continued from Doppelganger part 2
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 began...to 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.
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?"
"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?>
<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, have...fun, 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.
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."
"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're...so 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 were...seven 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.
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.
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."
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?"
And...it 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.
"You're fucking kidding me!" Helena's voice had risen a half octave.
"Uh...no." 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.
"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 coolest...to 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 thought...aw, 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.
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-"
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.
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.
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 felt...it 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.
Barbara assented instantly.
No other words were necessary.
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.
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.
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. On...one 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 happened...as 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.
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.
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."
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.
Meanwhile...in 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.
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 her...sweet...sexy...genius 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."
"You're late, you know."
The man gulped a bit before answering.
"Old habits die hard, huh?"
"My Puddin's giving you a shot-but surely you realize at this point it's a 'last chance' sort of thing. Which means...you 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.
"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.
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."
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 please...be ready for...anything."
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.
"Oh, I'm sorry, was I MUMBLING? I SAID YOU DON'T GET TO MAKE EVERY DECISION IN THIS HOUSE! Copy THAT, ORACLE?
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, uh...how '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.
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?"
"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!"
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.
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.
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.
"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...no...wait-a-second...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. "Okay...you'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.
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.>
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?"
"Yeah...you 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?"
"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.
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'?"
"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 I...how 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."
"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.
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 now...now, 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're...so...many, 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."
"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.
continued in Doppelganger part 4