a Justice League Unlimited story
by Merlin Missy
DC and Warner Bros. own the characters.
Happy birthday, Angelic Temptress! (Kind of a coda to A.T.'s"I'd Kill 4 a Redhead" so please go read that one first.)
Summary: H/Q. It's been a long night.
She changed in the alley three blocks from her apartment: shed the cape and put it into the bag with the crossbow, pull on comfortable clothes over the vigilante-wear, and with a last check to make sure no one's watching, pull the mask.
Helena ran her fingers through her hair to loosen some of her wind-swept tangles, and stepped from the alley looking like any other citizen of Gotham.
Thank God for secret identities.
It was kind of funny, and kind of weird. When she wore her costume, even though it was skimpy and purple, she felt powerful. Criminals feared the Huntress; other heroes respected her, or at least tolerated her as an equal. Everyone knew she didn't use her arrows as toys like Green Arrow did. Hers killed.
Out of her costume, well, that was something else. People saw the pretty, slight figure, and made other assumptions. Men watched her go, and instead of fear on their faces, she read desire. She knew she was capable of kicking any one of them hard enough to reverse the directions their knees bent, and still she cursed herself as she clutched her bag just a little closer and kept her head down to ignore the few men on the street this late who watched her walk home.
Power. When she was Huntress, she had it. When she was Helena, she had to hide it. And when she was coming off a night that included killing some sick creep ...
She dug her keys from her bag and jabbed them into her locks. Q --- she had trouble thinking of him as "Vic" when he wore the mask --- sat at her computer, staring at the door, relaxing in his shoulders as he identified her.
"I need a shower," she announced, and dropping everything on her couch, she moved past him to her bathroom without another word.
Steam covered her small mirror and made the tiny room hazy before she stepped under the hot spray. Better, she thought, as the water trickled through her hair to her scalp and down her tired body. She picked up the almost-dissolved bar of soap and her loofah. Scrubbing was exactly what she needed right now.
Thank God Batgirl had been bright enough to take the tracer. Thank God Helena had been able to track her even while the signal had gone in and out. Thank God that asshole was dead.
The bathroom door cracked open, and adrenaline shot through her --- he's back, I missed the jugular --- before she recognized Vic through the steam. No mask, and hey, no clothes either.
"Room for two?" he asked. She tugged the shower curtain open for him to slip in beside her and wet his head while she poured cold shampoo into her hand and then worked it through her hair.
"May I?" he asked, in that odd little hesitant voice he used when it was just the two of them, when he was trying to navigate the uncharted waters of relying on another for more than just backup.
Her pulse was still fast, but Helena forced herself not to tremble as she turned away from him. Vic's fingers moved into her hair delicately, stroking and rubbing, massaging the shampoo all the way from the roots to the ends.
"That feels nice."
He made a pleased noise. "I went undercover at a beautyshop once."
"Do I ever joke? Rinse your hair."
Helena stepped back into the spray, while Vic rubbed his sudsy hands through his short, red hair. She stood under the water for a long time, letting it warm her bones.. Vic reached his arms past her to either side, pulling back with clean hands full of water, which he used to rinse his own head.
Then he reached back behind her again, tugging her to him, placing a gentle kiss at her cheek. She smiled, turning her head for more and better kisses, but he coaxed her body out of the spray, and reached for the conditioner.
She felt the cold trickle on her scalp, and shivered as he snapped the cap shut and began working the creamy conditioner into her hair just as carefully as he had the shampoo.
"So," he said, rubbing the ends of her hair between his palms to coat them, "do you want to talk about it?"
"Tonight." She stiffened. "I listened to the police reports. The League isn't going to be happy to hear you killed someone."
"I'm not in the League anymore. And he deserved it."
"I'm not saying he didn't." His fingers left her hair and began rubbing the knots in her shoulders and back. "I just asked if you wanted to talk about it." His fingers moved down to her hips, seeking out the tight spots, then traced up to her arms and pressed at each sore place all the way down both arms.
"Nothing to talk about. You know the case. You know what he did. If I hadn't gotten there when I did, Gordon's daughter would have been his next victim." Probably. I wonder where Batman was?
"I'm surprised Batman wasn't there."
"Stop reading my mind," she growled at him.
"I'm not a mind-reader. I just know you. And I also know who Barbara Gordon is, so please don't feel you need to protect her secret identity on my account."
"You're a freak, you know that, Q?" She pushed past him back to the water and scrubbed until the conditioner was gone. Then without asking him if he needed to rinse, she shut off the water.
She threw him a towel, grabbed her own, and squeezed the excess water out of her hair before wrapping another towel around her head. Damn. I was going to shave my legs.
"What time is it, anyway?"
"Not quite three," Vic said, drying himself quickly.
"Good," she said, and pushed the bathroom door open, letting in a blast of cold air. She went directly to her bedroom without bothering to turn on the light, dried off a little more with her body towel, then draped it on a chair before crawling into bed with the other towel still on her wet hair. She reached over and set the alarm for six.
She heard Vic go out to her living room, and she assumed he was getting more work done. As she closed her eyes, the living room lamp clicked off, and moments later, she heard him come into her room.
Vic slipped into the bed with her, lay there facing her. She kept her eyes shut, felt his breath, wondered if his eyes were still open, if he'd put on the mask while he'd gone back to the living room, if he was going home in the morning.
"Helena ... "
"You shouldn't sleep with a wet towel on your head."
"Won't it keep the aliens from reading my thoughts?"
"That's tinfoil, and it doesn't work, either. Ask J'onn."
"You wear tinfoil in your fedora, don't you."
"As I said, tinfoil doesn't work. You should dry your hair. You're shivering."
And she was. She hadn't realized it, hadn't noticed, but now, she was shaking so much the bed was vibrating.
"I'm fine," she lied.
"Of course you are," he said, and he slid his arm under her head, and pulled her closer, and she shivered into his shoulder.
"I'm not talking about it," she told him. Some things, Helena just didn't like remembering. A lot of things, really.
Vic kissed her cheek again, and this time she really did kiss him back. She slid her own arm over him, so that they were almost embracing, and she kissed him, softly and deeply.
He let her lead, as he usually did. She pressed her warm, damp body against his, felt the heat from the shower still radiating off him. She explored his mouth, his stale-coffee taste, and she let her fingers curl around his.
He touched her when she wanted him to touch her. She placed his hands on her where she wanted them. He kissed her tenderly when she pressed her mouth to his, and when she slid her weight atop him, she guided their connection and their rhythm.
Thank God for this man, who loved her without words and who needed her just as she needed him. Thank God for his strangeness and his kindness, for the things he knew and the questions he didn't ask, for the power she felt when she was in his arms.
After, she held him and he held her. At some point, her towel had come loose and been abandoned on the floor, so her wet hair dampened the pillow and spread out between them. He took a small lock in his fingers and kissed the ends.
"Beautyshop, hm?" she asked.
"Mm hm." He was falling asleep, and she needed sleep before school, so she shouldn't press him, but Helena felt safe now, safer than she'd felt in days, and she couldn't resist.
"I suppose there was some big conspiracy of beauticians you were investigating?"
"There was," he yawned, "a variety of hair permanent solution which, when exposed to the proper frequencies, could act as a signal booster for secret radio transmissions."
"Baby, this is why I can't take you out in public. You know that, right?" But she grinned as she said it, and in the darkness, she saw him smile as he continued kissing her soft, clean hair.