Where Angels Dare Not Tread


FANDOM: Birds of Prey TV

PAIRING: Barbara/Helena

DISCLAIMER: I own the thoughts in my head, maybe but the characters of BoP are not mine. No infringement harm intended and certainly no profit is made.

SPOILER: After the events in Devil's Eyes with a bit of essential creative retelling of events.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: If you like fluffy fic, I don't think this will be it. Call it a hunch, and fair warning.

FEEDBACK: Please let me know what you think Always appreciated, especially as this is my first BoP fic

ARCHIVING: If you like and want? Just ask.

E-MAIL: hollye@sympatico.ca


My mother was a thief.

A reformed thief even. Striving to give her daughter a better life.

My father was a hero. To so many people. Just not me.

My hand scrapes along the cold stone surface of the gargoyle I'm crouched over.

I'm something neither of them were.

I'm a murderer.

I killed Wade Brixton.

The air wasn't that cold but the wind whips through me, flapping my coat around me. I stand up to face it, allowing it to enter the ice in my veins and the cold I need so desperately to dull the sharp, all consuming pain in my heart.

I step off the gargoyle to lose myself in the night.

Part One

It's been hours since I finished my sweep but it's still dark. It's still cold. I shouldn't have come here but my feet always unerringly find my way here. To where she's supposed to be. I shouldn't be here. It takes so much out of me to pretend. Can't someone please tell me how I can ever make amends? Like you can ever make up for what I've done. What I've done to her. I'm broken and moving. How can that be? Neverhteless, as the elevator doors to the clocktower open, I use my old practiced swagger. The place is empty however, except for slashes of green illuminating ghostly from the humming Delphi. The place seems all the emptier without the familiar clatter of her typing. It's so often more empty these days. Just like me.

A flash of red outside catches my eyes and stops my heart. It's her. Barbara's outside, overlooking the city she's sacrificed so much, too much to protect. Like any of those worthless jerks would give even a fraction she has for her. They wouldn't. The human race is scum. I almost feel like I fit in but I'm so much worse. My going outside despite my knowledge that I shouldn't, my promise to myself that I wouldn't, just proves it to me all over again.

I'm the lowest bastard I've ever met.

So I creep along the quiet parts of the floor from long practice, I hide in the darkest shadows and watch her. She doesn't disappoint me.

"I know you're there Helena." Her voice holds a gentle smile I get to see in the next moment as she swings her head around to look directly where I'm hiding to prove her point.

I put on my best game face and walk out, hands stuffed in the pockets of my coat. I shake my head grinning at her. "I still don't know how you do that."

One side of those full lips curls in a smirk. "I'll never tell my secret."

"Have you got me bugged?" I hold my arms out and do a spin. "Where did you hide it? You always know where I am. Meta humans with super hearing wouldn't have heard me."

She likes the old game between us. I can tell by her smile, the warming of already warm green eyes. All I do is hurt because she thinks so many things are the same and nothing can ever be again.

"I didn't hear you. I didn't see you." She shrugs, suddenly looking down at her knees. "I feel you."

"What, Barbara the psychic now?" I tease her jokingly sarcastic.

"Yeah, me and Dinah are joining a group."

I snort at the kid's name.

Barbara's smile slips. "You seem to be avoiding her lately. Anything wrong?"

I raise my eyebrows in false surprise. "Me avoiding the sidekick? Never." The though of her touching me and reading even a fraction of my thoughts freezes me in terror. "Nothing's up Barbara, sheesh, everything with you has to be some Greek tragedy. I've just been busy that's all. You know, business and all."

A totally different regard now as she scrutinizes me. "That's right, you bought the bar. You never did tell me what prompted you finally to take some of the money your father left you."

"I just decided some things aren't that important. But don't worry, my daddy issues are alive and well. Besides, I needed to do something. It's been dead on sweeps ever since-"

"Ever since we put Quinzel away." she finishes for me. "It's alright you know Helena, you can say her name around me."

"I just don't want to bring back painful memories." I mutter, looking anywhere but at the one person who should hate me.

Instead she puts a comforting hand on my arm, her eyes finding mine, all compassion and concern. I would laugh if it wasn't so horribly wrong. If I wasn't so twisted in knots. "You have to stop blaming yourself Helena."

"I have." I do one of the hardest things I've ever done. I walk away from her touch.

"Obviously." She states archly.

I don't look at her. I can see the arched brow in my mind but it's always so much worse for me if I actually look at her. "Can you tell me your over it? It's god knows what hour in the morning and your out here, again. In the cold, looking out at nothing. You're thinking about him. Grieving. Not that you shouldn't." I add with much less grace than I should, I've never been about finesse.

"It's been slow and I like this time to think." she tells me, wheeling close, closing the distance between us again. "It's so quiet at this time. I like waiting to watch the Sun to rise."

"And does it?" I ask, the sudden gust of wind causing my eyes to tear. Or so I'll like to think.

"Well Helena, it's the Sun, it always rises." She adds in a bemused voice.

"Good to know you can depend on at least one thing, right?" I say flippantly.

A hand slides in mine, so warm, so wonderfully, heart wrenching warm. And I'm so tired of being cold.

"It's not the only thing I can depend on." She tells me, voice serious and smoky as sure as the hand clasping mine.

I give it a light squeeze and walk over to the door. "It's pretty cold out, despite the early thaw. Maybe you should watch this sunrise from the inside of the clock tower? I mean, you did have it all fixed up within a week. Same to waste the nicely heated space..." I hold the door open, waiting.

"Honestly Helena, you'd think I was glass with the way you cosset me." the words are said with a mix of bone deep affection and mild irritation throwing in. She wheels herself over though and past me.

"Is that even a real word?" I stare at her derisively.

"Which one?" She grins insolently at me, playing.

"Cosset." I growl low, playing back. Faking it. Can't let her know what a monster I really am. Can't bear to see her being able to really see me.

"Yes." She affirms adding her trade smirk. "Are you coming in too or just going to stand post?"

"I'm coming in." I swagger in, closing the glass door behind me.

"Good." She's manoeuvring herself to face me. "Then maybe you can tell me what's really going on."

I stop breathing.

The Delphi alert system goes off. I breathe again, never so grateful for an emergency as now because I can't tell her. I have to lie.

She was wrong about my thinking she's glass. She's iron, titanium. She's the Sun.

All I am is shattered glass.

Part Two

That alarm saved me and damned me at the same time going from one dreaded situation to another. At least this one I can handle.

I spot my target and drop down, scaring him as usual.

"Hello detective..."

"Helena!" He's still shook up at being dropped on. The idiot should know better by now.

I look around the alleyway well lit from the street lights. "I don't see any cop cars." I drawl. "No body, no broken windows or damaged property. In fact there's no perps, unless we're dealing with invisible bad guys?" I look to him waiting for an explanation.

He's sweating. "Actually, I used the ring to contact you because we need to talk Helena."

"It's Huntress when I'm duty." I tell him, knowing I'm not liking where this is going. I'm already angry that there won't be any violence for me to bleed myself on.

"This isn't about duty. This is about us-"

I cut him off, snarling, "Us? You used the ring to drag me here for a sensitive chat? That isn't a beeper detective!"

"It's Reese." He loudly exhales. "And what am I supposed to do? You don't talk to me! You don't return my calls. Ever since you took over the bar I don't see you there. What am I supposed to think?"

The edges of my vision are turning red. "I don't know Reese. You're a detective. Why don't you detect?"

There's so much hurt in his face, his shoulders slump. We both remember when I first said those words to him. Our first meeting. Maybe this will signal our last.

"I want an explanation." He tries again.

I look at him, all honest eyes, desperate confusion and hurt. So eager for the truth because he still believes if you're good and honest than you're safe. It makes me hurt for him and hate him just a little too because that innocence was taken from me long ago. What right does he have to be in my face with his self-righteousness?

"What you want has nothing to do with anything Reese. The sooner you understand that the better off you'll be." Which is a lie, you're not better off, just jaded and hurting but at least you can keep yourself safe, not let anyone in.

"Dammit Helena," Reese steps towards me, moving his hand in a fist to emphasize his words. "I turned my back on the law and helped you and your friends clean up the Harley Quinn mess when I planted evidence and falsified reports that it went down at a warehouse and that you weren't involved. I respect the law, just because you and your friends don't doesn't mean I don't deserve to be treated with some consideration and respect in turn!"

My eyes flash at his presumptions. "Consider this Mr. Police, my respect, that you call it, for the law, is tempered by my experience with it. The whole reason this city is safe is because of people like me and my friends so don't you dare talk at me about what you deserve!"

"Don't purposefully misunderstand me! You owe me an explanation and a whole lot more." He glares at me waiting full of expectations.

"I owe you?" I enunciate the words slowly, carefully. I'm on the ledge again and I so want to fall. "What do you think I owe you Reese? A lap dance? Is that what this is all about? You think that ring and what you've done entitles you to have me as your personal whore?"

My eyes flash at him. I know they've changed because his eyes widen and he steps back, hand raised to ward me off. "What-"

"That's just it, isn't it Reese." I advance on him, every movement the promise of violence. "You keep coming back to asking me what I am. I told you once it's who I am that matters but little man, tonight I'll take it back and say you should be afraid of me and what I can do!" I lash out. I know it's wrong, I know it to my core even as I hear Barbara's voice over the comm having forgotten she was listening, yelling at me to stop whatever I'm doing, to back off but it feels so good to finally let loose, if only this much. If only enough to hurt someone else so that I'm not the only one hurting.

Reese falls to the ground from the blow. He looks up at me, sad soft brown eyes staring at me while his hand gingerly touches his bleeding mouth.

"So now I'm your punching bag too?" Reese asks me. "Didn't I mean anything to you? I stopped you from drinking that night. I reminded you of your duty. What we had. What was I to you Helena?"

"Nothing but a substitute crutch." I tell him coldly furious at him for being hurt instead of angry, for not fighting. "It was the alcohol or you and you wanted it to be you. Don't blame me for your 'intentionally misunderstanding' the situation."

"I don't know you at all." He slowly picks himself off the ground. He slides the ring off his finger. "I don't think I want this anymore." Than he made the mistake of pitching it at me.

I snatch it from the night air easily. "Oracle gave this to you as a show of trust and that's how you repay her? Just because you're not getting any from her pet crime fighter? You worthless waste of time, she trusted you and all you do is betray her trust like this!"

In a flash I'm all over him, wailing on him with my fists. He never had a chance.

An unseen force hits me from behind, throwing me off him and several feet away. Like a cat, I land on my feet a whirl around. Dinah's there, she's kneeling over Reese, checking him for injuries. I hear her talking to Barbara.

"He's got a split lip and a missing tooth I think. Both eyes will be black. He's pretty bruised but he should be okay. She hadn't broken anything yet."

Dinah's glare finds me. "She's here. Huntress how could you?" Reese is already rousing himself. Satisfied that he can manage, she approaches me. "What's wrong? Why are you acting so angry all the time? Why can't you-" She reaches for my arm and I step back.

"Don't touch me!!" I warn her.

Hurt flares up in her face so fast and it shines in her eyes. "Why not? Why don't you let me touch you? You keep avoiding me and we never spar anymore. Why? Did I do something wrong?"

More innocence. So much hurt left for her in the world. I can't bear it. It almost outweighs my terror at the thought of her picking up what I feel, what I'm thinking, what I've done. I can't let her know.

"It's not you." I tell her, my voice harsher than I wanted but I don't have enough control. "I just need my space. Help Reese, go back to Barbara. I need to be alone." I turn my back and flee.

"Huntress!" Dinah tries to call me back.

Barbara's voice asks in my ear, filled with concern and something that I don't recognize.

I take the comms off . "I'm sorry Barbara." I crush them in my hands and let the twisted metal fall away as I lose myself in the night. I know where I need to go and what I have to do.

Part Three

My last visit here makes it easy to know how to bypass the security and get in this time. Last time it was to face my mother's murderer. Now it to face the woman who turned me into one.

The stale air, harsh lighting and tight confines of the room already send my instincts on edge. I don't want to be here. Through the unbreakable transparent prison she sits there, smiling at me.

"My, my Helena," Harleen Quinzel, no, Harley Quinn purrs, not a blonde lock out of place on her psychotic head. "I've been waiting for when you would visit me."

She stands and walks leisurely to the see-through wall, looking me over like she owns me. I snarl softly. "And just look at you Helena, all filled with such fury." She sounds so damned pleased with herself as if it's all because of her. I wish it was but she can't take credit for all of it. "You look as ravishing as ever. And you even have blood on your hands. Now don't tease a girl Helena. Tell me who's blood it is." She arches an eyebrow at me and waits like we're back at her office and I'm her patient. Like we're not in this cage.

I can barely speak, the fury is overriding everything but I have to know. In three quick strides I'm at the glass and pound it once, a statement to the violence roiling inside me. "What have you done to me?!"

"What have I done?" she asks, amused. "Helena, this prison is treated so that I can't hypnotize anyone. Anything you've done, you've done because you wanted it. Who did you hurt this time Helena? You're precious Barbara?"

"Reese." I hiss.

"It felt good didn't it?" Quinn leans up to my face, only the barrier separating us, her eyes dark and intimate she whispers, "Why don't you tell me all about it?"

I push away from the glass. I want to kill her so badly. I pace back and forth, stalking around the room.

"Why should I tell you anything?" I finally get out.

"Because you want answers and I can give them to you." she tells me matter of fact. "I've kept your secrets so far haven't I? I didn't tell anyone about your Clock Tower, or Barbara...or your little part in her lover's death-"

"Shut up!" I slam against the glass again.

She claps her hands in delight. "You haven't told them either have you? How descrumptulicious!! Oh Helena, you really are a prize."

"I'm not something you can win." I growl.

"No?" She arches that damn eyebrow again, playing coy with me. "Tell me about what happened with Reese and maybe I'll tell you a secret."

"You'll tell me what's happening to me?" I ask her.

"Yes." She smiles Cheshire evil at me.

"I told him I wouldn't be his picture perfect girlfriend and he wouldn't take no for an answer." That was almost the truth.

"You're lying Helena." Her voice is brisk, every bit the professional psychiatrist again. "Why did you really attack Reese?"

Her demeanour makes it easier to answer, like I'm on automatic pilot. "He threw Barbara's trust in her face."

She's regarding me, saying nothing.

"Well? What have you done to me?"

"It wasn't me Helena. This is about you. Did you kill the detective?"

"Kill him? Of course not."

She doesn't look happy about that but she goes on. "Did you break any bones? Maim him?"


"Helena, Helena...still holding back. As long as you do things will only get worse."

"What do you mean?"

"Humans my dear, are actually not so complex when you break them down. If a person represses their needs and desires, those needs and desires don't go away. They fester and grow and worm their way inside you until they find another way out. Sometimes a less direct, less conventional way. It wasn't Reese you wanted to really hurt."

"Than who was it?" I demand.

"It wasn't Reese who betrayed precious Barbara." She watches me and waits.

I scowl at her. "You're not making sense!"

"Oh no?" Quinn smirks. "Try this then. You projected your feelings of anger and hate onto someone else, Reese. You really feel that way about yourself because you were the one to betray Barbara, not him. Is that simple enough language for you?"

"But he-"

"Was only human, and a target." She cocks her head to the side, her smirk growing. "But he wasn't your real target so those feelings of rage and hate are just going to grow and grow until you no longer need an excuse to hurt anyone."

My fists clench. "That's not true."

"Oh it is. You're a monster Helena, one of the bad guys. No one decent like virtuous Barbara which is why you-"

"Shut up I said!" I growl.

Quinn squeals in delight. "Oh, this is so much fun Helena! Really, what did you think would happen? Your pathetic pining away for her. Your feelings of inadequacy brooding along. And trying so hard to control something you can't, yourself."

"I can control myself."

"Obviously, which is why you have blood on your hands. But you're missing the point my dear, you shouldn't be trying to be something you're not. It's this very attempt to repress what you are, a feral animal, that causes you to not have focus."

"Oh, I can focus." I warn her.

"I was there remember?" Quinn's not intimidated, instead she seems excited by the threat of violence. "You know I don't want to hold you back Helena. I want you to fully actualize your potential."

"To be a killer!" I accuse her.

"To be what you are!" Her voice is so intense now. "Your 'true love' would never allow you to be yourself. That's why you try to keep yourself in check like a good little pet for her. That's why you never told her how you feel, because you know deep down that she would reject you! Poor, poor Helena, wanting so much to belong to the one person who will never accept her. Barbara's a fool. She could have had you and all that you are and she tossed the chance away."

"No she didn't!" I protest readily, instinct making me defend Barbara. "She doesn't know. She didn't toss me away!"

"How very Freudian of you. I didn't say toss 'you', I said she threw away her chance with you. Come now Helena, if she's as much of a genius as you think than how could she not know how you really feel? What you truly want? She knows. And she's ignored you. And that's why you hate the one you love. That's why you want to hurt her. That's why you have hurt her."

"No! You had me hypnotized that's why I hurt her because of you!"

She leans against the barrier, palms flat, eyes hot on mine. "Here's the secret Helena. Hypnosis is a funny thing. You can implant false memories easily enough and you can make people do all kinds of things but you can never, ever, make a person do something they're not truly willing to do."

I stop my pacing. I stop dead. "You're lying." but my voice sounds like more of a plea than a statement.

"Do some research. It's true. You can't make people kill unless they're a killer. I couldn't have made you hurt Barbara, unless, deep down, you wanted to hurt her. And who can blame you? She spurned you-"

"Shut up!" I snarl.

"She gave it up to that dullard Wade."

"Shut. Up." My eyes have changed, Quinn licks her lips at the sight.

"Which is why you wanted Wade dead. For having what you could never have. And she has nothing of you because she wants nothing from you Helena. While I have all your secrets, your pain, your rage, everything. I own you and I'm going to keep you. After all, unlike me, she never kissed those sweet lips of yours and-"

"ENOUGH!!" I fly at the partition and it's almost like before with Clayface. She's laughing at me and all can do is bang away. I breathe fire inside as I taste my own blood in my mouth. An animalistic noise comes out of me and I rush it again.

The world crashes into a million shards of pain. One of my arms won't work, the other feels like it's on fire, broken. I lift my head dully from the inside of the barrier that I just crashed through. One arm and my head are in with the weight of my body against the remainder of the wall. My vision is dulling into a fog but I see Quinn there one the ground in front of me, a hand to her face where it's bleeding three streaks of violent red, with more of it coming from her mouth and nose.

With the last vestiges of my consciousness I tell her, "I may never have Barbara, but I put you in your place you evil psychotic bitch."

Oblivion claims me in shades a reds and black.

Part Four

Stabbing, horrible pain in my head, my shoulder and arm, all over my body aches but even as it all tried to call me back up from the abyss I fell into I pulled back, wanting the all consuming darkness again. Voices I recognized kept filtering through it, tugging the other way, trying to tear back up into that life of harsh light and pain.

"Is she going to be okay?" Dinah. The poor kid sounds frantic.

"She will be." Barbara's voice, more desperate and scared than I've ever heard her. Lower, she says, "She has to be."

The darkness lulls me and when I next hear her voice I don't know how much time has passed. Her strident tones cuts into my waning consciousness of the outside world. "We're losing her!"

Dinah sounds right next to her. "What's happening?"

"She slipping into a comatose state." Barbara tells her, voice tight with anxiety.

"We're losing her?" I hear crying but that can't be. I'm not worth anyone's tears. "What if I tried to reach her?"


Dinah's next words are filled with strain. "I'm trying but...it's hard, there's so much pain, not the physical kind...I don't know that I can get through-"

"Dammit Dinah try!"

"I can't! I can't reach her, maybe she'll hear you?"

"Helena, hold on! Do you hear me?" I've never heard Barbara sound so angry, so helpless and terrified. If she knew the truth, she shouldn't be.

"Are you listening to me Hel? Don't you give up! Don't you dare leave me!"

I'm not worth it.

It's better this way. I don't want to remember anymore. I don't want to go back there.


I fall into the abyss that wraps me in it's cold arms. I pray that wherever I go I don't dream, don't think, don't remember except for her, tattooed on my heart.


I'm sorry.



The voice is as familiar as my own. I hear it everytime I close my eyes, everytime I try to sleep she comes to haunt me with the truth. I know where I am so I don't bother to open my eyes. I'm in my own head, reliving what happened. Like I have every night since it actually happened. And I know from past experience that this is a nightmare I can't end.

"What about Barbara?" I ask same as I did in real life, I can even smell the wood polish of Dr. Quinzel's office, the scent of her leather chair, the sickening sweet odour of her perfume. I keep my eyes closed just as she had asked for the exercise, my body beyond my control for the moment as one of my worst moments comes back to torture and mock all my previous good intentions.

"Do you realize your voice gets softer everytime you utter her name?" Dr. Quinzel circles my body tightly, like a shark with it's prey. If only I had recognized it at the time. Part of me had known it for a game, known she wanted me but I was a fool who thought I liked those kind of games.

"She's my friend."

"And you love her?"

"Of course, she took care of me. She's my best friend." I wince at the defensiveness of my tone.

"And this Wade person, he makes her happy?"

"Yeah...yes," I strive to sound more sure, more loyal, strive to be a better person than I am, "he makes her happy."

"There's something you're leaving out Helena. Remember, I can only help you if you're honest with me. What troubles you about Wade and Barbara?"

"I-I guess I feel she's settling. But she's the most important person in my life. It's normal for me to want the best for her."

"So this Wade person doesn't make her as happy as she could be."

"I..don't know."

"You know how you feel though don't you Helena." Dr. Quinzel is doing that question as a statement thing, like she knows the truth and wants to sink her claws into it and drag it out of me. "Tell me."

"I feel she's settling."

"Because you feel she deserves the best." Doc Quinzel's circle just got tighter.

"She deserves the best." I tell her with such certainty, thinking I stepped off the slippery slope I was on.

"And are you the best Helena?"

"What?" My eyes fly open panicked, caught. "No, I didn't mean-"

Quinzel is in front of me, so close are mouths are almost touching. "You must keep your eyes closed for this exercise to work Helena. You have to say what first comes into your mind, your heart even, no matter whether your answering as Helena or Huntress. You must be completely honest so that I can help you. You can trust me. You do trust me don't you Helena?"


"You want me to help you don't you?"


"Good. Now close your eyes."

I close them.

A beat, she's moving around me again. "Do you think you would be a better match for Barbara?"

"I...I don't know. She's a hero."

"You fight crime as well. Aren't you a hero?" Her tone is more intensely curious now.

"Not like her." I shamefully admit in a whisper.

"How are you different?"

"She does it because it's who she is. Because it's the right thing to do and she's the type of person who always does the right thing. Because it's her calling."

"And you?"

"I do it...because I want her to be happy. Because I know she wants me to."

"So you do it for her."

"Yes. But if feels good too, to save people. To kick some ass."

"You like the opportunity to fight."

"Yes. It's fun."

"Does Barbara think it's fun?"

"Are you kidding?" I scoff. "No way. We always butt heads about that."

"And who wins."

"Barbara of course. She's right, I shouldn't let my baser instincts control me."

"You don't want to disappoint her."


"And would it disappoint her to know how deeply you love her Helena? Remember, it's important for you to be honest with me."

I hesitate.

"Would she?" Dr. Quinzel pushes.

"Yes." I whisper, feeling my head drop. The feeling of despair is back full force knowing she could never accept me.

"Even though you're a much better match than that Wade person?"

"Yes." This time the answer comes out tight. The hurt turning to anger.

"It makes you angry doesn't it Helena, this man who's invaded your life, taken over the relationship you should have with Barbara." Again, she's throwing statements at me more than questions. She's got me pegged too well but it feels kind of good in a guilty way to finally let this out, to have someone know and understand.

"Yes." This time it's a near growl as my fury at him grows. He has no right in her life! It should have been me!

"And she's with him even though you're the one who's been by her side all these years, sacrificed so much, even who you are, keeping yourself locked inside yourself...all for her. And this is how she repays you Helena? By allowing this Wade to take your place. Knowing he shares her life, shares her bed, her body...How does that make you feel Helena?"

Snarling, I whirl around to face her, my eyes have changed to vertical cat slits but I don't care. "I hate it alright? Everytime he walks into the Clocktower I-" No, mustn't say it, mustn't think it.

"You want to do what Helena? You have to get this out. I'm here for you, unlike Barbara who's turned from you to be with Wade-"

"I want to tear him limb from limb alright? I want to pound him into paste on the nearest wall, floor, what have you. I want to kill him for having what I can't!"

A sharp gasp that wasn't mine or Quinzel's draws me out of the memory. I open my eyes, the scene is frozen but there's a third person here that wasn't before.

"Barbara." I say the name, my mouth suddenly dry seeing her stricken expression. She usually shows up in my nightmares but a little later. And she normally doesn't look like she does now.

Freed from the memory, the tableau frozen except for me and dream Barbara, I walk over to her. "Barbara?" I say again, wondering why she isn't doing her usual; cursing at me, putting me down, telling me off, hitting me, and worse.

Eyes filled with sudden understanding she looks deeply at me, pain etches her beautiful features. "This is what you've been hiding from me."

Here it comes. The scene changes as feelings and thoughts in my head slip and slide us from one place to another. I'm back up at the gargoyle and Barbara's with me. The cold gale buffets us both. I know how this will go one way or the other. I step onto the head of the gargoyle and spread my arms wide. "Go ahead Barbara. I know the drill. What are you going to choose this time? Hit me? Beat me? Tell me you hate me?" It causes me to wince internally hearing how my voice cracks at that one, to know the real Barbara would hate me if she knew but that's why this is my nightmare, my punishment. "How about laughing at me for daring to be in love with someone as perfect as you when I'm nothing but street trash, messed up meta garbage? Or maybe just push me off this ledge? You've already done all of them a hundred times since Wade died. Everytime I sleep I end up going through this, Quinzel, than you, this. So what's it to be today?"

"I do that? Hurt you? Laugh at you?" Barbara's still shocked.

My throat tightens at the sight of her. She's even wearing the same clothes she did that night, the leather pants, black and yellow motorcycle jacket and white tank top under it. "You usually like to laugh at me."

"Helena..." She stops what she was going to say but she takes a step towards me, a clenched hand over her chest, her heart. "In here I can feel the agony you're in. You're my life, feeling you're pain, how could I do anything but feel for you? Feel your pain with you?"

This, this isn't normal at all. I hop off the head of the gargoyle, my eyes never leaving tear filled green ones. "Maybe I should bash my head in more often if this is what you're like in my mind afterwards."

Tears fall from her eyes. Tears for me. "That's a terrible joke."

The wind around us calms immediately. And unlike the person who I have to try to be outside, in the real world, here I'm free to do something I never would out there. Here in my head I can get close to her and touch her. With trembling hands I wipe the tears from her cheeks.

"Please don't cry for me."

Her hands move up and cover mine and they're so warm and mine are so cold, the warmth travels right up into my chest. Verdant eyes search my face in wonder, "I'm crying for us both. Why didn't you ever tell me any of this?"

"How can I?" And the reminder of all the reasons makes me pull back. "You heard what I said to Quinzel. Besides, that's not all."

Her hand recaptures mine, pulling me close again. A hand tilts my chin back up from where it dropped. Her touch is as entreating as her voice. "Show me."

"No," I gasp, honestly scared even though it's only the Barbara in my head. It feels so real and I don't want this dream to become more of the same nightmare. "I don't want to go back there. I don't want to remember anymore. Why do you think I don't sleep at night anymore? And when I do, I have to drink myself into unconsciousness so I won't remember, won't dream."

Her grip tightens. "Is that why you bought the bar? So you could drown your sorrows Helena? That's what made you finally use Bruce's money?"

I try to pull away but her grip only tightens further. "No, I didn't use his money for that. I actually bought the bar on my own. I can save cash you know." I strive to lighten the mood with my old attitude that doesn't fit so well anymore. "I still have too many daddy issues to really take his money."

"Helena, I'm scared for you. The memories, the hiding, the drinking...What did you use the money for?"

I can't believe I'm embarrassed to admit this even to someone who isn't real and just in my head. "I used my own savings to buy the bar. I probably would have been fired otherwise. I also wanted something of my own so I bought the Dark Horse. I actually am a pretty good bartender. The funds from Wayne Industries I put towards a research grant."

Barbara's got that adorable, furrowed brow puzzled look that I melt for. "Research for what?"

"For you. You keep fighting to walk again. I looked into the Industries' resources and there's some very high level geeks who might be able to help. So I delegated funds and sent copies of your research to them. I figure some fresh brain power from some of the world's top scientists in the field might help. I actually transferred more money than I told you about because I knew you'd ask why. And despite the changes you made the neural coupler still hurts you."

Still puzzled, she frowns at me, "I managed to reduce the pain significantly. How did you know it was still hurting me?"

I smile without humour. "Because I notice everything about you Barbara. You just never noticed me."

Her expression steels itself and her words now don't leave room for argument. "The rest of it Helena. Show it to me now."

I try to protest anyways, knowing this must be where it all turns bad again, where she'll hate me. "I don't think that's a great idea. On the idea scale it actually rates 'sucks'."

"You have to show me Hel, It's killing you. You have to do this, for both of us."

I search the tangible fear in her pleading verdant regard. I could never tell her no, even in my head.

We're back in Quinzel's office. It's later, I'm under hypnosis. In position, no longer near Barbara. I go through the memory as it happened.

"Why didn't you kill Barbara?"

I look at Quinzel puzzled. "Maybe because you didn't order me to?"

"Of course." She smiles at me like twisted sunshine. "We'll have to fix that. Next time you see Barbara you will kill her for me won't you?"

Something must pass over my face because Quinzel stands up, draws me closer to her. "I told you before people are essentially selfish Helena. She took you in for you to save her. For her own reasons. She ignores you, already she has a young blonde replacement. a real hero to take your place. You were never more than her lap cat. A pet she cast aside., parading her lovers in front of you..."

A feral snarl escapes my throat.

"That's my bad girl, all fangs and claws. I'll give you everything Barbara never will." The thing I dread happens. She steps in and kisses me, owning me. Her arousal overcomes my feral senses. But that's not why I kissed her back. I've been so lonely for so long and she was right, Barbara will never give me this. I knew I lost my soul right then because in that one moment, I hated Barbara for loving her. When Quinzel pulls back her eyes are that eerie dark starlight pulling me in, twisting me deeper. "You kill Barbara for me. The next time you see her you'll remember how she threw your love away, how she laughed at that strong fierce heart of yours that you have and pushed you aside so that she could have dull, stupid, boring Wade. I'll even reward you Helena. You kill her. And I'll kill Wade for you. You want Wade dead don't you? Remember, you can't lie."


"Yes what Helena?"

"Yes, I want him dead." God help me it was the truth, I wanted him gone.

"Than go. See to your little friends for me. Kill them all.Oh, and Helena? One more thing. Unlike anyone else under my influence, I want you to remember every excruciating moment of this when I take you out from under my call. I know it will break you and than you'll be mine completely because the one person you love will hate you."

The scene blurs with my tears and sudden changes. Now I'm facing off against Barbara. Reese and Dinah trapped in the lift. She's at one end of the pool table walking around to me slowly, wary but oh so trusting. I tried to warn her.

"I'll hurt you." Part of me hoped she wouldn't listen.

"I don't think you will." She keeps coming. She didn't hear the eagerness in my voice mixed in with the warning. Then again, she never has truly listened to what I've always tried to tell her.

"Well it just goes to show the all-knowing Oracle doesn't know everything."

And it happens like before. I charge her, we fight. She's good, I never fought her like this before. This is the first time I learned she can really move on her legs and knee a body good. It excites the animal part of me. It's so much more personal that when we spared and her using her Jo sticks. I may not be able to have her in my bed but this is almost the next best thing. Us grunting and sweating against each other. When I have her down on the ground straddling her body, feeling the pulse of her neck against my hands, it's all I can do not to slide myself down and take her like I want to.

Unlike my memories, the flash doesn't happen. Her eyes are so sad looking up into mine. Her hand reaches up and caresses my face.

"You remembered. You remembered everything you did, everything Quinzel said and did to you. I won't ask why you lied. I understand."

My hands release her neck, knowing that the memory has frozen and it's me and dream Barbara again. My voice comes out a broken thing. "I tried to kill you. She killed Wade because of me but I tried to kill you Barbara."

I scramble off her. I want to wretch. I stay on my knees on the floor.

"It's not your fault." She sits up.

I stare at her horrified that she could say such a thing. Desperate that it could possibly be true. Despair, knowing that it can't be, that this is an elaborate lie in my head.

She crouches in front of me, her face and voice intense, her hands warm on my thighs. "Listen to me Hel. You wouldn't have killed me."

"Barbara, how can you say that when I -"

"No Hel, if you had really meant to kill me than I would be dead right now.Your feral side is strong enough and fast enough that you could have killed me within seconds if that had been what you really wanted. But you held back."

"No, I-"

She cuts me off again, making me flinch, her tone implacable."Yes, you did.You know your physical capabilities.You could have snapped my neck in a single blow. You didn't. In fact, your eyes didn't even go feral except for a split second when you had me on the ground. And I think that didn't have to do with the violence. Your real feelings, who you really are, held you back from truly hurting me."

I utter words I'm sure will damn me. "I told her to kill Wade. He's dead because of me."

"No!" Her hands are holding my face so that I can't look away from her green eyes blazing into mine. "She murdered him. Not you. You felt betrayed, angry, hurt, jealous...those are normal feelings Helena. You told Quinzel how you felt but you never once were anything more than a little rude to him. That person, who tries so hard to the point of breaking herself to protect me and make me happy, that's the real you Helena. You're noble, " her voice breaks as her bottom lip trembles and tears threaten to fall, "and you tried to give me so much I didn't even know. You've suffered so much because you love me. If there's anyone who should be sorry, it's me."

I can't take this. I fight her, struggling to get out of her reach. I curl into a tight ball. I don't deserve this, this kindness. I don't deserve her gentleness or her tears. I feel cold wind biting into my skin through my clothes. I know where I am. Back where I always feel the most like home except when I'm with her. I'm back at the ledge with the stone gargoyle.

"Helena, please, don't shut me out anymore."

"Please stop this." I beg her. I could handle the harsh words, even the hitting and the laughing but her compassion is hurting me worse than any of those things. I weep harshly into my drawn up knees, my hands a vice like grip around my legs as if I could hold all that pain in. I can't though. It comes out in wracking sobs and ragged breaths. Hot tears scald my face. How can a person not die from this pain?

Arms, her arms, warm and soft and strong all at the same time pull me into her. If this were the real world I would have fought. If she were the real Barbara I would have run away but the only thing real here is my pain. So I let the lie live on a little and do something I would never do otherwise, I let her hold me. I cry out all my agony, feeling the comfort of her touch, soft words murmured in my ear, sweet and low and soothing. It feels like an eternity before my body stops shaking and the crying stops. Her hand keeps running through my hair, her own tears drying with mine.

"How do you feel?" Her voice floats down to me where I rest in her arms.

"Like I can breathe again." I tell her just as softly. I can't help but add, "And like I just went through a demolition derby but without a car."

With my ear against her chest I feel her chuckle shake her body and hum through me. Moist lips touch my brow. "You really are incorrigible. But the description does seem apt."

"Why do you keep coming back here?" She asks after a moment.

"You mean this ledge?"

"Yes, that gargoyle's ugly. I just can't see the appeal."

It's such an absurd observation, such a Barbara thing to say that before I realize what I'm doing I'm laughing. A real full out laugh. Within seconds Barbara's joining me and we're both laughing, releasing the last of the tension we felt. It feels wonderful.

When we quiet down I'm wiping my eyes for a different reason than before. "That felt good." I get out a few remaining chuckles. "I can't remember the last time I laughed."

An elegant hand sweeps some strands of hair from my face. Barbara has that amused half smile of hers that drives me crazy for her. "I missed hearing it. And you're right. That did feel good."

I sit up a bit more and respond, "To answer you previous question I come here because it's my favourite place to fly."

She arches a crimson brow at me. "Fly? Do you have meta powers you haven't told me or does this require further elaboration?"

"Geez Barbara," I tease her, smiling for the first time in what feels like years, "Can't you just ask a girl 'What do you mean?'"

Her lips quirk upward "What do you mean?"

I push at her playfully and stand up. "It's actually falling more than flying but this is a great place to jump off. The wind catches you, you tumble and than race across roof tops. My sort of flying."

Barbara stands up and peers critically over the ledge. "That's a long way down."

"It's such a rush Barbara." I tell her excitedly, grinning like a fool. "You'd love it. And it's not like when you used to do it, with cables and stuff. I just use my speed and strength. Meta human flying at it's best."

She looks over the edge, than back at me. "Alright," she holds a hand out to me, "why don't you take me for a spin?"

"What? Really?" I never thought she'd say yes so I never asked. But then again, this is all just my bashed in head anyway so why not? "You really want to?"

"I trust you." She tells me evenly, sure. Than she gives me a grin to match mine. "Plus I want to see what it's like to be you and fly without the 'cables and stuff'."

I consider the height and her weight. Finally I just take her up in my arms. She's surprised but she puts her arms around me firmly holding on.

I step up to the ledge with her. "Okay, you hang on good and tight. I'll be doing some free falling tumbles so just let me hold you tucked into me and go with it okay?"

She nods, her eyes not even on me. Instead she's looking over the edge eagerly. I've never seen this Barbara before.

I add gallantly, "If you want to stop you just let me know and I land and ground us. I promise."

Her smile widens and her words are a challenge. "I won't be the one to say 'uncle'. But if you can't take it you let me know."

"Lady, you are on." I tell her, feeling giddy and nervous.

I tighten my hold on her and jump.

The strong winds lift us for a moment, than we free fall, our hearts in our throats. I do some somersaults with her cradled tightly in my arms to slow our descent. Within moments I land on the rooftop, my knees bend taking the extra weight of the woman in my arms. I barely hear her catch her breath before I take off at a run and hurdle us over the chasm between buildings to land on the other side. I don't stop for a moment, racing along the top of the city with Barbara in my arms, the wind in our hair, the night in our blood. I hear Barbara laugh a wild free sound and I smile. It's the most wonderful feeling in the world.

I hurl us both over the edge and into the air.

* * * * *

Hours later I land us onto a rooftop close to the Clocktower. I look at the charge in my arms, her red hair wind blown, her eyes brighter than I've ever seen them, and the widest smile that has ever graced her lips.

"I've never heard you laugh like that before." I tell her panting from the exertion of our trip. It was worth every burning muscle to see her like this and hear that laugh.

"Well," She pulls off like she's feeling completely casual but her own breath is short, "you never took my out rooftop racing before. Thanks for the ride."

"You're welcome but honestly, you're a great passenger." Which is true, she followed my cues for every tuck and tumble and landing like she was almost a second skin.

She pats my arms appreciatively. "This feels like the safest place in the world." She murmurs contemplatively.

"It's not though." Sadness drains what's left of my strength. I gently set Barbara on her feet.

"It is to me." She tells me, her tone as sober as mine.

"I wish this dream wouldn't end." I confess, feeling the sorrow and anguish return.

Barbara closes her jacket against he sudden cold wind rising. "It doesn't have to end Helena."

"It always does. I wake up. Or this time, not. But the dream will change and the nightmares will come back."

"Not if you come with me." She extends a hand to me, waiting, hoping. "Come with me Helena. Let me take you out of this place. Wake up."

I step away from her. "Aren't I supposed to be the crazy one here? I can't ever go back. I can't face the real Barbara."

Barbara frowns at me, not following. "The real Barbara?"

We're back at the gargoyle again and I want to run. "Yeah as in, not the Barbara my subconscious has created? As in the real world Barbara that's in that real world where I did all those horrible things? God, she got me out of there, out of Arkham. She might know what we said, Quinzel and I." The thought of being discovered, every nasty secret, sickens me. I kneel on the cold stone, clutching my churning stomach. "I don't want to see what she looks like hating me for real rather than just in my head."

There's a long silence. I wonder if maybe my mind erased the Barbara here but boots step into my vision, and then long leather clad legs bend into view as Barbara crouches down in front of me. I look up at her and she has the most inscrutable expression on her face. I don't know what to make of it.

"What if I told you the real Barbara is just like me? That she's not the monster that torments your subconscious here. That she wants you to wake up, more than anything."

I can't escape her intense regard. "She couldn't be. She has to blame me..."

Barbara shakes her head. "The only one blaming you is yourself. The only one punishing you is yourself Helena. Do you really think I'm such an ogre?"

"You'd have every right. She couldn't forgive me."

Her hand finds mine, warm and reassuring, her eyes swallowing me whole. "She already has."

I don't want to hope. It's the worst feeling when they tear it from you. Like cutting up your insides and choking you with them afterwards. "If I go back, it will be the same. She's the hero remember? She belongs to the city. She'll never belong to me."

Barbara has taken up her Oracle face, that enigmatic serious expression. "Is that what you want?" She asks. "To own me?"

I look down at the hand covering mine. "I don't know. How could you be mine when you belong to everyone else because of your sense of duty?"

"Helena," she answers me gently, "I do what I do because I love it. Because it helps fulfill me. Like flying, I loved that, what we did together. I felt complete being in your arms, trusting you. How did it make you feel?"

I considered than answered simply. "Happy. Free."

"Did you feel like you owned me then?"

I frown, thinking. "No, not at all. It felt like belonging. Like we belonged like that." My eyes widen at the realization. "I just wanted to keep feeling that way, to see you smile and laugh. To know I was the reason you were that happy."

Barbara nods at me. "That sounds like love Helena. Love is when you want to make someone else happy. A real monster, the kind of monster Quinzel is, can't understand that. They can't love because they don't have that depth of emotion. A real monster can't love."

"The less we feel, the less we are." I repeat Barbara's words from that day.


It's not enough though. "You've seen what I've done. What I feel, what I can do. That's not human!"

Barbara has the saddest and yet gentlest smile gracing her face. It's the most complicated smile I've ever seen. "Being confused and scared when you're in love and making mistakes because of it...is one of the most human conditions that exists."

Barbara stands up, putting her hand out again. "If you come with me, you might find out that your Barbara has made some of those very same mistakes. Because like you, she's only human."

"I'm meta too." But I can't tear my eyes away from that hand.

"Yes, but it doesn't make you any less human. In fact, with the hardships you've gone through, I think you have the most human heart I've ever known."

I frown. "I should stay."

"Even if it means hurting Barbara?" The Barbara in front of me persists, pain filling her words. "Because if she loses you it will hurt her Helena. It will hurt her so badly that she might never recover from it. After everything we've been through, don't you think we both deserve the chance to set it right?"

"Barbara deserves the best. That isn't me." My heart shatters at the admission, remembering Quinzel's earlier words.

Angry now, Barbara voice hits me like steel. "That's nothing but self-pity Helena!" She takes a breath to calm herself, than continues, her voice softer, the words no less sincere. "And you put me on too high a pedestal. If you take my hand and come with me, you might learn that Barbara has more flaws than you want to admit. If you notice them, maybe you won't love me anymore."

I look sharply up at her at that. The way the last words choked out of her but she stands still, meeting my gaze with all the strength I don't have. I tell her with all my heart, "I could never feel less for you Barbara. Not ever."

"Than please, don't let me lose the most important person in my life. Don't let me lose my best friend."

My hand reaches out, hesitates, hovering over hers. "It will hurt."

"But I'll be there to help. And everyday it will get a little bit better. I won't leave you Helena. I'd like this chance but you have to help me do it. You have to take my hand."

My breath catches at all the implications of facing the world. "If I say no, will you leave?"

With the same quiet certainty as before, she answers. "Not without you."

Meeting her gaze I know she means it. I could live here forever with this dream Barbara and never face reality. It's so tempting. Apparently though, even I can't live with myself being that much of a coward. Despite my terror and self-loathing, I clasp her hand.

The scenes all fade as I slowly return to consciousness.

Part Five

Waking up when you're in pain is always a trip. You never realize how much you're hurting at first, than as the haze recedes gradually the pain becomes more demanding, closing in on your senses. The dull throbbing in my right arm and shoulder were quickly becoming a flare of pain. And my head felt like it was too large and shrinking at the same time, causing a tight lancing pain pulsating in my head.

"Thank God, she's coming to. It worked." Barbara's voice.

"Oh good, I couldn't tell if you were reaching her." Dinah's close.


I can't let her touch me.

I struggle. Arms try to pin me down.

"What's going on?" Dinah asks frightened.

"She must be confused coming out of consciousness. We have to keep her still before she aggravates her injuries...Dinah, help me hold her."

No, she can't touch me! If she does she'll know everything I lied about. Everything still feels like it's a long way off, I still can't open my eyes. Panic floods me. Without thinking I lash out. A hand catches my fist in a warm, strong clasp. A grip I remember from hundreds of sparring sessions with Barbara. She's one of the few who can block and absorb my blows. The pain in my shoulder and head are now ten times worse but I can't let Dinah touch me. I have to protect her from the truth. I have to protect them both.

I hear a thud and a smack along with a groan.

"You alright Dinah?"

"Yeah." says the one who groaned. She's further away than before. That's good. "Just a little bruised. How can she do that only half-conscious?"

"Instinct." Barbara tells her.

Fighting, I manage to open heavy lids and blurrily see a face coming slowly into focus. Red hair framing a worried face. Green eyes are watching me intently from a very close proximity. She's leaning over me, holding me down.

Barbara smiles at me. "Welcome back. How do you feel?"

My tongue feels thick in my mouth. Everything feels clumsy. "Hurts. Head tight. Shoulder and arm hurt."

Her small smile grows in relief. "You're making sense. That's an excellent sign. You have a dislocated shoulder and a broken arm. Also some bruises and lacerations. Your head hurts because you bashed it pretty hard." A hand touches my face gently. "Next time you want to hit your head against a wall let me know and I'll set up a nice padded one for you alright?"

The words are said teasingly but there's an undercurrent of seriousness there. I scared her. If she knew the truth, she wouldn't give a damn about me.

Barbara frowns, "You're crying. Does it hurt that badly?"

Soft fingers take away tears leaking out of me. Her kindness hurts me worse than my head.

I hear movement over behind Barbara. I move my head only a fraction, my head screaming in protest. Dinah's on the floor against the wall picking herself up.

"Who knew you could kick like that still half-out of it?" She tells me jokingly but her face is filled with concern and something that she's trying to hide. I cant' read it.

I glance back at Barbara and notice for the first time some swelling starting along her jaw.

"What?" I ask but I fear I already know.

Barbara makes light of it. "You were coming to and started to struggle. When we tried to hold you still you became belligerent. I caught your fist but I forgot about your legs.

"I hurt you." My voice, already weak, breaks.

"It's nothing." She assures me, vibrating sincerity.

She's an angel and I'm nothing but an animal. Worse, a monster. A friend who betrayed her and all that love she gives me. I have to get out of here but I can't move. The pain is getting so much worse.

"Don't let her-" I can't get the words out as the darkness comes back to pull at me.

"Shh, you're in lot of pain Helena. You may pass out. Don't worry. Dinah and I are here to watch over you."

I can't fight it off anymore. I manage to only get one sentence out before I lose consciousness again.

"Don't let Dinah touch me."

* * * * *

The next time I open my eyes it's dark and the pain is a great deal less. I let my feral vision reveal to me that I'm lying in bed in Barbara's room. There's a cot near the bed with rumpled sheets and Barbara's sleeping in them. It heals part of my heart and wounds the other to know she was watching over me so closely. She loves me. At least, her ideal of me.

With my night vision I can easily see the bruising on her jaw from where I kicked her. Judging from the darkness of the bruise I've been out of it at least over a day. My first movements are careful, not just to be quiet but to make sure I can actually move without severe pain. I manage to sit up and my head is still only a dull ache. My arm and shoulder are tightly bound to my chest but even that doesn't hurt so bad. A hundred poptarts for me and my meta-human healing. Now if I can stand, I'll give myself a thousand poptart points.

I slip the IV out that I located on my arm. I'm in an oversized man's shirt and nothing else. I don't even want to think who's shirt it must have been. At least it smells of Barbara and her soap and no one else. otherwise the shirt would have to go too. My bare feet touch cold floor. I gingerly stand and my knees almost go out from under me. I clutch at the bed and quickly look at Barbara but I didn't need to panic. She's still sleeping. I didn't make much noise after all.

The pain isn't as bad but the weakness is. I end up half crawling out of the room. I have to get out of here. The longer I'm here the more I'm going to hurt them. I have to protect them from myself. I don't think I'm getting better at control, in fact, I'm getting worse. I never cry and now I've done it at least once in front of them. I hurt them when all they were trying to do is help me.

God, I feel so alone. I've made it into the main area, my whole body's shaking with the effort it cost me. It hits me there, as I drag myself closer to the elevator just how alone I am. The two people who mean the most to me are here. And I have to leave to protect them from myself, my thoughts, my actions. The only one who even came close to truly knowing me is sleeping back in the room I just left and everything in my soul screams for me to go back to her. It's a selfish want. But I want a lot of things I can never have.

My arms give out close to the elevator and I'm left lying there, dragging in air, my body trembling and cold with sweat. The cool floor against my cheek is soothing. Maybe if I just rest my eyes for a minute, catch my breath-

"Helena?" My eyes open to see steel wheels in front of me. I look up and Barbara's there, sleep tussled hair, a silk bath robe covering her where she sits in her manual chair. "Are you okay? What happened?"

"Had to go. I'm fine." I try to assuage the edge of panic in her voice.

Her eye brow arches at me. "Really? Being fine is why you're shaking and cold, drenched in sweat on the floor? And why were you leaving?"

"I hurt you. And Dinah." I tell her as if that explains everything. For me it does.

Barbara frowns at me. "You didn't mean it."

"How do you know that?"

"Because I know you." She states simply, reaching down to help me up. Carefully she helps me to stand but my legs are too shaky. She deftly takes me onto her lap, my legs over the one side, my head resting against hers, panting for breath.

"You should have stayed in bed." She scolds me while wheeling us back to her room.

"I didn't want to hurt you anymore."

The wheels stop, hands take my face and turn me so that I'm staring into eyes so intense I would try to pull away if I could. Barbara's words come fiercely. "You leaving would hurt me worse than anything you could do."

"You don't know that." My voice is small. I hate my weakness. I want to get out, jump off the building and fall into the night sky. The honest part of me wants to cry in her arms and beg her to make everything better.

An old smirk graces her face, "Of course I know, I'm Oracle remember?"

That almost got me to smile. Damn her. "You shouldn't joke. It's not right that I'm here."

Her hands leave me and she continues our progress to her bedroom. I'm exhausted. She doesn't say another word. Just helps me into bed and checks me over for injuries. Than she does something that takes me completely by surprise. She drops her robe, revealing a tank top and underwear. She slides her body onto the bed next to mine on the left side. Barbara comes closer and rests her head on the same pillow even, her arm going around my waist, holding me to her. Her hot breath and warm skin play havoc with my senses let alone my emotions.

I try to say something, at least I think so because my mouth opened but Barbara just holds me tighter and tells me very clearly. "You're exactly where you're supposed to be. Now get some sleep."

Despite my misgivings, I do.

Part Six

I wake to the scent of clean cotton sheets and soap. A warmth that has nothing to do with cozy blankets covers my left side, holding me down, and breathing gently on my neck. I open my eyes and confirm that it's not a dream. I'm in Barbara's room, in her bed, and Barbara is asleep holding onto me as if she never wants to let me go. Her face is so close to mine that a splash of her red hair covers my shoulder and part of my upper arm. An arm across my stomach clings to me like I'm her anchor instead of the other way around.

I've dreamt of this. Being here. Being with her. Being hers. Although many of my fantasies involved languid kisses and the feel of hands inside me, it would always return to the same thing. It would always come back to this moment. To the peace and comfort of being held and holding the one you love in turn. The serenity of going to sleep and waking up together in this sense of warm security. But this isn't a dream. And we didn't make love. We never have. We never will. It is such a pretty lie to pretend otherwise that I cling to it for a few moments more, for as long as I can. I try to still my breath so as not to wake her, wanting this to last even if it is all a lie. Deceit is one of the few things I do have still.

A sleepy voice startles me out of my melancholy, so very close to my ear. "Breathe Helena."

I take in an lung-full of air, not realizing that I had actually stopped breathing altogether. "I didn't want to wake you." I whisper back to her.

Barbara doesn't move away. "That's sweet of you but oxygen is still essential for your continued existence, which I'm rather fond of." Her body tenses as she wakes more completely. "Are you in any pain?"

"Just some achies on my ouchies, nothing more." I struggle to sound like my usual self.

"Good." She exhales in relief, her body relaxing fully against mine again.

We continue to lie there, the silence stretching tighter around my chest. Very quietly, I have to ask her, "Aren't you going to ask me about Arkham?"

Her voice replies just as quietly as mine, "Do you want to talk about it? If not, don't. I can wait until you're ready."

I swallow past a dry throat. "No, I don't want to talk about it right now." I don't want to have her fling me from her bed, throw me out of her life just yet. Never. But sooner or later I'll have to face that music. Just not right now, not with her in my arms.

The arm around me gives me a light squeeze. "When you do want to, I'll listen. Okay?"

My heart feels closed in a fist. "'k." I blink my eyes several times. I'll be damned if I cry again. I've already cried more in the past weeks than the past five years.

Barbara pushes herself up on one arm, her hair sliding off my skin in a delicious tickle of sensation. Green eyes peer into mine. Her hand moves from its tucked position around me to brush my misbehaving hair from my eyes, then rests against my heart. "Hey, take it easy." She soothes. "Everything will be all right. It'll get better a little bit everyday. You'll see. I'm here for you, with you. And I'm not going anywhere. So just hang in there for me, ok? No more disappearing acts. Please. I couldn't take losing you Helena. Please, let me help you through this."

I can't believe the words, these indescribable words once told me in a dream. Barbara frowns, glancing down at the hand over my heart than back to my face. "Are you okay Hel? Your heart's suddenly beating a mile a minute."

I blink, try to swallow again but it's too dry. "It's...what you said reminded me of a dream I had after I bashed in my head. It was a really nice dream." The kind you want to be real, and when you realize it isn't, you ache inside with all you have and everything you are. I look away from her. "It was just a silly dream. I'm being goofy I guess. Do you have anything to drink here? I'm really thirsty."

"Just a dream?" She echoes while reaching over me to the nightstand and comes back with a bottle of water. She sits up and helps me do the same.

"Thanks." I say as I guzzle the water down.

"Anytime," she responds automatically. Though, in her eyes, is a glint I know so well. It's the look she gets when she's working on a problem or theory of some sort and she won't let up until she figures it out. I don't know what brought it on.

She checks my pulse and I quirk an eyebrow at her. She answers my unspoken question. "I was concerned about your heart rate but it already seems to be coming down to normal again. Your body's been through a lot of stress, not only with the injuries but with trying to heal itself. You should avoid anything stressful for the next few days while you're still recuperating. And make sure you get plenty of rest."

"Yes, doctor." I can't help but tease her when she's being so serious.

"Just promise me you'll take it easy and rest."

"I promise oh captain, my captain." I give her a saucy wink, not wanting her to worry over me. It only makes me feel more ashamed.

My comment has the desired effect of making her smile, if only that lopsided, indulgent turn of the lips. I notice a look of resolve in her eyes where the glint had been before. As if she's come to a conclusion about whatever had been working through her mind and has decided on a course of action.

"Good. Then you'll let me check your vitals and your injuries without the usual fussing and complaining from you?" She made it sound much more like a demand that an actual request.

"Sure. But who knew you were so bossy? Does Dinah have to put up with this?"

She settles herself into her manual chair and smirks at me. "You've always known I was this bossy. As for Dinah, she doesn't complain."

"Oracle's pet." I huff, hiding my smile by taking another drink from the bottle.

Barbara checks me over with her usual thoroughness. She shakes her head with something close to awe. "Thank God for your meta-human healing abilities."

"Yeah, good for what ails ya." I glibly respond. I try not to wince at the discomfort of the thermometer she gentle puts in my ear. "Heals all the hurts." The ones on the outside anyway. "Too bad we can't market it."

This is where she would normally smirk and say something clever and caustic. Instead, she covers my hand with hers, her expression serious. "You don't have to do this."

"Do what?"

"Pretend. Act like nothing's happened and make jokes even though you're hurting on the inside. It's okay for you to let yourself feel, Helena. Give yourself room to heal the inside as well as the outside."

I stare at her. Barbara's always had a habit of being able to surprise me, but she's done it more in the past week than all our years together. Looking at her I can tell she means every word.

The beep of the thermometer distracts her and she releases me from her gaze. She reads the display and frowns. "Your temperature's running higher than I'd like."

I shrug with my one good shoulder, grateful for the change of focus. "My body always runs hot when it's healing something big."

"I know. But I don't want you to get worse. If the fever gets too high you'll get worse, not better. This is why you have to rest and not let anything get you worked up. Any severe emotional stress could be the straw that breaks the luck we've had with your recuperating. You need to let your body heal itself."

Her tone is stern but the thought of what she's suggesting makes me frown for entirely different reasons. "I don't do bedridden very well."

She casts me a wry look. "I'm well aware of that. I still remember what you were like when you had pneumonia."

I wince at the memory. It was back when we were still struggling with our new roles in each other's lives, after my mother had died and Barbara had been shot. We were both depressed, near suicidal, and fighting with our need for each other. Always on edge and angry. One night changed it all. I had stayed out in bad weather when I already had a bad cold. I still remember the loss of time and the fear as I fought nightmares in my weak, ill state. Only Barbara's voice and constant gentle ministrations chased them away. When I finally woke up and didn't cough harshly at every attempted movement, I found an exhausted Barbara asleep, slumped over in her chair by my bedside. My movements had woken her, and when she saw me awake and better, that smile filled with relief and love, made me smile back shyly. And some of the anger I had went away right then. Its edges dulled by a tired, genuine smile and relieved green eyes. After that we had both recovered, realizing we were more scared of losing each other than not facing life again.

It didn't change the fact that I remained afraid of getting the slightest bit sick. I can't bear the though of being vulnerable, especially now. "It won't be that bad, will it?" I ask apprehensively.

Barbara squeezes my hand again. "Not if you rest."

I groan. "Okay, okay, I get it. Bed rest it is."

"It won't be that bad." She tries to reassure me. "Try not to worry. I know how you hate to feel vulnerable."

I glance at her quickly but her eyes are innocent. "Have you checked to see if you've developed Dinah's telepathic abilities? I swear that's not the first time where it's felt like you're in my head or something."

She tilts her head and gives me a sly smile. "Not yet. I just know you."

The movement put her profile into the light of the room. The bruise along her jaw stands out suddenly in stark contrast to her fair skin. My good hand reaches out to trace it but I stop myself in time, and let it drop back to the bed. "Doesn't look like you knew well enough to duck." I say morosely.

"I'm perfectly fine." She quick to point out.

"And Dinah?" I ask carefully.

"She's a little bruised." She answers, her suddenly neutral expression and voice even more careful than mine. "That's not what's really hurting her."

I remember Dinah's flinch when I yelled for her not to touch me. I remember the pain in her eyes. Pain I put there.

I sigh, looking down, "I hurt her."

"Yes, you did." Barbara affirms, not judging. "But she'll forgive you. If you let her. You'll need to talk to her when you're feeling better. She doesn't understand why you've been pushing her away. She's afraid it's because of her."

I stare at the soft green blanket like it's the most fascinating thing in the world.

"It's not because of her." I finally say.

"I know that." Barbara tells me gently. "But she's the one who needs to hear it."

It's too raw inside me. I can't confess yet, coward that I am, but I explain this much to her. "You know what I did at Arkham. What I was going to do. Can you blame me for not wanting her to feel that kind of hate?"

Slender fingers tilt my chin up to meet eyes that are a softer and so much deeper green than the blankets I'm clutching.

"I don't blame you for anything." Barbara tells me.

It breaks something inside me to have to make her see this truth about me. "I went in there to kill her Barbara. Murder Quinn. Don't try to make it all noble as if I wasn't intending to."

"I know. I wasn't." Her face struggles for that mask of neutrality but there are cracks in it. I see her grief and know I'm the cause.

"After you killed her, what were you going to do then?' She asks me, barely a whisper.

The question takes me by surprise, steals my breath for a moment as my heart freezes. I open my mouth, close it. I know what she's asking. No matter what words I choose, my answer can only hurt her.

"I couldn't survive in a cage Barbara."

Her grip on my hand tightens painfully, as does her expression. The eyes that delve into mine are wet and fierce. "I can't live without you Helena. I won't. So if you ever, ever consider committing suicide again, know that it won't just be you that you kill."

"It wasn't going to be suicide." I protest weakly against her obvious anguish.

Green turns into iron, her words implacable. "That's exactly what it was Helena. You went to kill Quinn in Arkham, the most fortified super maximum penal institution for the criminally insane. You know their procedures as well as I do and even if you can circumvent getting in, they have neural monitors in all their inmates. As soon as Quinn flat-lined the lockdown procedures would have sprung into effect. The whole place would have lit up like a Christmas tree with lasers on any moving targets outside the cubicles. Even with all your agility, you wouldn't have been able to get past that. You can't lie to me and pretend that you intended to come back to me from that. To come back at all. We both know the truth."

My chest seizes at the naked ache so visible in every line of her. I search her eyes for any clue as to what I could possibly say to lessen it for her, save her from me. I can find none.

Her hand on mine clamps down on my wrist. A realization dawns on her face. My eyebrows rise at her curse as she lets out a long, pent up breath. "I'm so sorry Hel. Your pulse is elevated. I told you, you needed to avoid any stress and then I get into an highly emotional topic with you."

I shake my head and say with thick self-loathing, "You have nothing to apologize for. None of this would be happening if it wasn't for me."

She takes my face in her hands, holds me tenderly. "No, don't slide back now Hel. We do need to talk. I admit that, but it has to wait until you're stronger. I was so scared I would lose you. And yes, part of me is angry that you could take such a course of action that would destroy us both, but more than any of that, I'm just so grateful you didn't succeed, relieved that you're here. I care for you so much Helena, you are the person most dear to me in my life. I need you. More than you realize. If you believe nothing else please believe that. Hold on to it until you're stronger."

I can't handle this gently relentless resolve of hers. "I've never been strong Barbara, that's you. I don't have your kind of strength. I never have."

"You're stronger than you know. Better than you think." She persists.

"You can't know that."

"Helena, I know it down to my very core." She takes me into her arms as if she means it, like she believes every word.

I let her. I'm too overwhelmed to fight. It surprises me that I want to believe her. It amazes me that there's a part of me that actually wants to believe that I might not be the unredeemable mess that I've so devotedly believed myself to be all this time. It confused the worst I felt about myself, the worst I knew within myself.

I stayed there in her arms for as long as I could, thief that I am. Stealing these moments of her generosity and kind faith before I tear it all away later. I can't help it. I love her and I hate myself. I take in the warmth of her body, the feel of her arms around me but my hurt shoulder is beginning to protest. And the angle we form, me in my bed and her in the chair, is awkward. I pull away but it's like pulling taffy. There's something thick between us, still clinging between us, even as our bodies part completely.

Her hand caresses the side of my face and despite myself I lean into the gesture, closing my eyes momentarily.

"You need to sleep. Your body's working overtime. I want you to try to eat something first to help you regain your strength. I'll go downstairs and get you some food. I want you to eat some of it-"

"And sleep more?" I finish for her, giving a slow blink. As soon as she had said the word sleep I felt the fatigue in every part of my body, weighing me down. It's as if the exhaustion was just waiting for a cue before my body reminded me of what it needed.

"And sleep more." Barbara agrees, tucking the covers around me. How did I end up lying down already? My blinks are getting longer and heavier.

"Eat first." I respond, sliding my eyes closed. An afterthought catches my now meandering consciousness. "You should really learn how to cook."

"Says the pot to the kettle." Even with my eyes closed I can hear the smirk. "Go ahead and sleep." she urges me. "You can eat later when you next wake up."

My mind's drifting. "I can't stay in your bed."

"Why not?" The amused voice floats down to me. "Isn't it comfy?"

"Yeah, comfy..." I admit, no longer able to open my eyes, losing myself to moments of grey fog before sleep takes me away completely. "I don't want to hurt you...if I have bad dreams..." I always have bad dreams.

"Don't worry. You won't," she soothes, her palm smoothing hair back from my face. "I'll be here to chase any bad dreams away."

True to her word, I drift off into a dreamless sleep.

Part Seven

This week has seen the most bizarre dancing that I've ever done. My body grows stronger with every passing day but so does that ever increasing burn of hate for what I've done, what I am. My emotional wounds gape at me as I do nothing but sit, eat, sleep and watch TV or play video games. Far, far too much time to think. To brood. To let the abyss within me widen to consume me and taunt me to jump. And every time it begins to win, Barbara shows up and drives it back with nothing more than her gentle touches and the soft strength in her eyes that holds knowledge waiting to be shared.

She wants to talk. No pushing, no prying. Just waiting with a patience I could never fake, let alone have. She stays close enough to keep the monsters within me at bay whenever I come close to running, but she gives me enough space, so that I don't feel trapped or pressured. The pressure I feel isn't coming from her. It isn't even coming from Dinah, who's been my silent accomplice in our steps to avoid one another. It bothers Barbara. It bothers all of us. But everyone's being so kind, and nice and understanding, and giving me all the time in the world to come to grips and explain.

It could almost make me hate them.

I feel like a rabid animal who needs to bite, snarl and rend. It's guilt, urging me to hurt myself more by hurting those around me. And maybe something far more petty. Simply the unrighteous anger of a bad person against a swell of kindness I could never hope to understand.

Barbara's right though. I need to speak to Dinah. I just don't know how to do that without the two worst possible things happening. Either all my secrets leak out and worm their way under her skin to play like a horror movie behind her eyelids, or the monster within me rears its head and shows its fangs and sinks them into her. It wouldn't be the first time I've let my rage lash out at innocents. At the last people in the world I truly want to hurt.

I don't trust myself. After everything I've done, how can I?

So here I am, wanting to beat down my ample cowardice. Because I'm stuck between my own fears and self-loathing, Dinah's pain, and Barbara's determination to work everything out.

It figures that I would be the one to break first.

It's mid-afternoon and I know exactly where the kid is. Barbara's out running errands. That gives me time to pack and run should I need it. When Dinah learns what I've held back and tells Barbara, or I tell Barbara, all their love and sweetness will be stripped away. Which it should be. But I still want it. Want their love. Want them, my family.

I'm such a mess.

I knock on Dinah's door and hear a surprised voice tell me to come in. I open it and there she is, lying stomach down on her bed wearing a white tee and some dark track pants, reading some magazine. Part of me wants to turn back, say forget it. The more twisted part of me wants to jump on the bed and tickle her just to hear her laugh again. I never claimed to understand my perverse, contrary nature. In fact, I probably understand myself the least of anyone.

Dinah breaks the stalemate with, "I actually didn't expect you for another week. Damn, that means Barbara won the betting pool."

I tread over her threshold. "You two had a betting pool on how long it would take me to apologize?"

She shakes her head, blonde hair like sunshine, eyes gleaming the blue of summer skies. "No. But it would have been funny if we did. Plus it got you in the room, didn't it?"

That smile on her face is all happy and sure. She looks younger than she really is, than the mind behind that sweet, innocent face. I really have to try harder at remembering that. "Alright, you get smart points. Happy?"

Her smile leaves as though it never was. "Not for a while now, no."

I hadn't expected that. Directness, that should be me, yet I'm the one stalling. I must be making a very bad impression. I take a breath, and another step into the room. "I'm sorry Dinah."

Dinah shakes her head. "It's not going to be that easy. I know you're sorry. What I need to understand is why?"

I remember what Barbara said. I tell Dinah, "It's not you."

She sits up, tossing the magazine aside. "Are you sure about that? Because I know how people think of me. I remember what it was like in my home town, and with my parents. No one wanted me to touch them because I saw things. Even if they wanted to believe and make like I didn't, it didn't change the fact that they didn't want the freak to touch them." Blue eyes darkened with painful memories and fears, old and new, meet mine. "Are you afraid of me? Do you not want this freak to touch you?"

The way her last words came out, small and lost, shatters something inside me. In one heartbeat I'm by her bedside. By the second beat I've pulled her into my arms and am holding her tight, tight to me. I feel her tears wet my neck. "I'm so sorry Dinah. God, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you. You're not a freak. Do you hear me? You're not a freak."

She cries against me, her words choked. "It's my worst nightmare. That everyone I love won't want me near them because of what I am, what I can do. They're all afraid of me reading their minds. But I can't do that without touching a person Helena. And I would never read your mind without your permission. I have so much more control now! I would never betray your trust like that!"

I can only hold her while she cries and I keep apologizing. Any fears of my rage harming her have been swept away by her tears and my growing sorrow for all the unintentional wrong I've done to the only two people who mean everything to me. My desperation to ease her hurt, to even begin to start to heal the pain I've caused her, gives me the ability to tell her something I should have before.

"I love you Dinah. I never meant to hurt you. I only wanted to protect you."

Arms around me tighten at the words and she cries still, but now the tears are softer, the choked sounds gone. "You really love me?"

"Of course I do. We're family, right?"

"I always wanted a good family to belong to. One that truly loved me." She buries her face against my neck, tears falling silent and warm. "I'm glad it was you and Barbara. I love you Helena. Both of you. That's why it hurt so much when I thought you felt I was a -"

"What have I told you before about the 'F' word?" I joke to her.

She chuckles while pulling away from me and wiping her eyes. "I remember."

She looks at me, the chuckle gone, her eyes still damp even though her face is now dry. "You've been so angry and sad all the time. I was scared because I didn't know how to help. And then it seemed like you didn't want me near you."

"Actually, the truth is that I didn't want you near me. I was never afraid of you Dinah. I was afraid for you, of what touching me, reading me, might do to you. And I was afraid of how you'd react, if you knew how I felt, what I was, what I've done."

"And now?" Dinah watches me carefully.

I take a deep breath and let it out slowly. Then, I raise my hand up between us, offering it to her. "If you want to. If it will convince you of how sorry I am, than take my hand. Read me. But it's not good Dinah. It'll change how you feel about me."

Dinah shakes her head and says with all the sincerity of the truly young who can still believe in good things, "Nothing you've done, or how you feel, could ever make me care less for you Helena."

Without the slightest hesitation, she takes my hand in hers.

It's different than the first time she read me in that alley where we first met. Then, I just thought it was static electricity. And chalked up her distracted expression to the shock of nearly being attacked and then unconventionally rescued. This time I feel the current from her and know it for what it is. Her power. I can't read the inward expression on her face, in her eyes. Then just as suddenly, it's over. She blinks and her eyes refocus on mine. Her hand doesn't release me though.

"Helena," her voice cracks, "I don't think you're a monster. I'm glad you showed me. It must have been so hard to keep this inside for so long...I'm so sorry you felt you had to go through it alone."

Dinah than does the damnedest thing. She hugs me.

I push her off. "Are you sure you read me? Maybe you need to hold on longer or something. That didn't take very long. You must have missed something."

She grabbed the hand she had released when she hugged me. "Yes, I'm sure I read you. I don't need longer. No, I didn't miss anything." Her looks at me with such sympathy it makes me ache. "Why can't you believe that I forgive you? That you're not the terrible person you seem to need to believe you are? Helena, I love you. You're my family. You and Barbara are the only family I have. You two are my world. I've known real monsters Helena, honest. I can tell you about my foster parents if you want. I can show you real monsters. You're not one of them." She squeezes my hand for emphasis. "You're not like that at all."

I can only gape at her.

Taking in my expression, Dinah gives a small laugh. "I never thought I'd make the great big, bad Huntress speechless."

I try to correct her. "You saw what I feel for Quinn right? I mean, you do know I was going to kill her. Good people don't murder other people Dinah."

She nods, her face serious. "But sometimes a person in a great deal of pain can make some very bad choices when they're hurting, afraid, and confused." Eyes too old for her face look at me."Ever since what happened with Quinn, you and Barbara have been so lonely and need each other so much. I wish...I wish I could help make it better for you somehow. Better for both of you."

The sincerity of her words breaks my heart just a little. I take her back into my arms and hold her close. Somehow this young woman has done what only Barbara has been able to do before. She's managed to find a crack in my heart and slip past it to rest securely inside. A new light in my otherwise dark soul. Dinah has found a room in my heart I never knew I had until now. One that wanted family, a sister. Someone to tease and play with and protect. A friend. One whose heart was far larger, and showed more courage and pure loyalty to those she cared for, than any other person I've met save one.

It's so hard, but I try for her sake, maybe for my own, to tell her what's in my heart. "Dinah, you do so much already. You help us just by being here. By being who you are. You do so much for us simply by being in our lives and part of our family. However warped we may be. You got that Sunny D?"

I move away enough to see her face and she glances down with a shy smile. That one look tells me something unexpected. Her bashful expression shows that all her innocence isn't gone yet. Her life with us hasn't worn all her youth away and that gladdens me more than I thought possible.

"That nickname beats 'Blondie' or 'Kid' " She tells me blushing. "I've missed you teasing me. I've missed us hanging out at the mall shopping or watching movies like we used to now and then when you had time. Before."

Before Quinn. Before I went a little mad. "I missed spending time with you too." I mean it.

"You want to do something today? The afternoon's still young. We could grab some vids and ice cream and all other sugary fun and sack out like the pigs we are." I offer her, still meaning it. There was always something relaxing spending time with her. Maybe it was reliving those last years of teenhood I never had the chance to experience before, what with my mother murdered and my rage and becoming a vigilante. Dinah became an unexpected sanctuary from those darker days. Now here I am at one of the darkest possible moments and this slip of a girl is the one who's presence comforts me. How do the damned get such gifts?

Dinah is trying to judge my sincerity. "Really? You really want to hang this aft? Have, like, a daytime slumber party?"

Her whole face lights up at my nod. Like this, it's hard to see the wise adult within her. Right now she's all enthusiastic teenager and it's such a wonderful sight to know I haven't stripped her of that. I realize I would do anything to keep that smile on her face, to protect her youth, what remains of it, for as long as I can.

"Yep, sure thing D. We can even get into pjs if ya want. Hell, you can even pick the movies."

A wicked gleam shines in her baby blues. "I pick the movies? You get no veto power?"

I feel like I've walked unsuspectingly into a trap. "I didn't say that."

Dinah grins, wagging her finger. "Ah, ah Huntress, remember, this is about atonement."


"That's right." Dinah crosses her arms over her chest, her smile smug. "You'll need to beat yourself up more since you think I forgave you too easily. This way, you do penance, and then if you suffer enough you'll feel better about my forgiving you."

"That's messed up." I tell her.

She raises her eyebrows at me silently waiting.

"But it makes sense to me." I finally agree.

She bounces on her heels. "Yes! This is gonna be so cool!"

Dinah grabs my arm, dragging me out of the room, then out of the clock tower. I have to admit, I'm feeling better already. Maybe everything will turn out okay after all.

* * * * *

It's late into the night, I had long ago left Dinah crashed on the couch. Barbara finds me in her room, lying on her bed, my arm flung over my eyes.

"Please put me out of my misery." I groan.

Barbara chuckles. "You were watching movies Helena. How bad could it have been?"

"Sure, laugh at my pain. It's not the sugar rush that did me in Barbara. It was those...those movies! Who could have known there were so many movies about girls whining over pink dresses or the cheerleader movies, my god Barbara, the cheerleader movies!"

"She's a teen Hel. What did you expect?"

"Dinah's the Devil." I declare solemnly.

Barbara laughs. And I peek out from under my arm to watch her change for bed. I was already in my boxers and sleeveless tee from watching movies with the kid. Even though I'm all better, I still sleep in her bed. Barbara hasn't said anything, just one night when I could've crashed anywhere else, she asked if I was coming to bed yet because she was tired. I went. Since then we've had this unspoken understanding that I sleep with her. It totally messes with me. I want to seduce her. Or hug her really hard. Or stay awake and stare at her the entire night while she sleeps. I'm so much better at being a fucked up asshole than this other person emerging from me.

"I'm glad you two made up." Barbara draws my attention back to her as she slides in the bed with me with little more than a silk pajama top of deep blue covering her.

If there's anything underneath I don't know about it. A part of me wants to and comes to life. I'm glad my eyes are shadowed by my arm and hand over them because I feel the change as my beast rises within me. I wonder if Barbara knows she sleeps night after night in shaky safety from me. From my desires.

I take a breath, then another. I sense her leaning over me, her scent doing nothing to help assuage the blood suddenly roaring inside me.

"You okay?" She asks softly. So softly.

I sigh. "Yeah. Just beat and wired at the same time I guess. Too much sugar."

Her hand rests lightly on my stomach. "Tummy ache?" She asks.

"Nah, I'm fine."

"Everything is all worked out between you and Dinah isn't it?"

"Yeah, yeah." I wave her concerns off. "Just took a lot out of me. I'll be fine tomorrow."

Her lips press warm and melting upon my cheek. "I really am glad you both are okay together again."

I have to smile behind my arm. I confess, honestly happy. "Me too."

Too quickly though, my thoughts turn to grim things. And in what has become a nearly nightly ritual, I start our odd bout of pillow talk. "At least she doesn't have to worry about you ever trying to deceive her."

"That's not true. I hid the fact that we were trying to find Hawke from her. We all lie Helena. And we always have our rationalizations and excuses for it."

"That's different." I insist, "You've never been purposely deceitful. Then, you were trying to protect her for as long as you could. It's not like you were never going to tell her. You don't practice actual deception." Unlike me, always lying, covering my tracks. It seems like I'm getting worse at it lately.

"You don't think I'm deceptive?" she sounds amused and I'm being serious.

"No." I tell her, now thoroughly in a bad mood.

Barbara throws me a curve ball. "I'm really glad you've got your talk with Dinah out of the way."

"Why's that?"

"Because that means it's my turn next." she says enigmatically, turning off the light and laying down to sleep.

I'm grateful for the dark because my eyes are wide open with sudden and complete terror.

Part Eight

Despite my fear, sleep claims me. A soul-deep weariness drags me under. I always dream. I wait for them to come, visions of blood and anger and screams.

Nothing could prepare me for what did appear.

It's still the city. But it's not any New Gotham I recognize. There's no cold wind, no stench of rancid decay that I'm used to. The breeze is gentle, and the smells are like any city anywhere. I'm not haunting rooftops, I'm on the ground. And the sky above me isn't dark. I'm standing on a sidewalk, in the day, under a sky of perfect, unmarked blue. People are about. Families and couples, walking by me like I'm as normal as a blue sky. Across the street, children are buying ice cream from a man wearing a white cap in an equally white truck. Happy. That's the only word to encompass the scene I'm in.

It unnerves the hell out of me.

I look down at myself and am reassured by the familiarity of my long black coat, similar shirt, leather pants and black combat boots. My night gear. I'm grateful that something's normal here. I see a bench beside me and decide to sit. Not knowing what else to do, I watch the kids playing in the street.

"Here." A familiar voice just behind me and to the right says.

I turn my head and see a slender hand offering me a chocolate ice cream cone. I look past the hand and ice cream and look up into amused green eyes.

I take the cone and wave at dream Barbara to sit down. "You got any idea what freaky thing this is all about? Because I gotta tell ya, aside from you, it's creeping me out."

Barbara laughs, "Only you could find a scene like this creepy."

I stare at Barbara. There's a word to describe how she looks licking her ice cream, wearing her white tee shirt, jeans, motorcycle boots and the familiar jacket. That word is sexy. Damned sexy. Hell, even my subconscious version of her turns me on. Pathetic.

I gesture to the people around us. "Barbara, people are acting happy."

She comments with her usual sarcasm, "Helena, people can be happy. It's actually a state many seek. Anyone is capable of it. Including you."

I shake my head in disbelief and lick my cone. My eyebrows rise, "It's triple chocolate. That's my-"

"Favourite. Yes, I know."

"What flavour's yours?"

"Rum and raisin."

"Yuck! How can you lick that?"

"It keeps you from stealing bites of it now doesn't it?" she smirks at me knowingly.

"That was one time and years ago! Sheesh, if a friend won't even share a lick of her ice cream...that's not right. Besides, it can be fun to share." I finish my statement by curling my tongue and caressing my ice cream suggestively. I hold Barbara's gaze with mine as I do so. She stares at me so long that I finish my ice cream.

"Your ice cream's melting."

She clears her throat and looks after her own cone. "Don't you need to breathe at all when you eat food like that?"

"The one thing I definitely never lack is stamina." I lick the stickies of my hand and fingers where the ice cream had dripped.

"Must you make everything sound so suggestive?" She complains, noticing the movement of my tongue around my digits.

"No," I grin mischievously at her. "But it sure makes it more fun."

Barbara shakes her head but she's still smiling. She finishes the remains of her ice cream and wipes her hands off with a napkin. She stands and tosses it into a nearby garbage can. Over her shoulder she calls, "You coming?"

Curious, I stand and follow her around the corner of a red brick building. This is one bizarre dream for me but so far it's...okay. Once I turn the corner fully, I stop and gape a little. Sleek looking Barbara is standing by an almost equally sleek bike, looking at me expectantly.

"What's this?" I ask.

"A motorcycle." She answers me, speaking slowly. "A fuel injected engine on two wheels that has the capacity to carry two individuals and travel at high velocities.

I toss her my most unfriendly glare, "Seriously, what's the deal? I don't get this cleaner, happier Gotham, the blue skies, you being all nice to me. Why's everything so perfect?" I never could trust a good thing.

"Not everything is perfect." Barbara responds, a shadow passing over her face. In the distance, I can hear gun shots and a maniacal laugh that sends cold shivers down my spine. Barbara shakes her head and blinks, and just as quickly the eerie sounds are gone.

"What the Hell was that?" I ask.

Barbara pauses near her bike. "Something else. It's not why I brought you here."

"Brought me here?" I'm deeply at sea.

"We have a lot to talk about." Barbara tells me in her serious, near Oracle-like voice. She studies me for a moment. Then she smiles and it's even more perfect than the blue sky above us. "But first I'd like to take you somewhere else. A better place. As much as I like this memory of Gotham, I want to show you my special place. A place for us to have our quid pro quo."

"Barbara," I explain to her patiently, used to this from her over he years. "You slipped into nerd speak on that last part so can you back it up a bit?"

"Oh, it just means a mutual and equal exchange." One of the things I always liked about Barbara is that she explains things and answers any question without ever making you feel inadequate or stupid. It's one of the things that makes her a great teacher and a great person. Honestly, I'm still not following but she's giving me that lopsided smile of hers and it's distracting.

Half hopeful, half shy, she continues, "Plus, I wanted to offer you a ride. In return for the one you gave me." She pats her bike affectionately. "I know it can't compete with hurtling over rooftops but I promise it will be fun."

I look around at this perfect Gotham, the perfect sky, and perfect Barbara. "Am I dead?" I finally ask her.

Barbara bursts out laughing."No, you're not dead Hel. Just a bit of turn around. I'll explain it all, I promise. For now, can you trust me enough to let me give you a ride with me?"

She holds her hand out to me and it reminds me strongly of the time before, when this realistic dream Barbara held out her hand to lead me back to life.

Now, like then, I take her hand.

I straddle the bike behind her. I'm all too aware of the heat emanating from the body so close to me. Gingerly, I place my hands on her hips.

Barbara throws me a sly look over her shoulder. She grabs my hands and pulls them snugly around her waist, forcing my body to embrace the full length of her from behind. She gives my arms a pat before she revs her bike. "You're going to want to hang on tight for this."

I bury my face in the heavy read silk of her hair and purr into her ear, "Well then, let's see if you can impress me."

In answer to my challenge she guns the engine. Without warning, she makes the bike jump as we hit the street.

Holy shit, Barbara Gordon just popped a wheelie.

She moves us easily through the traffic, weaving us in and out at ever increasing speeds. In no time, we're past the city limits and onto open road. That's when Barbara chuckles low and throaty. She ups our speed even higher. Faster and faster we go until I can barely open my eyes against the wind's sting and Barbara's mane whipping behind her like fire. The scenery becomes a blur of colours.

It feels like flying.

This is...wild.

I laugh and feel her do the same even as the wind steals the sound. I think this is the best dream I've ever had.

* * * * *

A wonderful eternity passes before she eventually slows and we stop. I get off and she follows. My body hums from the ride.

I study her flushed appearance and know she feels the same. "That was amazing. I never knew you could drive like that!"

Her smile is the most open and happy I've ever seen her. It's the most unguarded expression she's ever allowed me to witness. It batters my heart to see it. If I hadn't been in love with her already, that smile alone would trip me to fall for her all over again.

"It was cool wasn't it." she grins breathless.

"Damn fine ride." I agree whole heartedly. A grin of my own stretching my face with unaccustomed joy.

Barbara gazes around us, exhilarated. "This is my special place. What do you think of it?"

I was so busy admiring Barbara that hadn't noticed our surroundings. Now that I did, I couldn't help but gasp at the sight.

We're surrounded by trees. The tress rippled with fragrant blossoms of red, pink and white. The petals dance on the sweet wind and swirl around us. I'm kissed softly by a white petal that touches my cheek before falling to join the colourful, sweet scented carpet of petals on the ground. I've never seen anything like this before in my life.

That troubles me, after all, shouldn't the stuff in my head be what's in my head?

I look to Barbara, who's already seated herself under one of the trees. I walk over to her, noting how her eyes sparkle as she watches me.

"It's Japan." she supplies. "I went here once long ago for a gymnastics competition. It's one of my favourite memories, being here, under the cherry blossoms."

That explains it. I must have seen a photo she had and heard her talk about it at some point. I just don't remember it consciously.

It's so strange, but here, I'm not on edge and angry and fearful like I usually am in my dreams. Instead, I feel safe, protected.

"This place is amazing. Spectacular." I tell her warmly. I decide since this is all some crazy, happy dream, that I'll take advantage of it while it lasts. Casual, that's me as I lay down by her and lay my head in her lap. Almost instantly, her hands are in my hair, threading her fingers through my short strands lovingly. It makes my bruised heart ache. If only this were real. Tears prick my eyes and I force them down. I don't want to ruin this mood.

"You like, I take it?" she asks gently.

"I like." I tell her with all certainty.

"I'm glad." She gazes past me after, looking at nothing, deep in thought. "I also wanted to share myself with you. It's not easy for me to let go of my self-control." A forlorn sigh escapes her.

"Hey," I touch her face lightly, concerned, "you don't have to tell me anything. Share anything. Not if it makes you sad."

She grasps my hand and kisses the palm, searing my soul with the gentle touch of her lips upon my skin. "I'm not sad. It's just, as Batgirl, I learned to keep so many secrets; Bruce's, Dick's, Selena's, my own...It became a part of me, that secrecy. And after the shooting, if I didn't keep my emotions under the same kind of control, I think I wouldn't have made it quite as intact mentally or emotionally." She holds my eyes, hers dark with memories, "I don't think you'll ever truly know how much you saved me that first year. I was ready to give up, and every time I would have, you were there. You reminded me I wasn't the only one who was hurting. You were in so much pain but you still reached out to me, felt my pain too. I could read it in your face, especially your eyes. And maybe it was also that you seemed as lonely as I was. You were the only one I felt comfortable with. The only one I felt I could trust. You'd say something outrageous, or hug me, or pull some wild stunt...and suddenly, I believed I could get through another day. After a while, the days stretched into weeks, the weeks to months, and the months to years. All because you were there for me, making it a little bit better every day, until it became easier for me to live again." She blinks back tears, "You still make it better Helena."

"But I almost killed Quinn." my voice comes out hoarse from tears of my own that I refuse to shed.

Barbara shakes her head, "So did I, or did you forget talking me away from that choice between vengeance and justice?"

I open my mouth to protest. I close it, then open it again. "That was different."


"Because that was you." I wave vaguely between us, "And this is me."

She chuckles, "That's not an actual argument."

"It is!" I insist. "You're a good person Barbara, a true hero. She killed Wade, the man you loved. You were provoked."

"And you weren't?" She counters. "She betrayed your trust Helena. Used it against you to hurt the people who mean the most to you. Who you love." She adds, "Besides, I never was in love with Wade."

Her last words fall more softly than the petals landing on my skin, but their weight is immeasurable.

Finally I breathe out, "That's not true."

"I warned you that I'm not as perfect as you made me out to be." Her expression is so open and filled with such sorrow that I instinctively sit up and pull her into my arms.

"I'm sorry."

"Don't apologise Hel. Please. It wasn't your fault." She pulls out of my arms after a moment and wipes her eyes.

"I don't understand. You did love him. He made you happy. I could tell."

Barbara stares at me a long time before speaking. "There are all kinds of love. He was a kind and decent man. I loved him as much as I could, which was far less than he deserved."

"Than why were you with him?"

"Because I thought he was who and what I should want. But I've never been a white picket fence kind of girl. And he was definitely that kind of guy." She looks down at her hands, lying limply on her lap, "And I missed you since you moved out. I though it was past time for me to give up the ghost of what I really wanted. What I could never let myself have. I guess I thought I should settle. And that was unfair to him."

Her shoulders slump and she still won't look me in the eye. I struggle to find the right words to say. "Okay, I'll grant you that it bites. Hell, I'll even try to be mature enough to say Wade did deserve someone who was in love with him. But," I tilt her head up to meet my gaze, "it was also damn unfair to you. You should never have to settle."


I stop her protest with a stern look, "No Barbara, you shouldn't feel guilty about wanting to be loved. You deserve to be. You are. At least you never treated Wade badly. I sure as hell can't say the same about how I've treated Reese."

I brush the petals off myself, "It's not like I can't relate. Reese is a good guy. A decent guy. He even fights for justice. A hero in his own way. He's what I thought I was supposed to want." I consciously echo her words back to her, "I thought that he was who I was supposed to want. But I wouldn't settle even though I don't deserve anyone as good as him."

"That's not true!" Barbara grabs my hands tightly, here green eyes blazing. "You deserve what you truly want. You deserve to be happy! Why do you always insist on believing in the worst in yourself instead of seeing what I see in you?"

I pull out of her grip. "Right. Let's see, could it be because I could only watch while my mother was killed? That I could do nothing when you were shot." I growl and stand up. "Maybe it's because I know I'm a screw up. Maybe it's because all I can feel most of the time is this rage inside of me and this need to beat, tear and rend anything in my way. Because the meta part of me just wants to take and the human part of me wants to lash out at everything. Or maybe, it's because I betrayed you. And that hurt you. I hurt you."

I shouldn't have let this pretty scene fool me. Anything that starts off pretty in my head always turns out ugly in the end. It can never end any other way.

Barbara stands, "You didn't hurt me. Quinn did. And anger isn't the only thing you feel. Do you think I don't know about grief and rage and helplessness? That I don't sometimes wonder 'what if I kill the Joker' every time I think about what I've lost when he put me in that chair? That there weren't moments I blamed myself for what my biological father did to me? I did. We all have our ugliness inside Helena. All of us have this place where we keep our twisted urges and thoughts safely hidden. No one, and I mean no one, is pure good, flawless."

"I've watched you Helena, and you're as capable of great love as you are of feeling such rage. You're passionate, intelligent. I remember when I first woke up in the hospital and the first thing I saw was you. And you stayed by my side, always looking out for me, so tender. You have a capacity for such compassion and gentleness Hel. And it pisses me off to no end to hear you talk about yourself like you're nothing when you've been everything to me!"

I blink. Then, I remember to breathe. I go over her words in my head several times from different angles. All the while Barbara just watches me. Waiting. Always waiting.

I look around us again, taking in the foreign scene. This place is nothing like my dreams. Even now, distressed, I still feel this sense of warmth and protection. Like someone's holding me in a metaphysical embrace, trying to comfort me. My dreams are many things, comforting is far from them.

"Remember in the hospital, three days after you were shot, I was there?" I didn't wait for her to answer but continued, "You were in that brace. You were so pale. You hadn't woken up yet. Not once. It was well into the night. I had slipped in, past the security and the night nurse to see you. I had to see you. I held your hand and I was so afraid you would never open your eyes. I cried. I begged for you to give me a sign that you would wake up. Open your eyes. Squeeze my hand. Anything to give me faith that I wouldn't be alone. I told you if you died that I would too. That I had nothing and no one else. So I prayed and begged and wept at your bedside. I was so scared I couldn't think, couldn't even breathe. Do you remember what you did?"

Tears glisten in her emerald eyes, "No. What happened?"

I meet her gaze and tell her, "You squeezed my hand. And I could breathe again."

"I don't recall any of that." she steps in, maybe to take me into her arms. I'll never know because I step away from her.

"You're still my air Barbara. Even if you've proven that you can be deceptive."

She frowns. She doesn't follow.

I wave at the light rain of petals and idyllic scene around us. "You've never shown me a picture of this place have you?"

"I...I don't recall. I don't know what photos I've shown you over the years. I'm not a scrapbook type."

I nod, knowing it's true. "And you don't remember that time in the hospital because you were unconscious at the time. Only I remember it. And I never told you before. So how did you swing this with Dinah? Can she hear our thoughts, see what we see, hear what we say while we're here in your head Barbara?"

Barbara's breath catches, her eyes widen. She rallies herself though, "No, she can't. She claims whether it's your head or mine, we both are guarded like a son of a bitch."

She's waiting for my blow up. I can see her braced for whatever I throw at her. Whether physical or verbal. Knowing Barbara, she probably thinks she deserves it.

So many things make sense now. Of course this dream New Gotham didn't look familiar. It was her Gotham, old Gotham. And it's also why I feel safe here, it's her head, not mine. And in the real world, all the covert glances at me that I noticed, not understanding why. I'm beginning to understand them now.

"In my dreams you're never like this, it should have tipped me off back when you were in my head. That was you right? The real you."

She nods, not daring to speak. She's still waiting for the other shoe to fall.

I pace. The whirling inside my head is making stillness impossible for me. "And you saw everything. Know all my secrets. What I've done. How I feel. Right?"

"I should have told you right away." She almost takes a step towards me but stops. It's strange to see Barbara less than fearless. "But I was so afraid of losing you. Of your health getting worse or you running away. I thought if I brought you here, shared myself with you like you unknowingly did with me, that it would give us more equal footing with each other. Make you feel less exposed."

"Quid pro quo." I whisper.

"Yes." Barbara takes a deep breath and does take that step toward me. This time I don't step back.

"You knew, all this time." It was more a statement of amazement on my part than a question.

"Yes." She answers again, just as softly.

"And still you took care of me. Let me stay in your bed. Let me sleep with you."

"Of course."

I shake my head. "How? Why?"

She shakes her head, puzzled by my questions. "I felt your pain Helena. And more. You're inside me now. Can't you feel what's inside me? That's your answer."

"I don't get it. I only feel me. And this funny warm safe feeling..."

A frown doesn't lessen her beauty in the slightest. "Damn, I must still have my walls up and don't even know it." She takes another steadying breath and holds out her hands to me, "I need you to take my hands...if you can trust me enough."

"You forgave me," I tell her, remembering what she had told me that time she was bridged mentally to me, "after everything, you forgave me and took care of me." I sadly regard her, it hurts to see her so ready to think that I'll treat her so badly, so unfairly, after everything she's given me. I'm overwhelmed but I don't hesitate to clasp her hands in mine. Hers are cold. Barbara's afraid.

"What do you need me to do?" I ask her, my voice stronger, gaze direct. I would kill for her. I would die for her. Taking her hand to know what she feels may be scary but I can see what it's costing her, the most private person I know. If my willingness is what she needs, I can be compliant for her. Only for her.

Her eyes hold so much gratitude that I nearly weep then and there. "I need you to listen. Not with your ears, but your mind. And your heart. You have to quiet yourself and sense what's outside of you. What parts are actually me that you're feeling."

I frown a little at the metaphysics but seeing her face so anxious, I don't say anything. I focus first on just breathing. Next, I focus on the warmth that I know is her. Like strong comforting arms around me. She always wants to protect me. And that's when I sense her. Like background music, unless you concentrate on it you don't realize it's there. But when you do, you can make out the tune and the words.

Emotions not my own swirl around me, teasing my senses before washing over me, through me. My hands convulse over Barbara's as I inhale sharply at the rush of sensations. Anxiety and worry first and foremost followed by a fear as great as my own, making me gasp. Fear of losing what you hold most dear. Fear of destroying it. The fear of being discovered and it all happening anyway. The sharp discomfort of being vulnerable and open, so foreign a feeling to us both over the years of careful guarding and isolation from the rest of the world.

More emotions come as we go further. A deep ache brings tears to my eyes. A longing inside her so all encompassing that it easily rivals my own. Despair for the missing part inside of you that hurts and can never be filled. And then, beneath it all, a feeling swells and bursts through me, filling me. It's the kind of feeling that breaks your heart and heals it all at the same time.


My eyes fly open. I can only stare at the very real woman in front of me. "Barbara."

All I can say is her name. Even if I couldn't feel her anxiety or her pain, just knowing her I know how much it's costing Barbara to reveal herself so openly to me. To leave herself completely vulnerable to me, to anyone. And she's done it for me. For me.

"Barbara, I didn't know." I could never have known, could never have guessed this.

"I should have told you it was really me when you had almost slipped into a coma. I should have told you right away." She apologizes. She doesn't need to.

I can't help the sad smile at her misunderstanding. "I'm not talking about that. You did it because you were afraid of losing me. Because you care for me. What I don't understand is why you never told me about how you feel? All these years and I never guessed."

Green eyes widen. I squeeze her hands more gently than before. "You're terrified. Please, Barbara, don't be."

"How can I not be afraid?" her voice shakes, "How can I not be afraid of losing the most important person in my life?"

The sense of loss sweeps over us both. I hasten to reassure her, "You haven't lost me Barbara. You're the air that I breathe, remember?"

At last, she graces me with a smile. It's as shaky as the ground we're on, this unknown path, but it's her and me and the smile is honest.

A thought strikes me, "When you were in my head, I was slipping into a coma. You kept asking me to go with you so that I'd wake up, right?" She nods. "But when I first said no, you told me you'd stay with me. You meant it. You'd have stayed. What would have happened to your body in the real world? What would have happened to you?"

She shrugs in a way that means everything and nothing. "Probably would have fallen into a coma as well. I'm not sure."

"Could you have died?" I nearly whisper the question, half-afraid of her answer.

She shrugs again, saying nothing.

"You could have died. Just to stay with me?" I gape at her.

A tear streaks down her pale cheek, "Helena, you're the air that I breathe."

My own tears fall. We find ourselves in each other's arms, holding tightly. She's still talking, her words slightly muffled against my shoulder. "It would have been better having a half-life inside you than what would have been left of me if you had gone. It would destroy me to lose you Hel. As it is, I almost did lose you. If I had only been able to tell you how I feel, really feel, how much I need you, then so much of this misery could have been avoided. Wade would be alive and you wouldn't hate yourself the way you do....I've failed you."

My hand tangles itself in her hair. "You could never fail me Barbara and you never have. Honest."

Her whole body trembles, "That's not true. If I wasn't so afraid, if I hadn't been such a coward, then you could have been spared so much grief. But I was so desperately afraid of losing the one person I relied on. I was so afraid of losing my best friend."

I could never conceive of this. That Barbara would need me as more than a distraction, a hero in training to mentor, but need me as another soul to seek comfort from the dark. Including the dankness within ourselves. No, I never would have believed any of this except for the fact that I can feel what she feels and sense her thoughts as if they were my own.

Barbara loves me. She's seen all the worst of me and she loves me. We've both been so foolish. With a ghost of a grin, I try to chase her fears away, "I was wrong."

She looks up and sees my grin, "About what?"

"You, Barbara Gordon, are as broody and romantically self-destructive as the next person."

Her lips twitch. My grin widens. The tension between us breaks and we both burst out laughing. We laugh so hard that we lean against each other for support, tears in our eyes. Letting the intense emotions wracking us, drain away.

"Told you I was," She gasps, catching her breath. "Don't forget deceptive."

"I already mentioned that." I elbow her affectionately. "Though we'll have to add Dinah's name on that list. What did you do, wait until I fell asleep and then sneak the kid in?"

"She was very willing to help." Barbara adds mirthfully, "She said to me 'It's about time you two got this out in the open.' Looking back, I don't think she meant my telling you about being in your dream state. I think she knew how we feel about each other."

Just like that, Barbara acknowledges a truth we've both hidden from for years.

"Dinah's a perceptive kid." Is all I say.

"And good. And not so much of a kid anymore. I'm glad she's with us." Barbara adds.

"Me too. I guess this means we have to keep her huh?"

Barbara's arm around me tightens. "Think she'd be able to put up with a couple of weirdoes like us?"

"Speak for yourself." I razz her lightly.

When she catches my eyes, her expression is serious. "Helena, I want tell you, to say the words even though you know how I feel. Can sense it." Her voice softens and takes on a whole new lustre and tone unknown to me, "Helena, I lov-"

"Don't!" She starts. I didn't mean to alarm her. I hurriedly explain. "I want to hear you say those words. I do. Really. But not here. I need to know this is real. I mean, I know this is real but I need it to not be in my head or your head. I want it to be in the real world. The two of us."

Barbara seems to understand despite my clumsy attempt to express myself. "Then let's go." She holds her hand out, just like before.

We both smile as I take her hand. It seems she's destined to lead me to the light, however many times it takes.

* * * * *

I wake up in Barbara's bed with her beside me. Dinah is perched next to us sitting, her hand clasped on top of Barbara's hand intertwined with mine. Dinah gives both our hands a squeeze before standing up and smiling down at us.

"All sorted out?"

"Yeah." I wink at her. I feel like I could fly I've never felt so elated. "You get a cookie."

She tries to glare but the yawn ruins the effect, as does her sunny face. "I'm not your pet. Don't 'cookie' me."

I glance at the clock. "You were up late doing a good deed on our behalf. How about you catch some shut eye and in the late morning I treat you to french toast?"

Dinah looks genuinely frightened, "You're cooking?"

Barbara snickers. This is the loyalty I inspire. "Actually, I was going to treat you to Mama Lou's House of French Toast. You know, the place that puts glazed strawberries on top? With icing sugar? And if this one behaves," I nudge the woman laying beside me, "I'll let her come too."

"Kewl!" Dinah squeals, she loves her sugar almost as much as I do. She bends down and gives us both quick kisses on the cheek before bounding off to bed. "Goodnight!"

I touch the side of my face and stare at the empty doorway. I turn to a grinning Barbara. "You'd better watch out for her. She's getting feisty."

Barbara laughs. She hugs me to her and I lose my train of thought. She knows all my twisted inner workings, every secret, and she loves me. She knows and she accepts me. As is.

Our faces are only inches apart. Her breath is sweet on my face, tickling my mouth. With green eyes watching me warm and tender, she says the words I've longed to hear.

"Helena Kyle, I love you."

She doesn't wait for a response but leans in to kiss me. The faintest caress of her full lips on mine and the fear spikes through me. I pull back to sit up and away from the coveted touch of her languid body and sensual mouth.

"Hey," her hand coves my knee, her words still as soft as cherry blossoms. "Did I do something wrong?"

"No. No, of course not." She was in my head. Barbara knows everything so she understands why I'm afraid. Still, I hate to give it voice after living with it for so long. "It's just...I've dreamt about this for years. And it probably sounds silly considering all we've been through together but..." It's almost too embarrassing to finish.

"Hel, you can tell me."

Barbara's gentle regard undoes my pride as if it were only a paper tiger. "It's just that I always thought we would have a first date before our first kiss."

The sudden, delighted smile on her face is brighter than the moon and stars combined. "You want to date first, before we kiss?"

I nod, the heat rushing to my face.

Barbara traces the blush on my cheeks with unsteady hands, her face filled with wonder. "A first date, a real date before we kiss. I think that's the most perfect, most romantic idea."

"Then you will? Go out on a date with me?" Nothing beyond that one date and kiss can happen but Barbara knows that after being inside me. It's such an astonishing feeling to be so completely accepted. One date, our first and only kiss...but it's so much more than I ever hoped to have.

If anything, Barbara's smile widens and brightens, lightening the weight in my heart immeasurably. "Yes Helena, I'd love to go out on a date with you."

"Friday night?"

"Sounds perfect." She laughs out of sheer happiness. I've never heard that laugh before. I hope to hear it more. I hope to be the reason for it. We'll both be sad after the date. Wistful for what we wished we could have, but at least we'll have this one perfect day to hold in our hearts. A cherished memory to hold close in my heart for when my demons rage.

Barbara laughs again. "Just think, if we had only had the guts to tell each other how we felt years ago, this could be our anniversary right now. We've wasted so much time. I'm so grateful we have a chance to make up for."

... anniversary...time. ..

The words whirl in my head. I quickly force a laugh and get out of the bed to close the door so that she can't see my face. My heart clenches in that moment. With those words I've realized I had assumed too much. Believed in the shiny beautiful dream held before me only to see it break and shatter in the same breath. I believed she had uncovered all of me while she was in my head, feeling my heart and hearing my thoughts.

I was so completely, terribly wrong.

Barbara didn't know.

I lie in the dark, in her bed, beside her. She's already nearly asleep. She can't feel the shadow hanging heavy over us. And I won't let her. I'm not much for prayer. The only things I've ever had faith in were my mother and Barbara. But here, in the dark, I pray.

I pray for whatever power may be out there, to please be merciful to the woman beside me. I pray for us to be granted one perfect day for her sake. Let me give her that one date and steal that one kiss...

before I take it all away.

Part Nine

Friday comes like a clarion call and I'm a woman on a mission. Nothing matters more than tonight being perfect. I survey the store I stand in and scrutinize all it's flora. I've never bought flowers for anyone before, except my mother's grave. Both experiences I'm finding equally daunting. Flowers for Barbara. Of course I would get her some, but the red roses are too clichandeacute; Yet, I want to get her roses. Too many teenage fantasies of this moment insist on it. It's my adult self that balks, unused to all this uncertainty. First date. First love. Undiscovered country.

An unusual colour catches my eye. I move towards it. Roses. Not red. Not any colour I've seen before. In the semi-shade, they are almost silvery grey, but where the light catches them, the petals are a delicate mauve. Soft. Subtle.

"These." I point them out to the florist. His name tag says Shawn, his hair balding. His eyes are shrewd.

He tuts over the price, while eyeing my leather pants and fashionably torn shirt. He thinks I can't pay. "Stirling Silver roses. A splendid choice but they are imported. Much more expensive than the regular ones."

"Money's not an issue." I wave him along, flashing a number bills with the right presidents, effectively silencing the shopkeeper's protests.

He hums while taking the flowers out and preparing to box them. I have to stop him before he put the regular greens in with Barbara's roses. "Not those. The Tiki ferns." I point behind him to the delicate feathery ferns.

He obliges. Then his hands hover over the Baby's Breath. I shake my head.

"I need better." I know I'm being difficult. But I'm always difficult. And I only get one shot at this; I plan to do it right. It needs to be perfect. At least as close to perfect that anything on this screwed up planet can be.

He shows me other accents and filers. One bucket makes me pause. I regard the white minute flowers fanning out from green stems like feathers. What caught my eye was the smallest dot of deep purple at the heart of every one of those small blossoms.

"Purple Caspia," Shawn supplies. "That would be perfect for your flowers. It will bring out the colour in the roses. See?" He takes some out and holds it up with the roses. He's right, the fanning white contrasts the colour while the subtle darker purple accentuates the mauve, bringing out the full soft colour of the roses.

"Put them in and ring it up."

It's only when I put the change back into my coat pocket that I feel something in there I hadn't noticed before. I wait until I'm in a taxi, the ribboned box safe beside me on the seat, before I take the object out of my pocket.

A folded note. I feel my face stretch into a smile before I even open it. It's folded with such meticulous neatness that I know it's from Barbara. I scan over her elegant handwriting.

There're a hundred things I should be doing today but all I can think about is you.


It takes me three more readings before I can bear to put it away, carefully folding it along the seams she made. Once I'm home, I'll add it to the growing pile of notes Barbara has been leaving around for me to find. It started the first day after we agreed to go out on a date. The first note was in an opened box of poptarts. Her onslaught of gentle affection continued form there, in every word of every note. And even thought he words varied, the message was always the same.

I love you.

I've never received a love letter before. And now I had a growing pile of them. Never a date or someone to get flowers for. The notes stay in the hidden drawer in my room at the Clocktower. I'll keep them safe for the time fast approaching when I won't be receiving them anymore. The ache in my chest haunts me. Like any pain I feel, I accept it and keep breathing. I learned long ago that I can't make the pain go away.

All I can do is live with it.

* * * * *

The Clocktower is quiet when I enter. A quick sniff of the air tells me that Dinah is here, the strains of muted music mean she's in her room. No Barbara. A myriad of strange, new scents are filling the place. They seem to be coming from the direction of my room.

I tuck the long box of roses under my arm and nudge my door open with my boot. The sight of what's become of my room stuns me.

Flowers. Everywhere. All kinds, a sea a fragrant colours. Roses, carnations, bleeding hearts, forget-me-nots, lilies, and dozens of others that I haven't a clue as to what they're called, fill my room. And not just flowers. Balloons are in here. Some regular, others metallic with hearts on them, bouncing off my ceiling as they wander the confines of my room aimlessly. I spy a mug filled to overflowing with foil wrapped chocolates. And on the bed, the only clear space in the room, is a black cat stuffie.

I slide my box on the bed and pick up the stuffed cat. There's note taped to it.

Something to hug until this red head can get to you.


p.s. Maybe someday you'll let me get you the real thing.

I hug the stuffy in pure reflex at reading her words. I understand she wasn't referring simply to getting me a real kitten, but what it would represent, stability, that I would be staying, that we would be an 'us'. The fake black fur is velvet to the touch, and large enough and cushy enough that it is indeed huggable. A light scent in the fur attracts me. I sniff it more closely and a delighted warmth infuses me. Barbara's perfume. Her light scent of cinnamon and what I now know to be cherry blossom, clings faintly to the fur. It seems Barbara decided to test it's huggable quality. Or perhaps, she knows me so well that she knew it would mean so much more if it were to have her scent. That she would know how much this might comfort me, that she could even guess at it...all of this, the flowers, the notes, her sweet wooing of me, is all more than I have ever dreamed of. Tears sting my eyes. I don't want this day to ever end.

I set my cuddly aside. With the greatest of care, I smooth out my latest notes from Barbara. I reach under the drawer of my bedside table and feel for the hidden latch. The secret compartment comes out. A habit learned long ago from my mother, this need to have a place to hide parts of ourselves. Tenderly, I take the small pile of papers out and add the latest to them. Placing them back, I feel for the other item, and take it out. I rest the long black box on my lap. My fingers trace over the velvet as I've done so many times before.

A knock on the door disturbs my reverie. I slide the box under the covers and close the hidden compartment.

"Come on in Kid."

Dinah slips into my room, grinning from ear to ear. She takes in the room and my likely overwhelmed expression. "Barbara really went all out huh?"

She quickly spies the long box holding the roses on the bed. "What are those?"

I quirk an eyebrow at her, "Yes, she went all out. Those are for Barbara. How much did you have to do with all this?"

Cornflower blue eyes blink at me innocently, "Me? Nothing. I just saw the train of deliverers Barbara was conducting. I tried to convince her to hang out and see your face when you walked in, but I think she was too shy."

Such a charming mix of boldness and shy modesty, Barbara is.

"Besides, she said she wanted to go out and buy a new dress and get her hair done. So," Dinah puts her best foot forward, "tonight's the night."


She rolls her eyes at me, "Gosh, don't go all mono-syllabic and broody on me already! I've been waiting for forever for you two to buy a clue."

"You have?"

Dinah quickly holds her hands up. "I didn't do any mind peaking. It's just always been pretty obvious, you know, the way you two feel about each other. The way you always lean against her chair, or her desk near her when she won't let anyone else that close in her personal space. And the way she always touches you when you're close enough, when everyone knows you're not a touchy-feely girl...except with Barbara. The way you both will watch the other when you think the other one isn't looking, or will notice. The way you argue and always forgive each other with barely a word, just a look. The way you say each other's names..."

I cross my arms defensively over my chest, "alright already Sherlock, I get it. I'm dense."

"Not dense." Her playfulness gives way to her compassion, "Just a little disbelieving when it comes to love, specifically someone loving you."

"I know Barbara loves me." Damn, even to me that sounded defensive.

Dinah crouches by my legs. Tentatively, she places a hand on my knee. "But you don't believe in it. You don't think you deserve it. And you're scared about screwing it up. You can believe in this. And you won't screw it up."

She's hitting too many of my nerves square on, but she's right. Except that I've already screwed up and nobody knows it. Except me. But I couldn't say no to a romantic evening with the only person I've ever been in love with. It's always been Barbara that I've wanted. It always will be only her for me.

More controlled, I say, "I believe she loves me, Dinah."

Her blonde head shakes back and forth slowly, "I meant you don't believe in love."

I exhale slowly, "Love can't fix everything Dinah. It'll break you more often than make you."

"I'm not telling you it's a cure-all." Her face is filled with such sincerity, such earnestness, and so much faith that in that moment, my envy of her innocence is a piercing thing. "But I do know that I would sell my soul to have someone I love, love me back, to look at me the way you two look at each other. That's worth some breaking. And maybe whatever gets broken, needs to break, so you can get to what lies underneath."

I stare at Dinah. There must be something in one or more of these flowers that I'm allergic to because my eyes are suddenly burning. I rub at them.

Time to end this.

She squeals as I lunge at her and growl, "Who are you and what have you done with the real Dinah? Cuz there's no way she's this smart."

Dinah relaxes and giggles at the teasing, "Yeah, yeah, smartass. And I am too that smart."

The tension that had been growing in the room drains away with her laughter. Just as I needed it too. I wink at her, "I know you are. Just remember that for tonight I'm Barbara's smartass, so watch it. She's way more dangerous than I could ever be."

Dinah grins, letting the mood lighten and brighten. She's learning when not to push. "I wish I could stick around to see what Barbara looks like once she's back from the hairdresser's but I'm hanging out with Gabby and crashing at her place tonight so you two will have the penthouse all to ourselves."

"You don't need to put yourself out." I protest but her thoughtfulness warms me further.

"Duh! Hello? Big date. First date. This is HUGE! And it's only over an hour away!"

It's actually going to happen. Our first date. Me and Barbara.

"Helena? Helena!" Dinah's getting freaked, I have to pull myself together.

"It's ok. I'm ok. I'm just...a little nervous." More like panic.

"Yeah, first dates are always hard on my nerves." Dinah commiserates, her tone filled with understanding.

Young Dinah, with more experience than me in this arena. And I've discovered recently, she's also far wiser than I've given her credit for. There's suddenly so many things I wish I could ask her. I settle for one. Safe and simple because I'm still a coward.

"Is everyone always nervous before a first date?"

"Usually. I think so, yeah. I now I sure am. Before the date. During. The more I like someone, the more nervous I am."

"So the fact that I have butterflies with dockers on doing Riverdance in my gut is, what, normal?" Hardly a word that usually can be applied to me.

Her eyes soften, "Not only is it normal, I think it's a very good sign. You're human after all Helena Kyle." Before I can even react, Dinah gives me a quick kiss on the cheek. "I'll get out of your hair so you can get ready for your big night. Just remember, she loves you too, so she's probably at least as nervous as you are."

With those parting words, she slips out the door and is gone. I touch my cheek where it tingles from her parting affection. Love in all forms confounds me. Friendship or lovers. It's like reading Chinese, I don't get it. Dinah seems to get it, Barbara has a grasp on it, me, I'm deeply at sea. But somehow I think love has managed to get me.

I take a steadying breath. I have a date to get ready for. And there's no way I'm going to be late. I'm already too late for so many things.

* * * * *

I give myself a final once over in the mirror. Tailored slacks of heavy, black silk flow and drape over my legs and curves nicely. The dark blue silk shirt is deeper and darker than my eyes, making my eyes look violet. The buttons are undone to the point of being rakish, showing enough cleavage without being too graphic. The makeup is perfect, as is my hair. Out of my many sins, vanity is the one I'm all over. It's the only sin I can indulge in without any guilt.

I heard Barbara come home a while ago. She didn't check on me so I gave her the space she was allowing me to get ready. I glance around the room and her many sings of affection., My trail lands on the cat that I hugged earlier. Something to hug until I get to the red head, time I went looking for her.

I want that hug.

I gather the box of flowers, my coat, the slender velvet box, and the car keys. My heart speeds up as I approach her door. Dinah said it was a good sign, this feeling of terror that she called nervousness. I remember to breathe and do what I do best, act casual.

I lightly rap on the door and hear the hum of her chair as she draws close.. She opens it and my plan to sweep her into my arms and hug her is arrested by the very sight of her. Blood thunders in my ears and I can't move.

Her smile is both delighted and amused, "I take it you approve."

She twirls in her chair to give me a better view. I want to nod, speak, but all I can do is stare at the woman before me. Barbara's sheathed in a full length dress so dark a green it almost looks black. It moves up to fasten around her slender neck, leaving her shoulders, and I'm guessing her back, completely bare to my roaming gaze. Her hair is held back by a gold clasp with tendrils of it purposely left loose on either side of her finely sculpted face to shine like lengths of spun rubies. It all serves to make those clear emerald eyes even more luminous. The kohl delicately lining her eyes making them seem even larger. I'm lost in her.

"Approve?" To my embarrassment, my voice comes out hoarse. I shake my head, "There's gotta be a better word for it than that. Barbara, you'd make angels weep, that's how beautiful you are."

She gifts me with one of her rare, completely open, wide smiles. I've been seeing them more this past week. "Thank you," she murmurs, reaching out to feel the cloth of my shirt. "Cerulean blue. It looks amazing on you."

I grin at her rakishly, "Do you approve?"

"Indeed I do." She lets out a breath. It's the first sign I've noticed that she's nervous too. It calms me a little.

I give her the box of flowers. "For you. Though it can't compare to the green house that was formerly my room."

Barbara doesn't open the box, instead she looks at me, her words as hesitant as her hands, "Was that alright? I've never...", she blushes and the sight utterly charms me, "I've never been on a date with another woman before and I was anxious. The only thing that seemed to help was finding things to do for you, those silly little notes, and the other things...I realize it's not your style. You're too cool for that kind of thing. I-"

Her words stop and her breath catches as I lean in to her and give her a kiss on her soft, soft cheek. I teasingly growl into her pink ear, "Don't even think about apologizing. I loved it. Every note, every flower, even the balloons and the damn stuffy. Thank you for reminding what I was going to do before the sight of you rendered me senseless."

"What was that?" she asks breathless.

The effect we have on each other, the way she reacts to me, it's intoxicating. "Hold on." is the only warning I give her. I warp my arms around her body and lift her up into my arms. Her full length is pressed along mine, my arms holding her easily against me. Her arms wind around my neck and we press into each other. She holds me tight. Not one of those weak, patting hugs that are condescending and fake. A real embrace. Her breath hot against my neck, mine in her hair. We hold onto each other like we're adrift, alone at sea and only the two of us exist.

"Hugging you is way better than that stuffed cat," I confess, but my tone is light and teasing even as my body aches to lay her down on the nearby bed.

"And I've never been jealous of a stuffed anything before."

Instead of releasing me, her arms squeeze me even closer, and I feel warm, wet lips against my neck. I inhale sharply, the beast within me rising at the flare of arousal her touch provokes. I bury my head in her hair, inhaling her scent, drinking it in. "You smell like cinnamon and Cherry Blossoms," I murmur into a now very pink ear, feeling her body flush with heat. It takes all my restraint not to trace the curve of her ear with my tongue, lips and teeth. With will power I didn't even know I possessed, I pull back from her and reseat her in her chair. "I like the way you smell."

Her eyes are darker, more intimate, "I'm glad..." She says it in a way only she has, where it means more than just one thing. I like the other things she's intimating and all I can do is stare at the delicious curve of her lips.

"Helena, how important is it to you that we have our date before our first kiss?"

My want of her is making it hard to think. I do mange to answer her though."Important."

"Than you're going to have to stop looking at me that way, because your looking is like touching, and it's making it very hard for me not to kiss you with you touching me like that."

"Looking isn't like touching," my mouth goes dry at her words. The idea that she wants me too is still too new, too fresh for me to accept so easily..

"Really?" her tone is heavy with amusement and something unknown to me, something headier than anything I've heard from her before. I meet her eyes, they're so dark, they pierce me with her wanting. Slowly, she traces the lines of my face, lingering on my mouth. Her gaze travels downward and my nipples harden under those burning verdant eyes.

"You're right," I nearly gasp. "Looking is like touching."

"Maybe you should open your box?" I nod to the as yet untouched box of roses, hoping it will help us both distract ourselves from our desires.

She nods, still smiling, and opens it. "Hel, Stirling Silver roses, my favourite. How did you know?"

"Lucky guess." I admit as I watch her take one out to smell it, before caressing the petals against the line of her jaw. Her eyes are closed as she revels in the sensation. Apparently I'm not the only hedonist here. It unravels me to watch her like this. It burns me. I want to be that flower, I want to trace her skin, her body with my hands and mouth. My eyes change and I barely manage to restrain the growl growing inside me. My hand clutches the velvet box in my pocket. It helps anchor me. Barbara deserves better than an animal. Barbara deserves better. I force the beast down, and my eyes revert to human by the time she opens her own.

"They're perfect. Thank you. Please, just give me a minute to put them in some water and then we can go to dinner."

I move aside for her. Her free hand reaches out and trails down my arm, to my hand as she passes. I follow in her wake, a turmoil of fear, desire, self-doubt and joy.

* * * * *

The world is a strange and cruel place. The cruelty I learned when my mother was murdered. And all the days since. Tonight, however, with Barbara beside me under the night sky, the world is still strange, and I know it's still cruel, but seeing Barbara smile and knowing it's because of me, has made the world also a splendid and wondrous thing.

Barbara gasps when she catches sight of the restaurant. "Helena! This is the most expensive restaurant in all of New Gotham!"

I open the door for her and wink, "Only the best for you. Besides, I wanted to show you off."

"You want to show me off?" she asks, her voice filled with wonder as I lead her to the elevator.

"Barbara," I chastise her affectionately but I mean every word, "did you not check yourself out in the mirror before we left? You look speckfuckingtacular. There was no way I wasn't going to take you somewhere classy. Though, I have to say, it no where near hits the class level you're at."

"Thank you...sweet talker." She's blushing again. It makes me want to kiss her here and now.

Me and my rules. If only I didn't have them for good reason, I could give in.

The maitre'd is there and recognizes the name I give him. He leads us to their most private table, and I notice with pleasure the way everyone can't help but stare at the beautiful woman with me. What an odd feeling, to be pleased and proud that the woman next to me is getting all the looks of curiosity and desire.

The floor to ceiling windows give us a full view of the city at night. The one she's sacrificed so much to protect. I wanted to treat her to it's more pleasurable side for a change.

She stares outside, her expression infused with delight, "The city lights from up here look like twinkling stars. It's an amazing view."

I only half-notice the view, preferring the sight of her profile by candle light. The flame casts varying lights and shadows on upon her, and when her eyes turn back to me, they shine like green stars.

"They have live music." she says, nodding towards a pianist and violinist playing muted classical music. "This is wonderful Helena."

I can only smile at the beauty of her. I hand her a menu and open mine. I look it over. Than I look it over again. My first date, not even an hour into it, and I'm already tripped up. The menu is all in French and only French.

A warm hand covers mine, making me look up into an even warmer gaze, "Do you trust me?" She asks me eagerly, her low voice nearly purring.

Intrigued, I tilt my head at her, "Implicitly."

If anything, her smile widens and brightens. She motions the waiter over. She speaks to him in French and begins to order for us both. I've never heard her speak French before and I can only stare and listen in rapt fascination. I have no idea what she's saying, God I hope she isn't ordering escargot, but I don't care. Barbara's voice has always had a sensual effect on me, playing havoc with my longing. The smoky timber, now speaking with this new cadence is like music to me, teasing my hearing and delighting me.

She hands the menus back and the waiter departs. "So," she draws out the word as she places her elbows on the table, links her fingers to rest her chin on them and regard me with pleased amusement. "You still haven't mentioned where our mysterious destination is after dinner."

"You get points for showing off, but I still won't tell. After all, that would ruin the mystery part wouldn't it?" I tease her gently.

One corner of her mouth quirks upward, "If I can't show off for you, than who can I show off for?"

She's teasing me back but my reply is serious, "You don't need to show off for me. You astound, fascinate and amaze me whenever I look at you, every time I think of you..." I can't help but smile suddenly "but I have to admit I do very much enjoy you showing off."

Her expression gentles further as does her voice, "You say such sweet things."

"Only because it's you. And it's true." Before I lose my nerve, I take out the slim black box and slide it to her on the heavy linen covering the table. "I have a gift for you. Consider it a thank you, for letting me complicate your life."

Surprised, she doesn't say a word but opens the box. Her eyes widen and she stifles a gasp. She takes the necklace out, the gold chain spilling over her hands. The jade gorget of an Asian dragon rests in her palms. Her fingers trace the carved lines and smooth surface. "It's beautiful," she breathes.

"Then it should suit you."

"It's real jade. How did you ever afford it?"

"Time." I shrug. "I saw it years ago and put it on lay-away. The jeweller was an old friend of my mother's, a legitimate contact I might add." Even though my mother ended her years as Catwoman after having me, it wouldn't do for Barbara to think I might have attained her gift illegitimately. "He let me pay it off, over a very generous amount of time. I've actually had it for a while. I kept meaning to give it to you but I never got up the nerve." There was always an excuse. Crime to fight, than Dinah arriving on our doorstep, than Wade was involved with Barbara and I didn't have the heart. And after that, Quinn killed any dreams I still clung to. Or so I thought.

"You've had this for years? For me?"

"It's always been you Barbara, for me."

"Will you help me put it on please?" She holds the necklace against her neck, her eye shining.

"With pleasure," I rise and go to her. She leans forward to grant me better access to her slender neck and the clasp closes easily. I can't help but sneak a caress of smooth skin along my fingertips as I do so.

I move to see her from in front. "I was right, it does suit you." The dark green jade is a close match to vibrant colour of her eyes.

A gentle tug on my shirt pulls me down close to her. "Thank you," she whispers, leaning toward me, her eyes fluttering closed. Guessing her intent, I turn my face just in time for her lips to find my cheek. The touch alone sends my heart racing.

We both pull back and I sit down.

She arches a crimson brow at me, "Tease."

"I don't mean to be." I tell her quietly.

Barbara frowns slightly, her hand again finds mine, "It wasn't a criticism. More of a compliment. I didn't mean to offend you."

"I'm hardly offended." I almost laugh, if she only knew the effect a simple kiss would have on me.

"But I did something wrong, didn't I?"

I shake my head, "Not at all. It's just that the kiss comes at the end of a date, doesn't it?"

"I suppose it does," she concedes "But you make it increasingly hard not to kiss you."

It's my turn to be surprised, "Really?"

"Oh yeah," she drawls, smiling at me. "Didn't I ever tell you that I like complicated?"

I want to lose myself in her gaze, equal parts love and desire staring back at me. No one, not a single soul, has ever looked at me like that. Sure, there's been countless people who have wanted me, but only for sex. And those who wanted more didn't know me, didn't see me, only what they wanted to see. I've never had someone look at me like the woman across from me does now, with such warm affection and desire mixed in. A woman who knows me better than anyone. And still she looks at me with this sweet expression of kindness and longing.

"Trust me Barbara, it's mutual."

Her smile is piercing. Her hand squeezes mine and I know everything's okay.

Even as I think it, I know it's a lie.

Part Ten

Dining with Barbara went even better than I hoped. Despite our mutual nervousness we were able to find levels of comfort in the familiar banter we've developed over the years. There's a new language developing between us now. One filled with open looks of longing, thinly veiled desire, and lingering touches.

Retuning to the vehicle, we sit there, quiet, content. Barbara is staring out the window at nothing, a hand absently stroking her necklace.

"Hey," I gently prod her out of her reverie, "do you trust me?"

A corner of her full lips curve upwards and her eyes shine, "Implicitly."

I chuckle softly at her echoing my earlier words. Reaching into the glove department, I pull out a strip of cloth. Her eyebrows hike up into her hairline when I stretch the cloth between my hands meaningfully.

She points at the blindfold, "Are we about to get kinky?"

Barbara knows we aren't. She has a way of asking what she wants to know without using the exact words. She's sly that way.

"Our mystery destination," I supply as an explanation, holding the cloth up to her, the movement a question.

She quirks an eyebrow at me but leans forward in acquiescence. I can't read the gleam in her eyes. I move closer to her and feel her breath hot on my neck. I put it over her eyes and around, careful not to muss her hair. Just as I tie it in a knot, I'm ambushed by the sudden sensation of her tongue caressing my neck. My breath catches as her tongue creates a slow trail of fire upward to my jaw and along it's curve until she finally reaches my chin. Straight, perfect teeth take quick nip and then she's leaning back in her seat, blindfolded and smug. Meanwhile, my breath is ragged and I'm shuddering that the sensations chasing up and down my spine from her unexpected touch.

"That must be cheating," I say when I can finally speak. I haven't moved so much as an inch away from her.

Her smirk widens. "It's still not a kiss so I don't see how that was cheating. Besides, after a couple of hours of sitting across from you, dying to taste you, this seemed like a reasonable compromise."

She startles slightly at the touch of my fingers against her lips, caressing the curve of them, their softness. Her breath tickles the tips of my fingers as I continue to touch her. The way she said the word taste, throbs in my mind, like she meant more than just my mouth.

"I didn't know what to expect tonight," I tell her, not stopping my exploration of her lips. "You're an incredible date."

Her chuckle is surprised, low and pleased. It sends little shocks through the ends of my fingers, tightening lower things in my body. "You've managed to blow any possible expectations I had right out of the water, in the most wonderful way. You keep surprising me."

"You didn't think I could do romance?" I ask, curious rather than offended.

"Oh, I never doubted that. I just didn't know you could do it so...just so." She finishes, abashed but mirthful at her own loss for words. A rarity. Her voice holding laughter like the sun holds brightness.

Her voice lowers and softens even more, "Hel, with you touching my lips like this...it's becoming incredibly painful to not be able to kiss you yet."

It's as much a warning as a promise.

I withdraw and start up the engine. "Sorry."

"Don't apologize for driving me crazy like this. I felt you might want to know that I was about ten seconds from ripping off this blindfold and taking you right here and now."

My mouth is dry at the realization that I can affect her like this. "It's really getting to you that badly?"

"Helena, I've never wanted to kiss someone so much in my life."

I glance at her, she means it. "If it's any consolation. It's hard on me too."

"Good," she smiles, her hand finding my leg, resting there warm and solid. She settles in her seat to enjoy the ride.

* * * * *

Barbara has been silent through most of the trip. I can almost hear her straining to hear any clue as to our whereabouts. Ted waves us through the gate, a wide grin on his square face. I throw him a wink and guide the vehicle to the building's entrance.

I bring the car to a stop and rest my hand lightly over hers. She hasn't moved her hand from my leg during the entire time of our long drive here. Her thumb rubbing the side of my thigh was an added tease, but I'd swear she hadn't been doing it on purpose.

"We're here," I inform her. I pray this all works out. "But I still need you to stay blindfolded. Do you mind if I place you in your chair and do the driving?"

"Ah ha, so that's why you asked me to use the manual tonight." Her hand gives my leg a friendly, more than friendly squeeze, "And yes, you can do what you need to."

"Cool. But I gotta tell ya, I also like that low rider chair of yours. Kind of sexy."

She laughs, "You just like that it's black." She pauses a second and then adds, "And the fact that it shows more of my back."

What can I say? She's right. The sports model has no side bars and the back comes up at only mid height, which would show a much freer view of the bare back in her sexy dress. "Hey, you show off that much skin and any hot-blooded person is going to want a better view."

"Then by all means," she encourages me, her voice smooth and sexier than any expanse of skin, "take me in."

* * * * *

The transfer is easy. I relished every second of contact with her body. After setting her in her chair, I breathe a sigh of relief that she didn't repeat a similar ambush like when I had blindfolded her.

Barbara heard my sigh and laughs happily. "Don't worry Hel, I'll behave for now."

The 'for now' part worried me in a terrified but eager kind of way.

I use the security pass Ted gave me earlier today and get us in the building. I wheel her into the large domed room, down the aisle and stop beside an suitable chair. "I need to lift you into a new seat."

"I'm all yours."

I place her onto one of the many reclined seats. I regard her almost half lying in the chair, a smile teasing her lips. "If I leave you for a minute, do you promise not to peek?"

"I promise." She wiggles a little and gets comfortable in the unfamiliar chair.

I press my lips to her smooth temple, "I"ll be right back."

I make my way into the back room. Ted explained to me before how to work everything, even giving me a trial run to make sure I had it down. I flip switches and turn dials and the ceiling comes to life, faint music filtering through the sound system.

I return to Barbara and sit next to her. "Ready. Steady." I reach around her and undo the tie of her blindfold, "Now."

Barbara opens her eyes and they widen at the sight before her. She glances quickly at me, astonished, then looks back at the ceiling. She's stunned by the sight of he universe filled with stars and galaxies all moving slowly around the domed surface above us, as if we were floating in space.

"The Old Gotham Planetarium." She says, still staring wide eyed at the universe. "How did you pull this off?"

"I'm a bartender remember?" I answer, pleased at her reaction. "The guy on night shift would come to the Dark Horse, venting his woes about his girl. I gave him some advice and next thing you know, they're getting married and have a little bundle on the way. He said he owed me. I called in the marker."

"Helena, you've outdone yourself." her hand finds mine, "You overwhelm me in the most wonderful, surprising ways."

A smile of pure joy fights it's way free to grace my face. Here in the dark with only twinkling lights from stars and galaxies, I tell her with complete, open honestly, "Heaven fell apart for me long ago Barbara. Then you brought it back to me. It only seemed right to return the favour." The dark, industrial sky has always been unforgiving when it comes to seeing heaven.

Her hand releases mine, finds my face, caressing it tenderly. "You're such a dichotomy. You're wild and brash and yet you still can say such poetry to me, accomplish the most romantic demonstrations of your affections. You defy every dream of love I've ever had, sleeping or imagined."

Her words pierce my heart. I close my eyes at the sweet pain. A tear slides down my face, beyond my control. She catches it with a fingertip and leans in to kiss it away completely. The press of her lips is like her words, tender, warm, undeserved. She makes no move to claim my lips.

"If you don't open your eyes, you can't see the stars." she says ever so softly.

"Barbara," the words slip from my heart like the tears from my eyes, "you are my Heaven."

"I love you too," she whispers to me. She leans her head down on my shoulder, wraps one arm around me to lay snug around my stomach. The other hand lying beside mine, entwines her fingers with my own. With her holding me, I can't help but wonder if love always feels like this. Like someone pried open my chest to pull out my heart, leaving it open and vulnerable.

My free arm covers the one she has over my body, holding it more tightly to me. I open my eyes, but he universe is a blur of flickering lights through my tears.

* * * * *

We sit there in silence, wrapped together, watching universes float around us. Time passes and I curse it. Dinah had said she would sell her soul for this. With stars above me, Barbara holding me tightly, I would sell my soul to keep this moment lasting forever. If only I had a soul left to sell.

"Hel," Barbara asks, not stirring in the least, "is that classical music playing in the background?"

"Yeah. All the programs run with music. I tired to pick something I thought you'd like."

"You hate this kind of music."

I give the top of her head a quick kiss, "Anything for you babe."

She snerks at my razing and snugs me to her more tightly. "Why is it that you dislike classical music so much?"

I continue to tease her lightly, "I only like tunes I can get hot and sweaty to."

"You mean you don't think it's sexy?" her words are heavily laced with amusement.

"Yeah, you can't do the nasty to this kind of thing. Sleepy time tunes."

"You don't think so?" Now there's more than amusement to her voice, but I can't name it.

"Barbara, it's even worse than country." I complain with typical exaggeration.

She raises her head off of my shoulder and regards me, her face mostly in shadow, "You want to bet?"

Bet? "Bet?"

"If I can change your mind about classical music, you fulfill one request for me." Even in the dark, there's lustre to her eyes.

I consider her and that wonderful mind of hers working behind gleaming green eyes, "What kind of request?"

She already guesses what I'm thinking. "Not a kiss on the lips. You can relax. How about a kiss, but not anywhere on my face, or hair? That's what I win if I prove you wrong."

I recognize part of her intent. I adore this playful side of her, and find it impossible to resist. "And what if I win?" I ask.

"What do you want?" She counters, sure of her victory.

"Maybe the same from you?" This was beginning to sound dangerous.

She chuckles, "I'd do that for you anyway." And doesn't that cause amazing things happen inside me at that throaty admission. "Is that all you want?"

All I want. To have what I want. Barbara doesn't know what she's really offering me.

I deflect the dour direction of my thoughts with glibness, "Okay, that, and you do my laundry for two weeks." It saddens me that I have to bluff, to lie and obfuscate to her. It's necessary. Still, her smile makes the outside world seem far away and surreal. For now, it's just the two of us. There's an abyss waiting for me, but Barbara is unknowingly saving me from it for now. Again, it's a matter of time.

She acts like she's weighing her options but we both know her answer. "Alright. It's a deal. Now, to give me a chance all I need you to do is close your eyes and listen to my voice."

"Wow, that's a hardship," I roll my eyes grinning, curious to find out what she's up to wearing that pirate smile.

I do as she bid, closing my eyes. Now I'm fully in the dark.

"Okay, now I want you to listen to the music." She slaps my arm, trying to sound stern and failing amusingly, "Helena! Don't' scrunch up your face like that. You have to really try."

I sigh dramatically and relax myself, "Okay, I'll play nice."

Her voice, a dusky timber, penetrates my senses. In the dark, with no possible distractions, the smooth low tones caress me even more than usual.

"You hear the piano?" I nod and she continues. "The way the piano trills is the way my fingers would dance on your skin, up your arm, across your shoulder, your chest..."

As she says it, I feel it. The music playing in tandem to her suggestions. Exactly the way I want her touching me.

"Now, focus on the strings." her velvet voice caresses and urges me, "You hear how the music rises? That's the way it feels when you finally place your mouth on mine, tasting my lips, slipping your tongue past to brush your tongue against mine for the very first time. The crescendo is our bodies pressed together, your mouth on mine hot and wet, wanting-"

"Stop." I beg her, body on fire. "You win. I'm convinced."

I open my eyes. Barbara is still slightly above me watching me. She's not smiling. The look in her eyes is too deep, too intense for that. A tension builds between us. Electric heat.

I'm afraid. And I'm eager.

"Kiss me." She commands thick and in need.

I ease up from my chair and slide around her. "Sit up." I whisper.

She complies. Waiting for what I might do, wondering what I will do. Thank goodness I put her in an aisle seat. I crouch down in the aisle, her back to me. I remember the rules. Not her head. In the starlight, my gaze feasts on the ivory expanse of skin before me.

I don't ask if she's ready. Her body taut with anticipation. She starts when I lay my hands on her back. I trace the line of her form, revelling in the freedom of being able to enjoy her body, the silken sensation of her skin, the way she trembles at my caresses. I end up resting a hand on her shoulder, the other on the curve of her waist.

She asked for a kiss.

Barbara arches at the first touch of my lips upon lower back. I inhale, taking in the scent of her warm skin as I taste her, all soap and softness. I flick the tip of my tongue out. She gasps and I have to push down the growl fighting it's way to the surface as my arousal rises along with my beast. I wrestle my growing needs back and kiss slowly up her back, mapping her with lips and tongue. I never break contact. When I snake my piercing over a shoulder blade she whimpers so erotically I lose nearly all sense of myself then and there. It's only when I arrive at the base of her neck, where the dress fastens, that I stop. I press my lips to the skin there, resting my mouth upon her before withdrawing completely.

We're both breathing heavily. "Does that qualify as a kiss?" I barely recognize my own voice.

"To hell with if it qualifies or not. All I know is that I want you to do that all over my body."

She twists around in the chair to face me. Her eyes burn into mine. "Take me home Helena."

I nod wordlessly. Time just ran out.

* * * * *

The ride back is a blur. We say not a word, as if to speak might break this fragile moment.

Only the outside clocktower lights filter through to streak us in pale golds amidst the dark shadows. She turns and we face each other. I bend on one knee, place my hands on Her thighs and look up into emerald eyes, both quiet and earnest, as they gaze upon my face.

Her hands rise up to my face. The same slender hands that have patched a thousand hurts, held me close, taught me to fight, wiped my tears. Those same hands now stroked my face tenderly, reverently. We watch each other in awe at this new facet of expression we are finally allowing between us. Too long denied. I don't dare tear my eyes from hers. I don't want to miss a second of the way she looks at me now. How she looks to me, her heart bare to me, her longing a mirror of my own.

My hands cup hers. Not halting, not hindering. Merely to touch and feel her as she touches me. Slowly, I glide my hands along the bare skin of her arms, feeling the fine hairs as I slide them up to her shoulders. I keep moving up, until I'm touching her face, caressing her, a mirror to her actions.

Our breathing seems so very loud, here, in the dark quiet of our long held back desire and longing.

Her fingers trace the line of my eyebrows while my hands reach behind to unclasp her hair. It falls heavy on her shoulders and my open hands, a heavy rain of crimson silk. Her hands on me falter, they fall to my shoulders to steady herself as I twine my hands in her hair. Like forces of nature, magnetic, we pull each to the other. Just a breath from her mouth, I whisper the first words between us since leaving he planetarium.

"Barbara, I can never be anything, except in love with you."

And then.

At last.

My lips find hers. Tears slide from behind my closed eyelids and down my cheeks at the incredible feel of her mouth on mine. The velvet softness so much more than I ever fantasized. The feelings it evokes so much more than anything I've ever felt before this moment. She parts my lips with a questing tongue. I whimper at the first brush of her tongue against mine, sending shocks up and down my spine. She moans as I deepen the kiss. And I steal the sound along with her breath as I drown in the taste of her. Her taste, which will haunt me forever and beyond.

Hands tangle in my hair, pulling me closer, harder. She kisses me like a promise. Demanding and giving all at once. Like something real. Like Heaven.

We can't get enough of the caress of our lips. But she's saying something between heated breaths. The words barely make a sound as they escape her.



Yes , is what I want to say. Taking in her scent of cinnamon and cherry blossoms, my tongue in her mouth, I want to stay. I want to see her hair fanned out around her, her body flushed and sweat slicked moving underneath mine, her eyes on me. Her inside me. Me inside her.

That's when it happens. It rises inside of me, that ugly part of me that's always there, waiting for a chance to lash out, to break out of it's cage. I have to keep myself confined inside, in control, always. But there's always some line where I'll lose, where the control will only last so long, go so far. Than I'm nothing more than raging need. An animalistic surge of primal lust rides over my desires, my love. I clamp down on it with everything I have before I hurt her worse than I already will.

I pull back. From her, and from the abyss widening at my feet. I know that heaven is about to crash around us in bloody pieces. I prepare myself to bear the agony of it's fall.

Barbara doesn't let me pull away, kissing my face, taking my hands and kissing my fingers. "You're crying," she says.

I open my eyes and notice what I hadn't before. "So are you."

She wipes the tears away with the back of her hand, laughing a little. Her other hand clasps mine tightly between us. "It's the good kind. It's just I've never felt so much with anyone else before."

Barbara gazes at me in wonder, at herself, at me, at us It tears my heart and it will hers too. What love doesn't kill, it surely breaks.

"Barbara," a swell of sadness catches me, changes the word into a sob. I swallow it down as best I can and try again. "Tonight...tonight was beautiful wasn't it?"

Her smile is angelic. Redemption itself but I can't partake of it. "Yes Helena, it's been the most amazing, splendid, wonderful night of my life. But it doesn't have to end yet."

I've never hated myself more than at this moment. "Actually, it does. I need for tonight to stay like this, as perfect as possible."

"Hel," a warm comforting palm cups my face, her face and words so full of warm affection they stab me and leave me cold, empty and cold, "we can make it even more perfect than this."

I shake my head, tears flying free. I can't stop weeping.

Barbara frowns, and even that's beautiful. "I don't understand. Don't you want to stay?"

"More than you can know."

"Than why leave? Am I pushing? Normally I don't sleep with someone on the first date but we've known each other for so long, been through so much."

"You're not pushing Barbara." I kneel up and capture her lips with mine, my last kiss. My last taste of everything that can never, ever be.

"I know you don't understand," I tell her with all the love I have as I stand, my hand reluctant to relinquish hers. "I love you Barbara. I will go to my grave and I'll love you beyond that. Please, just let this night be what it was. A wonderful date. You'll move on. I'll...live. But nothing more can come of it. It can never happen again."

I turn away, dragging my hand from her grasp. I don't want to see the hurt on her face. The pain I just put there. I ignore her calling my name as I head for the door, my heart drenched in all the reasons why.

I can't bear to explain to Barbara that there is far more than my recent betrayal that keeps me from her. That has kept me from her all these years. That will keep me from her forever.

Part Eleven

I'm fleeing the scene of my crime. I don't run, or stop my retreat to the elevator doors. The confusion and hurt in Barbara's voice shred at my heart, but it's the words she shouts next that freeze the blood in my veins.

"Delphi, voice command lock down!"

Lock down?

I'm not more than two steps from my exit when a plate of solid metal slams down in front of it, barring my escape. More clangs resound in the clock tower. I whirl and witness sheets of metal race down the side of every window and opening. Emergency lights turn on. I'm trapped.


I hurl myself at the barred elevator, use all my meta strength, spurred by desperation, fuelled by fear. Nothing. Not the slightest mark. The thought of being trapped drives me wild.

"This is new." My voice comes out strangled. I turn and face her.

Green eyes spark, Barbara's tone as implacable as the expression on her face, "After Quinn I felt more thorough security measures were called for. Now, where in Hell did you think you were going?"

The last comes out sharp and hard. I ignore it as best I can and pace frantically inside this unexpected cage. "Is the voice recognition program only keyed to your voice?" I don't know how I do it, but I almost sound casual.

"Yes." The word is sharp and precise.

"Let me out." I keep my voice level, reasonable, even as my every move screams desperation.

"No," Barbara responds with surreal calm. "Tell me why Helena."

It's not a question.

Wild eyed, I prowl, looking for an escape. "Because I'm selfish. I wanted the date with you. I wanted your kiss."

She shakes her head angrily, "The reason Helena. The real one. The entire truth."

"I can't!" My hands slap painfully against the unyielding metal.

She wheels towards me. I dance out of reach quickly. She stops and stares at me with confusion and hurt, "I love you. You know I do. You've felt it. And by God I know you feel the same. I know that you love me. That you want this. So why? Why can't this happen? Why won't you let this happen?"

I want to tell her it's because there aren't happy endings for people like me. I don't believe in them anymore. Not since they were murdered in front of me so long ago.

"We can't be together," I answer her, hoarse with fear and anguish. "Not like that. Not ever."

"Why?" she yells. Her hands hit her legs hard enough that I wince.

A frantic terror grips me. "Please. Please Barbara, don't make me hurt you like this." Don't let me be the vice that crushes that great heart of yours.

"You're already hurting me." She's more unyielding than the metal surrounding us.

I look helplessly at her. I never thought I could feel this way again. The way I felt holding my mother as she died in my arms, the knife that killed her only feet away. And me, terrified, desperate and helpless, utterly helpless, to save all that made my life whole. I could only watch her, and my reason, bleed away on filthy concrete in the unrelenting rain.

Here I am again. I built my whole world around Barbara. And again it's bleeding away in my arms. Except this time I don't know which I am: the frightened child, the dying woman, or the bloody knife that did it all.

Every line in my body tries to beg Barbara, "Then let me go Barbara. Let me go before I hurt you worse."

Her jaw tightens, as does the look in her eyes. "There's not a chance even if Hell froze over that I would let you leave without an explanation!"

My heart's beating so hard I'm amazed it hasn't broken through my chest. "Let me go."

Barbara barks a short, staccato laugh that's painful to hear. "You kiss me like no one's ever kissed me before. You give me the most romantic night in my life, tell me you love me, make me feel more than I ever have in my life, and then you think I'm going to just let you walk out the door when you tell me it can never happen again?" Her fierce expression fuels her tone. "I don't know what's going on. I don't know what you could be thinking. But I do know that if you think you're leaving without at least telling me why, then you're insane!"

She plows on, heedless of my growing panic. "Why Helena? Why can't this happen again? Why can I never feel your lips against mine? Feel your tongue in my mouth? Have this evening end the way it should with you-"

"Please stop." The plea's faint, my hands in fists at my side, my eyes screwed tight, fighting it. I'm dying inside.

Barbara doesn't relent. "God Helena, just the way you looked at me is enough to take my breath away. I love you! Isn't that what you want? Am I not what you want? Why won't you let me love you? Let me be with you? Let our bodies slide together, your hands on me, me loving you, my hands inside of you-"


I lunge but force my hands away from her body at the last minute. They find purchase on the back handles of her chair, gripping them painfully. My eyes are open and their burning with my arousal and my fear as my beast wells within me. Barbara meets my eyes unflinching.

She's always been far braver than I.

"This is why Barbara," I grind out between clenched teeth that want to rend. "This is why. I'm not human. Just your words, the sound of your voice, makes me this way and all I want to do is ravage you! God Barbara, why did you think I moved out all those years ago? Even then I could never completely stay away from you, but at least I could protect you from me."

She regards my eyes and their vertical slits. She frowns, "So your meta powers kick in when you're aroused? That's not a problem."

God help us both, she doesn't understand. "No Barbara, it is a problem. What I want to do, the things I want to do to you-" My voiced cracks, the images the words evoke eroding my waning control.

Barbara's touch on my mouth startles me. I finch away. Her hand drops to grab the front of my shirt and suddenly I'm pulled down and kissed hard and wanting. A low growl tickles past my control, past my lips. I tear my mouth form hers, deeply afraid. Before I can speak, Barbara's words penetrate me, her hand still tangled in my shirt.

"You think you're the only one crazed with desire?" she husks, her eyes search my face. "I dream about us together. All night I've been wanting you naked in my bed. I've been spending all night dreaming about what you taste like, hot against my tongue, your body pulsing hot and wet around my hand, moving so deep inside you-"

"Barbara don't!" I warn her, a choked sound. Is she trying to provoke me? My whole body throbs at her words. I ache for her.

Her eyes widen at the sound of metal bending as my grip unconsciously tightened, behind the handles of her chair. The last of my control is all but worn away.

"Do you get it now?" I growl in her face, my death grip on her chair not lessening. "I don't fight like a human. I certainly couldn't have sex, let alone make love like one."

There it is. The point of no return. I'll have to eviscerate my shame and fear in front of her for her to see. For her to believe. And then I'll watch that look of love and desire on her face, in her eyes, be replaced by horror. Horror of me.

"Remember Jimmy Wilson?" I begin.

"From when you were in high school? Of course I remember." Of course she does, that's what I'm counting on, her infallible memory. Then she'll push me away. Save herself. Help me save her. "You brought him to the nurse's office. He had fallen and his lip was split wide open. But what does that have to do with us?"

"You remember how bad his lip was?"

"His teeth had gone right through his lip. It was nasty." she answers, so confused by my train of conversation.

"It wasn't his teeth that did that." I watch her carefully for her reaction, "We were fooling around behind the bleachers. I thought he was hot. I certainly was. And he would do for the moment. We were making out and I...changed. I wanted to kiss him harder, take him. But the taking wasn't sex, or at least not only sex. I wanted him bleeding., I wanted his blood and his whimpers of pain. Before I realized what I was doing, he was trying to push me away, screaming with his skin in my mouth and I kept biting, his blood filling my mouth. And it felt good Barbara. Better than good. Better than anything I've ever felt. Do you hear me? I did that to him and got off on it."

Barbara's expression is as guarded as I've ever seen it. Unreadable. "He said he fell."

"He was scared and ashamed at a girl making him scream." I tell her harshly.

"You were young, suffering form teenage hormones and your emerging powers. After that-"

"After that. It was nearly a year before I tried anything with anyone else," I cut her off, my turn to be unrelenting. "But I did try. A party at Cindy Evans' ring a bell?"

Green eyes widen, "Cindy Evans...she was the girl admitted to the hospital after she had fallen on a rake in drunk stupor..."

"It wasn't a rake. But she was drunk." I inform her, pitilessly confirming her conclusions. "We had all been drinking and were playing truth or dare. You know how I can never resists a dare, don't you? The dare was for me and Cindy to make out in the shed for ten minutes. Her eyes were too blue but she had red hair and luscious curves. I liked how she kissed. Then she began to feel me up and I liked that even more. Next thing I know, she runs out and I see her back through a shirt that wasn't torn before we went in the shed. I could see parallel streaks of red on her back. I looked down at my hand and saw the same red on my fingers, under my nails. That's when I figured it out. What I'd done. Wanna know what I did then?" I don't wait for an answer but tell her, "I licked it off. I licked her blood off my fingers and nearly came from the rush of it. Do you remember how many stitches she needed?"

Reluctantly Barbara releases the number, "Twenty-seven." She protests, "But there was no report of her being attacked. She never said anything."

"Cindy was too drunk to remember. I wasn't. People drew their own conclusions and I let them."

From the look on her face, Barbara's mind is racing, "But you've had sex since then."

My eyes burn and I shake my head slowly from side to side.

"Ever?" She asks astonished. Shock flows over her face, through her voice.

Again, I carefully shake my head negative.

"Helena," stricken, she reaches for me.

I release the chair and scramble away. "What's wrong with you?" my voice rises, "What is this? Pity? You should be horrified! I've tried since then. Countless someones, anyone. Sure, none of them were you but they all turned me on. It starts at kissing and before it ever gets any farther...every time, every time Barbara, there's a point where I lose control. And I hurt them. I want to hurt them. I want you and I want to hurt you. Do you hear me Barbara? I love you and want you and none of it matters because I want to hurt you!"

I make it over to the wall before my legs give out and I slide down it's metal smoothness to sit on the floor. I press my face to it's cold surface. "I fuck myself. Less guilt. And when I bruise or draw blood it's my own and at least I have meta healing to ease it the next day."

I hear her draw closer to me. "How lonely you must have been all this time. Why didn't you ever tell me? It can't affect how I feel about you. Do you really think so little of me?"

The beast that I am hasn't receded. Too much arousal and fear. My senses are still heightened, my eyes still inhuman. But the raw pain of her words...she's hurting and the hurt is for me. It bleeds some of the edge away, though it lingers, waiting.

"I always knew I never deserved you." The words squeeze past the sadness in my throat.

A hand runs through my hair, I close my eyes at the soothing touch. Her voice is thick with more emotions than I can decipher. "You realize you've earned serious idiot points for underestimating me? And it makes me upset when you put yourself down."

She sounds so normal. I blink open my eyes to see the tender expression on her face. "I don't understand. Haven't you heard a word I've said? I hurt people I want. If I didn't run every time, I would have hurt them all much worse. I'm in love with you, but it doesn't mean I can make love to you. I can never be with you."

"I love you too," she empathizes with a caress to my face. "But you seem to be missing the obvious."

"Which is?' I ask bitterly.

"That even if we could never have sex, it wouldn't change how I feel about you. Also, that you haven't tried yet."

"I have tired!"

"You've never tired with me," she states quietly. Her voice like her eyes, soft and hard at the same time.

My whole being stumbles over the implications of what she just said. "You can't be serious."

She nods once, firm and sure. "I know I - we, deserve the chance to find out what we can have, what we can be together."

I don't know whether to scream or weep in frustration. Every part of me is on fire to take her. How can she taunt me with this?

"Don't think because it's you, because I love you, that it'll be different. The beast I am comes out, and you'll get hurt. I could even kill you."

Barbara cups my face in her hands, "You're worth the risk."

I yank my face from her touch. Long held-in lust turns into anger. "I hardly agree. If we had sex I wouldn't be able to stay in control. God Barbara, I could break bones or worse. I can't face doing that to you. I can't risk it. You're worth more than that to me."

"We'd be making love, not sex." Barbara insists, her gaze soft. "And you're a person Helena, meta-human or otherwise, you're still a person, not any kind of beast."

I laugh but there's no humour to it. The painful sound has more edges than shattered glass. "How can you say that? Even now, seeing your hair slightly mussed and that sensual mouth, all I want to do is take you. I want to throw your body on the nearest table, shred that dress off and mark you with teeth and nails as mine while I fuck you so hard you scream when you come and then I want to bite you so hard you bleed. I love you with everything that I am. But it doesn't change the fact that if we went further than a kiss, that I would do all of that and more. I would hurt you Barbara. And I would get off on it. Do you hear me?" I growl suddenly, getting up to lean over her menacingly, intimately. "I would fuck you, hurt you, and I would love it."

A scent sets my hyper-senses on fire. Arousal. Barbara's arousal curling around us like an exotic perfume. I take in her flushed face, the dilated pupils, her pulse beating against her neck like a trapped thing. "You can't want this," I gasp. She can't want me.

"I want all of you." she says. And now it's her eyes that hold mine. "But you're right. I don't want it to be like that right now. Not for our first time together. And certainly not for your first time making love."

My need, my urges are making it so hard to think clearly. "How can you not be afraid? Why aren't you angry?"

"Oh, I never said I wasn't angry." There's an edge to her tone, a hardness in her eyes that I flinch at. "That you could walk away from me like that, without giving me the benefit of the doubt...No Hel, you managed to piss me off. But then you've always had a habit of being maddening." she gives me a small, lopsided smile. "God, you can drive me crazy sometimes. It's never been enough to drive me away before. I won't let you drive me away now either."

The kiss takes me by surprise. Everything Barbara has said and done this evening has. It's gentle and forgiving, just like her.

She pulls back enough to stare into my eyes and I'm drowning in twin expanses of the softest, deepest green. "I love you. How can I see you in so much pain and not feel it with you? Any anger I feel is nothing compared to how much I love you. I don't care if I have to say it a hundred times a day to help convince you of that. Right now, I'm going to prove it."

Terror rushes through me, "Prove it?"

"You've suffered with all these misconceptions for too long. It's past time we changed that."

"It's not a misconception," my voice rises with my anxiety.

"Yes," she stares me down, "it is. Now you're going to pick me up out of this chair and carry me to the bedroom."

I struggle to think, to find the right words that will convince her that it would destroy us both.

She kisses me again. It's as soft as the last one but this time her mouth is demanding.

"Stop trying to think." she whispers against my wet lips, "Take me upstairs and make love with me."

I don't think. I've wanted this for too long. Fighting it hurts too much. I lift her, all too aware of the feel and heat of her body against mine, her bare back against my cradling arms. I don't dare look at her. I focus on breathing and moving my feet as I navigate us to her bedroom. All too soon we're standing there, in her room, by her bed.

"You're shaking," Barbara whispers.

"I'm scared."

"Of me?" a hand slips up my neck, rubbing it soothingly, but arousing me at the same time.

"Not you so much as this ," I barely nod at the bed. "I still think this is a mistake. It has to be."

"Why?" That free hand forcefully moves my head around to face her. "Because your code of romantically self-destructive behaviour says you can't be happy? You can be."

Her breath is sweet and her lips so close...


I blink. Barbara's peering at me. "You zoned out there for a second." she tells me concerned.

"I'm here." I say a little breathless.

"Maybe you should lay me on the bed?" she points out.

My losing track of time, no matter how briefly, isn't a good sign. Nevertheless, I do as she asks and lay her on the bed, that pale body in that long dark dress. She moves up to rest her back on the headboard. She's waiting for me, wanting me. I stand there, so scared of hurting her that I can't move.

Barbara tilts her head at me. After a moment of scrutiny she says, "Breathe Helena."

I drag in air into my lungs. Seems I forgot to do that to while freezing up.

"Come here." Barbara holds her hand out to me.

I take it without thinking. Next thing I know I'm being gently pulled onto the bed. At her urging I kick off my footwear and climb onto the mattress, feeling it dip under my weight. With some prompting, she soon has me sitting astride her lap, facing her at very close range.

She takes my face in her hands and lays the sweetest, most tender kiss upon my parted lips. "Helena," she soothes, "you're almost hyperventilating. You can relax. This is just us. Loving each other."

She continues to try and calm me with a gentle rain of light kisses and comforting touches. After a while, I exhale slow and long, feeling some of the tension uncoil from me.

"That's better," Barbara murmurs, taking a good look at me in the dim emergency lights. "You're eyes haven't changed back."

"I'm in your bed, over your body," I respond sounding remotely like my old self, "I'm marginally calmer but no less aroused."

"I wonder," she muses, the most wicked glint in her eyes, "if your eyes change back just before, during, or after you climax?"

A tearing sound makes us both start. We glance down. I've accidentally torn the mattress under my hands.

I pry open my grip. "Sorry. Told you this was a bad idea."

Her hands cover mine, "This fear of hurting me is going to keep interfering with you enjoying this, isn't it? Let's take care of that right now."

She leans to the side and reaches into her bedside table. She sits back and holds up a dark gold silk scarf.

"That's my favourite scarf of yours." I say, concerned. I love the way she looks in all that gold silk.

"I know." she says warmly, " More incentive for you not to rip it. Now, put your hands behind your back."

My eyebrows rise into my hairline at that. "Kind of kinky for you isn't it?"

Barbara smiles fondly at me, "Helena, do you trust me?"

I bite back the glib response I could make, instead I tell her the truth. "I trust you with my life. I just don't myself with yours."

Her expression alters, gentles further even as a strength that's all Barbara seems to emanate form her. "I trust you." She tells me with complete sincerity. "And I won't ask you to trust me implicitly, just for you to trust me enough. Can you trust me enough to try? If not, tell me. We'll stop. I won't have you here against your will. Tell me what you honestly want Helena, and I'll give it to you."

My whole state of self goes into flux at her words. This is the moment where I can come through for her. I can be her hero. All I have to do is do the right thing and leave before I hurt us both. But what I want, all I want, is half-reclined in this bed.

I'm so tired of living in a place where every thought hurts, every word wounds, and the skies are always a dark industrial black. I want skies of perfect blue. The skies Barbara showed me. The ones she promises in her kiss. In the end, my selfishness wins out. And just like that, I damn myself that much more.

"I want you, Barbara." She's the best part of my heart and all I can claim of a soul. I lean forward and place my hands behind my back.

She meets me halfway, her body brushing against mine, soft and pliant and strong all at once as she binds my wrists in the silk scarf tightly. She pushes the ends of silk into my palms.

"Hold these." she commands.

I hold the ends of my confinement confused, "I can get out of this. I only have to release the ends of the scarf and my hands are free."

A finger grazes my lips, sending sparks along my mouth and down my body. "That's right. You're still in control. This is just to help you feel safe from yourself."

I open my mouth in obvious protest but she stops me, pressing fingers to still my lips.

"Trust me," she implores. "Please, Helena, until you feel safe enough to trust yourself, believe in me."

"Sometimes you're the only I can believe in anymore."

"Than kiss me," she sits back and waits for me. Waits for me to choose.

I gaze at her, weighing the value of my actual soul over this choice. The scales don't balance. The scales never do. Her beauty overwhelms me. It always has. Not simply her physical presence, though that's undeniable. But it's the ineffable sum that's uniquely, only hers, that caught and kept my heart from the first. Her warmth, her strength, the way she can make me laugh, the effect of her smile, her amazing mind. The sheer dichotomy of fierceness and calm strength combined with an inner vulnerability. She's guarded but open, cautious but trusting. Melancholic but always striving to fight for the best in us all. In me. Like right now.

Maybe I'm just fooling myself that I ever had a choice in this at all.

I don't answer her with words. I can't. I have neither the eloquence or facility to speak the myriad of emotions she evokes in me. Instead, with my hands tied behind my back, I carefully lean towards Barbara and hope that I can show her with a kiss, as I slowly caress her mouth with mine.

She exhales as if relieved, showing she had left herself wide open for rejection, for me to walk away and cause her that kind of pain. Note sure what my choice would be, she risked her heart for it. For me. But she hoped. Hoped I would stay. It brings tender tears to my closed eyes. With everything I have, I pour every nuance of my love for Barbara into my kiss. A hand twines in my hair, pulling me closer. The brush of her tongue on my lips excites me sharply, but I hold back, enjoying the sensation of her tracing my lips with the lightest touch of her tongue. After a languid moment, I hesitantly touch the tip of her tongue with mine. The lightning shocks that shoot through me from the contact release a groan from me. Barbara's breathing catches at the sound. Still, neither of us speed things up. Relishing this, I return the gesture and Barbara allows me to explore every millimetre of her wonderful mouth with my lips and tongue.

She breaks first. With a strangled noise she claims my mouth, kissing me fully, her tongue hot and wet inside me. Still, the caresses are achingly slow, oddly soothing and arousing at once. It's when her hands move on me that my heart stops, and then speeds up as if making up for the lost moments before this.

My whole body shudders as she touches me for the first time. Her hands slide down from my hair and face to caress the curve of my neck and the tense muscles in my shoulders, and further down still. The heat from her hands brands me wherever they touch. An almost tickling sensation along my ribs, a light pattern on my stomach that makes the muscles there quiver. Then, with her lips on mine, my tongue in the arm haven of her mouth, she grazes the side of my breasts. I drag in a breath, tear my mouth from hers and nearly drown in green eyes dark. She watches me hungrily, seeing the reactions to her touch play over my face as she repeats the action. This time she presses more firmly, fingers gently pinching painfully erect nipples.

A low growl escapes me.

Barbara doesn't blink. She croons to me as she caresses my breasts, moulding them with her hands. "I'd like to loosen your shirt." She tells me, gaze intense, "Let me loosen it and feel your skin. Be closer to you. You're so beautiful Helena, may I undress you? Just your shirt for now. I promise."

I'm about to move my hands to grab hers but tight bonds of silk stop me and I won't relinquish my hold on the scarf. Unable to speak, afraid to, I only nod once for her to continue.

Mesmerized, I watch as her elegant hands trace over my buttons. With agonizing slowness, Barbara undoes them, one after the other, taking her time, prolonging the moment as long as possible. She punctuates each button releasing with a kiss to my jaw and throat. She leans back, eyes hot on me, she slowly pulls the ends of the shirt from my pants. Afterwards, she doesn't move to pull my shirt off right away. Instead, slender fingers take either side of the shirt's opening and languidly slides the silk between her fingers, down the length of the shirt.

"I love the way this heavy silk feels under in my hands." she tells me, her voice smoky with pleasure. "There're only two things I want to feel under my hands even more."

"What things?" I gasp, aching to know.

She slides her hands onto my shoulders, just under the shirt's collar. "One's your skin." And with that, she smoothes the shirt over my shoulders. Her breath catches while she reveals me to herself, letting the folds of the shirt lie around my waist and bound lower arms.

"No bra," she mentions, licking suddenly dry lips.

"No." I swallow in response to the hunger on her face, eyes roaming over me as I sit naked before her eyes. "What's the second?"

"Later." she rasps, her gaze hot on my skin.

Her hands stroke my back, openly relishing the way I arch into her touch. Nails lightly rake my sides and I moan. Her lips capture mine, but only for one full kiss filled with lust and something deeper. She drags her mouth from mine to look upon my face as she brings her hands to my bared beasts and begins to squeeze and kneed them.

It's so different. Her touch on me rather than my own. It's so much more than anything I felt before. I push myself up against her, needing more. She responds by tweaking my nipples, pinching and pulling them. The sensations travel directly to the throbbing heat between my legs.

"Harder," I growl more than I wished to. And before I can answer her she leans over and wraps her mouth around one of my aching breast, sucking and licking me fiercely.

"Oh god!" I nearly sob in pleasure at this new and completely unexpected storm of sensation. It's indescribable. Overwhelming. The heat, the wetness, the conflicting softness of her lips sucking me while the sharp rasp of teeth and silky stroke of her tongue ravage me. All the while I feel her eyes on my face. I meet her eyes with my own blaze of need. My growling becomes a rolling constant of sound.

"Skin. Now." My words are barely intelligible around my snarl.

Barbara softens her attentions, giving the other breast the lightest of licks over a taut peak as she considers me intently.

"I want to give you anything you need, everything you want." Her eyes are stark with honesty and there's such raw need of her own that it gives my rising beast pause, though barely. "But you have to tell me exactly what that is. You said 'skin now'. Tell me what skin, where and what you want me to do. I'll do it. I want to." The last is said with her own growing urgency, which both warms me and further fuels my desire.

But it's getting harder to stay in control.

"Your skin. I need to see you. Feel you."

"You want me to undress myself?"

"Yes." Wait. "No!"

She pauses, her hands having already moved up to undo the tie of her dress around her neck.

"I want you to undress," I clarify as I force myself to think and speak, my growls fading under the effort. "But I want to undress you."

I close my eyes and taking in a few ragged breaths. Thinking about her naked and wet and wanting. It nearly drives me over the edge.


"Still here," I assure her, opening my eyes. "Just getting a hold of myself. I don't trust myself to use my hands. Could you...undo the closure at the back of your neck and let me roll it down...with my teeth? I'll be careful not to tear it with my teeth."

A delighted smile crosses her face. She complies immediately, first removing her necklace and placing it on the bedside table, then undoing the dress and holding the top against her chest, the neck strands hanging over her hands.

"You're not afraid that I'll bite you?" My lurking fear flaring at what I'm about to attempt.

"No. In fact, later on, I'm counting on it." Her contralto tone is filled with anticipation. An amused upturn of her lips compels me to kiss her. I do, caressing the velvet texture of her lips and a teasing slip of my tongue before I draw back and lower myself to where her hands are, holding the cloth. So cautiously, I take the fabric between my teeth. Her hands let go. Our gazes lock. Slow, slower, I peel back the front of her dress down, and down until I stop at her waist. I sit up straight, tearing my eyes from hers to feast on the sight before me. Milk white skin, smooth planes, full round breasts and already tightened, reddish pink peaks. I want to map her with my mouth, make her feel the same pleasure she's given me.

"Can I?"

She doesn't ask for elaboration this time, but nods silently. Suddenly, my oracle no longer has a voice.

I want that abrupt lack of sound to soon change. I need to hear her voice, her sounds. Let it roll inside me. Wrap around my head, in my heart.

I rub my cheek along hers, first one side, then the other. She's smiling beatifically at me. An angel with blood red hair and wicked green eyes. Maybe Barbara's a fallen angel rather than some haloed being from on high. I can't imagine any angel would dare to love someone like me.

I lose myself in verdant eyes filled with love, and a smile as wicked as sin. I smile back. There's something in her regard that makes me feel whole. Worthy. Just mere mortals the two of us, flawed and beautiful. A little bit brave and a whole lot of crazy, but maybe that's where the good people are found. I'm beyond grateful that I found her.

My lips seek out hers. A need, warm and soft but insistent drives me to try to show Barbara that she's my heart, my desire, my love. I breathe those words and more against her lips. Then I kiss her cheekbones, press my lips to the line of her jaw. She tilts her head and I lightly bite down on a soft ear lobe, hearing her breath hitch. I lick the incredibly soft area just behind and below her ear, trace the curve of her neck with my mouth, follow the sweep of her neck down the length of her throat, along her collar bone, trail kisses down to her breasts. I inhale and breathe out before I rub my face around her chest, delighting in the incredible softness of her. My first taste is tentative, my eyes finding her face as I lick and circle her areola with my tongue. Heat darkens her gaze. I flick the erect tip. Barbara gasps. Slowly, I envelope as much of her in my mouth as I can, and begin to suckle her in languid, hard strokes. Her eyes flutter closed but she fights to kept them open and watch me as I make love her. Hands tangle in my short hair. Her upper body arches into me, a small cry escapes her parted lips. I nearly climax from that sight and sound alone.

She's so soft and sweet and full in my mouth. I scrape my teeth along her as I pull myself away to lavish the same hungry attention on her other breast. Her body nearly convulses over me at my actions. Her hands are pushing me down and I'm all too happy to comply. With the greatest pleasure, I lick the quivering muscles of her stomach in long, wet lines. I dip my tongue easily into her belly button, circling it suggestively.

Barbara's hands tighten in my hair and she's moaning in earnest now. My senses are thick with the taste of her skin and the scent of her arousal. I'm so close to her swollen wet sex I can almost feel the flesh tremble for my touch. Barbara moans my name and I'm ready to tear the rest of her dress off with my teeth and take what I want. What she wants. My growl rips through the air, loud and sudden, startling us both with it's ferocity.

That's when I stop.

I can't do this. My needs are so strong, the damage I'm capable of so overwhelming. It's too much, pulling at me from every direction. The fear and anxiety, the desire and despair, the incredible frustration that I feel I could die from. That I wish I would. I don't want to fail Barbara. I want this but I can't be trusted. My own body aches for release. The maelstrom inside me pushes and pulls for any escape. My throat clenches tightly. Against my will, my eyes burn with unwanted tears. I want her so badly. But I can't trust my mouth on such a tender place, don't' dare use my hands. My need and failure are too much. I hide my face against her hip, silent sobs I can't stop, wracking my body.

Almost immediately, Barbara curls her upper body over me. One hand smoothes my hair, the other gently rubs my shuddering back and shoulders. "Helena?"

I try to bury my head deeper into her side, shame and embarrassment filling me even as my need rages inside me. I try to stop sobbing but I can't.

Loving but firm hands pull me up, and up more, until my head is buried against her neck and her arms wrap around me securely.

"You've held all this in for so long," Barbara speaks softly near my ear. "It's okay Helena. Just let go." She can't help but feel the vibrating tension of my body. "Let me help you let go."

I can't. It won't ease even though I sob until I'm winded. Through it all, Barbara holds me, constantly murmuring and caressing me soothingly. It's torture. The silk friction of her bare skin along mine heats my body even more despite my weeping. It feels like I'm breaking into jagged pieces.

"Help me," I squeeze out, the plea muffled against her skin, soaked with sweat and tears.

She continues her comforting murmurs in my ear. Her hands move lower. Through my turmoil I don't notice her loosening my pants until she's sliding her hand down the opening and immediately finds my soaking wet sex.

I cry out at the electrifying contact of her exploring my throbbing, aching sex.

"It's okay." Barbara tells me, sounding breathless herself. "Let me do this. Let me help. Let me in."

In the slick wetness, her fingers easily glide over my pulsing clit. I gasp against her neck in shock. "I didn't know- it could feel like this- so much !" I can't focus to explain my disjointed words. Having only ever felt my own hands on me while masturbating, I'm completely unprepared for the overpowering sensations her touch evokes.

"I know," she assures me with such empathy that I believe her. "I feel it too."

My mind and panic tell me to ignore the desire in her voice, the sweet, sweet touch of her, and pull away. But my body and need thrust my hips against her fingers, desperately searching for the rhythm I require.

"Yes," she sighs, her breath hot on my shoulder. Her free arm warps around my waist, guiding my movements, helping me rock against her hand. She quickly finds the rhythm I need, fingers circling my clit in ever tightening circles.

"You're so beautiful, so wet, you feel so amazing," she half-whispers, half moans. I've never climaxed with someone, anyone before.

"I'm scared," I pant, my eyes squeezed shut, feeling myself on the edge of burning bright orgasm.

"I'm with you Helena." And her voice feels like it's surrounding me. Her arm tightens its hold around my waist. And then in the next instant, the next, she pushes me over that shining ledge and I fall against her even as I feel like light inside me is bursting me apart inside out. From every limb, every trembling shuddering breath I fly apart.

Through it all, Barbara is with me. Her voice carrying me, her body anchoring me as I return to rest inside my sweat soaked skin.

We did it.


One hand cups my head gently while her other hand rubs my back, fingers running through my damp hair. Lips press against my shoulder, my neck, below my ear.

"I love you Helena."

I release the scarf and carefully unwind my wrists. I drag my head up and stare at Barbara in wonder and amazement. I touch her face with shaking hands, the scarf looped loosely over one arm and writs.

I gaze a long time into the depths of her eyes. Reverently, I kiss her.

After I release her lips, I ask, "You okay?"

Barbara laughs a bright burst of delight. "After that? I'm more than okay. Wonderful. Amazing. Though next time I want your pants off."

Next time.

I release a shaky breath. Reluctantly, I move back away form her and of the bed. My hands still tremble as I pull my pants down and step out of them. I stand naked by the bed. Barbara's looking feels very much like her touching.

"My eyes haven't changed back yet," I tell her.

She seems undisturbed by it. "I hardly thought one orgasm would be enough to satisfy years of pent up desires. It's not enough to satisfy me." she wears that amused, hungry smile, her eyes filled with carnal knowledge and promises only made in bedrooms or dark corners. Promises that I want kept, want kept with a dark, deep ache.

"You were trying to take the edge off for me." I say it, but it's almost a question.

"So you could think a bit more clearly," she confirms, her gaze searching my face for my reaction, "be more in control again. And because I wanted to."

I look at her, half-reclined on the bed, bared upper body slick with sweat, her hair damp, smelling of sex. I'm still far from sated. I need to be with her. Need to answer that hunger in her eyes. Taste her. Hear her cry out my name. And I need her to claim me completely. We're both far from safe yet.

I crawl onto the bed, my primal gaze locked on her. I snarl, low and wanton as I reach for the top of her dress, pooled around her hips. My heightened senses hear the skip of her heart, feel the increased heat from her body. The loveliest flush rises up her body, dusting her throat and neck in rose. With my eyes, I try to convey all I want to do to her. Her hands spill eager over mine to hurry my taking her dress off. The fabric slides smoothly under her with my barely having to lift her.

I spread her legs open and growl as I inhale the heavy scent of her arousal.

"God Helena, that is the most erotic sound I've ever heard," Barbara says hoarsely.

I regard the woman I long for, needing to be sure. "Are you certain you trust me, my mouth, on such a tender place?" I grip the bed on either side of her hips, afraid of touching her as my beast comes to the fore, wanting.

She touches my face. "I've never wanted anything more in my life."

I coil ready to pounce, but Barbara isn't prey. I fight back the urge to take her roughly.

"Please," she adds, the words raw with her own need.

I give in and surge forward but I don't take. When I claim her mouth, my kiss is wet and full but not commanding. It takes everything I have to keep my movements gentle, languid. Neither of us are surprised by the sound of her sheets and mattress tearing under my white knuckled grip. I don't dare use my hands on her.

Faster than before, I make a path down her body with lips, tongue and barely restrained teeth. Soon, but not soon enough for either of our lust, I'm between her legs. My head down, I stare at her through dark, damp bangs, knowing how my eyes reflect the dim light. Inhuman and hungry.

"Ready?" I tease her, the word a guttural rolling sound.

Barbara stops breathing for a moment, her own eyes wild. "Helena." The name comes from deep in her throat. It's the closest to a growl I've ever heard from her and it inflames me even more.

I hold those eyes, almost crazed with need, with my own and lower my parted lips to blow past crisp, crimson curls to the heated flesh just beneath. A tremor ripples through Barbara's entire body. Leaning down more, I cover as much of her sex as I can and with my mouth, breathe hot breath onto her.

Barbara gasps. And now it's not only me gripping the bed. With one long movement, I taste her with my tongue, take what flesh I can into my mouth and explore every line and crevice, every curve and dip and fold while grazing parts with my teeth.

Barbara writhes above me as I stroke every part of her sex. Her ragged breaths and moans burn me with her want, making it my own. I lick and suck and take in the taste of her, the textures and scents like a woman drowning. I shudder, once, sharply. It never occurred to me before that heaven could have a taste, a smell, a sound. But here I am, greedily taking it all, with my eyes open to witness it every moment.

I lovingly circle her clit, teasing her. I don't stay there despite Barbara's protests. Starving for more of her, I lower my mouth and circle her opening. She cries out, sharp and loud. I growl in response, the sound reverberating against her sensitive, aching flesh, which makes her moan again. A hand finds and tightens in my hair. With a quick thrust, I push my tongue inside her. The hand in my hair convulses, pulling at me painfully. I like it. But it's nothing compared to having my wet muscle buried deep in the slick heat of her. I push my tongue up against her inner walls, careful of how I rub the membrane with my piercing, feeling her spasm around me tongue. I want more. I pulse my tongue inside her, and alternately thrusting in and out of her repeatedly.

"Helena," she can barely gasp my name, "Helena, please! "

I raise my chin and take her throbbing clit in my mouth, sucking on it and pinching it with my teeth. Her trembling grows, and I know she's close. Rational thought leaves me and before either of us have a chance to stop me, I push three fingers into her wet core and suck her clit hard into my mouth.

Barbara's head flies back and she screams her pleasure as she comes. I feel every delicious ounce of it against my mouth and pulsing against my fingers eagerly trapped inside her. My fingers curl inside her and she climaxes again. I lap at her juices, wanting every bit of her satiny wetness. I lick the soft, soft skin of her inner thighs. Even as she struggles to catch her breath, I begin to move my fingers in and out of her again, stroking her with a slow thrust.

"Oh god. Hel-" I look up to see her face flushed with pleasure and more...fear?

"Helena," the hand in my hair pulls at the delicate nape hairs, hard. It hurts. I snarl at her and rise up to crush her lips to mine. I move my tongue in her mouth like I did in her sex. She grips me hard, sucking at my tongue to the point where it almost hurts. With my free hand I push her back.

"I need you," my voice comes out more hoarse than I've ever heard it. "Inside me. Please Barbara, go inside me."

She hesitates and I nearly weep in frustration. "I don't want to hurt you."

It didn't give me pause that I've never entered myself while masturbating. I don't give a damn about some temporary pain. "I need all of you." I tell her.

The words are a dim echo of what she told me before but something in my face must convince her. Her hand reaches for me while the other leaves my hair to steady herself on one of my shoulders while my hand still moves slow and strong thrusts inside of her. I move up better and straddle one of her legs, allowing us both better access and leverage.

Her hand teases me, gliding over my length, rubbing my clit, arousing me to new heights. Her fingers move to my opening and her eyes lock back onto mine.

"I love you," I whisper, never wanting anything as badly as I want her right now. To fill me up with her, to claim me, to own what was always hers. For me to at last be hers.

She slides inside me easily considering how slick I am with need. Two fingers thrust up and a sharp pinching sensation barely registers followed by an odd feeling of cramping. She keeps moving her fingers in and out of me, moving in deeper, removing all sensation of discomfort as my body floods her hand with my need. The most incredible feelings ripple through me.

Barbara's eyes are darker than sin when I refocus on her face. "Remember what I told you before?" she rasps, low and sensual, "How I've dreamed of feeling you just like this. Of filling you up with my hand, hearing you call out my name as I make you come, your body pulsing around my hand?"

I can only moan in want. Her voice making me shudder at the image.

"I'm going to do that to you tonight," she promises me, her voice thick with need.

I cry out as she pushes a third finger in, my tightness making the pleasure partly pain. But even now, like this, Barbara's loving me gently, wet lips on my neck, her hand moving slowly, allowing me to adjust to each new stretching of her filling me.

To both our amazement, I'm soon riding her hand, my hips pushing down on four fingers though it's tight, but it feels incredible and all I want is more, more of her. It's doing confusing things to me, my wild side is taking over but it's- I'm - confused. I don't know which I want more, for Barbara to fill me up, fuck me. Or for me to fuck her. I can't decide. I growl louder. I can't think anymore. I push my hand inside her harder, speeding up my movements, hungry for the noises she makes, the way she feels moving against me. Our sweat slicked bodies rubbing against each other while we each move our hands deep inside the other.

I feel my half-life slipping away as the beast inside me begins to merge. Can't hurt Barbara but I want to claim her with all that I am. I warned her. Warned her about this.

"Barbara," I pant between growling breaths, " - can't hold on."

She's beginning to move her thumb into my drenched aching core. "Don't hold on Hel, let go."

"But - hurt you." I feel her filling me further, it's overwhelming me, the sensations pulling me under.

"Helena," I can just make out her words, "I need all of you."

I cry out her name as her whole hand moves deep inside me, into me. I lose control, my beast and I merge into one. Finally complete. I yowl and thrust faster and harder into her while her hand pushes deep inside me and I feel so full , my walls quiver around her hand, the explosion building from the deepest part of me.

Her own body movements are erratic, she's getting close as well. With feral eyes I take in the sight of her body, the rapture on her face, her hair splayed out wild with damp strands sticking like snakes upon her sweaty skin. I see the pulse point jump in her neck and hear her heart beating. My own blood roars in my ears. And just as we both crest, I sink my teeth into her neck, her heart beat pulsing against my tongue, claiming her even as she claims me. Our bodies surge and shudder and our cries echo throughout the clock tower. I feel everything she promised me as I pulse strongly around her hand buried inside me. The last thing I register before I pass out, is the taste of Barbara's blood in my mouth.

Part Twleve

I wake slowly, my body heavy and reluctant. I've never felt so lethargic. My senses are confused by the unfamiliar scent of sweat and sex mixed in with the smells of laundry soap. Cotton, and Barbara.


Memory flash floods me with what happened between me and Barbara. Between us . Fear and love. Sex and pain...and pleasure. Blood. I can still taste it in my mouth. My heart lodges in my throat. My eyes fly open and I look over at the weight pressed up against my side. Barbara.

She's lying in bed next to me, eyes open and...smiling. Smiling more widely than I've ever seen.

I take in her blissful smile, her sultry gaze, crimson hair splayed out and wild covering the pillow, her neck and shoulders, and her body barely covered by a sage sheet. One which I have no idea how she managed to get from under both our weights. I've never her seen her so content, so happy. She seems fine, unharmed. I try to settle my heart back down.

"After," she says.

My still slumbering mind stumbles over the word, tries to poke at it from every angle. No dice. "Huh?"

"You eyes," her green ones sparkle mischievously, "I noticed just before you passed out completely. They change back to normal after you climax."

I look around, take in the emergency lighting, the metal slabs covering the windows, Barbara stretching languorously.

"Am I in your head?" I ask her suddenly, needing to know if this is real.

She arches an eyebrow at me. "Hardly. Even the great Oracle couldn't have imagined last night."

Which means we're also not in my head, because I never pictured happiness. Which means the lethargy pulling at my body, the bliss lingering deep in my bones, is real. Last night was real. And so is the taste of blood in my mouth.

I pull the sheet barely covering her off her body. Both eyebrows rise at my sudden movement. I begin to carefully inspect every inch of her.

"Helena? Is something wrong?" she asks, letting me push her hair back from her neck.

I nearly hiss at the painful sight. It's already a dark mauve where I bit her. And I can see a clear imprint of my teeth where I pierced her skin, covered by dried blood.

Barbara's calling my name, trying to regain my attention. Too ashamed to meet her eyes, I stare at her chin.

"I'm so sorry Barbara." I didn't say I didn't meant to hurt her, make her bleed. We both would know it for a lie. I wanted to mark her, and I did.

"Regrets already?" the soft sadness in her voice along with the gentle pressure of her fingers tilting my chin, both make me raise my eyes to hers. "Because," she continues, "I don't regret a single moment."

I regard her for a long moment. I sigh, "How badly does it hurt?"

"I don't know, you tell me." she responds with a pirate smile that I don't understand. "How does yours feel?"

I can only stare at her. A low throaty chuckle breaks free from her at my perplexed expression to her answer of my sombre question. It's a unique sound, erotic and pleased. And I still don't understand. She obligingly points at me, at my body just between my shoulder and neck.

I frown and try to turn my head to look at what she's pointing at on me but I can't see it. I raise my hand to feel and wince suddenly at the tenderness I feel there. I gingerly explore the area but can only guess it's bruised somehow.

Barbara turns the other way and reaches into her bedside table. She fishes out a hand mirror and passes it to me silently.

I hold it up and look at my body's reflection in shock. There's a bite mark there, where my hand just touched. No where near as dark as the one I left on her but still visibly bruising the muscle joining my neck and shoulder. There's even blood in three places where her teeth broke the skin. It's a bite. She bit me.

"You bit me." I say to her, astounded.

"Well, it felt so good while you were doing it that I got caught up in the moment. Thought you might enjoy a little reciprocation." she's pleased with herself, voice filling with desire at the memory.

"I didn't feel it." I'm still in shock. Barbara bit me.

"I felt you." Barbara says in such a wanton tone that I snap back form the mirror to her. Naked, smelling of sex, her eyes dark with desire. "I love how you felt." She adds, smoky and thick.

I drop the mirror.

Gingerly, I reach out and touch my mark on her skin. "You're really okay with this?"

She turns her head from side to side experimentally, "It's sore now but nothing compared to how good it felt when you did it. How about you? You seemed a little spooked before."

Hands cover my body, exploring me. Instinctively, I arch into her touch. "I was confused a bit when I first woke up. I was scared I hurt you. But...you seem alright with all of this."

She pulls me down and I eagerly lay myself on top of her, the silk friction of her skin under mine reigniting the heat between us.

"I feel wonderful." she gazes up at me, gentle and warm. "How do you feel?"

I take stock of myself. A little sore between my legs, my breasts are tender, and inside I feel sated, free. Heavy and light at the same time like when your arms are pinned down for a long time and then when you finally lift them you feel weightless, like you're flying.

"I've never felt so amazed in my life. I think...I think I'm happy." I tell her honestly.

Her caresses become more intimate. "Make love to me." she says, closing the small distance between us to kiss me.

I lose myself I her. Revelling in it. Our tongues caress for long moments. I drag my mouth away from hers to press my lips to her face, along her jaw. I hesitate when I reach her neck. I pause as shame lingers in me. I tentatively, lightly, lick the bruised skin. As soon as I do it, Barbara clutches at me with her hands and she arches under me.

"Yes, Helena." she rasps. And I feel her wet and hot where my thigh rests between her legs.

"It really is okay with you," I marvel.

"Are you still afraid?" she asks breathlessly.

"Not as much," I answer. Scared of it not being okay at some point.

Barbara fights to reassure me, "You can't expect half a lifetime of fear to disappear overnight. You have to give things time."

Time to grow. Time to become something else. She's right, I won't lose this fear overnight. It also wouldn't be a lie to admit that I'm afraid of losing the constant restraining terror that has held me in check for so long. I'm worried about what's left after it leaves entirely. Afraid of finding out what's left. What kind of self I am without it. If the change will be for the better.

Barbara pulls me out of my thoughts with her next words, insistent and sure, "I'll be there Helena, every step of the way I'll be with you."

I lift my head from her neck to see her face. Seeing all the love and trust she has I feel very much the fool.. That love has always been there for me. She's always been there, here, for me.

"I'm an idiot." I state bluntly.

She brushes my hair from my eyes, "Why's that?"

"Maybe if I'd talked to you years ago we could have avoided all this. Putting both of us through this."

Barbara surprises me by immediately shaking her head negative. "Not at all. Think about the very different people we were back then Hel., We were both so angry, had so much to learn, to go through and mature. If we had tried to be together then, when we were so much less, things wouldn't have ended like last night. Like today."

As she says it I can see the truth of it. She wasn't always the cool strategist and it took me long and longer, to learn to control my rage. At least as much as anyone can control such things.

I smile gently, wonderingly at her, letting go of the past as much as I can. "Good thing I've got such a smart girlfriend."

Her entire face lights up, "Girlfriend? Can I take that to mean I'll get second date?"

"And many more," I assure her, feeling her arms tighten around me in response, holding me close. With her question I realize just how vulnerable she's made herself to me, for me, to offer all of herself and have no expectations in return. "Didn't you think, after we made love, that I would? Stay. Be with you. Let there be an us?" It's all I've wanted and everything I believed I could never have.

"I didn't know and I didn't want to assume. But I hoped." she answers seriously, no judgement or resentment in her tone. She means it. She gave me everything with only hopes and no demands.

I really don't deserve her. Let whatever power there is damn me, I'm going to take this chance, take anything she's willing to give. I gave her what's left of my heart and soul long ago.

"It won't be easy for us," I have to tell her, anything less than honesty wouldn't do in the circle of her arms. "But then again it never is with us," I add with a smile that's sad and loving, and I feel old and young all at once. Joy could never be anything but complicated for me. And I think for Barbara too.

Her eyes hold all the world, "True, but it's worth it."

"Worth everything," I breathe the words upon her lips and then claim them in a kiss so sweet and profound that it hurts in the most wonderful way. Like something that festered was lanced and at last cleansed.

Passion overtakes us again. I rub my leg between hers, getting more aroused with every moan and sigh escaping her. We continue to kiss and explore each other, her hands doing wicked things to my breasts.

I jerk back. "What's that noise?"

Barbara stops what she's doing and strains her hearing. Her eyes widen as she catches the dull, thudding noise. It's erratic but insistent.

Barbara groans and passes a hand over her face. "Damn, Damn, Damn."

"What is it?" I ask, worried.

"Hold on." she says. Then, she clears her throat, "Delphi. Open comms."

Dinah's voice comes over the speakers, stressed and frightened. < - if anything's happened to either of you I swear I won't forgive you!>

Another resounding thud echoes through her comm, much louder on her end.

"Dinah? Dinah!" Barbara calls out.

The thudding stops. <Barbara? Are you and Helena okay? What's wrong? The tower's blocked in with metal walls everywhere and when I came home this afternoon and saw it like this and neither of you were answering comms or the phones and->

"Dinah," Barbara interjects into her frustrated ramble. We exchanged a sheepish look when Dinah mentioned it was afternoon. "We're both fine. I was just testing out our new security system and forgot about the time. Just give me fifteen minutes to reset the system completely."

<okay> Dinah's voice is heavy with relief. I feel bad. <Uhm...I'm sorry about any damage I maybe did. I was worried.>

"That's perfectly understandable," Barbara soothes, then a line in her jaw suddenly twitches, "Damage? What do you mean? What damage?"

<I uh tired to blast the doors open.>

"With what?" Barbara enquires hurriedly.

<My tk blasts. Sorry.>

"Oh." Is all Barbara can get out at this. The kid was trying to break in and save us using her tk blasts through solid metal. Wow.

'She loves us.' I mouth silently to Barbara and grin.

Barbara smiles and I bet Dinah can hear it through the comms. "Don't worry about it Dinah. I'm going off comm now and we'll get the system reset."

<10-4> I can hear the Sunny in our Sunny D. She did hear Barbara smiling.

Barbara speaks command codes and the clock tower begins to look like it's usual self as metal shields return to their hidden alcoves. Emergency lights go off and the room is flooded with bright afternoon sunlight.

"Afternoon huh?" I mention cheekily, giving Barbara a long kiss before reluctantly getting up. I know she added the fifteen minutes for us to make ourselves presentable.

A glance around and I find her dark gold scarf. I hand it to her, "You might want to wear this before we greet Dinah. Along with your regular clothes too of course. No sense traumatizing the kid and making her hormones boil over."

"Funny." Barbara deadpans, but she takes the scarf. "Lucky you, I managed to bite you in a more easily concealed spot."

"You must be the more considerate of us." I tease, watching her get dressed and finding it a very sensual experience.

All too soon for my tastes I'm already wearing my clothes from last night. Meanwhile, Barbara's looking like a model in only jeans and a shirt with the gold scarf tied expertly around to cover her bite. She's wearing her hair loose and down which is helping to hide the other, much more innocuous, love bites.

She approaches me in her motorized chair, the manual downstairs where we left it last night. A hand finds my face, brings my gaze to hers.

"You're eyes have changed again," she lets me know, fully aware of how I had watched her dress.

I kiss her wet and full. "I love you Barbara." Right now I couldn't care what my eyes look like. Dinah will deal She may even guess what it means. And if so, she'll be happy for us. I might get teased but I'll get her back if she does.

Barbara returns my kiss with equal ferocity, "I love you too." She pulls away from my lips with the greatest reluctance, her hand lingering on my face, fingers tracing my mouth.

"Give me a minute to freshen up." she says, "Then we'll go face her."

"I'll be here." I'll wait beyond forever if it meant Barbara would come back to me. I watch her go. With a content sigh I lean against the window frame and look out at the strange new world before me.

I blink against the bright light and find myself staring at an expanse of perfect blue sky. The kind of sky I've only ever seen before in Barbara's dreams.

The hum of Barbara's chair draws close to me. "A beautiful day," she observes, her voice as warm as the sun on my face. "A lot to look forward to. Ready?"

Ready? I don't know, but that warm feeling is filling me to overflowing and I know, ready or not, I'm going to try. My heart can't accept less. I look away from perfect skies of blue and into fathomless depths of the clearest green.

In answer to her, this time I'm the one who offers my hand to my lover. And Barbara takes it, the clasp of her hand sure and warm and real.

For the first time in too long, an emotion stirs deep inside me. It takes me a moment but I recognize it.