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.
ADDITIONAL DISCLAIMER: I've made several references to a baddie (Crimson Claw) from another work of fanfiction -- The most-excellent "Feral" by Barb/Pink Rabbit Productions. No infringement intended; rather, consider it an homage to a breath-taking work of fanfic (and another plea that Feral be completed??).
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

The Way We Were

Ch. 1

She surged into wakefulness, jerking into a sitting position with a gasp, from a dream filled with blood, claws, terror, and something else. The first thing she became aware of was the almost complete darkness of her surroundings; the next, the overwhelming pain radiating throughout her body. Sinking back with a barely stiffled groan, she blinked her eyes and allowed the room to come into focus, darkness no longer a problem to yellow cat eyes.

A bedroom. She was in a very familiar bedroom, cocooned in a mountain of covers on a comfortable king bed, lying next to... "Barbara", she breathed. She drank in the sight of the redhead, observing the light breathing of shallow sleep and the faint worry lines creasing russet brows even in slumber. The presence of the woman calmed her brief disorientation-induced panic, and the brunette released a long sigh as her gaze flowed over the form of her bedmate, tracing with her eyes the finely sculpted nose, full lips and sharp chin; following the creamy skin of the other woman's neck to the corded muscles in Barbara's upper arms, revealled by a thin tank top; swallowing with some difficulty as she watched the rise and fall of lush cleavage and a firm abdomen; finally dropping her gaze to long legs, tangled in covers. Instinctively, her gaze snapped to the side of the bed, confirming the presence of the wheelchair -- always within ready reach.

It was all so familiar, so comfortable; and yet, something wasn't right. She felt fuzzy, out-of-place: How had she gotten here? Why was she in so goddamned much pain? And, then, it hit her: Who was *she*? How did she know her bedmate so absolutely but not her own fucking name? Bringing her hand up to rub at her eyes, she hissed in pain, regretting the move instantly.

When she turned her gaze back to her bedmate, she found the other woman's eyes were open, squinting sleepily towards her in the darkness. With glittering, and somewhat panicked, feral eyes and absurdly acute hearing, she easily observed Barbara draw in a quick breath of ... surprise? worry? fear?

"Helena." A soft exhalation across those red, red lips.

Helena turned the single word around in her mind, prodding at it from different angles for a split second, before a second piece clicked into place. 'Kyle. Helena Kyle. That's me.' An almost inaudible sigh of relief ghosted from her as the redhead rolled partially onto her side, right hand moving out, seemingly without conscious thought, to touch Helena's temple gently, smoothing unruly dark hair from her eyes, before finally cupping her face. A brilliant smile flashed briefly across the older woman's features before Barbara became serious.

Concern and relief painting her voice heavily, Barbara breathed out, "Thank heavens. You're finally back with us."

Helena felt a charge run through her at the familiar throaty voice, and she sleekly moved her face against the other woman's hand. She bent her head slightly, parting her lips to scent the other woman's skin before pressing her mouth ever-so-gently to the redhead's inner wrist. The familiar scent, the feel of blood moving through veins, the gentle stroking of Barbara's thumb against her cheek all combined to leave Helena feeling safe and, simultaneously, aching for ... something. A low rumbling bubbled from her chest as she raised her eyes to Barbara's mouth, waiting...

Quirking an eyebrow, the older woman removed her hand from the other woman's face, then grasped the bar above the bed with one hand to pull herself up while attempting to free her legs from the tangle of covers with the other. Finally upright, she reached out to turn on a small light before shifting back towards the younger woman. She gently touched the young woman's tightly bound left shoulder as her eyes assessed a multitude of other injuries. Feral vision still locked firmly on Barbara's face, nerves thrumming tightly from the scent and feel of the other woman, Helena jerked at the delicate touch, the response one of pure biology -- originating at her hips then rippling through her abdomen, chest, throat... culminating with a soft moan. Barbara carefully lifted her hand before murmurring, "Does it hurt that badly, sweetheart?".

'Gordon. Barbara Gordon.' The words popped into Helena's mind, followed by a stream of images: Barbara's hands dancing across a computer keyboard with a delicacy, speed, and sensual grace that pulled another gasp from the young woman; Barbara's deep green eye's gleaming at her with suspicious humor over the top of a pair of sexy half-glasses; Barbara's fiery hair, fanned around her face on the pillow as the older woman convulsed under Helena's hands...

A string of other words, concepts, feelings flooded through the brunette as she continued to stare at the woman she now identified as Barbara Gordon, as former guardian, as mentor, friend... and, yes, it had to be - lover: 'Home. Love. Safe. Want. Need.' Finally, one word: 'Here'. Some pieces were missing, she knew instinctively, but these things -- for these things, there could be no doubt.

A ten-thousand watt smile split her face, and Helena scootched across the bed to drape herself over Barbara's chest and lap, body curling around the woman who was her heart. Almost regretting the move because of the pain it engendered, the young woman nevertheless turned her head enough to press her lips to the redhead's collarbone before husking, "I'm great" and dropping back into unconsciousness.

Ch. 2

Barbara sat quietly, but hardly complacently, holding the young woman to her. Relief still washed through her that Helena had returned to consciousness - albeit briefly -- after the horrendous injuries from her battle with the Crimson Claw three days earlier. True, the young woman had ultimately brought down the monsterous... creature, the only word Barbara could come up with... but the price had been steep: shoulder dislocated, both eyes blackened, three ribs broken, a multitude of bruises and bloody gashes, not to mention a wicked concussion.

Responding to Helena's panicked calls for backup, listening to an undoubtedly brutal battle on the frantic drive to the warehouse, Barbara and Dinah had feared the worst when nothing but silence came over the comm set. Barbara -- in her manual chair, with numerous bat-a-rangs and escrima sticks at hand -- and Dinah had entered the warehouse cautiously, relieved beyond all measure to find The Huntress slumped, dazed -- hands bloodied to a pulp, shoulder skewed awkwardly, other injuries less apparent -- but resolutely guarding her unconscious captive. Anyone else -- well, the injuries would have resulted in death or, at the very least, a protracted hospital stay. Not Helena; she was already visibly healing. Barbara sighed quietly and, once again, thanked the Powers-That-Be for the brunette's meta-human meta-healing powers.

Grateful as she was, and as relieved as she'd been to hear Helena's reassurance, something was still troubling Barbara, nibbling at the edges of her mind. There had been such confusion in the the young woman's eyes -- perhaps natural after the injuries she'd sustained coupled with several days of unconsciousness. Still, the eyes themselves -- The fact that they'd remained in their feral state even after the room was filled with gentle light; sighing, Barbara posited to herself that this could have been an indicator of pain -- as the rumbling purr was probably a sign of distress. However, that simply didn't make much sense when combined with the bright smile that Helena had flashed before curling up around her.

And it was the smile, Barbara realized, which ultimately was troubling her the most. It wasn't as if the brunette didn't smile often; in fact, her cocky, infectious, devil-may-care grin was one of the few things which could consistently light up a room for Barbara. However, this smile... there was something different; the complete joy, the openness, the sheer happiness -- all directed at... well, at her, Barbara admitted. Despite the bad-girl, don't-give-a-damn attitude which she cloaked herself in for most of the world, Helena had always been affectionate, loving, and consistently solicitous towards the redhead. Still, Barbara had to admit, she'd never been graced with that sort of smile and was unable to stop herself from pondering what was behind it.

Shifting ever-so-slightly, the older woman snugged Helena closer to her, careful not to put pressure on any injuries. Reaching out, she turned off the bedside lamp and then rested her cheek against the dark silk of Helena's hair, breathing in the unique scent of the woman. In an instant, her body was overcome with the memory of Helena's ... kiss, she decided to call it ... to her wrist earlier, with the ... feeling .... which had flushed through her body as the younger woman had molded herself to her and pressed that achingly tender sweet kiss to her clavicle. Barbara's breath hitched, and, without thought, she turned her head slightly to press a soft kiss to Helena's head. She noticed that her hands were unconsciously stroking the brunette's upper arms and back; at that moment, she heard a gentle rumbling from Helena's chest and felt the brunette begin to knead against her side gently with a hand. 'Making biscuits.' The old cat-lover's phrase popped into her mind, bringing a smile to Barbara's face at the fact that - even injured and in pain - Helena could demonstrate such contentment.

'With me.' Another thought, seemingly out of nowhere.

But, of course the young woman would feel safe and content with her: they'd known each other since Barbara was 18 -- a flourishing gymnist - and Helena was 10 -- a beautiful, willful, frighteningly intelligent gamine newly immigrated from France, with her mother, Selina Kyle. Through the years and the tragedies -- the murder of Helena's mother in front of her, Barbara's shooting and paralysis, encounters with too many criminals and threats to count -- they'd moved through numerous roles: sitter and charge; high school teacher and rebellious student; guardian and violently angry & hurting ward; mentor in crime-fighting and capable protege; friends and confidants. Now, 14 years after first meeting, Barbara felt the solidity of their connection; they were family.

Family. Barbara snorted almost inaudibly at the word and the layers and meanings it could encompass.

Their relationship had always been complex and interconnected, with Barbara drawn to the young woman from the first time she'd seen her -- at Barbara's gym -- so many years ago. Only a few years ago -- several years after her official guardianship role had ended -- had Barbara finally acknowledged to herself her feelings for the other woman. At that time, Helena was in a period of deliberate, brash sexuality; she was an unrepenantent flirt, a wild partier, and undisguised in her lustier appetites. And so, when Barbara admitted to herself her feelings for the brunette, she was careful to entertain no illusions about having these feelings returned. She was, in fact, somewhat relieved to acknowledge that she held none of the qualities that might lead the young woman to return her feelings. After all, in addition to their differences in age and temperment, Barbara felt quite certain that her obvious physical limitations would preclude the type of physical intimacies that the sensual young woman deserved.

And so, she loved, holding the feeling close within her -- something to cherish and take out in the dark of night to dream over. She occasionally indulged in surreptitious physical appraisals and lingering touches which had nothing to do with assessing her partner-in-crime-fighting's fighting skills or with doctoring her wounds. These small liberties she allowed herself served to nurture the carefully hidden garden within her -- served to sustain her during dark nights when she lay alone, awake, choking on her frustration as her hands moved over unresponsive flesh while her mind supplied images and phantom sensations of what could have been. But, she was always careful, cautious; while she allowed herself flights of fancy, she would not, could not allow herself hope, lest she somehow slip up and damage the relationship which meant everything to her.

As Barbara was caught up in her musings, one of her hands -- seemingly on its own -- moved to brush through the soft, unruly hair covering Helena's face. After pushing the hair back - and smirking ruefully as it immediately fell back - she began lightly scratching the back of Helena's scalp. Immediately, the young woman's purring increased in volume and she managed - almost impossibly, it seemed to an amused Barbara -- to clasp herself more tightly against the redhead. The hand which had been gently kneading Barbara's side slowed its motions and segued into a gentle stroking across the older woman's stomach. Lulled by the heat of the younger woman's body, by the boneless comfort and ease of having limbs so effortlessly enmeshed, Barbara didn't immediately realize that her upper body had arched, seemingly attempting to increase the pressure and contact from Helena's stroking. However, when the sleeping woman's hand managed to push up the bottom of Barbara's tank and the redhead felt those long, gentle fingers brush across her abdomen, there could be no ignoring her body's reaction.

A blast-furnace of heat cascaded outward, following by trembling shivers. Incongruous, the rational portion of Barbara's mind managed to supply before being overshouted by more primal thoughts, urges... needs. Barbara's breathing hitched, then shallowed; she felt -- actually felt -- a tightening in her lower abdomen; and the ache in her breasts was unmistakable. Unthinking -- and not caring that she wasn't thinking -- she again turned toward's Helena's face and slowly, reverently, traced her lips across dark brows, snaking her tongue out ever-so-briefly to taste -- oh, god, finally to taste a tiny bit -- the skin at Helena's temple. Barbara's hands itched to thread further into dark hair, to pull that beautiful face towards her so that she could sample those lush, red lips. Her mouth opened as she panted softly, before she placed another soft kiss above the dark brows.

At this touch, the sleeping woman's hips jerked forward, unmistakably, as she murmurred in her sleep, "Bar-ba-ra", the extra syllable a throwback to Helena's early years in France. In sleep, Helena burrowed her head into her friend and mentor's chest, lips barely brushing a painfully erect nipple through the thin tank, warm breath eliciting a gasp and another arching of the redhead's upper body. As her hand tightened almost imperceptibly in dark hair and she began to guide the sleeping woman's head to the focus of her current need, Barbara was snapped back from the erotic haze which surrounded her by a softly grunted word.


The realization that it was her own mouth which had moved, giving voice to her need, shocked her and froze her movements completely. For a brief span of time, for an eternity, she lay there, heart jackhammering in her chest, feeling Helena continue to undulate gently against her as she burrowed her head into the pillowy softness of Barbara's chest. The redhead swallowed hard against the lump in her throat, appalled at her lapse. The younger woman was asleep, still not fully recovered from injuries, and obviously still in her feral mode -- which, they'd long ago learned, meant that an almost animal physicality ruled the young woman. That she had so quickly, so thoughtlessly, moved from giving comfort to taking -- taking what she wanted doused any remaining embers of passion.

Barbara carefully removed her hand from Helena's hair and used it to move the young woman's head from her chest to her shoulder. At the same time, she moved her other hand down to link her fingers with the hand still gently stroking her stomach, pulling the sleeping woman's hand back to the relative safety of her side. Pressing one last, chaste, kiss to the brunette's forehead, Barbara sighed and stared unblinkingly into the darkness. And so she remained, listening to Helena's breathing deepen and even out in peaceful sleep, until she too drifted into a fitful slumber.

Part 3

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