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
Well, this just sucked.
No, Helena realized as she watched a flurry of emotions -- surprise, alarm, sadness, resignation, sympathy -- flash across Barbara's face; the situation would probably need to ascend several thousand feet to even approach suckage.
God, this was just fucked.
Not only was she, apparently, out of luck in persuading Barbara to forget about health concerns in favor of some good old fashioned loving, but it looked like she was just plain out of luck period. There was more going on here than Barbara's concern about her physical injuries, than propriety in front of the kid, than intense involvement with that fuckin' Cray supercomputer. Something intrinsic was... off. The redhead knew something, had figured something out -- something to do with her, she'd thought, winsome attempt to persuade her to make an exception this time...
This time. Helena turned the phrase around in her mind as she watched Barbara, who was, in turn, watching her carefully -- like she was some sort of rare and delicate, or deadly?, animal that should only be approached cautiously.
This time. Sure, she didn't understand why they couldn't make love -- at least a little -- what rule or habit or ... whatever she was breaking. Unless, unless, there was no rule or habit to .... And, that would mean... Helena's mind stumbled a moment, desperately trying to avoid the meaning behind Barbara's concerned and sympathetic gaze, frantically scrambling for the reason behind her lover's refusal.
A small whimper escaped her as she accepted it: the reason behind her lover's refusal was -- she sucked in a breath -- because they weren't, hadn't ever been lovers. The one thing that she'd been most certain of since waking up last night, the one thing which was completely right, completely true in her mind ... well, it wasn't.
Helena blinked, rapidly. Shit. Shit. Shit. She wanted to cry, and damned if she would add that humiliation to the steaming pile she'd created, especially while lying here in the same bed with the woman she'd been attempting -- apparently without warrant -- to seduce.
Without realizing it, she began to curl her legs up and wrapped her arms around herself, transforming from feral to fetal. She ducked her head towards her chest, panting softly through her mouth, unaware of the soft rumbling from her chest.
In an instant, she felt Barbara roll herself closer, envelop her in her arms, patting and stroking her back and head. The older woman murmurred something, her sweet breath whispering through the brunette's hair, absolutely burning her with her need and loss and embarassment.
God-fucking-damnit! How could she have, have thought this, done this to the other woman? What she'd interpreted as propriety around the kid and concern for her injuries, what she'd seen as anticipated blushes from normal banter, what she thought she'd felt in their kiss -- None of it was the truth. Family; well, seemed like that part was still true. Partners... of some sort. But not partners and family like she'd believed. Barbara had been taking care of her -- like she always did, the young woman instinctively knew; and she'd gone and misinterpreted it, twisting it with her own desires and wants and needs. And, even now, the older woman, who had every right to be indignant or angry or ... something -- Helena couldn't name it because she honestly couldn't imagine not responding enthusiastically to an approach from Barbara, regardless of whether they were lovers or not -- even now, the other woman was holding and comforting her. And even that touch hurt. So much.
"Sweetheart..." Helena heard the word with bitterness, curling more tightly into herself as the redhead continued, "you're still confused. You were injured ... so badly, and, waking up...", Barbara stumbled slightly over the words, "waking up next to me, it's not surprising that you'd think -".
"Stop. Please. Stop." the anguished woman whispered hoarsely. 'Just. Fucking. Stop. All of it.'
Helena squeezed her eyes more tightly shut, hoping that maybe -- just maybe -- this was part of the weird concussion-induced nightmares she'd had. Eventually, she'd wake up and, in time, could tell the older woman about the dream -- okay, about carefully edited parts of it -- and they'd laugh. Only, funny thing was -- Helena snorted softly -- she knew this wasn't part of her dreams and she was damned well certain that she wouldn't be laughing about it for a good long while.
For another agonizing moment, she continued to lie still in Barbara's arms, not breathing because even that hurt too much, bringing with it the other woman's sweet smell. Then, she rolled away and sat up on the other side of the bed. For a moment she sat still -- only the trembling of her muscles belying her tension -- gulping in air, fighting hard to clamp down on the rage and embarassment and loss sweeping through her. The vision of a largely barren apartment -- hers, she realized -- flashed before her. The memory of Barbara's throaty voice in her ear as she soared through the night sky, feeling like she could do anything, skittered through her mind. The image of lounging on the big couch with Barbara and the kid, late at night -- after flying over rooftops but before returning -- fucking returning! -- to her solitary apartment hit her. A woman's face -- familiar and, she sensed, very important to her -- contorted in ecstasy? rage? caused her to gasp.
"Enough.", the dark woman growled, frustrated and overwhelmed.
These memories, these images -- yeah, that was about right. She was a part of the Barbara-Helena-Dinah family, but was also an outsider. She had her own place and someone -- that face, surrounded by spikey blonde hair, swam before her eyes again -- who was part of her world but not theirs. Yeah, that was her life; not the pretty picture she had believed in with such fierce certainty since waking up the night before.
Helena rocked forward and stumbled to her feet, the always-graceful woman moving brokenly. As she jerkily thrust herself into her clothes, she was distantly aware of Barbara pulling herself upright, saying something. But she couldn't see, couldn't hear over the screaming in her head. Finally dressed, the young woman drew in a deep breath and turned her head to speak quietly, almost casually, over her shoulder.
"I'm really sorry, Barbara. Really. It's coming back now -- sweeps, my place, the bar." After a brief pause, she gave a lopsided grin and, without even considering why, tried to ease the worry and pain radiating from the older woman. "Guess I just needed a, uh, sudden blow, huh?"
Neither woman smiled.
"I'm gonna head home now. Uh, check my messages, get some zzzz's. Thanks for patching me up."
And, with that, she was out the door, on the balcony, and then sailing over rooftops, her body moving without thought.
Barbara knew that Dinah was confused, worried. After all, the half-explanation that the redhead had managed to stammer out -- that Helena wanted some time to pull herself together -- sounded woefully ridiculous even to her. There was simply no way Barbara could answer the young blonde's perfectly reasonable question about why Helena -- who was still obviously recovering from severe injuries -- had simply decided to leave in the middle of the night. On top of that, the older woman was fairly certain that, best efforts to dampen them to the contrary, her own feelings of loss and pain and emptiness were radiating clearly enough for the young telepath to pick up on.
When Helena had departed -- fled, the redhead automatically corrected -- last night, Barbara had instinctively moved to get up and follow, to call her back. With a weary sigh, recognizing the near critical mass of agony in the younger woman's eyes and understanding at least a large part of the emotions behind it, Barbara stopped her pursuit before even starting. She knew that she, herself, was in an emotionally tenuous area -- body still thrumming with passion and desire, mind conflicted about the knowledge she'd pieced together, soul horrified by the results of taking part in exposing Helena's misperception so abruptly. She doubted that she'd be able to offer much comfort or resolution or -- whatever in heaven's name someone needed after something like this -- to the younger woman. So, she spent the night, completely, utterly awake; staring into the dark and hoping that, somehow, things would be okay.
In addition to her concerns about Helena's emotional state, Barbara had been, and was, deeply concerned about the extent and possible duration of her partner's memory loss. She'd spent a good portion of the night chastizing herself for missing so many signs, now obvious, of what Helena had termed "fuzziness". How she could have such a very, very high IQ and still fail to pick up on what were now glaringly obvious clues baffled and frustrated the redhead to no end. Yes, she'd noticed Helena's initial confusion when the young woman woke up last night, but had -- perhaps understandably -- written it off. But the next day? The young woman's seemingly joking remark about the Delphi could have been missed as a sign, but, coupled with her odd scrutiny of the system moments later, shouldn't have been. Her question about her hands: true, it had raised a huge flag, but Barbara had too easily let the other woman dance around it. Her exploration of the clocktower during the afternoon: why hadn't she fit that piece into the puzzle? Why hadn't she even been aware of the wretched puzzle?
Independently, each action could be overlooked, rationalized. But, in combination with the change in personality which Barbara most definitely *had* noticed, they were glaring. The redhead frowned, angry at herself: her own discomfort with her response to Helena's openness, that animal sensualism, had made it too easy, too tempting, to rationalize away the young woman's actions so that she could do the same for her own.
To say that Barbara Gordon was not pleased with herself was an understatement of staggering magnitude.
Now, sitting on the balcony, watching the sun set over the city which had consumed so much of her, of Helena, Barbara sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. How long did she wait before... before.... Her brain stuttered to a halt, and she idly wondered if Emily Post had guidelines on how to handle the difficult conversation that very probably lay in her future. For the hundredth -- five hundredth? -- time since Helena had left, Barbara questioned why she had halted things.
Quite honestly -- since the murder of Selina Kyle, in fact -- Barbara had never seen the young woman, pain and injuries not-with-standing, as open, as genuinely happy and playful, as ... light and at-ease as she'd been in the day after waking from her injuries. Waking in Barbara's bed, with the redhead curled protectively next to her, with Barbara touching her with the ease that had built between them over the years of their relationship; assuming -- not a huge leap, the older woman had to admit -- that the two shared something more than, well, just about every other aspect of two lives which could be shared. Fears, hopes, dreams; quests for justice, laughter over bad kung fu movies, nightmares over shared tragedies; money, family -- which Dinah's presence only seemed to enhance, years and years of togetherness. Barbara gasped at the realization that the two women were bound at a level few married couples enjoyed.
Never overly fond of self-introspection, and particularly not-completely-comfortable with the outcome of this mental perambulation, Barbara rubbed her forehead and sighed silently. She had to admit that the assumption Helena had made required a leap that even she, in her manual chair, would be able to make. Of course, she had to admit, her physical responses to the young woman throughout yesterday could only have not just reinforced -- a rueful grimace dimpled her cheeks -- but damn near cemented the belief. Just sitting at the Delphi, she'd responded to the brunette with stammering and blushes, thundering heartbeat and shallow breathing which would have been clearly audible to the young meta-human. And, last night, in bed... As the images and sensory memories played through her mind and body again, Barbara blushed, or perhaps flushed?
It had been so easy, so, so seamless, the thick liquid arousal that had coursed through her at the first touch of their mouths. They'd moved, given and taken of each other effortlessly. Blushing -- definitely a blush this time, she determined -- she allowed that her own, well, moaning and writhing had certainly done nothing to disabuse the other woman of her... misperception.
Which led the older woman to prod at the question again: Why had she halted things?
Yes, clearly the behavior was -- unexpected from Helena -- but just as clearly, the woman had been enjoying the experience. As had Barbara herself. Obviously it felt good -- she snorted at the understatement -- to her. It felt more than good; it felt right. In Helena's arms, she'd felt -- lighter than she had since the shooting.
Suddenly, Barbara Gordon was consumed by a rage the likes of which she hadn't felt since waking in the hospital seven years ago to discover that she that she was paralyzed. The Joker's last cruel prank had taken so much from her and from Helena. She'd be damned if she'd let him keep taking!
Since the shooting, her attempts at physical relationships had been, well, half-hearted and woefully lacking, at best. Her fears of her inadequacies necessarily resulted in couplings that were less-than-satisfactory, reinforcing her fears to the point that she'd finally accepted that she could never be desired -- truly desired -- or respond to such desire.
Which was, she realized with a flash of clarity that briefly left her light-headed, complete and utter bullshit.
This, this ... Helena was different.
Obviously, Helena desired her, to the point that -- after awakening, mentally disoriented -- she'd assumed, without apparent second thought, that they were lovers. And, she'd acted on that belief with all of the naturalness and tenderness and passion in the world.
Blushing again before breaking into an increasingly wide, dirty kind of smile, Barbara realized that Helena, apparently, hadn't really misinterpreted things at all and that she, herself, certainly *could* respond to the right person. To Helena.
If it wasn't too late.
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