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
Save for waking from not-that-infrequent nightmares or waking in response to the sound of Barbara's nightmares, Helena had never been what could be called an easy riser. After a peaceful night, in the arms of the redhead, it was small wonder then that the brunette drifted towards wakefulness rather than snapping awake as she had the previous night.
It was the glare of a thin beam of sunlight streaming from a small crack in the blackout curtains and focusing with laser-like intensity on her face that finally pulled the healing woman fully awake. Remembering her discomfort from the night before, she cautiously raised a hand to rub at her eyes, noting with some pleasure that the amount of pain had decreased dramatically. Not bothering to open her eyes, she stretched her other arm out - displeased to discover that she had the large bed entirely to herself; while the evocative scent of the older woman was clearly present, especially to her heightened senses, the coolness of the bed and covers suggested that she'd be alone in the bed for quite some time.
But not alone in the room, she noted, hearing the page of a magazine being quietly turned. Cracking her eyes, she looked through the thick curtain of her lashes, discovering that the bedroom was currently being shared by a blonde, teen-aged girl who was thumbing through a People magazine, apparently intent on discovering the latest about Britney or Courtney or Whitney or whoever.
'Who the fuck...?' Helena fought her instictive urge to snap into a feral, defensive mode and took a moment to study the girl quietly. A name popped into her mind: 'Dinah', followed by a stream of images, memories. 'Yeah -- our "orphan", our "stray"', she chuckled soundlessly, fondly, as her brain reconnected pieces of Dinah's joining into the life she shared with Barbara. Dinah was, Helena supposed, almost the child to round out the family she and Barbara had.
This was encouraging; stuff was still fuzzy but definitely still there. So, Helena decided to announce her wakefulness.
"Hey, Kiddo. When's Jo-Lo's next wedding?" Her voice was a little raspy, but it shouldn't have caused such a jump and shriek from the blonde, Helena thought a bit peevishly.
Any ill temper immediately disappeared as Dinah practically threw herself on the bed, restraining herself from enthusiastically hugging Helena at the last minute. Instead, she chose to talk.
"Oh, god, Helena! I'm so glad you're awake. That you're better. God, we were so worried. I mean, Barbara didn't even leave the room until this morning. She's been awake almost the entire time and, y'know, I'd bring food but I don't think she remembered to eat or sleep or anything. And, well, now you're better - which is so great. I knew you'd be okay when she came out this morning and said that maybe I could watch you for a while -- Y'know, Oracle stuff again, I guess. Oh, gosh, I bet you're thirsty; want some water?"
Unaccountably warmed by the knowledge that Barbara had stayed so close and worried so much, Helena nodded in response to the girl's question and watched as she opened a bottle of water and tucked a straw in the top. 'Oracle-stuff?' popped into her mind as she sipped the water; Barbara was a high school English teacher, not a freakin' fortune teller... Well, maybe it had something to do with Oedipus Rex or some other dry-ass Greek play that she was currently inflicting on her students.
That particular thought removed a small measure of the warmth that had suffused the dark-haired woman since Dinah's mile-a-minute description of the older woman's devotion to her recuperation. 'What so effin' important about lesson plan stuff to leave me with a, a surrogate?' This rather churlish thought was immediately followed by a snort of impatience at herself as she admitted that Barbara certainly deserved a little time away from playing doctor and that, hell, Helena actually enjoyed the kid's company -- not that she was gonna admit that to the Kid. Things could be worse.
Handing the empty water bottle back, Helena cut off Dinah's continuing ramble about how quiet things had been in the last few days, how fast Helena was healing, gosh -- how *was* she feeling at this point; sitting up a bit more and performing a full one-armed stretch, Helena growled out a laconic inquiry, "We got any pop-tarts around here, Kiddo? Cuz, I don't know about you, but I could eat about two of every flavor right about now."
At that, Helena sat up fully in the big bed and started to swing her legs out from under the covers. Dinah -- almost fearfully, Helena observed while trying to seem like she wasn't -- placed a hand gently on her good shoulder, a symbolic, rather than physical, restraint.
"Uh, Hel? Maybe you should stay quiet a little longer...? I mean, you did get pretty banged up and all... Sure, you heal fast, but Barbara will kill me if I let you get up and you, I dunno, relapse or something."
Something instinctual in the dark-haired woman briefly flared, urging her to sweep the hand from her shoulder and make the young blonde back off. Helena clamped down on this, bringing her right hand up to ruffle through her shaggy hair. The rush of air through her nose the only indication of her irritation, Helena took a moment to assess herself physically: left shoulder was, well, tender; her ribs also seemed to be, well, tender; other than that, only her knuckles -- scraped and swollen like she'd been pounding a brick wall -- really seemed to be an issue.
"Look, D," she sighed, "I'm gonna have to get up sometime -- If for no other reason than that bottle of water I just guzzled."
This statement was accompanied by a waggle of dark eyebrows and an embarrassed giggle from the teenager.
Helena continued, "I'm feeling pretty good. Really. Just a few aches and twinges." With a nod of her head towards her tightly bound shoulder, "I think that damned bandage is bugging me more now than anything."
Sensing the girl's continued hesitation, Helena again bit back on her impatience and flashed a charming smile.
"C'mon, D," she wheedled, purposely avoiding the "K" nickname, which seemed to irk the blonde, "I'm gonna go stir-crazy if I have to stay in here. You don't want that, do you? I really wanna hit the bathroom and find something to eat."
'And go find Barbara', her mind added with an urgency which briefly took her breath away.
Missing the quick inhalation from the other woman, Dinah finally nodded and watched, suddenly dry-mouthed, as the lithe brunette threw back the covers, exposing a glorious amount of flesh -- covered only by brief boxers, a tee-shirt, and a copious quantity of bandages swathing the brunette's left shoulder outside the tee. Moving on instinct, Helena practically bounced out of the room, teasingly throwing over her shoulder, "You comin', Kid?".
For her part, Barbara was, naturally, planted in front of the Delphi. On the surface, she appeared to be verifying the handling and incarceration of The Claw, researching some suspicious T-1 traffic into the New Gotham Sports Arena, monitoring all incoming and outgoing police, fire, and rescue traffic, and a host of other simultaneous tasks. In actuality, she was engaged in the same activity that had been occupying her since she'd carefully extricated herself from the tangle of limbs in her bed that morning -- 'When had Helena grown octopus tentacles?' -- and sent Dinah in to keep watch: she was mentally banging her head against the desk. Repeatedly. Imagining the dull thudding noise that would ensue and hoping to knock some sense into herself.
'Stupid.' Followed by a mental <thunk>. 'You know you promised yourself... What the hell were you thinking?'
Well, if she were truthful with herself -- something Barbara Gordon prided herself on -- she knew that at least part of her... surge in feelings ... stemmed from the sheer giddy relief at having the young woman alive and relatively well after the horrific battle. But, that scarcely accounted for her ... lapse. Helena had been injured, in danger, too many times to consider comfortably.
'Selfish.' Another mental <thunk>. 'How could you take advantage of that situation?'
As she thought about it, there was something in the young heroine's actions, her responses, her unshuttered eyes after awakening the night before. In the last few years -- really, if Barbara thought about it, it coincided with the time that Helena had started to curtail, or at least be more discrete about, her sexual escapades -- the young woman had closed off a part of herself. She was always, *always*, loving and affectionate with the older woman; yet, she maintained a distance, a separation or ... hiding? ... of some part of herself from Barbara. There had been none of that last night; her eyes were so achingly open, freely giving Barbara a glimpse into her soul. In addition, she'd been so easy in displaying her feral side; 'Acting on it, too', Barbara acknowledged with a shiver, recalling the feel of Helena's mouth against her wrist and the feel of her hands kneading and stroking her side and stomach. From long association, the redhead knew that this was a side of herself, animalistic -- 'sensual': the word blazed across Barbara's brain in three foot neon letters -- which Helena tried to keep under wraps.
Perhaps that was it, she mused. Helena was reacting to her experience, her survival and victory; and Barbara, also reacting, couldn't help but be caught up in it.
'Still, Gordon, what the *hell* where you thinking?' <Thunk>
This mental flagellation was suddenly interrupted by the feeling of a smooth, deceptively delicate arm circling her shoulders from behind while a pair of impossibly soft lips pressed to her ear and mock-growled, "Afternoon, Gorgeous. Didja miss me?"
Reflexively jerking her chair wheels backward a quarter-circuit -- the parapalegic's equivalent to a startled jump -- and avoiding Helena's toes only due to the athletic woman's uncanny reflexes, the cyber-crime-fighter felt herself flushing a shade of red which was -- undoubtedly, she reflected -- unflattering for a red-head. Not-at-all surprised that the other woman had managed to approach so silently -- 'Little cat feet. Hmph.', Barbara mentally groused -- the older woman attempted to get herself under control as she swung her chair 90 degrees, to face Helena from the side.
The redhead performed a quick, but thorough, visual appraisal of the healing woman, starting with her bare feet and legs -- marred only by some almost-faded bruises; moving up her body -- in that damned sheer tee-shirt -- to take in her stance and the comfort she displayed holding herself -- rib and shoulder injury not-withstanding; and ending with her face -- rapidly fading "racoon eyes" and a few scrapes the only indications of injury.
As Barbara completed her inspection, green eyes finally focusing on sparkling colbalt, Helena looked away, murmurring, "Sorry -- didn't mean to scare you. I just -- ". "What are you doing up?" Barbara asked, at the exact moment, tilting her head to try to catch those captivating eyes again.
"Hungry..." "It's okay, you're just quiet." They spoke, again, as one.
The brunette lifted both brows, the question 'Are you done?' clear. Barbara blinked slowly, an invitation for other woman to speak, and offered a smile -- a smile which faltered and became rather forced when Helena finished her thought.
"...and I missed you." This accompanied by another one of those ten-thousand watt smiles as the brunette leaned towards Barbara's face, eyes briefly flickering yellow before reverting to their normal startling blue.
With the incredible timing which had made her such a phenomena in the gynastic circuit and so daunting to villians during her Batgirl days, the redhead ducked her head towards the bank of monitors, swinging her chair back around with seeming nochalance before the younger woman could make contact. Barbara felt, rather than saw, the brunette literally freeze, holding her position for a moment -- face impossibly close to where the older woman's face had just been -- before ghosting a kiss to red hair. Helena casually hopped onto the edge of the desk, throwing what appeared to be an extremely irritated glare towards Dinah, before opening up a package of Pop-Tarts -- strawberry, Barbara guessed -- and asking, "So, what the heck are you hacking into, and does NASA know you've taken over their operation?".
A little surprised that her hack into NASA had caught Helena's eye -- honestly, she was just cross-checking some data, after all, and it was only one screen among dozens -- Barbara laughed and responded, "Nothing quite that dire, Hel. Is this a hint that you want to play Doom? Because, honestly, I'm beginning to believe that you spend more time than I do here."
When there was no response, she looked over to find Helena chewing thoughtfully on her pastry while raking her eyes across the Delphi, her eyes clouded and her expression somewhat puzzled and abashed. Without hesitation, without thought, Barbara placed her hand on the younger woman's knee -- absolutely, positively, refusing to notice the burning warmth that suffused her hand and began to travel up her arm -- and attempted to reassure her.
"Hel, it's alright. Really."
A tentative smile was her response, so the older woman opted to return to earlier, more pressing topics.
"Now, how are you feeling, Helena?", she inquired with what she hoped was an encouraging smile. "You look like you're getting around pretty well -- thank heavens you heal so quickly -- but we need to be alert to any possible set-backs."
The brunette smiled, taking Barbara's hand from her knee to hold it in hers, stroking lightly with her thumb.
"I feel pretty good, I guess." Slightly shrugging her tightly bound shoulder, she added, "This damned bandage is driving me batshit, tho...".
Ignoring the feeling of butterflies dancing up and down her arm, apparently attracted by the rhythmic stroking of Helena's thumb, Barbara regarded her evenly. Clearly, the amazing woman was healing in record time: her color was good; her movements seemed relatively pain-free; her eyes were clear and full of energy and ... sparkling and ... open; her lips were...
Neatly derailing that train of thought before she ended up drooling at the other woman's chest under the guise of checking her breathing -- really, what the hell *was* the matter with her lately? -- she made the decision.
"Ok, I'll take a look at it; if it seems okay AND if you promise to stay quiet for at least another day, we can leave the bandage off."
The young woman immediately dropped from the desk to the floor and knelt, left arm brushing the side of the wheel chair. Her left shoulder was presented to the other woman, clearly for immediate inspection, and her head was bowed, posture almost unnervingly submissive although Barbara was sure she detected a twinkle in the blue eyes barely visible through thick lashes and unruly bangs. Swallowing thickly against the possible implications of Helena's chosen position, she tilted her head in the direction of Dinah -- who was observing from the couch while seemingly engrossed in an episode of Elimidate -- and murmurred, "I think the bedroom might be better."
The moment the words were out, Barbara realized there was no doubt about the twinkle in blue eyes; nor, apparently, could there be any doubt about how unflattering this particular blush shade was on her.
Sighing, and mentally cursing Helena's flirtatious nature -- especially on the heels of her own guilt about the previous night, Barbara silently backed away from the Delphi and headed towards the bedroom, with Helena trailing obediently behind her. On the way, for little other reason than to break the silence which suddenly seemed suffocating, Barbara glanced over her shoulder and asked, "Are you sure that's it? Only your shoulder is bothering you at this point?".
They'd crossed the threshold into Barbara's bedroom before Helena responded. Circling to the side of Barbara's chair, the brunette ducked her chin -- a gesture Barbara knew from long experience meant that Helena was trying to shield her eyes, her face -- and held out both hands in loose fists, exposing the still-bruised and scraped knuckles. The young woman exhaled in a long steady stream, drawing in another breath and holding it.
Concerned that there were injuries she'd been unaware of, Barbara reached up and gently grasped one of the hands presented for her inspection.
"What is it, Hel?", her voice pitched low, meaning to comfort, to coax.
As much as she theoretically subscribed to Bill Shakespeare's wisdom about there being more things in heaven and earth..., Barbara also considered herself to be ... well ... generally unflappable, not easily surprised; after all, considering her career choices -- both as a vigilante crime-fighter AND a high school teacher -- she believed that there shouldn't be much that could catch her off guard. Therefore, when Helena finally spoke, looking at her with pain-filled eyes, she wasn't certain if she was surprised so much by the young woman's words or her reaction to them. Barbara's head jerked back, her mouth parted in a silent 'O', and all the air seemed to leave her body as she heard the softly spoken words.
"Just, uh, kinda wondering. Didja get the number of the truck that hit me? Or, I guess, that, uh, maybe I hit?"
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