Two days later …
"I fucking swear we should just let the primitive bastards kill themselves," Helena grumbled as she swooped into the clock tower, rubbing at her cheek for the hundredth time that night. She could still feel that middle-aged punks spit on her face. "Population control, like nature intended. Let all the fucktards kill themselves and it’ll be raindrops on roses and fresh apple strudels for the rest of us," she continued turning around in circles as she battled with her jacket frustrated as she tried to rip it off of her body. "And to top it all off some fucking idiot’s been horning in on my," she went on looking over at the workstation for the first time since entering the clock tower. "Territory," she finished, her eyes settling on Barbara and then on the dark-haired man standing behind her chair, his hand resting casually on the back of it as he bent over her shoulder.
Dick fucking Grayson.
That was just absolutely perfect.
"Helena," Dick said politely trying not to smirk at the brunette’s previous display knowing that it would only rile her more than she already was, though secretly pleased he had managed to bother her without even trying.
"Bro," Helena replied knowing that he hated it when she called him that, as she stared at him like she could explode his head with nothing but the power of her will. "Looks like we’ve got ourselves a family reunion," she continued finally yanking her duster off and flinging it to the floor irritably.
"You have a brother?" Dinah asked standing up and moving towards the commotion in the center of the room. "Why would anyone make two?" she muttered to herself looking between Dick and Helena. Not softly enough though she realized when Helena turned her savage glare on her for a moment.
"Dick’s Bruce’s adopted son," Barbara explained drawing Dinah’s gaze over to her.
"Is there a reason you’re here other than to ruin my month?" Helena asked ending the moment of relative calm while purposefully sulking on the couch away from the workstation though she glared over at it. "And play with my things," she added staring at him viciously.
Barbara looked over at her sharply at that but Helena wasn’t paying attention to her.
"You’ve had a busy night, huh?" Helena continued still glaring at Dick. She’d met up with Reese about an hour before she’d come back to the clock tower and he’d informed her that people had reported seeing a masked man swooping down from rooftops playing hero.
"Somebody had to pick up the slack," Dick responded meeting Helena’s gaze. He’d been perfectly willing to try, or at least pretend to be civil, but if this is how she wanted to play that was fine with him. Arguing with her was far more cathartic than ignoring her. When they tried to pretend they didn’t hate each other it gave him tension headaches and gastro-intestinal problems.
"What’d you just say?" Helena asked standing up suddenly advancing on him confrontationally.
"Just that from the news reports I’ve seen that maybe you should be clubbing and sleeping around less and fighting crime more … or at all," Dick replied moving from Barbara’s side, stepping towards her perfectly willing to bring it.
"Oh no you didn’t," Helena said cocking her head to the side before looking around the room. "I know you didn’t just say that. I know you didn’t just say that, cause if you did just say that you know I’d hafta slap the white offa you boy," Helena continued threateningly as she stalked towards him.
"Try it," Dick responded meeting her challenge. He’d actually wanted to throw down with her for a while, like since he’d met her. "I’ll smack you so hard your momma’ll feel it," he continued taking another step forward.
Helena stopped her progress at that, the movement so sudden she actually jerked to a stop, her jaw clenching and her nostrils flaring as her eyes narrowed into catlike slits and her fists tightened at her sides.
Barbara caught Dinah’s gaze nodding toward Helena inconspicuously. Everyone in the room knew that he shouldn’t have gone there, and that Helena was now right pissed off. She didn’t relish sending the blonde into the middle of it, but she was closer to Helena, than she herself was.
"Fuck you," Helena roared ferociously starting towards Dick once more, only to have her path blocked by Dinah who flung herself in front of the brunette just in time, her hands coming to rest on Helena’s shoulders.
"He didn’t mean anything by it," Dinah whispered softly as Helena stared at Dick over her shoulder. She could feel the brunette’s body coiled tightly beneath her hands and had a stop herself from flinching when Helena turned her still feral eyes on her and growled softly pushing against her hands.
Dick watched the scene playing out just in front of him uncomfortably. He really hadn’t meant anything by the comment. When talking dirty you just always brought up the other persons mamma. It was just how things were done. He hadn’t meant … he shifted his weight onto his other foot as he watched the blonde push on Helena’s shoulders trying to get her under control, or at least keep her standing where she was.
He thought that he probably should apologize. Even though he hadn’t meant anything by it, he had insulted the memory of her mother, a woman that two of the most important people in his life – Bruce and Barbara – had in some way loved and respected though he didn’t quite understand why. He knew he should probably apologize but he just couldn’t. It was the nature of his relationship with Helena. From that first meeting they’d been set up as adversaries. And while, this meeting had probably been the most hostile since that first one, they’d never interacted with each other in a way that could even be described as civil. Most of the time they grunted slightly antagonistic greetings at each other and then studiously tried to avoid ever being in the same room together. Helena taking to actually just disappearing for his visits, only talking to Barbara if the redhead called her over the transceivers in recent years, which had been more than fine by him, though he knew it upset Barbara. Though it was hard for him to fathom, the redhead actually seemed to enjoy Helena’s company immensely, and genuinely seemed to miss her when she’d disappear for his stays.
"What’s he doing here?" Helena barked looking over at Barbara irately, drawing Dick out of his thoughts. "Did you call him?" she asked a hint of accusation in her voice, which just also happened to be dripping with disdain.
"She didn’t know I was here until thirty minutes ago," Dick interjected drawing Helena’s fire back over towards him. As much as he disliked Helena, he didn’t want to cause any problems between her and Barbara. At least anymore than his mere presence usually caused. It may have pleased him to bother Helena, but it hurt him more to see Barbara upset, which she always got when they fought with each other. Knowing how Helena could be when someone got on her bad side, he certainly didn’t want to thrust Barbara into that position for something that wasn’t her fault. "Like I said, I saw the reports and thought I could help out."
Helena ripped her eyes away from Barbara and turned them on Dick again. She began to pace taking deep breaths. She knew she was overreacting, that she was making what would’ve been a tense situation even worse. It was just that she was in a crappy mood to begin with, and now she had to deal with the Dick wad. It was like the fates were conspiring against her. She would have been able to get herself under control if she just had to deal with a city over run by assholes, or if she just had to deal with Dick showing up unannounced, as usual, but both of them at the same time was seriously wearing on her. She wanted to rip her hair out or throw something across the room.
"We don’t need your help," she finally muttered, her tone dark but more under control.
Dick couldn’t help but smirk at that. "Barbara disagrees. She’s already accepted my … services," he continued his tone and expression more than slightly suggestive.
Helena stopped moving her back facing them as she straightened up and rolled her shoulders. It was like he had been given a manual of what buttons to push and exactly when to release maximum hostility from her. He really had a natural talent for pissing her the hell off.
"There are too many crimes and too much city," Barbara said drawing Helena’s attention to her when she turned around. She knew that Helena had understood what Dick’s tone implied and wanted to preempt any bitch fight that would’ve ensued from it. Knowing the two of them, it would’ve gone on for an hour and ended with someone being thrown off the balcony. "It’s wearing you ragged trying to keep up with everything," she continued holding Helena’s gaze. The other night the brunette had been too tired to even bombard her with sleepy sexual innuendo. "It’ll be easier on you and Dinah if Dick helps out with the excess," she finished in a reasonable tone.
Helena stared at her for a moment, her jaw clenching and unclenching mechanically before she flung herself onto the couch muttering, "whatever," before taking up a sour faced contemplation of her shoes.
Barbara sighed. Helena was all kinds of unhappy. They needed to talk.
"Look, there’s not much more that we can do tonight, we’ll worry about the details of the arrangement tomorrow," Barbara said breaking the silence that had descended over the room after Helena’s last muttered response.
"Alright, well I’m gonna hit the sack," Dinah said backing up, wanting to be away from the tension in the clock tower something fierce. She had an idea what was going on between the three of them, having had time to observe Dick and how he acted around Barbara for the short period of time he’d been there before Helena arrived. It only strengthened her desire to not want to be around the three of them at one time ever again.
Dick stepped closer to Barbara at her words and Barbara looked over at Helena who was staring at Dick. Nobody was looking at Dinah and she took the opportunity to escape, hoping that there wouldn’t be bodies in the morning.
"I could recommend a hotel," Helena drawled a moment later looking at Dick.
"I think we both know that won’t be nec …" Dick started to respond.
"Dick," Barbara said quickly interrupting his response as she spotted Helena getting ready to gear up again at his implication. "Can I talk to you for a minute?" she asked, her eyes on Helena who made no effort to move. "Outside," she sighed.
"Yeah, sure. Some air would be nice," Dick responded following an already moving Barbara. "It’s kind of stuffy in here," he continued watching Helena the whole way onto the balcony.
Dick followed Barbara out onto the balcony in silence, his head occasionally turning back around to look inside of the loft at Helena who was then leaned up against the side of the desk glaring at him savagely, meeting her gaze with a small, smirk as he did. Normally he didn’t take pleasure in the frustration and extreme irritation of others, being a bygones sort of guy himself, but he really couldn’t stand the brunette. She’d been snippy, and dismissive, and sarcastic and antagonistic, and just exceedingly unlikable every time they’d met since that first time. He knew it was born from jealously, that she didn’t like his relationship with Barbara, maybe even felt threatened by it in some way. He knew that, and in a way felt bad about it since from that first meeting he’d been relatively sure that Helena was attracted to the redhead, but his empathy only went so far. And if the brunette didn’t see the need to act according to any social graces, or at least feign some kind of hospitability, he didn’t see why he should bother.
"Nice to know that as much as things change they stay the same," Dick started, smirking over at Barbara as the redhead settled herself on the balcony. "Helena’s as charming as ever," he continued leaning over Barbara bending forward.
Barbara placed her hand on his shoulder, stopping him from leaning any closer to her, pushing lightly on them to urge him to straighten up once more, a remorseful expression on her face.
She hadn’t been looking forward to this. She knew it was going to be emotional and awkward, a combination she was not at all fond of. She hated awkward emotional situations. They made her extremely uneasy and slightly queasy. She’d never been on close terms with her feelings, had always kept a respectable distance between them, between head and heart. They may have inhabited the same living area but they pretty much went about their business independently ignoring each other as much as they could. It was generally the way she liked it. But, inevitably, a situation would always arise that would force her to face her feelings, and the awkward and uneasy would come. It wasn’t her most attractive character trait, she realized that, and it had gotten her into trouble more than once. It had helped to keep her and Helena apart for far too long. She was working on it, but these types of things tended to take a while, and she was faced with having to talk to Dick then. With having to break off whatever it was they had been doing over the past few years then. No time to get comfortable. She sighed.
Dick straightened up when he felt Barbara’s hand on his shoulders, stopping his advance. He looked down at her trying to read her expression and found that he didn’t like what he saw. Her lips were pursed slightly, her jaw tight with tension and her eyes distant and sad. She was deep in thought, ones that she didn’t seem to be particularly comfortable with.
"You’re seeing someone," he said softly, taking a step back from her realizing what her hesitation to allow any physical contact between them and her expression seemed to suggest. He sounded displeased. He didn’t mean to, he knew that he and Barbara didn’t have a claim on each other, that they weren’t even really dating and never had been as such, but he couldn’t help it. The idea of her with someone else was … he shook his head minutely trying to dislodge such thoughts. "It’s serious?" he continued a moment later not able to help the impulse to panic but not wanting to worry if it wasn’t anything serious which it never seemed to be.
"It is," Barbara said looking up at him, finally meeting his eyes for the first time since entering the balcony, feeling a stab in her heart when he blinked at her for a moment before tilting his head skyward wearily.
"I see," Dick replied sucking in a deep breath and turning his head to the side. Truthfully, he hadn’t been expecting that answer. He knew she had dated occasionally over the years, and he also knew that those encounters had usually been brief and uncomplicated. Diversions. At least that’s what he’d thought, convinced himself of anyway, what she’d always led him to believe. What he had counted on. The others were just a way for Barbara to work through her feelings and other assorted issues until she realized that she was madly in love with him and wanted to have his babies and live happily ever after, he thought to himself disparagingly as he wondered at his own arrogance. He’d let it slide, been content with their familiar flirtations, and was actually somewhat relieved that Barbara hadn’t wanted to make any grand statement or permanent commitment right away. He’d always been a bit gun shy about settling down, and had been happy to continue playing the field for a while longer, though he’d ultimately envisioned settling down with the redhead, eventually. He thought he’d had all the time in the world, the idea that he’d been a diversion too not even entering his mind.
"It’s Helena," Barbara responded watching Dick as his brows drew together unhappily and he wrestled with emotions she could only guess at. It was a strange situation they’d found themselves in three years ago. Years of childish flirting as Batgirl and Robin, playful and innocent but laced with an undercurrent deep respect and fondness had come to an end when she was shot. They’d continued to interact in the same fashion for a while after the chair was introduced into her life, but it was different for those next few years, gauche, and strained. They hadn’t known how to talk to each other – even if she had wanted to talk – the common links between them having been shattered or too painful to discuss leaving issues standing between them like open wounds festering in their ineptitude. So they’d fallen back on the familiar patterns because though somewhat forced it was comfortable, and at the time far preferable to trekking through that great, unknown jungle of the self. And then, one visit, when Helena had been off skiing with five other ditchers from her mixology seminar, Dick had sat on her couch smiling at her goofily and with an ease that she hadn’t seen in quite some time. And she’d playfully demanded to know what was so funny causing him to shrug his shoulders lightly before drawling that being in the company of a beautiful woman always put a smile on his face. Though she ended up being the one who’d smiled. And they’d bantered for a few more minutes after that and then Dick had sauntered over to her with a practiced ease, smiling cheekily and had pretended to yawn, his arm drawing around her shoulder. She turned her head to face him smiling and without further ado he’d kissed her. And after a split seconds hesitation she’d kissed him back. And so it had begun. And it had been beautiful in its way, exactly what she’d needed, something that was undemanding, affectionate and comforting. But what it was exactly she couldn’t say and had never really been able to.
"Helena," Dick breathed out, his tone somewhat pained as he turned to look at Barbara. "Of course," he said laughing to himself a second later before shaking his head, his shoulders still shaking though with weariness instead of mirth. "Figures," he continued a moment later, his shoulders slumped and his tone a bit dark. "How long?"
"Not long," Barbara replied, her tone mildly distracted as she thought about how true and false that statement was at the same time. "You’re not surprised," she continued questioningly, once again wondering if she’d been the only person to be truly bowled over by the development. She’d thought she’d had Dinah with her for a while, but the blonde had informed her that she’d been more titillated by the revelation than surprised, since she and Helena ‘were like totally giggly junior high with each other’.
"Not really," Dick replied turning to look out over the city. "Not now that I think about it," he continued softly. "She’s wanted you since she was seventeen, and … and you talk about her like she’s the greatest thing to come along since the Internet," he went on hoping his tone wasn’t nearly as bitter as he was feeling at that particular moment, because it was then that he realized he’d never stood a chance, that his dreams for future bliss had been his alone, and that he couldn’t even justify being angry because Barbara had never promised him anything more than what they had. "Fate, right?" he asked turning to look at Barbara momentarily that conversation they’d had on her balcony years ago buzzing around his head like a fly at a picnic.
Barbara opened her mouth to respond then paused before sighing, "Something like that," as she looked at his profile while he stared into the night. His jaw was tense, his shoulder hunched and his back tight. He was hurting. She dropped her head down to look at her lap.
"Are you happy?" he asked a few moments later, his gaze returning to her.
"Very," Barbara replied immediately, her eyes sparkling as a huge, blissful smile came to her lips, instantaneously lighting up her entire face as she thought about Helena. It lasted only for a moment before she composed herself again, her expression becoming suitable for the sober nature of their conversation once more. The smile had been an involuntary reaction, pure and visceral, an unconscious personification of her emotions. He’d never seen her look more radiant. "I know you don’t think much of her," Barbara continued a few seconds later feeling Dick’s eyes on her and needing to say something.
"That’s not exactly true," Dick replied quietly an odd calm coming over him after seeing her response to his question. He hadn’t seen her smile like that since before she was shot. Maybe not even then, he had to admit to himself. It was a smile entirely new not remembered. He rolled his shoulders slightly trying to release some of the tension that had built up since coming outside. "If you … well, I’m sure there’s something there that I’m not seeing," he continued diplomatically. Believing the words but not quite ready to accept them.
"There’s … there’s just something about you that brings out the alpha in her," Barbara replied shaking her head slightly though her words were undercut with a current of affection. It was the same mildly disapproving, befuddled, yet unmistakably fond and loving tone she had used with Helena that first time they’d met when the brunette was looking at him like she’d wanted to chew out his jugular.
"She’s always seen me as competition," Dick replied simply. "Neither of us realized I didn’t stand a chance," he continued softly shaking his head. Barbara found Helena’s anti-social, borderline violent character traits cute in an incomprehensible sort of way. How was he supposed to compete with that? "Anyway, I’m going to look into that hotel idea," he went on bouncing on his feet lightly suddenly needing some distance. "I’ll swing by tomorrow for an update," he continued looking toward the entrance to the clock tower. "I’d say ‘have a good night’, but I guess that’s pretty much guaranteed," he finished winking at her with seeming ease, though it was an effort on his part not simply resort to scowling and grumbling. He was going to be a man about the whole thing.
Barbara simply rolled her eyes at him and then smirked suggestively, rather pleased to see that he was able to joke about the situation, before looking at him seriously again. "Dick, I …" she began.
"Let’s not, huh?" he said lightly holding up a hand. There was nothing she could say that make a difference besides announcing that it was all a horrible joke, which he knew wasn’t going to happen. "I’ll see you tomorrow."
And with that he disappeared through the entrance back into the clock tower leaving Barbara alone on the balcony.
Helena looked to the side as she heard footsteps emerging from the balcony. She was sitting cross-legged on Barbara’s desk with a box of Ritz crackers on her lap. One of her hands seemed to be permanently in the box, while the other was holding onto a joystick that rested on the tabletop beside her thigh as she faced one of the monitors.
She met Dick’s eyes as he walked by her silently a cracker perched on her lip as one of the characters on the monitor died a messy, fully animated death.
"Are you going to tell me to treat her well or else you’ll have to introduce your foot to my ass?" Helena asked shifting to the side and then uncoiling her legs so they hung over the edge of the desk swinging slightly. She knew from his expression that he’d been handed his walking papers and she congratulated herself on managing to appear so calm even though before she’d seen him her body had been so tense she thought she was on the verge of rupturing something, and she now really, really wanted to break out into an irritatingly cocky dance, that surely would’ve involved knee wiggling and fist pumping.
"No," Dick responded eyeing her evenly, continuing past her towards the exit.
"Why? I know you have a considerably higher opinion of dirt than you do of me," Helena replied hopping down off of the desk, but making no move away from it, simply leaning against it as she continued to eye Dick as he stopped and turned to face her.
"I hear you have layers that aren’t as utterly unlikable as your surface persona," he responded softly watching her appraisingly. "Besides," he went on with a sigh. "If I can say a positive thing about you it’s that I truly believe Barbara’s the one thing you do, and always have given a shit about," he continued seriously even though it pained him to admit the woman wasn’t a creature of complete evil. "That puts you slightly above dirt," he finished with a minute smile.
Helena was quiet for a moment, then met his small smile with one of her own grounding out, "I think that’s just about the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me. Which is a sad enough statement. We’re not bonding over this or anything are we?"
"Don’t be stupid," Dick responded rolling his eyes before narrowing them at her belligerently once again. "I’d rather castrate myself than have coffee with you," he continued exiting into the penthouse.
"It’s cold out here," Helena said softly as she walked out onto the balcony. "I don’t want you to get sick," she continued draping a jacket around Barbara’s shoulder. "You’re surly when you’re not feeling well, and you know I can’t open a can of soup without maiming myself."
Barbara chuckled softly at that as she put her arms into the jacket and drew it around her body before looking over at Helena who was seating herself on the ground beside Barbara, her back resting against the redhead’s legs. "How did you do that?" she asked remembering entering the penthouse one afternoon, only to find a trail of blood droplets leading from the kitchen into the bathroom. She’d hurried towards the bathroom to find Helena sitting on the edge of the bathtub grumbling to herself as she wrestled with a box of band-aids trying to patch up a cut that had nearly severed her finger. When Barbara had asked what had happened Helena had looked up at her glaring, and then in a small voice mumbled ‘can opener’ and not said another word as Barbara fixed her up.
"I’m special," Helena replied grinning depreciatingly as she tilted her head up to look at Barbara.
"You certainly are," Barbara responded shaking her head with a mockingly sad look on her face.
Helena reached up a lazy hand and tweaked the redhead’s nose before Barbara captured her hand, placing a kiss on it before releasing it again, allowing Helena to draw it back down to her lap.
"How hard was it?" Barbara asked a moment later.
"I think I grew an ulcer," Helena responded sighing. "I can see why they’re generally disliked," she continued shifting closer to Barbara as she felt the redhead’s hand come to rest on her shoulder and begin to squeeze and knead her flesh, massaging her shoulders quite expertly.
"I love you," Barbara breathed out softly, watching as Helena’s eyes closed and her head fell to rest against her legs loosely. "You had nothing to worry about," she added bending down to place a kiss on the top of Helena’s head.
"And I love you," Helena said shifting once Barbara’s hand was clear of her head moving so that she was facing the redhead. "Which is why I couldn’t help but worry even though I knew I shouldn’t. Don’t take it to mean that I don’t trust you, because that’s not even close to what it was," she continued sincerely reaching for Barbara’s hand as she kneeled beside her.
"What was it?" Barbara asked, her tone genuinely curious.
"It was me not trusting the world," Helena replied shaking her head. "I just … I’m always waiting for the ground to fall out from beneath me," she continued softly her mind drifting to her therapy sessions. Dr. Quinzel had said she had abandonment issues. She thought that was being polite.
"I’ll add a hover feature," Barbara said stroking the arm of her chair before wiggling her eyebrows at Helena foolishly, drawing a grin from the brunette before she turned herself back around so that she was leaning against Barbara again, the redhead’s hand resting delicately on her shoulder.
Helena sighed contentedly as she looked out at the night sky. "Jackie DeShannon was right," she said decisively long minutes later, disrupting the comfortable silence that had descended upon the balcony.
"About what?" Barbara asked looking down at the top of Helena’s head not even bothering to wonder where the random thought had come from knowing that Helena’s mind worked in strange and mysterious ways.
"What the world needs IS love, sweet love," the brunette replied slowly standing up. "It’s freezing out here, let’s go warm each other up," she continued moving behind Barbara’s chair and leaning over, pressing a kiss to the redhead’s cheek.
"That’s the first good idea you’ve had all day," Barbara responded, allowing Helena to push her towards the door as she remained leaning over the back of the chair.
"No it’s not," Helena disagreed shaking her head. "I also suggested that Alfred make French toast this morning. I think that was pretty good idea too," she continued her voice turning thoughtful. "You know, we should come up with a motif for today’s good ideas."
"Like what?" Barbara asked smiling a bit at Helena’s tone. She had something tawdry in mind.
"I was thinking syrup," Helena purred into her ear, before smiling against Barbara’s cheek and kissing her softly. "Of course frosting sugar would work too," she added smiling rakishly as she teased the skin of Barbara’s hand with her finger, drawing it up and down suggestively.
"Hmmm," Barbara said softly, leaning back as Helena placed a series of kisses on her neck. "Three good ideas then," she drawled, laughing as Helena growled in her ear playfully and tugged the jacket she wrapped around her shoulders minutes off flinging it over the railing.
The next night …
Helena blinked rapidly, her eyes watering and narrowing slightly as she tried to focus on the bow tie wearing pencil neck talking to her and failed miserably. As inconspicuously as possible she tried to survey the room looking for Barbara. She couldn’t believe the redhead had abandoned her to this Mr. Pearly guy and his fascinating interest in light patterns caused by geometric refractions. Spotting the redhead deep in conversation with another person from the English department Helena sighed, and smiled at the man in front of her. "Sorry, I didn’t catch that last part," she murmured really wishing that she could throw a few of the candy canes sitting in the bowl beside her at Barbara, but knowing that she wouldn’t get her consolation sex if she did.
Wade felt a hand slap him rather unceremoniously on the shoulder, drawing his attention away from the lithe brunette woman in the corner of the room and over to Eddie Merchant, New Gotham High’s newest geography teacher. Eddie had started at the school that semester like him.
"I hear she’s taken Brix," Eddie said glancing over in Helena’s direction, his eyes running over the brunette appreciatively before he shook his head. "Then again, never hurt anyone to look," he continued smiling. She was certainly a sight to see.
"What?" Wade asked looking over at Eddie curiously barely aware of the words that had come out of his mouth.
"Saw you checking out Gordon’s date," Eddie replied his eyes still on Helena. "Can’t blame you, she’s a stone cold fox that one. Smile that promises a thousand things … all of them dirty … which are really the only promises worth making," he went on turning his attention back to Wade as he played with his mug of egg nog. After Helena had smiled a greeting at him he’d decided that she had bedroom eyes, and that he fully supported her in that.
"I wasn’t checking her out," Wade grumbled in response, Eddie’s words about Helena playing in his head taunting him. He really didn’t want to hear about how severely attractive his ex-girlfriends current girlfriend was, and was a bit pissed off that he had to endure it because Barbara had wanted to keep a low profile on their relationship when they were together. Didn’t want to feed the rumor mill she had said. Bah, he thought to himself, she didn’t seem to care about the rumor mill when it came to Ms. Dirty Eyes and her stupid dimples.
"What then? You almost wore the same blouse?" Eddie asked chuckling as Wade looked over at him and scowled. "She’s a former student you know, apparently she was a real badass. Prescott won’t go near her; allegedly she keyed his car and threatened to neuter him on the last day of school the year she graduated," he went on sounding rather impressed. "I’m not sure I believe it though. I think she looks sweet."
"Yeah, she seems like a real gem," Wade replied rather darkly.
"Wouldn’t have pegged her as Gordon’s type though," Eddie replied glancing over at the redhead in question. "Love works in mysterious ways I guess, or so goes the platitude," he continued stepping back from Wade. He’d been a buzz kill the whole night. "Looks like Alicia’s out of nog," he continued his gaze half way across the room. "I’ll have to see if I can’t help her out with that."
Barbara tilted her head to the side uncomfortably before lifting her glass to her lips and draining the liquid within trying to fortify herself for the conversation at hand.
"Helena?" Mary Raymond asked incredulously. "Helena?" she repeated again.
Barbara sighed. Mary was old enough to remember when the wheel was still a hypothesis and had actually taught Barbara herself when the school had still been Gotham High.
"Yeah," Barbara replied a moment later. She felt like she should’ve said more, but she was feeling strangely apathetic towards the whole conversation. Not wanting to or feeling the need to justify her relationship to a woman she talked to three or four times on a yearly basis. She shrugged lethargically trying to control the urge to roll her eyes.
"Well I never," Mary exhaled softly shaking her head disbelieving. "How old is she now?"
"Twenty-three," Barbara replied contemplating hitting herself over the head with her cup until she passed out.
"Well … I never," Mary responded again shaking her head once more. "I’ve never been with someone younger myself, you know," she continued a moment later, her voice turning thoughtful. Barbara didn’t know that, probably because she had never thought about it let alone contemplated asking. So she was more than a little upset that she’d been made to think about it now. "Much less with a lady," Mary continued laughing softly, though not in an unkind way. "What’s it like?" she asked softly, leaning towards Barbara secretively.
"Excuse me?" Barbara asked drawing her head back sharply, looking over at the old woman. She was older than her mother would’ve been, and she was questioning her about her sexual habits. Barbara frowned more than a little creeped out and now officially disconcerted by the path the conversation was taking, she’d been expecting moralizing not girl talk.
"Being with someone younger," Mary responded her tone dropping even more. "And a lady. I hear at that age they can go for hours on end. Young ones. Been so long I can’t remember myself," she went on chuckling. "A lady in my building went with a younger fellow for a while, and she said that it was quite … invigorating," she rattled on, oblivious to Barbara’s stunned and distressed expression. "And late one night, I flipped to this program on the Learning Channel, that said when two women make love, it’s especially pleasurable because both partners know exactly where to touch each other. Is that true?"
"Uh," Barbara replied a rather blank expression on her face as she blinked rapidly really wishing she’d more fully considered that hitting herself over the head with her cup idea. "Is it like … uh," she paused blinking some more. "Uh … … more egg nog?" she asked hopefully glancing at Mary’s empty cup.
Helena glanced up and looked over to her right. She could feel someone watching her. It was the same pair of eyes that had been watching her all night. Wade. She smiled at him and winked for good measure. He scowled at her and looked away. She continued to watch him after that trying to figure out if he was within footsie range.
"So, Helena," Mr. McLean asked drawing her attention over to him. Bothering Wade would have to wait until later. "What have you been up to?"
"Oh, this and that," Helena responded grinning at her former principle. They’d spent some nice quality time together in the past. Sometimes he’d yell at her and she’d roll her eyes. Other times he’d yell at her and she’d yawn. And sometimes, on very special occasions he’d yelled at her, and she’d both yawn and roll her eyes. Those were the days, she thought to herself nostalgically. "School didn’t leave me a lot of free time," she continued looking beside her as Barbara laughed and then shrugged at her peeved look.
"Really?" McLean asked smiling. "What did you go into?" he continued curiously. The truth was while he had spent most of Helena’s senior year yelling at her, giving her detentions she skipped out on, and threatening her with expulsion, he had liked the brunette. Before her mothers death, she’d been a good student, and involved in quite a few school activities that had given him a chance to speak with her one on one occasionally. It had really bothered him to see what had happened to her afterwards, and was genuinely glad to see that she appeared to have gotten things together.
"Bartending," Helena drawled folding the edge of her napkin diligently smoothing the crease with her nail. She was sure she could make a pretty swan out of it.
"That took up a lot of time?" Wade asked in a rather scathingly as he stared at her.
"It was a very intensive seven day program," Barbara responded lightly, smirking somewhat to help allay the confused looks Wade’s tone had drawn. And also because she wasn’t particularly thrilled with the idea of Helena and Wade talking to each other after the confrontation with Dick a few nights earlier.
"I nearly wasted away," Helena added in a playfully melancholy tone. "Actually, I’m doing some work in dot coms," she continued looking up from the napkin and putting a serious expression on her face. "Start up business, relatively small right now."
"Really? What are you selling?" Eddie asked. He hoped it had something to do with the adult entertainment industry, but doubted it.
"Muffin tops," Helena responded nodding earnestly, resting her elbows on the table and leaning forward to create a confidential atmosphere. "There’s a rapidly expanding market."
"Muffin tops?" a woman to her left asked. Helena hadn’t learned her name, she was one of the teachers dates. "That’s brilliant. What kinds?"
"Thank you," she said quietly with a feigned humility. "Barbara," she continued looking over at the redhead shaking her head. "Didn’t think the idea was … what was the word again, oh yeah, good," she continued putting a look on her face that showed how very disappointed she was with Barbara’s lack of vision. "But I had a dream," she continued, ignoring Barbara as she rolled her eyes and shot her an irritated face. "A dream where people could buy the best part of the muffin in chocolate, blueberry, fruit explosion, and oatmeal. I dreamed of a world where muffin-y goodness was available electronically in any and all combinations. I’m also thinking of expanding into some fudge and short bread projects," Helena finished her voice lowering surreptitiously. "It’s going to be wild."
"You did a terrific job with everything, absolutely the best faculty diner I’ve ever attended, you should really feel free to let your head swell," Barbara said softly, looking up at Wade as the limbo bar dropped lower and one more person made their way to the punch bowl to get even more sauced.
"Effusive praise, I like that," he commented, smirking slightly as Eddie limped to the side of the room holding his lower back. It was a dangerous game. "I think the biggest hit of the night was your girlfriend though … besides the bunt cake of course, which was all my idea," he continued. "She really doesn’t seem all that anti-social."
"It’s a sham," Barbara replied. "I threatened to wheel all over her official Member’s Only jacket if she embarrassed me," she continued smirking as she realized that that threat probably would’ve worked just as well as promising lots of sex. Still, the actual deal would be more fun.
"She’s very … flexible," Wade commented watching as Helena bent back and walked under the beam, even going so far as to shake her chest Charo style when she popped back up, grinning at Eddie. She was beautiful, young, funny, and nubile. He didn’t stand a chance. Hell, he would’ve dumped himself for her too. In fact if he were her he probably would’ve just dated himself and been very happy.
"I know," Barbara drawled smiling, her tone a bit too suggestive she realized, when Wade looked over at her. "She does Yoga," she added quickly before looking away.
"I might have to take up Yoga," Wade muttered looking back over at the limbo line which now seemed to consist solely of Helena who was graciously accepting pats on the back while trying to look humble. "Seems …"
Wade looked up towards the ceiling suddenly, his previous words forgotten as water began to beat down on his head and all around him. He looked over at Barbara, who was also looking up at the ceiling her hand above her eyes trying to shield them from the falling water droplets.
"The fuck?" Barbara heard just to her right. She turned her head to see Helena crouching down just beside her, her hand running through her damp – quickly becoming soaked – hair.
"That’s my girl," Barbara muttered drawing Helena’s eyes to her from where she had been observing the rest of the room’s occupants looking up and muttering amongst themselves. "There must be a fire in the building," she continued seriously.
Helena stood up, nodding as she uncoiled herself and began to move towards the door automatically. "I’m gonna check it out," she called, her voice rising to be heard over the other voices in the room as she cocked her thumb in the direction of the door, before promptly moving through it.
"She’s a volunteer firefighter," Barbara called out as everyone turned to look in Helena’s direction questioningly. "No cause for concern," she continued while thinking that Helena really hadn’t managed to grasp the concept of ‘secret identity’ over the years.
Barbara looked out into the courtyard of the school, a small frown marring her beautiful features as she watched a figure approach her. After Helena had taken off, they’d all evacuated the building coming to rest on the lawn, where one of the teachers had put in a 911 call. Now, ten minutes later the place was swarming with firefighters and police officers. However, it was the presence of one particular officer that had Barbara slightly agitated. Reese. Helena wasn’t dressed in her Huntress garb and if he spotted her, things could get complicated.
"Barbara Gordon?" Reese asked coming to a stop in front of the redhead, a note pad open in his hand though he didn’t look at it.
"Yes," Barbara responded holding out her hand and forcing a polite smile onto her face.
"It’s a pleasure," Reese said grasping her hand. "I met your father a few months back, at Andy Kane’s retirement party. A great man, he’s done a lot for this city. He …" he stopped and smiled a bit ruefully. "And you’re probably aware of all of them. You must get this a lot."
Barbara smiled genuinely this time. "I do," she admitted her tone slightly amused. "But in my totally unbiased opinion he’s completely deserving of each and every word."
Reese nodded a small smile on his face as he looked down at the note pad in his hand for the first time. "Officers found two men tied up in one of the science rooms in the north wing. They’ve admitted to starting the fires, some sort of strange revenge for failing chemistry class twenty years ago or something," he went on shaking his head. "So right now we’re just trying to account for anyone who may have been in the building at the time, and make sure everyone’s alright," he finished looking back over at her.
"Rather mundane work for a detective isn’t it?" Barbara asked raising an eyebrow.
"Departments stretched at to its limits at the moment, as I’m sure you’re aware," he replied looking at her knowingly. She shrugged. "Everyone’s on call all the time, for anything. I drew this. Detective or not it’s the job," he continued. "We’ve been able to account for everyone who was at the dinner, except for one person, your date … Helena," he went on glancing down at the note pad. "Nobody seems to have seen her since she ‘went to check things out’, I was wondering if you’ve seen her since you evacuated the school building?"
"Mmm," Barbara responded looking up at him guilelessly. "She wanted to go home and get changed, she’s got a strange aversion to water, don’t ask me to explain it, thousands of dollars in therapy bills and her brain is still largely a mystery. I told her to go, I wanted to stay and make sure everyone was okay. It’s not a problem is it?"
"No," Reese responded shaking his head. "Mostly we just wanted a confirmation that someone had seen her," he continued. "Though if … excuse me one moment," he said turning his head to the side as a uniformed officer came up to him and began to whisper in his ear. "Sorry about that," he started once again, drawing Barbara’s eyes over to him from the parking lot where she had been looking. "I’d like to maybe talk to her though, find out if she saw anything when she was roaming the building, we think there may have been a third assailant, and another man or woman on the premises. If she saw anything it would be a great help," he continued reaching into his jacket pocket.
"Reese!" someone across the field drawing his attention over to them, his hand falling away from his pocket as he looked.
"Thanks for your time Ms. Gordon," he said looking back over at Barbara, and then turned jogging over to the officer that had called his name.
"Shit," Reese muttered as he finished signing the piece of paper in front of him. "Did you see where the redhead went?" he asked the officer standing in front of him as his eyes surveyed the field. He’d forgotten to give her his card, and it’d be a hassle to get a hold of him without it. He really didn’t want to add any more stress on her after what must have been a pretty harrowing night to begin with.
"Over there," the officer pointed. "The parking lot, she turned down that walkway a second ago," the officer continued, pointing to a narrow passageway that branched off from the parking lot.
"Thanks," Reese muttered already jogging in Barbara’s direction.
Reaching the corner, Reese began to round it but stopped when he saw a slim figure leaning over Barbara’s chair. They were talking softly, but he couldn’t hear what they were saying. He stepped back into the shadows, watching as the figure leaned forward to place a lingering kiss on Barbara’s lips before moving to whisper something to her that caused the redhead to laugh.
They obviously knew each other … well. The figure had to be the girlfriend, Helena, the other teachers had mentioned. He frowned wondering why Barbara would’ve told him that the woman had left the scene when she was obviously still around. Still, he thought to himself, watching as the woman took a step back from Barbara moving towards the dim light that illuminated the passageway, she always could’ve said she was going, and then not gone not wanting to leave the redhead stranded or alone.
In any case, seeing that the domestic scene had ended he moved to step forward intending to proceed with delivering his card when the other woman, who had been previously cloaked in darkness, finally stepped into the dim light provided by a small bulb attached to the side of the building allowing him to really see her for the first time.
She had messy dark brown hair, deep blue eyes and playful smirk. He’d know that face anywhere. It was Huntress.
"Catch ya on the flip side," Huntress said to Barbara grinning at her before turning her back to the redhead and jumping up, disappearing onto the rooftop a moment later.
Reese stepped backed into the shadows and backed away from the opening to the passageway, a thoughtful, confused, and slightly pained expression on his face, though he quickly pulled himself together when he heard Barbara begin to move from the passageway, so that when she emerged from the opening he doubled over resting his hands on his thighs making his breath come out hard, presenting the appearance of being winded after a brisk jog over.
"I’m glad I caught you," he said looking over at her, his hand reaching into his jacket pocket. "I forgot to give you this," he went on handing her the card straightening back up though watching her carefully all the time.
"I didn’t even realize," Barbara said softly, smiling at him though a slight tension came to her body that wouldn’t have been visible if he hadn’t been looking for it. She glanced behind her quickly, the movement so fast and smooth that it was almost unnoticeable. "Thank you," she said grasping the card firmly in her hand, smile still in place. The lady was cool he’d give her that.
"Have a nice evening," he said straightening up, nodding to her before back around.
A night later …
Reese rubbed at his head, scraping his nails across the short hair that rested on top of his head, forcing himself not to look up and around the rooftops that surrounded him. Willing himself not to look for her before she showed up. There was really no point, he thought to himself, as he sighed deeply and dropped his hand back to his side, kicking at the asphalt lightly with his expensive shoes. There’d always been an energy, a slight hum inside of him before as he’d waited for her, an anticipation of the dance that was to come, a taste of the relationship that seemed to be forming between them. It was like being on a first date every meeting, the same nervous excitement flooding his body. It had been nice, really nice. But it was mostly gone now, leaving a slight aching in his chest and trepidation in his gut as he waited for her now, though despite himself, there remained a ghost of that old feeling still threading inside of him.
"Thanks for coming … Ms. Kyle," Reese said, barely looking up when he sensed her presence beside him. He pushed a styro-foam cup cross the roof of the car towards her. A quarter cup of coffee with her milk and sugar. He felt a slight tingle run through him as her fingers brushed up against his as she accepted the cup silently. He looked at her more closely. Her lips were drawn together forming a thin line and her jaw was clamped tight high-lightening her cheekbones. She wasn’t happy.
He felt calmer somehow, more at home seeing that. She’d taken away something he had begun to cherish and he’d taken away something she had clung to. They were somewhat even now, in a strange sort of way. He could relax a bit.
"Well, now that particular secret is out of the way I suppose you’ll want my number," Helena responded finally, quirking an eyebrow at him, trying not to seem nearly as concerned by the revelation as she was.
"Would there be a point?" Reese responded somewhat dourly, his eyes cutting into her accusingly.
"I don’t know, would there?" Helena asked watching him now somewhat confused by the turn the conversation had taken. She didn’t understand what had him so riled. By all rights she should’ve been the one pissing and glaring and shit.
"Your girlfriend might have something to say about it," Reese replied dropping his eyes back down to the ground.
"My …" Helena started to ask, then stopped shaking her head. "Last night," she continued, "you saw me at the school," she went on knowingly. Barbara had mentioned that he’d been there, but the redhead had said she was fairly certain Reese hadn’t seen her. "How’d you …"
"The other teachers said Ms. Gordon’s date, Helena, went to check out what happened and then promptly disappeared. Fits your M.O., doesn’t it?" Reese asked looking up and over at her, a bit pleased to see Helena’s severely unamused look and ‘get on with it’ expression thrown his way. "Anyway after what I saw in the parking lot, it seemed to make sense that whoever jumped onto that roof was Helena, and with your given name and link to Barbara Gordon it didn’t take much digging to get your surname," he finished shrugging, noting the small frown that came to her face when he mentioned what he’d seen in the parking lot.
"Well, there it is," Helena replied rather peevishly a moment later. "What’re you going to do now that you know?"
Reese was silent for a moment having decided to draw out the tension and let her suffer a bit wondering what he planned on doing, before he sighed and muttered, "nothing," looking away from her as he did. Every time he looked at her, he saw her leaning over Barbara kissing her softly, with a tenderness he’d never seen from her before, and heard the redhead’s laugh reverberating through his head mocking him, because she now had what he realized he’d wanted since the first time they’d met.
Helena watched him carefully, saw the look he gave her before turning his head away and the expression that settled across his features afterward. "Listen," she said drawing his eyes back over to her. "About before, you and me before all this," she continued waving her hand around vaguely. "I know there were signals, that we were doing the dance. I just wanted to say that I wasn’t playing with you," she continued seriously. Well, I was … but not about that," she amended with a smirk. "Things just happened with Barbara … and well, the lines of communication between you and me have always been kind of static-y, and I thought it would be better not to bring up something I couldn’t explain," she finished looking away from him somewhat uncomfortably. It was so unfair, they hadn’t even really been going out and she still had to have the awkward emotional chat with him.
Reese simply nodded. "She saw you," he started a moment later referring to Helena’s jump the night before. "And the voice, that time I got the call it was a woman…"
"You wanna know if Barbara’s on the other end of this line?" Helena interrupted fingering her earring, suddenly not sure whether she was relieved or regretting that she had left them off. She’d planned on turning them on when she arrived, but then Reese had gobsmacked her with that Ms. Kyle shit.
Reese simply nodded.
Helena watched him carefully. It was one thing him knowing who she was and potentially being a threat to her, it was another for him to know about Barbara too. She could easily lie to him, explain away Barbara seeing her jump onto the roof. ‘She’s known me since I was kid, she’s knows I’m different and unlike some people didn’t automatically assume it made me a homicidal freak. But if you were to ask her where I was now, she’d say mixing margaritas’ or something like that. Maybe a little suspect, but nothing that he could actually poke holes in. It would be enough she was sure.
It all came down to trust.
"No. She doesn’t know about this particular nocturnal habit. Bartending is a great excuse to be out all hours of the night," Helena responded finally. She trusted him. She just didn’t trust him with Barbara’s life, she couldn’t tell him, not with what had happened the last time someone had figured out Barbara’s secret identity. She literally couldn’t have forced the words past her lips if she’d wanted to. "As for the leaping over tall buildings in a single bound thing, over the years she’s figured out that I’m not like other girls," she went on pausing, a brief smile touching her features. "She doesn’t care."
Helena then watched as Reese straightened up, looking at her discerningly. She couldn’t be certain whether he believed her or not. However, his gaze soon turned speculative and then appraising as he shifted his weight, coming up to his full height looking down at her.
"Don’t think that this changes the game," she stated catching his posture knowing exactly what it meant.
"I know who you are," Reese responded simply.
Helena smirked at him, knowing that he thought knowing her identity gave him some sort of power over her. He was right of course, it did, but she’d be damned if she’d let him know exactly how much. He’d already had a serious morality complex before he thought he had a real way of bossing her around, and she wasn’t going to be putting up with more sermonizing than she had to.
"Whop dee doo," Helena replied irreverently, extending her forefinger up in the air and twirling it around in a circle. "You don’t have any proof or corroboration. If I think you’re trying to abuse the knowledge, I will tell Barbara what I’ve been up to, and she’ll protect me. She’s quite fond of me, as you’ve come to realize. Then it’ll be spooky ‘I believe in the man bat’ Reese’s word against the police commissioners daughter."
"Ex," Reese interjected defensively not liking that Helena had such an accurate idea of how he was perceived within the department.
"Whatever. The point is Barbara took a bullet for this city, she’s a beloved award winning schoolteacher, and the mayor knew her when she was in Underoos. If she says we hang out at night playing canasta and drinking fruit punch people will believe her. It’ll go down like this: you’ll make your accusations and the department will casually look into them and find nothing … because I can do that. And then, they’ll look at you," Helena responded shifting her weight so that she was now the one in a cocky stance. "Which I don’t think you’ll want with your real last name. Finger pointing’s nothing more than a great way to get you nowhere fast."
Reese stared at her, long and hard for a moment before looking away as he thought over what she’d said. He knew he didn’t have any video of her, he hadn’t kept anything that would’ve had her prints on it, and he’d never asked witness’s to work with a sketch artist because he knew what she looked. And, now he was painfully aware that after twenty-four witnesses became virtually useless anyway so tracking someone down at the present time would be pointless. He also knew that with the above being true, any accusation he could make to try and get leverage on Helena would led to a ‘he said she said’ case, and that just like Helena indicated if Barbara Gordon purgered herself in Helena’s defense, her father, history and reputation could most likely go toe to toe with his badge leaving them at a stand still. More than that, she was right about him not wanting anyone looking into his past and digging up his real name. Basically, at the time being knowing who Helena was wouldn’t change the game, just like she’d said.
"Whatever," he muttered a moment later looking out across the street.
"Right," Helena said seeing his slightly slumped shoulders glad to have the matter settled for the moment. "Listen, about what’s been going around town lately, there’s a good chance that someone, somehow, is managing to send subliminal messages to people," she continued. "I’m looking for common links between those affected, it’s … it’s an option you might want to pursue," she finished.
"And now you’ve got to go," Reese said looking over at her.
Helena nodded and started to move away.
"Hey," Reese called stopping her. "Do I still have to call you Huntress?"
Helena considered him for a moment. "Not when we’re nice and cozy like this," she replied finally smiling a bit. "But when you’re threatening me in front of suspects I’d appreciate it," she continued. "Later Reese."
"Jesse," he mumbled.
"I know," she responded grinning. "I like Reese better," and with that she was gone.
"Where’s big brother?" Helena asked with only a slight touch of ambivalence in her voice as she breezed into the clock tower, settling against the side of the work station as her gaze drifted around the clock tower. She could hear footsteps and pounding on the second floor in the training room knew that Dinah was up there.
"He just finished up his sweep and is on his way back. Be good," Barbara replied softly turning her head to look over at Helena. "What happened to you?" she asked a second later her eyes raking over the brunette, seeing that she was no worse for the wear.
"I’ve got good news and bad news," Helena started sighing, turning her head away from Barbara. "Which do you want first?"
"Good," Barbara said somewhat reluctantly watching as Helena shifted around. Helena shifting around and refusing to make eye contact was never a good thing. Sometimes it was a cute thing, but with the sighing and the ‘bad news’ statement Barbara didn’t think that was it this time.
"Well, I was very intimidating and forceful. I think if you were there you would agree that I was rather impressive and most probably very sexy," Helena responded looking over at Barbara, offering her a smirk before turning her head away again at the redhead’s raised eyebrow.
"Bad," Barbara said a moment later, realizing that that was Helena’s good news, and therefore sounding more reluctant than before about hearing the bad news, which was quite a feat.
"Mr. Detective saw me at the school the other night and decided to actually do some detecting. He knows who I am," Helena muttered looking down at her feet as she tilted her head to the side and made irritable faces as she spoke. "He’s suspicious about you too even though I tried to cover," she continued folding her arms across her chest finally looking up and over at the redhead.
"And?" Barbara asked her voice a bit tight. It was taking all of her control not to launch into a ‘this is why you should be wearing a mask/I told you so’ speech. Helena’s body was rigid with tension and her features drawn tight. That and the crossed arms and the refusal to look at her, alerted Barbara to the fact that the brunette was in an extremely defensive mood at the moment. She wouldn’t have responded well to a lecture, and the last thing either of them needed at the moment was to get into a fight. Still, they were going to have a talk about it later, preferably after Helena had been lulled into a false sense of security.
"And he seemed to think it was just the rolled up newspaper he needed to keep my wet nose in check," Helena grumbled darkly watching Barbara carefully. She knew that they were in for a ‘masks are good’ talk later on. She sighed. "But I set him straight. Let him know what was what. He won’t talk."
"How can you be sure?" Barbara asked leaning back in the chair looking across at Helena, her lips drawn tightly together.
"I made sure he understood that it was in his best interests to let sleeping dogs lay … or lie … or … well, whatever that platitude is," Helena replied looking over and seeing Barbara’s unhappy face still in place. "I threatened him … with you."
"With me?" Barbara asked her brows drawing together in confusion as her lips twitched slightly at the pure oddity of the statement.
"I’ve been around enough crime scenes to know Reese doesn’t exactly have the best reputation in the department. Everyone thinks he’s crazy," Helena replied bring a finger up beside her ear and making circles. "A complete whack job cause he’s always talking about ‘strange things happening under the cover of night’," she continued her voice turning mockingly ominous. "And grown people running around in latex animal costumes."
"That’s not crazy, that’s true," Barbara pointed out about to make a comment about the animal costumes statement when Helena continued.
"Yeah, it’s just too bad nobody believes him," Helena responded not sounding too broken up about it at all. "Because I told him that it’d come down to a case of his word against yours – because you love me so very much and would unquestionably do my bidding to remain snuggle buddies," she continued smiling at Barbara’s unimpressed look. "And that while the word of a cop would usually be good enough, Crazy Reese making zany accusations against the beautiful, responsible, brilliant, fellow public servant Barbara Gordon who knew the mayor when she was still in Underoos, probably wouldn’t end up so well for him. Lucky for me you’ve always appeared to be such an upstanding citizen."
"Appeared?" Barbara asked cocking an eyebrow at Helena.
"That’s right," Helena drawled looking at her. "You’ve got latex and honey mixed in with your sugar and spice," she continued her lips turning up slightly at the thought of just how naughty Barbara could be on occasion. She still kind of wanted to find out about that riding crop thing.
Barbara merely smirked at that, her head turning the side as she heard the loft doors open and saw Dick begin to cross the room towards them. "Wait, Underoos?" she muttered softly looking over at Helena, not wanting Dick to hear. She’d never worn Underoos. Ever. However, Helena was too busy staring at Dick intensely to reply to her comment, tracking him as he walked towards them.
"How’s that thing work?" Helena asked suddenly once Dick was within civilized speaking distance, pointing at him as she spoke.
"What?" Dick asked stopping and looking at Helena suspiciously.
Helena nodded towards the mask that he held lightly in his hands.
"The mask?" Dick asked. Helena simply nodded. "It’s made from a Nomex-Kevlar blend, and it’s held on my face with a material called ‘spirit gum’, don’t ask me to explain how it works, I don’t know. There’s a transmitter and receiver here," he said lifting it up and pointing inside near the side of it, "and it has ‘Starlight’ night lenses here for night vision," he finished looking at her. "Why?"
He wasn’t going to let her borrow it. She’d already gotten the girl. If she thought she could start borrowing his stuff she was dead wrong. A man had to draw the line somewhere. Sure it would’ve been better if he’d drawn it at his almost girlfriend, but still, better late than never.
"You wouldn’t happen to have one of those lying around here would you?" Helena asked looking over at Barbara, trying not to smile at the redhead’s badly repressed triumphant face at having the mask debate almost settled.
"I could in an hour," Barbara replied.
Helena nodded thoughtfully. "Do it," she sighed.
Helena ran an agitated hand through her hair, tugging at the dark locks in quick, hard, frustrated motions before releasing the abused strands as she let out a weary sigh and looked across the loft to where Dick and Barbara sat hunched over the work station talking quietly and prodding at something on the desk with some sort of metal instrument Helena couldn’t identify.
"You’re jealous," Dinah said softly watching Helena watch the other two thoughtfully. The brunette had been more restless than normal, and while Dinah knew part of that rested with Helena actually having to do something that resembled research while Barbara worked on her mask, she was also fairly certain it wasn’t the reading and cross referencing that had the brunette so on edge.
"No I’m not. She’s my girl," Helena responded a bit peevishly, turning her head away from Barbara and Dick to narrow her eyes at Dinah.
"I don’t mean about now, or even the future," Dinah responded evenly meeting Helena’s gaze as she spoke. She’d spent enough time around the brunette to be able to read her moods pretty accurately, and this wasn’t Helena’s dangerous angry, it was her brooding, tortured angry, which usually just involved a lot of cross looks and pouting. "You’re jealous that he was ever with her. The thought of him with her burns you up," Dinah continued even as Helena looked away from her and down at the tabletop.
"Is that so unusual?" Helena asked a bit defensively gazing at Dinah once more somewhat miffed that the blonde was able to assess what she was feeling so accurately.
"No, but it’s useless," Dinah replied honestly looking at Helena, her elbows coming to rest on the table as she leaned forward drawing towards Helena, creating a more intimate atmosphere. "She loves you. She always has," she continued a moment later, an almost wistful tint to her words. The way Barbara looked at Helena. The way Helena looked at Barbara. They way being around each other made them shimmer and glow, animating them both in ways that was never seen when they were apart. It was beautiful. And most of the time it made her want to stick her fingers in her ears and walk around yelling ‘La La La La La’.
Helena remained quiet merely scratching at the surface of the table with her fingernail her bottom lip ensnared between her teeth that gnawed at it gently.
"How come you were never jealous of Wade?" Dinah asked impetuously fascinated by the oddities and intricacies of Helena’s mind.
"You’ve met him right?" Helena replied immediately, a small smirk coming to her face as she looked over at Dinah. Wade had just been a distraction. Fun. She had plenty of thoroughly enjoyable ‘Wade’ types in her past, though hers were never quite as boring. "Dick’s different," she continued a moment later her thoughtful expression in place once again. She’d never had a Dick. "He’s like her. They have all these funny stories together, and lack the same moral ambiguities," she went on rubbing at her eyes before stopping to run a hand through her hair. "And look at him, fucking James Bond suave, Tom Cruise grin, Vin Diesel body and a trust fund he doesn’t have issues with. There’s history there, and actual emotion. He’s … he’s like the only person she’s ever been with who even came close to deserving her," she finally finished shaking her head somewhat ruefully.
"Besides you," Dinah stated.
"Including me," Helena corrected softly looking at her fingers as she scratched at the surface some more. "She’s too good for me too," she continued sending a self-conscious little smile Dinah’s way before sighing. "But I’m willing to over look that," she finished rubbing at her eyes again.
"You two are more alike than you think," Dinah commented after considering Helena for a moment shaking her head as she spoke.
Helena looked over at her curiously at that, but the blonde had gone back to reading the article in front of her and before she could speak she heard her name being called from across the loft.
"Come over here so we can make you look like a proper superhero!" Helena heard Barbara yell as she turned to look at the redhead, already half way out of her chair, and soon halfway across the room as she smiled at the absolutely delighted expression on Barbara’s face.
It was almost worth humoring Barbara to see that expression.
Helena kneeled down in front of Barbara as Dick crossed the room and came to a stop beside Dinah. Helena’s hands coming to rest lightly on the redhead’s knees as she allowed Barbara to fasten the mask to her face, her own hands coming up to poke and prod at it once it was in place.
"How does it feel?" Barbara asked curiously, resisting the urge to bat Helena’s hands as they jabbed and pinched at the mask. Poking was the brunette’s answer to everything new. Masks, babies, strange gelatinous goo, it didn’t matter what, poking always seemed to be the most perfect course of action to Helena.
"Alright," Helena replied slowly as though she wasn’t really sure about it, her hands still pushing at it where it attached to her temples. "It just has to pass one test before I give it a passing grade," she continued her hands finally dropping. "It’s very important," she intoned gravely as she peered up at Barbara.
"What is?" Barbara asked patiently staring down at her a small smile on her face.
"That I’m able to do this while wearing it," Helena said leaning up and brushing her lips against Barbara’s, lingering at the redhead’s lips for a few seconds, intoxicated as always by her taste, smell, and texture. "It can stay," she proclaimed a few seconds later, her voice low and a little silly as she pulled back.
"I like it," Barbara stated watching Helena as the brunette moved to stand up. "It makes you look mysterious."
Helena smirked responding, "I always look mysterious."
"It makes you look more mysterious," Barbara decided after tilting her head to concede the point.
"You don’t think it’s possible for someone to look too mysterious, do you?" Helena asked philosophically, her hand unconsciously capturing Barbara’s and stroking it gently.
Barbara was quiet for a second. "I don’t know," she finally replied smiling up at Helena adoringly as if she were the cleverest girl in the world for coming up with that question. "It’s a bit of a mystery," she continued playfully.
"Hello, other people still in the room," Dinah said coughing uncomfortably her gaze momentarily flicking over to Dick who was poking at the floor with the tip of his shoe intently. She just knew that he was seconds away from whistling and looking at the roof. "We talked about this. You said you’d try to be only faintly saccharin instead of sickeningly," she continued glaring at the two women in front of her.
Helena smirked and stepped away from Barbara moving over towards the couch. "Fine. I’ll just go in the corner and play with my mask then," she declared stroking the mask lovingly before bringing it up to her cheek and whispering to it cooingly.
"Why don’t you play with it outside?" Barbara suggested nodding towards the window. "An alarm just went off on Adams St. … and you two obviously need some time alone."
The next day …
Helena watched Dick pace in front of the balcony smiling, utterly amused by the display. He’d been at it for about half an hour only stopping every once in a while to turn and frown at a completely unaware Barbara before starting again.
Dick turned sharply, his hand automatically shooting out as he sensed a figure behind him.
"Whoa!" Helena declared holding up her hands still leaning to the side where she dodged to avoid the blow. "Jumpy?" she asked straightening up.
"Bored," he replied relaxing his stance as he looked at her.
"Yeah," Helena nodded looking away uncomfortably for a moment before turning to face him again. "You wanna get out of here?" she asked peering at him questioningly.
"Is that your way of telling me to go back to my tastefully decorated hotel room?" he asked quirking an eyebrow.
"No, I …" Helena started frowning. "I didn’t mean it like that … this time at least," she continued staring at him. "It’s almost dark. We stick to the rooftops by the time we make it mid-town it’ll be dark," she continued shrugging.
"You actually wanna run a coordinated sweep?" Dick asked disbelievingly, his eyes widening as he looked at her. Helena had been far less antagonistic after he’d been informed about her relationship with Barbara, but she hadn’t been friendly by any stretch of the imagination, and she certainly hadn’t been volunteering to spend any more time around him than was absolutely necessary.
Helena shrugged again. "Barbara’s always going on about the old days, tag team, comforting voice in your ear, hand signals and shit. I know hand signals I’ve just never … listen, whatever. We can go separately or together, I don’t much care. It’s something to do besides watch Red be all genius-y," Helena responded, getting more and more agitated as she spoke, before finally ending up crossing her arms and glaring at Dick. The momentary camaraderie she’d felt with him over the pacing had long since disappeared leaving her wondering what the hell she was doing voluntarily talking to him. However as she looked over at Barbara she had to admit that she knew exactly what she was doing. She knew Barbara hated how the she and Dick acted around each other, and she hated it when Barbara hated anything, so she was trying to not act like a total ass.
"Wouldn’t mind sharing the Batusi with someone again, it’s been a while," Dick replied smiling. He’d caught the look she’d sent Barbara and released that the redhead was the reason she’d extended a somewhat decaying olive branch in his direction.
"I don’t know what that is, but I don’t like the sound of it," Helena replied scrunching her face up at him like she’d smelled something bad.
"It’s …" Dick started trying not to laugh. "It’s this lame-ass dance move Babs and I used to annoy your Dad with," he continued his voice lowering. "Bruce totally couldn’t dance, whatever his body came up with was like the antithesis of dancing, it was highly comical which is why he never did it much," he continued seeing that Helena still had her hands folded defensively at the mention of her father, but that she still looked somewhat interested. "But this one time, we caught him practicing in the Batcave with Alfred," he went on grinning as she cracked a smile at that, "for a Wayne Foundation party later that week. And, he did this … this thing with his hands and knees," Dick went on his smile growing as his mind formed visuals to go along with his story. "Like this," he said bending his knees slightly and lifting his hands to his face making a ‘v’ shape with his fingers and waving them in front of his face alternately as his body shook. "I laughed so hard I cried. Though Babs assured me they were manly tears," he continued shaking his head and blinking trying to contain some salty droplets as he spoke. "Anyway, after that when we were on sweep sometimes, we’d just stand on opposite buildings and do the Batusi, as we dubbed it, for shits and giggles … and to piss off Batman."
"Did it work?" Helena asked smiling despite herself.
"Every time," Dick replied grinning back at her. "You know those cartoons where people get so mad their faces turn red and smoke comes out of their ears? Well, Bruce could actually do that. I saw it one time. It was upsetting and oddly … fascinating," he finished looking at the ground seeing Helena stare at him. The momentary ease between them from seconds ago was rapidly fading.
Helena was silent for a moment considering Dick as he glanced around the loft looking everywhere but at her. She hated it when she had to admit to herself that he wasn’t such a bad guy. In fact there were more than a few similarities between them. If one of those commonalities hadn’t been an overly strong affection for Barbara Gordon she was fairly certain that they probably would’ve gotten along rather well. He might actually have been able to be a big brother to her. If.
"Do the dance again?" she requested her lips quirking up slightly.
"No," Dick replied shaking his head solemnly.
"Why?" Helena asked a bit militantly stepping towards him.
"You’ll laugh at me and then I’ll insult your hair and Barbara will yell at us both and maybe even tell Alfred who’ll send us to bed without desert. It’s just a can of worms," he responded looking at her with a frank expression.
"Whatever," Helena responded tilting her head towards the window. "Sun’s down. Shake your Batusi," she continued pulling on her jacket.
Barbara took off her glasses, resting them carefully on the table before squeezing her eyes tightly shut and taking a deep breath, arching her back forward stretching it out and rolling her shoulders before finally opening her eyes. ‘I’m getting too old for this shit,’ she thought to herself, a small smile coming to her face as her gaze drifted around the clock tower, which was now cloaked in darkness. She pressed a few quick buttons on the keyboard turning on some more lights in the loft. She hadn’t realized so much time had passed since Helena and Dick had left.
She turned back to the mess in front of her. Hard copy printouts surrounded her, covering almost the entire surface of the desk, while all five of the monitors in a semi-circles around her had various, yet equally important, information displayed on them, and the plasma screen monitor scanned through different news programs automatically.
She’d been referencing and cross-referencing information since she’d gotten back from school, comparing and contrasting the information she and Dinah had collected over the past few days. And she was close to something. She could feel it. Had felt it for hours, which was why she had continued to push herself until her retinas burned and her brain hurt. After researching absolutely everything they could find about the minutest details of the hundreds of affected peoples lives, piecing together their daily habits - eating schedules, preferred traffic routes, reading material, medical information, etc. – there was something there, linking them all together, something that was dancing on the edge of her brain, taunting her with a song and dance routine.
She let out a frustrated exhalation and leaned back in her chair her hand reaching for a glass of water that had long ago become room temperature while her head drifted upwards to look at the plasma screen.
Her hand stopped dead, her fingertips just barely grazing the edge of the glass as she stared at the screen.
That was it.
Barbara stared at the screen for a second longer before turning back to the computer and turning off the scanning feature, setting the Channel 11 news report on to tape. That was it. That had to be it, she thought to herself as she hastily grabbed at some of the printouts sitting in front of her, and reached a hand over to another keyboard typing without looking as she called up some information and poured over the piece of paper in her hand simultaneously. Channel 11 news broadcasts. God, it was right there, she thought as she flung the pieces of paper she was holding down onto the desk and grabbed another set. Middle and upper class adults aged 25-65 years of age. It was the primary market for news programming, and the composition of the group of affected people. And all of them, Barbara realized as she poured over individual bios, were avid viewers of the Channel 11 news at 9:00 and/or 11:00 pm.
She slapped her hand against the surface of the desk.
She should have seen it sooner.
Pivoting the chair to face the computer immediately to her right, Barbara began to type, calling up broadcasts of the Channel 11 reports she had previously recorded while activating the software she had developed to analyze voice patterns, background noise configurations, and filter superfluous noises along with much more.
She tilted her head to the side as the results were displayed on the plasma screen monitor, a hand running through her hair as she studied them. The audio output waves were skewed, rising and falling at odd intervals that didn’t correspond with pitch variations in the speakers voice but were instead part of the noise filtered out as background and extraneous.
Not brainwashing but brain manipulations. Constant, steady and consistent pulses of sound at sub and hypersonic frequencies designed to assault the behavioral center of the brain, slowly over a period of time altering the make-up of the region, the sounds subtly altering and shifting patterns and pathways. It was ingenious, and completely uncontrollable and unpredictable beyond knowing that something would happen, though what that something could be would change with every individual affected. It was … it was nothing more than a recipe for chaos. It was insane … and brilliant.
Barbara reached for the transceiver.