Title: Better Late Than Never
Author: ocean gazer
Date: March 30, 2003
Category: Um �I don�t know � mostly sarcastic humor with a bit of fluff thrown in <g>.
Rating: R for language
Pairing: Barbara/Helena
Summary: Helena missed a special day.
Archive: Doubt it�s worth archiving.
Disclaimer; Y�all already know these characters aren�t mine. They belong to the nice people at DC Comics, Tollin/Robbins Productions, The WB Network, so on and so forth. I�m just taking them out for a spin and I haven�t made a cent off this demented work of fiction.
Notes: I honestly have no idea where this story came from. Debated about whether it was worth posting (since it�s not one of my better efforts), but I thought maybe it would give someone a couple minutes distraction from all the serious and depressing stuff going on in the world. So � hope it�s a nice mindless distraction for you. If you have any comments, I�d love to hear them. You can reach me on-list or at ocean gazer: quietoceangazer@yahoo.com

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Whatcha doin�?"

Helena nearly jumped out of her skin at the question. She�d been so lost in concentration that she�d lost track of her surroundings � an unexpected and entirely unwelcome turn of events for someone with meta-human senses. Of course, considering that she�d carefully locked the door to her current hideout, she had subconsciously figured there was no need to be alert for intruders. Which left her wondering just how the hell Dinah had gotten into what Helena still nostalgically referred to as "Homework Hell" (a.k.a. the Clocktower library).

Snarling under her breath, Helena turned in her chair and pushed away from the table, intending to go on a blistering offense to avoid having to actually answer the girl�s question. Unfortunately, Dinah had wormed her way into the room and picked up the discarded magazine lying in the middle of the floor. It was a copy of Metropolitan, a magazine Helena did not want anyone to know she�d EVER read, and the cover was the typical mix between garish color and sexually loaded catch phrases. And as she already knew, having read this particular copy more than once, the bold black letters on the cover screamed out, "Missed Valentine�s Day? Ten sexy ideas that will knock his socks off and make him forget he�s mad at you."

Great. Just fucking great. Maybe she could just die from humiliation right now and get it over with.

"You missed Valentine�s Day?"

Helena growled under her breath at the way Dinah�s voice sounded condescending, annoyed, and accusing all at once. She just loved being the teen�s target of ridicule � not. Life was much better, in her not so humble opinion, when she was the one picking on Dinah. There was a certain cosmic order to things when she was the one in control of the situation. Being made to feel like an idiot by someone several years her junior just wasn�t on her top ten list of fun activities.

She winced as Dinah fired off another round of verbal ammunition, her tone even sharper than before. "It�s April Fool�s Day, Helena. Valentine�s Day was like a month ago."

"Six weeks ago," Helena shot back acidly, having finally gained the ability to use verbiage rather than just make guttural sounds. "Didn�t they teach you how to read the calendar in Opal?" She glowered at the blonde girl, taking feral delight in the way Dinah actually backed up a step and dropped the magazine. Ah, this was more like it. Nothing like scaring the shit out of someone to make her feel better.

Unfortunately for her, Dinah was not so easily deterred, scared or not. Had that annoying, insatiable persistence been directed at someone other than her, Helena might actually have admired it. "How could you miss Valentine�s Day? Did you not notice all the boxes of chocolates and bouquets of roses in the stores? Or did you somehow miss all those tacky red, white, and pink decorations everywhere? Oh, I know. You somehow missed the fact that every year on February 14, we have the same holiday."

Once again reduced to guttural sounds by the barrage of words, Helena growled. She slid out of her chair and was at Dinah�s side in roughly half a second, her hand clamped firmly over the girl�s mouth. Judging by the way the teen�s lips were still moving, she�d made her move just in time. Nothing like hearing a constant litany of how she�d fucked up to make her feel special.

When � a full minute later � it became apparent that Dinah was still talking behind the stifling hand, Helena snapped, "Shut up, Dinah. I know I screwed up. I don�t need you to tell me."

She pulled her hand away from the blonde�s mouth, grimacing at the glistening wet patches on her palm. Helena tried to stifle the "eww" that was on the tip of her tongue, well aware that it would serve to even further undermine her badass persona. She bit her tongue and deliberately wiped her hand on Dinah�s sleeve, managing a tiny grin at the way the girl pulled away from her.

"Gross!" came the expected protest.

"Yeah, well, it�s yours after all."

Helena left Dinah trying to shake the saliva off her sleeve. Turning her back on the blonde, she walked over to the table. She made a little, disgusted noise in the back of her throat as she took in the utter catastrophe she�d created. She�d been trying to make a series of hearts out of different colors of construction paper. What she�d managed to do, however, was make two ragged-edged ovals, a hexagon, a vaguely triangular shape that looked like one of Madonna�s bras, and a pile of confetti.

Surveying the tabletop despondently, once again lost in her own bleak mental world, Helena jumped when Dinah�s voice sounded in her ear. "What in the world happened here? Aren�t these supposed to be hearts? Didn�t you learn how to use scissors in oh, say, kindergarten?"

Helena quite nobly refrained from elbowing Dinah in the throat. She liked the kid, in an annoying little sister sort of way, but she didn�t much like the way the girl could so unerringly push every single one of her buttons. It almost felt sometimes like Dinah�s telepathic abilities had been specifically designed to know just how to annoy the shit out of her. She stepped away from the mocking voice and picked up the red oval, her anger fading to depression as she examined the sad shape. In a defeated tone, she murmured, "I never was the artsy crafty type."

She was fully expecting another stinging and childish insult. So she was pleasantly surprised when Dinah picked up the purple hexagon, examined it with a critical eye, and only said, "Obviously not."

Helena savagely crumpled up the would-be heart in her hand and lobbed it across the room towards the garbage can. She would have liked to say she lobbed it into the garbage can, but she could see that she�d missed by the proverbial mile. Annoyed with herself, for everything from missing the basket to missing the holiday, she straddled a chair and sat down backwards in it, crossing her arms across the broad back of it and resting her chin on her forearms.

She watched out of the corner of her eye as Dinah swung up to sit on the top of the table. Seeing the wicked glint in blue eyes, Helena braced for another insult, but the girl�s voice was surprisingly gentle. It still qualified as insulting, but at least it was gentle. "Well, I think it�s pretty obvious that you couldn�t make a nice card or whatever if your life depended on it. So what are you gonna do now? I mean � I could � y�know � help you. I�m pretty good with scissors."

Helena shook her head vigorously. The mere idea of being helped made her feel all prickly inside, like there were porcupine quills flowing through her veins instead of blood. It wasn�t a nice feeling. She wanted to do something special for Barbara. Belated, mind you, but special. And it wouldn�t feel special if her little pseudo-sister did it. It would be kinda like the whole parents-doing-their-children�s-homework thing, only in reverse. Whatever she did for Barbara, she wanted it to be her effort alone. She wanted it to be a token of just how much she loved the other woman. Though even admitting that fact to herself made her feel incredibly sappy and poetic. Which was how Barbara made her feel: as if she was more than just a street-smart ass kicker � as if she were a loving and lovable human being.

Shaking off that train of thought, heart warming as it was, Helena wrenched her attention back to the present, suddenly aware of the way Dinah was watching her intently. To cover up the sudden lump of frustration in the back of her throat, Helena growled, "It�s not that big a deal. Stupid Hallmark manufactured holidays." She looked up, putting on her best "don�t you dare contradict me" look. "It�s not like she�s into that mushy stuff anyway. She didn�t do the whole hearts and flowers thing for me."

Either her look had lost some of its power over Dinah, or the girl was just too naturally irrepressible to keep quiet. Helena did note, with grim amusement, that the teen slid just out of her reach before actually opening her mouth. "Helena, hello, she took you out to dinner. At Pierre�s. And she bought you that leather jacket that you�d been wanting for like months � the one you�ve been wearing non-stop. Ok, so it wasn�t the whole roses and chocolate thing. But it�s not like that�s your style anyway."

Ok, so damn. She should have known Dinah was going to notice those sorts of little things. Ah hell, who was she kidding? Clearly she�d been a complete and utter heel, passing the day off like a joke and then pretending it was no big deal. She hadn�t meant to let things go this far or last this long � she really hadn�t. It was just that she felt so overwhelmed with her utter incompetence in the special days department. And she knew damn well that she�d hurt Barbara�s feelings, no matter how much her lover insisted it was really ok. When Barbara out and out lied like that, rather than using her subtle little half-truths, Helena knew things were bad.

Helena let herself sink into the morass of dark thoughts � all of them spelling out in multiple language subtitles that she was a self-centered ass. She was so lost in her own bleak mental landscape that she literally started and yelped in surprise as she felt a soft hand on her shoulder.

Jerking upright, she swung her head around, scaring the crap out of Dinah, the owner of said hand. "Don�t DO that!" they chorused.

Despite having her own personal cloud of doom hanging over her head, Helena couldn�t help but chuckle at the impromptu synchronization. Buffeted by the opposing emotions warring for control of her, she was only vaguely aware that Dinah still had a hand on her shoulder.

"Poor Helena."

She bristled at the softly spoken words, assuming the girl was still mocking her. But as she studied Dinah�s face, she realized there was real sympathy and concern written on the young face. Oh yeah, that�s right; Dinah was a touch telepath. Great, just what she needed, another person seeing just how fucked up her psyche really was.

As if the mere thought was an impetus (and for all Helena knew, it was), she felt Dinah�s hand drop off her shoulder. But the teen�s tone was still dripping with empathy. "God, Helena, if you�ve been so miserable about the whole thing, why didn�t you just apologize to Barbara? You know she�d forgive you � she�ll always forgive you. She loves you more than she�s ever loved anyone before � like you�re her soul mate or something." Helena smiled at both the statement and at the way Dinah abruptly shut her mouth and blushed crimson at saying more than she should have.

She heard the sputtered, embarrassed cough as the girl tried desperately to salvage the situation. "Anyway, why don�t you just apologize and be done with it? It�ll put you both out of your misery."

The smile dropped off Helena�s face and she shook her head so violently that her brain momentarily felt like jello. For a telepath, Dinah certainly wasn�t very good at understanding some of the thoughts she picked up on. "I can�t just apologize, Dinah. She deserves better than my usual, lame, �Oh, sorry, I forgot.� She deserves something really wonderful � as wonderful as she is � the seven wonders of the ancient world wonderful." Oh wonderful � now she was waxing poetic in front of Dinah. Was there possibly anything else she could do to completely destroy her hard-ass, Huntress persona? Gosh, maybe the next time she opened her mouth, she could sing some show tunes or something.

As it turned out, when she did open her mouth, a confession came out. "I want to make her feel as special as she makes me feel; I just haven�t been able to think of anything." Dammit, did she just say that? Judging by the cluck of understanding she heard from Dinah, apparently she had. Double damn. This so wasn�t shaping up to be her day.

"Let me guess � since you couldn�t think of anything to do for her, you decided to just go ahead and make her a Valentine."

Ok, so maybe the girl�s telepathy wasn�t so off base after all. Triple damn. Helena shrugged, trying desperately to pretend like this entire conversation wasn�t totally creeping her out. "Yeah." Given how things were going, she was just glad that the monosyllabic answer didn�t come out as a voice-breaking croak.

"That�s sweet, you know."

Helena actually winced as the words bored into her brain. Sweet? Sweet? She was the fucking Huntress. Sweet wasn�t supposed to be one of her attributes. Lovely. Now, not only was Dinah apparently not scared of her, but she thought she was sweet as well. Gee, next thing you knew, the girl would be asking her for dating tips and wanting to talk about cute babies in the park � or something equally girly and cuddly. Blech.

With a completely characteristic display of temper, Helena swept all the misshapen hearts and crumbs of paper off the table. They fell in multi-colored splendor, adding a fascinating mosaic look to the otherwise drab wooden floor.

"Yeah, well I think it�s pretty clear that sweet isn�t working out too well for me. I seem to be much better with the whole dark, brooding, bash-people�s-faces-in approach. Much more satisfying to be able to beat up annoying people than to waste time trying to be sweet and nice and all that."

She took a certain grim satisfaction in the touch of fear that lit Dinah�s face. Ah, now that was better. Much more comfortable. She dealt better with people when they were just a little bit afraid of her. Barbara, of course, was an exception to that rule � but then Barbara was the exception to a lot of her rules. Ok, so wanting people to be scared of her was not one of her more endearing qualities. Then again, being endearing wasn�t exactly on her list of lifetime priorities.

She watched as Dinah swallowed hard, seeming to � for once � be at a loss for words. That in and of itself was something of a minor miracle. Helena could see discomfort written on the girl�s features, and she didn�t have to be a psychic to know why. Clearly the teenager was tired of the verbal games and of Helena�s notorious moodiness. Had she not been so completely annoyed with the entire situation, and with the fact that Dinah had broken into the library to find her in the first place, she would have felt a little bit sorry for the kid. Lord knew she wouldn�t want to deal with herself. And she knew that Dinah was only trying to help � well, mostly trying to help anyhow.

She almost laughed at the faint tone of desperation in Dinah�s voice as the girl said, "I � I wish I could help you, Helena. But uh � well � special isn�t exactly my forte � and as for romance � um � well � it�s not really my thing." With predatory interest, Helena�s eyes tracked the blonde as she backpedaled to the door. "I uh � sorry � gotta fly � meeting Gabby to do some um � some um � homework � yeah, homework. I um � sorry for barging in here � I shouldn�t have bothered you."

With that, the girl was gone. And with her absence, Helena�s last little need for a tough act vanished in an instant. She knelt down, picking up the scattered paper pieces, feeling ever more despondent by the moment. Not only was she a jerk for hurting Barbara, now she�d managed to freak Dinah out again. She knew the girl would get over it and they�d be back to their usual sisterly antics before long. But that knowledge didn�t change how she felt at the moment.

In true brooding fashion, her mind insisted on replaying the entire conversation she�d just had with Dinah, focusing in on what an ass she�d been. There was one little part of her mind that knew Dinah had her share of the blame, but since she couldn�t possibly brood about the girl�s character faults and failings, she focused in on her own.

Then, suddenly, something sparked in her brain and she smiled. That was it. That was the answer.

Helena�s smile grew broader as she walked to the door, happier than she�d been the last month and a half. The kid was a genius. Not that she�d tell her that, of course.

******

Wind in her hair, Helena smiled. She spared a glance down at the woman in her arms. Barbara�s face was lit with happiness and she could see the sparkle in green eyes.

Helena felt her heart melt at the sight, but she quickly returned her attention back to what she was doing. While she was used to jumping off rooftops and soaring through the sky, she wasn�t used to doing it while holding another person. And while she had complete confidence in her strength and abilities, she also wanted to be careful � for Barbara�s sake.

She landed lightly on the ledge of an office building, her grip tightening on the woman in her arms, protecting her from the jolt of impact. Then she leapt off, hurling them into the empty night sky again. She heard Barbara�s laugh at the feel of flying through the air again, at the utter freedom of flinging through the night. She felt the redhead�s arms tighten around her, and could tell it was from excitement and adrenaline rather than fear of falling.

When her arms began to feel some strain, since even the strongest of meta-humans had their limits, she swung them back on a course for the Clocktower, landing neatly on the balcony. Impulsively, she set Barbara on the thick stone railing and then swung herself up as well, pulling Barbara back against her body and cuddling her in her arms.

She could see the glow of pure joy on Barbara�s face. And it made Helena smile to realize that her lover couldn�t seem to stop smiling. She felt a gentle hand come up to stroke her cheek and heard the note of awe in the redhead�s voice. "This was � incredible, Helena. I don�t even have words for how it made me feel."

Helena leaned down and kissed her lover, relishing the feel of soft lips against her own. After a long, sweet moment, she broke the kiss, running her thumb lightly over Barbara�s full lips. "I�m glad you liked it. I�m just sorry that it � well � took me so long to do anything for you �" She broke off, still feeling like a complete ass about the situation. She�d quickly mended her fences with Dinah � helped by the fact that the girl had felt as bad about the things she�d said as Helena had felt about her own words. But she still felt bad about how she�d hurt Barbara.

She wasn�t surprised when Barbara kissed her thumb lightly and then whispered, "You know I forgave you a long time ago, don�t you? But this was definitely worth waiting for. I think it�s the single best Valentine�s gift I�ve ever gotten." Helena felt some of her self-loathing melt away as her lover�s lips sought hers out for another slow, searching kiss. "I do love you, Helena. More than I think you know."

She stroked her fingers gently through red hair. "I love you too, Barbara. Happy, very belated, Valentine�s Day."

A soft chuckle made her heart soar as Barbara whispered, "Well, you know what they say. Good things come to those who wait."

The end

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