DISCLAIMER: I do not own the characters. They are the property of DC comics and the WB network. I'm just borrowing them for a short period of time.
MUSIC DISCLAIMER: Song lyrics don't belong to me either; no profit gained or infringement intended.
SERIES: Fourth part of the Elemental series following Landslide, Watershed and Windshear.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.


Chapter 11

Wanly surveying her feet in the water beneath her, Barbara decided that tanning salons were not necessarily all evil. In fact, for those with skin as pale as hers, perhaps visits to said salons should be subsidized by the non-melatonin-challenged who didn't wish to be blinded by fish belly white skin.

The thought put a smile on the redhead's face, the first since she'd entered the pool an hour before to put her muscles to work after another intensive day of literary naturalism. As pleasant as the slight burn of underused muscles was, as liberating as movement in the pool might be, and as refreshing as the water was in the June humidity, the redhead had reached the conclusion that she simply wasn't having fun.

Tipping back to float, she automatically dragged her hands down her unfeeling thighs, checking the position of her legs in the water. Satisfied that she wasn't akimbo, Barbara closed her eyes and drifted, attempting to ignore the insistent voice in her head which had decided to let her know exactly why she wasn't able to enjoy her swim.

Naturally, her attempt -- just like her attempt to distract herself with thirty laps of the Olympic pool -- failed, and, with a resigned sigh, she opened her eyes and faced the facts.

It was Helena, of course.

Or, more specifically, the lack of Helena.

Swimming simply didn't have quite the same appeal without the younger woman frisking beside her or showing off from the high dive.

"You're just a dirty middle-aged letch, Gordon," she murmured, turning to her side and stroking to the edge of the pool.

The redhead effortlessly hoisted herself from the water, rotating her body as she lifted so that she came to a stop sitting with her feet still in the water. After tilting her head back and roughly pushing tendrils of wet hair from her face and neck, she stretched to her chair and snagged the thick towel she'd left on the seat.

Still following her last train of thought, Barbara indulged herself in one her long-standing internal debates: which of Helena's swimsuits she liked best.

On this day, the tankini won.

Of course, as fetching as the brunette was -- regardless of which item of swimwear she modeled -- Barbara knew that there was far more to her feelings than that.

Just as swimming wasn't as much fun without her partner, neither was eating or working out or watching television or sleeping or...


The analytical woman placed her towel in the seat of her chair, then easily settled herself on it. On her way to the locker room, she acknowledged the irony inherent in how much she missed the other woman: as fiercely independent as she was, as much as she'd originally chafed at having a roommate imposed on her after the shooting, as volatile and annoying as Helena could be, it simply didn't matter.

She missed her.

During the course of a shower which was decidedly chillier than she cared for and, resultantly, much briefer than necessary to remove all traces of chlorine, Barbara worked to push her melancholy away.

For heaven's sake, Helena had only been gone for six days.

Of course, her infallible memory deflated that tact, neatly reminding her that she had never gone longer than three days without seeing the younger woman.

Damning herself -- this time as a tritely lovelorn fool instead of the earlier letch label -- she tugged her vintage Devo tee shirt over her head and approached the mirror, hairbrush in hand. With a bit more vigor than was required, she attacked the soggy mess, the process so familiar that she scarcely needed to follow the movements of the brush in the mirror.

Indeed, twenty-six brush strokes later, the redhead realized that she was fixated on the reflection of her face in the mirror. Lowering her brush, she saw her reflected companion's crimson eyebrows lift in puzzlement and smirked a greeting to herself. In response, she saw a stranger smile back: a woman nearing middle age, subtly muscular, with sharp green eyes and...

The redhead's inspection abruptly narrowed in to the vertical lines between her brows.

Good god, she really needed to stop squinting. Not to mention all of the nose pinching.

Unlocking the brake on her chair and putting a bit of distance between the mirror and herself, Barbara heard an echo from her lunch conversation of the day before.

Perhaps Jessica had been right, and a little pampering was in order. What, exactly, was involved in a facial?

With that odd thought, the redhead released her tension and turned to face the woman in the mirror. She blew a noisy raspberry, knowing that she could simply have asked Dinah or Helena about the facial, had either of the young women been in New Gotham. Of course, had they been, she knew that she probably wouldn't be contemplating the uncharacteristic notion.

With a wink at herself, she gathered her gear and headed to the parking lot.

Perhaps a bottle of that vanilla musk moisturizer which she liked so much -- the expensive stuff which Helena used like water -- would fill the bill.

Cheered by the decision, Barbara put the Hummer into gear and set out in search of a little pampering. While she didn't miss the fact that her practical side reminded her to pick up sunscreen and moisturizer for a care package for Dick -- she was overdue -- she refused to let it bother her.

Shopping was shopping, and indulgence -- whether for herself or Dick -- was indulgence.

The following day, raising a spoon of yogurt to her lips as she scanned through the newspaper, the redhead glanced at an insert from one of the stores she'd frequented and wryly admitted that, perhaps, she had over-indulged a bit the evening before.

She simply hadn't been able to pass up a stop at the toy store.

She snorted softly at her uncharacteristic whimsy then guiltily peered over the top of the paper to reassure herself that the teachers' lounge was still only occupied by the ever-somnolent Mr. Smithers and herself. The fact that she was taking her lunch break in the school's hub for faculty interaction was, she supposed, enough of an indication that the solitude at home was wearing on her.

Not to mention the fact that, at the end of this first intensive week of summer school, she was thoroughly sick of the sight of her classroom.

Fastidiously recapping her empty yogurt container, Barbara dug into her insulated lunch bag and emerged with a bright green Granny Smith. As she twisted the stem from the top of the oversized fruit, Helena voice teased her memory with the words she knew the younger woman would use to describe the apple: "Big as your head."

She smiled fondly and turned back to the paper, purposefully bypassing the section listing news from Washington.

Too, too depressing.

Instead she focused on the regional highlights, skimming the noteworthy -- or just plain odd -- stories from around the country. Gradually, the absent buffing of the oversized apple against her shoulder ceased and green eyes opened wide.

A filler story from New York City, small enough that she'd almost skipped it until three words had jumped out at her.

Mysterious. Woman. Climbing.

Exhaling extravagantly, she read the blurb.



Apparently, two nights before, a mysterious individual, who had appeared to be a woman in black leather, had been sighted climbing a certain torch-bearing landmark in the harbor of the city which never slept. The mystery climber had scaled to the top of the statue in record time, then performed a swan dive from Lady Liberty's sandal-clad foot, disappearing into the none-too-pristine water.

While Barbara was perfectly willing to accept that there could be coincidences in life, the fact that her cat-footed climbing partner had been in the city on the very day of the event was too much coincidence. When she added in that she'd detected what had sounded like a case of the sniffles when they'd chatted the night before, well, sometimes two plus two did equal four.

While she was pleased that Helena was finding ways to enjoy her chaperoning duties during the big city visits of Dinah and Gabby's trip, obviously, she'd need to direct her enthusiastic partner back to the rock climbing walls when she returned.

Chuckling, the redhead bit deeply into her neglected apple just as the door to the lounge opened.

"Oh! Barbara. I didn't expect to see you here."

If the words weren't evidence enough, a liver-spotted hand raised dramatically to the white haired woman's heart was certainly telling.

Masticating rapidly, the English teacher managed a rather chipmunk-cheeked smile. Still, recalling her recent conversation with Jessica about the meddling History teacher, not to mention some sage advice from her father, she waved her apple in greeting and swallowed.

"Alethea, I'm glad to see you."

When her welcome was greeted by a suspicious glare over rhinestone encrusted frames, Barbara bit firmly at the inside of her cheek and counted to ten.

Although she was a vituperative old biddy, Alethea had gone out of her way to apologize for inadvertently releasing information about Barbara to The Joker two weeks before. When she'd recovered from the unexpected civility, Barbara, in turn, had quite honestly assured the clearly mortified woman that it had been for the best that she hadn't recognized the madman under his disguise. The outcome from that would have been grim indeed.

Still, brief detente to the side, the relationship with the older woman was, as ever, decidedly frosty. That, the cyber-genius had decided, was something she intended to change.

"Do you happen to be busy tomorrow evening?"

A mere forty-eight hours later, failing to stay focused -- or even remotely interested -- in the progress of her bots, Barbara considered the outcome of her question cum invitation.

Overall, the evening had gone remarkably well: Shakespeare At The Park, a New Gotham summer tradition, had been lovely as always; the weather had, miraculously, cooperated with only a short interlude of drizzle; the seldom-produced 'Titus Andronicus' had been well acted and engaging; and, throughout an evening of play viewing with coffee and sponge cake afterward, she and Alethea had remained civil.

Listlessly toggling through the various project files on the Delphi's P drive, the redhead allowed that Saturday evening had hardly been anything to write to the Nobel Committee -- or even to Jimmy Carter -- about, but it had been a start.

And, speaking of starts...

The cyber-genius felt her eyes widen a fraction when she ran across the files for her encryption-decryption programs. Since her electronic housekeeping twelve days before, she'd honestly not given her recent favorite mental exercise a single thought.

For a full minute, she stared at the folder icons, the stylized bat pointer hovering above one of the code sets. Two quick clicks would open the suite of programs, and she could immerse herself...

Barbara closed the window with a soft sigh.

She simply had no enthusiasm for the puzzle.

Green eyes tracked the progress of the bots which had, essentially, unraveled the trail of the online bubble gum gun sale. Indeed, the cyber vigilante had a good lead on the webmaster's location, and she suspected that part of her restlessness stemmed from a desire to follow up... to investigate.

When the idea flitted through her thoughts again, Barbara shook her head roughly.

Not something that was going to happen.

As tempting as the idea of a foray into the field was -- after all, her 'villain' was undoubtedly a cyber-nerd who she could take out with a withering look -- she sternly held herself in check.

It would simply be irresponsible to go gallivanting into the field. Especially with all of her backup out of town on various holidays and vacations.

Pushing back from the workstation, Barbara amended her list of reasons.

Given the little lecture she'd delivered to Helena just before the younger women had departed, she could hardly ignore her own advice. If something went wrong, she'd simply never hear the end of it.

Recognizing that her heart wasn't at the computer, the cyber-genius left the platform without a backward look. Not too many minutes later, she raised a freshly brewed mug of Earl Grey to her lips. The hot beverage was wonderfully soothing, however, it did little to calm the redhead's discontent.

Refusing to raise a white flag to her own emotions, Barbara closed her eyes and tipped her head back, basking the Sunday afternoon sunshine on the balcony and searching for equilibrium.

The restlessness... the discontented ache... the itchiness which possessed her was something she'd not experienced in quite some time. It had, in fact, been so long that it had taken her most of the previous sleepless night to identify it. Once she'd recognized the insistent need, it had taken the relentlessly practical woman most of the morning to grasp the fact that, yes, she was feeling exactly... that.

Unfortunately, once the problem had been identified and accepted, Barbara sourly realized that she was not appreciably better off. Even before the accident, she'd never had much use for -- or success in -- tending to certain needs of her own. Since the shooting, she'd simply stopped thinking about it.

The redhead's musings about exchanging her tea for tequila were suddenly interrupted by a soft thump from behind her on the balcony. The sound, reminiscent of Helena's quiet arrivals but without the accompanying frission which her partner's presence engendered, predictably nearly scared the wits out of the redhead.

Barbara jerked her eyes open, sloshing hot tea onto her hand and her lap, briefly grateful for the lack of sensation, and she smoothly wrapped her free hand around the batarang hidden in the arm of her chair.


The redhead blinked once at the large tabby who was casually crossing the balcony and then drew a deep, calming breath.

"How on earth did you make it up here?"

She didn't realize that she'd spoken aloud until the cat halted its casual investigation of an Adirondack chair and turned bright yellow eyes to her. When long whiskers twitched, Barbara smiled in return and, one stuttering heartbeat later, found herself with a fifteen pound tomcat on her lap.

Rolling her eyes -- Weren't cats supposed to be aloof? -- she leaned to one side and carefully placed her mug on the flagstone surface of the balcony. Then, she slowly raised her hand, allowing her visitor to take in her scent and nearly giggling when he began delicately lapping at her wrist.

Probably the cream from the spilled tea.

Smiling softly as her burly lap guest finished his cleaning and hopped down to drink directly from the mug, Barbara was surprised to notice she felt no irritation at the cat's actions. Helena, too, sometimes sampled her tea -- even the herbals, which she claimed tasted like hay.

Several years before, after absent-mindedly raising one-too-many empty cups to her mouth with no memory of having consumed the contents, the analytical woman had eventually grasped that her partner only "sampled" her tea when she'd indulged herself with a dollop of cream. Naturally, she hadn't been willing to accept her little hunch on face value; and so, over the next few months, she'd surreptitiously tested her hypothesis through rigorous experiments: different flavors of tea, water temperature and steeping time, sugar versus honey, half-and-half or milk. At the end, the evidence supported her theory, and Barbara had learned to keep a closer eye on her teacup when she'd added cream to the brew.

Frankly, Barbara wasn't sure why she'd added cream this afternoon but, watching the tabby lap delicately, was glad she had. Her visitor was clearly enjoying his refreshment, and his enthusiasm was germinating an idea for his host.

After drinking his fill, the big cat briskly washed his face before calmly disappearing over the side of one of the gargoyles guarding the balcony. Watching the grey tail slink from view, the redhead chuckled softly and mentally threw her hands in the air.

It was time for serious pampering.

Seventy-five minutes later, Barbara emerged from the kitchen balancing an overfilled tray on her lap. Cheeks still flushed from a hot bubble bath, she was clad in her rattiest sweatpants and her favorite heather-grey NGPD Academy tee.

With the clock tower to herself, the unfortunately located hole in the front simply wasn't an issue.

Stopping at the coffee table, the redhead swiftly transferred the items from the tray: without Helena or Dinah in the house, she'd not even needed to make room on the normally cluttered surface.

Mug of crushed ice next to the two liter bottle of diet soda, of course.

'Notorious' and two of her prized 'Xena' DVDs -- Season Two, of course -- on the far corner, hopefully safe from spills.

The pint of Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey ice cream next to the unopened bag of Cheetos--

The redhead's nesting activities stilled for a moment, green eyes losing focus and tracking slightly to the left, as she attempted to recall the last time she'd encountered an unopened bag of any type of chips in the tower.

Shrugging cheerfully, she deposited the final item from her stores -- the pristine bottle of vanilla musk moisturizer which she'd purchased three days before -- on the lip of the table, then leaned the empty tray against the wing chair. Since she'd already set the thermostat to a practically glacial sixty degrees on her way to the kitchen, all that was left to do was settle on the couch and wrap herself in the afghan which Aunt Barbara had knitted for her so many years before.

Barbara settled herself against one arm of the big couch, her legs stretched across the length of most of the seat, and tucked the fuzzy lap robe around herself.

Although running the air conditioning full blast during the dog days of June was ridiculous, the redhead refused to deny herself the indulgence.

Finally comfortable, she snagged the remote and began flipping channels, even as she reached for the bottle of lotion with her other hand. Her own videos were most certainly on the play list for the evening -- Heaven knew, she didn't get many opportunities to watch them -- but a brief glance at the satellite listings earlier in the week had revealed that a movie with The Rock was airing.

The movie itself -- a poor remake of a 1973 Joe Don Baker movie -- was utterly insipid. However, The Rock had starred in the first "date movie" she'd shared with Helena several months before. In addition, the redhead recalled a particularly engaging scene in this movie with --

Barbara felt a touch of heat in her cheeks which had nothing to do with the residual effects of her hot bath. Nevertheless, she clicked to the correct channel, determined not to be too concerned by her altogether prurient interest in the film.

Smirking, she dropped the remote and twisted open the top of her moisturizer with a mental shrug.

Who knew? Given the mood she'd been it, a pole dance might be just the thing.

Chapter 12

Emerald eyes snapped at the sight of the spiky poles of the turnstile which barred Barbara from her destination. In her experience, offering a handicapped accessible gate which was three terminals away from the arrival platform she was trying to reach did not qualify as meeting ADA standards.

Clearly, some pointed letter-writing was the order of the day. Not to mention, perhaps a few calls to the consumer advocate reporters at the local news stations.

Frustration notwithstanding, the redhead knew when to pick her battles and so turned away from the impediment and headed briskly to the access gate available to her. Fortunately, she had arrived with time to spare, and the fifteen minute detour provided a valuable opportunity to work off her anger while saving her from waiting impatiently at the arrival gate.

And, impatient she was. While she'd managed to keep herself occupied, the two weeks of Helena's absence had not passed as quickly for her as she suspected they had for her partner.

A negligible five minutes after her arrival, the roar of diesel engines announced the arrival of the train, sending Barbara's heart into a brief stutter step. Rolling her eyes at herself even as she did so, she checked her appearance, once again questioning her chosen outfit.

The bright yellow sleeveless sundress with red and orange flowers was much showier than the reserved woman usually preferred. Falling to mid-thigh, the garment buttoned all the way down the front, making it a snap to slide into. However, functionality had been the last thing on Barbara's mind when she'd spied the dress the week before: It had called to her... seeming so fittingly celebratory for her partner's arrival.

Not to mention, it would fill out her wardrobe nicely for their Caribbean jaunt in a few weeks.

With the number of passengers disembarking -- including a significant number of teens who were, possibly, utilizing Explorer passes to tour the country like Dinah and Gabby -- the redhead suspected that she'd have difficulty picking out the one passenger she was interested in. When an almost electric tingle ran through her, raising the fine hair on her forearms, she realized how wrong she'd been.

Stepping lightly from the train, the brunette moved to one side to permit her fellow travelers to exit and scanned the crowd. Before waving -- or emitting a piercing whistle -- Barbara gave herself a moment to take in the sight of the younger woman.

Faded, tight jeans. Ass-kicking boots which added a few inches to her diminutive frame. Sleeveless Henley and, it appeared, no bra...

Catching herself licking her lips, the redhead narrowed her eyes, bemused with herself, and started to raise an arm to wave. The movement was unnecessary, for the younger woman's face suddenly lit up, and she bounded gracefully over the low fence separating those meeting passengers from the platform.

And then, Helena was before her, her presence so overpowering that Barbara could only beam up at her, her smile growing so large that a sprained zygomaticus seemed like a definite risk.

The redhead didn't care.

Utterly, deliriously, happy to see her partner again, the older woman felt her eyes blink, attempting to stay focused, as the lovely brunette leaned towards her. When Helena hesitated, her blue eyes flitting to the crowd surrounding them, Barbara realized that she didn't have to think about it: she stretched one hand to the younger woman's neck and pulled her down.

The normally reserved woman kept the kiss brief, or, she realized with some consternation thirty heart-stopping seconds later, she had intended to. However, when those perfect cupid's bow lips had brushed hers, when the flickering rasp of a questioning tongue had teased her mouth, when sweet warm breath had flowed from lips parted in invitation, there had been no option but to respond.

With obvious mutual reluctance, the two separated, and the younger woman straightened enough to rest her hands on the arms of the chair. Pinned under the avid inspection of bright blue eyes, Barbara hoped that she wouldn't blush, then realized that she'd lost the battle when she heard her partner's first words.

"God, you're so fuckin' hot."

When the older woman observed exactly where Helena's gazed seemed to linger, she caught her lower lip in her teeth to cover her smirk.

Apparently, the impulse purchase of the dress had been a good one. As had her decision to leave the top two buttons open.

Purposely, she waited until blue eyes met hers before responding.

"Indeed? I was thinking something like that about you."

That earned her a wicked smile, and the brunette leaned close again, her purring words raising a riot of gooseflesh across Barbara's body.

"God, I want to taste you... be in you."

Dear heavens.

Nearly moaning, the redhead swallowed with some difficulty before lightly running her index finger down the sweep of her lover's nose.


She punctuated the word with a gentle tap and steeled herself against Helena's pout. After all, she knew that the younger woman was all too frequently all urgency and rushing hormones.

"Let's collect your luggage."

While the brunette smiled and gestured a playful "after you" toward the luggage carousel, it became apparent -- not too many minutes later -- that there might have been a small communication difference. Specifically, after she pulled her folded chair into the Hummer behind the driver's seat, Barbara turned to confirm that Helena was buckled in, only to find herself caught in a ravenous kiss.

'Tonsil-swabbing' was the term she believed her students used.

As soon as she could come up for air, the redhead gasped, "Good heavens, Hel."

"You couldn't of brought the van, huh?" was the response mumbled against her neck.

The combination of the words themselves and the delicious sensations accompanying them caused laughter to tinkle past the older woman's lips. The dark head by her shoulder slowly raised, and blue eyes twinkled.

"Soon, Sweetie."

She punctuated the statement by placing the palm of her hand against a wiry shoulder and applying pressure in the direction of the passenger seat.

"It's only twenty minutes to the tower."

The brunette pouted extravagantly but obediently settled in her seat and reached for the shoulder belt.

"Easy for you to say, Red. You haven't been surrounded by two hormonal teenagers going at it like rabbits for the last two weeks."

In the process of retrieving the keys she'd dropped during the earlier, very pleasant, ambush, the older woman immediately abandoned her task and clapped her hands to her ears.

"More information than I need, Hel."

She lowered her hands and arched one brow.

"And, you can't be 'surrounded' by two people."

The brunette grinned unrepentantly.

"You can if it's two people and their million hormones."

With images of a Million Hormone March dancing before her, Barbara laughed, low and throaty.

It was so easy to laugh with Helena.

Having retrieved the keys, she looked over again and caught her breath in amazement. The younger woman's eyes, still blue, were fixed on her with burning intent. The expression was so inherently sensual that Barbara wondered how she was refraining from taking the younger woman right there.

Rather than risking a headline in the daily paper, she carefully cleared her throat and risked a flirtation.

"See something you like?"

She was unprepared for the seriousness of her partner's voice and the passion in her eyes.

"I see someone I love."

For twenty-three seconds, Barbara forgot to breathe. Then, shakily, she inserted the key in the ignition and turned the engine.

"Let's go home."

During the short drive to the clock tower, the two shared a silence which was less awkward than simply... charged. The ride up in the elevator was equally silent, with Barbara holding her companion's overnight bag in her lap and Helena easily carrying a duffle which appeared to be crammed to the gills.

"Home sweet home."

The pronouncement, accompanying the loud thump of a duffle meeting hardwood flooring, was without irony or sarcasm.

Touched, Barbara heard herself blurt a reply.

"I have something to show you."

Apparently, her impulse control had abandoned her somewhere outside the train station.

The younger woman was by her side in two soundless steps. Her blue eyes glinted, and the redhead shivered when slender fingers whispered over her exposed decolletage.


Her partner licked her lips, blue eyes shifting between the redhead's eyes and her chest.

Obviously at least one of the new items from Victoria's Secret was doing its job.

Aquiline nostrils flared hungrily, the expression on the sensual young woman's face decidedly wolfish.

Recalling a revision she'd made to that term a few weeks before, the redhead corrected herself and mentally substituted a different word: 'leonine'.

Or, Barbara swallowed with some difficulty, just plain predatory.

"So, what do you want to show me?"

Although she had a good idea what her partner was hoping to see, the question mercifully kick-started the older woman's brain, and she carefully pulled back a few inches.

"In the bedroom..."

Even looking over her shoulder as she was, Barbara couldn't miss the spark in her lover's eyes. She contented herself with a soft sigh, waiting for Helena to retrieve her duffle, and led the way into the master suite. Once there, she stopped and waited.

It took approximately a quarter of a second.

"You redid the closet!"

Helena crossed the room in a flash -- had that level of enthusiasm been present at the train station? -- and flung open the new bi-fold doors, exposing the new, deeper closet.

"This is amazing, Barbara! How did you get it done so fast?"

The frank glee in the brunette's words made losing eighteen inches of floor space and putting up with a week of dust and debris completely incidental.

"There's more, Hel."

Barbara exchanged a conspiratorial grin with the younger woman, watching as she shut the closet doors and narrowed her eyes, searching the room. The redhead opened her mouth to provide a hint just as Helena's face lit up, and she jumped onto the bed with an enthusiastic whoop.

"I can't believe you bought this, Barbara."

"That wasn-- "

The redhead stilled her protest as she watched her lover wrap the giant stuffed panther in a hug. When she'd passed the toy store the week before and recalled something Helena had divulged during sweeps about its stuffed animals, she'd been unable to resist the dark cat in the window.

It had proven to be a decent sleeping companion.

Apparently, Helena's acute senses didn't miss that fact either. With a delicate sniff of velveteen fur, the brunette released the stuffie and stood up.

"Missed me?"

Barbara's response was instant. And heartfelt.


The two shared another long look before a playful smile eased across caramel features.

"I'm here now."

Laughing again, the older woman refused to be distracted.

"Indeed you are, but there's one more thing to see."

Dark brows raised in question.

"In the bathroom."

Given the enthusiasm which her partner had demonstrated for the closet update, Barbara expected something akin to cartwheels for the new, oversized jetted tub she'd had installed. She was distinctly surprised when the brunette only nodded approvingly.

"Verrry nice."

She took solace in the fact that there had been that lovely, purring emphasis on the first word. Her partner's next offhand observation temporarily deflated her sense of satisfaction.

"But you should taken a slice out of the Kid's room and done it in real style."

Not entirely certain whether she was miffed or not, the redhead kept it short.

"Oh, and how would that have been?"

The brunette unconcernedly inspected the whirlpool jets and fingered the control switches.

"Bigger. King sized bed bigger tub. Deeper, too."

Barbara felt her pique evaporating even as her brows rose.

"A swimming pool, Hel?"

Jerking around in an almost comical double-take, the smaller woman barked out a laugh.

"Yeah, I guess so."

A trifle sheepishly, she added, "After this, it goes straight to lap pool, huh?"

The redhead contented herself with a smirk, an expression which changed to more of a puzzled quirk when Helena briskly closed the tub's drain and turned the taps on full.


Blue eyes sparkled.

"You going to help me christen this bad boy?"

Not even attempting to hide her surprise, Barbara blinked once.


She forgot to blink when slender fingers flirted with the hem of the Henley.

"Delayed gratification is your thing, Red."

Bowing to the inevitable -- the very enjoyable inevitable -- the redhead threw practicality to the wind and reached for the buttons on her dress. Starting at the bottom, she froze when the brunette suddenly dashed from the room. Fortunately, she didn't have long to remain flummoxed when Helena returned momentarily, a bottle of champagne in hand.

"I didn't think you meant that literally, Hel."

The tub was big, but not ship-christening big.

In short order, with her back being pummeled by jets of hot water, her lover resting against her chest, and two flutes of champagne of the side of the tub, Barbara decided that the tub had been worth every bit of remodeling inconvenience.

She delicately sampled a drop of water from the tan shoulder resting against her, idly tracing the smooth skin of her partner's right leg where it rested against her.

"How is Dinah doing, Helena?"

The younger woman sipped her champagne before responding, tan fingers tracing the lip of the glass as she spoke.

"D's doing good, Barbara."

Possibly sensing the redhead's desire for a bit more detail, Helena ceased her entirely distracting movements on the glass and resettled on the side of the tub.

"Really. We've talked some, and I think she's letting it go. And -- "

Barbara heard the smirk in her partner's voice.

"-- she's been kinda occupied for the last few weeks."

Raising her hands to hug the smaller woman from behind, the older woman nodded her gratitude and deliberately changed the topic.

"And, how was DC, Helena?"

Between the newspaper article about the Statue of Liberty and various telephone conversations in which the brunette had waxed enthusiastic about the level of crime -- and the resulting number of asses to kick -- in New York, the older woman felt she had a pretty fair picture of the first city Helena had chaperoned the girls through. The younger woman had been considerably less verbal about the visit to the nation's capitol.

When her companion leaned back, relaxing bonelessly into her stomach and chest, Barbara seized the opportunity to tease the circumference of the soft swell of her lover's right breast. A flare of heat coursed through her own chest when she detected the restless shifting the touch engendered.

"It was... okay... I guess. I mean --"

The younger woman's voice changed from halting to aggrieved.

"-- how many freaking museums can you go to? I swear, Dinah wanted to hit every single one, and do you know how big the Smithsonian is?"

Since she did, as a matter of fact, know, the redhead contented herself with a sympathetic murmur as she lowered her fingers to the warm water then returned to spiral softly around a rapidly hardening peak.

"Uh -- Zoo was good though," the young woman admitted breathlessly.

"Indeed?" the redhead coaxed, feeling something coil within as she witnessed her partner's struggle for breath. "Did you get to see the pandas?"

"Yeah, but I... I really liked the p... polar bears. They were massive... Ohh - fu--"

Despite the erotic haze threatening to overtake her, the redhead picked up on something and ceased her movements for a moment.

"You didn't frighten them did you, Hel?"

The dark head resting on her sternum shifted the tiniest bit, and Barbara bit back a smile at the certain tell.

"Maybe just a little."

Laughing at the image of this deceptively small woman terrifying twelve-hundred pound polar bears, the older woman slipped her hand under the water, lightly touching the juncture of the brunette's thighs, teasing her fingers through the thicket of dark curls she could barely see through the jetting water. When her partner whimpered, instantly opening to her and bracing one foot on the side of the tub, the redhead swallowed a moan.

Dear heavens. The things Helena made her want...

Reminding herself of the virtues of patience, she contented herself with fluttering against the other woman's center, closing her eyes to absorb the sensations under her fingers. A beat later, her eyes flew open when the brunette abruptly sat up and twisted to look at her.

"We need to get out now."

The words were almost urgent in their intensity, and Barbara felt herself adopting the befuddled expression which she knew she sported all-too-frequently around her partner.

"Right now?"

Bright gold eyes met green.

"Yeah. I can't hold my breath long enough for what I need."

Suspecting that, in these circumstances, oxygen was overrated, Barbara nodded and kept it brief.

"Go on, Hel. I'll join you shortly."

Chapter 13

When the bathroom door closed with a soft snick, Barbara reclined in the tub, surveying the candles and wine glasses ringing the bath. The two women had scarcely been in the water long enough to finish a glass of champagne, and the candles had barely begun to slump under their own heat.

Sighing soundlessly, she moved the delicate flutes aside, then grasped the edges of the tub to pull herself forward. From that position, she focused on the circle of candle light, releasing a long, steady breath to extinguish all but one.

With the room in near-darkness, she glanced at the thin sound system perched on the glass corner shelf. It contained a CD which she'd burned the day that Helena had departed, and she surrendered to temptation, toggling to unit to random play before sinking back into the warm water.

She'd give Helena -- and herself -- one song.

Doing her utmost to still her racing thoughts, the redhead concentrated on the feel of the water pounding against her back and her arms, the sensation of her impossibly sensitized breasts being swayed by the water, the raspy lyrics of the selection which whispered through the tiny speakers: "China Girl".

When the song finished, she slowly pulled herself forward again, noting a weakness in normally strong biceps which had little to do with the relaxing qualities of the whirlpool. Shaking off her lethargy, she turned off the CD, raised the drain in the tub, and lifted herself to the side.

Barbara took her time drying off, then stretched up to a hook on the back of the bedroom door to pull down a midnight blue silk over shirt.

The tactile contrast between the silk and her skin, between her skin and Helena skin, was an invitation she couldn't refuse.

Finally ready, she blew out the final candle and entered the bedroom. The dim glow of one of the bedside lamps illuminated the bed and the sultry figure on it.

Helena had obviously been waiting.

The younger woman was resting on her side, dark head propped on one hand, her eyes fixed on the door to the bathroom. Barbara approached her slowly, allowing herself to take in the brunette's slender legs, the flat muscles of her abdomen, the rapid rise and fall of her chest. In turn, she felt her partner's eyes upon her like a physical touch, and when she looked up from settling herself on the mattress, her lover's hunger was palpable.

"Wow --"

The brunette's hushed whisper fell between them, almost lost in the younger woman's slow rise to meet her, swallowed in the endless brush of their mouths. For uncounted moments, Barbara surrendered to Helena's sweet attentions, opening in welcome and dancing against the studded tongue which met hers.

My, but Helena knew how to kiss.

Suckling at her companion's lower lip, drinking in her sighs, Barbara moaned a protest when the younger woman pulled away. The sound died in her mouth when soft, kiss-swollen lips trailed across her neck and sharp teeth nipped at the collar of her garment. In the blink of startled green eyes, Helena was above the older woman, arching -- stretching -- sinuously to drag her bare skin in a gossamer caress against the silken fabric separating them.

Enraptured by the display, the redhead heard a whisper -- "Yesss" -- and thought it might have been her own. The realization recalled her to herself, and cooled the heated currents running across her nerves.

Enough. Just enough.

Almost briskly, she pushed up on her elbows, halting her partner's decent and nearly laughing at the puzzlement in the blue eyes which widened in question.

"On your back, Woman."

She kept her tone light, but her expression, she knew, was serious.

And wanting.

A smile filled with promise raised the corners of the younger woman's mouth, and Helena slowly dismounted the redhead to settle on the bed. Barbara felt her own smile blossom, then falter, when she saw her partner stretch her arms above her head, locking the fingers of one hand around the other wrist.

The older woman felt the exact instant when the dynamic force of nature which was Helena Kyle ceded control to her. She knew because, in that moment, she was overcome with a heady sense of power and passion the likes of which she would never have imagined.

At least until not too many weeks before.

"I love you so, Sweetheart."

The words flowed forth without thought as Barbara turned and leaned down to brush her lips over a few drops of water still beaded on the brunette's shoulder. Imbibing a tiny droplet imbued with the ineffable taste of the other woman, she almost missed the whispered reply.

"Show me."

The older woman looked up, and this time, she knew the uncertainty was in her own eyes. The calm acceptance meeting her was answer enough, and Barbara gave in to her desire, her need, to show the other woman everything.

Red lashes fluttered, then opened wide to take in her lover's face when she lowered her lips to the sweet golden skin of her lover's throat. Softly, slowly, she brushed her mouth against the corded muscle at the juncture where shoulder met neck. Gently, she nipped at the soft flesh, then laved the small mark with her tongue. Carefully, she traced her tongue down the pulsing vein which throbbed just beneath the skin. Hearing Helena soft hitching gasp, Barbara tenderly brought her teeth together, holding nothing back.

The younger woman's sudden gasp was encouragement enough. Her keening whine and the buck of her hips under Barbara's hand was incendiary.

Like Daedalus, the redhead soared, carrying her partner with her.

Much later, her ears still ringing from the volume of the younger woman's last cry, Barbara somehow managed to raise her head from the firm flesh which pillowed her cheek. Her lover, still sprawled on her stomach in a boneless mass, grumbled softly, a protest the older woman ignored as she raked her eyes down the inviting display before her.

Still dazed herself by the sheer -- force of her lover's response, she didn't realize that she was speaking aloud until she heard her own awed whisper.

"You love that."

Promptly feeling the beginnings of a blush crawling up her cheeks, the analytical woman mentally rolled her eyes at herself.

Quite honestly, at this stage of the game, embarrassment was simply ridiculous.

Her partner's languorous stretch recaptured her attention, and she scooted up the bed as the younger woman slowly shifted onto her side.

"Shit, Barbara, it's like I told you --"

The redhead smiled at the smaller woman's lackadaisical grousing and outlined firmly delineated abdominals with the tip of her index finger.

"-- anything you do, it's gonna rock my world."

Green eyes blinked, then lost focus and tracked slightly to the left as the older woman's infallible memory helpfully replayed several occasions which her lover could have been referring to.

"Indeed, Hel."

The two shared a smile before the older woman felt compelled to probe a bit deeper.


On her side, one hand supporting her head, she gestured easily along the brunette's relaxed form.

"...you really liked that."

Something fluttered in the redhead's chest when Helena ducked her head. Barbara thought that the smile which she'd glimpsed, on almost anyone less experienced, might have seemed almost... shy.


Gently, she tucked a lock of chestnut hair behind the younger woman's ear and coaxed those stunning blue eyes back to hers.

"Why haven't you said anything?"

The other woman didn't respond for a moment... verbally. When Barbara saw the complete adoration directed at her, she fought a wave of breathless vertigo. The sensation of lush lips brushing hers did little to improve her disorientation.

Mercifully, Helena withdrew with a playful smile.

"I dunno."

The shoulder which the brunette was not lying on moved in a lazy shrug.

"It's not like I'm just gonna go all 'Last Tango In Paris' on you or something."

Barbara felt her eyebrows knit briefly before she placed the reference, then snorted softly, once again aware of how much she loved this woman. A split second later, she flailed and pushed herself upright.

"Dammit! I've totally screwed this up."

Even in her pique, she didn't miss that the sudden exclamation wasn't enough to rouse the younger woman from her lassitude.

"What gives?"

This time, the redhead didn't fault her blush.

"I forgot, Helena. I have food ready, too."

Her embarrassed contrition gave way to a different emotion at the look of alarm which flooded gamine features.

"You, uh, cooked? For me?"

The redhead noted that the last two words -- practically a squeak -- were probably only clearly audible to dogs, and she let go of her vexation, laughing ruefully at her own expense.

"Even I know better than that. I opened takeout containers."

She'd tried to think of everything for a memorable homecoming, and -- as linear and focused as she tended to be -- Barbara couldn't fathom how she'd let first the music, then the food slip through the cracks.

An hour later, the redhead had forgiven herself the oversight as the two began to wrap up an impromptu picnic in the big bed which had been a great deal more relaxed -- not to mention messy -- than her originally planned interlude in the living area would have been. Making a mental note to change the sheets -- the cracker crumbs wouldn't be pleasant for sleeping -- she captured a smudge of pate from the corner of her mouth and fought a smile at the sight of her partner rooting through the picnic basket, undoubtedly in search of something else for the bottomless pit she called a stomach. The older woman reclined into the stack of pillows at her back, raising her hands in a spine-cracking stretch and wondering just when her shirt had been unbuttoned.

"Still hungry, Hel?"

The brunette's hand emerged from the basket with a chocolate-dipped strawberry, and Barbara warmed to the undisguised delight reflected in cobalt eyes.

"Oh, yeah, Red."

The older woman thought there was something more to the words than simple acknowledgement or agreement; however, with her tummy pleasantly full and her senses so recently and vigorously sated, she couldn't summon much interest in pursuing the thought. Or, so she believed until she witnessed even white teeth neatly biting the berry in half and a slender hand bringing the top half of the fruit to her chest.

Intrigued, Barbara felt her brows inch upward as Helena positioned the succulent flesh of the berry against her and began to circle, painting her pale flesh with the sweet juice while she spiraled slowly inward. Breathing through her mouth at this point, the redhead arched upward a few inches, straining for the sticky wetness being promised.

"Wait -- "

The whisper coincided with the fruit's overdue arrival at its destination, and the older woman felt her flesh pebble when the first drops of wetness struck her. Her lashes fluttered, but she forced her eyes open in time to see Helena reach for her champagne glass.

Barbara gasped when the sparkling wine washed across oversensitive flesh, then she moaned as her lover lowered her mouth to drink. Her own flute, which she'd been holding loosely in one hand, barely made it to the bedside table.

"Tickles," she managed over a growing smile.

The dark head which was bent to her breast raised, Helena's smile easily matching her own.

"Tastes good, too."

With that, her lover returned to her task, and the redhead fell into the sensations moving through her, feeling her eyes almost roll back in her head in pleasure.

Sometimes, Helena's insatiable appetite could be a very good thing indeed.

"Please," she heard herself husk, and she brought her hands to chestnut silk, palming the back of the younger woman's head.

Not to hold or to guide; merely to ground herself.

When the younger woman abruptly pulled away and hopped lightly from the bed, Barbara suspected that she, herself, had hit the ground with an almost audible thump. She drew a slow breath, her eyes narrowing in vexation.


The older woman lifted her head from the pillows enough to observe a shapely naked posterior at the foot of the bed. The brunette was bent at the waist, digging through her duffle, and her response was resultantly a bit muffled.

"I brought you something, too."

The dark head bobbed into view, the younger woman grinning.

Cheekily, a certain wicked portion of the redhead's brain insisted on supplying.

"Well, us something."

Resigning herself to her lover's quirks, Barbara smiled.

"Post cards?"

Her collection, dating back to her travels on the international gymnastic circuit, filled four meticulously organized scrapbooks.

The younger woman didn't answer immediately, straightening up and sauntering to the side of the bed, hands behind her back.

"Well, it probably can send a message."

With that, Helena extended her hands.

While the words 'ta da' weren't audible, Barbara was certain she could see them in twinkling blue eyes.

The analytical woman took -- forced herself to take -- a moment to peruse the brunette's offering as her eyebrows scampered toward her hairline.

"It's very, er, purple."

The younger woman beamed.

"Yeah. Cool, huh? Little souvenir from the city that never sleeps."

Cautiously, Barbara stared at the object in her partner's hands, feeling as if she were confronting an odd snake -- a rather long, thick, purple snake --

Green eyes blinked, and she amended her description.

A long, thick, purple, two-headed snake.

In spite of her fascination, something snapped her brain back into gear.

"You did not..."

The older woman sternly met her partner's eyes and put a certain amount of emphasis on the word.

"take two eighteen year olds into a... a..."

She felt herself color, at a loss. Her irritation and embarrassment weren't eased in the slightest by the insouciant grin and sparkling blue eyes which obviously were waiting for her to pull just the right word, or words, from her mental hard drive. Regrettably, said neural storage units seemed to be in desperate need of defragmenting, and the redhead could only fall back on an exasperated glare until Helena put her out of her misery.

"A toy store?"

The grinning brunette climbed onto the bed to straddle her hips. Every inch of the way, Barbara kept her eyes focused on the item in her partner's hand.


A slender hand waved the bright purple dildo in dismissal.

"Not unless you count FAO Schwartz. I didn't think I had to be with them all the time?"

Transfixed by the sight of her lover absently tapping the item restlessly against her bare thigh, the older woman distantly suspected that there had been a question posed. Somehow, she managed a slow shake of her head, and the brunette continued with a smile.

"Right. So, while the Kid and Gabs were exploring China Town, I did some sightseeing of my own."

"Is that so?"

The raspiness in her throat prevented the redhead from saying anything further. The condition seemed to worsen, impacting her breathing, when she witnessed the smaller woman rising to her knees and bringing the shorter, slightly bulbous, end of the apparatus to herself.

"Yeah -- "

The younger woman's head dropped forward as her amazingly facile hands eased the device into herself.

"-- wanted something... special when I was --"

Despite the fact that it had been deeply ingrained in her to maintain eye contact during a conversation, Barbara discovered that she was completely unable to look away from her partner's hands at work.

"-- was missing you."

The brunette completed her explanation just as she finished her preparations. Barbara's eyes widened impossibly when her partner leaned forward and brushed full lips across her ear. The younger woman's soft groan rolled seamlessly into a tickling growl.

"Touch me, Barbara."

Despite the undeniable eroticism of the moment, the older woman fought a twinge of discomfort, noticing that the words had been "touch me" not "touch it". Still, having one side of the doubled-ended device in place was obviously pleasurable for her partner, and Barbara vowed that she would be damned before she failed to try.

Experimentally, she insinuated a hand between them, catching her lower lip in her teeth when the sensitive skin of her inner arm brushed Helena's pebbled nipple. Reaching her goal, the redhead lightly touched the artificial appendage, realizing with some surprise that it was resting on her pubis.

She was pleasantly surprised to find that the silicone felt natural enough to her fingers, and she looked between them, following her own progress as she stroked the length once. Finally, for the first time in what seemed like an eternity, she met the blue eyes fixed on her and wrapped her fingers around the warm, pliable material.

At her first hesitant movement, the brunette hissed, her hips driving down convulsively, and Barbara suddenly found herself rapidly warming to the idea.

For the second time in less than four hours, she heard herself ordering her young lover.

"On your back, Woman."

A wide and increasingly dirty sort of smile graced beautiful cupid's bow lips as the brunette gracefully rolled onto the bed. Barbara felt her own eyes crinkle and offered a quick wink before working herself down length of the smaller woman.

"Oh, fuck, Barbara. What are you--?"

Helena tone was breathless, as thick with arousal as the older woman had ever heard.

Pushing up on her hands, Barbara waited for bright gold eyes to find her own.


With that, she lowered her upper body again and swept the fall of her hair back from her face with a practiced gesture. Certain that there was nothing to obscure the younger woman's view, Barbara finally allowed the purple silicon to brush her cheek before touching her tongue to the base, where it entered the younger woman.

With her hands locked over the taut thighs quivering by her temples, she delicately traced the circumference of the base. Slowly, she dragged her tongue up the underside, taking care that her partner could see her, her own pleasure in the act growing when she realized that the apparatus didn't taste of plastic -- only of the sweet, musky fluid she spread upward with her mouth. Once again holding golden eyes with green, she kissed the tip, using all of her upper body strength to stay the sudden jerk of the younger woman's hips.

Wrapping the thick shaft with one hand, she teased her index finger around the hot, slick skin which banded the base. Her partner's hoarse cry guided the redhead when she lowered her mouth to take in, beginning a movement, a rhythm, as old as time.

Somewhere in the middle of a deep suctioning, she became aware of tan, slender hands fisting into the bed sheets, trembling for control. Without a second thought, she reached out and coaxed her lover's palms to the back of her head, allowing the younger woman to guide her motions.

"F-- fuck yeah..."

Barbara felt a smile stretch her mouth around the thick appendage and added a subtle pull to the apex of each stroke. Helena's low growl and the jerky movement of the lithe woman's hips told her that her partner wouldn't hold out much longer, and her own low moan of approval nearly obscured a plea from above her.

"I .. I need to be in you."

The redhead blinked, instantly collecting herself with a nod. In a heartbeat, she was on her back, the other woman's hips dancing against her. This time, it was her hands which fisted on the sheets as Barbara pushed against the pillows at her back, torn between the sight of slick movements against her and her lover's rapturous face.

"Oh dear heavens --

Had she just felt something?

Indeed she had.


Her arms rose of their own need, grasping the soft, sweat-beaded skin of the other woman's back. Thrashing her head from side to side, the redhead surrendered to another rhythm, a movement, a connection, as old as time and as vast as the heavens.

Arching, gasping, burning, and finally crying, for only the second time in over seven years, Barbara Gordon was shattered by an unmistakably physical climax. When Helena followed her mere moments later, the two collapsed against each other, their limbs entangled and their sweat-slickened skin almost glued together.


It was the best Barbara could manage under the circumstances, and it earned what felt like a wicked smile against the damp skin of her abdomen. She understood the grin when Helena spoke; however, too sated and limp to manage the play-swat which her partner's rejoinder deserved, the older woman could only groan.

"Not quite, but there was a second coming."

Chapter 14

"Christ on a bicycle."

The softly muttered curse was one of Barbara's favorites. It was in fact one of her own nearly patented phrases which was reserved only for very, very special circumstances. In the general scale of creative cursing, she'd mentally ranked it next to the ever-reliable "Holy horny toads" and the always-eye opening "Great steaming sausages of shit."

Accordingly, when the words whispered mere inches from the redhead's left ear, there was no way they could fail to penetrated her sleep-fogged mind.

Slowly, grudgingly, one green eye cracked open, surveying the darkened room -- and her cursing bedmate -- uncharitably. Since she was quite aware that she'd never been the swiftest of risers, Barbara didn't speak immediately, giving herself a moment to attempt to make sense of the situation.

Other than a continuing litany of nearly sub vocal invective -- none of it as creative as the words which had dragged the redhead into waking -- there was little indicate just what might be troubling her bedmate. Wriggling her eyebrows up and down in an extremely localized stretch, Barbara observed what appeared to be agitated movement beneath the covers, and her curiosity finally got the best of her.

"Is there s--"

She stopped, wetting her lips with the tip of her tongue and clearing the hoarseness from her throat.

Why wasn't she still sleeping?

The dark head on the pillow next to hers whipped in Barbara's direction so rapidly that the older woman nearly flinched.


"Something wrong?", she concluded her question, becoming more intrigued by the moment when she detected the deep pink coloring normally blush-proof caramel features.

"... stuck."

The recently stretched crimson brows knit in perplexity.

"I'm sorry, Hel. I missed that."

A slow, pained sigh was the only response for a full ten seconds. When Helena finally spoke, blue eyes fixed firmly on the ceiling, her diction was terribly precise.

"I said. It. Is. Stuck."

There had been no way to mistake the words. Now Barbara just needed to make sense --

Crimson brows ricocheted toward the headboard.

"Excuse me?"

Coffee. She definitely needed coffee.

"I'm not kidding."

The brunette's aggrievement left little doubt.

"I, uh, kind of tightened up. While I was asleep."

The older woman finally recognized the tenting of the sheets, positioned at the level of her bedmate's hips, for what it was and fought a smirk. While waking in this situation with one of her male lovers had never failed to irritate her, in this case, it was only amusing -- and a little bit sweet.

Not to mention, she recalled guiltily, her fault.

Barbara wasn't entirely certain what had possessed her hours earlier when she'd awkwardly asked her partner to keep the apparatus in place a bit longer after they'd collapsed. Apparently, sleep had claimed them both not too long after the brunette had dubiously acquiesced.

"I'm sure it's not that bad, Sweetie."

She dropped a hand and gingerly moved the apparatus. The experiment earned a sharp hiss from the younger woman.

"Ohhhh, shit."

Plaintive blue eyes sought hers.

"Man, this is gonna ruin the lines of my sweeps wear, you know," the brunette groused even as her hips undulated once.

Biting at the inside of her cheek to fight a laugh, the redhead raised up on one elbow and pressed a soft kiss to her lover's shoulder.

"Shhh, Sweetie. I don't think it's permanent. We just need to relax your muscles a bit..."

This time, she moved with a great deal more certainty, eliciting the beginning of a growl from her companion.

"Uh, Red, you're not really helping so much with the relaxing thing."

Emerald eyes caught blue eyes which were slitting to gold.

"Patience, Helena. It will."

Barbara smiled warmly -- very warmly -- as her hand began to move.

"The relaxation is an after-effect."

Mesmerized by the sight of slender fingers sliding over the smooth shaft, Barbara almost didn't hear the question.

Guiltily, the redhead allowed that the vision of Helena's firm posterior flexing as she bent forward didn't help matters either.

"How was dinner with your dad?"

She waited for the younger woman to complete her break, hoping that Helena would attribute her delay in answering to courtesy.

"The dinner before you departed for New York?"

Barbara approached the table, taking in the layout of the fifteen billiard balls, her mind automatically working the geometry and leaping three and four shots ahead.

Solids, then.

"Uh huh."

Maintaining her focus, the cyber-genius crisply tapped the seven into the three, sinking both. Without looking away from the table, she sensed the blue eyes trained on her and put a bit of extra flourish into chalking her cue.

Her efforts were rewarded with a sharp intake of breath from behind her, and the older woman smirked. Leaning in for her next shot, she sent the one ball down the rail to the corner pocket.

Two could play the game.

"It was good, Hel."

Circling the table, she was surprised to hear herself add, "We'd like you to join us next time."

In the process of raising her beer to her mouth, the brunette's arm jumped a tiny bit.

"If you're interested, that is."

The redhead kept her eyes fixed on the disappointing layout on the table after her attempt at verbal damage control. A masse shot was really called for to free the five, however she simply didn't have the angle from her chair.

Not entirely to her surprise, she missed her attempt to circle the eight -- the analytical woman was aware of the irony that, in pool, her "English" was weak -- and backed away. The brunette grinned and chalked her cue.

"You sure you trust us together, Red?"

A sharp, quick stroke powered the nine into the opposite corner and positioned the thirteen and fifteen like ducks in a row in front of the adjacent pocket. Barbara nodded her appreciation even as Helena finessed the two balls into the pocket and lined up another shot.

Watching the younger woman's easy movements, the redhead realized that her admiration had to do with more than skillful gamesmanship or even the play of her lover's muscles beneath her form-fitting leather pants.

The invitation which had tumbled unexpectedly from her lips had in no way been a mistake.

During the course of the long and meandering conversation she'd had with her father two and a half weeks before, Barbara had learned a few things about her partner, about her father's very genuine respect for the brunette, and about their relationship. She'd learned that, after every hard snowfall for the last four years, the woman who radiated angry indifference to the world appeared like clockwork to shovel her father's drive -- and the driveway of septuagenarian May Parker next door. She discovered that her former ward had been responsible for introducing her father to his preferred brand of scotch and that he, in turn, had mentored her in the fine art of cigar smoking.

Between laughing stories about some of the hijinks the two had engaged in over the years -- one of which, mercifully, had finally confirmed her suspicion about the palm tree which had inexplicably and visibly grown, then shrunk, during a police banquet three years before -- she'd been allowed a glimpse of the younger woman through someone else's eyes.

And, just as she now could enjoy the vision of the lithe young woman running the table, she'd very much liked what she'd seen in her father's study.

"In fact, Hel, I'm positive that I can't trust you two together, but I'd still like you to come along."

"What a tangled web we weave, indeed."

Barbara ground out the familiar quote by Sir Walter Scott through clenched teeth, too focused on her attempts to cultivate another wrinkle between her eyes and on the fuzzy mess in her lap to be concerned about the fact that she was talking to herself.

She retrieved the small metal hook from the morass, absently walking it through the knuckles of her right hand while she contemplated simply chucking the whole mess into the waste bin.

Crocheting honestly hadn't seemed that difficult during her three brief lessons with Alethea in the teacher's lounge during the last week. After all, it was a bit like knot-work, or rope-work, and heaven knew she was adroit enough at that. However, when she substituted a tiny metal crochet hook for carabineers and fuzzy synthetic wool for a Kernmantle, she was obviously in waaaay over her head.

An almost electric frission of awareness, coinciding with a soft thump from the balcony, interrupted the redhead's reverie about ropes. She looked up and smiled a greeting as the younger woman strolled in, shucking her duster and dangling a bag from the video store from her index finger.

" 'The Incredibles' was out, but I got something ev-- Holy shit!"

Barbara recoiled when the dark figure suddenly vaulted the coffee table, coming to an abrupt stop in front of her.

"Just hold still, Barbara, and I'll kill it."

A stylized karate chop, aimed in the direction of the project on Barbara's lap, accompanied the offer.

"Very droll."

The redhead's voice suggested otherwise.

"Have you been in the catnip again, Hel?"

The brunette poked out her tongue, then seemed to forget her affront, leaning in to prod carefully at the tangle with a slender index finger. Slowly she straightened, and blue eyes sought green.

"You making baby booties?"

Somehow, the younger woman managed to imbue the question with equal measures of horror and amusement.

"No, a cape for you to wear on sweeps."

Helena didn't miss a beat as she turned toward the kitchen, her words tossed over her shoulder.

"I want it in black then."

Snickering, Barbara started to gather up the mess when her eye caught it: the origin of the knot.

Two deft tugs later, she bundled up the considerably more organized beginnings of her pot holder, cheerfully quoting the rarely mention second line of Scott's poem.

"But my how we improve the score, as we practice more and more."

"Gonna miss me, Babs?"

The question, accompanied by the rustle of items being stuffed into the capacious pockets of a leather duster, was light. Barbara's response was anything but.

"Very much, Helena."

For an almost vertigo-inducing moment, the cyber-crime fighter questioned the necessity of the evening's sweep or, for that matter, of what they did in general. Her heart thudded harshly at the thought that, like other people, she could spend her evenings in her lover's arms rather than listening to the dark vigilante handing out -- and taking -- beatings.

"...heart grow fonder, right?"

The redhead blinked and collected herself.

"Perhaps, Helena, but I don't know that I could grow any more fond of you."

The brunette's smile was so open and sweet, so earnest and joyous, that Barbara had to surrender to an impulse.

With the slow crook of her index finger, she beckoned the other woman to bend close. Only after they were almost cheek to cheek did she whisper her desire.

"Be careful and hurry back."

Peripherally, she saw the dark head nod and dropped her tone a full octave.

"I want my tongue inside you."

The nod abruptly ceased, and the redhead was almost positive that -- even without meta-enhanced senses -- she'd heard the brunette swallow. She had no question about the growl which rumbled between them.

Curious, she waited, sensing that the younger woman was swaying toward her; however, her partner reversed direction, taking a step back and straightening.

"In that case, I'll be here with bells on."

On her way to the balcony, the brunette stopped and looked over her shoulder, and Barbara felt her mouth turn up in response to an infectious smile.

"As motivational speeches go, Red, that sure beat all hell out of the old 'Win one for the Gipper' shtick."

A roaring noise, something akin to the enthusiastic bedlam from a NASCAR rally, gradually drew the cyber-genius from her engagement at the Delphi. Since it was emanating from the kitchen, she supposed that it probably was not a road race.


She'd raised her voice a bit in deference to the noise, but there was no response. Curious about what could be holding her partner's attention, she pushed back from the CRT and moved to the kitchen, coming to an abrupt halt in the doorway.

Wearily, the redhead suspected that she was sporting her unflattering befuddled expression once again as she took in her partner. Clad in boy brief underwear and a tight sports bra, the younger woman was vigorously wet mopping the floor and dancing in time to whatever music was playing on her walkman.

"What -- "

She flapped her arms to attract the brunette's attention -- Speaking of flattering -- and waited until Helena pulled the buds of the walkman from her ears and shut off the floor polishing unit.

"What in the name of Hints From Heloise are you doing, Helena?"

"Uhm, cleaning the kitchen floor?"

The unspoken "Duh" in the younger woman's tone suggested that she thought Barbara was bit out of touch.

Ignoring the rebuke -- Barbara was quite aware that it was a tone learned during the teen years and only slowly exorcised by adulthood -- the redhead inclined her head to acknowledge the obvious.

"But why?"

The brunette grinned broadly, and the older woman automatically felt herself joining in, without the faintest idea why.

"Heck, with the Big A on holiday, it's not going to clean itself, right?"

Barbara couldn't deny that. Then, knowing she'd regret it, she had to ask.

"But, in your underwear?"

The younger woman gave a fetching shake of her hips, bumping the handle of the cleaning unit.

"Hey, the Kid's not around to be jealous, and like we talked about at the swimming pool, I do look hot, don't I?"

Barbara recalled the conversation -- and the circumstances surrounding it -- in vivid, technicolor detail.

Tomato juice and Adirondack chairs, indeed.

Condemning herself for a dirty pre-middle-aged letch, she smiled broadly.

"Carry on, then."

School policy or no, assigning numeric scores to essays had always rankled Barbara. When the essays were about the works of some of the great literary naturalists, composed for an elective, intensive summer course, the idea seemed all the more ludicrous.

As far as the English teacher was concerned, all of the students in the class had started with a grade of 100% and would have to do something pretty bone-headed to work down from there.

She exited the elevator into the living area of the clock tower with a bit more velocity than usual and dropped her bag unceremoniously next to the wall.

Considering the fact that she had, again, been unable to get her point across during the faculty meeting after school, the redhead was eagerly anticipating the session she had scheduled in the training room with Helena.

Grumpily wriggling out of her blazer and dropping it next to her bag, Barbara admitted that she was less irked by the discussion during the meeting than by the fact that there had been a meeting at all.

Where was the need for a faculty meeting during summer school when more than half of the faculty weren't present?

Still planted by the elevator and wrestling with a shoe lace -- at this rate, she'd be buck naked by the time she made it to the couch -- she forced herself to slow down, to inhale slowly and release her frustration.

Most of it.

With a shrug, she gave up on her shoes -- better to deal with them in the bedroom, where they belonged -- and finally crossed the foyer to the living area.

As relentlessly practical as she was, even Barbara had to admit that summer faculty meetings did allow the teachers who braved summer school to claim the newest textbooks and best parking places for the next school year. Thus, there was a certain method to the madness... not to mention a valuable incentive to teach during the summer term.

"Heya, Red."

One hand flying to her chest, the redhead coasted to an unplanned stop by the couch when a dark head poked over the arm. It appeared that her partner had been napping and her own less-than-stealthy entrance had rather rudely awakened her.

"I'm sorry, Helena. I didn't know you were-- Mmm--"

The brunette neatly silenced the apology, instantly evaporating the older woman's bad mood in the process, when she flowed over the side of the couch and came to rest in the redhead's lap. For a few lovely minutes, Barbara lost herself in the undemanding brush of soft lips and the gentle undulations of sinewy hips under her hands. When she finally emerged for air, she tipped her head back to gain focus at such close range and promptly ... sneezed.

Several times.

By the third explosive outburst, the younger woman fled, only to return in seconds, tissues in hand. Eyes still watering, the redhead nodded her thanks and vigorously blew her nose against whatever was tickling it.

Possibly all of the dust her partner had kicked up with her athletic feather-dusting the day before. While the French maid accent had been worthwhile -- the redhead smirked, then sneezed again -- Barbara had simply never grasped the efficiency of a feather for collecting, rather than spreading, dust.

Not to mention, the broken vase from the tickling which had resulted when Helena had finally noticed that she had a handful of feathers at her disposal.

In the future when Alfred was on holiday, perhaps it would pay to investigate Merry Maids or some such thing.

Or live in filth.

As the onslaught seemed to abate, the redhead sniffed cautiously, then met the solicitous blue eyes fixed on her.

"I'm sorry, Sweetie."

The brunette shook her head dismissively even as Barbara needlessly tacked on, "Wretched allergies."

Seeming to sense that the coast was clear, the dark figure glided forward.

"You know -- "

The soprano was sing-song, and Barbara readied herself for whatever would follow.

"--an orgasm would clear that right up."

"Is that so, Helena?"

The redhead finished blotting her eyes, her voice dry.

"Is there anything an orgasm can't cure?"

The younger woman considered the question for all of two seconds before leaning in on a leer.

"Probably not, but you're the genius. Why don't you set up some experiments and we can test it out?"


Without a blink, the redhead snapped her head to follow her companion's eyes, simultaneously raising a hand almost casually from the rim of her right wheel to snag the fast-moving projectile in mid-air.

Blue eyes sparkled appreciatively.

"Smooth, Red."

Smiling modestly, the older woman demurred, "Piece of cake after practicing with batarangs."

When Helena nodded and extended her hand, palm up, Barbara snapped the frisbee to her and rocked back a few feet, inclining her head in the direction of the park green.

"It appears that the owners are in search of their plaything, Helena."

The brunette grinned widely and let out a whoop which brought the approaching horde of pre-teens to a standstill.

"Who's gonna go long?"

With that, the brunette adopted a classic Olympic discus stance, waiting for the kids to disperse across the sward. Barbara stilled the motion of her chair and caught her breath, enchanted by the younger woman's effortless grace as she spun once... twice... three times before letting the frisbee fly.

The plastic disk sailed high, and the older woman tracked it until it was lost against the bright afternoon sun. Instead of following the score of children jockeying to catch the toy, she turned to take in the image of her partner again.

Spots from the afternoon sun still dotted her vision, but Barbara had no trouble filling in the gaps. The lithe woman was poised, muscles vibrating against the urge to race after the toy herself, Barbara guessed. A positively indecent amount of slender, golden leg was exposed by her frayed denim cut-offs, and a smile which outshone the residual halos from the sun gave lie to the sentiment of her "Life Sucks" tee shirt.

Warmed by the summer sun, by the moment, the redhead laughed brightly.

"Go show them how to do it, Sweetie."

That was all it took before the younger woman whooped again and bounded onto the grass. In deference to the brightness of the day and the amount of skin she had exposed in her own more modest cargo shorts and chambray shirt, Barbara moved to a shady spot to watch the action.

Someone nearby had a boombox, and the redhead found herself tapping a finger to the melody Dave Matthews' "American Baby". A lyric likening the taste of lemonade to a summer day caught her attention, and the relentlessly practical woman smiled more broadly.

Somehow, for that moment -- or for the hours of their stroll -- it was just that easy, and she closed her eyes in gratitude.

"Ready for that reward?"

Having sensed her partner's approach, Barbara was able to look up calmly before she was seized by a wild hare. She performed a crisp ninety degree turn and took off down the path.

"Last one there buys."

Decisions, decisions.

Or, the analytical woman dissected the problem from another angle, too many choices with too little time.

"C'mon, Red, he's not getting paid by the hour."

Barbara met her lover's impatient eyes with a look she'd perfected through the years. When Helena looked down and scuffed the toe of her sneaker into the dirt, she knew she hadn't lost her touch.

"Pistachio, I think."

The obviously bored clerk, who clearly was paid by the hour, didn't blink.

"Waffle or cake cone?"

This decision required almost no thought; after all, her jeans had been a tad snug recently.

"Cake, please."

The redhead dug for her wallet -- Helena had won fair and square, after all -- to the sound of her partner's petulant muttering.

"Huh, you always get those groody flavors so I won't eat it."

Absently watching their server scoop her flavor onto the cone, the redhead arched a brow.

"Has that really ever stopped you?"

She missed the brunette's reply to what she'd considered to be a rhetorical question when she caught the young man's eyes.

"Would you mind adding a scoop of the chocolate fudge to that?"

She couldn't miss the way Helena's eyes lit up in anticipation, despite the chocolate-enrobed triple scoop already held in one slender, tanned hand.

"For me?"

Barbara accepted the towering cone with a smile of thanks, instructing the clerk to keep the change. Only after turning away from the vendor's stand and delicately sampling both flavors did she speak. She caught insouciant blue eyes and watched in satisfaction as they blinked at the steel in her voice.

"Don't even think about it, Hel."

"I think it was overrated, Sweetie."

The redhead's review of the supposedly terrifying movie they'd just finished was mildly distracted by her hunt for the last of the M&Ms hidden at the bottom of the popcorn bowl.

"Huh -- "

With her gaze directed at the big screen, Helena hit the eject button, simultaneously snaking her hand into the bowl in the older woman's lap and emerging with two of the butter-coated candies which Barbara had been hunting.

Green ones, the older woman noted sourly before abandoning her search.

"--did you think it was that bad?"

When her partner turned to face her, chewing her peanut M&Ms with gusto, the analytical woman simply raised a brow. Despite the enjoyment of cuddling together on the sofa and tangling their fingers in the bowl of popcorn, which was liberally sprinkled with M&Ms, she hadn't been impressed.

"Okay, Red, I thought it would be scarier, too. But --"

Seeing the twinkle in those startling eyes, the older woman readied herself.

"--you have to admit that the woman was damned hot."

Barbara felt her eyes narrow as she considered The Wife, who had spent much of her screen time handcuffed to the foot of the bed, in peril. Again, she found that she simply wasn't that impressed.

"I didn't think that the wife was that -- "

"No --"

A playful laugh, redolent of chocolate, whispered across Barbara's left cheek.

"--the investigator woman at the beginning. Remember?"

Of course, the cyber-genius' infallible memory immediately supplied a face -- and body -- to go with the description: Pale woman, sharp jaw, in an Armani suit. Smirking, she leaned in and cut the debate short.

"I happen to think you're much hotter, Sweetheart."

"I can't even think about it without wanting to chew my own foot off!"

"You've been watching too many movies, Helena."

Barbara primly raised one brow and kept it short. She was perfectly willing to outwait her partner's petulance.

Petulance which, frankly, she suspected was purely force of habit.

"...and just plain dull."

Barbara felt her smile become a bit strained as her companion demonstrated -- at length and in great detail -- her considerable skills in logical argument. While she couldn't dispute Helena's politically incorrect description of the annual New Gotham charity art show, she planned to play every card up her sleeve if needed to induce the younger woman to accompany her.

The redhead had first attended the auction eleven years before, as Bruce Wayne's date. While they'd been in attendance to scout for the presence of Selina Kyle, the gossip columns had had a field day describing the April-October pairing of the police commissioner's daughter with the billionaire playboy.

Gossip to the side, the event had been enjoyable for the star struck young redhead. Since the show benefited numerous scholarships, she'd made a point of attending -- only missing one year, in fact -- since then.

"...you know what sort of windbags are gonna be--"

"New dress."

"Big de-- "

The automatic dismissal ended abruptly, and the brunette's eyes hooded in interest.

"For me or for you, Red?"


"We'll leave at 6:45, Helena."

Chapter 15

It's late in the evening
She's wondering what clothes to wear
She puts on her make-up
And brushes her long blonde hair

Carefully touching her brush to her hair, Barbara shooed an errant lock back into place, knowing that the minute she turned from her dressing table, it would make its way free of the loose chignon. With a cheerful shrug, she set her brush down to check her make-up one last time.

As ready as she'd ever be.

Shaking her head at her own vanity, the relentlessly practical woman hummed a few bars from an old Clapton classic and cautiously cracked the door to the hallway.

"Hel? Are you ready?"

The cheerful response was immediate.

"In the living room."

After a bit of discussion, and quite a bit of pouting on the younger woman's part, Helena had volunteered to use Dinah's room for her preparations for the art show. While her reasons had largely been pragmatic -- they did need to leave at a reasonable hour -- the rationale which Barbara had used to win her over had been "the surprise factor". When the redhead entered the living area and saw the slender young woman rise gracefully from the wing chair, she suddenly realized how prescient her reasoning had been.

Oh my.

Her partner obviously had been created for the little black cocktail dress. Or, at the very least, for this particular dress.

Sleeveless, it showed the definition of sinewy arms to remarkable advantage. It's neckline was surprisingly modest, leaving Barbara wanting more. The above-the-knee hemline answered at least a part of that desire, exposing slender legs clad in sheer, silky hose.

Green eyes blinked, squinting a tiny bit.

It looked like Helena was wearing hose...

The brunette had completed the understated simplicity with two inch heels, a string of small pearls, a hint of eye shadow, and --

The older woman smiled dotingly at the sight of a thin silver band, with a miniature silver bell attached to it, on her lover's index finger. Barbara had presented the younger woman with the small "Oracle bell" a week after Helena had surprised her with a pasta feast in honor of their eleven week "anniversary".

"My goodness, Hel--"

Drawing close, the redhead trailed off, finally noticing that the little black dress wasn't black at all. Rather, it was a blue so deep and midnight that it appeared black, and it set the younger woman's dramatic eyes to indigo.

She didn't get a chance to finish what she'd planned when the brunette, her eyes wide and... hungry, husked five words.

"Jesus, Barbara. Look at you."

The redhead felt her face flame at the frank admiration... and desire directed toward her. Instinctively, she bit at her lower lip, then immediately stopped herself, realizing that the action would do no good for the minimal lip gloss she'd applied.

Apparently, the bright yellow sundress hadn't been her only wise impulse purchase during Helena's absence. The dress she'd picked out with this night in mind was floor length, and it hugged her body from shoulders to knees before flaring at the bottom. As usual, Barbara had been drawn to her best color: a muted emerald green which matched her kohl-accented eyes. A high mandarin collar fastened in the back leaving her shoulders and upper back exposed.

Her entire back, for that matter, all the way down to ... well, much lower than she'd ever considered before.

Her own tiny gold cat bell and a pair of tiny teardrop earrings were the redhead's only adornment. She'd suspected -- correctly, she decided without a hint of bitterness -- that her vibrant companion would outshine whatever she might choose.

Having apparently completed a lengthy inspection, said companion moved lightly across the room, a pronounced sway in her hips.

"Can we skip the fundraiser?"

As tempting as the suggestion was, the older woman didn't bat an eye as she neatly wheeled past the brunette and waved at the open elevator.

"After you, Hel."

We go a party
And everyone turns to see
This beautiful lady
That's walking around with me

As Helena had none-too-subtly suggested two days before, the annual art show at the MFA was, indeed, populated by some of the city's biggest windbags. Circling through the museum's impressionists' gallery with her partner, Barbara knew she'd been fortunate in avoiding most of them, however, as she paused to admire a Seurat, she realized that her luck was about to run out.

"Oh dear."

She pitched her voice low, confident that Helena would hear her despite the murmur of conversation and the background music provided by a small string quartet in the antechamber.


The brunette instantly bent to her, a faintly amused smile gracing her lovely features.

"Do you finish another plate of canapes?"

Given the dire circumstances, the redhead opted to forego the swat which the question clearly deserved. Instead, she mutely nodded toward the Renoir display and fought back a slightly wild giggle when blue eyes followed her gaze, widening in mock horror.

Puffing out her cheeks, the brunette straightened with an easy smile.

"No sweat, Red. You go load up on crab puffs again, and I'll head her off."

For a disbelieving beat -- talk about taking one for the team -- the older woman could only manage a look of profound gratitude. Then, she dropped her hands to the rims of the chair in preparation.

"Thank god. You're a lifesaver."

The wicked sparkle in deep blue eyes told Barbara that she'd certainly just opened the door for any number of entendres about sweet edibles with holes. Apparently the heat which flooded her cheeks informed her companion that no comment would be required on her part, and so, with a saucy wink, the brunette slipped away into the crowd.

Withdrawing to the relative seclusion afforded by a potted palm, the older woman followed her partner's progress through the crowd, and her graceful, effortless small talk with the dignitaries of the city as she continued her interception course towards Mrs. Doomes-Patterson. When she saw the deceptively small woman accost the haughty woman and, within moments, draw a laugh from her, Barbara shook her head in admiration, then blinked.

For a moment, it had seemed that the lights in the room had converged on Helena, haloing her.

A second look dispelled the wildly romantic notion, and the redhead sighed, turning back to the party.

It's time to go home now And I've got an aching head So I give her the car keys She helps me to bed

"I only had one glass, Helena. I can't be intoxicated."

The brunette draped both of their wraps over her forearm, then raised her hands placatingly.

"I know you couldn't have gotten drunk on a dozen glasses of that stuff."

Despite herself, the redhead snickered at her partner's "yuk face".

"But you said you were kind of dizzy. What do you think it is?"

Waiting for the valet to appear with the Hummer, the redhead risked a small joke.

"Perhaps I got a bad crab puff, Sweetie."

She watched dark brows wrinkle for a split second before the younger woman shook her head.

"I ate them, too, and I feel okay."

With the cool evening air already clearing her head, Barbara swiftly danced the back of her fingers against the brunette's firm abdomen.

"So says Helena-The-Iron-Tummed."

Perhaps, the analytical woman posited, she was intoxicated from the evening itself, the time with Helena, with no worries about crime or justice or nasty green-haired clowns. Nevertheless, she dutifully raised the keys in offering.

"Would you mind?"

The other woman's almost comical blink of disbelief seemed a bit much, even if it was true that the redhead seldom allowed anyone else to drive her baby when she was along. The eager light which appeared in cobalt eyes -- in combination with sub vocal "vrrroom" noises as they approached each traffic light -- would have simply been worrisome if Barbara hadn't been too tired to care.

When they reached the tower, the redhead headed straight for the bedroom, peeling out of her dress and shaking her hair loose with casual disregard. Exiting the bathroom after a brief toilette, she found her partner tidying the covers on the bed and creating crease at the top so crisp that it would have made Norman Schwarzkopff shed a tear.

A full glass of water was on the nightstand, and Barbara's fuzzy socks were next to her pillow.

The redhead thought she very well might cry.

Suspecting how alarming that reaction would be for her partner, she slid onto the bed, speaking lightly.

"This is sweet, Hel, but I've been putting myself to bed for years."

"I know, Red, but the faster you get to sleep, the faster you'll feel better and..."

The brunette's smirk spoke volumes, but didn't hide the emotion in her eyes. Impossibly touched, the older woman tugged her partner close.

"I feel fine, Hel. A little tired, perhaps, but--"

She allowed the flicker of her tongue against the younger woman's ear to complete her sentence, sending the other woman scrambling backward in surprise.

"Uh, okay. I'll be right in."

A slender hand gestured toward the front of the tower.

"Just going to close things down out there."

Cocooned under the covers, Barbara fought the heavy drag of her eyelids.


Before the light snapped off, she heard the brunette's amused reply.


Barbara realized that she must have dozed when she checked the clock and discovered how much time had passed. In the sliver of moonlight cutting through the heavy curtains, she could just detect Helena moving soundless and sure in the darkness, and she knew that it was her partner's presence which had awakened her.

The older woman started to speak, to let the brunette know that she didn't have to worry about waking her; however, the shadowed images stole the words from her mouth and the breath from her lungs.

Ever-graceful, the dark figure raised first one foot, then the other, to slip her heels off. She moved to the newly redesigned closet, cracking the well-oiled doors to place her footwear into the shoe caddy, and Barbara smiled fondly: After the first time she'd tangled her chair in a pair of her new ward's Nikes, which had been tossed carelessly in the living room, she'd never found an item of the younger woman's out of place.

The tone of the redhead's smile shifted as she observed the younger woman bending, tugging up her skirt... just enough to roll her stockings down her legs. When the brunette straightened and reached behind her neck, Barbara could maintain her silence no longer.

"Let -- "

The redhead pushed up on the bed and cleared her throat.

"Let me do that, Sweetie."

A flash of white teeth met the offer, and the brunette padded over, then turned to sit on the edge of the bed. Unable to resist, Barbara briefly combed her fingers through silken hair, ending the caress by rubbing the pads of her fingers against the base of her companion's neck. The soft touch elicited a whispered exhalation and the slightest tensing of the slender shoulders before her.

The redhead lowered her hands to the fastener of the demure necklace, easily working the tiny catch. Instead of allowing the jewelry to fall forward into the hand she saw rising to catch it, she tugged at one end, pulling the pearls slowly around that slender neck, allowing each one to slide across the hollow at the base of her partner's neck. When the opalescent gems were free, she pooled the beads in her palm, acutely aware of the warmth they still held from her lover's skin.

Gently placing the necklace on the night stand, Barbara turned her attention to the back of the exquisite dress.

"Buttons? Not a zipper?" she inquired a bit breathlessly.

She'd noticed them earlier, of course, on the elevator ride down to the garage hours before, and her fertile imagination had played this moment infinite times during the evening.

Her partner's reply, the analytical woman noted with a smirk, was less flirtatious than rueful.

"Yeah. It's hell to get fastened by myself."

Leaning forward to kiss each patch of skin revealed by the opening of the myriad tiny button, the redhead murmured, "You could have asked me."

"I th-- "

The younger woman tried again, whispering against the drag of the older woman's tongue against her skin.

"--thought we had to get out of here tonight."

"True." B admitted, although, transfixed by the expanse of tan skin she was exposing, she couldn't recall what had been so pressing outside the house.

Giving up on the question for later, she drew her fingers lightly down the younger woman's back, tracing the slight protuberance of bone along her spine and leaning in to brush her mouth to the silky soft skin, the downy fuzz along her lower back tickling her lips.

"No bra," she managed to observe.

She had been wondering about that -- among other things -- all evening.

"N-- "

She heard the brunette swallow, then heard the smile in her voice.

"Damned dress is too form fitting."

"Is it really?" the redhead wondered aloud, moving her hands to the front, tugging her partner lightly toward her as she palmed the heavy flesh beneath the satiny fabric.

The dress, despite being open in the back now, was form-fitting, as Helena had observed, and for a few moments the older woman lost herself in their heavy breathing and the delicious weight in her hands.

"Ba-- Barbara?"

The question roused her from her sensual haze. With a lingering kiss to the nape of the younger woman's neck, Barbara released her and lay back in the bed, joined in seconds by the other woman, clad now in her usual bed wear: tank top and underwear.

The older woman snaked out one arm to coax her bedmate near, and the two snuggled together before the redhead remembered her manners.

"Thank you for coming with me tonight, Hel. It was -- "

She cast about for words, finally settling on the obvious.


And then I tell her
As I turn out the light
I say my darling, you were wonderful tonight

Warm lips brushed her jaw, a low hum the only verbal response for a minute or so until a soft voice broke the silence.

"I'm glad we went. I had fun."

The admission drew Barbara from her somnolent relaxation, and her eyes widened in the darkness. Slender fingers pushed the hair from her forehead and she saw a smile ghost her bedmate's beautiful mouth.

"Of course, I'm counting on you being too tired to remember I said that."

The two shared the smile until their locked eyes seemed to draw them together in a long, sweet kiss. Throughout the gentle contact, Barbara focused on the sensation of their melding lips, their twining tongues, their mingling breath. She wanted -- needed -- to feel her lover's response, to let her know how much...

Gradually, she became aware of the soft trembling of the younger woman's jaw, a sign she'd come to recognize as a signal for Helena's arousal...

No, her need.

Helena's need for her.

The thought struck the older woman with the force of a boot to the solar plexus, and -- dizzied -- she pulled the other woman closer, gasping into her mouth. In a heartbeat, the sharp thrust of the smaller woman's hips ignited her, and the redhead heard a moan.

Her own?

"Helena -- let me..."

Strong, slender fingers twined with hers, pulling her hand between them, guiding her to the heat she could feel pouring off the younger woman and coursing through her own stomach... her chest... her throat... Barbara dropped her other hand to steady her partner's rocking, her fingers almost aching to touch...

And, then, she froze, feeling her eyes widen when something from one of her myriad mental To-Do lists sprang to mind.


The question was decidedly breathy. Possibly, the older woman realized, a trifle irked.

In the darkness, the redhead easily saw golden eyes searching her face. Just as easily, she observed the wicked smile which painted crimson lips.

"You want something, don't you?"

The purring question, rich with the type of knowledge shared in dark rooms, brought a rush of heat to the redhead's cheeks. Barbara was well aware that her partner could see her blush in the darkness

"Er, well, it something we've talked..."

The brunette shifted to one side, holding herself on one arm and smiling encouragingly.

Very encouragingly.


Suddenly, it struck the redhead that perhaps this hadn't been such a good idea: as usual when she spoke without thinking things through.

"It's not.. not really..."

The younger woman ignored the faint protest, leaning close to tease her pert nose against her jaw.

"C'mon, tell me, Babs. You oughta know there's nothing I'm not into for you..."

Barbara certainly had to admit that that had proven to be the case so far. Pushing aside her doubts about just what she might be into, the redhead inhaled shakily.

"Would you -- "

Courage slinking away, she blinked helplessly, and instantly her lover becomes serious.


A warm hand came to rest lightly on her chest, and butterfly kisses dusted her lips.






Three times.

Barbara heard her own voice, quiet but surprisingly steady.

"Touch yourself. For me?"

Even in the darkness, she saw her lover's features harden, assuming the hawk like visage which showed her intense, intense arousal. The sight simultaneously jump-started the older woman's passion, and she clenched her jaw against her desire.

"Yeah -- "

Barbara was captured for a short, almost bruising kiss, before the younger woman lowered herself to the bed, still on her side, facing her.

"I can do that. Probably don't even need to touch myself to come for you, Red."

The redhead caught her lower lip with her teeth as the younger woman quickly stretched over to turn on the soft reading lamp on her side of the bed.

"Didja know that, Red? That just thinking about you can make me come? Hands off?"

The redhead swallowed with considerable difficulty, then husked, "Hands on this time. Please."

A richly sin filled smile greeted the request.

"More fun that way for me, too. But, it always starts with thinking about you."

The older woman blinked as a pink tongue slowly wet the edges of full lips.

"Yeah. Thinking about your mouth... The feel of your lips against mine. The feel of being inside your mouth."

Barbara thought she'd whimpered at the confession, but when her partner roughly yanked her tank off, immediately feathering her hands across her breasts, she discovered that she had no air to make a sound.

Aware as she was of the incredible power and delicacy of the slender fingers which danced across the beautiful skin only inches away, she was distantly aware that she was fortunate to have air enough to remain conscious.

"Then, it's always your hands touching me."

The brunette rolled onto her back, those amazing golden eyes becoming heavy-lidded. Barbara felt her nostrils flare, her mouth water, as she continued to watch, to listen to, the sensual young woman who was offering her this so openly.

"Uh -- yeah --"

Cupping one breast fully, Helena teased the pebbled peak of the other with her fingers. Hazily, the redhead noticed a slow rocking begin and felt something deep in her belly clench.

"And it's so fuckin' good but I want more -- I want your mouth... sucking and biting and licking me."

Barbara's own breasts seem to swell in sympathy as slim fingers pinched dusky nipples to a red bloom. Then, one of those amazing hands trailed down the hard muscles of the brunette's stomach, fingers dipping beneath the waist of the bikini briefs.

"But -- uhm -- that's not enough. I need you..."

The younger woman spread her legs, feet flat against the mattress sending her hips thrusting upward to meet her hand.

"Need. You. Inside... Everywhere."

In an odd moment of complete clarity, Barbara realized that she now perfectly understood the meaning of being on the horns of a dilemma. She desperately ached to capture her partner's hand and take over; just as urgently, she needed to see Helena finish it.

She held herself in check, her eyes riveted on the brunette's face as she neared her crest. Barbara wasn't sure when her own breathing changed to match the cadence of the other woman's, but when the dark figure's muscles locked in a trembling rictus and she cried out the redhead's name, she heard her own moan spill forth at the same time.

Overcome, unable to move, the older woman could only stare at her lover for several heartbeats. When dark lashes fluttered, she collected herself enough to inch close and wrap the smaller woman to her chest.

"Dear heavens, Hel..."

They lay still, the brunette working to steady her breathing while Barbara frantically worked to identify, to categorize, the emotions flooding through her. A low chuckle distracted her.

"Damn, that was hard."

The supremely satisfied tone gave lie to the words, and so the older woman simply waited for partner to continue.

"Having you so close but not touching me."

The redhead finally spoke.

"You were beautiful."

The reply was so quiet she realized she could have imagined it.

"For you."

For one of only a handful of moments in her life, Barbara Gordon lost track of time. The relentlessly ticking presence of her internal chronometer simply... faded under a blanket of emotions.

Eventually, she heard a low word, her own voice.


It was the absolutely the only thing the redhead could manage.

"Rock your world?"

The question was both cheerfully insouciant and oddly, endearingly shy, and Barbara answered instantly.

"Completely, Sweetheart."

She heard a quick inhalation, and when the younger woman spoke again, her words were serious.

"As good as it always was -- is -- getting off thinking about you, the best orgasm that way doesn't compare to, well, even snuggling with you now."

Once again, the words whispered forth before Barbara knew that she was going to speak.

"How did I ever deserve you?"

I feel wonderful
Because I see the love light in your eyes
And the wonder of it all
Is that you just don't realize
How much I love you

Part 16

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