DISCLAIMER: I do not own the characters of Helena, Barbara, Dinah, Batman, and Catwoman etc. They are the property of DC comics and I suppose the WB network and the creators of Smallville or whatever. I'm just borrowing them for a short period of time.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Strange Brew
By Janine


Tyger! Tyger! Burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder, and what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart,
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? And what dread feet?

What the hammer? What the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? What dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And water'd heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger! Tyger! Burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

-William Blake, "The Tyger"

Part 1

Barbara looked down at the lesson plan in front her, her thumb ensnared by her lips as she stared at the piece of paper not seeing anything. It wasn't that she couldn't see, that she had forgotten her glasses and was squinting her way through the day. She was perfectly equipped for the reading and sight. She was just to busy grinning to herself and remembering the events of the past twenty-four hours to be aware of the sheet of paper in front of her let alone to focus on it.

She'd never felt this way before. She'd read about this feeling, taught about it and dissected it for papers and for her students. But she'd never felt it before. She'd never been in love with someone. She'd loved; for sure she had loved, but never like this. Never like what she felt every time she now thought about Helena.

She'd spent all morning trying to rationalize what had happened. Trying to quantify it and categorize it. Analyze what was happening through applying the scientific method to her musings. It had yielded nothing more than what she had already figured out the night before as she lay in Helena's arms.

She was in love. And it seemed that there was no succinct explanation for how and why. Only that it was. And that thought and logic and reason were really irrelevant. They couldn't explain it or eradicate it, or really do much of anything else expect confuse the matter. Which was, that she was in love.

She'd wondered what it would mean. How it would change her relationship with Helena beyond the obvious? If it would affect their work? If it would help their work? If it would do anything but make either of them happier? If it would last? What would happen if it didn't last? Would they go back to being friends? Could they go back to being friends? If it wouldn't be easier, and simpler if they didn't feel the way they did? If it would've been better for them to control what they were feeling for the good of their partnership?

But she realized she had been trying to control how she was feeling. That she had been trying for years and it was still there. It was still always there. And now it was out. It was out, and free, and she couldn't put it back in. She didn't want to because it felt so good. It felt so very good, and so very right that it couldn't possibly be wrong. The questions, the doubts they didn't matter. There were no answers to them that could be found. Questioning, was as irrelevant as reasoning.

It was.

It just was.

And it would be.


"You must have a very interesting lesson planned," a voice said conversationally from the doorway. "Suddenly I wish I'd paid more attention in my High School English classes," it went on walking towards her.


Barbara blinked, sucking in a deep breath, the smile that had been etched on her face almost all morning evaporating.

She'd forgotten about him. It was so unlike her she almost wanted to smile again. She controlled the urge.

"Hey," she said somewhat uncomfortably, smiling consciously as he handed her a cup of coffee. "Thanks," she added looking down into the cup as the scent wafted up to her. It reminded her of Helena, which reminded her of other things. She turned her head to the side, trying to get the blush that was creeping across her skin under control.

"It's good to give," Wade replied watching her curiously as she cleared her throat and turned to look at him. "Dante's Inferno."

"Excuse me?" Barbara asked focusing on him really for the first time since he'd come in.

"It's playing at the Wales' Theatre this month," he responded smiling. She was so cute when she was surprised and slightly flustered. "I was thinking that perhaps, if you could tear yourself away from all things muffin top related for a night that …"

"Wade," Barbara said interrupting him before he could finish, her voice serious and remorseful. "I can't."

"I haven't even told you what night wouldn't be convenient for you," Wade responded his face falling a bit. Barbara shifted uncomfortably. It was like kicking a wee puppy. She was a bad, bad woman. She'd go for the kill shot and make it quick. It was the most merciful thing to do. She was pretty sure it was the most merciful thing to do. It was certainly the quickest.

"We shou … can't see each other anymore," she said taking off her glasses and staring at him. She bit her bottom lip awkwardly as he looked up at her.

Wade blinked at her.

"Was a theatre date too fast?" he asked his brows scrunching together uncertainly. "Cause we could go slower. Maybe off Broadway. Community theatre perhaps," he continued purposefully trying to keep his voice light.

"Wade," Barbara said looking at him like she would a small child. He was sweet. She wondered why she had ever agreed to go out with him in the first place. But, she realized why, she'd just been passing the time. He'd never been a real possibility for anything more than a few fun months. He'd just been there, and that had been fine at the time. He'd been a nice, intelligent, sweet distraction. He was like chocolate in khakis. She sighed. "This isn't about needing to go slow, or a dislike of classic theatre. It's just …" she sucked in another deep breath and fortified herself. She just had to say it. "I'm in … I'm in … in love … with somebody else," she finally got out, feeling distinctly like a character on a bad soap opera as she said it.

"You're in love with somebody else?" Wade repeated looking at her dubiously.

"Yeah. It was a bit of a surprise," Barbara responded turning her palms up in the air and shrugging helplessly before glancing away from him. "Obviously for you too," she added catching the look he shot her.

"Obviously," he replied standing up from where he'd been leaning against a nearby desk. "Were you … ?"

"No," Barbara responded immediately, her tone emphatic as she looked back over at him. "I never meant to hurt you. Really, if you had asked me even yesterday, I would've … I mean my flabber was completely gasted by this," she continued pausing after she spoke, shaking her head. She was picking up Helena's incomprehensible speech patterns. "It took me by surprise," she finished weakly.

"Yesterday?" Wade asked exasperated, angry and disillusioned. "So what happened? You went to the supermarket and fell madly in love with the produce boy over a head of lettuce?" He asked knowing it was inappropriate as the words left his mouth but not being able to help himself.

"Not quite," Barbara responded evenly, she wasn't going to rise to his bait. He was hurt. He had reason to be. She felt he deserved to get at least one good dig in. "I … saw an old friend," she continued smiling softly. She bit her lip to stop when she saw his expression. It was cute to her, not him. A fawning smile was not appropriate for a break-up.

"Lucky guy," Wade said tugging his shirt down tensely as he prepared to leave. He'd never seen that smile on Barbara's face before, which wasn't to say he hadn't seen it before. She was in love and not with him. It was time to go while he still had something that resembled dignity to cling to.

"Who is?" a female voice asked from the doorway of the classroom.

Wade turned his head sharply to see a tall, brunette woman lounging against the doorframe. There was teasing smile on her face, showcasing gorgeous dimples, and her intense blue eyes were alight with something he couldn't identify. He knew her type, sexy, bad and loving every minute of it. Girls like her had always intimidated him.

"Helena," Helena said extending her hand to him. She'd never seen the Wade before, but knew it had to be him. He was dumb looking in cute sort of way and that's how Barbara's descriptions of him had always come across. She'd also accidentally overheard Barbara breaking up with him. "Helena Kyle."

"Ah, the elusive muffin top partner," Wade remarked shaking her hand, while thinking that Helena didn't exactly look like the baking type. "Nice to meet you, I was just on my way out. I hope you'll excuse …"

"Don't worry about it man, I'm not easy to offend," Helena interjected cutting him off before slapping him on the back chummily. "Oh, and I wouldn't take the hallway to the left if I were you," she continued as she ushered him to the door, her hand still on his back. "The lunch special didn't agree with someone. Scary doesn't begin to describe it. Bye," she continued pushing him past the threshold and closing the door.

"Nice," Barbara commented, smiling at Helena as the brunette turned back around to face her. "You've had a lot of practice ushering people out of rooms haven't you?"

"Yeah," Helena responded softly as she crossed over to Barbara's desk. The redhead had made the comment lightly, as a joke, but they both knew it was true. "My farewell performance," she continued smiling slightly as she looked towards the door. "That looked like fun," she went on turning back towards Barbara.

"Tons of," Barbara replied leaning back, her tone more serious. "Especially the befuddled blinking and the pained facial expressions. I'm gonna have to hurry up and do that again never," she went on reaching out for Helena's hand, smiling as the brunette looked down at her from where she was leaning against the desk. "What're you doing here?"

"I just wanted to see you," Helena responded tilting her head to the side awkwardly. Being in love was kind of embarrassing. "You know, I just wanted to see you because … I missed you and … I'm gonna stop talking now," she finished closing her eyes and looking up towards the ceiling completely mortified before sighing deeply.

"I missed you too," Barbara said smiling up at Helena's dramatic display. She was getting some lovely theatre right there. "You know the whole embarrassed looking at the ceiling and sighing thing, is really just as cute as the smiling and revealing emotions thing," she continued her smile growing as Helena looked down at her frowning mockingly before grinning as well.

"I don't know how to do this, you know," Helena said still smiling though her tone was a bit awkward. "The whole being sweet and romantic thing," she continued rubbing Barbara's hands slowly. "It kinda makes me feel like an ass … but I can't help it," she finished shaking her head ruefully.

"I'm not very good at it either," Barbara said drawing Helena eyes back over to her. "I guess we'll just have to be awkward and self-conscious together," she continued smiling as she tugged on Helena's hand lightly.

The brunette leaned down smiling, softly brushing her lips against Barbara's before leaning forward a bit more deepening the kiss.

"It feels kind of dirty doing that in a classroom," Helena whispered somewhat breathlessly as she pulled away from Barbara's lips long moments later. "I like it," she added quirking an eyebrow at the redhead. "This is usually the part in my dream when I'm told I'm a bad girl and someone picks up a meter stick."

"It's nice that you feel like sharing," Barbara responded evenly as she looked up at Helena. "Maybe not that, but in general," she continued smiling as Helena narrowed her eyes at her. "Meter stick huh?" she asked curiously as the corners of her lips turned up playfully, while her eyes roved over the chalkboard tray.

"That," Helena said drawing Barbara eyes back over to her. "Would be a whole new lesson plan," she continued glancing the sheet of paper on Barbara's desk. "The class would probably enjoy it more." She knew she would.

"We can't do it then," Barbara said sadly. "This is school. They're not supposed to enjoy themselves."

"Finally you admit it," Helena said triumphantly poking Barbara in the chest playfully. Barbara captured Helena's finger easily and held the digit in her hand for a moment before bringing it to her lips, placing a small kiss on the tip of it before drawing it into her mouth sucking on it for a short time.

"This is seriously, like the most fun I've ever had in school," Helena groaned when Barbara released her finger. She looked over at the redhead smiling, about to lean forward and use her lips for something distinctly more fun than talking when she heard a commotion start in the hallway.

She stood up and took a step away from the desk placing a respectable distance between Barbara and herself, just as the door opened and a pile of teenagers began to come in.

"Guest speaker?" Randy Vox asked Barbara as he passed by her desk. Very appreciate eyes on were on Helena as he spoke. He could definitely watch her for fifty-five minutes.

"Leaving visitor actually," Barbara responded shrugging as if to say sorry. A few groans could be heard throughout the class. "It's almost like they don't care about The French Lieutenant's Woman," Barbara said under her breath so that only Helena could hear.

"You mean some people actually do?" Helena asked smirking as she prepared to leave. "What class does Di …"

"Leave," Barbara said facing the class now, waving her hand at Helena dismissively as she worked very hard to contain a smile.

Part 2

Two days later …

Dinah resettled the phone on her shoulder then ran a hand through her hair and sighed as she stared down at the textbook in front of her. Everything was just as unintelligible as it had been an hour ago, only now she had a tension headache and felt like she had gone slightly cross-eyed.

"Somebody sounds like they've got the physics blues," a soft, teasing voice drawled from the other end of the phone. Dinah shifted in her chair, slouching down and smiled.

"You think there's a cute little song with cartoon characters and an important life lesson for that?" Dinah asked, her smile growing as she heard Gabby laugh softly on the other end of the phone.

"I hope not," Gabby replied, her tone ridiculously serious. "That one with the big headed dolls singing about not putting things in your mouth, or sticking them in your face nearly traumatized me for life," she continued making a shivering sound. "Their heads were so big. So very big. Big like a motha," she finished shaking again.

"So, what you're saying is you have issues with public service announcements then?" Dinah asked smirking as her eyes drifted over the slick pages of the textbook again.

"I don't have issues. I hate them," Gabby responded. Dinah could practically hear the smile on her face. "Why don't you just ask Ms. Gordon for help. Everyone says she's like a genius. It's like an unwritten rule that we can only talk about it softly though, so she doesn't like overhear and realize she could do so much better than New Gotham High. Mitchell said she won one of those geek kid sciences prizes and got to go to Space Center in Cape Canaveral."

"I don't think Barbara's exactly in the dark about being an supreme egghead," Dinah said laughing. "She teaches cause she likes it. I don't know why she likes it, but that's neither here nor there," she continued her head turning to look in the direction of Barbara's bedroom. "Besides, she's been kinda busy all weekend," she finished in a slightly strange tone.

"What's that about?" Gabby asked noticing Dinah's tone.

"Nothing," Dinah said sighing. "Really. She's just been … preoccupied," she continued hesitantly, her head turning to the side as she heard the penthouse door open. Standing up she peaked her head around the corner carefully, relaxing when she saw Alfred enter carrying a large grocery bag. "Hey, how would Mitchell know if she'd won some geek kid science prize?"

"His brother went to school with her," Gabby replied. "He doesn't like her, she wouldn't go out with him."

"Go out with who? Mitchell or his brother?" Dinah asked smiling to herself as she sat back down at the kitchen table, nodding hello to Alfred as he passed by.

"Very funny," Gabby responded in a tone that was suppose to convey that she didn't find it funny, but actually came out sounding rather amused. "Hey, just a sec …" she continued a second later, followed by ruffling on the other end which Dinah assumed to be Gabby's attempts to cover up the receiver. "What? Yeah! I know! I KNOW! I will. What's that suppose … I'm not … I'm on the phone … I will! I … no … okay. OKAY!" Dinah heard smiling to herself as Gabby fought with her mother. "I gotta go," Gabby said in a regular tone, once again addressing Dinah.

"I figured," Dinah replied in an amused tone. "Talk to you later."

"Not if I talk to you first," Gabby responded saucily.

"No you di-int," Dinah vamped back grinning. "Bye."

Dinah leaned back in her chair, a faint smile still on her face as she put the phone down and turned to face Alfred.

"Are the Misses' about?" Alfred asked feeling the young blonde's eyes on him as he went about restocking the refrigerator. Really, he wondered what the three of them would do if he weren't around. It was bad enough that Barbara and Helena seemed to find forging through cupboards every couple of days for something that hadn't expired yet an acceptable condition, but they had a growing girl in the house to consider now.

"In the bedroom," Dinah said shaking her head, smiling a little bit. "Just like they've been all weekend," she continued. "I mean I know Helena's metahuman but …" she went on trailing off when she saw Alfred raise an eyebrow at where she was going to go with that. Really it was their fault anyway that her mind traveled such debaucherous roads. She was sixteen what they were doing was just mean. She knew what they were doing, she knew it was fun, and she knew without a doubt that she would get yelled at for days if she even thought about doing something similar.

She was about to turn back around and attempt to learn something about calculating velocity, when she heard a door slam down the hallway and feet padding rather noisily down the hallway towards the kitchen.

Turning her head to side she watched as a half dressed Helena stumbled into the kitchen ruffling her own hair and rubbing at her eyes, instinctively making her way to the fridge, yanking the door open and practically sticking her head inside of it. She emerged a few moments later with a pitcher of water in her hands and a loaf of bread, twirling around and kicking the door shut with her foot before blinking and standing still, looking between Alfred and Dinah as if seeing them for the first time.

"Uh," Helena said slowly, still blinking before looking down at her bra clad chest and over at Alfred, shifting uncomfortably. Dinah was rather pleased to notice that Helena didn't seem to care that she could see her half naked too. They were making progress they were. "Um," she continued awkwardly biting her lip softly. "Bye," she finished quickly heading towards the door and disappearing back down the hallway.

"So," Alfred said drawing Dinah's eyes away from the spot Helena had so quickly vacated. "What should we have for supper?"

"Pot roast," Dinah said immediately, a slight thrill in her voice. She never got to pick what they had for dinner. Helena always talked so much louder than her, the stupid big-mouthed idiot.

"We both know how Ms. Helena feels about …" Alfred started.

"I don't think she's going to be joining us," Dinah interrupted looking over at the older man.

"Right, pot roast it is," Alfred agreed nodding.

Monday Morning …

Dinah walked into the kitchen, bag slung across her shoulder, halfway to the fridge when she noticed the figure slumped over the table. Stopping so that she could focus her full attention on the scene before her, she watched Barbara who had one arm bent on the table which her head was resting on, and was using the other to pour a cup of coffee though she already had one poured, before placing the pot back down on the table and reaching for the fresh mug. She then lifted it towards her head and tried to take a drink before realizing she'd have to lift her head up. She seemed to consider it for a moment and then put the mug back down on the table groaning softly.

"Straw?" Dinah asked smiling widely.

Barbara was silent for a moment as if she were seriously considering the offer then shook her head from side to side before stilling again.

Dinah continued on her way to the fridge, pouring herself a glass of orange juice before walking back over to Barbara and squeezing her shoulder.

"That which doesn't kill us," the blonde muttered philosophically before jauntily moving towards the door, giving Barbara's shoulder one last squeeze. "Twenty minutes. Trust me, you don't want to know what I'd say if the office asked," she continued as she made her way out of the kitchen.

Barbara looked up at her for a moment, and then dropped her head back down onto her arm.

It was going to be a fun day.

Part 3

The Next Night …

Barbara smiled and shook her head as she felt Helena's eyes on her, but she said nothing as she finished up with her latest modifications to the Delphi system. She'd felt Helena watching her a lot since their first night together. She'd always been able to tell when the brunette was looking at her. From the first day Helena had moved in with her, she'd been amazingly sensitive to Helena's presence. So, it wasn't that it was new to sense Helena watching her, it wasn't, she'd often felt the brunette's eyes on her in quiet moments in the past, it was the intensity of it that had changed since they made love. It was like she had been getting the filtered version before, Helena-lite.

But now when the brunette gazed at her, it was like she could feel her presence all around her, enveloping her in a warm, protective embrace. It was like she could feel what Helena was thinking, feel her love from across the room and it startled and awed her every time.

Barbara smiled again, and felt a warm had land on her shoulder a split second later. She turned her head slowly to look up at shining blue eyes. She had felt that too.

Helena was looking at her seriously, her brows drawn together slightly and her lips pursed.

"Bad night?" Barbara asked, taking in the look, wondering if something had happened on Helena's sweep after she had gone radio silent. It had been a pretty easy night, so she wasn't worried when Helena had gone off-line, and looking at her there didn't seem to be any evidence of a major struggle, but despite that Helena was tense.

"Nah," Helena replied smirking slightly though she shifted uncomfortably. "A cake walk," she continued moving to lean against the side of Barbara's desk so that she was facing the redhead. "You like food?" she asked suddenly peering over at Barbara innocuously.

"Now or in general?" Barbara asked smiling up at the brunette curiously.

"Sometime, in the near future," Helena replied shaking her head, but smiling. "That was my charming and suave way of asking you out to dinner," she continued self-depreciatingly. "I was thinking a restaurant, preferably someplace with bread sticks. Candle light too, maybe with a piano man in the corner somewhere. We could do cute things like order for each other, and I could try and get you drunk. You know …" she finished shrugging, her eyes wandering around their immediate vicinity awkwardly.

"A date," Barbara said softly. "You're asking me out on a date?" she continued, looking at Helena curiously. She was a bit surprised, truth be told, she knew Helena and the brunette was not the dating type. As far as Barbara had been able to ascertain she'd only gone on outings that could be considered dates when she knew there was going to be sex afterwards. And since they'd already … well, she hadn't thought about dating. Truthfully, she hadn't thought about much. That was new for her, and she wasn't certain that it was a bad thing. She knew that the high she'd been on for the past four days wouldn't last, that reality would start to settle down on her again, and thoughts would come and questions would need to be answered. But that day hadn't come yet. She was still bathing in the afterglow.

"Not well, but yeah," Helena responded, her eyes on Barbara as the redhead looked at her rather goofily. She had to reign in the impulse to smile.

"I thought you didn't date," Barbara said softly, focusing on Helena, her hand unconsciously reaching out for the brunette's.

"I didn't," Helena responded seriously, though any impulse on her part to take it too seriously was soothed by Barbara's soft caress. "I do now though. I mean I'd like to. Everybody makes it sound like so much fun," she went on smiling a bit as Barbara gazed up at her.

"I'd love to have dinner with you," Barbara replied a soft smile gracing her lips. "But don't think," she continued the smile growing. "That just because you buy me dinner I'm gonna put out," she went on pausing dramatically. "Unless of course there's half dead roses involved, than that obviously would change things," she finished grinning up at Helena cheekily.

"It wasn't half dead," the brunette grumbled though she smiled back at the redhead. "Besides, I already know how to get you to put out," she continued easily, her posture relaxing and her words drawling lazily now that she had gotten the sappy part out of the way.

"How's that?" Barbara asked lightly seeing Helena relax and wondering at the fact that the brunette could've seriously been tense about asking her out on a date after they had already confessed their love for each other and engaged in what could only be called sexcapades for a thoroughly enjoyable weekend.

"Show up," Helena replied smugly, her eyes roving over Barbara's body.

Barbara stared at her challengingly for a moment, and then opened her mouth about to respond when a noise behind her caught her attention. Turning her chair to the side she saw Dinah hurrying into the clock tower, a disc in her hand.

"Good you're back," she said looking at Helena. "It's time," she intoned gravely looking over at Barbara holding up the disc for everyone to see.

"What's she on about?" Helena asked in an affectionately aggravated tone.

"Tis' the season Hel, stop being such a scrooge," Dinah replied only sliding her eyes over to the brunette for a moment before turning to look at Barbara again. "I promise you, this masterpiece can't help but warm even the most arctic of hearts," she continued waving the disc again. "She'll be merry if it kills her," Dinah finished glaring at Helena.

"Rwwwwr, somebody's getting dominant," Helena replied walking over to the couch and flopping down easily. "I don't like it," she continued shaking her head. "Next thing you know she's gonna be demanding the right to vote, saying we can't beat her even if the lash is carefully measured to the size of a thumb, and want to get paid as much as the senior crime-fighters."

"You don't get paid," Dinah said moving over to the DVD player as Barbara headed over to the couch to join Helena.

"That's beside the point, it's the principle behind it. You're gonna be uppity soon, I just know it, and there's only room for one high maintenance crime-fighter in this clock tower," Helena responded as Dinah moved over to the recliner beside the couch and picked up the remote. "And that's Barbara," she finished smiling to herself.

"Really," Dinah said in a mocking tone looking at Barbara over Helena's head. "I don't know how you resisted her for so long. She's so charming," she finished smiling at Helena.

"Don't forget pretty too. I'm a masterpiece of flesh and bone," Helena replied grinning back at Dinah cheekily before she turned around to face Barbara.

Holding out her hand, Helena silently invited Barbara to join her on the couch as Dinah, slapped the remote against her leg, muttering about how they could own technology that's not even supposed to exist but couldn't seem to find a decent universal remote.

"Seriously kid, what're you gonna torture us with?" Helena asked before screwing her face up and shaking her head from side to side derisively as she stuck her tongue out at Dinah in response to the look the blonde had given her and Barbara before mouthing 'Awww' and bringing her hands up to her heart. The kid was such a punk.

"'A Christmas Story'," Dinah responded laughing as Barbara turned her head from where it was lying on Helena shoulder to look up at the brunette disbelievingly in response to the faces Helena was still making at Dinah. Helena shrugged at Barbara, turning her palms upwards helplessly as if she didn't understand what Barbara's problem was causing the redhead to stare at her for a moment longer before simply resting her head back down on Helena's shoulder, allowing the brunette to hug her tight and place a kiss at her temple.

Dinah turned her head away starting the movie up. They were ridiculously cute together. She decided that she wouldn't mock Helena again … for the next half hour.

Part 4

Later that week…

Barbara watched as Helena twirled her fork around playing with the pasta on her plate, coiling it neatly and then uncoiling it lazily before jabbing at it and starting the pattern all over again. The plate was half empty, but she was hard pressed to recall moments when Helena was actually eating the food.

"Well?" the brunette asked tilting her head up to look over at Barbara, a soft smile on her face as she looked at the redhead questioningly, her dimples in full effect as the candle light lit up her face.

"Well what?" Barbara asked absentmindedly as her eyes studied Helena's features, serene and relaxed at the moment. Helena was a beauty, anytime of day and any day of the week, brooding or bright, she was always breathtaking to behold, but there was something about her in those moments when her defenses were down, and her mind was deliriously clear of worry, and regret that seized Barbara's heart holding it captive until she sometimes thought it was going to just up and quit on her.

She smiled widely and shook her head.

"What happened when you opened the door," Helena prompted smiling as Barbara smiled at her. The light from the candles on the table were reflecting off of her hair in strange way, lighting it up making her look like she was surrounded by a halo of light. Tableaus of silver screen era movie goddesses flashed through her mind. They didn't have anything on the redhead though, were pale imitations of the real thing. Still, Helena could see how directors could be inspired to try and reproduce such loveliness. Even a fraction of the reality would be magnificent.

"Oh," Barbara said raising her glass to her lips. "I forgot about that," she admitted sheepishly before putting the glass back down. She'd been in the middle of a story, when she'd been distracted by Helena's movements.

"What was that about and eidetic memory again?" Helena asked quirking an eyebrow at the redhead. "I so totally knew you padded your resume," she continued playfully, knowing that Barbara was far more brilliant than she let on most of the time, but that when the redhead got distracted it was like time and space ceased to exist. It was incredibly cute how lost she could get in her own thoughts.

"Ha ha," Barbara replied poking her fork in Helena's direction. "And if anyone asks, I absolutely trained elephants one magical summer in Bombay," she continued smirking at Helena, lowering her fork back to her plate.

"Yes, you're very amusing," Helena responded not trying to sound anything but amused. "If you don't finish the story in the next five minutes, I swear I'm going to buy you J.Lo's new scent for Christmas, and I won't feel bad about it."

"There's a new one?" Barbara asked, knowing that it would annoy the brunette. "What's it called?"

"I don't know, following the pattern of 'Glow' and 'Shine', it's probably called 'Sparkle' or something equally insipid," Helena responded shrugging before focusing her gaze on Barbara's seriously. "Come on seriously, you've titiled now you must late."

"The things that you do to the English language should really be considered punishable by law," Barbara replied shaking her head, marveling at how Helena was able to bastardize pretty much any word in English and French. Titillated would never be the same again.

"That'd just make more work for you, what with having to hack and destroy documents pertaining to my egregious abuses of western verbiage and the insult they caused to stuffed shirts and panty waists everywhere," Helena replied smirking as Barbara raised an eyebrow at her. "I was going to say something brilliant like 'neener neener' and then stick my tongue out, but I decided to use my words instead," Helena continued batting her eyes at Barbara as the redhead rolled her eyes at her.

"So I opened the door to the janitor's closet," Barbara said meeting Helena's gaze, and having to work very hard not to smile when the brunette grinned at her rakishly, winking at her. "And see Randy Franklin huddled on the floor with last years yearbook open … abusing himself," Barbara continued her voice lowering secretively as she looked over at Helena.

"Abusing himself?" Helena asked lowering her voice too as she spoke upon seeing Barbara's horrified expression. "Why would he need a yearbook to abuse himse … and you mean 'abusing' himself," she said catching Barbara's meaning. She grinned widely. "You caught some kid doing his special thing?" she asked happily.

"It wasn't funny at the time," Barbara muttered, wondering what had possessed her to start telling this story to Helena in the first place. "It was incredibly awkward, and … they don't have anything in the manual that deals with that sort of thing and …" she trailed off shaking her head. "Now I remember why I didn't want to finish this story."

"What did you do?" Helena asked leaning forward, enjoying the slight blush that had come to Barbara's face.

"I panicked," Barbara said lowering her head. "I gave him a detention for entering an area of the school that was clearly designated for personnel only, and told him that if I caught him 'relaxing' on school grounds again more strenuous action would have to be taken," she continued as her eyes drifted around the restaurant. "Then I sent him to washroom and wheeled away as fast as humanly possible," she finished sighing. She looked up at Helena questioningly.

"No," Helena said simply but firmly. "I know what you're thinking and … just, no. You shouldn't have tried to talk to him about it. That would've been … very, very wrong. You did the right thing, even though you followed it up by running away like a sissy," she finished nodding at Barbara.

"There was nothing sissy like about it," Barbara mumbled mock scowling at Helena. "It was a very dignified retreat."

"With trumpets and flower girls?" Helena asked good-naturedly. "Perhaps some stately waving?"

"Exactly," Barbara replied, pausing to finish off the last of her dinner, deciding to pretend that she didn't know Helena was mocking her. "This," she said looking around once more, "is a very nice restaurant. How'd you hear about it?"

"I'm going to assume that there's a good way to take that," Helena responded looking at Barbara through her lashes.

"I'm sorry," Barbara replied, sounding only mildly sorry. "You frequent so many classy establishments, like that bar where the servers walk around in bikinis and Speedos and let people lick salt off of their skin for money, and Jerry's House of Pancakes … who could forget Jerry's House of Pancakes. It was wrong of me to question how you'd heard of a place with maîtrede's."

"Well, they say winter is the season for satire," Helena replied tilting her head to the side as she looked at Barbara. "Some James Bond wannabe mentioned this place over a vodka martini last week. It was the best tip of the night."

Barbara smiled at Helena as the brunette's lips curved and pouted deliciously as she spoke, her gaze focused on the brunette's mouth for a long moment.

"Dinah's staying at Gabby's tonight," the redhead said conversationally as Helena tipped her wine around in her glass before bringing it to her lips.

"So?" Helena asked even though she knew exactly what Barbara was getting at. She liked to hear it. She was naughty that way.

"So, you might wanna ask for the check," Barbara suggested, her tongue flicking out to lick at her lips.

Helena stood at the foot of the bed watching through hooded eyes as Barbara transferred herself onto the mattress and settled so that her back was resting against the headboard. She then looked down towards the front of the bed, her eyebrow rising questioning as she stared at Helena who merely smirked at her.

"Da da da da da," Helena hummed as she stuck her hand under her shirt, slowly lifting the material up her abdomen as she swiveled her hips. "Da da!" she continued smirking before she ripped her shirt over her head and tossed it the side with a dramatic flare.

She then winked at Barbara who was smiling widely before stepping towards the bed moving onto it, crawling up the mattress until she sat straddling Barbara's legs.

"What about the rest of the show?" Barbara asked softly her eyes on Helena's smiling face before she lowered them to the brunette's hands, which had made their way to her waist.

"One is loneliest number," Helena drawled softly, her lips pouting slightly as she looked over at Barbara through her lashes. "I want somebody to play with me," she continued sliding her hands underneath Barbara's shirt, her thumbs fanning out to caressing the rapidly heating skin underneath her hands. "Da da da da da," she went on, her smirk returning as she pushed the material of Barbara's shirt up, lifting it off of her when the redhead raised her arms helpfully.

It soon joined Helena's own shirt in the nether regions of Barbara's bedroom.

"Da da da … oh fuck it," Helena muttered as she leaned forward fastening her lips to Barbara's as her hands slid down to the redhead's waist and started to unbutton her pants, her mouth swallowing Barbara's laughter as the redhead leaned forward increasing the contact between them.

Helena shuddered as she felt Barbara's fingers trailing up along the inside of her thighs, her eyes fluttering shut momentarily, as her breath hitched in her throat when the redhead ran her fingers through the slick heat at the apex of her thighs, playfully pinching her clit between her fingers and rolling it as she held Helena's gaze.

"You're wicked," Helena moaned before lowering her head down to Barbara's neck, kissing and nipping at it as Barbara continued to tease her. "Atrocious behavior, you should be ashamed of yourself," she muttered as she kissed a path down Barbara's sweaty chest to her breast, where she took one of the redhead's hard nipples into her mouth, sucking softly at first and then biting down suddenly, causing Barbara to suck in a deep breath. She smiled against the redhead's skin.

"We're only as good as our company," Barbara breathed out, her free hand working it's way to Helena's head, stroking her hair as her other hand continued to move along Helena's slit in an increasingly purposeful way.

Barbara smoothed the dark hair that had fallen in front of Helena's face back, urging the brunette's face up so that she could see her.

Helena looked up, her eyes dark with passion, her lips wet and parted slightly as she stared at Barbara before they curved upwards naughtily a minute later, which was followed by her biting down on her bottom lip when she felt Barbara position her fingers at her opening just barely teasing the flesh.

Helena lifted her hips up not blinking, her eyes never leaving Barbara's as she moved, and then she slowly lowered herself onto the redhead's waiting fingers, moaning low and deep from the back of her throat, the guttural sound filling the room as she impaled herself on Barbara's fingers, her hips starting to move in time with Barbara's motions as the redhead began to thrust into her.

Helena's left arm shook with strain as she lifted her right hand off the bed where it had been helping to support her body, and moved it in-between their bodies, grasping Barbara's wrist, stopping the redhead's fingers from pumping into her.

Her breathing was ragged and her heart was pounding in her chest so hard it wouldn't have surprised her if it just stopped, her mind hazy and feverish with pleasure. There was a pleasant tingling in the pit of her stomach, and she couldn't seem to make her body stop shivering as she stared down at Barbara, her skin covered in a thin sheen of sweat.

She was close. Teetering on the edge of a mind-blowing orgasm as she clenched Barbara's now still fingers inside of her and looked at the redhead.

She stared down into Barbara's questioning eyes tilting her head into the redhead's touch as she felt Barbara rest a hand on her cheek and begin stroking the slick, smooth skin with her thumb.

"I love you," Helena whispered, her voice a faint rasp as she blinked rapidly, her eyes stinging with unshed tears as she shuddered above the redhead.

And then Helena's head dropped down against her chest again and her eyes closed as her hand fell away from Barbara's wrist returning to its former position on the mattress, allowing Barbara to begin to rock them again, her right hand starting to move in and out of Helena immediately as her left drew around the brunette's back drawing her down on top of her firmly and securely.

Helena sagged against Barbara as her hips continued to buck into the redhead. She could hear the redhead whispering to her, though she could no longer make out her words, as she continued to desperately thrust her hips towards Barbara, meeting the redhead's fingers every time they plunged deep inside of her, her face settling in the crook of Barbara's neck and shoulder as they moved together, her breathes now no more than a series of ragged gasps, her lips parted and pressed into Barbara's neck as she was able to make out her name and the word 'love' being whispered into ear, her hips bucking wildly as she gasped, her orgasm washing over her causing her body to tremble and shake.

"You're very strange," Barbara breathed out softly as she stroked Helena's hair. The brunette's fingers were gently running along her abdomen as she spoke sleepily from her resting spot on Barbara's shoulder.

"I'm not strange, nursery rhythms are just fucked up," Helena declared, wrapping her arm around Barbara's waist and snuggling in closer to her as she inhaled deeply, sighing as Barbara's scent came to her, traveled through her leaving a pleasant warmth in its wake.

Barbara smiled and brushed her lips against Helena's forehead. The brunette was unbelievably cute when she was on the verge of falling sleep.

"I mean 'hey diddle diddle, the cat and fiddle'? Who the hell diddle diddle, and what's a cat doing with a fucking fiddle?" Helena continued, her words coming out slightly blurred as she struggled to keep her eyes open. "And what's with the little dog laughing, huh? That's just upsetting," she went on yawning.

"I'm sure it made perfect sense when you were a kid," Barbara replied softly a few seconds later not wanting to start Helena up again if she was asleep or almost asleep.

"It didn't," Helena mumbled somewhat militantly. "That's why she stopped reading them to me. Cause I was always asking stuff like 'why's Mary quite contrary?' What's she contrary to? She let me watch 'Jake and the Fatman' instead."

Barbara started to laugh, inordinately amused by the idea of Selina Kyle being harassed into watching 'Jake and the Fatman' by a quizzical four year old, opening her mouth to comment on the fact when she felt Helena's breathing even out and realized that the brunette had finally fallen asleep.

Looking up at the ceiling, tracing it for a few moments as a small smile played across her lips. Then, still smiling Barbara allowed her eyes to close too, quickly joining the brunette in sleep.

Part 5

Three days later …

Reese looked up towards the rooftops his eyes scanning the skyline for any sign of movement as his thumb unconsciously stroked the smooth surface of the ring that was on his index finger. He could feel a string of excitement begin to work its way through his body, as the air shifted slightly. She was somewhere near by. He was actually kind of pleased with how good he had gotten at sensing her presence before she revealed herself. It was a relatively rare occasion now that she was able to sneak up on him.

"You rang," Helena drawled dropping down in front of Reese, mildly disappointed to note that she hadn't freaked him out. It was getting harder and harder to scare the shit out of him. It took away half the fun of dealing with him.

"Thanks for coming," he said resting against the cruiser, nodding to the side indicating that she should make herself comfortable.

Helena shrugged her shoulders and settled herself against the car as well. If he was in a semi-decent mood, which he seemed to be she didn't particularly want to rile him up. Teasing banter was one thing, actually having a bitch fight with him another.

"Anything on your mind, or did you just want to share the view?" Helena asked her eyes on the trash piles littering the curbs. Usually there wouldn't be nearly as much as was there, but garbage pick-ups had become increasing sporadic over the past few weeks.

"No," Reese replied sighing turning to look at her momentarily before looking away again. "Although I do know a few nice ones," he added his gaze on his shoes. They were scuffed. He waited for a second, anticipating a soft exhalation and smile on her part. It didn't come though she did look over at him. "There's been some strange activity in city over the past few couple weeks," he continued straightening his back and turning to look at her again.

"I know," Helena replied frowning. "It's like the whole city is getting in touch with their inner delinquent," she continued turning to face him. "Other people's anti-authoritarian streaks aren't fun like mine," she finished smirking at him.

"You don't have any idea what's going on do you?" he asked. "Buzz at the station is that the lunar cycle is making people a little crazy, but I'm not buying it. There's something … more there."

"I'm with you on that, but I can't tell you anything more than you already know," Helena responded somewhat regretfully. "We're just as in the dark about this as you are," she continued. "Constant vigilance," she added with a smile, remembering as Barbara poked her in the chest earlier that evening saying the exact same words. She patted Reese on the shoulder and moved to take off.

"A while back," Reese said impulsively before she had moved out of earshot. She stopped and he took a step towards her. "You mentioned something about coffee," he continued trying to keep his tone neutral. He hadn't planned on doing this, he wasn't sure if wanted to do it, or if it was smart to do it, or anything really. He didn't really know her, and sometimes he thought that he didn't want to know her. But deep down he knew better. The truth was that she intrigued him. Fascinated him really. He wanted to get to know her better. At the beginning, he'd thought he'd had time to think it over, and ruminate about the situation, after all every time he'd turned around she seemed to be there, and somewhat arrogantly he'd assumed that was how things would stay. But they hadn't. Over the past month or so, she'd hadn't shown up out of the blue, surprising him once or twice a week, leaving their only interactions to times when he'd summoned her with the ring. He'd been disconcerted to realize that he'd missed her. Irritating, and aggravating, and unruly as she was he'd missed her. "There's a surprisingly good place around the corner. Nobody should leap from rooftops without being properly caffinated," he finished giving her a small smile as he looked up at her though his head was tilted downwards somewhat shyly.

"I …" Helena started turning around to face him, somewhat surprised by the invitation and not quite knowing what to do with it. "I can't. Places to be," she said looking up towards the roof of the nearest building. "But I appreciate the offer," she continued.

"How do you like it? For next time?" he asked, not sure what to make of her response. He didn't particularly expect her to jump at the offer, but he'd at least been anticipating some witty repartee, maybe a few double entendres. Something, anything like before.

"About a quarter cup of coffee with my sugar and milk would be nice," Helena replied with a wink and smirk as she backed up.

And then she turned her back on him and jumped onto a nearby fire escape, scaling it and disappearing into the night sky seconds later.

Part 6

Two nights later …

>>You're quiet<< Barbara said into the receiver, her voice low, and warm with a touch of concern as she leaned her head in her hand and stared in the direction of the balcony even though she knew Helena wasn't going to be entering through there for quite some time.

"I'm pissed off," Helena ground out tersely as she rolled her shoulder, a low, severely unhappy growl emanating from her throat as she did.

She'd come across a group of five businessmen looting a lingerie store about an hour before. Their ties still loosened as if they'd run out of the house after settling down to watch the news. It was strange, but no stranger than a lot of shit that had been happening in New Gotham over the past few weeks. She'd busted in on the party, telling them to put the panties down and their hands up, but they hadn't wanted to play nice. So she'd been forced to punish their civil disobedience. It had been a relatively easy bust, what with the men obviously having spent most of their time filing briefs and creating flow charts rather than busting asses, but when she'd turned her back to stop one of them from impaling himself on a sharp piece of broken glass from the window they'd broken to get in, another one had come up behind her and given her a good whack on the shoulder with a golf club before she turned around and made a hole in one.

>>Are you sure you're okay? << Barbara asked keeping her tone neutral so as not to put Helena on edge even further. She'd heard the contact and the sharp intake of breath that followed. She realized that the gasp of pain was probably more due to surprise than anything, but it was usually those unexpected blows that ended up doing the most damage. And while she knew Helena would tell her if she'd been seriously hurt, the woman had a tendency to play tough with injuries that were more aggravating than anything else, but those wounds that simply slowed her down instead of toppling her could be just as dangerous when Helena got herself into another situation after them.

"Fine. Pissed off," Helena replied laconically, as she tilted her head to the side listening carefully. "Hear something," she muttered to Barbara before running to the edge of the building she was perched on, jumping off, landing neatly on her feet seconds later.

Turning her head to the side she spotted a metal door and stalked over to it, kicking it savagely one time, smirking to herself as it flew open. She could hear the screams coming through more loudly now that she was in the building. From a floor or two above where she had entered. The building had been a casualty of an arson attack a few days before and had been evacuated until the fire marshals could assess its safety. Obviously somebody hadn't wanted to leave home.

Quickly making her way up the stairs, Helena immediately turned to the left and sped down the hallway. The level seemed secure and the cries were becoming increasingly desperate. She didn't think it was matter of someone getting stuck in a collapsing building.

Helena burst into the room, wood flying inwards as the frame splintered from the force of her kick.

"Fucking animal," she growled stalking into the living room of the apartment, where she could hear the cries coming in at full volume.

A small brunette woman was lying half on her stomach, half on her side trying to crawl out from underneath a man who was lying on top of her, one hand on the waist of her pants tugging at them and the other grappling with her hands trying to hold them down. His own pants undone and hanging loosely around his waist. Her blouse was torn, and she had a large, angry red welt forming on the side of her face, which was covered with wet streaks.

"Who the fuck are you!?!" the man asked turning his head around to face Helena, as one of his hands came around to smack the woman beneath him, the sound of his palm connecting with the flesh of her cheek reverberating around the room.

Helena's jaw clenched, but she remained silent, simply walking over to him knocking his hand out of the way carelessly as he swung at her before grabbing him by the back of his shirt, hauling him up and tossing him forcefully to the side. She didn't wait to see him connect with the nearby cabinet. She didn't need to. She heard it perfectly.

"Who … what … I … wha …" the woman mumbled, backing away from Helena slowly as she approached her.

"It doesn't matter," Helena said softly, forcing her voice to remain calm and hopefully comforting as she reached out a hand for the woman, placing it on her shoulder and squeezing gently for a second before taking her hand and helping her to her feet. "You're safe now," Helena said, taking off her jacket and wrapping it around the woman's shoulders.

The man was struggling to get up, almost on his feet.

"Do you have someplace safe you can go?" Helena asked, turning her head to look behind her. The man was standing now, staring at her murderously with a large piece of wood from the broken cabinet in his hands. He was cradling his left side slightly, and a blood ran down his face from a cut near his hairline. Red was a good colour on him, Helena decided.

Helena vaguely heard the woman mutter a positive response to her question as she eyed the man, a small smile playing on her lips as she watched him through narrowed eyes. She could feel the blood pumping swiftly through her veins leaving a warm trail everywhere it flowed. She could hear his heart thumping in his chest, see a vein in his neck throbbing and smell his sweat. She swayed from side to side in a mockingly playfully way as he leaned from side to side trying to decide how to attack her.

"Now would be a good time to go there," Helena said, she was addressing the woman though her eyes remained on the man in front of her. He was getting increasingly agitated. Helena imaged that he was getting mad at himself for hesitating to attack her. For being weary of a woman nearly half his size.

The woman was silent for a second. "What about …" she started to ask, her voice shaking as she fingered the leather of Helena's jacket.

"Keep it," Helena replied distractedly. It was an old one anyway and the loss of it would give her an excuse to go shopping. "You've had a rough night," she continued popping towards the man in front of her teasingly, grinning widely when he automatically stepped back. "Go on, get out of here."

"I don't think so," the man barked, speaking for the second time since Helena entered the room. His posture was straighter and his eyes narrowed. The indecision was gone, and he'd made the wrong choice.

He lunged towards Helena swinging powerfully, but wildly with the plank of wood he'd picked up from the broken cabinet. Helena easily dodged to the side, and raised her leg, kicking him swiftly in the stomach, the force of it causing him to stumble backwards as he doubled over.

"That's a good girl," Helena muttered to herself softly as she saw the woman, slowly and then quickly backing up out and out of the apartment as the man recovered his breath and spun towards her once again.

His breathing was ragged and his eyes glowing with rage.

"I'm gonna fuck you up!" he ground out viciously as he eyed her, pointing the piece of wood at her threateningly as he rose to his full height.

"Really? Doesn't look like you've been able to fuck anything tonight," Helena replied lowly, her voice taunting and disdainful. "Not a surprise really," she continued smirking as she glanced down just below his waist.

He stared at her for a moment after that, long and hard for five seconds, and then jumped at her again, swinging savagely from side to side, making violent hacking motions that got more and more hysterical as Helena dodged them, one after another.

Finally tiring of his ineffective attempts to knock the shit out of her, Helena grabbed his arm as he made a sweep at her and pressed on his wrist, bending it back and forcing his fingers to relax, as she caught his free arm with her other hand as it swung at her head.

A few seconds later, the pressure being exerted upon his hand became too much and the man's hold on the piece of wood loosened causing the weapon to begin to fall from his fingers. As it did this, Helena dropped her hand, scooping it up before it could hit the ground, while pushing on his other arm, using the momentum to spin around and knock him in the head with the piece of wood.

>>What's the apartment number? << Barbara asked as she electronically sent in an anonymous call to the police.

"I don't know, tell 'em to look for the one with no door," Helena mumbled darkly as she stared at the barely conscious man laying a few meters in front of her. He was slumped over, his breathing ragged as he glared at her savagely. He'd tried to stand up a few times when she'd been talking to Barbara, but had found himself sliding back down onto the floor after every effort, too tired and sore to do much of anything other than glare at her.

He wanted to hurt her. He longed for it, ached for it. He was probably imagining what he would do to her, if he could somehow manage to get control of her. He hated her. She'd ruined his fun. She could feel the loathing and the resentment rolling off of him in waves, crashing against her. She could smell it. The purity of his hatred so strong that Helena was certain that, even injured as he was, it would've been enough to make a normal person shudder with fear.

She stalked towards him.

"Sorry to ruin your plans," Helena drawled, her hips swaying almost sensually as she approached him. "Maybe we could have a little fun. You like pain, I can give that to you," she continued her voice hardening and her eyes narrowing threateningly as she got closer to him, one of her hand disappearing behind her back to remove a pair of handcuffs.

He wasn't the only one who knew hate. She hated his kind, and she was better at it.

>>Huntress? What's going on over there? << Barbara asked over the transceivers not liking Helena's tone one bit. Things never ended well for the person on the receiving end of that timbre. She understood what Helena was probably feeling, remembered what it felt like to feel that swell of anger begin to raise in your chest and sweep over you when the truth of the horrors humanity was willing to inflict upon itself was staring you straight in the eye in the embrace of darkness. She also knew Helena had a harder time separating herself from that anger than she did. Had a harder time wanting to separate herself.

The man looked up at Helena wide-eyed and yet still loathing, trying to shuffle backwards but finding himself against a wall.

"Cowering, I like that," Helena commented, ignoring Barbara as she came to a stop by his feet. "Are you terrified? Petrified? Of me?" she asked, her lips turning up into a sneer as she was forced to hop over a weak kick aimed at her shins. "Well you should be," she continued grabbing his arm, slapping one end of the cuffs around his wrist before stretching out his arm and attaching the other end to the radiator near him.

He started to slide towards the radiator trying to relieve some of the strain on his arm from how she had stretched it out to reach the radiator.

Helena kicked out her leg, her foot coming to rest on the wall just under his armpit stopping the motion keeping him where he was.

"Where do you think you're going?" she asked, reaching behind her once more and removing a thin piece of micro-fiber string. She leaned forward wrapping it around his other wrist, before stepping over him and yanking that arm upwards by the end of the string she still held in her hand.

Pulling on the string some more so that the man had to raise himself slightly off of the ground, Helena then looped the other end of the string through the window handle and tied it off, stepping backward tugging at the string to make sure it would hold before stepping back to observe her work.

He was in a half-crouched position, squatting really, his arms extended in two different directions at two different elevations so that whatever way he moved to relieve the tension on one side, or up or down, it would worsen the pain somewhere else.

She turned and headed towards the door.

"Hey!" he called out after her, his voice slightly panicked. "You can't leave me like this!"

"Can't I?" Helena asked looking over her shoulder at him.

"This fucking hurts," he yelled, his voice strained with pain, as he struggled against the ties holding him, gasping as pain tore through his shoulders.

"That's kinda the point," Helena replied turning around to face him smiling nastily as she stared down at him. "I thought you liked that," she whispered to him.

"Let my fucking arms down!" he yelled at her straining forward trying to fling himself at her before veering back in pain. "Pl … please let my arms down," he continued in a softer more reasonable tone a second later, the words coming as a hiss as he struggled to contend with the burning in his arms.

"It would be the merciful thing to do," Helena commented walking back over to him, her gaze on his flushed face as her finger ran across the smooth metal of the handcuffs thoughtfully before she pulled it back leaving them just as they were before.

She turned and walked out of the apartment.

Part 7

Barbara leaned over the edge of the tub, her hands carefully kneading Helena's shoulders trying to relieve some of the tension in them as the brunette lounged with her head falling forward slightly. She had been right, that blow to Helena's shoulder had caused her to place more stress than normal on it as she had continued with her sweep, leaving it tighter and more painful than usual now that the adrenaline begun to retreat.

"You didn't have to do that," Barbara commented softly as she pressed her thumb into Helena's back, causing the brunette to suck in a deep breath as sharp sliver of pain shoot through her at the move. She resisted the urge to shot Barbara a disgruntled look, though she wondered if it had been intentional.

"That was just fun," Helena replied flippantly a moment later, sighing as Barbara's hands became gentle and soothing once more.

"By the time the police arrived he'd dislocated his left shoulder, and ruptured tendons in his right arm," Barbara responded with a slight edge to her voice. She wasn't pleased. "He's going to be in recovery for months."

"I'm gonna shed some tears over that any 'no I'm not' now," Helena replied shifting in the tub slightly, straightening her back before turning so that she could see the redhead. "He liked power so much, I showed him what's like from the other side."

"You're all done," Barbara said ignoring Helena's response for the moment, as she backed away from the tub and headed towards the towel rack drawing one down and placing it over her lap as Helena stood up, stretching before moving to step out of the tub.

"It's not your job to hurt people just because they've hurt someone else," Barbara continued, handing the towel over to Helena. The brunette had always been an eye for an eye type of woman, while she leaned towards turning the other cheek when possible. It wasn't that she particularly sympathized with the people they fought, or was notoriously concerned with making them comfortable or protecting their self-esteem. There was a significant part of her that didn't give a flying fuck that the man Helena had come across earlier would be in a slings for a month. What she cared about, and what she was trying to protect was Helena. By giving into her baser instincts she lessened the control she had over them, and Barbara worried that one-day Helena would beat herself.

"Sure it is, I've never talked people into turning themselves into the police. People always get hurt," Helena replied defensively, flinging the towel over to the side a bit forcefully in irritation before moving to grasp her robe.

"Self-defense is different from the deliberate infliction of pain. He was neutralized, you didn't have cuff him like that," Barbara replied seriously. "It was malicious."

"I'm not going around kicking puppies and children in casts," Helena responded crossly rounding on Barbara as she tied off the robe. "He was a rapist, I made him reap a small part of what he was trying to sow. Boo fucking hoo," she finished a slight challenge in her voice. "Don't ask me to get weepy over hurting him."

"No one said anything about getting weepy. You shouldn't have done anything to get weepy about. It's not up to you to …" Barbara started turning the chair to face Helena as the brunette stalked over to the sink.

"I know," Helena replied cutting her off as she ran an agitated hand through her hair looking in the mirror. "Only it is," she continued staring at her reflection.

Barbara was silent for a moment, as she watched Helena watch herself. "It's a slippery slope Hel," she said finally, her eyes falling to the bath mat.

"It's my slope," Helena replied immediately at note of confrontation still in her voice. "And … only if you're on it alone," she continued her voice softening as she crossed over to Barbara her hand reaching out to gently brush some hair out of the redhead's face before falling down to take her hand. "I know what you're worried about. I lean towards the … extreme," she continued softly, her eyes skittering away from Barbara's for a second. "But I have an angel on my shoulder too," she finished looking at Barbara pointedly.

"Come here," Barbara said a second later, tugging on Helena's hand lightly, her words coming out as a faint sigh. Helena dutifully leaned down over her, bracing her left hand on the arm of Barbara's chair while her right hand kept its hold on Barbara's hand.

Barbara stared at her for a moment and then leaned forward brushing her lips against Helena's gently, almost reflectively, as her free hand traced through the brunette's hair languidly.

The brunette infuriated and confounded her at times. The comfort and familiarity the brunette had felt with rage and emotional chaos since adolescence still worrying and confusing her.

"Let's get some clothes on you," she said a moment later, pulling back from Helena so that she could see her whole face.

"That's different," Helena commented wiggling her eyebrows at Barbara, before leaning forward and brushing her lips against the redheads again, her right hand releasing Barbara's and moving to the front of her robe as they kissed, undoing the loose knot allowing the material to fall open hinting at the expanse of creamy skin that still lay partially hidden underneath it.

"I promised Dinah I'd help her with her algebra homework," Barbara said softly, somewhat breathless as she took in the sight before her. "Put that away," she continued firmly looking to side and waving her hand indicating that Helena should do up the robe.

"Fine," Helena sighed, drawing the material back around her. "I guess I'll just have to abuse myself while you two are off having fun with math," she continued sauntering towards the bedroom smirking when she heard Barbara groan softly.

Part 8

The next night …

"Here's another one," Dinah said logging it into the database Barbara had set up to monitor the strange happenings in New Gotham. "A man and woman, both approximately 50 years old, just rolled over the Ben and Jerry's on Park St.," she dictated to Barbara shaking her head as she read through the rest of the report. "A squad car found them about fifteen minutes ago loading tubs into the back seat of their sedan," she finished turning to look at Barbara. "That's disturbing."

"To say the least," Barbara muttered her eyes temporary on the plasma screen monitor hanging above their heads, before returning to the monitor in front of her and then going back the screen again. "Hmmm," she said thoughtfully, a frown coming to her face as she stared at the screen for a long moment.

"Considering how things have been going, I'm gonna assume that's a bad 'hmmm'," Helena commented sweeping into the clock tower from the balcony entrance, whipping her jacket off and shaking it wildly as she stalked into the room, tossing it to over the arm of the couch before heading into the kitchen.

"Don't," Barbara said pointing towards Helena, though her eyes were still on the screen and the brunette couldn't see her. "I need you to go out again," she continued. She'd heard Helena open the liquor cabinet, which was always identifiable by the squeaky hinge, and wanted to stop her before she could drown away the night's torments with fermented goodness.

Helena poked her head around the corner to look at Barbara. "I don't wanna," she said her face falling, not even trying to pretend that she wasn't whining. "Outside people are scary, Barbara," she said coming through the doorway and heading over to the workstation, with a bottle of Wild Turkey Bourbon in hand though it remained capped. "This ancient, figuratively blue haired thing, threw her cigarette at me and tried to hit me with her walker when I was brushing the embers off."

"That's horrible," Barbara said. Helena knew that the redhead hadn't heard a word she'd said. She sighed.

"Most of the fires have been put out and looters arrested or retired for the night," Helena began when Barbara didn't even turn to look at her. "What do you want?" she continued somewhat grumpily, her gaze drifting over to Dinah whose brows were furrowed as she studied a monitor in front of her, her fingers tapping against the desktop restlessly. She was turning into a taller, blonder version of Barbara. Helena would've smirked if she weren't so pissed off at the world.

"I want you and Dinah to go the Centenary Hospital. Mr. Cornell was brought there tonight. You remember Mr. Cornell?" Barbara asked looking over at Helena, seeing the bottle of the first time and reaching for it.

"Yes," Helena muttered darkly, watching as Barbara unscrewed the top and took a swig passing the bottle back over to her. She grinned and tossed some back before Barbara could change her mind, her eyes closing at the liquid left a deliciously hot trail down her throat and into her stomach. She felt better already.

"Me too," Dinah piped up looking over at them. "About the Mr. Cornell thing, not taking shots," she said holding their gazes for a moment before turning back to her screen.

"Then you'll understand why I was somewhat surprised to see this," Barbara replied calling up a report she'd recorded a few minutes before and transferring it to the plasma screen. "He was brought to the hospital after getting a bit rowdy at a strip club on Randall Ave. and was handled a bit too roughly by the bouncers. We're lucky some of the strippers ran out onto the street when the commotion broke lose, camera crews probably would've ignored the incident otherwise," she said, stopping the playback and returning the monitor the station it was at before.

"Yeah, lucky," Helena muttered dragging her eyes away from the screen. "All offense intended, old Cornell is like the model that squares everywhere aspire to. Geeks, nerds and other assorted losers everywhere would look at him and say 'live a little'. And you're saying he got into a brawl at a strip club?"

"Yeah, a bit out of character," Barbara replied looking over a Helena with a slight smirk. "That's why I want you to get over the hospital. A lot of the disturbances that have been caused lately have been by rather respectable members of the community, businessmen, lawyers, professors, teachers, civil servants, and all for seemingly no reason. There's got to be some reason for it, some impetus that we're not seeing. A causal link between the cases. Hopefully, Dinah," Barbara said drawing the blonde's eyes over to her, "you'll be able to find something in Mr. Cornell that can point us in the right direction."

Helena passed the bottle over to Dinah, glancing over at Barbara when the redhead hit her lightly in the arm and glared at her.

"Her mission is to dig around in the subconscious of a clearly dirty old man," Helena said meeting Barbara's gaze. "She's gonna need that," she said nodding to the bottle Dinah was know holding.

Barbara stretched her hand out towards Dinah, receiving the bottle from the blonde with little more than a slightly disappointed look.

"You will not liquor up the minor," Barbara said poking at Helena. "At least until it's been determined exactly how traumatic the excursion into the subconscious of a dirty old man has been," she finished lightly placing the bottle on the desk beside the keyboard.

"You realize she's probably going to make up some story involving sheep now," Helena commented as she stepped away from the desk, moving towards where she thrown her jacket.

"You're sick," Dinah said unconsciously fingering her communications necklace. "I was gonna go with goats."

"Ah, a traditionalist," Helena said smirking as she pulled on her coat. "You want first leap or should I?" she continued gesturing towards the balcony.

Dinah merely held up the keys to the Hummer in response, jangling them lightly. She planned on making a comment about how she couldn't believe Barbara was dating Helena, and how she could do so much better, but as she watched Helena lean over the back of Barbara's chair and place a soft kiss on the redhead's cheek, she knew her comments would be useless even as exercises in sarcasm. Damn Helena, and her increasingly prevalent charm.

A few seconds later she was joined by Helena, and they headed for the clock tower exit, and out of the penthouse continuing towards the dark streets outside.

Part 9

Later that night …

"What're you doing?"

Barbara looked down at the sound of Helena's sleepy voice. She herself was sitting up against the headboard of the bed looking out of the large bay window at the end of the room. Helena had her arm thrown over her legs, one of her hands pressing down on Barbara's thigh using it as leverage to raise herself up slightly. Barbara figured she must have been fiddling around down there for a while, seeing as how the brunette's hand was still sliding on the material of her pajama bottoms. If she could've felt the touch she wouldn't have been surprised by the sound of Helena's voice. She hadn't and she was.

"Just thinking," Barbara replied quietly a moment later, her voice barely a whisper but clear. She'd been awake for almost an hour.

"About?" Helena asked, her hand stilling on Barbara's leg as she flopped down onto the pillow before rolling over onto her back and staring up at the redhead. She smirked to herself. Even with the lack of light in the room she could see up Barbara's nose.

"Before? Now? Or in a few seconds?" Barbara asked looking down at Helena's now alert face.

"It'll all be before in a few seconds won't it?" Helena said meeting Barbara's gaze, her lips curving up slightly as Barbara smiled down at her.

"What Dinah found … or didn't," Barbara said, the smile fading from her face as she looked back towards the window, a small frown settling upon her features. "I think therefore I do," she muttered as her gaze traversed the dark room.

"She wanted to stay in longer," Helena commented. She knew Barbara heard the comment though she didn't turn to look at her, her eyebrows still scrunched together deep in thought.

"There was no choice," Barbara said remembering how a nurse and doctor had almost spotted them. "Besides, I don't think it would've done any good. She got what we were looking for, I just can't seem to make any sense out of it," she continued looking down at Helena finally.

"You do that enough and your face will freeze that way," Helena said reaching up her hand, placing her thumb by the edge of Barbara's mouth and stroking it to the side trying to rub away her frown.

"What is it with you Kyle's and your platitudes?" Barbara asked though her frown was indeed turned upside down, as she captured Helena's hand with her own and kissed it softly. Selina had shot them out like a Pez dispenser too. Barbara could see the blonde in her head as clearly as if she had been standing in front of her, looking at her with a humorously exasperated expression, waving her hand offhandedly before rolling her eyes and muttering something like, 'Yes, well the world is a strange and mysterious place.'

"It allows us to be sociable while still maintaining our mystery," Helena replied softly, her eyes rolling away from Barbara's to stare at the ceiling somewhat downcast, as the redhead stroked her hand.

Barbara watched her silently for a moment, wishing that she hadn't mentioned Selina. It was always a mystery how Helena would react to mentions of her mother, even seven years later. Sometimes she would bring Selina up herself, smiling as she talked about some adventure from their past or pearl of wisdom the blonde had passed on to her. And she would seem energized by the memory, almost buoyed by it. Other times, whether she brought it up herself, or someone else did, or something even reminded her of the blonde, she would close up and get introspective and quiet, a lost, vulnerable look coming into her eyes, the depth of which hadn't lessened over the years since Selina's death. Barbara knew that the pain hadn't lessened for Helena it had just become natural, the ache cementing itself into her soul.

"How does that happen?" Barbara asked, her face still facing Helena though her eyes were far away.

"Platitudes?" Helena asked looking over at Barbara, blinking as she focused on the redhead once more. Truthfully, she'd been glad for the distraction, she'd been well on her way to brooding, and moping before Barbara had spoken, was on the edge of the precipice that would've tipped her into a dark cycle that probably would've lasted a few days.

"No, what happened to Jeffery Cornell," Barbara replied squeezing Helena's hand, smiling as the brunette swatted at her. "How does it happen that someone is watching the news, listening to a report on how talks for peace in the Middle East have folded like a cake in the rain while grading papers, and then suddenly become overwhelmed by the urge to go to a strip club and grind with the dancers?"

"That actually sounds like a perfect reason to go to a strip club and grind with the dancers," Helena responded thoughtfully, smiling up at Barbara sweetly a moment later.

"For you maybe. But you're not a fifty-nine year old widower with a degree in political science and a marking kit with three, yes three, different colour highlighters," Barbara responded. "Dinah said that it was almost like he was a slave to his desire, that he thought about it and just had to do it. Had to. Like there was no thought process, no filter between will and action. That's just not Jeffery," she finished shaking her head.

"Well, we already knew that something was causing people to act out of character. Or maybe too in character," Helena said making a face. "The question was, how? Why?" she continued. "If we'd had some more time …"

"What if they don't know?" Barbara asked looking at her sharply.

"What? Who doesn't know what?" Helena asked not even blinking at the redhead's sudden movement. Barbara'd had a thought. She'd gotten used to the redhead's sudden movements and exclamations, and poking when she'd suddenly gotten a thought. She was glad there hadn't been poking this time.

"We assumed, and I think we were wrong to, that by Dinah looking through his eyes, we'd be able to see whatever happened to him to change his behavior patterns. Because we assumed that he saw it. But what if he didn't? What if there was nothing to see?" Barbara rattled off, shifting slightly so that that the majority was her weight was on her left arm, which was closest to Helena, as she leaned towards the brunette.

"Brainwashing? Subliminal messages?" Helena asked in a contemplative tone.

"Maybe both, maybe something else to," Barbara replied nodding. "It would explain the size of the population affected. There're a myriad of ways ideas or signals could be being feed to people. It could be happening through the newspaper, books, posters, brochures or flyers. The radio, television," she continued trailing off.

"Maybe all," Helena suggested shifting onto her side as that she was facing Barbara too.

"Maybe, but it's not likely. Different mediums access different parts of the brain. An attack on the subconscious by all of those avenues could confuse the overall message, signals getting crossed with each other, messages canceling each other out," Barbara replied staring straight forward though she saw nothing in front of her. "One or two of them at the most. One or two things that everyone affected have in common."

Helena was silent for a moment, at first contemplating Barbara's words, which seemed to make sense, and then contemplating Barbara herself. The redhead was blinking rapidly as she stared in front of her, her mouth moving minutely though no sound came out, and her shoulders were hunched over, her body slouching held upright only by the headboard. She was tired, but her mind was too busy thinking to listen to the signals her body was sending.

"Sleep," Helena said finally drawing Barbara's eyes over to her.

"Well, they would have that in common but it wouldn't explain how …" Barbara started.

"No," Helena said smiling a bit. "You, go to sleep. It'll all still be a mystery in the morning," she continued tugging at Barbara's t-shirt lightly, encouraging her to slide back down into a horizontal position on the bed. "If you don't get some sleep you're gonna be a zombie tomorrow and that won't help anything."

"You're always telling me to go to bed," Barbara muttered softly as she slid herself back down onto the mattress so that she was lying beside Helena. And it was true. It had been one of the brunette's favorite things to say to her from the time she had come to live with her. Whether she had been brooding, or training, or grading or reading, if she was up past 3 am, without fail Helena would show up and in an authoritative voice tell her to go to bed. Sometimes even resorting to pointing emphatically in the direction of her room.

"Somebody has to," Helena muttered, her words barely audible as she mumbled them into Barbara's shoulder as she snuggled up behind the redhead.

Part 10

The next day …

[Wade shuffled into Barbara's classroom as the last of the students scrambled out of the room for lunch, looking at his feet as he walked in obviously wanting to be anywhere other than where he was. It had been like this since she'd broken up with him. She'd caught him watching her sometimes, he'd even start to come over to her occasionally, sometimes they'd speak for a few minutes, but then the uncomfortable silence would come and hasty retreats would be made.

"You didn't get hurt during the daily stampede I hope," Barbara said looking over at him offering him a nice platonic smile.

"Caught the tail end, but that's okay, it was just the old and infirm," he responded lightly, quirking his lips a little, though it couldn't really be called a smile. "About the faculty Christmas dinner. Can I assume you'll be bringing a date," he continued a second later, his words coming out slightly rushed and his eyes on everything in the classroom but Barbara. "I need to know for the caterer. Everyone else filled out the form," he finished a bit pointedly, still not looking at her.

"Can I get back to you on that?" Barbara asked, her eyes drifting to the corner of the desk where the form lay. She realized she could've saved them both the trouble of this conversation if she'd actually done her paper work.

"Significant other going away for the holidays?" Wade asked looking over at her finally. He was going for a blasé tone of voice, though it came out a bit more interested than he would've liked. The flame just wouldn't die.

"No," Barbara said firmly, shaking her head a bit for emphasis. She could see the poorly masked interest in his eyes and wanted to kill it dead. Things would be far less awkward between them when he really let go of any lingering ideas he had about them getting back together. "More like hard to predict anti-social tendencies. Might not find talk about the budget and sugar cookies to be so much fun," she continued rolling her eyes. She could picture Helena's reaction.

"Right," Wade said looking away from her again. "Well, let me know by tomorrow or you'll have to share if he's in a sociable mood," he continued already by the door by the time he'd finished speaking. And then he was gone.]

"What the …!" Barbara exclaimed lurching back slightly, blinking rapidly as she looked in front of her.

"You're right that was funny," came Dinah's voice from somewhere off to her side.

Barbara turned her head to see Dinah standing to her right grinning, and then turned her gaze back in front of her to see Helena's smirking face a few centimeters away from her own.

"Some times when Barbara thinks to hard, she exhausts her brain and it has to go on standby," Helena explained looking over at Dinah as she leaned back putting a little space between her and Barbara. "For future reference, squeezing her nose shut and blowing in her ear are also an excellent ways to get the motors turning again," she continued her voice almost scholarly.

"Shut up," Barbara muttered though her tone was light. She took off her glasses and rubbed at her eyes a bit before putting them back on.

"Domestic situation, that's my cue," Dinah said pulling on her jacket. "I'll be back in a few," she continued practically hopping towards the door.

"Minutes? Where are you going?" Barbara asked wondering exactly how long she had spaced out for.

"Hours, Gabby's," Dinah responded sharing a look with Helena and shaking her head.

"Fine, and I saw that," Barbara replied pointing at her. "Try and actually do some homework," she called out, but Dinah had already disappeared behind the door into the penthouse.

Barbara turned her head back to where Helena had been to find the space empty, turning her head towards the kitchen a moment later at the sound of a cabinet door slamming.

"There's no sense foraging," she called out. "Alfred hasn't been by in couple of days, there's nothing there but a ten year old box of Triscuts," she went on as Helena looked around the corner pouting a bit. "He'll be by later."

"But I'm hungry now," Helena responded moving back over to the workstation.

"The grocery trolley's in the coat closet," Barbara said watching her approach.

"Not hungry enough to actually go shopping," Helena declared hopping onto the desk and crossing her legs, getting comfortable before crooking her finger at Barbara, smiling and leaning forward to meet the redhead's lips as Barbara dutifully moved her chair closer.

"The faculty Christmas dinner is coming up," Barbara commented leaning back in her chair to observe Helena.

"God," Helena moaned dramatically. "Stodgy old people, present company excluded of course, pissing and moaning about paste budgets and the proper period of time to hold confiscated baseball hats. I couldn't think of anything more horrifying," she continued shaking her head.

"I thought you'd say something like that," Barbara responded, her eyes drifting around the clock tower. She sounded disappointed though she didn't mean to. She knew it wasn't Helena's sort of thing.

"When?" Helena asked drawing Barbara's eyes back over to her. She'd heard the redhead's tone and cursed her theatrical personality traits. She'd been telling the truth about it sounding like absolutely no fun, but that wasn't really the point. "I didn't say I wouldn't go," she continued when Barbara quirked a questioning eyebrow at her.

"Really?" Barbara asked smiling despite herself.

"Really," Helena confirmed. "I'll go, have a horrible time and you'll make it up to me with lots of sex, and Christmas presents," she continued smiling, thinking that when she put it like that it didn't really sound that bad at all.

"Your love doesn't come cheap," Barbara responded thoughtfully, before placing her hand on Helena's thigh, rubbing along it. "But I think I can handle that," she continued leaning up to meet Helena's lips as the brunette bent her head down.

"I'm surprised," Helena commented a moment later, as she looked at Barbara appraisingly. "That you'd want me to go," she continued when Barbara simply looked at her expectantly. "Won't it be weird for you, bringing a former student as a date?"

Barbara looked up at Helena at that. She'd thought about that, and a lot of the other repercussions and consequences of inviting Helena to the dinner. The fact that they were the same-sex wasn't a factor, there were a handful of other teachers on staff who were involved in same-sex relationships and had brought their partners to school functions on numerous occasions. There had been out teachers, even almost a decade before when Helena had been a student, and marriage was a right still being fought for. No, Helena had hit the nail on the head, with the former student angle. There was something slightly scandalous about it, a faint hint of something improper and forbidden, even though it wasn't nearly as rare an occurrence as one might think. And, Helena knew that despite her extracurricular activities, which nobody could describe as ordinary, Barbara had a good old girl reputation and always had. She was the dependable, trust worthy, brainy girl next door. Dating a former student, whom some of the teachers would also have known she was guardian too for a short period of time, would not have been a very Barbara Gordon thing to do. And while she was certain that the majority of the staff wouldn't give a flying fuck about it other than to tease her about being a cougar or something equally irritating, she also knew that there would be a few who would frown upon it.

"Maybe," Barbara responded holding Helena's gaze. "Probably," she amended smiling a bit. "It doesn't matter," she finished finding that she meant the words far more than she could have predicted when she'd spoken them.

"You don't have to invite me on principle. I won't be hurt at not being able to listen to excessively beveraged former teachers tell me what a horrible student I was," Helena continued, her expression serious though her words remained light. "You don't have to prove anything."

"I know," Barbara responded simply. "And they won't need to be excessively beveraged to tell you that," she continued smirking slightly, her smile growing at Helena's rolled eyes. "I've never had anything to show off before," Barbara continued seriously a second later as she peered over at Helena.

Helena was quiet for a moment, contemplating what Barbara had said and then looked up at the redhead smiling. "So I'm your trophy wife?" she asked playfully.

Barbara shook her head solemnly. "Trophy wives can cook," she was sorry to inform Helena. "You're my concubine," she related decisively.

"How come I didn't know about these sex slave fantasies before Gordon?" Helena asked curling her legs and letting them drop over the edge of the desk, before she scooted forward slightly, bracing her hands on the edge of the desk.

"Quiet!" Barbara declared holding up her hand. "Concubine's are to be seen not heard," she continued her staid façade starting to crack. "I'm afraid I'm going to have to have your ass for this breach of etiquette."

"That doesn't sound so bad," Helena decided sliding off of the desk and leaning over Barbara's chair. "You can have my ass anytime you want."

"Saucy wench," Barbara accused poking Helena in the chest. "I'm going to have to teach you a lesson," she drawled wickedly before becoming aware of the soft clicking of shoes on the floor.

"Should I fetch the riding crop Miss?" Alfred asked heading straight for the kitchen though when he looked over at them briefly there was smirk on his face. A superior one. All of his smirks were.

"Riding crop?" Helena asked softly her eyes brows shooting up to her hairline.

"Not this time," Barbara called up to him casually though her face was beet red. She hadn't heard him come in.

"Riding crop?" Helena asked again.

"As you wish," they heard Alfred call back down among rustling noises from the kitchen.

"Hello," Helena said snapping her fingers in front of Barbara's face. "Riding crop?"

Part 11

Two days later …

"I fucking swear we should just let the primitive bastards kill themselves," Helena grumbled as she swooped into the clock tower, rubbing at her cheek for the hundredth time that night. She could still feel that middle-aged punks spit on her face. "Population control, like nature intended. Let all the fucktards kill themselves and it'll be raindrops on roses and fresh apple strudels for the rest of us," she continued turning around in circles as she battled with her jacket frustrated as she tried to rip it off of her body. "And to top it all off some fucking idiot's been horning in on my," she went on looking over at the workstation for the first time since entering the clock tower. "Territory," she finished, her eyes settling on Barbara and then on the dark-haired man standing behind her chair, his hand resting casually on the back of it as he bent over her shoulder.

Dick fucking Grayson.

That was just absolutely perfect.

"Helena," Dick said politely trying not to smirk at the brunette's previous display knowing that it would only rile her more than she already was, though secretly pleased he had managed to bother her without even trying.

"Bro," Helena replied knowing that he hated it when she called him that, as she stared at him like she could explode his head with nothing but the power of her will. "Looks like we've got ourselves a family reunion," she continued finally yanking her duster off and flinging it to the floor irritably.

"You have a brother?" Dinah asked standing up and moving towards the commotion in the center of the room. "Why would anyone make two?" she muttered to herself looking between Dick and Helena. Not softly enough though she realized when Helena turned her savage glare on her for a moment.

"Dick's Bruce's adopted son," Barbara explained drawing Dinah's gaze over to her.

"Is there a reason you're here other than to ruin my month?" Helena asked ending the moment of relative calm while purposefully sulking on the couch away from the workstation though she glared over at it. "And play with my things," she added staring at him viciously.

Barbara looked over at her sharply at that but Helena wasn't paying attention to her.

"You've had a busy night, huh?" Helena continued still glaring at Dick. She'd met up with Reese about an hour before she'd come back to the clock tower and he'd informed her that people had reported seeing a masked man swooping down from rooftops playing hero.

"Somebody had to pick up the slack," Dick responded meeting Helena's gaze. He'd been perfectly willing to try, or at least pretend to be civil, but if this is how she wanted to play that was fine with him. Arguing with her was far more cathartic than ignoring her. When they tried to pretend they didn't hate each other it gave him tension headaches and gastro-intestinal problems.

"What'd you just say?" Helena asked standing up suddenly advancing on him confrontationally.

"Just that from the news reports I've seen that maybe you should be clubbing and sleeping around less and fighting crime more … or at all," Dick replied moving from Barbara's side, stepping towards her perfectly willing to bring it.

"Oh no you didn't," Helena said cocking her head to the side before looking around the room. "I know you didn't just say that. I know you didn't just say that, cause if you did just say that you know I'd hafta slap the white offa you boy," Helena continued threateningly as she stalked towards him.

"Try it," Dick responded meeting her challenge. He'd actually wanted to throw down with her for a while, like since he'd met her. "I'll smack you so hard your momma'll feel it," he continued taking another step forward.

Helena stopped her progress at that, the movement so sudden she actually jerked to a stop, her jaw clenching and her nostrils flaring as her eyes narrowed into catlike slits and her fists tightened at her sides.

Barbara caught Dinah's gaze nodding toward Helena inconspicuously. Everyone in the room knew that he shouldn't have gone there, and that Helena was now right pissed off. She didn't relish sending the blonde into the middle of it, but she was closer to Helena, than she herself was.

"Fuck you," Helena roared ferociously starting towards Dick once more, only to have her path blocked by Dinah who flung herself in front of the brunette just in time, her hands coming to rest on Helena's shoulders.

"He didn't mean anything by it," Dinah whispered softly as Helena stared at Dick over her shoulder. She could feel the brunette's body coiled tightly beneath her hands and had a stop herself from flinching when Helena turned her still feral eyes on her and growled softly pushing against her hands.

Dick watched the scene playing out just in front of him uncomfortably. He really hadn't meant anything by the comment. When talking dirty you just always brought up the other persons mamma. It was just how things were done. He hadn't meant … he shifted his weight onto his other foot as he watched the blonde push on Helena's shoulders trying to get her under control, or at least keep her standing where she was.

He thought that he probably should apologize. Even though he hadn't meant anything by it, he had insulted the memory of her mother, a woman that two of the most important people in his life – Bruce and Barbara – had in some way loved and respected though he didn't quite understand why. He knew he should probably apologize but he just couldn't. It was the nature of his relationship with Helena. From that first meeting they'd been set up as adversaries. And while, this meeting had probably been the most hostile since that first one, they'd never interacted with each other in a way that could even be described as civil. Most of the time they grunted slightly antagonistic greetings at each other and then studiously tried to avoid ever being in the same room together. Helena taking to actually just disappearing for his visits, only talking to Barbara if the redhead called her over the transceivers in recent years, which had been more than fine by him, though he knew it upset Barbara. Though it was hard for him to fathom, the redhead actually seemed to enjoy Helena's company immensely, and genuinely seemed to miss her when she'd disappear for his stays.

"What's he doing here?" Helena barked looking over at Barbara irately, drawing Dick out of his thoughts. "Did you call him?" she asked a hint of accusation in her voice, which just also happened to be dripping with disdain.

"She didn't know I was here until thirty minutes ago," Dick interjected drawing Helena's fire back over towards him. As much as he disliked Helena, he didn't want to cause any problems between her and Barbara. At least anymore than his mere presence usually caused. It may have pleased him to bother Helena, but it hurt him more to see Barbara upset, which she always got when they fought with each other. Knowing how Helena could be when someone got on her bad side, he certainly didn't want to thrust Barbara into that position for something that wasn't her fault. "Like I said, I saw the reports and thought I could help out."

Helena ripped her eyes away from Barbara and turned them on Dick again. She began to pace taking deep breaths. She knew she was overreacting, that she was making what would've been a tense situation even worse. It was just that she was in a crappy mood to begin with, and now she had to deal with the Dick wad. It was like the fates were conspiring against her. She would have been able to get herself under control if she just had to deal with a city over run by assholes, or if she just had to deal with Dick showing up unannounced, as usual, but both of them at the same time was seriously wearing on her. She wanted to rip her hair out or throw something across the room.

"We don't need your help," she finally muttered, her tone dark but more under control.

Dick couldn't help but smirk at that. "Barbara disagrees. She's already accepted my … services," he continued his tone and expression more than slightly suggestive.

Helena stopped moving her back facing them as she straightened up and rolled her shoulders. It was like he had been given a manual of what buttons to push and exactly when to release maximum hostility from her. He really had a natural talent for pissing her the hell off.

"There are too many crimes and too much city," Barbara said drawing Helena's attention to her when she turned around. She knew that Helena had understood what Dick's tone implied and wanted to preempt any bitch fight that would've ensued from it. Knowing the two of them, it would've gone on for an hour and ended with someone being thrown off the balcony. "It's wearing you ragged trying to keep up with everything," she continued holding Helena's gaze. The other night the brunette had been too tired to even bombard her with sleepy sexual innuendo. "It'll be easier on you and Dinah if Dick helps out with the excess," she finished in a reasonable tone.

Helena stared at her for a moment, her jaw clenching and unclenching mechanically before she flung herself onto the couch muttering, "whatever," before taking up a sour faced contemplation of her shoes.

Barbara sighed. Helena was all kinds of unhappy. They needed to talk.

"Look, there's not much more that we can do tonight, we'll worry about the details of the arrangement tomorrow," Barbara said breaking the silence that had descended over the room after Helena's last muttered response.

"Alright, well I'm gonna hit the sack," Dinah said backing up, wanting to be away from the tension in the clock tower something fierce. She had an idea what was going on between the three of them, having had time to observe Dick and how he acted around Barbara for the short period of time he'd been there before Helena arrived. It only strengthened her desire to not want to be around the three of them at one time ever again.

Dick stepped closer to Barbara at her words and Barbara looked over at Helena who was staring at Dick. Nobody was looking at Dinah and she took the opportunity to escape, hoping that there wouldn't be bodies in the morning.

"I could recommend a hotel," Helena drawled a moment later looking at Dick.

"I think we both know that won't be nec …" Dick started to respond.

"Dick," Barbara said quickly interrupting his response as she spotted Helena getting ready to gear up again at his implication. "Can I talk to you for a minute?" she asked, her eyes on Helena who made no effort to move. "Outside," she sighed.

"Yeah, sure. Some air would be nice," Dick responded following an already moving Barbara. "It's kind of stuffy in here," he continued watching Helena the whole way onto the balcony.

Dick followed Barbara out onto the balcony in silence, his head occasionally turning back around to look inside of the loft at Helena who was then leaned up against the side of the desk glaring at him savagely, meeting her gaze with a small, smirk as he did. Normally he didn't take pleasure in the frustration and extreme irritation of others, being a bygones sort of guy himself, but he really couldn't stand the brunette. She'd been snippy, and dismissive, and sarcastic and antagonistic, and just exceedingly unlikable every time they'd met since that first time. He knew it was born from jealously, that she didn't like his relationship with Barbara, maybe even felt threatened by it in some way. He knew that, and in a way felt bad about it since from that first meeting he'd been relatively sure that Helena was attracted to the redhead, but his empathy only went so far. And if the brunette didn't see the need to act according to any social graces, or at least feign some kind of hospitability, he didn't see why he should bother.

"Nice to know that as much as things change they stay the same," Dick started, smirking over at Barbara as the redhead settled herself on the balcony. "Helena's as charming as ever," he continued leaning over Barbara bending forward.

Barbara placed her hand on his shoulder, stopping him from leaning any closer to her, pushing lightly on them to urge him to straighten up once more, a remorseful expression on her face.

She hadn't been looking forward to this. She knew it was going to be emotional and awkward, a combination she was not at all fond of. She hated awkward emotional situations. They made her extremely uneasy and slightly queasy. She'd never been on close terms with her feelings, had always kept a respectable distance between them, between head and heart. They may have inhabited the same living area but they pretty much went about their business independently ignoring each other as much as they could. It was generally the way she liked it. But, inevitably, a situation would always arise that would force her to face her feelings, and the awkward and uneasy would come. It wasn't her most attractive character trait, she realized that, and it had gotten her into trouble more than once. It had helped to keep her and Helena apart for far too long. She was working on it, but these types of things tended to take a while, and she was faced with having to talk to Dick then. With having to break off whatever it was they had been doing over the past few years then. No time to get comfortable. She sighed.

Dick straightened up when he felt Barbara's hand on his shoulders, stopping his advance. He looked down at her trying to read her expression and found that he didn't like what he saw. Her lips were pursed slightly, her jaw tight with tension and her eyes distant and sad. She was deep in thought, ones that she didn't seem to be particularly comfortable with.

"You're seeing someone," he said softly, taking a step back from her realizing what her hesitation to allow any physical contact between them and her expression seemed to suggest. He sounded displeased. He didn't mean to, he knew that he and Barbara didn't have a claim on each other, that they weren't even really dating and never had been as such, but he couldn't help it. The idea of her with someone else was … he shook his head minutely trying to dislodge such thoughts. "It's serious?" he continued a moment later not able to help the impulse to panic but not wanting to worry if it wasn't anything serious which it never seemed to be.

"It is," Barbara said looking up at him, finally meeting his eyes for the first time since entering the balcony, feeling a stab in her heart when he blinked at her for a moment before tilting his head skyward wearily.

"I see," Dick replied sucking in a deep breath and turning his head to the side. Truthfully, he hadn't been expecting that answer. He knew she had dated occasionally over the years, and he also knew that those encounters had usually been brief and uncomplicated. Diversions. At least that's what he'd thought, convinced himself of anyway, what she'd always led him to believe. What he had counted on. The others were just a way for Barbara to work through her feelings and other assorted issues until she realized that she was madly in love with him and wanted to have his babies and live happily ever after, he thought to himself disparagingly as he wondered at his own arrogance. He'd let it slide, been content with their familiar flirtations, and was actually somewhat relieved that Barbara hadn't wanted to make any grand statement or permanent commitment right away. He'd always been a bit gun shy about settling down, and had been happy to continue playing the field for a while longer, though he'd ultimately envisioned settling down with the redhead, eventually. He thought he'd had all the time in the world, the idea that he'd been a diversion too not even entering his mind.

"It's Helena," Barbara responded watching Dick as his brows drew together unhappily and he wrestled with emotions she could only guess at. It was a strange situation they'd found themselves in three years ago. Years of childish flirting as Batgirl and Robin, playful and innocent but laced with an undercurrent deep respect and fondness had come to an end when she was shot. They'd continued to interact in the same fashion for a while after the chair was introduced into her life, but it was different for those next few years, gauche, and strained. They hadn't known how to talk to each other – even if she had wanted to talk – the common links between them having been shattered or too painful to discuss leaving issues standing between them like open wounds festering in their ineptitude. So they'd fallen back on the familiar patterns because though somewhat forced it was comfortable, and at the time far preferable to trekking through that great, unknown jungle of the self. And then, one visit, when Helena had been off skiing with five other ditchers from her mixology seminar, Dick had sat on her couch smiling at her goofily and with an ease that she hadn't seen in quite some time. And she'd playfully demanded to know what was so funny causing him to shrug his shoulders lightly before drawling that being in the company of a beautiful woman always put a smile on his face. Though she ended up being the one who'd smiled. And they'd bantered for a few more minutes after that and then Dick had sauntered over to her with a practiced ease, smiling cheekily and had pretended to yawn, his arm drawing around her shoulder. She turned her head to face him smiling and without further ado he'd kissed her. And after a split seconds hesitation she'd kissed him back. And so it had begun. And it had been beautiful in its way, exactly what she'd needed, something that was undemanding, affectionate and comforting. But what it was exactly she couldn't say and had never really been able to.

"Helena," Dick breathed out, his tone somewhat pained as he turned to look at Barbara. "Of course," he said laughing to himself a second later before shaking his head, his shoulders still shaking though with weariness instead of mirth. "Figures," he continued a moment later, his shoulders slumped and his tone a bit dark. "How long?"

"Not long," Barbara replied, her tone mildly distracted as she thought about how true and false that statement was at the same time. "You're not surprised," she continued questioningly, once again wondering if she'd been the only person to be truly bowled over by the development. She'd thought she'd had Dinah with her for a while, but the blonde had informed her that she'd been more titillated by the revelation than surprised, since she and Helena 'were like totally giggly junior high with each other'.

"Not really," Dick replied turning to look out over the city. "Not now that I think about it," he continued softly. "She's wanted you since she was seventeen, and … and you talk about her like she's the greatest thing to come along since the Internet," he went on hoping his tone wasn't nearly as bitter as he was feeling at that particular moment, because it was then that he realized he'd never stood a chance, that his dreams for future bliss had been his alone, and that he couldn't even justify being angry because Barbara had never promised him anything more than what they had. "Fate, right?" he asked turning to look at Barbara momentarily that conversation they'd had on her balcony years ago buzzing around his head like a fly at a picnic.

Barbara opened her mouth to respond then paused before sighing, "Something like that," as she looked at his profile while he stared into the night. His jaw was tense, his shoulder hunched and his back tight. He was hurting. She dropped her head down to look at her lap.

"Are you happy?" he asked a few moments later, his gaze returning to her.

"Very," Barbara replied immediately, her eyes sparkling as a huge, blissful smile came to her lips, instantaneously lighting up her entire face as she thought about Helena. It lasted only for a moment before she composed herself again, her expression becoming suitable for the sober nature of their conversation once more. The smile had been an involuntary reaction, pure and visceral, an unconscious personification of her emotions. He'd never seen her look more radiant. "I know you don't think much of her," Barbara continued a few seconds later feeling Dick's eyes on her and needing to say something.

"That's not exactly true," Dick replied quietly an odd calm coming over him after seeing her response to his question. He hadn't seen her smile like that since before she was shot. Maybe not even then, he had to admit to himself. It was a smile entirely new not remembered. He rolled his shoulders slightly trying to release some of the tension that had built up since coming outside. "If you … well, I'm sure there's something there that I'm not seeing," he continued diplomatically. Believing the words but not quite ready to accept them.

"There's … there's just something about you that brings out the alpha in her," Barbara replied shaking her head slightly though her words were undercut with a current of affection. It was the same mildly disapproving, befuddled, yet unmistakably fond and loving tone she had used with Helena that first time they'd met when the brunette was looking at him like she'd wanted to chew out his jugular.

"She's always seen me as competition," Dick replied simply. "Neither of us realized I didn't stand a chance," he continued softly shaking his head. Barbara found Helena's anti-social, borderline violent character traits cute in an incomprehensible sort of way. How was he supposed to compete with that? "Anyway, I'm going to look into that hotel idea," he went on bouncing on his feet lightly suddenly needing some distance. "I'll swing by tomorrow for an update," he continued looking toward the entrance to the clock tower. "I'd say 'have a good night', but I guess that's pretty much guaranteed," he finished winking at her with seeming ease, though it was an effort on his part not simply resort to scowling and grumbling. He was going to be a man about the whole thing.

Barbara simply rolled her eyes at him and then smirked suggestively, rather pleased to see that he was able to joke about the situation, before looking at him seriously again. "Dick, I …" she began.

"Let's not, huh?" he said lightly holding up a hand. There was nothing she could say that make a difference besides announcing that it was all a horrible joke, which he knew wasn't going to happen. "I'll see you tomorrow."

And with that he disappeared through the entrance back into the clock tower leaving Barbara alone on the balcony.

Helena looked to the side as she heard footsteps emerging from the balcony. She was sitting cross-legged on Barbara's desk with a box of Ritz crackers on her lap. One of her hands seemed to be permanently in the box, while the other was holding onto a joystick that rested on the tabletop beside her thigh as she faced one of the monitors.

She met Dick's eyes as he walked by her silently a cracker perched on her lip as one of the characters on the monitor died a messy, fully animated death.

"Are you going to tell me to treat her well or else you'll have to introduce your foot to my ass?" Helena asked shifting to the side and then uncoiling her legs so they hung over the edge of the desk swinging slightly. She knew from his expression that he'd been handed his walking papers and she congratulated herself on managing to appear so calm even though before she'd seen him her body had been so tense she thought she was on the verge of rupturing something, and she now really, really wanted to break out into an irritatingly cocky dance, that surely would've involved knee wiggling and fist pumping.

"No," Dick responded eyeing her evenly, continuing past her towards the exit.

"Why? I know you have a considerably higher opinion of dirt than you do of me," Helena replied hopping down off of the desk, but making no move away from it, simply leaning against it as she continued to eye Dick as he stopped and turned to face her.

"I hear you have layers that aren't as utterly unlikable as your surface persona," he responded softly watching her appraisingly. "Besides," he went on with a sigh. "If I can say a positive thing about you it's that I truly believe Barbara's the one thing you do, and always have given a shit about," he continued seriously even though it pained him to admit the woman wasn't a creature of complete evil. "That puts you slightly above dirt," he finished with a minute smile.

Helena was quiet for a moment, then met his small smile with one of her own grounding out, "I think that's just about the nicest thing you've ever said to me. Which is a sad enough statement. We're not bonding over this or anything are we?"

"Don't be stupid," Dick responded rolling his eyes before narrowing them at her belligerently once again. "I'd rather castrate myself than have coffee with you," he continued exiting into the penthouse.

"It's cold out here," Helena said softly as she walked out onto the balcony. "I don't want you to get sick," she continued draping a jacket around Barbara's shoulder. "You're surly when you're not feeling well, and you know I can't open a can of soup without maiming myself."

Barbara chuckled softly at that as she put her arms into the jacket and drew it around her body before looking over at Helena who was seating herself on the ground beside Barbara, her back resting against the redhead's legs. "How did you do that?" she asked remembering entering the penthouse one afternoon, only to find a trail of blood droplets leading from the kitchen into the bathroom. She'd hurried towards the bathroom to find Helena sitting on the edge of the bathtub grumbling to herself as she wrestled with a box of band-aids trying to patch up a cut that had nearly severed her finger. When Barbara had asked what had happened Helena had looked up at her glaring, and then in a small voice mumbled 'can opener' and not said another word as Barbara fixed her up.

"I'm special," Helena replied grinning depreciatingly as she tilted her head up to look at Barbara.

"You certainly are," Barbara responded shaking her head with a mockingly sad look on her face.

Helena reached up a lazy hand and tweaked the redhead's nose before Barbara captured her hand, placing a kiss on it before releasing it again, allowing Helena to draw it back down to her lap.

"How hard was it?" Barbara asked a moment later.

"I think I grew an ulcer," Helena responded sighing. "I can see why they're generally disliked," she continued shifting closer to Barbara as she felt the redhead's hand come to rest on her shoulder and begin to squeeze and knead her flesh, massaging her shoulders quite expertly.

"I love you," Barbara breathed out softly, watching as Helena's eyes closed and her head fell to rest against her legs loosely. "You had nothing to worry about," she added bending down to place a kiss on the top of Helena's head.

"And I love you," Helena said shifting once Barbara's hand was clear of her head moving so that she was facing the redhead. "Which is why I couldn't help but worry even though I knew I shouldn't. Don't take it to mean that I don't trust you, because that's not even close to what it was," she continued sincerely reaching for Barbara's hand as she kneeled beside her.

"What was it?" Barbara asked, her tone genuinely curious.

"It was me not trusting the world," Helena replied shaking her head. "I just … I'm always waiting for the ground to fall out from beneath me," she continued softly her mind drifting to her therapy sessions. Dr. Quinzel had said she had abandonment issues. She thought that was being polite.

"I'll add a hover feature," Barbara said stroking the arm of her chair before wiggling her eyebrows at Helena foolishly, drawing a grin from the brunette before she turned herself back around so that she was leaning against Barbara again, the redhead's hand resting delicately on her shoulder.

Helena sighed contentedly as she looked out at the night sky. "Jackie DeShannon was right," she said decisively long minutes later, disrupting the comfortable silence that had descended upon the balcony.

"About what?" Barbara asked looking down at the top of Helena's head not even bothering to wonder where the random thought had come from knowing that Helena's mind worked in strange and mysterious ways.

"What the world needs IS love, sweet love," the brunette replied slowly standing up. "It's freezing out here, let's go warm each other up," she continued moving behind Barbara's chair and leaning over, pressing a kiss to the redhead's cheek.

"That's the first good idea you've had all day," Barbara responded, allowing Helena to push her towards the door as she remained leaning over the back of the chair.

"No it's not," Helena disagreed shaking her head. "I also suggested that Alfred make French toast this morning. I think that was pretty good idea too," she continued her voice turning thoughtful. "You know, we should come up with a motif for today's good ideas."

"Like what?" Barbara asked smiling a bit at Helena's tone. She had something tawdry in mind.

"I was thinking syrup," Helena purred into her ear, before smiling against Barbara's cheek and kissing her softly. "Of course frosting sugar would work too," she added smiling rakishly as she teased the skin of Barbara's hand with her finger, drawing it up and down suggestively.

"Hmmm," Barbara said softly, leaning back as Helena placed a series of kisses on her neck. "Three good ideas then," she drawled, laughing as Helena growled in her ear playfully and tugged the jacket she wrapped around her shoulders minutes off flinging it over the railing.

Part 12

The next night …

Helena blinked rapidly, her eyes watering and narrowing slightly as she tried to focus on the bow tie wearing pencil neck talking to her and failed miserably. As inconspicuously as possible she tried to survey the room looking for Barbara. She couldn't believe the redhead had abandoned her to this Mr. Pearly guy and his fascinating interest in light patterns caused by geometric refractions. Spotting the redhead deep in conversation with another person from the English department Helena sighed, and smiled at the man in front of her. "Sorry, I didn't catch that last part," she murmured really wishing that she could throw a few of the candy canes sitting in the bowl beside her at Barbara, but knowing that she wouldn't get her consolation sex if she did.

Wade felt a hand slap him rather unceremoniously on the shoulder, drawing his attention away from the lithe brunette woman in the corner of the room and over to Eddie Merchant, New Gotham High's newest geography teacher. Eddie had started at the school that semester like him.

"I hear she's taken Brix," Eddie said glancing over in Helena's direction, his eyes running over the brunette appreciatively before he shook his head. "Then again, never hurt anyone to look," he continued smiling. She was certainly a sight to see.

"What?" Wade asked looking over at Eddie curiously barely aware of the words that had come out of his mouth.

"Saw you checking out Gordon's date," Eddie replied his eyes still on Helena. "Can't blame you, she's a stone cold fox that one. Smile that promises a thousand things … all of them dirty … which are really the only promises worth making," he went on turning his attention back to Wade as he played with his mug of egg nog. After Helena had smiled a greeting at him he'd decided that she had bedroom eyes, and that he fully supported her in that.

"I wasn't checking her out," Wade grumbled in response, Eddie's words about Helena playing in his head taunting him. He really didn't want to hear about how severely attractive his ex-girlfriends current girlfriend was, and was a bit pissed off that he had to endure it because Barbara had wanted to keep a low profile on their relationship when they were together. Didn't want to feed the rumor mill she had said. Bah, he thought to himself, she didn't seem to care about the rumor mill when it came to Ms. Dirty Eyes and her stupid dimples.

"What then? You almost wore the same blouse?" Eddie asked chuckling as Wade looked over at him and scowled. "She's a former student you know, apparently she was a real badass. Prescott won't go near her; allegedly she keyed his car and threatened to neuter him on the last day of school the year she graduated," he went on sounding rather impressed. "I'm not sure I believe it though. I think she looks sweet."

"Yeah, she seems like a real gem," Wade replied rather darkly.

"Wouldn't have pegged her as Gordon's type though," Eddie replied glancing over at the redhead in question. "Love works in mysterious ways I guess, or so goes the platitude," he continued stepping back from Wade. He'd been a buzz kill the whole night. "Looks like Alicia's out of nog," he continued his gaze half way across the room. "I'll have to see if I can't help her out with that."

Barbara tilted her head to the side uncomfortably before lifting her glass to her lips and draining the liquid within trying to fortify herself for the conversation at hand.

"Helena?" Mary Raymond asked incredulously. "Helena?" she repeated again.

Barbara sighed. Mary was old enough to remember when the wheel was still a hypothesis and had actually taught Barbara herself when the school had still been Gotham High.

"Yeah," Barbara replied a moment later. She felt like she should've said more, but she was feeling strangely apathetic towards the whole conversation. Not wanting to or feeling the need to justify her relationship to a woman she talked to three or four times on a yearly basis. She shrugged lethargically trying to control the urge to roll her eyes.

"Well I never," Mary exhaled softly shaking her head disbelieving. "How old is she now?"

"Twenty-three," Barbara replied contemplating hitting herself over the head with her cup until she passed out.

"Well … I never," Mary responded again shaking her head once more. "I've never been with someone younger myself, you know," she continued a moment later, her voice turning thoughtful. Barbara didn't know that, probably because she had never thought about it let alone contemplated asking. So she was more than a little upset that she'd been made to think about it now. "Much less with a lady," Mary continued laughing softly, though not in an unkind way. "What's it like?" she asked softly, leaning towards Barbara secretively.

"Excuse me?" Barbara asked drawing her head back sharply, looking over at the old woman. She was older than her mother would've been, and she was questioning her about her sexual habits. Barbara frowned more than a little creeped out and now officially disconcerted by the path the conversation was taking, she'd been expecting moralizing not girl talk.

"Being with someone younger," Mary responded her tone dropping even more. "And a lady. I hear at that age they can go for hours on end. Young ones. Been so long I can't remember myself," she went on chuckling. "A lady in my building went with a younger fellow for a while, and she said that it was quite … invigorating," she rattled on, oblivious to Barbara's stunned and distressed expression. "And late one night, I flipped to this program on the Learning Channel, that said when two women make love, it's especially pleasurable because both partners know exactly where to touch each other. Is that true?"

"Uh," Barbara replied a rather blank expression on her face as she blinked rapidly really wishing she'd more fully considered that hitting herself over the head with her cup idea. "Is it like … uh," she paused blinking some more. "Uh … … more egg nog?" she asked hopefully glancing at Mary's empty cup.

Helena glanced up and looked over to her right. She could feel someone watching her. It was the same pair of eyes that had been watching her all night. Wade. She smiled at him and winked for good measure. He scowled at her and looked away. She continued to watch him after that trying to figure out if he was within footsie range.

"So, Helena," Mr. McLean asked drawing her attention over to him. Bothering Wade would have to wait until later. "What have you been up to?"

"Oh, this and that," Helena responded grinning at her former principle. They'd spent some nice quality time together in the past. Sometimes he'd yell at her and she'd roll her eyes. Other times he'd yell at her and she'd yawn. And sometimes, on very special occasions he'd yelled at her, and she'd both yawn and roll her eyes. Those were the days, she thought to herself nostalgically. "School didn't leave me a lot of free time," she continued looking beside her as Barbara laughed and then shrugged at her peeved look.

"Really?" McLean asked smiling. "What did you go into?" he continued curiously. The truth was while he had spent most of Helena's senior year yelling at her, giving her detentions she skipped out on, and threatening her with expulsion, he had liked the brunette. Before her mothers death, she'd been a good student, and involved in quite a few school activities that had given him a chance to speak with her one on one occasionally. It had really bothered him to see what had happened to her afterwards, and was genuinely glad to see that she appeared to have gotten things together.

"Bartending," Helena drawled folding the edge of her napkin diligently smoothing the crease with her nail. She was sure she could make a pretty swan out of it.

"That took up a lot of time?" Wade asked in a rather scathingly as he stared at her.

"It was a very intensive seven day program," Barbara responded lightly, smirking somewhat to help allay the confused looks Wade's tone had drawn. And also because she wasn't particularly thrilled with the idea of Helena and Wade talking to each other after the confrontation with Dick a few nights earlier.

"I nearly wasted away," Helena added in a playfully melancholy tone. "Actually, I'm doing some work in dot coms," she continued looking up from the napkin and putting a serious expression on her face. "Start up business, relatively small right now."

"Really? What are you selling?" Eddie asked. He hoped it had something to do with the adult entertainment industry, but doubted it.

"Muffin tops," Helena responded nodding earnestly, resting her elbows on the table and leaning forward to create a confidential atmosphere. "There's a rapidly expanding market."

"Muffin tops?" a woman to her left asked. Helena hadn't learned her name, she was one of the teachers dates. "That's brilliant. What kinds?"

"Thank you," she said quietly with a feigned humility. "Barbara," she continued looking over at the redhead shaking her head. "Didn't think the idea was … what was the word again, oh yeah, good," she continued putting a look on her face that showed how very disappointed she was with Barbara's lack of vision. "But I had a dream," she continued, ignoring Barbara as she rolled her eyes and shot her an irritated face. "A dream where people could buy the best part of the muffin in chocolate, blueberry, fruit explosion, and oatmeal. I dreamed of a world where muffin-y goodness was available electronically in any and all combinations. I'm also thinking of expanding into some fudge and short bread projects," Helena finished her voice lowering surreptitiously. "It's going to be wild."

"You did a terrific job with everything, absolutely the best faculty diner I've ever attended, you should really feel free to let your head swell," Barbara said softly, looking up at Wade as the limbo bar dropped lower and one more person made their way to the punch bowl to get even more sauced.

"Effusive praise, I like that," he commented, smirking slightly as Eddie limped to the side of the room holding his lower back. It was a dangerous game. "I think the biggest hit of the night was your girlfriend though … besides the bunt cake of course, which was all my idea," he continued. "She really doesn't seem all that anti-social."

"It's a sham," Barbara replied. "I threatened to wheel all over her official Member's Only jacket if she embarrassed me," she continued smirking as she realized that that threat probably would've worked just as well as promising lots of sex. Still, the actual deal would be more fun.

"She's very … flexible," Wade commented watching as Helena bent back and walked under the beam, even going so far as to shake her chest Charo style when she popped back up, grinning at Eddie. She was beautiful, young, funny, and nubile. He didn't stand a chance. Hell, he would've dumped himself for her too. In fact if he were her he probably would've just dated himself and been very happy.

"I know," Barbara drawled smiling, her tone a bit too suggestive she realized, when Wade looked over at her. "She does Yoga," she added quickly before looking away.

"I might have to take up Yoga," Wade muttered looking back over at the limbo line which now seemed to consist solely of Helena who was graciously accepting pats on the back while trying to look humble. "Seems …"

Wade looked up towards the ceiling suddenly, his previous words forgotten as water began to beat down on his head and all around him. He looked over at Barbara, who was also looking up at the ceiling her hand above her eyes trying to shield them from the falling water droplets.

"The fuck?" Barbara heard just to her right. She turned her head to see Helena crouching down just beside her, her hand running through her damp – quickly becoming soaked – hair.

"That's my girl," Barbara muttered drawing Helena's eyes to her from where she had been observing the rest of the room's occupants looking up and muttering amongst themselves. "There must be a fire in the building," she continued seriously.

Helena stood up, nodding as she uncoiled herself and began to move towards the door automatically. "I'm gonna check it out," she called, her voice rising to be heard over the other voices in the room as she cocked her thumb in the direction of the door, before promptly moving through it.

"She's a volunteer firefighter," Barbara called out as everyone turned to look in Helena's direction questioningly. "No cause for concern," she continued while thinking that Helena really hadn't managed to grasp the concept of 'secret identity' over the years.

Barbara looked out into the courtyard of the school, a small frown marring her beautiful features as she watched a figure approach her. After Helena had taken off, they'd all evacuated the building coming to rest on the lawn, where one of the teachers had put in a 911 call. Now, ten minutes later the place was swarming with firefighters and police officers. However, it was the presence of one particular officer that had Barbara slightly agitated. Reese. Helena wasn't dressed in her Huntress garb and if he spotted her, things could get complicated.

"Barbara Gordon?" Reese asked coming to a stop in front of the redhead, a note pad open in his hand though he didn't look at it.

"Yes," Barbara responded holding out her hand and forcing a polite smile onto her face.

"It's a pleasure," Reese said grasping her hand. "I met your father a few months back, at Andy Kane's retirement party. A great man, he's done a lot for this city. He …" he stopped and smiled a bit ruefully. "And you're probably aware of all of them. You must get this a lot."

Barbara smiled genuinely this time. "I do," she admitted her tone slightly amused. "But in my totally unbiased opinion he's completely deserving of each and every word."

Reese nodded a small smile on his face as he looked down at the note pad in his hand for the first time. "Officers found two men tied up in one of the science rooms in the north wing. They've admitted to starting the fires, some sort of strange revenge for failing chemistry class twenty years ago or something," he went on shaking his head. "So right now we're just trying to account for anyone who may have been in the building at the time, and make sure everyone's alright," he finished looking back over at her.

"Rather mundane work for a detective isn't it?" Barbara asked raising an eyebrow.

"Departments stretched at to its limits at the moment, as I'm sure you're aware," he replied looking at her knowingly. She shrugged. "Everyone's on call all the time, for anything. I drew this. Detective or not it's the job," he continued. "We've been able to account for everyone who was at the dinner, except for one person, your date … Helena," he went on glancing down at the note pad. "Nobody seems to have seen her since she 'went to check things out', I was wondering if you've seen her since you evacuated the school building?"

"Mmm," Barbara responded looking up at him guilelessly. "She wanted to go home and get changed, she's got a strange aversion to water, don't ask me to explain it, thousands of dollars in therapy bills and her brain is still largely a mystery. I told her to go, I wanted to stay and make sure everyone was okay. It's not a problem is it?"

"No," Reese responded shaking his head. "Mostly we just wanted a confirmation that someone had seen her," he continued. "Though if … excuse me one moment," he said turning his head to the side as a uniformed officer came up to him and began to whisper in his ear. "Sorry about that," he started once again, drawing Barbara's eyes over to him from the parking lot where she had been looking. "I'd like to maybe talk to her though, find out if she saw anything when she was roaming the building, we think there may have been a third assailant, and another man or woman on the premises. If she saw anything it would be a great help," he continued reaching into his jacket pocket.

"Reese!" someone across the field drawing his attention over to them, his hand falling away from his pocket as he looked.

"Thanks for your time Ms. Gordon," he said looking back over at Barbara, and then turned jogging over to the officer that had called his name.

"Shit," Reese muttered as he finished signing the piece of paper in front of him. "Did you see where the redhead went?" he asked the officer standing in front of him as his eyes surveyed the field. He'd forgotten to give her his card, and it'd be a hassle to get a hold of him without it. He really didn't want to add any more stress on her after what must have been a pretty harrowing night to begin with.

"Over there," the officer pointed. "The parking lot, she turned down that walkway a second ago," the officer continued, pointing to a narrow passageway that branched off from the parking lot.

"Thanks," Reese muttered already jogging in Barbara's direction.

Reaching the corner, Reese began to round it but stopped when he saw a slim figure leaning over Barbara's chair. They were talking softly, but he couldn't hear what they were saying. He stepped back into the shadows, watching as the figure leaned forward to place a lingering kiss on Barbara's lips before moving to whisper something to her that caused the redhead to laugh.

They obviously knew each other … well. The figure had to be the girlfriend, Helena, the other teachers had mentioned. He frowned wondering why Barbara would've told him that the woman had left the scene when she was obviously still around. Still, he thought to himself, watching as the woman took a step back from Barbara moving towards the dim light that illuminated the passageway, she always could've said she was going, and then not gone not wanting to leave the redhead stranded or alone.

In any case, seeing that the domestic scene had ended he moved to step forward intending to proceed with delivering his card when the other woman, who had been previously cloaked in darkness, finally stepped into the dim light provided by a small bulb attached to the side of the building allowing him to really see her for the first time.

She had messy dark brown hair, deep blue eyes and playful smirk. He'd know that face anywhere. It was Huntress.

"Catch ya on the flip side," Huntress said to Barbara grinning at her before turning her back to the redhead and jumping up, disappearing onto the rooftop a moment later.

Reese stepped backed into the shadows and backed away from the opening to the passageway, a thoughtful, confused, and slightly pained expression on his face, though he quickly pulled himself together when he heard Barbara begin to move from the passageway, so that when she emerged from the opening he doubled over resting his hands on his thighs making his breath come out hard, presenting the appearance of being winded after a brisk jog over.

"I'm glad I caught you," he said looking over at her, his hand reaching into his jacket pocket. "I forgot to give you this," he went on handing her the card straightening back up though watching her carefully all the time.

"I didn't even realize," Barbara said softly, smiling at him though a slight tension came to her body that wouldn't have been visible if he hadn't been looking for it. She glanced behind her quickly, the movement so fast and smooth that it was almost unnoticeable. "Thank you," she said grasping the card firmly in her hand, smile still in place. The lady was cool he'd give her that.

"Have a nice evening," he said straightening up, nodding to her before back around.

Part 13

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