Author: cheerful minion
Date: 16 March 2003
Category: I don’t know … vignette, drabble?
Pairing: none … just a Barbara/Helena friendship ficlet.
Spoilers: Nary a one.
Summary: Finding peace in the middle of the night. (Lame, I know,
but I suck at summaries.)
Archive: Not sure it’s worth archiving; ask first, please.
Disclaimers: These characters belong to the likes of
Tollin/Robbins Productions, The WB, DC Comics, et al. I just like
to borrow them now and again to play with them, and I promise to
return them when I’m done. In lieu of suing me, just ask me to
stop stealing your characters and I will … honest <g>. I
have received no payment for this work of fiction – no money, no
exotic vacations, not even any chocolate.
Notes: Well, since I am incapable of writing comic, slutty porn
fic <wink to trancer and PRP>, I opted to go the opposite
route and write serious, angsty friendship fic. If the G rating
didn’t warn you, there’s no sex in this story. There’s also
no plot. Read at your own risk since I suspect it kinda sucks. If
you have comments to make, I’d love to hear them … I’ll be
Barbara’s eyes snapped open, her body going rigid. She had gone from
deep slumber to complete wakefulness in the space of a moment and with all
the subtlety of a freight train whistle. She blinked rapidly, willing her
eyes to find focus in the night dark room. Taking a deep breath, she tried
to calm the racing of her heart. She had no idea what had woken her. She
just knew it wasn’t something good.
Frowning, she reached out and curled her fingers around one of the
metal bars on the side of her bed, using it to lever herself into a
sitting position. One small part of her mind cursed the fact that she
couldn’t just bound out of bed and head out into the dark to
investigate. Adjusting her pillows, she leaned back against the head of
the bed, her hands braced on the mattress beside her. Muscles tense, she
sat completely still … listening … waiting.
Logically, she knew there was no way an intruder could have entered the
Clocktower without setting off a plethora of alarms. That knowledge didn’t
stop her from being worried. She knew, deep down in her bones, that
something was very wrong. She was a light sleeper under the best of
circumstances, but it was usually a drowsy sort of wakening, something
that allowed her to fall back to sleep almost as if she’d never woken.
When she woke with adrenaline pumping through her veins, there was a
reason … and it was never a good one.
Straining her eyes, she stared at the shadows created by moonlight,
hoping they would somehow coalesce into solidity and paint her a picture.
It was then that she heard the noise, one so faint that she thought for a
moment she’d imagined it. But no, there it was again. A muffled sob.
Distant and faint as a whisper of wind, it was nonetheless real.
Barbara hoisted herself, smoothly and quickly, from bed to wheelchair
with a grace borne from years of practice. She shivered slightly in the
chill air, already missing the languid warmth of her covers. Though she
couldn’t feel her legs, she knew they’d be warm enough in the
sweatpants she wore as pajama bottoms. But there were goose bumps rising
on her arms, bare as they were in her tank top. She glanced around, but
there wasn’t a single long sleeved shirt anywhere within easy reach, and
another muffled sob made the idea of wasting time looking for clothing
distasteful. Snatching up a rainbow-colored afghan from the foot of her
bed, she draped it hastily over her shoulders even as she wheeled her way
out of her bedroom.
She rolled quietly down the hallway that led to Dinah’s room, ears
pricking for any hint of sound. Nothing. The door to the girl’s room was
closed, but unlocked, and Barbara eased it open silently, peeking inside.
Her conscience pricked her at the mild invasion of privacy, but she also
wanted to be sure the teenager was okay. She smiled fondly at the sight
that greeted her eyes: Dinah was lying on her side, tangled up in her
covers, a teddy bear in her arms. The girl was snoring ever so slightly
– clearly sound asleep.
Barbara left the room as silently as she’d entered, wheeling back
down the hallway, heading towards the outside balcony. Seeing Dinah asleep
led her to the only other possible conclusion as to whose sobs she was
hearing. Helena. It was Helena’s distress that had woken her.
She no longer had to try to listen to figure out where the sounds were
coming from – she already knew where the younger woman would be. It was
the same place she always went when her emotions got the better of her,
when her demons threatened to overwhelm her. It didn’t matter that
Helena had her own apartment. Whenever she was in distress, she came back
to the one place where she felt safe. To the one person who made her feel
Barbara shivered as she made her way outside and drew the afghan more
tightly around her shoulders. She wheeled her chair over to the very edge
of the balcony, not needing to look up to know that Helena was perched on
a nearly hidden ledge sheltered under the eaves. The place had been the
younger woman’s refuge for as long as she could remember – it gave
Helena the security of being at home but the freedom of being outside, not
trapped behind walls.
She didn’t say anything, knowing she didn’t need to. Helena’s
senses, even dulled with whatever distress she was feeling, were more than
sensitive enough to detect her presence. Barbara desperately wanted to say
something, wanted more than anything to reassure the younger woman, to
find a way to make everything ok. And had she been dealing with anyone
other than Helena, she would have jumped right in, using words as a salve.
Instead, she waited.
She could hear the faint hitches of breath above her that told her the
younger woman was struggling to compose herself. The sound made her heart
ache. She wanted nothing more than to take her friend into her arms, hold
her as she had so many times before, and soothe away the pain. But Barbara
knew Helena, knew that she hated being vulnerable, even with her. It wasn’t
a matter of trust. It was a matter of control. She knew it was ironic that
Helena – for all that she wore her emotions on her sleeve – hated
losing that last edge of control, of being completely vulnerable. The two
of them were alike in that way, trusting each other as they trusted no
others, but still not able to open themselves completely to each other.
She knew she would have to wait until Helena was ready to let her in.
It was the same way she made Helena wait, for the same reason.
Barbara looked out over the skyline, finding a brief moment of peace in
the soft glow of moonlight. Out here, it was easy to forget about the
battles they fought, the fragmented lives they led, the never-ending and
taxing work of bringing justice to a world that didn’t even know they
existed. Out here, it was easy to just be. She knew Helena felt it too.
That was why she always came back.
The soft scuff of shoe leather on brick was the only warning Barbara
got before Helena leapt off her perch to land beside her. She looked up
into red-rimmed blue eyes, heart clenching at the raw pain reflected
there. The younger woman looked lost, in a way she hadn’t since her
mother’s death. Barbara reached out her hand, fingers stroking the
inside of Helena’s wrist, feeling the ragged pulse there.
She wasn’t surprised when Helena’s breath came out as a shudder and
fresh tears began to fall. Barbara reached out with both hands, the afghan
falling from her shoulders at the sudden motion. She took Helena’s hands
in her own and tugged gently, encouraging the younger woman to accept some
comfort. A profound surge of relief coursed through her as Helena followed
the nonverbal summons, sinking to her knees and burying her head in
Barbara’s lap. She reached down and ran her fingers lightly and
soothingly through Helena’s thick brown hair. Murmuring softly, she
encouraged the younger woman to cry, reassured her that she was there, and
said anything she could think of that might keep the demons at bay for a
The strangled sobs she heard nearly broke her heart; she hated to see
the people she loved in pain. But Barbara was so profoundly grateful that
Helena was letting down her guard, letting herself be vulnerable, that she
pushed the pain aside, instead focusing on the humbling honor of seeing
her friend this way. It was a precious gift. Sounded nuts to say that,
even inside her own head, but it was the truth.
She heard an abrupt intake of breath, then felt the head under her
fingers jerk slightly as Helena was racked with hiccups. Barbara leaned
forward in her chair and patted the younger woman’s back gently. She was
fairly sure it would have no effect on the small spasms rattling the woman’s
body, but it seemed to help Helena’s tensed muscles to relax. And that
was something in and of itself.
After several long moments, she heard the hiccups subside. With a
sudden motion, she felt Helena pull her head up, sitting back on her
haunches. Barbara let her hands drop down to her side, her eyes searching
the tear stained face in front of her. There was still pain in blue eyes,
but it was no longer raw. And there was a small hint of gratitude gracing
Barbara opened her mouth to say something, but a fierce shiver ran
through her body, making speech all but impossible. Now that the intensity
of the moment had faded, she was suddenly aware of just how cold it was
outside, especially since the afghan had fallen from her shoulders,
leaving her upper body exposed to the autumn air. She shivered again and
saw a frown cross Helena’s face. The brunette moved slightly out of her
line of vision, and then she felt the soft kiss of yarn on her bare skin
as the younger woman gently draped the afghan over her again. She felt
Helena’s fingers grasp her hand, tugging her towards the balcony door.
Willingly, she wheeled her chair beside her friend, still shivering
Helena led her inside, and then stopped suddenly, as if unsure where
they should go or what should happen next. Barbara was struck once again
by how lost the woman looked, and she took charge, moving her chair in
front of Helena and using their still joined hands to guide the brunette
down the hallway to her bedroom. Had the circumstances been different, she
might have found it amusing to have the younger woman trailing so
obediently behind her. At the moment, it simply alarmed her. Helena was
only this acquiescent when she was in the midst of an emotional maelstrom.
Barbara stopped beside her bed, throwing the afghan off to the side,
and deftly transferred herself from chair to mattress. She took a moment
to settle herself in a sitting position, her back resting against both the
headboard and an oversized pillow. It didn’t escape her notice that
Helena watched her intently, eyes glistening suspiciously. Once she was
comfortable, she looked up, met the intense blue gaze, and nodded. Without
hesitation, the younger woman climbed into bed beside her, pulling up the
covers in her wake.
She felt strong arms wrap around her waist and then Helena’s head was
burrowing into the curve of her neck, as if she were hiding away from the
world. Barbara let one arm slide around the younger woman’s back,
holding her close. Her other hand moved up to once again pet Helena’s
hair, well-aware that the gesture soothed the other woman.
"Do you want to talk about it?"
She knew she had whispered, but even that scant sound seemed loud in
the quiet room. Snuggled together as they were, she felt a faint tremor
work its way down Helena’s spine at the question, felt the warm wetness
of Helena’s tears against her skin.
"I … I can’t." There was a vaguely helpless quality to
the words. "I don’t even … know … exactly …" Another
tremor slid through Helena’s frame and Barbara felt the way the woman’s
arms tightened around her.
"It’s ok," Barbara murmured, her voice low. She had
suspected that this pain was still too deep for words. She’d been there
herself a time or twenty. It stung a little to know that Helena couldn’t
talk to her, but she also knew that it didn’t have anything to do with
her, not really. And at least her friend wasn’t still outside, risking
pneumonia and wrestling with her demons alone. That, at least, was
She hadn’t expected Helena to say anything else, so the hoarsely
spoken words caught her by surprise. "Can you just … hold me? It
helps … being here with you."
Barbara kissed the top of Helena’s head and tightened her hold on the
younger woman. She heard the soft sigh of relief, and felt the way Helena
relaxed into her body. Her fingers continued their slow, steady stroking
through silky brown hair, happy to be able to do something to comfort the
woman in her arms. She loved Helena and wanted to do anything in her power
to ease her pain, even if only for a while
In the stillness of the night, she could hear the way Helena’s
breathing slowed, could feel the progressive relaxing of the younger woman’s
muscles. She let her fingers slow the gentle petting, aware that Helena
had finally fallen asleep, arms still pooled around her waist, head
pillowed on her chest.
Barbara lightly kissed the top of Helena’s head, grateful that the
younger woman had managed to slip into the peace of slumber. She felt
vaguely useless, aware that she had done nothing to help Helena come to
terms with whatever was bothering her. But maybe, she mused, it wasn’t
about that. Maybe it was just important that she’d been there for
Helena, that she’d given her even a slight bit of comfort.
Maybe she’d given her a space where she could heal.
Bolstered by the thought, Barbara once again kissed the head pillowed
against her chest. Then, she leaned back against the headboard, watching
the moon and stars through the skylight and listening to Helena’s slow,
steady breathing. She knew she should try to sleep, but she knew she
As long as Helena slept, Barbara would be here. Awake. Watching over
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