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.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
The clink of metal hitting the heavy wooden counter, followed by the ringing sound of a coin dancing down the bar, caught Helena's attention first. The twinkle of the spinning golden Sacajawea dollar distracted her for a moment before the flash of red hair from the far end of the bar filled in the pieces.
Immediately, she forgot all about the auburn-haired looker over in the corner booth.
The young woman -- the thick glasses and the required book beside her on the table screamed grad student -- had been scoping Helena out for most of the evening. It had only been about an hour before that the brunette had decided that she might be up for something after shift and had started returning the woman's attentions. Deliberately, she'd caught the woman's eye, then had raked her gaze down her torso and slowly back up. Deciding that she liked what she'd seen, she'd licked her lip and arched an eyebrow in question.
The barely perceptible nod she'd received had been enough; for the last hour, they'd exchanged smouldering looks as Helena's body had begun to thrum in anticipation.
But, it didn't matter; there would be others. There were always others.
Right now, she had the real thing right in front of her.
Still, she was a bit surprised that she'd not sensed her benefactor's presence sooner; even if it was pitcher night and The Dark Horse was filled to the rafters with the usual raucous frat crowd, it wasn't right that she hadn't sensed Barbara's arrival.
Shrugging it off, Helena allowed a grin to turn up the corner of her mouth. She deliberately ignored several frantic calls for more pitchers and snagged the coin as she approached her friend and former guardian.
"Not that I'm complaining..."
She draped a bar towel over her shoulder and walked the coin through her knuckles.
"-- but most of these folks wait to tip until after they've been served."
She decided that the words 'if then' didn't need to be voiced. The crowd in the bar spoke for itself.
Barbara's answering chuckle was clearly audible, striking her as always with the force of fingers trailing across her torso, lips teasing across her breasts.
And that was when, naturally, the usual reaction to Barbara's presence kicked in: the fluttering anticipation in the pit of her stomach; the empty ache in her throat; the leaden pulsing between her...
Of all the gin joints in all the world, she had to come into this one.
Helena screwed up her mouth at the thought, then, aware of how very, very observant her friend was, worked for a slightly less pained expression.
It wasn't like she hadn't... didn't keep trying. Like she hadn't been fighting it for years: maybe from the first time she'd seen the new English teach roar into the New Gotham High parking lot on her bike; probably from the time that she and Babs had become family, after the older woman's shooting and the murder of her own mother; for certain by the time they'd embarked on their joint venture to protect the streets of New Gotham.
"So, what can I get you?"
Casual. She'd just keep it casual.
"Surprise me, Helena."
The words seemed to carry a level of meaning that Helena just didn't want to think about. Warm and inviting, bringing to mind turquoise water and soft white beaches and sweet drinks with names like "Sex on the Beach" or "Screaming O--"
Shaking her head once, hard, from side to side, the brunette reached under the counter and brought out a heavy cut-glass decanter, pouring a stiff three fingers that she placed on a coaster with a flourish.
"Blue agave. The good stuff."
From beneath her lashes, she watched the flare of Barbara's nostrils when she sniffed the contents, willing herself not to imagine the redhead scenting... other things. She didn't try to hide her appreciative grin when Barbara raised the glass in salute and then downed the contents neatly.
"So, what brings you here, Babs? I didn't think we had anything going on toni--"
A slim hand rose from settling the tumbler on the counter, palm out, and Helena cut herself off.
"Relax, Helena. It's not anything related to business."
Helena nodded and considered prodding a little more. Still, even Barbara's presence couldn't distract her from the increasing din of last calls. Rolling her eyes in apology, she turned to handle the rush, reassured by the answering upturn of cherry lips that Barbara wouldn't be disappearing on her.
As she worked, the brunette *felt* something, almost a physical touch, from the end of the bar. Sparing a glance -- Not like slinging beer required much concentration -- she was startled by the fixed concentration Barbara was directing at her.
Almost like the redhead was afraid to let her out of her sight or something.
With a mental shrug, she slid a final pitcher down the bar for the Kappa Alpha boys and strolled back to the other end.
"They're assholes, but they tip really crappy," she offered lightly.
That earned her a quick smile.
"It's closing time."
Again, Barbara's voice was low.
A refrain from Matchbox Twenty's song on that subject -- a bane of barkeeps everywhere, right up there with the theme song from "Cheers" -- whispered through Helena's mind, and she ruthlessly pushed it aside.
She'd known for a long time who she wanted to take her home.
But, like her mom had always said, wanting and having were two very different things.
"So, what's up, Red? I can't believe it's the ambience that brought you down here."
Still waiting for an answer, Helena poked her tongue in her cheek, trying to remember the last time Barbara had come down to her workplace. She gave up on her little mental exercise when something else caught her attention: the tick of neatly blunted nails against the empty tumbler.
Barbara was nervous about something.
Sure, the redhead looked all calm and cool, and she was sure as hell focused with more than her usual intensity.
Realizing once again that the focus of that intensity was directed at... well, her, Helena wadded up the bar towel and tossed it into a corner.
"You wanna talk?"
Barbara's nod came so fast that Helena almost stepped back. She covered the near-flinch by fishing the dollar coin from her pocket and extending it in her palm.
"Heads, clock tower," she offered with a grin as she tossed the coin into the air. "Tails, we head up to my place."
She'd figured that the dare would get her a laugh since the one time Barbara had come up to her apartment had been the only time. It had been right after Helena had moved in; and, maybe it had been all the packing boxes or the lack of furniture or... well, the way she'd kind of abruptly announced that she was moving out of the tower, but the redhead had made it pretty clear that she wasn't real comfortable there.
But, once again, the older woman caught her off balance.
There was no laughter, only that intense focus before Barbara shot out a hand and snatched the coin from midair. Narrowing her eyes, Helena easily caught the gold coin when, without so much as a glance, Barbara tossed it back.
Somehow, Helena managed to keep her jaw from hitting the floor, merely ducking under the pass-through and heading toward the back of the bar. The soft hiss of the wheels of the chair needlessly confirmed that Barbara was right behind her. With a mental prayer that the freight elevator would make it up one story, the brunette pulled down the gate, and the two faced the door together in a silence that was far from comfortable.
Hell, the brunette was pretty certain that comfortable was on a whole other planet.
The old freight elevator creaked and groaned, taking its sweet time. By the time it lurched to a stop, Helena thought that, if she'd been wearing one, she would have checked her watch at least twice. Still, she pushed aside her nervousness and yanked the cage door back.
"After you, Red."
During the six-foot journey to her door, she frantically worked to remember just what state she'd left her apartment in. Finally, giving a mental shrug, she unlocked the door and stepped back in invitation.
"Welcome to Chez Kyle."
It wasn't like Barbara hadn't seen her room plenty when she was a teenager.
"S'cuse the mess."
Immediately, the brunette wanted to smack herself. She resisted the urge, instead heading directly to the kitchen.
"Pelligrino okay with you?"
She took the other woman's murmur for agreement, emerging from the small kitchen a moment later to find her guest with her head tilted, an expression bordering on a grimace marring her features at the sound of the juke blaring from downstairs.
"Busboys crank it a little during clean-up," she offered, extending a glass of sparkling water.
"I'd think," the redhead nodded her thanks as she accepted the glass, "that with your hearing the noise would drive you wild."
Helena dropped onto the couch and crossed her feet on the battered coffee table.
"After living with that clock ticking, nothing gets to me."
She relaxed the tiniest bit at the older woman's smile and leaned to the side, lightly clinking her glass against Barbara's before taking a sip. As the music segued from something loud to something loud with a really heavy bass beat, she had to notice that Barbara wasn't so much drinking as just... fiddling with her glass.
She forced herself to hold her tongue, wondering what had her friend so rattled. As she waited, she let her eyes caress the older woman's features -- the pale, smooth skin of her cheeks; the sharp angle of her jaw; the arch of her throat -- wishing that, just for a moment, she could touch, could breathe the scent of her skin, sample the taste that she knew -- *knew* -- would be like no other.
With a guilty start, she forced herself to look up, relieved beyond measure to find that the redhead was still inspecting the ordinary water glass that she was clutching for dear life.
" 'Sides," she finally heard herself continuing in the face of the older woman's silence, "if it gets too bad, I go down and feed the juke from the tip jar for songs I like."
Mentally rolling her eyes, she decided on a verbal nudge.
"You know, like 'The Sound of Silence'?"
She forced herself to stop talking, hoping that Barbara would finally give her a clue.
Long association had brought with it the realization that her partner liked to play things close to the vest, but this was ridiculous.
Still, the silence stretched on, green eyes darting between the glass of water that Barbara still clutched and Helena's own hands. Tracing those slim fingers with her eyes, Helena followed her guest's arms up to her shoulders, unable to miss how her mint green cotton sweater hugged her in all the right places.
Funny, though, how she'd never noticed that it wasn't really a good color for the older woman's pale skin tone. Of course, the neon from the Dark Horse sign outside her window didn't do much to flatter any color.
With a sigh, Helena bit the bullet.
"So, what's up, Barbara?"
Another long swallow cooled her throat. Barbara's next words outdid the effect, bringing with them the sensation of liquid mercury to her belly.
It was a feeling Helena didn't have often, but she knew it: pure, cold fear.
"I know, Helena."
As calmly as possible, Helena settled her glass on a battered copy of People, not caring that the condensation might forever leave her in the dark about Jennifer Aniston's latest romantic troubles.
Her belly was still cold, twisted, kind of like that time she'd drunk a Super-Bladder-Buster Lemonade Slushee in one super gulp one summer afternoon. In fact, like that notable moment from her childhood, throwing up seemed like a pretty good option right now.
She needed to think. To move... pace...
Hell, jump out the window and hide on the rooftops of her city.
Instead, she managed a chuckle.
"Well, fuck, you know a lot of things. You're the freakin' Oracle of Delphi for the Twenty-first century, Barbara."
That didn't even get her a smile.
"You know what?"
She didn't know how she did it, but Helena heard her question come out calm, almost casual, and she gave herself a mental high-five.
Hell, no need to panic. It could be anything: the fact that she knew Dinah had put a scratch on the Hummer last week; something about the little pot stash she'd kept in the air register of her room during high school...
Come to think of it, she was pretty sure that that little secret had come out a few years ago, during one of their all night tequila shooters and video marathons.
The brunette cracked the knuckles of her right hand, then shook her wrist.
Still, it could be nothing more than the fact that she was carrying a balance on her Visa since she'd gone a little large for Barbara's birthday the month before.
"How you feel."
So much for those possibilities.
The brunette focused on a water droplet sliding down the side of her glass, wondering just what she'd done that morning to fuck up her karma for the day. Peripherally, she saw her guest shift in her chair and realized the error of her ways: the older woman was probably taking her silence for confusion.
"How you feel about me."
No way to misunderstand that.
Keep it loose.
Keep it loose.
"Okaaaaaay -- "
Helena realized that she was drawing the word out way too long and snapped her mouth shut. She reached for her glass, then stopped and met her partner's green eyes.
"So, uh, practically speaking, Barbara..."
She searched for just the right way to put it, a turn of phrase that might help them both out of this.
She managed to quirk the corner of her mouth; even worked in a little shrug.
Like lusting after... loving... wanting... your best friend and former guardian was No Big Thing.
Barbara's response didn't do a lot to help out.
"You've never said anything, Helena."
True enough. It wasn't like she'd been planning to either, and, hell, about now she was half-suspecting that she was in the middle of some Big Fantasy Dream.
The other half figured that she was about to get one of those, "I'm sorry, but..." speeches.
That's when she felt it.
Sensed it really.
Barbara seemed to stay calm -- as calm as she'd been since she'd just appeared at the bar -- but Helena clearly heard her heart rate treble.
She heard Barbara swallow and narrowed her eyes.
"...I don't believe that you know -- "
The words were precise.
Very, very precise.
Helena just had time to wonder about that when she comprehended the rest of the speech.
"-- how I feel about you."
Babs was scared.
Scared enough that she'd been practicing.
Helena swallowed -- hard -- and waited while the older woman finally sipped from her water.
"That I... "
Color flooded those elegant features, and instantly Helena's urge to protect came to the fore. Before she could interject, say something funny or calming or... anything, Barbara was speaking again.
"... I reciprocate your feelings."
The brunette slowly shut her mouth and gave her brain a second to catch up. When she grasped the significance of the words -- Hell, for the redhead, it was practically a love sonnet -- she wondered if she was falling off her own couch.
There had to be some reason the room was spinning.
"You -- You feel like I..."
She couldn't find -- or say -- the words, but the slow, certain nod from the other end of the coffee table was enough.
"Very much, Helena."
Scrubbing at her eyes with the heels of her hands, Helena saw some of the tension leaving Barbara's shoulders.
Like, now that she'd said her piece, she was okay with it.
Not feeling remotely like any of her tension was leaving, she dropped her feet to the floor, her favorite boots hitting the hardwood with a satisfying thump.
Could she click her heels three times and she'd be back in Kansas?
She still couldn't quite believe they were having this inane conversation rather than tap-dancing around it or denying it or...
"Why not now?"
"Dammitall, Barbara --"
Helena shook her head roughly and squeezed her eyes tightly shut. Counting to ten, she cracked her knuckles then, relatively sure that she'd be presenting her usual blue, finally met the other woman's eyes.
"Why not before? Sooner?"
Half-wondering if Ashton Kucher was about to jump out of her bathroom, video camera at the ready, and inform her that she was being punked, Helena watched Barbara steeple her fingers and knit her brows as if the question hadn't occurred to her.
Despite herself, she felt a warm swell of affection crawling through her chest: for someone who was so incredibly bright, Barbara really could be totally clueless sometimes.
"It's -- difficult to -- "
Color was creeping up the other woman's face; her words were almost strangled. Again, that damned urge to protect, to soften the blow, jumped up.
Barbara had never made any bones about not *doing* emotions, and this was waaaay new territory.
Still, Barbara had flung back the curtains on this little heart-to-heart, and Helena wasn't going to cut her short.
When green eyes finally rose from an inspection of the floor, Helena felt her heart trip-hammer.
"Certainty or -- "
Finally, the redhead seemed to relax a little, offering a soft laugh.
"-- or, perhaps the lack thereof."
Helena slouched back against the threadbare cushions of the couch when she saw her begin to tick things off in her head.
"It took a while to see, to understand. And, the timing has been difficult."
She was a little surprised to hear her own voice but, after a second, decided that she was entitled to a few questions.
"The... the attack on the tower."
Well... Just, crap.
She fought the urge to drop her head in shame and nodded.
"I didn't know if... either of us was ready."
The silence that followed as they regarded each other wasn't nearly as bad as the ride up in the elevator.
"Then, there's Dinah."
The brunette sat back up, feeling her eyebrows disappear under her bangs.
"Di--? What about the Kid?"
She decided that her best friend's laugh was what writers might have described as 'rueful'.
"Well, I hadn't expected to be a mother hen again when our newest chick arrived."
The words were factual, but Helena saw how tight Barbara's smile was.
"Well, let's just say that raised a few Jocasta issues."
Helena felt her eyes narrow and nodded slowly.
She'd known -- just fuckin' known -- when she'd brought the Kid home that it was gonna be --
A hand coming to rest on hers cut short that train of thought. As always, Barbara's touch was electric, raising goose flesh in its wake.
"And don't go there Helena. You know that you love her."
The brunette forced herself to grin, then sobered when Barbara removed her hand and fisted both hands in her lap.
"In fact, I'm still not sure how to... integrate this with... with our other lives."
Damned near dizzy -- was there such a thing as emotional whiplash? -- Helena raked a hand through her hair.
In the space of ten minutes, she'd had her most important and private dreams revealed; had gotten to revisit a few of her less shining contributions of the last few years; and she still didn't know where the fuck Barbara was going with this.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
It came out as rough as she was feeling, but Barbara didn't seem too put out. In fact, the redhead moved as close to the couch as she could, and Helena instantly scooted to the end, bringing them knee to knee.
"I've never had much success with relationships, Hel. I don't want to hurt us."
Once more, Barbara's words were precise, factual.
Helena slowly shut her eyes, fighting what she knew must be coming.
It wasn't like she wasn't scared shitless of the same thing, like she hadn't been afraid to say anything for the same reason. Barbara -- everything they *did* have -- was too important to risk on...
"S'alright -- " she managed before she realized that the other woman was still speaking quietly.
"And, I can't allow us to become distracted in our other work."
Something flickered weakly in her chest at that -- could have been hope -- and Helena pried open her eyelids and met her partner's eyes.
"I've been afraid to... ruin things all around, Helena."
Without thought, she reached for her friend's hand, squeezing softly. The answering pressure was both reassuring and... something else entirely.
Needing to relieve some of the older woman's nervousness -- and her own spiraling tension, Helena decided to shift the focus a little bit.
"So, uh, how long?"
The completely blank look she received was utterly Barbara.
Man, she had it bad.
"How long have you known that I'm in love with you?"
That pretty much put it all out there.
"There wasn't a single illuminating moment, Hel."
Helena Kyle was pretty certain that pugnacious wasn't her best look -- at least her best romantic look -- and so she tried to disguise her frustration with a laugh.
"Eighteen months. Give or take."
"How'd you know?"
She didn't know why it was so important to know, but...
"I was with -- "
She saw something flash in the other woman's eyes, and suddenly breathing was kind of hard.
"...Wade, and I started noticing the difference in how he treated me and how you've always treated me."
The memory was still too fresh, too raw.
"Quinn probably didn't hurt."
The instant the name crossed her lips, Helena wished she could snatch it back. Still, the redhead managed a slow nod.
"She undoubtedly played a rather important role."
Helena nodded and then, maybe her brightest move in the conversation so far, decided to keep her mouth shut.
"That's -- "
The redhead blew out a long breath, and again that tiny flickering, wriggling bit of hope tickled at Helena's chest.
"That's one reason I need to..."
Bleakly, she watched when Barbara removed her hand, knotting her hands together in her lap. Still, somehow, she kept her voice gentle.
The other woman wouldn't meet her eyes -- never a good sign. Undeterred, she ducked down to search her face.
"It's okay, you can tell me."
Time seemed to slow, to stretch out like taffy being pulled or strings wrinkling in space. Oddly, Helena realized that she wished they were at the Clock Tower: at least there the ever-present whir and hum of the gears, the jump of the big hands, would prove that she hadn't been frozen in time.
"-- try to integrate this gradually."
Barbara's lips pursed in a smile that was forced at best, and Helena felt her forehead wrinkle.
She waited patiently when those emerald eyes searched her face. When Barbara spoke again, her words were clipped again.
"It means keeping focused on business when we're on the clock."
Slowly, Helena nodded and let it sink in.
Barbara had thought a lot about that, but it wasn't the 'no' Helena had been steeling herself for.
"And, Helena, I -- "
The smile she felt trying to claim her lips ran for cover when her partner faltered.
"I'd prefer to have things more settled before we, er -- "
Geez, could Barbara get any redder?
"-- inform Dinah that, if..."
The flutter of long fingers suggested that Barbara had reached her limits. Helena chewed at the inside of her cheek for all of a second before she unfettered the hope fluttering within her.
After all, Babs was talking like it really could...
"So," she leaned in, "how's this supposed to work then?"
Red lashes fluttered, and she saw -- heard -- her friend take a long breath.
"Hopefully -- "
Barbara's slow smile was pure invitation, and the remnants of cold fear in Helena stomach were immediately pushed aside by thick, molten heat.
"-- it means this won't be my last visit to your apartment."
Her stomach lurched, pulsing against her ribs before rebounding directly onto her clit.
Somehow, instead of leaping up to do a happy dance, Helena ran the tip of her tongue around the edges of her lips and returned the other woman's smile.
"So, uhm --"
Crimson brows rose, and this time Helena felt a blush moving to her face. And she just didn't *do* the whole blushing thing.
In all of her daydreams -- and nocturnal fantasies -- it hadn't gone quite like this. No careful, linear discussions and rationales and ...
Well, it was always more -- nonverbal.
Of course, she should have realized that, where Barbara was concerned, there was always gonna be talking.
"So, now what?" she finally blurted out, a bit aghast at the hint of accusation in her tone.
Mercifully, the other woman didn't notice or didn't care. Green eyes seemed to hold a glint of amusement, but Barbara was gentle -- oh so gentle -- when she reached out and took her hand, drawing it to her lips. Helena shivered -- damned near imploded -- at the warm breath that ghosted over her fingertips.
"I was rather hoping that I could make love to you, Helena."
The oxygen in the room got very thin in a hurry, but with all of the blood in her body rocketing straight to her center, Helena didn't give a damn. The sensation of warm lips against her fingers, the briefest flicker of wet heat from the other woman's mouth, forced her to grit her teeth against the moan that rose in her throat.
"Then, Helena -- "
Somehow, she forced herself to look up, just in time to see her fingers being drawn between those beautiful lips. Then, her world turned to golds and yellows when she felt the barest suction and heard Barbara's next words.
"-- I hope you'll allow me to do so again."
She couldn't keep her eyes open. As much as the naked want in deep green eyes threatened to undo her, Helena could only concentrate on the vibration of Barbara's words against her fingers.
"And then, Helena -- "
Finally, she swallowed and forced open her eyes, gently extricating her hand to trace the older woman's cheek.
"And then?" she whispered.
"Well -- "
Barbara was close now -- leaning close.
"Then -- "
Warm hands were in her hair, drawing her in.
"-- perhaps we can flip a coin."
The neon sign outside the window winked out, the sudden change in lighting casting Barbara's face into sharp planes and angles. Momentarily, Helena thought she even saw a golden halo under crimson hair.
A trick of her augmented vision.
Or, maybe she was tripping.
Pretty much indifferent, she rose from the couch and circled the coffee table. She saw, heard, Barbara turning her chair to meet her, and when she came face to face with the other woman, she stopped, uncertain.
The whisper raised the fine hair on the back of her neck, and the brunette swallowed roughly against the hunger beginning to claw at her throat. She couldn't read the inflection, but the word gave her direction.
She dropped to her knees in front of the redhead, resting her fingertips lightly on Barbara's jeans-clad knees. Although her palms itched to trace the slender lines of her partner's thighs, she bowed her head and remained still.
It took less than a second before, through her lashes, she detected the rough shake of red hair, and her hands were raised.
"I think not."
Barbara's voice gentled.
"Not like that, Helena."
She worked her jaw and looked up.
The parentheses at the edges of Barbara's mouth hinted at a smile, and Helena had no choice but to smile back.
She felt her top lip curl upward as she eased herself forward, settling herself lightly in the chair with Barbara. With her knees buried in the thick cushioning on each side of the other woman's thighs, she lowered her face to her partner's neck, breathing deep.
Her heart staccato-tapped, her rumbling purr tickling her ribs, her throat, her belly. Barbara's low murmur was almost lost under her moan.
With her lips mere millimeters from warm skin, something caught Helena's attention: a scent, tickling her nose.
Her quiet sniff must have been louder than she'd intended.
And, she was only an inch from Barbara's ear.
Barbara's laugh was a little awkward, and Helena pulled back to search green eyes that were banded by a thin rim of amber.
"I'm sorry, Helena. I was a bit edgy about coming over here, and I'm afraid I may have overcompensated with the body splash."
The brunette could sure understand the whole 'breaking a sweat' thing, but the thought of Barbara being that nervous was almost too much.
Quirking one side of her mouth, Helena leaned in and sniffed again, finally placing the fragrance: Oranges and ginger, long one of her partner's favorites.
"I don't mind."
She felt the other woman shift beneath her, couldn't miss the tension in her tone.
"No, I know it must be irritating to your--"
Already losing track of the conversation, Helena thought it was time to get the redhead back on track.
She accompanied the pronouncement by bringing her lips to Barbara's, the lightest caress but nothing more.
The word tickled over Helena's lower lip. Her thighs tensing, she breathed in syllables, detecting the tequila from earlier at the bar, something a little minty, and... heat.
Unable to hold back, she drew her mouth lightly across warm lips, tracing the contours and committing the texture to memory. Barbara's lips were firm, narrow and finely etched, but oh-so warm, so soft.
And, moments later, when they parted on a murmur, Helena discovered how very, very inviting they were.
When Barbara swallowed her ragged exhalation, Helena dug her nails into the padded arms of the chair. The solidity was reassuring, grounding, until she felt the other woman's warm invitation, and then she fell.
For an eternity, Helena lost herself in heat and warmth. She didn't breathe, didn't move, couldn't think. There was nothing but the spare union of lips and tongues dancing and twining, colors flickering and flashing behind her eyes, liquid heat smoldering in her veins.
However, when she felt Barbara move, when strong fingers raked up her back and wound through her hair with more urgency than gentleness, it all coalesced.
This was really -- *really* -- happening.
Somehow, Helena disengaged from lips that seemed melded to hers. Somehow, she kept from collapsing on her suddenly shaking arms. Somehow, she pushed back against the wiry arms that worked to hold her close, and she fixed green eyes with her own.
Relatively sure that she could hold her weight again, Helena accompanied her rumbling question by raising one hand to trace the scooped neck of the redhead's sweater. When she heard her partner's decisive answer, she realized that she might have been a little premature in trusting her muscle control.
Not to mention her self-control.
She wasn't quite sure how they made it to her bedroom, only that by the time they landed on the bed, her shirt was gone and Barbara's sweater was unbuttoned, revealing tantalizing glimpses of pale smooth skin. Still lost in the realization that mussed and half-dressed was an incredibly, incredibly, sexy look for the redhead, Helena heard her boots hit the floor and then realized that eager hands were at the waist of her jeans.
"Hey -- Oh... Yessss."
The warm mouth that brushed her chest was almost too much, and she desperately wanted to turn into the contact, to direct those soft lips to her aching breasts. The hint of sharp teeth against her skin, punctuated by what she knew was a wicked smile, brought her spine off the mattress as she thrust into the contact.
Green eyes that were almost preternaturally clear swam into view, and Helena licked her lips, preparing for an attack of her own. The seriousness in her lover's features stilled her limbs.
"What's up, Red?"
As carefully as she could, the brunette raised one shaking hand to brush the hair from her partner's face. The sensual droop of red lashes undid her resolve.
Without conscious thought, Helena wriggled down the bed, the scrape of Barbara's bra against her bare chest a delicious torture. Ravenous for the taste of the other woman, she buried her mouth against the slender column of the redhead's throat, and effortlessly turned them so that she came to rest above the older woman.
"God, Barbara -- I need -- "
The other woman's hiss just stopped her from breaking skin. Somehow, she tore her mouth away and pushed back, barely aware that her hips were rocking against the rough denim of Barbara's jeans.
A finger tapped playfully at her shoulder, and the brunette exhaled slowly. Somehow, she eased the coiled tension in her belly and managed a grin.
Barbara's answering laugh didn't do much to keep her passion below a boil, but it sure sounded good.
Warm fingers traced her eyebrows, and the brunette smiled again.
"Will you let me do the driving this time, Hel?"
Instantly, Helena hooked one ankle around the other woman's calf, easily turning them to reverse their position. Barbara's weight was so slight, yet her body so warm, that she could barely formulate her own answer.
"As long as you promise that I get a turn behind the wheel, Red."
Again, there was that throaty laugh and a smile full of promise.
"I'm very much counting on it, Helena."
Lightning seemed to spark through her at that, starting low in her belly and arcing outward: down her legs to curl her toes; up through her chest to bring her nipples to burning embers; down her arms to bow her palms outward.
"Put -- inthbank."
She thought she said something, but it didn't seem to matter. Nothing mattered because, finally -- after years of wanting without understanding, years of trying not to want, years of convincing herself that loving without being loved could be enough -- finally, Barbara was above her.
Finally, the fall of red hair was curtaining their kisses.
Finally, those elegant hands she'd watched at the keyboard for so many years were touching her.
Finally, she heard the bedroom whispers she'd dreamed of.
At least that's what Helena thought she heard, but with her skin ablaze and her nerves singing, she figured she could ask later. For the moment, there was only Barbara, touching her with careful deliberation, her mouth brushing the outside of her breasts, her hands whispering at the edges of her underwear.
She fumbled for her lover, wanting the connection, needing to return some of the thick pleasure coursing through her veins. The softest of whispers -- "Ah ah. Let me this time" -- forced her hands away, and she drew a shaky breath. There was another slow pass from her knee, up the inside of her thigh, neatly trimmed nails pulling at the tender skin just so, and Helena spread herself, her eyes imploring what her taut muscles were already asking.
A seraphim's smile was her answer.
That, and a warm tongue laving her stomach, unleashing a flock of hummingbirds when it toyed at her navel.
There was touch.
Heat and want.
Trembling and sweat.
Thrusting and need.
It was a bedroom voice, perhaps meant to soothe, perhaps to keep her hovering on the precipice. It was accompanied by Barbara's index finger glissading across her lips.
The silken touch caused something to flutter in the back of the brunette's mind, something that was suffused by bright need when a second finger joined the first at her mouth.
Washing the length of the two digits, she felt the older woman stiffen. Swallowing her own moan, Helena drew the fingers into her mouth, unprepared when her suckling was matched by a soft thrust.
Instantly, her spine bowed, her thighs trembling and her clit pulsing insistently, her whimper counter-pointed by Barbara's breathy whisper.
It was a promise, no longer a tease, and Helena moaned. Needing to hold on to something, she flailed for her headboard before remembering that she didn't have a frikkin' headboard and contenting herself with digging her fingers into the mattress.
Then the world turned white behind her eyelids, every muscle locked in a rictus of release, only her hearing remaining alert to the murmur at her hip.
It took a while to find the words -- hell, the oxygen -- to answer.
The brunette forced her eyes open and inspected the ceiling.
She was freaking exhausted, her muscles quivering like she'd just fought a dozen back-alley thugs. And, while things were still a little... hazy, Helena seriously couldn't remember a time when sex had ever been so... physical for her.
"You've done this before, right, Red?"
She turned her head and grumbled into the pillow as satin fingertips meandered over her back and hips, raising the fine hair of her lower back. The low chuckle she heard brought other areas of her anatomy, amazingly after what she'd just experienced, to attention again.
"No. Just inspired."
That did it.
Ennui vanishing, she rolled into a sitting position and wrapped her arms around her bedmate. Purposely, she pitched her voice low, hoping that the rumble of her words would tickle.
"Lemme inspire you s'more."
A firm push to her chest took them both back to the mattress, Barbara's chuckle tickling *her* skin.
"I'd like that, Helena."
The words were serious, and distantly Helena detected some of that same earlier precision in them.
How many times had Barbara had to practice, to go through...
Pushing that thought aside, Helena nuzzled the redhead's neck, allowing her hips to make a slow roll as warmth began to infuse her again.
"I think oranges and ginger are gonna be my new second favorite," she whispered between sampling the sweetly saline flesh under her mouth.
"S-- ss-- Second favorite, Hel?"
She raised her head and, making sure she had the older woman's attention, waggled her fingers before splaying her hand across Barbara's lower abdomen.
This time, it was her voice that was serious. Without lifting her hand, she trailed to the other woman's still firm thigh. Pushing back her own fear, resisting the urge to joke around the issue with questions about navigating and back-seat driving, she caught her lover's eyes.
"How much do-- Can you feel this?"
Green eyes held hers, and for a moment the brunette felt that cold ribbon of fear attempting to insinuate between them.
"Some pressure. Heat."
So charged had the moment been that it took a second. Then, Helena felt a grin quirking her lips.
"Heat, huh? Lessee what I can do with that."
Barbara's laugh trilled between them even as Helena began attacking the zipper on her jeans.
"I have absolutely no doubt of what you can do, darling."
One reason that Helena had always liked her apartment above The Dark Horse -- aside from it's proximity to the clock tower, the low rent, and the mice that sometimes crawled up from the storeroom -- was that it backed up to Leon's office on the east side of the building and ran across the narrow width of one side of the building. So, not only was the office behind her usually vacant whenever she was at home, but, with her bathroom on one end and her walk-in closet on the other, the only windows in the place faced west.
In a nutshell, after a night of kicking ass or pouring drinks or any other nocturnal activities, she was never bothered by that pesky dawn's early light that poets raved so much about.
This early morning, holding her soundly sleeping bedmate cradled to her chest, Helena lay awake, watching the streetlights of New Gotham wink out one by one. It was as sure an indicator as the rosy glow she suspected was peeking over the horizon on the other side of the building.
The night was almost over.
This amazing, unbelievable, earth-shattering night was almost gone.
Teetering somewhere between euphoria and depression, she buried her nose in mussed red hair and pressed a gentle kiss to the head resting on her shoulder. A soft snort was the only response for a few heartbeats before she felt her companion's upper body tense and green eyes flickered open.
She didn't need to see to sense the older woman's disorientation and so kept her voice low, light.
Instantly, Barbara relaxed into her. It was a good feeling, as was the realization that she'd never, in all of her years of catting about, ever greeted a partner in the morning.
She sure hoped it'd be happening a lot more.
For some reason, Helena had to blink against something in her eyes.
When her bedmate stretched against her, the scrape of firm nipples against her side distracted her from any maudlin tendencies. Barbara's first words finished the job, sparking the low grade arousal that she'd banked through the night.
"I was afraid I'd dreamed it all."
Helena shivered when the redhead pressed a moist kiss to her chest before continuing.
Helena opened her mouth, breathing shallowly against the hot weight suddenly pounding in her lower body. Somehow she managed to lie still despite her need to get *closer*.
"Dawn already, Hel?"
More pleased than she would have guessed by the grumpiness she detected in the short question, Helena turned a tiny bit and snugged the older woman closer.
"Yeah. School soon, huh?"
She didn't know if she was half-hoping that Barbara would do something completely uncharacteristic -- okay, something *else* completely uncharacteristic -- and call in, but her lover's reply was rewarding enough.
It wasn't so much the words that did it. It was the warm lips that grazed her collar bone, tightening her nipples. It was the soft fingers that played over her torso, causing her belly to clench.
Okay, those words did it.
Helena channeled the thrust of her hips into a quick twist to the side. Instantly, she wrapped her hands around Barbara's back and mated her mouth to the warm skin of her chest.
The beat of her lover's heart against her lips reverberated through her, cresting an insistent pulse between her legs. She allowed her eyes to close and leisurely brushed her cheek against the outer swell of a firm breast.
It was her own voice she'd heard, but the sensation of clever hands beginning to stroke her shoulders and back seemed like a good sign. Wrapping her lips around the taut peak, she stretched sinuously and feathered her palms against the redhead's sides.
Somehow, even lost as she was, Helena moved her hands with care. Hours earlier, when she'd finally begun to map her lover's body, she hadn't missed how the redhead had tensed up when she'd gotten close to the starburst scars that marred her torso.
"Verrrry nice, Hel."
Since her mom had taught her manners -- And what the hell was she doing thinking about her mom right now, anyway? -- Helena decided that some sort of reply was in order.
She timed the humming syllables to coincide with a shift to the redhead's other breast, however, before she could lose herself entirely, a chuckle that seemed self-satisfied and a bit wry distracted her from her leisurely explorations.
Curious, she looked up, amused by the amusement in the other woman's features. When soft fingers came to her mouth, she tilted her head into the caress, a low rumble of pleasure tickling her throat.
"Somehow, Helena, I simply knew that you'd be -- "
Barbara's tone was bemused, and Helena allowed herself to relax into the playfulness.
Nearly delirious under Barbara's soft stroking, she barely formed the words. The redhead's brisk reply snapped her back to reality.
"I suppose that the term orally fixated is a bit clinical."
Helena's bark of laughter was joyful. She followed it by rearing up with a leer to place her hands over the pert breasts that just fit her palms.
"Hey, I'm known for my manual dexterity, too," she groused with a waggle of her eyebrows.
The response was, Helena decided, kinda dry.
"So I noticed."
With Barbara's hands moving to her thighs, Helena rocked forward, sighing at the slow burning warmth moving through her. Still, there was something she needed to say.
"It's not -- "
Somehow, she caught those restless hands and drew them up, pressing a kiss to her partner's fingers.
An arched brow underlined the question. Suddenly feeling more exposed than her naked state warranted, the brunette lowered herself to wrap her lover in her arms, whispering her confession against the sharp angle of her jaw.
"I don't think it's an oral *or* a manual thing, Red."
A snort greeted that confession, and Helena smiled against soft skin.
"Well, not *just* oral and manual," she allowed. "I think I'm fixated on you."
Her eyes fluttered shut when gentle lips brushed her brow. For long, languorous moments, she listened to the steady beat of her partner's heart, feeling her own muscles and nerves thrumming in tempo.
"Are you certain that you're alright with things, Helena?"
The question was hushed, but the words carried that same precision that Helena was coming to recognize.
A restless shifting from beneath suggested that maybe she hadn't quite satisfied the other woman, and she pushed up on her elbows to make eye contact.
That earned her a smile, plus some eye-rolling that Helena thought was just a little dramatic for the hour of the morning.
Kiss-bruised lips moued, and Helena painted on her best hang-dog expression.
"-- Are you alright with keeping things here? With giving me some time to..."
One of the hands that had been so deliciously toying against her hip rose, gesturing nowhere in particular. Deciding to keep things easy, the brunette smiled and nodded.
"Just as long," she murmured into a delicate ear, "as you give me a little more time this morning to..."
She bumped her hips against the other woman's stomach to finish the thought. Considering how she'd been feeling for the last few minutes -- all night -- hell, for years -- Helena was unsurprised by her own reaction to the movement, but she had to admit that she was pretty happy with her partner's response: a rapid intake of air and the widening of green eyes.
The morning was just getting better and better.
Or not, she recognized sourly a moment later when the redhead planted both palms on her shoulders and pushed gently.
"As wonderful an idea as that may be, Helena,"
At least Babs sounded pretty sorry.
"-- I believe I need to pull myself together."
Somehow, just barely, she wiped the pout from her features as she pushed back the covers and extricated herself from the cocooning warmth.
Sitting on the edge of the bed, she hooked a toe into her underwear on the floor -- somehow untorn despite Barbara's best efforts the night before -- and pulled the garment to her. She tugged them up and grabbed a tee shirt that she dragged over her head.
"I'll, uh -- "
She raked a hand through her hair, and looked around the room, attempting to verify that Barbara's chair and her clothes were all within reach.
Really, just trying to look anywhere but at the beautiful woman wearing nothing but a sheet in her bed.
"-- just make some coffee."
With Barbara's murmur of agreement still humming in her ears, Helena set the kettle to boil and began spooning coffee into her French press.
How many tablespoons to make something that Barbara could stand a spoon in?
She settled on a half-cup of coffee.
As she poured two cups of boiling water into the unit, she easily heard her guest moving around the bedroom -- in an apartment the size of hers, no meta-human senses required -- and turned her attention to breakfast. Running through a distressingly brief mental inventory of her kitchen, she snagged two mugs and poured the coffee just as Barbara entered the kitchen.
"Here ya go," she extended one steaming cup, "Mud."
The older woman's smile was bright, and it seemed a helluva lot less forced than the expression she managed when Helena laid out the breakfast options.
"As nutritious as Pop-tarts or left-over pizza sound, Helena -- "
Unable to miss the twinkle in those acute green eyes, Helena felt herself grow warm.
Damn, she was really, really, gonna have to work on the whole morning-after thing.
"-- I believe I'll bypass the 'P' food group this morning."
Still feeling a little goofy over the realization that she really *was* going to need to work on her morning-after skills, the brunette didn't take offense. Likewise when her partner refused her offer to take her back to the tower.
"I'm fine, Hel."
Leaning against the arms of the chair just outside the entrance to the bar, Helena rumbled her pleasure when slim fingers brushed through her bangs.
"Why don't you go back to bed, Helena? This is a bit early for you, isn't it?"
She narrowed her eyes, then relaxed when she saw only affection in the other woman's features.
Point of fact, she was tired. For some reason, she'd not been able to... let down, even after the third time, even after Barbara had finally just sort of... faded off in her arms.
She nodded, then squatted, gently capturing her partner's hand in hers and rubbing the sharply delineated knuckles with her thumb. Marveling at the strength -- and gentleness -- of the fingers resting in her palm she almost forgot her purpose.
"Oh -- "
She looked up, squinting a little against the bright morning.
"Are you okay, Barbara? With --"
Oddly tongue-tied, she cocked her head toward the Dark Horse and managed a little smile.
"-- all this?"
Crimson lashes fluttered closed for a beat, and Helena swore that she could *see* the older woman replaying the last few hours behind her eyelids. When Barbara finally opened her eyes and met her gaze, there was no question about her answer.
Still, there was that edge of hesitation.
Smiling more broadly, she raised the hand in hers and pressed her lips to the back. She kept her gaze focused on the smooth skin right before her eyes, offering a modicum of privacy as she pressed.
"Still, there's something, isn't there?"
Barbara's slow sigh was barely audible.
Even to her ears.
"I'm realizing that it may not take as much time as I'd thought to put all of the pieces together."
Obviously, there couldn't be any question about her answer to that.
"All the time you need, Red."
With the taillights of the Hummer disappearing down the street, Helena bypassed the elevator, the stairs, and the entire bar on her way back to her apartment. Instead, she circled to the back and vaulted easily to the ledge of her kitchen window, slipping inside.
Energy to burn today.
Whistling through her teeth -- some old song by Katrina and the Waves -- she set the coffee mugs in the sink and headed to the bedroom. She moved on auto-pilot, picking up her clothing from where it had been tossed the night before and straightening the covers until...
There it was: a long red hair on the pillow.
Slowly, she lowered herself to the edge of the bed, then raised the pillow to her face. She buried her face against the worn cotton case, inhaling ginger... and oranges... and a scent she'd only dreamed of in her bed.
Grinning like an idiot, she fell backward on the mattress, still clutching the pillow in her arms while she kicked her heels against the bed in joy.
Helena punctuated her whoop of joy by planting her fist against a Cro-Magnon jaw. The behemoth's pained "ooooof" was straight out of the comics, and the dark vigilante grinned as she supplied the little lightning-jagged bubble that would go around the word. When she followed up with a roundhouse kick, again she mentally tossed in dramatic "Bop!" for effect.
There was no need to use her imagination to see the bits of teeth that flew from his mouth.
"You picked the wrong town, dude."
She leapt up, spinning in mid-air to push off the brick wall of the alley.
"And the wrong night -- "
The added momentum was, probably, not really necessary.
"-- cuz I'm a kick-ass dyn-o-mite!"
With the would-be mugger dropping like a bag of rocks, Helena finally came to a stop. The snort that echoed over the comms was soft, but she had no trouble hearing it.
Likewise the amusement in her partner's voice.
"Are we channeling Jimmy Walker tonight, Huntress?"
Busy snugging a pair of plastic riot cuffs onto meaty wrists, the brunette poked her tongue in her cheek, trying to remember whether Jimmy's George Bailey or Jefferson Smith had ever talked about kicking ass or being dyno--
Oh, wait. Wrong Jimmy.
"Well, you know, Oracle -- "
She gave the plastic fitting an extra tug.
"-- good times."
Barbara's chuckle tickling her ear, she straightened up and prodded at the limp hulk of a man with the toe of her boot.
Well, maybe not such good times for Muscles, here, but -- well, those were the breaks.
She heard fingers tapping at the keyboard.
<"I'll wait to dispatch New Gotham's finest until you finish our little project.">
Already back at the alley service door she'd been inspecting when her assailant had seen her and made a pretty stupid assumption that a lone woman in a dark alley was a lucky break, Helena nodded.
"Much obliged, Oracle."
Heck, this way, if she triggered the alarm on the way in -- like there was much chance of that -- the police might finger Muscles over there.
Whistling softly through her teeth, Helena dug into the pocket of her duster for the newest gizmo that Babs had been after her to try out.
Some kind of nanotube lock pick or something.
She fiddled with the unit for a few seconds, then gave up.
The response was instant.
<"Is everything okay, Huntress?">
Blue eyes balefully regarded the tiny cylinder in her hand.
"This frikkin' nano-pick thing keeps catching in the tumblers."
Although she figured that her partner's soft hum was meant to be thoughtful, it was way too close to the murmurs of encouragement she'd heard from Barbara only hours before. For a second, the dark alley and the semi-comatose mugger and her illicit break-in attempts simply... disappeared, and Helena was flooded with a rush of images.
Tangled sheets wrapped around flushed skin.
Mussed red hair wound through her fingers.
The tan skin of her hands splayed across pale thighs.
A long neck arched in pleasure.
<"You may need to lube the channel before inserting the bit.">
Well, *that* little bit of advice sure hadn't helped her situation.
She couldn't help it. She really couldn't.
When she slid the unit into the lock again, she heard the leer in her voice.
"I think I know just what's needed to access a channel, Oracle."
Barbara's tone was all "upright teacher", but Helena heard the amusement.
The door clicked open softly, and she slipped inside.
"Yup. I'm in."
Again she heard typing and figured that her cyber-genius partner was trolling for any alarms she might have set off. Accordingly, she waited, motionless, by the service door until that whiskey voice purred again.
"Somebody's certainly feeling her oats tonight."
Unable to let a bit of entendre pass her by, the brunette waggled her eyebrows and moved into the storeroom at the back of the store.
"I'm feeling something, Oracle."
And, boy, was she. All morning, all afternoon, all freakin' evening: Helena had been bouncing between disbelief and delirium.
Barbara's retort took her back down to diligence.
<"Mind on the mission, Huntress.">
The rebuke didn't bother her.
Hell, Red was right.
"Y'know," she ventured a few moments later when she let herself into the store owner's tiny office, "isn't it too much of a cliche to have a money laundering operation in an actual dry cleaning store?"
Seemed like it oughta be against union rules or something.
<"Just take a look, Huntress. Bank records show an awful lot of crisp fifty dollar bills coming from this store.">
The brunette rolled her eyes at the brisk response.
Apparently, Babs wasn't so much with the irony thing this evening.
In what she thought was a display of tremendous forbearance, Helena kept her answer to a grunt. She methodically rifled through the office, circled through the front, checked every machine in the cleaning area, and made her way through the storeroom. Within twelve minutes, she was back in the alley.
"Sorry, Oracle -- "
She negligently checked her prisoner, not surprised to find that he was still pretty out of it.
<"There was nothing, Huntress?">
Again, Helena couldn't help it. There just wasn't any way to pass up that kind of lead in.
She bounded to a fire escape.
"It was clean."
It was quiet -- really quiet -- but she heard it: a long, slow, steady exhalation across the microphone on the other end of the comms.
<"Well, thank you for checking, Huntress.">
Since she could almost hear Barbara rolling her eyes, she decided to give the cyber-genius a minute to fiddle with her glasses or rub her temples or whatever. Reaching the rooftop, the brunette brushed a bit of dust from the sleeve of her coat and glanced at the sky.
"So, uh, now what?"
It was still early; plenty of time to kick ass.
<"Hmm, everything seems quiet.">
Helena caught her lower lip in her teeth and nibbled at it. While she wasn't opposed to cutting things short -- especially if Babs would be wrapping things up on her end -- she figured that a little pro forma enthusiasm wouldn't hurt.
"Nobody else for me to bring to justice, Oracle?"
The dark vigilante stepped onto the low parapet at the edge of the roof. She faltered just the tiniest bit when she heard her partner's reply.
<"Sorry, Huntress, but no soap.">
Okay, so maybe she deserved that.
Relatively certain that she wasn't about to miss her footing and go ker-splat onto the streets below, she vaulted to the next building.
"Okay. I'll, uh, -- "
She *had* to see the other woman. Just had to.
"-- stop by and pick up more cuffs."
There. That was reasonable enough. Hell, it wasn't like most nights she didn't head to the tower after sweeps anyway for a snack or to debrief or to watch the big screen. It was just...
On the building adjacent to the clock tower, Helena halted her progress and took in the big face of the clock, the hands moving implacably onward.
Well, a helluva lot had changed in one night.
With that thought, she felt a smile split her face.
A heartbeat later, she landed soundlessly on the balcony and breezed through the French doors. Her ebullient greeting -- it involved further witty dry-cleaning references, of course -- died on her lips when she caught sight of who was ensconced on the couch.
Maybe that had been a little... acid.
Unable to miss the sharp look being directed her way from the Delphi platform, the brunette shrugged out of her coat and tried again.
"Uh, I meant, hey."
Somehow, instead of bounding over to Barbara and wrapping her in her arms, she moved to the end of the couch and gestured at the thick textbook in the teenager's lap.
"Whatcha working on?"
The blonde's smile was pure sunshine.
"Hi Helena. It's for a calculus test tomorrow. The entire senior class is being cross-evaluated with..."
Shit. Would the Kid never graduate from high school and move out?
With Dinah nattering on -- something about mean scores across all of the high schools in the state -- Helena allowed her gaze to travel to the other party in the room. Unsurprisingly, Barbara looked like she was deep in concentration at the Delphi, her glasses half-slid down her nose and her fingers moving gracefully over the keyboard. When one slim hand rose from the keys and moved to the mouse, Helena went dry-mouthed.
There was just something so fuckin' sexy about the curve of her wrist, the flex of the tendons in her forearm, the...
"... focus on the angles and then compute -- Helena!"
The brunette narrowed her eyes, fixing Dinah with a long look.
Maybe her less-than-total interest in normalized testing was showing; maybe the Kid was done anyway.
"If you're not interested, why'd you ask?"
The question was filled teenaged righteousness. Figuring that she'd done her part on the whole "polite and tolerant thing", Helena went with honesty.
"How would I know whether I'm interested until you started talking?"
Dinah's huff was pretty eloquent and mercifully brief for someone who usually couldn't stop talking, but Helena didn't care. She thought she heard the barest snicker from over by the Delphi; she was pretty sure she saw a smile dance over the redhead's full lips; and she was positive that she heard the muscles in her partner's neck pop when Barbara looked over and rolled her head to release some of the tension she always seemed to carry.
Without a backward glance, she left Dinah huffily gathering up her books and heading toward the kitchen and bounded lightly onto the platform.
"You shouldn't tease her so, Hel."
Feeling oddly tongue-tied, the brunette silently moved to stand behind her partner. She shook her hands at the wrists, then ran the tip of her tongue around the edges of her lips.
"Yeah, I'll work on that."
Barbara's chuckle was low, and it gave her the courage to rest her fingers on strong shoulders, to begin to work at the tight knots of tension under her fingers. She couldn't miss how her partner went stiff for a second, but she kept at it.
Her reward, when Barbara finally relaxed under her gentle massage, was a throaty exhalation that threatened to take Helena's knees out from under her.
The sound was just a few decibels and several levels of illumination off from the one the redhead had made when Helena had finally moved within her the night before.
It was hardly a whisper but it must have transmitted to the older woman. The sound of Barbara's chuckle -- hell, the feel of it through her fingertips -- didn't do much to ease the tension that was building in Helena.
"I suppose that I do carry a bit of stress."
Shaking her head, Helena managed a smile and exhaled slowly.
"You don't mind if I...?"
She allowed the brush of one thumb over a marginally less-knotted trapezius to finish the question. To her disappointment, her partner straightened her shoulders and reached for her glasses.
"Can't say that I do, Hel, but for now I need to focus on this."
At least the tone was light, and the words -- well...
Helena decided to take that as a positive sign.
Maybe... well, maybe it wouldn't be all business all the time at the tower.
"So, what are you working on?"
Not at all inclined to try to figure out which of the two-dozen open screens her partner was staring at, she circled to the side and parked one hip against the table.
"E-mail from Dick."
Helena thought she did a pretty good job, not making gagging noises and all, but, apparently, Barbara picked up on *her* tension.
"Relax, Hel, he's not coming for a visit."
Raising her right hand, she nibbled at a hangnail on her pinkie and considered that.
"Yeah, so, how is Richard?"
When her partner finally looked up from the screen, green eyes meeting hers, Helena came to attention. When Barbara spoke, she understood exactly what the earlier tension had been about.
"He's... concerned. Some of the officers on the BPD thought they saw Quinn in town."
Dammitdammitdammit... Just... Just hell.
Couldn't they even have a freakin' *day* before some psychopathic, sociopathic, super-villain reared up? And, not just *any* villain, but the one who had invaded their home the year before and tormented them and ...
"Fuck," was all she said.
The red head nodded once.
"Indeed. I'd rather hoped when she disappeared from Arkham last year..."
Helena nodded and finished the thought.
"That she'd stay disappeared."
The two shared a long look before Helena squared her shoulders and grinned.
"So, does Dick need me to come to Bludhaven to catch her for him?"
The gibe had its intended effect, and Helena almost preened when her partner smiled.
"I'll certainly ask him when I reply, Hel, but for now -- "
Those amazing hands rose to the keyboard, and the brunette figured that it was back to business.
"-- why don't you head out for the night? I need to finish a few things here."
Helena straightened, briefly flirting with the idea of some gesture, some... However, the sound of water running in the kitchen reminded her that, not only were they on the clock, but they were in the tower and very much not alone.
She hopped from the platform and retrieved her coat. Settling it over her shoulders, she gave in to temptation.
Bright green eyes fixed blue from over the rims of the computer glasses.
Helena swallowed, fought the urge to dig her toe into the rug.
Ah, screw it.
"Will I see you later?"
Barbara's smile was instant.
"Of course, Hel."
Floating on air, the brunette was almost over the rail of the balcony before she heard her partner call.
She froze, her heart staccato-tapping, and for one wild second she thought Barbara was going to call her back.
The words she heard were every bit as good.
"Don't forget the 'cuffs."
"I'm sorry that I was tied up last night."
Gathering up stacks of magazines and junk mail from her coffee table, Helena fought the urge to leer.
Or to pout.
Even though Babs had come by damned near every night for the last week, last night hadn't been one of them.
And, they still hadn't gotten to use the cuffs.
She tossed the mess of papers and magazines into the trash and looked over with a grin.
"No sweat, Red."
Hell, the older woman had even called her yesterday before sweeps -- she *still* wasn't comfortable with them making plans or anything at the tower -- so there wouldn't be any surprises. Still, after five amazing nights in the redhead's arms -- and hands -- the night before had felt mighty lonely.
Then tonight, since Barbara hadn't...
Well, since there hadn't been any indication of... anything, Helena had started getting a little paranoid, wondering if it was all getting to be too much for her straight-laced partner. So, when there'd been a tap on her door after she'd sulked home after sweeps, she'd been just a bit surprised to find the other woman sitting there, the handles of plastic take-out bags looped over the back of the chair, the distinctive aroma unmistakable.
"I'm just glad you came by tonight."
And her teachers had always thought she couldn't do understatement.
She turned to the kitchen to rustle up some plates and silverware, leaving Barbara to start setting styrofoam containers on the low table.
"How'd you know I'd be hungry?"
A snort was the only answer to that, and the brunette grinned as she bounded over the coffee table to park herself on the sofa.
"Alright, alright. When am I not hungry...", she laughed and extended a plate and a bottle of beer to her guest.
She saw the redhead regarding the bottle quizzically and shrugged, raising her own bottle of Pyramid apologetically.
"It's not Greek -- "
She nodded appreciatively toward the feast on the table.
"-- but I figured it would be close."
Barbara nodded decisively.
"It should be perfect, Hel."
Weirdly pleased by the approval -- like *she* didn't know beer or something -- the brunette started opening containers.
"Are you sure about this, Red?"
Peripherally, she saw a red head tilt to the side.
"What do you mean, Helena?"
Helena dug a spoon into the tabouleh.
"Are you sure you don't need another night? Take some time for, uh -- "
She looked up and waved the spoon loosely, indifferent to the bits of bulgar wheat that trickled onto the tabletop.
"Well, like you said, Dinah and Alfred aren't exactly dim bulbs."
The nervousness Helena had been trying to ignore ran out of her when Barbara didn't even look up from prying open her beverage.
"I don't believe I put it quite that way, Hel."
The brunette returned to plating their late dinner with a shrug.
Red had made it pretty clear that second night that she wasn't... ready.
Since then, Helena had been working *really* hard to keep things cool at the tower. Her apartment, on the other hand, was definitely a hot zone.
A pointed silence from across the coffee table somehow penetrated the deep bass beat of Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus" thumping from the bar below. Tamping down on the electricity running across her nerves caused by the sensory memories about just *why* Barbara might be looking a bit tired, Helena peered through her lashes, hoping that her face wasn't a completely open book.
Barbara had gotten her beer open and was fiddling with the bottle cap and, well, just sort of looking at her.
"Helena, you do know that I'm not trying to minimize or marginalize or -- "
She couldn't stand the embarrassment in her friend's face.
Without thought, she was around the table and bending close.
"It's okay, Barbara. Take all the time you need."
The other woman's smile was brighter than the garish neon of the sign outside her window. Her laugh filled Helena more than take-out ever could.
For a second or two, Helena remained fixed in place, just sort of grinning at her lover. Then, Barbara shook it off.
"For a feast like this -- "
Helena straightened, fighting a shiver at the playful tone that the other woman usually reserved for the bedroom.
"-- I believe we should both be reclining on couches."
It took the brunette a second to catch on, during which her guest set her bottle on the table and casually flipped her bottle cap after it. Helena watched it arc through the air, twinkling against the overhead light, before it spun and came to rest on the battered table. When she looked back, Barbara was waiting, her arms extended for a lift.
Damn, she was beautiful.
"I thought that was the Romans, Red," she laughed as she easily moved the older woman to the couch, "and I've only got one couch."
"I believe we can share, Hel."
Instantly, any lingering unease was gone. With Barbara settled beside her, their thighs touching and their elbows bumping companionably, there just wasn't any way not to feel good.
"Man, I love gyros," she managed around a healthy mouthful.
The glint of her partner's eyes -- the word "wicked" popped to mind for some reason -- should have warned her. But, she'd always been a sucker for Babs' sense of humor.
Helena felt one dark brow creep up under her bangs when her dinner companion leaned forward and very deliberately set her plate on the coffee table.
"Do you want to know what makes up the meat in these sandwiches?"
She finished chewing, then swallowed as she considered that.
"Nah," she finally decided.
Heck, even she knew what curiosity did for the cat, and she sure didn't want to ruin herself for gyros.
In the process of raising her sandwich for another bite, she froze when warm fingers rose to her face, brushing the corner of her mouth.
Probably had some tzatziki sauce there.
"What an absolutely appalling lack of culinary curiosity."
The words were a low burr. Barely hearing them, Helena turned into the touch, catching her lover's thumb in her teeth and sucking lightly.
Yeah, cucumber sauce.
"My interest -- "
Grudgingly, she released the digit, feeling a little lightheaded.
"-- runs to other kinds of tastes, Red."
That feeling that she was just about to end up face-first in her plate only got worse when she saw the tip of a pink tongue peek out, wetting bright red lips.
God, she wanted to kiss --
"-- the olive?"
Helena straightened back up -- Sheesh, she'd actually been leaning into Red's space -- and sucked in a lungful of oxygen. Then she replayed what she'd just heard and came up with a reply.
Okay, not her best repartee, but hormones plus proximity were clearly putting her at a disadvantage.
Still, it didn't look like Barbara minded too much.
"I asked if you'd like the olive?"
A slender hand motioned toward the open styrofoam container on the table. Unable to miss the playful glint in those amazing green eyes, Helena made a show of looking at the lone kalamata olive that garnished the hummus.
The ground chickpeas were mounded in the center of the little box. There was a small well in the center, filled with a tablespoon or two of olive oil that glistened slickly against the pale dip. At one end of the depression rested the dark olive, perched on end, partially buried in the soft paste.
Cocking a brow, the brunette grinned and retrieved the container.
"Yeah, I would."
She bent just a bit, holding her partner's eyes with her own. Slowly, she insinuated the tip of her tongue into the depression, sampling the sweet oil before wrapping her lips around the olive.
The redhead's murmur came as she sucked the dark fruit into her mouth.
"But, I'll share..."
Helena set the box back on the table as she worked the olive between her front teeth, neatly scoring it against the pit. When she was done, she retrieved the free half and extended it between thumb and index finger.
When Barbara's lips wrapped around her fingers, her eyes fluttered shut. Her heart thudded at the sensation of heat and suction, and her breathing --
Red lashes flew open, and Helena felt heat flooding her face as she spit the almost-forgotten pit into her palm.
"Sorry 'bout that."
Boy, was she sorry.
Barbara's laughter was bright.
"Do you need CPR, Hel?"
The brunette considered the offer, but ultimately the unsampled spread of food still on the table got the best of her.
"Not, uh, right now," she smiled hopefully and reached for the container of dolmas. "But, there's all sorts of other choking risks."
Barbara's hum of agreement felt really good when she slipped one of the unctuous delicacies between her lips. Her own vocalization when her partner returned the favor was, she thought, more of a purr.
Several bites of hummus-laden pita later, she felt herself break into a wide grin when a thought struck her.
She thought Barbara might have sounded a little more prim if she hadn't been sucking hummus from her own fingers at the time.
"Just thinking that I didn't really need to bring silverware out here."
Helena popped another olive into her mouth as the redhead made a show of surveying the mess on the coffee table. She almost needed to take her up on that earlier CPR offer when she heard her answer.
"Anything I can do to keep you from washing dishes in the kitchen and -- "
A warm hand came to rest on her thigh.
"-- have you out here close to me is certainly a bonus, Hel."
It was hard, but somehow she ignored the restless twitch of the fingers on her thigh. Somehow, she fought the heat blooming between her legs and gently laced her fingers with the other woman's. Somehow, instead of moving their clasped hands to the insistent ache at her center, she raised her lover's hand and pressed a soft kiss to the knuckles.
"Thanks for bringing all this, Barbara."
Then, feeling very, very lucky, and maybe just the tiniest bit reckless, she decided to press it just a little. Releasing her partner's hand, she leaned back against the threadbare cushion while making a display of loosening the drawstring of her sweats and patting her stomach.
"We should maybe do this -- "
She waved her hand casually at the remnants of their dinner.
"-- out sometime."
If Alfred and Dinah were merely "not dim bulbs", she knew that Barbara was a hundred-thousand watt spotlight. So, pretending like her stomach hadn't just knotted in fear, she snagged another triangle of pita bread and dragged it through the hummus.
No way she could miss the way one crimson brow slowly crawled toward her ceiling.
"Are you suggesting dinner out together, Helena?"
The other woman neatly rested her plate on a bare corner of the table. Feeling suddenly, abysmally, adolescent and awkward, Helena tossed the uneaten morsel onto the table with a shrug.
"Not, you know, anything fancy -- "
Since she could almost smell Barbara's sudden wariness, she worked for nonchalance.
Didn't want to spook her by suggesting that it was gonna be something like a date or anything.
"No Chez Gotham or anything, unless you want me to raid the cash register downstairs."
She grinned and fiddled with the ring on her index finger.
"Not like a date or anything."
Silence that probably didn't last as long as it felt like followed that. Finally, the red head cocked to the side.
"Why not a date, Helena?"
For a second, Helena just... froze and searched her companion's face. Deciding that Barbara wasn't just playing with her, she chewed at her lower lip and addressed her own knees.
"It wouldn't not have to be."
Well, that was smooth.
Mentally wincing at the hint of hopefulness that even she had heard in her words, Helena finally relaxed when she saw Barbara's cheeks dimpling. She held her breath as the redhead snagged a small square of baklava -- how had she missed those? -- and raised it in invitation.
Obligingly, Helena leaned to the side, accepting the honey-drenched pastry. She couldn't hold back the low rumble that escaped her chest when Barbara turned to her and dragged her fingers across her lips, then sucked her fingers into her mouth with a sin-filled smile.
"Ask me again, Helena, in a bit."
Somehow, the brunette managed to swallow the morsel that had dissolved on her tongue.
"Uh, sure thing."
Dry-mouthed, she reached for her Pyramid.
That had been subtle.
Barbara didn't seem to notice -- or care -- just moving herself closer on the couch.
Breathing got a helluva lot harder when soft fingers whispered across the exposed skin of her abdomen.
"When I don't need to be touching you whenever we're..."
Green eyes sought hers, somehow playful yet serious in their intent.
"... off the clock together."
That sounded pretty reasonable to her.
Hell, with satin fingers teasing at the recently loosened waist of her sweats, why was she worrying about dinner anyway?
Tucking away the idea of an outing for some later date, Helena fumbled to set her bottle aside, simultaneously arching her body into the mouth that was teasing her through her tank. When she thought she had the bottle on the coffee table, she let it slip from her fingers, only peripherally aware of a soft thud, completely indifferent to the fact that she'd missed and would be cleaning beer from her carpet in the morning.
"No... rush..." she managed, a little surprised by how weak her voice sounded.
Dilated green eyes swam into view.
"There is now."
The brunette swallowed, feeling the action all the way down her throat, to her belly... lower.
How did Barbara do that to her?
A decisive nod was her answer, but suspecting that there was more, she waited. She wasn't disappointed.
The whisper was hot against her chest, and Helena worked not to pant.
Hands feathered the sides of her breasts, and she struggled not to thrust into the teasing touch.
Instantly, her clit pulsed hard, insistent, and heat bloomed across her torso.
As much as her partner's big brain... and big vocabulary... and big sentences never failed to turn her on, Helena had to admit that Cavewoman Barbara wasn't so bad either.
Somehow resisting the urge to turn the tables and tackle her lover, to push her against the sofa and grind into her flesh, she lay still, twisting her lips into a sly grin.
When the other woman answered, Helena was glad that she'd controlled her first impulse.
"Everything that you don't want torn off later, Hel."
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