Back to the Grind


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: The Birds return from vacation. But does life ever hand them anything easy? This is a direct sequel to A Place to Rest and Heal, but can stand on its’ own.

ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.


New Gotham - Present Time

Light flashed off the small blade as it slowly slid down the unfeeling flesh. In its wake, blood seeped slowly, leaving behind pink rivulets on the skin as it dripped slowly into puddles on the floor. This wasn’t an exercise in pain. No. She couldn’t feel a thing; not in her legs, anyway. It was an exercise in torture and terror. How long could the bitch watch what was happening to her before she couldn’t take any more? Would she pass out from fear? Or would she simply sit there until her life spilled out of her onto the floor?

It was a fascinating way to pass the time with her. He’d long ago lost any interest in her for any other reason. All that was left was the look in her eyes. The one that told him she knew she was going to die. The power that knowledge gave him was intoxicating.

The redhead hadn’t given up easily, though. It had surprised him, how she had fought back. None of the others had bothered putting up more than a token resistance, if any at all. He had thought they would have fought back more, considering all they’d already lost in life. But this one, she didn’t give up. Not like all the others. This one fought like a wild animal, using everything she could think of, including sticks and knives. At one point, she’d even stood up, causing him to believe for a moment that she wasn’t really paralyzed. But then he’d noticed the belt around her waist, and the small control panel lit up on the device attached to it.

He realized then that she was paralyzed, but by some small medical miracle, she’d found a way to give herself the use of her legs. Destroying the device hadn’t been all that difficult. Eventually, he’d managed to hit the device enough times that it shorted out, causing her intense pain as she lay on the floor, her legs twitching uncontrollably.

Turning his attention back to her, he cocked his head to one side and looked at his handiwork so far. He’d purposely made the cuts small, so she wouldn’t bleed too much, too soon. He needed to draw this out, make the feeling last. Peeling the skin off had caused them to bleed out. Too much too fast. Small cuts bled less and they tended to live longer. Little pieces, less blood.

It had been over an hour, and she’d yet to make a sound. It was frustrating, really. There was no screaming, no crying, no begging for mercy, nothing. Just her, sitting there, staring at him as he worked. Her resolve was impressive, but he would break her. They all broke…in the end.

* * * * *

Barbara Gordon stared at the man with the razor. Bound so tightly she couldn’t move, sitting there watching silently was all that was left to her. As she watched the blood roll down her bare legs onto the floor, she wondered how she’d let this happen? When he’d taken the bait and come for her, she thought she’d had the upper hand. Surprising him when she stood up from the wheelchair and begun to fight back, she’d almost had him, at first. Then, he began aiming for her neural transponder. Already pieced back together after her fight with Helena, and then Harley Quinn, the repeated assault on the device caused it to short out.

Now, sitting there, the pain from the destroyed transponder so intense she didn’t know if she could endure much more, she simply watched in silent horror. Pretty soon, it wouldn’t matter. The pain along her spinal cord would stop, when the life finally drained out of her completely. Attempting to ignore what was happening below her waist, she tried to concentrate on her family. What would happen to them now? How would they react when her body was found mutilated, the flesh shredded beyond recognition like the other victims?

Helena would react with violence, of course. She’d already lost so much…The younger woman would not be able to handle the pressure of this loss. And Dinah…the teen had lost her mother only the year before and her reaction to that incident had not been a good one. She had responded with anger and violence then, too. Now, so much more powerful, there was every chance that she would lash out, possibly hurting someone. The sheer thought made Barbara shudder. She hadn’t wanted this for any of them, and there was no one to blame but herself

* * * * *

Two Months Earlier

Helena pulled the Hummer into the parking garage of the Clocktower and parked in their reserved spot. Getting out, she first unloaded Barbara’s wheelchair, setting it up for the redhead. Then, while the other woman transferred herself from the car to the chair, Helena went around to the back and grabbed their bags. Two minutes later found them riding silently up the private elevator. Since leaving the cabin earlier that day, neither woman had said more than a few words; memories of the last week still re-playing in their minds. Suddenly, the brunette reached out and hit the ‘Stop’ button, bringing the elevator to a halt.

“What are you doing?” Barbara asked quietly, eyeing the other woman suspiciously.

“You,” she heard the answer in a breathless whisper as Helena leaned over and gave her partner a passionate kiss.

Taking a deep breath when the brunette released her, Barbara quirked a brow and asked, “You don’t think three nights and two days was enough?”

“Never,” Helena responded, shaking her head and leaning in for another kiss. “I can never get enough of you, Red.” She said as Barbara moved her chair forward, effectively pinning her to the wall of the elevator.

Careful not to hurt the brunette as she pinned her to the wall, Barbara leaned forward and used one hand to hold Helena in place. With the other hand, she slowly began pushing the brunettes’ shirt upwards, leaning forward further still, to lick slowly up the younger woman’s stomach.

Her heart rate accelerating, Helena wrapped her hands around Barbara’s head and pulled her toward her. Encouraging the redhead to continue, she began running her hands through the long red hair while still maintaining her grip. Moments later, Helena nearly screamed when Barbara found her breasts through the confines of her bra.

As the redhead attempted to reach around behind Helena to unfasten the offending garment, the brunette suddenly stiffened. Stopping immediately, Barbara looked up into the younger woman’s eyes. “Hel?” she said in question, suddenly confused.

Raising an eyebrow in confusion herself, Helena asked, “Did you hear something? I could swear…” she said, as she turned her head to survey the elevator. Suddenly, she let out a loud groan. “Damn!”

“What? Hel, what is it?” Barbara asked, not sure what was causing the brunette’s reaction.

Helena rolled her eyes. “The comm on the elevator. Didn’t you hear it?”

Then, as if on cue, a voice came over the speaker on the elevator. “Hello? Is anyone there? Do you need help?”

Barbara closed her eyes and shook her head. “Dick,” she said. The sound of her former partner in crime fighting’s voice having the same effect on her libido as if someone had just thrown a bucket of cold water on her. “I forgot he was still here.” She backed up and allowed Helena to step clear of the elevator wall.

“Me too,” Helena said as she adjusted her clothes. “Crap and double crap.” She reached over and hit the ‘Start’ button on the control panel and the elevator continued its’ upward ascent.

Barbara smiled but said nothing. She knew Helena was frustrated by the interruption; no more than she was. She also knew how Helena felt about Dick Grayson. His presence in the Clocktower would not make Helena happy, even if he had stepped in and watched over everything while they’d taken a much needed vacation. Sighing, she pinched the bridge of her nose, attempting to stave off a headache.

As the elevator door slid open, Helena waited until Barbara rolled off before she picked up their bags and followed. Dick Grayson stood up as the door opened and walked over to greet them. “Babs!” he said in greeting, wrapping the redhead in a hug. When he straightened up, he looked at Helena. “Helena,” he said coolly, nodding.

“Hey, Dick,” Helena replied nonchalantly. “Everything okay here?”

He turned to watch the young woman as she sauntered past him still carrying their luggage. “Uh yeah, thing’s are fine. Was there something wrong with the elevator, though? Did it stop or something?” he said in answer as he ran a hand through his dark hair. He looked at Barbara with a question in his eye, but didn’t say anything when he saw her amused smile. She always did have a soft spot for the brunette that he would never understand.

Getting no answer to his question about the elevator, he followed along behind them. “It’s actually been pretty quiet here, lately,” he said as he walked beside Barbara to the Delphi, where the redhead immediately set about inspecting the computer system.

“That’s great,” Helena answered distractedly. “I think I’ll just take these” she indicated the bags she was still carrying, “into the bedroom.”

“Thanks Hel,” Barbara called to the retreating brunette.

Looking from Barbara to Helena and then back to Barbara again, Dick couldn’t help but feel he was missing something. This had to be one of the oddest conversations he’d ever had. It didn’t seem as though either woman were actually addressing him in the conversation at all.

Stepping up onto the Delphi platform, he stood next to Barbara, placing a hand on her shoulder. “So, did the two of you work things out?” he asked.

“Work things out?” Barbara asked, mildly confused.

“Yeah. Dinah said you two stayed a little longer to ‘work things out’. I assumed the two of you had been fighting again?” he said, attempting to extract some small tidbit of information from the redhead.

Barbara smiled as she answered, “Yes, actually we did manage to ‘work things out’. The extra few days were just what the doctor ordered,” she said enigmatically.

“Oh well, good I’m glad to hear it,” he said, still sure he wasn’t catching something going on under the surface.

Just then, Dinah peered over the railing from the upper level. “Dick, did I hear…Oh, Barbara! Did you just get back? Where’s Helena? How did things go?” the teen fired question after question as she came down the steps. When she reached the redhead she wrapped her in a huge hug. “I’m so glad you guys are home,” she said as she released her mentor.

“Thank you, Dinah,” Barbara said, as the teen released her. “To answer your questions…in order, yes, putting our things away, and great.”

“Cool,” the teen gushed. “I’m gonna go see if Helena needs any help,” she said, turning and heading down the hall.

“Well that was weird,” Dick said as he watched her go.

“Not really,” Barbara said. “She’s always like that. You know, like she just ate a three pound bag of sugar all by herself?” She laughed. “She is a teenager, you know.”

“Yeah, I did kinda notice that,” Dick said. “So…” he began, but was interrupted by Helena and Dinah re-entering the room.

“D, we are so not watching ‘Twilight’ again,” Helena said, heading for the kitchen.

“Aww, come on, Hel! I know you like it,” Dinah said, following the older woman, enjoying the chance to tease her.

Barbara rolled her eyes as the teasing moved into the kitchen. “God, those two,” she said fondly.

A moment later, both girls emerged from the kitchen carrying trays full of snacks and drinks. “Come on, Red. Tonight’s movie night,” Helena called as she and Dinah set the trays down on the coffee table. “You two need to get your asses over here before The Kid picks the movie,” she said, rolling her eyes for dramatic effect.

Barbara laughed and grabbed Dicks’ hand. “Come on, before they get really worked up. We’d never get any work done, anyway.”

Speechless, Dick just allowed Barbara to pull him over to the living area, where she pushed him toward one of the armchairs. Then he watched as she transferred herself over to one end of the couch, Dinah taking the other end. He sighed. He had always sat with Barbara on the couch before. Why did she purposely push him into the chair?

Silently, Helena watched what was happening around her. She knew Barbara hadn’t mentioned their relationship to Dick, yet. They had after all, just gotten back. Still, she was feeling rather smug when she saw Barbara steer him away from herself and into a chair, instead of his usual spot on the couch. Flipping the top off her bottle of Smirnoff Ice, she flopped into the other chair and relaxed.

Throughout the movie, Helena watched quietly as Dick watched Barbara. She knew he was trying to figure out exactly what was going on with the redhead. He’d never been very good at hiding things. Not the way Barbara was, at any rate. With her, you had to really be paying attention, to notice her emotions. With Dick, everything was out there, flapping in the breeze, all the time.

As the movie wound down, she noticed that Dinah was fighting to keep her eyes open. The teen had been staying at Gabby’s until this evening, returning only a short time before Helena and Barbara. “Hey Kid,” Helena called, tossing a marshmallow at her, “why don’t you go on to bed? You’re falling asleep.”

Catching the marshmallow in the face, Dinah blinked rapidly. “Wh…what?”

“I said, you’re falling asleep. Go on to bed,” Helena repeated. “We can watch the next one tomorrow night.”

Dinah nodded. She was tired, and a good nights’ sleep sounded fantastic. Still, she’d missed spending time with the two women, and didn’t want to go to bed just yet. But, just as she was about to protest, Barbara spoke up, agreeing with Helena.

“You should get some rest, Dinah. Helena’s right, we can do this again, later.”

Dinah rolled her eyes, but stood up. “All right, I know when I’m not wanted,” she said, feigning a pout. “I’ll see you all in the morning.” She turned and headed for her room, tired, but glad her friends were home.

“Well,” Helena stood up after Dinah left, “I think I’ll start cleaning up some of this mess. Barbara, you want to help?” she asked, giving the redhead a slight eyebrow quirk that Dick didn’t notice.

“Yeah, sure Hel,” Barbara said, transferring herself back to her chair. She’d caught the brunette’s signal right away. “Here, hand me that tray,” she said, accepting the tray full of empty plates, snack bags and bottles. Following Helena into the kitchen, she set the tray on the table.

“Barbara,” Helena began, setting her tray down as well, “is Dick planning on spending the night here, tonight? I know you haven’t told him about us, but somehow I get the impression he thinks he’s sleeping with you, tonight. You know, just like old times?”

Barbara shrugged. “I don’t know, he probably is, Hel. I’ll talk to him, and tell him I’m in a new relationship.” She reached out and grabbed the brunettes’ hand, pulling her close. “Old times are long past, Hel. I promise.”

“You will do it tonight, right?” Helena asked anxiously. “I don’t share well with others, you know.”

Barbara rolled her eyes. “I saw your report cards and school reports, Hel. I remember. And yes, I’ll talk to him tonight.”

Helena bent down and placed a light kiss to the redheads’ lips. “Good, because I really need to feel you wrapped up in my arms tonight, Red. I miss touching you, already,” she whispered, as she stood back up.

Barbara shuddered as Helena’s breath ghosted across her cheek. “I miss you too, Hel.” Not wanting to waste another minute talking about Dick, and really wanting to go to bed, she said, I’ll tell him.”

Just then, Dick entered the kitchen with a handful of bottles and pop cans. “Hey, I thought I lost you two for a minute. You coming back out, or what?”

“Actually,” Helena said, yawning, “I think I’m going to head on to bed. I’ll catch you two later,” she said, leaving the kitchen and praying that Barbara wouldn’t take too long talking to Dick. She headed down the hallway, bypassing her old room, and went straight to Barbara’s room.

* * * * *

“Well, that was strange,” Dick said as he watched Helena’s departing back.

“Not really,” Barbara said, nonchalantly. “It’s been a long few days. She’s probably just tired.”

“So, she’s staying here, tonight. She’s not heading back to her place?” he asked, the tone of disappointment in his voice obvious.

“Apparently not,” Barbara said, acting like there was nothing strange about Helena spending the night in the Clocktower and heading back toward the couch. “Dick,” she said, “why don’t you sit down? I’d like to talk to you about something.”

“Okay,” he said carefully, not sure what she was acting so serious about. “What’s up?” he asked.

“Well, I just wanted to talk to you for a minute. You see,” Barbara said, rubbing her legs with her hands nervously, even though she couldn’t feel it. “I needed to fill you in on something. Something that’s happened in my life, recently.” She stopped and drew in a breath, licking her lips. “I’ve…I’ve been seeing someone…and I…well, I didn’t want you to have the wrong impression. What I mean to say, is…you’re welcome to stay here, of course, but…”

Finally catching on to her rambling, he finished for her. “…but you’d prefer it if I slept on the couch tonight?”

Blowing out a breath of relief, she said, “Yes, exactly,” and smiled. Okay, this hadn’t been as hard as she’d thought it was going to be.

“So…” he said, leaning closer, “who is it? Aren’t you going to tell me his name?” He didn’t really want to know. He only asked because it’s what he thought she’d expect him to do. When she’d told him about Wade, he’d been disappointed. He’d always harbored some small hope that they’d eventually get back together. Now, it seems she’d found someone else again.

Barbara felt her elation pass. Damn! She’d hoped he wouldn’t ask that. “Actually, I’d prefer to keep that quiet for a while, yet,” she said. “It’s still so new…and after Wade…” She cringed inside, using Wade’s name like that. She didn’t want to do it, but for some reason, she just didn’t want him to know that her relationship was with Helena. Aside from the fact that he disliked the younger woman, he also didn’t trust her. He remembered too well what she’d been like as a teenager. And, Barbara had to admit, Helena had never attempted to win him over, either.

He nodded sagely. “I get it, Babs,” he said, reaching over and squeezing her hand. “I’ll respect your privacy about it, no problem.”

“Thank you, Dick,” she said, returning the squeeze. “You’re a great friend.”

Inwardly cringing at the term ‘friend,’ he said, “You’re welcome. Now, why don’t you go on to bed?” He smiled at her and released his grip on her hand. “I saw you stifling those yawns a few minutes ago.”

She nodded. “I think I will,” she said, turning and wheeling toward her room. “Good night, Dick. And thanks again for being so understanding!”

As he watched her departing back, he smiled wistfully. ‘Well, Grayson, you lose again,’ he said to himself, shaking his head. Maybe he should have been around more after Harley Quinn had attacked the Clocktower? But no, Barbara had been adamant that he stay in Bludhaven. She’d told him in no uncertain terms that she didn’t want him there, and he’d respected her wishes. Now, it looked like another lost opportunity. Still, this new relationship was pretty quick for Barbara. She didn’t usually move this fast, preferring to weigh all the factors before making a decision like entering into a relationship. Shaking his head, confused, he got up and dug sheets and a pillow out of the hall closet.

* * * * *

Helena was waiting when Barbara entered the bedroom. Sitting in the bed, lounging back against the headboard, she was practically bouncing when the redhead entered. As the door shut, she asked, “Well? Did you tell him?”

Barbara smiled indulgently. “Yes, I told him. He was gracious about it, even a little curious.”

“Well, isn’t that big of him,” Helena said, sliding off the bed and leaning into Barbara, kissing her. When she let the redhead up for air, she said, “So, is he still here, or did he leave?”

Barbara sighed. “He’s still here. He’s sleeping on the couch.”

“So, you’re saying I can’t do that thing that makes you scream at the top of your lungs, then?” Helena asked, smiling lasciviously and sneaking her hand up the front of Barbara’s shirt, in the process.

Barbara swatted her hand away playfully, “That’s pretty much what I’m saying, yeah,” she said.

“Too bad,” she said, leaning in and kissing Barbara again, “I was kinda looking forward to that.”

“Well,” Barbara said, wheeling past Helena and heading for the bathroom, “I didn’t say I wasn’t willing to play. We just need to use our inside voices,” she said, laughing at the look Helena shot her way as she closed the bathroom door.

Fifteen minutes later, Barbara emerged from the bathroom. Helena was back on the bed. This time however, she had the blankets pulled up to her chin. “Hel?” Barbara said, catching sight of her, “What are you doing? It isn’t all that cold in here.”

“Turn out the light and come to bed, Barbara,” Helena said in answer.

The redhead quirked a brow, but complied with the request. As she transferred herself into bed, she realized why Helena had the blankets pulled up. The brunette was already completely naked and waiting for her. Smiling at the sight, she reached over and pulled Helena to her. “I’ve missed you,” she said, attaching herself to Helena’s lips.

“I missed you too, Red,” Helena said when she came up for air. “I’ve been itching to touch you all night.” She slid her hands under Barbara’s tank top as she spoke, pulling it up and over her head, a moment later.

“God Hel, I don’t know why I bothered getting dressed for bed,” Barbara said, laughing at Helena’s obvious desire to see her naked.

“Maybe you never should again,” Helena said in answer, leaning down and running her tongue from Barbara’s neck to her breasts.

Barbara arched into her mouth, gasping when Helena began sucking her right breast. When she felt the brunette’s tongue ring swirling around her nipple, she grabbed hold of Helena’s head and held her tightly to her. “Oh God, Hel, that’s so perfect,” she gasped out, between ragged breaths. With her free hand, she began scratching Helena’s back, causing the brunette to growl softly in response. Then, switching to Barbara’s left breast, she renewed her efforts. Biting her lower lip now, Barbara was finding it difficult to use her ‘inside voice’.

“Barbara,” Helena said, as she slid herself further down on the redheads’ body, “how thick are these walls, anyway?”

Barbara was breathing so hard she could barely answer, “Not thick enough, Hel.” Then, watching as Helena slid the waistband of her pajama bottoms down slightly and began licking her hip bone, she moaned in need. She’d missed touching the brunette today, too. Getting interrupted in the elevator had left them both frustrated, to say the least. “Not near as thick as I’d like right now.”

Helena smirked. “Maybe we could hire a contractor? Have ‘em soundproof the room?” Helena wiggled her eyebrows suggestively.

“It’s something to consider,” Barbara said, willing to agree to anything right now as long as Helena kept touching her. Then, Helena was sliding up the length of her body and Barbara thought she would burst into flames. The feeling of skin on skin was almost too much to take.

“I’ll start looking for a contractor tomorrow,” Helena said jokingly.

Unable to wait any longer, she pulled the brunette up to kiss her hard on the mouth. Between kisses, Barbara said, “Helena, shut up and make love to me.”

Helena flashed a feral grin, her eyes now golden slits. “I thought you’d never ask,” she said, growling again and pulling Barbara’s pajama bottoms off completely and tossing them carelessly across the room.

For the next two hours, there was nothing but two bodies moving together in perfect unison. The only sounds, soft gasps and moans as they took turns pleasing each other. If either of them had bothered to care, they would have been proud to find that they’d managed to maintain their ‘inside voices’ the entire night.

Finally, sated and exhausted, they fell asleep wrapped in each others’ arms. Just before Helena drifted off completely, Barbara heard her whisper, “Love you, Red.” She smiled at the softly spoken words and fell asleep, realizing she was truly happy for possibly the first time in her life.

* * * * *

Helena woke up that morning to find Barbara already up and gone. Knowing the redhead as well as she did, she knew the older woman was probably sitting in front of her beloved Delphi, scrolling through reports. Mornings never being her strong suit, Helena forced herself to get up and get dressed. Emerging from the room minutes later, she headed toward the kitchen.

As she neared the kitchen, she glanced over the railing toward the Delphi, and saw Barbara right where she knew she’d be. Smiling to herself, she went to the closest cabinet and began rummaging until she found a box of Poptarts. Taking out a package, she grabbed a glass from another cabinet and poured herself some milk. Then, breakfast in hand, she headed downstairs.

“So,” she said, coming to stand next to the redhead, “Whatcha doin’?”

“Just checking reports from the last two weeks,” Barbara answered, distractedly. “Dick was right. There hasn’t been much activity lately.”

“So,” Helena asked, attempting to be nonchalant about it, “where is Dick this morning?”

“Oh, he went out to run some errands,” Barbara answered, still distracted.

“Well then, I guess I’ll just watch some TV,” Helena said, turning to head for the living area. Before she could leave, however, she felt a hand grab her wrist.

“Hel,” Barbara said, smiling at the brunette, “Good morning.” She pulled Helena to her and kissed her. “I’m sorry, I wasn’t trying to ignore you.”

“Its okay, Red,” Helena said, kissing her back. “I know how you get when you’re with Delphi. All googly eyed, and all.” She smiled, teasing the redhead.

Barbara smiled back, recognizing the words for what they were. Kissing Helena again, she said, “I promise I won’t work too long, today. I thought maybe we could go out.”

Helena’s eyes lit up. “You mean it, Red? Where would you like to go?”

Barbara shrugged. “Hmm, I was thinking the New Gotham Museum of Fine Art? I know how much you like it.”

Helena practically jumped up and down, she was so excited. “Oh Barbara, that would be great! Can we have dinner out tonight, too? You know, like a date?”

Barbara pretended to think about the request for a minute before saying, “Of course, I was hoping you’d want to, Hel.”

Helena leaned in and kissed the redhead again. “Thanks Red, you really know how to make a girl happy.”

Smirking, Barbara said quietly, “I kinda figured that out last night. You know, when you kept calling my name and saying, “please Barbara, more?”

Helena didn’t say anything, just flashed a wicked grin and sauntered toward the living area, where she flopped on the couch and turned on the TV. Within minutes, she was as absorbed in the flipping of channels, as Barbara was in the Delphi.

* * * * *

Three hours later, Barbara and Helena were strolling through the New Gotham Museum of Fine Art. Helena had stopped, contemplating an impressionist painting by Manet, when Barbara’s attention was drawn by the sound of someone saying, “Barbara Gordon, is that you?”

Barbara turned toward the voice, only to recognize none other than Mindy Jansen, the art teacher at New Gotham High School. Pulling a smile from somewhere, she’d really hoped to not see any of her colleagues today, she said, “Mindy, how are you?”

“I’m fine, Barbara,” the thirty-something Mindy said, “But how are you? When I’d heard you took the rest of the year off, I was really worried.”

Barbara shrugged, “I’m okay, Mindy. I guess I just needed some time.”

“I know,” the blond said sympathetically, “I’m so sorry about Wade Brixton. I’d heard you two were seeing each other. It must have been hard for you.”

Barbara sighed. She had been hoping the subject of Wade wouldn’t come up. Nodding, she said, “We’d only dated a few times, but yes, it was hard. He was a really nice guy.” She so wanted to turn and run away from this, but it was inevitable. Eventually, she was going to have to answer questions from her co-workers. She had just hoped to put it off a little longer. Attempting to change the subject, she said, “So, what brings you to the museum today?”

“Oh, I heard about the Degas Show. He’s my favorite of the impressionists and, since it is spring break, I thought I’d check it out,” she answered enthusiastically. “But what about you, Barbara? I never thought you were particularly interested in art?”

“Actually, I’m here with my friend, Helena,” Barbara said, gesturing toward the brunette. “She loves the museum.”

Mindy turned to look in the direction Barbara was pointing and noticed the brunette immediately. Her interest suddenly caught as she looked at the young woman, she couldn’t help but say, “Barbara, I think you’ve been holding out on me.”

Taken by surprise by Mindy’s comment, Barbara could only stammer, “I’m sorry, what? I’m not quite sure I know what you’re referring to Mindy.”

Mindy rolled her eyes. “Oh come on, Barbara! I can’t believe you never mentioned that you were dating again. Where’d the two of you meet?”

“Uh, well…” Barbara said, desperately searching for an answer to the blonde’s question. “Actually, Helena and I have known each other for years.”

Mindy’s eyes lit up at Barbara’s lack of an answer. “So, you two aren’t dating? Because you know, Barbara…If you’re available, I thought maybe we could…”

Across the room, Helena had noticed Barbara talking to the blond. With her meta-enhanced hearing, she was quite aware of Barbara’s conversation with Mindy Jansen. Instead of butting in however, she’d chosen to just listen, in case Barbara suddenly needed her to run interference or something. Not that the redhead wasn’t capable of handling a co-worker by herself. But, if her voice started to show any sign of strain, Helena would be there in a heartbeat. Then, she heard Mindy’s comment and subsequent question when Barbara pointed her out. Deciding to have a little fun, she turned and strolled toward the two women, making sure to exude sexiness with every step. She knew she was beautiful, and she also knew how to use her looks when she wanted to. Right now, she knew it was working, judging by the looks on the faces of the two women.

“Hey Red,” she said, allowing her voice to slip into a sultry whisper, as she leaned in and kissed the speechless Barbara on the mouth. Standing back up, she said, “So, who’s your friend?” She turned and eyed the stunned Mindy, raking her eyes up and down.

“Uh,” Shaking herself, Barbara finally managed to find her voice. “Uh…Hel, this is Mindy Jansen. She teaches art at New Gotham High.”

Helena stuck out a hand in greeting. “Pleased to meet you,” she said, putting on her best manners. “It’s so rare that I get to meet any of Barbara’s co-workers.”

Mindy was still stunned. Looking from Helena to Barbara, she finally remembered Helena had been speaking to her. She shook Helena’s hand. “It’s nice to meet you, too. It seems Barbara’s just full of surprises, these days,” she said, looking at Barbara again. This time, the look in her eye was appreciation. Gordon had really scored with this one!

“So, you’re into the impressionists?” Helena said, catching and holding the blonds gaze.

“Yes,” Mindy nodded. “Degas is my favorite, although Manet had his points.”

“I know what you mean,” Helena said in answer, “although I really prefer Renoir and Cezanne.” As she continued to talk to Mindy about the artists, she kept a hand in Barbara’s hair, letting it flow through her fingers absently. Or so it seemed. She was quite aware of what she was doing, and of what it was doing to Barbara, as well. She could hear the rapid beat of the redhead’s heart when she’d first kissed her. It hadn’t slowed down, either, only increased with Helena’s touch.

For the next few minutes, the three continued to discuss the impressionists. Much to her delight, Barbara had managed to surprise Mindy with her knowledge of the artists, as well. With Helena continuing to run her fingers through her hair, she had to do something to keep from thinking about the brunette’s touch. She felt as though she was on fire.

Suddenly, Mindy said, “Barbara, are you feeling okay? You’re looking a little…flushed.”

“I do?” Barbara asked, raising a hand to feel her cheek. “I feel fine, actually. Maybe…”

Helena leaned in and put a hand to her forehead. “You do look a little hot, Barbara,” she said quietly, placing extra emphasis on the word ‘hot’. Maybe that cold’s coming back?”

“No, I don’t think that’s it,” Barbara said. “I am just a little warm, though. Maybe we could go to the cafeteria and get something to drink?”

“Yeah, I think that would be great,” Helena agreed. “Mindy, would you care to join us?”

“Oh, no, thank you, though. You two go ahead,” she said, not wanting to intrude any further on what was obviously a date between the two women.

“So, I hope we’ll see you again,” Helena said. “I’ve enjoyed our talk.”

“Absolutely,” Mindy agreed. “Any time you’d like to get together and discuss art, just let me know. I’d love to show you both my favorite little gallery downtown some time. Give me a call Barbara, and we can set something up.”

“Sure,” Barbara said, feeling her breath hitch a little as Helena scratched across her shoulder blades. “It’s been good talking to you, Mindy. We’ll get together soon.”

“Bye ladies, I’ll see you both again,” Mindy said, turning and leaving the impressionist gallery. As she left, she couldn’t help but think about the two women she was leaving. She had never pegged Barbara Gordon as someone who would date another woman. But man! Helena was just so…hot. Actually, they both were. She herself had always liked Barbara. If she’d known Barbara was playing for the same team, she’d have asked her out a long time ago. Thinking about it, Mindy had to admit to herself that she was just a bit jealous of the two. After all, she’d been looking for the right woman for years and hadn’t managed to find anyone like either of them. She hoped they knew how lucky they were. It was obvious that Helena worshipped the ground Barbara walked on. She hadn’t been able to keep her hands off the redhead. Then, remembering the looks Barbara had been giving the brunette, she knew Barbara was well aware of just how lucky she was. Helena, for her part, didn’t seem oblivious either. Sighing, she headed home to make some popcorn and curl up on the couch to watch her favorite movie. Suddenly, she felt really depressed.

* * * * *

“So, what was that all about?” Barbara asked, situating herself at a table in the museum cafeteria and taking a drink of her tea.

Helena, who was sitting down across from the redhead, asked innocently, “What was what, all about?”

Barbara rolled her eyes at the brunette. “You know exactly what I mean, Hel.” She set her tea down and watched her companion. “Your little display?” she prompted, when it was apparent that Helena wasn’t going to answer.

Helena acted as of she were searching her memory, before finally saying, “You mean when I kissed you?”

Barbara nodded. “Yes, and the whole ‘hand in my hair,’ thing.”

Helena shrugged. “I just felt like it.” Then, seeing the look Barbara gave her, she was compelled to go on. Sighing, she said, “Barbara, I heard you two talking. I knew who she was. But when I heard her ask if you were available…” she shrugged again. “I guess I didn’t want her to think you were.”

Barbara arched a brow. “So…you were jealous and felt the need to step in and let her know we were together?”

Helena nodded. “Something like that, yeah.” She reached over and took Barbara’s hands in hers. “Barbara, I didn’t want her to question anything. She obviously never thought you’d date a woman, but it’s also obvious that she likes you. I didn’t want her getting any ideas. Besides, I’m proud of you. I don’t care if everyone knows about us.”

Barbara’s first reaction to Helena’s confession of jealousy was anger. Didn’t Helena think she was capable of handling someone asking her out? But then, as she really listened to what Helena was saying, she couldn’t be angry. Not even for a minute. Squeezing the brunette’s hands, she asked, “So, you’re proud of me?”

Helena snorted and rolled her eyes. “Of course, Red! You really don’t have any clue how gorgeous and wonderful you are, do you? I’d be a fool not to be proud of you.”

“Uh…I guess not,” Barbara said, blushing at the younger woman’s praise of her. “So…your little display was…territorial? To let Mindy know that I was yours?”

Helena blushed slightly herself. “Actually, I wanted her to know that I belonged to you. Not the other way around. I wouldn’t dare to claim you were…you know…that you…”

Barbara cut her off, saying, “I am, Hel. I mean, I do…” Flabbergasted, she finally managed to get out, “Belong to you.” Her voice lowered, so as not to be overheard. “You claimed me heart and soul a long time ago, Helena. It’s not presumption.”

Hearing Barbara’s words, Helena smiled broadly. Moving her chair around so that she was sitting next to the redhead, she reached over and hugged her. Her breath was hot on Barbara’s ear as she whispered, “I love you, Barbara Gordon. Don’t ever doubt that.”

“I don’t, Hel,” Barbara said, hugging the brunette back. “I love you, too.”

* * * * *

Adjacent to the New Gotham Museum of Art, was New Gotham Municipal Park. Two hundred acres of gently forested land nestled smack in the middle of the city, it reminded Helena of her cabin, up in the mountains. Sighing quietly as she thought about The Rook, she shyly suggested to Barbara that they take a walk through the park. Their dinner reservation wasn’t until seven, so they still had some time to kill. And, as Helena pointed out, it was a perfect way to continue their date. Smiling at the suggestion, Barbara had happily agreed.

As they made their way along the paved pathways, they held hands and talked. Careful not to talk about their jobs or their ‘work,’ they simply enjoyed being together, just like any other young couple. For Helena, especially, this was a new experience. Not once, not even in high school, had she ever just held hands with someone. Now, to be doing so with Barbara made her feel all warm and fuzzy inside. She sighed again.

Hearing Helena sigh, Barbara had to ask. “Hel? What was the sigh for?”

The brunette shrugged. “Nothing in particular, Red. I think…” she stopped for a moment, contemplating what she wanted to say. Biting her cheek, she finally found the words. Then, turning to look Barbara in the eyes, she said, “I think…I’m content.”

Barbara smiled at Helena’s choice of words. “You’re not going to purr, are you? I’d rather you not do that out here.”

Helena arched a brow. “Oh? You don’t want me purring in contentment?”

Barbara pursed her lips to keep from laughing at the look on Helena’s face. Finally, unable to keep from teasing the younger woman, she said, “Oh, I want you purring all right. I just don’t think this is the place for that sort of thing.”

Helena cocked her head. “Barbara Gordon, are you flirting with me?” Helena asked, smiling.

“Most definitely,” Barbara said in answer, pulling Helena in for a kiss. Coming up for air, she glanced at her watch. “Unfortunately, I think we should get going. It’s almost time for our dinner reservation.”

“Mmm, and I was hoping we could skip dinner and just have dessert,” Helena said, pouting.

Barbara smiled indulgently. “Later, Hel. I promise you’ll get dessert.”

“Well, if you promise, Red,” Helena said, allowing the redhead to drag her along, “I guess we can go.” Then, seeing the look in Barbara’s eyes, she couldn’t help but grin and hurry to keep up with her. Nothing was going to keep her from her dessert tonight, not even dinner.

Barbara had made reservations for two at their favorite Italian restaurant. It wasn’t anything fancy, just a local, family owned business that had been around for years. When she’d suggested to Helena that morning that they go out for the day, she’d already made the reservations. She remembered how much the brunette liked it and wanted to surprise her.

When they pulled up in front of the restaurant, Helena’s eyes lit up. “Oh, Barbara, I love this place.” She looked over at the redhead with an expression of surprise on her face. “You remembered? We haven’t been here in a long time.”

Barbara laughed. “Of course I remembered, Hel. I do have an eidetic memory. But,” she added, leaning over toward Helena, who was seated on the passenger side, and planted a kiss on the brunette, “how could I ever forget this place? It’s the first place we went out to eat at together after the shooting? You know, once I was allowed to go home and I was all depressed and everything. You whined and complained until I finally let you drag me out for the evening…and this is where we ended up. I could never forget that.” She pulled back and brushed a hand over the smooth jaw as she moved back into the drivers’ seat. “You ready to eat? It’s almost seven.”

“You bet, Red. Let me get your chair,” Helena said, getting out and retrieving the wheelchair from the cargo area. After setting it up, she waited while Barbara expertly transferred herself from the Hummer. Once she was settled, Helena walked next to her into the restaurant, resting a hand on her shoulder.

As they entered, Paolo, the head waiter noticed them. Smiling as he recognized the two women, he said, “Ah Ms. Gordon, Ms. Kyle, so nice to see you both again!” Grabbing two menus he said, “Please follow me. Giorgio has reserved the best table in the house for you tonight.”

He brought them to a quiet table for two situated in a corner of the room where they could see everything, but they weren’t seen by everyone. Lighting the candle in the middle of the table, he made sure each of them was comfortable. While they were getting settled, he held up a hand and signaled another waiter, who immediately brought over two glasses of water. “Do you need the wine list this evening, Ms. Gordon?” Paolo asked.

“No, thank you, Paolo. I believe a bottle of your Tenuta San Guido Sassicaia, the 1990 Vintage, would be wonderful,” Barbara said, looking at Helena and reaching over to touch her hand.

He arched a brow and said, “Ah, a wonderful choice. I’ll bring it immediately.” He left to retrieve the bottle of wine and two glasses, returning within minutes.

As Paolo poured the wine, Helena said, “Barbara, you even remembered the wine? Geez…” It was strange, but at the moment, Helena was feeling rather overwhelmed.

“I remembered how much you like it, Hel,” Barbara said, smiling at her again. “I also know how expensive it is. You really didn’t need to do that at the lodge, you know…Pay for everyone’s dinner, I mean.”

Helena shrugged. “I wanted to, Red. For some reason, I just felt like doing something really nice for everyone.”

“Well, it was a wonderful gesture, thank you.” She held up her glass and smiled. “A toast?”

Helena picked up her glass as well. “To a long and happy life together?” Helena said.

Barbara smiled and clinked her glass with Helena’s. “Absolutely,” she said in agreement, as she took a drink.

They ordered, and passed the time waiting for their meals talking and listening to the wandering musicians. When their meals arrived, Helena felt her mouth water as the plate of Manicotti was placed in front of her. She looked over to see that Barbara also looked absolutely stunned, as she eyed her Eggplant Parmigiana.

Once finished, their table was cleared, and Paolo came back by to check on them. “Are you having dessert this evening, ladies? We have a wonderful Tiramisu tonight.”

Never taking her eyes off Barbara, Helena answered, “I don’t think so, but thank you, Paolo.”

Smiling to himself, he shrugged and went on his way. It was obvious that the two women were more interested in each other this evening than they were food.

Not even realizing that the head waiter had left, Helena picked up her wine glass. With her free hand, she took hold of Barbara’s hand across the table. “Barbara,” she said, looking deep into the redhead’s eyes, “have I ever told you how gorgeous you are?” The redhead blushed at her words, which only encouraged her to continue. “I absolutely love that blouse on you. The color brings out the green in your eyes so much, I could drown.”

“Helena,” Barbara said rather breathlessly, it amazed her how the brunette could render her practically speechless with her words, “thank you. I have to say though; I’m really enjoying your outfit as well. Every time I look at you my mouth waters.”

“Really?” Helena asked, somewhat surprised that Barbara would admit to that last. “I do that to you?”

“Really,” the redhead admitted, dropping her gaze down to their joined hands shyly. “You know, I think I might like to head home soon. I seem to remember something about dessert?”

Understanding dawned, and Helena smiled brightly. Signaling for the check, they paid their bill, bid Paolo a good night, and headed for the car.

“So,” Helena said, as she climbed into the drivers’ seat of the Hummer. She would have let Barbara drive, but after two bottles of wine, the redhead had no business driving. Besides, Helena’s meta-human metabolism allowed her to have a higher tolerance for such things. “Do you want to go back to the Clocktower?”

“Where else would we go?” Barbara asked, confused by the question.

For some reason, Helena suddenly felt like a hormonal teenager asking someone to the school dance. “Well, Dick’s still there, so I was thinking it’s getting a little crowded.”

Even in her slightly inebriated state, Barbara could tell that Helena was beating around the bush. Finally, deciding to prompt the brunette, she said, “And you thought we could…?”

“Go to my place?” Helena suggested shyly, looking over at the redhead from under her bangs.

Barbara appeared to think about the suggestion before making a decision. “Hel, I don’t have anything I need there. You know, my nightly ritual?” She hated bringing up the subject of her special needs; it made her feel less than a complete woman. But more than that, she hated seeing the look on Helena’s face when she turned down the idea. Surprisingly though, Helena was smiling! “Hel?” she said, not sure why the brunette wasn’t upset.

Leaning over toward the passenger seat, Helena brushed a palm across the redhead’s cheek. “I’ve got everything you’ll need, Red. I told you…I know what it takes for you to be spontaneous.” Then, leaning closer, she captured the redhead in a searing kiss that, when she pulled away, left them both needing air.

Barbara beamed at Helena for…well…just being Helena. No one else had ever thought enough in advance to prepare their home for Barbara to spend the night. The thought of it made her love the brunette even more. As she regained her ability to breathe, she whispered quietly, “Just let me call Dinah and Dick and let them know we won’t be home tonight.”

Helena smirked. “Sure, Red.” Then, as Barbara dialed the number, Helena started the Hummer and headed for the Dark Horse Bar and her apartment above it.

* * * * *

Dick looked over at Dinah. She had answered the phone when it rang, and all he could hear, was ‘Okay, Barbara’. ‘Yeah, sure’. ‘No, no problem’. ‘Okay, I’ll see you guys tomorrow’. Then, she hung up.

As she walked back toward him, he asked, “So, what was that all about?”

The blond teen shrugged nonchalantly. “Oh, that was Barbara. She was just calling to let us know that she and Helena have been out all day, they had a late dinner, and now she’s kinda tired.”

Waiting for the rest of the story, which he didn’t think she was going to get around to anytime soon, he prompted, “And…?”

“Oh,” she said, as she plopped down next to him at the kitchen table, “she said she was staying at Helena’s tonight, because it’s closer.”

His eyebrows shot up. Barbara was staying with Helena tonight? Had she ever done that before? Maybe the two women were arguing and didn’t want him to be in the middle of it? “So, does she want me to come pick her up?” he asked.

Dinah shook her head. “No. She just said they’d had a really busy day, and she was tired. Helena’s place was closer, so they decided to just stay there. That’s all.”

“She didn’t sound upset, or mad?”

“Not at all,” the blond answered, realizing in that moment that Barbara may have mentioned to him that she was seeing someone, but she clearly hadn’t told him it was Helena. She wondered about that. But then, aware of the animosity between Helena and Dick, she could understand Barbara’s reluctance to mention who she was dating. She also realized that Barbara probably knew he still had feelings for her, and she was trying to spare him some pain. And, she also realized that Dick was having a difficult time wrapping his mind around the idea that Barbara wasn’t coming home tonight.

“So, she’s not mad or angry. She didn’t sound like they were arguing?” Shaking his head, he took a deep breath. “She ever do anything like this before?”

Rolling her eyes, but not so he could see, she answered, “No. But hey, there’s a first time for everything, isn’t there?”

Still deep in thought, he said, “I guess you’re right. It’s just strange. I’ve never known Barbara to do something spontaneous like this.” He stood up and went to the fridge for a bottle of water. “So, since we’re both stuck here this evening alone, why don’t you invite your friend Gabby over and we can have a pizza slash movie night?”

“Cool,” Dinah said, as she stood up and hugged him. “Thanks, Dick. I’ll call her right now.”

As he watched the teen bounce out of the kitchen, he shook his head and sighed, wondering if he’d ever been that young? Then, as he walked into the living room, he wondered again, ‘Staying at Helena’s?’

* * * * *

Helena and Barbara entered the Dark Horse Bar, heading for the elevator leading to Helena’s apartment. The brunette had hoped to avoid the owner, who also happened to be her boss, but Leonard saw her anyway. “Helena!” he called as he saw her heading for the back of the bar, “I have a question for you.”

Rolling her eyes, but turning to speak to him, she walked over to him and stopped. Hands on her hips, she said, “What do you want, Leonard?”

“Oh, nothing much. Just wanted to know when you were planning on coming back to work?” he asked sarcastically.

“Aw, can’t live without me?” Helena asked.

“Cut the crap, Helena. I know you had a hard time a few months ago, but a three week vacation is a long time. I’m getting tired of filling in for you.” He liked her, he really did. She may be a smartass, but she was a good bartender. It was the main reason he cut her the slack he did.

Sighing, knowing he was right, she said, “Leonard, give me one more week. I’ll be back then, I swear.”

Shaking his head and rolling his eyes, he agreed. “All right, Helena. One more week. Then I expect you back at work.”

She grinned at him and turned around to rejoin Barbara, who was waiting for her by the entrance to the back room. Getting on the elevator, Barbara said, “So, he getting tired of doing your job?”

Helena shrugged. “Imagine that.” Barbara just laughed.

As they stopped outside Helena’s door, she fumbled momentarily for the key. Then, taking a deep breath, she swung the door open. Reaching inside, she flipped a switch, and the hallway light came on. Ushering Barbara through, she shut the door behind her and locked it, making sure all three locks were in place. Then, she set the security code, something Barbara had asked her to add on after the ‘Harley Quinn incident’.

As Barbara stopped in the living room, she looked around. She hadn’t been in Helena’s apartment more than a handful of times since the brunette had moved in. Truth be told, she’d never really had the need. Helena always seemed to be at the Clocktower. But, as she watched the brunette, she realized Helena seemed nervous. “Hel, you okay?” she asked, watching as the younger woman flipped on lights and tossed some things into the hall closet.

“Yeah, I’m fine, Red.” She turned and looked at Barbara as she shut the closet door. “It’s just that…” she shrugged. “I’ve never brought anyone back here, to my place, before.”

“Oh!” Barbara said in surprise. For some reason she was beginning to feel ashamed of, she’d always thought that Helena brought people up here all the time. She’d really thought that was one of the reasons Helena had moved out of the Clocktower, so she could have her privacy.

Helena smirked. Cocking her head, she leaned against a wall, and said, “Surprised, Red? Knowing my reputation, I bet you thought I had a revolving door on the place?” She walked toward the redhead, her hips swaying seductively as she moved nearer. She smiled ferally when she noticed the way Barbara licked her lips as she sat watching her.

Attempting to save some face, Barbara took a deep breath and said, “No Hel, I never thought that. I guess it just surprises me that you’ve never had any of your friends here. You know, for a party…or?” Her voice trailed off as Helena sauntered closer.

As Helena moved toward the redhead, she could feel the shift in her body from human to meta-human. Her senses increased in strength, and she could easily hear the increase in Barbara’s breathing and heart rate. Then, Barbara’s scent filled her, and she growled softly, “The only friend I ever wanted here is you, Barbara. There is no one else.”

Barbara’s mouth was suddenly dry as she realized she was being stalked by the Huntress. Forcing herself to breathe, she said, “That’s so sweet of you, Hel.”

Not allowing her feral side to take over completely, and still feeling a little nervous, Helena turned toward the kitchen at the last minute. Reaching into the fridge, she tamped down on her instincts, forcing her eyes to go back to their normal blue. “So, you want something to drink, Red? I don’t have much. There’s some wine, beer, water, or soda. I’d offer you some milk, but after three weeks in here, I think it’s more of a science experiment now,” she said, making sure Barbara heard her question.

“How about a water?” Barbara asked, wanting to quench the dryness in her throat but suspecting that no mere drink could resolve the problem.

Helena reappeared a moment later, two bottles of water in hand. “Here you go, Red,” she said, handing one to Barbara. “So, you wanna watch a movie or some TV or…” for some reason, she was dismayed to see her hands were shaking slightly.

Recognizing Helena’s nervousness and finding it extremely cute, not to mention that the brunette wasn’t assuming anything, regardless of the fact that they both knew why they had come here instead of returning to the Clocktower, Barbara looked at her. As her eyes darkened with arousal and her voice became husky, she said, “I think I’d like dessert, Hel.”

Now it was Helena’s turn to experience dry mouth. Remembering to breathe, she set her water bottle down and leaned over, lifting Barbara out of the wheelchair. Carrying the redhead to the couch, she set her down and went back across the room to flip out some of the lights. ‘Maybe I should invest in The Clapper,’ Helena thought wryly to herself as she returned to the couch.

Dropping to her knees in front of the redhead, Helena leaned forward. Placing both hands on Barbara’s knees to steady herself, she leaned in until their faces were only inches apart. “Thanks for agreeing to come back here, Barbara. I know we’ve only been back for one day, but I missed our alone time,” she whispered.

With Helena’s breath teasing along the side of her neck, Barbara couldn’t help the flush that was coming over her skin. Her breath hitching, she looked into the deep blue pools of Helena’s eyes and whispered back. “You’re welcome, Hel. I don’t think I would have survived going back to the Clocktower, only to find Dinah and Dick both there waiting for us.” She reached out and brushed tenderly at Helena’s bangs. “Thank you for asking me here, Hel. I’m honored.”

Helena leaned in closer, depositing a kiss to Barbara’s lips. As she pulled back, she smiled. “My pleasure, Red.” She moved her hands from Barbara’s knees, then. Dragging her hands slowly up the length of her legs and up the redheads sides, she stopped at her shoulders. As she did so, she watched Barbara’s eyes darken even further. Then, she closed her eyes and took a deep breath, steadying herself. Helena, watching the redhead’s reactions intently, smirked to herself, knowing she was the cause of such reactions in the woman. “You okay, Barbara? You’re looking a little flushed,” Helena said, knowing the redhead was probably having trouble thinking right now.

“God, Hel…” the redhead gasped. “I can’t believe you can make me feel so much with just the slightest touch.”

Helena slowly slid her hands down the well-toned arms, saying, “Just wait, Red. It only gets better.”

Closing her eyes again and licking her lips, Barbara inhaled deeply. Finally, unable to hold back any longer, she reached out and grabbed Helena’s head with both hands. Tugging at her, she managed to coax the brunette up onto the couch until she was straddling the redhead, knees sinking into the cushions on either side of her.

As she surged forward at Barbara’s insistence, Helena once again met the other woman’s lips. Finally abandoning the redhead’s arms, she moved both hands to the back of the couch, leaning into and slightly over Barbara. As she felt the other woman pulling her head down to her, seemingly intent on erasing any space between them at all, Helena was thrilled to feel Barbara’s tongue insistently pushing at her lips. Within moments, she moaned loudly as Barbara’s tongue snaked into her mouth, finding her own.

Finally breaking away from the redhead reluctantly, Helena sat back just a bit in order to catch her breath. Smiling down at the other woman, she said, “God, Barbara, I love you so much. I can’t believe it took us so long to get together.”

Barbara smiled back and reached up, tucking a piece of errant hair behind the brunette’s ear. “I’m sorry it took me so long to figure things out, Hel. I honestly can’t imagine how I managed to survive all this time without you.”

“You’ve never been without me, Red. And…” Helena lowered her head and kissed the redhead again, “all the God’s willing, you never will be.”

“You’re such a sweet talker, Hel,” Barbara said, pulling the brunette’s mouth down to her again. As their mouths met, she moved her hands to the smooth back, sliding them under Helena’s top. Feeling the heat of the smooth skin under her hands, she moaned deep in her throat and surged forward.

As Helena felt those deliciously long fingers sliding over the skin of her back, she felt her eyes change. “Oh God, Barbara,” she said through harsh breaths, “Please…touch me more. I need you…so much.”

Spurred on by the younger woman’s words, and still awed by the reactions that her touches engendered in the brunette, Barbara did as she was asked. Grabbing the hem of Helena’s shirt, she pulled it up and over the brunette’s head. Then, with a slightly naughty gleam in her green eyes that Helena found too sexy, she unhooked Helena’s bra and pulled it off as well, tossing it carelessly to the floor. Finally, utterly unwilling to let the brunette go another minute without feeling her touch, she surged forward again, attacking the brunette’s neck with her mouth.

* * * * *

Hours later, with a trail of clothes leading from the living room to the bedroom, Helena awoke. Stretching languidly, she smiled at the feel of Barbara’s arm draped possessively over her stomach. Breathing deeply, she took in the feel of the redhead’s long, lean body, for the moment, tightly molded to her own. As she did, she admitted to herself that she wouldn’t trade this feeling for the world. There was nothing like waking up wrapped in Barbara’s embrace every morning. It was a small slice of heaven that Helena briefly wondered if she was entitled to. Then, before she could depress herself, she let the thought go. Hell, everyone’s entitled to love and to be loved. It’s in the ‘being human handbook,’ or something. As she settled in, just about to close her eyes and drift back to sleep, she felt green eyes on her.

Turning her head slightly, she fell into the pools of deep green that never failed to make her melt. “Morning,” she said, voice still slightly raspy from sleep.

“Good morning, Hel,” Barbara answered, unable to hide the huge grin she could feel bursting its way across her features. As she stretched, she asked, “So, did you sleep okay?”

“I always sleep well when you’re with me, Red,” Helena said, leaning over and kissing the redhead. As she pulled away, she continued. “Sleeping with you always makes me feel safe and protected, Barbara.”

Barbara quirked an eyebrow. “And loved, Hel? Do you feel loved?”

“Baby, no one’s ever made me feel the way you do,” Helena answered, leaning over and kissing her again, this time lingering. “I’ve never, in my life felt so much love. Sometimes…sometimes it’s like I’m drowning, I’m in so deep.”

“Is that a good thing?” Barbara asked, suddenly wondering if she was smothering the brunette.

Slightly confused by the question, Helena couldn’t help asking, “Huh?” Then, catching on, she nodded. “God, Barbara…It’s a very, very good thing. It’s the best thing. The only thing I’ve ever truly wanted.”

“You sure, Hel?”

“I’ve never been more sure of anything in my life, Red.” She leaned in and kissed the redhead again. As she did, she felt Barbara’s arms slip around to the back of her head, pulling her closer. As Barbara’s hands began moving down her neck and toward her back, she slid over further, until she was on top of the redhead. Pulling back slightly, she looked into the green eyes she loved so much. “You sure you want to do this now, Red? I thought for sure you’d want to get back to the Clocktower early today?”

Staring into blue eyes, Barbara shook her head. “No Hel. I’m in no hurry. This is so new to both of us…I want to take the time to enjoy it.”

Helena understood Barbara’s meaning perfectly. Their lives’ were always so busy, with work, school, Dinah, and the whole ‘vigilante thing,’ it seemed they never really had a lot of time for themselves. She was glad to see that Barbara was forcing herself to take the time she needed. Correction, that they, needed. Sighing contentedly, she leaned in and kissed the redhead yet again. “Then enjoy it we shall, my love.”

“Mmm Hel, what would I do without you?” Barbara asked, pulling Helena down to her once again.

Helena, who was busy licking her way down Barbara’s neck, looked up and wiggled her eyebrows. “Work all the time and be sexually repressed?”

Gasping as the brunette hit a particularly sensitive spot, she could only answer, “Then can you keep me unemployed and uninhibited?”

“I consider it my duty and my pleasure, Red,” Helena said, sliding lower on the redheads body, licking her way toward her breasts.

“Oh God Hel, I love you,” Barbara said through gasps of pleasure.

“And I love you, Barbara. More than I could ever find the words to express,” Helena whispered shyly, slowly and reverently kissing the flat plain of the redheads’ stomach. “Let me show you how much I love you, Barbara?”

Barbara nodded, “Please, Hel. Please…I want you to show me,” she gasped as the sensations Helena was causing within her took over. Then, there was nothing but Helena’s hands and mouth and tongue everywhere. Unable to think, Barbara found herself moaning and gasping with pleasure.

* * * * *

They arrived back at the Clocktower around four in the afternoon. When the elevator reached the living quarters and the doors opened, Barbara and Helena both sighed at the same time. Dick was there, sitting in front of the Delphi. Looking up as the elevator doors opened, he smiled tightly at them. He still hadn’t been able to figure out why Barbara had chosen to stay at Helena’s the night before, and it irked him.

“Hi,” he said unenthusiastically, attempting to hide the fact that he was irritated.

Barbara managed to muster a smile for her old friend, and said, “Hi Dick. Anything happening?”

He shook his head. “Not much so far. There was a missing person report that came over the Delphi last night, but that’s all.” He shrugged. “Anything happening with you two?”

“No, not really,” Barbara answered nonchalantly. She noticed as she did, that Helena had strolled toward the kitchen, ignoring Dick as best she could.

“So, you feel okay today?” Dick asked the redhead as she approached him on the Delphi platform.

“I feel fine, Dick. Why?” Barbara asked, genuinely confused by his question.

He shrugged. “I don’t know. You just don’t usually do anything too spontaneous these days. I thought maybe you didn’t feel well last night, since you stayed at Helena’s.” He was fishing. He knew Barbara would know it, too, but he didn’t care. What she’d done was just so out of character for her…

Suddenly, Barbara understood. Dick was right. She didn’t usually decide to stay somewhere else overnight on the spur of the moment. “Dick,” she said, laying a hand on his arm. “I felt fine. I told Dinah, I was just tired. We had a big day yesterday, and we were closer to Hel’s place. That’s all. Nothing mysterious or bad about it.”

He studied her for a moment, trying to decide if she was telling him the truth, and not just attempting to keep him from knowing they were arguing. Helena was always hard to get along with. And, she never really respected Barbara the way he thought she should, considering the fact that the redhead had given up so much of her own freedom for the brunette. Helena had always seemed spoiled and difficult to him. But, for some reason he couldn’t fathom, Barbara didn’t seem to see things that way. She had always seemed to have the patience of Job with the girl when she was younger, and even now, she gave Helena latitude she wouldn’t dream of giving anyone else. He shook his head. He would never understand their relationship. It was just too complicated for him.

Closing his eyes and taking a deep breath, he acquiesced to her obvious desire to not tell him what was going on. Instead of pushing her, he said, “So, what did you two do yesterday that wore you out?”

Fighting a blush thinking about just exactly what the two of them had been doing, Barbara couldn’t keep a slight self satisfied smirk from her face as she answered him. “Helena and I went to the New Gotham Museum of Art. Then, we took a stroll through the park and went out for dinner. I guess I’m just not used to cramming so much into one day, anymore.” She smiled disarmingly at him.

“So…you two weren’t arguing or anything?” he asked, still not quite ready to believe her story, even if it was the truth.

Getting irritated with his jealousy, but understanding his motivations, Barbara looked him in the eye and attempted to make him understand. “Dick, I swear to you, Helena and I weren’t arguing. As a matter of fact, she’s been nothing but charming and helpful. Believe it or not, she even keeps a stash of personal items and extra clothes at her apartment just for me. You know,” she said playfully, fighting a different kind of embarrassment, “for my usual nightly routine. Just in case it ever came in handy.”

Familiar with Barbara’s special needs due to her injuries, he was struck dumb at this revelation. Unaware that Helena was able to think about anyone but herself, he had to admit that this was a big deal as far as revelations went. Who knew his little sister could be so charming and thoughtful? “Well,” he said, finally willing to let the subject go, “I’m glad to hear she took good care of you. Who’d have thought, huh?”

Barbara shook her head, rolling her eyes. “Dick, I swear…” Suddenly, she was interrupted by the sound of Helena and Dinah coming in from the kitchen.

“I swear, D…you really can make the water fountains at school smoke. If you just sneak into…” realizing she had an audience due to the silence in the room, Helena stopped talking to the blond teen. Trying unsuccessfully to not do her ‘deer in the headlights’ impression, she said, “Oh…Hi Dick. You still here?” she asked casually, looking around the room, plainly wishing she would be swallowed by a black hole, or something.

“Helena,” Dick said, nodding at her.

“So, whatcha up to over here?” the brunette asked, neatly changing the subject, as she headed toward them.

“Oh, nothing, Hel,” Barbara answered. “Dick was just asking about our day yesterday. I was telling him about the museum.”

“Mmm,” Helena said noncommittally in answer, coming to stand next to the redhead and placing a hand lightly on Barbara’s shoulder. “So, what’s this I hear about a missing person?”

Suddenly remembering that Dick had mentioned that, Barbara became intrigued and rolled up to the Delphi. Situating herself in front of the monitor, she pulled her glasses out and put them on, bringing up the screen she needed right away. As she began to type, she said, “So, what do we know about the victim?”

“Well, her name’s Cynthia McCall, she’s twenty eight years old, lived alone in an apartment downtown, and she was a marketing consultant for a small tech firm here in New Gotham,” Dick said in answer, giving her the rundown as he came up to stand behind her.

As Barbara began reading the police report on the victim, she said, “That’s not all. She’s a paraplegic.”

“What?” Dick said, leaning over her shoulder to read the report himself.

She’s been a paraplegic her entire life,” Barbara said in answer.

Becoming interested, Dinah came over to stand next to them. “So, is there anything in there about who reported her missing?” the teen asked.

“Umm,” Barbara said, biting her lower lip as she scanned the report, “her mother called the police when she wasn’t able to reach her on the phone. Apparently, they talk at least once a week, and when her mother couldn’t reach her, she called her job. That’s when she found out Cynthia hadn’t been to work in almost a week either.”

“She couldn’t have just taken off without telling someone?” Helena asked, joining them. “I mean, maybe she had a secret boyfriend or something?”

Dinah rolled her eyes at the brunette and said, “Not everyone lives with secrets, Helena.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Helena huffed indignantly. “All I’m saying, is that maybe she had something going on that she didn’t want other people to know about? Who knows? Maybe she’s been really depressed about a breakup or something and just took off on her own? And yeah, D, everyone has secrets.”

“Not everyone lives in misery, either, Helena,” Dinah said sarcastically.

“And you think I do?” Helena turned to stare at the girl, anger starting to creep up her spine.

Barbara smiled indulgently at the two, rolling her eyes. Taking off her glasses, she said, “All right, all right, that’s enough, you two. Helena, that’s a good idea. I’ll make sure to check into it.”

Helena smirked at the teen and poked out her tongue.

Dinah rolled her eyes again and said, “Teacher’s pet.”

“You wish,” Helena said in reply. Then, realizing that they were beginning to push Barbara from indulgence to irritation, Helena said, “Come on Kid. You know how Red is when she gets excited. Let’s go work out and leave these two alone.”

“That’s a good idea, Hel,” Barbara said, obviously distracted by what she was reading on the monitor.

Knowing a dismissal when she heard one and realizing that the redhead was falling into ‘Oracle Mode,’ and knowing that there was nothing she could do about it, Helena sighed. Turning and walking away from the Delphi platform, she went to her old room to change clothes. Dinah went to hers, agreeing to meet the brunette in ten minutes in the work out room.

As the two younger women left the room, Barbara let out a loud sigh. As much as she loved both the younger women, sometimes it was a relief to have them in another part of the house. This time was one of those times. Still aware that Dick was there, she said, “So, do you want to stick around for a while, or do you have something to do this evening?”

Dick shrugged. “If it’s okay, I’ll stick around. I have to admit, this girls’ disappearance has me kind of flustered. Like you said, there’s nothing really sticking out that screams ‘I want to disappear’. So, if it’s okay with you, I’d like to help.”

Barbara smiled. “I’d like that, Dick. Thanks.” Then, replacing her glasses, she made herself comfortable, and began working. Dick, she noticed, had pulled up a chair and begun working at another terminal next to hers.

Over the course of the next few hours, Barbara had successfully hacked into the NGPD’s records and retrieved every ounce of information on the missing woman. Then, she set up a facial recognition program that would alert her if the woman’s face showed up on any public video camera within a three hundred mile radius of New Gotham. From there, she sent out search bots to see if there was any information about the young woman on the internet.

Meanwhile, Dick had spent his time digging into Cynthia’s background, creating a profile of her that should help them determine the best places to search for her. If she actually chose to disappear, at least. He had also set up a program to search for reports of other missing female paraplegics. It was a long shot, but what the heck. It couldn’t hurt. In the end, he found two other reports of missing female paraplegics in New Gotham. Each of those disappearances were months ago. One, an Alyssa Marsters, disappeared four months ago, the other, Brianna Scott, two months ago. Neither girl had been seen or heard from since they’d stopped showing up at their jobs. And, most disturbing, neither had been found.

Thinking he may have found something, he began compiling all the information he could find on each of these women. Before long, he turned around and called Barbara’s name quietly, so he wouldn’t startle her.

“Dick, this is great work,” Barbara said, sitting back in her chair and rolling her shoulders to ease the tension. “I’ll start looking for a common denominator between the three right now.”

Dick, glad he could help, noticed how she winced as she rolled her shoulders. “You uh…you need me to…rub your shoulders for you, Barbara? You look like they’re bothering you.”

“Huh? Oh, no,” she said, dragging her mind out of a pleasant daydream involving Helena. Shaking her head ‘she really did need to focus,’ she said, “I’ll be okay, Dick. I’ll just have Hel work on it when we run through my PT.”

Disappointed, but not wanting her to see it, he simply said, “Oh, okay then.”

Sensing that she may have inadvertently hurt his feelings, she said, “Dick, thank you for offering, but I…”

Smiling at her, he reached over and placed a hand on hers briefly. “I understand, Barbara. It’s okay, really.”

Smiling back, relieved to know that he understood, she said, “Thanks, Dick.”

* * * * *

After working out for three hours, Helena determined that she and Dinah were both exhausted. Not to mention hungry. Heading toward Barbara’s room to use her shower, since Dinah was using the other one, Helena noticed that Barbara and Dick were still at the Delphi. Turning from the hallway and heading over to the redhead, she felt her stiffen slightly as Helena stopped behind her and placed a hand on her shoulder.

“Hey Red,” she said, furrowing her brow slightly as she felt Barbara stiffen, “You two ready for a break?”

Without even looking from the screen to the brunette, Barbara reached up and patted Helena’s hand. “Not yet, Hel. I’m still working on something,” she said distractedly.

Helena sighed and rolled her eyes. But, knowing Barbara, she was quite aware of the fact that the redhead wouldn’t let this go until she found answers. Then, noticing Dick looking over toward them and deciding that she didn’t want to argue with him, she sighed again. “Well then, I’m off to take a shower. When I’m finished, would you at least eat some dinner? We can’t have you getting all skinny on us there, Red.”

Realizing Helena was teasing her and loving her for it; Barbara took off her glasses and looked at the younger woman. Smiling, she said, “Hel, I promise, when you’re finished in the shower, we’ll join you and Dinah for dinner. Alfred was here earlier and made a wonderful smelling pork roast.”

Appeased for the moment, Helena smiled back. Squeezing Barbara’s shoulder one more time, she turned and headed for the shower. “Okay Barbara, I’m holding you to it. I won’t be long.”

She laughed as she heard Barbara’s quiet, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” Helena was known for her long showers. This time, she vowed to make it quick.

* * * * *

When the Delphi alarm went off that night, Dick almost fell off the couch. Waking up fully, he jumped up and ran to the computer, his hands flying over the keyboard. Shutting the alarm off, he wondered where Barbara was. It was unlike her not to come running when the alarm went off. After waiting another five minutes and still no Barbara, he headed for her room.

When he arrived at the redhead’s door, he didn’t bother to knock. He’d never knocked in all the time he’d known her. Not when an alarm was going off, anyway. “Hey, Babs!” he called, flinging open the door to her room, “the Delphi’s alarm is goi…” He stopped mid-sentence and just stood in the doorway. Oh…uh…” Dumbstruck by the scene in front of him, he suddenly found himself unable to speak.

“What the…!” Helena’s head came up from Barbara’s chest at the sound of the door opening.

At the same time, Barbara turned to face the door. As her face turned bright red, the only thing she could think to say was, “Oh shit! Dick, what are you doing?”

He backed out of the room, stammering, “I…I just…wanted to tell you…the uh, Delphi’s alarm is going off.”

“Okay, uh…could you give us a minute? We’ll get dressed and be right out,” Barbara said, attempting to ignore her embarrassment. Jesus, what the Hell was he thinking? Just barging into her room like that in the middle of the night?

“Oh, yeah sure. No problem,” he said from the hallway, as he tried unsuccessfully to get the image of the two women naked in bed together out of his mind. He wasn’t sure, but he thought it might be burnt into his retinas.

Dick shut the door, obviously embarrassed. Helena looked down at Barbara, who clearly was not amused by the situation. Totally and completely unconcerned with what Dick had just walked in on, she couldn’t help it, she started laughing.

Irritated, Barbara pushed Helena off her and maneuvered herself into her chair. “Hel, this is not funny,” she said.

Helena got up and started getting dressed, looking for her jeans. “Yes it is,” she said, laughing again. She doubted he’d ever seen that much naked flesh all at once. “Did you see the look on his face?” Pulling on her shirt, she remembered that Dick was supposed to know about their relationship. “Hey Red, I thought you told him about us?”

Rolling her eyes and unable to find her top, she said, “Where the Hell is my tank top?” Looking toward Helena, she asked, “Did you throw it over there on your side?” Helena tossed it at her, hitting her in the face. Pursing her lips but saying nothing about the brunette’s aim, she answered the question. “I did tell him. I just didn’t tell him the relationship was…with you.”

Helena looked over at her, obviously ticked off. “Some reason you neglected to mention that little detail?”

Barbara sighed. “Hel, we really don’t have time for this right now. Can we talk about it later?”

“Sure, Red,” she answered as she pulled on her boots. “Whatever you say.”

Barbara finished pulling on her top and her shoes and headed for the Delphi. “Are you coming?”

“On my way,” Helena said, jogging to catch up to her.

As they neared the Delphi platform, Barbara could see that Dick was already there, scrolling through reports. “So, what’s happening?” She asked him as she rolled up to the Delphi. She ignored the look he gave her, becoming all business. There simply wasn’t time for this right now.

“It’s a murder,” he said, clearly uncomfortable standing so close to her. He was all too aware of what she’d been doing only minutes before. And, even without meta-human senses, he could still smell Helena and the scent of Barbara’s own arousal all over her.

“Hel,” Barbara said, turning to the brunette.

“On my way, Red,” Helena said, already heading toward the balcony. She stopped as she heard Dinah.

“Hey, is that the Delphi alarm?” Dinah asked sleepily, walking up to the platform in her pajamas, rubbing her eyes.

“Get dressed, Kid. You’re coming with me,” Helena said. “And make it snappy, we’re in a hurry.”

Dinah looked over at her perplexed, but said, “Uh…okay. I’ll be right back.” She turned and left, heading to her room to get dressed.

As she waited for Dinah, Helena felt the tension in the room. She desperately needed to say something, anything, to take the edge off. The idea of poking her tongue out at Dick and saying, “Nyah, nyah, nyah, I’m sleeping with Barbara,” crossed her mind, but she opted to keep it to herself. Knowing the redhead would be severely pissed off by the childish behavior. She was saved when Dinah returned, ready to go.

Giving Barbara a quick kiss on top of the head, after all, what harm could it do? Dick had already caught them in the throes of passion. She turned and followed the teen to the elevator. “Call ya soon,” she said, as the doors closed.

“So,” Dinah said, finally awake. She was standing with her arms crossed, staring at Helena. “What was that all about?”

“What was what all about?” Helena asked innocently, pretending she didn’t have a clue.

“Well, you don’t normally go demanding that I join you on your late night jaunts through the city. Especially not in the middle of the night,” Dinah said in explanation. “On top of that, the tension in that room was so thick you could cut it with a knife.”

Helena glanced around the elevator, attempting to avoid Dinah’s gaze to no avail. Sighing heavily, she said, “Apparently, our fearless leader neglected to tell Dick who she was in a relationship with.”

“You mean…?” Dinah gasped, wide-eyed.

Helena felt herself blush. Nodding, she said, “Yeah. I mean.”

“So, what happened?” Dinah asked curiously.

“Well, let’s just say that when the Delphi alarm went off, Dick came charging into Barbara’s room,” Helena said, attempting to keep the details to herself.

Dinah’s face split into a huge grin. “He didn’t? He…did? You’re not kidding?”

Helena shook her head. “Nope. Not kidding at all. Barbara was not amused.”

Laughing, Dinah asked, “So…what did he walk in on? Or should I even ask?”

Helena rolled her eyes. “Don’t ask. Let’s just say he caught the show.”

“Oh God,” Dinah said, embarrassed for the two. “Helena, I don’t know what to say. What’s gonna happen now?”

The brunette shrugged. “Who knows? I’m sure Dick will feel the need to give Barbara shit for her choices. He doesn’t really like me much, ya know,” she said conspiratorially. “And, you know they had a ‘thing’ once. So I’m sure the jealousy will drive him nuts.”

“Oh, this could get bad,” Dinah said, realizing for the first time what this relationship could cost her friends.

Helena shook her head. “Nah. It’ll be all right. Red knows what she’s doing. She’ll lay it out straight for him and that will be the end of it.” As she finished the thought, Helena hoped and prayed that it was the truth. She didn’t want Dick attempting to talk Barbara out of this relationship. In her heart of hearts, she knew Barbara loved her, but…she did still have some abandonment issues, apparently. They just chose the damndest times to show themselves. Pushing her fears down, she kept moving, knowing that nothing she did or said right now would change things between herself and Dick.

By this time the two had managed to get into the Hummer and pull out of the parking garage, heading for the murder scene. Deep in thought, Helena kept to herself all the way there. Dinah, for her part, was busy rolling their conversation around in her head. She couldn’t believe Barbara hadn’t told Dick that she was dating Helena. On the other hand, the way she’d been acting made sense, now. She’d wondered why Barbara had seemed kind of distant toward Helena whenever Dick was around. Helena’s confession had finally answered that question. Still, she worried about what would happen next.

* * * * *

While she was waiting for Helena and Dinah to arrive at the scene, Barbara continued scrolling through reports. Dick was still standing next to her, although she noticed he was avoiding touching her. She knew he wanted to talk about what had happened, but she just wasn’t in the mood.

After ten minutes of complete silence, Dick couldn’t contain his curiosity any longer. He had to say something. “So…Helena, huh?” he asked nervously, careful not to be too judgmental.

Barbara sighed and closed her eyes. When she re-opened them, she pinched the bridge of her nose before answering. She knew he couldn’t just leave it alone. “Dick…” she said tiredly.

“Hey, I’m just asking,” he said quietly, holding up his hands defensively. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Maybe I didn’t want to hear you tell me how wrong my decision is,” she answered, attempting to keep her emotions under control.

“What makes you think that’s what I’d do?” he asked, moving around to lean against the table so he could face her. “Do you think your decision’s wrong?”

She sighed again. Shaking her head, she said, “Why would you even ask me that? You know I don’t just jump into things.”

“No, you don’t. Which is why I’m surprised by this,” he said in answer. “You know her history, Barbara. Do you really think you can trust her?”

Barbara looked at him. No trace of doubt in her voice, she answered, “With everything that I am.”

He shook his head. He knew Barbara trusted Helena, and he often wondered why, but the level of trust Barbara was extending to Helena now, shocked him. “Barbara…”

Her eyes flashed at the recriminating tone in his voice. “You think I don’t know what I’m doing? Do you really think that I didn’t consider everything before I made this decision?”

Irritated at himself for upsetting her, he sighed. “Barbara,” he reached out to push a stray hair back from her eyes, but she swatted his hand away. “I just worry about you. I do still care, you know.”

She bit the inside of her cheek. “I know that, Dick. But I’m an adult. And, even though I’m stuck in this chair, I am still capable of making my own decisions. Leave it alone.”

“Barbara, I didn’t mean…I wasn’t trying to…” Hurt that she’d think he saw her as incapable, he tried to apologize.

Sighing again, Barbara snapped, “Just leave it alone, Dick. This conversation is over.”

Suddenly, before he could say anything else, Helena’s voice came over the comm. “Oracle, you copy?”

Becoming all business once again, Barbara answered, “I have you, Huntress.”

“Cops are crawling all over the place. I’m going to see if I can get in somewhere. Baby Bird’s left behind. Call ya back.” Helena said, as she went silent.

All Barbara could hear then was footsteps, as Helena landed on what must have been a rooftop. A moment later, she could hear the unmistakable sound of near silent footsteps on a fire escape. Then, “Oracle, I’m in.”

“What can you see, Huntress?”

“Nothing, so far. Wait a minute…Oh my God!” Helena said in a loud whisper.

“Huntress, what is it?” Barbara was practically shouting into the comm at Helena’s exclamation. “Huntress? Huntress!” There was nothing but silence. Then suddenly, she heard retching over the comm.

“Sorry Oracle,” Helena’s voice said, sounding weak when she came back on the line. “Jesus…whatever you do, don’t send Canary up here.”

Relieved that Helena seemed to be okay, but worried at her uncharacteristic nausea, Barbara asked, “It’s that bad?”

“Yeah. Oracle, this is a really bad one,” Helena said, still not sounding any better. “I see Reese, gotta go.”

A moment later, Helena dropped into the alley behind the apartment building now being taped off as a crime scene. She landed lightly by the detective’s car, shoving her hands in the pockets of her duster, and sauntered toward him.

No longer taken by surprise when Helena showed up like this, Jesse said, “Huntress, I should have known I’d see you here.”

“Huntress?” Helena asked, “You used to call me by my name, Reese.” As she spoke, she smiled sweetly at him and cocked her head.

“I used to do a lot of things,” Reese answered, keeping a respectable distance between them.

“Mmm, I remember,” she said, wondering why she was suddenly flirting with him. Irritated with herself for having the impulse control of a rabbit when it came to flirting, she shook her head, and said, “But enough of reliving the past,” she nodded toward the apartment where the body had been found. “You got anything for me about that?”

He shrugged and leaned against the car. “Not much. The victim’s name is Lori Stevens, age 32, lived alone, wheelchair bound for the last six years from a car accident. She was reported missing a week ago. She turned up here at her apartment tonight.” He stopped talking and stared at her.

Refusing to take his bait and determined to stay on track, she said, “I saw the crime scene. Total and complete nightmare. This isn’t the primary though, is it?”

He shook his head. “No, the dump site. We haven’t found the primary, yet. My guess is he needs a quiet, secluded place to work. Someplace where they won’t be overheard.”

“That much damage…it would take awhile,” Helena agreed. “Any idea why he’d paint in blood all over the walls?”

Reese shook his head. “Nothing. It doesn’t even make sense, painting roses on the walls in blood.”

“Man,” Helena said, “this just keeps getting more and more gross. I mean, flowers? What the Hell?”

Reese shrugged. “Tell me about it.”

Helena sighed. “Well, if there’s nothing else?”

“Nothing I can think of,” he said. “If I get anything…you know…in the interest of catching this guy…”

“Let me know,” Helena said kindly. “Thanks, Jesse.”

He nodded, as he watched her jump to the fire escape and disappear. Sighing, he got in his car and left for the station. It was going to be a long night.

Once she hit the rooftop, Helena checked in. “Oracle, you get that?”

“Copy, Huntress. I’ve taken the info and input it into a recognition program. Try to get some pictures, then head in,” Barbara’s voice said over the comm. As she heard the name of the victim, she’d looked over at Dick. The name Lori Stevens hadn’t come up in his initial search of missing paraplegics. She was going to make a mental note to check it out, but Dick was already working on it.

“Copy Oracle,” she answered, heading back into the building. “Going off comms,” she said, switching the mic off. She didn’t need Barbara, Dick or Dinah to hear her puking again. It was just embarrassing. Not to mention, disgusting.

She made her way in and managed to get pictures of the entire crime scene without being seen. Stepping back onto the roof to suck in a lungful of fresh air, she closed her eyes. She knew the sight of that poor woman’s body was going to be with her for a while. Then, realizing she’d taken a little longer than she should, she headed back to the Hummer. Dinah was still there, waiting.

“Well?” Dinah asked, as she climbed in the passenger side of the Hummer.

“You don’t wanna know, Kid,” Helena said. “It was really bad.” To her own ears, her voice sounded haunted and hollow. She hoped Dinah didn’t pick up on all the feelings she had rolling around inside. The Kid didn’t need all that on top of everything else that had happened recently.

For her part, Dinah knew enough not to question the older woman when she answered questions like that. Okay, it wasn’t unusual for Helena to brush her off. But, even though the brunette was controlling herself pretty well, Dinah could still feel enough to know that Helena was protecting her because she cared, not because she was just being obnoxious.

She glanced over once and noticed Helena sitting there with her eyes closed. “Helena, are you okay?” she asked, concerned.

Helena smiled slightly, trying not to alarm the teen and grateful that Dinah was there. She breathed in deeply, before answering. “I’m fine, Kid. Or at least I will be…”

“If you want, I might be able to take away…” Dinah began.

“No,” Helena said immediately. “It’s just gonna take some time. That’s all.”

“Well, okay…” Dinah was letting the conversation go. Helena obviously needed time to process what she’d seen, and the teen had no desire to make her angry. Helena would tell her about it when she was ready.

The rest of the short ride back to the Clocktower passed in silence. Dinah pulled the Hummer into its parking spot and followed Helena onto the elevator. Helena still hadn’t said anything, and Dinah wasn’t asking, content to let silence reign.

As the elevator dinged and the doors opened, Helena exited quickly. Making a beeline for the Delphi platform, she placed the small camera on the table with a thunk. Then, she turned and headed down the hall.

“Hel? Helena…” Barbara said, confusion and concern obvious in her voice. When she got no response from the brunette, she turned to look at Dinah. “What’s wrong with her?”

Dinah shrugged. “She’s been like that since we left. She did say the scene was really bad, but not much else,” she answered, coming to stand next to Barbara on the platform. “She said she’d be okay,” the teen added, hoping to allay some of the redhead’s fears.

While Dinah was talking, Barbara had grabbed the camera and started downloading the pictures Helena had taken. As they began to pop up on the monitor, Barbara swallowed hard. “Jesus…” she said quietly.

Leaning over the redhead’s shoulder, Dick said, “Is that…did he…has she been flayed?” His stomach suddenly rolling, he understood now why Helena had thrown up earlier. He’d never seen anything like this.

“Sorry,” Helena said, coming to stand behind the small group hovering around the computer. She put a hand on Barbara’s shoulder reassuringly. “I’m okay. Just had to brush my teeth,” she said, still looking slightly pale.

Barbara reached up absently and grabbed Helena’s hand, squeezing it, before letting it drop down to work the keyboard. “Did you notice anything at the scene that Reese didn’t”

“No. I think he told me everything he knew,” Helena said, turning and going over to check on Dinah. She’d noticed the teen had turned more pale than usual after seeing the crime scene pictures.

“Come on Kid,” Helena said, wrapping an arm around her and pulling her toward the kitchen. “Let’s go sit down.” When they arrived in the kitchen, she reached in the fridge and pulled out two bottles of water. Handing one to Dinah, she searched the cabinets until she found a box of pop tarts. Sitting down across from the teen, she offered her one.

“No thanks,” Dinah answered, clutching her stomach. “I don’t know if I’ll ever be hungry again after seeing that.” She looked at Helena. “No wonder you didn’t want to talk about it.”

Helena shrugged, her mouth full of Poptart. Swallowing, she said, “Try not to think about it, D.”

“How do you not think about something like that?” Dinah asked. “What happened to her?”

“No idea, yet. Give it time, Kid. Barbara’ll figure it out,” Helena said, finishing her pop tarts. She stood up. “It’s getting late. Why don’t you try to get some sleep?”

“I don’t know if I can,” Dinah said sadly.

“Try anyway, okay?” Helena said, reaching out and stroking the blond hair momentarily. “Things will look better in the morning.” She walked with Dinah until they reached the Delphi. Dinah hugged Helena before heading to her room.

“Thanks, Helena,” She said quietly. “You try to get some rest, too.” She glanced over at Barbara, engrossed in something on the monitor. “Please make sure Barbara gets some sleep, too.”

“Don’t worry, Kid. I will,” Helena said, hugging her again. “Night.”

Assured that Dinah was on her way to bed, Helena turned back to Barbara and Dick. “So, any ideas?”

“None,” Barbara said. “Only that whoever did this is one sick bastard. I’ve never seen anything like this.”

“You think it could be a Meta?” Helena asked, knowing that there were those out there who were capable of such things.

Dropping her head into her hands, Barbara said, “I don’t know, Hel. I just don’t know.”

“Well, is there anything else we can do tonight?” Dick cut in. “If not, maybe we should get some rest and tackle this again tomorrow with fresh eyes.” He looked from Helena to Barbara.

“Maybe Dick’s right, Barbara. Come on,” Helena said. “Let’s go back to bed.” She noticed the look Dick gave her when she said that, but chose to ignore it.

“In a few minutes, Hel. There’s another program I want to run,” Barbara said, becoming engrossed in something that had just popped up on her screen. Typing away, she said distractedly, “I won’t be long.”

“Barbara,” Helena whined. “Please?”

Barbara turned to look at the brunette, irritated that she only seemed to have a one track mind. Huffing slightly, she said, “Helena,” then she noticed the pale cast to the brunette’s features. The younger woman was obviously still distressed over what she’d seen earlier. Feeling angry with herself for trying to brush the brunette off, she reached over and took her hand, pulling Helena toward her. Not caring that Dick was still there, she brushed a stray strand of hair from Helena’s eyes and pulled her in and kissed her gently. “Give me five minutes to set this up,” she said quietly. “I swear I’ll be there.”

Closing her eyes and sighing, Helena leaned in and rested her forehead against Barbara’s. Right now, she wanted nothing more than to be wrapped in Barbara’s strong arms and held all night. After what she’d seen, she needed the comfort more than air, it seemed. She kissed Barbara back. Pulling away, she said, “Okay Red, you got five minutes. If you don’t come in then, I’m coming out to get you.”

“I’ll be there, Hel,” the redhead said, smiling gently as the brunette released her hand and headed for their room. Once she was out of sight, Barbara turned back to her keyboard and began working. She’d almost forgotten Dick was there, until he spoke up.

“Barbara,” he said quietly, “maybe you should…”

“Dick,” Barbara answered, her eyes flashing as she turned to face him, “I told you before to leave it alone.”

He rolled his eyes and sighed. “I was going to say that you should go. I can set that program up. Besides,” he ran his hand through his hair and sighed again, he couldn’t believe he was saying this, but… “She needs you right now. Go on.”

She closed her eyes, berating herself for assuming he was going to continue their earlier conversation. “Dick, are you sure?” she asked, not wishing to stick him with the boring, routine job.

“I’m positive,” he said, letting a smile through even though he didn’t feel much like smiling.

She smiled back. Reaching over and squeezing his hand, she said, “Thank you, Dick. For everything.”

“Sure. Go on now, she’s waiting for you,” he said, as he watched the woman of his youthful dreams head toward the bedroom, and her lover. When he was sure she was gone, he turned to the Delphi. Pulling up a chair, he began working on the program Barbara wanted. Inputting the parameters quickly, he was done within ten minutes. Then, with nothing better to do, he began running a few more programs of his own.

* * * * *

Barbara entered the bedroom to find that the light was out and Helena was curled up on the bed in a fetal position. “Hel?” she said, “Are you okay?”

At the redhead’s words, Helena responded in a flash. Quicker than Barbara could see, Helena was on her knees in front of her. Without saying a word, the brunette placed her head in Barbara’s lap and wrapped her arms around her waist, hugging her tightly. Not sure what to do, Barbara reached down and rubbed Helena’s back with one hand, and ran her other hand through the dark hair soothingly. “It’s okay, Hel,” she said softly. “It’s okay.”

After a few minutes of Barbara comforting her, Helena sighed deeply. Then, looking up at the redhead, she asked in a whisper, “How could anyone do that to another human being, Barbara? My God, what he did to her…”

“I know, Hel,” Barbara said, still in shock herself over the damage done to the woman. “I don’t know how anyone could do that to someone else. I really don’t.”

The devastation of what she’d seen was apparent in Helena’s voice as she said, “You know, I’ve seen a lot since I started doing this…more than I’d like, actually. But this…God, Barbara! The skin was peeled right off of her!” She was beginning to feel nauseous again, thinking about it.

“I know, Hel. I’m so sorry you had to see that. I am glad that you made sure Dinah waited in the car, though.” She closed her eyes briefly, grateful that her youngest protégé was spared the worst of that horror. “Thank you for that, Hel.”

Helena simply nodded. “Sure, Red.” Helena felt her face turning a soft shade of red as she thought about what she’d seen. Chagrined and embarrassed, Helena said, “Sorry I puked over the comms. I just couldn’t help it.”

Barbara smiled understandingly and ruffled the dark hair. “Its okay, Hel. I have to admit, I think Batgirl would have puked after seeing that.”

Helena looked at her disbelievingly. Barbara was just saying that to make her feel better. She was sure of it. She said so, too. “You’re just sayin’ that, Red.”

Barbara shook her head. “Nope, I’m not. I actually did puke a time or two back in my day.”

“Really?” Helena asked. “You’re not just trying to make me feel better about losing it?”

Barbara smiled again, and let all her love for the brunette in front of her through. Caressing Helena’s cheek, she said, “Really, Hel. You don’t have to be iron all the time. You can bend a little. Besides, it’s human to be sickened by something as horrible as that.”

Helena sighed, leaning into the caress. “I guess.” Looking into Barbara’s eyes, she said, “Can we just go to bed, now?”

“Sure, Hel. Just let me hit the bathroom and I’ll join you in a minute.” She watched, slightly amused at how childlike Helena was acting. But, at the same time, it worried her. Helena seemed to be reacting to this murder in an unusually sensitive way. What could possibly be bothering the younger woman so much about this particular case? She’d seen murder scenes before, albeit not as bad as this one. But still…Barbara finished in the bathroom and headed back into the bedroom. Helena was already in bed, waiting for her. She had barely managed to get settled, when she felt the brunette attach herself to her side so tightly she doubted anything at all could get between them.

“Uh, Hel?” Barbara said, her voice sounding a bit strangled. “Do you think you could loosen up just a bit? It’s kinda hard to breathe.”

Helena laughed nervously. “Sorry, Red. I just need to be close to you tonight,” she said in explanation as she loosened her stranglehold on the other woman. “Would you mind just holding me?”

Feeling bad for Helena and guilty for having asked her to go to the crime scene in the first place, Barbara fought back tears. “Of course not, Hel. Here,” she said, wrapping an arm around the brunette and hugging her to her. “This happens to be my favorite way to go to sleep every night.”

Helena leaned in, looking deeply into Barbara’s eyes. “Mine too, Red.” Then she kissed her, trying with everything she was, to let Barbara know just how much she loved her.

When they separated, out of breath, they settled into each other and fell asleep. For each of them, the rest of the night was blissfully free of nightmares.

* * * * *

Helena watched from the doorway as Barbara worked at the Delphi. It amazed her sometimes, how the other woman could focus so completely on something to the point of ignoring other things. It also frustrated her. Barbara was many things: beautiful, strong, gorgeous, brave, stunning, extremely intelligent, kind and gentle. Helena loved her for each and every one of those qualities. Still, there was this one quality that annoyed her to no end. Barbara sometimes made decisions for all of them without consulting them. Not because she was trying to control them. Not consciously, anyway. She would just see things a certain way and make a decision and not bother to inform the rest of them. Actually, if push came to shove, Helena would have to say it really kind of pissed her off sometimes. Still, she understood why Barbara did it, and that at least made it easier to deal with. She didn’t like it, but she could deal.

Sighing, she sauntered into the room. As she glided to a stop at Barbara’s side, she leaned against the table. “Do I embarrass you?” she asked without warning.

Confused by the question, Barbara stopped what she was doing and looked at the brunette. “Embarrass me?” she repeated, not sure what Helena meant.

“Yeah, you know…like you don’t want anyone to know we’re together?” Helena said, elaborating.

Barbara quirked a brow and removed her glasses. “No, Hel.” she answered softly. “Why would you think that?”

The brunette shrugged. “I don’t know. You didn’t tell Dick about us.” He voice held a tinge of sadness to it that made her cringe.

Barbara sighed. “I didn’t tell Dick because he teases you too much. I didn’t want a scene, Hel,” she said, reaching out to rub lightly on the younger woman’s hand where it was touching the desk.

“So, you think I’d make a scene,” Helena stated.

“That’s not what I said, Hel,” Barbara said, beginning to get frustrated.

“You said you didn’t want a scene…so, apparently you think I’d do something scene-worthy,” Helena snapped indignantly.

Sighing again, Barbara bit the inside of her cheek before replying. “First of all, that’s not a word. Second, and most important, I am not embarrassed by you. I simply didn’t see a reason to cause you any irritation right after we came back from vacation. If you wanted him to know, you could have told him yourself.”

“I didn’t necessarily want to tell him, Barbara. I guess I just thought you would. You know…when you told him you were with someone else, now.” Helena’s voice still held an edge of sarcasm. She was trying to hide it, not wanting to piss Barbara off. She had, after all, told the redhead that she’d been doing some maturing. Still…sometimes the older woman could be so frustrating.

Barbara shook her head. Looking into Helena’s eyes, she said, “Ah, well, I was going to…but…he just looked so hurt when I told him I’d found someone else. He tried to hide it, but I could tell.” She squeezed Helena’s hand, pleading for understanding. “I didn’t want to hurt him anymore, Hel. And you know it would have hurt him if I’d told him I’d chosen you.”

Relenting, Helena could understand Barbara’s decision. She didn’t like it, but she could understand. “I get it, Red. I don’t want him to hurt, either. He can be an arrogant ass sometimes, but he’s still family.” She leaned over and hugged the redhead. “I guess we’ll have to talk to him, too?”

Barbara smiled slightly. Nodding, she said, “Yeah, but not just yet. I think we should give him a little time to get used to the idea.”

Rolling her eyes, Helena agreed. “So, what you’re saying is that we shouldn’t hang all over each other in front of him just yet?”

Barbara rolled her eyes, and shook her head, smiling. She doubted very much that they would ever ‘hang all over’ each other in front of anyone, but she didn’t need to say that to Helena. Instead, she leaned in and kissed Helena slowly. As she pulled away, she said, “I love you, Helena. Don’t you ever forget that. And…I am very, very, proud to call you my partner, in every sense of the word.”

Helena felt herself blush at the words. “I love you too, Red,” she said, standing up and leaning against the table again. “So…we’re partners?” she asked, grinning from ear to ear.

“In every way, Hel,” Barbara answered, the sincerity in her voice unmistakable.

“So, if anyone asks from here on out…?”

Barbara smiled, shaking her head at the younger woman’s obvious teenage-like enthusiasm. “You’re my partner, Hel. That’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it,” she said, pulling the brunette in for another kiss.

“Mmm, that sounds really good, Red,” Helena said as they parted. “I’ve always wanted you to see me as your equal. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” Barbara answered. Suddenly, the Delphi alarm went off. As both women turned to look at the monitor, Barbara began typing furiously.

“What’s happening?” Helena asked, not as proficient at reading the data stream as the redhead.

“Delphi finally found the link that ties the missing women together,” Barbara said, reading through the data quickly. “It’s a flower shop,” she finally said, a slight tone of confusion in her voice. “Each of the missing women passed by the same flower shop, over on Walnut.”

“A flower shop?” Helena repeated, disbelievingly.

Barbara nodded. “Each of the victims saw different doctors for their…conditions. But, all of the doctors are located in the same general vicinity. When they leave the doctors’ office, the flower shop is the link.”

“Well, it explains the flowers,” Helena said, trailing off thoughtfully as she grabbed her duster. “Want to come with me, Red? While we’re checkin’ the place out we can buy a nice bouquet for the dining room table?”

Barbara shook her head. “Not right now, Hel. Why don’t you go on? There’s another program or two I need to run.”

Helena nodded. “Sure thing, Barbara. I’ll be back soon,” She leaned in and kissed the redhead on the forehead and then left.

* * * * *

For the next week, Barbara spent as much time as possible in front of the Delphi. She ran program after program, but still couldn’t seem to find any other links between the victims. Helena’s trip to the flower shop hadn’t turned up any leads either, and Barbara was growing increasingly frustrated.

No matter how hard she and Dick tried, they couldn’t seem to find a trace of Cynthia McCall. Then, the following Thursday night, as Helena was heading to the Clocktower after work to prepare for sweeps, the alarm went off. The NGPD had just been informed that the body of a young woman matching Cynthia McCall’s description had just been found in the missing woman’s apartment.

“Huntress?” Barbara’s voice came over the comms, as Helena made the leap from one apartment building to the next.

“Yeah, Oracle. What’s up?” Helena answered, as she landed softly, barely making a sound. “What’s the matter, couldn’t wait for me to get there?”

“While that’s never in doubt, Huntress, I need you to make a detour,” Barbara’s voice said over the comm, all trace of fun missing from it, although to Helena’s ear, she could still detect the warmth underneath. “Another body’s turned up.”

“What’s the address, Oracle?” Helena asked, becoming serious.

“211 Castro Street. Cynthia McCall’s apartment,” Barbara said.

Hearing the address, dread flowed through Helena’s veins like ice water. Shit! She had no desire to see anything like that last crime scene ever again. And, for some reason, she had a feeling this was going to be the same. “Got it, Oracle,” she said, all business. “Catch ya’ later.”

Then she was off. Making her way to Cynthia’s apartment, she wasn’t happy to find that she’d been correct. This poor woman had been murdered the same way Lori Stevens had. And again, flowers had been painted on the walls of the apartment with her own blood. This time however, Helena managed to get the pictures and a few samples (Barbara would be so excited), without puking.

The following week, another female paraplegic named Lisa Collins disappeared. Barbara became more and more withdrawn, as she spent more time in front of the Delphi, searching for any clues. Helena and Dinah, unable to help in that arena, spent all their spare time patrolling and working out. And, when she wasn’t doing either of those two things, Helena spent time at No Man’s Land, sitting and listening to the talk on the streets. Still, no one, absolutely no one, seemed to know anything about what was happening to the female paraplegics of New Gotham. And, even though she’d never admit it, it was really beginning to worry Helena.

Since that first night, when she’d seen the body of Lori Stevens, Helena had been worried. She’d seen plenty of crime scenes and dead bodies. None of that ever bothered her. But this time, it had hit too close to home. This time, the victim was a paraplegic, like…well…like Barbara. And that scared the absolute shit out of her. It was the reason she’d reacted so strongly that night. Seeing that poor woman lying there so torn up and drained of blood…Even though she’d looked nothing like Barbara, Helena’s mind had supplied her with the image anyway. She couldn’t get passed the thought that that poor woman could have been Barbara.

And now, as she found herself investigating the disappearance and, she had to say it, the probable murder, of a fifth woman, Helena worried even more. Barbara was planning something, she was sure of it. Last night, the redhead had been busy at the Delphi, working away at something. As Helena stepped up onto the platform, Barbara had quickly shut down whatever she’d been working on. She’d believed Helena hadn’t noticed, but she hadn’t been that fast. Helena had seen. She just hadn’t been quick enough to catch exactly what it was.

It wasn’t until Lisa Collins body was found the following week in the park, flayed like the others, the Helena found out what Barbara was planning.

* * * * *

“Hey Barbara, whatcha…” Helena’s voice trailed off as she entered the bedroom. Barbara was standing, STANDING! In the middle of the room. Immediately, anger flared through her body. “What the Hell are you doing?”

At Helena’s words, Barbara sighed and rolled her eyes. “Helena, please…” she said, already tired of arguing before they’d even begun. “Let me explain before you start screaming.”

Stomping up to halt directly in front of the redhead, Helena was only inches away. “Explain what, Barbara? Explain why you swore to me months ago that you’d never use that thing again? Or maybe you’d like to explain why you’re willing to make your paralysis worse, maybe even kill yourself, with that thing?”

Barbara reached out and tried to put a hand on Helena’s shoulder, needing the contact, but the brunette pulled away. Hurt by the denial, she sighed again. “Helena, please. I know you’re angry, but could we please talk about this? I need to talk to you. I need for you to understand.”

“Understand what, Barbara?” Helena turned away and began to pace. “I know you want to walk again. I get it. I really do, but…”

As Helena began to rant, Barbara couldn’t help herself. For years, she’d listened to Helena’s tirades; put up with her moods and her anger management issues. Just once, couldn’t the brunette grow up and act like an adult? Would it kill her to listen before jumping to conclusions? Did she really believe that Barbara was using the transponder just because she wanted to walk again?

As anger began to take over, her eyes flashed as she literally screamed. “Helena! I am so tired of you acting like a spoiled child all the time! Has it ever occurred to you that there might be good reason for what I’m doing? Did it ever cross your mind to ask, before you started yelling?” As she watched the brunette stand there with her mouth hanging open in shock, she continued.

“I was planning on talking this over with you, Hel. I wasn’t doing anything behind your back. No,” she said, efficiently stopping Helena from speaking when she looked like she was about to. “Don’t open your mouth. Not until I’m done.”

At that moment, Dinah and Dick both came sliding into the bedroom as well. Drawn by the sound of Barbara screaming at the top of her lungs, they’d both come running. “Barbara, what’s going on?” they both said together, as they took in the sight of the two women. Helena, stopped in mid-pace, looked shocked. Her mouth hanging open, whether to say something or not, they couldn’t tell. And Barbara…Well, both were stunned to see the redhead actually standing! Tall and proud, her eyes blazing with anger, she was staring at them as if she was daring them to argue with her, too.

Taking in the scene, Dick recovered first. “Barbara, Helena, we heard the noise and uh…” he looked at Dinah, then back at them. “We just wanted to make sure you two were all right.” When neither of them responded, he said nervously, “So, you uh…you working on the transponder again, Babs?”

Helena huffed and rolled her eyes at his question. “Brilliant deduction, Dick. What gave it away?”

“Helena!” Barbara yelled at her again.

The brunette’s attention snapped back to Barbara. “What? I’m just stating the obvious, Barbara. You did just kind of spring this on all of us, you know. It isn’t like any of us was expecting to come in here and see you standing on your own,” she said sarcastically.

“I told you I was planning to talk to all of you, Hel,” Barbara snapped, her anger still obvious.

Helena crossed her arms and planted her feet. “Yeah, I caught that. You’ll just have to forgive this spoiled child,” Helena said, repeating Barbara’s words back to her, “if she doesn’t change gears that quick. I’m sorry I reacted that way, but you know what could happen. Did you really think I wouldn’t be upset about this?” She unfolded her arms and waved them up and down, indicating Barbara standing.

Able to see Helena’s point, but still irritated, Barbara answered, “I wasn’t trying to upset you, Hel.” Turning to Dick and Dinah, she said, “I wasn’t trying to upset any of you.” The anger in her eyes was giving way to sadness and pain. “I need for all of you to understand why I need to do this.”

That’s just it, Barbara,” Helena said, finally starting to calm down a bit. “You don’t need to do this.”

“You don’t even know what I’m planning,” Barbara said.

Helena looked at her and rolled her eyes. Sighing, she said, “Yes I do, Barbara. You’re planning to offer yourself as bait for the killer. And again, you don’t need to. I can do it.”

Again, Barbara felt anger rising. Why couldn’t Helena see? “No, Hel. You can’t. I have to do this, and I’m going to whether you like it or not.”

Crossing her arms again, Helena said, “Really, Barbara? Did you really think you could just go and make this decision on your own without even asking me?” Realizing that this was not about herself, Helena hurriedly corrected the question. “Without asking any of us?”

“You’re not my boss, Hel,” Barbara answered venomously.

Helena snorted. “I know I’m not your boss, but I am your partner. I thought that might mean something to you, but apparently, it doesn’t,” she answered.

Hurt by the accusation, Barbara said through a clenched jaw, “You know better than that, Helena. And fuck you, for saying that. I thought we might be able to discuss this rationally, but I should have known you’d act like a five year old.”

“I’m not acting like a five year old, Barbara. I am however, acting like someone who cares about you,” the brunette replied quietly. “You could have talked to me about it first, not just let me walk in here and see you standing there with that thing on. You know it could make you worse. You told me it could even kill you if you wear it too long. I don’t want you to hurt yourself. There is another way to do this; you’re just too stubborn to let me help.” Helena could hear the fear in her own voice. She didn’t like it, but Barbara needed to know how she felt. She needed to know that she was scaring her.

Barbara’s voice sounded small, even to herself, as she said, “You weren’t supposed to walk in and see this, Hel. I’ve been working on upgrading it, so it wouldn’t cause me any more problems. I was just trying it out, to make sure the upgrades were functioning properly.”

“Upgrades? You know what, Barbara? I don’t want to hear any more of this,” Helena said venomously. “You made a promise to me and you’ve broken it. I thought the last few weeks meant something to you, that you finally saw me as an equal. But I guess I was wrong. God, I feel so stupid. Was all this just a game to you? Just a way to keep from being bored, or feeling lonely?”

Confused and taken aback now, by what Helena was saying, Barbara said, “What? Hel, I can’t believe you’re asking me that! I would think that you know me well enough by now to know that I’d never treat you like that. You know how hard it was for me to open up and let you in. How dare you even say such a thing!”

Completely forgetting that Dinah and Dick were in the room, Helena said, “What am I supposed to think, Barbara? You tell me you trust me, but you can’t seem to talk to me about something like this?”

At the end of her patience, and not sure how to get through to the brunette, Barbara finally remembered a conversation she and Helena had engaged in some months before. Taking a deep breath, she plunged in. “Hel, you remember when Reese’s new partner was going around killing Meta’s? You went after him by yourself. You told me then that he was killing your people and you had to do it?” At Helena’s nod, she continued. “Well, that’s how this is for me. These women can’t defend themselves. They’re stuck in their chairs, defenseless. I know how that feels. Please…try to understand…I need to do this. I know I’ve hurt you, but I swear to you that I was going to talk to you about this. I do trust you…God, I love you so much…how could you ever doubt that?”

Tears in her eyes, after listening to Barbara’s words, Helena shook her head. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath before reopening them to look into Barbara’s eyes. “Barbara…I…I need to think. I don’t think I should be in here right now.” She turned and headed for the door.

Surprised by the younger woman’s reaction, Barbara said, “Hel, please…don’t go. I want to talk to you.”

“I can’t, Barbara…” Helena said sadly, as she walked out the door, “not right now.”

Hurt by Helena’s departure, Barbara began to shake, tears streaming down her face. “Oh God, what have I done?”

Afraid for Barbara, Dick immediately stepped over to her and guided her toward the bed. “Barbara,” he said quietly, “why don’t you sit down? It’ll be okay,” he said, sitting down next to her. At that moment, he could kill Helena for walking out, but he knew why she’d left. He knew if she’d stayed she would have said something really stupid and hurtful. He also knew that she didn’t want that. She loved Barbara too much.

The transponder still caused pain, maybe not as much as before the upgrades, but it still hurt like Hell. The pain in her back and legs was beginning to take its’ toll on her strength. Wincing, Barbara said, “Dick, thank you. I’m sorry about all this. I didn’t mean for you all to find out this way.”

“I know, Barbara,” he said. “Helena’s just worried about you…we all are.” Looking down at his feet and then back over at the redhead, he continued. “None of us wants to see you get hurt.”

“I know that. I know you care…But I have a feeling about this,” Barbara said, attempting to reason with him. “I really think that if Helena took my place, there’s every chance the killer would never go for her. It has to be someone who’s really paralyzed. Someone who…”

Dick shuddered, finally understanding the redhead’s thought process. Finishing her sentence for her, he said, “Someone who’s paralysis was splashed all over the papers?”

She nodded resolutely. “Exactly. I’m probably the most famous cripple in New Gotham.”

“And you’re thinking he won’t be able to resist you?” He asked, quirking a brow as he threw an arm around her, pulling her in for a hug to comfort her.

“That’s what I think,” she answered quietly. “I may be our only chance.”

He took a deep breath before answering her, making her wonder briefly what was going through his mind. “I see your point, Barbara. I really do. But still…I’m not so sure it’s the best way to play this. If anything happened to you…” he trailed off, unable to finish the thought out loud.

“I know, Dick.” She bumped him slightly, attempting to lighten the mood and making him smile sadly. “I don’t want anything to happen, either. But, if we catch this guy it’ll be worth it.”

He looked sadly at her and squeezed her once more. “Only if we all survive, Barbara.” He got up and headed for the door. Turning back around in the doorway, he said, “You’re going to have a hard time of it…convincing Helena. She’d be devastated if anything happened to you. So…if I were you, I’d think long and hard on this.”

She sighed and nodded as he left; knowing in her heart that what he said was true. She’d been the only constant in Helena’s life for the past nine years. If anything happened to her…Well, suffice it to say that any progress the brunette had made on the emotional front would be destroyed. Shaking her head to clear her thoughts, she stood up and moved over to the hated wheelchair. Once she was seated, she removed the transponder and waited, while her muscles twitched uncontrollably. Once the pain and twitching subsided, she headed out toward the Delphi.

* * * * *

As Helena left, Dinah turned and jogged after the brunette. There was no way she was going to allow Helena to go storming out of the Clocktower if she could help it. Catching up to her on the balcony, she called, “Helena!”

Helena turned at the sound of Dinah’s voice. “What, Kid?”

“Please don’t leave, yet,” the teen said, cringing at how pitiful she sounded.

“I’m not leaving, Dinah. I just needed some air,” Helena said, turning from the balcony edge to look questioningly at the teen. She couldn’t blame Dinah for thinking she was going to run off. After all, it was her MO in the past. Still, she couldn’t help the fact that she felt like running away. Instead of leaping off the balcony, she said, “Can you tell me why, D? Why should I stay? It’s obvious she doesn’t trust me…” her own voice sounded cracked and pathetic to her ears, but right now, she just didn’t care.

Dinah stared at the brunette, who looked like she was ready to turn and jump from the balcony at any minute. Slowly, quietly, she answered. “That’s not true, Helena, and you know it. I’ve seen you two together. I know how you feel about each other…how she feels about you.” She stopped speaking and watched Helena for a moment, making sure she was ready to hear more. When she was sure, she continued. “This whole thing…it’s got her scared, Helena. Really scared! I can feel the fear rolling off of her any time I’m close.”

Helena, who’d lowered her head to stare at her feet, snapped her head back up. Her eyes narrowing, she asked, “You don’t need to be touching someone anymore? When did that change?”

Dinah sighed. “Right after the ‘Harley Quinn’ thing.”

“And you didn’t bother to tell us about it?”

Dinah rolled her eyes. “Look, Helena. That’s not important right now.” She attempted to focus on the situation at hand. “Barbara’s scared, Helena. She needs all of us, but, most importantly, she needs you.” The look of sadness and disbelief in Helena’s eyes made her stop for a minute. Then, deciding that this was too important, she said, “Don’t look at me like that. You know it’s true. She loves you, Helena. And she trusts you.”

Helena clenched her jaw in defiance. She was still angry with the redhead. “If she trusts me, she would have told me about this.”

Dinah smirked. “Yeah, because you’re acting so grown up about it, now.”

Now getting irritated with the teen, Helena snapped, “Okay, fine. You’re right, D. But she’s the one who’s been working on that transponder again without telling us. She’s been lying to all of us.”

“Maybe because she knew how you’d react,” Dinah said accusingly. “Let’s face it, Helena, you’re not known for your patience and understanding.”

“Yeah well, people always think they know more about me than they do. You should know that not every rumor is true, Kid,” Helena said. She was well aware of what others thought about her patience and tolerance, and she didn’t really give a shit. No one’s opinion really mattered to her, except Barbara’s.

Dinah sighed again. “Look, all I’m asking is that you stay and talk this out with her. You know as well as I do that if you leave now, you’re going to screw your entire relationship with Barbara. Maybe forever…and I don’t want to see that happen.” Growing quieter, she said sadly, “I love you guys. You’re my family, and you belong together. I’ve always thought so.”

Helena closed her eyes to hold back tears. Taking a deep breath, she moved toward Dinah and tugged her into a fierce hug. “We love you too, Kid.” She felt the teen bury her face in her shoulder and begin to cry, as she said, “I promise, I won’t walk out of here. I’ll stay and Barbara and I will talk this out. I don’t like what she’s doing, and I won’t pretend otherwise, but I love her too much to leave her alone in this.”

Dinah sniffed and pulled away. Rubbing her eyes with the back of her hand, she said, “Thanks, Hel…for listening to me.”

Helena smiled slightly and gave the girl another squeeze. “Anytime, Kid. You know, I think you’re growing up pretty good.”

Dinah smiled brightly. “Thanks Hel…uh,” she stuttered, as she noticed Barbara sitting quietly in the doorway. “I’ll just go now. Thanks again, Helena.”

Helena stiffened when she noticed Dinah’s eyes track to look behind her. She had been standing with her back to the balcony doors, and hadn’t seen Barbara approach. As Dinah left the balcony, she closed her eyes, waiting for Barbara to say something. She didn’t have to wait long.

“I thought you left,” the redhead said quietly, after Dinah had passed her by. She rolled onto the balcony, stopping next to Helena, staring out at the city.

Just as quietly, Helena replied, “I promised I’d never leave you. I meant that.” She took a deep breath. “I just needed some air.”

“Mmm,” Barbara replied noncommittally, accepting the answer easily. She understood what Helena meant. In a way, it was a good thing that the brunette had left the room when she did. They’d both needed to calm down and relax a little bit. It was better this way, really. This way, neither one had said something she couldn’t take back.

Growing uncomfortable with the silence, and knowing that Barbara was waiting for her to say something, Helena rolled her eyes and sighed. Crossing her arms, she finally said, “So, you’re committed to this plan of yours?”

“Yes,” Barbara answered softly.

Helena bit the inside of her jaw. “You lied to me, Barbara.” She saw with her peripheral vision how the redhead turned to look at her. Before she could say anything however, Helena continued. “You told me after ‘Quinn’ that you were done with that thing. Now I find out you’ve been working on it all this time. You really hurt me.”

Barbara reached over and rubbed at one of the brunette’s arms. “I’m sorry, Hel. That wasn’t my intention. I hope you know that. I’d never hurt you on purpose.”

Helena swallowed hard, attempting to keep from crying. Then, the feel of Barbara’s hand rubbing her arm burning her bare skin, she reached over and grabbed her hand. Turning, she dropped to her knees in front of the redhead. Looking her in the eye, she said, “I do know that, Barbara. I do. But it still hurts. I’m just so afraid of losing you…I…I don’t want that thing to make you worse, and I don’t want you to set yourself up as bait. I get why you’re willing to do it, but…” She shook her head as she dropped it into Barbara’s lap.

Barbara reached down and stroked Helena’s hair, marveling at the feeling of Helena touching her legs. She’d removed the transponder, but for a short while, she still had some residual feeling left. “Sweetheart, I understand. I don’t want anything to happen either. In fact, I’m counting on all three of you to keep me safe. I love you, Hel. And, above all, I trust you with my life.”

At the redhead’s words, Helena leaned in closer and wrapped her arms around Barbara’s waist. “I love you, too, Barbara.”

“I know that, Hel,” Barbara whispered, as she continued to hold the brunette. They sat in silence for a few minutes, before Barbara finally worked up the nerve, and asked, “So, you wanna stay out here a little longer, or come to bed?” She wasn’t sure what Helena’s answer would be. The younger woman might still be angry and refuse to stay the night. As she waited for Helena’s answer, she had to remind herself to breathe. What would she do if Hel decided to leave and not spend the night? They hadn’t spent a night apart since their vacation. Barbara blinked, stunned to realize just how quickly she’d gotten used to having Helena in her bed every night.

At the quiet question, Helena looked up. There were so many emotions playing across Barbara’s face at that moment, she couldn’t read them all. She could, however, hear the rapid heartbeat, full of fear that Helena would say she was leaving. For a brief moment, she even toyed with the idea of staying at her own apartment for the night. But, she’d been trying hard to act more grown up and not give in to temper tantrums. So, looking into Barbara’s gorgeous eyes and seeing the raw emotion there, she couldn’t refuse.

“Would you mind if we stayed out here a little longer?” She moved back away from the redhead, standing up and flexing her stiff legs. She’d been sitting on her knees for a while now, and her legs were beginning to go to sleep.

Barbara smiled and brushed hair out of Helena’s eyes. “We can stay a little longer if you want.”

“Good,” Helena said as she pulled a chaise lounge over, sitting down. Knowing that she was boarding an emotional roller coaster, one whose ride would last until the killer was caught, she gave in to what she craved. Looking at Barbara she said, “Why don’t you join me? I’d like to hold you for a while if it’s okay?”

As Barbara maneuvered herself from her wheelchair to the lounge, she blinked back tears. She knew the battle with Helena was far from over. She understood Helena’s fears. She really did. They were her fears as well. But, she also knew that the only way to catch the killer was to offer herself up. She just had to trust that Helena’s love for her, no matter how angry with her the brunette was, would be enough to keep her safe.

As she felt Helena’s arms wrap around her, she closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Reaching down, she covered the brunette’s hands with her own. “Try to relax, Hel. I swear to you I’ll be as careful as I can.”

“I know, Red,” Helena whispered next to Barbara’s ear. “I believe you.” She squeezed Barbara, holding her tighter. Tears glistening on her cheeks, Helena closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Somewhere deep inside, she could feel fate stalking them. She was so afraid she was going to lose Barbara…her heart was already breaking. Still, pulling from her own huge reserves of inner strength, she swore she’d protect the redhead; to the death if necessary. And, as she thought about what Barbara was proposing, she knew she’d kill the man if he hurt the redhead at all. Of that, she had no doubt.

Her attention was drawn to the older woman in her arms as she felt her breathing slow down. Barbara had drifted off to sleep. She’d been working too much, pushing herself harder than she should. Barbara never thought about taking care of herself like she should. And now, using the transponder again…it was only going to get worse. And yet…Helena closed her eyes as she felt her tears start all over again. Even after their earlier argument, Barbara still loved her and trusted her enough to know that Helena would keep her safe. How lucky could she be? Feeling a great upwelling of love for the redhead, she tightened her arms around her just a bit. Barbara was the single most precious thing in her universe, and Helena vowed to do whatever she could to make sure Barbara knew it.

* * * * *

Barbara tightened the belt around her waist and waited, while the transponder kicked in. As she sat there, she could literally feel the nerves sparking to life in her lower spine and legs. It was, in a word, exhilarating.

Wiggling her toes and reveling in the ability to do so, she stood up slowly. ‘No need to rush,’ she thought, as she carefully moved each of her legs from the footrests on her wheelchair to the floor. Then, pushing herself up, she was finally standing. Taking a deep breath to steady herself, she took her first step.

Overwhelmed by the feeling of actually standing again, she took another deep breath. She wiped at a tear as it slid down her cheek and smiled. There wasn’t any pain! Or at least not the horrible, excruciating pain there used to be. She had finally succeeded in getting the transponder to work without causing so much pain. It was a relief.

Taking her time, she walked out of her room and headed for the Delphi. Dick was there, working with Dinah on a new search program. As she stepped up onto the platform, Dinah looked up and beamed at her.

“You’ve done it!” the teen said, rushing over and enveloping her in a hug. “Barbara, you’ve done it. Does it feel okay? There’s not any pain, is there? Does it feel weird to walk again after so long? I mean, I know you walked when you faced Helena during the whole ‘Harley Quinn” thing, but that’s not the same, is it?”

Barbara held up a hand as the girl released her. “Dinah, Dinah…slow down,” she said, smiling. “It feels okay, but a little weird. And yes, there is still some pain, but not the excruciating pain I felt before.

“So,” Dick said, coming over to hug her as well, “you ready to start working out, or do you want to wait a little longer?”

“I don’t think we really have much choice,” she said, hugging him back. “We should probably get started as soon as we can.”

“You sure?” he asked.

She nodded. “Yeah. I’ll meet you in the gym in a few minutes.” She turned then and left, heading for the training room. She wanted to get there before him and calm her nerves. It had been a long time since she’d trained using both legs, and she was feeling a little nervous about it.

* * * * *

Three hours later, Helena stepped off the elevator. Looking around and not finding anyone at the Delphi, she decided to try the kitchen. When she still hadn’t found anyone, she headed down the hall to the training room. As she approached, she knew she was on the right track. Through the open door, she could hear the sounds of two people sparring. As she stepped through the door, she looked around to find that Barbara and Dick were going at it full force. Escrima sticks flying, it looked to her as though Barbara was beating the crap out of Dick.

“Wow! She exclaimed, as she stopped and watched. “Lookin’ good there, Red!” She yelled in encouragement. She really didn’t feel like being very encouraging, but she’d made a promise to Barbara, so she forced herself. She had to admit as she watched though, that Barbara looked really good standing and fighting for the first time in nine years (well, not counting the time she fought Lady Shiva, or the whole ‘Harley Quinn’ thing). It was kind of exciting, really. As a matter of fact, Helena thought as she watched, it was more than exciting.

Barbara, red hair pulled back in a ponytail, sweat glistening on her upper chest and bare arms, the play of sleek muscles under soft skin: ‘Jesus,’ Helena thought, ‘She’s so fucking hot, I’m getting turned on just watching!’

Dinah jumped up from her position on the floor when Helena came in and bounded over to her. “Helena! Isn’t it exciting? Barbara and Dick have been sparring for the last twenty minutes or so. She’s doing great, isn’t she?”

“Yeah, Kid,” Helena responded. “She’s lookin’ real good.” She dropped down on one of the benches along the wall. Dinah joined her, and they watched as the two finished their little sparring match. Helena, for her part, was finding it difficult to sit still as Dick continued to pummel away at the redhead. But, she had to admit, Barbara was giving it back to him blow for blow.

Finally, agreeing that neither of them was going to gain the upper hand, Barbara and Dick called it quits. Replacing the escrima sticks on the weapons rack, Barbara walked over to join Helena and Dinah.

As the redhead approached, Helena stood up. “Hey Red,” she said, leaning in and kissing the older woman. “You looked really great. This your first work out?”

Barbara nodded. “Yeah,” toweling herself dry, she explained, “I didn’t think we had any time to waste, so we went ahead and got started. Would you like to join me?”

“What?” Helena asked, slightly surprised that the redhead still had any energy left after that little display. “No, Barbara, I don’t think so. I don’t want you to push yourself too far too fast.”

“I won’t, Hel. But I do need to get in fighting shape pretty quickly,” Barbara said, picking up her water bottle and taking a long drink before setting it down again. “It’s just that there isn’t much time. The longer I take to get ready, the more likely it is that another girl will die.”

“I know. I’ll tell you what,” Helena said, kissing her again, “after dinner, I’ll meet you here and we can work out for a while. Leonard gave me the night off, so I have the time.”

Barbara smiled. “Great. Let me go get cleaned up. Alfred should have dinner ready soon,” the redhead said as she draped her towel around her shoulders and headed for her bathroom.

After Barbara left, Helena turned to Dinah. “So Kid, how’s she doing?”

Dinah shrugged. “It’s almost like she’d never been paralyzed. She started out pretty slow, working her way up. It doesn’t seem like she’s lost any of her skill, though.”

Helena nodded, agreeing with the teen. “I noticed. But…” she hesitated for a moment before continuing, “do you think she should be pushing herself this hard so soon? I mean, this was her first work out, and she was going at it like she’d been doing this for years.”

“I think she’s just worried that we’ll miss our opportunity to catch the serial killer.”

“Maybe you’re right,” Helena said, heading for the door. “I’m going to go get ready for dinner. See you in a few.”

“Bye, Hel,” Dinah said, as the brunette walked out of the gym heading for the spare bathroom.

* * * * *

For the next two weeks, Helena helped Barbara with her work out every day. Getting the older woman to spar was easy, but she really had to work at it, to get Barbara to continue her physical therapy. Apparently, Barbara seemed to feel that as long as she was up and walking around, she didn’t need the PT exercises anymore. Their disagreement on the subject had been the source of more than one argument over the last two weeks.

Unfortunately, this was one of those disagreements.

“Helena, I swear, you’re hitting me like you’re afraid you’re going to hurt me,” Barbara yelled. “Come on and try!”

“I am trying, Barbara,” Helena yelled back, growing more and more frustrated every day with Barbara’s irritating attitude of late.

“Bullshit! If you were trying to hit me, I’d be on the floor, right now,” Barbara said, circling the brunette warily.

Helena, sick and tired of arguing constantly, lunged toward the redhead. Swinging her escrima sticks, she added some kicks into the mix. Her goal was to confuse Barbara, causing her to be open to attack. Unfortunately, even though Barbara hadn’t been able to practice her foot work over the last nine years, she hadn’t lost her skills. She had spent a great deal of time watching instructional videos and stick fighting techniques and committing the moves to memory. Somehow, it worked.

Barbara flowed from movement to movement like a master. Helena knew that the redhead had attained her black belt in more than one martial art before the shooting, mastering the arts of stick and staff fighting. She was just finding it hard to believe that she’d managed to retain the skills after all this time. Helena was not, however, finding it hard to believe that she was once again lying on the floor. Barbara had routinely been kicking her ass all week and it was getting irritating.

Finally, picking herself up off the floor again, Helena was done. Allowing her feral side to take over, she attacked Barbara with all the strength and ferocity she possessed. Punch after punch, kick after kick, Barbara’s reserves were finally worn through. As Helena’s final kick sent her flying through the air, Helena stared in horror as the redhead landed hard on the mat.

“Jesus, Barbara!” Helena exclaimed, as she ran over to make sure the other woman was okay, “Are you all right? I didn’t mean to kick you so hard.” Panic at the damage she may have caused was flooding through her system as she arrived at Barbara’s side. As she bent down to examine the redhead, she breathed a sigh of relief as she realized that her partner was indeed okay.

Instead of yelling at Helena for her loss of control, Barbara had a huge grin on her face as she stood up from the mat. Rubbing at her stomach, where Helena’s kick had caught her, she said, “It’s about time you actually hit me, Hel.”

Helena rolled her eyes. “Barbara,” she said in exasperation, “you scared me to death. Are you okay? I didn’t hurt you did I?”

“I’m okay, Hel. Really,” she said when she realized that the brunette was genuinely worried about her. “Come on,” she said, reaching out and rubbing Helena’s arm, “Let’s go get cleaned up. I think we’ve both had enough for one day.”

Helena shook her head. “No, Barbara,” she began hesitantly, not really wanting to bring up the subject but knowing it had to be done. “I was thinking that we need to run through your PT before we finish for the day.”

Barbara blew out a breath in frustration. “Hel, I keep telling you…I don’t need the PT anymore. Not as long as I’m able to move around and work out.”

“Barbara, I know what you keep saying, but you need to keep it up. Once we catch this guy, you’re going to go back to not using that thing. And when you do, you need to be used to the PT. I don’t think it’s a good idea to mess up your routine too much,” Helena managed to get out before Barbara could argue. But…Barbara being Barbara, she did manage to argue back.

“Hel, I told you…” she began, getting angry at the brunette. Why couldn’t Helena see that if the transponder was working so well, she might never need to go back to living without it? “I’m not doing PT today. But,” she said, “you could help me work out another way.”

Eyeing her warily, Helena asked, “What do you have in mind?”

“Well,” Barbara said, still angry, but noticing that the feeling also seemed to coincide with a heavy dose of lust. “You could rip my clothes off and make love to me right now? Or, if you prefer,” she said, pushing the brunette back against the wall and running a hand up and down her side, “I can do it to you?”

“What?” Helena almost yelled, horrified at the redheads unusual request. This was nothing like the Barbara she knew. Well, that wasn’t completely true. Barbara did seem to get really turned on when they worked out sometimes. Something about the sweat, heavy breathing and adrenaline all combining to turn her on. But she’d never, ever, cornered Helena and done this before: Not with this particular look in her eye and tone in her voice.

“Uhh…what’s going on, Red? This isn’t like you,” Helena stammered, attempting to slow the redhead down, since her hands were pulling at the bottom of her tank top.

“I’m turned on, Hel,” Barbara answered, her mouth next to Helena’s ear. “Come on, you can’t tell me you don’t want this.” Moving down slightly, she licked Helena’s neck, causing her to groan.

“Jesus, Red!” Helena managed to say. “How about we go back to the bedroom and take care of this in there. Somebody could walk in on us in here.” She was beginning to have a hard time breathing as the redhead moved her hand under her tank top and headed for her breasts.

“No,” Barbara said between light bites to Helena’s neck. “I want you now…Right here. I want to know what it really feels like when you’re inside me, Hel. Not just the minimal sensations I usually get, but the real thing. Just this once,” she whispered huskily.

Strangely horrified at the idea that Barbara actually wanted to keep the transponder on while they made love; Helena tried to push Barbara away. “Barbara, no. I can’t do that!”

“What? Afraid to take a walk on the dark side, Hel?” Barbara asked, finally grabbing one of Helena’s breasts with one hand and beginning to move the other hand downward. “You afraid that you won’t be in control anymore if I keep the transponder on?”

Helena shook her head, even as the sensations Barbara’s hands and mouth were causing ripped through her body. “It’s not that, it’s…it’s just that…” Her head fell back against the wall. “Oh God…it’s just that it…it wouldn’t really be us, Red. Not the you and me that…”

“What? Not the you that controls everything? Not the me that can’t wrap my legs around you and pull you into me?” Barbara asked as she slid her hand into the brunette’s underwear and began moving slowly. “Come on, Hel. You want this and you know it. Aren’t you just the least bit curious what I was like before I got shot?” She had the brunette and she knew it. Moving her other hand to Helena’s shoulders, she pushed the brunette down onto her knees. Never removing her hand from its’ place at Helena’s center, Barbara slid down as well.

Helena didn’t know what to do. Torn between knowing that Barbara shouldn’t be wearing the transponder at all, and wanting this more than she’d wanted anything in a long time, she was lost. Barbara’s hands and mouth were everywhere all at once. Suddenly, she realized that her tank top and sport bra were both gone and Barbara had pulled one of her breasts into her mouth. It was too much. Without another word, Helena growled as she felt her eyes change. Removing the tie from Barbara’s hair, she wrapped her hands in the silky length, and pulled her tighter against her chest.

Barbara, feeling Helena pull her into her, smiled wolfishly. She’d won and Helena was hers. Now, she’d show the brunette what she’d been missing. Allowing her darker side out for a while, she decided she was going to be in control tonight. All the crazy emotions she’d been carrying around inside the last few weeks came boiling to the surface and she decided it was time to let them out. She’d make sure Helena enjoyed having a fully functional lover instead of one who could only feel bits and pieces of sensation. After tonight, Helena would never argue about her use of the transponder again. That much, Barbara was certain of.

* * * * *

Two hours later, Helena sat up and looked at Barbara, who was still asleep. Closing her eyes, she heaved a sigh. When she re-opened them, she still had scenes of the last two hours playing in her brain. Unable to stop them, she thought to herself, ‘My God, what have I done?’ Not only had she given in to Barbara’s dark desires, but she’d enjoyed it. What the Hell did that say about her? She didn’t want Barbara to keep using that thing. But, she had to admit, it certainly lent a new dimension to their sex life. Shaking her head at herself in irritation, she looked around for her clothes. Finding them, she began to get dressed.

“Helena?” Barbara said quietly, head propped on her hand as she watched the brunette pulling on her clothes, “where are you going?”

Disgusted with herself for letting this little fantasy play itself out, Helena said, “I’m going to get a shower. Then I’m heading for work.”

Barbara furrowed a brow. “I thought you were off tonight?”

Helena shrugged. She needed to get out of here and think. “Leonard called earlier. One of the guys called off and he asked if I’d pick up the shift.”

“Oh. Well, you will be home later, right?” Barbara asked, although it came out sounding more like a demand than an actual question.

Helena shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe.”

“What do you mean, ‘maybe?’ Aren’t you coming home tonight?” Barbara asked in irritation.

“Barbara, I haven’t spent the night in my own place since the night you stayed with me. I do need to stop by every once in a while,” Helena said, getting irritated by the redheads’ sudden demanding behavior.

Barbara stood up and said, “No. I want you home after work.” Lowering her voice and purposely making it softer, less demanding, she said, “Hel, I need you. I don’t want to spend a night without you.” She reached over and brushed her hand on the smooth cheek.

Helena closed her eyes when she felt Barbara’s hand brush her skin. As she opened them again, she felt herself falling once again into that intense green gaze that she loved so much. Unable to say no and hating herself for it, she could only nod, and say “Okay, I’ll be here after I stop by my place and make sure things are okay.”

Smiling, Barbara leaned in and kissed her. “Thank you, Hel. I love you.”

Helena pulled a smile out of someplace, and said, “I love you too, Red.” Then, turning, she headed for the shower.

* * * * *

Her shower finished, Helena was heading for the elevator when Dick called to her. “Helena! Could I talk to you?”

Helena turned as he called to her, sighing to herself. Plastering a smile on her face, she said, “Yeah, sure. What’s up?” She cursed silently as she stopped to talk to him. She’d been dreading this conversation, knowing how he felt about her. Besides that, after what had happened earlier with Barbara, she just needed to get away from the Clocktower for a while. For some reason, what had happened made her feel…dirty, somehow. Still, acting as if she didn’t have a care in the world, she smiled and answered him.

“Well,” he said, running a hand through his hair nervously, “it’s about Barbara. I was wondering if you’ve noticed anything different about her uh…attitude?”

Okay…Helena wasn’t expecting this. She’d really expected something more along the lines of ‘I don’t understand why Barbara picked you’. Caught by surprise but unwilling to show it, she motioned to him to follow her into the kitchen. When she got there, she took a seat, propping her feet up on the chair next to her. “So?” she asked cautiously, “what did you want to know?”

“Well, like I said,” he answered, pulling up a chair and sitting down as well, “I’ve been noticing some things. I was just wondering if you had, too?”

“Like what kinds of things?” she asked cautiously, afraid to give too much of what she really thought away.

He shrugged. “I don’t know. She seems a little more uhh…aggressive than usual. You know, she’s been really quick to get irritated, and she’s angry a lot of the time.”

Helena nodded. Boy, had she noticed. But she wasn’t willing to let him in on just how much, yet. For instance, she had no reason to let him in on what had occurred only an hour ago in the training room. “I just figured she was stressing and haven’t worried about it much. I mean, she was Batgirl. She had to have been aggressive and all that back then, right?” she asked nonchalantly. In all the time she’d known him, she had never once asked Dick what Barbara had been like back then. It’s not that she wasn’t curious about it, she just didn’t think he’d tell her.

“Well, yeah,” he agreed, “but she was never violent and she never lost control like she’s been doing lately. You have noticed that, right?”

“Yeah, but like I said, I thought it was a Batgirl thing,” she said, beginning to worry as she listened to what Dick was saying. “You know, I was just a kid when Barbara was doing the ‘Bat Thing’. I never really knew her like that. She was just the cool babysitter that Mom brought in to watch me.”

“Ummm,” he nodded his head thoughtfully. “As Batgirl, she was strong, fast, impetuous but cool headed in a fight…she never lost control, and she never, ever, got so violent. To tell you the truth, it’s scaring me, Hel.”

Helena felt her eyebrows shoot toward her bangs. She had never heard Dick Grayson say he was scared. Not about anything for any reason. This had to be serious, and she treated it that way. “To be honest Dick, I have noticed the behavior, but damned if she’ll talk to me. You know how she is.”

He sighed. “Unfortunately I do. I guess I was just wondering if you thought maybe there was more to this than just stress?”

Unsure what he was getting at, she asked, “Like what?”

Reluctantly, he said, “I’m not sure…maybe the transponder is causing something she’s never told us about?”

“Hmm, that wouldn’t be unheard of,” Helena agreed. “She’s been so Hell-bent on this, it’s not like she’d tell us something like that if she thought it would cause more problems.”

“So, I guess the question is; what do you want do about it?” he asked, looking pointedly at her.

’Shit!’ she thought to herself. How did she know this would come down to Dick thinking she should handle this? Taking a deep breath, she asked, “Why should I be the one to talk to her? You already know what will probably happen.”

He nodded. “I know. She’ll go ballistic.”

Helena nodded. “Yeah, if I’m lucky. She could very well leave me bloody and bruised. She’s been going at it pretty hard these last few weeks. As a matter of fact,” she said, “now that I think about it, she’s been wearing that thing almost non-stop.” She didn’t feel the need to tell him they’d been arguing about it almost constantly. “She doesn’t take it off until she goes to bed for the night or takes a shower.”

“Then it’s possible that the transponder is affecting her neural system in some way. Maybe she’s not even aware of the problem?” he said, looking at her hopefully.

“I guess it is possible,” she said slowly, “but for some reason, I have the feeling she probably does know and she’s just blowing it off.”

He fell silent for a few minutes. Finally, heaving a sigh, he said, “So, would you be willing to…”

Shaking her head, reluctant to do anything that would piss Barbara off more, Helena was about to say ‘no,’ when Dinah came storming into the kitchen.

“Has anybody noticed Barbara’s attitude lately, or is it just me?” she whined, flopping into the other chair.

Helena and Dick looked at each other. Leave it to Dinah to say what was on her mind.

“What?” she said, noticing the look that passed between them. “You can’t tell me you guys haven’t noticed anything?”

Before either of them could say anything, Barbara’s voice, cold and deceptively emotionless sounded from the doorway. “What? You two don’t have an answer for her? Nothing to say about my ‘behavior’ now that I’m in the room?”

All three heads swiveled toward her at once. Helena, recovering first stammered, “B…B…Barbara!”

“Don’t you ‘Barbara’ me,” the redhead yelled, coming into the kitchen. “What? Couldn’t take having your ass whipped by a cripple? Or, did you come in here to complain to Dick about your other ‘control issues?’ Did you tell him all about our little ‘disagreement’ earlier, Hel?”

“Barbara, no…I…I didn’t say…” Helena said, attempting to deflect the older woman’s anger.

Not even attempting to hide her anger now, Barbara yelled, “What? Couldn’t wait to share with him how I…”

“Barbara!” Helena screamed, standing up and facing the redhead. “I didn’t come in here and start whining at all. I was actually on my way out. You know, I told you I had to go to work?” She stopped talking and crossed her arms. When Barbara didn’t say anything to that, she went on. “And as for what happened earlier, I didn’t mention it. And fuck you for thinking that I’d go talking about something so private with Dick or anyone else!”

“What am I supposed to think, Hel? I come in here and all three of you are in here talking about me behind my back.” Barbara began pacing, the anger within her threatening to explode at any moment. “How do you expect me to trust you when I catch you like this?”

“What!” Helena slammed a fist down on the counter. “Screw you, Barbara! We weren’t in here ganging up on you. We were talking about how your behavior’s changed the last few weeks. Maybe you haven’t noticed,” she said sarcastically, “but you’ve been a major bitch lately.”

“Really? Well maybe that’s because I’m trying to force myself into doing things that I haven’t been able to do in nine years,” the redhead answered snidely.

“We’ve all told you that you don’t have to do this, Barbara. But you insisted. We’re all just trying to get through this thing too, ya know,” Helena said, attempting to school her voice into calmness. Too often lately, she’d found herself on the edge of going feral, and she desperately didn’t want that right now. Not only would it not help anything, it would probably only make things worse. It already had, since she gave in so easily to Barbara’s sexual assault on her earlier. As she thought about that, she hated that she felt that way about it, but she did. The behavior was just so not Barbara. Not that she hadn’t been turned on, but Barbara being aggressive during sex is fantastic; Barbara being angry and violent during sex, wasn’t so fantastic. Helena had to admit to herself that it scared her a little.

“We were worried about you, Barbara,” Dick finally said quietly, hoping to calm the redhead down. “You’ve been acting different. I asked Helena if she’s noticed anything, that’s all. You just happened to walk in at the wrong time.”

“And there was a right time for this?” She asked, turning to face him. “You couldn’t just come to me, Dick?”

He shook his head, giving her a look that would make paint peel. “I wanted to, but I knew you’d just brush it off. I thought maybe Helena could talk to you, was all.”

“Mmm. Well…from now on, I’d thank you to stay out of my private life,” Barbara said, cocking her head and suddenly reminding him of Helena.

“Barbara, I’m sorry. I just…” he started, but she cut him off.

“I don’t want to hear it right now, Dick.” Turning to Dinah, she said, “Don’t you have sweeps to get ready for?”

Dinah, surprised to be suddenly included in Barbara’s anger, stood up quickly. “I…uh…sure. I’ll just…go get ready.”

She watched as Dinah left the room. Once she was gone, Barbara turned her attention back to Helena. “Can I talk to you…in private?”

Helena felt her heart drop to her feet. Barbara’s voice had lowered in volume, but there was so much anger there, it scared her. “Okay…” Following Barbara out of the kitchen, they stopped walking when Barbara reached the balcony.

“So,” Barbara said, coming to a stop at the balcony edge and turning to face Helena. “Would you like to explain?”

Taking a deep breath, Helena said, “Barbara, I swear, I didn’t say anything to either of them about what happened. I wouldn’t.”

“I believe you, Hel,” Barbara said, moving to stand closer. “But you have to know what that looked like in there?”

“Yeah, but like Dick said, you just came in at the wrong time,” the brunette answered quietly. “He stopped me on the way out. He was worried about you. That’s all.” She looked Barbara directly in the eyes, desperately wanting Barbara to believe her. It was the truth, after all.

Barbara, watching Helena carefully for a few moments, nodded. Apparently satisfied with what she saw in the brunette’s eyes, she began pacing. Her anger under control for the moment, she said, “I’m sorry, Hel. I guess I have been a little on edge, lately.” She turned suddenly and moved closer, forcing Helena to back up against the wall. “But I want you to understand something.” She reached out and grabbed Helena by the back of her head, pulling her into a kiss. When she released her, she said, “What happens between us is just that. It doesn’t go any further. I know how you love your control…but from here on out, I control this.”

Stunned momentarily, Helena could only gape at the redhead. This was certainly not the Barbara she had always known and fallen in love with. But, positive now that Barbara’s behavior was linked to her use of the transponder, and determined not to ruin everything they had, she decided to take a chance, and said, “Barbara, I know you think I like to be in control of things, including our relationship…But, it’s time for you to understand something. From the moment I fell in love with you, you’ve controlled me body, mind and soul. I have no power over anything where you’re concerned. I never have. I love you more than anything in this world. Don’t you understand? You’re my universe, my everything. Without you, I’d be nothing.” She looked into the green eyes, hoping that somewhere Barbara was hearing her words. “I love you, Barbara.” She pushed the redhead back away from her gently. Steeling herself for what she was about to say, she felt a single tear slip down her cheek. “But I don’t think it’s a very good idea for me to stay here any more until this thing’s over. It’s not good for us to be fighting constantly. I don’t want to lose you over some silly argument.”

Barbara couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Anger warred with disbelief, until disbelief and confusion won. “Helena? What are you saying? You can’t just leave…”

Helena reached out and put a finger on Barbara’s lips. “Hush. I’m not leaving for good, or anything. I’ll still be here for sweeps, and I’ll never be far. You know I won’t. But it’s not a good idea for us to be this together all the time, not when we’re both obviously so stressed out. It’ll tear us apart if I stay. I don’t want that.”

“Hel?” Barbara said pleadingly. Suddenly, she was feeling empty. There was no more anger of violent feelings. She didn’t want Helena to leave her. Shaking her head and trying to clear her thoughts, she closed her eyes. For some reason, she just couldn’t seem to get it together. What Helena had said made her want to cry. It was breaking her heart. What had she been doing? Before she could say anything else, Helena pulled her close.

Helena leaned in and gently kissed her. “I’ll see you tonight for sweeps. I promise. I love you, Barbara.” Then, without waiting for another word from the redhead, she turned and jumped off the balcony, heading for the Dark Horse.

* * * * *

Numb, Barbara watched as Helena disappeared from her view. Then, reaching for the low wall surrounding the balcony, she slid down until she was sitting. Legs stretched out in front of her, she unfastened the buckle of the transponder and removed the belt, laying it next to her on the floor. She watched silently, unfeeling, as her legs twitched with muscle spasms. She was numb; but she hurt, too. She hurt all over. Even when the transponder wasn’t working correctly, it didn’t cause this much pain.

Helena was gone. How had she managed to drive the brunette away just when she needed her most? Helena’s words hurt terribly, but they were true. If they continued to spend so much time together, they’d keep arguing. She didn’t want that, either. She loved Helena more than anything. But for some reason she couldn’t explain, she just felt so angry all the time lately.

Inhaling deeply, she tried to stifle her tears. They came anyway, unbidden, rolling down her cheeks unchecked as she allowed her pain to take over. It was rare that she allowed herself to feel. Emotions were messy and she liked order. But locking away her feelings for Helena was out of the question. She’d already tried that, and failed miserably. Giving in, she wrapped her arms around herself and sobbed.

Eventually, she cried herself out. Feeling empty, more empty than she ever remembered feeling in her life, she sat and stared into nothing. Still numb, she couldn’t move. It was as though she were stuck in time, waiting for something to push her forward. But that something never came, and so she sat there, staring off into nothingness.

Eventually, she was aware of the balcony door opening and someone approaching her. She couldn’t muster the energy to even look up, though. The truth was, she didn’t care who it was. If it wasn’t Helena, they could all just go to Hell.

“Barbara?” Dick’s soft voice interrupted the silence of the balcony. “Barbara?” he tried again when he got no response. Kneeling down to look at her, he became concerned when she didn’t even seem to realize he was there.

“Did Helena leave?” he asked quietly, not wanting to upset her again. This time, when the redhead didn’t answer, he reached out to shake her shoulder. “Barbara? Can you hear me? Hey!”

Barbara knew Dick was there. She could hear everything he said. But for some reason, she just couldn’t force herself to acknowledge him. Staring off into nothing, allowing herself to fall into the numbness, she was briefly aware of the sensation of falling…

Dick cursed as Barbara seemed to just close her eyes and fall asleep. He watched, terrified, as she slid to the side, slumped in the corner of the balcony wall. Acting quickly, he called for Dinah, who ran out to the balcony so fast, he thought perhaps she’d been on the other side of the doors. Thinking about it, he realized she probably had been.

“Dinah,” he said quickly, “something’s wrong with Barbara. Can you…”

“Of course,” the teen said, picking up the transponder as he bent over and easily lifted the redhead. She followed anxiously as he carried Barbara into her bedroom. When they arrived, she quickly pulled the covers down and Dick gently lay Barbara down. As he backed away from the bed, Dinah asked, “What happened? Where’s Helena?”

He shrugged. “I don’t know. When I got out there, Helena was gone and Barbara was alone, just sitting there.”

“Is she going to be okay? I mean, Helena didn’t hurt her or anything…?” Dinah asked, her voice sounding small and scared. In her heart, she knew Helena would never hurt Barbara in any physical way. Sure, the brunette could be a real ass sometime’s, but she would never lay a hand on Barbara out of anger. Dinah would stake her life on that belief.

“She doesn’t look hurt,” he responded distractedly as he checked Barbara over carefully, looking for any signs of physical injury. Then, glancing down at the transponder still in Dinah’s hand, he said, “She had that laying next to her. I don’t know how long she’s had it off, but Helena said she’s been wearing it almost all the time. That’s what we were talking about when you came in earlier.”

“You think it’s affecting her somehow?” Dinah asked, picking up on his unspoken thoughts.

He nodded. “Yeah, I do. It’s the only thing that explains the different behaviors we’ve all been noticing.”

Suddenly, his attention returned to the bed, when Barbara moaned quietly. Bending over so that she could see him, he said, “Barbara? Barbara, can you hear me?”

“Dick?” Barbara whispered as her eyes fluttered open. Looking around slowly, she asked, “How…how did I…get in here? Where’s Helena?”

“You were out on the balcony. I think you passed out. What do you remember?” he asked, ignoring her question about the brunette for the moment.

She was confused. She didn’t even remember going out to the balcony, let alone passing out. Shaking her head, she said, “I…I don’t remember much. Just…did we argue?” she asked, looking at him intensely.

Blushing slightly, he said, “Uh, yeah. We did have a uh…disagreement. You don’t remember?” He was really concerned now. Barbara’s memory was legendary. She could still remember things that she’d read when she was four years old. There was just no way she could forget something that happened less than two hours before.

Shaking her head, Barbara said, “No. What did we disagree on?”

“It’s not important right now,” he said, kissing her lightly on the cheek. “Why don’t you get some rest? You’re exhausted.” He stood up and turned to leave, when she caught his arm.

“Dick? Helena…where is she?”

“She told me earlier she had to work tonight,” Dinah said, obviously worried about her mentor. “She wasn’t on the balcony when we found you.”

Barbara fell silent for a minute, thinking to herself. Searching her jumbled memory, she finally gasped out, “She left! Helena left me!”

Dinah began shaking her head. “No. Barbara, no. Helena would never leave you. She loves you.”

Sure now that the brunette had gone, Barbara insisted. “No, Helena left. I remember. She said she couldn’t stay here anymore until this was over. We were arguing too much and I…I…oh God…” She fell silent again, the pain of her loss flowing over her like a fog. She began crying again, unable to hold the tears back. What she’d done to Helena earlier in the training room had come back to her suddenly, only a fleeting memory, before it was gone again. It left her unsure. Had she really done that to Helena? Had she really…raped her? Was she even capable of something like that? She was terrified. How could she have done something like that? And to Helena, of all people?

Dinah unsuccessfully tried to keep the redheads feelings from enveloping her, but she was fighting a losing battle. The pain and despair was flowing off of Barbara in waves. It was all she could do to keep her equilibrium, as she sat down on the edge of the bed and pulled Barbara to her in a hug. “Shh…it’s okay, Barbara. I’m sure Helena was just angry. You know how she is…she’s always running away and coming back when she feels better.”

But Barbara knew better. Helena wasn’t angry when she’d told her she was leaving. She was calm, sad even. She’d meant what she said. And if she’d done anything close to what that brief flash had shown…well…she’d be lucky if Helena ever came back to her.

In the meantime, Dick had been standing back watching everything intently. This was nothing like the Barbara he knew. Barbara never cried, for starters. And she never forgot anything. Something was definitely wrong. As he watched Dinah holding Barbara and comforting her, he decided to investigate the transponder a little more closely. When Barbara seemed to be calming down, he stepped out of the bedroom and headed for the Delphi, looking for any files Barbara had related to that damned transponder.

Eventually, Dinah reappeared next to him, looking exhausted. “She okay?” he asked the teen.

Dinah nodded. “Yeah. She finally fell back to sleep. I think she’s more exhausted than anything.”

“There’s more to it than that, Dinah. We all know it,” he said, looking at her and noticing the pale cast of her skin. “You look tired. Why don’t you lie down for a while?”

“I’m okay,” she said, stifling a yawn. “We need to find out what’s going on soon, or we’re all going to lose our minds.”

“You can say that, again,” he agreed, turning his attention back to another file he’d found referring to the transponder. So far, his search had been useless. Everything he’d found showed absolutely no known affects to the neural system.

* * * * *

As promised, Helena did return that night. Immediately following her shift at the Dark Horse, she checked out her apartment, and then headed to the Clocktower. When she arrived, she found Dick and Dinah at the Delphi. Barbara was no where in sight.

“So,” she said, walking slowly into the room, seemingly afraid that Barbara was going to come screeching out of left field at her again. “Where’s Red?”

Dick and Dinah looked at each other, before Dick finally said, “She’s asleep.”

“What?” Helena said in disbelief. “What are you talking about? What’s wrong?” She had never known Barbara to go to bed this early before. Especially when they were working such a big case. No, something was terribly wrong.

“We were hoping maybe you could tell us,” Dinah said, quickly filling Helena in on what had occurred earlier.

“Oh shit,” Helena said, as she listened to the teen. Her face falling, she said, “She’s right. I did say I was leaving. Not for good, though,” she hurriedly explained. “I just think it would be better for us if I wasn’t here constantly right now.”

“Helena,” Dinah cut in, “Barbara needs you now more than ever. How could you?”

“Don’t go judging me, Kid,” Helena said, getting irritated. “Trust me; it’s not what I want. It’s what I think is best. You don’t know everything that’s happened between us and I can’t tell you. I swore I wouldn’t. Just believe me when I tell you I can’t stay here all the time right now.”

“But…” the teen tried again, but Helena cut her off.

“Dinah,” she said calmly, “I love Barbara with everything I am. You, more than anyone, should know that. But right now, with Barbara’s moods changing every time the wind blows, and her constant anger with me, I’m a distraction. I’ll still be here for sweeps and I’ll still be watching over all of you. I just can’t be here night and day. That’s all. It’s just too stressful for all of us. Now, I’m going in to check on her.”

“Maybe you shouldn’t,” Dick suddenly said, glancing over at the two young women.

“Dick, I have to. I can’t just let her think I’ve left her alone…” Helena said, her voice pleading for understanding. “I won’t wake her up. I’ll just stay with her and watch to make sure she’s okay. If I need anything at all, I’ll call for you.”

He nodded his understanding of her need to be with Barbara and let her go. As much as he hated to admit it, Helena did love Barbara. In all the time he’d known her, Helena had been unfailingly dedicated to the redhead. As a matter of fact, if he were asked, he’d have to say that Barbara was probably the only thing Helena truly cared about. Still, sometimes the brunette’s actions left him scratching his head. As he watched her make her way toward Barbara’s room, he wondered again what had occurred between the two women. Judging from the way they acted earlier, he was sure there was something they weren’t telling him, but damned if he had a clue what it could be.

Approaching the door to their bedroom, she hesitated only slightly before pushing the door open silently. Barbara was there, still asleep. She stepped into the room and closed the door behind her, leaving it open just a crack.

For a few minutes she just stood there, silently watching the redhead sleep. She was so beautiful, and she looked so peaceful lying there, it was hard for Helena to recognize her as the violent, raging woman she’d been hours earlier. Sadly, she ducked her head, wiping a stray tear from her cheek. ‘What am I gonna do with you, Red?’ she whispered to herself. Then, forcing herself to move, she went into the adjoining bathroom and took a quick shower. She hated the smell of cigarette smoke that clung to her after her shifts at the Dark Horse, and she knew that Barbara didn’t care for it either. Once she was cleaned up and changed, she walked back into the bedroom. Barbara was still asleep, so she crawled in on her side of the bed and lay down on her side, facing the redhead. She wouldn’t sleep, she told herself, just lay there and watch over the other woman. Eventually however, she did fall asleep. She was so tired. The last few weeks had been both, physically and emotionally draining.

Hours later, Helena woke up. The room was still dark, but her enhanced vision allowed her to see perfectly well in the darkened room. She was still in bed, and Barbara was still there as well. The redhead however, had somehow managed to drape herself over the brunette in her sleep, covering her like a living blanket. Despite everything that had happened recently, and her concerns for Barbara’s well-being, Helena smiled to herself. She loved it when she woke up like this. Barbara wrapped around her, still dark outside, it was as if the world itself didn’t exist. It was only the two of them, hidden away in their little sanctuary. She sighed quietly, wishing it could stay like this forever. But, like all fairy tales, this one, too, came to an end.

She knew instantly that Barbara was awake. As she lay there holding the redhead, she suddenly felt her stiffen. Quietly, she whispered, “Barbara? You awake?”

The redhead lay there for a moment, confused. Where was she and who was with her? Helena had left, it couldn’t possibly be her. But the voice was hers. Could it have all been a terrible nightmare? Was Helena really here, with her arms wrapped securely around her?

“Barbara?” Helena said when the silence dragged out a little too long. “I know you’re awake, Red. You’d better breathe before you pass out. It’s okay, Barbara, please look at me?”

Helena’s voice made her feel like crying. The feel of her silky soft skin under her hand made her feel like dying: Not in the literal sense, but figuratively speaking. Afraid to speak but knowing that she had to say something, she finally took in a ragged breath, and said, “Hel? You…you’re really here?”

“Barbara, of course I’m here,” Helena’s voice sounded soothingly. “Dick and Dinah said you passed out, earlier. Where else would I be, if not here making sure you’re okay?”

Slowly, Barbara moved so that she could see the brunette. “I…I…” having trouble putting two words together it seemed, Barbara finally managed to ask, “Hel? What happened earlier today? Will you tell me? Did I…did I…?” Unable to finish the question, she let her voice trail off, despair leaving an ugly mark behind the words.

Helena creased her brows in consternation at Barbara’s question. “What do you mean?” She asked quietly, not wanting to upset the redhead again.

Barbara closed her eyes for a moment and then opened them again. Unable to clear her head, her memories all jumbled inside, she took a deep breath. As close as she was to Helena right now, she had no trouble seeing into the brunette’s blue eyes. Looking deeply into them as if to gauge her honesty, Barbara finally forced herself to ask, “Hel…earlier today, did I…” she blew out a breath of frustration as she made herself continue. “Did I uhm…attack, you earlier today?”

’Attack?’ Helena thought. Then, realizing what Barbara was asking, she said, “Red, we don’t need to talk about this now.”

“We do, Hel. I need to know,” Barbara said quietly, still looking at her intently. “For some reason, I can’t seem to remember things.” And that, Barbara realized, scared the absolute shit out of her. She had never, ever, not in her whole life, forgotten anything before. Now, all of a sudden, she couldn’t seem to remember from moment to moment. What the Hell was happening to her? “Please,” she whispered, “I need to know if I dreamed it or it…” she swallowed hard, “happened.”

Reaching up and brushing a strand of stray hair back behind Barbara’s ear, Helena asked, “What do you think happened, Barbara?”

The redhead closed her eyes and swallowed. “I think I…Did I rape you, Hel?” she finally forced the words out. They were like poison in her mouth, needing to be expelled. But she had been loath to do so. She needed to know the answer to her question, but at the same time, she didn’t want to know. If it was true, would Helena still be willing to stay? What if the brunette really did leave? What then? She found that her mind was supplying all kinds of horrifying scenarios, none of which she wanted to see.

Helena closed her eyes at the question. How should she answer? Sure, Barbara had been demanding and forceful. If push came to shove, one could even say violent. But had Barbara actually raped her? Had she really done something that Helena herself didn’t want? After all, Helena had to admit, she’d found it to be extremely erotic. And, was it really all that different when she, herself, allowed her feral side to take over? Opening her eyes again, she forced herself to answer, lest Barbara take her silence for an affirmative.

“Barbara,” she said, tenderly stroking the smooth skin of the redhead’s cheek, “No, you didn’t rape me. You could never do that.”

“But I had these flashes of memory…” Barbara said the fear in her voice evident. “I know something happened. Please tell me. I need to know.”

Rolling her eyes and giving in, Helena finally answered. “Do you really think that I would have let you do something to me that I didn’t want, Red? I could have stopped you at any minute, but I didn’t.” She looked deeply into green eyes as she continued. “Whatever happened Barbara, I wouldn’t call it rape.”

Despair hit her hard. Barbara groaned when she heard Helena’s answer. The brunette was trying to gloss over what had happened. Helena had never been able to lie to her. But she wasn’t being completely honest now, either. Pushing herself away from the other woman, Barbara said, “Hel, I’m so sorry. How can you even stand to be near me?”

Watching as the redhead closed herself off to her; Helena couldn’t help but feel angry. This was so typical of Barbara. Ask a question, and when she gets an answer she doesn’t want, she closes off. Still, she didn’t want to piss Barbara off. Softly, she reached over and tried to pull her closer. “Barbara,” she said soothingly, “don’t. Don’t pull away from me now. Please, whatever you call what happened, I’m okay.”

Feeling Helena trying to pull her closer, Barbara rolled away from the brunette. “Helena, don’t. Don’t touch me. I…I don’t even know why you’d…want to,” she said. “God, I can’t believe I would…could, do something like that.” Despair and pain were closing in now. She felt the collision coming, and braced for it accordingly, every muscle in her body tensing up.

Helena heard the pain in the redhead’s words and knew without a doubt that Barbara was telling her the truth. Whatever was going on, Barbara truly could not remember what had happened. And to Helena, who understood how horrible losing her memory could be for Barbara, comprehension came all too quickly. Sitting up, she slid over toward the redhead, slowly extending a hand to rest soothingly on her shoulder.

“Barbara,” she said quietly, “I don’t know what’s going on for sure, but we will find out. And as for what happened earlier, well…it happened. I can’t say that I liked your personality at the time, but I can tell you this: I know something about trying to control that force within. You know the one. It pushes you to do things you wouldn’t normally do if you sat back and thought about it first. And I know without a doubt, that you would never hurt me on purpose.”

Helena considered it a small victory when Barbara didn’t flinch when she touched her. So, taking a chance, she slid her hand from Barbara’s shoulder down to rest on her stomach, effectively pulling the redhead into an embrace. When Barbara still didn’t resist, she continued. “Please Barbara, don’t turn away from me. I know I told you earlier that I couldn’t stay here anymore. You know I just meant that this whole thing is stressing us out. We fight all the time and I don’t like it.”

Fighting her tears, Barbara finally replied through a trembling lower lip, “I don’t want to fight all the time either. I don’t know why I’ve been so angry.” She reached down and clasped Helena’s hand where it lay against her stomach. “I don’t want you to go, Hel. We’ve spent every night together since our vacation. But, I can understand why you don’t want to stay…after what I did.” She felt so lost. How could Helena bear to touch her after what she’d done?

“Barbara,” Helena said, leaning in and kissing the redhead softly on the temple, “I don’t want to stay away. I just think it would be best for us right now. That’s all. I swear to you…I will be here whenever you need me. I love you, Red. I just want this to all be over so we can go back to living our lives.”

Barbara had tears streaming down her cheeks as she said, “Oh Hel…” words escaped her momentarily. There were so many things she wanted to say; so many things she needed to say. This was why Barbara routinely ignored her emotions. They were so painful and messy. But now, when it mattered most, she would make the supreme effort. Forcing herself to speak, she said what was most in her heart. “Hel…I’m so scared. I…I think you’re right about us being together too much. I’m so tired. I don’t know what I’m doing…I’m exhausted…I only remember bits and pieces from the last week or so. It seems like I’ve been stumbling through a dream world. God…I’m not sure what’s real anymore and what’s not…” her voice trailed off as she began to cry again.

Helena’s heart was breaking, she was sure of it. Barbara was in so much pain and turmoil and there was nothing she could do. Pulling her in closer to her, she held on to the redhead and let her cry. Whatever was happening to the other woman, it had her terrified. Helena couldn’t remember a time when Barbara had been so scared. Not since she’d awakened in the hospital to find out she was paralyzed. Since her recovery, she’d always faced every new challenge with firm resolve. But now…Helena was at a loss. What else could she do, but hold Barbara and let her know that she was loved?

Eventually, Barbara cried herself out and fell back to sleep. Helena lay there for a while longer until she too, drifted off. They hadn’t resolved anything, Helena knew. They hadn’t even figured out what was causing Barbara’s sudden case of schizophrenia or her memory lapses. But at least the redhead understood that Helena wasn’t walking out on their relationship. She only intended to give them some breathing room. For now, it would have to be enough.

* * * * *

By the time Helena opened her eyes again, the sun was just beginning to come up. What little she could see of the sky through the crack in the curtain was a beautiful shade of dusty oranges and reds. Turning her attention to Barbara, she was glad to see that not only was she still asleep, she was also still safely ensconced in her arms.

Sighing contently, she decided to stay there as long as she could. This was the last morning she’d get to wake up like this for a while, and she wanted to drag it out as long as possible. For one brief, shining moment, life was good, Helena decided. Here in the bedroom they shared, nothing could touch them; not even the ever increasing violent streak that was currently plaguing Barbara. Whatever was happening, it had yet to pervade their sanctuary, and Helena wanted to keep it that way for this one last morning.

When Barbara eventually woke up, which was itself unusual as she was always an early riser, they would have to deal with everything in the cold light of day. The time for her to move into the little apartment she was going to use for their little sting operation was only a few days away. At that point, Helena would only be able to watch from a distance every night as the redhead slept alone. She knew they were both going to be lonely.

Thinking about their impending separation, she leaned forward and kissed Barbara lightly on the temple. She just looked so peaceful lying there, Helena couldn’t help herself. As she finished the kiss to her temple, perhaps lingering longer than was wise, Helena whispered, “I love you, Barbara. I hope you know that. I’d do anything for you if it was in my power.”

“I do know that, Hel,” Barbara whispered back sleepily, surprising the brunette.

“I thought you were asleep,” she said, looking over the redheads shoulder so she could see her face.

“I was,” Barbara said simply. She looked into Helena’s eyes, watching her intently. “I just wanted to stay here as long as we can,” she said, unconsciously mirroring Helena’s own feelings of minutes before. “I feel safe here,” she said, her voice tinged with sadness.

“We can stay here as long as you want,” Helena said, reaching over and pushing her hair back behind her ear. “We don’t have to leave this room until you’re good and ready.”

Barbara smiled at that. “You think Alfred would serve us our meals in bed?”

“If we asked nicely,” Helena answered back, happy to see the other woman smile. She would give everything she had to find a way to keep that smile on Barbara’s face permanently. She didn’t do it often enough, as far as Helena was concerned.

Barbara frowned almost instantly though, as a thought crossed her mind. “We should get up and get moving,” she said.

Why? We still need to talk about a few things,” Helena said, keeping her arms wrapped tightly around Barbara.

“We talked last night,” Barbara said, beginning to close herself off again.

“I know, but I want you to be very clear on this,” she said. “My leaving is not us breaking up. It’s me attempting to keep us together.”

“I get it,” Barbara said, almost whispering as she tried to keep from getting angry. “I still don’t want you to go.”

“And I don’t want to. But if I stay, with everything that’s happening, it will only tear us apart, and I don’t want that, either.” She pulled Barbara closer, enjoying the feel of her long body against her own. “I couldn’t bear to lose you,” she said into the redhead’s ear.

Barbara’s voice suddenly turning flat, she said, “You don’t think I can do this.” There was no anger in her words, just a statement of fact.

“I never said that. I said you don’t have to do this, not that you can’t,” Helena replied, enunciating every word. “As long as I’ve known you, there isn’t anything you couldn’t do when you put your mind to it. I believe that. I always have, and you know it.”

Barbara sighed, feeling bad for ruining the perfect morning. “I know, I’m sorry.”

Helena hugged her tighter. “It’s okay. I understand.” And, as she thought about it, Helena surprised herself by realizing that she really did. Understanding Barbara had always been easy for her, and she smiled again, remembering it now.

“Thank you, Hel,” Barbara said, growing quiet. After a while, she maneuvered around until she was facing the brunette. “Could I ask you for a favor?”

“Sure,” she answered, smiling. “Anything for you, Red.”

Shyly, blushing slightly, she asked, “Would you help me into the bathroom? I need to uh…” her voice trailed off, obviously embarrassed. It had been a long time since she’d needed help with her routine.

“Oh, yeah. Of course, Red. Here,” Helena said sliding her arms from around her and getting out of bed. A minute later, standing in front of Barbara, she bent over and, placing one arm under her legs and the other behind her back, she lifted her easily. Carrying her into the bathroom, she set her down and was about to leave so she could have some privacy, when she felt Barbara’s hand on her wrist.

“Stay,” Barbara said quietly, looking at her with a vulnerability Helena hadn’t seen since…Well, since the night at The Rook when she’d first kissed Barbara’s scars. Barbara had been terrified, that night. Terrified and unsure why someone like Helena would ever want someone like her. Someone who wasn’t ‘whole,’ as she’d put it. But Helena did want her. She’d wanted her then, and she wanted her now. She had always wanted Barbara and she always would. There was no room for debate on the issue as far as Helena was concerned.

So, for the first time in almost eight years, Helena stayed in the bathroom with Barbara and helped her through her morning routine. Neither of them spoke, there was no need for words. It was an old routine for each of them, and they followed it wordlessly. Finally, when they were finished, Helena lifted Barbara and once more carried her to the bed.

“Are you hungry?” she asked, as she set the redhead down on the bed. “I’ll get us something to eat and bring it back. We can eat in here. You don’t have to go out and face the world until you’re ready.”

Barbara nodded. “That sounds nice, Hel. Thank you.”

Helena smiled and quickly caressed a cheek. “I’ll be right back,” she said, turning to leave.

“Hurry back, Hel,” Barbara said quietly, in the voice that Helena instinctively understood to mean, ‘I miss you already’.

“Will do, Red,” she said, walking out of the room and shutting the door behind her.

After leaving the bedroom, she headed straight for the kitchen. The first thing she did was put on a pot of coffee. Barbara without coffee was like the Energizer Bunny without batteries. Then, she quickly pulled some frozen waffles out of the freezer and popped them in the toaster. A few minutes later, coffee, waffles and syrup all on a tray, Helena turned to head back to the bedroom.

And she almost dropped the tray as she turned and bumped into Dinah. Jumping back, she cursed loudly. “God dammit, Dinah! What the Hell are you doing sneaking up on me like that?”

Dinah quirked a brow, reminding Helena of Barbara, before saying, “I wasn’t sneaking, Helena. You just weren’t paying attention.”

Regaining her composure, Helena said, “You were sooo sneaking, D.”

Not really wanting to antagonize the other woman so early in the morning, Dinah shrugged. “Whatever.” Pushing past Helena to get to the coffee pot herself, she asked, “So, how is she?”

“She’s okay. She slept most of the night,” Helena said. “She seems to be more like herself this morning.”

“I hope so,” Dinah said. “I’ve been worried about her all night.”

Helena nodded. “I know. I have too. She’ll be okay, though,” she said optimistically. “I’m taking her breakfast and we’re not coming out until she’s ready. If you need anything, don’t be afraid to stop by. As a matter of fact,” she said, as she turned to leave, “Why don’t you stop by in a little bit and check on her yourself?”

“You sure that’ll be okay?” the teen asked.

“Sure,” Helena said. “You’re family, D. You’re always welcome.” Then, without waiting for a reply from the blond, she turned and headed back into the bedroom.

* * * * *

It was early evening when Dinah finally left Helena and Barbara alone. The three of them had spent the entire day watching movies in their bedroom, piled on the bed. As Dinah got up to leave, she glanced back at the two women. Helena was sitting with her back against the headboard, leaning against a pile of pillows. Barbara was sitting between Helena’s legs, leaning back against the brunette, whose hands were resting on Barbara’s stomach.

A month ago, seeing the two of them like that would have caused the teen to blush. Now however, she was just glad they seemed to be happy together. Barbara had been acting more like her old self, just like Helena had said. There had been no wild mood swings or bursts of anger all day, and Dinah felt better having witnessed it for herself. If anything, the redhead seemed to be content for the first time in weeks. Of course, she hadn’t worn the transponder at all today, either.

It worried Dinah that Barbara was still having memory problems. From what she’d explained to the girl, Barbara was having only flashes of memory from the last few weeks. It sounded frightening to Dinah, who couldn’t imagine blacking out at all, let alone for such long periods of time. Still, she’d appeared to be okay today, so maybe Helena’s staying last night had helped.

As Helena watched Dinah leave, she said, “Well Red, what do you want to do now? We’ve successfully spent the majority of our day holed up in here rotting our brains with TV. Got any ideas?” She peered around to look at the redhead.

Barbara took a deep breath. She was feeling so relaxed, she had no desire to move. “How about we just stay here the rest of the night? Would you be okay with that, Hel? I know you planned on staying at your place after last night, but I’d really like it if you’d…stay?” she said, almost afraid to voice the question. “Just one more night? Please?” She twisted around so that she could see Helena.

Pleased that Barbara wanted her there, and unable to deny the redhead anything when she was looking so damn cute, Helena smiled lovingly. “Since you said, ‘please,’ how could I say no?” She leaned in and kissed the redhead. “I told you I’d do anything for you, Red. I meant that, you know.”

Losing herself in the feel of Helena’s lips on hers, Barbara kissed Helena back. “And I love you for it, Hel. Thank you so much for today. I think it’s done me more good than anything these last few weeks.”

“My pleasure, Barbara,” Helena said. She reached up and caressed the smooth cheek. “If there’s anything I can do to make things easier for you, just tell me. I’m here for you tonight.”

Barbara smiled broadly. Snaking an arm behind Helena’s head, she pulled the brunette to her for another kiss. “Let’s just see where the night takes us then,” she said quietly, between kisses. Then, screwing up her courage, she was almost afraid to make her next request; especially after the episode yesterday. Helena may very well say ‘no,’ wanting nothing more to do with her in an intimate way. But, she finally took a deep breath and said, “I need to feel you tonight, Hel; touching me, making love to me,” the words came out breathlessly, full of fear and vulnerability.

For the tiniest minute, the briefest second, Helena faltered when she heard the words. She had no desire to repeat the scene from yesterday. Barbara’s assault on her had been unexpected, to say the least. And, it had left her feeling decidedly…uncomfortable, with the way things had happened after that. But the redhead hadn’t exhibited any of those behaviors today. Not once. All these thoughts crossed her mind in the time it took to draw a breath.

Pushing her worries to the side, Helena replied in a breathless whisper, “Whatever you want, Barbara. However you want it. Tonight I’m yours.” Knowing what lay ahead for them, she was determined to give Barbara whatever she needed.

Barbara appeared to breathe easier, as she pulled Helena to her again. “Make love to me?” she asked quietly, almost afraid.

Helena nodded, unable to say anything else, as feelings overwhelmed her senses. Barbara’s scent alone was driving her crazy with need. Kissing the redhead again, she let her hands wander up to Barbara’s breasts, squeezing gently as the redhead leaned into her. Eventually, her hands slid down to slowly slip under the hem of her t-shirt, sliding it upward. As she pulled the shirt over Barbara’s head, with her arms held high and the shirt covering her face, she stopped long enough to kiss each breast thoroughly. Barbara moaned and pushed forward, pressing herself into the brunette’s mouth wanting more. After a few long, delicious minutes, Helena removed the shirt and tossed it into the corner.

Wrapping her hands around Barbara’s back, she leaned into the other woman and kissed her slowly. Her tongue finding its way into Barbara’s mouth, she pulled the redhead to her, enjoying the sensation of Barbara’s body against hers. Soon, she felt Barbara’s hands tugging at her shirt. Understanding what she wanted, Helena stopped kissing her long enough to help Barbara remove the shirt, tossing it into the corner as well.

Now both naked from the waist up, the sensations were overwhelming them both. Helena moved around until she was in front of Barbara. Carefully, she helped the redhead maneuver until she was lying under the brunette, Helena straddling her. As she began a slow exploration of Barbara’s body, she heard Barbara say, “That’s it, Hel. Slow and easy. We have all night to love each other.” The redhead moaned as Helena hit a particularly sensitive spot, and whispered breathlessly, her hand in Helena’s hair, “Can we make it last forever?”

“Forever,” Helena purred, as she kissed the redhead again, her eyes turned to golden slits as she felt her arousal deepen.

There were no more words spoken then, only low moans and hisses of pleasure. Both women took their time, worshipping each other like they’d never done before. For both of them, there was a feeling that this time might have to last them for a while.

* * * * *

Helena woke up and rolled over, extending her arm as she did. Feeling nothing but emptiness on Barbara’s side of the bed, she cracked open an eye. Her thoughts confirmed that Barbara had indeed gotten up and left the room, she forced herself to get up as well. She made her way to the bathroom and took a shower, then brushed her teeth. Once she was dressed, she made her way out to the kitchen for breakfast.

When she arrived, she found Dick sitting at the table looking over the newspaper and drinking a glass of orange juice. “Morning,” she said, as she sat down across from him with her pop tarts and glass of milk.

“Morning,” he answered quietly, lowering his paper to look at her. “I didn’t see you all day yesterday. I guess she was feeling better?”

“She seemed to, yeah,” she answered as she took a bite. “Where is she now?”

“In the training room with Dinah,” he said. He seemed to hesitate momentarily before adding, “She’s wearing the transponder again.”

Helena’s face and spirits fell through the floor. “Shit,” she said through her teeth. She had hoped that after realizing what she’d done to Helena, Barbara would forego the use of the transponder; perhaps even look for an alternative to her plan. But Helena knew Barbara too well. She had known all along that she would never give up on her plan to catch the serial killer herself. It just wasn’t in her genetic make up to give up on things. Sighing, she said, “Well, I guess I’d better go and get this over with, then.”

He raised a brow. “Over with?”

She nodded. “Yeah. I won’t be staying here anymore until this is done.”

“Are you sure that’s a good idea?” he asked, laying the newspaper to the side. “She does need you, Helena. Yesterday proved that.”

“I know,” she said sadly. “But I have a feeling she won’t even remember yesterday as long as she’s wearing that thing. It’ll be best if I’m not around.”

“Well, if you want to talk later…”

She stood up and headed for the training room. “Thanks, Dick, she said sincerely, surprising herself by actually meaning it.

As she walked toward the training room, Helena felt her mood slip further and further down. When she arrived at the door to the room, she stopped long enough to take a few deep breaths. Her nerves were working overtime, and she felt nauseous. Still, she had to do this. She wouldn’t be of any use to anyone, least of all Barbara, if she stayed and continued to allow her own emotions to get in the way. She hadn’t mentioned it to any of them, but Barbara’s mood swings had been affecting her more than they knew. She had been fighting a constant battle against her feral, meta-half. Every time Barbara’s moods did a 360, Helena had to clamp down on her own mood. It was getting exhausting.

Finally, she decided to take the plunge. Stepping into the room, she saw that both, Barbara and Dinah had their backs to her. Both women seemed to be drinking from their water bottles, not noticing her presence at first. “Hey,” she said, as she came on into the room.

Dinah turned first, at the sound of her voice, attempting unsuccessfully to warn Helena of Barbara’s mood. As she made a second attempt at warning her, by rolling her eyes in Barbara’s direction, the redhead turned around.

Planting her hands on her hips, she said demandingly, “What are you still doing here?”

Helena stopped in her tracks. Okay, she had expected a mood swing, but this…she hadn’t expected this. “What?” she said stupidly. It seemed to be the only word she could spit out at the moment.

I thought you said you were leaving?” Barbara asked. Smirking as she noticed the crushed expression on Helena’s face, she said, “What? You thought one good fuck and I’d forget? I thought you were smarter than that, Hel.”

Mortified and shocked that Barbara had said something like that in front of Dinah, she was stunned speechless. The cruel tone in Barbara’s voice said it all. She was once again wearing the transponder, and it was obvious that she’d forgotten everything they’d shared the last 36 hours or so. Or had she? Maybe Barbara had been playing Helena all along? No, Helena shook her head, she knew Barbara too well. The redhead hadn’t been faking. Their love making the night before was real. She knew it to the very core of her being. The entire night had run counterpoint to Barbara’s attack on her the day before. There was so much need and tenderness in her last night, Helena knew without a doubt that that Barbara was the real one.

Barbara stood watching as Helena stopped in her tracks. When it was obvious that the brunette had nothing enlightening to say, she continued. “Did you really think that all your passion and tenderness was what I wanted? You’re so weak, Helena.” She shook her head, the pity in her eyes making Helena want to crawl under a rock and hide.

Helena, hearing the cruel and heartless words, forced herself not to cry. Instead, she inhaled deeply and said with a steady voice, “I’m sorry you feel that way, Barbara. I just came by to tell you I was leaving. If you need me…well, I’ll be ready when you start the op.” She turned then and walked out the door, her shoulders taught with tension as she left.

Barbara said nothing as she watched Helena walk out the door. Once the brunette was gone, she turned her full attention to Dinah. Hands still on her hips, she said, “Well? What are you waiting for? Are we going to finish sparring or what?”

Dinah, embarrassed and not sure what to do, finally said, “Uh…actually, I just remembered…I promised Gabby I’d meet her at noon for coffee. I really need to go get ready.”

Barbara rolled her eyes and waved a hand toward the girl, “Fine. Get out. I don’t need you, either.”

Dinah, never so relieved to leave a room, made a beeline for the door. As she left, she took a quick glance over her shoulder. Barbara had already made her way over to the weight machine and was busy doing leg lifts.

Quickly, she made her way toward the balcony. She had to catch Helena before she left. She stopped at the Delphi platform when Dick turned away from the monitor and said, “She’s already gone.”

Dinah’s heart fell to the floor. What now? “God Dick, if you could have heard what she said…” she shook her head in disbelief.

“I can imagine,” he said quietly. “Helena was pretty torn up when she left. You going to talk to her?”

Dinah nodded. “I have to. There’s something seriously wrong with Barbara. God, the things she said to her…They were so cruel and hateful.”

“I know,” he said sadly, shaking his head. As one of his oldest friends, he loved Barbara very much. But even he was finding it difficult to stay at the Clocktower and work with her in her present state of mind.

* * * * *

Someone was knocking on her door. Again and again, with the pounding. “Helena! Helena, open the door, please! I need to talk to you.”

Helena rolled her eyes and wiped her nose with the back of her sleeve. What the Hell? Why couldn’t the kid leave her alone?

“Helena, I know you’re in there. Open up!”

Finally, Helena set her bottle of Stoli down on the coffee table and went to answer the door. As she opened it, she was unprepared for the feeling of Dinah throwing her arms around her and wrapping her in a fierce hug.

Stepping back a bit and kicking the door closed with one foot, she held onto the teen with both arms, hugging her back. She couldn’t explain it. Most days, she couldn’t stand the idea of the girl touching her. Especially since said girl was a touch telepath. But right now, it just seemed to be the thing to do.

“Oh, Hel,” the blond said into her shoulder, “I’m so sorry. She didn’t mean those things. I know she didn’t.”

Calming the girl, Helena let her go and motioned her onto the couch. Taking a seat on the other end, she pulled her bare feet up under her and sat with her arms wrapped around herself. “Dinah…” she began, “I know there’s something wrong…”

“There is, Hel. I can feel it in her. It’s like a snake, wrapping itself around her and squeezing all the time,” Dinah said. “I didn’t notice it until we were sparring this morning. It’s worse now than it was before. I couldn’t feel it before. Before…she just felt a little…off.” Noticing she had entered babble mode, Dinah suddenly quieted down.

Trying to think through the thick fog her brain seemed to be in, Helena said, “You could feel it? Is there anything of her still in there?”

The blond nodded. “She’s still there. But it’s like something’s got her tied up and gagged or something. Whatever’s causing the problem is definitely linked to the transponder, though. I’m absolutely sure of that now.”

Helena nodded. She’d thought as much. Barbara hadn’t shown any signs of anger, irritation or violence at all yesterday. When she didn’t say anything else, Dinah reached over and covered a hand with hers to comfort her.

“I know what she said hurt you, Hel. She didn’t mean it though, not the real Barbara…” her voice trailed off as she fought through her embarrassment to continue. “She knows what happened yesterday and…” she looked shyly up through a fall of blond hair. Swallowing hard, she said, “last night.”

Helena closed her eyes and once again fought back tears. When she could talk without crying, she asked, “You saw everything?”

Dinah nodded. “Yes.” Seeing Helena duck her head, trying to hide the blush she felt creeping up her cheeks, she hurried to say, “Helena, please don’t be embarrassed. You love her. I saw your love for each other. Helena, she…what she said…about the p…passion and tenderness…she was lying. She needed that from you.” Her face blushing furiously at what she’d seen and now having this conversation about it with Helena, she went on. “You gave her everything, Hel. She knows that. And she gave you everything, too. She wasn’t faking…she meant everything…She loves you so much…” She was crying now too, feeling the pain and hurt emanating off the brunette.

Strangely, Helena wasn’t embarrassed by what Dinah had witnessed. She was embarrassed by the way Barbara had characterized their love making, but there was nothing she could do about that, now. Besides, it wasn’t as if Dinah didn’t know about such things. She just wished the girl hadn’t seen…well…what she’d seen. It was private, for her and Barbara only. It wasn’t meant to be a video for the kid. Still, she appreciated the fact that Dinah was here. It spoke volumes about her feelings for both her mentors.

Rubbing her face with her hands and sniffing, Helena finally reached over and pulled Dinah into a hug. “Thanks, D. I’m glad you came over to talk. I think I needed it.”

Dinah hugged her back. “You’re welcome, Hel. I had to come. I just couldn’t let you leave that way.”

“I know. Thanks again, for everything” she said, starting to cry again.

* * * * *


It was raining the night Barbara disappeared. Not the light, misty kind of rain, but the pouring down in sheets, cats and dogs, kind of rain. Helena had just finished her shift at the Dark Horse and had headed out to meet up with Dick, who was watching over Barbara. She knew something was wrong as soon as she called in.

“Uh…Huntress, hey…uh,” Dick said into the comm, answering her and desperately wishing he didn’t have to talk to the brunette right then. On the other end of the comm, he could hear typing, as Dinah worked furiously, attempting to locate Barbara. The redhead’s GPS signal had suddenly gone dead, and he’d gone up to the apartment she was renting to look for her, only to find it empty. Her wheelchair, left behind, had been destroyed beyond repair. As he felt his heart drop to the floor, he called in to Dinah, screaming for her to find Barbara, now!

Helena, hearing the odd phrasing and tone of Dick’s voice, was instantly alert. Something was wrong, she just knew it. “Nightwing?” she yelled into the comm when Dick didn’t say anything else. “Nightwing! What’s happening? What’s going on?” As she yelled into the comm, she was already heading for Barbara’s apartment. When she got no further answer from Dick, she contacted Dinah.

“Canary?” she called into the comm. “What the Hell’s going on?”

Finally, Dinah’s voice came over the comm. “Huntress, something’s happened. Oracle’s GPS is dead and she’s missing. Meet Nightwing at ground zero, now. He’s waiting for you.”

Panic flooding her system at the words, Helena said through clenched teeth, “On my way, Canary.” Within moments, she had landed on the roof of the apartment building and made her way into the penthouse Barbara had rented only two weeks before. Decked out with the latest security cameras and locks on every door and window, they’d felt that Barbara could be no safer. Apparently, Helena thought to herself, they were wrong. Very wrong.

As she walked into the apartment, Dick met her in the hallway. “Helena,” he said, surprised she’d made such good time.

Nearing a full scale meltdown, Helena had neither the time nor the inclination to deal with Dick right now. As she spoke, she made no attempt to hide her anger with him. It was all she could do to keep from slamming him into the wall. “Just what the Hell happened, Dick? How the fuck could you lose Barbara?”

As her words hit him, his face crumbled. The terror that was flooding his own system took over. “I…I don’t know what happened. One minute, she was on camera…everything was working fine. Then…” he hung his head. Eyes closed, his head shaking in disbelief, he went on. “Then, everything went dead. The camera, the comm…even her GPS stopped working.”

Helena felt her eyes change as she spoke. Closing them, she began a series of deep breaths. She couldn’t afford to lose control now. Barbara needed her dammit! “So…” she said slowly, dragging the word out in an attempt to not bite his head off. She had to work with him, she reminded herself. “Any ideas on how we lost everything at once?”

He turned and walked back into the living room. “Dinah’s working on that, now. I haven’t found anything yet, but the wires to the camera weren’t cut. Still, there has to be some kind of jammer or something, here.”

She followed him, sniffing the air, hoping her Meta senses would pick something up. As she caught sight of the destroyed wheelchair, she nearly crumbled to the floor. Gripped by nausea, she put a hand out and caught herself on the wall. “From the look of this place, she put up one Hell of a fight,” she said quietly. She didn’t fail to notice the distinct tone of pride for the redhead in her voice as she said it, and choked back a sob.

A moment later, she realized Dick was talking to her. “Helena…Hel?” His hands were on her shoulders, gently shaking her. The look in his eyes was one of concern.

Confused, she looked around. “How’d I end up on the floor?” she whispered.

“I think you kind of…passed out?” he said meekly, not wanting to piss her off.

Shaking her head, she stood up. Apparently she wasn’t as successful at remaining standing as she’d thought. Damn the wall, anyway! She surprised him by accepting his offered hand for support. “So…,” she said, attempting to focus on the problem and ignore the fact that she’d just passed out, “if someone were to use a jamming device…how small would it need to be to work in this apartment?” she asked, contemplating the problem.

Just then, Dinah’s voice came over the comm. “I think I can answer that, Huntress. Someone could, theoretically, use a hand held device to block the electronic signals going into or out of, the apartment.”

“Something that small?” Helena said, furrowing her brow in dismay.

“Yeah, special ops teams use them sometimes,” Dick said in answer. “I think Batman may have been working with one back in the day. It might still be lying around the Bat Cave somewhere.”

Helena shot an annoyed glance at him. She so did not need to be reminded of her father right now. Ignoring what he’d said for the moment, she asked, “Okay, so how would one go about getting one of these things?” She looked sideways at Dick. “If they’re not Batman?”

“Ummm,” Dinah said as they could hear typing in the background. “This is a specialty item. My best guess is they’d have to go to the black market for something like this. It’s still pretty specialized equipment.”

Helena nodded. “Okay. Good work, Canary. Why don’t you work on that? See if you can come up with any leads on the black market for us? Maybe we’ll pay our friends a special visit if we can dig something up. Oh, and Canary? Tap into the security cameras in the area and see if you see anything.”

“You’ve got it, Huntress. I’m already on it.” Dinah’s voice, as she’d been talking, had seemed to grow more confident. Helena’s ability to focus on something, anything, had helped to bring her own focus back to center. Now, all she had to do was try to treat this like any other disappearance. The problem was…it wasn’t just any other disappearance. It was Barbara. Her mentor, mother figure, friend and teacher, all rolled into one. Taking a deep breath, she attempted to re-focus on the problem. Freaking out wouldn’t help anything.

* * * * *

Barbara woke up slowly. It took her a few minutes to pull her brain out of the fog she was in, and try to remember what had happened. For some reason, her memories seemed to be extremely disjointed. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t seem to pull her thoughts into anything coherent. Eventually, she gave up trying to remember what had happened, and concentrate on where she was.

Attempting to focus her eyes, she tried to commit details to her addled memory. The first thing she noticed was that the room was dimly lit, making details difficult to pick out. However, she could tell that the walls were brick. There was only one window, which was boarded up, and one door. From under the door, she was able to discern a small sliver of light flowing in.

She wasn’t restrained, but her motorized wheelchair was gone, replaced by a manual one. Then, her brain registered the pain. Her back was on fire. Fingers of intense pain were shooting up and down her back in increasing degrees, becoming excruciating. As she tried to remember what had happened, she had a flash of a memory.

She had been sitting in her chair, watching TV in the small apartment she’d rented in the Gotham Arms. She’d heard a faint noise in the hallway, and then…then, a man had been there. She wasn’t even sure how he’d gotten in, but she stood up right away, taking up a defensive stance. She knew she had the upper hand, when she saw his eyes. He hadn’t been expecting her to stand up and fight back, just like she’d known he wouldn’t.

He’d thrown a punch at her, but she’d countered easily. The fight was on, then, with the killer surprising her with his strength and agility. She was winning though, until she’d slammed him into a wall, breaking a small table holding a few pictures. When he stood up, he pulled a small hand held device out of his pocket. Pushing the button, she wondered briefly what it did, when her legs suddenly crumpled underneath her. Then, she cursed herself for a fool, as he walked over to her and began kicking at the neural transponder.

By the time he stopped kicking her, she was fairly certain that at least two ribs were severely bruised, if not broken altogether. The pain in her side was nothing, compared to the pain running up and down her spinal column, though. The damage the transponder had taken had rendered it useless, causing it to short out, sending low level electric shocks through her entire nervous system.

He bent down over her then and pulled out a syringe. Fear and panic ran through her, as she realized she’d lost. She felt the liquid flow into her veins as he stuck the needle in and pushed down on the plunger. Then, all she remembered was the sensation of falling….

* * * * *

When Barbara woke up again, she was still in the room. But this time, she realized she wasn’t alone. He was there, watching her. Tilting his head from one side to the other as if he was considering what to do with her.

“So, you’re awake?” he said quietly, his voice sounding dangerous to her ears as her mind fought to remember what was happening. His breath was hot in her face, smelling faintly of coffee, as he said, “You’re very beautiful, you know. Too bad you had to lose these, though,” he said, gesturing idly to her legs, which were bare. “Personally, I’d like it better if you could hang on to me with those legs. But, you felt good anyway.”

As she looked down at her legs she noticed that not only were they bare, the rest of her was naked, as well. ‘How the Hell had he accomplished that?’ she wondered to herself. Then, her mind registered what he’d said. He had raped her? When? How could she not have known that? Then, expecting a reaction from her and not receiving one, he slapped her, causing her head to snap to the right and leaving her jaw aching.

“Say something, Bitch! Try to fight back now and see how well you do,” he sneered at her, his face only inches from hers. “You don’t do so well without some power, huh?” he asked, brandishing the small handheld jammer he’d used on her.

Stepping back away from her, he brazenly looked her up and down. Eyes lighting on the white scars clearly visible on her lower stomach, he pointed at one with the small knife he held in his hand. “That’s what took your legs, isn’t it?”

Barbara said nothing, as he stared at her nude body, determined not to give him anything to use against her. It wasn’t that she was comfortable with the scars, or being naked for that matter. But if there was one thing on her body she was embarrassed about, it was those damn scars. No one but Helena had ever made her feel good about them. And even then, good wasn’t the term she would use. More like accepting of them. Helena had taught her to accept them as a part of herself. She had kissed them and explored them until Barbara cried with the feelings of love the gesture evoked.

He laughed at her then. I know who you are, you know,” he said conversationally. “The great Barbara Gordon. Daughter of Police Commissioner Gordon. Shot down by The Joker as a cruel gesture of revenge against your father. He stepped a little closer and drug the knife across the scars. Like playing dot to dot, he put a little more pressure into the action, leaving a small cut from one to the other, connecting them with a line of blood. “Did it hurt when he shot you? How does it feel, knowing you were innocent and he took your legs away?”

Barbara, to her credit, did nothing. Just sat staring, gritting her teeth, as he attempted to take away more of her. Unable to concentrate, and no emotion showing on her face, she simply stared, as her blood trickled down her belly and into the area between her legs.

* * * * *

Dinah was sitting at the Delphi when Helena landed on the balcony. Striding quickly through the double doors, she came to a stop next to the blond teen.

“Well? Have you found anything new?” Helena asked impatiently, standing with her arms crossed.

Dinah shook her head. “No, Hel. Not yet.” Taking a chance and looking over at the brunette, she couldn’t help but say, “I’m still following the leads Barbara had. I’m just not having much luck,” she finished, blowing a strand of hair out of her eyes.

“That isn’t good enough, D,” Helena said, her frustration already way past monumental proportions. “It’s been three days! God only knows what he’s doing to her!”

“I know how long its’ been, Helena!” Dinah snapped, already past the end of her rope, as well. “Don’t you think I’m trying? I’ve done everything I can think of…I’m just not finding anything. There’s no pattern…nothing.”

Helena, pacing now, said, “There has to be something, D. We’re just not seeing it. She took a deep breath. I’m heading back out. You keep working and let me know if anything at all comes up.”

“Helena,” Dinah said, reaching out to stop her friends’ pacing, “You haven’t slept since she disappeared. Why don’t you lie down for a while and get some rest. Dick can go out tonight.”

Helena shook her head. “No, D. I can’t rest. Don’t you get it? Barbara is missing! She could be dead already for all we know. How can you tell me to rest when you know that?”

“Helena! I know she’s missing. But you and I both know that you’re not going to be any good to anyone, least of all Barbara, if you’re too exhausted to move.” Taking a deep breath to calm herself, she lowered her voice. “Please…just lay down for an hour or two. Get something to eat.”

“Dinah, I can’t! Not right now,” Helena said, resuming her agitated pacing.

“Hel, your eyes haven’t changed back in days. You need to rest,” the girl tried again.

“Don’t worry about my eyes,” Helena said, “Just do your job and find her…before it’s too late!”

“Miss Helena,” Alfred said quietly, coming to stand next to Dinah. “Miss Dinah is correct. In order for you to be effective, you’re going to need your rest. Please, let me get you something to eat. Then, you can lie down for two hours.” He raised a hand to stop her protest before she could get a word out. “Two hours won’t change anything, Miss Helena. If anything comes up, I’ll be sure to wake you myself.”

Calming down as she listened to the old butlers words, Helena found herself relaxing. Could Alfred hypnotize people? She wondered. Was he really a meta-human with the power of mind control? Because…at that moment, listening to his soothing tones, she found herself agreeing with him. “Okay, I’ll eat something and then lay down for two hours, nothing more,” she found herself saying.

“Very well, Miss Helena. Come this way and I’ll get you something to eat,” Alfred said, leading the brunette off the Delphi platform and toward the kitchen.

As she watched them go, Dinah breathed a sigh of relief. Just then, Dick came up behind her. “What’s going on?” he asked quietly, not wanting Helena to hear him.

Dinah shook her head. “Helena. She’s pushing herself too hard. She hasn’t slept since Barbara disappeared and I don’t think she’s eaten, either.” Flopping down into the chair in front of the monitors, she turned to look at him. “Have you noticed her eyes? They haven’t changed back to their normal color since all this started. I’m really worried about her, Dick.”

Sighing, he placed a comforting hand on her shoulder. “She’ll be okay, Dinah. She just needs to get a little rest. Alfred’ll fix her up. In the meantime, how’s it going? Had any luck yet?”

She shook her head dejectedly. “Not a bit. Would you care to give it a try?”

“Sure,” he said, pulling up a chair. As they became absorbed in their search for clues to the Wheelchair Killers’ identity, neither of them noticed when Helena passed them on her way to Barbara’s room.

* * * * *

Helena closed the door to Barbara’s bedroom quietly. Leaning back against the door, she shut her eyes and bit her lower lip. She hadn’t been in here since the day she’d walked out. After leaving the training room, she’d stopped by only long enough to retrieve some of her clothes. Then, she’d left for her apartment. The last two weeks had brought no reason for her to be anywhere near Barbara’s bedroom.

Opening her eyes, she wiped a stray tear from her cheek and headed for the bathroom. After washing up a bit and brushing her teeth, she stripped tiredly out of her clothes. Opening a drawer, she pulled out an old NGPD t-shirt and a pair of shorts belonging to Barbara and put them on. Then, falling into bed, she was overwhelmed by Barbara’s scent surrounding her.

She hadn’t cried or broken down once, since the night Barbara had disappeared. She swore to herself that she wouldn’t. Falling apart wouldn’t help her, and it most certainly wasn’t going to help Barbara. So, forcing herself to shove her feelings to the side, she’d pushed herself as hard as she could, ignoring her feelings and physical needs. She knew she was a mess. She just didn’t care right now. The only thing that mattered anymore was finding Barbara. If she couldn’t do that, then nothing else mattered anyway.

Cursing herself, because she realized she’d begun to cry, Helena grabbed Barbara’s pillow and clutched it to her chest. Sobbing herself into unconsciousness seemed to be the only answer she had right now; so she clung to it as though it was the only thing keeping her from drowning.

* * * * *

There were times, when all Barbara could think of was escaping. Then, the fog would roll over her again and she would lose whatever bit of sanity she’d had. Her world had been reduced to nothing more than pain and insanity, interspersed with moments of lucidity which were all too fleeting. Any hope of escaping fled her mind when she realized the transponder had been destroyed beyond any hope of repair. Her captor had left it attached to her body for days, more than likely unaware of the fact that it had, until yesterday? continued to send shocks through her body.

The only thing left to her at this point was her belief that those she loved would come for her. But even that hope was a slim one. She hadn’t been able to locate the killer before her disappearance, and she held out little hope that the few clues they had would lead Dick to her, now.

Still, she wouldn’t give up. She couldn’t. It was all she had left. That and the fleeting images of her most recent night with Helena: If that was even real. Her memories were all jumbled in her head. Nothing seemed right. Whatever drug her captor was using on her, Ketamine, if his MO hadn’t changed, was causing hallucinations and bouts of disassociation. But for some reason, she had the feeling that her memory problems had started before that.

Still, the memories of that night, real or not, sustained her. No matter what, she knew to the very core of her being that Helena loved her. The way she touched her, always so patient with the lack of sensation her injuries had caused, left her no room for doubt.

Thinking about it now, she couldn’t help but cry. She would never allow such a sign of weakness in front of her captor. But he wasn’t here now, and she felt better, as she let the tears flow freely down the sides of her cheeks. Even though her memories of the last few months were screwed up, she could still remember their first few weeks together perfectly.

When she’d let Helena and the others talk her into that vacation, she’d had no intentions of allowing her feelings for Helena be known. But somehow, the combination of stress and guilt, piled on top of her loneliness and need, and of course, her love for the brunette, all just converged. She’d had no plan. Things just fell into place as they spent time together. She’d finally managed to pull herself out of the depression she’d been in since Wade’s death, and allowed herself to ‘feel’ for the first time in years.

Allowing Helena to sleep in her bed hadn’t been that much of a stretch. Since they’d known each other, they had shared her bed numerous times, always as friends. Back then, they’d both needed comfort, and it had been…’convenient,’ to hold each other at night. The entire week, Barbara had been inching ever closer to letting Helena in. The night after the avalanche had been the turning point. Helena had pushed and pushed until Barbara couldn’t help it any more. She had kissed her scars and made her feel loved and cherished more than she’d ever felt in her life. It was then, that she finally gave in and allowed herself to fall hopelessly in love.

Making love with Helena had been easy. She was nervous, without a doubt, but Helena had been so loving and tender, there was no way Barbara could ever feel inadequate with her. Somehow, through patience and skill, she’d managed to make her feel things she’d never felt. Not even before the shooting that took away the use of her legs.

Clinging tightly to those memories, she sniffed and blinked back tears as she heard her tormentor’s footsteps coming down the hall. It was all she had, and she would keep it bound tightly to her. Helena would come for her. She knew it to the very core of her being.

* * * * *


Dick stepped out onto the balcony carefully. Helena was out here somewhere. Her GPS signal was proof of that. Looking around, he didn’t see her right away. He remembered that Barbara had told him once that the younger crime fighter liked to sit out here with the gargoyles. As he looked toward the one closest to him, he finally saw her.

Out of the darkness, golden cat eyes stared back at him. If he listened carefully, he could even hear the quick breaths, as she struggled for control of her feral side. Not moving, he said quietly, “Helena?” When she didn’t answer, he repeated himself. “Helena, are you okay?”

At the sound of his voice the second time, she exhaled loudly. Shuffling her feet quietly, she lowered herself to the balcony from her perch. Careful to keep some distance between them, her voice scratchy, she said, “No. I’m not okay. I shouldn’t be doing sweeps anymore. I nearly killed that guy tonight, Dick. I don’t even know how I stopped myself…Jesus.” She hung her head. She’d never felt so ashamed to be meta-human as she did in that moment.

“But you didn’t, Hel. Somehow, you did stop,” he said, daring to take a step closer. He was hoping there was still enough of her in there to encourage.

She backed away from him. “Don’t…come any closer, Dick. I don’t think I can control this much longer.” She looked back up at him, her eyes glowing eerily in the dark. “You know what will happen if I lose it? You know I’ll come after you?”


She leaned back against the wall. “I don’t want to do that, Dick. I don’t want to…hurt you. Or anyone else. It’s just…”

“I know, Hel. I know it’s been really hard for you. But…we’ll find her, she’s going to be okay,” he said, attempting to calm her down.

The brunette growled low in her throat. “Okay? How can you say that?”

Attempting to reason with her, he went on. “Hel, we will find her.”

“We need to, Dick,” she said quietly. Her back still against the wall, she slid down, hugging herself. “She doesn’t have much time left.” Looking back up at him, she added, “And I don’t think I can hang on much longer, either.”

Feeling for her, because he knew how much she loved Barbara, he stepped closer. Carefully, he kneeled down, placing a hand on her knee to comfort her. “Helena…”

She reached out to place a hand over his. “I know…but, if worse comes to worst…” Looking at him, she made no attempt to stop the single tear which rolled down her cheek. “You’ll have to stop me, Dick. Don’t let it be Dinah. She’s too young for this. But you…you understand.”

Shocked, he tried to pull away from her, but her hand held him fast. Shaking his head, he said, “Helena, no! I…I couldn’t…how could you…?”

Her voice flat and void of any emotion, she looked him in the eye. “You’ll have to, Dick. I won’t hesitate to come after you, and you know it.”

“You could leave town…go hide out till you get it under control,” he said hopefully.

She shrugged noncommittally. “Maybe…”

Just then, Dinah came out onto the balcony. She’d heard the entire conversation, hiding behind the open balcony doors, and the words hit her like a ton of bricks. As she heard Helena ask Dick to kill her, Dinah said, “Helena, no! No! You can’t do this! You’d never hurt us…I know it.”

Helena looked sadly from Dick to the blond teen. Sighing as if there wasn’t enough air in the world, she stood up and faced the girl. “D, trust me. If I go completely feral…”

Tears streaming down the girls’ face, all she could do was fall to her knees. “Helena, no…you’re the only family I have left. Please…”

She watched, as Dick slid over to the teen as she fell to her knees. “Take care of her, Bro,” Helena said as she turned and leapt off the balcony into the dark night.

As Helena jumped, Dinah reached out for her, screaming, “Helena, no!” But it was no use. The brunette was gone, and Dinah sunk back down to the balcony floor. Sobbing, she felt like the entire world was coming down around her. First her mother, then Barbara, and now…Helena. It was too much.

After a while, she managed to get her emotions under control. As she did, she realized that Dick was still holding her, stroking her hair as she cried on his shoulder. Pulling away, she sat back and wiped her face with her hand. “I’m…I’m sorry, Dick. I just…”

He looked up at her and said, “Its okay, Dinah. I understand…this is too much for anyone to deal with.”

As she looked at him, she noticed the tears still clinging to his lashes. It struck her then, that Dick was having a hard time dealing with this, too. She hadn’t noticed before…between Barbara going missing and Helena. “No, Dick…I’m sorry. I know you’re having a hard time, too. I just don’t understand…How can Helena do this? I mean, she asked you to kill her?”

He looked down sadly, unable to look at her for a moment, “I know, Dinah. But you need to understand Helena. She’s not doing this to hurt us. She’s trying to protect us.”

“Protect us?” She repeated angrily. “How does committing suicide protect us?”

“Dinah,” he sighed and looked back up. “You know Helena is half Meta. It’s been very difficult for her to learn to keep that part of herself under control. If she loses that control…”

“She won’t,” the teen whispered through clenched teeth, determined to make it so just by wishing it. “She loves us. I know she won’t.”

He steeled himself for the rest of this conversation. “She will, Dinah. The Meta part of her won’t care who we are. Barbara was the main reason Helena learned any control at all. If something happens to her…”

“It won’t,” she said adamantly.

Ignoring her, he continued. “…if something happens to her…Helena will lose control. And when she does, she’s coming for me, first.”

What?” She shook her head, denying the very idea. “No. Why would she do that? You’re her…”

“Her meta half sees me as her rival, Dinah,” he said, amazed that his voice was remaining so calm. “She’ll kill me because she knows that I’m still in love with Barbara.” He sighed. “Or at least some part of me still is.”

But you’d never get in their way,” the teen said, unwilling to believe that Helena could hurt either of them.

“I know that…and so does Helena. But the Huntress is controlled by more base instincts. She’ll see me as someone after her mate,” he finished, hoping he was explaining this correctly.

“Her mate?” Dinah said. “She doesn’t see Barbara that way. They’re partners, yeah…” her voice trailed off, unable to grasp the concept. Dick seemed to be implying that Helena was nothing more than an animal.

“Right now, they’re partners. But, to Helena’s Meta half, they’re mates. And Helena can smell my desire,” he cringed when he said this, not liking the fact that he had to say it, “for Barbara every time she’s near me.”

Dinah pulled her legs up and wrapped her arms around her knees. Dropping her head, she said, “I can’t believe this is happening.”

“I know, but we still have forty eight hours, before…” he couldn’t bring himself to say it. All the victims had shown up dead exactly seven days after they went missing. They still had some time.

“Before Barbara shows up dead?” Dinah said angrily. “And then Helena’s going to kill us, or you’re going to kill her.” She was shouting, as she stood up and began pacing. “I have to go to her, Dick. I can’t just let her go. She needs me. She needs us,” she said pleadingly.

Dick stood up as Dinah did. “Dinah,” he reached out to stop her pacing…to make her focus on the problem. When she jerked out of his reach, his shoulders slumped. “Dinah, I need you to help me. We can find Barbara, but I need your help. You’re better at the Delphi than I am. Besides,” he looked directly into her eyes as she stopped pacing. “We aren’t going to be able to help Helena unless we find Barbara.”

She crossed her arms, adopting a stance that reminded him of a petulant Helena. “All right, I’ll help. But I don’t see what good I’m going to be. We haven’t been very successful so far.”

“No, we haven’t,” he agreed. “But I have an idea.”

She quirked a brow, finally calming down. “Something we haven’t already tried?”

“Actually, yes,” he answered, wondering how the teen was going to react to his suggestion. “I was wondering how you’d feel about attempting to read one of the first victims?” At Dinah’s look of shock, he quickly added, “or maybe just the apartment she was found in, or her clothes?”

Dinah furrowed a brow. Her initial shock at the idea had worn off, and she began to consider the idea seriously. “I…I suppose I could give it a try,” she said slowly. “I’ve never attempted to read an inanimate object before. Or a dead body, either.”

He grinned at her. “All right, then. Let’s get started. I’ll get us into the morgue.”

As his boyish enthusiasm took over, Dinah looked at him skeptically. Sometimes, Dick could just be really weird.

* * * * *

Two hours later, Dinah found herself in the morgue. With only the back up lights on, the place was just a little more than eerie. In fact, it was downright creepy. “So,” she said to Dick, “tell me again why I let you talk me into this?”

“Because we’ve exhausted all our other, more preferable options?” he said quietly, looking for the location of the most recent victim.

She snorted. “Keep pointing out our shortcomings why don’t ya?”

“Anytime you need me too,” he said, finally finding the body he was looking for. His voice suddenly growing serious, he called, “Dinah, I think I’ve found her.”

Taking a deep breath and steeling herself for what she was about to do, she took the few steps required to join him. She watched warily, as he opened the cooler and pulled the rolling platform outward. As the platform stopped, Dinah closed her eyes and began to breathe deeply. Dick, standing beside her, said nothing, allowing her to find her center and focus on the task at hand.

When she felt like she was ready, or at least, as ready as she was likely to be, Dinah opened her eyes. Nodding to him, she said, “I think I’m ready, now. Do me a favor and make sure I don’t pass out and hit my head?”

He nodded solemnly, understanding what this was going to take out of the girl in front of him. “I promise, Dinah. I’ve got your back.”

She took another deep breath and said, “Well, here goes…” then, she reached out and wrapped her right hand around the arm of the victim. At first, she didn’t feel anything at all. Then, everything seemed to come to her at once, in a rush of images. One minute, she was the victim, sitting in her apartment, watching TV. The next, she was sitting in a strange wheelchair, in a room with bare brick walls. She looked around, but couldn’t see any distinguishing features to tell her where she was. Then, from somewhere outside, she heard the faint sound of a train whistle. And, oddly enough, the quiet sound of Celine Dion music playing somewhere close by. Suddenly, her attention was drawn to the wooden door, the only one in the room. A man was coming in, and Dinah was suddenly, terrifyingly overwhelmed by fear. ‘This is the man who’s going to kill me!’ She felt the thought. One after another, visions of a small, thin knife, and blood, so much blood…came rushing into her mind. Feeling weak, she wasn’t conscious when her grip loosened and the connection to the victim was broken.

As Dinah crumpled to the floor, Dick reached out to catch her. Allowing her to relax into him, he lowered her to the cold floor of the exam room. Understanding that she’d been overwhelmed by images, he waited a few minutes, until the color came back to the blonds cheeks. Finally, even though she hadn’t woken up, Dick lifted Dinah off the floor and, carrying her, headed back to the Clocktower. From Dinah’s reaction, he was sure they’d gotten what they’d come here for.

Two hours later, Dinah woke up to find herself in her bed. With no idea how she’d wound up back at the Clocktower, she sat up, looking around. Then, a sharp pain pierced her skull, and she fell back to the pillow. Closing her eyes, she waited until the pain had passed from a sharp stabbing pain to a slow, dull kind of throb.

Finally, after another ten minutes, she thought it might be safe to try getting up again. This time, she managed to stand up and move toward the door without anything more than the dull throbbing. Breathing a sigh of relief, she made her way out to the Delphi platform, where she found Dick, hard at work.

When he noticed Dinah walking toward him from the hall, Dick smiled, and said, “So, feeling okay?”

Wincing from the headache, the teen took a mental inventory. Satisfied, she nodded slowly, “Yeah, I think so. I just have a dull headache, now.”

“That’s good. You feel like talking about what happened, or do you need some time?” he asked awkwardly. He knew Dinah had just been through something that had to be traumatic. But, at the same time, they were on something of a tight schedule.

“It’s okay, I can talk,” Dinah said, heading toward the kitchen. “Just let me get some water to wash down this ibuprofen, and I’ll tell you everything.”

As she returned to the Delphi, Dick asked, “Are you sure about this, Dinah? I know what you saw had to be…”

She cut him off. “Dick, it doesn’t matter, right now. Barbara doesn’t have much time.”

He nodded in understanding, and listened as Dinah told him everything she’d seen while touching the body of the first victim. He couldn’t help but feel humbled and awed by how strong Dinah was. Not many would have attempted what she did, let alone be willing to talk about it afterwards. It spoke volumes about the girls’ love and concern for Barbara and Helena.

As Dinah finished, he began entering all the details into the Delphi, hoping the supercomputer would come up with something. As they waited, he looked over and noticed that Dinah was sitting with her eyes closed. “Dinah, why don’t you go lay back down for a while. I’ll call you as soon as Delphi comes up with something.”

Dinah shook her head. “No, I couldn’t relax now, anyway. We don’t have much time, left. And somebody’s going to need to go get Helena when you figure out where Barbara is.”

He sighed at her words, hoping with everything he had that her optimism would prove true.

* * * * *

After leaving the Clocktower, Helena ran. She wasn’t sure how long, or even where she went. The only thing she was sure of at this point was that she was losing any semblance of control over her feral side.

Earlier in the evening, she’d almost killed a mugger. He hadn’t been resisting more than usual, just your average, everyday street punk. But something about him set her off, and she’d barely managed to stop herself before she killed him. As it was, he’d probably end up in the hospital for a couple of days.

She stopped on a rooftop and sat down, leaning against an air conditioning unit. Tilting her head back, she looked up at the stars, as she felt a slow breeze blow across her face. It was clean up here, easy to see your path. As she sat there she let her mind wander, attempting to find some calm in the sea of chaos her life had become since Barbara disappeared.

Taking deep breaths, she tried to find a safe place in her mind. But how could she find that when Barbara was being tortured? Gritting her teeth, she banged her head back against the air conditioner in frustration. Dammit! Why couldn’t they find her? New Gotham wasn’t that big a city, for Christ’s’ sake! Barbara had already found the common denominator, why couldn’t that useless Boy Blunder manage to figure out the rest?

Pushing herself up, she began pacing the rooftop. She couldn’t seem to sit still. Regardless of the fact that she hadn’t slept more than a few hours in the last few days, she couldn’t relax. Back in the old days, before she started dating Barbara, she would have gone out and found someone to burn off the excess energy with. But now…she no longer had the desire. Now that she’d had Barbara, there was no one else in the world for her.

Thinking about it only made her crazy. She was falling…falling into a hopeless chasm of insanity. Since Barbara had disappeared, it had only gotten worse, day by day. Soon, there’d be no turning back, and her Meta half would be in control. She didn’t want that, though. She didn’t want to be an animal. She’d worked hard to stuff that part of herself deep down inside.

She gritted her teeth, and then growled. Thinking was getting her nowhere, she needed to move. Running, she leapt to the next building over. Then to the next. She kept on running until she was so exhausted she couldn’t run anymore. Eventually, she found her way back to her apartment and let herself in by going down the fire escape and in through the window. Still unable to relax, she finally had to sit down. Sliding to the floor, she leaned back into a corner and pulled her knees up to rest her chin on them. She was shaking now, as it took all her concentration to keep herself under control.

’Just a little longer,’ she said to herself. Then, because she didn’t know what else to do, she kept repeating those four words over and over. They became her mantra, her stability. As long as she could repeat the words, she could maintain control.

* * * * *

36 Hours Later

The Delphi beeped an alert, letting Dick know that the records search he’d initiated earlier was complete. Sitting down, he pulled up the records he’d been searching for and began the tedious process of going over them.

Two hours later, he’d finally succeeded in following the paper trail. Barbara had already identified the common factor linking all the victims together as the Petals and Such Flower Shop on Walnut Street. The original owners had been a husband and wife by the name of James and Flora Clemmons. They had one son, Stuart, who married a woman by the name of Janet Barnes. When James and Flora retired, they left the flower shop to Stuart and Janet and moved to Florida.

Stuart and Janet also had a son, Dick discovered. It had taken a while to find any information on him, as it appeared that Stuart Jr. had spent a great deal of time in a mental hospital in Bludhaven. Apparently, Stuart Jr. had been hearing voices from an early age, and that had worried his parents. He also, for some reason, liked to paint pictures of flowers. His psychotherapist, Dr. Harleen Quinzel, had recommended that young Jr. be institutionalized until he could be ‘sorted out,’ as she’d put it in her official recommendation. Eventually, Stuart Jr. was released on his eighteenth birthday. Instead of going home to his parents, however, he decided to travel around for a while. From there, any records on Stuart Jr. were spotty, at best. There were a few arrest records for minor infractions in California, a police report of stalking from Minnesota, and a few speeding tickets in Indiana. Other than that, Stuart Jr. was mostly off the grid.

Then, Stuart Sr. died two years ago. Mrs. Clemmons had taken over daily operations of the flower shop until she had a stroke, leaving her paralyzed and wheelchair bound, six months ago. That, Dick realized, had to be the stressor. The attacks began approximately ten weeks ago, which made perfect sense.

He knew Helena had gone to the shop, but hadn’t found anything. Dinah had also visited the flower shop with Barbara during the course of their investigation/sting. The teen had already told him about Mrs. Clemmons constant degrading comments about her son. It was no surprise that someone with a history of mental illness would slide further into it with the right push.

Excited, Dick literally ran to Dinah’s room. She had eventually given in to her need for sleep, and gone to bed within a half hour of his beginning the computer search. Having learned his lesson about knocking on peoples’ bedroom doors, he stopped and knocked. When the teens’ sleepy voice told him to ‘come in,’ he opened the door in a rush, and practically drug the girl from the bed.

Rubbing sleep out of her eyes, Dinah grumbled, “This better be good, Dick.”

“Oh, you’re gonna love it, Dinah,” he said, as he led her back to the Delphi. “I’ve found our killer,” he said, the grin on his face threatening to become a permanent resident.

Dinah woke up instantly. “You did?” she asked, sitting down next to him.

“Tell me everything. How did you find him?” she said, gearing up to start her trademark rapid fire questioning.

Holding a hand up, he stopped her before she could really get rolling. “Hang on, Dinah. Hang on.” He smiled at her enthusiasm, and launched into his explanation.

Ten minutes later, Dinah said, “So, you think Stuart Jr. is the killer?” At his nod, she continued. “Where does he keep the women while he’s torturing them?”

“Well,” Dick said, obviously proud of his sleuthing skills, “once I knew where to look, it was pretty easy. James and Flora owned more property in Gotham City than just the flower shop. They also owned a house, which is attached to the back of the flower shop and accessible by way of a hallway. Stuart Sr. and Janet moved in there a couple of years ago, so they wouldn’t have to worry about driving to work. Apparently, Stuart Sr. didn’t like to spend money. Once he died, Janet had contacted Stuart Jr. to help her with the shop. He didn’t come though, when she called, but continued to travel around, causing trouble wherever he went. Then, six months ago, Janet had a stroke. Stuart Jr. came back to New Gotham, then.”

“And the killings started shortly after that,” Dinah finished for him, grinning because she knew he’d found the killer, too. She was sure he was right. When you added all the clues together from the dead girl, and what Dick had found out, it all made perfect sense. She did have one question, though. “Dick, Barbara, Helena and I all checked that place out. Not one of the victim’s credit cards showed a purchase there.”

He smiled. “That’s because they didn’t use credit cards. The store doesn’t accept anything but cash.”

She wrinkled her brow. “Cash only? I didn’t know there was anyplace that wouldn’t take a card?”

“Well apparently, Stuart Sr. was too cheap to pay the back end fees for processing the cards,” Dick said in answer. “When I went back over the police reports, I realized each of the victims had fresh flowers in her apartment. When their bodies were found, the flower paintings near them were of the same kind of flowers that were in their apartment.”

“So,” she said, becoming serious, “what do we do now?”

“You get dressed and get over to Helena’s. Make sure she’s ready to go when I call,” he said, instinctively knowing that Dinah was the right choice to send for the brunette. “I’ve got to make some other arrangements. Give me four hours, and I’ll call you at her place with the details.”

She nodded and stood up. Finally, they’d get Barbara back. She just hoped the older woman would still be in one piece. Turning, she practically ran to her room. She was dressed and on her way out the door to Helena’s apartment within ten minutes.

* * * * *

“Helena?” Dinah’s voice was little more than a whisper as she opened the door to the dark apartment using Barbara’s key. When there was no immediate answer, she came on in and shut the door behind her. “Helena?” she called again, this time a little louder. Listening carefully, she finally heard it. Barely audible, she could hear what sounded like panting. Flipping the light switch on the wall, she was stunned to see Helena sitting in the far corner, her knees pulled up to her chin and shaking violently.

“Turn out the damn light!” Helena hissed, blinking her eyes rapidly.

Confused at first, Dinah snapped back into awareness. Flipping the switch to the ‘off’ position, she walked over to the other woman and knelt down. Reaching out to place a hand on the others’ knee, she said, “Hel? Are you okay? What’s wrong?”

At Dinah’s touch, Helena flinched. “Why are you here?” She asked voice raspy and ragged from crying.

“Hel, Dick sent me to look for you. We think we know where he has Barbara.” Touching Helena’s leg, Dinah could feel the turmoil inside the other woman. Helena was so open and raw right now, she was like an open book. Dinah could see everything; from how much Helena loved Barbara, and the guilt she was harboring over the redhead getting away from her, to the feral part of her, fighting to get out. Dinah knew it was the inner fight between the two parts of Helena that was causing her to shake so badly. The strength it took to fight something that powerful was wearing the brunette down and Dinah didn’t think she’d last much longer without some rest.

Helena’s head shot up at once. “Where?” She made to get up, but Dinah held her down. “We have to go. We don’t have much time! D, you know what he’s doing to her!”

“Helena! Calm down. Dick’s getting everything ready. We’ve got a little over three hours before we go in.” Dinah looked more closely at the brunette in front of her. Still shaking violently, Helena looked awful. From the looks of it, she hadn’t slept since her nap at the Clocktower, which Dinah had already suspected. She’d known that Helena was spending every available moment looking for Barbara. She was also looking thin, as if she hadn’t eaten in days either.

“Helena, when’s the last time you slept?”

“Sleep? I don’t have time to sleep, D! Barbara needs me, now!” She attempted to get up again, but Dinah wouldn’t hear of it.

“Hel, I told you, we have some time.” She looked around the darkened room again, trying to think of something that would convince the other woman that she should at least take a nap. Finally, she had it. “Helena, I know Barbara needs us. I’m also very aware of what’s probably been happening to her. But…just think for a minute. She needs you. You’re the only one that can help her and she’s going to need you to be in top form. You need to at least try to rest for an hour or so. I’ll stay right here with you.”

Helena shook her head sadly. “She doesn’t need me, D. She said so herself.”

Dinah reached over and stroked the dark hair. “Oh, Hel. Is that what’s got you so upset? You know she was just mad. She always says things she doesn’t mean when she’s angry. You both do.”

Helena sniffed. “I know we do. But D, you don’t understand. If anything happens to her…if she dies…” She shook her head. “I won’t make it. I won’t be able to hold the monster inside of me in anymore. She’s the reason I’m able to control it at all. She taught me how, back when I was a kid…taught me how to control it. But it’s so strong inside of me…sometimes, I barely manage. Without Barbara…I’ll become something I despise.”

Dinah shook her head. “No. Helena, no you won’t. First of all…nothing’s going to happen to Barbara. You’ll see. We’ll find her and we’ll take care of her. It’ll be okay. Second…you can control it. Remember, she taught you. She knew what you’d need to survive and she gave you the skills to do so. You just have to trust in that. Third…she loves you and you love her. Regardless of what she said, she needs you more than anything…more than oxygen. You and I both know that the transponder’s causing the problem. Once she’s back with us we can take care of that.”

“I wish it were that easy,” Helena said in a whisper as she tried to hold back a yawn. She was so very tired.

“Come on,” Dinah said, standing up and offering Helena a hand. “Go lay down for a while. I’ll stick around and wake you when Dick calls.”

With a defeated sigh, Helena turned and slowly walked down the hall to her room. Falling onto the bed, she passed out almost immediately. She never noticed when Dinah came in moments later and sat down next to her on the bed.

Two hours later, Helena woke up feeling refreshed and energetic. Her mood hadn’t improved, but she felt like she was ready to go fifteen rounds with the killer if it came to that. Looking toward the nightstand, she noticed the mug of hot chocolate and gratefully picked it up and took a sip. Feeling the hot liquid make its way down her throat, she felt even better. She got up off the bed and changed into some clean clothes. Within minutes, she was ready to go.

“Hey Kid,” she said quietly in greeting as Dinah looked up from the couch when she heard her voice.

Dinah smiled. “You look better,” she said. “I guess the nap agreed with you?”

Helena nodded. Slightly embarrassed over her earlier behavior, she simply answered, “Yeah, I guess it did.” Changing the subject, she asked, “You hear anything, yet?”

“Yeah, Dick called a few minutes ago. We’re supposed to meet him in fifteen minutes in the basement of an abandoned apartment building at the corner of Fifth and Walnut.”

“Well then, let’s go,” Helena said, already heading for the door.

* * * * *

Barbara closed her eyes and swallowed, hard. Helena was there, lurking in the shadows again. She’d been doing that a lot recently. But, try as she might, she couldn’t get Helena to come out into the light. As she opened her eyes and watched, the brunette began dancing, though Barbara couldn’t hear any music. As the younger woman swayed, she sensuously rolled one arm out and back toward herself in invitation.

Blinking rapidly to bring the other woman into focus, she shook her head. Why couldn’t she get her head to clear up? Everything was so jumbled! Where was she and why wouldn’t Helena come out so she could see her? Didn’t she know that Barbara could only take so much of this foreplay? Then, unable to watch any longer, Barbara ducked her head.

Later, minutes or hours, she wasn’t sure; Barbara felt strong fingers under her chin, lifting her head up. As she drug herself out of the confusion miring her last few days, she saw Helena’s eyes. Helena’s gorgeous, blue eyes, looking into hers! Slowly, through the pain, she lifted her right hand to touch the face of the woman she loved so much. Only to have that same hand fall back to her unfeeling thigh as it passed through smoke.

Dropping her head back down, she felt a sob welling up in her chest. Helena wasn’t there! She had probably never been there. If she had, Barbara wouldn’t still be stuck in this dimly lit room, bleeding and in pain.

Her head came up as she heard the footsteps coming toward her once again. She closed her eyes and steeled herself for the next round of torture. She wouldn’t give in to this man. She absolutely refused to show him any weakness.

Still, when the door swung open, she felt a moan involuntarily escape her lips. This time, she knew without a doubt, he meant to kill her. Even through the pain and drug induced haze, she could read the look in his eyes. Scalpel in hand, he came toward her slowly.

“Well, it’s about that time,” he said conversationally, as he came to a stop next to her. Pulling a syringe out of his back pants pocket, he quickly thrust it into her arm and pushed down on the plunger. “Just so you don’t try anything funny,” he said, pulling the needle out and throwing it into a metal garbage can sitting in the corner of the room.

Barbara gritted her teeth as the liquid entered her veins. Already hallucinating, she wasn’t even sure if this was real. Distantly, her mind registered the sound of the syringe hitting the metal can as a resounding ‘clang’ in her skull. Barely able to lift her head, she could see Helena once again, standing in the shadows, watching. Then, as she turned her attention back to her tormentor, she watched helplessly as he slowly began dragging the scalpel down her left leg. Unable to feel anything, unable to move, the only thing she was capable of was screaming inside her head.

Hidden away so he wouldn’t hear her, she screamed and screamed, unable to stop. How much longer would this continue? It had to be nearing the time for him to kill her. Wasn’t it? How long had she been gone?

Suddenly he stopped what he was doing, and walked away. When he returned, anger was oozing off of him in buckets. Even in her drugged state, Barbara could feel it. “They’ve found me,” he said accusingly, eyeing her. He began pacing nervously, talking to himself. Suddenly, he turned and grabbed her arm, jerking her from the wheelchair. Unable to control any of her movements, she fell to the floor.

’This is it,’ she thought as she hit the floor. He’s finally lost it and I’m going to die if I don’t do something right now. Wait a minute, did he say they’d found him? Who was they? Could it be…? She didn’t dare hope. Still, the sheer thought that Helena had finally come for her gave her what she needed.

When he lashed out with a foot to kick her in the ribs, she caught his foot and twisted. She was rewarded by the sound of him crashing to the floor. Then, he was there next to her, slashing at her with the scalpel. His cuts no longer slow and careful, he was managing to do a lot of damage to her hands and arms. He’d even managed to hit her face at least once. But somehow, she managed to protect her eyes. Then, as she curled into a ball as best she could, he stood up and grabbed her by the hair. Slamming her into the nearest wall, she felt her head meet brick and heard a sick crunching noise. Or maybe that wasn’t real? Then, her world turned black.

* * * * *

When the two women reached the rendezvous point twelve minutes later, Dick was already there. And, to Helena’s complete surprise, so were Alfred and Reese.

Greeting the others, Helena was all business. “So Dick, what’s the plan?” she asked. Every nerve in her body was tingling like it was on fire. She needed to be doing something, anything…as long as she had Barbara back as the end result.

“The front of this building is the flower shop he runs for his mother. Using old building schematics, and property records, I was able to figure out that his family owns this entire building. There were some renovations done to the third floor a while back. I think he’s been using a secret room up there. It’s all bricked in and closed off from the rest of the building.”

Dick stopped and took a deep breath, noticing that Helena was getting impatient. She probably didn’t need to know how he knew what he knew right now. So he said, “Dinah and I are going through the front of the flower shop and up the front stairwell. Reese, you go in the back and take the back stairs. Helena,” he stopped and looked at her, making sure she was paying attention. When he was satisfied that she seemed together and alert, he finished. “You take the roof. There’s a boarded up window on the east side of the building leading to a fire escape. It’s the only window in the room he’s keeping Barbara in. It’s yours. Break through it and take him down.” He stopped and looked at each of them. “When I give the signal, we all move together.”

Three minutes later, Helena was crouched down on the fire escape outside the boarded up window. With her Meta senses, she was able to clearly hear someone moving around the room. Whoever it was seemed agitated, moving quickly, as though they were pacing. She listened as closely as she could, but couldn’t hear anything else.

As she listened to whoever was in the room, she kept tabs on Reese and Dick’s movements through the building as well. She plainly heard Reese moving through the downstairs living quarters, and the sound of Celine Dion music playing in the background. The music faded into the distance however, as she heard his footsteps on the back stairwell.

Then, through her comm, she heard Dick. He and Dinah had managed to make their way through the flower shop without attracting attention thanks to Dinah’s TK abilities keeping the bell on the door and any other alarms from going off. “Everyone ready?” he said quietly. “On my mark, one, two, three, go!”

Helena moved. Kicking in the two inch thick pressboard, shattering it into pieces, she jumped through the window and rolled into a standing position. At the same time, the door to the room came flying open and Dick came running in. Sensing something wasn’t quite right, Helena turned around in a circle. No one was in the room but the two of them. As a matter of fact, the only things in the room were an old manual wheelchair and a bulletin board full of paintings of flowers. Along the far wall, there was a desk covered in newspaper clippings of the victims. How could that be! He had been here just a minute ago!

“Where is he?” Dick asked.

“I have no idea! I just heard him pacing in here. He couldn’t have gone far,” Helena said in answer. “And where’s Barbara? You said she’d be here!”

Dick shook his head. “She’s here somewhere. I’m sure of it. This is where he keeps them, there is no place else. Quick, look for a hidden entrance, there has to be one around here somewhere.”

She did, and within moments, they were heading down a dark corridor. At the end of the tunnel, they could see light shining from under a wooden door. Upon arriving, Helena wasted no time. Bursting through the door, she nearly choked on the smell that greeted her. Blood was everywhere. On the floor, the walls, even the ceiling. In the center of the room, he stood there, waiting for them.

“You’re too late for her,” he said quietly, motioning with his eyes and a slight nod of his head toward the far right corner of the room. Barbara was there, lying crumpled up on the floor. He had a slight smile on his face, but otherwise showed no emotion. “She was trouble, that one,” he said conversationally. “It took longer to break her than any of the others. She fought like a wild animal at first, but I showed her who the man is. She liked it in the end.” He smiled again.

Helena, seeing Barbara lying there, naked, cuts on her arms and face, with her legs shredded to ribbons, couldn’t take anymore. Eyes flashing, she growled low in her throat. Unwilling to keep the monster inside of her locked away any longer, she leaped at him, kicking out with one leg as she landed right in front of him. As her foot connected with his chest, he went flying backwards, slamming heavily into the brick wall. His head connected with the wall first, and he slumped to the floor, unmoving. Moving toward him, she grabbed him by his shirt and picked him up, intending to throw him against the opposite wall, when Dick came up to her.

“Helena stop, he’s out cold,” he waited a moment to make sure she heard him before saying, “Go check on Barbara, I’ll take care of him. Go on, Reese is right behind us. We’ve got it.”

She looked at Dick, for a moment not really hearing what he was saying to her. Then, blinking, she lowered the piece of filth and let him drop to the floor. He had been so easy to beat, it was…unsatisfying, she thought. Kicking him viciously and hearing ribs crack, she said, “Yeah, all right. But if she’s…dead,” she forced herself to say the word, “he’s dead too.”

“If she’s dead,” he said through gritted teeth, “I’ll let you have him.”

Turning, she ran over to Barbara. Crouching down in front of her to shield her naked body from the others, Helena bent over and touched the redhead gently. “Barbara?” she whispered, afraid to find out that her lover may well be dead. “Barbara, can you hear me?” Barbara’s skin was so cold, Helena was scared. Then, through all the blood, she noticed the weak rise and fall of her chest. Barbara was still alive! Helena couldn’t believe it! They’d found her in time. “Dick, she’s still alive! Call an ambulance!” Helena called over. As she did so, she took off her duster and laid it gently over Barbara’s body. She slid down around behind the other woman and cradled her head in her lap, a tear sliding down her cheek unchecked. No longer able to contain her emotions and feeling herself slip away, Helena sat there and ran her hand through the red hair, whispering softly. “Help’s on the way, Red. They’ll be here soon, just hang on a little longer.” A moment later, she felt the presence of someone else standing over her. Without looking, and without meaning to, she growled low in her throat. “Don’t come any closer, or I swear I’ll kill you,” she said dangerously.

Dinah, taken off guard by Helena’s reaction, stepped back quickly. Apparently, the little mind-meld trick she’d used back at Helena’s apartment while the brunette slept, hadn’t quelled the Meta part of her friend as much as she’d hoped. She stood there watching, not saying a word, as Alfred, of all people walked right up to them.

“Miss Helena,” he said quietly, “I believe it’s time to let her go now. The ambulance has arrived and Miss Barbara needs to have her injuries tended to.” He waited a moment, and when the brunette made no move to let go of the redhead, only growled again, he said, “Miss Helena, you know what you need to do. You can control yourself. She taught you how. You just need to relax and breathe.” He watched as his quiet words sank in. Encouragingly, he said, “That’s it. Just like Miss Barbara taught you. Breathe.” When he saw that she had calmed down, he took a few steps closer. “Now, I’m going to help you place her on the gurney. Just stand up and we’ll do it together. That’s it; no one’s going to take her from you. You can stay with her all the way to the hospital.” He kept talking quietly, watching as Helena stood up, lifted Barbara in her arms, and placed the torn and battered body reverently on the gurney. She wouldn’t allow anyone, not even the EMT’s near her as she did so. When she was satisfied that Barbara was covered sufficiently, she slowly backed away a step and allowed the men to check Barbara over.

Looking at Alfred with gratitude, Helena nodded silently before turning and following the EMT’s from the room. Alfred followed behind to make sure the men allowed her to ride along in the ambulance. If it took a call from Bruce Wayne himself, Alfred would arrange it to make sure that Miss Helena didn’t lose herself again this night. Miss Barbara was going to need her.

* * * * *

Jim Gordon literally ran into the New Gotham Memorial Hospital Emergency Room entrance. No sooner had he made it through the sliding glass doors, than Dick Grayson was there to meet him. In his mind, Jim remembered another night, nine years ago, when he’d done this exact same thing. Dick had been here then, too. Bruce Wayne had been there as well, but that wasn’t to be expected this night. Bruce had left New Gotham within weeks following that night, never to return. He hoped with all his heart that this wasn’t going to be another tragedy for his daughter. She’d already been through enough as far as he was concerned.

“Mr. Gordon,” Dick said in greeting, “Barbara’s in surgery now.”

Looking over at the younger man, he could see the lines of worry for his daughter etched in his face. Unfortunately, right now he wasn’t concerned with Dick’s feelings. As he followed him through the hospital to the ER waiting room, he said rather gruffly, “So Grayson, are you going to tell me exactly what’s happened to my daughter?”

“Actually Commissioner, I thought I’d let you speak to Helena instead,” Dick said, turning to face him now that they’d reached the waiting room. “Just know that we did everything we could think of to talk her out of this. She just wouldn’t listen.”

Jim sighed. “Talk her out of what, Grayson? What are you trying to tell me? What the Hell was Barbara mixed up in this time?”

His head dropping to look at his shoes, Dick simply said, “Commissioner, please…let’s just wait for Helena to get here.”

“Well, where the Hell is she? Why isn’t she here already,” Jim said, fear and panic beginning to take control.

“Jim,” Dick reached out and put a hand on the older man’s arm to calm him down, “Helena’s with Barbara. She refused to leave her even after they brought Barbara in. I don’t think anyone could tear her away from her right now. And, you should know…” he hesitated, not sure how to tell the Commissioner about Helena’s problem controlling her feral side, but it had to be done, “Helena’s eyes, sir…they’ve uh…changed.”

“What are you talking about now, Grayson?” Dick was a really nice young man, but he had a tendency to be extremely infuriating when he wanted to be. Jim had always found it a most annoying trait, and had been happy when Barbara had decided to break off their relationship. Dick just wasn’t right for his daughter.

“Well Sir, you do know about Helena’s meta-human abilities?” At Jims’ nod, Dick continued. “Well, since everything began happening, Helena’s been a little…keyed up, I guess you could say.”

“What he’s trying to tell you,” Dinah cut in, stepping into the room, “is that Helena’s been having a hard time controlling her feral side.” Looking over at Dick, she said, “Alfred said he’d get her. She should be here in a few minutes.” Then, she simply slumped down into a chair and folded her arms across her chest, waiting in silence.

Feeling confused, and not a little bit angry, Jim took a deep breath. Turning back to Dick, he asked, “So why didn’t anyone see fit to tell me what was going on?

Dick shrugged. “Barbara forbid it,” he said quietly.

“She what?” he said incredulously, his voice rising with his anger.

Before anyone could answer, Helena was standing next to him. Her voice, as she spoke, sounded flat and torn, like sandpaper. “She forbid us to tell you what she was doing,” she said.

He turned at the sound of her voice to face her, not understanding what she was telling him. When he saw her, he was shocked. Covered in blood, Barbara’s blood, he assumed, she hadn’t bothered to change since arriving at the hospital. Her face was streaked where tears had fallen unchecked down her cheeks, and her eyes…Haunting and feral, were the only words he had to describe them. She looked wild, standing there, like an animal just finished with its’ kill. “Helena?” he managed to say.

“Jim,” she whispered. She needed to feel the wind whipping her hair, to feel fresh air in her lungs. Turning, she gestured to him to follow her. “Walk with me.”

She led him through a set of double doors and up a flight of stairs to another floor. Then, down the corridor until she stopped at another door marked ‘Roof’. To his surprise, she opened the door and led him up the short flight of stairs to the rooftop. Once on the roof, Helena stopped, facing so that she could look out over the city.

He watched her silently for a few minutes, until it appeared she wasn’t going to say anything. Finally, unable to wait any longer for an explanation, he said, “Helena, how’s Barbara doing? No one would tell me anything. Is she going to be okay?” He waited another full minute, before saying, “Well, is she?”

“She’s going to live, Jim,” Helena said quietly, sighing. “That much is for certain. She’s suffered some injuries…mostly superficial, but the bastard cut her up pretty badly. Her legs are going to be scarred. There’s no getting around that. She was lucky though, that there was only one cut on her cheek. With stitches, it won’t be noticeable.”

He watched the brunette carefully. He’d known her since she was an angry sixteen year old, and he could tell there was more to the story. “What aren’t you telling me, Helena? Is there something else I should know?”

Closing her eyes against what she had to say next, she took a deep breath before opening them again and turning to face him. “Well…he hit her upside the head pretty hard. The doctor seems to think…that when she wakes up she may suffer some…temporary blindness.”

He felt fear trickle down into the pit of his stomach at her words. “Temporary? You’re sure that’s what he said…just temporary? It won’t be permanent? You know what that would do to her; to lose her sight on top of losing the use of her legs…she’d never recover from that, Helena.”

“I know, Jim. I know. Trust me, he said temporary. There’s some swelling on her brain, but as soon as that goes down, her eyesight should go back to normal. The doctor said it could be a week or a few weeks, depending on her.”

He released a breath. “God, that’s a relief. Thank you, Helena. I don’t know what I’d do if I lost her. She’s all I have left, you know.”

“I know, Jim. Believe me, I feel the same way,” Helena said sadly. “After Mom died, Barbara became my everything. Without her…I’d be…”

Feeling terrible for the young woman who loved his daughter so much, he reached out and patted her arm. Helena looked so miserable, he couldn’t help but ache for her. “I know, Helena. The two of you have always been so close. You’ve been through a lot together.”

Helena nodded at his words, saying nothing. When he felt that she’d calmed down a bit, he decided to ask her what had been happening while he’d been out of town. “Helena, I know this is difficult for you, but…Can you tell me exactly what happened? Grayson wouldn’t tell me anything, only that you all tried to talk Barbara out of it. But he wouldn’t say what ‘it’ was.”

Helena sniffed and swallowed hard. “Its okay, Jim. You deserve to know everything. I don’t know, maybe I should have come to you with this before everything happened; but she never would have forgiven me. She already thinks I was questioning her abilities as it is.”

“No she doesn’t, Helena,” he said kindly. He was all too aware of how much Helena admired and looked up to his daughter. There was simply no way in the world Barbara could possibly doubt Helena’s belief in her.

“Yes, she does. I…I left her, Jim,” Helena said, the shame in her voice and on her features evident. Refusing to look him in the eye, she continued. “When she refused to listen to reason…when her behavior began to change to the point that it had become too much to handle for all of us…I went back to my place. After I promised I would never leave. And now…God! How could I have been so stupid and careless?” She kicked at the ground, throwing gravel everywhere.

Confused, Jim said, “Helena, slow down. I’m still not sure I know what you’re talking about. What about her behavior? What caused her to change?”

“Her neural transponder,” Helena answered. Looking at him, she realized he had no idea what she was talking about. Shaking her head at Barbara’s penchant for secrecy, she exhaled slowly. “Barbara had been experimenting with a neural transponder. It’s a piece of electronic equipment she wears on a belt, and it sends messages from her brain down her spinal cord. I don’t understand it very well,” she apologized. “But, the gist of it is that it helps her to walk.”

“What? How? When?” He couldn’t believe what Helena was telling him. “Why didn’t she ever mention this to me?”

Helena looked at him and resisted the urge to roll her eyes. He didn’t deserve that, and besides, Barbara never told him anything much about her life. Shrugging, she said, “I don’t know, Jim. She didn’t even bother to mention to me that she’d been working on it again. I only found out by accident, when I walked in on her standing in our room one night.”

“I’m afraid I don’t understand,” he said. “Why would she do something like that?”

“Jim, Barbara moved out of the Clocktower and into an apartment in the Gotham Arms. She was setting herself…”

He gasped, as he realized what she was about to say. “My God…She set herself up for that serial killer, didn’t she?

Helena nodded her head sadly. “Yes. I tried to talk her out of it. We all did. But she wouldn’t listen! I offered to be the bait, but she thought I was saying that she was incapable of doing it herself. She insisted on using that damn transponder again. She swore after the whole ‘Harley Quinn’ thing that she’d never use it again!” Helena couldn’t help it. For some reason, she found herself spilling her guts to Barbara’s father. After keeping everything inside for so long, it just felt so good to finally talk about what had been happening. “It almost caused more permanent damage last time. Now…I don’t know. When we found her, it had been tossed in a corner. It was so damaged and fried…It’s a miracle she survived at all. If there isn’t more nerve damage this time…then she’ll be damn lucky.”

“At least you found her, Helena,” he said quietly. “If you hadn’t, she’d be dead by now and we’d be meeting over her grave, not in a hospital waiting room,” looking around, he amended his statement. “Or, out on the roof.” He smiled sadly at her.

“I know,” she said. “At least that’s something. But she’s never going to forgive me for leaving her. She’ll think I betrayed her. I know she will.”

“Helena, I don’t believe that, and neither do you,” he said. “Even after she moved into the Gotham Arms, you were all watching her weren’t you? You had surveillance cameras and…”

Helena nodded. “We had cameras, mics, even a GPS signal attached to her wheelchair. We all took turns watching over her. She knew I was there, but…” she dropped her head down to stare at the ground. She felt so guilty over moving out of their bedroom and going back to sleeping at her own apartment.

“You never left her, Helena. You were there. You just left the situation before it got worse,” he said kindly. “There’s nothing wrong with putting a little distance between yourself and a difficult situation, now and then.”

“I’m not so sure, Jim,” she said so quietly he had to strain to hear her.

Pulling her into a hug, he said, “Well I am, Helena. And believe me when I tell you that Barbara knows that you love her. And, I know she loves you, too. It’s going to be okay, you’ll see.” He patted her back as he realized she’d begun to sob.

Ten minutes later, cried out and calmer, Helena pulled away from him. “I’m sorry, Jim. I didn’t mean to fall apart like that. But thanks,” she said, looking up at him shyly through her bangs.

He smiled kindly. “Anytime, Helena. After everything you’ve all been through lately, I’d be surprised if you didn’t need a good cry. Besides, just consider me the next best thing to your own father.” He wrapped an arm around her shoulders companionably. “Why don’t we head back down to the waiting room? I’m anxious to see if there’s any word on Barbara’s condition yet.”

Wiping her face with the back of her hand, she sniffed, and said, “There’s no comparison between you and my father, Jim. As far as I’m concerned, you’re the only one I need. Now, let’s head on down. I need to find out what’s going on, too.”

Eyeing her dubiously, he said, “Umm, you may want to re-think the outfit a little before you go in to see her. As a fashion statement, I think you’re way off the mark.”

She looked down at herself as they entered the stairwell and realized for the first time what she must look like. Shaking her head at her own lack of thought, she smiled wryly, and said, “I think you’re right. I’ll see if Alfred can get me something.”

A few moments later, as they entered the ER Waiting Room, Alfred approached Helena with a bag in hand. “Something clean to change into, Miss Helena?” he said, looking at her fondly.

She smiled back at him as she took the offered bag. “Thanks, Alfred. Any word on Barbara, yet?”

“Not as yet, Miss Helena. But the doctor did say it should be any time,” he said, the worry in his voice coming through clearly to Helena’s sensitive ears.

She nodded. “I’ll go change then,” she said, and turned to go find a bathroom to wash up and change in.

By the time she returned to the waiting room, washed up and in clean clothes, the doctor was there. He’d waited to talk to them until Helena returned. Still finding himself somewhat disconcerted by her eyes, he attempted to avoid looking at her as much as possible as he filled them in on Barbara’s condition. At least she had finally stopped growling at him.

“Ms. Gordon is out of surgery and has been moved into a recovery room,” he said slowly. “The cuts on her legs weren’t deep, just extensive. We managed to repair most of the damage with stitches. There wasn’t any muscle damage. However, there will be some scarring. I’m afraid that the number of cuts was a problem. There were so many, there will probably need to be some skin grafts later.”

Irritated with the way he was dragging this out, Helena interrupted him. “How’s her head? Does she have a concussion, or what?”

He sighed. “Well, she did sustain a traumatic blow to the head. Our CT scans showed some swelling of the brain, but we believe that it should go down on its’ own. Unfortunately, the swelling is causing temporary blindness…”

“Barbara’s blind?” Dinah nearly shrieked. “Oh God, this can’t be happening!” she said, as she turned away and began crying.

Helena, already anxious to get back to Barbara’s bedside, stepped over to the girl and wrapped her arms around her. “Shh, Dinah. He said it’s only going to be temporary. It’s going to be okay. Let him finish.” She turned back to the doctor. “Anything else, Doc?”

He sighed again. “Not right now. We won’t know any more until she wakes up. I’ll let you know as soon as she does. In the meantime, we’re getting a private room for her right now.”

“I want to stay with her,” Helena said immediately.

The doctor shook his head. “I’m afraid we can’t allow that, Miss, Kyle” he said. “Hospital rules prevent us from allowing friends to spend the night in patients’ rooms.”

As Helena geared up for a rant, Jim stepped in. He knew all too well what trouble Helena’s temper would cause. “Excuse me Doctor, you are aware of who I am?” he asked quietly.

“Of course, you’re Police Commissioner Gordon,” the doctor replied.

“Then you’re already aware that I have numerous friends on the hospital board,” Jim continued. “To that end, Doctor,” he emphasized the term sarcastically, “I think it would be a good idea to allow Helena to spend the night in my daughters’ room. It was, after all, these fine young people who saved Barbara’s life. As far as I’m concerned, Helena here can do whatever she likes.”

Hearing his words, Helena resisted the urge to stick her tongue out at the doctor. Barbara’s father was putting his reputation on the line for her, she realized. It would be poor repayment if she did something to make him look bad, now. Instead, she smiled sweetly at him and said, “Thanks.”

“My pleasure, Helena. Now Doctor, I presume you’ll send word as soon as Barbara’s in her room?” he asked, taking control of the situation once again.

The doctor nodded. “Absolutely, Commissioner.” He turned on his heel then, and headed back through the double doors, grateful to get away from the group.

* * * * *

As she swam up out of unconsciousness, she groaned. There was pain: pain everywhere. As she became more aware, she began to notice the background noises. The quiet hum of machinery, people talking quietly while others moaned. There were names being called over a PA and electronic dings. The hospital. That’s where she was. After the shooting, she’d spent so much time in the hospital, there’s no way she couldn’t recognize the background noises. But was it real, or just another hallucination?

Helena, who’d been dozing lightly in the chair next to the bed, came awake instantly when she heard the faint moan from the bed. “Barbara?” she said quietly, attempting to pull the redhead’s consciousness to the surface. She squeezed her hand gently. “Hey Red,” she said as Barbara opened her eyes. Running a hand through the silky red hair, she placed a gentle kiss on her forehead. “Glad to have you back in the land of the conscious.”

Barbara, in pain and confused, could only manage a few words. “Hel? That you?”

“It’s me, Red,” the brunette answered, whispering into her ear.

“Not a dream?”

Helena smiled as she kissed the pale cheek. “No Baby, not a dream. I’m real.”

Barbara swallowed, trying to form the words she wanted. “Wh…why…my eyes?”

“Shh. It’s okay, Barbara,” Helena said, soothingly. “You have a concussion. The doctor said it’s a temporary thing.” Seeing the look that crossed the pale face, she quickly added, “You’re going to be okay, though.” Swallowing back tears, she continued. “He said it could take anywhere from a week to a month, but you’re gonna be okay. I swear. You’re safe now. I’ve got you, I’ve got you and I’m never gonna let you go,” she found herself murmuring into the redheads’ ear as she continued to stroke her hair. She realized that she was so grateful that Barbara was alive and safe, that she couldn’t stop touching her.

“Hel,” Barbara said after a few minutes enclosed in the brunettes’ arms, “Could you…help me…water?” she asked weakly.

Letting Barbara go momentarily, Helena stood up. “Oh, sure Red. Here,” Helena said, helping the redhead sit up just enough to sip some water through a straw. When she was done, Helena helped her slide back into a more comfortable position.

“Thanks, Hel,” Barbara said. Her throat felt a little better after drinking something, but the pain was still there. Even her back and legs were hurting, the pain was so bad. She didn’t remember it being this bad after the shooting.

Helena, knowing Barbara as well as she did, knew the redhead was in excruciating pain. She’d suffered a lot of damage at the hands of the serial killer, and the doctor had seemed surprised that she’d fared as well as she had. In an effort to make her suffering a little less, Helena said, “Barbara, I’m going to get the doctor. He needs to know you’re awake.” She saw Barbara about to say something else, but interrupted her. “I’ll ask him for some more pain meds, too.”

The older woman smiled gratefully. “Thanks, Hel. Love you.”

Helena brushed a hand across the pale cheek. “I love you, too, Red.” Then, turning to go, she said, “I’ll be right back.”

Returning ten minutes later with the doctor, Helena sat quietly in the corner, as Barbara silently endured his examination of her injuries. When he was finished, he explained to Barbara in detail, about them. As he detailed the damage done to her head with the concussion, she watched Barbara closely. Helena was well aware of what losing her eyesight could potentially do to Barbara. It would, Helena was sure, be more devastating than losing the use of her legs. At least being paralyzed, while taking away her ability to be Batgirl, she was still able to function in her role as Oracle. But if she lost her sight permanently, Barbara wouldn’t know where she fit in anymore. Helena knew she couldn’t allow that to happen. If there was one thing she was sure of in this world, it was that Barbara needed to be useful.

Once the doctor was through and had left the room, Mr. Gordon, Alfred, Dinah and Dick were all allowed in to see Barbara. Helena, for her part, sat back and tried to stay out of the way. The room simply wasn’t that big, and so she stayed in her corner, watching everything that happened. Mostly, she watched Barbara, though. The redhead was doing her best to hide her emotions and the pain she was in, but Helena could see it.

Finally, after an hour of questions, careful hugs and well wishes, Helena escorted everyone out into the hall. “Okay, everybody,” she said, “I think we should all leave and let Red get some rest.” As they left, she followed them back to the waiting room, where they all sat down to talk.

“So,” Dinah asked, “is she okay, Helena?”

Helena shrugged. “As well as can be expected, I guess. I mean, how would you be if you’d just woke up to find out you were blind and stuck in the hospital?”

Dinah dropped her head. She’d felt some of the pain Barbara was in. No matter how hard the older woman tried to hide it, it had leaked through. She was simply too exhausted to maintain so much control, right now. “Sorry,” the teen answered.

Helena reached over and squeezed the girls shoulder. “It’s okay, Kid. She’ll be okay. We’ve been here before. Red’s tough. You’ll see.” As she said the words, she hoped they sounded more encouraging than she felt right now. She’d seen the look on Barbara’s face. She knew how hard the other woman was really taking this.

“Well,” Mr. Gordon said, standing up. “I don’t know about all of you, but I could use something to eat and a good nights’ sleep. Whatdaya say we all go for dinner and then head home for the evening?”

That sounds good, Commissioner,” Dick said, standing up as well.

Helena, unable to bear the thought of Barbara stuck in the hospital alone, said, “Uh, you guys go ahead. I’ll just stay here with Red, and make sure she’s comfy.”

“Helena, you need to eat,” Dinah said, the concern in her voice obvious. She was well aware of how much energy Helena had been using to keep her feral side at bay. She knew Helena must be close to exhaustion herself.

Helena shook her head. “I’m okay, D. Go on, and I’ll see everybody tomorrow.”

“Well…if you’re sure?” the teen said, watching the brunette carefully.

“I’m sure, Kid,” Helena said, rolling her eyes. “Go on.”

Reluctantly, Dinah turned and followed the others as they left the hospital for the evening. It had been almost twenty four hours since Barbara had been brought in, and she was close to dropping from lack of sleep herself. Still, she couldn’t help worrying about Helena. But the brunette had insisted she leave, so she’d do as she was asked. Besides, she knew that Helena always drew her strength from Barbara, and vice versa. The two of them should be fine.

After watching the four leave, Helena returned to Barbara’s room. At first, she thought the other woman was asleep. But, even without seeing, Barbara seemed to know she was there.

Turning toward the door when she sensed the brunette’s presence, Barbara asked quietly, “So, they all gone?”

“Yeah,” Helena answered, sitting down carefully next to Barbara on the bed. Taking the redhead’s hand in hers, and using her free hand to brush hair off Barbara’s forehead, she said, “They’ve all gone to get something to eat and sleep. They were worried about you.”

“They didn’t need to be,” Barbara said in typical Barbara fashion. Always first to worry about others’, Barbara rarely took the time to worry about her own needs. It was very frustrating for Helena.

“Barbara, they love you. It’s what they do,” Helena answered, leaning down and placing a kiss on her forehead. When she straightened back up, she said, “I’m staying here tonight. I don’t want you to be alone.”

“Hel, I’ll be okay,” Barbara said. She knew all too well that Helena probably hadn’t slept in days. “You need to get a good night’s sleep.”

Helena shook her head. “No, Red. I need to make sure that you’re okay. Right now, I need to be with you.” She leaned over and kissed the redhead once more. Guilt over her behavior the last few weeks overwhelming her, she finally said, “I’m so sorry we couldn’t get to you before he took you, Barbara. Most of all, I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you. You needed me, and I…” she shrugged, even though Barbara couldn’t see it, “I fucked up. What else can I say?”

Barbara, squeezing Helena’s hand, smiled sadly and said, “Hel, you didn’t fuck up. I…I don’t remember much of what happened, before…I think I was…” she shook her head in frustration. “For some reason, I can’t seem to remember. Let’s just say we’re both to blame for what’s happened. I…” blowing out a breath, she said, “I should have listened to you. But I was just so sure I could get him on my own. I thought the transponder would give me the upper hand…but when he used the jammer, I crumbled to the floor like nobody’s business.”

“Still…I’m sorry, Barbara. I thought I’d done a lot of growing up over the last few months, but apparently, there’s more I need to do. Can you forgive me for not being there?” Helena asked plaintively. The need in her voice obvious as she allowed her head to fall down until it was resting on Barbara’s shoulder.

Stroking the brunette’s hair, Barbara could only answer, “Oh Hel, of course. But only if you’ll forgive me, too. That way we’re even.”

Helena sniffed and nodded into her shoulder. “I love you, Barbara.”

“Love you too, Hel,” the redhead murmured as she succumbed to the pain medication and drifted off to sleep.

* * * * *

The meltdown came a week later. Helena had been at the hospital every day, watching over Barbara’s therapy. She helped out wherever she could, sometimes taking over for the therapist. The doctor had objected at first, of course. But Helena, being who she is, had made sure she showed him her certification, and he’d been a little more tolerant after that. When he asked her about it, she explained that after the shooting, she had gone through training so that she could take over Barbara’s therapy. It was, she explained, the only way the redhead would continue the hated therapy sessions. Helena had made it a game between them, and Barbara had finally responded, dragging herself out of her depression long enough to work out every day.

This time however, Barbara was having none of it. She’d started out okay. But by the end of the fourth day, still in excruciating pain and frustrated by her inability to see, she was fed up. No matter what Helena did, it wasn’t enough. Barbara had bitched through the entire session, complaining about everything from the exercises, to the pain, even the smell of the therapy room.

Helena, for her part, had also grown increasingly frustrated. No matter what she did to help, Barbara seemed to be falling deeper and deeper into depression. On this particular day, they were in the therapy room, working on some deep muscle exercises. Barbara’s use of the neural transponder over the last few weeks had done real permanent damage this time, and the doctors were attempting to if not undo, at least minimize, the worst of it. It was, they’d explained, the reason Barbara was still in so much pain.

Still, even knowing what needed to be done, Barbara couldn’t seem to pull herself out of her depression long enough to bother. For some reason, she just didn’t care right now whether her legs had muscle tone or not. In addition, Helena’s stupid games and lame jokes were getting on her last nerve.

The pain meds weren’t helping, she couldn’t see a thing, her head still hurt, and, worst of all, her memory still wasn’t coming back. It was this last that worried her most of all, though. She’d really believed that her memory would return once she began her recovery. She’d been off the Ketamine for the last seven days. The hallucinations and episodes of disassociation had stopped. Still, she couldn’t seem to remember everything from her time with the serial killer.

Then, there was the increasing feeling that Helena wasn’t telling her everything about what had happened to her during her time with Stuart Clemmons and the weeks leading up to it. Every time she asked the brunette about it, she would quickly change the subject. Apparently, Helena had taken it upon herself to keep Barbara in the proverbial dark about that period of time. So, when Helena suddenly leaned in to encourage her, so close she could feel her breath on her face, she got angry.

Helena, for her part, understood why Barbara was frustrated. Still, she needed to do the PT so that the pain would finally go away. Helena was having a hard time of it, too. She just couldn’t say anything to Barbara. Watching the older woman go through this again was sheer torture for the brunette. Not only because she loved Barbara and didn’t want her to be in pain, but because she felt like she’d let the redhead down. In her head, she knew that Barbara had told her to leave, that she didn’t need her. She’d done the only thing she could do. But still…

Shaking her head at Barbara’s defiance, she finally huffed out a breath. “Come on, Barbara, not that much longer. I swear. Hey,” she said, taking the redheads calf in her hands and massaging the muscles, “I promise, once you’re out of here, you can kick my ass. I know you’re ready to beat the crap out of me anyway.” She smiled for effect, until she remembered that Barbara couldn’t see it and that caused her to frown.

Curling her lip up in agitation, Barbara finally said, “Helena, just…leave me alone. None of this is helping anyway. What good am I going to be when I can’t even see?”

Rolling her eyes, because she’d heard this before, Helena said, “Barbara…” but was cut off by the redhead.

“No, Helena. I’m sick and tired of all this bullshit. I can’t see…I hurt. I just want to go back to my room and sleep. If you really want to help, then you’ll take me back there,” Barbara said, the anger in her finally reaching the boiling point.

Sitting back on her knees and looking at the redhead, Helena said, “No. Barbara, I won’t be the one who helps you destroy yourself. I already helped with that too much already. I should have argued with you more about using that damn transponder in the first place, and I didn’t. I won’t help you again. I’m sorry. If you want to go back to your room, you’ll have to get someone else to take you.” She stood up and looked at Dinah, who was sitting in a corner of the PT room watching silently. “I’m outta here, D. Make sure she’s taken care of.” Without waiting for an answer, Helena turned and left.

“Well,” Barbara said, barely containing her anger, “are you coming to help me, or not?”

Dinah didn’t say a thing at first. Standing up and walking over to Barbara, she leaned down and said, “I’m not going to take sides, Barbara. The doctors have all agreed that you need to do this. It’s the only way. I also won’t help you become an invalid by taking you back to your room to sulk in peace. If that’s what you really want, I’ll send someone in to make sure you get back to your room okay.” Then, standing back up, Dinah turned and left Barbara sitting on the PT room floor alone.

When she heard the door close, Barbara balled her hands into fists. Royally pissed off at both the younger women, she pounded one fist into the matted floor and screamed, ‘fuck!’

* * * * *

“Helena, wait up!” Dinah called to the brunette as she ran after her.

Stopping when she heard Dinah call her name, Helena turned around and crossed her arms. Fed up with Barbara’s attitude, and not really wanting a lecture from the teenager, she cocked her head and asked, “What Dinah?”

Coming to a halt in front of the brunette, Dinah blushed a bit. “I…I thought I could maybe…catch a ride with you?”

“Oh? You leaving?” Helena asked, surprised.

Dinah nodded. “Yeah. I can’t stay here and watch this any more. She’s purposely trying to piss you off, and I don’t know why.”

Helena took a deep breath. “Yeah well, it’s just what she does, D.” She turned and started walking again, Dinah taking a position next to her. “We’ve been here before, you know. There were times after the shooting that I thought I was going to have to drag her into the training room for her PT.” Wrapping a sisterly arm around the girl, she said, “She’ll get over it, D. Just give her some time.”

“What about you?” Dinah asked, concern for her adopted sister obvious in her voice. “Are you going to get over it, Hel?”

“Don’t worry about me, Dinah. I’ll be okay,” Helena said, easily hiding her agitation from the girl. After all, she’d had Barbara as a teacher. Hiding her emotions wasn’t all that hard, anymore.

* * * * *

The entrance to the Dark Horse Bar wasn’t lit very well, but that didn’t stop Bruce from entering. He had business to take care of and this is where it had to be done. Well, to be accurate, above the bar was more like it. But, to get there, he needed to go through the bar, or so Alfred had told him.

Stepping into the bar itself, he was mildly surprised to find that the place didn’t look quite as dingy as he expected. To be honest, it actually seemed like a fairly decent place. At least he could rest easy, knowing that. It was well lit and clean, and the patrons seemed clean cut and normal. He should have known that Barbara wouldn’t allow Helena to work someplace dangerous. At least not at her day job.

Looking around, he saw his target sitting at the bar, downing a shot of what looked to be Vodka. He stepped up to her and, in his deep voice, quietly said, “Helena Kyle?”

Helena turned when she heard her name. Recognizing him immediately, she said, “Well, well, well, if it isn’t the prodigal son, come home!” Turning and signaling for another shot, she said, “So, what do you want?”

Unfazed by her attitude, he simply answered, “I’d like to talk, if it’s okay with you.”

She snorted. “Talk? What the Hell for?”

He sighed, sitting down on the stool next to her. “I know you’re angry with me, Helena. But we need to talk.”

“I don’t want to talk to you, Mr. Wayne. Or should I call you Dad?” she asked snidely, turning to glare at him. After the argument with Barbara, she really didn’t need this, on top of everything else. “Why don’t you leave me alone? I seem to remember you being good at that.”

Leonard, her boss, was passing by as she said it, and he stopped. He hadn’t heard her comment about calling him ‘Dad,’ just the part where she told him to leave her alone. “Kyle! Just who do you think you are? Don’t you ever speak to Mister Wayne like that!” Turning to Bruce, he said, “Mr. Wayne, I apologize for her rude behavior. Some of us are pleased to see you’ve returned. Please, let me get your drinks for you, for the trouble,” he said, shooting a glare over at Helena.

Bruce shook his head. “That won’t be necessary, Leonard. Ms. Kyle and I have business.”

But…she shouldn’t speak to you that way,” he spluttered. “If she’s rude again, I’ll see to it that she’s fired.”

“You’ll do no such thing,” Bruce said quietly. “Ms. Kyle has her reasons.”

“But…” Leonard said.

“That will do, Sir. Thank you, but Ms. Kyle and I will continue our conversation somewhere else.” He stood up and looked at her pointedly.

Knowing she wasn’t going to get out of this, Helena rolled her eyes and stood up as well. “So, lead the way,” she said, sweeping her hand in front of her.

“Can we go up to your apartment?” he asked.

Rolling her eyes again and sighing for good measure, she said, “Come on.” Turning, she led the way through the back of the bar and entered the elevator to the second floor, leaving a bewildered Leonard staring after them. She didn’t say anything else until they arrived at her door. “Well, here we are,” she said, turning the key in the lock and opening the door. Flipping on the light, she led him inside, where she headed for the kitchen. As she grabbed a bottle of Vodka out of the cabinet, she said, “I know it’s not what you’re used to, but it’s all mine.”

He sat down on the couch, waiting for her. “It’s fine,” he said.

She came out of the kitchen and stood, leaning against the wall. “So, what’s there to talk about? You left.” She shrugged, taking a drink from her glass and waiting for him to tell her what he wanted.

“You know why, Helena. Barbara explained it, didn’t she?”

At mention of Barbara, Helena’s temper flared. “Don’t you dare mention Barbara! You can talk to me, but don’t you dare mention her.”

Taken aback by her reaction, he said, “Helena, I know you’re angry about my leaving, but she explained it to you. I know she told you what happened and why.”

“Explaining it doesn’t make it any better. I was sixteen! I needed you and you just left. You didn’t even bother to say goodbye!”

“Is that what bothers you? That I didn’t say goodbye?” he asked, knowing there was more to her anger than just that.

She shook her head. “No. What bothers me is that you couldn’t even acknowledge me. And…” she let her voice trail off, not wanting to say anything else. Instead, she asked again, “Why did you come here?”

He took a deep breath and sighed. “I heard about Barbara. I had to come back, to make sure.”

“Make sure? Make sure what? That she wasn’t dead this time? She slammed her glass down on the counter. “How dare you? Nine years ago you left her lying in a hospital bed paralyzed! Don’t you know she worshipped the ground you walked on? To Barbara, you could do no wrong. Then, when she needed you the most, you just turned your back on her and left! Do you have any idea what that was like for her? Do you?” She stopped yelling at him and just stood there, waiting for an answer.

He looked at her, still showing no emotion. “So, you’re really mad for Barbara’s sake, not yours?” he asked.

Helena shook her head at his arrogance. “I can’t even believe you. To think that I came from you.” She stepped up to him. “Get out. You’re not welcome here.”

“Helena, sit down,” he said. Sick of her attitude, he finally allowed some of the irritation he felt into his voice.

Hearing his demand, she cocked her head and crossed her arms, reminding him of a petulant child. “No, this is my house. You might command other people, but not me. You gave up that right when you left.”

“Fine,” he said, standing up. “I came here hoping that you were mature enough that we could talk about what I did. Apparently, that’s not the case. As for Barbara…I know I did wrong by her. I’ve tried to make it up to her, hoping she’d forgive me.”

Suddenly inextricably afraid he was going to leave, she said, “Throwing money at her to pay for her doctor bills didn’t ‘make up’ for anything. Besides, Barbara never hated you. Hell, she wasn’t even angry…Not that she ever let me see, anyway. But you hurt her badly. You were like a father to her, a best friend…” Helena stopped talking for a minute. When she resumed, her voice was quieter, subdued, remembering the pain Barbara had been in. “When she woke up and they told her she’d never walk again, that was bad enough. But then, she asked for you. When Dick told her you’d left…They didn’t know I was there, outside the window, watching. She didn’t cry, not until after Dick left. Then…” she stopped talking, unable to go on. The image of a defeated Barbara lying in that hospital bed sobbing and pleading for someone, anyone, to help her…It was horrible.

Dropping her head to stare at the floor, she just stood there. She’d tried for years to forget that night. Not that she ever could…but she tried to not think about it, at least. Now, with Bruce’s return, everything was coming back to haunt her. Finally, taking a deep breath, she looked back up at him. “I sat out there all night, watching her cry. All I wanted to do was make everything all right for her. But there wasn’t a damn thing I could do. I was just a kid…”

Swallowing hard, he took a step toward her. “Helena, I’m sorry. I never meant to hurt Barbara, or you. I hope you know that. I know my actions seem heartless to you, but if I’d stayed…” He shook his head. “More people I cared about would have been hurt or killed. I couldn’t take that chance.”

She wanted to hate him. She really did. She’d hated him for so long now, she couldn’t remember a time when she didn’t feel anger and resentment toward this man. But now, as he stood in front of her…somehow, she just couldn’t bring herself to hate him anymore. She was in the life. And, even before she’d grown up to become Huntress, she’d known how it felt to have someone you loved ripped from you.

Now, blaming herself for everything that had happened in the last few weeks, she had an inkling of how he’d felt. Okay, so she wasn’t responsible for the rampage the Wheelchair Killer had gone on…still, she felt so guilty about Barbara being taken by him. Closing her eyes, she sighed and moved over to sit down on the couch.

“Did you go see her?” she asked quietly, not looking at him.

Seeing Helena relax and sit down, he moved back over to the chair and took a seat. He shook his head at the question and said, “No. Not yet.”

“Good.” She looked up at him, then. “If you suddenly reappear, she’ll probably think we’ve all been lying to her.” At his look of confusion, she explained. “If you show up now, when you didn’t go to see her when she was paralyzed…She’ll think we were all lying when we told her she was going to be okay. You’ll scare her into thinking she’s permanently blind…or worse.”

He raised one brow. “I see. So…you two are still close? Or were you ever, really?” he asked, already knowing the answer, but hoping she would talk to him. Alfred had always kept him up to speed on everything that happened in New Gotham. Especially with Barbara and Helena.

She didn’t answer right away, trying to think of a way to describe their relationship. She certainly had no intentions of telling him everything. He had no business asking in the first place, as far as she was concerned. Finally making a decision, she looked at him. “Barbara took me in and, well…she didn’t raise me, really. I mean, I was sixteen. I’d say she performed more of a ‘Big Sister,’ mentor kind of role. I didn’t make it easy for her, that’s for sure. But yeah, I’d say we’re close.”

Bruce didn’t say anything to that. He’d heard from Alfred just how difficult Helena had been. He’d also heard how much help she’d been to Barbara, and for that he was grateful. He hadn’t been wrong in leaving them together, then. He’d always known they’d be good for each other.

In fact, he had counted on it. He’d never actually met Helena, before that night when Selina died, but he’d heard of her. Barbara had often mentioned Selina’s young daughter during their day to day conversations. She was, he believed, quite taken with the younger girl. A fact that he’d believed so strongly, that when he found out that Selina had left directions to make Barbara the girls’ guardian, he’d had no objections whatsoever. Something, some inner voice, kept telling him that they’d be good for each other. Now, after hearing from Alfred and talking to Helena, he was sure.

“So,” Helena finally said into the uncomfortable silence, “what did you want to talk to me about?”

He wasn’t surprised she’d asked. Alfred had told him of the young woman’s temper. He was well aware that if he waited, her anger would burn itself out fairly quickly. Alfred had also mentioned however, Helena’s Meta traits, and the fact that she’d been having no little amount of difficulty controlling them of late. So, very carefully, he said, “I guess I just wanted to talk to you. Get to know you a bit. Whatever you might think, I have missed getting to know you, Helena. And, I wanted the opportunity to explain to you myself, about what happened that night.”

She snorted inelegantly, but said nothing, preferring to roll her eyes.

Ignoring her rudeness, he forged ahead, explaining everything. He began with his relationship with Selina; the many complications they faced, and explained to her how Selina had decided to move to France. She’d never told him about Helena, he explained. Something Helena had known to be true. Her mother had told her that her father was unaware of her, though she’d never explained why.

Bruce did explain, though, and it led to a greater understanding of her mother for Helena. She now understood with greater clarity exactly what it had taken for Selina Kyle, AKA Catwoman, to give up her life as a famous and skilled cat burglar so she could raise a child on her own. Sniffing back tears as Bruce continued with his explanation, Helena found herself almost sympathizing with him. He had, she realized, truly loved her mother. And, if the choice hadn’t been taken from him, he probably would have loved raising her as his daughter, as well. But, Selina had taken that choice from him, and things had turned out very differently.

* * * * *

It was late, when Bruce arrived at the hospital. He had stayed and talked to Helena far longer than he’d expected. She had, after her initial temper tantrum, settled down and been willing to talk to him. All in all, the evening had gone better than he’d expected, and he was pleased with how they’d left things. Helena had proven herself to be intelligent and articulate, and he found he was inordinately proud of the way she’d turned out. Not that he was taking credit for that, but she was his daughter.

Now, standing in the hallway outside Barbara’s hospital room, he found himself remembering the last time he’d been here. Nine years ago, he’d been in this same position; standing outside the door to her room, dreading seeing her. The first time he’d been here, her injuries were his fault. It was The Joker’s way of getting revenge on him, hurting the people closest to him. How The Joker had even figured out that Barbara was Batgirl, he still hadn’t figured out. After seeing Barbara that night, and the condition she was in, he found he just couldn’t deal with things anymore. Not only had Selina died, but Barbara’s heart had stopped during surgery, as well. It was only the surgeon’s skill that brought her back. Then, to find out that she was paralyzed…it had been the last straw. It just wasn’t worth it anymore. All the pain and heartbreak…he couldn’t put anyone else through that.

He’d taken responsibility for Barbara’s hospital bills. And then, he’d taken care of The Joker once and for all. Now…he sighed. Barbara should never have put herself in this position. She knew better. He had taught her better. Shaking his head, he steeled himself and opened the door to her room.

As he walked in, he thought she was asleep. It was after two in the morning, and by all accounts the medication should have kept her from being awake. She was awake, though.

As Barbara heard the door to her room open, she feigned sleep until she recognized the footsteps approaching her. She hardly dared to believe, perhaps she was hallucinating again? “Bruce?” she said quietly, turning her head toward the door, the disbelief in her voice unmistakable.

“Barbara,” he answered. “It’s me. I heard what happened…I had to come.”

“How did you…? She began, and then, realizing she already knew the answer, she said, “Alfred?”

“Well, not exactly,” he said, pulling up a chair and sitting down.

She shook her head. “I think I should fire him.”

Bruce couldn’t help himself. He laughed at that. “He does have a way of sticking his nose into things. But I’ve always found that he’s usually right. Besides, he didn’t contact me. I saw it on the news and contacted him. I tried your father first, but couldn’t get hold of him.

“He was out of town when it happened,” she confirmed. “So, you came back now, because…?”

He took a deep breath. “I needed to know that you were okay. I needed to see you.”

She thought about his answer before saying, “You didn’t check on me when I was shot.”

“Barbara,” he said quietly, “I know I wasn’t there for you when you woke up. But I did come by to check on you. I was here that first night. I did stay with you until I was sure.”

“Until you were sure? Sure of what?” Barbara said, allowing the tiniest bit of anger into her voice. She’d been angry about his treatment of her back then. She’d been angry about it over the years, too. But she never allowed herself to dwell on it, preferring to push it down and ignore it. She just didn’t have time to deal with her own emotions, not with everything else. But now, with him here…and the way she felt…it was too tempting.

He sighed loudly. Barbara had every right to be angry and upset with him. He’d abandoned her and he knew it. He deserved anything she threw at him right now. Still, he had to answer her question. “I stayed until I was sure you were going to live,” he said quietly. His voice still betrayed nothing of what he was feeling, even though this night had been extremely taxing for him. Like his protégé, he wasn’t used to allowing his feelings out to play, either.

“Make sure I lived?” she repeated.

“Barbara, your heart stopped once, you were going to be paralyzed. That was all my fault, and I had to put a stop to it.”

And you couldn’t wait until I woke up? I was asking for you, and you were gone. Do you know how that made me feel?” she said through clenched teeth. Oh, how she wished she could see his face right now. She needed to see him to know what was going on in his head. He was better than her at hiding things he didn’t want known.

“Barbara, I…” he slumped down in the chair, losing his careful control momentarily, and insanely happy that she couldn’t see it. “I failed you,” he said, his loss of control showing in his voice, even though he tried to hide it. “I failed all of you. And…to be honest, I just couldn’t do it anymore. You, Selina, Helena…how many more people had to be hurt or killed because of me?”

“You didn’t fail. We weren’t hurt by anything you did, Bruce. The Joker was…is, sick. What happened to us wasn’t your fault, so you can stop being a martyr and get over yourself.” She stopped talking and waited.

He thought about what she said. She was right, and he knew it. He’d always known Barbara was smart and strong, and he’d been proud of her. Now, he was even more proud of her as he saw how much stronger she’d become. They’d had disagreements in the past, but she would always give in to him eventually. Afraid to question him too much, she would hesitate before disagreeing. Now, there was no hesitation. His leaving, in combination with all she’d been through had obviously forced her to become stronger and less hesitant with her decisions. It was a good change to see. Still…

Closing his eyes to steady himself, he took a deep breath. “Barbara…”

“Don’t even tell me you’re not playing the martyr, Bruce. You and I both know it’s true, and to tell you the truth…I’m sick of it,” Barbara said, her hands tightening into fists. She pushed herself up in the bed so she was facing him more or less, despite the pain it caused. The IV she had stuck in her hand wouldn’t allow her to sit up all the way. “And, while we’re on the subject…I’m tired of this whole ‘guilty’ routine. Nine years ago, you left just when I needed you most! That was the absolute darkest day of my life, and the one person other than my father that I thought I could count on just left! Now, I don’t need you and you’re here. Why did you show up? Not sure I’d live this time?” she asked accusingly.

“Barbara, I…” he started.

“Humph, I should have known,” she said angrily. Shaking her head, she said, “I should have known. Helena and the rest…they told me this was temporary.” She said, waving her hands vaguely in the air, indicating her eyes. She was mumbling now, more to herself than anything else.

Hearing what she said, Bruce laughed. When she heard him, she said, “What the Hell’s so funny?”

“Helena…” he said through fits of laughter.

Not understanding, she quirked a brow in his direction. “Helena? You saw her?”

“I did. Before I came to see you. She told me not to come here…that you’d think they’d all lied to you,” he said, finally getting himself under control. Turning serious again, he added, “She knows you very well.”

“So, I’m not…?” Barbara began, and then, unable to wrap her mind around the idea that he’d spoken to Helena, she said, “You saw her?”

“Barbara, you’re not permanently blind. The doctor really did say temporary,” Bruce answered her. “And yes, I saw her. I just left her, right before I came here.”

“And you lived to tell the tale? She didn’t throw you out?” Barbara asked incredulously.

“Well, she did throw me out, but I refused to leave,” he said, the smile on his face evident in his voice. “You did a wonderful job with her, Barbara. Thank you,” he said.

“You’re welcome, but I don’t think I did that much. She was already pretty much grown when she came to live with me,” Barbara said.

“That’s not what I’ve heard, Barbara. I know she was…shall we say…difficult,” Bruce said, becoming serious once again.

“She had her moments,” Barbara agreed, not quite ready to tell him exactly how difficult Helena had been at times.

“Yes, so I’ve heard,” he said, amused. Then, changing the direction of the conversation slightly, he said, “She seems to genuinely care for you, though, so you must have done something right.”

“I’m not so sure of that,” Barbara said in answer, snorting softly. “I don’t think she’s very thrilled with me right now.”

“Oh? You two have an argument?” he asked.

Barbara nodded. “This morning. I was…having a moment,” she said, unwilling to admit completely that she’d been a bitch, and the argument was entirely her fault.

“Well, that’s to be expected,” he said amiably. “You’ve been through a lot, lately. I’m sure she understands, Barbara.”

“She does understand, Bruce,” Barbara finally said, sighing. “It’s just that I…She’s trying so hard to help and make things easier for me…and I…I just seem to make things worse,” she said miserably. Dropping her head, she whispered, “I lost it this morning and told her I didn’t need her. I was wrong, but she got mad and stormed out. I haven’t seen her since.”

She’ll be back,” he said quietly, reaching over and placing a hand on hers to comfort her.

“Did she tell you?” Barbara asked, suddenly grateful he was there to talk to.

“She didn’t mention it to me. I got the feeling she didn’t want me to know too much about her life,” he said.

“That would be her,” Barbara said, smiling slightly, thinking about how uncomfortable Helena must have been talking to Bruce. She was always all emotion and hyperactivity. Bruce was no emotion and stillness. It must have driven the brunette nuts.

“You care for her a great deal,” he said, making it a statement, not a question.

“I do,” she said shyly.

“Do you love her?”

“With all my heart,” she said in answer, not caring what he thought about her right then.

He squeezed her hand gently. He was already aware of their relationship; he just needed to hear Barbara say it. “She’ll be back, Barbara. She loves you, too.”

“How can you be so sure?” she asked, not even realizing that he seemed to already know more about them than he should.

“I talked to her, Barbara,” he said, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. “She didn’t say anything specific, but it’s obvious how she feels.”

Still not sure that what he said was true, she nodded. “If you say so,” she said forlornly. “This is all still so new to both of us…” she trailed off.

“Barbara, I’ve never known you to doubt things,” he said, beginning to get worried about her. In all the time he’d known her, she’d never been prone to doubting her decisions.

“Yeah well…things change, Bruce,” she said quietly. “My decision making skills have been questionable lately,” she said wryly as she stifled a yawn.

Letting the statement go, he decided to ignore it. “I should let you sleep,” he said, squeezing her hand again.

“You don’t have to go,” she said, trying to stay awake, even though the pain meds were finally kicking in and she was getting tired.

“I do, Barbara. I’m glad I came to see you,” he said, meaning it. “I’ll be sticking around for the next few weeks, so I’ll see you again. I promise. I’ve missed you.”

Drifting off, Barbara barely managed to say, “Missed you, too, Bruce.”

* * * * *

When Barbara woke up the next morning, she wasn’t sure if Bruce had really been there or not. It could have been just another hallucination, for all she knew. But, when the doctor arrived to examine her injuries, he mentioned that her bills were all paid up. And, knowing Bruce, she was sure he was the one who had paid them.

Once the doctor was finished going over everything, he stepped back and smiled at her. “Well, Ms. Gordon, it seems you’re healing well. I believe it’s time to release you. You have your choice. I would prefer you go to a rehab facility for a week or two. However, if Ms. Kyle is continuing your PT, I’d be willing to allow you to return home, instead.”

Barbara swallowed hard, before answering. As she remembered the argument they’d had yesterday, she choked back her tears. “Ms. Kyle,” she said, enunciating carefully, the words tasting like ash in her mouth, “won’t be continuing my PT. Please arrange to have me transferred to the rehab facility.”

His brows creased, wondering what had happened. But, instead of asking, he simply said, “Okay…I’ll make arrangements and have your transfer ready in about two hours. Good day, Ms. Gordon.” He then turned and went about his rounds, leaving her to herself.

Once she was sure he was gone, she blew out a breath. ‘Well this just sucks!’ she thought to herself. She hated rehab. She really, really hated rehab. For one thing, the staff always treated her like she was too fragile. And now, they’d tiptoe around her and feel sorry for her because she had been taken by the Wheelchair Killer. And the only thing she hated more than the rehab facility was people feeling sorry for her. On the bright side, she thought sarcastically, at least she wouldn’t be able to see them staring and pointing at her. Jesus, could this day get any worse? Unable to keep it inside any longer, she began to cry. Why couldn’t she have just listened to Helena and the others just this once? None of this would have happened, if she had.

Twenty minutes later, Dinah and Dick came in. Both of them were excited to hear that she was finally leaving the hospital, and Dinah immediately began packing up Barbara’s things. Another hour and a nurse came by to announce that her transport was ready. So, allowing the nurse to help her into the manual wheelchair she’d brought in with her, she sat back and grudgingly let the woman push her out to the waiting van.

* * * * *

2 Nights Later

As Dinah heard the unmistakable sound of Helena landing on the balcony, she got up from her spot in front of the Delphi. Moving rapidly over to the double doors, she flung them open. “Helena?” she said, not immediately seeing the brunette.

“Hey, Kid,” Helena’s voice sounded brittle.

As she stepped into the light, Dinah gasped. Helena looked…well, the only way to describe it was that she looked like Hell. As Dinah got a closer look, she realized the brunette probably hadn’t bathed in at least the last two days following the argument with Barbara. Then of course, there was the blood on her hands and clothes. Whatever had happened, from the looks of her, she’d been in a horrible fight.

Grabbing Helena’s hands, Dinah said, “Helena! What happened to your hands? Is this your blood, or someone else’s?”

When Dinah grabbed her hands, Helena hissed through her teeth. She tried to pull them away, but Dinah held on tight. “Easy, D! Geez, I know I heal fast, but damn…cuts and things still hurt, you know.”

Looking sheepish, the teen said through a fall of blond hair covering her eyes, “Sorry, I just…what happened?” She pushed the hair back and tucked it behind an ear.

“I…God Dinah, I’m not sure,” Helena said, sighing. “One minute I was jumping from building to building. The next thing I know, there’s a mugger harassing some young girl. I jumped down to help her, and…” she fell silent, shaking her head.

“Helena? Hel, what happened?” Dinah asked, becoming concerned. Growing bold due to the brunette’s unusually calm demeanor, she reached over and tilted the other woman’s chin up. As she caught sight of Helena’s eyes, she gasped again.

“I know, D,” Helena whispered. “I…they haven’t changed back since I left the hospital the other day. Now…I lost it again, Dinah.” Her voice could have been tissue paper, it was so thin. “I couldn’t stop. When I finally came back to myself, I called 911 and then I ran. I’m not even sure how I ended up here.”

“Helena, maybe you should go and talk to her? I know she’s been missing you, and…well…maybe you’d feel better. You know…if you’d just try?” Dinah said pleadingly, hoping that the brunette would take her advice.

Helena shook her head. “Don’t you think I’d like to, D?” She took a deep breath and continued. “I can’t be around her right now, though. I can’t control this, and it’d be too dangerous.”

Beginning to really worry, Dinah forced herself to stay calm. Helena’s emotions were already ramped up and leaking everywhere. If she wasn’t careful, they’d overwhelm her, as well. “Helena,” Dinah began, trying another tactic, “why don’t you come inside and let me look at your hands? We can talk about this.” She was worried. Really worried. Helena was shaking again, and she could literally feel the feral energy crackling around the brunette.

Helena shook her head. “I can’t, D. I just wanted to tell you I was going. Say goodbye to Dick and Alfred for me, okay? And…” she hesitated; clearly not believing the possibility even existed. “If Barbara asks…tell her she’ll know where to find me. I need to rest and heal.” Then, without waiting for a reply, she pulled the girl to her and gave her a hug. When she released Dinah, Helena turned and jumped off the balcony, landing on the building next door.

Dinah watched, stunned, as Helena ran off into the night, fading into the shadows. Then she began to cry. She’d had enough. None of this was right, and she couldn’t believe that life could be so unfair. Slipping down until she was sitting on the balcony floor, she pulled her knees up to her chin and sobbed.

* * * * *

Finally arriving back at the Dark Horse, Helena had a decision to make. She had to get to her apartment. The way she looked, she couldn’t exactly go through the bar. She didn’t want to scare the customers or have anyone calling the police. So, climbing the fire escape down, she let herself in through the living room window.

Making her way into her room, she quickly stripped out of her blood-soaked clothes. Then she headed into the bathroom for a shower. Even in her feral state, she was still aware enough to know that she couldn’t travel in her present condition.

Starting the shower, she stepped in and allowed the hot water to cleanse away some of the blood and grime. As she stood there, slowly rubbing soap over her arms, she found herself thinking about the last few weeks. The more she thought about her relationship with Barbara, the more depressed she became. When they’d returned from their vacation, Helena had believed that nothing could tear them apart. She’d never even considered the idea that Barbara herself could be the cause of their problems. And yes, she had looked at it from every angle. She had done everything she possibly could to keep them together. This time, it was Barbara. Well…Barbara and that damned transponder, anyway. Maybe if she’d been more adamant about Barbara finding another way..? But no, she shook her head. There was no other way, and she knew it. Only Barbara’s way…and they’d all seen how that had worked out.

Shaking her head even as she attempted to control her feral side for just a little longer, she felt herself slide down to the floor of the shower. Pulling her knees up to her chest, she wrapped her arms around them and leaned her forehead on her arms. Drowning in pain and sorrow, she just sat there as the water from the shower fell down on her. And she hoped…beyond reason…that it would wash away all her pain and fear….

An hour later, dressed in clean clothes, Helena made her way downstairs. Shaking minutely, it was taking all her strength to control her emotions for just a little longer. Stopping long enough to leave a note for Leonard, she made her way outside and into the enclosed parking lot across the street. Strapping a small duffle bag to the back of Barbara’s motorcycle, she mounted and started the bike up.

With one last look at the Dark Horse, Helena pulled out of the parking lot and hit the road. Her emotions feeling ragged and scrubbed raw from the shower, she headed for the only sanctuary she had left. Hopefully, she thought, the snow had melted by now.

* * * * *

Two hours later, Helena pulled up to the front of The Rook. Parking the bike, she grabbed her duffle bag off the back and let herself in. Heading for her bedroom first, her room, not the one she’d shared with Barbara, she took off her backpack and tossed it on the bed next to the duffle. Then, she headed downstairs to the bar.

Opening a bottle of Stoli, she stepped over to the stereo and turned it on, cranking up the volume on the Evanescence tune, ‘My Immortal’. She set the stereo to ‘repeat’ and flopped onto the couch.

“I’m so tired of being here,
Suppressed by all my childish fears
If you have to leave,
I wish that you would just leave
Cause your presence still lingers here,
and it won’t leave me alone
These wounds won’t seem to heal,
This pain is just too real
There’s just too much that time cannot erase
When you cried, I’d wipe away all of your tears
When you’d scream I’d fight away all of your fears
I held your hand through all of these years
But you still have, all of me”

As she lay there listening to the song, over and over again, Helena became more and more depressed. It amazed her that her life with Barbara was written out in this song. They’d been there for each other for so long…drying each others’ tears, holding each other through their nightmares…still…even turning Helena away…Barbara owned her. She still had all of Helena. There was no denying that, and Helena didn’t want to. Still, as restless and full of pain as she was, she couldn’t just sit here.

With a scream of rage, she stood up and began to pace. Anger welling up from the depths of her soul, she stopped pacing and threw the bottle across the room, only to watch it shatter against the wall. And, as she watched the shards fall to the floor, she knew that was all that was left of who she was. Broken shards, bits and pieces of who she once had been. Barbara had taken her soul and stripped her bare, exposing all of who she was. Standing there, she saw the Vodka rolling down the wall in rivulets of pain that echoed the tears rolling down her face.

Now that Barbara was gone, there was nothing, no Barbara, no self…nothing. Letting out one long, deep throated growl, she turned and ran. With no plan and no destination, she left out the front door and just ran. As far and as fast as she could, until the scents of the woods surrounded her, enveloping her in its’ wildness. Answering the call of her animal nature at long last, no longer caring what happened to herself; Helena released her last tenuous hold on her humanity.

* * * * *

3 Days Later

Barbara turned toward the door when she heard them come in. Even without seeing, she knew she wasn’t with them…again. She asked anyway. “So, Helena come with you?” She needed to see the brunette. Well, not ‘see,’ her, she thought, since she was blind and all. Still, she really needed to talk to Helena. To apologize. Just to hear her voice. To touch her. Oh God, how she needed to feel her touch.

“Not today,” Dick answered, his voice carefully controlled. “We didn’t think it would be a good idea, Barbara.”

“We?” she asked accusingly. Already, she could feel her anger flaring to life. It was never far from the surface, and having other people make decisions for her just fanned the flames faster.

Dick sighed. “Barbara, having Helena here would just get you angrier, faster. You’re supposed to be resting. The doctor said it’s the best way for the swelling to go down.”

“I don’t give a shit what the doctor said,” Barbara said in answer. “And I’m damn tired of all of you making decisions for me, too. Where’s she at?” she demanded.

He rolled his eyes. Barbara…”

“No!” Barbara yelled, unwilling to listen to his platitudes any longer. Helena had promised she’d never leave her, and now, when she needed her most…where was she? She was just like her father, Barbara thought fleetingly. “Stop feeding me a line of bullshit and tell me where she is!”

“She’s having some problems of her own, right now. It wouldn’t be a good idea for her to be around you,” he answered, unwilling to tell her exactly what had happened to Helena. To be honest, he wasn’t even sure where she’d run off to. Dinah’s explanation hadn’t been very enlightening. And he’d be damned if he was going to tell Barbara anything. In her current state, it would only make her more agitated.

Barbara snorted. “She’s having problems? I’m stuck here in this place, covered in bandages and stitches, blind…and she’s having problems?” Barbara shook her head in disbelief. This was just so typical of Helena. Promise the world but, when push comes to shove, she runs away. Sick of everything, she said, “Get out. Both of you, just…get out.”

Dick reached out to touch her arm, to offer some kind of comfort. “Barbara, please…”

“I said, get out! Now!” she screamed, and slammed her head back into her pillows.

Dick turned and looked at Dinah. He took her by the arm and practically pulled her from the room. “Come on, Dinah. Let’s go.”

When they were in the hall and the door had closed behind them, Dinah stopped, pulling away from Dick. “Stop. We can’t just leave her like this.” She’d never seen Barbara so upset. Not even when she and Helena had argued in the past. And the pain she felt rolling off of Barbara was like a tidal wave, threatening to overwhelm the older woman. She had to do something.

“Dinah, there’s nothing we can do. Not right now, anyway,” Dick said, sitting down on one of the chairs in the waiting room. “I know Barbara’s mood is scary, but it’s not the first time I’ve seen her like this. Trust me, she’ll get better. Just give her some time.”

Dinah crossed her arms over her chest and shook her head. For some reason, Dick seemed to feel like she needed to be treated like she was only about eight or nine years old. “No. I don’t think so.” Attempting to keep her voice even, she tried to explain. “I can feel her pain, Dick. Whether she wants to admit it or not, she needs Helena.”

“Yeah well, right now that’s not an option, is it?” he said, understanding the brunette’s decision, but angry with her for making it.

Dinah had to agree with him on that. Right now, Helena’s inability to keep the feral part of herself under any semblance of control was a dangerous situation. The brunette had purposely been avoiding seeing Barbara after their argument. She knew they’d argue, and then she’d lose control. It was the last thing she’d wanted to put Barbara through. But now…Helena was still blaming herself for Barbara getting caught by the Wheelchair Killer. And, she’d left town because of her inability to control herself. She knew she’d do something terrible to the people she loved most, if she stayed. It was a dangerous combination, and Helena was trying to be responsible by not making a bad situation worse. Dinah had to admire the strength it took to do it. Still, she wished the other woman hadn’t run off the way she had. She didn’t think she could do the same. And yet, she had to try to help her friends.

Making a decision, she said, “I’m going back in to talk to her.”

“Dinah,” Dick said, “It won’t help. And, I don’t think you should tell her…”

Dinah shrugged as she walked away toward Barbara’s room. “I have to try. I owe them that much.” And, she thought, they deserved so much more. Reaching the door to Barbara’s room, she stopped and took a deep breath before pushing it open quietly.

Stepping into the room, she stood and watched the redhead. At the moment, her head was turned away from the door, and she appeared to be crying. Dinah couldn’t help it. She’d never seen Barbara cry before, and it struck her how odd it seemed to witness it now. The older woman had always seemed so strong, so capable of handling everything, that Dinah sometimes forgot that she was also human. Taking another deep breath, she steeled herself to do what she’d come here for. But before she could speak, Barbara sniffed and turned her head toward the door once again.

“I thought I told you to leave?” she said, her voice void of any emotion but pain and bitterness.

“I…I couldn’t just leave, Barbara,” Dinah began, “Not when you’re in so much pain.”

“Humph, you have no idea what pain is,” the older woman said.

Dinah recognized Barbara’s tactic and refused to fall for it. She’d seen her do it to Helena any number of times. Say something mean and hateful, piss her off enough, and the brunette would run away, drown herself in Vodka, and not come back until they’d both calmed down. Instead, she simply answered, “I know I should have told you before this, but my powers have been growing over the past few months. I’m not just a ‘touch telepath’ now.” She came closer, sitting down on the chair next to the bed.

When Barbara didn’t say anything, she took that as a good sign and went on. “I don’t have to be touching someone to feel their emotions or read their minds, anymore.”

Curious despite herself, Barbara asked, “So what do you feel, now?”

“What do I feel? Or…what do I feel from you?” Dinah asked cautiously.

Barbara shrugged. “You tell me.”

Relaxing back into the chair, Dinah said, “Well, there’s pain, both physical and emotional. More specifically, you’re pissed off that Helena isn’t here for you, because you need her. But, you’re also pissed off that you told her to leave in the first place, so you think it’s really your fault that she’s not here. Then there’s the anger. You’re angry at Helena for trying to tell you not to set yourself up for the killer even though you knew she was right. And you’re still angry because you’re paralyzed, and you can’t be what you once were. There’s also the anger over getting caught and attacked, and the feelings of helplessness that go along with it…” She looked over at the redhead, who still hadn’t said anything during her analysis.

“How am I doing, so far?” she asked, not wanting to go on, but willing to if it got Barbara to talk.

Still not betraying any emotion, Barbara answered, “I don’t need to hear anymore, Sigmund. You can leave now.”

Dinah shook her head. “No. Barbara, I’m not going to leave. You’re not going to push me away.” Closing her eyes, she took another deep breath. Briefly changing the subject, she said, “You know…the doctor said you could go home and finish recuperating there. As long as someone’s there to help you.”

“Yeah, right,” Barbara said sarcastically. “Who would that be, Dinah? You, Dick, my father…Alfred?”

“We could all pitch in. We’d all be glad to help if it meant having you back home,” she said hopefully.

Barbara shook her head at Dinah’s naiveté. “Do you have any idea what ‘helping me’ entails, Dinah? Do you have any clue what you’re asking?” Before the girl could answer, she let her anger take over, and she continued. “You know before…when I was only paralyzed…I had a routine I had to follow every so many hours. Now, I can’t even see to follow that routine. Do you really think I want you, or Dick or, God forbid my father or Alfred, to have to follow me to the bathroom and help me with even the simplest things? Jesus, losing the use of my legs was bad enough, but now, I can’t even see to go to the bathroom by myself. How do you think that makes me feel?”

Dinah cringed. Of course she’d known Barbara had certain routines to follow. It simply hadn’t occurred to her that losing her eyesight would make those more difficult. She should have known, she just hadn’t been thinking. “Barbara, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you. I just thought that maybe…if you were home, you’d be more…comfortable. I could help you, if you’d let me.”

Barbara shook her head. “No. I can be miserable here, thanks anyway.”

“If Helena were here, would you come home then? Would you let her help you?” Dinah asked, getting irritated.

“She’s done it before,” Barbara said quietly. “When I was first paralyzed…and she’d just come to live with me. She helped a lot. She knows everything I need, and she knows what to do.” She turned her head away from the blond and bit her lower lip, not wanting her to see her crying again. The cruelty of her mind was replaying visions of her night at Helena’s apartment only weeks before.

“So…you’ll let Helena help you and no one else?” Dinah asked.

“Dinah, Helena and I are…were…close,” Barbara managed to say, stumbling over the words. “She knows my body…me…better than anyone,” she ground out, hating the fact that she was having this conversation. The fact that she was having it with a teenager only made her hate it more. But, Dinah needed to come to an understanding of Barbara’s limitations.

Dinah blushed at Barbara’s attempted description of her relationship with Helena. It was tactful, and yet said more than enough. Attempting to erase the mental picture that briefly flashed through her mind, something she picked up from Barbara’s thoughts, she wrinkled her nose, and said, “Ew Barbara, TMI already!”

Barbara smirked. “You asked.”

“So if you just need someone who knows what to do and is already…uh…familiar with your bo…I mean, you…why not Dick? I know you two used to be a couple.”

Sighing loudly and beginning to lose patience with the girl; Barbara simply couldn’t understand why Dinah refused to let this go, she said, “I wouldn’t be comfortable with that arrangement. Besides, it wouldn’t be right somehow, asking him to help me with intimate, personal things like bathing when we’re not together anymore. He’s never done it before, and isn’t familiar with what I need, anyway. Now please, drop this and leave.”

Grinding her teeth in anger, but refusing to back down, Dinah said, “I understand what you’re saying, but…”

Feeling as if she were talking to a small child, Barbara clenched her jaw. “Dinah, Helena is who I would prefer. Besides, could you imagine how she’d react when she found out that Dick was the one helping me with something so personal?”

Dinah knew perfectly well how Helena would react. But at that moment, she doubted that Barbara knew just how bad that reaction could be. Agreeing with the redhead’s base assessment, she said, “I understand probably better than you right now how Helena would react. My question to you is: Why do you care? You’re the one who sent her away.”

Rolling her eyes, Barbara said, “I was angry, Dinah.”

“Yeah, I got that part. You’ve been angry a lot, lately,” the teen answered sarcastically.

“Wouldn’t you be?” Barbara retorted.

“Probably, but…Look Barbara, I know you don’t want to talk about Helena right now, but…” Dinah began, hoping to get Barbara to open up about what was going on with her where the brunette was concerned.

Getting more pissed off by the moment at the way the teen kept pushing her about Helena, Barbara said through gritted teeth, “You can leave now.”

“What? No, I…”

Barbara’s voice was beginning to get louder. “Get out! That subject is off limits to you.”

Taking a deep breath, Dinah said, “Barbara, I’m not leaving, and you can’t make me.”

Shaking her head, frustrated at her own inability to ‘do’ anything, she said, “Dinah, I’ll deal with this when I’m good and ready. I don’t need some child telling me how I should feel. Or what I should be doing.”

Standing up, her anger beginning to get the better of her, Dinah answered, “I’m not trying to tell you anything, Barbara. But from what I can see, you’re not ‘dealing’ at all. You’re ignoring the problem and pushing it down inside yourself.” She took a deep breath before continuing. “From where I’m sitting, it looks like you’re deliberately trying to sabotage your relationship with Helena. And I think you know that.”

Shaking with anger, Barbara’s voice became dangerously quiet. “I said…get out. Now.”

“No. You are going to listen to me. Or,” a sudden idea had occurred to Dinah, and she hoped this tactic worked. “Better yet, let me show you what’s been happening while you’ve been gone.” She reached over and grabbed Barbara’s hand in a death grip. “You don’t have a monopoly on pain, Barbara. We’ve all been suffering these past few weeks.”

“I know that, now let me go.”

Ignoring the demand to release her mentor, Dinah pushed on. “Do you? Because you sure haven’t been acting like it. We’ve all been hurting, Helena more than the rest of us, I think.”

As Dinah gripped her hand, images began flooding her mind. She watched, from Dinah’s point of view, as Helena exploded at the news of her capture. She saw how the brunette barely managed to maintain control of her feral side. She could literally feel the anger rolling off her, it was so strong. She’d felt it before, of course. Helena had always had a strong presence, and even more so when strong emotions were involved. But this was unlike anything Barbara had ever felt from her before. Experiencing it now, the way that Dinah did, she found it difficult to understand how the teen managed to control all the emotions she was bombarded with.

Finding herself oddly fascinated with the images she was seeing, she pushed the thought to the back of her mind for now. She watched, dumbstruck, as she heard Helena ask Dick to kill her if she lost control, before she could hurt him. Following the images, she eventually came to the moment in Helena’s apartment. Brought to tears, unable to turn away, as Dinah found Helena curled up and shaking, in the corner. And she listened, really listened, to what Helena said. The confession of her fear that she would lose control completely….Then she watched, as Dinah sat next to the sleeping brunette, using her meta talents to quietly enter the others’ mind and attempt to shore up her weakened defenses. Barbara felt a stab of pride for her youngest protégé at that moment.

From there, she was led to another scene. The scene of her rescue. She was horrified to see Helena sitting in the corner, cradling her own naked body. Then, a chill ran through her as she heard the deep throated growl escape the brunette at Dinah’s approach. Watching Helena, she could see that she had indeed, lost control. She saw how protective Helena was of her body, cradling her as best she could.

Then, on to another scene. This time, Dinah standing across from the brunette, bloody and filthy, on the balcony of the Clocktower. Attempting to reason with Helena and failing miserably, Dinah listens as Helena tries to explain what happened. Barbara can literally ‘feel’ Helena’s feral side. Watching more closely, she notices that the brunettes’ eyes have changed and don’t seem to be changing back to their normal color. She listens as the younger woman attempts to explain how her loss of control almost caused her to kill some mugger she’d gone after that night. Then, she’s floored to hear Helena tell Dinah that she won’t be going to see Barbara anymore, that she’s leaving. It’s simply too dangerous. No longer able to maintain control, she’s afraid that she’ll end up hurting someone.

Ready to end this movie-like reel of nightmares, Barbara tries to break away from Dinah’s grip. Dinah however, isn’t letting go just yet. “I have a few more things to show you, Barbara. Please don’t be mad when I show them to you. We had no idea what we were eavesdropping on when we started. We really only thought the two of you were downstairs getting drunk and listening to music.”

Then, Barbara was transported back to that night at the cabin. She remembered vividly, how they’d returned with the girls from the eighties dance. Only this time, she was watching it as Dinah saw it. She watched from the pool room as Helena picked her up out her wheelchair and held her tight, swaying to the music. And, even though no words could be heard, it was obvious just by watching, that the two of them were completely in love with each other.

Suddenly overwhelmed and unable to continue, Dinah released her grip on Barbara. “I’m sorry, Barbara, I just can’t do anymore. But I had to show you…I had to make you see. Helena…she’s…” the girls’ voice tapered off. No longer able to speak, she simply flopped back down into the chair, exhausted.

Crying now and not caring that Dinah could see her, Barbara took a moment to attempt to get herself under some sort of control. Finding it almost impossible, she finally managed to choke out, “Dinah, it’s okay. Thank you…for showing me this. I needed to see it, I think. To know for sure…”

“She didn’t leave you, Barbara,” Dinah whispered. “Not for the reasons you were thinking, anyway. She just couldn’t be around you right now. All the anger in you was triggering the feral side of her. She was already just barely hanging on. She tried to hide it, but her eyes…they haven’t been normal in days.” Dinah fell silent for a moment, before finally saying, “She’s slipping away from us, Barbara. She needs you.”

Then, knowing that the blond teen’s words were true, Barbara broke into harsh sobs. No longer able to keep the pain hidden away, she gratefully fell into the girls’ embrace when she felt strong arms wrap around her. “I need to find her, Dinah. I’ve got to get out of here. Do you know where she is?”

Holding the older woman tightly, stroking her hair, Dinah answered quietly. “She left a few days ago. She told me to tell you that you’d know where to find her if you need her. She needed to rest and heal. That’s all she said.”

Fear racing through her at the words, Barbara pulled away from the teen. Taking a deep breath, she said, “Help me get dressed. Then, go get Dick. I have to go to her.”

Dinah did as she was told. Searching through the drawers in the room, she finally found clean socks, jeans, and a sweater. Walking back over to the bed, she quickly helped Barbara out of the old NGPD t-shirt and sweat pants she’d been using as pajamas. Then, she helped her get into the jeans and sweater. When that was done, Barbara sent her to find Dick, while she finished pulling on her socks and shoes.

By the time Dinah had returned with Dick in tow, Barbara had finished dressing. She then asked the teen to accompany her into the bathroom so she could finish getting ready. Right now, Barbara didn’t care that Dinah had never helped her before; all she knew was that she needed to get to Helena. Within fifteen minutes, she had reappeared, ready to travel.

Realizing what Barbara was planning, Dick started to argue with her. There was no way he was going to allow her to risk her life again. Not so soon…and not for Helena. But, when she spoke to him, imploring him to help her find the brunette, he found he just couldn’t say ‘no’ to her. No matter what he thought of their relationship, Helena made Barbara happy. And, because he loved the redhead so much, he wouldn’t deny her anything, if he could help it. So, pushing her in her wheelchair to the front desk, he stood silently by as she signed herself out of the rehab facility. Then, hating the very idea of what they were about to do, he helped her into the Hummer and set off for Helena’s cabin.

* * * * *

The Huntress watched through the trees as the two approached. Not far enough gone to forget their names, she silently cursed as she turned and headed further into the woods. Two things about them coming here angered her. First, Dick had no business being here. Didn’t he know that she could, and would, kill him if he gave her the slightest reason? Second, Barbara was once again wearing her neural transponder and walking. Not wanting to hurt either of them, she clamped down on what was left of her civilized side. Stopping once more, she hid in a small stand of trees, blending in perfectly. As she watched, she caught part of their conversation.

“Barbara,” Dick was saying, “I still don’t think this is a good idea.” He was holding on to her arm and appeared to be leading her down the path through the trees. “We don’t even know if she’s out here. The front door was left open. Who knows what might have happened. Maybe we should call the police?”

At his side, Barbara was walking, taking halting, unsure steps. The Huntress heard her sigh as she answered him. “Dick, I have to find her. You and I both know the police couldn’t help with this. She’s in so much pain; I can’t just let her…be taken by it.”

He shook his head. “I get what you’re saying, but…Barbara, she’s dangerous at the best of times. Now? Who knows what she’s capable of?” He knew Barbara wouldn’t listen to a word he said. No matter what Helena did, Barbara always seemed to forgive her. Although to be fair, what was happening to Helena now wasn’t entirely her fault. Before he’d agreed to bring Barbara out here Dinah had shown him the scenes of Helena’s pain. He knew how much she was suffering. And, because the brunette made Barbara happy, he was willing to do this…for Barbara. And, if he were being honest with himself, he was doing it for Bruce, too. Helena was his daughter, after all. On some level, he felt he owed it to Bruce to watch over his only child, even if she was a huge pain in the ass at the best of times.

Barbara patted his arm. “She won’t hurt me, Dick. I know she won’t.”

“I sure hope you know what you’re doing,” he said, a defeated sigh escaping his lips.

“Trust me,” she said in answer. And, as she continued to follow his lead, she let her mind wander to Helena’s predicament. The understanding she’d gained from Dinah’s insight had torn her heart open and rendered her, if not whole again, at least functional. For now, it would have to do. For Helena’s sake, it would have to.

Another few minutes walking the trail and calling Helena’s name, and suddenly, Dick stopped. Something in the air changed, and he said quietly, “Helena.”

In the cool darkness of the late afternoon, standing in the trees at the side of the path, was the brunette. Dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, barefoot and dirty, she said nothing. No words escaped the smirking lips at first, only a low, soft growl. Then, cocking her head to the side, Helena said quietly, “Dick.”

Barbara looked in the direction of the voice, visibly cringing at the sound of the growl. Not letting her fear that Helena was almost gone stop her, she forced herself to speak. “Helena, I’m here. I’ve come for you.”

Her voice dangerously quiet, Helena replied. “You brought him with you. Didn’t trust me, Red?”

“Of course I trust you, Hel,” Barbara answered. “I…” not sure what to say, she faltered before mumbling, “My eyes.”

Standing absolutely still, fighting the urge to turn and run, she said, “You should leave. It’s not safe here.”

“I won’t leave here without you, Hel.” Barbara’s voice grew a little stronger as she said the words, knowing that she meant them.

“You should,” Helena whispered, knowing that both of them could hear her.

Afraid that if the brunette left now, she’d lose her for good, Barbara let her ego fall away. Practically pleading, she said, “I just want…I need…to talk to you. Please don’t go.”

Helena took a step closer. “He needs to leave, first. He knows why.”

Hearing her words, Dick looked at her sharply. “Barbara, I don’t think…”

Barbara cut him off. “Dick, it will be okay. She’s not going to hurt me.”

“How will you get back?” he asked, desperately unwilling to leave her out here alone with a feral Helena.

Her voice never wavering in its’ conviction, she simply said, “She’ll help me.” Then, releasing his arm, she turned him around and pushed him in the opposite direction. “Dick, trust me. Go.”

“But?” he protested.

“Go back to the cabin. We’ll be there later.”

Then, when she was satisfied that he’d gone, she turned back toward Helena’s last heard position. “Okay, he’s gone.” When she didn’t get a response, she began to worry a little. Unable to see, she was suddenly, absurdly afraid that the brunette had left. Briefly she wondered how she’d get back to the cabin without help if that were the case. Even though she could walk at the moment, she still wasn’t able to see to find her way. Logically, she knew Helena would never abandon her. Not in a dangerous situation. Then, she heard the slight shuffling of the younger woman’s feet in the detritus of the forest floor as she moved a step or two closer. “Hel? Please…say something.”

Helena, taken by surprise that Barbara would send Dick away, took a step closer. Still not within reach, she stopped again. It was so tempting to reach out and touch the redhead. She wanted to desperately. It had been sooo long…and, Barbara’s scent was driving her crazy. The heady mixture of the redhead’s personal scent, combined with a generous dose of fear and nervousness was a powerful combination. Still, some part of her knew that Barbara wouldn’t welcome it right now. Not after everything that she’d been through.

The overpowering feeling of blood and adrenaline coursing through her veins made her uneasy. Afraid that her voice would betray her near insanity to the beautiful woman standing there waiting for her answer, frightened her beyond anything else in her life. Then, hearing the pleading tone in Barbara’s voice, smelling the fear, she couldn’t resist anymore. No longer caring whether her voice shook or not, she whispered roughly, “You’re wearing it again.”

Relieved to hear that Helena hadn’t left, Barbara answered in the only way she could. “I had to. It’s the only way I could get to you.”

“I thought…destroyed when…?” Helena let the question trail off, unwilling to bring up any memories of what had happened.

Barbara, understanding what the brunette was asking, said, “It was. This is the prototype.” Fully aware of the trust she was putting in the other woman at this moment, she continued. “Hel, I just came here to talk to you. I’ll tell you what, I’m going to sit down now, and take this thing off. The truth is…it hurts like Hell and I can’t take much more,” she said, wincing and not caring if the other woman saw the pain flash across her features.

As she bent her knees to sit down, Helena was suddenly there, catching her arm. “Not here,” the brunette said, leading her a few feet away and planting her on a large rock. “Poison ivy.”

A smile crossed her face. “Thanks Hel,” she said quietly, thankful that there still seemed to be a part of the brunette in there somewhere. “Would you mind helping me take this thing off?”

Without a word, Helena reached over and unfastened the belt. Then, she held on to Barbara as the redhead’s legs began to tremble. Removing the neural transponder always caused muscle tremors in her legs and lower back, she somehow remembered. When the tremors subsided, she let go, the closeness pulling at her feral side. As she stepped back a pace, she asked quietly, “Why did you come here?”

Calmly, Barbara answered. “You told Dinah that if I needed you I’d know where to find you.” She waited a moment, taking a deep breath. “I needed you, Hel. I’ve always needed you.”

Letting the words sink in, Helena closed her eyes and felt them wash over her. Still, she couldn’t allow Barbara to risk herself like this for her. She wasn’t worth it. Shaking her head, she said through gritted teeth, “You shouldn’t. I’m too dangerous, Red. I can’t control this any more.”

“You can, Hel. I’ll help you,” Barbara answered confidently.

She wanted to believe what Barbara was saying. She really did. But her feral side was only pulling at her more strongly, every instinct pushing her to just take the redhead into her arms and ravage her. The effort to control her instincts was causing her to shake violently. She didn’t want Barbara to know how little there was of herself left to lose. Balling her hands into fists and squeezing until she nearly drew blood, she managed to hold on. Again, she asked, “Why did you come here?”

Barbara could hear the lost tone in Helena’s voice. She knew the brunette was very nearly gone and the effort to control the monster inside was taking its toll. Finally, not knowing what else to say, Barbara sighed and said quietly, “Helena, I told you. I need you. I’ve never needed anyone in my life as much as I need you.” She fell silent for a moment, gathering her thoughts. When she continued, she poured every ounce of love she’d ever felt for the other woman into her words. “Helena, that first night…when we made love for the first time…you told me how overwhelmed you felt. How you never knew that it could feel like that.” She shifted, reaching out for the others’ hand. When she felt Helena take hold, she squeezed gently and continued. “Helena, that night…the feral side of you that needs to conquer and control…it found its mate. I know it did. I felt it.” Slightly blushing, Barbara went on. “Hel, I need for you to understand something. No matter what…you and I are mated now for life. There could never be anyone else for me. Not now. I’m so sorry. I never meant to hurt you. You’re the only one for me, Hel, and I need you to come back to me now.”

Helena stood there, listening to Barbara’s words and brushing her thumb over the redhead’s where their hands were joined. Closing her eyes and swallowing hard, she waited until she was sure her voice wouldn’t tremble. “You felt it?” she asked, embarrassed that she’d been unable to hide the animal side of herself from the other woman.

Barbara nodded. “Yes,” she whispered.

Turning her head away, unable to look at the redhead even though Barbara couldn’t see the shame on her features, Helena said nothing. For long moments she stood there, holding on tightly to Barbara’s hand. She’d tried…she’d tried to hide that part of herself from the older woman. There was more than one reason she’d tried to do so. First and foremost, Dick had been correct when he’d said she was dangerous at the best of times. She never wanted to hurt Barbara, not for any reason. Second, Barbara had worked so hard with her, teaching her to control the beast within. It was a dishonor to her to allow it to show, to lose control of it. Third, the small part of Helena that was still completely human knew that if she were to let go, she’d be the most dangerous Meta in New Gotham. She couldn’t do that. She would not allow herself to become the very thing she hunted. Only…right now, she was just that. She had lost herself to the beast.

Finally, closing her eyes and taking a deep breath, Helena noticed the way the shadows were lengthening around them. The sun was beginning to go down. Her voice still broken and rough, she said very quietly, “Gettin’ dark, we should get you back.”

“Is it?” Barbara asked, as if she didn’t have a care in the world. And truth be told, at that moment, the only concern she had was for the lithe brunette standing in front of her, clinging to her hand as though she were drowning. Allowing the thought to pass through her mind, Barbara realized in that instant that Helena was indeed, drowning. Drowning in fear, sorrow, pain and emotional torment.

Feeling the need to explain, Helena rasped out, “You can’t stay here. Gets cold.”

Squeezing the brunette’s hand again, Barbara said, “I’m not leaving without you, Hel. Will you stay with me if we go back to the cabin?”

Helena shook her head. “Can’t. Too dangerous.”

“Then I won’t go back,” Barbara said stubbornly. Logically, she knew it was a silly thing to say. Helena could pick her up and carry her back if she wanted to. Barbara just hoped that it wouldn’t occur to the brunette to do so.

Anger flared within Helena quickly, as if gas had been poured over an open flame. Letting go of Barbara’s hand, she began to pace. “I told you…”

“I’m staying,” Barbara said, cutting her off. “You’ll keep me warm,” she finished softly.

“We shouldn’t. I mean, I can’t…too dangerous,” she said, her voice dropping lower, sounding more and more dangerous. The thought of staying out here, in the woods with Barbara almost too much for the part of her that was the Huntress to ignore.

Barbara kept her voice low and even, instinctively knowing that Helena was teetering on the edge of an abyss. “I trust you. You won’t hurt me, Hel.”

The redhead’s stubbornness was beginning to piss Helena off. She stopped pacing suddenly and turned on the other woman. “You don’t understand!” she yelled. “Being near you…it…it causes me to…I’m losing it, Red.”

Biting her lower lip and taking a deep breath, Barbara forced herself to stay calm. “I know. You won’t hurt me, though. You never have.”

Shaking her head to clear her thoughts, willing herself to stay calm, Helena said, “Never lost it…like this…before.”

Still whispering, Barbara simply said, “I’m here for you, Hel. Whatever you need.” She said earnestly, waiting a breath before quietly adding, “However you need it.”

Helena turned her head sharply, studying the other woman. Did she know what she was saying? Did she really understand what she was offering? Before she could say anything else, Barbara spoke again. “Helena, I’m yours. We belong to each other. I know exactly what I’m saying, and I want you to…take me.”

And that was all it took. The redhead’s words flowed through her, making their way to the part of her which was nothing more than pure animal instinct. Bending over, Helena slipped one arm under Barbara’s legs and the other around her upper body. Not waiting for Barbara to wrap her arms around her neck, she took off, moving through the forest quickly.

“Hel?” Barbara said breathlessly, surprised when the brunette had swept her up and began moving through the woods. “Hel, where are we going? Are we going to the cabin?”

Moving quickly through the trees away from the main trail, she answered, “Old mine. Warm there.” She didn’t bother to elaborate.

Barbara took in a deep breath and snuggled as close to Helena as she could get. Instinctively she knew that the brunette would never drop her, but it just felt sooo good being this close to her again. As they moved through the woods, her mind wandered back to their conversation. What exactly was she in for? Logically, she knew that Helena could hurt her. If she were being completely honest with herself, Helena could kill her if she wasn’t careful. She knew it…she had just been so worried about the brunette; she hadn’t thought it through completely. Now here she was, blind, unable to walk, being carried through the woods by someone who was, basically, losing their mind. If she survived this, it would be a miracle. ‘Way to go, Gordon,’ she thought to herself. ‘The first time you don’t think something through all the way, and it could kill you. Great job’.

Minutes later, Helena carried her into the entrance of the old mine. Moving off to the left, she followed a side tunnel down for another hundred yards. Finally, she came to a stop, depositing Barbara on an old cot covered with a sleeping bag.

Without saying a word, Barbara waited as Helena busied herself around the area. Since she’d set her down she hadn’t said anything, and Barbara only knew she was still there by the noise she made. Within minutes, her curiosity was satisfied as she felt the heat from a fire touching her cheeks.

Then, there was no more time to wonder where Helena was as she felt the brunette standing in front of her. “Warm enough?” she heard Helena whisper, her voice echoing eerily in the old mine shaft.

“I will be soon,” she husked, her voice dropping in register as she reached out for and found, Helena standing directly in front of her. Finding her hand, she pulled her down until she was on her knees.

“Barbara,” Helena said, her breath catching in her throat. “You’re sure?”

“Whatever you need, Hel…However you need it.” She found that it was becoming increasingly difficult to breathe, waiting for the unknown to happen. That Helena was more feral than human right now was certain. She didn’t need to see the brunette’s eyes to know they were golden slits. She wished she could see them, though. She missed looking into those eyes. Then Helena leaned into her and kissed her, taking control of her mouth with everything that she was.

Within moments, Barbara found herself pulled onto the floor, Helena straddling her as she continued to kiss her. Then she felt Helena’s hands on her, seemingly everywhere at once. She writhed under Helena’s touch, never flinching when her shirt, and then her bra were ripped away, leaving her upper body exposed. It seemed Helena’s mouth was everywhere as well; her tongue leaving fiery trails along Barbara’s abdomen and chest, before settling on her breasts.

One hand wrapped in Helena’s short hair pinning her in place, she used the other one to scratch up and down the brunette’s back. She had never, not even in her wild youth, experienced anything like this. Between Helena’s feral energy and the fact that she couldn’t see, Barbara was more turned on than she’d ever been in her life. Not wanting this to stop, not even for a minute, oblivious now to the damage that the other woman could cause, she encouraged the brunette to continue.

And it wasn’t just Helena who let her inner demons out to play. Barbara, somehow egged on by Helena’s more feral self, allowed her own walls to drop. Where she normally might have been more reserved, she was now giving as good as she got. Flipping Helena over and onto her back, Barbara managed to undress the younger woman, tossing her clothes to the side. Then, with an almost primal desire, she began running her tongue up and down the brunette’s body until she was begging for more, crying Barbara’s name into the darkened tunnels.

Hours later, covered by the sleeping bag, Barbara woke to feel Helena curled up tightly against her. One arm thrown over her waist, and a leg draped over the redhead’s possessively, Helena stirred a bit in her sleep. Thoroughly satiated and filled by Helena’s love for her, Barbara smiled, pulling her closer. It felt so good to finally have Helena back, she didn’t care if they never left this place. Of course she knew they would have to, eventually. But she was in no hurry. For now, she was content to snuggle a little closer and just hold the brunette as she slept. There was still healing to do, but now she was sure they’d have the time to do it. Together.

* * * * *

When Helena woke, the first thing she noticed was the scent of Barbara filling her senses. At first, she thought it might be just another dream. Then, as she awoke fully, she realized that this wasn’t a dream. Barbara really was lying wrapped up protectively in her arms, sleeping deeply. Her soft breaths echoed in the abandoned tunnel as she lay there peacefully, stirring only to snuggle closer to Helena. It was then, as the sleeping bag fell off the redhead’s bare shoulders and exposed her back, that Helena saw what she had done.

Across the expanse of Barbara’s back were scratch marks. Some simply red streaks, while others were deeper, a little blood seeping from them. That she was the cause of the scratches, there was no doubt. Gently sliding the sleeping bag further off Barbara’s body, she noticed more scratches and, to her horror, bite marks. Closing her eyes in shame, racked by guilt over what she’d done, Helena quickly covered the redhead. Rolling away, she was attempting to extricate herself, when she heard Barbara wake up.

Feeling Helena pulling away from her, Barbara came back to consciousness. “Hel?” She reached out, attempting to catch hold of Helena’s arm, but missed. Her hand falling to the make-shift bed, empty. “Hel, where are you going?”

Helena stopped when she heard Barbara’s voice. Still raspy from sleep, she closed her eyes and briefly drank in the sound. She had missed that voice. Still, after what she had done, she couldn’t stay here. She had to go before she hurt Barbara again. Her voice sounding small and scared, she answered quietly. “I…I can’t stay here, Barbara. I…I hurt you.” She sighed. “I am so sorry.”

“Helena, don’t you dare leave me,” Barbara said, suddenly afraid that Helena would do just that. “You didn’t hurt me, Hel.”

“But…all the scratches…the bite marks…”

Barbara shook her head. “Hel, it’s okay. I’m okay,” she reassured her. “I swear to you, I’m okay. Besides,” she added with a lopsided grin, “I think I really enjoyed that.”

Helena looked at the redhead, trying to decide if she was being honest with her. After a moment, apparently satisfied, she said, “I uh…I don’t remember much. Was I…Did I…?” Unable to put words to what she was thinking, her voice trailed off.

Sensing that the brunette was beginning to relax, Barbara reached out again. This time, she was rewarded by Helena taking her hand into hers. Smiling, she said, “Hel, I told you before…you don’t have to treat me like I’m so fragile I’ll break. I’m paralyzed, not broken. Besides,” she said, blushing furiously. “I think if you look closely, you’ll find that I managed to leave a few marks of my own.”

Helena, looking down at herself when she heard Barbara’s words, couldn’t help but smile to herself. “I guess you did, Red. I never realized you could be so…”

“Wild?” Barbara supplied.

“Yeah,” Helena agreed quietly.

Barbara quirked a brow and shrugged. “I’m full of surprises.” Then, growing serious, she said, “You sound like you feel better. More like yourself. Are you…?”

Helena nodded, squeezing Barbara’s hand. “I do feel better. Some things are still kinda fuzzy, and I’m not really ‘back,’ but…”

“It’s a start, Hel,” she said, glad to hear the brunette speaking in full sentences. Sometime during their frantic and primal lovemaking, Helena had finally stopped shaking so violently. Now, she sounded more like her old self. Barbara knew it was going to take more than one night together to bring her back completely, but for now, she seemed to be calm. Just how much better Helena was, they’d find out when they returned to the cabin. In the meantime, Barbara pulled Helena back down to lay against her once more.

As she wrapped her arms around Barbara, Helena couldn’t help but wonder about the night before. She wasn’t kidding when she’d said she couldn’t remember much. From the time right after she’d arrived at the cabin until she woke up with Barbara in her arms, everything seemed distant and fuzzy. “Barbara,” she whispered, “how did you know to look for me here?”

Lying with her head resting on Helena’s shoulder, Barbara answered quietly, “Dinah told me that you’d left…and what you said about ‘if I needed you I’d know where to find you’. I remembered you telling me that you’d built the cabin as a place for any of us to go when we needed to rest, or heal.” She shrugged. “It seemed like the logical place to start.”

“Mmm,” Helena mumbled, lost in thought for a moment, Then, “I’m sorry for what happened…not being able to control this, and all. It’s just…God Barbara, the thought of losing you was bad enough. But when he actually took you…” she shook her head, her voice trailing to silence.

“Shh, I know,” Barbara whispered, trailing her fingers along Helena’s arm where it lay across her stomach. “I’m sorry too, Hel.”

“You don’t have anything to be sorry for. I should have trusted you more.”

“No Hel, you were right. My days as Batgirl have been over for a long time. Setting myself up as bait for him was stupid. I’m also sorry I told you to leave…that I didn’t need you. I was wrong and I was angry with myself.” She heaved a sigh. “I’m sorry that I put you through that. It won’t happen again.”

“You know, when we found you, I thought you were dead,” Helena whispered after a minute. “I was going to kill him, if you were.”

“I know.”

“I know it’s not what you’d want,” Helena said, “but I would have lost any hold on myself that I’d had, then.”

“I know, Hel. And I would have understood,” Barbara reassured her. “I would have killed him if the situation had been reversed.”

“You would?” Helena asked, taken by surprise by the quiet admission.

“Yes. And I wouldn’t have regretted it, either,” Barbara said, the conviction in her voice unmistakable.

Helena leaned in and kissed Barbara softly. “I don’t want you to kill for me, Barbara. It would tear your soul apart. I could never forgive myself.”

“After last night, do you really think I could live without you, Hel? Do you think I’d want to?” She reached up and grabbed Helena, pulling her head back down to kiss her again, harder this time. “I told you, Hel. We’re mated for life. I couldn’t live without you in my world, and I wouldn’t hesitate to stop anyone who tried to take you from me.”

The beast within Helena stirred again as she heard Barbara’s words. Pulling the redhead toward her, she quickly kissed her. Growling softly, she rapidly felt herself slipping away, giving life to her feral side once again. Within minutes, the tunnel was once more filled with gasps and moans full of pleasure.

* * * * *

Hours later, Helena and Barbara were awake and ready to head back to the cabin. Reasonably sure that Helena was able to maintain control over her feral side; Barbara had asked the brunette to take her back. Helena, feeling more confident now that she could think more clearly, had agreed. At the moment however, she was quickly scanning the floor of the old mine shaft for something that Barbara could wear.

“God Barbara, I’m so sorry! I swear I don’t remember tearing your shirt off,” Helena said, obviously feeling guilty about the destruction of said clothing item. She was holding the shirt in question up, looking at it in dismay.

“Well, if you’re sure it’s destroyed,” Barbara said, “is there anything else around here I could wear?”

Helena looked around the tunnel again for anything that Barbara might use as a top. When nothing presented itself, she sighed. When she’d run away from the cabin, she’d left all her clothes there. Picking up the sleeping bag, she walked over to where Barbara was sitting on the cot. Slowly, she bent down and wrapped it around the older woman. “How about we just use this?” she said. “I know it’s not a top, but at least you’re decent.”

Barbara sighed. “I guess it’ll have to do,” she said, recognizing the feel of the sleeping bag around her shoulders.

“Well,” Helena said nervously, “if you’re ready, we should probably get going. It’s getting late, and Dick and Dinah are probably freaking out wondering if I’ve killed you or something.”

“Hel,” Barbara said, shaking her head, “they don’t think you’ve killed me. Kidnapped me, maybe…”

“Okay, okay, let’s just get this over with.” Helena bent down and gently lifted Barbara up, cradling her in her arms. She walked the hundred yards or so to the tunnel exit and stopped.

“Hel?” Barbara asked, “You okay?”

“I’m fine. I just…wanted to kiss you one more time,” Helena said, as she leaned in and kissed the redhead softly. “Thank you,” she whispered as she pulled back.

“Hel, you don’t need to thank me,” Barbara said. “I love you.”

“And I love you, Red.” Then, taking a deep breath, Helena strode into the waning light of the forest and headed back toward the cabin.

Half an hour later, they arrived at the front door to the house. Hesitating, Helena took another deep breath and said, “Well, we’re here.”

“You’re sure you’re okay, Hel?” Barbara asked quietly, stroking the brunette’s cheek.

Helena nodded. “Yeah, I think so. Just as long as Big Bro doesn’t start in on me right away. I can still feel the anger right there on the fringe.”

“You’ll be okay. Just remember to breathe, and don’t let him upset you,” Barbara said, leaning forward and kissing Helena one more time.

Helena nodded at Barbara’s advice even though the redhead couldn’t see the gesture. Then, opening the door, she walked through and into the great room.

Two heads turned as one when they heard the sound of the front door opening. It was Dick, who spoke first. Stepping toward the door at the sight of the two women, he stopped short when he took in their disheveled, beat up appearance. “Barbara, Helena…what the Hell?” He took two more steps and stopped again when he heard the low rumble coming from Helena.

“Hel,” Barbara said quietly, her hand on Helena’s shoulder. “It’s okay. He’s not going to hurt either one of us.” She began rubbing the brunette’s arm, calming her down, as she said, “Let’s just go to our room. It’ll be okay.”

Keeping a wary eye on Dick, Helena glanced at Barbara. Hearing the soothing voice calmed her down immediately. She didn’t care about the words; it was Barbara’s voice that worked magic on her soul. It always had. Still watching him, she did as Barbara asked, and headed for their bedroom.

“Dinah?” Barbara said, hoping the blond was in the room.

“I’m here,” the teen answered.

“Can you come with us? I’ll need some help tending to Helena’s wounds,” she asked.

Glancing around nervously, afraid to upset Helena, she finally nodded and said, “Oh, uh…yeah, sure.” She turned then and followed the women into their bedroom, not quite sure what to expect. Since they’d come back to the cabin yesterday and Barbara had gone out to find Helena, Dinah had been nervous. She had known when she showed Barbara the turmoil Helena was in that the older woman would insist on going after her. She had also known it would be dangerous. When Dick took Barbara into the woods, she’d been worried. But when he came back to the cabin without her…In her heart, she knew that Helena would never hurt Barbara. Of that, there was no doubt. But seeing them now, she had to wonder if it had been the right decision to come up here after her.

As they entered the room, Barbara said, “Dinah, would you shut the door, please?”

Dinah did, and stood waiting, uncertain as to what to do next. She watched as Helena set Barbara down on the edge of the bed gently. Seeing the way the brunette handled her, she breathed easier, fairly certain that she hadn’t hurt the redhead. “So, uh…what did you need me to do?” she asked carefully.

“I need to tend to Helena’s wounds first, and then, while she’s getting cleaned up, you can help me,” Barbara said in answer. “But first, could you grab a t-shirt for me out of the drawer? This isn’t the best thing to work in,” she said wryly, referring to the sleeping bag as she wrinkled her nose.

Dinah turned and reached into a nearby drawer, grabbing an old t-shirt that Barbara used as a sleep shirt. As she handed it over, Barbara dropped the sleeping bag from her shoulders. She couldn’t help the small gasp of surprise when she saw the marks all over Barbara’s upper body and arms. Scratches and bite marks were everywhere. Looking from Helena and then back to Barbara, she noticed that the brunette was carefully avoiding her eyes. It was obvious that she was uncomfortable, and Dinah wisely chose to say nothing.

Dropping the shirt over her head unselfconsciously, Barbara tossed the filthy sleeping bag to the floor. She had heard Dinah’s gasp of surprise, and said, “It’s okay, Dinah. Helena didn’t hurt me. I’m all right.” Then, turning her attention to Helena, she said, “Hel, why don’t you lay down here and let us take care of your wounds.”

Still not looking at either of them, Helena shook her head. “Barbara, you don’t need to do that. Let’s get you cleaned up first,” she said quietly.

“Hel…” she began, but the brunette cut her off.

“Barbara, please…” she practically begged.

The tone of her voice was almost enough to make Dinah cry as she watched the two of them. It was obvious that Helena was hurting. It was also obvious that she felt guilty about leaving the marks on Barbara’s body. Watching the drama play out between the two of them was bad enough, but ‘feeling’ it was excruciating. She was doing her best to block out the worst of the emotions roiling around the room, but it was beginning to wear her down.

Sighing, Barbara relented, knowing that Helena would never allow the two of them to help her first. “Okay, fine. Why don’t you go and start running some bath water?” Assuming Helena would do as asked, she turned her attention to the blonde teen. “Dinah, there’s a First Aid Kit in the bedside table. If you’d grab that, I’d appreciate it.”

Helena came out of the bathroom a moment later, the sound of water filling the tub as she shut the door. Bending over, she lifted Barbara easily. “I’ll help her with the bath. Wait here,” she said bluntly, turning and heading into the bathroom. “We won’t be too long.”

* * * * *

Helena carried Barbara into the bathroom and slowly helped her undress. For some reason, she felt rather shy helping the older woman at the moment. It wasn’t like she’d never seen Barbara naked before. After all, they’d just spent the larger part of the last twenty four hours lying wrapped up in that old sleeping bag naked together. Rather, it had more to do with Barbara being unable to see, that was causing her sudden uncharacteristic shyness. Somehow, it just seemed wrong to Helena that she should be allowed to look at Barbara like this but Barbara couldn’t return the favor. God, the world was so unfair!

Barbara, sensing Helena’s unease, said, “Hel? Is…something wrong?”

Shaking off the strange feelings, the brunette answered, “No. No, Barbara. Nothing’s wrong.”

Barbara reached out and caught her hand, giving it a squeeze. “Hel, if something’s bothering you…please tell me,” she said, plainly asking.

Sighing, Helena sank to her knees so that she was eye level with the other woman. Still holding Barbara’s hand, she said, “Barbara, nothing’s bothering me. It’s just…this is the first time I’ve actually seen…” her voice drifted off for a minute as she closed her eyes, gathering her thoughts. When she opened them a breath later, she finished. “I didn’t get a chance to see what he’d done to you…when you were in the hospital. There were bandages…and before…there was so much blood….”

Barbara nodded in understanding. Of course, Helena would be upset. She knew there were scars. The doctor had told her. She wasn’t able to see the damage herself, of course, but Dinah had actually helped her somewhat with that. The teen had hesitantly agreed to let Barbara ‘see’ what had been done. The results weren’t pretty on her legs, but hey, who saw them anyway? She hadn’t mentioned the cuts on her stomach. Dinah had never seen her scars anyway, so there was no reason to mention it to her.

Smiling sadly, Barbara used her free hand to place it on Helena’s cheek. Stroking softly, she said, “Helena, it’s okay. I’m okay.”

Helena ducked her head, wanting to cry for what had happened to Barbara. When she looked back up at the other woman, she sniffed and said, “I should get you cleaned up.” Without saying another word, Helena stood up and helped the redhead into the bathtub.

As Helena straightened, Barbara caught her arm with her hand and whispered, “Hel? Would you….would you mind joining me?”

Unsure at first, Helena drew in a deep breath to steady herself. What she really wanted to do was cry. But, unable to say no to Barbara, she simply said, “Sure Red.” Then she stripped off her own clothes and slid into the hot bathwater behind the other woman.

Pulling Barbara back so that she was leaning against her, Helena wrapped both arms around her. Slowly, reverently, she trailed her fingers up and down the redhead’s arms and then to the scars on her lower stomach. As she realized what Clemmons had done to Barbara, she almost let out another growl, but managed to stifle it. Tracing the razor thin scars that had been drawn from one bullet scar to the next, Helena whispered, “Did it hurt? I know you still have feeling here, Barbara.”

Barbara sighed and stiffened a little at the question. Biting her lower lip, she answered as best she could. “I…to be honest, Hel….I can’t really remember. Everything’s still so jumbled in my head…” She ran her own hands along Helena’s forearms. “I…actually think my back and legs have hurt more…”

“What?” Helena said in surprise, forgetting her question. “Your back and legs? You can feel your legs?”

Barbara shook her head. “No. Not really. It’s just…sometimes, there’s some sensation…kind of a tingling. I think it has to do with the transponder and the damage it took.”

“Oh,” Helena answered, not sure what else she could say to that. After a few minutes of awkward silence, she grabbed the soap and said, “Lean forward, Red,” and began washing Barbara’s back and arms. As she did, she thought about it. Barbara could feel her legs? Hell, even if it was just a little bit, that was better than nothing at all, wasn’t it? Still…what price did she have to pay for that little bit? Shaking her head, she forced herself to stop thinking along those lines and concentrate on bathing Barbara. Very gently, she made sure she cleaned all of the scratch and bite marks she’d left on the redhead’s skin. Barbara hadn’t blamed her for them at all, but she still felt so guilty. Why did she have to be such an animal?

Barbara, relaxed from Helena’s careful ministrations, suddenly realized that the brunette had become too quiet. Helena had finished bathing her and then had washed her hair, finishing a few minutes before. Now, she was once again leaning back against the brunette, enjoying the moment. “Hel?” She said, turning her head so that she was facing the brunette. Even though she couldn’t see Helena, she still felt like she needed to be facing her when they talked. “What are you thinking about?”

“What makes you think I’m thinking about anything?” Helena asked, unwilling to admit to anything.

“You haven’t said anything in the last ten minutes. That’s pretty much a record for you,” Barbara said, keeping her voice light.

Helena squeezed her tighter. “I was just thinking how much I missed this,” she said quietly. “And…I wanted to tell you that I’m really sorry, Red…For leaving all these marks on you. I…I don’t know what to say.”

“Helena, I told you…There’s nothing to apologize for,” Barbara said, lifting one of the brunettes’ hands up and kissing the back of it. “I don’t ever want to hear you say that you’re sorry for this again. It makes me feel like you’re sorry that you made love to me.”

Helena closed her eyes when she heard that. Shaking her head, she said adamantly, “No. Barbara, I’ll never be sorry about that. Not ever. I just meant that I was sorry that I left marks. That’s all.”

“I know, Hel,” Barbara said, rubbing the brunette’s arm. “I don’t ever want you to be sorry that you love me…or regret…” she swallowed hard, “anything.”

“I could never regret loving you, Barbara,” Helena said. “I love you too much.” She leaned forward and kissed the bare shoulder and worked her way to Barbara’s mouth. “I love you, Barbara…more than anything in this world.”

Barbara smiled between kisses and said, “I love you, too, Hel.”

* * * * *

Unsure of what to do when the two women went into the bathroom, Dinah sat down on the edge of the bed to wait. As she did, she caught a whiff of the sleeping bag and wrinkled her nose. “Geez, how could they stand the smell of this thing?” she asked out loud as she bent and picked it up. She carried it out to the deck and left it hanging over the railing.

As she walked back through the great room, Dick saw her and stood up from the chair where he’d been sitting. “Dinah, what the Hell’s going on? What happened to them? Did Helena hurt her?”

Rolling her eyes, Dinah said, “They haven’t told me anything, Dick. Barbara asked me to come in so that I could help her with Helena’s wounds. Helena wouldn’t let me take care of her first, though. They’re in the bathroom, getting Barbara cleaned up.”

“God, I wish she’d told me something,” he said, worry tingeing his voice.

Feeling bad for him because she knew how much he cared about Barbara, Dinah said, “They’re both okay, Dick. I think they’re more dirty and exhausted than anything.” Out of pity, and maybe a little fear at what he’d do to Helena if he knew about Barbara’s injuries, she left out the part about her being scratched and bitten. “Once we’re done, I’ll let you know what’s going on if Barbara doesn’t.”

At his nod of assent, she turned and headed back. Returning to the room, she found that Barbara and Helena were still in the bathroom. Turning on the TV, she sat down on the bed again to wait.

Half an hour later, Helena stepped out of the bathroom wearing a pair of shorts and a tank top. Her hair still wet, she looked and smelled better than she had when they’d first returned. “Dinah,” she said, her voice carefully controlled, “could you come in here? Barbara would like your help.”

“Uh yeah, sure,” Dinah said, flipping off the TV and following Helena into the bathroom. At first, she was puzzled by Barbara’s desire to have her help when Helena was right there. But then she realized that Barbara wanted to check Helena for any wounds that needed immediate attention, and she couldn’t do that without being able to see.

Seated in her manual chair, dressed in shorts and a tank top as well, Barbara already had the First Aid Kit in hand. “Dinah, you already know what to look for,” Barbara said. “If there’s anything deep, you’ll want to stitch those first. Helena insists there’s nothing really bad, but I know she doesn’t want me to worry,” she said, turning her head affectionately toward the brunette and smiling slightly. “Let me know if there’s anything I should worry about.”

Helena rolled her eyes but pulled her shirt up so that Dinah could do a thorough check of her back and rib cage. After seeing the marks on Barbara, the teen managed to inspect Helena without making a sound. She didn’t want to think about what they’d been doing to cause all the marks she saw. Come to think of it, if she hadn’t learned to perfect her blocking techniques, she wouldn’t need to think about it. She’d be able to see it just by being near the brunette. Dinah took a deep breath with that sobering thought and finished her check. As Helena pulled her top back down, Dinah said, “Nothing here to worry about Barbara. It looks like your patient is on the road to recovery.”

Barbara smiled. “Thank you, Dinah. Now,” the redhead said as she allowed Helena to push her back into the bedroom, “I think we should get something to eat. I don’t know about either of you, but I’m starving.”

“Something to eat sounds good,” Dinah agreed, and followed them out to the kitchen.

* * * * *

As they finished eating, Dick entered the kitchen. He had purposely waited until they were finished before he came in. The last thing he wanted to do was set Helena off again. She was difficult for him to keep up with on a regular day, but if she went feral again, well, he’d prefer to not test himself against her that way. Someone would end up getting hurt, and he highly suspected it wouldn’t be her.

“Barbara?” he began quietly, “Could we talk for a few minutes?”

Turning toward the sound of Dick’s voice, Barbara said, “Yes, of course. Helena,” she said, turning her attention back to the brunette momentarily, “why don’t you go back to our room? I’ll be there in a few minutes.”

Helena looked at Dick before standing up. As she walked past Barbara, she reached out and gently stroked her cheek. “Sure thing, Red.”

Barbara reached up and caught Helena’s hand for the briefest of moments. Squeezing it, she said, “Thanks, Hel. I won’t be long.”

Helena didn’t say anything else, but leaned in and kissed Barbara on the forehead. As she left the room, she looked at Dick, warning him not to upset the redhead.

Dick watched the brunette warily. When he was certain she was gone, he turned his attention back to Barbara. “So,” he said, sitting down at the table, “are you going to tell me what happened?”

Barbara sighed and shook her head. She knew he was worried about her, but what had happened between her and Helena was really none of his business. And yet, she felt she owed him some sort of explanation. After all, she had been out in the woods for almost twenty four hours. She would have been beside herself with worry if the situation had been reversed. Still, how was she going to explain what had happened?

Sighing, she said, “After you left, Helena and I talked. It started getting dark and I tried to convince her to come back here. She was willing to bring me back, but refused to stay. And, you know me…I refused to let her go back out there by herself.”

“Barbara,” he sighed, “don’t you know how dangerous that was? She could have killed you.”

“She wasn’t going to hurt me, Dick.”

“And how did you know that? God, Barbara…” he stood up and began pacing, “If you could have seen yourself when you came in tonight. What the Hell were you two doing all that time?”

“That’s really none of your business, Dick,” Barbara answered curtly, beginning to get angry.

“Like Hell it’s not,” he said. “I brought you up here against my better judgment. We all knew she was dangerous…what you did was stupid and reckless.”

“Dick, she was so close to the edge, if I hadn’t come…”

He couldn’t help it. Anger fueled by jealousy and fear pushed him to say, “I’ll bet you did that, all right.”

Confused and seriously pissed off, she could only ask, “What? What did you just say?”

“You heard me,” he said angrily. “Jesus Barbara, do you think I don’t know what was going on? What you’re wearing doesn’t exactly hide all the bite marks, you know. My God, what did she do to you?”

Silently cursing herself for not making sure the marks were covered, she said through gritted teeth, “Nothing I didn’t want or ask for, Dick. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back.”

He grabbed her chair, before she could move to leave. “No, Barbara. I don’t believe you asked for this. It’s not you. You never…”

“I never what? Seemed like the type to like it rough?” she asked. “How would you know, Dick? When we were together, you were too busy trying to treat me like I’d break.”

Caught off guard by the question, he said, “You were just out of the hospital. I…I was trying to…be respectful and tender. I had no idea you…”

“What?” she said, “Liked my sex to be hot and passionate? A little dangerous, maybe? You know what they say about assuming things, Dick.”

“Barbara, I…I didn’t…” he stammered at her revelation.

“Yeah, I remember. Maybe that’s why we never lasted,” she said angrily. “You were all about the control, and taking care of me. Helena isn’t like that. Don’t get me wrong…she always takes care of me. In more ways than one,” she said snidely. “But I never needed someone to just take care of me. I need someone who loves me and isn’t afraid to give me what I need. Just like I gave her what she needed.” She turned to leave. “And, just so you know…I did cum…more than once.” And then she wheeled herself out of the kitchen and toward the bedroom. Her eidetic memory making the solo trip possible.

Fuming, Dick watched as she wheeled away from him. How dare she just say that and leave! What the Hell was Barbara thinking? What kind of game was she playing? And, rough sex? Good God, he’d never seen anything like that. From the looks of both of them, that had been one Hell of a twenty four hours. It was no wonder they looked so bad when they came in.

He briefly toyed with the idea of going after Barbara, but decided against it. Going after her would only anger Helena, and that wouldn’t help anything. He’d only have two pissed off females to deal with instead of one. And, he’d be lucky if Barbara didn’t tell Helena what had just happened, anyway. Shaking his head and feeling trapped, he headed for the basement. Maybe a couple beers would make him feel better.

* * * * *

When Barbara returned to the bedroom, Helena was sitting on the bed, watching TV. Stopping to shut the door behind her, Barbara just sat there once it was closed. She was still trying to compose herself, not wanting to upset Helena. The brunette’s hold on her control was tenuous at best, and she didn’t want her getting angry.

“Well?” Helena said, smelling the anger on the redhead. “What did he want?”

Barbara attempted to smile, but failed miserably. “Oh, you know Dick, always wanting to make sure I’m okay.”

“Yeah, I know Dick,” Helena said sarcastically. “Is that why you’re so pissed off?”

“Hel,” Barbara began, “I’m not…”

“Humph, yes you are, Barbara. Don’t bother denying it; I can smell it on you. What ever he said, it pissed you off.”

Barbara bit the inside of her cheek and pinched the bridge of her nose. Nodding, she finally said, “Okay, you’re right, Hel. He did irritate me,” she said. “But he was only trying to make sure I was okay,” she hurried to say, attempting to keep Helena from getting too upset.

Knowing that Dick loved Barbara, and always had, Helena understood his concern. At least, the part of Helena that was all human, understood. The feral part of herself sensed a competitor edging in on her territory. Feeling the stir of her feral side, she quickly worked to push it back down. Breathing deeply, she said, “So…he saw the marks on you and got pissed off. He thought I hurt you, didn’t he?”

Swallowing hard, Barbara nodded. “Yes. But I told him, Hel. I told him that you didn’t hurt me.” She reached out searching for Helena, wanting to touch her. “I told him…I told him that you gave me what I needed, and what I asked for. Just like I did for you, Hel.”

Helena slid down off the bed onto her knees, between Barbara’s legs. Looking up at the redhead, she hugged her and buried her head in Barbara’s lap. “Barbara, God…I don’t know what to say.” She closed her eyes and bit her lip. “I love you so much. I never meant to cause so much trouble.”

Barbara dropped her hands to the brunette. With one hand, she stroked her back. The other, she ran through the dark locks soothingly. “Hel, don’t be sorry. You didn’t cause any trouble. Dick’s had a problem for a while. It was going to show up eventually.” She continued rubbing the younger woman’s back and running her hand through her hair. After a while, she said, “We should go to bed, Hel. I think we could both use some rest.”

Helena sniffed and looked up at the redhead. Reaching out, she stroked the pale skin of Barbara’s cheek. “Okay, Red. Whatever you want.” She stood up then and helped Barbara maneuver into the bed. Once she was situated, Helena crawled in beside her and pulled the covers up over both of them. Snuggling close, Helena threw an arm protectively over Barbara’s waist. “You know,” Helena whispered into the darkness of the room, “I don’t think he ever really knew you, did he?”

Slightly confused by the sudden conversation, Barbara said, “What do you mean, Hel?”

“Dick,” the brunette answered. “He never knew the wild side of you, did he?”

Barbara shook her head. “No.”

“So…” Helena said, sliding her hand under the edge of Barbara’s tank top and slowly stroking her stomach, “you’re saying he never gave you what you wanted?”

Barbara licked her lips, beginning to breathe heavier. “That’s pretty much it, yeah,” she answered. “Oh God,” she gasped as Helena suddenly ran her hand over her breast.

“What do you want, Barbara?” the brunette asked. “Anything at all…just ask and it’s yours,” Helena said, sliding closer so that her mouth was next to the redhead’s ear. Flicking her tongue out, she barely touched Barbara’s ear, making her gasp and bite her lower lip.

“You, Hel,” Barbara gasped out. “I want you. All of you, right now.”

Grinning wickedly to herself, Helena slid the tank top up and over Barbara’s head. Using one arm to hold herself up and leaning in, she took her left breast into her mouth and sucked gently, using her free hand to stroke the right breast. Soon, Barbara was writhing under her touch, moaning in passion. “Is this what you want, Red?”

“Oh…oh God, Hel…yes,” the redhead managed to gasp out. “Please…more.”

Helena, happy to oblige, reached down and slid Barbara’s shorts down. Taking a momentary break, she pulled them all the way off, tossing them to the floor. Then, leaning over Barbara again, she picked up where she’d left off. Slowly, she started at Barbara’s neck, and began sliding her tongue down the redheads’ body. Then, at her waist, Helena started the trail moving back up to her neck.

When Helena began kissing her neck, Barbara wrapped both hands in the brunette’s hair, not allowing her to pull away. All she could think of was how she just wanted more of this beautiful young woman. Moving under Helena’s touch, feeling more with her than she’d ever felt with anyone, Barbara could do nothing but cry Helena’s name over and over.

Finally, sometime during the night, they’d both fallen asleep. Helena’s naked body lay curled up around Barbara, protecting her even in sleep. To Dick, watching through the crack in the curtain of the bedroom window, it was obvious that the two women loved each other deeply. Hating himself for looking through the window at all, he sighed as he walked away. At least he could be certain that Helena hadn’t hurt Barbara, and Barbara wasn’t lying to him about it. Knowing that Barbara was loved the way she’d always needed made him feel better.

He came to the deck and sat down, finishing his beer. Now, at least, he could move forward. It was time to help Helena recover herself. Barbara had finally, really, made her choice, and he would never stand in her way. He loved her far too much for that, and he wanted her to be happy. For the past few months he’d been waiting. Hoping that she’d change her mind. He had hoped that sleeping with Helena was just a passing thing, but he knew now that it wasn’t. He never thought she’d want him back, not for anything that lasted, but choosing Helena…that had hurt. Eventually, facing reality, he got up and wandered back downstairs to stare at the TV, unable to sleep.

* * * * *

Barbara woke up first, unable to move much in the confines of the hot bed. Then she realized why it was so hot. Not only was she naked, but so was Helena. And Helena was lying wrapped around her, holding her in both arms as tightly as she could. “Hel,” she said quietly, “Hel,” she rubbed the brunette’s shoulder gently, finally succeeding in waking her partner.

Breathing deeply, Helena woke up slowly. “Barbara? You okay?” she asked, slightly confused by being awakened. She’d been in a very deep sleep when she felt Barbara moving under her.

“Yeah, I’m okay,” Barbara said quietly, “but it’s really hot in here. I can’t breathe.”

Finally waking up all the way, Helena realized that she had the redhead pinned. Rolling away from Barbara, she said, “Oh, sorry Red. I didn’t mean to…pin ya down like that.”

Barbara smiled sleepily. “It’s all right, I just need to get up…you know…go to the bathroom?”

Helena, realizing what Barbara was trying to tell her, jumped up right away. “Oh! Sorry Barbara. Here, let me help you.” Pulling Barbara’s wheelchair over to the bed, Helena proceeded to help the redhead into it. Then, she wheeled her into the bathroom.

“Hel, you don’t mind helping me do you?” Barbara asked. “My routine’s been screwed up a bit, since…”

“God, Barbara sure,” Helena said, running through the other woman’s bathroom routine from memory. “Sorry, I don’t think I’m quite awake, yet,” she said somewhat awkwardly.

“It’s okay, Hel,” Barbara answered. “It was a late night.”

When they were finished, Helena helped Barbara get dressed, careful to pick clothes that would cover up most of the marks on her arms. When she finished dressing herself, they headed for breakfast. It was only around nine, and Helena was hoping that no one else would be in the kitchen when they arrived.

Unfortunately, Dinah and Dick were both sitting at the table when they entered the kitchen. Helena nodded to both of them but said nothing, making sure that Barbara was in position at the table. Then, she proceeded to make breakfast for the both of them.

Dinah, feeling the tension in the room, started talking right away. It couldn’t hurt to break the silence, right? “Hey Barbara, Helena, you guys sleep okay?”

Helena didn’t say anything, just turned to give the teen a look that plainly told the girl she didn’t want to talk. Barbara however, answered immediately. “We slept fine, Dinah. Thanks for asking.”

“You guys were so exhausted when you got in, I’m glad,” she went on. Looking at Dick, who plainly wanted to get up and leave but refused to do so, she went on. “So, what’s on the agenda today? You guys feel like going over to the lodge? Or maybe into town for lunch and some shopping?”

Barbara shook her head. “I don’t think that would be a good idea Dinah. Helena and I are going to work on some meditation techniques. Maybe work out a bit. You can go though, if you’d like. We won’t be needing the car.”

“Really?” Dinah asked. It was rare that Barbara let her have the car for the day. And of course, Helena shouldn’t be around too many people yet. After all, she’d only just managed to get her feral side under any sort of control yesterday. She should have realized that before asking them if they wanted to go into town. Still…the car? Yeah!

“Sure, go ahead,” Barbara said. She knew Dick was in the room, she could smell his after shave. Turning her attention to him, she said, “Morning, Dick.”

“Barbara,” he answered quietly. He stood up, preparing to leave. “If you don’t mind, I think I’ll go into town with Dinah today. There are a few errands I need to take care of.” Then, without another word, he turned and left the room.

Dinah sat in silence, afraid to say anything. In truth, she wasn’t sure what to say. It was obvious that Dick was unhappy, but what he was unhappy about, she wasn’t sure. Well, she did know, but there was nothing anyone could do about it. It was going to have to be up to him to work through it. Finally, finishing her pancakes, she got up and washed her plate. “So, I guess I’ll see you guys later,” she said nervously. “Do you need anything from town?”

“No, but thank you for asking, Dinah,” Barbara answered. Helena had finished making pancakes for both of them and had set a plate in front of Barbara, along with her required morning cup of coffee. Then she sat down next to the redhead.

Not sure what else to say, Dinah excused herself and left to find Dick before he left for town. She didn’t really want to spend the day with him and his brooding behavior, but she could always go off by herself when she got into town. She’d call a few of the friends she’d made a couple months ago, and see if they’d like to meet for lunch.

* * * * *

“Well, that was uncomfortable,” Helena mumbled, as she sat eating her breakfast.

Barbara sighed. “Yeah, it was.”

“Were you for real, when you said we were going to go over some meditation techniques today?” Helena asked.

“Yes. I think it will help you to center yourself. Maybe begin to reestablish some control over your feral side.”

“Mmm,” Helena said, obviously not thrilled with the idea, but understanding the necessity of it. If she was ever going to be able to be around people again, she had to do this, first.

When they were both done eating, Helena guided Barbara downstairs to the work out room. For the rest of the day, Barbara took her through a series of meditations designed to calm her down and help her find her center of balance. It was boring, but she was definitely feeling better.

“So Red, you feel like going for a swim?” Helena asked, as they made their way back upstairs. When Barbara didn’t answer right away, Helena glanced over and noticed the look of trepidation on the other woman’s face. “It’ll be all right, Barbara. I’ll be right there with you. I promise.”

Barbara nodded, trusting the brunette implicitly. “Okay Hel, that sounds good.”

They proceeded upstairs, and Helena changed into her swimsuit while Barbara got ready. Twenty minutes later, both women were downstairs. With Helena’s help, Barbara ran through her water therapy exercises. When they were finished, Helena swam alongside her and coached her through swimming laps. Finally, they finished and climbed out of the pool. Helena handed Barbara a towel and waited while she dried herself off. Then, she pushed the redhead into the work out room, where she proceeded to help Barbara onto the mat.

“Hel, what are you doing?” Barbara asked, slightly confused as to why they were now moving to the floor of the work out room.

“I’m going to take you through your therapy, Barbara,” Helena answered matter of factly. “I know you haven’t been keeping up on it lately, and you know you have to.”

“Hel,” Barbara sighed, “without my eyesight, there’s not much need for me to keep this up.”

Anger flashed quickly through Helena at the defeated tone in Barbara’s voice. “Stop it, Red. You’re going to see again. The doctor said it could be a month or two.”

“Hel,” Barbara began, but stopped when Helena cut her off.

“Barbara, no. You shouldn’t even have left New Gotham like this,” Helena said, breathing deeply to suppress the anger she could feel inside herself. “You need to get back and see the doctor. Why don’t you let me…?”

Barbara sighed, trying to keep her voice level and calm. “Hel, the doctor can’t do anything else for me. Besides, you can’t go back to the city until you can control your instincts better. There’s no way you can patrol like this.”

Helena rolled her eyes. Did Barbara really think she was going to be able to just go back home and take up her job as Oracle again? She wouldn’t be able to see the computer screens for crying out loud! Not wanting to start an argument right now though, she let it go. Instead, she simply sighed heavily and began to work on the tense muscles in Barbara’s legs and back.

* * * * *

Dinah and Dick returned to the cabin around six that evening, and had dinner in the kitchen. Barbara and Helena chose to eat dinner in their room. The reason for that decision had been two-fold: First, Helena and Dick were likely to argue if they were around each other for long. Second, Barbara and Dick were likely to argue. Either way, it came down to Dick being in a strange, depressed mood.

After dinner, Dinah came in and watched TV with Helena for a while. Barbara, never one to watch a lot of TV anyway, listened to an audio book by Nietzsche that Helena had downloaded onto her IPod for her.

Eventually, Dinah noticed that Barbara was falling asleep. Her head was slowly beginning to drop to the side, her eyes closed. Helena too, had been attempting to stifle her yawns for the last half hour. “Well, I think I’m going to go to bed,” she said, moving toward the door. “It’s getting late, and you two look like you need the rest.”

Helena, grateful for the girls’ consideration, simply said, “Thanks, D. See you in the morning.”

The blond nodded and backed out the door, saying, “Don’t worry about the house, I’ll lock up and set the alarms.”

Helena nodded, but didn’t say anything else. Once the girl was gone, she turned to look over at Barbara, whose head had fallen to the right. Ever so gently, Helena reached over and removed the earphones from Barbara’s ears. Then, turning off the IPod, she turned out the light and crawled into bed.

Two hours later, Helena woke up. She got out of bed and slipped quietly out of the room without waking Barbara up. It had been a long couple of days and she needed to rest; especially after all she’d been through lately. Again, she felt the familiar tang of guilt shoot through her over everything that had happened. After all she’d suffered; Barbara had still dropped everything for her. It was very humbling.

She walked through the darkened house toward the kitchen, her meta-human senses negating the need for turning on the lights. She walked to the fridge and opened it, grabbing a bottle of water. As she turned around, she saw the familiar outline of Dick standing in the doorway. Shutting the door, she sighed and leaned back against the counter. “Dick,” she said, nodding her head in greeting.

“Helena,” Dick said, moving past her and reaching into the fridge himself. “You feeling better?”

“Yeah, a bit,” she said. Her eyes still hadn’t returned to their normal blue, and shone in the dimness of the room.

“So, Barbara sleeping?” Dick asked, not wanting to upset Helena but still needing to make sure that Barbara was okay. He hadn’t seen her since that morning. And then, she’d looked exhausted and beaten up.

“Yeah,” she answered. Finally, tired of the monosyllabic question and answer game, she said, “She’s really worn out. You shouldn’t have let her come out here.”

Dick laughed quietly. “You really think I could have stopped her?” He didn’t expect an answer, and didn’t wait for one. “Once Dinah showed her what was happening, there was nothing that would have stopped her, Helena.”

Helena hung her head. “I know,” she whispered. “I never wanted her to put herself in danger…not for me.”

“Humph, you had to know she would, Helena. She’s never been able to stand it when you got hurt,” Dick said, taking a seat at the kitchen table. He gestured to Helena, indicating she was welcome to sit down. “You know…I was always jealous of you,” he said quietly, finally admitting it out loud to her. He suspected she knew, but had never said anything. He figured it was why they drove each other nuts all the time.

Helena sat down, propping her feet on the chair next to him. She already knew he was jealous, but asked anyway. “Why?”

“She loved you. She always has,” he said simply. “Even when she and I were together, I knew she’d always put you first, no matter what. It really hurt…”

“I’m sorry,” Helena said quietly. It surprised her when she realized that she really meant it. She’d never gotten along with Dick, but she knew he cared for Barbara. She remembered how it had felt when she knew she loved Barbara but the redhead was dating him. She knew exactly how he felt.

“It doesn’t matter, now,” Dick said, shrugging. “What matters now is that she’s happy. And, as much as it pains me to say it, you make her happy.”

“I want to spend the rest of my life trying to,” Helena said. “I know the last few months have been…”

“Yeah well, she has a way of pushing herself too far. It drives you crazy, I know.” Dick said, understanding exactly how Helena felt. Barbara always was so stubborn and pigheaded.

They sat in companionable silence for a few minutes, both thinking about the events of the past few weeks. They’d come so close to losing Barbara. Too close. Finally, Dick broke the silence by asking, “So, not drinking vodka tonight?”

Helena shook her head. “Nope. Water, milk or orange juice. Barbara says no caffeine or alcohol until I manage to get my Meta side under control. It tends to hype me up.”

Dick nodded, but didn’t say anything. Finishing his Coke, he slid his chair back and stood up. “Well, it’s getting late, I’m heading to bed. Do you think the two of you will be ready to head home soon?”

“I hope so,” Helena answered. “She needs to see her doctor. I’ve been trying to talk to her, but so far she’s refused.”

“Yeah, that sounds like her,” Dick said, sighing.

“I need to get back to the room, anyway,” Helena said. “She’ll be worried if she wakes up and I’m not there.”

“Okay, well…I’ll see you in the morning then,” Dick said, turning and leaving the kitchen.

Helena sighed. Finishing her water, she tossed the bottle in the recycle bin and headed back to the bedroom. That had to be the first time she’d ever had a civil conversation with Dick.

When she returned, she let herself into the bedroom quietly. Slipping back into bed, she frowned when Barbara woke up.

“Hel?” the redhead said sleepily, rolling toward her.

“Shh, it’s just me,” Helena said softly. “It’s okay, go back to sleep.” She brushed a few strands of hair back from Barbara’s forehead and kissed her. “I’m not going anywhere.”

I woke up and you were gone,” Barbara said, a trace of fear in her voice.

Guilt momentarily reared its’ head before Helena said, “I went for some water. Dick was in the kitchen and we talked.” Feeling the redhead stiffen, she hurried to reassure her. “It’s okay. We didn’t argue or anything. We just talked.”

“Really?” Barbara asked, finding the idea difficult to comprehend. She knew the way Helena and Dick usually ‘talked’.

“Really,” Helena smiled. “Actually, we had a good talk. It was sorta weird.”

Barbara quirked an eyebrow. “The two of you didn’t argue? You didn’t…?”

“No, we didn’t argue, and I didn’t lose control,” Helena said, knowing instinctively what Barbara was getting at. “Actually, we talked about you.”

Barbara felt a small stab of fear go through her at that. What exactly did they talk about? She hoped it wasn’t about her conversation with Dick the night before. She regretted what she’d said, especially how crudely she’d said it. But Dick had made her so mad. He’d had no right to question her about Helena and what they did together. Swallowing the lump of fear in her throat, she finally mustered the courage to ask, “So, what about me?”

“He’s jealous of me; because you chose me over him,” she answered, rubbing Barbara’s arm.

“I knew that already…” Barbara said sarcastically. “He pretty much said that last night. And, I did know it before…I just chose to ignore it.”

“Well, we did agree on one thing,” she said carefully, not wanting to upset the redhead.

“The two of you agreed on something…about me?” Barbara asked incredulously.

“Well, yeah. Other than the fact that we both love you,” the brunette answered, leaning in and kissing her again. “We both think you should…get home and…you know…see your doctor.”

“Hel,” Barbara pushed away from her and maneuvered herself into a sitting position, leaning against the headboard. “I can’t go back, yet. We need to stay here until you’re ready to go. You can’t be around that many people, yet.”

Sighing and rolling her eyes (she knew Barbara would be upset), Helena said, “Barbara, I’ll be fine. It’s time to take care of you, now.” Before the redhead could argue, she went on. “Your eyesight should be coming back. It’s been almost a month.”

“Hel, it will. It’s only been a few weeks,” she said.

“Barbara, it’s been more than a few weeks.” Helena was getting irritated with her. It was so like Barbara to put everyone else first. “What if it doesn’t, Barbara? What if it doesn’t come back because you didn’t see a doctor in time? You’re supposed to be resting, taking it easy; not traipsing around the woods, worrying about me.”

“It will come back,” the redhead whispered resolutely.

“And if it doesn’t?”

“Hel, if it doesn’t come back…I’ll…well, I don’t know.” She ducked her head, her hair falling over her eyes. She sounded so lost, it almost broke Helena’s heart. It was obvious that the redhead’s confidence was nothing more than a show she was putting on for Helena’s sake.

“Barbara, stop. I’m not going to let you sacrifice your eyesight for me,” Helena said gently, but still letting some of her irritation show. “How do you think that would make me feel?” She put a finger under Barbara’s chin and lifted until the redhead was looking at her. It killed her to know that even though Barbara was looking, she couldn’t see. “What would you do if you couldn’t see? You’ve lost so much already.” She slid her hand around and caressed Barbara’s cheek with the back of her hand. “I love you, Red. You can’t ask me to just sit by and watch you do this. You didn’t sit by and let me self destruct. I won’t let you, either.”

“Hel,” she sniffed, tears streaming down her face, “I’m so scared. What if…?” She sobbed, no longer able to keep the fear inside. Admitting her fear was so hard. Logically, she knew she’d feel better admitting it, but she was an illogical human sometimes. In her mind, Barbara was afraid that if she admitted it, it would make it true.

Helena leaned over and wrapped her arms around the redhead. “Shh, it’s going to be okay, Barbara. I swear. One way or another, we’re going to work this out. I promise.”

Sniffing again, she pulled Helena closer, burying her face in her neck. “Thank you, Hel, for always knowing what to say.”

“It’s a gift,” Helena whispered nonchalantly, stroking her hair. After a few minutes, Barbara was no longer sobbing, just crying softly. Physically exhausted and emotionally wrung out, Helena said, “Let’s go to sleep now, Barbara. You need to rest. I’ll be right here when you wake up, I promise.”

Barbara didn’t say anything, just quietly allowed Helena to help her into a more comfortable position. Now tightly ensconced against Helena’s body, with the brunette’s arms wrapped around her, she felt safe and secure. It had been a long couple of days.

Moments later, Helena felt Barbara relax into her and felt her breathing deeply. Barbara was so tired…she had been pushing herself for Helena’s sake, and Helena knew it. Feeling guilty, Helena resolved that from this moment on, everything was going to be for Barbara. She couldn’t bear to lose the redhead, and she knew Barbara would never be able to handle another loss in her life. One way or another, Helena would make sure Barbara never had to sacrifice for her again.

* * * * *

1 Week Later

“Well, Ms. Gordon,” the doctor said, stepping back into the exam room, test results in hand. “The good news is that it appears that the swelling has gone down.”

“Then why hasn’t her eyesight come back, yet? Helena asked anxiously, from her position next to Barbara. She was sitting next to the redhead, holding her hand and doing her damndest to be calm and relaxed.

The doctor cocked his head. “Well, I’d say that there needs to be a little more relaxing and a lot less stress. From what I’ve gathered, you seem to have a difficult time with that, young lady,” he said, gently chastising Barbara.

Barbara sighed. “I know, it’s just that…”

“I know,” the doctor cut in. “You’ve been busy.” He shook his head. “Ms. Gordon, I can’t stress enough how important it is that you get enough rest. In order for your eyesight to come back fully, you need to do nothing for the next two weeks.”

Barbara groaned. “I can’t just sit around and do nothing.”

“Well…you might consider a vacation?”

She shook her head. “Just got back from one two months ago.”

He smiled. “Take another one. Look, you’ve been through some very traumatic events the last few months. Your body needs rest. It’s the way we heal ourselves.”

Helena, who’d been doing a fantastic job up till now, couldn’t keep quiet any longer. “What about the memory problems, mood swings and violent behavior?”

“Mmm. I did look into that as well,” the doctor said, sitting back down and getting comfortable. “After checking all the research on the neural transponder…and taking into consideration everything else that’s happened…” he stopped and took a deep breath. Barbara was not going to like what he had to say.

“It appears that the transponder, combined with the stressful situation, caused a drop in Serotonin levels in your brain. Add that to your lack of ability to eat a proper diet…a genetic flaw, I’m sure,” he said jokingly, “and you get mood swings, memory loss, and increased violent behavior.” He stopped to watch for her reaction, but there was none. He suspected that Barbara already knew most of this. Continuing, he said, “The Ketamine that Clemmons used on you made the memory loss even more acute. It was also the cause of the hallucinations and disassociative breaks.”

Barbara nodded. She knew about the Ketamine already. But, properly chastised, she had to agree with him. “I understand about the Ketamine, Doctor Rains. But the transponder…it was working. I’m sure with a little more tweaking, it will be…”

Doctor Rains shook his head. “Ms. Gordon…Barbara, I’m going to be honest with you. Using the transponder, while it may have allowed you the use of your legs, also caused more damage to your spinal cord. Any further use of that device will, and I mean this, will cause you to lose more function. It could possibly affect your internal organs, even your arms and hands. It’s a given, considering the symptoms you’ve already reported, that it’s affected your brain functions.”

He sighed before continuing. He’d known Barbara for a long time, and he knew how desperately she wanted to regain the use of her legs. But, he couldn’t just sit by and watch her kill herself. Walking just wasn’t worth her life. “Barbara, I know that you want to walk again. I understand. But…continuing to test the device on yourself will only cause more degradation to the affected area. Now, Bruce has already agreed to fund the research. I know he’s going to try talking you into turning the project over to Wayne Corp. R&D. I think that at this point, it would be best if you did that.”

Barbara’s face fell as she heard the doctor’s recommendation. She had wanted to be the one to develop the transponder. Still, if Bruce had R&D working on it, she could be sure that she’d retain all rights to her designs. Not that it really mattered. She wasn’t doing it for that, anyway. The main thing was to get the thing working, so that other people who had suffered injuries like hers might have some hope.

She sighed as Helena squeezed her hand. The younger woman knew what she was thinking. She always did. Still, to her credit, she didn’t say anything. “Okay. There will be no further use of the transponder. I’ll talk to Bruce,” she said grudgingly. “I’m sure we can work something out with R&D.”

Helena closed her eyes and swallowed hard when she heard Barbara agree with Dr. Rains. Briefly, she wondered if Barbara really meant what she said. But then she remembered what they’d talked about last night. Barbara had sworn to her that she was done with the transponder. Helena and their relationship, she’d said, was too important: More important than walking could ever be. Helena had believed her then, and she believed her now. She had to. If she couldn’t believe in their love for each other, what else was there?

Squeezing Barbara’s hand again, she said, “Thanks, Doctor Rains.”

“It’s been my pleasure, ladies,” he said, standing up and following them out of the exam room. “And Barbara,” he said, stopping her before she rolled out the door, “I meant it when I said to rest.”

Barbara laughed quietly and said, “I know, Doctor Rains. And I’m sure that Helena here is already planning my forced vacation. I’m certain I won’t be left alone to do anything but rest until my sight comes back.”

“Good. Helena, I’m counting on you to watch over our patient,” he said, shaking her hand.

“You got it, Doc,” Helena said. “And thanks for everything,” she said, as she pushed Barbara in her manual chair toward the elevators.

* * * * *

1 Week Later

She watched Dick quietly for a few minutes from the balcony doors. She didn’t really want to disturb him. He seemed kind of…content, she decided. Sitting out there in the darkness all alone, watching the city he seemed to care about so much. She knew she had to, though. After everything that had happened, she didn’t want him to leave without knowing how she felt…about a lot of things. It was important to her, and, if she were being honest, to Barbara as well.

So, sucking it up, she stepped out onto the balcony quietly. “Hey Bro,” she said, coming to stand next to him where he was sitting in a chair. “You mind if I join you for a few minutes?”

Without looking at her, he shrugged. “No, have a seat,” he said in invitation.

Pulling up a chair, she sat down next to him. Not really sure how to begin, she didn’t say anything, at first. Finally, fed up with the silence, and knowing that the only one who could start this conversation was her, Helena spoke up. “So, you’re leaving tomorrow morning, huh?”

“Yeah, looks like it,” Dick said. He wasn’t really sure why Helena was out here, trying to talk to him, but he was going to let her take the lead. They’d never really gotten along before, and he was sure that the younger woman wasn’t going to let him leave without ripping into him for some reason or other.

Biting her lower lip nervously, Helena finally said, “Well, before you go…I sort of need to talk to you about a few things.” She looked over at him to gauge his mood, but he wasn’t giving anything away. So she plunged ahead, just wanting to get everything out in the open. “I know I’m not usually the one who says things like this Dick, but I wanted to tell you ‘thanks’. Not just for helping these last few days, but for being here all this time.” She faltered for a moment when he looked at her with a startled look on his face, but she continued. You were a huge help to all of us and I wanted to tell you that I…we…well, all of us, appreciate everything that you’ve done.”

“You’re welcome, Helena,” he said quietly. He was fully aware that she had more to say, but he wanted to acknowledge this monumental moment she was having. Times like this with Helena were rare. He needed to let her know he was paying attention.

Rolling her eyes and suddenly finding something fascinating about a string hanging from the sleeve of her blouse, she faltered briefly. Then, taking a deep breath, she went on. “There’s something else I need to talk to you about. You know, before you go. Ummm…well, it’s about…Barbara. Or, I should say, the way I feel about her.” She noticed out of the corner of her eye that he was watching her carefully. So, tamping down her nervousness, she forced herself to go on. “Well, anyway…look, I know that you and I haven’t always gotten along…” he snorted at this announcement, but she ignored it. “But I want you to know that I love Barbara more than anything in this world, Dick. I know that you probably don’t believe that, knowing my history and all, but it’s true. There isn’t anything that would make me hurt her…not on purpose, anyway.”

“I know you love her, Helena,” Dick interrupted her. “I’ve never doubted that.”

Smiling at his acknowledgement of her feelings, she went on. “I know you’ve always cared about her,” she said. “I don’t want us to fight all the time. I guess…I guess I need for you to understand.”

“Understand what, Hel?”

She swallowed hard. Apparently she wasn’t as prepared for this as she thought she was. “I need you to understand how she’s changed me. Her love for me, I mean.” She was having a hard time finding the words to explain herself, but forged ahead. She figured he’d get what she was saying, even if it wasn’t the clearest explanation. “The first time…the first time Barbara and I were together, I…I don’t know. Maybe some of Dinah’s telepathy wore off on me or something, but…When she touched me for the first time, Dick. I felt, actually felt, all the love she had for me. It was the most incredible thing I’ve ever felt in my whole life. It changed me, made me want to be a better person.”

Beginning to feel uncomfortable with the direction of the conversation, he held up a hand. “Whoa, Helena. I…” he shook his head. “I don’t need to hear about your…how you two…” his voice trailed off, clearly becoming embarrassed.

Helena laughed at the blush she saw on his cheeks. “Dick! Oh, my God! I wasn’t going to go into detail about our sex life! Good God, do you really want Barbara to kill me?” She wrapped her arms around herself. Clutching her sides, she continued to laugh. “I’m just trying to explain to you how much I love her. That first night together was the most profound night of my life. I didn’t know it was possible to feel so much love for another person,” she had managed to get her amusement under control. No longer laughing at him, she said, “Dick, I love her so much. I just wanted you to know that I’ll take care of her. Well, not ‘take care’ of her, she’s so damned independent, but you know what I mean. You don’t need to worry.” She looked at him levelly, never taking her eyes off his. It was important to her that he believe her and trust her with Barbara.

Finally managing to get his embarrassment under control, he met her eyes and saw the sincerity and honesty there. “She does love you very much,” he said quietly, thinking about what she’d just told him. “Barbara’s a very loving, passionate woman.”

“I know that,” she said, agreeing with him.

“She deserves someone who will love her completely. Someone who will never leave her, or hurt her, Helena,” he said, watching her intently.

Anger flared within her at his words. How dare he doubt her like this? “I know that, Dick. And I know you don’t think that I…” she stopped talking as he cut her off.

“Helena, I don’t doubt your love for her, or your devotion,” he said quietly. “As a matter of fact, I think you’re exactly what she needs.”

Stunned now, the anger fading away as quickly as it arrived, Helena could only look at him with her mouth hanging open in shock. “You…you do?”

Somewhat embarrassed and ashamed, he decided to confess to her about his slight case of voyeurism. “I saw the two of you, you know. That night, at the cabin…after I argued with Barbara and pissed her off. I’m sorry, Helena. I shouldn’t have done it, but I just wanted to make sure that you weren’t hurting her.” For some reason, he suddenly needed to explain his actions to her. He didn’t want her believing that he always watched his friends and family in the act of having sex. “You both looked so bad when you came in from the woods, that night. I thought that you’d taken advantage of her…forced her into doing things that she wouldn’t normally do. Then, after we argued and she went back to the bedroom, I went out for a walk. When I went by the bedroom the curtain was cracked.” He shook his head, staring down at his feet in shame. “I…I don’t know what I was thinking. But I saw the two of you. I should have left when I realized what was going on, but I needed to make sure…make sure you weren’t hurting her…”

Helena reached over and placed a hand on his arm gently. “Dick,” she said softly, “there’s nothing to apologize for. I…well…I can’t say that I like the idea that you watched us, but I do understand why. I guess I would have done the same thing if the situation had been reversed. Please don’t feel bad about it.” She couldn’t hide a self satisfied smirk thinking about that night. “You know, Barbara saved me from myself that week. By sharing so much of herself, she brought me back to…well…me. I’m still not sure how it happened, but she just seemed to know what would bring me back. Allowing me to work through my demons…I found myself those few nights we were there. It was…” she trailed off, lacking the words to explain to him what she’d experienced.

“I get it, Helena. And thanks, for trying to explain,” he looked at her, grateful for her understanding. “I’m so glad Barbara’s finally found someone who’s her equal in all things. She needs that, you know.”

She smiled shyly at the unexpected compliment. “Well thanks, Bro. I’ll try to live up to your expectations.”

“You’ll do just fine, Hel. Just keep loving her like you already do. That’s all it takes.” He reached over and pulled her into a hug.

Barbara, who’d been listening from the shadows, decided to interrupt now. She’d waited until she was sure they were through, preferring to give Helena time to straighten things out with Dick. She wanted her little family to be happy together. Giving the wheels on her manual chair a push, she glided toward them. “So, mind if I crash the party?” she asked, coming to a stop next to them.

As he heard Barbara’s voice, Dick cringed inwardly, hoping she hadn’t just heard the conversation with Helena. He especially hoped she hadn’t heard his confession about watching the two of them together. Forcing his voice to sound normal, though he wasn’t quite sure he’d succeeded, he turned toward her and said, “Sure Barbara, the more the merrier, you know.”

“Well thanks, Dick. I was kind of hoping you’d say that,” Barbara said, smiling at him. “So,” she looked from Dick to Helena, “you two been having a good talk? Or do I need to send you both to the training room to work out your differences?”

“Ease up there, Red,” Helena said smoothly. “Dick and I were just talking about things. Everything’s cool, right Bro?” She said, looking toward him for confirmation.

He smiled, realizing that Helena wasn’t going to tell Barbara about what he’d done. Silently thanking her, he smiled and said, “Cool as can be, Hel. You know Barbara, the next time you two decide to take a vacation, you should swing by Bludhaven. I’d love to show you both around town.”

Surprised by the invitation, Barbara said, “Well thanks, Dick. Maybe we’ll just have to do that, won’t we Hel?” She reached over and took the brunette’s hand in hers, squeezing gently. She noticed as she did that Dick didn’t even bat an eye. Apparently he meant it when he’d told Helena he thought she was what Barbara needed. Breathing a sigh of relief, maybe now her family would get along instead of acting like they were in a war zone all the time, she grabbed Dick’s hand with her free one and squeezed his as well. “I’m glad to see you two getting along. It makes me feel really good.”

Helena smiled and squeezed her hand again as she said, “I’m glad, Barbara. You know how I like to make you feel good.” Then, just to make the redhead blush, she wiggled her eyebrows for effect.

Right on cue, Barbara’s skin began to turn red. “Helena, I swear sometimes you drive me nuts. But in a good way. Come on you two, let’s go in and join the others. Alfred will never forgive us if we don’t eat dessert with the whole family together. And Bruce is dying to try Alfred’s Homemade Chocolate Mousse.” She smiled. “Apparently, he’s missed that quite a bit these last few years.”

Helena and Dick both stood up, and said together, “We’re there.”

She smiled brightly. “I thought you might be,” she said, knowing that each of them had an outrageous sweet tooth.

Helena leaned down and kissed her on the cheek. “Come on, Red. Let’s get in there before Dad eats it all.” She reached out and helped guide Barbara back into the house, surprisingly, without protest from the redhead. Since her eyesight had begun to return, she’d been much more willing to accept help. It seemed she’d finally realized that there was no shame or admittance of a weakness by accepting help once in a while.

Barbara quirked a brow up at her when she heard her use of the term. “Dad? Since when did you start calling him that?”

Helena shrugged. “Since we talked a while back. I guess you might say that after the events of the last year, I understand a little better what he went through.” She fell silent for just a minute, and then said, “Besides, Mom loved him, so he can’t be that bad.”

Barbara laughed at that and shook her head at the brunette’s logic. “Oh Hel…”

“What? I’m allowed to change my mind,” she said, laughing with her as they made their way back up to the dining room.

Barbara patted Helena’s hand as the brunette waited for her to get situated at the table. “You’re such a romantic,” she said so quietly that only Helena could hear.

Helena leaned down and kissed her on top of the head. “Only for you, Red. Only for you. Now,” she said, straightening up, “where’s that dessert? I’m starved!”

Dinah rolled her eyes at the proclamation. “When aren’t you hungry?

“I’m always hungry, Kid,” she answered the teen while giving Barbara a look that made her face turn bright red.

Apparently picking up on her thoughts, Dinah’s face turned red as well. “Ewww Helena! TMI already!”

Helena laughed and shrugged. “You asked.”

“Hello, innocent kid, here,” she said sarcastically, putting her hands over her ears and repeating, “la, la, la, la, I’m not listening to Helena. La, la, la, la…”

“Innocent my ass. Besides, we try not to bring attention to Dick’s little problem…” Helena said over the sing song voice, trying to bait the teen. It was her favorite pastime. Well, when she wasn’t…doing ‘things’ with Barbara, of course. It didn’t really matter what things. Just that they were together.

Dick, for his part, didn’t say anything. Instead, he just rolled his eyes and blushed at Helena’s comment, not sure if she was making a crack about him being innocent, or something else.

“All right, you two,” Barbara said, stifling a laugh and hoping her face would lose its’ blush. “That’s enough out of you.” When both of them looked at her obviously gearing up for an argument of wits, she turned to the others at the table with a look of dismay. “Can I get a little help here?”

All four men, Bruce, Dick, Jim and Alfred looked at each other. Silently coming to the same conclusion, Bruce finally spoke for all of them. “You’re on your own, Barbara.”

“Thanks a lot,” she said sarcastically. “I’ll remember this, you know.”

They all just laughed, knowing that she loved this; the way her little family just seemed to get along and meld together. Sure, they had their problems, but so did any family. After all she’d been through; it was a miracle that she could still open herself up to it at all.

* * * * *

Trailing a finger leisurely down Barbara’s bare arm, Helena asked quietly, “Did you enjoy this evening, Red?”

Loving the attention she was getting at the moment, Barbara could barely answer. Moaning with pleasure at the feel of Helena’s hands on her, she finally managed. “Mmm, Hel…that feels so good.”

Smirking to herself, the brunette leaned in a little closer. “You didn’t answer my question, Barbara.”

“Oh…” smiling, the redhead said, “Yes. I had a great time, tonight. It was really nice to have everyone here for dinner. It’s been a long time.”

Helena was sitting with her back propped against Barbara’s headboard, with the redhead leaning back against her. Leaning down slightly, she brushed a kiss across Barbara’s bare shoulder, causing the redhead to gasp. “I’m glad you enjoyed it, Barbara. It was nice. I particularly enjoyed watching your dad and mine try to drink each other under the table.”

Barbara rolled her eyes and ran her hands down Helena’s legs. Shaking her head, she said, “I swear, I don’t know who’s worse? You or my dad? You’re both like big kids, trying to get everyone into a drinking contest. You’d think we were all at a frat party.”

Helena squeezed her and laughed. “You love it, Red, admit it. You love seeing your dad have a good time. I know you do.”

“You’re right, I do, Hel. It’s nice to just sit and be like a family once in a while, you know?” Barbara said, her voice sounding somewhat wistful to Helena’s ear.

“Mmm, no secret identities, no secrets,” Helena agreed. “It is nice. Maybe we should try it more often? The family thing, I mean,” she said, not really sure what she was trying to say.

“Really, Hel?”

“Hell yeah, Red,” Helena said. “I never had the family thing growing up, you know? It was just me and Mom. There were no brothers and sisters, no cousins, or anything,” her voice grew thoughtful, as she continued. “As a matter of fact, I don’t even know if Mom had any other family. Do you?”

Barbara shook her head. “No Hel, I’m sorry. I have no idea.”

Helena shrugged off the sudden melancholy mood. “Well, that’s okay. I don’t need anyone else trying to steal my thunder, anyway. Besides,” she said, suddenly leaning in and nibbling on Barbara’s ear, “we could start our own family, if we want.”

“Hel? You want to start a family of our own?” Not sure what the brunette meant by her statement, Barbara turned a quizzical eye toward the brunette.

“Sure, why not?” she smiled at the redhead. “We could…I don’t know, get married…have a couple of kids…”

Sure Helena was poking fun at her now, Barbara said, “Maybe we should just start by talking about you moving in here permanently, first. I think I’d like you all to myself for a while before we talk about…” her voice sounded cynical, as she said, “kids.”

Helena laughed at the way Barbara said ‘kids’. “Relax, Red. I didn’t mean I wanted to do it all in the next week, or something. I was talking more about the long term, you know?”

Relaxing a bit in the brunette’s arms, Barbara blew out a breath and said, “Oh.”

Helena nuzzled her hair. “Did you mean it when you said we could talk about me moving into the Clocktower permanently?”

“Of course, Hel. I’d love to have you living here again,” Barbara said shyly.

Helena beamed with excitement. “How about this weekend?”

“That’d be great, Hel. But what would you do with your apartment?”

The brunette grew quiet for a moment, thinking about her answer. Finally, she propped her chin on Barbara’s shoulder and said, “I think I’ll keep it, for now. Dinah will be going to NGU next year. Maybe she’d like to live off campus?”

“Above the Dark Horse, Hel?” Barbara asked, unenthusiastically.

“Sure, why not? It’s safe. Maybe Gabby could move in there, too. It’s certainly bigger than a dorm room, cheaper too…and I wouldn’t be too far away most of the time,” Helena said, beginning to really like the idea of having the Clocktower all to themselves.

“Well…I guess it could work…” Barbara said, warming to the idea slowly. She turned slightly, so that she was able to see the brunette better. Reaching behind her, she pulled Helena in for a long, slow kiss. When they parted, she said breathlessly, “I think I could grow to like the idea, Hel.”

“Mmm, which idea is that, Red?” Helena asked, leaning in and kissing the redhead again.

“Both, Hel. I like them both.” She pulled Helena closer, enjoying the feel of the brunettes’ skin brushing against her own. “As a matter of fact, maybe we could…I don’t know…practice? You know…since we have the Clocktower to ourselves tonight, and all.”

A slow, naughty grin flowed across Helena’s face as she felt her eyes change. “Anything you want, Red. I’m all yours, body, mind and soul.”

Barbara ran a hand down Helena’s back, scratching lightly with her nails. Thrilling to the feel of the slight shiver that ran through the brunette, she said breathlessly, “Love me, Hel. Just…make me feel how much you love me.”

Closing her eyes, Helena savored the redhead’s words. Since that night they’d shared weeks ago in the mine, neither of them had held back anything. Both of them had been hurting so desperately then…it had been a sweet release. She took in a deep breath and let it go. “I love you, Barbara.” Then, she was pulling the redhead to her and kissing her again.

As they moved together, melding and flowing into one, time seemed to stand still. If only for a little while, nothing could touch them. This was their own small haven in the wilderness of the world: Their church, in the ever flowing chaos of their lives. And they spent the rest of the night worshipping each other as only two people who truly knew and loved each other could.

The End