Title: Here Be Monsters
Rating: NC-17, mostly for language because the character's choice of words unfortunately often reflects the author's, though also for some adult situations
Fandom: Birds of Prey
Pairing: B/H, H/HQ
“I told you to stay back out of the way.”
In the habit of all terrified parents, or in this case terrified guardian, Barbara vented her helplessness and fear by going on the offensive.
“I did,” Dinah protested, stepping back at the assault, slamming squarely into Helena. The other woman grunted then pushed her aside, striding confidently into the room as if she hadn’t been MIA for a week.
Barbara’s eyes narrowed, jade flashing, but she fell silent. Dinah watched, transfixed, as the two stared each other down in a silent battle of wills that quickly decomposed into something most certainly not silent.
Her voice full of derision, Helena spat, “She did. It wasn’t her fault.”
Instantly taking that as an attack, Barbara wheeled forward, closing the distance between herself and Helena, gaze intense. “Well, something obviously went wrong.”
“The whole thing was wrong, Barbara. Have you lost your mind? She’s nowhere near ready to go out in the field. Fuck… she’s just a baby. You know that. What were you thinking?”
Even Dinah was taken aback by the vehemence in Helena’s tone, and she stepped forward, instinctively wanting to defend Barbara. But, the women’s postures indicated that they were most unwilling to have a third party enter into the battle, and so she stopped, the words dying on her lips.
“I guess I was thinking that someone needed to do it, and I obviously couldn’t,” Barbara said derisively, though whether her anger and frustration was directed at Helena, Dinah, or herself wasn’t completely clear. “The job doesn’t stop just because you aren’t here to do it.”
“So what? You send her out there to get killed? To get raped? Maybe you need to re-evaluate your priorities, Barbara. What the fuck was so important that you had to send her out?” Helena asked, nostrils flaring and brows jerking rhythmically inward in anger.
Barbara suddenly grew silent, her expression chagrined. “There had been a rash of thefts lately. I was fairly certain the activity was based out of that warehouse, but I wasn’t sure,” she mumbled, eyes downcast. But, at the sound of Helena’s snort her head snapped up, features set in angry defiance.
“Thefts? What do you think the police are for, Barbara? Give them a call sometime. Do you know what almost happened because you wanted to bring down a group of thieves?” Helena stressed, and Dinah felt her cheeks burn bright red with embarrassment. She hadn’t fully processed the whole thing yet, and she was sure that once she had, once she took time to fully contemplate the potential consequences of her actions, that she might just need to have a small mental break down. She wasn’t at that point quite yet. Instead, she was trapped in her ‘shame over her own incompetence’ phase, though that one was equally as unpleasant.
“You weren’t here,” Barbara snapped wearily in reply, a pleading note creeping, unbidden, into her tone. It wasn’t at all a compelling argument in response to Helena’s assertions, but the statement was so telling that Helena didn’t even bother to point out that fact.
Suddenly tired of the fighting, Helena slumped down into a nearby chair, her elbows braced against her spread thighs, head falling forward as if she were exhausted. “I needed some time,” she said dully, her words starkly evocative in their lack of emotion. Everything she was had been drained away, and in its wake she felt consumed by the boneless lethargy of sheer exhaustion.
Suddenly tender in direct counterpoint to her words and actions of only seconds earlier, Barbara closed the space between them, her hand coming up to cup Helena’s chin, thumb stroking gently along the line of her cheekbone. “I know,” she said softly, sighing. “I’m sorry.”
Watching the scene, Dinah had the distinct impression that she was intruding somewhere she shouldn’t be, and started to back away quietly. There was so much being said without words. She’d never seen anyone communicate like the two women before her, all eyes and gestures and tone of voice, and she was frankly quite amazed. Barbara and Helena told each other everything without telling each other anything at all. It was no wonder they were in such a mess.
For a long moment, Helena leaned into Barbara’s caress, simply enjoying the feel of the other woman’s skin against her own, enjoying the illusion that it was all real. But it wasn’t, and before she could let herself do yet another thing she’d have to regret, she reached up, capturing Barbara’s wrist. Surreptitiously grazing the other woman’s thumb across her bottom lip as she lowered Barbara’s hand, pressing it back into the other woman’s lap, she leaned back, hooded eyes conflicted. “Don’t do things when you don’t mean them, Barbara,” she said huskily, a small frown settling on her lips.
Barbara wanted to protest, wanted to bring her hand back up, to continue on as she had been. But, there was something in Helena’s eyes, a coldness that hadn’t been there before, as if she were oddly detached from the situation. She could feel a distance in the other woman’s body posture that didn’t physically exist, but for all of the lack of space between them, they might as well have been miles apart. She felt shut-out and achingly alone and knew, instinctively, that she just didn’t possess the skills to make this better. She was a coward, and instead of saying the words she knew would make everything okay once again, at least for a little while, she pulled back, rolling a few inches away from where Helena was sitting.
With the imposition of actual space between them, Barbara felt her loss more keenly. There was something she wanted, wanted desperately, and it was just outside of her reach. The only problem with that was that she knew she could grab it, knew it would only take one minute of uncertainty, one split second of floating without the stability of hard ground under her feet, and then she’d be there. But, it was the fear that she’d never make it over the abyss, that she’d get to the other side only to have the earth crumble away from underneath her that held her back. She’d rather stay right where she was than risk any of that, no matter how desperately Helena’s eyes had once pleaded.
“Are you back?” she said instead, her voice strangely calm.
Helena’s eyes fluttered shut, well aware that Barbara had once again made the decision to push her away. She felt empty, the futility of the whole situation creeping through her body on not so stealthy feet, turning her limbs leaden. She was tired of Barbara having that kind of power over her, tired of living in reaction to the other woman’s whim, but wasn’t sure she knew how to fix it. For so long, Barbara had been her everything. Friend, guardian, confidante and finally, the woman who represented everything she wanted out of life. That the other woman could turn that away, could shunt her aside with what appeared to be little more than a passing thought, was perhaps one of the most painful things she’d ever experienced.
But, she didn’t say any of that. Instead, in a resigned voice, she murmured a simple, “Yeah.” Then, unable to bear the weight of her disappointment any longer, she fled once more.
“You missed our session last week,” Harleen observed casually, intently eyeing Helena’s dejected form. The other woman was definitely missing her usual verve. Exhaustion was outlined in every limb, and the dark circles under suddenly lackluster eyes betrayed a string of sleepless nights. Still though, she was quite delicious.
Shifting restlessly in her chair, Helena looked off to the side, eyes tracing the contours of Gotham’s skyline. “I was busy,” she mumbled, lips twitching in irritation. While part of her protested that counseling was just the right place to talk about her troubles, the larger segment of her mind insisted that she quite simply didn’t want to be there.
“Busy,” Harleen drawled, stretching the word out with sarcastic doubt. “Doing what?”
Sniffing quickly in frustration, Helena turned to face her therapist. She took a moment to survey the other woman, sharp as always in a classically tailored business suit that still, somehow, managed to just barely skirt the edge of professionalism. She occasionally felt unnerved by the other woman’s hawk-like gaze, and a quick glance upward confirmed that it was once again in place. Dr. Quinzel was an enigma to her, someone who seemed at once both completely at home and wholly out of place in her sleekly appointed office.
“Busy doing things, Dr. Quinzel,” Helena shot back snottily, sneering slightly at the brief flash of annoyance her words garnered.
Stuffing down her impatience, Harleen merely cocked an arrogant brow and pursed her lips in a vaguely disapproving manner. “Busy doing what things, Helena? Barbara maybe?”
She imagined, from the look on Helena’s face, that the other woman would have snarled at her for that if the animalistic noise wouldn’t have been completely out of place, and Harleen smirked, sensing quite easily that she’d hit a sore spot. And, there were no better spots, in her estimation. “Oh my… the seduction’s not going quite as planned?”
Turning her head to the side, fighting to keep her composure and not get herself arrested on yet another destruction of property or perhaps even assault and battery charge, Helena took a deep breath, organizing her thoughts. Finally, she managed a gritted, “Barbara’s not an issue any more. I’ve moved on.”
Barely able to keep herself from chuckling sadistically, Harleen pressed on, almost physically unable to keep herself from twisting the knife in even further. “Turned you down, did she?” she sniped, thoroughly enjoying the wince that made its way across her client’s features. “She must not have been impressed with what you had to offer.”
This time Helena did snarl, the sound a little too close to the real thing for Harleen to feel anything other than a frisson of fear. It was a delicious fear though, an arousing one. She never had been able to separate those things apart very well, something that had landed her in trouble more than once.
“There’s absolutely nothing wrong with my… offerings,” Helena growled, keenly aware of her therapist’s spike of excitement. “You, of all people, should know that.”
“Pardon me?” Harleen questioned, her voice mildly incredulous.
More than anxious to turn attention away from herself and Barbara, Helena leaned forward in her chair, eyes hypnotic in their intensity. “If you want me so badly, Dr. Quinzel, then all you have to do is ask. Well, ask nicely, of course.”
Impressed, drawn despite herself by the aura of cocky arrogance surrounding the other woman, Harleen absently leaned forward herself, creating a sheen of tense intimacy. There was just simply something about a powerful, demanding person that got her engine revving. One had only to look at her Mr. J to see her weakness, after all. “I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Harleen said, struggling for nonchalance but unable to hide the hint of anticipation in her tone. She was playing with fire, and with having her license revoked, but simple little obstacles like that had never truly bothered her.
Helena hadn’t actually expected the other woman to take up her barely veiled challenge, but there was something in Quinzel’s posture indicating that she was more than ready to jump the divide between aloof therapist and… and… well, Helena couldn’t quite bring herself to think lover, but there was no better term for it. Now that the prospect suddenly seemed like a reality, she wasn’t sure if it was what she wanted. She was attracted to the woman in the amorphous way that she was attracted to all beautiful women, but beyond a healthy appreciation for the curves hidden underneath the conservative lines of her suit, Helena wasn’t particularly interested in her doctor.
Then again, what better time to have meaningless sex than the present, she mused, feeling her impulsive side catapult itself to the fore. So, with a suggestive leer, she leaned back in her chair, spreading her legs lewdly, her open posture a far more direct challenge than her half-teasing words had ever been.
“I’m sure you do know, Doctor,” she said softly, one hand tracing down the front of her thin shirt to find the line of buttons on her leather pants. Popping each one with agonizing slowness, she opened the vee, baring tan flesh and the merest hint of black silk. “You want me so fucking bad I can practically smell it.”
It was a calculated ploy, one designed to either get her thrown out of the office completely or to call the other woman’s bluff, but after she did it, Helena began to doubt its effectiveness. It seemed Dr. Quinzel wasn’t at all ready to back down.
Unconsciously licking her lips, Harleen leaned even closer, pupils dilating almost immediately. The other woman was quite the specimen, with her soft caramel skin and the play of beautifully defined muscles rippling beneath tight flesh. There was also a pronounced conceit about her, a certainty that she was going to get what she wanted. Quite frankly, that kind of assuredness made Harleen wet. Very wet. “Perhaps you’ve misinterpreted the role of a therapist,” she said, her voice husky with arousal. Suddenly, this was something she wanted very, very badly.
“Perhaps you think I give a shit,” Helena said airily, feeling extremely reckless. She could sense, both from the other woman’s replies and from her obvious arousal, that insults and sarcasm were the good doctor’s ultimate aphrodisiac. “I’m tired of talking, Dr. Quinzel. Either you come over here or I leave. Which is it?”
It was tempting. Tempting, tempting, tempting, tempting, oh so very tempting. No one had talked to her like that in quite a while. No one had had the guts to since her Mr. J got sent away, and she’d forgotten just how much she missed it. Forgotten just how intensely she got off on it. And she wanted it. Wanted it, wanted it, wanted it, wanted it…
The other woman was kneeling between her legs before Helena could even really prepare herself for it, beautifully manicured fingernails scraping harshly along the flesh of her hips as her pants were tugged down roughly. Quinzel didn’t even bother taking them completely off, just drew leather and silk down to Helena’s ankles then lifted her still joined legs in the air, balancing slim calves on her shoulders. Sharp nails dug into the muscles of her buttocks, pulling her forward on slick leather, and before Helena had time to consider whether or not she was completely committed to the course of action she’d apparently chosen, the broad flat of a tongue was tracing up her sex, and her hands were slipping against short tendrils of blonde hair, pressing the other woman more fiercely into the vee of her thighs.
“Oh, fuck yes,” she hissed in encouragement, still mildly shocked that it was even happening at all. But, she’d always been a ‘go with it’ kind of girl, and it certainly wouldn’t be the first time she’d had ill-advised sex. So, go with it she did, only barely remembering to rein in her strength. Not particularly concerned with being gentle, though, she raked her nails down Quinzel’s neck, tugged roughly on the short hairs at the nape of her neck, and ground herself against the other woman’s face just because she could. It was nothing more than a simple exercise in getting off, and when she did, when her body froze and the muscles in her thighs turned rock hard and her heartbeat sky-rocketed, she merely grunted her satisfaction and fell back against her chair, breathing raggedly. And, when she managed to come back down, body achingly unfulfilled despite the haze of completion pervading her limbs, she simply detached herself from Quinzel, placed a booted foot on each shoulder and pushed, sending the other woman sprawling.
Standing, pulling her pants back up and buttoning them with fluid grace even as she surveyed the other woman, as she took in the sheen of her arousal on Quinzel’s lips, the mixture of anger and utter satisfaction in the other woman’s eyes, she laughed humorlessly. “Thanks, Doc. It was fun, but I’m not up for talking any more today. Guess I’ll see you when I see you.”
“You bitch,” Quinzel said, though the words were more of a purr than a reproach.
Smirking, more than aware that her therapist had a host of issues of her own, Helena murmured, “Maybe, but I’ll bet you still think of me when you get yourself off.”
Before she could formulate a reply, Harleen found herself alone in her office. Then, with a shrug, she did exactly that.
“How’d it go with your therapist today?” Barbara asked absently, eyes locked on one of her many computer screens. She was inwardly extremely surprised that Helena had shown up at the Clocktower, almost certain that their days of easy camaraderie were gone, and with them the many hours the brunette spent watching her cable and rustling through her refrigerator.
“Eh,” Helena said, idly picking up the remote, “don’t think I’ll be going back to see her.”
“Oh?” Barbara asked, drawing attention away from the monitor to look in Helena’s direction, intrigued by this new piece of information. “Do you think you’ve worked through everything you need to?”
Secretly, she’d been quite pleased when Helena had been court ordered into therapy as part of her probation. While Barbara hadn’t ever been able to convince her she should go, she’d always thought that the other woman needed someone to talk to about everything that had happened to her. Someone other than herself, because no matter how much she wanted to help and how hard she tried, Barbara was far too intimately connected to the proceedings to provide an appropriate sounding board. Hell, truth be told, she had contributed in great part to the brunette’s trauma. In her opinion, Helena had needed someone unbiased, someone who knew far more about how to handle grief than did Barbara, and someone who could actually help her, something the red-head had sincere doubts she could do.
Deciding whether or not to tell Barbara the truth of the matter but then figuring that, if anything, it would be interesting to see her reaction, Helena said nonchalantly, “Nah. I’m sure I’ve still got plenty to work on.”
Barbara’s brows drew together in confusion at the intentionally vague comment, sensing there was far more to the story. Far more that Helena wanted her to have to work for, apparently. “Then why won’t you be going back?” she asked, exasperated.
“Because I fucked her, and I imagine that tends to mess with a therapist’s objectivity,” Helena drawled, eyes glinting in anticipation as she awaited Barbara’s reaction.
She wasn’t disappointed. The other woman took in a startled gasp of air, eyes wide as she stared at Helena in incomprehension, quite sure she hadn’t heard correctly. “You mean you… with your therapist?” she asked jumpily, sounding distinctly unsettled.
Nodding her head, Helena took great delight in confirming Barbara’s delicately worded question. “Uh-huh. Sure did. Well actually…”
“NO!” Barbara nearly shouted, face turning bright red. “I mean, I’d really rather not hear the specifics. Helena, what were you thinking?”
Grinning, thoroughly enjoying both Barbara’s discomfort and the other woman’s vaguely jealous reaction, Helena said smugly, “I was thinking that she was hot for me, and that I really wouldn’t mind getting off. And, turned out she was hot for me, and I quite enjoyed getting off.”
Which wasn’t technically true, but Barbara didn’t need to know that. Besides, empty pleasure was still pleasure, even if she did feel bad about herself after the fact.
“I can’t believe you… you… you…” Barbara couldn’t even say it. It wasn’t that she was prudish, though perhaps a part of her was. It was just that she didn’t want to think of Helena that way, didn’t want to hear about the other woman’s exploits, didn’t want to bear witness to her brazenly cavalier attitude toward sex. In part, it confirmed what she’d already known. She’d done the right thing when she’d pushed Helena away. Had she given in to what she’d wanted that night, she’d be in the therapist’s place now, nothing but another notch on the other woman’s belt, a story to tell and an experience to brag about. And, Barbara noticed, someone who wasn’t going to appear on Helena’s landscape again.
Yes, her choice had been the right one.
Even despite her amusement at Barbara’s indignation, Helena almost immediately felt her enjoyment start to fade. She’d done the same thing she always had… screw things up. One rash decision later, and she was minus a therapist, not to mention yet another rung lower on the scale of Barbara’s esteem. It had been fun to see the other woman’s reaction, and it had been fun, in some way, to exploit Dr. Quinzel as she had, but only seconds after reveling in her revelation, she doubted the wisdom of it. How would Barbara see her now? She’d once again done something brash and impulsive, something she undoubtedly shouldn’t have done, and only a week after she’d practically pleaded for Barbara’s love. And then, in the face of her monumentally bad judgment, she’d once again thrown caution and logic to the side in favor of drawing out some sort of a reaction. A reaction that had told her something, but not much, and even then it wasn’t worth the weight of the silent disapproval she could feel being mentally telegraphed her way.
So, deciding to try and salvage things a little, Helena said sheepishly, “Yeah, it was pretty dumb, wasn’t it?”
Lips quirking in exasperation, part of her undeniably drawn to the absolutely adorable look of contrition being sent her way, Barbara sighed. “Yeah, pretty dumb. What are you going to do about it?”
Wincing, thinking back to her parting words as she left Quinzel’s office, Helena explored her options. It didn’t take long.
“Nothing. I can’t go back there,” she said in defeat, having now completely crashed down from her earlier high.
Resisting the urge to wheel over and comfort the other woman, Barbara stayed silent. Part of her was actually rather glad that Helena had done what she’d done, and then shared it with her. If nothing else, they were talking once again, much as they had before the incident. Barbara could shift back into her role as mentor and advisor, and maybe if she tried hard enough to make things exactly like they had been before, they’d somehow revert back. Maybe it could be like nothing had ever happened, like nothing had changed.
And, she thought, snorting to herself, maybe one day I’ll just wake up and be able to walk.
Suddenly aware of the silence that had fallen, Barbara said awkwardly, “Maybe you can find another therapist.”
Helena shook her head at the suggestion, smiling softly. “Nah. I don’t really need to go. I’ll be fine.”
“Helena…” Barbara started, a warning tone in her voice.
“I said I’ll be fine,” Helena broke in, her voice surprisingly stern. Then, mood changing in a split second, she muttered, “Look, I’ve gotta go. I’ll get in touch with you when I do my sweep tonight, alright?”
“You can stay,” Barbara said quickly. Too quickly, she berated herself, disgusted at her own neediness. She’d nearly gone insane when Helena had disappeared. The other woman had become such an integral part of her life, and to have her out there somewhere, doing God only knows what, had preyed on her mind. She’d pictured her dead, lying drunk in a gutter, or worst of all, taking comfort in the arms of another. Something she’d done at least once, apparently, judging by her sudden lack of an available therapist.
Helena hesitated for a moment, sensing an urgency in Barbara’s words, but headed for the door anyway. She couldn’t stay there, pretending like things were the way they’d always been. Not when she’d been so thoroughly and completely rejected. She might not have had many things, but she still had her pride.
Well, at least a little of it.
Dinah winced then looked to Barbara to see how the other woman was holding up. Lately, instead of using the protracted silences that arose during sweeps as an opportunity to engage in mindless yet still enjoyable chatter with Barbara, Helena had decided to start singing.
She was particularly bad at singing.
Actually, not only was she particularly bad at singing, she also was apparently unable to learn anything more than one or two verses of any given song. Not that it appeared to bother her. No, instead Helena would merely repeat them over and over, content, it seemed, with the continuously looping stream of what little she did know.
Of course, sometimes it was rather funny. She’d never forget the face Barbara had made the first time Helena had sang of her favorites.
“I ain’t supposed to be in here tonight, with all these thick ass ho’s here tonight,” she’d sang, and Barbara had nearly fallen out of her chair.
Then, there had been, “You can’t pimp me, I’m a pimp myself.” Barbara’s sarcastic chuckle had made that one worth it.
There was the classic, “Gator boots, with the pimped out Gucci suit. Ain’t got no job, but I stay shy. Can’t pay my rent, cause all my money’s spent. But that’s okay, cause I’m still fly. Gotta quarter tank of gas in my new E-class, but that’s okay cause I’m a ride. Got everything in my Momma name, but I’m hood rich, da da da da.” Even after an hour of explanation, Dinah still couldn’t quite manage to convince Barbara of the song’s appeal, and after listening to more than one argument over the validity of promoting non-responsible behavior and materialism to young adults via contemporary music, she gave up the endeavor as fruitless.
The one Helena sang most often though, was perhaps the one Barbara hated most. Dinah could see it in the tense set of her shoulders and the constant frown on her face, and she wanted to comfort the other woman, but she didn’t know how. Actually, she wasn’t sure what she would be comforting should she have known how to go about it. After witnessing what she had the other night and piecing together the sparse clues she’d been given, it was obvious that Helena had pushed Barbara for more than their current friendship and been turned down. Barbara’s slight hints of anger and bouts of depression didn’t seem to be caused by Helena’s persistence, though it certainly would have made sense if they were. Instead, it seemed like something far more. Dinah just couldn’t pinpoint what, exactly, it was. And to hear Helena singing those words over and over without respite… well, it hadn’t done anything to improve Barbara’s mood.
“I love you, I hate you, I can’t live without you. I breathe you, I taste you, I can’t live without you. I just can’t take anymore, this life of solitude. I pick myself off the floor, and now I’m done with you.”
And, just to drive home the point even further, sometimes she’d sample from earlier in the song, picking and choosing among the lyrics, throwing out a portion of a verse. Dinah was well aware that it wasn’t the entire verse, but she didn’t dare tell Barbara. Instead, she merely tried to ignore it, even as the words circled round and round her brain.
“I feel like you don’t want me around. I guess I’ll pack up all my things, I guess I’ll see you around.”
She’d sing the words on constant repeat, her tone making them a little bit more real than either Barbara or Dinah would have liked.
Helena had thought she could do it. She’d been sure that she’d be able to move past what had happened, that she’d be able to reassimilate herself into Barbara’s life, but things weren’t working according to plan.
It probably would have been easier if Barbara hadn’t lied to her.
She’d seen the brief touch in the second before Barbara had quickly slid her hand away from the back of Carolyn Lance’s thigh. It hadn’t been a touch of friends, and most certainly not of acquaintances. It had been a touch born of past intimacy, of that Helena was sure. Barbara just simply didn’t touch people easily. She was a fairly self-contained entity, and with rare exception, didn’t allow anyone into her personal space. Helena herself had lived with Barbara for close to a year before the unconscious stiffening at initial contact went away, and for far longer, Barbara had been so sparing with her touches that to receive one became almost like a gift. So, to see her touch some stranger like that had been eye opening to say the least. She didn’t mention her suspicions to Dinah, of course, but Helena was almost absolutely positive that the blonde’s mother and Barbara had once been lovers.
That meant, then, that Barbara had been blatantly lying to her that night when she turned Helena down. She slept with other women, or at least she had in the past. To say that she didn’t, and to throw it up in Helena’s face like she had could only mean one thing. She’d been wrong before, when she’d sensed a hidden layer of desire in Barbara’s touch. The other woman really didn’t want her at all, and had been willing to use whatever means necessary to ensure that Helena wouldn’t ever approach her in that manner again.
As a result, she hadn’t been able to help her instinctive antagonism toward Carolyn Lance, and the other woman didn’t offer her a reason to change her view. Helena had reined in her impulse to flatten Canary because she was well aware of just how Barbara would react to that, and in the end, she knew it would only make a bad situation even worse for an already torn Dinah. But, the other woman’s jabs had certainly gotten to her. All of the insinuations that she wasn’t to be trusted, that she was, in essence, beneath Barbara and undeserving of her time, had worked on Helena. And, when coupled with her newfound knowledge that not only had Barbara lied, but that she’d at one time been far more than friends with the woman she let practically walk all over Helena, that she let disparage Helena’s mother… well, it was not good. Not at all.
It wasn’t that she felt any measure of satisfaction in Carolyn Lance’s death. She wasn’t that far gone. Dinah deserved at least some chance to get to know her mother, even if the other woman had abandoned her, and bad attitude aside, Carolyn wasn’t an intrinsically bad person. In fact, she was far from it. She was a superhero. Yet another superhero, in fact, in a long line of superheroes. Yet another superhero who’d had Barbara in the way Helena wanted but had been denied. But, Black Canary hadn’t been denied… Nightwing either. Each had possessed the woman Helena desired, and the brunette couldn’t help thinking that there had to be something horribly wrong with her. And, some part of her couldn’t do anything about the fact that she hated Carolyn simply because she’d possessed that magical something Helena didn’t. That something that made her special enough to share Barbara’s bed, her life.
Things had been so busy before, when Hawke had nabbed Canary and Dinah had gone off after her. Then, after Carolyn’s death, there hadn’t really been time to process everything that had happened, and Helena found herself consumed with an overwhelming sense of compassion for the young blonde. She hadn’t known how to help, of course, and she still wasn’t completely convinced she liked the kid, but she knew exactly what the girl was going through. So, she’d stayed nearby, her presence silent support for the girl.
But, despite her best intentions, Dinah hadn’t really needed her help. She had Barbara, and Barbara was far better at wiping tears and listening sympathetically than Helena was, and so she’d taken off yet again. There was only so much time she could spend in the Clocktower without going completely insane, and so she’d decided that the events of the past week and a half had been more than enough to merit a night out. Accordingly, she’d headed out to her favorite club, ordered up a row of shots, tried to fall into the grips of the trance music tugging at her consciousness, and convinced herself she was going to have a good time. Only, the good time didn’t seem to be anywhere in her future, and the more she drank the more she thought about Barbara with her hand indecently high on the back of Carolyn Lance’s thigh. The more she thought about that, the more infuriated she became, until it became imperative to confront Barbara with her lie, to see how she’d manage to wiggle her way out of it.
Scaling the wall of the Clocktower wasn’t the brightest thing to do in her inebriated condition, but Helena didn’t care. Some part of her almost wished that she’d fall, that she could simply lose her balance and have all of her problems disappear. She wouldn’t fall though, and even if she did, she knew she’d manage to land on her feet. There was no easy way out for her. At least, not that way.
Nimble fingers keyed in the security code on the box out on the balcony, and she slipped inside, eyes adjusting quickly to the dimly lit open area of the main floor. Barbara wasn’t there, and judging by the absolute quiet blanketing the place, hadn’t been there in quite some time. That meant she was in her living quarters, and so, with resolute steps, Helena moved in that direction, throwing open the door that lead to Barbara’s apartment with conviction born of anger. The door moved silently on well-oiled hinges, drawing some fire away from the move, but Helena moved forward, undeterred by her lack of suitable drama. She had almost made her way to Barbara’s bedroom when a faint spill of light from the kitchen caught her eye, and she reversed direction, taking a deep breath for fortification. She wanted the upcoming confrontation to be as messy as possible.
The opened refrigerator door blocked her view of Barbara, and she stood for a second, listening to the other woman rustle through its meager contents before saying softly, “Barbara, we’ve got to talk.”
There was a bump and a curse, the voice most definitely not Barbara’s, and then a dark head appeared to peer at her, followed shortly thereafter by a nearly nude male body. It was Wade, some dork of a teacher Barbara had brought by once or twice and claimed to be dating. Helena hadn’t really thought much of it, because Barbara really didn’t date. She pretended that she was dating occasionally, but Helena had been witness to a number of those sham relationships and was vividly aware of their lack of depth. They usually lasted about three weeks, and were quickly followed by the obligatory and often painful period of unwanted phone call ducking.
Apparently, though, this time was different, because there was Wade, open carton of orange juice clutched tightly in one hand, boring white boxers covering up all the skin he’d apparently wanted covered. Helena noted idly that his body wasn’t all that bad, the observation one she didn’t particularly want to make.
Wade absently rubbed the back of his head where he’d banged it into the top of the refrigerator, staring at Helena in confusion all the while. He’d met the other woman twice, and both times he’d been distinctly unimpressed. Well, perhaps unimpressed wasn’t quite the right word. Helena was certainly attractive, though he knew rationally that her beauty wasn’t a conventional one. In fact, it owed itself more to the nearly crackling field of sexual energy surrounding her, taking attention away from cheekbones that weren’t quite sharp enough and a nose that was more cute than anything else. She’d also seemed quite charismatic, and her barely veiled jabs at him had hinted at an impressive intelligence. So no, unimpressed wasn’t correct at all. Maybe dislike would have been more appropriate, because he’d gotten the distinct impression that she was more than unhappy at his introduction. Not that it was a problem -- the feeling had definitely been mutual. There had been something about the way she’d looked at Barbara and then at him, one glance full of barely muted desire and the other of not-so-veiled threat, that had made her position plain. They both wanted the same thing, and she was not at all thrilled at his inclusion in the game.
None of which mattered, really, because he was the one who’d just left Barbara’s bed, and not her. The thought brought a smirk to his face, one he didn’t have the sense to hide.
“Sorry, Barbara’s asleep,” he said smugly, raising the carton of orange juice to his lips for a long gulp. He knew he was rubbing the other woman’s face in it, but he couldn’t help it. The natural antagonism between them and his sense of victory didn’t allow for anything else.
Helena was quite certain she had to be screeching in pain, but oddly enough, the kitchen was deadly silent. Wade was in Barbara’s kitchen with his triumphant, shit-eating grin, telling her that Barbara was asleep. He was drinking orange juice straight from the carton, a move guaranteed to earn Barbara’s disapproval, in his underwear. And, he was gloating. He had won and he knew it, and he wasn’t above letting her know it.
Helena felt the already weak grasp she had on her self-control snap completely.
With a cry of pure fury, she nearly flew over the space between them, a stiff forearm to the throat pushing Wade back into the refrigerator with such force that it left a dent in the sheet rock behind it. Dropping the juice to the floor, he clawed at her arm, surprise and fear evident in his eyes, and she leaned in so close to him that she could smell Barbara on his skin and snarled, “You don’t deserve her, and if you fucking lay a hand on her again, I swear I’ll kill you.”
Wade, with bravado born of obviously misplaced machismo or general sheer stupidity, sneered at her. “Sore loser,” he rasped.
Helena pulled back, watching with some measure of satisfaction as Wade’s hands immediately went to his neck, as he struggled to pull in oxygen. Then, with a howl of near glee, she punched him, the blow hard enough to knock him off of his feet and back into the refrigerator once more, and as she watched him slump down to the floor, eyes hazy from the force of the blow, she growled, “It’s not a game, asshole.”
She turned, intent on making her way out of Barbara’s apartment, sure that she needed to calm down before she did anything else to get herself in trouble, such as killing Wade. Unfortunately, when she turned, she came face to face with an extremely pissed-off looking Barbara. Correction, an extremely pissed-off looking Barbara wearing nothing more than a half-way buttoned oversized men’s dress shirt. Temper flaring even higher at the sight, at the possession the garment inferred, Helena stalked forward until she was standing in front of the scowling red-head, arms crossed defiantly over her chest.
“What happened to having standards, Barbara?” she asked sweetly, eyes flashing.
Green eyes hardened as Barbara struggled to pull in her temper. For the most part, she considered herself a sane, rational and quite level-headed individual. She didn’t lose her calm, didn’t act rashly… unless Helena was around. For some reason, the brunette’s mere presence seemed to send her life rushing into chaos, her actions into anarchy. She said things she shouldn’t, wanted things she couldn’t have, and made decisions on the spur of the moment.
And, catalyzed by her anger at Helena’s presumption, at the way she had been treated, almost as if she were a prize to be won, she said simply, “I turned you down, didn’t I?”
It was wrong, and she knew it was wrong as soon as she said it. The sheer cruelty of the statement was out of character, the words backed by venom she didn’t possess. She hadn’t meant to say it, really she hadn’t, but there it was, out in the open between them and horribly, irrevocably irretrievable. Even as she saw Helena pale, as she watched a virtual wave of hurt ripple through the other woman’s body, she couldn’t make her mouth move, couldn’t take the words back. It was as her entire body was paralyzed, and as Helena straightened her shoulders, as she walked past Barbara to disappear into the Clocktower, the red-head didn’t say a word.
It was when she heard the door leading out of her apartment slam that Barbara realized she was going to have to do something to fix the mess her thoughtless words had created. Wheeling about sharply, not even hearing Wade’s groan of pain nor giving the crumpled man a second thought, she followed after Helena, making it back to the Clocktower just in time to catch the other woman about to disappear out onto the balcony.
“Helena, wait,” she called out, her voice breathless. The other woman stopped, shoulders still unnaturally stiff, but didn’t turn.
Trying to even out her breathing, Barbara rolled across the floor until she was alongside Helena, looking up into the brunette’s face. The other woman’s chin was clenched tightly, and the near-constant tic of a small muscle under her right eye betrayed the amount of concentration she was exerting on simply remaining calm.
Reaching forward, capturing unresponsive fingers in her own, Barbara said softly, “I didn’t mean it. You have to know that. I was angry with you what you did to Wade and I struck back, but it wasn’t true.”
Helena took a deep breath, the air hissing in through her nose, then calmly pulled her hand away, stepping back from Barbara and putting more space between them. “Kidding when you said you turned me down?” she asked, her tone acid. “Because I seem to remember you being serious about that.”
Closing her eyes and sighing, not happy with the turn the conversation had taken, Barbara mumbled, “I was talking about the other.”
She winced even as she said it, cursing her lack of conversational skills. Barbara might have been able to converse comfortably with heads of state and foreign dignitaries, but when it came to simple interpersonal relations, she had the skills of a mostly non-verbal five year old.
Turning sharply, feral eyes clearly revealing the depths of her emotion turmoil, Helena rasped painfully, “Oh, you mean you were kidding when you said you turned me down because you have standards. Standards that I obviously don’t meet. Not that I didn’t already know that. Yeah, I’m not relationship material. We covered that already, and I’ve got no proof to refute that one. And I guess you weren’t lying about there being plenty of men out there just waiting to crawl into your bed. You certainly showed me up on that one. But Barbara, really, if you’re going to lie to me, then don’t go and prove yourself wrong a week later. You and Black Canary were more than just crime-fighters together. You know it and I know it. So, if you’re going to tell me you don’t want me because you don’t sleep with women, then don’t let me find you practically fondling one in the living room.”
“Helena…” Barbara said weakly, stunned by the accusations, true though they were, and by the pain she saw in the other woman’s face. She never meant to cause anything like that.
“No,” Helena said sharply, cutting Barbara off with a slash of her hand. “You don’t get to talk. You lied to me, Barbara. Tell me the truth about why you don’t want me or don’t tell me anything at all.”
“Helena,” Barbara whispered, reaching once more for the other woman’s hand and once more being denied, “its not like you think.”
“Oh, it’s not?” Helena shot back sarcastically. “Because I’m kind of sure it’s exactly like I think. Two weeks ago you turn me down, and tonight I find some half-naked geek in your kitchen? If you just want to fuck, I can guarantee you that I’m better than Professor Boring. Don’t tell me it’s not because of me, Barbara… that there’s not something wrong with me. I should have been in there with you tonight. Everything else you’ve said to me is nothing but pure bullshit. You’re not looking for a relationship with what’s-his-name, so don’t even bother trying to convince me that you are. And, don’t try that ‘I don’t sleep with women’ game again either because you know I know better. Take all that away and you know what it leaves me with, Barbara? Nothing. Not one single reason why we shouldn’t be together, other than the fact that you apparently can’t stand the thought of it and don’t even have the guts to just tell me. So come on, deny it. Make me believe there’s a reason. A real, valid reason.”
Barbara sighed in defeat. She was feeling too much. Shame, because everything Helena had said was true. She’d lied, and she’d hid the truth of her feelings from herself and the brunette. Cowardice, because Helena’s accusations were dead on. Fear, because she was afraid of what would happen, afraid of the ramifications of a relationship between them. Helena was full of passion and vigor and an undeniable zest for life, and the more she thought about the other woman being chained to her, to a paraplegic science nerd, the more ludicrous the idea sounded. By remaining firm in her conviction, she was doing them both a favor. Helena wouldn’t have to come up with a way to leave her, and she wouldn’t get left. Even if some part of her whispered that she’d lost sight of the reality of the situation, that she’d chosen the wrong course of action and was sticking with it for equally wrong reasons, she couldn’t listen. This was the way she’d protect herself.
“Can’t you just accept the fact that it’s not going to be, Helena?” Barbara asked plaintively, palms tracing a nervous path down the front of her thighs to rest on her knees.
For a long moment, the other woman was silent. Then, in a voice so soft that Barbara had to strain to hear, she said, “No, I can’t. And you shouldn’t either. I never knew you were such a coward, Barbara.”
Before the red-head could reply, before she could even think of the words she wanted to say, Helena was gone, having cleared the gap between their rooftop and the next with a seemingly easy leap. Barbara watched as she landed softly, as she turned to look back one last time before sprinting off in the other direction. An uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach told her that it might be the last time she saw that particularly soulful gaze for quite some time.
Barbara didn’t even bother to check the tears running freely down her cheeks.
“My, my… what a surprise. I didn’t think I’d see you again, Helena,” Harleen purred, unreasonably excited to see the other woman once again draped across the supple leather chair opposite her own. She’d kept their regular appointment time open, something she considered a vain hope even as she did it. But, when she’d walked her last client to the door after their session, she’d caught sight of the familiar tousled brunette head, and hadn’t been able to hold back a smirk.
Harleen held no illusions about the other woman, nor about what had happened between them the week before. As a highly trained psychologist, she was well aware of the origins of her behavior. There were certain things she craved… no, things she needed, and she’d been without them for a long time. Giving in to her desire for her beautiful, aggressive client had not necessarily been the wisest thing to do, but she didn’t regret it. She didn’t believe in living life as a succession of regrets. Granted, that philosophy had landed her in a tight spot or twenty over the years, but all in all, she felt it was quite worth it.
She even knew where her more base desires stemmed from, though they weren’t places she normally cared to look. Deep inside, some part of her craved debasement and humiliation, and if that was a reflection of the hidden, inner core of herself that didn’t believe she was worthy of more, then so be it. There were multiple layers on top of that one, all of which built a shell of well-deserved confidence and arrogance. If that core had to be nurtured on occasion, then it was simply a small price to pay in exchange for the health of the rest of her.
The sound of her client’s voice pulled Harleen back into the present, and she scrambled to catch up with what the other woman was saying.
“I didn’t think I’d come,” Helena muttered, feeling uneasy and agitated. She hadn’t been back to Barbara’s since their last confrontation, and quite frankly didn’t have any intentions of returning. It was something she knew wouldn’t last forever, an instinctive response geared toward self-protection, but for the moment, she’d make herself believe it. Unfortunately, without Barbara as her natural recourse in her downtime, she was lonely. Incredibly, oppressively lonely, even though it had only been a few days since she’d seen the other woman last. Barbara was the only person in the world who understood her, one of the few people Helena had ever managed to care for, and without her, the brunette was quite lost. So lost, in fact, that the mere thought of not having Barbara around sent her spiraling quite quickly into the grips of depression. Well, even greater depression. She’d been depressed for weeks, if not years. When Barbara was around, though, things didn’t seem so bad. Not that thinking about Barbara not being around did anything to help the depression, so with a sigh, Helena resigned herself to being caught, helpless, in the midst of a rather vicious cycle.
Harleen took in the other woman’s dejected tone, her boneless sprawl. Helena wasn’t very good at hiding things, no matter how much she thought differently.
“You’re looking positively suicidal today,” she remarked off-handedly, smirking at the glare she got in response.
Straightening, making more of a conscious effort to appear sane even if she didn’t quite feel sane, Helena snarked, “Where’d you go to school? The University for Sadistic Therapists? Aren’t you supposed to at least pretend to be concerned about me?”
Rolling her eyes slightly, Harleen replied, “I just don’t see any use in prevarication. What good do I do you if I pretend you’re fine and you pretend you’re fine and then we fuck and start pretending again?”
Wincing, thrown by the bored tone Dr. Quinzel had used and sent back to wallow in her own guilt at the mere mention of the previous week’s session, Helena muttered, “Yeah. Look, I’m sorry about that…”
“Oh, please,” the other woman broke in, annoyed. “Don’t say things you don’t mean just to tidy up your messes. You’re not sorry and I’m not sorry, and that’s the end of that until we do it again.”
Snorting in amusement at the doctor’s dismissal of her apology, Helena purred, “Awfully confident, aren’t you, Dr. Quinzel? Who said anything about it happening again?”
Eyes narrowing maliciously, Harleen shot back, voice razor sharp, “What’s to keep it from happening again? I had fun, you had fun, and it’s not as if there’s anyone else. For you, I mean. Or maybe you look so happy because Barbara finally said yes,” she finished sarcastically, enjoying the flash of pain and rage her words caused.
“I told you before, Barbara’s not an issue any more,” Helena ground out stiffly, furious with the other woman. Quinzel was quite familiar with her painfully obvious hot button, and had absolutely no qualms about pushing it.
Harleen took in Helena’s form, stiff to the point of breaking, and the ever deepening bags beneath her eyes. “But something happened, didn’t it? Tell me what’s gone on since the last time we spoke.”
For a moment, Helena debated the wisdom of sharing everything. It wasn’t as if Quinzel had proven herself to be a kind and sympathetic listener, but really, there was no one else to turn to. Besides, if she was angry then at least she wasn’t sad. There was nothing she hated worse than being boring, depressed and impotent little Helena doing little more than moping about, whining about her problems to anyone who would listen.
“I went by to see her one night, caught her in bed with this guy. Well, I didn’t catch her in bed, per se. I caught him in the kitchen in his undies, beat the hell out of him, and managed to piss her off thoroughly. I think she might have kicked me out if I hadn’t left first,” Helena said bitterly, her much reduced version of events highlighting all the points she found salient enough to mention.
“Poor, poor Helena,” Harleen said, her voice kittenish, a confusing combination of soft and sharp. “Turned down by the only woman she’s probably ever loved. No wonder you’re so bitter, so --,” she paused, shivering deliciously, “-- rough. What are you going to do now?”
“I’ve got my own life,” Helena muttered defensively, sliding deeper into her chair, not quite sure she liked the assessing look being thrown her way. “I’ve got a job and an apartment. It’ll just take a little time.”
Harleen felt an impulse, one she wasn’t sure she should follow. Perhaps she was being led by her libido and not by her brain, something that wouldn’t necessarily be a first for her, but she had a feeling that Helena was ripe for the taking. Metaphorically, that was. Or, not so metaphorically. She was more than happy to have her cake and eat it too.
“Perhaps I know of something to help take your mind off things. Do you really want to forget Barbara, forget all about her?” Harleen asked, her voice tantalizingly provocative.
Intrigued despite herself, Helena leaned forward once more, nodding her head to indicate her willingness to learn more.
“Barbara was all goody-goody good girl, wasn’t she? Daddy was Commissioner Gordon, she’s a teacher… public service and all the boring honesty, justice and fairness rhetoric that comes with it, right? But she wasn’t honest with you, was she? She wasn’t just or fair with you? You don’t have to hide behind those things, don’t have to follow the rules I’ll bet she set up for you. You’ve got such potential, Helena,” Harleen said softly, her voice so full of longing it was almost liquid. “I can see it inside you. Anger, rage, pain… that’s all there too, of course, and we can certainly use that. But, more than anything, I see someone who is smart, driven, and skilled enough take another path. A very, very lucrative path. That is, if you want. Be everything Barbara would hate. Stop letting her control you.”
Helena was intrigued, both by the unnamed opportunity Quinzel was offering her and by the prospect that she’d accidentally stumbled into something quite interesting indeed.
Almost demurely, she said, “I can’t take another path if I don’t know which way it leads first.”
Feeling a triumphant smile cross her lips, sure that the bait had been taken, Harleen felt herself relax just a tiny bit. “Oh, I’m sure you’ll be quite happy with the direction. But first, I need you to do a little something for me. Call it a test.”
|Section 3||Harper||Birds Of Prey||Main Index|