Just A Matter of Time


FANDOM: Birds of Prey TV

PAIRING: Barbara/Helena

Web Site: Enginerd's Fan Fiction.

E-MAIL: enginerd@enginerd.info

Author's note:

This story contains adult themes of love between two women. Also, there are attempts to use French in the story - a product of free on-line translators (you get what you pay for). My apologies in advance for the language errors. Thanks to Trusty for proofing.


After a disturbing encounter with a petty thief, Helena finds her world turned upside down. As she searches for a way to turn it right-side up, she faces surprising complications - including Barbara Gordon, the unrequited love of her life, who actually starts to fall for her.

Enginerd (Nov 2009)

Chapter 1

First Kiss

Helena smirked as Dinah gleefully eyed Barbara. "Truth or dare?" Dinah asked eagerly.

"You know, Dinah, why don't we play charades or something. Then all of us would play, right Helena?" Barbara glanced over hopefully to the relaxed crime fighter sitting next to her.

Helena grabbed a handful of popcorn from the big bowl in Barbara's lap and returned her gaze to the DVD playing on the nice big TV.

"Sure. Charades. My fav. Whoo hoo," Helena said flatly, putting an obscenely large amount of popcorn in her mouth. "Wu can we ju waa hee lame mobe?" Helena blurted with a full mouth, pointing at the screen with Jane Seymour, looking pretty hot, which was the only reason Helena put up with watching Dinah's less than thrilling selection of Somewhere in Time.

Barbara frowned and handed the bowl to Dinah, who sat on her other side. "Helena, you are a twenty five year old woman. I know you have manners. I've had, on a rare occasion or two, the great privilege of seeing them. Would you please attempt to at least pretend you care about them?" Barbara asked with a heavy sigh.

"Uuuure. Baaahs," she responded with amusement and some chewed popcorn dropped out of her mouth onto her shirt.

"Ewww," Dinah said, causing Helena to chuckle. Picking up the pieces on her shirt and popping them into her mouth, Helena continued to chew and returned her gaze to the TV.

Barbara rolled her eyes at the young woman, who managed to derive inordinate pleasure from grossing out Dinah. She wondered if Helena would ever grow up. The young woman refused to be serious about anything, except perhaps for kicking ass or "partying." With the parade of acquaintances she "partied" with, Barbara couldn't call them girl or boy friends as Helena apparently never saw them more than once or twice. Why Helena couldn't see that she had so much to offer someone if she would just slow down and....

"Truth or dare?" Dinah asked again, tucking her leg under her as she shifted on the couch and looked intently at Barbara as Helena chuckled quietly, getting an annoyed glare from Barbara.

"I really would rather . . . ."

"You SAID we could do whatever I wanted on my Birthday. I want to play truth or dare," Dinah whined.

"She's got you there, Red," Helena said innocently, as she crossed over Barbara, reaching for the popcorn bowl Dinah now held, her face surprisingly close to Barbara's. "It was YOUR promise," she said silkily, grabbing a handful and waggling her eyebrows at a blinking Barbara, who was startled by the sudden proximity and the unexpected feelings it provoked.

Barbara looked at Helena curiously as she pulled back and returned to her side of the couch, popping a few pieces into her mouth with a satisfied smile. It wasn't the first time Helena had just . . . invaded . . . her personal space like that. And if she thought about it, the unrepentant Helena had been doing that more frequently the past several months, as well as the flirting. Of course, Helena had always flirted with her, which she had to admit made the sweeps more . . . interesting . . . as Barbara took it as a challenge to beat her at her own game. She took a great deal of satisfaction in surprising Helena with her own risqué comments and innuendo. And to actually make Helena blush was truly a guilty pleasure. As Barbara pondered what might be the cause for the changes over the last several months, Dinah spoke.

"You want to know what I think?" Dinah said in challenge.

"If I say no, will you keep it to yourself?" Helena responded hopefully. Barbara bit her lip, trying not to smile.

"You are just too scared to play," Dinah taunted, hoping to provoke Helena into playing.

"Didn't think so," Helena said with a heavy sigh. "Fine, I'm too scared," Helena declared, popping a few kernels in her mouth, surprising both Barbara and Dinah.

"All right, Dinah. Truth," Barbara offered wearily - after all, she did promise.

Dinah beamed. "Cool! Who was the first woman you've ever kissed? And I'm not talking relatives."

Helena blinked, not having expected that question for Barbara. But then, Dinah was talking a lot about this girl Gabby in school and pestering her with obtuse questions, she considered and glanced at the elevator, then the balcony, her possible escape routes.

Barbara winced. "Is it too late to take the dare?"

"Ah ha! I knew it!" Dinah said victoriously, knowing she had to ask her questions carefully or she'd never get anything out of Barbara.

"Well look at the time!" Helena suddenly blurted, startling both women as she looked at her bare wrist and jumped up from the couch. She glanced at Barbara. "Speaking of time, I dropped your favorite watch off at the jewelers - in case you were wondering where it was. With any luck it'll finally be able to tell the correct time more than twice a day," she said with a thin, almost taunting smile as she leaned over Barbara and grabbed another handful of popcorn.

"I was going to get to it," Barbara responded weakly, surprised that Helena did that for her and by how distracting Helena's fragrance was.

"You said that last month," Helena responded with a smirk. "And I'm tired of you complaining you don't have a nice watch every time you go to a classy place with Wade. I almost got you a new one but I know how much you like the one you have."

Barbara's eyes dropped and she offered "Well, it was from a good . . . friend."

"Kinda figured," Helena said with a small, understanding smile. She never had asked Barbara any personal questions like those Dinah had no problem asking, apparently. But Helena knew there had been someone special, with the way Barbara hung onto the old, broken timepiece. If only she could have been that someone special for Barbara, she considered, knowing very well that all Barbara wanted from her former ward was friendship. Her former guardian had made that awkwardly and painfully clear years ago. As the sadness welled up, she pushed it aside, trying to remind herself there was no use in crying over spilt milk....

"You can't be leaving," Dinah piped up, looking at her still half-full popcorn bowl to Helena.

"Yep. And don't worry, I didn't eat all the birthday cake - there still is a slice or two left," she said.

"But it's only nine thirty," Dinah said with a frown.

"Don't tell us it's past your bedtime," Barbara said, crossing her arms over her chest, suspecting with growing irritation where the active young woman was going.

"I have a busy day tomorrow," Helena quickly countered, grabbing her leather duster off the back of a chair on the way to the elevator.

"But . . . ." Dinah blurted helplessly.

Helena stopped and faced the two women now frowning at her. "Dinah, I don't have to be a telepath to know you want to talk to Barbara about . . . things. I get it," Helena said, surprising Barbara, who realized Helena was probably right. Dinah hadn't really pushed hard to play Truth or Dare ever before. Thankfully.

"I want to talk about "things" with both of you," Dinah muttered with a frown.

"I think we all agree - Barbara's a far better role model than me, kiddo," Helena said, winking as she entered the elevator. "Happy Birthday, D. If you're lucky, maybe she'll tell you about the birds and the birds," she said with a smirk as the doors started to shut.

"Thanks for the cool . . ." Dinah called out as the doors shut. ". . . jacket," she said weakly with a sigh.

Barbara and Dinah stared at the elevator doors a moment before looking at each other. "You'd think her ass was on fire by the way she bolted out of here," Dinah offered.

"Dinah," Barbara exhaled wearily.

"Sorry. But I didn't mean for her to leave. We were having a great time before I opened up my big mouth."

"Dinah, Helena just gets . . . uncomfortable . . . talking about personal stuff," Barbara offered awkwardly, feeling the same.


"And, you know, we don't have to play Truth or Dare for you to ask me . . . sensitive questions, Dinah. I'll do my best to answer," Barbara offered gently, getting a slight blush from Dinah.

"Really?" she said with a weak smile.

"Really. And I'd prefer just to talk, instead of a game, if it's all right with you?"

"I'd prefer that too," she admitted with a wince. "I tried to talk with Helena about . . . girls . . . before, but she bolted then too," Dinah admitted uncomfortably with a cringe.

"She is a master deflector when she doesn't want to talk about things," Barbara said, glancing at the elevator with a sigh. "And that's usually with just about every topic."

"Almost as good as you," Dinah ventured, getting a small smile from Barbara.

"Margay Chasseresse," Barbara answered softly.  The thought of the older woman unexpectedly brought back an ache of loss she hadn't felt in years.

"Oh?!? A French girl?"

"French woman," Barbara corrected.

"Oh. My. God. You and a French woman had something going on?!?" Dinah said excitedly.

"Ah . . . we only kissed," Barbara clarified. "And we had nothing going on," she added firmly. Regardless of how badly she had wanted it, she silently added.

"Oh," Dinah said with a frown digesting the bad news, then perked up as she thought all was not lost. "But . . . how was the kissing?!?" Dinah persisted enthusiastically.

A blush washed over Barbara as she recalled everything about their kisses, how all-consuming those intimacies were. "It was like nothing I had ever experienced. It was . . . magical," Barbara offered honestly.

Dinah grinned.

Perhaps too magical, Barbara considered, doubting she would ever again find anyone who could provoke such strong feelings in her. Wade certainly didn't, she considered with a sigh, glancing down at her paralyzed legs as she tried not to dwell on her physical limitations. But Barbara knew that a relationship built on only sexual attraction would not survive as the couple grew older. You needed friendship, dependability, and shared interests, she considered logically. Sex really wasn't that . . . .

"So, did she approach you?" Dinah asked eagerly.

"What? No. If anything I had to . . . well . . . I . . . she wouldn't . . . so I . . . did," Barbara said awkwardly, decidedly embarrassed by her admission, but Dinah was impressed.

"That's so cool that you actually pursued her!" Dinah said with increased interest, if that was possible.

"Unsuccessfully, I might add. She left," Barbara noted with a bit of irritation, trying to remind herself that her crush, or whatever it was, was years ago . . . a lifetime ago. "I was young," Barbara said very softly with a dejected sigh.

"It wouldn't have been a magical kiss if she didn't want to kiss you," Dinah offered thoughtfully.

Barbara looked at her surprisingly sage young ward, knowing she was right.

"How young were you anyway?" Dinah asked with a dreamy sigh.

"She was in her mid-twenties and I was seventeen," Barbara said, irritated that her youth had been a factor. She certainly had felt much older than seventeen at the time; she was a senior in college after all.

"That would be like me having a crush on Helena," Dinah said with a thoughtful sigh, understanding the age gap problem.

Barbara looked at her ward with concern. "You're . . . you're not interested in Helena, are you?" Barbara said evenly, trying not to get upset at that notion. After all, Helena was a very charismatic woman and incredibly charming, when she tried to be, not to mention drop dead . . . .

"What?? No!" Dinah blurted with surprise, then burst into unexpected laugher.

Barbara exhaled with immense relief. She did not want Helena to have to tip-toe through that minefield with Dinah - like she had to years ago with Helena. She would never forget the painfully defeated look in Helena's eyes when she explained to the teen that while she loved her, she couldn't love her like she wanted or deserved to be loved. She explained that her feelings would evolve and change as she matured and that she would one day find someone, perhaps someone surprising, who she would love more.

Barbara recalled the conversation, many years earlier, with Margay, who had said similar things to let her down. It was almost as if she took a page out of Margay's playbook for Helena, she considered for the first time. But she did not believe Margay had as awkward a time as she did - Margay was not her legal guardian . . . or a paraplegic, for that matter. It was totally different, Barbara considered stubbornly, still feeling a bit hurt by the rejection so long ago.

Dinah's laughter faded into a wince as she thought more about what Barbara was worried about and said "Eeeeeeew."

"You'd better not say that in front of Helena; her ego might never recover," Barbara said wryly.

"Oh, everyone who has eyes knows she's hot and all, but she's like a sister. And that's just gross!" Dinah explained, once again relieving Barbara. "So, what was Margay like?"

Dinah's ability to produce mental whiplash never ceased to amaze Barbara, who vaguely wondered if that was a meta skill.

"Is there someone that you're interested in?" Barbara cut to the chase, really not wanting to rehash the painful past.

"I . . . I didn't mean to pry or anything," Dinah quickly blurted with concern that she had annoyed Barbara, and continued rapidly. "But I did meet someone but I don't know how to approach her. I just wanted to talk to someone who's been there. I know Helena has dated women, a lot, but she just won't talk to me. And I just, well, I know you are with Wade now and it might seem awkward to talk about a relationship like that, so I'll just shut up now." Dinah finally stopped and took a breath with a wince.

"In spite of what I had . . . hoped for, I never had a relationship with Margay, Dinah. We just kissed so I'm not sure what I experienced would help. And I'm pretty sure what Helena . . . does, so casually, is not what you want, either," Barbara said, a bit of annoyance slipping through, though she tried not to dwell on that. She really hoped she got tested periodically. But knew that was not her place anymore to question Helena like that. She was an adult, Barbara had to remind herself, even if she frequently didn't act like one.

"If your prospective girlfriend is about your age . . ." Barbara said, glancing at Dinah, who nodded. "Well, I would tell you to be good friends first and then see where that takes you," Barbara offered, feeling pretty good about that bit of advice. Friendship was paramount for a good relationship, she firmly believed.

Dinah nodded with a weak smile, knowing that was the best advice Barbara could give. Maybe she could still get Helena to talk....

Chapter 2

Vive la France

As Barbara pulled the covers up, she sighed and stared at her bedroom ceiling, remembering the enigma that had haunted her dreams years ago; the white-haired woman who had made her blood pulse through her with a passion like no other; the mysterious French woman who first taught her about broken hearts. It took a long time to get over her loss of something that never really had a chance to develop. And now, thoughts of her first, unrequited love came flooding back, bringing with them an ache that she had thought was long ago buried.

Margay Chasseresse.

The woman's name rolled over her lips unbidden in a soft exhale. How that woman could mesmerize her, by her voice in conversation or song, or by her amazing talent at the keyboard. She was the first female adult who treated her as a peer, even though Margay was several years older. She was the first female adult who applauded her independence and intelligence, encouraging her to follow her heart's desire instead of someone else's idea of what she should do. Margay made her feel . . . normal . . . for being who she was and wanting what she did; a rare gift when she really needed it.

Before Margay, she struggled to fit in and clearly did not. Then to her surprise, as she got to know Margay a bit better, Barbara learned she had much in common with this more passionate and self-confident woman. She could see a similar passion and self-confidence in the way Helena lived her life, though not with the same discipline and maturity. Unfortunately her attempted positive influence over Helena was limited to crime fighting, not her cavalier lifestyle. Barbara sighed again and shook her head at her comparison. There really was no comparison, she considered, absently wondering where Margay was and if she were happy. . .

* * * * *

Helena knocked on the front door of a modest, single family house. She looked up and down the empty residential street, out of habit rather than of concern. Anyone stupid enough to bother her would get a thorough ass-kicking.

The door swung open, revealing an attractive woman, clearly older than Helena; her red hair sported gray streaks that elegantly flowed from her temples. But Helena never thought about age when she was around this very engaging and vivacious woman.

"Well bonjour, mon ami. I was wondering where you've been," Monique Devereux said with a wry smile. Her melodic French accent just added to the woman's allure. Helena had very fond memories growing up in Europe and Monique reminded her of much happier times.

The older woman, clad in a simple but stylish dress, leaned against the door jamb with her arms crossed over her chest as she waited for an explanation.

"Well, my beautiful and exceptionally talented Monique," Helena said with a smirk.

"A promising start . . ," Monique Devereux responded with amusement, nodding her head for Helena to continue.

"What can I say? I've been busy," she said with a wince and shrug.

"So you think you can just drop by at any hour and expect me to let you in?" Monique challenged, without any hint of anger for the late night intrusion; she admired Helena's free spirit.

"C'était un espoir, mon ami," Helena answered, gallantly grasping Monique's hand and pulling it up to her lips for a soft kiss on the knuckles. "Vous savez que nous faisons la belle musique ensemble," she added with a devious glint in her eyes.

The woman laughed and shook her head. "That we do, ma chére. Beautiful music together. You do know, however, that if you weren't so good, I'd kick you to the curb at this hour," Monique said, gently caressing Helena's cheek affectionately. "Why tonight, at this hour?"

"I could not go another night without hearing the sound of your beautiful voice?" Helena said with an innocent, hopeful smile.

"Oh, you do so much so well, Helena. But convincing innocence? It still eludes you," Monique chuckled and patted Helena on the cheek before stepping back to let her in.

"I can do innocent," Helena protested mildly.

Monique laughed and shook her head as she retreated into her home.

"I can," Helena offered again in protest, following after the older woman with amusement

* * * * *

Barbara's eyes grew heavy and she finally drifted off into a deep sleep.

There she was! The white-haired woman! Her heart raced with surprising anticipation. She did not know why she felt so drawn to this stranger, this woman, but she was. Without thought, she found herself walking towards her before she slipped away into the crowd.

"Wait!" she blurted, seeing several people turn to her curiously. The one she wanted to wait, tensed, not exactly the reaction she had hoped for. Though she wasn't exactly sure what she was hoping for....

"Uh, hi!" she said.

"Hi," the attractive stranger said, holding the side of her sunglasses as she looked the teen over closely.

The attention was not unwelcome. In fact, it caused an unexpectedly pleasant fluttering in her stomach.

"I never got to thank you," she said uncomfortably.

"No need for thanks. You would have done the same," the woman said, clearly uncomfortable.

"Are your eyes always sensitive?" she asked curiously, surprising the older woman.

"What makes you say that?" the white-haired woman asked guardedly.

"Uh, well, you seem to always wear sunglasses, even when it's dark out," she quickly answered, hoping she hadn't upset this alluring stranger.

"Ah. My eyes are unfortunately very sensitive. I think have a bad case of pink-eye I can't seem to get rid of," the older woman deadpanned, pulling down her glasses to reveal her eyes.

"You're an albino??" Barbara blurted with surprise then cringed at how that sounded. "Uh, I'm sorry. I mean, it really doesn't matter. Not one bit," she blurted, then joked with surprising amusement "besides, infinite diversity, infinite combinations as Spock would . . . say." Her amusement faded seeing a surprised look on the woman's face making her want to kick herself for being such a geek. "I . . . I just get curious and start asking a lot of questions which annoys . . . well mostly everyone. So I try not to ask the first thing that pops into my mind but it isn't easy," she said then awkwardly fell silent, seeing an amused grin on the woman's face. Her heart dropped along with her eyes. She had hoped this woman would understand but concluded that she would never really click with anyone.

To her surprise, the woman gently lifted her chin so the teen would look at her. The touch caused a pleasant chill as she waited with great anticipation. "You remind me of a dear friend, who is also a nervous talker, my beautiful Barbara," the woman said warmly, causing the teen to blush and blink. "And you should never, never stop asking your questions. Albert Einstein said the important thing is to..."

"Not stop questioning," Barbara finished in soft amazement, as the older woman nodded in agreement with an understanding smile. That was exactly what she thought!

"So how did you know to call Alfred?" she asked, the question layered with meaning.

"We all have our secrets, ma chére," the woman vaguely answered with a shrug and wry smile.

"But rest assured, I will be as discreet as Alfred is with yours."

She nodded hesitantly; somehow believing this mesmerizing stranger, which she knew was absurd as she knew nothing about this woman. Not even her name, Barbara thought with frustration that simple courtesy and coherent speaking seemed to elude her around this . . . woman.

"Thank you, for that and helping me the other night. I'd really like to thank you properly. What's your name?" she said. "Or is that a secret too?" She challenged mildly, truly hoping it wasn't.

"I suppose that is only fair, since I know yours...," the woman said, then briefly glanced towards the street as a noisy truck rumbled past them. Returning her gaze to the teen, she answered with a smile. "Margay. Margay Chasseresse."

"That's . . . lovely." And perfect, somehow, she thought, returning the smile with a big one of her own. "I am pleased to meet you, Margay Chasseresse," she said holding out her hand, which the older woman took. "And I do want to thank you, Margay," she added placing her other hand on top of their clasped hands. She could feel the electricity between them.

"My pleasure, Barbara," the white-haired woman said softly, adding "I must go," the woman said uneasily, pulling her hand back.

"But . . . ," Barbara blurted, her smile gone.

"Seriously, ma chére, I must go," Margay said, reaching out to squeeze Barbara's forearm. "Be well, mon ami."

Her body's response to this woman's touch was once again a surprise.

"But will I see . . . ." she asked too late for Margay was gone, having disappeared into the night. ". . . you again?" she exhaled with disappointment, no longer seeing any trace of the beautiful white-haired vision.

Barbara was suddenly jolted awake when Delphi alarmed. As the vivid images in her dream faded, the strong feelings that were provoked did not. The surprising attraction and unexpectedly profound loss were palpable, which irritated the redhead. She had thought she had gotten over the captivating Margay, who had slipped through her fingers, much like she had disappeared into the night in her dream. But a niggling and frustrating longing remained...even after all this time...no matter how she tried to forget.

Delphi's persistent chiming could not be ignored. Barbara groaned and pulled off her covers to respond to the latest crisis. With practiced moves and considerable upper body strength, she quickly shifted herself to her wheelchair and rolled towards the computer.

Rapidly tapping on her keyboard, she brought up several displays and discovered the alarm was a robbery at an antique store. She frowned, sitting back in her chair, debating sending anyone. There had been an increase in robberies lately and she suspected it was the same guy . . . or gal, she amended. She glanced towards the bedrooms and frowned; Dinah was sound asleep and had school in a couple of hours. She sighed, suspecting that Helena was likely . . . preoccupied. Helena had been unusually busy the past several months, she considered absently.

With a small smirk she put her headset on. Turning her comms on, she sent a signal to Helena.

"To what do I owe the pleasure this evening, Oracle?" Helena said melodically over the comms, surprising Barbara with the speed of her response.

"Uh . . . ," Barbara paused with a wince, starting to feel guilty for interrupting whatever Helena was doing. It was just a routine robbery.

"Should I sit down?" Helena responded with some concern, surprised by Barbara's hesitancy.

"That won't be necessary, Huntress. There has been a string of robberies lately and I would really like to get this guy," Barbara offered, which was true, she considered, biting her lip.

"Or gal," Helena amended.

"Or gal," Barbara repeated with a smile in her voice.

"Where?" Helena immediately asked with clear intent.

Barbara's smile broadened at her willingness to drop everything. Again.

After receiving the pertinent details, Helena was upset. "That bastard better not have touched your watch!"

"You left my watch at Hillman's Antiques?" Barbara asked with surprise.

"Arthur is a very capable jeweler and swore he could fix your watch....unlike the other jewelers you have tried over the years. Whoa!"


"Just slipped on the ledge; I think it's time for some new boots. I'm almost there."

"You were already on sweeps?" Barbara said with surprise, fully expecting to have interrupted an . . . indoor activity.

"Actually, I do enjoy an occasional roof-top stroll that doesn't involve criminals," Helena offered, well aware of what Barbara thought she did with most of her time. "And I find I can actually spend lengthy periods of time alone without becoming desperate for company."

Barbara frowned at the terse response. "Just be careful," she said softly, unable to help herself. She would always worry about Helena, in every aspect of her life.

"Aren't I always?" Came the playful reply, which Barbara was happy to hear.  Helena was a playful soul, she considered, which she certainly preferred to her annoyance.

"For some reason, the phrase "bull in a china shop" comes to mind," Barbara joked with a grin.

"I'm going into the store. I'm going silent," Huntress said tightly.

"We'll talk later," Barbara said with a frustrated sigh.

"No need for threats, Oracle."

"Huntress? I mean it. Be careful."

"Roger Dodger, big O."

The comms went silent and Barbara blew out a frustrated exhale. Helena's volatile emotions were always difficult to navigate through. She had hoped when Helena grew up she would be easier to deal with. No such luck, she considered, taking off her glasses and rubbing her eyes

Chapter 3


Helena's eyes augmented as she looked around the pitch-black room. The robber was still in the store, hunched over a display case, picking the lock. Not a very good robber since he was apparently not aware of the silent alarm, she considered. The man mumbled to himself, confirming to Helena he was a nut-job. She stepped closer, not making a sound as the man finally picked the lock. He released a happy exhale and smiled as he opened the display case and picked up a jewel-studded, football-sized hourglass reverently.

"Whatchya got there?" Helena asked curiously over the robber's shoulder, causing him to jump and swing at Helena with his free hand, protectively cradling the hourglass at his chest.

"Whoa, tiger," Helena said, easily ducking the poorly thrown punch. "Why don't you just hand back the loot and save yourself a bit of trouble, " Helena said conversationally, adding helpfully "and possibly some pain," as she easily ducked another flailing arm.

"Stay away!" He barked, nervously grabbing his bag of loot on top of the display case.

"Well, you see, we have a problem there. You are a robber and I am a vigilante," she explained. "The vigilante's guidebook says I can't ... Stop it, you idiot!" she said as he started to throw things at her, including his bag of jewelry, that spilled onto the floor revealing expensive rings and timepieces.

When she glanced to the pieces, noticing Barbara's watch was not among the booty, he darted out the door with the hourglass clutched to his chest.

"Goddamnit," she muttered under her breath as she ran after him.

She saw the surprisingly fast twerp look back frantically then turn a corner. Helena shook her head at his poor planning; he had just turned down a dead-end street. As she followed, she turned the corner to an unexpectedly empty alley. She immediately halted, carefully listening for any signs of the robber, from heavy breathing to footfalls. With no small amount of annoyance, she had to conclude he got away. Somehow.

Hearing sirens getting louder, Helena took to the building tops to make her own escape, scanning the area, hoping to spot the slippery criminal. He just wasn't there, she concluded with a frustrated growl and headed back to the Clock Tower

* * * * *

"Is there some reason you didn't turn your comms back on??" Barbara said with annoyance, turning towards the crime fighter as she entered through the balcony windows.

"I did not want to subject you to my . . . French," Helena said angrily, getting Barbara to roll her eyes. "He got away! I had him and he...he disappeared down a dead-end street!!" Helena said with annoyance, her body radiating anger. "I can't believe the bastard got away . . . it was a Dead. End. Street!!" she said and started to pace in front of Barbara, who sighed.

"Do you think he was metahuman?"

"With powers to disappear?" Helena said with interest, stopping her pacing to consider the idea.

"We've seen stranger things...."

"If he could just disappear then why not go POOF when I scared him?" Helena countered.

"Maybe he needs to focus...without being frightened," Barbara offered.

Helena scratched her head then shook it with annoyance. "He even got away with some stuff..."

"Don't tell me, my watch?" Barbara said wryly.

"No, thankfully. I did check to made sure," Helena said worriedly, not mentioning her distraction gave the criminal the opening he needed, damn it.

"Hel, the watch stopped working long ago," Barbara offered uncomfortably.

Helena surprised Barbara by kneeling in front of her and looking into her eyes. "I still have my mother's broken music box that skips notes and is horribly flat. But it was hers. You can't put a price on sentimental value," Helena said with amazing insight and conviction.

The surprising intensity of Helena's emotion and mesmerizing gaze made Barbara blink and almost forget to breathe.

"And even if that bastard didn't take your watch, I'm going to kick his ass for making me look bad on my watch," Helena said with a thin smile, squeezing Barbara's forearm before standing.

"I'm sure you will," was all Barbara could think to say, still a bit surprised by the younger woman's inspiring, heart-felt words that made her feel less silly about holding onto memories.

"You don't have to be patronizing, you know," Helena responded dryly, making Barbara smile with relief for Helena's ability to tease and lift her spirits.

"That was "encouragement," Hel. You know, where I'm supportive of your crime fighting endeavors?" Barbara explained, withholding a smile.

"Oh. Sometimes I get your "patronizing" and "encouragement" confused," Helena offered thoughtfully, scratching her temple. Barbara smiled.

"So what did "poof" guy take?" Barbara asked, turning to one of Delphi's screens.

"Poof guy??? God, Barbara, I think you really need to spend a little less time with Dinah. You are sounding way too much like her - that can't be healthy," Helena said with feigned concern.

"So...?" She persisted, glancing back at Helena.

"An old hourglass. Seemed to be really attached to it."

Barbara frowned at that information, wondering whether it was significant.

"There were a lot of precious stones embedded in a gold frame," Helena offered, prompting Barbara to nod. "Looked like a small fortune."

"Hmmmm. Can you look at some mug shots? Maybe this guy has been caught before."

"Mug shots. WooHoo. I think I'm going to need some pop tarts for this," Helena announced, on a mission to the kitchen. "You want something? Tea?"

"Tea would be wonderful," Barbara said, turning back to Delphi to call up the photos for Helena

* * * * *

Barbara sipped her tea and smiled; it was just how she liked it.  A bit of lemon with a healthy teaspoon of honey.  It almost rivaled Alfred's tea, though she would never admit that.  Wade never seemed to get a handle on the right amount of lemon or honey...and he used tea bags, she considered with a wince.  Looking at Helena, who was finishing up her first pop-tart and decadently licking her long fingers with entirely too much enjoyment, Barbara cleared her throat and asked "Are you refortified sufficiently to look at mug shots?"

Helena waved her hand royally at Delphi to signal Barbara to begin and chomped on the second pop-tart.

"Very well, your highness. Do you have any distinguishing features which could narrow down the search?"

Helena swallowed and drank a sip of milk. "Male. Late thirties, early forties. Brown hair. No scars or anything noticeable. Lousy thief..."

"Well, he did get away from you," Barbara noted as she typed in the parameters.

"Ouch, Barbara. You wound me like no other," Helena said flatly.

Barbara stopped typing and glanced over to Helena worriedly, sensing the truth in her statement. "I didn't mean ...." she said softly, interrupted by Helena, who grabbed Barbara's wrist and jiggled her hand, motioning towards the keyboard.

"Keep typing, Barbara. You can do it," Helena said with encouragement.

Barbara rolled her eyes. Helena really did not like to have serious conversations, she considered with frustration as Helena continued her description.

"He was also about six feet tall....and did I mention, he was slippery?"

"Slippery...." Barbara repeated with a sigh and completed entering the parameters.  Delphi took a few minutes and produced a list.

"All right, there are about fifty-four criminals that have the same basic characteristics that you have identified."

"Fifty-four? Geeze. What ever happened to originality?"

"Well you gave physical features, Hel. They aren't really in a person's control."

"Say that to Michael Jackson . . . but really, he could do something with his hair or clothing to distinguish himself," Helena offered then added weakly "...or something," as Barbara stared at her a long, quiet moment before returning her attention to Delphi with a slight shake of her head.

"All right - the pictures of our unoriginal criminals," Barbara said, scrolling through them slowly.

In the chair next to Barbara, Helena sat with her chin in her hand and elbow on the desk. As she stared at the mug shots, she impatiently strummed her fingers of her free hand as several pictures scrolled by.


"Is that him?"

"No," Helena said, standing up. "Life is too short not to be an original," Helena argued, starting to pace.

Barbara released a surprised breath, baffled as to why Helena revisited that topic. "All right," she said cautiously, sensing another mine-field ahead.

"Don't you think so??"

"That life's too short? Or that we should be originals?" Barbara joked lightly to defuse the mines that she still couldn't see but knew were there.

"Both! Geeze Barbara, why settle for being like everyone else? Why settle for mundane?? If that guy was living his life with passion, he would not be afraid to be unique or stand out."

"You think he should stand out . . . as a criminal," Barbara stated slowly, looking at Helena with a grimace, not understanding why they were having this conversation.

"I don't care what he wants to be - he should stand out from the others!" Helena said with passion.

"Well, standing out would certainly increase our chances of catching him," Barbara countered, tilting her head at Helena, trying to understand why this seemed so important to her.

"SO? If he's not willing to stand out, he's not living his life with passion - he's settling for the mundane, being like every other . . . petty criminal," she said, finishing awkwardly.

"Or he is just being cautious in his unfortunately chosen field," Barbara offered, then suddenly guessed, grasping for some understanding "Is this about the bull in a china shop comment??"

Helena exhaled heavily and shook her head sadly, sitting back down in defeat. "Scroll the pictures," she said softly.

"Helena? Please. Talk to me," Barbara said with concern, knowing there was a reason for this outburst but not understanding why.

Helena looked at her, really looked at her. Barbara grew uneasy at the seriousness and intensity of Helena's gaze. After a deafening moment of silence between them, Helena grinned ruefully and chuckled. "Sorry," she said shaking her head. "Got off on an odd tangent, scroll the pictures. I really want to get that guy," Helena said with a smile, turning her attention to the screen.

Barbara desperately wanted Helena to open up and share what was bothering her. Determined to not let her change the subject, she took a breath, but was interrupted by her youngest ward.

"Hey," Dinah came up to Delphi still in her pajamas, yawning. "I thought I heard you two. What's going on?"

There was always something interrupting them, Barbara thought with frustration.

"Poof guy," Helena said with a thin smile and shrug, leaning back in her chair, grateful for the interruption.

"Poof guy?" Dinah said slowly, then smiled widely. "I'm rubbing off on you, aren't I?" she said with great satisfaction. Helena just shook her head with a grin.

"The pictures?" Barbara said flatly, resigned to the fact their discussion on uniqueness and passion was put on hold, like many other conversations they never seemed to finish.

"Right-o, Big O," Helena said, swiveling in her chair, gazing back at the pictures.

Dinah mouthed "Big O?" to Barbara, who shook her head and scrolled through the pictures.

"Stop," Helena said, then took a good look at the guy, staring at him in confusion.

"Hold on, he got away from you?" Dinah said with surprise and amusement, knowing that must have really irked her proud mentor that an old guy kicked her butt.

"He looks like the thief but . . . older."

Barbara glanced at Helena a curious moment then called up the guy's wrap sheet. "David Clinton, currently serving an eight year sentence for fraud, identify theft and extortion."

"Busy guy," Dinah offered.

"Not at the moment - he's not due for parole for two years, in June 2007," Barbara noted, then turned to Helena, who continued to stare at the picture with an unhappy grimace. "Poof guy's father?"

"Has to be. He looks just like him, but older," Helena said with a heavy sigh.

Barbara typed in a few more searches. "Hmmm. No marriages. No record of any family...."

"Well, if your son was still only a petty thief, you might not want anyone to know about him," Helena offered. "And he did dabble in fraud and identify theft...not much of a stretch to think papa bear could do a bit of information manipulation."

"True," Barbara agreed. "I think I'll schedule an interview with . . . papa bear," Barbara said, typing in more information and coming up with no other leads.

"Let me know when.  But for now, see you later, super friends," Helena said.  Unconsciously squeezing Barbara's forearm, she got up, grabbing her coat.

"You're not staying for breakfast?" Barbara asked with a frown of disappointment as the phone rang.

"I'm really beat," Helena said, finding "family meals" with Barbara and Dinah bitter sweet.  She knew there would never be anything more than sweeps and the occasional family-kind-of-meal with Barbara.  And when she was tired, she found it harder not to become depressed about that.  Wade was Barbara's choice and she had to live with that sad fact. And avoidance worked for her, she considered flippantly. Sort of....

Barbara frowned and picked up the phone. "Hello? Oh hi, Wade," she said, missing Dinah's rolling eyes, but Helena didn't and really couldn't blame the kid.

"Breakfast?  Uh.... Yes, I know we have plenty of time before class . . . OK, yes, it would be really nice. Sure," she said unenthusiastically.  "I'll meet you there in thirty minutes," she said and hung up.

"Great. Alone again," Dinah muttered dejectedly.

"Well, Dinah, I guess you could try and convince me to join you. What's on the menu?" Helena challenged.

Barbara looked at Helena, who always seemed to want to cheer Dinah up, even when she claimed to be annoyed by the youngest crime fighter.  But, for some reason, she felt Helena's excuse about being beat was because she didn't want to be around her, which disturbed her. At one time, they had been very close, she recalled. Pushing those troubled thoughts aside, she knew she did not have a lot of time to get ready for breakfast with Wade.

"Pop-tarts?" Dinah said and cringed, knowing that the only one who could really cook amongst them was Alfred, who was on vacation.

"Excellent choice. Just like mom used to make," Helena joked, prompting a big smile from Dinah.

"You two have fun," Barbara said with a thin smile, rolling towards her bedroom to get ready.

Dinah noticed Helena's solemn gaze that followed Barbara and felt the sadness radiating from her. "What's wrong?"

Helena glanced at Dinah. "Other than petty criminal Poof Guy getting the best of me?"

"Barbara isn't disappointed in you," Dinah guessed the source of her trouble.

Helena chuckled without humor. "Right."

"You'll get him," Dinah said easily. "It's just a matter of time," she added with great confidence, causing Helena to grin.

"I knew there was a reason I liked you."

Dinah perked up. "Can I borrow your blue silk blouse?"


Chapter 4

Girl Talk

That evening, Helena's eyes widened seeing Dinah enter the bar.

"What the hell are you doing here?" Helena said with annoyance as she dried the last of the beer mugs and placed it behind the bar. But she couldn't get too mad; Dark Horse had not opened yet, so technically, it wasn't inappropriate for Dinah to be in the bar. At least that's what she would tell Barbara if she got upset with Dinah visiting her there.

"I'm desperate!" Dinah said dramatically.

"Uh huh," she eyed the teen, then glanced over to the owner, Leonard, and called out. "I'm taking a break."

He grunted and nodded, making Helena smirk as she placed the towel down and emerged from behind the bar, motioning for Dinah to follow her. They headed to the freight elevator, surprising Dinah.

"We're going to your apartment??" Dinah said with excitement as Helena pulled down the gate and pressed the button.

"Yep," she said as the elevator groaned and came to life. "Desperate times calls for desperate measures."

"Cool!" Dinah said happily, having rarely visited the inner sanctum known as Helena Kyle's apartment.

Helena opened her apartment door.  When Dinah entered and immediately starting to nose around and inspect things, Helena was reminded why she didn't have the teen over that often.

Shaking her head, she went to the kitchen and got two sodas out of the fridge. "So what is your problem?" Helena said bluntly.

"It's . . . well . . . uh."

Helena tossed a can to the teen, who caught it with her telekinesis. "Thanks," Dinah said with a grin.

"Show off," Helena said with a smirk, pleasing the teen. Sitting on the couch, she motioned for her guest to sit too.

Dinah opened her can and sat down, taking a sip, suddenly shy.

"You know, Leonard is expecting me back before we open in an hour," Helena said sarcastically, and sipped her soda when the phone rang. Helena made no move to answer.

"Aren't you going to get it?" Dinah asked. Helena shook her head no. "You really should get it," Dinah said firmly.

Helena rolled her eyes. "It'll be quick," she said and picked up the phone. "Hello?"

A happy smile filled Helena's face, intriguing Dinah, who was surprised when Helena started to converse in French. She could make out most of what was being said, for the first time thankful for her grueling high school French class.

"Mon beau Monique, oui nous sommes toujours dessus pour le demain. Bien, à moins que quelque chose soit soulevée, comme vous savez. Bien. Jusqu'à demain, mon ami."

Dinah smiled at Helena confirming her date with the obviously French Monique.  What was it about the French anyway, Dinah wondered with great interest, considering she might need to pay more attention in French class.

When Helena hung up she knew Dinah would be exploding with questions.

"This is great!" Dinah gushed.

"It is?" Helena said with mild surprise and sipped her soda.

"Sure. That's why I'm here. I need advice on women."

"Women in general?" Helena smirked.

"Well, how to get one interested in me."

"So you didn't like Barbara's advice?"

"It doesn't help me ask her out."

"You want to ask Barbara out?!?" Helena feigned confusion, withholding a smile.

"Nooooo! Ugggh! Gabby. I want to ask Gabby out, but I don't know how to approach her," she frowned than looked up at Helena and suddenly asked "How did you meet Monique?"

Helena slowly sipped her soda and stared at Dinah.

"Oh come on, Helena! I need help here and you have had a lot of . . . success with women," Dinah said delicately, biting her lip.

"In spite of what people might think, Dinah. I'm not a slut," Helena said flatly.

"I . . . I didn't say you were," Dinah sputtered. "But you date - a lot."

"Not as much as you might think," Helena said softly, getting a confused look from the younger woman.

"You always seem so busy," Dinah said softly. "I've missed you."

"I'm sorry, kid," Helena said with genuine regret, placing her hand over Dinah's. "I just need . . . something else."

Dinah understood. She and Barbara had school which gave them something away from the "muffin-top" business that brought a normalcy that was still fulfilling. A job at a bar couldn't possibly fit the bill as fulfilling for the passionate woman. Dinah blinked, surprised by the feeling heartache radiating from Helena. As she opened her mouth to question her, Helena awkwardly withdrew her hand and blurted "Barbara is right about becoming friends and seeing where that takes you."

"How do you know that's what she told me?" Dinah asked, looking at her hand in surprise, then Helena, who chuckled.

"That's your thing, kid," Helena said with a smirk, motioning to the touch telepath's hand. "I just know Barbara."

"So you don't believe in love at first sight?"

Helena's eyes dropped uncomfortably. "You do!" Dinah said enthusiastically.

"Is that what it is with Gabby?" Helena asked curiously.

"Uh . . . no. I get a . . . feeling, when I see her but I can't say . . . love yet. So I shouldn't ask her out?" Dinah asked with concern.

"Hold on, I didn't say that - very few people would date if love was a requirement. People are attracted to each other. It may be love or just physical. If you are lucky it can be both. But you've got to get to know a person, to see if that attraction is something that could become more," Helena said, Dinah hanging on every word. "And taking things slow really is a good thing, Dinah."

"That doesn't sound right coming from someone who thinks microwave popcorn takes too long," Dinah joked.

"Some things are worth taking their time with, Dinah. Even for someone as impatient as me," Helena said with a small smile, causing Dinah to nod.

"How did you meet Monique?" Dinah asked, causing Helena to sigh, prompting Dinah to quickly add "Please tell me? PleasePleasePlease??"

Dinah smiled happily when Helena rolled her eyes and relented.

"I met Monique in a Jazz club. She was playing the piano and singing as song that . . . called to me. She's an amazing musician," Helena said with a warm smile.

"So you two make beautiful music together," Dinah snorted, waggling her eyebrows.

"I think we do," Helena answered seriously.

"Oh. Wow. So . . . it is serious, then?" Dinah said with great surprise.

"To me it is," Helena said and added with a grin "I love music."

Dinah looked at her, amazed. "How long have you been seeing her?"

"About seven months," Helena said, getting up from the couch.

"Seven months! Why haven't we met her?" Dinah blurted.

"And subject the poor woman or me, for that matter, to your interrogations?" Helena chuckled. "Come on, D. This interrogation is over. Believe it or not, my boss is more impatient than I am," Helena said, opening her apartment door

* * * * *

"All right! It's still not too late to call Gabby!" Dinah declared happily, bouncing out of the elevator as she and Helena returned to the Clock Tower after sweeps.

"I guess she's not upset it was a slow night," Barbara mentioned with a grin, watching the energetic youth bolt for her room.

"It's a good thing you have several phone lines," Helena noted and walked past Barbara for the kitchen without stopping. "You got any food?"

"I think there is a pop-tart or two left since your last raid," Barbara said with amusement, rolling after Helena to the kitchen.

"You want something?" Helena asked absently as she opened several doors in search of the apparently elusive pop-tart box.

"No, thanks."

"You sure? No tea or . . . something.  I might be persuaded to share the pop tarts," Helena finally looked at Barbara, who shook her head no with a smile.

"As really tempting as that sounds, no thanks.  But help yourself."

Helena looked at Barbara a long moment then absently nodded, finally pulling the treat from the cupboard.

"Something wrong, Hel?" Barbara asked curiously.

"Other than getting absolutely no ass to kick and having to listen to Dinah gab on and on about Gabby . . . you know, I think her name should be Gabby."

"She's a young teen in love," Barbara offered wistfully, adding with amusement "I might be able to insert a sound-canceling chip in your earpiece that would block her voice's frequency."

"Don't even tease me about that.  I might just take you up on it," Helena said. "She came by the bar before work yesterday."

"She did?"


"So, she grilled you on dating?"


"What did you tell her?" Barbara asked hesitantly.

"I suggested she become a nun," Helena said dryly, ripping open the bag of pop tarts.

"Hel, I don't think nuns are allowed to be vigilantes," Barbara said with feigned concern.

"She could do it. Sister Justice! She could bring a bunch of rulers with her and use her TK to hurl them against the bad guys . . . striking the fear of GOD in them," Helena offered, causing Barbara to chuckle at the image.

"Well, if I see her show up to sweeps in a habit, I'll know why," Barbara grinned.

"She didn't really warm up to that idea. She seems to be totally into Gabby."

"What did you tell her?" Barbara asked cautiously.

"Be good friends, go slow, yadda, yadda. All the usual Barbara Gordon advice."

"You did?" Barbara said, clearly surprised.

"Did you think I would corrupt our young ward?" Helena asked bluntly. "Give her a few beers and smokes as we discuss the fine art of fucking?"

"Helena, I didn't think. . . ." Barbara sputtered.

"No, you assume. You assume a lot of things about me, Barbara," Helena countered seriously. "I screwed up a lot as a kid.  And you had a front row seat to witness all of it.  But I am not about to let Dinah make the same mistakes.  I don't want her to learn how damn hard it is to try and recover from a bad reputation," Helena said with surprising restraint.

"Helena . . . ." Barbara said, stunned by Helena's words, not sure of what to say.  Clearly, she had made Helena feel like a screw up.

"I just want you to trust me," Helena said, looking into Barbara's eyes. "Trust me to do the right thing. I have grown up, Barbara.  But I think you still see me as that screwed up kid," Helena said with a heavy sigh, shaking her head sadly.

The Delphi's alarm punched through the deafening silence.

Barbara didn't even glance towards Delphi, still digesting what Helena had said.

"Go ahead and check it.  I really don't have anything else to say on the subject," Helena said softly, rubbing the back of her neck.

Barbara took a breath, knowing she needed to respond but didn't know what to say.  Exhaling in frustration, she hated leaving things unsettled but knew she needed time to think about this.  With a hesitant nod, she rolled towards the computer with Helena following.  Tapping into the display, she frowned.

"What is it?" Dinah came up behind them, scanning the Delphi's screens.

"Déjà vu.  Another robbery at Hillman's Antiques," Barbara said, tilting her head curiously.

"Oh I am so gonna get that bastard," Helena growled then fled out the balcony window before Dinah could ask how she was so sure it was Poof guy.

"Should I go?" Dinah asked.

"Please. I think she could use some backup if it is the same guy," Barbara said. "And when you get there, could you please tell her to turn her comms on?" she said with an irritated sigh.

Dinah eyed Barbara and nodded before she left.

Alone, Barbara wrapped her arms around herself and thought about Helena's words, feeling horrible that she had made the younger woman question whether she trusted her. Of course she trusted Helena! She trusted her with their lives on a daily basis. She trusted that Helena would never intentionally hurt Dinah or try to influence her to do the bad things she had done in her own youth. Then why did she keep questioning her as if she didn't trust her?

Barbara shook her head and rubbed the bridge of her nose

* * * * *

Helena's eyes augmented as she entered the antique store. She spotted the culprit, confirming her suspicion that it was Poof guy. Her eyes widened with surprise as the guy awkwardly loaded up his bag of loot with one hand. His other hand was tightly clenching the jewel-studded hourglass he had stolen before.

"Now I know you are an idiot. You are going to do some time, junior," she said cockily, jumping in front of him. She grabbed his beloved hourglass as she punched him in the face. He stumbled back, letting go of the timepiece and the bag of loot, spilling several valuables onto the floor.

"NO! That's mine," he said, frantically trying to grab it back, shoving her back. She collided into the display case, hard. Her hand with the hourglass crashed through the glass, causing a shower of shards.

"You bastard!" she growled, not because of the pain in her bleeding hand but because she saw Barbara's watch on the floor. She kicked him squarely in the chest, causing him to fly several feet and land in a lump on the ground, unconscious. Leaning down, she picked up Barbara's watch, blowing out a relieved breath.  After carefully tucking it into her pocket for safe keeping, she walked over to the guy and felt his pulse, noting it was thankfully strong.

As she stood, she took a moment to look at the object that this guy was so fixated on. Helena had an eye for beauty and this was a beautifully intricate piece, even with the large dent now in its side.

"Hmm," she curiously noticed some dials on one side of the hourglass, for hours, days, and years. When she turned some of the dials and curiously rotated the device for further inspection, it hummed, startling her. As she contemplated the fact that an hourglass really shouldn't hum, the glass suddenly shattered, releasing the white sand that sprayed out, mainly covering her.

"Agh!" she cried as the sand hit her, engulfing her in intense pain. Her hands shot up to her burning eyes as the broken hourglass fell to her feet.

Chapter 5


"There was no sign of her??" Barbara asked her ward when she returned to the Clock Tower.

"I didn't see her.  But the display case was broken and there was some blood," Dinah said with a wince.

"Blood?" Barbara snapped, then exhaled slowly as she pinched the bridge of her nose, trying to reign in her rapidly growing concern.

"Not a lot.  I think someone got cut on the display case glass," Dinah said, biting her lip.

"Did you get a sample?" Barbara asked, rubbing her temples.

"Uh," Dinah cringed, feeling really stupid. Of course she should have taken a sample....

"Something must have happened to her," Barbara said worriedly. "Why wouldn't she contact us if she had to leave the scene?"

"A really hot date?" Dinah joked awkwardly then cringed at Barbara's glare.

"Helena has never gone . . . partying without first debriefing sweeps," Barbara immediately countered, clearly dismissing Dinah's comment.

"Maybe she was hurt more than the scene would indicate," Dinah said what they both feared.

"If she had enough strength to leave the scene, then she would have contacted me for help. And she didn't," Barbara added with quiet conviction.

"Amnesia?" Dinah offered.

Barbara looked up at Dinah and sighed. "Maybe. But I think we would have had some indication of a woman with no memory being found by now."

"She couldn't have just disappeared," Dinah blurted in frustration.

Barbara looked at her curiously. "Like poof guy did before?"

* * * * *

Helena was on her knees, feeling sicker than she had ever felt before as she expelled the contents of her stomach onto the floor. Unable to focus on anything but the pain, her body shook like it was going through withdrawal.

After several minutes, the powerfully wretched feeling settled into a dull, throbbing queasiness.

What the hell was in that hourglass, she wondered.  As she glanced accusingly at the broken timepiece on the floor in front of her, another wave of nausea hit her.  Having finished retching, she hoped, she weakly wiped her mouth with the back of her sleeve and glanced around the store, still feeling very light-headed and weak.

The first thing she realized was the light streaming into the store really hurt her eyes.  The second thing she realized was that the light was from the sun, meaning it was now day, which didn't make any sense.  The police, Dinah or Barbara would have found her if she had been unconscious for that long.  She tried to stand up, feeling incredibly weak.  When her legs started to buckle, her hand darted out, finding purchase on the display case.  After steadying herself, she blinked in confusion; the display case wasn't broken. Now she knew something was really wrong.  No one would just step over her to fix the display case.  She looked down at her hand, finding the cuts she expected but the unhealthy pallor of her skin startled her.  She hadn't lost THAT much blood to get that pale, she considered in confusion.

She looked around the shop, seeing many of the same old pieces on display.  A wooden flute sat on the mahogany credenza with various other vaguely familiar trinkets of crystal and silver.  The walls sported oil paintings, instruments, clocks and a variety of other items, some she recalled, but not all.  What caught her eye next made her expel a humorless laugh.  According to the calendar on the back office's door, it was September 1987.  Her heart pounded at the absurd notion.  She slowly and calmly reached up to her necklace and switched her comms back on.

"Oracle?  Oracle, are you there?" Deafening silence filled the air as the seconds ticked by and her uneasiness grew. "Ah . . . Barbara?  I'm really sorry I didn't put my comms back on. I really do get it now.   The silence is really . . . well, disturbing and this is a great lesson.  So I promise I'll try harder to remember to keep them on in the future, but please . . . please just answer me?" She asked nervously.

She frowned at the continued silence. "Bastard must have broken my comms too," she muttered, wanting to believe that. She bit her lip and looked around for a phone, finding one behind the display case. Pausing a startled moment, she stared at the rotary dial, then shook her head. "It's an antique store with antiques," she told herself, picking up the receiver. "Jeeze! This is ridiculous!" she grumbled as she dialed clumsily and slowly. After finally finishing dialing the number - after what seemed like an eternity she muttered "I swear I'll keep my comms on in the future."

Hearing the ringing, she exhaled with some relief.

"Hello?" A gruff man's voice answered, startling Helena. It didn't sound like Alfred . . . or Wade, even if they had bad colds.

"I, uh . . . . Is Barbara there?" Helena asked with a frown.

"Barbara who?"

"Uh...sorry. I guess I must have dialed a wrong number," she said and the man hung up with a grunt. Helena's heart pounded as she shut her eyes and tried to calm down. "This is not happening."

* * * * *

As Helena mopped up the mess she made on the floor, she muttered to herself.  "There's a rational explanation for all of this," she said with forced conviction, wringing the mop in the bucket with a cringe. "She must have used Delphi to reroute her phone number. Good one, Barbara," she growled, then glanced over to the hourglass pieces that were now in a pile on top of the undamaged display case.

"And of course, an antique store would have an antique calendar," she muttered, tackling an easier oddity to explain, pulling the mop back out of the bucket and swabbing the floor.  "Makes sense to me.  Or maybe he's just too cheap to buy a new calendar and recycling one he can use again" she thought, vaguely remembering Barbara mentioning the days of a calendar would be repeated every so many years.  And the antique store business is probably pretty tough, she considered reasonably, once again glancing over to the hourglass pieces.

Unfortunately, she couldn't explain the pesky night to day thing, or the clearly undamaged display case.  And the absence of any of the sand on the floor also struck her as odd, though not as odd as the absurd explanation she kept coming back to after her feeble attempts to explain away the incongruities.  No, she thought, she just had an active imagination. Or maybe she was just sleeping and having a nightmare.  Yeah.  That would be a much better explanation than traveling 18 years into the past....

Someone knocked at the locked front door, making her jump.  She wanted to run, but suspected that would look even more suspicious than her being in a closed store without any staff.  She held up her finger to the old woman, who peeked around the closed sign as she placed the mop back in the bucket.

Opening the door, she plastered on a pleasant smile, even though the daylight was painful and made her squint.  "May I help you?" Helena asked, noting the woman was giving her an odd look, then smiled at her.

"I didn't expect to see anyone in the store this week, with the funeral and everything."

"Just cleaning up for Arthur a bit," Helena said, pointing back to the mop and bucket with an innocent shrug.  It was the truth.

The old woman smiled. "That's very nice of you dear," she said then an honest look of concern filled her face.  "Do you know how Arthur and his family are doing?  Losing Mildred must have been devastating for him."

Helena blinked.  She knew Arthur.  She knew Arthur had a wife, Mildred.  She knew Mildred had died about . . . 18 years ago.

"Uh . . ," Helena blurted, barely containing her panic. "I'm sorry, no. It's been amazingly quiet," she said. "I don't mean to be rude, but I need to finish up and meet some people."

"Of course, dear," the old woman said and took a breath to ask another question but the door was quickly shut and locked. She frowned, looking around the closed sign again and watched the younger woman quickly pick up the mop and bucket and head into the back office.

She sighed, shaking her head as she left.

Helena could no longer ignore what all the evidence was telling her and the weight of that realization was too much. She leaned heavily against the office wall and slid down, her arms wrapped tightly around herself.  "Oh God," she whispered as she dropped her head onto her knees and trembled, wanting nothing more than to go back at the Tower and have Barbara scold her about leaving her comms off again...

* * * * *

Barbara stared at the computer screen, the various hospital, police, and fire reports indicated no signs of Helena. While a relief, she was still no closer to finding her after being missing for over a day.  She stretched her neck, reluctantly starting to accept that Helena would not be returning this evening...or rather, morning, she corrected herself, looking at the monitor's time of 0427.

She looked down to her left wrist and absently rubbed it, thinking about the watch that had not worked in several years.  It was interesting that Helena had always known it was special to her, even without asking why.  Wade hadn't known about the watch, but then, Wade only knew what she let him know, which wasn't much.

Trust me, Helena had asked of her.  The surprisingly passionate plea from Helena plagued her as she rubbed her tired eyes, wishing Helena knew that she was trusted above all others.  But she obviously didn't know, having to ask her something that was so fundamental.  Sure Barbara questioned what sort of advice Helena would dispense to Dinah, knowing it wasn't easy to navigate the emotional minefield of a teen and required careful consideration and thought in all answers.  And wasn't it Helena who said she wasn't a good role model, leaving Dinah's questions to her?  She fleetingly wondered if Helena was staying away because of her irritation over that, then dismissed that thought. Helena was too professional to do that.

You assume many things about me, Helena had said.

Barbara exhaled heavily at the truth in that statement. She did assume. She assumed things based on Helena's youthful indiscretions and annoyingly frequent adult innuendos. She glanced over to Dinah, who had fallen asleep on the couch while attempting to offer her mentor moral support. If she really thought about it, she couldn't imagine Helena being anything less than the best role model she could be for the teen. Yet, Helena was always running off to do who knows what with who knows whom, she considered, wondering how that could possibly be a good example for Dinah.

You assume many things about me.

The words were true; she didn't exactly know what had kept Helena so busy the past several months. Nor was she sure she really wanted to know, recalling the lazy smiles and unusually relaxed nature of her former ward when she returned to the clock tower for sweeps. Helena had always been edgy growing up, needing physical activity to take that edge off. It was clear to Barbara that she had found an activity other than crime fighting and it disturbed her to think what it could be, having smelt the smoky clothes and seen the smudged lipstick on her cheek frequently after having returned from said "activity."

Rolling down the dais, she went to the couch where Dinah was sprawled out and sleeping. "Dinah?"

"Hmm?" the teen responded groggily and shifted on the couch, not making any effort to wake.


"Oh!" She blurted, waking with a jolt. "Did you find her?"

"No.  I'm calling it a night . . . well, morning."

"You're not giving up, are you?" Dinah said with alarm.

"Of course not!" Barbara snapped sternly, making Dinah wince. "I'm sorry," she said, pinching her nose and releasing a heavy, focusing exhale. "I just think we both need a few hours of sleep - in a bed. Or neither of us will be thinking clearly . . . and possibly start snapping at each other," Barbara said wryly with an apologetic wince.

"Ah," Dinah said, with a small smile.  She wiped her sleepy eyes and got up from the couch.  Barbara watched her retire to her room for a long moment before heading to her own bedroom.

It would be really convenient to attribute Helena's disappearance to irresponsibility.  While that may have applied in her youth, Helena had never given any reason to doubt her responsibility as an adult.  She always had dropped whatever she was doing to support her, Barbara noted, then realized that even as a youth, Helena had always dropped everything to help her.

Even in her time of greatest need, she couldn't say that about anyone else, save Alfred. Yet he had not been able to anticipate what she needed like Helena. Barbara sighed, realizing she had taken Helena always being there for granted. They say you never really know what you have until they are gone, she considered, then banished the morose thought. She was going to find Helena, then yell at her for scaring the hell out of her, she considered with confidence, starting to plan her day for tomorrow.

They would go see David Clinton and hopefully get a clue or two on Helena's whereabouts, she thought as she shifted herself out of the wheelchair, into her bed.  She quickly realized that although the bed concept was good in theory, in execution, it didn't quite work out as she had hoped.  She blinked and stared at the ceiling, wondering where Helena was.  After a while, a fitful sleep claimed her

* * * * *

Dick Grayson smiled at Barbara, who, ever since the Simpaticos were introduced was paying little or no attention to him.

"You seem awfully interested in that . . . band," Dick Grayson finally said with amusement, sipping his beer.

Barbara sipped her soda and smiled. "They're good; Don't you think so?"

"That's not what I meant," Dick grinned.

"I know," Barbara said and sipped her drink again as she returned her attention to the stage and the white-haired singer who spoke to the audience.

"Merci, mes amis," Margay spoke, gaining a few wolf whistles that made Barbara frown. "There are a few more requests that I will be playing for you," she said in English, though her accent was decidedly French...and beautiful, like her voice, Barbara thought with a contented sigh. "You'll forgive me if I just sing them as written, you can insert the pronouns that apply to you," she said with a sly grin and sat down at the piano.  Nodding to the ensemble surrounding her, the familiar popular song started with soft percussive rhythms, followed by a simple piano melody and then her lovely voice that held no trace of an accent.

You can look at the menu but you just can't eat
You can feel the cushions but you can't have a seat
You can dip your foot in the pool but you can't have a swim
You can feel the punishment but you can't commit the sin
And you want her and she wants you….

The female voice turned decidedly male as Barbara slowly woke to her alarm clock playing that oldie. With a groan, she slapped the alarm clock, stopping the haunting tune. Sitting up, she rubbed her eyes.

Ever since Dinah brought up Margay, she started dreaming about her, she considered with annoyance, shaking her head. With a heavy exhale and frown, she shifted herself to her chair to continue her search for Helena.

Chapter 6

Old Friends

The police officer stood at the door to the interrogation room. "He's shackled to the table and not the violent type but . . . are you sure you don't want me in there with you, Miss Gordon?" the man winced, knowing if anything happened to her, the former Commissioner would have his hide.

"That's all right, George.  We'll be fine."

"All right.  He's all yours," the policeman opened the door and nodded for them to enter.

Sitting at the table, the prisoner sat back in his chair, his arms crossed over his chest. He looked up to see two women enter and smiled. Dinah carefully watched the man, who looked to be about sixty, hoping to pick up images that might give her clues about her missing friend.

"I didn't expect visitors."

"Your son doesn't visit?" Dinah asked curiously.

"My son?" David Clinton looked at the girl with surprise.

"You don't have a son?" Barbara asked, eyeing him closely.

"Oh, I didn't say that," he laughed. "So what has my son done?"

Barbara looked at him curiously before offering. "We believe your son is involved in the disappearance of our friend."

"Maybe they hooked up," he said with a chuckle. "My son does like the ladies," he added with a wink.

"This isn't amusing, Mr. Clinton," Barbara said sternly.

"No.  I guess it really isn't," Clinton said with sudden seriousness.  "I am sorry to hear your friend is missing. But I am sure you'll find her.  It's only a matter of time," he said with a knowing grin.  "Now if you'll excuse me, I'd like to get breakfast before the cafeteria closes."

"Thank you," Dinah said with a sincere smile and held out her hand, surprising the prisoner.

"You're quite welcome," he said solicitously, taking her hand and looking right into her eyes.

Seeing vivid images of what he was thinking, she quickly retracted her hand. "I hope you visit again," he said with a sly smile.

Dinah grimaced

* * * * *

"Anything?" Barbara asked the touch telepath as they sat in the Humvee in the prison parking lot.

"I couldn't get anything useful from him," Dinah sat dejectedly.  "But I will be taking a shower when we get back to the Tower," she added, wiping her right hand on her jeans as Barbara started the car.

"David Clinton knew our friend was a she.  He knows more than he was letting on," Barbara said with a weary exhale, leaving the parking lot and stopping at a red light.

"He was certainly amused to talk about his son visiting.  Maybe he knows it would be like turning himself in if he visited?"

"Maybe," Barbara said, not convinced that was the case.  Something else was going on with Clinton.

"If . . . If Helena was injured, maybe she went to her girlfriend's?" Dinah blurted uncomfortably.

"What??" Barbara said, startled.

Shaking her head, Dinah quickly dismissed the thought. "Nah, she would have called us."

"She doesn't have a girlfriend," Barbara said, dumbfounded. "She doesn't date anyone more than once."

"I don't know why you think that," Dinah said with a curious look.  Barbara looked confused.  Helena had said things . . . implied things, she amended.

"But, we would have known about a steady . . . girlfriend," Barbara said, at a loss.

"I know it's weird but Helena was apparently worried about us interrogating her or something.  We wouldn't do that," Dinah said confidently, then added with a guilty wince "much."

An obnoxiously loud horn honked behind them, snapping Barbara out of her stupor.  As she carefully accelerated, she coolly asked Dinah "Have you met this . . . girlfriend?"

"No," Dinah responded uneasily, feeling she had said something wrong.

"So what makes you think Helena is seeing anyone?" Barbara asked calmly, though she felt a growing annoyance that the confirmed bachelorette could be seeing someone steadily and never once mention it.

"Well, uh. I kind of went to the bar and asked her some questions to help me with Gabby," Dinah said with a cringe, hoping not to insult Barbara by still wanting more help after their discussion.

"And she just offered up that she had been seeing this . . . girlfriend; someone we have never heard about before?"

"No.  Monique called when I was there.  Helena wasn't even going to answer, which was actually kind of sweet if you think about it, since she was determined to give me her full atten. . ."

"Dinah??" Barbara tersely interrupted Dinah's rambling.

"Sorry.  Well, she called and . . . ," Dinah said with a smile. "I haven't seen Helena smile like that in a long time. I could feel she was happy."  Dinah, suddenly worried about what her mentor thought, blurted "I didn't scan, she was just really projecting happiness, you know?"

Barbara was surprised by her feelings.  She should be happy for Helena finding someone special who made her happy.  More than once she had expressed concern to Helena about her lack of commitment in her relationships, hoping she would stop playing the field. But Barbara wasn't happy.  She did not like the helpless feeling that Helena was slipping further away from her.

"Anyway, she started speaking French and I'm pretty sure she had confirmed a date."

"French?!?" Barbara blurted curiously, trying to digest that surprising detail.  But she knew Helena spoke French fluently.  Her mother had taken her to live in Paris for part of her childhood. And a French Monique??

"Yeah. You know it sounds a lot prettier when Helena speaks it than when my French teacher does," Dinah mentioned conversationally.

"Do you know where this . . . Monique lives? We need to rule out that's were Helena is," Barbara said tightly, although she knew that wasn't the only reason. She was compelled to see this . . . Monique for herself.

Dinah blinked, feeling the stormy emotions rolling off of Barbara, which was highly unusual. Barbara did not just "project," normally the epitome of self-control. But right now, Barbara was projecting - a lot. She wasn't surprised to sense worry and fear for Helena, but she hadn't expected to sense . . . a palpable insecurity and deep-rooted, self-doubt from her amazingly accomplished mentor.

"I don't know, but I'm sure it won't be hard to find her. How many French Jazz singers by the name of Monique are there in Gotham city?"

"Jazz singer??"

"Are you all right?" Dinah asked, concerned by her mentor's odd look.

"I won't be all right until we find our missing team member," Barbara said neutrally as she digested the newest detail

* * * * *

After typing in the search parameters, Barbara waited, staring at the screen blankly.  Helena had a girlfriend?  Who was a French Jazz singer named Monique?  Was it infatuation?

Was it . . . serious?

The computer beeped, signaling the search was complete.  Various windows popped up, including a photo of a small ensemble of five playing at Amelia's, a high-scale Gotham jazz club.  Zooming in on the photo, she was greatly surprised to see a familiar face.

"Is that her?" Dinah asked with interest, pointing to the young blonde, who was the type Helena seemed to go for.

"No, that is her," Barbara said, confidently pointing to the picture of the older, redheaded woman.

"Oh my GOD! She's old enough to be her mother," Dinah blurted with amazement as Barbara frowned, knowing age wouldn't matter to Helena as she stared at the undeniably beautiful woman

* * * * *

"Monique?!? You've got visitors," a man at the front door called back to the singer, who paused mid-chord with a pencil in her mouth. She looked up curiously from the sheets of music that were scattered on top of the baby grand piano. Placing the pencil down, she took off her reading glasses as two strangers came up to the small stage.

"Bonjour?" Monique said with a curious smile.

Dinah sighed dreamily. Spoken French was so . . . romantic.

"Hello, Miss Devereux.  I'm Barbara Gordon and this is Dinah Lance," Barbara said, noting a flicker of recognition in the older woman's eyes.

"I thought you looked familiar.  It has been a long time, Ms. Gordon," Monique said, looking at Barbara with a warm smile.

"You've met??" Dinah asked with surprise, looking between the two redheads.

"In the 80's," Barbara supplied uncomfortably.

"We met through a mutual friend," Monique added.  "I wish I knew what happened to Margay after she went home, she had a great gift with the piano and a voice like . . . fine wine," Monique said wistfully, missing her fellow musician and friend, who had left after the start of a promising career.  Monique had always regretted reminding Margay of how ill-advised it was for her to become involved with the not-yet-legal-age Ms. Gordon, believing that was why Margay had left, to avoid that complication.  But she supposed if it was meant to be, it would have been.

Dinah's mouth dropped as several thoughts raced through her mind.  The main one was whether this Monique was the reason Margay rejected Barbara's advances.  Looking over to Barbara, she could see her tense.

"I'm here about another mutual . . . friend.  Helena Kyle?"

"Helena?" Monique said with surprise, then concern. "Has something happened to her?"

"We don't know. We haven't heard from her.  Have you have had any contact with her in the last day?" Barbara asked, seeing the woman's concern quickly fade with a knowing smile that really irritated her.

"No, Ms. Gordon.  But I wouldn't worry.  Helena is a free spirit.  She probably went off for a few days to . . . explore," Monique said with a chuckle, adding confidently "she'll be back."

"You two have an open relationship?" Dinah blurted with surprise, gaining a curious look from the French woman.

"Dinah!" Barbara scolded her ward.

"Hey, I'm not judging," Dinah quickly responded, prompted by her mentor's disapproving glare. "I mean, if you two are happy with that sort of thing," Dinah said to Monique with a shrug and cringe.

"Dinah," Barbara groaned, rolling her eyes.  She would definitely have to work on improving that girl's tact.

"Mon ami, we are not in a physical relationship," Monique said with a delighted laugh. "Although, I would be the first to admit, she'd be hard to resist if she wished for us to be."

"But she's been seeing you," Barbara blurted in uncomfortable confusion, glancing at Dinah, who shrugged. "For a while," she added awkwardly.

"Oui, as a music student," Monique elaborated, patting her piano. "What she has accomplished on piano in several months is what most people who have spent years training can only hope to achieve.  She has an amazing ear and capacity to learn.  And her voice," Monique added wistfully. "It is like . . . well, fine wine," she offered the familiar praise with amusement, then added thoughtfully "Very much like Margay's, come to think of it, although Margay was already accomplished and comfortable with performing when I had first met her."

Barbara blinked, trying to digest this surprising information which prompted other thoughts of comparisons and contrasts.

"So do you have any musical inclinations, Dinah?" Monique asked the teen, who awkwardly pointed to herself.


"Oui, vous."

"Oh no.  I'm tone deaf.  Or that's what Helena tells me," Dinah said, causing Monique to chuckle.

"Well, if there is nothing else, I must get back to work.  I'm trying to finish up a new arrangement before the first set tonight," Monique said politely.

"Thank you for your help, Miss Devereux," Barbara offered absently, her mind preoccupied with memories.

"I would not worry about Helena, Miss Gordon.  She is the type to always return home," Monique said sagely, looking directly at Barbara, who nodded hesitantly

* * * * *

". . . and I didn't know Helena had any musical talent, well other than singing in the shower.  Which is OK, but that hasn't exactly been like a gift, for any of us," Dinah said dryly, then looked over to Barbara who rode up the Tower's elevator in silence.

Their infectious vitality, Barbara thought.

"So we ruled out her being at Monique's," Dinah ventured softly, knowing Helena's disappearance was weighing heavily on Barbara's mind.

Their humor, Barbara thought as she nodded absently.

"Small world, isn't it?  I mean, Helena knew Monique, who knew Margay, who knew you, who knows Helena."

And their smile, why hadn't she noticed that, Barbara wondered.

"It's like the six degrees of Kevin Bacon, only without six degrees . . . or Kevin Bacon," Dinah said, then curiously asked "you don't happen to know Kevin Bacon, do you??" She said, getting out of the elevator.

Barbara shook her head no and rolled towards Delphi.  But their complexion, hair, and eyes were clearly different...

"Helena seems to be really serious about the music thing," Dinah continued. "I assumed they were dating for seven months.  I mean, I did ask Helena if it was serious and she said yes.  What else was I to think?  I certainly didn't think music," Dinah said, shaking her head.  "I guess that just goes to show that if you assume, it makes an ass out of you and . . . ."

Barbara's sharp glare caused Dinah to finish weakly "...me?"

Barbara frowned, returning her gaze to the computer screen for a pensive moment as the password window popped up.  Dinah looked at Barbara with growing concern as her mentor stared at the screen a long moment, lost in a memory.

Her green eyes grew moist but Barbara rubbed them before any tears could fall.  Taking a fortifying breath with a slight shake of her head, as if shaking off the memory, Barbara slowly and deliberately typed her password as she struggled with the overwhelming number of memories, both recent and old, that began to bubble up and collide together, merging into a disturbing and unbelievable mosaic.

"Barbara? Are you all right?" Dinah asked worriedly.  Barbara was unusually quiet on the ride home and didn't even get annoyed with her energetic rambling.  And the storm of emotions crossing her unusually unflappable mentor's face, greatly alarmed Dinah.

Barbara shook her head no, which further unnerved Dinah, who had not seen her mentor so uneasy . . . and freely admitting it.

"I'm sure she's OK, wherever she is," Dinah quickly blurted, wanting to easy Barbara's worry.

To get a Library card, you need some ID, like a driver's license, Barbara considered as Dinah continued.

"Maybe Monique was right and she is off just exploring or something.  Although, I do think she would try to phone . . . ." Dinah said with a frown.

"I don't think David Clinton is Poof Guy's father," Barbara interrupted, typing in a few search strings and pressing enter.


"No.  I believe . . . I believe he IS poof guy," Barbara announced, getting an incredulous look from the junior crime fighter.

"That's impossible!  You can't be in two places at the same time. And Clinton is way too old.  Barbara, you aren't making any sense," Dinah protested.

"You are limiting yourself to Euclidean space," Barbara noted, staring at the computer screen, anxiously waiting for her search to finish.

"Uh huh," Dinah blurted wearily with a frown, sometimes feeling she needed an Encyclopedia when talking with Barbara.

"Did you know that Margay is also the name of a wild cat?" Barbara said neutrally, though her heart pounded as she pulled up a picture of the cat in question, building her case for her incredible theory.

"Uh, no?" Dinah responded, glancing at the cat curiously, wondering what that had to do with anything.

"And what is "Chasseresse" in French?" Barbara asked, still staring at the screen as a slight, humorless chuckle escaped at the obvious answer.

"I . . . don't know?" Dinah said, biting her lip, feeling a bit embarrassed.

Barbara pulled up the next puzzle piece up on the screen, causing Dinah to read the display.

"It means Huntress??" Dinah snorted, looking at her mentor with a cringe of confusion at these coincidences, which slowly faded as comprehension of the implications dawned on her. "No way," Dinah said shaking her head in disbelief.

"David Clinton was right, Dinah.  It was just a matter of time," Barbara said numbly, absently realizing that she had never sought to track down Margay before now, even with unlimited access to the Batcomputer.  She sighed, knowing the pain had been too raw when she first left, then after time passed, she realized hunting Margay down would do no good if Margay had no intention of returning.  She did the only thing she could do - let go.

The sought Gotham City driver's license finally popped up onto the screen.  The pale but familiar face on the picture stared back at them, confirming the unbelievable.

"That's . . . ." Dinah said with amazement, staring at the familiar, but white-haired woman.

"Helena," Barbara confirmed, taking a steadying breath as she gazed upon the image that provoked many feelings

* * * * *

Helena stood in front of a mirror in the small store bathroom.  Helena blinked, wanting just one thing to be normal about this experience. If being sent back in time didn't depress her, the reflection staring back at her certainly did. The white hair, including her eyebrows, matched her pale white skin . . . and those eyes? Pink? No wonder the old lady was staring at her oddly. Shaking her head, she realized that not only was she alone in the wrong time, she also looked like a FREAK! Fuck!!!!

Not that her looks should matter, she considered, knowing she would have to lay low and not interact with anyone anyway.  If she had learned anything from watching Voyager, other than strong, intelligent women would always be hot, especially the red-headed variety, it was that you just don't screw with time; the Temporal Prime Directive and all that.  She frowned, knowing just being there was altering history.  She may already have, she worried, starting to pace, wondering what kind of ripple effect her conversation with that lady would cause.  Crap!

Her growling stomach interrupted her thoughts, prompting her to venture to the apartment above the store.  She felt bad squatting in Arthur's house, exploiting his absence while he was out of town, mourning his wife, but she had no other options at the moment.  Right now, this was the safest place to be.

She shook her head again as she opened up the door to the pantry, wondering how she could possibly figure out how to get back without interacting with anyone.

In a comforting, familiar habit, she sat in front of the TV with a bowl of cereal.  She looked around for the remote, then winced, noticing how old the TV was.  She shook her head; apparently the antique dealer never got the memo that remotes existed in 1987.  Helena sighed as she got up and turned the TV on, flicking through the channels until she stopped on one of her favorite shows.

With a smile, she settled back down on the couch and ate her cereal. "Just kiss her already!" Helena said to the screen with her mouth full as she watched Jo cross her arms and glare at Blair, who was once again furious with her

* * * * *

"Oh.  My.  God.  Do you know what this means?!?" Dinah blurted, drawing Barbara's gaze. "You kissed HELENA!"

"That is the only thing you can think about?" Barbara said tersely, pinching the bridge of her nose, although her thoughts were along the same lines.  She wasn't sure how she would be able to reconcile her feelings for Helena, the young girl who professed her undying love for her dangerously depressed and crippled mentor, and the captivating Margay, who rejected her and broke her heart.

"Uh.  How are we going to bring her home??" Dinah tried again.

"I don't know," Barbara said uneasily with a sick feeling. "But we'll find a way," she said with forced determination

* * * * *

Having donned one of Arthur's hats and a pair of Mildred's sunglasses to cover up and shield her very sensitive eyes, Helena finally ventured out of the store the next day.  She had to get out of that place, which was becoming claustrophobic.  She also had to make an attempt to figure her way out of this mess.  And she always thought better when moving.

She couldn't help but nervously look around at the crowd of people on the sidewalk, wondering how her presence would have an impact on the future.  Glancing at a news stand, she wondered what would happen if she were to buy a newspaper.  Barbara had mentioned something about chaos theory, where the turbulence from a butterfly's wing could theoretically cause a ripple effect that ultimately manifested itself as a hurricane on the other side of the planet - or something like that.  What if a simple thing like taking a newspaper causes someone to stay unemployed because they missed getting that copy which had an advertisement for a job that they were supposed to get?  What if they get kicked out of their house, prompting them to become criminals and kill someone??  What if that someone was supposed to do something important to benefit mankind?!?


What was going to happen because she was consuming Arthur's food and borrowing his money?!? She quickly concluded she'd have to replace everything she took. But that would require getting money, she thought with a frown. What if that money was needed by someone else? Crap! There was no way NOT to make an impact. She'd have to accept the fact that she was going to have some effect on the future, she considered with a worried wince.

Interrupting her troubled thoughts was the sight of a teen walking by, happily rocking to the sounds of Pat Benatar from his loud Sony Walkman. A cassette player!! Huge by today's . . . well, 2005 standards, she considered with amusement. She stopped with a grin, watching him go by as fond memory surfaced - her mother presenting her with her very own cassette player. A pedestrian suddenly collided into her.

"Watch it!" A man gruffly barked.

"Sorry," she said weakly, pushing up her sunglasses and adjusting her hat. Blowing out a nervous breath, she silently scolded herself. "Get a grip!"

She continued walking, more carefully, through the city, finally arriving at her destination. Glancing around, she stopped and looked warily at the imposing building she had never voluntarily visited before. With a heavy sigh, she entered the Gotham City Library.

Once inside, she exhaled with relief; the sunlight was really bothering her. Looking around a moment, she was surprised, finding the architectural detail of the place rather pleasing. She had been there before, when Barbara forced her, but she never really appreciated the building's symmetry or the rich wood of the daunting bookshelves, or the skillfully carved details of the crown molding and pillars, or the marble floor with its amazingly intricate design.

Not sure where to go first, she took a fortifying breath and headed towards the Librarian's desk, knowing she would have to eventually talk with someone if not just to avoid going insane. She waited as an elderly woman slowly checked out a large stack of books for two college students, who softly chuckled and chatted about some girl, who really needed to "date" even after the older woman cleared her throat and glared at them in disapproval for their continued, not so veiled, conversation.

Well, she had time, Helena supposed with a frown, absently wondering if her impact to the timeline would be less if she just talked with old people who might not be around in a few years. Feeling a tingle at the back of her neck, she reached up to rub it with a frown, although she was glad the nausea hadn't returned. That was a real bitch....

"You'd better not be thinking of bothering her; I'll revoke your library privileges," the elderly woman threatened after a few more rude comments, glancing at them over her reading glasses.

Helena grinned.

"Oh don't worry, grandma. We know better than to bother the commissioner's pride and joy."

Helena's grin disappeared as she sucked in a startled breath. She was here, Helena realized, both fearful and excited. Nervously, she glanced in the general direction one of the students motioned to with a dismissive wave of his hand.

Among a few students doing research with their texts and papers sprawled out over the surface of large wooden tables, Helena spotted a familiar red head buried in a pile of books. As Barbara Gordon flipped through one book, glanced at another, took notes, checked another, and took more notes, Helena couldn't help but think Barbara was the only person she knew who could make studying look like a sport.

As Helena watched, her heart ached for Barbara to wrap her up in a comforting hug and offer soothing words that would inevitably come, assuring her everything was going to be all right - that she'd be going home soon. But the painful reality was that this was not her former guardian who had helped heal her wounded soul after her mother's murder, who had patiently mentored a volatile metahuman teen, who had grown to be her best friend and the woman she loved with all her heart.

This Barbara was not the amazing crime fighter Oracle - who could solve any puzzle thrown at her and always covered her back, Helena considered with a heavy heart, desperately needing Oracle's help right now.

Helena continued to watch this young woman who, though beautiful and amazingly intelligent, was still just a teenaged student, whose biggest concern in life was getting good grades. As it should be, she considered in consolation.

"Besides, she's a stuck up bi . . ." the student continued, getting a cautioning elbow from his friend as the old woman's eyes narrowed. "Geek."

Her eyes narrowed as she sharply focused on the stupid boy. She always had a strong protective streak for Barbara, but now . . . it was almost overwhelming.

"Barbara Gordon is a brilliant young woman, who will undoubtedly graduate before the likes of either of you," the librarian said crisply with a thin smile, finally pushing the two stacks of books towards the students.

"You suck up to them, just like everyone else," the vocal student spat.

"Come on, Jerry. Let's just go," the other, much wiser student said, tugging nervously at his arm, feeling the attention of the unnerving white-haired, pale-skinned woman standing beside them at the desk. He glanced at her uncomfortably. Although she wore sunglasses, he just knew she was staring at them.

"You know she keeps screwing the curve, Bob!" Jerry huffed and marched off with an arm-full of books, joining a small group of students waiting for him.

"I'm sorry, Mrs. Milner," Bob said with an apologetic wince.

"You're a good kid, Bob. You shouldn't be hanging around that boy or his friends," Mrs. Milner said, shaking her head as she warned "They are trouble."

Bob nodded uneasily and joined his friends and left, prompting a sigh from the librarian.

"May I help you, Miss?" Mrs. Milner said, drawing Helena's attention away from the stupid student.

After a calming breath, she responded. "Uh . . . do you have any books on time travel?"  Helena asked with a weak smile.

Chapter 7

Puzzle Pieces

"Ah, you're back!" David Clinton said with a smile. "You look tired.  Not getting enough sleep?" he guessed from the dark circles under the redhead's eyes.

"I understand more now," Barbara said, ignoring the comment as she rolled up to the table in the interrogation room with Dinah in tow.  "But I don't understand how."

"It is a mystery, even to me," he admitted with a shrug.

"Why don't you tell me what you do know?" Barbara said firmly, making Dinah think Barbara would be an amazing lawyer.  Although, she'd be amazing at anything she set her mind to, Dinah had to admit.

"Why? What's in it for me?"

"Earlier parole, if it pans out," Barbara said, gaining a surprised look from her young ward.

"That's not good enough," he said confidently, thinking he'd get more out of his cooperation.

"I see. It is just time, after all," she offered, noting his slight wince at the notion of wasting any more of it cooped up in the slammer. "And since you are so intent on serving all your time, you should be pleased I'll be providing your parole board a long list of unsolved crimes that will likely make them want to revisit your case more thoroughly," she said pointedly and watched the man shift in his seat with some satisfaction.

"All my crimes were solved," he challenged with irritation.

"They don't know that," Barbara said with a smile, making him frown and contemplate the situation.

Dinah looked at Barbara with concern, sensing the threat was not just a bluff.

"I'm not sure how much I can help you," he finally said, adding with annoyance "I don't know how it works.

"How what works?" Barbara asked.

"The hourglass," he said uneasily.

She reached down to the side pocket on her chair and pulled out a pad and pencil, placing it on the table. She slowly pushed them towards the convict. "Draw it and tell me exactly what happened that evening when you and Helena were sent back."

"I'm not much of an artist," he grumbled, reluctantly picking up a pencil.

"I am confident you will do your best, Mr. Clinton," Barbara said, her gaze unwavering.

He licked his lips and cleared his throat as he started to draw. "When I finally retrieved the hourglass, Huntress caught me. I managed to run. I really didn't know what I was doing and rotated the time dials," he said pointing to poorly drawn blocks. "and jumped forward in time," he said with amazement. "I wasn't even sure it would work. I had heard some old man talk about this magical hourglass...."


"A former thief, who had heard it from someone else," the man shrugged.

Barbara's patience was growing thin with the vague information that she just knew would not help her get any closer to a solution.

"So you stole the hourglass because of a rumor?" Dinah asked incredulously.

"The jewels were enough to make it worth my trouble, even if it didn't work. But it did!" He chuckled. "And when I arrived, I was already in the neighborhood and thought I'd finish what I started but I had my second encounter with her," he said, then shook his head offering "that woman is insane!"

Dinah couldn't help but nod knowingly.

"She grabbed the hourglass and we struggled. I just had to get it back. It took me forever to track it down," he complained, shaking his head. "I barely managed to shove her back. Her hand and the hourglass crashed through the display case. She got pissed and kicked me across the room. That's the last thing I remember before I woke up."

"When?" Barbara asked pointedly.

"1996," he said. Seeing Dinah eye him with surprise, he blurted with irritation. "Yeah, I know, the years haven't been kind to me. You should try showing up someplace with nothing, no money, no home, no identity. See how well you do," he challenged tersely.

"She wasn't with you," Barbara stated confidently.

"How . . . ?" He said with surprise, eyeing her curiously.

"Why wasn't she with you?" Barbara interjected firmly, ignoring his question.

"Lady, I have no clue.  All I know is that, I got stranded in 1996 with no way back," he said, then chuckled oddly "well, other than the old fashioned way - living through it."

Barbara took an uneasy breath, not wanting to think that Helena might be out there, somewhere, alone, because they couldn't find her way home.  "Why don't you tell me more about how you knew about the hourglass?"

* * * * *

Several days after her stupid and futile attempt to get answers at the Library, a very depressed Helena sat on the Clock Tower balcony, looking out over the city on an October night. What was she thinking? Finding herself a pair of ruby red slippers to click together was looking more promising than the "C-" student extracting something worthwhile from fictional tales or boning up on temporal mechanics.  She needed Oracle, who did not yet exist.

She looked down at her feet dangling over the edge, to the familiar street and traffic below. She could almost believe she was home, just having come back from another night of sweeps. But she had learned that in 1987, the Clock Tower had been . . . was currently . . . an office building for a group of ambulance-chasing lawyers.

She could almost believe that in a few minutes she would hear the comforting hum of an electric chair and find Barbara rolling onto the balcony to check up on her.  But the Barbara of this time wasn't Oracle.  The Barbara of this time didn't know Huntress, or that Helena even existed.  Their first introduction would occur in another two years.  Right now, Barbara was busy studying for her college degrees.

High above the city, she could almost believe nothing had happened.  But something had.

A tear fell, then another.  She started to believe, for the first time, that she might actually be stuck here, destined to live out her life in a timeline not her own. . . without her Barbara or Dinah.  Exhaling roughly, she wiped the tears away with irritation, trying not to be too gloomy.  What if she was meant to be here, she considered, trying to look on the bright side.  Didn't Barbara tell her that things happen for a reason?

But any attempts at trying to be positive were thwarted by an instinctual feeling that she wasn't supposed to be here and that she could adversely affect history.

With a deep breath, she stood up and brushed off her unflattering baggy jeans, or rather, poor, recently departed Mildred's jeans, which reminded her that Arthur would soon return. Helena had to find a new place to stay and she was going to need money. She could do with a better wardrobe too, she considered wryly.

She hopped down off the familiar ledge to another roof top with a comforting familiarity.  Before descending to the streets, her ears picked up noises in the distance that alarmed her - screeching tires and gun fire.  Those sounds were never good, she considered, automatically following the commotion, hopping from roof top to roof top with practiced ease, the wind on her face in a familiar caress....

Finding the source of the noise, she watched the action play out on top of a department store. She smirked, imagining the drivers of the speeding bank truck were not too pleased that the ominous batmobile flew down the street after them. She couldn't help but think that boys like their toys as she watched the batmobile and its turbo-engine's flame pass by. The bullets fired at the batmobile bounced of the windshield, creating impressive sparks but no damage. Suddenly, the batmobile fired a grappling hook and snagged the rear of the truck, causing Helena to chuckle as she considered it sucks to be them.

She propped her chin in her hand and placed her elbow on the ledge, watching the criminals try to evade their inevitable fate. She had to admit this was far more entertaining than TV. With a high-pitched protest from the turbo-engine, the batmobile quickly reversed, causing the wire rope to snap taught and jolt the truck to a stop. Helena reluctantly admired the fearless driving as the batmobile turned the corner in reverse and flipped the truck onto its side, effectively ending the chase . . . with undeniable flair. And here she thought her tendency for showmanship was from her mother, she considered wryly, then shook her head, having to acknowledge that any guy wearing a batman costume had to have a bit of exhibitionism in his DNA.

As she watched the efficient capture of the criminals by Batman and Robin, she was somewhat comforted that the city was still protected, even if it was by her estranged father . . . and Dick. It was risky enough that she would have to get a job and interact with people. Crime fighting really didn't seem like a good idea....

Hopping down into a dark alley, Helena made her way back to Arthur's, her temporary refuge. In the distance, another sound caught her attention. Beyond the usual noise of a city at night, the traffic, the sirens in the distance, or the boom boxes on street corners with people shouting for someone to turn it down, she heard something soothing, something that beckoned to her - the smoky sounds of a saxophone.

Following the music, she found a small club unfamiliar to her. She considered that many clubs failed within the first couple years, somewhat saddened by that stray thought. Entering the establishment, she immediately cringed at the cigarette smoke that assaulted her senses. She covered her mouth as she coughed, coming face-to-face with a bouncer.

"There's a cover charge," he growled, eyeing her baggy clothes with disapproval.

"Oh?" She winced, then vowed to do something about her wardrobe.

"Twenty dollars."

"Twenty?!?" She frowned, now understanding why that establishment didn't last.

"Get lost," he sneered, quickly guessing she couldn't pay.

"Bruno, you must stop doing that, or I'll tell Jacque you're hiking up the cover," a silky voice came out of the darkness.

Bruno growled at the bold woman, who emerged from the shadows to join them. Her sharp look dismissed the large man, who shook his head and left the women.

"Monique??" Helena blurted with surprise, seeing the very alluring woman come to her rescue.

"Do I know you?" she asked with a curious smile.

Crap!  Helena froze for a moment at her slip before her brain kicked into gear. "Not yet. But I have seen you perform in Paris," Helena said in French, which greatly pleased the French woman.

"Ah, wonderful! I hope you enjoyed the performance," she said, continuing their conversation in French with a delighted smile. Monique was truly a beautiful woman, Helena thought - whatever age.

"It was . . . mesmerizing. I love the way you interpret the greats," Helena continued, recalling their previous discussions about Monique's work in Paris. "I wish I could move people as you do, especially like you have done with Someone to Watch Over Me," she honestly said, having heard Monique sing that song several times and honestly been moved.

"Flattery will get you everywhere," Monique said silkily, with a grin and sparkle in her eye.

"I hope so," Helena said, getting a bigger grin from the other woman.

"That was a particularly successful song for me in Paris. . . I'm actually going to sing that tonight," she announced.

"No, my dear, you're not," a short man said ruefully, also in French, joining them with a grimace on his face. "You need Benny on piano and he's passed out in the back. Again! I swear this is the last time. When he wakes, I'm going to fire his worthless hide!"

"Jacque, please don't be so dramatic. I'll just play for myself," Monique said with a warm smile, patting him on the cheek.

"You can't work the crowd tied to the piano," Jacque grumbled, knowing Monique's ability to connect to the audience up front and personally was a money maker.

"The show must go on, Jacque," Monique countered.

"I could play for you," Helena ventured, surprising them.

"You play?" Monique asked with a smile.

"Yes. And if you like what you hear, perhaps you'll consider paying me . . . the next time?" Helena suggested, causing Monique to chuckle at the confident woman looking for work.

Jacque looked at her in disbelief. "You are French, play the piano, and are willing to work for free to help us out? Am I dreaming?"

"Unfortunately no, this situation is real. But you would do no less for a fellow countryman in a strange land, would you?" Helena said, adding "I sing too, but not as beautifully as Monique." She saw their surprise and wondered if she was laying it on a bit too thick.

"Well, I have to say - I like what I hear so far," Monique said with a chuckle. "We will pay her for tonight, with a portion of the tips, assuming no boos from the patrons. Deal?" she said, looking sternly at Jacque.

"Works for me," Helena said with a confident smile.

"Deal. What should we call you?" Jacque asked.

"Uh . . . ," Helena blurted, alarmed, knowing any name she provided would be traceable. "Blanche Neige. . . uh," she said awkwardly, pointing to her hair. 'Jesus Fucking Christ! Snow White?!?!  She silently moaned with a cringe.

"Interesting . . . stage name," Jacque said flatly, eyeing her critically as Monique laughed. "But we can change that later. Right now, Ms. White, you need to get ready. The set starts in fifteen minutes," he barked then noticed Helena's attire. "Monique? Do something about . . . THAT" he motioned to her hideous clothes with both hands.

Helena vowed again that her first paycheck was going to be for some decent clothes!!!

"We don't have much time to outfit you, Ms. White," Monique said, pulling at Helena's arm. "Do your friends call you "Snow"?" she asked with amusement.

"Perhaps I'll think up another stage name," Helena grumbled.

"What is wrong with your real name?"

Helena frowned.

Monique looked at her with a smile of understanding. "It is all right, my dear. I know a few people in this country who would rather not . . . stand out, while they wait for their green cards," Monique said, knowingly.

"You are an exceptional woman, Monique," Helena said honestly.

"You are without a doubt, an exceptionally perceptive woman, Snow," Monique said with a chuckle, looping her arm around Snow's. "I can tell you and I are destined to be good friends."

"Without a doubt."

Chapter 8


A couple of weeks had passed with Helena gainfully employed, thanks to Jacque and Monique.  She had a pretty decent income, mostly due to tips and a small but respectable wardrobe, thank GOD.  Although nowhere near as nice and daring as the one she had back home, her current wardrobe was acceptably stylish none-the-less.  And a small part of her felt really good about her music, if she could consider anything about this situation good.

She also had a place to stay, once again thanks to Monique, who shared a three-bedroom flat with a vacancy that she pounced on just before Arthur came back.  She had replaced all that she took and added a few more bucks to his register, as sort of payment for him unknowingly helping her.  It was only fair.

Suspecting that ruby red slippers were not likely in the cards, Helena, for some reason was drawn back to the library in search of some clues or perhaps inspiration.  She did not want to admit that she had hoped to spot another glimpse of Barbara, which she knew would just tempt fate and be a really, really bad idea.

And there she was, in the Library again, waiting for Mrs. Milner, who was helping another student at the front desk. Helena couldn't help but glance over to the study area and the large tables.  She immediately spotted Barbara, who was apparently tutoring another older student in a varsity jacket.  He must have been trying her nerves as Barbara appeared very tense but determined.  When the guy smirked and placed a hand below the table, Helena felt her hackles rise.  With a swift motion, Barbara had removed the jerk's hand from her leg, bending it back to the point of pain, if the grimace on the guy's face was any indication. Helena smirked.

After saying something quietly into his ear, Barbara released his hand and collected her books as the guy rubbed his wrist with an uneasy look on his face. Clearly annoyed, Barbara left the library.

"Good for her," Mrs. Milner muttered, having finished with the student and facing her.

"Does that happen often?" Helena couldn't help but ask, adding "The boys the other day and that jerk?"

Mrs. Milner nodded sadly. "She's a beautiful, brilliant girl who doesn't fit in with these Neanderthals.  The female students are just as bad, maybe even worse.  Jealousy does that, I suppose.  And when she makes the effort to help them, they are ungrateful and keep doing stupid things - like that, for example," Mrs. Milner said looking over to where Barbara had just been. "I'll never understand why she keeps trying."

"Because she doesn't give up, no matter the odds," Helena said with a small smile of appreciation, getting a curious look from the librarian.  Helena smiled uncomfortably, then added "it can't be easy for her, trying to fit in when she's younger and smarter."

Mrs. Milner nodded again. "In a few years, she'll be past all this nonsense and really show them what she's got," Mrs. Milner said with conviction, clearly a Barbara Gordon fan.

Helena grinned with a nod, becoming a fan of Mrs. Milner's.

"So, dear, how may I help you today?" Mrs. Milner said with a smile

* * * * *

"So you think the hourglass was damaged in the struggle with Clinton?" Dinah asked as she paced in front of Delphi as Barbara typed in a new search string to investigate this hourglass.

"That might explain why they went to two different times," Barbara said as she continued to type.

"Then, if it's broken, isn't she stuck in the past like he was?" Dinah asked cautiously, biting her lip.  "What if she's out there now, but older??"  She added, distressed by that thought.

"The fact she hasn't contacted us," Barbara said with an uncomfortable pause "would indicate to me that she isn't in our current time." At least, that's what Barbara hoped.

"But . . . ?"

Dinah's questions were interrupted by the telephone ringing. Barbara was relieved for the respite from the teen's very good questions for which she had no answers.

"Hello? Oh, hi, Wade," Barbara said with a sigh as Dinah rolled her eyes. "Uh, no. Not tonight," Barbara said with a wince. "Well, actually . . . tomorrow isn't good either. Yes, business is pretty busy.  I expect for the next couple of days I'll be pretty . . . yes, I'll see you at school. Ok. Bye, Wade," Barbara said, sighing as she hung up

* * * * *

The scene in the library continued to bother Helena, who jumped from one roof to another, taking familiar refuge above the city at night.  It seemed that all of Barbara's life there were substantial obstacles to over come.  She knew how hard Barbara's life had been after the shooting, having lived through her slow recovery and volatile emotions during difficult physical therapy as Barbara had to finally accept the fact she would not walk again.  But until now, Helena had no appreciation of the difficulties Barbara faced before her paralysis, when she was a young brainiac among an older, unsympathetic, and ignorant student body.

Looking down at the street below, she curiously noted three black sedans turning into a pot-hole ridden alley.  While that wasn't that unusual in itself, as they could be taking a bumpy short-cut, the fact there were green question marks on the top of the cars was, at the very least, notable.  Especially since the green question mark was Riddler's trademark, she considered, getting a little closer to see what was going on.

Was he really that overt?  She thought with amazement, believing it was incredibly foolish to advertise yourself like that.  She blinked, realizing the irony of that thought, recalling her passionate arguments to Barbara over the need to stand out and be unique.  She could not understand why anyone would settle for normal and boring, tremendously frustrated that Barbara chose Wade, a man who would never measure up or be worthy of her.

But now, Helena's perspective had shifted a bit.  Now she wanted disgustingly normal, like sharing a bowl of popcorn and watching a DVD with Barbara, without the nerve-racking drama of wondering whether her actions would adversely impact the time line.  She had to consider that, just perhaps, "normal" was what Barbara really did crave after all. Perhaps her mentor had enough of a very unconventional and obstacle-burdened life. Perhaps the excruciatingly normal Wade was the right one for her, she considered reluctantly.

Helena's depressing thoughts were interrupted when she noticed the sedan doors open and men in green suits get out. They had the clear markings of Riddler's henchmen - question marks liberally covered their coats and ties.  Well, they certainly were well-dressed henchmen, though the pattern was way too busy, she considered.  One of the men from the first car opened the back seat door for the final man to emerge.  He got out, donning a green bowler, then adjusted his thin green mask over his eyes.  The Riddler, she concluded, recalling Barbara's stories about that supervillan's exploits.  Moving to a lower rooftop, she just had to see what they were up to this fine Gotham evening.

Watching a large, muscular henchmen use a crow bar to pry open a locked door, she cringed, feeling very agitated she was doing nothing to stop them.  But then, Huntress did not exist yet, she considered, biting her lip.  When the warehouse door opened and the green-clad henchmen entered the building, she softly growled in frustration.  Where the hell was a superhero when you needed one??  She glanced up and down the alley, wondering if Batman was off taking a donut break with Robin or something.

She cringed at an irritating flash of light at the far end of the alley.  Vaguely wondering if anyone made a decent pair of sunglasses in 1987, she squinted, watching as a motorcycle entered the rutted alley.  The darkly clad rider immediately shut off the engine, extinguishing the light.  The alley was once again plunged into darkness, save for the weak illumination from dingy yellow street lamps at the far ends, and a single rusty lamp over the open warehouse door.  When the dark rider dismounted, Helena immediately noted the full curves of her hips as she rolled the bike behind the cover of a large dumpster.

She sucked in a surprised breath. "What are you doing??" Helena quietly hissed, her eyes widening in panic. There were seven of them and only one of her!!! Those were horrible odds, even for a seasoned Batgirl, which the teen clearly was not. Helena dropped down and followed in the shadows. Damn the ripple effect Helena thought with growing anger for her predicament, knowing that in a competition between Barbara and, well, anything else, Barbara would always win.  She would never allow anything to happen to her - even if it meant altering history.

Barbara nervously paused, thinking she heard someone behind her.  Slowly turning, she saw nothing out of the ordinary but couldn't shake the feeling she was being watched.  Unable to waste any more time, she took a fortifying breath and continued stealthily towards the closest sedan.  Crouching down, she carefully placed something beneath the back bumper.

Likely a tracking device, Helena guessed as her fists clenched nervously as she watched a young Barbara clad in tight black leather pants and motorcycle jacket continue to the next sedan. She wouldn't have even guessed she was "batgirl" tonight except for the make-shift utility belt and cowl, covering her face. She might have chuckled at the definitely unpolished look had not the whole situation been so nerve-wracking.

An alarm sounded and the gang members quickly emerged from the building with boxes and bags of loot. There was no place for Barbara to hide, Helena noted with panic as one of the henchmen pointed to Barbara and cried out "Get her!!"

"You can try, boys," Barbara taunted, making Helena wince. Don't provoke the bad guys!

As the men rushed towards her, Barbara deftly dodged the bulkier hoodlums. She ran towards the hood of one sedan and smoothly slid over it on her hip, dodging two others. Helena might have appreciated the graceful move had she not been filled with fear for the teen.

Reaching into her belt, Barbara pulled out a small disk and threw it at the warehouse lamp, destroying the light, plunging the immediate area into darkness. Helena smirked as her eyes augmented, giving her an advantage. She watched curiously as Barbara reached into her utility belt again and drew out several small balls. When she threw them to the ground, thick white smoke billowed up, further cloaking her position.

Helena frowned, thinking it overkill, especially now that her advantage had been neutralized.  Her augmented eyes couldn't see through the thick smoke.  With the quickly ensuing scuffle, Helena heard muffled groans - male groans, thankfully.

The Riddler calmly took stock of the situation, then got into the driver's seat of the first car and started the engine. "What's black and blue and red all over?" He called out.  "A baby bat who tries to stop my heist!"  He laughed with great amusement and drove off, leaving the cloudy alley behind him.

No wonder the police wanted him in jail, Helena considered with a wince, wondering how many horrible riddles he had cruelly subjected the unsuspecting, innocent masses to in his career.

"Where is . . . ?" One goon blurted with irritation, then saw the masked young woman, whose foot solidly connected with his chest.  "Ugh!" he exhaled, falling backwards, plopping in front of Helena with an "oof."  When he scrambled to get up, she grabbed him with one hand, easily pulling him up.  With a swift punch, he fell back down, now unconscious.

Two men backed up into her and cried triumphantly "Ah ha!" "Gotcha!"

Their glee was interrupted when they saw an unexpectedly menacing, white-haired, sun-glasses-wearing vigilante, instead of the masked girl.

With pleased smile, Helena launched a powerful series of punches and kicks, causing the two to fly back several feet.  They slammed into the side of the building and slid down, both unconscious.  She tilted her head, cracking her neck.  Man that felt good, Helena thought, having missed the action of sweeps.

Barbara paused in confusion, hearing the scuffle several feet away, then . . . joints cracking?  What the hell, she wondered as she almost let another henchmen grab her.  Successfully dodging his arms, she tripped over one of the unconscious hoodlums littering the ground, clumsily joining him.  Before she could get back up, the hoodlum kicked her in the side.  "Ugh," she exhaled, never having felt such pain before.

Barbara!  Helena thought with panic, turning towards the sound as a crowbar made contact with her back.  She collapsed to her knees and her sunglasses went flying.

Barbara sucked in a pained breath; certain she had a broken rib after getting kicked again.

The goon's eyes widened in surprise as the inhuman creature jumped to her feet with a growl after that back-breaking blow.

Barbara tried to get up but two large hands grabbed her, lifting her up as if she weighed nothing, and slammed her into the side of the sedan - several painful times.

Nervously swinging the crowbar again, the goon sucked in a startled breath when Helena grabbed the bar, stopping it mid-swing. He stared dumbfounded, as she yanked the crowbar from his hands and tossed it aside. The last thing he saw was a fist rapidly approaching his face.

Barbara blinked, fighting the dizziness that fogged her head.  When the henchman released her, she slid to the ground in a heap.  "Ugh" she exhaled upon the impact, then fell unconscious

* * * * *

Barbara slowly woke, blinking as she attempted to focus on her dark surroundings.  She recalled the fight in the alley, but recognized she was not in the alley.  Greatly alarmed, she sat up, sucking a pained gasp.  Her hand gingerly touched the excruciatingly sensitive side, a souvenir from her first encounter with Riddler's gang . . . or any criminal for that matter.

She nervously glanced around the apparently empty building, not remembering how she got there. From the moonlight streaming in through several cracks in the rusted roof, she could see some old crates, a few chairs, and filing cabinets, in random locations, scattered around the floor, and . . . her bike?  The surprise was welcome as she didn't have to worry about the police finding it and tracking the VIN to her, she considered as her head started to throb.

Great, another painful souvenir from her brush with the gang, she considered with a frown and reached up to rub her temple, concluding she likely had a mild concussion.  As she massaged her throbbing head, it slowly dawned on her that she no longer wore her cowl.

Panic surged through her as she quickly searched the floor and found her cowl by her side.  Grabbing it, she pulled it to her lap and stared at it a long moment as her heart pounded.  Her father was against her joining the police force; what would he think about this?  What would her classmates?  Suddenly feeling the air stir and a strong presence, she nervously looked around the dark room.  Someone was there, just out of sight, she thought, swallowing hard.

Helena debated what to do, but the need to reassure the frightened young woman overwhelmed her.

"Do not worry, mon ami. Help is coming," she said softly, startling the teen, who gasped and abruptly turned towards the voice.

"I can't have anyone . . . know," Barbara said feebly, her eyes dropping to helplessly stare at her pathetic, homemade cowl as tears started to well up.

"He will be . . . discreet, I promise," the voice said quietly. Helena wanted nothing more than to go to her side and hold her but knew that was out of the question; she would never want to let go.

"Who . . . who are you?" Barbara said nervously, squinting in the direction of the voice.

"A friend, mon ami," the mysterious voice said, shifting uncomfortably in the shadows.

"But...." Barbara called out, feeling frighteningly vulnerable. Needing to take some action, she took a fortifying breath and stood up, with a muffled groan.

"That is not wise. You should . . . ." Helena said worriedly.

"I can't let anyone find me," Barbara said in desperation, looking around for the best way to exit. "Anyone else...that is," she corrected herself, hoping just a glimpse of her face would not be enough for this stranger to completely compromise her secret identify.

"But your injuries should be looked at," Helena persisted with concern.

"I can't risk it," Barbara said doggedly.

For the LOVE of GOD! Helena thought with frustration for Barbara's super-sized stubborn streak, then took a calming breath and said in a surprisingly even tone. "Mon ami, not even Batman goes it alone . . . Batgirl," she said firmly.

Barbara looked sharply into the shadows, towards the voice, and held up her cowl. "Are you mocking me?" she said tersely, having experienced more than her share of ridicule from her classmates. And sadly, though her father didn't intend to, he also did more to discourage her dreams than anyone.

"I would never," Helena said honestly.

Barbara laughed without humor. "But there's plenty to mock, isn't there? My first time out and I failed to complete my task, get beaten unconscious, and find myself compromised to someone I can't even see," she said disdainfully. "Some, Batgirl huh?" she said dejectedly, looking at the cowl in her hand before letting it slip from her fingers to the ground in defeat.

Helena never expected to witness such doubt from a young Barbara Gordon. It rivaled the doubt she had just after learning she would never walk again. Like then, Helena couldn't bear to let this exceptional woman feel bad about herself.

"You will be," Helena said with conviction.

Barbara shook her head. "With an encounter like tonight's, I have to admit I'm having my doubts. And why on Earth am I spilling my guts to you??" she questioned the stranger helplessly.

"You just need some guidance."

"Oh? And you're going to give me that . . . guidance?"

Helena didn't know if to laugh or cry at the irony. "I wouldn't presume to be the right choice, mon ami. But you do need someone to help you become one of the most," she said, then quickly amended "no, I predict the most formidable crime fighter Gotham has ever seen," she said with a conviction that Barbara so wanted to believe.

"Well, I'm not off to a very stellar start."

"We all must start someplace, mon ami. And I believe it is a crime to give up and let your doubts win. So your first true challenge, Batgirl, will be fighting those doubts," the stranger had said in challenge, confusing the young crime fighter, who had a million more questions.

"Who are you?" Barbara asked desperately as the sound of a squeaky door echoed through the building.

"Hello? Anyone there?" The male voice with a familiar English accent. "Miss Barbara?" he said, shocking her.

Not only had her face been revealed, they knew her name!

Alfred's torch cut through the darkness, revealing Barbara, who winced in embarrassment, too embarrassed to question why Bruce Wayne's butler was making a late night trip to help an injured, wannabe crime fighter.

"Miss Barbara, are you all right? I was told I would find you here," he said with genuine concern as he approached her, seeing her looking a bit worse for the wear, like the anonymous woman had told him.

"Over there, Alfred," Barbara quickly blurted, pointing to the shadows several feet away, where her French "friend" had been hiding from sight.

"Don't," Helena called out, but the light was already on her, making her squint in pain at the sudden brightness.

Barbara wasn't sure what she was expecting but couldn't help but stare at the curiously mesmerizing, white-haired woman . . . who wore sunglasses?

"Turn that off!" she snapped, her hands trying to block the offensive light from her sensitive eyes. She then added softly "Please, Alfred."

"Oh dear," Alfred said worriedly, fumbling a brief moment before extinguishing the painful light. "I'm so sorry, Miss."

"It's all right. Just take care of her, Alfred," she said. "Au revoir, mes amis," were her parting words as they felt the breeze of her swift departure.

"No! She can't just leave," Barbara said, abruptly reaching for his flashlight, which was a mistake with her injuries. "Ow! Damnit!" she hissed in pain, grabbing her side gingerly.

"Miss Barbara, I suggest we take care of first things first and get you some medical treatment," he said kindly.

"Who is she, Alfred?" Barbara asked, looked at him anxiously.

"Why, I don't really know," he admitted with a shrug. "She called, informing me the commissioner's daughter was injured and in a . . . delicate situation that required discretion," he said, his eyes drifted down knowingly to the cowl on the ground. "It appears it was a good thing she did."

"If my father, or anyone, finds out about this..." she blurted nervously, finding only a kind smile.

"Find out about what, Miss Barbara?" he interjected with a completely straight face, projecting amazing innocence.

She nodded hesitantly, still feeling uneasy but for some reason she knew she could rely on Alfred.  As she started to leave, he gently stopped her.  "Aren't we forgetting something?"

Following Alfred's gaze, Barbara looked down to the cowl uncertainly, feeling unworthy.  Alfred knelt down and carefully picked up the cowl, dusting it off reverently before handing it back to Barbara with a smile.

She looked at him and her eyes widened as she realized why he was so understanding about her extracurricular activities.  It all made sense.  Wow, she thought with amazement.

He smiled and nodded at her comprehension.  "You are a very clever girl, Miss Barbara.  I do hope you are as discreet as you are clever," he said.

"You have my word," Barbara vowed solemnly.

"Very good," Alfred said with satisfaction as they left the building.

"That means . . . she must know too," Barbara hesitantly offered to the butler.

"So it would seem," he said thoughtfully.

"And you're not concerned?"

"Actually, no," he said with surprising confidence. "She called and sounded genuinely worried about you and your delicate situation.  It would seem she truly wants to help," he said.

Barbara nodded hesitantly, wondering who this woman was and why had she helped her.
"Another vigilante?" Barbara asked, unable to let it go.


"And you just came in the middle of the night to some warehouse, because someone, who you didn't know, had asked for your help?" Barbara queried.

"We help people, Miss Barbara.  Even those we don't know," he lectured gently.

Barbara looked at him and nodded with a small embarrassed smile.  "Of course."

* * * * *

A small beeping, indicating Delphi had completed another search, startled Barbara awake.  She took a sharp breath and sat up in her chair, blinking, trying to focus on her computer screen.  With a grimace, she stretched the kinks out of her back caused by the awful position of sleeping at her computer console, again, which wasn't her intent.  She stretched and glanced at the clock.  It was 6 AM.

She had been researching the hourglass and reading various myths surrounding the time traveling powers of various objects, knowing there usually was some kernel of truth to a myth.  But she found nothing useful and nothing resembling Clinton's hourglass.

Opening the window with the latest long list of documents to review, she sighed, feeling depressed. What if Helena didn't come back? Her heart truly ached at that thought.

"Hey! Did you stay up all night?" Dinah said accusingly, joining her side in her pajamas.

"I had . . . a nap," Barbara hedged, not looking her in the eye.

"Aw man!  You slept here again, didn't you?  You now how that aggravates your back muscles," Dinah scolded.

"Yep," Barbara admitted as she once again stretched her back.

"Barbara...." Dinah continued her scolding, but was silenced by a sharp glare.  "Hmmm. Did you find anything?"

"Nope.  But I will," she said with conviction.

"I'll make us breakfast and then I'll help you with the research," Dinah said firmly, marching off to the kitchen.

Barbara glanced back at the teen who had come into their lives unexpectedly.  It was like they were a family, she considered, then corrected herself.  No, they were a family; a family currently missing a loved one, she thought, staring off into the distance.

"There you go," Dinah said, placing a cup of tea and a plate of pop tarts in front of her with a smile.

"Pop tarts, Dinah?" Barbara queried.

"For inspiration," Dinah said perkily ". . . and no one has gone food shopping since Alfred went on vacation," she added with a shrug. "I'll do that later today, OK?"

Barbara nodded, biting into the pop tart, then took a sip of tea.  After a quiet moment between the two as they had their breakfast, Barbara spoke softly.  "She . . . was there.  The first time I attempted to be Batgirl."

"What??" Dinah blurted with surprise at this revelation, prompting the story of that infamous night of Barbara's first, unfortunate outing.

"I thought I could impress Batman by planting homing devices on the Riddler's cars and find their hideout.  But they ran out of the building before I could finish.  The Riddler got away and left me with his henchmen.  I took precautions, smoke bombs, taking out the lights, but it wasn't enough - I was beaten unconscious.  The next thing I remember was waking in a warehouse, with my cowl off.  I never felt more frightened."

Barbara took a sip of tea, shaking her head, recalling that night. "She called for help," she said, looking at Dinah with a smile. ". . . and Alfred came."

Dinah shook her head in awe. "Wow.  That's so . . . wow," she repeated, then looked at Barbara sternly.  "You would have so grounded me for going alone without any experience!"

Barbara had to smile. "If my father had found out, I might still be grounded today," she responded, making Dinah snort with amusement as Barbara sadly remembered her father's displeasure with any criminal justice career plans.

"Wow.  She covered your back your first time out and then hooked you up with Batman's right-hand man," Dinah said with amazement.  "And then, you helped her when her mother died and then mentored her in crime fighting."

"Dinah, whatever I have done to help her pales in comparison to what she has done for me," Barbara said with conviction.  "She never, ever, let me give up on myself after the shooting.  Even when she was hurting, she always was there for me," Barbara said, shaking her head, amazed by Helena's innate ability to know what she needed. "And even before the shooting, when I was ready to give up on Batgirl, she challenged me to face and overcome my doubts. God," Barbara exhaled with amazement at Helena's ever-present support that had always helped her get through the dark times.

But then, she had to admit she had come to rely on Helena for more than her support.  She missed living with the lively young woman and looked forward to their all-too-infrequent family nights, just enjoying each other's company. She missed seeing Helena bounce into the Clock Tower after a successful night kicking ass on sweeps, looking especially captivating.  She missed the rare and exhilarating glimpse of her eyes when they had turned feral, that made Helena look even more dangerous and alluring....

"It's like you were always destined to profoundly impact each other's lives.  That is soooo romantic," Dinah gushed dreamily, then felt startled eyes on her. "I mean . . . uh.  Want another pop tart?" she blurted with a weak smile.

Barbara silently shook her head no, feeling a distinct blush come over her as she glanced at Delphi almost hoping for an interruption.

"If she hadn't gone back, I wonder . . . would you have ever gotten Alfred's or Batman's help?  Would I have ever had the visions of you two and come to New Gotham??"  Dinah said with growing alarm.  "How do we know what the right time line is supposed to be?" she added worriedly.  "And if this isn't the right time line, I'm not so sure I'd really like the alternative of never meeting you two."

Barbara had to think a moment.  Once again the teen offered very good questions.  "Well," she said then sighed.  "I don't know.  But I'm working with the premise that this," Barbara said, waving her hand, motioning around them. "is the correct time line and that we are going to get Helena back soon.  Somehow," Barbara added, trying to tamp down her worry.

"You'll figure something out," Dinah said with an encouraging smile.

Barbara offered her a weak smile and sighed, hoping the teen was right.

The phone rang causing the two to look at it and each other. "It's not Gabby.  She can barely get to school on time let alone manage to dial a phone this early," Dinah said with a smirk as the phone continued to ring.

Barbara sighed and answered it. "Hi Wade," she said with a sigh. She glanced up to Dinah, noticing her thoughtful look, before the teen smiled weakly and left, giving her privacy for her call.

"Breakfast? Uh . . . I'm rather bu. . . . I know it's been . . . . No. No. I'm not . . . I . . . this is not the type of conversation to be having on the phone. All right. I'll see you then," Barbara said and hung up the phone with an irritated exhale.

Chapter 9


"Barbara, aren't you ready yet?" her increasingly impatient father called up stairs, looking at his watch. They had to leave shortly if they were going to be on time to the policeman's benefit dinner.

"In a minute," she called downstairs as she paused to look in the mirror and nodded with satisfaction. Her makeup adequately covered her bruises.

"You said that fifteen minutes ago," he complained as she descended the stairs in a beautiful green dress that accentuated her eyes as well as her curvy figure.

His eyes narrowed. "I'm not so sure you should be wearing that."

"Why? Isn't it ok? I thought I looked pretty good in it . . . ," Barbara said with a frown, having thought she looked fine.

"You look too good, dear. I'm going to have to bring my sidearm to keep the drooling masses off of you," Jim Gordon said with a frown. His little girl was growing up way too fast.

Barbara beamed at the compliment and kissed him on the cheek. "You won't need to bring a gun, daddy. I know some very effective self-defense moves," she said with a grin, making him frown deeper, not liking the idea of his little girl having to defend herself from some low-life. She's too good to ever have to deal with anything like that, he firmly thought.

"We'd better get a move on it. Can't have the Commissioner be late to the police benefit," he said gruffly, opening the door for his daughter, who forced a smile as she left the house. When he put a hand on her back as they walked out, she sucked in a pained breath, her injuries from several nights ago not yet healed.

"Are you all right?" Jim asked with surprise.

"Ah, I guess I'm just a little . . . ticklish, sorry," she said sheepishly with a shrug.

He smiled indulgently. "You know, Dick Grayson will be there tonight," he offered innocently.

"Oh?" Barbara said politely.  Her father thought, for some reason, that they should date.  While he had become much more interesting since she learned he was the Boy Wonder, it wasn't enough to make her want to date him.

"He and Bruce Wayne have always been great supporters of the police," Jim continued as his daughter dutifully nodded

* * * * *

"Do not worry, mon ami. We just need to dazzle them with our wonderful music. They did not invite us here to check our residency status," Monique whispered in Helena's ear with amusement.

Helena frowned as they waited behind the stage to be introduced. "Merveilleux," Helena exhaled unenthusiastically. For someone not trying to draw attention to herself, she was doing a spectacularly bad job....

"You worry too much," Monique chided, putting a comforting arm around her waist, and squeezed. "It will all work out, trust me," she offered, having been worried about her friend "Snow" since she came back to the apartment a few nights ago really shaken up. She had hardly ventured away from the apartment, save for practice and their performances. As much as Monique tried to get her to open up, she would not.

"Oui. But it is in my nature," Helena said, getting a wry smile from Monique.

"You sound more Russian than French," she joked, making Helena wonder if she had any Russian ancestry. "I bet you will enjoy tonight, in spite of yourself. You love the challenge of requests, no?"

"When they are good songs, oui. But last night? Dear God, how could anyone want to hear "Life in a Northern Town" more than once??" Helena complained, still trying to get that song out of her head, starting to relax a bit as they bantered.

"He tipped us handsomely for that, mon ami. Do not let your artistic sensibilities allow you to forget that the rent is still due at the end of the month," Monique said with a grin, squeezing her waist once again.

"If they ask for that tonight, I swear I will . . . ." Helena huffed.

"Will what, mon ami?" Monique interjected with amusement.

"Sing flat," she threatened, making Monique chuckle.

The announcer introduced the eight person ensemble as the Simpaticos. "Our cue, mon ami!" Monique said with enthusiasm as she glided confidently to the stage, in front of Gotham City's finest.

"Our cue," Helena muttered, following with the rest of the ensemble

* * * * *

Barbara and her father were at the same table as Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson, who looked very handsome in their expensive suits. As they chatted with her father, she could sense their eyes on her, though never caught them overtly staring. Bruce Wayne seemed to be assessing her, which she suspected was because Alfred had mentioned something to him about her activities a few nights ago and her need for mentorship. Dick was just looking her over, she concluded, resisting the urge to roll her eyes and smack him.

"So you are going to graduate with a Bachelor's in . . . ?" Dick said with an easy smile, expressing interest in the young woman's accomplishments.

"Physics, Literature, and Education," Barbara answered with a polite smile, sipping her soda as Bruce and her father were discussing the latest rash of crimes by the Riddler. "I am also working on a Masters in Information Technology," she felt compelled to supply. "After that, possibly a Doctorate, but I'm not sure."

"Wow," he responded, genuinely impressed with this teenager's academic accomplishments. "Very diverse . . . subjects," Dick said, sipping his beer. "Couldn't make up your mind, huh?" He joked.

"Why should I limit myself to one area?" Barbara said pointedly, daring him to say something stupid.

"Why indeed," Dick said smoothly.

"Good answer," she said with mild amusement.

"Well, I do have a healthy survival instinct," Dick noted with a smirk, making Barbara reluctantly smile, having to admit he was charming.

"It has served you well so far," Barbara allowed, getting Dick to grin at her and sip his beer.

"Ah, the entertainment," he said with relief

* * * * *

Helena could feel her presence, even if the irritating spot lights of the stage made it hard to see the audience. Just play, she told herself as she sat behind the piano and adjusted her sunglasses nervously. The other musicians in their eight member ensemble quickly positioned themselves on stage.

"Bonjour, mesdames et messieurs," Monique said with a big smile, having the attention of all guests, save one, who was intently focused on the white-haired piano player.

Barbara's heart pounded with anticipation. It's her....

"We are the Simpaticos, here to bring you a variety of musical treats tonight, from Jazz classics to the popular music of today. And please, should the music move you, feel free to get up and dance," she said, waving her hand towards the small dance floor in front of the stage.

Monique looked back to the ensemble and nodded. The lighting changed to better illuminate the dance floor and encourage dancing. After the second, very danceable Jazz tune, "April in Paris," some of the guests started to get up and give dancing a go.

The music flowed and as another slow ballade, "Bewitched Bothered and Bewildered" started, more guests started to get up to dance. Not surprisingly, the older guests seemed to really enjoy the slower ballades. Helena smiled, spotting an older couple that she guessed were in their eighties, dancing with practiced ease, clearly enjoying each other. It warmed Helena's heart to think it was actually possible to find someone and have a long and loving relationship. She smiled as she tickled the ivories and Monique sang beautifully.

"Care to dance, Barbara?" Jim Gordon asked, receiving a smile that Dick found mesmerizing. Barbara was very beautiful girl, he thought as he watched her take her father's offered hand.

Glancing out into the audience again, Helena spotted Barbara, getting up to dance with her father. God, Helena thought, mesmerized by the teen, her eyes eagerly drinking in her beautiful and graceful movements on the dance floor. Barbara was smiling and dancing, she thought with wonder, something she never had imagined she would see for herself. Her heart began to ache as she thought of what Barbara had lost...or rather would lose, and the heavy burdens she willingly and constantly bore as Oracle.

Other strong feelings welled up within her when she saw Dick Grayson cut in on Barbara's dance with her father.


Jim grinned knowingly at the young man. "Have fun, kids," he said patting Dick on the back.

Barbara stopped dancing and looked at him, clearly unimpressed with his move. "Aw come on Babs, the music moves me," he said with a charming smile.

"It could have very easily moved you to someone else, Dick," Barbara countered. "I'm sure there's bound to be at least one woman here who wouldn't mind dancing with you."

He chuckled, not offended by her sarcasm. "Ah, but I don't want to dance with any of them. I want to dance with the prettiest girl here," he said smoothly, taking her hand and placing his on her waist.

"Girl?" Barbara challenged.

"Woman, of course. But girl or woman, you are by far the prettiest here," he said smoothly.

"Does that really work for you? The overt flattery?" Barbara asked curiously as they danced to "I'm Beginning To See the Light."

"Ah, it's not flattery, Barbara. It's a statement of fact. You are the prettiest here," he said triumphantly, then frowned when the song finished.

"May I have another dance?" he quickly asked as they clapped for the band.

"Merci, merci. We will be taking a short break and will return in fifteen minutes," Monique said.

"Excuse me, Dick, I need to take a break too," Barbara said politely, eyeing where the band had exited off the stage before following.

Bruce Wayne walked up behind a frowning Dick, both men watching Barbara leave. "You'd think if she really wants to join us, she'd at least try to get into my good graces," he complained.

"The fact that she's not trying to, actually speaks well of her character," Bruce offered thoughtfully, not seeing Dick's frown deepen.

"Do you really think she's serious?" Dick asked, knowing not to bring up her young age as he had not been any older when he started - though it still did not feel right to him for a young woman to be out on the streets at night, regardless of why.

"I'm sure we'll see soon enough. The ball's in her court. I hope she knows it," Bruce said, patting his former ward on the back before leaving him to chat with the mayor

* * * * *

Barbara's heart raced as she followed the white-haired stranger into the ladies room backstage.

"I thought I'd never see you again," Barbara gushed anxiously, instinctively reaching out to touch her forearm, oddly compelled to make physical contact. Perhaps to make sure she was real, Barbara vaguely considered.

"This is not a good time," Helena blurted with quiet concern, glancing to a stall.

Barbara quickly retracted her hand, wanting to kick herself for her impulsiveness as Monique flushed and exited.

As she went to the sink, Monique carefully looked over the very attractive young redhead, then glanced to her band mate with a raised brow of interest.

"You know, Snow," she spoke in French as she turned to the sink and washed her hands. "I'm a firm believer that love should transcend all, but it may have a few undesirable consequences, especially with an underage, female partner and a room full of policemen that includes her father," Monique said with a thin smile, glancing at Helena in the mirror as she touched up her makeup.

Barbara frowned, not understanding French, finding it rather rude to deliberately exclude someone from the conversation.

"She's a friend, Monique," Helena hissed also in French.

Monique smiled and gently kissed Helena on the cheek. "Just be careful, all right?" she whispered into her ear and left the two.

"What was that about?" Barbara asked tersely, surprising herself with the level of her annoyance.

"An incorrect assumption, mon ami," Helena hedged. "How is your side?" she said, looking at Barbara's ribs with concern.

"Still tender. What incorrect assumption?" Barbara persisted, causing Helena to cringe. "Tell me," she demanded, uncertain why she was so agitated.

"She believes we're having a . . . romantic tryst," Helena relented uncomfortably, catching Barbara off guard.

"What??" Barbara blurted in confusion as she digested that idea - an idea that had never occurred to her before . . . with a woman. Surprisingly, the thought was not entirely unwelcome, she considered with a flush. Though, she wondered if perhaps the unnerving attraction to this woman was due to the help and encouragement she had received from her, something that oddly no one she actually knew had ever given her.

"I know," Helena agreed with irritation. "It is certainly something I would not do," she added, firmly dismissing the clearly unpleasant thought.

A moment ago, Barbara would never have imagined feeling so hurt by the rejection of a woman. Now, this rejection stung like no other. She frowned, trying to understand the surprising distress.

"For God's Sake, we're in a public bathroom," Helena added with irritation and shook her head.

Barbara blinked, then blushed

* * * * *

Barbara felt bolder than she had ever felt before. "I don't mind. We're alone now," she said confidently, stepping up and sliding her arms possessively around Margay as she pressed her lips against the older woman's. Margay resisted only a moment before melting into the growing desire.

Barbara pushed Margay back against the bathroom wall, then quickly found herself on her back in a soft bed, naked. Her eyes shut as a shower of kisses reverently caressed her skin. When the kisses stopped, Barbara opened her eyes to see Margay's pink eyes and white hair morph into Helena's blue eyes and dark hair. How could she have not made the connection before, she wondered as she watched the vibrant blue transform into golden slits, hungry with desire. A new wave of arousal washed over her.

Helena's hand slowly traced over her skin, coaxing delicious tingles that brought her closer to the elusive peak she craved. When Helena's talented fingers found her aching center, she didn't enter, causing Barbara to moan in frustration. Helena provoked more need as she expertly caressed Barbara's moist folds as she reverently and slowly kissed her neck, then collar bone, then chest. "Please," Barbara begged and bucked, wanting more, which she ultimately got - but not as expected; Helena's moist and warm mouth covered a hard nipple, teasing and suckling.

Her womanhood clenched and throbbed in time with Helena's oral ministrations. "God," Barbara hissed, amazed she was still conscious after the sensuous assault. When Helena's fingers finally and firmly plunged into the now-dripping wetness, Barbara moaned. It did not take many strokes before an orgasm washed over her, making her shake with delicious pleasure.

"Ohh," Barbara whimpered as she abruptly woke from the intoxicating dream. Her eyes blinked rapidly as she caught her breath from the climax that still had her body humming.

She placed her forearm against her damp forehead a moment as she caught her breath. Running a shaky hand through her hair, she heavily exhaled, startled by the unexpected and overwhelming response. She had never before climaxed from a dream. And since the shooting, she had not been able to climax at all. But here she was, her body still throbbing in the afterglow of an erotic dream, she considered with amazement, her hand reaching down, collecting the surprising evidence that liberally coated her fingers.

But it wasn't just any dream. It was about Helena, who had always made her question her feelings, even when it was clear she had to distance herself from the persistent and mesmerizing teen with a huge crush on her. And over time, that teen became a woman - a breathtakingly beautiful and sensuous woman who continued to shamelessly flirt with her. But Helena flirted with everyone, she considered, unable to really believe that the young, vivacious woman, with her string of conquests, would ever be truly satisfied with a paraplegic partner. How could she be, Barbara considered; the two lovers she had since the shooting, Dick and Wade, both good men, were frustrated when she didn't respond as they had hoped.

Dick had the most trouble as he had known what she was like before the shooting. But that relationship would have been doomed even if she were walking, she considered, knowing Dick had always hated the fact she could run intellectual circles around him. Her paralysis only served to terminate their relationship sooner; Dick had prided himself on his sexual prowess, which could no longer bring her pleasure.

She was not surprised to see the disappointment in Wade's eyes after his own climax as he tried to tell her how wonderful she was.  She expected that it was just a matter of time before he too would ultimately find her lack of responsiveness too much for his ego to handle.

While they had made her feel wanted and almost normal, at least outside of the bedroom, she did not become too emotionally invested in their relationships knowing they were unlikely to last.  She knew that if Wade decided to end their relationship, as Dick had, she would not be devastated.

"God," Barbara exhaled, knowing that her cautious navigation through her personal life to protect her fragile heart had done nothing to protect herself from the devastation that would drown her if Helena never returned home

* * * * *

"I've got to get back, our next set is starting," Helena said nervously, quickly exiting the bathroom.

Barbara followed her out. "Will I see you again?" she blurted anxiously, cringing at how desperate she sounded.

"Barbara?" Dick Grayson called out, finally spotting her. Barbara glanced at him with irritation then refocused on the fleeing white-haired musician to find she had returned to the stage. She had to wonder why it was so important for her to hear the woman's answer . . . and why she so desperately wanted that answer to be yes.

"Everything all right?" Dick asked, seemingly genuinely interested.

"Fine, Dick. Let's go back and listen to the music, OK?" She offered with a smile.

He grinned and politely held out his arm, which she stared at a moment before taking a belabored breath, leaving him and his arm behind as she walked back to their table alone.

"You know, Babs. A little kindness can go a long way," Dick called out.

"That's exactly what I'm afraid of, Dick," Barbara said bluntly

* * * * *

The guests were happy to see the ensemble return and clapped enthusiastically.

"Merci, Merci!" Monique said with a pleased smile. "And now a special treat. We will now be taking requests. Now there is a catch," she cautioned. "For each song requested, one hundred dollars must be donated to the Policemen's benevolent fund," she said, prompting appreciative applause. "And, as a special incentive, Mr. Bruce Wayne will match that amount and double it if you can "stump the band," she said, getting a delighted response from the crowd. "Stand up Mr. Wayne, s'il vous plait," Monique said, clapping for the billionaire.

Helena watched her estranged father stand with narrow eyes. He politely waved and nodded at the enthusiastic crowd. When he pulled out his checkbook from his breast pocket, he turned to the band and looked at each of them in challenge. "I hope you are as good and as fair as Ms. Devereux says you are," he said, getting laughter from the audience.

He was smooth, Helena had to admit with reluctant appreciation.

"Not to worry, Mr. Wayne. The Simpaticos have never been stumped, a record we are not anxious to break, even for a cause as worthy as the Policemen's benefit," Monique said with a grin, knowing Mr. Wayne had privately offered an incentive to them and the charity to not be stumped.

As two uniformed police officers went around the guests, collecting the donations and song requests, Monique went over to Helena and put her hand over the microphone. "I hear he's single," she whispered in French, waggling her eyebrows suggestively.

"So is it a love that transcends all, including his bank book?" Helena asked in French, making Monique laugh and caress her cheek before returning to the stage.

Barbara frowned.

"Well, we might be here all night!" Monique joked, seeing the bowl overflowing with requests. She pulled out the first slip of paper with a big smile. "Let the games begin!"

After several not very challenging songs that were performed well, Monique pulled out another slip of paper. "Ah, this one is from . . . Mr. Wayne," she smiled. "A Tom Jones fan, I take it?" she said, prompting Bruce to nod with a polite smile, getting curious looks, including Helena's.

"What's New Pussycat!" Monique announced to the crowd, who were surprised when Helena snorted with laughter.

Barbara looked over to Bruce, who eyed the laughing woman with uncomfortable curiosity.

"Sorry," Helena said clearing her throat, struggling to tamp down her amusement. "I thought . . . he was more of a dog-man," she offered lamely, shrugging. "But an excellent choice for either dog or cat lovers," Helena added magnanimously with a grin. A few in the audience chuckled, amused by the young woman's reaction though not really understanding it.

"Do you want the lead?" Monique offered in amusement.

"But of course, mon ami," she said with enthusiasm, turning to her keyboard. The ensemble quickly melded together, as they had done with each selection so far, and presented a good rendition of the song, which Helena sang with gusto.

"What's new pussy cat? Whoa oh, whoa oh whoa, oh! What's new pussy cat...."

Bruce Wayne sat back and watched the white-haired musician who seemed oddly . . . familiar

* * * * *

"And last, but not least," Monique announced, looking into the bowl as she pulled out the last slip of paper. "Well, this is interesting," Monique said vaguely, glancing to Helena.  "And I think this a challenge for you . . . Snow," she said, walking over to Helena and presenting her with the request.

"Snow?  What kind of lame name is that?"  Dick whispered to Barbara, who had been mesmerized by the white-haired performer all night.

"Well, if you had read the flyer, you would realize "Snow White" is obviously a stage name.  And she does have white hair," Barbara said tersely, oddly compelled to defend this stranger's stage name.

"But the sunglasses?" Dick continued with amusement. "What is she, a vampire, or something?" That clearly ridiculous suggestion made Barbara pause an uneasy moment as a surprising blush rose up. She quickly took a sip of ice water.

"This request is from the Police Commissioner," Helena offered with a thoughtful look. There were some mummers in the audience as the guests discussed the possible requests.

Jim leaned over to Bruce and said smugly. "You're going to pay up on this one, Bruce."

"Well?" Monique asked, knowing the whole audience was curious.

Helena cracked her neck, then laced her fingers together and cracked them too, as if she was going to do battle with the piano. "Listen, mon ami. Then ask if the Commissioner is satisfied," she finally said mysteriously, making Monique shake her head. Her friend had a natural flair for showmanship. Hopefully she could perform the piece as well, she considered.

The audience grew excited knowing the pianist had been challenged by the Commissioner.

Barbara looked curiously at her father, who grinned at her, making her worried that this could be the song that finally stumped the band.

As Helena's hands descended to the keys, a simple, familiar child's tune came forth, causing the audience to chuckle. "Twinkle, twinkle little star?" Dick said condescendingly with an amused smirk.

"Actually it's the twelve variations of "Ah vous dirai-je maman," by Mozart, old chum," Bruce corrected, glancing over to Jim Gordon, whose smug look faded as the pianist progressed through each of Mozart's increasingly complex variation with fluid grace and amazing ease.

Barbara's smile grew with each variation as she watched this Snow White (which she had to admit was a silly stage name) play with clear joy.  A joy she could feel, making the performance that much more mesmerizing.

After the final chord was struck, there was a moment of stunned silence before it was shattered by Barbara's delighted laughter as she stood and enthusiastically clapped.  The pianist looked right at her and smiled broadly.  In that instant, Barbara felt a connection she had never experienced before, almost forgetting there was anyone else at the banquet.  In that instant, Barbara knew that the beautiful smile she received was because the pianist had entertained her.  The thought caused her stomach to flutter as another blush washed over her.

Dick looked between the two and frowned as the audience finally caught up to Barbara and bolted onto their feet, clapping with great vigor for the young woman who had bested their clever Commissioner with her surprising talent.

Bruce grinned at Jim, who shook his head, then chuckled as he too stood. "Well, at least the youngsters these days are still learning the classics," he offered with a shrug, getting Bruce to chuckle.

Monique rushed over to her friend and kissed both cheeks and hugged her as she laughed.  "What other talents have you hidden from me?" she whispered in her ear.

Helena just smiled and looked slyly at her friend, who just laughed and caressed her cheek, causing Barbara's smile to fade.

"With that, mes amis, we conclude this very enjoyable evening and bid you adieu," Monique said, waving to the clapping crowd as the band left the stage

* * * * *

As Barbara quickly got up to follow the band, Dick grasped her forearm. "Hey, where's the fire?" he asked with a charming smile.

"Let go, Dick," she ground out, her tone and annoyed glare making him cringe and wisely let go.  He frowned as he watched her chase after the band, knowing it wasn't the band she was interested in.

"Where's Barbara going?" Jim Gordon asked.

"Uh . . . she wanted to go thank the musicians for a great performance," Dick said with a shrug.

Jim chuckled and shook his head again. "A hell of a performance, I'll say," he said with amusement, patting Dick on the back. Dick smiled weakly.

"It was a surprise," Bruce allowed, still curious about the pianist's amusement with his song selection. "Something tells me it is not wise to underestimate that woman," he offered quietly to Dick, who nodded, sharing his discomfort.

Outside, Helena waited with Monique on the sidewalk as the men loaded the two vans with the instruments. "You are full of surprises, aren't you?" Monique said, nudging the other woman with a chuckle.

"My mother loved those variations," Helena offered softly, surprising the French singer, who smiled and squeezed her arm.

"She would have been proud today," Monique offered warmly, getting a pleased smile from Helena, who thought Selena actually would have been.

"Hey, uh, hi!" Barbara said, coming up to the two women.

"Soyez prudent, mon ami," Monique said sagely and left the two to their privacy, hoping her friend was going to take her advice and be careful. Though, she had to admit the young woman looked rather delectable in that green dress.

"Hi," Helena said uncomfortably. Barbara really looked amazing tonight.

"I never got to thank you," Barbara said awkwardly.

"There is no need for thanks. You would have done the same," she said, feeling decidedly uncomfortable.

"Are your eyes always sensitive?" Barbara blurted, her curiosity driving the non sequitur.

"What makes you say that?" Helena asked uneasily.

"Uh, well, you seem to always wear sunglasses, even when it's dark out."

"Ah. My eyes are unfortunately very sensitive. I think I have a bad case of pink-eye I can't seem to get rid of," she deadpanned, pulling down her glasses to reveal her eyes.

"You're an albino??" Barbara asked with surprise, then cringed. "Uh, I'm sorry. I mean, it really doesn't matter. Not one bit," she blurted, then noted with surprising amusement "Besides, infinite diversity, infinite combinations as Spock would . . . say." Her amusement faded at the surprised look on the white-haired woman's face.

"Sorry," she blurted self-consciously, wanting to kick herself for being such a geek. No matter how nice and normal she looked, Barbara Gordon knew that she would always be different. "I . . . I just get curious and start asking a lot of questions which annoys . . . well, mostly everyone. So I try not to ask the first thing that pops into my mind but it isn't easy," she said, then fell silent, seeing an amused grin on the woman's face.

Barbara's heart dropped along with her eyes. She had hoped this woman would understand but concluded that she would never really click with anyone.

Helena grimaced at the sudden change of mood that she knew she had caused. Gently, she lifted Barbara's chin and made sure she looked at her. The touch surprised the teen, who felt a pleasant chill run through her as she waited with surprising anticipation.

"You remind me of a dear friend, who is also a nervous talker. And you should never, ever, stop asking your questions, Barbara," Helena said with a smile, happy she recalled a few sage nuggets from her talks with her mentor. "Albert Einstein said the important thing is to . . ."

"Not stop questioning," Barbara interjected in soft amazement, as the woman smiled with a nod and withdrew her hand. Barbara was amazed that the white-haired stranger believed exactly what she did! Feeling emboldened by this kindred spirit, she asked "Uh, well, since you are encouraging me to ask questions . . . how did you know to call Alfred?"

"We all have our secrets, ma chére," Helena offered with a regretful shrug.

The answer disappointed the young woman.

"But rest assured, I will be as discreet as Alfred is with yours," Helena vowed firmly.

Barbara nodded hesitantly; somehow trusting this mesmerizing stranger.

"Thank you, for that and helping me the other night. I'd really like to thank you properly," she said awkwardly, making Helena tense at the implication. "What's your name? I'm not going to call you Snow," Barbara said wryly. "I'd really like to know your real name, or is that a secret too?" she challenged, truly hoping it wasn't.

After silently chastising herself for jumping to dangerous conclusions, Helena smirked and offered "How are you so sure that is not my real name, ma chére? My mother may have been a big Disney fan," Helena suggested with a grin.

"Something tells me she would not have been that cruel," Barbara countered with amusement.

"Ah, but she did have an odd sense of humor," Helena offered.

Barbara eyed her in challenge, enjoying the easy banter with this woman.

Helena sighed as her mind raced. "All right," she relented. "I suppose sharing my name is only fair, since I know yours," she said, feeling the pressure of coming up with something decent. Her eyes were momentarily drawn to a loud truck, noisily shifting gears as it passed them on the dark street. When it passed under a street lamp, she noted the bold logo - the words "Margay Racing" stretched over the side, blending into a picture of a running wildcat.

Returning her gaze to the curious redhead, she smoothly offered with a pleased smile "Margay," adding "Chasseresse" with confidence, thankful it wasn't as lame as her stage name - and it did fit after all.

"That's . . . lovely," Barbara said with a growing smile that lit up her face.

My God Barbara was beautiful, Helena thought uneasily, glancing over to the van where her musician friends were patiently waiting. Monique looked at her with a glare of warning, which wasn't needed. Helena realized this really wasn't a good idea to keep talking with the teen, who looked THAT hot, who was the love of her life, who . . . .

"I am pleased to meet you, Margay Chasseresse," Barbara said formally, holding out her hand.

. . . wanted to touch her! Dear GOD, Helena thought as she smiled weakly and took the teen's hand as good manners dictated.

"And I do want to thank you, Margay," Barbara said sincerely, placing her other hand on top.

"My pleasure, Barbara," Helena said, her mouth becoming dry, feeling an undeniable electricity pass between them. She knew she had to go or she might just wrap her arms around the young woman and . . . . "I must go," Helena blurted, suddenly pulling her hand back.

Each felt the loss.

"But," Barbara blurted, her smile gone. She wondered if she had done something wrong.

"Seriously, ma chére, I must go," Margay said, reaching out to squeeze Barbara's forearm with a sad look. "Be well, mon ami," she whispered and retreated to one of the vans.

Barbara did not like the sound of that good bye. "Will I see . . . ." she asked as Margay climbed in and shut the door. "You again," she exhaled with frustration as the van drove off

* * * * *

Feeling Monique's stare as they drove away and hearing her finally take a breath, Helena lifted her hand to forestall any comments, hissing "Don't say anything."

"I am sorry, mon ami," Monique said instead, getting a reluctant nod from Margay.

Wrapping her arm around the dejected white-haired musician, she relayed "I must say I prefer Margay to Snow," she said with amusement, getting agreement from the other band members, who nodded approvingly.

"Me too," Helena said with a sigh.

Chapter 10

No Man's Land

Knowing Barbara, she would be researching the name Margay Chasseresse and coming up empty, of course. The thought that Barbara would learn that she had lied about that bothered her for some reason, even though everything here was a lie, Helena considered with a frown as she entered the bar in No Man's Land. It looked very much like the bar she had previously frequented but under a different name. "Jake's" was the current name. Unoriginal, but at this point Helena was beginning to appreciate just blending in, which was what brought her there.

As she ordered a glass of wine, she received an odd look from the bar tender. "You're new," the older man, about fifty-ish, said gruffly.

"Actually, mon ami, I am twenty five - hardly new," she teased, sipping her wine. She winced slightly at the flavor, making her wish she had just ordered beer.


"Oui," she smiled.

"What's with the dark glasses?"

"Sensitive eyes."

He nodded, apparently satisfied. As conversations went, Helena had had better.

After a moment, she said "I am told that there are some who would be happy to help someone like me to obtain papers. For a fee, of course," she said, getting the man to eye her uncomfortably.

"How much do you have?" he said with interest. Helena did not miss the glance he gave to a rather large man near the door.

"Ah, mon ami, a woman must have some secrets. The real question is, how much do I need . . . for papers."

The bartender frowned then motioned to a booth in the back with a flick of his chin. Helena glanced in that direction, where an old man sat with a younger man. The forger, she thought with hope.

"Merci," she said with a smile as she got up from her seat. Approaching the booth, she noted the large man by the door following behind her. Great, she thought with a sigh.

"Bonjour, I am Margay Chasseresse and I understand you may be able to help me," Helena said with a smile. "Oh, and if you think your bouncer friend will be laying one finger on me or my property, you will see why I belong in No Man's Land," she said pleasantly, surprising the old man, who nodded to the bouncer who withdrew silently.


"Oui," she said, getting him to chuckle.

"I haven't seen such a pretty meta before. Have a seat. Danny, why don't you get me another drink," he said, getting the younger man to frown and look at Helena with annoyance.

"Merci," she said, accepting the invitation to sit.

"So what do you need?" The old man asked the young woman with a smile.

"Identity papers," Helena said bluntly. "French passport, driver's license . . . the works."

"Hmmm. That will be costly," he said, shaking his head.

"How much?" Helena asked hesitantly.

"Ten thousand dollars."

"Ten?!?" Helena blurted incredulously. It was 1987! How could it possibly be THAT much, she wondered, blinking in amazement.

"Good passports are not easy to make," he explained easily. "And you wanted the works - that includes all the associated computer files."

Helena frowned. She had gotten some really good tips, but not that much.

"How much for something simple - a driver's license?"

"A thousand."

"I have five hundred," Helena offered weakly.

"I'm insulted."

She looked at him with a frown. Why did she expect any help in the meta community, she wondered dejectedly. She was truly alone, she concluded with a heavy sigh of defeat. "Well, I guess I'm done," she said softly.

"You are going to just give up?" the old man asked with surprise.

"It's not like a driver's license will get me back home," she said as the reality hit her hard. "I don't have the resources to do that," she said weakly.

The old man eyed the young woman a thoughtful moment. "I'll tell you what, you give me three hundred for a driver's license and two for a work Visa - and you save up for the other paper. I am sure we can strike a more reasonable deal," he mentioned then smiled at her look of surprise. "We have all experienced hard times," he allowed.

"Merci, monsieur," she said with genuine gratitude

* * * * *

With her new driver's license and Visa in hand, Helena went to the Library and got herself a library card. It was free, which was a beautiful thing.  In spite of the uphill battle, she actually expected to keep researching. She wasn't Oracle by any stretch of the imagination, but she wasn't going to give up. Inspiration or a lucky break might still strike....

"There you go, dear," Mrs. Milner said with a smile, handing over the new library card to Helena, who looked at her new name, unable to remember exactly what she did with her first library card - the one Barbara had forced the rebellious teen to get when she first came to live with her. Although, she vaguely recalled something about matches and a melted ball of plastic...

"I had no idea you were from France," she offered with a happy sigh. "I never detected an accent."

Helena blinked. "I have tried to perfect the American accent," Helena said with small shrug and smile, inwardly cringing.  Ah, what a tangled web we weave....

"Oh but why, dear? A French accent is so much prettier," Mrs. Milner gushed.

Helena chuckled. "Merci, again, Madame."

Mrs. Milner actually giggled, then sighed wistfully. "You know, I've always dreamed of going there someday."

"You should," Helena said with an encouraging smile. "Traveling has a way of making people see things differently," she added as she felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand up.

"Margay!" Barbara said happily, joining her side. "Hi, Mrs. Milner," she said with a smile, shifting the heavy book bag on her back.

"I didn't know you two knew each other," Mrs. Milner said with a surprised smile.

"Margay is a musician," Barbara enthused. "She played at the policemen's benefit the other night. She even played a classical piece that my dad thought would stump her. She was amazing," she said with a big smile.

Helena couldn't withhold a pleased smile; Barbara really appreciated her playing.

"Is that so?" Mrs. Milner said with interest. "I would have thought you a scientist from all the reading you've been doing," she said with a chuckle.

For God's sake, whatever happened to privacy, Helena wondered with great irritation. Doctors have it with their patients! Lawyers with their clients! Priest's with their congregants!! Librarians should have it with their, their . . . readers!!

"Excuse me, duty calls," Mrs. Milner said politely, leaving them to help another person.

"You enjoy reading about science?" Barbara asked, clearly pleased by that prospect.

"At times," Helena hedged, not thinking it wise to mention she would rather stick hot needles in her eyes while listening to Life in a Northern Town, repeatedly. "So what do you enjoy reading?" Helena quickly asked, hoping Barbara would not sense she was hiding something, which would make her more curious.

And a curious Barbara was like a pit bull on a pork chop.

"All sorts of things," Barbara said absently as she glanced towards three varsity Football players, including Mr. Grabby hands, who stared at them. Helena also noticed them and felt her anger grow.

"So . . . you got your library card?" Barbara said, trying to ignore their uncomfortable stares.

"I did. As much as I appreciate the architecture of this place, it's still a little stuffy," Helena said glancing back over to the Football players. "I'd prefer to read outside or at my apartment."

"I know what you mean, but I find I really need the table space," Barbara said.

Helena nodded her head with a small chuckle. "I've seen you juggle several books with great vigor."

"You have?" Barbara asked shyly, feeling inordinately pleased that Margay had noticed her.

Why did she keep doing this, Helena silently scolded herself, knowing that it was a really bad idea to keep interacting with Barbara.

"You are hard to miss, mon ami," Helena offered honestly. "Even behind your big stacks of books," she added with a grin.  The happy smile from the younger woman reminded her exactly why she was compelled to "keep doing this."

"Do you want to get some coffee?" Barbara said suddenly, surprising Helena as she adjusted the heavy book bag on her back.  "My treat. I think you've earned it after wiping the smug look off of Daddy's face. Please?"

"I can't . . . ," Helena started, then saw the deflated look on Barbara's face and continued ". . . stay long. I've got to practice."

The smile was back

* * * * *

Barbara chuckled as she stirred her cappuccino. "Then I started humming Twinkle Twinkle Little Star," she said with a grin.

"You, mon ami, are going to needle him with this as long as you can, I can tell," Helena said with a smirk, sipping her tea.

"Well, it is criminal to waste an opportunity," Barbara declared boldly, then suddenly grew shy, tucking her hair behind her ear, recalling this woman's advice that frightening night.

"How has your quest for a mentor gone?" Helena asked softly.

"Alfred has talked with . . . him . . . but," Barbara said with a heavy sigh.

"He's deciding," Helena said flatly.

"I know I'm young, but no younger than . . . ," Barbara complained but hesitated, not wanting to say names. "his ward when he started."

"Men. They wouldn't know a good woman if she kicked them in the derriere," Helena offered with great irritation, making Barbara snort coffee through her nose.

"Ow. Geeze," Barbara said, quickly grabbing a napkin.

"Sorry, mon ami," Helena said, trying not to laugh, also getting a napkin.

"I'm sure you are," Barbara said flatly, then reluctantly chuckled as she dabbed the coffee off her face.

Without thinking, Helena reached over and held her chin, holding the napkin over her cheek. She froze, noticing the surprised look on Barbara's face. "Missed a spot...." Helena said weakly and quickly finished the task.

"Thanks," Barbara said shyly with a blush, wondering if she should spill something else on herself.

You Idiot! Helena silently chastised herself. "Perhaps," Helena quickly said, gaining Barbara's undivided and hopeful attention. "...you need to get his attention," she suggested with a smile.

Barbara sighed with disappointment, hoping for Margay's attention. "I'm guessing you mean something other than what happened on my first outing?" She said with a frown, her side still sore.

"Oui. My mother used to say that if you wait for opportunity to knock, you're gathering moss," Helena said dryly.

Barbara blinked, having to admit there was some logic to that. "And I wouldn't want to . . . gather moss," she responded with mild amusement.

"Exactly," Helena said with a smile. "Let's walk," she said, standing up, offering "I think better when I'm moving."

* * * * *

They slowly walked through the park towards the Gotham University Campus.  Barbara enjoyed this time of year when the air was brisk and the trees turned color. She looked over to her intriguing companion.

"What did you have in mind?" Barbara asked with interest, shifting her book bag on her shoulder.

"What would compel him to want to mentor you?" Helena countered, recalling how Barbara would answer her questions with questions. That was really frustrating, she recalled with a small smile, though knew it was a good tool for getting you to think.

"Using the Socratic method on me, hmm?" Barbara asked with a smile.

So that's what you call it, Helena considered and paused, looking at her innocently. "What would make you say that?"

Barbara chuckled.  "All right, I think he would need to know I was sincere."

"What else?"

"If he thought I had something to add," Barbara offered.

"What else?" Helena asked.

"I'm going to need to talk with him," Barbara said worriedly.

"You should get him to invite you to," Helena said with a smirk as an idea formed.

"What? How?"

* * * * *

"I could get arrested for this!" Barbara hissed softly as she logged onto her school's computer.

Helena stood behind her and rolled her eyes at the future Oracle.  Thankfully, the cyber crime-fighter had gotten over her little aversion to hacking.

"Couldn't I just write him a letter and have Alfred deliver it?" Barbara asked uneasily, glancing nervously around the cubicle's partition and not finding anyone nearby.

"Hmm," Helena responded thoughtfully. "How's your hand writing?" she asked, knowing Barbara had sloppy script.

Barbara's eyes narrowed at Margay, then returned her attention to Plan A. "All right, I'm in the Wayne Industry Main Frame," Barbara said, typing away at the keyboard and getting a prompt for a password. "Great. I'm going to need to run another illegal program to crack his password so I can illegally access his email. Just great."

"You seem tense," Helena offered innocently, getting an irritated look from the redhead.

"I must have had too much caffeine today," Barbara muttered.

"Let me," Helena said, motioning for the redhead to give her access to the keyboard.

As Barbara moved to the side, she could not help but take in the scent of the woman hovering so close to her. Nice perfume, she considered watching Margay type in a password confidently and hit enter.

A red screen popped up reading "ACCESS DENIED."

"You just used up one of three attempts!" Barbara hissed in panic. "After three, we'll be locked out and they'll know someone was trying to break in!"

"Barbara, if you're successful, he'll know you broke in," Helena said with calm reason, causing Barbara to frown.

Helena shook her head and tried the password again. When she hit enter, Barbara blinked with surprise, seeing the password accepted. "How. . .??" she blurted with amazement.

Helena shrugged. "The ball is in your court, mon ami."

Barbara was torn. While she really wanted to probe why Margay knew Bruce Wayne's password, she really did not want to stay logged into his account for any longer than was necessary. Her fear of getting into trouble made her turn her attention to the screen and composing her email

* * * * *

Later that evening, Helena reached under her bed and pulled out a small cardboard box.  Sitting with one foot tucked under her, she placed the box down next to her and pulled out one of the hourglass pieces.  She eyed it critically, like she had done every night since she arrived, as if somehow she could extract its secrets and find a way home.  But like every night before, she was left with a pile of broken pieces and no answers.

She knew she had already affected history by getting involved with Barbara's initial outing as Batgirl. But she rationalized that since Barbara had survived it in her timeline that her involvement, which she thought necessary due to the ridiculous odds the young teen faced, had only kept the status quo. But tonight, something had shifted. Something had her really worried.

It was getting too personal - though her heart screamed otherwise. Recalling the day they shared, a small smile reluctantly emerged at Barbara's panic at the idea of hacking. A memory she would cherish, like all of those she shared with Barbara, young and old.

But she couldn't keep getting involved with Barbara's life.  The attraction was growing between them and it just couldn't be.  For one thing, a sixteen year old Barbara was too young, as Monique had warned her the other night. She didn't have to be reminded of her age, knowing that was a line she would not cross.  She also knew that even if Barbara was a little older and no longer jailbait, Barbara would eventually choose another, which she knew would devastate her if they got intimately involved.  Her heart already ached enough, without adding that complication.

She didn't belong here.  She had to go home, she concluded, pulling out folded sheets from the box.  Opening the paper, she glanced over the names of prominent researchers and their contributions to the field of temporal mechanics.  Each one had promising experiments, if the science magazines and texts had correctly reported.  But how could she possibly bring the needed resources to bear to solve her problem? And if one of these scientists actually helped her find a way home, how could she trust that they wouldn't use it for their own nefarious purposes?  David Clinton was a two-bit thief. But what if someone more creative and power hungry got a hold of the technology enabling time travel?

Every time she thought through the possibilities, she thought of more reasons to worry.  With a feeling of helplessness, she placed the pieces in the box and shoved them back under the bed.  When she felt helpless, she grew angry.  When she was angry, she needed to move

* * * * *

Helena ran like her life depended on it, though it was more for her sanity.  She ran through the night, jumping from building to building, until she grew too tired to run and too tired to jump.  Where she ended up when she was ready to collapse was not a surprise.  The Clock Tower beckoned to her, even though she grew to hate it for not being Barbara's Clock Tower.

She sat on the ledge and took deep breaths as the cool breeze caressed her.  She looked over the familiar city, never feeling so alone.  She had never really been alone before.  She always had someone to depend on.  Her mother, then Barbara and even the Kid, she thought, smirking at the utter and obnoxious glee Dinah would express if she ever found out. Her smirk faded as she realized that Dinah wasn't even born yet.

There was absolutely no one she could turn to for help, she thought as tears of despair filled her eyes. As the fiercely independent Huntress wiped them away with irritation, she noticed a light suddenly appear in the sky, piercing through the darkness.

"You've got to be fucking me," Helena blurted, staring at the bat-signal.

Chapter 11

Getting Help

Helena pressed the ornate doorbell, feeling decidedly uncomfortable as the deep chimes echoed through the large residence. This was the last place she thought she would ever want to visit, let alone come for help. But she was desperate.

After a few moments, the front door opened. "May I help . . . you?" Alfred said hesitantly, immediately recognizing the white-haired woman wearing sunglasses.

"I hope so, Alfred," Helena said with a weak smile. "I need to speak with Mr. Wayne about something important."

Alfred frowned. "Mr. Wayne is a busy man, Miss."

"Margay Chasseresse," she supplied, feeling comfortable with that name.

Alfred nodded. "Perhaps you can make an appointment and come back at a more convenient time, Miss Margay?"

"Is he truly busy at the moment, Alfred, or is this stalling to underscore the fact that the billionaire is far more important than the average, lowly citizen who really needs his help?" Helena challenged, getting Alfred to shift uneasily.

"Let me see if he is available," Alfred said tersely, clearly not pleased with the young woman's accusation

* * * * *

Helena waited in the foyer, studying the paintings that adorned the walls.  Bruce Wayne certainly did have an interesting taste in art, she considered, squinting at a particularly appealing water color that caught her eye.

"That was painted by my mother," the deep voice announced, startling her. She turned to see Bruce Wayne enter the room and join her.

"The scene draws you in," Helena said honestly, ignoring her discomfort around the billionaire. "The colors are moody and yet . . . compelling. The composition makes me sad, like I am missing out on something . . . like the painter is," she said, amazed that this art came from Granny Wayne, having always thought her artistic side came from her mother. 

She reluctantly turned to the man who influenced so many and yet to her, would always be the man who ran away.  "I am Margay Chasseresse, Mr. Wayne," she said, eyeing him closely.

"Alfred said you had something important to discuss with me. It wouldn't happen to be about a certain teenaged female who emailed me, would it?" He said with a knowing smile.

She looked at him with interest. "No. Although, I would encourage you to take her seriously. This "teen" will prove to be an incredible asset to you, if you are smart enough to mentor her."

He chuckled. "I thought you came here to ask for some help, but you end up giving me advice on how to deal with an adolescent . . . female?"

Helena's eyes narrowed. She really wanted to show him what a "female" could do to his billionaire ass, but smiled instead. "You surprise me, Mr. Wayne. For someone who knows that some of the most dangerous criminals out there are female, it is amazing you are unable to comprehend that some of the most successful crime fighters could also be female.  Why is that?"

Bruce eyed her.  There was something incredibly irritating about her.  "With the information you know, I am certain you are dangerous, Miss Chasseresse," he said, deliberately not answering the question, giving Helena some small pleasure she had called him on his prejudice.  She figured Commissioner Gordon was also cut from the same cloth.

"And you are most certainly female.  I don't suppose blackmail has crossed your mind?"  He asked conversationally, as if he hadn't just insulted her.

"Well, it didn't before you mentioned it," she said with irritation. "I had hoped to get your help the old fashioned way, and just ask. You are known for righting wrongs and being generous with your help.  But then, perhaps I shouldn't have been so quick to believe all the hype," Helena said tersely and turned towards the exit, surprising him.

"Exactly what help are you seeking, Miss Chasseresse?"  He called out, more and more curious about this woman.

Helena stopped, knowing it was paramount to not let her anger get in the way.  Whether she liked it or not, he was the last resort.  Taking a calming breath, she turned toward the billionaire. "I need help getting home," she said.

"Where is your home?" the billionaire asked, sensing it wasn't as simple as it sounded.

"The more appropriate question, Mr. Wayne, is when," she said somberly.

His brow rose in surprise

* * * * *

"Care for something?" Bruce Wayne asked, motioning to the impressively stocked wet bar.

Tempted to ask for something exotic to see just how well stocked it really was, she dismissed the idea, thinking it prudent to just focus on the issue at hand. "No thanks," she said, looking around the study curiously.

"Have a seat," Bruce motioned to the couch as he sat in a chair adjacent to her.

"You say you should be in 2005 but are here, in 1987," he said without judgment, which surprised her.  He seemed to take her claims in stride, not once letting her know what he was thinking.

"Oui," she said uncomfortably.

"Why do you think I can help you?" He asked curiously.

"You have resources that no one else has," she said plainly.

"Why would I use them?" He asked bluntly.

Electing not to answer that he really owed her for not being there when her mother died, she opted for a more immediate argument. "Because I am affecting history.  The longer I stay here the more impact I will have.  I shouldn't be here. It's wrong and you right wrongs, do you not?"

Bruce looked at her thoughtfully then asked "How did you travel back in the first place?"
He curiously watched as she frowned and pulled the large bag off her shoulder. She reached inside the bag and pulled out a box, placing it on the coffee table. His eyes were on the box as she opened it, revealing parts of . . . something.

"An hourglass. As you can see, it's broken now," she said as he slowly reached in and picked up a piece to inspect. It appeared to be made of gold, inlaid with precious stones.  If this woman was trying to con him, she would have to have put up some real money for this prop, he considered.

"Where did you get it?" He asked, picking up another piece for inspection.

"A thief I was trying to stop from robbing Hillman's Antiques," she said, getting a surprised look. "The hourglass was in the store and he seemed to know it had some sort of power. He managed to escape the first time I saw him; I didn't realize he jumped forward in time. Then I found him robbing the store a second time, with the hourglass in his hand. I thought he was nuts for bringing the items he had stolen previously with him," she said, shaking her head. "But it must have been only seconds later for him.  When I grabbed the hourglass, he managed to push me back into the display case, that's when it must have been damaged," she said, looking at her hand that had since healed. "I noticed a dent in the side before it started to hum. The next thing I know, it shattered and the sand sprayed everywhere.  The pain was . . . excruciating," she said tensely.  "After getting over the pain, I noticed it was day, I was in 1987, and looking like this," she said with a frown, pulling down her glasses to reveal her pink eyes.

"You are a crime fighter?" he asked curiously.

"That is the first question that comes to mind?" Helena asked incredulously.

"Actually, yes," he admitted honestly. "Do I . . . will we work toge . . . ?" he asked with great interest.

"Mr. Wayne," she interrupted. "The less you know about the future, the less impact I'll have," she said.

He eyed her. "This situation raises some fascinating philosophical questions. Would you not want to change things for the better?"

Helena looked at him uncomfortably. "What if something worse happens?"

"Of course," he said neutrally and picked up another piece.

"You seem to be taking this rather well.  Especially the part where I, a mere woman, could fight crime like the big boys," she said with a thin smile.

He looked at her with a scowl. "Miss Chasseresse, I do appreciate a resourceful woman and understand the contributions she can make to crime fighting. But the operative word is woman," he offered.

"You do realize that she is likely try again, with or without your help?" Helena countered. "She's stubborn, brilliant, and has a calling, which could get her killed without the right guidance."

Bruce shifted in his chair with a frown.

Sensing it time to change the subject, she pulled out her notes from her bag. "I've done a bit of research on the leading theorists and their work in temporal mechanics but it doesn't look like any of them have gotten very far," she said handing the list to him with a grimace.

"Hmmm," he said reading the list, thankful for the subject change. "I'm familiar with some of these efforts," he said, gaining a surprised look. "I donate to research I find interesting," he explained.

"Right. Interesting," she replied flatly. "So what do you think the chances are for any of those efforts to get me home?"

"Unlikely," he said, returning the list to her.

"So, that's it then?  I'm stuck here?" she said weakly.

"Not necessarily.  If this worked in 2005," he said, holding up a piece.  "I would guess it would in 1987."

For the first time, Helena was hopeful and a smile appeared.  As she thought through what that really meant, her smile disappeared.  "But if I take the hourglass with me, then it won't exist where it was the time I first used it. I wouldn't have gone back and Barbara . . . ," she said worriedly.

"And Barbara, what?" Bruce interjected with concern.

"She went out alone that night, Mr. Wayne.  As I have told you she is prone to do.  She needed my help and I gave it to her.  If I wasn't there, I don't know what would have happened.  She might have been killed or her secret discovered.  And that did not happen," Helena stressed firmly.

Bruce took a deep breath, digesting everything this strange woman was telling him.  Surprising himself, he was inclined to believe her and her incredible tale.  He had listened to many hustlers in his life, both inside the boardroom and out, and nothing about her made him think she was one of them; her concern for Barbara Gordon was genuine.

"And I mentor her and she becomes Batgirl, doesn't she?" Bruce said bluntly.

"Are you going to keep asking me questions I shouldn't answer?" Helena said with a frown.

"I'll take that as a yes," he said with a smug smile, sitting back in his chair.

"You won't be sorry," Helena said, then realized that was a lie. He would blame himself for the shooting and regret helping her become a crime fighter. "So," she blurted, quickly changing subjects. "If the research is a dead-end and using the real hourglass is a non-starter, maybe you could still locate the hourglass and figure out how it works," Helena said, her enthusiasm back.

"You have a lot of faith in my abilities," Bruce cautioned.

"I'm desperate," Helena said bluntly.

He exhaled heavily. "Given those conditions, I would have to agree that is the best chance for success," he admitted.

"We can go to the batcave and start the Batcomputer looking for the hourglass right now!" she said with enthusiasm.

Bruce Wayne eyed her, wondering what else she knew. When he took a breath, she cut him off. "Not another question I can't answer, is it?" She quickly interjected.

He sighed. "I must admit, it is a bit disconcerting to have someone I don't know, know so much about me."

"Actually, I hardly know you, Mr. Wayne. I know your reputation and a few . . . particulars. But I have no interest in disturbing anything. Trust me, I just want to go home," she said earnestly.

He nodded, believing her. "I'll do what I can to help," he promised, standing up. "To the batcave then?" He asked with a smirk, politely holding out a helping hand to her.

Helena looked his extended hand a startled moment before looking up into his sincere blue eyes. Ever since she had learned he was her father, she had despised him. To her, the legendary Batman, hero to the weak and downtrodden, was a coward; he left.

He left, never trying to find her mother's killer, never attempting to face the fallout from a crippled Barbara and a distraught daughter, orphaned without a father. But now, the daughter who had clung to her anger for so long could almost see the man that Barbara had always admired, a man who was willing to help her in her time of need.

She nodded uneasily and hesitantly placed her hand in his.


Grateful her last class for the week was done, Barbara quickly left campus and headed home. As she walked, she realized a dark sedan was slowly following her. She struggled to tamp down her worry, really hoping this sedan did not have a green question mark on the rooftop. Glancing at the Rolls Royce's license plate, she noted it read "BW01" and breathed a sigh of relief. She stopped and waited as her mind raced, contemplating all the possible outcomes from a meeting with Mr. Wayne.

The Rolls slowly pulled up to the curb and stopped. The back window glided down smoothly. With a fortifying breath, Barbara walked towards the sedan window.

Bruce Wayne looked at her neutrally, save for a raised brow. "I got your email."

"I kind of guessed that," Barbara said with a weak smile.

"We have much to discuss," he said firmly, getting a nod of agreement from the teen, who hoped he meant what she suspected he meant.

"Now?" she asked, not wanting to assume.

"Unless you have a class, no time like the present," he said, looking at her critically.

"I'm done for the week," she quickly said, growing more confident.

"All right," he said, getting out of the back seat and politely motioning for her to get in

* * * * *

Barbara had never sweated so much in all her life - even when she was confronted by Riddler's goons on her first night as Batgirl.  She rubbed the towel over herself to sop up the abundant moisture from her ten mile run, twice as much as she normally ran and nearly twice as fast, trying to keep up with Dick.  She watched him stretch as if he hadn't expended a lot of energy.  She knew better, having seen the signs that Dick tried to cover up.  The tenseness in his face and the sheen of sweat that covered him were indicators that he was not having as easy a time as he wanted to project.  That gave her a small sense of satisfaction, not having any illusions that proving herself physically would be easy.  It was still a boys' club and she had a lot of proving to do, she considered.  She tossed the towel aside and went to the mat and did some gymnastic tumbles with grace and aplomb.

Dick watched and sighed with irritation. She was not going to give up easily, he considered with begrudging respect.

"What's next?" she asked innocently, eyeing the Boy Wonder in challenge.

"Hand-to-hand?" he suggested, thinking this would be the most straightforward way to convince her it was a bad idea for a woman to be a vigilante.

"OK," she said with a smile as she took a defensive stance. "I'm always ready to learn something new," she said with amusement, prompting a frown from her opponent.

Dick looked at the young woman, who was much more than he had expected. She was serious and . . . good.

From the walkway above the gym, Bruce watched and wondered what kind of crime fighter the young woman would become. Margay Chasseresse was a big supporter, he considered, prompting more questions he knew he would not likely find the answers to.

"Told you," Margay said smugly, walking up next to him watching the two.

"Actually, you've told me very little," he said flatly.

Ignoring his complaint, she noted "all the searches seem to come up empty. And they seem to take a long time. Maybe you need to upgrade your processor or something," she said helpfully, chuckling when Barbara's crisp leg sweep caused Dick to fall.

"I assure you, the Batcomputer is cutting edge technology," he said with irritation, seeing Dick get up and rub his butt.

"Oh," she softly said with a wince.

"It will take some time, Margay. If it's out there, we'll find it," Bruce offered as they walked away from the gym

* * * * *

"Margay?" Barbara said with surprise, catching sight of the white-haired woman leaving with Bruce on the overhead walkway as Dick slipped in a punch that hit her squarely in the face.

"Jeeze! Sorry . . . ," Dick said with a cringe at the bloody nose that marred the pretty face. "Here," he blurted uncomfortably, handing her a towel. "Are you ok?"

She looked at him with the towel at her nose. "Ow," she responded flatly to the dumb question, then glanced back to where Margay had been with great curiosity.

"I didn't mean to actually . . . ," Dick said, feeling really bad about hitting a woman.

"Dick!" she interrupted with irritation. "Stop. I let myself get distracted. It won't happen again . . . trust me," she scolded him with a thin smile. "Now, do you know why Margay was here?" Barbara asked, holding the towel to her nose.

"Bruce mentioned something about getting the Simpaticos to play at our Halloween party. She's been checking out the acoustics or something," he said, eyeing her face with a cringe.

Barbara stared at the empty walkway, wondering if that was really the case, knowing the ball room was on the other side of the Manor . . . .

Chapter 12

Getting Close

Several days passed without any sign of the mysterious hourglass, seriously depressing Helena, who returned to the dressing room after her final set for the night.  Not bothering to turn on the light, which she didn't need, she sluggishly walked to the vanity, she sat in front of the mirror with a heavy sigh, staring at the white-haired reflection that she was sick of.

Her immediate elation at getting very promising help from Batman was quickly squashed. She knew she was impatient, but each day that passed without a clue about the hourglass's location made her more convinced she would never get home. Pulling off her sunglasses, she tossed them onto the table as tears welled up. She sniffed and wiped the moisture away, wishing she could just be home with Barbara and ....

Feeling the hair on her neck rise, she tilted her head.

"Barbara?" she said hoarsely.

"How . . . ?" the teen asked with amazement, emerging from the shadows.

"Magic?" She joked softly. "To what do I owe this pleasure?" Helena asked with a weak smile, awkwardly wiping her face as she turned towards the teen.

"I wanted to see you. When I saw you at the Manor I hoped . . . ," she blurted awkwardly, then looked at her closely. "What's wrong?" she added softly with concern.

Helena took a deep breath, knowing not to try to lie to the perceptive young woman. "I'm a bit home sick. I miss my family."

"Can't you go visit them? Or have them come here for a visit?" Barbara suggested, sitting next to her.

"I am hoping to find the resources to go back home," she offered uncomfortably.

"If you need money, I'm sure I could . . . ," Barbara offered generously, making Helena want to cry more. If only it were that easy.

"I would not be able to accept," Helena said.

"But . . . ."

"I truly appreciate the offer, mon ami, but I must find my own way," Helena said sadly, starting to wipe another tear from her face but Barbara beat her to it. Helena's breath caught at the tender touch upon her cheek.

"I don't like to see you like this," Barbara said softly, as her caress lingered. "I wish I could do something for you."

Helena gently took Barbara's hand off her face and held it for moment as she nodded weakly and took a fortifying breath. "Then tell me about your time at the Manor. Especially how you kicked Dick Grayson's derrière," she said with a small smile. "I'm sure that will cheer me up."

Barbara grinned. "I did give him a good run for his money," she said with pleasure, then winced with embarrassment. "Although he did bloody my nose."

Helena frowned. "I will kill him," she said flatly.

Barbara laughed, warmed by her protectiveness. "Actually, it was your fault."

Helena's frown deepened.

"I saw you on the walkway and let myself get distracted," Barbara explained.

"So letting yourself get distracted is . . . my fault?" Helena challenged with mild amusement.

"Of course, you are very . . . distracting," Barbara said honestly.

"Uh, well," Helena said at a loss for words, feeling very uncomfortable with Barbara's intense gaze.  Her discomfort skyrocketed when Barbara surprised her with a hug.

"Thank you for helping me, Margay. I couldn't have done it without you," Barbara said softly into her ear, the warm breath bringing a wave of goose bumps that washed over her skin.  Helena took a deep breath, unfortunately inhaling the alluring and familiar essence that was Barbara.  She could almost pretend she was home.

"I doubt that," Helena said tensely, selfishly returning the embrace, giving into her desperate need for the comfort she found there.

Feeling Margay's arms tighten around her, Barbara grew emboldened. "I'm serious, Margay," she whispered, pulling back slowly, gently brushing her lips over Helena's cheek in the process.

Helena closed her eyes tightly, trembling. She desperately wanted exactly what was being offered. But it wasn't right . . . for so many reasons.  Her emotions battled as she felt Barbara's warm breath against her lips as she offered "No one has ever supported me like you have."

Oh dear GOD.  Helena thought, frozen in panic, unable to move as she drew a ragged breath.

"No one has ever made me feel like you do," Barbara admitted, slowly closing the small distance to tenderly kiss the white-haired woman.  She reached up and placed her hand on Margay's cheek as she teased and suckled the older woman's plump lips.  It was if all her nerve endings were connected to her lips, Barbara thought absently as arousal washed over her.

Betraying what little willpower she had, Helena responded tentatively, returning the gentle kisses, trembling as she yielded to her addiction.

Barbara smiled against her lips and drew Helena into a deeper kiss. The teen couldn't help but moan as her arousal pooled between her legs, aching for attention.

Helena was overwhelmed by her senses - Barbara's intimate touch she had always wanted to receive, her soft moans of pleasure she had always wanted to provoke, and her intoxicating scent she had always wanted to arouse; Helena's eyes began to augment....

"Margay? Do you have the key to . . . ?" Monique said, marching into the room on a mission. She quickly halted, seeing the two abruptly break from a kiss as if burned. "Oh. Excusez-moi."

Barbara quickly stood up, nervously tucking a strand of red hair behind her ear as she fiercely blushed. She would have never guessed she might one day have been mere moments away from being caught having sex . . . in a dressing room . . . with a woman; yet here she was.

"It's all right, I . . . ," she blurted, her voice cracking. Barbara glanced to Margay, immediately noticing she would not look her in the eye, as if ashamed. That thought was like a physical blow. Horrible doubt consumed the teen, mortification fueling her rapid exit, leaving the two musicians behind.

Monique bit her lip and looked at Margay for a long, uneasy moment, expecting her to say something. She finally sat next to her quiet friend, who continued to stare at the ground and breathe heavily.

Seeing the silent trail of tears, Monique's heart went out to her friend. "Oh, my," she said in soft surprise. She knelt in front of her friend, who would still not look her in the eye. "You really do care for her, don't you?" Monique asked with sympathetic understanding as Helena weakly wiped away the tears and nodded, feeling her eyes return to normal. She almost laughed at the disturbing thought of pink being normal.

"I know . . . it can't. And I almost . . . GOD," Helena choked out then stopped with a heavy exhale, feeling like she had betrayed Barbara's trust.

"It will be all right, mon ami," Monique said gently, knowing it was something her friend needed to hear and desperately wanted to believe. But Helena's heart ached too much to be convinced anything would ever be all right again.

"You . . . you were looking for a key?" Helena said, clearing her throat and wiping her eyes again.

"Oui. The key for the stock room," Monique said softly, taking the clear hint not to discuss the young woman any more

* * * * *

Several nights after the kiss, Helena stared at her bedroom ceiling feeling like a slimy opportunist.  She should have found a way to stop Barbara before they kissed.  God! She cursed herself for giving into her baser instincts.  She laughed without humor considering that she was supposed to be the adult in this time.  Barbara was sixteen for GOD'S SAKE!

She knew they needed to talk, but she was afraid. It was difficult enough to suppress a desire for someone who did not feel the same way.  But this Barbara wanted her . . . . This SIXTEEN year-old Barbara, she reminded herself with a deep scowl.

The phone rang, startling her.  She hesitantly sat up in bed and stared at the phone with trepidation.  What if it was Barbara?  What would she say?  The phone continued to ring as Helena sighed, concluding that she had to set things straight.  She snorted at that irony then realized that the phone was probably a better choice for that conversation they needed - no caresses, no intoxicating scents, no mesmerizing green eyes looking at her hungrily....

Picking up the receiver, she cleared her throat and hesitantly said "Bon Jour?"

"Margay?" A male voice asked.

"Oui," She sighed with relief.

"This is Bruce. I've got some good news," he said warmly.

"You found it?!?" Helena asked, her interest piqued.

"Yes. It was in a museum in Alexandria Egypt," Bruce said with a smile in his voice. "It should arrive at the mansion tomorrow," he said.

"Won't they know it is missing?" she blurted with concern.

"A replica is in its place; a rather good replica," Bruce offered.

"Well, well," Helena said with amusement. "How did you manage to pull that little heist . . . off," she finished awkwardly, her smile fading as a crisp memory suddenly surfaced - an unexpected trip to Egypt. Her mother had taken her out of school for several weeks, telling her that the trip was very important business for . . . .

"A friend," Bruce offered cryptically.

A very good friend, Helena considered. Selena had unknowingly broken into a museum for her own daughter, Helena considered numbly, wondering how her heart could keep beating under the crushing weight of her emotions.  "Ah," Helena said feebly, wiping the tear from her cheek

* * * * *

"Are you OK, Babs?" Dick asked as he tossed a heavy medicine ball at her. "You seem a little out of it."

"Just a bit tired," she said truthfully, catching the ball. She hadn't gotten much sleep the past several days as she wallowed in her depression. Why wouldn't Margay look her in the eye after those incredible kisses, she wondered, certain Margay had enjoyed them too.

"I have a defense for my thesis to get ready for, then I can start sleeping again," she joked with a weak smile, tossing the ball back. She knew she couldn't exactly open up to Dick "Mr. Romeo" Grayson about her feelings about Margay.

"I'm sure you'll kick ass, Babs, with whatever you set your mind to," Dick said without sarcasm, surprising her. He threw the ball back to her.

Or could she? She wondered a moment, then took the plunge. "Dick, if you met a girl you really liked who was several years older than you but . . . ."

"Are you asking me for romantic advice?" he chuckled with amusement.

"Forget I asked," she said tersely, throwing the ball at him in irritation before marching towards the bench press.

"Whoa, hold on Babs. I didn't mean . . . ." he said, then frowned as she started her reps and gave him the silent treatment.

He placed the ball on the ground and sat on it as she continued to bench press and ignore him. He sighed and thought a moment. "You're sixteen and she's what? Twenty four or five?"

Barbara stopped and lowered the bar looking at him with cautious surprise.

"Hey, just because I keep hitting on you doesn't mean I can't see you're interested in someone else," Dick explained reasonably.

Barbara slowly sat up and continued to look at him.

"Did she make a move on you?" Dick asked delicately.

Barbara shook her head no, then frowned.

"But you want her too," Dick supplied knowingly. Barbara sighed.

"She probably can't get over the age thing right now.  You know you are not "legal," he offered, causing her to frown. She certainly thought she was old enough.  "And maybe she's thinking your father, the Commissioner, might not be so keen on the woman-woman idea either...." Dick offered with a sympathetic wince, making Barbara frown more, acknowledging he was probably right.

She really needed to talk with Margay

* * * * *

Helena flew into the study, finding Bruce looking over some papers.  "Where is it!" she blurted anxiously.

He lifted his head and eyed her with a smirk at the forgotten pleasantries, grateful Alfred wasn't there.

"In the batcave. Care to take a look?" Bruce asked innocently.

Her eyes narrowed before she plastered on a thin smile. "No rush, let's visit a bit," Helena said. "And in case you are not aware that I am prone to sarcasm - Oui!" she blurted with exasperation as he stood up with a small smile. "Have you . . . tried it?" she asked hesitantly.

"No. I believe caution is warranted," he said as they exited the study. "It should be interesting to compare the scans between the working hourglass and the broken pieces."

"Hmmm," Helena said as they left the study, not caring whether it was interesting or not. She just hoped he found out enough to get her home.

Alfred walked purposefully towards them. "Master Bruce, I do believe you might wish to go the back way. Master Dick and Miss Barbara are in the main hall," Alfred said, briefly glancing over his shoulder in their direction.

"Ah, thank you Alfred."

"Certainly. Miss Margay," he said politely before he left.

"Alfred," she responded and watched the man with the most impeccable timing leave. "You've got a lot of secrets you're juggling," she noted, without criticism - just stating fact.

"Skill comes with practice.  And I have had a lot of practice . . . and help," he offered, glancing in Alfred's direction. She nodded, expecting that he had.

As they headed to the batcave, she eyed him.  "So are you actually going to mentor Barbara yourself, or are you outsourcing all of that to Dick?" She asked, prompting a flicker of surprise on Bruce's face.

"Patience is a valuable skill to develop," Bruce replied thoughtfully, prompting Helena's frown.  "And with Barbara, Dick is making great strides in that area," he offered.

Helena snorted. "My apologies for doubting you, Sensei."

"With doubt, comes questions. With questions, come answers," he said sagely.

"Really," Helena said, unimpressed.

"Well that's what my fortune cookie said last night," Bruce offered dryly, surprising Helena, who had to admit the old man had a sense of humor. Of course, he did dress up as a bat

* * * * *

Helena paced in the batcave behind Bruce as he performed some more tests of the hourglass.

"Fascinating," Bruce said with genuine interest as he looked at the hourglass under a black light which caused a spectrum of color.

"Neat light show.  What does it mean?"


"Thanks for clearing that right up," she said flatly with a frown.

He looked at her with a raised brow.

"I'm not a patient person, I know," she responded defensively.

He sighed. "Chronitons are theoretical particles that travel not just in normal three-dimensional space but in the fourth dimension...of time. This hourglass is able to contain the particles and manipulate them to generate a temporal flux."


"That is what I'm trying to find out," Bruce said.

"So where do where do we get Chronitons for another hourglass contraption?"

"Another good question."

"I thought with questions, come answers," Helena grumbled, staring at the rainbow of particles in the hourglass with a frown.

"I'll do what I can to find them, Margay," Bruce vowed softly, causing her to turn and to look at him.

"I know," she said with a faith in a man that she had never expected to have faith in. "Thank you," she added sincerely

* * * * *

Helena returned to the dressing room after another good night. The tips were generous, the music good for her sanity, and there was hope now that her father had found the hourglass. She turned the light on and stopped with surprise, seeing the teen sitting, waiting for her.

"Barbara," she said uneasily.

"We need to talk, Margay," Barbara said firmly, standing up.

"Oui. But not here," she said, looking back at the door.

"All right."

"I still need to change," Helena said, glancing down at her black dress that fit her curves very nicely.

Barbara's eyes dropped over her form with appreciation, almost suggesting she not bother changing but knew that would likely scare her off and not help her case.

"Why don't I meet you in the park by the water fountain?" Helena suggested.

"Really?" Barbara said skeptically, then noted the surprise on Margay's face.  "Sorry, I'm just a bit . . . I'll meet you at the water fountain," she said with frustration.

"I'll be there in a few minutes," Helena vowed softly, getting an uneasy nod from Barbara before she left Margay to change

* * * * *

Barbara sat on a park bench, looking up at the starry sky and sighed.  Logically, she understood the older woman's reluctance to get involved with someone her age.  But in her heart, she knew they were a good fit.  She would just have to make her see that age didn't matter.

Hearing footfalls on the brick walkway, she turned anxiously.  She sighed with disappointment finding it was not Margay.  She watched the old couple, who walked closely together, arm in arm, as they softly talked and chuckled on their romantic evening stroll.  As they passed, she continued to watch, longing for a relationship like that.  She could see it with Margay. . . .

Hearing leaves crunch behind her, she eagerly stood and smiled, determined to argue her case to Margay. Her smile faded when she saw three familiar students approaching. She knew trouble when she saw it, and this was trouble multiplied by three.

"So you do get out of the library, Barbara Gordon," Jerry Buckman said with a big smile, glancing over to his buddies, who chuckled. One guy wiped his nose and sniffed a few times. Her frown deepened as she suspected they were not just jerks but stoned jerks.

"Occasionally," she responded, noting Jerry's friends circle behind her. "What exactly are you and your friends planning on doing, Jerry?" she asked flatly, glancing at them then him.

"Thought you might need some company," he said smoothly, causing his buddies to chuckle again.

"How thoughtful, but I'd actually prefer to be alone. Thanks anyway," Barbara said.

"You know, it's not safe for a good looking girl to be out this late at night, alone," Jerry said stepping closer to her.

"Really," Barbara said, glancing at them, keeping track of their movements.

"Yeah. But we'll protect you," he said with a smile as he reached out and tried to caress her face. She moved slightly back, enough to avoid his touch. "Playing hard to get? You know that makes guys more interested. And hornier...."

"Jerry, go home," Barbara said with a sigh.

"Don't you tell me what to do, bitch. You think you're so smart and special being the Commissioner's daughter. Well I've got news for you, you're just a cunt. And me and my friends are going to show you exactly what you're good for," Jerry said as he nodded to his friends to grab her.

"Don't you mean my friends and I?" Margay called out curiously, startling the three guys, who glanced at her with surprise. "I do find the English language difficult at times too," she said, walking up, pushing up the sunglasses on her nose. Two of the jocks looked at each other, not exactly thrilled with another person joining them.

"I know, you have it under control," Helena said, lifting her hands up in a conciliatory gesture to Barbara, causing Jerry to frown at being ignored.

Barbara crossed her arms over her chest and sighed. Helena stepped right in front of Jerry and faced Barbara. "I'll go over there," Helena said with a guilty shrug, pointing to the bench "and let you take care of...."

"You shouldn't turn your back . . . ," Barbara interjected with alarm just before Jerry grabbed Helena's shoulder and sneered "the more the merrier."

With a swift, hard elbow to his stomach, Jerry doubled over with a groan, the wind knocked out of him. A forceful shove with one hand pushed the jock to the ground as he still fought to get his breath back.

"Sorry, I'm not trying to intrude on your fun," Helena apologized with a wince.  "I'll just sit over . . . ." she said, interrupted by the heavy foot falls of two of the guys running away.  When Barbara's gaze returned to her, Helena continued with a weak smile. "...there," she said and headed towards the bench.  "Did your mentor teach you that not turning your back thing?" Helena asked conversationally over her shoulder.

"No.  It's just prudence..." Barbara said with a frown, watching Margay pick up a used news paper on the bench and glance at it with interest.

"Prudence? Do I know her?" Helena asked dryly as she made herself comfortable on the bench and opened up the paper.

Barbara rolled her eyes. "Something tells me you don't."

"Hey, did you know there's a shoe sale tomorrow?" Helena said with an enthusiastic smile, glancing up from the advertisement curiously. It was very hard for Barbara to stay annoyed with this woman.

Jerry finally stood up, holding his stomach. "Bitches," he growled and grabbed for Barbara, who easily stepped aside and pushed him to the ground. Placing a knee on his back, she grabbed his arm. With a simple twist and pressure on the elbow, she easily locked his arm and kept the squirming jock in place.

"Jerry, you need to cool off. If you keep this up, I'll get the police involved. How would that look, the star basketball player getting arrested because he was high and tried to sexually assault a woman?"

"Not just any woman, the Commissioner's daughter," Helena supply helpfully from behind the newspaper.

Jerry stopped squirming, though he still seethed in anger.

"That's better. Now if I let you up, will you just go home and not bother me any more?  I'll forget this ever happened."

Jerry turned his head to look back at her with a frown. He curtly nodded his agreement, prompting Barbara to release him. She stepped back and watched him get up awkwardly and look at the redhead with clear hate.

"What do you think the odds are he's going to continue to be stupid, Barbara?" Helena asked as she folded the paper over and looked up.

Barbara sighed, wondering if Margay was always so talkative at times like these.

Jerry glared at the white-haired heckler and pointed to the ground with irritation. "That was a lucky shot she won't get again," he spat.

Helena just shook her head as he lunged for Barbara again.  She spun around, eluding his hands and landed a side kick on his back, propelling him away from her.  He stumbled and fell on his face. "Give me a "B" !"  Helena shouted out and stood with enthusiasm.  "B," she answered herself with amusement. "Give me a . . . !"

"Would you stop it??" Barbara hissed with embarrassment, glaring at her cheering section as Jerry got up angrily.

"You, Barbara Gordon, are a party pooper!" Helena declared with a pout, sitting down and picking up the newspaper again.

Jerry growled and rushed Barbara again and once again, grabbed nothing but air before he was hit on the back with a double-fisted hammer blow and ended up face down on the ground.

"Does he remind you of a bull?" Helena said thoughtfully as Jerry scrambled to his feet again, shaking his head to clear the growing fogginess. "Too bad you don't have a cape," she offered, then smiled to herself.

He held up his fists as he more carefully approached Barbara, who sighed. He tried to punch her but missed, repeatedly. Barbara finally hit him with a hard jab on the nose, then a powerful right hook, followed by a solid round-house kick, causing him to drop to the ground like a ton of bricks.

"Aggg!" he moaned, curling up into the fetal position, and whimpered in pain as he cradled his bloody, broken nose.

"That had to hurt," Helena said with a wince.

"Go home, Jerry," Barbara said, cringing guiltily as he flailed to get up off the ground.

When he finally managed to get to his feet, a glimmer of common sense emerged and he stumbled away from them, holding his nose.

Barbara sighed with mixed emotions and turned towards Margay, who folded up the paper and watched Jerry leave. "You were nicer than he deserved," Helena noted firmly, turning her gaze upon the teen.

"Perhaps," Barbara said and sat on the bench.

"No, you were," Helena countered. "You gave him every opportunity to walk away.  He was just too stupid to accept."

Barbara shifted uncomfortably. "Do you always talk so much during fights?" She asked, changing the topic.

"Don't tell me they have not yet taught you trash talk and witty fighting repartee," Helena said with disapproval.

"Trash talk and witty fighting repartee, huh?" Barbara looked at her. "I guess they are saving that for later."

"So Dick Wonder Boy does not aggravate you during your sparring sessions?" Helena interjected curiously.

"Are you saying he's being a jerk intentionally?"

"Uh . . . well that is a good question, come to think of it," Helena said thoughtfully as the two fell into an uncomfortable lull in the conversation.

"Not exactly how I expected to spend my evening," Barbara offered, leaning back and staring at the fountain.

"Soon you will spend many evenings like this.  Battling people as stupid as Jerry the Jock and his friends," Helena said.

"Kind of makes me wonder why I'd want to do that," Barbara weakly joked, glancing down the lamp-lit walkway where Jerry left.

"Because, Barbara, as long as there are idiots like Jerry out there, you will be compelled to protect those who can not defend themselves."

"There's Batman and Robin," Barbara said, looking down at her hands.

"Oui.  But who else can make someone like Jerry wonder if the next girl they try to victimize might just kick their derriere . . . or other important parts?"

"You?" Barbara ventured, certain Margay would have easily defeated all three without too much trouble.

"What?  And break a nail?!?" Helena said with a frown, inspecting her nails, which she had to admit, never looked better.

Barbara couldn't help but smirk at the older woman.  She sighed a moment and returned her gaze to the water fountain.  "You seem to know a lot about how I feel about things.  Do you know how I feel about you?"

Helena sighed. "It can not happen, Barbara," she added firmly.

"Why? You responded," she argued. "I know you feel something for me too. Are you worried about the age difference?" She asked.

"You are young," Helena offered softly.

"It doesn't matter, Margay. I'll be seventeen..." Barbara blurted.

Helena smiled sadly. "October 31."

"You know my birthday?" Barbara softly asked with surprise, very pleased.

"Oui.  Barbara, I am flattered that you are attracted to me - you are an amazing and beautiful woman but I can not be what you want me to be.  You are young and still have to figure out your path in life," Helena said.

"I don't need to get older to know my path is with you," Barbara countered with surprising conviction.

If only, Helena thought sadly.  "People change with time as do their feelings," Helena said, cringing inside, recalling similar words Barbara had spoken to her when she declared her undying love for her mentor.

"You think this is just a phase?" Barbara spat with irritation. "That I don't understand what I'm feeling??"

"I am certain what you feel now is real, ma chére," Helena said. "But I do not think it is lasting."

"You can't know that!" Barbara blurted.

Helena sighed. "You deserve someone who can give you their whole heart and stay by your side. I can not."

Barbara looked at her with alarm. "Your whole heart?  You love someone else?  It's Monique, isn't it?" She guessed worriedly, feeling an uncomfortable pang of jealousy as she recalled how Monique thought nothing of touching or kissing Margay.

"Not Monique. But my heart does belong to someone, back home," Helena said honestly.

The admission hit Barbara like a cold bucket of water as she faced a hurdle she did not know how to overcome or whether she should even try. "And there is nothing I can do to give you a reason to stay?" Barbara asked as her heart broke, already knowing the answer.

"It can not be, Barbara," Helena said with difficulty, desperately wishing it could.

Barbara exhaled heavily, feeling something very special slipping through her fingers. "I love you, Margay," she said vulnerably.

"You are an exceptional woman, Barbara. You will find someone. Someone, perhaps surprising, that you will love better," Helena said firmly. "And it will be right for you."

"You don't know that!" Barbara blurted in frustration and bolted from her seat, marching off.

"But I do," Helena whispered sadly.

Chapter 13


Bruce's grunt of frustration echoed in the batcave. The containment field failed again and the chronitons he had painstakingly collected escaped.

"Hey, you've figured out how to attract those little guys.  That's good, Oui?" Helena offered, walking around the test bench, eyeing the metal rods that stuck up from the collection device, no longer producing the force field.

Bruce looked up at her. "It's a start. But every time I try to transfer them from the field to the storage chamber," he said picking up a small rectangular container made of quartz. ". . . the field becomes unstable and I have to start collecting them all over again."

"Well, be careful.  Chronitons cause a lot of pain if you touch them."

"Hmmm," he responded and stared at the containment field and the problem at hand.

"What if you don't transfer them?" Helena suddenly asked.

"I can't manipulate their properties in the containment field.  I need them in the quartz chamber," Bruce explained.

"Ok, but can't you set up the field within the quartz chamber?  Then you won't have to disrupt the field while transferring them.  They will already be where you want them," Helena said enthusiastically, getting a blank stare. "Ok stupid, idea," she blurted self-consciously and exhaled heavily.

"No. No, it isn't," Bruce said slowly, turning to the metal rods thoughtfully before starting to disassemble the equipment. "I think you have a knack for this sort of thing," he mentioned, surprising her.

"Nah, I'm just a master of the obvious," she said dismissively.

"Don't sell yourself short, Margay," he mentioned, unscrewing the rods from the metal plate. "The obvious to one, may not be to another," he said sagely.

"Dipping into those fortune cookies again?" Helena countered, crossing her arms over her chest, clearly unimpressed.

"That's where I get my best lines," he countered with feigned defensiveness.

She couldn't help but grin.

The sound of the elevator drew their attention, and each watched curiously as Alfred approached them.

"Miss Margay," he greeted her politely before turning to his employer.  "Master Bruce, I have prototyped Miss Barbara's costume," he said, then grimaced.  "However, I am not so sure the costume will be a good fit."

"But you used her measurements," Bruce said with a frown.

"Indeed.  But . . . uh, the design is not . . . aesthetically pleasing," Alfred said gently.

"Aesthetically pleasing?" Bruce looked at him curiously.

"Why don't you just let her design her own costume?"  Helena asked, shaking her head. Men.

"We did," Alfred and Bruce said in unison

* * * * *

Helena and Alfred stood in front of the prototype costume, hanging in its full glory under a spot light. They stared at it a long, silent moment.

"Eew," Helena finally said with a grimace as if she had tasted something disgusting.

"My thoughts exactly," Alfred sniffed in disapproval, tilting his head with a tense expression on his face.

"She's got the drab, utilitarian look down. Like a Starship Trooper reject," Helena said with a frown, walking around the costume.

Alfred eyed her curiously. "Excuse me?"

"Uh, a French act. Trying to capitalize on ABBA's . . . Super Trooper . . . sort of," Helena mumbled uncomfortably, waving her hand dismissively, hoping to return his attention to the problem at hand.  "She's gotta have a cape," she complained, shaking her head at one of many flaws with the design. The butler nodded in agreement.

"I had expected Miss Barbara would have had better fashion sense. She usually dresses very nicely," he said, grimacing at the incongruity.

"She probably wanted to avoid ridicule from the boys club for having any hint of taste," Helena guessed, biting her lip as she lifted up the black arm that sported several pockets.

Alfred looked at her and frowned.

She glanced down to the pant legs that also sported several pockets, then eyed the clunky black boots that looked like Army surplus. Helena shuddered.

"Do you know what this means, Alfred?" She asked, looking seriously at Alfred, who tilted his head curiously. "We're going to have to save her from herself."


* * * * *

After Alfred left to assemble the overhauled design, she took the elevator down to the Batcave.  She stepped out, surprised to see Bruce in his Batman costume and Robin next to him in front of the Batcomputer. "What's she doing here?" Dick blurted with alarm.

Helena glanced at Batman, who sighed. "We're working on a project," he said and turned to the woman. "Margay, we are needed at Gotham bank."



"How'd you know?" Robin asked her with narrow eyes as Batman swiftly headed to the batmobile.  Margay shrugged, prompting an irritated exhale from the Boy Wonder.

"Robin?? If you want to stay behind, just let me know," Batman said as he fired up the Batmobile. The loud turbo-engine caused Helena to wince.

After another exhale of frustration, Robin jogged over and hopped into the passenger's seat. "How'd she know?" He asked the Dark Knight.

"I believe that is what you would call a lucky guess," he said and revved up the engine before the car shot out of the cave like a rocket.

Alone, Helena scratched the back of her neck and looked around the batcave, studying it more closely.  She had been there before, when Barbara needed to search for some data that was buried in the Batcomputer archives.  But during any previous visit, she wanted to get the hell out of there as soon as possible, not stopping for the scenic tour. She walked over to the Batcomputer and sat down at the keyboard.  She swiveled around as she took in the magnitude of the cave.  It was large and full of nifty "toys."

In one area, she spotted a slick looking batplane, ready for aerial battle.  On the small stream several feet below the main platform, on the far side of the cave, there was a small dock, where the batboat was moored.  No doubt also equipped with the latest technology, she considered, vaguely wondering if he had ever gone out fishing....

Glancing over the amazing space with every bell and whistle you could imagine, she wondered why Barbara just didn't modify the cave for her needs.  She quickly shook her head with a frown, knowing they both would have been uncomfortable there.

She had never talked with Barbara about Bruce just leaving after she had been newly paralyzed and needed help. While Helena knew Barbara never blamed Bruce for the shooting, which was an act of revenge by the Joker, she wondered if she blamed him for not being a good friend.  He left just when she had to learn to live with a devastating injury, not to mention taking on the daunting job of taking care of his volatile daughter.  After all the crap Barbara had to deal with, Helena was amazed how Barbara was able to remain a truly wonderful and decent person.

Helena released a wistful sigh as her mind drifted to how perfect her lips were....

"Miss Margay?" Alfred said, startling her.

"Is it ready?" she asked with a growing grin of excitement.

"It is."

* * * * *

Alfred presented the new and improved costume for Miss Margay's inspection.

Helena smiled, lifting up the dark two-tone cape. She really, really liked the cape.  "Functional, yet fashionable," she noted with appreciation, walking around the form-fitting costume.  "And NO pockets," she stressed firmly, caressing the costume's arm with pleasure.  "She'll just have to learn to carry what she needs in the utility belt," she said with a smirk as she traced her fingers over the functional yellow belt, getting a raised brow from Alfred.

"Now the criminals will be so distracted by her presence, she'll vanquish them with ease," Helena dramatically declared with a grin.

"Not all the criminals will be male," Alfred noted.

"I, uh, don't think that will really matter," she muttered, clearing her throat. Alfred eyed her a moment as new understanding dawned. "Nice work, Alfred," she said with a smile.

The butler stood a little taller, then frowned. "I hope she's not insulted by the change," he said worriedly.

"She'll love it," Helena said with confidence. "When are you going to present this to her?"

"Her seventeenth birthday. . . ."

"The night of Mr. Wayne's party," she said with a pleased smile.

"Master Bruce was intending on waiting until her eighteenth birthday but he has been immensely pleased with her progress. He planned on pulling her aside for a few moments during the party to present this to her. Perhaps you will be able to be there for the unveiling?"

"I . . . wouldn't want to ruin the moment for her," Helena said uneasily.

Alfred eyed her curiously. "You have been a very good friend. I would think she would want you there," he said.

"We'll see. I will be working that night, as you know," Helena said uncomfortably

* * * * *

A few days later, Helena glanced at the wrist device curiously. "What are these dials for?" Helena asked, pointing to the two rows of dials. Leave it to Batman to refine the technology of the gawky hourglass into a nifty wrist device, she considered.

"Location coordinates," Bruce said, looking up from the device he was still assembling. "I don't think you'd like to risk transporting into a solid object, so I had a location parameter designed into the device."

"I know a few criminals who would love to get their hands on something like this," Helena said. "Even without the time traveling part."

"No doubt, assuming it works," Bruce said, returning his attention to the device.

"You have the chronitons contained...." Helena said with surprise "what's left?"

"Plenty. I will need to run several tests before I am confident I'm not going to strand you someplace you don't want to be."

"Like in a wall?" Helena said weakly.

"Well that's one concern," he noted. "But I'll set the coordinates for the batcave, which I will ensure will be clear of obstacles."

"Good thinking," she said with a wince, eyeing the device.

Chapter 14


"Bruce, once again you've outdone yourself," Jim Gordon, or for tonight, Henry the VIII, said, looking around the large ballroom in the Manor that was full of costumed guests laughing and talking and clearly enjoying themselves.

"Well, I have a lot of people with very high expectations to please," Bruce, or for tonight, the Flash, said with amusement, eyeing the Commissioner.

"I'm very pleased you take your responsibilities seriously," Jim joked, pointing his fake lamb leg at the billionaire. "Although, I am curious about the reason you hired the Simpaticos . . . it wasn't to rub it in, was it?" he asked with a smirk, eyeing his friend closely.

"I just think they happen to be very talented musicians. Don't think you so, Henry?" Bruce smiled

* * * * *

Barbara chatted with Dick and the Mayor's wife, but kept glancing over to Margay, who was actually dressed as her stage name, Snow White.  The costume was almost perfect, slightly marred by the sunglasses Margay wore.  She frowned, sympathetic towards the woman who had to deal with such sensitive eyes.

"It was nice talking with you," Mrs. Delaney said politely, and left Barbara alone with Dick.

"You should go talk to her," Dick, or for tonight, Superboy, said, sipping his soda as he glanced over to the piano player.

"There's nothing left to say.  She's in love with someone else and I can't compete against that," Barbara, or for tonight, Robin Hood, said dejectedly.

"I'm sorry, Babs," Dick said, placing a comforting arm around her shoulder. "You two together would have been really hot," he said, causing her to jab him in the ribs and push his arm off her.

"Dick, you need help," she said, shaking her head.  Dick grinned with satisfaction.

"You two kids having fun?" Jim Gordon joined them with a grin.

"Bruce always throws a great party," Dick said with a ready smile.

Barbara plastered on a smile. "How about you, your highness?"

"It's a nice diversion from the daily grind, that's for sure," Jim noted thoughtfully, glancing around the large room.

"Have you heard any more about that new gang?" Dick asked the Commissioner.

"New gang?" Barbara asked with interest.

"No shoptalk during the party!" Jim scolded them, then kissed his daughter's cheek. "I'm going to get something to eat. I'm in the mood for lamb for some reason," he said, looking at the plastic prop he held, then grinned, amusing himself at least. "Excuse me," he said to them.

Barbara frowned and turned to Dick. "What new gang?"

"I'll tell you all about it - if you dance with me," Dick Superboy Grayson said smugly, holding out his hand in challenge.

"You're a Super pain in the ass, you know that?" Barbara said, taking his hand.

"Come now, Babs, you know you love me," he countered as they headed out to the dance floor.

As they played a requested big band tune, Helena glanced over the dance floor, spotting Barbara swing dance with Dick. In spite of her choice of dance partners, Helena couldn't help but enjoy the teen's fluid and graceful moves. She was a natural and her love for dancing was obvious by her bright smile and laughter, Helena considered with a pleased smile that faded as she thought about the future

* * * * *

The Simpaticos finished playing the last song of the set, prompting enthusiastic applause. "Merci, Merci," Monique, or for tonight, Dopey, said with a smile, waving at the audience with her floppy, oversized sleeve, causing a few chuckles.  She glanced over to the piano player, or for tonight, Snow White, who just grinned at her, pleased at her success in convincing her seven band mates to dress up as dwarves and especially proud at convincing Monique to be Dopey.

"We will be taking a break.  See you again in fifteen minutes," Monique said with a smile that disappeared as she walked towards Snow and placed her sleeve-covered hands on the piano with irritation, leaning menacingly towards the piano player.

"YOU are an evil woman, Snow White," Monique said flatly, lifting up her long sleeve to point to Helena, who bit her lip to not laugh at the ridiculous look.

"No, mon ami, that would be the Queen with that mirror and apple, remember?"  Helena responded innocently, withholding a smile as she got up from the piano bench.

"I should have been the Queen," Monique said wistfully, getting a grin from Helena. "At least the guests are amused," she said in resignation as they walked towards the study, which had been designated the women's dressing room.

"That is important," Helena agreed with a smile as they entered the study.


They turned back to see the young redhead standing at the doorway uncomfortably.

Monique squeezed Margay's forearm before leaving.

Helena took an uneasy breath.

Barbara watched Monique, who shut the door behind her, giving them privacy.  She quietly turned and focused on Margay, who looked rather good in her Snow White costume.

They looked at each other a quiet, awkward moment before Helena ventured "Peter Pan?"  Helena tilted her head as she eyed the costume.

"What?!? I was going for Robin Hood!" Barbara said with annoyance, looking down at her outfit with a frown.

"Ah, sorry.  I see it now. Definitely Robin Hood," Helena quickly offered with a small smile, looking at the woodsman outfit accented with a bow on her back and a brown pouch on her side.

Barbara looked at her another uncomfortable moment before offering "Uh, I wanted to apologize for the other night."

"You have no reason to apologize, Barbara," Helena said softly.

"I do.  I acted very immaturely," she offered with a frown.

"Managing your emotions is hard at any age, Barbara. Trust me," Helena responded.

"Great," Barbara said flatly, clearly not thrilled by that idea. The two looked at each other a long moment before sharing small smiles. "Did you hear?" Barbara offered conversationally.

Helena eyed her curiously, hesitantly shaking her head no.

"There's a new gang in town," Barbara noted with a sparkle in her eyes.


"Apparently, their first victim was a star college basketball player. It was reported they attacked him the other night, broke his nose, gave him a big ol' shiner, among other bruises," she offered and eyed Margay, who looked at her digesting the information. Her eyes suddenly widened with surprise, finally understanding.

"Oh my! A whole gang you say?" Helena said with great interest.

"Yep.  Apparently he couldn't identify them because they were wearing ski masks," Barbara noted.

"It would be hard to identify people in ski masks, I would imagine," Helena noted.

"Jerry's girlfriend made him go to the police when she heard about his terrifying encounter."

"The streets are not as safe as they used to be," Margay offered with a sad shake of her head.

The two looked at each other a moment before sharing a chuckle.

The knocking at the door made Helena roll her eyes. "It's probably Monique making sure your virtue is still intact," she sighed.

Barbara almost said something risqué, but bit her tongue. No use making Margay more uncomfortable, she considered with a sigh, wanting to keep her as at least a friend.

Helena answered the door and found Bruce on the other side.

"The Flash . . . or can I call you "The," she asked curiously.

He eyed her and elected to ignore her question. "I was told I would find Barbara in here," he said.

"Oui.  Come on in, The," Helena said and stepped back, motioning for him to enter.

He walked past her, eyeing the odd woman, then focused on Barbara and smiled. "Care to join me in the Batcave . . . Robin Hood?" he said with a small smile.

"Sure," Barbara said slowly, eyeing Margay then Bruce, with surprise.

"You're invited too, Snow," he noted.

"I'd like that," Helena said with a pleased smile.

Barbara had not been expecting that Margay would be given access to the inner sanctum.  But she realized that anyone who knew to call Alfred for help must have had some relationship with Bruce Wayne.  She tamped down the irrational jealousy that bubbled up, recalling that Margay had said she was in love with someone else, from her home

* * * * *

Barbara's latest research proved once again fruitless.  She balled up her hand into a fist and banged the desk as she emitted a growl of frustration in a rare display of emotion.

"That isn't a good sign, is it?" Dinah blurted with a wince.

Barbara willed herself to calm down so she could explain the situation. "The field of temporal mechanics is too immature. It would take decades to even hope to develop a device to bring Helena home," she said tersely. "So that leaves me with trying to find out how the hourglass works," she noted logically. ". . . which is proving to be rather difficult since there seems to be no information on it anywhere!" she spat in exasperation, causing Dinah to cringe.

"I have never felt so helpless in all of my life, Dinah," she admitted, surprising the teen, who glanced down at the wheelchair curiously as Barbara took off her glasses and pinched the bridge of her nose.

"If you were Helena, what would you do to get home?" Dinah suddenly blurted, getting a curious look from her mentor. "I'm pretty sure she didn't just accept her fate to live through eighteen years to come back to us - do you?"

Barbara stared at her a long, thoughtful moment.  Dinah smiled when she saw a flash of excitement in her eyes as her mind worked on the problem from a different angle.  "No.  She'd try to find someone to help her," she said thoughtfully, then added softly, "I was too young."  Barbara frowned at all the implications of that truth, then grew silent, staring off into the distance as some memories gelled together.

"What?" Dinah asked.

"She was in the Batcave with us when Bruce presented me with my Batgirl costume."

"Oh. My. God! That is so amazing!" Dinah exclaimed

* * * * *

Dick, Alfred, Bruce, and Margay surrounded Barbara as Bruce held out a small box.

"You're giving me a birthday present?"  Barbara asked curiously, glancing at the group with a small smile.

Helena watched her father give Barbara a gift-wrapped box; a simple act he had never done for his own daughter.  She eyed him without anger or hurt, but curiosity.  How could a man so confident and sure, so noble, be rattled so much as to leave everyone he cared about behind without a word?

For the first time in her life, she bothered to put herself in his shoes.  Looking at Barbara thoughtfully, she knew she too, would not be the same if she was the reason for Barbara's murder.  Her eyes dropped knowing she, too, would be changed if someone permanently crippled Dinah to get back at her.  And if both happened the same day, she considered, she too would have snapped.

Looking back at the billionaire, she also knew without a doubt, that unlike him, she would have let her pain drive her. She would have succumbed to revenge, not stopping until she found the people responsible . . . and killed them, every last one of them.  A response neither Barbara nor Dinah would have wanted, she considered with a frown.

For the first time in her life, Helena Kyle began to feel sympathy for what her father, who had abandoned her, had lived through.

"You could have given it to me at the Manor," Barbara said as she opened it up.  Pulling a remote control from the box, she looked at it, then Bruce. "Thanks?"

Bruce and Dick shared a smirk as Barbara carefully eyed the device, guessing what it could be for.  After several seconds, Dick couldn't take it any more.

"Oh for GOD's sake, push the damn button!" Dick blurted with exasperation, relieving Helena, who was almost going to do that herself.

"I seem to be pushing someone's button," Barbara said dryly, looking at Margay, who looked at her with surprise then smiled.  She's learning, Helena thought with amusement.

Barbara finally pressed the button which turned on a spotlight.  A dark recess of the batcave was suddenly flooded with light, revealing her gift that hung majestically in a transparent cylinder.  She sucked in a surprised breath as she slowly approached the amazing Batgirl costume.

The group smiled, sharing pleased glances with each other.

Barbara turned to Alfred curiously.  "This isn't my design," she stated without any indication of approval or disapproval.

Helena noted the unflappable butler was, well . . . flapped; Alfred blinked, looking like a deer caught in headlights. Dick looked at Bruce, who cringed and looked at Margay.

"Of course not," Helena blurted confidently. "When you are out on the streets, you need a costume that will have more of a shock and awe value to it.  This will give you a bigger edge than your other . . . utilitarian design," she explained carefully.  "It also better matches Batman and Robin's costumes and I know you are going to look magnifique!" she said with enthusiasm then added with sudden, feigned worry.  "Don't you like it?"

"She's quite good," Alfred whispered to Bruce, who nodded, eyeing Margay thoughtfully.

Barbara glanced at it again, then eyed Margay.  "No," Barbara said, shaking her head, causing several concerned cringes.  A big smile filled her face. "I love it!" she responded, prompting a collective sigh of relief

* * * * *

"So you think she actually went to her father for help?" Dinah asked skeptically, knowing Helena was not enamored of the Caped Crusader.

"That is a very good possibility," Barbara said absently. "Bruce had invited her to the Batcave. They obviously had a trusting relationship."

"But, she . . . hates him," Dinah said hesitantly with a confused grimace.

"Desperate times call for desperate measures. There was really no one else with the resources to help her. And I think she knew she could trust him."

"Do you think he knew who she was?"

Barbara looked at Dinah and shook her head. "I don't think she would have told him. She never told me who she was . . . but then I didn't even meet Helena for another couple of years."


"Wow indeed," Barbara said, then grew silent as her mind worked on this new angle.  After a few moments, she spoke again. "There were no traces of the hourglass at the scene.  So I think Helena must have had the hourglass with her.  I would assume it was broken or she would have returned home.  If I had the pieces, I'd want to study the hourglass and reverse engineer it," Barbara said thoughtfully, looking off into the distance, making Dinah wonder what other thoughts were wandering through her mind.

"Get your coat," Barbara said as she rolled towards the elevator.

"Where are we going?"

"To the Batcave."

Chapter 15


Helena looked down at the wrist device as Bruce placed a final screw in place after the last round of adjustments. "This is it. All you'll need to do is press the red button to activate it," he said, pointing to the button between the array of location and time dials.

Helena exhaled uneasily. "Why not green?"

"Excuse me?"

"Uh, isn't the red button usually the one you shouldn't push?" Helena said, eyeing the wrist device with a wince.

Looking at her a moment, he elected to ignore the question and continue. "Once you get back, the device will need to be destroyed," he told her. "Our business is hard enough without having to chase after criminals through time," he said, putting the wrist device down and picking up the belt for some adjustments.

"So it can be used again??" Helena asked, staring at the device with a frown.

"Yes," he said, then eyed her. "Margay, I do have your word you'll go straight to the coordinates and time on the device, don't I?" Bruce asked pointedly.

"Yes, of course," she blurted uneasily, apparently appeasing him.  

He nodded and sighed.  "That much power would be too tempting, for anyone," he allowed.

"Even you?" she asked curiously.

"Especially me," he admitted, surprising her. "Imagine . . . the power to change events to right wrongs," he said with an intense look in his eyes. "But they say, absolute power corrupts absolutely.  If I started to manipulate events, when would I be satisfied?  And what if the alternate history is worse?  I could be forever trying to fix the time line," he offered.

"Yeah," Helena said absently, glancing down to the device again.

"Nervous?" He asked.

"I didn't much like the last trip," she said with a grimace.

"I'm pretty sure this trip will be better," he said.

"Pretty sure??" Helena said with concern.

"I wish I could give you a guarantee, but I can't," he said.

"So this could send me off to nowhere," Helena said with a frown.

"Unlikely, I did run extensive tests. But there may be variables I have not accounted for which could be, worst case, fatal," he said honestly.

"You know, you really stink at the pep-talk thing."

"I don't believe in sugarcoating the truth," he countered.

"Apparently not," she offered with a frown.

"Well, it's ready. You could use it now," he noted, gently placing the device in front of her on the workbench.

"I didn't expect . . . ," Helena sputtered, looking at him uneasily.  While hopeful it looked like this nerve-wracking trip might finally come to an end, she was saddened.  "I need to say goodbye to a few people."

Bruce looked at her in understanding.  "She's grown quite fond of you."

Helena glanced at him with surprise.  After an uneasy moment, she nodded slightly and silently left

* * * * *

"You can't just leave! What about the Simpaticos?!?" Jacque said with a frown, pacing in front of the two women in the empty club.

Monique rolled her eyes. "We survived before she came, Jacque," she offered, weary of his tantrums. "We will survive after she leaves."

"I am sorry, mon ami," Helena said with a sad wince for Jacque and explained "I must go home."

He stopped his pacing and stood in front of her, performing a critical inspection of her. "Snow is still a stupid stage name," he groused.

"Oui," Helena acknowledged with a small smile.

He quickly kissed her on each cheek. "Be well, Margay," he said with surprising emotion.

"Thank you for everything, Jacque," Helena said sincerely, getting a brisk nod as he took a sharp breath to tamp down anymore untoward emotion.  He quickly left the two women alone.

Monique took a long look at Margay and sighed sadly before stepping towards her and pulling her into a hug.  "I will miss you, sweet Margay," Monique said softly, feeling tears well up in her eyes.

Helena hugged her back. "You saved my life, Monique. When I had no job and no place to go and needed friends...."

"You are being too dramatic, but then, you are a natural performer," Monique offered with an uncomfortable laugh.

"It's the truth."

Monique frowned. "You would have helped me, of that I am sure," she said as tears rolled down her cheeks.

Helena gently wiped them away. "I am glad we met and I am so glad we became friends."

"Stop that or I will turn into a water faucet," Monique said with a frown, squeezing her arm.

"I'm traveling light. I hope you can use the clothing I am leaving behind?" Helena said with a small smile.

"Oui!" Monique responded happily, reminding her of Dinah. "Are you sure?" Monique asked hesitantly.


"Speaking of leaving things behind . . . have you talked with her yet?" Monique asked delicately.

"No. Not yet," Helena said with a sigh, knowing that would be the most difficult.

Monique reached up and caressed her friend's cheek. "I am so sorry your heart hurts, my friend."

"The story of my life," Helena said with a sad smile, receiving a gentle kiss on her lips.

"Things will get better, trust me. Perhaps I shall see you headlining in Paris, one day," Monique said with a raised brow and grin.

"Perhaps," Helena said with a small chuckle at the thought, stealing a final hug before leaving to finish her goodbyes

* * * * *

"Barbara, honey?" Jim called over his shoulder. "You've got a guest," he said, returning his attention to the white-haired woman at his door.

"You do know what you've done to her," Jim said bluntly, causing Helena to freeze. "You've created a monster.  She finds the most annoying times to hum twinkle, twinkle little star," he said with a smirk.

Helena exhaled and smiled apologetically. "Sorry," she said, adjusting her sunglasses.

"Don't be, that was a wonderful night with wonderful music," he said with a sincere smile.

"Merci," she said with a pleased smile.

"I didn't realize you knew my daughter," he noted curiously.

"Well, we've bumped into each other at the library...." Helena explained vaguely.

"Hmm.  She does spend an awful lot of time there.  Sometimes I worry she's not getting out and enjoying herself enough," Jim offered.

"I think she's enjoying what she is doing, Sir," Helena offered.

"Well, I hope so.  Life's too short to let life slip you by," he offered sagely as Barbara came down the stairs.

"Oui," Helena agreed, looking up at the beautiful redhead. Her heart skipped a beat.

"Margay?" Barbara said with surprise.  A smile of anticipation grew as she descended the stairs.  Jim eyed his happy daughter then looked at the white-haired woman who suddenly looked uncomfortable.

"Daddy?" Barbara said, not so subtly turning her attention to the third wheel in the room to get him to leave.

"Uh, well, I guess I'll leave you two ladies alone.  Nice talking with you, Margay," Jim said.

"The pleasure was mine, Commissioner," she said, watching the man retreat into the living room.

"Let's go into the study," Barbara said with a smile, taking Margay's hand and pulling her in that direction. "I'm so glad to see you. This is almost....normal," Barbara joked as they entered the study.  Shutting the pocket doors behind her, she turned and found a serious expression on Margay's face. "What's wrong?" she asked, growing alarmed.

"Here," Helena said softly, holding out a box.

Barbara looked at her then the box a curious moment before slowly accepting it.

"I was going through my things and . . . I wanted you to have it," Helena explained with a shrug as Barbara opened the box to find a lovely watch.

"Thank you," Barbara said with surprise. "It's beautiful," she said softly as she traced her fingers over the unexpected gift.

"It even works," Helena offered with an awkward laugh at the irony. "I guess I could have given it to you on your birthday but I didn't think you'd want anything from me.  I am glad we are on speaking terms."

"I hope we are more than on just speaking terms, Margay," Barbara responded, looking at her with growing anticipation. "Why are you giving this to me now?"

Helena saw the misplaced hope and felt horrible. "I am leaving, Barbara.  I wished to say goodbye," Helena said softly.

"Leaving?!? You're going home??" Barbara responded with alarm.

"Oui. I have the means now and will be going home," Helena offered, hating she was the cause of the troubled emotions that washed over Barbara's face.  But she just had to say goodbye....

"Are you coming back? Will I see you again??" Barbara blurted, feeling her heart race with panic.

"I have every intention of seeing you again, Barbara Gordon," Helena said with conviction, slightly appeasing the younger woman.

"But . . . when?" Barbara asked uneasily.

"Barbara," Helena interjected. "I just wanted you to know that time with you has meant a great deal to me.  I will always cherish these memories," she said honestly, glancing down at the watch uncomfortably when she found it too difficult to continue to witness such sadness in those emerald eyes . . . a sadness she was causing.

Barbara stared at her, not wanting to accept that she was really going to leave. "I meant what I said, Margay," she whispered as a tear fell.

As Barbara had done to her several nights ago, Helena reached out and cradled her cheek and wiped the tear away. "And I love you too, Barbara Gordon," Helena offered her the truth, though the heartfelt words were bittersweet.

Barbara slowly leaned towards Margay, the words taken as invitation.  She just had to taste those lips one last time, lips that uttered the words that should have made her happy, yet broke her heart a little more.  Slipping her arms around the older woman's neck, she kissed her, knowing it was a goodbye.

Helena did not pull back, treating the gift as it deserved - a rare treasure to be cherished.  Her arms wrapped around the younger woman, firmly pulling their bodies together as their tongues caressed and explored.  It felt so right, as she had always known it would.  Helena poured every ounce of love she had bottled up for so many years into each kiss and caress, knowing Barbara would never kiss Helena Kyle like this.

Each of them wanted this moment to last, this perfect, shared intimacy.  Yet each knew it couldn't.

After their lips parted, Barbara fiercely hugged her as more tears fell. "It's not fair to feel like this and not be able to do anything about it," she said hoarsely, the sorrow almost suffocating.

"I know," Helena whispered raggedly, her own eyes watered as she selfishly held Barbara as she had always wanted.

After a moment, they reluctantly stepped back from each other, knowing the time had finally come for Margay to leave.  With great sadness they walked to the front door together.  Helena looked at the miserable teen before her eyes dropped guiltily.  Silently retreating, Helena glanced one last time towards Barbara, who stood at the door . . . a sight she was determined to see again

* * * * *

"Margay, dear. How may I help you today?" Mrs. Milner said with a smile for the white-haired woman.

"Bonjour, Madame Milner," Helena said weakly, her sadness seeping through.

"Something wrong, dear?" She asked with concern.

"No," she said softly. "I have come to say goodbye. I will be returning home," she said, managing a small smile.

"Oh, really?" Mrs. Milner said with disappointment.

"Oui," Helena said with a shrug.

"Well, I'll certainly miss you, Margay. I'm sure Barbara will too; have you said goodbye to her yet?"

"Oui. That was a most difficult goodbye," Helena admitted with a heavy exhale, getting a sympathetic nod from the older woman. "Before I leave, could I impose upon you one last time, Madame?"

"Ah, helping my favorite French visitor is never an imposition," Mrs. Milner said with a dismissive wave of her hand and added warmly "What do you need, dear?"

"Maps of the city that show longitude and latitude," Helena said.

Chapter 16


Barbara rolled up to the Batcomputer, surprised to find it was on. "Someone is here," she said, carefully reviewing the screen and the currently running computer program.

"Alfred?" Dinah asked, glancing around the huge, high-tech cave with a mix of awe and apprehension.  It was kind of creepy in a cool, hi-tech gothic sort of way.  She noted with interest the batplane, then the batboat on the stream below their platform on the other side of the cave.  She vaguely wondered if Batman ever went fishing. . . .

"I don't think so," Barbara said, looking around the cave, noting new sensors mounted all over.

"Dick?" Dinah asked.

"No, more like Bruce Wayne," Barbara said as the weight of that conclusion settled on her. "He's monitoring for temporal fluctuations," she offered, glancing around the cave again for other signs of the billionaire, quickly concluding he was in the Manor.

"That means he's helping her," Dinah said with excitement.

"So it would seem," Barbara said neutrally, pushing down her growing unease as she rolled towards the closest elevator with great purpose

* * * * *

Getting off the elevator in the empty study, Barbara rolled out into the hall with an excited Dinah in tow. Taking in the sights of the richly appointed Manor, Dinah was amazed.

"WOW! I can so not believe Helena would rather live in a ratty apartment over a bar than here."

"She has her reasons," she said, then stopped her chair and took in an uneasy breath when she spotted the main reason actually standing mere yards away in the long hallway. "Bruce?" she said hesitantly, squinting at him as if it were an apparition.

He turned and eyed the two a moment without reaction, save for the brief flicker of surprise that Barbara caught in his eyes. "Hello, Barbara," he said coolly, as if he had not been gone for several long years.  She saw his eyes briefly drop to her wheelchair uncomfortably before he refocused on her face.

"Bruce," she said again as surprising emotions surfaced.  After all this time her mentor had just returned, without letting anyone know.  She couldn't help but feel . . . hurt.

"Hi," Dinah said with a crooked smile as she awkwardly waved.  She had heard so much about this mysterious man . . . both the good and the bad.

"Oh. Excuse my manners," Barbara said with a wince, glad Alfred was not here, and made the introductions. "Bruce Wayne, this is my ward, Dinah Lance," she said. "Dinah, Bruce Wayne, my former mentor."

"Pleased to meet you, Dinah.  I've worked with your mother," Bruce said, holding out his hand.

"I know," Dinah gushed with enthusiasm. "Barbara's told me all about you.  I mean, not all about you, cause no one ever knows all about someone, but she's told me enough so that I'd know about . . . you," Dinah said then cringed at her rambling.

Barbara sighed heavily.  Bruce withheld a smile.

"Uh, pleased to meet you?" Dinah said sheepishly and firmly shook his hand.  She paused mid-shake as several images of a white-haired woman and the batcave flashed in her mind, accompanied by a feeling of great worry that washed over her.  She looked into his questioning eyes with alarm. "Why are you worried about Helena?"

"Helena?!? What are you talking about, Dinah?" Bruce asked sternly.  While he thought constantly about his daughter, he was not worried about her.  She had turned out to be an exceptional young woman, in spite of him, he considered.

"Dinah?" Barbara asked.

"Uh, I didn't mean to read him," Dinah said, glancing at Barbara with a wince. "I'm a touch telepath," she explained to Bruce, whose brow rose as he wondered what exactly she had read from him.

"What about Helena, Dinah," he repeated firmly.

Dinah looked to Barbara uneasily then looked at the blue-eyed billionaire. "Mr. Wayne, Helena is . . . was Margay."

Both his brows rose, clearly taken by surprise with that revelation.

"Bruce, Helena went back in time using an hourglass device. We came here to see whether you had tried to help her come home," Barbara explained. "Did you?" she asked.

"Margay was . . . Helena?" Bruce said with amazement

* * * * *

In the study, they sat around the coffee table. "Margay was Helena," Bruce repeated with amazement.

"Yes," Barbara said firmly. "I believe she did not want to affect the timeline so she needed to come up with a new identity that we wouldn't connect with her."

"For someone who wasn't trying to affect the timeline, she had an interesting way of going about it," he said with a disapproving frown, recalling her attention-getting performances.

Barbara nodded with a shrug.  "Helena never did blend in well," she acknowledged with mild amusement.

"She played the piano and sang so beautifully," he said with a bit of pride for his talented daughter.

"She was . . . is amazing," Barbara acknowledged with appreciation, cringing slightly at the tense, not wanting to think in the past tense.

He silently looked at her as if putting more puzzle pieces together.  His curious gaze made Barbara . . . uncomfortable.

"Why are you worried about Helena, Mr. Wayne?" Dinah ventured again.

"Until Mar . . . Helena returns to the correct time, I will be worried," he admitted. "There is no way to know whether the device I developed will work accurately over such a long time span; there were some variables I had to make an educated guess on and others I might have missed," he said, concern creasing his brow.

Barbara frowned.  His confession brought new unease. "May I review your calculations?"

"The die is cast Barbara.  I'm not sure what good your review would do now," Bruce said.

"Bruce, if you travel before the die is cast, mistakes can be fixed," Barbara noted simply, earning an alarmed gaze, clearly not enamored with that prospect.

"We've already tampered with the timeline too much," he offered with a frown.

Was he not interested in doing everything he could to make sure Helena came home safely, Barbara wondered with concern. Taking a breath to question him, she was preempted by Dinah.

"How did you figure out how to make a time travel device, Mr. Wayne?" Dinah asked with amazement.

"Well, it helped to have the broken hourglass parts that Mar...Helena had brought with her, along with the working one to reverse engineer," Bruce said. "I also had several noted physicists more than happy to answer my hypothetical questions," he added wryly.

"You found a working hourglass?" Barbara asked with surprise.

"As far as I know, I found "the" hourglass. There wasn't any evidence there was more than one," he offered, then added gravely "one's enough."

"Why not just use the working hourglass?" Dinah asked before Barbara could.

"Mar. . . Helena," he said, grimacing at his continued stumbling over her name "was concerned that if she used it to jump forward, she would not have been able to use it to go back in the first place," Bruce said.

"But . . . that would have solved the problem. Wouldn't it?" Dinah said with a confused wince.

"She was worried about Barbara," Bruce said bluntly, glancing at the redhead, who looked at him with surprise. "She thought there was a good possibility that if she had not gone back, Barbara could have been killed or at the very least, have her identity exposed her first night out," he added softly, glancing back at the wincing redhead.

"Wow," Dinah said looking between the older crime fighters. "So she was supposed to help Barbara become Batgirl??"

"Interesting question," Bruce allowed, glancing at Barbara who looked preoccupied with that as well as several questions of her own.  Were they always meant to guide each other in their formative years?  Were they always meant to be each other's first love?  Were they always meant to break each other's hearts by rejecting that love? Was this their destiny - to be forever together but forever separated, she wondered with a heavy exhale, only really knowing one thing with certainty, she missed Helena terribly.

Barbara looked at her ward, when she felt Dinah grab and squeeze her hand.  "Something tells me it's destiny," Dinah offered with a small knowing smile, surprising her mentor and Bruce.

"Is there something . . . you want to tell me, Barbara?" Bruce asked softly, looking at her expectantly.

Barbara glanced at him with surprise, uncomfortable with his scrutiny.  She took a breath to answer but exhaled heavily, not really knowing what to say.

An alarm sounded at Bruce's desk, making Barbara thankful for the distraction.

"What's that?" Dinah blurted with concern.

"I'm hoping Helena," he said anxiously, standing up, and swiftly headed to the elevator.

"The temporal flux sensors?" Barbara asked as she rolled along side of him.  Leave it to Helena to save her again, she considered wryly, feeling almost giddy at the thought of seeing her.

"Yes," he said as his guests joined him in the elevator.  He pressed the down button causing the doors to shut.

Barbara did not want to get her hopes up but couldn't help but smile, feeling more excited as each second passed. Each second was one less she'd have to wait before seeing Helena again.

"So you knew she would come to me for help?" Bruce asked Barbara hesitantly.  Logically, he would have thought so too, but emotionally?  He knew his daughter did not like him or what he did after . . . that day.

"Helena would not have given up trying to get home and you were the only one who could have helped her," Barbara said, then added with a frown. "I certainly didn't have the resources at that time."

"I'm glad she came to me," he admitted softly. "Even if it was out of desperation."

Barbara saw a faint, pleased smile form on his face.

"Oh no!" Dinah suddenly blurted with worry.

"What?" Bruce and Barbara said in unison, looking at the young telepath with alarm.

"This is her sweater," Dinah said, biting her lip as she glanced between it and Barbara guiltily.

Barbara sighed and looked at Bruce, who blinked. "Aren't you happy I never borrowed Dick's clothes?"

Dinah frowned.

"Actually, I'm happier Dick didn't borrow yours," Bruce offered dryly, earning a chuckle from his former ward

* * * * *

When they emerged from the elevator, the first thing that struck them was how still it was.

"Helena?" Barbara couldn't help but call out anxiously, though there was no sign of her.

Bruce looked around and pursed his lips as he went to the Batcomputer to investigate the alarm.

"Could it have been a false alarm?" Dinah asked.

"I'm quite certain it wasn't. There was a temporal flux event recorded," Bruce said firmly as he flicked off the alarm switch, silencing the noise.

Dinah looked around with a confused frown.

"Are you sure she was supposed to be here?" Barbara asked, motioning to the cave.

"I had dialed the coordinates myself," he said.  "And they were set for the Batcave," he offered confidently.  "I doubled checked the location and time coordinates before she activated the device," he continued with a frown, rubbing the back of his neck which became incredibly tense.  "I performed every conceivable test.  She should be here," he said, at a loss.  "What if I miscalculated?  What if overlooked something?" He said worriedly, causing Dinah to look at Barbara with alarm.

Barbara looked around the cave thoughtfully, a disturbing suspicion forming.  "So the device . . . could be used repeatedly?"

Bruce's eyes narrowed. "She gave me her word she'd come straight home," he said with a frown.

"She may have," Barbara countered as she rolled to the Batcomputer, worried about the implications.

"But why would she risk traveling ag . . . ?" Dinah asked, then stopped as her eyes dropped to Barbara's chair, knowing the answer to her own question.

Barbara looked back at her uncomfortably

* * * * *

Helena stood in a dark, wet alley behind an apartment building; Barbara's apartment building.  Heavy rain poured down, accompanied by occasional, bright streaks of lightning and loud, ominous thunder.  She glanced down at her wrist device, really hoping it was waterproof as she carefully wiped some water droplets around the time dials, which now read March 15, 1996.

Another bright flash lit up the alley, followed by a noisy rumbling which caused Helena to jump a bit.  She hated being out in weather like this.  She didn't mind lightening storms in general, but nature's fantastic display was meant to be watched from the comfort of a couch, wrapped in a warm, dry comforter, holding a cup of hot coco.  She frowned as the cold rain continued to fall, causing a chill to seep through her leather duster, silk blouse, all the way to her bones.  But she knew she'd gladly endure this or any inconvenience to help Barbara.  As she slowly inspected her drenched self, she was thankful that at least she wasn't hunched over, puking, like after the last trip through time.

Combing her fingers through her wet hair and brushing it out of her eyes, she looked up with a sly smile, pleased by the chance to fix a grave injustice.  With graceful leaps, she ascended to the fire escape.  She glanced around, finding no one stupid enough to be out in the alley in this weather with her, then jumped onto the roof top unseen.

Lightening crackled loudly overhead.  She frowned, smelling the strong ozone as she slowly walked around the building's perimeter.  She could feel the power in the thunder's violent rumbling as she glanced down to the street below.  A suspicious-looking car caught her attention.  The front of the car was up on the sidewalk, its rear jutting out into traffic.  A few cars carefully maneuvered around the obstacle, honking at the inconsiderate, but missing, driver who was apparently too impatient for parallel-parking.  Helena's heart raced, certain she knew who the inconsiderate driver was.

Running to the rooftop access to the building, she pulled at the doorknob, finding the door locked.  With a heavy tug, she managed to only yank the doorknob off, making her growl with irritation.  Tossing the doorknob to the ground, she reached through the new opening with her fingers and once again yanked hard, pulling the door off of its hinges. She tossed door aside angrily, not caring if she made any noise.  Adrenaline coursed through her veins as she entered the building and jumped down the stairs, her eyes augmenting in anticipation of a fight.  Opening a door, she burst out of the stairwell onto the 4th floor, Barbara's floor, quickly realizing she should have had a better plan when she came face-to-face with a startled Joker . . . and his gun

* * * * *

"It's got to be her," Bruce said anxiously, looking at the sensor data that triggered a temporal flux alarm.  He flicked the switch to silence the annoying noise.

"Is Helena finally coming home?" The teen crime fighter asked with excitement.  He looked to his mentor, who joined the mysterious Bruce Wayne at the Batcomputer, carefully and thoroughly inspecting the data, not wanting to get her hopes up.

There was a flash of light causing the three to wince.  They blinked a moment before being able to see the unmoving form at the bottom of the batcave.

"Helena!" Barbara blurted, seeing a frightening amount of blood, prompting her to run down the steps and vault over the railing near the bottom. "Helena!" she said, kneeling down to the drenched, injured woman. "Can you hear me, Helena?!?"  She quickly felt Helena's pulse which was weak.  Barbara nervously inspected her injuries finding several bullet wounds - far too many for her to apply direct pressure on all of them.  She quickly picked what looked like the worst one, and pressed firmly against it.

"We need Dr. Landry!" Barbara called out, snapping Will out of his stupor and prompting him to rush off to contact their "family" physician.

"Barbara," Helena said groggily, looking into the beautiful face of her angel.  She smiled contentedly.

"I'm here, sweetheart," Barbara said hoarsely, continuing to press against the worst wound. "We're going to patch you up and you'll be back out on sweeps before you know it," Barbara said uneasily, her heart pounding with fear.

With great effort, Helena lifted her wobbly hand to Barbara's face and reverently traced her fingers over her cheek with a satisfied smile. "You can dance now," she said with a tired but happy laugh that quickly turned into wet, bloody coughing.

Barbara shook her head not understanding how Helena could possibly think she would want to dance at a time like this. She looked up helplessly to Bruce, who was now kneeling at her side.

"She needs blood," he said, glancing at the red pool around them. "I'm going to move her to the examining room," he said, not waiting for Barbara's response, and quickly swept his daughter into his arms and ascended the stairs.

"Doc Landry will be here in about twenty minutes!" Will called out.

Twenty minutes was an eternity, Barbara worried as Bruce gently laid Helena down on the examining table.  When he left her side to go to the synthetic blood, Barbara returned her red-stained hand over Helena's wound beneath the left breast as she stroked the younger woman's forehead.

"Hang on, sweetheart," Barbara said nervously.

"The Kid . . . can have . . . my clothes," Helena whispered, knowing she wasn't going to need them.

"Barbara?" Will asked in worried confusion as he looked between Barbara and Helena, wondering why she'd want him to have her clothes.  He wasn't even the right size....

"Helena, you hang on, you hear me?!?" Barbara blurted, not understanding either, but that really didn't matter. Helena was accepting her death and that was unacceptable! "There won't be any need for you to give anything away.  Do you hear me?!?" Barbara argued.

"I've always . . . loved you, Red," Helena whispered with difficulty, looking into terrified green eyes.  She regretted not telling her that simple truth before.

"And I love . . . Helena?!?" Barbara called out anxiously, seeing the light in the blue eyes dim until there was no more light. "No," she exhaled in disbelief and frantically searched for a pulse that wasn't there. "Helena!" she called again. "Don't you dare die on me!" she cried out and started CPR.

Bruce came to their side with a cooler of A+ synthetic blood, Helena's type.  Taking stock of the wounds, he exhaled uneasily, reluctantly concluding that even if they had a fully equipped operating room with a skilled surgeon at the ready, they would be unable to counter the massive internal bleeding in time - even with her Metahuman healing.

He couldn't save her.  First the love of his life, and now his only daughter, he thought in anguish.

"Barbara, she's gone," he finally uttered, but she ignored him, continuing to perform CPR with grim determination.  "Barbara, she's gone," he repeated more forcefully and gently touched her arm, causing her to angrily jerk away from his touch.

"No! Give her the Goddamn blood, Bruce!" Barbara said harshly, unwilling to accept failure. "She needs the blood!"

"Barbara! She's gone. The blood is not going to bring her back," he said firmly, grabbing her arm, preventing Barbara from completing her compressions.

"What the hell are you doing?!? She'll die if we don't help her!!" Barbara shouted, shoving him with enough force to make him step back.

"She's already dead," Bruce said, tears filling his eyes.

Ignoring him, she quickly returned to performing CPR.  After the thirtieth compression, she positioned Helena's head and breathed into her mouth two times.  She placed her fingers to Helena's neck, still finding no pulse. "Come on, Helena!" she growled and started another round of compressions, then breaths.  After a few more cycles, she called out "Will, you need to give her the blood. You know how to do it, remember?"  Not hearing any movement to comply, she looked up in frustration and saw the trail of tears on the teen's cheeks.

"She's gone, Barbara," Will said weakly, causing Barbara to shake her head defiantly.  Helena was not going to die, she vowed, as she repeated the chest compressions and breaths.  Pausing to check her pulse again, her fingers nervously roamed over her neck, searching for something that wasn't there.  Several seconds passed as she kept feeling for a nonexistent pulse with now trembling hands. "Where are you, damn it. Where are you!!" Barbara hissed, still searching for a pulse that had to be there.  It just had to be....

Two strong arms finally wrapped themselves around her and pulled her back from Helena. "NO!" Barbara cried out. "Let go! Let. Me. GO!" Barbara struggled but Bruce's hold was too strong.  After several moments, her thrashing grew weaker as did her protests.

"She's gone," Bruce said softly in her ear.

"No," Barbara whispered in anguish, finally stopping her struggles to stare helplessly at the white-haired woman, who lay unmoving on the table. "No," she repeated softly as tears finally began to fall.

After several more, still moments, Bruce released Barbara, who stood uncertainly before slowly walking towards Helena.  She hesitantly reached out and caressed the pale cheek, wincing at the evidence before her.  The normal warmth was gone, the skin now cool to the touch.

Slowly, Barbara brushed her lips over Helena's forehead, just as she had done for so many nights to comfort the distraught teen who had struggled with her mother's death.  Moving lower, a tear splashed on Helena's cheek as Barbara reverently pressed their lips together.  She pulled back, blinking through the tears as she placed a hand on her shoulder, seeking the connection they had always shared through simple touch.  But it was gone.  Helena was gone, she thought numbly.

This was just wrong, her heart and mind jointly cried out as her hand wiped the tears from her cheek.  Barbara paused, glancing at Helena's wrist.  The solution was so obvious, she considered, almost dizzy with hope.  Taking a calming breath, she quickly removed the device.

"Barbara?  What do you think you are doing?!?" Bruce blurted with alarm.

"I'm going to save her," Barbara said confidently, fastening the device on her own wrist.

"You have no idea what effect your actions will have," Bruce argued, stepping towards her.

She spun around. "I know what effect our inaction will have!" She growled, briefly glancing at Helena's lifeless body. "So don't you even think about trying to stop me," she snapped, causing Bruce to hesitate then stop.

He shook his head. "Barbara, you can't tamper with time," he responded.

"For God's sake, Bruce, she's your daughter! She's not supposed to be dead!" Barbara said, her voice wavering with emotion.

"You don't know that," Bruce countered softly, glancing over to the body of his estranged daughter with a sad wince.

"I do! I know it, in here," Barbara hissed, pointing to her heart.

"I know you loved her, Barbara.  But you can't change history to suit yourself.  You have to let go," he urged emphatically.

She eyed him a moment as a surprising calm washed over her; she knew with absolute certainty what she had to do. "No," she countered firmly. "You gave up on her when Selena was murdered but I was able to help her.  Now you are giving up on her again.  But this time, instead of leaving me to clean up the mess, you are in my way," Barbara argued calmly, adding bitingly "I think I prefer the Bruce Wayne that runs away."

Bruce winced, the guilt for his previous actions still weighing heavily with him.

Barbara silently walked to the basin and washed her hands, pausing an uneasy moment as she watched the red-stained water wash down the drain. "Will? Please get me your portable GPS device by the keyboard," she said calmly.

Will wiped his eyes and stared at her uneasily.

"Are you going to give up too?" Barbara asked pointedly, her gaze accusing.

Will shook his head rapidly before dashing off to retrieve the GPS device.  Bruce frowned.

"She has . . . had her comms on, amazingly enough. I should be able to get a fix on her," she said, thinking out loud as she grabbed a towel to dry her hands.

"Barbara," Bruce said sternly, needing her to understand the danger in her thinking.

"So help me, Bruce, if you try to stop me, I swear to GOD I will become the greatest enemy you've ever had," Barbara vowed coldly, strangling the towel in her hands.

He frowned at the unnerving gaze cast upon him; stormy emotions clouded her eyes.

"Barbara, listen to yourself," Bruce said with amazement, shaking his head.

Barbara sighed heavily, knowing her raw emotions were driving her.  She pinched the bridge of her nose as she collected her thoughts, still convinced of what she needed to do and ready to do whatever it took.  She glanced up, looking weary.

"Don't get in the way, Bruce.  Please.  I don't want to fight you, but I will.  She's not supposed to be dead.  I know she's not supposed to be dead," Barbara argued softly but with clear conviction.

Bruce stared at her a long moment, glancing thoughtfully to her ward, when he dutifully returned with the GPS unit he had helped to design.  Many generations of guardians have taught the young with the ultimate hope that they not just succeed, but excel - perhaps even surpassing their mentor.  He returned his gaze to Barbara, who in many ways had surpassed him, continuing the fight against crime that had branched out in ways he could never have imagined.  Her skill with computers and their systems was remarkable, if not a bit disconcerting - especially if she were to become an enemy.

He wondered if his leaving had enabled her to grow to the exceptional woman that she had become.

He had left, though many had accused him of running away after the murder of Selena.  But he wasn't really needed anymore.  Barbara was the one who recaptured the Joker, managing to apprehend him in her own apartment building, clearly the Joker's second target that evening.

It was just a matter of time, he had thought, before another one of his enemies would come after those he cared about.  So, he left, sacrificing the life he had known as a mentor and friend to Barbara and Dick and the life he had yet to know as a father to his new-found daughter.  That's what he did - put others first and worked for the greater good, even at great personal sacrifice.  That's what he thought would always be the right thing to do.

He looked at the bullet-ridden body of his daughter, who he failed to protect from harm.

Walking towards her, he knew he had always relied on strict logic and selfless codes of conduct to help him navigate through the emotionally distressing situations.  He hesitantly reached out and gently touched Helena's shoulder, realizing he had a choice - try to bend Barbara to his cold logic and uncaring codes of conduct, or let the bright beacon of passion and conviction of his trusted former ward lead the way.

"You will be better equipped for contingencies as Batgirl," he said as he took a breath and removed his hand.  His mind raced through the various scenarios, taking into account the stubbornness of his daughter. "While you change, I can analyze the device's signature and pinpoint the time target for your trip. You'll want enough time to find her, but you also don't want to loiter there unnecessarily," he said firmly.

Barbara looked at him with surprise, but did not move.  She was not about to hand over the device to him and destroy her chances of saving Helena.

Bruce sighed, understanding her skeptical look.

"I don't feel right tampering with time for our benefit, Barbara," he said bluntly. "But, it would seem that Helena had tried to do so and this was the result," he said with a slight cringe, glancing at Helena's lifeless body. "So I suppose, we are attempting to fix her fix.  And that also worries me - how do we know we are fixing the right thing? And when do we stop trying to fix the mistakes in time?"

"I don't know how I know, but I do.  Helena shouldn't be dead.  And I swear, all I am going to do is to stop Helena so she doesn't get herself killed.  She may hate me for interfering and not trying to help her save her mother, but I swear, I just want to stop Helena," she said emphatically.

"I trust you, Barbara," he said.  "And I promise I'm not going to interfere; I'd like to help you save my daughter," he said sincerely.

Barbara sighed with great relief, one less weight on her shoulders

* * * * *

Batgirl appeared in a dark, puddle-filled alley, looking at her GPS display, shaking her head in frustration.  She found that Helena's position was not where she had thought it would be - near the theater where Selena was stabbed. Instead, for some reason, Helena was across town, which simply baffled her.

As the thunderstorm raged around her, illuminating the sky as the rain poured down, she dialed different location coordinates and pressed the red button.  In a flash, she appeared in an alley adjacent to her old apartment building. She looked up at the structure in confusion before seeing Helena, alive and well, standing only a few feet away, turning towards her.  Barbara's confusion was quickly forgotten as she called out with raw emotion "Helena!"  The pain from her loss was still fresh.

Before Helena could respond, she was roughly pulled into a desperate embrace and passionately kissed.  Batgirl pulled back a quick moment to gaze upon her stunned love, then peppered her face with kisses. "Oh God," she murmured between kisses.

Helena blinked, a bit flustered and very aroused by the surprising and overwhelming display of affection.  Reluctantly pulling back, she said in confusion "Hi?"

"Oh sweetheart, you gave me such a scare," she said breathlessly, pulling her into another possessive kiss, which Helena didn't protest.  It felt so right . . . .

After they broke for air, Helena laughed uneasily. "Uh, not that I'm complaining but - what the hell?" she squeaked, confused as she glanced over the Batgirl costume.

"I don't know what you were planning to do here, but you can't do it," Batgirl warned her as she caressed her cheek, relishing the connection.

Helena cautiously stepped back, noting the familiar device on Batgirl's wrist.  Her eyes narrowed. "From what I see, apparently I can," she said, looking appreciatively over the result of her plan - a perfectly healthy Barbara Gordon, or rather, Batgirl, standing before her.  She really liked that cape....

"Helena," Batgirl said with annoyance. "Whatever you did here got you killed! I'm not going to let that happen."

"Oh," Helena responded with surprise, then looked at the ground for a thoughtful moment.  "Well, I guess I'll just have to be more careful this time," she said with a sly smile and innocent shrug before leaping up onto the fire escape with ease.  Helena looked down with an intense gaze. "Don't try to stop me.  I want . . . need to do this."

"Do what ?!?" Batgirl called out in frustration. "Helena!" she growled in aggravation, watching her gracefully leap up and quickly disappear onto the rooftop.

Helena looked around the perimeter, glancing down at the street below.  A suspicious looking car caught her attention. The front of the car was up on the sidewalk; the rear was sticking out into traffic.  A few cars that were out in this weather trying to carefully maneuver around the obstacle honked in frustration at the inconsiderate but missing driver.  After another thunderous rumble, Helena heard faint whooshing and suddenly bent back, dodging the batarang that soared past her.

Helena stood with her hands on her hips and frowned at Batgirl. "Is that really necessary?" Helena complained, wiping the wet hair out of her face.

"Are you going to listen to me and not do whatever you're planning on doing?" Batgirl countered.

Helena stared at her, crossing her arms over her chest stubbornly.

"Then you have your answer," Batgirl responded with irritation, throwing the batarang again which missed and returned to her as Helena leaped towards the rooftop door.  Batgirl swiftly pulled out a small grappling batarang from her utility belt and threw it.  If it had been anyone else, they would have been on the ground, hog tied by now.  But Helena was too quick and dodged the hook, which buried itself into the door.  Batgirl immediately released the wire from her belt, which fell to the ground.

"You know, you can try to waste my time," Helena said, circling around. "But we've got all the time in the world with these, don't we?" She said, pointing to the device on her wrist before leaping over her head.

Batgirl immediately whipped out an Eskrima stick and swung in a wide arc, hitting Helena's thigh and knocking her off balance.  Helena landed, stumbling to the ground.  Before Batgirl's next strike to knock her out, Helena rolled away and jumped up, rubbing her thigh with a grimace.  "I'm not going to give up," Helena stubbornly grunted.

"However long and as many times it takes, Helena, I will stop you from making this mistake," Batgirl called out in frustration. "You shouldn't tamper with history!"

A lightening bolt crackled loudly above them as the rain continued to steadily fall.

Helena's face grew hard. "God DAMNIT, Barbara!" She cried with great frustration. "In a few minutes, the Joker is going to go to your apartment and shoot you!"

That detail got Batgirl's surprised attention as thunder rumbled loudly.  Each woman could feel the vibrations.

Barbara recalled the night she had apprehended the Joker.  Startling gun shots prompted her to grab a batarang and Eskrima stick and rush out into the hallway in her bathrobe.  Without thinking, she launched the batarang at the frightening shock of green hair, quickly felling her arch enemy.  It had always bothered her as to why the Joker had been so sloppy, enabling her to easily capture him.

"Not to kill you, but to cripple you," Helena snapped, running her hand through her wet hair.

She frowned, now knowing he wasn't sloppy.  He was distracted - by Helena, who had become the target of his bullets.  And that explained why there were no bullets found from the Joker's noisy ruckus, she considered as her heart raced.

"For many, many months, while you learned to get by without your legs, while you learned the full extent of your loss, you wished you were dead," Helena said, the pain of those memories evident in her face and by the distress in her voice.  "And the only thing that stopped you was your responsibility; you had to take care of me," she said with a wince.  "I saw the hell you went through, Barbara.  I felt it!  So tell me, why the HELL wouldn't I try to prevent that?  Why the hell wouldn't I use this opportunity to give you back what that bastard stole from you!?!" Helena argued passionately.

Batgirl took an uneasy breath, digesting the disturbing news and Helena's emotional argument.  She shook her head and spoke from her heart, the death of Helena still a fresh wound in her soul.

"Nothing, NOTHING, I could lose could ever be more important than you, Helena," she said with conviction, stepping slowly towards her.

Helena looked at her in disbelief.  "You can't want to be paralyzed," Helena argued, shaking her head.  "You don't know what pain you will suffer...."

"I don't want the pain of living without you!  You are everything to me, Helena," Batgirl responded emphatically, looking into her surprised eyes.  "Don't you know?" She argued softly as she stepped closer.  "We are supposed to be together for a very long time," she offered, close enough to lean in for a kiss.

"But . . . what about Wade?" Helena said hesitantly, causing Batgirl to stop and look at her curiously.

"Wade?" She said with a frown. "Wade, who?"

"You're not involved with Wade Brixton??"

"Will's guidance counselor?  Why on Earth would I . . . ?"

"Who's Will?" Helena interjected, blinking in confusion.

"Our ward," Barbara explained, looking at her curiously.

"What about Dinah?"

"Dinah??" Barbara responded with a cringe, shaking her head not knowing who she was.

Helena grew ill at the thought of Dinah being alone. "She's a touch telepath that we took in as our ward.  Wade is Dinah's counselor and your . . . lover," Helena said with distaste.

"We're not lovers in your timeline?" Batgirl asked, completely stunned, finding it very hard to believe they would be together but not intimate - even if she was wheelchair bound.  She cringed, beginning to appreciate just how different their lives would be had not Helena changed the events at this point in history.

Helena shook her head. "I have to say so far, I like your timeline better, except for the missing Dinah part.  But we can fix that.  When we get back, we'll find her.  And with these devices, we can make sure she doesn't have to wait too long," Helena blurted excitedly, her mind racing at the things they might need to fix.

Batgirl looked at her, alarmed.  Bruce had warned her about the potential addiction to fixing history. "You can't tamper with history, Helena. If you try to stop the Joker, things will change . . . ."

"For the better!  I already know to be more careful with the Joker - problem solved," Helena argued stubbornly, unwilling to listen.

"Even if you survive, you don't know what might happen!" she responded heatedly. "You don't know that it will be better. You could be crippled or get yourself killed again!  Listen to me, please," Barbara implored, taking off her cowl.  Taking an uneasy breath, she looked into Helena's eyes earnestly.  "I can't bear the thought of anything happening to you," she said with a wince as she stepped closer.

"Nothing's going to happen to me, Red," Helena said soothingly, closing the distance between them and kissing her on the lips.  "We'll make this work. Trust me," Helena said softly, pulling Barbara into a hug as she nuzzled her red hair with a contentment she never dared hope for.  "You mean everything to me, Barbara," she said, kissing her love's temple as Barbara's hand slid behind her neck.  "You always have and always w . . . ow!" Helena blurted, jerking away from Barbara as she held her hand to her now throbbing neck.  She looked at Barbara accusingly.  "What the hell did you j . . . just . . . d. . .do!" Helena said groggily as her eyesight blurred and the rooftop started to spin.

"Making sure I don't lose you," Barbara answered somberly, grabbing Helena as she fell unconscious.  Carefully laying her lover down, she picked up Helena's wrist and dialed in new time and location coordinates.  Before pushing the red button, she looked at her pale face and leaned over, tenderly brushing her lips over Helena's, wondering with a trouble heart if that might be for the last time.  Pulling back, she frowned sadly.

"How could I possibly not love you?" she whispered, caressing Helena's cheek.

Chapter 17

The Return

"Oh no!" Dinah suddenly blurted with worry.

"What?" Bruce and Barbara said in unison, looking at the young telepath with alarm.

"This is her sweater," Dinah said, biting her lip as she glanced between it and Barbara guiltily.

Barbara sighed and looked at Bruce, who blinked. "Aren't you happy I never borrowed Dick's clothes?"

Dinah frowned.

"Actually, I'm happier Dick didn't borrow yours," Bruce offered dryly, earning a chuckle from his former ward.

As they emerged from the elevator, Barbara just knew Helena was there.  She could feel her. "Helena?" she called out, looking around the cave as Bruce went to the Batcomputer and switched off the noisy alarm.  He read the sensor logs with surprise.

"Oh GOD, there she is!" Dinah said anxiously, pointing over a railing to the unconscious woman at the lowest level of the batcave.

Barbara cursed her chair yet again, unable to join Dinah, who rushed down the stairs to go to Helena's side. "Is she all right?"

Dinah nervously searched for Helena's pulse and watched for her breathing.  Seeing her chest slowly move up and down and feeling a strong pulse beat beneath her fingers, she expelled a huge sigh of relief.

"Strong pulse and steady breathing!" Dinah called out her report with a smile that faded when she noticed a red blotch on Helena's neck around what looked like a pinprick.  "I think she was dr. . . whoa!" she blurted as surprising images washed over her.

"Dinah?!? What's the matter," Barbara called out with alarm as Bruce joined Dinah's side and looked at her questioningly.

"Uh . . . she has a mark on her neck.  I think she was drugged," Dinah hedged awkwardly.

"She didn't have that when she left me.  Interesting," Bruce said thoughtfully, then glanced to Dinah, who smiled weakly. He looked at Helena a brief moment, before picking his daughter up in his arms and ascending the steps.

Barbara anxiously rolled behind Bruce as he took Helena to the examining table and carefully laid her down. "The marking is . . . ," Bruce said, motioning to the circular blotch on Helena's neck.

"Familiar," Barbara finished with mild alarm and many questions.

"The Batcomputer recorded two temporal flux events," Bruce noted as he removed the troubling device from Helena's wrist.

"What does that mean?" Dinah asked, looking between Bruce and Barbara, whose worried faces made her worried.

"Either there was another time traveler, or . . . Helena took a detour," Bruce answered, glancing towards his daughter with a frown as he placed the device in a disposal chamber.

"Why would Helena risk . . . ?" Dinah said in confusion, then stopped, certain that if Helena had the ability to travel through time, she'd definitely want to change at least one thing. "Someone stopped her," Dinah concluded with conviction, glancing at Barbara's chair then to her mentor, who took an uneasy breath.  Like Dinah, she was certain she knew what Helena had tried to do.

Bruce tensed, looking at Barbara guiltily, knowing he was likely that someone.  And now, he had at his fingertips a solution to her paralysis.  But, he couldn't in good conscience use it.  He took a breath to tell her it needed to be destroyed.

"Do it," Barbara interjected evenly, also knowing the power to change the past for her own benefit was far too tempting and . . . too dangerous.  Her eyes drifted back to Helena, who apparently had no qualms about changing history.  The thought greatly disturbed her.

He nodded curtly and immediately activated the disposal chamber, which provoked a rainbow of light to shine as the chronitons were released.  When the light dimmed and extinguished, the housing started to glow orange and melt, quickly ruining the intricate circuitry.  Another scientist might have lamented the destruction of such an amazing invention, but Bruce let out a small sigh of relief; the immediate danger was finally past.  He turned to face his two guests, whose eyes had been glued to the impressive display in the disposal chamber.

"I suspect she'll be out for a while," Bruce said uneasily. "She'll be more comfortable waking in a bed," he offered, carefully scooping his daughter up in his arms.  He glanced sadly at a very quiet Barbara before heading to the elevator.

When Dinah reached out to place a comforting hand on her shoulder, Barbara had already begun to follow him, leaving her to awkwardly grasp for air with a frown

* * * * *

When Bruce gently put Helena down onto the bed, an envelope fell unnoticed from her pocket onto the carpet.

Dinah looked to Barbara.  "How long do you think she'll be out?"

Barbara stared at Helena, unhearing.  Dinah frowned and looked curiously at Bruce, who answered.

"Depending on the dose, it could be an hour . . . or several.  I'm also uncertain how the time travel affects her," Bruce said. Dinah nodded and started to take Helena's boots off.

Suddenly stopping with a soggy boot in hand, Dinah asked "But, she'll be ok...right??"

"Physically," Bruce said, gazing at Barbara, who winced slightly.  It certainly had impacted her, leaving her emotions jumbled and raw - and she wasn't even the one who traveled . . . or was compelled to change history.

"I'll be in the study.  I don't think I'm the first person she'll want to see when she wakes," he said bluntly, glancing at his daughter's reddened neck with a grimace.  "There are some dry clothes her size in the closet. Excuse me," he offered before he swiftly left the guest room.

"How did he know she'd need clothes?" Dinah said curiously as she pulled Helena's second boot off.

"Maybe he expected Margay might need them," Barbara guessed absently as she rolled to the closet and selected a pair of jeans and a sweater from the closet.


Barbara looked back towards Dinah curiously, surprised to find Dinah standing up with an envelope in hand, looking at the front with a confused grimace.

"What is it?"

Dinah looked perplexed as she walked towards her. "A letter. To you."

Barbara accepted the sealed envelope and read the rain-stained writing with a frown. 'Barbara Gordon' was written in her script, the ink slightly smeared by water droplets.

"It's not from Helena, is it?" Dinah said uneasily, already knowing the answer.

Barbara took an uneasy breath. "Dinah, I know you saw something when you touched her earlier; what did you see?" She glanced up from the envelope, eyeing Dinah pointedly.

Dinah shifted uncomfortably. "Uh...you told me never to...," Dinah said with a cringe.

"I know what I . . . ," she responded tersely, causing Dinah to wince.  Stopping herself and taking a measured breath, Barbara continued with forced calm. "I think this time, you can make an exception."

Dinah glanced at Helena guiltily, knowing she hated it when her thoughts were read. "I saw you and Helena fighting on a rooftop . . . in the rain," Dinah revealed worriedly, biting her lip.

Barbara's eyes briefly dropped to her chair, not envisioning herself fighting Helena on a rooftop . . . in the rain. She glanced at Dinah in confusion.

"You were Batgirl," Dinah explained and added, absently touching her own wrist "and wore the device."

Barbara's eyes widened in surprise and alarm; Helena managed to change history so she could walk.  And she didn't need much more evidence with her current wheelchair-bound condition and Dinah's vision to conclude that Batgirl had used the device to go back and prevent Helena from changing history.

Her normally analytical mind, which would have thoroughly evaluated all possible reasons as to why she would have stopped Helena and how she could have possibly known what had happened, was suffocating under an excruciating feeling of inadequacy.  The only question to cut through the thick emotional fog was why Helena was compelled to tamper with the past. And she feared the answer....

"Are you going to read the letter?" Dinah ventured.

"I'm not sure I should," Barbara said tightly with a grimace.

"But if you wrote yourself, shouldn't you at least see what you had to sa . . . ?"

"Dinah," Barbara interrupted sharply. "How is this any different than Helena traveling through time to manipulate history?" she said with irritation.

"But it must be important, or you wouldn't have . . ." Dinah quickly responding, not understanding her mentor's darker mood.

"Dinah," Barbara snapped. "Perhaps you should see how Bruce is doing," she said, her tone brooking no argument.

Dinah sighed in frustration and silently nodded before leaving

* * * * *

Alone with Helena, Barbara glanced between the envelope and the unconscious woman.  She frowned, realizing they had not changed her out of her wet clothing.  She shut her eyes in frustration, knowing she was unable to do that task alone without great difficulty.  Just one of several hurdles her paralysis presented her.

She touched the name, her name, written on the envelope which she was terribly tempted to open.  But should she? Wasn't that tampering with time?  Did she have the right to do that?  Apparently her walking self didn't think Helena had the right to alter history but conveniently did not apply the same rules to herself.  And what was so damn important that she had to write herself a letter?

With a heavy sigh, she stared at the white-haired woman, her thoughts returning to a question she was afraid she knew the answer to - why Helena had gone against Bruce's wishes and tried to change history.  As Margay, Helena had seen her in her youthful glory.  Granted, she had seen her butt get handed to her in the alley, but she was also there for much better times.

She had felt Helena's eyes following her when she had danced at the benefit; the attention was surprising and exciting.  She had felt surprising contentment and a sense of belonging when they strolled together in the park as Helena helped her figure her way forward with Bruce.  She experienced a guilty pleasure with Helena's ridiculous, unrepentant cheering as she kicked Jerry's macho and very stoned ass.  She had felt like an equal when Helena stood toe-to-glorious-toe with her, before pulling her into an embrace for a heartbreaking good-bye kiss.

As Margay, Helena had claimed that she loved her.

But who did Helena really love?  Who did Helena really want?  The person she was now or the person she had been?  Barbara frowned, glancing down at her chair, the question weighing upon her heart.  She was no longer the woman she once was, no longer able to dance, stroll, kick, or stand toe-to-toe....

Her dark thoughts were interrupted when Helena took a deep breath and shifted, starting to rouse.  Barbara exhaled with some relief and trepidation, slipping the envelope into the chair's side pouch.  Things would be different between them, she considered worriedly.

And after everything, how could they not be?

Helena felt a familiar presence before hearing the soft hiss of an electric chair rolling towards her.

"Helena?" Barbara said softly, watching the white-haired woman blink a few times before familiar pink eyes that she never expected to see again focused on her.  After a long, silent moment, Barbara offered "Welcome back."

Helena nodded slightly as her eyes drifted to the chair that Barbara still needed. Her heart ached, knowing she had it within her grasp to give Barbara back what she had lost...but she let it slip through her fingers.

Barbara watched the flicker of emotions cross Helena's face as she stared at her chair.  The great disappointment she saw . . . stung.

"Thanks," Helena whispered sadly as her hand rested on her wrist, reminding her of the missed opportunity.

"He destroyed it," Barbara said neutrally.

Helena nodded again as she slowly sat up. "He said he would." She took a ragged breath as she had to accept that the one thing she could have given Barbara that would have meant the world to her . . . was no longer possible.

"What happened . . . on your way home?" Barbara asked hesitantly, knowing they had to talk about it.

Helena looked at her with defeat in her eyes as her gaze dropped to Barbara's chair. "Does it really matter?"

"I . . . I need to know," Barbara said uneasily, her vulnerability making it impossible for Helena to deny her.

"I went to stop the Joker . . . from shooting you," Helena answered uneasily, confirming what Barbara already knew, though the words were startling to hear.  "I failed," she offered, misery clear in her voice, unable to look Barbara in her eyes.

"Because I stopped you," Barbara countered confidently, surprising Helena, who still wouldn't look at her, shifting uncomfortably.

"I shouldn't have let you," Helena said weakly, remembering her error in letting Barbara get too close.  Mind on mission, Oracle had always said.  But Barbara's proximity and clear desire for her was . . . distracting.  She should have known better than to let her guard down.

"Why?!?" Barbara snapped back as surprising anger and hurt burst forth.  "Do you find me that inadequate, so . . . so broken that you had to fix me?!?"

Helena looked up in shock.  The angry accusation was like a physical blow.  Surely Barbara couldn't possibly think that . . . .

"I have accepted that I'll never join you running on the roof tops.  And I'll never be able to do many things that "normal" people do, like take a stroll or go dancing," she snapped. "And you know what?!?  I'm still active and I still help people, which is more than most people who still can walk can say.  I even have someone who cares for me as I am.  And he isn't hell bent on trying to change me into someone he wants me to be," Barbara continued, her words spewed forth like daggers, squarely hitting Helena's chest. "I don't need you or anyone to save poor, pitiful Barbara from this tragic existence or try to make her whole!"

Helena was stunned speechless, only able to numbly watch as Barbara turned and started to roll out.

"Take a shower.  There are dry clothes in the closet," Barbara said tersely, over her shoulder, and rolled out of the room

* * * * *

As soon as Barbara entered the hallway, her head dropped and her fists clenched in frustration, knowing she had made a huge mistake.  God, she thought with a disgusted exhale for letting her insecurities cause her to lash out against the most considerate woman she had ever known, the woman who had always been there for her . . . who had just gone through what had to be a terrifying experience, she considered as her guilt skyrocketed.  She quickly turned her chair around and reentered the bedroom, knowing she had to make amends - grovel if necessary.

"Helena?? I'm so sorry," she quickly blurted as she entered. "Please forgive...." she said, looking around the empty room. "Helena?" Barbara called out as her eyes drifted toward the bed, where the earrings and necklace of her comm set lay

* * * * *

They rode the elevator up the Clock Tower in silence.  Contrary to the teen's talkative nature, she was giving her mentor the silent treatment.  Barbara didn't need to be a telepath to know Dinah was angry with her.  Barbara also knew Dinah wasn't any angrier than she was with herself.

As Barbara rolled into the room, she glanced around anxiously. "Helena?" She called hopefully.

Dinah rolled her eyes knowing Helena would not just come back to the Tower after the horrible treatment she received from someone who meant everything to her.  As she expected, the only sound that greeted Barbara was the soft chirp and bleeps of Delphi as it automatically scanned the city for unusual criminal activity.

Looking at her mentor, she shook her head, unable to believe the smartest person she knew could have been so stupid.  She silently headed to her bedroom and left Barbara to figure out how to contact Helena and apologize.  She hoped Helena could see past her own hurt and forgive Barbara, who clearly regretted her stupid words.  What a mess, Dinah sighed heavily.

After an uneasy moment of staring at Delphi, Barbara rolled out onto the balcony with a fleeting hope that was immediately dashed.  She grimaced knowing Helena was unlikely to return to the Tower.  Why would she want to risk being cruelly attacked again?

With that disturbing thought, Barbara's hand quickly went to her eyes and rubbed them, unable to avoid the moisture that formed

* * * * *

The shower was very hot, reddening her skin as she mechanically went about her nightly ablution, which was more complicated for someone paralyzed.  But she had learned to deal with her limitations and manage.  She leaned over, resting her head against the shower wall as tears began to fall.  She always "managed."  And she was tired of it.

More tears fell as she realized that unlike every troubled time before, when she could count on Helena for support, she was alone.  She had made sure of it.  She had allowed her fear to cruelly drive away the very person she had been terrified she would never see again.  She had hurt Helena before Helena could hurt her.  Before Helena revealed she wanted someone more adequate, who could keep up, someone who wasn't such a burden.

But Helena had never made her feel like a burden or inadequate, she considered.  On the contrary, Helena had always made her feel good about herself...before and after the shooting.

It wasn't very comforting to recognize that it wasn't the paralysis that actually crippled her - but her own doubts.  Helena's sage advice years ago of how it was a crime to give up and let your doubts win came flooding back.  And if there was anything worth fighting for, it was Helena.

Sitting up suddenly, she wiped away her tears and took a fortifying breath as she turned off the water.  Determination took root as Barbara reminded herself that she was a fighter, stubborn, and very good at solving problems.

She was going to find Helena, apologize profusely, then, hopefully, convince the woman to give her . . . them . . . a chance.

For the first time in several long days, genuine hope filled her heart.

Chapter 18


If Barbara didn't know better, she would have thought Helena disappeared in time again.  She hadn't been seen by Dinah on sweeps nor had there been any mysteriously solved crimes.  She wasn't at her apartment, or the Dark Horse, or No Man's land.

After a week without a word or a glimpse of Helena, Barbara was starting to grow worried that she might not find her. She rubbed her tired eyes and sighed.

Alfred, back from his restful vacation, frowned, seeing the unrest in Miss Barbara, who stared at the monitor.  She was in the same position he had seen her in when he left for groceries hours ago.

When he had stopped off at the Manor before returning to the Tower, he was pleasantly surprised to find Master Bruce had returned and stunned to find out about Miss Helena's adventures.  Many things made much more sense now, although Miss Barbara's continued inability to see what was in front of her continued to perplex him to no end. She had always been rather . . . blind . . . when it came to matters of the heart.

He was worried about both women, who had a connection that a rare few would ever experience.  He truly hoped that Miss Barbara could finally see and accept that.  He sighed, not believing being apart for so long was helping either of them.

"Still no word from Miss Helena?" Alfred asked, though he knew the answer as he set down a cup of tea in front of her next to the plate of biscuits he served her.

Barbara glanced at him sadly and shook her head no, picking up the tea and sipping it.  Alfred nodded. "Perhaps, you need to take a break," he suggested, seeing her frown and start to protest, he continued. "Master Bruce is still at the Manor.  Perhaps . . . you might take some time and visit with him?" Alfred said innocently, getting a curious look from Barbara, who blinked and looked at Alfred suspiciously.  Alfred never made trivial suggestions.

"Alfred?" she asked as her heart swelled with hope. "Is Helena at the Manor?"

"Miss Barbara, I would think visiting would answer that question," Alfred said with a pleasant smile before leaving for the kitchen to start preparing dinner

* * * * *

Barbara's heart pounded as she sped down the long, tree-lined road in the Humvee.  She wasn't exactly sure what she would say, but "I'm sorry" was definitely an important part of her speech.  She bit her lip, hoping Helena was there. She had not called ahead, not wanting to give her warning and risk her leaving.  She just had to . . . .

A loud bang, rapidly followed by another, startled Barbara out of her thoughts as the Humvee started to vibrate and become difficult to control.  She quickly slowed down, fighting the steering wheel to keep the vehicle on the road. The Humvee seemed to have a mind of its own, deciding to come to rest in a large ditch on the side of the road.

Finally at a stop, Barbara's hands remained tightly wrapped around the steering wheel.  After a few steadying breaths, she released her death grip and took stock of her situation.  Two flat tires most likely, she considered with irritation. Wanting to get back on the road, she put the car in gear and tried to drive up and out of the ditch.  However, the vehicle decided to slide deeper into the ditch, coming to a stop, at a notable list.

"Damnit!" she hissed, stopping any attempt to drive out.

She opened the door slightly, the weight of it pressing back against her.  Even if she got it completely open, she concluded the angle of the vehicle was too great for her to use the chair lift.  "Of course," she growled, letting the door slam shut.

Turning her necklace on, she called "Alfred? Dinah? Anyone out there?"  There was no answer, making her roll her eyes as she remembered that Alfred had mentioned he was spending the evening playing cribbage with some friends and Dinah was at Gabby's . . . again.  Turning her comms off, she glanced down and saw her purse, which was now on the floor of the passenger's side.  She reached down and managed to snag a shoulder strap and pull it towards her, but the contents fell out, returning to the floor. 

"UGH!" She blurted, seeing the object she desired - her cell phone - just out of reach.

She glanced around at the possible handholds and exhaled heavily.  Grabbing the steering wheel, she unbuckled her seat belt and leaned down, her hand reaching for the phone, her fingers just touching it.  As she stretched further, she felt some satisfaction when her hand clenched around the cell but her body slid down, putting all her weight on her hand clinging to the steering wheel.  With a growl of annoyance, she knew she wasn't going to get back into the driver's seat without a helpful boost and released her hand, causing her to quickly slid and slam into the passenger's door. "Ugh," she exhaled sharply.  With another heavy exhale of frustration, she opened up her cell phone and pressed the on button.

It didn't respond. "This can't be happening!" she hissed, and pressed the button harder

* * * * *

The phone rang, causing Helena to look up from her book.  She debated answering it but remained reclined on the study's couch, far too comfortable to move.  Letting the answering machine pick up, she smirked at Alfred's polite greeting.  Hearing a familiar voice, she bolted upright.

"Uh . . . Helena?  It's me. Dinah. Uh, I'm just checking in.  Alfred mentioned Barbara was going to the Manor and to see you and . . . well, I just wanted to make sure there were no homicides tonight . . . heh," she said awkwardly.

"Dinah?" Helena picked up.

"Where have you been??  We've been worried sick about you!!" Dinah scolded.

"You said Barbara was coming over?" Helena said with a frown, ignoring her rant.

"She isn't there yet?" Dinah said with surprise.


"But she left over five hours ago.... let me get her on her comms," Dinah said, picking up the head set. "Oracle?  This is Dinah, do you copy?"

"Anything?" Helena asked impatiently.

"No.  She must have turned them off," Dinah said with a frown.  "I'm checking her GPS signal," she said, calling up the map. She frowned.  "Helena? She's on the road, five miles out from the Manor.  She isn't moving," Dinah relayed, then heard a dial tone. "Helena?"

* * * * *

Barbara stared at the dashboard blankly as tears fell down her face.  Several uncomfortable hours had passed stuck in the Humvee with her being unable to do anything about it.  She couldn't climb up and the passenger door was blocked by a large rock. The great Oracle indeed, she thought, wiping the moisture off her cheeks.

As the darkness fell, so did the temperature, making her situation even more uncomfortable.  She rubbed her arms trying to combat the chill of the night, then blew on her cold hands as she began to tremble.  Wouldn't it be her luck to die of hypothermia on the road to the Wayne Manner?

A flash of high beams caught her attention, quickly followed by the sound of a car racing towards her.  She knew she should feel relief, yet all she could think of was now someone else would witness her inability to take care of herself.

"Barbara?!?" Helena called out in panic, as she got out of the sedan and rushed to the Humvee in a ditch.

"I'm here," she responded as fresh tears fell, seeing the white-haired woman look her over with concern through the driver's window.  

"Are you okay?" 

"Yeah," Barbara said without conviction.

Helena nodded hesitantly before quickly moving out of sight.  The vehicle's sudden movement startled Barbara slightly, causing her to hold on.  Within moments the Humvee was back on the street, prompting her to shift herself upright, onto the seat. She numbly watched as Helena came to the passenger's door, quickly opening it.

"Barbara?" she asked gently, startled by the tears.  Barbara just didn't cry, Helena considered, then realized the reason; she could smell the urine and noted the dark stain on her jeans. 

"I'm afraid I . . . I had a lot of tea this morning. I couldn't hold it," Barbara admitted as her hand quickly wiped at fresh tears.  She was unable to look Helena in the eye

Helena's heart broke for the proud woman - but that was last thing Barbara needed to hear. "Well, you're not the only one who's a mess.  Seeing you in the ditch scared the crap out of me.  Good thing the Manor has a washer and dryer, eh?"

Barbara looked at her with surprise.

"Let's get out of here and back to the Manor, okay?" Helena suggested softly.

Barbara had no choice but to accept her help.  She nodded and swallowed her pride as Helena's strong arms easily lifted her from the passenger seat.  The gentle care Helena took with her caused new tears to dampen her cheeks.

"Can you get the door?" Helena asked as they arrived at the sedan, stooping down slightly so Barbara could reach the door handle, which she easily pulled open.

Once inside the warm sedan, Barbara mechanically pulled the seatbelt on and buckled herself in.  In the darkness, she could barely see what Helena was doing as she pulled her chair out of the Humvee's driver's seat.

Returning to the back of the sedan with the chair, Helena called out "Can you pop the trunk?  I think the button is someplace on the dash."

Barbara turned on the map light, which illuminated the dash.  Pressing the button, she heard the trunk release, then a thud as the back end of the car jostled.

Helena opened the driver's side door and got in. "The trunk lid won't shut but I bungied it.  I think we'll be fine for the couple miles to the Manor.  Good thing I didn't bring the Batmobile.  That thing has no trunk," Helena said disapprovingly as she started the car, turned the heat on higher, and headed to the Manor.

Barbara remained uncomfortably silent on the drive back as she battled her tears.  Helena didn't press her to chat, turning on the radio.  Helena smiled as the Cyndi Lauper classic, Time after Time, played.  Eighties music really wasn't all that bad, she considered as the final strains of the song played.

If you're lost you can look and you will find me
Time after time
If you fall I will catch you I will be waiting
Time after time

Disturbing the relaxing mood was the next song, Life in a Northern Town, which came through the expensive sound system. "Dear God!" Helena cried out and quickly pressed the search button which found the next strong station, a more palatable classical station, prompting Helena to sigh with relief as soothing woodwinds played Smetana's The Moldau.

Barbara looked at her curiously.

"Please, please, PLEASE, don't tell me you like that travesty of popular music," Helena said, glancing at her with a grimace.

"I take it you don't," Barbara said with mild amusement.

"You didn't answer my question," Helena challenged.

Barbara rolled her eyes. "I'm not particularly . . . fond of it."

Helena nodded, relieved. "After the third time we played that one evening, I swear it deadened my sense of taste and smell the rest of the night," she offered. "The tequila was like water," she added with a frown, shaking her head.

"Perhaps it was the alcohol, not the music, that dulled your senses," Barbara suggested wryly.

"Have you ever listened to that song repeatedly?" Helena countered pointedly as she drove into the batcave, the most expedient way to the Manor.

"No, I can't say that I have," Barbara responded, a small smile finding its way to her lips as Helena smiled smugly and nodded with great satisfaction as if Barbara had just proven her point for her.

Stopping the sedan, Helena noticed Barbara's tenseness returning.  Barbara glanced up at the platform uneasily, expecting more witnesses to her shame.

"Bruce is out of town for business," Helena offered smoothly, getting out of the car. "Which I had thought rather sudden, but I suspect that dear ol' Dad and Alfred had plans for us this evening," she said, pulling the heavy chair from the trunk with ease and setting it down. "And if they had anything to do with the Humvee going into the ditch," Helena offered, opening Barbara's door.  "I will kill them . . . slowly," she vowed, then looked at Barbara expectantly.

Barbara nodded, reaching out for her as Helena picked her up again. "That's not exactly fair," Barbara said in a small voice as she sniffed, grateful and amazed that Helena was able to make this intolerable situation almost . . . tolerable. "I was in the ditch. I should get to kill them."

Helena rolled her eyes and gently set Barbara down in the chair. "Fine," she said with a disappointed exhale and stubbornly added "As long as I get to watch."

Another small smile made its way to Barbara's face. "Deal," she said, rolling onto the elevator as Helena joined her side

* * * * *

Barbara glanced down at the well-designed bench and sturdy handholds around the shower, absently wondering when Bruce started outfitting his bathrooms for handicapped guests.  She turned on the water and when it became warm enough, transferred herself onto the bench.

As the hot water fell and washed away the soil from her body, she almost felt normal.   She had started her trip with great hope and conviction; that she needed to apologize to Helena and convince her to give her . . . them . . . a chance.  But the day had been painfully long and her humiliation sobering, brutally exposing her original fear.  Sure, almost anyone could tolerate one night, when she was in extremis and needed help - perhaps even a few weeks or months.  But what about a lifetime of this, she considered with a frown, looking down at her numb legs.  How could Helena not grow tired of having to deal with her limitations?

She shut her eyes, her tears mixing with shower drops.  It wasn't fair, she thought, remembering how wonderful it was to hold Margay - Helena - in her arms and kiss her.  Taking a fortifying breath, she turned the water off and grabbed a towel.

After drying herself, she donned a robe and shifted herself back into the chair, her many hours of physical conditioning almost making the chore easy.  Returning to the bedroom, she was surprised to find that Helena had left out Gotham U sweats and a tee-shirt for her - along with really loud leopard-spotted underpants.  Barbara snorted as she carefully picked them up between her thumb and index finger, almost as if they might bite, and inspected the functional but utterly tacky garment.  Well, beggars can't be choosers, she considered with a heavy sigh, thankful for the clean clothes.

She made quick work of dressing, then stopped and sighed, unsure of what she was going to say to Helena.  She rubbed her eyes, knowing she would rather die than become a burden to Helena.  Helena had so much life and didn't need to be held back. . . .

The light knocking at the door caused her to jump.

"You decent?" Helena called from behind the slightly ajar door.

Barbara sniffed and answered. "Well, that depends on your definition," she said.

"Fine, don't answer.  But don't blame me if you are . . . ," Helena said as she walked in and spotted a fully dressed Barbara. "oh.  Not even a flash of leopard spots," she lamented with a frown, then grinned.

Barbara smiled weakly, not feeling comfortable with the flirting.  She noticed Helena had also changed from her jeans and sweater to sweats and a large football jersey with a large zero on the front.

"The Humvee should be fixed in the morning," she reported, gaining a nod.  "I also called Dinah," Helena added.


"To call off the National Guard," she explained. "It's a good thing she's nosey.  You might have been out there all night," Helena said with a wince.

Barbara dropped her eyes in embarrassment.

Helena sighed with frustration, then suddenly asked with a grin "Are you hungry?"

"Uh . . . yes?"

* * * * *

To Barbara's surprise, Helena actually cooked dinner for them, nothing complex, just omelets. Though considering neither she nor Helena had ever really desired or really made an effort to learn to cook while they lived together, it was amazing to witness Helena expertly wield a chef's knife to the dice the onions, peppers, and ham.

Fully aware that Barbara was watching her every movement with great fascination, which boarded on disturbing, Helena didn't wait for the expected question. "I had to share in the cooking duties with my roommates . . . when I went back," Helena explained, glancing to Barbara uncomfortably as she finished grating some cheese.

"We didn't have any money for takeout," Helena continued as she retrieved the needed pans from the kitchen cabinets. "My first attempt at cooking was an omelet.  My mom cooked them so how hard could it be?" Helena relayed with amusement. "For some reason, no one believed I deliberately made it black as part of a Cajun recipe.  Of course, the smoke detector going off didn't help my case," Helena said wryly, looking at Barbara, who smiled with amusement, having set off her share of smoke detectors when Helena first came to live with her and she tried to make her a home cooked meal. Thank God for Alfred, she considered....

"Monique took pity on me, well, it was probably her survival instinct that made her take me under her wing.  She wasn't . . . isn't . . . just a great musician," Helena explained, stumbling with the tenses, then shrugged - time travel will do that to you.

Monique again, Barbara thought as her smile faded, which Helena noted.

"We were never more than good friends," Helena quickly offered, eyeing Barbara carefully.

Barbara looked at her with surprise, cursing her sudden inability to school her emotions around Helena. "I'm glad she was there to help you," Barbara said sincerely, guessing how frightening it must have been to arrive in a different time with no idea how to get back home.

Helena nodded. "Me too.  I needed a good friend . . . a job . . . roommate . . . cooking lessons," she noted with a small smile as she prepared the sauté dish and frying pan.  

Barbara tried to imagine what it must have been like for Helena.  Guilt washed over her as she had to acknowledge she had not bothered to listen to, nor help Helena upon her return.  Instead, she had unfairly attacked her.  She was lucky that Helena was still talking with her, let alone cooking her a meal . . . after rescuing her from the roadside humiliation.

What was she supposed to say now?  Barbara had the general discussion points of their talk outlined in her head, which no longer seemed relevant.  So she remained silent, taking some comfort in just being in Helena's presence. That was until curiosity got the better of her when Helena pulled out a small bottle and added a couple of dark drops to the beaten eggs.

"What's that?" Barbara blurted, wondering if that was some sort of French flavoring.

"It isn't just taste that is important in cooking, Barbara," Helena said sagely and whipped the new ingredient in.  When the mixture became bright green, Barbara rolled her eyes.

"Green eggs, Hel?"

"And ham," Helena added with a smile of satisfaction as she motioned to the bowl of sautéed diced meat before quickly pouring the beaten green eggs into the sizzling pan.

"Isn't the ham supposed to be green too?" Barbara offered with amusement.

"Then wouldn't it be green eggs and green ham?" Helena asked innocently. "Bet Alfred never made omelets like this," she added with a bit of pride.

"Not for me anyway," Barbara offered with mild amusement.

Helena looked at her and smiled warmly before plating the first omelet and putting it in a warming oven before starting the second.  The openness of her expression took Barbara aback.  She could tell Helena was very pleased to do something special for her - the smile touched her heart.

"Alfred would be impressed," Barbara said, trying not to think too hard about her reaction to a simple smile, focusing instead on Helena's surprising ease in the kitchen as she assembled the second plate.

"Hopefully not too much.  I like his cooking," Helena said as she went to the refrigerator and pulled out a bottle of champagne, surprising Barbara. "Trust me," she said preemptively, placing the bottle down and tending to the last omelet.

"I do," Barbara said softly, getting Helena's surprised glance before she plated the second omelet.

"That's all I've ever wanted," Helena said sincerely, gaining a curious look as she added "I hope you don't mind eating here.  I don't like the dining room," Helena noted with a mild grimace as she placed the plates down and set the kitchen table with silverware and napkins.

"It is rather large," Barbara offered as she rolled into place, still curious about Helena's trust comment but she held her tongue, not sure she was ready for anything more than light conversation.

Impersonal was more like it, Helena considered as she smoothly served the champagne.  "Bon appetite!" she said, raising her flute to Barbara, who raised her glass in hesitant response as she eyed the young woman.

With a gentle ping between the two flutes, they each sipped their bubbly beverage.

"Thank you for the home cooked meal," Barbara said as Helena sat.

"You might want to taste it before you do your thanking," Helena cautioned, taking a bite herself. Not too bad, she thought.

Barbara's brow rose as she picked up her fork and took a bite, noticing Helena eye her anxiously.  She chewed, savoring the flavors.  After swallowing, with the help of some champagne, she chuckled at Helena's concerned face.

"I don't know what you are worried about, Hel, it's delicious," Barbara enthused, grinning as Helena sighed with relief. "Must be the green," she added with a sparkle in her eye.

"It is my favorite color," Helena countered, her smile growing as she dove into her plate.

As they ate, a silence fell between them.  It wasn't a comfortable silence for Barbara, who knew she needed to talk with Helena but wasn't sure where to start - or if she really wanted to begin something she had no idea how it would end.

"I could make you another," Helena offered with a pleased grin, noticing Barbara's empty plate.

Barbara bit her lip.  "Ah, no thanks.  It was delicious though, thank you," she said, surprised how hungry she had been, not really having had an appetite for the past week. But then, Helena had been gone again - this time because of her.  She looked at Helena, who smiled and sipped her champagne.

"I owe you an apology," Barbara said with forced confidence, biting the bullet.

Helena tensed a brief second before putting her glass down.  Here we go, she thought, preparing herself for whatever Barbara was going to say.  She slowly poured herself more, then motioned Barbara's glass.

Barbara shook her head no. "I . . . I'm sorry," Barbara blurted.  "After everything you went through, after everything you've done for me . . . I attacked you and . . . I was a horrible friend," she said guiltily, then exhaled heavily.


After everything they had gone through . . . .


For a word that sounded so light and carefree, its weight settled over Helena's heart, suffocating the fleeting hope she had desperately clung to - that the life she had dreamt of for so very long, the life she had a glimpse of on that roof top . . . wasn't going to be.

Eyeing the bottle, Barbara grabbed it and poured herself another glass.  She stared at her glass a moment then looked up curiously when Helena clinked their glasses together.

"Apology accepted," Helena said softly, not wanting to prolong the awkward discussion.

"Just like that?" Barbara asked with surprise, expecting more anger or . . . something.

"Friends don't let friends grovel . . . or was that drive drunk?" she added with a smirk. "Either way, it's always good to have friends," Helena offered with a plastered on smile, shrugging as she took a sip from her flute.

"But . . . ." Barbara said with confusion and growing alarm, distinctly feeling Helena emotionally withdraw from her.

"You know," Helena interrupted. "Alfred will kill me if I don't clean up his kitchen," she said, standing up with a wry chuckle.

"Helena, we really need to talk," Barbara said with concern, surprising herself.

"Sure," she said with an easy smile. "Why don't I clean up in here and meet you in the study when I'm done?  I won't be long," she offered, effectively dismissing Barbara, who looked at her an uneasy moment before nodding hesitantly.

Chapter 19


With a heavy exhale, Barbara stared at the portrait of Bruce's parents.  If he had given in to the temptation, she wondered which of the tragic events in his life he would have attempted to fix - his parents' murder, Selena's, or both.  She guessed Selena's; he may have never met the love of his life had he never become Batman.  And had Selena never been killed, Helena would have never come to live with her, she considered uneasily, knowing how drastically history could have been changed if Bruce gave into his temptation.

Unlike Bruce, Helena had given in to temptation.  And she made a choice and it wasn't her mother.  Too busy being self-conscious and insecure when Helena had first returned, Barbara did not really appreciate the significance of that choice.  But she had plenty of time to think about that the past week and it overwhelmed her.

Barbara looked down and pulled out the letter in the chair's side pouch and stared at it.  She had almost read it a few times as she searched for Helena.  What had she felt so important that she'd abandon her principles about not interfering with history?  She still debated whether or not to read it, her fear equaling her curiosity.  After several minutes of just staring at the envelope, Barbara felt the hair on the back of her neck stand up.  With a small smile, she said "Are you going to continue to hover in the hallway or are you going to come in?" She finally looked up to find Helena at the doorway.

"Didn't want to disturb you.  You looked deep in thought," Helena said, joining Barbara in the study.

They looked at each other an uneasy moment before Helena smiled and sat on the leather sofa.  She sat comfortably with her arm over the back, and crossed her legs.  Barbara had always marveled how Helena had always appeared comfortable in her own skin . . . unlike her.

"What's that?" Helena asked curiously, glancing at the letter.

"Something . . . you brought back with you," Barbara offered hesitantly, looking at Helena, who just squinted in confusion. "Uh, apparently, I used you to send myself a letter," she explained uncomfortably, surprised when Helena snorted with amusement and shook her head.


"You get mad at me for trying to tamper with history and yet you use me to send yourself a letter, no doubt to manipulate the timeline . . . hmmm."

"I never wrote this," Barbara argued defensively, holding the letter up.

"No. You didn't," Helena acknowledged. "Have you read it?" She asked, her own curiosity piqued.

"No!" Barbara blurted vehemently.  "I . . . shouldn't," she said with far less conviction, glancing at the tempting letter. "Do you know why I would write to myself?" She asked with a cringe, almost afraid of the answer.

Helena shrugged slightly. "Batgirl went back in time to stop me from altering history because she believed altering history was a mistake, so the letter is a bit of a surprise," she said honestly. "Although, she might have concluded that writing a letter to herself in a different, but contemporary timeline would not technically be altering history," she suggested with a smirk.

Barbara frowned at the flawed justification.

"But the only way to find out what's in that letter, Barbara, is to read it," Helena offered simply, looking at Barbara, who shook her head.

"I . . . can't."

"Yet you still carry it with you."

Barbara frowned.

"There you go," Helena said as if that answered everything.

"There I go, what?!?" Barbara responded with irritation.

Helena looked into green eyes an intense moment. "You and temptation," she offered, causing those green eyes to widen slightly.

"You resist because you fear the consequences, yet your curiosity consumes you, making you unable to just . . . ignore it," she said with a knowing smile.  She sighed and offered "Poor letter, waiting for you to make up your mind."

Barbara blinked, her eyes dropping uncomfortably to the letter.  "And you would read it," she said with mild disapproval.

Helena chuckled softly.  "You're asking a woman who traveled through time and tried to fix history?" Helena asked wryly.

Barbara sighed heavily, knowing Helena, of all people, would have no compunction reading the letter.

"And speaking of which, you wanted to talk about my trip to 1996?" Helena said, tilting her head as she eyed the redhead. "Or have you decided to yell at me again?" she asked with a polite smile.

Barbara looked at her a surprised moment then shook her head, her guilt returning.  "I am so sorry for how I acted, Helena," she said with a wince. "I know you were only trying to help me, even if I don't agree with what you tried to do.  There's just no good excuse for how I acted.  There's nothing more I can say than - I was horribly wrong" she said remorsefully.

After a long moment, Helena realized that Barbara really believed there was nothing more to say.  Why oh WHY did she keep hoping?  Helena silently scolded herself.  "I guess there isn't, is there?"  Helena responded with a polite smile as sadness filled her heart.

It wasn't the response Barbara had expected, though she wasn't sure what she did expect.

"I . . . never meant to drive you away," Barbara blurted, surprising Helena, who nodded hesitantly. "I was worried you might not . . . come back," she admitted uncomfortably, searching Helena's face.

"After everything we went through?" Helena scoffed with a plastered-on smile that faded a bit. "I just needed a little time . . . to get used to . . . things.  Don't worry, you can count on me for sweeps and watching Dinah's back," Helena offered with a smile firmly back in place.

"I wasn't worried about sweeps, Helena," Barbara responded with frustration, then exhaled heavily.  She knew Helena was putting more distance between them, which greatly troubled her.  "Why is it so hard to talk to you?" She added wearily, searching her eyes, wondering if she would even answer.

Helena looked at her a surprised moment before shaking her head at the accusing comment.  With a sad laugh, she stood up. "Tell me something, Barbara," she said, slowly walking to the window.  "Am I ever going to hear that speech you intended to give me before our roadside adventure today??"

Barbara looked at her, startled by the insightful comment.  Her eyes dropped guiltily, unable to hold Helena's pointed gaze.

Helena nodded sadly, taking the silence as a resounding no. "You know, after I licked my wounds from your little diatribe, I actually had some hope," Helena offered softly, shaking her head in mild amazement as she stared out of the window into the darkness.

Barbara looked up, unable to resist being drawn in by Helena, whose thoughts she really wanted to hear.

Rubbing the back of her stiff neck, Helena continued. "I had hoped the time apart might get you to really think about us, how it seems that our lives are destined to be intertwined, how we've helped each other, sharing life-altering events - both good and bad - as well as simple pleasures," Helena said with a small smile as she recalled some of those memories.

There were several memories that Barbara revisited, like Helena encouraging her to hack into the Wayne Foundation computer, seeing Helena's delighted smile when she sat up on her own for the first time after the shooting, sitting close together and sharing a big bowl of popcorn, listening to Helena's uniquely insightful commentary on whatever they were watching. . . .

"How just being together made things . . . better," she added simply, glancing at Barbara, who listened with rapt attention, unable to disagree.

"When Dinah called, telling me you were coming, I had hoped . . . hoped you had finally figured out what my heart has always known, even when I went back to 1987. We belong together," Helena explained with conviction, surprising Barbara, who sucked in an uneasy breath hearing those bold words.

In spite of her significant doubts, Helena's courage and conviction cultivated Barbara's own hope, which began to bloom.

"But after today, I think I have to finally have to face the facts," Helena said softly.

Barbara grew alarmed by Helena's sudden change in demeanor, noting the disturbing defeat in her voice and droop of her shoulders.

"There are going to be days like today in the future, Barbara," Helena said sadly. "And boy, they are gonna suck. But instead of just accepting my hand and getting through those days, together," Helena said with a pained expression. "You are going to assume my hand is offered out of some sense of . . . obligation, or pity."

Barbara frowned guiltily, acknowledging her actions, especially her recent behavior, gave Helena no reason to believe otherwise.

"You are unable to believe it's simply my love for you that motivates me," Helena said miserably. "The Joker didn't just rob you of your legs that night, Barbara. That bastard took away your ability to trust in love," she said angrily, then sighed as the anger fled, replaced by defeat. "And without that . . . it doesn't matter what I say or what I do.  It doesn't matter how much I love you," Helena finished in an anguished whisper as tears began to fall.

Helena's clear pain gripped Barbara's heart and squeezed tightly.

"I'll call you a cab," Helena said in a hoarse voice when she turned to leave, a cold numbness settling over her like a cloak of defeat.

"No," Barbara responded anxiously, finally finding her voice.  Her heart pounded with fear; she could not lose Helena . . . .

"All right, you call.  I do know you're capable," she acknowledged weakly, walking away.

"Helena, it matters!" Barbara cried out, stopping her in her tracks. "It matters," she repeated desperately as tears formed in her eyes.  She waited for Helena to face her; but Helena remained rigid, as if afraid to move.

Barbara exhaled heavily, her hands clenched into fists.  "Don't give up on me," she said nervously.  "Please." Her plea pierced through Helena's numbness.

Helena turned to face Barbara. "Don't you know?  I would fight the world for you, Barbara," she offered earnestly. "But I can't fight your doubts for you," Helena added in anguish, wishing she could.

Nodding, Barbara wiped the moisture from her cheek.  "I know," Barbara acknowledged uncomfortably, taking a deep breath.  "That's my battle," she said firmly.  "One that I should have fought years ago," she admitted guiltily. "But I am ready to fight it now.  I just need to know you haven't given up . . . on us," Barbara whispered uneasily, reaching for Helena's hand.

Helena looked down her extended hand uncertainly, hesitant to accept what Barbara was saying; her hopes had been dashed too many times before.  But glancing up into those normally guarded eyes, she saw a storm of emotion that made her want to believe . . . .

Knowing this the first of likely many battles, Barbara finally closed the distance between them.  Reaching up, she gently grabbed a handful of jersey, and pulled Helena slowly towards her, firmly believing now was a time for action.

Helena, a big fan of action, was inclined to agree as their lips finally met in gentle welcome, a balm to their battered souls . . . a return home.

Helena instinctively sought to deepen this glorious intimacy, reverently tracing her fingertips over Barbara's soft cheek before sliding her fingers through the luxurious red hair, like she had in her dreams. With her hand cradling the back of Barbara's head, Helena gently pulled her into a probing kiss. Their tongues teased and explored with surprising restraint; perfection was not to be rushed.

Awash in sensation and emotion, Barbara moaned before pulling back for much needed air. "Hel," she exhaled, like a benediction, before beginning her campaign to drink in and enjoy every inch of the intoxicating woman.

Helena inhaled deeply, taking in Barbara's scent, inflaming her own arousal. "God," she gasped, feeling a fresh onslaught of kisses, accompanied by licks and nibbles that covered her cheek, chin, and neck.  Helena's heart pounded rapidly as she struggled to pull back from the addictive contact that threatened her rapidly deteriorating control.

Perfection . . . was not to be rushed, Helena reminded herself.

"Uh," Helena said, battling her arousal, struggling to not attack Barbara right there...in the study. "This is probably . . . a bit . . . OHH," Helena gasped as Barbara's nails roughly scratched over the back of her neck in concert with her oral attention at her pulse point. "fast and we . . . should probably . . . GOD," Helena said with difficulty, knowing her eyes had just augmented.

Barbara, who wanted perfection right now, possessively bit down on Helena's neck, clearly communicating her thoughts on the subject, and completely eradicated all thoughts, save one, from the younger woman.

With a growl, Helena hauled Barbara out of her chair; the responding moan vibrating against her neck shot through her as if her veins had caught on fire.  Their mouths smashed together in a demanding kiss, which did not deter Helena from navigating the halls and finding her bedroom.  Helena's ability to complete her objective in the face of great distraction would have truly impressed Barbara had she had not been so . . . distracted.

Kicking the partially opened door wide open, Helena took Barbara to the large bed and gently deposited her treasure.

Barbara immediately pulled at Helena's shirt, lifting up the jersey over her head and flinging it across the room. She paused an indulgent moment to appreciatively gaze over the pale flesh partially revealed before her before sampling the newly exposed skin.  She was rewarded with another growl when she scraped her fingernails over Helena's lower back while she kissed her chest.  Without difficulty she swiftly removed Helena's bra, flinging it away from them as she pressed her lips against the top of the perfect swell of flesh.  As she pulled back, Helena's hand found its way behind her head, gently urging her to not leave just yet.  Unable to deny Helena, she slid her hands around her lean back and slowly kissed her way to a painfully hard nipple, prompting a pleased murmur that sounded like purring.

With a smile against Helena's flesh, Barbara slid her hands down her back, possessively kneading and caressing every inch.  Her fingers slid lower still, beneath Helena's sweats and underpants to cup and squeeze her perfect ass that had been a dangerous distraction too many times to count.  Indulging in her guilty pleasure, she kneaded soft flesh and muscle beneath her fingers as she continued her oral attention to Helena's breast.  Wanting to see as well as feel, Barbara finally commanded "Off."

As Helena immediately complied to discard the last of her clothing, Barbara found another part of Helena she would never get enough of - the strong musky scent of Helena's arousal.  Barbara reached up and grabbed Helena, pulling her into an urgent kiss.  Helena's hands sought Barbara's body and found unwanted material in the way . . . material that was soon on the floor, in a torn pile next to her clothing.

Barbara didn't seem to notice the new pile of rags, too busy exploring and tasting the soft flesh before her.  Her explorations were interrupted when Helena gently lifted up her chin and took a step back.  Her gaze was one of appreciation and wonder, feeling like a warm caress around Barbara's heart.

Helena reverently cradled her face with both hands and tenderly brushed their lips together.  Pulling back, Helena smiled warmly and smoothly climbed into bed, her augmented eyes never leaving her redheaded prey.

Barbara had never expected to want to be prey so badly.

Their lips met again as Helena pulled Barbara on top of her with ease.  After a deep, leisurely kiss, they looked into each other's eyes a long moment as they enjoyed the first meeting of warm flesh to warm flesh, the first brush of hardened peaks against hardened peaks, the first time nothing was between them . . . except love.

Barbara smiled as she slowly traced her fingers over Helena's white brow, down her cheek, and over her full lips.  Helena shut her eyes, enjoying the sensation of Barbara's gentle touch over her sensitive skin and the joy that filled her heart.  She could do slow . . . for Barbara.  Helena's eyes popped open in surprise when she felt Barbara shift and a warm, moist mouth suddenly attacked her nipple and suckled - hard.

"God!" she responded, arching into the delicious feeling, prompting a satisfied chuckle from Barbara that caused a very nice vibration against her tingling skin.  Helena wanted release!  Yet didn't, wanting to prolong the addictive touches.  

With fingers mapping and caressing each swell and beautiful contour, Barbara kissed her way to the neglected twin, making Helena moan as she suckled and nibbled the pebble-hard nub.  After several moments of pleasurable torment, Barbara kissed her way up to Helena's mouth.  Looking deep into Helena's eyes, Barbara watched intently as her hand traced down her body, pausing over her breast to knead the soft flesh before traveling lower.  Her fingers traced over the flat stomach, slowly circling Helena's belly button, twice, before descending through dark, very damp curls to her heated center.

Helena's eyes once again shut as she sucked in a breath and enjoyed Barbara's ministrations with her exquisitely inquisitive fingers.  After several minutes, she grew a bit frustrated that Barbara continued to touch her without entering or tending to her aching center, her arousal almost becoming painful.  Just before a plea could escape her lips, Barbara entered her, hard.  Helena would have cried out "thank GOD," but she couldn't speak; the sensation overloaded her brain's speech center as Barbara thrust in and out . . . with her fingers curling within . . . just . . . perfectly.

She was so close, riding higher and higher, when her nipple was once again possessed by a demanding mouth. When teeth firmly clamped down, she moaned as her release shuddered through her body.  Barbara coaxed another climax when her fingers shifted their focus to Helena's clitoris, causing Helena to cry out again as her spent body managed to convulse again in pleasure. "G . . . GOD."

Barbara slowly kissed her way up Helena's flushed skin and finally looked into her eyes with a decidedly pleased smile on her lips and beautiful sparkle in her eyes.

Deliciously exhausted, Helena chuckled weakly at the satisfied look on Barbara's face.  She had earned the right as far as Helena was concerned, feeling quite satisfied thankyouverymuch.  Her chuckling immediately stopped when she watched Barbara raise her exceptionally skilled fingers to her lips which slightly curved in a wicked smile.

Barbara could not help but delight in the want so clearly expressed on Helena's face.  Well aware Helena's eyes were watching her every movement, she inhaled deeply, enjoying the musky scent, before her tongue slowly and decadently licked every delicious drop of arousal that liberally coated her fingers.

"Ah!" Barbara blurted in surprise when she suddenly found herself flat on her back, beneath a very inspired and amazingly rejuvenated Helena, who dipped down to brush her cheek against Barbara's. With a grin, she pulled back and rubbed their noses together in a playful Eskimo kiss, prompting a smile from Barbara.

Seeing Helena's playful grin fade as her desire grew, Barbara tensed as Helena lowered herself to capture her lips.

"Hel?" Barbara said uneasily, causing Helena to stop and pull back slightly, sensing the sudden, unnerving discomfort.

"What's wrong?" Helena asked gently, searching her eyes worriedly.

"I . . . I may not . . . climax," Barbara admitted self-consciously with a wince, wishing she could just ignore that little problem and fake it, as she had done in the past.  Besides being unfair to Helena, it would be a lie; the last thing she wanted to do was to start off their relationship lying, no matter how painful or frustrating the truth was.

Helena looked at her a thoughtful moment.  "Thank you," she said with a warm smile, understanding how hard it was for Barbara to address her physical limitations.

That wasn't exactly the response Barbara was expecting, which showed on her confused face.  Helena grinned.  "I would know if you were faking it, you know."

Barbara frowned. "That's all well and good but you need to fact the fact that I . . . I won't be the most responsive lover you've had.  Ever," she added with a worried sigh.

Helena took a long breath, trying not to get annoyed with Barbara's insecurities and tendency to assume.

"Just how many lovers do you think I've had?" she asked, a bit of irritation slipping through.

Barbara looked at her with a wince, realizing she should have just kept her mouth shut.

Helena sighed. "Before you, I've had three," she offered, surprising Barbara, who eyed her with amazement. "Four, if you count masturbation.  And until you, I'd have to say, my most satisfying sexual relationship I had was with my right hand, which I am willing to bet the family fortune is far less responsive than you," she said wryly, enjoying the confused look on Barbara's face.

Barbara blinked.  She never would have imagined that her own . . . history was more extensive than Helena's.  Biting her lip in embarrassment, she recalled how Helena had always told her she assumed too mu . . . .

"You worry too much, Red," Helena said simply.  "Anyway, who said it was the journey, not the destination that was important?" Helena asked, tenderly brushing a lock of red hair off of Barbara's brow.

"Several people have had some form of that quote attributed to them," Barbara responded, feeling more comfortable talking about famous quotes instead of sex.  "But I believe Ralph Waldo Emerson is first cit. . . ."

"Barbara," Helena interrupted, rolling her eyes. "The point is . . . joy is found not in finishing the activity but in the doing," she said, tracing her fingers down Barbara's neck and over her collarbone.

"You don't think that orgasms are an important part of sex?" Barbara asked incredulously, her skin tingling from Helena's touch.

"Well, orgasms are great, Barbara - to give as well as receive," she responded honestly with a shrug. "And I intend to try to give you them when we have sex, being a firm believer of the "try try again" philosophy," Helena warned with a grin, her bluntness surprising and . . . refreshing. "But they are not what fills my heart with joy," Helena said sincerely, looking into Barbara's eyes. "Being with you, loving you, brings me joy."

"So you won't be disappointed . . . if I don't climax?" Barbara said uncomfortably, unable to let the topic go even after Helena's beautiful words.

"I can't say that," Helena said with a heavy sigh.

Barbara nodded dejectedly, clearly depressed by the thought of Helena being disappointed in their sex life.

"Barbara," Helena scolded her lover and caressed her cheek tenderly. "I want you to have everything. Rain drops on roses, warm woolen mittens," Helena said, innocently tossing out "orgasms," prompting an amused snort from Barbara.

"If you are physically unable, well . . . we'll just have to deal with it, together," Helena said honestly, leaning down to nip, then kiss her shoulder, which sent a tingle of arousal to Barbara's center, clearly reminding her all feeling was not lost.

"I am," Barbara blurted, adding awkwardly "Physically able."

"Oh," Helena said, then winced slightly, trying not to dwell on how Barbara had confirmed that particular fact.

"No," she quickly offered, wanting to clarify. "I haven't with any . . . ," she said and abruptly stopped, realizing it was not exactly good form to drag past lovers into their bed. "Perhaps I should shut up now," Barbara said with a cringe.

"I don't want to alarm you but . . . I really think we need to talk about this," Helena said wryly as she rolled to her side and propped her head up on her hand. "Although, I'll have to admit, when I brought up journeys, I hadn't expected to take this detour down your ex-lover's lane but . . . you've been able to climax since the shooting?"

"Not with anyone," Barbara clarified uncomfortably.

"Ahhh," she responded in understanding. "There's nothing wrong with masturbation, Barbara," she offered with amusement at Barbara's shyness, tenderly caressing her arm with the back of her fingers.

"Good GOD, Hel.  I know that," she said with exasperation. "Though it is a goal-oriented activity which the shooting has made too frustrating to try," Barbara added with irritation.

"If you haven't . . . or with anyone else . . . how do you know?" Helena asked in confusion.

"A dream," Barbara muttered, her eyes avoiding Helena's.

"A dream," Helena repeated, intrigued. "About?"

Barbara looked at her hesitantly. "Margay," she said, prompting a displeased wince. "And you," she added quickly, causing a confused look that turned into a cringe as Helena thought about that. "Helena . . . it was after I had realized that you were Margay.  I had dreamt about our meeting in the bathroom.  When Monique interrupted our conversation?  When she left, I . . . pursued you," Barbara explained awkwardly.

"In the bathroom??" Helena responded, sounding surprisingly . . . prudish to Barbara.

"Which turned into a room with a big bed," Barbara said defensively, then saw Helena blink. "It was a DREAM, Helena."

"Go on...."

Barbara sighed and tried to explain. "You started out as Margay but turned back into yourself and made love to me.  It felt so . . . real," Barbara said with amazement in her voice. "I actually . . . climaxed, which woke me up," Barbara admitted uncomfortably.

"Well I should hope so," Helena said indignantly.

Barbara looked at her and saw the sparkle in her eyes.  She chuckled and shook her head.

Helena smiled and traced her fingers over Barbara's arm again, then sighed heavily. "You know, competing with a dream isn't exactly easy.  But I'll try my best," she promised with a grin, moving on top of Barbara, kissing her shoulder, collarbone, then neck.

"Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try," Barbara offered sagely with amusement in her eyes, halting Helena's advances. "Though, I'd really prefer that you'd do," she quickly offered with a grin, running her hands over Helena's back as she looked at her.

"I quote Ralph Waldo Emerson and you quote . . . Yoda?" Helena countered in disbelief.

Barbara smiled brightly and laughed.  It was the richest, most wonderful sound Helena had ever heard, bringing a smile to her face and joy to her heart.  As the mirth died down, the satisfied smiles remained as the two women looked at each other.

"I love you," Helena said softly.

"How much?" Barbara asked, her smile widening as her arms tightened possessively around Helena.

"Lots," Helena grinned.

"You know, Hel, actions speak louder than words," Barbara challenged with a smile, stroking Helena's back with her hands.

"Now who said that?" Helena asked curiously.

"I just did," Barbara responded helpfully.

Helena smiled as she caressed her cheek and looked into her eyes.  Without another word, able to take the not-so-subtle hint, Helena lowered her lips to Barbara's and kissed her slowly and deeply.

By God, Helena certainly knew how to kiss, Barbara thought, her touch speaking volumes to her, all revolving around one subject - love.

When Helena pulled back, Barbara was briefly alarmed, until Helena began a slow and deliberate campaign to rouse every inch of flesh before her.  Lips and tongue caressed and teeth nibbled, causing Barbara's skin to sing, sending waves of arousal over her . . . which pooled in a distant area that was slowly woken from its unwanted dormancy.

When Helena progressed to her breasts, she anxiously awaited her touch, her nipples aching for attention. Barbara's fingers raked through Helena's hair as she tried to gently guide her.  But Barbara's head hit the pillow in frustration when Helena just smiled into her flesh, continuing to caress and tease everywhere but where she wanted.  As Helena's hand slipped down her stomach, her head lifted again, eyes widening in alarm as the extent of her limits were going to be laid bare to her lover.  Her heart pounded as she anxiously glanced down as Helena's fingertips caressed her skin, slipping below where she could feel then returning to lavish attention on her eager flesh.

Indulgently raking through her red curls, Helena smiled, looking up with love as her hand descended further, finally exploring her very wet center.  Barbara took a deep, uneasy breath as she fought to tamp down the heartbreak that came from the absence of something so fundamental, something she had wanted to share with Helena so badly. Yet the depressing fact was that Helena's touches barely registered; they were a faint shadow of what should have been.  Barbara blinked. 

They . . . registered.

She sucked in a surprised breath when Helena shifted her position slightly, but enough to increase the sensation, from faint to . . . more.  Helena smiled and started more vigorous thrusts that caused another unexpected response, a growing tightness in her womanhood.

"Yes," Barbara hissed, shutting her eyes and plopping her head back down on the pillow as she allowed herself to just feel the sensations Helena was provoking wash over her.

Helena's eyes took in the glorious sight of Barbara, her red hair splayed across the pillow as she panted through her slightly parted mouth. "So beautiful," she whispered reverently, diligently continuing her ministrations as she tenderly kissed and nibbled at her hip and lower abdomen, provoking more slick moisture that covered her hand.  "So wet," Helena offered, inhaling the heady fragrance, pure oxygen to her passion.

Barbara's heart pounded, her skin flushed, and her breathing grew ragged as her need soared.  "Helena," Barbara cried out for the only one who had brought her this hunger and the only one who could satisfy it. "Please...."

Helena's own sex clenched hearing the raw need in Barbara's voice, a raw need for her.

Continuing her thrusting, Helena eagerly answered the plea, kissing her way to Barbara's breast to finally lavish the attention the straining, hardened flesh deserved.

The brush of hot tongue against her rigid nipple and the sudden, strong suction, which somehow managed to tug at her womanhood as if connected, made her crest.  All her pent up need finally burst forth, sending pleasurable shockwaves throughout her body, even parts she had never expected to respond.  With a moan that she was not certain her own, she began a freefall through pure, delicious sensation.  To her surprise, although the trembling and shuddering diminished, another dull ache of need started to grow.  "Hel," she managed weakly, glancing down to her determined lover, who looked at her with a hunger that matched her actions as she continued to suckle and thrust, milking every last moan and whimper she could.

When those hungry pink eyes looked up at her and morphed into bright, familiar gold, Barbara sucked in a breath as another climax overtook her.  "God!" Barbara hissed, once again her body aflame with sensation.

Catching her breath, she felt Helena slowly move up her body, tenderly kissing and caressing her way up until they came face-to-face.  Helena's smile was bright but faded seeing Barbara looking into her eyes with curious fascination.

"Gee, Red.  You can't really be THAT surprised.  Unless you're surprised the sheets didn't combust," Helena joked uncomfortably, glancing at the sheets briefly before returning her gaze to Barbara, who was looking at her like she was figuring out a puzzle or . . . something.  Helena grew less confident by the moment as a ball of concern settled in her stomach.

"Good sheets have a higher thread count and are less likely to combust," Barbara offered with a broad smile, causing Helena to wince in confusion.  "Your eyes changed," she informed her with happy amazement.

"Well, they do that," Helena countered slowly, and explained unnecessarily. "Not just when I'm angry, Red."

"Hel, your eyes are back to normal," Barbara countered with mild exasperation. "Well, they are currently gold," she amended with a sly smile, pleased she was the cause of their current feral condition.  She cupped Helena's face and tenderly caressed it.

Helena blinked and looked at her with hope.

"Go on, see for yourself," Barbara encouraged, smiling broadly.

Helena hesitated, surprising Barbara, who then realized Helena was worried about leaving her new lover's side.  The thoughtful sentiment warmed her heart.

"Go!" Barbara commanded, gently shoving her, urging her out of bed.

"You do realize this is the first time I've ever been kicked out of bed," Helena grumbled and started to get out of bed.  Before she could leave, Barbara grabbed her wrist and the back of her neck, pulling her into a searing kiss.

"We're not done.  Not by a long shot," Barbara vowed, looking into Helena's surprised eyes with conviction.

A smile emerged on Helena's face.  "I'll be right back," Helena blurted eagerly, excited by the prospect of returning to normal.  She placed a quick peck on Barbara's lips before bolting to the bathroom.

Barbara had to laugh when she heard Helena cry out "THANK YOU GOD!"

Chapter 20


When Barbara and Helena emerged from the Clock Tower elevator the next afternoon, the first thing they noticed was that Delphi was alarming.  The second thing they noticed was a panicked Dinah, who was frantically typing on the keyboard.

"Dinah?" Barbara asked, rolling from the elevator towards her.

"Thank GOD you two are here!" Dinah blurted, turning towards them anxiously.  She quickly stepped aside as Barbara rolled in place at the keyboard.

"What ja got, D?" Helena asked easily, crossing her arms over her chest as she stepped next to Dinah.

"All hell is breaking loose!" Dinah declared, gaining a glare from Barbara, prompting a mumbled "Sorry."

"So what the heck is breaking loose?" Helena asked with a smirk, getting Barbara to glance at her with mild warning that only made Helena smile more.

"It seems that all the alarms across the city have decided to go off at the same time," Barbara offered, tapping into the keyboard and calling up various cameras.  Her brow scrunched as she noted there was nothing apparently out of the ordinary, except for a few citizens looking around in confusion at the cacophony of noise.

"Well, isn't that a coincidence?"  Helena said dryly.  Dinah bit her lip in worry.  Even with Helena back and Barbara at Delphi, there were far too many alarms for them to address.

"Police have been dispatched to patrol for looting, off-duty personnel have been called in, ambulances, fire companies, hospitals are all on standby," Barbara rattled off the city's response actions, which were unexpectedly prompt.

"What about Arkham?" Helena asked, placing a hand on Barbara's shoulder.  Not surprisingly, it was tense.

"In lock down," she responded, putting the report on the large, overhead screen.  "All convicts present and accounted for," Barbara said, looking up at Helena, who nodded and squeezed her shoulder before releasing it.  Barbara smiled with appreciation, then looked back to her screen curiously, wondering just what the distraction was trying to cover up.

"So with all the alarms, there is no crime spree or massive Arkham escape attempt?" Dinah asked in confusion, looking between her two mentors.

"Not that we know of right now," Barbara said with a frown, then looked at the screen thoughtfully. "But whoever is behind this, I intend to find out who they are," she said with conviction, typing a search string into Delphi. "Helena?" She asked with a wince, stopping her typing as she glanced back to the brunette.

"Yeeess?" Helena said with a smirk.

"Would you mind going with Dinah to check for anything . . . unusual?"

"No problem, Red. You ready, D?"

Dinah smiled brightly, having missed their outings together. "Let's go!" She said enthusiastically, and bounced to the elevator.

As Helena entered the elevator, she heard Barbara's very quiet voice. "Be careful."

Helena glanced back to Delphi and found green eyes on her.  She answered with a smile

* * * * *

Dinah turned her comms to mute and grinned. "Sooooo?" Dinah asked as they surveyed the downtown area from a store rooftop.

"Hmmm?" Helena responded absently, glancing at Dinah.

"What was that, Huntress?" Oracle asked, having heard the murmur.

Dinah glared at Huntress, waving her hand across her throat in a cutting motion.

"Ah. Well, Oracle, seems Canary wants to tweet with me . . . privately.  Will be mute for a few.  Won't be long," Helena said with a smile.

"Gothchya," Oracle said with a smirk. "And Canary, for the record? Last night with Huntress was . . . amazing. Oracle out."

"Oh. My. God!" Dinah said with a blush.

"That's what I said. Repeatedly," Helena said helpfully with an amused grin. "Especially when she . . . ," she continued with a wicked smile but was interrupted.

"TMI!" Dinah said with a cringe, holding up her hands in horror.

"I thought that's what you wanted to talk about," Helena said innocently.

"Not in DETAIL! Sheesh. I just wanted to know if you two were OK after everything and finally together," Dinah said with a roll of her eyes.

"Well, D, we are more than OK. And we're together," Helena said with a warm smile. "And if I have anything to say about it . . . it's forever."

Dinah smiled and sighed contentedly.  Her smile suddenly disappeared. "Sure took you two long enough," she added flatly.

"Can't disagree with that, D.  Going off mute," Helena said with a smirk. "Oracle, you there?"

"Yeeees," Oracle said silkily and asked "Have a nice chat?"

"Indeed we did," Helena said melodically with a grin.

"Did you get to the part about the chocolate fondue?" Oracle asked curiously.

"Would you two just quit it?!?  I'm an impressionable minor!" Dinah complained, causing amused chuckles.

"So, O, any leads on who's doing this?" Helena asked, glancing down at the street below, cringing at the continued aggravating noise of several alarms that had yet to be silenced.

"Not much more than leads at the moment, I'm afraid.  They are rather resourceful in covering their tracks."

Helena could hear the frustration in Barbara's voice. "You'll get 'em," she said.

"Oracle, at least it's quiet here . . . well, except for the alarms," Dinah said with a wince, also glancing down from the roof at the street below.

"That's good to know.  Police are dealing with a few looters.  And some related injuries are being transported to the hospital. Thankfully they are still minor disturbances."

"Any chance of stopping the racket?  It's annoying," Helena complained.

"I've been trying," Oracle said. "But there is an algorithm that is defeating my attempts and it seems . . . to modify with each effort."

"It's learning?" Dinah asked curiously.

"I don't think it's that sophis . . . ," Oracle said as the alarms finally stopped.

"Way to go, Oracle.  I always knew you had the magic touch," Helena said with amusement.

"I appreciate the compliment, Huntress.  But it wasn't me. The algorithm disappeared.  Along with my most promising lead," Oracle said, exhaling with irritation.

"Who's doing this?" Dinah blurted with similar irritation.

"And why," Oracle added gravely.

Helena's head suddenly turned to listen to some commotion in the nearby alley.

"Hand it over, twerp!"

"Stop it. Get off of me! Ugh. It's mine . . . ahhh!"

"Huntress?" Dinah asked anxiously.

"What's going on?"

Helena glanced at Dinah. "A mugging in progress. Going off line," Helena said before jumping down five stories, into an alley.

"Aw man!" Dinah exhaled with great irritation as she watched Huntress land in the street below.

"Canary? What's happening?" Oracle said with a furrowed brow.  She frequently had to extract information out of both Dinah and Helena to understand their unintentionally alarming and vague comments.  But just because she was used to it didn't mean she liked it.

"Have I mentioned how annoying it is when she just jumps off the roof and leaves me behind?" Dinah said, glancing around for a quick way down . . . other than jumping.

"I believe you've mentioned it once or twice," Oracle said with amusement.

* * * * *

With a noticeable thud, Helena landed and spotted the source of the commotion - three teens taking turns pummeling a fourth, who was on the ground. They all turned towards the unexpected noise.

"Whatchya doing, boys?" Helena asked, crossing her arms over her chest.

Taking advantage of the distraction, the small boy scrambled to his feet, holding possessively onto his laptop.  He looked for an escape route but the teens blocked the only way out of the alley.  He debated whether to try and plow through the bullies, but didn't want to risk damaging his laptop.

"None of your business, bitch," one, rather bulky teen barked as the two other teens glanced at each other.

"Doesn't anyone teach kids manners these days?" Helena complained, looking at the bulky teen with narrow eyes.

"Get the computer," he ordered the other two as he lifted up his fists, ready to fight.  He had a good 60 lbs of muscle on the stupid woman, who would learn not to bother him or his buddies.

"It's mine!" the kid cried out angrily, holding his prized belonging more tightly against his chest as the other two bullies stepped closer and the small kid stepped back against a brick wall.

"Touch him again and you'll see how much I don't like bullies," Helena called out as the bulky teen took a wild swing at her, then another and another.  Each one was easily dodged.

She sighed and finally grabbed his arm, twisting it behind his back. "You have ten seconds for you and your fellow muggers to clear out - or you will be going to juvie," she growled. "Trust me, the bad asses in there are bigger and scarier than you dweebs and would eat you for breakfast," she warned, yanking his arm up painfully.

"Stop, stop! All right, all right," the bulky kid cried out and stumbled forward when she let him go.  Rubbing his now sore arm, he motioned to his buddies and took her advice.

The bullies scurried away, reminding Helena of rats fleeing a sinking vessel.  She shook her head sadly and walked over to the small boy.

"You ok?" she asked as the small boy got to his feet and angrily dusted himself off with one arm, his other still possessively clutching his computer to his chest.

"Just great," he muttered, looking down at the ground in embarrassment, picking up his book bag. "They'll just kick my ass later," he said, carefully putting his computer in the bag.

Helena frowned. "School buddies of yours?"

"Buddies, right," he said tersely, wiping his bloody lip. "But they do go to the same school . . . unfortunately," he said, his eyes still finding the asphalt fascinating. "And if I tell on them, they'll kick my ass harder," he said, looking at her sharply to forestall the unwanted advice.

Helena looked at him then finally nodded, making a mental note to talk with Barbara about dealing with the school bullies.

"Do you know it's probably not a good idea to be hanging out in an alley - especially with valuables like your computer," Helena offered helpfully.

"No duh," he snapped then sighed guiltily, scratching the back of his neck. "Sorry.  I just wanted the free WiFi from the coffee shop.  They kicked me out for taking up a table and not buying more," he said with a wince.

She eyed him curiously. "Hmm.  I understand the library has free . . . ," Helena offered as Dinah came running towards them.

"Dinah?" Will said with surprise, looking up at the tall blond teen.

"Will??" Dinah blurted. "Are you OK?" she asked with concern, seeing the split lip.

"Better now that the three stooges are not beating the crap out of me," he said touching his lip with a cringe.

"No broken bones?" Dinah asked.

He shook his head no and sighed.

Helena smirked, wondering if she should be called "Mother hen" instead of "Canary."  Crossing her arms, she eyed Dinah expectantly.

"Oh! Will Patterson, Helena Kyle.  Helena, this is Will from school.  He has just transferred into my class," she said.

"You're a senior?" Helena asked with a smile, impressed.  She assumed he was a freshman . . . if that.

"Yeah, what of it?!?" Will said with irritation, surprising Helena who thought that chip on the kid's shoulder might actually be bigger than the kid.

"Will!  She was just asking," Dinah scolded him, prompting a frown.

"Sorry," he said reluctantly.

"S'all right.  I guess you get a lot of flack for being ahead of your age group," Helena said sympathetically, wondering if Barbara knew this kid.

"I can handle it," he said tersely, getting agitated.  "I really have to get going. Thanks for your help," he blurted to Helena.  "See you in class, Dinah," he added and quickly left.

Dinah frowned.  "He's not normally that . . . ."

"Rude?" Helena offered.

Dinah shrugged with a wince. "Wasn't exactly a great day for him, being mugged . . . and all."

Helena sighed and turned on her comms. "Oracle, Huntress here."

"Take care of business?"

"I always do," Helena said cockily, causing Dinah to roll her eyes. "A simple attempted mugging involving some teens. A sad sad commentary on today's youth," she said with a dramatic sigh. "Oh, and it turns out they are friends of Dinah," Helena added, withholding a smile.

"They are not my friends!" Dinah blurted with irritation.

"You seemed kind of friendly with Will," Helena countered with a smirk.

 "But he was the vic...!"

"Ladies, I hate to interrupt, but I've just detected our hacker and have a GPS fix," Oracle said with great satisfaction.

Helena looked down the alley curiously.  "Let me guess. We're right near him," Helena said.

"Yes," Oracle said with surprise. "The hacker is using a local wireless network . . . ."

". . . at the Brew Ha Ha. Care to get a cup of coffee, Dinah?" Helena said with a grin, getting Dinah to look at her curiously.

"Huntress? Do you know something?" Oracle asked.

"Hey!  I happen to know many things!" Helena responded indignantly, winking at a still confused Dinah.

"Indeed Huntress," Barbara said rolling her eyes.

Chapter 21


With a solemn look, Barbara rolled into the Dark Horse. "You are sure he's the hacker?" Barbara asked Helena as they went to the bar's freight elevator.

"Yes.  But if you are asking whether he admitted to anything, the answer is still no," Helena said.

"Dinah didn't . . . ," Barbara asked with alarm.

"No.  Although she did suggest it," Helena said.  Seeing the alarmed look, she quickly added. "I told her she shouldn't."

Barbara sighed and nodded.  "But why are you so sure?  You said his computer didn't seem to have anything suspicious on it."

"The kid shouldn't play poker.  You don't need to be a touch telepath to see he wears his emotions on his sleeve," Helena said as the elevator stopped on her floor. "He's nervous and hiding something," she offered with conviction.

"I don't understand why Will would cause such havoc in the city," Barbara said with a frown as the left the elevator and headed to Helena's apartment. "Someone must have coerced him to . . . ," she said worriedly.

"For God's sake, Red," Helena interrupted.  "In spite of his high IQ, he's still a kid and they play pranks - a flaming pile of poo on someone's door step isn't gonna cut it for a kid like him."

"Nice imagery," Barbara said with a wince. "I never found the need to play pranks," she said, sighing with disappointment for Will's behavior.

"Hacking into my Dad's computer?" Helena offered with a sparkle in her eye.

"That wasn't a prank!  And that was your . . . ." Barbara sputtered in protest.

"You could have said no," Helena smoothly interjected with a smirk and opened the door for her.

Barbara's eyes narrowed. "I'm glad you didn't suggest tattoos," Barbara said before rolling into Helena's apartment.

Helena blinked then frowned at the missed opportunity as she followed Barbara.  Inside, she found Dinah where she had left her, hovering menacingly over their guest with her arms crossed over her chest.

Spotting the newest visitor, Will jumped up from the couch with alarm. "Miss Gordon?? Ah man," he groaned.

"Hello, William," Barbara said evenly.

"Miss Gordon, there's been a misunderstanding.  I didn't do anything wrong. Would you tell them?" He said uneasily.  Barbara had to agree with Helena; he was hiding something.

"But I understand you have been busy tripping alarms all over the city," Barbara countered.

"Alarms?  I don't know what you are talking about," Will blurted unconvincingly, crossing his arms defiantly over his chest.

"You really don't lie very well, William. Which I happen to think is a good thing," Barbara said to the boy, then glanced to Dinah.  "Where is it?" she asked.

Dinah retrieved the laptop.  As she handed it to Barbara, she glared at William whose eyes dropped uncomfortably.

As Barbara opened up the computer and turned it on, she offered conversationally.  "Did you know?  Mr. Jamison from the pawn shop is in the hospital."  She glanced up to the confused boy, who wondered why she though he would care about some old guy who was probably overdue for a hospital visit anyway....

"Seems he got injured trying to protect his store from looters when the alarms went off today," Barbara said, eyeing him.

His eyes widened in panic, which he tried to tamp down. "Hadn't heard," Will said with attempted nonchalance.

Helena watched Barbara with appreciation, knowing William didn't stand a chance.  She just wondered how long it would take before he confessed . . . or cried.

"And Mrs. Whittaker had to close her ice cream shop until she can fix the damages.  Apparently, someone decided to throw a trash can through her store window and help themselves to the cash register and a tub of rocky road."

Will cringed.

"Ah, here we are," Barbara said when the laptop display came up.  Tapping a few keys, then sighing heavily and rapidly tapping several more keys, she frowned, shook her head and glanced up to the boy. "This is rather disappointing, William," she said somberly.

"I told them there's nothing to find," Will asserted confidently with a smug look on his face.

Helena grinned.  Oh little man, you have no idea who you are dealing with, she considered with great satisfaction.

"So someone else used your computer?" Barbara asked curiously, rapidly tapping a few more keys.

"No," he said hesitantly, the smug look quickly fading. "Why?"

"Well, after getting past a few surprisingly simplistic security barriers," she offered, gaining an uneasy look from the boy. "I found a rather sophisticated program, a hybrid of a worm and a Trojan.  It would have been rather difficult to determine its purpose, had you not recorded every security site infiltrated and alarm triggered," she said, looking into the wide eyes of the surprised boy.

Helena almost laughed.  God, she loved Barbara's mind . . . and her eyes, especially when they had that fire in them when she figured something out or had the upper hand . . . like now.

"That's how most criminals get caught, William," she lectured. "They get too cocky," Barbara added, shaking her head with pursed lips of disapproval as she inserted a thumb drive and tapped a few more keys to initiate her program.

. . . and her lips, which were pretty damn fine too, Helena thought with an appreciative sigh.

"What?!?  I'm n . . . not a criminal," Will sputtered. "It was just a couple of alarms!!" he said defensively.  "I didn't do anything wrong," he added with less conviction.

"Nothing wrong?!?"  Barbara said with barely contained anger.

Helena could see the small boy shrivel up beneath Barbara's withering glare.  She almost felt sorry for the kid.

"Not only did you cause the hard-working emergency responders of this city extra work, you actually caused harm, both physical and financial to a few poor store keepers who were just trying to make a living when a few opportunists came along and took advantage of the chaos you created.  What were you thinking!" Barbara snapped, anger and disappointment radiating off of her.

"I . . . I didn't mean for anyone to get hurt," Will countered weakly, shifting nervously.

"You are too smart to act dumb, Will.  We both know you have the intelligence to understand the impacts of your actions," Barbara said.

"It was just a joke!" Will cried out anxiously.

"A joke? A JOKE?!?" she responded incredulously.  "Do you see anyone laughing, William?" Barbara said tersely, turning his computer off.  "I bet Mr. Jamison isn't laughing.  I'll bet Mrs. Whitaker isn't finding this too funny either."

He never meant for anything bad to happen, he considered with a wince, fighting the tears that wanted to burst out.  He looked at Ms. Gordon with surprise when she handed his computer back to him.

Hesitantly taking it, he asked nervously "So what now?"

"Go," Barbara said wearily, dismissing him.

"What?" Will and Dinah said at the same time.

"This is your warning, William.  There is no doubt you are a brilliant boy.  But to not think about the consequences of your actions is just plain . . . stupid.  I expected so much more from you," she said with great disappointment that made him cringe more than when she yelled at him.  "Oh, and if I there are any other mysterious computer-related problems that pop up from now on, I'll know exactly who to come to for an explanation," Barbara said in warning, getting twin shocked looks from the teens.

Will nodded nervously and bolted from the apartment, clutching his laptop to his chest, unable to get away fast enough.

"That's it?!? You're just letting him go with a . . . a scolding?" Dinah asked incredulously.

"What did you want me to do, Dinah?  Rough him up a little?" Barbara responded defensively.

"I . . . no!  It's just . . . he's going to do it again," Dinah said with exasperation.

"I don't think so.  But if he does, I'll know," Barbara said, glancing at an unusually quiet Helena.  To her relief, she found a warm smile and a gaze of unwavering support and love.

Dinah sighed, certain William was going to cause more trouble.  Looking between the two women who gazed at each other, she had to smile.  It was clear they had finally embraced their feelings for each other.  And as happy as she was for them, she was pretty sure she didn't want to be around them when they looked at each other like that.

"So, do you guys need me tonight?  I've got a study date with Gabby," she said, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear.

"What?  I thought we'd play a game of Truth or Dare," Helena said with a pout.

"That sounds like fun . . . especially the dare part," Barbara suggested with a grin, taking Helena's hand and squeezing.

"NO!  Never again.  And I'm not so sure about playing Scrabble with you two either," Dinah said, eyeing them suspiciously.

"Poker?" Barbara suggested with a waggle of her brows.

Dinah's mouth dropped.

"Oooh," Helena responded with clear approval. "I'm in. We can take turns dealing."

"Well, a study date with Gabby it is! Catch you later!" Dinah blurted, bolting out of the apartment.

"What's wrong with her?" Helena asked innocently.

Barbara chuckled. "In a word? Us."

"Well, speaking of us, what do you say. . . ," she said, lifting Barbara's hand to her lips and kissing her knuckles, ". . . we go back to the Tower, have a nice romantic dinner and," Helena offered, tenderly opening up her hand to kiss Barbara's palm.

"And?" Barbara asked softly, caressing Helena's face with her other hand.

"Well, I was hoping you might come up with some ideas," Helena smiled.

"Actually, I do have a few," Barbara offered helpfully with a smile that faded as she glanced around the apartment uncomfortably.  How did she bring up the subject of living arrangements?  They had just started a wonderfully new, physically intimate aspect of their relationship.  Was it too soon to expect Helena to give up her independence, her freedom, her apartment, so quickly?  Was it selfish to ask her to so she didn't have to guess each night whether Helena was going to stay?  How on Earth was she going to bring up the subject of....

"Ok," Helena suddenly said.

Barbara looked at her in confusion. "Ok?"

"Yeah.  I'll lose the apartment and come live with you," Helena said with a grin at Barbara's surprised look.

Barbara's surprise melted into a warm smile. "Ok," she repeated softly

* * * * *

"You don't believe in moderation, do you?" Barbara asked with amusement as Helena picked up two large bags of food from the takeout counter.

"Not at all," Helena said without apology. "And with food, you have to think about leftovers...and mid-night snacks," Helena responded with an easy smile as they started to leave the Chinese restaurant. "Plus, you gotta keep the strength up, you know," she grinned.

"Indeed," Barbara said with amusement.

"Barbara?" A new customer entering called to her with surprise.

"Wade," Barbara said with surprise and a weak smile.

He smiled and leaned down, planting a kiss on her lips.

"Wade," Barbara blurted with irritation, looking up uneasily at Helena, who just smiled at Wade.  It was not a pleasant smile.

"I've missed you, Barbara," he said sincerely.

"Wade, I thought I had made it clear to you," she said with a heavy sigh.

"I know what you said.  But I think this," he said, motioning between them, "is too special to give up on."  He looked at her, hope in his eyes.

Helena was relieved Barbara had at least tried to break up with him.  He never did strike her as particularly sharp....

Barbara's mouth opened, then shut again in disbelief at his dismissal of her feelings, which she had told him were not of love but friendship.  She took a long breath, not quite sure where to begin.

Ever polite, Wade turned his unwanted attention on Helena. "I haven't seen you in a while, Helena. Working hard?" He smiled warmly at Barbara's closest friend.

"Traveling a bit, actually," she said absently, glancing longingly at the Humvee outside, where she might be less likely to go feral and beat the crap out of Wade.  She really liked this restaurant....

"Your hair is . . . new," he offered awkwardly with a weak smile at the odd shock of white.

"It is.  Do you like it?" she asked innocently with a plastered-on smile.

Wade cleared his throat. "Uh, it's . . . nice.  Soooo, you guys having a party or something?" he quickly asked, trying to avoid any more uncomfortable subjects.  He glanced curiously at the large amount of food Helena was carrying out.

"Or something," Helena said weakly.  Wade always had a way of grating on her nerves.  "Why don't I let you two kids catch up while I put this in the car," Helena suggested tensely, thinking that even if she paid for a new store window and bought a lot more food, the owners might not want her to return after throwing a fellow customer through the glass.  

"Hel?" Barbara said with concern, placing a hand on her arm.

Helena paused and looked at her with a mix of apology and great discomfort.

Barbara shook her head, needing to stop this uncomfortable encounter and make things perfectly clear to everyone for once and for all.  Grabbing the lapels on Helena's jacket, she pulled Helena into a possessive kiss.

Wade blinked.

With a tender caress of Helena's cheek when they broke from the kiss, Barbara softly declared with utter conviction "We'll leave together."

Helena sighed contentedly.  

Barbara turned her gaze back to a stunned Wade.  "As I told you before, Wade, there isn't a future for us.  I love Helena and my future is with her," she said with conviction. "Well, gotta roll, tonight's date night," she said with a big smile, glancing to Helena, who smiled happily. "See you at school," she said and quickly rolled away, leaving Wade and Helena, who looked at each other.

"Hel, sweetie?" Barbara called back from the door.  "The point of telling him we'll leave together is to, well, leave together," she explained and sighed heavily.  So much for a quick and clean exit, she considered.

"Yes, dear!" Helena said with amusement before leaning to whisper in Wade's ear.  "I guess I don't have to tell you that if I see you kissing her again, I'll rip your lips off and feed them to you."

Wade blinked again and slowly shook his head no.

Helena nodded with satisfaction. "You're a good man, Wade," she said sincerely and caught up to Barbara at the door and left with her.

Wade sluggishly looked out at the Humvee and the two women getting in the vehicle.

"Mister? Mister?? You the pu-pu platter?" the older Chinese woman at the cashier asked, pointing to one of the takeout bags ready for pickup.

Wade looked at the woman and nodded hesitantly

* * * * *

"Do I want to know what you told him?" Barbara asked she buckled up in the Humvee.

"Hmmm?" Helena said, glancing up from her seatbelt buckle, blinking innocently.

"I'll take that as a no," Barbara said wryly, turning the key.

Chapter 22

Loose Ends

"Kitchen or couch?" Helena asked as they emerged from the Tower's elevator.

"Which do you...," Barbara said when the Delphi alarm went off.  "Gah!" she blurted with irritation.

"Couch," Helena said with mild amusement as she placed the bags on the nearby coffee table as Barbara rolled up the platform to Delphi.

"Why that little...," Barbara hissed with irritation as she brought up a couple of screens.

"Let me guess," Helena interjected with amusement. "Our friend William is at it again," she offered, walking up behind Barbara.

"He's broken into the . . . Gotham General's main frame??" Barbara said with surprise.

"He's checking up on Mr. Jamison," Helena said with a pleased smile, getting Barbara's curious gaze.  "He's a good kid, Barbara.  He just needs a bit of guidance," she said with a smirk, squeezing her shoulder before leaving her side.

"What are you saying?" Barbara looked at her with narrow eyes.

Helena just smiled and went to the coffee table.  "Do you want wine with dinner?"

"Helena, I asked you a question," Barbara said with a frown, rolling after her.

"Have you ever thought about mentoring anyone else?" Helena asked, opening up a box of Kung Pao Chicken and taking an appreciative whiff.

"You can't possibly be suggesting we take another teen under our wing," Barbara scoffed.

Helena smiled and nodded.

"You were the one who suggested we kill Dinah when she followed you!" Barbara countered incredulously.

Helena shrugged. "I'm glad you didn't let me - she's saved our butts a few times."

"You're serious," Barbara said looking at her incredulously.

"Barbara, Will's a brilliant, impressionable kid.  He needs the right guidance or he could fall into the wrong crowd.  He's already a punching bag for his class mates because he is different.  Who can he turn to?"  Helena offered with a concerned look.

Barbara sighed.  "His mother died two years ago and his father . . . ," she offered then frowned.  "Well, it's safe to say he didn't seem to appreciate his son's gift when he came to drop off the admission's paperwork.  He hadn't even bothered to sign him up for advanced classes until Mrs. Green questioned him about Will's impressive test scores and previous schoolwork," she offered softly, Helena's suggestion churning in her head.  She could certainly empathize with the young boy's difficult position.

"We're supposed to help him," Helena offered quietly.

Barbara looked at her with alarm, not liking the sound of that.  "Helena . . . ."

"Barbara, listen to me.  It's just right.  You yourself argued that mentoring the young is more than a tradition - it's a legacy.  Our legacy.  Taking someone like us, training them, never turning away someone with a desire to do what we do...." Helena said with enthusiasm.

"We don't know that this," Barbara said, motioning towards Delphi.  "is what he wants, Helena," Barbara interjected with a frown.  "Or what he's suited for.  Maybe he's just a brilliant prankster," Barbara argued, though not really believing it.

"I'm sure Will will be a pain in the ass - he's a cocky, smart-assed teen.  But you've managed cocky, smart-assed teens before," Helena said with a smirk.

Barbara sighed. "At least one," she said, shaking her head in amazement. 

"But there's more to him.  I just know it.  I think you know it too," Helena said with conviction.  "But if you tell me you really don't want to do this . . . I'll drop it," Helena said reluctantly with a wince.

"Really?" Barbara asked skeptically.

"Yeah," she said with a slight frown.  "We both need to agree on this."

"I can't believe you are actually. . ," Barbara said, then paused and eyed her a thoughtful moment.  "He was our ward in the other timeline . . . wasn't he?" Barbara guessed softly, getting an uncomfortable look.

"I think so," she admitted.  "We really didn't have a lot of time to compare notes," Helena offered hesitantly, then watched Barbara glance down uneasily to her side pouch and pull out the letter.

Taking a deep breath, Barbara finally opened the envelope but Helena placed a hand over hers before she could pull out the contents.

"Are you sure you want to read that?" Helena asked with a slight wince.

"Are you saying I shouldn't?" Barbara asked with surprise.

Helena shook her head.  "No.  But I think . . . I want you to decide about William before reading that.  I want you to decide based on what you feel is right for him and us, right now . . . in this timeline.  We'd be responsible for two teens.  Neither timeline had to deal with that . . . yet," Helena said simply, absently stroking the back of Barbara's hand with her thumb.

"You are really serious about doing this, aren't you?" Barbara asked, shaking her head with amazement.

"I am.  He needs guidance and we can give it to him.  I want us to help him, Barbara," Helena responded honestly.

Barbara looked into Helena's eyes, finding confidence and clear conviction that were hard to ignore.  

Taking a deep breath, she shook her head, unable to believe she was actually entertaining this crazy idea.  Mentoring another troubled, hormonal teen?  With an amazing gift, she reminded herself, looking back into expectant blue eyes.  Exhaling heavily, Barbara tucked the letter back into the side pouch of her chair.  

"We'll need to talk to Dinah.  This affects her too," Barbara said, getting a big grin. "Hel, she may not be too receptive to the idea," Barbara cautioned.

"She'll love it!  She'll get someone to boss around," Helena joked.

"I'm sure he'll appreciate that, assuming this is what he wants," Barbara said, almost feeling sorry for William.

Helena just smiled confidently, knowing in her heart it was going to work out.  "So, do you want wine with dinner?"

"After this discussion?  That's a given," Barbara replied, rolling her eyes, getting a kiss on the cheek before Helena left to get glasses and plates.  

* * * * *

Barbara glanced at the pile of empty boxes on the coffee table and shook her head.  "The amount of food you are able to consume is . . . ." 

"Pretty impressive, isn't it?" Helena interjected proudly and shifted on the couch, facing towards her companion as she put her arm over the back, behind Barbara.

"I was thinking more like . . . obscene," Barbara said wryly, sipping her wine.

"Potayto potahto, Red," Helena responded with an easy smile, reaching over her companion for two fortune cookies on Barbara's side of the coffee table.

"How can you possibly think about eating any more?" Barbara asked incredulously.

"A fortune cookie is not food, Barbara," Helena slowly explained as if Barbara was a confused child, holding out the two cookies in her palm for her to choose.

Barbara rolled her eyes and took one.

"You could learn something incredibly important from these little cookies," Helena noted, cracking her own cookie open and pulling out the slip of paper.

"Mmmm Hmmm," Barbara responded skeptically as she opened hers and looked at Helena.

"Beautiful redheads first," Helena said politely with a grin.

Barbara sighed and read. "You will embark on a new," she quickly rattled off, then paused curiously. ". . . journey with loved ones," she finished with mild surprise.

"Ha!" she blurted triumphantly. "These things are great, aren't they?" Helena said with a grin.

"I certainly hope you don't intend to live your life on the advice of fortune cookies."

"You have," Helena countered with a smile.

"What are you talking about?"

"Bruce.  He told me that his sage advice came from fortune cookies," Helena countered, getting a look of disbelief from her.  "He did!" Helena added with a chuckle.  "Ask him the next time we see him."

"I will," she responded firmly, then eyed Helena and ventured cautiously "It sounds like you two are . . . getting along."

Helena smiled slightly and shrugged. "Well, I'm not ready to bake him a father's day cake, but we've had a few civil conversations.  He . . . he was there when I needed him," she acknowledged uncomfortably.

Barbara smiled warmly, very pleased Helena was getting to know him.  She glanced to the slip of paper in Helena's hand. "What about your fortune??"

"I thought you didn't think these were worth the paper they...," Helena countered.

"Just read the damn thing," Barbara moaned wearily.

"Boy Barbara, you're pretty impatient, aren't you?" Helena said with feigned surprise.

Barbara sighed, before deftly snagging the piece of paper.  She looked at Helena with satisfaction.

"You could have just asked," Helena offered with a smirk and drained her wine glass, placing it on the coffee table.

Ignoring Helena, which wasn't easy, Barbara read her fortune. "Good . . . ," she started then stopped and exhaled. "God."


Barbara sighed and glanced at her suspiciously before reading.  "Good clothes opens many doors.  Go shopping," Barbara said flatly.

Helena laughed. "You have to admit, good advice is good advice, regardless of the source," she said with amusement.

Barbara shook her head and chuckled.

Helena picked up her hand and kissed it.  Barbara looked into her eyes then leaned forward, gently possessing her inviting lips

* * * * *

After having burned off many of the dinner's calories, Helena sighed contentedly in bed, her arms happily full with the woman she loved, who was naked and wrapped around her.  Life was good.

"Pretty interesting day, huh?" Helena said into Barbara's hair with a warm smile.

Barbara smiled wryly and countered. "Pretty interesting past few days actually."

"Past few weeks," Helena responded with a smirk.

Barbara shifted, propping herself onto her elbow so she could look into Helena's eyes.

"I'm glad it happened," Barbara said seriously and shyly added "I'm glad you were . . . her."

Helena smiled. "Me too.  I have to admit, I had always wondered who gave you that watch."

"You never asked," Barbara said curiously.

"Well, I suppose I didn't want to really know that the person who held such an important place in your heart was real.  Turns out I was more jealous of myself than I ever was of Wade or Dick," Helena admitted with a soft chuckle at the irony.

"Hel . . . ," Barbara blurted uncomfortably but found gentle fingers on her lips.

"Barbara, I love you," Helena said. "And to know that you love me and want to be with me . . . ," Helena said and couldn't continue, her moist eyes betraying the emotions that silenced her.  She sniffed and offered a self-conscious smile.

"I do, Helena.  With all my heart," she whispered, before kissing her tenderly

* * * * *

Helena woke, taking a deep breath and blinking her eyes.  She quickly determined it was still night and that Barbara was not in bed with her. Sitting up, she quickly found Barbara, now in a robe by her bedroom window, staring out over the city skyline.  She smiled with appreciation, noting how the moonlight embraced her lover.  Her smile quickly faded when green eyes fell on her, clouded by a storm of emotions that Helena could feel radiating from her lover.

"Barbara?" she said with alarm, getting out of bed and going to her side. "What's wrong?" she asked as they both looked down to her lap, where she held the sheets of the letter.

Barbara silently handed her the letter, which she hesitantly took.  In the moonlight, Helena read Batgirl's words.

Dear Barbara,

I do not know whether this letter will even exist once I send Helena home.  But I hope it does and that you read it.

Helena died.

If you think that's hard to read, trust me, it is even harder to witness.  When she had finally come home from the past, she came with several bullet wounds - wounds she knew she wouldn't recover from.  But she actually seemed happy, telling me I could dance now.  I didn't understand . . . and then she was gone.  My sweet beautiful Helena died.

Helena glanced at Barbara uncomfortably, noting she was once again staring out over the city. With a frown, she continued.

I used the device to go back and stop this horrible mistake. When I caught up with her in 1996, I was overwhelmed with relief.  She was alive and I had a chance.  But I didn't realize I'd be unable to dissuade her from her dangerous plan, whatever it was.

I tried to tell her she was just going to get herself killed but she didn't listen. I wasn't about to let her kill herself again so we fought, to a standstill.  Helena finally told me why she was there.  It wasn't for her mother as I had assumed. The timeline she was attempting to fix was one where I apparently had been shot and crippled by the Joker. And my very presence, my standing before her, only fueled her conviction she was doing the right thing.

She tried to argue that it would all work out, that she'd be more careful, that once we found Dinah Lance, who apparently is your ward in your timeline, everything thing would be all right.  Helena was convinced she could use the device to make things better for all of us, including our ward from my timeline, William Patterson.

I also found another important difference in our timelines. Helena and you are not lovers. It is hard to believe that we are friends but not together in your timeline.  This amazing woman had gone to stop the Joker, for you, wanting to protect you from a horrible experience and its aftermath, never expecting anything in return.  Not even your love, which she had told me you had given to someone else.  Wade Brixton, Barbara???  

I have accepted that by stopping Helena, I am likely choosing to be paralyzed for the rest of my life.  I don't know what that is like or how I will cope with a devastating disability.  But I have experienced utter devastation when she died in my arms.  I don't think I could live without her and I know I wouldn't want to.

I have two requests - the reason for this letter.  The first is that you find and help William. He's a brilliant, mischievous boy in need of guidance.  He has become family.  I would imagine you feel the same for Dinah in your timeline.

The second request is far more personal and selfish.  I'll admit I don't understand what doubts come with a disability - but that's the only reason that I can fathom that is preventing you from being with her.  Please, for both our sakes, don't let those doubts sabotage what happiness you can have and accept the most precious gift anyone could ever receive - Helena's love.

Yours truly,

Helena's eyes watered as she exhaled heavily.  After a long quiet moment, she spoke.  "The choice she felt she had to make was . . . unfair.  No one should have to chose to be paralyzed," Helena said softly, wiping the tears from her face.

"There was no choice, Helena.  You died," Barbara countered.  "So I could walk?" Barbara continued incredulously, looking at her with a displeased wince.

"That wasn't the plan," Helena countered uncomfortably.  

"No, it probably wasn't.  My guess is you had no plan.  You just ran in without thinking.  Am I right?"  Barbara asked tersely.

"I'm not going to apologize for trying to give you back your legs," Helena said defiantly.  

"Are you going to apologize for getting yourself killed?!?"  Barbara said with great agitation.

"It's kind of hard for dead people to apologize, Red," Helena said sarcastically. 

"Don't you DARE joke about this!"

Helena sighed heavily.  "Well fuck, Barbara.  What do you want me to say?  I won't do it again?  Even you went back to change history," Helena offered reasonably.

"To stop a horrible mis...." Barbara immediately responded on her counterpart's behalf, then paused uncomfortably, knowing that wasn't exactly helping her argument against altering history.

"To stop a horrible mistake involving someone you love," Helena said softly in understanding.  "You just happened to be more successful."

Barbara frowned and rubbed her eyes, knowing she would have reacted like the other Barbara to save Helena's life.  "So help me, if you do anything like that again, I will come after you and kick your ass," she blurted tiredly.

Helena exhaled with relief.  "I know you will.  You've already done that once," she offered wryly with a small smile and shrug.  

Barbara shook her head and rubbed her temples.  "Only I didn't.  God!  You see, this is exactly why time travel is such a bad idea!" she complained and added "just thinking about the paradoxes gives me a headache."  

Helena cringed sympathetically and stood behind her, gladly taking over the chore of gentle massage, which  prompted a sigh of appreciation.  After a quiet moment, Helena offered "The Novikov self-consistency principle would suggest that events are constrained to remain self-consistent and thus there are no paradoxes." 

Barbara blinked and turned back to look at Helena with surprise.  

"I spent a lot of time in the library reading about time travel," Helena explained with a shrug, scratching the back of her neck.

"Apparently not enough, Sweetie," Barbara said dryly, adding "The Novikov self-consistency principle assumes no alternate timelines."


"But there was clearly an alternate timeline," Barbara said, picking up the letter and holding it up as evidence.

Helena frowned.  "Ok then, what about the predestination paradox?  That would support the idea that we both were supposed to travel back in time.  So whatever has happened as a result of our actions was supposed to happen.  Thus, you shouldn't have any heartburn about this time traveling business because it was all meant to be," Helena said confidently, crossing her arms over her bare chest with satisfaction.

Barbara looked at her oddly.

"What?  Did I get that theory wrong too?"  Helena said with a cringe.

"No. No. . . I suppose I'm just realizing that I never would have imagined discussing time traveling theories with you . . . in your birthday suit," Barbara said with amusement, glancing appreciatively over the younger woman's pleasing form.  

"Which is exactly what is supposed to happen, if you believe in the. . . ." Helena said with authority, interrupted by a soft chuckle.

"Predestination paradox," Barbara supplied with amusement. "Do you really believe in that, Hel?" She asked curiously.

"I think we were supposed to end up together, in any and every timeline," Helena said seriously. "And if that makes me a predestination paradox-ist, well then, guilty as charged," she declared dramatically.

"Take me back to bed, Hel.  All this theory talk is getting me hot and bothered," Barbara said with a grin, holding her arms out for a lift, which Helena promptly and happily provided.

"Which is exactly what you were supposed to say," Helena said with a sparkle in her eye as she headed back to bed. "If you believe in . . . ." she continued but was interrupted by a firm, demanding kiss.

Helena sighed contentedly as their lips parted and foreheads touched.

"What I believe in, Helena Kyle, is us," Barbara said softly, stroking her cheek and brushing their lips together again.

Helena smiled, placing her gently on the bed. "Which is what you were going to say mftpt," she started but Barbara placed her fingers on her lips.

"Just . . . kiss me, Helena," Barbara said wearily, getting a grin and a brief kiss. 

Exactly what she asked for, Barbara realized with a frown as Helena looked at her with a satisfied smirk.  Barbara's brow rose in challenge.  She slowly loosened her sash and opened her robe, revealing herself.  

Helena's smirk faded as her eyes eagerly drank in every inch of the beautiful woman.

"Everywhere. Repeatedly," Barbara clarified firmly.

Helena sighed happily and did exactly what was asked.


"Hey, D.  You clean up really. . . ," Helena said with a big smile that faded.  "Is that my dress?!?" Helena asked as Dinah joined her in the living room sporting a dark blue silk dress that perfectly complemented the teen's complexion.

Dinah's wince answered her question.  "Can I borrow your dress for tonight?  I don't have anything to wear to a reaaally good restaurant," she quickly blurted, looking at Helena earnestly.  "Pleasepleaseplease!"

Helena rolled her eyes.  "Thanks!" Dinah blurted happily.  "And you look awesome," Dinah gushed, looking over Helena.

They heard the hiss of the electric wheel chair as Barbara joined them.  "She's right, you know.  You look . . . awesome," Barbara said with a big smile as she took in Helena's pleasing form.

Helena grinned happily.  "Aw shucks," she said, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear.  "You don't look too bad yourself, Red.  Except . . . ," Helena said, her voice trailed off as she eyed Barbara thoughtfully.

"Except what?" Barbara said in alarm, looking down at her emerald dress she thought was nice.

"I think I'll wait for you two down in the car," Dinah blurted, quickly escaping to the elevator as the two women watched.

After the elevator doors shut, Barbara looked back at Helena.  "Except what??"

"Something's missing," Helena said with conviction.

"What?  What's missing?"  Barbara said, glancing down touching her necklace absently.  She had thought her necklace and matching earrings nicely complemented the dress.

"Happy Birthday, Barbara," Helena said with a warm smile, handing her a wrapped box.  

"Technically, that's tomorrow night," Barbara said with a grin, happily accepting the gift.

"Your birthday dinner is always the night before and you need this now," Helena argued.

"Need, Hel?" Barbara countered with a smirk, opening the box to find an elegant watch.  "Oh," she exhaled, pulling the time piece from the box.  "It's lovely," she said softly, closely looking over the beautiful craftsmanship.

"No lovelier than you, Barbara," Helena said sincerely as Barbara looked at her with a warm smile before returning her gaze to the watch.  On the back, she found an inscription.

"Do you want me to get your reading glasses?" Helena teased.

"Shut up," Barbara growled with a smirk as she squinted at the tiny lettering, prompting an amused chuckle.


Barbara grinned with delight.  "A deceptively simple equation."

"Well, they do make you pay by the character," Helena with an uneasy smile, her eyes dropping uncomfortably.

"Helena," Barbara reached out and caressed her cheek, gaining Helena's undivided attention.  "It's perfect.  The watch is as beautiful as the sentiment behind it.  Thank you, my love."

Helena's smile lit up her face.  With infinite care, she helped Barbara put the watch on her wrist and received a tender kiss.

"Ready to roll?" Helena asked with a grin, getting one in return.

"Ready when . . . ," Barbara said as the Delphi alarmed.  Her smile disappeared.

Helena frowned.  "We could ignore it," Helena suggested feebly, earning a glare as Barbara rolled up to the console.

The Delphi continued to alarm but . . . with different toned beeps and tweeps.  Helena snorted with amusement when she finally recognized the familiar tune being played.

"I'm going to kill him," Barbara said, looking over her beloved computer helplessly as it ignored her commands and continued to play Happy Birthday to its conclusion.  When done, Delphi quietly returned to monitoring for unusual criminal activity as if nothing unusual had happened.

Barbara shook her head not sure what she was going to do with that little . . . .

"At least he doesn't steal your clothes," Helena offered with a grin and chuckled.  

"That might be just a matter of time," Barbara lamented dryly, shaking her head with a weary chuckle.


~ The End ~