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.



Part 21

The kiss of sunlight across her face dragged Helena awake. Without opening her eyes, she knew.

She knew that she wasn't in her own bed.

She knew that she was wearing a tee shirt, not her own, a little small for her, that she'd pulled on before dropping, exhausted, into sleep.

She knew who it was sharing the bed with her.

After all of the last weeks, after sharing her bed and her body and, she'd thought, herself with Harley Quinn, there was no way she couldn't know.

Helena was on her side, facing the outside of the bed. One arm was under the pillow under her head, the other resting atop the slender arm embracing her waist. She was being spooned from behind, soft breathing ruffling the fine hair at the back of her neck.

It felt good.

Right, almost.

Giving in to the feeling, she allowed herself to drift a little, images of lazy house cats in sunny window sills sliding behind her eyelids. Bit by bit, however, her somnolence peeled away as physical reality encroached.

Firm breasts pillowed against her back, the thin cotton separating her from peaked nipples doing nothing to cool the heat tickling low in her belly. With her ass cradled against the other woman's lap, Helena almost thought she could feel the scratch of coarse hair through her underwear, against her upper thighs. She knew that she could scent their mingled heat and her own growing arousal.

It enflamed her.

And shamed her.

She still didn't know why she was here, why she'd given in.

She needed this.

That kiss yesterday afternoon in the coffee shop, that's what had done it. She'd had to know what was what. Once she'd decided though, Helena had given into it, her mouth molding to Quinn's, their tongues dancing, their breath mingling.

Quinn's murmur, maybe a moan, had forced her to pull away.

A few inches.

The chasm had revealed dilated brown eyes and Quinn's shallow breathing. Slender fingers had risen to spider across her jaw, red lacquered nails pulling deliciously against her cheek.

"Perhaps we should step outside, Helena."

There'd been no way to miss the attention they were getting from the other customers at the shop. Helena was no shrinking violet or anything, but she'd had to agree that a grope-fest at a coffee bar was a little much.

Not to mention who she was groping with.

She'd followed Quinn out to her Lexus, not sure just where she was headed.

What she was doing.

Quinn had directed her a little, leaning against the side of the car to face her. Somehow, clever hands had danced patterns up her arm, across her shoulder, down the placket of her shirt. At some point, Helena had allowed herself to be pinned against the conservative silver sedan, her hips moving of their own accord in tempo with the thigh pressed against her.

God. Damn.

She'd almost lost it right there, in front of god and country, in the very public parking lot of an ordinary little strip mall.


A sharp nip to her jaw had distracted her, and she'd pressed forward, grinding against the other woman's slender frame. The buttons on Quinn's suit had caught her nipples, her hiss drawing a moan from her partner.

"Yes, Helena, you know how good we can be."

She hadn't wanted to think about that. She hadn't wanted to think about much actually except her hands in spiky blonde hair, swift fingers at the waist of her jeans, her knee pushing Quinn's skirt up.

And how fuckin' wet she was.

"St-- Harley, stop. I need to..."

She wasn't sure what had gotten her back to her senses.

"I need to think."

The blonde hadn't pushed it. She'd just straightened her skirt, slipped a card into her hand, then stepped into her car and pulled away.

After that... well, the rest of the evening was a wash.

No way to deny it: Helena had been keyed up, her muscles twitchy, sparks almost jumping from her fingertips as she'd walked Quinn's card between her knuckles. She'd prowled through her apartment, trying to sort brown eyes from green, want from desire, fantasy from reality.

Not to mention, her role in it all.

Hell, if she even had a part in it... a place.

She'd kept looking at that damned business card that Quinn had given her, at the stylized harlequin mask in the corner.


*Problems solved*


She'd finally been roused to do something by the thump of Soft Cell's greatest hit coming from the bar below. It had taken three passes before she'd picked up her phone. Another five minutes of staring at the thing until she'd punched in the number.

Answering, unfortunately, had seemed instant.

"Hey. It's me."

She'd sucked in a breath.

"Can I come over?"

She'd heard the pleasure in the response. She'd thought there had been a hint of something else.

"Of course. I was hoping you'd call, Helena."

The purring dulcet voice had followed her out the window of her apartment and onto the roof. Once there, she'd checked herself, the smiling face of the moon tickling her conscience. Ultimately, she'd probably never had a chance.

There'd been a stiff three fingers of tequila waiting for her on a mahogany end table. A little distantly, she'd noted that the living area seemed oddly empty and sterile. The television had been turned to Animal Planet: something about snakes.

It had seemed appropriate.

Despite the hospitality, the evident thought put into the touches to welcome her arrival, Helena knew she hadn't been the best of guests. Sitting on the sofa together, seemed too damned... normal. Trying to find something inane to say when there was nothing she could say, too much a lie.

"Helena -- "

Somehow, she'd forced herself to turn, to meet eyes that seemed so concerned.

It had hurt.

"-- I hope you're not feeling guilty about earlier."

She'd started to deny or laugh it off or something.

But, Helena had never been a very good liar.

"It's hard."

She'd reached for her glass and downed the contents.

"Being here like this."

The response had been soft and certain.

"I know, but it will get easier."

And then... then she'd found herself in the other woman's arms, trying not to cry, trying not to run away. She'd succeeded at that second thing, almost made it with the first until five words had hummed against her ear.

"I do love you, Helena."

She'd thought she'd felt her heart twisting in her chest. Succumbing to an embrace that felt entirely too good, she'd felt her eyes burning, had sucked in a hitching gasp.

For better or worse, it had turned the tide.

The scent that she'd drawn in was too close; maybe, she figured, too impressed in her senses after everything.

Burying her face against the other woman's neck, she'd fallen into the spell. All she'd wanted was to open her mouth just a tiny bit more, to touch her tongue ever so lightly to that skin that was so tantalizingly close, to fall into insensate sensory overload.

To know.

Before she knew it, she'd heard her own question.

"Can I stay?"

The response had been instant.

"I'd like that very much."

And now, here she was.

In the bed she'd made or something like that.

For a few minutes, she lost herself in wondering about that whole "acting on instinct" thing of hers. It did work pretty well for her in the field. Hell, at work, in the clubs, trolling: it seemed to do the trick.

It was just in the really important stuff that, well, who the fuck knew.

Maybe she was still under hypnosis or something.

Helena was distracted from debating whether she really believed Quinn's promise from earlier about not cheating -- and for some reason, she kinda did -- when she felt fingernails scritching gently across her abdomen. Her stomach clenched ticklishly, and her eyelids fluttered shut.

She guessed they were both awake now.

Still, save for the slow sweep of slender fingers against her and the sound of ragged breathing, there was no way to know that she wasn't alone, in her own bed.

Still dreaming.

But, she wasn't dreaming the warm lips against her shoulder. She wasn't imagining the tight embrace. She wasn't just wanting, again.

She'd wanted this for so long. Had dreamed of it.

Since she'd known what desire was, she'd imagined her mouth on pale skin, nipples barely darker than the skin around them between her fingers, a slender neck arching. She'd visualized red hair flowing across her fingers, silken wet flesh between her lips and teeth, her finger seeking, wet heat pulsing around her hand.

Making love to Barbara.

Falling into the moment, Helena caught that maddening hand that was tormenting her. She laced their fingers, panting softly through her clenched teeth.

"What're y-- ?"

She ground back, rewarded by a breathy whisper.


Her clit pulsed and, without thought, Helena inched their joined hands down.

It wasn't what she'd imagined or dreamed of. She'd already lived that fantasy six weeks ago, on that tripped out night when someone she'd thought was Barbara had come to her apartment.

But, still, she was so fuckin' ready, her response -- at least here, now -- ingrained at a cellular level.

The sensation of fingertips sweeping across her upper thighs was electrifying, and she raised one knee, tenting the covers in invitation.

"Helena, turn over."

The words were ice water.

Shit. Shit. Shit.

Helena had always been, well, a go-with-it kind of girl. Once she was on, it was damned hard to turn it off.

Like yesterday at the coffee house.

Apparently, though, the physiological response wasn't as insurmountable as she'd thought, because instantly, perhaps for the first time in her life, her arousal vanished with a whimper.


Well, she owed her this much, right?

Painting on a smile that she hoped wasn't too pained, Helena turned in the circle of her bedmate's arms. Her eyes remained firmly fixed on the sharp line of a strong jaw.

Strong fingers touched her chin, tipping her face up, forcing her to see.

"Did you sleep, Helena?"

Okay, that wasn't too hard.

"Yeah," she managed a twist of her lips. "Guess I was tired."

"I'd imagine so."

The words made her laugh for some reason, freeing up the tightness in her chest just a little. Without planning to, she heard herself speaking.

"Thanks for letting me--"

A slender finger came to her lips, silencing her. Helena was hard-pressed not to sneak her tongue out, to trace that skin.

"I'm very glad you're here, Helena."

Still not sure what had brought her here, Helena searched the green eyes of the one person she always seemed to turn to. Swallowing roughly, she spoke her heart.

"I love you, too, Barbara."


Part 22

Spying another little pink heart, Helena dug her spoon into the bowl and chased it over to the top of the dish. She had the little stars at the bottom, the clovers at three o'clock, and those other two squiggly shapes glopped over at nine o'clock.

For some reason, the hearts always had to go at the top.

A throaty chuckle distracted her from her hunt for any other sugary treats that could have been hidden in the cereal mounded in the middle of her bowl.

"I can't believe you still do that, Hel."

Fighting a blush, the brunette looked over. When she took in her companion, red hair still mussed from bed and a green silk robe loosely belted over her sleep-tee, she felt a different sort of heat flowing through her.

At the very least, since she'd already thrown on her clothes from the night before, Helena was feeling a bit over-dressed.

"Yeah, well,"

She waved a spoon at her bowl.

"This way I concentrate the sugar punch."

As Barbara moved close to the couch, Helena automatically reached out and thumbed down the volume on the big screen, then cleared a spot on the coffee table for the giant mug of coffee that the redhead was clutching.

"And you still watch Saturday cartoons."

A dark head tilted to the side as Helena considered the fact that it had been a good long time since she'd shared a Saturday morning with Barbara.

Or, at least, with the real Barbara.

"Scooby Doo's a classic, Red."

She decided that she didn't need to add that she'd always had a soft spot for Velma.

Something about the glasses, maybe. Although, Daphne did have some amazing hair.

"True -- "

Helena felt a smile trying to work its way free as Barbara turned to take in The Gang's latest Rube Goldberg-esque attempt to catch the creepy ghoul guy.

"-- I do admire the teenage detectives."

Since any comment on that would have been too easy, Helena snorted softly and dug into her Lucky Charms again. However, when yet another commercial for the toy-of-the-week came on, she heard herself speaking.

"Why now, Barbara?"

The redhead's laugh was light.

"All right, Hel, I'll admit that I watched the show when I was a child."

For a few seconds, Helena thought about playing along.

She couldn't do it.

Despite the fact that she'd ended up *here* the night before instead of somewhere... well, somewhere she didn't want to think about, despite the comfort Barbara had offered so openly and the easy acceptance into her bed, despite the fact that Helena had said *those* words this morning, Helena still needed more.

She needed to understand why the hell she'd let everything happen. Why she'd been so eager to believe and now, well, believing in anything was hard.

Since they were up at this ungodly early hour on a Saturday and the lack of sound from down the hall suggested that Dinah was still out for the count, she figured now was as good a time as any.

Leaning forward, she set her half-finished breakfast on the coffee table.

"No, not that."

She quirked her lips and sucked in a breath, registering Barbara's cautious attention.

"Why didn't you ever say anything about -- "

She almost forgot herself and used that feeling word; however, knowing who she was talking to, she changed course just a little.

"-- about what you wanted."

When one red brow arched the tiniest bit, she heard her voice drop a register.

"That you wanted it, too."

Those amazing green eyes widened.

"Us," Helena tacked on.

Nodding, the redhead reached for her coffee and blew over the edge of the cup.

Helena hated how her eyes were drawn to the bow of those full lips.

"Helena, I didn't know if you were... If you would ever..."

Something snapped at the hesitant admission.

"Are you saying you didn't know how I felt?"

It came out rough, but Helena didn't back down.

"After all these years and everything we've..."

"Sweetheart, no."

She thought that Barbara's smile was sad. A little... wistful, maybe.

"I-- "

Dark brows knit, and Helena shifted on the couch to tuck one leg under her. Scooby and The Gang forgotten, she watched her partner square her shoulders.

"Let's say that I had a pretty good indication, but I just couldn't--"

Color touched pale cheeks, and understanding dawned.

"You couldn't make the first move."

Helena could feel the other woman's discomfort, and something welled warm and thick within her when Barbara met her eyes.

"Exactly, Hel. I had to be sure that you were ready, that it was something you genuinely wanted."

"How long had you--"

Her voice failed. Barbara's answer was barely audible.

"Forever, I think."

Before she had time to let the confession haunt her, Helena heard more.

"And I'll wait for you as long as you need. I'd been -- "

When Barbara stopped short, suddenly taking a lot of care to settle her cup on the coffee table, Helena knew she couldn't let it go.

"Been what?"

She waited out a silence broken only by the tick of the big clock and the soft hiss of the wheels of Barbara's chair rocking on the hardwood.

"Hoping, I suppose, that one day you'd..."

The chair came to a stop, but Barbara's extravagant blush spoke volumes. A light bulb went off for Helena.

"So when I started acting all -- "

She waved one hand and shifted to the very end of the sofa, bringing her knee to knee with the redhead.

"-- around here and making you go to movies and..."

She let the rest go, deciding that her crawling uninvited into Barbara's bed was best left unsaid.

"Exactly," was the crisp acknowledgement. "I thought you were letting me know--"

"Courting you," Helena interjected softly.

Barbara's answering smile was so beautiful that Helena wanted to cry. It held everything: hope, happiness, want, and sorrow.


The other woman was leaning in, her voice soft.

"I'm so sorry that you were forced to--"

She didn't want to hear it, to be reminded.

"Nobody forced me to feel like I do about you, Barbara."

Didn't seem like there was much that she could be certain of anymore, but that was a no-brainer.

Her jaw set, Helena waited out her dearest friend's scrutiny.

"Can you still, Hel?"

Fingers brushed her knuckles, and Helena finally had to look away.

"Can you allow me, Hel?"

God, how she wanted to.

How she wanted to give the easy nod, the cocky smile. Maybe do a little happy dance before whisking them back to bed before Dinah ever knew they'd been up. Finally consummate everything she'd dreamed of for as long as she'd been dreaming.

Be the person she'd thought she was.

She couldn't.

Or maybe she just wasn't any more.

Focusing solely on the hand resting lightly atop hers, Helena heard herself confessing.

She'd never been able to lie to Barbara.

"I've been see--"

The words choked her.

"--Stuck on this, Barbara."

She extricated her hand, allowing her index finger to trace the tendons delineated under the soft skin covering the other woman's hand.

"I can't get it... her out of my head and -- "

She withdrew her hand, balling it against her thigh and searching for some way to explain.


Oh, fuck it.

"I've seen her again."

From under her lashes, she saw the pain flicker across elegant features. The emotion was gone so quickly that it could have been a sprite or a figment of her imagination.

Not so the furrowing of crimson brows.

Not certain that she was breathing, Helena counted off twenty-seven ticks from the big clock while Barbara visibly thought through her little revelation. Finally, there was a whisper of a sigh and the hint of a sad smile.

"That seems about right, Hel."

Even though she was cautiously relieved by the lack of fireworks -- or, she had to warn herself, lack of immediate fireworks -- Helena had no idea what to make of that.

Red hair bobbed as her companion, apparently having worked everything out in her big brain, reached for her coffee. As patiently as possible, Helena waited while Barbara sipped from her mug.

"You need a refill or anything?" she finally had to ask.

She was rewarded with a smile.

"No, thank you, Sweetie. This is fine."

Helena pursed her lips and bobbed her chin once or twice.

"Uh, how about some toast or a pop tart or a change of channel?" she added casually.

That befuddled look almost undid her.

"No, I'm fine, but tha--"

"Soooooo," she drew it out, "what exactly is it about my seeing Quinn and not ripping her head off that makes sense to you?"

She really, really, wanted to understand whatever flight of logic her partner had taken that made round pegs fit into triangular holes.

"You've always picked at your scabs, Helena."


Blue eyes blinked once.

Helena just hoped she wasn't looking too owlish or dumbfounded or whatever. Barbara's words were so... matter-of-fact.

It was, truly, one of those "duh" moments.

"Mom hated that," she allowed with a tiny smile.

Her smile transformed itself to a smirk when green eyes rolled.

"It's not one of your most endearing habits," was the verdict.

"Hey, sometimes -- "

It was only right to put up a protest in her own defense.

"-- it helps it by getting stuff to fester out and heal faster."

She heard her voice getting smaller.

This wound didn't seem to be healing too fast.

"It still hurts so fuckin' much, Barbara."

The soft acceptance in her partner's face was too much to see, and Helena hopped to her feet, pacing around the coffee table.

"I've dreamed of this, fantasized --"

Swallowing roughly, she tried for a waggle of her eyebrows or a rakish grin or something to hide the desperate ache inside.

She couldn't put up a front at all.

"I mean, fuck, Barbara!"

She spun and stared through the transom above the doors to the balcony. Hoping she hadn't already roused The Kid, she dropped her voice.

"These should be the best goddamned days of my life, but it wasn't supposed to be like this and..."

Helena rubbed the heels of her palms against her eyes, unable to say the rest: It was Quinn, not Barbara, who had made her dreams come true.

She heard -- hell, felt -- Barbara come up beside her.

"I do understand, Hel."

Her chest fighting to expand against the tight bands constricting her, Helena could only manage a whisper.


From the corner of her eye, she saw a slender hand rise in invitation.

"Not everything that you're dealing with, Sweetheart, but I -- "

Hearing how strangled Babs' voice was getting, Helena finally turned. She saw color touching pale cheeks and laced her fingers with the other woman's.

"I've... I've had some fantasies as well."

It was an offering, a gift. Hell, knowing Barbara, it was huge.

Least she could do was try to be worthy of it.

Helena took two steps, moving close, her knees touching the side of the chair.


It was still a little rough, but she thought some of that was for... other reasons now. Barbara's smile told her she might be right.


The answer was a little playful, a little something more. Helena saw the spark of challenge in green eyes that were going soft and slumbrous.

"Like w--"

Loosing herself in verdant depths, Helena swallowed and ran her tongue across her lips.

"Like what?"

Her mouth instantly went dry again when Barbara's hands came to the waist of her jeans.

"Such as -- "

The pull of soft cotton against her skin as Barbara tugged her tee shirt free of her jeans was like sandpaper.

"-- your skin."

"M-- my skin?"

It was hard to speak watching the determined set of Barbara's jaw, the hungry flare of her nostrils.


Then, she was shocked speechless -- damned near electrified -- when sure hands moved to the hem of her shirt, raising the material to expose her midriff to the cool morning air of the great room. Before she could think, it was Barbara's mouth against her bare skin, warming -- burning -- her.

"How you feel..."

Instantly, every nerve ending came alive. The muscles in the back of her thighs knotted. Her hands fisted at her sides.

"And taste..."

The words tickled through her belly just as a warm tongue washed around her navel. The sensation shot straight to her center: the brush of silken lips, the flicker of a wet tongue, the warmth of Barbara's breath.


Blood thumped a heavy beat between her legs. Her nipples were suddenly so hard that Helena could feel every thread of the cotton tee scraping against them.

Without planning, Helena found her hands wrapped in crimson silk, her palms cradling the other woman's head. Unbidden, images of that beautiful mouth elsewhere danced before her.

Almost as if she were reading her mind, Barbara moved her hands to the waist of her jeans again, fingers hooking through the belt loops and tugging softly. The pressure dragged her jeans up... just a little, just... just not enough.

Helena heard a noise, a soft mewling growl, and recognized it as her own. Carefully, she extricated her fingers from that red mane and fisted her hands against her thighs, *willing* her legs not to give way.

Then, Barbara's hands moved to cover the small of her back, and Helena shivered, nearly danced away, at the sensation of fingers teasing into the back of her jeans. She felt the other woman's nose against the underside of her breast, the lightest touch calling into counterpoint the heaviness of the flesh under her shirt.

The ache to be touched.

There was a murmur that couldn't be mistaken for anything but pleasure. There was the rasp of teeth against her stomach. There was suction that pulled in time with the nerves thrumming against the thick cotton seam of her jeans.


Do it.

She wanted...

Wanted this touch.

Wanted more.


Then, her skin was cold with loss, and Helena pried open her eyes. Barbara was still close, the weight of her words, her voice smoky and hoarse, almost a physical touch.

"Tell me what you want, Helena."

For an eternity, Helena teetered on the precipice. Something in Barbara's ragged breathing or the raw desire in her eyes pushed her over.

Helena clenched her jaw, then let it go. Without looking away, she yanked up her shirt and wrapped her fingers in long red hair, guiding.

"I need your mouth."


Part 23

Her chest heaving, Helena felt the muscles in her calves, then her thighs, begin to torque under the strain. Her belly clenched before, fisting her hands, she exploded.

For a full two minutes -- maybe a little longer -- she thrashed. The ache in her arms from clenching her fists grew to a burn as she curled her toes into the soft foam beneath her. Wordless, she rocked in silence, gritting her teeth against the desire to scream. The only sound, aside from her harsh breathing and soft exhalations in time to the thrusts, was the slap of flesh and leather.

Helena forced herself to relax her muscles a tiny bit, twisting her head to wipe the sweat from her eyes against her shoulder. The movement highlighted the scent of leather filling her nostrils.

And baby powder.

The smile that formed on her lips was, she thought, a little raw. A lot feral.

Leather and baby powder were two scents she'd always associated with Barbara.

Not like she'd arrived at her own choices in couture out of the blue.

Panting softly, she eased her clenched fingers and turned away.

Time for a break.

She been at the heavy bag for the last forty-five minutes, ever since Barbara had shocked her senseless and turned her on like a floodlight in the living room. And, now, while she should have been going at it with the woman she loved more than life itself, where was she?

Burning it off in the training room.

It wasn't like she hadn't *wanted* it. There hadn't even been much doubt about Babs being into it either. It was just...

A word.

A single frikkin' word.

She'd been about to fall into it, about to live out her goddamned dreams. Barbara's hands had been moving to the sides of her breasts, the anticipated coolness of her fingers against the heated flesh already sending shivers down Helena's arms. Red's mouth had been so close, the thought of soft lips and warm wetness almost taking her legs out from under her.

Then, that word.


She still wasn't sure if it had been real or the echo of past ghosts. But it hadn't mattered, because it had been there, big as life in her brain, and it had been too much.

She'd scrambled backward, yanking her shirt down, ready to run like the hounds of hell were after her. It was only the sight of Barbara, looking hurt and confused and concerned all at once, that had kept her feet still.

"Helena -- "

She'd seen Barbara start to raise a hand towards her then stop.

"What did I --"

Helena had shaken her head from side to side, unable to have Barbara blaming herself.

And, *willing* herself to banish the image, the voice that was... or was not.

The click of a door opening down the hall had saved her.

Never thought she'd be glad to have The Kid interrupt that sort of moment.

"Dinah's up."

For a moment, there had only been the arch of a red brow. Helena had used the time to straighten her clothing and check out the pattern on the sofa's upholstery.

"Why don't you burn off some energy in the training room, then, perhaps Dinah can get some sparring practice in."

Although she hadn't been sure that that was such a good idea, any reprieve was good enough.

And so, here she was, pounding all hell out of a leather heavy bag that she wished was someone else. Or, at the very least, that was someone who could fight back.

Her wish was granted, in a fashion, when the door to the training room clicked open a few minutes later. Without stopping her flurry of kicks and jabs to the bag, Helena looked over, confirming that it was Dinah, a milk mustache still covering her upper lip.

Probably from chowing down a bowl of Wheaties or something.

"Hey, K-- D."

Already dropping into a hamstring stretch, the teen smiled brightly.

"Hi, Helena. Barbara said that maybe you could help me work on some of my moves?"

Maybe something in her expression wasn't entirely welcoming.

"Or, I mean, you don't have to since it looks like you're already -- Ooof!"

Helena finished her leapfrog jump over the blonde, landing lightly behind her.


The brunette smiled sweetly.

"Hey, you gotta be ready for anything."

She found herself jerking backward in time to the girl's indignant squeaks.

"That... wasn't... funny."

Not into getting a TK ass-whipping, Helena raised both hands.

"Alright, alright."

The invisible poking stopped, and she ran a hand through her hair.


She gave Dinah a few seconds to simmer down then dropped her hands to her sides.

"Take your best shot, Kid."

Pale blue eyes narrowed suspiciously, but Dinah stepped forward. It was easy to see her left bicep tense, the slight lead with her other foot.

The Kid was telegraphing a mile away.

Still, when the teen hauled back and let loose, Helena didn't flinch. She didn't blink. She didn't duck.

The blow landed solidly against her chest, a slight exhalation her only acknowledgment.

Instantly, cornsilk lashes flew up.

"Oh, shit, Helena, I'm so sorr--"

"Is that the best you've got, Dinah?," she curled her lip up. "The drunks at the bar have more pow than that."

The taunt worked, and Dinah rushed in, leading with a roundhouse kick. Helena casually stepped out of the way, tapping her sparring partner's shoulder teasingly with her index finger.

"Gotta be faster than that."

Dinah's next blow was a blur, coming straight for her nose. For a second, Helena thought about letting The Kid find out how it felt to break someone's nose, and maybe that showed.

Seeing horror being to dawn in Dinah's eyes, she sighed and wearily raised her hand, catching the girl's fist in her palm. She didn't roll with the blow, allowing the impact to travel up her arm to her shoulder, grunting softly at the strain.

The pain.

Dinah's face, she thought, was eloquence itself. She just didn't want to hear it.

"Sorry, D," she quirked the corner of her mouth, "Guess I'm just not up for it right now."

"Helena, you can't let her keep--"

In a heartbeat, she was toe to toe with the younger woman. Despite Dinah's two-inch height advantage, Helena felt like she was looming over her.

"Don't let her what, Kid?"

She saw something like fear skitter across the teen's face but wasn't going to back down.

"You may be able to read a helluva lot but you don't know what she's doing."

Briskly, she stepped to the side and moved back to the heavy bag, refusing to look at her sparring partner.

"What she really did."

Dinah's words, coinciding with the sharp slap of her fist against the bag, were almost lost.

"She's haunting you."

Blinking, Helena unleashed another flurry of blows against the hapless bag. She was spared -- in a manner of speaking -- having to come up with a verbal response, when she heard the training room door open again.

There was no need to look to know who was joining them.

"Dinah, would you excuse us?"

As ever, Barbara's voice sent shivers across her skin. Helena bought herself a moment by snagging a towel and rubbing at her neck as Dinah slipped out of the room.

"Hey, Barbara."

As casually as possible, she moved to the training bench and dropped down, retrieving her water bottle. Drinking deeply, she didn't miss how close Barbara was when she came to a stop next to her.

"I'm sorry, Hel."

A slender hand came to rest on her thigh, and Helena almost spewed her mouthful of water. She managed to save herself with only a bit of coughing.

Smooth, Kyle. Really smooth.

"What are you sorry for?"

She recapped the bottle and juggled it from hand to hand, pretty sure that she didn't want to hear the answer.

"It's too soon, isn't it?"

Laughter probably wasn't the best way to go, but she couldn't help it.

"Too soon?"

Fuck. It had been almost eight goddamned years.

Naturally, Barbara wasn't buying it.

"It wasn't just Dinah getting up, was it?"

Settling the bottle on the end of the bench, Helena scrubbed one hand across her face.

"No, I'm sorry, Barbara."

God knew, Red deserved better.

"It... It's just--"

She balled her fist and brought it down softly against her other thigh, hating that she was unable to articulate how every move she made with Barbara was like an echo of something she'd already imagined, then lived.

She saw Barbara's nod from the corner of her eye. The sensation of her partner's hand covering hers was almost too much.

"I think I understand, Sweetie, and it's--"

The speech that Helena had been expecting didn't come. Instead, there was a laugh that seemed to surprise them both.

"Well -- "

She had to look up when Barbara blew out a breath.

"-- I can't say that it's alright, Hel."

Again, there was sound -- something between a snort and a chuckle. Helena didn't think she was getting it.


Cautiously, she watched the expression on her partner's face change several times.

"Er -- "

She didn't think she'd ever seen Barbara's face turn quite that color of red.

"Aside from how you've left me all worked up..."

Again, there was that laugh, one that Helena instantly decided was rueful and charming and sexy all at once. With Barbara playfully fanning her face with one hand, the brunette felt something seeming to stretch inside her chest at the admission.

Barbara wanted her, too. She really did.

The feeling didn't have much time to grow when she saw the redhead grow serious.

"However, the state of my blood pressure notwithstanding, your state is more important."

She started to protest that, but Barbara just kept talking, her words stopping her cold.

"We had an alert while you were -- "

Green eyes surveyed the battered heavy bag, and Barbara's tone seemed a bit dry.

"-- working out. Apparently, whatever reprieve Quinn was giving us -- "

The two shared a look, the reality of what the reprieve had been for not needing to be spoken.

"-- has expired."

Helena's stomach slithered down to the vicinity of her ankles.

It was a sensation, she instantly decided, that she didn't much care for.

Carefully, she slid her hand from beneath her partner's and sucked in a breath.

"What happened?"

She saw something she couldn't read in the other woman's eyes.

"Clown balloons over Central Park have been bursting and releasing some sort of white powder."

The answer was just as factual as she would have expected. In response, Helena stood and stepped to the end of the bench.

"I can head out right now."

Already on her way to the door, the emphatic shake of red hair stopped her cold.

"I need you on your mark out there."

The next words were much quieter.

"In here, too, Hel."

Helena worked against the lump rising in her throat, immobilized by concerned green eyes.

"We have to find a way for you to come to terms."

The silence in the room was overwhelming. Not even that damned big clock penetrated the padding on the walls, so Helena had no way to guess how long she stood there, considering that, considering the careworn creases around her partner's eyes and all the reasons they were there.

Ultimately, there wasn't much of a choice to make.

Swallowing, she nodded briskly.

"You're right, Barbara."

The other woman's mouth was already open, with Barbara probably ready to go on in full-blown logical mode. Despite the weight settling on her chest, Helena almost smiled when she saw the redhead's double-take.


She nodded again.

"Yeah, I've been kinda lax, huh?"

Naturally, Barbara was ready to excuse her shortcomings.

"You've had a bit on your mind, Helena."

Fighting a sharp flare of anger, Helena swung open the training room door and waved a hand lightly.

"Hey, no reason to fuck up everything."

Those words, and something that Barbara tried to say, followed her onto the balcony and into the air. Before her feet hit the roof of the neighboring building, Helena was digging in her pocket for her cell phone.

She punched in the number from memory, unsurprised when her call was answered on the first ring.

"Hey. It's me."

Since she didn't want to have time to second-guess herself, Helena cut short the enthusiastic greeting.

"I want to see you, Harley."

Sucking in a hitching breath, she looked over to the balcony across the street and several stories above her. She almost thought she could see crimson hair blowing in the wind.

"I've thought about it, and I need to be with you."


Part 24

When she thought about it -- and since she'd been waiting for ten minutes and had little else to do besides think about it -- Helena had to admit that meeting Quinn in the small park outside her old office building was appropriate enough.

Of course, her former therapist always had had a pretty keen sense of irony.

Still, coming full circle and all that jazz notwithstanding, the park was empty on a Saturday afternoon, and the little arbor Quinn had specified was peaceful enough. It was a good spot to collect herself, to get ready for what she had to do.

Helena just wished that she was feeling a little more at peace with her decision.

The appearance of a blonde sprite moving briskly down the path forced her to push aside all second guessing. When she took in what her date was wearing -- was the woman actually wearing jodhpurs? -- she could even briefly forget what coming to terms was going to mean.

Her expression must have shown.

"Hello, Darling."

Quinn twirled showily, the ends of the long scarf draped around her neck sweeping behind.

"Do you like?"

Helena grit her teeth against the trilling laugh and searched for words.

"Uh, it's unique."

Funny, she remembered Barbara saying the same thing about some of her outfits back in high school.

"Traveling clothes, Helena," the tiny woman informed her sweetly. "I do hope that we'll be traveling and that you're not just gathering more data."

Helena ducked her head, following Quinn's approach through her lashes.

"I swear, Helena, sometimes I believe that Barbara's taken all of the spontaneity right out of you."

Ignoring the slow burn that was starting in her chest, Helena just shrugged.

"What's the deal with the balloons, Harley?"

The blonde smiled brightly.

"Oh, just sending up a flare, as it were."

Quinn's index finger trailed down her arm, the familiarity of the caress altogether too distracting.

"What was in them?"

Helena caught her companion's hand, waiting out Quinn's extravagant pout.

"Oh, you're so focused on the little things, Darling."

In response, she raised Quinn's hand and brought her lips to her fingertips.

"C'mon, Harley, tell me."

Brown eyes went wide, but Quinn gave it up.

"Just itching powder, Helena."

The playful batting of blonde lashes hinted at more, so Helena waited.

"Well, mostly itching powder."

Sighing, Helena lowered their hands.

"You really are nuts, Quinn."

Again, blonde lashes batted playfully. Helena used the interlude to extricate her hand from Quinn's and to take a measured step back.

"I told you, Darling, I've been taking my medications."

Ignoring the white heat licking at her belly, Helena raised her eyebrows.

"All for me, huh?"

For a second, Quinn's face was transformed by something that could have been honesty.

Maybe hope.

The realization tightened the vise grip around Helena's chest.

"You give me the reason and the strength, Helena."

Helena searched the tiny woman's face as something she'd heard a long time ago whispered through her mind: Not crazy so much as afraid to be sane.

She shook her head roughly.

"No, Harl, nobody gives you the willpower but you."

The blonde head tilted to the side. Late afternoon sunlight filtering through the arbor's trellis cast a crosshatch of shadows across the woman's pale features.

"Don't you get it, Harley?"

She took two quick steps forward, bringing her toe to toe with the tiny woman. Working to keep her breathing steady, she traced her tormentor's face with her index finger.

As if by magic, something seemed to shift in her vision. For a few heartbeats, she didn't see her long-time foe or the woman who had tricked her and exposed her so painfully. She saw the woman who had touched her so tenderly, who had allowed her to touch her so deeply, so passionately.

She rested her palm against Quinn's cheek, seeing a woman who had, for whatever fucked up reasons, shared something with her that had seemed... genuine.

"You planned all this, Harley. You pulled it off by yourself."

Her chest felt heavy when Quinn tilted her head into the touch and brought her hand up to cradle Helena's. Quinn's words, mercifully, broke the charged moment.

"As delightful as that little pep talk was, Helena, we'll have time for talking later."

Helena heard a soft whimper, belatedly identifying it as her own, when the other woman pressed a kiss to her palm.

"Time for talking and other things."

Again, she searched those cunning brown eyes, eyes that seemed wide and soft and wanting. For a few seconds, she thought about it.

For old time's sake -- whatever the hell that meant -- she could ask the madwoman to walk away, to clear out of New Gotham. She could let her know that if she ever showed up again, all bets would be off.

Ultimately, the knowledge of just who she was dealing with was too much. Not to mention the memory of warm green eyes, trusting her, asking to help.

Slowly, Helena shook her head. She saw something spark in Quinn's eyes and lowered her hand.

"Why Helena," the blonde's voice was pure treacle. "Surely this isn't a Dear John visit?"

Like a beautiful snake shedding its skin, the tiny woman seemed to grow taller.


Sighing extravagantly, Quinn paced around the small arbor.

"Now you have to admit that after the proverbial jig was up, I've been very patient with you."

Unable to deny that, Helena just nodded.

"It wounds me to think that you're still determined to run back to Barbara with your tail between your legs, to keep being her errand girl..."

Cherry red lips smiled thinly.

"To keep being her legs and her last tie to a life best left behind."

She wasn't going to listen to this. She wasn't going to let Quinn fuck with her head any more.

"Sorry, Harley, but I've gotta take you in."

The transformation from lover to foe was almost complete, Quinn's eyes going wide and wild.

"Are you trying to tell me--"

The words were almost a screech, grating against Helena's ears like nails on a chalkboard.

"--that after all I've done for you, that *this* is the thanks I receive?"

Wearily, Helena caught the hand that was rising to strike.

"Quinn, don't make this harder."

It was no use. She'd figured that it wouldn't go the easy way. A sharp blow to her ribs confirmed it, and in the blink of an eye, it was on.

Quinn was small, but her meta-powers weren't limited to hypnosis. Before she was ready -- Hell, she hadn't really been ready when she made the phone call -- Helena found herself pinned on the leaf-scattered soil, her attacker raining blows to her face and body.

"You *will* be mine, Helena!"

God. Damn.

It was straight out of the Vincent Price School of Mad Villains or something.

"Like hell, Quinn."

Throwing restraint to the wind, Helena ignored the sharp red nails that were shredding at her shirt and twisted to place herself on top. Quinn's sneer steeled her resolve, and she landed a hard blow to her opponent's jaw.

"How could--?"

Amazingly, tears sprang to those cunning brown eyes. Horrified, Helena watched them morph to green, saw short blonde hair grow long and become red.

"How could you hit me, Helena?"

Even the voice...

Suddenly, she was no longer under a trellis in a park. Helena was once again at the Dark Horse, striking the one person who meant everything to her.

"Oh, shit."

She scrambled back until she hit the wooden upright. Awkwardly, she pushed her heels into the dirt, forcing herself to her feet. The other woman was right behind her.

"I just want to love you, Helena."

She recoiled, her head impacting the wooden four-by-four behind her. Helena saw stars, then red hair and green eyes and slender fingers coming to her face, coaxing her head down.

"Why won't you let me love you?"

Blinking against the sweat running into her eyes, Helena allowed herself to be drawn down, down to firm lips and heat. Heat and motes of sunlight blinded her and dulled her senses until she tasted the copper of blood as sharp teeth nipped at her lower lip, inflaming her.

Oh, fuck.

"You know how our bodies sing together, Darling."

In a breath, the haze cleared.

Without separating from the harsh caresses, Helena looked directly into eyes that were once again brown.

"I kinda prefer humming, Harley."


Judging by Quinn's infuriated shriek, that might have been the wrong thing to say. The wicked head butt that followed -- directly to the orbit of her left eye -- pretty much confirmed it.

"Uh - F- "

Still seeing stars, Helena didn't get to finish.

"Dudley. Buck. Come out. We'll have to do this the hard way."

Her hair wrapped in Quinn's hands, Quinn's knee jamming into her gut, Helena barely had time to feel bitter about the fact that there was always a "Buck" or a "Dudley" in hiding. Quinn's mouth was next to her ear, and Helena almost gagged when she felt the other woman's hand cupping her through her leather pants.

"I'm sorry to have to handle things this way, Helena."

Then, she saw two hulking guys rushing in, and something struck her head, turning the world black.


Part 25

You are the bearer of unconditional things

You held your breath and the door for me

Thanks for your patience

Damn but that was right on target.

Needing to hear it again, Helena dug into her pocket and cued the track on her iPod.

For about the fifteenth time.

She'd been perched on the roof of the apartment building that neighbored the clock tower for almost an hour, ever since waking up in the grotto where she'd met Quinn. With the back of her head throbbing in beat with her heart and her left eye not quite sure whether to swell shut or not, Helena had turned, without having to think about it, toward the tower.

To Barbara.

Still, somehow, once she'd gotten this close, she'd been unable to cross the gulf between the buildings. Her feet too heavy to make the leap, she'd thumbed on her iPod and settled in, one arm draped companionably over the shoulders of the ugliest gargoyle in the city.

So, she'd just sort of hung out, watching darkness begin to cloak the city. She'd seen the lights come on in the living area of the tower; she'd watched Dinah head down the street, arm in arm with that cute chick from her science class. And, through the sheer curtains covering the French doors of the balcony, she could see a familiar figure at the Delphi.

Still, even as hard-headed as she could sometimes be, Helena had to admit that sixteen reprises of any song wasn't really doing much to help her figure out the messed-upness of it all.

Time to face the real music.

Her sigh lost to the early evening breeze, Helena stood and stepped onto the edge of the building. A leap into space was all it took.

I had no choice but to hear you

You stated your case time and again

I thought about it

You treat me like I'm a princess

I'm not used to liking that

You ask how my day was


Somehow, Barbara was already down the ramp, like she'd known that she'd be breezing in.

"How are--"

Helena thought she heard a catch in the words.

"I'm glad you're back."

She couldn't miss the relief in Barbara's eyes.

"Hey, you didn't think..."

Lightly calloused fingers whispered across her wrist before Barbara dropped her hands to her lap.

"Let's say that I was afraid that you were doing the wrong thing for the right reasons, Hel."

Dropping her coat over the arm of the couch, the brunette considered that.

"Again, huh?"

She'd tried to make it light, but she only earned an arch of a crimson brow.

No time like the present.

"Yeah. I, uh, went to see Quinn."

Helena figured that most people would have missed how emerald eyes went a little wide and scared. She didn't, so she hurried along her story.

"To take her in, Barbara."

A second eyebrow shot up even as Barbara's eyes darted over to the Delphi and the police scanners.

"Yeah -- "

Helena sighed and parked one hip against the couch.

"-- It didn't work out so great."

In an instant, Barbara was right in front of her, stretching up to trace the bruise over her eye. The touch was so tender, so fuckin' right...

"What happened, Hel?"

She had to shift a little against the couch when the other woman's hands smoothed over her shoulders, then up the back of her neck. She nearly moaned when Barbara sifted through her hair, somehow unerringly finding the goose egg on the back of her head.

"Uh, Dudley."

In the interest of full disclosure, Helena shrugged and grinned.

"Or maybe it was Buck."

The hint of a smile made parentheses around Barbara's mouth, and Helena ducked her head.

"She got the jump on me."

Barbara settled her hands in her lap. Helena wished they were still on her.

"Are you alright, Hel?"

"I-- "

Not sure, she reached behind her to fish out the items Quinn had left for her.

"I woke up a little while ago with these."

She forced herself to meet her partner's eyes as she handed over the little bouquet of flowers -- Forget-Me-Nots, if she wasn't mistaken -- and the note.

" 'We'll meet again, darling.' "

The redhead's tone was indecipherable. Her face unreadable. Without actually planning to, Helena found herself kneeling before her, unable to look up.

"I'm sorry, Barbara. If I hadn't gone off half-cocked and everything..."

If she'd played by the rules that Barbara had drummed into her over the years, if she'd had backup, if she'd done it all different and been something... better...

"Now she's gonna come back when we least expect it and probably make me think I'm a frog or something."

She couldn't help how sulky it sounded. To her surprise, Barbara's reply was downright blase.

"You're here, Sweetie. Try not to focus on the negatives."

Deciding that later she'd have to check for a pod under Barbara's bed, Helena drew in a slow breath.

"Yeah, maybe she'll come back and turn The Kid into a frog."

She thought she heard a chuckle, and breathing was a little easier. Hoping, she looked up.

It was a mistake.

Barbara was so goddamned beautiful.

So close.

All she wanted to do was to caress the redhead's features with her eyes -- the pale, smooth skin of her cheeks; the sharp angle of her jaw; the arch of her throat. She wished that she could just... just for a moment, touch, could breathe the scent of her skin, sample the taste that she knew -- *knew* -- was like no other.

Helena's throat squeezed up, and she dropped her gaze to her companion's knees.

"I'm sorry, Barbara."

The warmth of the other woman's hand against her face was heaven.

"Helena, don't."

She couldn't keep her eyes open when Barbara's thumb traced her lips. Breathless, she had to open her mouth, her bottom lip tingling under soft strokes.

"Look at me, Helena."

She couldn't do it. She couldn't force her eyes open and leave this moment. She couldn't risk this moment morphing into something else.

Or someone else.

The gentle pull of Barbara's finger's against her skin continued, and she gave in. Raising her own hand, she captured her partner's, stilling the maddening movement.

"Look at me, Helena."

It was all so close.

Lightly, ever so lightly, she touched her tongue to Barbara's finger.

So real.

"Goddamnit, Helena, look at me."

Your love is thick and it swallowed me whole

You're so much braver than I gave you credit for

That's not lip service

No surprise that Alanis kept running through her head. What was a surprise was Barbara's next words.

"Please, Helena. I need you."

Strong hands cradled her head, forcing her to look. Helena thought that something must have shown in her eyes, but before she could shutter it away, she saw something more in Barbara's eyes.

"*Look* at me."

"I'm afraid you'll think I'm looking at her."

She could barely hear her own admission, but Barbara didn't seem to have a problem. Nor, did she seem to care.

Suddenly -- hell, finally -- Barbara's mouth was on hers, fierce and insistent. Instinctively, Helena pressed forward, into the pressure, the heat, the softness and...

Oh god.

Nothing like it.

She thought she heard a rumbling purr, but the staccato hammer of her heart drowned it out. With Barbara's moan an invitation, she used her tongue to chart the textures of her mouth, her hips beginning to rock in time to their thrusts.


Long, breathless moments later, when Barbara slowly disengaged from the kiss, Helena whimpered her displeasure. Yet, when she opened her eyes and took in the woman only inches away, she couldn't hold on to her pique. Somehow, she remained still under the scrutiny of serious green eyes.

"If you're looking at me like that, Helena -- "

The whiskey burr in the redhead's voice was unlike anything she'd heard. It washed over her like warm salt water, leaving her drenched.

And wanting.

"-- I can't see that it will be a problem."

She worked her jaw, the rasp of Barbara's fingers against her traveling directly to her clit. Somehow, she made herself speak the truth.

"I want you so much right now."

Somehow, Barbara's response surprised her far less than it consumed her. And, really, there was no reason to be surprised: Barbara always knew.

"Then have me, Helena."

You're the best listener that I've ever met

You're my best friend

Best friend with benefits

What took me so long

She refused to give herself time to think, to second-guess. Pouncing forward, she brought their lips crashing together.

With Barbara's breath still in her lungs, she drew back, seeing her own hand rising, moving close. Uncertain, she looked up and fell into dilated green eyes.

"Yes, Helena."

A warm hand covered hers, leading the way. Her moan tickled her ribs, her throat, her belly. As she worked to take in the weight and texture under her palm, her thighs clenched, her own breasts growing hot.

And hungry.

It wasn't at all like...

Slowly, she shut her eyes.

Carefully, she removed her hand and started to push to her feet. Strong hands came to her shoulders, and she caught her breath.

She wouldn't...

"Helena -- don't go."

She wouldn't cry, dammit.

Soft kisses rained against her hair.

"We don't have to do anything that you're not ready for. Just... stay with me."

She couldn't ease the tension in her legs nor could she loosen the stiffness of her back.

But, Helena wouldn't run.

She wouldn't fight.

"Honestly, Hel,"

A rueful chuckle tickled her ear.

"This may turn my hair white faster than your missing curfew in high school ever could have."

Unable to help it, Helena snorted. For a second, it freed her breathing before her gust of laughter turned into a sob.

It was all there: Everything that had been. Everything that should have been.

Burying her face in red hair, she allowed the memories to wash over her: seeing the new English teacher roar up on her bike for the first time at school; getting read the bullshit notification that other kids had talked about by Ms. Gordon; enduring that shared night of blood; loneliness and terror fighting within her the the first night she'd come to Barbara's bed not too many months after Barbara was out of the hospital.

Then, there were the evenings they'd shared on the couch watching bad movies; the tactile memories of the brush of her hand against Barbara's as they pointed something out on the monitor; the soul-deep memories of catching a whiff of Barbara's shampoo as she leaned over her shoulder at the Delphi.

Inevitably, there were images of blood and betrayal in their own home, the laughter of a madwoman.

Mercifully, there was the counterpointing warmth of coming to the balcony after sweeps and just... seeing Barbara, of knowing that she was home.

Slowly, Helena brought her breathing under control. Slender fingers worked through her hair, neatly blunted nails scritching softly at her scalp. Barbara's murmur was lost under her attempts to recover her breath, but the sense of it wasn't.

I love you.

I've never felt this healthy before

I've never wanted something rational

I am aware now

I am aware now

Coming back to herself, she dropped her head to her partner's -- her lover's -- chest. Eyes closed, she brushed her cheek lightly against the softness, easily hearing Barbara's heartbeat.

She thought her own was catching up.

A gradual awareness of Barbara's restless movement, the shallowness of her breathing, caused her to freeze. She relaxed again under the redhead's laugh.

"I may need to take matters into my own hands."

As alluring as that thought was, Helena had to know.

"Forgive me?"

She pulled back enough to search the other woman's eyes. She found nothing but acceptance.

"There's nothing to forgive you for, Helena."

Purring, Helena bent into the hand caressing her face. Her content morphed into something else altogether when she heard the rest.

"I will, however,"

Barbara's voice was tight, her hand suddenly firm against her jaw.

"--when you allow me, reclaim what is mine."

White heat flared through Helena's belly.

"T-- take?"

She panted softly, the scent of the other woman growing stronger and stronger.

"Everything that you have to give me."

The words were a promise. And a proclamation.

They ripped her open, leaving her with an image of Barbara stripping her bare, of being devoured by hungry eyes and hands, of being splayed out. She *felt* the pleasure of being laid out under Barbara's hands, of twisting thrusts and a single word on the other woman's lips: Mine.

The vision was breathtaking.

There was only one thing she could say.

"Yours, Barbara."

You've already won me over in spite of me

Don't be alarmed if I fall head over feet

Don't be surprised if I love you for all that you are

I couldn't help it

It's all your fault



For all of her adult life and what seemed like a good portion of her adolescent years, Helena had dreamed of loving Barbara.



She'd planned hundreds of different scenarios for how it would start. She'd come up with scores of opening moves. She'd fantasized thousands of ways it would play out.

So, in a nutshell, when the real thing finally materialized, Helena thought she'd be pretty prepared.

She'd always planned... imagined... dreamed that her first time with Barbara would be slow.

Not, perhaps, seduction so much as reverence.



The choreography of her hands on Barbara's buttons was wired into her brain. The route her mouth would make across her face and neck, already mapped. The brush of her fingers through wiry red curls, already in her senses. Her need to give Barbara her devotion, unquestionable.

Yet, when it came...

After everything, when she -- they -- were ready, there wasn't time.

One moment, they were in the living room, eyes fixed on each other. The air was heavy, thick with promise, laden with desire.

The next, she had Barbara in her arms, their mouths locked together as she stumbled into the master bedroom. Then, they were tangled together on the bed, and it was nothing but her need: her need to know that it *was* this woman; her need to show *this* woman her heart.

Her need to give Barbara her heart.

Time seemed to separate into shards, refracting images and sensory moments:

Helena's skin too tight, leaving her with an itch to shred and tear in her desire.

Barbara, somehow naked from the waist up beneath her. Her fingers tracing the lightly veined contours of breasts that were milky white and full.

The clatter of buttons hitting the floor as she tore her own shirt off. The electricity that coursed through her, causing her feet to piston against the comforter as she lowered herself, bringing them chest to chest.

The shock of cool flesh against her own inflamed breasts. The pressure of firm nipples catching against her own. Barbara's hiss racheting her frantic need.

Her tongue dancing against Barbara's mouth. A breathy moan -- "Helena" -- allowing her to map the tangled ridges and warm heat inside. Barbara's hands in her hair and, somehow, her tongue dominating.

Opening, succumbing, embracing the exploration, a fluttering tickle in her belly as she envisioned Barbara's touch elsewhere, probing and twisting and filling her need.

Her hand working the button of the other woman's jeans. Her breath catching at the vividness of the image that seared across her brain: her own fingers gliding inside walls of velvet.

The images re-pieced themselves to a whole again, but there wasn't time: it was too bright and new and sharp.

Struggling against her own urgency, Helena lowered her face to Barbara's neck, opening her mouth to draw in the scent that was Barbara's alone. She worked to mate their bodies gently, branded by the sweat-slickened skin that pulled deliciously against her.


Strong fingers dug into her shoulders, the throaty murmur seeming to move directly from Barbara's chest to hers. Suddenly ravenous, she buried her mouth against the slender column of the redhead's throat and sucked at the blood that she could feel -- could almost taste -- pulsing against the skin.

But, she couldn't stay there long: Barbara was pushing her down, and all of her plans for a slow, deliberate exploration evaporated when her tongue touched one diamond hard peak. For an instant, Helena trembled, her bottom lip stuttering against the pale pink flesh until a hand came to the back of her head and she heard a whisper.

"Please, Sweetheart."

Instantly, her spine bowed and her clit pulsed, her body aching to take... to take in... to give. Her whimper was counter-pointed by her lover's breathless moan.

"Love you, Hel."

Her own answer was instant.

"So much..."

And then, Helena let go, tasting the sweet skin, sampling the texture, rimming the nipple with her teeth until the hands in her hair pressed more firmly, encouraging her to take the fullness deeper.

Oh... fuck.

The world turned to colors and sounds.

Overcome, she ground against the woman she'd loved for so long and, in an instant, was overcome. For long moments, Helena knew nothing but the shape of the body beneath her and the taste of heaven as the waves roared through her.

Pain of loss.

Need long denied.

Longing fulfilled.

And, ultimately, exultation.

Seconds... minutes... perhaps a lifetime later, the clenching of her belly and throbbing in her center calmed, leaving her to collapse, trembling, against her partner.

Oh... wow.

Finally remembering to breathe, Helena drew in the scent of their passion.

Never woulda thought...

And, then, she remembered herself.


It really hadn't been a shining moment there. More like some hormonal teenager's first time.


The soft murmur, accompanied by fingers brushing through her hair, distracted her from her self-flagellation.

"God, Barbara, I'm so so--"

A lightly calloused fingertip came to rest against her lips, silencing the apology. The other woman's smile suggested that she had little to apologize for. Her words, husky and thick, confirmed it.

"I have no doubt that there will be many others, however -- "

A smile that had been soft and loving morphed into something infinitely sexy, and suddenly Helena realized that she'd just been getting warmed up.

"-- that was the sexiest thing I've ever seen."

Suddenly counting herself lucky that she had the recuperative powers of a teenager, Helena rolled to the side and offered a playful nip to her lover's jaw.

"You ain't seen--"

Even as she spoke, her voice dropped to a growl when she heard Barbara's heart rate doubling.

"-- nothing yet, Red."

The reply was somehow simultaneously aroused and wry.

"I'd imagine not, Helena."

She swooped upward, covering the other woman with her body, and bent to her mouth. At the last instant, she arrested her movement.

"Helena? Sweetie?"

Helena felt heat crawling into her cheeks, but she had to say the words.

"How much can you feel, Barbara?"

This time there was no doubt of the wryness in the other woman's voice.

"Right now?"

The brunette nodded and kept her gaze focused on her lover's eyes. Barbara's throaty chuckle, not to mention the sensation of calloused fingers stroking her side, went straight to her core.

"A helluva lot, Helena."

She almost took the bait. Somehow, she caught the dodge and waited, sharing the smile but refusing to drop her gaze from emerald eyes that were going a little soft.

A little sad.

Finally, Barbara relented, her sigh whispering Helena's cheek.

"Nothing externally."

The admission clearly cost her. Hating that she'd had to know, it took Helena a few seconds to process her words.


She felt her left eyebrow begin to snake upward, her lips begin to quirk, as a blush raced into pale features.

"Sometimes, Hel... "

On surer footing, she stroked her cheek lightly against the other woman's.

"Sometimes?" she coaxed, her nipples hardening in response to Barbara's hitching breath.

"If things are just right and I'm lucky..."

It was all she needed to know. Letting her smile take control, Helena pulled back just enough to bring them nose to nose, eye to eye.

"Let's get lucky, Red."

Later, much later, tangled in sweat-soaked sheets, her nose buried in red hair as Barbara's exhausted snores brushed her chest, Helena had to admit that they'd gotten very lucky indeed.

And the best part?

It wasn't anything like she'd ever imagined.

The End

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