I'll Be Dreaming
FANDOM: Birds of Prey TV
DISCLAIMER: I don't own these characters, but wish I did. "I'll Look Around" by Madeleine Peyroux, found on "Careless Love" and used without permission.
SUMMARY: Helena's nightmares are bleeding into her real life. Can Barbara help her before it's too late?
SPOILERS: Takes place after series finale.
ARCHIVING: Only with author's permission.
It was entirely erotic, Barbara decided, or at least it would have been had the events of the past 90 minutes not occurred. If she could float outside of herself and watch their current situation from above, the soft skin, the tiny sounds escaping Helena's mouth, somewhere between pleasure and pain, the sight of the dark woman's body resting against her own in a bath tub full of warm, soapy water. Yeah. Completely erotic.
Of course, things were not always as they seemed, and that was truly the case tonight. Barbara felt a little guilty for taking any sort of pleasure from her current activity, considering less than two hours ago she had been uncertain if Helena was even alive. But, Helena was alive, though she was going to be in a lot of discomfort once she fully regained consciousness.
It seemed like routine sweeps, but the Huntress had been distracted the entire night and was not at the top of her game. Barbara thought maybe she had been pushing herself too hard and was about to suggest she pack it in for the night when it happened. The sound of someone getting the snot beat out of them put Helena in a real bad mood. Especially since, from what she could tell, the person in question was a homeless man who had the misfortune of making his home on the very street corner a group of drunken frat boys passed on their way home.
The Huntress had intervened, as she would any night of the week. But, something went terribly wrong. It was obvious that Helena had been bothered by something all night, all week, heck if Barbara thought about it, it had been a while since Helena had been herself. That distraction, whatever it was, ended up being the straw that broke the camel's back. Five drunken frat boys, one knife and a few bloody noses later, the homeless man had been rescued, the frat boys had ran off down the street and the Huntress escaped into the shadows, a fresh stab wound in her side.
Barbara had called paramedics to help the homeless man and then settled her attention on Helena, whose breathing over comms had become heavy. Noticing that she had stopped her retreat two blocks from the street corner in question, Barbara became concerned.
"Huntress?" She asked, a slight edge of panic in her voice. "Are you alright? You've stopped moving." When Helena's voice came over the comms, it sounded tired, ragged and less like herself than ever.
A simple statement of fact. No, she was not alright. Helena was certainly not alright. For one thing, she was in the middle of a vivid flashback, leaning over her mother's body and begging for someone to help her. In reality, it was she who lay in the street, bleeding from a stab wound. Helena had lost her head while fighting those drunken idiots, and ended up on the wrong end of a knife. To make matters worse, she knocked her head pretty good on the pavement, too. She tried to get back to the clock tower, not even sure how far she had made it before she collapsed. It was cold. So cold.
"Hang on, Huntress. Stay where you are. We're on our way," Barbara choked out before rushing down the Delphi platform and calling for Dinah to pull the car around. There was a panic building inside of her. Her mind had played out all sorts of different scenarios, but each one ended with Helena broken and bleeding and all alone.
When they arrived at her location, that's exactly what they found. Helena was lying in a dark street corner, far away from the illumination of street lights. It took Barbara's eyes a moment to focus on the dark mass and realize that it was indeed Helena.
On the way back to the clock tower, Barbara held Helena's head in her lap and frantically tried to warm the young woman up. Her initial assessment revealed a stab wound just under Helena's ribcage on the right side of her body. She was cold, shaky, pale and was muttering something that scared the redhead to death.
"Mom….you have to hear me."
The brunette's whispered pleas were so desperate, Barbara was sure that's how she must have sounded the day her mother was killed. Her eyes shifted under her eye lids rapidly, as though she were in the middle of a nightmare. Helena was cold, yet her entire body was sweating and her occasional twitching made Barbara's brow crease with worry. Barbara had wrapped Helena in a blanket and was now caressing the sides of her face, brushing away strands of hair that were stuck to her forehead.
"Shh, sweetheart," Barbara whispered down to her. "You're safe. Everything's going to be alright." As she said this, she noticed there was blood on her hand where it cradled Helena's head. Further inspection revealed a wound in the back of her head.
"Hang in there, Helena," Barbara said, trying to keep the panic out of her voice. "I'm gonna take care you. You're gonna be just fine."
They had managed to get Helena to Barbara's bedroom. The older woman vetoed the idea of heading to the training room, where she would normally do the first aid. She wouldn't say it out loud, but she was scared. There was something so sterile and impersonal about the training room, and all she wanted was to surround Helena with warmth and comfort. Dinah made herself scarce once she was sure Barbara could handle it. Though she was frightened for Helena, she did not like seeing her so vulnerable and hurt. It scared her. Plus, the way Barbara was reacting to Helena being hurt, it made Dinah feel like she was intruding. Like something completely intimate and totally none of her business was going on.
Barbara hadn't really noticed that Dinah had left. She was busy undressing Helena and checking her wounds. She had determined that the head wound was not too bad. It would probably amount to nothing more than a headache tomorrow. Taking a look at the stab wound, Barbara carefully cleaned it and began to stitch it up. Helena was still unconscious, but every now and then would whimper, as though in pain. Barbara found herself blinking back tears while she worked. Helena looked so completely vulnerable and there was something so sad about that.
Throughout their time together, Helena had rarely let Barbara see her in any vulnerable state. They were similar in that respect. In the beginning, after her mother died, Helena was often plagued by nightmares. Barbara can still remember waking up to the screaming. When she would go to Helena's room to check on her, the young woman would tell her she was fine, even though it was a lie. A couple of times, Helena had let Barbara hold her while she cried it out. Eventually, Helena stopped having the nightmares, or at least stopped screaming in the middle of the night. There was no way to know for sure if the bad dreams had stopped.
Helena had been a challenge to Barbara, acting out at school and never wanting to talk about it. But, the two had eventually gotten into a comfortable routine. The years went by, they began their super hero thing and were closer than they had ever been. Barbara wished Helena had never moved out, but she understood. She couldn't keep her here forever, no matter how much she wanted to.
Barbara had long ago recognized her feelings for Helena went far beyond what they should. She couldn't help it. When she took Helena in, she was a scared, angry and hurt teenager that Barbara had no clue how to handle. Over the years, she watched Helena mature and grow into a strong, caring and amazing woman. She had realized it one day while Helena was in the training room. The dark haired woman had been pounding a punching bag, but did it with such grace. She punched, kicked, zigged, zagged, all the while looking so confident and in control. Barbara had found herself noticing Helena's body, the way it ebbed and flowed with her movements. That was when things changed for Barbara Gordon.
Now, looking down at the body lying before her, the stab wound surrounded by red, inflamed skin, the paleness of Helena's other features, Barbara wanted to cover her with her own body to keep her safe. She wanted to envelope Helena in a warmth that would calm her dreams and let that meta-healing start doing its magic. Barbara decided that's exactly what she was going to do.
Lifting Helena into her lap, she wheeled them into the bathroom and began to fill the tub. She managed to undress both herself and Helena, then carefully place Helena into the tub before settling in behind her.
And that's where Barbara now sits, quietly contemplating her feelings for the young woman as she softly washes away all the dirt and grime from the day. Helena's head is tipped back resting on Barbara's shoulder while the redhead works the wash cloth over her body. The brunette was only semi-conscious, but was aware of being held in safe, strong arms. She couldn't make sense of it all and she whimpered as she felt the hurt in her bones.
"It's okay, sweetheart," Barbara said as she tipped her head down to Helena's ear. "I've got you. Just relax."
Barbara. Helena finally realized why she felt so safe. It was Barbara. Barbara was holding her. Barbara was protecting her. Barbara would chase the nightmares away. She let herself relax fully into the embrace and became still.
Barbara had finished cleaning the woman and was trying to figure out how she was going to get them both out of the bathtub. Helena had fallen asleep, or passed out, and was probably not going to be much help. Barbara reached out and grabbed the towels she had placed on her chair. Lifting herself out of the tub using only one arm was a challenge, but she didn't dare use her other arm, which was keeping Helena propped up. Grunting from the strain, Barbara finally sat herself in her chair, then leaned down and pulled the brunette into her lap, wrapping towels around them both.
She wheeled them into her bedroom, and paused at the bed. She was reluctant to let Helena go, enjoying the feeling of having her in her arms like this. With a kiss to Helena's temple, she carefully placed the young woman into the bed. Grabbing the tank top and shorts she had laid out next to the bed, Barbara slowly dressed Helena, careful of her injuries. She then dressed herself in similar clothes and transferred herself into the bed next to the younger woman.
Barbara mentally told herself that she was only doing this for Helena's sake. The young woman had been seriously injured and watching over her through the night was the only way to make sure she didn't require any additional treatment. Barbara knew Helena would be okay. At this point, it was only a matter of rest and recovery. But, she couldn't shake the panic she had felt earlier at the sound of Helena's pained voice over comms, finding her body lying in the street and for a moment, thinking she may be dead. Staying with her tonight was as much of a necessity for Barbara as it was for Helena.
"No," Helena mumbled as Barbara settled herself in next to her. "Don't leave…don't leave me."
Barbara reached for Helena to calm her. At the feel of her touch, the younger woman rolled into her, her head tucked into Barbara's neck, her arm wrapped around Barbara's waist, pulling her tight. The strength of Helena's squeeze surprised the redhead, considering her condition. Barbara didn't think about it, just held her back and pressed a kiss to her head. The young woman seemed to be having some sort of flashback to her mother's death. It had been happening all evening. Barbara gasped at the desperate tone in Helena's voice, the vulnerability that was flowing off of her in waves.
"Please….don't leave me, Barbara."
The redhead froze when she heard the plea. She had not been expecting that. "I'm right here, sweetheart," she whispered, planting another kiss to Helena's head while running her fingers through her hair.
"I'm sorry I couldn't protect you," Helena whispered. Barbara creased her brow at this, unsure what to make of it. Figuring Helena must be having a dream, Barbara just squeezed her a little tighter, but then froze at what happened next. She felt Helena move her head and press a kiss directly to her neck.
"I love you, Barbara."
Several hours later, having been staring at the ceiling ever since Helena had kissed her neck, Barbara finally drifted off to sleep. She was certain that Helena never would have done it if she hadn't been injured and, most likely, hallucinating. However, she had said Barbara's name when it happened. She appeared to know who she was with. Maybe it was a different Barbara. Right. Some other Barbara whom she loved but had never mentioned before. That's likely.
Barbara had finally succumbed to exhaustion when she was jerked awake. Opening her eyes, but not moving, she took assessment of her surroundings. Helena, having drifted off hours ago, was still nestled at her side. Her bedroom was dark, the door was still shut. Peeking at the clock, Barbara released a breath when she saw how late it was. Well, early, actually. The sun would be coming up in about an hour. Resting her head back against the pillow, she was about to accept that she had woken herself up, probably too tense, when she felt it. Helena was twitching in her sleep, small, tiny shudders that she hadn't noticed right away. Peeking down at the brunette, Barbara brushed away the hair from her forehead and pressed a kiss to the skin there. Helena's face looked pained. Her lips parted slightly and she whispered one word.
Recognizing Helena was in the middle of a nightmare, Barbara shushed her softly and held her a little more tightly, careful of her injuries. She could smell the lavender soap from their bath together and had a brief flash of Helena's naked body resting against her own. It was Barbara's turn to shudder. She blushed at the image that came to her mind and a swarm of butterflies awoke in her belly. Now was definitely not the time to be thinking about these kinds of things. Not when Helena was injured and clearly only hanging onto her because she needed an anchor.
Helena's body began shaking a little more actively and her moans of distress were becoming louder. Even though the brunette needed her sleep, Barbara decided it was best to wake her, if only to end the nightmare so the young woman could rest instead of thrashing about. Barbara used the arm she had wrapped around Helena to rub her shoulder gently while bringing her other hand up to Helena's face, stroking it lightly.
"Helena," Barbara said softly. "Wake up, sweetheart. You're having a nightmare. Come on, wake up." At that, Helena jerked awake, her eyes wide and panicked. She tried to sit up, but Barbara's grasp kept her in place. "Hey, it's okay," Barbara told her. "You're safe. You were just having a bad dream." Barbara continued to stroke her face as Helena looked at her, then around the room, then back at Barbara.
"You're alive," Helena said, sounding a bit surprised and relieved. Barbara was looking directly into her eyes, trying to figure out what she was talking about, when she noticed that they were glistening with unshed tears.
"In my dreams, I never get to you in time," Helena said, sadly. "I'm always too late." As she finished, a tear made its way down her cheek. Barbara's expression softened as she wiped the tear away.
"I'm fine, sweetheart. It was just a dream." At that, Barbara pulled Helena down so that her head was once again resting on her shoulder. Helena was quiet and seemed a bit apprehensive, but relaxed into the embrace, her arm once again wrapping around Barbara's waist.
"Am I still dreaming?"
"No, honey, this is real," Barbara answered.
"Yeah, it feels real." Helena winced, moving her hand up to her head wound.
"Do you remember what happened?" Barbara asked her.
"Yeah," Helena huffed. "I got distracted and let some asshole frat boys get the better of me. I'm sorry, Barbara."
"I know," Barbara said, running her fingers though Helena's hair. "I'm more interested in why it happened, Helena. What's been going on with you?"
Helena waited a few beats before responding. "I…I guess I've just got a lot on my mind. I'm not sleeping too well."
"Why? Are these nightmares a regular thing?" Barbara asked, while rubbing the back of Helena's neck softly. She had been certain the nightmare was just a side effect of the injury and trauma to Helena's body, now she wasn't so sure. Helena had said, "In my dreams, I never get to you in time."
"It's nothing. No big deal. Just some bad dreams," She murmured into Barbara's neck. Barbara was having none of that. She put her fingers under Helena's chin and tilted her face up to look at her.
"It is a big deal, Helena. You could have been killed. Why won't you talk to me?" Barbara tried to sound calm, but her worry and concern came through loud and clear.
"I…I can't," Helena stammered, her eyes filling up once again. Barbara rested her palm against the side of Helena's face, her eyes softening as she felt the sting of her own tears begin.
"Please." Even though it was whispered, Barbara's voice spoke volumes. Helena regarded her, then began to move into a sitting position. "Take it easy," Barbara said as she helped the young woman, who was wincing at the pain in her side. Helena offered a half smile as she settled herself next to Barbara, her back against the headboard of the bed. She sat there for a few seconds while the intensity of the pain subsided and Barbara resettled the covers over her lap. Barbara then sat back, half turning so she could look at Helena, and waited.
"I keep having these dreams," Helena began, "that you and Dinah are in danger. Sometimes it's the both of you, sometimes just her, mostly…" Helena choked on the words, the rest of them coming out between gasps. "Mostly…it's you. And, I can't…get..to you." Helena was full out crying now, struggling to compose herself. Barbara wanted to pull her into her arms, but hesitated. Instead, she reached over and caressed Helena's face then took a hold of her hand and squeezed, waiting for the brunette to continue.
"I just can't lose you, Barbara," Helena said as she took in a deep breath, her sobs calming.
"How long have you been having these dreams?" Barbara asked as she her thumb rubbed the top of Helena's hand.
"I don't know. Feels like forever," Helena said as she used her other hand to brush the tears off her cheek. "They've been coming more frequently in the last few months. Like every night." There was a pause where neither woman spoke. Helena closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Barbara just watched her and held her hand.
"Eventually, I just decided that not sleeping at all was better," Helena continued without opening her eyes. "But, that didn't help, either. I was hallucinating. I was having those dreams while I was awake."
"You've been so distant lately. Not yourself. Is this why?" Barbara's comforting gaze was waiting for Helena when she opened her eyes.
"Barbara, I just can't lose you. Either of you. I wouldn't survive it." Helena lowered her head, defeated.
"Helena, look at me," Barbara requested. When the other woman's eyes met hers, Barbara spoke softly. "What we do…it's important. We help people. We fight crime. We're the good guys. We watch over this city. But, even we can't stop every bad thing from happening." Helena blinked hard and began to turn her head away, but Barbara's hand on her chin stopped her and forced her to look her in the eye. "Does what we do put us in danger? Yes. But, we're a family, and that comes with all the benefits, including the ones we don't want."
"But Barbara, I always thought I would be able to protect you. I can't deal with not being able to be there for you when you need me," Helena argued.
"You have always been here for me." Barbara insisted, suddenly becoming agitated. "My being in a chair does not mean that I can't look after myself." The last part came out a bit too defensively, causing Helena's head to shoot up and eye the older woman.
"Barbara, I never thought that." Helena insisted, grabbing onto Barbara's hand before she could pull it away. "God…Barbara, you are the strongest, most capable person I know. It's not that."
"Then what is it, Helena?" Had Barbara taken a second before speaking, she would have softened her tone. Yes, she was a bit defensive when it came to people underestimating her, but she could recognize that Helena wasn't exactly guilty of that. The younger woman had been through a great trauma and was only trying to explain herself. She didn't need to worry about hurting Barbara's feelings. Barbara was about to apologize when Helena spoke.
"I need you…so much. More than I ever admitted to myself." Helena released Barbara's hand at the admission and wrapped her arms around herself, suddenly feeling very shy. "I…" She looked up into Barbara's eyes and couldn't complete her thought.
"You what?" Barbara asked gently, reaching out with both hands to touch Helena's arms, trying to coax her to open up. "Tell me. It's okay."
"Is it? You don't even know what I'm going to say. What if I say it and everything changes? What if I say it and I lose you anyway?" Helena shifted her body, as though she was going to get up. She swung her legs over the side of the bed, her back to Barbara. She closed her eyes against the pain and dizziness rushing through her body. Helena Kyle was tired, too tired to fight it anymore.
"Helena, I would never force you to do anything you don't want to do," Barbara said as she moved herself closer to the brunette. "And, you don't have to tell me anything. But, I can't help you if you don't. Don't you see? I'm just as scared of losing you? I don't know what to do here. I can feel you shutting down and shutting me out. I want to help you, Helena. I need to."
"I love you," Helena blurted out. When silence followed, she offered more. "Not like a friend. Not like a partner. Barbara, I'm in love with you. And, I'm scared that even if I can protect you from the evil in the world, I'll lose you anyway because of the way I feel." She brought her hands up to her face and put her head down. The silence was deafening. It was more than she could handle. She was about to stand up, to run, or walk at a brisk pace. Considering her injuries and how dizzy she was becoming, running didn't seem like a good idea. The mattress shifted behind her. Then, warm hands came around her and rubbed up and down her bare arms, causing goose bumps to appear in their wake. When a soft pair of lips gently made contact with her shoulder blade, Helena thought she would pass out. What the heck was going on? Didn't Barbara hear her? Where was the shouting, the pushing, the shoving? Where was the "Get out, Helena," and the "Let's just be friends, Helena"? What was happening? Helena's mind was reeling.
Barbara removed her lips from Helena's shoulder and rested her chin on it instead. She wanted to say, "I love you, too," and "Everything's going to be alright." But, the words wouldn't come. An annoying thought ticked at the back of her brain, and Barbara couldn't shake it. What if Helena only thought she loved her? What if these traumatic dreams were just too much for her and she's reading into things that aren't there? What if she's still "out of it" from her injuries? Barbara couldn't take that chance. Not yet. She would wait. She was used to waiting.
Barbara's silence became too much for Helena. She tried to stand up, but the dizziness made her drop like a sack of potatoes. She fell back into Barbara's arms. "Hey, slow down," Barbara said to her. "Let's get you back into bed. You should be resting." Helena didn't argue, she just let Barbara help her back under the covers. The redhead looked down at her, worry lining her face, and brushed the hair back from Helena's forehead.
"I'm okay," Helena said softly, finding herself too exhausted to say anymore. Barbara resettled herself next to the younger woman and curled onto her side. Wrapping her arm around Helena's midsection, Barbara softly spoke to her. "We'll finish this talk tomorrow. Right now, you need to rest." Rubbing Helena's side gently, Barbara added, "You can sleep tonight. I'll chase the bad dreams away." Helena's eyes drifted shut and she was asleep almost immediately. Barbara watched her for several minutes, noticing how her face seemed calm and her breathing was even. She was beautiful. Placing a kiss on Helena's cheek, Barbara finally allowed her head to hit the pillow. The sun was beginning to peek through her window, but she didn't care. All that mattered in the world was right next to her. Tomorrow, things would probably change forever.
When Barbara woke up she immediately knew something wasn't right. She opened her eyes and looked to the empty space in the bed next to her. Helena was gone. Barbara sat up and looked around the room.
"Helena?" She waited a beat, but heard nothing. As she maneuvered herself out of bed and into her chair she noticed the time. It was 7:16 in the morning. She had only been asleep for about an hour. Settling into her chair, Barbara first peeked into the bathroom. No Helena. She wheeled her way to the bedroom door, opened it and made her way down the hall. All was quiet. There was no sign of Helena anywhere. Making her way downstairs, Barbara was getting more worried with each passing second. Bringing a hand to her head to brush her hair back, she was about to head for the phone when she noticed a spot of something red on the floor. It was blood.
"Helena? Are you here?" Barbara turned her head, scanning the room and all of its hiding places when her gaze landed on the doors to the balcony, which were slightly ajar. Making her way over, Barbara opened the doors and rushed outside. The sun was up now, casting light on much of the balcony. Her eyes immediately went to the one part that was still in the shadows. Moving closer, she could make out Helena's form, curled on its side and shaking.
"Helena, my God." Barbara put her brake on and slipped out of her chair to sit next to Helena, who hadn't seemed to notice her presence. "Helena, what happened? What are you doing out here?" Barbara asked worriedly as she moved Helena's head into her lap for the second time in less than 12 hours. Once again, she brushed the hair off of the younger woman's face and lovingly touched her cheek. Scanning Helena's body, she spotted a bloody stain on the brunette's right side indicating that she had likely torn her stitches. Barbara mentally chastised herself for not waking up when Helena had gotten out of bed, especially since she had told Helena she was safe.
"Sweetheart, can you hear me?" Barbara asked. Helena, who had appeared to be unconscious, moaned suddenly, her head twitching in Barbara's lap.
"Please," she whispered. "Make it stop. I can't take anymore." Barbara gasped at the desperation in the younger woman's voice and the tears that were falling from the corners of her eyes. She began to cry herself, not sure of what else to do.
"Make what stop, sweetheart? What happened?" At the soothing sound of Barbara's voice, Helena seemed to snap out of it. She was looking up now, into Barbara's face. Her shaking had all but stopped.
"Barbara?" Helena seemed confused as she looked into Barbara's tear- stained face. Briefly glancing at their surroundings, she looked back to Barbara. "We're on the balcony?"
"Yes," Barbara responded, running her hands up and down Helena's body in a soothing fashion. "Helena, do you remember how you got out here?"
"No, I…" Helena slowly sat up, wincing out loud at the pain in her side. Her hand went down to it and then back up, stained with red. "I was dreaming," she said as she worked her way into a sitting position, Barbara's arm around her shoulders for support. "I was in your bed," Helena paused, feeling a blush creep into her cheeks that had nothing to do with her injuries. "Then I was dreaming. Then I was here," she finished, her head falling to rest on Barbara's shoulder.
"A nightmare? Like before?"
Barbara squeezed Helena's shoulder. "Come on, let's get you inside. I'm going to have to take a look at your stitches. Then I want you to tell me more about these dreams."
"The circumstances sometimes change, but the outcome is always the same," Helena said as Barbara finished checking her side for damage. The white tank top was bunched up under her breasts to give Barbara better access to the stab wound. Whatever Helena had been doing that ended with her on the balcony in a huddled, shaky mass had torn several of her stitches and reopened the wound. Barbara began to slowly apply anti-biotic cream to the area. Helena inhaled sharply at the touch and looked down to see Barbara giving her a sympathetic look, her eyes expressing something she couldn't put her finger on. Damn, Helena thought, she had really worried the redhead. This is why she didn't want to tell her about the dreams.
"Sorry," Barbara breathed as she softened her touch. "Please, go on."
"I spend much of the dream just struggling to get to you. Fighting, clawing, sometimes even crawling. All the while I can hear you screaming," Helena choked, fighting another round of tears. Barbara put the finishing touches on the wound, then covered it with a bandage and carefully pulled down the younger woman's tank top. She should get her a fresh, clean one, but Barbara didn't want to interrupt her just yet. The older woman moved so that she was sitting next to Helena on the bed against the head board, grabbing Helena's hand in a comforting gesture and rubbing slow circles with her thumb.
"Then, I finally reach you, but it's too late. Sometimes you die in my arms, other times you're just gone, over the edge, into the fire, just…gone." Barbara reached up to cup Helena's face, thumb brushing tears away as Helena began to crumble. Pulling Helena to her, she situated them so that the brunette's head was nestled into her neck, wrapping both arms around the younger woman. Careful not to pull too tight, she planted a kiss to Helena's head as the brunette cried.
Helena was upset with herself for getting upset. What the hell was the matter with her? She was the Huntress, not some emotional wreck. She was stronger than this. But, with her head nestled protectively against Barbara and the older woman's arms around her, Helena didn't feel like she could be strong any longer. The way she was being held, so safe and comforting, it was too much. Barbara had been stroking her skin and whispering that she was okay, that she was safe here.
"I'm sorry," Helena said as she lifted her head and moved away from Barbara. "It's just a stupid dream. I'm stronger than this."
"No, Helena," Barbara insisted. "It's not a stupid dream and it's okay to be affected by all of this," she said as she tried to comfort the younger woman. "Helena, you can't keep all of this inside. It's been affecting you for months. And, now you're apparently sleepwalking, too," she paused, taking a deep breath. "And I'd much rather you lose control of your composure while you're here with me rather than when you're out there putting your life in danger." Helena looked up at her, taking in the worry lines and the unshed tears.
"Alright, so what do we do now?" she said, somewhat defeated. Barbara regarded her for a moment, thinking about her answer. There had to be something in Helena's subconscious that was causing her to have these nightmares. Things hadn't yet gotten back to normal since the final showdown with Quinn. Despite the fact that Barbara had assured Helena that she didn't blame her for any of it, she knew the dark woman was still holding onto her guilt. Guilt over Wade's death, guilt for putting the rest of them in danger, she knew Helena couldn't let any of it go. That had to be doing some damage to her psyche. Maybe Helena would benefit from going back to therapy, providing they could find a therapist who wasn't a criminal mastermind in disguise.
Wait a minute.
"Helena, do you remember when you started having these dreams?" Barbara asked.
"Yeah, kinda burned in my memory," Helena responded, looking up at Barbara who was obviously waiting for the rest of the story. "It was right after the Quinn incident. That night, actually. I thought it was just the stress and strain of what we'd been through, you know?"
"What happened?" Barbara asked, taking Helena's hand again, not only to comfort and encourage, but to make that connection so that Helena would know she wasn't blaming her for any of it.
"The first one was about my mom…the night she died. I remember it being so vivid, like it was actually happening again. Pretty soon it wasn't just mom, it was the kid, it was…you. Then, it was only you," Helena paused when Barbara squeezed her hand. Looking down at their hands, she continued. "I would dream that I was running as fast as I could to get to you, but the Joker would always get to you first. He would shoot you and you would die in my arms, or he would push you off a cliff and I'd get there just in time to hear you scream on the way down. Other times, there would be an explosion or a car crash or…" Helena paused as she fought back tears again. Barbara brought Helena's hand up to her face and kissed the top of it briefly before resettling their joined hands in her own lap.
"The other night at work," Helena began once her tears were under control. "I was pouring a gin and tonic when I had these flashes of you. You were screaming, the Joker was laughing, it was happening right in front of me. Only, I was still standing behind the bar. It was some kind of…fucked up day dream."
"Is that what happened last night, with those frat boys?"
Helena nodded. "I was fighting, kicking ass actually, but then that vision threw me off. Before I knew it, one of those assholes put a knife in me and I…I don't know, maybe being stabbed in the middle of the street reminded me of mom, because suddenly the Joker had you both." Helena felt some relief at the fact that she was finally telling Barbara these things after months of hiding them. Of course, it hadn't escaped her that she had also revealed something else to the redhead, something that they hadn't yet talked about. She knew there was a big 'ol heartbreak coming. Judging by the way Barbara was treating her, she would probably be let down easy, if there even was such a thing. But, despite the inevitability of getting her heart crushed, Helena had renewed hope that telling Barbara she was in love with her wouldn't ruin their friendship. Surely someone who would ditch you for revealing such matters wouldn't care enough to take care of you when you needed them.
At this angle, Barbara could see the dark circles under Helena's eyes. The gravity of the situation was hitting her like a ton of bricks. Whatever was happening to Helena, it was obviously serious, perhaps more serious than a guilty conscious conjuring up nightmares as some sort of self punishment.
"Helena, I'd like to run some tests if you'll let me," Barbara stated, continuing to hold Helena's hand.
"You gonna poke around in my brain?" Helena said, looking up through her bangs at Barbara with a slight smile on her face, breaking the seriousness of the moment.
"I promise not dig up all of your deep, dark secrets," Barbara teased, tugging Helena's arm and pulling her into a loose hug. "I just want to check and make sure everything's where it's supposed to be."
"You have a theory?" Helena asked, while keeping herself in the embrace.
Barbara spent most of the day preparing to run tests on Helena. She did some research on the brain, making sure she was up to speed, and got all of her equipment ready. She was going to do the traditional EEG with a polysomnogram, but with a little tweaking thanks to the Delphi, she would get a whole lot more information from the tests than a normal sleep clinic would. Putting the finishing touches on her little project, Barbara removed her glasses and placed them next to the keyboard. Turning her head to seek out her test subject, Barbara's gaze rested on Helena, who was sitting on the couch flipping through channels on the TV. She had been channel surfing for hours in some desperate attempt to fight off her fatigue. While she was working on the Delphi, Barbara would look over at Helena from time to time and find the brunette's head bobbing forward, only to bounce back up again. She was so tired, and yet so afraid to go to sleep.
Barbara's mind played back the events of last night and early this morning. Never in the entire time that she had known the younger woman had she ever seen her lose it like that. She had watched Helena after her mother's death, seen her try to deal with it. She'd been a witness to Helena's moods, the one month where the brunette didn't speak to her, the acting out while she was in high school, even her anger and rage after finding out that her trusted therapist was a murderous bitch. But, this…this was unlike anything she had ever seen. Barbara had never looked into Helena's eyes and not seen that fire, that spark that lived inside of her. She had never before seen Helena void of the will to fight, the desire to fight. She had never seen Helena defeated, never seen her give up.
Barbara couldn't shake the image of Helena huddled in the shadows on the balcony, tremors shaking her frame, her desperate pleas to make the ordeal stop. It had snapped something deep inside the older woman. It was as if Helena's ordeal was her ordeal as well. She could actually feel every second of Helena's desperation as a stabbing pain in her own gut. There was no doubt that she would do anything for Helena, die for her if need be. But, there was no obvious enemy here. No actual demon to fight and banish.
Then again, there was this gnawing thought in the back of Barbara's mind that she couldn't shake, a suspicion that fanned an angry fire inside of her. What if the effects of being hypnotized by Quinn hadn't completely worn off? What if Quinn's hypnosis ran deeper than they had thought, like long term effects? Helena had said the dreams began right after the final stand at the clock tower. It could all be a coincidence of timing, but this was New Gotham and this was Harley Quinn, coincidence usually didn't enter into the equation.
Barbara made her way to the couch where Helena was fighting to keep her eyes open. The brunette sat in a sitting position, probably because lying down would be the next step to sleeping. The remote to the TV was trapped under her palm on her right thigh. Her body jerked as Barbara's chair came to a rest next to her.
"All done plotting ways to get inside my head?" she asked, trying to keep it light.
"Yep, you'd better lock those secrets up tight so I can't get to 'em," Barbara teased, reaching out and putting her hand on Helena's knee.
"Wait," Helena said as she suddenly froze. "You're not really going to be able to read my mind, are you?"
Barbara laughed a little at that and squeezed the knee under her hand. "No, Helena. We'll leave the mind reading stuff to Dinah." They both chuckled at that.
"How are you feeling? How are those injuries?" Barbara asked gently, tilting her head to the side and regarding the younger woman. Helena smirked and winked at Barbara.
"You know, meta healing," she said, pouring on the charm.
"You know," Barbara began, removing her hand from Helena's knee and bringing it up so she could rest her chin on it. "We never talked about what you told me this morning."
At the mention of "the big reveal," Helena brought her knees up and wrapped her arms around them, a classic defensive pose. "Yeah, it's okay," she said. "You don't have to say anything. It's my deal and I'll figure it out. I promise I won't let it affect our friendship."
That further fueled Barbara's theory that Helena was simply confused because of everything she'd been through. "Helena, it's perfectly normal to be confused about things considering the emotional strain you're under."
"I'm not confused, Barbara," Helena insisted, her voice rising slightly, defensively. "I'm not some stupid kid with a crush. Is that what you think of me?"
Barbara was a bit dumbfounded, and blinked at Helena's tone as the younger woman looked at her with a pained expression. "No, I…of course not. I haven't thought of you as a kid in a long time."
"Then believe me when I tell you, I'm not confused, Barbara. I know how I feel, how I've felt for a long time." Helena averted Barbara's gaze, instead finding something on the floor extremely interesting. "I never planned on telling you. I don't even know why I did. I know you could never love me back," she said, remembering when Barbara coaxed the confession out of her. Helena shivered at the memory of Barbara's hands rubbing up and down her arms. For a brief second, Helena had hoped that her feelings would be returned. But, when Barbara remained silent, probably searching for a way to let her down easy, that short-lived hope had left her. "I'm sorry. I'll deal with it. You don't have to say anything."
Barbara had been stunned into silence the minute Helena began speaking. It all seemed too impossible to be true, yet here Helena was, telling her she was in love with her. She didn't seem confused at all. "How long?" Barbara asked.
"What?" Helena responded, making eye contact with the redhead.
"You said you've loved me for a long time. How long?" Barbara clarified.
"As long as I can remember," Helena stated, eyes returning to the floor, hugging her knees a little tighter. "I've always felt something very special for you, Barbara. But, if I had to pinpoint when I realized what those feeling were, it was probably when we started doing the Oracle-Huntress thing. You just…you're absolutely amazing, and you don't even know it. There was this new life and fire breathed into you when the Delphi came into our lives. It was good to see that again." Helena paused, looking at Barbara, then cocking her head and looking away. "I hadn't realized that I had been holding my breath waiting to see that life in you again. It was like I was finally living again, too." Barbara simply sat there, mouth parted, realizing she should probably respond, but too stunned to form the words.
Helena laughed at herself and looked up at the ceiling. "Really, Barbara, can we just forget I said anything? It's my problem." Barbara could see that Helena was drowning, and that snapped her into action.
"Helena, I think I should have a say in this, too," Barbara told her.
"Alright," Helena said, apprehensively. "But, let me down easy okay? I'm kind of in rough shape here."
Barbara thought for a beat, making her decision. She transferred herself from her chair to the couch, right next to Helena. The brunette had no clue what was going on. Afraid to move, she kept her gaze down and waited. That's when she felt Barbara reaching for her hands, pulling them to her and unraveling the ball that Helena had been in.
"I need you to look at me," Barbara said softly. The angle at which her hands were being held forced Helena to twist her body to get more comfortable, putting her face to face with the redhead. Once she had her complete attention, Barbara brought Helena's hands up to her lips and pressed a kiss to first one, then the other. Helena stopped breathing. "There are a million reasons why we should just forget this conversation ever happened," Barbara told her, tugging on her hands when the brunette tried to turn away. "But, I can't do that." Reaching out with one hand to cup Helena's cheek, Barbara continued. "You are an amazing woman, Helena. I've watched in awe as you've grown into this person before me." Barbara smiled briefly as tears overflowed from her eyes. "Make no mistake about it. You haven't been a child in my eyes in a long time. You're strong, caring… drop dead gorgeous…" Barbara teased as her tears flowed. "And I can do nothing except love you back."
Helena was crying now herself, Barbara's words flowing over her. This was all too much to process. Confusion evident in her eyes, Helena blinked, causing tears to run down her face. Barbara brought her other arm up so that Helena's face was now framed between her palms. Running her thumbs over wet cheeks, Barbara coaxed Helena's eyes to hers. "Did you hear me, Helena?" Barbara asked. "I love you, too."
Helena creased her brows together, clearly not comprehending what the older woman was trying to tell her. Slowly, Barbara brought Helena's face to her own and pressed a kiss to her forehead. She then moved down and kissed away the tears on the brunette's cheeks. Pulling back to look Helena in the eye, Barbara whispered to her.
"You are the best part of my life," she breathed. "I've been afraid to feel these feelings, afraid to act on them. You are so much more than my friend or my partner. You are the woman I love, and I never dreamed you would feel the same about me."
Helena looked at her with wonder, her heart soaring. "Are you kidding? Barbara, you are the most beautiful woman I've ever laid eyes on." Turning her head to the side, Helena kissed the palm of Barbara's hand then reached up to take it in her own. "I would think I'm dreaming all of this, except for the fact that all of my dreams have been nightmares lately."
"I'm going to get to the bottom of this, sweetheart. I won't stop until I do." Helena smiled sadly at the determination in Barbara's voice, still somehow feeling that she would be plagued by these nightmares forever. It felt like it had already been forever.
"I know you will, Babs," Helena whispered softly, letting her head fall as the adrenaline of the past few minutes wore off and her previous exhaustion seeped in. Her whole body then succumbed, but Barbara caught her. The redhead enveloped Helena in a safe, warm embrace. Helena was certain her brain wasn't actually working, because if it had been, there was no way she would be this calm. This was certainly not how she imagined this moment. True, she never believed her feelings would be returned, but in the rare instances when she allowed herself to entertain the fantasy that Barbara would love her too, this was not how things would unfold. There were supposed to be kisses and passion, touches and heat, cries and release. But, there was none of that. And that was okay, Helena thought. This was actually perfect.
"God, Barbara. I'm so tired." Helena breathed into the older woman's neck where her head came to rest. She inched closer so that she was melded into Barbara's body, absorbing all of the comfort the redhead had to offer. "But this," she inhaled. "This makes it worth it."
"Worth what?" Barbara questioned.
"If not for this dream thing, I would never have told you. I couldn't take the risk. And as soon as this all sinks in, I promise you I will seem more excited." Helena pressed a kiss to Barbara's neck, just as she had when the redhead was comforting her during her nightmare the previous night. Smelling the lavender of Barbara's soap on the older woman's neck, Helena froze.
"Barbara?" Helena asked as she pulled back to look the older woman in the eye.
"What is it?" Barbara asked, suddenly a little concerned.
"Did you…did you bathe me?" Helena's eyes narrowed. Barbara eyes, on the other hand, got pretty big.
"I um…" Barbara blushed. "Yes, I did. I'm…sorry, Helena. I…there was just no easy way to get you cleaned up, and I…"
"Barbara, it's fine," Helena said, leaning back into the other woman and resuming their previous position. "It's more than fine. I just wish I had been conscious for it."
"Well," Barbara said as she pressed a kiss to the top of Helena's head. "Next time, I'll make sure you're wide awake."
"And, an active participant," Helena breathed, savoring the moment. Barbara's breath hitched at the thought and she couldn't stop her brain from coming up with all sorts of scenarios of what they could do in a bath tub together. There were those butterflies again. But, before Barbara had time to consider if now was a good time for their first kiss, she heard the tell tale signs that a third person was about to join them.
Dinah had been gone for a few hours after Barbara had sent her on an errand. The blonde was to pick up equipment for the big test that the teen had lovingly dubbed, "Operation Sleepy Time." It was her way of trying to make things a bit more light-hearted.
"I tried to find SpongeBob SquarePants pajamas to go with your SpongeBob mobile and crib, but they didn't make any in your size," the blonde joked as she entered the living area. She stopped dead in her tracks when she saw the intimate embrace the other two women were in.
"Very funny," Helena said, keeping her head in the crook of Barbara's neck. "Besides, I'm more of a Squidward fan." Dinah normally would have laughed at the brunette's response, especially since she thought Helena had a lot in common with the crabby squid from the cartoon show, but something about the energy in the room stopped her.
"I'm sorry, I…I didn't mean to interrupt." Dinah stood there with bags in both hands. "Is everything okay?" She asked, innocently.
"It's just been an emotional day." Barbara responded. Helena extricated herself from the redhead's embrace and shot Dinah a look.
"That had better be my takeout," she said, motioning to the brown paper bag that was inside a white plastic bag in Dinah's right hand.
"As promised," the blonde replied. Heading toward the kitchen, she talked as she walked. "One order of the number three, sauce on the side. Two number sixes, four egg rolls and a butt load of fried rice."
"Good girl," Helena said, leaning back against the couch cushions and closing her eyes briefly. "Just for that, I'm going to forgive you for making that crib comment," she said loud enough so Dinah could hear her. Helena opened her eyes as she felt a hand come to rest on her knee. Barbara looked at her with the most open and loving gaze she had ever seen. Just the sight of it brought tears to Helena's eyes…again.
"I think I've cried my quota of tears for the next five years," she said. Barbara squeezed her knee.
"Come on," She said. "Let's get you fed."
"Hmmm," Helena said, her voice pitching lower. "You certainly know how to sweet talk a girl."
Shortly after dinner Barbara decided that they had waited long enough. Helena was beyond exhausted and fading by the moment. She had convinced the younger woman to get ready for bed and told her that she would meet her in the bedroom in a couple of minutes to set up. Helena had, at first, insisted on taking the couch, but Barbara was having none of it. Aside from the fact that she was hoping to have the brunette lying next to her from now on, she really didn't want her getting up in the middle of the night and sleepwalking her way off the balcony. There was no guarantee Helena's meta abilities would be functioning if she were sleepwalking, no guarantee she would land on her feet.
Barbara entered her bedroom, but found it empty. Figuring Helena was still in the bathroom, she went about setting up. She placed a laptop on the nightstand next to Helena's side of the bed. Turning the computer on, she opened the program she had downloaded from the Delphi. Barbara went to work attaching all the right wires to all the right electrodes. Hearing Helena enter the room, she glanced in her direction.
"Can we get HBO on that thing?" Helena joked as she moved towards the bed. She was wearing the same shorts as the night before, but had found a clean tank to replace the blood stained one.
"No, only the Golf Channel," Barbara responded as Helena took a seat on the bed next to the nightstand.
"If that doesn't put me to sleep, nothing will," she replied. Barbara turned to her and motioned for her to scoot up to the edge of the bed. When she did, Barbara reached up with both hands and caressed the younger woman's face. Not saying a word, the redhead then reached down into her lap where she had a bottle of rubbing alcohol and a cloth. Dabbing the alcohol on the cloth, Barbara cleaned the spots on Helena's face where she would soon attach the electrodes. Her face was the picture of concentration while she wordlessly worked.
Helena looked at her with wonder in her eyes, taking in the redhead's mouth, the faint lines to either side, the curve of her lower lip. Without thinking, Helena reached up and gently grabbed both of Barbara's arms, stopping her ministrations. Barbara looked into the younger woman's eyes, her arms stilled. She felt the pull of something invisible, yet incredibly strong between them. She abandoned the cloth that had been in her right hand and cupped Helena's cheeks, thumbs brushing over soft skin. Helena tilted her head to the left, pressing it into Barbara's palm, briefly shutting her eyes. When she opened them, the redhead was looking at her with a softened expression.
Barbara wasn't sure who initiated the kiss, maybe they met in the middle. But, once she felt the softness of Helena's lips on hers, she didn't much care. Helena's hands came down to Barbara's knees, trying to pull her closer. She brushed her tongue into the redhead's mouth, causing Barbara to moan and pull her closer. Helena's mouth was soft and warm. Her tongue was demanding, yet gentle. Barbara's thumbs continued to brush against the brunette's cheeks, wordlessly coaxing her, loving her, supporting her. Barbara was pouring all of her strength, all of her love, into the kiss. She was telling Helena that she was safe, that she didn't have to be strong alone, that they could be strong together.
When the kiss ended, Helena playfully sucked on the older woman's lower lip a little longer than necessary, causing a shiver to run up Barbara's spine. She then rested her forehead against Barbara's and took a deep breath. Barbara was brushing her hair back and smiling at her.
"You ready?" She asked.
"I am now," Helena replied. Barbara gave her a brief parting kiss and went to work attaching the electrodes to the younger woman's head.
Barbara sat at the Delphi analyzing the pictures and graphs generated by the tests she had run on Helena. She now had a better idea of what they were dealing with. Fixing it, however, was another matter.
It had been quite a night. Helena was seized by at least three intense nightmares. Barbara had rigged the laptop to sound an alarm whenever the brunette's brain waves showed signs of her dreaming. The alarm was rigged to a pager that she kept near her where she could feel it vibrate, so as not to wake Helena. The redhead knew she would eventually find a good use for that old pager. Never throw away a perfectly good piece of electronic equipment. You never know when it or its parts would come in handy again.
So, having been alerted every time Helena dreamed, Barbara allowed herself to be awake in case the younger woman became too distressed or attempted to sleepwalk. Of course, that left little time for Barbara to get much restful sleep herself. She slept lightly most of the night, too worried about the woman next to her. When nightmares would strike, Helena would whimper and cry in her sleep. She would tense up and begin to sweat. Sometimes she would cry out, some deeply desperate plea, the sound of which would cut Barbara in two.
Believing she had enough data after three nightmares, Barbara had removed the electrodes and shut off the computer. When Helena awoke later, she found herself wrapped in the redhead's arms. She had been surprised, but not at all unhappy to find herself in that position. Barbara removed her glasses and leaned back in her chair as she remembered how they spent the rest of the morning, with soft touches and lazy kisses. There had been the promise of something more when they parted, and Barbara's butterflies fluttered at the thought. Once Barbara came up with a way to make Helena's nightmares go away, she would have to face all of her own insecurities and doubts. She wanted nothing more than to make love with Helena, but her own limitations made her apprehensive.
Shaking her head, Barbara decided to push those thoughts back and instead deal with the immediate problem. Helena's brain activity during her nightmares was off the charts. But, what puzzled Barbara was the activity in her frontal lobes. That part of the brain governs logic and is usually pretty quiet during dreaming, which allows for bizarre situations in dreams to appear normal. Helena, for some reason, had the functioning of her entire brain. That may explain why she was also having vivid daydreams. Regardless, it was entirely NOT normal and therefore disconcerting. It was as if someone flipped a switch in Helena's brain, turning all the systems on when they weren't supposed to be. That thought led Barbara to the only conclusion she could come to.
It had to be Harley Quinn. Barbara had no idea how she was doing it, but it was the only thing that made sense in an "I have no proof" kind of way. Plus, there was that ever present gut feeling that just couldn't be ignored.
Yes, that had to be it. But, it left Barbara with one unpleasant option. She would have to see Harley Quinn. She would have to go to Arkham.
Helena stood behind the bar, restocking the glasses. It wasn't really her job, but the bar back had called in. At any rate, it was a slow night. Barbara had not wanted her to go to work, but Helena knew the activity would keep her awake. Plus, she wasn't sure how much more slack she had with management, and didn't want to push it by calling off. Barbara had then argued that she was being ridiculous and that everyone was allowed sick days. To that, Helena said she was saving them for when she was really sick. Barbara had rolled her eyes and then made her promise to be careful. Helena thought she had won that argument a little too easily, but didn't want to tell Barbara that.
But, there was a catch. There was always a catch. Barbara had taken Helena's hands in hers and looked her in the eye. Helena recognized the look. There was a question coming, maybe a favor to be asked. Looking into Barbara's eyes, Helena had realized there was nothing she could deny this woman. But, then the redhead said four little words.
"Dinah's going with you."
Helena glanced up toward the table in the corner, where she had deposited the teen on the way in and told her not to move. She was still there. Good girl. Honestly, bringing a teenager to a bar. Lucky kid. When Helena had been that age, she didn't have these kinds of resources to help her down the path of youthful corruption. She had to get creative and rely on her brain, which she had happily discovered was pretty smart. Maybe there had been something to that "you just need to apply yourself" speech the school counselor had given her.
Filling up two glasses, Helena stepped out from behind the bar and headed to the corner table. Upon arrival, she set the two glasses down with a "clunk" and took a seat opposite the blonde.
"Don't get too excited. It's just Coke," Helena said as the teen reached for the glass in front of her.
"A girl can hope," Dinah replied, taking a sip through her straw. "Should you be sitting here?"
"It's slow. Besides, I'm due a break," Helena huffed, stretching her arms behind her back to work out the kinks. Kicking her feet up on the empty chair next to her, Helena looked down for a moment before looking back at Dinah. "Look kid," she began. "I um, never thanked you…for saving my life the other night."
Dinah blushed and set her glass down. "All I did was drive." It was true. She didn't feel like she had done anything other than act the part of ambulance driver.
"No, you were there when we needed you. And, I know I don't really tell you that often how much I appreciate you, but I do." Oh, that sounded good. Why didn't she just give the girl a shot in the arm and a "keep up the good work"? Helena shook her head. "Ah hell," she said, giving up the platitudes. "I love you, kid."
Dinah blinked. So not what she was expecting to hear. She was actually stunned speechless. Helena figured her saying I love you to the kid was probably something akin to speaking Greek. She figured she'd better translate.
"Dinah, this whole thing with the nightmares…it's taken a lot out of me, made me take stock, you know. I hadn't really realized how much you meant to me until I dreamt that I'd lost you," Helena explained.
"I was in your dreams? I thought they were just about your mother." Dinah became more comfortable with the conversation, seeing that Helena was opening up. She pulled herself closer to the table.
"They were in the beginning, but then you and Barbara were in them, too." Taking a deep breath, Helena crossed her legs at the ankles on the chair they were resting in. "In each dream, I'm losing someone. First my mom, then you, now all I can dream about is Barbara and not being able to save her. It's…it's just becoming too much." Helena looked away from Dinah. "But," she said, looking back at Dinah, a lighter tone in her voice. "Barbara is apparently making progress. It sounded promising." Helena said, remembering how optimistic the redhead had been when she'd last seen her.
"Helena, I need to tell you something," Dinah began, causing the brunette to look at her through narrowed eyes. Helena removed her feet from the adjacent chair, placed them on the floor in front of her and pulled herself closer to the table. The kid was suddenly really nervous and all squirmy.
"Spill it." Helena said.
"Okay, okay umm…you know about my ability and all and…umm," Dinah was looking everywhere in the room except at Helena. She took a deep breath, shut her eyes tight and plowed on. "I've been picking up on some things lately, I mean, I knew you were dealing with something really big a few months ago. I just…didn't want to invade your privacy by asking." Helena felt her heart tug at the girl's shyness. She knew she was not entirely approachable…okay, she was not at all approachable. Now, with Dinah sitting across from her, she felt bad about that particular personality quirk. She didn't know what to say, so she didn't say anything.
"It's just that, you're kind of like the sister I never had and…I worry about you," Dinah admitted, bowing her head, embarrassed.
"Well," Helena said. "This big sister promises to be more approachable in the future," Helena smirked, causing the blonde to bring her head up and develop her own smile. "I've never had a kid sister…someone to mold in my image. You know, we've got a lot to make up for."
"We do?" Dinah asked. She knew Helena was teasing her, but thought that she'd play along.
"Yep," Helena said, linking her fingers behind her head and leaning back. "I've got years of teasing to do and I'm way behind on my practical jokes."
"You think that's bad," Dinah responded. "I've got to make up for years of not borrowing your clothes." They both laughed at that and sat in silence for a few beats. "But, Helena, there's more."
"Shoot," Helena said, reaching for her Coke. She was pretty sure she wasn't going to be upset or mad at whatever it was that was to come.
"I know about you and Barbara." Helena choked when she was trying to swallow, but managed to keep herself from spitting up her beverage. "I'm sorry, but you guys are totally transparent. I'm just surprised it took you this long," Dinah finished.
"Transparent?" It was all Helena could get out. She knew the kid would find out about them eventually. She was just hoping for some time to get used to the idea herself.
"Yeah, you've both been dancing around it since I met you. I actually thought you two were a couple at first. Of course the Wade and Jesse thing told me otherwise, which was really puzzling because if I could see it, I couldn't understand why neither of you could. Then it hit me that you were both being idiots about it," Dinah rushed out. "And, I only knew about the new development because I gave Barbara a hug today, and I wasn't trying to see anything that wasn't my business…"
"It's okay, Dinah," Helena assured her. "I haven't exactly had time to wrap my head around it. All things being equal, I should be jumping out of my skin right now. I can't believe I'm this calm." Helena's hands were shaking a little, so she reached for her glass to give at least one hand something to do. That's when it happened. One second she was reaching for her Coke with every intention of lifting it up to her lips and taking a sip, the next she was watching the Joker hold a gun to Barbara's head. It was only a second, but long enough for her to squeeze her glass so tight, it burst in her hand.
"Helena, are you okay?" Dinah's concerned voice reached the brunette, causing her to jump back to herself. Looking down at her bloody hand, Helena tried to shake off the daydream.
"I need to see Harley Quinn, now!" Barbara Gordon demanded, glaring at the warden and pointing at the monitor that displayed a video feed of Harley Quinn in her cell.
"Miss, you'll have to talk to the doctor when he returns from his trip. I simply can't give you the authorization," the warden replied. He was a small man who seemed somewhat out of place, but the twinkle in his eye suggested that he was getting off on what little authority he had.
"Look," Barbara said to him. "This is a matter of life and death. Harley Quinn is a dangerous, psychotic criminal. If she's somehow able to penetrate that cell with her…her…trance, then we need to stop her." Barbara's voice was edgy, but demanding. It was a long shot, considering Quinn's hypnotizing ability had previously relied on making eye contact. But, what if it had evolved? They simply didn't know enough about that meta ability transferring machine she had made.
"I'm sorry…miss?" The warden looked at her expectantly, waiting for her to give him her full name. He didn't really care who she was, he was just trying to be polite.
"Gordon," A voice from the door stated. Barbara and the warden turned at the sound of the unexpected third person.
"Dad," Barbara said, surprised.
"Mis..mister Gordon..commissioner…ah, Commissioner Gordon sir," the warden stuttered as he stood to attention.
"You're not giving my daughter a hard time, are you Clarence?" Jim Gordon asked.
"No sir, sorry sir. I didn't know who she was," Clarence said, with a little less stuttering this time.
"Then I suggest you let the lady do what she needs to do. Or should I call the mayor to get your authorization?" he said. Clarence suddenly was no longer the big dog in the room, which was clearly something he didn't like. He nearly tripped over his own feet as he scrambled back over to his desk to look for his keys, all the while muttering his apologies.
"You got my message, I see," Barbara said to her father as he came to stand next to her.
"I did, very cryptic. You wanna tell me just what is going on here?" He inquired.
"I think Quinn is still hypnotizing Helena somehow. It's the only explanation for what's been happening with her," Barbara told him.
"I thought her cell was designed to keep something like that from happening," Jim stated.
"It was. Three layers of steel, concrete, iron and tinted glass. That's why I'm here. If there's some kind of deficiency, we need to find out about it and fix it," she told him, desperation evident in her voice.
"I don't think there's any kind of deficiency," Clarence said, having finally retrieved his keys. "Ain't nothing going to get through that."
Barbara's cell phone began to chirp inside of her jacket pocket. Reaching for it, she saw the number on the caller ID and felt a panic begin to rise inside of her. Flipping her cell open, she tried to sound calm as she answered.
"Dinah? What is it?" The voice on the other end was a whisper, but it definitely belonged to the teen.
"Barbara, I have to whisper so Helena won't hear me."
"Why? What happened?" Barbara asked her.
"She had another one of those daydream thingies…at the Dark Horse. But, it's not that bad and the bonus is they let her go home early," the blonde said in a rush. "She just probably wouldn't want me to be calling you, but I think she needs stitches, and I have no idea how to do that."
"What?" Barbara blurted out suddenly, causing both her father and Clarence to stare at her.
"It's not bad, really. But, you know how stubborn she is," Dinah breathed into the phone. "She's in the bathroom right now, but if she finds out I called you she'll kill me. And, we kind of bonded tonight, so that whole killing thing might get in the way of that."
"I'll be home soon."
"Where's Helena?" Barbara asked upon seeing Dinah when she arrived home. The teen had been sitting on the couch watching television.
"She's been in the bathroom since I talked to you. I knocked on the door a little while ago and she said she was okay," Dinah replied, hitting the mute button on the remote. "Do you need any help?" she asked as Barbara headed for the bathroom to check on Helena.
"I'll let you know Dinah, thank you," Barbara responded. She was anxious and probably a bit too short with the teen, who was only trying to help. She made a mental note to apologize to her later. Wheeling up to the bathroom door, Barbara knocked on it softly.
"Helena? It's me. Can I come in?" she asked. Only silence greeted her. So, she knocked a little louder, but still heard no response from the brunette. Silently praying to herself that Helena wouldn't be upset by the intrusion, Barbara reached for the door knob and turned it slowly. Swinging the door open, she was about to let out an apology for having invaded Helena's privacy, but it stopped dead in her throat.
"Helena!" Barbara shouted, entering the bathroom and rushing to the body that was lying on the floor. "Dinah, help!" the redhead summoned the teenager as she lifted herself off the chair and down onto the tile floor next to Helena. The brunette was drenched in sweat. Barbara grabbed the younger woman's hand and pressed two fingers to her wrist. Her pulse was fast, much faster than it should be. Her skin was pale and she was twitching slightly. Helena's breathing was labored and irregular. "Oh God, please," Barbara begged as she ran her hands over the brunette's cheeks, trying to wake her up. "Helena. Helena wake up."
"Oh my God!" Dinah had gotten to the bathroom as fast as she could. She fought a stab of guilt when she saw Helena on the floor, wondering if she should have kept a closer watch on her.
"Help me get her to the bed," Barbara said, glancing in the blonde's direction, but clearly keeping her attention on the brunette. Dinah moved into action, hoping that her workouts had been enough to prepare her to lift Helena. She didn't have to lift her for long. Once Barbara was settled back in her chair, Dinah was able to transfer Helena from the floor to Barbara's lap. Entering the bedroom, Dinah helped Barbara get the brunette onto the bed. Helena had apparently tried to dress her wounded hand, but the white bandage wrapped around it was soaked with blood. The rest of her looked no worse for the wear, except for the fact that she was unconscious and sweating through her clothes.
Barbara leaned in over Helena, bringing her hand up to the younger woman's face. "Helena, can you hear me?" she asked, desperately. "Sweetheart, please wake up." Barbara squeezed her eyes shut to shake off the tears. "Come on, sweetheart. I need you to open your eyes." The brunette was twitching slightly, as though immersed in a bad dream, which Barbara realized, she probably was.
"Barbara, I don't understand. What happened?" Dinah asked, her voice thick with concern.
"She…she must be sleeping too deep. I don't know," Barbara said, frustrated. She took Helena's good hand in her own and squeezed it. Barbara had absolutely no idea what was happening. Her response to Dinah that Helena was sleeping too deeply seemed ridiculously stupid and simple. Then again, maybe she was right.
The sound of her cell phone ringing startled her. Barbara had to release Helena's hand in order to answer it. Looking at the caller ID, she saw it was her father.
"Dad?" Barbara answered.
"Barbara, I think I may have found your problem," Jim Gordon said. Barbara's heart stopped. "I went down and took a look at that cell myself. Barbara, someone drilled holes along the bottom of her cell. There are literally hundreds of little holes." Jim took a breath. "I don't know if it's enough…"
"It's enough." Barbara said, looking at Helena. The brunette was trembling, her clothes were clinging to her, soaked in sweat. "Who could drill through steel, concrete and iron without being noticed?"
"Well, you'd have to do it when staff is minimal, and even then it would be hard. You'd have to have more people involved," He said. Barbara's eyes narrowed.
"Like the night shift." It was a statement, not a question.
"I've already got the warden in custody and a few of the guards, but there's a couple missing," Jim told her. "I had to call in a few favors," He paused. "Look Barbara, there isn't another cell to put her in that would protect the rest of us. I've got people working on patching up the holes. They'll have to replace the whole thing eventually, but this should work for now. It's going to take a little while."
Barbara shut her eyes and released the breath she had been holding. "Helena's in bad shape, dad." Barbara reached out and put her hand on the younger woman's forehead.
"Still? But, Quinn's out of commission. We tranquilized her a half hour ago," he said, confused.
"What?" Barbara was also confused. If Quinn was unconscious, then why were Helena's dreams still under her control? Subtract one from two and you're left with one. Now, she was coming up with four. Quinn was unconscious and so was Helena. It didn't make any…Barbara gasped.
"Barbara?" her father asked after hearing the redhead gasp.
"Dad, I think tranquilizing her may have made it worse. Please, tell them to fix the cell fast," she told him.
"I'll put a rush on it," he said, hanging up. Barbara put her phone down and reached for Helena's wrist to again take her pulse.
"It's too fast. Even with her meta abilities, I don't know how much more she can take." Barbara's voice was calm, even though her insides were in knots.
"Um, what if.." Dinah began, trying to think of the best way to say it. "Maybe I could, you know, help you talk to her…like I did with Ketterly." Barbara looked at the teen, unsure of what to say. The idea had some merit. If she could get inside Helena's head, she may be able to calm her down, get her heart rate to slow. At this rate, she wasn't sure how much time the brunette had. But, she didn't like the idea of exposing Dinah to it. Even though she'd never admit it, the time with Ketterly took a lot out of the teen.
"Barbara, if I don't use my meta abilities to help Helena, then what good are they?" Dinah said, reading the apprehension on the redhead's face.
"Alright," Barbara said. "But, you break the connection if it becomes too much." Dinah nodded in agreement. "Okay, let's do it."
Barbara felt a jolt and suddenly found herself in very familiar surroundings…her bedroom. Confused, she looked around the room. Did it not work? She was still in her chair next to the bed. But, Helena was no longer on the bed and Dinah was nowhere to be seen. That's weird.
"No! Don't do this!" It was Helena's voice, Helena's scream. Barbara leapt out of her chair and went running toward the sound. It didn't even seem odd to her that she was using her legs.
"Barbara!" Helena's scream was followed by a single gunshot. By the time Barbara got downstairs, it was all over. Helena was lying on her side on the floor, her grief coming out in screams that Barbara was sure would haunt her until the day she died. The Joker was standing by the Delphi, holding a smoking gun and laughing hysterically. Just the sight of him made Barbara want to run to that hiding place inside herself and never come out. This was a dream, Helena's dream. He was not real.
Barbara blinked her fear away and took in the rest of the scene. Next to the Joker, sitting in a chair at the Delphi, was herself. The dream Barbara was hunched forward over the keyboard, blood pouring out of her head. Then Barbara noticed the other person in the room. Harley Quinn. She was also laughing. Laughing and pointing at Barbara's body. But, then she looked up and noticed the real Barbara.
"Oh, Barbara. I've been so wrapped up I didn't even notice you were here," Quinn said, her voice high-pitched. Barbara ignored her and rushed over to Helena, who was still on the floor, sobs wracking her body.
"Helena," Barbara said, grabbing the younger woman's shoulders. "Helena, it's a dream. It's just a dream. None of this is real." Helena looked up at her, eyes red, tears staining her cheeks.
"Please, make this stop," Helena pleaded. Barbara shook her gently then grabbed the brunette's face between her hands.
"Helena, listen to me. You're okay. I'm okay. This is just a dream," Barbara insisted, forcing the younger woman to look at her.
"Barbara?" Helena choked out.
"That's right, sweetheart. I'm here and I'm going to get you out of here," Barbara said as she stood up and offered her hand to Helena, who took it and allowed herself to be lifted up off the floor.
"I don't think so, Barbara dear," Quinn said. The Joker was no longer there. "You see, it took me a long time to get here, and I'm not finished playing yet."
"It's too late, Harley," Barbara glared at her as she placed herself protectively in front of Helena. "You're not going to hurt her anymore."
"But I'm having so much fun. Honestly Barbara, you are such a party pooper." Quinn approached the pair slowly, a sneer on her face. "I think we need a change of scenery." She snapped her fingers.
Suddenly they were no longer in the clock tower. They were in the street, the same street where Selina Kyle died. It was the same street that Barbara had come to rescue Helena the last time Dinah worked her magic.
"Oh, God no," Helena whispered from her spot behind Barbara. "Not here. Not again." Barbara blindly reached behind her to take Helena's hand and offer her some comfort.
"This is my favorite one," Harley announced, arms spread open. "Just look at it. Isn't it beautiful?" She began to walk, slowly circling the pair. "It took me a while to get it just right, but it was worth it. Do you have any idea how challenging it was to convince that idiot warden to help me? To get those night guards to drill all those tiny little holes?" Barbara just glared while Helena cowered behind her. Harley Quinn laughed. "Oh you're right. I'm being over dramatic. They were too simple-minded for me to even break a sweat."
"I don't get it," Barbara said. "If you were able to hypnotize the guards, why not just get them to break you out?"
"Ah, that was more of a long-term goal. Let's just say I have a plan… and I'm a stickler about following each step of an evil plan in the order in which it was conceived."
Quinn continued her path around the pair as she spoke. Barbara squeezed Helena's hand when she heard the younger woman choke down a sob.
"But this, this was worth it don't you think?" Quinn stopped right in front of Barbara. "I do love revisiting the scene of this particular crime. How about you, Huntress?" she peeked around Barbara at the brunette.
Barbara's patience had run thin and her complete disgust with the woman before her was off the charts. So, it should have come as no surprise to her when she couldn't stop her fist from making contact with the psycho therapist's jaw. It was, however, a surprise to her that the force of the punch launched Quinn across the street and into a brick wall. Barbara knew she was strong, but hadn't been that strong in a long time. Harley Quinn crushed into the brick and collapsed onto the ground, pieces of brick coming down around her.
"Looks like you didn't count on me being a part of this particular scene," Barbara said to her then turned around to look Helena in the eye. "Helena, this is almost over," she told her, running her hands over the brunette's face. "We figured out how Quinn's been getting into your head. It's not going to happen anymore." Helena just looked at her, not saying anything. "Sweetheart, do you understand? It's over."
"I want to believe you Barbara, but I don't. You're not even really here," she told her.
"I am here," Barbara said, stroking Helena's face with her thumbs. "Thanks to Dinah." Helena tilted her head, thinking. "You're safe now."
"How do I know this is real?" Helena asked her. Barbara didn't blink, just leaned in and brought her lips to the younger woman's. The kiss was sweet and reassuring. Quick, but full of love. When she pulled back to look at Helena, the brunette's expression had softened.
"I believe you," she told the redhead. Barbara smiled then looked over her shoulder at Harley, who was still unconscious.
"Let's get out of here," Barbara said to her. The brunette took her hands and looked her in the eye. Barbara blinked and they were suddenly back in her bedroom, standing near the end of the bed. Barbara looked around. No Dinah.
"Are we still in your dream?" she asked her. Helena nodded.
"There's something I wanted to do before we return to the real world," Helena told her. Barbara looked at the bed, then back at Helena, who winked. "Not that," she teased. Helena walked over to the night stand where an alarm clock fashioned with a CD player sat. Silently praying that what was true in the real world was also true in the dream world, Helena pressed play. She smiled when she heard the soft notes of the piano and realized that the CD in the alarm clock of Barbara's dream bedroom was the same as in the real thing. Walking back over to Barbara as Madeleine Peyroux's voice filled the room, Helena offered her hand.
"Barbara Gordon, may I have this dance?"
Barbara smiled sweetly at the request as tears filled her eyes. She looked down at herself and at the legs which were working in this dream world, but wouldn't be working as soon as this was over. Looking back up at Helena and seeing nothing but love and understanding, Barbara took her hand.
I'll look around
Until I've found someone
Who laughs like you
I know somewhere
Spring must fill the air
With sweetness just as rare
As the flower
That you gave me to wear
Barbara let Helena lead, looking into her eyes briefly before wrapping her arms around her waist and resting her head on the younger woman's shoulder. Helena was reminded of all those junior high dances as she swayed them gently, but the way they held each other, it just felt right.
I look around
And when I've found someone
Who laughs like you
I'll know this love
I'm dreaming of
Won't be the old love
I always knew
I know somewhere
Love must fill the air
With sweetness just as rare
As the flower
That you gave me to wear
Barbara reveled in the feel of the brunette's body against her own as she sadly thought that this would be the one and only time they would ever stand together like this. Squeezing her arms tighter, Barbara turned her head and pressed a kiss to Helena's neck, inhaling her scent. Helena brought a hand up to the older woman's head and ran her fingers through red hair.
I look around
And when I've found someone
Who laughs like you
I'll know this love
I'm dreaming of
Won't be the old love
I always knew
When the song ended, the two women remained in each other's arms. It was Barbara who broke the silence.
"I don't want you to wake up." Helena laughed lightly at that and looked down at Barbara, cupping her face gently as the older woman's arms remained wrapped around her tightly.
"It only gets better from here, Barbara," she told her.
"I never knew you were such a romantic," Barbara commented as she softly ran her finger tips across Helena's lower back.
"Let's just say you bring out the best in me," the brunette caressed the older woman's face as she spoke. "Barbara, I don't know what I would do without you. Thank you for coming after me."
"It was Dinah's idea. I didn't know what to do," Barbara admitted, bending her hand down. "Helena, I could have lost you. I'm still not sure what happened here, how I got her away from you."
"I don't know. Maybe because you were the only one in this dream who wasn't actually dreaming," Helena said, thinking out loud. Barbara looked up at her, eyes squinting.
"That's pretty insightful," Barbara responded. Helena only smiled. Brushing her thumbs across Barbara's cheeks, Helena slowly brought her lips down to the redhead's. As their lips connected, Barbara's eyes drifted shut. Her breath hitched and her mind became hazy. She was in awe at how gentle yet firm Helena's kisses were. There was so much to the younger woman that Barbara knew and so much she had yet to learn. Suddenly, she couldn't wait for the next lesson.
When Barbara opened her eyes, Helena was looking down at her. The brunette's eyes were watered with tears and the corner of her mouth was turned up in a half-smirk. She looked like someone who had just made a grand realization and was pretty pleased about it.
The next thing she knew, Barbara was back in her chair, next to the bed. Her left hand was joined with Helena's and Dinah's hand was on top of them both. She looked over at the brunette, who was still lying on the bed in her sweat-soaked clothes, only now she was awake. Dinah removed her hand and took a step back.
"It worked?" Dinah stated, slightly surprised and out of breath.
"Hey, don't sell yourself short kid. You did good," Helena said as she attempted to get up. A wave of dizziness hit her and she brought a hand up to her head. "Woah."
"Easy sweetheart," Barbara told her, reaching over to offer her support as the brunette collapsed back against the pillows. "You've been through a lot."
"God, I feel like I got hit by a truck," the brunette sniffed. "What's that smell? Oh man, it's me." Looking down at herself, Helena pulled at her shirt in an attempt to peel it from her skin.
"Well, I wasn't going to say anything, but since you did…" Dinah brought a hand up and pinched her nose, her mouth turning up in a smile. Helena glared at her.
"Hey, I'm the one in this family who gets to do the teasing," she pointed out to Dinah as Barbara smoothed the hair back from her face. Dinah laughed then decided to make herself scarce.
"Well, if you two need anything else from me I'll be deep in a bowl of Cherry Garcia in front of the TV," Dinah said as she backed out of the room.
"Dinah," Barbara called out to her. The blonde stopped at the door. "Thank you."
Barbara sat on the balcony looking up at the stars. Her head was tilted back slightly and her lips were turned up in a smile. She had seen the stars practically every night of her life, but this felt like the first time she had really looked at them. She didn't even mind that the city lights blocked out all but the brightest stars. Shivering slightly at the chill of the night air, Barbara wrapped her arms around herself and briefly wished she had brought a sweater. But, just as the thought occurred to her, Barbara felt a fleece blanket wrap itself around her shoulders and strong arms draw it up and across her chest. Barbara reached up to hold the other woman to her.
"Mmmmm, you smell good," Barbara said as she held onto the woman behind her.
"Yep, I'm all clean," Helena drawled, pressing a kiss to the redhead's ear before pulling back and stepping around to stand beside her. Having been desperate to clean herself up and get out of those sweaty clothes, Helena had hopped in the shower as soon as she'd convinced Barbara she wasn't going to pass out. She had been dizzy when she first tried to get out of bed, but she'd figured that was because she sat up too quickly. Freshly clean, Helena was now dressed in a tight-fitting white tee and sweat pants, her hair still a bit damp.
"You seemed deep in thought," Helena commented, looking out across the city. Barbara didn't look at her when she responded.
"A lot has happened in the past couple of days. Just trying to make sense of it all." Helena nodded and continued to look straight ahead, too nervous to look at the redhead. She didn't know what Barbara was trying to say, but she was suddenly filled with fear. There hadn't exactly been time to talk about their…relationship, what with her brain being treated like Harley Quinn's personal playground. But, now that they both had time to think, what if Barbara had changed her mind?
Just then Helena felt a hand take a hold of hers. She looked down at Barbara, who was now looking up at her. "Don't worry, Helena," the redhead said. "I haven't changed my mind. I won't change my mind."
"Good, cuz neither will I," Helena told her, releasing a breath and squeezing Barbara's hand. Barbara smiled up at her, then released the younger woman's hand and wrapped the blanket around herself again.
"I want you to promise me something, Helena," Barbara said into the night air. Helena moved around to face the redhead then kneeled down in front of her.
"Anything," the tone in her voice told the older woman that Helena meant it.
"I know you felt like you could handle it on your own, but don't ever keep something like this from me again. You could have been killed," Barbara's voice hitched. While Helena had been in the shower, Barbara came out to the balcony to think. The full weight of the past couple of days was finally sinking in. Barbara had been terrified for Helena, but had also been focused on trying to help her. With the threat gone, the possibility that Helena could have been more seriously hurt or even killed was suffocating her.
Helena was taken aback by the emotions playing across Barbara's face. Facing her now in the moonlight, Helena noticed the tracks of tears down the older woman's face. She mentally chastised herself for not noticing sooner. Helena put her head down, but felt a hand on her chin pull her back up.
"We're a team, a family, the three of us," Barbara swallowed, thinking about her words. "And you and I are so much more. Please don't ever shut me out like that again."
"I promise," Helena said gently. "But Barbara, I'm not very good at being open. I may slip up from time to time. And all of this…emotion I've been showing the past few days, I'm probably going to be cutting back on some of that." Barbara took a hold of Helena's hands and leaned forward.
"I'll try to cut you some slack," the redhead's voice had gentled. Helena put her head down again.
"I just don't want to disappoint you, Barbara." The redhead was about to reach under the younger woman's chin, but held back. Instead she waited for Helena to look back up at her. After a beat, she did.
"You couldn't possibly," Barbara told her softly, yet firmly. "Helena, I don't expect perfection from you."
"Well, I do," Helena said, rising from her position and walking over to look out at the city. "I know what it's like to lose you, Barbara. It's happened every night for the past few months." Barbara moved closer to the brunette.
"Helena," she said softly. "I know this has been a nightmare for you." Of course, she didn't mean it literally, but it could have been taken both ways. "I came close to losing you tonight and I'm not looking to relive it." Helena turned and looked at Barbara, her arms folded across her stomach.
"I'm just still…scared, you know?" Helena admitted, avoiding the redhead's eyes. Barbara reached up to Helena's arms, unfolding them, and pulled the brunette towards her.
"Come here," Barbara whispered. Helena resisted at first, then allowed herself to be pulled into the older woman's lap. With her legs thrown over one arm of the chair and her lower back against the other, Helena buried her head in Barbara's neck and cried. The redhead said nothing, just held onto the younger woman and silently cursed Harley Quinn.
Sobs wracked Helena's body for several minutes. She had been crying a lot over the past few days, but she knew this would be the last time. She could feel herself releasing all of the fear, all of the trauma, all of horrifying images in her head. With each tear that fell, she thought about the nights she had struggled to keep herself awake and the way she felt when the nightmares invaded her waking life. She thought about the pain, the guilt, the panic. And as she thought about these things, she released them. Sinking deeper into Barbara, she pulled out every ounce of comfort the older woman had to offer.
When her tears began to subside, Helena became aware of loving hands smoothing back her hair. She realized that the warm blanket she had wrapped around Barbara earlier was now wrapped around them both.
"Let me see that hand," Barbara said as she reached for Helena's bandaged right hand. The cut hadn't been as deep as Dinah had said. It definitely wouldn't need stitches. Still, it could get infected. Barbara gently held Helena's hand, examining it as the brunette composed herself.
"Well?" Helena asked, looking up at Barbara from where her head rested on the older woman's shoulder.
"It looks clean," Barbara said. Looking down into wet eyes, Barbara released the brunette's hand and cupped the side of her face. "It's okay to be scared."
"I'm starting to get that," Helena responded, smiling slightly. Brushing back the younger woman's hair, Barbara smiled down at her.
"We still need to talk about us," the redhead said.
"What's to talk about?" Helena snuggled closer to the older woman. "I love you. You seem to feel the same. Seems pretty cut and dry to me."
"Well, that part is," Barbara told her, holding her close. "I've never felt like this before. I guess I don't know what comes next," she admitted. Upon hearing that, Helena picked her head up and looked into Barbara's eyes. Smiling, the brunette extricated herself and stood up, then promptly kneeled in front of the older woman. Looking down at her, Barbara creased her brows in confusion as Helena took her hands.
"Barbara," Helena began. "Will you go out with me?"
"Like on a date?" Barbara asked, a smile lighting up her face.
"Yes, like on a date," Helena teased. "I want to do this right, Barbara. What do you say?"
"Yes. I say yes." Barbara pulled at Helena's hands, bringing the younger woman up toward her. Their lips met in a soft, loving kiss. Barbara ran her tongue along the brunette's upper lip before sliding it into her mouth. She felt more than heard Helena's moan. The brunette's hands came up to tangle in her hair. Wrapping her arms around Helena's neck, Barbara brought them closer together. Their kiss deepened, but no matter how much passion there was between the two women neither of them rushed it. It would have been so easy to let go, to let desire take over. But, there was plenty of time for that later.
As her body further responded, Barbara felt her apprehension toward a physical relationship begin to creep up. She managed to push it back down and just enjoy the feeling of an alive and kicking Helena under her lips, but the younger woman had detected the brief change in her.
"What is it?" Helena asked as she pulled back, her voice thick with concern. Barbara averted her gaze. "Hey," Helena touched Barbara's cheek. "Did I do something wrong?"
"No," Barbara quickly answered. She took Helena's hand and brought it down to her lap. "I'm sorry."
"For what?" Helena asked, linking their fingers together. She was picking up on all the nervous energy coming off the redhead.
"We'll never be able to dance like that again." Barbara's voice was sad, her head down. Helena blinked, suddenly understanding. She mentally kicked herself for not seeing it sooner.
"We'll find a way around it," Helena breathed deeply, thinking over her next words. "Barbara, when I look at you, all I see is an amazing woman. You're kind, caring, a genius with the Delphi and you have my back every single night that I'm out there. But most of all, when I look at you…I stop breathing. You are a gorgeous and sexy woman, Barbara, and I lose my heart to you every time I look at you. I never even notice this chair."
Barbara looked up, tears threatening to spill from her eyes. "I've never felt this way about anyone in my life." It was hard for Barbara to admit it. She didn't like feeling vulnerable. But, looking into Helena's eyes, she knew she was safe. "It surprised me…when I started to think of you as something more. Since the shooting, physical relationships haven't exactly been a priority for me."
Helena bit back the urge to speak. Instead, she focused all her attention on the redhead, rubbing her thumb in comforting circles on Barbara's hand. She had never expected this, never thought Barbara would love her in such a way. Helena had convinced herself that her love would never be returned. She had made peace with that a long time ago. The intensity of Barbara's feelings was overwhelming.
"But Helena, I want to give you everything you deserve. I don't want to worry about my limitations and I don't want them to hold me back. I guess I'm a little scared, too." Barbara looked at Helena as the younger woman reached up and pulled the blanket tighter around her shoulders. Smiling, Helena pressed a soft kiss to Barbara's lips.
"It's okay to be scared," Helena said to her as she pulled back, echoing Barbara's earlier statement. "So, I guess we'll both be scared together." Barbara smiled at that.
"I guess we will."
"Barbara, we're not going to do anything you're not ready for. Besides, we haven't even gone on our first date yet. That's how a girl gets a reputation."
"Oh, I know all about your reputation," Barbara was teasing, but there was some truth behind it. She had been aware of the brunette's past relationships, flings actually. Different night, different guy or girl. She wasn't much for relationships. That was another thought that gave the redhead pause.
"I know what you're thinking," Helena's voice cut though Barbara's musings. "You're thinking, can this uninhibited, impulsive bartender actually be ready for a real relationship? Can a girl who's never been much for commitment be serious about being with just one person? Look in my eyes and tell me if you can find the answer."
Barbara looked right into Helena's eyes and saw nothing but love and devotion. She knew her fears were unfounded. Not only could she see them, but she could feel the emotions radiating off the younger woman. There was an energy to them, like they had a life of their own.
"Yes, she can and she is."
"That's right," Helena said as she stood up. "Now, I'm tired and cold. Let's get under some warm covers. I want to fall asleep holding you."
"I would love that."