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


Part 13

A night later …

Reese rubbed at his head, scraping his nails across the short hair that rested on top of his head, forcing himself not to look up and around the rooftops that surrounded him. Willing himself not to look for her before she showed up. There was really no point, he thought to himself, as he sighed deeply and dropped his hand back to his side, kicking at the asphalt lightly with his expensive shoes. There'd always been an energy, a slight hum inside of him before as he'd waited for her, an anticipation of the dance that was to come, a taste of the relationship that seemed to be forming between them. It was like being on a first date every meeting, the same nervous excitement flooding his body. It had been nice, really nice. But it was mostly gone now, leaving a slight aching in his chest and trepidation in his gut as he waited for her now, though despite himself, there remained a ghost of that old feeling still threading inside of him.

"Thanks for coming … Ms. Kyle," Reese said, barely looking up when he sensed her presence beside him. He pushed a styro-foam cup cross the roof of the car towards her. A quarter cup of coffee with her milk and sugar. He felt a slight tingle run through him as her fingers brushed up against his as she accepted the cup silently. He looked at her more closely. Her lips were drawn together forming a thin line and her jaw was clamped tight high-lightening her cheekbones. She wasn't happy.

He felt calmer somehow, more at home seeing that. She'd taken away something he had begun to cherish and he'd taken away something she had clung to. They were somewhat even now, in a strange sort of way. He could relax a bit.

"Well, now that particular secret is out of the way I suppose you'll want my number," Helena responded finally, quirking an eyebrow at him, trying not to seem nearly as concerned by the revelation as she was.

"Would there be a point?" Reese responded somewhat dourly, his eyes cutting into her accusingly.

"I don't know, would there?" Helena asked watching him now somewhat confused by the turn the conversation had taken. She didn't understand what had him so riled. By all rights she should've been the one pissing and glaring and shit.

"Your girlfriend might have something to say about it," Reese replied dropping his eyes back down to the ground.

"My …" Helena started to ask, then stopped shaking her head. "Last night," she continued, "you saw me at the school," she went on knowingly. Barbara had mentioned that he'd been there, but the redhead had said she was fairly certain Reese hadn't seen her. "How'd you …"

"The other teachers said Ms. Gordon's date, Helena, went to check out what happened and then promptly disappeared. Fits your M.O., doesn't it?" Reese asked looking up and over at her, a bit pleased to see Helena's severely unamused look and 'get on with it' expression thrown his way. "Anyway after what I saw in the parking lot, it seemed to make sense that whoever jumped onto that roof was Helena, and with your given name and link to Barbara Gordon it didn't take much digging to get your surname," he finished shrugging, noting the small frown that came to her face when he mentioned what he'd seen in the parking lot.

"Well, there it is," Helena replied rather peevishly a moment later. "What're you going to do now that you know?"

Reese was silent for a moment having decided to draw out the tension and let her suffer a bit wondering what he planned on doing, before he sighed and muttered, "nothing," looking away from her as he did. Every time he looked at her, he saw her leaning over Barbara kissing her softly, with a tenderness he'd never seen from her before, and heard the redhead's laugh reverberating through his head mocking him, because she now had what he realized he'd wanted since the first time they'd met.

Helena watched him carefully, saw the look he gave her before turning his head away and the expression that settled across his features afterward. "Listen," she said drawing his eyes back over to her. "About before, you and me before all this," she continued waving her hand around vaguely. "I know there were signals, that we were doing the dance. I just wanted to say that I wasn't playing with you," she continued seriously. Well, I was … but not about that," she amended with a smirk. "Things just happened with Barbara … and well, the lines of communication between you and me have always been kind of static-y, and I thought it would be better not to bring up something I couldn't explain," she finished looking away from him somewhat uncomfortably. It was so unfair, they hadn't even really been going out and she still had to have the awkward emotional chat with him.

Reese simply nodded. "She saw you," he started a moment later referring to Helena's jump the night before. "And the voice, that time I got the call it was a woman…"

"You wanna know if Barbara's on the other end of this line?" Helena interrupted fingering her earring, suddenly not sure whether she was relieved or regretting that she had left them off. She'd planned on turning them on when she arrived, but then Reese had gobsmacked her with that Ms. Kyle shit.

Reese simply nodded.

Helena watched him carefully. It was one thing him knowing who she was and potentially being a threat to her, it was another for him to know about Barbara too. She could easily lie to him, explain away Barbara seeing her jump onto the roof. 'She's known me since I was kid, she's knows I'm different and unlike some people didn't automatically assume it made me a homicidal freak. But if you were to ask her where I was now, she'd say mixing margaritas' or something like that. Maybe a little suspect, but nothing that he could actually poke holes in. It would be enough she was sure.

It all came down to trust.

"No. She doesn't know about this particular nocturnal habit. Bartending is a great excuse to be out all hours of the night," Helena responded finally. She trusted him. She just didn't trust him with Barbara's life, she couldn't tell him, not with what had happened the last time someone had figured out Barbara's secret identity. She literally couldn't have forced the words past her lips if she'd wanted to. "As for the leaping over tall buildings in a single bound thing, over the years she's figured out that I'm not like other girls," she went on pausing, a brief smile touching her features. "She doesn't care."

Helena then watched as Reese straightened up, looking at her discerningly. She couldn't be certain whether he believed her or not. However, his gaze soon turned speculative and then appraising as he shifted his weight, coming up to his full height looking down at her.

"Don't think that this changes the game," she stated catching his posture knowing exactly what it meant.

"I know who you are," Reese responded simply.

Helena smirked at him, knowing that he thought knowing her identity gave him some sort of power over her. He was right of course, it did, but she'd be damned if she'd let him know exactly how much. He'd already had a serious morality complex before he thought he had a real way of bossing her around, and she wasn't going to be putting up with more sermonizing than she had to.

"Whop dee doo," Helena replied irreverently, extending her forefinger up in the air and twirling it around in a circle. "You don't have any proof or corroboration. If I think you're trying to abuse the knowledge, I will tell Barbara what I've been up to, and she'll protect me. She's quite fond of me, as you've come to realize. Then it'll be spooky 'I believe in the man bat' Reese's word against the police commissioners daughter."

"Ex," Reese interjected defensively not liking that Helena had such an accurate idea of how he was perceived within the department.

"Whatever. The point is Barbara took a bullet for this city, she's a beloved award winning schoolteacher, and the mayor knew her when she was in Underoos. If she says we hang out at night playing canasta and drinking fruit punch people will believe her. It'll go down like this: you'll make your accusations and the department will casually look into them and find nothing … because I can do that. And then, they'll look at you," Helena responded shifting her weight so that she was now the one in a cocky stance. "Which I don't think you'll want with your real last name. Finger pointing's nothing more than a great way to get you nowhere fast."

Reese stared at her, long and hard for a moment before looking away as he thought over what she'd said. He knew he didn't have any video of her, he hadn't kept anything that would've had her prints on it, and he'd never asked witness's to work with a sketch artist because he knew what she looked. And, now he was painfully aware that after twenty-four witnesses became virtually useless anyway so tracking someone down at the present time would be pointless. He also knew that with the above being true, any accusation he could make to try and get leverage on Helena would led to a 'he said she said' case, and that just like Helena indicated if Barbara Gordon purgered herself in Helena's defense, her father, history and reputation could most likely go toe to toe with his badge leaving them at a stand still. More than that, she was right about him not wanting anyone looking into his past and digging up his real name. Basically, at the time being knowing who Helena was wouldn't change the game, just like she'd said.

"Whatever," he muttered a moment later looking out across the street.

"Right," Helena said seeing his slightly slumped shoulders glad to have the matter settled for the moment. "Listen, about what's been going around town lately, there's a good chance that someone, somehow, is managing to send subliminal messages to people," she continued. "I'm looking for common links between those affected, it's … it's an option you might want to pursue," she finished.

"And now you've got to go," Reese said looking over at her.

Helena nodded and started to move away.

"Hey," Reese called stopping her. "Do I still have to call you Huntress?"

Helena considered him for a moment. "Not when we're nice and cozy like this," she replied finally smiling a bit. "But when you're threatening me in front of suspects I'd appreciate it," she continued. "Later Reese."

"Jesse," he mumbled.

"I know," she responded grinning. "I like Reese better," and with that she was gone.

Part 14

"Where's big brother?" Helena asked with only a slight touch of ambivalence in her voice as she breezed into the clock tower, settling against the side of the work station as her gaze drifted around the clock tower. She could hear footsteps and pounding on the second floor in the training room knew that Dinah was up there.

"He just finished up his sweep and is on his way back. Be good," Barbara replied softly turning her head to look over at Helena. "What happened to you?" she asked a second later her eyes raking over the brunette, seeing that she was no worse for the wear.

"I've got good news and bad news," Helena started sighing, turning her head away from Barbara. "Which do you want first?"

"Good," Barbara said somewhat reluctantly watching as Helena shifted around. Helena shifting around and refusing to make eye contact was never a good thing. Sometimes it was a cute thing, but with the sighing and the 'bad news' statement Barbara didn't think that was it this time.

"Well, I was very intimidating and forceful. I think if you were there you would agree that I was rather impressive and most probably very sexy," Helena responded looking over at Barbara, offering her a smirk before turning her head away again at the redhead's raised eyebrow.

"Bad," Barbara said a moment later, realizing that that was Helena's good news, and therefore sounding more reluctant than before about hearing the bad news, which was quite a feat.

"Mr. Detective saw me at the school the other night and decided to actually do some detecting. He knows who I am," Helena muttered looking down at her feet as she tilted her head to the side and made irritable faces as she spoke. "He's suspicious about you too even though I tried to cover," she continued folding her arms across her chest finally looking up and over at the redhead.

"And?" Barbara asked her voice a bit tight. It was taking all of her control not to launch into a 'this is why you should be wearing a mask/I told you so' speech. Helena's body was rigid with tension and her features drawn tight. That and the crossed arms and the refusal to look at her, alerted Barbara to the fact that the brunette was in an extremely defensive mood at the moment. She wouldn't have responded well to a lecture, and the last thing either of them needed at the moment was to get into a fight. Still, they were going to have a talk about it later, preferably after Helena had been lulled into a false sense of security.

"And he seemed to think it was just the rolled up newspaper he needed to keep my wet nose in check," Helena grumbled darkly watching Barbara carefully. She knew that they were in for a 'masks are good' talk later on. She sighed. "But I set him straight. Let him know what was what. He won't talk."

"How can you be sure?" Barbara asked leaning back in the chair looking across at Helena, her lips drawn tightly together.

"I made sure he understood that it was in his best interests to let sleeping dogs lay … or lie … or … well, whatever that platitude is," Helena replied looking over and seeing Barbara's unhappy face still in place. "I threatened him … with you."

"With me?" Barbara asked her brows drawing together in confusion as her lips twitched slightly at the pure oddity of the statement.

"I've been around enough crime scenes to know Reese doesn't exactly have the best reputation in the department. Everyone thinks he's crazy," Helena replied bring a finger up beside her ear and making circles. "A complete whack job cause he's always talking about 'strange things happening under the cover of night'," she continued her voice turning mockingly ominous. "And grown people running around in latex animal costumes."

"That's not crazy, that's true," Barbara pointed out about to make a comment about the animal costumes statement when Helena continued.

"Yeah, it's just too bad nobody believes him," Helena responded not sounding too broken up about it at all. "Because I told him that it'd come down to a case of his word against yours – because you love me so very much and would unquestionably do my bidding to remain snuggle buddies," she continued smiling at Barbara's unimpressed look. "And that while the word of a cop would usually be good enough, Crazy Reese making zany accusations against the beautiful, responsible, brilliant, fellow public servant Barbara Gordon who knew the mayor when she was still in Underoos, probably wouldn't end up so well for him. Lucky for me you've always appeared to be such an upstanding citizen."

"Appeared?" Barbara asked cocking an eyebrow at Helena.

"That's right," Helena drawled looking at her. "You've got latex and honey mixed in with your sugar and spice," she continued her lips turning up slightly at the thought of just how naughty Barbara could be on occasion. She still kind of wanted to find out about that riding crop thing.

Barbara merely smirked at that, her head turning the side as she heard the loft doors open and saw Dick begin to cross the room towards them. "Wait, Underoos?" she muttered softly looking over at Helena, not wanting Dick to hear. She'd never worn Underoos. Ever. However, Helena was too busy staring at Dick intensely to reply to her comment, tracking him as he walked towards them.

"How's that thing work?" Helena asked suddenly once Dick was within civilized speaking distance, pointing at him as she spoke.

"What?" Dick asked stopping and looking at Helena suspiciously.

Helena nodded towards the mask that he held lightly in his hands.

"The mask?" Dick asked. Helena simply nodded. "It's made from a Nomex-Kevlar blend, and it's held on my face with a material called 'spirit gum', don't ask me to explain how it works, I don't know. There's a transmitter and receiver here," he said lifting it up and pointing inside near the side of it, "and it has 'Starlight' night lenses here for night vision," he finished looking at her. "Why?"

He wasn't going to let her borrow it. She'd already gotten the girl. If she thought she could start borrowing his stuff she was dead wrong. A man had to draw the line somewhere. Sure it would've been better if he'd drawn it at his almost girlfriend, but still, better late than never.

"You wouldn't happen to have one of those lying around here would you?" Helena asked looking over at Barbara, trying not to smile at the redhead's badly repressed triumphant face at having the mask debate almost settled.

"I could in an hour," Barbara replied.

Helena nodded thoughtfully. "Do it," she sighed.

Helena ran an agitated hand through her hair, tugging at the dark locks in quick, hard, frustrated motions before releasing the abused strands as she let out a weary sigh and looked across the loft to where Dick and Barbara sat hunched over the work station talking quietly and prodding at something on the desk with some sort of metal instrument Helena couldn't identify.

"You're jealous," Dinah said softly watching Helena watch the other two thoughtfully. The brunette had been more restless than normal, and while Dinah knew part of that rested with Helena actually having to do something that resembled research while Barbara worked on her mask, she was also fairly certain it wasn't the reading and cross referencing that had the brunette so on edge.

"No I'm not. She's my girl," Helena responded a bit peevishly, turning her head away from Barbara and Dick to narrow her eyes at Dinah.

"I don't mean about now, or even the future," Dinah responded evenly meeting Helena's gaze as she spoke. She'd spent enough time around the brunette to be able to read her moods pretty accurately, and this wasn't Helena's dangerous angry, it was her brooding, tortured angry, which usually just involved a lot of cross looks and pouting. "You're jealous that he was ever with her. The thought of him with her burns you up," Dinah continued even as Helena looked away from her and down at the tabletop.

"Is that so unusual?" Helena asked a bit defensively gazing at Dinah once more somewhat miffed that the blonde was able to assess what she was feeling so accurately.

"No, but it's useless," Dinah replied honestly looking at Helena, her elbows coming to rest on the table as she leaned forward drawing towards Helena, creating a more intimate atmosphere. "She loves you. She always has," she continued a moment later, an almost wistful tint to her words. The way Barbara looked at Helena. The way Helena looked at Barbara. They way being around each other made them shimmer and glow, animating them both in ways that was never seen when they were apart. It was beautiful. And most of the time it made her want to stick her fingers in her ears and walk around yelling 'La La La La La'.

Helena remained quiet merely scratching at the surface of the table with her fingernail her bottom lip ensnared between her teeth that gnawed at it gently.

"How come you were never jealous of Wade?" Dinah asked impetuously fascinated by the oddities and intricacies of Helena's mind.

"You've met him right?" Helena replied immediately, a small smirk coming to her face as she looked over at Dinah. Wade had just been a distraction. Fun. She had plenty of thoroughly enjoyable 'Wade' types in her past, though hers were never quite as boring. "Dick's different," she continued a moment later her thoughtful expression in place once again. She'd never had a Dick. "He's like her. They have all these funny stories together, and lack the same moral ambiguities," she went on rubbing at her eyes before stopping to run a hand through her hair. "And look at him, fucking James Bond suave, Tom Cruise grin, Vin Diesel body and a trust fund he doesn't have issues with. There's history there, and actual emotion. He's … he's like the only person she's ever been with who even came close to deserving her," she finally finished shaking her head somewhat ruefully.

"Besides you," Dinah stated.

"Including me," Helena corrected softly looking at her fingers as she scratched at the surface some more. "She's too good for me too," she continued sending a self-conscious little smile Dinah's way before sighing. "But I'm willing to over look that," she finished rubbing at her eyes again.

"You two are more alike than you think," Dinah commented after considering Helena for a moment shaking her head as she spoke.

Helena looked over at her curiously at that, but the blonde had gone back to reading the article in front of her and before she could speak she heard her name being called from across the loft.

"Come over here so we can make you look like a proper superhero!" Helena heard Barbara yell as she turned to look at the redhead, already half way out of her chair, and soon halfway across the room as she smiled at the absolutely delighted expression on Barbara's face.

It was almost worth humoring Barbara to see that expression.

Helena kneeled down in front of Barbara as Dick crossed the room and came to a stop beside Dinah. Helena's hands coming to rest lightly on the redhead's knees as she allowed Barbara to fasten the mask to her face, her own hands coming up to poke and prod at it once it was in place.

"How does it feel?" Barbara asked curiously, resisting the urge to bat Helena's hands as they jabbed and pinched at the mask. Poking was the brunette's answer to everything new. Masks, babies, strange gelatinous goo, it didn't matter what, poking always seemed to be the most perfect course of action to Helena.

"Alright," Helena replied slowly as though she wasn't really sure about it, her hands still pushing at it where it attached to her temples. "It just has to pass one test before I give it a passing grade," she continued her hands finally dropping. "It's very important," she intoned gravely as she peered up at Barbara.

"What is?" Barbara asked patiently staring down at her a small smile on her face.

"That I'm able to do this while wearing it," Helena said leaning up and brushing her lips against Barbara's, lingering at the redhead's lips for a few seconds, intoxicated as always by her taste, smell, and texture. "It can stay," she proclaimed a few seconds later, her voice low and a little silly as she pulled back.

"I like it," Barbara stated watching Helena as the brunette moved to stand up. "It makes you look mysterious."

Helena smirked responding, "I always look mysterious."

"It makes you look more mysterious," Barbara decided after tilting her head to concede the point.

"You don't think it's possible for someone to look too mysterious, do you?" Helena asked philosophically, her hand unconsciously capturing Barbara's and stroking it gently.

Barbara was quiet for a second. "I don't know," she finally replied smiling up at Helena adoringly as if she were the cleverest girl in the world for coming up with that question. "It's a bit of a mystery," she continued playfully.

"Hello, other people still in the room," Dinah said coughing uncomfortably her gaze momentarily flicking over to Dick who was poking at the floor with the tip of his shoe intently. She just knew that he was seconds away from whistling and looking at the roof. "We talked about this. You said you'd try to be only faintly saccharin instead of sickeningly," she continued glaring at the two women in front of her.

Helena smirked and stepped away from Barbara moving over towards the couch. "Fine. I'll just go in the corner and play with my mask then," she declared stroking the mask lovingly before bringing it up to her cheek and whispering to it cooingly.

"Why don't you play with it outside?" Barbara suggested nodding towards the window. "An alarm just went off on Adams St. … and you two obviously need some time alone."

Part 15

The next day …

Helena watched Dick pace in front of the balcony smiling, utterly amused by the display. He'd been at it for about half an hour only stopping every once in a while to turn and frown at a completely unaware Barbara before starting again.

Dick turned sharply, his hand automatically shooting out as he sensed a figure behind him.

"Whoa!" Helena declared holding up her hands still leaning to the side where she dodged to avoid the blow. "Jumpy?" she asked straightening up.

"Bored," he replied relaxing his stance as he looked at her.

"Yeah," Helena nodded looking away uncomfortably for a moment before turning to face him again. "You wanna get out of here?" she asked peering at him questioningly.

"Is that your way of telling me to go back to my tastefully decorated hotel room?" he asked quirking an eyebrow.

"No, I …" Helena started frowning. "I didn't mean it like that … this time at least," she continued staring at him. "It's almost dark. We stick to the rooftops by the time we make it mid-town it'll be dark," she continued shrugging.

"You actually wanna run a coordinated sweep?" Dick asked disbelievingly, his eyes widening as he looked at her. Helena had been far less antagonistic after he'd been informed about her relationship with Barbara, but she hadn't been friendly by any stretch of the imagination, and she certainly hadn't been volunteering to spend any more time around him than was absolutely necessary.

Helena shrugged again. "Barbara's always going on about the old days, tag team, comforting voice in your ear, hand signals and shit. I know hand signals I've just never … listen, whatever. We can go separately or together, I don't much care. It's something to do besides watch Red be all genius-y," Helena responded, getting more and more agitated as she spoke, before finally ending up crossing her arms and glaring at Dick. The momentary camaraderie she'd felt with him over the pacing had long since disappeared leaving her wondering what the hell she was doing voluntarily talking to him. However as she looked over at Barbara she had to admit that she knew exactly what she was doing. She knew Barbara hated how the she and Dick acted around each other, and she hated it when Barbara hated anything, so she was trying to not act like a total ass.

"Wouldn't mind sharing the Batusi with someone again, it's been a while," Dick replied smiling. He'd caught the look she'd sent Barbara and released that the redhead was the reason she'd extended a somewhat decaying olive branch in his direction.

"I don't know what that is, but I don't like the sound of it," Helena replied scrunching her face up at him like she'd smelled something bad.

"It's …" Dick started trying not to laugh. "It's this lame-ass dance move Babs and I used to annoy your Dad with," he continued his voice lowering. "Bruce totally couldn't dance, whatever his body came up with was like the antithesis of dancing, it was highly comical which is why he never did it much," he continued seeing that Helena still had her hands folded defensively at the mention of her father, but that she still looked somewhat interested. "But this one time, we caught him practicing in the Batcave with Alfred," he went on grinning as she cracked a smile at that, "for a Wayne Foundation party later that week. And, he did this … this thing with his hands and knees," Dick went on his smile growing as his mind formed visuals to go along with his story. "Like this," he said bending his knees slightly and lifting his hands to his face making a 'v' shape with his fingers and waving them in front of his face alternately as his body shook. "I laughed so hard I cried. Though Babs assured me they were manly tears," he continued shaking his head and blinking trying to contain some salty droplets as he spoke. "Anyway, after that when we were on sweep sometimes, we'd just stand on opposite buildings and do the Batusi, as we dubbed it, for shits and giggles … and to piss off Batman."

"Did it work?" Helena asked smiling despite herself.

"Every time," Dick replied grinning back at her. "You know those cartoons where people get so mad their faces turn red and smoke comes out of their ears? Well, Bruce could actually do that. I saw it one time. It was upsetting and oddly … fascinating," he finished looking at the ground seeing Helena stare at him. The momentary ease between them from seconds ago was rapidly fading.

Helena was silent for a moment considering Dick as he glanced around the loft looking everywhere but at her. She hated it when she had to admit to herself that he wasn't such a bad guy. In fact there were more than a few similarities between them. If one of those commonalities hadn't been an overly strong affection for Barbara Gordon she was fairly certain that they probably would've gotten along rather well. He might actually have been able to be a big brother to her. If.

"Do the dance again?" she requested her lips quirking up slightly.

"No," Dick replied shaking his head solemnly.

"Why?" Helena asked a bit militantly stepping towards him.

"You'll laugh at me and then I'll insult your hair and Barbara will yell at us both and maybe even tell Alfred who'll send us to bed without desert. It's just a can of worms," he responded looking at her with a frank expression.

"Whatever," Helena responded tilting her head towards the window. "Sun's down. Shake your Batusi," she continued pulling on her jacket.

Barbara took off her glasses, resting them carefully on the table before squeezing her eyes tightly shut and taking a deep breath, arching her back forward stretching it out and rolling her shoulders before finally opening her eyes. 'I'm getting too old for this shit,' she thought to herself, a small smile coming to her face as her gaze drifted around the clock tower, which was now cloaked in darkness. She pressed a few quick buttons on the keyboard turning on some more lights in the loft. She hadn't realized so much time had passed since Helena and Dick had left.

She turned back to the mess in front of her. Hard copy printouts surrounded her, covering almost the entire surface of the desk, while all five of the monitors in a semi-circles around her had various, yet equally important, information displayed on them, and the plasma screen monitor scanned through different news programs automatically.

She'd been referencing and cross-referencing information since she'd gotten back from school, comparing and contrasting the information she and Dinah had collected over the past few days. And she was close to something. She could feel it. Had felt it for hours, which was why she had continued to push herself until her retinas burned and her brain hurt. After researching absolutely everything they could find about the minutest details of the hundreds of affected peoples lives, piecing together their daily habits - eating schedules, preferred traffic routes, reading material, medical information, etc. – there was something there, linking them all together, something that was dancing on the edge of her brain, taunting her with a song and dance routine.

She let out a frustrated exhalation and leaned back in her chair her hand reaching for a glass of water that had long ago become room temperature while her head drifted upwards to look at the plasma screen.

Her hand stopped dead, her fingertips just barely grazing the edge of the glass as she stared at the screen.

That was it.

Barbara stared at the screen for a second longer before turning back to the computer and turning off the scanning feature, setting the Channel 11 news report on to tape. That was it. That had to be it, she thought to herself as she hastily grabbed at some of the printouts sitting in front of her, and reached a hand over to another keyboard typing without looking as she called up some information and poured over the piece of paper in her hand simultaneously. Channel 11 news broadcasts. God, it was right there, she thought as she flung the pieces of paper she was holding down onto the desk and grabbed another set. Middle and upper class adults aged 25-65 years of age. It was the primary market for news programming, and the composition of the group of affected people. And all of them, Barbara realized as she poured over individual bios, were avid viewers of the Channel 11 news at 9:00 and/or 11:00 pm.

She slapped her hand against the surface of the desk.

She should have seen it sooner.

Pivoting the chair to face the computer immediately to her right, Barbara began to type, calling up broadcasts of the Channel 11 reports she had previously recorded while activating the software she had developed to analyze voice patterns, background noise configurations, and filter superfluous noises along with much more.

She tilted her head to the side as the results were displayed on the plasma screen monitor, a hand running through her hair as she studied them. The audio output waves were skewed, rising and falling at odd intervals that didn't correspond with pitch variations in the speakers voice but were instead part of the noise filtered out as background and extraneous.

Not brainwashing but brain manipulations. Constant, steady and consistent pulses of sound at sub and hypersonic frequencies designed to assault the behavioral center of the brain, slowly over a period of time altering the make-up of the region, the sounds subtly altering and shifting patterns and pathways. It was ingenious, and completely uncontrollable and unpredictable beyond knowing that something would happen, though what that something could be would change with every individual affected. It was … it was nothing more than a recipe for chaos. It was insane … and brilliant.

Barbara reached for the transceiver.

Part 16

"Are you two … getting along?" Barbara said into the microphone sounding confused and hopeful. They hadn't been openly antagonistic and borderline violent towards each other since the first night Dick had shown up, but over the time that had followed they hadn't shown any sign of actually becoming civil, let alone friendly towards each other. Considering the history between the three of them it didn't surprise her, but it saddened her.

>>Reading Beauty awakes<< Helena replied. >>Did you really call just to find out how the kiddies were doing? <<

"Nice to hear you finally admit it," Barbara replied. "So the next time I tell you to eat your broccoli I don't expect to hear any objections."

>>Next time? There was a first? You know what Broccoli is? << Helena responded smirking.

"I'm bored of talking to you," Barbara replied though her voice remained warm. "Nightwing can you hear me?"

>>Loud and clear … mostly loud though << Dick replied lightly. >>And I love broccoli<<

>>Oracle's pet<< Helena muttered though her voice was without any real venom, instead sounding rather amused.

>>Broccoli and cheese whiz, broccoli and ranch dressing. Steamed broccoli, boiled broccoli, sautéed broccoli. Broccoli, broccoli here and there, broccoli, broccoli, every where << Dick responded sighing dreamily at the end.

"And suddenly I wish you two were fighting again," Barbara interjected before Helena could butt in with another humorous, off-topic response. "I want you two to head over the Channel 11 news building. Their nightly broadcasts are the source of our problems."

>>Copy << Dick responded moving the edge of the building he was perched out, his hand on his grappling hook.

>>Copy? << Helena asked also moving towards the edge of her building. >>Roger, roger<< she continued in a keener voice, vocally saluting.

>>How old are you again? << Dick asked, his voice slightly obscured by air rushing past him.

>>Twelve << Helena responded without a moments hesitation.

>> You're very mature for your age << Dick commented sarcastically, a slight scuffling coming through his transceiver as he landed on another rooftop.

>> When I'm good Oracle gives me …<<

"Mind on the mission!" Barbara interjected a touch of dread in her voice as she cut off Helena's response.

>>I was gonna say cookies<< Helena responded a second later. >>But it's nice to know that at least one of our minds is still in the gutter<<

>>There're still some people inside the building<< Helena said into her transceiver as she felt the air shift as Dick came to a stop beside her on the rooftop opposite the news building. There were still about ten cars in the parking lot, and she could make out shadows and silhouettes insides the building. >>We could sneak in but … << she continued trailing off as she settled her elbows on the stone ledge in front of her and leaned forward nonchalantly.

"No, you're right, it'll be easier and more effective if you just wait until the workaholics head home," Barbara agreed hearing the television turn on behind and swiveling to look at Dinah who was spread out across the couch in her pajamas yawning. She released the talk button. "Did you finish your homework?"

"Yes Warden," Dinah replied rolling her eyes. "I even put page numbers at the top. I'm almost studious," she continued stopping at the Late Show with Craig Kilborn. "I couldn't sleep and figured this would put me down soon enough."

"Cause you're such a fan of quality programming," Barbara remarked somewhat surprised that the blonde hadn't turned to MTV or one of it's billion affiliates. "Nothing could compare to 'Cribs'," she went on placing her hands in front of her face and sucking in her cheeks gangsta style. "Word."

Dinah stared at her for a moment and then busted out laughing, shaking her head and laughing some more. "You should never do that again. Ever," she finally said though her shoulders still shook with laughter.

Barbara smirked at her conceding the point while toying with the idea of laying out the one verse of rap she had picked up monitoring detention hall one day. Something about there being a rocket in his pocket with two tickets to her ecstasy, one for him and for the chick standing next to him. But she decided against it. At some point in the future it would probably be beneficial for Dinah to respect her and she figured trying to rap would pretty much guarantee that that would never happen again.

>> Is it organic? << she heard Dick ask over the transceivers as she turned her attention back to the masked fighters. Were they playing twenty questions?

>> No << Helena replied simply.

>> Is it made of plastic or metal? << Dick asked.

>> Yes << Helena responded.

>>Well, which one? << Dick replied somewhat crossly.

>> Has to be a yes or no question << Helena responded easily.

>> My other question wasn't yes or no << Dick pointed out somewhat darkly.

>>Sure it was, just not in a way that was at all helpful to you << Helena replied happily.

>> You can't answer an either or question with yes or no << Dick declared.

>> According to the rules of logic you can, because by placing the 'or' in there you're making two separate premises one, so that an answer of yes or no would indeed satisfy the query. For example, if you asked me if Doug was in the shed or in the garden, I could reasonably say yes, because if Doug is in the shed then he's in the shed or in the garden. You see my point? << Helena asked somewhat smugly.

>> That doesn't sound quite right << Dick replied glaring at her.

"She's correct actually," Barbara interjected sounding a bit surprised, which made Helena frown. "A simple proof is all that it would take to verify her claim. You see if Doug is represented by D, the shed by S, and the garden by G, then …"

>> I'm sorry << Helena whispered looking over at Dick as Barbara continued with her explanation obvious to their apathy for the subject. >>I thought she was still ignoring us, I never would have said anything otherwise. <<

>> It's okay << Dick said nodding as Barbara explained that one of they symbols they'd be using was represented as a horseshoe turned to the side. >> We could throw rocks at that tin can until she's done << he suggested.

>>Cool << Helena responded bending over a picking up a small pebble chucking it at the pop can that lay a dozen meters or so in front of them, smiling as it dinged the side and shot off to the side. >>Oooh, you liked that didn't you? << She asked Dick grinning. >>So pretty, so very pretty << she continued licking the tip of her finger and making a sizzling sound with her mouth.

Dick placed a small pebble on his nail of his thumb and placed one hand over his eyes before flicking the pebble in the direction of the can watching as it pinged and flew off as well. >> What was it the kids used to say? Oh yeah … BURN << Dick smiled snapping his fingers before pointing two finger guns in Helena's direction.

Helena slowly crossed the floor, practically gliding cross the surface creating no noise as she moved, her head turning from side to side carefully scanning her surrounding with an uncanny precision.

>>What exactly are we looking for again? << Helena asked as she looked around the editing room and at the editing machines having no idea if something was out of place or not.

"Anything that looks out of the ordinary," Barbara replied sighing. "I can't really give you anything concrete because I just don't know."

>> I take it that a machine that says 'Brainwashing done here, press flashing button to learn how' with a huge red arrow pointing at it would be too much to ask for? << Dick asked as he moved around one of the offices at the end of the room Helena was searching.

"Only, you know, in the real world," Barbara replied hearing Helena snort with amusement though the brunette made no verbal response. "I don't know," she continued a second later sighing as she thought about the situation. "It might be better if you two came back and picked up some micro cameras to set up around the production areas of the building."

>> That might be a good idea << Dick responded straightening up and closing the drawer he had been looking in. >> In any case if someone was acting especially strange-like we could … <<

"Huntress?" Barbara asked curiously interrupting Dick. Helena had been silent for a few minutes, and while that in itself wasn't usual the nature of the silence was. She was too still, too silent, Barbara could barely make out the sound of her breathing.

>> Someone's here << Helena breathed out her voice distracted and a bit raspy. >> Checking it out << she continued pointing two fingers the direction opposite the one she was moving in as she saw Dick come out of the office.

"Hi," Helena said popping out in front of the noisy figure, a large grin covering her features. "Oh, that doesn't look very legal," she continued glancing down to the lock pick in his gloved hands also spotting a cell phone as she looked. "What's this?" she asked grabbing it and flipping it open to see strange equations pop up on the screen. She raised an eyebrow and reached out grasping the stunned man by the arm and flung him down the hallway towards where Dick was standing.

Helena leaned against the basement wall languidly though her eyes were sharp and alert in a way that would have belayed her stance if someone had been close enough to see them. She held the cell phone in her hand. It now had a thin cable coming out of the end of it that disappeared into a pocket inside of Helena's jacket.

The man she had found was seated on the cold, concrete floor with Dick standing imposingly in front of him, speaking to him firmly but considerately.

"Fuck you man, I don't know what the fuck your talking about … man," the guy said to Dick trying to stand up.

It was an interrogation technique that was getting them nowhere in a hurry.

>>I've got it << she heard Barbara say into her ear.

She simply pulled the connection cable out of the jack and tucked it back into her pocket, shoving the phone itself into an outside pocket before slowly walking over to the man and Dick.

"You know Nightwing," she started slowly looking down at him. "I don't think that this is working," she continued her voice hardening as she bent down and grabbed the man hard under the chin. "He's just too smart to fall for our brilliant and rare use of reverse psychology," she went on still holding him, her feral eyes studying him as she spoke with a creepy calm. It was time for the good masked crusader/bad masked crusader routine. "I think we're gonna have to try something else," she decided releasing him and straightening up once more, her lips curving up into a cold smile.

Dick considered her for a second and then spoke. "Huntress," he started in a tone he hoped was suitably warning. "I'm sure if we just …" he continued looking at her in a consciously beseeching way.

"Sssh," Helena said looking over at Dick, holding his eyes for a second longer than was necessary. "Just … fucking sssh," she continued bringing two fingers up in front of her face and moving them closely together so that there was barely any space between them.

"Listen," she continued turning her attention back to the man on the floor. "This is the situation. People are going psycho all over the city," she went on looking at him thoughtfully her voice almost cooingly. "You know why, how, and the procedure to reverse it. This is information that we wan … nay need. It's information we intend to get one way or another. And it's information that we have a limited amount of time to gather," she explained running her gloved finger down his cheek a bit roughly. "You, sir," she stated scornfully smiling at him. "Are going to give me this information, right now," she finished smiling again as the man turned his head to the side away from her touch.

"Go to hell, I don't know shit," the man responded staring up at her.

Helena turned towards Dick and smiled, laughing slightly. "I'd say that's fairly obvious," she commented sounding amused.

"Huntress," Dick said in a warning tone not sure whether he was playing along with her still or starting to get genuinely concerned. She looked a bit too happy and wondered if the bad cop thing was a routine with her or par the course.

Helena ignored him, merely crouching down in front of the man.

"Despite how amusing and probably generally true that statement was, it really wasn't the smartest thing to do," Helena said conversationally looking at him contemplatively. "You see, deadlines make me … cross, I guess," she went on rubbing at her chin. "I'm really not at my most charming under time restraints. And, like I mentioned before, I am on a rather ungenerous schedule," she continued sniffing slightly and looking down at the ground before suddenly reaching out her hand and grasping him around the throat. "I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm not in the mood for shit and a package of Huggie's extra absorbent couldn't hold what you're excreting," she said tightening her hold on him a bit. "So you're gonna want to start talking before I start feeling real unsociable."

The man snorted derisively and looked away from her though his eyes were wider than normal and his breathing had increased. "Is this the part where I'm supposed to be intimidated or something? Cause all fucking a hundred and twenty pounds of you is real fucking scary. You shoulda been the good cop, gone and picked me up some coffee for putting me out like this," he chocked out laughing softly. "Maybe you should get your gentleman friend to take ov …" he suggested before she squeezed a little harder and whatever else he was going to say got cut off.

"You'd be amazed at the amount of trauma the human body can sustain," Helena stated seemingly oblivious to what the man she was holding had been saying, her tone awed and full of loathing at the same time. Her eyes were dark and distant. "Gallons of blood can be lost, nerve endings frayed and completely severed, massive electrical disruptions making organs and appendages spasm, internal hemorrhaging, blood pouring out of bodily openings and still … life. It's always kind of fascinated me," she went on her voice cracking momentarily before she drew a finger from her free hand across his throat. "Pain I mean. I think that maybe if you keep being so uncooperative you'll help me out with an experiment," she said decisively turning her eyes back towards him. "Cable television's a horrible thing. I've been watching the news too much, the news and surgical operations," she continued reaching behind her and pulling a switchblade out of her jacket, smoothly extending the blade.

She considered the shiny surface for a moment, her body completely still, and then brought it up to her lips and licked it then watched for a moment as it shimmered in the light.

"Are you fucking crazy?" the man asked watching her. "Is she fucking CRAZY!?!" he asked again looking beyond Helena to Dick who was beginning to wonder that himself. It wasn't like he was against roughing up uncooperative suspects. Sometimes it was just what they needed to be cooperative. It was certainly an angle that he had been about to approach this time before Helena butted in. But there was something disturbing about seeing her lick that knife, especially knowing how her mother had died. Because there was something sensual and intimate about it, it went beyond merely being predatory. It suggested something deeper than theatrics. It was more than a little creepy. "Fucking do something!" the man called again.

"Fucking do something," Helena repeated in a mocking tone tilting her head from side to side before bringing her free hand up to her eye and rubbing contemptuously. "Baby want his ba-ba?" she asked before turning to face Dick. "Don't worry the person on TV survived," she offered with a shrug. "I've been finding it way difficult to control my impulses lately," she continued looking back at the man. "Like I saw this kidney removed, and recently I've been like obsessing about discovering how much it would hurt without an anesthetic," she went on pushing on his shoulders and moving to straddle his waist as he began to struggle against her. "It'd be … impetuous to try and educate myself now, but there's been a lot of that going around lately so maybe I shouldn't feel so bad," she said as she pushed his shirt up slightly, clucking her tongue at him as he began to struggle again the tip of the knife resting against he abdomen. "Oh, who am I kidding, I wouldn't have felt bad anyway."

"You wouldn't do it," he said his voice shaking as he looked up at her. "You can't! You're like a fucking champion of justice or some shit. Like a fucking hero."

"Anti-hero actually," Helena said smirking down at him. "I like my avenging black like everything else," she continued her voice eerily serious. "Maybe I have issues," she went on thoughtfully. "But that's kind of your problem now isn't it?" she asked him sounding pleasantly amused.

>>Don't<< Barbara said into the receiver hearing Dick muttering and a slight shuffling that indicated he was moving. >>Nightwing. Don't interfere<<

"I know I'm a rule breaker and all that but she's talking about torturing him. And she's doing it with pep. I don't care if it's the fucking quickest way, I'm not going to let her just …" Dick started.

>>Proposing<< Barbara said cutting him off. >> She's just talking. She won't actually hurt him … at least not too much << she added with a slight sigh.

"It don't like it," Dick said not really sharing Barbara's confidence that Helena wouldn't start an impromptu surgical exercise.

>> Neither do I << Barbara said wearily. >>But the city's gone mad and this guy knows how to stop it, or at least who could stop it << she continued not really believing that the man was anything more than a semi-literate lackey. >>It'll stay in hand. Trust me <<

"So what's it gonna be," Helena said looking at the man somberly. "Are you going to tell me what I want to know, or are we about to become acquainted from the inside out?" she asked. "Cause, seriously, you fuck with me anymore and I swear I'll cut you on principle," she finished poking the knife into him enough to draw a small tickle of blood.

"Don't cut me," the man said his body shaking slightly as he sniffled and blinked rapidly trying to contain tears. "I don't even … I mean this crazy bitch she just. I swear, I'm just supposed to download the instructions into the computer and go around with a video camera taping the looting and shit. I don't even … do I look like a fucking genius? I don't know what the hell any of it means. This crazy bitch just … she fucking pays well. Don't cut me," he finished practically sobbing, his body shaking as he choked out the last few words.

"This crazy bitch have a name?" Helena asked standing up and moving away from him before the projectile snot that had started to shoot out of his nose as he blubbered could get on her. That's just what she would've needed to make it her most perfect night ever, she thought to herself as she looked down at him with a faintly aghast look on her face.

"Quinn, Harley Quinn," the man sniveled immediately. "She fucking cr…"

"Crazy, I got that," Helena interjected cutting him off her body rocking slightly as she bounced on her feet, adrenaline still furiously pumping through her body. "What happens when you download this crap onto the computer? What computer is it?" she asked feeling Dick come up beside. He was tense. She could feel it rolling off of him.

"I swear, I swear I don't know. I just download it onto this chicks computer that's all I do. Isabella Blue. I download it onto her computer and that's all I do," he answered looking up at Helena.

"And tape the chaos?" Dick asked looking down at the man. "That your idea, or did this Harley Quinn tell you to do that too?"

"Quinn man, everything's that's bitches idea. She likes to watch everyone going nuts. She gets off on it. It's fucking abnormal," he replied starting to get his sniffling and crying under control, pulling himself up into a slightly respectable sitting position.

"Is that it?" Helena asked stepping towards him again, not quite wanting him to begin feeling comfortable yet.

"Yeah, sure," he said cowering a bit more. She still had the knife out. "I mean, she told me not to watch the news, she said it'd make me feel funny for a while and she wanted me at my best."

"For a while?" Dick asked.

"Yeah," the man responded.

"So the effects aren't permanent?" Dick asked stepping towards him as well.

"I dunno, I swear I don't have a goddamn clue," the man answered holding up his hand peacefully.

>> Isabella Blue lives at McMaster and John. A small walkup, number 12435. She's in apartment 304 << Barbara related to Helena as the brunette up against the outside wall of the news building, her head resting against the brick and the bottom of one of her feet braced against the wall as well as she stared up at the sky.

"Got it," Helena responded turning her head as she heard Dick exit the building. "Or should I say 'copy'," she continued watching him walk over to her. "Going radio silent, we'll contact you when we get to Blue."

"Oracle find her?" Dick asked looking at Helena a bit frostily. He left the man tied up and gagged in the main hallway. Someone would probably be around to find him in a couple of hours.

"McMaster and John. Apartment 304," Helena replied pushing off the building. "It is 1984 bro, and Big Sister is always on the prowl."

"Wait," Dick said grasping her about the arm before she could take off for the rooftops. "Back there. That was insane, you know that right?"

Helena simply stared at him with some exasperation.

"You weren't really going to cut out his kidney were you?" Dick asked staring at her hard, his hand falling away from her arm when she looked down at it.

"Not right away," Helena responded. "I would've tried hitting him first."

Dick stared at her for a long moment after that searching her eyes. His immediate instinct was to tell her that her flippant comment wasn't funny, but as he watched her calmly watch him, he realized that she wasn't trying to be funny or dark. She meant it. She would've cut him, she would've hit him, and watching as she impatiently looked back up towards the rooftops before turning to consider him with a slightly irritated look on her features, he realized that if she had cut him she probably wouldn't have been all that bothered by it.

" … across the thin line," he muttered to himself as he continued to look at her.

"What?" Helena asked in an annoyed tone as she looked at him.

"We walk a thin line, those of us in the life," he said in a normal face looking at her steadily. "When you can't tell the difference between criminals and the crime fighter you've crossed that line, gone too far. If what we do is to have any meaning we have to thread on that line carefully, constantly choosing to be more cop than criminal, because when …" Dick started looking at her.

"Must be nice," Helena said cutting him off, her tone snide and her lips turning up in a slight sneer as she spoke. "To live in such a neat little world," she continued. "I always did like black and white photography, it's so quaint. But I could never quite get around to adopting it as a world view."

"What's that suppose to mean?" Dick asked meeting her gaze, his expression challenging and deeply unhappy.

"Only that things aren't so simple for me as they are for you. And even Barbara. I can't see anything but gray. I don't have that deep down light inside, those warm and fuzzy feelings about the world," Helena replied, her voice losing its hard edge as she spoke until she was almost whispering. "The line, it shifts, like a shadow rotating with the sun. I feel," she went on practically hissing the word. "The ends justify the means. I know they don't. My armor doesn't gleam," she continued in a weary tone. "And still I manage to do okay," she added cutting him off seeing that he was about to speak holding up her hand with some irritation. "What do you say we do the crime fighting thing now, huh and talk about my apparently numerous inadequacies later?" she suggested, her tone tetchy as she moved towards the nearest building.

Dick sighed and moved to follow her.

"Well what the fuck's you're bright idea?" Helena asked turning to face Dick not bothering to pretend she wanted to be anywhere in his vicinity at the moment. "Knock at the door, say 'Superhero's at your service'? 'Really we're the good kind of masked stranger showing up at your door announced in the middle of the fucking night'," she continued turning away from him making an impolite sound and rolling her eyes as she stared at apartment 304 from across the road.

"I suppose you'd rather kick something in," Dick replied also looking across the street. "A door, a window … a head maybe," he continued staring over at her. "I know, maybe you could break down her door, run across the room and kick out her window and then threaten to cut out her spleen until confesses to shooting Roger Rabbit? Then maybe you can whine for a while about being tortured and misunderstood because I haven't heard that about five fucking minutes!"

"Keep talking princess and …" Helena started threateningly.

>> SHUT UP! BOTH OF YOU. Just. Shut. Up! << Barbara yelled into the microphone causing both Helena and Dick to wince as her voice shot straight through their heads, Helena actually grabbing at her head, her enhanced hearing particularly hurt by the loud tone. >>This is NOT productive<< she continued. They'd turned back on their transceivers when they'd arrived across the way from Blue's apartment and she hadn't heard anything but the two of them bickering once that had happened.

And still, she realized with a sigh, hearing them begin to play the blame game.

"Oh lick my …" Helena started in an antagonistic tone.

>> Huntress! << Barbara yelled again impatiently.

"You can fucking lick my …"

>> Finish that and I swear you'll regret it << Barbara stated loudly but calmly cutting off Helena's reply. >> If you two want to reenact some more scenes from Junior High, maybe take things behind the swing set, then please let me know because I'll take care of this if you're not up to the job<<

Things were silent on the other end of the transceiver for a moment, though Barbara fancied that she could hear them glaring at each other.

"Alright Fearless Leader, what's the plan?" Helena asked her words sarcastic, but her tone soft and chastised.

>> Nightwing, are you carrying any sleep pellets? << Barbara asked her tone lighter, almost conversational, trying to dislodge some of the tension that had coated their previous words.

"Three or so," Dick responded keeping his eyes focused across the street knowing that if he looked at Helena he'd be overtaken by the urge to throttle her.

>> Alright. << Barbara responded clapping her hands together. "Although it IS somewhat unorthodox I want you to try knocking at the door, talking to her. You two have gotten some press over the last week so she just might be willing to talk to you. If she's not, gas her and bring her back here for questioning << she instructed, leaning back waiting for any objections and relieved to hear none.

Helena stood facing the door of apartment 304 with her head bowed slightly causing her hair to fall forward obscuring her face enough that anybody looking through the peephole wouldn't be able to make out her masked features.

Dick stood beside her but to the side, turning his head from side to side scanning the hallways.

"Who is it?" Helena looked up as she heard the voice inside, faint through the door. She smiled glad to see someone so safety conscious in the city, Isabella had asked without unlocking the door.

"Superhero's at your service, we'd like to ask you a few questions if that'd be agreeable to you," she responded smiling at the peephole.

"How do I know you're actually her and not some psycho?" Blue asked curiously. Helena could practically see her leaning closer to the door.

"You've been feeling a bit funny lately haven't you? Not quite yourself. I think we both know why, and that it would be in all of our best interests if you let us in for a little chat," Helena responded. "What do you say?"

"If I say no, what happens?" Blue asked.

"I say yes, and we come in anyway. Make this easy on yourself Isabella. We're still willing to be friendly," Helena responded shrugging still looking at the peephole.

The door opened hesitantly a moment later.

"Listen," Dick said his voice firm but patient. "We know you're involved in this. We caught your colleague on his way to deliver your next set of instructions less than an hour ago. He gave you up. The only thing he didn't tell us about you was your shoe size, so denying any involvement is futile," he continued looking her in the eye.

>> You don't suppose she could be telling the truth? << Barbara asked over the transceiver, her question directed mostly toward Helena. She could hear everything that was going on, but by not being able to see Isabella Blue's body language was missing out on an important part of the questioning process. However, she trusted Helena's interpretation of Blue, whatever it may have been. The brunette had amazingly good instincts that way.

"Yes and no," Helena responded softly. She was seated on the couch, legs crossed watching Dick question the dirty-blonde woman with a somewhat bored expression as she slouched slightly. "I don't think she's lying, but I know that fuckwit back at Channel 11 was telling the truth too."

>> How? << Barbara asked.

"He was too scared to lie. Fear brings out honesty," Helena responded straightening up somewhat before moving to her feet gracefully. "We're dealing with mind manipulation right? Maybe …"

>> She is involved and doesn't know it << Barbara interjected finishing Helena's statement.

"Yeah," Helena said walking over behind Dick, looking at Isabella over his shoulder. "You gonna send the kid over or should we gas her?" she continued her voice dropping to a whisper as she turned her back towards the other two.

>> Bring her in. I want to run some scans on her. Besides, you know who is asleep and it'll take the time you need to get back her to get her cognizant << Barbara replied.

Part 17

"Actually, it'd be better if I went in now," Dinah said drawing Barbara attention over to her from where the redhead's eyes had been focused on the monitor in front of her. "It's easier to scan people when they're unconscious. Her defenses will be down and I'll be able to do more digging than if she were awake and fighting it," she continued settling herself against the desk, still rubbing at her eyes absently before yawning once more.

"Want some coffee beans to chew on?" Helena muttered looking over at Dinah from the spot where she was hovering beside Barbara, inching towards and away from the redhead alternately, wanting to touch her, seek some physical comfort, drawn to the warmth of Barbara's body, but also feeling something inside, that confused and scared her, tugging her away, urging her to keep her distance.

"I'd be easier, sure," Barbara responded focusing on Dinah. "But I'm uneasy with the idea of going into her mind when she's not conscious. Certainly I don't exactly have an ethical soapbox to stand on having helped essentially kidnap her … but I think on top of everything else she's been through tonight, it would be distasteful."

"Distasteful?" Dinah asked looking at Barbara smirking slightly. "Right," she continued looking over towards Helena and finding the brunette in a serious contemplation of the floor. "I guess it would be kind of … not good," she went on looking around the room seeing Dick sulking a few meters away and wondering if there was a good place in the loft to avoid people's gazes that night.

"It's just that …" Barbara started to say, but stopping when she heard a coughing sound slightly in front of her and to her side. Looking over she saw Isabella coughing, her hand pinching and rubbing at her nose before drifting up her eyes and encountering a soft material.

She sat up straighter in the chair and began to look from side to side unseeing and growing agitated.

"Please, don't be afraid," Barbara said gently rolling over to her, coming to a stop just in front of her. "I realize that this is probably the definition of a rude awakening, but I promise you we intend you no harm," she continued seeing the woman's head turn towards the sound of her voice, her body still tense though her breathing seemed to slow and steady somewhat.

"Who are you? What am I doing here? I don't understand, I …"

"We're good guys. You're here because we need you're help, and I'm going to do all I can to help you understand what's happening," Barbara interjected gently, her voice soothing and warm.

"Here's some water," Dinah said smiling in effort to try and keep her voice calm and friendly.

Isabella reached out her hand searching for the water. Dinah grasped it, leading her hand towards the glass before her eyes fluttered shut and she found herself drawn into Isabella's mind.

Images of a dog, grocery lists, fabric squares, family, friends, restaurants, a seated blonde woman in red, a busy room with lots of machines, New Gotham Park, a crossword, and a myriad of other images rushed into Dinah's mind, bright and vivid, snapshots of Isabella's life.

"Careful now, don't drink it all at one time," Dinah said releasing her hand leaving the glass, now firmly, in Isabella's grasp.

Dinah crossed over to where Barbara was seated and bent over leaning close to the redhead, her lips beside her ear.

"Nothing at all espionage like, grocery lists, pet concerns, quiet spots to escape to. If she's involved, she has no conscious memory of it," Dinah whispered shaking her head slightly.

Helena stood behind Isabella as she sat in front of a monitor with a non-reflective screen over it, her fingers holding up the end of the woman's blindfold carefully allowing her to view the information display on the monitor.

"The brain displayed on the left is a brain showing normal activity, your proverbial textbook case. The brain on the right, is your brain which was scanned into the computers through the electrodes attached to your temples," Barbara explained, seeing Helena's arm muscles flex slightly as she keep Blue's head facing the screen as the woman tried to turn to face her. "You can see in the one quadrant that the levels of activity are highly elevated, and that in the other section slightly below and to the left of it, that the levels are below normal. You can see that right?"

"Yes," Isabella responded softly. "Yes," she repeated again a bit louder in a firmer voice. Barbara nodded for Helena to put the blindfold back down.

"The disparity between the two is not naturally occurring," Barbara stated as Helena turned Isabella's chair to face her. "What that means is that somebody has been manipulating your mind."

"Why? Why would somebody do that?" Isabella asked, her voice agitated as she strained forward and turned her head from side to side. Barbara watched her for a moment wishing that she could remove the woman's blindfold, knowing that simply being able to see the face of the voice she was talking to, being able to look around her surrounding and into the eyes of the people around her would've relieved a great deal of her anxiousness, and given her even a minor feeling of being somewhat in control of or at least fully a part of what was happening to her. Knowing this, and knowing that she couldn't do it, no matter how much it hurt her heart not to.

"We believe someone is using your position as chief editor of the nightly news to insert brain altering subliminal signals into the nightly broadcasts that are negatively affecting the viewers of the nightly news, which has been the catalyst for the recent crime wave sweeping New Gotham," Barbara replied drawing the woman's attention to her trying to keep her tone soothing. "The machine's finished analyzing the blood sample you let me take a few minutes ago," she continued wanting to get down business having wasted a considerable amount of time on useless exposition to make Isabella feel more at home. "And it showed trace's of a slightly modified drug called Prometoxin which is used by therapists and psychologists for suggestion," she went on. "Do you know any therapists or people involved in the field of psychology?"

"Well," Isabella said slowly, thoughtfully, as if she wasn't sure she wanted to continue. "I am seeing a therapist," she went on hesitantly. "Not for anything serious, I just …"

"Of course not," Barbara interjected not really needing to hear the woman's justification for something she didn't think needed to be justified. "What's your therapist's name?"

"I'm not going to get her in trouble am I?" Isabella asked a bit uncertainly.

"If she's done nothing wrong, she's got nothing to worry about," Barbara replied. "Her name?"

"Quinzel. Harleen Quinzel," Isabella sighed her head tilted down towards her lap.

Barbara saw Helena straighten up until her back looked painfully rigid out the corner of her eye, and turned her head to the side looking up to meet Helena's gaze. The brunette's lips were drawn together forming a thin line and her jaw set. Her eyes dark and still. She was surprised and deeply unhappy, not at all a good combination.

"Do you remember anything usual happening during any of you sessions with Dr. Quinzel?" Barbara asked watching as Helena moved away from her and settled herself against a wall a few meters away, her head tilted towards the clock face staring at it intently.

"No, not really," Blue responded looking thoughtful. "I actually don't really remember much of anything about the sessions. Well, other than the fact that I always feel so relaxed and at peace after them. She really is a miracle worker."

"No doubt," Barbara sighed glancing over towards Dick and catching his eye. "Thank you Ms. Blue, and we apologize for the inconvenience and any trauma this experience might have caused you. Nightwing will see that you get home safely."

"Night wh…" Isabella started as Dick wrapped his arm around her helping her into a standing position. "Ohhhh," she said immediately relaxing into his body.

Barbara smirked at him and Dick rolled his eyes.

"Watch your step," he said to Isabella as he carefully navigated through the clock tower towards the door.

"Alfred swung by, there's real food in the fridge," Barbara commented entering the kitchen to see Helena perched on top of the island legged crossed with part of a frosted pop tart hanging out of her mouth.

"Don't want anything heavy," Helena responded after swallowing what was in her mouth and lowering the rest of the pastry-type-thing. "Just need to get my blood sugar level up, you know how crotchety I can get," she continued offering Barbara a tiny little smile before taking up a detailed study of the dispersal pattern of the sprinkles on her pop tart.

Barbara moved over until she was seated beside the island and then bent her head forward letting her forehead rest against Helena's knee for a moment, before whispering, "Talk to me."

"What's there to say," Helena replied after a long silence. Barbara looked up at her. "I've been baring what little soul I have to manipulative, very probably psychotic, criminal genius, that I was so completely fooled by for six months that I continued to show up for her mind fucks after the court considered me cured," she continued staring forward her features tight. "The entire situations completely Fubar. That's all," she finished shrugging.

Barbara considered her for a moment, trying to access the brunette's mood. Her back was ramrod straight, and she hadn't looked Barbara in the eye since she'd come into the room, she refused food, she'd tensed when Barbara had touched her though she'd forced herself not to remove herself from the contact, and she was being reflectively terse with her answers.

She wasn't in a mood to talk about it.

"In retrospect, is there anything about your sessions with her that you'd consider strange or even unconventional?" Barbara asked deciding to talk to Helena later on, after she had had some time to process the information and get a handle on how she was feeling about it.

"I don't know," Helena breathed out sounding frustrated and irritated as she untucked her legs from beneath them and swung them over the edge of the island so that they were hanging on both sides of Barbara's body, leaving the redhead, in effect, between her legs. "She kind of reinforces almost everything I say in a roundabout way," she continued seconds later, sighing as she went, her eyes on something on the wall behind Barbara. "Like when I told her I don't trust cops, she said that the police were here to protect and serve us, that's it's their job to look out for us. Which is a great patriotic answer. But then she goes on say this mind bending shit about how in return for their sacrifice we the people in turn have to trust them so that they can do their jobs, even if not all cops are good and, most, like lots of people in positions of power abuse their privilege, becoming corrupted by it, using it for personal gain against the public interest. But, that despite minor quibbles - like cops racquetering, tampering with evidence, and beating suspects - there's no reason we shouldn't trust them," Helena related glancing down at her lap. "I mean after that I kind of wanted to tip a cruiser, or start a revolution … you know if I could get up in the morning."

Barbara was silent for a moment after Helena finished speaking, deeply troubled by what the brunette had just told her. Dr. Quinzel either had a predilection for playing with people's minds and manipulating them in a deliberate but seemingly reasonless manner. Or she was dangerously incompetent and riddled with issues she was projecting onto her clients. Either way there was no good in the situation.

"Finish your pop tart, it's late," Barbara said finally, resting her hand on Helena's knee. Her thumb stroking the leather clad surface lightly.

"I don't want the pop tart anymore," Helena said looking at Barbara, her lips curving up slightly before she hopped down off of the island and held out her hand to the redhead.

Part 18

The next night …

Barbara felt Helena's hand come to rest on her shoulder. The touch was heavier than usual. Helena had been distant and moody, spending most of the previous night out on the balcony staring down at the city from her gargoyled perch after she had taken Barbara to bed and then just taken her. Repeatedly. She'd stayed in bed for a while after that and then had gotten up sneaking out of the room not returning until early morning. Then she had disappeared an hour later, sneaking out of the clock tower while Barbara had gone to shower.

Barbara hadn't heard from her or seen her all day after that until the brunette had wordlessly shown up a few moments before.

Barbara swiveled the chair to face Helena.

The brunette looked at her steadily for a moment, her features tightly drawn and her body humming with tension as her eyes burned brightly. Then she leaned forward and roughly brushed her lips against Barbara's, one of her hands moving around to the back of Barbara's head grasping the base of her neck firmly drawing the redhead closer to her as she deepened the kiss with a bruising intensity as she pushed her body into Barbara's hastily.

She felt light-headed about to float off or spin out of control, the parts of her body that were in contact with Barbara the only things keeping her attached to the ground, to reality, to anything outside of her own head.

Her heart hurt, it stung her like it had been lacerated, she could feel the blood seeping out dripping all over her, the events of the night before having slashed at her and maimed her. Her head pounded and throbbed as if it was deliberately trying to wound her, her own body turning against her as she struggled against the world and her will.

She was angry and confused and it made her feel ashamed and even angrier. She hated what was happening inside of her, the doubt and fury stirring within, hammering at her soul, twisting her insides, her gut a furnace raging bright, her tears like spears assaulting her driving her into the dark.

It made fresh wells of rage and sorrow begin to swell and churn within her, rising up and crashing against her weakened defenses. Was it all a sham, just fucking lies and deceit and loss? Did nothing ever change? Was she doomed to forever be cast into the shadows of the night? Thrust into the dark by her very makeup, or by the decree of a diseased world and its perverted minds? Was she any better or was she merely doing a better job lying to herself than everyone else?

She didn't want to think about it anymore. It was making her crazy.

She drew her arms around Barbara's body and picked her up out of the chair, placing her down on the desk she had been seated in front of, her hands immediately going to the hem of Barbara's shirt lifting it up still kissing the redhead hard and desperately.

She could taste truth on those soft, red lips. They were warm and moist like the earth and she felt safe and sane when they touched her, the caress traveling deep down inside of her enveloping her in warmth. She needed those lips, those arms, that body, with her, pressed against her at that moment as much as she needed air … maybe more so.

"Helena," Barbara breathed out as the brunette lifted her lips from hers for a moment to lift her shirt over her head. She didn't raise her arms. Instead she tried to push the material back down. "Helena," she repeated more sharply when the brunette simply started to struggle with her restraining hands as she continued to attempt to lift the shirt up. "Dinah's just in the penthouse, she could come in," she continued still battling with Helena's hands before grasping them about the wrist firmly to keep them off of her even though her own body was humming with excitement.

After they had become a couple, Helena had come to her a couple of times like this, her body full of naked want, her hands caressing her urgently with no pretense of romance only intense pleasure. And she loved those rough, primal joining's as much as she did the times when they made love slowly, for hours on end. It excited her, sometimes more than she liked to admit, and if she played coy at all during these encounters it was for the benefit of the game, and even that was only for while, Helena usually eventually finding herself having fight to gain control of their love making once more. But this time was different, it wasn't adrenaline fueled battle lust, or pure, aching desire that had Helena reaching for her. It was desperation to be sure, but Barbara wasn't certain if this was the best way to deal with Helena's emotional turmoil no matter how much her body might've been disagreeing with her mind.

Helena looked up at her, her lips slightly parted, her eyes wide, watery and vaguely panicked. She stared at Barbara, no longer struggling against the redhead's hold on her, at least for the moment, allowing Barbara to hold her hands as she stared at the redhead with an open and wounded expression that was at once, begging and confused, lost and hungry and searching and despairing. She was yearning for something, something she couldn't identify but saw inside of Barbara nonetheless.

She tested Barbara's hold a few seconds later finding it loose as the redhead studied her, one of her hands actually at Helena's forehead brushing back stray strands of hair. She began to try and lift Barbara's shirt off again, her movements jerky and frantic once more as if Barbara's flesh were air and she was drowning.

Barbara raised her arms allowing the shirt to be removed, not able or wanting to deny Helena the release she sought so desperately. The offending garment was quickly dropped to the ground, forgotten by the brunette before her fingers released it, as Helena leaned forward once more, bringing their lips together as she pressed herself into Barbara's body, forcing the redhead to recline as she supported her back with her left arm.

Helena could feel the heat from Barbara's body seeping into her even through the material of her shirt and pants, the redhead's feverish heat reaching into her as Barbara surged forward in time with her hand, soft sounds escaping from her throat as her chest rose and fell rapidly and her hips bucked.

Helena shifted her position, taking one of Barbara's legs in her hand and placing it to rest over her shoulder, her head settling on Barbara's chest as the hand she'd used to position Barbara's leg remained on the appendage, holding and stroking it.

She gazed up at Barbara, her chin resting in the spot between Barbara's navel and breasts, as her right hand continued move unwaveringly inside of the redhead, driving forward intensely as her eyes remained locked on her lover's face.

"Do you love me?" Helena whispered her eyes still trained on Barbara's face. "Do you love me?" she asked again, louder, her voice a touch demanding when Barbara didn't respond, her head instead turning to the side as she gasped.

Barbara heard her the second time and tilted her head down so that she could see Helena looking at her as her arm moved. She blinked trying to focus on the blue eyes burning into hers, though they only seemed to serve as an aphrodisiac, the passion in them intensifying her pleasure making it all that more difficult to concentrate. She lifted her hand from where it lay on the side of the desk and placed it on Helena's head, her fingers roughly sliding through her hair until they came to rest at the nape of her neck.

"I love you," she said breathlessly but emphatically holding Helena's gaze.

"Is it real?" Helena asked softly, increasing the pace with which she was thrusting into Barbara, her thumb moving to attack the redhead's clit with more determination as she kissed the salty skin of Barbara's stomach, nipping and licking at it as her nails drew up and down along Barbara's still amazingly well-muscled thigh possessively.

"Completely," Barbara gasped, her eyes fluttering shut as her hand fell away from Helena's head, only to return a moment later when she could find no handhold or anything to grasp on the smooth surface of the desk.

"You love me," Helena stated practically burying her face in Barbara's stomach.

"I love you," Barbara confirmed her eyes shooting open and attaching themselves to some random spot on the roof as her fingers gripped Helena's hair, holding her tightly.

"It's real," Helena stated sighing as she felt Barbara's warmth tighten around her fingers tugging at them, drawing her further inside of the redhead, holding onto her as desperately as she'd attached herself to Barbara many minutes before.

"It's real," Barbara confirmed panting, her hips jumping uncontrollably as her stomach quivered.

"You love me," Helena repeated sliding up Barbara's body so that her face was over the redhead's looking down at her, needing to see her face as she came.

"I love you," Barbara gasped her hand sliding down to grasp Helena's arm tightly as her body strained forward one last time and a ragged moan escaped from her lips while her body quaked and shivered.

Barbara inhaled deeply blinking a few times as her mind began to clear. She could feel a weight on her body and a roughness against her skin as she drew in deep breaths. She looked down to see Helena's still leather clad body resting on top of her, the brunette's forehead resting on the smooth surface of the desk just beside her own.

"Hel," Barbara said softly, her hand coming to stroke the brunette's tussled hair.

Helena said nothing, but moved her head to rest on Barbara's shoulder, practically trying to burrow into her neck, her arms moving to wrap themselves around Barbara's torso as tightly as their position would allow.

"I trusted her," Helena muttered softly, her tone both vicious and weak as it was absorbed into Barbara's skin long moments later as the redhead continued to stroke her hair. An unintelligible chocked sound coming out of her throat a second later as she hugged Barbara to her tightly before hissing, "Fuck her."

"Helena," Barbara said feeling the brunette tense and then begin to move. She knew that learning what she had learned the night before had been crushing for Helena. Because while the brunette had barely tolerated her therapy sessions at first, and had petulantly tried to avoid and sabotage them in whatever way she could, over the months Dr. Quinzel had managed to actually make progress with her. Had managed to form an actual relationship with Helena, one that Barbara could tell had come to mean a great deal to her though Helena would never really say more about the sessions than 'it was fine' or 'she's fine'. Helena had begun to actually let the doctor counsel her, had achieved a level of intimacy with her that Barbara believed was almost equivalent to, though obviously different from, what Helena had with her and with her mother. "Helena don't …"

"Fuck it," Helena declared again lifting herself off of Barbara into a standing position, her hand flinging out and waving around the room savagely. "Just fuck it," she continued her voice low and miserable as she ran a hand through her hair.

She started for the door.

"Helena! Don't go!" Barbara called pushing herself into an upright position, cursing her inability to jump up after the woman, to go to her and hold her and make her stay. "Helena," she called again, resorting somewhat bitterly to the only option available to her. However, the sound of the loft door closing was what greeted her and she knew the brunette was gone.

She sat staring at the door a deep sigh raking her body before she screwed her eyes shut and lifted one of her hands to rub at her temple.

Part 19

The next day …

Barbara adjusted her scarf as the cold New Gotham air bitterly caressed her skin as she made her way down the abused, but mercifully cleared of snow, pathway. Normally it would've been the last place she'd be on her lunch break, but there was something there that she didn't want to leave behind.

She'd only been to the place a few times, but she knew how to find it without a problem. That photographic memory of hers coming in handy every now and again. It wasn't that she was filled with superstitious anxiousness or anything of the sort; she just tended to feel like she was intruding.

She stopped as she spotted what she had been looking for. A dark figure with her head bowed sitting in the snow in front of a large gray tombstone.

She started to move forward, towards the reunion scene, but stopped almost as soon as her fingers touched the navigational buttons. At the edge of the cleared pathway where she could make out some soggy and muddy grass before it disappeared into a mountain of snow, the snow that had formerly been covering the pathway had been thrown onto the grass.

She looked back over at Helena's hunched figure.

She couldn't get over to her.

She sat still suddenly overcome with a rage and sadness that she couldn't express, painfully aware of the fact that she was trapped by her own body, held prisoner by it in such a way that she couldn't even express her fury at the situation properly.

Barbara felt a hand on her shoulder and blinked looking up to see Helena's deep blue eyes peering down at her tenderly.

"Barbara," Helena said softly, her hand drifting to the top of Barbara's jacket and dipping inside to pull the redhead's scarf up and more fully in front of her neck. Barbara's neck had always been most susceptible to the cold.

"Helena," Barbara replied softly looking down watching the brunette's hand.

"I'll walk you back to school," Helena said pulling her hand away from Barbara's jacket returning her eyes to the redhead's.

Barbara nodded.

Helena came to a stop a few meters in front of main doors leading into New Gotham High.

"I miss the way the world looked when she was in it," the brunette said softly, her head falling down to contemplate her shoes.

Barbara looked up at her. She missed the way the world looked from 5 feet, 8 inches up. "I know," was what she said however, her voice soft and full of melancholy.

"Why do things have to be so fucked up?" Helena asked her voice and expression intensely vulnerable as she turned her eyes toward Barbara's.

Barbara was silent for a moment and then shrugged before saying, "That's just things I guess." It was the best answer she could come up with just then.

Helena looked up at the sky before moving to stand in front of Barbara, looking down at her.

It had started to snow.

She stood in front of the redhead staring at her as snow fell all around them and in between their bodies.

She held out her hand in front of her, her fingers splayed. Barbara reached out when she did this meeting her hand and intertwined her own fingers with Helena's, connecting them.

They stayed that way for a moment, snow still falling around them but no longer in between.

"I'll see you later," Helena said releasing Barbara's hand before taking a step back and to the side, long legs beginning to stride past Barbara.

Barbara stayed put for a moment, her eyes focused forward on the door to the school building as Helena's steps faded behind her, and then she started towards the building inhaling deeply as a small smile briefly touched her features.

Helena jammed her hands in her pockets her head facing down as she turned the corner exiting the school grounds, though she came to a stop just outside the school gates. She looked forward for a moment with unseeing eyes and then tilted her head up towards the sky and stuck her tongue out feeling a few cold flakes of snow land and melt on its surface.

She laughed not sure if she was actually amused or not and continued down the street.

Part 20

"It's almost Christmas," Helena commented standing by the large window in the clock tower, looking out over the snow-covered vista of the city. It looked like a scene out of a snow globe, or a fairy tale, surreal and beautiful, almost so picturesque that it could hurt your heart.

White and still.

Calm and lovely.

She clamped her eyes shut.

It was a lie, a pretty lie. Not unreal in it's reality, but simply unreal.

Since getting back to the clock tower from school, Barbara hadn't stopped intercepting police calls and transmissions. Somewhere out there, beyond her view, the city was still crazy and running rampant with strife.

The police had it under control for the moment, but soon she'd be need just like always, called into the seemingly endless night. Which was fine by her. She liked the dark. It was the place where she felt most comfortable outside of the circle of Barbara's arms. Yes, she was quite familiar with the night. Had been in it in rain and snow. Had leapt and swung and run under its cover to the city's every border. Had sat up high and felt it seep into her, whispering sweet nothings in her ear. Had felt it wrap its tendrils around her comforting her in the early morning when she would let no other close. There was truth in the night and she knew it. Most people couldn't see it for the dark, but she knew that it was in the dark itself that the truth laid.

Quinzel had once said, quirking an eyebrow at her brown leather pants and tasseled belt, that she was 'an angel-headed hipster burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night'. Ginsberg's words falling easily from the woman's perfectly painted red lips and landing gracefully on Helena's heart, the impact rippling through her. She hadn't been able to tell the doctor exactly what it was that she was doing out there in the dark for so long so frequently, why she stalked the streets at night and inhaled deeply, but that hadn't mattered much. The woman had seemed to know what she was talking about when she said the night was true, that when she walked it she walked in beauty.

Quinzel just knew. She always seemed to know.

Helena stepped back from the window suddenly, her eyes opening and narrowing as she watched the sun retreat from the sky, looking upon the encroaching darkness with suspicion and regret.

Quinzel was crazy. And she was starting to dread the night.

"Another week now," Barbara replied looking away from her monitor over to Helena's dark figure standing in front of the window, watching her closely. She could practically feel the tension and confusion churning inside of the brunette. Helena was calmer, and more accessible than in the days before, but she was still withdrawn, was still being eaten up by the recent blows her life had dealt her.

"I haven't done any shopping," Helena responded slowly turning around meeting Barbara's gaze. "We're going to have to hurry up and save the city, so I can finish before the 24th. I hate last minute shoppers."

"I hate it when you hate things," Barbara replied reaching up to remove her glasses before looking up, watching as Helena crossed over towards her stopping just in front of her.

"You're sweet," Helena responded lightly leaning down to brush her lips against Barbara's, nipping at the redhead's bottom lip playfully before pulling back. "You say nice things too," she continued smirking at Barbara who merely grinned at her and then backed up slightly, replacing her glasses as she went.

"Let's see what we can do about getting you on schedule for Christmas," she said turning towards the nearest monitor, her voice turning serious.

"What've you got?" Helena asked coming up behind her, hovering around the back of Barbara's chair for a moment wiggling and clenching her fingers anxiously before finally resting them on the redhead's shoulder finally stilling them.

"Patient files, on-line clothing catalogues, mp3's, month old calendars … nothing out of the ordinary," Barbara replied waving absently at the screen. "At least on the surface," she continued feeling Helena's hands tighten on her shoulder, relaxing when she began to speak once again. "She's got an impressively vicious and therefore utterly suspicious firewall protecting her system. I was able to punch some holes in it, but only enough to get glimpses at what lay behind it. Very interesting glimpses, she's … we need to get into that computer system," Barbara went on leaning back.

"Just say it," Helena muttered feeling Barbara watching her and turning her head slightly to the side as if investigating another part of the loft with her eyes. She knew that look. Barbara was trying to decide how to tackle a topic she knew would upset or irritate her in some way.

"To get in, we need to attach this," Barbara said, reaching over to the desk and picking a thin piece of material that looked almost like a clear band-aid, but had a small, micro-technological cluster in the center of the sticky part, "to the CPU of her desktop."

"I'll do it," Helena said knowing that Barbara was going to launch into an, 'there's a hard way and an easy way' speech. That may have been true enough, but they both knew that there was only one way that it was ever going to play out. "I have an appointment with her tonight."

Barbara looked up at her sharply, her eyebrow quirking. "That's unusual isn't it?"

Helena shrugged drawing her hands off of Barbara's shoulder stepping back and moving to the side to lean up against the desk. "Yeah," she finally muttered her eyes drifting around the loft. "She says I communicate better at night. When I'm being uncooperative during our regular appoints she sometimes has me come in after hours."

"Are you uncooperative a lot?" Barbara asked her voice slightly teasing though in her mind she was frowning, not sure that she liked the revelation. From what she'd been able to gather about Quinzel's practice from the unprotected files on her computer, she ran her business almost like a hobby, only taking on a handful of clients and rarely starting her day before 11am and ending it before 4pm. She didn't strike Barbara as someone who was married to the job and thus prone to keeping long and strange hours. She didn't like the fact that the woman seemed to be making an exception for Helena. She didn't like that Helena inspired her to make an exception.

"Hi, I'm Helena nice to meet you," Helena responded sarcastically reaching out her hand and grasping Barbara's shaking it vigorously.

"Right," Barbara replied as Helena lowered her hand, the brunette's gaze on her feet. "I'd like you to keep comms on," she continued, her voice gentle knowing that it wasn't something Helena was at all likely to want.

Helena sighed deeply, running at hand through her hair as she continued her contemplation of her feet. Finally, after long moments of silence she turned her face up to look at Barbara who was watching her unobtrusively, her face open and curious as she waited patiently for Helena to give her answer. "Yeah, alright," she finally breathed out, disquieted by the idea of Barbara listening in on whatever theory Quinzel might toss out because they usually got some kind of answer out of her that she hadn't even been aware was in her, but also unsettled by the idea that she was disquieted by idea that she didn't want Barbara to hear any unexpected declarations.

"What time's your appointment?" Barbara asked drawing Helena out of her thoughts causing the brunette to blink at her for a moment before focusing.

"Why? Do you want to comfort me?" Helena asked a slow, easy grin starting to spread across her features as she ran her eyes over Barbara.

"Are you saying you've got some free time?" Barbara asked meeting Helena's gaze before biting her bottom lip naughtily.

"No, that's what I was insinuating," Helena replied sliding closer to Barbara, leaning forward to brace her hands on the arms of Barbara's chair. "Still, it's very, very true," she went on, her words mumbled against Barbara's lips as she slowly the kissed the redhead, deepening the kiss as Barbara opened her mouth to her and tangled her hand in Helena's hair.

"Good," Barbara breathed out slowly, pulling Helena's head away from her lips, a teasing sort of smile spreading across her face. "Dinah needs a pick up from the library. Also you'll need to drop Gabby off at home," she said lowering her hand from Helena's hair. "If you hurry you'll only be ten minutes late," she continued licking her lips. "She probably won't even yell at you. Well… maybe only for a few minutes."

"You're joking," Helena said, her voice huskier than usual as she stared at the woman in front of her.

"'Fraid not," Barbara replied, her expression approaching something that resembled regret.

"And even if I leave now I'll be late?" Helena asked peering into Barbara's face, still bent over her.

Barbara nodded solemnly.

"A couple more minutes won't make a difference then," Helena replied grinning wolfishly at the redhead, her hands quickly dropping to slide under the redhead's ass lifting her into her arms easily. "This won't take long," she continued, kissing Barbara's neck as she crossed over to the couch where she rested Barbara, her hands immediately beginning to work the buttons of the redhead's pants.

"That's a selling point?" Barbara asked as Helena unceremoniously yanked her pants down and off, her hands moving to Barbara's thighs spreading them apart before she leaned forward and placed a soft, almost chaste kiss on the silky fabric of Barbara's underwear, her right hand simultaneously slipping below the waistband of her own pants.

"It is tonight," Helena mumbled into Barbara's pelvis.

Part 21

Later that night …

Helena inhaled deeply, Barbara's scent filling her nostrils, haunting her as it dissipated into her making her head spin and her hand twitch. It had been over an hour and half since she'd left the redhead, but it seemed that Barbara was now permanently on her in some way, a part of her always present. Even as she sat across from Dr. Harleen Quinzel, her arms folded across her chest and her jaw tense.

She shifted leaning forward to rest her elbows on her knees anxiously, Barbara's soft breaths filtering into her ears through the transceivers.

Her shoulders slumped at that, her heartbeat slowing slightly as her mind became less frantic. She tilted her head to the side and peered at Quinzel curiously instead of threateningly.

"What are your thoughts on love?" Helena asked finally, her voice barely more than a whisper as she peered at Quinzel.

Harleen arched a perfectly sculpted golden brow at that, a slow smile spreading across her face as she contemplated the brunette with a touch of surprise. "How do you mean?" she replied easily tilting her head to mirror Helena's posture.

"Do you believe in it?" Helena clarified leaning back against the back of the couch once more.

"The illusion of it, or the reality of it?" Harleen asked her voice and expression becoming more serious as she meet Helena's gaze. The question brought thoughts of her sweet Mista J to the forefront of her mind, teasing her with a love out of reach.

"The reality of it," Helena responded decisively. "I'm in love," she continued leaning forward again watching Quinzel carefully. It was the one thing in the world she was unequivocally sure of, and thus the only thing she felt comfortable bring up because she knew that it could withstand any of Quinzel's usual attacks.

"With your cop?" Harleen asked sounding slightly amused by the idea, once again raising a questioning eyebrow at Helena. "Decided to forgo the dinner and a movie stage and jump right into undying love?"

"No," Helena responded slowly frowning at the doctor. "He's … inconsequential."

"Inconsequential," Harleen repeated laughing softly. "Another then," Quinzel replied leaning forward. "You do move fast. You haven't mentioned anyone else in session as a potential suitor, and yet … you're in love."

"Sure I have, maybe you're just not as quick as you think you are," Helena said a challenging little smirk coming to her face as she stared at Quinzel.

Harleen was quiet for a second then leaned toward Helena slightly before erupting into joyous laughter, bringing her hand to cover her mouth as her body shook lightly with mirth. "Barbara?" she asked finally, still smiling widely.

"Oh, so you have been paying attention," Helena replied somewhat irritably, not sure how she felt about the good doctors laugh attack.

"Isn't that lovely," Harleen responded in a cheerful enough tone though her expression was slightly doubtful and concerned. "And she knows about this?"

"Yeah, she's a pretty integral part of the couple … being the better half of it all," Helena replied suddenly wishing she'd just gone with good old anti-authoritarianism as a topic of conversation.

"So it is a relationship then?" Harleen asked her voice rising with surprise though she seemed to be trying to mask it.

"What did you think it was? A figment of my imagination?" Helena responded more than a little peevishly. "That I was sneaking into her room when she was out and sniffing her unmentionable's? What exactly are you getting at?" she continued shifting on the couch in agitation as she spoke, sending dirty looks Quinzel's way as she went on.

"Well, since you brought it up," Harleen replied easily as if she was unaware of Helena's agitation and irritation. "You did used to live with her. You were her ward under the law for a number of years. She was your saving grace wasn't she? Wrapping you in her no doubt warm embrace when everything was cold and dark," she cooed softly, thoughtfully. "It's hardly unreasonable to think that you could've developed a … crush on this beautiful, intelligent woman that took you into her home," she went on looking at Helena's gently. "An unrequited one that could burn just as brightly and true," she finished her face open and her tone guileless.

Helena drew in a deep breath and glared at the doctor for a moment, her diatribe hitting too close to home, reminding her of the period of time in her life that those words had been the truth. When she had been a kid with a crush who had been thoroughly rejected by the object of her affection. She knew it wasn't the case anymore, but it bothered her that Quinzel was able to read her so easily, to understand her so well. "Am I supposed to respond to that? I mean was there an actual question anywhere in there?" she ground out finally.

"Only if you want to," Harleen responded quietly, her tone affectionate and her expression caring. "I wasn't trying to question you, I was trying to make you think. Do you really think that your situation, your history allows you to make completely unbiased decisions about you're emotions when it comes to Barbara? How you feel about her?" she continued. "You said yourself you've known her since you were kid. Childhood is full of giants. She was no doubt one of yours. My question I suppose would be, is she still, and if so conversely what must that make you to her?"

"Okay, what?" Helena asked grumpily as she tried to get her mind around the last part of Quinzel's response. Not sure exactly what the doctor was getting at but knowing instinctively that she wouldn't like it.

"If she is still your giant, strong and true, that pure, an almost larger than life representation of what it means to be grown, to be secure? If you've aged but your feelings haven't then isn't it possible you represent an ideal to her too?" Quinzel asked, her tone reasonable and slightly disappointed as if Helena should've known exactly what she was talking about and she was saddened to have to take the brunette by the hand.

"What?" Helena asked dubiously glaring at the woman sitting across from her.

"Innocence. Youth," Harleen responded only to her Helena laugh at that and roll her eyes. "Don't laugh Helena. You think you're dark and broody and probably irreversibly screwed up. And maybe you're right; maybe I can only untangle you so far. But don't think that negates the presence of innocence within you," she continued feeling the brunette's eyes watching her intently though she shifted around on the couch as if she weren't paying attention. "There is something startling true, and open and innocent in you. A purity of emotion, a depth of feeling that's beautiful in its totality. And if I can see it, Barbara who's known you since you were a child and seen it in all it's incarnations certainly could," Harleen said, her voice quivering with emotion as she leaned towards Helena. "You yourself have told me what happened to Barbara. She was gunned down in her own home and left for dead only to awake with legs that didn't work. Perhaps even dead in a way because that gymnast that awed you so much as a child was ashes and dust," she went on seeing Helena flinch as she spoke. "Is it really so hard to believe that in you she could see what she'd lost? You're young, strong, and physical. Your life is one of limitless potential, of possibility. Isn't it possible that in you she could see what she was and could have been?"

Helena remained silently staring at Quinzel unsure how to respond to that, until she was jerked out of her revere by the sound of a ragged breath being drawn in. It took a second to realize that it was Barbara on the other end of the transceivers. She'd forgotten the redhead was there with her.

>> Oh she's good << she heard Barbara breath out a second later, her voice tinted with a hard edge and slightly strained.

Helena could practically picture in her pinching the bridge of her nose, her face scrunched up, before extended her thumb and index finger to rub at her eyes, to be followed by a soft sigh and her glasses being replaced.

Barbara sighed and reached for her glasses, replacing them as she spoke. >> Don't forget why you're there. Set the bug and get out. She's not trying to help you <<

Helena stood up, her movement jerky and ungainly as she got upright. She turned her back to Quinzel gazing out of the doctor's large window. She began to move towards it.

"And assuming all of what you're saying is right. I feel this she feels that. What does it mean?" Helena asked her voice coming out with a weariness she didn't need to feign. "This all started with a question and a declaration about love. So if we're talking about these things they must be related. But how? What are you trying to say? What are you trying to make me see?" she continued stopping in front of the window.

"Nothing. Absolutely nothing Helena. We're talking about it because it's where the conversation led us. You speak, I respond. I have no direction, no aim. I'm not trying to make you see anything. But if you've seen something in where the discussion has led, them I'm more than happy to help you explore it, flesh it out. Understand it," Quinzel responded, watching as Helena turned away from the window and wandered over to her desk.

"Is this good?" Helena asked curiously, leaning over the edge of the desk, her eyes on the computer. "The computer I mean. Barbara's into computers. I think she'd marry hers if she could figure out a way to make the ring stay on. I've never really got them. You know, beyond the music and porn capabilities," she continued moving around the desk, her movements lazy and bored, though her eyes were scanning for the CPU. "She could've been like a software zillionaire," she continued contemplatively ducking her head down underneath the desk having spotted the unit. "Designing the techno shit that goes onto these things," she went on patting the back of the unit and leaving her mark. "But god help her she likes teaching," she finished straightening back up and looking over at Quinzel.

"You don't want to talk about your relationship with Barbara anymore," Harleen stated watching as Helena crossed back over to the couch. She was familiar with the brunette's evasion techniques.

"Talk? We're just a pair of emotionally stunted idiots who cling to each other hoping to make the impossible things we see in each other possible," Helena responded her voice dripping with sarcasm. "What's there to talk about?"

"How's work?" Quinzel asked easily smiling over at Helena.

Part 22

Dinah tapped the tip of her pen against the open page of her textbook, one, two, three times before allowing it to fall from her fingers and land noiselessly in the crevice of her book. Her gaze traveled cross the room to Barbara who was leaning over her keyboard, massaging her temple with her left hand, and typing with her right all while coordinating a more efficient sweep pattern with Dick.

"How's Helena?" she asked drawing Barbara's attention over to her momentarily before it returned to the screens. It wasn't exactly the question she'd wanted to ask, she would've liked to inquire how Barbara herself was doing since she'd looked like she was suffering through some severe gastrointestinal pain while listening to Helena and Quinzel. However, she asked what she asked because she knew Barbara wouldn't answer the question in a way that meant anything in regards to herself.

"She's … coping," Barbara responded slowly, though her attention remained on the screens. "It was rough on her," she continued stopping her typing though she remained turned away from Dinah. "Being there, listening to her … knowing that she was being toyed with in such a congenial manner. She really liked Dr. Quinzel. Listening to the session … I can understand why. She's certainly friendly enough …" Barbara went on thoughtfully, her tone going from frustrated, to disillusioned, and hostile only to start the cycle all over again. "It's been difficult on her."

"The trust issues," Dinah muttered her concentration still focused on Barbara. The redhead's back was tense, it almost pained Dinah to look at it, and now that she wasn't typing she was clenching and unclenching her hands rhythmically. As tended to be the case with Barbara, her words didn't nearly begin to represent what she was feeling. She was censoring what she was feeling, trying to control it, but she wasn't feeling at all in control or considerate. She was pissed off and just barely managing to control it.

She'd never seen Barbara quite like that before. She'd seen her angry, and seen her reckless, and seen her determined. But she'd never seen her seething with barely restrained rage.

Then again she'd never seen anyone seriously hurt or threaten Helena before.

And Dinah knew that's what it was. That as passionate and dedicated as Barbara was to crime fighting, it wasn't the fact that the city was in chaos or that Quinzel was causing problems that had Barbara so worked up. It was that the doctor had hurt Helena. She'd hurt Helena in an insidious and painful way. And Barbara could feel an anger, and loathing and hatred on behalf of Helena that she couldn't or wouldn't feel for herself. Her patience and reason did have a limit and it had piercing blue eyes and raven hair.

Quite simply, one should not fuck with her woman.

"The trust issues," Barbara confirmed before inhaling deeply, and noisily and then bringing her right hand to her face to pinch the bridge of her nose. She had to concentrate on something other than the not so nice things she wanted to do to Quinzel's head.

Helena stood in a dark corner of the loft near the elevator; her gaze trained on the redhead slumped over the desk slaving away at the keyboard in front of her. She knew that Barbara knew she was back, she had seen the woman's bearing change momentarily, had seen her back straighten and her head turn minutely to the side, her back relaxing slightly a moment later as she returned to what she had been doing before.

She knew Barbara's body. Not just what it looked like, and how it felt. What sounds it made, and where to touch it to make it sing with pleasure. She knew other secrets about it too. She knew how to read it like a book. The tilt of her head, the cant of her shoulder, a movement of her hand, a crinkling of her nose, a brow lowered or drawn, a hand through her hair, two fingers rubbed together, a shifting to the side. She knew what they all meant, what every little shift of Barbara's body indicated.

She knew Barbara.

She knew that.

She crossed the loft slowly, causally, her body momentarily, deliriously free of tension. Her hands came to rest lightly on Barbara's shoulders, before beginning to carefully and pleasurably massage the flesh beneath her fingers. Finding it as tight and tense as she knew it would be.

"You feel like I look," Helena said softly, leaning down so that her mouth was beside Barbara's ear, her breath tickling the redhead's skin causing her to shake slightly.

"Silky smooth?" Barbara asked her voice coming out as a half sigh as she felt her body begin to actual relax under the double assault of Helena's hands and her soothing tone. She imaged herself as a ball of plastercine in the brunette's hands, gently being smoothed out by talented, strong hands, until she would lay in front of Helena open and boundless.

"Sure," Helena drawled laughing softly and meaning it. "Let's go with that," she continued pressing her head against Barbara's so that they were side to side before pulling back just enough to place a kiss on the redhead's cheek. "We should just … stay like this," Helena said her chin dropping to rest on Barbara's shoulder as her arms drew around the redhead. "For the rest of the … century. The next eighty-seven years, just like this. Only sometimes naked," she finished walking her fingers up Barbara's taunt stomach playfully.

"I'm warming to this idea," Barbara whispered turning her head to the side so that she could see Helena's face. She was paler than normal and there were bags forming under her eyes, though her eyes themselves were bright at the moment. "Throw in a 'sometimes in a bubble' bath and I think you'll have converted me."

Helena smiled at that, broadly and leaned towards Barbara brining their lips together, softly exploring the redheads for a long moment before sighing deeply and pulling back, her head dropping to Barbara's shoulder and burying into her neck.

"Have you found anything?" she asked finally pulling her head up and separating herself from how she'd managed to tangle them together.

Barbara sighed rolling her shoulders as she leaned forward feeling them start to tense again.

"Lots," she muttered quietly. "And lot's," she continued turning her head to face Helena as the brunette settled against the side of her desk. "She's the one we've been looking for … since Guy," she went on watching Helena closely.

"Guy," Helena said turning her head to the side, her voice nothing more than a pained exhalation as she shut her eyes. A deep, sweeping sadness and despair enveloping her body before gradually giving way to an intense and white hot anger and hatred that made her body shake and bursts of light explode behind her eyes as she screwed them shut more tightly, her breathing deepening causing her chest to begin to rise and fall noticeably.

Barbara's head snapped to the side as a loud crash reverberated through the clock tower her eyes landing on the spot of impact just in time to see shards of her mug break off and arch in various directions as the liquid that had once been contained by it dripped down the wall slowly.

She turned to look at the spot Helena had been standing in only to find it empty. Shifting her gaze further to the left she saw the brunette bouncing on her feet lightly, and watched as she brought a hand up to rest on the back of her skull, a sputtering and chocking sound being released from her throat as she grasped her hair more tightly, tugging at the strands her bouncing having graduated to quick, harassed hops.

She was already halfway over to her before she even realized she was moving.

"Is everything alright? I heard a …" Dinah started from the second looking down, spotting Helena and Barbara, and stopping her words. Everything was clearly not alright, which became even more apparent when Barbara reached out for Helena's arm and the brunette stepped out of her reach drawing her arm into and around her body, while her other one came up, finger raised indicating that she didn't want to be touched.

She turned her head to the side spotting the remains of Barbara's mug all over the floor. She headed for the stairs, taking them slowly as she shivered slightly, the sweat that had formed on her skin while training cooling in the air of the loft.

"What's going on?" she asked reaching the bottom floor. Helena had settled herself on the couch, her knees drawn up against her chest and her arms wrapped around them, her head resting on her knees as she looked out into the loft. Barbara was in the same spot she had been when Dinah started down, only now she had her elbows resting on her thighs and one of her hands was covering the side of her face.

"Harleen Quinzel, or more colourfully Harley Quinn's operation, and it is an operation, is far more extensive than we originally thought. She was the one behind Slick and his weapons hording, and was the person funding Simcron's genetic research and experimentation," Barbara said slowly turning her head to look at Dinah, her hand listlessly falling to the controls of her chair.

"Guy?" Dinah breathed out as Barbara started back towards the workstation. "She's the woman Helena saw?"

Barbara simply nodded, her fingers hovering over the keyboard for a moment before she began typing once more.

Dinah turned to look at Helena. The woman had stretched out along the couch while she and Barbara were talking and now had an arm flung over her face. Her body was a glorious contradiction between tension and exhaustion. Dinah didn't know whether to expect her to leap up any second or fall into a deep sleep.

"I hope everyone's in the mood for donuts," Dick called out as he breezed into the clock tower. He wasn't wearing his mask, and had a long trench coat on that went down to his ankles effectively covering his entire suit. Superhero undercover chic. "I needed sugar, but I went a bit overboard, so we can all have sugar. It'll be …" he continued before trailing off, surveying the three women littered around the clock tower dubiously. "I'm missing something," he decided.

"Might I suggest your brain," Helena muttered not moving an inch.

"I'll fill you in," Barbara said wearily, drawing Dick's attention towards her before he could respond to Helena's insult with one of his own. A verbal sparing match was not something any of them needed at the moment, especially considering that Dick and Helena's truce had evaporated as quickly as it had formed, leaving them more hostile and less inclined to deal with/tolerate each other than they had been before their brief bonding. "You're on your own with the donuts though."

Part 23

It was after four in the morning when Barbara felt Helena's side of the bed depress to be followed by a body with cold skin pressing up against the side of her body, Helena's arm draping across her waist, holding her tightly as her head came to rest on Barbara's shoulder, her face pressing into the redhead's chest as she inhaled deeply.

"I don't even …" Helena started, trailing off helplessly as she realized she couldn't verbalize what she was feeling because what she was feeling was changing and mutating so rapidly she couldn't even keep up with feeling it.

"I know," Barbara whispered turning into Helena's embrace, wrapping her own arms around the brunette's snuggling closer to her. She lifted her hand to Helena's head and stroked her cheek lightly, all the while looking into those deep, watery, endless pools Helena's called eyes.

'You think you're dark and broody and probably irreversibly screwed up. And maybe you're right … But don't think that negates the presence of innocence within you … There is something startling true, and open and innocent in you. A purity of emotion, a depth of feeling that's beautiful in its totality.'

Barbara closed her eyes as Quinzel's words from earlier that night echoed through her mind, trying the will the voice out of her mind because it was right. There had always been so much emotion in Helena, so much and so strong that as a teenager and still the brunette was hard pressed to know what to do with it all. Would become overwhelmed and overrun by it, completely consumed by the veracity of her feelings. And it was beautiful, and tragic, and breathtaking. It brought tears to her eyes, and made her heart expand with a love so large and true, so full and poignant, that she could understand what it was Helena felt. How it was that she felt. She knew because at moment's like that she couldn't control her emotions or comprehend them anymore than Helena could. She would be swept away too.

She felt Helena's arms wrap around her more tightly, the brunette's breath tickling her ears for the second time that night and realized for the first time that she had practically plastered herself to Helena's body while she was in thought, so that her body was pressed up against the length of Helena's and her head was buried in between the brunette's neck and shoulder. She was clinging to her.

"Don't," Helena said softly feeling Barbara start to pull back from her. "It's nice to know that you need me too," she continued gently stroking Barbara's back, sighing as the redhead leaned forward into her once more, settling down.

"I always need you," Barbara breathed out so softly her voice was almost inaudible, though she knew Helena would be able to make her words with ease. "Always."

"Even when I get mad at Jeopardy contestants and throw my socks at the screen?" Helena asked smiling as she felt Barbara laugh into her shoulder.

"Why your socks?" Barbara asked feeling herself sag against Helena even more as her body calmed even more with laughter. It amazed her how Helena was able to take away stress she didn't even know was there.

"Socks don't break things. They bounce off … or something slide off if there's a lot of static cling," Helena replied feeling Barbara's lips graze her neck faintly. "You don't like it when I break things, but I like throwing things … a quandary solved by socks … and sometimes dishtowels. Or a scrunchie."

Barbara laughed again, a soft but joyous sound as she pushed against Helena causing the brunette to roll onto her back from where she had been lying on her side.

"God, I love you," Barbara whispered softly, looking down at Helena's face, her voice cracking slightly as she blinked rapidly, her eyes burning with tears. She leaned down pressing her lips against Helena's, feeling a thin trail of wetness along her cheek, tasting the salty moisture a moment later when her tears bleed into their kiss.

She felt Helena pull back, the brunette's fingers softly scrapping along her cheek a moment later wiping the wet streaks with her thumb diligently, her hand slipping to the back of Barbara's head when she was done urging the redhead forward once again as she leaned up to meet Barbara's descending lips.

"I'm tired," Helena breathed out a moment later, blinking sleepily as she peered up at Barbara. "I think I'm falling asleep," she continued sounding surprised and alarmed though in a sleepy way. She'd barely slept at all in the last few days, and when she had it was a troubled, restless slumber. Forced, ineffective, and always brief. But as she lay there, Barbara's warmth covering her body under the redhead's watchful eye, she actually felt her eyes begin to droop and a peacefulness descend upon her body that she knew would mean a restful sleep.

"Then sleep," Barbara said softly, resting her head back down on Helena's shoulder, feeling the brunette's arms wrap around her again, though lightly as Helena drifted off, her breathing deepening.

"Barbara," Helena mumbled as her head tilted to the side drowsily. "I love you more."

"How much?" Barbara asked her own voice tired but amused.

"Times 'finity," Helena replied, apparently too tired to be bothered with forming whole words anymore.

"I love you times infinity plus one," Barbara replied smiling. "I win, now go to sleep."

"Eh," Helena groaned. "I hate it when you beat me at my own game."

Part 24

The next evening …

Helena leaned up against the wall closet to the workstation, her arms crossed and her head slightly lowered as Barbara detailed their plan of attack to disable Harley Quinn's base of operations and bring the woman herself into custody.

She shifted restlessly, from foot to foot before beginning to cross and uncross her arms. She was getting tired of standing around, of waiting. She needed to move, she needed to run. She needed to get this over with, because she was really over the entire the thing. The doubt, the anxiety, the frustration and anger, she'd had enough of it. It was tiring, exhausting really. She was ready to move on to new and probably equally as irritating things.

She wanted it over. Needed it resolved. She was tired of thinking.

"I don't think so," Helena said in a low tone, though it traveled quite effectively in the relative silence of the clock tower. "Quinn's mine," she continued lazily turning her head to the side, her eyes immediately focusing on Barbara's, drilling into the redhead's green orbs. She was fine with Dinah being assigned to blow Quinn's equipment up. Sure blowing some shit up would've been fun for her too, she'd always liked fire a bit too much, but it wasn't anything she was going to get her panties in a knot over. There was however no way in all the circles of hell that she was going to let Dark Wing Duck get to pick up Quinn. She would've argued the point on principle even it wasn't personal.

"Ah," Barbara breathed out, reaching up to take off her glasses as Helena's eyes burned into her. "Are you sure?" she continued a second later, peering over at the brunette through her lashes. It wasn't that she doubted Helena's ability to bring Quinn in. She just didn't want to put her lover in another potentially emotionally mauling situation so soon after the last one. With Helena masking herself the majority of the time she went out, it wasn't that Barbara was worried about Quinzel trying to use her knowledge of Helena against her, she knew it wouldn't be another therapy session like the night before, but she did worry about what merely being in the other woman's presence would do to her. It presented a potentially charged situation that could be and probably should be avoided. That being true she knew it was a long shot even proposing that Dick pick up the good doctor, but she had to try.

"Yeah," Helena replied a moment later, toying with the idea of a flippant response but deciding against it. She knew Barbara was already hesitant to send her because of her history with Quinn and didn't want to give the redhead any more cause for concern. "Yeah I'm sure," she continued steadily holding Barbara's gaze.

"I take it that puts me on patrolling duty," Dick stated a second later, his eyes lingering on Helena's brooding figure for a moment before turning to look at Barbara.

"Unless you'd rather stay here and help me … 'rearrange' her bank accounts," Barbara replied cocking an eyebrow at him.

"You'd let me play with the computer?" Dick asked looking like he might actually take her up on the offer if her answer was 'yes'.

"I was thinking more along the lines of coffee fetching and brow mopping actually," Barbara replied smiling as he rolled his eyes and began to pull on his gloves. "Alright then," she continued turning so that she could see all three of them, her voice all business once again. "Everyone's got their assignments. Let's shut her down," she stated nodding to them austerely.

"That's it?" Helena asked after waiting a moment for Barbara to say more and hearing nothing. "That's the speech?" she continued pushing off of the wall. "Really, it's a shock that motivational speaking gig didn't pay off," she drawled sarcastically tipping her head towards Barbara with a mild look of displeasure.

"You wanted a speech?" Barbara asked looking over at Helena curiously, her full attention focused on the brunette.

"Well, yeah, I mean I kinda thought there was going to be speech," Helena replied shrugging. It wasn't like Barbara sat her down for a pep talk every time she went patrolling, but when they were approaching a final showdown with evil criminal genius' she usually said a few rousing words, squeezed her shoulder, gave her a meaningful look. Something. "I mean it didn't have to be a long one. You know, maybe something about duty, and adversary making us stronger, and good overcoming evil. The promise of cake after," she continued shrugging again looking away. "You know."

"It's not that I didn't want to say anything, it's just that … well, you always roll your eyes when I make speech's and look at your watch," Barbara replied sounding a bit lost. "It's a little discouraging. They don't write themselves you know," she continued looking over at Helena.

"Well, yeah," Helena admitted a little uncomfortably. "I fidget. That's what I do. It doesn't mean I don't enjoy them. I'm just … being me," she continued a bit sheepishly, looking over at Barbara through her eyelashes, her chin tucked into her chest innocently.

"Oh," Barbara responded sounding surprised but pleased. "But I really don't have anything prepared, because I thought … I mean if you give a couple minutes I could scare something up. A dark knight metaphor or two … maybe a little Dylan Thomas for dramatic effect," she continued thoughtfully.

"Nah, it's alright," Helena said pulling on her jacket though she still sounded a bit disappointed. "I mean the moments kind of over," she went on shrugging. "And, 'shut her down' good. It was …ah really succinct … and stuff. Next time," she continued exiting the clock tower and moving onto the balcony.

"Well, that was … unusual," Dick commented a few moments later as he and Dinah headed towards the door.

"It was wasn't it?" Dinah replied looking over at him holding his eyes for a long minute, their progress halted as they considered the oddity of the conversation they had just witnessed. "I …" she continued a moment later but stopped when she realized it was still very strange.

She shrugged and then they continued towards the door.

Meanwhile, as Dinah and Dick made their exit as well Barbara returned her attention to the computer in front of her. She had a bad guy bank account to hack into and loot. All she had to do was create a back-dated electronic trail of large amounts of funds being transferred from The Bank of New Gotham to a few accounts in Grand Cayman and Switzerland under Harleen Quinzel's name, and the police would have a nice little trail of information to use against her, especially once they got documentation of the funds suddenly being withdrawn – which she was would take care of soon enough – and a plane ticket to Hong Kong was purchased in Quinzel's name on her Visa. Once that was done, and she'd relocated Quinzel's capital to various New Gotham charities, all that remained was for Dinah to destroy her records and equipment, and for Helena to deliver the woman to the police with the disc of damning evidence the brunette had left with.

Helena landed on the handrail to Quinzel's penthouse apartment, her position precarious even for her, though she remained crouched on the thin rail for a moment staring at the blood red curtains that hung just inside of the large swinging doors opposite her before finally hopping soundlessly onto the surface of the balcony.

She took a deep, calming breath, trying to reign in her impulse to go all Karloff-Frankenstein and beat down the door raging 'Grrargh arghgrrrr' before menacingly approaching Quinzel and strangling the shit out of her. She was still all for the menacing, and maybe even a bit of funny strangling and a flutter kick/five-across-the-eye combo for variety, but she knew that she had to be in control of herself when she went in.

Rolling her shoulders and sucking in another huge breath of air, Helena held her breath for a moment and then lifted and extended her booted foot with all her might, kicking the swinging doors in and immediately stepped forward, pushing the curtains out of the way as she entered the room.

"Ah, you must be the bane of my existence," Harley exclaimed happily, smiling over at the dark figure that had just noisily crashed into her spacious apartment, her hands clapping together as she spoke. The soft sounds of Chopin filling the air once more when the ringing of shattering glass finally left their ears. "I thought you'd be shorter," she continued a moment later, her eyes drawing over the dark figure standing just over a meter away from her.

"Why?" Helena asked as she stalked forward to close the remaining distance between them, over her momentary shock at Quinzel addressing her with such apparent friendliness. She'd been worried that maybe despite the mask the doctor had been able to recognize her, but was now certain that whatever the woman was going on about it had nothing to do with Helena Kyle.

"Because," Quinn said still lounging in her chair as if Helena had come over for tea, "you've been such a pain in my ass," she went on, staring at Helena for a moment before tilting her head back laughing merrily.

"Very droll," Helena snapped reaching out for the still laughing woman. "Now shut the hell up!" she continued grasping onto the material of the woman's soft, red, cartoon character covered, cotton pajama top and hauling her onto her feet, her mind involuntarily wondering what a grown woman was doing wearing children's pajamas. Did she have to get them special ordered?

Quinn allowed herself to be dragged up, her body limp as noodle and still shaking slightly with laughter, her legs completely loose causing Helena to have to support her entire body weight as the woman dangled in her grasp. Then, without a moments warning, Quinn planted her feet on the ground firmly and twisted around harshly in Helena's grasp, her body crouching down and her arm shooting out to connect forcefully with Helena's ribs before she spin out of the area of the brunette's body.

Helena looked over at her angrily, her nostrils flaring hostilely as her lips curved into a predatory sneer.

Quinn laughed at the animal display of fury. "You didn't really think it would be that easy did you?" she asked with amusement and disdain. "I am an evil genius you know. We, traditionally, don't go easily," she continued her knees bending slightly as she entered her combat crouch waiting for the dark, and alluring figure to make a move. "It's a union thing," she added with a smirk. She had no intention of actually trying to beat this woman in a fair fight, because she no idea of actually being in pain or hurt in any fashion. She just needed to tussle with her long enough to be able to get to the table just behind where the woman was currently standing. Then she'd shoot her and put the body up for auction to pay for her window!

"Yeah, well traditionally …" Helena started mockingly as she stared at the woman opposite her. "Oh fuck it! Banters overrated. I'm just gonna get on with the kicking of your ass now," she continued moving towards Quinn once again.

Harley's tongue flickered out of her mouth to scoop of a trial of blood that was running out of her nose and over her lips. Just like all of her other plans the masked woman in front of her had thoroughly ruined her plans to kill her dead. She'd been foiled again, not bruised rather badly in the course of it. She sniffed lightly and cocked her head to the side so that she could look up at the woman standing in front of her, her view slightly skewed. A heavy boot rested upon her shoulder, helping to press up back against the wall she was already pushed against, her knees drawn up against her chest.

"Any other traditions you'd like to observe?" the dark woman asked staring down at her, her voice nothing more than a low purr, the energy radiating from her body seeming to seep into Harley through the leather boot resting against her. "Or can we get on to the key tossing part?" she continued.

"You," Harley breathed out struggling against the boot holding her place lightly, but finally relenting and resting against the wall once more when it didn't budge. "Are a very impressive woman," she continued her voice a series of ragged wheezes as she clutched her ribs, but also full of respect and admiration.

Helena frowned at that. The look, tone and words too close to something she'd once heard this woman say to her in therapy.

"So much power … and darkness," Quinn continued softly her eyes clouding over as she felt the body in front of her tense and saw the beautiful planes of the woman's lower face draw into a tight, displeased line. "It clings to you like a cloak, is screamed out in your every movement, it … pours out of you like a fine wine," she continued her voice no more than a low, rasp as she stared up at Helena, her pupils dilated and her eyes seeming to shimmer with intensity. "A woman like you could do very well with me," she went on, her hand unconsciously trailing up to rest on the ankle of Helena's boot. "I could give you what you need, everything you need," she continued stroking the leather of the boot idly with her fingers. "With me you could set the world on fire with your passion, no harness, no restraint … just untamed fury," she finished, her voice quivering as her eyes shone manically and her hand began to trail up Helena's leg.

Helena yanked the appendage away from the wall and out of Quinn's grasp, her momentary spell cast over her by the doctors words broken by the insane fervor and naked desire shimmering in her eyes. The woman just wasn't making a proposition. She was propositioning her. The ludicrousness of it would have made her laugh if uneasiness hadn't already set up shop within her. Because while the doctors arousal did nothing but incite feeling of malicious glee within her, for a moment there Quinn's oratory had caused her heart to still and her mind to soar at the idea of total freedom and abandonment, and of complete surrender to her emotions without fear of consequence or reprisal. The liberty feigned by rage and apathy tantalizing her senses. It was only for a moment but it still unsettled her.

"Ah, superhero here," Helena responded tersely grabbing Quinn by the front of her shirt and hauling to her feet none to gently. "Good guys, traditionally," she said spitting the word out remembering the woman's earlier taunt, "aren't so much with the accepting offers from raving loons."

"Are you really?" Quinn asked her voice a little strangled by Helena's treatment. "I mean I'm sure you're good," she continued cocking her head to the side to smirk suggestively over at the dark haired woman. "But a good guy? You're a bit too … colourful for that don't you think?"

Helena looked down at the woman hanging in her arms at that, feeling the anger the desire to inflict pain upon her begin suffuse through her body making her feel warm and tingly. There was a significant part of her that would've liked nothing more than to make Quinn feel a fraction of the pain she'd caused Helena herself, or any number of her victims for that matter.

She tightened her hold on Quinn instinctively and bent her head forward sniffing the woman in an animal fashion causing Quinn to inhale deeply as her body became even more excited at the primal display of power, which only riled Helena more. She responded by slamming the blonde up against the wall she had just hauled her away from, one of her hands pressing against Quinn's chest holding her firmly in place while the other went to her neck, squeezing for a long moment before coming to simply resting there.

Helena leaned into Quinn then, her head coming to hover beside Quinn's her lips beside the doctor's ear. "Good enough," she whispered, remaining in the position she was in for a moment longer, allowing the tension to build before she yanked Quinn back away from the wall and shoved her roughly towards the door.

"Don't you want to know why?" Quinn asked, smiling as she lay sprawled rather ungracefully on the floor, her left hand clutching her battered side and her tone was tinged with notes of pain.

"Fine," Helena smiled snapping the thick piece of fabric that lay in her hands and would soon be shoved into Quinn's pretty little mouth. "I'll bite. Why?"

"Because," Quinn said settling herself a little bit more neatly on the floor though she never once took her eyes off of the masked face in front of her.

Helena stared at her for a moment though Harley couldn't see it for Helena's mask she could feel it. And then Helena was moving towards her again, a flurry of motion as she crouched down and tied her hands impatiently before moving to put the gag in place.

"What did you expect?" Quinn laughed while she still had the chance. "I'm crazy!"

"And now you're quiet," Helena replied tying of the gag behind Harley Quinn's head before standing once more, dragging the woman up with her.


Three days later…

Barbara considered Dinah quietly for a moment, a contemplative then serious expression covering her face. She sighed deeply and then opened her mouth to speak. "A party huh?" she asked trying not to smile.

"Yeah, a sma…average one," Dinah replied seeing Barbara's eyebrow start to rise as she began to fib about the size of the party. Stupid she thought to herself, of course Barbara had heard about it. "Okay, it's gonna be huge. It's gonna be huge because it's the party of year. You have to let me go, if I don't I'm going to be a social leper for the rest of my high school existence and end up spending my Saturday nights knitting sweaters with Alfred," she continued pleadingly.

"Hmmm," Barbara responded her tone thoughtful once more. "When does the party end?" she asked finally.

"That," Dinah hedged for a moment. "Is kind of open-ended," she admitted.

"I see," Barbara replied nodding her head to emphasis how much she really did understand what Dinah was saying.

"I promise not to get into any trouble whatsoever. I'll be practically prudish. People will look at me and go um … 'isn't she prudish'," Dinah related in a very sincere tone while looking at Barbara sincerely. "I'll be so good that everyone'll be wondering where my wimple is, and …"

"Alright, alright," Barbara said smiling a bit holding up her hand. "You can go," she said now fully grinning at Dinah. "And," she continued drawing the word out suspensfully. "I'll leave it up to you to decide what an appropriate curfew would be and to meet it," she went on seeing Dinah stare at her for a moment and then break out into a grin.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you," Dinah gushed putting her hands together and shaking them excitedly before bending down and hugging Barbara. "Wow," she said pulling back, her voice a little chocked with emotion. "You're like the best … … Barbara a girl could have," she said nodding at the redhead before stepping back. She had to get to her room so that she could call Gabby and gloat, and then they had to coordinate outfits. It was going to be a full night.

Helena looked up when she heard the door to Dinah's room close. She didn't even need to look over at Barbara to know that the redhead had been following the blonde's progress with an affectionately amused smile on face.

"Now that she's gone and I'm free to act as immaturely as I want, about the curfew thing … no fair!" Helena exclaimed finally turning to look at her lover, her voice rising slightly with her exclamation and her face screwing up indignantly. "You never waved curfew rights for me."

"Because you never actually ever made curfew to begin with," Barbara responded turning to face Helena who'd set up shop on the couch and currently had a medium sized box laying on her lap, scotch tape hanging from the tip of one finger, and brightly coloured wrapping paper surrounding her.

Helena made a face and then tilted her head from side to side as she made fake talking motions while smoothing a piece of tape down with her thumb. "Yes, yes Dinah's the good orphan child and I still have to apply foundation for a least twenty minutes everyday to cover up the pentagram on my forehead," Helena finally said with a normal expression in a normal speaking voice.

"I can completely see how you got that from what I said," Barbara responded in a lightly sarcastic tone though her expression was serious as she moved over towards the couch. It had only been a few days since their final show down with Dr. Harleen Quinzel and while Helena seemed fine for the most part, immediately letting herself be enveloped by the Christmas spirit, Barbara had noticed a shadow in the brunette's eyes on occasion. Something was bothering her. "Is everything alright?"

Helena sighed deeply allowing Barbara to brush an errant strand of hair out of her face before tipping her head to the side and out of the redhead's grasp and leaning back. She hadn't meant for her comment to be as illuminating as it had been. "Fine. I was speaking ironically … you know. It only takes ten minutes tops for the face work, it's concealing the horns that's really a bitch," she said smirking at Barbara before turning her eyes back down to the package in her lap. She started to wrap it again. She didn't want to have to look into Barbara's eyes. They were and always would be the end of her.

"Really," Barbara commented carefully studying Helena. "I always thought it was binding the wings and concealing the blinding halo of light that kept you in the bathroom for long," she continued a bit relieved to see Helena turn her head to the side, a self-conscious but genuine smile working it's way across her face.

"I have to say, I like that imagery better," Helena responded the smile fading as she turned to look at Barbara. "But you have to admit it's not exactly a perfect fit," she continued holding the redhead's gaze intensely.

"No," Barbara admitted meeting Helena's eyes. "But it's certainly closer than your fire and brimstone metaphors," she continued softly.

"You think so?" Helena asked, her tone light and a little flippant, though her somber expression and rapidly blinking eyes testified to the significance of the question.

"I know so," Barbara responded her voice ringing with quiet intensity, her eyes burning into Helena's as she spoke. "We wouldn't be here otherwise," she continued her hand grasping Helena's though her eyes briefly skittered away from Helena's blue ones to look around the clock tower.

Helena drew in a deep and shaky breath before sucking her bottom lip into her mouth and biting down on it lightly for a moment. At Barbara's words and the honesty that permeated every syllable of them, she felt an almost tangible weight being lifted off her that had settled somewhere deep inside over the past week. She felt a lightness and warmth begin to tread through her soothing old and new aches and wounds. But at the same time there was a dread, a small sliver of doubt and fear poking it's head out of whatever corner of her brain it had managed to burrow into. The two emotions hope and despair clashing savagely in her mind. She wanted to believe Barbara, she wanted to be able to pluck the redhead words out of the air and place them in her heart where they would be kept safe and she would know them to be true. She just couldn't. There was a part of her that couldn't, or maybe wouldn't believe, she was as good as Barbara – and even Alfred and Dinah – believed her to be. There was a part of her that believed she was bad.

She looked up at Barbara and blinked, big blue eyes shimmering wetly with unshed tears. She wanted to say something, she wanted to say innumerable things but she didn't know what they were. She settled for muttering, "Sometimes I wonder," while running an agitated hand through her hair.

"I think," Barbara said, her hand reaching out to stroke Helena's cheek. "That that's a good thing," she continued softly. "In the world we live in it's when we stop wondering, stop questioning, stop searching that we're in trouble," she went on as Helena turned her eyes up to look at her. "If you didn't care, you wouldn't question, you wouldn't worry. In a strange way," she went on shaking her head slightly. "I think doubt is one of the best checks we have.

"Is there darkness in you?" Barbara continued. "Undoubtedly. More than in most people," she continued feeling Helena tense under her hand slightly and lower her eyes. "Which isn't a bad thing. Because without darkness there can be no light," she went on her eyes clouding over as her voice became soft and resonant. "And the light in you far outweighs the dark. In fact at times it burns so brightly it can be almost blinding," she said her voice faintly awed as her lips curved upwards.

"You worry about it," Helena said dropping her eyes from Barbara's face, not able to look at her loving smile as she said what she had to say. "I know you do."

Barbara sighed at that and felt Helena pull away from her hand, was vaguely aware of movement on the couch as the brunette slumped back into the cushions. Helena was right. She did worry about her, about the darkness and the intensity that coursed through her. She also believed every word she had just said. Helena could be amazingly sensitive, kind and generous. She could be as soft and gentle as she could be hard and unforgiving. She was a walking, talking contradiction, a body in contrast and at war with herself. Sure she worried. Of course she worried. It broke her heart to see Helena so conflicted, at times the various parts of her fighting so hard she could almost see the brunette tearing herself apart. But that worry in no way stifled her belief in other woman.

"You're right," Barbara said finally seeing Helena start to shift uncomfortably under the weight of her silence. "I do worry, I can't help it. I love you … which seems to mean constantly worrying and obsessing anxiously about you," she continued sounding mildly befuddled by her own emotions. "I can't sit here and tell you that you're never going to do something you're going to regret, or that all the decisions you're going to have to make are going black and white and therefore ridiculously easy. Or that because you're a good guy every decision you come to and action you take is automatically going to be stalwart a true," she went on leaning back against the back of her chair herself, a hand running through her hair. "All I can really say is … is that I believe in you."

Helena was silent for a moment after Barbara finished speaking. She could feel the emotions that had been churning inside of her causing her insides to knot and her head swim begin to slow and was waiting for it all to settle. A soft sigh escaping from between her lips when they did, a small smile coming to grace her lips.

"I think I'm going to have to re-wrap this," she said softly looking down at the package in her lap. She'd somehow managed to rip and bunch an entire section of the wrapping paper while tangling the various strips of tape she'd had on her finger tips together forming a sticky, crinkly ball.

"What?" Barbara breathed out in response, her brows wrinkling slightly even as her gaze moved to follow Helena's. She was a bit thrown by the brunette's change of subject. She should've been used to it by now, having had the better part of seven years to adjust, but it still sometimes took her by surprise. "What the …" she exclaimed a second later, her eyes following upon what had previously been a present on its way to being competently wrapped.

"I think I was a bit tense," Helena replied with an amused self-consciousness.

"And now?" Barbara asked curiously as she reached out for Helena's hands, her gaze traveling between her own fingers as they worked removing the clusters of tape that covered Helena's hands, and the brunette's face.

"Not so much," Helena responded softly as her eyes dropped to watch Barbara work.

"I take it this is for Alfred," Barbara commented a second later focusing on the box Helena had been wrapping for the first time since moving the join the brunette by the couch.

"No. Dinah. Men's dress shoes are all the rage with sixteen-year-old girls this year. Once she sees them she's gonna love me forever and ever," Helena replied earnestly looking up at Barbara with a completely sincere expression.

"What do I know I'm still wearing choker's," Barbara deadpanned in response before quirking an eyebrow at Helena. "Seriously though, why shoes? Were they all out of monocles? No, wait … there was an ascot shortage wasn't there?" she finished knowingly.

"First," Helena started. "Funny," she continued not sounding very amused. "The man needs to branch out. I mean I like Rockport's as much as the next girl, but everyday … for seven years. No, no," she continued shaking a finger in front of Barbara's face. "Mezlan Nicola's. They'll drive the ladies at the local grocer's wild."

Barbara stared at her.

"Oh alright," Helena relented looking away from the redhead. "Renato Balestra was out of classy ascots and I got him a monocle last Christmas – which I might add, he never wore after New Year's. Are you happy now?"

"Um hmm," Barbara replied nodding happily before grinning at Helena widely when the brunette returned her gaze to her.

Helena smiled back at her, and then sneered slightly snapping her mouth in Barbara's direction making a 'rowr' sound, before then going back to properly wrapping Alfred's gift.

The next day …

Helena paced in front of the bathroom door impatiently staring at its smooth, white surface with a white-hot intensity that could've melted plastic.

Suddenly stopping her insane cycle of pacing, Helena turned so that she was facing the door and lifted her arm in the air preparing to embark upon an insane cycle of banging on the door and irritating the shit out of Dinah until she exited the bathroom. Sure it hadn't worked the last time she'd tried ten minutes ago, but she felt like hitting something.

Preparing to bring her fist down on the wooden surface in front of her she halted her motion half way to the door, an evil smile making it's way across her face. This was followed by her softly chuckling to herself, before taking in a deep breath.

"Dinah!" she called out banging her hand against the door.

"The more you yell the longer I'm going to stay in here," Helena could just make out Dinah yelling through the door over the hiss of the shower.

"Fine," Helena called back in deceptively subdued tone. "I guess I'll just have to keep Gabby company until you get out," she continued, smiling as she heard the noise from the shower lessen. Dinah had to have turned it down to hear her better. "I wonder what we'll find to talk about," she went on thoughtfully though in a loud enough tone Dinah could hear her.

"It's only 8:30," Dinah called back skeptically as she looked at her watch. Gabby wasn't supposed to pick her up until nine.

"Yeah, got here early. She must really miss you when you're not around," Helena responded leaning against the wall beside the bathroom door. "Hey, I know! If you're going to be much longer, the two of us can talk about you! That way she won't miss you as much," she continued smiling to herself.

This was followed by the sound of the shower turning off completely, multiple thumps, some mumbled colourful phrases – all of which Helena was able to make out – before the door was thrown open, and a still dripping severely disgruntled looking Dinah emerged in the doorway.

"Don't go near her," Dinah stated seriously looking at Helena. She didn't know what the brunette would think of to say and she didn't want to find out.

Helena tossed her hands up in the air. "I was just trying to helpful," she commented as Dinah stepped out into the hallway.

"Where is she?" Dinah asked smoothing down her tangled hair as she glared at Helena. She wasn't letting the brunette anywhere near Gabby, not even to tell her that she'd be dressed in a few minutes.

"Living room. I set her up with some jerky and scotch," Helena replied non-pulsed by Dinah's look. "I could so totally host my own show. 'Home with Helena'," she continued smiling.

Dinah stared at the brunette for a moment, then muttered 'Whatever', and headed towards the living room.

As soon as Dinah turned her back Helena slipped into the bathroom, quietly closing the door behind her, bending down close to the knob as she turned the lock as softly as possible.

"Helena!" she heard Dinah yelling a few seconds later.

Helena started whistling. It wasn't Dixie but it was good enough.

"I can't believe you did that," Barbara commented softly shaking her head as very refreshed and rosy looking Helena emerged from the door that adjoined her bedroom to the bathroom.

"She stopped yelling after a few minutes," Helena replied shrugging as if she didn't get what the big deal was, though Barbara could see that she was trying to hold in a smile. A big one if the way her shoulders were shaking was any indication.

"You're lucky," Barbara responded watching as Helena brusquely toweled off her hair. "She only stopped because Gabby actually did get here a few minutes after you took over the bathroom."

"You see that," Helena said tossing the towel she was using for her hair back into the bathroom. "I can't even not be helpful when I'm trying. I truly am a precious gift," she continued grinning over at Barbara before letting the towel she had wrapped around her body drop. "You didn't let her take any of my clothes did you?"

"No," Barbara responded rolling her eyes. "And you don't have to worry about her asking either. They left about two minutes ago," she continued her words slowing and coming out in a lower tone of voice as she watched Helena strut over towards closet. Once Helena had begun to spend her nights in the penthouse once again Barbara had decided to take the brunette's clothes which had been hanging around the clock tower off of the various pieces of furniture that had housed them for so long and hang them up in her closet.

"That was fast? What'd Gabby help her change?" Helena asked derisively as she thumbed through her section of the closet, which actually took up about half.

Barbara was vaguely aware of Helena's response, in that she could her the brunette's low tones, but she couldn't exactly make out the words that were being spoken. Her attention was firmly focused on the intricately inked phoenix tattoo that adorned Helena's lower back. She'd been slightly horrified the first time she'd seen it – which admittedly had been almost a month after Helena had gotten it – when the brunette had been bent over digging in one of the lower cabinets for pop tarts. However, as her eyes fell south following the design, she had to admit that she had grown rather fond of the tattoo recently.

"I've been negligent," Barbara said drawing Helena's attention over towards her. "How could you let me get away with such horrendous behavior?" she asked the brunette, reigning in the urge to smile as Helena simply lifted a perfectly sculpted dark eyebrow at her. "You were great at the faculty dinner, and I did get you Christmas presents, but I …sadly, haven't come close to meeting the 'lots of sex' quota," she continued, watching as Helena leaned against the side of closet and crossed her arms, meeting her gaze with a cocky smirk. "I'm shocked and appalled with myself," she went on holding Helena's gaze. "You're going to have to lie down on the bed. It's time for me to have my way with you. It must be done."

Barbara ran her hands up Helena's thighs, enjoying the sharp intake of breath that accompanied her scrapping her nails along the pale, smooth flesh, while she kissed and licked her way up Helena's other leg.

Upon reaching the spot where Helena's thigh met the curve of her ass Barbara rubbed her nose in small teasing circles on the firm rounded flesh, while her other hand made it's way up the side of Helena's torso, slipping beneath her to cup her breast, massaging it for a moment, before pinching Helena's nipple between her thumb and forefinger as she bit down on the creamy surface of Helena's ass, drawing out a ragged gasp from Helena as she thrust her chest forward trying to increase the contact between her breast and Barbara's hand, and her hips back expectantly.

Barbara smiled against Helena's flesh as she continued to kiss her way up the brunette's body, the hand that wasn't already fondling Helena's chest sliding up the brunette's torso so that her hands were cupping and manipulating both of Helena's breasts, as she lay in between the brunette's legs her breath tickling the skin on Helena's back.

Barbara concentrated on rolling and pinching Helena's nipples for a few long and pleasurable moments, tugging the taunt tips occasionally before pressing down and rolling them between her fingers again, the low growls emanating from Helena's throat as her head thrashed on the pillow heightening her own excitement driving her to thrust her hips into the mattress beneath her as she lowered her lips to Helena's skin once more.

Helena felt Barbara's hand on her neck, trailing up towards her face, applying some subtle pressure trying to get her to lay her head back down, even as Barbara's lips continued to assault her skin, licking, sucking and nipping lightly. She didn't need to see Barbara to know that the redhead was tracing the outline of her tattoo with her tongue, drawing her lip across it and scraping her teeth against it's surface before soothing the worried skin with a swipe of her tongue, teasing the inked flesh mercilessly. She didn't need to see, but she wanted to, she had been trying to when Barbara's hand began to move towards her face.

Barbara sucked in a laboured breath as she felt Helena suck the thumb of her left hand into her mouth, Helena's own hand moving to cover hers as she began to suck on the digit eagerly while relaxing against the pillow once again. Her eyes fluttered shut as she felt the smooth surface of Helena's tongue ring dancing across her flesh slowly driving her into a sexual frenzy when coupled with the warmth of Helena's mouth and the wetness of her tongue.

Barbara braced her right hand on the mattress and began to draw herself up Helena's body, leaving wet trial of pink marks on the brunette's creamy flesh as she made her way upwards, her lips and tongue attacking the back of Helena's neck as the brunette continued to assault her fingers, before she drew her lips up beside Helena's ear, drawing the lobe in mouth and sucking on her before pulling back just far enough to whisper "Turn over," roughly into Helena's ear.

Barbara's head tipped back against the pillow her lips parting slightly as her back arched and her hips thrust forward, meeting every movement of Helena's as the brunette ground herself against Barbara's center, her hand on Barbara's right thigh as she held it draped over her own, her left hand braced against the headboard giving her the leverage needed to drive forward into Barbara.

Helena looked down at Barbara's flushed face, gazed at her captivated as she continued to grind against her, held utterly and completely hostage by the redhead's beauty. Her hair spread against the pillow like a fiery halo, her lips pink, moist and slightly kiss bruised, as her eyes fluttered beneath their closed lips and her chest rose and fell rapidly.

"Barbara," she rasped, looking down watching as the redhead's stomach muscles tense and relax as her hips bucked forward. Barbara was as close as she was, she could feel it. Could see it etched across her body. "Open your eyes," she continued wanting, nay, needing to see the redhead's emerald orbs as she came.

Barbara's eyes shot open at Helena's words, her eyes immediately finding the brunette's deep blue spheres, holding them as she felt her body shake and swell with pleasure as she felt Helena begin to move against her more intensely, her breasts swaying erotically as she moved, her hair falling in front of her face, obscuring her features except for her eyes which shone through the strands of raven hair, making her look like a dark goddess, both wild and regal.

Barbara's hips bucked forward one last time before her body exploded with pleasure and a rainbow of colours began to dance behind her eyelids. Vaguely aware of Helena's name being torn from her lips, as her body quaked and shook in rapture, her sounds of release mingling with Helena's own hoarse exhalation as she shuddered above her.

The next day…

"This is SO not the natural order of things," Dinah declared as she watched Helena struggle with the rather large artificial Christmas tree that had been salvaged from the basement of the building, still glittering with pieces of tinsel from Christmas's past. "I mean, not only is that the saddest looking artificial," she stressed. "Tree I've ever seen. It's Christmas Eve! Eve!"

Helena stopped wrestling with the tree for a moment at that, and used her relatively free hand to part some of the fake braches to make an opening for her face, which she proceed to glare at Dinah through for a long moment. Then closing up the face hole she'd made she turned on her heels and started back towards the door.

"Where're you going?" Dinah asked curiously though with a touch of trepidation.

"To the basement," Helena grumbled before releasing a series of intricately weaved curse words as she began to struggle with the tree once more, this time trying to get it back out the door, ending with "Fucking hell!" as she clamped one hand over her left eye and began yanking at a branch with her other hand while supporting the tree on her knee.

"It's only five, there's probably still a few tree lots open," Dinah volunteered carefully circling around the tree until she was on the other side of it and therefore had a decent barrier between her and Helena, or more accurately any wrath Helena might fly into.

"Oh that's funny," Helena responded pushing the tree into the doorway before rubbing at her eye. "Basement. No tree!" she declared before beginning to ram her body into tree that was stuck in the doorway.

"You mean we're not getting a real tree?" Dinah asked incredulously.

"Was 'No tree' really that difficult a statement to comprehend?" Helena asked before cocking her head to the side to consider the tree in front of her, her lips pouting slightly and her hand coming to her chin to stroke it thoughtfully. "BARBARA!?!" she yelled a moment later at the top of her lungs. "BARB…"

"What?" Barbara yelled back in a rather harassed tone, her figure emerging in the hallway a few second later.

"Where's that sword? The big one. You know, the medieval fucking Knights of the Roundtable looking thing?" Helena asked in a normal speaking voice turning around to look at Barbara. "Oh, isn't that festive," she commented upon seeing the redhead's attire.

"It's in the storage room in the clock tower," Barbara responded sighing before looking down at the colourful sweater she'd just put on. "Came in the mail today," she muttered fingering that material. "I'm a grown woman, I don't see why I should have to …" she continued to grumble mostly to herself. "Couldn't even have gotten an Elf," she went on distastefully poking at the reindeer head embroidered on her chest.

"Why," Dinah started not sure if it was a subject to be broached considering Helena's snickering and Barbara's grumbling. "Why are you wearing it? Not that it's not nice, I mean, it just seems like you'd … rather not … you know … be … wearing …it," she finished her voice barely audible at the end as she looked around the foyer.

"Gordon family tradition," Helena smirked looking over at Dinah. "Aunt Ruthie makes them over the year and sends them to all the nieces and nephews to wear to Christmas dinner. The kids get jumpers," she continued nodding at Dinah still smirking broadly.

"How come you don't have one?" Dinah asked looking between Helena and Barbara.

"Ky-le," Helena sounded out phonetically. "Gor-don," she continued pointing towards Barbara. "Kyle … Gordon. KYLE … GORDON," she went on pointing between the two of them as she said their names.

"Barbara said you went to the dinners," Dinah responded glaring at Helena and shifting her weight over onto one foot to show just how unimpressed she was with the brunette's sarcasm.

"One dinner to be exact. And there was an incident. And every year since my invitation has conveniently been lost in the mail," Helena responded her tone surprisingly subdued though she wasn't quite able to remove all derision from her voice. "Don't ask. We don't speak of it."

Dinah looked between the two of them, Barbara who was staring at Helena rather intensely and not in the 'awww schmoopy' way she'd gotten used to over the past month, while Helena pretended to be considering the tree that was still lodged rather firmly in the doorway.

"Storage closet?" Helena asked finally turning around to look at Barbara again.

"What do you want a sword for anyway?" Barbara asked curiously now that she was over the humiliation caused by her sweater.

"I'm gonna hack the tree out of the doorway," Helena responded happily looking back over at the offending object while making a hacking motion with her hand. "Dinah doesn't like it, and it's stuck. We don't wanna make you late for dinner."

"Did you try pushing it?" Barbara asked.

"Yes. And it got stuck," Helena responded rolling her eyes at Barbara. "So I'm going to chop it into little bits."

"I thought …" Barbara started looking over at Dinah who seemed horror stricken by what Helena was proposing.

"She doesn't like the tree. It's the saddest looking artificial tree she's ever seen. We should put it out of its misery. Isn't that what you said D?" Helena interjected turning to look at Dinah.

"No," Dinah exclaimed. "Well yeah. But not the misery, psycho chopping thing," she continued in a slightly accusatory and incredulous tone.

"Well excuse me for coming up with a creative solution to the problem," Helena replied. "Think outside the box D, not everything is gonna fit into your nice, neat, little number crunching world of leprechauns and dancing sugar plums … and stuff," she continued her hands rising up and moving around to increase the sarcastic quotient of her words, before she started for the entrance to the clock tower.

"First of all, stop calling me that!" Dinah said trailing behind Helena. "And secondly, what? Have you been bathing in bong water? What the hell did that mean?"

Barbara shook her head and headed back to her bedroom. If she had to suffer through a Christmas dinner with barely tolerable family members and stupid outfits she wasn't going to sit through one of Helena and Dinah's fights.

"If you don't know I'm not going to tell you," Helena responded listlessly watching as the doorway to the clock tower opened up. The truth was she could barely remember the words that had poured out of her mouth moments before. She sometimes had a tendency to talk out of her ass.

"You're not really gonna chop it into pieces are you?" Dinah asked following Helena into the other room. "Cause it's not such a bad tree. Now that I think about it. And besides, it's really the perfect tree for us. I mean it's seen some hard times, but it just keeps on trucking, you know. That tree …"

"Dinah," Helena said turning around to look at the blonde. "I won't hurt the tree … if you promise to stop talking about it!" she said slowly, enunciating every word.

"Hey," Dinah exclaimed as they entered the penthouse once more and were heading towards the foyer. "You were never gonna chop it up were you. You just wanted me to admit that I liked the tree. Didn't you?"

"Yes, that's how I spend my days. Trying to think up ways to foil you," Helena replied sardonically. "Dear diary, today I put salt in Dinah's tea, and switched the Tide colour-guard with generic brand when Alfred was doing her laundry. In six to twelve months her blacks are so gonna be slightly muted," she continued bracing one of her feet against the wall as she wrapped her arms around the tree and began to tug it into the room once more. "And tomorrow I'm going to put bubble-gum in her hair, and making beeping noises when she backs up," she went on struggling to keep a hold on the tree as it popped back into the room. "Why the hell am I dragging this thing anyway?" she asked a second later rounding on Dinah peevishly. "Aren't you telekinetic?"

The End

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