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.
What in the hell had she done to deserve this? Who, exactly, had she pissed off in a former life?
Or, in the vernacular, this sucked.
Big time, as her students -- and Helena -- undoubtedly would have added.
Green eyes again fixed on the evidence before her on her monitor, then flickered to the tests and data lined up neatly next to her mouse pad. The cyber-genius considered re-running her tests and dismissed the idea. Instead, she began gathering the various papers and evidence from the workstation, tucking them away.
If this had been the first result from the test, there might have been merit in the idea. However, she'd long passed that stage, having run the initial test twice, and then following up with a change in methodology, utilizing some of the more sensitive equipment in her mini-lab.
When that attempt had confirmed the first two results, she'd run it again.
To suggest that the analytical woman was surprised by her findings was an understatement of staggering magnitude.
Still floored by the discovery she'd made, and repeatedly confirmed, over the last two hours, Barbara didn't bat an eye when her partner breezed in from the balcony.
"No soap there."
The redhead felt her brows knit.
Fortunately or not, the brunette didn't seem to notice her distraction as she divested herself of her duster.
"Yeah, I had a chat with T-1 boy"
The dark vigilante grinned, not altogether pleasantly.
"You can guess how glad he was to see me again."
Finally remembering what the young crime fighter had been up to, the redhead managed a wan smile. Barbara's cyber-tracking had hit a dead end at a dummy ISP provider; however, lexical and programmatic analysis of the bubble gum gun sites showed a strong similarity to web sites constructed by the cyber-geek who had wired The Joker's hideout for internet access a month before.
Considering the reaction Helena a received during her first "chat" with the young man, Barbara suspected that she very well could imagine.
"Anyhoo," Helena shrugged, "he said he didn't know anything about the bubble goo guns, and I don't think he was lying."
The older woman's soft sigh was interrupted when Helena paused on her way to the kitchen.
"But get this: I found out he had a roommate in college who runs a CyberClown web site."
Apparently taking the redhead's slow blink as a sign that she needed to digest that bit of intel, the dark figure bounced into the kitchen, returning momentarily with a liter of Mountain Dew in one hand, a Red Bull in the other.
"Seemed like a pretty good connection, two peas in a pod and all, right?"
The younger woman dropped onto the couch, propping her booted feet on the coffee table. Suspecting that some response was called for, Barbara cast about.
"Er, yes, I'll follow up on that."
The voice from the other side of the tall sofa was partially obscured by the fizzy hiss of a soda bottle opening.
"Let me know when you want me to talk to this guy one on one."
Barbara blinked again, something about her partner's over-eager offer reminding her that she needed to do something.
Slowly, she made her way to the living area, situating herself next to the wing chair. She carefully set the brake on her chair then flirted with the idea of releasing it.
Doing so would afford her the opportunity to fidget a bit. Pacing, knuckle-cracking, foot-tapping: all seemed de rigueur for this situation.
Squaring her shoulders, the redhead pushed the impulse aside, knit her fingers in her lap, and drew in a fortifying breath.
"Helena, I need to talk with you."
The younger woman smiled inquisitively and lowered the remote she'd just raised dramatically in the direction of the big screen. Barbara realized how much her tension must be showing when her companion then set her soda on the coffee table before leaning back to cross her legs at the knees.
"Sure. What's up?"
The analytical woman managed a smile which was, she feared, a trifle bilious, and searched her infallible memory for the words she'd come up with.
Too late, Barbara realized that the words were not the careful description of the tests and analyses, the hypotheses and possibilities... They were not the carefully planned speech which would lead her partner along the same evidence trail she'd followed, allowing Helena to grasp what she was working up to...
Apparently, they were also entirely too vague, as evidenced by her companion's response.
Looking mildly baffled, but obviously ready to remedy the situation, the brunette gracefully stood, fishing into her front pants pocket, presumably for car keys.
"Okay, Red. How many traffic laws can I break to get you where ever you need to be?"
The cyber-genius stifled a wild laugh, wondering if there were a vehicle in the world which would be fast enough. Feeling distinctly as if she were being strangled, Barbara tried again.
" Late? ", she managed to grit out, putting a hell of a lot of emphasis on the single syllable.
Apparently, multiple master's degrees, eidetic memory, and voluminous reading notwithstanding, her vocabulary had been reduced to a single word.
The younger woman seemed to realize that she was missing something, for she drew her hand from her pocket and raised her eyebrows in question, glancing around the room. Perhaps, Barbara grimly surmised, in search of a white rabbit with a waistcoat and pocket watch.
Finally, the brunette cautiously prompted, "Foooor?".
Barbara tried again, deciding that if this didn't do it, she'd move on to sign language next.
This time, it came out completely without inflection, however, third time really was the charm.
With a sense of disbelief which bordered on alarm, Barbara saw Helena's knees seem to sag visibly. The always-graceful younger woman made an ungainly hop-step to drop onto the couch.
The redhead easily forgave the lapse of grace; after all, her arms and upper spine had responded in a very similar manner not two hours before.
"Late?" the other woman asked, gesturing in the general vicinity of the older woman's midsection.
Since she'd realized that she obviously was at a loss for words, Barbara simply nodded, distantly curious about how long it would take for her companion to recover her own vocabulary.
Half a minute of contemplation seemed to do the trick.
Exhaling slowly, Barbara found her hands on the rims of her wheels, absently attempting to rock herself. She sternly removed her hands, locking her fingers in a death grip in her lap.
At the vision of cupid's bow lips falling in shock, she hastily tacked on, "Give or take a few days."
The redhead held her breath, watching as the smaller woman carefully wet her lips with the tip of her tongue and then brightened. Helena opened her mouth to speak, raising one slender index finger in a gesture which clearly suggested "Here's an idea".
Opting to forestall any platitudes before they could begin, Barbara dropped her hand to the side pocket of her chair and fished for the EPT indicator. The brunette's mouth snapped shut when the older woman leaned forward to offer the evidence.
Even Helena would have to see that there wasn't any way to misinterpret the single word which had popped into results window -- with alarming alacrity -- after she deposited a few drops of urine in the device. Of course, if her partner had some further doubts -- which, the analytical woman had to admit, wouldn't be altogether unwarranted -- she had printouts from the spectrograms from her own tests tucked in the pocket of her chair, at the ready.
In deafening silence, the brunette accepted the small piece of plastic, glancing at it before setting it very precisely on the coffee table next to her beverages.
From the first time she'd met the emotional younger woman, Barbara had discovered that Helena had never been able -- or, perhaps, she realized with a sudden flash of insight, had never been willing -- to hide her feelings from her. This moment was no exception.
Hurt. Anguish. Disbelief. Fury.
They all bled across the brunette's expressive features like freeze frame images under a strobe light. The redhead found herself wishing desperately to rewind time -- just five or ten minutes -- so that she could try again, perhaps sparing them both the mistake of speaking apart from her planned words.
"Helena, no, it's not--"
"How the fuck could you?!"
The words were ragged with fury -- and betrayal, Barbara suspected -- but the brunette's voice was a whisper.
Placatingly, helplessly, the redhead raised one hand, then allowed it to drop to her lap.
"I thought -- "
She looked up, forcing herself to meet eyes which were no longer blue and spoke more firmly.
"I assumed that it was yours."
Dark brows lowered, then raised.
"Ours," the older woman heard herself clarifying, needlessly.
For an interminable fifteen seconds, she remained still, braving her partner's incredulous stare. When the younger woman finally spoke, her words laced with pained anger, the redhead felt herself jump.
"I know you told me you have a preference, and maybe I'm not it, Barbara."
The words were cold as steel, and the older woman worked not to flinch.
"But," the brunette continued, her eyes snapping to a flat grey-blue, "when I take off the 'gear' -- "
Her voice eloquently imbued the word with venom.
"-- I am still a woman."
Barbara cut herself off, blinking against the heat in her eyes. Clenching her jaw against her own fury, she reminded herself that an argument would gain nothing. She needed a different approach, a different way to get her hurting companion to hear the truth.
Deliberately, then, she lowered her tone to an intimate purr.
"Indeed you are, Sweetheart, and I, for one, am very grateful."
The tactic had its intended consequence, and the younger woman calmed although she still seemed to bristle when Barbara approached and extended her hand, palm up.
"I, er, thought that your meta genetics..."
Gradually, slender, tanned fingers came to rest lightly in hers. A wry snort was her only acknowledgement, so the redhead plowed ahead.
"Perhaps if we tested a sample, er, from you?"
Disbelieving blue-grey eyes met green, and the younger woman carefully disentangled their joined hands.
"Sure, let me just whip something out. Just like a teenager in heat, huh?"
Stung, Barbara withdrew her hand and dropped her head. Instinctively, she caught the bridge of her nose between thumb and forefinger, pinching against the pressure building within her. With her eyes squeezed shut, it took her a beat to hear, then identify the shift in the air for what it was: Helena rising swiftly from the couch and moving soundlessly around the coffee table.
Panicked, she raised her hand.
"Hel, you know I don't think that."
The redhead could see the anger leaving the younger woman's body on a tired sigh.
"I know. It's just -- I told you it's not all the time."
The brunette looked up at the gears of the big clock, directing her next words to them.
"Right about now, I don't know if I'll ever do it again."
Somehow, the older woman managed a smile which was meant to be sympathetic although she suspected it came out more like a grimace. Her partner didn't seem to notice, scrubbing her hands roughly across her face before finally turning to meet her eyes again.
The depth of confusion and agony in those expressive features was staggering.
The brunette's voice rose, and she gesticulated toward the balcony. Barbara could only nod, having no words to stop her, to call her to her arms.
And then, Helena was gone, not even bothering to snag her duster on the way out. When she shut the French doors quietly behind her, emptiness crashed around the redhead.
There's a cat in the window
And he's watching all the birds go passing by
He'd love to fly out the window
Go where the wind goes
And so would I
Barbara straightened from the keyboard with a slow sigh, balefully regarding the large plasma display in front of her. Knowing that it was not, in fact, what she was seeing which was at the heart of her feelings, she roughly tugged off her glasses and dropped them on the table next to an errant zip drive she'd been fiddling with earlier.
What in the name of The Mamas and The Papas had possessed her to put on music? Much less this particular disc?
She leaned back, pushing her shoulders against the padded back of her chair and tipping her head to stare at the ceiling. A moment later, she raised both arms, scrubbing her fingers through her hair before lacing them behind her head.
She knew why she'd chosen to flip on the Delphi's sound system when she'd retreated to her refuge after Helena's abrupt departure ninety minutes before: The whirring and ticking of the clock above her had threatened to close in as she attempted to focus on following Helena's lead about the CyberClown web master.
A bit of background noise had seemed eminently logical, however, she certainly had to question her own wisdom in selecting this particular CD.
Or, perhaps not.
Years before, when she'd come across her angry new ward's Walkman, she'd picked it up, curious about her charge's tastes. To her distinct surprise, she'd not heard angry head banging rock or even soulful lamenting. Rather, it had been Petula Clark, warbling about knowing a place. Naturally, the redhead had been compelled to ask the teen about it; she'd been touched, but not terribly surprised, when the girl had shyly muttered something about how her mother had enjoyed it and the two of them had danced around their living room to the sixties pop beat.
Since then, Barbara had always kept a copy of the woman's greatest hits in every vehicle and at the Delphi.
Like that cat in the window
Who keeps wishing for some wings to take a ride
I'd love to glide to a rainbow
Off where the clouds go dancing by
And if I could fly
You wouldn't find me hangin' around
Watching the birds go by
Irritated, the redhead leaned down and shut off the slow ballad.
It was too soon. Too much.
Dear heavens, even the upbeat lyrics of "Downtown" and "Sign of the Times" were too evocative.
Admitting defeat in her attempt to distract herself, the cyber-genius turned the Delphi to standby and shut off the small lamp to one side of her monitor. Wearily, she moved toward the living area, pausing at the base of the ramp to stare out the transom above the doors to the balcony.
Darkness unbroken by a single star greeted her, and she looked away, examining her hands where they'd come to rest in her lap.
So, was this what she could expect?
She knew -- she'd always known -- that Helena was a creature of that dark night, just as she never again could be. Even more so, her partner was...
Green eyes lost focus until an image from the bedroom came to mind.
The younger woman was a panther, not a domestic lap cat, not a being who could be caged... or held against her untamable needs.
Blinking, the relentlessly practical woman caught her upper lip against her lower teeth, fighting the band constricting her chest and throat. Eventually, she exhaled soundlessly and moved down the hall to the darkened bedroom, feeling more alone than she'd ever been.
For almost an hour, the redhead lay still in the big bed, knowing that sleep was out of the question but completely at a loss for any other course of action. The soft click of the bedroom door, coinciding with the unmistakable awareness which signaled her partner's presence, released her from increasingly bleak thoughts.
Perhaps regrettably, Helena's return seemed to trigger an explosion of emotions: Relief. Fear. Emptiness. Hope.
Drowning in the miasma, the older woman clenched her teeth, then fought an urge to giggle.
Dear heavens, was this what pregnancy hormones led to?
It hadn't been until the day before, when she'd found herself digging through some deeply frightening items in the back of the refrigerator in search of a jar of pickles, that it had dawned on the analytical woman that some of her recent behavior -- She was loathe to term them "symptoms" -- might be indicative of a common cause.
The tremendous, lingering tenderness of her breasts. Her emotions -- not that they were running amuck but that they were in evidence at all. The bouts of queasiness and exhaustion.
Sitting frozen in front of the open refrigerator, the redhead had suddenly reconsidered her assumption about her brief spotting the month before: perhaps it hadn't been due to the strain of the recent interaction with The Joker... or Dinah's graduation... or Helena's imminent departure for two weeks of chaperoning duties.
As rational as she was, Barbara had decided to treat the hypothesis as a experiment -- something to be disproved. Thus, after surviving the final Wednesday of her summer session, she'd stopped by the drug store on the way home and picked up the pregnancy test in a fit of what she'd decided to call whimsy.
Of course, there was very little that was amusing about the results.
"I didn't mean to wake you?"
The dark figure padded silently to the redhead's side of the bed, and Barbara pushed herself to a sitting position.
"I wasn't -- I couldn't sleep without you."
She held her breath at the admission, trying to take in the shifting currents between them in the silent darkness. Finally, the younger woman tentatively perched on the edge of the bed, and Barbara could see blue eyes glinting from under thick lashes.
"I'm sorry --"
The brunette stopped herself and looked up to meet the older woman's gaze.
"Really sorry that I just left like that."
At a loss for words, the redhead could only clench her jaw.
"I just needed to..."
Somehow, she had to let it go when she saw her partner struggling to describe her own need.
"Think?", she supplied quietly.
The rebuttal... the clarification was so swift and certain that the older woman didn't know how to respond.
They sat in miserable silence for a few beats until Barbara risked a quiet observation.
"You're back sooner than I'd anticipated."
The younger woman toyed with the sheet, where it was bunched near her knees.
"I found out that I like the air with you a lot better."
The redhead cleared the thickness which had welled in her throat at the soft declaration and patted the other side of the bed.
The invitation was met was a flash of white teeth and the shy duck of a dark head. Seemingly within seconds, the smaller woman had stripped to her underwear and was snuggling close under the sheets. As they felt their way close, the older woman suddenly realized that she, too, found the air much more breathable with her partner beside her.
Perhaps there was some interaction based on Helena's meta-genetics which affected the O2 concentration around her.
Her random planning about setting up some controlled air quality studies were pushed aside when she sensed a slender hand coming to rest lightly over her own abdomen.
"So, we're going to be mommies, huh?"
Barbara heard a noise -- something between a laugh and a wail -- escape her, and she contented herself with a terse, "So it seems."
The short word held a world of wonder and amazement.
"I woulda liked a little more honeymoon, I guess," the brunette whispered and -- despite herself -- Barbara chuckled at the feel of dark brows waggling naughtily.
"Oh well, Kid's gonna be around for built in baby-sitting, right?"
The redhead didn't bother to respond, her mind still whirling, and the two lay quietly for a few minutes, lost in their musings.
Quietly, her hands resting over her stomach, Helena's hand protectively atop them, the analytical woman ventured an observation.
"I won't feel anything."
She felt a soft exhalation against her neck before her companion spoke, one finger tracing her knuckles.
"I understand a lot of women would say that's a good thing."
While the practical woman granted that there could be some benefits of her permanent epidural anesthesia during actual labor, she could only muster a wan smile.
"No kicks or movements, either, Hel."
The brunette shifted and pressed their hands a bit more firmly into the older woman's abdomen.
"Let's wait and see about that, huh? I mean --"
Barbara heard the smile creeping into her lover's voice.
"If the kid's got only a tenth of my genetics, you're going to be feeling kicking."
As eminently sensible as the words were, the redhead opted to embrace them. Of course, this freed her to focus on a different worry.
"You realize that I'll be fifty -- "
She heard the hint of a wail underlining the word but felt it entirely justified.
" -- when the child is in high school?"
She found that she was not eased by her lover's self-satisfied laugh. After all, the redhead had long maintained that anyone over forty-eight was too old to deal with teens.
"Good thing I'm younger, huh?"
If the laugh hadn't helped, the words at least distracted her, and Barbara extricated one hand to play-swat the slender woman's arm. The brunette accepted the swat and snuggled impossibly closer before husking a question of her own.
"So, does this mean I need to get a real job?"
That, finally, drew a genuine, full-blown laugh even as the redhead realized, with not inconsiderable relief, that her partner was taking this seriously and did have a few concerns of her own.
"I think you do plenty, Sweetheart."
"You really think so?"
Certain there was more in the endearingly shy question than issues over net income, the older woman nodded emphatically. Silence reigned again until, to her embarrassment, Barbara felt wetness pooling in her eyes and a pressure in her sinuses. She sniffled quietly.
Slender fingers touched her cheek, wordlessly asking.
"I don't know."
The words were tremulous and certainly less than informative. The younger woman exhaled softly.
"Don't know what?"
"Anything, Helena," she admitted miserably.
And, it was true. She just had no idea, no experience with -- or desire to have experience with -- small children.
Barbara Gordon didn't do children. Even as a child, she'd never played with dolls, preferring to occupy herself by disassembling electronics and, usually, rebuilding them.
Teens were trying enough, and, at the very least, they had rudimentary logic skills.
And vocabularies. She couldn't forget the benefits of verbal communication skills.
"We'll figure it out together, Red."
The gentle reassurance distracted the relentlessly practical woman from her growing panic. Her partner's next words dissolved it entirely, for the moment.
"Heck, I can see you jury-rigging the Delphi to handle the diaper changes and stuff."
Suddenly laughing -- my goodness but these hormones were a roller coaster ride -- Barbara pushed her partner onto her back, allowing the motion to carry her along to end up on top of the smaller woman.
She silenced the question, suddenly seeing that in some situations, nonverbal communication could be best. She felt the younger woman stiffen briefly, then deliberately relax into her touch. For long, wonderful minutes only ragged breathing and soft moans broke the silence until the brunette abruptly stilled, playful golden eyes seeking green.
"You, uh, don't happen to have a specimen cup lying around here, do you?"
"No, I think it's a little premature to transfer to Emory, Honey."
Green eyes blinked when the redhead noticed the endearment which had slipped out, then Barbara mentally shrugged.
It was clearly overdue.
<"But, it's amazing here. The people. The architecture. The transit system. Have you seen the kudzu?">
A soft laugh bubbled past the older woman's lips, and she listened patiently to a description of the pervasive foliage's relentless progress across fields, over buildings and telephone poles, past overpasses and highways.
"Yes, I've heard that residents fertilize it with motor oil and mulch it with cinder blocks," she teased when the girl paused for breath.
For another ten minutes, the redhead worked to hold her own against her ward's verbal effusion about her recent explorations. After extracting a third promise from the girl not to submit any admission applications to the southern university just yet and reminding her, needlessly, that she and Helena would be joining the two teens in a few days, Barbara finally clicked the off button on the cordless.
She drew a deep breath and sat quietly for a moment.
Clearly, Helena wasn't the only force of nature in her life. Dinah's power to bowl one over might be less readily apparent, but it was unmistakable nevertheless.
Of course she -- and Helena -- had talked with the blonde during the two teens' exploration of the east coast on their Amtrak passes. In fact, although Barbara had only requested that her ward touch base every three or four days, the girl seemed to want to share her adventures daily, and Barbara had been delighted with the contact. Not only had she been able to travel vicariously, but she'd gotten a very real sense that her ward did seem lighter, more at peace, than prior to her departure.
A road trip was usually good for the soul.
The sound of a magazine hitting the coffee table drew her from her abstraction. The thump had been weighty enough to tell her that her partner had been occupying herself either with Vogue or the Popular Mechanics Sports Car issue.
"How's the Kid doing?"
Barbara smiled and positioned the handset in it's cradle.
"Very well. Apparently, she's fallen in love with Atlanta."
The brunette was quiet for a moment, seemingly digesting that bit of information; then she smiled brightly.
"Sure, I can see D as a southern belle."
The older woman considered that, then burst into laughter.
While she, too, could envision her ward in antebellum period costumes, unfortunately her brain insisted on replacing classic elements from "Gone With The Wind" with those which Carol Burnett had used in her 1970's camp classic "Went With The Wind" skit. Hence, instead of taffeta and crinolines, her mind's eye was clothing the lanky blonde in a heavy green brushed velvet curtain, the rod still in it, extending across her shoulders.
Her companion cocked her head, amusement clear in her eyes, but, just as clearly, Helena seemed to decide not to ask. The corners of her mouth still upturned, Barbara winked and headed back to the Delphi, very eager to check the pages which had chattered off the printer while she'd been on the phone.
With studied nonchalance, the younger woman trailed behind her on the short trip up the platform to her lab equipment.
"So, was my contribution up to snuff?"
Reaching for the thin stack of papers, the cyber-genius managed a tight smile, quite aware that after the bombshell she'd dropped the day before, it wouldn't have been surprising if the younger woman hadn't been able to ... perform for quite some time.
Mercifully, that hadn't been the case, giving the analytical woman an opportunity to check -- To confirm, some part of her stiffly demanded -- her hypothesis about her current condition.
"This could be a real boon for woman-kind, huh?"
The redhead paused in the act of sorting the printouts, raising one eyebrow dubiously.
While her partner had certainly exhibited some initial -- hostility to the idea that her meta-genetics could enable woman-to-woman fertilization, she now seemed to have embraced the concept of having abilities which were even more unique than they'd ever guessed. Frankly, the redhead had begun to wonder when the brunette was going to start grabbing her crotch and talking about spreading her seed.
A distinct change in the younger woman's expression drew the redhead from her bemusement.
"Uh, do you think I could get myself pregnant?"
Barbara couldn't help it: she burst out laughing, loud and long.
"Since you've escaped so far, let's assume that you can't, Sweetie."
Finally turning to the printouts in her lap, the older woman thought she detected a flicker of relief in twinkling blue eyes. However, what she saw before her promptly caused the light exchange to fade to insignificance.
The younger woman's prompt was soft, obviously reading something from her face. Not quite up to replying, the cyber-genius shook her head in puzzlement and tossed the papers onto her workstation. After a split-second's consideration, she made a bee-line for the kitchen.
Great green eggs and ham, but she could use a drink.
Regrettably, it didn't seem to be the most advisable course of action in her current delicate condition, so the redhead settled on liberating one of her partner's Red Bulls from the refrigerator. Sensing the puzzled eyes trained on her from the doorway, she slowly shut the refrigerator. Back still to the other woman, she popped the can, downing half the contents in one long swallow.
Fighting the urge to belch after the unconsidered guzzle, she settled the can between her legs and made her way more slowly back to the Delphi.
Barbara accompanied the terse summary by placing her beverage on a Dark Horse coaster and retrieving the printouts.
In the act of leaping back onto the platform, the brunette, oddly, seemed to hang in mid-air for a split second as she choked off her question. The older woman waited until she collected herself before nodding.
"Indeed, Hel. For lack of a better description, your sample contained basic prostate-type fluid with no zygote-producing cells present."
The dark figure leaned against the edge of the desk, her perpetually raised left brow shooting higher. Since she, herself, had absolutely nothing more to offer at the moment, the redhead waited, watching her partner process the information.
The dark brows furrowed, and a slender hand reached out, seemingly of its own volition, to snag the half-empty can of Red Bull. Barbara didn't bat an eye.
"...I shot an egg or something? So,"
Those expressive caramel features visibly brightened.
"So, it's only some times in the month?"
Barbara felt one of her own eyebrows crawling skyward when the brunette punctuated her question by draining the can and setting it neatly back on the coaster.
"It seems like quite a stretch, Helena," she finally allowed, retrieving the empty and tossing it into the trash.
"A stre-- ?!"
The younger woman's laugh was patently incredulous, and Barbara blinked once as Helena abruptly jumped to her feet.
Despite the energy beginning to roll off her, the brunette's voice was almost too patient.
"Unless we've got another immaculate conception on our hands and the apocalypse is near, you tell me how -- "
The older woman really, really wished that she could. Instead, she sought her lover's gaze.
"I did not -- "
Blue eyes flickered wide, then dark lashes lowered against the younger woman's curt nod.
"I know, Red."
For the first time since she'd seen -- nay, comprehended -- the meaning behind the printouts, the redhead managed a deep breath. The reprieve was short-lived when she saw the pallor appear under the younger woman's dark features.
Alarmingly, the dark vigilante seemed to sway, and Barbara spoke briskly.
"Sit down, now."
The younger woman collapsed on the edge of the Delphi platform, dropping her head onto her hands, elbows on her knees.
"What if it's...?"
Unlocking the brake on her chair, the redhead knit her brows.
She saw the dark figure's jaw clench, the lines of her face harden.
"Nah, forget it. It's not possible."
Now seriously alarmed, Barbara changed her intended direction of travel, choosing to coast down the ramp and execute a sharp turn -- two wheels briefly left the ground -- to approach her partner at her level. She waited until the blue eyes peered through shaggy bangs then spoke very precisely.
"In our lives -- and our line of work -- Sweetheart, I've learned that few things are out of the realm of possibility."
She waited as the other woman absorbed that, chewing at the corner of her mouth. Finally, Helena exhaled roughly and met the cyber-genius' gaze, looking for all the world as if she'd prefer to be anywhere else, saying anything else.
When Barbara heard her partner's words, she understood the desire very well.
"Uh, couple of weeks ago, when I was in the bubble gum factory and The Joker tried out his bubble goo...?"
The older woman nodded that she certainly remembered the incident, and the brunette's Adam's apple bobbed twice.
"What if there was something in it which, uh..."
The brunette's voice seemed to fail her, but it didn't matter: Barbara definitely had the gist of the hypothesis.
The room seemed to tilt on it's axis, spinning dizzyingly around her. The redhead swallowed against something rising in her throat, then raised one hand to stifle a wild laugh.
What a tremendous prank that would be if Jack Napier were to fulfill the threat from his first meeting with a young Batgirl so many years before.
Immediately, the analytical woman's mind ran the math, the biology, calculating that it would be another six to eight weeks before amniocentesis could be used reliably.
Again, nausea rose in her throat, and green eyes flicked to the drug cabinet.
It was, obviously, too late for the morning after pills; however, there were certainly other...
"What the fuck are you thinking?"
The angry words cut through her pharmaceutical inventory, making the older woman flinch.
"Guess that tells me about whether you'd keep it."
Bitterness was pushing the anger to one side, and Barbara hesitantly met incredulous blue eyes.
"Perhaps this is a... sign that this is not meant--"
The younger woman cut her off, one slender hand slashing harshly through the air.
"Fuck that! You can't even give it a chance?"
Helena spun away, her next words addressed to the balcony doors.
"Give me a chance? You don't think we could..."
The brunette's trembling was visible, her breathing shallow as she seemed to work to control herself. The older woman couldn't miss how her partner was leaning -- unconsciously, Barbara suspected -- toward the balcony. The redhead didn't think she needed their years of association to know how badly the brunette wanted to run, to fly through the skies...
But, to Barbara's distinct surprise, Helena didn't fly -- yet. Slender shoulders slumped before the deceptively small woman turned, dragging her hands roughly across her face, her energy and restlessness almost visible in the confines of the living room.
Wordlessly, she approached, kneeling before the older woman. The dark head remained bowed, perhaps following the progress of one slender hand to Barbara's thigh. With an exhausted sigh, Helena leaned in, her posture completely... submissive, and the redhead stiffened as sinewy arms gently circled her waist.
"Give it... us a chance on this, Barbara. We've only tried one sample."
The redhead had to dredge the words from her mind, then work to free her breathing, and finally struggle to open her mouth.
"I... I don't know, Helena."
The younger woman still didn't make eye contact. Instead, she turned to press her mouth to the redhead's abdomen, and green eyes squeezed shut at the pain of not feeling the benediction of the soft kiss.
"We don't have to know anything tonight, Red."
Settling her hands on the brunette's shoulders, Barbara felt her partner's tightly coiled muscles and couldn't suppress her own instinctive terror.
The brunette rested her head in her lap, and -- somehow -- the older woman managed to bend, to press a kiss to dark hair. She chose not to straighten, rubbing small circles against the younger woman's back as they remained in their separate silences.
It was distant minutes later that Barbara realized that her mouth was moving against the chestnut silk beneath her, soundlessly whispering something over and over. Even with the awareness, it took the redhead another moment to identify her words, her plea:
<"Go on, Poindexter, tell me another one.">
So absorbed in her research was she and so rapidly were her long fingers flying across the keyboard that Barbara paid scant attention to the words echoing through the comm set. It was only when she heard a response -- a high-pitched male squeak -- that the cyber-crime fighter turned her attention to the events transpiring outside the circle of the Delphi.
Belatedly, she realized that while Helena's words had been playful, her voice had been anything but. There had been a current of barely restrained rage in the dark vigilante's tone which, even now, left the hair on the back of the older woman's neck raised in a shiver.
<<"I d-- didn't want any-anyone to get hurt!">>
The young woman's laconic response was decidedly unimpressed.
<"Sorry, dude, but my Give-a-damn is busted tonight.">
<<"R--rreally... It was just f-f-for fun.">>
Regretfully, Barbara turned away from her focused research, concentrating fully on her partner's confrontation with the self-styled CyberClown, the individual who had been foolish enough to attempt to market The Joker's weapon's in their town.
The sub vocal rumbling growl she heard was not reassuring.
<"Is that so?">
The rapid sounds of the young man's frightened breathing were much clearer, suggesting that Helena had drawn close -- very close -- to the man. The leader of the small team of vigilantes drew in a soft breath, willing herself to trust in her partner.
When Barbara had confirmed the web master's identity an hour before, just after Helena's shift had ended at the bar, the brunette had casually volunteered to "have a chat" with the man. Although the bots were doing their job of foiling any attempt he made to generate sales -- and had managed to funnel a tidy sum into the victims' relief fund -- the enterprising fellow had, in truth, broken no laws. A dark night visit from a dark night vigilante had seemed a reasonable way to attempt to persuade the man of the error of his ways.
Now, however, hearing the tight edge to the younger woman's words, aware of the tension which had been building within her and which certainly hadn't been helped by the events of the night before, the cyber-crime fighter was having a few doubts.
<"So, what's so much fun about this? Have you tried it?">
The soft creak of leather brushing against someone, immediately followed by a soft masculine whimper, placed Helena in very close proximity to her quarry. Foolishly, the young man tried to debate with his visitor.
<<"It's just gum and glue and stuff.">>
That dark, patient rumble sounded again, a terrifying counterpoint to words which flowed through the transceiver like silk.
<"Yeah? You ever been covered in it so you can't move... can't breathe...?">
Crimson brows furrowed when the redhead heard what sounded very much like a heartbeat through the comms.
Was Helena that close to the CyberClown?
A low chuckle -- not the younger woman's -- provided the answer to the question.
<<"Like, uh, maybe autoerotic asphyxiation?">>
The man sounded entirely too intrigued by the idea, and Barbara could almost put an acne-ridden face to the voice.
And, the brunette's reply led the redhead to fear that her partner might actually be considering the none-too-subtle offer.
<"And, seeing how I have been kind of itchy lately...">
The purr might have seemed inviting to the uninitiated, however Barbara couldn't mistake the flatness underlying the words.
Heaven only knew, her partner's words were true enough. Helena and she had spent the last night together, awake in the tower, with Barbara moving aimlessly from the Delphi to the living area and with the brunette perched on the arm of the couch.
Sitting shivah together.
The analytical woman had been trying to plan, to think, to find answers... or even ways to try to find answers. And Helena --
Well, the younger woman had... been there. Although the quiet murmur of the television had masked the silence, every time Barbara had looked over, she'd found shuttered blue eyes turned toward her.
It had been a relief to them both, she suspected, when the sun had finally peaked through the transom, and the redhead had departed for her final day of classes.
<"So, maybe we should give it a whirl and see if it gets you off...">
When she heard the cocking of a rifle, the older woman could restrain herself no longer.
"Huntress. What's the situation?"
Dead silence followed the soft question for a full ten seconds. Finally, Barbara detected the softest scuff of her partner moving away and the quiet click of a gun's safety being engaged.
<"Just... wrapping things up. I wanted to share a little something with you, Laughing Boy.">
With a practiced gesture, the redhead raised thumb and forefinger, pushing her glasses to her forehead and pinching the bridge of her nose tightly. The tension which had taken possession of her a few minutes before slowly bled away, only to be replaced by a different tension when she heard her partner speaking quietly with the young man.
Snorting softly as Helena gave the web master the address of Chains Of Love -- with a specific recommendation to ask for Clint -- she turned back to the monitor, eager to resume her research. Just because she hadn't had any luck in the last five hours in locating information about early, in utero, genetic sampling didn't mean that the data wasn't out there.
<"Well, that was a fun little appetizer. What's next, Oracle?">
The redhead straightened, checking the on-screen clock. She didn't need to consult the scanners: nothing had come in all evening other than a few purse snatching and muggings.
"It's quiet tonight, Huntress. Why--"
Barbara swallowed, hoping against hope that her stumble would go unnoticed.
"Why don't you come in for the night?"
When she heard her partner's soft, slow inhalation, she tried a different tact.
"We do have to be ready for tomorrow."
Granted, the flight to Montego Bay wasn't that early and she, for one, had been packed for days; still, perhaps the reminder would strike a chord with the younger woman.
The silence which met the words was practically deafening. Out of reflex, the redhead checked the volume on her headset, thumbing it all the way up and, consequently, nearly losing her hearing when her partner finally responded.
<"I, ah, don't know if that's such a good idea right now, Oracle.">
Frantically turning the volume back down, Barbara interrupted, "Huntress, please don--"
<"Almost a full moon and all, you know,"> the brunette continued, ignoring the soft plea.
The older woman felt something sharp and angry snap within her but managed to draw upon years of practice before she said something which she knew wouldn't help matters.
Counting to thirty-seven by primes, she relaxed her jaw finally.
"Huntress, please come in. I don't care about--"
The brunette's answer was almost lost when the transceiver was shut off at the other end.
Slowly, methodically, Barbara removed her earpiece, neatly coiling the small antenna around the set and storing it in her top drawer. That done, she toggled the screen saver for the Delphi, not even close to cracking a smile when the animated Count Bloodcount appeared with a Transylvanian "Gooood evening." Finally, she removed her glasses, tucking them neatly into the side pocket of her chair before backing a few feet from the work center.
Dammit and double dammit.
For a long, breathless moment, the crimson-haired crime fighter remained locked in a rictus of bitter anger. Her hands curled around the arms of the chair with punishing force, battling the unyielding metal while she shut her eyes, pushing... pushing back at the emotions rioting within.
The softest click from beneath the arm of the chair -- a tiny responding movement from brushing against the batarang secreted in the arm of the chair -- caused the redhead's eyes to fly open, and she exhaled slowly. Barbara allowed her index finger to caress the weapon, breathing slowly as she allowed her eyes to wander up the far wall.
The Richard M. Nixon commemorative plate, which hung below a digital photograph of tropical fish being suspended in one of Dinah's TK bubbles, gradually drew her attention.
Honestly, she'd been meaning to ask Alfred to relocate the damned thing to the Batcave for weeks.
Long fingers twitched over the catch which would free the batarang, and the redhead felt her heart bang against her chest. Fortuitously or not, something below the decorative additions to the wall drew her gaze down.
Barbara jumped when she heard her own soft whisper, instantly shrugging off her surprise and dropping her hands to the wheels of her chair. Carefully, she approached the back wall, the soft rubber of the wheels permitting a stealth unwarranted by her solitude, and came to a halt.
The drug cabinet.
Helena and she hadn't discussed matters again, and for uncounted minutes, the redhead remained still on the dais, turning the issues over in her mind. When she finally emerged from her abstraction, she relocked the unit and turned to the bedroom, as confident as she knew that she'd ever be about her course of action.
Having made up her mind, the practical woman didn't vacillate, moving swiftly and efficiently... until she'd finished and found herself in the living room, one hand on the handle of the doors leading to the balcony.
It wasn't too late. She could retreat... back away... wait.
Red hair shook roughly in irritation, and Barbara opened the door, moving into the darkness. With its balustrade, not to mention the gargoyles perched at attention, the balcony was shielded from most of the nighttime light from the city which flooded lower lairs. With the clouds obscuring the sky, night filled the cloistered perch like coffee in a deep cup.
That was fine. She was comfortable in the darkness, at home with the night.
With her fingers knit loosely across her abdomen, elbows resting lightly on the arms of her chair, the redhead shivered despite herself as her body responded to the night air: while it was still a muggy June evening at street level, eighteen stories up, the air was marginally less fetid, the night wind less impeded by other buildings.
The chill didn't matter. The sheerness of the material covering her was unimportant. As was the darkness surrounding her.
The cyber-vigilante steeled herself for her vigil, allowing her mind to drift to the distant sound of traffic below her, the soft click of the gears of the clock behind her, the whisper of the wind surrounding her. For over an hour, she remained fixed, waiting.
A nearly soundless shifting of the air currents, coinciding with an almost electric frission of awareness, alerted the redhead that she was no longer alone. In the darkness, she couldn't see her companion; she certainly couldn't hear her; but the presence was unmistakable.
That awareness was something which had existed almost since the time she'd become the younger woman's guardian. Awakening -- or drifting into consciousness from her morphine haze in the hospital -- she'd always been able to sense when the lonely young woman was keeping vigil. She hadn't really recognized the awareness for what it was until years later, when she'd been able to enter the apartment and had known whether her charge was present or not.
A silky rough whisper, floating through the darkness, its origins indiscernible, interrupted her reverie.
"What are you doing out here?"
Although a shiver coursed through the older woman again, she distantly recognized that it was not from cold.
Nor, for that matter, did its origin lie in fear.
As Barbara had considered her partner's unwillingness to return to the tower earlier, she'd instinctively known that Helena would not stay away: even if the younger woman wouldn't allow herself to be with her, the redhead knew that Helena would not allow her to go... unwatched.
Without turning her head -- doubtless, by the time she pinned down where the question had originated, the other woman would have drifted into another shadow -- she traced the tip of her tongue around the edges of her suddenly very dry lips. As casually as she could, the redhead smoothed the maroon silk against her thigh, resettling the material after it fluttered in the breeze.
Unable to keep herself from wondering if this had been such a good idea, Barbara nevertheless ignored her fear. Still, she obfuscated a bit.
"It's a beautiful night, isn't it?"
A derisive snort suggested that New Gotham's usual cloudy pall was less than aesthetically pleasing to the younger woman. The rustle of leather, the deliberate scuff of a boot heel, and the sense of movement, suggested that Helena's patience was running thin.
"Waiting for you," the redhead admitted softly.
"I told you..."
The brunette's whisper was soft, but Barbara clearly detected the anger and pain lacing the words.
"...it wasn't a good idea."
Between the penultimate word and the last, the voice shifted from somewhere behind the older woman to her left side. Something electric danced over the redhead's arms, and distantly she wondered if a storm were brewing.
"I had to, Helena."
Barbara gave in to her own restless ache, turning in the direction she'd last placed her partner. When the breeze again lifted the hem of the silk robe she'd changed into earlier, she allowed the material to fall where it would, focusing instead on extending her own senses.
Certain now, the redhead turned a slow half-circle, dancing with her unseen partner.
"You know better than that."
The words came from exactly where Barbara had placed the brunette.
A defeated sigh husked through the darkness, and the redhead hastened to explain.
"I know that I want--"
Roughly, she shook her head against her own damnable inarticulateness and let the truth form itself.
"I need you, Helena."
"You have me."
Barbara rotated another quarter turn, keeping pace with the dismissive voice.
"All of you, Hel."
She jumped at a muted thump from the shadows before she placed the sound: a heavy leather duster hitting the flagstones.
"You so sure about that, Red?"
Instead of simply turning to follow in their pas de duex, this time the older woman moved to intercept.
A slender figure morphed from the shadows, the darkness still blending the lines of where the young woman ended and darkness began.
The analytical woman had time to appreciate the aptness of the image even as something so cold that it burned touched her soul.
"You've been teasing me. Making me want you... need you."
The shadowy figure continued her predatory circling, and Barbara forced herself to remain still. She'd come out into the night to set a trap, with herself as bait, and damned if she'd back away now.
"Are you going to let me have what I need? Are you going to let me in?"
The redhead nodded slowly, positive that those eyes burning so brightly would see. Apparently, the assumption was a good one, for, in a heartbeat, Helena abandoned the shadows and was in the older woman's lap, her knees buried deep in the thick padding on each side of Barbara's thighs.
Well aware that the younger woman could easily hear her breathing, could smell her nervousness, could feel her heartbeat, the older woman steadied herself, calling to mind why she was there. With that, she relaxed under her partner's burning, searching gaze, allowing the dark figure to seek -- and hopefully find -- what she needed.
A minute, perhaps two, elapsed under the steady scrutiny before the tense set of slender shoulders eased the tiniest bit. The redhead risked a soft smile, rewarded by the sensation of slender fingers tracing the vee'd neck of her robe.
And then she saw it: the dark figure in her lap gentled, a smile which was less predatory than voracious gracing those beautiful full lips.
"Are you wearing anything under this?"
Barbara felt her eyes crinkle in amusement and captured her partner's roving fingers, bringing them to her lips.
"You tell me."
She punctuated the words with a brief kiss, patiently withstanding the younger woman's frankly assessing look. Barbara had reason to be glad she'd not looked away when she witnessed the way the brunette's features transformed from challenge to urgency.
Amazed, the redhead watched as the lithe figure flowed off her lap, dropping to her knees before her. She caught her breath when the brunette ran her hands -- visibly shaking -- up her unfeeling thighs and leaned in.
With a brief flicker of bitterness, Barbara realized that, if she could feel, she would be experiencing the press of the younger woman's chest against her knees.
Golden eyes grew heavy lidded, and aquiline nostrils flared as the young woman sampled the night air.
"You are. And you shouldn't be."
Suddenly impossibly warm, the older woman mustered a tender smile.
"You're half-right, Sweetie."
The words seemed to strike her companion with the force of a blow, the dark head rearing back and golden eyes flashing dizzyingly to blue, then back to gold. A cupids bow lip raised in a snarl before Helena dropped her head again, her face not quite touching the older woman's legs, and scented her, an almost indecent expression of delight -- and naked arousal evident in her features.
Barbara lightly rested her right hand on her partner's shoulder, steadying herself when she saw the tip of a pink tongue darting out, brushing the seam of her thighs. Despite the fact that this little encounter was something she had planned, the analytical woman had to search for courage before she could make the next move.
It was the soft trembling of the younger woman's jaw which did the trick.
"Dear heavens, Hel."
She held the incendiary gaze, separating her own legs where the thick padding on the sides kept them from falling open. Slender fingers pushed the hem of the thin robe up.
Despite the tension, the energy, radiating from the younger woman, Helena's question was almost hesitant, allowing the redhead the opportunity to stop, to run.
Running, Barbara realized with something close to pain, had simply never been an option for her where Helena was concerned.
Wordless, she placed one hand on back of her lover's head and fought against the instinct to close her eyes as she tenderly pulled the young woman in.
Helena's reverent murmur shook Barbara to her core. She blinked against the blurriness wondering why her lover had straightened up and was swaying forward until she felt soft lips kissing her cheeks... her jaw... her eyes... and realized that she was crying. She didn't understand that she had spoken until she heard her own hitching whisper.
"My sweet girl."
Crimson brows knit when the younger woman slowly pulled away, and the redhead held her breath at the earnest blue eyes which demanded her full attention.
"I'm not your girl, Barbara. I'm your lover, your partner."
Transfixed, the older woman nodded, and the brunette came eye-to-eye with her.
"And, I'm here, Barbara."
And in that instant the time for tears was done. The older woman dropped her hands to her waist, fumbling against the efficient half-hitch. The swish of the robe's silken sash sliding through the loops at each side was harsh in the darkness, but neither woman flinched as Barbara held up the delicate tie. Placing the length of silk in her partner's strong hands, the redhead registered the startled blink of bright eyes and smiled warmly.
"Care to help me with this?"
She was being watched.
Groggy as she was, Barbara knew that there was no other explanation for the sensation which was relentlessly dragging her from a deep and satisfying slumber. Yet, she blearily noted, she wasn't experiencing the instinctive discomfort... or fear... which always accompanied the knowledge.
With her curiosity lending its voice to her awareness of... something, the redhead pried open one eye and promptly allowed the lid to slam back down. Her internal chronometer had already informed her that she'd only enjoyed a few hours of sleep after a very... energetic evening; the brief peek into the predawn darkness of the bedroom confirmed the accuracy of her mental clock, and the cyber-genius vehemently wished to hit whatever lobe in her brain which could function as a snooze alarm.
"God, you're beautiful."
Having never been Mary Sunshine in the morning, Barbara was not in the mood for her bedmate's flattery. Not to mention the fact that she knew her hair had to look like something out of her crochet basket.
Still... Obviously Helena had been quietly observing her for some time. She could certainly manage some sort of greeting before dozing off again.
Calling upon her formidable willpower, the older woman cracked her eye again and emitted a less than gracious "Hrrumph."
That did it.
The reverent whisper blazed past Barbara's defenses, evaporating her early morning grumpiness like a triple espresso.
"Mmmm -- lena."
She yawned her greeting through a stretch, promptly wincing when the movement recalled some of her activities from not too many hours before.
Still crawling into her own body, the older woman saw her partner's stricken expression but couldn't make sense of it until Helena cautiously touched her cheek.
"Did I hurt you?"
The older woman knit her brows, then her eyes popped open, and she performed a quick inventory. Carefully turning her head from side to side on the pillow, she recognized the distinctive pull of the dried blood against the tender skin of her throat. She flexed her wrists, releasing the residual soreness and suspecting that long sleeves might be in order for the day.
Helena hadn't wanted to restrain her, however she'd acquiesced when the redhead had explained that there was simply no other way she'd be able to keep her hands off her partner.
Deciding that she was much better off than she'd been after some of her nights in the field back in the day, Barbara shifted to reassure her partner and abruptly stilled. The soft cotton of the sheet dragged over her chest like acid, and she swallowed a hiss, wishing she'd remembered sooner and spared herself seeing her partner's flinch.
After all, she'd asked -- no, begged -- for the deep bite covering the fleshy side of her breast.
Shivering at the memory, she recalled the question: Had Helena hurt her?
"Heavens, no, Sweetie."
The belated answer was a tad raspy, but certainly heartfelt. Concerned, the redhead searched her partner's eyes, finally seeing the acceptance, the belief, she needed.
Green eyes narrowed, struggling to focus in the dim light.
Yes, definitely something more in Helena's eyes.
The older woman wet her lips and tried again.
"Is there something you need, Hel?"
Perhaps not her most seductive approach, but Barbara trusted that her partner would give her a little leeway, considering the early hour.
The younger woman's voice and face were almost comical in their incredulity, however Barbara wasn't inclined to laugh. She captured her partner's hand, drawing it to her mouth to breath a kiss to fingers rich with the complex scent of their passion.
"Yes, Hel. After you gave that to me."
And she was serious, knowing that the gift of the other woman -- unfettered -- was something rare.
This time, it was the younger woman who searched her eyes, and in the dim light she must have seen what she was looking for. Barbara was certain she saw something hungry flicker through her lover's expressive features, and her chest ached. She pushed to her side and walked her fingers up the brunette's chest slowly, knowingly repeating the question Helena had asked her not too many nights before.
"You want something, don't you?"
The brunette shifted to one side, and the older woman once again channeled Helena Kyle and smiled encouragingly.
"It's not.. not really..."
The quiet sound of their breathing circled above them for a few moments before the redhead was compelled to ask, "What is it, Sweetheart...?"
Deep blue met green. The immediate certainty of the younger woman's reply suggested that she, too, had a few mental To-Do lists of her own.
"I want you to get yourself off on me."
Somehow, Barbara managed a smile which was as puzzled as it was nervous.
"I'm not sure I understand, Hel."
The brunette shifted closer to rub sinuously against her, her purring words a touch unto themselves.
"It doesn't have to be right now, but sometime I want you to make yourself come from touching me, sucking me..."
The younger woman's voice deepened sending a jolt of electricity through the redhead.
"...biting me. Fucking me. Fuck me -- my mouth or anywhere. Or, using me to suck you or fill you. Whatever you like."
The redhead felt -- hell, heard -- her heard thudding against her ribs, her breathing tightening. Then she remembered herself -- and just who this remarkable woman was.
Tenderly, she cupped the sharp line of the brunette's jaw, tracing the pad of her thumb against full lips, blinking against a sudden sweet clarity: Helena really did have a beautifully fuckable mouth.
"I'll take that under advisement, Sweetheart."
The bright happiness in beautiful gamine features forced the analytical woman to re-prioritize some lists of her own. Tangling her fingers with the brunette's, she chuckled ruefully.
"After all, Hel, in a few more months, mobility may be even more of an issue."
The redhead promptly decided not to think about that picture just yet, fortunately distracted by her companion's shy grin.
"You're going to keep...?"
She pushed herself closer, resting her forehead against dark bangs.
"You said it yourself, Helena. We don't have to know yet."
Unvoiced, she allowed herself a cautious hope: Perhaps, sometimes there were coincidences.
When she saw the younger woman's bright smile fade, even white teeth gnawing at a lush lower lip, she withdrew a few inches, searching eyes which shuttered before her.
"What is it, Hel?"
A muscle in the brunette's jaw ticked, and the dark figure sniffed pointedly.
"I, uh, smelled blood and, uh, wasn't sure..."
A slender hand waved toward Barbara hips. Quirking her brows, the older woman peeked under the sheet.
Her heart swelled, then clenched, at her partner's soft sigh. Seeing something more, she waited, pierced by something as pained blue eyes met hers then, uncharacteristically, looked away.
"I thought maybe, last night, that I did something..."
It took only an instant for Barbara to grasp the sense of the question, her answer torn out of her in the next breath.
"Dear heavens, no, Hel. You can't think--"
The other woman's shaky exhalation was demonstration enough that she could... that she had, indeed, thought as much.
Slowly, still looking down at her hands against the covers, the younger woman husked a second question.
Barbara, somehow, was more prepared for this.
Carefully, she inclined her head to one side, attempting to meet her partner's gaze. When the brunette resolutely refused to acknowledge her effort, she raised her right hand, touching her first and second fingers to the strong line of her lover's tightly clenched jaw. Gently, but quite firmly, she tipped the younger woman's head up and captured her eyes.
"No, Helena. Never without talking with you."
For one of the few times that she'd known the other woman, Barbara found that she was unable to read her expression, her eyes.
She wanted to look away, but would not let herself. She ran the tip of her tongue around the edges of her lips and tried again.
"Do you trust me, Helena?"
And then the younger woman met her eyes fully, her expression open, revealing everything. Struck by a powerful sense of deju vu, the older woman tipped her head to the side and knit her brows, working to put her finger on the feeling.
It was the eyes, Barbara finally decided. Helena's stunning blue eyes were heavy-lidded with trust... and openness... and want... in a way that the redhead hadn't known she was familiar with.
No, the older woman admitted; she had become quite familiar with the expression in the last few months. However, somehow, until this moment she hadn't realized that she'd seen it -- so many times before -- in her partner's eyes.
With the recognition came the memory of the first time she'd seen the expression. It had been less than six months after she'd left the hospital, and Barbara had been working mightily to keep things together -- or, at least, to present the appearance that she was. Accepting a world which had suddenly narrowed to limitations, acquiescing to the less-than-gentle handling by various therapists, embracing the sudden responsibility for a teenager who was in as much, if not more, pain than she was.
Her angry young ward had slunk in from school that afternoon, and Barbara had immediately known that something was wrong. The girl had attempted to duck by her, but the redhead's reflexes were still fast enough to snag one painfully thin wrist and coax Helena to turn. The sight she'd faced had been horrifying -- black eyes, split lip, bruises on top of cuts on top of scrapes. She'd ignored her ward's embarrassment, then her angry protests that she would splash some alcohol.
Somehow instincts she could never imagine having had shown themselves, and Barbara had gentled the girl, leading her to the kitchen table to tend to her injuries. She'd made a conscious decision not to ask about the altercation -- somehow, she'd had a suspicion that she might hear about it from the school later -- and focused carefully, one cut and scrape at a time.
When she'd looked up at some point, there it had been: blue eyes fixed only on her, filled with perfect trust and something she'd only allowed herself to see as expectation.
Or, perhaps, anticipation.
With a blink, the redhead understood that she'd seen the expression countless times since and, somehow, for years, missed it.
Her insight must have shown, the redhead realized, because her bedmate exhaled slowly, not bothering to respond to a question for which there could be only one answer.
"When will you trust me, Red?"
With a start, Barbara felt a curtain slide shut between them: not a heavy blackout curtain like those which covered the bedroom window against the morning sun, but something translucent which offered tantalizing, shady images from behind.
It took the analytical woman a few seconds to recognize that the obscurement had come from within. A split-second later, she noticed that her partner was unsurprised.
"If you can't trust me on sweeps..."
The redhead saw a muscle in the younger woman's jaw tic before Helena's voice turned impossibly more ragged
"... if you don't trust me--"
Almost desperately, the older woman wanted to interrupt... to protest... or to explain. She forced herself to allow the brunette to speak her piece.
"-- then how can you... we share --"
Dark brows furrowed, dark lashes almost hiding the pain in bright blue eyes when a slender hand gestured towards the older woman's midsection.
"Helena, no. I do--"
The protest was cut short when the lithe figure suddenly rolled over, gracefully straddling the older woman's hips, and shook her head once. Even in the dim light, Barbara could see a dawning awareness in those expressive features.
"It wasn't about the second robber at all, was it?"
Befuddled, yet again, and possibly suffering from conversational whiplash, the redhead blinked. Several times.
"I'm sorry, Helena. I missed something."
The younger woman leaned down, her hands coming to rest on the matress above Barbara's shoulders.
"The convenience store before graduation?"
Still at a loss, the older woman nodded once, signifying that she knew which incident Helena was referring to. The brunette straightened, taking her weight back on her knees, and canted her head to one side.
"You weren't upset about that, the second robber, were you?"
Crimson brows inched toward the headboard.
The younger woman nodded, her voice suddenly calm and certain.
"It was The Joker. That it was so close with him, wasn't it? You still don't trust me not to fuck up and get dead, do you?"
The question was deceptively normal, almost philosophical, Barbara thought, however she couldn't -- wouldn't -- dismiss the seriousness of her partner's concern. Accordingly, she gave herself a few minutes to examine the accusation honestly.
Was that it? After all of these years, did she really still distrust her partner's judgment?
Green eyes lost focus, tracking toward the pillow on the older woman's left, and Barbara replayed some of the more notable events of their after-hours vocation. Slowly, she refocused on the blue eyes which regarded her so patiently and shook her head.
"No, Helena, I don't think that's really it."
The obstinate denial in blue eyes was hardly unexpected, but the redhead still wondered how -- or if -- she could explain it.
"Hel, in the life we lead, there's always a chance..."
Barbara felt her features harden and plunged ahead.
"...a very good chance that something could go wrong. I've known that since before you went on the streets."
She gave herself a breather, reaching down to tangle her fingers with her partner's hands.
"That reality is something which I can --"
Eidetic memory notwithstanding, the cyber-genius still had to search for the best word.
"... handle because I trust your abilities, your skill."
And our luck, a part of her added as the younger woman nodded, question evident in her eyes.
"I think," Barbara finally allowed, recalling a painful conversation she'd had with Dinah a month before, "what truly terrifies me, Sweetheart, is that I don't trust myself to deal with what I'd do if something did happen."
Having bared the truth, the fiercely independent woman fell silent, allowing her companion to digest what she'd said and attempting to come to terms herself.
Mixed, she decided after prodding at her feelings over the admission: her reaction was decidedly mixed over the insight that she wasn't the independent, moral rock she'd prided herself on. In truth, she probably hadn't been from the moment she'd seen a cocksure teen with attitude to spare interrupt her class years before. She definitely hadn't been since awakening in a hospital bed to find blue eyes fixed on her in supplication... and in promise.
Seeing her partner's features clear, the redhead blinked against something hot in her own eyes and smiled a bit shakily.
My, but these hormones were going to be fun, weren't they?
Ever-so-slowly, gently, Helena disentangled their joined hands and lowered herself to stretch on top of the redhead. Pinned by the slight weight of the smaller woman, Barbara realized that she was finally able to draw a deep breath.
"Can you trust enough for this?"
A warm hand brushed against the redhead's abdomen.
The older woman shivered at the question rumbling against her ear, at the import.
The click of the clock radio interrupted her.
It was an unpleasant way to greet the first day of vacation, however Barbara had deemed it necessary to insure that they had time to reach the airport for their flight to meet Dinah and Gabby.
Sunspots cast a glare in my eyes
Sometimes I forget I'm alive
I feel it coming and I've gotta get out of it's way
I hear it calling and I come cuz can't disobey
I should not listen and I shouldn't believe but I do
The radio also, the relentlessly practical woman realized with a flash of clarity, provided an opportunity to reconsider her words, to focus on realities.
She turns me on
She makes it real
I have to apologize
For the way I feel
And nothing can stop me now
There is nothing to fear
And everything that ever was
Is inside of here
Barbara felt a smile taking control of her face and combed her fingers through the dark silk resting by her cheek.
"I have to, Helena. And..."
She tugged gently, needing to connect with her lover's eyes.
"...we already are a family."
A bright smile lit expressive caramel features, and Barbara pushed up with a laugh, flipping back the covers.
"In fact, let's go rejoin our family now."
Return to Birds of Prey Fiction
Return to Main Page