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
Archiving: This will be at www.realmoftheshadow.com/harper.htm
Can’t claim: Birds of Prey, “In Here Tonight” by Rated R, “Can’t Pimp Me” by Pastor Troy, “Still Fly” by Big Tymers, or “Always” by Saliva. I make no profit, and I borrow only because I like these things enough to want to use them.
A/N: I don't really adhere to much of the show's canon, though I do borrow and grab parts I think could work within my story. I also don't really work within the comic canon. You might think some of my characterizations are off based on what you've seen, and you're probably right. This is my own take on the Birds. It's my first time writing in this fandom...
I'm sure the story could use a little work and some cleaning up, but it hasn't been beta'd, so all mistakes contained herein are mine. If you don't get the title, then take a look into ancient cartography. Therein lies the explanation.
Feedback is always appreciated, no matter what its flavor. I can be reached at Xfjnky2@yahoo.com. Hope you enjoy it.
Dr. Harleen Quinzel would have been one second away from going insane had she not already been there, though the tenuous tether she had on her ability to control her more sociopathic impulses was growing rather loose. Lately, nothing had been going right. Some cliched dark figure of good had flown onto the scene, putting major crinkles into her nice, smooth plan to take over New Gotham. At the rate things were going, she’d never be able to build the empire she wanted to develop and give over to her puddin’ as a ‘Happy Busted Free from Arkham’ gift. In fact, good help had become so hard to come by that she’d contemplated just simply giving up on the whole dual personality thing and getting everything in order herself, but the sharp, analytic side of her reminded her that it was best to be the brains behind the scenes and not the brawn on the front pages of the newspaper.
And then, added to that, one of her formerly most interesting clients had suddenly gotten so boring that she momentarily gave serious thought to simply shooting the girl and disposing of the body, putting them both out of their collective misery. Helena Kyle had shown such promise early on that the good doctor had actually looked forward to her visits as a break from the tedium of mind-numbing sessions with obsessive-compulsives and manic-depressives. There was a hint of danger to her, easily visible in the hard to control aggression that played out so plainly on her expressive face. She was flippant and sarcastic, and Harleen had given many long, pleasurable hours over to thoughts of just how, exactly, she’d break the charming creature.
It appeared, though, someone apparently beat her to the punch, stealing all the delicious verve that had once made Helena so appealing. For three sessions in a row, it’d been nothing but Barbara, Barbara, Barbara, and Harleen was ready to scream. Barbara does this, and Barbara says this, and why didn’t Helena just come out and say that she’d slit her wrists gladly like the love-sick puppy dog she was if only Barbara would ask her. It was sickening, really, to see the vacant, starry-eyed expression, and to be honest, Harleen had stopped listening to the other girl blather on about Barbara nearly a session and a half ago.
Straightening in her chair, blinking her eyes in an attempt to bring them back into focus and appear as if she were still paying attention to the sickening drivel spewing forth from the once captivating Helena Kyle’s lips, Harleen said shortly, trying to remember anything remotely relevant to the tale at hand and failing, “So, when did you go from being young ward to lover?”
There was a long pause, and Harleen looked up, a slight smirk creeping across her features as she noticed the guarded look of chagrin on her client’s face. The silence said it all, and she sat up a little more, interested once again.
“Hmm. Could it be that you haven’t won the prize yet, Helena?” she drawled slowly, a hint of sarcasm laced through the words.
Dark brows lowered in anger, but Harleen merely smiled and continued blithely on, “You haven’t even made a move, have you? For the past three weeks, you’ve spent hours in here raving on and on about the glory that is Barbara Gordon, but she doesn’t have a clue about your little schoolgirl crush, does she? Surprising, really, that you’d be so… weak about this, Helena. Such hesitance doesn’t seem to fit with your usual pattern of reckless disregard for consequences and tendency to impulsivity.”
Helena’s nostrils flared, fingers tightening on the arms of her chair with such strength that she could almost feel the hardwood giving away beneath her, but still Harleen continued, giddy with the knowledge that she was pushing both Helena and the boundaries a bit too far.
“Why so scared, I wonder,” she said contemplatively, tilting her head to the side and templing her fingers under her chin. “Let’s see what I know about Barbara. She’s older than you, at least eight or so years from what I can remember. A teacher who bakes muffin tops on the side, and manages to do it all from a wheelchair.” Somehow Harleen made it sound so distasteful, her voice skirting a fine edge between patronizing Helena and mocking Barbara, and Helena felt her muscles tense, ready to spring into action and forcibly shut her doctor up if the woman didn’t realize the need to do so for herself sometime soon.
Grinning gleefully, Harleen cocked a brow, pushing forward despite the anger she saw growing behind impossibly dark blue eyes. “Someone stable, responsible, and grounded, and no doubt looking for someone else who is the same. Almost a paragon, isn’t she?” she purred sarcastically. “And then there’s you. Young, angry and irresponsible, prone to breaking the law. You’re a bartender, hardly stable, respectable work. You like to party, to ignore and break rules and regulations, and you’ve got quite the little attitude. It’s no wonder she’s not crawling into bed with you,” Harleen finished with a smirk, a second brow raising impertinently to join the first, enjoying herself more than she really should but not particularly concerned about it.
“ENOUGH,” Helena roared, pushing out of her chair and closing the distance between herself and the therapist in a flash, her body little more than a black blur in the few seconds before Harleen found herself inches away from burning dark blue eyes. Helena had trapped her in her chair, arms on either side of her and her body a very effective block, suddenly shrinking the space around the doctor down to nothing more than black leather and a roiling sheen of anger.
Ignoring the aggressive threat of her client’s stance, Harleen merely smiled and licked her lips, unable to push down the shiver of arousal that raced through her. This was the Helena she preferred, and she wasn’t coy enough to deny that she’d like her as more than a client. “Hit a little too close to home? Did the truth hurt?” she asked with a faux, sickeningly sweet innocent tone, crossing her legs so her knees were pressed against Helena’s thighs, the heat of the other woman’s body burning into her.
For a moment, Helena struggled to hold back the urge to simply strangle the other woman, to beat her into submission for putting into words shortcomings she hadn’t even considered, for mocking her desires. Before, it had simply been her fear of upsetting the status quo, her certainty that she’d be rejected, that had stopped her. Now, though, she had actual, concrete and certainly logical reasons to back up her own fears from a supposedly impartial observer, and nothing appeared to be stacked in her favor. The mere concept infuriated her, not to mention the woman who had brought it to her attention. In response, the desire to hurt was nearly overwhelming, and she felt herself grow perilously close to giving in to it. But then, she noticed it… the aroused flare of dark pupils, the intoxicating perfume of desire. Shifting from aggressive to seductive within the span of a second, she shot the other woman a sensuous smile and said languidly, “Looks like you’ve got a few issues of your own, Dr. Quinzel. What about therapist/client distance? Not quite apropos with ethical guidelines to want to fuck a patient, is it?”
The doctor blinked slowly, her voice smooth and not at all rattled as she responded. “You’re the one who bridged the distance, Helena. Looking for a little affirmation? Can’t get into the pants of one reassuring Mommy figure so you thought you’d try another?”
“Fuck you,” Helena spat, blue eyes blazing.
One slim brow rising, Harleen looked down her patient’s form assessingly, taking her time before returning her gaze to Helena’s eyes. “Thanks for the offer, but our time is up. I think we made wonderful strides today, Helena. Let’s see if we can keep up this kind of rapport for next week.”
With a snort, whether of amusement or disgust Harleen wasn’t sure, Helena pushed away from her chair, striding out of the office without another word. The doctor watched her progress with a smile, a glint of anticipation in her eyes.
Helena was brooding. It wasn’t that it was particularly unusual for her to brood. In fact, after years of being a guardian and then just a friend, Barbara was quite used to the brunette’s penchant for indulging in depressive fits, but there was something different about this one. This one wasn’t quite the normal ‘weight of the world on my shoulders’ kind of wallowing, and as such, Barbara was concerned. In general, slightly depressed or slightly pissed off was a stable constant for Helena, both looks she wore well, but today she just looked… well, rather pitiful.
“Bad session?” Barbara asked softly, rolling over to rest beside the couch where Helena had flung herself when she’d entered the Clocktower nearly an hour earlier.
One bleary blue eye peeked out from underneath the forearm Helena had slung across her face, noting with dismay that the redhead was as close as she’d surmised she was. “Is there any such thing as a good session?” she asked wearily, arm dropping back down to once again shield her eyes. She’d retreated to her haven as usual, but for once just the simple nearness of Barbara’s presence hadn’t been enough to calm her. Dr. Quinzel’s words kept tracing their way through her mind, and with each successive passage, she realized just how true they really were.
Sighly softly, reaching out to push back the unruly hair scattered across Helena’s forehead but stopping herself at the last second, fingers hovering mere millimeters above the other woman’s skin, Barbara continued to prod. “Sometimes things have to get worse before they get better. If you’re finally working through some of the issues that have been troubling you, then, in the long run, it can only be a good thing. Don’t get discouraged.”
Fighting the wave of nausea that accompanied Barbara’s little pep-talk, hating self-reassurance pop-psychology bullshit almost as much as she hated being coddled, Helena pushed herself upright, cool blue eyes focusing on soft green. She wanted to see the other woman’s expressions, which, though suppressed, always told her volumes more about what Barbara was thinking as opposed to what she felt compelled to say.
“Do you think I’m irresponsible?” she asked finally, voice harsh as sharp eyes searched the other woman’s face for any sign of reaction. There was very little, other than surprise that the question had been asked at all. It certainly wasn’t the follow-up Barbara had been expecting.
Brows creasing for a moment as she thought, a moment she shouldn’t have needed in Helena’s opinion, Barbara said finally, haltingly, “You carry a great responsibility, Helena. Its one that I don’t think many people would have taken, nor been prepared to handle.”
Which was, Helena noticed with some small bit of amusement, essentially not an answer at all. “So you do think I’m irresponsible,” she surmised with a soft laugh, rolling her eyes.
Hedging, now a bit uncomfortable, Barbara tried to backpedal. “It’s not that I think you’re irresponsible. It’s just that I don’t think you’re well suited to responsibility in the traditional sense of the word. You are undoubtedly a talented, dedicated crime-fighter, but you’re not a nine-to-five kind of person, Helena. I think you’ve designed your life to fit perfectly around your temperament, and it works out well for you. There’s nothing wrong with that.”
“But you wouldn’t trust me to, say, pay the bills here for six months. Is that it?” Helena asked a bit sarcastically, a sour feeling settling in the pit of her stomach. She wasn’t sure she liked the way Barbara saw her, even if it was a true reflection of who she was. The funny thing was, she’d never really given it much thought before. Sure, she was a little irresponsible, but she’d always just assumed that it only added to her appeal. She was a little bit of chaos in counterpoint to a well-regulated life, and for some reason, she’d thought Barbara had appreciated that. Now, though, she wasn’t so sure.
“I think you’re deliberately misunderstanding me,” Barbara shot back, slightly irritated at the resignation she saw in the other woman’s form. Seeing self-defeat in someone who had so much going for her always made Barbara angry. After all, it wasn’t as if Helena couldn’t… Stopping her train of thought, pulling her attention back to the conversation at hand, she continued, her voice firm. “You can do anything you set your mind to, Helena. I’ve seen you, so don’t pretend like you can’t. There’s no way to count the number of things you’ve done to make the world a better place. Not the least of which, I might add, would be the way you took care of me after…” Barbara said, stumbling slightly over the words, “… after I was shot. Hell, you were just a kid back then. What brought all of this up, anyway? Brooding I can take from you, but self-doubt… that’s not the Helena I know.”
“Yeah, well, maybe you don’t know me as well as you think you do,” Helena said sharply, bitterly. For some reason, Barbara’s words, though comforting, didn’t actually manage to comfort her. It was all superhero blah blah blah, you can do anything you want blah blah blah, and if she’d been looking for a bit of good karmic reinforcement and assurance, she could have read a fucking Deepak Chopra book.
Frowning, not quite sure that the conversation they were having was the one Helena was actually hearing, Barbara asked, “Again, where is this coming from? Therapy?”
“It’s just,” Helena started, frustration written clearly across her features, “I don’t think I could ever do the whole white picket fence, 2.5 kids and a dog thing.”
Mired in confusion, thrown off balance by the whiplash and apparently non-related statement, Barbara murmured, “Well, people like us… we’re not ever going to have that kind of life, so maybe that’s not such a bad thing. It’s one or the other, Helena. Normal life or this, and if you’re looking to trade out, then you need to let me know.”
“But you want a normal life, don’t you,” Helena said plaintively, blue eyes focused on green with nearly painful intensity. “You want all that family stuff, with the kids and the minivan in the garage and soccer games after school.”
Barbara’s gaze hardened, her jaw tightening. “Those things aren’t available to me either,” she said slowly, her words calm and controlled. “You don’t have a stranglehold on being outside the mainstream, you know. If you’re feeling sorry for yourself, then take a little time off and see if you made a wrong choice somewhere along the way. This,” she said, gesturing expansively at the Clocktower, “isn’t something you can half-ass. You’ve either got to want it or move on.”
“What happened to being part of a team,” Helena muttered sullenly, curling in on herself. “Not that you don’t have my replacement all lined up and ready, just waiting for the day when I screw up and bite it.”
“Dinah?” Barbara asked with no little confusion, brows drawn together tightly.
“Yeah,” Helena shot back bitterly. “The little super-baby wonder. See her throw things with her mind. Watch her read your thoughts with just a touch,” she said mockingly, a sneer curling at her lips. “What’s a girl who can just climb walls to do with that kind of competition?”
Now thoroughly annoyed, Barbara wheeled back slowly. “Why don’t you take some time to figure out just what your problem is, and when you’re in a better mood, then we can talk more” she told Helena stiffly, trying to push down her anger. She didn’t know which statement among the many the other woman had made infuriated her more, but for the moment her desire to comfort had disappeared without a trace.
By the time Barbara made it back to her console, Helena was gone, flying across rooftops with no set destination in mind, sure that her plan, if she’d ever even had one, had gone horribly awry.
Helena looked at the woman appraising her coolly over the top of a thick piece of cream resume paper, sure for the fifth time that day that she was once again about to be summarily dismissed.
“Ms. Kyle, it says here that you’ve been a bartender for the past two years. Why the sudden desire to become a bank teller?” the woman, a Ms. Morrow, asked slowly, a small smirk flitting across her features, and Helena reined in her initial impulse to scratch the cocky woman’s eyes out.
Gritting her teeth, she said simply, “I’m looking for something a little more stable.”
“And the skills you currently possess… how do you anticipate incorporating them into a position here?”
There was something so smarmy about the woman, as if she found the thought of Helena working there to be hilarious in the extreme and was more than willing to poke fun at the brunette’s expense. So fine, Helena decided. Screw interviewing etiquette. It wasn’t as if she’d really been possessed by a burning desire to work there anyway.
“Well, I’ve got quite the wicked right hook. It’ll knock anybody out flat, no matter how big they are. You’ve got to get less than friendly customers in here from time to time, but you wouldn’t have to worry about security with me on the job. Two years of reading drunks’ handwriting on bar tabs ensures that I’ll always get check amounts right. I’m intimately familiar with ATMs, having used them myself for at least four years now, and have been balancing my own checkbook for probably a little over five. All you need to know is how to fucking add, anyway, and I can assure you that I never get the little plus and minus signs mixed up,” she sneered, unable to take any more condescension. “So you know what… fuck this. You can take your job and shove it straight up your ass. I could be a fucking billionaire if I wanted, so I don’t know why the hell I’m even here. It was a stupid idea.”
The other woman, having apparently decided that it was no longer necessary for her to play the demure interviewer, smirked broadly at Helena’s outburst. “Fucking a billionaire, maybe,” she said with a snicker, eyes flicking toward her office door to make sure it was still closed.
Eyes narrowing, Helena felt her anger grow to nearly unmanageable proportions at the taunt. It was the last straw, really, in a day of increasingly shorter straws. So she hadn’t gone to college. So she hadn’t built up an impressive work history. So she hadn’t actually had a regular day job before. So she didn’t own any business suits and hadn’t taken seminars on how to interview for success. She risked her life night after night to save assholes like the woman sitting in front of her, not-so-subtly mocking her just as the previous four before her had done, and it was simply too much.
Hands that were itching to rip the woman apart limb from limb settled upon grabbing the chair she had been sitting in and lifting it above her head. For a moment, she was intensely gratified by the look of sheer terror in the other woman’s eyes at the easy way in which she hefted the piece of heavy, expensive furniture, at the imposing figure she cut in her fury. And then, even as a voice in the back of her head screamed at her to stop, she hurled the chair toward the plate glass window behind the woman, noting with some surprise that it simply shattered against what she now surmised to be bulletproof glass. Splintered pieces of demolished hardwood rained down around the office as the seat fell heavily to the floor, landing with a loud thump and skittering off to the side.
It had been a stupid thing to do, to give in to her more violent impulses that way, and she watched with a frustrated detachment as the woman dialed furiously for security. Slumping to the floor in resignation, knowing it was fruitless to try and run even though she didn’t for a moment doubt her ability to get away, Helena merely waited. She wasn’t going to use her powers against an effectively helpless security guard. Not that it would matter anyway. Her resume and all of the personal information that one required was sitting squarely on the desk in front of her. Even if she had snatched it before running, she sincerely doubted that Ms. Morrow would ever forget her name.
The ride down to the police station was long and even more depressing, and Helena tried desperately to spend the time thinking of anything other than how Barbara was going to react to her latest indiscretion. Quinzel had been right about her… she was a fuck-up and there was nothing she could do about it. Barbara would never want to become involved with someone who couldn’t even hold her temper in the face of a little scorn, who terrified bank officers and shattered otherwise perfectly respectable mahogany furniture.
Gritting her teeth at the sight of the far too familiar building, getting ready to go through the booking process yet again for another destruction of property charge, Helena did nothing to work on improving her increasingly dark and volatile mood. Maybe she should take Barbara’s advice and take a break. Maybe she wasn’t cut out for this superhero gig. Perhaps there was something in her fundamentally unsuited to protecting the public good, and she had simply been doing it all for the wrong reasons. The wrong reasons being, of course, her libido and her desire for a certain red-headed resident genius, not to mention the socially acceptable opportunities for handing out beatings. Maybe she was too much like her mother, too full of ambiguities and gray areas to ever really fit into the world she currently inhabited.
Much to her surprise, Helena bypassed the booking area completely, and was roughly pushed into an interrogation room instead. For a moment she was terrified that the police had somehow found out that she was the Huntress and that they were going to try and force something from her… her secret identity, her cooperation, her promise to stay out of their way. Whatever it was, she couldn’t imagine the deviation from routine to be a good thing, and with a growing sense of urgency and claustrophobia, waited to see exactly what her fate would be.
She was in the midst of working out an escape plan that involved the ventilation ducts and airplane tickets to Columbia when the door opened and a familiar soft hum tickled her eardrums, drawing a resigned sigh. “Barbara,” she said flatly even before the figure in the wheelchair made her way past the door and into the room.
Waiting until the door was closed and they were alone, thoroughly conscious of the fact that one could never be truly alone in a room with a one-way mirror, Barbara wheeled over so that she was inches away from Helena, a look of frustrated concern etched across her features. “Care to tell me what happened?” she asked, genuinely perplexed. Even after searching her mind for a possible reason why, she still couldn’t figure out why Helena had been where she had been, nor why she would have done what she had done.
“No,” Helena said stubbornly, dropping her forehead down so that it rested on the hard wood of the table in front of her, not quite sure she could take looking at Barbara.
The room was silent for a moment as Barbara waited for Helena to continue and Helena waited for the world to end. Neither happened, so after a few minutes, Barbara sighed softly, the sound one of aching disappointment that seemed to scrape away the top layer of Helena’s skin, leaving her raw, bare and exposed. “You’re lucky that an old friend of my father’s was working the desk today,” Barbara said stiffly, not sure what to do with the figure currently slumped over in dejection in front of her. “You’re not going to be charged and the bank has already received a check that is more than sufficient to cover any of the damage you may have caused. But Helena, you can’t keep doing things like this.”
“I didn’t mean to,” the brunette muttered, her voice contrite.
There was a disbelieving scoff, and then, “How can you not mean to hurl a one-hundred pound piece of furniture at a plate glass window with enough force to demolish it completely?”
Well, when put that way…
“She just made me mad, that’s all,” Helena said awkwardly, well aware of how inadequate it was as an explanation even as the words crossed her lips.
“She made you mad,” Barbara repeated slowly, disbelievingly. “And for this, you throw a temper tantrum of such monumental proportions that you end up in jail?”
Helena sighed again, then wished her mother was still alive. If anyone would have understood, her mother would have. It wasn’t as if she always had a firm grip on her emotions or her actions. Sometimes they ruled her completely instead of the other way around, and only someone who had ever experienced the phenomenon themselves would know what it was like to not be able to control certain impulses. Her mother was most certainly one of those people, the kind who had acted on instinct without thinking more times than not. Often it worked as an advantage, adding an almost instinctual edge to fights and logic. Other times, though, it backfired horribly.
“So do I get to go home now?” Helena asked, pushing up off of the desk, tired of the interrogation and the disappointment. She just wanted to go home and sulk.
For a moment, Barbara didn’t say anything. There was a stark, unforgiving despair in Helena’s eyes, an emptiness to her expression, and it shocked Barbara, instantly draining away all of her ire. Suddenly, it didn’t matter quite so much why Helena had done what she had done. Instead it became imperative that Barbara chase away the demons she could see haunting the other woman, that she fix whatever it was that had made Helena look the way she did.
“Helena…” she said softly, reaching out to cup the other woman’s cheek. Helena allowed the contact for a moment, stretching sleekly to rub against Barbara’s palm, conversely comforted and inflamed by the simple touch of the other woman’s skin against her own. But then she realized what she was doing and pulled back, her chair flying across the room as she stood abruptly, turning so that her back was to Barbara, arms crossed protectively across her chest.
“I just want to go, Barbara,” Helena rasped, squeezing her eyes shut.
Barbara traced her thumb and forefinger over her eyebrows, the massaging motion doing little to dissipate the tension pulling tightly at her skin. She felt helpless, impotent against the inscrutable emotions driving Helena, against the plainly visible front of self-loathing she could see in the other woman’s eyes. It seemed as if she were forever scrambling to catch up, always just barely grabbing on to the tail end of whatever space Helena was occupying at any given moment, there just long enough to realize things had changed. It was a constant feature in her life, the sense of uncertainty, of the chaotic imbalance that came with living with and knowing the brunette. For once, she would have liked to be able to pin something down, to know exactly what was going on and what would make everything calm once again.
“Why can’t you trust me, Helena?” she asked softly, defeat coloring her tone. “Why can’t you just tell me what’s going on with you? It’s always a guessing game, and I’m running out of guesses. I can’t help you if I don’t know you, but you don’t ever let me in.”
The words elicited a sharply inhaled hiss from Helena, and Barbara watched as slim shoulders tightened, as every line of the other woman’s body grew rigid with tension. “I’m not some improvement project, Barbara,” Helena muttered, head dropping down and to the side, her profile barely visible over the curve of her left shoulder. “I don’t want you to fix me.”
“Then what do you want?” Barbara asked simply, becoming increasingly frustrated. Talking to Helena could be like banging her head repeatedly against a brick wall. The wall certainly wasn’t going to give, and she would only end up with a raging headache, bloody and bruised for her trouble.
Sighing, the words spoken so softly that Barbara wasn’t even sure she’d heard correctly, Helena whispered, “Everything I can never have.”
Harleen watched her client with an almost unnerving, predatory intensity, her gaze never wavering as she sat, unblinking. Helena hadn’t spoken in the fifteen minutes she’d been in the office, merely sitting with her jaw clenched firmly shut and her arms crossed over her chest, her body a picture of angry resentment. Resisting the urge to tap her fingers, to uncross and recross her legs, to do anything more than sit motionless, waiting with a seemingly endless patience, Harleen continued on, determined to win the game.
Finally there was a break, the soft creak of leather as Helena moved, the barely audible whispering tease of a sigh, and Harleen smiled, seeing her opening. “Trouble in paradise?” she asked with a smirk, inwardly very pleased with herself. As of the week before, her patient had become interesting once again.
Refusing to be baited, Helena murmured, “No, just the usual. A little vandalism, some destruction of property. I felt it was time to get reacquainted with my local New Gotham police force. Catch up with the boys and girls in blue, you know.”
“Hmmm,” Harleen purred, her pose losing some of its rigidity as she settled into the repartee, “someone’s been a bad girl again. Can I expect a continuation of our little court mandated sessions to be extended in the near future?”
Sniffing lightly, Helena replied archly, “I’m afraid not. Barbara pulled a few strings, so my record will remain as spotless as ever.”
“Barbara?” Harleen asked, interest spiking her tone. “Oh, that’s right. She is Commissioner Gordon’s daughter, isn’t she?”
Helena nodded grudgingly, embarrassed yet proud. Some part of her was a bit ashamed of the way she had used Barbara. Or, perhaps, of the way she’d allowed Barbara to clean up her mess. On the other hand, it felt really, really good to know that the other woman would go through the trouble to call in a favor for her, especially when she knew just how little Barbara liked putting herself in anyone’s debt or using her father’s influence.
“So why fix this and not do anything about the little incident that landed you here?” Harleen asked sharply, genuinely interested.
Pursing her lips, Helena said scathingly, “Because Daddy’s money couldn’t buy my way out of that one. Last time, it was public property, and New Gotham wasn’t in a particularly forgiving mood. Besides, I’d already been through booking by the time Barbara found out about it. Somehow, she knew about this one before I’d even gotten to the station. A little phone call to an old friend of her father’s, a nice big check to pay for the damage, and it was no big deal.”
Harleen arched a brow at that, eyes full of mischief. “So, Barbara wasn’t at all concerned that you’d managed to get yourself nearly incarcerated yet again? It didn’t bother her in the slightest?”
Frowning, Helena snorted, “Not hardly.” Barbara’s ire might have been muted, but it certainly hadn’t been non-existent.
Tapping her forefinger against the arm of her chair, eyes narrowed slightly with barely suppressed malice, Harleen asked pointedly, “How many more chances do you think you have, Helena? I can’t imagine Barbara will be happy to clean up after you forever. How long before you become more of a liability than an asset, hmm? What do you really bring to the relationship? When will you become more trouble than you’re worth?”
“Barbara would never leave me,” Helena shot back heatedly, feeling the familiar tension of anger coil around her spine. The mere thought was abhorrent. They’d been together too long, had been through too much together. Barbara wouldn’t abandon her, not after all this time and certainly not simply because she had an unfortunate tendency to wind up in trouble. They were family. There was no friend to it. They were more than friends… bound together, really, by something far stronger than blood. They’d chosen one another, had stayed together not because they had to but because they wanted to. Barbara wouldn’t give that up. Would she? Even if she had suggested Helena take a break to reevaluate her priorities. That was just business. If she weren’t the Huntress, Barbara would still want her around. Wouldn’t she?
A soft chuckle met her words. “But Helena, you’ve got to have Barbara before she can leave you. Other than your friendship, which quite frankly seems more parasitic than symbiotic, what hold do you have on her?”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” Helena said bitterly, feeling her insecurities start to once again make their way to the surface. So she wasn’t perfect, and living with her could be far from easy. If Barbara had wanted her gone, then she would have said so, right? It wasn’t just that the redhead was keeping her around as nothing more than the legs of the operation. It wasn’t as if she were the cliched, expendable superhero.
There was Dinah. Sure, Barbara hadn’t gone out and actively recruited her, but she certainly hadn’t sent her back home and she hadn’t balked when the girl suggested taking a more active role in their activities. Hell, she’d practically entrusted the girl to her care, expecting the brunette to train her. To make her the best she could be. Barbara just wanted to take some of the burden off of her shoulders, right? To make it so that she didn’t have to patrol every single night, to have someone there for back-up when it was needed. Not because she figured Helena would soon find herself on the wrong side of a low statistical probability of survival. Not because she didn’t want to have to deal with the lag time between the loss of one blindly heroic figure and the training of a new one. And, most certainly not because she was going to suggest that the Huntress make an early departure from the crime-fighting game.
She had to mean more to Barbara than that, didn’t she? But then, it wasn’t as if she’d ever really managed to make herself all that important to anyone else. Her mother, certainly, but her mother didn’t count. Her mother really hadn’t had a choice in the whole matter. Not like her father… who hadn’t even bothered to stick around long enough for a, “Hey, sorry I missed the first 16 years of your life. Want to get together for lunch sometime and catch up?”
But, just because he’d left, that didn’t mean Barbara would. They were nothing alike. Except for their steadfast devotion to the cause, the tendency to lose themselves in their work, the hidden, haunted part of themselves they tried to sublimate in the throes of following a higher calling. Most certainly not in the way they put the needs of others and of society above themselves, going so far as to sacrifice loves and limbs if necessary.
Harleen watched in fascination as a parade of emotions made its way across Helena’s face. There was such resentment there, such anger and hatred and rage all waiting to break free. She could use this girl, could break her and remake her, could add her to an ever-growing arsenal of weapons. Form her into yet another soldier ready to sacrifice for the cause. All she needed was a little time.
“Oh, I think I know exactly what I’m talking about,” Harleen said with quiet self-satisfaction, basking in the look of absolute and utter animosity sent her way. Deciding, though, that she needed to rein things in a bit, she affected her best concerned voice, injecting as much support as possible into her gaze. “That’s what I’m here for, Helena. To help you see the truth and accept it, no matter how much you try to hide it from yourself. Sometimes the people we want don’t want us in return. But, it’s not the end of the world. Trust me, there’s so much more out there for someone like you.”
Resisting the urge to scream out her frustration, Helena rose from her chair, striding quickly from the room, the sound of Dr. Quinzel’s soft laughter following her down the hallway.
Barbara was about to take a sip of her freshly brewed tea when Helena made her announcement, and thus could only be glad that she didn’t have feeling in her legs, because she was sure that the scald of it landing in her lap would have been quite painful otherwise.
“You want to what?” she sputtered, eyes rounding in surprise.
“Take over Wayne Industries,” Helena repeated breezily. “The Bat left it to me, didn’t he? Well, I’d say it was about time that I checked in on my inheritance.”
“That’s crazy,” Barbara scoffed, wincing at the sight of the shattered remains of what had once been her favorite coffee cup scattered across what had once been her clean floor. “You don’t have any background in business.”
“Well then, I guess I’ll just run the company into the ground then, won’t I?” Helena replied flippantly, hopping up to settle herself on the kitchen counter, hands propped against the edge of the polished concrete top.
“Be serious, Helena,” Barbara said sharply, glaring at the brunette as she carefully wheeled her way around the small puddle of tea slowly inching its way across slate tile to retrieve a roll of paper towels. “Wayne Industries employs thousands of people. You can’t just play with their lives like that simply because you’re having some kind of crisis.”
Brows lowering in anger, Helena shot back, “I am being serious. I can’t be a bartender all my life, you know.”
“So what? You can’t get a job as a bank teller, so you decide to attempt to take over leadership of one of the largest corporations in the world instead?” Barbara scoffed, wincing slightly at the look of hurt that instantly closed off Helena’s features.
Voice deadly soft, Helena asked, “How’d you find out about that?”
Rolling her eyes in exasperation, Barbara said, “Did you think I was just going to accept your complete non-explanation of what led up to the little chair smashing incident? I still can’t believe you get turned down for a job and feel the need to terrify a bank employee and throw a chair at a window.”
“Five,” Helena muttered, drawing a raised brow from Barbara.
“Excuse me?” the red-head asked in confused frustration, not at all following Helena’s train of thought.
Clearing her throat, the brunette looked up, shame and defiance mingling in her eyes. “I got turned down for five jobs that day, and it wasn’t so much the fact that she practically laughed in my face during the interview as it was her insinuation that I was a brainless slut that really pissed me off.”
Befuddled, Barbara said in exasperation, “I don’t understand why you were even looking for a job anyway, Helena. What’s wrong with the job you have? Did you get fired? Can you not pay your rent? I mean, if you’re having some kind of trouble, you know I’ll help you out in any way I can.”
Jumping from her post, pacing in nervous agitation from one end of the counter to the other, barely missing the splash of glass shards on the floor with each pass , Helena said irritably, “I don’t want your help. You’re not my keeper, Barbara. I can take care of myself. I’m not a liability, and I’m not a charity case.”
Utterly bewildered by the other woman’s defiant attitude and seemingly random assertions, Barbara shook her head, mouth opening to argue, barely able to find the words to refute Helena’s claims. “I never said you were a charity case. I’m fully aware that you’re a competent adult, but that doesn’t mean you can’t come to me for help when you need it, Helena. Everybody has to ask for it some time.”
“Not you,” the brunette nearly hissed, spinning abruptly so that she was facing Barbara. “You’re always so together, so fucking self-sufficient. You don’t need anyone, and most definitely never ask for help. At least, not from me.”
“That’s not true,” Barbara retorted heatedly. “I ask for your help every single day.”
“No, you have me run your errands, Barbara,” Helena said cynically, pouting slightly. “Trust me, there’s a difference.”
Barbara felt herself growing defensive, angry replies springing to her lips more rapidly than she could filter them for content. “No, I’m forced to depend on you because I can’t do it myself, Helena. Don’t you think I’d much rather be out there fighting alongside you than being stuck here as little more than a glorified cheerleader? Always there to stroke your ego after a fight or to give you directions when you can’t find the right street. But you know what, you’re right. How sad it is to be you.”
“Forced to depend on me?” Helena echoed angrily, not quite ready to tackle the rest of the minefields laid by Barbara’s reply. “What, are you just waiting until a more agreeable replacement happens along? Oh wait, you’ve already found one, haven’t you. Maybe you’re just waiting until I have her primed and ready for you. Is that it? I get to train my successor before you retire me? What’s the severance package for a job like this? Thanks and get the hell out?”
Bringing her hand to her forehead, unsure how she’d managed to let the argument escalate or why she’d even felt the compunction to participate in it in the first place, especially considering the foul mood that had been following Helena around for weeks, Barbara sighed. “You know that’s not true, Helena, but if you insist on believing it, then I suppose there’s nothing I can do, is there? I would have thought that you knew me better than that though.”
“I thought I did,” Helena replied caustically, arms crossed protectively over her chest.
Her memories of Barbara were getting all mixed up with Dr. Quinzel’s words and her own doubts and insecurities, and suddenly Helena couldn’t think, couldn’t make everything slide neatly back into its appropriate slot. It was all swirling around in her brain without order, coloring her world in a violent mix of angry reds and grating yellows. She felt trapped, and every slight sensation suddenly had the powerful impact of a jarring blow. There were Barbara’s eyes, too green and too all-knowing and too insightful and too beautiful all at the same time, watching her as if she’d suddenly metamorphosed into a strange, exotic and deadly creature right before the other woman’s gaze. There was the earthy sweet smell of the rapidly cooling tea, something that suddenly seemed so entwined with the very essence of who the red-head was that Helena was uncertain she would ever be able to stand the scent of it again without being painfully reminded of this moment. Of Barbara’s disappointment. Of her own failings.
Of course the other woman wouldn’t ever want her, not as an equal. She was a monumental fuck-up, unable to do even the simplest of things without wrecking it completely. A quick glance down to the remnants of Barbara’s cup seemed to reinforce that fact with the force of a hammer’s blow. She was like that, shattered and empty, worthless really.
With a stifled sob, Helena fell to the floor, scooping the broken glass into a pile with her bare hands, only vaguely aware of the slice and pinch of sharp edges cutting into her skin. There was blood mixing with the tea, staining the weak brown a darker burgundy, but she didn’t care. She needed to fix things, needed to stop being such an impediment to Barbara. To stop being a burden.
“Helena… Helena… HELENA!”
Helena finally looked up at the sharp tone, meeting Barbara’s soft, compassionate gaze with wide, frightened eyes.
“What are you doing?” Barbara asked gently, rolling over so that she was only inches away from Helena’s crouched form, looking at the other woman’s now bloody hands with a kind of resigned sadness.
“I… It’s my fault it’s broken,” Helena said awkwardly, suddenly hyperaware of just how she had to look, kneeling there in a pool of cold tea and her own blood, hands still cradling a pile of broken, jagged glass. “I know how much you liked it, and… and… I’m sorry.”
“Helena,” Barbara sighed, a frustrated grimace dimpling her cheeks, “it wasn’t your fault. Why don’t you throw away the glass you’re holding while I go get the first aid kit. You’re going to have to let me see your hands.”
Looking guiltily at the floor, Helena nodded, wishing she could bang her head against the cabinet in frustration. Barbara had the ability to turn her into a psychotic, slightly insane mass of contradictions and uncertainties, reducing her capacity to function as a normal, well-adjusted individual to somewhere around zero.
She’d managed to clean up the glass and spilled tea and wash the worst of the blood off her hands by the time Barbara returned, but the perplexed look the red-head sent her way at first sight of the myriad cuts marring the surface of her palms and fingers and streaking down the side of her hands made Helena wince. She must have clutched the shards a bit harder than she’d realized, especially to cause the kind of damage she had.
Barbara pushed Helena in the direction of the kitchen table, indicating with a distracted wave that she should pull out a chair. When the other woman was seated, she reached out, gently pulling the still bleeding appendages into her lap. She’d spread a thick white cotton towel over her upper thighs, but Helena could still feel the lean contours of Barbara’s legs through the lush cotton and the fabric of her pants, the sensation making her skin itch with anticipation and frustration.
The touch of soft fingers against her own drew her out of a contemplation of just what it would be like to touch those thighs without the encumbrance of barriers between her hands and Barbara’s skin. She looked up to find Barbara tracing her eyes over Helena’s flesh, eyes liquid with unreadable emotion. Actually, she looked almost sad, and Helena watched, transfixed, as Barbara’s fingertips became stained with her blood. It was still flowing freely, if a bit more sluggishly than before, and there was something about the sight of it on the other woman’s hands that made her freeze. She’d looked like that once before, fingers and palms and arms slick with hot, vibrantly red blood, and she closed her eyes, blocking out the memories as best she could.
The sharp, startled inhalation of breath must have drawn Barbara’s attention from the reverie she’d fallen into, because she began to clean Helena’s injuries, her touch light and sure.
“Why do you do these things?” she asked softly, contemplatively. “Why do insist on hurting yourself?”
Helena didn’t have an answer, more than aware of the fact that Barbara was asking about far more than the cuts currently visible on her hands. There was an insight to the question she didn’t want to face, and so instead she remained silent, watching as if mesmerized as Barbara rubbed her hands down with antiseptic ointment, as she bound them securely in stark white gauze. When she was finished, Helena noted wryly that she looked almost like a prizefighter minus the gloves.
The silence stretched out between them until Barbara leaned forward on a sigh, fingers gently but firmly pulling Helena’s chin up so that their eyes were locked. Dark blue attempted to avoid the piercing intensity of wet green, but Helena found she couldn’t, that her eyes were drawn inexorably upward as if by the sheer force of Barbara’s will. There was something there, something indefinable but hauntingly familiar, something she half-thought she’d seen in the mirror before. Longing, repressed desire… something she was fairly certain she wanted. Something she was completely certain terrified her.
Struggling to breathe, suddenly conscious of the almost unnatural thickness of the air, Helena pulled back sharply, unable to face the unvoiced questions weighing down the space between herself and Barbara. “I… I can’t,” she croaked, her chair screeching angrily against the tile floor as she pushed away violently, leaping to her feet. She wanted to run, wanted to find somewhere safe and hide there.
“Can’t what?” Barbara asked, caught up in the surrealistic nature of the moment. It occurred to her that they were dancing around one another, shadows skirting forward and back yet never touching. Shadows of what, she didn’t know. All she did know was that Helena’s emotions were written in stark, unequivocal terms across her face. There was desire and lust and an almost aching need for acceptance in her eyes, all inescapable and painfully clear.
She was accustomed to the feeling of imbalance Helena created. It’d been growing steadily for the past few years, skyrocketing in recent months. Part of her was loath to recognize it. It felt wrong, in many ways, to view the girl she once saw as her responsibility and charge as something more than that, but she couldn’t deny the fact that Helena most certainly wasn’t a child any longer. She was an adult, with adult desires, desires that Barbara herself mirrored. At least, she thought she did. But, of course, that assumed she was reading Helena correctly, something which was never really a given, despite her general overall level of comfort with being able to interpret the other woman’s moods and expressions.
Despite her occasional unease, there was something quite primal in Helena that called out to her. The other woman was an abyss, one in which she could easily find herself lost. The very idea terrified her, but she was drawn by the magnetic and ultimately alluring combination of intelligence, sex appeal, and hints of darkness. Helena was the gray areas she couldn’t allow herself to be. She was casual sex and a reckless disregard for society and its laws. She was a good girl wrapped up in a bad girl’s body, with all of the attitude that came with that. But then, she wasn’t a good girl at all when the red-head thought about it, except for in the ways that really counted. She was a walking contradiction, one even Barbara couldn’t operationalize and quantify. Helena would forever be an unknown variable, achingly vulnerable one moment and brashly independent the next.
She wanted that, for reasons she couldn’t or wouldn’t or didn’t want to define. Helena was like a kitten, cuddly one second and all claws the next. For someone who valued order and stability, even if it came in quite the non-mainstream package, such chaos and unpredictability was almost unthinkable, generally considered an anathema and a state to be avoided at all costs. Yet Barbara was drawn to it, desiring the heat of the flame even as she knew it would more than likely burn her.
Helena hadn’t answered her, and Barbara realized with some surprise that her thoughts must have been showing on her face, because Helena was watching her with a combination of fascination and fear. She was usually much more adept at keeping things suppressed, but the past week had taken a toll on her reserve. She realized idly that sullen, withdrawn and prone to violence weren’t necessarily qualities that should be as attractive as she found them, but then again, Barbara was aware of the distinct dichotomy between what she should want and what she did want.
Maybe she’d always had a bit of a self-destructive streak. Actually, it would be ludicrous to think otherwise. Truth, justice and all that could have been served in a variety of ways that wouldn’t have put her physical safety at risk, but those things hadn’t appealed to her. She’d always liked the rush, that heady jolt of adrenaline perhaps the strongest aphrodisiac of them all. From the first taste, she’d been hooked. Her childhood had been a study in finding new ways to get her fix. She’d pitted brains and brawn against any challengers, always easily clearing the field of any true competition. Broken bones and bruises and mild concussions hadn’t been stumbling blocks so much as they’d been expected and somewhat welcome by-products.
When she’d run out of socially acceptable avenues, Barbara had found others. These took her to far darker places, both literally and metaphorically, and once there, Barbara found a new addiction. Danger, in all its many forms. Flying high above the streets of New Gotham, separated from death by only the tenuous hold of a grappling hook on brick or squaring off against criminals with less than no compunction about hurting or perhaps killing her had taken the place of floor exercises and Quiz Bowl competitions. Even if she couldn’t inhabit the gray areas herself, they were where she felt at her most comfortable. Barbara embraced the shadows, the ambiguities, and the delicious thrill of impending doom that pervaded each and every interaction.
The objective part of her brain realized that it wasn’t entirely normal or healthy, but that didn’t change things. Barbara thrived in that atmosphere. It was her secret heroin, her preferred drug of choice. As long as she had the danger, then she didn’t need anything else. It was a natural high unlike any synthetic or induced one could provide.
Then she lost it all. Inevitable, perhaps, that the very thing she craved would destroy her. The allure wasn’t quite as alluring in the face of the searing pain of a bullet through the gut, but even when they told her she’d never walk again, Barbara couldn’t bring herself to regret a single second of it. She’d played the game and she’d lost, but like any addict, she couldn’t stay away. So she couldn’t be Batgirl, couldn’t perch high above the city, fighting the wind and gravity and her own fear of falling. So she couldn’t look into a soul of pure evil and throw regard for safety out the window, plunging herself whole-heartedly into battle with the unwavering determination that she would emerge the victor. She could do other things. She had a better hold on the city as Oracle than she ever could have imagined as Batgirl. The thrill was still there, though she fought the phantom ghosts of the limitations of the human mind and the always real potential that she’d be discovered instead of heavy-handed thugs and brutally insane psychopaths. So there was something missing, something more than her long-lost ability to hurl herself into the midst of a fight. If it was the sweetly acrid taste of danger, then she just had to accept the fact that it was no longer available to her.
Helena was dangerous.
She was dangerous for all of the same reasons Barbara had craved before, and for a whole host of new reasons she wasn’t sure she could handle. She had a hold on Helena, had the ability to tame the wild, feral beast upon which the other woman often had little more than a tenuous grip. Truth was, for the most part Barbara didn’t particularly want Helena tamed. She wanted her to be animalistic and uncontrollable, and Barbara wasn’t sure what that said about herself. Of course, on the other hand, possessing that power was also quite rewarding. She could bring Helena to her knees, could leash all of that energy and anger if she so desired. She wasn’t quite sure what her delight in that fact said about herself either.
Which was all quite interesting and enlightening to ponder, but did nothing to cut through the tension surrounding the two of them. She needed to push, or perhaps to pull back, or really to do anything other than sit there in the limbo her words and actions had created.
So, voice ragged, Barbara rasped, “What is it you can’t do, Helena?”
Which was really just a challenge masquerading as a question, its disguise poor by intention and not fault. Barbara was looking for proof of the laws of gravity and inertia. For every action…
…there was an equal and opposite reaction. Eyes gone feral in a surge of emotion, Helena stalked toward her prey. Barbara had pushed and she’d pushed, though had she been pressed Helena wouldn’t have been able to point out the catalyst for her actions, nor would she have been able to justify her response based on the events leading up to it. One second she was standing, body taut with the tension of the moment, and the next she’d descended upon Barbara, knees buried in the soft cushioned seat of the other woman’s wheelchair as she straddled her thighs, hands tangling roughly in silky red hair. It wasn’t a gentle kiss, not by any stretch of the imagination, but Helena couldn’t be bothered to take the time for soft seduction. She’d wanted and been denied for so long, and as far as she was concerned, not giving Barbara an opportunity to turn her down was by far the more appealing option.
Not that she needed to worry about rejection. Judging from the enthusiastic fervor with which she was being kissed in return, Barbara wanted it just as much as she did. Perhaps even more so, because strong fingers were digging into her back, pulling her forward with a strength she’d always known Barbara possessed but hadn’t really been witness to before. There would be bruises. Of that she had no doubt.
“I need you.”
The words were out before Helena even realized she was going to speak, harsh on the rasping pant of excited breath, far more needy than she’d ever envisioned herself sounding. And need. Need was so much more than, well… want. Need was oxygen and water and food, and the more she thought about it, the more Helena realized she indeed did need Barbara. Needed her to survive. Needed her just as much as those more elemental things necessary to sustain life.
And, it seemed like Barbara needed her too. Unspoken sentiments to the revelation aside, Helena could feel it in every touch of the red-head’s hands on her body. There was an urgency, a near frantic desperation. Short nails scored the tender flesh of her back before soft palms soothed the irritated skin, and even white teeth nipped roughly at her lips and tongue, belying something far more dire than just simple want. Barbara was consuming her, eating her alive with the force of her passion and emotions, and Helena reveled in the feeling. It was what she wanted, what she’d always wanted, and it didn’t surprise her that Barbara was the only person she’d ever found who was capable of giving it to her.
Because Barbara knew her. Barbara was more than friend, family, or soon-to-be lover. Barbara was systemic, a part of her. Barbara flowed in her veins.
The burn of tape-wrapped hands pressing up her abdomen, shoving the silky fabric of her bra aside with more resolve than finesse, left Barbara panting. The part of herself that was wholly separate from the proceedings, that was simply floating above the tangled mess of arms, legs, lips, skin, teeth and tongues, was a bit horrified by it all. This was Helena, after all. Helena, who had cried herself to sleep in Barbara’s arms for months after her mother’s death, who had occasionally crawled into the other woman’s bed in the early hours of the morning for years after, tears streaming wordlessly down her cheeks. Helena, who had sat in Barbara’s AP English class not paying much real attention to the red-head at all, until the Joker had ripped both of their lives in half and they’d become each other’s caretaker. Helena, who had come to her with bruises and broken hearts alike, somehow certain that Barbara could heal whatever ailed her. Helena, eight years younger than her and, until her 19th birthday had come and gone, her ward.
She was taking advantage of the girl. She had to be. After all, what would someone like Helena want with her? Not only was she wildly unexciting, so unlike the brunette’s past conquests as to be almost of an entirely different species, but she was a cripple, the half of her body most important to endeavors such as the one she was currently engaged in totally devoid of feeling.
A fact she was brutally reminded of as she looked down, as she tore her lips away from Helena’s to watch one slim fingered hand trail down her abdomen to slip beneath the waistband of her pants. It went from the tantalizing tickle of soft fingertips to absolutely nothing in the span of a heartbeat, and even as she watched the outline of Helena’s hand move beneath the somewhat restricting fabric of her pants, she was floating in the aching void of absolutely nothing. No feeling, no sensation other than an almost preternatural awareness of the heat of Helena’s breath scorching the flesh of her neck.
She couldn’t do this. There was no way she could allow it to happen, moment of temporary insanity notwithstanding. Helena needed someone who could be her equal in all things, and Barbara needed anything other than the resounding absence of feeling and the look of pity she was certain would soon be directed her way from too caring blue eyes. She’d forgotten, or perhaps had consciously ignored, the inevitable outcome of a confrontation such as the one she’d let herself be drawn into, but there was no escaping the reality of the limitations of her body and the sheer wrongness of the situation.
“Stop,” she said roughly, hoping her voice would be enough. It wasn’t though, or else her entreaty fell on deaf ears, because Helena’s lips continued to trace a path of fire across the exposed expanse of her neck and upper chest. For a moment she nearly gave into it, wanting, for the first time in her life, to do something she knew was wrong simply because it felt so very good, but she couldn’t do that. Couldn’t do it to Helena, and couldn’t do it to herself.
So, strong fingers found Helena’s shoulders, and she pushed, perhaps a bit harder than she’d intended, because seconds later the brunette was looking up at her from a sprawl across the floor at her feet, blue eyes full of confusion and hurt. “I said stop,” Barbara rasped, eyes dropping to the side, focusing on the arm of her chair. It was easier that way, to not have to be subjected to the critical mass of near agony she’d briefly glimpsed in Helena’s eyes.
“I… I don’t understand.” The words were ragged, literally infused with anger and puzzlement, and Barbara focused on the way her fingers stroked lightly over the fabric of her pants, touching a stranger for all that she could feel of the motion.
Without looking up, Barbara wheeled back slowly, putting some distance between herself and Helena. “This isn’t something I want,” she said softly, her words tinged with sadness. But, Barbara was long used to self-denial. In fact, she’d been practicing it for so long that she was practically a professional, and no matter how much part of her was raging at the loss of contact and the deliberate chill inflicted by her words, she wasn’t going to back down.
Helena laughed, the sound completely devoid of humor. “Bullshit, Barbara. It was something you wanted quite a bit until something kicked in, probably that oversized brain of yours, and told you that you shouldn’t have it.”
“I don’t want to talk about this.” A hard twist of her wheels and she was facing away from Helena, green eyes unfocused as they looked out over the Clocktower’s main floor. She could see her computers, contentedly humming away, streams of data flowing across their monitors just waiting for someone to come and interpret it. There was the faint hum of the refrigerator, and the muted sound of a laugh-track from a television she hadn’t even realized was still on. And then, of course, there was the weight of Helena’s stare almost burning a hole through her shoulderblades.
Even though she didn’t hear her move, Barbara knew when Helena closed the distance between them. She could feel the heat of the other woman’s body, could sense the sheer force of her presence. “Tough shit. I want to talk about it,” Helena growled, a hand hovering over the back of Barbara’s neck. She wanted to touch the other woman, to reestablish a physical connection. Hell, she wanted to push her way past Barbara’s protestations completely, sure that she could make things between them so good that Barbara would forget she’d ever said no, would know that she hadn’t ever meant it anyway. She could do it. And if it was wrong, if the mere thought would have sickened her had she been in her right mind, then it was a good thing she wasn’t.
“Tell me why you pulled back, Barbara. The real reason, and not the first halfway decent excuse you can come up with.”
There was such frustration, such pain in Helena’s voice, that for a moment, Barbara wanted to give in, wanted to spin around and open up her arms. She hadn’t been wholly unaware of the fact that Helena was interested in her beyond the realm of partners and friends, but she hadn’t ever expected anything to actually come of it. Indeed, there was so much history between them that it was practically inescapable. Helena couldn’t help but be drawn to her. After all, they’d seen each other at their weakest, had been instrumental in rebuilding one another, and now Helena often laid her life in the palm of Barbara’s hand, fully trusting the other woman to watch her back. It was only natural that the bond between them was strong, and that Helena could temporarily mistake it for something it wasn’t. For lust or love or whatever the brunette thought she was in, but Barbara didn’t want to start something she could already see ending. She was simply being realistic about the whole thing. A dalliance wouldn’t serve any other purpose than straining things between them. Helena would inevitably move on, and Barbara would be left wanting more, because she knew with an unwavering certainty that once she’d had the brunette in her life as a lover, she wouldn’t be able to go back. Barbara didn’t do things half-heartedly. When she fell in love, she fell hard, with little to no chance of recovery, and she was well aware that her feelings for Helena were teetering dangerously on that edge.
It was an edge she wasn’t going to fall over, a line she wasn’t going to cross. There was no way that she’d make herself even more vulnerable than she already was. She wasn’t going to put herself at the mercy of Helena, wasn’t going to set herself up for failure and heartbreak. Sure, the other woman might think for a little while that things would work out, that it was what she wanted, but then something newer and better would happen along and Barbara would be left alone. It wasn’t as if she had a multitude of choices or offers, and the thought of watching Helena once again make her way through a line of boys and girls while she could do no more than sit helplessly on the sidelines and watch was about as unappealing of a prospect as she could imagine.
Barbara’s silence was unnerving, and Helena felt her already unsteady composure crack just a little bit more with each passing second. “Tell me why,” she demanded roughly, barely resisting the urge to pull Barbara around to face her, to force an answer of out the other woman.
“Because I don’t want to fuck you, Helena,” Barbara said starkly, the words sounding alien coming from her lips. It was all she could think to say, though. Anything else would have given too much away, would have opened the door to conversations she didn’t want to have.
Helena stepped back as if struck, and Barbara was instantly aware of the change in the air surrounding her, of the sudden and seemingly irretrievable loss. “Is that what you thought it was? Is that what you thought I wanted?” Helena asked slowly, feeling tears sting the corners of her eyes. She blinked them away, determined not to appear any weaker than she already had in front of the woman slowly ripping her heart in half. At that moment, Barbara didn’t deserve it, didn’t deserve to know just how much she could hurt her.
“Why?” Barbara challenged, steeling herself with anger she didn’t feel. “Did you think it was something more? The beginning of some grand romance?”
There was a bitterness and hatred in the words that tore into Helena’s soul, and she stiffened, feet already itching to run. Barbara was being so cruel, so unlike herself, and Helena was quite certain that she couldn’t take much more.
“Maybe I did,” she whispered in reply, watching the way Barbara’s shoulders slumped at the words, unsure what it meant. “What would be so wrong about that… you and me together? What’s so wrong with me?”
Barbara felt reckless, out of control, and the pain in Helena’s voice only exacerbated that. She had no hold over the situation or her words any longer, and she listened, horrified, as they spilled out into the open, staining the air between herself and Helena a dark, violent black. “You’re not exactly relationship material, Helena, and if I just wanted to fuck, then there are plenty of people who can take care of that for me. Plenty of men. I’m just not like you. I don’t sleep with anybody and everybody, and I don’t sleep with women.”
Which was a bald-faced lie, all of it, and she cringed both from the bite of her conscience and from the strangled sound she heard come from the woman behind her. Barbara wondered when she’d lost her grip on the situation and on herself, because she quite certainly had. She’d taken something that had no reason being quite as vicious as it was and turned it into a blood-bath, and she had no doubt that they’d both be licking their wounds for some time to come. But she had to do it, had to eliminate all possibility of something between them, had to restore their working relationship to what it should have been. Something caring but platonic, and even though she knew it would take Helena a while to get past what had been said, she would. Of that, Barbara was certain.
Helena felt her anger spark somewhere near the base of her spine and radiate outwards until every square inch of her body burned with it. She could taste blood, though whether it was in the metaphorical sense or due more to the tight grip her teeth had on the inside of her cheek, she wasn’t sure. There was a part of her dying, a rather essential part, but she couldn’t focus on that. Instead, all she could do was take in deep breath after deep breath and keep a tight lid on the impulse that urged her to reach out and strangle some sense into Barbara. Well, that or just plain strangle her. At that particular moment, Helena couldn’t decide which would be more satisfying.
“You’re lying,” she managed to grit out, not really having any basis for the assertion other than her own desperate yearning that it be true but yet somehow believing it still. She hadn’t been imagining the looks, the sly touches, or the way Barbara had reacted to her when she’d finally managed to get up the courage to kiss her. If she hadn’t been wanted in return, then the other woman’s hands would have been pushing her away, not pulling her in closer. Barbara could lie to her and lie to herself all she wanted, but Helena knew the truth. Barbara did want her, but that didn’t mean the other woman would give in to that desire. As obstinate as the red-head was, she’d probably take her lies to her grave as the absolute truth, and trick herself into believing it all the while.
Barbara didn’t answer, just sat stone still in her chair, eyes staring at nothing. She wanted the confrontation to be over, wanted to retreat to her room and sort things out in her mind. But, most importantly, she wanted to get start on the getting over it part, because she’d had what she wanted for one magnificently intense moment, and it was going to be hard to move on, especially knowing that she’d had the opportunity for more and thrust it away. Even if she hadn’t been able to feel Helena’s hands on her, she would have gotten to touch the brunette, to see her face and her body contorted with passion, and to burn that image into memory for the day when she was alone yet again. And really, wasn’t that what she lived on now… memories? Memories of the time when she’d had legs that worked, when she’d been Batgirl, when she’d been a fully functional and capable lover. Memories of when she’d been truly alive.
After the protracted pause grew into an awkward silence, Helena realized Barbara wasn’t planning on answering her or responding to her words, and with a sigh, she felt the tension in her body uncoil, leaving a kind of helpless lethargy in its wake. She felt drained, as if she’d faced down a cadre of thugs, her body just as tired and bruised as if the words had been fists instead of verbal arrows. Raising her hand to the bridge of her nose, pinching the thin sliver of cartilage there in a useless attempt at staving off the stress-induced headache she could feel building, Helena muttered, “Tell yourself whatever it is you need to, Barbara. Justify it. Say it’s my fault. I don’t care. Just… just don’t come looking for me, okay.”
“Helena…” Barbara started, her voice cracking as she turned her chair so that she was facing the other woman. Only, there was no other woman to face, just the barely visible slip of black over the Clocktower’s balcony and the coolness of nothing.
Dinah was confused. She was confused and anxious, and not at all certain how to remedy either of those states. It’d been a week since she’d seen Helena. Actually, it’d been since the night she came home to find Barbara slumped over in her chair, face bright red with the stain of tears. To see her mentor and the woman she practically hero-worshipped in that kind of condition had been startling and disconcerting to say the least, but Barbara had simply wiped her hands across her cheeks and smiled up at her as if she hadn’t been crying, asking her if she’d had dinner yet in a falsely cheerful tone that had grated jarringly against the pained silence of the room.
She hadn’t touched Barbara, partly because when she came close the other woman seemed skittishly nervous, eyeing her almost as if Dinah were attacking instead of trying to console, so there was no way for her to learn what had happened. It wasn’t as if Barbara was going to tell her, because the older woman had merely wheeled her way into the kitchen as if possessed by demons of domesticity, trying in vain to find utensils she couldn’t name to prepare a meal she didn’t know how to make with ingredients they didn’t have. She’d been buzzing with nervous energy, throwing out questions to Dinah more quickly than they could be answered, but Dinah had the feeling that Barbara wouldn’t have heard or even cared about her answers anyway.
While she might not have had the opportunity to employ a little psychic spying, Dinah was well aware that something was horribly wrong. She could almost smell it in the air. Confrontation, anger, pain and confusion lingered about as if they were a perfumed cloud, and she wondered at the intensity of emotion necessary to leave behind that kind of trace. She’d caught glimpses of things such as it before, though usually only when she’d stumbled upon the scene of some tragedy. Funerals also brought them about on occasion, but she hadn’t ever been hit by a wave of emotion as profound as the one cloaking the Clocktower.
She hadn’t said anything, cowed by the haunted look in Barbara’s eyes and her own unstable footing in the household. Instead, she’d dutifully eaten the truly awful macaroni and cheese Barbara managed to produce, swallowing the overly crunchy lumps with as big of a smile as she could muster, and then escaped to her room, eager to be away from the sensations still assaulting her.
Barbara had been back to normal the next day, if a little pale and perhaps a bit more subdued than usual, so Dinah had let it slide once again. She still didn’t feel comfortable enough to encroach on where she was visibly not wanted, and could only hope that Helena would show up and cheer Barbara out of her black mood. She’d seen it happen before, seen whatever funk Barbara had fallen into disappear completely at the other woman’s appearance, though how the usually sullen Helena could bring good cheer into anyone’s life, she didn’t know. Not that she didn’t like Helena, or admire or her lust after her just a tiny little bit, but she was already well aware of her flaws after residing with them for only a few short weeks, and she’d very rarely ever had her mood actually improve simply because of the brunette’s presence.
But Helena hadn’t come. Barbara had waited without seeming to wait, positioned staunchly in front of one of Delphi’s many screens, eyes tracing over the lines of information coming at her with such speed that Dinah had to wonder how she could absorb it all. Barbara hadn’t said anything, even when Helena didn’t come by and didn’t check in, and the one time Dinah had managed to work up the guts to ask about her, Barbara had thrown her a painfully nonchalant, “Well, she does have a life, you know.”
Except, Dinah knew about Helena’s life, and Helena’s life was centered out of the Clocktower. Being the Huntress might not have been the sacred calling for her that it had been for Barbara according to the stories she’d managed to coax from Alfred, but it wasn’t something she shied away from either. She’d seen Helena uneasy and impatient under the commands being Huntress made to her time, but she’d also never seen her leave until Barbara deemed things all clear. And even then, it wasn’t as if Helena had rushed out into the night immediately after, headed off for any one of the numerous destinations Dinah imagined would appeal to the other woman. No, instead of a bar or a club or something Dinah pictured but wasn’t quite sure what to call, though she was faintly certain contained a lot of black leather, she’d stick around. She’d bug Barbara or dig through the refrigerator or sigh about the lack of good quality late night programming since having the “kid” around meant they couldn’t watch porn. And Barbara would smile at that and ask when they’d ever watched porn to begin with, and Dinah had found the exchanges nearly unbearably cute.
Helena’s life was Barbara, and it had taken her well over a week to realize that the two of them weren’t together. It wasn’t as if she’d run into many… well, any… same-sex couples in Opal, but if she’d thought to picture what it would be like, Helena and Barbara would have fit perfectly. They gave off all of the signals long-established couples transmitted without effort, with their unconscious yet vaguely intimate touches, with the glances that went on far longer than were necessary, with the easy familiarity that was harder to achieve than it looked. There was an unspoken communication between them, and having the two in close proximity was almost enough to create an invisible force field of intimacy, one that clearly knit them together while protecting them from the outside world. Dinah was more than aware of that one, having felt the outsider more times than she could count when she’d walk into a room to find the two hunched over some project or computer screen, faces so close they were nearly touching and words muted into soft whispers.
But, underlying it all, there had been a barely discernable line of tension. Helena might have stuck around the Clocktower for as long as she could have managed, but she always left. She had her own apartment, and it wasn’t until Dinah realized that Helena actually returned to it every night that she surmised that things were not as they’d seemed. At first she’d thought it was a ruse for her benefit, a ‘keep the kid in the dark’ kind of thing. But, when Helena left, she didn’t return, and Barbara always retired to bed alone, so that hadn’t been it.
Sadly, the information she’d collected seemed to make it more difficult to uncover what had happened. Had the two been together, she would have chalked it up to a lover’s quarrel, and waited for Helena to drag herself back and apologize. Because really, it undoubtedly would have been Helena’s fault to begin with, because the brunette was always doing or saying something stupid, and it wasn’t that far of a stretch of the imagination to picture her being at the root of any problem. But, they weren’t together, and Barbara’s unnaturally neutral mood made it impossible to decipher what had gone on. If Barbara had railed at the absent Helena, if she’d shown some sort of anger or frustration, then Dinah would have felt more at ease with the situation. As it was, she was eerily quiet about the other woman’s very blatant absence, continuing on about her job as if Helena’s missing persons status wasn’t at all unusual. And maybe it wasn’t out of the ordinary for the brunette to disappear for long stretches of time. Dinah hadn’t been there forever, after all, so it wasn’t as if she was intimately familiar with the ins and outs of their routine.
But, she was fairly certain that wasn’t what had happened. From what she’d seen of Helena, there was no way the Huntress would have willingly or voluntarily have left Barbara alone for so long. She’d picked up on Helena’s overly protective streak almost immediately, and that those energies were constantly directed in full force at Barbara. Leaving the red-head alone was tantamount to leaving her defenseless in Helena’s estimation. Or, at least that’s what Dinah had managed to infer, though she wasn’t quite sure Barbara had ever really realized what was happening or else her wildly independent and self-sufficient streak would have chafed under what she would have perceived as a slight. Besides, there had been some sort of confrontation, and if nothing else pointed to something out of the ordinary, that did. They’d had a fight, though about what Dinah couldn’t imagine, and for some reason Helena had run.
Which brought her back to the beginning, looping her into the same cycle of frustration and confusion that had plagued her attempts to deconstruct the situation. It wasn’t unusual for Helena to run. In fact, it seemed like a natural defense mechanism for the brunette. What was unusual was Barbara’s reaction. Or, rather, non-reaction. Dinah could have understood anger, frustration, or irritated acceptance, but the carefully controlled lack of a response was just simply not normal. Nor was the fact that Barbara was about to let her go out in the field all by herself.
“You have to wear this at all times. You cannot take it off,” the red-head was saying sternly, holding out a transceiver and giving Dinah a pointed and vaguely intimidating glare. Not that Dinah felt she deserved it. After all, it wasn’t as if she was Miss Queen of Teenaged Rebellion like Helena undoubtedly had been.
Barbara didn’t seem convinced by Dinah’s enthusiastic nod, but continued on nonetheless. “All you’re going in to do is see if there’s been any activity. You stay back and don’t try to make contact. There will be no investigating, no stunt-pulling of any kind, and no theatrics. You go up on the roof, you look around, and you take a few pictures. That’s it. Do you understand?”
Barely resisting the urge to roll her eyes, Dinah took the proffered headset, grimacing at the weight of the bulky gear. Not only had Helena disappeared, but she’d done so with the cool gadgets as well. “I’ve got you. I don’t do anything.”
A wry smile crossed Barbara’s lips. She wasn’t wholly unaware of the mothering streak in her that sometimes came out in full force in regards to her protégés, and was well aware that Dinah was not-so-slyly poking fun at her. “I just don’t want you to get hurt,” she said wearily. After all, she’d apparently already driven off one superhero that week… no need to get a fledgling one killed.
“I’ll be fine,” Dinah said blithely, full of the vain certainty of youth.
As soon as the rather meaty hand had clamped down on her shoulder, Dinah had been possessed by the sneaking suspicion that she might possibly be in trouble. Matters certainly hadn’t improved when she’d been tugged rather roughly from her perch on the roof and hauled down the side of the building by an attacker she was in no way prepared to face. When she’d been ushered into a small, fairly dark and definitely musty room and duct-taped into a chair… well, that pretty much took away any lingering doubts she might have had about the seriousness of her situation.
She took in her attackers as best she could, not at all comforted by the fact that there were four of them, and of the four, none appeared to be up for any kind of negotiation. The slight leers on their faces didn’t do anything to ease her apprehension either, and she began to seriously rethink crime-fighting as a possible career choice. Perhaps it was even time to take one of those aptitude tests her guidance counselor had been pushing at her.
“So,” one of the thugs said slowly, lumbering around so that he was squatting in front of her, his surprisingly light blue eyes even with her own, “care to explain?”
He held up the headset she’d been wearing, one brow cocked in anticipation of her answer, and Dinah sighed. She never had been very good at lying, especially when anything she might have concocted would have been ludicrous anyway.
“Uhm… I work for Verizon Wireless. You know… Can you hear me now? We’ve almost made our way out to New Gotham Bay. I wanted to go sub-Saharan, but my co-worker snagged that gig. Sucks, really, because I needed more work on my tan than she did,” she said nervously, babbling.
The thug looked remarkably unimpressed. “You know,” he said idly, cocking his head to the side, “I could just leave you in here alone with these guys for a little while and see how much your ability to answer questions truthfully improves while I’m gone.”
An apprehensive glance around the room revealed far more than she’d ever wanted to know about just how much the prospect of a young, helpless and bound female appealed to her captors, and Dinah began to panic in earnest.
She opened her mouth, ready to tell them every secret she knew, including the fact that Mary Ellen Parker tongue-kissed her own brother in the second grade, when a violent crash cut her short. Dinah watched with some amazement as the door to the room flew open with such force that it shattered, sending a shower of wooden splinters flying and leaving a blanket of sawdust-like particles in its wake.
“Sorry boys… hate to cut the party short, but my friend here is out past her curfew so we have to be going. I’m sure you understand.” Dinah nearly fainted with relief as the slow, smoky drawl emerged from the darkness, followed shortly thereafter by Helena herself. She looked imposing and fierce in the dim light of the warehouse and Dinah felt herself relax. Huntress would take care of things for her. Hopefully.
Four heads swiveled in tandem, eyes wide in surprise at the interruption. But, when the thugs caught sight of Helena in all of her slim, lanky glory, they smiled.
“Look at this, boys. We’ve got ourselves a two for one special going tonight,” the ringleader said smugly, advancing quickly toward where Helena stood, hands outstretched to catch her as if he were chasing a run-away puppy.
With a sniff of dismissal, Helena planted a boot against his sternum, sending him flying back into the far wall. The other three looked on in a combination of confusion and amazement as their comrade slid slowly to the floor, but after a moment’s indecision, all rushed Helena at once, low growls of anger filling the silence.
Dinah watched with no little amount of awe as the remaining men were quickly incapacitated, all with quick, economical movements whose easy grace belied their power. In fact, Helena didn’t look as if she were breaking a sweat, or even as if she were really devoting all of her attention to the fight. Instead she finished the gang off in seemingly bored silence, snagging the roll of duct tape they’d used on Dinah to effectively hog-tie them with the skill of a seasoned calf-roper, leaving a line of limp bodies in a neat row by the wall.
When she was done, she none-too-gently ripped the tape from around Dinah’s limbs then stooped to pick up the abandoned headset. “Get back on that thing and tell Barbara to send the police out to get these guys, and give me the keys. I’m driving,” she said curtly, expression closed.
Dinah, however, was too flush with relief to really listen to what the other woman was saying. “Oh, my God. I’m so glad you’re back, Helena,” she gushed. “Did Barbara send you out here? They were gonna… I don’t even want to think about what they were…”
Trailing off, shivering at the memory of the undisguised violence and lust in her captors’ eyes, Dinah slowly became aware of the fact that Helena wasn’t answering her, nor even really paying her words much attention. Fumbling into silence under the bored yet somehow still imposing force of the other woman’s glare, she pulled the headset on with quick, jerky movements, digging in her pants pocket to find the car keys.
There was no reception, and Dinah grew increasingly nervous under Helena’s sharp gaze as she ripped the headset off and fiddled with a few buttons, not sure what she was doing but hoping and praying it would work nonetheless. When she heard the crackle of static, she nearly fainted in relief. Helena’s scowl had grown into a glower, and she had the distinct impression that she should do everything in her power to avoid pissing the brunette off any more than she already was.
“Uh, Barbara? I mean… uh… Oracle,” she said hesitantly, lightly fitting the headset back into place. The tension in the room was steadily climbing, and Dinah began to shift from foot to foot in apprehension. Anything, really, to escape the force of Helena’s angry glare.
“Dinah? Is that you? I’m on my way. Don’t panic,” came the breathless reply, and Dinah nearly winced at the frantic quality of Barbara’s voice.
Clearing her throat, Dinah said quickly, “No. No need to do that. I’m fine now. Uh… Huntress saved me.”
For a long moment, Barbara didn’t say anything, and Dinah could hear absolute silence where before there had been the background sounds of Barbara gathering things together. When she finally did speak, her voice was quiet, and a little bit strangled. “She’s there?” Barbara breathed, and Dinah’s brows crinkled at the myriad threads of emotion she could hear running through the two simple words.
“Yeah. And… um… I don’t think she’s going to let me drive home. Do you think you could call the police and let them know that they’ll find some guys here waiting to be picked up?”
“Sure,” Barbara replied weakly. “Is she coming back to the Clocktower with you?”
For a moment, Dinah frowned at the seemingly odd question. If Helena had come after her, then surely she and Barbara had worked out whatever problem it was that had been keeping the two apart, and if that was true and they were once again working with one another, then there wouldn’t be any reason to suspect that Helena wouldn’t return. After all, they’d have to do their post-mission debriefing and all of the other really boring things Barbara insisted on after each sweep or foray, and Helena had to be there for that. Unless… unless Helena hadn’t talked to Barbara at all. Which meant, then, that Helena had known Dinah was in trouble without an alert from Barbara. Which meant Helena had been watching over them, unless she just had the phenomenal luck to blindly crash into a room inside an apparently abandoned warehouse where Dinah was being held captive.
Which meant, really, that Helena hadn’t ever left at all. She’d still been there, protecting Barbara, and by default Dinah herself, without the other woman’s knowledge. For some reason, the thought of Helena perched atop some rooftop, all alone in the cold with no voice to keep her company, steadfastly watching over them, nearly broke Dinah’s heart. Spinning quickly before the other woman could see the tears that pricked the corners of her eyes, Dinah said steadily, “I don’t know if she’s coming back. Why don’t you ask her yourself?”
There was another awkward silence before Barbara said stiffly, “If she wants to come back, she’ll come back.”
The feeling that she was dealing with a pair of the most emotionally stunted individuals she’d ever met hit Dinah with the force of a ton of bricks, and she sighed. She had an inkling that things around the Clocktower weren’t really going to improve in the near future, and as much as she hoped she was wrong about that, she really didn’t think she was.
“You finished yet?” Helena asked roughly, cutting into the blonde’s introspection, and with a too bright smile, Dinah turned, nodding yes.
“Uh-huh. Just can’t wait to get back,” she said with falsely sarcastic cheer, wanting to do something to break the hard shell of angry near silence wrapped around her as tightly as a cocoon. If she got annoying in the process, then it was what the other two deserved.
Narrowing her eyes, Helena merely grunted and held her hand out for the keys again, turning on her heel and stalking out of the warehouse as soon as she’d secured them. Dinah wasn’t surprised when the other woman made her way without any assistance to the exact spot where she’d left their jeep.
By the time she’d managed to climb into the passenger’s seat and buckle herself in, Helena already had the radio blaring at near ear-shattering levels and was racing away from the warehouse. For the first few moments, Dinah couldn’t do anything more than grab the handle above the door and brace herself for turns that were far too sharp to be making in the vehicle they were occupying. It didn’t take her long to accustom herself to the patterns of Helena’s driving, though, and she was actually quite relieved that the other woman didn’t drive with extreme adherence to any and all traffic laws like Barbara had the tendency to do. It made the trips to school in the morning arduous to say the least.
Reaching out to turn down the radio, noting with detached amusement that Helena had set it to a volume that rattled every single window in the vehicle, she turned in her seat, taking in the other woman’s stern profile.
“I thought it was your fault, but it wasn’t, was it?” she said suddenly, conversationally, and Helena’s head snapped around so quickly that Dinah was surprised she didn’t get whiplash.
“I’m sorry. Did I ask for your input on something and forget?” Helena rasped, blue eyes glinting wildly in the alternating light from the street lamps. For a moment, Dinah almost let it go, but she just couldn’t. Firmly convinced that Barbara and Helena would never work things out if she didn’t do something to help, she continued bravely on.
“I thought the fight was your fault, but it was Barbara’s, wasn’t it,” she clarified, desperately hoping that Helena wouldn’t break her nose for interfering. She wouldn’t put it past the other woman, who hadn’t really always had a firm rein on her more violent impulses from what Dinah had observed.
Lying easily, Helena said smoothly, “I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Taking a deep breath, wondering idly if she was suicidal, Dinah continued on. “At first I thought it had to be you. I mean, no offense or anything, but it makes more sense to think that you did something to piss Barbara off than it does to think of Barbara causing problems between you two. So, I figured you’d said something stupid or picked a fight with her and then just cut out. She hasn’t said anything, and I haven’t really asked, so it seemed logical. But now… well, I’m not sure that’s the way it went down. Even if it does seem a little crazy, I think whatever’s wrong might be Barbara’s fault, and I just wanted you to know that… you know… that you can… you know… talk to me about it if you want to. You know?”
Her words petering out to a near painful whisper by the end of her offer, Dinah merely sat back and held her breath, waiting for the inevitable explosion. She got nothing, though, but the rhythmic tic of Helena’s jaw as she curbed whatever it was she’d initially planned to say in favor of silence. Ironically, the silence didn’t do anything to dissipate the tension that had once again sprung up at Dinah’s offer of help, and the blonde began to wonder if she was going to be scraping herself up off of the pavement in the near future.
With a sound that was almost a growl, Helena finally said, “Thanks for the concern, but it’s none of your business, kid. And don’t go to Barbara with this ‘I wanna help’ shit either, you got me. Just leave it alone, okay. I can handle it.”
Desperately wanting to point out that Helena apparently couldn’t handle it, not judging by the events of the last week, but still aware of a need for self-preservation, Dinah fell silent.
|Section 2||Harper||Birds Of Prey||Main Index|