FANDOM: Birds of Prey TV

PAIRING: Barbara/Helena, Dinah/Quinn

RATING: PG-13 to NC-17

DISCLAIMER: Don't own them. And don't have any money worth suing for. Just taking them out for a spin.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is an alt-universe -- because Wade isn't going to die. But he won't get the girl, either. And, Helena has trusted Dr. Quinzel enough to tell her Everything.

DEDICATION: As always, this is dedicated my very dearest friend Quire. I do it all for you, Mulder.

E-MAIL: Ficmail at ficmail2004

Chapter 1

"Yep. That's him. The armored car attempts...seen him twice now."

<And he's gotten away twice? Losing your touch, kid?>

Helena snorted at this. "Beg your pardon? Dinah's the kid. And let me tell you about my touch. Both times he ran away while I was busy touching about five or six other motherfuckers right into jail." Helena could hear the smile in Barbara's voice when she replied.

<Follow him, Huntress-and be careful. Remember it's still daytime.>

Helena rolled her eyes. "Is that why there's a big bright ball in the sky?"

<I'll laugh later. Just be careful.>

"Will do, Mom-oops, Oracle-going silent."

So she'd been following him for twenty minutes. She'd hesitated for only a second before deciding she could tail him the old fashioned way-on foot-without drawing attention to herself. Or, rather, no more attention than a stunning women clad in black leather generally received. The man in front of her was so lost in thought that, even had she actually been a heavy stepper, he wouldn't have heard her. In fact, she could probably even have walked beside him. He was moving along in that quick, worried way people do when they're late and don't want to run but sure as shit don't actually want to get where they're going. Had to be a meeting-and with someone he was afraid of.

Helena hoped the identity of this someone would provide some answers to the recent crime wave in Gotham. An incredibly well-orchestrated wave that was breaking nightly over her head. Every sweep for the past two weeks had been a veritable festival of ass-kicking. And though she'd never thought she'd say it, the amount of ass-kicking one could enjoy actually had a limit. After that limit, ass-kicking just entirely lost its flavor. Two Pop Tarts at a sitting-even four: good. Thirty-seven Pop Tarts at a sitting: bad.

She longed for a few quiet nights where the streets were so boring that she could cut the sweep short, head to the Clocktower and veg out with Barbara-hell, even with the kid. She wondered momentarily whether this meant she was getting old, but this thought was interrupted by another, more pressing concern. The streets had been getting just a little too familiar and as she followed the man toward the building he was undoubtedly headed straight for, Helena felt her heart sink. She gave Oracle the address and began to pray.

* * * * *

Dr. Harleen Quinzel tapped one elegant shoe against the floor as she peered through binoculars at the street below her office building. This one was always late and she was beginning to take it personally. She supposed she really should get rid of him. She considered it for a moment, then sighed very deeply. Killing him would only mean she'd have to replace him. The old, trite saying 'good help is hard to find' was never truer than when you were attempting to wrest complete criminal control of a city.

She continued sweeping the sidewalks through her binoculars. She'd found that binoculars were a good coping mechanism for a person who didn't like to be kept waiting. Once she could actually see the person or car in question, no matter how far away, it made her feel somehow that they were already there. Which was just soothing enough that it had more than once kept her from killing people who'd merely been detained in traffic. She recognized, of course, that this indicated a hint of compulsivity and more than a hint of impulsivity regarding the lateness issue but she didn't hold it against herself.

There. There he was. What a furtive little man. He looked exactly like a rat slinking down the street. She smirked. Honestly. It was almost as if he imagined someone might be following a zero like him. She peered away from him and something suddenly caught her eye. Really, really caught her eye.


She didn't have an appointment today. Or...perhaps....she was otherwise...occupied. The doctor watched long enough to verify that Helena Kyle was indeed following her rat, considered the possible implications of this and found all of them scrumptious.

* * * * *

Please don't let it be her.
Please don't let it be her.
Please don't let it be her.

It was all Helena could think as she left a bit more distance between them as she followed her man into a building she knew very well.



"He's getting on the elevator. Can you tell me what floor?"

<Uh second.>

The news wasn't good. Helena raced up the stairwell. "Holy shit. Please tell me it's possible this could be a coincidence."

<It's possible this could be a coincidence.>

"Ya know, that didn't sound all that sincere."

* * * * *

But, on her end, Barbara actually was sincerely hoping for a coincidence just as fervently as the young woman racing up the stairs. This was all Helena needed. Her partner in crime-fighting didn't trust people easily and rarely let people get to know the private woman-the one who wasn't an abrasive and standoffish wise-ass. Barbara had been more than a little surprised that Helena had continued her therapy appointments after the court-mandated sessions had been completed. She'd concluded that this therapist must be very special indeed if Helena felt comfortable enough with her to share her thoughts, her feelings with her. Barbara closed her eyes, and tried willing it not to be true. Because Helena really didn't need this. At all.

* * * * *

Helena followed the man down the hall, and as he turned the corner, stopped and pressed herself against the wall.

"You're late!" It was a very familiar voice but an unfamiliar tone.

Helena peered out just far enough to confirm the worst. Oh yeah. Her therapist all right. She watched Dr. Quinzel step firmly into the man's personal space.

"Excuse me, sir," Quinzel said brightly. "Precisely whom do I have to kill around here to get some service?"

The man was clearly terrified and didn't answer.

"So! The word is that you're having a bit of trouble picking up a certain little package I asked for. And that's unfortunate, because you're only the latest of the many, many fish I've recently been prevented from frying. Figuratively speaking, of course-I can never find time to cook." She watched the man lick his lips before he spoke.

"I know it can be done, ma'am. Just give me one week and a few more men."
The doctor turned her head in that strange little way that meant she was processing the statement. Helena had seen it a hundred times.

"You know what? You have two days to deliver one armored car complete with contents....with a bow on top."

The man couldn't help himself. "Look-I'll try. I'll do my best. You gotta know,'s just that--" A sudden instinct of self-preservation cut the man's sentence short.

"Excuse me? What?" the doctor asked, smiling-very sweetly, which was somehow scarier, "It's just that what?"

"It's just that just knock over the car and get the stuff and go. It's a lot harder when you have to take the car too. If you see what I mean, it makes the getaway a lot more...conspicuous." He watched her bat her eyelashes at him before she answered.

"I know that. But-hey-call me crazy. Want that armored car. In two days. Got it?

He nodded.

"And considering what a waste of skin you are, I think it very generous of me that I'm allowing you to continue to breathe long enough to try again. Don't you?"

"Yes. I do. Th...thank you. I'll get right on it."

"You do that."

Helena was gone before the man turned the corner. Dr. Quinzel walked slowly around the corner, just catching him with her voice before he entered the elevator.

"Oh, Bernie...?"

He turned, swallowed hard. "Ma'am?"

"I hope you know I wasn't joking about the bow on top. Want that bow."

"Yes, ma'am. Uh....any particular color?"

She shrugged. "Surprise me."

As the doctor watched Bernie disappear behind the elevator doors, she sniffed the air. Ah...yes. Helena had been here. She'd always loved the way her client smelled. So now Helena knew her little secret. But Helena didn't know she knew she knew. Funny, that. And useful. She could scarcely wait.

* * * * *

As she moved from rooftop to rooftop, Helena realized the sudden adrenaline rush of horror at finding out about Dr. Quinzel was not going to just go away. She could feel her extremities going cold at least twenty times on the way to the Clocktower. She felt nauseated, light-headed, even faint. This, she knew, was shock. Beyond the shock, she also knew there were all sorts of emotions-hurt, embarrassment, rage, anguish. But those emotions had to wait. That man had been scared spitless of Dr. Quinzel and if he was taking into account the range of brutal crimes the doctor was probably responsible for, he had reason to be. Quinzel was a dangerous, dangerous woman. A dangerous woman who knew her secrets. Even the Big Secret. And now there was no way around having to tell Barbara that she'd told a criminal sociopath the Big Secret. This thought made her stop in mid-stride and then she threw up, violently-naturally, on the roof.

* * * * *

All Helena had said was, "It was her. Be there in a few." And since then, Barbara had felt her stomach turn over a number of times. She was glad Dinah was at the movies-it was entirely likely this wouldn't be pretty and the fewer people who saw it, the easier it would be for Helena. Her heart skipped a bit as she heard familiar footsteps.

Wow. She'd expected the younger woman to be upset but she hadn't expected her to be so very pale-even her lips were white. Barbara spoke as she moved toward her quickly.

"Sit down and put your head between your knees."

Helena swayed toward a chair with Barbara beside her. But, in a split second, the younger woman had collapsed over Barbara awkwardly, sliding downward before she grabbed her, held her tightly. Barbara frowned, utterly bewildered. Helena had fainted. Fainted-and although she was holding the evidence in her arms, fainting wasn't something she'd ever imagined Helena could do. Not the Helena she knew. She had held her just long enough for that thought before the woman began to come to-and jerked upward when she realized where she was.

"Oh shit...I'm sorry. Did I hurt you?"

More worried about Barbara than herself. Now, that was the Helena she knew. "Of course you didn't. Sit down in that chair and put your head between your knees."

Helena immediately did as she was told, which worried the older woman even more. As Barbara gently stroked the lowered head, she thought she heard a muffled sentence.

"I'm sorry, what?"

"I fainted. Like a girl. Like a little bitch."

" are a girl....and a little bitch."

This earned Barbara a lifted head and a smile, then Helena slumped back into the chair.

"The clinical term is shock, Hel. It happens."

"Doesn't happen to me."

"So now it has. No big deal. I'm just glad I was there to catch you, sweetie."

Helena smiled again. "But you always catch me, don't you? Lucky me."

"No. Lucky me," Barbara said as she leaned forward and cupped the young woman's cheek for a second. Helena felt her heart skip a beat and, for the ten millionth time, wondered how a genius like Barbara could miss the reaction she invariably caused in her. But Helena knew she could miss it-not only could but would. And would the twenty millionth time. And would evidently forever since Barbara was nothing if not dependable.

She winced at the word. Just how dependable was her pending confession going to make her seem to Barbara? She glanced at her briefly. The care and concern for her visible in the other woman's face felt like salt in a wound and she actually had to stifle a groan. Oh well. No time like the present.

Helena had decided on her way over that short and sweet was the order of the day and so, after a deep breath, that's what it was. "I told her everything, Barbara."

"I know...and I'm so sorry."

"No you don't know. I mean...everything, everything."

Barbara let that sink in, managing finally to produce what sounded, to her own ears, like an idiotic croak. "Everything, everything?"

"Yes. And I'm really, really sorry."

Short and sweet.

Selina Kyle had always said that if apologies for truly serious things came with a bunch of excuses attached, they really lost effect. So her daughter didn't bother to make any of the hundred excuses she could think of. She looked Barbara in the eyes and waited for the bombs to drop.

It didn't take long. Barbara looked at Helena's stricken face just long enough to conclude that: A) Helena was not only sorry, she was mortified and B) She was not only mortified, she was mortified enough to faint about it. It took about three seconds. She gave Helena's hand the briefest squeeze.

"It's okay. We'll work it out."

Helena blinked her eyes before replying. Many times. "I'm sorry. What? Did you just say it's okay that I told a criminal psychopath about the...muffin top business?"

"Well, I wouldn't exactly say it's okay. What I mean is-we're okay. Look, I can't begin to imagine how hard this is for you." Barbara hesitated a bit before continuing, "and I want you to know we can talk about whatever other...aspects of what's happened that you want to share with me. Whenever you want to-but only If you want to."

"But, how about the security-"

Barbara quickly interrupted her. "I know. But why don't we discuss the security implications of all this after dinner, huh? And we'll work it out, okay? Don't we always?"

Helena felt the weight of the world slip off her shoulders. She knew she'd have to pick it up again-and soon-but for now she could only feel grateful that she'd have Barbara with her when she did. She drew in a deep breath, released it, then leaned forward and put her hands on the other woman's knees.

"Barbara Gordon, I truly worship the ground you...roll on."

A beautiful smile was the only reply. Behind that smile, the younger woman could see no sign that Barbara understood that Helena meant that literally.

* * * * *

As it so happened, at that very moment, the only person who knew how hopelessly in love she was with Barbara was planning to use that fact against her. And in the most painfully delicious way.

Chapter 2

Dinner had been surprisingly low-key. Dinah had made it home for dessert and had managed not to swallow her spoon when Barbara told her quite casually that not only was Helena's psychotherapist a psycho-therapist, but also an evil criminal mastermind who knew their identities. And that Helena would naturally be staying with them until further notice.

Then she'd simply rolled off to take a quick shower.

The girl waited until she was sure the woman was out of earshot, and then leaned toward Helena. "C'mon, spill. What'd she really say when you told her you'd fucked up like this?" The look this statement got her caused Dinah to back up a few steps before continuing. "Oh right. Like it's not a fuck-up? What would you call it?"

"You know, kid, you're getting really lippy-I'd watch that if I were you."

"Alright, I'm sorry, but c'mon. It's like I'm always missing all the good stuff around here. What'd she say? Did she yell at you?"

"Nope." Helena smiled triumphantly at the teenager. "She just said it was okay and that we'd work it out."

Dinah's mouth literally dropped open. "No way. No...way."

"Way," Helena shrugged dismissively, "Hey-what can I say? When you got it, you got it."

Dinah's face was a mask of utterly aggravated wonder. "You are SUCH a teacher's pet-do you know that? I'd be fish-bait if I did what you did."

"No you wouldn't."

"Oh yes I would and you know it." She jumped up abruptly from the table, took her bowl to the kitchen, feeling really...well...maybe not angry but certainly...aggrieved.

She felt rather than heard Helena walk up behind her and was surprised at the gentleness in the woman's voice.

"Hey, uh...D. Let me ask you something."

Dinah turned and faced Helena.

"As much as I kid you about it-I know you're getting to be sort of a junior adult...and so you've got your own problems and feelings and things and all kinds of crap you're sad or mad or glad about. All in all, a whole bunch of really, really personal shit going on these days, right?"

The girl was a bit mystified by this turn in the conversation. "Well...yeah. I guess so."

"Okay, well...what if you told all that really personal shit to some psycho criminal who'd only just been pretending to want to help you?" Helena moved very close to Dinah, "A criminal psycho you'd really trusted with just about everything? Do you want to know how that feels?"

Helena only held Dinah's hand for a moment but that was all that it really took. The girl had always thought that 'tears springing into a person's eyes' was a turn of phrase so she was quite surprised to find tears falling-instantaneously-from her eyes.


If she'd been feeling even the tiniest part of the guilt, horror and embarrassment Helena was feeling, she'd be on the ground, screaming and barking or something.

It wasn't the first time she'd realized how strong Helena was but it was the first time that she'd realized the depth of fragility beneath that strength. Actually, that touch told her a few other things, too-things that made her stare at the woman as if she'd just met her.

And for the first time, Dinah spontaneously and truly hugged the other woman-feeling sure she wouldn't get punched for it and quite certain that she really needed it. Helena hugged her too. Tightly-ferociously, before breaking away sheepishly, shrugging again. "That's why Barbara didn't yell at me. She knows how I feel. Barbara always knows."

As Dinah watched Helena turn and walk out of the room, she wondered how on Earth the woman could say that...because there was no way in hell Barbara knew Helena was in love with her.

* * * * *

Helena watched as Barbara blew her hair dry, watched her from a comfortable lounging position on Barbara's bed, a bed she had shared with the woman on many a bleak night. She ran her hands lightly over the comforter as she watched. She really dreaded staying in the Clocktower again. In so many ways, it was so much easier to have an apartment to escape to every night. It kept her from creeping into this bed when she or Barbara had bad dreams or were feeling blue, neither of which was all that rare. Bad-asses that they both were, they were both also terribly uneasy sleepers. Not so much afraid of the dark-but afraid of lying alone thinking in the dark. And every one of the nights spent together in that way was torture for Helena, who lay there perfectly still, perfectly awake the entire night, revelling in the closeness, and always saying 'fine-great' when asked how she'd slept, when she was actually facing another terribly sleep-deprived day-and night.

While Barbara, on the other hand, always slept like a happy baby, never seeming to give a second thought to the fact that she quite frequently slept wrapped around another adult who was ostensibly merely a friend. Helena had pondered for years about this astonishing lack of introspection and had finally concluded that Barbara must consider her a sort of littermate-a fellow puppy to keep warm and safe with. And, somehow, despite the finely tuned instincts that told her she was being watched on the streets of Gotham, Barbara hadn't yet noticed that her puppy had morphed into a grown cat-a cat with its eyes fixed entirely on her.

Helena groaned and closed her eyes. Yet another thing she'd shared with the good doctor. In the few hours she'd known about Quinzel, she'd fought recognizing the sheer enormity of the doctor's breach into her existence. She just wasn't ready for it yet.

Quinzel knew so much. So much she'd never told anyone else-not even Barbara. God, especially not Barbara. In fact, she reflected, that was the quasi-irony of the situation. If it just hadn't felt so damned good to finally, finally talk to someone about her feelings for the Barbara, she wouldn't be sitting with Barbara talking about the person she'd talked to about Barbara.


She was jolted from these thoughts by the sound of Barbara shouting above her hair dryer, "Hel, are you listening to me?

"I'm sorry, what?"

Barbara turned the dryer off and approached the bed. "I was asking you your take on the situation. You know her-I don't. She's known about our identities for months-why hasn't she done anything with the information?"

"I don't know. I've been wracking my brain. I'm positive that I'd know if someone had been doing surveillance on us."

"I agree. Let's check her out."

It was truly unlike Barbara to have waited so long to run a facial feature search-unlike her not to have completed it even before Helena's return to the Clocktower from Quinzel's office, much less waiting for hours until after dinner. She wondered momentarily as they moved toward Delphi whether she'd had a moment of prescient reluctance there-perhaps she really didn't want to know. She keyed in the commands and they waited as Dinah joined them. They didn't have to wait very long.


Harley Quinn.

Dinah closed her eyes. Helena groaned. Barbara took a very deep breath before speaking.

"I think that just about eliminates the possibility that she might not try something against us, wouldn't you?"

"Yep." Dinah knew just enough of the history of Gotham crime-fighting to give an immediate response.

"I'll bug her." Helena wanted to focus on action-not emotion-because emotion would overwhelm her. She felt a surge of nauseated self-hatred rise in her throat. Shit, shit, shit. She'd told Barbara's secret to the lover of the man who'd left her paralysed. Way to go, Kyle.

"I don't want you going back there. What if she saw you?" In this respect, at least, Barbara knew exactly how Helena was feeling and knew that she might get reckless trying to set everything right.

"She didn't see me. I'm sure of it. Let me go-you have to. I'll bug her and we'll catch her."

Although Dinah saw only defiance, Barbara saw despair and desperation in Helena's eyes. "Hel, please don't think you have to make everything-"

"Of course I do! It's my goddamned fault we're in this mess. I'll bug the bitch, we'll catch the bitch and it'll be over."

Dinah was smart enough to stay out of the range of fire as Barbara took a full minute to reply.

"When's your next appointment?"


"Alright then. You'll bug her. We have three days to formulate some sort of plan."

Later that night, Barbara was wrapped around a miserable Helena, who lay awake looking at the ceiling, feeling, with the entire length of her body, the other woman's sleep-breath by breath.

* * * * *

At the same moment, Harley Quinn was also in bed looking at her ceiling, deciding exactly what it was she should do. Temptation was...well...such a temptation, after all. Of course she'd known for months about the goings-on in the Clocktower. Hell, she'd known for months that the occupants of said tower were the ones continually confounding her criminal efforts. But she'd been biding her time and rather enjoying the dichotomy. Therapist by day-antagonist by night. Especially enjoyed seeing Helena stroll into the office looking a little tired, a little sore after a long bout of fighting her off all night.


She smirked at the ceiling. My goodness gracious, didn't these crime-fighters come in pretty packages?

It was sad really. All those good times were over. Now that they'd found out who she was, she knew they'd feel honor-bound to act. She considered this a character fault in these do-gooder types-they just couldn't bare to sit on juicy information. Always had to ham-hand their way into things-setting things right, restoring order, triumphing over evil, blah, blah, blah, blah.

Let's see...what would it be...Helena would come to her next appointment. Check. She'd plant a bug in her office. Check. She'd say she couldn't make the next couple of appointments. Check. Then they'd spy for a while to get the goods on her. Check, check, check, blah, blah, blah. Typical do-goodnik predictability.

When Helena had first told her the Secret, she had felt such a surge of amazed hilarity that she was surprised she'd been able to suppress a shriek of laughter. But since then, she hadn't been able to decide what to do. It had to be something really special. She'd looked into their lives, of course, considered offing the blonde or that unprepossessing khaki boyfriend of Gordon's-but those options seemed a bit obvious. It would hurt them, sure, but not in that really gut-level hurt she knew she could inflict if she just used her imagination. And actually-that's all she wanted to do. Really hurt them, not kill them. When she'd done a bit of introspection about why she didn't feel so murderously inclined toward them lately, she could think of only two reasons:

First, if she killed them, taking over the city would be like shooting fish in a barrel, or puppies in a barrel-whatever it was you shot in barrels. Entirely too damned easy. She liked a bit of resistance. Who didn't? And breaking Mr. J. out of prison had lately become less and less of a priority for her. Which brought her to the second reason, which--

She felt a flashgun go off in her mind.

And suddenly she knew exactly she was going to do.

* * * * *

The next morning Helena tried, without success, to disentangle herself from Barbara without waking her.

"Where you going?" Barbara murmured into the young woman's neck, tightening her hold momentarily.

" Can't you hear it calling?"

The C-word was a magic word in their household and Helena, immediately finding herself unceremoniously pushed, swung her exhausted body upright and sat on the bed for a few seconds.

"How'd you sleep?"

Helena turned to reply, "Fine. Great. You?"

"Like a baby."

* * * * *

Friday Afternoon

"I don't need the kid."

"Hel, I really think-"

"What-that I'm such a fuck-up now that I can't plant a bug in the office of an unsuspecting person-an office I've been in a million times?"

Helena knew why she was feeling defensive-she knew Barbara knew, too.

"You know I don't think you're a fuck-up. Helena. But I also know we would do well not to underestimate Harley Quinn."

"I don't mind going," Dinah piped in, wanting to just get this over with. The tension in the Clocktower had been brutal over the past two days.

"I know you don't, kid, and thanks, but I really don't need any help with this." Helena turned back toward Barbara. "Just please...please let me do this myself. It would make me feel a lot better, okay?" She gazed at Barbara with pleading eyes, giving her one of her 'oh isn't this touching-I'm being all vulnerable' looks. It was a sucker-punch and she knew it, but it worked.

"Alright. But you're going on comm.-no debate." She handed her the earring transceivers.

"Fine." Helena accepted them, put them on and smiled.

"If you see or feel any-and I mean any-sign that she knows what you're doing, get the hell out of there."

"Sure. No prob."

Barbara just couldn't let it go. "I mean, look-for example, is that the sort of thing you usually wear to her office? Looks more like Sweep-wear. See-that-that sort of thing could tip her off."

Helena looked down at her clothing. Black leather, black leather, black leather. "Looks pretty normal to me. You need to get grip, Gordon."

"Helena. Please be careful."

Helena, reacting to the real strain in Barbara's voice, did something she almost never did. She leaned over and kissed her on the cheek. "I will. I promise."

She play-punched Dinah and she was gone.

* * * * *

Dr. Quinzel met her at the door in an outfit that was eerily like her own.

The doctor's eyes twinkled as she took this in, "I see you got the memo, too."

Helena smiled as she passed the doctor, felt her follow her into the office.

"Yeah-black leather Friday."

Before they'd even arranged themselves in their seats, Helena had planted her bug.

* * * * *

It was a relatively bland session, obviously, knowing as Helena did, who was listening on the other line. The doctor had let her blather on about work, how busy she'd been lately and had seemed quite content to let her client lead the session.

As they sat and passed the hour, both of them were thinking that, really, this was too easy...

* * * * *

"I'm going to have to miss the next few sessions."

"Oh? The doctor's head tilted lightly to one side. "And why's that?"

"I'm going to be doing a lot more day sweeps with Dinah-so maybe after a couple of months, I'll call back and reschedule."

"That's fine, Helena." The doctor looked at her watch. "Five o'clock already. Where does the day go?"

She smiled quite sweetly at Helena. "You may have noticed that, recently, I always schedule you for the last appointment of the day. You know why?" Her eyes widened as she answered her own question. "because it can only go downhill from you."

The doctor stood, moved toward one wall, pushed a button and a wet bar appeared.

"Would you like a drink? I mean, since you're sort of going away for a while and all. A bon voyage drink, so to speak. I'm having scotch. You?"

<Don't take it Huntress.>

"Could I just have some water?"

"How very low maintenance of you. Of course you can."

Helena watched as the doctor poured the drinks. "I would never have guessed that bar was there."

The doctor smiled, then crossed back to Helena, handing her a glass of water. "I know. You may not believe this but some of my more...trying patients send me right to the bottle."

She covered her mouth momentarily in mock dismay. "Oh dear. Maybe I shouldn't have told you that."

Helena took a tentative sip of her water, then shrugged. "I don't doubt it. Bartending's the same thing-people's problems all night long. I have a few shots to steady myself every once in while, too."

<Excuse yourself and get the hell out of there.>

Helena put her water on the table beside her chair and stood. "Thanks for the water. Gotta get going."

The doctor crossed to her, opened her arms. At Helena's quizzical look, she merely smirked. "Surely heroes need hugs, too."

Helena stepped very lightly into the hug and, although she felt the slight stinging sensation in her back, she found herself powerless to do anything about it.

* * * * *

Harley Quinn quite easily caught the slumping Helena, moved her toward and into a chair. The young woman was unconscious-and quite, quite paralysed.

A fantastic substance, actually. Quinn loved it-producing instantaneous unconsciousness and large-muscle paralysis without compromising autonomic functions. She crossed to her desk, removed a long metallic object, scanned over her client and her chair. A laser beam flash signalled the device's finding the bug. Harley pocketed that. The next laser beams: the transceiver necklace and earrings. Quinn left the necklace in place, removed the earrings and put them on herself.


"No no, my dear Oracle...the doctor is in."

Quinn could almost hear the gears turning...grinding.

<You listen to me, Quinn. If you hurt one hair on her head, I will make it my life mission to find you and when I finish with you, what's left of you will fit in a Ziploc bag.>

The doctor laughed, delighted.

"My God, Oracle, that was butch of you, " the doctor looked fondly at her leather-clad client, "what a fight for the top it must be at your house."

<What do you want?>

"I'll tell you. The Clocktower is surrounded by my men. If you or that cute little blonde trick of yours tries to leave, I will kill Huntress. If you send the police to apprehend those surrounding you, other members of my organization, who are in constant contact with these men, will be alerted. That's called system redundancy, as you know. Now, I repeat, you may think you can sneak out and I won't know, but I will. The reason they call it 'we have you surrounded' is because we have you surrounded. Got it?"

<What do you want?>

"To make you pay-for what you did to my sweet Mr. J."

<I think I have paid more than enough, thank you. He can still walk.>

"Hmmm, that's a point. But if you'll just...sit...tight there for a bit, I'll have my bit of fun and you will have Huntress back safe and sound."

<Is there a point to any of this?>

"Does there have to be?"

Barbara's voice was a low growl,

"Heard you the first time, Oracle. I'm not going to hurt her physically. Promise. Unless of course you try to stop me in the next few hours. If you do that, I'll slit her throat without a second thought. So those are the rules. Non-negotiable. You leave me alone-you get her back unharmed...physically at least. Got it?"

<Got it.>

"Get ready, Bar-oops, no names, right? Wouldn't want to break your precious rules. Get ready, Oracle, I'm about to give you a blow beneath the belt even you're going to feel."

* * * * *

Dinah brought Barbara a glass of water-noticed that Barbara's hand was shaking when she took the glass.

"Just let me try-I'll make sure no one sees me."

"You heard what she said. I'm not going to take that chance. And I can't send the police. You don't know this woman-she could pick her teeth with the policemen, kill Helena at the same time and laugh at us as she did it."


"He's not in the city." The older woman turned to Dinah and saw the girl looked fully as frightened as Barbara felt. "Look-we're just going to have to wait and play the cards as quickly as she deals them." Barbara reached out and squeezed Dinah's hand briefly. "Sometimes it's part of the job."

Barbara turned back to Delphi and Dinah watched her assume the mantle of Oracle, watched her, knowing now that the blood running through her veins was as cold as the ice water she'd just given her.

Chapter 3

Cold...she was so cold. That was all Helena could think as she felt herself floating back to consciousness. Why the hell was she so cold? And what was she just about to...


Her eyes flew open, instantaneously yellow, her instincts telling her to leap into combat-except...she couldn't. She could only pick up the upper part of her body so much. She assessed her situation in a second.

Cold: because she was only wearing her goddamned underwear.

Alone: in a dimly-lit room, which looked almost like a warehouse storing...only her, evidently.

Shackled: to some sort of low-lying, quite large padded table. She looked again-yeah, she'd seen this sort of thing before. They had them at Barbara's rehab places. Enough room for the person being rehabilitated and the person doing the rehabilitation.

Which didn't, she quickly realized, exactly bode well considering the situation.

She jerked against the manacles firmly tightened around her ankles and wrists, looked more closely at those holding her wrists. Some sort of super-light and, obviously super-strong metal alloy. The manacles were padded, though, or she knew she would have already done herself a great deal of damage.

She could feel that her earring transceivers were gone but felt her necklace.

"Oracle? You probably know I can't hear you but just wanted to let you know I'm alive and it looks like I'm alone for the moment in some sort of warehouse and I hope like hell somebody's on the way because this isn't looking good at all."

* * * * *

Barbara jolted upright in her seat. "Huntress!" She and Dinah heard Helena's plea for assistance, then the sound of a metal door sliding open, then closed...then the sound of approaching footsteps.

<Oh look, baby's awake.>

<Let me go, Quinn!>

<My, my. Grouchy, aren't we? Makes me almost believe I wouldn't want to wake up next to you in the morning.>

* * * * *

Helena took in the sight of Harley Quinn and could not repress a shudder. Which was natural enough, she supposed, because the bitch was crazy and she was freezing her ass off. She could just move her upper body enough to rest on her elbows so she did and gestured with a toss of her head toward her lack of clothing.

"If this is what you wanted from me you could've just asked me out for a date."

Quinn smiled and sat next to Helena on the low table.

"Now you know I couldn't do that, dear. Professional ethics and all."

"Great! Well, I know you think I'm really hot and all and I'd have to agree that usually I am but right now I'm if you don't mind--"

"Now, Huntress, I realize that this little show of bravado masks a great deal of fear and anxiety, perfectly natural emotions under the circumstances. You also hope that you can keep me talking until one or both of your cohorts shows up. But that's not going to happen. Let me bring you up to speed. Oh, and look, " Quinn turned her head so Helena could see the transceivers in her ears, "your friends are listening."

"Oracle, get me the fuck out of here!" Helena's voice sounded panic-stricken-even to her. She took a few deep breaths, knowing she needed to pull it together.

<Goddamn you, Quinn. I swear to->

"Shut up, Oracle. This is my show."

"Huntress dear, you'll be pleased to know that Oracle has threatened me with death, dismemberment and is probably even considering having my professional license revoked! So, Oracle, your threats have been duly noted. Now we're going to be moving along to the important stuff."

Quinn spoke so quickly that Helena could barely keep up.

"I don't want and do not intend to kill anyone tonight. However, the Clocktower is surrounded by my men. If anyone-anyone-tries to come rescue you or in any other way interfere, I'll slit your throat. The Clocktower also has an anti-aircraft gun trained right at that precious little clock. You will play my game or I will have them blow the tower, Oracle, Delphi and Dinah right into orbit. And though I hear the Earth looks really pretty from space, I don't think you want them to find that out tonight."

Helena looked at her with such hatred that Quinn drew back. "My goodness, I'm sure nobody's ever lived after getting a look like that from you."

"You won't be the first."

Quinn winked at her. "I wouldn't bet on that if I were you, sugar."

Helena lunged toward her but didn't get far.

"Now none of that. I hate head butts-they hurt so badly. You know, I considered strapping your head to the table so you couldn't do that but then I decided-hey-she hasn't used her head with me yet!"

Helena relaxed back down onto her elbows. "So, what do you want, doc?"

"I want you to get some things off your chest," Quinn looked from Helena's chest to her eyes, "so to speak."

She lay her hand on Helena's stomach and was amused to see the woman twitch.

"You are cold, aren't you? But I'm warm...very warm...I can help you with that."

"Get your fucking hand off of me."

"Let's get something straight-right up front, okay? Do you want me to touch you?"

"Hell no."

"Your 'hell no' has been registered. I believe we can both wrap our minds around the concept that everything I do from this point on is a crime. We're clear on that, got it? So let's just skip the 'don't, no, please stop' stuff, okay? Bores me. Even irritates me. Which is worse, believe me."

Helena sneered at her. "Alright then. Just fuck me and get it over with. You're not the only one bored here."

Quinn laughed heartily. "You are such a bad-ass. Is it wrong that that excites me?"

Helena only stared at her coldly. "I mean it. If this is a game-let's play it and get it over with."

"It's not a game, actually. It's therapeutic intervention on my part. And I'm so glad that Oracle can be here. You two have been needing family counselling for quite a while."

A look of pure terror jumped into Helena's eyes and her voice was instantly humble, pleading.

"If you're doing what I think you're doing, I'm begging...begging you not to."

"Well you see, dear, there's a secret about family secrets. They hurt much more in the keeping than in the telling."

"Stop it. Please, Dr. Quinzel. Please. I'll do anything for you if you just please don't do this."

* * * * *

Barbara had no idea what could be so terrifying that Helena would use a tone that she personally hadn't heard since the woman was a child.



<I think it's time you knew that your Huntress has not only been living a double life-she's been living a triple life.>

"Whatever it is-it's her business. I don't want to hear about it unless she wants to tell me."

<The problem really, really need to know and she will never, never tell you. It's what's been causing all that tension between you. I'm sure you've noticed it over the past few years.>

Despite herself, Barbara's interest was piqued by this. Her relationship with Helena was always good, always affectionate, but there had been a difference in the woman for years-a closing off. There was a wall around her that had not been there in the beginning and through which she never allowed Barbara to penetrate.

Dinah was sitting in a chair with her knees drawn up into her chest, her arms wrapped around the knees, head down.

She knew.

But she didn't want to hear.

* * * * *

"Yes, the fact of the matter is that Helena has been for some time quite passionately and quite unrequitedly in love with a woman whom doctor-client discretion demands I call Madame X."

<Is that right?>

"That's right. And the fact that it's so one-sided and so unfulfilled and so hopeless and so absurd is the reason she's so frequently surly or mean-spirited or excessively violent. In fact, I'd say that, while her mother's death and her father's abandonment have been painful, she's dealt with them fairly well. And they certainly aren't the problem that haunts her every hour of every day."

Helena was lying flat on the table, tears tickling her face, thinking...a thousand things...then only one. She lunged forward again.


"See, Oracle. Now, wouldn't you say this is a problem?"

Quinn got up, swung onto the table and straddled Helena at her waist, pushing her shoulders down with her hands.

"Shhhh, baby, shhhh. Everything's going to be okay."

As Helena was pushed back on the table, she felt Quinn extend herself onto the length of her body, positioning herself above her so that she could control Helena's head by keeping firm handfuls of hair. Helena was both disgusted and amused by the fact that the weight and heat of the woman's body were so oddly comforting.

She shuddered as she felt Quinn kiss her on the cheek, then nuzzle her ear, whispering. "This is how it's going to go. I ask questions. You tell the truth or I blow the Clocktower into the sky like a big fat Roman candle. Got that?"


Quinn pulled back and looked Helena in the eyes. "And you know I know you well enough to tell if you're lying, right?"

Helena stared at the woman, wondered momentarily if that were necessarily true. The woman smiled at her; she knew exactly what she was thinking. Oh yeah, this bitch knew her up one side, down the other.


"Good. I want to talk about your sexual fantasies." Quinn almost laughed at the horror in Helena's eyes. "I mean, surely you have them, don't you?" Quinn pulled the hair lightly. "The truth, remember-the truth."

"Well...of course, doesn't everybody?"

"Yes, everyone does. But I want to talk particularly about your sexual fantasies about Madame X."

"What's this fascination with sex, doc?" Helena forced a chuckle, her brain moving a mile a second, trying to imagine anything she could say to steer this away from where it was going.

"Well...I'll tell you, dear. Sex is the one thing-probably the only thing-you two have never shared, isn't it?

Helena swallowed hard, didn't answer.

"Let me re-phrase that. You two share a life, your work, a home, your thoughts, your feelings, your fears, your hopes, your money, your family, don't you?" She pulled her hair a bit more firmly. "Truth."


"You even sometimes share a bed, don't you?"


"But, unfortunately, she doesn't want you past sharing...oh...virtually every other aspect of her life she can share with another person, is that right?"

"That's right."

"Are you sure?"

"I'm positive."

"And that hurts you, doesn't it?"

Helena didn't answer because she knew she was going to start crying. And act, for the second time this week, like a little girl, a little bitch.

"I'm sorry. Hurt isn't the word I'm looking for. I meant to say-that tortures you, enrages you, and makes you alternately miserable, heartsick, lonely and violently, violently sad. Doesn't it?"

Helena felt Quinn kiss her on the temple. "Doesn't it?"

"Yes," Helena whispered.

Quinn smiled, bent down and spoke straight into the necklace transceiver.

"You copy that, Oracle?"

* * * * *

Dinah had seen Barbara's face happy, sad, angry-any mixture of a million emotions. But she couldn't begin to know what Barbara was feeling at that moment. Her face was utterly impassive, though terribly, terribly pale.

<I said did you copy that?>

"Yes, I copy that." Barbara's voice, sounded for the second time that week, to her own ears, like an idiotic croak. "Please let her go now. Isn't that enough?"

* * * * *

"I don't think so. Not nearly enough. We haven't gotten to the fantasy yet, have we, Huntress."

Quinn looked into the woman's eyes and was vaguely surprised to see nothing there-nothing. No spark, no anger, no sadness. She didn't particularly like that so she pulled a scarf from around her neck and tied it around the other woman's eyes.

"Lights out, dear Huntress. Fantasy's easier in the dark."

"In your fantasies, Huntress, Madame X loves you, isn't that right?"

Helena sighed. It didn't matter. Nothing mattered. Nothing mattered.


"Madame X has held you and comforted you and bound your wounds, fought you and kissed you and...oh...touched you in every way a person can touch another person except one. And in your fantasies, the same hands that have touched you so intimately in so many ways finally, finally become a lover's hands. Is that right?"

Nothing mattered, nothing mattered, nothing mattered.

"Sure. Yes."

"Let's see-something like this..."

And suddenly the weight and the warmth of Quinn's body were gone. Helena wasn't sure what she expected to happen but it certainly wasn't what actually did happen.

She had often been accused of going off all half-cocked during fights, sweeps. What people didn't seem to understand was that her actions were one thing; her mind was another. She could, even had to, keep her mind above the fray. It was a life and death thing. You couldn't get so wrapped up in the moment that you couldn't dissect it-identify-anticipate what might happen next.

She couldn't have anticipated this. She couldn't have expected this woman to touch her so gently, so tenderly, so...lovingly. But she could identify this. This was...exactly...what she thought it would feel like if Barbara touched her. If the person who knew her best in the world, who loved her more than anything or anyone else and whom she loved more than life, touched her-this was exactly what it would be like.

She was so cold and the woman's hands and mouth were so warm that she found herself wanting that touch, wanting it, wanting it, wanting it. And she knew she shouldn't. But this was one of the harder parts of her meta-human existence-once she was aroused, once her blood was up and she was on, it was very, very, very difficult to turn off. And she had little choice in this matter. So when she felt the woman removing her underwear, she found she didn't care. And then the warmth of those hands and that mouth were everywhere and, when she felt the warmth of those hands and that mouth removed from her skin, it was all she could do not to beg for them to be replaced. But she didn't have to beg. This woman knew her very well-as well, indeed-as almost anyone ever had. The love of her life didn't want her. But evidently this woman did.

She knew, after a while, that she was losing track of time, of place-even her name at this point. But she was painfully aware there was someone out there who knew the exact time, her GPS coordinates and her fucking name-so she kept her breathing as even as she could, she made almost no sound at all.

Which was getting harder to manage with the woman so deep and so insistent inside her. She felt the mouth at her ear.

"Getting very, very close, aren't you, darling?" Helena felt a sudden sharper thrust which she knew meant-tell the truth.


"And in your fantasy, what exactly would you say...when...this...happened?" The woman was astonishing, timing her climax to the very end of that question mark.

And, suddenly, it was there, overwhelming her. So she told the truth.


After a few moments, she felt the woman's hand slip from within her, then the scarf was removed from her eyes, leaving her blinking and stupefied in more ways than one. Then she kissed her-which she had not done. A velvet kiss so tender and gentle that Helena was unsure it had happened.

As Helena's eyes regained focus, she realized she was so utterly overwhelmed by what had just transpired that she had no energy left to feel angry or to fight or to do anything but whatever it took to get away from this woman. Now.

Helena watched as Quinn took her necklace transceiver off, the earrings from her own ears and spoke into the transceiver. "Now, Oracle, don't freak out. I'm going to have to muffle the transceivers a bit so Huntress and I can wrap up our session in private. Then she's on her way home."

Quinn pulled up the mat and put all the electronics underneath it. Then sat down again and smiled brightly.

"I think you've made great strides in your therapy today."

She moved closer to Helena-very close, then spoke extraordinarily quickly.

"I want you to know that exploring your relationship with Barbara has made me question some aspects of my own primary relationship with Mr. J. And, of course, I'd planned to do all of this anyway, but last night it occurred to me why. You don't have the unrequited love market cornered, you know."

This seemed to require an answer but Helena only managed, "What?"

"We belong together."

Helena could only stare, blinking her eyes. If the planet Jupiter had dropped into her bowl of cornflakes, she could not have been more surprised. The only thing that startled her more was something she'd never seen in the doctor's eyes: a complete and vulnerable sincerity.

"Now, you probably don't think so but you probably have never considered the fact that we're just flip sides of the same coin. Look at how we live. We give and we give and we give to these people who are so wrapped up in their agendas that they never give us what we need or deserve. What's more important to my Mr. J? Me or Evil? Evil. What's more important to Barbara Gordon? You or Justice? Hello?! Justice. As long as we serve a purpose, we're in. When we don't-we're crying alone in our beds wondering why they just can't seem to love us."

She stopped Helena before she could reply. "And, beside that, we're both people with dark personalities who see the morality landscape in shades of grey. I mean...I know that I'm ostensibly a lot worse than you are but your mentor was Barbara; mine was The Joker."

"Dr. Qu-"

"Call me Quinn."

"Quinn, I understand what you're saying...I think." Helena fished for a way to get out of this, "but I, uh, love Barbara and while I realize you may have ruined my relationship with Barbara forever, I can't just-"

"Tell you what. The offer stands. I know it's a lot to digest post-coitus."

She leaned forward and kissed her. "And I can change-you'll see. I'm really almost sane if I take my anti-psychotic medication." She kissed her again. "Now, if I let you go, will you promise not to kill me?"

"Will you promise to leave Barbara and Dinah alone?"

"Absolutely. I'll call off my boys-the whole bit. They're yours. I won't touch them."

"You won't kill anyone else or have anyone killed?"

"Promise about the murder. But I'll have to step down the crime part-even smokers have nicotine patches."

"Alright, fine." Helena didn't know why she was going to let this woman go. She was too tired to question herself about her motives.

Quinn unshackled her ankles and one wrist. "I want to trust you, but trust takes time. I'll toss you the key from the door-then run like hell."

She gave her one last fond look. "You know, I really am sorry about all this. And I wish it could have been But I'll be in touch. Maybe we can try again. Because if you think I'm good at fucking with your mind, you wouldn't believe..." she merely widened her eyes to finish the sentence before leaving.

And in three minutes Helena was clothed and back on the streets.

* * * * *

She was crossing over roofs on her way to her apartment when she finally checked in.


Helena winced at the palpable anxiety in the reply.

<Huntress!? Are you okay? Where is she?>

"She's gone. And I'm as okay as I can be after a day like today. I'm on my way home. I'll see you tomorrow."

<Please come to the tower. What if->

"She won't hurt you. I promise."

<You can't promise that.>

"Yeah, I can. You know I wouldn't leave you vulnerable if I weren't certain."

<Please come.>

"Why," Helena growled, "do you need a debriefing? Here it is-short and sweet. I fucked up and got fucked. I think that just about covers it, don't you?"

<Please...I need to see you.>

Helena only growled and Barbara knew she was on her way.

* * * * *

When she arrived at the Clocktower, she noticed Dinah studiously avoided her eyes as Barbara moved toward her.

"The kid heard all that, too? Well, that's not just humiliation, it's humiliation with a cherry on top."

She jerked away before Barbara could touch her. "Don't touch me. I think I've been touched just about enough tonight."

She could see Barbara lower her head-unsure what to do, what to say. When she looked up at Helena, there were unshed tears in her eyes, which for some reason Helena couldn't fathom, made her very angry.

"I KNEW I shouldn't have come here."

And angrier.

"What? What? Why are YOU crying? I'll still fight crime for you, honey. No skin off YOUR nose, Barbara. It doesn't CHANGE anything for you. Not really. I'm not asking you to DO anything or SAY anything you don't want to. BECAUSE WE BOTH KNOW YOU DON'T WANT TO, RIGHT?

Barbara was trying but she couldn't seem to cobble together even a word in reply so Helena kept going.

"The only thing that's different now-is that you know how I feel. And if I can handle it, you sure as shit should be able to. And even if I am in love with you, what makes you think that's any of YOUR GODDAMNED BUSINESS?"

And then she had flown back out into the night. And she was crying, which was rare.

And Barbara was crying. Which was even more rare.

Chapter 4


What a difference a day makes
Twenty-four little hours
Brought the sun and the flowers
Where there used to be rain

My yesterday was blue, dear
Today I'm part of you, dear
My lonely nights are through, dear
Since you said you were mine

What a difference a day makes
There's a rainbow before me
Skies above can't be stormy
Since that moment of bliss, that thrilling kiss

It's heaven when you find romance on your menu
What a difference a day makes
And the difference is you

* * * * *

As Harley Quinn relaxed into her bed that evening, she was humming an old, favorite tune.

What a difference a day makes.
Oh boy. And how.

She hadn't really been prepared for just how momentous she would find the events of the day.

But momentous they'd been indeed.

What a beautiful girl. And honestly, despite the drugging, kidnapping, shackles and threats, it was almost possible to think she'd been willing. Her body had certainly felt excited enough. Although, objectively speaking, Quinn could extrapolate that Helena's meta-human body probably reacted to wanting to kill someone (namely her) exactly as if it were sexual desire.

And so what if she'd wanted to kill her? Quinn couldn't actually imagine anyone she was romantically involved with not wanting to kill her. At some point or other.

She leapt up out of her bed, padded to her bathroom, and opened her medicine cabinet.

Ah...her anti-psychotic medication. She hated-hated-it, incredibly unpleasant to take. Terrible side effects and it made her feel like she wasn't herself, not at the top of her game. Which, again, she could see was fairly unstable thinking, if the top of her game was sociopathic killer. She prided herself on being nothing if not objective.

Maybe a trip to Dullsville, Sanity, was in order, though. After all, it might be different this time. She'd never known anyone there she'd wanted to visit before. But now she did. So bottoms up. She swallowed the medicine and returned to her bed.

She hoped that this whatever it was she was feeling for Helena wouldn't be as catastrophic as her relationship with Mr. J. Not that he was entirely out of her mind. He was merely on a slow-simmering back burner. The problem with Mr. J., though, was that he always, always made her see red and feel blue, or green.

Helena, as dark as she was, made her see yellows and oranges. Even, God help her, pinks.


A crush. That's what she had.

She chuckled to herself.

A crush.

Really, how quaint was that?

* * * * *

As Helena crashed into her bed that night, she chuckled mirthlessly. Could one day change her entire world?

Sure it could.

The day hadn't started out all that well and it had ended even worse. And now she'd lost it with Barbara, when the other woman hadn't really deserved it. Adding insult to a fuck-load of injury as far as she was concerned. And she'd thought she'd needed therapy before.

She was surprised, staggered even, to find that she felt astonishingly little anger toward Quinn. No, for some reason or other, she didn't hate the doctor. But she certainly hated herself. And thought, for the umpteenth time in the past hour or so, that Quinn must be right. They must be more alike than she could ever have imagined if she'd been able to get that excited-hell, even actually gotten off on what had happened to her.

It was no wonder Barbara didn't, couldn't, love her. Naturally enough-she was a fucking freak.

She thought for a few moments, got up, reached for her phone, and dialled.

* * * * *

Barbara lay awake in her bed for a very long time.

That bitch. That bitch Harley Quinn. She'd said Barbara would feel it below the belt and she had. The woman had knocked her to the floor with one smack to the intellect. What a super-cyber-genius, she thought bitterly. Could read architectural schematics, ferret out software algorithms, hack into just about any goddamned thing. But couldn't read, couldn't understand the workings of the very simple heart right in front of her.

Perhaps that was it. Maybe she'd been expecting complexity. Because Helena's heart wasn't simple, not by a long shot. Except where she was concerned, evidently. If she entered that little line of code into her brain-Helena's in love with me-she got the answer to everything.

Barbara had the grace to blush when she thought of having shared a bed with Helena the night before, enjoying the woman's warmth and tenderness and the safety she always felt in her arms. And having gotten what she'd needed, she'd just pushed her out of the bed to make coffee. She groaned at the memory. Barbara would never before have described Helena as particularly patient. But now? The young woman had the patience of a saint.

Only a saint would put up with Barbara the way Quinn had described her. Her life, described through Quinn's eyes, told her things about herself she didn't think she was ready to know. Barbara went through the list:

Is it my work or ours? Ours.
My mission or ours? Ours.
My home or ours? Ours.
My money or ours? Ours.
My kid Dinah or ours. Ours.
My life or ours? Ours.

It was no wonder Helena was so surly and distant sometimes. Barbara realized with a thrill of something like horror that, if she looked at the facts of the matter, she was already, and had been for years, in a committed relationship with the young woman. Without, somehow, having heard about it.

But a lifelong romantic relationship? Because she had no delusions on that point-once they were together, there'd be no turning back. No three or seven or twenty year itch or reconsideration.

A relationship with Helena.

To be fair to herself, it had just never occurred to her. It would have been akin to someone saying to her, 'Barbara, have you ever considered spending the rest of your life as an aardvark?' She'd never understood that to be one of her life options. She had nothing against aardvarks or a particular reluctance about aardvark-ness. She just really hadn't considered it a possibility. Except, evidently it was. The aardvark option was wide open, hers for the taking.

So why was she hesitating?

With a burst of what she recognized as selfish petulance, she hated Quinn for thrusting this information upon her, for forcing her to face this. And she hated-hated-Quinn for hurting Helena.

Though it was a bitter thing to realize that she had little room to talk.

* * * * *

Dinah lay awake for a long time, knowing that the next day, and the next, and the next would not be easy. Would be, instead, very, very hard-if not impossible.

And she hated-hated-Harley Quinn for having so disturbed her family.

* * * * *

When Dinah had padded out of her room the next morning, she found a pensive Barbara sitting in front of Delphi. From long experience watching the woman, Dinah could tell she wasn't really looking at, seeing, anything. She didn't even seem to realize Dinah had joined her.

But she had. Dinah had known things would be bad, but she didn't know just how bad until Barbara asked her, quite tentatively. "Do you think we should call her?"

Hoo boy. You're asking me, Dinah thought. You know her better than anyone in the world and, beside that, you're the adult, and you're asking me? What she said, though, was, "maybe we should give her a little time." Barbara nodded as if Dinah had offered her sage advice, rather than that first thing she could think of.

"Yeah, maybe so."

Dinah moved toward the coffeemaker, astonished to find it empty. "Didn't you make...I mean, want some coffee? I'll make."

"Sure, yeah, whatever."

Whatever to coffee. Holy shit. Great. It was going to be a great day.

* * * * *

Helena decided light. That was the ticket. She just had to get through the next 24 hours and she'd be free. Light and breezy-she'd pretend it hadn't even happened. What the fuck else could she do? So she strolled into the Clocktower with a dozen donuts and a smile.

"Hiya, ladies."

She threw the donuts on the kitchen counter, play-punched Dinah and actually kissed a startled Barbara on the cheek before throwing herself into a chair.

"Hey, don't think I've forgotten about babysitting little D tonight."

"You don't have to. I mean, I can, and probably should, cancel."

"No way. You gotta go. And I'll be here to protect our young charge from the forces of darkness, so there's no excuse."

"But, Hel-"

"Look, you can't just ditch the opera. Not after you swore you'd go and I'm sure his highness Prince Wade has already bought the tickets. It's cool. Me and D'll just go to the movies or something."

Dinah joined them with a "I don't need a babysitter."

"Not even a babysitter as hot as I am?" Helena was pleased to see Dinah blush, pleased to make something, anything, normal.

"You're not all that hot."

"Yes I am. And don't think I don't know you think so. Don't even start."

Dinah smiled gently at this. But it wasn't lost on her that Helena wasn't really looking either she or Barbara in the eyes. "Okay, so you're hot. That and about $2.50 will get me coffee at Starbucks."

"Whoa...speaking of coffee." Helena jumped up and moved toward the kitchen.

Barbara looked at Dinah as if an extremely rare bird had flown into their midst, disappeared into the brush, and was soon expected to make another appearance. When Helena emerged with her coffee, Barbara decided she needed to say something.

"Hel, do you think maybe it might be a good idea to take some-"

"Time off?" Helena beat her to it handily. "Yeah, sure do. I called Nightwing last night-he'll get in tomorrow. Thought I'd take about a month off."

"You called Nightwing? Yourself?"

"Yeah. I can dial a phone, B. No reason to stroke out."

"What'd you say?"

"That I'd fucked up royally, he'd be happy to hear, and that you needed him to protect New Gotham and the Wayne family bacon since I was too utterly fucked up to be of any use to anyone."

"That's not true. And you know I don't think that."

"That's very kind of you, I'm sure."

"But, Helena, a month?

"It wouldn't be safe for me to be out there right now-not for me and not for anybody who might piss me off. I...need some time, Barbara." This was the closest reference yet to the elephant in the room.

"What about your job?"

"Oh, I'll be working. I'll be in town. So if you guys really need me, you can just call."

Barbara digested this, knowing, naturally, that this wasn't about the job, the sweeps, at all.

"So, actually, you're saying you need to take some time away from-", she was going to, wanted to, but knew she shouldn't, say 'me.' So she amended it, gesturing at the room, "all of this."

"Yep, that's right. But I'll be back fat and sassy in a few weeks. Ready to kick ass, take names."

Light. Light and breezy.

"Okay, sweetie, if that's what you need."

"Wanna get the donuts, kid?"

Dinah knew when she was being shooed and she nearly fled the room.

As Dinah disappeared, Helena knelt beside Barbara's chair and looked up at her. "Sorry about last night. Really."

"You have nothing to apologize for, but if it helps, I accept. And I'm sorry, too. For everything." Neither she nor Helena wanted to consider exactly what she might be apologizing for.

Barbara hesitated, offered, "After breakfast, would you like to talk?"

Helena smiled at the other woman's nervousness but cursed herself as she couldn't help but hope. "Nope...not unless you have something really world-shaking to say to me."

Barbara swallowed hard, dismayed. She just wasn't ready for world-shaking. Not yet. "No, nothing like that."

Helena smiled again, tightly. "Then no. I'd prefer not to talk. But thanks for the offer."

This was still said so kindly that Barbara felt she needed to rise to the occasion. "I hope that, no matter limitations are...I hope you know how much I love you, Helena."

Helena winced at the 'limitation' bit but was able to say truthfully, "Oh yeah. I know you do. And, as has been recently and so charmingly exposed to you, I love you, too...desperately." She cursed herself for having added that last word, knowing what would happen.

Yep. She could feel the intensity between them thicken exponentially. And saw that Barbara was instantly almost panic-stricken.

So she stood up and grinned, hastened to make the most serious thing in her life a joke. "By the way, did I ever tell you that you're the wind beneath my wings?"

Barbara smiled and followed Helena toward the kitchen with, "did I ever tell you you're my hero?"

* * * * *

Later that evening, Barbara wondered that her male company, the wondrous spectacle and-hell-the sheer volume of the opera, did so little to dint her concentration. A month without her. They'd never been apart for a month.

* * * * *

Helena and Dinah had taken the Humvee to go to the movies. Helena hadn't wanted to run into Wade and nobody'd blamed her. They'd enjoyed the movie and even had dinner without remotely broaching the topic at the top of their minds.

When they returned to the Clocktower, they both decided to sit outside and look at the skyline. Once there, silence had overcome them for about half an hour.

"Helena, uh...." Dinah hesitated, then plowed on, "I know I'm a little young to know what's going on but I know you can't talk to Barbara about it....and that particular therapist of yours is probably shot at this point..."

"Gee, ya think?" Helena's laugh was a short bark. "Thanks kid, but I'm fine." She thought for a second before adding, "But I'm sorry you had to hear all that."

"Not nearly as sorry as I am you went through it."

They sat there for a while in a companionable silence, which Dinah broke.

"You know, when my mom left me with my stepparents, I sat there for days, waiting for her to come back. Wondering what I'd done-wondering why she didn't love me. And, for days, my stepparents kept pushing, pushing, pushing food in front of me. But I didn't want to eat, I didn't feel like eating. I felt like dying. But the days kept going by and going by and then one day my stepmother put a milkshake in front of me."

Dinah paused so long that Helena interjected, "So yeah? Did you drink it?"

Dinah continued ruefully. "Sure did and you know what? It was the best fucking milkshake I've ever had, before or since."

Helena smiled. "I bet. Though I guess I should say watch that mouth, junior."

"And you know what else?"

Helena had no idea what was prompting this trip down memory lane but she was willing to go anywhere that took attention off of her.


"Years later, when my powers started showing, my stepfather would sometimes knock me around a little, then my stepmother would throw me in a dark closet and lock me in for hours to teach me better non-meta manners."

"Yeah, you've told us that. That really sucks."

"And every time, I'd sit there in the dark being so hurt and sad and so mad that I swore I'd never, ever speak to either of them again. But, every time they'd let me out, a few days would go by and every time, eventually, my stepmother would pull me onto her lap and hug me and kiss me. Tell me I was her special, pretty girl. And you know what?"


"Even though I wanted to hate her, I was always glad she did it and it always made me feel better. For a really long time, though, I hated myself for being so weak that I'd make up with the people who were battering me for the price of a little hug or a kiss."

"Why are you telling me this?"

Dinah paused for a long moment, then said, "I just wanted to tell you that sometimes...our bodies want and need things our minds tell us we shouldn't." She watched Helena's jaw twitch. "And even if we...enjoy these things, sometimes we just can't help it. It's nothing to be ashamed of."

Helena sat with this uncomfortable information just long enough for Dinah to wonder whether she might ought to get out of fist range. Long enough for Helena to realize how amazingly kindly and how very tactfully the girl had broached one hell of a subject, a subject it was sad she knew anything about.

Which was long enough that Dinah started when she saw Helena reach toward her.

"If I touch you, will you stay the fuck out of my head?"


Dinah was surprised to feel Helena move closer, put her arm around her shoulder. Then she rested her head against hers. "I'm sorry that shit happened to you, kid."

"Yeah. Me too. Sorry about you, too."

" know, sometimes I'm really glad Barbara brought you home from the pound."

They sat for a very long time, together, silently looking out at the sky.

Which was how Barbara found them when she returned. She didn't immediately disturb them and felt a pang of, not jealousy, but tremendous sadness as she looked at them, knowing as she did that she was not at this time, and could not be, a source of comfort for the woman she loved so dearly.

When she announced her presence, Helena jumped up as if scalded.

"Hey, you're back! How was Cats?"

"The opera was lovely, thank you. How was the movie."

"Great, thanks, but I gotta get going."

"Why don't you stay for some coffee?"

"Love to, but my vacation's a'callin'."


Helena barely touched Barbara's shoulder as she passed her, calling over her shoulder loudly "Call me if you guys get into anything you can't handle." Then louder, as they heard her retreating through their home, "thanks for everything, kid. See you guys in a few weeks."

And she was gone.

Dinah glimpsed at Barbara, who looked suddenly and entirely deflated, desolate.

Oh, yeah. Things were going to get worse before they got better.

Chapter 5

Almost there.

As Dick Grayson drove through the streets of New Gotham, he looked at them with an affection that only someone who loved them enough to fight and sweat and bleed for them could. And, no mistake, he loved this city. Loved it to death, if need be. He wondered briefly whether this was some ineffably innate factor of his existence, or just another legacy Bruce had passed on to him and Barbara. Probably a mixture of the two: a bit of nature, dash of nurture.

Barbara. He gunned the accelerator a bit. He wanted to be there already. He'd always known Helena would one day let Barbara down in a big way, just as he'd always known he'd be there to pick up the pieces. He'd always expected it, though he'd always expected to get the big call from Barbara.

Because it hadn't been at all like little sis to call him, even more unlike her to ask for a favor. After he'd picked his jaw up off of the floor, he'd stifled his glee as she'd rather humbly asked him whether he'd clean up some nebulous fuck-up of hers. Please. The 'please' part had been downright surreal. But of course he'd help. The city, and Barbara, deserved the very best. And without Bruce around, that was...well...him.

* * * * *

He breezed into the Clocktower with a smile and a bunch of flowers, finding the women occupied in their usual Sunday afternoon ways. Barbara was sitting in front of Delphi; Dinah was reading, sitting in a chair behind her.

Barbara accepted the flowers with a slight smile, "Hello, Dick. Thanks for coming."

Dick was immediately taken aback by the fact that five words could say so much. Because, although Dick Grayson would have readily admitted he wasn't the sharpest tool in the shed where identifying emotional undercurrents was concerned, he would have to have been an idiot not to know something was very wrong.

Dinah jumped forward.

"Dinah." He flashed his 1000-watt smile at her, receiving only a wincing grin in return as she took the flowers, "Hi Dick-Barbara, I'll put these in some water for you."

"Thank you, Dinah. Could you make another pot of coffee?"

Dinah called over her shoulder as she left the room, "Will do."

Barbara honored him with the thinnest smile he'd ever seen and then turned back to Delphi.

"I'm glad you made the drive down on such a pretty day. It's really good of you to come on such short notice."

"My pleasure." He leaned against her desk, then paused, trying to read the situation before asking, "Okay, let's hear it. What's she done now?"

"She? Helena? She hasn't done anything. She's taking a vacation. I'm grateful that you're willing to fill in."

"That's not what she told me. She told me she'd fucked something up."

"She was exaggerating-as usual," Barbara followed this with an evasive chuckle, 'But you know how she is. Everything's fine."

So this was how it was going to be, Dick thought. As usual, Barbara was going to defend her little baby Jesus. A growl stuck in his throat. It was maddening.

"Oh, okay, so you mean Ms. Responsible decides on a Friday night to take a month-a month-off starting Sunday. But for no reason, right? When's the last time you or I took a month off, huh? Ever? It's a damned good thing I'm available, isn't it?" He let this sink in before adding, "It's stuff like this that makes me think I need to move back to New Gotham."

Barbara wanted to steer toward safer waters. "Oh really? Well, that sounds great. We'd be glad to have you back on the team."

But Dick wouldn't let her, laughed derisively. "Team? That's a joke. She's not a team player."

"You don't know what you're talking about."

"Really? Okay. So where's your star player right now, coach?"

Dinah had chosen to come into the room at this point and wheeled right back around and headed out again when she heard Barbara's reply.

"What do you want me to say Dick? What? That I'll be happy if you move back into town? I will. And I'll enjoy working with you again. But that doesn't change the fact that Helena is my partner. She has been and will be. If you have no appreciation for what she's done and been for me in all the years since-", she smacked the sides of her wheelchair, "then you're less intelligent and a hell of a lot less of a friend than I thought you were."

To his credit, Dick thought before he spoke because it really wasn't like Barbara to snap at him. Things must be a lot more serious than he'd guessed. He spoke more gently this time. "Babs, what's going on? Is there something wrong with Helena?" Acting slightly concerned about Huntress, he was irritated to see, did the trick. Something in her eyes changed from defensiveness and anger into sadness.

"On Friday afternoon, she was kidnapped by Harley Quinn. Drugged, kidnapped, shackled and assaulted while Dinah and I listened."

He was as stunned as if he'd heard something like that had happened to Batman. He didn't necessarily like his sister but he had a very healthy respect for her talents. "Oh my God. I don't know what to-is she okay?"

"Physically, she's fine. But, as I'm sure you know, super-heroes find the whole forced helplessness thing even more degrading than civilians do."

"Yeah. Sure. But how? Harley Quinn's dangerous but I never would have imagined she could get the drop on somebody like-"

Barbara turned away from him to look at Delphi as she continued their conversation. Dick couldn't immediately decide whether this was a distancing action on her part or just typical Barbara, always on the job. "Harley Quinn has an alter ego, Dr. Harleen Quinzel. Dr. Quinzel was Helena's psychotherapist."

Dick could only offer a low, astonished whistle at this announcement.

"And Helena trusted her enough to tell her...everything."

He could barely believe this, "Everything, everything?"

Barbara suppressed a grin. "That's what I said when she told me. Yes, everything."

"So that's the fuck-up she's talking about, huh?"

"Pretty much."

"One hell of a security breach, too."


"And she's chosen this time to take off?" His tone was neutral but the criticism was implied.

"Yes, which I believe shows remarkable maturity. She could have stayed here and gone out every night too distracted, angry and volatile to be on the streets. But she chose to call you instead and arrange for the Clocktower and the city's safety while she gets her head together." She turned from Delphi to look into his eyes. "C'mon, Dick, you must understand how difficult it was for her to call you and ask for help."

He thought about this for a moment and had to acknowledge she was right. He would have to have had one leg in a bear-trap and the other in a bear's mouth to call Helena for help.

* * * * *

At 2:30 the same afternoon, Helena hated to admit, but had to, that she was hammered. Although she was usually able to drink an aircraft carrier's worth of sailors under the table, she didn't usually start drinking at 6:30 in the morning. On an empty stomach, to boot, she felt her stomach tell her. She briefly considered ordering Chinese take-out but decided against it since she'd actually have to interact with another human being or two in order to get it.

She'd decided on Friday night that at least one full day of drinking was in order after Quinn's little theatrical exercise. And it was more than in order thinking about Dick-fucking-Grayson at the Clocktower doing her job. Smiling his shiny white smile at Barbara and Dinah and flexing his goddamned muscles all over the place. The outstanding All-American, upright, perfect nose to the grindstone, broad shoulder to the wheel motherfucker she wanted to hate but couldn't, since he'd saved Barbara's life on many an occasion, since he genuinely loved Barbara. And who could blame him for that?

She felt tears sting her eyes, which she knew meant she wasn't just hammered, she was Hammered. She generally cut people off and called the taxis when the maudlin tears started falling. She suddenly remembered a long conversation she'd had with one of her favorite drunks on a slow night at the bar. He'd asked her if she knew that some psychologists considered turning to alcohol a low-level reaching out for God, a desire for an experience of the divine. She could see that, sort of. And sometimes she wished she felt more certain about God.

Her mother had been murdered in front of her, Barbara had been paralysed and her father had fled the city on one eventful day. But the God she hated for allowing those things to happen had also been benevolent enough to give her Barbara for the rest of her life. Which was no inconsiderable gift when she thought about it. Barbara had been the perfect person to care for her and absolutely the perfect person to care for.

She smiled faintly. It almost evened the scales between them as far as she was concerned. So she raised a bottle to the Big Man in the sky.

Bottoms up.

* * * * *

Two Weeks Later

Barbara cast a quick glance at Dinah, who was playing chess with Dick as Barbara did a pre-sweep scan of Delphi.

The past two weeks had been, without exception, the dullest crime-weeks in New Gotham during Barbara's experience. She and Dick had agreed, with Dinah a far less experienced third 'aye,' the past fortnight's crime-watch had been like watching paint dry.

They'd had only a brief, 'hello, I'm okay' email from Helena once each week since she'd left, which left Barbara much more discomfited than she wanted to admit to herself. She'd been astonished at how urgently, on a minute-to-minute basis, she'd wanted to call her, connect, hear her voice.

She'd emailed Helena once, hoping to draw her out about the lack of criminal activity-hoping for some, any response. What she'd received was less than encouraging, even vaguely anxiety-inducing. She'd written, 'B: Told you she'd leave us alone. She said so and I believed her. Glad you're getting a break. All else okay. H.'

She wondered (desperately, she realized) how Helena might be able to make such an assertion. In all actuality, though, she knew for some reason she truly didn't want to think about it too much.

* * * * *

As Dinah sat playing chess with the, well, let's face it, eminently studly Dick Grayson, she thought for the thousandth time how A.) Handsome and nice he was, and B.) That despite this, how weird it was to know he and Barbara had ever slept with each other and C.) How strange it was that Barbara persisted in her relationship with Wade despite Dick's presence.

And, she thought with no little amount of grim disappointment, despite how Helena felt about her. She didn't like feeling disappointed and even a bit angry with Barbara because these feelings made incongruous bed-partners with the awe, respect and love she felt for the older woman.

Geez Louise, as her stepmother might have said, adults could certainly be difficult. She made a mental note to herself to try not to be so utterly fucking clueless in whatever romantic relationships she might face in the future. Not that her relationships had been necessarily clear-cut, mind you. Sure, it was taking a lot of time, but she was wrapping her mind around forgiving her stepparents and their well-meaning but bigoted limitations. She'd gotten to the point that it was easier to forgive her mom for abandoning her and look back with love on the brief relationship they'd had. And she knew, and knew Helena knew, that whatever their outward appearances, they loved each other dearly-though it might take decades to admit it. And Barbara, she loved quite easily and openly.

So what the hell was wrong with the rest of her family? And why? Since it was bound to happen eventually, why not just sleep together and get it over with? Get everything back to normal but happier? Honestly.

She sighed deeply, then smiled and took Dick's king.

* * * * *

Dick, even more than Dinah, had been startled by how determined Barbara had seemed to introduce Wade into their daily existence. He was willing to concede that, since he was still playing busy bachelor-about-town, he had no right to judge but...Wade? Nice guy and all but she could do better. Because really, as far as he was concerned, no one was good enough for Barbara.

Except maybe him.

Or even someone like...


Aw man.

* * * * *

Barbara didn't have any idea why she was suddenly and so insistently injecting Wade into her home life. Well, then again, maybe she did but didn't want to think about it. Not that she'd originally had any choice in the matter. Once Alfred had forced her to come clean to Wade about the reality of the muffin-top business, Barbara had had to let him in more than she might have liked to. But, having let him in, she'd realized he was just pleasant and smart and...regular enough that she'd enjoyed it after all.

Which saved her from having to spend every night in bed with Dick. Not that that would necessarily have been a hardship, beauty and loving long-time friend that he was. It was just that Dick, obtuse as he sometimes could be, would have known how distant and unreal everything seemed to her right now. Dick would have known she was there, but not really there, in their couplings. Poor Wade had no idea.

Poor Wade.

* * * * *

Poor Wade, indeed. God, how he'd enjoyed finally knowing the real Barbara, knowing more about this amazing woman's true life-her work in the Clocktower. He'd even enjoyed getting to know Dinah better, though Helena was another matter. She was entirely too...something. She made him deeply uncomfortable and he didn't really know why.

But he sure as hell knew why Dick Grayson made him uncomfortable. Handsome millionaire super-hero. Cock-sure (in every possible sense of the term) long-time friend and erstwhile lover of Barbara. How was he supposed to compete with him? Even Dinah looked at him with pity. Though for some reason, he wasn't sure Dinah's look was about Dick. And for some reason he wasn't remotely as jealous of this guy as he was of Helena. Which was weird when you thought about it. Or...was it? He thought about that for another few seconds.


Aw, man.

* * * * *

Two weeks in, Helena had arranged to take the next week away from the bar.

And her last night was a deadly slow shift, except for an unexpected tsunami of customers who'd come in just about 10:00.

As she'd filled their orders, she'd felt the hair on the back of her neck stand up. They'd suddenly dispersed and she saw why. One of her more obnoxious drunks, Barry, was hitting on...what to call her? Dr. Quinzel? Harley? Quinn? She sauntered down to their location at her bar.

"C'mon baby, don't be shy. I'll buy you a drink." This wasn't the question it should have been; it was a statement.

This received a very cool "No thank you."

"Aww, c'mon. A pretty lady like you needs company and I'm your man," he slurred confidently as he grabbed Quinn's arm with one enormous hand.

She batted her eyelashes at him winningly. "Want to know where that hand of yours could be later?"

He gave her a bleary-eyed leer, "I sure do."

"Bobbing in a jar of formaldehyde on my mantelpiece."

"Whoa!" Helena moved in quickly, "Hey Barry, leave her alone."

"Ah, c'mon, Hel, I'm doin' great."

"Nope, don't think you are. And I'm telling you, I'd rather fuck with Caligula or Joe Stalin than this lady."

Quinn smiled brightly at Helena and purred, "Sweet-talker."

Helena ignored this and continued with Barry. "Get lost," she said with real fervour, 'and count yourself lucky, buddy, that she doesn't unleash the hounds of hell on you."

Barry wasn't so drunk that he couldn't see Helena was serious and, because she was his favorite bartender by far, he decided to move on to more willing game. As they watched him stagger away, Helena poured two fingers of scotch in a glass and slid it toward Quinn.

"Since I bum-rushed your date, I'll buy you a drink. How 'bout that?"

"Thank you. And how nice of you to remember my drink of choice."

"Comes with the job, Dr. Quin-"

"Please call me Quinn. Everyone I care about does."

"Alright, Quinn."

Helena had known she'd encounter the woman again-it was just a matter of time. She'd said she'd be in touch and Helena had had no doubt in the world that she would.

Quinn smiled again as she took a sip of her drink. "I hear, as I'm sure you've heard, that New Gotham's been particularly quiet these days."

"Yep. But I'm not exactly in the loop. I've been taking a few weeks off."

"Not on my account, I hope."

Helena poured herself a quick shot and slugged it down, job be damned.

"Well, not entirely on your account."

"Oh? Do tell. How is the sainted Barbara? Did you two talk?"

Helena smiled ruefully, "Of course not."

"My God, you two are fanatics."

"You think so? In what sense?"

"In the sense you're both fanatically averse to confronting what's biting both of you on the ass. Even to the point of neurosis, in my professional opinion." She turned her head slightly to one side and winked, "Which I'm sure you value more than ever these days."

"Oh, you betcha."

"At least, " she paused for effect, "I know for a fact that it isn't the crime-fighting that's keeping you apart."

"Uh huh, though I hope you're not telling me this dip in crime means that you've been responsible for nearly all of the crime in New Gotham."

"Even I wouldn't be so bold. But I am telling you that not only have I turned over a substantial new leaf, I've had certain associates of mine...repress other criminal elements as well."

"And why would you do that?"

"I told you. Because I've grown quite fond of you."

Helena didn't know quite how to reply to this so she didn't.

"I must say you look particularly fetching tonight, Helena. Lovely outfit."

Helena gave herself a quick glance, couldn't help but approve herself, but merely said "Thanks."

"Yes...yet another one of your many, many 'I know you want to fuck me but you can't' ensembles. By the way, I don't think I've ever told you how entirely I approve of the intentionality of your clothing choices. And I say that advisedly, being something of a clothes-horse myself."

At this, Helena couldn't help but laugh. And she remembered with some alarm and discomfort that she actually liked this woman. Or, she reminded herself quickly, had liked her before...

"Let's cut to the chase, shall we? Have you considered my offer?"

Actually, Helena was almost too embarrassed to admit to herself, she had-at a very distant, almost dreamlike distance.

But she looked her in the eye. "Yeah, I did. Honestly. But sorry, I'm still holding out for my girl."

"Ah yes. Barbara. Ms. Right." Quinn swallowed this with the rest of her scotch.

"Yeah. Ms. Right. Sorry."

Helena watched as Quinn gave her the once over twice.

" dear...I know I'm not Ms. Right...but how about Ms. Right Now?"

Helena felt adrenaline rush through her and was surprised to realize that this was, for some reason, exactly what she wanted-though what she wanted exactly wasn't quite within her purview at the moment.

"Alright. Though I'm not sure you're ready to take what I'm giving."

"Why don't you try me? Your place or mine?"

"My place sort of sucks but if you're thinking freezing warehouse on a rehab table, you're out of your mind."

"Now that's not nice-you're talking to a girl who's been taking her anti-psychotic meds religiously lately."

Helena laughed, "Yeah? And how's that treating you?"

She was chagrined to see Quinn's face fall, that real emotion could come so quickly to the woman's eyes.

"Oh, let's see. Drowsiness, dizziness, indigestion, migraines, lethargy and feeling all in all like I'm going to hell in a hand-basket and don't even know myself. How's that sound?"

"Like shit, actually."

"So that's how it's treating me, thanks."

They didn't speak for a moment, then Quinn broke the silence.

"I've taken the penthouse at the New Gotham Plaza. Want to join me?"

"Sounds like a plan."

* * * * *

Three Hours Later

Helena raised one languid hand to scratch her temple as she felt Quinn get out of bed.

"I'm getting some water. Want some?"

"No thanks."

She watched the naked woman disappear into the darkened-what? The drawing room or something, for fuck's sake, of this enormous penthouse suite.

As soon as she tried to relax into the bed, she found that she was too mortified to do so. She'd known before, of course, that she'd been angry with the other woman for what she'd put her through. But Helena hadn't thought herself capable of the brutality she'd just shown Quinn. Sure she liked to kick ass and, sure, sex was fun a little rough sometimes. But this had been vicious and, she had to confess, payback. As she'd fucked her, holding back none of her meta-human strength, she'd thought to herself, 'she deserves this, this is what she gets for..."

For what?

Hurting her feelings? Sure. Hurting her? Because she hadn't.

Though she knew it wasn't necessarily p.c. to think so, she'd come to consider what Quinn had done to her as just like taking another kind of beating from someone else. Helena's body was her medium-that's what she used with the forces of darkness. So sometimes strange shit happens. Right? Then again, maybe not. She clapped her hands over her eyes. She didn't know what the fuck to think.

No matter what, though, she couldn't reconcile what she'd just done to the other woman with any forgivable human behavior. No matter how much she might deserve it.

She got up and padded out into the other room to face what she'd done.

* * * * *

Quinn placed a few cubes of ice in a glass, added water and drank deeply. Filled the glass again and drained it. Dry mouth-yet another delightful side effect of her meds.

So this was what civilian life was like, she chuckled to herself. Not all that different from her criminal life.

Because this wasn't the first time, by far, that she'd been punish-fucked. And she'd even enjoyed it, idiot that she knew she was. It was a bit startling to realize that someone as small as the girl in the next room could be as sadistic as her Mr. J. But there it was-strange things sometimes came in small packages.

* * * * *

She didn't hear Helena's silent approach. Even in the darkened room, Helena was aghast at the sight of the other woman. Quinn looked, to her horrified but experienced eyes, as if she'd just fought-unsuccessfully-a couple of thugs. She knew too well the signs of the bruises to come. And they were everywhere, her neck, her arms, her thighs. She winced. And after the thugs had gotten through with her, the poor thing had clearly tangled briefly with a bobcat. Which explained the scratches all over the woman's thin back.

Holy shit. Usually she didn't mind feeling like an animal.

But this?

She moved with a little more sound so she wouldn't alarm Quinn and was freshly horrified to see the woman flinch at her touch-ready for more pain.

She took the glass from Quinn's hand and finished the water. "C'mon, baby, I'll make it better." She gently lifted Quinn into her arms and carried her into the bathroom-which was of Neronian splendor.

She placed Quinn on the side of the enormous tub and began to run the bath. She looked around a bit. Yep, this joint had everything, she thought, as she added some bath salts to the water. "Be right back."

Helena grabbed her bag from the other room and returned to the bath. She took a small kit from her bag-which was actually a rather deluxe first aid kit that Barbara forced upon her. She smiled as she looked at a thing she'd never had reason to use since Barbara always took care of her.

"This'll sting a bit."

She quickly cleaned the scratches on Quinn's back. And from Quinn's flinching, she could tell that it did sting, though the woman made no sound. Which was sort of scary, or sad, non-stop commenter that Quinn usually was.

"This'll be cold."

She watched the woman flinch again as she sprayed a small aerosol can, "This is Second Skin-it'll form a semi-permeable layer over the scratches. Lets air in but not water or germs. Keep everything sterile 'til it heals."


The bath was full enough, she decided.

She turned the water off, got into the bath then pulled Quinn gently in with her, seating her in the O she'd formed with her legs.

And when she kissed Quinn again, she knew that this was going to be a first in her life. God knows she was no virgin. She'd had sex. But she'd never, she saw with a flash of true clarity, never made love with anyone in her life.

She'd always assumed Barbara would be the first. Evidently not.

* * * * *

When she awoke the next morning, she looked at the clock and found she'd slept into the afternoon. And since getting gone was generally her first priority after any sexual encounter, this was fairly startling news.

Did she smell coffee?

* * * * *

Yes. Quinn was seated at a table reading the New Gotham Times, drinking coffee, eating a bagel.

Helena kissed her on the neck. "Good morning."

"Good afternoon. I thought the smell of food would wake you up." She didn't look up from her paper, but waved her hand at the many dishes and carafes on the table. "Didn't know what you'd want so I ordered a lot."

As Helena poured herself a cup of coffee and helped herself to a hell of a lot of food, she felt Quinn's eyes on her so she looked at her and smiled.

"I thought I'd pre-empt your anxiety, Helena, by telling you that I know this can't happen again."

Helena found that she felt more embarrassed by this than she should be.

"No. It can't. I'm sorry."

Quinn shrugged. "No problem. Worse things happen at sea."

"What the hell does that mean?"

"Navy saying." She laughed at the look on Helena's face. "What? You don't think I've known sailors?" She turned back to her paper and they ate in silence for a few minutes.

"You're going about it all wrong, you know."

Helena looked up. "What? What do you mean?"

Quinn kept her eyes on the paper as she spoke. "This avoidance behavior of yours. I bet you never stick around, have dinner, watch TV with Barbara and all these Dicks and Wades, do you?"

"Nope. Never do."

"If you took the time to think about it, you'd realize disappearing every time Dick or Wade enter the room never gives Barbara the opportunity to make the obvious comparisons between you three."

Quinn put her paper down and ran one hand through Helena's hair. "And they'd suffer in comparison, believe me."

Helena leaned forward and kissed her. "I don't know whether I should take advice from you about women...considering your pick-up style."

Quinn kissed her on each cheek, then her nose, before taking another sip of coffee.

"Worked with you, didn't it?

Helena smirked. "Yeah, but Barbara's not the freak we are."

Quinn's laugh was short and sharp. "Two words. BAT. GIRL. She used to dress up as a bat, Helena. She's probably twice as freaky as both of us put together."

Helena sipped her coffee and thought about that. "You know, all I can say in response to that is yum."

Quinn turned back to her paper. "When you finish your food, we'll go take a shower. That way, when you go back to the Clocktower, which you're doing today, goddamnit, you'll look freshly laundered rather than freshly fucked."

"Oh? Is that what I look?"

"Uh huh."

* * * * *

Later, at the door, feeling both newly laundered and fucked, Helena hesitated for a beat. "If I hug you, you won't paralyse me again, will you?"

"Nope. Fresh out of that particular drug."

She hugged her gently, then kissed her for what she knew would be the last time.

"Thanks for everything, Doc."

"My pleasure," she purred in reply. "Believe me."

Helena's face became serious. "What are you going to do now?"

"As long as you'll keep Barbara from killing me, I think I'll go back into private practice. Maybe a little moonlighting on the side."

"No killing."

"Scout's Honor. Now get out of here and go get that girl. Shoo-we'll see each other again. Promise."

She laughed at Helena's look of slight disbelief. "Believe me. We're too much alike not to run into each other...sometime or other, somewhere." A sharp little laugh and smirk followed these words. And a few moments later, as she strolled out into a beautiful day, remembering that smirk made the hair stand up on Helena's neck.

Though she really couldn't put her finger on why.

* * * * *

No guts, no glory. No guts, no glory. No guts, no glory. Helena chanted this to herself as she moved through the night.

She'd chosen dinnertime to stroll into the very full Clocktower with a loud "Honey, I'm home!"

A very startled Barbara, Dinah, Dick and Wade looked up from the table where they were all tucking into some of Alfred's cooking. Great, Helena thought, the whole fucking Brady family. She got all of her greetings out of the way jovially and quickly.

Clapped Wade on the back. "Hiya Wade. How ya doin', man?"

Whacked Dick on the back: "Big bro! Long time, no see!"

Play-punched Dinah, then kissed her on the cheek. "Hiya kid."

Which brought her to Barbara. A radiant Barbara, a Barbara who was manifestly very, very happy to see her. "Hi beautiful, didja miss me?" She hugged her tightly and as she pulled out of the hug, she pecked her very lightly, very casually on the lips before kneeling beside her chair and looking up at her.

Although Barbara was blushing furiously, it wasn't lost on Helena that she was still smiling.

It wasn't lost on Dick that the woman had never-ever-been as happy to see him, except maybe a few times when she thought he was dead.

It wasn't lost on Wade that he now knew what Barbara looked like in love, just in case he was wondering.

None of this was lost on Dinah, who was surprised yet again by the typhoon of emotions this relatively small woman could so effortlessly evoke.

She snorted, chuckled to herself. Way to go, Kyle, she thought. Way to go.

Chapter 6

Wade, stalwart man that he was, hadn't given up the ghost immediately.

Sure, all right, okay, Dick was still ensconced in a guest room of the Clocktower.

And Helena, 'Baby Jesus' as he'd heard Dick growlingly call her one evening, was still omnipresent. He'd hoped against hope, idiot that he knew he was, that he was wrong. It had taken only one evening, though, to find out.

* * * * *

Helena had suggested movies and Thai at the Clocktower on the next Friday afternoon.


So they'd all-Barbara, Helena, Dinah, Dick and Wade-enjoyed a tremendous helping of Thai food before they'd popped in the first DVD.

Action. Of course. Because Helena had picked the movies. As soon as the first movie had come to an end, though, Helena had said. "Don't know about you guys, but I want more popcorn."

Barbara countered with a "Don't know about you guys, but I'm taking a bathroom break."

Helena had jumped up and had very casually asked Barbara, "Need a lift?" And Barbara had said, "Sure, thanks." Which was world-shaking, actually. Barbara never let anyone help her, carry her. Ever. Anywhere.

Helena hadn't hesitated, had picked the older woman up very gently and matter-of-factly, and placed her in her chair, before asking, "Anybody need refills?"


Hell no. The other three were not only the accepted assistance but by the soft, sweet look this assistance had won Helena.

After the two women left the room, the three remaining spectators sat in silence for a few beats before Wade asked Dick, "She ever let you pick her up like that?" Dick was on the same wavelength as Wade...and Dinah, for that matter. "Nah, man."

Dinah tried to salvage the moment with, "Well, you guys know...uh...she's used to Helena helping her from back when..." The sentence died as both men looked at her-a look that said her explanation was just as lame as it sounded to her own ears. Oh well, she thought, she'd tried.

* * * * *

A few minutes later, as they'd rejoined the others, the three were informed yet again by the casual way Helena placed Barbara gently on the couch beside Wade that they were, and always would be, outsiders at a party for two.

* * * * *

After the movies, Dick and Dinah looked Helena's way before going out on their sweep.

"Hell no, still on vacation, thanks. I'm staying home and relaxing with the kids. Feel free to call us, though, if you get into trouble." After an hour and a half, Delphi alerted them to a silent alarm going off in a department store. Five minutes later, Barbara and Wade heard a rather nervous-sounding announcement from Nightwing.

<Holy batshit, Oracle! There are about...uh...15-20 guys with machetes. Do ya think Huntr-->


Wade could scarcely believe the speed with which Helena had disappeared. And they'd listened to the flurry of activity that followed, Barbara realized, with even more anxiety than she would have if the men had been armed with guns. Because guns were, well, sort of normal. Machetes though? Weird.

* * * * *

When Helena joined Nightwing and Canary, she was astonished to see a shitload of guys wearing hokey martial artsy costumes and swinging, whoa-he hadn't been lying-machetes. Machetes, for God's sake.

She got their attention with a "What the fuck are you guys? A gardening gang?" As she'd swung into action, she quickly found that kicking an ass being protected by a whirling blade was a pain in the ass.

In the ensuing fight, any semblance of martial arts training the men possessed quickly disappeared as they became tired and scared. They started to swing their blades like baseball bats.

Helena heard a startled yelp from Dinah and saw that she'd slipped and fallen. She abruptly abandoned the three men she was fighting to assist her, since about ten of the guys immediately jumped to attack the fallen girl. After wading into that melee, she soon remembered a little fighting tenet of hers "Leave no ass kicking before its time." What brought this home to her was the sting of a blade cutting her arm. And again. And her leg. Make that legs. Her back. Again. And again. It was only her meta-human reflexes that allowed her to react enough to keep the blows from being fatal.

After Dinah had scrambled up and Nightwing rushed in, she'd felt the sting of another blow as she whirled around, looked down at her tattered clothes and body, then charged the three men, shouting. "Do you have any (punch) idea (punch) how (kick) much (kick) I loved (throttle) this outfit?"

The outrage committed against her fashion was going to make cleaning up the rest of the guys not only a duty but a pleasure.

* * * * *

Barbara and Wade then listened to about ten minutes of tremendous swearing from Huntress and Nightwing, punctuated by an occasional high-pitched 'Fuck!' from Dinah. A low whistle followed hearing the last man go down and Nightwing said <Oracle, Huntress is cut up pretty badly. We'll be right there.>

As they'd walked in, Barbara and Wade were stunned by the sight of an incredibly bloody Helena accompanied by two apparently untouched companions. Even her hair had suffered in the attack-looking now as if she'd used blood as a hair gel.

"Take off your clothes. Now."

"God, I love it when you say that." Helena's truly mischievous grin was met by an exasperated blush from Barbara."

"Now, Huntress."

"Uh oh, still in Oracle mode, I see."

Helena plopped down in a chair and took off her boots. As she began unbuttoning her leather pants, she noticed the slightly averted eyes of the men in the room. "Hey, I don't think I took any hits in the ass so don't turn away on my account."

After undressing to her underwear, the extent of her injuries was startling. The cuts, the wounds, were everywhere.

Which scared Barbara. And which, idiotically enough, made Barbara furious.

"See? See Helena! This is what vacations do! You lose your edge. You get slop-"

Dick started to say something that was interrupted by Helena.

"Uh, NO!" Helena barked, "Dinah slipped and about a hundred of them turned on her. Consequently, I didn't exactly have the time to kick the asses I was working on as thoroughly as I wanted. I wasn't sloppy, I was just-" she stopped, thought about this for a beat. "Okay, well maybe I was a little sloppy. I think the idea of our lovely young ward becoming deli meat freaked me out just enough that I didn't care if I protected myself." She turned to Dinah, "Nothing against you, though, D. Anybody can slip. You kicked major ass."

As everyone watched Dinah grow visibly taller under the weight of that compliment, Barbara's anger disappeared just as quickly as it had appeared. Over-protectiveness was not something she could exactly fault anyone else for. She moved closer, "I understand...let's talk about it later. Stand up."

Dinah, Dick and Wade watched as she slowly went over Helena's body like an experienced groom inspecting a well-loved racehorse. Gently but firmly tracing each limb, the muscles of Helena's back, her stomach. The two women were remarkably unselfconscious about it all-it was as if the other three weren't even in the room.

"Head." Helena leaned over for this order and Barbara ran her fingers quite thoroughly over the woman's scalp. "I don't see anything up here-why's your hair bloody?"

"After the fight I was trying to touch it up a bit with my hands-then I sort of realized my hands were bloody."

Barbara tousled her hair before letting her stand up. "I think you're going to live but you're going to need stitches in about twelve of those, sweetie."

Helena yawned, suddenly feeling that low that sometimes followed the high of combat. "Alright, boss. I'll take a quick shower and you can get to work. Make a night of it."

Barbara's voice was peeved but her gaze was incredibly fond. " kind of night. Me, you and the suture kit." She shook her head and smiled up at Helena. "You know, sometimes I just don't know what I'm going to do with you."

* * * * *

We do, everyone else in the room thought at once. It was obvious. Glaringly obvious, actually, to Dinah, Dick and Wade exactly what Barbara would eventually be doing with Helena.


* * * * *

Later, after showering and donning a fresh sports bra and a pair of boxers Helena had purchased in her 2.5 minute modesty phase during high school, they'd all retired to the workout room so that she could lie on the massage table for Barbara's better access. Barbara began by injecting anesthetic into each wound in preparation for suturing.



"OUCH! Barbara! Dinah? Are you two lau-don't you DARE laugh at me."

"I'm sorry, Hel, it's just that," Barbara countered, injecting her again...


Dinah dissolved into mirth, utterly unmoved by Helena's glare. Even Dick and Wade looked a little amused.

"What I was going to say is that it's just that it's a little incongruous..." she made another injection.


"-Big bad Huntress and her little bitty shots," Barbara finished.

Helena could hear a slight whine in her voice, which wasn't necessarily attractive-but hey, there it was. "Little bitty my ASS. What the fuck's incongruous about that? The shots hurt worse than the stitches-they sure as shit hurt worse than the cuts."

Barbara was willing to concede this point and she felt sorry, but just a little, for laughing at the other woman's pain. "I know, sweetheart, I'm sorry."

The soothing voice and calling her 'sweetheart' seemed to make up-instantly-for the laughter, and Helena took a towel and bit down on it for the rest of the shot ordeal.

After ten of these shots, Wade's face began to change. Helena noticed it first and she took the towel out of her mouth.

"Hey, Wade, you'd better sit down, dude. You're looking a little green around the gills."

I'll say, Wade thought, deciding a manly retreat was in order.

"Thanks but you know what? I should probably beat it. I don't have much of a history with the sight of blood and I'd really like not to faint and look like even more of a wuss than I probably do to you guys already."

"I don't think you're a wuss." Wade found it difficult to believe Helena had said this with a straight face.

Dick shrugged. "Me neither man." And Dick? Nightwing Dick? Wow.

"Nah, no wuss." Even little Dinah, who could kick his ass with one hand. Now that was sweet.

Barbara turned her gorgeous eyes to him and smiled. "You're not us, Wade-and nobody here expects you to be. I'm absolutely positive you're just as brave and capable as the next civilian."

"That's nice of you guys to say-really-but I'd better go or you'll be treating me next." He kissed Barbara on the cheek and nodded at everyone else. "Glad you're okay, Helena. Call you tomorrow, Babs."

* * * * *

As Wade drove home, he thought with no little regret how sad it was that he was going to have to break up with Barbara. Insanely beautiful, charming, intelligent woman that she was.

It was just that, hell, it was time. It was getting a little embarrassing for him to be hanging around with a woman who was in love with someone else. Even if she hadn't seemed to notice yet. He'd been waiting around long enough-willing to take what he could get-not only because, let's face it, she was a babe, but because he was just enough of a guy to get a real thrill out of watching superheroes and vigilante justice.

But at least, he reflected, in the grand scheme of things, even though he could never tell anyone, he'd always know that he'd slept with Batgirl.

Him. Boring-ass teacher Wade. And Batgirl. HOO-AH!

He laughed aloud at the sheer wonder of it and, nice guy that he truly was, in his heart he honestly wished them well-all of them.

* * * * *

After about an hour of suturing, Dinah and Dick looked, and were, bored.

"How long do you think this'll take, Babs?"

Barbara didn't even look up. "Another hour."

"I'm thinking maybe me and the Canary will go back to the sweep."

"That's fine, Dick-I can hear Delphi from here."

"Great. We'll be back in a couple of hours."

As Dinah trotted off happily after him, Helena scowled. "She never looks that happy going out with me."

"Probably because Dick calls her Canary or Dinah, not kid. That and he is pretty easy on the eyes, you know."

Helena's scowl deepened. "Don't remind me."

Barbara laughed gently, pulling yet another wound shut. "You have no reason to be jealous of Dick. That's ancient history."

She worked in silence for a few minutes before Helena asked, "Can I stay here tonight-on the couch, I mean?"

"It's your home, Hel, and if you want, you can sleep with me in my room." She looked up briefly. "Nothing's changed in that regard."

Helena laughed. "Wow. Two great sentences in one night. 'Take off your clothes now' and 'you can sleep with me.'"

It was Barbara's turn to scowl-which she did at Helena's wound, because suddenly she didn't feel equal to meeting the other woman's eyes.

A full 45 minutes of silence went by before Helena girded up the courage to ask softly, "Hey Barbara?"


"Have you even thought about it at all?"

Barbara cleared her throat. "It?"


The length of silence after this was positively excruciating. And if Helena hadn't been attached by a thread, literally, she probably would have fled.

Barbara didn't look up from her work but she did finally reply. "I've thought of very little else for weeks."


"And I don't know, Helena." She grinned sheepishly. "I always thought you were the one with commitment issues...but maybe it's me."

Helena considered this. What could she possibly say to that?

Barbara finally looked up, looked Helena over as if surveying her work, and then sighed. "You know, sometimes I almost hate you."

At the surge of pain Barbara saw in Helena's eyes, she quickly added, "Only because you've been treated like ground round tonight and you still absolutely gorgeous."

The younger woman's eyes became softer. "And just think, all of this could be yours."

Barbara immediately turned back to her suturing. "That's what I'm afraid of actually."

"You're afraid?"

Something about Helena's wound was suddenly particularly interesting.



"You're afraid?"

"Of course I am. Or maybe you wouldn't know. Maybe love doesn't scare you"

"Of course it scares me." Helena took a deep breath and waved at her wounds, the suture kit. "Are we finished here?"


"Good. Can we finish this discussion in bed?" Helena laughed at the alarm in Barbara's eyes. "I'm tired."

"Oh...uh...of course."

* * * * *

So they'd continued the conversation in bed.

Helena had put on one of Barbara's New Gotham High t-shirts and was amused to find Barbara had chosen the equivalent of a suit of armor, given her usual taste in nightwear. She was wearing a long-sleeved pajama pants and top and was sitting propped up rather rigidly with three pillows behind her back.

"Is it the whole 'woman thing'?"

"Woman thing?"

"Yeah, I mean you have noticed I'm a woman, right? The breasts are a dead giveaway-well, that and the fact nobody calls me a cross-dresser when I wear a skirt."

"No, that's not a problem-strangely enough, no-not at all."

Helena looked down at the comforter, "so...I guess you're basically saying you don't love me that way, huh? That it?"

"No! That's not the-look Hel, the problem is that you're-" Barbara didn't quite know how the English language was escaping her, "I mean, you know you're-" she stopped in mid-sentence.

"I'm what?"

"You're the most important relationship, person...thing in my life. I mean...if we ruined it, I truly don't know what I would do."

"I don't understand. How would completing our relationship ruin it?"

"But that's just it. I'd have you, this-" Barbara waved her hand vaguely at Helena's body before looking away, "perfect, complete wonder and you'd have...half a person."

Helena used her hand to lift Barbara's chin so she could see her eyes. "Oh no. Not just the half of you, baby. I'd want the full meal deal." She tried to play off her desperate sincerity with a saucy waggle of her eyebrows.

Barbara blushed before a look of true embarrassment flooded her face. "My point exactly, Helena. Why would you want me? I mean, for example, even if you did...that...I wouldn't feel it."

"Oh?" Helena snorted. "You don't think you'd feel it?"

There were unshed tears and the raw pain of experience in those green eyes. "I know I wouldn't."

Helena thought for exactly one minute. No guts no glory, no guts no glory. No guts no glory.

"Barbara, would you mind if we tried a short experiment?" If it had been an appropriate time to laugh-Helena would have laughed aloud at the sudden anxiety in the other woman's eyes.

"Ten minutes. Rules are I'm going to touch you exactly once and you can't touch me at all."

Barbara hesitated.



Boy, Helena thought, Barbara sure had a talent for making a two-syllable word seem like a paragraph.

With one easy movement, she was straddling the older woman at waist level but, Barbara noted quickly, no, she wasn't actually touching her. Just sort of hovering over her.

For a moment Helena looked at her with such adoration that she thought she would cry. She watched the woman move closer and closer. If she'd been touching her, she would have been stroking one cheek with own, would have been kissing her...neck. She could feel Helena's breath on her neck, wondered vaguely how the warmth of the other woman's skin could seem like it was burning her when it wasn't touching her.

She also reassured herself that, biologically speaking, it was impossible for her head just to explode, though that's how it felt.

Her lips were so close to hers-she was embarrassed to feel disappointed when Helena sat back a bit to look at her. Still not touching her. Then...she would have been touching her face, running her hands over her neck and her shoulders, her collarbones, up and down the length of her arms. She would have been if she'd been touching her-but she wasn't. Surely it was impossible that she wasn't touching her. She wondered if this was some meta-human oddity-the surreal warmth of these hands, hands that weren't touching her.

All rational thought disappeared as she watched Helena's hands not touching the swell of her breasts, not touching her nipples. Helena would be kissing her breasts if she were actually kissing her, kissing her stomach, running her hands down the sides of her body.

"Time for your one touch, Ms. Gordon." She stifled a groan as she watched Helena rise slightly, as she watched Helena gently open her legs enough that Helena could sit between them.

"Now watch this."

Barbara almost laughed. As if there were anything, on planet Earth, more worth watching the woman who was now running her hands over the lengths of her legs, over her knees, over her hip bones, not touching her, but so close and then...even Helena gasped a little as her hands ran up the inside of the woman's thighs and then...

As Helena began to reposition herself, she spoke but she didn't look up at Barbara as she did so.

"You see, Barbara, the woman who loves you," she moved downward, then upward-she would have been kissing her way up Barbara's legs if she'd been touching her, "lies awake every night longing for you...starving for you. She's been dying to taste you, to smell you, to...lose herself in you."

And she would have been kissing her sex, would have, indeed been rubbing her chin, each cheek on her, in her. Barbara gasped as she watched the woman's bangs actually touch her there-the only touch there was.

"And after the woman who loves you has bathed in your sights and smells and tastes," Helena continued murmuring, "she'll want to push her tongue inside you...again and again, until she needs more."

Helena propped herself on one elbow and pushed her other hand down, down. Barbara was slightly embarrassed to hear herself groan as she watched that hand disappear into her boxer shorts. Helena gasped as she touched herself, saw Barbara's hands clutch the comforter.

She continued, "And she'll need more because she needs to have more inside you-she needs to be surrounded by you because it means everything to her to be so close to you. You're so wet...and so hot...and so tight...and she slides one, and then two and then three fingers inside you."

"And then," Helena, her eyes now their feral meta-human yellow, was looking Barbara right in her eyes. "she fucks you and fucks you...and fucks you."

Although Barbara had never been particularly fond of that word in the bedroom, she had to admit it gained a staggering amount of value and allure if you were watching Helena Kyle fuck herself while poised over your body.

As she watched this, she felt a hell of a number of things, one of which she was surprised to realize was tenderness. For this beautiful woman she loved so much, who was so unashamedly pleasuring herself in front of her.

Helena's eyes pinned her with her gaze, never left hers, and as she saw her getting closer and closer to a climax, she felt that she was right there with her, breathing at the same rate-she knew she was just as flushed as Helena. Was it even possible, Barbara thought suddenly, wildly, to have a mental orgasm?

She found out in ten seconds.

Yes, it was. It wasn't physical, actually she couldn't possibly define what it was that swept over her as she heard Helena's voice "Oh...oh... yes...Barbara, Barbara, Barbara." She only knew she was gasping for air just as much as her...lover.

She watched, swallowed hard, as Helena slowly pulled her hand from her shorts and wiped her hand on her face before licking her fingers with a salacious grin. She climbed toward the head of the bed and leaned in to whisper in Barbara's ear.

Barbara could feel the heat shimmering off that body, smell the other woman's arousal as Helena whispered, "Didja feel that, baby?"

Helena leaned back, her eyes again their ravishing blue, and looked an astonished Barbara in the eyes, who shook her head and cleared her throat before rasping out, "Helena, I think people in China felt that."

Helena chuckled. "Gee whiz, huh? We just made love and we didn't even touch each other." She pulled Barbara's pajama top up just far enough that she could actually straddle her where she could feel it. She watched Barbara's eyes widen impossibly as she felt the warm, damp cloth of Helena's shorts lower onto her skin. "By the way, just so you know " Helena cupped Barbara's cheek, "even if you had never been injured, I would always have wanted to make love to that beautiful mind of yours just as much as the rest of your body."

She leaned forward and kissed her gently before adding, "Barbara Gordon, you are the love of my life. If you'll just let me love you, I'll spend the rest of that life making certain, injury be damned, that you feel it."

Barbara looked at her with something like bewilderment for a few beats. "That almost sounded like a proposal."

"Well...yeah, I guess so. Of sorts. I mean, if I could make it legal, I wouldn't hesitate."

Helena felt the rather short silence that followed was about two years long. Just as she began to wish she'd never been born-

"Alright. Yes."


"I said yes."

Helena couldn't believe her ears-began to second-guess herself. She sounded embarrassed, anxious when she spoke "But...I mean...this isn't just 'cause I'm really cute and wear cool clothes and I'm an ass-kicker extraordinaire and 'cause now you're suspecting I'd be really phenomenal in bed, is it?"

Barbara laughed, then leaned forward and kissed Helena. "No, it's because I love you. You make me feel like a whole make me a whole person."

As she hugged her tightly, "I hope you understand, though, that I'll, uh, have to break up with Wade, obviously, before anything else happens."

"Can we say cell phone?"

She felt Barbara chuckle. "No, the old-fashioned, respectful way. In person."


"Oh, and on one other condition."

Helena pulled away to look at her. "Name it, darlin'."

Barbara turned her head to the side. "" She grinned. "I like that-a lot."

Helena smiled at her. "I said name it, darlin'"

"I'd really like for you to do that...little show for me again sometime."

"Say the word and I'll do it for you right this minute."

Barbara laughed. "I don't think I could take it...the top of my head would fly off."

They both started a bit as they heard Dinah call from the next room, "We're baaaack."

* * * * *

Dick and Dinah heard a muffled response from Barbara's room, "We'll be right out!"

In a few moments, they watched as a surprisingly rosy Helena was followed into the room by a pajama clad Barbara. "You guys wanna watch that last movie?"

"Sure, Hel." Dinah touched Helena on the shoulder, "How ya feel--?"

Hoo boy.

She knew how she was feeling after the flash of vision this touch produced. She looked, wide-eyed from Helena to Barbara, who had the grace to blush furiously.

Dick noticed the change in the room, asked Dinah, "What? What's up?"

"Nothing," Dinah squeaked. "Let's watch that movie."

Barbara beat a quick retreat, "I'll make popcorn. Could you help me, Dick?"

"Uh, sure."

Helena and Dinah watched them leave the room and the woman turned on the girl. "Damnit, kid. You REALLY need to get a handle on that power."

"I know. And I'm really sorry." But she just stared, continued to stare at Helena.

"So?" Helena, growled. "What? You got something to say about it?"

"No-it's totally cool. I'm happy for both of you. It's just that I'm really, really...impressed is all. I mean, wow-when you take things into your own hands, you really-"

This sentence was lost as Dinah yelped, bolted and ran from the room, laughing her ass off, Helena in hot pursuit.

But Helena was laughing too.

Chapter 7

One Week Later...

Dick and Dinah sat before an immense spread Alfred had prepared as 'Dick's going away' brunch, waiting for Barbara and Helena to appear from Barbara's bedroom.

Scratch that. From their bedroom.

Sipping coffee, they heard the faint sound of laughter from that bedroom. Dick grinned at Dinah. "Sorry to leave you alone with the honeymooners..."

* * * * *

And a honeymoon, so far, it had been. Since the day Barbara had broken up with Wade, everyone in the Clocktower, Helena included, was astounded to find that Barbara could keep neither her eyes nor her hands off her younger lover. If they were in the same room, Barbara was continuously petting over her as if she might never get the chance again.

Not that Helena was complaining, mind you. Plus, she was now constantly wearing what looked to Dinah and Dick like a particularly irritating version of the dazed expression of a new 'Clearinghouse Sweepstakes' winner.

* * * * *

Dinah shrugged, "It's okay. I guess after all this time, they deserve to be a little giddy."

"Don't get me wrong...I agree-it's just that hanging out with a new couple can be tough."

"Well...yeah, " Dinah answered, smiling. As she looked at Dick, she wondered whether every teenaged life was like hers.

Crushes, crushes everywhere:
An 'Isn't she amazing!' crush on her mentor, Barbara;
An "Isn't she hot!' crush on Helena;
A 'She sure is...something...'crush on Gabby;
And a brand new 'Isn't it nice to be taken so seriously?' crush on Dick.

Because he did take her seriously. He never acted as though he thought she wasn't up to their work. He helped her, showed her stuff, trusted her with his life on sweeps. Not that Helena didn't-and God knows she loved Helena. It was just that Dick always went to the effort of really trying to make her feel his equal.

The result was, Dinah understood, a tremendous crush she knew was pointless, since she was so young and Dick was an honorable man.

They both turned as they heard a door open, watched as two immensely self-satisfied women emerged from their lair. Helena continued to look as blissful as Dinah or Dick had ever seen her. Barbara looked as if she might at any moment levitate from her chair.

"Sorry to keep you waiting."

"No prob, Babs, we both know you have new...priorities. " Dick smirked at Dinah.

Barbara smiled ruefully at him, "No new priorities, Dick, it's just that-"

Helena interrupted here, "It's just that neither of us are used to-" and here she, too, was stuck for the remainder of an explanation. "Wow, look at all this food-let's eat!"

Dick watched with affection as Barbara tucked into her brunch. God, how he loved the woman. He realized his antipathy toward Helena had receded to the point where it was virtually non-existent. His sister truly seemed to have been able to help Barbara reach a part of herself that was still able to bloom and, for that, he esteemed, even loved her.

He raised his glass, "Well, ladies, I hate to be leaving you today us."

"To us," the three answered.

* * * * *

It was nearing time to go. Barbara pulled Dick aside to speak. "Thanks again for coming on such short notice...and for staying." She blushed, suddenly. "And...for understanding."

Dick knelt beside her chair. "My pleasure, Babs. Always." He paused, then asked, "Is it what you though it'd be?"

Barbara knew what he was asking but didn't quite know what she would say before replying, "It' much more, Dick. She's...every possible color of...every idea about love I've ever had."

He smiled, kissed Barbara on her cheek and stood. "I'm happy for you, then."

As she'd seen him toward the door, he'd waved goodbye to the other two women, wished them well. As he was about to disappear into the elevator, Dinah interjected, "I'll walk you out!"

So she had. When they'd reached Dick's car, Dick paused and said, "It's nice to know that now I'll have one more reason to visit New Gotham-you." Dinah was certain she was turning purple but she mustered a smile.

And then he hugged her.

And with that hug she knew, immediately (naturally), if she were willing to wait about five years until she was a real grownup, Barbara and Helena might not be the only Mentor-Youth combo in the Clocktower. She smiled as she watched him drive away. Well, well. Sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander.

* * * * *

Three Months Later...

Barbara groaned as she woke up. Not only because she didn't feel Helena lying beside her but because it was her birthday. And she was fairly certain, from the vague goings-on around school, that something perhaps...atrociously special...was going to be intermingled with the school dance she was scheduled to chaperone this very night...

She toyed with the idea of calling out sick but knew that would be somewhat...ah, hell, entirely suspect given her coworkers' understanding of how much she hated to be made a spectacle of.

As she pulled herself upright, the bedroom door opened, with Helena and Dinah behind it. Helena placed a breakfast tray next to her. Breakfast, and a vase with a dozen roses in it.

First thing's first. Barbara took a sip of coffee before Helena drawled, "Happy birthday, darlin'. We come bearing breakfast."

"Oh yeah? Is Alfred here?"

Dinah interjected, "We cooked it ourselves, thank you very much!"

"Oh my God! You cooked for me!? You shouldn't have-I mean, that's so much more dangerous than your nightly swee-"

They ignored her, "And we come bearing gifts..."

So they had.

The first was from Dinah. As Barbara opened it, she gasped, thinking...Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass...first this must have co-

"That was D's idea."

"But how in the world-"

"Your second gift..." Helena sat beside her in the bed, nearly fainting from nervousness. Short and sweet, she thought to herself, as she bit her lip uncertainly.

Short and sweet.

Nodding toward Dinah, she said, "Since we already have a family, thought I should give it to you in front of the kid..." she placed a small box in Barbara's hand and knelt by the bedside.

Barbara hesitated only briefly before opening the box. She smiled beatifically in the few moments it took for her to adjust to the...size of the offering.

An astonishingly green princess-cut diamond in what looked to be a platinum setting.

"Helena, how on Earth-"

"Daddy's money has to come in handy for something. I figure I can pay him back over the next 96 years or so." She paused, then added, "Just wanted people to know you're taken, that's all."

"Well, by God, this'll show 'em," Barbara said as she slipped the ring onto her finger.

"The color's...uh...for your eyes." Was that a blush?

As Barbara pulled Helena over to kiss her, she found, that yes, it was. "It's perfect-just like you-and I love it. And you. And you," she added to Dinah.

* * * * *

Barbara was smiling, though she was groaning inside.

It hadn't taken 15 minutes in the teacher's lounge before people were already celebrating her birthday. She tried to keep her ring-hand out of view, hoping against hope she wouldn't have to explain this on top of the festivities.

After opening the numerous sweet and thoughtful presents, she'd come to Wade's. He blushed a bit, then said. "I bought it about four months ago..."

What was lost on the rest of the teachers, since Barbara had insisted on keeping their relationship discreet, was that he was saying it had been purchased a month before their breakup.

He looked a bit nervous-unsure whether it should be opened in front of the others or not and thought he might need to explain away the subject, so he lied. "I know how you...uh, collect...stuff about the history of New Gotham, just thought that you might like this..."

She opened the package and found a breathtakingly framed past edition of the Gotham Gazette. The front-page picture was a remarkable and romantically blurry candid photo of a costumed woman caught unaware, poised against the skyline of their city, with the headline, 'WHO IS BATGIRL?'

It was...amazingly beautiful. And, with a tremendous, almost electric jolt, Barbara felt tears spring into her eyes, realizing all at once the immensity of all she had lost-and gained-since then.

Wade swallowed hard, knelt beside her. "Hope you like it."

Barbara touched the figure in the picture, kissed Wade on the cheek, hugged him and whispered in his ear. "It's perfect. Thank you, honey."

Sara Beckett, their new and never shy math teacher, jumped in. "Good lord, Wade, why Batgirl?"

He smiled as he stood. "I just remembered a discussion Barbara and I had about her one day-wondering, " he chuckled, "wouldn't it be funny if she were teaching right here at New Gotham High?"

Everyone, including Barbara and Wade, laughed at this. How absurd!

As Barbara again traced the figure in the photo, someone squealed, "OhmyGod! Barbara Gordon, are you engaged!?"

Barbara looked momentarily like an aardvark caught in headlights. Wade, the closest person to her, looked at her ring and smiled. "Wow! Sorta like your eyes, isn't it?" He made another guess, "Hel?"

Barbara answered him with a shy smile. "Yeah."

"Hell yeah's what I say too!" Sara, too, was ready with a comment. "Holy Mother of God, look at the size of that thing! Does J-Lo know Ben's still dealin' out the rings? Where can I get one?"

Much chirping ensued:

"Who is he?"

"Yeah! Let's hear it!"

"How long have you known him?"

Barbara was saved, literally, by the bell. And Wade laughed and winked at her as she rolled toward her first class.

* * * * *

Helena was bitter as hell that Barbara had to chaperone, well let's face it, a fucking-high-school dance, on her birthday. She would much rather have had her lover wrapped around her on the first birthday either of them had spent as partners.

Until D. started talking about the dance...

* * * * *

Just because Dinah had a crush on Dick didn't mean that she was immune to the charms of the most popular boys in school. Unfortunately, however, they seemed to be entirely immune to her.

And so she fretted as they ate dinner before the dance-and enough that her family saw it.

"So, spill, D. What the fu-I mean what the heck's wrong with you?"

"I just don't want to go-that's all."

"I understand why I don't want Barbara going-but why not you?"

Dinah frowned at her dinner. "You wouldn't were always popular."

Both Barbara and Helena laughed at this. "I wasn't popular, D., I was just hot-there's a distinction there."

Dinah frowned more deeply at her dinner, "Yeah, well...I'm neither, thank you."

"Fuck popular. And you are hot."

Dinah looked up to see whether Helena was pulling her leg. Evidently not. She grinned her thanks to the other woman.

Helena thought for a few beats, "I'll dress you tonight and, if you'll pretend that you don't know me for a while, once I get finished, every boy in that goddamned joint will be eating out of your hand."

Dinah snorted, "Oh yeah, how's that going to happen?"

"Trust me."

* * * * *

Paul Teasdale and Johnny Gaddis, the gods of New Gotham High, watched from the bleachers as people entered for the dance. As the almost unfairly attractive star quarterback and linebacker of the football team, they had little reason to worry about getting what they wanted out of this social function. Which wasn't dancing-since they shared that malady so typical of astonishingly well-muscled young football players-a terminal lack of rhythm. They might deign to slow-dance with some of the hotties, but they were content to sit on the bleachers and let the hotties come to them.

And they would.

As they waited, they judged everybody's 'look.' Their comments, which they were civilized enough to keep to themselves, broke down into basically four types: 1. Snickers. 2. Who the fuck dressed you-the math teacher? 3.Hot. 4. Next.

As Dinah Redmond entered, dressed somewhat hotter than they were used to, she received a 'next' from both young gentlemen.

They also noticed, with some chagrin that Ms. Gordon and Mr. Brixton were perched (Ms. Gordon almost literally-snicker) next to the punchbowl, which would entirely foil the spiking they'd been planning.

And And then... the hottest, Hottest, girl sauntered into the room. She was wearing way below hip-hugging leather pants, the smallest, midriff-baring New Gotham High t-shirt they'd ever seen and a leather jacket.

Who the holy shit was she? She walked over smiling as she kissed Mr. Brixton on the cheek (No WAY! No fucking WAY that chick's with Mr.--) before leaning over and kissing Ms. Gordon on the cheek. (WHEW! Just some teachers' friend.) They shook their heads in wonder, their brains only relatively adjusted to the fact that teachers had friends at all, much less friends like that.

* * * * *

By the time the dance was in full swing, Helena was finishing the second cup of punch that Wade had liberally spiked for her. She chuckled to herself at how differently she could feel about Wade, how she could even be happy to see him-as long as she had her girl.

* * * * *

Dinah couldn't believe what she was about to do would make any difference to the boys at this dance-it would probably just get her laughed at. As she passed the bleachers, she gazed furtively at Johnny and Paul. What must it be like, she be perfect? She snorted. What the hell was she talking about? She lived with perfect. She gazed at Helena as she approached her. Helena had told her to be blasé, to try to look really super-confident. Okay. She could do this.

* * * * *

Although many of the male, and not a few of the female, students had been watching Helena as she talked and laughed with Wade, Barbara and a few of the other teachers, no one in the room had even remotely the guts to approach her.

Johnny and Paul watched, with a group of their friends, as Redmond passed by them. Her glance was not lost on them and they accepted it as the tribute almost all girls paid them. They only continued to watch her because she was talking to Ms. Gordon-and Ms. Gordon was next to the hottie.

A slow song started. And they watched as...


Redmond was just sorta grabbing the hottie's hand and pulling her out onto the floor. And the hottie...was...letting her. HOLY SHIT, MAN!

As the couples began to sway, they were staggered to see Redmond sorta forcefully take the hottie into her arms.

And the hottie let her!

As the song continued, their collective eyebrow crawled into their hairlines as they watched Redmond slip one hand through the belt-loop of the woman's leather pants, the other hand moving to rest on the skin of her exposed torso, sliding around her back, pulling her closer.

They groaned with envy. Jesus, that was so...smoooooth.

They also groaned because this was sorta like that fucking Russian...tAtu video or something. Except hotter, cause these chicks were hotter-and, after all, they were right there in front of them.

Shit, shit, shit!! Why couldn't this be a hot-Catholic-uniform-wearing-school tonight!?!

No WAY! The hottie was wrapping her arms around Redmond's shoulders-Redmond was looking her right in the eyes.


* * * * *

Barbara watched the entire student body and faculty pretend that they weren't all glued to the spectacle unfolding before them. She was quite sure that the seriousness of the looks Dinah and Helena exchanged were being interpreted as pure, wanton lust, though to her experienced eyes, she could tell they were only a few seconds from collapsing in laughter.

And, she had to admit, this little display did make Dinah seem far older, more experienced, even sexier-Barbara's brain nearly shut down at this word, then she laughed. Why should she be surprised to find that Helena knew what she was talking about?

* * * * *

As Dinah danced, she pushed down the thought that groping Helena was actually sort of fun as she looked into the blue eyes of her dance partner. She also pushed down her flash of knowledge that Helena was sort of enjoying it, too. That was really sweet to know, though.

* * * * *

But all good things had to end-it was getting more and more difficult to dance and not laugh at the saucy little looks Helena was throwing her way. She might have been able to keep it together if Helena hadn't leaned in and play-growled in her ear, "Dinah Redmond, you are"

That was it.

Both of them shrieked with laughter, collapsed into each other's arms.

* * * * *

As they walked back toward the punch bowl, Barbara and Wade watched them wiping tears from their eyes.

"Thanks for the dance, babe."

"You have less than two minutes before the first approach-betcha."

As Dinah returned to her friends, Gabby looked at her with a newfound respect. "Geez, Dinah...that was-" Gabby didn't finish this sentence because Paul Teasdale was suddenly right behind Dinah.

"Hey Dinah."

Dinah turned, entirely cool, and tried to channel Helena for this interchange. "Hi Paul. What's up?"

"So...I guess you know that girl, huh?"

Dinah corrected him, "That...woman is my foster sister, sort of."

Paul took this in, then asked, "Just wondering if you'd like to dance-the next slow one, I mean"

Dinah shrugged, "Sure. If you want. That'd be great." She smiled as she looked past him at Saint Helena of New Gotham High.

* * * * *

But the slow dance hadn't come quickly enough to save Barbara.

Barbara groaned for the third time that day as Sara Beckett grabbed a microphone and commanded center stage in the gym.

"Although we've all gathered together tonight with the primary objective of enjoying this dance, our faculty members have a surprise in store for someone...we've moved naming the 'Teacher of the Year' ceremony forward just a bit..." she paused with just enough drama to add, "in order to honor our teacher of the year, Barbara Gordon, tonight-on her birthday."

Barbara was more than a little surprised/disconcerted at this news, though she tried to play it off. She smiled as she rolled forward to accept her plaque and her applause.

But Sara Bennett was not content with this.

Oh no.

"The faculty also happens to believe that maybe Barbara has something she'd like to announce to us all tonight...just look at that rock on her hand-an engagement, perhaps?"

She handed Barbara the microphone and smiled archly; Barbara, surrounded by her students and faculty, smiled wanly.

* * * * *

Well, well...let's see...

She had to absolutely-forever-keep Batman's secrets, Bruce's secrets; Nightwing's secrets, Dick's secrets; Catgirl's secrets, Selena's secrets; Huntress' secrets, Helena's secrets; Canary's secrets, Dinah's secrets. Not to mention Oracle's secrets...

But no.

No, goddamnit. She'd be damned if she'd keep her heart's secret any longer...

As Barbara took the mike, she smiled at Helena. "Well, not actually an engagement, per se. But the ring IS a gift from my life partner, Helena Kyle."

* * * * *

For a number of the boys who were present that night, as they watched Helena smile at Barbara's announcement, this was just one of the first of many thousands of instances of realizing, with startling clarity, that women were far...far more complex...than they'd ever really dreamed.

* * * * *

Later that evening, Helena was catching her breath as she felt Barbara kiss her way onto her stomach. And she felt, rather than heard, Barbara chuckle.

"Why ya laughing, babe?" She almost dreaded asking, having learned, to her great amusement/dismay that Barbara's sense of humor was active nowhere more than in the bedroom.

"I was just wondering...when you were a student...did you ever imagine that one day the Teacher of the Year at New Gotham would be going down on you?"

Helena paused before answering, "Well, because the choices I had in my years there would have curled my hair...hell no."

She felt Barbara kiss her way upward, until she was kissing her mouth.

Barbara laughed again.

"What now?"

"I've just decided that prepositional describes it."

"Prepositional? Describes what?"

"I want you in me, on me, over me, under me, above me, beneath me, below me, beside me, inside me...etc, etc...get my drift?"

"Oh I get your drift alright and, you know, if you want to get all grammatical on me...I can think of a few verbs I could whip out on ya...and they'd probably make you moan a few encouraging adverbs until I made you scream out a coupla interjections."

"Helena! You DID pay attention in school!"

Helena kissed Barbara again. "Don't tell anyone. I'll deny it."

They lay in the afterglow for another few minutes before Barbara said, "Thanks again for what you did for Dinah tonight."

Helena laughed, "No problem, I enjoyed it."

"I could tell."

Helena pulled away a bit to look into Barbara's eyes.

"I enjoyed putting on a show-not the-"

"Oh please! And I'm telling you...I enjoyed it, too."

They laughed simultaneously.

"Are we going to hell, ya think?" Helena looked slightly worried.

"For thinking Dinah's cute?" Barbara chuckled. "Nah...I mean, after all, she thinks we're cute. Correction: I believe she thinks I'M cute. She thinks you're hot."

"Only because I am."

Barbara smiled and, as she wrapped her arms around Helena, her ring was momentarily illuminated by the soft moonlight filtering into her room.

Green, she smiled as she fell asleep.

Like her eyes.

* * * * *


Like someone else's hair.

Someone who would be successfully breaking out of prison later that very night.

Chapter 8

Three Days Later...

Barbara didn't know what to expect when she returned to school the following Monday. Sure, there were other teachers with same-sex partners-but not same-sex partners that used to be students.

And bad-ass students at that.

As she entered the teacher's lounge, everyone smiled and murmured their hellos. So far, so good. Sara Beckett crossed to her and, for the first time since Barbara had known her, lowered her voice. "Sorry, Barb, for putting you on the spot at the dance-I didn't know."

Barbara smiled at her, "It's okay, Sara. I wasn't planning to broadcast it but it's nothing I'm ashamed of."

Ann McGillicuddy, who, despite her age, had ears like a lynx, piped up at this, her voice the very volume and tone of a cranky foghorn.

"Well, you should be ashamed of yourself." Conversations stopped, every person in the room turned their way.

"I remember that Helena Kyle," the woman continued as she approached Barbara, "and honestly, Barbara Gordon, to...shack up with a girl we all know is nothing better than a two-bit hoodlum-I mean-does she even have a job? She can't have amounted to much."

Barbara could remember seeing red a few times during her crime fighting days. But nothing like this. She bit off her words. "What she's amounted to is the person I'm spending the rest of my life with."

The older woman wasn't cowed by this-at all. "So you think. Just wait until she finds somebody making a lot more money that a high school teacher, then you'll see how long love lasts."

As she finished this sentence, Wade thought he might just be seeing what criminals saw when Batgirl swung into their midst. Anger. But a terribly controlled anger. Barbara took one breath.

"You know, Ann, I happen to be certain that you remember Helena-because I happen to remember the way you always looked at her when she was in school. Don't badmouth her now because she wouldn't sleep with you then."

Pow. The verbal equivalent of a rabbit punch to the trachea. That shut her up. She sucked in a furious breath and stalked out of the room. As the door closed behind her, the room erupted in laughter. Sara clapped her on the shoulder, "By God, I've been wanting to say something like that to that old lecher since the day I started here."

The rest of the morning was a slide on ice.

* * * * *

Helena had just finished lunch when she heard the phone ring. As she moved to answer it, she realized that it was one of the Clocktower's secure lines. Nobody should have the number except...

When she answered, she heard a familiar voice. "Helena!?"


"Listen and don't ask questions." The woman was speaking quietly but urgently and very quickly. "The Joker's escaped from jail and-"


"Listen! There's no time. I'm on my way to the high school with about ten of his henchmen. We're supposed to kidnap Barbara and take her back to Mr. J. I'm calling you so you can stop us. We're armed and there should be two men at each entrance. I'll stay in the room with her-we're only about two minutes away. Get there as fast as you can."

Before Helena could reply, the line went dead. She took one minute to send a message to Barbara and Dinah and, then, she was almost literally flying.

* * * * *

Dinah was walking back from the bathroom in an empty hallway when her Delphi pager went off. She read the text "JOKER ESC - PLT KDNP ORCLE - GET 2HER D"

She was running before she even finished reading the message. As she ran, she heard an overhead announcement, "CODE RED, CODE RED, THIS IS NOT A DRILL. THIS IS NOT A-"

The announcement stopped abruptly. Dinah knew Code Red meant all teachers were supposed to lock themselves and their students in their classrooms. She also knew, since Barbara would have gotten the message, too, she wouldn't do this

She'd prefer to give up-go quietly rather than take the chance of having students hurt. Shit, shit, shit. Dinah was flying.

* * * * *

She burst her way into Barbara's classroom one minute ahead of an armed man and an armed woman in a very strange costume. Her eyes widened-Harley Quinn!

The woman locked the door behind her, then turned toward the students, some of who couldn't help making terrified sounds. "QUIET!"

She turned back toward Barbara and was amused to see Dinah step in front of the woman's wheelchair. Barbara wasn't going to have any heroics. "Dinah, sit down. Quinn, I'll go with you if you'll just leave everyone else alone."

Dinah did not sit down, instead she spoke to the woman and man. "You're not taking her anywhere."

Quinn rolled her eyes and told her henchman, "Make her sit down-gently-but give me your gun first."

The man leered as he approached Dinah. What happened next was a surprise to everyone but Dinah, Barbara and Quinn.

Particularly to the man, though his surprised feelings were short-lived because he lost consciousness from having had Dinah so unceremoniously grab him and slam his head into Barbara's desk.

Dinah turned to Quinn and spoke with real ferocity. "You're next, bitch."

Quinn smirked as she looked at her fallen henchman. "My, my, my." She looked past Dinah to Barbara, "I really must commend you. You seem to have no shortage of...riveting female companionship." Her eyes widened as she turned back to Dinah, "Want some candy, little girl?"

Dinah only glared at Quinn. "Guess not, huh? Your loss, believe me." Then she winked. "Three guesses who you could ask about that."

Because Dinah assumed Quinn was talking about her assault upon Helena, she actually took a furious step toward her before Barbara's voice stopped her. "Dinah! This isn't the time."

"Couldn't agree with you more, Babs." Quinn said as she checked the clock on the wall, sighed again. As she turned, she seemed somewhat surprised to see the other students. "Oops. Almost forgot. Captive audience. So to speak. Shoo, chickens. Jump out the window and fly away now."

She was met by stupefied incomprehension.

"Lesson one, children. During your hostage crisis, listen to the person holding the gun. You-boy with muscles!"

Paul Teasdale paled, but answered. "Yes, ma'am?"

"Ma'am. How quaint. Wouldja do me one small favor, boy-with-muscles?

He swallowed hard. "Yes ma'am."

She gestured toward the windows. "Open one of those windows, then climb out. Show these other brain trusts how it's done. Then, the rest of you climb out after him. And-NOW!"

That got action. Paul opened the window, scrambled through, and waited to help some of the smaller girls in the class. The students were running like hell. Paul called into the room.

"Hey Dinah! C'mon."

"No-get out of here. I'm not leaving Barbara."


"NO! Get out of here, Paul!"

Paul hesitated, then turned and followed his running fellow classmates.

The remaining women could hear approaching sirens in the distance.

Quinn touched her ear and said into what must have been some comm. system. "Abort mission! Abort mission! Am-scray, eople-pay."

* * * * *

Not everyone in Quinn's gang was able to take advantage of that pig Latin, Helena having mowed through four of them at a speed that surprised even her.

As she burst into Barbara's classroom, she saw Dinah standing between Barbara and Quinn. Quinn didn't even turn before she said "About time you got here, darling."

Helena didn't answer, just passed Quinn and Dinah to verify for herself absolutely that Barbara was unharmed.

Barbara saw more terror than anger in the other woman's eyes, so she smiled up at her. "It's okay, Hel. I'm alright, love."

"Love!" Quinn shrieked with delight, "Love? Does this mean you two have finally, finally consummated this star-crossed union-" She took in the sight of Barbara's ring. "Oh my God! AND you broke into Daddy's piggy bank. Helena! I'm so proud of you."

The sirens were getting closer.

"Oh dear. How time flies. Really must get going. Appearances to keep up and all."

Helena crossed to Quinn and put one hand on her shoulder. "Thank you, Quinn."

Quinn smiled thinly. "My pleasure, dear. Though I probably need hardly tell you Mr. J's going to make me pay dearly for this little failure."

"If he hurts you, that'll just give me one more reason to kill him."


"Did you tell him about the Clocktower and-"

"Of course not, donkey. And I'm not going to. I'll be in touch when I have a plan."

She turned to Barbara and added, "Babs, do try to stay out of sight until this is over. If you force me to protect a dizzy redhead while trying to undermine a green...head, I think I'll lose what's left of mine."

"Why are you doing this, Quinn?"

Barbara's question stopped Quinn just before she closed the door. "Why?" She tilted her head to the side the slightest bit. "Because I'm in love with Helena, of course. She didn't tell you?"

Quinn winked at Helena, closed the door and they were alone.

Helena turned to face her family. Dinah was dumbfounded. Barbara didn't look pleased.

* * * * *

Commissioner Gordon's Office
Two hours later...

"THREE DAYS! The Joker has been out for three days!?!"

As Barbara watched her father pace back and forth, nearly frothing in anger, she began to worry about his blood pressure.

"Dad, calm down."

"CALM DOWN? I can understand how the leaders of rogue nations might pull this off-but to put a Joker clone in his cell right under our noses. Without our knowing about it?"

"Yeah, well, it's Joker. Send in the Clones...I don't know...Attack of the Clowns?"

None of this was funny, evidently.

"How on Earth could he have-"

"When we catch him, we'll ask him, Dad. And we will catch him." Barbara knew that her father wasn't just angry about the jailbreak; he was worried about her. Terrified, actually.

His sputtering started again-then, as Barbara ran her hand through her hair, it abruptly stopped as he noticed her ring. She almost groaned. Not this conversation-not now.

" there something you need to tell me?"

She chuckled, "Uh...yeah-I've been meaning to call-I, uh, I finally sorta decided to settle down."


Barbara laughed weakly. "You know, I think you might find this funny. Uh-it's Helena."

"Helena? Helena, Helena? Helena Kyle?"

"Yeah-that about covers it."

Her father sat beside her, lost in thought for a long minute.

"Well, Dad-say something-are you okay about it?"

"Honestly, I'm just surprised-though I guess I really shouldn't be. I suppose if I had to choose someone for my daughter, I'd choose someone who loved her, who'd protect her, who'd live with her but die for her, too, and who'd never leave her. Though, actually, I'd prefer the person worship her." He turned and smiled at Barbara, "But then...that would be describing Helena, wouldn't it?"

Barbara hugged her father.

One more conversation to go.

* * * * *

Helena was feeling pressured and was starting to resent it. And she knew she was starting to resent it because it was hitting just a little too close to that-let's face it-huge indiscretion in her recent past.

Yes. She did feel guilty that she hadn't told Barbara she'd slept with Quinn. But did she want to know about every fucked up thing Barbara had ever done? Hell no! So what was the point of telling her, after all? It would confuse things. Maybe even really hurt Barbara's feelings. Maybe even mess up their relationship-when it didn't have to-'cause it didn't mean anything. She shit.

And now she hadn't been paying attention and now Barbara was...

"Hel! Are you even listening to me? At all?"

"Of course I'm listening. Look-here's the drill. She told me she loved me right before she released me the night of the kidnapping. End of story."

"Why didn't you tell me?"

"Jesus! Let's see...oh I don't know-because it was personal, maybe? Can you grasp that concept, Barbara? I mean, I know you had to listen and all but what happened to me that night was personal. If you can't understand that, then I don't know what else to say."

Barbara took a few deep breaths. She had no idea why this was making Helena so defensive but she knew there were times to pick one's battles. Maybe this was one of them.

"Alright, honey, I'll drop it. I'm sorry. Let's talk about what we need to do right now."

Helena was surprised that Barbara was letting it go, but quite relieved to change subjects. "Well, you can't go back to school until we catch him-and D. should stay home, too."

"I've been thinking we should call Dick."

Helena almost objected before deciding she wanted every bit of protection she could get for Barbara. "Yeah, let's do that."

Barbara hesitated before adding, "And I think you should start getting used to the fact that it's entirely possible Bruce will show up."

"Oh GREAT! Why? 'Cause we're so incompetent? 'Cause he'll think we'd never find him?"

"Because Joker's a truly dangerous man, Hel. You've never fought him. We have. And we can't underestimate him."

"Yeah, but you guys never had a mole in his camp before."

"A mole we can't trust."

"I trust her." Off Barbara's look, she added, "With this-I trust her."

"How can you-after all she's-"

"Because in her fucked-up way, she really does care about me-and she promised me that she wouldn't let anyone hurt you. She came through at the school, didn't she?"

"You don't know she wasn't just setting us up for something bigger."

"I do. I do know. I know her. And you don't. You'll just have to trust me on this-please."

Barbara leaned forward and kissed Helena. "I have an idea. Let's stop talking crime and the other women in your life for a while. What do you want to order for dinner?"

"Actually, I was thinking I might go to the store and whip up a little something for us."

Barbara stared at her for a long beat. "Who are you? What have you done with Helena?"

* * * * *

Naturally, they ordered take out. Alfred was entering just as Helena was leaving.

"I came as soon as I heard, Miss Barbara."

"Never ends, does it, Alfred?"

"Apparently not."

"Do you think Bruce will come?"

"Oh, I rather think so. I don't imagine he will be able to tolerate the thought of a free Joker and you in the same city."

"How do you think he'll take...well, you know-" She waggled her ring hand at him.

"Your relationship?" He paused for a few beats. "I honestly can't say. But if he expresses an unpleasant opinion, I would suggest that you say what my professional deference demands that I refrain from saying."

"And that is?"

"That's it's none of his business. Not, of course, that you heard that from me."

"Heard what? Barbara squeezed Alfred's arm, then turned back to Delphi.

* * * * *

The Next Day

After it was reported that The Joker had been behind the attempt on Barbara Gordon, the school board decided that, for her safety and the safety of the students, she should take a leave of absence. Dinah, as her ward, and as someone who had helped thwart The Joker's plot, was also deemed in jeopardy-a potential target, and a potential risk. The board agreed to let Barbara teach Dinah at home until The Joker was caught. Dinah stopped by school to pick up her books and some things for Barbara for their forced Joker-holiday.

She was standing at her locker when Paul approached her.

"Hey Dinah."

"Hi, Paul."

"I hear you have to go undercover or something."

"Yeah, something like that-just until they catch The Joker."

"Yeah, well-I hope they catch him soon."

"Thanks. Me, too."

"Oh and...I just wanted to tell was really cool what you did in that classroom."

"Oh, well-yeah. Martial arts training sure can come in-"

"I didn't mean that-I mean, that was cool, too-but I was talking more about staying-not leaving Ms. Gordon by herself."

Dinah shrugged. "She's family."

"Still cool, though." He casually leaned over and pecked her on the cheek. "See you soon, I hope."

"Yeah," Dinah sighed, "see you soon."

Then he was gone.

And as she finished her errands, Dinah thought this must be what it's like to be Helena. Because she felt pretty damned attractive as she was walking on air.

* * * * *

Bruce Wayne rubbed one hand over his lantern jaw as he drove toward Wayne Manor. One look at his watch told him he'd be there in plenty of time to meet Dick.

He felt entirely out of sorts, digesting the two startling bits of news he'd just received.

The Joker-free.

Barbara and Helena-together.

The Joker? Well, it just came with the job.

But Barbara? How could she? How could she take advantage of her position of trust and authority in Helena's life? He'd never seen Barbara in a serious relationship though he'd watched Dick and Barbara's casual dalliance. What if it weren't casual for Helena? No. It was reckless. Full of too many personal and professional ramifications-ramifications that could hurt them both. And Barbara should know that. Surely she knew that!

* * * * *

Later that evening, as Bruce and Dick were finishing the dinner Alfred had left for them, Bruce voiced these concerns to Dick-at length. As he spoke, he watched Dick's face register surprise, then consternation, then something like anger.

"Bruce, with all due respect, you don't know what you're talking about. Barbara loves Helena. Adores her. They're good together. It's a-"

Bruce tried to interrupt, but Dick wouldn't let him. "Bruce, listen to me. Even if you never approve of it, it's not going to change. I hope you know that. Besides, you're the one who left them to fend for each other-it's a little late for you to walk in throwing opinions around. Because, believe me, if you walk in there already judging them, you're going to force Barbara to alienate herself from you. And she loves you, too-so you shouldn't do that to her."

* * * * *

One of the problems with crime-fighting super-heroes, Alfred mused as he walked toward the elevator in which Bruce and Dick were arriving, was their deplorable manners. True, it was only 9PM and true, the denizens of the Clocktower might be presumed to be awake. But why not telephone first? Dinah joined him at the elevator and shot him a look of dismay. Barbara and Helena had retired to their bedroom 45 minutes ago.

What was more polite to say, Alfred wondered:

"I apologize but you cannot speak with Miss Barbara and Miss Helena at the present moment because they are having sex."


"Miss Barbara? Miss Helena? Please stop having sex. Masters Bruce and Dick would like a word with you."

The elevator door opened and Dinah made the call. She shot forward, hugged Dick, then extended her hand to Bruce. "You must be Mr. Wayne. I'm Dinah Redmond. It's an honor to meet you."

Bruce shook her hand. "Thank you. A pleasure to meet you, Dinah."

"I'll go get the others-they're-uh-they'll be right here."

One glance from Alfred to Dick as Dinah disappeared confirmed the worst for Dick.

Great. Now Bruce could meet the new couple post-coitus-interruptus. That would do wonders for Helena's charm...

* * * * *

Was it truly...possible, Barbara mused, that Batman could schedule an arrival, after all this time, now-at the precise moment that his daughter's face was so deliciously pressed between her legs?

Oh hell, for that matter, when his daughter had one hand deep inside her and was using the other to caress, then pull at her nipples until she was just about to...


Yes it was.

Dinah's tepid knocking and embarrassed announcement told her it was, indeed, possible.

Barbara would have bolted upright if Helena hadn't held her down with one arm. She looked up from her work, her eyes heavy with desire. "Where ya think you're goin', Red?"

"Honey-Bruce is-"

"Fuck Batman. I'm busy."

"But honey, we can't just-"

She gasped as Helena pinched her nipple, then drove into her with her other hand, hard.

"Actually, I'm not under the impression this is going to take much longer at all, Ms. Gordon. Watch and see."

As Barbara watched Helena lower her beautiful mouth onto her once more, she had to agree.

* * * * *

Nope. It hadn't taken long. But it took considerably longer to attempt to make herself presentable. She'd washed her face, re-touched her make-up, but there was really nothing she could do with her swollen mouth, her smoky eyes.

Maybe she was being paranoid, she thought. Maybe they weren't even thinking that, maybe they wouldn't know?

* * * * *

As they waited for the two women, Bruce had chosen to wait outside, watching his city from the top of the Clocktower. As she left Dick boisterously regaling Alfred with his latest adventures, Dinah quietly stepped outside as well.

He looked so lonely, she thought, as she watched him. And he was. Lonely and angry. She had felt it when they touched. Helena would probably have been very surprised that he was lonely for her and for what he'd never had with her. And that he was truly concerned for her.

"Can I help you, Dinah?"

Wow. Didn't even have to look. He was good.

"Uh, yes sir, you can." She crossed to stand, shoulder to shoulder him, and watched the city.

"I was...uh...going to ask you please not to do it."

"Do what?"

"Please don't make Barbara and Helena feel bad about the best thing that's ever happened to them." His brooding eyes met hers. "If you'll just-wait-wait and watch, you'll see. You'll see this is how things are supposed to be for them."

She was a pretty child, Bruce thought, and so earnest. Something about her blue eyes was so compassionate, so understanding. And then it suddenly struck him-forced a lump to his throat. The compassion was for him.

He blinked a few times before responding. "Alright, Dinah. I'll do my best-and please-it's Bruce."

"Thank you, Bruce. You won't regret it. I promise."

* * * * *

As Barbara finally joined Bruce, Dick, Dinah and Alfred in the other room, Helena hung back, waiting to find out whether she was going to have to kick Bruce's ass or not. And hoping, for Barbara's sake that she wouldn't-because Barbara's mentor meant the world to her.

* * * * *

One look at them told Barbara everything. Oh hell yeah they knew. They knew exactly what she'd been doing. She blushed, felt terribly rattled...then caught herself. Helena was right! Fuck Batman! She was an adult. She squared her shoulders and smiled. "Hi Dick. Hello,'s been a while."

Dick winked at her. "Hiya Babs."

Barbara took a deep breath as she waited for the bomb to drop-but it didn't. Bruce leaned over and kissed her on the cheek. "Hello, beautiful. I hear congratulations are in order."



Alfred smiled, chimed in. "Miss Barbara, would you like to join the gentlemen in a drink."

"Yes please, Alfred, I'll take a double of the first bottle you lay your hand on."

Helena chose this moment to join them, moving languidly, looking as sexy and relaxed as a sleek, contented cat.

"Hiya, bro."

Bruce was surprised to see Helena hug Dick quite affectionately. Clearly, there'd been a change in that relationship as well.

Then Helena turned to Bruce and astonished him by doing something she had never done since the day she'd discovered he was her father.

She smiled at him.

Chapter 9

Helena not only smiled at Bruce, she extended her hand. "Hiya...Bruce."

He shook her hand as he replied, "Hello,'re looking well."

This sounded perfectly innocuous but Helena was disconcerted enough to feel the blood rush to her cheeks. Which made her bluster a bit.

"Yeah, well...actually I'm feeling really well lately." She glanced at Barbara, "Fantastic, even."

But now she was truly blushing in earnest. It was one thing to be saucy with your long-lost and estranged father but-suddenly-she wanted an out. "I need some ice cream. Anyone else?" Nope. No one else. She turned to Barbara, touched her hair, "Sure you don't want some, babe?"

Barbara smiled at her but demurred.

Bruce's eyes tightened as he watched Helena cross out of the room toward the kitchen, thinking that he could have happily gone the rest of his life without knowing that his daughter liked ice cream after making love just as much as her mother had.

* * * * *

Bruce Wayne was a man of many talents; one of the more formidable was in the area of detection. And although he'd been willing to momentarily suspend his judgment of the relationship between his daughter and his former partner in crime-fighting, he was certainly going to watch to make sure that it was what Dick and Dinah had said it was.

Over the course of that long evening of strategizing, he regarded his daughter and Barbara with a stern scrutiny that they were certainly aware of but which did not seem to bother them. And he watched with something like amazement. Helena had remained close to Barbara for the whole of the evening and Barbara had seemed entirely unconscious of the fact that she continually touched her, stroked her hair, gently patted or rested her hand on the younger woman.

What was astonishing to Bruce was that what could have seemed like an entirely sophomoric inability to keep her hands off of Helena seemed instead a natural part of their relationship. They were really by no means giddy lovers; they remained entirely focused on the matters at hand, and whether agreeing or heatedly disagreeing with each other, Barbara touched his daughter with the same love.

And this made his heart ache to see it.

Because-maybe that's all it would have taken.

In the short time Selena and he had tried to have a real relationship rather than just their passionate couplings, he remembered her sitting next to him that way. And he hadn't known what to do, hadn't known what she wanted. He'd always thought that she was demanding his full attention, which had often irritated him. Because there was no time in his life in which he didn't feel, to some extent, on call. And even when he wasn't, he'd wanted to read the paper, or watch the news or have a serious conversation. And so she'd sit next to him. And maybe all she'd really needed was to feel close to him.

In the many years that he'd had to mull over the past, he'd wondered at length over the strange mixture of independence and neediness that had been Selena Kyle. Catwoman. A cat needing her independence but perhaps needing to know she was loved and esteemed and who needed to be petted over.

He could certainly see the cat in his beautiful, wilful daughter. Not paying attention to Barbara's caresses, not even seeming to notice that she so clearly held the adoration of the woman sitting next to her. But blooming like a tender flower under those touches all the same. And when she did occasionally turn her eyes to Barbara, he saw a melting look of love and gratitude.

Why was it so easy for Barbara to understand this? And so hard for him? What mixture of nature and nurture, what twist of fate, had made simply loving someone so hard for him?

It might have been so easy.

And he hadn't known.

He felt a lump rise in his throat for the second time that night.

Poor Selena.

* * * * *

Quinn cursed her shaking hand as she finished applying her concealer. By God, Mr. J. was nothing if not a professional. She could conceal the beating she'd taken for her failure to kidnap Barbara with next to no effort at all.

Because Mr. J. was a criminal mind extraordinaire, he felt it a bit beneath him to be seen as one of those run of the mill low-lives who beat his girlfriend. Not that he wouldn't beat her, mind you, he just didn't like the stigma. Consequently-a light beating with far more body than facial bruising. Lovely.

Mascara would be more difficult, she quickly realized.

GODDAMNIT! She'd already smeared it.

She steadied her hands on the sink as she looked into the mirror.

Mr. J. had, genius that he was, quickly discerned that something was wrong between them...that something was different about Quinn. He'd beaten that out of her quickly as well and-swoosh-down the toilet went her medication.

Not only that, but he was forcing injections of a medication that was strictly contraindicated for a person with her particular mental illness. Something she could already feel taking a baseball bat to the slightly tamed hornet's nest of her mind.

She sighed. Because it really wasn't fair.

Because life's genetic lottery had dealt her only about 49 cards on her very best day.

And in her still highly medicated level of near sanity, she could see what was what. What use was anything, anyway? Helena didn't-and would never-love her. And God knew Mr. J. didn't love her-he fucked her and used her and beat her and, as charming as all that was when she was crazy, it lost a hell of a lot of its romance when she was medicated.

And, beside all that, what else did she get with her medication?

Guilt-for the things she'd done.

Awareness-of her depravity.

Horror-at what she'd become.

And yet, once medicated, she was too ashamed to go back to what she'd been. Although of course, now, she was being forced to.

No. It wasn't fair and it wasn't like she could really have helped any of it if she'd wanted to. She wondered what mixture of nature and nurture, what twist of fate, had led her to Mr. J. and to this life that she had begun to despise.

She had truly considered ending it all. Had even, good citizen that she was trying to be, gone and purchased a handgun legally. Although she'd thought as she'd done so, from her personal knowledge of her professional associates, that doctors in the field of mental health should undergo far more rigorous background checks than garden-variety felons. Because, in her measured opinion, most of her associates were far more neurotic, if not crazier, than their patients.

After she'd bought the gun, though, she'd had second thoughts...thoughts that Mr. J. would have cackled over.

Surely...surely...taking care of Helena and Barbara and Dinah would mean something in the grand scheme of things. Might even make a difference to the fate of her soul?

Because she did believe she had a soul-unlike Mr. J., who either had none or was enjoying his very first incarnation as a human being.


She would live. And she could do this. She raised the wand for her mascara and, through sheer force of will, applied it perfectly.


She would do it.

Until the medication Mr. J. was injecting into her made it impossible, she would take care of them.

* * * * *

They'd all decided to split shifts and the first Barbara had arranged had very conveniently kept Bruce and Helena from sweeping together. But, at some point, if they hadn't been partnered, it would have looked odd...and so it was that Bruce was eventually standing next to Barbara, who was perusing Delphi.

Waiting for Helena to emerge from their bedroom.

Bruce was already dressed in his Batman costume, except for his cowl, still filling into it perfectly, Barbara noted with wry amusement. Would the man never age?

When Helena emerged, her below-hip-hugging leather pants left as little to the imagination as her leather halter.

Barbara watched with some amusement as Bruce's jaw clenched. Helena noticed a sea change in the atmosphere of the room and said. "What? What's wrong?"

Bruce pointed vaguely to her outfit, "That's just a little...revealing...don't you think?"

Helena lifted one eyebrow, "I'm sorry? Revealing? It's not exactly like you're wearing clown pants there, is it, Pop? Ready to go?"

* * * * *


It was strange to be doing her first sweep with her father. And she had to admit, despite herself, that he was an impressive...formidable figure. She acknowledged with some amusement that, personally, she would have voided herself if she were some common criminal punk faced with the ominous figure of Batman.

Because to tell the truth he was absolutely as legendary in person as he was...ah, he was in legend.

She could feel the decades of experience rippling from him as they moved from rooftop to rooftop and she was more than slightly embarrassed to realize that she hoped she'd live up to him-that he'd feel proud of her.

And, then, there was the first call from Oracle. Which was simple enough, really. Two armed bandits at a convenience store.

As they'd moved in, Helena had quickly dispatched the first man with a gun.

The second man had turned and had run-smack-into the firm chest of Batman.

"Not so fast, punk."

The punk in question's eyes had widened amazingly. Holy...shit! It was Batman! 'Nuff said, as far as he was concerned. He dropped his weapon on the ground.

As Batman grabbed the punk by the scruff of his collar, he led him toward where Helena was leaning over, using plastic cuffs to shackle her perpetrator.

The young punk Batman was holding did not let that fact keep him from thinking, as he looked at the hottie cuffing his friend, 'now, that-that's an ass-'

Just before he felt Batman cuff him roughly in the head.

"Eyes to yourself, scum"

And then the scum in question watched the hottie turn toward Batman and laugh.

* * * * *

After a subsequently and relatively boring sweep, as Helena undressed for bed that evening, she felt Barbara's eyes upon her. Not that that was unusual; she knew Barbara loved watching her, looking at her.

"How was it tonight, baby?"

"Interesting," Helena drawled as she decided she wanted skin tonight, smirking as Barbara's eyes widened as she took off what remained of her clothing and slipped into bed next to her lover. Barbara immediately acquiesced as Helena reached for her small t-shirt, lifted it up and off of her body.

"I want to look at my girl," she said as she cushioned herself against Barbara's warm, clean skin.

Barbara had, over the past few months, begun to get used to the fact that Helena liked lying next to her, looking at her, and could do so for an hour, even hours, as if she could barely reconcile the fact she was lying next to her with reality.

At first, it had been incredibly embarrassing to rest naked under such devoted scrutiny. After a few weeks, however, Barbara had embraced it as one of Helena's quirks-one she certainly couldn't complain about, given its results. Helena would look at her, watch her until invariably, inevitably, her eyes would turn their feral yellow. And when Barbara reached for her, she'd find Helena as hot and as wet as she thought it possible the woman could be.

Minutes went by and Helena's gaze turned yellow. "Let's not talk about anything else tonight, okay?"

"Okay, honey."

Helena lay silently watching her with those yellow eyes for another long minute.

Then, Barbara watched as Helena rose up from the bed and moved downward, pulling the covers from her legs. She pulled Barbara's underwear off in one swift movement and gently spread her legs.

Barbara gasped as she watched Helena slowly rub first one, then her other breast between her legs, the wetness of her arousal glistening on her lover's darker skin.

Then Helena moved upward, straddled her and took her hair in both hands, "I need you," she said, and gently pressed her breast into Barbara's willing mouth.

And then, there were no more words until the next morning.

* * * * *

They were drinking coffee in the kitchen. Dinah was still asleep. And Barbara had to admit to herself that this was one of her favorite parts of her relationship with Helena, the dichotomy of being at times white-hot lovers with the easy domesticity they also shared.

"I hate to admit it-but he actually sorta lives up to his reputation."

"Yeah, he's pretty amazing, alright."

"Those punk-asses out on the street damn near wet themselves when he shows up."

Barbara reached forward, stroked Helena's bangs away from her forehead. "If we gave you decades to build your reputation, you'd be exactly the same way, honey."

Helena smirked ruefully. "Actually, I don't know. There's just something about him." She hesitated before adding, "I guess that's what mom and you saw in him, huh?"

"Yeah. Something like that. He's really...the most amazing and...complex man I've ever known."

Helena sat with that a beat before saying, "I just want to get this over with. I wish Quinn would get in touch-let us know what's going on."

Although Barbara felt her stomach drop unexpectedly at the name, she smiled, "Well, hopefully, it'll be soon, honey."

"Yeah, I guess. We'll see."

* * * * *

Two Weeks Later

Because Barbara, homebody that she was, had begun to go stir crazy under her enforced imprisonment in the Clocktower, Bruce, Dick and Helena had decided to take her to lunch.

And that is how Dinah had found herself alone in the Clocktower when Harley Quinn came to call.

She'd let her in-because she was almost afraid not to-though she'd immediately messaged Barbara, Bruce, Dick and Helena.

And the change since Dinah had last seen her was remarkable.

Dinah could see the madness in Quinn literally glittering out of her eyes. Quinn was pulling forcefully on a cigarette as she spoke to Dinah. "Sorry about the smoking, lambie-pie: can't help it. Since I stopped killing people, had to find something to do with my hands."

She smiled, laughed at what seemed like the air, and added, "I suppose you're wondering what's going on, huh?

Dinah watched Quinn with no little horror. It was obvious she was, literally, nearly beside herself.

"Yes, I do."

"Yes, I do? Me too! Didja hear that, dear? That's called echolalia-and a wee bit of clang association-typical of my disorder. Shit! Mother of God, please! Leave me alone!", Quinn said to the air.

Quinn suddenly rushed Dinah, grabbed her and nearly kissed her before she stopped a centimeter from her face, "Sorry, dumplin'. Inappropriate sexual acting-out, right?"

Dinah touched Quinn as she said, "Right."

"Right! Not bright!" Quinn countered.

And then.

And then.

The barrage of horror, the utter morass of sadness, indignity, wretchedness and insanity that was Quinn's mind melded momentarily with hers.

And Dinah was utterly bereft-forlorn-and knew, for the absolute first time, that life could be far more horrific than she'd ever imagined. She'd moved away from Quinn's hands as if she'd been scalded, which she had, and looked into Quinn's glittering eyes. "I' sorry, " she whispered.

Quinn's eyes widened, her head tilted and she grinned, seeming almost normal for a moment. "Me too, Dinah. Believe me. Me too."

It only took a few minutes for Barbara, Bruce, Dick and Helena to join them and they were all openly shocked at Quinn's ragged appearance.

"Hello, all. I bring you tidings of great joy, boys." Quinn took a vicious pull at her cigarette, looked at it as if it were a stranger, then seemed to realize she had no ash-tray.

And then, without even blinking, she put it out on her own arm.

"Whoa! Hey!" Helena jumped forward and jerked the cigarette from Quinn's hand, then gently pulled her into a hug. "Shh, shhh."

She felt Quinn trembling violently in her arms, "Shh," she whispered, "It's's okay."

* * * * *

Two minutes later, everyone watched as Helena treated Quinn's burn.

"This'll sting." She said as she cleaned the wound.

Quinn laughed, and her head rolled back languidly upon her neck, "Sting...that reminds me of the other time-right?"

Helena was mortified by any mention of their past, but hoped she could get through it by saying, as she chuckled nervously, "Yep, just like the other time."

She seemed lost in thought for a moment. "But I could cared. " Quinn said, as she looked at the wall, then looked suddenly as if she would cry. "You did care, didn't you?"

Because she had cared, and because Helena didn't know what else to say, she lay her hands on Quinn's and said, quite gently, "Of course I care. You know I do."

At this exact moment, Barbara knew, without any doubt, Helena and Quinn's relationship was far different than she'd believed. Far different than Helena had led her to believe.

Breathe, Barbara...breathe, she told herself....

Chapter 10

After Helena finished treating Quinn's burn, everyone watched as Quinn seemed suddenly to become noticeably sleepier, less alert.

"I'm sorry," she said, "I actually do have some things to discuss with you all. It's just that the effort of just trying to stay...lucid takes it out of me really quickly these days." She grabbed her bag, reached into it, and was amazed and amused to see Batman and Nightwing leap protectively in front of Barbara's chair.

For some reason, Quinn realized, she hadn't even noticed that Barbara had returned with Gotham's premiere crime-fighters of old.

"My, my, my. It's just like old home week around here, isn't it? Stand down, gentlemen. I come in peace."

She removed a small box from her bag and gave it to Helena. "This is what Mr. J's having injected into me because evidently the magic's gone when I'm not crazy as bat-shit." She winked at Batman.

"I was going to ask whether Barbara Brainiac over there could find some drug to counteract it. Believe me, it's a doozey. Makes putting cigarettes out on your arm the most reasonable thing in the world."

Helena opened the box, removed an innocent-enough looking vial and tossed it to Batman, who handed it to Barbara.

Quinn was gripping her head and speaking more and more slowly, because the effort of remembering the words she needed, and their correct sequence, was beginning to seriously drain her. "Now...really...I need to rest for just a while. Is there somewhere I could lay down? I make so much more sense right after I wake up-at least for a few minutes, that is. Please?"

"Of course." Helena stood and offered a hand to help Quinn up. "You can sleep in the guest bedroom for a bit."

Quinn smiled shyly at Helena as she took her hand, then held it a lot longer than was strictly necessary before seeming to remember she should let go. So she did.

* * * * *

Quinn slipped off her shoes as Helena turned down the covers in the bed. After she climbed into the bed and pulled the covers over herself, she looked at Helena for a few long beats.

"What?" Helena asked softly.

"Nothing really, it's just life would be so different if you loved me."

"I know." Helena reached down and touched Quinn's cheek. "And I'm so sorry."

Quinn shrugged. "Luck of the draw, I guess."

"Yeah." She tousled Quinn's spiky hair and smiled. "We'll be waiting for you when you wake get some rest," she said firmly.

"Hmmm, I love it when you're forceful," Quinn murmured.

And, then, she was asleep.

* * * * *

Or so Helena thought, as she left the room. A drowsy but still quite awake Quinn turned over to place her flaming face on the cool side of the pillow.

She felt like there were 144 little girls playing hopscotch on crack inside her head. And what a wonderful time they were having...laughing, screaming...shrieking. But, as usual, she was the little girl who couldn't play. Knowing she wouldn't fit in. Knowing she shouldn't join in. Not into this game.

If only someone could hold her hand inside the storm.

And then there was a lightning flash inside her head. Ahhhh. She exhaled.

That was it! And she fell asleep.

* * * * *

Helena rather dreaded re-entering the next room because she had a feeling it might not be pretty.

And it wasn't. The room was several degrees chillier.

Bruce spoke first, motioning at the guest room. "So THAT-that's what we're counting on to help us catch The Joker. Are you out of your-"

"That" Helena snapped, "How about SHE? She's a person, Bruce, not a thing."

"You have to earn that distinction in my book-and that doesn't qualify."

"Oh, Great! Could you please just tell me who died and left you-"

"HELENA! BRUCE! Stop it! We'll discuss this once we hear what Quinn has to say. No more discussion." She looked pleadingly at him, "Please, Bruce."

Bruce hesitated, and then decided to accede to Barbara, because he'd never felt capable of disappointing his protégé when her voice had that emotional, desperate tone. "FINE. I'll be outside."

As Bruce swept out of the room, Helena felt her hands go cold at the realization that Barbara was studiously avoiding looking at her.

Uh oh. Oh shit.

Barbara wasn't a fool. Obviously, she'd put two and two together and had gotten-well, maybe not four, but something close.

Oh shit.

Dick and Dinah weren't fools either. "Hey, D. how about we go sweep some riff-raff off the street."

"Uh...yeah! Sounds great!"

Leaving Barbara and Helena.


Helena felt her stomach turn over as she watched Barbara turn wordlessly to Delphi. She couldn't know that Barbara's stomach was in similar knots because she looked so cool, so unconcerned.

She approached and stood next to her chair.

Barbara ignored her.

Helena cleared her throat. "Uh, Barbara...I think we need to talk."

Barbara's short, barked laughter caught her off guard, as did the calm, flat tone of her voice.

"Talk? Oh, really? Why talk now?"

"Because I think maybe-"

"Oh, please! Like keeping me 'in the loop' has been such a priority for you lately. Why bother now?"

Helena felt a wave of panic sweep over her, the magnitude of which she'd never experienced in her life. Tears stung her eyes. "Oh my God...Barbara, please...I know you might be angry but you wouldn't...I mean, would you? You wouldn't break up with me over-"

Now Barbara did look at her. "Over what? WHAT? Lying? Maybe even cheating-"

"I've NEVER cheated on you. How could you even think I-"

"Okay, Helena, YOU look at it objectively and tell me just what I'm supposed to think."

Barbara watched Helena's mouth open, then close, as tears ran down her cheeks. And then, Barbara realized suddenly that Helena was woefully at a disadvantage in a discussion of this nature. Having never had a long-term romantic relationship, the younger woman had no gauge of what was possible, what might happen if they had a fight. By the devastation and panic she saw in those blue eyes, though, she could tell the poor baby was thinking worst-case scenario.

Barbara cursed herself internally. Poor BABY? Where the fuck had that come from? SHE was the injured party, if anyone was! Fuck!

God, she HATED being such a sucker for the woman. But did that matter? No. She modulated her voice anyway, in order to calm the younger woman.

"I'm confused and very angry with you right now, Helena, but let me explain something. You are, for want of a better term, my spouse. Barring some catastrophe, ending our relationship is just not an option for me. And it never will be. We'll discuss this later when we can be sure we'll have privacy and after I've had time to think."

Before she turned back to Delphi, she saw relief flood her lover's face. Then she felt a tentative hand touch her shoulder. She reached up, gave it the briefest squeeze, and said softly. "Later."

Wow, Helena thought, as she inhaled, then exhaled deeply.

The power of one touch.

She was being dismissed. But, suddenly, she didn't care.

* * * * *

Barbara came up with a drug for Quinn after about an hour of searching. Very promising-very experimental. A drug that, because it had not even remotely approached FDA approval, would take the considerable force of Wayne Corp. to obtain.

Beside that, though, her mind was everywhere else as she felt Helena's anxious, silent presence behind her. Reading magazines, pacing, and generally in every capacity making her presence felt. Barbara kept her eyes on Delphi, though her mind was anywhere but. Because the truth was...she didn't know if she really wanted to know the truth.

Despite her earlier outburst, she was absolutely certain Helena had never cheated on her. She knew her almost as well as she knew herself and it wasn't in the younger woman's makeup.

So what did it matter? If it were in the past-what did it matter?

She cursed herself silently...what was it about human beings that so compelled them to go searching for unhappiness, go digging for pain in their relationships-in the name of some bogus sort of truth?

Because...if Helena had slept with Quinn, even loved her, in the time before their relationship, did that change the truth? Did that change the truth of the love she knew for a fact Helena felt for her now?


Then why? Why this need to know? Was it because she wanted to know why Helena had kept this momentous...thing from her? After a few beats of thought, Barbara had to stifle a laugh.

Why? DUH.

Because Helena was afraid she'd react in the very way she was reacting....

* * * * *

"Ahhh...that's better," Quinn said as she re-entered the room where a silent Barbara and Helena were sitting. And evidently it was-because, although she still looked tired, she also seemed somehow, even visibly, more normal. She looked around the empty room.

"Boy, I sure know how to clear a place out, don't I?"

Barbara didn't respond, merely said to Helena, "Get Batman."

"Ah yes, please do," Quinn said as they watched Helena cross out of the room, "A man in costume so brightens a room, don't you think, Barbara?"

Barbara ignored this, asked, "Would you like something to drink?"

"Water, if you don't mind. I'm positively frothing for something harder but I can't quite drink in my condition."

Barbara buzzed Alfred and ordered drinks for everyone. She, too, was frothing for something harder, just looking at Quinn.

They waited for Alfred to bring the drinks before getting down to business.

Quinn spoke first. "Here's my proposition...I'm not exactly in Mr. J's good graces right now since I botched the Barbara caper-but I'm sure, as crazy as I'm getting, I could be soon. Naturally, of course, that's sort of walking a tightrope since the less stable I am, the less safe you all become. But if you can find something that will counteract those damned injections-just take the edge off a bit, I can-"

"Well, actually, I have found something. Promising...but very experimental. And God only knows what the long-term side effects would be."

"Sounds perfect."

"Do you understand what I'm saying? The side effects could be of any degree of severity-including death."

Helena spoke up, "Listen to her, Quinn-it might not be worth-"

Quinn's laughter rang out through the room.

"Helena, that's sweet, but honestly-who cares? Believe me-it's not like my life's all that worth living."

Batman interjected here. "Why are you doing this?"

"Can't a girl turn over a new leaf?"

His voice was full of disdain. "Not a girl like you."

Quinn eyes widened, "Oh, I see-no, no-not a girl like me-only a girl like...let's say..." she batted her eyelashes at him, "Catwoman, for instance?"

Batman's eyes tightened in an inscrutable glare.

Quinn shrugged. "Suit yourself, Bat-O-Mine. If you want to catch him, my way's quicker. And I only need one thing in return."

Batman sneered. "I knew it. Here it comes."

Quinn smiled smarmily at him. "Oh ye of little faith." She turned to Helena and said, "I'll help you catch Mr. J. if you promise you won't kill him. Lock him up forever-please-but just don't kill him."

Naturally, as her therapist, Quinn knew that this was one of Helena's most fervent wishes. They all watched as Helena ground her teeth before replying. "That's asking a hell of a lot, Quinn."

"So's handing your first love over to his enemies...but-hey-that's all I'm asking. And Barbara will be safe and your lives can get back to normal."

So that was the price she'd have to pay, Helena thought. She almost groaned with fatigue. For God's sake, she just wanted to get back to her real life...her life with Barbara and Dinah. And if that was the price she had to pay, she could pay it.


Quinn smiled at her, then stood. "Good! Now, I'd better get going-I feel my head beginning to spin again."

"Why don't you just tell us where he is right now?"

Quinn turned to Batman. "Because, believe it or not, I don't know. I'm telling you-he doesn't trust me right now." She ogled the room before adding, "And who can blame him, huh? It'll take one hell of a job to get on his good side, but I'm working on it."

She turned to Barbara, "How can I get that drug you were talking about?"

"Come back in two days and I'll inject you myself."

"Oooh," Quinn cooed as she tilted her head, "you can inject me anytime."

"How do we know you're not being followed?"

Quinn rolled her eyes at Batman's question. "My God, but you're thorough, Prince of Darkness. I told Joker's henchmen if they dared follow me anywhere, I'd cut out their hearts and feed them to the lions in the New Gotham Zoo. And because I have an...entirely deserved reputation in that regard..." She disregarded Batman's disgusted look and turned to Helena. "Walk me out, girl-wonder?"

* * * * *

At the elevator, Quinn lowered her voice. "Sorry about earlier. I probably wasn't entirely appropriate. But you can't imagine how hard it is..."

Helena watched as Quinn's eyes began to twitch again and thought maybe, actually, she could. She hesitated for a second, then said 'fuck it' to herself, and pulled Quinn into a hug.

"Thanks for protecting us."

She felt Quinn whisper, "No problem," into her ear before pulling out of the hug with a cackle. "Well, actually-it is sort of a weight of the world problem but, what the hey-you're cute!"

As she entered the elevator, she turned and added, "I sort of accidentally touched Dinah earlier-so you can ask her about what's going on if Bruce-oops-let's call him Batman, shall we? If he needs further verification of my intentions..."

And then the elevator doors closed.

Shit! Helena felt a thrill of horror course through her. She hadn't told her that! Shit!

* * * * *

"MARVELOUS!' Bruce was on a tear. "Just marvelous! I work for decades without having my identity discovered and now-"

"And now WHAT? Your dumb-assed daughter's messed everything up for you?"

"Something like that!"


"She's not an idiot-Helena, though I'm beginning to think-"

Barbara jumped in immediately and her voice was low and ferocious. "BRUCE! Not ONE more word. You will NOT speak to Helena that way in our home."

Bruce stopped speaking. Stopped short.

Barbara had never, ever, in the history of their long relationship, scolded him.

It took only two beats for him to feel deeply chagrined and his voice instantly softened. "I apologize, Helena. That was ridiculous. It's just...very disconcerting, as I'm sure you must understand. But...believe me, I know it's not your fault."

Helena, whose heart was immeasurably lightened by her lover's defending her against the person the older woman most esteemed in the world, softened her tone as well. "Yeah...well...I'm sorry, too. I mean...I do know I'm a fuck-up."

Bruce placed his hand on her shoulder, "No you're not. You're my daughter. And you're not a fuck-up-at all-"and then he smiled at her, "Despite your dubious taste in therapists."

Helena smiled up at him, swallowed hard, and replied, "Thanks...pop."

* * * * *

Although Dinah and Dick had been glad to get out of the fire, they were more than a little bitter that they might have missed fireworks.

Everyone was seated, eating a rather over-the-top meal Alfred had prepared, when Bruce asked, "So, Dinah, Quinn told Helena to ask you about her mental status."

At this question, Dinah nearly lost her appetite.

"I've...uh...never seen or felt anything like it before. The fact that she's even walking and talking at all is sort of a miracle."

Dinah trailed off for a beat, thinking.

"It was the most horrific thing I've ever trying to keep your sanity nailed down in a hurricane. Images...and...sounds...and...voices...and...smells." She shuddered unconsciously. "It was horrible. "

She paused before adding, "I don't know if I like her but I can't help but respect her."

"Do you think we can trust her?"

She turned to Bruce, "I don't know...I only know she really wants to be trustworthy, if she can."

* * * * *

Later, after Bruce and Dick had retired to the Manor, the family settled in for what they'd decided would be one of their movie nights.

Helena felt herself buoyed by Barbara's request. "Could a girl get a lift?"

She'd never more reverently and lovingly assisted Barbara into a place on their couch. And then, they'd heard the sound of the microwave finishing their popcorn.

"D-could you get that?" Barbara asked.

Helena and Barbara watched the blank TV screen for a few beats before the younger woman spoke, "Barbara, I-"

She was surprised to feel Barbara's fingers on her lips.

"Shhh. Don't get me wrong. I'm still angry-but I don't want to talk about it until I'm ready to. I don't want you to tell me...whatever you have to tell me until I've had more time to think." Barbara hesitated before asking, "But I do want to know. Do you love me?"

Barbara was stunned by the look of abject misery in Helena's eyes. "I'd die for you, Barbara...but what's more important...I...entirely live for you, too." She looked down at the couch cushion. "I hope you know that-I hope you can feel that."

Helena heard Barbara chuckle, then felt her pull her chin up to look into her eyes. "I do-and that's why we can talk about it later."

And then she kissed her, and so tenderly that Helena nearly burst into tears, never having imagined that such love and potential forgiveness existed on Earth.

* * * * *

Two Days Later

Quinn was tapping the floor next to Delphi with her foot, awaiting her first injection. Helena had made a very obvious leave of absence for the woman's visit, though Dinah was there to monitor the effects of the medication.

"I have bats in my belfry waiting for Batgirl's shot so Batman will trust me." Quinn tilted her head to one side. "Which sounds, at least to me, something like a fucking plethora of bats-I'm I right?"

Even Barbara couldn't help smiling at this as she injected Quinn. "Brace yourself. The effect should be nearly instantaneous."

Quinn showed no effect. But Dinah, whose hand had been on Quinn's shoulder, sank to her knees within fifteen seconds, trailing her hand down Quinn's body as she dropped, so that it finally rested on the other woman's calf.

She opened her eyes to assure a frightened Barbara. "'s okay. Her mind's...clearing...getting better. It's just's like her body's covered with thousands of fire ants-all of them biting her."

Quinn laughed.

"Yep! Thousands and thousands of ants. And that's no picnic, huh? Wow! Feeling...clear. Good. Thank you, Dinah." Quinn shrugged herself free from Dinah's touch and turned to Barbara.

"When can I have the next shot?"

"Two days."

"Two days. Got it! Same Bat time, same Bat channel."

As they watched Quinn leave, Barbara noted, with no little irritation, the grudging look of respect on Dinah's face.

* * * * *

The second injection was worse. Dinah gasped as she felt the renewed clarity in Quinn's mind vie with the fact that her body felt literally on fire.

If she'd been Joan of Arc, surely...surely...this would have been what it felt like. She could scarcely believe that the horrors of third degree burns weren't rising on Quinn's skin.

Holy shit!!

Dinah had heard that some drugs-like some chemotherapy-could do this to you-make you feel, mentally, things that weren't happening to you physically, but it was nearly impossible to believe the intensity of ...

Quinn pulled away from her immediately and Dinah was astonished to see her grin. "Hurts, huh? Welcome to my world, Blondie." She smiled again. "No biggie, though, huh?"

Actually, truth be told, Dinah was thinking it was one hell of a biggie. And obviously, Quinn experienced a sort of psychic pain on a daily basis for which she had no basis for comparison.

Quinn turned to Barbara, "Next shot?"

"Five days."

"Five days it is, then. Should have big goings-on planned by then."

* * * * *

As they watched her leave, Dinah chuckled a bit under her breath.

"What?" Barbara asked.

"It's just that-I can see, now, what Helena saw in her."

"What do you mean by that?"

Although Dinah had touched Quinn, Quinn's mind was so exquisitely compartmentalized that she was unable, at all, to reach Helena's relationship with the woman. Or what Barbara might be implying.

"As a therapist...I mean. Beside everything else, she's just sort of astonishing, isn't she? Even sorta-something, huh?" Dinah hoped she'd covered that well.

Maybe not. Because the young woman could plainly see Barbara was feeling more than a bit disgruntled to find she was the only person in the Clocktower who felt no attraction to Harley Quinn.

* * * * *

Although Barbara had remained pleasant, loving and affectionate, Helena could still feel a certain chill between them and they hadn't made love since Quinn's first visit. And after nine days, Helena began to wonder how many ways even someone who was as smart as Barbara could think about a problem. Because after nine days of not talking about it, Helena was positively aching to unburden herself-to tell her the truth at whatever cost. Just to have it over and done with. She wondered after a while whether that was part of her lover's plan. Or maybe it was just a punishment.

The night before Quinn's third injection, a silent Helena lay in bed next to Barbara, watching her as she read a book. And made up her mind. She couldn't take it anymore.

"Hey, Barbara?"

The women didn't look up from her page. "Yes?"

"You know...I've noticed that sometimes, over the years...and even now, you get this look on your face when you're looking at Dick...especially when you touch him."

Barbara still didn't look up. "Oh? What look's that?"

"I don't you still love him or something."

At this, and the seriousness in the woman's voice, Barbara did turn to Helena.

"I do still love him, Hel. You know that. I always will. We've gone through so many things together that nothing will ever-"

Then she stopped. Abruptly. Realizing Helena's comments weren't really about Dick at all; she was talking about Quinn. Helena was not usually known for her subtlety but she'd slipped this little analogy right under Barbara's radar. And she found it rather offensive, though she kept her tone controlled.

"You can't possibly be comparing the love I've built for someone over nearly two decades of learning and fighting together with-"

"Well, who else do I have?" Helena snapped. "Huh? Except you? Who else?"

That brought Barbara up short. Because Helena was right, though Barbara would, somehow, never have thought about it that way. After her mother had died, Helena had never had another adult to talk to, never anyone she'd felt enough connection with to confide in-except her.

And Quinn.

Barbara lay there for a full five minutes, just looking into the blue eyes of her partner. In life. In love. She chuckled inwardly as she realized that she was learning, yet again, the true meaning of taking one for the team. She didn't like it. But that didn't matter.

She would just have to accept that her lover's past belonged to her lover-not to her.

And let it go. Because if she held onto her need to delve into the darkness of Helena's past, she'd never be able to enjoy the light Helena was bringing into her life now. And that would be unacceptable.

"Alright." Barbara said finally. "Message received, point taken..." but she couldn't resist adding the dig, "Though, frankly, I can't pretend I understand what the attract-"

Helena decided to risk humor. "Oh please! Like I understood Wade?" And was treated to one of her favorite sights. Barbara threw back her head and laughed. And then reached over, pulled her forcefully by her t-shirt onto her.

Helena smiled as she kissed her and asked. "Does this mean I'm forgiven?"

"Actually, you have a few more hours of penance to do-but I expect you'll enjoy them."

And as Barbara slid her hands under her shirt, Helena couldn't help but agree.

* * * * *

For the third injection, everyone was present because Quinn had announced she'd come up with a plan.

Again, as they watched, Dinah placed her hand on Quinn's shoulder and was instantly relieved to feel a distinct lessening of physical symptoms although the woman's mind was still a barely controlled maelstrom.

Quinn's eye's widened as she watched Barbara fill the syringe, then she looked up at the rest of the company and smiled.

"I suppose you're all wondering why I called this meeting."

"We're in no mood for your jokes, Quinn."

Quinn rolled her head languidly toward Batman to answer him. "Are you sure that costume isn't pinching you somewhere?"

Then looked to Dick. "Honest to Pete, how'd you ever put up with old Ironsides all those years?"

Before he could answer, she turned to Barbara, who was even at that moment injecting her. Then turned her attention toward Dinah and watched the young woman's reaction to the drug surging through her veins.

Dinah tilted her head one way, then the other, and suddenly grinned at Quinn. "Wow. Not so bad this time, was it?"

Quinn grinned right back. "Nope-though nobody really knows it but us, huh?"

* * * * *

As Barbara watched Dinah smiling at Quinn, she wondered whether it were necessarily a good idea to require Dinah's interaction with this psychopath's mind-and on such a regular basis.

* * * * *

"Here's what I'm going to suggest," Quinn began. "We all know I need to get back into Mr. J's good graces so we can eventually put my poor Puddin' right back where he belongs-in a fucking-oops, excuse the language! In a nice padded prison cell. However, we all also know I'm crazy as a bridge mix of nuts and bound to get worse once these meds wear off. And then, who can tell what I'll do, right?"

Quinn paused only briefly to make sure everyone was with her before continuing.

"Well, here's where we'd have to make up the teeniest bit of short fiction. What if we allege the billionaire Bruce Wayne had quite recently discovered that he had a daughter he'd never known about?"

She winked at Batman.

"And, though he was trying to settle up and make good by this daughter, she was entirely too bitter to accept his offer after his long-term neglect of her?"

She winked at Helena.

"And what if said daughter had somehow come into my clinical practice-had fallen under my spell-had even become my lover!?"

She winked at Barbara.

"Wouldn't it be something if that daughter had decided to go on the lam with me and extort Dear Daddy's fortune for Mr. J's benefit?!"

"You can't possibly believe Helena would-"

Quinn interrupted Barbara immediately. "I said fiction, my dear. I'm talking about a person who could go undercover with me and make absolutely sure I was doing the right thing."

Then she pointed.

And Dinah squeaked. "Me!?"

Chapter 11

**I'll Be Your Mirror**
The Velvet Underground and Nico

I'll be your mirror
Reflect what you are, in case you don't know
I'll be the wind, the rain and the sunset
The light on your door to show that you're home

When you think the night has seen your mind
That inside you're twisted and unkind
Let me stand to show that you are blind
Please put down your hands
'Cause I see you

I find it hard to believe you don't know
The beauty that you are
But if you don't,
Let me be your eyes,
A hand in your darkness,
So you won't be afraid

When you think the night has seen your mind
That inside you're twisted and unkind
Let me stand to show that you are blind
Please put down your hands
'Cause I see you

I'll be your mirror

* * * * *

Two Days Later...

"Holy SHIT!" That was, initially, the only actual comment. Offered by Helena, naturally.

Barbara, Nightwing and even Batman were too stunned to say anything at all. Though-to judge by their eyes, they, too, were thinking 'holy SHIT.'

Because Dinah's transformation was nearly complete. Her clothing was leather-and black. As was her hair-jet-black. And it had been cut nearly as short as Quinn's and was styled in an elaborately messy and spiky coif. Her eye makeup was heavier than even Helena had ever worn hers. And the effect of all of this was startling. Her complexion and the youth and voluptuousness of her features were in sharp contrast to her hair and kohl-rimmed eyes, making her look like a petulant, suddenly grown-up Lolita. And Dinah looked like she could, and probably would, kick your ass up between your shoulder blades if you fucked with her or even looked at her sideways.

But the voice was still Dinah the kid's. "You GUYS! C'mon. Say something. Do I look alright?"

Helena snorted. "Hell, I'd sleep with you."

"Ewww!" Dinah shot back, looking pleased, nevertheless.

Helena laughed as the two men scowled at her, at the same time she felt Barbara swat her on the ass. "It was a joke." She laughed again, "Jokes-tension relievers. Heard of 'em?"

Quinn smiled as surveyed her work. "Dinah, darling, you haven't shown them the piece de resistance."

Dinah took off her leather jacket, pulled up one short sleeve and, there, on the shoulder was a tattoo-of a red and white harlequin's hat.

"You did NOT get a TATTOO!" Barbara barked, somewhat illogically, given the empirical evidence.

"Why not?! Helena has one!"

"Helena is an adult!" Barbara interjected, immediately and conveniently forgetting that A.) Helena had not been an adult when she got her tattoo and that she'd been furious and that now B.) She loved Helena's tattoo.

Quinn interjected. "At ease, Sergeant Gordon, it's merely semi-permanent. It'll eventually fade right off. "

Barbara glared at Quinn. "If you've...pierced her in ANY capacity, I swear to you I'll-"

Quinn's merry laugh rang through the Clocktower. "I have not..." she gave a salacious waggle of her eyebrows, "pierced her-nor do I intend to."

"Let's move on." Batman's voice was firm.

* * * * *

Bruce was distinctly uncomfortable with this, as were they all. Sending Dinah undercover with Quinn was the craziest idea he'd ever heard of-he could scarcely bear the thought of it. But the thought of Joker's freedom and of Barbara's peril was something he really couldn't bear. At all. It actually scared him. In a way he hadn't been frightened since his parents were ripped from him. Because he loved Barbara-for everything she'd ever been to him, for what she'd lost because of him, and for what she was today. And now his daughter loved her, too. Losing her would rip something essential out of him and Dick and Dinah but it would ruin his daughter.

And that could not, would not happen. Not to his daughter. Barbara must be kept safe. And if this was the quickest way to achieve that goal...

* * * * *

Two days earlier, Dick had sighed as Bruce pulled him over. Though he was used to Bruce's sometimes irritating sidebar conversations, he knew they were rooted in the older man's trust and love for him, so he really couldn't be irritated for long.

"Truth. Can she do this? How good is she?" Though Bruce had gone on a few sweeps with the girl, he didn't feel qualified to judge. And Dick's judgment was second only to his as far as he was concerned.

Dick thought about it. God knows, with the powers the girl possessed, what the future held. But Dinah was already a remarkably gifted fighter-and getting better every day.

No-she wasn't Helena, but, then again-who was? Even he [in a small space, in a box, in one really dark corner of his mind] would concede that his little sister could probably kick his ass. And that he could only barely match with sheer length of service and experience what she effortlessly possessed as her birthright.

No, Dinah wasn't Helena.

Dinah was...well...Dinah was a Collie.

He laughed at the analogy but he knew where it came from.

He'd had a friend at school, Tim Garver, who'd been such a dog fanatic that it'd been nearly creepy at times. And one day, at lunch, Tim explained, spraying food in his great enthusiasm, something Dick had never forgotten.

"Look, here's the deal. Dobermans and Collies both make great pets but there's a difference between them. A Doberman, Grayson, is bred to protect. To PROTECT. With force, if necessary. And they have the bodies and minds and spirits to do that work. A Collie, on the other hand, is bred to SHEPHERD-AND to protect. The Collie will watch over its flock and make sure no particular sheep gets into trouble-and that everybody stays together. BUT-at the first sign of trouble, the Collie will move between that trouble and its flock. And HEAVEN HELP the wolf that fucks with that flock. Because a Collie will DIE to protect its flock and it's just as vicious as a Doberman if you threaten its flock."

Dinah to a tee. A Collie.

"She can do this, Bruce. I have absolute confidence in her."

* * * * *

And so it was two days later. Dinah the Collie now looked like Dinah the Doberman. And those who loved her, including Bruce and Dick, were nearly beside themselves with worry.

* * * * *

Helena pulled Quinn aside for their own little sidebar after the unveiling of the new Dinah.

"Take care of her, Quinn."

"Of course I will."

"I know you're not going on any capers but if there's any sign-and I mean ANY sign of trouble-call us and we'll all be there stat."

"Yes, ma'am."

"And...DON'T sleep with her."

"Aha!" Quinn's eyes widened. "Did I hear a wee bit of jealousy there?"

Helena smirked. "No-but you are supposed to be pretending to be lovers. And it wasn't exactly subtle-the look you were going for."

"Actually, I patterned her after a cross between you and me-because I adore you and I'm half in love with myself sometimes."

Helena winked at her. "As you should be."

And, for that comment, Quinn looked at her with such gratitude that it made Helena catch her breath.

* * * * *

Although Barbara had determined to move past what she called in her mind 'The Quinn Issue,' she still ground her teeth as she watched Helena and Quinn together. She couldn't hear what they were saying but she could see the rapport between them, the easy familiarity.

Breathe...Barbara, breathe.

* * * * *

Batman had been the one who'd immediately, tersely pointed out that Dinah didn't look like she was Quinn's lover-in fact she looked like a kid who was slightly afraid of her.

Quinn had laughed at this. "Give me one week with her-we'll just spend time together and-"

"No crime."

Quinn smiled at Barbara. "Of course not-not until she looks like, " she batted her eyelashes at Dinah, who gulped, "my girlfriend."

"And NO sex."

"BARBARA!?" Even to Dinah's ears, her voice sounded like a embarrassed child's.

Quinn tilted her head to one side and smirked at Barbara. "Well, seeing as how I left my cherry-picker back at the orchard-"


Dinah's mortified reaction made Helena convulse with laughter, though Dick was able to stifle his. Barbara and Bruce, however, remained deadly serious and it was to them that Quinn replied.

"No crime. No sex. Promise. We'll spend one week together, we'll return for my next injection and you all can see what you think. If it doesn't look like we can pull it off, we'll try something else."

* * * * *

Which is how Dinah found herself sitting, as nervous as she could ever remember being, in a car with Quinn.

"Ah...alone at last." Quinn said silkily as she pulled the car away from the Clocktower.

Dinah felt her heart racing a mile a minute as Quinn's car moved through the streets of Gotham toward the older woman's apartment.

"Would you like some music?" Quinn gestured toward a CD case.

"Uh, sure." Dinah flipped through Quinn's CD's, shoved one into the player, and flipped through to the song she wanted to hear.

The low bass rumble of Lou Reed's 'Walk on the Wild Side' filled the car and Quinn laughed.

"Darling! That's so sweet. We already have an 'our song'."

* * * * *

Quinn's apartment, Dinah found, was, although fantastically and exquisitely furnished, surprisingly...normal. And after an even more surprisingly normal and pleasant dinner, that Quinn cooked, they'd both retired to the couch in her living room. Quinn put on some light jazz music and dimmed the lights, handed Dinah a glass of wine.

Which made Dinah swallow hard. 'What have I gotten myself into here,' she thought-'and wine! Barbara would never let me have'-she immediately and greedily took a big swig. 'Not bad-not what she'd expected-but not bad...'

Quinn smiled at her as if she knew every single thing she was thinking. The woman was eerie that way-uncannily reading any body language, any verbal nuance or hesitation.

"Dinah, I'm afraid we're going to have to do something now that you might not want to do."

"Oh yeah?" Dinah's voice shot up a half-octave. "What's that?"

"I'm going to have to kiss you."

Dinah's eyebrows shot to the ceiling. "Oh? And...uh...why's that?"

Quinn moved closer to her. "Because...if we're supposed to be playing lovers, I can't exactly have you squeak like you just did if I kiss you in front of Mr. J. "

"Would you...uh...really have to do that?"

"Maybe-just for show. He needs to believe something beside anger at your Dear Daddy has made you decide to help us-and you wouldn't be the first person who fell for sex."

The word 'sex' that seemed-suddenly somehow-to pertain to her, made the blood rush to Dinah's ears.

Sex. And her.

Well, no. Not yet, anyway. And certainly not with...

Quinn moved closer. "But don't worry-nothing's going to happen beyond a kiss-I's just in the interest of verisimilitude..."

Dinah, tremendous student that she was, knew that word meant 'trueness to life' but her vocabulary was inadequate for what happened next.

She was startled by the softness of Quinn's lips. She'd never kissed a girl-much less a woman. And had limited experiences with boys of her age.

Her mind slipped a gear as she allowed Quinn to deepen the kiss.

'Ah, yes, well, Dinah thought, '...evidently, one truly...needed experience to know how to kiss. Because this woman...evidently had experience and...certainly knew how to...'

After about five minutes. Quinn pulled away and, as normally as if they'd just been playing checkers, asked suddenly, brightly, "Wanna watch a movie?"

"Uh..." Dinah replied. She unconsciously raised her hand to feel her face, since all of the blood in her body had, for some reason, decided to detour there.

"Dinah? Darling, would you like to watch a movie?" Quinn resisted the urge to laugh, which she knew would have mortified the younger woman.

"Uh, yeah. Sure. Yes," she said, as she made a lunge for her wine glass.

* * * * *

After Quinn and Dinah had left, Bruce and Dick had retired rather quickly to the Manor.

And Alfred had put the last touches on dinner.

"Miss Barbara, Miss Helena, I've taken the liberty of scheduling Master Bruce and Master Dick for the next two nights of sweeps...and I won't be here either."

"Oh? Abandoning us, Alfred?"

"No. Actually, it occurred to me that you two had never had complete privacy in your home since..."

"Ah yes, I see." Barbara jumped in at this awkward pause, though Helena was lost.

"I've also stocked two days of meals for you. Happy...honeymoon."

Helena smiled softly at him as Barbara squeezed his arm. "What would we do without you, Alfred?"

"I'm sure I don't know, Miss."

As he disappeared, Barbara turned to Helena with a salacious grin. "For 48 hours, we can be as...loud as we want."

"But I'm not all that lou-"

"You're going to be."

* * * * *

Two hours later, Helena felt sure she was going to lose her mind or scream or both. She was naked and lying spread-eagled on their bed. And for the last hour, a full hour, Barbara had only touched her with a piece of velvet-about the size of a handkerchief. As Helena had watched Barbara pull it out of a drawer and as they'd positioned themselves in bed, Helena had asked. "What's that for?"

"You remember that green velvet blouse I used to wear?"

"Yeah-it was one of your favorites." She leered at the memory, "And mine."

"Exactly. Well, when it got too threadbare to wear-I couldn't bear to part with all of it so I cut out this little patch. Now close your eyes, Hel, and don't open them."

And then, Helena had lain there, feeling the soft, teasing, infinitely feathery touch of the velvet on her shins, her knees, her hands, her arms, her breasts, her shoulders. And again. And again. It was lovely...and infinitely maddening.

With her eyes closed, her senses were beginning to pick up the sweet scent of Barbara's sweat, which had always been an aphrodisiac for her. And of course, Barbara would know this. That, bereft of her sight, her meta-human senses would immediately compensate-and far, far more than a normal human being's would. She could actually hear the silent sound of the velvet on her skin; she could smell their arousal and...she wanted so badly to taste her...

But her sense of touch...Barbara was teasing her sense of touch to the point that...

She shivered violently as felt the velvet move over her breasts again, aching...aching...for contact-any contact. She wanted more-and she wanted it now.

"Please Barbara...please, darlin'."

"Shhhh, honey...soon enough." Helena's back bucked slightly at the feeling of Barbara's warm breath on her skin.

But it wasn't soon enough. It seemed to go on forever and ever and ever.

So long that Helena was astonished to feel tears running down her cheeks. She wanted to be touched by her woman so badly...she wanted it...needed it.

Then, she was more astonished to find she was begging for it. And not faux-sexy begging for it, either.

Begging for it for real. She felt entirely out of control-no-she corrected herself instantly, what she felt was that she was under Barbara's control.

At the sheer pleasure of that thought-of so completely belonging to Barbara-she began to whimper. She clutched the sheets with both hands and begged, moaned for release as Barbara traced her stomach with the velvet...and then...

The first real-warm touch she felt was Barbara's hands gripping her hips-and Helena shouted in surprise.

The second was Barbara's hot mouth pressed between her legs. And, then, Helena was amazed at her own volume.

* * * * *

Later, as Helena lay wrapped up in Barbara's arms, she heard her lover laughing under her breath.

A smile tugged at Helena's lips. God, how Barbara loved to laugh in the bedroom. "Whatcha thinking about-or do I want to know?"

"Nothing, really. Just that my girl loves her velvet."

Helena snorted then answered, "Actually, your girl loves you." Helena pulled slightly away, and then turned to face Barbara, her face very serious as she stroked the outlines of her lover's face. "You know you're the only person who can do that to me, don't you? "

Barbara smiled but her tone was firm, the expression on her face somewhat obstinate. "Yeah? Well, I'd damned well better be."

Helena, realizing this was a carry-over from the Quinn situation, wasn't smiling. "Of course you are. Forever. But that's absolutely a given, isn't it, Ms. Gordon?" Helena watched as the tension in Barbara's body disappeared as quickly as it had appeared.

Then she continued, "But you do know what I mean, don't you? You're absolutely the only person I'd let take that sort of-"

Barbara, slightly embarrassed, pressed two fingers briefly against Helena's lips. "I know exactly what you mean, love."

Now, slightly embarrassed herself, Helena smiled. "So...uh...I guess we're pretty lucky, aren't we?

"Yes, we are."

And then Helena kissed her, which to Barbara, was the very definition of good luck.

* * * * *

After their initial evening, Quinn and Dinah had settled into an odd sort of domesticity. They ate all of their meals together, took walks together, and stayed up late into the evening talking. The only time Quinn left her was when she received her daily injection from Joker's Dr. Feel-Good. Or Dr. Be-Crazy, as Quinn called him.

Of course, initially, during their time together, Dinah had been sceptical. Of course the woman was a good listener; of course she knew all the right things to say. That was her profession. But as the days went by, despite herself, she found it intoxicating to be listened to and taken so seriously by someone who was...

Who was what?

Well...certainly disturbed, certainly dangerous.

But also frighteningly smart, incredibly witty.

And, just being around her, Dinah felt herself wanting to meet this adult, who was taking her so seriously, at her own level. With Quinn an eager and entirely non-judgmental listener, she found herself, for the first time in her life, saying whatever the hell she wanted to-and what she actually thought and felt, anyone else be damned.

She also found that not censoring herself for fear of sounding too young or too juvenile was actually pretty damned fun. Under Quinn's influence, she realized that one day soon she really would be an adult-and that, she, as an adult would be smart and witty and interesting and sexy. Just like the other women in her family.

And because she was touching her, Dinah was shocked to find how very truly, strangely compassionate Quinn actually was. Helena had been right, after all. Quinn, when taking her medication, really was...among other things, a person.

* * * * *

And she was always touching her. Through it all, Quinn insisted on maintaining physical contact.

"Dinah, dear, as I'm sure you've noticed from Barbara and Helena, people who have a physical relationship actually look like they do. It's an ease, a familiarity that comes with intimacy."

So they held hands, a lot. They always sat next to each other, body touching body. There were more kisses that always ended within five minutes. Dinah could sense a brick wall of propriety in the woman where this was concerned. Quinn would go so far-but no farther.

Dinah could also sense, as the days went by without Barbara's injections, Quinn's mind begin to spin...and slip. And it was heartbreaking. To feel someone work so hard to have the control almost everyone else had by right of birth.

And on the fifth day, as they'd sat on the couch watching the evening news, they were holding hands and Dinah caught a flash of something-a tsunami of sadness in Quinn, a sadness that was all the more gnawing and immense because she knew there was no end to it.

This-Dinah realized-this was what Quinn wanted. Sure she enjoyed the excitement, the uncertainty of her life of crime. But she also wanted to wake up with someone, and eat breakfast, and read the paper and laugh and walk and watch the fucking evening news together. And just be normal. But, for so many reasons, that was almost certainly, never, ever going to happen for her.

And Quinn knew it. Dinah felt such a surge of compassion for the woman that she leaned in and put her arm around her.

Quinn, knew, of course, what feelings had motivated the movement but she merely shrugged and rested her head on Dinah's shoulder, before asking, "Where's the remote, darling?"

"You left it over there." Dinah reached out, gestured, and the remote flew like a dart to a dartboard, right into her hand.

"Wow! A girl who can fetch my remote with telekinesis. Will you marry me?

Dinah smiled. "I'd almost marry you just to see the look on Barbara and Bruce's faces."

"Hmmm....not to mention Helena's," Quinn added with a smirk, then asked. "Whatcha wanna watch, huh?"

* * * * *

Quinn marvelled at how quickly Dinah was transforming herself. But, after all, the girl did sort of have an advantage. She wasn't just hanging out-absorbing, hearing and watching a certain attitude she needed to assume. Through touch, she could actually enter that attitude. And it was working.

* * * * *

On the sixth evening, they'd been walking down the street hand in hand, when two men approached them on the street. One of them chose to speak.

"Fucking dykes."

Dinah had been utterly taken aback. Sure, she knew such prejudice existed. It was just that no one she was close to-Alfred or Dick or Wade, or even Bruce, had ever cared, in the Barbara-Helena pairing, that Helena was a woman.

Just that she was...uh, well...Helena.

"Excuse me, gentlemen?" Quinn's voice was cool and polite. "Are you addressing us?"

"Don't see any other dykes around, do you?" The first man eyed the taller, darker Dinah and sneered, "You must be the man, huh?"

"That's right!" Quinn said brightly, "More of a man than you'll ever be, more of a woman than you'll ever have."

It was rather unfortunate that this man chose to reach for Quinn because, in two blows, Dinah had knocked him cold.

As the second man reached for Dinah, she glared at him so ferociously that he hesitated, hand outstretched. She glanced between that hand and its owner. "Two choices, motherfucker. You wear that hand home tonight on the end of your arm-or I'll be using it for a key-chain."

And he could see, from the glitter in her eyes, that she meant it.

He ignored her, stooped to help his fallen comrade. But he couldn't help but comment. "Bitch, you're crazy."

Quinn looked at Dinah and they both smiled.

Mission accomplished.

* * * * *

That night, Dinah lay in bed mulling over her return to the Clocktower the next afternoon. Bruce and Barbara had said they should come 'in character.' Exactly as they'd present themselves to The Joker. Which, even with the slightly new attitude she had, might prove a little embarrassing. She would never have considered kissing someone--even someone her age, like...Paul Teasdale, front of her family, much less a grown--

Her thoughts were interrupted by a groaning, whimpering sound from outside her bedroom. She jumped up, padded out into the hall and heard that the sound was coming from Quinn's bedroom.

As she opened the door, the whimpering grew louder. Clearly, Quinn was having a nightmare. She crossed to the bed and touched the older woman.

"Quinn? Quinn!"

Quinn stirred slightly, looked up at Dinah. "I'm empty. I see it-I'm empty-there's nothing there."

The slightest touch told Dinah this was not a dream. It was past time for Quinn's injection and her mind was seriously unravelling in her sleep.

"Shhhh, you're not empty. I'm here." She tried petting Quinn's shoulder-anything-to ground her. And felt, immediately...empty, lost, vacant, unloved, unwanted, alone.

She helped maneuver Quinn away from the side of the bed and climbed in with her.

"But there's no one one...the mirror's empty. I look and I look...and the mirror's empty."

Dinah didn't know how she-much less Quinn-could bear the anguish the woman was feeling.

"Shhh," she whispered as she stroked Quinn's face. "Quinn-look! The mirror is here. Look at me." She smiled at Quinn. "Look-look!"

She watched Quinn try to focus on her face.

"It's hard. I know...I know. But look! I'm the mirror."

Quinn looked into her eyes, focused, then asked plaintively. "Really? Is that me?"


Quinn touched Dinah's face, tentatively. "But...I...I'm so...beautiful."

"Yes, you are."

"I...didn't know."

"I know that." Dinah smiled at her again. "But that's why I'm here-to tell you."

Quinn stared for a few beats, blinking her eyes, then seemed to relax. "Please don't leave me...I'm afraid."

Dinah tightened her grip around the woman. "Shhh...I won't leave you. I promise."

As Quinn fell into a fitful sleep, she murmured. "I never...I didn't want to be this..."

And Dinah lay there, for hours, thinking.

* * * * *

At that same moment, someone else was looking in the mirror, closely. When The Joker looked in the mirror, after a shower, brushing his teeth, he always kept his eyes focused...on his eyes. Not on his ruined face. Not on his supernaturally white skin, or on the red slash of his leering grin.

He knew what all of it looked like-had learned it, feature by feature, over the years, and he was tired of it.

No. Tonight he was looking through his green hair-for...there! A gray hair! And there! Another. He hadn't been sure whether it would be possible-his hair had always seemed so very determinedly green. But there it was-gray. Not that he'd ever thought himself immortal, though sometimes he felt that way. Evidently Fate had a few more jokes in store for him. Gray hair. He cackled into the mirror, wondering vaguely how much he had in his wardrobe that would match gray hair.

Then his mind drifted to Quinn. So...she was sleeping with Bruce Wayne's long-lost daughter. A daughter who wanted to get back at her billionaire daddy. Hmmm. Possibilities. Definite possibilities.

He wondered briefly whether Quinn might not also be trying to make him jealous. Sure-they had history-and no one-no one on Earth could make him laugh like Quinn. But jealous? Him? Over her? He cackled again at the thought. Not likely. Been there, fucked that.

* * * * *

The first clue the people in the Clocktower gathered about the success of the experiment was that Dinah didn't greet them, didn't even really look at them as she strode in, hand in hand, with Quinn, who was pulling, yet again, viciously on a cigarette.

"She needs that injection! Now!" Everyone's eyebrows, everyone's, rose at this new and sharp command tone from Dinah, but Barbara hastily injected Quinn.

Everyone watched as Quinn relaxed, fell naturally against the younger woman's shoulder as Dinah wrapped a protective arm around her.

"Ahh....see? That's getting better, isn't it, sweetheart?" Dinah asked as she felt, through their contact, a wave of clarity breaking over Quinn's mind. And, thank God, no other physical effects.

Quinn blinked her eyes a few times, rolled her head from side to side. Then she smiled up at Dinah, kissed her full on the lips, and answered. "Yes...much better now. Thank you, darling."

Dinah, feeling inspired, smiled and play-nipped the woman on the cheek before taking the cigarette from Quinn's hand and taking a long pull from it. Then she extinguished it on her leather-clad leg.

Her eyes widened and she tilted her head to one side as she blew the smoke out at the utterly staggered denizens of the Clocktower. "Personally, I'm thinking we'll pass."

* * * * *

"Holy SHIT!" That was, initially, the only actual comment. Offered by Helena, naturally.

Chapter 12

The second comment came from Barbara. "You are NOT SMOKING!"

Dinah's smile was a smirk and her laugh was a low sound in her throat, "Of course not. Even Quinn doesn't smoke. We just needed something to do with our hands 'til we got that shot." Dinah hadn't let go of the 'she' in question. And Quinn was smirking, too.

Looking out at the group that was staring at her and Quinn, Dinah felt as if four furiously blinking owls had suddenly inhabited the Clocktower. She shrugged and pulled Quinn closer, "Hungry, sweetheart?"

Quinn purred in response and batted her eyelashes at Dinah, "Why, yes. Yes, I am."

The third comment came from Batman. "That's just about enough of that."

"You said to come in character, didn't you?" Quinn blinked right back at a blinking Batman.

"We get the point."

"Hmm, I daresay you do. You know what? I'm sure you're going to want to debrief poor Dinah in private so I'm off to get my crazy shot while you catch up a bit."

She turned to Dinah. "I'll catch some lunch on the way, darling, and be back in a jiff."

"Okay, well..." Dinah surprised everyone by cupping Quinn's cheek, then kissing her gently on the forehead. "Be careful. And hurry back. I'll miss you."

Quinn's head tilted slightly at this, as if to see whether Dinah were teasing her or not.


Which Quinn found so entirely disarming, she skipped a beat before she said with a smile, "Get something to eat and...thanks again for last night." This last sounded as provocative as Quinn could make it.

And Dinah grinned as she returned in kind. "Oh, my pleasure. Entirely."

Helena sounded more than a bit annoyed. "Ya know, there ARE other people in the room here."

Dinah turned to her and said, "Uh, yeah. But we weren't talking to YOU, were we?"

"That's my girl, " Quinn snickered, as she turned to the blinking owls. "I'll walk myself out."

* * * * *

As soon as they were sure Quinn was in the elevator, Helena erupted, "Just what the FUCK-"

Dinah looked at Helena and suddenly squealed with laughter, "OHMIGOD, you thought I was serious! The look on your face-OHMIGOD!"

She squealed again and doubled over. When she caught her breath, she wiped her eyes and smiled at them. "It's so good to see you guys! I've missed you!"

She crossed to kiss Barbara on the cheek, and then pecked a sulky Helena. She hugged Dick and even maneuvered a hug with Bruce, who was clearly unpracticed in the art of hugging.

"I've got to get some chow. We couldn't eat today because Quinn was...well-you saw. Can I get something and bring it back in here so we can talk?"

"Of course you can." Barbara's smile was gentle.

"Anybody need anything?" No, nobody did.

As she crossed to exit the room, Bruce asked her, "Dinah?"


"Quinn. You said you would miss her."

Dinah nodded.

"Why did you say that?"

The young woman frowned, then smiled, evidently considering this a no-brainer.

"Uh...hello? Because I will?" And then she left the room.

Helena scowled. "Personally, I don't know how much Lippy-Dinah I can take-just a little goes a long, long way."

Bruce concurred with his daughter. "I know exactly what you mean."

Dick whistled appreciatively. "What IS it with this Quinn woman? I don't get it. I mean-she's cute and all but she's just like...catnip to some people, isn't she?"

Barbara turned to Helena, a smile shellacked on her face. "Yes, isn't she?"

Helena groaned inwardly. Great. Just great.

* * * * *

Dinah returned with a sandwich and began to wolf it down, then paused between bites.

"Bruce, sorry about my tone a minute ago. That probably sounded's just that it's hard moving between what I'm supposed be right now-and what I really am."

She caught Dick winking his approval at her and surprised him by winking right back.

Which Bruce ignored. "Apology accepted, Dinah."

Helena ignored all of it. "Tell us about your week, D."

She shrugged and said through bites of sandwich. "We just hung out. Listened to music, took walks, watched movies. Stuff like that."

"Nothing...else?" Barbara prompted, unsure that the change she saw in the young woman could be accounted for by such innocuous-

"Nope. No crime, no drugs, no sex. I mean, sure, we kissed a few times but Quinn said that was," Dinah grinned at the memory, "strictly in the interest of verisimilitude. "

"Oh yeah." Helena snorted. "I'll just bet."

Dinah's eyes widened. "Jealous?" Then winced as she saw the pained look on Helena's-and Barbara's faces. "God, I'm sorry. Ignore me, please."

Helena, for once, kept her silence, realizing that absolutely nothing she could say would improve the situation. And Barbara felt the dull, steady stab of a tremendous headache approaching as she wondered for the five hundredth time in a week just what the hell they thought they were doing.

Dinah sighed, then put her sandwich on hold. "Look, this is the deal. I've been holding Quinn's hand or sitting right next to her-basically touching her for a solid week. So I know her pretty well now. She really wants to do this-but it'll be nearly impossible for her once the medication wears off. If we go in together, she thinks we may be able to smuggle in one injection, tops. And from there, I'll just have to keep a hand on her and keep her steady."

"Can you do that?"

"Yep. Did it last night."

"What does that mean? What did you do?"

Dinah looked at Barbara, opened her mouth to answer, and then clearly changed her mind. "I'd rather not say-it was...personal."

Bruce's eyes' narrowed. "That's where you're wrong, Dinah. You can't afford 'personal' when you're undercover."

Dinah jerked her chin at him, "I get your point, Bruce, but if Quinn's feelings have nothing to do with this operation, then they're personal and private." Her eyes had a mischievous gleam in them as she continued, "I mean, I've touched each of you. Do all of you have any idea what I could tell this room about your feelings-your thoughts? Would you want me to? I don't think so."

That gave everyone a few beats pause.

"So, give us your assessment." Barbara's voice sounded resigned.

"I can do this; she can do this."

Bruce answered Dinah, not ready to give in. "No. We haven't seen enough yet. Dick and I will do the sweep tonight. You and Quinn stay here this evening." He turned to his protégé, "Barbara-you and Helena-spend the evening with them, watch them and see what you think."

Barbara, though entirely used to Bruce's executive decisions, actually had to stifle a groan over this one. An evening with Quinn. And the two women who loved her. Great. Just great.

* * * * *

Bruce and Dick left before Quinn's return. Barbara noticed that Helena seemed just as wary about an evening spent with Quinn as she did. And she didn't know whether that should make her feel better-or worse.

* * * * *

"Sounds like fun. I'll cook."

Barbara, for the thousandth time that day, blinked furiously as she answered Quinn. "You don't have to. Alfred could-"

"I know I don't have to-I'd enjoy it. Dinah sweetie, want to go to the grocery store with me?"

"Sure. Cool. Let's go."

Barbara blinked again. This woman, Joker's girlfriend, actually...cooked. And, more inexplicably from her point of view, shopped. And was even capable of involving others in shopping.

My God.

* * * * *

As they drove to the grocery store, Dinah was more quiet than usual.

"What's wrong, darling?"

Dinah paused for a few beats before responding. "Will it be weird-I mean-having to act like you're with me-when it's Helena that you really..."

Dinah's question trailed off into silence and its tone was so odd that Quinn furrowed her brow as she shot a glance at the young woman. Surely not. Surely Dinah couldn't actually be falling with her. She glanced at her again. Or maybe she could. She frowned at the windshield. Because God knows she, too, was becoming increasingly fond of the girl.

Quinn knew she'd have to think about this and the ramifications of this-and soon-but she knew that only a quick answer, however truthful, would dispel the tension the younger woman was feeling. "Of course not. You're my girl tonight."

Which earned her such a grateful smile that Quinn felt butterflies in her stomach.

* * * * *

When the two women returned from the store, Barbara was further disconcerted by the fact that Quinn could actually wrangle her girls into some sort of cooking frenzy. As she watched Helena and Dinah chop and peel, and quite clumsily, she asked, innocently enough, "So what are we having?"

Quinn answered brightly, "Brie and chive toasts with arugula for an appetizer and, umm-roasted salmon with red pepper and corn relish for our entree...tricolor potatoes with pesto and Parmesan...and roasted green bean, red onion and beet salad. Then raspberry cake with marsala, crème fraîche, and raspberries for dessert! How's that sound?

"Well...great, actually." Barbara admitted with a bit of reluctance. She winced nervously as she watched Helena ineptly butcher a red pepper, then asked, "When did you find time to learn to cook?"

"You mean how'd a lunatic fit cooking in between getting her doctorate, starting her practice and becoming the Queen of the New Gotham Underworld?"

Barbara's lips-and eyes-twitched. "Exactly."

"Well, I..." Quinn began to answer but stopped as she jumped to rescue her red peppers. She laid a light hand on Helena's forearm. "Helena darling, heaven knows you're good with your hands in other ways but maybe you should keep go keep your woman company-and leave this up to Dinah and me."

Barbara glared at this but Dinah smirked at the potatoes she was washing as Helena shrugged and relinquished her peppers. "So I'm not Emeril."

"No, thank God." Quinn watched as Helena crossed to sit with Barbara, grabbing the older woman's shirtfront playfully, pulling her forward and kissing her forcefully before taking a seat next to her.

It was Quinn's turn to blink...because she hadn't expected that sight to cause the twinge of emotion that it did.

But it did.

So she laughed as she turned back to her preparations. "To answer your question, Barbara, I can only say that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, even a man with green hair."

She turned back toward Barbara and Helena and continued rather too blithely, "My Mr. J. loves good food but, as I'm sure you can imagine, it's not really all that easy to go to a restaurant with him. You wouldn't believe the way it clears a place. One look at that green hair and...we have our choice of seating."

Barbara's smile was brittle. "Oh, I know that. The last time I saw your Mr. J., I got my choice of seating, too. For life."

Quinn's laugh was an immediate short, staccato bark.

She tilted her head to one side and her smile was just as brittle. "You're Batgirl, Barbara-not the Lone Ranger. So wouldja do something for me? Don't lie in bed at night thinking you're the only person whose life's been ruined by The Joker. 'Cause you're not. And-news flash-in case you haven't noticed..." Quinn gestured at the room, at Helena. "Your life's not exactly ruined, is it? You look pretty goddamned lucky to me."

Barbara was too stunned to respond and was even more shocked to see Quinn's eyes suddenly fill with tears. She watched the woman turn back to her food. "We'll catch him and soon I'll be out of everyone's hair." Quinn wielded her knife with an expert's grace and speed as she repeated, "We'll catch him."

* * * * *

Barbara watched as Dinah moved to Quinn's side and laid her hand on the woman's back. Then she saw Quinn smile softly, gently at the young woman. And she watched as Dinah's face hardened, jaw twitching as she turned toward...her.

"Hey, Barbara. Could we talk? In private?

* * * * *

It only took a few seconds to move into the next room.

"Just what the FUCK was that?"

Barbara, who wasn't used to her young charge cursing in her presence, much less at her, didn't answer right away.

"ANSWER me. Huh? What the fuck was that?"

Barbara's voice was cool. "Please excuse me if I'm just a bit...offended by the presence of a woman who's aided and abetted the man who crippled me and who's responsible for killing Helena's mother."

Dinah lowered her voice, and attitude, a notch at this.

"I understand that, Barbara. I do. And I realize I can't even begin to understand what that means to you. But what YOU don't understand is how guilty, how...truly wretched Quinn feels about it. You don't-you can't know what she's gone through. I do. "

Dinah had, by this time, lost a bit of her fighting spirit. She wasn't at all used to arguing with Barbara and it made her feel like hell. "I guess what I want to say is that...there's more to her than you're seeing. All I'm asking is that you TRY to look at her objectively. Just for tonight-just try."

Barbara stared at Dinah for a long beat, realizing the force of emotion it must have taken for this usually entirely pliant young woman to snap at her. "Alright." Barbara said softly, as she turned away from those blue eyes to look at the floor. "I'll try."

Dinah exhaled in relief, then crossed, leaned over and kissed Barbara on the cheek. "I'm sorry I raised my voice."

And Barbara sighed as she pulled her into a hug. "It's okay, honey. You had to become a real teenager at some point, I guess."

* * * * *

As they re-entered the kitchen, Barbara was freshly irritated by the sight of Helena standing next to Quinn, chatting and snatching little bits of chopped pepper and popping them into her mouth.

Helena turned as she heard the two women re-enter the room and then smiled at Barbara with so much honest affection as she crossed to her that it made the older woman's heart ache. 'Alright,' Barbara thought, 'time to make an effort.'

"Quinn, I apologize for snapping at you."

Quinn kept her eyes on her work but her voice was perfectly pleasant as she responded. "Apology accepted. Not that you owe me one. Believe me, I understand I'm beneath having people treat me with respect."

Dinah crossed, put her arms around Quinn and both Barbara and Helena winced as they watched the young woman kiss Quinn lightly on the neck before she spoke. "No you're not. Not my girl."

"Well, oKAY!" Helena countered quickly, brightly, "Anyone want to watch a movie after dinner?"

For this Quinn did turn around, slipping her arm around Dinah as she did so. "Sounds great. But do you mind if we watch something with a low body-count?"

"You're kidding right?" Helena snorted. "You're complaining about a body-count?"

Quinn's eyes widened. "Not exactly-it's just that...watching that stuff makes my fingers sort of itch for the old days. Know what I mean?"

It was Helena's turn to blink. "Gotcha. But that doesn't mean we have to watch some Steel Magnolias crap, do we?"

"Oh hell no." Barbara chuckled. "Actually, Quinn, I believe I get your point...I have to admit Steel Magnolias made me feel like getting all Batgirl on a few of those women."

Quinn looked Barbara over for a long beat before turning to Helena, "I'm beginning to understand what you see in this one."

* * * * *

The dinner was as delicious as it sounded-and, because everyone was on tenterhooks, the table conversation was perfectly and successfully innocuous. As they moved into the next room to watch their movie, Quinn flinched and swallowed, hard, while watching Helena gently lift Barbara onto the couch before taking a seat beside her.

It was one thing to commit violence. It was quite another to see the actual ramifications of that violence. And to know, forever and forever, to the end of her life, that the mere action of getting up and sitting down would be an actual task for Barbara, or for Helena, rather than something that she, Quinn, took for granted. Quinn again felt tears welling in her eyes, then felt the protective arm of Dinah wrap around her. She glanced at the young woman and could see the sadness and pity in her eyes-of course she knew how she felt.

It was so difficult not to wish to be dead to this-to be vacant and empty-without sensation or care. To know these things-and her part in them-was so wracking, so painful-while oblivion, for her, could be so easy.

She felt Dinah's arm tighten around her. The young woman knew. Of course she did.

And then Dinah kissed her gently. And Quinn felt a different kind of oblivion.

The soft oblivion of understanding. And forgiveness.

* * * * *

Barbara watched Dinah's interaction with Quinn as subtly as she could during the course of the movie. The intensity of it worried her-while at the same time she realized there truly must be something worthy about Quinn to engender such a tender and gentle response in Dinah.

Quinn's reciprocation of Dinah's affection was just as much a wonder to her. The woman was so unfailingly...kind with Dinah that it had the effect of jamming her brain's transmission of all of the Joker's girlfriend/bad/crazy/don't trust messages that her brain generally screamed about Quinn.

It was all very confusing.

* * * * *

Helena watched Dinah's interaction with Quinn as subtly as she could during the course of the movie. The intensity of it worried her and made her feel...what? The answer popped up without her bidding. Jealous. She felt jealous. Helena thrust the idea away immediately-only to have it pop back into her mind just as immediately. Yes. No doubt about it. She was jealous. Of Quinn. Not that she wanted Quinn-not that she wasn't unalterably tied to Barbara. It was just that...Quinn was HER friend. Not Dinah's. Except that, somehow, now she was.

It was all very confusing.

* * * * *

Dinah felt, as she watched the movie while holding Quinn, intensely grateful that Quinn didn't share her powers. So that Quinn, as well as no on else in the room, would know that she'd suddenly realized that she wished this charade were real-that they were just two happy couples sharing an evening. Not one happy couple and another couple of people who'd been thrown together by circumstance. And she felt, of course she did, how conflicted Quinn was at the sight of Helena's arm around Barbara. And how she was fighting not to show that to Dinah-though, of course, that was impossible.

And at each fresh realization of this fact, Dinah felt Quinn react to reassure her-to tighten her hold upon her. Which touched her in a way she couldn't wrap words around.

* * * * *

So the four women spent the long evening watching each other, each feeling at different times, the infinite sadness of knowing that hearts that yearned were only rarely awarded their hearts' desires. And, with this fresh understanding, Barbara and Helena realized yet again their good fortune and basked in their gratitude for each other. But not Dinah and Quinn. Dinah and Quinn felt like hungry and penniless children with their faces pressed against the plate-glass front of a restaurant.

Dinah, because she was still too young to know that life still might hold a different love for her.

Quinn, because she was too old to believe in happy endings. At least where she was concerned.

And so all four of them held each other tighter.

* * * * *

Four Days Later

Taller. He was so much taller than Dinah had imagined. Taller than Dick, even Bruce. She felt a horrified chill run through her when he stood up. Next, she felt an explosion of anger course through her. This-this was the scumbag who'd crippled Barbara, who'd ripped Helena's mother from her. He'd been sitting on a plush chair and, strangely enough, eating an apple. It was difficult to wrap her mind around the fact that this...mythical figure was real. Then she snorted to herself. Hell, why should SHE be surprised by anything? She almost smiled as a vision of Batman scoffing an apple rose into her brain.


Dinah watched as Quinn crossed to the Joker and she almost shuddered as she watched the woman hug him, kiss him.

Then Quinn motioned toward Dinah. "Mr. J. This is Dinah Wayne."

The Joker kissed Quinn again, released her, then looked Dinah over, twice, while taking bites of apple. "So you're Bruce Wayne's kid, huh?" He looked clearly underwhelmed by Dinah and turned back to Quinn. "I thought you said she was special. She doesn't look all that--"

The Joker's sentence was cut short by his shock as he watched his apple fly out of his hand, like a rocket, right into this new girl's hand. And with one motion of her hand, the Joker felt himself rudely pushed, by some invisible force, right back into his chair.

The girl's tone was dismissive. "Oh yeah? What the fuck do you know, Bozo?"

She took a bite of the apple before tossing it to Quinn with a sweet smile. "Want some, sweetheart?"

Quinn took a bite and handed it back to the Joker with a wink. "See!? Told you! Would I lie to you, Puddin'?" She climbed into his lap as he cackle. And cackle. And Quinn threw her head back and joined him.

Dinah, watching Quinn run her hands through the Joker's green hair as she laughed, felt the chill of seeing what Quinn had once been. And the greater chill of knowing that she-Dinah Redmond-was going to be the only thing between...Harley Quinn and...The Joker.

Chapter 13

That Evening

Barbara was sitting with her eyes glued to Delphi. The comm was on but her mic was off. She didn't want Helena being deafened by her laughter. She hadn't wanted Helena to hear, either, what had caused her laughter.

Dick was keeping her company while Bruce and Helena did the evening sweep. And, because they had the easy familiarity of past lovers and nearly lifelong friends, he was, as he often did, regaling her with a tale about one of the funnier things that had happened in his rather rambunctious love-life. This one involved a short-term girlfriend.

"There I was, all ready to go-but I had to stop and put my condom on. So I sorta sat up a little and just when I was slipping it over Mr. Happy-I shit you not-her fucking Rottweiler leaped up on the bed and started humping me."

Barbara was laughing as much at remembering, now, that Dick called his dick Mr. Happy as at the image of a dog leaping into his love scene.

Dick was laughing, too, but he tried to act wounded. "Don't LAUGH. Have you ever almost been...invaded by a-"

Barbara wiped her eyes, "I'm sorry, honey. What'd you do?"

"Well, naturally I started screaming-so my girlfriend started screaming, too, which only seemed to excite the dog more. But when she realized it was only her pet that was about to sodomize me, she started laughing at me. And by then, of course, Mr. Happy was Mr. Sad. Which didn't seem fair somehow."

At the doleful look on Dick's face, Barbara burst into laughter again and tousled his hair, which made him beam. Then the smiling pair turned back to Delphi.

Dick glanced at Barbara, hesitated for a few beats. "Hey Barbara? Mic's still off right?"

"Yeah. Why?"

"Mind if I ask you a really personal question?"

She turned to him. "Sure. You can ask," she said, then smiled, "I may not answer but you can ask."

He hesitated again. "I've...always wondered about something. Wasn't it...weird for you-having sex with a woman for the first time?" He hastened to add, then stammered, "I mean-I guess, I mean, I realize I'm assuming Helena was the-"

She helped him. "She was." Then she thought about it for a few beats, which he misinterpreted.

"I'm sorry, Barbara. That's too personal. Forget I-"

"No. It's okay. Ummm, let's see. Before Helena, you're right, I'd never even considered having sex with a woman. And I guess it...might have been odd for me if I'd thought about it like that."

She furrowed her brow, deciding how best to word it. "I don't know whether this will make any sense to you but I think if I'd just been having sex with a woman for the first time, it might have felt strange. But making love with Helena for the first time felt like the most natural thing I'd ever done. Does that answer your question?"

Dick smiled at her. "Yes, and it does make sense."

Barbara then upped the ante with an impish grin. "And, by the way, I've found that I share your tremendous passion for cunnilingus."

"BARBARA!" Dick squeaked, sounding not unlike Dinah. And Barbara's grin widened as she watched him turn a shade of red she'd never seen on him.

"What? You do like it, don't you?" She raised an eyebrow at him, "I mean, I seem to remember very well how much you like it."

'Well, yeah, of course, but-"

"That's where you're wrong, Dick. Not 'of course'."

Dick had recovered enough to ask, "What do you mean?"

"You see-for a woman who's only had that performed upON her, without the experience of doing it herself, it can sometimes be a little...difficult to believe a man's actually enjoying it."

Dick grinned. "Yeah, well, some men probably don't...but they're idiots." Then he upped the ante with an even more impish grin. "But, hey Babs, I could have told that you'd like oral sex-I seem to remember very well that-"

"DICK!," Barbara squeaked, sounding not unlike Dinah, as she immediately flushed red.


Barbara scrambled to turn on the mic, never so glad to get out of a conversation in her life.

"Huntress, are you alright?"

<Yeah. Just missing your lovely voice in my ear, that's all. What are you and Dick up to?>

"Uh...just talking."

<Sounds as interesting as our night. It's dead out here. Me and da man might go play pool for a while if you don't mind.>

Barbara's eyebrows lifted. "Pool?"

<Yeah, pool. You know...the kind with pointy sticks-not the chlorinated kind.>

"O...kay. Well,, I guess."

<Well, I'm going off comm. so I'll see you later-and, uh, Oracle? Keep everything warm for me. I'm sure I'll be hungry when I get home.>

Then the comm. went silent.

And this was so clearly not a reference to food that Dick shouted with laughter as he watched Barbara's blush deepen.

* * * * *

Bruce changed into some jeans and a sweater before Helena took him to one of her favorite dives that wasn't that far, actually, from her bar and which even had some of the same patrons.

They ordered a couple of beers while waiting for a table. As they stood talking, Helena thought how strange it was for Bruce to have asked her out to play pool-and how even stranger it had been for her to have accepted. But, then again, maybe not so strange-just another billionaire masked crime-fighter on a night out with his crime-fighting daughter, right?

She groaned as she saw two of her bar's regulars enter the room. And, naturally, they spotted her. Terry and Beth, inseparable friends united in the effort to find eligible bachelors.

"Helena!" Beth squealed as she spotted and crossed to her with Terry hot on her heels. "Where've you been?" Beth hugged a rather unenthusiastic Helena as the woman replied, "Oh, just taking a few months off." Helena felt the looming presence behind her and turned, "Beth, Terry...uh, this is Bruce."

The two young women felt their eyebrows approach their hairlines as they realized that this Bruce was Bruce...Wayne. THE Bruce Wayne.

After they murmured their polite hellos, Terry, who had not been particularly graced with tact at her birth, blurted out, "My God, Helena, now THAT'S a catch."

Bruce responded quickly, "I'm not...we're not-I'm, uh, her-" And with this he stopped, unsure what Helena would want him to say and unwilling to spoil what had been, thus far, a surprisingly pleasant evening.

And, as Helena watched the usually entirely urbane Bruce come stammering to a halt, she knew that was what stopped him. He didn't want to mess up. Bruce Wayne. Batman. Didn't want to mess up his night with...her.

So she rescued, and surprised, him by saying, "Bruce isn't my date-he's my father."

Both Beth and Terry's jaws dropped open at this. Beth was able to speak first. "Bruce Wayne is your...father? And you're working as a bartender?"

Bruce answered this. "Helena's grown up to be an independent woman and I'm very proud of her for that."

When Helena turned to Bruce and smiled, she saw such love for her in his eyes that she was momentarily speechless.

* * * * *

When the next table was available, they'd played against Terry and Beth three times, and won three times, before the two women seemed to realize, simultaneously, that this was not going to score them a date. As they watched the two women depart, Helena asked, "So how'd you learn to play pool like that?"

Bruce almost smiled. But not quite.

"Bored billionaire playboys always play billiards. It's almost a cliché."

"Oh? Is that what you are? A bored playboy?"

Bruce hesitated before answering. "Among other things. I'm also an unlucky loser in love, a lousy friend, an absent father and entirely self-absorbed vigilante crime fighter."

Helena's eyes widened at this but she didn't feel equal to answering the emotion in her father's voice, so she turned back to the table. "Wanna play again?"

"I don't think so-let's call it a night."

* * * * *

They rode home for a long while in silence, Helena watching his profile as he drove. This-this man-was the love of her mother's life. This rigid, obsessed crime-fighting man had bent his rules enough to love a thief. That thief had thrown away her former life to give her daughter everything she needed. And Barbara had moved beyond the rules that said a guardian couldn't love what it had once protected, much less the rules that said she couldn't love a woman.

Would it actually hurt her to bend her own rules a bit? To move closer to this man?

Because Helena wasn't blind-she could see the shape of Barbara's personality had this man's firm imprint upon it, just as Selena had been irrevocably changed by his presence in her life. She had worshipped her mother and now she worshipped Barbara. What if...

So she decided to try. "I'm finally understanding it all, you know."

Bruce glanced at her. "Understanding what?"

"Why you couldn't kill him...not that I agree with that, mind you, but being so close to Barbara has helped me see that she couldn't have done it either. It's not in her...or in you. I understand that now." Helena hesitated for a few beats before continuing, because she felt her throat constricting and she didn't want to cry in front of him. "And I could never hate Barbara for being herself. I love her too much. So...I'm beginning to realize-no-I know now that I can't hate you either. Not for being who you are." She hesitated again, "Anyway...just wanted to tell you."

Bruce paused, then cleared his throat, before answering. "Thank you, Helena."

Helena gritted her teeth, willed herself to bend.

"No problem...Dad."


Bruce took a deep breath, and then exhaled very gently.

* * * * *

After Bruce had picked Dick up and dropped Helena off at the Clocktower, the young woman was surprised, but delighted, to find an entirely naked Barbara in their bed.

"Thank God you're home."

Helena climbed on top of the bed to kiss Barbara before unclothing and was a bit surprised when Barbara grabbed her and kissed her so forcefully that she was sure her lips would be bruised the next morning. Not that she minded, though, because-

And then she was even more surprised to feel Barbara pull her closer and pour such a delightful set of instructions for the evening into her ear-and phrased in such uncharacteristic profanity-that she hastened to straddle her woman as she took off her shirt.

And, as she looked into Barbara's green eyes, ablaze with desire, she answered with a smirk,
"Oh, don't worry, darlin', I'm going to fuck you so hard tonight, you won't be able to walk tomorrow."

After a beat, as each burst into laughter at the same time, both of them felt newly amazed at how desperately they loved each other.

* * * * *

Dinah hated it. She'd known it was going to be this way but she still hated it. Quinn was all over her scumbag boyfriend, sucking up to him, laughing with him. And it was entirely obvious, that whatever the denizens of the Clocktower's hold on her, Quinn had a true and vibrant connection, not to mention a white-hot sexual chemistry, with her green-haired psychopath. They laughed at their little in-jokes; they easily finished each other's sentences, all the while looking like they could barely wait to hit the bed together.

It was all very disturbing and it made her feel very, very...jealous.

Because Dinah realized, as she watched this, that she'd moved beyond a crush for the first time in her life. She'd fallen in love. With a woman who was in love with Helena. Which was great. Just great.

She was under no delusion that Quinn felt the same way about her. Touching Quinn gave her the sense that the older woman held her in great esteem, felt very fond and affectionate toward her and was even mildly sexually attracted to her. But certainly not what the woman clearly felt for the Joker and not at all the same sort of attraction she could read the woman had for Helena. Not that that necessarily surprised her. Who would prefer Dinah Redmond to the perfection that was Helena Kyle?

Easy, she thought.


* * * * *

The Joker was nothing if not blunt.

"So-Daddy gets you down, does he, Dinah darling? Why not just take his money and run? I know I would."

Dinah winked at Quinn as she answered. "You can thank my therapist for that. She explained to me that taking his money would make him happy. But extorting his money and making him pay the Joker would hurt him. It took months of therapy to understand that I'd prefer to hurt him. Any other questions, clown-boy?"

At this little dig, the Joker merely smiled, though it was difficult to tell because of the grin already plastered on his face. He seemed to like women who stood up to him because he crossed to her and ran his hands lightly over her body. And then it was everything Dinah could do not to flinch-or scream. Because the visions that ran through this man's head, and hers at this touch, were nothing like Quinn's-even at her worst. This was a man whose sole purpose on Earth was to do as much harm-to as many people-as he was capable of doing. And merely because he enjoyed it. He was a true rarity-an entirely malevolent being, almost a force of nature. And she'd just called him clown-boy. Holy shit.

He looked down into her eyes as he spoke. "You and I could have some fun. I'm a fun guy. Ask anyone in Gotham."

Dinah forced herself to channel Quinn-or Helena-or hell, Barbara-anyone tougher than she felt right now.

"Oh yeah, you're fun alright. Never a dry eye in the house after you leave, is there? New Gotham's own personal Bob fucking Hope."

She looked him over with visible distaste. "Thanks for the offer, Perma-Smile-but I don't do men."

The Joker didn't rise to this, only continued to look-and sound-both intrigued and amused by her. "Oh? And I don't suppose that's negotiable, huh? My girl's spoiled me, you know. I keep thinking that all women are as flexible as my sweet Harley. Not that I don't understand your point, mind you. I couldn't see having sex with a man-unless, of course, it was with that Boy Wonder. I wouldn't mind giving Robin the old heave-ho-but only because I'm sure it would really irritate his Bat-Daddy."

Dinah immediately filed this information away under things never to tell Dick.

"So! What do you think? Are the rumors about those two true?

Dinah shrugged. "Who can say? All I know is that it sure seems a little fetishistic to me. You know-the costumes, the leather, the rubber, the ropes..."

"Exactly!" The Joker cackled as he turned to Quinn. "A girl after my own heart! See? She's noticed it, too. Something has to be up with those two! "

Quinn grinned up at her older lover. "Would I bring you anything less than a girl who would understand my puddin'?"

And then Dinah watched with what amounted to horror as the Joker crossed and scooped Quinn up into his arms, giving her as passionate a kiss as Dinah had ever seen, and a kiss that Quinn was thoroughly returning.

As they broke away from each other, Quinn literally cooed at the Joker. "Ooooh, bedtime, darlin'."

"No...I don't think so. I'm not in the participatory mood tonight. And I know you know what I mean."

Quinn pouted a beat before the Joker scooped her back into another heated kiss, then broke away and shoved Quinn quite violently toward Dinah. "Bedtime, kitties!"

As Quinn took Dinah's hand to lead her out of the room, the Joker seemed, suddenly, to consider something and interjected, "Harley dear...are you sure you're not keeping something from me?"

Quinn smiled brightly at the Joker. "Only my girlfriend, puddin'."

They walked toward their bedroom with the sound of his cackling in their ears.

* * * * *

Touching Quinn after she'd been shoved by the Joker was a revelation for Dinah. Quinn was humming with sexual tension.

So...that was it.

Quinn, the master manipulator, loved to be dominated, wanted to be controlled. No wonder she liked the Joker. Then Dinah snorted. And Helena, for that matter.

Quinn whispered to her as they moved down the hall. "He's a bit of a voyeur. He'll be watching our bedroom through a video cam. But he has a 15-minute attention span-tops. You could be in the middle of saddling me to ride me like a pony and he'd turn off the monitor after 15 minutes. So-all we have to do is act like we're really girlfriends for-"

"15 minutes. Gotcha."

Dinah smiled, intrigued. 15 minutes suddenly seemed like a really long time.

* * * * *

As they entered their bedroom, Dinah pushed Quinn up against the edge of the bed.

"Take your blouse off."

Quinn was startled, naturally, by the young woman's demand. "What?"

"I said take your blouse off. NOW."

Dinah's tone was stern, uncompromising, but she winked at Quinn to reassure her. And then gulped as she watched Quinn's trembling fingers unbutton her blouse. When the blouse had been tossed aside, Dinah crossed to a chair and sat down. "Now take off your bra."

Quinn complied.

"Hmmm...very nice. The rest of your clothes-NOW."

Quinn hesitated, her eyes widening enormously. And Dinah knew, for the first time in her life, the feeling of sexual power. "You're not listening, sweetheart. Clothes off. NOW."

And then Dinah watched, with a feeling of wonder, as Quinn obeyed her. And undressed, entirely, before her.

Then Dinah stood, crossed and roughly pushed the naked woman onto the bed, climbed on top of her and kissed her.

And when she touched her, she knew she'd made a different sort of impression on Quinn-and that Quinn was aroused, terribly aroused, by it-though she also felt her fighting it.

So she fought back, by kissing her as if her life depended on it-and it felt like it did. And the kiss went on and on and she pressed her luck, scarcely believing how bold she was feeling knowing that Quinn couldn't stop her because the Joker was watching.

A flash of insight flooded her mind-contact with Quinn must really be affecting her if she didn't care about someone watching her and if it felt like the most natural thing in the world to caress the woman's breasts, then move down to kiss one, suckle one, then the other, and then move one hand down, and down the length of Quinn's body-until-Quinn, who was looking at her watch the entire time, hissed. "STOP!"

The older woman pushed Dinah with all of her strength, up and off of her. Her voice was forceful, though it was a whisper. "STOP it, Dinah! Fifteen minutes! This will NOT happen!"

"But why not?" Dinah realized her voice sounded like a whiny child's, which she also realized wasn't exactly cool, under the circumstances.

"Because it's wrong. I'm sorry-really I am-but this is NOT going to happen."

"But you want it. I know you do. I can feel it."

Quinn's gaze became nearly inscrutable. "That's not exactly fair of you, young lady."

And Dinah couldn't, suddenly, meet the other woman's eyes, feeling the shame she always felt when people called her on the unfair advantage she had over their feelings. "I know. I'm sorry." When Dinah looked back into Quinn's eyes, she asked, with real emotion. "But really. Why not? I know I'm not as pretty as Helena but-"

Quinn pressed the tips of two fingers to Dinah's mouth and she was still whispering.

"Shhh...that's nonsense. You' beautiful-so attractive to me. And you're right-I do want you. It's just that I'm not good enough for you, sweetheart. And I'm too old for you-old enough to be your mother."

"I don't care about-"

"But I do."

"And so? What?" Dinah's whisper was suddenly bitter. "You promised Helena you wouldn't sleep with me or something?"

"Yes. I did. Not to mention Barbara. But, even more importantly, to me, I promised myself." Quinn blinked a few times before continuing, as she stroked Dinah's face. "And I've broken so many promises to myself. Please...please don't let me break another one."

Dinah felt a wave of tenderness envelop her with these words and she took Quinn's hand and kissed it gently.

Quinn chuckled, "And let's face it, if you came into my office as a patient and said you were a seventeen year old girl enthralled and considering a sexual relationship with a barely psychotropically controlled sociopathic criminal twice your age, even I'D call the police."

Dinah winced at the truth in the statement. "But that's not all you are, Quinn. I know that."

"Maybe not-but I would be if I allowed this to happen...and beside that, honey," Quinn smiled, whispering even more softly, "your first time shouldn't be like this-it should be special."

"I know that." Dinah gently cupped Quinn's cheek. "That's why I wanted it to be with you."

Tears immediately welled in Quinn's eyes and she hesitated a long beat before whispering, "That's probably the nicest thing anyone's ever said to me."

Dinah kissed Quinn gently. "I love you, Quinn."

And watched as tears slid down Quinn's cheeks. "I love you, too, baby. And that's why we can't."

They lay there for a long minute before Dinah asked one last question-because she had to know. "What if I years older?"

Quinn smirked as she wiped the tears from her face. "If you were seven years older, your clothes would have been on the floor seven minutes ago."

Dinah again took Quinn's hand more firmly in hers, "Oh yeah? And...then what would happen?"

Quinn's eyes widened. And then she tilted her head, as she took in the implications of this. "You're a little young to be this kinky, aren't you?"

"Please! Look at my family. If I can't have the real thing," and it was Dinah's turn to smirk, "I'll settle for a mind-fuck."

Quinn considered this for a beat, and then relaxed into her pillow. "Alright then. Hold on, honey. It may get a little bumpy."

Dinah had thought the phrase 'Magical Mystery Tour' only applied to the Beatles, but evidently not. She'd never realized that...actual...people could do some of the things Quinn was imagining for them. It was astonishing. Mind-blowing. And after about an hour both of them were thoroughly keyed-up, entirely unfulfilled and wretchedly and sleeplessly horny. But they were also completely and blissfully unified in the fact that they knew what might have been-had things only been different for them.

And so, after a long while, they slept contentedly, and entirely chastely, in each other's arms.

Chapter 14

One Week Later

As Barbara sat next to her lover, she reflected for probably the ten millionth time in their relationship that Helena was the most formidably charming flirt she'd ever encountered in her life. She'd thought so as her teacher; she'd thought so as her guardian. And, actually, being her partner had only deepened her appreciation of this quality since she now had quite intimate knowledge of just what such flirting could lead to.

These days, however, she had to admit that this flirting lost a lot of its appeal-no, scratch that-she corrected herself, all of its appeal when she watched Helena flirt with others. She'd concluded very quickly after the beginning of their relationship that Helena was not trying to hurt her feelings, not trying to make her jealous. The young woman simply didn't realize that she was doing it. It was obviously in some sense reflexive-she breathed, she ate, she flirted. If a thing was living and not utterly reprehensible or repugnant to her, she flirted with it. Dinah, Alfred, cats, potted plants-Barbara got used to these easily enough.

But server girls?

* * * * *

It was Barbara's first night out in two weeks. She'd literally had to beg Helena to take her out-anywhere. Anywhere but the Clocktower day after day after day. Which was how she found herself sitting in a booth in a small Italian restaurant with Helena sitting next to her, both to shield her from view and from any potential harm. Which was also how she'd found herself grinding her teeth into powder over their server's near inability to breathe, much less serve, when Helena batted her eyelashes at her.

Did it help that the server was one of those damnably gorgeous young Italian women with kohl-black eyes, long beautiful tousled ringlets of hair that practically begged you to run your hands through it and a body that was the very definition of sexual insinuation?

Well, no, actually. It did not.

They'd just finished their dinner and the young woman was ostensibly speaking to both of them but she was looking only at Helena. "Could I get you two anything else? Something...sweet, perhaps?"

Barbara rolled her eyes as Helena purred up at the server, "Well...that all depends. What have you got?"

The server looked for a split second as if she were only too willing to show Helena exactly what she had but a glance at the piercing green eyes of the woman next to her snapped her back to task. "I'll get the dessert menu!"

Barbara watched as Helena quite openly appreciated the server's departing assets and cleared her throat.

Helena turned to her and smiled. "It's really nice to be out together, isn't it, darlin'?"

One of Dick's favorite phrases sprang immediately into Barbara's mind.

Aw man.

There it was-what she'd least expected:

That look. She never knew when it was coming but, every time it appeared, that look always took her breath away. It was a look of ferocious adoration, a look of such utter devotion that it seemed, somehow, almost violent. And every time Barbara saw this look, she realized afresh that no one on Earth really existed for Helena, no one but her.

Barbara stifled a sigh. And just when she'd really, really wanted to be angry, wanted to pick a fight even. It was actually sort of a tough job, sometimes, loving Helena Kyle, but somebody had to do it. And that person was certainly going to be her. She felt a wicked inward smile creep into her mind. Sexy server girl be damned.

So she returned Helena's smile and whispered, "I love you." Then she leaned forward and kissed her. Which surprised Helena because Barbara wasn't big on public displays of affection. She was even more surprised by the passion in the kiss and was soon returning it two, then five, then ten-fold.

* * * * *

Lucia, the server, jotted her home phone number down on a slip of paper before hastening back to the table. She'd just slip it in that dark-haired beauty's hand while the dragon lady wasn't looking. Because she could tell the older woman wouldn't appreciate it. She wondered briefly about their connection-and decided she was probably just some uptight friend of the sex-kitten's mother or something and so super-straight that she was getting irritated by the obvious connection her young friend had with another woman.

As she rounded the corner and her table came into view, Lucia realized that she really needed to brush up on her people-reading skills.


Now...that...was a kiss. She stood there for a few seconds before finally clearing her throat. She watched as the sex-kitten quite reluctantly ended the kiss and turned toward her. And as those entrancing blue eyes met hers, she realized she didn't exist at all to this woman. At least not in the way she thought she had.

As she handed them the menus, because she was a woman, too, she could see the smirk behind the perfectly bland expression on the redhead's face.

The redhead spoke, "You know what..." then paused as she looked at her nametag, "Lucia? I think we'll skip dessert." She turned to her sex-kitten. "We have ice cream at home, Hel. Do you think there's any way you could work up an appetite for some ice cream?" At this perfectly innocuous comment, Lucia was astonished to see a deep blush tinge the features of the sex-kitten as she looked up at her and said, firmly, "Check, please."

* * * * *

Later That Night

A wide-awake Dinah readjusted her position in the bed and felt Quinn, who was sound asleep, immediately tighten her hold on her as she slept. Quinn's head was resting on her shoulder and Dinah was reflecting on the last week.

She felt so miserable that she wanted to cry. She missed her home. She missed her family. She was tired of pretending to be something she wasn't. She was tired of pretending she wasn't scared shitless of the Joker. At the thought of that crazy motherfucker, she winced, remembering that they'd used their last smuggled injection for Quinn the day before. So soon she knew she could add the pressure of keeping a lid on Quinn to what already felt like the weight of the world plus the planet Saturn, on her shoulders.

And, last but not least, she was tired of not knowing where the fuck she was. Because neither of them did. She and Quinn had arrived at one spot and had been taken in a van with no windows to where they were now. She knew the Joker still didn't trust her, still didn't trust Quinn, actually.

Dinah only felt slightly better knowing that the Clocktower knew where she was-because she and Quinn both had GPS chips implanted under their skin. But the plan was to lure the Joker out into the world and to catch him and as many of his underlings as possible. If not, they'd be walking into an armed camp. And if not, Barbara might remain in considerable danger from those wishing to carry out the Joker's plans.

The young woman sighed heavily. At least they were making some progress. The Joker was sending them out on their first job the next day-nothing too big, he'd warned. They were going to knock over a bank. Dinah sighed again. Knocking over a fucking bank. What kind of job was that for a 17-year-old? She felt Quinn stir and kissed her lightly on the temple in order to soothe her but felt no telepathic connection as she did so.

This, she had to admit to herself, was the major benefit of the experience. She was making fantastic strides in her ability to control her touch telepathy. Through continually touching another person, something she'd never done before, she was learning to block her connection at will. She smiled at the thought-who would have known that all that she needed was a sociopathic faux-girlfriend?

She was also aware that this growing control was giving her the ability to focus and concentrate her powers, and because of that, they were growing stronger-like a ray of sun focused through a magnifying glass.

She looked out into the darkened room and very casually waved her hand at the dresser and watched it instantly levitate confidently from the floor-not at all in the shaky way she used to move things. She picked up the chair next to the hovering dresser and made them switch places, then lowered them gently to the floor. Not a sound.

She smiled and half-spoke, half-whispered in her best Yoda voice. "Impressive I am."

"Hmm?" Quinn murmured, "You say something?"

"No, sweetheart. Go back to sleep."

* * * * *

Next Morning

The Joker was striding back and forth in front of Quinn and Dinah as he finished debriefing them, then turned sharply toward Quinn.

"And you're sure you don't want to take a few of the boys inside?"

"Perfectly. I only need Dinah and a driver."

The Joker moved closer to Quinn, and then he was looming over her. "If you do well, I might reward you with a little...surprise."

Quinn smirked saucily as she looked up into his eyes. "Hmmm-if it's what I'm hoping it is, it's not exactly little, is it?"

The Joker cackled as he turned to Dinah. "Only too true, Dinah, my dear. When the Ancient of Days created yours truly, he said "Jack, my boy-I have only one question-would you like to super-size that order?"

A tight smile was the only indication that Dinah had heard this, much less the merry sound of Quinn's answering laughter.

* * * * *

So, here's how it was going to go: The job had been planned for a day that the bank was scheduled to receive major cash deposits from a number of businesses. They'd stroll in close to closing hours and knock it over. Dinah was armed and in charge of handling the guards. Quinn, too, was armed and was running the show. One of Joker's goons would be waiting outside for them in a van. Quinn was wearing her harlequin costume and Dinah was clothed in black, with a black mask that entirely obscured her face. Quinn would enter first, Dinah immediately afterwards...

* * * * *

As they drove in the back of the windowless van, Dinah felt her heart beat double, then triple. She was about to commit an aggravated felony-and it was up to her and Quinn not only to rob the bank but to make sure that no one got hurt.

Her brain churned...ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod-this was not just nerves-it was an actual prayer.

What the fuck had she been thinking? Why'd she think she could-her brain skidded to halt as she felt Quinn's hand on her arm and turned toward her. She found the older woman looking at her with gentleness, kindness and a bit of amusement.

"We can do this-we will do this-and no one will get hurt. Well...knocked around a bit maybe, but nobody's dying."


"Not buts-remember, darling, I've done this before. Many, many times. Now take five deep breaths."

Dinah did and Quinn smiled. "I think you're going to find it's easier than you think and maybe even a little exciting, actually."

Dinah shook her head. "I doubt that."

Quinn looked away with a small smile. "We'll see."

* * * * *

As Dinah watched Quinn move out of the van, she thought she might hyperventilate but she managed to keep an eye on her watch. She heard Quinn on com as she waited.

Quinn's voice, even through the com, sounded carefree, entirely calm.

<Don't worry, baby. Piece of cake. Watch the master.>

A few beats went by...


Dinah's heart beat triple time as three incredibly interminable minutes crept by on her watch.

<Next in line-get ready.>

As Dinah pulled a backpack on, she felt a wave of nausea and fought it for all she was worth. She put her hand on the van door.


Dinah exploded out of the van and ran to the bank entrance. As she entered, she saw Quinn stepping up to the teller. The debriefing had been accurate-as she jumped the guard on one side of the door, knocking him cold instantaneously, she turned toward the other, pointed at him as he drew his weapon and watched his astonished face as his gun flew into her hand. In three seconds, this guard found his own gun trained upon him-and the third guard across the lobby found her gun pointed at his chest

Dinah growled out a warning to the third guard. "Drop it, motherfucker!" She gestured toward the unarmed guard. "Or this one dies!" She watched the man hesitate, then drop his weapon. She used her mind to move it far enough away from him that he couldn't possibly get to it.

In the adrenaline of the moment, she hadn't registered the shrieks that had come from customers-but now, suddenly, the sound seemed to echo in her ears. She looked at their terrified faces and instantly felt such pity for them that she wavered for a second.

Luckily, Quinn stepped in. "On your stomachs, chickens, and everything will be over in a sec."

As they complied, Quinn stepped toward the teller, pointed her gun point blank in her face. "Money. Now." The petrified teller hesitated and Quinn pushed the gun closer. "Trust me on one thing, lambie-pie. A bullet would do nothing for that pretty complexion of yours. Money. Now." She turned toward her cohort and the young woman tossed the backpack to her. "You'll find two duffle bags inside. Large bills, no dye, and don't fuck with me 'cause I'm itching to use this thing."

As the wide-eyed teller complied, Quinn smiled sweetly at her.

* * * * *

Another teller, however, hadn't been so overcome by fear that she hadn't tripped a silent alarm. Which is what found Nightwing and Batman outside the bank in less than three minutes. As they burst into the bank, Dinah turned on them with her weapons.

Bruce and Dick. Aw, man.

"Back the fuck up, boys!"

Bruce and Dick stopped cold. That was Dinah's voice. It took only a second to register Quinn's presence, as she sang out to them. "Welcome, gentlemen." She turned back to the teller, tilted her head lightly to one side. "I'm sorry, did someone tell you to stop packing the money?"

In the same three seconds, Bruce and Dick were assessing their options. Holy shit. What to do?

Then, instantly, Bruce knew and he put all the power of suggestion he could into his words. "You'd better put those down-doesn't a young lady like you want to make a good impression?" was odd...Dinah didn't know exactly how she knew-but she knew that she needed to fight-and that they would let her win.

She tossed both guns to the side and prepared to do battle.

* * * * *

What was even odder about it all, at this point, was that she felt, as Quinn had said she would, excited.

And as both of them advanced upon her, she knew that they'd be pulling their punches...but she also knew, with a sudden sheer exhilaration, that they didn't need to.

Dick tried to hit her first. She put out one hand and his fist was hanging in mid-air. And caught Bruce-with her other hand-stopped him cold.

And she saw, in their eyes, bewilderment. Astonishment.

"Step aside," she moved her hands and watched as the force of her mind skittered them to the side, "and nobody gets hurt."

Never turning her back, she joined Quinn and they both shouldered duffle bags. They both moved out of the bank and were in the van in five seconds, barely entering before the vehicle screamed away.

* * * * *

Bruce and Dick looked at each other as they watched the van depart.


Holy shit.

* * * * *

"You're fucking kidding me!" Helena's voice had risen a half octave.

"" Dick grimaced as he reported. "I'm telling you-the kid's a superhero or something-I couldn't have hit her if I wanted to."

Barbara turned to Bruce for confirmation. "Her powers are astonishing. No other word for it."

Barbara heard Helena curse quietly behind her but ignored her as she answered. "Then it's a good thing she's on the right side, isn't it?"

"Yeah, for the time being," Helena snarled.

Barbara turned to her and snapped sharply. "What the hell does that mean?"

"Just what I said. For the time being. Who knows what-"

Barbara's voice was as stern as Helena had ever heard it. "Helena Kyle, I can NOT believe you're implying that Dinah's capable of-"

"I'm sorry." Helena interrupted, immediately abashed. "I know you're right. I'm sorry-I didn't mean it."

Barbara registered this apology silently, with a slight, cold nod of her head, and then continued. "So where does that lead us? Our youngest is committing felonies and we're not stopping her?"

Bruce winced, then cleared his throat. "It's a lousy means to a good end. If I know the Joker, and I do, just a couple of these escapades will embolden him enough to attempt a major heist-or a major act of terrorism. And...when he does..." his eyes and mouth were grim, "we'll nail him."

* * * * *

The Joker was sitting at his office desk as they entered with their duffle bags. They watched as he counted the money, his perma-smile expanding by the moment. They listened as he cackled with unqualified glee as they recalled Dinah's stopping the premiere crime-fighters of New Gotham-without even touching them.

After he finished, he looked at Dinah with what she imagined was respect tinged with lascivious intent. "So, you robbed a bank and Batman and Nightwing just had to stand there watching, huh?" He cackled again. "I think this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship."

Dinah didn't trust herself to answer but it didn't matter because he had already turned to Quinn, motioned to her. "Come here-I've got that present for you."

Quinn crossed, obediently stood next to his chair.

He barely gave her a glance before he said, "Pants down."

Dinah watched as Quinn pulled her tights down to below her knees. The Joker pulled Quinn roughly over his knees and spanked her bare bottom with every syllable of "You've been a ve-ry, ve-ry, ve-ry good girl!"

And with the last ferocious smack, he tossed her unceremoniously onto the floor in front of him.

Then he kicked her. "Get up, bitch," he snarled.

With that kick, it was everything Dinah could do not to launch herself at that sick son of a-and then she was struck dumb as she watched Quinn emerge from behind the desk with a look of raw, animal desire in her eyes.

The Joker stood up and roughly pushed Quinn over the desk, gripped her hair, slammed her head to the surface with one hand, then let go and reached for his zipper. As he did so, he looked into Dinah's stricken face and laughed. "What? Didn't you know foreplay's for pussies?" He smacked Quinn's ass again. "Isn't that right, dear?"

Quinn pulled her head up from the desk, met Dinah's eyes and her look was one of regret and sorrow that the girl was present to see her undeniable hunger for this treatment.

Dinah flinched as The Joker hit Quinn again.


Quinn's voice was a ragged whisper. "Dinah...please leave."

"NO!" The Joker's voice thundered in the room. "Not before you tell her you want it."

* * * * *

As long as Quinn had known him, The Joker had loved dominating her, humiliating her-and she'd truly enjoyed it, time after time. But she'd never felt as conflicted about it as...

She started, winced with pain and desire as she felt the sting of another vicious blow.

Oh God...she wanted it, wanted it, wanted it.

She didn't know how she could bare to do it...but she looked into Dinah's horrified, repulsed eyes and told her, firmly, "I want this-please leave."

* * * * *

Dinah was in bed, staring at the ceiling, when Quinn entered a few hours later. She watched as the woman changed into a pair of shorts and a t-shirt but, as Quinn got into the bed, she turned immediately toward the wall.

Quinn smoothed the covers around her, feeling all the while the white-hot indignation of the young woman sharing her bed.

A long five minutes went by before Dinah spoke. "I don't understand."

Quinn took a deep breath, exhaled, and said with more bravado that she felt, "Then it's lucky it's not yours. You don't have to understand."

She watched as Dinah turned toward her and whispered, "And just what the fuck does that mean?"

At this, Quinn stiffened, felt suddenly indignant herself and answered in a harsh whisper. "It means that I'm an adult-it's my kink-not yours-and I can enjoy whatever the fuck I want to."

Quinn winced at the pain in Dinah's eyes and tried again.

"Look-I know you don't understand." She lowered her eyes...and her voice. "And I don't either-but I like it-I need it and I'm not ashamed of it." She hesitated before she continued, "I'm only ashamed, with one exception, about whom I've gotten it from."

Dinah digested this for a beat. "Helena did that to you?"

Quinn blinked twice, then answered. "That's none of your business."

Dinah felt her heart sink and she felt tears prick her eyes as she realized that she was truly too young for all of this.

But she bluffed anyway. "So what? Is that why you don't want me? You don't think I could do that to you?"

Quinn watched with alarm as Dinah's eyes became suddenly cold..."I could hurt you-if that's what you want. You don't think I could?" She lifted Quinn into the air with her mind and flipped her so that she was facing her, hovering above her. "I could hurt you without even touching you."

Quinn could see it-behind the anger, she could see Dinah's anguish, her youth, her confusion-and desperately wanted to reach down and pull herself into the young woman's arms. But she hesitated...because she didn't feel she deserved to touch her.

Dinah saw, watched the hesitation, the sadness in Quinn's eyes and reached up and touched her, let herself connect. As the sensation of Quinn's scorching guilt washed over her, she instantly and gently let the woman hover down gently onto her chest, hugged her tightly and whispered into her ear. "I'm sorry."

And Quinn wrapped her body tightly around her young friend, fervently wishing for a moment fate had not created them so far apart in time. Then she snorted quietly, laughed at herself as she made a mental inventory. Let's see, since meeting her, she'd introduced Dinah to the delight of kissing an adult when she was too young to be doing so, drinking when she was too young to be doing so, the joys of committing armed robbery, and to the various kinky ways adults could get off. And, most alarmingly to her, their contact seemed to be, for some reason, increasing Dinah's powers. What if she...

Quinn suddenly felt like the mouth of hell might open and suck her right out of the bed. She heard a tiny snicker from Dinah and the girl's voice was a tired monotone.

"Number 1. We're doing all this shit to reach a goal. Number 2. Don't worry, Mom. I'll use my powers for good. Number 3. The mouth of hell is not going to open and suck you out of the bed. Go to sleep."

"Hey! Those were private thoughts!"

"Sorry-my kink-not yours."

* * * * *

Quinn drifted off to sleep fairly quickly but Dinah didn't. She realized now what criminals saw in their pursuits-beside the lust for money-she HAD been truly excited, thrilled even, as they'd driven away with the loot; it had been, undeniably, the biggest adrenaline rush of her life.

But now, she kept thinking about the bank customers' faces-especially the teller. That poor girl was probably still shaking, would probably be afraid to go to work every day now, would be nervous every time a customer stepped up to her window. SHE'D done that to her. She'd taken all of those customers' sense of security and control and destroyed it.

And had enjoyed herself while doing it. Which scared her.

She knew she wouldn't be getting any sleep that night.

* * * * *

Barbara was sitting up in bed reading but that didn't keep Helena from feeling the woman's stern disapproval of her earlier outburst. As she lay there, she wondered what to say-even if she should say anything at all.

So it was embarrassing. She'd never heard Dick and Bruce say anything like that about her-not like what they'd said about D.

And fuck it all-she was jealous. There it was. She was jealous. And now she'd basically all but said she was jealous-and dissed Dinah-and embarrassed herself and pissed Barbara off in the process.

Should she say something? Or let it go? Or give it time, then say something? Or...

Oh, fuck it.

"Barbara, look-I'm"

"Let's not talk about it, okay?" Barbara continued to read, seemingly undisturbed.

"But, I'm really-sor-"

"What? Sorry that you're jealous? Sorry that you suggested Dinah might become a criminal? Sorry that you said something incredibly disrespectful about someone who worships you? What, exactly?"

Barbara still hadn't looked up from her book.

Helena felt tears sting her eyes as she answered truthfully, "I'm sorry that I'm...fuckin' immature and stupid enough to want to be the most...special..." she gulped with embarrassment as she continued, "And that I want...that I need to be the you, at least."

She watched as Barbara quietly closed her book, placed it on the nightstand and turned to her. And didn't say a word-but, as Helena looked into her eyes, she, man.

There it was. That look.

And she realized, suddenly, that it really didn't matter whether Dinah walked on water or not-no one else existed for Barbara. No one but her.

So she smiled. And kissed her.

* * * * *

Later that night, as Helena lay sleeping in her arms, Barbara thought about the elephant in the room that they were all busy skirting around-the reason she'd lashed out at Helena's comment. What if The Joker WERE able to sway Dinah into his control? He obviously was capable of it-after all, Quinzel had been an adult and a trained psychologist when she'd met him and been lured into a life of crime. Dinah was at a very, very impressionable age and obviously already enamored of Quinn. Couple that with the seduction of her increasing powers and you had a recipe for...she sighed as she watched Helena sleep, knowing Helena truly had no such qualms about Dinah. She knew Helena entirely trusted the girl, despite her earlier words.

She also knew she wouldn't be getting any sleep that night. And that she owed Helena an apology.

* * * * *

Bruce and Dick were both lying in bed, despite the Joker's insinuations, in separate bedrooms in Wayne Manor, thinking about the events of the day.

And they were both profoundly troubled. Dinah was far, far more powerful than they'd ever imagined she could be. So powerful that they both shuddered to think...

After all, she was with the two most manipulative and seductive people they'd ever encountered in their long careers as crime fighters...and what if she...

* * * * *

Dick played out the scenario in his mind and then laughed out loud. There was no way. They could trust her-he knew it. He knew it as sure as he knew his name was Dick, or..uh, Robin or...Nightwing. He made a mental note not to ever change his fucking name again, turned over and fell promptly to sleep.

* * * * *

Bruce played out the scenario in his mind. Again and again. And he knew he wouldn't be getting any sleep that night.

* * * * *

The Joker lay in bed feeling particularly...relaxed, sated. He had to admit-he and Harley were a match made in-well, wherever matches like theirs were made.

Dinah, Dinah, Dinah. Having her on his side would immeasurably increase the power of his ministry of crime. He thought of it that way, sometimes. Someone had to spread the gospel, bring crime to the people.

But she was still an enigma to him. Not that he didn't think he could crack that code. Of course he could-he was, after all, who he was.

He thought, perhaps, what she needed was a few more exploits that would show her how very exciting crime could be-a few jobs that wouldn't involve people this time. He could tell she was a typical bleeding-heart criminal-feeling badly about people after the fact. Yes, a few exciting jobs-without the people. That was what she needed.

She could be groomed, Harley had been groomed, after all. It might take some time, but he could see a day where he'd have Harley AND Dinah on their knees.

He turned over and slept the peaceful sleep only the innocent-and the damned-sleep.

Chapter 15

One Week Later

"You know what? I really don't give a shit anymore! We need to get her out of there."

This was such an unusual outburst for Barbara that it made Helena, Bruce and Dick blink.


"No, Helena! I don't care what sort of danger I'm in-she's too young to be-"

"I agree."

Bruce's calm, measured tone brought the conversation to a halt.

"This situation is...untenable."

Helena rolled her eyes. Leave it to her father to call bullshit on something with the word untenable.

Dick spoke up next. "I don't know, guys-except for the bank, it's not like they've done anything serious yet."

Serious? Not by a long shot-they'd only, evidently, done things that would amuse the Joker.

A list?

Well, for starters, one night, he'd stolen every green clothing item out of the top twenty retailers in New Gotham.

He'd gone to Bloomingdale's and switched all the clothing on all of the male mannequins to female mannequins, and vice versa.

He'd taken all of the merchandise from Tiffany's and dumped it into a burlap sack and left it in the middle of the store.

He'd broken into the main poultry/egg producers for New Gotham, boiled and colored their eggs, then carefully placed them back into cartons for distribution.

Jokes. All of them. Jokes with a point-he could infiltrate, steal almost at will. And they could only be the precursor to something far more serious, far more dangerous.

* * * * *

That Afternoon

The men had retired to Wayne Manor without having come to any conclusion. Which had pissed Barbara off. Although she wasn't saying anything, her disquietude was radiating off of her in waves.

Helena watched her partner sitting quietly in front of Delphi for nearly an hour. She was sure those green eyes were taking in nothing that was in front of them.

She felt as helpless as she knew Barbara was feeling. Hell, all of them knew Quinn couldn't be doing all that well at this point. Which left Dinah with...what? The fucking Joker and a half-cocked Harley Quinn. Both of whom were more than a match for her-or Bruce and Dick for that matter.

But the kid?

She swallowed against the lump in her throat.

She was slightly startled by the sound of Barbara's voice. And even more by the despair in that voice.

"Why the hell do we do this?"

Helena crossed to her, sat on her desk, facing her. "What?"

Barbara waved at Delphi, vaguely at the Clocktower.

"This-all of this. What does it matter?" She paused, looked down at her legs before adding, "Have you ever thought about how much we've all lost because of..." she waved again. "All of this?"

The bitterness in her lover's voice was new to Helena. But she thought about it for a beat before answering. And thinking about it made her angry, so she answered with no little heat.

"Are you kidding? Of course I've thought about it. My mother was murdered right in front of me. And as old as I am, I've only recently known what having a father's like."

And then, suddenly...what a pussy, Helena thought...the tears were falling.

"Not to mention the fact that I went through knowing the most important person in my life might die-that she might...really want to die."

Barbara stared at Helena for a long beat, then pulled her into a hug, then a kiss.

As Helena pulled away, Barbara's voice was quiet, sincere, "I'm so sorry, baby. Maybe I don't tell you enough how happy I am that I'm alive."

Helena looked into her lover's eyes. Barbara smiled. "Even...the way I am, I'm so grateful that I'm alive-to share my half-life with you."

Helena smiled, then growled. "Half-life my ass-I'm taking you to bed."

As Helena lifted her out of her chair, as desperately depressed as she was, Barbara was newly reminded of the reason she was alive.

Love. She had love.

And that made all the difference.

* * * * *

At the Same Moment



That's what Bruce had decided upon. In all their years together, Dick had never been wrangled into fishing.

Much less fishing with cane poles and actual worms, for God's sake.

But Bruce, since he'd reconnected with Helena, was doing a lot of things that weren't all that characteristic of him.

So they were sitting on the bank of a fairly large pond near Wayne Manor.

Silently watching the water.

For what seemed like hours.



"It's a dog's life, isn't it?"

Dick was a little thrown off by the emotion in Bruce's voice.

"Uh, I'm sorry. What?"

Bruce waved vaguely at the water.

"What do we accomplish by doing all of this? Look at the cost. Barbara, Selina...and now what if..."

There was so much pain in Bruce's voice as it trailed away, that Dick glanced at him with concern.

What could he say to his mentor? The man who'd changed his life? When what that man was saying was, essentially, true.

"Because that's what we do. We fight for...the people who can't. And sometimes we get hurt. Sometimes we lose. But, no matter how many times we lose, that doesn't mean we shouldn't fight."

Dick's voice softened. "I know you've just walked back into to this but don't give up now. It's hard, I know...but we can do it."

Dick watched as the muscles in Bruce's jaw twitched before he spoke.

"I know we can. It's just that...with Barbara and Helena and Dinah...I just can't...I couldn't bear to-"

Hearing the pain in that well-known voice, Dick did something he rarely did. He put his arm around Bruce's shoulder.

"I know. I know it's tough...but it's going to be okay."

Almost immediately, he moved that arm away from Bruce, embarrassed by the familiarity. Bruce nearly laughed, amused by Dick's anxiety at their proximity.

But he didn't. He merely punched Dick gently in the shoulder.

Dick looked at the water, pleased, but because, after all, he was a guy, he swallowed his smile and thought, 'yeah, love you, too, man.'

* * * * *

At the Same Moment

Barbara was always astonished by how quickly Helena could have both of them naked, in bed, together. Was that a meta-human power, she wondered, as Helena showered kisses on her neck, her collarbones, her...ahh...her breasts.

As she watched Helena's beautiful mouth encircle her nipple, she wondered, not for the first time, how she'd lucked into having this beautiful, violent, gentle supernova share her life. To be honest, her loss of mobility was nothing compared to the addition of this amazing woman.

She gasped as she watched and was astonishing that she could feel, Helena enter her. As Helena moved inside her, she also moved upward; she was looking into Barbara's eyes.

"You're mine."

Barbara assented instantly.


No other words were necessary.

* * * * *

That Evening

Quinn watched Dinah sleeping as she went through the list in her shattering mind, starting with letter A:

A rose by any name would smell as sweet.
Abandon ship
About face
Above board
Absence makes the heart grow fonder
Absolute power corrupts absolutely
Ace in the hole
Ace up his sleeve
Actions speak louder than words
All dressed up and nowhere to go
All's fair in love and war
Always a bridesmaid, never the bride
An idle mind is the devil's playground

And idle mind? Devils' playground?

I'll say, she thought.

Then, for no actual reason, she reached out...traced the edge of Dinah's collarbone with her fingers. Dinah's eyes flew open.

What the f-, the girl thought.

She gasped and was relieved to find it was only Quinn. She looked again.

A very aroused Quinn.

Bingo. Just what she'd been waiting for.

She pulled the older woman closer, kissed her as passionately as she could.

And was surprised to find the woman returning her passion. Dinah immediately undressed herself; removed Quinn's clothing and, then, she felt for the first time the astonishment of a lover's naked skin against hers.

But, as she kissed her way down to Quinn's stomach, she could feel the residual disapproval...this wasn't...she kissed her way closer to...but felt something in Quinn resist...

And she stopped.

She didn't know how it was possible, but she stopped. She moved up-so she could look Quinn in the eyes.

"You don't want me to do this, do you?

"What? Yes!" Quinn's eyes and her mouth were smiling. "Of course I do."

But Dinah could feel it-NO. A tremendous no from somewhere else inside the woman's mind.

She pulled away, began to clothe herself again.

Quinn lunged forward. "What are you doing?"

Dinah smiled faintly as she pulled away, then pulled her nightshirt over her head. "Saving both of us."

Quinn's eyes didn't register any understanding but her body relaxed immediately.

* * * * *

Next Morning

She was awake. Which wasn't saying much-because she hadn't slept all that much.

"God, I wish we could go home." Dinah was sitting on the bed next to Quinn, pulling on her boots.

"If wishes were horses, beggars would ride."

Dinah sighed deeply. Quinn was doing that a lot lately-answering in clichés, which Dinah knew was her way of saying something that didn't sound quite as unbalanced as she was beginning to feel. Which, in itself, was beginning to sound unbalanced.

But she was really trying. Dinah had to say that for her. So she smiled, stood up and offered her hand to the woman. "C'mon, Quinn."

And Quinn tilted her head. "Ah...there's no time like the present? Nose to the grindstone?"

"That's right, sweetie. Long row to hoe. Shoulder to the wheel."

As Quinn took her hand, Dinah felt a wave of desperation from the woman that took her breath. And made Dinah very, very angry.

As she marched out of the room and down the hallway toward the Joker's office with a somewhat alarmed Quinn hurrying to catch up with her, she marveled at how much she really just didn't give a shit anymore.

* * * * *

Jokes, the latest crimes they'd committed were little pranks the Joker had arranged to get Dinah used to crime. Jokes that wouldn't hurt anybody-crime that was fun-crime to soothe the liberal criminal in her.

But perhaps the joking was over, he thought, given the look on the young woman's face as she barged into his office with Quinn in tow.

"That's it, motherfucker!"

The Joker's voice was calm, amused. "What's it, cupcake?"

"Quinn's not having any more of those goddamned injections. Got that? Over. Done. Finito."

"Oh? And why's that?"

"If you don't want her to take medication, fine! But she's going to be a major liability to you in a few days if don't back the FUCK off with those injections. "

The Joker stood up and crossed to Dinah. Leaned over her.

His voice was silky.

"Alright, dumpling, you got it. condition, though."

Looking up into his eyes, Dinah felt a wave of panicked revulsion. What if-

"You're a touch telepath, am I right?"

The question caught her off-guard. "Uh...well...yes."

"You tell the truth. How quaint. And, because I know you're never going to be willing to..." He paused, as if in thought, but he knew what he was going to do.

He suddenly turned to Quinn, grabbed her by her hair and pushed her over his desk. He roughly dragged her pants off of her and reached for his zipper.

His voice was still as smooth as silk. "Hold her hand, Dinah-this may get rough."

Their eyes locked. That wasn't a request. As Dinah took Quinn's hand, she felt a tremendous jolt of desire wash over her.

As the next few minutes passed, she experienced what she never could have imagined that she would-being sexually in thrall to another person. As she felt the other woman's utterly mortified but nevertheless intense enjoyment of what her knees nearly buckled as she shared the eventual climax, as she watched the mad malevolence in the Joker's eyes during that climax, he leaned over and kissed her.

She allowed it, allowed it to deepen, even returned it with more passion than he'd been prepared for. In a few moments, however, it was over, for all of them.

And then Dinah was smiling. Because it had suddenly occurred to her that, no matter what, she was going to kill this man.

And she was going to enjoy it.

Chapter 16

My Heart Belongs to Daddy (Gerri Halliwell)

While tearing off a game of golf
I may make a play for the caddy
But when I do, I don't follow through
Cause my heart belongs to Daddy

If I invite a boy some night
To dine on my fine finnan haddie
I just adore, his asking for more
But my heart belongs to Daddy

Yes, my heart belongs to Daddy
So I simply couldn't be bad
Yes, my heart belongs to Daddy
Da, Da, Da, Da, Da, Da, Da, Da, DAAAAD

* * * * *

Ten Days Later

This, Dinah mused, was one of those situations where having an adult around would be damned handy. Because she really didn't know what to do. Things were going very quickly straight to hell, and she realized with some chagrin that, as childish as it was, she didn't want to take responsibility for the decisions she was making

She'd really thought that having the Joker discontinue Quinn's injections would take some of the pressure off of both of them. But it hadn't.

She'd watched with increasing alarm as Quinn had slowly but surely returned to her normal self. Her normal, un-medicated psychotic self, that is. A person who Dinah forced herself to remember was not only very dangerous but also fully capable of passing herself off as a fairly normal human being.

* * * * *

Five Days Previously

Five days after the injections had stopped and long past midnight, Quinn had entered their dimly-lit bedroom and had been surprised to find Dinah reading in bed.

"I didn't think you'd still be up."

"Couldn't sleep. Where've you been?"

Quinn began to change into her pajamas.

"With Puddin'."

"Doing what?"

Quinn's face was bland but her eyes sparkled with sardonic amusement as she purred, "Hmmm...want the play by play?"

Dinah's attention snapped back to her book. "No."

Quinn, finished with her changing, climbed onto the bed and sat facing the girl. "Honestly, Dinah darling, what a dirty little mind you have. We weren't doing...that. We were just making some plans."

Now, Dinah was all ears. "What kind of plans?"

"That I can't tell you-it's a secret."

Dinah looked searchingly into Quinn's eyes, trying to gauge the older woman's mental state. "Quinn...we're not supposed to keep secrets from each other. Especially not his secrets. You're on my side...remember?"

Dinah could see Quinn was caught off-guard by this, and for the slightest beat, she thought she saw confusion in her eyes. But, just as instantly, Quinn's mask of insouciance was back. She tilted her head to one side as she replied brightly. "Of course I remember, cupcake."

But, as Quinn turned and flopped back onto her pillow, grabbing her own book as she did so, Dinah couldn't, for the life of her, decide whether the other woman was telling the truth.

* * * * *

After about an hour of reading in silence, Dinah was startled by the quiet sound of Quinn's voice. "Thanks for having him stop those injections."

"You're welcome."

Dinah turned as Quinn stretched, sighed happily. "I'm feel like I'm finally getting back to my old self again."

The girl paused before replying. "That's...great Quinn. Really. I'm glad."

Dinah winced as she saw she hadn't pulled that one off-because Quinn was smirking. "I know what you're thinking-you're thinking maybe you're going to get stuck in a jam with good old, bad old Quinn, right?" As Dinah winced a smile, the woman leaned over and bumped against her shoulder. "Try not to worry so much, darling." She changed gears in a beat. "Hey! I betcha I can do something you never guessed I could do. Wanna see?"

The girl smiled wanly. "Okay."

"Touch me. Touch my mind."

Dinah reached out, touched Quinn on the arm and...blinked. Her brow furrowed and she closed her eyes-pushing....pushing....but nothing. Not just nothing, absolutely alarming nothingness. A brick would have been more accessible.

The older woman watched the astonishment in the young woman's face as her brain registered what she was encountering. Quinn leaned over and murmured into her ear. "Compartmentalization. When I'm not medicated, I've got it down to a science. Just like a firewall for my brain."

Quinn turned back to her book as she finished her thought. "Handy, huh?"

She didn't even notice that Dinah looked suddenly quite sick.

* * * * *

Five Days Later

It wasn't all that late but Dinah yawned as she looked around the staging area of Joker's lair. In this cavernous room, a girl could find everything she needed to pull off almost anything. She hopped up on one of the tables against a wall and watched as the Joker's men packed the few things she and Quinn would need for the museum job they were planning for the next night. It looked like a fairly boring and straightforward, in-and-out sort of thing. At the sound of a merry laugh ringing out through the room, followed by a tremendous answering cackle, Dinah turned to watch Quinn and the Joker.

Quinn had spent the past two nights with him, only returning to their bedroom to change clothes for the day. She was always perfectly charming and affectionate with her, but there was a distinct cattiness in the charm and distance in the affection. Quinn was playing some sort of game and Dinah knew it. And she knew Quinn knew she knew it. Which only seemed to amuse the older woman.

She watched as Quinn looped her fingers through the belt loops on the Joker's pants and pulled him into a kiss. Naturally, the Joker took that opportunity to give a little grope to everything that was grope-able on Quinn.

Dinah's face registered nothing. Dinah's mind and heart, however, were whirling with emotion-but exactly what emotion was predominating, she couldn't say. She was jealous, angry, hurt and confused. What concerned her most, though, was that she was frightened. Very frightened.

Barbara had taught her to always respect her fear because fear was based in instinct, and instincts rarely lied. Well, her instincts weren't whispering, they were screaming at her and sometimes lately it was only her knowledge of her own incredible powers that kept her blood from running cold and her knees from buckling.

And it didn't help to remember that even the strongest swimmer could be drowned in a riptide.

* * * * * the Clocktower...

Helena yawned, struggling to stay awake during the longest goddamned Monopoly game she'd ever played-though that wasn't, admittedly, saying much, since she'd only played a few times with Barbara when she was a kid.

It was her turn.

She dutifully rolled the dice but, as she started tapping her little dog 'round the board, she saw where he'd land.

"Aww, man!"

Boardwalk with a hotel.


Dick's grin split his face, "Read 'em and weep, baby! Time to pay daddy!"

Bruce and Barbara were circumspect enough to watch the ensuing transaction with stern faces, although both of them were literally sobbing with mirth inside.
Helena scowled ferociously as she paid Dick almost all of her remaining funds.

This was entirely her father's fault, she thought darkly, handing over the small bills. He had the damnedest ideas suddenly about what families did together. First pool; then fishing-which Dick had told her about-and now, Monopoly.

She wanted to tell him most families these days retired to their separate televisions or computers after dinner and that he was about a thousand years behind the times. But she found, somewhat to her surprise, that she liked him enough at this point that she wouldn't hurt his feelings or disappoint his arcane ideals if she could possibly help it.

Which, again, made it his fault that she was getting her ass handed to her at Monopoly. She looked around the table. Fucking billionaire Wayne, fucking ace student/boy-wonder Dick, and Barbara. What chance did she have against them?

None. That's what.

* * * * *

Naturally, Barbara won.

Helena felt a grim satisfaction in that fact. She hated, despised losing-but if she had to lose, she wanted to lose to Barbara.

After they said their goodbyes and the elevator doors closed on Bruce and Dick, Barbara looked up at Helena, smiled and patted her lap. "Wanna ride from a high-rolling capitalist?"

Helena didn't smile, but her eyes did. "Depends. Will I have to put out for it?"

Barbara's tone was firm. "I'm afraid so-you know we capitalists. Everything's always...tit for tat."

Helena almost smiled at this, but didn't. "You know what? I'm gonna leave that one alone."

She sat very gently in Barbara's lap and kissed her. And Barbara quickly found out that it wasn't easy to maneuver a chair, even the short distance to their bedroom, with a supernova in your lap.

* * * * *

The Next Afternoon

While Barbara sorted through the mail, she came across what was quite clearly an expensively printed invitation.

As she touched it, opened it, she remembered and suddenly groaned.

Of course...this would draw the Joker out if nothing would.

She'd known it was scheduled, had been told about it long ago and had stored it somewhere in the back of her mind. And...therefore, it had slipped her mind. A dinner was going to be held for her father-to honor him for his work as police commissioner. The mayor would be there.

Actually, everyone who was anyone in New Gotham would be there-even, perhaps, the governor.

And, of course, she would be there, for her father.

All of them perfect bait for the Joker.

* * * * *

Meanwhile, in the Joker's lair

So...this-this man was going to be their accomplice, their driver. As Dinah watched him scurry into the room, even she was unimpressed.

But she was chilled by the fact that he snapped, regardless of the menacing presence of the Joker in the room, to attention, an obviously terrified attention-as he caught sight of Quinn.

Quinn walked over and stepped firmly into his personal space as she looked up at him and...then, the only sound in the room was the sound of her shoe tapping against the floor. After a few beats, during which Dinah watched a sheen of sweat appear on the man's face, Quinn finally spoke, "Long time, no see, Bernie."

"Yes, ma'am."

"You're late, you know."

The man gulped a bit before answering.

"Yes, ma'am."

"Old habits die hard, huh?"

"Uh...yes ma'am."

"My Puddin's giving you a shot-but surely you realize at this point it's a 'last chance' sort of thing. Which mess up-you die. But-hey-" her eyes widened as she tilted her head to one side, "No pressure, right?!"

The man gulped again. "Ye...I mean no, ma'am."

Quinn stepped back and smirked as she considered him for a beat, then waved her hand in his general direction and said, "He'll do."

The man almost collapsed with relief, then asked, "Is there anything I can get you before the job, ma'am?"

Quinn smiled. "A double shot of espresso and..." she gestured toward Dinah, "a latte for my friend."

"Yes, ma'am." As he turned to exit the room, he thought, and then turned back toward them.


"Yes, Bernie?"

"Did you want a bow on yours?"

"You remembered! How sweet! No-no bows this time. But I think those little chocolate covered coffee beans are festive, don't you? How about a few of those?"

Bernie nodded, almost bowed. "Yes, ma'am."

* * * * *

Barbara seemed entirely absorbed in Delphi, but Helena knew better. She crossed the room to stand next to her and asked, "Thinking about the kid?"


It was a terse response, a response Helena almost took personally-because she didn't think Barbara knew that she was also worried out of her mind. Hell, she could barely sleep at this point, thinking about Dinah in the lions' den.

"So," Helena offered, "what are we going to do?"

"I don't know-I only know that soon I'll be in the one place I'm bound to be a target."

Helena's stomach turned over. "What the fuck does that mean?"

Barbara nodded toward the invitation on her desk and, as Helena picked it up and read it, she felt her stomach sink lower...and lower.

It was perfect.

Of course he'd try that. And he'd know that everyone would know he'd try that. Which meant he'd be planning something really...special for all of them.

* * * * *

Dinah, Quinn and Bernie slipped through the darkness at the back of the museum and came to a stop yards away from a back entrance.

"Alright," Quinn whispered, "by the book. Dinah-you disable the camera-I'll get past the alarm."

Dinah pointed at the security camera above the door and it immediately drooped downward. If it was still working, it was capturing asphalt.

They all ran to the door and Quinn ported a small device into the security keypad. It blinked three times and she tested the door.


They were in.

After they entered, Bernie remained at the door, guarding, waiting for their exit. In each successive room Dinah disabled the security cameras, knowing that would eventually have to draw the attention of the three security officers on duty.

Quinn held her arm up. Stop. She waved her on. Time to split up.

* * * * *



Barbara smiled at her monitor. "Silent alarm at the Museum on 10th."

<I'm on it-that's that traveling gem collection, right?>

Barbara could hear Helena moving incredibly swiftly. "You're a dark horse, aren't you? I didn't know you keep up with traveling museum exhibits."

<Only those that look steal-able. Is that a word?>

"If it's not, it should be."

* * * * *

Dinah hated knocking people out-she always wanted to leave them a few Advil next to their bodies after she'd done it. But there was no other safe way to get past them. So-the security guard felt himself rammed, by some invisible force, against one wall, hitting his head hard enough for immediate unconsciousness. Dinah graciously eased his fall-and he floated to a rest on the floor.

She crossed to the enormous display of gems.

Ho hum.

* * * * *

Quinn hated knocking people out-it was so much easier just to kill them. But she rather unceremoniously cold-cocked her security guard and waited, in a main corridor leading to the gem display, for Dinah to finish.

* * * * *

She wasn't alone for long. She was startled by a flurry of motion and, before she could raise her gun, she was face to face with the Huntress.

Helena was even more startled to find herself face to face with Quinn.

Quinn looked Helena over appreciatively. "My, my, my, aren't you a tonic for the eyes?"

Helena ignored this. "Where's D?"

<Quinn? Is that Quinn?>

"Yes, it's Quinn."

The woman in question smiled. "Oh-almost forgot. You're on comm., aren't you? Hello, Oracle, dear."

<Tell her to go fuck herself.>

"Oracle says hello. Where's D.?"

"Off doing her chores." Quinn's eyes widened. "But don't mind me. Don't ask me how I've been."

The voice turned bitter, "You know, you shadowy crime-fighters and criminals are all the same. Wham bam, thank you, ma'am."

Helena winced at this reference to their past and knew that Barbara was wincing too. But there was something else...something about Quinn's voice that made the hair on her neck stand up. It was such a familiar voice-but it wasn't Quinn's-it was Dr. Quinzel's. She was so rattled by this realization that she almost didn't hear Quinn's question.

"How'd you get in?"

"Through the back door-there was some poor nebbish laid out on the floor."

Quinn jerked to attention. "Bernie?"

They were both jolted by the sound of gunfire.

* * * * *

A burning leaden bolt of pain.

So this was what it was like to be shot.

Dinah flung the security guard who'd shot her into the nearest wall and he slid, unconscious, to the floor.

She looked at him for a beat. Not much older than she was, probably. And scared. Which is why he'd probably just shot her, rather than trying to negotiate a capture.

She was somewhat amused that she wasn't all that interested in looking at...

* * * * *

Quinn and Helena rushed to Dinah, who had fainted, bag of gems in hand.

<Huntress-what's going on?>

Helena could hear the panic in Barbara's voice.

"It's D. She's been shot."

< she...>

"She's alive."

Blood. There was so much blood. Helena was used to it in a vague sort of way-but not when it came to her family. She'd seen too much of her mother's, Barbara's...she suddenly felt like she was going to faint...or throw up.

But Quinn didn't. She gently cradled Dinah into her lap, looked at the entrance wound in the girl's shoulder, then for an exit wound. She exhaled sharply with relief when she saw a relatively clean exit to the side of her scapula.

<Huntress-what the fuck's going on?>

Helena looked at Quinn. "What's the..."

Quinn knew there were two people asking.

"Oracle, she's been shot in the shoulder, below her left clavicle-couldn't have hit her lung-from the look of it, didn't hit anything but muscle-maybe nicked her scapula."

Helena heard Barbara's sigh of relief and felt better immediately.

<Bring her home. Now.>

* * * * *

Dinah opened her blue eyes...and looked for a long beat into Quinn's blue eyes.

What...where...the pain in her shoulder reminded her. Oh, shit-she was-and suddenly she saw Helena's blue eyes. What the hell was she doing...

She wondered suddenly if she had died-was this what it would be like? Pain, forgetfulness and blue eyes?

She turned back to Quinn and remembered feeling scared of her-but if she didn't care, why did she look so very pale and frightened?

She shook her head violently to clear it.

* * * * *

<Bring her home.>

"I'm taking her home."

Dinah suddenly sat up a bit, with Quinn's help.

"No-it's not-we're not...finished."

<I don't give a shit.>

"We don't give a shit, D."

Dinah looked to Quinn, not to Helena, for an answer.

Quinn only smiled faintly and said "Your choice."

Dinah's voice was a whisper, "We gotta get out of here." She smiled at Helena. "I'm going with Quinn."

Helena's heart and stomach jumped-because she could see and feel, right down to her bones, not only that Dinah was in tremendous pain but that she was also terribly afraid.

And though the girl was still faintly smiling, Helena felt Dinah's eyes burning into hers as she whispered, "But ready for...anything."

Chapter 17

Dick watched with alarm, but no little interest, as Barbara laid into Helena-and as, astonishingly, Helena fought right back.

He noticed even Bruce was holding back during this...clash of the titans.

"She was SHOT, Helena. She should be HOME! She should be HERE!"

"She's not a fucking BABY, Barbara. She WANTED to stay-so I let her!

"That wasn't your decision to make!"

"RIGHT! It was HER'S. Not mine. Not YOUR'S." Helena snorted, "I mean...hate to break it to you, honey, but you don't get to make EVERY decision in this house."

Bruce and Dick's eyebrows shot up at this. That was sort of a low blow to someone with the control issues Barbara had.

Sure enough, Barbara's face immediately turned cloudier than it had been-and it had already been cloudy enough.

Her voice was a low murmur. "What did you just say to me?"

Helena was rattled for a beat- this wasn't how she wanted to spend the evening. She'd just seen Dinah shot and Dinah's blood and she just wanted to crawl into Barbara's lap and cry-but FUCK THAT! She was right-and she knew it.


Whoa! Dick was impressed. He'd never said anything to Barbara that was half as snotty as that. But, then again, it was pretty damned rare that he was right and Barbara was wrong.

And he thought Barbara was wrong.

* * * * *

So did Bruce. Though he could certainly understand Barbara's concern. He would have done what Helena had-left Dinah to finish the mission. Which, perhaps made Helena just a bit too much like him-maybe they were wrong, maybe Barbara was right.

No. Cancel that-they were right!

"Barbara-I really think that-"

Barbara turned toward him, glaring so ferociously that he stopped mid-sentence.

"When I need your opinion, Bruce, I'll ask for it."

He blinked, then stammered out, "Right. Okay...I think I'll be leaving now."

Suddenly, Helena was standing right next to him. "Give me a ride?"

"Where the hell do you think you're going? We're not finished with this conver--"

"YOU'RE not finished, Barbara. But I am. And what does it matter, anyway? You always win-everything always goes your way. Why do you need me around? Ready, Dad?"

She stalked out of the room toward the elevator, with Bruce following reluctantly behind her.

Leaving a stunned Barbara and Dick watching their retreating forms. And then, they were gone.

Dick wasn't quite sure what to-"Hey, 'bout those Yankees?"

This remark won him the scornful look he knew it deserved.

* * * * *

The Joker watched with interest as Quinn tended her patient. She had entered holding the girl and had tossed the bag of gems at him with, what looked to him, disgust.

As she helped the girl onto a table, though, he was pleased to see that the girl was afraid of Quinn-naturally enough, he thought. He was half-afraid of her, too.

But as Quinn reached for her shirt, Dinah shook her head no. "Not in front of him."

Quinn turned and glared. "Leave! Now."

Was he smiling? Dinah couldn't tell. But his face seemed to lift, somehow, before he left.

* * * * *

As Quinn treated her wound, Dinah felt deeply confused-there was such tenderness beneath the woman's malicious exterior. What was right? What was true?

* * * * *

After Quinn helped her into their bed, she gave her two pills and a glass of water.


"An antibiotic-just in case. And a pain pill. It'll help you sleep."

Dinah swallowed her pills and downed her glass of water. "Thanks."

"You're welcome. Get some sleep."

Dinah's voice, to her own ears, seemed almost childish. "Are you....will you be here?"

She almost hated how much she'd doubted Quinn lately when she saw the gentleness and concern in the woman's face. "Of course I'll be here. Right here-next to you."

And, before she drifted off to sleep, she opened her eyes to find Quinn watching over her and remembered, with some amusement, that she'd thought heaven would be populated with those eyes.

* * * * *

What beautiful eyes...he thought.

Bruce watched as Helena's beautiful blue eyes glared at her bottle of beer. She was slowly, methodically tearing the label off of the bottle, lost in her anger. She hadn't said anything since she'd ordered her beer.

She ripped the last bit of the label off and downed the rest of the beer. As she smacked the bottle down on the bar, she gestured to the bartender for another.

"I'm right, you know."

"Yeah. I know."

"She wouldn't think twice about sending me into hell itself, as long as I had my comm. on. She's just pissed that she can't call the shots this time."

Bruce's eyebrows rose at this, though he didn't know why. He'd quickly learned that it was always a mistake to underestimate his daughter, no matter how much she underestimated herself.

"She's afraid, Hel. She feels responsible for...everything...and she's afraid."

Helena scowled at the bar. "I know!...I know that. But why does she have to take it out on me?"

Bruce paused for a beat, took a swig of beer before answering.

"Because you're there. Because she loves you-and she knows she can-because you'll always be back in the morning."

Helena pondered this for a few seconds, then stood up from her barstool and, to Bruce's surprise, kissed him on the cheek. "She won't have to wait 'til the morning. Thanks, Dad."

And then she was gone.

But the feeling of her kiss-and her words-were not.

The bartender, bringing Helena's beer, hesitated at her absence.

Bruce smiled. His first true smile in years. "My daughter had to leave-but I'll be happy to pay the tab."

* * * * *

Helena's eyes adjusted immediately to the darkness of her bedroom. She could see Barbara lying there just as clearly as if she were in daylight.

As Helena began to undress, she heard her Barbara's sleepy voice..."I'm sorry, honey-I shouldn't have-

"No-I'm sorry. We can talk about it some other time. Alright?"


And that was all it took, amazingly. For either of them...

As she crawled into bed, Helena raked her naked skin over Barbara's. And, then, as she lay next to her, she asked, "Now that that's all cleared up-could I interest you in a few X-Treme sports tonight, Ms. Gordon?

Barbara smiled, really smiled, for the first time in months...


* * * * *

As Dinah woke up the next morning, she felt terribly disoriented and, as she moved, she winced and remembered why. Bullet. Pain pill. F-uck.

She opened her eyes to find Quinn looking at her with concern. "How are you feeling, darling?"

"Sort of like I've been shot through the shoulder."

Quinn smirked, "You know, there's a reason for that." She helped the girl sit up in the bed, "after a bit of breakfast, I'll give you another pain pill."

Dinah shook her head. "No-I don't want to be groggy around-"

Quinn's voice was firm, "Don't worry about anything. If anyone even thinks about laying a finger on you, they'll be pushing up daisies."

Dinah looked into Quinn's eyes, entirely sure the woman meant it, and entirely unsure what that meant for her.

Quinn touched Dinah's cheek. "I promise. Nothing will happen to you."

"But something already did."

Dinah saw Quinn wince. "I know. And I'm sorry. We were too sloppy. That won't happen again."

Before Quinn could leave to get her breakfast, Dinah grabbed her forearm. "What's going on? Please tell me."

Quinn looked at her for what seemed like a minute but Dinah realized it was probably only a few seconds. "Don't ask me again. You'll know when you need to know." She hesitated, "Are you afraid of me, Dinah?"

Dinah nodded her head yes.

"Good." Quinn smiled. "You should be."

But even as Quinn said that, Dinah felt a chink in the wall around the woman's mind fall, and though she could barely make out anything intelligible in a sandstorm of troubled, disordered thoughts, what she could feel was tenderness. Even love.

Be afraid of me. I love you.

Dinah shook her head to clear it. What did that mean?

* * * * *

As Quinn walked toward the kitchen, she forgot where she was going. She stopped for a second and thought. And thought about thinking. Then said aloud, "Think about thinking, she thought."

Where was it? What was it that she was trying to do? She forced herself to move. Step. Step forward. Onward. Onward into the valley of death rode the six hundred. Who was that? Tennyson? Yes. "Charge of the Light Brigade."

Light brigade. Light, lamp, wall, picture. Picture this. Picture perfect. Perfect is as perfect does. Does it have to be this way? Curds and...whey?

Breakfast! Breakfast was the ticket!

A task in hand. Something to occupy the next few minutes. And after that, walking with the breakfast, presenting the breakfast, cleaning up after the breakfast.

She knew, but had to remind herself nearly every half-minute, that she could only present normalcy for brief bursts of interaction-with Dinah, with Puddin.

But yes, there was...there was a plan.

* * * * *

The Joker looked at his map of New Gotham for the 100th time that morning.. Even though he knew the city as well as anyone, even and especially, Batman.

Looking at all those neat little squares and tiny little writing helped to clarify his thoughts. And he really felt like he needed clarity before his next move.

Of course they'd expect him at the dinner honoring Commissioner Gordon. Of course they would. And he didn't really think he could disappoint them. It was almost too good to pass up, though he would never have believed that plot possibility if he'd read it, even from the most untalented hack.

What to do.

What to do.

It occurred to him that the old 'divide and conquer' routine was in order. There was really no reason he should have to fight them all at one time. When he really only wanted one thing.

He sighed as he folded his map, and neatly folding his map made him think of his domestic situation. Which was wearing on him. She was cute-she made him laugh-she was fantastic in the sack and on the job.

But she was always there. Day in, day out. It was almost like they were-he cackled wildly at the thought. Now, THAT would be a marriage made in hell.

No, no, no. Domesticity didn't suit him and he'd have to take care of it.

Which was easy, actually, because while he was surprising Batman, there was no reason on Earth why he couldn't surprise Quinn while he was at it.

* * * * *

Quinn looked at the eggs and bacon that she'd prepared, that she'd slid onto a plate for Dinah. Looked at the plate for a full minute.

No. They were too close-she used a spatula to move the eggs and bacon away from each other on the plate. It was all her fault.

But...she could always divide. Divide and conquer.

* * * * *

Dinah winced, sitting up a little straighter in the bed as Quinn entered, her smile genuine enough but her eyes entirely glassy, unreadable.

Dinah yelped despite herself as she reached for a coffee cup with her injured arm. Quinn answered with a "careful, darling'." And her voice sounded nearly normal.

Chapter 18

Two Weeks Later

For a couple of years, since he'd quit school, Robert had jumped from job to job, boss to boss, always wanting to move up, go big-time. So he'd nagged one of his friends incessantly until he'd finally gotten him an appointment to see the Joker. Robert was smart-he could think on his feet; he was strong-he could get himself out of a jam. But he was also very, very young, so he imagined that he'd seen it all.

He'd been bundled into a van and hooded for the trip. When they stopped and helped him out of the van, he could feel his heart hammering in his chest. One of the men removed his hood and, as he stood blinking in the bright light, he was stunned by the size of the room. Almost a warehouse.

A number of men were milling about, obviously busy and on task, but it wasn't quite obvious what those tasks were. The sight of an attractive young woman crossing the room, smoking a cigarette, caught his eye. She said hello to a few of the men and crossed to where he stood. She was nearly as tall as he was.

He smiled at her, "Hi."

Although her eyes were as hard as they were blue, she looked very young. She didn't smile as she asked, "You're the interview?"


She nodded, threw her cigarette on the ground, covered it with her boot, then crossed the room and sat on one of the tables against the wall.

Robert heard the Joker before he saw him. And he was ashamed that he felt his blood running cold.

"Dinah, darling! You're early! Did you have breakfast?"

The girl sounded, looked bored. "Sure did, Green Giant." Robert felt immediate and immense relief as she answered. If this girl wasn't afraid of him, could tease him, surely-


There he was.

The Joker had merely used one of his favorite little entrances, stepping to a person's side and spinning quickly into view. But he'd perfected it over the years and, to Robert, it was as if the man had materialized in front of him. He felt his knees weaken.

Robert suddenly had the feeling he'd done something he was going to have to pay for-plus the terrible nagging feeling he might not be able to afford it.

The Joker was so much taller than he thought he'd be. His eyes were cheerfully and entirely malevolent-they didn't even look human. In fact, he looked so surreal that it was difficult to believe he existed. And he didn't even remotely look as if he could be teased.

He realized suddenly that the man was speaking. "Have you met Dinah?"
He motioned toward the table.

Robert's throat was dry, "Yes-well, sort of."

"Dinah, dear, this is Robert. Robert, Dinah."

Robert nodded. "Pleased to meet you."

"Not for long."

The Joker cackled, "Don't mind her-she has a rather dry sense of humor. Now, Robert-may I call you Bob?"

"Sure. Please."

"Do you know why I've agreed to meet you, Bob?"

"I hope it's because you've heard good things about me."

"That's right!" The man could have been smiling-but Robert couldn't tell. "Such good things that we may choose you to participate in a very special assignment."

"Great. I'm ready to go."

"Not so fast. First, you'll have to get one other person's approval."

"Oh. Okay." Robert was confused-surely the Joker had the last-

"Morning, all." The merry voice was a female's and he could hear the sound of heels quickly crossing the floor.

The woman walked past him without looking at him, leaned up and kissed the Joker on the cheek. "Morning, Puddin'"

Although Robert was no expert, he could tell she was very expensively dressed. Armani, something in him said. The woman crossed to the girl named Dinah and now the girl did smile. He couldn't hear what the woman was saying to the girl but she was running her hands through her hair.

Maybe her daughter? The woman leaned in and kissed her. And kissed her.

Nope. Definitely not her daughter.

Dinah lit a cigarette for the woman and then the woman turned toward him. She pulled on her cigarette as she crossed to him and it was everything he could do not to cringe.

Surely not. Couldn't be.

She smiled as she approached, stopped in front of him and inspected him. "Me-fucking-ow, said the cat to the mouse!" She pulled at her cigarette and her eyes widened. "Pretty!"

Harley Quinn.

He forced himself to smile down at her even as he tried to formulate a plan to get the hell out of there.

"Hi. I'm Robert."

"How old are you, Robert?"


She turned to the Joker, "You're kidding, right?" He only shrugged.

She turned back to him, "Nineteen!" She tilted her head, blinking her eyes rapidly, "Tell me, aren't you a bit young to be playing in my sandbox?"

"Well no, I...don't...think so."

She nodded her head, considered this for a moment, then spoke incredibly rapidly. "Do you have a therapist, Robert? No, stop! Don't answer that-I know you don't. A trained professional would have suggested you consider the ramifications of entering employment with the King and Queen of New Gotham's Underworld." She brought her head upright, "Don'tcha think?"

He tried to follow her speech but he was distracted by her eyes. They were very, very slightly but incessantly darting back and forth, as if she were trying to take in everything at once. Was this what crazy looked like?

She stepped closer to him, which got his full attention. "Robert, I haven't told you my name but can see by the sweat o' your brow that you already know it. Truthfully-is the word out there about me so very bad?"

When he started to answer no-she lifted one eyebrow, her eyes bright and knowing, "Note that I said truthfully."

"Well, uh...yes. It is."

"And entirely deserved, if I must say so. Let's have it-what do they say about me?"

He blinked, hesitated.

"That wasn't a hard question, Rrrob." She smirked as she rolled the Rs out of her mouth.

"That you're a psychopath. That you kill people for kicks. And to stay as far away from you as possible."

She brightened instantly, "Is that all? These days, that's nothing a bit of charity work won't sweep under the rug." She ran her hands over his shoulders and spoke around the cigarette in her mouth, "I mean, who wouldn't want me as a candy-striper, right?"

He smiled, wanly, back at her. Everyone he'd ever known was scared shitless of her. And he could see why. She was, somehow, scarier than the Joker. Maybe it was dichotomy of the monstrous reputation and the slight, almost petite, and pretty person in front of him. He looked into her eyes, which kept darting, but were still strangely warm.

She took a pull from her cigarette and her face, so close to him, was suddenly serious. "Tell me, Robert, do you have any siblings?"

The question was so unexpected that he answered it. "Two sisters."

She instantly tucked her bottom lip under her teeth as if to stifle a laugh and when she glanced at the Joker, Robert could see her eyes were laughing. As they were when she looked back at him. And he thought, but instantly thought that he was imagining it, that he saw relief in them as well.

"Tell me, Rrrob," her voice was a mocking singsong, "what part of telling a psychopath who kills for kicks that you have two sisters is a bad idea?

He started to answer, then stammered to a halt.

With a dismissive wave of her hand, she turned away from him to the Joker. "Too stupid."

The Joker cackled, "You heard the lady! Back in the van! Dinah-make sure he's hooded."

Robert found that he was almost weak with relief. The girl joined him, handcuffed him and helped him into the back of the van. As she held his arms to help him sit, he saw a strange look wash over her face.

"You can take it easy now, Robert."

"What? What do you mean?"

"I mean you don't have to be so frightened now. It's over. They'll let you go."

This embarrassed him because it was true so he didn't answer it.

She finally smiled at him. "You know, she did you a favor, man."

"What are you talking about-she's a fucking-" He suddenly stopped, realizing to whom he was talking.

She finished the sentence for him, "She a fucking psycho who just did you a big fat fucking favor. Why don't you return it." Her face was serious again.


"Get outta the business. It's a dog's life," her face disappeared as she put the hood over his head, but he could still hear her voice, "and you know how long dogs live."

The van door's closing rang in his ears for a very long time.

* * * * *

That Night

It was very dark in their bedroom-almost too dark, Dinah thought. And now there was not only darkness, there was a palpable sense of what she could only call something-about-to-happen. She didn't know what it was-but she felt like a swimmer with something dangerous moving toward her in water too deep for her vision. Her thought was interrupted as she felt Quinn shift, easing a kink out of her neck as she rested on Dinah's good shoulder.

Quinn felt it, too. Neither of them could sleep these days, settling for long hours of wakeful quiet interrupted by small naps through the night.

Since Dinah had been shot, Quinn had spent her days with the Joker but every night with her. It was both comforting and unsettling to be close to Quinn now. She'd stopped being snarky, was always affectionate with her and had taken care of her wound with tenderness, compassion and skill.

On this particular night they'd been awake and entirely silent for nearly four hours after getting into bed.

Dinah broke the silence, "You know, that was really nice what you did for that guy today."


"That guy Robert."

Quinn didn't answer and Dinah knew that Robert was long forgotten.

After another hour, Dinah heard Quinn say something, but the whisper was more like an exhalation of breath than expression.

"What'd you say, honey?" Dinah ruffled her hand through Quinn's hair.

"I said, did you hear that." Quinn's voice was still barely audible.

"Hear what?"

Quinn was quiet for a few moments before answering, "You didn't hear that voice, did you." It was a statement, not a question.

"No. What did it say?"

"Does it matter? It wasn't real." Quinn's voice was dead, wooden.

She exhaled again. It was almost a sigh.

"There's something really wrong with me, you know."

Dinah resisted the urge to sigh. "I know."


"I don't know why, sweetheart. But it's not fair."

After a few minutes without an answer, Dinah closed her eyes.

Quinn had settled into two gears in the past two weeks. It was as if holding the tension between the facets of her personality was too exhausting at this point and Dinah knew that she really no longer tried. She was either nearly fully Harley Quinn or a woman who laid on her shoulder wondering what and why and who she was. And Dinah didn't know which was harder to deal with.

Harley Quinn was erratic, violent, sadistic and sexy. Quinn was always sad-and her serious memory lapses left her continually bewildered, knowing there was something wrong with her but always forgetting she'd ever known what it was. And, although Dinah tried, both sides of the woman were closed to her touch-unreachable, unreadable.

Quinn interrupted Dinah's thoughts as she whispered quite audibly, "He's going to kill me you know."

Dinah could feel the cold chill of goose bumps on her neck.


Quinn giggled, "Geesh, who ya think? Work with me here."

Dinah smiled into the darkness. Every once in a while, out of nowhere, and sometimes for even a half hour at a time, the person she considered the real Quinn emerged. Usually in the dark and usually after hours of quiet.

"Uh...the Joker?"

"Bingo is your name-O."

"Why do you think that?"

"Sometimes a girl just knows things." She pulled Dinah closer. "I'm not the only one he's going to kill, though."

Dinah kept her voice carefully neutral because she'd learned that no pressure and no emotion worked best, "Oh yeah? Who else?"

Quinn thought about it for a few seconds. "I think it was right...there. What the fuck's wrong with me?" Quinn's voice was a frustrated hiss. "I'm so fucking stupid! It's not like it's rocket science! Rockets...rockets red glare?"

"Quinn, shhh," Dinah

Quinn swatted her on the stomach, "No, you donkey!" She sat up suddenly, her voice exasperated, "I mean, I know that I've been the queen of nonsensical non-sequitur lately but just hold on a second."

Dinah sat up beside her.

After a full minute, which seemed like an hour, Quinn whispered to the air, trying to remember..."Rockets...the...rockets' red glare...and...bombs bursting in air! YES! That's it! Bombs! Two of them. But not in the air."

Dinah felt like she was speaking around a thumping heart that was suddenly lodged in her throat. "Ohmigod. That's great, Quinn! Where?"

Quinn thought for what seemed like another hour, "Fffffuck it! I don't-I can't-I don't know! She slumped back on the bed and her voice was disillusioned and angry. "I mean, maybe he didn't even tell me. He probably didn't but who the fuck knows. I'm sorry."

Dinah lay back down beside, gathering her into her arms. "That's okay, sweetie. That was fantastic. I'm sure you'll remember later."

"I certainly hope so. If not, I have no idea how this all is going to work out."

No shit, Dinah thought, but she said, "It'll work out. You'll see."

Quinn sighed and, as she often did, changed the subject mid-conversation, "You know what? I wish we were the same age-and had met somewhere else."

"Like a therapist's office?"


Dinah snickered. "'re on. We're the same age. How do we meet?"

"We're walking in New Gotham and we both come to a corner at the same time. You run into me and spill my coffee."

"Hey! I'm not that clumsy.'

"Uh-yeah you are."

Dinah smiled. She'd better enjoy it while she could.

"Okay, I spill your coffee."

"On my blouse. And you make it worse by trying to help me clean it up."

"Jesus, Quinn. I'm really sounding like the catch of the day."

"But I think it's cute. So I ask you if..."

They talked for the rest of the night.

* * * * *

The Next Day,
Commissioner Gordon's Office

Helena wondered how long five people could possibly be expected to go over the same blueprints and plans. The venue for the dinner honoring Police Commissioner Gordon was, admittedly, large and not all that easy to secure, but for God's sake! They'd already been discussing the plans for an hour and although she'd passed bored going ninety 30 minutes ago, Barbara's father, Barbara, Bruce and Dick were still looking at them with the same interest. She watched, as everyone chipped their two cents in for the twenty-fifth time, Barbara's green eyes flicker over the blueprints again...and again.

What a circle-jerk, she thought, as she turned away from the table. Although she would never have admitted it, if she were shown a diagram of a building, her ability to formulate strategy based on spatial and operational parameters was equal to Barbara's. The plan was as good as they were going to get without calling in the National Guard. She knew Barbara had already memorized the building and had come to the same conclusion. Unlike she, however, Barbara actually liked churning for a while.

Helena threw herself into one of the leather chairs in front of the commissioner's desk. But, because she was Helena, she wasn't exactly sitting in the chair. Her legs were hanging over the one of the arms and, as she watched them, she began to softly kick her legs, letting the drumming sound of her heels on the leather soothe her.

Only, it didn't for long, because the sound won her, simultaneously, one stern glance from a parent and one stern glance from a former-guardian. She scowled at them but she stopped.

Barbara thought for a few seconds before suddenly nodding, having evidently made up her mind. "I think that'll do."

Bruce frowned at the blueprints. "No. I don't think so. We need more men."

Commissioner Gordon's voice was tired. He was just as anxious about the event as any of them. "We don't have more men, Bruce-we have to send most of them out to the park. The concert, remember?"

"What concert?" Bruce and Barbara asked at the same time.

"U-2," Dick and Helena answered.

"And it's free," Helena, "so no offense," she nodded toward the older man, "but you should feel *really* loved if anyone comes to this damned thing."


Jim Gordon laughed as he took a seat behind his desk. "At ease, Barbara. She's right. Who can compete with free-and Irish?"

Bruce was all business, "How many guests?"

"About 250 so far."

"I'm with Barbara-looks adequate to me." Dick was not only backing Barbara, he was trying to give Bruce some peace of mind-something he knew Bruce would never have until the Joker were back in prison-or dead.

"Adequate isn't good enough. I'll only accept foolproof."

"Well, you can't have it," Barbara's voice was gentle but determined, "this is as good as it gets."

"Not necessarily. I can hire more men."

She smiled up at him. "Oh, c'mon, Bruce. You know as well as I do that there's a point in every plan where too much complexity gets you in trouble."

Helena, Dick and Jim Gordon watched, all of them knowing that the final decision would be made by the two people discussing it.

Bruce looked at her for a long moment, "Are you sure?"

Barbara's eyes brightened, "Absolutely."

Bruce turned to Helena, who had decided to lounge with her eyes closed, her neck and head on the other arm of the chair, "You haven't said anything, Hel-what do you think?"

Helena pulled her head to an upright position and opened her eyes. "I think it was time to eat half an hour ago."

Bruce turned back to the desk, "Alright. One more time."

They all ignored the loud "OHMIGOD!" from behind them.

* * * * *

The Clocktower: That Night

Bruce and Barbara were seated in front of Delphi, going over their plans for the billionth time. Dick and Helena had disappeared to spar in the training room an hour before but suddenly crowded loudly into the room, flush with their exertion.

Helena leaned in and kissed Barbara on the check, then Bruce. "I just wanted to stop in after kicking junior's ass to say I'm taking a shower if you need me."

Dick made a scoffing sound in his throat and as Helena crossed the room, he caught her entirely unaware, flipped her over his shoulder onto her back, straddled her and pinned her arms next to her head.

Nothing on Barbara's or Bruce's face suggested that either registered this development.

Helena growled, "You, right now, are so very dead."

Dick looked down at her and laughed. "Funny, I don't see it that way."

Barbara uttered a peeved, "Would you two please take it in the training room?"

Helena was so furious that she was beginning to see double and she really didn't know why that was. Well...actually, maybe she did. For one thing, he'd suckered her and that wasn't fair. And it certainly didn't help that he looked so goddamned pleased with himself.

Barbara and Bruce looked merely irritated.

What none of these four only children really understood was that Helena and Dick were simply practicing a rite of passage for all siblings. But even if Helena had understood, it would not have made a difference to her.

"I'm warning you, Dick. Get off me now."

Dick smiled down at her, "Oh, hell no. I'm not getting off 'til...Thanksgiving. Maybe even Christmas. Hey, Barbara! Can you wrap presents so Hel can open them with one hand on the floor?"

Nothing about this sentence was funny to anyone but Dick, who was evidently imagining the scene and finding it killingly hilarious.

Helena's voice was low and cool, "Christmas is coming early this year, Dick."

Dick was too busy braying with laughter to hear her but Barbara heard, and slid her glasses down on her nose. Uh oh, she thought, it's on.

Dick suddenly felt his hands lift slightly. He looked down at Helena, who had closed her eyes and was, yes, lifting him up. No WAY! He looked at the position of her arms. It was bio-mechanically impossible to move his weight at that angle.

But, no doubt about it, he was moving, ever so slowly, up. Even as it was happening he couldn't believe it. Nobody had that sort of muscle strength-let alone the unimaginable tendon, ligament and joint strength to-he watched Helena open her yellow eyes just as he was thrown into the air.

But he was too well-trained not to take the opportunity to run, Helena in hot pursuit, shouting "Ho ho ho, motherfucker!"

Barbara repositioned her glasses and she and Bruce listened to the cacophonous chase as they gazed at Delphi.

Bruce took a deep breath, then asked "What's wrong with them?"

The corners of Barbara's mouth lifted almost imperceptibly, "They're both physical people and they're anxious."

Bruce thought about this. "But we're both physical people and we're anxious."

"Yes, but we're also cerebral, so we just tie ourselves in knots internally."

He lifted his eyebrows in agreement and neither of them reacted to a tremendous crash, followed by a series of smaller sounds of impact.

After ten minutes, Alfred appeared at their sides. "Miss Helena begs me to inform you that she has committed an entirely justifiable homicide, and that after she bathes, she would like for you to join her for a dinner in Master Dick's honor, which will provide you all with an opportunity to mourn his premature passing."

Barbara smiled at her screen, "So-dinner in fifteen minutes?"


* * * * *

Dick was not dead. Throughout dinner and to Helena's immense irritation, and despite the fact that he had a badly bruised eye and a cut lip, he still looked amused every time he looked at her.

After dinner, they tried to pretend to each other that they were relaxing.

It was 9:30 when they got a call they knew would come eventually.

Helena answered.


<Hi, Hel.>


Everyone in the room shot to attention.

<Don't have much time. You know that bar O'Malley's about ten blocks from the tower?>


<Meet me there in five. Come alone.>

"What's go-"

As Dinah hung up on her, every bit of levity in the room vanished.

* * * * *

Free for one half hour.

Dinah took a deep breath.

She hadn't realized, until the weight was off, how heavy it was.

And that it so easily didn't have to be. She was free-she could tell Helena-tell all of them that she couldn't do it-and they wouldn't ask any questions.

She was free. No one would drag her back. She would have to willingly walk back to Quinn in thirty minutes. She couldn't imagine that.

But she couldn't imagine leaving her, either.

* * * * *

Helena was there in four minutes and walked into the bar ready for anything. What she found was a fairly quiet crowd and Dinah sitting on a barstool. She crossed the room and sat next to her. Any impulse to say 'hiya, kid!' was doused when she saw Dinah. Although her face was as youthful as ever, all of the youth was gone from her eyes. She smiled but her eyes didn't.

"Wanna drink?" Dinah tossed down a shot of what looked, to Helena's practiced eye, like whiskey. She raised a finger at the bartender, he poured another and Helena motioned that she'd have the same.

Helena held her shot glass in the air. "Salut." Dinah tipped her glass up just enough to touch Helena's. "Salut."

After their shots, Dinah leaned forward and hugged Helena tightly.

As they pulled away from each other, Helena asked, "How'd you-"

"We're on a job. It's close and Quinn can handle it alone for about 45 minutes. She wanted me to come give you the scoop. Or what passes for the scoop."

She lit a cigarette and inhaled deeply.

"You're really smoking now?" Helena gently punched her arm and said playfully. "Barbara's gonna kill you."

"Oh yeah?" Dinah, amused, lifted an eyebrow. "Fine. Tell her she'll have to get in fucking line."

Helena hesitated at this, at a complete loss for words.

She was so used to the energetic puppy Dinah used to be, that it was startling to be faced with such weary bitterness. She fished for a topic. "Hey-uh-how's the shoulder?"

"Good. Great. Go team meta-human, right?"

" look tired, D."

"I should. Neither of us has slept in days."

"What do you mean? Why?"

"Doesn't matter. Look, I only have a few minutes but what I have to say won't take long." She forced herself to sound more cheerful. "So what I wanna know is, how are YOU guys?"

Helena forced the cheer right back, "Well, you know-about the same. Bruce is brooding and taciturn, Dick is boyish and irrepressible, Barbara is smart and sexy, I'm...well, I'm just sexy and Alfred's...English."

Dinah smiled, leaned into Helena's shoulder and let the side of her head rest on Helena's for a few moments.

Then she sat up and returned to business. "Look, it IS going to be the night of the commissioner's dinner. There are two bombs but we don't know what kind or even if they're going to be in that venue. Either way, very small teams involved. Quinn knows he's planning to do some sort of execution killing so we can also count on small arms. In other words, not much better than nothing and everything's up in the fucking air."

"And that's the best she can do?"

The answer was firm. "Yes."

"Are you sure? I mean-what's-how is she?"

Dinah snapped, "How IS she? She's mentally ill, Helena. And if she had a psychic fever of 102 when you knew her, it's 106 now. She's redlining it every minute of the day-so that means she's alternately loving, affectionate and gentle or disturbed, disturbing, suicidal, sadistic and sarcastic-you name it."

Helena's shoulders slumped. "Oh, Jesus Christ, D. You can't go back there."

"Sure I can."

"No you can't! Do you really think you can trust her?"

"Probably not."

"So? No! You can't go back."

"Leaving her alone is not an option for me. Besides, she can keep it together if I'm there." Dinah stood up from her barstool. "We'll get the intel to you. But you're going to have to keep on your toes because it's going to go down to the wire."

Dinah took one last drag at her cigarette and stubbed it out, "And we're talking a matter of minutes. Which--hey-you gotta love when bombs are involved, huh?"

At the sight of Helena's somber face, Dinah reached, cupped her face in one hand and teased her, "To think I'd almost forgotten how beautiful you are."

Helena did smile at this, "What? Hey-even Quinn can remember that."

Dinah shook her head. "Not anymore." She hugged Helena. "Tell Barbara thank you and that I love her. And tell everyone else I love them, too." She pulled out of the hug. "And I love you, too. No matter what, okay?"


As Helena watched her leave, she realized, in her sinking heart, that she didn't believe she would ever see her again.

* * * * *

Quinn was waiting on the street at the rendezvous time and was visibly shaken when Dinah rounded the corner, which the girl noticed.

"What? Didn't think I'd come back?

"I wasn't sure."

"You think I'd leave my girl? You crazy or something?"

They both laughed as they walked to their car.

* * * * *

They were in bed before 11:30.

"Dinah felt Quinn stir, then get up. "Where are you going?"

"I just realized what I have to do. I have to talk to him."

"Now? No! No you don't," Dinah sat up in the bed. "Really, you don't. Talk to him tomorrow."

"No. It has to be tonight."

She left without giving Dinah a chance to talk her out of it.

* * * * *

The Joker was seated in his office, thinking over the next few days-which promised to be...explosive! He cackled to himself and barely heard the knock on the door.

But there it was again. He frowned. "Come in."

The Joker was surprised to see Quinn enter-at this time-and in what appeared to be pastel colored flannel pajamas. Hardly the attire for her usual-

"Jack, I need to speak to you."

The Joker blinked a few times as he adjusted to what he'd just heard. She'd never called him Jack. Ever.

He looked at her closely. There was something different about her.

"Did you hear me, Jack?"

"Yes." He shook his head, "What? What is it?"

"You're planning to kill me, aren't you?"

Okay. Hmmm. This was sort of eerie-she looked so soft and she was speaking so gently.

She pressed, "Aren't you?"

"Why would you think that?"

"Because you're predictable."

"Is that right?"

"Yes. That's right."

The Joker was more perturbed by this than he wanted to show. She looked so small and...normal...and she just kept staring at him-and, he realized as he shook his head to clear it, speaking to him.

"That's why I'm asking you not to force the issue-because I'll win."

The corners of his perma-smile lifted perceptibly. "Oh? You think so?"

She didn't answer him; she sat in a chair and looked at the wall. "You know, Jack, in all of our years together, we've never talked about our feelings. Mostly, of course, because you don't give a damn about mine and you-well," she shrugged, "you don't have any."

"But I have them." She turned to him. "Would you like to know how I feel, Jack?"

He blinked again, found himself speechless. He! At a loss for words!

"Well, I'll tell you. Every day, no matter which way I turn, all I see is a flat grey expanse of Godforsaken bitterness. And I do mean Godforsaken in the literal sense."

She let her head tilt slowly to one side. "You see...God has forsaken me, Jack. Nothing I will ever do can change that. And do you know how that makes me feel?"

She didn't get an answer.

"Sad. And lonely."

He stared as she moved her head, tilted it the other way, speaking very softly, "I'm in pain, Jack. Did you know that? I'm sad. I'm lonely. And I'm in pain. Do you know how all of that combined makes me feel?"

She stood and crossed to his desk. "Do you?"

"No," he whispered.

Her eyes wandered rather aimlessly over his face, his body, "It makes me feel terribly...terribly desperate."

She seemed to be having trouble focusing, but had no trouble speaking, "You're an evil...evil man, Jack Napier." He found that he was a bit breathless at her approach. He hardly knew what she was looking at now-she was tilting her head back and forth as if to steady it.

Then, suddenly, she was looking directly into his eyes. "But you're not sad. And you're not lonely. And you're not desperate. But I am. And that makes me," she whispered as she placed one finger on his chest, "more dangerous than you."

She leaned in to kiss him on the cheek, "'Night, Jack."

It wasn't until he exhaled as she left the room that he realized he'd been holding his breath.

Chapter 19

Evening, A Few Days Later

The Joker watched from across the expanse of his staging area as Dinah and Quinn sat side by side on top of a low table, holding hands and laughing at whatever they were saying to each other.

Quinn, Quinn, Quinn.

He'd been thinking for days, trying to come to some sort of conclusion about what she's said to him-every bit of which had rung truer to him than any spoken sentiment he'd ever encountered. So few people ever told him anything that he didn't want to hear, and for good reason, that it excited him in a strange way.

Of course, she'd been right. He'd wanted to and, as she'd evidently been able to tell, had planned to kill her as soon as the big job was over. There were a hundred little drearily domestic reasons to do it-most of which amounted to the fact that he didn't like being tied down and, after all, it was much easier to kill a girlfriend than to break up with one. And then there was, of course, the one big reason-a reason that was underscored by the presence of her little dark-haired psi-powered-trick-princess Dinah Wayne.

His thought was interrupted by Quinn's merry laugh and the scowl in his eyes seemed to be magnified by the fact that it could never reach his face. It was possible that she might really understand him, he thought grimly. Harley Quinn. He wasn't sure he wanted to know what that said about him. But, because he was by nature a cheery guy he didn't mope over this any longer than it took to think those few thoughts. He looked across the room at his long-time lover. She was so familiar to him-and yet, now he felt unsure.

What was that idiotic song she liked so much? 'What a Difference a Day Makes?'

I'll say, he thought.

Now he knew it was possible to look at a person you'd known for years in an entirely different light from the basis of one ten-minute conversation. The hair on his neck suddenly stood up again as he watched Quinn and the girl hop off of the table and cross the room. He remembered Quinn's warning-was it possible? Was she really more...

As they left the room, he realized afresh how very small they were, snorted to himself, and dismissed the thought. No! Of course she wasn't!

* * * * *


At the same moment, Barbara and Helena had been having for the last 30 minutes what most parents would tell their children was a disagreement, *not* an argument. But It was the sort of disagreement that never fooled children for one moment, phrased in increasingly tense and pleasant tones, ever increasing politeness and clenched smiling-all the hallmarks of a disagreement that was actually a tremendously civil knock-down-drag-out.

"You'll be more help with the perimeter than on the inside," Barbara stated.

"No," Helena countered calmly, "I'm riding with you and I'll be by your side the entire time."

Barbara's voice was ominously calm. "Tactically, given your talent for intervening in the situations we're likely to encounter, that's out of the question."

Bruce and Dick, who'd arrived for dinner, and Alfred, who was preparing to serve it, all suddenly wished they were anywhere out of earshot.

"I don't care, Barbara. I'm not leaving your side."

"That is just not an option."

Helena had reached the limit of her very small reserve of calm. "I don't give a flying fuck, Barbara, whether you think it's an option or not. It's what I'm going to do."

Barbara's face assumed its best Oracle expression and her tone was Oracle's, as well, "No. You're on the perimeter. And that's an order."

Everyone's, except Barbara's, eyebrows crawled toward their hairlines at this.

Barbara was startled to see the sudden feral yellow of Helena's eyes before the young woman answered, coolly, "You know what? I'm going to take an hour to decide how I feel about that."

She stalked toward the balcony and disappeared as suddenly as she usually did.

Bruce, Dick and Alfred watched as Barbara stared after Helena, nodded as if to a question that hadn't been asked, then scrubbed over her face with both hands. When she finally looked at the others, she chuckled dryly though her eyes were red, "Well! Ready to eat?"

Before Bruce or Alfred could reply, Dick said, "You're such a-why do you always do that, Babs?"

He strode toward the balcony and disappeared.

Barbara sighed as she turned to look up at Alfred. "Don't take it personally, Alfred. I'm sure dinner's great."

Neither Alfred nor Bruce smiled. Barbara sighed again, "Wow. Tough room."

* * * * *

Dick knew Helena almost never went very far when she was having an argument with Barbara. She was too attached and too protective to put much distance between herself and the Clocktower.

Sure enough, he found her sitting on the roof of a building about two blocks away. She didn't turn as he approached but greeted him, "Hiya bro."

He took a seat next to her and leaned over slightly to bump her on the shoulder. "How ya doin'?"

"Great. You?"


"Why aren't you having dinner, man?"

"Couldn't eat. Too pissed off at Barbara."

Dick was amused to feel Helena flinch at this-God! She was such a sucker! She was insanely pissed off at Barbara, too, but cringed at the possibility that anyone else could be.

"Go eat-I'll be back in a few minutes."

"Screw that. I'm not hungry."

Helena heard a strange tone in Dick's voice, turned and looked at him, and saw a twinkle of amusement in his eyes. "Fuck you. Don't laugh at me."

"I'm not laughing at you. She's wrong-you're right and I'm sticking up for you."

Helena digested this for a few moments before answering, "Actually, she's probably right. It's probably better that I stay on the perimeter. I'm just being too-"

"That's not the point-my problem is the way she talks to you. You're not her fucking kid, for God's sake."

Helena turned away, the muscles in her jaw twitching, and Dick knew he'd hit a nerve.

After a few moments, she replied, her voice low and cool, "She doesn't mean it when she talks to me that way."

Dick's voice was serious this time. "Then why does she do it so much?"

Helena's jaw twitched again, "I guess it's a hard habit to break. I mean, after all-she was my guardian for a lot of years. And Oracle is sorta Huntress' boss."

"No, she's not."

"What? You're telling me Batman wasn't Robin's boss?"

"Well, yeah, sure. But he's not Nightwing's boss."

"Okay, maybe-but you're telling me Bruce doesn't ever forget-and treat you that way?"

Dick started to answer, then stopped. She had him there. He couldn't count the number of times he'd had to remind Bruce that they were both adults now. He sighed, "Maybe that's what it's like to have parents-no matter how old you get, part of them must always see you as a child."

Helena snorted her assent, "I guess we'd have to ask Barbara about that. She's the only one of us with a living parent." Even as she said it, she remembered she was wrong. She had a living parent.

"Alright-I know-I have Bruce, but he's not exactly a parent, is he?"

"I don't know about that. He thinks about you-and always has-more than you'd probably believe."

"Go eat. I'll be there in a few-and I'll handle it later."

Dick could tell that now she really wanted to be alone, so he leaned over, pecked her on the cheek and stood up, "Remember, I'm on your side."

As Helena smiled up at him, Dick was struck, yet again, at how beautiful her eyes were and at how well he knew them, since he'd known them since the day he'd met Bruce Wayne.

* * * * *

Since Dick had disappeared, then reappeared at the Clocktower, Barbara had been sitting with the stern reverberating disapproval of Bruce and Alfred. Every attempt on her part to start conversation went nowhere. She wondered at some length if this were how Helena felt during the many instances where she'd gone off half-cocked and had incurred the wrath of everyone in the room. She wondered if Helena were ever this confused about what, exactly, she'd done.

"She'll be here in a few-and ready to eat." Dick said as he smiled at Alfred. Alfred nodded and moved toward the kitchen. Dick didn't even look at Barbara as he crossed toward Bruce, so Barbara decided to follow Alfred into the kitchen and make herself a much-needed drink.

As she entered the kitchen, Alfred was re-heating the serving plates. He turned toward her, "A drink, Miss Barbara?"

"Yes-but I can make it."

"I will make it. Scotch, neat, perhaps?"

"Yes, thank you."

She watched as he made the drink, then asked, almost under her breath, "What did am I wrong here, Alfred?"

Alfred turned, handed her the drink, and cleared his throat. "Would you like for me to speak as your butler or as someone who's known you for most of your life?"

Barbara leveled her eyes at him, "The latter, please."

"Very well, Barbara."

As he took a deep breath, Barbara realized she was suddenly nervous-he'd never called her just Barbara in her life.

"You have always had the habit, during times of stress, of treating Helena as a sort of child employee, who has neither the right nor the experience to bring anything to the table. And, of course, the entire time Dinah has been away has been a time of considerable stress for us all. Consequently, you have fallen completely into Oracle mode with Helena, a fact that has alternately dismayed and irritated everyone around you. Everyone, that is, except Helena, whom it alternately devastates and enrages."

Alfred placed a hand on Barbara's shoulder, "Helena is a grown woman every bit as competent and intelligent as you are in her own way. You have developed a very bad habit and, although it's understandably ingrained from the facts of your past, it has become insulting. You must break it, young lady. And immediately."

Barbara blinked her eyes. Wow. Even her father had never put the smack down on her like that. Maybe that's what grandfathers were for. She took a few moments, then nodded her head. "Thank you."

"My pleasure. Do you require anything else, Miss Gordon?"

Back to butler.

"No, Alfred. That will be all."

* * * * *

Twenty minutes later, Helena reappeared, looking as if nothing had happened. She spoke lightly as she moved toward the dining room with everyone in her wake, "Man, I'm starving! Alfred, whatever it is, it smells great-let's eat, crime-stoppers!"

As Bruce and Dick took their seats, they began, offhandedly, to discuss something that was clearly meant to give Barbara a few seconds to speak to Helena, which she took.

"Helena, look-I'm really sor-"

"We'll talk about it later."

"But I-"

"I said," Helena intoned firmly, looking into Barbara's eyes, "we'll talk about it. Later."

As Helena spoke, Barbara recognized the tone, the very words, she'd used with the younger woman countless times in the past, and as she felt the mixture of frustration and panic they invoked, she knew she had more apologizing to do than she'd realized.

* * * * *

As Dinah felt Quinn's lips brush over her neck, she thought for the hundred thousandth time that civilian life was certainly going to pale to this. She and Quinn had been making out a lot more, mostly at Dinah's insistence-and mainly because the more Quinn touched her, the more she seemed to remember whose side she was on.

Quinn pulled away from her, "Better quit there, darlin', or I'm not going to be able to stop."

Dinah smirked as she ran her hand over Quinn's stomach, then around her waist, pulling her closer, "I think you're holding on to a very antiquated age bias, Ms. Quinn. "

Quinn smiled, then nipped Dinah on the cheek. "Be that as it may, the buck stops here."

Dinah threw herself on her back on the bed. "Quinn! You do know what's going to happen, don't you? I'm going to leave this situation so keyed-up, I'm going to fuck the first person who'll put out for me!"

Quinn giggled. "So? What's wrong with that?"

"Hello?! High school? You know what my options are going to be? Football players!"

"Surely you have cheerleaders, too." Quinn purred.

Dinah grinned despite herself, then narrowed her eyes, "You know what? You're a tease."

Quinn's eyes widened, "Oh my God-oh my goodness. Not that! Never that! Call me a psychopath! Call me a murderer-but not a...a tease!"

Quinn giggled insanely before continuing, "You listen to me, baby. I've teased more cocks than you could wrap your mind or mouth around."


"You started it. If you can't stand the heat, stay out-"

"Yeah, yeah. I was just kidding."

"Me too, though not about the cock-tease part."

Although they had been kidding around, Dinah felt her stomach sinking suddenly. She'd come to understand that, with the very real sexual jealousy she felt for Quinn, she could only kid so much. She waited a few moments before continuing, "I guess you wouldn't be talking about the Joker here, right?"

Quinn stiffened as if struck. Obviously, this had been a blow Dinah hadn't realized would be below the belt. Quinn shrugged it off and smiled smarmily, "No, I wouldn't. But here's a lesson, Dinah darling. You don't tease the people you actually want."

Dinah swallowed hard. "So, from that, I can infer that you don't want me, right?"

The young girl could not decipher the look Quinn gave her before turning over in the bed and replying to the wall. "I'm tired. Of everything and everybody. Go to sleep, kid."

Dinah turned the other way, muttering, "Fine. Fuck you, too."

But Quinn didn't answer.

Dinah felt tears sting her eyes.

Fuck her.


She gently rocked back and forth on her side, her thoughts wanting her to move but knowing she had no place to go.

'Cause If she ever made it out of this fucking hell-hole, what the fuck then? Go back to being the baby in the Clocktower and being fucking zipper-girl at that fucking high school? She wasn't 'that' now. Not anymore. She didn't know what she...

She'd had to immerse herself so completely in this experience that she didn't know what to think, or feel. What was right? What was true? Who was she, now that she was physically, hell-in every possible way-entirely out of context?

She heard her heart pounding in her ears, behind her eyes, which made the room seem to throb as she stared at the wall. She tried to breathe deeply, but she knew it didn't matter. She was going to die-she knew it. She was going to fail and Barbara would die and Helena. Bruce, Dick and Alfred would hate her.

The last few nights she'd lain awake knowing this and feeling so panicked that she felt her heart would beat out of her chest. Textbook panic attacks. And of course, she'd felt that way off and on for many weeks, but then she'd done what she'd always done in her mind to calm down. Although she'd never played softball or baseball as a kid, she imagined hitting ball after ball right outta the park. Smack! Home run. Smack! Home run. Thwack! Home run.

But, the only thing that made her feel better, the only thing that calmed her, was to imagine destroying every last goddamned thing, and killing every last person in this shit-hole of the Joker's. Everything and everyone but Quinn, whom she would *have* and whether Quinn wanted it or not.

So...she breathed deeply and concentrated...played out this fantasy to the end and it calmed her, as it always did. And then she cried, quietly, as if her heart were breaking, because it was.

* * * * *

Barbara woke up feeling as tired as she ever had in her life because she hadn't really slept at all. She had, rather, stayed parked in her mind's garage, engine idling in a strangely irritating half-sleep. She opened her eyes and found herself looking into Helena's eyes. Which was startling, because Helena had insisted on sleeping on the couch.

Barbara began to speak, realized she was croaking, then cleared her throat before yawning as she asked, "I'm sorry about-" She stopped, remembering Helena had told her she didn't want to talk about it, so she settled for, "Couldn't sleep either?"

Helena spoke through an answering yawn, "Nope. But I enjoyed watching you pretend to sleep for a while."

"Why didn't you say something?"

"Because you're cute when you doing what you're obviously not really doing-and even cuter when I can tell you think I don't know."

Barbara raised herself up on one elbow, rested her head on her hand. "What does that mean?"

Helena rolled her eyes, "Ohmigod. You're kidding, right?"

"No-what? Name one time."

Helena rose, matched Barbara's position, to answer her, then looked down at the comforter as if deep in thought, murmuring, "Gee whiz, there', I can't..."

This earned her a play-smack on the hand from Barbara, who chuckled as she said, "You're full of shit. Name just one."

Helena looked up at her, her eyes alight with amusement.

"Okay, how many times do you think you've acted all angry-like after something I've done on a sweep and undressed me with your eyes at the same time you're yelling at me?"

Barbara's blush was her only response.

"And I promise you, you pull out Oracle with me all the time." Helena's tone was teasing, "I think it's cute, though. I do! But c'mon! You don't think I can tell what you're thinking?"

"I would imagine it must be boring for you to live with someone who's so predictably transparent."

Helena realized the woman was misunderstanding a vital point. She reached forward and took Barbara's hand. "Barbara, you're not transparent at all, darlin', and half the time I have no idea where your mind is. "

"Oracle, though, is a different matter. I can read her like a kid's book. So when you get all discombobulated and try to be all 'stern and Oracle' with me off-comm, at home-which you *do* more than probably realize-I have to admit sometimes I'm laughing my ass off inside."

She hesitated before somberly adding, "Though actually I'm usually feeling about 15 years old and like I'm getting busted by my guardian Barbara again. Which sorta hurts my feelings."

Barbara's face was serious, "I do that a lot?"

Helena was gracious, "Not 'a lot a lot'-but more than you probably think. And especially more so since this Dinah/Quinn thing started."

"I'm sorry, honey. I guess when I'm worried, I do go into Oracle-mode."

"Yeah well, that's probably just one of the hazards of having crime fighting alter-egos." Helena moved closer to Barbara and took her into arms and hugged her before resting her head on her shoulder.

"I think you're right, and you certainly deserve better than that from me." Barbara sighed before she continued, "can we talk more about this after the gig? I don't think I can concentrate on anything else right now. Just know that your message has been received and that I'll really try to change because, more than anything, I want us to be okay."

Helena pulled away to look at Barbara and her smile was beatific. "Oh, we're okay. It's just been on my mind lately and it suddenly seemed like a good time to clear the air a little."

Because Helena had no way of knowing Alfred had already read Barbara the riot act, she couldn't know that Barbara had watched and been moved by how kindly the younger woman had skirted around the subject, had appreciated how much slack Helena had given her and how easily she'd let her off the hook. She also couldn't know that Barbara had a new, surprised, respect for how much kinder, and more tolerant, her partner was than she.

They lay there for a few minutes, then Barbara offered, "Wanna make out?"

Helena thought about this for a beat, then said, "Nope."

"Me neither."

"Why do you think that is?"

Barbara tousled Helena's hair. "Because danger is sometimes sexy; foreboding never is."

Helena knew exactly what she meant.

* * * * *

The Next Afternoon

Just before lunch, Quinn joined the Joker to go over the plans for the Commissioner's Dinner. After he'd finished briefing her, Quinn's smile was brittle.

"But Puddin', I thought you said there were going to be explosives!"

"There are-just not...there."

"Where then?"

The Joker pulled her into a hug and as he pushed her away again, he slapped her on the ass, and said with a sing-song voice. "I'll never tell-ell-I'll never-tell-ell."

His voice grew stern again, "That's a 'day-of' piece of information. Too many cooks spoil the broth."

"But...Puddin', Quinn moved right back to his side, slid one hand toward the zipper in his pants, "surely you can tell me."

He grabbed her and threw her on her back on his desk, looming over her, "why do you want to know so bad? Or, shall I say *who*, exactly, wants to know?"

He was dragging her pants off and undoing his, which made her head throb as she looked at the ceiling. Fuck! She hated how much she-

She inhaled sharply as he moved and his face was suddenly leering over hers, "WHO wants to know?"

She could never think straight when this was happening-who was it who wanted to know? Who?

She looked up into his eyes and ran her hands through his hair. He was such...a...brutal man-and she hated him but she really-


She whispered, "You. Harder."

He cackled as he bent closer. "What's this little plan called again?"

She gasped. "Divide...and...conquer."

"That's right."

She grabbed the cloth on the back of his shirt, pulled him tighter. He laughed again-what a pushover--she was almost there...he pulled away slightly and looked at her as he said, "And you know who's going to be divided?"

She felt hardly conscious at this moment, only vaguely nodded her head no. His leer seemed omnipresent, then he leaned in to whisper as he moved, "Dinah Wayne-from that Bat-Daddy of hers."

As Quinn felt her brain nearly explode with her climax, her eyes flew open.


* * * * *

Minutes Later

A very pale Quinn entered the kitchen as Dinah was fixing sandwiches for their lunch. Dinah recognized with growing trepidation that she was being kept rather ostentatiously out of the loop in the final preparations for the Commissioner's Dinner gig. She really didn't know whether it bode well that Quinn seemed to be, to some degree, back in the Joker's good graces and whether that had anything to do with the previous night's unpleasantness. Either way, disgusting as it was, there was nothing she could do but wait, play the good little housewife and make lunch.

Quinn pecked her on the cheek and hugged her. "I'm sorry about last night."

Dinah shrugged, "Doesn't matter."

"Yes it does. I heard you crying."

Dinah turned to her, her face stony. "So?"

"So, I'm sorry that I can't give you what you want. It doesn't mean I don't love you."

"Yeah." Dinah turned back toward the food. "Whatever."

The girl felt, rather than saw, Quinn start abruptly as she looked at the cheese Dinah had just placed on her turkey. She stared at it, transfixed, for a few seconds and then said almost inaudibly, 'declaration of independence."


Quinn was speaking to her sandwich, "when, in the course of sandwich events, it sometimes becomes necessary for an ingredient to dissolve the bands which have connected it with another."

Dinah's heart leaped into her throat-not this, not now! Her voice was suddenly pleading, "Quinn? Are you-"

"Am I what?" Quinn turned to Dinah as she lifted the cheese off the turkey, "I don't like Swiss on turkey."

Quinn looked into Dinah's anxious eyes and burst into laughter as she put the cheese on another plate, "Honest to Pete, Dinah, look at your face! I was just kidding."

Dinah was too absorbed in her own thoughts to see the pinched, pale look in Quinn's features, noticed only kindly humor in her eyes, and grinned despite herself. "That's not funny, crazy-woman!"

"Yes it is, baby, and you know it." Quinn laughed feebly and kissed her again.

Dinah growled as she poured two glasses of water. "I'm still pissed off at you."

Quinn tilted her head to one side, "I know-but you still think I'm cute, right?"

Dinah rolled her eyes, then relented with a smile, knowing that these would be the few happy-ish moments this day would contain. Yet another thing this experience was teaching her-just like Quinn, she could be murderously angry, violently aroused and wretchedly happy with the same person, all on the same day, and sometimes even in the same hour.

* * * * *

Robert placed the box he was carrying softly on the ground, stood up and stretched. No wonder people led a life of crime-the straight life was so much harder on the back He lit a cigarette and retraced his steps to the truck, one of many, that he knew held hundreds of back-breaking boxes that he'd be carrying or dollying a tremendous distance over this field.

He cursed himself-he'd let a girl-that Dinah girl-get to him. As he approached the truck, his sense of honor made him admit to himself that it wasn't just that Dinah girl, it had been that Quinn woman and that Joker...freak who had scared him straight. He wondered whether and how long this change of heart would last. On one hand, the pay sucked and it was killing his back-on the other, it was sorta nice to drive somewhere and have a cop slip behind him in traffic without panicking. Not to mention all the cops that were surrounding this workspace.

He thought again about the paycheck he'd be getting at the end of the week and cursed softly. He took another drag, tossed the cigarette on the ground and stubbed it out. As he picked up the butt, a thought came to his mind unbidden-maybe his father was right-maybe he did need to go back to school.

Jesus! Where did that come from?!

He'd found, as young an adult as he still was, that it was a particularly galling part of growing up-to find out that your parents had been right-about a lot of things.

He walked up the ramp into the truck and was met by two strange workmen: They'd placed a large box on a handcart for him.

"Where are Pete and Kenny?"

One of the new workers replied, "Comm needed them on rigging prep-so they sent us over."

As Robert maneuvered, he looked the two men over again-they looked familiar. Where had he seen them?

"Do I know you guys?"

The other man looked at him with cold eyes. "No. You don't." The answer was not just an answer-it was an order. He wasn't to know them, even if he did.

A liquid thrill went through him. That's where he'd seen them! In another staging area-these were the Joker's men!

Robert shrugged, "My mistake." Whatever this was, he didn't want to be on the wrong end of it, so he played dumb, "Hey-what kind of audience are they expecting?"

"They're thinking at least 750-800,000, easy-or as many as the Park will hold."

"Damn! That's huge! Pretty ballsy in this day and age."

"Uh huh. Sure is." The man's face was expressionless.

Robert chuckled nervously, "Well, better get to it!" As he took the handcart and wheeled the box down the ramp, he noticed he'd smudged the paint on the black hard-case, freshly stenciled paint that read:


Chapter 20

Robert had finished his work for the day and was walking through the park just as a corpulent man walked past him, braying into a cellphone.

"Yeah, the fire marshal already approved them. Honest to God, they're just fireworks! You act like none of us have done this before."

The man listened to whatever answer he was getting before his face softened a bit, "Yeah, well, I know you're nervous, but there's no reason to be. You'll see. Everyone's going to have a great time. It'll be amazing."

The man's conversation disappeared into the other noises of the park as Robert continued walking. He had every reason to believe things were not going to go well, but he felt a morbid desire to find out just how badly things were going to go. Not that he wanted to be on the bad end of it-he just knew that the presence of the Joker's men had to bode badly for the concert-going experience.

He hesitated as he thought about whether he should attend the concert or not. He had the equivalent of a backstage pass and it would be a shame not to use it for U2. He'd been quick enough to get out of the Joker's way once; surely he could do it again?

* * * * *

The Morning of Commissioner Gordon's Appreciation Dinner

"I'm telling you, it's never what you think it'll be, Barbara. He always goes for something that surprises you."

"You're kidding."

Barbara's answer was so deadpan that Dick almost smacked his forehead. Barbara was the last person on Earth who needed a helpful warning about the Joker.

He turned toward Helena, whose expression and tilted head said, "Duh, dipshit." Okay. Maybe she didn't need any advice either.

He looked around the room, then down at the table, then stood up and started pacing. He, or rather Nightwing, was going be outside the venue-at the periphery of the event. It would be tactically unreasonable to have all of them in the same room. Which made him nervous. They were all nervous. The bait of Barbara had to be offered in a convincingly vulnerable way or the rat wouldn't enter the trap. They were counting on having a bigger trap than the rat's but were well aware that, while planning to trick and surprise the Joker, he was planning to trick and surprise them, too. This, however, was what they'd been waiting for and he felt almost nauseated by the desire to have the evening over and done with.

Even after the seemingly millionth iteration of their plan, Bruce was still not satisfied. They were used to his brooding but this something else. His mood was almost a physical presence-like having Bruce, Batman, and perhaps Hamlet's ghost in the room at the same time. Although Barbara had as good, or better, reason to be anxious, it was Dick and Bruce who were giving her heart palpitations.

"Bruce, Dick, for the love of God, *please* sit down."

Dick sank into a chair. Bruce didn't. "I can't, Barbara. There's something I'm missing."

"You aren't missing anything-except the chance to relax before this evening."

Bruce exhaled slowly, then went outside.

"Wow. I think he's literally worn a path in the floor," Helena observed.

As soon as her last word left Helena's mouth, Bruce reappeared, retracing his steps excitedly. "That's it. I knew there was something else!" If they anticipated an explanation, they realized they weren't going to get one as they watched him stride toward the elevator, saying over his shoulder, "I'll see you there-time and places as planned." With that, the doors closed and he disappeared.

"Okay. Bye, Bruce," Barbara offered dryly to the vacant space.

They looked at the elevator and each other but didn't even bother to make a conjecture about his departure. They had no idea where he was going but knew that he'd show up exactly as planned for the event, dressed as formally and impeccably as always. As they would all be.

* * * * *

One Week Earlier

Actually, planning evening wear for the event hadn't been as easy as it might have been. Barbara had found it difficult to find a dress that was formal, would cover the Kevlar vest she'd be wearing, and not make her look like she was wearing Moms-R-Us. Wayne Corp. scientists had taken a lot of the bulk out the vest, but it remained a vest and difficult to dress around. So she was stuck with choosing a dress that was a great deal more matronly than she would have liked. She didn't mind particularly-she was in no mood to be shot by the Joker again and knew that crime-fighting sometimes had fashion consequences.

Helena did not know any such thing and wouldn't have acknowledged it if she had. She'd tried on many dresses for Barbara's opinion and had gone into the bathroom to change because she felt Barbara would be able to concentrate more fully if not watching her taking off her clothes multiple times. She did not tell Barbara this-she told her that she wanted each dress's effect to be all-at-once visually.

They were on the fifth dress, which Helena felt really good about. She stepped out of the bathroom, twirled around and asked hopefully, "Whaddayouthink?"

Barbara's eyes widened, "Oh. My. God."


"Only if Bruce's having an aneurism is good."

Helena stamped her foot. "Damnit! You're kidding, right?"

"No. I'm not. Look-you're the one who said you wanted something Bruce would approve of."

Helena had actually said that she wanted something that she could move quickly in yet not so skimpy that Bruce would feel awkward seeing her out of the house in it. As Helena had voiced this apprehension to Barbara, the older woman had smiled inwardly, thinking that only a few months before, Helena would never have taken her father or his feelings into consideration.

"Look how modestly it's cut! What's wrong with it?"

"Nothing, honey-except the material is a bit sheer, don't you think? I mean, it's cut modestly because you can see right through it. "

"You can see through this?"

"Look in the mirror."

Helena eye's widened much as Barbara's when she turned toward the full length mirror. Evidently it was stealth material-it certainly hadn't looked like this in the light of store or the bathroom.

She raised an appreciative eyebrow. "Wow. Not bad, Kyle." She turned, looked over her shoulder, "Not bad at all."

"When you're through admiring yourself, go try on something else."

"Look-you can see my tattoo!"

"Yes. I see that, sweetheart. Run along and put on some clothes."

A certain tone in Barbara's voice made Helena look down at her with a smirk.

"Barbara Gordon. Are you saying you really want me to put on some clothes?"

Clearly, Barbara wasn't as transparent as Helena's dress. "Actually, I'm saying the sooner we find your dress, the sooner we can get you out of it."

* * * * *

Quinn lay in bed mulling over some of the particulars of the entertainment they would be providing that evening. She felt clearer than she had in weeks. She'd kept one of Barbara's injections for this day-a secret even from Dinah. She hadn't told Dinah because she wanted the girl to be hyper-vigilant where everyone was concerned, even with her. Quinn had gotten up and used the injection in the middle of the night. If this were going to be her last day on Earth, she'd spend it sane.

She'd gone back to sleep and had woken up an hour previously but didn't want to wake Dinah. The girl needed as much sleep as she could get before their evening's work. She touched Dinah's hair softly. One way or another, this night would be the end of their time together. She would never again wake with this person next to her and just as likely never see another morning at all. Quinn looked at Dinah's soft, peaceful features and felt even sadder than she'd imagined. She sighed and turned her mind to the issue at hand. Crime, and crime-fighting for that matter, was no place to be sentimental.

The big bang was going to be a really big bang and the mathematics of that was unquestionable. She had calculated the amount of explosives that had gone out of the staging area. Wherever it was going off would cause massive damage and/or loss of life. That amount of explosives would evaporate the venue where Gordon's dinner was being held. It had to be somewhere else, because that would be entirely unlike the Joker-to blow the dinner up would mean he'd miss Barbara's fear and pain. As well as her family's and Batman's. No.That wouldn't be her Joker.

The Joker. She thought about how very strangely the world had turned out for her, after all. Strange that she'd fallen for Jack all those years ago, stranger that Jack was planning to kill her, strangest of all that she was going to betray him. Just like Julius Caesar.

Et tu, Brute?

You too, Harley?

You too?


Oh. Shit.

* * * * *

Dinah heard the faraway sound of someone calling her, then felt herself jostled forcefully. She sat up like a shot. "What!? Let's go!"

Quinn's eyes were as big as golf balls. "The bombs! I know where they are."

Dinah felt a surge of adrenaline course through her, "Where?"

"Somewhere at the U2 concert. Think about it-there'll be more than half a million people there."

The girl thought about the ramifications of that. "Of course. Has to be-that would be perfect. We have to tell the Clocktower now."

"There's no way. Even If we can get to a houseline, it'd be bugged."

"Aren't there any cells that work down here?"

Quinn thought for a few seconds. "He has one that he uses in his office but that's still questionable. Get dressed and go keep him company and I'll see what it looks like."

"What about tonight?"

"This doesn't change anything about tonight. We have no choice-he may not stage something like this for another year. We've both got to stay with him or the gig's up. The folks in the Clocktower will just have to split up when we get them the news."

As Dinah hurried to dress, Quinn felt a chill as she remembered the name of the Joker's plan-Divide and Conquer.

* * * * *

Quinn would have been surprised to know that the Joker was, even at that moment, still having second thoughts about killing her. He weighed the pros and cons for the fifteenth time that morning.

Pro: 1. V. funny, 2. Fantastic in bed, 3. Ruthless, 4. V. smart 5. Crazy as batshit

Con: 1. Crazy as batshit 2. Feels like wife 3. Annoying amount of civility shows through 4. Blonde psi-princess potentially dangerous 5. V. secretive. Secretive about big things.

The pros and cons were even up to the last point but that point was the capper-the thing that tipped the scale over to the 'have to kill her' side.

Because, if Quinn was sleeping with Wayne's daughter, she had to know the big Wayne secret. Not, of course, that *he* didn't know it-just that he knew she hadn't known he knew it. And after she knew it, and hadn't told him, that meant she was capable of keeping almost anything from him. He could also tell she hadn't told Dinah that he knew it, which was doubly deceptive.Batman's civilian identity. Surely she knew he must know it-she couldn't be stupid enough to think that he was that stupid, could she?

Sure, he'd had to sit in Arkham Asylum for a few years before it'd come to him-and in a Eureka! moment as pure as surely any such moments in history. He'd cackled wildly, doubled over in mirth at his years of idiocy. It was the purest sort of empirical deduction: 1. Batman was some lantern-jawed justice freak. Check. 2. Bruce Wayne, a lantern-jawed billionaire, seemed always to be nearly everywhere anything was about to happen. Check. 3. As soon as things got sticky, Bruce invariably disappeared and Batman appeared. Check. 4. He'd looked at Bruce Wayne's build and his face/eyes; and encountered Batman again and again and looked into those dark brooding blue eyes...

He cackled again at the memory. The people working in the staging area turned toward him and although he, naturally, continued to smile, the look on his face made them turn back to their work immediately.

After having given it more thought, he'd decided that he and Bruce must have had, over the years, an implicit sort of gentleman's agreement between them. Bruce had to know that he'd find out eventually. He'd probably also known that the Joker wouldn't dream of blabbing it to anyone when he did find out. Perhaps, after all, they truly understood each other on a level most people couldn't appreciate. Maybe that's why he'd never killed Batman, although he'd had the chance more than once. Then again, for some people, hurting the people around them was far more brutal than actually killing them.

The result of the bungled Barbara Gordon caper and his imprisonment had surprised him at the time. He'd known it would hurt Batman, but he hadn't counted on how much. Barbara was, for some reason, so important to Batman that he'd disappeared for years after she'd been shot and had only resurfaced after his nemesis had escaped. No Joker, no Batman. Maybe that was it. They needed each other. He had to admit that crime would be far, far less satisfying without Batman around. Almost too easy. Maybe crime-fighting was too easy for Batman without him around.

Who knew? He only knew that there were no circumstances he could imagine in which would he kill Batman. He would hurt him as badly as he possibly could, would happily make Batman wish himself dead, but he wouldn't kill him. He knew Batman felt the same way about him. The Joker also recognized that he'd have the advantage forever because, while Batman only wanted to capture and imprison him, he considered everyone connected with Batman fair game for as rough as he wanted to play.

He really could hardly wait for the excitement to begin. A movement across the room caught his eye. Speaking of excitement.

"Dinah darling! How are you this morning?"

Dinah was walking toward him, smoking her morning's first cigarette. "Great, Bozo, how 'bout you?"

"On top of the world. I've never been married, thank God, but I imagine this is what the lucky groom feels on the day he's to be wed."

Dinah play punched him in the chin then took a seat on the table the Joker was leaning against. They watched as the men continued their preparations.

"Just like a wedding, it's such a production when you think about how so little actual time is spent during the ceremony itself."

Dinah took a pull on her cigarette. "Is that how you think about it? As a ceremony?"

"Of sorts. Where's our girlfriend?"

"Getting dressed."

"Ah. Speaking of dressing, I took the liberty of stealing a few dresses for you to try on for tonight."

Dinah's heart leaped up in her throat. "I'm not wearing a dress. I'm working."

"I know. Working your father."

"But he'll know something's up as soon as I show up."

"I want him to know something's up."

"Hey, JACK?!"

They both looked up to see Quinn walking across the staging area waving a cellphone. "What's up with this phone?"

The Joker's voice was as smooth as silk, "Why do you need a phone, lambie-pie?"

Quinn's voice was smoother. "I want to order a pizza, Puddin."

He threw his head back and cackled. "For breakfast! That's so like you," he said to Quinn. He turned to Dinah. "Maybe you've noticed that? Imminent danger always makes her hungry. "

Quinn reached the table, tip-toed up to kiss him on the cheek, smashed a kiss onto Dinah's mouth and turned so they were all facing the same way. "So, what about it?"

"Sorry, my dear. I think it's best that we stay electronically incommunicado today."

"Fine. Send someone out."

"Alright. I'll do that while you help Dinah decide what she's wearing to meet Daddy tonight."

Quinn didn't bat an eye. "Oh? So we're showing Wayne some of our cards right away?"

"It would be helpful if he were out of the way, don't you think?"

"I suppose so. What's she going to say that'll get him out of the way?"

"If she tells him where our two little bombs are, he'll really just have to do something about it, won't he? I'm sure you've both noticed that he can't keep his nose out of other people's business."

"You have a point."

Quinn could, without looking at her, feel Dinah's anxiety rising over the thought of what the Joker might know about Batman. Quinn's mind worked at light-speed. So-he wanted to get rid of Batman-and presumably Nightwing if there were two bombs. Leaving she, Dinah and Helena to protect Barbara from 50 armed men and the Joker. Well, well. Goddamn, he was good.

"I'm starving, Puddin."

* * * * *

That Evening

They were all going to be on comm; the miniature size of the equipment would make its effective range fairly short but within and just without the building would be all they really needed. Part of their plan was to leave too few people guarding two of the entrances so that Joker could infiltrate the building relatively easily. They were counting on the fact that the Joker very rarely held hostages and had always felt it somewhat beneath him to stage a bloodbath he'd have to watch. Not that he minded bloodshed-he just liked it wrapped in a surprise or something unusual. The unusual would not include shrieking dinner guests begging for their lives. They assumed that robbery would not be the motive-that grabbing Barbara and getting something out of Bruce via his faux-daughter Dinah would be the actual targets.

Helena and Barbara stood while Dick walked around the Clocktower testing their transceivers and speaking test phrases into their ears. After they'd done the last bit of preparation, they sat quietly for a couple of minutes. Helena had chosen sleek black pants with a scandalous top that was covered, for the most part, by a sleek black jacket. There had been literally no dress she'd consider wearing that Barbara thought Bruce would approve of. This was probably better anyway.

Barbara didn't look at all as if she were bundled in the most hi-tech ballistic protection on the planet. She looked surprisingly slender and fashionable, if a bit modestly patrician.

"I think we're ready. What do you think?"

Helena and Dick felt less sure of themselves but stood up, ready to get going.

As Barbara rolled toward the elevator, she said, firmly, "We'll be back in five hours. All of us."

"God willing." All three of them whispered it under their breath.

* * * * *

Joker's Lair

"Well, Dinah my dove, don't you look pretty?" The Joker offered as she entered the staging area. He was dressed in a dark green tuxedo and was adjusting his tie. Later in the evening, when Dinah and Helena saw each other, they'd be stunned by how similar their outfits were.

"You didn't like the dresses I got you?"

"I did-but a dress doesn't really go with how I'm feeling tonight."

Quinn walked into the room in her full Harlequin regalia.

"You don't feel like a dress either, Harley darling?"

"I thought this would be nice-for old time's sake."

"That's my girl-sentimental to the bone." He kissed her on the cheek as his men began to file into the staging area. All of them wore tuxedos; masks were hanging at their necks and they had shouldered their weapons.

"Hello, boys!" The Joker turned between the men and the women-"No reason not to keep the look of the evening formal, is there?"

He turned toward the women. "Dinah. I'll tell you the exact location of the bombs in the van. You'll enter the room, go directly to your father and give him this location. After you do this, you will immediately disable the security cameras in the room; they are located over each entrance and exit. When we see the cameras go black, we'll enter the room. When that happens, wait for further orders. Quinn, you'll stay with me."

"Always, Puddin'," Quinn purred.

This was it. Dinah felt her mouth go dry. "Don't we need to know where we're taking Barbara Gordon?"

He looked down at her and his eyes were very cold. "Who said we're taking her anywhere?"

* * * * *

It was unfortunate that the evening was going to be spoiled, Commissioner Gordon thought as he looked out at the crowd. It was really a lovely affair. The mayor, the governor and both senators were here. That probably wasn't wise-but Batman was very sure that they weren't targets. They, had of course, been told of the possible danger but the fact that it was an election year wouldn't let any of them back down once the mayor insisted on going. The mayor was in a tight race and any bit of derring-do, followed by press coverage was likely to help. Bruce Wayne was there, of course, sitting close to the stage with a table of Wayne Corp. guests.

Gordon had been working the crowd, going from table to table as his guests ate. He went to the front of the room, climbed the few steps to the low stage and took a seat at the table of honor. He noticed that Barbara and Helena had barely eaten a thing. He looked down at his plate. Come to think of it, he wasn't very hungry either.

Barbara smiled at her father, leaned over and kissed him. She had been talking to Dick and Bruce during the evening and no one beside Helena had seemed to notice she was talking to her own neck.

Forty-five minutes after the beginning of the event, they all heard Nightwing's quiet

A couple of minutes later they watched as Dinah appeared at the entrance, looked over the crowd and walked straight toward Bruce's table.

* * * * *

Bruce stood to greet her, and kissed her on the cheek. "Dinah. So good to see you." She smiled up at him and whispered through her smile. "Two bombs. Under U2's stage, Central Park. Must be disarmed simultaneously. He said *you* should go stage right." She continued to smile as she reached for his arm and slid his sleeve up to reveal his watch. "You have 19 minutes."

Bruce merely muttered, "Copy that?" to his transceiver. He heard three affirmatives as he watched Dinah point to the exits in turn. All three watched as the security cameras crumpled, one after another, into useless metal on their platforms.

* * * * *

They watched from the floor and the stage as the Joker's tuxedoed masked-men fanned into the room. The speed and overwhelming force of the intrusion were astonishing.

There were shouts and sharp screams of alarm that hushed immediately when the Joker and Harley Quinn entered the room. The hush that fell over the room was ominous.

Broken only by the Joker, "Let's get this party started!"

Chapter 21

Helena's eyes were yellow before she could blink twice. She'd never seen him in person-this tall, leering freak who had murdered her mother, who'd crippled Barbara. As she gripped the sides of her chair, she could hear it cracking. Barbara patted her with one hand and whispered to her but never took her eyes off The Joker. "Helena, remember, our main objective is to get everyone out of here alive."

Barbara felt her partner force herself into some semblance of calm. They both saw that Bruce's back had become a steel rod and that it was only superb self-control that kept him in his seat.

"Commissioner Gordon, it's so nice to join you on your special night. I'm sure you appreciate my dropping in like this."

"Joker-you scum!" Although the Commissioner had expected to see the green-haired bastard, he hadn't counted on being so angry. As always, he tended to feel freer to act than others in similar situations, primarily because Batman was always around to get him out of the scrapes he walked into. He jumped down off the stage like a man half his age and strode toward the interloper.

The Joker clucked at him, "Temper, temper, Jimmy boy. This can all be over in a few minutes. I'll just need your daughter for a while."

"Over my dead body!"

"That could so easily be arranged."

"Dad!" The Joker and Gordon turned toward the stage. Barbara was pale but she looked meaningfully and encouragingly at her father. "Don't. Just-don't. I'll go."

The Joker laughed, "Ah, Barbara, we meet again!" His smile became brighter and more mocking. "You might not actually remember our last little encounter, except of course, for the lingering after-effects."

With a snarl, Jim Gordon lunged at The Joker, only to be unceremoniously knocked flat and cold with one punch.

Helena would have been over the table if not for Barbara's cool hand on her arm.

The Joker looked down at his work, then up at Barbara. "See? That's what you get from sitting in management instead of working in the field. Poppa's a little rusty." He bent over, touched the older man's face, then stood. "No worries. Didn't even break his jaw."

He crossed immediately to the table where Bruce was standing, Dinah behind him. The room was utterly silent.

"Bruce Wayne. We meet again."

Bruce's face was inscrutable but his tone was cordial, "Yes. Good evening."

"Don't you have somewhere you need to be, Bruce? Tempus fugit and all that jazz."

"You're never getting out of here." The muscles in Bruce's jaw flexed as if he were chewing on nails.

"We'll just have to see about that." The Joker made a great show of pulling up his sleeve to look at his watch, then back at Bruce. "You really need to be running along. Shoo, little billionaire, shoo!"

Bruce gave the Joker a look that would melt titanium, turned and crossed the room toward the exit. The Joker called after him, "You should probably take that someone special with you, Bruce! It's a two-man job."

It didn't take three minutes before Batman joined Nightwing on the roof of the building. "Jesus, Bruce. We're going to be cutting it sorta close, aren't we?"

They were already moving as Bruce replied, "No more than usual."

* * * * *

Robert was enjoying the U2 concert as anyone could when expecting something bizarre to happen at any moment. The crowd was into it and it was difficult not to just relax and enjoy the music and the night. The fire marshal estimated the crowd at 700,000 and it certainly looked like it. From backstage, all Robert could see was an ocean of humanity. Although he was on call to do any grunt work too crappy even for the roadies to do, he hadn't had to do a thing except listen and watch.

Only force of will kept him from playing the air guitar a couple of times and it was during one of these urges that he saw one of the roadies motioning to him. He walked over quickly and the roadie cupped his hands to shout into his ear, "Get under the stage and see if there's anything weird going on under there. The hair on Robert's neck stood up. He shouted back at the roadie, "Why? What's going on?" The roadie was in no mood to shout, "The sound man is picking up some electrical interference." Robert screamed, "Probably something on stage. I don't hear anything." The roadie looked daggers at him. "He does, motherfucker. Get under there and check it out."

Robert took a flashlight, climbed down off the stage, pulled a heavy drape aside and walked underneath. The stage was 10 feet off the ground, so he could easily clamber through the braces holding the stage sections up and together. The sound of the crowd and the music was bizarre from below, muffled but insanely loud; he only realized how loud when he heard the volume of the muffled sound. Must be why all the roadies were wearing earplugs. Note to self, he muttered, as he walked toward the front of the stage.

He didn't need his flashlight for what came into view as he walked forward. On either side of the stage, they were lit up like pinball machines and cheerfully labeled Bomb 1! and Bomb 2!. He would have thought it was a joke except for the fact that they also looked so highly engineered and plugged into the stage itself. He didn't have enough spit to swallow as he moved forward a few steps and read the counter, 18:05:54, watched it spinning with a speed that took his breath away.

His first impulse was to run like hell. Yeah. Every man for himself. He pulled at his hair as he ran out from under the stage. Shit. Shit. Shit. No. He couldn't do that. But he couldn't tell the roadie-the roadie'd pull the band and...everyone would-what to do? What to do?

He ignored the roadie waiting for him, looked wildly around the stage, then felt and did something he'd never done in his life. He flushed with relief at the sign of a policeman and ran to him for help.

* * * * *

Batman and Nightwing's comms had shifted to police radio as they moved through the night air. They heard the call for the Bomb Squad as it went out.

Bruce broke in on the police channel. "This is Batman-Nightwing and I are on our way."

The voice on the other end of the line sounded uncertain and frantic. "Yes sir-but we have a bit of a problem-if we don't evacuate, we could lose a lot of lives. But nothing short of an emergency's going to move 'em. We demand an evacuation, we might lose just as many if they panic."

Bruce thought for only five seconds. "Don't tell them. We'll be there-we'll defuse the bombs."

They could hear the officer's blood pressure spike, "Don't tell them. But that-Jesus! Are you sure, sir?"


But no pressure!, Dick thought, as he heard this. Despite his experience, his heart began pounding wildly and he looked at Bruce as they swung from building to building. He could see nothing but Bruce's body language, which was extraordinarily relaxed. He knew this meant that he was extraordinarily stressed. His hands suddenly felt very cold against his cable.

* * * * *

"Now, everyone! I'd like you all to step down from the stage except for Ms. Gordon. Line up down here against that wall."

Barbara smiled thinly at this command from the Joker and her tablemates hastened to clear the stage. Everyone except Helena.

The Joker cocked his head, "You too, cutie-pie! Harley, go up there and keep Ms. Gordon company. Dinah, please help that young lady down."

The two women leaped up on the stage and took their places next to Helena and Barbara's chairs.

Helena's eyes stayed on the Joker and she shrugged Dinah's hand off her shoulder. "I'm not going ANYWHERE, scumbag."

"Your bodyguard?" The Joker's question was for Barbara.

"Among other things," Barbara replied.

The man thought about this for a second, threw back his head and cackled. "My God! Isn't anyone heterosexual anymore?"

Commissioner Gordon chose this moment to sit upright, felt his jaw and looked around the room.

The Joker kept his eyes on the stage but sang out gaily, "Mornin' Sunshine!"

Jim Gordon was feeling just as belligerent as before. "You're never getting out of here, you bastard."

The Mayor felt he really should offer something if this was going to be worthwhile, "You'll be in prison tonight!"

"Oh? I wouldn't count on that. Over the years, I've found Gotham's police force woefully inept, inane and inadequate."

"Perhaps. But I don't think you'll find the National Guard as easy to deal with."

The smile on the Joker's face lifted higher. "Don't bullshit a bullshitter, Mr. Mayor. The Posse Comitatus Act makes that, as they say in French, a non-non. Nobody has that authority except..."

He smacked his forehead as he looked down the line of guests, where Governor Jenkins was standing. "Except me," finished the governor helpfully.

The Joker scratched the side of his head with his gun, then cackled. "Oh well!"

"How do you plan to get out of here?"

"Well, we have all sorts of just-in-case plans." He put his hand to his ear with dramatic flair, "Listen-there's one of them."

The guests heard the approaching sound of a plane-and then a helicopter-a big helicopter.

"What do you know about Blackhawk helicopters? I wonder if the Guard brought theirs? I hear ours."

This became instantly apparent as the plane and helicopter buzzed the building, drawing heavy gunfire from the police and soldiers outside the building. This caused many shouts of terror as well as the instinctive shrinking of everyone inside.

"That's my ride! Now-these nice gentlemen are going to escort you outside, where you'll be safer."

No one moved, the guests clearly considering the matter a 'worse of two evils' situation-everyone looked at each other questioningly.

"Hey! Listen up." Everyone turned toward Quinn, who was shaking her head with wonder. "If I've said it once, I've said it a hundred times. Doesn't anyone ever prepare for their hostage crisis? Okay! Hostages-this is a hint-that's you!-have only one job: to follow the instructions of..." she waggled her gun in the air for emphasis, "the people with the guns. So. Let's move it. Governor, Mayor-oh-and let's not forget the senators," she said with a smirk, "why don't you brave civil servants show these nice folks how it's done."

The brave civil servants did not, actually, appear to be feeling particularly brave but they dutifully marched forward. The masked henchman started moving everyone from their tables toward the exit in the far center of the room.

"Sorry about dinner, folks,"Joker offered as they filed past him, "but I can promise your next meal will be the best you've ever had. Nothing whets the appetite like a near-death experience."

* * * * *

Under the orders of their captors, the guests began to file outside very slowly and in an orderly fashion. As they emerged from the building, they were astonished to find everything, as far as they could see, glowing super-bright green. In fact, the passing plane had dropped a fluid that could most appropriately be described as slime onto the building and everything and everyone around it. The helicopter had covered the plane, drawing fire from the bright green policemen and soldiers with bright green guns.

The Joker's helicopter pilot hadn't expected the Guard but whirled back into position and watched as the dark figures walked out into the green world below. He knew the Guard was even now scrambling helicopters for him but he decided he probably had the three minutes it would take to grab The Joker off the roof.

In their relief to reach safety, not one of the hostages noticed that, slowly but surely, the masked men had placed their weapons and masks on the ground, placed their gloves in their pockets and filed outside with the rest of the formally dressed guests. The Joker had bought tickets for all of them.

* * * * *

Batman and Nightwing swung as close as they could before hitting the ground running, approaching from behind the stage. They hadn't anticipated the sea of people who'd be behind the stage and each foot they gained seemed to take disastrously long. The people, packed together tightly, moved as quickly as they could out of the way when they realized who was barreling through them. As they passed, the people continued to watch them, wondering what the hell was going on.

As the two men moved through the security barrier, they saw a knot of policemen, who visibly exhaled as the two arrived.

One of them jumped forward and pointed to Robert, "this guy found them-they're under there at the front of the stage."

"Good job. Relax, everyone. This will soon be over." Batman said this as a matter of form, though it was, in a sense, true. One way or another, it would soon be over.

Batman and Nightwing slipped under the stage and rushed toward the blinking devices.

"I'm on the right, according to instruction." Batman said, feeling his throat tightening.

As each moved forward, they could see the time spinning dizzyingly fast 0:38:15.


Okay. Each looked at their bomb. Both had a yellow and red wire ostentatiously displayed on top, with the same instructions in small print over them.

"To disarm, pull the yellow wire. For optimal results (i.e. absence of dismemberment, death, mass carnage), wires must be pulled at the same time."

Batman could feel the sweat running down his face under his mask and watched the seconds rushing by as he thought. Pull yellow wire. Too obvious-so pull the red wire? Or, perhaps, he'd be expected to think he's going to be fooled so he should actually pull the yellow wire?

Nightwing's heart was thudding behind his eyes as he thought at the same time. Pull yellow wire. Too obvious-so pull the red wire? Or, perhaps, he'd be expected to think he's going to be fooled so he should actually pull the yellow wire?

They looked at each other.



"Okay. On three."




Batman pulled the red wire.

Nightwing pulled the yellow wire.

And the bombs' counters stopped.

* * * * *

As they emerged from under the stage, the two men looked as if they hadn't a care in the world. "Alright. That's done, officers." The policemen's shoulders fell, and they all shouted their relief.

Batman continued in his usual stoic tone, "Have the band cut the evening as short as you think they can. Get the people out of here as quickly as humanly possible, then bring the bomb squad in. No one else goes under there.

Robert jumped as Batman clapped him on the shoulder and almost smiled but not quite. "Your vigilance is appreciated."

"Now we're needed elsewhere." As the two masked heroes departed, Robert and the policemen all thought the same thing.


* * * * *

As the people continued filing out of the room, the Joker stepped on stage with them all, walking in front of the table where Helena and Barbara were still sitting with Dinah and Quinn standing to their sides.

They could here the sound of more than one approaching helicopter, some scattered gunfire, then some shouts and screaming. The gunfire stopped, but the rotors of the helicopters sounded ominously close.

"Well. Well. What an evening." The Joker brandished his gun like a baton a bit as he spoke, all the while holding it so casually that it looked like he could drop it.

"You know, there are few things more satisfying than finishing a job you've been waiting years and years and years to finish. "

All eyes in the room were on his gun. Dinah was ready to move as soon as the last guest left-no jumping the gun, so to speak, before the last hostage and henchman was out.

The Joker turned his head away to watch the people's departure, but they could hear him saying, "I would say that I wish things were different-but that would be a lie." He stiffened his wrist and shot Quinn in the chest, then immediately fired another shot.

After the first shot, time seemed to stop-for all of the women. They all looked at Quinn. Registering that she'd been shot and taking in the disbelief at that fact seemed to take forever, though it might have only taken a second, maybe a fraction more.

Quinn felt like a cinder block had been thrown at her chest. But, in all truth, she'd expected this. She didn't bother with her gun. She'd watched his wrist and jumped forward into the shot when she might have been rocked backward. Forward crossways over Barbara and her chair, knowing that the second bullet would...there-Quinn felt the bullet meant for Barbara instantly scream into her back and then she heard scuffling, shouting and running-but as if they were at a great distance and under water.

Dinah had ripped the gun out of the Joker's hand with her mind as soon as he got the second shot off and tore after him. Helena was transfixed by the sight of Barbara holding a bleeding Quinn, with blood soaking her shirt.

At Helena's approach, Barbara said, "It's her blood-not mine. Help Dinah."

Helena rocked on her heels once and flew down the hall where Dinah had followed the Joker.

* * * * *

As Barbara looked down on Quinn, she called for an ambulance with her comm. She tried to apply pressure to the smaller woman's chest and back but was afraid to move her at all until they had a backboard. Quinn rolled her head slightly and said, with a gurgling laugh, "This sucks."

Barbara smiled thinly despite herself. "I know-just hold on and we'll get you to the hospital."

"I made a backup of everything he has on computer." Quinn concentrated with ferocity, needing to get her words out before she lost consciousness, which she could feel coming quickly.

"You'll be able to shut down everything. Accounts, money...people...everything. Mailed it to you...yesterday."

"Shhhh. We'll do that-just relax and stay with me."

* * * * *

Helena ran down hall at warp speed only to skid to a stop at the sight of what confronted her as she entered an empty foyer. The Joker was pressed against the wall with his arms outstretched. It had to be Dinah's mind that was holding him that way because nothing physical was doing it. Dinah had both hands around his throat and seemed to be choking him very slowly.

Helena took in-in an instant-that Dinah was making it last because she was enjoying it. As she watched the veins in the Joker's throat and face fill and throb, she felt a surge of undiluted elation. All she had to do was stand and watch. The bastard would be dead-her fondest dream come true. Watch for half a minute and the Joker would be dead. And she would have seen him die. And she didn't even have to do a thing. She wouldn't have broken any of Barbara and Bruce's precious rules. Dinah would the responsible one.

So easy. All she had to do was wait-just turn away and it'd be done. Done. Dead. And Dinah would-

She felt a bomb go off in her head, growled out a "SONOFABITCH!" and launched herself at Dinah.

"D-stop it! Dinah-Dinah! Let him go!

"Fuck that! He's dying!"

"No! Dinah! Let him go! We don't kill people!"

She grabbed the girl's shoulders but she was no match against the sheer psychic power Dinah was using to hold the Joker fast to the wall.

A thousand ideas went through Helena's mind in two seconds. She took a deep breath and forced her feral side down...down...down...down. She felt her eyes changing and she gently touched Dinah, "D-let him go."

She knew Dinah could feel her. The change of tension in the steel of her back was almost imperceptible but she could feel it.

"Dinah, sweetheart, let him go."

At that moment, although the Joker's vision was tunneling, then reopening as Dinah squeezed then released the pressure on his trachea, the Joker looked into the eyes of the woman behind Dinah. The blue, blue eyes behind Dinah. Such familiar blue eyes.

Dinah and Helena were stunned to hear him suddenly hiss out a small laugh that sounded like a soda can opening.

He'd been hoodwinked! Look at those eyes!! The woman behind Dinah was Bruce's daughter! They'd sent some sort of doppelganger into his lair. He wheezed out another laugh-because that was, objectively speaking, pretty damned funny.

"D-let him go."

Dinah's shoulders relaxed and then, though she hated herself for it, she began to cry. "He deserves it-look what he's-"

"Dinah. Let him go."

Dinah hesitated, then opened her hands. The Joker collapsed on the floor, barely conscious. Helena felt her hands shaking as she dragged his tie from around his neck and tied his hands behind his back.

"I'll stay with him-go check on Quinn."

Dinah half staggered as she shook her head, as if trying to throw some malign enchantment from her body. Then, she flew down the hall.

Helena looked at her prisoner, Dinah's handprints red against his supernatural white skin. She grabbed him by his tuxedo shirt and hauled him off the ground with one hand, the other cocked to punch him into the next universe. She looked down at him with pure loathing and he looked up her and steeled himself, despite his anguished gasping, for what he saw was coming.

Helena watched him heaving for a second. From close up, he was just as larger- than-life horrific as she'd always imagined. But when she looked into his eyes, she saw the tiny capillaries that had burst while he was being choked, the throbbing of the veins in his face and neck, his utter primal relief at having oxygen.

He was just a human being. Entirely evil. But a human being. She dropped him and pushed herself away from him, shuddering with hatred and pity.

"You're Bruce Wayne's daughter, aren't you?" His voice was thin and dry.

"Uh huh."

"That's a good one."

"We thought so."

He looked at her for a few seconds, then said, "Thank you for saving my life."

Helena took a deep breath. Her reply was, "You murdered my mother."

He cocked an eyebrow. "Really? Gosh. That's certainly...awkward. I guess I should say thanks a lot, then."

Helena was horrified to find herself barking out a laugh, then made a lightning movement to punch him in the face, the speed of which made The Joker shrink with fear. She stopped a fraction of an inch from his wincing face and gently tapped him on the cheek, "You're welcome, pussy-boy."

* * * * *

The police and soldiers suppressed their gunfire as the hostages emerged, waiting for signs of their captors. The Joker's pilot had waited past the time for the rendezvous but when he saw the two Blackhawk helicopters that had scrambled, he took off with them screaming after him.

"All clear."

The police heard a woman's voice on their radios and sent three teams into the building at once. They found Barbara and Dinah holding Quinn, with Helena holding the Joker by the scruff of his tuxedo. The women stared in wonder at their bright green compatriots.

As they fanned out into position, one of the policeman asked, "Where are Joker's men?"

"Where's the ambulance?" Helena answered.


"They're OUTSIDE, jackass. Where's the ambulance?

"There's nobody but hostages out there."

The Joker erupted into another soda can laugh, which was not missed by the team leader. He looked at the room-at the exit. "Aw FUCK."

* * * * *

The ambulance was there. Everyone from the Clocktower, including Alfred, met at the hospital and waited in the Emergency Room waiting room. For hours. And hours.

Dinah pacing up and down the entire time, despite anyone and everyone's attempt to comfort her.

Finally, a young doctor came pushed his way through the doors and walked toward them, his scrub hat almost matching his green eyes.

"Hello, I'm Dr. Tobias. I was told you're waiting for Dr. Quinzel."

"Yes. We are."

The doctor blinked twice at the sight of Bruce Wayne, then continued, seriously but kindly. "We just took Dr. Quinzel to Intensive ICU from surgery." He paused. "I'm going to be very frank with you. Although I never tell a family or friends that there is no hope, I can tell you that it is very, very rare for a person as grievously injured as she is to live."

"What are her injuries?" Barbara's voice was very quiet.

"She has a broken sternum and six broken ribs, plus a collapsed lung. Unfortunately, the shot from the front drove shards of bone into her liver and the shot from the back not only destroyed her spleen but also gravely damaged her liver, almost cutting it in half. We needed 70 units of blood to get through the surgery. The bleeding has stopped for now but we're going to have to watch her extremely closely for renewed bleeding, then infection."

"Is there any good news?" Barbara was, again, the one to speak.

"The only good news is that she lived through the surgery. Most people wouldn't have."

He paused for another second before adding, "I'd like you to understand that the only quick resolution to this will be death. Life will mean a daily struggle for potentially months. Now-if you'd like to stay, IICU has a waiting room of its own on the third floor. No visitors for now. We'll be keeping her anesthetized for some time-we don't want her to move and her injuries are very painful ones."

"Thank you doctor." Bruce shook the doctor's hand.

Dr. Tobias disappeared and all six of them stood quietly for a few seconds, taking it all in. Helena turned to Dinah and saw big tears running down her cheeks, the younger girl's face stony and bleak.

Helena was trying to think of some-any-words of comfort when Dinah's fist hit her in the face, a brutal blow that rocked her backward. Dinah launched herself onto Helena, knocked her on the ground and started pummeling her. Everyone jumped at once to drag Dinah off a dumbstruck Helena, who was not fighting back.


Dick was the one who actually succeeded in prying and lifting a struggling Dinah into the air. As Bruce and Barbara tried to assist with her, Dinah suddenly went limp in Dick's arms and said, "Okay, okay. You can fucking let me go."

Bruce and Barbara were between Dinah and Helena. Before anyone could speak, she merely spat in Helena's general direction. "I will never forgive you as long as I live."

She stormed out of the hospital into the parking lot.

Alfred looked at Bruce.

Bruce looked at Barbara.

Dick looked at all of them.

They all turned toward Helena, who was still sitting on the floor, elbows on her knees, holding her hair pushed back and her head in her hands. The side of her face was already swelling and beginning to discolor and her eyes were bright with unshed tears. She felt their gaze and but did not look at them. She said, almost whispering, "Don't touch me; don't talk to me."

So Barbara, Bruce, Dick and Alfred stood silently, looking through the tall glass walls into the night. In the distance, illuminated in the harsh glare of the parking lot lights, they watched Dinah smoking a cigarette, her back to the hospital.

It had begun to rain.

Chapter 22

Actually, when Quinn had arrived in the Emergency Room, she'd luckily been lucid for some time. She knew, right away, that things were desperately wrong with her lungs and abdomen. She'd lied and told them she could keep breathing and that everything was alright, although she knew one lung must have collapsed. Because she was still able to tell them she could breathe, they stabilized her with fluids and did everything but give her a chest tube for her pneumo/hemothorax and intubate her before they took her to CT, for her CAT scan.

They did their work in a very orderly fashion; probably very few minutes were involved.

However: she knew she was hurting and knew where.

"Hellooo? How much longer?"

"Just a couple of minutes, Dr. Quinzel."

"I know but I'm in a lot of pain here. Seriously-and I can tell you exactly where."

"Just a few more minutes, Dr. Quinzel."

She waited for a couple of minutes and tilted her head at the top of the CT circle.

"Hellooo? I'm really uncomfortable here."

"You'll be out in a couple of minutes."

She could tell they were only now moving from her skull to her chest. She waited two more minutes before losing it. "Goddamnit, I need surgery-now-get me out of here."

She thought if she started pounding on the inside of their expensive machine, they'd relent. She pounded her fists on the sides of their scan.

She was right. They immediately took her out of CT. Her surgery was begun as exploratory.

* * * * *

The Next Morning

Alfred had hoped that he would never have this smell permeate his life again. The smell of this hospital, this floor, this situation. The time he spent here with Barbara and the young Helena was as miserable a time as he could remember. Well, there was also taking care of Bruce after his orphaning. He wondered why this didn't seem normal to him by now, after all these years. This tempestuous life that courted tragedy and, because human evil was never vanquished, a constant sense of futility and sadness. One could only tempt fate so long before, without the slightest effort, it brought all of your triumphs to a bloody, regrettable end.

He'd considered retiring more than once but had tried to think of his work as his contribution to protecting the innocent. He sighed, deeply. Perhaps that really was all an illusion.

The elevator bumped to a stop and the doors opened. He could navigate these halls with his eyes closed and knew intimately every picture he saw, although the carpet had been changed.

As he rounded the corner, he stopped short. Here was another thing that had changed. On a couch near the end of the waiting room, Bruce was sitting on one side, Dick on the other. Helena had balled up Bruce's coat and was sleeping with her head in her father's lap, her feet on her brother's lap. They were all asleep. Although Alfred walked quietly toward them, Bruce's eyes snapped open immediately. Dick continued to sleep with his neck in a position that might require traction when he woke and Helena was as unaware as a piece of timber. This amused Alfred because he knew both Dick and Helena would have been up like a shot if Bruce had not been there. But they slept-because they trusted him to take care of them-which, of course, he always did. No one ever stayed awake for Bruce. Except for his butler.

Which is why he couldn't retire.

* * * * *

Barbara and Dinah were the first to be admitted back into the Intensive ICU. Visitors were allowed every four hours for fifteen minutes. As they walked down the hall toward the unit, Barbara said quietly, "Dinah, this is a telemetry unit-she'll be connected to machines reading her temperature, heart rhythm, pulse rate, blood pressure and blood oxygen. She'll also be on a ventilator which will be breathing for her. It's a bit overwhelming to see someone like that for the first time but it's all necessary to keep track of her condition. The patients in IICU are the sickest of the sick-they have nurses with them 24 hours a day."

"Were you here?"

"For seventeen days, before I was stepped down to ICU."

Dinah nodded but didn't comment and they arrived at the room. The room had six patients and, as Barbara had said; six nurses were hovering over their individual charges.

As they approached the farthest bed on the left, Dinah began to feel light-headed. There was almost no Quinn to be seen-her hair, maybe, her arms. But everything seemed to be connected to something.

The nurse, a woman with long grey hair, a pleasant smile and a soft Southern accent, looked up and said, "I'm Betty. Are you friends or family?"

"I'm Barbara and this is Dinah. We're good friends of Dr. Quinzel."

Betty took a long look at Barbara, then a second look at Dinah and said, "Here, darlin' why don't you sit in this chair. You're looking a little pale."

I'll say, Barbara thought, as she shot a glance at the girl. Her lips were white. The nurse had probably saved her from fainting.

"Put your head between your knees if you feel faint. It's perfectly natural to be upset when you see someone you care about so sick."

Dinah gave her a tepid smile.

"And feel free to talk to her-she's under anesthesia but lots of people remember their loved ones' presence after they come out from under. "

Dinah looked at the vast amount of tubing and asked, "How's she doing?"

"Just fine." The nurse gave Quinn a gentle pat on the leg, "She's tiny but tough. When she was in the CT scan she wanted to get out-but they wouldn't let her. So she was more than a bit feisty."

Dinah smiled, bleakly, "What's all that blood?" The girl pointed to tubes in Quinn's chest and abdomen.

"She had thoracic and abdominal surgery and those are just the drainage tubes for those areas."

At the word 'drainage', Dinah put her head between her knees. Betty looked at Barbara and they smiled at each other.

Barbara rolled forward, put a gentle hand on Quinn's blanketed leg and looked at the telemetry, "Not bad. So far, so good, huh?"

"Exactly," Betty replied. The look they exchanged let them both know that they understood how tenuous things were.

Dinah rose in her seat and there were tears in her eyes, "Is she hurting?"

"No, honey."

"How can you tell if she's knocked out?"

"Blood pressure, heart rate. Believe me-we're all going to keep this gal comfortable. It's important to keep her pain-free so she can get better. Come on over here and talk to her for a minute."

Dinah stood and stepped the few feet to Quinn's bedside. "Can I touch her?"


Dinah put a hand on Quinn's forehead, gently stroked the woman's hair. She swallowed hard. Everything smelled like...tape and medicine and sterility.

"Hey, Quinn? You're not going anywhere, you hear me? You owe me a vacation after these past few months. gotta keep fighting, okay? 'Cause I'm waiting for you to get better-and so is Barbara, and Bruce and Dick and...Helena. We all can't wait to bust you out of this joint."

Dinah bent forward and kissed her on the forehead.

Barbara rolled closer and said, "Quinn, this is Barbara. I'm going to tell the truth. You're very sick. Very, very sick. Things don't look good for you-but you can beat this-you can live-but you have to fight. You must fight. There are people here who love you and depend upon you. Don't forget that."

Dinah and Betty looked at Barbara for a few seconds, then Betty offered, "Dr. Quinzel-you need to listen to Barbara Gordon, because when I had her here all those years ago, you couldn't see her chance of living with a microscope or telescope. And look at her now. She knows what she's talking about."

For the first time in months, Dinah and Barbara smiled unpremeditated smiles.

* * * * *

"How's she look?" Helena asked Barbara, since Dinah wouldn't meet her eyes and, indeed, stood off to one side of everyone.

"It's a cliché but she's doing as well as can be expected. Can't hope for better than that."

Helena nodded. "You know, if we're going to stay, we may as well start shifts. I can take the next four hours if you guys want to go home."

"I'm staying," Dinah said belligerently.

"Miss Dinah?" Alfred paused to make sure she was paying attention. "Helena and I have an inordinate amount of experience with a loved one in this very hospital. We simply must take shifts if we want to be available if Quinn needs us. All things being equal, no one will be able to see her for another four hours. Why not go home, get some sleep and come back and relieve us?"

Barbara wheeled toward the girl and took her hand. "I could use a shower and a nap. How about you?"

Dinah eyes were intense as she answered Alfred, "You'll call if anything's wrong."

Alfred nodded. "You'll be the first to hear anything."

"Can I join you?" Dick asked.

"Of course," Barbara gave him the briefest pat as they headed toward the elevators.

As they headed toward the Humvee, Dinah said, "I'll walk, guys-I've got some thinking to do."

"Dinah-you should come-"

"Barbara. I love you. I'll be in the Clocktower after a while." As she said this, she reached for a pack of cigarettes.

"Dinah, you shouldn't be smoking."

"Yeah and I shouldn't be robbing banks either. Que sera sera and all that shit, right?" The look in the young girl's eyes made Barbara and Dick think twice about asking her again to join them.

"Go on!" Dinah said. "I'll be there soon."

As they pulled out of the parking lot, Dinah pulled on her cigarette. The one thing that was great about being a criminal was that you always kept cigarettes and cash readily available.

* * * * *

After a brief trek of about a mile, Dinah had found the salon she wanted and, after 45 minutes, looked at herself in the mirror as a blonde again. She wanted nothing to do with Helena now-and she might as well get a fresh start on her life.

Her life.

She wondered what her life would be like now? Going back to the Clocktower, starting sweeps, going back to fucking high school and acting as if nothing had changed.

When everything had. She didn't know how to even start making sense of what she was feeling. There was the overwhelming horror of knowing that Quinn was so ill, mingled with the horror of her old regular life, which no longer (in her mind) seemed to suit her.

Who was she? She didn't know.

* * * * *

Bruce, Alfred and Helena took the couch after the others had left.

"Hey-Alfred, Bruce-want some of that relatively shitty coffee from the cafeteria? I want some."

They both assented and Helena disappeared into the elevator.

Bruce kept his gaze on the carpet, "Well, Alfred, what do you think?"

"I think we have a former enemy potentially having given her life to save Barbara. Which is strange, to say the least." Alfred paused for emphasis, "But true, nonetheless."

Bruce only blinked. "Yes. I'll have to think about that."

"I hope that Miss Dinah will find a way to get past her animosity toward Miss Helena."

"I do, too. At least she doesn't seem as bullheaded as Helena." They glanced at each other.

"But we won't say anything to Helena about that, I presume."


The coffee was at least as half as shitty as Helena had promised.

* * * * *

Barbara and Dick had been surprised, but delighted by Dinah's blonde appearance in the Clocktower. She'd spoken briefly before excusing herself for a shower and nap.

After her shower, her eye makeup was smeared over her cheeks. She used cotton balls to remove it, remove it, remove it, down to her pale blonde eyelashes.

Until she looked like what she was-a blonde teenaged kid. She sat down on the floor of the bathroom, naked, forlorn and cried.

* * * * *

Two Weeks Later

They had finally extubated Quinn and she was breathing for herself and resting peacefully, without having gained consciousness.

Dinah had still not really given Helena the time of day and everyone else's agenda was based on the fact that the two women could not be placed together, in a waiting room or on a sweep.

It was Helena who first heard Quinn's voice. "Hello?"

Helena jumped from her chair, "Quinn?"


"You're in the hospital. Everybody's okay. The Joker's in prison-and we're all out, because of you. Your data gave us everything. We've shut him down so totally it would take him ten years to get back to where he was."

"He's alive?"

"Of course."

Quinn drew a ragged breath of relief over that. "I don't know why I don't want him dead. Why do women want what they do?"

Helena chuckled and asked, "Doesn't matter. You're getting out of here in a few weeks, baby."

There was a sudden non-sequitar, "Is Dinah back in school?"

"No...not yet."

"I need to speak to her then."

Helena paused. "I'll let Barbara know. Dinah doesn't actually talk to me anymore."

"Why not?'

"Uh...sorry...but because I wouldn't let her kill the Joker."

The Joker's soda can opening laugh was matched by Quinn's slight chuckle. "Send her in."

Helena went outside the room and pointed Dinah toward the room, "She's awake."

Dinah hurried into the room and took Quinn's hand. Quinn gazed at her young friend's short blonde locks, "Look at your pretty hair."

Her voice sounded so dry that Dinah moved toward the little ice container at her bedside and gave her some water.

There were tears in Dinah's eyes. "How you feeling?"

"I've been better," Quinn rasped. "What's this about your not talking to Helena?"

"She shouldn't have told you."

"She should have if it got you into this room to see me."

"It's nothing-I'm just mad about the Joker, is all."

"You wanted to kill him."

Dinah hesitated, then offered quietly, "Yes."

Quinn lifted herself a little. From her movement, Dinah understood that she should raise Quinn's pillows. She pulled Quinn up and arranged the pillows that she could be more upright.

"You wanted to kill him, even though that was the only condition for our plan-that you not kill him?" Suddenly Dinah felt very cold and sad. She didn't answer.


"Yes, I did," she blurted out, "how can you not after all the things he's done to-"

"I didn't want him dead. I told you that." Quinn said, with the most force she'd been able to offer.

"I'm sorry."

"You're sorry? I'm glad Helena was there to stop you," she wheezed out with difficulty.

"Yeah...I suppose."

"Suppose? You should know so, Dinah. I don't know what to say."

"Quinn, I'm sorry-you know-"

Dinah looked up to see Quinn's face sunken back into incomprehension.

She was unconscious again.

* * * * *

One week later

Doctors were beginning to suggest that Quinn might actually recover, something they'd not even believed themselves might be possible.

She was making her way up to solid food. Although she was nearly a skeleton, from her long deprivation, she was a very feisty skeleton.

She played UNO with Helena and Barbara and usually beat them. She flummoxed the psychologists who came to find whether she was adjusting to her life-changing injury.

Barbara could tell that she had little patience for those who wanted to psychoanalyze her with the average formulas. God help them.

* * * * *

One day, when Dinah was alone with Quinn, she stammered before asking a question. "Do you think you could give me an answer to something about the Joker?"

"I'll try."

"He shot you-then tried to shoot Barbara. But he knew I could stop him, absolutely, at any time-why didn't he go for me first?"

Quinn's tiny gaunt face was bright as she tilted her head to one side and rasped a small chuckle. "Isn't that obvious?"

Chapter 23

The look in Quinn's eyes made Dinah feel uneasy.

Dinah hesitated, then offered, "So you're saying it's obvious?"

"Uh huh. Use your noodle."

Although Dinah was perfectly willing to use her noodle, that organ was resisting her.

Quinn smirked a bit at the girl's hesitation. "Maybe you should ask himself yourself."


"Who else? He could probably tell you a few very interesting things. And why not? I'm sure Jim Gordon could get you closed circuit access- which is the best you should have if you want to kill him."

"Why not tell me yourself?"

"Because it would mean so much more-like a Hallmark card-coming from him."

Quinn had become increasingly and irritatingly Harley-like since regaining consciousness. She was being given her psychotropic medication, although in measurably smaller doses because of her liver damage. Dinah had considered asking whether it might not be enough.

"Why aren't you back at school?"

"Duh. Because you're in the hospital?"

"Doesn't matter-time to get back-you need to get back to your real life."

"That's not my real life."

Quinn reached and patted Dinah's hand, "No. That is your real life. Your life with me was unreal. It was a job. We did it and it's over. Don't make it something it wasn't."

Dinah felt stung by the harsh simplicity of this statement but also unsure if there was merely tough-love motivating it. Despite their touch, Quinn's emotions were behind the lead shield she had so much facility placing between them. She hated when Quinn played psychologist with her. Despite this, when she looked at Quinn's wasted frame, it was difficult to feel anything but pity and concern.

* * * * *

Helena was sitting on the terrace of the Clocktower, watching the traffic and the people beneath her. She realized that she neither knew what or how to feel. Although Quinn was making a miraculous, albeit slow and painful, recovery, Dinah was still avoiding her housemate with a vengeance. When they were in the same room, Dinah was coolly civil and nothing else. Helena didn't have any idea what to do about it and it bothered her more than she would have imagined it could. That she had visited the same treatment upon her father so many years before did nothing to make her feel less hopeless, saddened and angry. Helena had never liked the phrase 'payback's hell' when applied to herself. But, then again, who did?

When she thought about that night's event's, of having saved the Joker from Dinah's chokehold, she didn't quite know whether she had betrayed her mother or not. She hoped not. She thought not. Although it shamed her to admit, she thought that she'd grown somewhat beyond her mother's simpler ethical system and into Barbara's and her father's. Was this unfaithful? Was it something that her mother would have scolded her for-for her stupidity? Or was it something that Selena had been reaching out for herself-in choosing Bruce as a mate and in choosing Barbara as her child's guardian?

She sensed, rather than heard, Barbara rolling up behind her. The woman positioned herself so that it was easy for Helena to place her arm over her knees. Helena felt, with particular gratitude, the gentle tousling of her hair.

"It's going to be okay, sweetheart."

"You think?" Helena wasn't sure.


"Easy for you to say."

Barbara tugged at Helena's hair gently. "You think it's easy living with two people who aren't talking?"

Helena reached back with one hand and gave Barbara's hand a squeeze. "I know-I'm sorry. What'd you ever do to deserve us two punks, huh?"

"I ask myself that all the time."


The two women turned to see Dick walking toward them, dressed in a dark pin-striped three-piece suit.

"Alfred let me in."

He kissed Barbara on the cheek, gently knocked on Helena's skull with his knuckles.

"What the hell's that you got on, Boy Blunder?"

Dick smiled down at Helena, "Clean up nice, don't I?"

There was a time that Helena would have been apoplectic with rage because he was, indeed, devastatingly handsome. But because she loved her brother, sort of, she offered grudgingly, "Yeah. I guess."

"I agree. You do look handsome." Barbara noted that Helena was discomfited by Dick's splendor, and found it both touching and entertaining. "But, seriously, why the suit?"

"Bruce is sending me to a special meeting with the U.S. Marshals."


"Top secret."

"Top secret from us?"

"Uh huh."

"Bullshit," Helena explained.

"Well-one part's not so secret. Expedited Witness Protection Program for Quinn. But other things are in the works-and out of town. Very interesting."

"I hate you when you're like this."

Helena could feel Dick's shiny white teeth lighting her face from his toothy grin. "What? Handsome? In on 'a secret'? You're such a baby, Hel."

Helena leapt to her feet and Dick skipped back with a laugh. "I'm just teasing you! Damn. Lighten up!"

That he'd jumped back with such alacrity immediately soothed Helena's feelings, and she dropped her shoulders. "I'm a bit touchy these days."

"No shit?" Dick grinned, "But no problem. Like they say, winning the war is one thing; managing the peace is another."

Barbara smiled, "Is that what you're doing, Dick? Managing the peace?"

"Working on it, anyway. I came by to see whether you guys would like to go out to lunch?"

Barbara glanced at Helena, who caught her eye, then replied. "I don't think so...but we'd both like for you to stay for lunch."

As they turned to go inside, Helena looked daggers at Barbara, who uncharacteristically stuck out her tongue.

Helena's eyes tightened but there was humor in them.

* * * * *

One Week Later

The Joker popped into the closed circuit monitor in his usual manner, throwing a leg over the chair and suddenly sitting in front of the camera as if he'd appeared out of air. He was wearing an orange prison jumpsuit. He tugged at the collar of it and asked, "Do you think it clashes with my hair too much?"

"Prison orange is the perfect color for you, Bozo."

He cackled softly, "Dinah, dearest! How lovely to see you! How is everyone?"

"Everyone's alive and you're in prison. All's right with the world."

"Oh, dear. One of the big lessons in life, darling. It's bad form to be a pill when you've won the round."

The Joker suddenly threw his head back and cackled immoderately. "What a joke you played on me!"

Dinah smiled, despite herself, "Yep."

"What's your real name?"

"Dinah's enough for you."

"And that rather luscious daughter of Mr. Wayne?"


"My God, you're circumspect when you're angry. And why so angry, my little poppet?"

"Why not?"

"You mean that little shooting thing I did with Harley? Come now-even she expected that. And I bet she doesn't even hold it against me."

The tilt of his head was so like Quinn's when he said this that she smiled again. Bizarre to think the two were so alike.

"No-but she's happy you're here."

"Tsk, tsk. That's the problem with women. If you can't kill them, you shouldn't shoot them."

"You're scum. I hope you know that."

"Oh? Ya think?" His voice was utterly detached. "To what do I owe the pleasure of your company?"

Dinah was out of her depth with the man before her-but she was willing to risk the engagement. She asked the question that had been haunting her.

"I wanted to ask why you didn't try to immobilize me before shooting Quinn? You knew what I could do to you."

The Joker looked at her for a few seconds and his perma-smile lifted a few centimeters. "Isn't that obvious?"

"That's what Quinn said."

"She's my girl."

"WHY?" Dinah thumped the table in front of her-which did nothing to discomfit the man.

The Joker cackled until Dinah thought he would choke. But, finally, he stopped and wiped his eyes. "I did it that way because I thought you loved her more than you hated me. But obviously not. I thought that you'd rush to help her rather than chase me."

Dinah flushed with shame and anger.

"Dinah, sweetheart! Don't be embarrassed. Your hatred is stronger than your compassion. Perfectly normal in a certain kind of person. Wouldn't it be funny if we were more alike than you thought?"

This was the very thought Dinah was keeping from rising in her mind. She slammed the door shut on the idea, sat forward in her chair. "Maybe so. Maybe not. I'm out here and you're in there."

The Joker's eye's brightened, "True. But who's to say for how long?"

They glared at each other and Dinah felt fear fill her even as the Joker's eye's filled with what she'd never seen in them before: hatred. "Next time I'm out, I'll be coming to see you, little girl."

Dinah's hands went cold, but her voice was even, "That right?"

"That's right. So you can go back to...oh, let's say...good old Gotham High and keep that in mind." Dinah's feet went cold.

"And when I do, I will lay waste to everything that you and that Wayne girl own, love or even remotely care about. But take some time and relax-I won't send anyone else for either of you. It's a job I'm going to do personally."

Dinah response sounded like her heart was lodged in her throat, which it was. "I'll be waiting, then."

"Good bluff, Dinah. For your age." He leaned forward and his face nearly filled her screen. "See, they call me the Joker for a reason. I have a sense of humor. Admittedly maybe not the average sense of humor, but generally speaking, I'm really just kidding around."

He slouched back in his chair, eyes lethally serious. "When I get out of here, though, I'm not going to be kidding. I rarely take my gloves off, sweetheart, but I'll make an exception for you."

She'd heard enough.

"I suppose that's that, then. Thanks for the head's up."

She almost stood before he replied, "Please do take care, Dinah dearest. I wouldn't anything to happen to you before we meet again."

Her fear was swallowed by the hatred that buzzed behind her eyes.

"You too, scumbag." She held her throat and looked at his, "I won't make the same mistake twice."

"Say hello to Barbara and Helena for me-and of course, dear Harley."

"Will do and, as for Quinn, I really don't think she's finished with you either." That got his attention. "And I don't mean romance."

Was that sudden tension in the Joker's face? Or fear?

* * * * *

The next day, the hospital bent the rules so that everyone could meet in Quinn's room for a report on Dinah's meeting. Quinn was wearing a bright pair of harlequin patterned pajamas and was acting in a bright, sharp, hostile way that was fully Harley Quinn and suggested she was in intense pain. Except for the part referencing her own conduct, Dinah told them everything about her conversation with the prisoner.

When she finished, Quinn said, "Dinah! You're a prodigy! The only person who wanted to kill me when I was seventeen was our head cheerleader. And with good reason, I might add."

Off the dark looks of everyone, for whom this was no joke, she batted her eyelashes and said merrily, "Remember, laugh and the world laughs with you!"

This was not much more helpful.

Quinn rolled her eyes, "Oh my God, I can't handle gloom in a semi- recumbent position. Helena, would you please put me in the wheelchair. I'd walk but my pain pill hasn't kicked in yet."

Dinah jumped forward and said, "I'll do it."

Quinn looked up at her without expression, "Are you deaf? I said Helena."

Dinah and Helena blushed to the roots of their hair and there was an awkward silence as they switched places.

Helena easily lifted the frail woman out of the bed and couldn't help but remark, "You're as light as a bird."

"I know," Quinn purred, "and you can pick me up anytime."

Barbara ground her teeth.

No one spoke as Helena settled Quinn into the chair and spread a blanket over her legs; but the air was charged with 1000 volts of electricity when Quinn caressed her cheek as she did so. She then winked at Barbara, smirked at Dinah and addressed Bruce, "What can I do for you, Bat-o-Mine?"

It was a wonder that the glares from Barbara, Dinah and Bruce didn't set Quinn's hair on fire. Even Dick was not oblivious to the emotional undercurrent.

The muscles in Bruce's jaw twitched. "What's your opinion? Will the Joker send a person or persons to hurt Dinah?"

Quinn, whose lips were quite pale from pain, nevertheless spoke firmly. "No. If he said it's a personal priority, that's what he means. We've made him angry now-and he so rarely is, believe it or not. Vexed or frustrated, maybe. Almost never angry."

Bruce reiterated, "So it's your opinion that he would have to escape jail to make this threat imminent?"

"Is deafness spreading in this room? I said yes. Absolutely. 100%. Is that clear enough? I don't happen to have my crayons so I can't spell it out." She paused before adding, "And, of course, the threat would be quite, quite real if he were to escape. He really is an evil genius, you know."

"Yes, we know," Barbara answered a bit too snidely.

Quinn shot back, "Is that wheelchair pinching you, honey? Mine's fine."

They glared at each other for a beat before Quinn softened, sat back in her chair, looking as weak and desperately ill as she still was. "I'm in a lot of pain. Could we pointlessly go over and over this later?"

Bruce looked into her eyes searchingly, this strange criminal person who had taken a bullet for one of his family. He noted the eyes glassy with pain, the circles under those eyes, her hollow cheekbones, and her body awash in pajamas that were a child's size. "You're right. You're too ill for this. It can wait. Everyone, could I have a moment alone with Quinn?"

Everyone, including Quinn, goggled at him. As the three people who'd been dismissed departed for the waiting room, they couldn't wait to ask each other what was going on.

Bruce took a chair and placed it facing Quinn. "Can I get you anything?"

"A new liver."

He nodded, "You don't need a new one. The one you have is healing."

"And it's taking it's sweet time. So! What's up?

"I want to know something."

"Shoot. Well-actually-don't shoot. Ask away."

"Why are you doing this, Quinn?"

"What? What am I doing?"

"Acting like...well, like-

She helped him, "Harley Quinn?"


"Because that's who I am. You should know that. We're old friends." She smiled as she said this, looked down at her knees.

He touched her knee and she looked up into his eyes. She'd never looked into Bruce's eyes. Even unmasked, she'd only seen the stern, judgmental eyes of Batman. These eyes were kind. "Why are you doing this, Quinn?"

She stared at him in wonder. She pursed her mouth and sniffed, sat for a full minute and threw up her hands in surrender.

"Oh alright, if you must know...I'm doing a little covert aversion therapy."

"For Dinah, I assume?"

"Yes. You see, the problem is that our Dinah is a little too fond of me. And I won't deny I'm a little too fond of her. Which is flamingly inappropriate. Beside that-she needs to get back to real life. I don't need to tell you that she could use this experience as an excuse to acquire a lot of problems."

Bruce nodded. "And your being cruel will accomplish that?"

"Cruel to be kind. I won't tolerate her using this to derail herself. Get the fuck over it kid. That's what I'm saying with my behavior. I won't have her mooning over me. And even though she saw and experienced some really awful things she wasn't old enough for, I won't feel sorry for her. And you shouldn't either. She can bounce right back."

"Do you really believe that?"

Quinn jerked her chin at him, "I do, actually." She touched her forehead, then tapped it.

"How can I put this? She's one of those kids who's had a tough life but managed to stay all light and sunshine inside. This mission has stirred up some truly bad weather for the first time so now she's thinking that a cloudy day just may be who she is. But she's not. I'm a cloudy day and so are you, by the way. But not her. She just needs to get back to herself. This was a bad dream."

Bruce's expression was dubious, "So-pretend like it never happened?"

"No. Know that it happened and that it doesn't matter that it happened. It's done. Get back to high school and get on with life."

"You might try kindness, instead."

"I don't know about that. It would be a novel approach for me."

"Try it-I don't think she needs a stick." Bruce folded his arms and looked at her long enough for her to look away.

"I want you to answer something else. Did you sleep with Dinah?"

Quinn was astonished to feel herself blushing, and answered in a mock Southern accent. "Why, Mr. Wayne, what a question!"

"Did you?"

"I slept with her every night," she responded, flatly. "If you mean did I consummate a sexual relationship with her, then no, I didn't. I won't say I wasn't tempted but-I'm not entirely amoral. Amoral Lite, maybe."

He nodded.

"Why the interest in sex?"

"There are a couple of reasons. You don't need to know them now. You're tired."

He stood up and, to Quinn's bewilderment, picked her up very gently and lay her in the bed, pulled the cover over her. She marveled, "Bruce! Can you even imagine the odds against your putting me to bed-except in the eternal dirt-nap sense?

"I'll go to the nurse's station. You clearly need more pain medication."

Quinn exhaled a sighing laugh, "My pain isn't all physical, Bruce. There's no pill for a lot of it."

"Yes. I think I see that now."

His face and voice were so kind that Quinn cocked her head, "Who are you, masked-man?"

"Who are you? There used to be a Harleen Quinzel, didn't there? Who was she before all of this?" Bruce paused at the door. "That's the question."

Chapter 24

After Bruce departed and the nurse had given Quinn I.V. pain medication, the three women re-entered the room.

Helena immediately grabbed the ice bucket to refill it, saying "Dick said goodbye-he left with Bruce."

She knew the room would be a little chilly in emotional temperature, which is why she wanted to run away with the ice bucket.

Quinn sat up a bit, clearly feeling much more comfortable, "Before you go, Helena, I'd like to apologize for my behavior earlier. Barbara, Dinah-I was very rude to you both and I'm sorry. And Helena, I'm sorry because my acting that way puts you in an uncomfortable position."

"No problem." Helena was glad to be finished with her part of the apology and she hurried away for the ice.

"And speaking of uncomfortable positions, Dinah-would you help me with these damned pillows."

It saddened Quinn and Barbara to see how quickly Dinah leapt into action. "Sure thing." As Quinn leaned forward, Dinah repacked the pillows behind the woman so that she could sit upright more comfortably. She caught Dinah's hand as she did so and kissed it. "I really am sorry."

"And, Barbara, I truly am sorry. My guilt makes me lash out at you, which you deserve the least of anyone."

"Apology accepted, Quinn."

Dinah shrugged, "So-we're all cool. What do you want to do tonight?"

"You know what," the woman responded, "I'd really like to be alone tonight. I appreciate your staying but I need to think. Okay? I've needed so much help that I haven't been alone to think in, what, a month?"

* * * * *

After the two women took their leave, Quinn lowered the lights in her room and closed her eyes, which was no hardship with so much morphine onboard. When she had met the Joker, he had engulfed her entirely but it was no use and not true to think that Harley Quinn was just a fabrication. That person was part of her. And part of her liked her. Was there anything, anyone else?

C'mon, she thought to herself. You're the therapist and it's staggeringly obvious. The shadow self. 'Part of adulthood is making acquaintance with and accepting your shadow self,' she said in a bored monotone in her mind. 'But you can't live it, you jackass. It's part of you-not all of you. If you take your medication, it's not even all that much of you.'

'But what if you don't know how to get back to the other part,' she countered to herself.

'Act as if you know how and fake it 'til you make it.'

'I can't believe I just said that to myself. I hate those phrases.'

'You hate them because they're corny, simplistic adages that express profound truth. You want Dinah to get the fuck on with her life. What about you? You always want to talk too much, think too much.'

'Oh my God. You know what? Go to sleep.'

So she did.

* * * * *

The Next Morning

When Barbara and Dinah arrived the next morning, they were surprised to find Quinn in tremendous spirits. They chatted most pleasantly, with Quinn the soul of hospitality. It was two hours after they'd arrived that Quinn asked, "Dinah, would you go to the cafeteria and get one of those crazy big chocolate cookies for me?"

"Sure. Anything else?"

"As a matter of fact--" Quinn patted the side of the bed and Dinah took a seat.

"Yes. I want you to go back to school next Monday, if you and Barbara can arrange it. Wouldn't you agree that would be a good idea, Barbara?"

Barbara was taken aback by question, still shocked by the abrupt change in Quinn's attitude from the day before. And that after talking with Bruce? She rolled forward. "I would. The school has agreed to let me tutor her on the months of subjects she's missed."

Dinah looked from Barbara to Quinn. "Please, Dinah. For me." Quinn's eyes were so gentle-in a way they hadn't been in more than a month.

Aw, man. The young girl looked down at the bed and heaved a sigh, and said with a mock-pouting voice for their benefit, "But I don't wanna go to school."

The two older women glanced at each other, then back at Dinah, who sighed again mournfully before saying, "Okay. I'll go for you."

Quinn took Dinah's hand and squeezed it, "You're going because you're my very dear young friend and it's for the best." The woman did not put any extra emphasis on the word 'friend' but, to the girl, it sounded like a cannon shot because Quinn was allowing her to touch her telepathically. Friend. Period. She meant friend. Except.

Dinah instantly swiveled her head toward Barbara and asked, "Would you mind if I talked to Quinn privately for a few minutes?"

Barbara's eyes flew between the two women holding hands and she swallowed what she wanted to say. "Alright. I'll be back in 15 minutes." That was clearly a warning.

As soon as the door closed behind her, Dinah said, "I'll be legal in seven months."

Dinah's face was filled with such delight that Quinn laughed aloud, "You're out of your mind!"

"No-but I've just been in yours." She play-slapped the woman's arm. "I know you like me. And as more than a friend."

Quinn played-slapped her back. "I was under the impression we'd established that months ago."

"Then why don't-"

"You're. A. Child?"

"But I'll be legal."

"Yes. To have sex with other children."

"How fucking old do I have to be?"

Quinn thought for a second. "Thirty."

"THIRTY? You'll be a hundred years old by then!"

"That's exactly the point!" Quinn said through laughter so hard that she would need pain medication sooner than she'd thought.

"Make it lower," Dinah said.

Quinn considered. "27"

"19," Dinah bid.

"That's crazy. Higher."

"Make yours lower."


"20." Dinah countered.

"You can't even drink legally at 20."

"Is that important?"

"No-but you must grant it's symbolic."

"Alright. The symbolic age of 21. How about that? Do we have a deal, Dr. Quinzel?"

Quinn looked into the girl's eager face and shook her head in disbelief. "I tell you what. Go back to school, go to college. Go on with your life-because you can't imagine how much you'll change in four years. Enjoy the relationships you WILL have. However, if you're still interested when you're 21 and if I'm not otherwise attached, we can talk."

Dinah grinned. "Talking isn't what I had in mind."

"Am I in hell?" Quinn asked the air.

She pulled Dinah forward by her shirt and kissed her tenderly on the lips, then gently pushed her away, making a shooing motion, "Now, that's IT, damnit. That's all you're getting. Get my cookie and tell Barbara to get in here."

As she watched Dinah leave the room with a considerable amount of pep in her step, Quinn sighed with affection for the girl. It was entirely unlikely to work out the way Dinah imagined it would. But- hey-fake it til you make it.

* * * * *

That Sunday Night

As Dinah handed a requested soda to Barbara at Delphi, the woman asked her. "You've been really quiet lately. Would you like to talk for a bit?"

"Does that mean you'd like to talk for a bit?" she responded as she sat down.

"I suppose it does." Barbara's smile was sheepish.

"Okay. What's up?

"That was what I was going to ask you."

"Nothing. Same old," she shrugged, "I already have my gear ready for school in the morning."

Barbara turned from Delphi to face Dinah. "It's just that you've been home for more than a month now and you don't seem to be getting any more..."she struggled for an expression, "I suppose, any more like your old self. I know that you've been through an ordeal but you're--"

"Look, Barbara, I appreciate your concern but there's nothing wrong. This is just me now. The old Dinah doesn't exist anymore."

"Don't say that! You can't-"

"I don't mean," the girl raised both hands, "that I've disappeared or totally taken on a new personality. I'm the same person-just without the bubbly 'gee whiz!, isn't this exciting!, I've never seen this before! stuff.' I'm not depressed-I've grown up. You and Bruce don't run around here like I used to-and notice I'm kindly leaving Dick and Helena out of this. And before you say anything, I know that I still have plenty of growing up to do and that I'm not a full-fledged adult. But in certain experiences in life, I've gone from 17 to 30 in a few months. I can't go back."

Barbara felt a lump rise in her throat. "I know. And I'm sorry. I don't know what to say."

Dinah pulled herself up and kissed Barbara on the cheek, "Don't say anything. Just try to get used to me now that I'm un-carbonated."

The girl pulled herself upright, did a few dramatic neck rolls, like a boxer getting ready for the ring. "And now I'm going to make up with Helena."

Barbara's eyebrows shot up and she blustered, "But what-why-"

"Because it's the mature thing to do," Dinah said with a wink.

* * * * *

Helena was sitting on the terrace looking up at the stars when she felt Dinah come out, hesitate, then continue forward. Helena tensed as she felt the girl's approach and supposed she should get up and leave it to her. To her shock, the girl sat right next to her. "Mind if I join you?"

"Uh. No. 'Course not."

Dinah offered a cigarette to Helena, who declined, then lit one for herself. "This is my last one. Barbara put her foot down. She's already got the nicotine patches in my room."

"Yeah. She's like that about smoking. Especially with teens."

Dinah nodded, then said "I'm sorry, Helena."

Helena turned toward Dinah, who didn't turn to face her. The girl's face was emotionless, matter-of-fact. She took a drag on her cigarette, "I don't know what else to say. I'm sorry. You were right. I was wrong. That about covers it, doesn't it?"

"Yeah. That's about it, I guess, but-why? What's different?"

"When I visited Bozo, he told me something I've been rolling around in my head." She blew a couple of smoke rings.

Helena goggled, "Fuck! I could never do that!"

Dinah turned toward Helena and lightly bumped the other woman's shoulder with hers. "As a good friend once told me, 'when you got it, you got it, kid'."

"Am I your good friend?"

"I hope so."

Helena pulled her head back a little, "But isn't this a little abrupt after all that screaming and hitting me?"

"What do you want? You want me to cry?"

"No! I don't want you to fucking cry," Helena bridled, raising her voice. "It's just that-fuck-you go off on me and treat me like shit and hate me and then-what-it blows away and everything's supposed to be the same? That's a hell of a mood swing, Dinah."

"Oh my God," Dinah said in disbelief, "Hello, Pot? This is Kettle speaking from Mood Swing Central," she finished merrily, blowing a cloud of smoke in Helena's face.

As Helena blinked her eyes in the smoke, she saw the affection in Dinah's. "Fuck you," she offered.

"Even if I cried, it wouldn't be any more sincere than the fact that I'm saying I'm sorry-and especially for hitting you." She stubbed out her cigarette on her leather clad leg and placed her hand on Helena's.

"I owe you big time-more than I can ever repay you. You saved me from doing something that would have forever made me more like a man I hate than like the people I love. And you're one of the people I love."

Helena swallowed hard, then asked, "You're staying out of my head, aren't you."

"Scout's Honor."

Helena put her arm loosely around Dinah's shoulder and they looked out over the city.

"It's not like I can't exactly...relate to what you were feeling and going through, Dinah."

"Uh huh-almost the same situation. I know it's tough-it took me more than a month to stop acting like a baby. I forget-how long did it take you to-"

Dinah couldn't finish this sentence because she was laughing in Helena's headlock.

* * * * *

As she watched over Delphi, Barbara heard crashing sounds from outside and smiled into the screen. Nice to have everyone friends again.

* * * * *

It was indeed, Dinah thought later that night as she lay in bed and wondered at how far she'd come since spending the first night home laying in bathroom crying. It was this Sunday night that she coolly accepted the fact if she hadn't wanted to grow up to be a crime fighter, it was too late now. She could bitch and moan, but there was such a thing as duty. She was born into it, fostered into it and given metahuman abilities for a reason-and she knew that it was a serious and important one. That night, she placed her focus on her duty. The centered sureness of her path would always make her different than the children, and many of the adults, around her. As Quinn had thought, she was no cloudy day but neither was she the sunny spring of Quinn's imagination; she was the focused sun of the desert.

* * * * *

Chewing her gum, feeling her nicotine patch fading fast, Dinah walked into Gotham High and found it more surreal than a Fellini movie. Was this really the same place? So colorful and fast moving and loud? And everyone looked-and acted-so incredibly young. A few people called out welcome to her as she walked to her locker. When she got there, she was happy to remember her combination and throw her stuff into it. Just like old times.


Dinah didn't have much time to react as Gabby pounced on her, pulling her into a ferocious hug. It was one of those girl hugs where you have to bend side to side but Dinah returned it. Gabby finally detached herself and exalted, "I'm so glad you're back! I love your new clothes! You've got to tell me everything!"

Dinah found herself smiling shyly, "It's good to be back." She reached out, gave Gabby's sleeve a tug. "And good to see you, too."

Off Dinah's quiet reception, Gabby, no fool, toned her voice and volume down many notches. "Are you okay? How are you sweetie?"

"Fine-great," Dinah lied.

Gabby looked at her friend closely, "No. Your eyes are different."

"Nah. More makeup."

"No. Not makeup." Gabby smiled gently and said, quietly, "I'll fill you in on all the dope and you tell me whatever, whenever-how 'bout that?"

"You rock, Gabby. Let's go."

Dinah grabbed a notebook and her two textbooks and they were off to first period.

* * * * *

The students in their first period class, doing the usual milling around 10 minutes before class, were tremendously surprised to see Gabby entering with Dinah. A different Dinah with really different clothes. As a few people called out their hellos, she returned them with calm warmth. A few girls came over to hug her and Dinah could hear that the murmur of voices around her was about her. As she'd expected, eventually, there was a semi-furtive cry of Zipper Girl!

Dinah looked at the offender as he had never been looked at in his young life. In later years, he would understand it was an unfavorable sexual sizing up and a none-too-subtle contempt for his manhood that made him unworthy of further consideration. All he knew at his age, however, was that he should shut the fuck up.

As Mr. Reed entered the class, he smiled cheerfully at Dinah who'd taken a seat in the first row, "I heard from Ms. Gordon you'd be here today. We're so glad you're back."

Even the speech was different. "As am I, Mr. Reed. Thank you."

Mr. Reed's smile was frozen on his face for a second by this answer, but he regained his composure and the class moved on.

* * * * *

When Mr. Reed paused, Dinah realized she'd underestimated how much of Quinn's manner of expression had become her own. She had learned the value of formality and simplicity, the enjoyment of toying with language. One of the marks of the high school leper. Not talking like your peers. As she subtly looked around the class at the boys and girls listening to the lecture, she came to another realization. She didn't give a fuck.

* * * * *

At lunchtime, Dinah went straight to the teachers' table where Barbara was ensconced. A couple of the teachers who had yet to do so greeted her.

Dinah nodded, "Thank you-everyone's been great-made me very comfortable." As Barbara took a sip of her soda, Dinah leaned down to cup the woman's ear and whisper, "As comfortable as having a Tonka truck shoved up my ass."

Barbara's soda came out of her nose and she yelped with pain and laughter, apologizing at the same time. This was deeply cheering to Dinah. She rejoined Gabby with the sense that the day was looking up.

As she sat down to her lunch, one of the most unmitigated bitches in the school walked over to the table. They weren't in any classes together and Dinah took a deep breath, knowing Miranda was coming to take her down a peg.

"Glad to see you're back, Dinah."

"Thank you, Miranda."

"I like what you've done with your style. So much better than that tacky old stuff you used to wear."

Dinah sniffed, took a bite of sandwich, spoke through her chewing, "Go back to your table, Miranda. We're eating and you're disturbing us."

"I'm just saying-"

"Miranda." She took a swig of water, "if you existed to me, I'd speak to you. But you don't. Goodbye. "

Miranda could not, evidently, solve the riddle of non-existence, so she stormed back to her table. Dinah couldn't believe how palpably relieved her tablemates were.

"What? Did you think we would fight?" Oh. She got it. "You thought she was going to score off you-embarrass you? Embarrass me? Who gives a fuck?"

She could remember feeling the same way-that terrible social anxiety. But it was so far from her mind now that she felt really sorry for these guys. What a way to live.

* * * * *

By the end of the day, the school was a hive buzzing over what horrendous circumstances could have caused such an enormous change in this hitherto inconsequential and now arresting girl. They all admitted that she was polite, helpful and pleasant to other students. But she was also something different, and something darker and you very clearly couldn't trifle with her. The rumors circulated and quickly became spectacular.

And so Dinah Redmond spent her last 1.5 years of high school. She went to football games, took part in activities, dated-but she was always slightly above and apart from it. Consequently, Dinah became a woman who was emotionally distant and always kept her own counsel. As she matured she wondered whether it was because of her experience with the Joker, with school or because her touch telepathy into other people's feelings made her doubly careful not to expose her own. In the end, she knew it did not matter.

* * * * *

Four Years Later
Arkham Asylum Maximum Security

The years had been relatively kind to the Joker. He did well in prison because he liked to read, liked pacing to and fro and found his own company most invigorating. He had even begun to write his memoirs between escape attempts. There had been many attempts-three of them serious-but he had not gotten away. He didn't like to think that he was getting rusty-although the gray in his hair was becoming more prominent.

In the middle of his fourth year of imprisonment, he was surprised to learn that his old friend Bruce Wayne had come to see him. They put him in a Hannibal Lecter-esque enclosure and Bruce thought, as he sat down, that he could be looking at a rare caged species pacing in a zoo.

Rare indeed.

"Hello, Brucey-boy."

"Hello, Jack. How are you?"

"Great. Things couldn't be better. How are things on your end?"

"Very well, thank you."

The Joker leered, "And the kids?"


"Seen Harley around?"

"Now, Jack, you know I can't say anything about that-but I hear that she's doing very well."

"Not that I don't like visitors but to what do I owe the pleasure?"

Bruce rubbed his lantern jaw, put a hand on each thigh. "I've been feeling guilty about something concerning you-and I need to get it off my chest."

The Joker took a seat. "And you know I'm a lover and forgiver, not a fighter. Tell Uncle Jackie all about it."

"Do you remember three years ago when you had an appendectomy here?"

"Like it was yesterday-they have butchers here, not doctors."

"Yes, well, while you were under anesthesia, two devices were planted in your body. They're incredibly small-the cutting edge of technology. They don't show up under conventional x-ray-there's really no way, almost, to find the damned things once you've planted them."

The Joker felt an emotion he couldn't recognize-it was either fear or fury. "What are these devices for?"

"They're GPS devices, Jack."

"What right did you have to put those things in me?"

"None. That's why I'm feeling guilty. I was feeling especially guilty that you were wasting all your time trying to escape when we know exactly where you are at all times."

"Where are they?"

"I don't think you'd want to go fishing for them. One is in your spinal column and one is in your liver."

The Joker identified the emotion-it was fury. "That BITCH!"

"Yes. Quinn knew you'd nearly had to have an appendectomy recently. Since you were bound to need the surgery sooner or later, why not pop those in while they had you open? The placement was her idea, too."

The Joker felt the pulse pumping in the veins in his forehead and he didn't know why his eyes didn't pop out of his head, why his hair didn't fly off his head. WOMEN!

Bruce waited as the Joker composed himself-for he did have his pride.

"I've got to go, Jack. I just wanted you to know. I feel much better now."

"This isn't over Bruce."

"No, I know. Not until we're old, old men." Bruce put his hand against the glass and the Joker placed his hand on the other side.

"Be well, Jack."

"You too, Bruce."

Chapter 25

The Millay School for Girls was housed in a building that had been built for it-along imaginative lines. The original headmistress was something of an Arthurian scholar as well as an oddly authoritarian personality and the resulting building was strange and stern, like a castle in a gothic prison movie. It was certainly imposing and it imposed just outside of a small town in rural Vermont.

Millay had originally begun as a school where badly behaved, wanton or frankly pregnant girls could be educated out of the sight of the rest of the world. The modern school housed 200 girls with behavioral problems, criminal propensities or who were frankly street thugs. Its rural setting was still counted a blessing, as the girls had nowhere to run and little to entice them in the nearest town.

The current headmistress, Dr. Beryl Campbell, had come to the school when it had become clear that the former head had entirely lost control of the place. The school's board of directors thanked heaven every night for Dr. Campbell, who had made it a world-class education center for troubled girls.

The fourth year of her tenure, as in every year, Dr. Campbell gave a speech on the first school day for the incoming class, so that the girls would learn what kind of place they had arrived in and what would be expected of them. As in every year, the class filed into the auditorium and seated themselves in loud, unruly bunches. They did not notice as a petite, impeccably dressed woman walked in from the side of the auditorium, tapping along with a black silver-tipped walking stick with a large silver knob on top.

She didn't take the stage, but stopped in the middle of the auditorium, between the two rows, and waited with one hand on the walking stick and the other on her hip. And she began to tap one elegant shoe against the floor as she waited for the students to come to attention. This tapping was not audible above the noise of the students but somehow it never failed to hush them quickly. Dr. Campbell did not like to wait and the force of her personality when displeased in this way dispersed like a fog in the room. The girls began to notice her-others noticed them, and soon they were facing forward. And quiet-because this was strange.

"Hello girls. I'm Dr. Campbell." Her voice was conversational but perfectly audible. "I'm glad you're here. Whether you're glad you're here will be entirely up to you. Every one of our teachers is exceptional-every one of them strict but fair. Your work will be challenging-and you will be expected to rise to the challenge. The food served here is superb-and you will find your accommodations lovely and comfortable. This is a very special school and, with our help, you can become happy, useful women educated for matriculation in top-tier colleges."

"Now-your parents or guardians have placed you here because you have a propensity for naughtiness, nastiness and/or evil. I understand that. But something you must understand is by the time this year is out, not one of you will be acting that way habitually anymore." She looked over each side of the room. "I can promise you that."

She moved her walking stick in front of her and placed both hands on it. "You will, of course, laugh at this, disbelieve it, mock me amongst yourselves. You will think that you are slick and that you can get away with breaking my rules. I assure you, however, not one of you is as slick as I am. If you break my rules, I will find out and I will deal with you."

"My next statement may seem bold and even a bit odd. Cast around in your minds for the meanest, most terrifying, evil, cold, vicious, maniacal person you've ever known or thought about-someone who frightens even you, as tough as you are. Imagine placing me in a fight against that person. Imagine placing money on a fight between me and that monster in your head. I tell you now, you had better bet on me. Because I would win. And that is true. You will not believe this and, indeed, there's no reason you should. The older students here did not believe it either. Feel free to ask any of them, after having been here a year, if they believe it now. "

"There will be further orientation after this little welcome and you'll soon feel right at home. Or maybe not. Because there is no violence here, no verbal abuse here. None. It doesn't happen because it's a rule. And again, if you break the rules here, I deal with you. If you do, I won't hit you. I won't shout at you. But I promise you that I will fuck. you. up. Welcome to Millay, young ladies."

She smiled cheerily and left the room and its stunned freshman. She went to her office immediately and cackled 'til her eyes watered. Her freshman speech was a rare chocolate bonbon she looked forward to all year. She grabbed her coat and while she put it on, placed her stick, with its knob in the shape of clown's head, on top of her desk. She was already late for a meeting with two of the directors on the school's board.

When she opened her office door, there they were. Helena Kyle and Dick Grayson.

"Get in here, you two."

They entered, and closed the door as she removed her coat, put her stick in its holder. She turned and beamed at them. "I could eat you both with a spoon."

"Come here, Quinn, you nut." Helena hugged her tightly and then Dick took his turn.

"Sit down-want some coffee? I'll answer for you-yes." Quinn ordered her secretary to fetch a pot from the cafeteria.

As she took her seat, she whispered, "I'm positive my secretary's a masochist. I keep her hopping, let me tell you."

"The scholastic life agrees with you, Quinn-you look like a million bucks."

"You know, it's strange. With me, benevolent dictatorship is like a beauty cream."

She continued to beam at them, "I'm so glad you two can stay a few days. You're a feast for the eyes."

"We miss you-we're happy to come," Dick answered.

Helena thought, as she watched Quinn, how perfectly her father had read her. All of them had been staggered when he told them he had bought a girl's school, and a school for troubled girls, at that. That he was underwriting scholarships for half the students each year. And then the disbelief that Quinn was going into witness protection there. To run it. But he was right. She was blooming as Helena had never seen her.

Later, as they all walked arm in arm through the beautiful campus, a very small, scrawny and tremendously timid girl approached them with a look of utter fear.

"Dr. Campbell, excuse me, may I have a word with you?"

"Of course," Quinn said, disengaging herself from them. "Step over here."

"Your name is?"

"Mona Gibson."

"How may I help you, Miss Gibson?"

The girl took a deep breath and blurted, "I've broken a rule and I don't want you to think I think I'm slick."

Quinn's mouth twitched, "My God, Miss Gibson, that may be a record. You've only been here a couple of hours. And are you even old enough to be here?"

"I'm 11 and a prodigy, which they think is what makes me bad. Anyway, I forgot to leave my Swiss Army knife at home-I always carry it in my bag-but it's not allowed here and I didn't mean to bring it."

"Where is said knife?"

The girl produced it from a pocket and placed in Quinn's hand. "I'll put it in an envelope, write your name on it and keep it in my desk, okay?"

"Thank you, Dr. Campbell. I'm ready to be punished-but if it could be soon-I can't stand suspense."

"It was an accident, Miss Gibson. Look me in the eyes." Quinn placed her hand on the girl's cheek, "We're going to treat you fairly, dear. And not one student here is going to bother you because you're so young. You have my word. Now, get along."

"Thank you, Dr. Campbell." The girl was so relieved that she cut and ran, before the woman could change her mind.

As Quinn turned toward Dick and Helena, she said, "Shut up."

"Quinn! You old softy."

"Not at all, Dick. Tough but fair. Give 'em some carrot, give 'em some stick."

"Is that why you're still carrying that ridiculous cane?"

"It's a prop, Helena. It makes me more ominous."

"Actually, you're pretty fucking ominous solo."

"Yeah, I'd second that."

"Shut up, you two, and look at this glorious day!"

* * * * *

As Quinn, Dick and Helena marveled at the splendor of Vermont, there was no way for them to know that, over the 25 years of her career, Dr. Campbell would send thousands of young women into the world who were better behaved, law-abiding, and educated than their families could have ever imagined before sending them to the school. They would leave the school, every girl, scared to death of her but also revering and loving her, because she loved them.

* * * * *

Later that evening, in Quinn's quarters, Dick turned in early on purpose, in order to Quinn and Helena a chance to catch up.

As soon as he'd closed the door, Quinn said rapidly, "I've been thinking all day that it's a shame you're so deplorably faithful to Barbara. And, I suppose that Barbara's my friend-all of which make it impossible for you to-actually, it's not simply put. The things I want are extensive and detailed." Quinn drummed her fingers on her thighs.

Helena smiled her dazzling smile, "Sorry about that, baby. What's wrong? A little keyed up?"

"I haven't had sex in four years, Helena. I'm surrounded by children who talk of nothing but. What do you think?"

"I think you'll live."

"Said the Sex Machine of Gotham." Quinn grinned, "I know I will. But a visit with you just isn't complete until I proposition you unsuccessfully. Now, tell me how things are. "

"Never better. Oh! I got a puppy! He's a little Jack Russell named Prowler."

Quinn tilted her head, "Barbara and Alfred agreed to a dog?"

"Actually, I just sort of brought him home."

"Helena. What were you thinking?"

Helena shook her head at Quinn's tone, and whistled. "Don't I know it? It was a hard sell. A hard sell."

"Naturally, you had no idea how much work a puppy is."

"No-but I found out quick. Barbara and Alfred shunned him to teach me responsibility. But I've been on to that trick of theirs for years."

"Do they like him now?"

"They adore him-but they pretend like they don't."

Quinn smiled, thoughtfully, "You people never change, do you?"

"No. I suppose we don't."

Quinn stood up and put another log on the fireplace. As she sat down, she asked, "And how is Dinah?"

Quinn never knew, directly, how Dinah was. She hadn't seen or spoken to her in four years, which were the conditions she had set. She wanted Dinah to be free and clear to experience her life.

"Dinah is...Dinah. Let's see-she's moved out since I saw you last year. She's learned another language. She interned at Wayne Corp and Bruce was so impressed that he hired her. I guess part of business is knowing who and who not to trust and, with one shake of your hand, she knows. She's running all over the world as a proxy for him and she's really involved in the philanthropy side of it. Barbara and I think he may seriously have an eye on her for the big job"

"No! CEO of Wayne Corp? Dinah?"

"Yeah, Dinah. None of the rest of us are going to do it. But anyway, when she's in town, she still does sweeps with us and she's working on some sort of violence prediction software with Barbara."

"Wow. Sounds like she's a busy girl. Is she dating anyone?"

Helena almost smiled. "Nope."

"That's too bad. Good to have a well-rounded life at her age."

"Quinn," Helena said, taking the woman's hand, "Is it hard to breathe when you're so full of shit?"

"You would know better than I."

Helena barked out a laugh. "Touch. But my point remains."

"Just tell her I asked about her."

"I certainly will."

"Do not embellish it."

"Yes, ma'am.

* * * * *

One Week Later

Barbara was sitting at Delphi with Prowler sleeping in her lap. He took a big breath and sighed and she patted his head. Cute little guy.

She thought about the day Helena brought the puppy home. Alfred had been the one to inject realism into the situation. Barbara was watching Helena on the floor with the new arrival, when Alfred stepped into the room.

"Miss Helena? Is that a guest or will it be staying?"

"It's a he-Alfred-his name is Prowler and he's our dog now!"

Alfred was aware that neither Barbara nor Helena had ever owned a dog, much less a puppy.

"Miss Helena-do you know how much time raising a puppy requires? Do you understand that you will need to take him out many, many times a day if you're going to successfully housebreak him? That you have taken on nearly the same amount of work, if you want him to be a happy and obedient animal, as for a human baby?

Helena was abashed by the tone in his voice, "I'll take care of him."

"You will," Alfred said. "Because I will not. I am available for advice, as I have raised many puppies in my life. But the work will be yours. I'm a butler-I don't tend livestock."

Barbara patted his arm and said, "We understand, Alfred. Helena's willing to fully take on the responsibility she's brought upon herself."

With that, Helena realized Barbara was out, too. Damnit! She hadn't thought about him as work-but she couldn't lose face by giving him back. Besides, she liked him.

"I'll take care of him-you guys stay out of it."

Alfred had looked into Barbara's eyes and they shared another one of the thousands of silent laughs they'd had since Helena had come into their lives.

Barbara looked down at the tiny animal. He was so energetic, naughty, impulsive and loving that she couldn't help but see him as a canine Helena.

When she looked back up at the computer screen, she heard "AHA!"

"Helena! DON'T sneak up on me. You know I hate that."

"Answer my question!"

"Did you ask one?"

"Have I or have I not caught you with Prowler in your lap?"

Barbara blinked twice, which meant she was processing. "He jumped up here of his own accord. I couldn't be bothered to throw him off."

Prowler, hearing his name, stood at attention on Barbara's lap. Helena grabbed him, "Prowler, you vicious thing!"


"I know he just woke up. I'm taking him out."

Because Barbara and Helena were a happy couple, there lives together were composed of tens of thousands of unremarkable episodes like this one, some happy, some sad. Unlike some couples, who come together easily and just as easily fall apart, the two women had had such a difficult time getting together that they couldn't imagine their lives without each other. There is nothing terribly dramatic about romantic contentment. It consists of incalculable acts of kindness, patience, and forgiveness and is terribly difficult to describe. That's why drama's greatest love stories have always been tragedies.

* * * * *

After she'd taken Prowler out and accused Barbara again of loving him, Helena went into the kitchen with him tucked under her arm like a football, where Alfred was preparing the night's dinner.

She grabbed a soda from the refrigerator as he stirred a pot on the stove. He said without looking up, "Miss Helena, Master Prowler is teething and, if you don't want him to savage your shoes, you had better get him something to chew on and teach him to use it. "

"Thanks, Alfred. I'll get right on it."

Alfred smiled at his pot. He had known the mention of shoes would expedite matters.

* * * * *

Later that evening, Helena, Barbara, Bruce and Dick were gathered for dinner and waiting for Dinah to arrive. She had been in Paris but was supposed to have landed in plenty of time to join them. Alfred decided a drink was in order and that is what they had in their hands when Dinah arrived.

Barbara looked at her and marveled again. The woman had changed in the four years as none of them had. Physically, all trace of baby fat had departed, leaving a tall and lean body. Her blonde hair was at her shoulders and Barbara never knew what she'd be wearing, from couture to street bum. It was her manner, however, that had changed the most.

She had continued to be a loving, warm and friendly presence. But even with them, whom Barbara knew she loved, she was slightly aloof, slightly formal. Barbara had no doubt that her personality played well in a business setting-she was sure of herself and smart. She also gave the impression that she might know what you were thinking, which was intimidating when she chose it to be.

It sometimes seemed to Barbara as if Dinah were looking at all of their lives, hers included, at a slight, bemused distance from the action.

"Bon soir, mes amies!" Dinah rushed in from the elevator wearing what, basically, Helena was wearing. Sweep-wear-lite.

"Nice duds!" Dinah kissed and hugged Helena first, then Barbara, then Bruce, then Dick.

"Alfred!" She shouted, "It smells wonderful!"

"Sorry I'm late-I had to book a flight to nowhere, basically, which is more difficult than you'd think. Let's eat!"

After the first course had been consumed, Dick announced, "I think I'm going to get married."

All heads swung his way.

"We weren't aware that you were dating anyone special."

"I'm not, Babs. I just thought I should start dating with an eye toward marriage-a different kind of woman."

"Men! You guys-"

"Women do it too, Hel. Boyfriend material. Husband material. I've heard it."

Bruce looked at his nearly lifetime companion with paternal interest, "What's got you thinking of matrimony, Dick?"

"Well, I see Barbara and Helena so happy-and I could probably find someone, too, if I looked. You too, Bruce."

"I'm sure you're right about yourself, Dick. But I'm too old to change my life to accommodate another person-and that wouldn't be fair." He looked pointedly around the table, "I have my family and my work and I'm more content than I've ever been."

"How 'bout you, Dinah?" Dick asked.

"That would depend."

"On what?"

"On whether the right person said yes."

At that moment, Alfred came into the room with another course. "Alfred?"

"Yes Master Dick."

"You ever think about getting married?"

Alfred placed a serving on Bruce's plate. "I am married to all of you and a man can only take so much."

* * * * *

"Look at that moon!" Helena stepped out onto the terrace after they'd finished dinner and was astonished by the night's full moon, one of those that seems larger, brighter and closer than usual.

Everyone, including Alfred, stepped out onto the darkened terrace into the refreshing night air to look at the lunar glory.

"Look at our city. Isn't it beautiful? Dick's voice was hushed.

They stood, quietly, for a few minutes: Dinah, Helena, Barbara, Bruce, Dick and Alfred, marveling at the sky and their city.

Barbara took a second to look behind them and, sure enough, there were ethereal moon shadows. She smiled fondly at these figures, so well-known, so well-loved by her-the city's mysterious crime fighters.

She turned back to the night and her family, Gotham's shadowy people of myth.

* * * * *

Ten Days Later

"Come in."

Quinn's heart was in her throat. Dinah entered and closed the door.

"Dinah!" She leapt to her feet behind her desk.

Dinah quickly crossed the room, took a seat opposite Quinn with the desk between them. The other woman sank into her chair. "Quinn." Dinah said gently, sighing, as if relieved of a burden.

They looked at each other for a full minute.

"Happy birthday, beautiful." Quinn finally broke the silence.

"I was hoping you'd remember."

Quinn looked at her from beneath her eyelashes. "I can't believe it's you-you're so..."


Quinn actually blushed.

"I hear great stuff about this school."

Quinn shrugged, "You know how I am with girls."

Dinah smirked at this but didn't rise to it.

Quinn smiled, "You, too-I hear you've become a captain of industry. I wouldn't have pegged you as the business type."

"I'm not-I'm smart enough to understand the facts but the psychology of it is what's interesting to me. So sublimated and refined even when it's vicious."

Dinah sat forward in her chair, "But I didn't come here by charter plane and damn near canoe and dogsled to chat about business."

"You didn't?" Quinn sat forward and rested her chin in her hands with her elbows on the desk.

Dinah fought to keep her voice even. "No. I came to ask if you're otherwise attached and, if not, would you like to talk?"

Quinn immediately covered her face with her hands. Dinah's heart was in her throat, having absolutely no idea whether that was good or bad.

After thirty endless seconds, Quinn sniffed and emerged from cover, quickly wiping her eyes. "Seriously?"

Dinah smiled a slow, lazy smile, "Seems to me I was always serious."

Quinn looked at Dinah as she had never allowed herself to look at her before-a look that said she wanted her and would have her.

Dinah exhaled as if she'd been punched.

Quinn stood up and maneuvered from around the desk, "I'm glad you stopped by, because I do have a birthday present for you-I just have to finish wrapping it."

She peered into a cabinet, retrieved something and, after five seconds, turned around with a bow between her collarbones, herself as the present. "I hope it fits."

Dinah stared. "I know it will."

Quinn sat in Dinah's lap and Dinah put her arms around her. They could each feel their hearts hammering.

Dinah looked her over and said, "The wrapping's so pretty, I almost don't want to unwrap it...but I guess I'd better."

"Yes. You'd better."

They looked into each others eyes, finding again the thing they always had found with each other-no barriers, no distance. The distance they felt with everything and everyone else did not exist between them.

"Let's talk."