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. 9

'Too late now, kid', Helena repeated to herself for the umpteenth time that day. 'Ya can't put the whatever-it-is back in the wherever-it-was.'

Eventually, she knew, she'd have to suck it up and face the redhead, undoubtedly enduring a heartfelt and too-kind-for-words conversation, and weeks or months of awkward moments before -- if -- they could get back to something like normal. 'Whatever that was', she snorted. Eventually. Not today; probably not tomorrow. She'd cheerfully submit to being staked over an anthill while someone scraped fingers down a chalkboard all day before facing Barbara at this point.

But, with a sigh, she knew she would have to; they were just too freakin' intertwined -- co-dependent, another part of her suggested. For now though, she didn't want to -- couldn't -- bear to think about it... them... all of it: the mortifying embarassment still washing through her over her actions; puzzlement over her inability to reconcile Barbara's pleasured reactions with the fact that Barbara had stopped her advances; the huge hole in her soul. For now, she'd pace her apartment and continue to knit together the pieces of her memory, starting with the identity of the blonde woman who was pervading her memories more and more frequently.

Her mind flashed on Barbara, saying something bitterly about the woman and her own feeling of shame and fear. She caught glimpses of sitting in a room, an office?, many times, just talking with the woman. There were visions of the woman's head between Helena's legs, of herself licking and biting at the woman's breasts and nipples as the blonde screamed pleasured obscenities. The images were viscerally intense -- and all tinged with shame and humiliation, leaving Helena baffled that she was unable to connect them more coherently.

When the young woman finally got around to, as she'd flippantly stated to Barbara the night before, checking her messages, she could only assume that the chain of flirtatious, then concerned, then outright angry messages she found -- all in the same honey-vinegared voice -- belonged to the mysterious woman.

Three days ago: <Beep> A breathy, sexy tone... <Hello, Tiger. Are you there or on your way? You certainly didn't forget that this is our afternoon did you?> Qu... Quinzel? Was that her name?

An hour after the first message: <Beep> Peeved, a little worried, too... <Kitten, I am just not going to be pleased if you try to tell me you've been ... tied up ... by someone else. I am waiting.> Yeah, Har...leen Quinzel. That sounded right.

A day later: <Beep> The voice was distinctly cutting, acid... <Listen, Helena. You know that being ignored makes me absolutely insane. We don't want that now, do we? *Do* call.> Insane...? Ther...therapy? Oh. Wow. That woman had been her court-mandated therapist, but she sure wasn't calling about a missed counselling session. The brunette smirked; looked like they'd managed to work through any doctor-patient propriety issues.

Twelve hours later: <Beep> Cloying, too sweet... <You know how fond I am of you, but this is bordering on the ridiculous, Puddin'. I will not tolerate being ignored. I was under the impression that we've both been satisfied with our little ... arrangement. If you're having second thoughts after our years of twisted bliss, Tiger, let me know if I need to turn my attentions back to my sweet Mr. J.> Mr. J?

The night before: <Beep> Clipped, too calm... <Do call, Helena. You have until tomorrow.> Shit.

Well, here it was, tomorrow, and Helena was regretting that she didn't have caller-ID on her cheap-ass answering machine 'cuz she sure as hell couldn't remember the woman's -- Quinzel's -- phone number. Running a hand through her dishevelled hair, the brunette resigned herself to trying all of the speed dial numbers which were, hopefully, programmed into her phone. Bypassing Mem-1 in the assumption that it would most likely be Barbara's number, she inhaled and hit Mem-2.

Two rings, then, "Dark Horse Bar."

"Oh, uh, yeah. This is Helena..."

"Hey! Barbara called a few days ago, said you were under the weather. How you feelin'? All of the regulars are asking for you, y'know."

Helena rolled her eyes. Going back to work had not been on her mind when she started her little memory-dial fishing expedition. "Oh, uh, it's probably going to be another week...". With a bit more generic small talk and excuses about needing to crash again, the young woman extricated herself from the conversation.

Well, this was going to be loads of fun. Fortifying herself, she hit Mem-3. After three rings, "Jiffy Pizza". Huh? Oh, cool.

A large pepperoni-and-everything on the way, Helena worked her way through the remaining numbers, deciding -- after a brief but awkward conversation with a surprised and disgruntled Jesse Reese, who was on Mem-5 and obviously should have been removed some time ago -- just to hang up if a number didn't yield the mysterious voice. Twenty minutes later, she was working herself up to try Mem-1, in the off chance..., when there was a knock on the door. Saved by the pizza.

Tossing the cordless on the couch, she grabbed a twenty from her wallet and swung the door open. She wasn't sure why she was surprised not to find a pizza waiting; after all, her sensitive nose certainly hadn't detected the tantalizing odor of pepperoni and other artery-clogging ingredients.

No, rather than a pimply-faced delivery boy, Helena found herself face-to-face, finally, with a frighteningly calm-looking Harleen Quinzel.

Surprisingly, the woman didn't look as utterly pissed-off as her last few messages had led Helena to expect. In fact, after she brusquely raked her eyes over the younger woman and, apparently, noted the fading injuries, the blonde's features relaxed and seemed to gentle.

Locking glittering, glacial blue eyes with deep cobalt, the woman purred, "Hello, Helena. Seems that my ... premonition ... that a house-call might be in order wasn't too far off."

Feeling distinctly like a house-cat in front of a cobra, Helena smiled shakily. Then she pulled herself together, remembering that the woman was a long-term friend, lover?; 'Cripes, get a grip, Kyle; she's been worried about you.'

Swinging the door open further in invitation, the younger woman flashed a more genuine smile and attempted to explain: "Yeah, I'm really sorry about that... about missing the other day. I, uh, sort of got, uh, hurt. Just got back here today."

"Looks like," her former therapist concurred shortly as she shed her suit-jacket and raked Helena with another look, this one undisguised in intent.

Helena experienced a frission of arousal, fear, desire as Harleen Quinzel moved slowly to her. The petite blonde reached out, tenderly tracing some of the lingering bruises and cuts on the brunette's face, then she stretched lightly to press her lips warmly againstly Helena's mouth.

Unable, and not wanting to resist the tenderness, the genuine affection and desire so evident in the other woman's eyes, Helena surrendered to the kiss. Quinzel was gentle, but insistent, moving her mouth against Helena's with unmistakable familiarity and ... want; thrusting her tongue into the young woman's mouth, mapping it with firm strokes which soon had the brunette gasping and fighting not to beg for more.

'Holy shit...' Barbara Gordon may not have wanted her, but this woman sure had her number. Helena pushed herself closer to Harleen, seeking more contact while continuing to gulp at the other woman's mouth. 'Yeah...'.

The sound of knocking slowly permeated Helena's conscious, and, this time, the smell of hot pizza couldn't be missed. 'Aw, cripes...' Disengaging from the kiss with some difficulty, the young woman flashed an apologetic look at the blonde. "Uh, sorry. Pizza..."

As Helena answered the door, Quinzel sauntered to the couch, settling in the middle, crossing her legs primly at the ankles, and adjusting her just-above-the-knee skirt. The young woman set the box on her coffee table, torn between tearing into the food or the other woman. Her stomach made the call, rumbling audibly. Helena ducked her head in embarassment as the older woman threw back her head and laughed delightedly.

"Don't worry about it, Helena. You're a growing girl, you know. Healing, too. Go ahead," she waved towards the box, "You need plenty of energy. At least you will soon." The last accompanied by a smile that threatened to take Helena's knees out from under her.

While it sounded similar, this time the noise Helena made definitely did not originate from her stomach. She cleared her throat around the growl, stepped into the kitchen alcove and opened her refrigerator, peering cautiously inside -- distinctly aware that there might be new lifeforms to greet her -- before snagging two sodas and returning to the couch.

The brunette opened both sodas, handing one to Quinzel, before tucking into the pie. Her guest took a minute sip, then cocked her head to observe the other woman.

"Well, I must say, Helena, while I'm certainly not pleased that you were 'hurt'," a knowing smirk accompanied the word, "it's certainly a relief that you weren't deliberately avoiding our date. You know how much I've come to enjoy our time together, and, really, you seem to be realizing some of the benefits as well."

Perfertly manicured, blood-red nails stroked teasingly against the dark woman's cheek. Helena stopped chewing for a moment to tip her head into the caress.

"Hard to believe it's been almost two years, isn't it?' the blonde laughed gaily. "Perhaps we should plan some sort of anniversary party, Helena?" She paused, "But, really, since the, shall we say, 'shift' in our relationship," the blonde continued, "things just seem to be easier all around, don't they? Even your dear Barbara is benefitting, isn't she? And, of course, there's all of that lovely, lovely sex..."

Quinzel leaned over to punctuate these last words by flicking her tongue around the shell of Helena's ear. For her part, Helena forced herself to finish chewing, to swallow while abso-fucking-lutely refusing to gag as the suddenly tasteless mass slid down her throat.

'Oh shit.' What did Barbara have to do with any of this? The brunette was aware of the other woman's continuing chatter -- "I really have become quite fond of you, you know, Helena. I just *knew* that you had such promise but really, really couldn't have dreamed..." -- but let the words slip past her as she concentrated on closing the pizza box, wiping her hands carefully on a napkin, taking long, slow swallows from her soda.

"All done?", the blonde inquired brightly, placing her hand on Helena's thigh. "Though you are looking a little pale. I'd hate it if you weren't able to be in... good form."

Throughout her adult life, Helena Kyle had always, always been a woman of her word. She had an ... arrangement, of some sort ... a relationship with this woman; the hell with how she was feeling about it at the moment. So she smiled, slow and sultry.

"Well, y'know, I don't think that blood flow to my head is really the issue, do you?", she teased as she leaned towards the small woman and brought their lips together.

Harleen purred briefly at the contact, allowing the younger woman to taste her mouth for a moment before taking charge of the kiss. She slid both hands into dark hair, gripping almost painfully as she thrust her tongue into Helena's mouth, probing and stroking firmly. Helena allowed the heat to build, accepting the exploration almost passively even as her hips began to rock slowly in response to what was promised in the kiss.

As the blonde moved her hand delicately up Helena's ribs, teasing the side of her breast, she broke the kiss and batted her eyes at the other woman. "You seem to be, hmmm, well on the way to recovery, Tiger. Perhaps I can help a bit with that? Kiss something and make it better? Would you like that?"

Feral side already struggling to the surface from the heated kiss, still keyed up from the hours of frustrated longing in Barbara's presence the day before, the dark woman really didn't have a chance. Hell, she'd always been a go-with-it kinda girl. Helena placed her hand over the back of Quinzel's teasing hand, moving it to the front of her breast, pushing it against herself. Hard.

"Fuck yeah", she growled.

At that moment, the other woman's almost colorless blue eyes seemed to spark, just as her other hand flew up and struck Helena sharply across the mouth. Face still affectionate and filled with desire, Harleen Quinzel batted her eyes again and purred, "You didn't say 'Please', Tiger. Now let's try this again."

Body thrumming from a combination of desire, anger, and fear, Helena Kyle blinked slowly and tasted the blood seeping into her mouth. Blue eyes flashed to feral yellow just before she dropped to her knees in front of the other woman, lowered her head submissively, and husked, "Please..."

It was going to be a long night.

Ch. 10

It had been a long two days. More accurately, and Barbara Gordon was an accurate woman, it had been a long 58 hours and 34 minutes.

The sun had set for the second time since Helena's departure two nights before, and there had been no word from her. While Barbara certainly understood any reticence on the younger woman's part -- frankly none-too-certain how she, herself, would be able to handle the next interaction -- she was still concerned. She'd called once each day -- and only once, though she'd chafed at her self-imposed limit -- and, getting only Helena's machine, had left messages which, she hoped, demonstrated support and concern without making the young woman feel pressured or more uncomfortable.

Apart from her own nearly overwhelming need just to see the woman -- after all, it was rare for more than a day to go by without the two seeing or, at least, talking with each other -- the older woman was also worried about Helena's physical condition.

'Right', Barbara snorted, backing away from the Delphi to stare briefly at the balcony. The meta-human had been well on her way to recovery two days ago and, by now, probably barely remembered her injuries.

Smiling fondly, Barbara slowly pivoted back to the bank of monitors and returned to her monthly check into the security at Arkham, more specifically, security for a certain green-haired, pasty-faced lunatic. While the rational portion of her brain admitted that the checks might not have been necessary, there was simply no way that Barbara was willing to forego her monthly ritual. In the first four or five years after the shooting, the redhead's mind stumbled over the word, and the Joker's incarceration, it seemed that he was constantly on the verge of escaping, attempting one madcap and deadly plan after another. In the last few years, the cyber-crime-fighter had somehow managed to uncover each new plot or attempt, often based on a tidbit of gossip that her partner-in-crimefighting extracted during her nightly sweeps, before the plans could get off the ground. Vigilence, Barbara mused, channelling Martha Stewart, was a good thing.

Save for the rapid-fire clicking of keys and the pervasive, low-key humming from the Delphi, it was utterly quiet in the clocktower. Dinah, after another day of moping around the tower, pointedly *not* asking when Helena might show up, had departed for a study date with Gabby. Barbara lost herself in her task, grateful that, at least for a while, she was not concentrating almost exclusively on Helena.

Minutes, or had it been hours?, later, the redhead closed several screens, satisfied that things were comfortably under control at Arkham, and leaned back in her chair to loosen the tight muscles in her neck. Shutting her eyes for a moment, she sighed and realized that if she didn't hear from Helena by tomorrow she'd have to do... something. Perhaps she could send Dinah to check on her; the young woman would certainly be less... would be more welcome than she would, Barbara mused. But, while the two women might be able to delay the inevitable, they would have to face each other and get past whatever...discomfort they were feeling.

Caught up in her thoughts, it took Barbara a moment to process the sounds she heard from the balcony -- a very, very quiet 'thump', like a cat jumping from the roof; an almost inaudible rustling, like a leather duster being tidied. Since she knew quite well that Helena was able to land on the balcony with absolute silence, she recognized the noises for what they were: a gentle and deliberate announcement from the other woman that she was there. Fighting back the urge to break into an idiotic grin, the older woman raised her head and smiled gently as she rotated her chair to face the balcony.

"Are you going to come inside, Helena?" she invited, her tone low and warm.

At this, the dark-haired woman entered with a dramatic flourish of her duster. Barbara's cheeks dimpled in a quick grin: Helena always had known how to make an entrance.

"I, uhm, didn't want to scare you," the brunette muttered, glancing shyly through her lashes, not quite making eye contact.

Continuing to look directly at the other woman, careful to be sure her expression was gentle and open, Barbara wheeled forward slightly, resisting the urge to rock the wheels of her chair.

"I appreciate that. Some of your more, err, dramatic entrances have probably taken years off my life, you know," Barbara teased gently. She casually, but carefully, ran her gaze down the other woman, assessing her movements, catching her breath briefly when she observed what appeared to be a partially-healed split lip -- *That* hadn't been there two days ago. Had Helena been in a fight?

She took a fortifying breath and inquired solicitously, "How are you feeling? You seem to be healing well..."

The brunette smirked briefly, again not quite meeting the compassionate emerald eyes, "Yeah, well, good ol' meta-healing. Does a body good." Apparently sensing Barbara's distinct lack of amusement, she added, "I'm good. Really. Memory seems to have cleared up." Helena coughed before continuing quickly, "Physically, I'm good. Maybe a tiny bit stiff," something made her pause for a beat, "but I should be ready for sweeps again in another day or two."

Moving slowly into the room, Helena turned slightly away from Barbara, presenting a profile before continuing. "Figured I should come by, that you'd want to see for yourself."

Biting back on the urge to respond with something equally neutral, Barbara Gordon moved close enough to reach out and place her hand on the brunette's arm. If she hadn't been aware of the younger woman's nervousness before, the feeling of muscles constricted so tightly they were trembling would have certainly clued her in. She looked up, attempting to catch the blue eyes with her own.

"I'm glad you did, Helena. I did,", swallowing, the redhead corrected herself, "I *do* want to see you." In case that hadn't been clear, she added, "I always want to see you."

Blue eyes briefly caught green before flickering away; Barbara thought she saw so many emotions behind the cobalt gaze: embarassment, fear, sorrow, hope. Then, the young woman blinked, seeming to shutter herself away again and gave an easy grin as she moved her hand to tangle her fingers briefly with Barbara's. Barbara, again, wondered about the split lip -- What other new injuries had the woman sustained? -- as the brunette released her hand and blew a stream of air through her nose.

"Well, good thing I'm always hanging around and raiding your fridge, isn't it?" was the response. Blue eyes flickered around the room, lighting on the Delphi. "Everything copacetic at Arkham?"

Barbara's cheeks dimpled again, this time in frustration. Well, that had been subtle; of course, Helena wasn't usually about subtlety. Clearly, the brunette wanted to steer clear of emotionally charged topics, a tactic that, under normal circumstances the redhead admitted to herself, she would be only-too-happy to embrace. But, these were hardly normal circumstances, were they? Perhaps, if she could get the younger woman to relax a tiny bit, seem less likely to flee at the wrong word or movement...

"Yes, Arkham's fine." The redhead hid any surprise she felt that Helena was so intimately aware of her monthly schedule regarding the facility. "Why don't you... do some raiding," she suggested with a tilt of her head towards the kitchen, "while I shut some things down." Neatly forestalling the refusal she anticipated, Barbara added casually, "And, would you mind making me a cup of tea while you're in there?"

The tactic seemed to work, as the brunette shucked her duster and headed obediently towards the kitchen, tossing over her shoulder, "Cookies, too?"

"Of course," the redhead laughed, wheeling to the Delphi and putting it in standby. Listening to Helena rustling in the kitchen, hearing some soft cursing as the young woman wrestled with the microwave -- honestly, there was a button right on the thing which read 'Boil water', Barbara thought affectionately -- the older woman couldn't keep the smile off her face. Situating herself next to the couch, Barbara recognized the anxiety she was feeling -- quite natural for her when faced with emotional situations; she also acknowledged, with a small blush, the low-grade arousal that had been coursing through her since the dark woman's arrival -- really, now was *not* the time; she was, however, a bit surprised by another feeling pervading her -- giddiness. Helena was back, if only for a bit; but it was a start, and, if she had anything to say about it, it would be the start of something much more.

Helena re-entered the living area, gracefully balancing a tray laden with steaming tea, hot cocoa, a plate piled with cookies, a small bowl of thin mints, the sugar bowl, several wedges of freshly cut lemon, a small pitcher of cream, and two neatly folded napkins. As she set the tray on the coffee table, she inquired, "So, where's the kid tonight?"

Looking over the thoughtfully appointed tray of "snacks", Barbara wryly wondered if the brunette had run out of room for a freshly trimmed rose in a bud vase. Smiling her thanks at Helena, she stirred some sugar into her tea, poured in a dollop of cream. "She's at Gabby's this evening; study date." She brought the cup to her mouth and blew across it.

"'Study' date, huh? I'll just bet," the brunette cracked. Color immediately flooded the gamine features as blue eyes darted away. Seemingly for lack of something else to do with her hands, the brunette brought her cocoa to her mouth -- somewhat jerkily, Barbara noted.

Deliberately ignoring the younger woman's reaction to her own innuendo, Barbara smiled softly and reached for a cookie. She chewed thoughtfully for a moment, murmurring, "Mmm, I love these; don't know why the Girl Scouts don't sell them all year". After observing the slight decrease in the other woman's nervousness that followed the innocuous remark, the redhead decided to put one foot cautiously into the minefield.

Taking another sip of tea, Barbara responded to Helena's remark, voice carefully modulated and warm. "Hel, they're good friends. If something else... is developing, there's certainly nothing wrong with that." She paused and then moved another inch into the field: "In fact, I'd be happy for them."

That Helena had picked up a cookie but had yet to taste it -- sugar-hound that Barbara knew she was -- spoke volumes. The dark woman continued to turn the pastry in her hands, studying it as if it held some sort of answers that she desperately needed. Finally, she looked shyly through her lashes at -- no, the redhead realized, towards -- Barbara.

"Yeah." the brunette exhaled forcefully, "The kid -- Dinah deserves whatever happiness she can get. And, Gabby, yeah, she's been really good for her."

'My goodness but she's getting good at that.' The older woman's eyes widened ever-so-slightly in recognition of the skill Helena was demonstrating in deflecting the conversation. 'Of course, she's had a fantastic role model', she admitted ruefully.

Safety or a little more risk? Focus on Dinah, or Gabby, or the cookies, or the damned weather? Or push a little more, try to draw out the younger woman, let her know that there was no danger here? Observing the brunette guardedly over the rim of her cup, Barbara felt the stilted conversation, if it could be called that, choking her; easily saw how spooked Helena looked; wanted so desperately to reach out to her, not sure how the gesture would be received and terribly saddened that she didn't know.

Chancing just a little, she spoke softly. "Everybody does, Hel. Deserves happiness." Barbara swallowed, hoping the gesture wasn't noticed. "Dinah. You. Me."

At this, the brunette's head snapped towards her, and blue eyes narrowed as the young woman studied her former guardian, her mentor, her friend for a long moment. She carefully set the untasted cookie back on the plate.

The older woman wasn't sure what response she'd expected, but Helena's sudden burst of laughter was certainly not at the top of the mental list she'd prepared. When she stopped laughing, the brunette looked directly at Barbara -- for the first time since entering the clocktower, the redhead noted -- and smiled. Barbara knew that she was very probably sporting the vaguely puzzled, slightly miffed look she got when she wasn't sure if she was being made fun of, but since she was clearly not getting the joke that was amusing Helena so, there wasn't much she could do about it.

Eyes twinkling, Helena stood up, her body loose and her movements easy for the first time that evening. Shrugging into her duster as she made her way towards the balcony, she laughed again and finally responded to the older woman: "Don't be so sure about that, Red. It's not always fairy tale endings, y'know." She stopped for a beat, turned to smile again at Barbara, then added, "Thanks for the cookies. I'll touch base tomorrow about starting up with sweeps again."

With that, Helena was out on the balcony, not hearing or simply ignoring the quiet plea, "Hel, please wait...".

Part 11

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