DISCLAIMER: Characters belong to the show's creators; I own nothing
but my interpretation of them.
A/N: A mood piece, with a single word of dialogue -- something of a mental exercise as I get a better grasp of the characters. Bleh. It started out as a nice fluff piece, it really did, then it veered off...sharply. sigh Oh, well. This is the time to tell me if I've made any glaring errors.
ARCHIVING: Let me know where. Please include month/year written.
PAIRING: B/H, established relationship.
DATE: February 2003
The Only One
It had been a hard night.
A seemingly unending shift at the Dark Horse, filled with a group of obnoxious males intent on acquiring her phone number, college boys far too full of themselves egging each other on to see who could score with the hot bartender. Her boss riding her to "smile", even as she fought the urge to wipe the grins off their faces, knock loose a tooth or ten. Her boss's or the college boys', she wasn't sure which she'd derive the most pleasure from. Maybe both.
When her shift did end a thousand eternities later, Helena had almost screamed for joy. A sweep of the mean streets in search of a butt to kick was in order, and the feral side of her rejoiced at the prospect. Dancing the rooftops of New Gotham was always a perfect release from the confines of the bar, normally an environment she enjoyed, but a one-way trip to hell when the patrons became cloying, invasive, full of false bravado and unwelcome sexual innuendo.
Donning the transceivers, even Oracle's voice, usually soothing, did nothing to penetrate the darkness sweeping over her. Tension coiled her body, muscles tight in agitation, she practically ached with the need to pummel something, release the furious energy that had built up within. Yielding to her body's demands, she leapt up, easily scaling the five stories of the adjacent apartment building, then leaping again to the next, attaining greater height. Only when she was perched at the very top of highest building on the block did she pause and allow herself a moment to breath in deeply the crisp air.
It was purer somehow. Away from the presence of others, the air felt cleaner to Helena, less contaminated by the thoughts, and feelings, and myriad desires of the masses. Sometimes, when she was at street level, Helena found it stifling -- found herself almost wanting to choke, felt as though the whole world was crowding her, intruding on her. Sounds became deafening, voices loud and harsh, lights brighter and painful to the eyes...it was dizzying, and it made her want to scream. But the night sky, far above the city's populace, was hers. Hers alone.
Stretching her arms out, face to the sky, Helena closed her eyes and embraced the solitude, spinning a slow circle. Despite the height she found herself at, the action grounded her, gave her a semblance of control...enough for the angry edge throbbing within to ebb slightly. An all too brief moment of peace, a temporary lull. Too soon, the need for action rose again, the animal within needing to make her mark, assert her dominance over her territory. Re-establish the parameters surrounding her, unhindered by foolish frat boys and surly bosses.
Free and unfettered, Helena ran lightly, not a sound betraying her steps as she patrolled the streets of her city from the rooftops, eyes eagerly searching for trouble. From her vantage point, Helena could easily detect any abnormal behaviour from below, cat's eyes allowing her to peer into the darkest shadows. Minutes passed, but there was nothing to warrant her attention. Still she ran, needing to burn off the energy pulsing through her veins, the rhythm of her strides somehow perfectly in sync with every beat of her heart. The dark tension was ever present in her body, but under control, if barely. As the night progressed, however, inaction wore on her and Helena could feel her darkness re-emerging, rising up like a tidal wave, demanding to be set free in a maelstrom of cathartic mayhem. She _needed_ to cut loose.
Helena was dangerous when she got this way. It boded ill for those in her path. When she returned to the Clocktower in such a mood, she often found herself clashing with Barbara, or more often now, Dinah. The redhead knew and understood her, usually allowing her angry tirades wash over her, knowing Helena merely needed an outlet for her frustration, a sounding board to vent on; if, by chance, Barbara was similarly on edge, their fights would shake the foundations of the building. But Dinah was another matter. Still sensitive and uncertain of her place with them, she found Helena's dark moods intimidating; found herself automatically trying to deflect the brunette's anger, unknowingly making it worse. And Helena, despite the initial animosity she'd felt towards the girl -- a natural defense to the intruder in hers and Barbara's lives -- didn't want to hurt the kid.
So when she spied a mugging in progress, a satisfied smile flitted across her face, and her eyes glowed ferally in anticipation before settling back to their familiar blue. Enhanced vision provided the details of an otherwise shadowed alleyway: a black-clad man, bristling with muscles and attitude, brandishing a hunting knife on an older, frightened couple, demanding money. Confident in his superiority, that his terrified victims had no recourse but to do as he said if they wanted to escape unharmed. Relishing the fear in their eyes as he barked at them to hurry up, or maybe he'd carve them up for fun. Helena snarled softly at that, eyes gleaming in the moonlight.
He was prey for the Huntress.
Dropping down from above, she lashed out at him with fists of steel, backing him away from the couple. Shocked and afraid at the sudden attack, the man retreated instinctively, mimicking a crawling bug's desperation to hide when exposed. Then he caught sight of Helena, and his fear turned to an evil leer. Emboldened at facing a mere woman, he quickly forgot the power of her first blows and sneered. Noting the leathers Helena wore, dark material clinging seductively to her every curve, he mocked her, laughing when she announced she was going to gift-wrap him for the police. Citing her lack of a weapon and waving his own ten-inch stainless steel blade, he asked instead if she wasn't more interested in "partying" with him.
Helena smiled a predator's smile. The fool. She _was_ a weapon. Lightning fast blows wiped away his overconfident smirk, and more than once Helena felt the crunch of bones breaking. Soon he was on his knees begging for mercy, blood streaming from his nose. His "weapon" lay on the ground next to him. Taking it, Helena saw fear re-enter the man's eyes. Standing above him, looking like a veritable angel of death, she thrust the knife at him. Her blood sang at his terrified scream...as she neatly pinned him to the ground, the blade a hairsbreadth from his throat. It was too much for the man, and to Helena's amusement, he fainted -- whether from fear or blood loss she didn't know and didn't care. Too easy. She needed more.
Quickly checking on the stunned couple, vaguely surprised they hadn't simply fled when she'd arrived, Helena reassured them the police were on their way. She could already hear the sirens in the distance, no doubt alerted to the scene by Oracle. A last look back, and Helena disappeared from sight, a blur as she sped around the corner before leaping up to race the rooftops again. Oracle's voice, quiet for most of the night, spoke again in her ear: a bank robbery, only a few blocks away -- the nightlife was picking up.
Moving easily, Helena found herself at the scene of the crime in record time. Watching from the building opposite the bank, Helena couldn't detect any obvious signs of an intrusion. It was only when a getaway vehicle pulled up, a masked man driving, that it became obvious that things were not what they seemed. The driver was shifting in his seat nervously as he idled the car, eyes darting front and back as he watched for potential witnesses. His fingers tapped restlessly on the steering wheel in a staccato beat. It was time for the Huntress to make her move.
Stepping over the edge of the building, Helena let herself fall to the pavement below, landing soundlessly just to the side of the car. The driver, oblivious to her presence, continued to scan the street ahead of him. Helena smiled. This was going to be fun. Silently, she crept up to his side, before peeking in the open window and mouthing 'boo!' She laughed at his start of surprise, and then knocked him unconscious with a solid right hook. Too easy. Helena was just locking the driver in the trunk of his vehicle when the first droplets of rain hit her. Grimacing, she let loose with a string of profanity. Heard Oracle admonishing her in the distance -- easy for her to say, it wasn't her clothes the rain was soaking. Helena spared a moment to glare at the heavens in annoyance -- the forecast had been for clear skies -- before turning her attention back to the robbery at hand.
Something was wrong. The rest of the robbers had not come out of the bank yet. The timing was...off. They should have been running straight into her open arms by this time, but they weren't. Something must have happened inside to delay them, and whatever it was, was probably a very bad thing. Helena felt a faint touch of foreboding run down her spine at the thought, but shunted it aside. She didn't have time for that. She had to go in after them.
Cautiously, Helena approached the front doors. Pushing lightly, she was pleased to see they opened without a noise, and she quickly hid herself inside. It was quiet, and dark. Her eyes adjusted automatically to the dimness. A glance around the room revealed nothing, no sign of the intruders. This was wrong. The set-up was all wrong. There should have been a lookout, at least. There had to be two, maybe three others. Possibly a fourth, but that was stretching it; the car was too small to accommodate five adults comfortably. So where were they? No help from Oracle -- the surveillance cameras, all electronic impulses had been cut after the initial alarm. Whoever the thieves were, they knew how to take out security.
Silently, Helena proceeded further inside, deep into the interior of the bank. She was nearing the vaults when she tripped over a body: the bank guard. An older man, looking to be in his early fifties, lay sprawled halfway across the hall. Helena bent down, searching for a pulse...breathed a sigh of relief as she found it. Slow, but steady. He would live, though Helena did not envy him the headache he would have when he woke, judging from the size of the bruise on his temple. Her head snapped up as she caught the faintest sounds of arguing, before it faded again. Skirting around the fallen guard, she snuck closer to the voices, moving past several offices as she did. One room had its lights on, the sound of computer equipment humming softly from within. Warily, Helena approached it, ears alert to any sounds that might betray a human occupant. Nothing. Taking a deep breath and steeling herself in case she needed to move quickly, Helena poked her head into the room. Empty. There was no one there. Given the still warm cup of coffee on the table, though, and the open stack of papers, Helena guessed it hadn't been that way for long.
Just then, the blast of angry voices broke the silence, and Helena ducked out of sight. Loud arguing...from just a few doors down. There. Behind a set of reinforced steel doors, leading to the vaults. That's where they were. Two voices raised in anger, both male. Helena blended into the shadows, until she was close enough to see into the small window of the doors and assess the situation. There, only a few meters away, stood her prey. She couldn't see the whole room, but she didn't have to -- two men, armed with guns and knives, yelling at each other. The thickness of the steel muted the sounds of their fight, but it was clear they were extremely displeased with the other. Good. They would be distracted, giving her the advantage despite their weapons.
Without pause for further thought, the Huntress leapt into battle. Slamming open the metal doors with far more force than necessary, Helena burst into their little party, relishing the look of shock that crossed their faces. Oh, she lived for that moment. And for the accompanying adrenaline rush that followed that made every sense of hers alive, keener, and full of anticipation for the fight. The men didn't disappoint. As one, they moved towards their weapons, hands grappling for guns, only to have them knocked away by the Huntress. Undeterred, they struck with bare fists, sure that a solid blow would give them victory. After all, it was two against one -- the odds were clearly in their favour. Or they would be, if only their attacker wasn't who she was.
A wild smile danced across Helena's face, she was almost laughing as she tussled with the two -- they actually had some fighting skill, and were keeping her moderately entertained. Almost enough to soothe the savage beast within. The air whipped her hair back as she dodged a blow, and Helena grinned fiercely as her return strike landed solidly in her opponent's ribcage; she was certain she had felt it give way, heard a telltale crack under the man's pained grunt. She turned to the remaining thug with a cocky smirk, eyes challenging him even as she lifted a brow in elegant mockery. With an enraged yell, he ran at her, his weight and momentum giving him the leverage to shove her hard into a wall. For a minute, Helena was stunned, the breath knocked out of her. But only for a minute. Meta-human abilities allowed her to shake off the impact, and soon she was tossing him to the floor.
The scenario was rapidly becoming an easy takedown, and Helena was already congratulating herself on another job well done, when suddenly it went bad. From behind her, crashing through the very same reinforced steel doors she had burst through came another man waving a bloodstained knife. The fourth robber. She caught a glimpse of a bony face before she was forced to duck away from a slash that just barely missed opening her arm. A part of her mind wondered at the crimson hue to the blade, but she had no time to think on it as she was forced to react to the man's wild swings. He was fast, and his initial stabs nearly cut her. A maniacal grin lit his face, and Helena thought he might be strung out on some cheap drug. Whatever it was, it was giving him the strength of ten, and his wild, erratic movements made it difficult to bring him down. More than once, he managed to slice too close to Helena, just missing her flesh, but leaving gaping tears in her wardrobe.
While she was distracted, the thug Helena had been beating on before the interruption managed to crawl over to a gun. Helena just barely saw the movement before he began firing wildly. Bastard. The idiot didn't seem to care that his fellow partner in crime was in his line of fire, and he was just as likely to shoot him as her. She had to take him out. No more playing around. Distantly, she could hear Oracle screaming in the background. Shoving the bone-faced, knife-wielding maniac aside, Helena threw herself at the gunman. Miraculously, she avoided getting shot, though one bullet came so close to grazing her, she could have sworn she felt its heat sizzle her cheek. Without further delay, she smacked the gun from his hands and slammed her fist into his face, a satisfied growl escaping her as she felt his jaw break under her hands.
Unfortunately, the maniac was still behind her and still waving that knife around. He hadn't even paused when the bullets were flying about, and now he had a clear view of Helena's back. With a triumphant scream, he brought the knife slashing downwards...and would have cut her, if Helena hadn't flinched just enough away when she heard his cry. Instead, the knife ripped a twelve-inch long tear right along the back of her jacket, sending a flood of dark hatred through her veins. Son of a bitch. He had completely ruined her favourite outfit.
The other two felons down and out, Helena had nothing to distract her from this one. He might be pumped up on drugs, but she was totally pissed off. Helena lashed out with her strength, barely holding back her blows, and the man reeled in pain. Whatever he was on wasn't enough to counteract the Huntress' solid hits. Soon he was disarmed, but still he fought with mindless intensity. Helena grimaced at the look in his eyes...unfocused, but savage bloodlust. A stray blow sent him crashing into a table, knocking his head at _just_ the right angle...and he was unconscious. Damn it. It was too soon. She'd wanted to hurt him some more. A hiss of frustration, and then a word to Oracle letting her know to send in the boys and girls in blue, and a medical unit for the guard.
Cursing, Helena surveyed what remained of her outfit, taking in the tattered remains of a beloved leather jacket, the numerous gashes that there was no way in hell of fixing. The stream of invective didn't stop even when she heard Oracle chiding her in her ear, her voice less panicked, more amused relief as Helena was now obviously out of danger. Helena glowered. This was pathetic. She couldn't even continue her sweep of the streets, find something else to vent her anger on -- her clothes were so damaged, she just might be arrested for indecent exposure the way her luck was running. Or get dragged down to a police station by some well-meaning idiot that suspected she'd been attacked. God, the whole night was one colossal fuck-up after another.
And that's when she spotted her. A body. A woman, this time, lying still on the cold floor. Hidden behind a desk, Helena had not seen her from the doorway when she'd spied on the arguing thugs, and during the fight with them, had not had the opportunity to look beyond her immediate surroundings. Dressed in a light blue suit, blonde hair splashed with blood, the woman didn't appear to be moving at all. Perhaps a bank manager, owner of the half-finished coffee in the empty office making a late-night deposit, or whatever it was that bankers did, her chest was covered in crimson. There was no way to hide the fact that she had been stabbed repeatedly in the torso. Nor that her eyes were clouded in death as they gazed sightlessly at the ceiling.
Time seemed to grind to a halt.
Numbly, Helena stared at the fallen woman. She had been too late. She felt the beginnings of a deep-seated nausea well up. Vaguely, she heard Oracle asking what was wrong, but she ignored her. Barely aware of it, she cut off the transmission to Barbara. She didn't want to hear her, speak to her. Not now. In an instant, Helena was transported back to another rainy night long ago, another woman dressed in a blue suit, murdered before her eyes. Blood running freely from her chest, despite her best efforts to stop it. Her cries falling on deaf ears, as she begged her mother to hear her. To open her eyes. Anything. She had been so pale. And she hadn't reacted at all to Helena's pleas. Helena thought she was going to be sick.
Slowly, she knelt before the woman, one hand reaching out for a pulse despite the evident morbidity. The skin was cold to the touch. Helena shivered. No. Not again. Trembling, Helena backed away. She had to get out of there. Away from the death. Away from the memories that assaulted her. A part of her was aware of the differences between this woman and her mother, the hair a darker shade of blonde, the face not quite so fine, but emotions overwhelmed her, and she thought she might drown in their darkness. All she could see was her mother's face transposed on the woman lying before her. All she could feel was the flow of her mother's blood as it had trickled through her fingers the night she died. An endless stream of blood.
Before she knew it, Helena found herself outside, away from the stifling air of the bank, the scene of death and decay. Acting more on autopilot than from any clear guidance on her part, she found herself running into the night. She barely had the clarity of mind to register the approaching sirens and head away from them. The last thing she needed was a confrontation with authority, and another six months of court ordered "therapy" with an acid-tongued shrink. No idea where she was running to, or what she was running from, only that her feet led her away, and that was enough. Rain beat down on her as she ran, soaking her to the bone, but she barely felt it.
Eventually, Helena found herself in an abandoned dockyard. Part of the old city, few ventured there despite its proximity to the waterfront. It was perfect. There was no one to hear her screams of anger and pain. Pure unbridled rage and agony shouted to the unresponsive heavens, only to be swallowed by the storm. Darkness rose up, drowning her. All the buried hurts from that awful night, the raw anguish at losing her mother -- the woman who gave her life, and shelter, and love -- to an insane, master criminal who killed her only to exact revenge on a father she had never even known. The injustice of it flooded her mind again. The unfathomably deep loss she felt to her core. She could grieve forever and it would never go away. Seven years, and yet the pain was as fresh as yesterday.
Like a wounded animal, Helena howled at the night, sometimes words, sometimes guttural screams that had no meaning beyond their primal fury. She sank to her knees, beating her hands bloody on aging concrete in a violent outburst of impotent rage. Tears blended with raindrops, until a constant stream of moisture ran down her cheeks. Time was meaningless. It could have been minutes, or hours, that saw Helena screaming until her voice was hoarse. Wordless demands for answers that were unforthcoming, unfulfilled prayers for an end to the pain in her heart that left her feeling empty and bereft.
And it changed nothing.
Around her, the storm thundered, lightning streaking the sky in blinding flashes. Elemental fury that matched the turmoil of her thoughts. Alone and aching, Helena let its power wash over her, absorbing the pounding rain upon her flesh, her shoulders slumped. So different from the easy confidence she normally evinced. A lithe body that moved with feline grace, possessing incredible strength in a deceptively delicate feminine form...only now that form shook with uncontrollable tremors, echoing the tumultuous thoughts of its owner. Pain, rage, anger...once triggered, unstoppable. A cascade of images swept through her mind, one nightmarish vision chasing the next until they blended together into a quagmire she couldn't escape from. Unmoving, desolate, a dark figure against a darker night, Helena stayed there until the storm abated.
When at last it did fade, the storm receding into the distance, Helena was in a state all too reminiscent of the mindless fog she'd been in during the months that had followed her mother's death. The pain had ebbed, the hurt a constant, dull ache under skin, but not the open, lacerated wound it had been -- much as the gentle raindrops that still fell had lost their punishing intensity, leaving only a residual reminder of their former power, a lingering taste of what had been. But other punishments remained: Helena's hands throbbed dully from the damage she had done beating the pavement.
Emotionally exhausted and bone weary, Helena climbed to her feet, turned and left the dockyard behind; there was nothing there for her, nothing but emptiness. Instead, she began the trek to the place that had become her shelter during her most vulnerable moments. The one place that would always be her home, no matter where she went or how far she traveled. To the Clocktower, and the woman who lived there.
Barbara, whose concerned eyes went to her immediately when she landed on the balcony, scanning her body for injuries. Helena's ears easily picked up the quiet sigh of relief as she walked towards the redhead, then the sharp inhale as Barbara's eyes fell upon her bloodied hands. A moment later, Barbara was wheeling towards her, first aid kit already in hand as she guided the younger woman to sit on the nearby couch. At her touch, the part of Helena that was clenched tighter than a steel drum began to loosen, instinctively knowing that she had reached her sanctuary.
Helena closed her eyes with a sigh, head dropping back to rest against the couch. As she allowed Barbara to look after her, she thought the redhead might ask questions, demand answers to where she had gone, why she'd turned off the transceivers -- was actually surprised at the silence, but then realized she must have heard the police reports, surmised the situation, and come to her own conclusions. Or perhaps it was just that somehow Barbara always knew what Helena needed, as if she could read the younger woman's soul at a glance...and she knew that this was not the time for questions.
Soon, Helena's world consisted of only the quiet words in her ears, and Barbara's familiar scent as it filled her nostrils as she leaned closer to look at her damaged hands, fingertips lightly tracing her bruised knuckles. The soothing presence of the other woman, the simple nearness of the redhead, banished any remaining unrest. Finally, finally, the tension afflicting Helena all night began to melt away. Under Barbara's ministrations, she could feel the first tendrils of peace take root within, settling her spirit. It was uncanny the effect Barbara had on her. At once calming, and comfortable, she possessed a soft touch that, even after a long, hard night that made Helena think she'd lost everything, gave her back her soul.
Even when she was a rebellious teenager, Barbara had been there, pulling her back from the abyss that her darkness took her too, refusing to let her fall into the chasm. Always Barbara by her side, not letting her take that final plunge. When she had taken Helena in, she couldn't possibly have known the challenges she would face as she dealt with a grief-stricken young woman, angry at the whole world. And yet, she had never flinched away from Helena's vituperative moods, had never once displayed an ounce of fear when Helena's feral side emerged and she lashed out at her surroundings. Instead, Barbara had offered love and understanding with all her heart. A love that enveloped Helena in its warmth, gave her safety, and a feeling of _belonging_ that she'd been in desperate need of. Barbara saw through her, into her...every last bit of Helena, she knew, and she loved unconditionally. An invaluable gift.
Helena would have given her life for that alone.
When they had become lovers, years later, after a successful, planned seduction on Helena's part, the younger woman had never felt happier in her life. She'd long harboured a crush on the redhead, but had never believed Barbara could return her feelings, or if she did, would ever act on them given her status as Helena's "guardian". That she had was the direct culmination of Helena's efforts in making the redhead see and accept her as an equal, a partner, and not as a young ward, a youthful charge she was responsible for. It had taken hard work and patience, but the results were well worth it. To have tasted Barbara's lips, breathed in her breath, felt the tickle of red hair brushing against her flesh as Barbara leaned over her in love, surrounded by the faint musk of their passion...just the thought was enough to bring her to her knees.
Helena's silent musings were broken as she heard Barbara setting aside the first aid kit with a final quiet murmur. Then she was reminded of just how much she loved the woman when she felt the first faint brush of soft lips upon her own. Eyes still closed, Helena absorbed the gentle touch as the lips moved to kiss other parts of her face -- her nose, her eyelids, then back to trace her mouth again -- all with the lightness of a butterfly, and the aching sweetness that originated from one woman only.
"Barbara," Helena whispered with need, and longing, as she opened her eyes to stare into brilliant green orbs that gazed back. Barbara, who reached deep inside of her, accessing parts of her that no one else could even glimpse...doing so with the same ease she used to crack top-level security systems. Fingers that danced lightly over keyboards played a similar dance on her own flesh, making her yield to their gentle pressure, surrender all of her secrets, and beg to tell her more. Anything. Everything.
Sweet Barbara. Her love, her soul, her heart. Yin to her yang. Cool logic to her hotheaded impulsiveness. Iron control to her wildness. Light-hearted warmth and compassion to her dark days of despair and moodiness, but full of fire and determination when called for. Barbara was the anchor in Helena's life, despite all the physical limitations she endured that would have shattered a lesser person. Though she might never again stand on her own, Barbara was stronger than any other Helena had ever known...stronger than she herself, with all of her meta-human powers. It humbled her, Barbara's strength.
But even more humbling was how honestly content Barbara was with their relationship. Decision made to take Helena as her lover, Barbara had done her very best to share her life with the younger woman; although it was still difficult for her to express her innermost thoughts and feelings, she nonetheless allowed Helena deeper into the workings of her mind than she had any other. Without a shard of hesitation, never giving any indication that she might have had doubts -- though Helena was certain the redhead must have had some, it was simply her nature -- Barbara did her utmost to protect their lives together with all the steely determination of Batgirl.
Helena knew this, and she was eternally grateful. In Barbara, she knew she had found the one person in the entire world strong enough to hold her, accept her with all her faults and failings, to be her partner in all things. The one who could reach inside of her and soothe the rage she often felt. Ease all of her fears. Who somehow saw everything inside her without a word being said...and loved her, anyway.
The smile that graced Barbara's face was one that belonged to her alone. And when she saw it, Helena couldn't resist the urge to move closer and kiss the redhead deeply. Later, there would be time for talking. For now, there was only Barbara. Barbara, who gave her safety in the haven of her arms, a refuge from the harsh realities of the world around them. Barbara, the one who made her life whole.
Her reason for being.
The only one.
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