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
Helena waited until absolutely, positively the very last second before she moved with lightning quick reflexes to block the vicious blow. Catching the rapidly descending baton easily, she allowed her arm to follow the weapon's initial trajectory for a split second before twisting it sharply to the side and back up, stopping the motion just shy of snapping her opponent's wrist. At the same moment, she crouched and swept one leg out, neatly depositing her attacker on the ground. A perfunctory jerk freed the baton from her opponent's grip, and the Huntress dropped on all fours, pinning her attacker, preparing for a final, incapacitating blow. Holding her opponent's wrists with one hand, Helena swept her right hand down and began to tickle Dinah mercilessly.
When Dinah's giggles gave way to indignant shrieks -- "C'mon, cut it out, Hel. It's not -- Eeek! -- not funny" -- the brunette ceased her torture and rolled gracefully to her feet. Extending a hand to help the teenager up, Helena ruffled the blonde hair quickly, commenting, "You did really good, Kid. You're gonna be kicking my butt in no time."
Dinah visibly glowed at the compliment, blushing furiously, as she stammered, "Well, it was definitely my butt that took the brunt of it this time. Whoever thought that landing on a training mat could hurt so much?"
Laughing as she headed over to her towel and water bottle, the lithe brunette decided that she was glad she'd shown up for their regular weekly workout session, if for no other reason than the enthusiastic hug that Dinah had greeted her with. Well, that and the chance to enjoy some of Alfred's patented blueberry waffles; boy, the old guy really knew his way around a waffle-iron.
When she'd called Barbara yesterday to discuss starting sweeps again, Helena had been a little non-plused by the redhead's suggestion that she rest another day, then come by for the workout, to see if she really was physically ready to return to the streets. The younger woman really hadn't been sure she was ready for the close interactions of the training room; something about solitary flights over the rooftops, kicking some ass on the dark streets of New Gotham had just sounded safer to her.
Half-listening to Dinah's cheerful chatter, Helena pulled deeply from her water, eyes flickering briefly across the training room to drink in the sight of Barbara working on the parallel dip bars, the corded muscles in her forearms flexing as she rhythmically moved through her set. The redhead's tank top was damp with sweat -- the older woman cut herself no slack in the training room just because she wasn't in the field -- and tendrils of crimson hair were plastered to her face and neck. She looked altogether too sexy for words.
The brunette screwed the top back on her water, sighing. Body keyed up from her workout and the sparring session with Dinah, Helena's nerves were now singing just from the brief glance at the older woman. Just great; less than two days after her impromptu visit with Barbara and here she was... lusting after the other woman again. Barbara had been so unfailingly kind when Helena had dropped in two nights before, obviously working to put her at ease, subtly letting her know that she understood, that she didn't blame Helena. The young woman roughly rubbed the heels of her hands into her eyes, ostensibly wiping away sweat, in actuality pushing back the tears that wanted to fall as she remembered how empty she'd felt when Barbara made her remark about everyone deserving happiness, as she remembered how much she'd wanted to curl up in the other woman's arms, crying, telling her everything, knowing that somehow she could make it better.
"Fuck it all", she growled, standing abruptly and interrupting Dinah's description of a recent shopping trip mid-syllable. She wanted, needed, to work out some of her restless energy. Bouncing lightly on her feet, Helena considered pounding all crap out of the heavy bag but realized that her hands were still, maybe, not quite up to it. Instead, she moved to the weight rack, tossing over her shoulder, "Wanna spot me, Kid?". Quickly securing two fifty pound weights to each end of the bar, the deceptively delicate woman dropped to the bench, not waiting for Dinah to get into position before beginning a series of punishingly hard and fast reps. After twenty quick reps, Helena paused for a moment, holding the barbell just above her chest, breathing evenly, as her eyes tracked to the far corner of the room. Barbara was on her last exercise, inverted crunches.
With a sinking sensation, the younger woman realized that there was no way she would allow herself to shirk the next part of Barbara's routine -- helping the redhead with her physical therapy. For over six years, since she'd found the redhead near tears after another session with the less-than-sensitive professionals who were working with the young woman's newly paralyzed guardian, Helena had made it her responsibility to handle every aspect of Barbara's physio that she could. Over the years, the number of sessions that she'd had to miss and the number of tasks that she was unable to handle during PT could be counted on one hand.
Slamming the barbell back into it's rest, the brunette grunted, then smiled evilly at her blonde spotter. "Think ya' can slide another 50 on each end, Big D?".
After twenty more reps, not quite as rapid but no less fluid than the first set, Helena sat on the bench, muscles trembling slightly as she drank deeply from her water bottle.
"So, are we done for today? Cuz I really wouldn't mind putting some ice on my butt..." Dinah waited for the inevitable snicker or innuendo-laden response, but Helena merely waved a hand laconically towards the door, watching as Barbara lifted herself back into her chair and fished for her own water. She watched the redhead's adams apple move, clearly delineated in the slim neck tipped back to drink deeply, and licked her lips. Steeling herself, the dark-haired woman slowly rose to her feet and walked, casually she hoped, across the room. She stood next to the redhead, eyes twinkling mischievously, waiting until Barbara lowered her water bottle.
"Ready to stretch, Red?" she smiled gently, not quite making eye contact, and cracked the knuckles of one hand, then the other.
The older woman blinked, looking faintly surprised. "Hel, we don't need to do this today. It's... I'm... you're still..."
"...Still on the mend?", Helena cut her off handily, quite certain she didn't want to know how the older woman might have completed her thought. "Not hardly. I'm fit as a fiddle, ready to kick ass and take names. And," she added with a grin, "We already missed one session this week while I was lazing around unconscious. I do have my reputation as the world's toughest PT to uphold."
Ignoring the older woman's softly snorted "Not so tough", the brunette teased, "Unless you don't think *you* can handle it...." Damn her mouth, running off without thinking again. "I mean..."
Barbara cut her off this time. " 'Not hardly' ", she teased, throwing Helena's words back at her. Holding out her arms for a lift, she added lightly, "Lay on, Macduff."
"And damn'd be him that first cries, 'Hold, enough!'".
Helena automatically completed the quote as she carefully lifted Barbara from her chair and settled her gently on the mat. In response to the teacher's amused look and a raised russet brow, the younger woman, and Barbara's former student, muttered, "Hey, never said I *couldn't* read" as she reached for Barbara's right leg.
As the lithe woman began to work Barbara's leg carefully through a range of stretches, she was distantly aware that the redhead was speaking -- something about The Bard, she thought -- but was unable to hear over the sound of blood thundering through her ears. Her left hand moved automatically down the length of the still well-toned limb, gently grasping Barbara's foot; her right hand slipped under the redhead's thigh, just above the knee, supporting and guiding the leg through a range of motion. Helena carefully regulated her breathing, keeping her eyes locked firmly on her hands as she gently rotated the redhead's foot.
For over six years, these twice-weekly sessions had been a source of consistent pride for the young woman, knowing that she was helping the woman she loved so desperately. The sessions were also a source of almost agonizing torment, tantalizing her with the feel of warm flesh separated from her hands only by a thin layer of fabric. It never, fucking never, got any easier, she realized with a grim smile. Even now, as her hands ran over the unresponsive but firm flesh, as her sensitive nose picked up the scent of Barbara's sweat -- always an aphrodisiac for the younger woman, she was in agony. She wanted, god how she wanted; remembering the feel of the older woman in her arms in bed just a few nights before, her hands itched for more.
'Jesus, get a grip, Kyle. Not. Gonna. Happen.'
Still, touching the other woman, she felt her mouth water. Thinking of Barbara's throaty moans earlier in the week, her heart began to triphammer. Inhaling the scent of the woman, her breathing increased. Then, flashing back to her more recent intimate encounter -- with someone who definitely was *not* Barbara Gordon, her stomach performed a slow roll.
What the hell was she doing, thinking about Barbara? The brunette was already quite...taken.
Helena lowered the older woman's leg gently, but hurriedly, before choking out, "Back in a sec" and bolting for the bathroom. A few minutes later, certain that she'd emptied her stomach of brunch, last night's dinner, and probably everything she'd eaten for the last two years, Helena continued to dry-heave over the toilet. Shame washed over her, both for her loss of control and for leaving Barbara alone, several feet from her chair. Resolutely, the young woman attempted to stop her body's heaving, standing shakily and turning the tap on to rinse her mouth and wash her face.
She glanced at her face in the mirror above the sink -- Whoa, serious Goth look going on there -- and froze, her eyes drawn to her almost healed lip. Instantly, she spun, dropping to her knees in front of the toilet again, gasping. Shit. Shit. Shit.
Two nights ago, when Helena had told Barbara that her memory was back, she had not been lying in the least. In the course of her... interactions ... with Harleen Quinzel two nights earlier, everything had come rushing back. Everything.
After that first brutal blow, their first coupling had been almost tender and certainly passionate, the petite blonde teasing and coaxing Helena to a point that she was panting and screaming and begging for release. When the blonde finally, finally, allowed the young woman to crest, the name that was torn from Helena's lips was not 'Harleen', not 'Quinzel', not even -- to her relief -- the name she truly wanted to shout; the name was 'Quinn'. The name doused any post-coital glow like a bucket of ice water.
'Harley Quinn', the dark woman had realized, even as the other woman was forcibly urging Helena to move down her body. The Joker's girlfriend, the lover of the man who had ordered the murder of Helena's mother seven years ago and had, personally, crippled Barbara. Harley Quinn, who had bedeviled Barbara's beloved Gotham for years with crimes and capers every bit as maniacal and bloody as her boyfriend's. Harley Quinn, who -- under the guise of a renown psychiatrist -- was allowed to visit the Joker in Arkham and, thus, was able to plan and participate in his escape attempts.
Harley Quinn, whose alter-ego, Harleen Quinzel, psychotherapist, had drawn out the young woman's secrets -- from her desperate, hopeless love for Barbara to details about the muffin-top business -- before approaching her two years ago with a proposition to change the nature of their relationship.
Four nights ago, Helena had barely felt those blood-red nails pressing sharply into her shoulders while she pleasured the woman. Instead she recalled her initial shock and horror at Quinzel's, no, Quinn's suggestion. Although the young woman's immediate response had been an astonished 'Hell, no!', her former therapist had been insistent... and persuasive. And, over the course of their relationship, Helena had come to realize that -- as the petite blonde had promised -- the ... benefits could not be questioned.
For almost two years, the brunette had seriously doubted that Barbara would share her viewpoint.
For the remainder of the evening, throughout the sometimes brutally punishing couplings that Quinn clearly reveled in, couplings that were a painful counterpoint to the tender passion she had briefly shared with Barbara only the night before, Helena had been in a daze. Rage and shame and hopelessness blew through her. She recalled instance after instance of humiliated silence around Barbara as the woman spoke scathingly of Quinn. She recalled having to avoid the clock tower on more than one occasion after dates with Quinn, certain that the redhead would notice her stiffness, the haunted look in her eyes.
Holy shit. *This* sure explained a lot, the young woman had realized as it all flooded back to her four nights ago.
She was in a relationship with the psychopathic lover of the psychotic man who had so terribly hurt the woman that Helena had loved since she could remember, the woman that she was still desperately, achingly in love with.
How sick was that?
Now there was one seriously sick individual, Barbara mused, grimacing sympathetically as she heard another round of violent retching from the other side of the bathroom door. Not good, not good at all.
After Helena's hurried exit, the redhead had managed to snag her chair, get settled into it, and move to the bathroom door in time to hear the sound of water running in the sink. Hoping that the worst of the... episode... was past, she started to back away, only to be pulled up short by the sound of a renewed bout of violent heaving. Certain that the younger woman couldn't have anything left and knowing that she wasn't helping herself any with the dry heaving, Barbara sighed in resignation before quietly swinging the door open and moving inside. Looking absolutely, abjectly miserable, the brunette glanced up, offering a faint apologetic smile before being seized by another round.
During her teaching career and, more educationally, during her tenure as the guardian of a wild, strong-willed teenager determined to explore every variety of alcohol ever distilled, Barbara Gordon had become quite familiar with the signs and symptoms of hangovers. This, especially considering the younger woman's earlier energy in the training room, was not a hangover. Wetting a washrag and gently bathing the brunette's forehead and the back of her neck, Barbara frowned, wondering what could have brought this on so suddenly. She gently rubbed the other woman's back, relieved to see that the violent episode seemed to be abating, and mused that Helena had seemed fine until starting on the PT exercises. Could there be...?
This train of thought was interrupted as the brunette finally rocked back on her heels and turned her head toward Barbara, her eyes seeming huge against the paleness of her face. Helena looked at her apologetically through her lashes, whispering hoarsely, "Are you okay? I'm really sorry about running off and leaving you back there...".
Warmed by the concern radiating from the younger woman -- of course Helena would worry about her first and foremost, the redhead realized -- Barbara smiled gently, handing the other woman a cup of mouthwash, and replied, "Of course I'm fine, sweetheart. Let's just worry about getting you cleaned up."
Re-wetting the washrag, she leaned forward and carefully bathed the brunette's face. She repeated the process with Helena's hands and inner wrists and then, again, her face and neck. By the time she'd finished the slow, gentle cleansing, most of Helena's color had returned, and the redhead felt a great deal more confident that the woman wouldn't be fainting any time soon. Backing away minutely, she grasped both of Helena's hands in hers and tugged gently, urging the woman to her feet. Resisting the desire to say something -- anything -- Barbara simply proceeded Helena out of the bathroom, heading towards a low massage table; she detoured momentarily to snag an unopened bottle of water before pointing silently at the table.
The dark woman hopped onto the low table easily -- her recuperative abilities really were amazing -- and ducked her head in thanks as she accepted the water. The redhead rocked the wheels of her chair back and forth and watched her charge take tentative sips before, apparently deciding that it wouldn't bounce, she downed half the bottle in one long swallow.
"Hey, hey. Easy there. I don't think either of us want to see that again," green eyes sparkled warmly, seeking to look into blue. Helena smiled faintly but managed to avoid the concerned gaze.
Barbara reached up, gently brushing unruly dark bangs back, casually touching the young woman's forehead with her fingertips. No fever, so what had upset the woman so violently?
During the earlier workout -- 'Be honest, Gordon; since Helena got here' -- Barbara had been watching the dark woman, attempting to gauge her physical and emotional state. Not to mention, she admitted reluctantly, simply reveling in having the other woman nearby again.
The younger woman had breezed into the clock tower just before noon; the fact that it was in time to catch the last of Alfred's waffles hadn't escaped the redhead. She'd accepted Dinah's enthusiastic hug before play-punching the teen, throwing a smile -- which only seemed slightly forced -- towards Barbara, and seating herself at the table like it was something she did every day. Well, truth be told, the brunette usually did join them for meals almost every day; things had only been a little ... off recently.
As she'd watched Helena tuck into an obscenely huge stack of waffles with gusto, Barbara became aware of blood rushing through her veins, tingling her extremities, filling her with oxygen. As she'd listened to the younger woman question Dinah oh-so-seriously about her study date with Gabby, the redhead realized how warm she was feeling; had she truly been that... cold for the last few days, waiting for Helena -- the sun -- to return? As she'd watched the dark woman strip off her warm-up jacket to reveal her standard workout gear, tank top and running pants, she discovered that she was leaning forward, starting to reach out, hungering to trace her hand down one of those deceptively smooth, strong arms.
Moving through her own workout on auto-pilot, Barbara had been acutely conscious of the other woman's movements, words. Her mouth had watered as she caught glimpses of the brunette stretching -- my goodness, Helena really was very limber, wasn't she?. Her heart rate had soared as she watched Helena tackle some of the gymnastic equipment, movements highlighting muscles and pushing her flesh tightly against the thin tank top. Her chest had felt tight, nipples burning, as she'd watched her two younger charges sparring, then wrestling and giggling, moving against each other in a way that barely suggested activities she wanted with a deep, dark ache.
When the brunette had finally approached her about the physio exercises, Barbara's first instinct had been a stammered refusal. But, Helena had seemed relatively at ease, teasing the redhead into capitulation -- without much fight, Barbara had to admit. Barbara had barely settled into the routine, determined to focus on some of the intricacies of Macbeth instead of the sight of those long, delicate fingers on her legs, when Helena had visibly paled and bolted. What had happened?
Frustrated by her inability to figure this one out on her own, Barbara bit the bullet.
Placing her hand lightly on top of the brunette's and tilting her head delicately in the direction of the washroom, she asked, "What's going on, Hel? What happened?"
The younger woman shifted her hand from under Barbara's, grasping the older woman's hand gently and giving a reassuring squeeze, accompanied by a self-depreciating grin. "I'm really sorry, Babs. I think I got something bad for dinner last night." A faintly hang-dog look -- the one Barbara was well aware that Helena knew she couldn't resist -- and then, "Something reeeelly bad...".
The redhead doubted this explanation for the same reasons that she'd earlier ruled out an overindulgence of alcohol; plus, the brunette was trying just a little too hard to play this off. It didn't take much insight for the older woman to realize that Helena's physical reaction while touching her, however innocently, following so recently after their -- the redhead colored -- passionate intimacies several nights previous was simply too much of a coincidence to be dismissed as a coincidence.
Was the young brunette so embarrassed, so hurt that she couldn't even make eye contact, couldn't stand to touch her? Regretting again that she'd stopped Helena that night, the redhead longed for the sheer light easiness the two women had shared, for the openness -- unlike anything Barbara had seen in years -- that Helena had displayed. What would it take, how long would it take to reclaim at least a part of it?
Barbara fought back the palpable urge to rock her chair or crack her knuckles or tap her foot -- oh, wait, not an option. Wonderful, Barbara knew she was seriously nervous when she started making paraplegic jokes. She drew in a breath and, keeping her voice as steady and warm and welcoming as possible, Barbara Gordon caught blue eyes with hers and quietly spoke:
"I hope you know that there's nothing -- *nothing* -- you can't tell me, Hel. Nothing you can't ask... of me either."
Blue eyes widened, surprise evident, before a teasing twinkle shuttered the brief openness. "How about the name of the taco joint I ate at last night? Maybe you could hack into NGPL and have their electricity disconnected...?"
Emerald eyes were pleading, begging the young woman to come out, as the older woman responded quietly, seriously, "If that would make you feel better, Helena, I'd do it."
At that, surprise flashed through those blue, blue eyes again. Barbara did *not* abuse the power of the Delphi; not just "not lightly" -- never. As the older woman waited to see if Helena would recognize what she was offering, freely giving her, she noticed the brunette unconsciously touch her tongue to her almost healed lip.
Something clenched inside her. Reversing their hands, so that she was holding the dark woman's hand tenderly, Barbara Gordon went with her gut. She stretched her other hand out and gently cupped the other woman's cheek, stroking her thumb delicately across those lush lips, before finally breathing out, "Who's been hurting you, Hel?"
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