled her upper body onto her back. Magically -- or, more accurately, through the magic of Helena -- her legs followed. When she looked down, she found bright blue eyes regarding her evenly from the level of her hip.


Needing the connection, the redhead reached for him. Instantly, Helena was atop her. The crush of her breasts under the smooth muscles of his chest was powerfully reassuring, and she basked in the moment.

When she made out Helena's low rumble, Barbara was reminded that she wasn't a basking sort of individual.

"Thank you -- "

She hunted for the blue eyes that were curtained by the fall of unruly dark bangs as Helena whispered the rest.

"-- for sharing that with me, Barbara."

For an instant, she fought to breathe, then she reached for a smile.

"Something different every now and then, Sweetheart?"

Helena's first response was a minute nod, however when Barbara saw the speculative gleam in his eyes, she held her breath.

"Maybe I can rig up a couple of grab-bars from the ceiling."

The redhead pursed her lips, then gave in to curiosity.

"To what end, Hel?"

The brunette's expression, she thought, was smack in the middle of mischief and seduction.

"So you can hang on, you know, use your arms to ride me on top?"

Since she suspected that such an endeavor would be quite a ride indeed, Barbara tried valiantly to picture it. Ultimately, her pragmatic side got the best of her.

"Sorry, Hel," she punctuated the demurral with a kiss to his jaw, "but I don't think that I have the arm strength to -- "

Green eyes tracked a bit to the left as Barbara searched for the words she wanted.

"-- chin-up our way to sexual euphoria."

Good heavens, just thinking about it gave her a cramp; however, judging from the expression on Helena's face, thinking about it was leading her randy partner in a different direction. His words, delivered with a decided smirk, earned him a swat.

"Yeah, but think how much fun it would be to watch you working your pecs."


Chapter 20

Barbara Gordon was not amused.

True, it had been her idea to leaflet the city in search of Mr. Cape, or, as Helena had dubbed him, Matter Minor.

It had been Dinah's idea to place an advertisement in the New Gotham Register's lost and found section: "Found: Mentachem wand. Call to claim."

It had been Helena's idea to sneak into the city jail and have a chat, presumably involving fists, with their burglar's hired help. When Barbara had nixed that idea, he'd agreed to canvass the streets and to talk with the junkies and the homeless people and the scavengers that might be able to relay a message to Mandrill.

Although it had been the classified ad that had done the trick, the redhead was beginning to wish that she'd been more open to employing Helena's techniques.

If not for the original intel, then at least for this meeting.

"I thought you were gonna bring the wand."

Since Barbara was of the opinion that they'd covered this point very clearly during the initial telephone conversation, not to mention several times since Mr. Cape had arrived -- sans cape -- for their meeting, she was sorely tempted to adopt some of Helena's suggested techniques for dealing with the man.

Of course, given the fact that her meeting with Mike was in a very public, neutral location -- The Burger Bucket on the outskirts of the city -- Barbara doubted that a display of force would be advisable. Her partner, tucked in a booth in the far corner of the restaurant, didn't seem to share her reservations.

<"Lemme just pulp him a little, Red.">

"Noooo," she drew the word out, both for the man across the table and for the person listening through the comm set. "We agreed that we wouldn't arrest you. The wand comes later."

She waited while Mandrill swiped a French fry through a healthy mountain of ketchup and popped it into his mouth. Barbara had to admit that, apart from his habit of chewing with his mouth open, the man didn't appear nearly as asinine as he had in the pictures with the cape.

Granted, without his brother's wand, he probably didn't have much use for the cape.

"I believe you were saying that when the Metropolis Police had processed you, you saw the wand and just walked out with it?" she prompted when he swallowed.

Ferret-like eyes glittered from across the table.

"Yeah. I knew it was Mark's, but I didn't know that I could work it or nothing."

Smiling pleasantly, the redhead snagged a packet of sugar from the square ceramic holder that was nestled between a salt shaker and the bottle of ketchup.

"How does it work, Mr. Mandrill?"

She crinkled the paper packet in her hands, attempting not to look like she was hanging on every ungrammatical word the man uttered. His shrug went a long way in tempering her enthusiasm for the conversation.

"I dunno. I just -- "

Greasy brown bangs dipped low on the man's forehead as he squinted in fierce concentration.

"-- just sort of think about what I want to happen."

Before she could respond, Helena's words grumbled through the comms.

<"So much for cutting off his hand.">

Since she had assumed that there was more involved than mere flesh-to-wand contact, the redhead merely hummed sympathetically into the microphone around her neck. Returning her attention to her companion, she neatly tore open the paper packet and dumped the contents into her tumbler of iced tea, speaking sweetly.

"I can imagine that that would be quite taxing."

She ignored the snicker that filtered through the tiny earpiece. Mandrill seemed to take her at face value, his chest puffing out a tiny bit.

"Yeah. I can show you some deep thinkin', alright."

This time, it was a soft growl that came through the comms, and Barbara simply shook her head as she finished stirring her tea and removed the tall spoon to a napkin.

"Perhaps later, Mr. Mandrill. I still don't quite understand -- "

Carefully, she caught a drop of liquid that was meandering down the side of her glass with her index finger, then sucked the drop into her mouth. Glittering green eyes followed every move.

"-- why you bother to break into the stores instead of simply using the wand to create your spoils."

Since his confusion was readily apparent, she tried again.

"Why don't you just zap some diamonds or gold, Mike?"

The clouds of confusion cleared, and she heard him mutter something that sounded like "donut".

"Excuse me?"

"I said," Mandrill punctuated his words by jabbing a fry in her direction, "that I dunno. It's like I can only make glass and brick."

<"Chocolate">, a helpful voice reminded her.


The redhead sipped from her glass then fixed the little man with a long look and got to the heart of the matter.

"If that's the case, how did you manage to transform my associate into a man?"

Hiding a wince when she realized that she'd posed her question just as Mandrill had pushed the final bite of burger into his mouth, Barbara focused determinedly on his eyes.

"Damnedest thing," she made out around a mouthful of half-chewed beef, bun, and condiments. "I was fixin' to turn her legs to glass."

Barbara's sudden nausea had nothing to do with the mess of food on display in her tablemate's mouth.

"Glass?" was the best she could manage, even as she heard Helena's soft exhalation.

<"Fuck me.">


Oblivious to her shock, Mandrill washed down his mouthful with a long swig of soda.

"Then see how much she wanted to go kickin' us around."

Eyeing her tea, Barbara decided that it held no appeal.

"Why didn't you go ahead with glass, Mr. Mandrill?"

The man that Barbara was rapidly coming to consider a minor matter slurped the dregs of his soda noisly through his straw.

"Didn't work. She just... changed to a guy."

Contemplating just how far back this information put any plans for coaxing -- or coercing -- Mandrill into returning Helena to a female form, Barbara started when the man in question thumped his now-empty glass on the table.

"Okay, I told you what you wanted. When do I get the wand?"

She looked him straight in the eyes.

"I'm not sure, Mr. Mandrill. As you can imagine, my associate would like to return to her god-given body, and since it sounds like you might not be able to assist us, we'll need to hold on to the wand."

For an instant, when his face twisted in anger, Barbara readied herself for an attack. Instead, the wannabe criminal plastered on a smile that would have put most politicians to shame.

"No sweat, lady. You give me the wand, and I'll use it on her."

<"Fuck no!">

"Is that so?"

Barbara raised both eyebrows and leaned across the table.

"And, how would we know that you wouldn't turn her into a toad or a large window?"

She decided simply to omit questions about whether, given his admission about the first transmutation, he could transform Helena.

Her question earned her an oily smile, and Barbara straightened, unsurprised. She hadn't expected to be able to trust the man who had, generously put, committed malicious mischief with her partner's body. However, she did rather wish that Helena hadn't been listening to the entire thing.

She could only hope that the crunch and sound of something breaking that filtered through her earpiece was Helena chewing ice.

"Well," she extended her hand, "we'll certainly keep your offer in mind."

She waited as he worked through her words, finally deducing that he was being dismissed. Grudgingly, he took her hand, then jerked back.

"What the -- ?!"

Batting her eyes, Barbara extended her hand, palm up and thumbed the ring on her third finger. The stone, a stylized onyx bat, was turned inward.

"I'm so sorry. This must have a rough spot."

She pressed a napkin to his palm, covering the tiny wound that she'd used to introduce a GPS nanochip.

"You have our number, and we'll place another ad when we decide that you can help us."

For a second, his mouth worked.

"That's it?!"

A shadow fell across the styrofoam plate that contained the dregs of his meal. Barbara didn't need to look up to know who it belonged to.

"That's it, asswipe. Now scram."

Helena really thought -- kind of hoped, actually -- that the scumbag was going to piss all over himself in his hurry to take his advice. Since he didn't, the brunette slid into the recently vacated side of the booth and snagged his partner's tea.

"Well," he flashed a big toothy smile that didn't come close to being real, "so much for him wanting to apologize and make things right."

He drained the glass and set to work making condensation rings with it on the formica tabletop.

"Hel -- "

A slender hand covered his, and he looked up from the Olympic rings he'd created.

"I know," he quirked one corner of his mouth. "There wasn't any real chance."

Before Babs could say something that was going to make him think too much about it, Helena was up and heading to the back of the restaurant to retrieve his partner's chair.

Hell, he hadn't figured that it would be that easy. And, even if the twerp had been willing, it didn't sound like he knew what he was doing, and Helena really, really, wasn't into being turned into something worse.

Barbara held her tongue on the way to the parking lot, recognizing that they both needed time to assimilate. Settled in the van, she shifted into reverse, and while Helena fiddled with the radio, she waited for a pickup truck with a missing headlight and more scrapes than she could count to clear the parking area. When the lingering blue smoke from the truck disappeared, she craned her neck to check behind her again wondering if a smaller vehicle, something easier to navigate in crowded lots, would accommodate her chair.

Perhaps a VW Bug.

"Uhm, so what now?"

She flipped the turn signal lever at the parking lot exit and looked over at her companion. Helena was fidgeting in his seat, staring fixedly out the passenger side window.

"For starters, Hel, you can fasten your seat belt."

With the brunette reaching for the strap, Barbara pulled out into traffic.

"Plan B, Helena."

She heard the metal tab of the belt click into place.

"What's that, Red? I just stay this way?"

Helena hated the edge in his voice, but he couldn't seem to stop.

"Oh, wait, maybe we can contact some other matter-shifting folks."

He turned sideways in his seat to face Barbara and pretended to think.

"Hey, what about Darkseid? I hear he's a bundle of joy."

He didn't think he needed his enhanced hearing to pick up Barbara's long sigh as she accelerated around a bicycle messenger.

"Something like that, Hel."

The bicyclist safely behind her, Barbara risked a glance to the side. The frank disbelief in her lover's expressive eyes almost caused her to swerve into an oncoming bread truck, so she hastily returned her eyes to the road.


The redhead debated with herself, hating what necessity was leaving as an option.

"Instead of transformation, Hel, I'm thinking mind control."

She didn't add the rest: they already had contact with the person who might have the necessary power to influence Mandrill.


Helena thought that Barbara's nod was a long time coming, and he felt his stomach clench when the acknowledgment came.


Barbara braked for a red light, and he was fixed by serious green eyes.

"I'd like to do some investigation into hypnosis, Hel, but, yes, that may be our best option."

Heaven knew, Barbara wasn't eager to ask this of her ward: Dinah had worked so hard over the years to begin to control the invasiveness of her telepathic skills; however, at this point, they simply couldn't afford to dismiss any of their dwindling options out of hand.

Barbara accelerated through the intersection, and silence reigned for almost three blocks.

"I can just stay a guy."

The soft statement was almost lost in the background noise of rush hour traffic and Three Doors Down on the radio, and Barbara looked to the side for confirmation. Helena's face was very serious, as was the slow dip of his head.

"Why would you say that, Hel?"

"Well, I am kind of getting used to it. There's never a line for the men's room."

Barbara managed a quick smile even as her stomach flip-flopped and a vivid, vivid image of the headboard of their bed flashed before her. The picture had been imprinted just a few nights before, along with a host of other sensations and emotions and reactions that she simply didn't care to look at too closely.

Dear god, how could Helena...? Could Helena really...?


You love me but you don't know who I am
I'm torn between this life I lead and where I stand
And you love me but you don't know who I am


Completely unimpressed by the irony of WBAT-FM's playlist and timing, Barbara was hard-pressed to resist her instinct to reach out and turn off the radio.

Perhaps, to rip the damned thing from the dashboard.

"Calls of nature notwithstanding, Hel," she finally managed, surprised by the mildness of her tone, "do you really think that you can -- "

She was cut off.

"We could get married, you know."

The shyness in her partner's tone initially distracted her from his words. When her brain caught up to her ears, Barbara drove through a stop sign and zipped straight past the entrance to the Tower's parking garage.

Utterly dumbfounded, Barbara jerked the brake lever, almost getting them hit from behind. Amid a riot of honking, she turned to look at her partner, discovering that a deep blush was covering his cheeks.

"We don't have to..."

Since continued attempts to drive were clearly not in anyone's best interest at the moment, the redhead pulled to the curb, shifted into park, and turned on the flashers. Regrettably, the few seconds that it took her to avoid an accident didn't seem to do much for Helena's confidence.

"-- only if you wanted, I mean."

Helena was feeling dumber and dumber by the second. The way Barbara was jerking around in traffic was a pretty good clue that she hadn't seen his... well, proposal was about right... his proposal coming. Hell, now that he thought of it, he wasn't even sure that she was the marrying type.

"You probably don't wan--"

The sensation of a lightly calloused finger coming to rest on his lips shut up his lame attempt at backpedaling.

"I want, Helena."

Behind her index finger, his mouth spread in a wide grin. Capturing her hand in his, he inspected their twined fingers then peered through his bangs at the redhead.

"No shit?"

The squeeze Babs gave his hand was plenty reassuring. Her answer topped it.

"No shit, Hel."

Just about the time he realized that a ring or something might come in handy, Barbara extricated her hand.

"However, before I pick out my trousseau --"

Grudgingly, he allowed her to coax his chin up, and he met her eyes.

"-- let's do a little more research into getting your old body back."

Since Helena had been getting ready for outright rejection, he figured he could live with a delay while Barbara did the big brain thing and figured out what he already knew: he was stuck, and it was time to deal. So, by the time Barbara got them back to the Tower and they headed up the elevator, he was ready when he headed over to relieve Alfred of Katharine.

"Hey, Kitty. Daddy's home."

Swallowing against the roughness in his throat, he held his daughter to his chest and pressed a kiss to her head.

It was going to be alright.

Part 21

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