Two nights later …
>>You’re quiet<< Barbara said into the receiver, her voice low, and warm with a touch of concern as she leaned her head in her hand and stared in the direction of the balcony even though she knew Helena wasn’t going to be entering through there for quite some time.
"I’m pissed off," Helena ground out tersely as she rolled her shoulder, a low, severely unhappy growl emanating from her throat as she did.
She’d come across a group of five businessmen looting a lingerie store about an hour before. Their ties still loosened as if they’d run out of the house after settling down to watch the news. It was strange, but no stranger than a lot of shit that had been happening in New Gotham over the past few weeks. She’d busted in on the party, telling them to put the panties down and their hands up, but they hadn’t wanted to play nice. So she’d been forced to punish their civil disobedience. It had been a relatively easy bust, what with the men obviously having spent most of their time filing briefs and creating flow charts rather than busting asses, but when she’d turned her back to stop one of them from impaling himself on a sharp piece of broken glass from the window they’d broken to get in, another one had come up behind her and given her a good whack on the shoulder with a golf club before she turned around and made a hole in one.
>>Are you sure you’re okay? << Barbara asked keeping her tone neutral so as not to put Helena on edge even further. She’d heard the contact and the sharp intake of breath that followed. She realized that the gasp of pain was probably more due to surprise than anything, but it was usually those unexpected blows that ended up doing the most damage. And while she knew Helena would tell her if she’d been seriously hurt, the woman had a tendency to play tough with injuries that were more aggravating than anything else, but those wounds that simply slowed her down instead of toppling her could be just as dangerous when Helena got herself into another situation after them.
"Fine. Pissed off," Helena replied laconically, as she tilted her head to the side listening carefully. "Hear something," she muttered to Barbara before running to the edge of the building she was perched on, jumping off, landing neatly on her feet seconds later.
Turning her head to the side she spotted a metal door and stalked over to it, kicking it savagely one time, smirking to herself as it flew open. She could hear the screams coming through more loudly now that she was in the building. From a floor or two above where she had entered. The building had been a casualty of an arson attack a few days before and had been evacuated until the fire marshals could assess its safety. Obviously somebody hadn’t wanted to leave home.
Quickly making her way up the stairs, Helena immediately turned to the left and sped down the hallway. The level seemed secure and the cries were becoming increasingly desperate. She didn’t think it was matter of someone getting stuck in a collapsing building.
Helena burst into the room, wood flying inwards as the frame splintered from the force of her kick.
"Fucking animal," she growled stalking into the living room of the apartment, where she could hear the cries coming in at full volume.
A small brunette woman was lying half on her stomach, half on her side trying to crawl out from underneath a man who was lying on top of her, one hand on the waist of her pants tugging at them and the other grappling with her hands trying to hold them down. His own pants undone and hanging loosely around his waist. Her blouse was torn, and she had a large, angry red welt forming on the side of her face, which was covered with wet streaks.
"Who the fuck are you!?!" the man asked turning his head around to face Helena, as one of his hands came around to smack the woman beneath him, the sound of his palm connecting with the flesh of her cheek reverberating around the room.
Helena’s jaw clenched, but she remained silent, simply walking over to him knocking his hand out of the way carelessly as he swung at her before grabbing him by the back of his shirt, hauling him up and tossing him forcefully to the side. She didn’t wait to see him connect with the nearby cabinet. She didn’t need to. She heard it perfectly.
"Who … what … I … wha …" the woman mumbled, backing away from Helena slowly as she approached her.
"It doesn’t matter," Helena said softly, forcing her voice to remain calm and hopefully comforting as she reached out a hand for the woman, placing it on her shoulder and squeezing gently for a second before taking her hand and helping her to her feet. "You’re safe now," Helena said, taking off her jacket and wrapping it around the woman’s shoulders.
The man was struggling to get up, almost on his feet.
"Do you have someplace safe you can go?" Helena asked, turning her head to look behind her. The man was standing now, staring at her murderously with a large piece of wood from the broken cabinet in his hands. He was cradling his left side slightly, and a blood ran down his face from a cut near his hairline. Red was a good colour on him, Helena decided.
Helena vaguely heard the woman mutter a positive response to her question as she eyed the man, a small smile playing on her lips as she watched him through narrowed eyes. She could feel the blood pumping swiftly through her veins leaving a warm trail everywhere it flowed. She could hear his heart thumping in his chest, see a vein in his neck throbbing and smell his sweat. She swayed from side to side in a mockingly playfully way as he leaned from side to side trying to decide how to attack her.
"Now would be a good time to go there," Helena said, she was addressing the woman though her eyes remained on the man in front of her. He was getting increasingly agitated. Helena imaged that he was getting mad at himself for hesitating to attack her. For being weary of a woman nearly half his size.
The woman was silent for a second. "What about …" she started to ask, her voice shaking as she fingered the leather of Helena’s jacket.
"Keep it," Helena replied distractedly. It was an old one anyway and the loss of it would give her an excuse to go shopping. "You’ve had a rough night," she continued popping towards the man in front of her teasingly, grinning widely when he automatically stepped back. "Go on, get out of here."
"I don’t think so," the man barked, speaking for the second time since Helena entered the room. His posture was straighter and his eyes narrowed. The indecision was gone, and he’d made the wrong choice.
He lunged towards Helena swinging powerfully, but wildly with the plank of wood he’d picked up from the broken cabinet. Helena easily dodged to the side, and raised her leg, kicking him swiftly in the stomach, the force of it causing him to stumble backwards as he doubled over.
"That’s a good girl," Helena muttered to herself softly as she saw the woman, slowly and then quickly backing up out and out of the apartment as the man recovered his breath and spun towards her once again.
His breathing was ragged and his eyes glowing with rage.
"I’m gonna fuck you up!" he ground out viciously as he eyed her, pointing the piece of wood at her threateningly as he rose to his full height.
"Really? Doesn’t look like you’ve been able to fuck anything tonight," Helena replied lowly, her voice taunting and disdainful. "Not a surprise really," she continued smirking as she glanced down just below his waist.
He stared at her for a moment after that, long and hard for five seconds, and then jumped at her again, swinging savagely from side to side, making violent hacking motions that got more and more hysterical as Helena dodged them, one after another.
Finally tiring of his ineffective attempts to knock the shit out of her, Helena grabbed his arm as he made a sweep at her and pressed on his wrist, bending it back and forcing his fingers to relax, as she caught his free arm with her other hand as it swung at her head.
A few seconds later, the pressure being exerted upon his hand became too much and the man’s hold on the piece of wood loosened causing the weapon to begin to fall from his fingers. As it did this, Helena dropped her hand, scooping it up before it could hit the ground, while pushing on his other arm, using the momentum to spin around and knock him in the head with the piece of wood.
>>What’s the apartment number? << Barbara asked as she electronically sent in an anonymous call to the police.
"I don’t know, tell ‘em to look for the one with no door," Helena mumbled darkly as she stared at the barely conscious man laying a few meters in front of her. He was slumped over, his breathing ragged as he glared at her savagely. He’d tried to stand up a few times when she’d been talking to Barbara, but had found himself sliding back down onto the floor after every effort, too tired and sore to do much of anything other than glare at her.
He wanted to hurt her. He longed for it, ached for it. He was probably imagining what he would do to her, if he could somehow manage to get control of her. He hated her. She’d ruined his fun. She could feel the loathing and the resentment rolling off of him in waves, crashing against her. She could smell it. The purity of his hatred so strong that Helena was certain that, even injured as he was, it would’ve been enough to make a normal person shudder with fear.
She stalked towards him.
"Sorry to ruin your plans," Helena drawled, her hips swaying almost sensually as she approached him. "Maybe we could have a little fun. You like pain, I can give that to you," she continued her voice hardening and her eyes narrowing threateningly as she got closer to him, one of her hand disappearing behind her back to remove a pair of handcuffs.
He wasn't the only one who knew hate. She hated his kind, and she was better at it.
>>Huntress? What’s going on over there? << Barbara asked over the transceivers not liking Helena’s tone one bit. Things never ended well for the person on the receiving end of that timbre. She understood what Helena was probably feeling, remembered what it felt like to feel that swell of anger begin to raise in your chest and sweep over you when the truth of the horrors humanity was willing to inflict upon itself was staring you straight in the eye in the embrace of darkness. She also knew Helena had a harder time separating herself from that anger than she did. Had a harder time wanting to separate herself.
The man looked up at Helena wide-eyed and yet still loathing, trying to shuffle backwards but finding himself against a wall.
"Cowering, I like that," Helena commented, ignoring Barbara as she came to a stop by his feet. "Are you terrified? Petrified? Of me?" she asked, her lips turning up into a sneer as she was forced to hop over a weak kick aimed at her shins. "Well you should be," she continued grabbing his arm, slapping one end of the cuffs around his wrist before stretching out his arm and attaching the other end to the radiator near him.
He started to slide towards the radiator trying to relieve some of the strain on his arm from how she had stretched it out to reach the radiator.
Helena kicked out her leg, her foot coming to rest on the wall just under his armpit stopping the motion keeping him where he was.
"Where do you think you’re going?" she asked, reaching behind her once more and removing a thin piece of micro-fiber string. She leaned forward wrapping it around his other wrist, before stepping over him and yanking that arm upwards by the end of the string she still held in her hand.
Pulling on the string some more so that the man had to raise himself slightly off of the ground, Helena then looped the other end of the string through the window handle and tied it off, stepping backward tugging at the string to make sure it would hold before stepping back to observe her work.
He was in a half-crouched position, squatting really, his arms extended in two different directions at two different elevations so that whatever way he moved to relieve the tension on one side, or up or down, it would worsen the pain somewhere else.
She turned and headed towards the door.
"Hey!" he called out after her, his voice slightly panicked. "You can’t leave me like this!"
"Can’t I?" Helena asked looking over her shoulder at him.
"This fucking hurts," he yelled, his voice strained with pain, as he struggled against the ties holding him, gasping as pain tore through his shoulders.
"That’s kinda the point," Helena replied turning around to face him smiling nastily as she stared down at him. "I thought you liked that," she whispered to him.
"Let my fucking arms down!" he yelled at her straining forward trying to fling himself at her before veering back in pain. "Pl … please let my arms down," he continued in a softer more reasonable tone a second later, the words coming as a hiss as he struggled to contend with the burning in his arms.
"It would be the merciful thing to do," Helena commented walking back over to him, her gaze on his flushed face as her finger ran across the smooth metal of the handcuffs thoughtfully before she pulled it back leaving them just as they were before.
She turned and walked out of the apartment.
Barbara leaned over the edge of the tub, her hands carefully kneading Helena’s shoulders trying to relieve some of the tension in them as the brunette lounged with her head falling forward slightly. She had been right, that blow to Helena’s shoulder had caused her to place more stress than normal on it as she had continued with her sweep, leaving it tighter and more painful than usual now that the adrenaline begun to retreat.
"You didn’t have to do that," Barbara commented softly as she pressed her thumb into Helena’s back, causing the brunette to suck in a deep breath as sharp sliver of pain shoot through her at the move. She resisted the urge to shot Barbara a disgruntled look, though she wondered if it had been intentional.
"That was just fun," Helena replied flippantly a moment later, sighing as Barbara’s hands became gentle and soothing once more.
"By the time the police arrived he’d dislocated his left shoulder, and ruptured tendons in his right arm," Barbara responded with a slight edge to her voice. She wasn’t pleased. "He's going to be in recovery for months."
"I’m gonna shed some tears over that any ‘no I’m not’ now," Helena replied shifting in the tub slightly, straightening her back before turning so that she could see the redhead. "He liked power so much, I showed him what’s like from the other side."
"You’re all done," Barbara said ignoring Helena’s response for the moment, as she backed away from the tub and headed towards the towel rack drawing one down and placing it over her lap as Helena stood up, stretching before moving to step out of the tub.
"It’s not your job to hurt people just because they’ve hurt someone else," Barbara continued, handing the towel over to Helena. The brunette had always been an eye for an eye type of woman, while she leaned towards turning the other cheek when possible. It wasn’t that she particularly sympathized with the people they fought, or was notoriously concerned with making them comfortable or protecting their self-esteem. There was a significant part of her that didn’t give a flying fuck that the man Helena had come across earlier would be in a slings for a month. What she cared about, and what she was trying to protect was Helena. By giving into her baser instincts she lessened the control she had over them, and Barbara worried that one-day Helena would beat herself.
"Sure it is, I’ve never talked people into turning themselves into the police. People always get hurt," Helena replied defensively, flinging the towel over to the side a bit forcefully in irritation before moving to grasp her robe.
"Self-defense is different from the deliberate infliction of pain. He was neutralized, you didn’t have cuff him like that," Barbara replied seriously. "It was malicious."
"I’m not going around kicking puppies and children in casts," Helena responded crossly rounding on Barbara as she tied off the robe. "He was a rapist, I made him reap a small part of what he was trying to sow. Boo fucking hoo," she finished a slight challenge in her voice. "Don’t ask me to get weepy over hurting him."
"No one said anything about getting weepy. You shouldn’t have done anything to get weepy about. It’s not up to you to …" Barbara started turning the chair to face Helena as the brunette stalked over to the sink.
"I know," Helena replied cutting her off as she ran an agitated hand through her hair looking in the mirror. "Only it is," she continued staring at her reflection.
Barbara was silent for a moment, as she watched Helena watch herself. "It’s a slippery slope Hel," she said finally, her eyes falling to the bath mat.
"It’s my slope," Helena replied immediately at note of confrontation still in her voice. "And … only if you’re on it alone," she continued her voice softening as she crossed over to Barbara her hand reaching out to gently brush some hair out of the redhead’s face before falling down to take her hand. "I know what you’re worried about. I lean towards the … extreme," she continued softly, her eyes skittering away from Barbara’s for a second. "But I have an angel on my shoulder too," she finished looking at Barbara pointedly.
"Come here," Barbara said a second later, tugging on Helena’s hand lightly, her words coming out as a faint sigh. Helena dutifully leaned down over her, bracing her left hand on the arm of Barbara’s chair while her right hand kept its hold on Barbara’s hand.
Barbara stared at her for a moment and then leaned forward brushing her lips against Helena’s gently, almost reflectively, as her free hand traced through the brunette’s hair languidly.
The brunette infuriated and confounded her at times. The comfort and familiarity the brunette had felt with rage and emotional chaos since adolescence still worrying and confusing her.
"Let’s get some clothes on you," she said a moment later, pulling back from Helena so that she could see her whole face.
"That’s different," Helena commented wiggling her eyebrows at Barbara, before leaning forward and brushing her lips against the redheads again, her right hand releasing Barbara’s and moving to the front of her robe as they kissed, undoing the loose knot allowing the material to fall open hinting at the expanse of creamy skin that still lay partially hidden underneath it.
"I promised Dinah I’d help her with her algebra homework," Barbara said softly, somewhat breathless as she took in the sight before her. "Put that away," she continued firmly looking to side and waving her hand indicating that Helena should do up the robe.
"Fine," Helena sighed, drawing the material back around her. "I guess I’ll just have to abuse myself while you two are off having fun with math," she continued sauntering towards the bedroom smirking when she heard Barbara groan softly.
The next night …
"Here’s another one," Dinah said logging it into the database Barbara had set up to monitor the strange happenings in New Gotham. "A man and woman, both approximately 50 years old, just rolled over the Ben and Jerry’s on Park St.," she dictated to Barbara shaking her head as she read through the rest of the report. "A squad car found them about fifteen minutes ago loading tubs into the back seat of their sedan," she finished turning to look at Barbara. "That’s disturbing."
"To say the least," Barbara muttered her eyes temporary on the plasma screen monitor hanging above their heads, before returning to the monitor in front of her and then going back the screen again. "Hmmm," she said thoughtfully, a frown coming to her face as she stared at the screen for a long moment.
"Considering how things have been going, I’m gonna assume that’s a bad ‘hmmm’," Helena commented sweeping into the clock tower from the balcony entrance, whipping her jacket off and shaking it wildly as she stalked into the room, tossing it to over the arm of the couch before heading into the kitchen.
"Don’t," Barbara said pointing towards Helena, though her eyes were still on the screen and the brunette couldn’t see her. "I need you to go out again," she continued. She’d heard Helena open the liquor cabinet, which was always identifiable by the squeaky hinge, and wanted to stop her before she could drown away the night’s torments with fermented goodness.
Helena poked her head around the corner to look at Barbara. "I don’t wanna," she said her face falling, not even trying to pretend that she wasn’t whining. "Outside people are scary, Barbara," she said coming through the doorway and heading over to the workstation, with a bottle of Wild Turkey Bourbon in hand though it remained capped. "This ancient, figuratively blue haired thing, threw her cigarette at me and tried to hit me with her walker when I was brushing the embers off."
"That’s horrible," Barbara said. Helena knew that the redhead hadn’t heard a word she’d said. She sighed.
"Most of the fires have been put out and looters arrested or retired for the night," Helena began when Barbara didn’t even turn to look at her. "What do you want?" she continued somewhat grumpily, her gaze drifting over to Dinah whose brows were furrowed as she studied a monitor in front of her, her fingers tapping against the desktop restlessly. She was turning into a taller, blonder version of Barbara. Helena would’ve smirked if she weren’t so pissed off at the world.
"I want you and Dinah to go the Centenary Hospital. Mr. Cornell was brought there tonight. You remember Mr. Cornell?" Barbara asked looking over at Helena, seeing the bottle of the first time and reaching for it.
"Yes," Helena muttered darkly, watching as Barbara unscrewed the top and took a swig passing the bottle back over to her. She grinned and tossed some back before Barbara could change her mind, her eyes closing at the liquid left a deliciously hot trail down her throat and into her stomach. She felt better already.
"Me too," Dinah piped up looking over at them. "About the Mr. Cornell thing, not taking shots," she said holding their gazes for a moment before turning back to her screen.
"Then you’ll understand why I was somewhat surprised to see this," Barbara replied calling up a report she’d recorded a few minutes before and transferring it to the plasma screen. "He was brought to the hospital after getting a bit rowdy at a strip club on Randall Ave. and was handled a bit too roughly by the bouncers. We’re lucky some of the strippers ran out onto the street when the commotion broke lose, camera crews probably would’ve ignored the incident otherwise," she said, stopping the playback and returning the monitor the station it was at before.
"Yeah, lucky," Helena muttered dragging her eyes away from the screen. "All offense intended, old Cornell is like the model that squares everywhere aspire to. Geeks, nerds and other assorted losers everywhere would look at him and say ‘live a little’. And you’re saying he got into a brawl at a strip club?"
"Yeah, a bit out of character," Barbara replied looking over a Helena with a slight smirk. "That’s why I want you to get over the hospital. A lot of the disturbances that have been caused lately have been by rather respectable members of the community, businessmen, lawyers, professors, teachers, civil servants, and all for seemingly no reason. There’s got to be some reason for it, some impetus that we’re not seeing. A causal link between the cases. Hopefully, Dinah," Barbara said drawing the blonde’s eyes over to her, "you’ll be able to find something in Mr. Cornell that can point us in the right direction."
Helena passed the bottle over to Dinah, glancing over at Barbara when the redhead hit her lightly in the arm and glared at her.
"Her mission is to dig around in the subconscious of a clearly dirty old man," Helena said meeting Barbara’s gaze. "She’s gonna need that," she said nodding to the bottle Dinah was know holding.
Barbara stretched her hand out towards Dinah, receiving the bottle from the blonde with little more than a slightly disappointed look.
"You will not liquor up the minor," Barbara said poking at Helena. "At least until it’s been determined exactly how traumatic the excursion into the subconscious of a dirty old man has been," she finished lightly placing the bottle on the desk beside the keyboard.
"You realize she’s probably going to make up some story involving sheep now," Helena commented as she stepped away from the desk, moving towards where she thrown her jacket.
"You’re sick," Dinah said unconsciously fingering her communications necklace. "I was gonna go with goats."
"Ah, a traditionalist," Helena said smirking as she pulled on her coat. "You want first leap or should I?" she continued gesturing towards the balcony.
Dinah merely held up the keys to the Hummer in response, jangling them lightly. She planned on making a comment about how she couldn’t believe Barbara was dating Helena, and how she could do so much better, but as she watched Helena lean over the back of Barbara’s chair and place a soft kiss on the redhead’s cheek, she knew her comments would be useless even as exercises in sarcasm. Damn Helena, and her increasingly prevalent charm.
A few seconds later she was joined by Helena, and they headed for the clock tower exit, and out of the penthouse continuing towards the dark streets outside.
Later that night …
"What’re you doing?"
Barbara looked down at the sound of Helena’s sleepy voice. She herself was sitting up against the headboard of the bed looking out of the large bay window at the end of the room. Helena had her arm thrown over her legs, one of her hands pressing down on Barbara’s thigh using it as leverage to raise herself up slightly. Barbara figured she must have been fiddling around down there for a while, seeing as how the brunette’s hand was still sliding on the material of her pajama bottoms. If she could’ve felt the touch she wouldn’t have been surprised by the sound of Helena’s voice. She hadn’t and she was.
"Just thinking," Barbara replied quietly a moment later, her voice barely a whisper but clear. She’d been awake for almost an hour.
"About?" Helena asked, her hand stilling on Barbara’s leg as she flopped down onto the pillow before rolling over onto her back and staring up at the redhead. She smirked to herself. Even with the lack of light in the room she could see up Barbara’s nose.
"Before? Now? Or in a few seconds?" Barbara asked looking down at Helena’s now alert face.
"It’ll all be before in a few seconds won’t it?" Helena said meeting Barbara’s gaze, her lips curving up slightly as Barbara smiled down at her.
"What Dinah found … or didn’t," Barbara said, the smile fading from her face as she looked back towards the window, a small frown settling upon her features. "I think therefore I do," she muttered as her gaze traversed the dark room.
"She wanted to stay in longer," Helena commented. She knew Barbara heard the comment though she didn’t turn to look at her, her eyebrows still scrunched together deep in thought.
"There was no choice," Barbara said remembering how a nurse and doctor had almost spotted them. "Besides, I don’t think it would’ve done any good. She got what we were looking for, I just can’t seem to make any sense out of it," she continued looking down at Helena finally.
"You do that enough and your face will freeze that way," Helena said reaching up her hand, placing her thumb by the edge of Barbara’s mouth and stroking it to the side trying to rub away her frown.
"What is it with you Kyle’s and your platitudes?" Barbara asked though her frown was indeed turned upside down, as she captured Helena’s hand with her own and kissed it softly. Selina had shot them out like a Pez dispenser too. Barbara could see the blonde in her head as clearly as if she had been standing in front of her, looking at her with a humorously exasperated expression, waving her hand offhandedly before rolling her eyes and muttering something like, ‘Yes, well the world is a strange and mysterious place.’
"It allows us to be sociable while still maintaining our mystery," Helena replied softly, her eyes rolling away from Barbara’s to stare at the ceiling somewhat downcast, as the redhead stroked her hand.
Barbara watched her silently for a moment, wishing that she hadn’t mentioned Selina. It was always a mystery how Helena would react to mentions of her mother, even seven years later. Sometimes she would bring Selina up herself, smiling as she talked about some adventure from their past or pearl of wisdom the blonde had passed on to her. And she would seem energized by the memory, almost buoyed by it. Other times, whether she brought it up herself, or someone else did, or something even reminded her of the blonde, she would close up and get introspective and quiet, a lost, vulnerable look coming into her eyes, the depth of which hadn’t lessened over the years since Selina’s death. Barbara knew that the pain hadn’t lessened for Helena it had just become natural, the ache cementing itself into her soul.
"How does that happen?" Barbara asked, her face still facing Helena though her eyes were far away.
"Platitudes?" Helena asked looking over at Barbara, blinking as she focused on the redhead once more. Truthfully, she’d been glad for the distraction, she’d been well on her way to brooding, and moping before Barbara had spoken, was on the edge of the precipice that would’ve tipped her into a dark cycle that probably would’ve lasted a few days.
"No, what happened to Jeffery Cornell," Barbara replied squeezing Helena’s hand, smiling as the brunette swatted at her. "How does it happen that someone is watching the news, listening to a report on how talks for peace in the Middle East have folded like a cake in the rain while grading papers, and then suddenly become overwhelmed by the urge to go to a strip club and grind with the dancers?"
"That actually sounds like a perfect reason to go to a strip club and grind with the dancers," Helena responded thoughtfully, smiling up at Barbara sweetly a moment later.
"For you maybe. But you’re not a fifty-nine year old widower with a degree in political science and a marking kit with three, yes three, different colour highlighters," Barbara responded. "Dinah said that it was almost like he was a slave to his desire, that he thought about it and just had to do it. Had to. Like there was no thought process, no filter between will and action. That’s just not Jeffery," she finished shaking her head.
"Well, we already knew that something was causing people to act out of character. Or maybe too in character," Helena said making a face. "The question was, how? Why?" she continued. "If we’d had some more time …"
"What if they don’t know?" Barbara asked looking at her sharply.
"What? Who doesn’t know what?" Helena asked not even blinking at the redhead’s sudden movement. Barbara’d had a thought. She’d gotten used to the redhead’s sudden movements and exclamations, and poking when she’d suddenly gotten a thought. She was glad there hadn’t been poking this time.
"We assumed, and I think we were wrong to, that by Dinah looking through his eyes, we’d be able to see whatever happened to him to change his behavior patterns. Because we assumed that he saw it. But what if he didn’t? What if there was nothing to see?" Barbara rattled off, shifting slightly so that that the majority was her weight was on her left arm, which was closest to Helena, as she leaned towards the brunette.
"Brainwashing? Subliminal messages?" Helena asked in a contemplative tone.
"Maybe both, maybe something else to," Barbara replied nodding. "It would explain the size of the population affected. There’re a myriad of ways ideas or signals could be being feed to people. It could be happening through the newspaper, books, posters, brochures or flyers. The radio, television," she continued trailing off.
"Maybe all," Helena suggested shifting onto her side as that she was facing Barbara too.
"Maybe, but it’s not likely. Different mediums access different parts of the brain. An attack on the subconscious by all of those avenues could confuse the overall message, signals getting crossed with each other, messages canceling each other out," Barbara replied staring straight forward though she saw nothing in front of her. "One or two of them at the most. One or two things that everyone affected have in common."
Helena was silent for a moment, at first contemplating Barbara’s words, which seemed to make sense, and then contemplating Barbara herself. The redhead was blinking rapidly as she stared in front of her, her mouth moving minutely though no sound came out, and her shoulders were hunched over, her body slouching held upright only by the headboard. She was tired, but her mind was too busy thinking to listen to the signals her body was sending.
"Sleep," Helena said finally drawing Barbara’s eyes over to her.
"Well, they would have that in common but it wouldn’t explain how …" Barbara started.
"No," Helena said smiling a bit. "You, go to sleep. It’ll all still be a mystery in the morning," she continued tugging at Barbara’s t-shirt lightly, encouraging her to slide back down into a horizontal position on the bed. "If you don’t get some sleep you’re gonna be a zombie tomorrow and that won’t help anything."
"You’re always telling me to go to bed," Barbara muttered softly as she slid herself back down onto the mattress so that she was lying beside Helena. And it was true. It had been one of the brunette’s favorite things to say to her from the time she had come to live with her. Whether she had been brooding, or training, or grading or reading, if she was up past 3 am, without fail Helena would show up and in an authoritative voice tell her to go to bed. Sometimes even resorting to pointing emphatically in the direction of her room.
"Somebody has to," Helena muttered, her words barely audible as she mumbled them into Barbara’s shoulder as she snuggled up behind the redhead.
The next day …
[Wade shuffled into Barbara’s classroom as the last of the students scrambled out of the room for lunch, looking at his feet as he walked in obviously wanting to be anywhere other than where he was. It had been like this since she’d broken up with him. She’d caught him watching her sometimes, he’d even start to come over to her occasionally, sometimes they’d speak for a few minutes, but then the uncomfortable silence would come and hasty retreats would be made.
"You didn’t get hurt during the daily stampede I hope," Barbara said looking over at him offering him a nice platonic smile.
"Caught the tail end, but that’s okay, it was just the old and infirm," he responded lightly, quirking his lips a little, though it couldn’t really be called a smile. "About the faculty Christmas dinner. Can I assume you’ll be bringing a date," he continued a second later, his words coming out slightly rushed and his eyes on everything in the classroom but Barbara. "I need to know for the caterer. Everyone else filled out the form," he finished a bit pointedly, still not looking at her.
"Can I get back to you on that?" Barbara asked, her eyes drifting to the corner of the desk where the form lay. She realized she could’ve saved them both the trouble of this conversation if she’d actually done her paper work.
"Significant other going away for the holidays?" Wade asked looking over at her finally. He was going for a blasé tone of voice, though it came out a bit more interested than he would’ve liked. The flame just wouldn’t die.
"No," Barbara said firmly, shaking her head a bit for emphasis. She could see the poorly masked interest in his eyes and wanted to kill it dead. Things would be far less awkward between them when he really let go of any lingering ideas he had about them getting back together. "More like hard to predict anti-social tendencies. Might not find talk about the budget and sugar cookies to be so much fun," she continued rolling her eyes. She could picture Helena’s reaction.
"Right," Wade said looking away from her again. "Well, let me know by tomorrow or you’ll have to share if he’s in a sociable mood," he continued already by the door by the time he’d finished speaking. And then he was gone.]
"What the …!" Barbara exclaimed lurching back slightly, blinking rapidly as she looked in front of her.
"You’re right that was funny," came Dinah’s voice from somewhere off to her side.
Barbara turned her head to see Dinah standing to her right grinning, and then turned her gaze back in front of her to see Helena’s smirking face a few centimeters away from her own.
"Some times when Barbara thinks to hard, she exhausts her brain and it has to go on standby," Helena explained looking over at Dinah as she leaned back putting a little space between her and Barbara. "For future reference, squeezing her nose shut and blowing in her ear are also an excellent ways to get the motors turning again," she continued her voice almost scholarly.
"Shut up," Barbara muttered though her tone was light. She took off her glasses and rubbed at her eyes a bit before putting them back on.
"Domestic situation, that’s my cue," Dinah said pulling on her jacket. "I’ll be back in a few," she continued practically hopping towards the door.
"Minutes? Where are you going?" Barbara asked wondering exactly how long she had spaced out for.
"Hours, Gabby’s," Dinah responded sharing a look with Helena and shaking her head.
"Fine, and I saw that," Barbara replied pointing at her. "Try and actually do some homework," she called out, but Dinah had already disappeared behind the door into the penthouse.
Barbara turned her head back to where Helena had been to find the space empty, turning her head towards the kitchen a moment later at the sound of a cabinet door slamming.
"There’s no sense foraging," she called out. "Alfred hasn’t been by in couple of days, there’s nothing there but a ten year old box of Triscuts," she went on as Helena looked around the corner pouting a bit. "He’ll be by later."
"But I’m hungry now," Helena responded moving back over to the workstation.
"The grocery trolley’s in the coat closet," Barbara said watching her approach.
"Not hungry enough to actually go shopping," Helena declared hopping onto the desk and crossing her legs, getting comfortable before crooking her finger at Barbara, smiling and leaning forward to meet the redhead’s lips as Barbara dutifully moved her chair closer.
"The faculty Christmas dinner is coming up," Barbara commented leaning back in her chair to observe Helena.
"God," Helena moaned dramatically. "Stodgy old people, present company excluded of course, pissing and moaning about paste budgets and the proper period of time to hold confiscated baseball hats. I couldn’t think of anything more horrifying," she continued shaking her head.
"I thought you’d say something like that," Barbara responded, her eyes drifting around the clock tower. She sounded disappointed though she didn’t mean to. She knew it wasn’t Helena’s sort of thing.
"When?" Helena asked drawing Barbara’s eyes back over to her. She’d heard the redhead’s tone and cursed her theatrical personality traits. She’d been telling the truth about it sounding like absolutely no fun, but that wasn’t really the point. "I didn’t say I wouldn’t go," she continued when Barbara quirked a questioning eyebrow at her.
"Really?" Barbara asked smiling despite herself.
"Really," Helena confirmed. "I’ll go, have a horrible time and you’ll make it up to me with lots of sex, and Christmas presents," she continued smiling, thinking that when she put it like that it didn’t really sound that bad at all.
"Your love doesn’t come cheap," Barbara responded thoughtfully, before placing her hand on Helena’s thigh, rubbing along it. "But I think I can handle that," she continued leaning up to meet Helena’s lips as the brunette bent her head down.
"I’m surprised," Helena commented a moment later, as she looked at Barbara appraisingly. "That you’d want me to go," she continued when Barbara simply looked at her expectantly. "Won’t it be weird for you, bringing a former student as a date?"
Barbara looked up at Helena at that. She’d thought about that, and a lot of the other repercussions and consequences of inviting Helena to the dinner. The fact that they were the same-sex wasn’t a factor, there were a handful of other teachers on staff who were involved in same-sex relationships and had brought their partners to school functions on numerous occasions. There had been out teachers, even almost a decade before when Helena had been a student, and marriage was a right still being fought for. No, Helena had hit the nail on the head, with the former student angle. There was something slightly scandalous about it, a faint hint of something improper and forbidden, even though it wasn’t nearly as rare an occurrence as one might think. And, Helena knew that despite her extracurricular activities, which nobody could describe as ordinary, Barbara had a good old girl reputation and always had. She was the dependable, trust worthy, brainy girl next door. Dating a former student, whom some of the teachers would also have known she was guardian too for a short period of time, would not have been a very Barbara Gordon thing to do. And while she was certain that the majority of the staff wouldn’t give a flying fuck about it other than to tease her about being a cougar or something equally irritating, she also knew that there would be a few who would frown upon it.
"Maybe," Barbara responded holding Helena’s gaze. "Probably," she amended smiling a bit. "It doesn’t matter," she finished finding that she meant the words far more than she could have predicted when she’d spoken them.
"You don’t have to invite me on principle. I won’t be hurt at not being able to listen to excessively beveraged former teachers tell me what a horrible student I was," Helena continued, her expression serious though her words remained light. "You don’t have to prove anything."
"I know," Barbara responded simply. "And they won’t need to be excessively beveraged to tell you that," she continued smirking slightly, her smile growing at Helena’s rolled eyes. "I’ve never had anything to show off before," Barbara continued seriously a second later as she peered over at Helena.
Helena was quiet for a moment, contemplating what Barbara had said and then looked up at the redhead smiling. "So I’m your trophy wife?" she asked playfully.
Barbara shook her head solemnly. "Trophy wives can cook," she was sorry to inform Helena. "You’re my concubine," she related decisively.
"How come I didn’t know about these sex slave fantasies before Gordon?" Helena asked curling her legs and letting them drop over the edge of the desk, before she scooted forward slightly, bracing her hands on the edge of the desk.
"Quiet!" Barbara declared holding up her hand. "Concubine’s are to be seen not heard," she continued her staid façade starting to crack. "I’m afraid I’m going to have to have your ass for this breach of etiquette."
"That doesn’t sound so bad," Helena decided sliding off of the desk and leaning over Barbara’s chair. "You can have my ass anytime you want."
"Saucy wench," Barbara accused poking Helena in the chest. "I’m going to have to teach you a lesson," she drawled wickedly before becoming aware of the soft clicking of shoes on the floor.
"Should I fetch the riding crop Miss?" Alfred asked heading straight for the kitchen though when he looked over at them briefly there was smirk on his face. A superior one. All of his smirks were.
"Riding crop?" Helena asked softly her eyes brows shooting up to her hairline.
"Not this time," Barbara called up to him casually though her face was beet red. She hadn’t heard him come in.
"Riding crop?" Helena asked again.
"As you wish," they heard Alfred call back down among rustling noises from the kitchen.
"Hello," Helena said snapping her fingers in front of Barbara’s face. "Riding crop?"