A Place to Rest and Heal


DISCLAIMER: Birds of Prey and its characters are the property of Miller/Tobin Productions, Warner Brothers and DC comics. No infringement intended.

FANDOM: Birds of Prey (TV)

PAIRING: Barbara/Helena

SUMMARY: After the Harley Quinn incident, The Birds of Prey take a much needed vacation.

ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

E-MAIL: jarlel123@aol.com

Helena opened the French doors of the chalet and stepped out onto the snow-covered deck. She inhaled deeply as the clean scents of spruce and fir trees and snow filled her senses. It was strange, she thought, as her boots left tracks in the snow. The woods seemed so much different than the city. There were no bright lights, no shouts, no car horns, sirens, people being murdered, no bank robberies…It was just so…different. Not in a bad way though, she thought as she sighed heavily and wrapped her arms around herself to ward off the cold.

Maybe we could all just move out here, she thought. It might be nice to have some peace for a while. But no, she mentally chided herself; Barbara would never go for it. Her damn sense of duty would never allow it; never allow her to have any true peace. Not for long, anyway.

Helena sighed again. Hell, it was hard enough just talking Barbara into coming out here in the first place. But, after the debacle with Harley Quinn, she had made it her mission in life to get Barbara out of that damn Clocktower, if only for a week or two. It hadn’t taken much to convince Dinah and Alfred. Before she’d even finished asking them if they’d be interested in a vacation, they were already nodding their heads in agreement. Getting away from New Gotham and all the horrible memories, appealed to both of them as well.

She’d had an idea growing in the back of her mind for a while, and when she explained to them what she had in mind…Well, let’s just say they were both very enthusiastic. So, for the first time since her father had left without saying goodbye, Helena dipped into the hated trust fund he’d left her. The three of them had searched until they found the perfect spot. They picked the design they wanted, a chalet with sleeping room for sixteen, a gourmet kitchen, three bathrooms, a workout room, an indoor pool complete with hot tub, and a game room outfitted with a pool table and an X-Box 360. They hired a contractor, and within two months, the entire place was built and decorated. Helena smirked to herself, thinking about it. She hadn’t realized how much money could buy until she’d tried. It still amazed her how much could be accomplished in so little time with the right amount of money. Hell, they’d even managed to make sure that it was completely handicap accessible just for Barbara.

It had taken another month, of course, to talk Barbara into it. Since the shooting she rarely took vacations, and since the Harley Quinn debacle she’d rarely left the Clocktower. Thinking about it now, Helena wasn’t sure if Barbara had ever taken a real vacation. She knew for a fact that she hadn’t taken one (not a real one, anyway) since she’d taken Helena in. But what she knew now, was that Barbara didn’t seem to do much of anything anymore, but sit around all day, staring at the Delphi. When she decided to take the rest of the school year off citing personal reasons, Helena had begun to worry. Barbara didn’t seem to be handling things very well at all. As a matter of fact, Helena hadn’t seen her this depressed since right after the shooting, when she’d found out she was paralyzed. In the end, she’d only managed to convince her to come by making her believe that Dinah really needed to get away. If nothing else, Barbara would do anything for her young ward if she believed it necessary.

Helena had talked Dick into coming in from Bludhaven to watch over things while they were gone so Barbara wouldn’t worry so much. Though truth be told, since Quinn had been locked up, crime had been way down in New Gotham. They probably could have left and things would have been fine. Hell, Reese and the New Gotham Police Department could handle things for a short time. They did get paid for that, after all. But, she knew Barbara would never have left if someone she trusted wasn’t there to watch over things. So, much as she’d hated to do it, she’d contacted Dick and explained the situation. She’d known all along that he’d say yes. Especially once she told him how depressed Barbara had been over Wade’s death and everything. The sound of the door opening behind her pulled her out of her memories and she cursed herself for forgetting to pay attention to where she was. She’d come out here to breathe in the beauty of the place, and she’d ended up depressing herself.

“Helena?” Barbara said as she wheeled out onto the deck. She smiled to herself when she realized the younger woman had already managed to clear a path for her. Always looking out for me, she mused as she watched her carefully. Helena had been deep in thought about something. Since the Harley Quinn incident she’d caught Helena that way numerous times, but damned if she’d ever actually open up and share. Not that Barbara could blame her. It wasn’t like she was the queen of sharing herself. Besides that, opening up and sharing had worked out so well for Helena last time.

Schooling her features, Helena turned around. “Hey yourself,” she said, tilting her head and smiling brightly with more enthusiasm than she actually felt. “All settled in?”

“Mmm yeah,” Barbara answered, closing her eyes and drinking in the fresh air. Opening them again, she moved to stop next to Helena. “Although…there really wasn’t much to do. I just had the girls drop my bags in my room, and I’m all settled. Where’d you find this place anyway? It must have taken some time to find a place like this that was also accessible.”

Helena answered quietly, almost shyly. “Not so hard, when you know where to look.” There was more she’d like to say. Maybe tell Barbara that she hadn’t rented the place but had built it especially for them. But for some reason, she just didn’t feel like sharing that right now. No, for now it was enough to let Barbara think she’d just rented the place. She looked over at Barbara and noticed that she was sitting there with her eyes closed, that enigmatic smile on her face. “Thinking about anything in particular?” she asked carefully, afraid to throw Barbara into another bout of depression.

The redhead shook her head. “No. I was just…breathing in the beauty.” She smiled at Helena and took her hand. “Thank you for this. I’m not sure how you did it, but I am sure that Dinah isn’t the only one who needed to get away.” She grew quiet for a moment and then continued, “I think maybe we all needed to escape New Gotham for awhile. And I can’t think of a more beautiful place to escape to.”

Feeling Barbara’s hand in hers, Helena was momentarily surprised. It had been a long time since Barbara had taken her hand. Since that night in the Clocktower, it seemed like the redhead had purposely been avoiding touching her. Helena was certain it was because some part of Barbara blamed her for Wade’s death, even though she denied it. She couldn’t blame her. Hell, Helena blamed herself. Not just for Wade’s death, but for betraying Barbara, too. She hadn’t meant it as a betrayal, but that’s what it felt like now. So, feeling Barbara’s hand in hers was a gift. One she’d gladly accept. “Yeah well, I was feeling like a little vacation myself. And I figured, what the Hell, why not bring along the entire family? “

“It was good of you to ask Gabby to come along. Dinah needs to spend more time with people her own age, and not just us.” Her voice grew sad for a moment. “She needs to be able to talk to someone.”

Helena glanced back over her shoulder toward the great room before answering. “Well if I didn’t, the kid would never stop following me around. What kind of vacation would that be?”

Barbara laughed. “Helena, I swear, sometimes you’re just incorrigible. I know perfectly well that you like having Dinah around.” Looking over at Helena she added, “Or, at least you don’t mind her as much.”

“As long as she stays out of my closet we’re cool,” Helena answered. “Besides, she’s kinda grown on me.” She squeezed Barbara’s hand. “Come on. Let’s go inside before we both catch cold. Everybody else seems ready to go, and I’m starved.”

Barbara rolled her eyes. “When aren’t you?”

“Hey, I’m a growing girl,” Helena replied in mock consternation as she turned around and headed for the great room. Barbara followed, and found Dinah, Gabby and Alfred all ready to leave. Following Helena, they all piled into the Hummer and headed for the ski resort a few miles away.

Twenty minutes later, they were pulling up to the huge log and stone lodge. Built on the side of the mountain, it appeared to have sprung from the ground all by itself. The logs used in its construction were massive, and each and every one had come from the surrounding land.

Helena stopped at the drop off area and unloaded Barbara’s chair. Bringing the chair around to the passenger side, she opened the door and waited while Barbara transferred herself quickly and efficiently into it. She would have offered to help if she’d thought for a heartbeat it would have been appreciated, but she knew Barbara was too damn independent. Once Barbara was settled, everyone else climbed out. Helena tossed the keys to a waiting valet and they headed into the lodge.

Once inside, Helena led them through the great room of the lodge, stopping at the maitre d’s desk. She gave her name and he led them directly to the best table in the house. It overlooked the valley below, and the lights from the chalets on the neighboring mountains gave the view a fairy tale feel.

“Thank you, James,” Helena said as they were seated.

“My pleasure, Ms. Kyle. May I bring you something from the wine list?”

“Please. A bottle of the Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia, the 1990 Vintage, would be fantastic,” she said with a flawless Italian accent. “Oh, and two Cokes for these two,” her eyes twinkling as she tried to bate Dinah. But Dinah was a no go on the sibling rivalry thing tonight, and Helena just smiled. She was doing her best to keep things casual and make sure everyone had a good time.

By the time dinner arrived, they were all laughing and joking. Alfred was busy regaling them with tales of his wild youth in Britain, and even Barbara had joined in the fun by telling them stories about her childhood. The three of them had polished off two bottles of wine between them and, although Helena’s meta-human physiology kept her from getting too drunk, she could tell that Barbara was feeling pretty good. Alfred too, if she was any judge. But what the hey, she was driving and they weren’t. Besides, they all deserved this after the past few months.

For their part, Dinah and Gabby had been on their best behavior as well. They genuinely seemed to be enjoying hanging out with the adults and had been amazed that Helena actually seemed to have manners. It was somewhat disconcerting for Dinah, since she’d never really had the chance to see Helena in that light before. She felt herself grinning from ear to ear and couldn’t stop herself. It felt really good to be smiling again.

When dinner was finished, Helena insisted on paying the bill, which surprised everyone again. Barbara began to protest, but Helena simply said, “Barbara, let me do this.”

“But Hel, this has got to be expensive. The wine alone…”

Helena covered Barbara’s hand with hers and squeezed gently. “Barbara. I’ve got this. Really.” She tossed her head and said coyly. “I’ve been saving.”

Not wanting to steal Helena’s thunder, Barbara smiled and squeezed back. “Okay. If you’re sure.”

“Thanks, Red.” Helena said. Then addressing everyone, she said, “Well, come on everybody. There’s a show starting in the theater in fifteen minutes. I don’t want anyone taking our seats.”

“A show? What kind of show?” Dinah asked excitedly.

“Camelot, I think,” Helena replied. Seeing the disbelief in their eyes, she went on, “Hey, it’s a classic. No blood and guts. No zombies. I promise. Now come on.” She got up and led them all through the lodge to the theater in question. They arrived just in time to take their seats before the lights went down.

Throughout the first act, Helena would surreptitiously look over at Barbara. The redhead had seemed to be enjoying the play, but as Helena watched her, she could tell that something was going on in Barbara’s head. Sure, she was enjoying herself, but somewhere in her mind, she was still thinking about something else. Helena knew Barbara too well. Sometimes her friend just couldn’t let things go. Not wanting Barbara to catch her watching over her, she sighed and turned her attention to Dinah at the intermission. “I’m going for a drink. Anyone else want anything? Dinah, why don’t you come with me?”

Dinah smiled and joined her. Once in the hallway, she asked. “So, do you think this is helping?”

“I can’t really tell,” Helena answered. “She seems to have enjoyed the evening so far. But she’s still distracted.” She shrugged. “Well, we can’t expect a miracle on the first night. We’ll just keep trying, okay?”

Dinah nodded. She’d seen the way Barbara had cut herself off from everyone and everything after the Clocktower had been invaded. When Helena had come up with this plan, she’d jumped at the chance to help. Now, if Barbara would just let herself relax, she might just start to feel better. She couldn’t keep blaming herself forever for Wade’s death.

They got back to their seats just as the lights went down. Helena handed Alfred his Cognac and Barbara another glass of wine. She noticed that Barbara gave her an odd look when she realized that Helena herself wasn’t drinking anything. It was very unlike the younger woman. To Barbara’s slightly raised brow, Helena merely shrugged, and said, “I’m driving.”

An hour and a half later, they had arrived back at the cabin. Dinah and Gabby decided to go down to the game room and shoot some pool and play video games. Alfred had agreed to join them, announcing that he was going to teach them how the game should be played. “Miss Barbara, Miss Helena, will you be joining us?” he asked.

Helena smiled. “Sure thing, Alfred. Just let me change into something more comfortable and I’ll be down. I’ll help ya beat the kids.”

He smiled. “As you say. Miss Barbara?”

Barbara shook her head. “I don’t think so. I’m…I’m pretty tired. I think I’ll just go to bed.”

“What? Barbara you can’t go to bed yet. It’s still early,” Helena protested.

Barbara sighed, annoyed that Helena would argue with her. “Helena, I’m tired.” Anticipating Helena’s reaction, she went on. “And I don’t want to talk about this.” She turned her wheelchair to leave when she felt Helena’s hand on her arm. Looking at her, she recognized the expression on her friend’s face. “Hel, please. I need to be alone for a while.”

“You always need to be alone these days,” Helena fired back. “Why don’t you stop thinking about things for a while and just go with it?” Too late, she realized what she’d said. If she’d had any doubt, the red tinge that crept up Barbara’s face told her immediately.

Jerking her arm free, Barbara wheeled away. “Maybe I need to think about things, Helena. You should try it sometime. Maybe you wouldn’t end up in the messes you find yourself in.”

Stunned, Helena just stood there for a minute. How could things go so wrong so quickly? Why couldn’t she just keep her mouth shut? “Miss Helena?” She’d forgotten Alfred was still there. “Let her go for now. She needs time to process things, I believe.”

“Process?” Helena repeated.

“Yes.” the older man answered quietly. “Miss Barbara tends to think things to death before she lets them go. I do believe it worried her to have an enjoyable time this evening.”

Not sure what he meant, Helena turned to look at him.

He took pity on her and answered the unasked question. “Miss Barbara, I believe, enjoyed herself rather a great deal this evening. Perhaps more than she feels she should have?” He turned around and headed for the lower level. “I’ll see you downstairs in a few minutes. We wouldn’t want to let the youngsters think they’d beaten us already, now would we?”

Helena smirked. He was right, of course. Alfred always seemed to know what was going on, even when she didn’t seem to have a clue. She shook her head and went to her room to change. On the way down to the game room, she thought about stopping to try and talk to Barbara, to smooth things over. But, Barbara had been quite clear that she preferred to be left alone. So, resolving to do just that, Helena bypassed the woman’s door and went on downstairs.

By the time she arrived, Alfred had already beaten both Dinah and then Gabby in a game of one on one pool. She took a pool stick from the rack, poured herself a vodka, and joined in the game.

Two hours later, she was the only one left standing. Alfred had gone up to bed earlier, and both girls were passed out on the couch in front of the TV. Covering them each with a blanket, Helena grabbed a full bottle of vodka from the bar and went upstairs to sit on the deck.

It was cold outside but she didn’t care. At least the snow had stopped falling. She pulled a chair out from under its plastic cover and sat down. Drinking straight from the bottle, Helena looked up at the night sky. It was surprising really, how many stars you could see out here. Back home, they were barely visible in the night sky. It made her feel small, looking at them now.

Taking another drink, she thought back to what had happened earlier. What had caused Barbara to get all depressed again? Was Alfred right? Could Barbara really be feeling guilty for enjoying herself this evening? Huffing loudly in exasperation, she took another long drink. “Screw it,” she said out loud, and resolved to drink herself into a stupor before the night was through.

* * * * *

Barbara slammed the door. How dare Helena argue with her tonight! Why couldn’t she see? Why couldn’t she just leave well enough alone? They’d all had a really nice evening. Dinner had been fantastic, and the play was exceptional. Helena had truly outdone herself planning everything. Then, she had to argue about something as stupid as a bedtime? It was just ridiculous.

She sat in the dark room, not bothering to even turn on the light, brooding. Somehow, during the evening she’d fallen back down into one of her moods. She didn’t even know how it had happened or what set it off. One minute she was sitting there in the theater, enjoying the play. The next, she’d had a random memory, she wasn’t even sure what it was, and everything had fallen through the floor.

She sighed and tightened the hold on the arms of her chair. Why did this have to happen? She was Oracle. She should have seen this whole thing coming. She should have been able to protect them! And why did she have to keep asking herself these same, stupid damn questions? She sighed again, and her lower lip quivered. She bit into it to keep from crying and flipped on the light.

When her eyes adjusted to the difference, she attempted to focus on something else. Taking a good look around the room, she noticed the way it had been decorated. The entire room had been done in warm, earthy tones with pictures of various mountain scenes on the walls. Off to the right, there was a master bath. Rolling over, she looked through the door. The bathroom was completely handicap accessible and decorated in the same earthy tones. Over all, both rooms fit her personality perfectly. Realization dawned, and now she really felt like crap. Helena had gone out of her way to make sure the entire cabin was perfect for each of them. She was willing to bet any amount of money that the young woman had instructed someone to decorate each bedroom specifically for the person who would be occupying it. Barbara wasn’t sure how Helena had pulled it off, but it was impressive nonetheless.

Then, thinking about all Helena had done for them, she couldn’t keep it inside any longer. The tight control she’d had on her emotions finally slipped. A harsh sob broke free from her chest and she couldn’t hold back the tears any longer. Covering her face with her hands, she just let them come. Sitting there, in the middle of the room crying like a baby, Barbara Gordon finally let go of some of the agony she’d been keeping inside.

Over the next few hours, all the pain and sadness, all the loneliness and emptiness she’d kept pent up inside flowed out. Barbara didn’t think she’d cried this much since the shooting. And then, she hadn’t been alone in her pain. Then, she’d had Helena to think about. She just couldn’t give up and give in to all the things she was feeling. She’d tried, but Helena had been there. That thought, more than any other, helped her to finally calm down.

She sniffed and wiped her face with the back of her sleeve. Taking a few deep breaths to steady herself, Barbara realized that she owed Helena an apology. The other woman wasn’t trying to hurt her earlier, she was just disappointed that Barbara acted as though she’d rather sit around and brood instead of have some fun. Resolving to make things right with Helena, Barbara turned and left the room. It was really late but there was a chance that Helena was still awake.

She rolled down the hall and stopped when she came to the great room. No one was there, but the door to Helena’s room had been open when she’d gone by, so she knew the other woman was in the house somewhere. Knowing Helena’s penchant for brooding on the balcony at home, Barbara moved toward the door to the deck. She noticed it wasn’t locked, and opened it quietly.

Slouched down in a chair, one arm dangling down, sat Helena. It had begun to snow again, and the younger woman was covered with a light dusting. An empty vodka bottle was lying next to her on the deck. As Barbara moved closer, she called Helena’s name quietly. “Hel?” When there was no response, a flicker of worry passed through her. Then, arriving next to her, she realized Helena had passed out. Just how much vodka had Helena drank? Sighing and shaking her head in disbelief, Barbara tried again to wake her up. When she had no luck, she decided to move Helena inside by herself.

Careful not to wake her, Barbara used her considerable upper body strength to shift Helena’s slight form from the chair onto her lap. Helena, unconscious, wrapped an arm around Barbara’s neck and snuggled close. Barbara rolled her eyes and shook her head again as she began moving them both inside.

Pausing only to lock the door to the deck, Barbara moved down the hall toward Helena’s room. When she got there, she flipped on the light and made her way over to the bed. “Hel,” she tried again. “Hel, we’re in your room. I’m going to help you into bed.” When there was still no response, she simply sighed and untangled Helena’s arm from around her neck. Barbara was sure that if Helena had been conscious, that statement would have earned her a sarcastic comeback. As it was, Helena only relaxed into her even more, making it damn near impossible to finish her task. Finally managing to slide her over and onto the bed, Barbara reached over and pulled off her shoes. Then, draping a blanket over her, she flipped off the light and closed the door, leaving Helena to sleep. Anything Barbara had to say could wait until morning.

* * * * *

Helena woke up feeling like hell. Cracking one eye open carefully, she was disoriented at first. This wasn’t her apartment. It wasn’t her old room at the Clocktower, either. Then, she remembered. The cabin. The argument. The vodka. She groaned and covered her eyes with her forearm. Just how much did she drink, anyway?

Rolling over, she looked at the clock on the nightstand. Good. God. It was noon! Dammit! She’d had plans for today. “At least I don’t get all pukey,” she said out loud. Still, even with her meta-human physiology, her mouth still tasted like old carpet.

She threw the quilt covering her off and realized she was still in last nights’ clothes. “Man, I was really out. I don’t even remember coming to bed.” Getting up, she went into the small bath off her bedroom and showered. Brushing her teeth and dressing in workout clothes, she headed downstairs to the workout room.

When her stomach let out a colossal growl, she detoured to the kitchen and rooted around until she found the Poptarts. Grabbing a pack, she continued on her way. She hadn’t seen anyone yet, and wondered if they’d all gone out. She was kind of hoping they had. She really wasn’t in the mood for a bunch of crap this early in her day. It was relatively late in the day for the rest of them, though. She knew for a fact that both, Barbara and Alfred were early risers.

She walked into the workout room stuffing the last of the Poptart into her mouth, and almost ran directly into Dinah. “Geez Helena, sleep in much?” Dinah asked sarcastically, smiling widely. She didn’t know what had happened after she and Gabby had fallen asleep, but they had found an empty vodka bottle on the bar when they woke up.

“Ha, ha,” Helena answered. As repartee went, she was really off her game this morning. “I didn’t realize anyone was still here,” she answered lamely.

“Everyone’s around somewhere,” she answered. “Gabby and I are heading over to the lodge to go skiing. Alfred’s going too. You want to come?”

Helena shook her head. “Nah. I’m gonna stay around here and work out for a while.”

“Okay. Well, see ya later.”

“Bye,” Helena called as she walked over to the mat and started stretching. She was working out on the heavy bag when Barbara came into the room.

“Need a partner?” Barbara asked.


“I asked if you need a partner.” Barbara smiled and slowed her speech, acting like she was speaking to someone whose first language wasn’t English. “You know, someone to work out with?”

Helena snapped out of her shock at seeing the other woman. She hadn’t thought Barbara would be in the mood to talk. Therefore, hadn’t expected her to show up here. “Oh. Uh…yeah, sure.”

Barbara smiled. “Okay then. Let’s get started.” She rolled into the room and grabbed some escrima sticks off the rack. Helena did the same, and they ran through a series of strikes and blocks, speeding up with each progression. Pretty soon, they had switched from running through routines to sparring.

By the time they finished, both of them were sweating profusely. Grabbing two towels from the shelf, Helena handed one to Barbara, and proceeded to rub herself dry. Still pretending nothing had happened the night before, Helena said, “Well, thanks for the work out. I’m gonna hit the pool. You interested?”

Barbara didn’t even bat an eye. “I’d love to. Let me change and I’ll meet you there in fifteen minutes.” Turning around, she left the room and headed back upstairs to change.

Fifteen minutes later, Helena entered the pool area to find Barbara already there, doing laps. She jumped in and joined her, keeping pace easily. Once the laps were complete, Helena helped Barbara with her therapy. After Barbara had used the neural transponder the last time, she’d actually done some real damage to her spinal cord. Helena had been extremely upset about it, but the doctors had assured them that water therapy could help with the worst of it.

“Helena,” Barbara began as she pulled herself out of the pool, “about last night…”

Helena knew this was coming. Barbara had just been biding her time before she let her have it for starting that argument last night. She sighed, “Barbara, about that…”

“No, Helena. I’m not going to yell at you.”

“You’re not?”

“No.” Barbara said, a tender look on her face. “Helena, I wanted to apologize for everything.”

Helena turned to look at her friend, stunned. “Apologize? For what?”

Eyes never wavering from Helena’s, Barbara answered. “For allowing myself to get depressed, for what I said to you…everything. You were right, you know. I should have just stopped thinking and let myself have some fun.”

Being a warrior, Helena recognized a victory when she saw one. Deciding to accept the apology gracefully, she simply smiled and squeezed Barbara’s hand. “Thank you.”

“You know,” Barbara said after a few minutes of companionable silence, “I did come out to look for you last night. I was going to apologize then.” She had a twinkle in her eye as she went on, unable to not tease her friend about her alcohol intake. “I thought we were going to have to change your name from ‘Huntress’ to ‘The Drunken Yeti’. It had started to snow again by the time I found you. You were covered.”

Properly abashed and humbled, Helena answered shyly, “Sorry about that. I guess I was feeling a little sorry for myself last night.”

“It’s all right. We’re all entitled one time or another. I just wish you wouldn’t drink yourself into unconsciousness while you’re outside.” The tone of Barbara’s voice became serious and filled with concern. “Helena, you could have gotten hypothermia out there. At the very least you could have gotten really sick. How much did you drink, anyway?”

Helena shrugged. “I’m not completely sure. I know I took a bottle outside with me after the girls fell asleep. I vaguely remember going back inside and grabbing another bottle from the bar.”

“There was an empty bottle lying on the deck by your chair,” Barbara confirmed.

“So you brought me inside and put me to bed?” Helena was starting to feel terrible. She wasn’t getting sick. She just felt bad that she’d caused Barbara so much worry and extra effort. Here she’d come looking for her to apologize, and ended up taking care of her drunk ass instead.

Barbara nodded. “Yep. That about sums it up.”

“God, Barbara, I’m so sorry.” Helena felt an overwhelming need to crawl under a rock right about now. “I shouldn’t have put you through that. I guess you were right. If I’d think once in a while, I wouldn’t keep ending up in messes.”

Barbara sighed. “Helena, about that. I’m really, really sorry. You know I didn’t mean it the way it came out. I was just mad.”

Helena squeezed Barbara’s hand again, noting that Barbara was still holding on. “It’s okay. Hey, I didn’t say or do anything stupid while I was drunk, did I?” Suddenly, she was worried about what she might have done while under the influence.

Momentarily confused, Barbara shook her head. “No. I carried you into your room, slid you into bed, covered you up and left. You were passed out the whole time.”

Helena let out a sigh of relief. “Good. I wouldn’t want to embarrass myself any more than necessary.”

In a mock serious tone, Barbara asked, “Is that possible?”

Helena laughed. “Come on. Let’s get showered and dressed. Everyone will be back soon, and I hear Alfred has something really good planned for dinner tonight.”

With one eyebrow raised, Barbara asked, “Alfred’s cooking? I thought he was supposed to be on vacation too?”

Helena snorted. “Breakfast and lunches we’re on our own, but Alfred insisted on making dinner himself. Or did you want me to cook?”

Barbara stared in mock horror at the false threat. “Point taken.” She knew as well as anyone that neither she nor Helena should be allowed in the kitchen for anything more than using the microwave.

* * * * *

“So, where’d the girls run off to?” Barbara asked as she joined Helena in the great room. The younger woman was flopped in a leather chair in front of the blazing fireplace, one leg dangling over the arm. “I haven’t heard them in a while.”

Helena shrugged. “I heard Dinah say something about watching a movie. I think they went down to the game room. You wanna go?”

Barbara shook her head. “No. I don’t think watching the latest Twilight movie would help me relax any. I think I’d rather hang out here with you for a while, if it’s okay?” She hesitated before finishing. “We don’t seem to do that anymore. Just…hang out, I mean.” She wasn’t entirely sure Helena would want her just “hanging out” with her, and almost didn’t ask. Especially after last night. Even though they’d had a good talk earlier, lately it had seemed as though Helena had been trying to avoid her, but for what reason she wasn’t sure.

Helena heard the sadness in her voice but recognized the effort Barbara was making and thanked every god she’d ever heard of as she answered, “Sure, Red. I’m just sittin’ here enjoying the fireplace. Make yourself comfy.” She watched as Barbara smiled, relieved and grateful that Helena was playing easy to get along with, and easily transferred herself from her chair to the couch. For her part, she was just happy to see Barbara smiling and relaxed. It had been way too long since she’d seen her that way. “Is there something special you wanted to talk about, or just shoot the breeze?” Helena asked, purposely trying to keep the mood light.

“Nothing in particular,” Barbara answered. “Why don’t you tell me how you found this place? Did you look it up online?”

Turning herself around in the chair so she could see Barbara better, Helena answered, “No. Not online.” She took a deep breath and licked her lips before saying, “Mom used to bring me up here, sometimes. Not here, specifically. But, up here to the ski resort.”

Barbara was surprised. She’d never heard of Selina taking Helena skiing. As a matter of fact, she couldn’t remember Helena ever mentioning anything like that in all the years she’d known her. “You…you’ve never mentioned that before. I never knew.”

Carefully casual, Helena answered, “I guess it just never came up before. Mom was always doing things like that. You know, coming home from work and telling me to pack a bag, we’re going to the beach for the weekend. Or, maybe we’d take a trip to London to take in a play.” She shrugged again. “She liked surprising me.”

“Those are great memories to have, Helena.” She smiled sadly, “I know Selina loved you very much. I’m so sorry you didn’t have more time with her.”

“Hey, Barbara. It’s okay.” Helena said, suddenly feeling bad for depressing Barbara again. Damn, she’d been doing so well at trying to stay happy and upbeat. Attempting to keep the conversation light, she added, “You know, after she died, I spent a lot of time trying to forget. I didn’t want to think about what I’d lost. But now…it doesn’t hurt as much as it used to.” She smiled, “I realized that I was really lucky to have those memories to hold on to.” She looked Barbara directly in the eye, wanting to make sure she understood what she was about to say. “And, even though she was gone, I still had you. I couldn’t have asked for a better friend than you, Barbara. Even if I am an ass sometimes. Please don’t think I don’t know how lucky I am to have you in my life. I wouldn’t have made it without you.”

Barbara sighed, a single tear slipping down her cheek. “Oh, Helena. I never thought you weren’t appreciative. Sure, you were a challenge sometimes, but you were a teenager, and you were hurting. And, I have to admit, I wasn’t exactly easy to get along with either.” She snorted. “Don’t you know that it was you that got me through that first year? Helena, that first year…I wanted to die. When I first woke up in the hospital and they told me I’d never walk again, I wished the Joker had just killed me. It would have been easier. But then you were there, and you needed me…” Her voice trailing off, Barbara began to cry in earnest. She hated to show weakness like this. It made her feel weak and useless and vulnerable. She had been trying so hard to be strong, but it was getting harder with each passing day. Why did it have to be so hard to just let go and feel? If she couldn’t feel safe with Helena, who would she ever feel safe with? Who could she ever open up to? Finally, throwing caution to the wind, she let the walls down just a little bit and let the feelings come.

Seeing Barbara crying, Helena got up and moved over to the couch. At a loss for what to do, she reached out and pushed Barbara’s hair back, tucking it behind her left ear. “Hey, Barbara please…don’t cry. I…I didn’t want to make you cry. Please.” Now she really felt like crap. She’d brought them up here to get away from everything, and all she’d succeeded in doing was upsetting Barbara even more. Not sure what else to do, she sat down next to Barbara on the couch. Then, wrapping Barbara in her arms, she let her cry on her shoulder. If nothing else, she could at least keep her safe while she cried.

They sat like that for quite awhile, Helena eventually moving them around so that she was leaning back against the arm of the couch. This way, she could hold Barbara in front of her still wrapped in her arms, and they’d both be more comfortable. Somewhere along the line, she had been vaguely aware of Dinah stopping to check on them and saying something about her and Gabby turning in for the evening. She had quietly assured Dinah that they were both okay, since she thought Barbara may have briefly fallen asleep (or she was faking, avoiding explanations to the teen), and sent her on her way. She had been drifting in and out for a while herself, not really sleeping, just laying there holding Barbara while she cried out some of her pain.

It occurred to her then that Barbara was putting a lot of trust in her. Only three months before, Helena had walked into the Clocktower, punched Barbara into unconsciousness, and handed the keys to the proverbial kingdom over to a whack job. Now, here they were lying on a couch in a decidedly compromising position, if anyone had really cared to look at it that way. Helena didn’t, however. She was feeling nothing less than overwhelmed by the show of trust Barbara had placed in her.

If Barbara had had any feelings of distrust, or blame to assign to Helena, she sure wasn’t showing it now. If anything, she was putting her life in the hands of the one person who had betrayed her. At least that’s the way Helena saw it. But here they were, Barbara leaning back against Helena, sleeping quietly. Helena still had her arms wrapped protectively around Barbara’s waist, hands resting on the taut muscles of Barbara’s stomach, holding her tightly so she could sleep safely.

Helena felt a tear of happiness slip down her own cheek, and it dawned on her that she should probably wake Barbara up and help her to her room. She didn’t want her to wake up in the middle of the night on the couch, confused as to why she wasn’t in her own bed, and wondering why she was still in Helena’s arms.

As she released her hold on Barbara and attempted to maneuver out from behind her, Barbara stirred. Inhaling deeply as she woke up slightly, she asked, “Where are you going?”

Cursing herself for waking Barbara, Helena answered in a whisper, “I was gonna help you to your room. I didn’t think you’d want to wake up out here in the morning.”

Still not quite awake but aware of what she was saying, Barbara quietly answered, “Lay back down. I’m fine here.” Drifting back down into sleep, she pulled Helena’s arms tighter to her and mumbled, “I feel safe here with you, Helena.”

And that was all it took. Managing to wrangle one hand free, Helena pulled the blanket draped over the back of the couch down and throw it over the both of them. The fire had burned down to embers, and the great room had grown chilly over the intervening hours. Still, it felt good here under the blanket, with the person she cared most about in the world in her arms. Kissing Barbara on the top of her head, she settled down and fell asleep.

* * * * *

Barbara woke up feeling more relaxed than she had in a long time. Not because the couch was all that comfortable to sleep on, but because she’d actually slept through the whole night. She hadn’t slept this well in months, she was sure. It must have been all the emotional things going on in her head, she thought. With everything that had happened recently, she’d been exhausted. The mental and physical toll of the last few months had finally worn her down, and she wasn’t able to hold it together anymore. Or maybe, just maybe, she hadn’t wanted to hold it in any longer? She had to admit, crying the last two nights had been extremely cathartic. And, even though she’d cried like a baby, Helena hadn’t made her feel less for it. In fact, she’d been downright comforting. Who would have thought? She smiled to herself, realizing that Helena was still holding her tightly, protecting her even in sleep.

Always an early riser, she thought about getting up, but couldn’t think of a way to get herself off the couch without waking Helena. Utterly unwilling to wake the other woman, she decided to just stay put for a while longer. The sun hadn’t come up yet, so it was still pretty early. She didn’t have a thing to do…So, sleeping in was a big yes. With a course of action firmly in mind, Barbara closed her eyes and fell back to sleep.

Two hours later she was jolted awake by two things: the sound of two teenage girls storming down the steps, and Helena jerking awake in a panic.

“What the Hell?” Helena yelled as she was suddenly pulled out of a very deep sleep. “What’s wrong with you two? Don’t you know people are trying to sleep?” Attempting to slow her heart rate to somewhere near normal, she went on. “I thought we were being attacked!”

Pulled up short by the sight of an angry Helena first thing in the morning, Dinah could only stop dead in her tracks. Unfortunately, this caused Gabby, who was directly behind her and unaware of a raging Helena, to slam into the back of her. Picking herself up off the floor, Dinah could only stammer, “H…Helena, I’m really, really sorry.” She cringed and began to blush as she realized that Barbara had also been awakened by all the commotion. Feeling a deep need to apologize, if not to Helena, at least to Barbara, she went on. “We didn’t know you were still down here sleeping. W…when I didn’t see the lights on, I thought you’d both gone to bed.”

Finally succeeding in calming her heart rate, Helena rolled her eyes and sighed. “It’s alright, Kid. You didn’t know.”

Surprised by Helena’s easy acceptance of her apology, Dinah smiled slightly, realizing she was about to get off easy. “We were just going to make waffles. You guys want some?” she asked as she pointed toward the kitchen with a thumb over her shoulder.

Barbara spoke up then, voice still raspy from sleep. Taking pity on her youngest protégé, she said, “Thank you, Dinah. We’d love to. Why don’t you two go on and get started and we’ll be in shortly.”

Realizing this was Barbara’s way of saying ‘get out and let us talk,’ Dinah simply nodded. Grabbing Gabby by the arm, she literally pulled the other girl out of the great room and headed for the kitchen.

Once the girls were gone, Barbara turned to look at Helena. Faces only inches apart, they both burst out laughing at the ridiculousness of the situation. As Helena got up and brought Barbara’s chair over for her, she attempted to stifle her laughter. “You looked like a deer in headlights!”

“Me?” Barbara giggled. “I thought you were going into full ‘Huntress Mode’. God, the way you jumped up like that…” She grabbed her sides, she was laughing so hard. “Did you see Dinah’s face?”

Finally realizing that Barbara was laughing too hard to help herself, Helena bent down and lifted her into her chair. She noticed as she did that Barbara didn’t protest or even stiffen up, easily accepting her help. Helena quirked a brow. That was new. “She probably thought I was gonna kick her ass. Oh, man. That was funny.”

Barbara nodded in agreement, finally able to control her laughter. “Priceless,” she agreed as she turned and followed Helena down the hall toward their rooms.

Forty five minutes later, breakfast was finished and the kitchen was a wreck. “Hey, I’ll tell you what,” Helena said, addressing everyone. “What if I clean up the kitchen and you two go on and get ready for your day?”

Dinah stared in dumb shock at Helena as she tried to process what had just been said. Helena? Offering to clean up the kitchen? Now that was really weird. On the other hand, she wasn’t about to let this moment pass her by. So, instead of making a smart-ass comment like usual, she decided to just accept the offer. Finally finding her voice, she turned to Gabby and said, “Come on. We can get ready and head to town with Alfred. He said something last night about shopping today.” Gabby jumped up and as they left the kitchen, Dinah yelled back, “Thanks, Helena! Have a good day!”

“Yeah, you too,” she said to their departing backs. Turning around, she caught Barbara eyeing her suspiciously. “What?”

With one brow quirked in question, Barbara simply said, “Offering to clean up?”

Helena shrugged. “They’re on vacation. Besides, I don’t really have any plans for today, other than working out later.”

Barbara sipped her coffee while she took a minute to consider her friends’ response. “Mmm, I see. Just wanted them out of the house for a while?”

“Maybe,” Helena answered. “I’m almost done here. Meet me downstairs when you’re ready. We’ll work out and then go through your therapy. That is,” Helena said, catching the look in Barbara’s eye, “if you want to?”

Barbara nodded. “I want to. I feel like the new exercises are really starting to help.” She finished her coffee and turned to leave. “I’ll be down in a few. Go ahead and get started and I’ll join you.”

Helena shot her a smirk. “Sure thing, Red.”

* * * * *

Their work out and Barbara’s therapy finished, Helena showered and changed into some warmer clothes. The weather outside had cleared up a bit and she’d decided to go for a hike. She found Barbara in the great room curled up on the couch in front of the fireplace. “I’m going out for a while. Is there anything you need before I leave?” she asked.

Barbara looked up from her book. “No thanks, Hel. I’m fine. Enjoy your walk.”

“Thanks, Barbara. I’ll see you in a little bit.”

“Say ‘hi’ to the bears for me,” Barbara called out jokingly to Helena’s departing back.

“Will do,” Helena called in answer, heading out the front door and into the crispness of a clear, cold day. She headed toward the back of the house, following a path that she’d made herself over the past three months. Every time she’d come up to check on the progress of the construction, she’d taken some time to walk the paths around the property.

She’d never noticed how noisy her everyday life was until she’d started coming up here. But over time, she’d begun to appreciate the peace and beauty of this place. Just hearing the wind blow through the trees was a treat for her sensitive ears. And those days that she couldn’t make it up here due to her schedule, or some other crisis, she’d really missed the place. Stopping along the path to breathe in the smells of the forest, Helena sighed. This place was pure calm to her constant chaos. If there was anyplace in the world she’d rather live than New Gotham, it was here. ‘Who knows?’ She thought to herself, maybe she will some day.

Laughing quietly to herself for even having such a crazy thought, she continued down the path. And why was it a crazy thought, she wondered? What, was she really going to be fighting crime when she was old and gray? Chances are, she’d never live that long if her life continued on its current path. And if something happened to her, what about Barbara? Would Barbara continue to sit in front of Delphi every night monitoring and guiding Dinah or perhaps someone else? Helena didn’t think so. She firmly believed that if anything happened to her Barbara would blame herself, of course.

That’s right; Barbara would blame herself and become so depressed she might never come out of it. She only hoped that this place could serve as a place for any one of them to come to for healing when they needed it. She also hoped that if anything did happen to her, that Dinah would make sure that Barbara took care of herself. The redhead would undoubtedly ignore her own needs. She always did. That was the other reason Helena had bought this place and built the house. She wanted Barbara to have some place besides the Clocktower to hide out in. Someplace not quite so depressing.

Over the last few months, Helena had started thinking about her life. She’d always been a ‘take it as it comes’ kinda girl. But lately, things had been coming at a faster pace, and Helena wasn’t sure she wanted to deal with things that way any longer. Hell, if she were honest with herself, she’d been thinking about things since right before Dinah had shown up. She didn’t want to be a bartender forever. Who knows, maybe she’d go back to school? Helena snorted at that thought. She’d hated school, even though she’d always done really well for someone who didn’t bother to show up very often.

After the Harley Quinn incident, Helena had finally made some decisions. One of the first things she did was go see her father’s lawyer about accessing the trust fund he’d left for her. She hadn’t wanted anyone to know about it really, but since Alfred and Dinah were in on the whole vacation plan, she’d told them. She asked them not to tell Barbara, though. She still wasn’t sure why she didn’t want Red to know. Maybe she just wanted her to continue thinking Helena was just too damn stubborn. Once construction was underway, Helena had spoken to the lawyer again, and had a will drawn up. In it, she left everything she had to Barbara. Hell, it wasn’t like she had anyone else in her life, and Barbara had always been there for her. No matter what. If nothing else, it would let Barbara know how much she was appreciated and loved, since Helena didn’t seem to have the courage to tell her herself.

Now that her thoughts had turned to Barbara, she couldn’t stop thinking about the way things had been between them lately. For the last three months, their relationship had been strained, to say the least. Helena still went out on sweeps, sometimes with Dinah, sometimes without. Barbara still monitored their movements. But something was missing. They didn’t seem to have the easy back and forth of their earlier conversations. Barbara used to respond with snappy comebacks of her own whenever Helena started the banter. Lately, Barbara had been all business.

Not that Helena blamed her. Helena was the reason Wade was dead, after all. Sure, Barbara said that wasn’t the case, but Helena knew better. It was her fault that Harley knew about Barbara and Wade at all. If she could just have kept her mouth shut…But something inside her had been screaming to get out that day. Helena had spent weeks pondering exactly what it was, and she still wasn’t quite sure.

She could admit now that she’d been jealous of Wade and his relationship with Barbara. She’d even tried to ignore it and pretend it wasn’t there. The only problem was, it was there. The green-eyed monster. In her heart of hearts she really wanted Barbara to be happy. She really did. She just didn’t see how that would have been possible with Wade. He was just so boring. He wasn’t like Barbara at all. She craved adrenaline and adventure. He seemed to want someone he could take care of. Helena snorted out loud at that thought. Being taken care of was so not Barbara.

She tripped over a tree root and almost fell, surprising herself. She never tripped. It served the purpose of bringing her head down out of the clouds, though. She realized she’d been walking without paying attention to anything around her. The sun was starting to go down and she was a couple miles from the house. Checking her watch, she cursed and set off at a run back toward home.

Half an hour later, Helena found herself arriving back at the house the same time Dinah, Gabby and Alfred were returning. They were unloading a handful of bags from the back of the Hummer when she walked up to the car. “Looks like you bought out the store,” she said, laughing at the load Dinah was carrying. “Here, let me help.” She grabbed a small bag from the ten or so Dinah had in her arms and walked in the front door.

“Helena!” Dinah yelled in exasperation. Realizing she’d been had, Dinah only shook her head. “She is so gonna get it,” she said as Gabby came up next to her laughing at Helena’s joke. Eyeing her dangerously, Dinah said, “Go ahead and laugh. You’ll see,” as she continued on into the house.

* * * * *

After Helena left, Barbara spent the next hour reading. Eventually though, she grew bored and decided to go down to the work out room. She’d already worked out that morning and she knew too much exercise wasn’t good for her spine, but she felt the need to be moving. She maneuvered herself into her chair and went back to her room to change. Ten minutes later, dressed in sweats and a tank top, she made her way downstairs. This house, being fully handicap accessible, had a circular, smooth carpeted ramp from the main floor to the basement area. Barbara had decided from the moment she’d seen it, that she liked this feature. Whoever had designed the place had really done an outstanding job.

Making her way into the small gym, she rolled over to the weight bench and began her routine. From there, she moved to the weapons rack and picked up a set of escrima sticks. Working through the series of strikes and blocks, she moved faster and faster, until the movements flowed without thought. It was in this place in her head, that she found the most peace.

There was nothing to distract her but the technique, the feel of the stick hitting its target, the focus of purpose. There was no thought involved, only motion, graceful yet lethal, if executed improperly. And when that thought struck her, she faltered. It was exactly that which had almost cost her her soul. In one motion, she easily could have killed Harley Quinn and condemned her soul to eternal torment. Okay, not hellfire and damnation kind of torment, Barbara was far from a religious person. No, she knew her soul would have been scarred forever. It was the kind of wound you never truly recover from. It may scab over, but it never truly heals, like Tolkien’s Frodo. Already, she bore the scars of death. Lady Shiva’s sister, Wade…She didn’t think she could carry any more. And in that split second of indecision, Helena had been there.

Helena had seen what was happening, and somehow, she had known what was in Barbara’s mind. She knew exactly what to say; exactly what the cost would have been if she’d killed Harley. It was the sound of Helena’s voice and the words she said, Barbara’s own words, which stopped her that day. Helena knew her so well. She knew how to get in under all the pain and anger, how to burrow past all the defenses she had and make her listen.

Barbara didn’t like to admit it, but Helena could talk her into almost anything. But that day, she’d talked her out of murder. That day, those seven little words ‘we don’t kill, it makes us less,’ spoken by Helena, was all it had taken. Helena had watched then, as she’d dropped the stick and then Quinn. She’d caught her as she’d fallen, the pain from the transponder finally too much to withstand. And when it was all over, and Quinn had been hauled off to Arkham Asylum, Helena had carried her to her room and put her to bed. Then, as Dinah, Alfred and Reese had begun cleaning up the mess, Helena stayed with her. She never said a word, just sat there, holding her in her arms until she’d finally fallen asleep.

The next morning, when Barbara had woken up, Helena was still there. She’d looked up and seen the pain in Helena’s blue eyes, but hadn’t known what to say. There were so many things she wanted to tell her, but the words just refused to form. Then, it seemed like the spell they’d been under had broken. With no words at all, Helena had helped her into her chair and waited until she’d gone into her bathroom to prepare for the day. When she came out a few minutes later, the brunette had gone. And Barbara knew the most profound feeling of loss she’d ever felt.

Barbara blinked and realized she’d stopped hitting the heavy bag a while ago. Shaking herself, she decided to just give up the work out and maybe go for a swim. Maybe the water would have a more calming effect on her nerves. Glancing at the clock on the wall, however, she realized the others would be back soon from their shopping trip. Sighing, she headed back upstairs. Right on cue, as she made her way into the great room, Helena came through the front door, the others right behind her.

“Helena,” she heard Dinah whine, “what kind of help is that? Only one bag?” She turned to Gabby and said in a very loud whisper, “You’d think someone with meta-human strength would be able to carry more than one little, itty bitty bag.” And then she rolled her eyes for effect.

For her part, Helena ignored the blond, instead, choosing to address the redhead sitting in the great room watching them. “Hey Red!” She said brightly. “Ready for some dinner? I’m starved.”

Shoving her pain behind a wall, she attempted to hide her feelings away again. Smiling at the antics of the two, Barbara answered, “Sure, what would you all like? Burnt toast, or microwave something?”

Not skipping a beat, Helena simply said, “How about burnt microwave something?”

Not willing to trust the health of his stomach to the culinary skills of either woman, Alfred chose that moment to intervene with, “How about I put these things down and prepare something edible?”

“That sounds great, Alfred. Why don’t I help?” Helena said sweetly, breezing by Dinah and Gabby and sticking out her tongue at the two.

“Teachers pet!” Dinah called out as Helena left the room.

“You wish you were!” Helena called back, disappearing into the kitchen.

A mere half hour later, they were all sitting around the huge solid oak dinner table eating salad, pasta with marinara sauce and garlic bread. Helena had broken out another bottle of wine, not as expensive as the Sassicaia from the lodge, she was quick to point out, and was pouring three more glasses. Dinah had kept up the teasing banter, and Helena, not to be outdone by a mere teenager, had obliged. They were in the middle of a discussion over the merits of wearing leather or cotton as their fighting outfit of choice. Helena was insisting that leather was way cooler looking than cotton. Dinah was touting the pros of comfort over fashion.

When Gabby chimed in, agreeing with Dinah, Helena was feeling decidedly ganged up on. “Barbara,” she whined, “you gotta help me out here. What do you think?”

“Whatever you’re comfortable in is best,” Barbara said noncommittally. “Although, I always preferred my super heroes in black leather,” she added as an afterthought. “You know, maybe a little body armor thrown in for good measure? It’s just so…hot.”

Hearing the last comment, Helena almost spit her wine out in shock. “Barbara!”

“What?” Barbara asked innocently, although a blush could be seen creeping up her cheeks, “I’m human.”

“Yeah, I know that,” Helena replied, “but not in front of the kiddies,” she whispered loudly, which caused Dinah to blush and yell, “Hey!”

Barbara blew out a breath. “I was simply pointing out that I think leather looks better as a costume,” she said innocently. “Maybe someone’s mind is just too close to the gutter?” she said, directing the question at Helena.

“Look, I’d be the last one to deny my mind goes there,” Helena said contritely. “But as I recall, you didn’t wear leather. You wore…what was it? Neoprene and spandex?” She looked at Barbara daring her to continue this conversation.

Barbara looked at Helena for just a moment, not sure she really wanted this conversation to continue, before finally answering with, “You forgot the body armor. It gives the costume just the right firmness and protection.” Taking a drink from her wine glass, she sat quietly and watched Helena for her reaction.

That was it. Helena spit out the drink of wine she’d just taken. “Barbara!” she yelled in shock. What the hell had gotten into Red tonight? She put down her wine glass and began cleaning up her mess. This conversation had definitely taken an unexpected turn. Not sure she wanted to see where this was going to end up, she decided to bail. When she was finished cleaning up, she stood and said, “I think I’ll go to my room now. This evening’s getting stranger by the minute.”

As she left, she heard Barbara say loudly, “Was it something I said?” Then, the whole table burst into laughter. All right, she thought to herself as she stomped off to her room, let them have their fun.

In the dining room, Dinah grinned broadly, and said, “Well, I guess I got her back, didn’t I. I can’t believe she got so embarrassed!” Then she cracked up laughing again. “Barbara, you were priceless!”

Barbara felt the color rising on her cheeks again. For some reason, she was beginning to think Dinah may have set them both up. But remembering the look on Helena’s face, she dissolved back into laughter again.

A few minutes later, still chuckling, she found herself being ushered out of the dining room. The girls had offered to clean up after dinner, so she and Alfred retreated to the great room for a drink. “So Alfred,” Barbara began as she sipped her wine, “do you think we were a little too hard on Helena?”

Alfred was quiet for a moment, contemplating the question. Finally, he said, “I believe, Miss Barbara, that Miss Helena is quite capable of defending herself from such repartee.” He took another drink of his brandy before continuing. “I daresay she was more shocked at your willingness to join in than anything else.”

Barbara nodded. “She did seem to be surprised that I’d fire off the double entendres in front of Dinah and Gabby.” She fell quiet for a minute before sighing. “I guess none of us has been a laugh riot, lately.”

He agreed. “Yes, things have been rather…tense, these last few months.” He was referring, of course, to Barbara’s decided lack of interest in anything recently. Especially her friendship with Helena, which had suffered a great deal.

“You’re right,” she said, conceding his point. “It’s just that every time I feel like I might be ready to talk, Helena’s either in a bad mood, or a crisis comes up.” She pinched the bridge of her nose. “I’m not sure what to do, anymore. All we do is tiptoe around each other, like we’re walking on eggshells.”

“If you don’t mind my saying so Miss Barbara, perhaps it’s time you made a point of talking to her,” Alfred offered. “It was, more than anything, Miss Helena’s influence which brought us all together in this place. She feels I believe, that the time for change is upon us.” He drained the last of his brandy and stood up. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, Jeopardy is about to begin.”

“Thank you, Alfred,” Barbara said, as she watched him walk from the room. She was more grateful for Alfred in that moment than she had been in a long time. He always seemed to know what to say. It didn’t always make her feel better, but it was always right. She briefly wondered if he’d dispensed wisdom to Bruce like this too.

* * * * *

Helena came bopping into the great room and flopped into her favorite chair. “Hey, Red.”

Barbara looked over at her from the couch, glasses sliding down her nose. Taking careful note of Helena’s outfit, tight black leather pants, high heeled boots and a sheer top, she quirked an eyebrow and asked, “Going out?” It was obvious the brunette had been paying attention during the conversation at the dinner table.

Helena nodded. “I promised the girls I’d take them out tonight. We’re going to the club over at the lodge.”

Pulling her glasses off, Barbara pinched the bridge of her nose. “The club?”

“Relax, Red. It’s a teen dance club.” Helena rolled her eyes at Barbara’s over protectiveness. “Mom used to let me go when we’d come up here. It’s just a place for the kids to go. You know music, dancing, and soda. I won’t let anything happen.”

Barbara nodded in understanding. “I see. Well, I guess it’ll be okay, then.” She looked sideways at Helena. “Since they’ll have a chaperone.”

Helena smiled. “That’s me, chaperone extraordinaire.”

“I trust you, Hel. I know they’ll be safe with you.”

“Hey. You wanna come?” she asked. “It’d be nice to have someone my own age around.”

Barbara snorted. “I’m hardly your age, Hel.”

Helena rolled her eyes. “You know what I mean. Don’t be difficult.”

“I’m not being difficult just…precise,” Barbara said, smiling. She knew full well it drove Helena crazy when she nitpicked, especially when she did it just to get a rise out of the younger woman.

Helena pouted. “Barbara, please?” She looked out from under her bangs, hanging over her eyes. “I don’t want to be the only adult at the dance. Please come with me?”

Barbara looked at Helena and then down at her legs. Then she looked back at Helena again. “Uh…no?”

Exasperated, Helena said, “Aww, come on, Barbara. Please? You used to love to dance.”

“Sorry. I left my dancing shoes at home,” Barbara said in answer. “Go. I don’t feel like going out tonight.” She saw Helena about to protest again and held up a hand to stop her. “I promise I’m not getting depressed. I just don’t feel like going out.” Wanting to make sure Helena believed her, she said, “Really, I’m fine. I think sleeping on the couch last night had a negative impact on my back and shoulders. Not that I wasn’t comfortable,” she added quickly, not wanting to make the other woman feel bad for the sleeping arrangements of the night before. “It was actually really nice,” she finished, feeling a blush start to rise up her cheeks remembering just how comfortable she’d actually been.

About to answer with a snappy comeback, Helena winced visibly when Dinah and Gabby came into the room proclaiming loudly that they were ready to go. She stood up and, leaning over to whisper into Barbara’s ear, she said, “Maybe I can help with that problem when I get back.” Opening the door, she called back, “Don’t wait up!”

Her voice frozen, Barbara merely watched as Helena headed out the door with the two teens. She shivered as she once again felt Helena’s breath on her ear and neck. Taking in a deep breath to steady herself, she realized she was already looking forward to Helena’s return. Realizing she was getting keyed up and unable to go down and work out for a third time that day, she decided to go downstairs and join Alfred. Maybe they could play some pool or chess? Or maybe she could challenge him to one of Helena’s games on the X-Box, something with lots of action?

* * * * *

Barbara and Alfred had watched TV and indulged themselves in a rousing game of Call of Duty on the X-Box after Helena and the girls left. It always made Barbara feel good seeing the older gentleman let go and have a good time. He spent so much of his time taking care of all of them; he never really seemed to have a lot of time for himself. And, even though he worked for Barbara, he really was more family than anything. He’d been around for as long as she could remember. And, she knew that he too, felt some guilt over Wade’s death because he had been the one to give Wade a key to the Clocktower.

They’d already discussed the incident not long after everything had happened. She didn’t blame Alfred at all for what had happened, and she’d made sure to tell him that. Still, she knew he harbored his own guilty feelings. She couldn’t change that, but she could make sure she let him know how much he was appreciated.

Around ten thirty, Alfred had given in, having lost another battle to Barbara’s Allied Forces. They’d watched TV for a little while until Barbara drifted off to sleep on the couch. Alfred had quietly gotten up and covered her with a blanket from the back of the couch before heading upstairs for the evening. He knew that Helena would see to Barbara when she returned. Of that, there was no doubt.

* * * * *

As soon as they arrived at the lodge, Dinah and Gabby had taken off for the dance club, leaving Helena to follow along behind. The two girls were so excited, she didn’t have the heart to slow them down. Besides, there was no place for them to go but the dance floor or the tables set along the perimeter.

She caught up with them as they were sitting down at a table. The DJ had just started, and there were still only a handful of dancers on the floor. A waitress came by and took their drink order, returning in a few minutes with three Cokes. Helena asked her to start a tab, and then ordered some chips and salsa to munch on.

Dinah and Gabby were both dancing in their seats, obviously wanting to hit the floor. Helena, tired of watching the two of them sit there, finally said, “Oh for crying out loud, go on. Get out there and start dancing.”

“Are you sure you don’t want to come, too?” Dinah asked. She didn’t want Helena to feel left out.

“Nah, go ahead,” Helena said. “Maybe later.” She was relieved when they finally took their nervous energy out onto the floor. Hanging out with the teens reminded Helena of her own high school days. And, as she sat there watching the girls, she remembered the times she’d been here with her mom.

Those had been good times. Selina would give her some money and tell her to go on down to the club and have a good time, telling her to be back as soon as it ended. Helena, always one to enjoy dancing and the ‘party life’ never turned down the opportunity to go. There were always some really hot boys, and, truth be told, girls, to dance with.

She’d spend the next three hours dancing with anyone who struck her fancy, and always ended up taking home a phone number or two. She never called any of them, of course. It was all more of a fun game than anything. Then, her mom died and things had changed. Once more, Helena found herself thinking of Barbara. The redhead had done her very best after Selina died. She’d stepped up and taken Helena on without a second thought. And, Helena knew, considering Barbara’s own physical condition at the time, that couldn’t have been easy. The last thing she’d needed was an angry, unruly teenager running around. But, after last night, Helena had begun to understand that maybe she’d helped Barbara as much as the other woman had helped her.

As the dance beat ground out louder and louder in the background, Helena couldn’t help but miss her. She’d really wanted Barbara to come tonight. Why? She couldn’t really say other than she really didn’t want to be one of the only adults there. Or, maybe she just missed her company? She couldn’t wait for eleven o’clock, so they could get back to the cabin. She had every intention of helping Barbara work out the kinks in her neck and back. And if the blush on Barbara’s cheeks was any indication, she was looking forward to Helena coming home, too. Thinking about that put a smile on Helena’s face, and pretty soon, she was up and moving toward the dance floor.

Dinah smiled when she saw Helena making her way toward them. She and Gabby had met two really nice guys their own age, and were dancing in a small circle. She waved Helena over. “Finally decide to join in?” she asked, as Helena arrived.

“I had a little pent up energy to burn off,” Helena stated, a mysterious smile on her face.

A little confused, but glad to see Helena up and dancing instead of brooding, she said, “Okay…You wanna join us?”

“No thanks. You two have fun,” Helena answered as she started to dance away from them. She stopped and moved back to say loudly to Dinah, “Don’t have too much fun. I am still watching, you know.”

Her face turning a deep shade of red, Dinah simply said, “Thanks.”

Thoroughly convinced that Dinah and Gabby would behave themselves, Helena let the music begin to work its magic. Music, she’d found, had always appealed to her feral side. Anytime she was feeling pissed off, she could turn on some metal music and let the anger in the music soothe her own frustration. If she was depressed, she could start dancing to some great techno and forget whatever had her down. Tonight was no exception.

It wasn’t anger or depression assaulting her tonight though, it was loneliness. She’d been feeling it for months, attacking her at the oddest times. Even in a room like this, full of people, she was lonely. Thinking of Barbara had only made the feeling grow stronger. She missed her best friend. And she had especially been missing the flirty banter they’d had going before everything fell apart. It wasn’t like anything more would ever happen, but Helena still felt closer to Barbara when they engaged in the flirty talk. Dancing though, especially with a good partner, made her feel better. If only for a little while.

She found what she was looking for across the dance floor. Along the far wall was a young man with dark hair standing by himself. Watching him, she could tell he wanted to dance, but didn’t want to be out on the floor alone. His entire demeanor was screaming ‘looking for a good time’. “Hey,” she said, sliding up to him. “Wanna dance?”

“Uh sure,” he said, setting his drink on the table next to him. There was no way he’d turn down the beautiful, lithe brunette who’d just slithered up to him.

She grabbed his hand and pulled him to the floor, dancing around him and turning him around as they went. He proved to be a good dancer, managing to keep up with her move for move. They didn’t speak, and Helena was glad for that. She just wanted to forget for a little while everything she’d been dealing with the last few months. As they moved around the floor, she could tell he was becoming a little more interested than she wanted. The music was thumping and they were both getting pretty sweaty, when suddenly, the DJ slowed the music down and her partner moved to pull her in closer for a slow dance.

Suddenly panicking, she put a hand on his chest to stop him. This wasn’t what she wanted tonight. Okay, it was, but not with him. Shaking her head, she said, “No thanks, I think I’m done.”

“But…” he started to say, confusion furrowing his brow. “I thought we were hitting it off.”

“We were, but I’m done dancing now. Sorry. Besides, I’m supposed to be playing chaperone tonight.” She turned and left him standing in the middle of the floor, totally confused as to what had just happened.

She’d meant it when she said she was sorry, but he was about to try to get closer than she wanted. Most nights, she would have welcomed the come on. Hell, most nights she would have been the one doing the coming on, picking up someone, anyone, just to fill the loneliness for a little while. But tonight, that wasn’t what she was looking for. Tonight, she had a reason to get back; a possibility for something more than the usual teasing banter. And she found she was more than willing to wait, on the off chance something would come of the possibility. Barbara was worth the wait. He definitely wasn’t what she was looking for. What she was looking for…“Hey Helena!” Dinah said brightly as she and Gabby came back to the table. Flopping into her chair, she asked, “Who was he? He was pretty cute.”

Stunned out of her thoughts, Helena shook her head. “I…I never caught his name.”

“You were dancing with him like that and you never caught his name?” She asked incredulously, as she shared a look with Gabby.

Flustered, Helena could only answer curtly, “It’s almost eleven. I’m going to the bathroom and then we should get ready to head back home.” Suddenly irritated, she stood up and beat a hasty retreat to the restroom, hoping to escape long enough to pull herself together. The Kid was right; she had been kind of leading the poor guy on. And then she didn’t even bother to get his name! Right about now, he was probably almost as frustrated as she was, the poor guy. Man, what she wouldn’t give to have an evening free of the two teens so she could work off some of her frustrations with him. Dinah was right, he was cute. And, most importantly, he was over twenty one. But then she remembered her reason for turning him down and smiled to herself. It was worth it, she reminded herself.

As Helena practically ran from the table, Dinah couldn’t help but smile. She’d actually embarrassed her! Helena, the Queen of Cool was actually embarrassed to be caught dancing with some stranger? Still, Helena’s sudden mood swing was confusing. Her thoughts were interrupted by Gabby. “What are you thinking?” she asked slyly.

“I’m wondering,” Dinah answered, “why Helena got so flustered over us seeing her dancing with Nameless Guy. To here her talk, you’d think she does this every night with boatloads of guys just for kicks.”

Gabby shrugged. “Maybe she doesn’t want Miss Gordon to know about it.”

“She’s never been shy about talking about it in front of Barbara before,” Dinah answered. “In fact, she seems to make a point out of telling Barbara about her exploits.”

“Maybe she’s shooting for the jealousy factor,” Gabby said without thinking. Dinah was about to ask her what she was talking about when Helena returned to the table.

“You two ready to roll?” she asked briskly, grabbing her leather jacket and heading for the door. She stopped by the bar long enough to pay their tab and then waited by the door, tapping a foot impatiently.

Dinah and Gabby grabbed their coats and struggled to catch up. Suddenly it seemed as though Helena had sprouted wings, she was moving so quickly.

Once in the Hummer, Helena seemed to calm down, though she didn’t say a word on the way back to the cabin. She did, mercifully, turn on the radio so Dinah and Gabby wouldn’t have to sit in awkward silence. Both girls were still running the Nameless Guy incident over and over in their heads.

Twenty minutes later, they pulled up in front of the cabin. Helena parked and turned off the radio, waiting a minute before getting out. Dinah, who had been watching her closely on the ride back, couldn’t help but wonder why her friend suddenly seemed nervous. But, just as quickly as the thought crossed her mind, Helena took a deep breath and got out of the Hummer, heading for the front door.

Dinah and Gabby followed and once inside, Dinah loudly proclaimed, “Man, I’m tired. I think I’m going on up to bed.”

Catching on, Gabby agreed. “Me too. Thanks Helena, for taking us to the club tonight,” she said as both girls headed upstairs to the room they were sharing.

Barely hearing them in her keyed up state, Helena merely grunted “You’re welcome.” Not seeing Barbara in the great room, she went down the hallway, thinking she might have gone to her room. When she didn’t find her there, she checked out the kitchen. Maybe Barbara had decided on a cup of tea before bed? Finally, not finding her in the kitchen either, Helena headed downstairs.

Moving quietly, she had no trouble hearing the TV on in the game room. She didn’t make a sound as she stepped through the doorway, not wanting to startle anyone in there. Spying Barbara lying on the couch, curled up in sleep, Helena felt all her frustration melt away. Here was what she’d been craving all evening. Here was the elusive need she’d been chasing all night, unable or, she realized, unwilling, to put a name to it. What exactly had she been afraid of? After all it was Barbara, her friend and mentor, and Helena had given her plenty of massages over the years. No reason for this one to be any different.

Shaking off any lingering doubts, Helena slid over to the couch. She’d made a promise to Barbara, and that was exactly what had gotten her all worked up in the first place. She’d enjoyed the return of the easy banter between herself and Barbara, but somehow, things had changed. They were just a little more intense than they used to be. A little more flirtatious than they had been before. Before reaching out to wake the redhead, Helena took a deep breath to steady herself.

She could feel her feral side wanting to come out and play. So, pushing back any sign of her more feral self, she reached out for Barbara’s shoulder, shaking her slightly. She leaned down and quietly whispered into Barbara’s ear. “Hey Red, couldn’t wait up for me?”

Feeling the tickle of breath on her ear, Barbara breathed deeply and opened her eyes. She smiled as she realized Helena was right beside her. “Hey. What time is it?” she asked, waking up a little more.

“Almost midnight,” Helena answered quietly.

“Did you have a good time at the club?”

Helena nodded, blushing slightly, remembering her dance with Nameless Guy. “Pretty good, yeah. Considering I was with a bunch of kids,” she couldn’t help but add, trying to be whiny about Barbara not joining her.

Raising her head slightly and looking around, Barbara realized Dinah and Gabby were no where in sight. “Where are the girls?”

“Light weights,” Helena smirked, easing down beside Barbara on the couch. She stroked the hair out of Barbara’s eyes as she said, “They went on up to bed. Said they were tired.”

“Mmm, you must have worn them out,” Barbara teased.

Helena shook her head. “Nah, they made some new friends tonight. I think they said they’re all meeting tomorrow morning for some skiing before lunch.”

“That sounds fun. Did you make any new friends?”

Surprised by the question, Helena’s cool demeanor slipped for just a second, before she answered, “I uh…I danced with some guy for a while. But no new friends, nope, not at all.”

Barbara hadn’t missed the brief flash of hesitance on Helena’s face but ignored it. What was Helena not telling her? It was unlike the brunette to not admit to flirting with others. It was hardly out of character for her, after all. It seemed like she flirted with everything that breathed oxygen. As near as Barbara could tell it was just an inherent part of being Helena.

Changing the subject, Helena said, “So, did you still want me to help you with that neck and back problem?”

“That would be fantastic, but you don’t have to if you’re too tired, Hel.”

“I’m never too tired for you, Red,” Helena answered. “You wanna do it here, or in the gym?”

“We can do it here, if you like,” Barbara answered.

“Okay, I’ll meet you back here in five,” Helena said in answer. “I just want to change out of these clothes real quick.”

As Helena stood up to go change, Barbara grabbed hold of her hand. “I’ll be waiting,” she said quietly, with a shy smile.

“Right,” Helena said, squeezing Barbara’s hand and blushing again. “Be right back.” She turned and practically flew up to her room, reminding herself to breathe on the way.

As Barbara waited for Helena to return, she found herself wondering for the umpteenth time that night what the Hell she was doing? For some reason she couldn’t explain, she’d found herself teasing, and, dare she say, flirting with Helena all day. Was she just lonely? Was she just taking advantage of the younger woman? And, the granddaddy of all questions, was she actually attracted to Helena? Well, she had to answer yes to that. Everyone with eyes was attracted to Helena.

It didn’t really bother her to admit it. She’d known for a long time that she felt that way. She’d just kept it to herself; sure that Helena couldn’t possibly be attracted to her. Besides that, there was the whole idea that Barbara was older, and had taken Helena in as her ward. But that was years ago. And, judging by the way Helena had been acting the last few days, she’d begun to wonder. And if Helena was attracted to her? How far were both of them willing to go?

Before she could ponder the question any further, Helena returned. Dressed in her favorite sweat pants and tank top, she looked quite comfortable to Barbara. “All ready?” Helena asked as she sauntered back to the couch.

“Yeah, just let me get situated,” Barbara answered, maneuvering herself so that she was lying on her stomach. “Hel,” she said shyly, would you mind helping me?”

Realizing that Barbara was asking her to help adjust her legs, Helena quickly did so, saying, “Not at all, Barbara. Here, let’s get you comfortable.”

“Thanks, Hel,” Barbara said, laying her head on her crossed arms once she was on her stomach. “I’ve been looking forward to this all evening.”

Helena took a deep breath. “Me too, Red.” To herself she added, ‘more than you know’. Then, leaning over, she brushed her lips against Barbara’s ear, and said, “You just tell me what you want, Red. Whatever it is, I’m your girl.”

Barbara shivered from the warm breath across her ear as she answered in a whisper, “Anything you do will be great, Hel.”

Placing her hands on Barbara’s shoulders, Helena smiled and started kneading carefully. “You really are pretty tense, Barbara,” she said as she worked her way slowly across both shoulders and then made her way to Barbara’s neck. “Are you sure this is just from sleeping on the couch last night?”

“Pretty sure, yeah,” Barbara answered. “I guess I have been wound pretty tight lately, though,” she finished.

“You should have told me your muscles were this tight before now,” Helena admonished quietly. “You don’t take care of yourself the way you should; always worrying about me and Dinah.”

“I like worrying about the two of you, Hel. It keeps my mind off things,” Barbara answered. Then, attempting to steer the conversation away from anything too serious, she said, “I liked the outfit you had on tonight. I think you were paying attention to the dinner conversation. You looked…really hot.”

When the words registered in Helena’s brain, her hands almost faltered in their gentle ministrations. But, somehow she managed to keep them moving, even as she blurted, “Well thanks, Red. I was shootin’ for hot and sexy.”

Barbara smiled to herself, knowing Helena couldn’t see her from her current position. “Well it worked. I’m surprised you didn’t make any new friends tonight, though.”

“Well, the guy I danced with probably would’ve been up for more,” Helena said, knowing she shouldn’t have led him on, “but I had other things on my mind.”

“Oh? Anything I should know about?” Barbara asked innocently.

Helena took a deep breath to steady herself. What was Barbara doing? “Well, you know. I did promise to come back and help you with this little tension thing,” Helena said, as she increased the pressure slightly. She drug her hands down either side of Barbara’s spine, making the other woman catch her breath.

“Oh God that feels good, Hel,” Barbara said, as Helena’s hands switched direction and were now moving upwards. “I’m sorry if you missed out on something tonight, but I do want you to know I’m really enjoying this,” Barbara said, meaning every word.

Hearing the change in Barbara’s tone, Helena was positive she’d made the right decision. “I didn’t miss out on anything, Red. This is where I wanted to be.”

“You’re sure, Hel? I’d hate to think I kept you from something important,” Barbara said. “I mean, you did look really hot tonight, and I thought maybe you had other plans besides the teen dance club?”

“The only plans I had were to spend time with you,” Helena said sincerely. “I wouldn’t have missed this for the world.”

“I’m glad, Hel. I was really looking forward to this, you know. Not just because I was tense,” Barbara quickly added, “but because I missed you.” This last, she said shyly. Almost a whisper, it seemed more of a confession than anything else.

Busy massaging Barbara’s leg muscles, Helena furrowed a brow slightly. “I missed you, too,” she said, slightly perplexed. “But we do see each other almost every day, Barbara.”

“I know, but that’s not what I meant,” Barbara answered, biting her lower lip, not sure what Helena would make of her next statement. “What I meant was, I missed you tonight. I couldn’t wait for you to get back.” Suddenly, she was aware that Helena had stopped moving altogether. She had known, even without feeling, that the other woman had been working on her legs. But now, she could tell that Helena wasn’t moving at all. “Hel? Are you still with me back there? ” Barbara asked slightly worried.

Aware her hands had stopped moving; Helena shook her head to clear it and began massaging Barbara’s legs again. As she moved her hands, her mind was racing. Unsure what Barbara was up to, but hoping for something she couldn’t quite name, she simply opted for answering monosyllabically. “Yeah. Fine.”

Barbara, afraid she’d pushed further than was wise, decided to back off for a while, opting to just lay still and let Helena’s hands work their magic. She wasn’t disappointed, either. Helena, who’d been helping with her therapy for years, knew exactly where to exert pressure and how much. It wasn’t long before she was feeling completely relaxed and rather boneless.

Helena, already keyed up from their dinner conversation had done her best to keep the beast at bay all evening. But now, with Barbara’s body so close and available, her feral side definitely wanted to come out and play. Grateful for the return of their joking banter, she was nevertheless glad that Barbara opted to let the conversation lag for a while. She needed the time to calm herself down a bit.

Feeling Barbara relax under her, she noticed her breathing becoming deeper as well. Not wanting the older woman to fall asleep just yet, she quietly leaned over and whispered in her ear. “Not falling asleep on me, are you?”

Barbara smiled. “I’m trying not to,” she said, her voice muffled slightly by the pillow she had her head resting on, “but it just feels so good.”

“Here,” Helena said, getting up from her position next to Barbara on the couch. “Why don’t you turn around and we can just talk for a while?”

“I’d like that, Hel,” Barbara answered, moving herself with Helena’s help, into a sitting position on one end of the couch. Helena sat down on the other end and pulled Barbara’s legs across her lap. Once comfortable, Barbara couldn’t stand the sudden silence that had fallen over the room. “So what did you want to talk about?” she asked curiously.

Helena shrugged. “Nothing in particular. Just stuff, I guess.”

“Hmm, stuff,” Barbara said, pretending to think about the conversational requirement. Perplexed, she finally said, “Okay, I give up. What kind of stuff?”

“I don’t know,” Helena mumbled. “Just stuff. You know…like, you said earlier you missed me. What were you talking about?”

Understanding dawned, and Barbara answered, “Well, even though we spend a lot of time around each other, it doesn’t seem like we’ve really been ‘with’ each other. Am I making sense?” Barbara asked, not entirely sure she’d phrased her thoughts coherently.

“I think so,” Helena said, struggling slightly to make sense of the words. “So you’re saying you’ve missed the old way we had of dealing with each other?”

Barbara nodded. “Yes. That’s exactly what I’m saying. I know you’ve been busy these last few months, what with Reese and all…” seeing the look on Helena’s face at her mention of Jesse Reese, she let her words trail off. “Helena? What’s going on with you and Reese?”

“Nothing,” Helena said evasively.

“Nothing?” Barbara repeated with one brow quirked in question. “Hel, for months, you couldn’t spend an evening out in New Gotham without running into, or mentioning, Reese. But lately, you haven’t mentioned him at all. So, either you’ve learned to really keep your private life hidden from me, or you and Reese…?”

Rolling her eyes and giving in, Barbara really did know her all too well; Helena sighed and said, “All right, all right. Reese and I aren’t seeing each other any more.”

“Really?” Barbara asked, surprised. “When did this happen?”

Helena shrugged. “A couple weeks ago, I guess. It’s no big deal.”

“Of course it’s a big deal, Hel. I thought you two were getting along really well?” Barbara said quietly. She’d thought, as much as she hated to admit it, that Reese was good for Helena.

“Well, I thought we were too,” Helena admitted quietly. “But something kept getting in the way.”

“Like what?”

Helena bit her lower lip, not wanting to bring up the old pain from her teenage years. “The meta-thing, mostly.”

Barbara understood all too well why Helena hadn’t wanted to admit that. When she’d been younger, it had been really hard on Helena, learning to deal with her meta-human side. Barbara knew the younger woman still had to work extremely hard to control it. “Oh Hel, I’m really sorry. I know that’s had to be hard to deal with.”

The brunette shrugged, “Hey, no big deal. I knew all along how he felt. Especially after he called me a ‘thing’. I guess I just hoped he’d gotten past all that. Apparently, I was wrong.” She took a deep breath before continuing. “At first, it seemed like he’d accepted that it was just a part of me. But then, after a couple of weeks…I don’t know. He called me a ‘thing,’ Barbara. I think he was jealous that I was stronger and faster than him. It really hurt.” She hit the back of the couch with her fist as a tear spilled down her cheek. “Then there was the whole, ‘I’m the man, I should be taking care of you,’ thing. I never would have guessed he was such a control freak.”

Barbara felt her heart breaking for her friend. Even though she’d realized how she felt for Helena, she never really believed anything could happen, so when Helena started seeing Reese, Barbara had believed it was a good thing. Damn Reese, anyway. She’d been sure he’d gotten over the whole ‘meta’ thing. But now, she could see she’d been wrong. As for the control freak, she could see that. He was pretty rigid when it came to rules. She didn’t see him being very flexible when it came to gender roles, either. “Hel, I’m really sorry. I know he meant a lot to you.”

Helena shook her head, “It’s okay, Red. Who knew? Besides, he hinted around that there was more bothering him than just that.” She didn’t know why she suddenly found her mouth running like Niagara Falls, but she just couldn’t seem to shut up.

Curious, Barbara prompted, “Do you have any idea what it was?”

Suddenly shy, Helena felt her face turning a darker shade of red. “I have an idea, yeah. I think…” she faltered for a minute, searching for the right way to say what she wanted to say. “He mentioned that I seemed to worry about you an awful lot.” She suddenly found herself unable to look Barbara in the eye, afraid of what the older woman would say to that.

Unsure of just how to answer to that, Barbara said, “Oh, well. What do you think?”

“I think he was just jealous,” Helena answered quickly. “He knew that I…that I care about you. And he couldn’t stand coming in second.”

“And he told you this?” Barbara knew Helena was hedging around the truth. “Those were his exact words, Hel?”

Still not looking Barbara in the eye, Helena shook her head. “No. No, he said that after seeing us together in the Clocktower the day of the attack, he knew.”

Barbara waited for Helena to enlighten her, but it didn’t appear the other woman was going to, so she said, “He knew what, Hel?”

Helena closed her eyes and took a deep breath. There was no getting out of this, now. “He said…he said he knew I’d never be able to love him the way that I love you. And he had no intention of trying to compete with you.”

Stunned, Barbara didn’t know what to say. What could she say? Was it possible that Helena loved her? Well of course, Helena loved her. They were family, after all, and they’d been through Hell and back together. So the question wasn’t ‘did Helena love her?’ the question was, ‘is Helena in love with her?’ Realizing she’d been quiet too long and Helena was waiting for some sort of a response, she cleared her throat before saying, “I’m sorry, Hel. I never wanted our relationship to get in the way of your personal life.”

“I know that, and Reese shouldn’t have reacted that way. He was jealous. That’s all,” Helena stated matter of factly. “But,” she said quietly, afraid to say what was on her mind, “I have to admit, I was jealous of Wade, too. So I guess there was more than enough jealousy going around for all of us, huh?”

Barbara wasn’t surprised by the admission. She had known Helena seemed to see Wade as an intrusion in their lives, but she had to ask, just to see if Helena would tell her the truth, “Why were you jealous of Wade?”

Helena, still refusing to look Barbara in the eye, shrugged. “For the time he spent with you. It’s always been just the two of us. Then suddenly, Dinah showed up and it was the three of us. And then, there was Wade, and he seemed to be taking up a place in your life that I had always filled. In most ways, anyway.”

Feeling terrible, for more reasons than she could express right now, Barbara said honestly, “Don’t you know he could never have taken your place in my life? I told you he wouldn’t change us. Didn’t you believe me?”

“Of course I believed you. I was just…jealous,” Helena said, suddenly feeling very angry. “It just seemed like you were starting to get really serious with someone and it hurt.” She finally looked up at Barbara and the redhead could see the truth in her eyes. “It pissed me off that he was there, invading our space like that. I didn’t like it.”

“Why didn’t you talk to me? I would have listened,” Barbara said sadly. She had dropped the ball when it came to paying attention to Helena’s needs, and she knew it. She’d just been so busy trying to keep Wade from finding out who she was, and then when he did, she had to keep him close to prevent him from telling anyone else. It had come almost as a relief when Helena started seeing Reese. It meant that Barbara didn’t need to work so hard to keep them protected.

“I don’t know, Barbara. Maybe I just felt like you were finally happy and I didn’t want to spoil it?” Helena said, starting to get defensive. “That is why I was in therapy, after all. To have someone to talk to about all my issues.”

“And I was one of those issues?” Barbara asked, her feelings slightly hurt that the brunette hadn’t felt able to come to her.

Suddenly, Helena was angry. “No, Barbara. You don’t understand. I told Quinzel what I did because I was angry and upset. At the time, I thought I was feeling pretty content, but thinking about it, I know that wasn’t right. I…I wasn’t hypnotized when I told her about you and Wade and the Clocktower. I knew what I was saying.”

Barbara, struggling to remain calm, even though she was beginning to get angry at Helena’s willingness to blame herself, managed to say, “Helena, you said those things to your therapist, in confidence. That’s what you’re supposed to do. You had every right to expect confidentiality. You had no way of knowing she was a psychotic nut job.”

“God, Barbara, do you ever let yourself feel anything? ” Helena asked. “You can’t even be mad at me for getting Wade killed, can you/”

Hearing this, Barbara closed her eyes and pursed her mouth. It wasn’t that she couldn’t feel anger, she just simply didn’t blame Helena for what happened. Taking a deep breath to calm herself, she said simply, “You didn’t get him killed. His death is not your fault.”

“Yes, it is. Don’t you get it? I wanted you to hurt. I wanted you to hurt because I hurt. I didn’t even know why.” She clenched her hands into fists, trying to control herself. “And then, when she told you she’d killed him…even though I saw the look of pain on your face…some part of me, just a small part, was glad he was gone.” She closed her eyes to keep tears from rolling down her cheeks but it did no good. “God, I’m so sick! How can you even stand to look at me?”

Hearing Helena’s confession, Barbara now understood a few things better. She couldn’t be angry at her for her feelings. At least Helena was being honest about how she felt. In an attempt to help Helena feel better, she said sadly, “Oh, Hel. Do you really believe you’re the only one who feels any guilt over all this? It may surprise you to know, but I’ve known for a while that you weren’t hypnotized when you talked to Quinzel. You can’t take all the blame for this. I won’t let you. There’s plenty to go around.”

Railing against the comforting gesture, Helena moved Barbara’s legs and stood up, pacing the floor. “But I wanted him gone!” she screamed. “Then, not only was he gone…Dinah was hurt, Alfred, Gibson…God! I am such a selfish bitch! Dinah slept for two days straight, and you…you almost killed someone because of something I caused. I would never have forgiven myself if you’d killed her, Barbara. It would have cost you your soul; everything you believe in…” She stopped yelling long enough to take another deep breath, but she wasn’t finished with her rant just yet. “I couldn’t even keep the location of our ‘secret lair’ secret! What the Hell is wrong with me? I almost got Alfred killed! Alfred, for crying out loud! The closest thing I’ve ever had to a grandfather, and I almost destroyed him, too.”

Barbara, watching Helena ranting hysterically, pinched the bridge of her nose. Well, she thought to herself, this evening hadn’t turned out like she’d planned. Then, almost laughing hysterically at herself for the crazy thought, said, “Hel, stop this. We need to talk…”

Frustrated, and unable to think straight for the animal side of her trying to wrest control away, Helena threw up a hand. “You know what? Screw this!” She turned toward the door. “I’ve gotta get out of here.” Then she stormed out of the game room.

“Helena, come on! Don’t just walk out! We need to talk about this!” Barbara yelled at her retreating back. A few minutes later, still sitting on the couch in shock, Barbara heard the front door slam. “Well, that’s just great,” she said out loud to the empty room. “Dammit!” Pissed off, frustrated and sad, she moved into her chair and went over to the bar where she found a brand new bottle of Southern Comfort. She started to pour herself a shot, but then decided on a glass, instead. How could things have gotten so turned around so fast?

She downed the first glass pretty quickly, and eventually took the whole bottle back over to the couch. She slid back over on to the couch and just sat there, drinking her whiskey and thinking about what had happened. She had suspected some of the things Helena had said, but she’d never known the depth of the other woman’s feelings. If she were honest with herself, she’d have to admit that she’d been too wrapped up in her own feelings of guilt to worry about Helena. Now it appeared the door had been opened and before they could move their relationship any further, Barbara was going to have to come to grips with her own feelings about a few things.

She sat there and drank for quite a while, swearing to herself that when Helena returned, she would open up and really talk to her. Helena deserved nothing less; especially after this evening’s emotional bloodbath. She had finally been honest with her, and now Barbara wanted to return the favor. After all, Helena deserved to know the truth.

* * * * *

Barbara woke up in the dark and immediately realized she wasn’t on the couch. She didn’t remember going to her room, but that’s where she was. With the moonlight shining in through the gap in the curtain, she could see just enough. Yes, she was definitely in her room, in her bed. She moved the blanket and found she was still in her sweats and t-shirt from the night before.

It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out how she’d gotten there. It had been Helena, of course. After their little emotional meltdown, Barbara had drank until she passed out. After that, she didn’t remember anything. Helena must have come back in and found her still on the couch. And, Helena being Helena, she had made sure she made it up to her room for the night. Barbara smiled to herself. Even angry, Helena always made sure she was taken care of. It was so like the brunette.

Suddenly, aware that she was still feeling rather hazy from the alcohol, she realized she wasn’t alone. She looked over to her right to find Helena there, fast asleep. As she watched, the brunette rolled toward her and threw her arm across Barbara’s stomach, nuzzling into her neck. Barbara, unwilling to let the moment pass, couldn’t help herself. She reached over and pulled Helena to her, snuggling closer.

As she lay there holding Helena, she remembered the promise she’d made to herself. Taking a deep breath, realizing that what she was about to say would need to be repeated when the brunette was actually awake, she whispered quietly, “Hel, I don’t know if you can hear me, but I’m going to tell you some things anyway. I promised myself I’d finally do this, so here goes.”

“First of all, I hope you’ll forgive me for saying all this now, when I ‘m still feeling a bit drunk. But I don’t know if I’d have the courage to say these things at all if I was completely sober.” She started running her hand through Helena’s hair gently, loving the way it felt falling through her fingers. “Thanks for taking care of me, by the way. I know it was you, because you always do things like that for me. I know I can always depend on you. I just wish I hadn’t fallen short when you needed me. You deserve better than that from me.” She stopped talking for a moment when Helena suddenly shifted, tightening her grip on Barbara’s waist.

When she realized the younger woman hadn’t woken up, she continued. “I knew some of what you told me last night, already. I just wasn’t aware of the depth of your pain. I’m so sorry. I should have been paying more attention, but I was just so caught up in my own pain and frustration, I lost focus on what was really important. I guess when you got involved with Reese, it was an excuse for me to stop paying so much attention. I think I felt like you didn’t need me the way you used to. And maybe I was jealous, too.”

“You always seem so confident and independent; I guess I just don’t realize when you need something. When Reese was around you seemed more focused on him and whether you two would actually ever get together. Then, when you finally did, I felt…lost, I guess. I don’t know why, you’ve been with plenty of other people before. I guess it just seemed more serious with Reese. I wasn’t sure where that put my relationship with you. If you were with him, did you need me at all?”

“You said last night that you were glad when Wade was gone. And you were angry because I didn’t get mad at you for it. I can’t be mad at you about that, because, as horrible as it sounds, I felt the same way. Probably not for the same reasons, but I did. I had been looking for a way to get rid of him before Alfred gave him a key to the Clocktower. I was already trying to distance myself from him because I knew it wasn’t going to work out.”

Steeling herself to say what came next, she closed her eyes and fought back bitter tears. It still bothered her to admit how much his parents words had hurt. “I knew, after I met his parents, that we’d never make it. They were nice, but they made it sound like I had a disease or something. Like if we had kids together they’d be cripples, too. Jesus, we were only dating, not talking about getting married. And here they were, already trying to convince him I wasn’t good enough for him; like being with me would hold him back, or I was too much trouble. What really makes me mad about it was that, they knew…they knew that I was paralyzed because of a gunshot. They knew and they still felt that way.”

“And Wade, he never said a thing. He just sat there, listening to them. Eventually, they would have gotten to him. Their idiotic belief that I was damaged hurt more than you could know. Or maybe you do. After all, they at least, didn’t call me a ‘thing’. But still, he would have gotten tired of me after a while. It isn’t like I can do things on a whim the way he liked to. Everything takes planning for me. Of course, you know that. You’ve been around from the beginning, haven’t you?” She nuzzled Helena’s hair for a moment, enjoying the clean scent, and smiled sadly. Helena had been there. She knew exactly what went in to planning anything out of the ordinary for Barbara. And, Barbara realized, she never, ever complained or got irritated by it.

Feeling very content and kind of sleepy, but knowing that she needed to finish what she’d started, she plunged ahead. “I know I told you sex with him was…”

Suddenly, Helena’s sleep roughened voice interrupted her, “I thought you said it was really good?” She said, raising her head and looking sleepily down at Barbara.

Barbara, embarrassed and surprised, arched a brow. “I…I thought you were asleep?”

Helena shrugged lazily, “I was, but you keep talking,” she teased, poking Barbara in the side.

Barbara, properly chagrined, smiled shyly. “Oh, sorry.”

“No big,” Helena said nonchalantly. Feeling a need to apologize, she said, “Sorry about earlier, I just needed some air.”

“It’s okay. I knew you’d find your way back eventually.” Barbara ruffled Helena’s hair playfully, letting her know that all was forgiven. She had always understood Helena’s lack of ability to deal with her anger. And the redhead had learned long ago that letting Helena walk out usually made her easier to deal with later. The younger woman always came back when she’d calmed down, and then they were able to talk things out.

Grateful that Barbara wasn’t going to make a big production out of her earlier behavior, Helena prompted curiously, “What was it you were saying about sex with Wade?”

Barbara instantly blushed. Now that she knew Helena was awake, she was finding it harder to continue with this confession. “Well, I did say that. I guess when you haven’t had it in a long time, it is good. But Wade always treated me like I was so fragile I was gonna break. What I mean to say is,” Barbara felt the blush returning full force. She didn’t usually discuss such intimate things with anyone. “Slow and easy is just fine, but sometimes…” she trailed off, afraid to say more, already embarrassed by Helena’s possible reaction.

Helena, seeming to understand, finished for her. “But sometimes, you’d like a little more excitement?” she asked sensitively, not wanting to embarrass Barbara.

“Something like that, yeah,” Barbara admitted quietly, grateful for Helena’s sudden attack of tact. “He just acted like I would break, if he got too…rough. And then, there was the whole, ‘I don’t know why, but I feel like I just want to take care of you,’ thing.”

“I can’t believe he actually said that to you! God,” she said, shaking her head, “he didn’t know you at all, did he?”

Barbara sighed. “Apparently not.”

“So what you’re trying to say is that he wasn’t Mr. Excitement?” Helena asked. “I mean, I know I’m not surprising you when I say this, but you are kind of an adrenaline junkie, Barbara. Didn’t you tell him you used to ride a motorcycle and swing from building to building as Batgirl?”

Biting her lower lip, Barbara quietly admitted, “Not really. Our conversation never quite got passed the whole ‘you’re a cyber superhero?’ question.” She shrugged. “I guess we never had the time to get passed that. Not that I really wanted to. I was trying to tell you earlier…I really was looking for a way to dump him when Alfred gave him the key. I just hadn’t figured out how to do it. Then everything just fell apart and it was too late. He was dead.”

“Barbara, about that,” Helena said quietly, “I really am sorry things happened the way they did. I…”

“Helena, stop,” Barbara said, putting a finger to Helena’s lips. “That part of this conversation is over. Besides,” she finished, smiling again, “You weren’t even supposed to be hearing this. I thought you were asleep.”

Helena had the grace to blush at the admonishment. “I was, until you started talking. You know how well I hear things, Red. Besides, I know how hard it is for you to talk about your feelings. Once you started, I didn’t want to interrupt.” She leaned down and kissed Barbara on the cheek. “Thank you for opening up like this. I feel very privileged.” She started to roll to her right, in order to get up, when Barbara caught her arm.

“Hel, where are you going?” Barbara asked, suddenly not wanting the brunette to leave.

“Now that I know we’re okay, I was gonna let you get some sleep,” Helena said, suddenly unsure of her assumption. “We are okay, aren’t we?”

“Of course, we are Hel. But, you don’t have to leave,” Barbara answered. “I uh…I…don’t want you to go. Won’t you stay? Please?”

Genuinely surprised, Helena rolled back over and curled up against Barbara again. “Sure, Red. I’ll stay,” She said in answer, immensely happy that Barbara wanted her there. Suddenly remembering the half-empty bottle of Southern Comfort downstairs, she couldn’t help but tease, “You’re not gonna be sick or anything are you?”

Confused, Barbara asked, “Why would you think that, Hel?”

“I don’t know. Maybe because you drank half my bottle of whiskey?” Helena said. “I didn’t know you even drank whiskey, Red?”

“Well,” Barbara squeezed her closer, “only when I’m preparing myself for a drunken confession, Hel.”

“And what, exactly, were you confessing, Red? Or did I sleep through that part?”

“You didn’t sleep through it, Hel,” Barbara said, deciding to tease the brunette right back, “I just haven’t gotten to that part, yet.”

“Well?” Helena asked, clearly getting impatient.

“Well what?”

“Barbara, what were you going to confess?” Helena whined, poking out her lower lip and pouting.

Pretending to think about it, Barbara finally answered, “You know, I can’t seem to remember, Hel. Good night.”

“Barbara!” Helena whispered as loudly as she could. “That’s not even fair!” She leaned over Barbara, getting as close as she could without actually touching her.

Barbara smiled, knowing she was being merciless with the brunette, and not feeling bad about it. “Hel,” she said, moving forward and kissing a stunned Helena on the mouth. “Shut up and go to sleep.”

Helena, left speechless, could only watch as Barbara put her head down on the pillow and closed her eyes. Within moments, the exhausted redhead was fast asleep and breathing deeply, holding Helena to her as if she was afraid the brunette would disappear on her during the night. Suddenly very content, Helena heaved a huge sigh and settled in as close as she could get. ‘Confession indeed,’ she thought as she nuzzled into Barbara’s neck and fell asleep.

* * * * *

Helena rolled over and looked at the clock. Groaning, she once again realized that she’d slept later than she’d intended. Still, it was only nine, so she hadn’t slept in too late. She was slightly disappointed to find that Barbara was already up and gone, but that wasn’t really a surprise. The redhead was an early riser by nature, and was usually up by seven at the latest, every morning.

Getting up, she headed for her room, where she showered and changed into a fresh set of workout clothes. Ten minutes later, having brushed her teeth, she headed for the kitchen. She was, for some reason she couldn’t pinpoint, uncommonly happy for so early in the morning. Then, as she entered the kitchen, she saw Barbara sitting at the table, sipping a cup of coffee. Smiling brightly at her, she said, “Morning, all! Did I miss anything this morning?”

Dinah, never one to miss an opportunity to irritate Helena, looked at her suspiciously. You’re in a good mood this morning. What? Did you go back and finish your ‘dance’ with Nameless Guy last night?”

Helena choked on her orange juice, and nearly spit it out. “No!” she caught herself sputtering. “I’ll have you know I stayed in last night.”

Dinah, not believing her, arched a brow. “Really? Then why the good mood. It’s too early for you to be awake, let alone happy.”

“So, I can’t just be happy in the morning?” Helena asked, knowing the Kid was right, but not wanting to concede the point.

Sarcastically, Dinah shook her head and answered, “Not really, no. The only time you’re this happy in the morning is when you’ve been out the night before. You know…” Her pale skin suddenly turned a dark shade of red, before she finished with, “gettin’ your groove on?”

Helena, feeling her good mood rapidly slipping away, was about to answer when Barbara suddenly cleared her throat rather loudly. “Okay, girls,” she said, closing her eyes and taking her glasses off. “Let’s try to have some peace and quiet this morning, shall we?” She finished the request by pinching the bridge of her nose and rubbing at her temples. Dinah’s comment, while common for her, and ‘off the cuff,’ had come just a bit too close to the truth for comfort, where Barbara was concerned.

Dinah immediately shut up and returned to her waffles, shooting Helena a dirty look and sticking out her tongue.

Helena, never as grateful for Barbara’s intervention as in that moment, simply said, “Sorry, Red.” Then, remembering their argument the night before, and Barbara’s lack of tolerance for alcohol, she looked at Barbara a little closer. Yes, she was definitely looking a little paler than usual. “Got a headache this morning?” she asked quietly, a hint of irony in her voice.

Barbara closed her eyes and winced slightly. “Just a bit, Hel.” Taking a deep breath, she finished with, “It’ll pass.”

“Mmm, okay. Well, you still feel like working out this morning? Or are you getting sick and wanna skip it?” she asked, choosing not to tease the older woman about her hangover.

“I’ll be fine in a while. Let’s just try to get through breakfast without bloodshed this morning, okay?” Barbara asked, knowing she was asking a lot of the two younger girls.

“Sure, no problem,” Helena agreed, uncharacteristically foregoing the opportunity to argue. After last night, she had no intention of upsetting the other woman again. She’d rather enjoyed the way the night had ended up and had plans for later in the day.

The rest of breakfast passed quickly, with Dinah and Gabby both finishing in record time. They washed their dishes and headed upstairs to get ready for their ski date at the lodge. Both teens were back downstairs in twenty minutes, dressed and ready to go. When a car horn blew, Dinah yelled into the kitchen, “Our ride’s here! We’ll be back in time for dinner!”

“Be careful!” Barbara called back, wincing when it caused her headache to come back full force. A fact that Helena didn’t miss but chose not to comment on. She finally finished doing the crossword puzzle in the back of the paper, and laid it down on the table. “So,” she said, looking at Helena, “did you sleep okay?”

“Like a baby,” Helena answered, unable to get the stupid grin off her face. “You?”

Barbara smiled. “Fine.” Then, hesitantly, she asked, “Soooo…how much of what I said last night did you hear?”

“Pretty much all of it, I think. Starting with, ‘I hope you’ll forgive me for saying this when I’m still feeling drunk’. Unless there was more?” Helena let the question hang.

Shaking her head, Barbara answered shyly, “No, that was pretty much everything.” She sighed. “You weren’t supposed to hear all that last night, you know. It was sort of a dry run for me. So I’d have the courage to talk to you today.”

Helena laid a hand on Barbara’s. “Hey, I know you like to have everything in your head and prepared before you do things, Red. But I’m glad I woke up last night. It doesn’t matter that you were still feeling kinda drunk.” She shrugged. “It just means that what you said was honest and straight from your heart. You can’t hide things when you’ve been drinking. You never could.”

“You know me too well, Helena.” She squeezed the younger woman’s hand. “I want you to know that I meant everything I said.” She stopped for a moment and hesitated. Suddenly, she was having trouble forcing the next words out of her mouth. She could very well ruin their friendship with what she was about to say. “And…” she looked up and directly into Helena’s eyes when she spoke, “everything I did.”

“You mean the kiss?” Helena asked quietly. “I mean, you did kiss me, right? I wasn’t just dreaming that?” She was suddenly worried that she might have been doing just that.

Barbara smiled and squeezed her hand. “Yes, I did kiss you. No, you weren’t dreaming. And yes, before you even ask, I did mean it. Very much.” Before Helena could answer, Barbara added, “Are you okay with that, Hel? I didn’t want to freak you out or anything?”

Helena laughed. “Okay? I’m more than okay with it, Barbara. Whew,” she rolled her eyes. “Man, for a minute there, I thought you were going to tell me I made that all up. So that was your ‘drunken confession?’ Not just the explanation, but kissing me?” She was so relieved she almost couldn’t think.

“Yeah, that was it,” Barbara answered, nodding her head. “Sorry I picked such an odd time. It just seemed…I don’t know…like I just had to get it all off my chest right then.”

“That’s okay. No problem. Anytime you want to ‘confess’ something like that it’s a good time,” the brunette answered teasingly.

Barbara blushed again at Helena’s teasing. “Anytime’s a good time for you, Hel. I know, I’ve heard the stories.”

“Barbara,” Helena said, suddenly becoming serious, “don’t believe everything you’ve heard. Some things have been greatly embellished. I’m not saying that I haven’t been around the block a time or two, but I would never…” she reached over and brushed Barbara’s cheek with her hand, leaving it to rest there, “ever, want to lessen anything between us. You mean more to me than that. I need you to know that.”

“I believe you, Hel,” Barbara answered, placing her hand over Helena’s. “I didn’t mean to imply that you would. I’m sorry.”

Helena shook her head. “Don’t be. If I’d heard those stories, I’d worry too. But I’m telling you right now, you don’t need to. Not ever.”

“I know, Hel. I trust you.” She smiled again. “Otherwise, I wouldn’t have asked you to stay, last night.”

Helena, feeling a sudden need to lighten the mood a bit, leaned in and kissed Barbara on the cheek. Then, she stood up and began cleaning up their dishes. “It’s getting kind of late, Red. You still feel like working out?”

Barbara, missing the other woman’s touch already, took a deep breath and said, “Yeah, I do. I’ll go get ready and meet you downstairs.”

* * * * *

Fifteen minutes later, both women met in the workout room to begin their routines. Helena started her kickboxing on the heavy bag, while Barbara worked on the weight machine. Once they’d each completed their individual workouts, they started sparring.

They began with the escrima sticks, but Barbara, always worried about becoming too dependent on one weapon over another, insisted that they switch off on occasion. If nothing else, it made for an interesting time. Helena didn’t have any problem switching weapons, but for Barbara, it was a different story. It had taken her years of practice to adapt her fighting techniques for use from her chair. And while Helena was used to it, any common thug on the street would be hard pressed to adapt so quickly.

For starters, they certainly wouldn’t expect someone in a wheelchair to defend themselves, let alone be adept at a multitude of weapons. It was something Barbara took very seriously, and she was proud of the fact that she’d kept her fighting skills up. Most people, after suffering the damage she had, would have given up. But Barbara, ever the competitor, refused to give up. She had trained with a single-mindedness that would have sent lesser people running.

From weapons training, they’d moved to hand to hand combat skills. Helena had started with kickboxing, Barbara defending, and then moved into Wing Chun. This was a style that Helena was still working on, and so wasn’t as proficient with as yet. It involved a more flowing style of movement, feeling what your opponent is doing and moving with them in order to beat them. She’d watched Bruce Lee do it in his movies and become interested, and had asked Barbara to help her with it.

Finally, when Helena had picked herself up off the floor for the third time, they decided they’d worked out enough. It had been a good three hours since they’d gone downstairs and both women were tired and sweating profusely.

“So, what do you say to a quick lunch and then we’ll do your therapy?” Helena asked, toweling herself dry.

“Sounds good, Hel,” Barbara agreed. “I think you’re starting to get the idea of Wing Chun. It was a good workout.”

“Yeah, now if I could just keep from hitting the floor more than my opponent, I’ll be alright,” Helena agreed. If nothing else, this new fighting style was helping to improve her reflexes. “You know, I was thinking,” she said as they headed up to the kitchen, “once I get Wing Chun, I’d like to learn Krav Maga. You know,” she said to Barbara’s confused look, “the Israeli Martial art?”

“Oh, yeah,” Barbara answered, suddenly remembering a demonstration she’d seen about a year ago. “That’s pretty brutal stuff. You sure?”

“Hey, street fighting techniques could come in handy, Red. Especially in our line of work,” Helena answered.

“Okay then, I’ll start looking into it. Maybe we should involve Dinah, too?” Barbara said, thinking out loud.

“I think that’s a great idea,” Helena said as she made them each a grilled cheese sandwich. She served up the sandwiches minutes later and sat down to eat. “I was wondering, Barbara,” Helena said hesitantly, almost afraid to ask the redhead another question, “if you’d be interested in trying something new tomorrow?”

“Another new martial art? Helena…” she was interrupted by the younger woman shaking her head.

“No, no. Not that. I was wondering,” Helena said, “since you seem to be in the mood to try new things…If you’d…well, if you’d be willing to try horseback riding?”

Barbara stopped chewing and simply looked at the brunette. When she finally remembered to swallow, she said incredulously, “You are kidding, right?”

“No! I’m not. Look, Red, I checked into it already. You said it yourself, you can’t do things on a whim,” Helena said. “Not only is it possible, but there’s a place down in town that uses it as therapy for the disabled.” She poked out her lower lip and pouted, looking at Barbara from under her bangs. “Please? No whim involved, I swear. Everything’s already prepared. All you have to do is show up. And,” Helena said, as if it were the deal clencher, “if you don’t want to ride by yourself, I’ll ride with you and make sure you’re okay.”

Sighing, Barbara knew this was one battle she was going to lose. Helena had obviously gone to a lot of trouble to make sure it was doable beforehand. “All right, I’ll give it a try. But Helena,” she looked mock sternly at the other woman, “I swear if I end up in the snow…” she left the thought hanging there for Helena to finish for herself.

Helena just grinned, knowing she’d won. “Nothing’s gonna happen, Red. You have my word.”

* * * * *

After lunch, they went back downstairs to begin Barbara’s therapy. Helena had always loved this part of their workouts. Helping Barbara with her physical therapy was something that made her feel good about herself, knowing she could help the other woman. Especially after this last episode with that damn neural transponder. That thing had very nearly damaged Barbara for the rest of her life beyond anything therapy could help her with. She had been lucky it hadn’t.

“So,” Helena asked, as she manipulated Barbara’s leg like she’d been taught, “I have to ask you, Red. What made you kiss me last night?”

“I just felt like it,” the redhead answered thoughtfully.

“How long?”

Confused, she could only repeat the question, “How long, what?”

Helena blew out a breath. “How long have you felt like it?” she asked.

“Oh,” Barbara said, understanding dawning at last, “A while, I guess. I’m not sure when, exactly.”

“So…was it before Dinah moved in, or after?” Helena asked.

Barbara seemed to consider the question for a moment before answering, “I think I’d started thinking about it before. But I hadn’t realized it yet. Why, does it matter?”

Helena shrugged. “Not really. I was just curious.” She became quiet for a few minutes while she thought about her next question. Then, “So…you were jealous of my flirting with Reese, and that made you get closer to Wade?” Helena was beginning to understand what had been going on under the surface of their relationship for the last year.

“That about sums it up, Hel,” Barbara answered. “Your flirting with Reese, whether innocent at first or not, made me realize I was interested in you. I think I’d known for a while, but I didn’t want to admit it to myself, then. But you didn’t seem to notice, so when Wade asked me out, I had no real reason to say no. And, I didn’t want to be left out, if you were starting a real relationship.”

“Well that’s about as screwed up as things could get,” Helena replied. “I was only flirting with Reese… well, I flirt with everyone,” she added in an embarrassed sort of way. “because I didn’t think I had a chance with you. Then you started seeing Wade, and I didn’t see any reason to not get involved at that point.” She finished working on Barbara’s right leg and had moved to her left.

For the next few moments, both women were silent as Helena continued to work through the PT exercises. When she was finished, she helped Barbara roll over onto her stomach, and asked, “So…would you do it again?”

“Do what again?” Barbara asked, suddenly confused all over again.

“Kiss me,” Helena said quietly, suddenly afraid of the redhead’s answer.

“I kind of hoped to, yeah,” Barbara answered as she looked back over her shoulder at the brunette. “Helena, why are you asking all these questions?”

“Just making sure we’re on the same page, Red. That’s all,” she answered, her breath now brushing the redheads’ ear.

“Uh…Hel?” Barbara felt herself shiver at the touch of Helena’s breath on her ear. “Do you really think what you’re doing is helping my legs and back? Not that I’m complaining, but…I thought we were going to finish the PT?”

“We’ll finish, Red. I just thought I’d throw in a back and shoulder massage for free,” Helena said, running her hands down either side of Barbara’s spine. “I know how much you like this,” she finished.

“Mmm, you’re right, I do. It does feel good, Hel,” Barbara said, relaxing into the less than therapeutic massage.

“I knew you’d like it,” Helena said into her ear as she leaned down and kissed her on the cheek. Bringing her hand up, she brushed Barbara’s hair behind her ear and began nibbling on her exposed neck.

“Oh, God, Helena,” Barbara said, her breathing beginning to become shallow. “That feels so good…”

“How about we…” suddenly, Helena stopped and stiffened.

“Hel?” Barbara, confused by the sudden lack of physical contact, tried to get the other woman’s attention, when she realized why Helena had stopped. The front door had slammed shut, and they could both clearly hear Dinah and Gabby talking excitedly about their day.

“Damn!” Helena exclaimed as she got up and brought Barbara’s chair over. Leaning down, she helped the other woman turn over so that she could maneuver herself into the chair. “Sorry, Red. Maybe we can pick this up later?” Helena asked quietly, a certain frustration in her voice that Barbara found endearing and adorably cute. She wasn’t sure, but she thought she might have heard Helena growl quietly.

Feeling somewhat frustrated herself at the untimely interruption, she could only agree, “Absolutely, later.”

Barbara was still trying to get comfortable in her chair, when the two teens came into the workout room. Helena was just turning around, where she’d been facing Barbara, when Dinah said, “Helena, Barbara! Hey, I thought you two might be here. Just finish your PT, Barbara?” Not waiting for a response, and totally oblivious to what had been going on just moments before, she continued. “Guess what, Helena? Tonight’s eighties night at the dance club. You wanna go? I know you like all that old stuff. You could re-live your youth…”

Helena looked up at the blond from the spot she’d been staring at, trying to look innocent. Quirking an eyebrow, she said sarcastically, “First of all, the eighties was not my youth. Second, I happen to know all the latest songs and bands,” she finished proudly. “If it’s one thing I learned being a bartender, its music.”

“I heard she learned more than that,” Dinah said in a loud whisper to Gabby, knowing that Helena could hear her. Even without her Meta senses, Helena couldn’t have missed the comment. Seeing the desired reaction on the brunette’s face, and knowing she was one small step away from a beating, she relented. “All right, all right. Jeez, I didn’t mean to get you all worked up. I just happen to know that you like the older stuff, that’s all,” said the blond, trying to smooth things over. She knew Helena needed to be on her side in order to have permission to go to the club. “I wasn’t implying that you’re old, or anything.” Then, realizing that Barbara was still sitting there, and she really did like the eighties music, and it had been her youth, Dinah turned a deep shade of red. “Oh Barbara, I didn’t mean…”

Barbara held up a hand to stop the teen from contracting an even worse case of ‘foot in mouth disease’. “It’s okay, Dinah. I know my music’s not your idea of ‘cool’. If you want to go, it’s okay with me if it’s okay with Helena?” She looked at the brunette expectantly, waiting for an answer.

Put on the spot, she had been hoping for some alone time with Barbara, Helena finally said, “Uh, yeah. Okay…sure. What time does it start?”

Dinah jumped up and down with excitement. “It starts at eight. Cool!” she exclaimed as she turned and grabbed Gabby’s hand, dragging her out of the room. “Let’s go put together some cool outfits!” They heard her say as the two girls headed back upstairs.

Helena, slightly dazed by the ‘hit and run’ tactic, just stood in shock. It took a minute, before she recovered enough to say, “Well if I have to go, so do you, Red. I’m not spending another night in that place alone.”

“Ugh, no,” Barbara whined. “I don’t wanna go.”

“Tough,” Helena said, as she leaned down so she was nose to nose with the other woman. “You got me into this, so you have to go. Besides,” she said, grinning, “I was hoping to spend the evening with you.”

Barbara, licking her lips, asked, “Doing what?”

At that, Helena leaned in and kissed her, causing the redhead to blush. “Wouldn’t you like to know?” she asked as she turned and sauntered out of the room, heading upstairs.

Barbara, stunned, could only call out, “Helena!” before setting her chair in motion to follow the brunette.

* * * * *

As seven thirty approached, Helena yelled upstairs, “Dinah, Gabby, get down here and let’s get going!” She turned and looked at Barbara, rolling her eyes. “What the Hell takes them so long to get ready?” she asked.

Barbara, used to waiting on Helena to get ready, just rolled her eyes and answered innocently, “No idea, Hel. No idea.”

The two teens were preceded by the noise they made as they ran down the steps. Both girls had dressed up in outfits approximating the styles of the eighties. Each one was wearing neon colored leggings with long sweater dresses and belts around their waists. Huge hoop earrings, huge hair, and enough make up to paint the faces of no less than six girls completed their outfits. “Well, how do we look?” Dinah asked as each girl took a turn twirling around for them to see the complete ensemble.

“Just like Pat Benatar,” Barbara answered, barely suppressing a laugh.

“Who?” Gabby asked.

Dinah shook her head. “A famous singer from the eighties,” she answered as they grabbed their coats.

“Oh. Was she cool?” Gabby asked.

“Way,” Dinah answered.

“Okay, then,” Gabby said in answer. “I guess we’re ready.”

“Okay you two,” Helena said, trying hard not to look at them for fear of laughing outright. “Get in the car so we can get there sometime tonight.” As the girls headed out the door, she waited for Barbara. “Come on, Red. You’re not gonna make me go and be embarrassed all by myself. This is gonna take some serious alcohol to get through this night without dying of laughter.”

“Tell me about it,” Barbara said as she wheeled passed Helena to the Hummer.

* * * * *

Barbara and Helena were sitting at a table, watching the teens dancing to the strains of Cyndi Lauper, when Helena slid up closer to the redhead and said, “So, Red. Do you just wanna have some fun?”

On her second Scotch, Barbara was beginning to relax and enjoy herself. “What did you have in mind?” she asked, looking at Helena through half lidded eyes.

Helena shrugged. “I thought maybe we could go over to the adults bar and hang for a while. Unless of course, you’re happy here?”

“Whatever you’d like to do is fine with me, Hel. The girls should be fine here.” She watched as the brunette was suddenly distracted by a young, dark haired man who’d just walked in. “Don’t tell me, let me guess. Is that ‘Nameless Guy’ from last night?”

Helena swallowed and hoped he wouldn’t see her, but of course, he did. “Yeah,” she said in answer as he headed their way. “I was hoping he wouldn’t be here.”

“Hey,” he said, as he arrived at their table. “Sorry I didn’t catch your name last night, my name’s Trent.” He stuck out his hand in greeting.

Helena reluctantly took his hand and shook it, saying, “Helena.”

“Well, Helena, would you like to dance?” he asked.

“Uh, well…” Helena began, not wanting to be rude, but not wanting to dance with him. “I don’t think so, but thanks.”

Barbara, knowing that Helena loved to dance, said, “Hel, if you’d like to…”

Looking at Barbara, Helena said, “No, Barbara. Trent,” she said, turning her attention back to the young man and smiling, “I’m flattered, really.” She turned back to Barbara and, looking her straight in the eye, finished with, “But I’m here with someone else, tonight.”

Suddenly understanding, he stammered, “Oh…okay, well, it was…was nice to meet you, Helena. Maybe some other time.” He turned and wandered off, missing Helena’s reply of ‘I doubt it’.

“Helena, if you wanted to dance…” Barbara began.

Helena shook her head. Trying to convey all the honesty and feelings she had for Barbara in her next words, she said, “Barbara, I didn’t want to dance with him. I told you last night; he was just a distraction. You’re who I want to be with. No one else.”

Barbara, understanding but still not wanting to keep the brunette from doing something she loved, said, “Hel, you love to dance. It’s okay if you have one dance with him. Especially when we both know I can’t dance anymore.”

“Barbara,” Helena said seriously, “You can do anything you want to. I believe that. Besides,” she smirked, “there’s more than one way to dance.” She leaned over to the redhead and kissed her on the cheek. Wiggling her eyebrows suggestively, she said, “We can do some dancing later, if you like.”

Barbara, blushing furiously, was interrupted by the return of Dinah and Gabby to the table before she could answer.

Both girls slid into their seats, breathing heavily. “Whew, this is so fun!” Gabby gushed. “Thanks, Miss Gordon, for letting us come tonight!”

Collecting herself, Barbara answered the blond, “You’re welcome, Gabby. I’m glad you’re both having such a good time. Dinah usually groans when I play my music at home.” She smiled over at her youngest protégé as she said this.

“It’s not that I don’t like it, Barbara,” Dinah answered. “I think sometimes it reminds me of my Mom. She used to listen to the same stuff.” Before Barbara misinterpreted her meaning, Dinah quickly added, “But I really just don’t get some of these songs.”

“I know what ya mean, Kid,” Helena jumped in. “I mean, just what the Hell is DEVO whipping, and why are they whipping it good?” She looked at Barbara expectantly, waiting for a reply.

“I’m sure I can’t tell you, Hel. I highly preferred ‘Hungry Like the Wolf’ over ‘Whip It, anyway,” Barbara answered calmly. “It was so much more…”

“Self descriptive?” Helena supplied lightly, laughing when Barbara shot her a look and slapped her in the stomach. You know,” Helena said, trying to keep from laughing harder, and teasing Barbara at the same time, “I think I remember hearing a lot of ‘Prince’ around the house when I was a kid. Especially…”

Barbara cut the brunette off mid-sentence, “Don’t even say it, Hel, or I swear I’ll tell them about the stuff you listened to.”

Giving in, Helena held up a hand, “Okay, okay, I surrender, Red.”

Sitting and watching the antics of the two older women, Dinah and Gabby were enjoying themselves immensely. Neither one of them had seen Helena or Barbara this relaxed in a long time. Dinah herself was thoroughly happy. She hadn’t seen Barbara like this in forever. In fact, she couldn’t remember a time when either of the two had ever gotten along so well. Thinking about it, she was really grateful that Helena had talked her into this whole ‘vacation’ thing. It seemed to be working wonders on all their spirits.

She was pulled out of her thoughts by Gabby, tugging on her sleeve. “Hey, Dinah. Let’s get back out there. They’re playing ‘My Sharona’. I love that song.”

Dinah got up and followed the curly haired blond onto the dance floor. Once there, she leaned over and said into Gabby’s ear, “They look like they’re having a really good time.”

Gabby nodded, “They do, don’t they?”

“I’m glad, they both needed this vacation more than they’d ever admit,” Dinah continued. “Neither one of them has been the same since that crazy woman Harley Quinn took over New Gotham and Wade died.”

“Wasn’t Miss Gordon dating him?” Gabby asked.

“Yeah, she was. Why?”

Gabby shrugged. “No reason. I was just wondering,” she answered. She had a thoughtful look on her face as she said, “It’s almost closing time. You want anything else to drink?”

“I’m good, thanks,” Dinah answered, wondering what was on her friends’ mind. She’d come to recognize the thoughtful look on her face over the last year, and it always meant the wheels were turning in Gabby’s head.

“Hey, you two,” Helena said, as she came up behind them. “We’re going for a walk for the last few minutes. Meet us out front when this thing’s over, okay?”

The girls nodded in agreement. “It’s over in fifteen,” Dinah said. “Will that be okay, Helena?”

“Sure, Kid. Take your time, no rush. I just wanted you guys to know where we were,” the brunette said. “Oh, the tab’s paid up, so don’t worry.”

“Sure thing, Helena. See you shortly,” Dinah said as her adopted older sister walked back toward the waiting Barbara.

“So,” Barbara said as Helena walked back over to her, “they okay with meeting us out front?”

“Are you kidding?” Helena said sarcastically, “They’re in heaven right now.” She grabbed both their coats and walked next to Barbara as they left the club. Once out in the hallway, they both breathed a sigh of relief. The music had been great, and Barbara especially enjoyed hearing it again, but the room had been rather suffocating.

“So what do you want to do for the next few minutes?” Helena asked.

“Nothing in particular. Just wander around and look at some of the displays they have along the walls?” Barbara said.

“Cool,” Helena answered, as she led the way over to the row of glass display cases set along the wall. Inside were displays of old Indian pottery that had been found on the grounds of the lodge during its construction. The two of them wandered up and down the hall checking out each display until they realized it was time to meet the girls out front.

Dinah and Gabby were surprised that Helena and Barbara were no where in sight when they first reached the front doors of the lodge. Then, Gabby saw the two older women heading toward them. As she watched, she couldn’t help but get the feeling there was some undercurrent between the women that Dinah was missing. As they rode back to the cabin, Gabby was lost in thought, wondering how she should bring up the subject with Dinah. Her friend was definitely not bothered by being around lesbians, or they wouldn’t be friends. It’s just that she wasn’t sure Dinah was really in a position to be objective about the relationship that was so obviously developing between her two older mentors. She didn’t think Dinah would be upset; on the contrary, she’d probably be really happy for them.

Once back at the cabin, everyone piled out of the Hummer, and Helena unloaded Barbara’s chair. She waited until the redhead had gotten herself situated and headed for the door, before she moved the car into its parking spot.

She breezed through the door a minute later, to hear Dinah announcing that she and Gabby were heading upstairs. Helena breathed a sigh of relief and followed Barbara downstairs to the game room. The redhead had stopped at the bar and was filling a glass with Scotch for herself and Vodka for Helena when she arrived. “I thought we’d never lose them,” Helena said, coming up behind the redhead and wrapping an arm around her.

Barbara inhaled deeply. “Me either, but it was fun,” she said, handing Helena her Vodka and taking a drink of her Scotch. “And, the girls had a really good time. Thanks for taking them, Hel.”

“No big deal, Red. I’m just glad you went.” She took a drink from her glass and walked over to the stereo. Turning it on, she moved the dial until she found an eighties station on the satellite radio. She turned around and grinned broadly as ‘Karma Chameleon’ by Culture Club wafted out of the speakers. She started to dance around Barbara singing the words.

Barbara laughed. “I knew you had a secret place in your heart for this stuff, Hel!” she said delightedly, watching the younger woman dance seductively around her. “I can’t believe you know all the words, too.”

“Hey, I couldn’t have been around you and not learned ‘em, Red,” Helena answered, dancing up to Barbara. She leaned over and took the glass from Barbara’s hand. Setting both glasses on the bar, she turned and looked at Barbara as if she were contemplating something.

Seeing the look on Helena’s face, Barbara finally asked, “Hel, what are you thinking?”

“Shh. Barbara, please don’t argue,” Helena said as she leaned over, putting one arm under Barbara’s legs and the other around her upper body. Fully aware of how much she was asking of the other woman, she said, “I told you there was more than one way to dance. Let me do this, please?”

Clearly not comfortable with being picked up, but not wanting to upset Helena, Barbara asked quietly, “Are you sure?”

“Of course I am, Red. Here, put your arms around my neck,” she said, waiting for the other woman to respond. She was well aware of Barbara’s dislike of being picked up. It made her feel weak, and she hated it.

Barbara did as Helena asked, and allowed the younger woman to pick her up. Gently, Helena lifted her out of the chair, her meta-human physiology easily lending her the strength to do so. Listening to the music, she slowly began to rock them back and forth. With the strains of ‘Careless Whisper’ by George Michael playing in the background, Barbara slowly allowed herself to relax into Helena’s strong grip. Sure that Helena would never drop her and she was safe, she laid her head on Helena’s shoulder and allowed herself to just enjoy the moment.

* * * * *

Up in the bedroom the two girls were sharing, Gabby could hear the strains of music floating up from the game room. “So Dinah, what do you think they’re doing down there?”

Dinah shrugged, “I don’t know. Probably kicking back and having a drink. If I know Helena, she’s probably gone through at least an entire bottle of Vodka by now.” She fell silent for a moment before adding, “Although… Helena doesn’t usually drink like that when Barbara’s around.”

“She did the other night,” the other girl pointed out.

“Yeah, but they’d had an argument. Besides, Barbara wasn’t around, was she? She was in her room being all depressed and pissed off.”

Making a decision, Gabby jumped down off her bunk. Grabbing Dinah by the hand, she said, “Come on, Dinah.”

Confused, Dinah stumbled after her friend. “Where are we going?”

Gabby stopped outside their door and whispered, “I need to see if I’m right about something.”

“Right about what? Why are we heading downstairs?”

“Shh, I don’t want them to hear us!” Gabby said.

“Why? It’s just…” Dinah started to ask.

Gabby sighed and rolled her eyes. “Look, Dinah, I know who it is. Just listen to me for a sec, okay?” When Dinah nodded in silent agreement, Gabby went on. “Didn’t you see the way they were acting toward each other at the club? Not just the club, but all week, really.”

Dinah shrugged, clearly missing the point. “They always act that way. Or at least they did, before everything happened.”

“You told me they weren’t together,” Gabby said, raising one brow.

“When I first met them, I thought they were. But it became obvious that they weren’t pretty quickly,” Dinah said. I really don’t think they…”

They had arrived at the pool room and slipped inside. In the darkened room, they could clearly see into the game room through the large glass windows which separated the two rooms, without being seen.

Gabby pulled her down into the shadows. “Shh! Look in there. See what I see?”

Through the windows, the teens watched as Helena bent down and picked Barbara up out of her wheelchair. Then they watched in shocked amazement as Barbara not only allowed the gesture, but relaxed and let Helena dance with her in her arms.

Dinah, trying to process what she was seeing, couldn’t say anything. She just sat and stared. Gabby however smirked, having proven her point. She knew a budding romance when she saw one.

* * * * *

“What channel do you have playing, Hel” Barbara asked, nuzzling into the brunette’s shoulder.

“It’s the Eighties Soft Rock Satellite Radio,” Helena answered.

Barbara quirked an eyebrow. “I didn’t realize you’d even know this station existed. I thought you really didn’t like this stuff, and just tolerated it for me?”

“I like it just fine,” Helena answered. “I just don’t need everyone to know about it. Besides, it’s great for slow dancing,” she added as ‘Anything for You’ by Gloria Estefan began playing.

“Mmm. I have to agree with you, Hel. This is really nice. I…I’ve missed this,” Barbara said quietly, as if she were embarrassed by the admission. “The closeness, I mean.”

Rubbing her cheek against Barbara’s, Helena replied, “You don’t ever have to miss it with me, Red. We can do this anytime.”

Barbara, well aware that even with her meta-human strength, Helena must be feeling the strain of holding her, said, “I don’t want to burden you, Hel. This can’t be easy for you.”

Helena rolled her eyes. Barbara was about to go into full martyr mode, and she wasn’t going to allow that. Not tonight. Instead of trying to argue, however, she simply said, “Like the song says, Red, Anything for You.”

At the softly spoken words, Barbara tightened her grip on Helena’s neck. “That is so sweet of you, Hel.”

“Yeah well, don’t go telling anybody. The Kid doesn’t need to know I’m a pushover.”

“My lips are zipped,” Barbara said in answer. She’d never betray the younger woman’s softer side to the blond teenager. It could be dangerous for Dinah.

“Not too tightly, I hope,” Helena said, smirking. “I was lookin’ for a kiss later.”

Laughing quietly, Barbara asked, “That’s kind of presumptuous of you, isn’t it?”

“Not really,” the brunette answered. “You already told me you wanted to kiss me again.”

“So, what if I changed my mind,” Barbara teased.

“I’m confident you won’t,” Helena answered back.

It was Barbara’s turn to smirk, as she said, “You’re awfully full of yourself tonight, aren’t you?”

“Not as much as you’re going to be,” Helena said, cringing as she realized how crude the words sounded, falling out of her mouth.

“Helena!” Barbara exclaimed, blushing furiously. “I can’t believe you just said that!”

Beating herself up mentally, Helena rushed to try and explain herself. “Barbara, I swear, that did not come out sounding the way I meant. What I was really trying to say was…well, it was way more romantic than what just fell out of my mouth.” She closed her eyes, and said, “I am so, so sorry that came out that way.”

Barbara, used to Helena’s colorful, if somewhat inappropriate, use of the English language, really wanted to hear the brunette’s explanation. “So what did you mean, Hel?” she asked, curiously.

Grateful for the reprieve, Helena began her explanation. “What I meant to say, was that I want your senses to be as full of me, as mine are of you right now. Because right now, I am so full of you, my senses are on fire, Barbara. Every breath I take, your scent, your eyes, every sensation of me touching you…I’m just so full of ‘you’. I don’t ever want this to end,” she finished breathlessly.

During Helena’s explanation, Barbara looked deeply into those blue eyes. By the time Helena was done, she’d noticed that the blue had turned to the more feral, gold. “Helena,” she said, noting that she also sounded quite breathless, “that is quite possibly the most beautiful thing anyone has ever said to me.” She leaned in close and kissed the brunette softly. “You earned this,” she whispered quietly, pulling back to look into the golden eyes once more.

Helena was finding it hard to breathe. Barbara’s lips on hers were the most wonderful feeling in the world. “Barbara,” she said breathlessly, trying to stay calm and not let the beast out to play, whaddya say we head upstairs?” She swallowed hard, searching green eyes for an answer.

“That sounds good, Hel,” Barbara said into her ear. She, too, was having a difficult time breathing. “But, I’ve gotta warn you,” she said teasingly, “I’m not that kind of girl.”

Helena laughed at the redhead, knowing she was being teased. “No offense, Red, but that’s not what I’ve heard. But, fear not. I simply wanted to finish that massage from earlier. You know, the one that was interrupted by the Teenage Terrors?”

Barbara couldn’t help it. She laughed. “That’s it?” she asked, feeling kind of disappointed, but knowing that neither of them was ready to take this to the next level quite yet. “No offense, Hel,” she said, mocking the others’ words, “but, I’ve heard you were that kind of girl.”

Helena, laughing, carried Barbara out of the game room and headed up to the redheads’ room. “Don’t believe everything you hear, Red. I have patience. And I definitely believe that anything worth having is worth waiting for.” She leaned in and kissed Barbara again. “You’ll see.”

* * * * *

Back in the pool room, Dinah and Gabby were sitting in stunned silence. Neither girl seemed able to move, after having watched the scene playing out in the other room. Gabby sat and grinned, as she watched Dinah. The gears turning in the other girls’ head were almost visible.

Dinah sat with her mouth hanging open. “Oh, my God,” she gasped. For the first time since coming to New Gotham, she was well and truly uncomfortable. Even though she’d known Barbara and Helena belonged together, it was still uncomfortable to watch.

The fact that Helena had been so nice lately should have been a tip-off. The brunette usually was far more difficult to get along with. Now it appeared she’d found the reason for Helena’s change of mood. Helena had finally decided to go for it with Barbara. And from all appearances, Barbara felt the same way.

Still, Dinah felt weird witnessing such an intimate display between the two. It was obviously something that was meant for just them, and it was just plain wrong that she and Gabby had been there watching. It was akin to seeing your parents having sex, and it creeped her out to think about it.

“You okay over there, Dinah?” Gabby broke into her thoughts, waving a hand in front of her face. “You’re looking like a trout out of water.”

Dinah blinked, taking in her surroundings. “I…I’m fine, Gabby. I was just processing, that’s all.”

Gabby nodded in understanding. “We should probably head back to our room before we get caught.”

“Yeah,” Dinah agreed, knowing Helena would do a round of the house before going to bed for the night. She didn’t want to get caught in here. That would definitely piss Helena off.

Once safely back in their room, Gabby struck up the conversation again. “So, you are okay with them being together, aren’t you?”

“Yeah. Of course,” Dinah answered. “You know, when I think about it, Helena was always agitated and on edge when she was with Reese. And Barbara, when she was with Wade, she just seemed, I don’t know, sad.”

Gabby nodded in agreement. “I know what you mean. Mr. Brixton was a nice guy, but I never got what Miss Gordon saw in him. He seemed kinda boring.”

Dinah crinkled her nose, “He did, didn’t he?” she said in answer, and both girls dissolved into a fit of laughter. Thinking about Barbara and Helena, she realized she was happy for the two women. They both deserved to be happy. Still, she decided that she had no desire to be anywhere near them the next time they decided to get all touchy feely. It was just too embarrassing.

* * * * *

Helena carried Barbara into her bathroom and set her down. “I know you have your routine, Red. Go ahead and do your thing,” she said quietly. “I’ll be right back.”

Barbara nodded, grateful for Helena’s understanding of her special needs. “Don’t take too long, Hel.”

“No chance of that, Red,” Helena winked as she left the room, heading back downstairs. She checked all the doors and windows, set the alarms and turned off lights as she went. Then, she grabbed Barbara’s wheelchair from the game room and made her way through the darkened house back to the redheads’ room.

“Hel?” She heard Barbara call from the bathroom.

“Yeah, Barbara?” she said, as she took the few steps to the bathroom door. “You done?” At Barbara’s nod, she bent down and lifted the other woman again. Carrying her to the bed, she waited while Barbara made herself comfortable. Once she was ready, Helena crawled in beside her.

“The house all locked up?” Barbara asked softly, her eyes never leaving Helena’s.

Helena nodded, trapped in green fire. “Yeah. Everything’s fine.”

“So,” Barbara said, unwilling to wait any longer, “About that massage?”

Helena smiled shyly. “Go ahead and make yourself comfortable, Red. Tonight’s for you.” She watched as Barbara maneuvered around until she was on her stomach, her head resting on her crossed arms.

Barbara shivered as she felt Helena’s hands on her shoulders. Even though they were normally therapy related, no one, she decided, had ever given her a massage like Helena. For years, she’d felt guilty about enjoying them so much. These last few months, however, she’d realized how much she’d missed Helena and the time they spent together during her therapy. Then, analyzing it further, she realized that she really missed Helena’s touch, the sensuousness of it. It was like no other. She knew Helena truly enjoyed those sessions. She’d also known for quite some time that Helena, like herself, was turned on by them.

She’d never allowed herself to think about it until the last three months. Until three months ago, when Wade died, fixating on her desire for her former wards’ touch had been a strict no-no. Now here they were, preparing for another massage. And this one could, in no way, shape, or form, be considered therapeutic. Like the massage earlier in the day, Helena was working muscles not necessary for her therapy. She was beginning to find it hard to breathe again, as Helena’s hands moved slowly and sensuously over the muscles in her back and shoulders. As she relaxed into the feel of Helena’s hands on her, the brunette suddenly leaned over and whispered in her ear, sending chills down her spine.

“You okay, Barbara?”

“God, Hel, never better,” she said, between ragged breaths.

Helena slid a hand up and moved Barbara’s hair to the side, away from her right ear. Then, nipping at Barbara’s ear, Helena whispered, “Would it be okay if we took your top off? A massage is always better if it’s…uh, skin on skin.” She knew she was taking a chance, but Helena believed that this night, Barbara wouldn’t object.

Barbara, unable to speak for the tremors Helena was causing, licked her lips and nodded. Just the thought that Helena had been considerate enough to ask, made her shiver. She was barely aware of rolling to her side so that Helena could unbutton the pajama top. With Helena’s help, the silky top slid off her arms and was unceremoniously tossed to the floor. A moment later, she gasped loudly as she felt Helena’s soft, but powerful, hands on her bare shoulders.

“You are so beautiful, Barbara,” Helena said, leaning over to whisper in her ear again. “I love touching your skin. It’s so smooth and soft.” Then, Helena moved down a little further, and began kissing lightly up and down Barbara’s back. At the same time, she was sliding her hands slowly from her waist to her arms and back again, unable to get enough of the silky skin underneath.

As she felt Helena’s lips on her bare skin, Barbara moaned, biting her lower lip. “Oh God, Hel!” she whispered, “That feels so good.” Suddenly, she felt Helena’s hands roaming up her ribs, brushing the sides of her breasts. It was all she could do to keep from screaming. Her body was on fire. No one had ever made her feel this way.

At Barbara’s words, Helena moved back up to the redhead’s neck, licking and nipping at it playfully. She’d always loved Barbara’s neck. So long and graceful, it practically begged for kisses, and Helena was determined not to let it down. Her own breathing was more than ragged, coming in gasps, as she tried to keep her feral side under some control. She’d abandoned all hope for her eyes. They’d changed from blue to gold within minutes of touching the other woman, and Helena knew they wouldn’t be changing back anytime soon.

The way Barbara was writhing under her hands, Helena knew they should stop, but she couldn’t. She had promised a massage and nothing more, but was finding it difficult to keep her word. Unable to control herself, she stopped long enough to pull off her own top and bra. Then, she slid further down and pressed her bare chest to Barbara’s back, moving with her. The friction between the two of them enough to light a fire, she shuddered with the intensity of the skin on skin contact.

Bending down again, she searched for, and found Barbara’s mouth. Leaning to the side so she could get better access, she slid up next to the redhead and pressed close. Barbara, never one to relinquish control for long, grabbed Helena by the back of the head and wound her fingers in the younger woman’s hair, pulling her as close as she could. The next thing Helena knew, Barbara had managed to get her onto her back, and was now on top of her.

“Sweet trick, Red,” Helena managed to say in between the redheads’ hungry kisses. “You’re gonna have to teach me that, sometime.” She was, as always, awed by the upper body strength of the other woman. Thinking about those shoulders and the play of strong muscle over bone, she raked her nails down Barbara’s back, causing her to moan loudly.

“Oh, Hel, God, what you do to me,” Barbara groaned. “You make me feel so alive, Hel. More alive than I’ve ever felt.”

Helena reached up and pushed the red hair back from Barbara’s face. “No more than you do me, Red,” she said quietly, an almost shy admission. She raked her nails down the others’ back again, and Barbara arched up, allowing Helena to catch a breast in her mouth.

As Helena began to lavish the breast with attention, Barbara moaned again, calling her name. Helena switched to the other breast and gave it the same attention, not wanting it to feel left out. Suddenly, her breathing so ragged Helena was almost worried, Barbara collapsed onto her, whispering, “Oh God, oh God, Hel. I think…we should stop this.” The redhead shivered uncontrollably before saying, “I think we should slow down a bit, but thank you. Thank you so much.”

As Barbara relaxed into her, Helena wrapped her arms protectively around the other woman. Slightly confused, but agreeing with the wisdom of the redheads’ words, she said, “I think you’re right, Red. When we’re both ready, and not before. And, you’re very welcome.” Suddenly, her chest felt wet and she realized that Barbara was crying. “Hey,” she said, hugging the redhead to her as tightly as she could, “Barbara, are you okay? I didn’t do something wrong, did I?”

Barbara took a deep breath and sniffed. Shaking her head, she whispered, “No, Hel. Nothing wrong at all. In fact,” she looked up slightly, smiling gently, and Helena could see the tears in her eyes, “you’ve done everything right. More than right.” She sighed and snuggled closer. “Could you just hold me for a while?”

Helena nodded. “Sure. Whatever you want, Red. I told you, this night’s for you.” Reaching over with one hand, she pulled the blankets up over them both. Then, sighing contently, she wrapped both arms around Barbara and settled in. It wasn’t long, before Barbara’s breathing evened out and Helena knew she’d fallen asleep. Then, and only then, did she allow herself to relax and get some rest, knowing that if Barbara needed her she’d be there.

* * * * *

Helena woke up early, which was unusual. Looking around, she remembered she was in Barbara’s room, in Barbara’s bed. And Barbara was in the bed with her, on top of her in fact. And neither one of them was wearing anything but pajama bottoms! Oooh what a good night. Looking at the other woman, she realized Barbara was still fast asleep.

Helena lay still, trying not to move too much, afraid she’d wake Barbara up. Prior to coming up here this week, she knew the redhead hadn’t been sleeping much. In fact, if she’d had to bet, she’d say Barbara probably didn’t sleep more than two or three hours a night.

And how did she know all this? Well, even though she wasn’t in the Clocktower, she was always lurking around somewhere, making sure Barbara was okay. She knew well Barbara’s penchant for pushing herself too far when she was in the midst of an emotional battle of wills with herself. She’d seen it often enough over the years. Helena had apparently just miscalculated what Barbara was fighting with herself over.

Helena looked down at the sleeping woman lying in her arms again, and was surprised to be staring into the most beautiful green eyes she’d ever seen. Every time she looked into Barbara’s eyes, she saw further and deeper than the time before. It was like falling into a different part of the universe, a little scary and a lot comforting, all at the same time.

Smiling, she simply said, “Hey, Red.”

Barbara took a deep breath and smiled back. “Hey, yourself.” Realizing she was still lying on top of Helena, she quickly asked, “Hel, are you comfortable? You could have told me, I would have moved over some.”

Helena shook her head. “Are you kidding? And miss out on this?” she indicated how they were lying together. “This has got to be the best feeling in the world, Red.”

“Mmm.” Barbara smiled again. “You know, Hel…I was thinking about what you said last night.”

“Really? Which part?”

“About your senses being full,” Barbara answered. “For the first time in my life, I know what you mean. Right now, I am so full of you…if I died today, I could do it knowing I’d been with you and experienced this.”

“Barbara, don’t say that. You’re not dying today. Or any time soon if I have anything to say about it.” Helena said seriously, pulling the redhead closer to her. “Besides,” she smirked, “we haven’t even made love, yet. You can’t go without experiencing that.”

Barbara laughed softly. “And I don’t want to, Hel. I was kind of planning on sticking around for a while, if you don’t mind?”

Helena leaned down and kissed Barbara on the mouth. Pulling back after a few delicious minutes lost in those gorgeous lips, she said, “I was countin’ on it, Red.” She lay there for a while longer, stroking Barbara’s hair, luxuriating in the feel of it flowing through her fingers. When the redheads’ breathing began to even out again, she whispered, “Go to sleep now, Barbara. I’ll be here when you wake up.”

* * * * *

When Helena and Barbara both entered the kitchen for breakfast, they were surprised to find that they were the only ones there. Alfred had left a note, stating that he had gone down into town for a shopping trip. Dinah and Gabby had already left to go skiing with their friends. If Barbara needed to reach them, she wrote, she could be reached on her cell phone.

Helena scrounged some Poptarts out of the cabinet for herself, and Barbara had a bagel. After eating and reading the newspaper, Helena finally broke the companionable silence by asking, “So, Barbara, you want to do the horseback riding today, or….What do you want to do?”

Barbara sipped her coffee and considered the question for a minute. Finally, sure that Helena couldn’t wait any longer, she answered. “Since this has been a week of new things…Horseback riding, I think.” She laughed, when Helena’s face lit up in a huge grin. Barbara knew the younger woman had believed she would never agree to the horseback riding idea.

“You mean it? You’ll go?” Helena asked excitedly.

Barbara nodded. “Of course. Whenever you’re ready, Hel.”

“Cool. I’ll just finish up and we can go,” Helena said, drinking the last of her milk. When she was done, she washed out her glass and headed for the door. “You coming?” she asked, impatient to be on their way.

Barbara sighed and shook her head. Despite all the maturing Helena had done over the past year, she was still just a big kid. It was one of the things that Barbara loved, and frustrated, her most about the other woman. She turned and followed Helena to the car, saying, “I’m right behind you, Hel.”

* * * * *

Who would have ever guessed Helena knew so much about horses? Barbara was sitting on the couch in the great room, enjoying the fire Helena had started when they returned from the riding trip. Helena had gone down to work out about two hours before, while Barbara had chosen to spend the afternoon reading.

Starting to get a bit sleepy, she’d set the book off to the side and was now replaying the horseback riding in her mind. Helena had told her all about the riding lessons Selina had enrolled her in when she was still just a kid. They were still living in France then, and Helena had fallen head over heels for a pony she’d seen in the French countryside during one of their weekend trips.

When they’d returned to Paris, Selina had immediately found the best riding stables around and enrolled eight year old Helena that day. For the next two years, she’d spent as much time as she could at the stables, learning everything they were willing to teach her. Then, they’d moved back to New Gotham, and the only time Helena could ride was during one of their weekend trips.

She’d begged and begged for a horse of her own, but for some reason, Selina never would give in. Then Selina had died, and Helena’s desire for a horse had died with her. She’d never mentioned any of this to Barbara until now, and Barbara couldn’t help but ask her why.

Helena shrugged, “I don’t know. I guess between my anger and behavior problems and your problems, there just didn’t seem to be time for something so trivial. Besides, we couldn’t afford it back then.”

Barbara raised an eyebrow at that last. After all, Bruce had left more than enough money to buy an entire herd of the best horses available, if that’s what Helena had wanted; not to mention the stables and stable hands to take care of them. She didn’t mention that to her, though. Instead, she just nodded and said simply, “I see.”

They arrived at the riding stables moments later, and Barbara was pleasantly surprised to see other disabled riders in the outdoor riding ring. She looked over to find Helena grinning broadly. “I told ya, I’d already checked into this for you. This place is well known for their Disabled Riders Program. They use it as therapy,” she said as she got out and went around to get Barbara’s chair out of the back. When she got to the door with the chair, she was still grinning. “You like it, Barbara?”

Barbara hadn’t known that Helena knew anything like this even existed, let alone had bothered to check into it for her. She couldn’t help but smile back at the brunette. “Hel, this is great, thank you.”

“No problem, Red.”

They’d spent the next half hour looking at the horses and letting the instructor pick one out for each of them based on their needs and riding level. Then, Helena had helped saddle them up while the instructor talked to Barbara about riding. By the time they were done with their afternoon, Barbara felt totally comfortable on her horse, and had ventured out on a short trail ride with Helena and their instructor before finishing their day back at the stables. Overall, it had been a great time, and Barbara was glad she’d been willing to give it a try.

Now however, she felt herself drifting off. Apparently, the lack of sleep the night before and the riding had worn her out more than she realized.

* * * * *

Helena answered the phone on the fifth ring. Toweling her hair dry as she picked up the receiver, she answered, “Hello?”

“Miss Helena?” Alfred’s voice came over the phone shakily.

Immediately, Helena knew something was wrong. Alfred rarely called home, and she’d never heard that sort of ‘trying to cover it up but I’m scared’ tone to his voice. “Alfred, what’s wrong?” She asked right away.

“Miss Helena,” he said, relieved that she’d answered the phone and not Miss Barbara. “There’s been a problem here at the lodge. I believe you and Miss Barbara should get here as soon as you can.”

“What? What kind of problem?” she asked, beginning to worry.

“An avalanche,” he said. “Many people are missing.”

Helena’s face paled. “Dinah and Gabby?” she asked.

He hesitated slightly before answering and she already knew the answer. “I haven’t been able to locate them as of yet.”

A terrible fear gripped her for a period of seconds. Forcing herself to focus, she said tersely, “Fifteen minutes. We’re on our way.”

“I’ll be at the front waiting for you,” he said, his usual calm veneer back in place, if a bit forced.

Helena slammed down the phone and ran out of the pool area calling for Barbara the entire way. She finally found her curled up half asleep on the couch. The book she’d been reading was lying open on the floor next to her. “Barbara,” Helena said, shaking her awake, “Barbara, we need to move. There’s been an accident.”

Shaking her head a little to clear it, Barbara could only stammer, “Wh…what? What’s happened?”

“Come on, Red,” Helena said as she bent over to help Barbara into her chair. “I’ll explain on the way. We need to get to the ski lodge now.” She lifted Barbara and transferred her to her wheelchair as quickly as she could, realizing that Barbara made no protest over being helped.

Beginning to wake up, Barbara recognized the urgency with which Helena was moving. The other woman never moved like that unless something very important was happening. She decided to just go with it, and was surprised when she realized Helena was bending over putting her boots on for her. When had she left the room and come back with those? “Hel,” she began, “What’s going on?” She quirked an eyebrow when Helena stood up and tossed her coat to her.

“Alfred called. There’s been an avalanche at the ski lodge,” Helena said, moving them both toward the door. She hesitated before finishing, afraid to say the rest, not wanting to scare Barbara unnecessarily. “He hasn’t seen the girls since it happened.”

The minute the word avalanche had fallen out of Helena’s mouth, Barbara knew what was coming. She groaned, “Oh, God.”

Helena helped Barbara into the Hummer and went to the back, loading her chair in moments. They managed to arrive at the lodge within fifteen minutes, although Barbara complained loudly about Helena’s driving the entire way. When they arrived, Alfred met them at the front door. He waited while Helena helped Barbara (once again without complaint) get into her chair. Then he led them to the lodge security office, which had been set up as a check-in point for volunteers.

Barbara immediately found the person in charge, a sergeant by the name of Jason Hobbs, and offered her services. It took some doing, but after she explained what she could do with a cell phone GPS signal, for those skiers without beacons, he agreed to let her give it a try. He led her through the crowd into his office, where she was disappointed to find the most antiquated computer system she’d seen in years.

She pinched the bridge of her nose in frustration. Time was of the essence, and there was no way this system was up to the task at hand. “Could you possibly put me in touch with the head of the Search and Rescue Team?” she asked, trying to stay calm. “We’re going to need something more powerful than your system in order to do this.”

He nodded. “Yeah, sure.” He pushed the button on his shoulder mounted radio, and spoke into it, calling for a ‘Captain Anderson’.

The captains’ voice came over the radio a moment later, sounding harried. “What is it, Jason? I’m kinda busy, here.”

Sergeant Hobbs looked slightly embarrassed. “Hey, Scott, I got a lady here who thinks she might be able to help with the search. She wants to talk to you.”

“I don’t have time to fool around here, Jason. Tell her she’s gonna have to wait like everybody else,” he answered, obviously thinking she was looking for special privileges.

Barbara gritted her teeth at the dismissal. “Tell him,” she said, “I know he only has a few critical minutes to find the missing people alive. I can help with that. I’m not looking for favors.”

Sergeant Hobbs said, “I’ll try Miss Gordon, but Scott doesn’t usually listen to me very much.”

“Tell him,” she ground out, “that if he doesn’t talk to me I’m going to send my own people out there.”

Clearly unsure about what to do, he finally said, “Well, okay. I’ll give it a try.”

While she waited for the Sergeant to contact Captain Anderson again, Barbara turned to Helena. “Hel, call Dick and have him run a GPS trace on Dinah’s phone. He can send the signal directly to your hand held tracker.”

Already moving, Helena turned to get the equipment out of the Hummer. As she left, she heard Barbara say, “Bring ‘em home, Hel.”

“Count on it, Red,” she answered as she left the small office at a run. She reached the Hummer and dug through the cargo area for everything she’d need to help find not only the two missing teens, but the other missing skiers as well.

She placed the call to Dick back at the Clocktower, and waited while he made the connections necessary to track Dinah’s cell phone. As long as it was turned on, they shouldn’t have any problem. She didn’t even want to think about the other possibility. Barbara had already told her that after fifteen minutes, the likelihood of finding them alive decreased by fifty percent.

He came back on the line within two minutes. “Helena, everything’s online, up and running. I’ve got Dinah’s cell phone info plugged into the tracking program and it’s coming up now. It looks like she had it on, so that’s a good sign.” He grew quiet for a moment and Helena could hear typing in the background. Then, “It looks like she’s halfway up the North Slope,” he said. “It’s a nice strong signal, too. That’s good.”

“Thanks, Dick,” Helena said. “I’ll get back with you as soon as I can.”

“Right, Little Sis. Good luck.”

She disconnected the call and looked at the hand held GPS tracker. Sure enough, she saw a red dot smack in the middle of the North Slope. Calling Barbara, she simply said, “I’ve got a signal and I’m on my way. I’ll let you know as soon as I have them.”

“Be careful, Hel.”

In true Helena style, she smirked, even though Barbara couldn’t see it, and said, “I’m always careful, Red. You know that.”

Barbara, familiar with Helena’s nervous banter, answered back, “That’s what I’m worried about.”

“I’ll talk to you soon, Red.” And then Helena was running as fast as she could following the blinking red dot on her display.

When it became too difficult to run through the snow, she moved instead to the trees, which reminded her more of the rooftops of the buildings back in New Gotham. It was nearly nightfall, and she knew the Search and Rescue teams were going to have a hard time very soon. She was, at that moment, absurdly grateful for her Meta enhanced abilities.

Twenty five minutes after arriving at the lodge, Helena had arrived at the area shown on her display. At first glance, all she could see was snow. Looking up toward the top of the mountain, she could see where the snow had come down. The girls must have been right in the middle of the whole damn thing.

As she took a closer look, she noticed a few formations that looked like snow covered boulders. As she walked toward one, the red dot on her screen became stronger and stronger. She grabbed the small rescue shovel she’d tucked into her backpack and started digging.

Two feet below the surface, she hit rock. Quickly digging down around the side of it, she realized she could hear talking. At the sound, she doubled her efforts, and within minutes, she’d broken through to an open area at the front and bottom of what was indeed, a huge boulder.

Sitting on the ground, backs to the boulder, were two young skiers. Helena recognized them as two of the kids Dinah and Gabby had been hanging out with. She reached out a hand and helped them both up. “Have either of you seen Dinah and Gabby?” she asked, worried about the time.

“Thanks for finding us,” the young man said. “They were off to our right about ten feet away when the avalanche came down. Dinah steered us toward this,” he said, indicating the boulder. “Man, I hope they made it okay.”

Helena, while listening to what he said, was still looking around her for any obvious signs. The signal was as strong as it could get, so the phone, at least, had to be here somewhere. She turned to look at the boy and noticed he was turning blue and shaking. “Here, sit down,” she said, as she shot a flare into the sky. “Someone’ll be here for you in a few minutes. Just relax.” She pulled two survival blankets out of her pack and laid one over each of the teens.

Confident the two would be okay until the rescue team arrived, she resumed her search of the area. Fifteen minutes later, beginning to think she’d never find them, she finally found what she was looking for. Just like the young man had said, about ten feet away, next to the tree line, Helena saw what looked like another boulder.

She made her way over to it and started digging again. This time, she didn’t need to dig far. Within a few feet, she hit another open area. This time, as her shovel fell through, she realized that she wasn’t digging around a boulder. As she cleared more of the snow away, she could clearly see what looked to be an igloo!

Through the hole she’d made in the top, she could look in, and there, lying on the floor, were Dinah and Gabby. Both girls appeared to be alive, but Dinah was lying down, with her head cradled in Gabby’s lap. “Hey, sorry to interrupt the romantic little getaway, ” she called down, “but how would you two like to continue this someplace a little warmer?”

Gabby looked up and saw Helena. Relieved beyond belief, she called out, “Helena! Can you hurry? It’s Dinah. She’s breathing okay, but she’s been unconscious for a while, now.”

“On my way, Kid,” Helena said as she jumped through the hole and landed next to the girls. She checked both girls out, and it appeared that neither one was seriously hurt. Dinah, Gabby told her, had noticed the avalanche and pushed her toward the tree line. As the snow was bearing down on them, Dinah turned toward it and held her hands out in front of her. The next thing she knew, the snow was covering them, and they were in this small igloo, trapped, but unharmed.

“Well,” Helena said, nodding her head proudly in approval, “I think she’ll be okay. She just overextended herself. Here, let’s get you two out of here.” She bent over and picked up Dinah, then jumped up through the hole she’d made. Setting the teen down, she returned for Gabby. Once both girls were safe, she gave each of them a survival blanket. The Search and Rescue Team was arriving as she covered the girls, so she called Barbara to let her know they were safe and sound.

“Helena?” Barbara’s voice came over the phone after just one ring. “Have you got them? Are they…”

“Relax, Red. I’ve got them and they’re both okay.” Helena said, cutting the redhead off. “We’re heading back, now. See you in a few.” As she hung up the phone, the head of the Search and Rescue Team approached her.

“I don’t suppose you’d like to explain to me what you’re doing up here?” he asked, clearly perturbed that she was there.

Helena cocked her head. The name on his jacket said Captain Anderson. “I was helping some friends,” she answered. “You know, at the behest of our mutual friend, Barbara Gordon? The one who was trying to offer you her help when you blew her off.”

“Look, I don’t know any Barbara Gordon, and I don’t know you, but you need to get out of here before you get hurt,” he said, obviously not recognizing help when it was hitting him in the face. And right about now, Helena was more than ready to do just that. She hadn’t indulged in a good ass-kicking all week, and it was making her antsy.

“Relax there, Captain. I’m here to help. And,” she said with a huge smirk on her face daring him to argue with her, “it looks like I just saved the lives of four people. So, you could just cut the macho crap and take my help.”

Looking around and noticing the others watching, he gave in. He wasn’t stupid; He just didn’t want anybody else getting hurt if he could prevent it. “Okay. Tell me what you can do.”

Relieved that he’d decided to be smart, Helena explained to him how she’d tracked Dinah’s cell phone signal. She didn’t bother explaining it all to him, of course. Just the basics, so he’d get the idea. In the end, he asked her to stay and help out if she could.

Thanking him, she stepped away and called Dick. “Hey, Bro,” she said when he answered the call, “I got the girls and they’re both okay. Now I’m gonna help the searchers wherever I can. You think you could get me those ski beacon signals?”

“Sure, give me a sec,” he said, relief evident in his voice as she heard more typing in the background. “They’re coming through, now. And Helena?” he said.


“Good job.”

“Well, thanks, big brother. All in a day’s work. Talk to you soon,” she said, closing out the call. She called Barbara next, and told her what she was doing.

“Be careful, Hel,” Barbara said, repeating her earlier request.

“You know I will be, Red. Gotta go. Take care of the kids for me, and I’ll see you later tonight,” she said as she hung up the phone. Tucking it into a pocket and zipping it up, she looked at her tracker again. True to his word, Dick had gotten the ski beacons, and was sending the signals to her. Sighing, already tired from being out in the cold, she got to work.

* * * * *

Helena didn’t return to the lodge until after midnight. When she’d found the girls, they’d both been cold and exhausted. But luckily, neither one had suffered any hypothermia or frostbite. Dinah, however, still hadn’t woken up. Gabby had been really worried about her when Helena had found them, but calmed down when she explained that the exhaustion was from overstrain. One of the conference rooms at the lodge had been turned into a triage center, and that’s where she found everyone. Dinah and Gabby were there sleeping, curled up on cots and wrapped in sleeping bags.

The lodge had opened up its kitchen to the volunteers, and Alfred had lent his services in preparing meals for everyone. When she came in, he made sure she had hot soup and grilled cheese sandwiches to warm her insides. Then, he pointed her in the direction of Barbara, who had volunteered her first aid skills.

Still munching on a sandwich, she found the redhead changing the dressing on a young woman’s lacerated arm. “Hey, Red,” she said, coming up to her.

Barbara looked up at the sound of Helena’s voice, and breathed a sigh of relief. She hadn’t heard from her in a couple of hours, and had been worried, even though she refused to admit it to anyone. “Helena, everything okay?” she asked in that cool, calm voice that Helena knew as her ‘Oracle’ voice.

“Everything’s good, I’m just checking in,” Helena answered. “Is there anything I can do to help? Do you need anything?”

Barbara shook her head. “I’m fine. Thanks for asking, Hel,” Barbara answered as she finished up the girls’ bandage. She gave the girl a few instructions about keeping the wound clean, changing bandages and whatnot, and then turned to follow the brunette.

’Have you eaten anything, Barbara?” Helena asked, knowing Barbara’s natural fondness for ignoring her own needs in favor of others. The redhead looked over at her and didn’t answer, telling Helena everything she needed to know. “Okay. Let’s get you a sandwich at least.” Seeing Barbara preparing an argument, Helena continued, “They can do without you long enough for you to eat, Red. I don’t want you making yourself sick.”

Sighing grumpily, Barbara gave in, knowing Helena was right. “All right, Hel. Let’s grab something and check on the girls.”

Grinning at how easily Barbara gave in, Helena walked with her over to where the two teenagers were sleeping. To Helena’s amazement, Alfred was already there, waiting with a sandwich and hot soup for Barbara. How he managed to surprise her like that, she would never understand, but she was grateful that Barbara seemed to devour everything without protest. Usually you had to beg the redhead to eat.

Finally satisfied that her little family was taken care of, Helena attempted unsuccessfully to suppress a yawn. “Man, I’m wiped out,” she managed to say between yawns. The lodge had generously offered rooms to the volunteers, and Helena had happily taken them up on their offer. “I’m gonna head upstairs and get some sleep. Barbara, you coming?”

The redhead shook her head. “I don’t think so. They can still use my help, here,” she answered. Her voice, Helena noticed, had a dull, flat tone to it.

Sighing, Helena said, “Barbara, you’ve been going all day. It looks to me like everything’s under control,” she waved her arms around indicating the activity in the room. “Besides, you know you need to take better care of yourself.”

That was all it took. Barbara was tired, worn out, in fact. She was irritated by more things than she could list right now. And now Helena was going to start arguing with her. So she did what came naturally. She closed herself off and responded by getting angry. “Helena, you are not my mother. And in case you haven’t noticed, you’re not in charge of me. I have managed to take care of myself for the last few years. If you’re tired, by all means, go and get some sleep, but do not presume to tell me what I should or should not be doing.”

Helena’s jaw dropped. Damn, and she’d been doing so well at not pissing Barbara off, too! Deciding to do the mature thing, for once, she simply said, “Fine. If you need me, we have adjoining rooms, 306 and 307.” She tossed a small oblong key card toward the redhead, who deftly snatched it out of the air. “Good night, Alfred. I’ll see you all in the morning.” She turned on her heel and walked away, heading for her room.

Barbara watched the brunette go. “Shit!” she said in a loud whisper and hit the arm of her chair. She hadn’t meant to upset Helena. It just made her so angry when the younger woman tried to take care of her. She wasn’t a child in need of mothering, and despite the fact that she was in a wheelchair, she was not an invalid. Turning around, she saw Alfred, still sitting silently by the sleeping girls. “I suppose you’re going to tell me I was being hard-headed and stubborn?”

“I would not presume to tell you what you already know, Miss,” the unruffled butler said. “I would however, point out that those who care about you worry about you. Just like you worry about them.”

Barbara pinched the bridge of her nose in frustration and sighed. “I know.” Closing her eyes, she slowed down her breathing and firmed her jaw. When she looked at Alfred again, she felt much more relaxed. “I have one more person to check on, and then I’ll go get some sleep.”

Alfred smiled his fatherly smile. “I believe that would be wise, Miss Barbara.”

Barbara nodded at him in thanks for his wisdom and left to go check on her other patient. Half an hour later, she was finished. She made one more check on Dinah and Gabby and then headed upstairs. It was almost three in the morning by then. Using the key card Helena had tossed her; she opened the door and went inside. Flipping the light switch by the door, she noticed immediately that the door to Helena’s adjoining room was cracked open. Presumably Helena had left it open so she would know when Barbara came in, if she ever did. Barbara knew that with her enhanced hearing, she would hear anyone entering the room.

Exhausted and irritated with herself, Barbara moved into the bathroom to follow her nightly routine. She was surprised to find that everything she would need was already there, laid out for her, including a pair of sweats and a t-shirt to sleep in. Barbara smiled to herself. She knew as sure as she was sitting there, that Alfred had gone to the cabin and brought her things over. She’d seen him carry in two bags earlier in the evening but hadn’t thought to ask him about them.

Moving through her routine in an almost trance-like state, she finally finished and went to get into bed. On her way, she passed by the door to Helena’s room again. Bypassing the bed, she pulled the door open and went into Helena’s room. She felt bad for upsetting Helena earlier, and just wanted to make sure the younger woman was okay.

She pulled the door closed until it was cracked, so that the dim light from her room wouldn’t wake Helena up. As she sat and watched Helena sleep, she couldn’t help but think about how much she loved the young woman lying there. Suddenly, she was pulled out of her thoughts by Helena’s voice.

“Barbara?” Helena said hoarsely.

“Yes,” the redhead answered in a whisper. “I’m sorry, Hel. I didn’t mean to wake you. I just wanted to make sure you were okay.”

“S’okay,” Helena replied sleepily, “You didn’t really wake me.” Sitting up a little so that she could see the redhead in the darkened room, she cocked her head and asked, “You okay?”

Barbara nodded. “I’m fine. Just tired.”

Helena smiled and patted the bed beside her. “You’re welcome, if you want to,” she said quietly in invitation. She wasn’t at all sure Barbara would take her up on the offer. Not after she’d managed to tick her off earlier.

“You sure?”

Helena looked at her sideways. “Of course. You should know you’re always welcome in my bed, Red.”

Barbara snickered. Rolling her eyes at the brunettes’ choice of words, she maneuvered over to the empty side of the bed. Helena pulled the blankets down and Barbara transferred herself to the bed. Once in and settled, Helena pulled the covers up over them both and snuggled close, wrapping her arms around Barbara.

Knowing that she’d hurt Helena’s feelings earlier with her angry response, Barbara was still feeling pretty tense. Despite the brunette’s apparent lack of concern for what had happened, she still felt the need to apologize. “Hel, I’m sorry for what I said, earlier,” she said quietly. “I was just…I don’t know…tired and…worried.”

“Shh, Red. Don’t worry about it. You were right, I shouldn’t have tried to tell you what to do,” Helena answered back. “Let’s just forget about it, okay?” She snuggled closer.

“Okay, Hel.” She squeezed Helena in a hug and kissed the top of her head. Pushing back the thoughts that had been bothering her all night, she concentrated instead on the feel of the young woman in her arms. It took her a while, but as she lay there listening to Helena’s breathing, she finally managed to fall asleep.

* * * * *

Helena woke up around ten. Barbara was still sleeping, her breathing slow and steady. Afraid to wake her, she wriggled out of Barbara’s embrace carefully and went into the bathroom. Getting dressed, she slipped out of the room to go check on the girls. When she got downstairs, she was happy to see both, Dinah and Gabby sitting at a table eating breakfast and talking to their friends.

Looking up, Dinah saw Helena and waved her over. “Helena, want some breakfast?” Dinah asked, shoving a plate of pancakes toward her.

“Uh, yeah sure,” she answered, pouring syrup on the pancakes and digging in. She hadn’t eaten much the day before, and being out in the cold for so long had really zapped her energy. As she ate, she listened to the girls chatter on with their friends. Rolling her eyes, she wondered if she had ever been that young? Or, for that matter, that resilient? Each of them was acting as if nothing had happened the day before. It was jarring.

When she was finished with her plate, she got up to leave. “Hey, I’m glad you’re all okay,” she said, “but I’m gonna go check on Red. She didn’t get to bed until late.”

“Is Barbara okay?” Dinah asked, well aware of Barbara’s lack of concern for her own well-being when there was a crisis. And, she had to admit, she felt a little guilty, too. Barbara had probably stayed up all night because she was worried about her and Gabby. She’d heard Barbara had been helping with first aid, but she knew it was mostly so she could watch over the two girls.

Helena nodded at the question. “She’s fine, just exhausted. When she’s up and ready, we’ll head back to the cabin.” As she started to walk away, a thought struck her and she turned back around. “Hey, why don’t you invite your friends over tonight and we’ll have pizza and watch movies?”

Surprised, but liking the idea, Dinah smiled. “That’d be great, Helena, thanks!”

“No problem, Kid. I’ll see you two later,” she said as she finally left and headed back up to the room. As she went, she stopped by the kitchen and picked up a muffin and orange juice for Barbara. The redhead should be awake by now, and would most likely be hungry.

When she got back to the room, she was surprised to see that the redhead was still asleep. Setting the orange juice in the small in-room fridge and the muffin on the bedside table next to Barbara, she undressed and crawled back into bed. If Barbara was still sleeping, she must have been more exhausted than she’d let on. Still tired herself, Helena curled up next to Barbara and threw her arm over the other woman’s waist. Within minutes, she’d fallen back to sleep.

* * * * *

Barbara woke up around noon. When she finally came back to consciousness, she was surprised to find Helena still asleep next to her. She tried to get up without waking the younger woman, but Helena immediately raised her head when she felt Barbara move. “I thought you were asleep?” she asked.

“Nah,” Helena shook her head, “just resting my eyes. You get enough rest?”

Barbara took a deep breath. “Yeah, I feel pretty good, actually.”

“You ready to get going, then? I told Dinah and Gabby we’d head back to the cabin when you were ready.”

“Oh, yeah. Just let me get up and get dressed,” Barbara said. For some reason, she still felt like her head was in a fog.

Helena smiled, knowing Barbara wasn’t quite awake yet. How could she be when she hadn’t had her coffee yet? She got up and handed the redhead the muffin. “Here, before you go anywhere, I want you to eat something. And don’t argue, you know you’re hungry.” As she watched Barbara pull herself up into a sitting position, she padded across the room and started the coffeepot. Within minutes, the smell of fresh coffee filled the room. Pouring a cup for Barbara, she brought the mug over and handed it to her.

“Thanks, Hel,” she said, accepting the steaming mug. “Just what the doctor ordered.”

Helena snorted. “I doubt that, but it’ll get you up and moving.” She flopped back on the bed and flipped through TV channels while Barbara finished. Once she was done and had gone back to the other room to get dressed, Helena got up and got dressed herself. A few minutes later, she had her bag packed and she and Barbara were heading downstairs to find Alfred and the girls.

When Dinah saw Barbara, she ran and wrapped her arms around her in a huge bear hug. “Barbara, I’m so glad to see you!” the teenager gushed. “We’re really sorry we worried you like that.”

Barbara hugged the blond back. “I’m just glad you’re both alright,” she said. “And, I hear you managed a pretty cool TK Igloo. I wish I could have seen it, myself.”

Dinah blushed at the praise. “It was no big deal, really.”

As the two carried on, getting lost in a conversation about Telekinesis and its practical applications, Helena concentrated on what wasn’t being said. Dinah probably hadn’t noticed, but she had. When Barbara said that she wished she could have seen the igloo, Helena heard the sense of longing in her voice. Barbara was covering it up pretty well, but having known the redhead for so long, Helena knew she was really annoyed by her lack of mobility right now. She knew that if Barbara had had access to the neural transponder, she would have used it yesterday to help in the search; even if it meant she would permanently injure herself.

Snapping fingers in her face made her blink. “Earth to Helena,” Dinah was saying.

“Sorry,” she answered sarcastically, “techno babble makes me zone out.”

Dinah shook her head. “I was just asking if you’re ready to go home?”

“Oh, yeah sure,” she answered, following the rest of the small group out to the Hummer.

* * * * *

Helena left the game room in search of Barbara. Dinah and Gabby had invited four of their friends over, and the teens were busy having a Twilight movie fest. There were teenagers draped on furniture and half empty pizza boxes were strewn around the room, along with cans of soda and bags of Twizzlers.

Deciding they’d be all right for an hour or so on their own, she left. She simply couldn’t take anymore vampire romance fluff. Besides, the girls needed some time to be teenagers and get into trouble and everything. Helena felt it was her duty to provide them with the opportunity. As long as they didn’t get into too much trouble, she was okay with that. And of course, she’d have to answer to Barbara if there was too much trouble happening. She still remembered the countless times Barbara had read her the riot act after she’d done the same thing. She wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

She finally located the redhead sitting on the deck. Helena was going through the great room, heading toward Barbara’s room, when she saw her through the doors. She stopped and just stood in the darkened room, watching her. Helena had always thought that Barbara was beautiful, but when she was just sitting quietly, lost in thought, she was truly gorgeous. The fact that she didn’t know she was gorgeous, made her even more so to Helena’s mind. Snow had fallen earlier in the day, and the deck was still covered. Barbara didn’t seem to mind, though. She was sitting there, staring out at the night sky, apparently oblivious to everything around her.

To anyone who didn’t know the redhead, it might appear that she was content and at peace with the world. But Helena knew better. Barbara had seemed quiet and distant all evening, and Helena knew that something was bothering her. She’d decided not to push, though. She wanted Barbara to talk to her when she was ready. She snorted at herself for having that thought. Barbara never opened up about anything without being pushed. Still, she’d resolved not to, and she intended to keep it that way.

She finally opened the door and quietly stepped outside. “Mind if I join you?” she asked, careful not to disturb the mood.

Barbara looked over at her. “I thought you were watching movies with the kids?”

Helena shrugged. “You know me, not enough blood and guts, death and destruction for my taste.”

Barbara nodded, knowing all too well Helena’s taste in movies. “Mmm.”

“I can go if you want to be alone for a while?” Helena said, uncomfortable and afraid she was interrupting something.

Barbara, noticing Helena fidgeting nervously, smiled at the brunette. “You can stay, Hel. I was just sitting here, enjoying the quiet. It’s funny, you know…how you never seem to notice how quiet the world can be?”

Helena nodded. “I know what you mean. I noticed it the first time I came up here. It’s kinda weird, at first.”

Barbara nodded in agreement, and they both fell into a companionable silence. During that time, Helena pulled up a chair and sat down next to the redhead. Sometimes, she thought, it was nice to just sit and ‘be’ with the one you loved.

After about twenty minutes, Helena decided it was time to go in and check on the teenagers she’d left downstairs. Standing up, she said quietly, “I think I’m gonna go in. Let you have a little alone time. You need anything? Maybe a coat, blanket…?”

Barbara looked over at Helena. Closing her eyes, she made a decision, and said, “How about a bottle of wine, two glasses, and we watch a movie?”

“Really?” Helena asked, incredulously.

“Sure, why not? We used to do it all the time.”

“Yeah, but that was back when I was an angry kid and you were just out of the hospital. It wasn’t like we had anything else to do or many options back then.” Helena said.

Barbara raised an eyebrow. “You have something else to do now?” she asked.

Giving in, Helena shrugged. “Well, I am on vacation…” she said slowly. “I guess I could pencil it in.”

Barbara smiled. “Good. Let’s make it happen, then. My room, and I pick the movie.”

Helena groaned, knowing Barbara’s choice in movies. Still, wine and a movie with Barbara? It sounded like a good time. “Okay. Give me a few minutes to check on the Teen Terrors and I’ll meet you there. Oh, and Barbara?” she said as they went off in different directions, “I’ll bring the wine and glasses.”

Barbara smiled again and headed for her room to get ready.

Helena made her way back downstairs to check on Dinah, Gabby, and their friends. When she got there, they were all still in their previous positions, engrossed in another movie. “Dinah,” she said, coming up behind the blond, “Barbara and I are watching a movie in her room. The door will be open, so stop by and let us know when everyone leaves. Or, if they’re staying…” she grinned evilly, and whispered, “make sure the guys have their own room.”

Dinah blushed, and slapped at her. “Helena!”

The brunette skipped back and laughed, heading back upstairs. She stopped on her way to pick out a bottle of Sassicaia Cabernet Sauvignon, Vintage 2000, and two wine glasses. Then, she headed to Barbara’s room.

She wasn’t sure what kind of movie Barbara had in mind, but knowing Barbara’s taste, it would probably not be one of her favorites. She was pleasantly surprised then, to see that Barbara had managed to pick out something they could both enjoy. Next to the TV, Barbara had a pile of movies. The first one: Grosse Point Blank, a John Cusack, Minnie Driver movie loaded with eighties music, gunfire and romance. The perfect movie for both of them.

Helena smiled at a beaming Barbara and said, “Nice call, Red.” as she climbed into bed next to the redhead. As an afterthought, she added, “I hope you don’t mind, but I told the Kid we’d leave the door open. She’s supposed to tell us when the others leave.”

“That’s fine, Hel.” She reached over and grabbed a glass out of the brunette’s hand. “Pour the wine and let’s get started,” she said, settling back against the pile of pillows behind her. Helena laughed and pressed ‘play’ on the remote. Then, pouring two glasses, she settled in next to Barbara.

Three hours, one bottle of wine later and halfway through the second movie, Dinah stopped by. By this time, Helena was leaning up against Barbara, whose head was lying on the brunettes shoulder. Helena had an arm draped protectively around her, holding her close and running her hand through her hair. “Hey Hel…” Dinah started and stopped, when she noticed how close the two were to each other, “Uh,” she felt herself starting to blush, seeing them like that.

Helena looked amused, as she prompted, “You need something, D?”

“Huh? Oh, no.” She recovered herself enough to answer. “I just wanted to let you know we’re all going to bed, now. And, just so you know…the guys have the guest room next to Alfred.”

“Cool,” Helena answered. “The house all locked up?”

“Yeah, I checked everything and set the alarms,” the blond answered. It was a source of pride that Helena and Barbara trusted her enough to make her responsible for their safety for the evening. She’d made sure to check everything twice, just to be on the safe side.

Barbara looked around Helena at the teen, noticing that she seemed a little uncomfortable. “Dinah?” she said, as the girl was turning to leave.

Dinah stopped and turned back around. “Yeah, Barbara?”

“I just wanted to tell you good night,” the redhead said, smiling at the girl.

Relieved, Dinah said, “Oh, night.” As she turned to leave again, it occurred to her to ask, “Would you like me to close the door? You know, so the TV won’t be too loud?” She was blushing again.

Barbara smiled again, ignoring the girl’s blush. “That would be great, Dinah. Thank you.”

As the door shut, Helena burst into a fit of giggles. “Oh man, did you see her face? She was so embarrassed!”

Leaning back against the bed again, Barbara said, “Hel, I don’t know what you’re laughing at. You know we’re going to have to talk to her at some point about…us.”

“Aww Barbara,” Helena whined, “why? This is so much more fun. She acted like she just got caught watching a porn flick.” She laughed again. “We’re not even doing anything for cryin’ out loud.” She fell silent for a minute until another thought struck her. “God, could you imagine if she’d walked in on us doing more than sitting next to each other? What if we’d been kissing, or, what if we’d been naked? She’d have died on the spot!”

“Helena, this isn’t funny,” Barbara said. “And, I hardly think we would have been kissing, much less naked, with the door wide open and a house full of teenagers.” Then, remembering the blush on the girls’ cheeks, she started giggling, too. Catching a breath, she finally said, “Okay, maybe it is a little funny, but still…we’re going to have to talk to her about this change in our situation.”

Calming down, Helena finally stopped giggling. “Okay, Red. But first, can we decide exactly what this ‘situation’ is?” Growing serious, she continued. “I’d kind of like to know where this is headed, too.”

Barbara cringed. “Do we have to talk about this right now, Hel?” Barbara asked. After the melancholy mood she’d been in earlier, this was the last conversation she wanted to have tonight.

“I’d kinda like to, yeah. Helena answered. “Look, I know you don’t like to talk about your feelings. But I think that, under the circumstances, we should talk about this.” She turned around so she could see Barbara better. “I mean, we’re both puttin’ a lot on the line, here. I’d like to know where we’re headed.”

Barbara pinched the bridge of her nose. Making another attempt at staving off this conversation, she said, “Can’t we just enjoy the night and finish the movie? Can we talk about this tomorrow?”

Helena waved a hand in the air, “Sure,” she said curtly, determined not to push, but wanting to, “whatever you want, Red.”

Getting frustrated, Barbara rolled her eyes toward the ceiling. “Don’t get mad Hel, please. It’s just that…this week…it’s been so wonderful. I can’t remember when I’ve felt so…good. Not in a physical way, but…” she struggled to find the right word, “emotionally.”

Touched by what the redhead was trying to say, but still upset, Helena said quietly, “This isn’t anger, Barbara. It’s pain. You know, it really hurts, that you won’t talk to me.” She didn’t say anything for a moment, attempting to keep her voice even. “All week long, you’ve been acting so different toward me. One minute you seem to be asking me to share something with you; something that two people only share when they really trust and care about each other. The next, you shut down. It looks to me like you don’t trust me. How do you think that makes me feel?”

Barbara bit her lower lip. It hurt her to think that she was hurting Helena. She just couldn’t bring herself to talk about what was bothering her right now. Finally, able to speak without losing her temper, she said in an almost whisper, “I do trust you.” She reached over and brushed a stray hair from Helena’s cheek. “You know I do.”

Helena jerked her head away from the touch, instantly sorry when she saw the hurt look in Barbara’s eyes at the gesture. “No, you trust me with your body. You don’t trust me with ‘you’. There’s more to trust than just…sex, Barbara.” She shook her head sadly, looking down at the bed. “Do you really think I’d hurt you? Do you really think I could?”

Carefully, the redhead said, “Not on purpose, no.”

Eyes flashing, Helena’s head snapped back up to look at Barbara when she heard that. “What does that mean?”

“It means,” Barbara huffed, “that I haven’t got the best track record, and neither do you.”

Helena was working hard to keep her feral side at bay. “Oh, so because everyone else has screwed you over, I will too? Is that what you think?”

“That’s not what I said, Helena,” Barbara said through gritted teeth.

“No, but you implied it.”

Barbara had had enough. Shaking her head, she said, “You know, I really don’t want to talk about this tonight.”

“Hey, you brought it up. You were the one that said we needed to talk to Dinah and explain things to her,” Helena replied. “I just thought maybe we should be on the same page about just exactly what ‘this’ is.”

Barbara agreed. “Yes, but you’re twisting my words.”

“I’m not twisting anything, Barbara. You said we both have bad track records. You’re the one assuming that this won’t work out, not me.” She took a deep breath to calm down, but it wasn’t working. “Just because those guys couldn’t handle the whole paraplegic thing…” Suddenly, something snapped into place in her mind. “Wait a minute. That’s what this is about, isn’t it? That damn chair?”

“I told you…I don’t…”

“Yeah, yeah, I know.” Helena said sarcastically. “You don’t want to talk about it. Well, guess what? This may come as a surprise to you, but you don’t always get to decide when we talk about things. Not anymore. And I’m not running away just because I’m upset anymore, either. This is too important. And sometimes, things just need to be said whether we want to hear them or not.”

That did it. Barbara was pissed. Still keeping her voice down, she hissed out, “Fine. You want to know what’s wrong? What’s been bothering me all day? I’ll tell you.” She pushed herself up a little higher against the headboard.

“No matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to figure out why anyone would want to be with me. Yesterday, when Dinah and Gabby needed me, I couldn’t do anything. I was useless…more than useless. I couldn’t get out and help look for them. I couldn’t even get on a goddamned computer and help! Do you have any idea how that made me feel? Do you know what it feels like to be useless, Helena?”

Helena knew it was something like that and her heart ached for the redhead. She’d heard it in Barbara’s voice earlier at the lodge. Finally realizing what the problem was, she calmed down considerably. She swallowed hard, looked Barbara in the eye and said, “Probably the same way I felt when I watched my mother being murdered right in front of me. I had two good legs, Barbara, and I couldn’t do a thing. I couldn’t do anything but sit there and beg her to wake up.”

Regret hit Barbara like a two ton brick. Of course Helena knew. Whether you’re paralyzed by fear, or by a bullet, the results are the same. Helena had watched her mother stabbed to death and bleed out right in front of her. And here Barbara was, feeling sorry for herself. God, could she be a bigger selfish bitch? “Hel,” she said softly, reaching a hand out to caress the brunette’s cheek, “I’m sorry. I guess you do know.”

Smiling sadly, Helena covered Barbara’s hand with her own and leaned into the caress. “It’s okay. It was a long time ago.” She pulled Barbara toward her and kissed her. “I think I understand now, what the problem is,” she said, easing the redhead back into the headboard and crawling over to rest with her head on Barbara’s stomach.

“I’ve been around from the beginning, Barbara,” Helena said slowly, making sure Barbara heard every word and knew she meant them. “I know exactly what I’m in for. There’s nothing about you that can surprise me.”

“Hel,” Barbara whispered, shaking her head, “why do you want to be with me? Why not someone closer to your own age? Why not someone…” frustrated, she gave up.

“Someone, what? Someone with two working legs? Someone who doesn’t have scars all over their body? Someone who’s not damaged?” Helena asked, raising her head and moving up until her face was only inches from the other woman’s. “Barbara, for someone who’s so smart, sometimes you have no idea what’s going on.” She slid down and pulled up the redheads t-shirt, tracing the old scars from bullet wounds and surgeries lightly with her hand.

“Hel,” Barbara said, “stop. Please don’t do this.” The scars, old as they were, still felt tender to the touch. Or, she was just sensitive about them, embarrassed, even. Barbara wasn’t sure. What she did know, was that she hated for anyone to look at them.

“Do what, Barbara? Touch your scars? Tell you that these don’t matter to me? That your legs don’t matter to me?” She looked her right in the eye. “Barbara, I have loved you since the day we met. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t think you were the most gorgeous woman I’ve ever known.” She bent down and placed a light kiss to one of the scars on Barbara’s belly. “This is a part of you. It’s what helped to make you who you are today.” She kissed the next scar. “Please don’t think that these scars would ever turn me away, or cause me to think you’re not beautiful. They’re a part of you. How could I not love them?” Then, tracing her tongue from one scar to the next, she continued. “There is nothing in this world that could tear me away from you. We’re tied together forever.”

Barbara reached down and ran her hand through Helena’s hair. “Oh Hel, please…” she heard herself say, begging the brunette to stop. Her words were too much. Barbara was fighting to keep control of her emotions, but it was no use. With every word Helena spoke, her resolve melted. She wanted the brunette so badly, and yet, she was so afraid.

Still placing light kisses on the redhead’s stomach, she whispered, “Barbara, I swear to you, I will never leave you. This is not some weird, ‘fuck the cripple’ fantasy for me, where we have sex and then I leave. You’re not some one night stand, or a quick affair. Come to think of it, maybe that’s why I have the reputation I have. I only slept with other people because I needed some tension release. Maybe…I was just waiting for you.” She paused to catch her breath and make sure Barbara was listening, before saying, “I know exactly what I’m in for. I was there, remember? When you first went to therapy, and all the consultations with those boring doctors,” she looked up and smirked. “All the embarrassing ‘sex re-education’ talks? I’ve always known what a relationship between us would entail. And I’ve never given up hope.” She smiled and leaned in to kiss the redhead again. This time, she didn’t end it as quickly. She wanted Barbara to know she meant everything she was saying. She kissed her as slowly and passionately as she could, pouring her soul into it.

Barbara, tears streaming down her cheeks, kissed Helena back. She never would have guessed that Helena could speak so eloquently. Everything she’d ever dreamed, Helena had just said. There had been so many long, lonely nights. Even before the shooting she’d never had a meaningful relationship that lasted. But after the shooting, she never believed it could be possible for anyone to love her. Not the way she needed them to.

The few guys she’d dated had started out telling her they didn’t mind that she was paralyzed. But eventually, when the reality of her situation hit, they all left. None of them really wanted to get too involved once they realized that she was in that chair forever. They all had good reasons for why it wasn’t working out. Some of them had even been legitimate. Barbara herself had to admit that she ran a few of them off on purpose, not wanting to get too attached.

Now, here she was kissing Helena, the most beautiful woman she’d ever met. How could this be? How could Helena possibly love her back? Not only that, but Helena had just said, she’d always had hope? So Helena had always loved her? God, where was she while all this was going on? Oh, that’s right. Dating Wade.

“Barbara,” Helena whispered. “where are you?” She reached up and wiped away a tear.

Barbara sniffed and smiled at the brunette. “I’m right here, Hel. I was just wondering how I got so lucky?”

“I’ve always considered myself the lucky one, Red,” Helena answered. She leaned in and kissed the redhead again. “Please don’t be afraid, Barbara. I know you are, it’s scary for me too, but…I love you so much…I can’t even begin to tell you.”

Overwhelmed by Helena’s words and kisses, Barbara finally dared to believe. Kicking fear to the curb, she said huskily, “Then show me, Hel. Show me how much you love me. Please. I need you.”

As Barbara’s words sunk in, Helena reached up and kissed her again, more passionately than before. Long moments passed while they let mouths and tongues speak what was in their hearts. Finally coming up for air, Helena said, “Barbara, I know there are things you need to do before you uh…get ready for bed. If you want…I can help?”

Barbara, still holding on to the back of the brunettes head, pulled her in for another brief kiss before answering. In the year after she first came home from the hospital, Helena had been the one who helped her with everything. She’d had to struggle with even the simplest tasks back then, from tying her shoes to going to the bathroom or taking a shower. Helena, who was there when she first woke up in the hospital, had been the one who helped her until she was able to do it herself. “You still remember, Hel? That was a long time ago.”

“Of course I still remember, Red. And it wasn’t that long ago, I remember everything,” Helena replied softly, moving so that Barbara could transfer to her chair before moving into the bathroom. “I told you, I know what this entails. I’m willing to do whatever you need to make this easier for you.”

“Helena, just knowing that you understand what I need…does help me. No one I’ve dated since…” Barbara swallowed hard to keep her tears at bay, “the shooting, has ever understood my needs. They tried. But in the end, they all wanted to take care of me or fix me.” She stopped at the entrance to the bathroom and looked Helena in the eyes. “Thank you for not treating me like I’m broken.” Then she turned and went into the bathroom, shutting the door behind her.

She emerged fifteen minutes later, ready for bed. She was surprised then, to find that while she’d been going through her nightly ritual, Helena had been a busy girl. As she rolled toward the bed, she noted that the TV had been turned off and the DVD returned to its case. The empty wine bottle had been replaced with a full one, and there were lit candles all over the room, giving it a decidedly romantic glow. Looking toward the bed, she saw Helena, sitting there waiting patiently, the covers turned down and waiting for her.

“Helena, this is beautiful,” Barbara said, as she transferred herself to the bed. “How did you do all this?”

The brunette shrugged casually. “It’s no big deal, Barbara. Something like this is easy when you’re inspired,” she finished.

“Hmm, and what inspired you, Hel?” Barbara asked, her voice returning to its previous husky tone.

“Only you, my love,” Helena said, moving up next to the redhead and catching her in another searing kiss. “There are so many things I want to say to you, Barbara…so many things I want to do with you…” her breathing was beginning to grow ragged and her eyes had already turned to golden slits at the mere thought of what she wanted to do with the redhead, but she kept it all under control. “But tonight…tonight, I want to show you how much I love you.”

Already feeling her desire for Helena growing beyond anything she’d expected, Barbara was barely able to keep control of herself. Seeing Helena’s eyes change color nearly pushed her over the edge. Instead, she grabbed the brunette and pulled her toward her, tangling her hands in the short hair. Kissing the brunette like she’d never kissed anyone in her life, she clung to the younger woman as if her very soul depended on it.

Slowly, Helena eased Barbara down onto the bed, never breaking their kiss. Pushing herself up with one arm, she hovered over the redhead. Never breaking eye contact, nearly drowning in the sea of green, she whispered, “I love you, Barbara Gordon. No matter what happens in our lives, never doubt that I love you with all my heart and soul.”

Barely able to breathe, Barbara whispered back, “I don’t, Hel. I love you, too.”

Helena kissed her again. Then, with her free hand, she eased Barbara’s tank top up and slid down until she was once again kissing her scars. She spent long, sensuous minutes learning every bit of Barbara’s toned stomach. Then, still running her hands over the scars, she eased back up and helped Barbara sit up long enough to remove the top completely.

Finally having full access to the redheads upper body, Helena began running her hands up and down every inch of her torso, causing Barbara to arch up into her. When she did, Helena slid her hands under her back and pulled Barbara up against her and held her there, embracing her. “God Barbara, I just can’t get enough of you. I want to hold you forever and never let go.”

“You don’t have to, Hel,” Barbara whispered, “I’ll always be here, right where I belong.” She kissed the brunette again. “I love you, Helena. Can you ever forgive me for taking so long to get here?”

Helena pulled back and looked seriously at the redhead. “There’s nothing to forgive, Red. I always knew you were worth waiting for.”

Barbara, once again overwhelmed by Helena’s words, smiled and shook her head. “Oh Hel, how could I ever not have seen…?”

“What? That I loved you?” the brunette asked. “That’s easy. You were afraid to believe that anyone could love you. I get that.” She pushed a strand of long red hair back behind Barbara’s ear and kissed her again. “You’ve taught me a lot of things, Barbara. Patience and love, among them.” She stroked the redhead’s cheek and looked into those green eyes. “If you’re willing,” she leaned in and kissed her again, “we have a lifetime to learn to love each other. I know you’re worried about what you might or might not be able to…feel.” She kissed her again, reassuringly. “I won’t push. When, and only when, you’re ready.” And again. “For now, let’s just learn to hold each other as tight as we can.”

Barbara looked into those golden eyes and thanked every God whose name she’d ever heard for the beautiful young woman holding her. She hugged Helena to her as tight as she could. “I love you, Hel. And I’m very willing…to spend the rest of my life learning to love you.” She looked into Helena’s eyes, again. “And thank you…for understanding about the…uh…”

“The feeling in your lower half?” Helena finished for her, “I told you, Red. I get it.” For Helena there was nothing like looking into those green eyes. “We’ll work it out. Together, we can do anything.” A smirk crossed her lips and she added, “Besides, the house is full of teenagers. I don’t think you’d want them to hear us practicing.”

Barbara blushed at the thought. “Too true,” she answered, leaning in and kissing Helena again. “We don’t need to leave that image with them.”

Helena smiled wickedly at the thought. Then, without making it seem like she was helping, she lowered Barbara back down onto the bed. Still holding her, she lay down next to the redhead. “If it’s okay with you, Red…let’s just lay here and hold each other. I wanna fall asleep looking into your eyes every night for the rest of my life.”

Barbara leaned in and kissed her. “That is very, very, okay with me, Hel. I can’t think of a better way to fall asleep.” She pulled the brunette as close as she could. “I love you, Hel.” she whispered again.

“Love you too, Red.”

* * * * *

Helena woke up to the feeling of someone’s hand trailing leisurely up and down her ribcage. Opening her eyes, she found herself looking into Barbara’s hazel green. Smiling lazily, she stretched and leaned over and kissed the redhead slowly. “Hey, Red.” She sighed. “Now this, is what I call a good morning.”

Barbara, who had managed to maneuver onto her side, had her head propped up on one hand and was slowly trailing her hand up and down from the waistband of Helena’s pajama bottoms to her shoulder. “Mmm, I’m glad you like it, Hel.” She said in answer. “I think I could get used to this, myself.”

She looked over at the clock on the nightstand. “It’s ten and I haven’t heard anyone else stirring. You think the girls and their friends are up yet?”

Helena wrinkled her nose. “I hope not. I’d like a little peace and quiet this morning’.

Barbara arched an eyebrow. “And what makes you think they won’t be quiet?

“You have been awake when Dinah gets up in the morning haven’t you? I mean, all she does is talk!” Helena said in answer.

Barbara, who had indeed been awake when the teen in question got up in the morning, simply nodded. “Okay, I know what you mean. Still, why don’t we get up and have some breakfast before they all get downstairs?”

“I guess we can,” Helena said reluctantly. She was feeling kind of comfy right where she was. Closing her eyes, she was about to drift off again, when she suddenly remembered something. “Hey Red, I forgot to tell you something last night.” She said. “I invited your dad up for the weekend.”

Barbara, surprised, could only ask, “You invited my dad…why?”

Helena shrugged. “Well, you know, we’re on vacation. I just thought it would be nice to have a ‘family’ night.”

Barbara gave her ‘the look’. “Oh, I see. So, you didn’t think we were having enough family togetherness without him?”

“Oh come on, Barbara. You don’t spend enough time with him, and you know it,” Helena whined. “Besides, he’s missed you.”

Barbara sighed, knowing that the brunette was right. “I know, Hel. It’s just that…I’d really like to just spend the rest of our vacation right here.” she finished, indicating the bed.

Smirking again, Helena said, “As much as I agree with that sentiment, Red, I think we should probably get up at some point. It would look odd if we spent the rest of our vacation locked up in here. And, you did mention something about breakfast?”

Sighing, Barbara had to agree. “Mmm. I guess you’re right. So, when’s he coming?”

Finally stretching into full wakefulness, Helena answered, “He’ll be here around four.”

Half an hour later, they were both downstairs when Dinah and Gabby came dragging into the kitchen. “Hey girls!” Helena said cheerfully, noticing how tired they were. “Where’s your friends?”

“They’re on their way down,” Dinah answered. “We didn’t go to sleep until after four.”

“Four? What the heck were you doing up there?” Helena asked. “When you stopped by the room it was only around one.”

“We sat up and talked,” Gabby answered, pouring herself a bowl of cereal. “You know, girl stuff.” She finished, as if that should explain everything.

“Mmm,” Helena said in answer. “So I guess everyone kept out of trouble, then?”

Dinah looked over at Helena with her version of ‘the look’. “You know we did, Helena. If we’d been up running around, you’d have heard us.”

“True,” the brunette answered. “Still, I just wanted to make sure there was no sneaking back and forth between the boys and girls rooms.” She waited a beat before finishing the taunt with a straight face, “You know, we don’t want any angry phone calls in a few months.”

Dinah and Gabby were both blushing furiously. “Helena!” the both said in unison.

Barbara, who had been sitting quietly drinking her coffee and doing the crossword puzzle, finally chimed in. “All right, ladies,” she said, pinching the bridge of her nose. Sometimes, Helena was as bad as the teenagers. “Let’s just have a nice morning, shall we? Helena,” she said, pointing in the brunette’s direction, “that’s enough out of you.”

“Geez,” Helena said, affecting her best wounded look, “I was just jokin’ with ‘em.”

Barbara rolled her eyes at Helena and shook her head. “Hel, I swear, sometimes you’re worse than a kid.”

“I know,” the brunette said, smiling, “but it’s just so much fun teasing them.”

In answer, Dinah and Gabby both stuck their tongues out at Helena, who ignored them in deference to Barbara. “So Red,” Helena said, changing the subject, “What did you have in mind for today?”

“Well,” Barbara said, looking back over at Helena, “I was thinking of a short workout and then a trip into town. I haven’t been shopping yet.”

Helena almost fell out of her chair. “You…you want to go shopping?”

“Sure, I know I don’t do it often, but hey, I’m on vacation,” Barbara said, knowing she’d caught Helena off guard. “You wanna come?”

“Sure,” Helena answered, still slightly dumbstruck. “Just let me finish up here and I’ll be ready.” She hurriedly finished her Poptarts and milk. Washing her glass out, she was ready in a matter of minutes.

* * * * *

“I swear Alfred, that’s one of the best meals I’ve had in a long time,” Jim Gordon said, as he pushed his plate back.

“Thank you, Commissioner,” Alfred said, nodding his head in satisfaction. “I must say, I was quite surprised when Miss Helena informed me you’d be joining us this weekend. It’s been quite a while since we had the pleasure of your company.”

“Well, any chance I get to spend time with Barbara I’ll take,” he said in answer. “I know how busy she is.” He looked over at his daughter with a smile.

There was nothing recriminating in his tone, but Barbara seemed to be cringing anyway. “Dad,” Barbara felt the need to apologize, “I’m sorry, it’s just been really hectic, lately.” That’s it, Barbara, she thought to herself, whine a little bit?

He reached over and patted her hand. “It’s okay Honey, I know,” he said. And he did. Having been the police commissioner for many years, he still stayed well informed, even when his daughter tried not to tell him things.

“So,” Helena chimed in, “why don’t we all move in to the great room. I’ve got a fire going, and we can finish our wine in there?”

“Fine idea, Helena,” Jim Gordon said, standing up. He waited for Barbara and followed her into the great room. When they got there, he sat down in the brown leather chair, facing the couch.

Barbara transferred herself onto the couch and sipped her wine, not sure where to start. It had been a while since she’d talked to her father, and she felt bad about that, she really did. But, the past few months she’d been such a mess, she didn’t want to bother him with her problems. Before she could say anything however, he began the conversation.

“So Honey, how have things been going?” he asked. He knew Barbara well enough to know she wasn’t going to start this. “I haven’t heard from you much the past few months.”

Barbara shook her head. “Oh, they’ve been okay,” she answered.

Well aware of his daughters’ ability to avoid uncomfortable situations, he pressed on. “Are you sure? I tried to get hold of you at school, and they said you’d taken the rest of the year off?”

She cringed. “I’m all right, Dad. I just needed some time, you know…after.”

He nodded knowingly. “Ah. I understand. If you remember, I took some time off after your aunt passed. To be honest with you though, I wasn’t under the impression that you felt that way about Wade?”

Barbara pinched the bridge of her nose. She was going to kill Helena later, she was sure of it. Looking at her father again, she said, “Dad, I…”

He interrupted her, not wanting to hear any of her lame excuses. He’d already heard quite enough. “I know you hate talking about these things. But sometimes, you just need to, Honey.”

She rolled her eyes and huffed, blowing her bangs. “I know. I’ve certainly been reminded of that numerous times this week.”

He laughed. “Yes, Helena can be persistent.” He remembered how hard sixteen year old Helena had pushed to get Barbara to do something besides sit in her room and brood. She never gave up on Barbara, and he was eternally grateful to her for that.

Barbara looked at him in surprise. “How did you know it was Helena?”

“No one else can get to you like her,” he said in answer.

Just then, Helena came into the room. She’d actually been waiting outside the door for the last few minutes, allowing Barbara and her father time to talk before she came in. “Hey Red, Mr. Gordon,” She said, flourishing a bottle, “More wine?”

“Thank you, Helena. I have to say, this is certainly a fine wine.”

Helena beamed. “Thanks, Mr. G. I picked it out myself.”

“Well, I believe you did a fine job,” he said. “I also wanted to congratulate you on the cabin. I can’t tell you how excited I was when you told me you were having it built.”

Barbara turned to look at Helena, who had taken a seat on the other end of the couch. Confused, she said, “Hel?”

Helena had the grace to blush at Barbara’s questioning look. “Oops?” She said, wincing. “I guess I forgot to mention that.”

“Forgot to mention?” Barbara asked indignantly. “How did you…?” Realization suddenly dawned. “The Trust Account?”

Helena rolled her eyes. “You don’t have to make a big deal out of it, Red,” Helena said, still blushing slightly. “I’ve just been doing a lot of thinking lately, that’s all. I mean, what’s the point of having all that money just sitting around doing nothing? So, I had this place built.”

Incredulous, still not quite able to wrap her mind around the idea, Barbara asked, “So…this is your home?”

“Well, mine and…yours and D’s. It’s for the family,” Helena answered. “I wanted a place for all of us. You know, someplace we could get away to.”

“Hel, that is so sweet,” Barbara said quietly, still slightly surprised by the revelation. “I can’t believe you didn’t tell me.”

Helena shrugged. “Well, I wanted it to be a surprise. Kind of a gift, if you know what I mean.”

“A gift?”

Helena really didn’t want to discuss this right now. She’d been waiting for the right time to tell Barbara about the house. Apparently, she’d forgotten to tell Barbara’s dad that it was supposed to be a secret. Trying to be nonchalant, she said, “I’ve been taking care of a few things lately, Red. That’s all.”

Barbara, who for the life of her couldn’t understand why Helena didn’t see this as a big deal, said, “A few things? Hel, you had a house built! That’s not a ‘few things’. That’s kinda something big.”

Seeing where this conversation was headed, Jim Gordon cleared his throat. Having spilled the proverbial beans, he felt the least he could do was dig Helena out of her hole. “Well I for one, think this calls for a toast! Helena,” he said, looking over at the brunette, “Congratulations on becoming a homeowner.” He reached over and tapped his glass with Helena’s and then Barbara’s.

“Thanks, Mr. G.”

“Hi guys!” Dinah said, bouncing into the room at that moment. “Alfred says dessert’s ready and you should all come on down, since the movie’s about to start, and all.”

Helena, never so relieved as at that moment, said, “On our way, Kid.” She stood up and waited as Barbara transferred back to her chair. “I’ll be right there,” she said quietly, leaning in. “Just let me lock up.”

Barbara smiled, brushing her hand across the brunette’s cheek lightly. “Okay. But hurry up.”

Helena stroked the red hair. “Will do, Red.” She stood up and watched as Barbara followed her father downstairs to the game room. Sighing contently, she forced herself into motion, checking all the windows and doors, and setting the alarms. Ten minutes later, she joined everyone downstairs for cake and ice cream and a movie. Tonight’s offering: The Wedding Singer, with Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore. Helena rolled her eyes. At least it wasn’t Twilight, again.

* * * * *

Well into the second movie, Dinah and Gabby, draped over chairs, were both starting to doze off. Helena had somehow managed to take up the entire length of the couch, with her head lying in Barbara’s lap, and Alfred and Jim were shooting pool in the corner and drinking scotch.

Feeling quite relaxed and comfortable, Helena glanced over and noticed the two girls falling asleep. Neither one had gotten much sleep the night before, despite what they’d said. And, they’d spent the day in town shopping with Helena and Barbara. They were exhausted. Reaching down, she picked up a candy wrapper and threw it at Dinah, hitting her square on the nose. “Hey Kid,” she called, “why don’t you two go on to bed? Your snoring’s interrupting the movie.”

Startled, Dinah sat up, almost dumping the bowl of popcorn in her lap onto the floor. “Helena! Geez, scare people much?”

Helena shrugged and grinned at the teen. “I just didn’t want you to get a kink in your neck. Man, what an ingrate.”

Dinah shook her head, but remained silent, preferring to huff her indignation.

Barbara, who was busy with one hand stroking Helena’s stomach, and the other combing through her short hair, rolled her eyes at the two. She was so used to their antics by now it rarely bothered her. “I swear, you two,” she said, in mock frustration.

Helena looked up at her, smiling sweetly. “You know you love it, Red.”

Barbara sighed contently. “I wouldn’t have it any other way,” she said, glancing first at Helena and then looking over at Dinah, who was busy attempting to right her popcorn. “When the movie’s over, Dinah, you two should probably try to get some sleep. You are still planning on spending the day at the lodge tomorrow, right?”

“Yeah,” Dinah answered, her attention still on getting comfortable. “They’re having an ‘end-of-break’ dance tomorrow night. Everyone’s going.”

“Cool,” Barbara said in answer, anxious for the movie to end so she and Helena could have some alone time.

Twenty minutes later, final credits rolling, Dinah and Gabby got up out of their chairs and started gathering their things. As she walked by the couch and saw Helena lying there with Barbara, two things happened. First, Dinah blushed to the roots of her hair. Second, she opened her mouth, and said, “Geez, why don’t you two get a room?”

As soon as the words fell out of her mouth, she knew she shouldn’t have said them. Blushing even more when she saw the look on both women’s faces, she tried to recover, but failed miserably. “Uh…I…I didn’t mean anything by that. What I meant to say is…goodnight?” She wanted to melt through the floor. Why oh why, couldn’t her Meta power be teleportation? That way she could just disappear to somewhere else?

At Dinah’s words, Barbara froze, her hand still on Helena’s stomach, mid stroke. Struck momentarily speechless, she finally managed to croak out, “Good night, Dinah, Gabby.” before closing her eyes. Then slowly, very slowly, she opened them and looked over toward her father, who was still over by the pool table with Alfred. Afraid to see the look on his face, she breathed a sigh of relief when he appeared not to have noticed the conversation at all.

Helena, all too aware that the motion on her stomach had stopped, looked up at Barbara. “Red?”

Barbara looked down guiltily at the brunette. “Hel, I’m uh…I’m gonna head on up to bed. I’m kinda tired.”

“Come on, Barbara,” Helena said, understanding that the redhead was embarrassed but not wanting Dinah’s stupid comment to ruin the evening. “Stay?”

Barbara shook her head. Pushing on Helena to get her to move so that she could transfer to her chair, she said quietly, “Just…come up whenever you’re ready.” Finally in her chair, she headed for the door. She stopped long enough to say, “Dad, Alfred, I’ll…see you both tomorrow.” Then, taking the tattered remains of her dignity, she headed upstairs to hide in her room.

“Well,” Helena said, standing up and walking over to the pool table, “I guess it’s just the three of us, guys.” She was doing her damndest to pretend nothing had just happened and failing miserably.

Barbara’s father gave her his own version of ‘the look’. “If I were you,” he said, “I think I’d head on up there and make sure she’s okay, Helena. I think Dinah embarrassed her.”

Helena sighed. “I think you’re right, Mr. G. Maybe I should.”

As she turned to leave, he caught her arm. “Just so she knows, Helena. She doesn’t need to worry about me.” He smiled at her then, releasing her arm. “Go on, now. She needs you.”

Helena nodded and smiled at the elder Gordon in gratitude, then made her way upstairs to Barbara’s bedroom.

The door to Barbara’s room was closed when she got there, so she knocked first. When she got no answer, she opened the door carefully, not wanting to upset Barbara anymore than she already was. “Hey, Red?” she said, peering into the room. Not seeing Barbara in the room, she came in and shut the door behind her. She noticed the bathroom door was closed, so she went ahead and changed into her pajama bottoms and tank top.

Before crawling into bed, she flipped the radio on to the eighties station Barbara liked so much. Keeping the volume low, she returned to the bed and crawled in, waiting for the redhead.

Barbara took longer than usual getting ready, needing the extra time to process what had just happened. When she finally opened the door, she was surprised that Helena was already there. “Hel, I thought you’d stay up a little longer. Maybe shoot a few games with Dad and Alfred.”

“Nah,” she said, shaking her head. “I was going to, but your dad suggested I come on up. He thought you might be embarrassed.”

Caught off guard, she was sure her father hadn’t heard the comment, Barbara couldn’t help herself. “Oh my God,” she said. “Dad heard her? Helena, did you hear what she said? What are we doing? Oh my God, oh my God…”

Helena, suddenly worried that Barbara was repeating herself and rambling incoherently, got up and moved over to Barbara. Laying a hand on her arm to calm her down, she said “Whoa, Barbara. What’s wrong? Why are you freaking out? She’s just a kid. They say things. It didn’t mean anything.”

Exasperated, as though Helena couldn’t figure out the obvious, Barbara said, “Helena, don’t you see? We were practically having sex in front of two of my students, and my father, and Alfred!” She was beginning to panic.

“Barbara, calm down. We weren’t doing anything.” Helena was feeling a bit confused. She wrapped her arms around the redhead. “All we were doing was sitting there watching TV.”

Barbara rolled her eyes. Pushing Helena back so she could see her face, she said, “Practically on top of each other…on the couch…and holding hands…and rubbing each others legs…and my hand was on your stomach, making circles…” Barbara could barely make herself finish the sentence she was so embarrassed. “Under your shirt.”

Helena smirked, remembering how good that felt. “So. At best, it was a little suggestive. And, no offense, Barbara, but if that’s what you call having sex, I think you’re going to need a refresher course.” She wiggled her brows suggestively at this.

Refusing to take the bait, Barbara’s brows drew together. “Helena, this is not good. I’m a teacher. I can’t go around making out with people in front of my students. Or my father and Alfred, either. What kind of example does that set?”

Still not taking the situation all that seriously, Helena replied, “Uh…that you’re someone who has a normal, adult life? And that it’s okay to be with someone you care about as long as you show a little restraint?” Helena was struggling to find a good answer. “Besides, I didn’t realize there was anything really going on. Just us being…you know…friendly with each other.”

“Restraint? Is that what you call what we were doing? And just being friendly? Come on, Helena. Even you know that was more than just being friendly. At least it was intended to be.” Barbara rolled her eyes at her own words. “Aside from that, I don’t think Gabby’s parents expected their daughter to be exposed to two women making out in front of her.”

“For God’s sake, Barbara, they’re teenagers. They know what’s up. Besides, Gabby’s a lesbian. I’m sure she knows all about this stuff.”

Flabbergasted, Barbara stammered, “A…a lesbian? Gabby?”

“Yeah. You didn’t know?”

“No. How could I have known that?”

Finding it odd that she had to explain the obvious, Helena answered. “Barbara, you’re a teacher for crying out loud. They’re in high school…where you work. The rumor mill runs full-time there. How could you not know?”

“Well, obviously I haven’t been paying attention. Is Dinah her…girlfriend?”

Helena shrugged. “No idea. She’s never told me if she is. I thought she liked that guy, Matt?”

Barbara nodded. “I did too.” Now completely lost, Barbara felt like she was drowning in confusion. Closing her eyes and pinching the bridge of her nose, Barbara felt a headache coming on. Shaking her head, she looked at Helena. “So now what am I supposed to do?”

“About what?” Helena asked, not sure what Barbara was asking her.

“I don’t know. About Dinah, and my father…” she planted her head against Helena’s waist, who was still standing in front of her. “God Hel, how am I gonna face him?”

“No offense, Red, but I don’t think you need to worry about your dad. And as far as Dinah’s concerned, well…she seemed pretty embarrassed herself. So I think if we just talk to her like we planned, everything should be okay.” She unwrapped Barbara from her waist and pushed her back so that she could see her better. “Now, what do you say to us, getting into bed and cuddling? I’ve already got your favorite station on, and I’ll do my best to make you feel better about the whole thing.”

Barbara quirked an eyebrow in question. “And just how are you planning to do that?”

Helena shrugged, and looked at her, smirking. “I have my ways.”

Wheeling over to the bed and transferring herself, Barbara said, “I’m sure you do,” as Helena turned down the lights and climbed in next to her.

Five minutes later, Helena found herself nearly being choked by Barbara’s death grip on her waist. Trying to loosen the redhead’s hold enough to drag in a breath, she finally said, “Barbara, why are you so tense?” Rubbing her hand over Barbara’s back, she noticed the tight muscles. “Geez, Red,” she said, “your muscles are so tight you might break. Here, why don’t you roll over a bit and I’ll give you a massage.”

“Hel,” Barbara began to whine, “I don’t think that’s a good idea with Dad in the house.”

Confused, Helena looked down at her and asked, “Why not? I’m just going to massage your back and shoulders. We’ve done this thousands of times, Red. It’s no big deal.”

Sighing at the thought and really wanting the massage, Barbara tentatively agreed. Giving Helena the ‘I’m not playing around’ look, she said, “Okay, but no funny business tonight, Hel. This is strictly for therapeutic reasons.”

Smiling in agreement, Helena simply said, “You have my word.” Then, surreptitiously helping Barbara maneuver onto her stomach, Helena began kneading the taut muscles in the redhead’s shoulders. They really were tight as steel cords. And Helena knew from experience that if they weren’t loosened up, Barbara would have one hell of a back and shoulder ache in the morning. She remembered all too well all the mornings she used to wake up to Barbara crying in agony over muscle spasms in her back. Since she’d taken over the massages, that hadn’t happened very often.

Lost in the memory for a moment, she finally looked down and noticed that Barbara was relaxing under the gentle, yet deep pressure she was applying. “Feeling a little better, Red?” she whispered.

“Mmm, yeah,” Barbara answered back. As she lay there with her eyes closed, relaxing under Helena’s expert touch, she remembered their conversation from earlier. “Hel, would you mind if I ask you something?”

“No, go ahead.”

“Well, I was wondering…why didn’t you tell me about the house?” She hadn’t wanted to ask, preferring to wait until the younger woman chose to tell her, but now just seemed like a good time.

Helena drew a deep breath before answering. “Well, I guess I was just waiting for the right time. I don’t know when that was gonna be, but I did plan on telling you. I swear I did.”

“It’s okay, that you didn’t. I’m just surprised that you actually used money from the Trust Account,” Barbara said cautiously. “I thought you hated the very idea of touching it?”

Helena nodded, even though the redhead couldn’t see the gesture from her current position. “I did. I still do. But, like I said…I’ve been doing some thinking. And, over the last few months maybe I’ve grown up a bit, too.” Helena answered. She wanted to take her time and explain this right, so Barbara would understand that what she’d done had been well thought out.

“See, I started thinking…What am I gonna do with the rest of my life? You know,” she said, “after the whole ‘Harley Quinn thing?’ I mean, I can’t go out and fight crime every night for the rest of my life. It would be crazy to think that I could physically do this forever, right?”

Not sure where Helena was going with her explanation, Barbara simply murmured, “Okay…”

“Well, I started thinking that I might want someplace to settle down and call home some day. You know, my own place. And not over the bar, either. I don’t want to tend bar forever, you know.”

“Well that’s a relief,” Barbara answered, perhaps a bit too enthusiastically. She still didn’t understand why Helena had chosen to work as a bartender. She had, however, decided to stop questioning her about it in hopes that it was just a passing thing.

Choosing to ignore the sarcastic reply, Helena continued. “Anyway, I started looking around for a place to buy, but never seemed to find anything that interested me. So, I called up my lawyer…well, His lawyer, and he sat down with me and went over all kinds of financial things with me.” Stopping the conversation for a moment, she spent some time working through an especially difficult knot in Barbara’s back.

Startled, and jerking from the pressure Helena was putting on her back, Barbara managed to say, “You went to your father’s lawyer?”

“Yeah, I know it sounds weird, coming from me. But, after everything that’s happened this past year, I thought it might be a good idea to put my own affairs in order, so to speak.”

Barbara turned her head to look back at her companion. “Helena, what are you saying, exactly?”

“What I’m trying to say, Barbara, is that this house, and everything I have, is yours if anything ever happens to me.” She stopped the massage, and leaned down close to Barbara’s ear, saying, “I built this place for you, Barbara. You and Dinah and Alfred. So we’d all have a place to go to relax and rest whenever we needed it.”

Barbara struggled to turn herself over onto her back, which wasn’t easy with Helena straddling her. Helena realized what she wanted and helped her, never wavering, when Barbara looked deep into her blue eyes. “Hel, you built this place for us? When did you have time? How?”

Helena shrugged, a little embarrassed. “It wasn’t that hard, Red. It isn’t like we’ve been that busy the last few months. And you’ve been sort of…well…preoccupied, would be a good way to describe it, I guess.”

Barbara had the good grace to blush and nod her head in agreement with the mild rebuke. “I guess you’re right. I have been sort of self absorbed these last few months.”

“Well, anyway, I remembered Mom bringing me up here when I was a kid. I always liked it here, and it’s not too far from New Gotham. So I had my lawyer look around until we found the perfect spot. I bought it and had this place built.” She leaned over and grabbed a bottle of water off the night stand. Taking a drink, she went on. I came up here on the weekends, checking on the construction and making sure everything was going according to schedule.”

“So that’s why everything seemed to fit our personalities so well,” Barbara said in wonder. “You actually picked out all the decorations and everything yourself?”

“Well, I had help,” Helena admitted. “There were a few weekends when you thought Dinah was staying at Gabby’s. They actually came up here with me. We stayed at the lodge and decorated while we were here. Alfred even came up a few times through the week, setting up the kitchen and helping with everything.”

“Hel,” Barbara said quietly, still in shock at the brunettes’ actions, “I can’t believe you did all this. It’s beautiful, all of it. Just perfect.”

Helena blushed at the praise. “I did it for you, Red. Including the ramp to the basement and the elevator to the upstairs.” She suddenly moved off of Barbara, and went over to her bag. She had given Mr. Gordon her room for the weekend, so she’d moved some of her things into Barbara’s room. Reaching into the bag, she came out with a legal size manila envelope.

Watching the brunette in fascination, Barbara watched as she pulled the envelope out of her bag. “What’s that, Hel?”

Crawling back in beside Barbara, Helena sat up and opened the envelope. Pulling out a bundle of papers, she silently handed them over to the redhead and let her look them over.

Taking the papers from Helena, Barbara spent a few minutes reading them. A few silent minutes passed before she put them back in the envelope. Then, looking at Helena with a stunned expression, she said, “Hel…this is your will? You’re leaving the house and everything to me?”

Looking at Barbara with an expression of embarrassment and love, she simply said, “Well yeah, Red. You’re my family. And…if anything happens to me, I want you to have someplace to come where you can get away from New Gotham and relax. I don’t want you to stay there in the Clocktower and be depressed like that ever again.”

Overwhelmed with love for the younger woman, Barbara reached over and pulled her down to her. “Oh Hel, I love you so much. I can’t believe you’d do all this for me.” Correcting herself, she said, “For us.” She kissed the brunette tenderly. “You are so sweet, Hel.”

Blushing again, Helena kissed her back, and said, “Geez Red, it’s not that big a deal.”

“But Hel, it is,” Barbara answered, surprised by Helena’s nonchalance. “You’ve built your own home. It is a big deal.”

Please to see how happy she’d made Barbara, Helena just smiled and decided to go with it. She leaned in and kissed the redhead again. Teasingly, she said, “Hey Red, you remember when I said I could get you to relax?” At Barbara’s nod, she finished, “Well, how did I do?”

Closing her eyes, and shaking her head at Helena’s teasing, Barbara smiled and kissed her again. “You did just fine, Hel. Just fine.”

“Good,” the brunette said, setting the envelope on the night stand and snuggling down under the covers against Barbara. “Let’s go to bed. I think there’s a conversation or two we’re going to be having tomorrow.”

“Thanks for reminding me,” Barbara said sarcastically.

“Anytime I can be of service, Red,” Helena answered, leaning in and kissing Barbara slowly. “I’ll always do anything for you.” She snuggled back down, throwing an arm across Barbara’s waist. “I love you, Barbara,” she mumbled as she fell asleep.

“Love you, too, Hel,” Barbara said in answer, unwilling to fall asleep just yet. She was enjoying just holding the brunette in her arms. Eventually, the steady sound of Helena’s breathing, which sounded suspiciously like a purr, and the low music in the background, lulled her to sleep.

* * * * *

Surprisingly, Helena woke up before Barbara. Extricating herself from the confines of the redheads arm thrown over her, she slid out of bed and went into the bathroom to change. When she left the room, Barbara was still asleep.

She made her way to the kitchen only to find everyone else already up and enjoying breakfast together. Taking a deep breath, she plunged right into the middle of the room and headed for the cabinet. As she reached for a package of Poptarts, she noticed that Dinah and Gabby were both studiously ignoring her. Barbara’s father, however, said brightly, “Good morning, Helena. You’re up early.”

“Well, don’t want to waste a perfectly good day,” she said in answer. Plopping down in a chair, she said, “Morning everybody. Did I miss anything?”

“Not a thing,” Mr. Gordon said in answer.

“So,” Helena said, glancing over at the two teenage girls. “What have you two got going on today?”

Blushing furiously, Dinah managed to say, “We were gonna work out for a while.”

“Cool, can I join you?” Helena asked. “I need to talk to you about something, anyway. It’d be the perfect time.”

Surprised by Helena’s enthusiasm, and wary at the same time, Dinah could only answer with a, “Yeah, sure.”

“All right, as soon as we’re done, I’ll meet you in the work out room,” Helena said.

“Excuse me, Helena,” Mr. Gordon said, “Before you do that, would I be able to have a few minutes of your time?”

Suddenly worried about what Barbara’s father could want to talk to her about, she said, “Uh…yeah, sure.”

“Would you like to talk in the other room?” he asked, nodding toward the great room. “When you’re finished with breakfast, of course.”

“That’s the glory of these things,” Helena said, waving the frosted pastry in the air, “you can eat them anywhere. Lead the way, Mr. G.” She got up and followed him into the other room.

“Why don’t you have a seat,” Mr. Gordon said, settling into the leather chair he’d occupied the previous evening.

Helena sat down on the couch and waited, finishing up her Poptart. She had an idea what was coming.

“Helena,” he began, “first of all, relax. I’m not going to yell at you, or give you the third degree.” He smiled kindly at her in understanding of her discomfort. “I just wanted to ask you if Barbara’s all right?”

Relaxing visibly, Helena said, “Oh…yeah, she’s fine. Just a bit embarrassed, I think.”

“Mmm,” he nodded sagely. “That sounds like her. Scared to death to let anyone know she has feelings.” He sighed deeply before continuing. “So, I hope you won’t mind if I ask you a few questions?”

Helena shook her head. “Not at all, Sir. Truth is, I’d be surprised if you didn’t.”

He smiled at her again, pleased that she was being so understanding. “So, what I’d like to know is, what exactly are your intentions toward my daughter?”

At the question, Helena gulped. She hadn’t been expecting that. Well, she had, but not phrased quite that way. Mustering her courage, she looked him in the eye and answered as honestly as she could. “I love Barbara, Mr. Gordon. And I’d like to spend the rest of my life showing her just how much.”

“You realize, of course, that she’s not easy to handle?”

“I’m not sure…”

“You know what I mean,” he said. “She can be moody and damned near impossible to get talking when she closes herself off.”

Helena shrugged. “No offense, Sir, but I’ve been dealing with that for a long time, now. It doesn’t change the way I feel. Besides, I know how to get her talking when I need to.” She didn’t mention that her methods usually involved a massage and a lot of alcohol. He didn’t need to know that.

“Mmm, I see. And I know from past experience that you’d do anything for her,” he mused almost to himself, he was speaking so quietly.

Helena wasn’t exactly sure where this was going, but she decided to head it off at the pass. Making certain to look him directly in the eye, and never blinking, she said, “Mr. Gordon, I swear I will never knowingly or purposely hurt her. I would die for her a thousand times, no questions asked.”

He closed his eyes slowly, breathing deeply. When he opened them again, she could see he’d come to some sort of conclusion. “I believe you, Helena. I just wanted to make sure you were clear on your own feelings.” He stood up then. “You’d better take her something to eat in a little while. She’s probably sitting in there worrying about what I’m thinking,” he said with a twinkle in his eye.

Helena smirked. “Probably. I’ll get her to talk to you. Give me a little time.”

“After your workout with the girls,” he said. “I believe you have another conversation waiting for you?”

Helena groaned at the reminder. Crap and double crap. She had to talk to Dinah and Gabby about last night. Sighing and shaking her head, she headed downstairs. As she went, she could hear Mr. Gordon chuckling.

* * * * *

“Helena,” Dinah said as soon as she walked into the work out room, “I am so, so, sorry about last night. I don’t know what I was thinking when I said that.”

“Easy, Kid,” Helena said, attempting to allay the teenagers fear. “It’s okay. Well, not okay, exactly…it is with me. But you know how Barbara is.”

Dinah cringed guiltily. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt her feelings. Is she really mad?”

“Mad? Not really. Embarrassed is more like it.” She sat down on the weight bench and adjusted the weights. Noticing the devastated look on the teens’ face, she said, “Dinah, it’ll be okay. Really. Barbara and I were going to talk to you anyway. I guess now’s as good a time as any.”

She indicated for the girls to sit down. When they were comfortable, she said, “I guess you both know that Barbara and I have been umm…” she trailed off, searching for the right words to describe exactly what she and Barbara had been doing.

“Dating?” Gabby supplied helpfully.

“Well…yeah,” Helena agreed gratefully. “It wasn’t exactly what I expected when we came up here, but…”

“You’ve loved her for a long time,” Dinah suddenly said, surprised by Helena’s sudden inability to speak. “I wasn’t prying,” she said quickly at Helena’s glare. “It’s just really hard to miss such strong emotions, is all.”

Helena nodded, understanding that the girl hadn’t been reading her mind. “Yeah, I guess you’re right, Kid. Anyway, this has kind of been a surprise for both of us. I don’t think Red really knew how I felt.”

“You are kidding, right?” Dinah asked. “I mean, how could she have missed all the teasing and flirting you’re always directing at her?”

Helena felt she needed to defend the redhead somewhat. “Well, to be fair, Kid, she has known me since I was a lot younger than you. I’ve always been a flirt. And I don’t think it occurred to her to think about it any other way.” She paused for a minute, before adding, “I think she’s spent quite a bit of time figuring out her own feelings, too. With everything that’s happened lately, I think we’ve all had to take a closer look at our lives. Don’t you?”

Dinah nodded. Having recently lost her mother, she’d spent a great deal of time the last few months thinking about her life. “So,” she said, looking up at Helena through a fall of blond hair, “does this mean you’re moving back in to the Clocktower on a permanent basis? I kind of like having the extra space from your old room, you know.”

“We haven’t discussed that, yet,” Helena said in answer. “And don’t get too comfortable with that space. I may need it as my closet if I do.” She reached over and mussed the blond hair. She got up and headed for the door, tossing a “Talk to Barbara about last night and apologize for hurting her feelings. She’ll forgive you,” as she left.

* * * * *

Helena came into the bedroom balancing a breakfast tray in both hands. She closed the door with a bump of her hip, and set the tray down, looking at Barbara. “Hey, the girls are gone for the day.”

“Mmm hmm,” Barbara mumbled in answer, preoccupied with the crossword puzzle in the back of the newspaper.

“Barbara,” Helena huffed, “you have to get up and leave the room. I don’t want your dad to think I’m some kind of pervert, keeping you locked up in here all day.”

“He won’t think that, Hel,” the redhead answered, chewing the end of her pen, and not looking up. “You’re up and dressed. You’ve been downstairs. He knows we’re awake.”

“Knowing we’re awake isn’t the point, Barbara. You need to talk to him,” Helena said, pushing the tray toward the redhead. “Will you at least eat something?”

Rolling her eyes, and quite aware that Helena wasn’t going to leave her alone, Barbara tossed the paper to the side and picked up the banana nut muffin off the tray. Taking a bite, she looked sideways at the brunette, who was watching every move she made.

“He’s down in the workout room, when you’re ready,” Helena said.

“Mmm,” the redhead answered noncommittally.

Getting irritated, Helena said, “Look, I know you’re embarrassed about last night, but you need to talk to him. He doesn’t deserve to have you ignore him, Red.” She shook her head. How could Barbara ever have been so fearless as Batgirl, but scared to death of her own father?

“I know. It’s just…”

“I know it’s hard. But you need to do this. I swear to you, he said he’s okay with this,” Helena reassured her again for what seemed like the hundredth time that morning. “Just talk to him.”

Barbara finished her muffin and huffed. “All right, I’ll go.”

“Thank you,” Helena said, leaning over and kissing her on the cheek. “I’ll make myself scarce while you two talk.”

Half an hour later, Barbara stopped outside the door to the work out room. Taking a deep breath to steady her nerves, she finally rolled through the doorway. Plastering a smile on her face, she said, “Hey Dad, mind if I join you?”

Jim Gordon looked up when he heard his daughters’ voice. Smiling, he answered, “Hey, Honey. No, I don’t mind, come on in.”

She made her way over to the weight bench and started her routine. Uncomfortable, to say the least, she couldn’t think of a thing to say.

Finally, he mercifully broke the silence. “It’s nice to see you working out. I don’t think I’ve actually gotten to see you in action since you were competing.”

She smiled at the reminder. “That was a while ago.”

“Yeah, I guess it was,” he said wistfully. “I remember, there was nothing like watching you flying over those bars. You were a sight to behold,” he said proudly, looking at her.

“Things change, Dad.”

He sighed. “They do, don’t they?” When he realized she wasn’t going to say anything else, he went on. They’d never really talked much about the shooting, and he’d wanted to for a long time. Deciding now was that time, he said, “You know, after you were shot, I wasn’t too sure you were going to make it through. You just seemed so depressed. I know I’ve never told you, but I was afraid you might just decide you didn’t want to stick around.”

Barbara looked over at him when she heard the tone of his voice. He’d never sounded like that before. Not even when she was stuck in the hospital. “Dad?”

He smiled at her. “It’s okay, Honey. I was told by the doctors that you’d probably go through that. It was expected. Just hard to watch. So, even when I didn’t agree with your decision to take Helena in, I allowed it. The doctor said it might be a good thing if you had someone else depending on you. To give you some motivation.”

There it was, his way in to the conversation about Helena. She ignored it for the moment though, preferring to address his other concerns. “The doctors were right, Dad. She needed me to be there for her. It wasn’t easy on either of us back then.”

“I know.” He looked at her, hoping not to upset her with his next words. “I did worry, though. Especially when you showed up with cuts and bruises so many times.”

“Dad, I told you…those were from sparring. She was so angry, I thought teaching her martial arts would help.” She grew silent for a minute, remembering those times, and then went on. “She was a handful, but she never hurt me. I swear.”

“I know. I believe you, Honey. It just scared me at the time.”

He sat down on a bench next to her, relaxing into the conversation. Seeing that he’d succeeded in drawing her out, he didn’t want to give her the chance to close herself off again. “You know, my opinion of Helena changed once I started seeing the changes in you. She was a big help that first year.”

Barbara smiled. “She was. More than you know, Dad. There were plenty of times she helped me with just the basics. You know, tying my shoes, getting dressed…things we take for granted until we can’t do them the way we’ve grown accustomed to.”

“I know she did. You know, she and I did talk back then.” He held up a hand to stop her from interrupting when he saw the look of disbelief on her face. “I know, I know, I didn’t want to interfere, but I was worried about you. Talking to Helena helped me to understand more of what you were going through. And, I realized how truly dedicated to you she really was. I knew that you were okay, and she wasn’t going to hurt you. Even though she was the angriest kid I’d seen in a while.” He stopped and took a drink from his water bottle.

Barbara, feeling horrible for the way she’d left her father out back then, said, “I’m sorry I put you through all that, Dad. I didn’t realize.” She looked down at the floor, ashamed. “I was just being selfish.”

“Water under the bridge, Honey. All’s forgiven,” he said, smiling up at her.

Sensing it was finally time to broach the subject of Dinah’s loud proclamation, Barbara asked shyly “So…I guess you’re wondering about last night?”

He shook his head. “Not really. I may be old, but I was a detective. I can still figure some things out on my own. Besides,” he said, his own green eyes sparkling, “Helena’s loved you for as long as I can remember.”

“Still…I’m sorry about that, Dad,” she said, blushing. “Dinah shouldn’t have said what she did. And…I shouldn’t have been doing what I was doing. That was, to say the least, embarrassing.”

“That’s all right, Honey. What you were doing was nothing. It isn’t as though we caught the two of you in a, shall we say, compromising position? You were both dressed, as I recall.”

Her blush was threatening to rise ever higher, as she said, “Yeah, but still, we both know better than that. I mean, I’m a teacher for crying out loud! At the very least, I shouldn’t have been sitting there like that with Dinah and Gabby in the room. Or you and Alfred, for that matter.”

He laughed. “We’re all old enough to understand, Honey. It’s hard to hide what you’re feeling all the time,” he said in complete understanding. “So, what’s really bothering you? Are you worried that you’re making the wrong decision?”

She shook her head. “No. Not really. I mean, I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the last few months. I’ve taken my time, and thought everything through. I didn’t make the wrong decision. I am worried about one thing, though.”

“What’s that?” Seeing her hesitate, he said, “You know you can talk to me about anything, right?” At her nod, he said, “Lay it on me, then.”

She laughed at his use of the old slang. “I was wondering…if living with me had maybe…had an undue effect on her? Maybe she just thinks she feels this way?”

He shook his head. “Oh, I don’t think so, Honey. I think she’s been in love with you forever. The question is, do you trust her?”

“With everything that I am,” Barbara said, shaking her head. “I just worry that maybe…”

“Barbara,” her father said, taking both her hands in his, “since the day you were born, you’ve thought too much. You never make a decision without thinking it to death. But, I will also say, that you always come to an infinitely fair and ethical conclusion.”

“Dad…” she said, but her cut her off.

“Let me finish, now,” he said, continuing. “You’re worried that you’re not enough for her?” At her sad nod he went on. “I thought as much. Now, I don’t think you need to worry about that. Do you think you can’t love her enough because of your paralysis?”

“Something like that, yeah,” Barbara admitted sadly, almost whispering.

“Well, that’s easy. Do you love her?”

Barbara nodded. “Yes, very much.”

He tilted her head up so he could look her in the eye. “Would your life be empty without her?”

“Absolutely,” she whispered with conviction.

Looking at her seriously, he asked, “Would you die for her, Barbara?”

“Without hesitation,” she answered honestly.

He saw the truth in her eyes and heard it in her voice. Satisfied, he said, “Then it’s enough. The rest will tend to itself. I have a feeling she’ll be patient and understanding about any physical limitations you have.”

“How can you be so sure?” she asked, still not completely convinced and cringing at how whiny she sounded.

He shrugged. “I’ve seen you two together for years. And,” he admitted quietly, “I talked to Helena this morning. She answered all my questions honestly, and to my complete satisfaction.”

She grinned broadly at the thought of an uncomfortable Helena sitting through one of his interrogations, answering his questions. “So, you’re really not upset?”

Shaking his head, he said, “No. Not at all. Just keep the questionable stuff in private. I don’t want to think about it too much. You are still my little girl, you know.”

“Thanks, Dad,” she said, squeezing his hands. “I’ve really missed talking to you.”

“You’re welcome, Honey. “I’ve missed you, too.”

* * * * *

“So, is everyone ready to go?” Helena asked, breezing into the great room. She was dressed up tonight, since they were all heading into town for a nice dinner and then to the lodge for the dance.

“As ready as we’ll ever be,” Jim Gordon said, standing up.

“Well then, let’s roll,” Helena said, opening the door and ushering everyone to the waiting Hummer. She caught Barbara as she headed out the door and whispered in her ear. “You look stunning, Barbara. That blouse really brings out the green of your eyes.”

Blushing, Barbara simply squeezed her hand and smiled, as she headed out the door.

As they pulled up to the restaurant, Helena got out and unloaded Barbara’s chair. Bringing it around to the passenger side, she waited patiently while Barbara transferred herself out of the car. Then, when everyone else was out, she tossed the keys to the valet and they all headed inside.

The restaurant she’d chosen for the night surprised everyone. Instead of picking out the finest dining spot in town, Helena had chosen, of all places, the best pizza joint. A wide grin split her face when she saw the look of delight on everyone’s faces. “What?” she asked innocently when all five faces turned to look at her in unison. “I just didn’t feel like being all stuffy tonight. That’s all.”

An hour later, Barbara’s father tossed down his napkin and proclaimed, “Helena, your choice was impeccable.”

Smiling shyly from the unexpected praise, she said, “Well thanks, Mr. G. I’m glad everyone liked it.” Looking over at Barbara, whom she’d been sitting next to, she saw the look of pride on the redheads face. Insanely happy that she’d managed to please Barbara and Barbara’s father at the same time, she couldn’t help but get a goofy grin on her face.

Since the talk she’d had with her father earlier in the day, Barbara had seemed far more relaxed and easy going. All evening, she’d been lightly touching Helena’s arm or hand, seemingly by accident. But Helena thought she knew better. Barbara never did anything by accident or half measures.

Checking the time, she realized it was getting late. Signaling for the check, she pulled out her card and was preparing to pay the bill, when Mr. Gordon stopped her.

“Helena, let me get this.” Seeing she was about to protest, he quickly cut her off. “Please. I don’t get the chance to spend much time with Barbara and it would make me really happy to do this. As a way to say ‘thank you’. I came up here to spend the weekend with my daughter, and ended up getting to know her again. Not only that, “he said, his eyes sparkling, “but I gained a second daughter in the bargain.”

Barbara looked at her father, her heart full of gratitude that divine providence had thrown them together. “Dad, that’s so nice of you,” she said.

“I mean it, Sweetheart. It makes me feel good to see you happy.”

Hearing Mr. Gordon’s little speech, Helena graciously agreed to let him pay for dinner. If it made him happy to do this for them, she was happy to oblige him.

* * * * *

Arriving at the lodge, Dinah and Gabby jumped out of the car and ran in to find their friends. After the near disaster of the avalanche a few days before, the atmosphere inside was more festive than usual. Walking into the large ballroom, the small group was surprised to find themselves escorted to a reserved table. As they took their seats, Captain Anderson from the Search and Rescue team came over to the table.

Seeing Helena, he inclined his head in her direction. “Ms. Kyle,” he said in greeting. “I just thought I’d come over and introduce myself to everyone and say thanks, for helping the other day. I was so busy, I didn’t get the chance to say it then.”

Helena shrugged. “That’s okay, Captain. I understand about work.” She watched as his eyes tracked to Barbara. “May I introduce my…friend, Barbara Gordon? I don’t believe you two have met?” She noticed the odd look Barbara was giving her, over her use of the term ‘friend,’ she was sure. Well, she’d have to ask Barbara how she’d like to be introduced, later. It hadn’t come up, until now.

“Ms. Gordon,” he said, taking her hand and kissing the back of it chivalrously. “If I’m not mistaken, I owe you an apology and thanks as well?”

Turning her attention from Helena to the Captain and smiling graciously, Barbara said, “Think nothing of it, Captain. Time was of the essence, and I understand how I must have sounded, demanding your attention the way I did.”

“No, I shouldn’t have blown you off that way. Believe me, my brother Jason, he’s the head of lodge security, gave me a thorough dressing down when it was all over.” He smiled, slightly embarrassed by the way he had acted. “So, I just wanted to come over and personally give all you folks a thank you. Thanks to all your help and hard work, we didn’t have any fatalities. Just some broken bones, cuts and bruises. All in all, we were really lucky.”

“Thank you, Captain,” Barbara said in answer. “Would you care to join us?” she asked. “There’s plenty of room…”

“No, thank you,” he said, smiling. “I just wanted to come over and talk for a minute. I need to get back to my wife. Thank you all again, for your help.” He shook all their hands and then walked back over to the other side of the room, where a petite blond was sitting, quietly talking to two other people. Helena recognized one of them as Jason, the Captains’ brother.

“Well, that was really nice of him,” Helena said. Brightening when she spied a waitress, she asked, “Anybody want a drink?” she waved the girl down and proceeded to order a round for the table.

As the drinks were delivered, Barbara leaned over and, with one brow quirked up, asked, “Friend?”

Helplessly, Helena shrugged. “Well, I wasn’t sure how you’d like to be introduced. I mean, are you my girlfriend? My partner? Lover? You see my dilemma?”

Sitting back and sighing, Barbara did indeed, see Helena’s dilemma. She said, “I guess that’s something we should talk about. I hadn’t given it any thought until now.” Smiling at the younger woman, she grabbed her hand and said, “Why don’t we discuss it later? Right now, I feel like dancing.”

At Barbara’s announcement, Helena looked over at her incredulously. “You what?”

“I said, I feel like dancing,” Barbara repeated, smiling brightly. “The music’s great, and I’m in the mood, so why not? Besides,” she said, green eyes watching her intently, “I brought my dancing shoes.”

Catching the reference to Barbara’s comment of a few days before, Helena couldn’t hide a smirk. “So,” she said, eyeing the dance floor dubiously, “how would you like to do this?”

“Well, I thought we danced together so well the other night…” the look she gave Helena was simply melting the younger woman, “I thought we could…try it again?”

“Really?” Helena couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Barbara would really allow herself to be carried in public? “Are you sure, Red? It wouldn’t embarrass you or anything?”

“How could dancing with the one I love embarrass me?” the redhead said in answer. “Unless of course, you do that weird ‘chicken dance’ thing,” she said, referring to the strangely popular dance that every couple seemed to insist on including in their wedding reception repertoire these days.

Brow furrowing, Helena said, “I’ve never done the ‘chicken dance’. Not that I remember, at least.”

Shaking her head, Barbara just said, “Dance with me, Hel.”

Unable to refuse, Helena happily obliged. Following the redhead to the dance floor, hand on her shoulder, they stopped at the edge. Nervous, but determined to do this for Barbara, Helena leaned over and said, “Put your arm around my shoulder, Red.” When Barbara did so, she snaked one arm under the redhead’s legs and the other behind her back. Then, lifting her easily out of the wheelchair, she headed for the dance floor. She made sure to pick a spot that wasn’t crowded, in deference to Barbara’s habitual desire for some privacy.

As Helena swayed to the rhythm of the eighties music blaring from the speakers, Barbara rested her head on her shoulder. “This is really nice, Hel. Thank you.”

“No problem, Red.” As the next song began, ‘Crazy For You,’ by Madonna, Helena said, “You know, I always liked this song. Looking down at Barbara, she leaned in close, lips almost touching. “It kind of reminds me of us, in a way.”

“Mmm,” Barbara answered. Her ability to form words at that particular moment disappeared as she stared at those lips, so close she could touch them. Lost in the moment, and wanting nothing more than to kiss the woman holding her so tightly, she leaned closer until their lips met. When they finally parted, she looked deeply into Helena’s eyes. “I want you to make love to me, Hel.”

Stunned at the words coming out of Barbara’s mouth, and doing her best ‘deer in the headlights’ impression, Helena stuttered, “Wh…what…now?”

Rolling her eyes at the brunette, Barbara shook her head. Looking around at the room full of people, she said, “Uh…no? I just meant…that I love you. And I’m ready when you are to take this to the next level.”

Relief showing in her eyes, Helena breathed easier. She couldn’t resist teasing the redhead though. “You’re sure you don’t want to do it here, right now? I mean, I’m not much for exhibitionism, but hey, if you’re up for it…so am I.”

Barbara looked at her through raised brows. “Helena,” she drawled, “you know what I meant.”

Laughing, Helena carried her back to her chair. “I do Barbara. You’re just so fun to tease.” She leaned in and kissed the redhead again as she set her down. “Now, let’s go rejoin your dad and Alfred, before they get bored.

“Somehow I don’t think that’s a problem, Hel,” Barbara said as they headed back to the table. She’d noticed the two men talking and laughing with each other as they’d been out on the floor, apparently sharing some joke or other.

“So, miss us?” Helena asked, dropping into her chair and grabbing her vodka. Setting the glass down, she reached over and took Barbara’s hand, playing with her fingers.

“You know, I was thinking,” Barbara’s father began, “why don’t we take the girls back to New Gotham tomorrow with us. That way, the two of you can extend your vacation a bit.” He looked at Barbara meaningfully.

Barbara could feel the blush rising up her cheeks as she said, “Dad, that would be great, but you don’t need to do that.”

“Nonsense, Sweetheart. I’d like to. Besides, I think you two could use the time. You know, to…sort things out?”

Sighing, and knowing that this was one battle she would never win; and, if she were perfectly honest, she didn’t want to, Barbara simply said, “Thanks Dad, we’d like that.” She looked at Helena and squeezed her hand.

The hand squeeze prompted Helena to look up and say, “Yeah, Mr. G, thanks. A little ‘alone time’ could be a good thing.”

He smiled at them both. “My pleasure, girls. Now, if you’ll excuse us,” he said, standing up, “Alfred and I are heading to the lounge for a few games of pool.”

Helena and Barbara watched them both walk away in silence. Suddenly, Helena looked at Barbara, and with a huge grin on her face, said, “So, I guess we can make that uh…desire…of yours happen, Red.”

Barbara rolled her eyes. “You are sooo incorrigible, Hel.”

Helena smirked. “I know. It’s why you love me.”

Barbara merely snorted, unwilling to admit the younger woman’s wild streak was indeed, one of the reasons she loved her.

* * * * *

After returning from the dance, everyone went downstairs for popcorn and a movie. This time, Barbara and Helena managed to sit on opposite ends of the couch, negating the need for anyone to make snide or embarrassing comments.

When the movie finally finished, Alfred and Barbara’s father both bade them all good night. Barbara, craving some alone time with Helena, stretched and attempted to hide a yawn. “Well, I think I’m going to head up to bed.” She didn’t say anything, but looked at Helena pointedly.

“I’ll be up later, Red. The girls and I are going to watch another movie.” Seeing the slight look of disappointment flash across the redheads face, she quickly added, “I promised.”

Nodding in understanding, Barbara teased, “Couldn’t wait to watch ‘Twilight’ again, huh?”

Helena shook her head. “Nope, not ‘Twilight’. This time I picked the movie. It’s got plenty of ass kicking and carnage.”

“Well, right up your alley, then,” Barbara said. She leaned over and kissed Helena on the cheek. Brushing her hand across the spot a moment later, she whispered into Helena’s ear, “Wake me when you come in.”

Helena nodded. “Will do, Red. Night.” She sighed, watching the redhead wheel herself out of the room. Then, turning her attention back to the TV, she said, “All right! Let’s get the festivities rolling. Dinah put the movie in.”

Two and a half hours later, Helena opened the door to the bedroom. Silent as the thief her mother had once been, she made her way to the bathroom so she could change and get ready for bed. When she was done, she crawled into bed beside Barbara and snuggled up against her. Whispering so she wouldn’t scare her, she said, “Hey Red, I’m here.”

Barbara, waking up the minute Helena touched her, looked over and smiled. “Hi,” she said. “I didn’t think you were gonna make it.”

“What, and miss out on this?” Helena said. “No way. It’s just that I promised the girls…and I don’t like to break a promise, Red.”

“I know, and I don’t want you to. I’m actually glad to see the two of you getting along so well,” she laid a hand on Helena’s arm, which had snaked across her waist. “I’m just glad you’re here now.”

Helena leaned over and kissed her. “Me too, Barbara. So…” she began hesitantly, “about what you said earlier…”

Momentarily confused, Barbara shook her head, before realizing what Helena was referring to. Then, coloring slightly, she said, “I meant it, Hel. I didn’t mean tonight, though. My dad’s right next door, you know.”

Helena rolled her eyes playfully. “Aw, come on, Red. We could pretend we’re in high school and we’re hiding from your parents.”

Barbara, hiding her amusement, said dryly, “I don’t think so.”

“But it lends a certain…edge…to it, if ya know what I mean,” Helena said. “You know, trying not to get caught and all. It’s…”

“Helena,” Barbara said, stopping the brunette before she could say anything else, “please don’t tell me you did that when you were in high school. Not in my house?”

Uncomfortable, and realizing she just about said more than was wise, Helena shook her head. “No Barbara, I never did. I swear,” she said, looking into Barbara’s eyes. “Not in your house,” she finished in a whisper.

Barbara closed her eyes and sighed, shaking her head, “Hel, I don’t need to hear anymore. Your past exploits are not something I need to know about.”

Recognizing a reprieve when she saw one, Helena leaned over and kissed the redhead again. “Good, because that’s what it is, Red. The past. And I intend to keep it there. So…if you’re not into role-playing…” Helena said, teasing.

Pulling the brunette in for a long kiss, Barbara finally released her and said, “Helena, shut up and let’s go to sleep. We’ve got the rest of our lives to discover…” she swallowed hard at the direction her thoughts were taking before finally finishing with, “things.”

“Mmm, sounds like a plan, Red.” She snuggled closer and pulled Barbara tighter to her, falling asleep within minutes.

* * * * *

The final day of their vacation flowed by quickly. They all met in the dining room for a family breakfast. Then, everyone piled in the Hummer for a last minute shopping trip in town.

Helena excused herself from shopping long enough to run an errand, agreeing to meet them all for lunch when she was finished.

“So, Helena,” Dinah said, “what kind of errand were you running?”

“Oh, I went to see a realtor here in town,” she answered. At the puzzled looks she received, she went on to explain. “I figured since I wouldn’t be living up here on a daily basis, I might as well rent the place out. You know, make a little money on it. The local realtors do it all the time. They rent the places out, have a cleaning service come in, and take care of everything. I just had a few loose ends to tie up.” Barbara raised an eyebrow, but said nothing.

“You know, they wanted me to give the place a name,” Helena said, somewhat baffled.

“So what did you come up with?” Dinah asked.

“Well,” Helena said, turning a slight shade of pink, “I decided to call it ‘The Rook’. I thought it was appropriate.”

They all smiled, and Barbara said, “Helena, that’s perfect.”

Helena shrugged, still slightly dazed from the whole, strange experience. This growing up thing was harder than it looked, she thought to herself. Still, seeing the look in the redheads’ eyes was worth every minute of discomfort. She squeezed Barbara’s hand in promise of things to come.

Two hours later, bags packed and loaded in the Hummer, Alfred, Dinah, Gabby, and Barbara’s father said goodbye. As she shut the front door, Helena slumped against it. “Whew, alone at last,” she said, looking over at Barbara and raising one brow in question. “So, what do you want to do, Red?”

“I was thinking dinner and a movie, then…” she shrugged, “see where the night takes us?”

“Sounds good,” Helena agreed.

* * * * *

Much later, unable to fall asleep, Helena gracefully extricated herself from Barbara’s embrace. Not wanting to wake her bed partner, she went into the bathroom and pulled on her clothes. Moving through the dark house, she found herself out on the deck, staring up at the night sky.

The past few hours had been glorious. The best hours of her life, in fact. The evening had started out quietly. Eating dinner in front of the TV, they’d found themselves lying on the couch together. This time, however, there was no one else to keep them from doing what they wanted.

Surprisingly, Barbara had been the one to suggest they move their activities upstairs, to the bedroom. Apparently, the redhead had meant it when she said she was ready to move their relationship forward. Helena had been surprised at Barbara’s suggestion, believing the redhead would need more coaxing than that. But apparently, Helena couldn’t have been more wrong.

Once she’d made her decision, Barbara had seemed determined to share as much of herself as she could. Helena hadn’t expected that. Getting Barbara to open up and share anything was always like pulling teeth. But, Helena had to admit, the end results had been…gratifying, to say the least. She smiled to herself at the memory and hugged herself, trying to contain some of the unnamed emotions rolling around inside of her.

Before she could explore her feelings further however, she felt Barbara’s presence behind her.

* * * * *

Barbara woke up and realized immediately that she was alone. She tried calling Helena’s name, but got no answer. Transferring herself to her chair, she got dressed and went in search of the brunette. She wasn’t surprised, when she found her standing alone out on the deck. The cold air making her breath come out in puffs of steam as she stood looking up at the stars.

“Hel?” she said quietly, coming up behind her. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine,” she said, turning to look at her companion and smiling at her with nothing but love in her eyes. “I just couldn’t sleep.”

“Mmm,” Barbara said in answer, remembering the feral golden color of Helena’s eyes only an hour earlier, she shivered. Suddenly worried, she asked, “Did I do something…?”

“God no, Barbara,” Helena said, going down on her knees and looking up into Barbara’s eyes. “You didn’t do anything wrong. I was just thinking…” Helena looked down for a moment, gathering her thoughts before continuing. “I was just thinking…how…” she closed her eyes and took a deep breath. When she opened them again, she looked deep into Barbara’s green eyes, determined to be as honest as she could. “I was just…uh…overwhelmed, I guess you could say.”

Not quite understanding, Barbara caressed her cheek. “Overwhelmed, Hel? I don’t…I’m not sure I…”

Taking hold of the hand caressing her cheek, Helena held it to her chest. “Barbara, tonight, for the first time in my life, I finally understood…what it means to ‘make love’. I’ve never felt anything close to this before. I…I’ve heard about it all my life. I’ve read about it…but I never experienced it until now…” her voice trailed off, unable to find the right words to describe what she was feeling.

“Oh, Hel…” Barbara said, finally understanding what the brunette was trying to tell her. “I guess I just assumed that you…”

Helena shook her head. “I’ve never been in love with anyone but you, Red. There’s never been a time that mattered…until tonight.”

Humbled and awed by Helena’s confession, Barbara tugged on her hand until she’d pulled her into her lap. Wrapping her arms around her, she held her close. “Sweetheart, I had no idea. I just assumed…”

“It’s okay, everybody assumes that about me. I mean, I’m probably just being silly,” Helena said, self deprecatingly. “I’m sure you’ve felt this way plenty of times.”

Barbara shook her head. “No Hel. No one has ever made me feel the way you did tonight.”

“Not even Dick?” Helena asked, referring to Barbara’s past relationship with her ex-boyfriend/co-vigilante crime fighter.

“Not even him,” Barbara said honestly. She put a finger under Helena’s chin and turned her head so they were staring into each others’ eyes. “Helena, I don’t think I’ve ever been in love with anyone before now. I never allowed myself to feel anything. I was just too afraid.” She leaned in and kissed the brunette. Pulling back, she went on. “You’re not the only one that’s a bit overwhelmed, you know. I am completely blown away by how much you love me. I felt it in every touch, every kiss, every whisper of your breath.” She shivered, remembering the feel of those lips touching her.

Helena, once again feeling overwhelmed by Barbara’s honesty, choked back tears. “Barbara, I don’t know what to say. I just love you so much. It’s all I ever want to do, is love you.”

“Well,” Barbara drawled, a slow smile crossing her face, “we have a few days before we have to head home. Why don’t we head back to bed? I seem to remember a comment you made about a refresher course?”

Helena smiled back, kissing the redhead once more. “Actually, judging from your recent performance, I don’t think that will be necessary. But, if you insist…I could probably be talked into teaching you a few things.”

Barbara raised a brow. “Things you’ve learned from your vast experience in the field?”

Helena shrugged. “Hey, a girls’ gotta learn. Besides, I seem to recall a few things you enjoyed only an hour or two ago.”

“Let’s go to bed, Hel.” Barbara said indulgently, shaking her head and wheeling them both toward their room.

The End

continued in Back to the Grind.