FANDOM: Birds of Prey TV
DISCLAIMER: I do not own these characters. The belong to others, WB, DC, I don't know who all else but end result: not mine. Not done for profit only as a slice of fandom.
RATING: I never know really what to put here. Violence yes. Mature themes...depends on your maturity level I suppose. Women lovin’ going on...absolutely.
BIG NOTE: This is a BoP and Dark Angel crossover. This is the unexpected sequel to Poison.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I wasn't planning a sequel to Poison but a few words and speculations of Oceangazer started me to thinking. My imagination went a wee feisty. And then my rational side perked up with a hey you! Ya got no time, little health and there's that sequel you promised Inchworm who's been waiting so patiently for too long. Smarten' up! Le grand sigh. Then suddenly, epiphany. Like butter and bread, like peanut butter and chocolate, things suddenly collided together in a delightful way. And that's when I realized why couldn't I simply do both ideas in the one story? And here you have the beginnings of my madcap tale of whimsy. Hope you enjoy. And Inchworm, many thanks for your patience.
P.s. For those of you not familiar with the show Dark Angel, pieces of Max's life will be forthcoming as the story progresses that will hopefully fill in enough blanks for those unknown to the show itself.
Max was almost getting used to waking up in pain, bound to the point of immobility, with no idea of where she was. It happened too often lately. She'd have to change that after she kicked the ass of anyone and everyone responsible this time. As she felt the motion of her being transported in a vehicle, she guessed from the sounds that it was a van, military issue. They had such a specific tire tread sound and the smell of guns in the vehicle. More Manticore flunkies sent to hunt her down and drag her back to the military facility no doubt.
She would have opened her eyes but they were blind folded. She could hear the breathing of three people, two close by, one further away. The driver no doubt. Her bonds were good. Whoever tied her to the medical gurney knew what she was capable of. No element of surprise to hold onto then. Damn. "You know as soon as I'm free I'm gonna be having a fine time whuppin all your candy asses back to Manticore."
What she hadn't expected as a response to her bravado was laughter. A high, rich laugh, female and getting nearer. A warm hand cupped her face and she felt the woman lean closer. Max braced herself for pain.
"Whoever said we were from Manticore my dear?" The voice burred softly, lulling and amused.
If they weren't Manticore then who were they? Before Max could answer the question a male voice, one she knew, Lydecker, spoke up. The bastard hunted her all this time and this bitch had the nerve to say they weren't Manticore? Max was going to whup them all big time. There had to be some perks to being a bio-engineered freak.
"Uhm... Miss, you might want to stay back. She is a killing machine after all. She's dangerous. It would be unwise to underestimate any X-5 let alone this one."
"Oh, I don't underestimate anything anymore I assure you Lydecker." The soothing voice lost its amusement, and Max didn't like the tone that replaced it. The kind of tone that makes you tense up for a fight, a blow you won't see coming. This woman liked hurting people. Wanted to hurt them. It was obvious, if you were listening. Lydecker obviously wasn't.
"I'm merely trying to warn you, Ma'am, that the X-5 you have purchased-"
"Stop right now. If you go on about perfect DNA and gene splicing experimentation and give me her bar code number again I will personally snap your neck." Now the woman was amused in a very bad, bad way. And what the Hell was that about this psycho bitch purchasing her? Max wondered what the hell Lydecker had dragged her into now. And where was Logan?
"I know what I bought. And you'll get your free passage out of the country and a new identity just like I promised." The woman leaned down again just before hands turned Max's head and lifted her hair at the back of her neck. Warm breath puffed against Max's skin. "And what a lovely tattoo of your bar code you have, my dear. It's so neat, so tidy right there on the back of your neck. The other tattoos are even more interesting. But your... previous keeper Lydecker and Manticore didn't seem to have much information on those."
"That was more Renfro's interests." Lydecker supplied.
"Yes, the short blonde. I would have liked to ask if only she hadn't been killed so quickly." More disapproval. But since it wasn't directed at her, Max didn't mind.
Hands moved in her hair. More caresses than actual necessary movements. Then the hands fiddled in the tangles of Max's long hair and a weight was removed from her eyes. Max could see again. She blinked a few times adjusting to the dim light in the van. Perched on her gurney was a woman that looked very similar to Renfro. Short, with close cropped blonde hair, stylish and smirking, her dark eyes roving over Max with a sense of ownership that Max didn't care for at all.
"You're beautiful." The woman said, her dark eyes gleaming. "My perfect, beautiful weapon."
"I'm not yours. I don't belong to anyone." If the woman leaned close enough, Max could crack the woman's skull with a well placed head butt.
"That's where you're wrong. You will belong to me in every way." The woman's smirk only grew.
It pissed Max off. "Lie to yourself all you want. Won't change the fact that you can't make me do shit."
The blonde held up a needle. "I think, Max, that I can do whatever I want. Don't you worry, this won't hurt. Much. A shame really. I briefly had a meta power when I could hypnotize anyone. It would have made this easier, let alone faster and less painful for you my sweet Max."
"I told you already, I don't belong to you. I'm not your sweet anything."
"You're more mine than you realize. Thinking you were in a third world Seattle. Military zones and em pulses wiping out American civilisation. How amusing. You'll soon find out the truth though. Now hold still. Oh, that's right, you have no choice do you." That smile grew even wider and more sinister as the bitch stuck the needle into Max's arm.
"I'm so gonna kill you when I break out of here." She cursed again as the blonde gripped the point of the injection, digging the pin in as the liquid ran cold in Max's veins.
"Such fire. You do remind me so much of Helena. But you'll meet her soon. They'll all get to meet you, my perfect assassin. But I won't want you to kill them quickly, I want more finesse, I want them hurting first, and I want to continue to twist the knife in them. And you Max, are going to be my weapon. My perfect weapon."
Just great, Max thought, why did she always get the crazy ones? "You lying psycho, I burn through drugs like water. It won't work on me."
The woman caressed Max's now sweating face, the touch as gentle as the strange woman's voice. "You don't understand pet, I spent the last few months with a woman who knows everything about toxicology and then some, and how to make a person do exactly what you want when you want, if you just combine the right ingredients. Now, I have a very specific target in mind, and her name. Well, let's leave that a surprise for later shall we? Nighty-night, pet. When you wake up, it will be a brave new world for you. And I'll get everything I deserve back. Including her."
Max felt it, the stuff taking effect, things becoming hazy and her focus going. As she fought against the ever greater grey in her vision dragging her down into unconsciousness, she struggled to listen to every scrap of information she could.
The vehicle they were in lurched to a sudden stop.
"Why have we stopped?"
"I'm sorry Miss Quinn. The Gotham cops are up ahead. They're arresting some people or sumthin' "
The man's voice had been thready, terrified of the blonde who he called Quinn. Max committed the name to memory. But Gotham police? Where the Hell was Gotham?
"Never mind about them you fool," Quinn's voice commanded, sharp and precise. "Just back up and go around them along the next street."
This Quinn chick worried Max but it was the next words, the very last words that Max heard which pierced her with the first cut of true fear.
"Now, Lydecker," Quinn purred, "tell me all about Max's ability. Her strengths, her weaknesses...and especially about this condition of hers. I believe it's called in layman's terms 'going into heat'? Tell me what can be done with it and I'll take it from there."
Quinn's chilling laugh followed Max down into the blackness of unconsciousness.
Barbara looked over the information displayed by the computer screens of the Delphi one last time. "All wrapped up there Huntress?"
Her partner's voice came through with lazy contentment over the comms. <Even added a bow made out of one of their neck ties. I'm up on the nearest rooftop watching the Gotham blue pick them up and drag their scuzzy asses home.>
She heard Helena chuckle. "What is it?"
<Nothing really.> If Barbara wasn't mistaken, her dark counterpart sounded embarrassed. <Just a name on a van bugging out of the road block the cops put up while they clean up the mess. It made me think of you.>
She waited, Helena didn't answer. Damn, the woman could be such a mental tease. "And that name would be?"
Red brows lowered. "I'm not certain how you connected that with me?"
Another chuckle. "Who else would the name of a Greek mythic creature make me think of Oracle?"
Barbara removed her glasses and smiled, twirling them in her hands. "You're much better read than you let on."
<You give the word and I'll read to you anything you want.>
Barbara smiled wide enough to stretch her face, unaccustomed still to such happiness. And Helena had a way of coaxing it out of her at the most unexpected times. "Forget the books for now. I want to see you home." With her. Ever since they confessed their feelings and consummated their relationship Barbara was hard put to focus on anything else. Almost. "Hurry." She didn't want her thoughts to think about...other things.
<I'm on my way. Comms out.>
Helena always ran to her whenever Barbara asked, something the dark and sexy woman insisted was her pleasure to do for the red head.
A rustle like leaves seemed to flow through the air. Frowning, Barbara moved away from the Delphi and towards the balcony. There weren't enough plants in the Clock Tower to make that much noise anymore. She had given away a number of them as her memories came back one after the other. Still so many holes, but in an odd way she felt more complete than she could recall in years. Being true to herself... Helena had been right, holding herself back had only hurt the both of them.
Out on the balcony Barbara heard nothing more, there wasn't any sign of a wind at all. And there were no trees outside to make that kind of sound. Her mind must have been playing tricks on her. Still, she wished Helena would be here soon.
A scent carried in the air, pleasant. Barbara inhaled deeply letting it fill her and as it did, visions ran behind her closed lids. Images of pale green skin, poppy red lips, sunset hair and a kiss that nearly killed her. Barbara gasped, her eyes shot open as she recognized the scent. Gardenias. The same flower Poison Ivy had left for her after Barbara had survived the toxic woman's kiss. A kiss she'd been working very hard to forget, a futile hope with her eidetic memory. Yet Ivy had fled with Quinn in her grasp. She couldn't be here.
Hands strayed to her batons, but as she scanned the area Barbara could find no evidence of any flowers, or leaves, or vines anywhere on the balcony. And no sign of a woman she tried to keep buried to herself.
Hands found her shoulders. Barbara snapped out a stick and struck out behind her with a twist of her upper body. A knowing hand grabbed hers and held the baton with ease.
She looked up into violet blue eyes, deceptively delicate facial features framed by sexily dishevelled short dark hair, and a bewildered curl of a bow shaped lips.
"You wanted me to hurry so you could spar with me Red?"
"Helena," she breathed with relief. "Sorry," she sheepishly pulled her baton away and put it back into its compact form tucked beneath her chair, hidden from view. "I'm oddly jumpy tonight. Did you...happen to scent anything on your way home?" She was likely being over sensitive but with Helena's heightened senses, Barbara could be sure.
She watched the graceful woman scent the air. And then shrug, "Only the usual pollution and grime that is our beloved Gotham. Although there is one other thing..."
Barbara's heart doubled in speed as adrenalin picked up in her blood. "What?"
Helena leaned down, a sensual curve to those kissable lips, "The one thing I can never smell enough of. You." And she kissed Barbara fully, hungrily.
Barbara gave into the kiss with relief and her own hunger as well as a desperation she hoped Helena would never ever know.
Helena's hands joined her lips on Barbara, and it was almost enough to make Barbara forget all about Poison Ivy.
The last bell of the day had rung an hour ago and Barbara had never been more grateful for the end of the school week. The halls had emptied faster than Helena could strip out of a torn outfit and Barbara was almost done with the last of her paperwork.
Her cell phone rang.
A quick glance at the caller ID and she answered, "Dinah, how are you?"
"Great, now that I'm out of boring math class. I did a quick sweep of the last burglary. The wing of the museum was cordoned off. Maybe we'll have better luck tonight with Helena and fewer people?"
Barbara sighed. "That's okay Dinah. We knew it would be a longshot. But it was worth the effort just in case you noticed something. I'll coordinate things with Helena later on. Hopefully we'll come up with something."
"Okay," Dinah sounded as chipper as ever. "Is it all right if I stop off at Gibson's before going home?"
If it had anyone other than Dinah, Barbara would have had to consider the request longer. But even though it was a bar, it was the only meta-human hang out for Dinah, or any meta in the city not looking for trouble. Besides, even though Dinah was a teenager, she was the most responsible young woman Barbara knew for her age. It also didn't hurt that she was certain Gibson knew he would be skinned alive by Helena if he ever served the young ward anything even remotely alcoholic.
"That's fine. I'll see you later at home."
Hanging up she turned her attention back to today's newspaper. The past month had seen an increasing rash of high class burglaries done by someone, or more than one person, who had skills that could nearly rival those of Catwoman. No clues, no witnesses and small but very expensive items going missing. Last night's had been the museum. A statue made of gold, about one foot tall of the Egyptian goddess Bast had been stolen. Barbara had hoped that there would be liberal talk amongst the guards or such at the museum, but apparently with no luck according to Dinah. She'd have to send Huntress in to look tonight. They had checked out the previous crime scenes, with no luck whatsoever. Barbara found it rather maddening. The frustration of not being able to figure this latest criminal out was eating at her pride.
With the school empty, the building was now blessedly quiet and it allowed her the opportunity to think. Barbara certainly had a lot to think about.
"What in the Gotham Times has you so deep in thought on a Friday?" Barbara jerked her head up from the newspaper to see the lovely young woman draped against the doorway.
"Just woolgathering," she turned her chair a little to better face the woman. Looking at her this closely she could understand the buzz about the new substitute teacher. "What keeps you here? Ms. Nguyen isn't it?"
Long wavy black hair framed dusky green eyes, an oval face and sensual lips. The woman wore only black slacks and an emerald blouse but she looked like a model with an athletic frame. She walked confidently in the room and offered Barbara a well manicured hand with tastefully painted nails.
"Please, call me Jade," the woman offered with the same smooth tone and a faint accent that was mixed, leaving Barbara unable to place it. Those striking eyes held Barbara's effortlessly. "I've been busy cleaning up the lab after my Biology class. It's so much more messy than my morning Chemistry group. I've been meaning to introduce myself to you before, but it's been busy."
"Of course," Jade's hand was warm, and her shake strong but not overpowering. Confident was Jade, Barbara mused. "But why not get some of your students to take care of that?"
An amused glint sparked those smoky eyes. "Oh no, I'm rather ...fussy with my things. I prefer to attend to such matters myself. But you're not the usual 'English teaching old maid in a tasteless brown dress', Barbara Gordon. What keeps you here on a Friday 'woolgathering'?"
Thinking only moments ago of Catwoman, there was something about Jade's tone that reminded Barbara of Helena's mother. A rather strong sensual presence and a hint of something both dangerous and promising in her voice.
"I like the quiet," she replied with an enigmatic smile.
"I certainly don't mind privacy," Jade perched on the corner of the desk nearest Barbara. "After a day of speaking about such things as spitting cobras, Bufo toads and Hyla tree frogs I was glad to hear the rustling of another young and intelligent woman still here. Spending the day with kids can really make you yearn for more mature company and adult conversation."
"Indeed," Barbara readily agreed, but the other part of the topic disturbed her. "You discussed poisonous amphibians and reptiles in your class? You don't have any samples surely?"
Jade put a hand on Barbara's arm, reassuringly running it down in a languid movement that wasn't quite reassuring so much as something entirely different. "Now, don't be alarmed Barbara. May I call you by your first name? I wouldn't put such preciously dangerous material in the hands of amateurs."
If this woman was hoping to use her charm and sensuality to overwhelm Barbara, then Jade was about to be sorely disappointed. Barbara as Batgirl, had to face far more overpowering women on rooftops, usually wearing latex. And that wasn't even counting the living breathing sexual presence of Helena, whom Barbara lived with. Jade certainly was underestimating the red head, something the slightly older woman didn't like.
She wheeled her chair back, ignoring the slight tingling sensation from where Jade had touched her hand. "I'm sure you're quite careful Jade. Your class topic just surprised me."
"And you don't like surprises?" Jade smiled and leaned forward invitingly, re-closing the distance between them. "I know I was certainly surprised to see such a vibrant woman in an inner-city high school." She watched Barbara with a rather intense air of speculation and, unless Barbara was reading Jade wrong, she was being somehow measured.
There was little doubt now that either the woman was flirting with her or simply playing games. Either way, Barbara was most certainly taken, no matter how...intriguing Jade Nguyen was.
Barbara's cell phone rang again. She flipped it open without looking at the display, offering an apologetic smile to Jade, who still perched on her desk, watching.
Helena sounded rather unhappy. Odd for a Friday night ahead of them. "Hey Hel, is everything all right?"
"Uhm, actually no, I'm a the cop shop. I've just been arrested for the cat burglaries."
Dammit. What was this now? "I'll be right there Helena, just hang on and say nothing."
"A friend in need?" Jade asked archly.
"Yes, you'll have to excuse me Jade. We'll have to pick this up another time. My apologies."
Jade regarded her curiously. "And you're sure you're feeling well enough to drive?"
She frowned and the curiously mysterious woman. "I'm fine, just concerned about my friend. We'll talk again at another time. Sorry to have to cut you off like this."
"You really are fine, aren't you? Well, I won't keep you then." The woman hopped off the desk and walked to the door before stopping and looking back. "We most definitely will talk again later Barbara, I'll be holding you to that." With a Cheshire smile in lieu of a goodbye, the woman left.
Now what exactly, Barbara wondered, was all that about? However she didn't have time to think of that as she grabbed her bag to hurry to the police department and find out why on Earth they had arrested Helena. Although, Barbara had a sinking suspicion that it may very well have something to do with Helena being the daughter of Catwoman. Damn.
Max looked around her. For a place called No Man's Land, there sure were a lot of live bodies walking around and the bar was hardly an exception. It was like any bar that catered to the fringes. It needed a paint job, had unstable chairs and the table Max sat at had more scratches in it than a cat's favourite fence post. Still, like most bars that hold the undesirables of society, this place was one of the few areas Max felt a bit more at ease in. Because no matter how hard she looked for proof of her life before this past month, one things was becoming increasingly clear.
Her entire life may have been a lie.
Granted, she could just be mad. All that genetic tinkering might have finally given way to insanity and Max took that possibility with the same nonchalance that she did some idiot drawing a knife on her a couple of weeks back. That guy had ended up with a broken nose, part of her attitude adjustment technique. It was the blue fellow she had helped who had been getting beat up by the guy who showed her the way to the bar and bought her a drink to say thank you. She'd been coming back ever since. After all, she had no where else to go. There was no Logan to lecture her on the ways of the righteous, no best friend Original Cindy to 'keep it real' while hangin' with her home girl, no Jam Pony courier service to hang out at and keep her employed, no electromagnetic pulse that had pitched the US into a third world state. Nothing of Max's reality existed as far as she could find out. She had checked archives, police records, directories, and nothing, not a trace of anyone or anything she knew. Her past, her reality didn't seem to be real at all. But she existed and she still had a bar code genetically imprinted on the back of her neck, which meant Manticore must exist. A genetically engineered weapon, That sure as Hell was real. Max had been trained to adapt so adapt she did. But it didn't make her feel the loss of her world any less, or the confusion of being alone in a world she no longer knew.
Of course there were things that did still hold true, fat cats with wallets were always easy pickings and as she found out, there were always those who others would try to step on. Meta-human was a word Max learned of very quickly in the rundown areas of Gotham. If she couldn't take it easy with her friends, if they had ever even existed, she should at least try to unwind now and again with her fellow freaks.
"Hey Gib, hit me with another will ya?" The short man turned to her smiling, always smiling that guy. He fixed another beer for her and walked around the bar to place it on her table.
"Although it's great for a sexy thing like you to give me a pet name, I do prefer Gibson. It's only accurate after all."
Max leaned back in her chair and shrugged in her black leather motorcycle jacket. "Hey, no prob. But you mind tellin' me how 'sexy thing' is accurate for my name?"
"Well you are sexy, unarguably so. Certainly that must therefore be considered accurate. If you even want a bit of company-"
"Got it. Thanks but I'm not looking right now. Not for that. But I do need a job still. Have you heard yet of any one looking for someone to work under the table? A girl needs to eat."
"Sorry hot stuff, nothing yet but I've been keeping my ear open for anyone needing help with no creds asked. All on the down low, the QT right?"
"You got it G-man." She did need a legit job, the sooner the better. She had too much time to think.
He chuckled, "G-man I like that." His eyes suddenly lit up and he immediately left her to fetch something from behind the bar. "Hey Dinah, the usual? How have you and my favourite trio of lovely ladies been doing these days?"
Max checked out this Dinah chick, noting the long blond hair, clear blue eyes, designer jeans, tight white shirt and brown corduroy jacket. She thought of how much Original Cyn would have flipped looking at this chickie with her long legs and nice ass-
The thought broke off there. Her friend was gay, not Max. She must have just been checking out the fat wallet in the back pocket. A girl did need to eat after all. The world may be different but some things were the same, fat cats and fat wallets and Max...Max missed things, her friends, her place in the world. She was sure the rich kid with the long hair and longer legs wouldn't be missing that cash. The hottie hardly looked like she fit in here but she sat down at the bar like she's been there a hundred times.
"Thanks Gibson," the woman said in a voice like sunshine, taking the offered juice gratefully. "It's been quiet. How have things been down here?"
"Same old, same old. But I haven't seen Huntress here in twenty-eight days, four hours, three minutes and fifty six seconds. What's keeping my delectable wild flower?"
Dinah shrugged and Max caught the look of sad resignation that quickly came and went on that pretty face. "You know how it is, the lovebirds need their time together. Making up for the years they didn't clue about how much they loved each other, I guess. It's great to see them so happy, but wow, you have to escape now and again to get away from all that love-dovey stuff right?"
The smile was big, the laugh pleasant but there was a sadness there in the blue of those bright eyes. The bartender didn't see it. For a guy who can recall everything, he sure missed a lot of what happened right in front of him, Max mused.
She picked up her beer and took those few steps to the bar. "Never saw you here before." She leaned close to this Dinah woman.
Blondie looked at her and smiled kindly, "Hey, I'm Dinah. Are you new to Gotham?"
"I'm so new I'm still shiny from the wrapper." Max slid into her usual sass, glad to talk to someone even if she was a mark. "Name's Max."
Gibson was off gabbing with another customer. It was easy, as the girl offered her hand, for Max to 'accidentally' spill her drink on the blonde. "I'm so sorry! Here let me get that." She grabbed a wad of napkins and began to pad and paw at the young woman. While she did, it was so very easy to just lift that wallet free during all the scrambling and mauling. Quick and easy just like she liked it.
Max never expected the strong grasp on her wrist or the unyielding look in those kind blue eyes. "If you don't mind Max, I like my wallet where it is."
Damn, looks like she was going to have to hurt the blonde. Too bad, she had found herself intrigued by those eyes.
But Dinah surprised her again with a smile both gentle and sad, as complicated as the look in those blue eyes. "Just let me have my wallet. I'll buy you another beer and you won't have to get thrown out of this place." Those eyes twinkled unexpectedly and some real humor tugged at those full lips, "And it will also mean I don't have to throw you."
Max laughed, she couldn't help it. "Dang, you got guts. I'll give you that. But my skillz are beyond compare. Just a 411." She did, despite her smart mouth, which she prided herself in, give Dinah back the wallet the moment the blonde relinquished the hold on her wrist.
A self-depreciating smile was her answer along with the enigmatic words, "We all have our talents."
"Seems so." She slid back on the bar stool next to Dinah. "You got some moves though, being able to catch me. I'm good."
"If you say so," Dinah smiled more genuinely around a sip of her juice.
"Mary Sunshine," Max shook her head in wonder, amusement and a growing respect for this unflappable person, "where exactly do they grow the likes of you? Ain't never seen your kind before. And that's a compliment."
"One of a kind I guess." Dinah reached behind the bar for a pen and started to scribble on a napkin.
"That we are." Max couldn't believe it, she was actually smiling back at the chick who had nabbed her. Man, she had to get some air or something to clear her head. She caught the time on the Dinah's watch.
"Can we put that beer on raincheck?" She stood and realized she truly did regret having to leave. Weirder and weirder but wasn't that her life all over? "I gotta skate."
Dinah didn't raise a fuss but handed her the napkin that was now folded. "My number for that raincheck."
"Thanks." Max couldn't understand Dinah at all. But she found herself wanting to. "I just might take you up on that."
Everything would have been fine, really, if only Max hadn't looked at the paper then and there. But the words and the numbers were hard to miss once she did and she paled.
I don't know what the number 4-5-2 means or the bar code on the back of your neck but if you need help or just want to talk call. Dinah -
The phone number wasn't the issue. Max's bar code and number sure as hell were. She did what she had been taught, she adapted and threw the girl a friendly smile. "Thanks, that's nice. You mean it about the chat? Maybe we could do that now. Anywhere private that we could, you know, talk?"
Pale eyebrows rose, "Sure, there's an alley out back."
"Perfect." She didn't want to hurt Dinah. She hadn't wanted to hurt Dinah, but she was nobody's victim.
They went out the back door and as soon as it clicked closed Max knew with her sensitive hearing that they were alone. She grabbed the blonde and pinned her hard against the brick wall. Dinah tried to gasp around the arm threatening to crush her windpipe. "Why-"
"Shut up," Max growled low and fierce, "just who are you? One of Lydecker's puppets? You an X-11?"
"Don't-" the woman gasped.
"Don't what?" Max glared, ready to hurt Dinah if she had to.
"Don't make me hurt you." The innocent looking blonde said and before Max knew it she was no longer pinning Dinah, but was up and flying. She landed in a pile of garbage. Some bruises and scrapes and a whole slice of hurt pride served up to boot.
She rose dusting herself off and loosening her shoulders up. "Telekinesis and telepathy? You're an X-11 alright. Let's see how well you concentrate when someone's whuppin' your cute ass."
She rushed the pretty girl, not fooled by that innocent smile anymore, glad to finally have a target to vent all these weeks of frustration, loss and loneliness on.
All Dinah had wanted to do was help the woman who had seemed as lonely as she was. She had responded to what her telepathy had shown her when Max had brushed up against her at the bar, the confusion, the anger, the ache. Immersed in that, Dinah had forgotten that not everyone wanted to be helped.
Before she would lose consciousness, the young blonde used her meta power and shoved, hard because this woman seemed to be as strong and as fast as Helena. With a grunt the woman went flying several feet in the air to land smack against the brick wall across from Dinah and drop unceremoniously into the heap of leftover empty boxes and garbage from the bar.
Dinah wondered for a moment if she'd managed to knock the girl out. She really hoped she hadn't seriously hurt her.
Then, upon seeing the dark woman rise up in one smooth motion, her beautiful eyes angry and fixed on Dinah, the blonde swallowed even as she went automatically into a fighting stance.
"Can't we talk about this?" Dinah hoped. She had really begun to like Max. "I'm not an "X" anything. I'm meta. Please Max, I don't want to hurt you."
Max brushed herself off as if it were a fine day in the park and some snow had fallen on her. She stepped out of the garbage and her regard had intensity, an intent which was not good as far as Dinah was concerned, not good at all. "You read my mind- telepathy. That there against the wall was telekinesis, and you're telling me you're not Manticore stock? Sell it somewhere else sister, because even with your mental abilities, you can't use them if you're in too much pain to think."
That's when Max rushed her, and she was faster, far faster, than anything Dinah was prepared for or could handle in such a small space. She only had time to think one thing before she was down on the ground.
Max wondered why the sistah had to go do her like that. She was sure she was right. The X-11 were bred for mental capabilities and lacked the same physical speed and strength the older X-5 had, that Max had. She got the blond on the ground before the woman had a chance to really think, and to keep it that way Max grabbed a handful of that thick gold hair and pulled it sharply, hearing Dinah's gasp, pulling her opponent up against the wall so that she could enjoy the feel of brick pressing into her back. It's not that Max had been hurt badly by the telekinetic attack, just briefly winded, but she was pissed off about it. Now time to catch little Sunshine in the lie.
Max pulled the hair up and looked at the back of Dinah's neck; no barcode. She wiped at the place with her hand just in case the woman had used concealer or something, but nope, not a single black line genetically etched there. She wasn't Manticore. Maybe.
Hey, even Max could admit she had trust issues. Who wouldn't after being genetically engineered as a weapon and then hunted down by the very same para-military branch that made you?
Shit, she needed answers. Time to see if she could make nice. "Look, I didn't care for being flung against the wall-"
"I don't much like being pinned against one either, or being choked for that matter." Dinah cut in, sounding a bit pissed off herself.
Max had to give it to goldilocks, she had some sass to her. And some skills. "Guess we both got our talents. Let's say I let you go, you don't mind-whack me into anything, and we call a truce. Deal?"
"I wasn't the one who started to fight in the first place." Dinah piped up.
By all that's holy, would the woman not let Max have this one moment of clear decision making and be grateful for this show of peaceful intentions and willingness to let the throw-into-the-wall go?
"Is that a yes?" Some of her temper came through as she didn't let up a millimeter on Dinah.
"Okay." The body relaxed waiting for Max to let up, and she did, carefully. She did have trust issues after all, well earned ones.
Dinah sighed and straightened out her clothes, even fixed her hair. It almost made Max smile. The chick sure showed some cool in the face of, well, Max.
"You know, I didn't mean to read you in there," contrite blue eyes met Max's dark ones, "it just happens sometimes. But the stuff I did pick up, you thinking you were maybe somewhere that doesn't exist, people that don't exist...you want to talk about it?"
Those blue, blue eyes, they wrapped warm sincerity like a blanket around a person. Max didn't dare trust it. "I'm more a doer than a talker. Conversation is highly over rated."
Dinah didn't laugh or put it off or get angry, she kept holding Max's eyes and looking through Max in the nicest, kindest way. It was unnerving as hell. Max couldn't look away.
"Well, for the 'doing' part, I know someone who might be able to help."
Narrowing her eyes, Max had to ask even while skepticism ran high, "Help how? And why would you want to help me after what we just exchanged?"
Again, that complicated smile, part sadness, part compassion and all gentle. "That 'exchange' is like a love tap compared to what I go through on an almost nightly basis. Don't worry about it. The help that would be from my friend, she's really good at computers and could look up those people, that place... Manticore? Check it out. I could let you know what we find."
Desperate for answers, Max wanted to jump and even hug the woman, at least high five her, but her years of the life she remembered held her in check. "Maybe. What's this cyber chick's name?"
A honey blond brow rose archly at her request.
"Okay, okay but look," Max gave in if only a little, "if you want me to trust you I need something back. A name, something."
The blonde considered and finally said, "That's reasonable, I guess. I'm Dinah Redmond. She's my guardian, Barbara Gordon. She's good with computers."
Heat shot through Max, an instant pulse of liquid metal coursing through her body. At least that's how it felt. She'd never had her heat come on suddenly in a burst like this. Usually there were warning signs, a fever, an itch she wanted to scratch with tall and studly at the nearest bar, wherever that would be. The downside of being genetically spliced with a bunch of predatory animals, the big cat part of her went into heat and when Max did, she needed to scratch that itch bad. But there was only the need and the alley and the blonde with the long legs who had the prettiest eyes-
And that's when Max did what she'd never done before. She kissed a girl. Pushed Dinah up against that lucky wall and took those soft lips in a hungry kiss. She pulled back for an instant while she still had enough of her human sense to think about the other woman. She'd die rather than force herself on anyone, but the heat called, the need demanded, roared in her to be filled, and Dinah- for some reason only Dinah could help. But she needn't have worried, in that brief second of meeting eyes; she caught the dilated pupils and the flush on that pale soft skin. Max needed more of that soft skin, wanted to taste, needed Dinah in a way she had never needed any lover before. She kissed the girl again and prayed to whoever might be listening that she hadn't just made the biggest mistake in her life as she seized Dinah into another searing kiss and was gratified to feel it returned with equal raw desire. When Dinah moved her tongue, traced the outline of Max's lips, it was the last moment of coherent thought Max could master. After that there was only the woman moving with her and how good it felt.
Being picked up for the cat burglaries because she was the daughter of the late ex-Catwoman had irritated Helena enough. Having to sit around a bunch of useless smelly rank guys ogling her while she was stuck in that small holding cell had peaked that ire up to fully pissed.
Then Barbara had wheeled in like she owned the place, imperious in her wheelchair. As soon as the daughter of the retired police commissioner had assured the boys in blue that Helena Kyle had been with her the time of the robberies, those same guys had let Helena go with apologies and barely veiled ogling still happening.
All the way in the car, Helena had fumed. Up in their apartment, she ranted and bitched while Barbara listened with that enigmatic smile that looked amused and sexy as hell at the same time. Damn she was beautiful, Helena mused. With that thought the anger drained away. But it didn't stop what had been eating at Helena all day.
Still not ready to let the fight in her go, Helena still ranted. "There had better be some idiot thugs out tonight for me to pummel, or else I don't know what I'm going to do."
Barbara wheeled over in her chair to get within arms length and put a warm hand in Helena's, giving it a gentle squeeze. "I'm sure there will be. Gotham never seems to be in short supply of those." Emerald eyes twinkled up at Helena. "And if there aren't enough to take the brunt of Huntress's formidable ire, I'll be here to help you deal with any...residual energy you might need taken care of."
That's what always did Helena in. When Quinn had stolen Barbara's memories and convinced the red head that she was the real Poison Ivy, Helena had met a Barbara completely unknown to her. Still brilliant, utterly breathtakingly sexy, but as Ivy Barbara had not held back her intense sexual energy, had revealed how much she wanted Helena. It had been close winning her back form Quinn. Both Barbara and Helena had nearly died; Helena from the poison Quinn had fed Barbara so that her kisses were as toxic as the real Ivy's, and Barbara had nearly died by a kiss from the real Poison Ivy. Helena had been nearly dead, but not as out of it as everyone thought. She had seen Ivy kiss Barbara, had watched helplessly as Barbara melted into the other woman's arms and then collapsed. And now...
Now Barbara was back to her old self, sort of. Old Barbara would never have said those words to Helena. Most of the memories were there again, but the woman who had become Oracle didn't restrain herself like she used to. Every time Barbara let that wild sexy side out, it destroyed Helena in the most amazing way because it was all directed for and only at her. Barbara didn't look at anyone the way she held Helena's gaze now, didn't smile that wide open smile that promised all kinds of things, wicked things. Helena wanted all of the promises in that smile kept. Wanted all the things she had believed for so long she could never, ever have.
She leaned in and kissed the fiery red head, softening against those silk lips, exploring that mesmerizing smile in a very intimate way. She fought to forget last night, fought to drown her doubts with Barbara's sighs, her touch, the way she held onto Helena so tightly like she never wanted to let go.
"I need this." Helena breathed against a smooth cheek. "Please don't make me wait until later tonight."
Green eyes flamed and Helena swore she could feel heat rise off of Barbara's skin. The woman took Helena into her arms like it was a sanctuary, and for Helena it was.
"Take me upstairs and I'll do anything you want Hel," the red head promised, "Everything you want."
Helena didn't need more than that, she lifted Barbara up, a rare delight Barbara didn't often allow, and flowed with her upstairs in to the bedroom. She laid the woman she loved on sheets more blue than green, laughed with Barbara as they both fought to take off each other's clothes and see who could do it the fastest. And then Helen lost herself in everything that was the amazing, multi-faceted, often enigmatic Barbara Gordon. And as she made love to the woman and was made love to, Helena wished it was enough. Because still, she heard what Barbara had said last night during a restless sleep as Helena lay beside her. It wasn't the words that had struck at Helena's doubts that fed them still. It was the tone, the soft passionate sigh of surrender, from a woman who never surrendered, that had undone Helena's confidence completely.
In the present Barbara responded to Helena with a fervour equal to Helena's passion, if not her desperation. She whispered words of love into Helena's ears like a promise, like the promises in that smile. Only, since last night, Helena was no longer sure those promises were only for her.
Max had never been the type to worry about tomorrow. It happened, no matter what. The past was the same. No control, couldn't change it, so why stay hung up on it? The now, the moment, that's what life was. You couldn't control life, couldn't control others. There was only this, the moment, the seconds. And in this moment there was Dinah, pressed warm and inviting against her, the softness of Dinah's lips, the velvet stroke of the blonde's shy tongue. It didn't matter to Max that she wasn't gay, didn't know if Dinah was. All that mattered was the heat that pulsed through her body and the whimpers coming from the blonde that were driving Max into a frenzy.
She pulled away enough to ask between kisses, "Dinah, do you want me to stop?" She already knew the answer but wanted to hear Dinah's voice, wanted to hear the blonde say the words.
"God, no." Dinah's hands grabbed two fists of Max's jacket and swallowed Max's laugh with kisses of her own, taking the lead, which was fine by Max. At least for the moment. Control wasn't Max's thing, the heat was, the need calling her. The need she heard matched in each of Dinah's sighs as Max ground a thigh between those long denim clad legs. Briefly Max wished her friend Original Cindy had told her being with a woman felt this good, then the sad thought intervened that Original Cindy might never have existed, that the Seattle she knew never was, that Max herself was lost. But she shook it off angrily. She wanted to lose herself in Dinah, if only for this moment. Max would take it.
Her whole body shook with the need to feel Dinah's skin on her own, to touch places forbidden. She fumbled in her frenzy at the woman's pants. She undid the button and unzipped Dinah's jeans, heard Dinah's sharp intake of air, felt her own heart race as she touched that incredibly soft skin just above the panties. She slid a finger under the elastic, and that's when a hand closed around her wrist like a vice.
She pulled her face away from those wonderfully tormenting kisses to stare at Dinah, shocked at the woman stopping her again.
"I'm not trying to nab your wallet this time." She panted.
Dinah seemed to have trouble focusing. Max liked the look in those glazed eyes and tried again, but this time Dinah shook her head away from Max's parted lips and her grip didn't weaken on Max's wrist. She dragged in air and said, "No Max, we have to stop."
Anything but that. "You don't want me to stop." Max was sure of it. "You want this."
Those sky blue eyes were ocean dark with want. "I do," regret crept in like an unwanted tide, "but you don't. Not completely
"Hey, I'm here. I want this. We can hold off 'til we get to my place if the alley local is your objection." To just be able to touch that smooth skin...
"God," Dinah groaned, "You've got to stop that." The woman visibly shuddered where she was pressed up against the wall by Max's taut body. Max liked it that way, and didn't understand the reluctance.
"I'm not doing anything." She hadn't moved her hand at all, hadn't kissed those swollen wet lips again, or pressed her thigh ...
"That! You've got to stop thinking like that." Again those beautiful blue eyes caught Max. "I'm a touch telepath," Dinah managed while trying to catch her breath. "And we're doing a lot of touching."
Oh. "Oh, so you don't really want this, you're just reading it off of me?" Damn, she hadn't guessed. Then wasn't this more like forcing herself on the other woman?
"No. No! Nothing like that Max honest." A lop-sided smile from the girl undid Max completely. "I think you're hot, like everyone who gets a look at you. And it was nice, way better than nice, to have someone pay attention to me. That you think I have a nice ass, well, not poetic but it got my attention. That you got so turned on all of a sudden... that was... wow. And you sure know how to kiss. That was 'wow' too. Honest."
Relieved, aroused and not knowing which way to go, Max still couldn't help but answer that smile with one of her own. She couldn't resist pointing the obvious out to the blonde. "That's not all I'm 'wow' at you know. Sure you don't want to take me out for a test drive?"
Puzzled eyes looked at her, blinked, "But you never did this with a girl before either."
Max frowned then followed what Dinah must have picked up telepathically. "You've never been with a woman before?"
"Not with either. Kisses though, with a guy." Now that smile turned no less sunshine but a lot more naughty. "I have to say there's no comparison."
"Then why stop?" Granted, for some odd reason the heat was calming down, which had never happened before, just like it had never come on so suddenly. Max was still wound tight from her fun with Dinah though. And she liked the girl, without really knowing her, just took to her.
Dinah exhaled slowly in a visible attempt to regroup. Max grinned at her effect on the blonde. She liked that she did that to the younger woman.
"Like I told you, I'm a touch telepath. I can make out what you feel, some of what you think. You want this, but there's a part of you that doesn't, that's confused and sad. There's a lot going on with you. A past that you don't know was fabricated or not. Friends who may or may not exist? It seems you need to take care of that, no matter what I want. I don't want to take advantage of you," Dinah's honesty was like a splash of ice cold water, "and I'd like this to be more than you being 'in heat', or whatever you call it. More than you just wanting to forget for a moment what's gong on in your life. I want to be more than that to someone."
Max regarded her, the words and the sad look she remembered earlier coming back. "Guess we both got a lot going on."
Dinah nodded regretfully, her arms loose around Max's shoulders.
This time Max went with both her heart and her gut. She leaned in and kissed Dinah softly, far softer than she had ever kissed anyone before. Leaning back she smiled gently at the other woman. "Rain check?"
The smile she got in return was better than she expected, maybe more than she deserved. "I'd like that. And maybe I can offer you something in the meantime, like help with those memories of yours?"
"Your telepathy?" She wasn't sure what to think about that. Someone rooting around in her head, could be messy, not a lot of nice thoughts.
Dinah nodded, the long gold tendrils, in disarray from their altercation, however sweet, tumbled about her shoulders making her look well, Max thought, utterly fuckable. Damn. She tried not to laugh when she watched the thought and desire register with Dinah. Those blue eyes went wide then heavy lidded, and those hands loose on Max's jacket curled into fists again. "But maybe we should cool off first?" The blonde suggested in a sexy, breathy voice.
Max let out a breath of her own. She stepped back, and the way the other's arms drew down her body and fell away physically hurt in a way Max had never experienced before, not even with Logan. She ran a hand through her hair. "Guess you're right."
"I really hate being right, right now. You get that don't you?" Dinah looked at her so apologetically.
"I get it. Don't worry about it Sunshine, we'll be taking this up later. I gotta see if it can feel this good without the heat on me." Even now that it had cooled unusually quickly, Max still wanted to blonde with a deep burning ache. "You wanna hook up tomorrow, same time same place?" She nodded behind Dinah towards Gibson's bar.
Dinah smiled again. Dang the girl was beautiful. "Yeah, I'd like that a lot."
"We'll talk," Max took a step towards the woman who now leaned more relaxed against the wall.
"We'll talk." Dinah agreed.
Max stepped closer until she could take a handful of that heavy gold silk hair into her hands. "And then we can get back to the fun, and this time no skanky alley?"
Dinah's eyes shone, "I'd like that even more," again with that breathy tone. When Dinah's hands wound themselves into Max's long dark hair and pulled her closer Max didn't resist, quite the opposite, as Dinah bestowed the sweetest kiss yet.
"You make it hard to leave, but I hate goodbyes," Max explained, leaning away, walking away while keeping her eyes on Dinah. "See you tomorrow."
"It's a date," Dinah called after her.
A date. Max nodded and waved as she left. A date with a girl, and a telepath at that. Original Cindy would be laughing her ass off at Max right now. For the first time in what seemed like ages, Max didn't feel alone anymore. If only for the moment.
Barbara Gordon could control many things. As her alter ego Oracle, there was little she couldn't manipulate in the cyber-verse. The wired world was hers for the taking, if she wanted it. Through it there were many things she could do in the real world. What she chose to do was help people, stop the villains, save the innocent and protect a city, her city. The one thing Barbara had always thought was beyond her control, that she had no sway over, was the heart of Helena Kyle. As she let herself be carried and laid down on their bed to be ravaged by the wild brunette, Barbara was again awestruck by the vulnerability in Helena's violet-blue gaze, by the insatiable hunger of her touch, and the love in each kiss. Barbara realized how wrong she had been and again both thanked and cursed Quinn for abducting her and making her think she was someone else, because otherwise...otherwise she would not be here now with Helena like this and Barbara would give anything, would have given anything to make things like this.
It didn't make her hate Quinn any less.
Helena sliding her bare body over Barbara's robbed the older woman of her darker thoughts. She let her lover take control and wondered if Helena realized it, if she knew Barbara's secret.
In all the time she had been with Quinn under false pretences, Barbara had never given up control, never surrendered herself to the villainous blonde even when she thought she'd loved her as Ivy. But even as Ivy, Barbara had not given in. There was only one person Barbara would ever give control to, would always let take control as long as the dark haired woman wanted Barbara. Barbara would give all that she was, all that she had, to one person and one person only, and that was to Helena Kyle. The only one she would ever surrender herself to. She had always been there for Helena and would always be. Which is why Barbara didn't protest when Helena put both of Barbara's arms above her head, pinned them to the mattress and smiled down at Barbara with the most carnal look ever to grace such beauty. Barbara surrendered her body and her soul to the woman above her and hoped Helena could feel it, could feel Barbara give this to her, hoped Helena knew how much it meant for the woman always in control to give it so readily to only her, Helena.
Barbara didn't know if she could ever say such words. They seemed so absurd out loud that she didn't dare, so she tried to show Helena in the way she gave herself to the other woman and became one with the violet-blue flame of their passion for each other. More than anything, Barbara hoped Helena knew how much she loved her. Because Barbara was someone who never thought only in the present, her mind too sharp, her thoughts and eidetic memory making it impossible. With Helena she wanted forever. A mere moment would never do. She wanted each second. At one time her hunger for Helena would have frightened Barbara, but now she believed in it, in herself, and her love. Most importantly she believed in the love Helena returned. So Barbara greedily hoarded each moment with Helena because she wanted them all, and Heaven and Hell both would be needed to help anyone who tried to take those moments away from her again.
The sense of not belonging lay deep within Dinah. It had taken most of her life so far before she had found a place she finally felt was a home, her home. It wasn't really a place, but two people she had felt connected to ever since she first felt telepathically tied to them as a young child. When she risked everything to run away to New Gotham she realized it wasn't running from something so much as running to the only chance she might ever have of finding what others had and always was denied her: a place with someone else that was hers and hers alone. Belonging. That caring that holds people together rather than tears them apart. However, doing late night sweeps with Helena was causing Dinah to rethink much of how she had once felt in the dark woman's company.
"Dammit," Helena cursed, again, "Are there no bad guys out tonight? I mean really, Gotham is supposed to be the den of baddies everywhere and I can't find a single guy to punch out. I ask you, is that fair?"
The older woman was wired for sound, her body a spring coiled to strike, so Dinah let the woman's bad mood wash over her and tried to ignore the wave of anxiety Helena had established when she had brushed up against Dinah earlier, unknown to Helena. And Dinah would never say, having seen enough in that brief, accidental touch to know better than to broach what was really bothering her friend.
Funny, Dinah had never really had friends until she had come here. Sure, she put on the smile and the eager to please manners she had learned as a child to hide behind. But even then she had still felt apart, had never truly been accepted. Helena and Barbara had accepted her, still did, but Dinah wondered if she still truly fit in their lives. As isolated as Helena and Barbara were, they always had others who deeply loved them. Barbara had her dad, Helena had her mom until the woman was murdered. They had each other, and even Alfred. Neither of them knew what it was like to be honestly alone in the world, completely unloved, uncared for, disliked in every way.
Dinah envied them that. Having suffered that pain, there was no room in her heart to hold even the smallest amount of resentment towards them for what she never hard. She was glad they had love in their lives in its many various forms and merely envied them with a deep running ache throughout her soul. So it broke her heart a little that Helena could doubt Barbara's love now and think Poison Ivy had that much sway.
"Didn't you hear me?" Helena brought the blonde out of her thoughts with the testy demand.
"I thought it was a rhetorical question." Dinah answered calmly. If only she could telepathically smack Helena upside the head with a heartfelt 'Idiot! She loves you completely. How can you doubt her? Go to her and stop acting like an ass!' But Helena never listened to anyone about the important things, about delicate, fragile things like feelings. The only person she ever would listen to was Barbara, and right now Helena wasn't listening to the red head well enough, as far as Dinah was concerned.
"It wasn't," Helena groused, "Rhetorical I mean."
<I wish I could help.> Barbara's calm voice came over the comms, a soothing burr. Dinah watched Helena immediately relax at the sound of the other woman's voice.
It didn't stop Helena from pouting though.
She scuffed her heels on the pavement. "Find me someone to pummel and that would be good. Preferably several." Then a hint of her better side appeared in a slight impish grin, "With a side order of fries and a rootbeer to go, ma'am."
<Haha> Barbara responded sarcastically. <I'll become the new Queen of Crime in Gotham and see what I can do to raise the crime level back up for you. Would that make you happy?>
It was meant as a joke. Dinah knew it. Helena did too, she was sure, but the words were too close to what was bothering the glowering dark haired vigilante. Dinah winced at Barbara's words as Helena immediately slumped into a sullen pose, hunching her shoulders and stuffing her hands in her pockets.
"Yeah, well we already know how good you'd be at that, don't we?"
Dinah's wince turned into an expression of pure consternation at Helena's words. Damn, Helena sure could lash out. She really, really needed to work on that impulsiveness of hers.
<Huntress?> Barbara sounded concerned, naturally. Because Helena was being an ass and Barbara likely didn't have the slightest clue why. It all made Dinah feel terribly lonely and out of place.
"She just needs some action and some sugar Oracle," Dinah forced cheer into her tone, reassurance in her words, "You know how she gets when her blood sugar is low and there's no one's butt to kick." She stared at Helena's turned back, hard, wishing some common sense into her friend.
Helena turned back and shrugged a sheepish and very apologetic look at Dinah who gave her a nod in return.
<Apparently Christmas comes early.> Oracle said, very much back into professional mode, which meant something had just come up. <There's an alarm at the bank on Tenth and Line just near you. Security cameras show three robbers, a knocked out guard, and they're emptying the vault. There's also a silent alarm at the upper east side penthouse of the Kane Building two blocks the other way. You'll need to split up. Huntress you take the bank, Canary the penthouse. Be careful.>
Splitting up. Dinah felt proud that since Barbara had returned to them that she trusted Dinah more now. "You sure you won't need backup Huntress?"
Helena scoffed, her good mood partially restored at the thought of a fight. "Puh-lease, three goons? Hardly the work out I wanted, but they'll have to do. You go see what mouse set off the penthouse and I'll catch ya later gator!" And with that Helena was off, her black trench billowing behind her as she practically flew towards the bank, a fluid form of anticipation.
Dinah headed towards the tower setting off at a run. "Is there no one at the penthouse Oracle?" The more intel the better.
<It could just be a false alarm Canary, but you should check it out. It's primarily a business office except for the top floor, which are the personal apartments of Kathryn Kane, the mogul. He family's fortune almost rivals that of the Wayne's.>
Considering Helena's absentee father Batman, a.k.a. Bruce Wayne, owned half of Gotham, that meant the Kanes were billionaires.
"Wouldn't they have their own security then?"
<They do, but none of that has gone off, which is why I thought you should check it out. Only a silent alarm in the personal suites went off, and that goes to a private security company that for some reason isn't responding. I hacked their database and it simply isn't registering with them.>
Dinah frowned, "So you think it's been circumvented at the apartment so that even if it went off it wouldn't alert the company?"
<Or it could just be a glitch in their system. You're almost there. Go around the side of the building in the alley; there's a service entrance. I'll unlock it from here for you.>
Nice to be Oracle and control the world, Dinah thought, constantly awed by how much Barbara could do so effortlessly. She rounded the corner and, sure enough, when she pulled the door it opened.
"I'm in. I'll let you know if there's anything unusual."
<Okay. Be careful.> Barbara's mantra. Dinah appreciated it. Making her way up, Dinah's mind went back to the same moment she'd been replaying all evening: Max pinning her against the wall and kissing her, touching her...
Mind on the mission Dinah, she reminded herself. But even as she told herself that, Dinah wished she could talk to Barbara or Helena about it, about Max, about kissing another woman for the first time and wanting to know, to understand it all. She wanted to understand Max. She couldn't go to them though, they obviously had enough on their plates. She'd be sure when she got back to ask Barbara to look up Manticore for her, find out what she could to help the sexy brunette who she had a date with later.
Realizing she was suddenly beaming ear to ear, Dinah shook her head and sternly told herself to start acting like an adult- and a vigilante- and get to work. Luckily she arrived at the penthouse's double doors to distract her.
She made short work of the locks, having learnt well from her two mentors, and eased silently into the dark and spacious apartment. It took little time to look over the expensively furnished place. Even in the dark the floor to ceiling windows let in enough illumination from the lights below to cast an amber mist for Dinah to see well enough, and everything seemed fine. She touched her comm. "All clear here Oracle. Nothing seems disturbed. They need to fix their personal alarm system I guess."
<Okay. Good work Canary. Everything's quiet, you might as well come on back.>
"Will do, turning off comms."
<See you soon, Oracle out.>
Dinah's comms went dead and she took one last look around the apartment, simply enjoying the feel of the plush rug under her boots and the silent evening. Unlike Helena, she didn't mind the quiet or lack of action.
That was when she heard the sounds of someone stealthily sneaking up behind her. She spun and did a leg sweep only to have her assailant jump and then tackle her down with next to no effort. She was about to use her telekenisis when a voice she recognized stopped her.
"Dinah?" The weight on her back eased and hands turned her over. She looked up into surprised dark eyes.
"Max?" She whispered, taking in the thick black body stocking Max wore, the shoulder bag with some jewellery peeking out of it, and the rope and hooks off Max's belt.
Just great, Dinah, thought. She had fallen for the bad guy. Literally. She heard the chimes sound three O'clock. In the wee hours of the morning, staring up at the woman she'd been thinking about all day, Dinah feared this was about to get messy.
She didn't think she'd be getting that date after all.
Three O'clock, Barbara mused, the Witching Hour. She certainly felt bespelled. She sat there in her chair, not even seeing the screen, idly twirling her glasses between her fingers. Her thoughts drifted to Helena, as they always, invariably did. The woman had shown a new rawness in bed together earlier, and Barbara was captivated, wanting to feel so deeply needed again by the woman she loved so dearly. She wondered if Helena felt the same and that was why her dark lover was in such a bad mood, she wanted to be back here with Barbara. It made the older woman smile to think so.
"Dinah's on her way home. How are you doing Huntress?"
She heard a grunt and the sound of someone falling to the floor. <Great. I mopped the floor with these guys. I hear the NGPD on their way so I'm going to scoot. Any other emergencies?>
"None. Hurry home."
<Will do. Huntress out.>
Barbara heard the comms go dead just as one of the Delphi screens came to life. She put her glasses back on and peered at the screen. Quickly her hands flew over the keyboard as she gathered information. The image bloomed to life on the main panel and she stared, shocked at what she saw, and checked the video feeds' time index. 3:00:09.
Her mood incredibly improved, Helena sashayed past down the alleyway and vaulted, climbing to the rooftops with ease. Perhaps she had been stupid to think some half-dreamt sleep talk meant anything. Barbara only had eyes for her. There was no woman standing between them. And pretty soon, if Helena had anything to say about it, there wouldn't be any clothes between them either for the rest of the night and possibly into the afternoon.
She was a good five blocks away when the sharp scraping of metal on stone stopped her. She whirled and a woman stood poised and the roof looking straight at Helena. Whoever she was, the woman looked like she had been dipped in inky black from her long boots to her hips where a silver trim at the waist shone underneath the black belt leaning askew across the woman's hips. The bare midriff was toned, as were the leanly muscled arms where a black tattoo in thick tribal lines winked at Helena from the right bicep. The woman's chest was also in black with an unusual but alluring design. Silver stripes wrapped around the black under the woman's chest and up the sides of her breasts. A low cut revealed just how deep that cleavage ran while the high collar of the top gave a contradictory austere appearance. A black smooth mask covered the woman's face from chin to right under eyes a shade brighter than Barbara's. Short red-brown hair that was longer than Helena's but short enough to be above the collar blew in the sudden wind that sprang up. Those eyes were as cold as the metal armor covering the woman's shoulders, and as wicked looking as the gauntlets that covered the woman's forearms and fists, each bearing a thick block of metal along the top of the forearms that were the sheaths for twin blades that jutted out from each of them, elegant but deadly.
Helena liked some of the style, but otherwise was unimpressed.
She arched a brow at the woman, "I had another dance partner scheduled for this evening. And to be blunt, you don't measure up."
She watched those bright yet cold green eyes narrow. "I assure you Helena Kyle." She didn't like that this woman knew her name, didn't like that at all, "I am more than your equal in every way that counts. Although you are the daughter of two legendary figures, I am the daughter of a man far longer lived, far more deadly than either of them. You might prove to be somewhat adequate practice for me to use my Lamentation Blades upon, but I am not ordered to kill you, only detain you. How you wish to spend the next hour - in pain or merely in patience - is completely up to you. My name is Scandal, and you will learn to respect it."
This chick knew who both her parents were? Hired to detain? Helena raked her eyes over the woman one more time, took in the blades glinting at her, and met that hard glare in those ice green eyes. It seemed there was a woman standing between her and Barbara after all.
With typical Helena charm, she smiled her darkest grin at Scandal, "Yeah, I've got two words in answer for you. They're 'fu-"
"-ck you, you worthless piece of-" Barbara broke off. Normally she didn't curse but wrestling with her outfit and with time was proving to wear on even her language ethics.
She didn't have time to try to shimmy into her full suit, the one she had kept from when she was Poison Ivy, a fact she never told anyone. For the hundredth time in the past few seconds she was glad Alfred had gone overseas to visit his family for a long overdue vacation. He would have tried to stop her, and the last thing Barbara would allow was for anyone to stop this.
She stood in her jeans and biker boots, adjusting her neural coupler as she pulled on one of Helena's long sleeved black shirts. It was tight but Barbara owned nothing dark except for the belt with the bat emblem around her waist, and the now black dyed coat with its armor that she hurriedly put on. She straddled the motorcycle and checked the batons in her boots even as she gunned the engine with her foot and one hand. The image she saw on the top of the building twenty minutes drive away from the Clock Tower -only five with how Barbara was going to take the roads in the motorcycle, burned in her mind, even if she didn't have an eidetic memory. The camera's image of Harley Quinn smiling maliciously up at the video camera and blowing a kiss fuelled Barbara's rage. She hoped the short note she left Helena would stop the woman from trying to follow her, because this was personal. No one was going to interfere.
Quinn had just sent Barbara an invitation to their own private party, and the red head had no intention of disappointing her. Eagerly gripping the handlebars of her bike as though they were her fighting sticks, she burned out of the garage, leaving a trail of scorched rubber behind her, with only one thing on her mind.
Harley Quinn, seems like Poison Ivy cut you loose. That makes you mine.
She was going to teach Quinn the meaning of pain. Up close and personal.
Max could almost laugh at the absurdity of her life. She was straddling a woman she'd been thinking R-rated thoughts about all day, only to have that woman show up as some kind of vigilante here to take the cat burglar down. That cat burglar being Max. Damn, it was so close to being the usual weird stuff that happened in her life that it actually made Max feel more normal than she had for the past month. Now if only she could figure out a way to salvage this. Dinah hadn't yet telekinetically whacked her into a wall, which Max took as a good sign. Their harsh breathing mixing together was the only sound in the dark penthouse suite.
She was about to speak, without a clue as what to say, when Dinah's hands circled Max's wrists, their skin touching. Suddenly it felt like Max could drown in that contemplative regard which seemed as fearful and as hopeful as Max's thoughts. Max had to shake her head mentally at herself; the girl with telepathy was touching her. She was touching Dinah, of course the girl would know what she was thinking and know Max wasn't going to harm her, really didn't want things to go down that way.
They held each other's gaze. Dinah was the first to speak the only words they'd exchanged aside from when Max first uttered her name.
"So," she looked up at Max with those kind eyes and that complicated smile mixed with hope and, "your place or mine?"
Barbara took care of the thugs with ease. A simple gas bomb did the trick and left her to quickly scale the building while the hired muscle were busy coughing and passing out. With a simple twist of her body she jumped and landed in a deep crouch on the edge. There she stood up straight and tall, and without any surprise met the expectant gaze of Harley Quinn.
"I was hoping you wouldn't keep me waiting." Quinn purred, dressed in her tight red suit with black diamond print adorning the sleeves, the neck, and the top of the red boots.
The evening wind flowed around Barbara, she felt alive in way only one other has ever made her feel, Helena. The wind smelled of tar and grit and grease, and Barbara wouldn't have it any other way. This was her city. Quinn seemed to have forgotten that, amongst other things.
A quick flick and her batons were extended, ready to strike. She trembled in anticipation. "I don't know why Ivy cut you loose, or how you escaped, but you coming back here proves only how truly unintelligent you really are."
She watched with savage satisfaction as Quinn's eyes narrowed in barely repressed anger. Living with the woman briefly as Ivy, Barbara had learned about Quinn's vanity, a target the red head was enjoying needling.
She hopped off the ledge and strode towards Quinn. "I took you down twice already. They say the third time's the charm. What do you think Quinn?" Barbara smiled sweet and low, like a knife swung at an angle you knew the target couldn't see. She hated Quinn for hurting Helena, for hurting both of them, and she was going to enjoy this fight.
Quinn's throaty laugh and wide, honest smile made her steps falter. "Now, now dear Bar - well, let's call you Batwoman shall we? After all, you certainly are no Batgirl." The woman licked her lips in open intent. "I don't care for the black though. Green was always such a lovely color on you, brings out those gorgeous eyes. It's wonderful to see you like this, but you didn't think I wouldn't come with backup, did you?"
"Paid someone off to fight your battles for you Quinn?" she sneered, truly disgusted. "No wonder you were always nothing more than a bumbling minion to your precious Mr. J," she mocked. "Besides darling, I think your goons are busy taking a nap. That means it's only you and me. You never did learn to hire smart did you?"
"Oh," came a voice far to Barbara's right but closer than Quinn, a voice that sounded familiar. "She hired a lot smarter this time. You do have some interesting hobbies for an English professor. That small black mask hardly hides the unique shade of your green eyes, or that striking hair color, Barbara Gordon."
From the shadows Jade Nguyen appeared, showing a flair for the dramatic with her entrance. She wore a green silk sash at her temples binding all that flowing dark hair from her face. A sleeveless green bodice, gold sash at the waist and dark gold pants made the outfit.
"You're hardly wearing proper school attire for a teacher yourself. The name is Batwoman, by the way." She arched an eyebrow at the outfit and the attitude. "Mercenary, Ms. Nguyen?"
The smile on the olive complexion was psychotic, "Assassin actually," the woman answered in a low contralto as she approached Barbara revealing strength and grace in her movement. "And you can call me Cheshire."
Barbara looked from the knives strapped to the woman's arms and thighs up to that sickening smile. The name fit. But Barbara had her own smile, grim and flat-out angry. "You're between me and the woman I want to beat near death Cheshire. Whatever Quinn is paying you, I promise you're going to find it wasn't enough for the pain you're about to suffer for getting in my way."
That awful smile only widened. "Let's see who suffers when the dance is done Barbara Gordon," and the woman rushed her.
She barely had time to block the first assault. The woman was good, better than good. Obviously she had extensive martial arts training. But-
Barbara grabbed the next kick when she could have dodged, trapping it in a scissor hold with her batons. She watched jade green eyes widen in surprise and with a savage satisfaction, twisted the foot at the ankle. Cheshire grunted but proved lithe, twirling her body to go around with the movement rather than having her ankle broken.
The next set of moves were almost too fast for Barbara to follow and it took effort, more than her pride wanted to admit, to keep the blows from landing. An elbow did. And a foot to the side, but she managed a few strikes of her own. Two to the same knee, and more than a couple to the forearms. Cheshire was outstanding at her work, a virtuoso at how to fight, but what Cheshire seemed to forget was that Barbara hadn't been taught by some sensei in some dojo. She never learned just one or three styles. Even as Cheshire landed a hit to Barbara's face, drawing blood by splitting Barbara's lower lip, the red head smiled. The look was enough to make Cheshire falter, that hesitation was enough for Barbara to quickly step in and strike with a reverse punch to Cheshire's nose. After all, Barbara hadn't spent time with senseis and perfect forms, she had spent time with Batman who knew all forms and insisted on doing whatever it takes, short of killing your opponent, in order to save lives.
The woman fell away grabbing her face, expression furious even as blood flowed down her chin. "You broke my nose? You broke my nose!"
The laugh didn't come from Barbara, but from Quinn who looked delighted and, much to Barbara's disgust, aroused. "I warned you Cheshy, not to underestimate her. You already did once today."
"I still don't know why the poison didn't work." Poison? Barbara didn't care for the sound of that, nor did she like putting on a show for Quinn, but just when she thought the battle was almost over, Cheshire slid out her knives and took on a lethal stance. "But I promise you Barbara Gordon, this time it will. I have a reputation as a killer to maintain, and unlike you heathen Americans, honor and face mean something to me."
This, Barbara's mind quickly analyzed, might get ugly. Her pride asserted itself, her indomitable will rose to the challenge and Barbara threw out a blow meant to wound the pride of the woman threatening her. "You claim to have honor when you're a cowardly assassin? Your face doesn't look so great right now, does it Cheshy?"
Cheshire snarled and came at her in a full-out rage. Barbara quickly threw herself into the battle hoping that rage would give her an opening before Cheshire did kill her. Because despite what she said and who taught her, Batman had also taught her to recognize when another had superior skills. Cheshire was the better martial artist. Barbara just had to hope she was the better strategist.
Another slash to her mid-section that Helena just managed to jerk away from. Shit, this chick was fast, faster than human. The blow to the head rang a few bells. And stronger than human too, Helena thought, tasting the blood welling in her mouth. She spat and lashed out at the same time. Those damn blades kept the woman out of reach, out of pain, and Helena was running out of patience.
Another slash with those blades and this time Helena, to her utmost horror, heard the tearing sound of fabric. She looked down and saw that they had cut twin slices through the right side of her coat diagonally down. The coat was likely ruined. Helena had had it.
"That," she growled, "was my favorite coat!" And Barbara's too. After all the red head had fashioned one almost identical too it when Barbara had lost her memory.
The woman, Scandal, scoffed behind the black mask covering her mouth. "You whine about your clothing like a child. I was told you would a better target to battle than this."
"You really should have paid more attention to whatever, whoever, hired you lady." The world in Helena's vision shimmered in sudden gold as she let her meta-feral side out to play at last, her eyes becoming vertical slits like a cat.
The change did not go unnoticed by Scandal. "You were holding yourself back?"
"All the better to feel you out with," Helena said, feeling every part the big bad wolf and enjoying it. "After all, if you were some mere human, it really wouldn't have been fair of me beating on you like that. But now the gloves are off," she shrugged out of her savaged coat, her blood burning for payback. "You're faster- stronger- than a human. But you're not faster, or stronger, than me. Which means I can go full out and feel no guilt."
She advanced on the woman with a series of blows that left the short haired mercenary gasping for breath. "Just what are you, Helena Kyle?" This time there was a note of wariness and Helena was glad to hear it.
She smiled, savage and feral, at the woman, letting herself play. "I'm the Huntress, and you Scandal? You're the prey."
She watched Dinah move around the hotel room. Max was incredibly glad she had gone the middle route and snagged a place not too rundown that she had to worry about people nicking her stuff, and not too high-brow that it got her unwanted attention. The room was neat, sparsely furnished and had the amenities in working order. It was clean. With the pretty blonde moving around, Max was glad the bed was made and the place didn't smell.
It's just too bad she hadn't stashed some of her...winnings.
Dinah had picked up the Bast statue sitting innocently on the bedside table. She sat down with it on her lap, cradling the gold statuette.
"This really should be given back to the museum. Why didn't you sell it on the black market with the other stuff?"
Max twirled the cold beer in her hands. She had talked so much in the past hour that she felt thirsty and oddly lighter. "I tell you all about my past, which might not exist, and you ask me why I kept the pretty shiny thing?" She didn't want to explain that it reminded her of what she had snagged from Logan. A Bast statue was how they had first met and what had started her on a road to saving people instead of just keeping her tail down, head low, and sneaking around to find her fellow genetically created soldiers.
Putting the statue back beside the bed, Dinah leaned back on her hands, completely unaware of how the form fitting black jersey knit long sleeved shirt showed her tall and slender form to great advantage. Max's eyes roved over the full bust, the slim waist, the tight black jeans...
Well, Max thought, I guess that answers if I'm attracted to women. At least this one.
The heat wasn't on her and she had spilled her life story with barely a second thought, but now she was having the fantasies of a teenage boy when a girl is first on their bed and the parents are out. Not having parents, Max at least thought what she was fantasizing about fit under that category.
Those full lips were still pursed in thought. Man, the girl didn't have a clue about all the wicked things Max was thinking right now.
It made Max smile, she had no idea what was happening to her but she found Dinah's innocence endearing. And there was another word Max never used, 'endearing'.
"So what's this Trypto stuff for?" Dinah's eyes were looking at the bottle of capsules on the table.
"Tryptophan. Completely homeopathic. It's to stop the seizures I'm prone to." Max shrugged like it meant nothing, living with something the military scientists kept in your genes to make sure they could try to track you if you escaped by the drugs you'd need to survive.
"Uhm..." Dinah actually hesitating, Max raised her eyebrows, this ought to be good. "Who's Logan?"
She wouldn't meet Max's eyes. Max smiled knowingly. "I didn't mention that name."
The blond looked gracefully sheepish and adorable as she tucked a stray strand of hair behind her. "It was the telepathy thing earlier. I picked up the name and that of someone named Cindy."
Max shrugged and it wasn't a brush off, just when it came to Logan, well, there wasn't anything left to say. "Kinda of one of those 'attracted to the clean cut type for a big change of pace'. I got wrapped up in doing the good deeds and he was a big part of that, but then it drowned in still waters, know what I'm sayin'?"
"I guess. I mean, I never had any big loves so I can only imagine." Dinah frowned as if mentally berating herself. Not for the first time tonight Max wished she had Dinah's powers so she could know what the enigmatic young woman was thinking. "We should probably focus on what we need to do first. We have to find out where this Manticore is and what they're up to, what they did to you and any other... transgenics."
"Maybe we should find out if my memories are even real first. For all I know all that genetic tinkering whacked the grey matter. But I just can't believe it never happened. If so, someone did the best brain trip ever." The dark woman hunched in a little at the thought from where she sat across from the bed, straddling the only chair in the room. She didn't like the thought of someone messing with her head like that but even worse is the thought that her whole life was a lie.
"Hey," Dinah's soft entreaty brought Max out of her depressing thoughts. "We'll figure it out. You know, maybe, right now, if you were okay with it, I could, uhm, try to see if there's anything, like, weird with your thoughts, the memories. It wouldn't be me reading your thoughts or anything," she was quick to reassure the brunette, "more like seeing if I can sense any missing spaces, or a sense of wrongness with how your memories basically feel."
Max regarded her, weighing the possibilities, and the possible consequences. "You can really do that?"
Dinah bit her lower lip, considering, "I think so. But only if it's okay with you."
A steadying breath, followed by a thought, "Will- is there any danger to you?"
"I don't think so," the blonde paused, "its not like it would be all that different from what my abilities allow me to do naturally."
Max was many things, but a coward had never been one of them. She leaned forward in her chair. "Go for it."
The telepath scooted over to the very edge of the bed. "I'll just take your hands okay? And then sense around."
Being a bad girl, however, was one of the things Max very much was, "You know Sunshine, if you wanted to hold my hands, you could have just done so. No need for the big ruse just to get, you know, close to me."
Blue eyes stared up at her first in shock then in exasperation. "Great, tease me."
The dark woman's grin only grew more sly, "You sure you up to me... teasing you?"
"Max," the word a warning to behave.
Max held out her hand. She decided she would, for now.
She expected to feel, she wasn't sure, something. Instead there was only the sensation of Dinah's slender hands in hers. Dinah closed her eyes while she concentrated and Max took the opportunity to look at the beautiful woman. So clean looking, so innocent seeming, but Dinah had layers. She had this ineffable quality that drew Max to her, made Max want to hold the blonde yet also do wonderful things reserved for dark rooms and darker nights.
Dinah let go as if Max's hands were on fire. "Okay!" She said in a suddenly loud, cheery voice. "Seems all good in there, yep, no holes that I can tell so something is off. We'll have to do research. Like hit the books and the net and stuff like that. Yep, we should do that."
Max regarded the alien on her bed who was sitting very straight with very wide eyes. Being above average intelligence she went over what she had been thinking when Dinah had been holding her hands. With a chuckle she slid off the chair and crouched at Dinah's feet, undoing the laces on the boots and slipping them off.
She looked up at Dinah who sat there, shocked at Max, "You're taking off my boots?"
"Ahh, nothing gets by your vigilante vigilance now does it?"
Her lips pulled into a wicked smile, Max slid her hands up the tight denim over those long legs, kept her hands moving up over hips to the slim waist. Pleased at the hitched breath she heard she met those incredibly blue eyes that were watching her intently. "Saw something while you were in there that didn't have to do with my past, did ya? Maybe something about the present and your near future?"
She slid her hands under the black top, stopping briefly as she rose with the movement to rest her hands along the side of gentle swells of pliant, sensitive skin covered by the thin barrier of cotton on a bra Max was dying to learn the color of. In a smooth move thanks to her genetics, she gracefully straddled Dinah's lap noting how the woman had yet to say 'no' or 'stop' or push Max away. "Did you like what you sensed, about now, about me and you and this bed and what we could be doing in it very, very soon?"
Not waiting for the answer, she did two things at once. First was to find Dinah's lips with hers for the kiss she had wanted to give the woman since jumping her at the Kane penthouse. Second was to cover those breasts fully with her hands, kneading them, pulling on them as if she had always known how to touch another woman. Instinct was a wonderful thing, but the sound of pleasure vibrating against her lips from Dinah was by far the coolest thing Max had experienced yet. And when she felt those slender fingers working their way through her clothes, she moaned in surprise at the eager caresses. The first touch of a tongue was Dinah's, not asking but demanding entry to stroke Max's lips and mouth with a passion that surprised Max. She surrendered to that passion with a relief and excitement she had never felt before.
Raised to be a soldier by a secret military branch, spending her life fighting, being honed into a weapon and living off the street dodging cops and covert agents, Max thought there was nothing she wasn't prepared for, being a transgenic in a human world. But nothing had prepared her for Dinah Redmond, person extraordinaire.
Cheshire screamed as Barbara broke her last baton against the woman's left arm, breaking that too. They both fell back and away from each other by the force of the red head's blow. Barbara had lost the other baton somewhere too close to Quinn to try to retrieve it. Cheshire moved too fast to even try. Both women breathed heavily, dragging in air. It had quickly become a fight to the death and while Barbara wouldn't kill, she would do what was necessary to stay alive and stop Quinn.
She regarded the woman holding the broken appendage, cursing at her. Jade would have a black eye and there were stitches she'd need in a few places, including the lip, and of course she'd require someone to realign both her nose and now her arm. Barbara stood slumped over in pain at her several deep bruises and the blood from cuts on her arms and legs. She'd been desperate to keep Jade away from the lines of the neural coupler and had taken blows that had gone through the armor of her coat. Those were very special knives Cheshire had there. Barbara had managed to keep the fight almost dead even but something was wrong. Very wrong.
It had started several minutes into their fight, the numbness in the hands and her feet that was becoming overwhelming and seemed to be spreading. Then there was the fever she was sure she had. And had no idea where that came from, well, not 'no idea' exactly.
"You poisoned your knives didn't you Jade." It wasn't really a question but it didn't stop the cold feeling in her gut when Jade gave her that sick Cheshire smile.
"The knives, my nails, even my skin, Barbara Gordon, contain lethal doses of poison all meant to stop you. Every blow you worked so hard to win I allowed so that my poisons could seep into your skin, your blood, and take you down as surely as any strike."
"Really Jade?" Barbara said more calmly than she felt, fear at being helpless screaming within her. She'd keep using that bitch's name as long as Jade used hers. "And did you allow me to break your arm?" She smiled grimly with a sick satisfaction all her own, ignoring Quinn's gleeful cackle as the woman steadfastly refused to join in but instead watch the 'show'.
The assassin snarled as she shakily got to her feet. "You will lose that smugness as my poison takes you down."
And as if the toxins had heard Jade's words, Barbara fell to her knees, her legs as numb as the paralysis normally made her feel. She held the terror in and reached in her coat for a batarang. She might be going down but it wouldn't be without a fight. Damn, tears suddenly stung her eyes at the thought of Helena. She hadn't meant to hurt her lover like this, by disappearing again. This time likely for good. Assassins weren't generally used to keep people around and healthy. Quinn was going to get her revenge.
Cheshire started to limp towards her, her intent clear. Barbara gripped the batarang keeping it behind her. When the time came, it wouldn't be Cheshire she aimed for, but Quinn. She could at least do that much for Helena after getting herself in this awful mess. Pride, for Barbara, didn't go before her fall.
Jade drew closer, "You're feeling my poison now, you bat bitch."
"Really," a voice from Barbara's dreams came from behind her, along with the scent of clean green things that had never seen a Gotham night. She turned her head to see a woman with sunset red hair, eyes a verdant green, lips the color of poppies and skin so pale a green that she shone like a tinted green moon against the night sky, "Didn't anyone ever tell you not to take a woman's name in vain, little assassin?"
"Poison Ivy," Barbara breathed, wondering if she was hallucinating except for the fear in Cheshire's eyes and Quinn's sudden gasp. She only knew that she, them, or all of them, were suddenly in way over their heads.
Poison Ivy moved from where she stood on the roof, quickly closing the distance putting herself beside Barbara, where the wounded woman knelt half collapsed, a death grip on her batarang. The scent of tropical rain carried on the wind to entice Barbara's senses even while she tried to keep all three lethal ladies in her eyesight.
"Ivy," she nodded to the woman, hoping she read that curve of poppy red lips correctly. She was here to help, Barbara hoped. God help her if Ivy was here to join Quinn and Cheshire.
Ivy didn't say a word to her, merely smiled more fully and reached out to trace the side of Barbara's face with open delight. Then Barbara watched, fascinated, as those tropical green eyes turned harder than flint to pierce Cheshire. Although Ivy's gaze was on the assassin, her words were for Quinn.
"Trading down I see, Harl." Ivy then dismissed Cheshire as if she were nothing, not even worth a second glance, to turn that burning gaze on Quinn.
Quinn straightened, unconsciously smoothing her outfit. "You know how it is Ivy darling, good help is hard to find. Granted, no one can compete with our lovely Barbara, but one does what one can. I can assure you the exotic Cheshire does have her talents."
"Like killing," Cheshire spat, clearly incensed at how easily she was pushed aside as unimportant. "Your so called 'lovely Barbara' won't be lovely too much longer as my poisons do their work. Her lips are already turning blue. I hope you're into necrophilia, you green freak."
Oh, that wasn't smart. Barbara gripped the batarang tighter, ready to strike at whoever came at her first even as she felt the poison like ice cold water flooding her blood, chilling her. She wasn't dead yet, though. Glancing up at Ivy's stone hard face, Cheshire might be soon.
She watched transfixed as the hard lines of that beautiful face melted into something seductive and that much deadlier for their allure. "Why little assassin, if you want to go calling names I could call you an amateur, a hack, and a whore."
"Whore?! I have poisons that make men weep to see how it leaves their loved ones. It will be my pleasure to introduce you to them, up close and personally." Cheshire flashed throwing knives from her good hand meaningfully, as if she didn't have a broken arm dangling on the other side at all.
Ivy's laugh was like rain on the soul, that you found out only later to be acid that killed you. "Poor deluded child. You work with poisons." Ivy stepped away from Barbara and towards the assassin, more threat in that one step than all of Cheshire's posturing. "I am poison."
"Perhaps we should pick this up at another time Cheshy," Quinn stepped back toward the rooftop door her eyes staying on Ivy.
"I don't think-" Cheshire began hotly.
"That's right, you don't think," Quinn interrupted, her voice cold, her own hardness showing. "I hired you to follow my orders, and I'm ordering you to join me in a strategic retreat. That is, unless you want to die here and now? Because I can assure you, I know Poison Ivy intimately and that expression means death, doesn't it my dear? You want to kill Cheshire."
"Harl, it's only a matter of time. I'll kill her now, or she can run and I'll get to her later." Barbara could hear the growing rustling of vines and leaves approaching at Ivy's call, the power of nature itself in her hands.
Cheshire heard it too as she decided to take Quinn's advice, backing with as much haste as caution would allow to get to that door.
"Well lover," Quinn addressed Ivy, "I didn't expect you to leave your island, but I have planned for it. Barbara's mine."
"You never understood free things Harl," and this time Ivy sounded more human, an easy tone of long acquaintance entering her words, "you were always chained by one thing or another. After the Joker was out of the picture I had hoped the opportunity would elevate you," the sad tone fell like rain drops on a spring morning, "but I've found you these months to have become so much less than you were."
Fury lashed across Quinn's triangular face, "How can you say that? I'm smarter, more ruthless, and I'm the one in charge now. Me! No one gets in my way, or I kill them."
"Exactly." Ivy said turning her back on Quinn to regard Barbara, who wanted to be as invisible as possible at the moment. Watching these two have such a private conversation unnerved the former Batgirl, having fought them in the days when they were villains on the prowl. It seemed wrong to suddenly see them as two former lovers torn apart by time and choices.
Quinn left, her echoing footsteps in the stairwell the only response she gave to Ivy's last word. Now this goddess figure gave her full attention to Barbara. The younger woman wondered if she wouldn't need that batarang after all.
Ivy went to one knee, her expression soft as she took stock of Barbara's cuts and bruises, taking in her overall appearance. She spoke offhand as her hands glided over Barbara, checking her over. "You know she used to be so different when I first knew her. She had a vital and innocent quality. I never thought the Cataclysm would have changed her so much and for the worse. Harl used to be kind, once. She never used to be ruthless, or a murderer. Only really a victim who made bad choices worse."
A soft sigh escaped those sensual lips and Barbara's mind raced for something to say. "What people do after tragedy marks them isn't always what the people around them would wish for."
Green eyes regarded the darker green meeting hers, "True, now before you do go into seizures over those inelegant poisons, let me kiss it and make it all better."
"What?" Barbara would have asked if only she wasn't fevered, wasn't passing out, her vision going from grey to black, wasn't so weak from the poison that she couldn't move fast enough to stop Ivy as that sinful mouth caught hers in the most intoxicating of kisses.
Max moved against Dinah, with Dinah, inside Dinah. They filled each other, sliding in and out of electrifying wet heat. Max had never felt such overwhelming want and sensuality, kept taking the blonde underneath her again and again even as Dinah passionately met Max with an equal hunger. The chemistry was amazing, so Max wasn't surprised that when they both came there were sparks.
She just didn't realize they would be literal ones.
Her transgenic reflexes were fast enough for her to cover Dinah when the table lamp exploded into a rain of sparks, along with the bedside radio and something in the kitchenette. Oh, Max realized glancing over her shoulder, the microwave.
Well, there goes my security deposit.
She easily put two and two together to come up with four. As she relaxed half on top Dinah and a little off to the side, catching her breath from the wonderful sensations still coursing through her, she smiled over at her lover with that honey hair spilled in a wild array over the pillows, those blue, blue eyes wide.
"Guess you really needed to let loose huh?" She watched Dinah take in the damage and then when the younger woman winced, Max laughed happily. "Hey, don't sweat it. It figures with your telekinesis you might have a bit more oomph to your pop, if you know what I mean."
"Uh, sorry?" Dinah offered, looking sheepish but far too satisfied to seem all that sorry. "I didn't know that would happen. I've never-"
"Had sex with anyone before, I know." Max didn't want apologies after the amazing time they'd spent together. "You'll probably learn to control it in time..." her smile turned wicked as she held the woman more suggestively, "with practice."
Now Dinah did laugh, a free and easy sound that filled the room like sunshine. "I guess you must be okay with it if you're wanting more. Gosh, don't you get tired?" But her own hands belied those words as they started roaming over Max, playing her like a virtuoso. Which made sense, Max reasoned, seeing as Dinah was a touch telepath, and doing all that touching, she'd know from Max's reactions just where to touch her, how hard, how fast...it sure gave Dinah quite the advantage.
Then again, looking over at Dinah's satiated form, Max had to admit she hadn't done so bad herself as far as being a first time for her with a woman goes.
Dinah chuckled, "Oh, you're so not humble."
Max grinned, realizing Dinah had caught the thought, "Can I help what I think? Besides, you arguing?" She didn't let the woman answer but took those kiss-bruised lips into another searing exploration of wet raw need. When she pulled away, she gazed into unfocused darkening blue eyes. "Tell me now."
It took a second for Dinah to catch up with what was being asked of her and then she remembered the question and slid a long leg between Max's, gliding a thigh over glistening heat. She rolled Max over in a move she must have learned in fight training and to Max's surprise and delight, began to do wicked things with those knowing hands and that sharp even more knowing mind. "Argue with you? Never."
Barbara tried to swim up from the depths of unconsciousness but it was as if she were at the bottom of the ocean, everything so dark and the light so very far away. She tried to swim towards air but the eddies and currents pulled at her legs and arms just like the sensations that she was growing increasingly aware of. The searing demand of lips on hers, of hands touching her creating a sensual haze as deep and pulling as the ocean. The taste of tropical rain lay heavy on her tongue against the velvet stroking of another that slowly aroused her back to the surface of consciousness and all its sensations. The feel of a hand tangled in her hair, of her own hands clutching at bare shoulders as she moaned into that succulent mouth, moved with those commanding hands. Her lover was in control and that would have been fine, except the hair sweeping against her face was long, the feel of skin wasn't Helena's heated flesh but rather cool, like a forest floor, and the scent of exotic flowers mixed with oak trees had never been how Helena had smelled. The body wrapped around her was more voluptuous, the shoulders, back and hips wider, not like Helena's lithe frame at all.
And Barbara only surrendered to one person, and that was Helena.
Her hands became uninviting, pushing instead of pulling. She tore her mouth away from the spellbinding strokes of those full lips and warm tongue. She took in the tint of green of the skin before her and met heavy lidded eyes the startling color of leaves in the early summer when they were at their greenest.
"Ivy," she breathed. Not knowing what to say but pushing against the woman even as Barbara's body moaned at the loss, ached for Ivy's touch.
"You want me," the other woman said as surely as the dawn rises.
Barbara swallowed, choosing her words carefully. "But I don't love you."
The green woman moved back a pace, no more, and Barbara realized Ivy had been holding her up. Her neural coupler was still on and working. Relief washed over her that Ivy hadn't removed it. She found her feet shakily, standing on her own strength, not anyone else's.
Ivy watched her, those eyes exacting. "You could grow to love me Barbara Gordon. Your unconscious and your body want me, how much longer until your heart gives in as well?"
More sure of herself, despite the trembling ache of want, Barbara pushed more firmly against the silk skin of those bare shoulders. "I love Helena."
That amazing mouth curved into a sensual smile filled with dark promises. "That doesn't mean you can't love me."
Barbara took a breath, counted to ten, then took another. "It does for me Pamela." She quickly switched topics before Ivy dug any deeper. "How did you save me?"
A crimson brow arched arrogantly while Ivy's husky tones spoke clearly of her disdain. "It was simple enough. That creature used rather rude poisons without any refinement. She showed no grace or intelligence beyond a basic cunning. Really, her rudimentary use of them were quite lacking in any creativity."
A slender finger traced a couple of the now bandaged cuts on Barbara's arms. "The poison on the knives, a certain snake in the Australian outback. Then something else, transmitted by skin, here." She captured Barbara's hand and raised it for a kiss. Barbara hated how she shivered at the touch of those lips but also noticed the small discoloration on the top of her hand. Ivy caught the direction of her gaze. "Yes, she must have touched you earlier, Bufo toad poison."
Bitch. Barbara cursed Cheshire. The woman must have done it when leaning over and taking her hand at the school earlier. "Why didn't it effect me sooner?"
That smile turned positively sly, "Barbara Gordon, are you sure you're asking the right question?"
Taken aback, Barbara considered the words and the knowing look. Alarm rose, trebling her heart as she realized what she should have asked right away. "Why aren't I dying from your kiss?"
"Indeed Barbara Gordon," Ivy's smile widened and her eyes danced, "why aren't you?"
Barbara refused to hyperventilate where she stood on the clock tower balcony, only inches away from Poison Ivy. She repeated the question, suddenly scared. "Why don't your kisses kill me?"
With a chiding glance, Ivy took the pose of an ingenue, suddenly coy, "Now how would I know?"
"Ivy," the name itself was a warning, the first flush of anger helping Barbara find her ground again.
A light laugh like flower petals danced over Barbara's senses. "This isn't funny Pamela. I want to know what is going on."
Still smiling, but less grandly, Ivy remained seemingly amused. "How did you survive my kiss the last time?"
"A serum." One Batman had supplied. That and maybe luck.
A now somber regard from the poisonous woman before her made Barbara worry more. "You think the serum did the trick? That some outdated formula would be enough to save you from a person who's physical form is constantly changing and, with time, evolving? Should a serum from that long ago have worked, do you think?"
"It could," Barbara reasoned, her mind probing at the problem. "It must have."
Ivy walked away from her, over to the ledge, her hand toyed with some red leaves crawling up along the wall. "Can you think of any other way you might have survived? If, say, the serum had little to no effect? After all, I had no knowledge of any serum you would have access to when I kissed you that fateful day."
Frowning, Barbara considered the possibilities, landing on only one that could be the answer. "Fight fire with fire. I had been injected with some form of the original poisons that had made you, you kissed me. Having those same poisons re-introduced into my system in their altered state they still were able to cancel each other out."
Still not looking at her, slender fingers tickling the leaves, Ivy coaxed her, "Cancelled. That word implies that they were deleted, erased. You're overlooking the obvious."
Taking a breath of the cool air, unable to see any other alternatives yet still unwilling to acknowledge the truth, Barbara hesitated, "I'm not poisonous."
"Of course you're not."
Then what am I? Aloud she said, "The only other way for me to still be here standing after you kissed me is if I have some form of antibody in my system."
Now, Ivy looked at her, "One that makes you immune to my kisses." A wicked glint appeared in her eyes, "At least from their poison."
"So...you have no effect on me."
The tall green woman glided to her, taking her in her arms again and smiling knowingly at Barbara's shudder aware that it came from pleasure, "Is that what I have on you Barbara Gordon? No effect?"
The darker red head swallowed, her hands immediately pushing against Ivy's shoulders mildly. "You know what I mean Pamela."
"I like the way you say my old name." Ivy husked, leaning down for another kiss.
Barbara pushed back harder. "No Ivy."
"You want me." Ivy pointed out, but didn't press her lips to Barbara's, nor did she let the other woman go however. "You can have me, let me take you."
Ivy was pressing the point, pushing. Barbara didn't like to be pushed and on this point there was no give, no take, no ground whatsoever. Ivy needed to understand that. "No. I mean it Ivy. Let me go or this turns into a fight."
Undeterred, Ivy nevertheless let her go but didn't move away.
"I love Helena," She reiterated to the deadly woman.
Green eyes remained steady on Barbara's darker shade of verdant. "But you want me."
"I wouldn't leave Helena for anything." She told the woman, attempting to be clear.
Ivy merely shook her head slightly. "I'm not offering you anything Barbara Gordon. I'm offering you everything."
Barbara took a step back, which unfortunately put her back against the brick wall of the tower. "Everything would mean nothing without her."
Again, a chiding look as if Ivy thought the other woman should know better. "I never said I was excluding her. That would be foolish."
Suddenly, Barbara wished she had another step to back up with. "Run that by me again?"
Standing there in the moonlight, looking like the embodiment of Nature herself, Ivy explained to the object of her desire with a calm patience Barbara wished she had right now. "She and I are both creatures of Nature, Barbara." The younger woman wasn't sure she liked Ivy suddenly dropping the full name right now, was worried what it implied and did not like where this seemed to be going. "I may be flora but she is fauna. We are both things of the wild, free creatures. It's no wonder that we are both attracted to you. Your strength and compelling beauty. And you to us. Where I would take you, both of you, would be a place free of violence and crime. A place where you could breathe clean air and we could be happy. All three of us."
Barbara pinched the bridge of her nose just below the edge of her mask. She counted backward from ten, slowly, in Madarin. "Ivy, are you suggesting some sort of polyamorous relationship?"
"I want your happiness." Ivy moved to step closer but Barbara's out shot hand, palm out in a stop motion, caused her to cease. "I want that and I want you."
She tried, the former Batgirl, a woman of exceeding intelligence, tried to work her mind around it but failed. She tried for courtesy instead, since understanding eluded her. "That is an immense compliment Pamela, truly. But Helena is the one I love, the one I want. My answer has to be no."
A sly look entered Ivy's eyes, over that sensual curve of poppy red lips, "I'll accept that answer. For now. It seems like I'll have to lure you to me another way."
Oh, no. "I don't like being pushed Ivy. If you try, you won't like the results."
Dark green eyebrows rose into a sunset hair line. "Is that how you always thank those who save your life? I thought you had better manners."
"Thank you for helping me with Quinn and Cheshire." Barbara meant the words. She was happy to be alive. "But my body has nothing to do with how I express my gratitude. I don't sell myself to anyone for anything Ivy. And I don't like being toyed with."
The smile vanished. Clearly affronted Ivy stepped forward brushing her heavy crimson hair behind a shoulder. "I am an adult Barbara. I have no need or want for toys. You take a great offense where I meant no insult. Is it so terrible to consider that you want me?"
For a moment, Barbara felt the pain behind those words and envisioned what Pamela Isley's life must have been like, must be like, alone, unable to touch people or be touched in turn. And here was Barbara, miracle of miracles to have survived. She could touch Ivy. The worst part was that she wanted to. And so she did.
She took the step and a half between them and reached out taking Ivy's hand in hers. This she could do. "I am sorry Pamela. I didn't mean to sound ungrateful or... defensive. But you have to understand, someone else holds my heart. I can't give you what I've already given to another. And yes, I do want you. But wanting isn't love."
She felt Ivy's hand in hers shake a little. "But is not desire the seed of love?"
Green eyes full of dew lifted up to meet Barbara and it tore at her heart. Ivy crying? Villains shouldn't cry, it should be in the villain handbook, except that Barbara wasn't sure what category her rescuer fit under. Ivy had saved her life. Villain was hardly the word for her was it? "I am sorry."
"Pity," Ivy's tone had a strength belying that beautiful face, those soft curves. "No, pity won't do at all." In one swift move Ivy took Barbara into a kiss that caused Barbara's whole body to tremble, her mouth to open on a gasp and quickly be swallowed by the velvet touch of Ivy's tongue claiming hers.
No, it wasn't pity Barbara felt for Poison Ivy and both women knew it.
Just as abruptly, Ivy released her. Barbara stumbled back grateful to fall against the wall that offered her support. She looked over and Ivy was already on the ledge.
"What?" Her voice came out a low rasp, she cleared her throat and tried again. "What do you think you're doing?"
"For now?" Ivy curved her lips, her next words a promise. "I'll leave you to your thoughts and later, I'll return for you."
"We're on the highest building in New Gotham. How do you expect to leave?" Unless Ivy could fly, Barbara couldn't see how standing on that ledge was a good idea. And where on Earth were Helena and Dinah?
A wickedly amused laugh escaped the older woman on the ledge, as carefree and beautiful as the dawn and the moonlight together. "Why Barbara, you were taught by the Dark Detective himself. Especially considering your other name now, as a seer and as his pupil shouldn't you be better at detecting?"
With that, Ivy jumped off with a loud rustling of leaves unseen. Barbara rushed to the edge to catch sight of the woman but there was nothing. Well, not nothing exactly. A laugh, half hysteria and half bitter amusement, escaped her lips. Along the side of the building all the way up to the ledge were red leaves and vines. Barbara recognized the type, Boston Ivy. It seemed the deadly woman in green had a sense of humor. A rather ironic one.
"Care to let me in on the joke? 'Cuz I could sure use the laugh right now."
Barbara whipped her head up to look at the figure that had dropped silently onto the platform. Helena, her coat gone- that lovely coat- her clothes torn and looking like she'd been in one hell of a fight, stood there swaying. She tossed something down on the ground near Barbara. "I got held up. Brought you a souvenir."
Barbara glanced down at the bloody gauntlet with two twin blades sticking from it. She looked back up at the woman who held her heart and stood. "Hel? Are you okay? What happened?"
Blue-violet eyes shimmered briefly to gold and Barbara was close enough to see the pupils turn into vertical slits. "My, don't you look all dressed up with no where to go."
"Quinn's back in town." She rushed to explain, knowing Hel would be angry at her bravado to try to go after the woman herself, alone. "She's hired help. I was in a bind. I should have waited for you. Told you right away, but I was... angry. I wanted to take Quinn down myself. I almost got myself served up to her on a silver platter. But are you okay?"
Helena still didn't answer her question, instead seemed to be sniffing the air, eyes roaming everywhere to finally settle back on her.
"You had company. Someone green." It wasn't a question and Helena was definitely pissed.
"Hel, she saved my life. I don't think-"
"Don't think?" The dark woman cut her off angrily, so much fury contained in such a slender form. "That's an odd thing for you isn't it Oracle? Not to think. I can smell her. Nothing smells like she does. She was here."
In three quick strides she was before Barbara, against Barbara and it was only due to Barbara's own tensed up state that she was able to put a hand to stop the other woman in time before lips claimed hers.
"Wait Hel, I need to wash first. I'm not sure if where she touched me is poisonous or not."
"Touched you?" Eyes shimmering with barely held wrath held Barbara's. "Where did she touch you that I can't give you a kiss?"
Damn, worse and worse. Barbara tried to salvage the situation. "She kissed me. But I told her no, Hel. I love you."
Helena closed her eyes, her arms on either side of the older woman taking deep steadying breaths from what Barbara could tell. When she opened her eyes, they held more than Barbara had feared and she realized with her lover's next words how misplaced her hope had been.
"You love me. But you want her." Helena cut off any protest with a savage growl. "No, I don't want to hear it. You want her. I can smell how turned on you are, how wet." The growl turned into something inhuman and frightening. But Barbara was torn between her sharp pang of guilt over her uncontrollable desire for a woman she had rejected and her own burning want for the woman before her.
The truth was that although Helena's state worried Barbara, it excited her too. There had always been a feral air around the woman, a sense of treading carefully lest the claws come out. It had always secretly thrilled Barbara, whose heart's blood ran on the thrill of dangers faced, enemies vanquished, and the love of the woman who she was afraid to take in her arms. Which is why when Helena grabbed her forcefully and took her mouth in a savage kiss, rather than turn her down or push her away, Barbara moaned, pulling the woman closer. Every nerve was alive in a way she only felt with Helena, for Helena. She couldn't deny Helena what she wanted, couldn't deny herself. If Helena needed proof of how much she wanted her, of how it was thoughts of her dark lover when Barbara had first roused to consciousness that had put the older woman in this state, then Barbara would do everything she could to prove it to her, to erase all doubts from Helena's mind that there was anyone else in Barbara's heart except for the dark woman blazing in her arms.
Beyond reason, beyond the pain of her injuries, Helena did not stop. She pushed Barbara more roughly against the hard brick, hands quickly ripping open pants, shoving a hand in the tight, so tight, confines of Barbara's jeans to glide in liquid heat. Barbara cried out in want and it enraged Helena even as it eased another part of her. Ivy had aroused Barbara, Ivy had kissed Barbara. Ivy wanted Barbara. That Barbara obviously wanted the other woman galvanized Helena, gnawed at her in the deepest part of her. She couldn't bear it. So she bared Barbara instead, roughly pulling at tight nipples, biting at exposed skin, feeling those slender fingers grip her short hair. Helena kneeled down, pulling angrily, selfishly at the jeans.
"What are you-?" Barbara tried to ask but Helena didn't want to hear reason, or logic.
Roughly, almost growling, she managed to get out some words, "We're on the highest precipice of the entire damned city Red. No one can see. I'm going to take you here, now, in a way I can't usually." Carefully, the first careful thing Helena had down since initiating her onslaught, she pulled down the pants without unhooking the neural coupler that gave Barbara the ability to use her legs, kept her standing, so that Helena could take her like this.
Before more words of reason came out of those full lips, Helena buried her face into the core heat of the other woman, the scent of her, the taste of her heavy on Helena's tongue, a balm to her soul. The unchecked moans of pleasure fed her more as she opened her mouth, groaning at the feel of Barbara's flesh so vulnerable against her tongue.
Rolling her eyes upward, she watched in rapture as Barbara threw her head back and gave herself over to Helena's ministrations, to Helena's will. Ivy never was here, had never taken Barbara like this. Had kissed those same lips, but never had Barbara the way Helena was feasting on the other woman now.
Barbara came and it was Helena's name on those sweet and sinful lips. Helena loved her, loved her so much it slashed at her heart. She could do this to the other woman but still Barbara, a part of her, wanted Ivy. Helena wanted it all, all of Barbara. Heedless of the warm tears streaking her cheeks she rose up and stole another kiss as if she could consume Barbara from the mouth down, to inhale the woman's very essence if she could. Her sensitive hearing picked up the lock turning, a door opening inside.
She tore her mouth from Barbara's, and quickly turned away from the woman. "You better fix yourself up and get inside. Dinah's home. I'll give you the low down on blade chick later. I just need," a bitter laugh almost hissed between her suddenly clenched teeth. What she needed? As if she ever knew how to attain that. She needed Barbara, all of her, to be Helena's and Helena's alone. "I gotta get some more air... move. I'll be back in a bit. I promise."
She went to leap over the edge but just as she went sailing over into the night she whispered the ragged words in her very heart of hearts. "I love you. I'm so sorry."
Dinah hadn't meant to linger at the door, but her hands were shaking so badly she couldn't get the key lose. It was a wrestling few seconds for her to free it. Her nerves on edge, her thoughts bewildered, Dinah had leapt earlier from her nightmare to find herself in Max's bed, in Max's arms and with a hurried and pitiful excuse, she left, rushing over to the Clock Tower. She didn't dare waste time explaining to her new lover that sometimes Dinah dreamed, awful dreams, and those awful things came true. The nightmare had been indistinct. There had been the sounds of fighting, the flash of red hair and a laugh that Dinah knew all too well, that sent chills down her spine: Quinn. A rush of anguish not her own overwhelmed Dinah and then she woke up, heart racing, that terrible feeling of dread and heart rending pain filling her. And that pain was held by two names tattooed in her psyche. Barbara and Helena.
It was the closest to flying Dinah could manage to get to her friends, her family in what she hoped was in time. To save them.
The sight that greeted her did nothing to ease the knot of fear in her chest. Barbara stumbling on shaky legs into the Tower from the balcony, her eyes unfocused, clothes torn and bandages on her form, a cut lip and bruising on her face.
"Barbara?" Dinah immediately rushed over, only to be stopped by Barbara, never frantic but frantic now, waving her to a standstill.
"Stop!" Her pale face looked up, those green eyes too round and too wide. Shock. "Don't touch me Dinah, you can't touch me. I might be...I could still have poison on me from Ivy." Worry creased the brow, eyes clouded over. Barbara looked lost.
Dinah had never seen her mentor like this, her rock. She'd seen Barbara under duress, scared, grieving and enraged. She'd even seen the red haired mature woman as ..."Ivy?" Barbara couldn't think she was Poison Ivy again, could she?
"She's here." Answering Dinah's question despite it being a different one. "She saved me from Quinn and a new assassin." The woman grimaced, "Your new science teacher, Jade Nguyen, is Cheshire, a hired killer. I doubt you'll be seeing her at school again."
Dinah couldn't touch Barbara. How to help her? "Where's Helena?"
An overwhelming wave of sadness graced those elegant features, and Dinah feared the worst. "She had to fight someone too. She's hurt, but okay. She needed space, some air..." Barbara's arms went around her midsection as if she were physically holding herself together.
Few people knew how brave Dinah was and she proved it again in this moment when she asked the highly private Barbara, "Are you okay? You look like more happened than Quinn back in town and Helena being upset."
"I..." for a second so brief Dinah could have dreamed it, she thought Barbara would finally open up to her, but the blink of an eye, the turn of a face already turning away and she knew she was being shut out again. "Having our deadliest enemy back in town with hired killers is more than enough reason to be upset. If Ivy hadn't helped me, this night would have ended differently." The way Barbara stumbled over that last word gave Dinah pause, and a clue, but not the pieces to fit it all together whatsoever. What was "different" that Dinah had missed, that was ripping Barbara up and had Helena away from the one person she never wanted to be away from?
"I have to get myself cleaned up, get the clothes washed and treated, make sure I'm safe." Barbara said it mechanically and walked stiffly away, leaving Dinah alone, leaving Dinah alone thinking about what she saw, what Barbara had said and what the woman didn't say.
Ivy. She had helped Oracle, and then what? If only Dinah could have touched the older woman for a moment she would have known, would have been able to help. She wouldn't lose Barbara to Quinn again. Wouldn't lose Helena again. Her guardian might not know it, but when she was off believing she was Ivy and Helena and Dinah hadn't known if Barbara was even alive, Dinah had suffered losing both the people she had come to love. Barbara had been believed dead while Helena had been a walking, talking empty shell, bereft of the only thing in her life that gave her reason. Dinah had almost reconciled herself to losing them both, losing everything, when Helena had excitedly told her that fateful night of running into a burglar and that it was Barbara under Quinn's influence. Then and there, seeing the life back in Helena, and then seeing Barbara again, seeing them both so happy and in love, Dinah swore she would do whatever it took to protect them. Whether they knew it or not. Would approve of it or not. She had few people whom she loved, and she had lost too many times.
That bitch Harley Quinn had the worst timing, Dinah thought, reflecting on Max and the relief and joy of having someone who touched her, who truly saw her. She smiled sadly, body resigned, as she went to the Delphi. She had to protect people; Quinn's time was about to run out. It had to if Dinah was to save Barbara and Helena. What she failed to realize was that they might need to be saved from each other.
Max could count on one hand with no fingers just how many times she'd been given the brush off. Dinah didn't seem like the type, but Max wasn't stupid. Something was up with her sunshine girlfriend that had drained all that happy away. Maybe it was a bit paranoid of Max, even a little duplicitous, but there was no way she wasn't going to follow the girl who made her head spin after the girl in question left like she had just found out her house was on fire and her family was inside, complete with a littler of puppies. Nope, Max wasn't going to let that go. Dinah might be ticked to learn that Max had found a high enough building to see into the windows of the Gotham Clock Tower to see where her vigilante lover lived. Too bad, Max thought grimly, 'cuz there was no way she was letting Dinah go. Not without a fight. And if the blonde woman was in trouble, well then, there was a whole other way Max could help.
She only caught the flick of red hair of someone leaving but she could see Dinah clearly, shoulders slumping, a sad but determined look on her face as she made her way to one big ass computer. Dinah was afraid. Something was wrong. And Max swore to herself that she would be there when Dinah needed her, whether the young woman liked it or not. She'd bide her time and hope like Hell Dinah would call her. Meanwhile, she'd watch and silently guard the person who had come to mean so much in so short a time.
Helena wanted to scream. She made it as far as the abandoned Gotham Park, with its iron gate hanging off the hinges, and hid herself in the thickest part, surrounded by trees and rocks. She wanted to cry. She wanted to pummel things with her fists, but all the Huntress could do was drop to her knees by the cold outcropping of stones and weep silently without tears, screaming without sound over and over again for what she did and what she feared was already lost.
Those days when Barbara had been taken by Quinn and Helena couldn't sleep, couldn't eat, couldn't do anything except search everywhere, anywhere, because if she stopped, she might think, and she couldn't bare the thought of Barbara gone, dead. And although Barbara was alive and was herself again, the fear of losing her beat inside Helena's heart like a count down to a bomb, waiting for the moment when the nightmare would be made real. And tonight, Quinn back, Barbara acting so recklessly, almost getting herself killed except for that green psycho saving her. Wanting her. Wanting Helena's Barbara. And worse, Barbara wanting Ivy.
Helena still couldn't bear it. Couldn't believe what she herself had done to claim the woman she said she loved, that she did love. Yet how could she truthfully say so if she was willing to do what she had just done to the object of her devotion?
She lay her dark head against the cool stone completely unsure of what to do, so exhausted she could barely think. She didn't want to think anymore. It hurt too much, more than her wounds. More that anything, the thought of Barbara with...
A graceful hand laid itself so gently on her head. Barbara. Helena bowed under the touch that was so warm against the cold updraft. Of course Barbara came to find her. She turned her face upward and saw the startling red hair, and then she saw the green skin and greener eyes.
"Dearest Helena," Poison Ivy said from where she stood next to the fallen hero, "we have much to discuss."
Helena went to slap the hand away, break Poison Ivy's arm, smash her in the face. But her arm wouldn't move and lethargy spread through her like warm water on the coldest day.
It took her two tries but she managed to form the words past a lazy tongue, "Drugged me. Bitch."
The green woman's smile in the moonlight was shadowed and sad. "A necessary precaution. Otherwise you might not let me tend to your untreated wounds."
"Don't need help. 'Specially not yours."
The woman actually knelt beside Helena. Of all the nerve! It made Helena grind her teeth. And as good as her word, the older woman knelt there cleaning Helena's considerable gaping slashes and abrasions from her run in with Scandal. Ivy's hands were sure and warm. The fingers were long and graceful just like-
"Fuck off, Ivy." To Hell with sass, Helena would give up looking cool just to get the damned woman away from her.
"If something were to happen to you, what do you think that would do to Barbara? No Helena Kyle, I'll ignore your outburst and see that you go back to her in one piece. Obviously Harl - Quinn- has sent assassins for you both." Those sure hands, which Helena now noticed wore pale latex gloves, paused over her prone reclining form. "I'm not hurting you am I?"
Despite whatever sedative Poison Ivy had dosed her with, the feral woman felt her eyes flash gold. "You kissed her. What do you think?"
Eyes the most vibrant green Helena had ever seen regarded her sombrely, "It would be foolish for you to think you own someone, let alone someone like Barbara Gordon."
"I don't share, Ivy." She tried to move but had to give up, her limbs felt heavier than a ton of bricks. "Not even as a little kid. Didn't like to let the other kids in the sandbox get their paws all over what's mine. I'd say ask my mom, but she's dead. Killed by a man sent by your ex-honey's honey. Go ahead. Ask me again what you've hurt. Who you've hurt."
The woman so close to her stared deep into feral eyes, completely unafraid and...sad? Bad guys can't be sad. It ruined the mood.
"I never worked for him." That last was said with more distaste than Helena had ever been able to master. "And I tried to get Harl away from him." A sigh, one that ran with long ago regrets that could still bleed. Not all wounds bled blood, some ran thick with the emotions torn from broken hearts, crippled souls. Helena knew.
Thoughts of Quinn didn't improve Helena's mood, but instead raised regrets and shame of her own, memories of a warm office, a dark, steady gaze and words that had given Helena strength. "She didn't only fool you. I believed every word out of her shrink psycho babble mouth. Even let the psycho bitch hug me." Shit, Helena hadn't thought that this still bothered her.
The hands which had resumed their work stilled suddenly at her words. "Do you truly think it was all an act? She had mentioned that time and you with a certain...affection."
"Well," Helena responded dryly, "she hypnotized me and almost had me kill the most important person in the world to me. She then went and killed the man Barbara cared for. How could you think it wasn't all a pack of lies? She's the Gotham Queen of Crime, Ivy. Wake up and smell the blood."
Ivy went back to work with an intensity that reminded Helena of someone else when they wanted to avoid something yet were thinking oh so hard about that very thing while still getting the job done.
They stayed like that for a number of minutes. Helena trying to surreptitiously test for movement in her limbs while Ivy did a dedicated job of cleaning and taping every wound, every cut and every scrape.
"She wasn't always like that." Poison Ivy finally said in a quiet voice that had matched the sad look on her face earlier.
Helena thought of the woman she had first met in the psychiatrist office so long ago with that petite frame, that sharp mind and sharper tongue. A woman who had been completely unflappable to Helena's entire defensive attitude and every snipe she threw Quinzel's way. Quinzel had listened. But it had all been to get into Helena's head and get at her.
"What was she like? Before." She had to know even while she wanted to snatch the words back. But she remembered those brown eyes and the hours of Quinzel listening to her. It still hurt; the realization shocked the dark woman. It still hurt that it had all been a lie and a small part of her didn't want to believe that none of it had been true. Man, when she got back to the Clock Tower she was going to have to whoop Dinah good for turning her into such a sap.
Helena snorted and shook her head a little at herself, surprising both her and Ivy at the sudden open gesture. She couldn't believe she had asked and that she still wanted to know. And she knew it was utter bs to blame any of her feelings on Dinah.
"You got me at your mercy. Might as well tell me."
"It wasn't-it's not-" It was fortifying to see Poison Ivy at a loss for words. "It's not easy." She finally said. "When I first met her I was still so angry, so very enraged over what was done to me." A graceful sweep of a hand encompassed her pale green form. "I didn't hate all men, I hated everyone. No human was trustworthy. If the person you loved the most could do such a thing to you, how could you even trust yourself?" Her gaze turned inwards, remembering, her voice lowering with the timber of the weight of long held emotions. "But Harl, when I saw her bungling a job at a museum where I was stealing some endangered plants from, her painted face all eager eyes and the brightest, widest smile I've ever seen, I thought she reminded me of myself before the change. Before my humanity was violated. She was so earnest with nothing hidden. And yet she was with that freak. You call Harl a psycho, that's only because you've never met him." A shiver ran through Ivy's body and Helena couldn't decide if it was fear or revulsion. "A maniacal killer and yet she chose him. I'm not sure it's something I'll ever understand, except that she had no belief in herself. She depended on him for everything and it didn't matter that he hit her or scared her. She was so flattered, felt so special that someone so important took the time to even hit her that she took it, all of it." Hands had begun to shake and the tone in the voice was something Helena recognized: fury.
"When I met her the second time he had worked her over so badly it had taken me a good minute to recognize her. I offered some help. A girlfriend get away. It was never meant to be romantic. I had thought to help what I perceived as a helpless beaten puppy. But when we were outside from the rain, she asked me for a hug. She knew who I was, what I was and yet had asked. Me. Poison Ivy. I asked her why and she said You look like you could use one. You seem awful sad Ivy. I warned her that my touch kills. She only smiled at me through her cut lip and bruises as if they were nothing and said I was a genius scientist wasn't I? Surely I had something for that so that I could have a hug when I needed one."
A slender hand covered Ivy's face, "It had been so long since anyone had touched me...just to touch. I did, I gave her the serum and she hugged me like it was her life depending on it. I held her, such a precious life in my arms, that held back nothing from me and I felt small compared to her. The last thing I expected in this world was to find tenderness."
The bend of her head, the graceful line of her form, the crimson hair and the forlorn look of loss. The proud woman reminded Helena of the woman she loved. Too much. That was when she saw her, saw Ivy for the woman she was now, not the villain Helena wanted to believe her to be.
They're too much alike.
The unbidden thought wouldn't let Helena go. Because she understood so much then. How Barbara had lost her life as she knew it when a cruel and evil man had shot her, stealing her legs and the life she had known. And here was Ivy, a woman who had been brutally used by the man she loved to be turned into a person that couldn't be touched, couldn't be loved. One hid up in a tower surrounded by computers and secrets while the other found solace in green jungles, both isolating themselves from the world. Keeping their inner selves guarded. Both wickedly smart. Beautiful, Helena had to grudgingly admit. God, they were like twins except one had chosen to be a villain and the other a hero. That is until now.
And Quinn. The early Quinn, earnest, Ivy had said. The younger Quinn sounded like Dinah and what could have happened to Dinah if Helena hadn't saved her in a back alley those few years ago.
The dark woman didn't give any sign that she realized the older woman was silently weeping, that with her night vision she could make out the slight tremor of proud shoulders and her sensitive hearing could hear the repressed swallow of a cry.
She wanted to be mad, after all, Ivy wanted Barbara and Helena could see why, they were so alike. Who could understand Ivy better than Barbara? But what she had heard, the emotions underlying it, even though it still didn't answer her own question about if anything between Quinn and herself had been real, it made her chest tighten for the woman next to her. She knew what it felt like, to lose everything. And the fact is, she loved someone very much like the woman next to her.
She lifted an arm that still felt heavy, but not as numb a before. She lifted it until she could gently grasp Ivy's wrist and softly tug the hand down. As soon as Helena saw the tears she reacted to those lost green eyes and used her hand to wipe the silver-green trail of tears off the soft cheek. Ivy inhaled in surprise at the gesture. That it would shock her so to have someone wipe away her tears told Helena that no one had before. Perhaps not even Quinn. To live your adult life with no one to offer the smallest amount of physical comfort, to be that alone and lonely - It broke Helena's heart a little, not that she ever wanted to admit she had one.
Her anger fled in the light of her heart like a shadow. Because despite all of Helena's protests to the contrary, she had one of the biggest and fiercest hearts of anyone living. Not that she would ever admit it.
"I'm sorry. It's stupid as Hell to say, but no one should have to go through that crap. Don't sweat the touching. I figure if you didn't kill me that last time I probably have a similar tolerance to Barbara's. So I can wipe a few tears. It'll just be between us that I can be nice okay? Keep your hands off Barbara. I still don't share. " She let her tough chick cool drop for a moment. She should have known better. You always keep your guard up. Hadn't her life since she was sixteen taught her that? But she had let her guard drop in that moment of recognition and sympathy and that's when the unexpected happen. Ivy looked up, startled at Helena's word, her face streaked silver with her tears. She leaned in, her hair a dark crimson wave that caressed Helena's cheek as the graceful woman in all her sorrow and longing kissed Helena.
The Huntress never knew what hit her.
The suite was comfortable, as if the Queen of Crime would settle for less. However, Harly Quinn found the annoying noise to be irritating.
She turned to the annoying noise and with said with great composure, "Cheshire dear, just pop your shoulder back in, splint your arm and shut up about it all already."
The exotic looking woman looked anything but as she sweated and cursed in several languages doing exactly that. "I'll kill them both and paint my face with their blood and laugh while they die so that it is my voice that they hear as I send them to Hell."
Quinn cleaned her gun meticulously as she did with all things because in her life there was a certain order to things and to every thing its place. "It seems to me you were on the wrong end of that particular stick of Fate tonight Cheshy." A little of the old Harly mixed in with the new slipped out. A bit of biting humour.
The assassin behind her didn't appreciate it. "Do not dare mock me Quinn. I have killed more than you could count and have done so with imagination and great joy. I am to be respected."
"Not according to Ivy dear, you're not." And suddenly with those words, Harly recalled the other's, Ivy's, as they stood on that rooftop. Looking down on her, on Harly Quinn. The woman who l- who had loved her.
Tired all of a sudden, Quinn recognized all this for what it was, what Cheshire was - nothing but a pale imitation of what Quinn really wanted, truly needed.
She calmly turned to the deadly killer and shot her in the head.
"Trust me this is quicker than anything Ivy has planned for you" She sighed at the blood and brain matter dripping heavy down the wall. "The mess is always such a bother."
A simple summons and there was one of a good fifty cannon fodder for her use. "Micky, Ben or whatever name I want to call you, get rid of that -" she pointed towards the still warm body without looking at it, her eyes already back to her gun, her desk, and her plans. "And clean that wall later. Right now I want to be alone."
The bulk lifted the dead weight and heaved off without a word. It was funny to see such a big man scamper in fear of little old her and it made Harly Quinn chuckle. And then she frowned, remembering what it took to make that so. It hadn't always been this way.
Quinn had been fine playing the fool to Mr. J, he was larger than anything else in the world, his personality, his machinations, his madness, and his appetite for it all. He had wanted someone to bully who would still coddle him. And then there had been Ivy, so intelligent, so mystifying, so deadly. She had wanted someone to protect. And Quinn could admit she had needed protection. But after the Cataclysm. No more Joker. No more Ivy. Quinn all alone. One had chosen a man in a bat suit before her, the other chose plants. They had both abandoned her. Brushed her devotion aside like a forgotten devalued toy.
She would not be anyone's plaything anymore.
When New Gotham rose from the ashes, the sidekick the criminals deemed weaker went and proved them wrong. No more would she be a person to be brushed so easily aside, a pawn, a toy to break, a punching bag who kept asking for more. So she put aside the parts of herself that craved kindness, wanted to smile sweetly and please others. She was no one's plaything. Everyone else instead became her toys, New Gotham her playground. She made sure it was that way. Through violence and bloodshed the likes those who claimed to know her could never have imagined. She made them believe. And it cost her, more than she would ever admit. More than anyone could possibly guess, except, perhaps...but those two had never truly known her after all it seems.
Ivy's words on the rooftop had stung. Not elevated, not elevated. The green woman's respectful regard for Barbara, while understandable, the woman was a prize among prizes, irked Quinn. Yet even as she thought it, the word seemed less than what she truly felt.
What a part of her still yearned for even after all these empty years.
She put away the weapon and picked up something far more deadly, the phone with a special number.
"Time to call in the big guns."
Time to show them, show them all, what she was made of. No matter what it cost her. Old times are gone, the King is dead. At least the fool in the diamond print was now. Quinn had killed herself in so many ways to reach the throne. Now it was time to claim it. Long live the Queen.
Ashes to the rest.
It must be the drugs, Helena thought. That's why she hadn't pulled back right away. It's why she had let Ivy caress her mouth with the heavy velvet of Ivy's lips. It was only for a second. But it was a second too long. A second long enough for doubt to set in and anger at herself to flare inside of Helena.
Helena used what little strength she had in her limbs to push the woman away. The distance became an inch, then three. She stared at soft green eyes and cursed herself. She took a deep breath, taking in the clean air and scent of green surrounding them to clear her head. Then she cursed Ivy.
"You're crazier than Quinzel." She told the green woman.
Ivy raised a dark crimson brow. "Not at all, she takes. I want to give."
"Give what?" Helena kept her hands on Ivy's shoulders just in case the red head tried to lean in and kiss her again.
"From who? Quinn? We'll handle it. Me and Barbara."
"Helena-" Ivy began, her voice a velvet to match the earlier touch of her lips.
Helena cut her off, not dropping her guard again. "That's Huntress to you. Protect us? You could have killed Barbara with that kiss before. Hell, you could have killed me just now."
"Afraid of a kiss," the enigmatic woman chided Helena, "but you've been intimate with Barbara so long now and she has the anti-toxins in her system. You've survived my poisons already, you might have some of those anti-toxins in your system. Your meta-physiology makes it unpredictable to know how your body will react." She gave Helena a pointed once over, "You seem fine from my kiss only moments ago. I think you're safe."
"Why?" Helena scoffed her anger rising like it had never left. "You kissed me to let me know what I'm missing?"
"No," and Ivy pushed towards Helena again, tried to but Helena's strength was returning as her meta-human physiology burned through the last vestiges of Ivy's drugs.
"I think that's my line." Helena smirked into the deadly woman's face, remembering who she was facing. This person was her enemy.
"I didn't kiss you to let you know what you were missing Helena Kyle."
She snarled, "I said that's Huntress to you. So why then?"
Now Ivy smiled and it wasn't kind. It was sex and danger all at once. "Why, Huntress, to let you know what Barbara is missing."
They both rose as one, Helena on shaky legs still weak from whatever invisible gas or toxin Ivy had used to sedate her. Ivy by contrast stood fluidly, as graceful as the wind and as sure and still as the rocks and trees surrounding the two women.
Her beauty and grace only pissed Helena off more. She was going to kick Ivy's ass. Here. Now. Her eyes flashed back to feral vertical cat slits as she let adrenalin surge through her system.
"I'm not your enemy." Ivy warned her, not having missed the change in Helena's eyes, her posture.
"No, just my rival. If that doesn't make you my enemy, it sure doesn't make you my friend. Seems to me the person Barbara needs to be protected from the most is you."
An exasperated breath blew out from between those full, poppy red lips. "Think for a moment. Don't simply react on your impulsive feelings. Quinn has already sent assassins to kill you both. Who knows when her next attack will be."
Helena did pause then because her years of fighting crime sent off alarm bells screaming though her. "She sent killers after me and Barbara."
The taller woman nodded once. "It seems to be that she wanted to get both the woman who rejected her and the one she was rejected for."
The dark woman shook her head, fear replacing her anger. "No, she wanted to hurt us. But if she sent people to kill Barbara and me, why wouldn't she have sent one to also kill Dinah?"
Ivy met her gaze with dawning apprehension, "Your third member. The young one with the mental powers."
"Yes." But Helena had heard Dinah coming in. Quinn knew about the Clock Tower though. How could Helena have been so stupid? She had left them alone, left them alone while she sulked like a little girl. Stupid. Stupid and selfish. The thoughts tumbled over each other as her fear became terror, and the terror became a burning need to move, to act, to hurry.
She didn't have time to be selfish anymore.
"I have to go. Help or get out of my way."
"I'm with you, go." Ivy told her as a great rustling roared to life around them and leaves began to swirl, "I'll meet you there."
Helena ran, ran as fast as the wind which now carried the scent of flowers and tropical rain. She ran as if her life depended on it, because if anything happened to her family, it surely would be the end of her. And the fact that she had left the woman she wanted to hurt back there to follow her? Loving Barbara had taught her desperation is the mother of invention. Desperate need anyway. And right now Helena needed all the help she could get, would take any help, even Poison Ivy's, if it meant Dinah and Barbara would be safe.
Dinah idly thumbed her lower lip while scanning through the information the Delphi was feeding her. The time Barbra had been missing after Quinn had abducted her had given Dinah a crash course in computers, this one is particular. Anything to help Helena from completely losing her mind during those long months and find the person they loved, find their family. Now Dinah was using that skill to help the woman whose kiss kept bringing her out of the present and into the recent past spent in a cozy hotel room with a remarkable woman. A woman who thought only of Dinah. Someone who saw her, and only her. Someone who touched her. Touched her freely without doubt or fear. Max needed her. Dinah couldn't remember when anyone had truly needed her before. Not until now.
Someone who was also a thief and missing a big chunk of memory. And someone, Dinah was beginning to suspect as she went through file after file, link after link, might be correct in regards to believing what Max believed: that Max was a bio-engineered soldier.
She really wanted to call Max, but she had to get answers first to offer her girlfriend, like roses and chocolates. And she had to protect her family. With Ivy and Quinn back in town, she couldn't risk Max. She wouldn't lose Max like Barbara had lost Wade. And then Helena had almost lost Barbara. No, oh no, Dinah might be all sunshine and blue skies but when it came to the thought of anything happening to Barbara and Helena, or anything happening to Max? Well, the Sun could also burn if you got too close to it, and Dinah would do just that to anyone who tried to hurt the people she loved. She was not going through that hell again. No, she had watched her mother die in front of her, had nearly seen both Barbara and Helena killed before. She would not be left alone ever again. Not now, now that she finally had someone of her very own who thought she was the world. Dinah couldn't afford to lose that, couldn't afford to go back to the loneliness before it.
"Why are we looking into a secret military facility called Manticore?" A low voice murmured thoughtfully too close to Dinah's ear, making her jump, squeak, and stand, spinning to see Barbara, showered, dried and dressed, sitting comfortably in her manual wheelchair almost right behind and to the right of where Dinah had been sitting.
Barbara raised a crimson brow at Dinah speculatively; her blue jeans and white shirt making it seem as if she hadn't been in a life threatening fight just over an hour ago. Although the split lip and bruise on her face gave a different story.
She pursed her lips and nodded at something to Dinah's left. "Did you want to tell me what's going on after you put those down?" Confused, Dinah glanced behind her and then reddened. Almost everything light on the table was raised a good three feet off the surface. Rubbing the back of her neck to try to hide her embarrassment, she lowered the items carefully. "Sorry. You surprised me."
"I gathered." Undaunted, Barbara gestured back to the computer screens. "And why are we investigating Manticore?"
"Uhm," all of a sudden Dinah felt very much the part of the teenager caught by her guardian doing something she shouldn't be. But it wasn't something she shouldn't, sort of. Just, the explanation wouldn't go over well. Maybe.
Maybe it was about how to spin it. "A friend of mine, more than a friend, can't remember certain key points in her past. But she remembers others, but there are inconsistencies. A lot of it seems to involve Manticore. I'm not sure but I think they...made her. And that they've been lying to her, brainwashing or something. So I thought I'd look into it and try to do what we do, you know, help. People. We help people."
Barbara studied the screens, her eyes everywhere, her mind undoubtedly working faster than quantifiable. "No word from Helena I assume."
It wasn't really a question. Barbara knew Helena better than Dinah did. She wouldn't show up until she was over whatever she was sulking about. Which Dinah still wasn't sure was exactly, except that it made Barbara feel guilty as hell. That much was obvious even to the young blond. "Sorry, nothing."
Her mentor sighed, "She'll show up when she's cooled off." Barbara grimaced and Dinah wondered what thought had brought on that expression.
Her next words brought Dinah up short and right back to that feeling of a girl trying to sneak in the bedroom window after staying out too late with the date her parents would disapprove of. "So who is this friend that's more than a friend who may be part of the X Project at Manticore? Which, by the way Dinah, is more than a secret paramilitary organization from what I can see here. They're not above using unethical means to achieve their goals."
"Max," Dinah offered, mouth suddenly dry and her cheeks too warm.
Again she was given the raised eyebrow look. "I take it Max is your boyfriend? And if so, why haven't you told me or Helena about him until now?"
Oh, right. "Ah, Max is a girl. I mean a woman." Dinah stammered and now both eyebrows were raised high. "We, ah, met not that long ago. But things happened kind of quick. I meant to say something but we've been busy." She gestured at Barbara's bandages meaningfully.
Nodding sagely, Barbara placed her glasses on and rolled closer to the screens. "You're right, with the cat thief and now Quinn, let alone Ivy, things have been a bit hectic." Barbara warmly clasped Dinah's hand, the gesture meant a great deal to the touch telepath. "We haven't had much down time lately. Or time to talk. I'm sorry about that. Once we have Quinn back behind bars and this cat thief caught, we'll talk, a lot, and you can tell me all about this woman who's making you blush so much." Barbara offered the young woman a smile that almost took Dinah's sudden wince away, almost but not quite.
It was time to come clean.
"Actually, Barbara," this would not be fun, "here's the thing," and she felt the wince spread across her face, "Max isn't only a genetically engineered soldier, she's also the thief we've been trying to find." She quickly rushed on, "But she never hurt anyone. She was just doing it to get by and try to figure things out. Those people at Manticore messed with her head. She doesn't know what year it is and thinks the United States should have been levelled by some EM pulse. I've been trying to help her, she knows what I can do, but I couldn't read anything that made sense. "
The grip on Dinah's arm grew hard and yanked down, forcing Dinah to get up close to be captured by piercing green eyes, "You've been consorting with someone who not only is a thief, but a bio-engineered weapon and you told her what you can do?"
Stunned, Dinah just stared into that gaze that was a burning mix of fury and fear. "Think Dinah! Was there anything in her memory about a blond woman? Both Helena and I were attacked by assassins sent by Quinn tonight! What if Max was sent to kill you?"
Max kill her? Dinah was scared but it wasn't of Max, it was the terror threatening to overcome Barbara, breaking through Dinah's mental shields with the tight grip the older woman had on her arm. She could feel Barbara try to control the fear, but only with anger. Barbara shook Dinah, "Answer me, Dinah! Did you see Quinn in her mind? Does Max know where you live?"
Not cool. Max put her binoculars away and made sure nothing on her was loose. She didn't care what the red head was to Dinah, there's no way she was going to lay low while someone got all domestic abuse on her gentle blue eyed girl. And it explained so much about Dinah, her quiet and forgiving manner. That sadness in her eyes, past the sunshine and warm times. The kind that gets beaten into you. The kind that someone beats into you. Figures people were taking advantage of her and pushing her around.
The hell with that. Max was here now and maybe she didn't have the best grasp on non-violence, but she sure as hell knew what to do about someone getting too rough with a certain honey-haired blond.
Max stood up on the roof where she had been keeping an eye on Dinah, and she got ready to make the jump over to the clock tower and crash that little non-party and teach the redhead who it was okay to grab and not grab. Etiquette lessons were in order and Max was all set to play Miss Manners with a solid side kick and roundhouse.
She was ready until a feral eyed brunette with a slick coat and model-styled hair jumped in front of her and slammed her into the roof.
Back up in a flash, she dusted the roof grit off her now torn jeans. Dammit, Dinah had liked those jeans.
She glared at the woman. "From the force of that sucker punch I'm guessin' you're one of those metahumans running around this place. You so picked the wrong girl on the wrong roof to mess with right now." Max gave the woman a meaningful once over, "Cuz if that's all you got, you ain't got what it takes to take me. My advice? Run, now."
A loud rustling behind her made Max sidestep to keep both potential threats in view, but not fast enough. She caught sight of red hair, foliage, and a nearly naked woman who had green skin. And the woman was smiling. "That isn't all my snarling friend has, she also has me. And it's too late for you to run."
Max only had the chance to say "What the fu-" before thick branches wrapped around her and a green goddess trapped her in a kiss that made the world fade to that warm touch, the scent of foreign lands, and then blackness that took away everything.
Dinah was going to reassure her scared and injured guardian that no, she hadn't told Max where they lived or about Barbara being Oracle and Helena being meta-human. That of course Max wasn't someone sent by Quinn to kill her. Maybe even tell Barbara flat out that Max was Dinah's lover. She was going to tell the woman she admired like no other all of that and more, but a crash on the balcony got their attention and they both immediately fell into fighting positions, Dinah with fists balled ready to fight and Barbara with batons extended. Dinah was about to find out just how deadly good intentions could be as they both looked up at the sexy figure in black leather, dark hair and angry eyes.
"Helena," Dinah and Barbara both breathed relieved, but Barbara hadn't relaxed her posture the way Dinah had. But then again, Dinah only noticed what followed Helena a second later than Barbara had.
Behind her, Helena dragged a woman also in black leather, but her rich brown hair was long and wavy and her eyes weren't open, they were closed, her face slack. She was bound by vines filled with thorns. The unconscious face was instantly recognizable to Dinah.
"Max!" she cried, surging forward and found her path blocked by Helena.
"You know this killer?" her elder vigilante counterpart demanded. The young blonde heard the words but didn't care. There was Max, the woman who cared about her. The young blonde knew Max cared for her, she knew it was true in a way other people couldn't. While others relied on assurances of adoration and deeper feelings, Dinah felt them as tangible as rock, water and wind slapping her face, like heat burning along her skin. When she touched a person, their emotions came to life within her and she held no doubts about the fire of desire that Max burned her with, the soothing ocean of emotion underneath it lying in wait for her. She had touched Max and been touched in turn in a deeper way than any other human being could appreciate or truly understand.
And Helena had attacked Max.
A thought with will behind it and Helena was moved by an invisible moving wall that shoved her aside. Then Dinah kneeled beside Max, checking a pulse and letting out a held breath when she noted how strong and steady it was. Max.
She started to pull desperately at the tightly wound thorn vines, ignoring how they cut her. What if they had punctured Max?
She flashed a sharp glance at Helena who was being helped up by Barbara. "How could you?" And it was her turn to demand answers. This was all so wrong. She had only wanted to help, wanted to be happy and belong. She didn't want to feel this way towards Helena, her family. She didn't want this anger and confusion. "Why did you wrap her up in this? No barbed wire handy? Jesus Helena!"
"What the hell Dinah!" the dark haired fury growled, "She was watching you guys and about to break in on you! Quinn sent her to kill you! How the hell do you even know her name?"
"For pity's sake, she's not an assassin!" Dinah almost had Max free but it was hard. "How did you get this stuff around her?"
"Barbara?" Helena looked to the redhead for direction and it upset Dinah already more than she was.
"I'm the one who asked you a question." She stood facing the woman she had once partially feared and envied. "What did you do to my girlfriend, who by the way, was probably just looking out for me, in no way could she be a killer and now she's unconscious and looking like someone Poison Ivy had ambushed. I think I have a right to some answers, so stop ignoring me and tell me! What did you do to her?"
"Nothing," a cool green voice said from too close behind the blonde woman. "I did it."
Aghast, Dinah turned, not having missed the widening of Barbara's eyes or the grim expression on Helena's face. There stood Poison Ivy, almost looming over Max. She had done this?
Poison Ivy didn't seem so big on her knees gasping for air clutching at invisible hands choking her, Dinah thought. "What," the upset turned to a cold fury, "did you do to her?"
She heard Helena cuss and suddenly hands were on her shoulders, trying to turn her around. Instantly she was seared by Helena's conflicting emotions of fear, protective anger, and worry. And there was more, thoughts, images...a kiss? It was too jumbled, too many ambivalent feelings cascading over her own. She tried to shut them out. Dinah spoke without turning to look back at either of her family. "Poison Ivy hurt Max, is messing with you both, and you think you have to worry about Quinn?" Dinah said.
"Let her go." It wasn't the cussing of Helena, but the commanding tones of Barbara that broke through her. Barbara had wheeled up and laid a hand over Dinah's, sending Dinah some of her iron tight control. "We'll sort this out but you have to let her go. I know you're upset. But we need to figure out what is going on. Choking Ivy won't help the situation."
It might solve a lot of problems, Dinah thought. It was a violent and self-serving desire that came from a bitter place buried deep within her, the one that had wished her abusive foster parents dead, had wanted to kill Hawke after he had murdered her mother, the one that wanted to kill the bane of Helena and Barbara's existence right now. Because although Quinn was a threat, Ivy was the one breaking them apart, seeding doubts in their souls and hurting the people Dinah loved. Not Quinn, Ivy.
But Dinah had never made peace with that part of herself, never come to terms with it, never accepted it completely except to know that life is unfair, that hurt is something you can rarely avoid, and happiness is a fleeting thing at best. It darkened her heart some more. Was it so wrong to want to belong somewhere? With someone? To want to protect them from all the horrors she had suffered in this world and shared unwillingly through the touch of others?
I don't want to be this person.
What's more, she knew the people who loved her didn't want her to be that person either. They had to solve their own problems. Sometimes, being an adult really wasn't worth it, in Dinah's opinion at that moment. The inner rage was hard to push back down, harder still to bury. She imagined stuffing a growling beast in a prison and locking the cage, closing a heavy metal door and adding more locks to that, exiling that part of herself somewhere dark and deep, to sleep. Hopefully. But it cost her and she was grateful for Barbara's steadying calm and control in the touch that hadn't let go. Grateful for the reminder that there could be mercy in the world when she was the one given the choice. The tide turned within her and she released her mental grip around Ivy's throat as Dinah chose to take a step back and let Barbara handle Ivy. Made a choice to let go of her desire to rescue her family from all the danger Ivy represented and chose to turn away from the coughing green woman. She knelt back down and without a word, continued to remove the bindings around Max. She still kept the verdant woman in her peripheral. She saw how the thorns had ripped into Max's leather jacket. Max will be ticked.
"She is unharmed," the green woman gasped. "Do not be angry with your family. Even you must admit the woman's appearance on the rooftop appeared sinister."
An indelicate noise escaped Dinah, "And you and Helena are the picture of non-sinister?"
Helena threw her arms up in exasperation, "Is anyone going to tell me what the hell is going on?"
"This," Barbara waded into the fray of tempestuous emotions, "I believe is Dinah's new girlfriend, Max. Who also happens to be a bio-engineered soldier from a shadow branch of a malevolent para-military organization." Her tone turned wry, "She also happens to be the cat thief we've been looking for, at least before Quinn came back to town."
She looked up to Helena's incredulous expression, "Now what have you been up to?" giving a noted glance towards Ivy's still kneeling form.
"Ivy and I were having a chat over tea when we realized if Quinn sent hitwomen after both of us, why not Dinah too? When we got near the clock tower we found h - Dinah's girlfriend - spying on you and about to leap in as if the house was on fire and Dinah was a puppy needing saving. So Ivy planted the big wet whammy on her-"
"I kissed this Max person." Ivy supplied, clearly affronted by Helena's retelling.
"And there you have it." Helena smiled down at Barbara and it wasn't all friendly, that smile.
Dinah didn't have time for it. "You kissed her with what?" she looked at Ivy.
That vivid green gaze held a knowledge that made Dinah feel naked, vulnerable. "Merely a sleeping lip balm. Nothing more. She could wake up at any time now. You needn't fear - if I may call you Dinah?- your lover is unharmed. You needn't continue to be alarmed. I swear to you she will wake up without even so much as a headache. Your Max is with you and safe."
There was more attached to that last word than Dinah understood, but she caught Barbara's speculative gaze and was suddenly facing two very identical expressions. It let her know why Harley Quinn had been taken with their similarity. The two red heads shared not only similar hair and eye coloring, but also a sharp intelligence that added weight to their already intense gazes. Barbara looked as if she finally understood something. Dinah didn't know what that was except it was aimed at her.
"Then if it's safe, can we please carefully put her up on the sofa so she won't wake up with a crick in her neck? Our floor can't be the most comfortable."
"I've had worse."
The guarded but reassuring tone of Max's voice warmed Dinah to her toes, especially when she looked down to see those rich brown eyes looking up at her.
"We cool?" Max said, carefully not moving, meaning was it safe to move before Dinah's family and other did anything more.
"No one's going to try anything right?" Dinah looked around at her family and their...guest.
"Of course Dinah," Barbara glanced between Dinah and the woman at her feet. "I'm sure Max can understand our position and why Helena was so cautious." Asking and looking for where Max stood on things, if payback was going to happen.
"Yeah, sure." Max said, answering more than the obvious question.
Dinah helped her up. This was way more awkward and tense than Dinah had predicted when she first thought about how to introduce Max to her unique family. Let alone her many unsettled feelings about Ivy being in their presence. Letting out a tightly held breath, she turned to Barbara and gave her a tight smile. "Uhm, this is Max, my girlfriend," and wasn't this all too weird, "Max? This is my guardian, Barbara Gordon."
It wasn't the ideal introductions Dinah had been hoping for, but she learned in her life, you had to take what opportunities you could get.
She was relieved and happy when she saw the smile Barbara offered along with her hand to the dark haired woman. She was further happy to notice Helena's posture easing a bit with Barbara's taking control of the situation. But as soon as Max stood up and took stock of herself, Dinah, and the place, to at last let those dark eyes fully rest on Barbara, all hell broke loose. Desire thrilled under Dinah's skin from where she touched Max. It burned in a way she had experienced only once before in an alleyway in No Man's Land.
"Max" she uttered in shock and no small amount of horror.
Max was going into heat hard and fast and her eyes were only for Barbara.
It had only been a few days since she had returned to Gotham, but already Ivy had a headache from the stench of pollution and metal and grime that layered New Gotham. The wearing sound of metal whirring and electronics buzzing caused her a fair headache, but nothing would tear her away from protecting the enigmatic Barbara Gordon. She watched as the dark woman named Max’s face creased in pain and the sheer alarm on Dinah’s face when she touched her.
Instinctually Ivy moved in front of Barbara and noticed the feral woman Helena do the same. But it was Dinah’s reaction that was the most shocking. An invisible force that stirred the blonde’s hair raised the finer hairs on Ivy’s arm as Max was just suddenly slammed down to the ground with a flushed Dinah on top of her, her face screwed up in effort.
Pained blue eyes tried to meet Barbara’s from where the redhead tried to push from between Ivy and Helena. Ivy enjoyed the casual touch, a rarity both painful in its intensity as it was pleasant. For when was the last time anyone touched her with any casualness whatsoever?
She moved, barely. Helena moved not at all. The young woman’s words were as twisted and pained as her expression, “Ba- don’t talk. I can see it in Max’s mind. Quinn’s used her. Set her up to go into heat to hurt you. Max doesn’t want to but – god! – it hurts so bad!” The woman looked down at the brunette pinned beneath her. “Max.” she said, a plea of desperation and an acknowledgement of shared pain.
“Stop touching me.” Max choked out. “It’s hurting you too. Stop it. Knock me out.”
Dinah panted and shook her head, “It will hurt you not to go through with it won’t it? I can read you, feel it. You’ll be unconscious but the heat lasts until you satisfy it.”
“What’s going on Dinah?” Barbara’s voice was both crisp and clear with concern and fear for her young charge.
Both Max and Dinah gasped as if in pain. “God Ba- Don’t talk. It triggers it worse.” Dinah panted.
Ivy’s formidable intellect took in all the data that she was observing and was both horrified and impressed by what Quinn had done, even while it unsettled her. “I believe Harley has somehow used drugs or some other means of brainwashing to have this Max person assault you – sexually. Your name, your appearance, even your voice may trigger the state, making it worse. From what I can gather, this heat she refers to may be like an animal when they must mate. If so, Dinah is correct, simply tranquilizing her will not alleviate her symptoms. But your charge Dinah appears to be a touch telepath of some sort.” Barbara nodded and Ivy gauged her words towards the young woman. “Would it not be wise for you to do as your lover suggests and release her so that you are no longer also affected?”
Agonized blue eyes met Ivy’s green ones with absolute conviction. “Won’t leave her alone in pain like this. I think I can get her to my room, in time. But you have to leave us alone so we can fix this.”
“You mean get nasty with the woman who was about to rape Ba-“ Helena cut off yelling the name just in time, but she took a threatening step forward. ‘No way, Dinah. Let her go and I’ll clock her. To hell with what pain she’s in.”
“God damn you, Helena,” Dinah said between clenched teeth even as Ivy caught Barbara taking hold of Helena’s arm and mouthing something to the feral woman. “She’s in pain and I love her. When the person you’re in love with was hurting people and committing crimes and might kill you – did you just walk away? Max doesn’t want to hurt her. It was done to her against her will and she’s trying to fight it. I can help her and I will. But you have to trust me. And stay out of this.”
“You can’t be serious,” Helena began, but Barbara’s hold on her was insistent and whatever she mouthed to the angry woman forced her to stay put, if resentfully.
Ivy watched it all. Watched it and learned.
She looked down and met eyes a shade darker than her own. “Shall we leave them be to ‘sort this out’?”
Helena nearly hissed her frustration, but Barbara Gordon nodded her head in one smooth solemn motion. “My room.” She mouthed and looked a question at Helena.
Her lover seemed to understand, “You need us D, you yell and we’re there.”
“Hurry,” Dinah squeezed out. And you could almost see the air around her and Max wavering.
Ivy followed Barbara Gordon’s lead as she was taken to an elevator and a lower floor. She had no doubt that Helena’s meta hearing could pick up anything if it went amiss upstairs but she did not envy the ability, understanding how uncomfortable listening to what was going on above would be.
It was with no small amount of surprise that Ivy found herself let into Barbara – and Helena’s – bedroom. There had been some small amount of plants throughout the place to Ivy’s relief. The greenery whispered sweet songs to her that no one else could hear. It’s the only thing she pitied about those around her, that they couldn’t experience the vitality and the beauty that lay always near them. And in this most private of spaces, there sat a lovely fern flourishing in the bedroom. It was a spacious room and everywhere things were low enough so that Barbara could access them in her wheelchair. The colours were pleasant, the place smelled clean and felt comfortable. But it lacked Barbara’s Gordon’s true touch. The woman obviously used it for its functionality with just some spare thoughts towards decorations. It was tastefully furnished but the overall stamp of Barbara’s personality was not here. A private one was this Barbara Gordon, who only showed her self in conversation at the most dire of times, in action and not revealing herself by her environment. Except for that monstrosity of a computer upstairs. All that metal, Ivy didn’t care for it, although she did appreciate what its value must be to the woman she desired like only one other.
Helena flounced dramatically on the bed, leaning back against the headboard with arms crossed to further display her displeasure at this scenario. She looked sexy and sullen at the same time. She was an interesting bundle of elusive contradictions. Barbara Gordon however, fascinated the former scientist. She wheeled around the room in her chair with all the authority and smoothness of royalty, with an effortless grace that was equal parts alluring and enviable. To have such devoted women as Dinah and Helena surrounding her, let alone Harley’s attentions and obsession, it was no wonder she had also captured Ivy’s.
Ivy chose to lean as inconspicuously as possible against the pale wood dresser. And waited. Waited to discover what Barbara Gordon would do next.
“I know I’m making this harder Barbara,” Helena conceded with great reluctance. “But what are we supposed to do now? We wait until those two do the nasty and then what?”
Barbara shook her head, frowning, “You’re being in an unusually cross mood Hel. She’ll be okay. We’re here if she needs us. Giving her some space for what they need to do isn’t so great an inconvenience is it?” She moved closer to Helena, close enough to take a hand in hers and touch that triangular face with slender fingers. “What is it that’s really bothering you?”
“Quinn sent that women here to rape you. Not kill you, rape you.” Eyes flashed meta-human yellow and Ivy could certainly acquiesce that point. It had shocked her, to discover Harley had become capable of such things. It shocked her and disturbed her more deeply than she cared to admit. It was no less pleasant watching the ease of affection and touching Barbara and Helena shared. Like all other people on the planet, they didn’t understand how precious the ability to share each other was. Ivy’s heart darkened.
“I know Hel,” Barbara soothed, “but she failed, and we’ll catch her. Won’t we Ivy?”
Barbara surprised Ivy again by addressing her. She had thought herself forgotten where she leaned against the dresser. “Indeed. It seems she has become quite out of hand in her gestures to extract punishment.”
“Is that why you’re here?” Helena raised herself slightly, ready for a new fight. “Quinn less desirable now that she’s more psychotic than you remember? So now you’re trying to go after what she wants? If so, you’re just as twisted as she is.”
Coolly, she measured the bristling woman on the bed, “I said I wanted you both Helena Kyle. I was not trying to exclude you or seduce Barbara from you. Merely to give you both an opportunity, one I desire, for the three of us to become more, together. You’re constant territorialism and posturing is growing tiresome so late in and already taxing evening. You have no need for jealousy. She is with you after all. And my aim is not to interfere with that.”
“Right.” Helena’s sarcasm was thick and fast.
“Helena,” Barbara admonished, shaking her head, “We’re all tired, Ivy’s right. This attitude of yours isn’t necessary. I love you.” Ivy was careful not to change a hair of her expression listening to these words. Watching the two, seeing how Helena’s eyes softened at the admission.
“Perhaps,” dark green eyes rose with a fair amount of embarrassment and self-consciousness, “if you could try to be somehow less seductive in your manner Ivy. Please.”
Astonished, a surprised burst of sound escaped Ivy as she laughed truly and freely at the wonder of it. So she was not so invisible to Barbara after all. Lovely. It warmed her beyond the simple words and gentle rebuke. She straightened up bemused and laughed again at the stunned faces before her. “I can laugh ladies. And I will try to be less…alluring. But I must admit it had not been intentional on my part.”
Barbara flushed while Helena glowered. Ivy smiled.
The woman in the wheelchair seemed to try to collect herself. Steel entered her posture. “We need a strategy. Figure out Quinn’s next move while we wait for Dinah and Max to recover.”
“Then I should leave”. Ivy pushed herself away from the dresser and towards the door.”
She waved off the question she felt coming. “You work better without me here since I seem to be …distracting you.” She smiled more fully and suggestively and this time she meant it to be so. “I find I’ve grown too used to tropical skies for my roof and such small places are too confining for me.”
The frown on Barbara was beautiful too, like everything about her. “I was hoping for your input on this Pamela. After all, no one knows Quinn better than you.”
The sadness biting away at Ivy’s heart gnawed more forcefully at the words. “That doesn’t appear to be as true as it might have been. I shall return later, after some rest and nourishment and time alone to think.”
She didn’t seem to want Ivy to go. And she had called Ivy by her name, the name Ivy had before she became something she never wanted to be. It meant something to Ivy. Almost as much as the other woman’s touch.
“Do what you need to do,” Barbara said slowly, “but be careful. Quinn knows you’re here now. She may have planned measures for that. You’re likely as in danger now as we are.”
“Indeed,” Ivy agreed as she left the two women who needed time to clear the air alone, “of that I have no doubt.”
She left the tower of metal and concrete with a sense of unease Poison Ivy was not accustomed to.
Although New Gotham was different than the city she remembered before the cataclysmic earthquake that shook it to its core, Ivy still knew how to find a place if she wanted to. And with little surprise, she discovered that Dr. Harleen Quinzel’s office had never been successfully sold. It seemed no one wanted the former office of Gotham’s new queen of crime. Ivy smiled. It must have made Harley so proud.
Breaking and entering was as easy as using an acidic plant sap on a lock and she was in, inside the place where Harley had started to recreate herself. The expensive furnishings, large office space and impressive view were splendid for what they were. Such trappings had stopped being lures to Ivy when she had ceased to be Pamela anymore. Hard to get excited about nice drapes when you had to worry about visitors falling ill or even dead after touching them, or sitting on your couch.
Walking around the dark room, dimly lit by the streetlights, she trailed a hand along the back of the chair she knew, instinctively knew, Harley had sat in. Away from the windows, the desk was solid cherry wood. Ivy could make out where Harley had left nail imprints from where she would drum her right hand, a restless habit she always had. It made Ivy smile, seeing some part of the woman she had known here in this strange place.
“It seems I have a new patient. How…splendid.”
Ivy raised her head and turned to see Harley standing there. She looked at her, slowly this time, she had been rushed on the rooftop. Gone were the affectations of immaturity and an earnest need to please. Instead there was a hard bitterness to the woman before Ivy. Slight frame in clothes that were tailored and tasteful. She was no longer playing the fool. And yet, Ivy missed that earnestness, missed the softness in now hard dark eyes.
“I didn’t expect you to come here.”
The short blonde walked in, her every move strong and commanding. She perched on the desk, close enough to Ivy to touch. She gave a flippant laugh, “Can’t a girl return to the scene of her non-crime? Or I guess, since it’s just us girls, I can admit I did commit a teeny murder or two here.”
Regret lay like rain on Ivy’s tongue. She made a mistake coming here. “That use of the young woman to harm Barbara Gordon. It was a lewd act, desperate and crass. You used to have more finesse. At least once you had aspired to.”
Quinn’s face hardened to match the look in her eyes, such anger there. “Sometimes you need to bludgeon instead of slice, Ivy dear.”
The tall crimson haired, verdant skinned woman shook her head in sorrow, in loss, and in despair. “We all lost that day. I had hoped you would improve yourself without his or my influence near you.”
“I was your lover, your partner, Ivy, not your child. Or his.” The blond hissed, pushing off the desk angrily and striding to stand and look out the windows, arms crossed and eyes elsewhere, looking outside seeing something other than the view. “But you’re right in that you both had a hand in what I am now. All I ever did was disappoint you didn’t I? Well right back at you Ivy. Here I am now, all grown up. You don’t like what I’ve grown into? Too bad. You had a hand in it you know. You and him. I was born out of the abuse and the other the neglect you two kept dishing out. Now I dish it. Get it?” She pivoted on a heel and faced Ivy, eyes burning darkly. “I’m the one on top now. Go back to precious little miss goodie two-shoes Gordon and her darling house cat Helena. Go on, play the good girl and see how far it gets you. It never got me anything except left behind.”
The bitterness was too raw after all these years. It cut Ivy and for a moment she had to fight the urge to go to the woman who had been her lover and her only friend. Fought it and turned away because she didn’t know what to say in the face of that anger and bitter self-loathing. Knew it all too well from her own time looking in the mirror. She had no answer for herself. How could she offer one to Harley?
Ivy realized then that this was even more serious than she realized, more personal than she ever knew. And it was her who had been left. She was going to tell Harley so, along with her own regrets and aching emptiness. But what meaning do words have in the face of cold and bottomless reality? None. So mutely, Poison Ivy left, wrapped in her pain, as alone as she had always been except for the brief time of happiness she had found with a woman now completely mad. A woman whom Ivy loved. The woman Ivy would have to kill.
She left, shutting the door as if to hermetically seal a tomb.
Dinah reacted intuitively even as she burned with needs unknown and raging. She used her telekinesis and pushed herself down on top of Max, stopping the dark woman from what she did not want to do. With her emotions and physical state in chaos, Max’s mind was more open than ever before, her natural defenses down, and Dinah tumbled helplessly in buried memories and a maelstrom of emotions and needs. Dinah tried for control, but desire burned her, the unbearable heat was robbing her of mind and her faculties of reason and control, the very things she needed. Focus.
Through the haze she recognized a voice in Max’s memories. Anger spiked through the anxiety and arousal Dinah was combating. Quinn. Setting Max up to hurt Barbara and through that, hurt them all. Max wouldn’t do it, Dinah could read it, feel it in the vibrating body of tension coiled beneath her, Max would not allow herself to hurt anyone that way, would rather hurt herself. Dinah didn’t care for Quinn’s option or Max’s. Neither Barbara nor Max would be hurt. Dinah could see the way out of the trap Quinn had set. But she would have to ask more than ever of her family, of Barbara. She would need them to trust her, truly trust her, and she wasn’t sure they would.
Words were hard to form. She needed to help Max, be with her. But they had to know, had to understand. Dinah did her best to tell her family what was happening, what she needed from them. Their acquiescence came with tension, but it came and it was like a balm hovering over the charged air around Dinah and Max.
“Hold on”, she whispered to Max, feeling the woman’s searing pain as though it were her own.
As soon as she heard the door close, signalling Helena, Barbara and Ivy giving them their privacy, Dinah did the only thing she could do. She let go of her telekinetic hold on Max, let go, and held on to the woman against her.
Max released a pained whine that turned into an ardent moan as Dinah worked fast, yanking the zipper of her lover’s leather pants down and shoving her hand in those tight confines to find molten liquid heat with her fingers while she found Max’s mouth with her demanding one, kissing the dark woman with all of the need Dinah could feel in them both. A sound half relief, half need was swallowed by Dinah as she took possession of Max’s lips, her tongue, her very breath and stroked that liquid heat between Max’s legs as they bucked and wrestled against and with each other until Max at last had a fragment of relief when Dinah’s touch toppled her lover over into the first silver crescent of orgasm.
Dinah felt the wave of heat within Max waver and pull back, if only a little, with that first grace of release. She pulled back to gaze into a dark regard that had regained some of Max’s usual sense of self, a small part of precious control. Both of them panted, but Max managed to breathe Dinah’s name as she touched the blonde’s face with a hand far gentler than the need Dinah could still feel waiting, stalking within her lover.
“Thank you,” Max whispered, her eyes dark with so much more than physical want or simple relief. In her eyes was everything Dinah had ever hoped for, had almost given up on finding in her life. Max didn’t utter the words for it, neither did Dinah. Neither was ready yet, and there were so many other things demanding their attention.
“Do you think you can manage to take this to my room?” Dinah asked, face flushed, body yearning for things that she couldn’t do here, where everyone worked. Not if she could avoid it.
Max looked at her searchingly, “Is it for you D, or is it just cuz of you picking up my heat?”
Even now, despite her suffering, Max was trying to protect Dinah. It almost made those precious words slip from the blond, but she wasn’t ready yet, and neither was Max. She simply stuck to the truth at hand. “It’s because I want to. I want to be with you Max. I want to finish what I started.” She reached down inside herself and found a courage she hadn’t known was there, one that would allow her for once to speak her true desires, what she really wanted for herself, no more hiding. “I want to pull down your pants and taste you in my mouth. I want to feel everything you gave me in that hotel room and then have you give me even more. I want to be greedy Max, I want everything you have to give, and I want you to let me give everything of me back. Because I want this, I need this, I need you Max. I need the way you need me.”
Max didn’t answer with something flippant, some cool remark, she kissed Dinah, a claiming of mouth and breath that made Dinah’s heart beat even faster, made her blood thunder in her ears. Max pulled back, met those pale eyes squarely and said, “I don’t follow anyone’s lead, but you go ahead Dinah, and I’ll follow you anywhere.”
Tensely waiting in Barbara’s bedroom, the two women shared an uneasy quiet since Ivy departed. Both were trapped in their own thoughts. Barbara wished she knew what Helena’s were. Her own mind kept going back to the seductive lines of Ivy reclining against the bureau, and the surprising burst of laughter she had let fill the air. Barbara hadn’t known Ivy could laugh like that after everything she had gone through when she became Poison Ivy. Barbara hadn’t known and it had touched her with hope and with a shared ache of things lost with only slices half alive to be rediscovered. She had once forgotten how to laugh. Helena had helped return her to that state of living again, had saved her in so many ways. And now Barbara felt as if she was losing the one person she relied on, truly emotionally depended on. And she didn’t understand why.
It was only suddenly when Helena blew out a breath of exasperated relief and said, “Thank god they made it to Dinah’s room finally.” that they actually looked at each other.
Immediately, Barbara went into caretaker mode, “Are they okay? Could you tell if Dinah’s safe?”
A disgusted puff of breath and Helena sat up, “She’s fine. Me, I’m gonna need therapy after having to listen to that.”
Barbara tried to hide the smile under a sympathetic regard as she drew closer to Helena. “I’m sure it wasn’t pleasant. But you have to admit, it would have been far more traumatic to watch.”
Widened eyes snapped to hers, Helena’s mouth gaped. “I can’t believe you said that.” The dark woman muttered. “Now I wish I could shower my brain.”
This close, Barbara could see the meticulously placed bandages covering Helena’s sleek figure. “Sorry.” She reached out to touch a bandaged forearm lightly with a finger, “how about you? Anything serious you need me to look at? Are you really okay?”
Helena snatched the hand and gripped it before it reached its destination- her. Feral eyes met Barbara’s with an entirely different regard. “How the Hell should I be? She wants you. She thinks she’s going to get you.”
So this was what was eating at Helena. Barbara didn’t even pretend or evade, she knew who Helena was talking about, and it wasn’t Max. She considered several responses before settling for the simplest. “Pamela wants you too.”
The grip on her hand tightened painfully. “Ivy wants me only because she considers me a necessary incentive to get you.” A low, low growl escaped the dark woman, thrilling along Barbara’s nerves. “She kissed me.” Before Barbara could say a word, Helena pulled her closer and in a charged voice stated, “I don’t share.”
With those words Barbara felt her own temper rise, answering the challenge she saw in that meta-yellow gaze. “Neither do I.”
Their gaze held the force behind them increasing. It was Helena who dropped her eyes first, her face creasing in worry and doubt. “But you want her.”
The red haired woman shook her head, a sorrowful smile moving her lips upward. “I can want things Helena, but I don’t need to act on them. And there is no one that I want more than you. And the only person I love, am in love with, has always been and will always be you and only you.”
She continued to allow the vice-like grip on her one hand, with the other she moved to hold the face before her tenderly. She coaxed Helen, pained expression and all, to look at her. “I never knew…” her usually sure voice wavered under the emotional weight of her realization, “I never knew you loved me this much yet thought I loved you so little.”
The often sarcastic, always attitudinal woman before her was anything but. Eyes now a violet-blue vulnerably clung to Barbara’s face, searching it for truth, for reassurance, and sadly also in part disbelief. Barbara’s heart cracked a little to learn she had so misread and understood her lover and dearest friend. Of course Helena , whose world revolved around only Barbara, would become unsettled at the threat she perceived Ivy to be. It was only here and now that Barbara realized just how much Helena depended on her and how much more the fear of losing Barbara - again, as she had once already due to Quinn’s twisted machinations - had continued to erode the other woman’s confidence.
It humbled the older woman. And she couldn’t recall ever having loved a person more tenderly, more fiercely with all of her being than the precious, brave woman who allowed Barbara, and only Barbara, to see how truly vulnerable and fragile she was. To her. Because of her.
It gave her unexpected insight into what happened much earlier on the rooftop. “What happened earlier“ she began.
Now Helena did turn away, unable to look at the other woman. “What happened was inexcusable, what I did was –“
“Amazing.” Barbara supplied, and now it was her hand holding onto Helena’s who had tried to shy away.
Startled eyes met hers and Barbara continued in the face of that disbelief. “How can you doubt it? You felt how I responded, how much I wanted you. No one else Helena. You. Only you can make me feel like I’m still racing along rooftops and plunging into the night. With just a look. A touch. With only one kiss. Only you make me feel alive like I thought I’d never feel again. You’re the only one I would ever allow to take control, take me, in any sense of the word. And I love it. I love that you and only you can do that to me.”
Helena stared at her for a good minute, and then let out a growl very different from the previous one. Barbara suddenly found herself thrown onto the bed, her legs carefully looked after and a very feral woman on top of her. The wild laugh that erupted from the dark woman, the amazed and happy dancing eyes, was a siren song to soothe Barbara’s fears. She had missed this, missed the light in those phenomenal eyes, the wild happiness that lit that beautiful face, and the promise in every line of the other woman’s body poised above her.
“You loved that huh?” Helena said, sounding very much like her regular, except for the silver of relieved and happy tears lining her dark lashes. She gazed down at Barbara in unabashed joy. “How ‘bout we check that right here and now?”
Barbara laughed, her dark eyes on fire as she answered the challenge she knew Helena would always be able to offer her restless and ardent soul, offer and meet with Helena’s own equally fierce passion, pride, and strength.
“You’re welcome to try Hel, but you’re going to have to fight me for who gets to be on top.”
The first kiss of the sun was a welcome boon to Ivy as she sat on the terrace of the high Clock Tower overlooking New Gotham. But the warmth it brought never reached her soul. It warmed the outer skin, the pale green on her arms, and the tight skin on her unsmiling face. It could not assuage the knowledge that chilled her, the conviction that she would have to kill the one human who maybe, just maybe, had once truly loved her.
The footsteps, however quiet, were still audible to Ivy’s sensitive hearing though the young woman coming out on the balcony was not trying for stealth.
She turned to look at Dinah Redmond and very nearly smiled at the flushed cheeks and warmth in those sky blue eyes. Dinah looked young, well used and happily so. Such contentment, was it only for the young or strong at heart?
“Good morning,” the blond nearly whispered.
“Good morning Dinah, or would you prefer me to call you Ms. Redmond?” she offered low and smoothly. Why the young woman had approached her, obviously specifically so, left the more mature woman bewildered and the scientist within her curious.
“Gosh, Dinah, please. Unless you want me to call you Ms. Ivy?” Dinah seemed mildly flustered, but there was a quirk to her lips and a glint in her eyes. She came to stand less than two feet from Ivy.
“Ivy if you would Dinah,” she looked away from that wondering gaze to look out over the smog ridden city, missing …something. She felt the want, but couldn’t say for what. “Shouldn’t you be resting with your lover?” her name was Max, Ivy reminded herself.
“Uhm, yeah,” self-consciousness colored the words a blush and when Ivy glanced back at the young woman, she wasn’t surprised to see the pink coloring the earnest face. Had she, Ivy, ever blushed? Ivy could no longer remember.
“I just, I wanted to thank you for all your help tonight, well, really, really early this morning. You helped save my family. Thank you.”
Gratitude? She resolutely looked out at the ugly city. Who had ever thanked her before for saving them? Was this how Barbara Gordon felt? How would she have handled it? “Right place, right time. And for a change, the right people. You’re welcome.”
She heard Dinah sigh and it held far more weight than their conversation or those summer blue eyes should. “Sometimes I’m afraid of myself.”
She turned then, no longer able to resist. She surely could not have heard the woman beside her correctly. “Your pardon?”
Dinah was looking out over the city as well. Ivy’s question pulled her back, as if from some great distance. She shook her head, the thick waves of honey blond hair moving over her shoulders, exposing her sombre expression. “I just, my power is growing. When I first arrived here I could enter peoples’ minds with a touch. Later, I could move things with my mind. Nothing fancy, but over time I’ve gotten better, stronger. More powerful. They were afraid of me touching them before, if I told them how much I could do now, that I didn’t need to hardly brush against another person to fully enter their thoughts, would they ever let me near them at all? Would she?” The last part came out a pained whisper and Ivy didn’t have to ask, she suddenly understood at least in part why Dinah had come to speak with her.
Her own bitterness made her blunt. “Your touch won’t kill them Dinah.”
A visible swallow, and if it weren’t for the quiet of the early morning, Ivy wouldn’t have heard the next words. “You mean my touch won’t kill them yet.”
Scared eyes found Ivy’s, held them with a desperate terror Ivy lived always. “The things I can do, when will it stop? What might I do by accident? And when they find out, what then? I thought a person gets used to being alone…I never have. It gets worse, not better. The pain is more, not less. I know they’re scared of me touching them already. And Max…”
“She doesn’t care, she’s unafraid of you seeing anything.” Ivy had no doubt of it. She had seen the fearlessness of the woman. The dark woman was a good match for the introverted and brave young woman before her.
Dinah nodded as if she couldn’t speak, choking momentarily on something. After a brief pause she cleared her throat. “How do you live with it Ivy?”
She set her face, giving away nothing with an aloof mask. “Think of all you’ve suffered and yet have survived. We live because we must, because all of it has failed to kill us.”
Ivy had come here looking for something, wanting something, but the emotions brought to the surface by this almost slip of a girl were beginning to tear at Ivy. She was going to demurely excuse herself and go perhaps to the park, somewhere without people, somewhere alone, where she didn’t need to be reminded of everything she’d lost and could never have again. Like the simple comfort of another’s touch.
It was that exact thing that froze her where she stood. The hand that fell atop of hers tingled, like static electricity, but it was warm and real. Shocked, she looked up from the impossible sight of the hand over hers to the sure expression on the face of Dinah. Coming to her senses, she went to pull her hand away but Dinah gripped it and shook her head.
“It’s okay. I thought about it last night. I can do this. I’m keeping a bunch of the particles around my hand moving, kind of like a shield. It will keep breaking down the air between the contact of your hand and mine. I know it’s not much, that it doesn’t even begin to be enough. But can I at least give you this small thing? You’ve been through so much and I know it’s not the same, but I understand a little. What it’s like to have people shun you, not want to touch you or have you touch them. I hate it. I hate their fear worse than anything. I hate being afraid that one stray thought of mine could someday kill someone by my mind reacting faster than my real intentions. I can only begin to imagine how you must feel. So even though it’s only holding hands, will you let me give you this?”
Comfort, by all that was and ever will be, a girl barely old enough to be an adult was offering Ivy, Poison Ivy, a hand to hold hers. The warm comfort that the touch of only another human can bring. Pamela Isley found herself blinking rapidly.
“The polluted air here burns my eyes.” She said, her voice rough suddenly.
She saw Dinah look out over the city and said only “Mine too.” But her hand around Ivy’s tightened.
Ivy didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
Max retreated from the pensive tableau on the balcony. Stealth was part of her genetic makeup and she was glad she hadn’t interrupted and also that she overheard them. She’d have to set D straight later. No good to have your girl thinking she was some big bad. Max wasn’t too keen on the bonding happies with the ex-big bad but Dinah was the type to act with her heart first. It was stupid. And brave. And one of the things…one of the things bad ass genetic soldier Max loved about Dinah.
Crap, if she began to sound like some soap opera she sure hoped someone would be around to dust the place with her sexy backside. Meanwhile she’d make use of what was in front of her. Free of the brainwashing that crazy ex of green gal’s gone and done to her, Max, thanks to Dinah, had a clear head to use the huge computer in front of her. And Max was all about taking the initiative, having been trained in strategic warfare fresh out of the womb. A computer was an easy thing to hack. Maybe she could find out about herself a little more and about this Quinn woman. Because although figuring out her past came first, strategy dictated you took out all immediate threats first. Max knew how to prioritize and her priority was to find that short blond bitch and teach her not to mess with her girl, her girl’s family, or Max. And if she got to dish out a whole bunch of whup-ass on the woman at the same time? Well that was just peachy with Max.
She had only been at the computer hacking for all of 3 minutes and 24 seconds when all hell broke loose.
Dinah rushed in with Ivy beside her. The Delphi alarms were ringing in like it was New Year’s and there was Max at the console with a freaked expression as she typed like mad at the keyboard to get it to stop.
Realizing what had happened, Dinah slowed down and with a kind smile leaned over Max to press a button, just one, and the flashing lights and din stopped.
“Early riser?” she grinned at the dark tousled hair and bright features.
“Show off.” Max grinned back, shrugging non-committal, always cool. “Hey, just thought I’d try to get a heads up on where that ex of tall green and super-sexed was.”
Dinah felt her eyes widen at the “super sexed” comment but was reassured with a worried glance back at Ivy when the older woman merely smiled suggestively, as if to affirm Max’s opinion. Swell.
Helena stormed in, a slender dark cloud of promised payback, eyes feral and looking like she tore her clothes on instead of off. No need to ask if the alarms had woken her. Barbara followed in her annual chair. Both took in the Delphi and the three of them standing there.
Barbara shook her head reprovingly. “You should have warned them not to use that computer.”
Dinah shrugged, purposely mimicking Max’s earlier move. “Hey, I was outside with Ivy talking. How was I to know my girlfriend had a yen for the electronics?”
Everyone, absolutely everyone’s jaw dropped, with the odd exception of Ivy. Max was the first to recover and she grinned, smirked actually. Dinah grinned back.
Helena waved her hand widely and irately in Dinah’s direction, snorting softly as she said to Barbara, “You’re the one who wanted her to stay. Let’s have kids. Next thing you know we have two of them.”
Giving Helena her best admonishing look, which was quite formidable, Barbara responded, “Yes dear one, but you left out yourself in that count.” Turning to Dinah, Barbara flashed a hundred watt smile in a brief second Dinah’s way to let her know they were kidding before looking severely at Max. “What have you done to my Delphi?”
“Just lookin’ ma’am. Honest. You have some sweet digs here, wicked cool search engine. Thought it might give us a leg up on where psycho bitch was and then we could take her down.” Something caught Max’s eye, “Although you might want to stop the alarm on that part D, it hasn’t stopped flashing.”
Quicker than anyone, Barbara was there at the console, pushing Max aside and whipping on her glasses. Completely focused, she said move and they all did, giving her the space to peer at the section of the small screen at the bottom left that had not stopped flashing. Her hands were lighting on the keyboards as screen after screen came up and disappeared.
Her face severe, she turned to them all, “Why bother looking for her when she just went to all this effort to send us a personal invitation?”
“What does it say?’ But before Barbara could answer Ivy’s question, the pale green woman went to look at the screen, her face grim.
Dinah watched them. Barbara and Ivy side by side. She saw how well they fit together but more like sisters than lovers. She had tried to open up about her own fears, not simply to seek comfort, but in the hopes that Ivy would take some. She watched them some more and couldn’t help but wonder at what she had felt when she had held Ivy’s hand. If Ivy was so in love with Barbara, then why, even through that shielded touch, had Ivy’s thoughts been filled with Quinn?
“I don’t like this,” Barbara repeated since the argument began.
Helena looked around at them all. She though about how much things had changed since when it was just the two of them and Alfred. Now Dinah stood with her lover Max, looking both eager and concerned. Off to the side was Ivy nearest to the door to the terrace, austere and remote. And Barbara wheeled to look away from the many screens she had called up since the little message from Quinn had been found.
Oddly for Helena, the argument, more than anything else, felt like old times. “Of course it’s a trap. We all agree it’s a trap. But if we don’t go, we all know she’ll do something…worse. But I agree, this isn’t like her. Mad psychotic bitch that she is, the invite is too straightforward. It lacks her ‘I’ll mess with your head’ style.” It made her wince, but only a little, to turn to Ivy and ask, “What do you think? You know her best. She was only my shrink.” Helena couldn’t keep all the disdain of that last part out of her voice. It still got to her, the way Quinn had manipulated her.
A red eyebrow, darker than Barbara’s, arched elegantly in manner very similar to the woman Helena loved. “The woman I knew and the person she has become have proven to be very different things. But I know that if she has stopped with the jokes and the toying then it is only because she is either angry or tired.”
Barbara gave a curt nod. “And she’s not tired. She’s serious. So no more games. Maybe. Or maybe it’s a ruse to draw us out for something bigger. An obvious trap…Why so obvious?”
“Maybe she doesn’t think she needs to hide?” Dinah offered.
“She certainly chose an appropriate place to negate any advantage I could offer.” Ivy stated, obviously displeased. There was a hunger in her eyes, burned in her and Helena was relieved to see it wasn’t directed at Barbara. It was a welcome change as far as the dark vigilante was concerned.
“Yes,” Barbara hit some keys and screens focused on the location. “The Fast Track is an area for skaters, skateboarders and those on bicycles who can do ‘tricks’. It’s all concrete slopes, like a valley of bedrock as far as your concerned Pamela. Quinn couldn’t have chosen a better place where not a tree or plant would be around for you to call.”
“It is not my only weapon.” Ivy reminded her.
Barbara nodded. “And she chose night time, when no one should be there.”
“And because all things nefarious should be done under the cloak of night.” Ivy added. No one had a response for that.
The former Batgirl’s gaze went back to Helena. She hadn’t given up the fight. “With so much on the line and one of our numbers’ greater powers neutralized, there is no way I’m staying behind.”
Helena uncrossed her arms from where she leaned against the table close to her mentor, lover and best friend. She had allowed her fears of losing Barbara to play on her insecurities, she could admit she had let herself become criminally insecure. She forgot who she was. But last night, the fight, the fear and then this early morning in Barbara’s arms reminded her, she was the Huntress, Barbara loved her and she would do everything she could to protect it. After all, Helena was the weapon.
She leaned into Barbara’s space on purpose, putting her hands on the wheelchair armrests to stare at short range into those verdant eyes and remind Barbra of who she, the Huntress was. “She’ll be gunning for you. You maybe even more than Ivy. There’s no way you can risk wearing the neural coupler again so soon without damaging your spine for sure. Besides, we’ll need you here, watching our backs. She’s got something planned. She’s too twisted. She gave us an invite through the Delphi like she was gloating, or threatening ‘I know your secrets and can use them against you anytime.’ We can’t let her run loose. And I need you at what you do best. No one can think and plan and figure out what’s going on better than you. We…I need you to watch my back. You’re the only one I trust to do it right.” Okay so the last part was a bit manipulative, but it was true and they both knew it.
“I don’t like this,” Barbara’s jaw clenched.
“I know,” the dark haired feral woman gave in softly and kissed her. “But you know I’m right.”
The lips kissing her back was Barbara’s acquiescence.
“Hate to interpret the love fest going on,” Helena drew back and looked at the person who spoke. She wanted to be cool with the girl Dinah liked but damn, Helena was the ass kicker in this group. And Max wore too much leather. “But are you guys really planning on just going in? Like that, no real plan?”
There went Barbara’s arched brow. Hel hid her smirk. “Our plan is to have Helena and Dinah go in with you and Pamela as back up. Unless you have another suggestion?” Damn, Barbara could sure put a lot into a tone. Again Hel had to hide her smile.
Max didn’t seem fazed in the least. She sauntered a couple of steps, glancing at Dinah. “I’m a soldier. It’s what I was bred and trained for, literally. Not just to fight, but strategy, intel, special ops, all of it. I’m more than just a pretty face with some smooth moves. The place I may have thought was real was bogus, but Manticore at least is real. We know that much. I’m real. So my know-how is too. You guys may be vigilantes but your civvies. You want a real battle plan? Why not ask an expert?”
Dinah smiled. Barbara raised both eyebrows in speculation, Ivy didn’t alter a hair as she stood daunting in the far end, and Helena shook her head. “Damn kid, I think I’m beginning to like your style. Put your cards on the table and we’ll see if we’ll play.”
Maybe this wouldn’t be the disaster they all feared it would be after all.
Max checked her gear again. Planning an attack, considering the variables and gathering her gear…it was like putting on her favorite clothes. They fit and felt as familiar as skin, being able to fall back into her military know-how. She had caught how the Gordon woman had been impressed. It had pleased Max to see the two older women defer to Dinah's trust in her. How much it had meant to her lover hadn't gone unobserved by the brunette. Good for Dinah, maybe she can close that distance with her family.
Slender arms slid around her from behind, touching skin under her shirt, sending shivers along her back. A warm breath tickled Max's neck, raising hairs along with the pleasurable tingles.
"I'm working on that", Dinah mouthed against Max's skin, "but right now I'd rather get `less distant' with my super soldier girlfriend."
Hmm, check her gear over again or the woman encircling her from behind? Max grinned. It was no contest. She turned to face Dinah, taking her into a searing kiss, her hands doing some roaming of their own.
"We don't have enough time," Dinah groaned even as her body responded to Max's expert touch.
Max teased pouty lips with her tongue, her neo-genetic senses picked up the rise in Dinah's temperature, the change in her scent, the increase in both her breathing and heart rate. She calculated it all in her head. Strategy wasn't all about military campaigns.
Max smiled just shy of Dinah's incredibly soft lips. "We have just enough time. Let me get you away from anything electronic and prove it.
Dinah's sharp intake of breath at what Max's hands were doing was all the agreement the dark woman needed.
This next part wouldn't be easy. But Barbara never was one to shy away from danger. She wheeled herself onto the balcony where Ivy reclined against a now green covered gargoyle. Under the waxing moon, Ivy's skin was a pale hue of luminescent sage. She glowed softly, her eyes revealing thoughts far away as she absently twined a leafy vine in her hand. She was beautiful. Yet it was the sadness that clung to her that moved Barbara's heart.
She was no more than two chair lengths out of the doors when Ivy looked up to capture Barbara with shimmering eyes. A blink and they were clear and strong, whatever emotion that had filled them gone as if it never had been.
"Good evening Barbara."
"Good evening Pamela. Everyone is getting ready to head out and I wanted to give you this" She held out the folded material, curious to witness the graceful woman's reaction.
Ivy stood and approached with a seductive movement that was all natural, all Ivy. Her poppy red lips pursed as she felt the smooth fabric between thumb and forefinger. When she lifted the bundle and held it up before her, her eyebrows rose questioningly at Barbara.
"It's a suit that's been in my `vault' for some time." Barbara regarded the one piece bodysuit akin to her batgirl outfit but sans cape, cowl, or bat symbol. "Don't be fooled by the fabric. It fits like a glove but it is bullet proof and although it can't stop a stabbing knife, it can prevent cuts, burns and protect you from extreme cold. Within limits of course."
Ivy regarded it with an enraptured and bemused expression.
"It was originally meant for me…before." Barbara waved the past back, unwilling to go deeper down that road. "It was designed for combat protection and if I was ever to go up, well, against you. It's poison resistant. It will keep your own in while keeping any others out." She tried to sell home the point. "With Quinn, who knows your weaknesses better than anyone, we don't know what we can expect. She has Cheshire and who knows who – or what – else. They might have some nasty counteragents in store for you. With only a day to prepare, I'm afraid this is the best protection I can offer."
"You even managed to color it green," Ivy mused, still looking at the garment with that unusual smile.
"I wanted you to like it. I hoped you would consider wearing it." The color was dark ivy green and complimented the woman before her well. Barbara was glad for the night that hid the slight blush tinting her ears.
The woman threw her head back and laughed a peal of surprised delight. Mirthful, Ivy attempted to quiet herself but the laugh lingered in the curve of the most open smile Barbara had ever witnessed coming from the stoic woman.
"You are such a wonder Barbara Gordon." She shook her head, openly amazed. "In all this time, in all these year, no one has ever offered to dress me. They always want the opposite." Ivy laughed again.
The smile Barbara returned was warm. She could recognize the ironic humor of her gesture. She gestured at the suit. "Does that mean you'll wear it?"
"Indeed. I'll wear your hero costume dear Barbara." Ivy leaned into Barbara's space. Expecting another seductive kiss, the seated woman was surprised by a tender and lingering kiss that chastely caressed her cheek.
She caught Ivy's hand before the other woman could pull away. "There's one other thing Pamela. Please forgive my insistence but I believe I know what you're planning and I can't allow it."
Ivy's face grew somber, all smile and laughter gone as she met Barbara's gaze in that very short space between them. "What can you not `allow'?" "I can't let you kill Quinn."
The embodiment of Nature tilted her head, taking Barbara's measure. "How did you know that's what I was considering?"
"Because I would. I would be hurt, angry, even afraid of what she would do next. I would feel betrayed and I'm hardly the most forgiving person. I would question if I had to do it to save everyone else around me. But you can't do it Pamela." She leaned in, closing that distance, risking god knows what from one of the most dangerous women on the planet. "Bring her to justice, but the cost of taking the life of the woman you love – don't send yourself to Hell with her. Heroes don't kill."
She stared at Barbara for a full minute. Then she touched the woman's face before glancing away. Ivy stood. "I'll wear your suit. Let us both hope you have not miscast my role."
When Ivy had turned and disappeared within the Clock Tower, Barbara let out a slow, controlled breath before turning her head and glancing over her shoulder towards the darkest pocket of shadows.
"You can come out now."
The slender form emerged from the darkness as if unfurling from its smoky tendrils.
"What do you think she'll do?" Helena stopped just short of touching the red head.
Barbara briefly rubbed her eyes. "I'm not sure. She's difficult to read. It's a hard lesson for her. She's not used to rules."
Helena snorted softly, crossing her arms. "Used to breaking them you mean."
"Hel," Barbara admonished, but the dark woman would have none of it.
"No Barbara. I realize you two share some bizarre simpatico thing but you keep forgetting the biggest and most important difference between you both."
Being told she didn't know something rankled Oracle, irked Barbara's formidable pride. Archly she enquired, "And that would be?"
Somber as death, Helena answered her. "That she's a killer."
The night sky, rich with the smell of grease, cars and gun oil, were like perfume to the Queen of Crime. Harley Quinn stood proud and eager surrounded by steep hills of pure asphalt. She was pleased to no end as she inhaled the scent of tar and smoothed non-existent creases in her black pants, straightening an already straight red and black diamond shirt, delighted at what she expected to come, who she expected to see. She almost danced in anticipation. This moment of waiting, of wanting, was better than foreplay and as heady as sex.
When the first grenades rolled close to her red booted feet, hissing blue and white smoke, Quinn smiled even while her vision clouded.
She snapped her fingers to the two burly men, one on either side of her. "Sinister, Dexter. Stay sharp.
The staccato peal of gun fire broke the air. "At last," Quinn smiled. "Not long now."
What she hadn't expected however, in all her imagining and strategizing for this evening, was the sound of a bicycle. Or the thuds and groans of her men that followed.
"Don't panic gentlemen, stay close like the cannon fodder you're supposed to be." The two men hefted their guns higher trying to peer into the gas for something to shoot.
It happened fast than she could blink. One second Quinn's left hand man was there, the next on a flash of black metal and leather he disappeared into one of the surrounding clouds of colored smoke. His cry of pain was well earned, the inept buffoon. Her right arm suffered a similar fate when he caught a black bicycle full on and landed with a boot to the head from the leather clad dynamo that came to stand before Quinn.
Quinn, undaunted, leveled her gun at Max. "What are you supposed to be? The decoy?"
The dark woman grinned and served a quick elbow that smashed in the face of the grunt trying to sneak up on her. Her dark eyes never left Harley's. "Decoy? Lady, I'm the ambush."
Shaking her short blond head, Harley Quinn tsked, "Unwise to assume you have the upper hand. You're surrounded. This place is riddled with my men. All murderous thugs who will shoot you at my whim. Look around you, the smoke bombs you threw at me are already beginning to dissipate."
From the smoke to Harley's front left, another form, slender and also in black leather appeared. The lethal beauty of Helena emerged all catspaw and gleaming eyes. "Surrounded by who?" The lethal beauty teased, taunted and menaced all at once. "I took care of Huey, Dewey and Louie over there." She opened her hand and dropped three magazine clips from the guns of her felled opponents.
"Maybe she means Curly, Larry and Moe." A light voice offered, followed by the appearance of the blond ward of the vigilante family. She stood off to Quinn's far right and tossed a crumpled black mass at Quinn's feet. Quinn recognized it as guns but folded together as if by a two-ton machine press...or a meddling girl with telekinesis. Max immediately went to the annoying girl's side.
They were so smug. Yet it was the sight of the next figure that seemed to emerge from the clouds that stilled Harley Quinn's heart and stole her breath. Poison Ivy stood right in front of her, just out of reach. So close...Quinn drank in the always striking sight of the green goddess.
"I've never seen you so...covered when out for a night on the town Ivy." Indeed the dark green suit that fit Ivy's curved form like a sheath to a dagger was beguiling.
"All the better to fight you with my dear."
That rich and smoky voice was a slap to Quinn's soul and the longing she had buried with hate. Quinn smiled like a shark ready to snap. "You're not the big bad wolf in this story darling."
Max piped in. "Weren't you saying sumthin' about being surrounded?" So sure, so confident. Quinn's smile grew even sharper.
Helena cocked a hip, her duster furling alluringly along her slender frame. "I'd say criminal mastermind here didn't realize who was surrounding who. Give up Quinzel? Please say no. I've been dying to kick your ass. Again."
Quinn laughed in pure maniacal joy. "The dying part would be correct my dear Helena. You might want to consider surrendering. Now. Before the real pain begins."
Icy cold air didn't blow around them for there was no wind. Instead, the ice crackled ominously as it formed under their feet and frosted the air with each puff of breath her attackers exuded. The air was still, the temperature dropping to make it as still and cold as Death herself.
"Silly girls," Quinn chided but her smile widened, her teeth felt as sharp as fangs upon her lips. "I was never the trap. I'm the bait."
The video feeds cut and Oracle couldn't see anything.
Her words came out sharp with urgency. "Tell me what's happening out there people."
It was Ivy's voice, breathy with real fear that alarmed Barbara like little else could.
"Good God, Quinn. What have you done?"
"Oh, have you two not met?" Quinn's tone was all Cheshire smiles. "Say hello while you can. You'll need to hurry because the dying is about to start and she is impatient, aren't you Killer Frost?"
The sibilant yes that followed was like ice slicing up Barbara's spine. Killer Frost, one of the most psychotic super villains on the planet. Transformed in a nuclear accident, the former physicist hated all men, a hate only exceeded by her lust - her need - to kill them, sucking all the thermal energy from her victims in order to keep herself alive.
Barbara Gordon's heart froze in terror. "Everyone run. Run now!"
The comms went dead.
No stranger to fear, her body moved automatically even as her mind churned and her chest tightened. She prayed as she went to the driver's seat from the back of the van. She prayed Helena would forgive her for lying about staying at the tower. She prayed her van would get her those six blocks from where she was parked fast enough to where her friends and family were in danger. But most of all Barbara prayed that Helena would be alive to berate, rant and tear into her for venturing out into the night again. She prayed her love would be alive. She prayed she'd get there in time to save them all. Her hands were steady on the wheel but her heart kept skipping a beat and her mouth was dry from the sudden horror that gripped her.
Killer Frost had earned that name. Quinn had chosen her weapon far too well. And all Barbara could do was speed and pray.
Huntress launched herself at the pale ice blue woman without hesitation. The pain that seized her legs up to her knees was immediate and had literally stopped her cold. The sudden cessation of movement caused her upper body to lurch forward painfully. She regained her balance quickly and looked down. The whole area that everyone stood on was now solid ice and it had encased her legs in two thick and jagged blocks. Already the cold was a piercing pain bordering into an icy fire. Already she could no longer feel her feet.
A quick glance behind her shoulder showed Dinah and Max untouched by the ice that they stood on. But it was only because Dinah had thrown up some kind of telekinetic shield around her and Max who she held closely to her. It was a strain on her friend if the pain on Dinah's face was any indication. But the determination there was stronger.
Ivy curiously remained unharmed. Was it the thermal suit Barbara had given her? But ice lay broken around the green woman's feet. How the Hell had she pulled that one off? Helena's efforts were proving futile.
Quinn laughed. "Well done! Well done indeed Frost!" The blond walked, mindful of the sharp and slippery surface, to stand face to face, though out of arms reach, of Ivy. Helena could see Quinn's face twisted with so much emotion. Even Helena could tell that hate was never that hateful.
"You're insane to ally yourself with that one. Harl, what could you have been thinking?" Only a puff of breath stirred between the two women with Ivy's words.
"How could I?" Quinn splayed a hand on her chest mockingly. "You left Ivy dear. Left me alone in the wreck of what was left of the city that should have been ours. I wasn't even worth a dear Quinn note was I? But I've caught your attention now, haven't I? I'm no longer so forgettable, so disposable as I once was, lover. This time you are the one who is weak. You're the one who'll hurt. And you'll remember this pain. Remember it to your grave."
With that, Quinn spun sharply on her heel with a glib, "Frost, please. Not my own men. Okey dokey?"
Riveted by Quinn and Ivy, Helena hadn't looked to watch what Killer Frost had been doing. Dinah's gasp of horror forewarned her but it didn't prepare her for the sight of the pale woman kissing a man, his body spasming in her embrace even as he began to wither and harden. Within moments the man was a statue of ice, his face a rictus of inconceivable agony. Good God, it had only taken seconds to do it.
Shit, they were all dead.
"Anyone got a flame thrower?" Max muttered. Despite the flippant remark, her voice came out strained as she held Dinah whose battle with the ice was losing. It inched closer and closer, the promise of a silent death.
"Can you two get out?" Helena asked while Quinn lectured the blue woman.
Max, not Dinah, answered. "D won't leave you. Neither will I."
"You might want to reconsider." Helena offered as she turned to face the ice woman coming towards her, quiet as the ice inching up her legs except for the crackling with each step of the killer closing in on her. "I'm fresh out of flame throwers.
"I can help with that."
Helena nearly laughed hysterically in relief at hearing Barbara's voice over the comms again.
"Be ready." Was all her lover said before the comms went silent once more.
None of them let on that they had help coming, someway, somehow. But Max and Helena were the first to hear the noise after the voice. Wheels. Closing in on their location, very close. It wasn't a motorized vehicle. A bicycle? Helena's relief turned on a dime to alarm when she recognized the sound. It was the sound of a wheelchair.
God help her, if they lived through this she was going to kill Barbara for risking herself like this. That is if they all lived through the next few seconds.
Before Killer Frost reached any of them, Helena saw her, saw Barbara. Her wheelchair hit the top slop going down into the bowl of ice covered asphalt hills that they were in the valley of. Helena's heart leapt into her throat when she saw Barbara launched into the air by velocity of her chair. She sailed into the night sky. Helena heard the wires before she saw them as Barbra soared towards them, completely in control. She was athletic grace and dark beauty in a black suit similar to Ivy's but with knee and elbow pads and a low slung utility belt - and black mask. Helena almost laughed in wonder at the beauty of Barbara in action, in relief that they might all live to see tomorrow. Helena marveled at the marvel that was Barbara Gordon. First though she had to break through the ice because she could now see with her metavision that the cables holding Barbara's legs together helped the red head's movements in keeping her body aquiline, but the cable she was swinging on was coming to an end. She wasn't using the neural coupler and Barbara was about to hit the literal end of her rope.
The cold wind against her body, whipping her hair back felt like home. Hoping her aim was as good as all her indoor training sessions with Dinah and Helena had been, she tossed her thermal grenade directly at the ice woman's feet. With one deft move she used the palm knife to cut the strap to her back and threw the collapsible flame thrower at Max and Dinah. Then she did the only thing she could do. The bat cable she swung on came to an end and she let go, falling, unable to control her descent further due to her paralyzed legs.
She fell, remembering the feeling from a thousand falls as Batgirl. But this time, despite her legs, despite the enemies, Barbara wasn't afraid. A sharp crack ripped the air and just like that, a warm body wrapped itself around her and they landed safely.
A thousand falls, but there was only one person the former Batgirl would allow to catch her. She looked up into shimmering yellow eyes and felt like she was falling for an entirely different reason.
"Nice catch Huntress," she smiled.
"You're welcome," came the dry response. "By the way, what the Hell was in that grenade? It really pissed the ice chick off."
She cussed softly as she measured Frost's condition. "Damn." The chemical compound was risky to use but already the fissures it had begun to create were receding like magic. Those deathly pale eyes fixed on her.
Before she could give out the command, a jet of flame shot out at Frost's first step towards her. Max had the flame thrower and used it like an expert, which, trained special ops soldier that she was, Barbara had expected she would be.
Killer Frost hissed, like the sound of razors on ice. A flurry of deadly ice shards shot towards Max and Dinah.
"Get down!" Barbara and Helena both yelled while Helena moved, putting distance between them and the ice queen.
They needn't have worried and instead stopped in shock. Max had quickly let go with another burst of fire, but Dinah, it had to be, contained the fire within an invisible sphere, throwing the huge fireball at Frost's projectiles. A pool of melted ice formed between Frost and the heroes' feet.
"Wow", Helena said.
"Admire later," Barbara warned, seeing the ice already forming where the melted water was and taking note of the hardened expression on Frost's glacial features. "Move now. Everyone, retreat."
The sudden fifteen foot wall of solid ice around them all made that impossible.
"You dare," for the first time the murderous woman spoke, like glass shards grinding together. "Insignificant worms. You dare attack me and try to ruin my face?!"
It was only thanks to Helena and Max's super-human reflexes that they all managed to avoid the spikes that surged up to spear them. Ivy, curiously, barely had to dodge at all.
"Plan C?" Hel asked, eyes everywhere.
A plan 'C'. That would have been a grand thing to have right now. "Damn," Barbara swore softly again. They were in grave peril and for once, Oracle couldn't think of a way out.
The woman known as Poison Ivy heard Oracle's dismay and recognized the peril they were all in. Killer Frost's eyes, filled with hatred turned to madness, was an expression Ivy knew well. She had seen it many times in the mirror over the years. She did not miss it, nor did it rest well with her to see it on this mad woman before her.
So much easier, she mused, when one simply went to kill. Heroes certainly had their liabilities. Ivy was grateful she was not hampered by such moral quandaries.
Harley hadn't noticed that she had instinctively moved closer to Ivy during the ice spear assault. But Ivy had.
She grabbed the wrist with the gun, turning Harley's wary eyes from Frost to meet Ivy's in surprise. Ivy threw the gun at Max, who caught it easily. In another move, she shoved Harley away, the woman sprawled a number of feet away on the ice, screeching.
Ivy ignored it. Instead she took the knife she knew Harley had. She always carried one. The green woman cut her own palm and let the blood hit the ice hot and already mutating the spores it hit. Because ice did not live in a vacuum. It held dust which was nothing more or less than dirt and spores. Spores could grow and what was ice that plants needed as much as sun? Water. All it was around Ivy was frozen water and life that she could give and control.
"What is this?" Frost demanded, in that harsh voice of broken glass. She seemed to be able to feel it, that the ice she controlled wasn't all hers anymore. "What are you doing?"
Ivy smiled, an unpleasant turn of the lips. "Plan C."
Frost took a step which was stopped when the crack of a gunshot blew ice shards from the side of her head. She turned her grey-blue hair and snow-like skin to look at Max who smoothly emptied the gun clip, firing each round with supreme accuracy. She riddled Frost with bullets. When the gun clicked empty, the brunette dropped it while Dinah threw up a shield against the ice spears thrown at them. The bullets had barely staggered Frost. Ice reformed her over her injured areas as if they had never been.
"I'm out of firepower," Max nodded at the small flamethrower, "and bullets. I hope your Plan C acts fast."
Ivy felt her blood sing. "It does." From the ice strange greenery never seen by nature burst forth, splitting the ice with each birth. Emerging thorny vines grew to wrap around Killer Frost and held her fast.
"They were born of ice," she flatly told the mad woman. "It's pointless to try to move."
"You green bitch!" The ice queen seethed. "Normally I only kill men, sucking out their precious warmth along with their worthless lives. But you! For this I'll make you the exception to my men-only rule. I'm going to find out just how much heat the Nature Goddess holds." Her icy face cracked a sharp snarl. "I don't need to move when I have the cold to do the job for me."
"No, no , no!" Harley stepped up, peeved. Her blonde hair mussed, a tear along her right pant leg showed a line of blood. Harley stood as vibrant and as full of life as when Ivy first met her. But gone was the earnest girl she once knew. A demanding hardness had taken the woman Ivy loved.
"You keep your glacial kiss away from Ivy." Her words were as hard as diamonds and as hot as molten iron. "That was not what I hired you for. You are to give slow and painful deaths to my enemies and subdue Ivy. She isn't for you to kiss."
A frosted eyebrow arched, that icy glare only became colder. "You paid me enough to fund my nuclear project. That's why I'm here. But they marked me! And she," an icicle just missed Ivy's eye as she dodged, "defies me! Her presence offends me! I will have her life! I will!"
Fast, faster than reason, at the speed of madness, it occurred. Ivy had readied herself to attempt to evade the attack but she never had the chance. The moment Killer Frost had finished speaking, Harley was in front of Ivy. Face to face. Something painfully cold touched Ivy's heart. She looked down, confused, and then saw the thick shard of ice just shy of piercing her heart. Unable to take in everything, it was like seeing puzzle pieces and only registering seconds later the image they made. Ivy gazed at the shard that had just missed impaling her. Then she noticed the red pool spreading at her feet. She followed it up and realized the ice protruded through Harley, whose expression was one of shock, followed by pain. It was only when Harley fell against Ivy, who instinctively caught her, that Ivy's mind was capable of facing the truth. Facing the awful entirety of it all.
Dark eyes met hers. "I messed up, Ivy. I messed up again. Like old times. Isn't it funny?"
"Harl," Ivy breathed, holding the dying woman close. "Why?"
A terrible rasping cough, thick with fluids. "For such a brainy gal, always were dense that way." Harley's voice was so weak, and getting weaker.
"You do love me." She couldn't believe it, nor could she deny the evidence of the woman in her arms who had taken the fatal blow meant for her.
"That's the real joke, isn't it?" Ivy fell beneath the weight of the truth in that faint voice and Harley's weight. "That I love you. Isn't that funny?"
She held Harley tenderly where she knelt with her on the ice, Harley's body a leaden weight laying on the cold ground. It wasn't cold where Ivy held her. Stoic and proud Ivy did nothing to wipe the tears that fell to hit the ice. One splashed on Harley's paling face. "Then why?" Why come back to Gotham, why try to kill everything they were.
A pale hand shook violently before finding Ivy's. "You left me."
Ivy watched the eyes glass over and wondered what Harley saw. "I'm sorry," she offered. Too late. "Stay." A plea without hope.
Harley weakly turned her head into the arm that cradled her. "Why did you come here, Ivy?"
She wanted the truth. Why had ivy come back to the city that she detested? To stop Harley. Yes. To kill her? That had weighted heavily on Ivy that she might have to, perhaps should do so. But could she have? Ivy had come to this place of metal and noise, everything she hated, for Harley Quinn. The one person who had loved Ivy. Holding Harley's bleeding form, Ivy told her love the truth. "To save you."
The woman in her arms smiled at her, and it was a smile that brought back a time when they were together, young and different. A time when they were both almost happy. "Kiss me?" Harley asked of her. So small a thing.
Pamela laid her poisonous lips gently upon Harley's. She tasted the bitter acidity of her own tears. Her lover's last breath eased into Ivy's own, like a shared heartbeat, now stilled and broken.
She eased Harley down on a ground too cold, but not nearly as frozen as Ivy's heart. Poison Ivy stood and turned to face Killer Frost who had watched the entire time, cackling her grating laugh, mocking Ivy, mocking the passing of Harley Quinn.
She had come to Gotham looking for answers. Gone now were all those useless questions, all her self-searching and hesitation. Until this moment each step upon her return to this city had been unsure in her attempts to tread a new path. She should have known better. Clarity far colder than the arctic air took hold of her. It always came down to this, Ivy thought, betrayal, blood and death. As an embodiment of Nature she in part controlled that last. She was life and now she would be what she had long ago become. She stood tall and faced Frost, one sure death facing the other.
Poison Ivy stepped past her lover and met the translucent eyes of Killer Frost without fear or anticipation. Only a strangely calm resolve filled her, like the eye of a storm.
One voice tried to pull her back, as if it wasn't already too late. "Ivy, Pamela, don't do this. Please don't do this! Heroes don't kill."
Poison Ivy looked at the masked face of Barbara Gordon where she lay safe in the arms of her beloved. "A hero? I never claimed to be one."
She turned her attention to the psychotically mirthful lady of ice who seemed content to play and kill all those trapped within her icy walls at her leisure.
Poison Ivy did not smile or frown. She neither yelled nor whispered. She merely held a sharp piece of ice and sliced open her arm down to her hand to let the extremity bleed abundantly the way extremities do. She spoke only one word to Frost, softly, soft like the breeze before the thunder roars and the lightning strikes, soft like an endearment she said only this:
Barbara knew before the desperate plea left her mouth that it would fall on a deaf heart. The stone face of Pamela, no, of Poison Ivy, had told Barbara that much. But she had to try to save the woman from a mistake there was no going back from.
The way Ivy had spoken that one word had sent a shudder through Barbara. Her hold on Helena tightened reflexively. Very low, so that only Helena and the keen hearing of the other meta-human with the ability could hear, Barbara spoke, never taking her eyes off of Ivy and Frost.
“Hel, Max, as soon as there’s a break in the ice wall, get us out of her as fast as you can. Can you hear me Max?
“Crystal”, the brunette replied. “D’s ready.”
Helena’s body coiled tighter, ready to spring. All of them were captive to the tragedy and horror before them.
“You know that your kiss is useless against me.” Frost taunted the green woman.
“No, I will not be sending you to your good night so gently. No, not gently at all.” In one swift arc, Ivy whipped her arm before her, sending the blood in a spray between them.
Instantly, thick green tentacles erupted around them, ripping up asphalt and breaking ice everywhere. The vines held thorns larger than a human head and the sickly green and yellow colors of the tough leathery tendrils tore through cement and ice thicker than the width of a car as if it were all nothing. Frost retaliated with crude shards of ice, some the size of people, some longer and bigger, to block and sever Ivy’s ongoing assault.
It seemed that only Barbara noticed Ivy moving closer to Frost under the hail of raining plants thrashing about and chunks of ice hailing around them.
The violent chaos in their cage of ice did what Barbara hoped. The barrage Helena and Max helped them evade hit the wall and the vines disrupted the foundation. Cracks danced up the ice wall. The schisms widened in the thunder of the assault around the people within the wall and large slices of ice began to slide down nearly hitting the women who watched, waited and silently prayed for the opening to widen enough for escape.
“Almost.” Hel breathed against Barbara’s chilled cheek.
A larger opening appeared as if from an invisible wedge. Thank you Dinah, Barbara thought.
“Soon needs to be now.” She told Helena. She did not want any of them to witness what was about to happen.
“You dare come close?” Frost crowed in disbelief. “You’re dead Ivy.”
“You first.” Calmer than fallen snow, Poison Ivy laid her bloody hand along Frost’s face, startling the other woman.
Frost halted and wiped at her face with glacial hands, her brow furrowed in lack of comprehension and offended dignity. The confusion didn’t last long, within mere seconds steam began to rise off of her blue skin.
“What have you done?” she jerked away from Ivy, her hands clawing at her cheeks.
“You’re made of Ice, Frost.” Ivy explained as softly as she had said the word Die. “And ice is simply water. Water contains dirt. The dirt holds things that germinate and want to grow. I gave them the means and the will. You’re nothing but fodder Frost, Water to feed the things frozen inside you that want out. And I will them out now.”
Barbara tried to say stop, but her breath was stolen by the sudden explosion of Killer Frost. Her body was ripped apart before their eyes by mutant vegetation breaking out from inside of her in every direction. It was the most nightmarish scene Barbara had ever witnessed. The enormity of it, the violence of it, shocked her. But not enough for her to fail to notice that the plants weren’t stopping.
Dinah’s voice broke through Barbara’s shock. “It’s open enough. Go. Go!”
Barbara was carried with meta-human speed past a rain of ice, vegetation no man has ever seen, and drops of water. Barbara wondered if it was Frost. The warmer air that hit her beyond the breaking, tumbling wall of ice hit her like a slap.
“Stop Helena. Turn back.”
“There’s nothing to see Barbara. Scout’s honour.” The speed of their escape only increased. Helena was moving faster away from the crime scene.
“You were never a scout Hel. Stop. Please. I have to know.”
The reluctance in the dark woman lay in the entire feel of her lithe frame. Dinah and Max were catching up to them. Helena turned and from her vantage point. Barbara could see over the area they had narrowly escaped. A sheen of white crystals misted the air. The former skateboard and dirt bike area was ruined beyond any recognition. The place was a tsunami of shards of asphalt, melting ice, and severed vegetation…and no sign of Ivy, or Quinn, or Frost.
“Do you think…” Hel ventured.
“That Ivy made it out before she made Frost and everything around her explode? I don’t know.” Barbara’s mind assessed the devastation attempting to emotionally detach from what she as seeing. “I don’t know.”
Sirens wailed in the air and were coming closer.
“We gotta bounce.” Max said, not unsympathetically. “Dinah needs to pass out.”
That brought a quick measuring look from Barbara. Dinah was barely conscious where Max was basically holding her up. She was a worrisome shade of pale.
The use of her ability, so much more than usual, had obviously taken its toll. “The van’s to the left of the building. We can get there quickly.”
They hurried. None of them spoke of what they had seen beyond Barbara’s earlier observation. Barbara was grateful for the silence. They went home, the danger past, but even Barbara couldn’t fool them into believing they weren’t fleeing and still feel grateful for it.
The hum and whirr of the Delphi was a soothing sound but it only managed to ease Barbara’s wearied nerves fractionally. Two days of studying every scrap of evidence and data regarding the crime scene had provided little in the way of a balm to her fears. She dropped her glasses onto the desktop and pinched the bridge of her nose, closing her tired eyes.
Sure hands with a light touch massaged her temples. She leaned back into the slender form that was there so silently and suddenly behind her. “Thank you.” she sighed.
“My pleasure,” Helena purred behind her. “You might enjoy this more, in fact I can guarantee that you will, if you have it done in that nice, wide, soft bed of yours. You know, in that place called a bedroom that you’ve barely spent time in over the last two days?”
She hummed at the thought. “But then who would solve all the mysteries? Besides, I did sleep.”
“For four hours.”
“It was all I needed.”
The hands didn’t stop but shifted position as Helena came around to stand in front of her wearing low slung faded jeans and a tight black sleeveless shirt. Her hair tousled and her voice affectionate, she said, “You need more than that. Even you Barbara.” The voice was warm but the eyes, those beautiful blue-violet eyes, were worried.
Barbara covered the other woman’s hands with her own and attempted a reassuring smile. “I’ll go take a nap –“
“You mean go to bed.” Helena corrected gently.
“Go to bed,” Barbara allowed, her eyes narrowing marginally but she couldn’t help the upturn of her lips. Helena was irresistible at the best of times but particularly when she was protective like this.
“If they haven’t found anything by now, they won’t.” Helena supplied, her hands urging Barbara to think of other things.
“They might not, but there could be something that they’ve overlooked that I’ll notice. All that debris and yet they still should have found something of – some evidence of Quinn’s remains. Or possibly Pamela’s.” She didn’t want to think of the other woman as dead but considering the damage. Really, looking at the photos on the screens it looked more like an act of god than two people facing off.
“She was immune to poison, not the world.” The dark woman offered, not unkindly.
“True, but they still should have found something, there. It’s odd that they haven’t. It could mean she’s alive.” It was a strange hope, to want a villain alive. But Pamela had become less than that, and more after her brief time with Barbara. For reasons she didn’t want to look at, Barbara didn’t want to give up hope on the other woman’s survival just yet. She didn’t want to let go. “Pamela could have survived.”
“Ivy could have. And maybe she took Quinn’s body with her for a proper burial or some such. But it doesn’t change the fact that you need to sleep. I promise you, all the baddies will still be there in the morning.”
Over the past two days whatever had previously bothered Helena seemed to have been settled with the other woman. She was there as constant and sure and confident as she ever had been, perhaps somehow more so. Barbara wanted to understand it all, the insecurity and its cease and desist, but she didn’t want to stir up anything. She didn’t want to hurt Helena again. So she did what she could do now as she had silently promised herself two days ago, to be more attentive to the people important in her life, especially when she was obsessively trying to fight crime…or find proof of life.
“Of course.” She acquiesced. “Lead the way.”
Helena’s smile was gratitude and reward all in one.
They made their way to the bedroom. Helena paused for a second, head turned towards the lower area before continuing on.
“Is everything okay?” Barbara asked.
The dark head shook once, “After that bombshell when you gave Max the low down on Manticore and what happened at the Frost shindig, the lovebirds have stuff to sort out.” She grimaced, “And right now their sorting it.”
Barbara brought her chair to a stop. “Does Dinah need us?”
The tilted head paused again, her meta-human hearing allowing eavesdropping from quite a distance. “Nah, D’s got it handled. But it doesn’t sound like fun. Let’s make sure to give her hugs and pastries for breakfast tomorrow.” Then those gorgeous eyes caught Barbara’s, caught and held them. “Better yet, we should make that brunch.”
She trusted Hel’s judgment. If they didn’t need to interfere, they needed to let their young adult ward work out her romantic life in private. She pushed her chair back into motion towards the bedroom. “You seem to be under the impression that I need a great deal of sleep Hel.”
Helena laughed, a sound sinfully delightful in and of itself. “Oh, I wasn’t planning on sleeping the entire time. Couldn’t you divine that…Oracle?”
The redhead smiled slyly, “I had a clue Huntress.”
Max couldn’t believe Dinah was still going on about it. “She was trying to kill you. To kill your family. And hey, me too. Of course if I had a shot I would go for the head.”
The blonde shook her long thick locks as she continued to push her point across, her shoulders tense, her voice a shade tight. “You didn’t have to shoot Frost in the head though. That would have killed her. You didn’t know that it wouldn’t. That’s murder Max.”
The dark woman slumped back into a chair, spreading her hands, disbelieving what she was hearing, “That’s self-defense D. With the bad guys, stop often means dead. I wasn’t going to take any chances. That’s how you get yourself and those around you killed.”
“But heroes don’t kill.” Dinah persisted.
And there was the crux of it. Max didn’t know how to get around that difference of opinion upon which so much rested. “Soldiers do. And I’m a soldier. Granted, one that was trained in a fake apocalyptic Seattle up in a secret military base in British Columbia.” That had been a Hell of a low down from the red head. All her life an experiment to make the perfect super solider. All of her life a lie. Mostly. Except this. “But I am a soldier. Soldiers are heroes too. And heroes do sometimes kill whether it’s to save others, themselves, for the greater good. People die in the line of fire. Do you mean to tell me that Red and cat girl haven’t ever accidentally or purposefully taken a life in the call of duty?”
When Dinah sighed, her whole body exuded it, her figure hunching as she bit her lip and her pale blue eyes dropped.
“Does it really bother you that much D? That I shoot to kill? They’re the bad guys. They tried to kill us.”
“I know.” Her sweet voice held all the sorrow the crestfallen can hold. “I guess a h- a vigilante and a soldier are maybe different.”
Max shrugged one shoulder, comfortable in her jeans and a tee but she wasn’t comfortable with where she knew this conversation was going. She didn’t want to hurt the girl with the sky blue eyes and honey hair. But she was going to have to.
“I’ve been both Dinah.” She reminded her lover softly. “There’s little difference from my side of things.”
Dinah nodded once her eyes meeting Max’s darker ones, surprising the slightly older woman again with the weight behind them. She even gave Max a wan smile. “Just give me some time to adjust to super soldier thinking versus vigilante credo, okay? I’ve sort of had that mantra ingrained into me in the last couple of years.”
This was it. Max sat forward in her chair. “Speaking of needing time, after the whole debriefing with Red about my past, I think I have to do some soul searching of my own.”
Immediately, Dinah scooted forward in her seat and clasped Max’s hands with her own very warm ones. “I’m so sorry Max. I know we talked about it when you first found out. Yet here I am going on about my issues when you were handed a lot to deal with.”
“It’s okay D, honest. You already did your fair share of handholding on my part after the news.” And she had, as well as some more personal and far, far more intimate methods of reassurance, which is what made it all so much harder now to say what Max had to say. She didn’t want to leave.
Dinah gasped, her hands clutched at Max’s. “You’re leaving?”
Aw Hell, of course she could read what Max was thinking being a touch telepath and all and they were touching. She gave a Dinah a look that was a cross between regretful and reproachful. “I was about to tell you.”
“Sorry, but touch telepath, touching.” She didn’t sound really sorry though, she sounded and looked so anxious right now that Max didn’t dare draw her hands away. “Why do you have to go?”
She had thought a lot about it while Dinah had been sleeping after they had last made love. Max had lain awake digesting the news about her life, what it had been, what it was now and what she wanted it to be. “I need to go back. I need to see the base in British Columbia, see it for my own eyes that it was all just a big lab and me the rat.” She tried to push the anger down. She didn’t want it to touch Dinah. But from the way Dinah’s hands now rubbed her cold ones soothingly, she knew she hadn’t succeeded. “I know it’s true. I get that. But I have to check it out myself, make it, I dunno, real I guess. And D,” this was the hardest part, “I need to do it alone.”
She was staring at her steel-toed boots by the time she finished, thinking she needed to polish them back to a buff black. The silence stretched. Finally she dared to look up at the girl across from her and was shocked to see tears gently rolling down soft cheeks. With a strangled noise in the back of her throat, Max spilled off her chair and took the silently weeping woman in her arms, her hold fierce. She realized she was crying too.
“I promise D, it won’t be forever. I just need to see where I’ve been and settle that before I can move on. And I’d like that moving on part to be with you.” Suddenly terribly afraid, in a way she’d never been in her life she asked, “Will you wait for me?”
The intensity in Dinah’s kiss and the demand of hands and mouth and body were the answer Max needed. She lost herself in the desire mixed with anxiety, sorrow and love that Dinah offered as the two women found their way to the bed, grateful to have this chance to say goodbye and holding on fervently to each other as they held onto the hope that they would be able to meet again.
Hours later, they lay in each others arms, wishing for the sun not to rise.
Hours later, Barbara had disentangled herself from Helena’s deeply sleeping form. The red head had felt too happy to remain in bed after she first woke and wheeled herself out onto the balcony to enjoy the breeze and night sky. Helena had been so loving and gentle leaving no doubt at all as to the intensity of her feelings for the woman she made love with. It filled Barbara’s heart with such bliss that she felt young again in a way she never thought she would since the shooting. Her city was beautiful, the sky gorgeous. Usually the smog was so bad that one couldn’t see any stars, but tonight it was surprisingly clear and lights twinkled and danced above in the dark sky with a moon shining silver blue.
She breathed it all in deeply, closing her eyes, basking in the moonlight and her happiness and the sweet scent on the night air. When long fingers stroked her temples, she smiled one of her rare open smiles. How Helena always managed to sneak up on her like this was a something Barbara was sure she wouldn’t tire of any time soon.
A voice sighed contentedly and close to her ear. “Such a smile is a gift more rare than the moon my dear Barbara Gordon.”
She froze in shock at the voice and then opened her eyes to see green ones staring down at her from a very, very close distance. No wonder the air of New Gotham had smelled so sweet. Her heart beat so fast and hard she could barely make out the sound of her own voice.
Barbara wheeled forward, away from those dexterous fingers and the woman so very close to her. She turned her chair around and faced the other woman, fighting to keep her voice even. "You look unharmed." And she did, Barbara's eyes roamed over the statuesque green woman's figure speculatively. She wasn't in evening battle attire or her usual dress of leaves. Ivy stood with a simple soft mist green blouse that was sleeveless and slacks a few shades darker than the shirt or her skin. Her red hair hung loose as always with a sprig of mistletoe near her temple. Barbara could see that the sprig was moving, its vines curling as she watched. But Ivy's feet were bare and the crime fighter also saw the dark green line down the arm Ivy had cut to bleed and kill Frost.
"You've healed remarkably well in a short time."
"Increased healing due to my meta-human physiology. The poisons made me stronger, at least physically." Those poppy red lips curved downward briefly, a beautiful frown before suddenly tugging upward into the curve of a mischievous smile. "I must say I do adore your evening attire Barbara Gordon."
Barbara frowned and blushed as she pulled the green silk bathrobe around herself more tightly. She had a multitude of questions but the first one to come out was only "Are you really okay?"
"Not really, no." Ivy answered honestly, a sigh to her voice, her posture less seductive as she simply stood and spoke with Barbara, one soul to another. "But I hope to be better. Depending on time...and other things."
In a vivid recollection of her eidetic memory, Barbara recalled in exact detail the scene of Ivy holding Quinn and losing her. Her heart settled and chose not to fear, but ache for the woman before her. "Pamela -" she began.
The darker head shook, silencing her. "No Barbara, not Pamela Isley. Not anymore. I came here caught betwixt and between, thinking I could reclaim what was lost. I was wrong. I will never be that woman again. She died in that experiment, the poison killed her and I was born from it. I'm Ivy now and, for good or ill, I will have to live with it."
"No, Pa - Ivy, that's not true -"
Ivy knelt before Barbara, in a pose that struck the wheelchair bound woman at how much the position mirrored the one Helena often took with her. Ivy laid a gentle finger on Barbara's lips, silencing her again before resting both hands on silk covered knees. Barbara couldn't feel the touch of course, but she felt the strength in the dark green eyes that met and held hers.
"It is. More so for me than you, but true for us both, no?" She continued, her gaze thoughtful and worldly. "We both had dreams, as children do. What we wanted to be. Who we wanted to be. My dream was stolen by a syringe and an evil man. An evil man stole yours too, but with bullets. We've had what we were ripped away. And who we became after I think pulled us both, torn between a past we yearned for and the future we couldn't see. You lost yourself in your Oracle persona at times have you not?" Barbara couldn't argue that after the Joker shooting her and her recovery, she did hole herself up in the tower and made her new life as a cyber crime fighter the driving consuming force of her life for years.
"For me I became Poison Ivy. How I hated. I was so angry Barbara, so terribly enraged at what was taken from me. You understand." Barbara did, all too well, wondering what she would do if she ever met the Joker face to face again and if she were the one holding the gun. But that was long ago. And Barbara had Helena. Even Alfred, her father of course, and later Dinah too. Who had Ivy had?
"Then I met Harley." The smile was graceful in its sorrow, a beauty all its own in her expression. "Things were fun again. She could make me laugh. I had forgotten I could laugh, feared I never would again. Then when things changed ...I made wrong choices Barbara and they helped turn Quinn into the villain she became. So like me, so angry, wanting to wreck the world because of it. I am in part to blame for the damage she has done here and to you."
"No Ivy, Quinn is - was - responsible for her own actions."
"And if she were alive?"
It was not so unusual, for someone in grief to wonder on the 'what ifs' of the one they loved. So Barbara answered as honest with Ivy as she had been with her. "I would have had her arrested and thrown into Arkham."
"Of course" Ivy nodded, almost to herself, "because heroes don't kill. At least not on purpose."
She looked up again at Barbara and her face was beseeching, "I will never be the hero you are Barbara, no hero at all. I don't want to be a villain anymore either. But I will if I have to. I know myself too well. Your path is not mine, not one I can take. I will have to make myself a new one. Will I have to worry about you chasing me for Frost's death? Or for the countless crimes I've committed?"
It is a question Barbara had asked herself many times. "No. Batman left you to your island. I think I can do the same." The woman had helped save the ones she loved most dearly. It was only right in Barbara's mind that she extend such a courtesy to Ivy as long as she was reformed. "But are you sure Ivy? The good you could do..."
She was silenced by the most chaste kiss she had ever received from Ivy. The woman moved away just enough to look at her from the closest of distances. "I'm certain. And if you search your heart Barbara Gordon, you'll know it too."
Barbara didn't want it to be this way, but she felt as well as saw the resolve in Ivy and the unexpected peace that lay there. She had felt it in the kiss and the sense of finality in Ivy's movements as the other woman pulled away and stood before her.
Ivy smiled, a melancholy one but a smile still. "I had seen so much of myself in you, what I could have been, what I thought I could be."
Barbara's heart lurched. "You can be anything you want to be."
The smile stayed exactly the same. "Pretty to think so."
"Ivy, Quinn's body. I assume you have i - her. I could help make funeral arrangements if you'd like." Her heart still ached for the woman before her, the woman that she could have been if only for the grace of...many things.
Ivy stepped away, moving towards the edge of the balcony, her face in shadows as she answered. "No, that won't be necessary. It was kind of you to offer Barbara, kinder than I deserve."
"You deserve good things, Ivy. You deserve love." Barbara meant it, with all her heart.
"Perhaps." The green woman allowed, moving further away from Barbara, deeper into the shadows and the night, "Time will tell."
"May your life treat you well, Barbara Gordon. You and the ones you love." This was goodbye.
The thing about Barbara Gordon, one of many, was that her mind never quite stopped, not the way others could. She never had the luxury of 'zoning out' as part of her mind always kept analyzing everything it took in. And there was something in the goodbye, in the way Ivy has said 'time will tell', in the kiss that demanded nothing, and most of all in the way that Ivy had said if Quinn were still alive and not had been, that made it all click into a suspicion that paled Barbara's already pale cheeks, her adrenaline spiked and her hands twitched.
"Quinn's not dead. Is she?"
"I assure you, the woman you new as the Queen of Crime in New Gotham is gone." But still Ivy hid her face in darkness.
"That's not what I asked." Her voice grew harder with accusation and anxiety. What had Ivy done?
Kisses can do so many things. From Poison Ivy they could do so much more. She could paralyze, put unconscious, enthrall others, render the recipient catatonic or comatose, perhaps even make it seem as if they were dead only to do what a kiss in fairy tales were acclaimed for - waking a beloved with a touch of rosy lips."I promise you," and the word held warning as much as it did its plea "that Harley Quinn will never commit a crime in this world again. Please Barbara Gordon, let me go in peace. Do not chase me. Please let this be a gentle goodbye. You have given me so much, allow me to give you this. It is all I have to offer you, it is all I can give you. You have your Helena. You have your life. You have your brightness shinning good and clear in your soul. I do not begrudge you any of it. I only ask that you allow me to go in peace and you will be safe. You are loved Barbara Gordon. Is that not enough?"
Barbara regarded the woman, the other side of her mirror, and weighed her hatred of Quinn and all she's done versus what she believed of Ivy and weighed all of it again against the precious treasure of love and happiness that Barbara did indeed have and was thankful for. What was more important to her: love or vengeance? Was it truly justice that she wanted from Quinn? It wasn't worth the cost of breaking Ivy and potentially creating a greater monster out of it. It wasn't worth the price of all she held dear in her life.
"It's enough, Ivy." But Barbara was Barbara, not Poison Ivy, not Batman. So she also added, "However, if you ever change your mind and want to be something more than an ex-villain or a...neutral party. If you want to find out how much of Pamela you still have inside of you, my offer will stand open for you to join us as a colleague. I consider you a friend, if that isn't too presumptuous. But Ivy, if Quinn shows up in Gotham, anywhere in civilization outside of your island paradise, I will take her down even if you're the one standing in my way."
This time Ivy moved into the lights of the moon and the city glow so that Barbara could see her smile and it was one Barbara hadn't seen before. It wasn't quite Poison Ivy or the young innocent girl Pamela might have been, but it held a little of both. In fact, looking into that open smile and suddenly glistening damp eyes, Barbara couldn't imagine the word 'poison' being used to describe the beautiful woman before her at all.
"A warning and an offer of friendship. How very thorough of you dear Barbara. I shall heed the one and treasure the other." Still with that open look, she crossed the distance between them and held out her hand. "Goodbye, my friend."
Barbara gladly took the hand and tightened her grip warmly for an instant before letting go. "May you become the person you want to be. Goodbye, my friend."
Without looking back and the scent of exotic flowers on the wind, Poison Ivy was gone.
A shadow dropped down with liquid grace and came closer.
Barbara held out a hand in invitation to Helena, a smile on her lips. "How did you know I wasn't alone?"
"The plants in our place started to grow."
Green eyes widened, "That's astonishing."
"It was creepy."
Barbara's mouth quirked but she managed to contain her chuckle. "And you being on the rooftop Hel?"
Helena, barefoot in black jeans, a purple tee and her signature leather trench, didn't walk so much as glide toward her lover, taking the hand and raising her eyebrow with the scar ever so imperiously. "I am the Huntress after all." Then she grinned, "Besides, I thought I'd need the advantage of an ambush if she went sideways on us."
The red head bowed, regarding their entwined hands, "Are you angry that I let her go?"
A slender finger tilted her chin upward to see blue-violet eyes. "You're gonna say I'm crazy, but I think you did the right thing."
Crazy no, but Barbara was certainly taken by surprise. "Even about Quinn?" With Helena's hearing she didn't need to elaborate, Helena would have heard her entire conversation with Ivy.
"I think especially because of Quinn." Helena shook her head, her disarrayed yet fashionable short dark hair just looking more fashionably tussled with the motion. "Look, I've been doing some soul searching. I hate Quinzel for everything she did to you, to me, to us. But Ivy...when Quinn was dying in her arms, I felt bad for Ivy and I sort of understood it. Them. Plus I think Ivy would be a better warden for Quinn than Arkham any day. In the ole jail house Quinn would just spend her time plotting and recruiting. Ivy will keep her on her toes and away from civilization."
Barbara hadn't thought of that angle. Leave it to Hel to be the practical one. She should know better than to underestimate the younger woman.
Helena started to fidget. She let her hip bump against the chair, raked a hand through her hair, her fingers were never still. All the while Barbara waited, wondering what Helena wanted to say but didn't want to get into.
At last she blew out a breath of air. "Okay, here it is, I was insecure okay?"
Barbara's magnificent mind examined the statement from all conceivable angles. Finally she had to give up. "Pardon?"
With an elegance Barbara had always admired, Helena dropped down to crouch before her, eyes beseeching, the lovely face soft and vulnerable. The expression caught Barbara's breath and pierced her heart. "Hel?"
"I know, I'm me, right?" Offering Barbara a reassuring and chagrined smile. "I know I'm hot, Barbara. No question. And I'm smart, more often a smart ass, but smarter than people think-"
"I always knew you wer - "
A raised hand stopped her words as Hel continued. "It isn't about me needing my ego stroked. I'm trying to explain why I haven't been my usual self the past few weeks."
"I assumed it had to do with Ivy, but Hel, you can't imagine that I would ever choose anyone over you." Her hands both held that of the other woman's, held it as tenderly and preciously as the love she held for the woman in her heart.
Shifting from her crouch to her knees, the movement placed Helena closer, a growing sensation of warmth contrasting the cooler breeze. "It started before Ivy." The admission was only the beginning of this revelation she gave so honestly to Barbara. "When we lost you, when Quinn had you and I was terrified I'd lost you forever, it began then. Then when we got you back with only part of your memories intact and I had seen you Barbara, seen how you were when you were free of being Oracle and my god...I didn't think I could love you more than I all ready had. But seeing you like that, so wild, so yourself, you know? I felt inadequate. I mean, you're the whole package Barbara. Your intelligence is off the scale, so are your looks. Plus you're strong, in every meaning of the word. And you strength of will..." Helena laughed a little at herself, "You're beyond everything anyone could imagine one person being, yet here you are all in one irresistible hot package. Me? I felt like the stray cat you took in. No one measures up to you, not even me."
Barbara tried to protest but was again silenced, this time by Helena's determined look as she continued. "It started to make me worry about losing you in different ways. When Ivy came it was the wake up call. At first she drove me crazy, but I get it now. I think I understand what you mean to each other and maybe a little of what I mean to you. So," the eyes shimmered in their intensity, turning a startling violet with the pupils sliding into vertical feline slits as she stared right through and far deeper into Barbara than anyone else ever had. "don't expect me to go criminally insecure anytime again soon. I'll prove that I'm your equal Barbara, or as close to it as reality can handle. You got me, Red?"
"I certainly do." She pulled Helena closer by their linked hands and kissed her like a woman treasuring every millimeter of those luscious lips, the sweetness of Helena's breath, the luxuriant feel of silken texture caressing her own as Helena's mouth lingered upon hers.
Helena had always been a woman filled with contradictions; strong yet vulnerable, confident yet insecure, fierce yet fragile. And to think the woman had been tormenting herself over the impossible, for Barbara could never, ever cease to want, love, or live for Helena and Helena alone. So instead of saying those words, Barbara kissed the one she loved who loved her like no one else, and decided then and there that she would spend their lifetime proving it to Helena, one kiss at a time.
~~~ Eight Months Later ~~~
Dinah was bored, though to be honest with herself, it ran deeper than that. Certainly the crime had dropped substantially since Quinn was taken out of the picture and sweeps were barely challenging anymore. Beneath that though, was the longing for the one person who had floored her and touched her in ways emotional and heartfelt that Dinah ached for again. There had not been one word since Max had left.
Returning from sweeps, Dinah rode the elevator up and did her best to put her best face on. As soon as she exited the doors she was greeted by a lanky Helena on the way out.
"Pastry run," Helena informed her, with a mischievous half-smile. That smile turned into a frown upon closer inspection of Dinah's face. She took the other's hand soothingly "Hey, what's got ya down?"
The younger woman looked down at the unhesitating physical comfort. It was one of the biggest changes that had occurred with Helena and Barbara since Max had left. Now her two mentors always took time to talk with her, include her on things, and never faltered to give her affection, daring without wavering the chance that Dinah might see into their thoughts and feelings. It made the loneliness recede a great deal more than even Dinah had hoped. That they did so out of love and not obligation, a fact Dinah knew with absolute certainty due to her telepathic powers, warmed a part of Dina's soul that had been too long left cold.
She wished for a moment that she could share her abilities so that Helena and Barbara could feel the love she held for them, because words, in her experience, couldn't paint the scope and depth of it.
Now Helena was frowning furiously, brow furrowed when Dinah hadn't answered her. Quickly, the younger woman reassured her. "Sorry, I kind of got lost in thought. I was just thinking about Max. I miss her." She wished earnestly that she could share all these happy changes in her home life with the dark haired woman, Max would have been so keen about it and so very happy for Dinah.
She found herself pulled into a hug. "Hang in there D, she'll be back."
The reassurance and honest concern for her is what warmed Dinah the most and made her smile at last. Even though it was a small one, it was a smile all the same.
"Thanks Helena," she gave a hug back and let go. "I gotta go debrief with "Oracle". Maybe get me an éclair on your run? You are going to that all night patisserie aren't you?"
Helena grinned and with a wink, walked into the elevator backward to lean against the wall the way only she could, all nonchalance grace and attitude at the same time. "But of course, you think I'd get my BFFS anything but the best? I'll tell ya what, I'll get ya two."
The smile grew as Dinah shook her head at her departing friend's grand mood. She walked up the ramps to the Delphi where Barbara was inputting...goodness knew what. The older woman peered up at a screen, asking without looking at her charge, "How was it?"
Dinah dropped into a chair, "Deader than school on a Monday night. There were two purse snatchers and that was it."
"Hmm," Barbara peered more closely at something flashing on her lower screen. "It might not be over yet."
"What is it?" She hated to admit it, but Dinah suddenly buzzed with excitement at the prospect of a little action. It would take her mind off of the one person she missed like no one else. She wanted that distraction, now and badly.
"West side, the New Gotham Bank. The roof alarm was triggered but someone or something cut it before the signal could get to the police." A rattle of keys, "You up for it?"
"Yep," Dinah was already down the ramp and into the elevator. "Comms back on and ready to rumble."
The streets were silent, it seemed to be literally the dead of night. She reached the rooftop and looked around. The flat surface only had one fire door that led to the top and two vent caps. All three could hide someone. If they were out there, they were quieter than Helena during a sneak attack.
Dinah made her way carefully over to the roof door which is where the alarm had been set off and quickly disarmed. Her hand closed on the handle when she was taken from behind and thrown down. The unusual part of it was that she was thrown down on top of the person who grabbed her. Then a bare hand touched her wrist below her glove and Dinah was suddenly scrambling so fast it was a wonder she didn't have meta-human speed.
She straddled the fit and familiar form beneath her with a delighted smile. "Max!"
The black clad woman with a dusty leather jacket looked up with just as wide a smile, her touch radiating a joy that was difficult to contain, for either of them.
"Yo, D. Lookin' for someone?" The smile turned sly and suddenly Barbara's all business mode at the Delphi made more sense. She had never turned to look at Dinah lest she smile or Dinah read her and know what Max had planed with Oracle's help.
"Oracle knew!" Dinah only realized then and there that her comms were off line.
"Hey, don't be mad." Max rubbed Dinah's legs where she lay. "I wanted to surprise you. We cool?"
She wasn't only referring to the rooftop surprise. "You never called Max. Why not?" That had hurt Dinah the most, the complete withdrawal.
Brown eyes shone with regret, "I went there. Had a lot to sort through. It was hard seeing it like that, that it was all a lie, well not the transgenic part. But Original Cyndi, she's an actress. And Logan, he was a jerk on Manticore's payroll for their make believe apocalypse scenario. Your Oracle shut Manticore down. It was...weird, seeing the -the lot. The whole city and the surrounding areas were stages, citywide stages. It was unreal D...I didn't know what to say, I just went on top of the wrecked space needle I always sat on and processed it all. It's how I always got myself sorted no matter how weird the day. With it being a weird life, it made for a lot of sorting."
Max pulled off Dinah's gloves as she spoke, pulling the hands to her face, running her own up Dinah's arms, tracing the lines of the face looking down at her with a reverence that undid Dinah's hurt. The blonde felt a swell of compassion and sympathy for the turmoil and struggles she could feel Max went through. Max's words had a way of coming off as flippant, but underneath the attitude there was an ocean of feeling that Max fearlessly let Dinah see without any walls or restrictions. It was all Max, in her complex yet unrestrained entirety, and as was clearly felt through their telepathic connection, all for Dinah.
Max's hands slid down and held Dinah loosely around the waist, as if afraid to hold on too tight.
"I missed you."I love you.
Dinah heard both the words and the thought clearly and leaned down and kissed her, feeling the relief from the other woman at the caress. Max returned the kiss with a fierceness that spoke of the pain of their long parting and the barely restrained joy at Dinah's forgiveness for it.
She pulled away to look down into dark depths of passion all for her. "You came back."
Max smiled, though her eyes shimmered suspiciously with unshed tears. "You waited."
And since Max couldn't read her thoughts or feel all that was in Dinah's heart, she did her best to let it show in her face when she said, "I love you."
They kissed again, holding each other as if they had only now, after a lifetime, found their way home.
~ FIN ~