Just A Matter of Time
A BoP TV Story (B/H)
Chapter 9 - Requests
"Barbara, aren't you ready yet?" her increasingly impatient father called up stairs, looking at his watch. They had to leave shortly if they were going to be on time to the policeman's benefit dinner.
"In a minute," she called downstairs as she paused to look in the mirror and nodded with satisfaction. Her makeup adequately covered her bruises.
"You said that fifteen minutes ago," he complained as she descended the stairs in a beautiful green dress that accentuated her eyes as well as her curvy figure.
His eyes narrowed. "I'm not so sure you should be wearing that."
"Why? Isn't it ok? I thought I looked pretty good in it . . . ," Barbara said with a frown, having thought she looked fine.
"You look too good, dear. I'm going to have to bring my sidearm to keep the drooling masses off of you," Jim Gordon said with a frown. His little girl was growing up way too fast.
Barbara beamed at the compliment and kissed him on the cheek. "You won't need to bring a gun, daddy. I know some very effective self-defense moves," she said with a grin, making him frown deeper, not liking the idea of his little girl having to defend herself from some low-life. She's too good to ever have to deal with anything like that, he firmly thought.
"We'd better get a move on it. Can't have the Commissioner be late to the police benefit," he said gruffly, opening the door for his daughter, who forced a smile as she left the house. When he put a hand on her back as they walked out, she sucked in a pained breath, her injuries from several nights ago not yet healed.
"Are you all right?" Jim asked with surprise.
"Ah, I guess I'm just a little . . . ticklish, sorry," she said sheepishly with a shrug.
He smiled indulgently. "You know, Dick Grayson will be there tonight," he offered innocently.
"Oh?" Barbara said politely. Her father thought, for some reason, that they should date. While he had become much more interesting since she learned he was the Boy Wonder, it wasn't enough to make her want to date him.
"He and Bruce Wayne have always been great supporters of the police," Jim continued as his daughter dutifully nodded.
"Do not worry, mon ami. We just need to dazzle them with our wonderful music. They did not invite us here to check our residency status," Monique whispered in Helena's ear with amusement.
Helena frowned as they waited behind the stage to be introduced. "Merveilleux," Helena exhaled unenthusiastically. For someone not trying to draw attention to herself, she was doing a spectacularly bad job….
"You worry too much," Monique chided, putting a comforting arm around her waist, and squeezed. "It will all work out, trust me," she offered, having been worried about her friend "Snow" since she came back to the apartment a few nights ago really shaken up. She had hardly ventured away from the apartment, save for practice and their performances. As much as Monique tried to get her to open up, she would not.
"Oui. But it is in my nature," Helena said, getting a wry smile from Monique.
"You sound more Russian than French," she joked, making Helena wonder if she had any Russian ancestry. "I bet you will enjoy tonight, in spite of yourself. You love the challenge of requests, no?"
"When they are good songs, oui. But last night? Dear God, how could anyone want to hear "Life in a Northern Town" more than once??" Helena complained, still trying to get that song out of her head, starting to relax a bit as they bantered.
"He tipped us handsomely for that, mon ami. Do not let your artistic sensibilities allow you to forget that the rent is still due at the end of the month," Monique said with a grin, squeezing her waist once again.
"If they ask for that tonight, I swear I will . . . ." Helena huffed.
"Will what, mon ami?" Monique interjected with amusement.
"Sing flat," she threatened, making Monique chuckle.
The announcer introduced the eight person ensemble as the Simpaticos. "Our cue, mon ami!" Monique said with enthusiasm as she glided confidently to the stage, in front of Gotham City's finest.
"Our cue," Helena muttered, following with the rest of the ensemble.
Barbara and her father were at the same table as Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson, who looked very handsome in their expensive suits. As they chatted with her father, she could sense their eyes on her, though never caught them overtly staring. Bruce Wayne seemed to be assessing her, which she suspected was because Alfred had mentioned something to him about her activities a few nights ago and her need for mentorship. Dick was just looking her over, she concluded, resisting the urge to roll her eyes and smack him.
"So you are going to graduate with a Bachelor's in . . . ?" Dick said with an easy smile, expressing interest in the young woman's accomplishments.
"Physics, Literature, and Education," Barbara answered with a polite smile, sipping her soda as Bruce and her father were discussing the latest rash of crimes by the Riddler. "I am also working on a Masters in Information Technology," she felt compelled to supply. "After that, possibly a Doctorate, but I'm not sure."
"Wow," he responded, genuinely impressed with this teenager's academic accomplishments. "Very diverse . . . subjects," Dick said, sipping his beer. "Couldn't make up your mind, huh?" He joked.
"Why should I limit myself to one area?" Barbara said pointedly, daring him to say something stupid.
"Why indeed," Dick said smoothly.
"Good answer," she said with mild amusement.
"Well, I do have a healthy survival instinct," Dick noted with a smirk, making Barbara reluctantly smile, having to admit he was charming.
"It has served you well so far," Barbara allowed, getting Dick to grin at her and sip his beer.
"Ah, the entertainment," he said with relief.
Helena could feel her presence, even if the irritating spot lights of the stage made it hard to see the audience. Just play, she told herself as she sat behind the piano and adjusted her sunglasses nervously. The other musicians in their eight member ensemble quickly positioned themselves on stage.
"Bonjour, mesdames et messieurs," Monique said with a big smile, having the attention of all guests, save one, who was intently focused on the white-haired piano player.
Barbara's heart pounded with anticipation. It's her….
"We are the Simpaticos, here to bring you a variety of musical treats tonight, from Jazz classics to the popular music of today. And please, should the music move you, feel free to get up and dance," she said, waving her hand towards the small dance floor in front of the stage.
Monique looked back to the ensemble and nodded. The lighting changed to better illuminate the dance floor and encourage dancing. After the second, very danceable Jazz tune, "April in Paris," some of the guests started to get up and give dancing a go.
The music flowed and as another slow ballade, "Bewitched Bothered and Bewildered" started, more guests started to get up to dance. Not surprisingly, the older guests seemed to really enjoy the slower ballades. Helena smiled, spotting an older couple that she guessed were in their eighties, dancing with practiced ease, clearly enjoying each other. It warmed Helena's heart to think it was actually possible to find someone and have a long and loving relationship. She smiled as she tickled the ivories and Monique sang beautifully.
"Care to dance, Barbara?" Jim Gordon asked, receiving a smile that Dick found mesmerizing. Barbara was very beautiful girl, he thought as he watched her take her father's offered hand.
Glancing out into the audience again, Helena spotted Barbara, getting up to dance with her father. God, Helena thought, mesmerized by the teen, her eyes eagerly drinking in her beautiful and graceful movements on the dance floor. Barbara was smiling and dancing, she thought with wonder, something she never had imagined she would see for herself. Her heart began to ache as she thought of what Barbara had lost…or rather would lose, and the heavy burdens she willingly and constantly bore as Oracle.
Other strong feelings welled up within her when she saw Dick Grayson cut in on Barbara's dance with her father.
Jim grinned knowingly at the young man. "Have fun, kids," he said patting Dick on the back.
Barbara stopped dancing and looked at him, clearly unimpressed with his move. "Aw come on Babs, the music moves me," he said with a charming smile.
"It could have very easily moved you to someone else, Dick," Barbara countered. "I'm sure there's bound to be at least one woman here who wouldn't mind dancing with you."
He chuckled, not offended by her sarcasm. "Ah, but I don't want to dance with any of them. I want to dance with the prettiest girl here," he said smoothly, taking her hand and placing his on her waist.
"Girl?" Barbara challenged.
"Woman, of course. But girl or woman, you are by far the prettiest here," he said smoothly.
"Does that really work for you? The overt flattery?" Barbara asked curiously as they danced to "I'm Beginning To See the Light."
"Ah, it's not flattery, Barbara. It's a statement of fact. You are the prettiest here," he said triumphantly, then frowned when the song finished.
"May I have another dance?" he quickly asked as they clapped for the band.
"Merci, merci. We will be taking a short break and will return in fifteen minutes," Monique said.
"Excuse me, Dick, I need to take a break too," Barbara said politely, eyeing where the band had exited off the stage before following.
Bruce Wayne walked up behind a frowning Dick, both men watching Barbara leave. "You'd think if she really wants to join us, she'd at least try to get into my good graces," he complained.
"The fact that she's not trying to, actually speaks well of her character," Bruce offered thoughtfully, not seeing Dick's frown deepen.
"Do you really think she's serious?" Dick asked, knowing not to bring up her young age as he had not been any older when he started - though it still did not feel right to him for a young woman to be out on the streets at night, regardless of why.
"I'm sure we'll see soon enough. The ball's in her court. I hope she knows it," Bruce said, patting his former ward on the back before leaving him to chat with the mayor.
Barbara's heart raced as she followed the white-haired stranger into the ladies room backstage.
"I thought I'd never see you again," Barbara gushed anxiously, instinctively reaching out to touch her forearm, oddly compelled to make physical contact. Perhaps to make sure she was real, Barbara vaguely considered.
"This is not a good time," Helena blurted with quiet concern, glancing to a stall.
Barbara quickly retracted her hand, wanting to kick herself for her impulsiveness as Monique flushed and exited.
As she went to the sink, Monique carefully looked over the very attractive young redhead, then glanced to her band mate with a raised brow of interest.
"You know, Snow," she spoke in French as she turned to the sink and washed her hands. "I'm a firm believer that love should transcend all, but it may have a few undesirable consequences, especially with an underage, female partner and a room full of policemen that includes her father," Monique said with a thin smile, glancing at Helena in the mirror as she touched up her makeup.
Barbara frowned, not understanding French, finding it rather rude to deliberately exclude someone from the conversation.
"She's a friend, Monique," Helena hissed also in French.
Monique smiled and gently kissed Helena on the cheek. "Just be careful, all right?" she whispered into her ear and left the two.
"What was that about?" Barbara asked tersely, surprising herself with the level of her annoyance.
"An incorrect assumption, mon ami," Helena hedged. "How is your side?" she said, looking at Barbara's ribs with concern.
"Still tender. What incorrect assumption?" Barbara persisted, causing Helena to cringe. "Tell me," she demanded, uncertain why she was so agitated.
"She believes we're having a . . . romantic tryst," Helena relented uncomfortably, catching Barbara off guard.
"What??" Barbara blurted in confusion as she digested that idea - an idea that had never occurred to her before . . . with a woman. Surprisingly, the thought was not entirely unwelcome, she considered with a flush. Though, she wondered if perhaps the unnerving attraction to this woman was due to the help and encouragement she had received from her, something that oddly no one she actually knew had ever given her.
"I know," Helena agreed with irritation. "It is certainly something I would not do," she added, firmly dismissing the clearly unpleasant thought.
A moment ago, Barbara would never have imagined feeling so hurt by the rejection of a woman. Now, this rejection stung like no other. She frowned, trying to understand the surprising distress.
"For God's Sake, we're in a public bathroom," Helena added with irritation and shook her head.
Barbara blinked, then blushed.
Barbara felt bolder than she had ever felt before. "I don't mind. We're alone now," she said confidently, stepping up and sliding her arms possessively around Margay as she pressed her lips against the older woman's. Margay resisted only a moment before melting into the growing desire.
Barbara pushed Margay back against the bathroom wall, then quickly found herself on her back in a soft bed, naked. Her eyes shut as a shower of kisses reverently caressed her skin. When the kisses stopped, Barbara opened her eyes to see Margay's pink eyes and white hair morph into Helena's blue eyes and dark hair. How could she have not made the connection before, she wondered as she watched the vibrant blue transform into golden slits, hungry with desire. A new wave of arousal washed over her.
Helena's hand slowly traced over her skin, coaxing delicious tingles that brought her closer to the elusive peak she craved. When Helena's talented fingers found her aching center, she didn't enter, causing Barbara to moan in frustration. Helena provoked more need as she expertly caressed Barbara's moist folds as she reverently and slowly kissed her neck, then collar bone, then chest. "Please," Barbara begged and bucked, wanting more, which she ultimately got - but not as expected; Helena's moist and warm mouth covered a hard nipple, teasing and suckling.
Her womanhood clenched and throbbed in time with Helena's oral ministrations. "God," Barbara hissed, amazed she was still conscious after the sensuous assault. When Helena's fingers finally and firmly plunged into the now-dripping wetness, Barbara moaned. It did not take many strokes before an orgasm washed over her, making her shake with delicious pleasure.
"Ohh," Barbara whimpered as she abruptly woke from the intoxicating dream. Her eyes blinked rapidly as she caught her breath from the climax that still had her body humming.
She placed her forearm against her damp forehead a moment as she caught her breath. Running a shaky hand through her hair, she heavily exhaled, startled by the unexpected and overwhelming response. She had never before climaxed from a dream. And since the shooting, she had not been able to climax at all. But here she was, her body still throbbing in the afterglow of an erotic dream, she considered with amazement, her hand reaching down, collecting the surprising evidence that liberally coated her fingers.
But it wasn't just any dream. It was about Helena, who had always made her question her feelings, even when it was clear she had to distance herself from the persistent and mesmerizing teen with a huge crush on her. And over time, that teen became a woman - a breathtakingly beautiful and sensuous woman who continued to shamelessly flirt with her. But Helena flirted with everyone, she considered, unable to really believe that the young, vivacious woman, with her string of conquests, would ever be truly satisfied with a paraplegic partner. How could she be, Barbara considered; the two lovers she had since the shooting, Dick and Wade, both good men, were frustrated when she didn't respond as they had hoped.
Dick had the most trouble as he had known what she was like before the shooting. But that relationship would have been doomed even if she were walking, she considered, knowing Dick had always hated the fact she could run intellectual circles around him. Her paralysis only served to terminate their relationship sooner; Dick had prided himself on his sexual prowess, which could no longer bring her pleasure.
She was not surprised to see the disappointment in Wade's eyes after his own climax as he tried to tell her how wonderful she was. She expected that it was just a matter of time before he too would ultimately find her lack of responsiveness too much for his ego to handle.
While they had made her feel wanted and almost normal, at least outside of the bedroom, she did not become too emotionally invested in their relationships knowing they were unlikely to last. She knew that if Wade decided to end their relationship, as Dick had, she would not be devastated.
"God," Barbara exhaled, knowing that her cautious navigation through her personal life to protect her fragile heart had done nothing to protect herself from the devastation that would drown her if Helena never returned home.
"I've got to get back, our next set is starting," Helena said nervously, quickly exiting the bathroom.
Barbara followed her out. "Will I see you again?" she blurted anxiously, cringing at how desperate she sounded.
"Barbara?" Dick Grayson called out, finally spotting her. Barbara glanced at him with irritation then refocused on the fleeing white-haired musician to find she had returned to the stage. She had to wonder why it was so important for her to hear the woman's answer . . . and why she so desperately wanted that answer to be yes.
"Everything all right?" Dick asked, seemingly genuinely interested.
"Fine, Dick. Let's go back and listen to the music, OK?" She offered with a smile.
He grinned and politely held out his arm, which she stared at a moment before taking a belabored breath, leaving him and his arm behind as she walked back to their table alone.
"You know, Babs. A little kindness can go a long way," Dick called out.
"That's exactly what I'm afraid of, Dick," Barbara said bluntly.
The guests were happy to see the ensemble return and clapped enthusiastically.
"Merci, Merci!" Monique said with a pleased smile. "And now a special treat. We will now be taking requests. Now there is a catch," she cautioned. "For each song requested, one hundred dollars must be donated to the Policemen's benevolent fund," she said, prompting appreciative applause. "And, as a special incentive, Mr. Bruce Wayne will match that amount and double it if you can "stump the band," she said, getting a delighted response from the crowd. "Stand up Mr. Wayne, s'il vous plait," Monique said, clapping for the billionaire.
Helena watched her estranged father stand with narrow eyes. He politely waved and nodded at the enthusiastic crowd. When he pulled out his checkbook from his breast pocket, he turned to the band and looked at each of them in challenge. "I hope you are as good and as fair as Ms. Devereux says you are," he said, getting laughter from the audience.
He was smooth, Helena had to admit with reluctant appreciation.
"Not to worry, Mr. Wayne. The Simpaticos have never been stumped, a record we are not anxious to break, even for a cause as worthy as the Policemen's benefit," Monique said with a grin, knowing Mr. Wayne had privately offered an incentive to them and the charity to not be stumped.
As two uniformed police officers went around the guests, collecting the donations and song requests, Monique went over to Helena and put her hand over the microphone. "I hear he's single," she whispered in French, waggling her eyebrows suggestively.
"So is it a love that transcends all, including his bank book?" Helena asked in French, making Monique laugh and caress her cheek before returning to the stage.
"Well, we might be here all night!" Monique joked, seeing the bowl overflowing with requests. She pulled out the first slip of paper with a big smile. "Let the games begin!"
After several not very challenging songs that were performed well, Monique pulled out another slip of paper. "Ah, this one is from . . . Mr. Wayne," she smiled. "A Tom Jones fan, I take it?" she said, prompting Bruce to nod with a polite smile, getting curious looks, including Helena's.
"What's New Pussycat!" Monique announced to the crowd, who were surprised when Helena snorted with laughter.
Barbara looked over to Bruce, who eyed the laughing woman with uncomfortable curiosity.
"Sorry," Helena said clearing her throat, struggling to tamp down her amusement. "I thought . . . he was more of a dog-man," she offered lamely, shrugging. "But an excellent choice for either dog or cat lovers," Helena added magnanimously with a grin. A few in the audience chuckled, amused by the young woman's reaction though not really understanding it.
"Do you want the lead?" Monique offered in amusement.
"But of course, mon ami," she said with enthusiasm, turning to her keyboard. The ensemble quickly melded together, as they had done with each selection so far, and presented a good rendition of the song, which Helena sang with gusto.
"What's new pussy cat? Whoa oh, whoa oh whoa, oh! What's new pussy cat…."
Bruce Wayne sat back and watched the white-haired musician who seemed oddly . . . familiar.
"And last, but not least," Monique announced, looking into the bowl as she pulled out the last slip of paper. "Well, this is interesting," Monique said vaguely, glancing to Helena. "And I think this a challenge for you . . . Snow," she said, walking over to Helena and presenting her with the request.
"Snow? What kind of lame name is that?" Dick whispered to Barbara, who had been mesmerized by the white-haired performer all night.
"Well, if you had read the flyer, you would realize "Snow White" is obviously a stage name. And she does have white hair," Barbara said tersely, oddly compelled to defend this stranger's stage name.
"But the sunglasses?" Dick continued with amusement. "What is she, a vampire, or something?" That clearly ridiculous suggestion made Barbara pause an uneasy moment as a surprising blush rose up. She quickly took a sip of ice water.
"This request is from the Police Commissioner," Helena offered with a thoughtful look. There were some mummers in the audience as the guests discussed the possible requests.
Jim leaned over to Bruce and said smugly. "You're going to pay up on this one, Bruce."
"Well?" Monique asked, knowing the whole audience was curious.
Helena cracked her neck, then laced her fingers together and cracked them too, as if she was going to do battle with the piano. "Listen, mon ami. Then ask if the Commissioner is satisfied," she finally said mysteriously, making Monique shake her head. Her friend had a natural flair for showmanship. Hopefully she could perform the piece as well, she considered.
The audience grew excited knowing the pianist had been challenged by the Commissioner.
Barbara looked curiously at her father, who grinned at her, making her worried that this could be the song that finally stumped the band.
As Helena's hands descended to the keys, a simple, familiar child's tune came forth, causing the audience to chuckle. "Twinkle, twinkle little star?" Dick said condescendingly with an amused smirk.
"Actually it's the twelve variations of "Ah vous dirai-je maman," by Mozart, old chum," Bruce corrected, glancing over to Jim Gordon, whose smug look faded as the pianist progressed through each of Mozart's increasingly complex variation with fluid grace and amazing ease.
Barbara's smile grew with each variation as she watched this Snow White (which she had to admit was a silly stage name) play with clear joy. A joy she could feel, making the performance that much more mesmerizing.
After the final chord was struck, there was a moment of stunned silence before it was shattered by Barbara's delighted laughter as she stood and enthusiastically clapped. The pianist looked right at her and smiled broadly. In that instant, Barbara felt a connection she had never experienced before, almost forgetting there was anyone else at the banquet. In that instant, Barbara knew that the beautiful smile she received was because the pianist had entertained her. The thought caused her stomach to flutter as another blush washed over her.
Dick looked between the two and frowned as the audience finally caught up to Barbara and bolted onto their feet, clapping with great vigor for the young woman who had bested their clever Commissioner with her surprising talent.
Bruce grinned at Jim, who shook his head, then chuckled as he too stood. "Well, at least the youngsters these days are still learning the classics," he offered with a shrug, getting Bruce to chuckle.
Monique rushed over to her friend and kissed both cheeks and hugged her as she laughed. "What other talents have you hidden from me?" she whispered in her ear.
Helena just smiled and looked slyly at her friend, who just laughed and caressed her cheek, causing Barbara's smile to fade.
"With that, mes amis, we conclude this very enjoyable evening and bid you adieu," Monique said, waving to the clapping crowd as the band left the stage.
As Barbara quickly got up to follow the band, Dick grasped her forearm. "Hey, where's the fire?" he asked with a charming smile.
"Let go, Dick," she ground out, her tone and annoyed glare making him cringe and wisely let go. He frowned as he watched her chase after the band, knowing it wasn't the band she was interested in.
"Where's Barbara going?" Jim Gordon asked.
"Uh . . . she wanted to go thank the musicians for a great performance," Dick said with a shrug.
Jim chuckled and shook his head again. "A hell of a performance, I'll say," he said with amusement, patting Dick on the back. Dick smiled weakly.
"It was a surprise," Bruce allowed, still curious about the pianist's amusement with his song selection. "Something tells me it is not wise to underestimate that woman," he offered quietly to Dick, who nodded, sharing his discomfort.
Outside, Helena waited with Monique on the sidewalk as the men loaded the two vans with the instruments. "You are full of surprises, aren't you?" Monique said, nudging the other woman with a chuckle.
"My mother loved those variations," Helena offered softly, surprising the French singer, who smiled and squeezed her arm.
"She would have been proud today," Monique offered warmly, getting a pleased smile from Helena, who thought Selena actually would have been.
"Hey, uh, hi!" Barbara said, coming up to the two women.
"Soyez prudent, mon ami," Monique said sagely and left the two to their privacy, hoping her friend was going to take her advice and be careful. Though, she had to admit the young woman looked rather delectable in that green dress.
"Hi," Helena said uncomfortably. Barbara really looked amazing tonight.
"I never got to thank you," Barbara said awkwardly.
"There is no need for thanks. You would have done the same," she said, feeling decidedly uncomfortable.
"Are your eyes always sensitive?" Barbara blurted, her curiosity driving the non sequitur.
"What makes you say that?" Helena asked uneasily.
"Uh, well, you seem to always wear sunglasses, even when it's dark out."
"Ah. My eyes are unfortunately very sensitive. I think I have a bad case of pink-eye I can't seem to get rid of," she deadpanned, pulling down her glasses to reveal her eyes.
"You're an albino??" Barbara asked with surprise, then cringed. "Uh, I'm sorry. I mean, it really doesn't matter. Not one bit," she blurted, then noted with surprising amusement "Besides, infinite diversity, infinite combinations as Spock would . . . say." Her amusement faded at the surprised look on the white-haired woman's face.
"Sorry," she blurted self-consciously, wanting to kick herself for being such a geek. No matter how nice and normal she looked, Barbara Gordon knew that she would always be different. "I . . . I just get curious and start asking a lot of questions which annoys . . . well, mostly everyone. So I try not to ask the first thing that pops into my mind but it isn't easy," she said, then fell silent, seeing an amused grin on the woman's face.
Barbara's heart dropped along with her eyes. She had hoped this woman would understand but concluded that she would never really click with anyone.
Helena grimaced at the sudden change of mood that she knew she had caused. Gently, she lifted Barbara's chin and made sure she looked at her. The touch surprised the teen, who felt a pleasant chill run through her as she waited with surprising anticipation.
"You remind me of a dear friend, who is also a nervous talker. And you should never, ever, stop asking your questions, Barbara," Helena said with a smile, happy she recalled a few sage nuggets from her talks with her mentor. "Albert Einstein said the important thing is to . . ."
"Not stop questioning," Barbara interjected in soft amazement, as the woman smiled with a nod and withdrew her hand. Barbara was amazed that the white-haired stranger believed exactly what she did! Feeling emboldened by this kindred spirit, she asked "Uh, well, since you are encouraging me to ask questions . . . how did you know to call Alfred?"
"We all have our secrets, ma chére," Helena offered with a regretful shrug.
The answer disappointed the young woman.
"But rest assured, I will be as discreet as Alfred is with yours," Helena vowed firmly.
Barbara nodded hesitantly; somehow trusting this mesmerizing stranger.
"Thank you, for that and helping me the other night. I'd really like to thank you properly," she said awkwardly, making Helena tense at the implication. "What's your name? I'm not going to call you Snow," Barbara said wryly. "I'd really like to know your real name, or is that a secret too?" she challenged, truly hoping it wasn't.
After silently chastising herself for jumping to dangerous conclusions, Helena smirked and offered "How are you so sure that is not my real name, ma chére? My mother may have been a big Disney fan," Helena suggested with a grin.
"Something tells me she would not have been that cruel," Barbara countered with amusement.
"Ah, but she did have an odd sense of humor," Helena offered.
Barbara eyed her in challenge, enjoying the easy banter with this woman.
Helena sighed as her mind raced. "All right," she relented. "I suppose sharing my name is only fair, since I know yours," she said, feeling the pressure of coming up with something decent. Her eyes were momentarily drawn to a loud truck, noisily shifting gears as it passed them on the dark street. When it passed under a street lamp, she noted the bold logo - the words "Margay Racing" stretched over the side, blending into a picture of a running wildcat.
Returning her gaze to the curious redhead, she smoothly offered with a pleased smile "Margay," adding "Chasseresse" with confidence, thankful it wasn't as lame as her stage name - and it did fit after all.
"That's . . . lovely," Barbara said with a growing smile that lit up her face.
My God Barbara was beautiful, Helena thought uneasily, glancing over to the van where her musician friends were patiently waiting. Monique looked at her with a glare of warning, which wasn't needed. Helena realized this really wasn't a good idea to keep talking with the teen, who looked THAT hot, who was the love of her life, who . . . .
"I am pleased to meet you, Margay Chasseresse," Barbara said formally, holding out her hand.
. . . wanted to touch her! Dear GOD, Helena thought as she smiled weakly and took the teen's hand as good manners dictated.
"And I do want to thank you, Margay," Barbara said sincerely, placing her other hand on top.
"My pleasure, Barbara," Helena said, her mouth becoming dry, feeling an undeniable electricity pass between them. She knew she had to go or she might just wrap her arms around the young woman and . . . . "I must go," Helena blurted, suddenly pulling her hand back.
Each felt the loss.
"But," Barbara blurted, her smile gone. She wondered if she had done something wrong.
"Seriously, ma chére, I must go," Margay said, reaching out to squeeze Barbara's forearm with a sad look. "Be well, mon ami," she whispered and retreated to one of the vans.
Barbara did not like the sound of that good bye. "Will I see . . . ." she asked as Margay climbed in and shut the door. "You again," she exhaled with frustration as the van drove off.
Feeling Monique's stare as they drove away and hearing her finally take a breath, Helena lifted her hand to forestall any comments, hissing "Don't say anything."
"I am sorry, mon ami," Monique said instead, getting a reluctant nod from Margay.
Wrapping her arm around the dejected white-haired musician, she relayed "I must say I prefer Margay to Snow," she said with amusement, getting agreement from the other band members, who nodded approvingly.
"Me too," Helena said with a sigh.
Chapter 10 - No Man's Land
Knowing Barbara, she would be researching the name Margay Chasseresse and coming up empty, of course. The thought that Barbara would learn that she had lied about that bothered her for some reason, even though everything here was a lie, Helena considered with a frown as she entered the bar in No Man's Land. It looked very much like the bar she had previously frequented but under a different name. "Jake's" was the current name. Unoriginal, but at this point Helena was beginning to appreciate just blending in, which was what brought her there.
As she ordered a glass of wine, she received an odd look from the bar tender. "You're new," the older man, about fifty-ish, said gruffly.
"Actually, mon ami, I am twenty five - hardly new," she teased, sipping her wine. She winced slightly at the flavor, making her wish she had just ordered beer.
"Oui," she smiled.
"What's with the dark glasses?"
He nodded, apparently satisfied. As conversations went, Helena had had better.
After a moment, she said "I am told that there are some who would be happy to help someone like me to obtain papers. For a fee, of course," she said, getting the man to eye her uncomfortably.
"How much do you have?" he said with interest. Helena did not miss the glance he gave to a rather large man near the door.
"Ah, mon ami, a woman must have some secrets. The real question is, how much do I need . . . for papers."
The bartender frowned then motioned to a booth in the back with a flick of his chin. Helena glanced in that direction, where an old man sat with a younger man. The forger, she thought with hope.
"Merci," she said with a smile as she got up from her seat. Approaching the booth, she noted the large man by the door following behind her. Great, she thought with a sigh.
"Bonjour, I am Margay Chasseresse and I understand you may be able to help me," Helena said with a smile. "Oh, and if you think your bouncer friend will be laying one finger on me or my property, you will see why I belong in No Man's Land," she said pleasantly, surprising the old man, who nodded to the bouncer who withdrew silently.
"Oui," she said, getting him to chuckle.
"I haven't seen such a pretty meta before. Have a seat. Danny, why don't you get me another drink," he said, getting the younger man to frown and look at Helena with annoyance.
"Merci," she said, accepting the invitation to sit.
"So what do you need?" The old man asked the young woman with a smile.
"Identity papers," Helena said bluntly. "French passport, driver's license . . . the works."
"Hmmm. That will be costly," he said, shaking his head.
"How much?" Helena asked hesitantly.
"Ten thousand dollars."
"Ten?!?" Helena blurted incredulously. It was 1987! How could it possibly be THAT much, she wondered, blinking in amazement.
"Good passports are not easy to make," he explained easily. "And you wanted the works - that includes all the associated computer files."
Helena frowned. She had gotten some really good tips, but not that much.
"How much for something simple - a driver's license?"
"I have five hundred," Helena offered weakly.
She looked at him with a frown. Why did she expect any help in the meta community, she wondered dejectedly. She was truly alone, she concluded with a heavy sigh of defeat. "Well, I guess I'm done," she said softly.
"You are going to just give up?" the old man asked with surprise.
"It's not like a driver's license will get me back home," she said as the reality hit her hard. "I don't have the resources to do that," she said weakly.
The old man eyed the young woman a thoughtful moment. "I'll tell you what, you give me three hundred for a driver's license and two for a work Visa - and you save up for the other paper. I am sure we can strike a more reasonable deal," he mentioned then smiled at her look of surprise. "We have all experienced hard times," he allowed.
"Merci, monsieur," she said with genuine gratitude.
With her new driver's license and Visa in hand, Helena went to the Library and got herself a library card. It was free, which was a beautiful thing. In spite of the uphill battle, she actually expected to keep researching. She wasn't Oracle by any stretch of the imagination, but she wasn't going to give up. Inspiration or a lucky break might still strike….
"There you go, dear," Mrs. Milner said with a smile, handing over the new library card to Helena, who looked at her new name, unable to remember exactly what she did with her first library card - the one Barbara had forced the rebellious teen to get when she first came to live with her. Although, she vaguely recalled something about matches and a melted ball of plastic…
"I had no idea you were from France," she offered with a happy sigh. "I never detected an accent."
Helena blinked. "I have tried to perfect the American accent," Helena said with small shrug and smile, inwardly cringing. Ah, what a tangled web we weave….
"Oh but why, dear? A French accent is so much prettier," Mrs. Milner gushed.
Helena chuckled. "Merci, again, Madame."
Mrs. Milner actually giggled, then sighed wistfully. "You know, I've always dreamed of going there someday."
"You should," Helena said with an encouraging smile. "Traveling has a way of making people see things differently," she added as she felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand up.
"Margay!" Barbara said happily, joining her side. "Hi, Mrs. Milner," she said with a smile, shifting the heavy book bag on her back.
"I didn't know you two knew each other," Mrs. Milner said with a surprised smile.
"Margay is a musician," Barbara enthused. "She played at the policemen's benefit the other night. She even played a classical piece that my dad thought would stump her. She was amazing," she said with a big smile.
Helena couldn't withhold a pleased smile; Barbara really appreciated her playing.
"Is that so?" Mrs. Milner said with interest. "I would have thought you a scientist from all the reading you've been doing," she said with a chuckle.
For God's sake, whatever happened to privacy, Helena wondered with great irritation. Doctors have it with their patients! Lawyers with their clients! Priest's with their congregants!! Librarians should have it with their, their . . . readers!!
"Excuse me, duty calls," Mrs. Milner said politely, leaving them to help another person.
"You enjoy reading about science?" Barbara asked, clearly pleased by that prospect.
"At times," Helena hedged, not thinking it wise to mention she would rather stick hot needles in her eyes while listening to Life in a Northern Town, repeatedly. "So what do you enjoy reading?" Helena quickly asked, hoping Barbara would not sense she was hiding something, which would make her more curious.
And a curious Barbara was like a pit bull on a pork chop.
"All sorts of things," Barbara said absently as she glanced towards three varsity Football players, including Mr. Grabby hands, who stared at them. Helena also noticed them and felt her anger grow.
"So . . . you got your library card?" Barbara said, trying to ignore their uncomfortable stares.
"I did. As much as I appreciate the architecture of this place, it's still a little stuffy," Helena said glancing back over to the Football players. "I'd prefer to read outside or at my apartment."
"I know what you mean, but I find I really need the table space," Barbara said.
Helena nodded her head with a small chuckle. "I've seen you juggle several books with great vigor."
"You have?" Barbara asked shyly, feeling inordinately pleased that Margay had noticed her.
Why did she keep doing this, Helena silently scolded herself, knowing that it was a really bad idea to keep interacting with Barbara.
"You are hard to miss, mon ami," Helena offered honestly. "Even behind your big stacks of books," she added with a grin. The happy smile from the younger woman reminded her exactly why she was compelled to "keep doing this."
"Do you want to get some coffee?" Barbara said suddenly, surprising Helena as she adjusted the heavy book bag on her back. "My treat. I think you've earned it after wiping the smug look off of Daddy's face. Please?"
"I can't . . . ," Helena started, then saw the deflated look on Barbara's face and continued ". . . stay long. I've got to practice."
The smile was back.
Barbara chuckled as she stirred her cappuccino. "Then I started humming Twinkle Twinkle Little Star," she said with a grin.
"You, mon ami, are going to needle him with this as long as you can, I can tell," Helena said with a smirk, sipping her tea.
"Well, it is criminal to waste an opportunity," Barbara declared boldly, then suddenly grew shy, tucking her hair behind her ear, recalling this woman's advice that frightening night.
"How has your quest for a mentor gone?" Helena asked softly.
"Alfred has talked with . . . him . . . but," Barbara said with a heavy sigh.
"He's deciding," Helena said flatly.
"I know I'm young, but no younger than . . . ," Barbara complained but hesitated, not wanting to say names. "his ward when he started."
"Men. They wouldn't know a good woman if she kicked them in the derriere," Helena offered with great irritation, making Barbara snort coffee through her nose.
"Ow. Geeze," Barbara said, quickly grabbing a napkin.
"Sorry, mon ami," Helena said, trying not to laugh, also getting a napkin.
"I'm sure you are," Barbara said flatly, then reluctantly chuckled as she dabbed the coffee off her face.
Without thinking, Helena reached over and held her chin, holding the napkin over her cheek. She froze, noticing the surprised look on Barbara's face. "Missed a spot…." Helena said weakly and quickly finished the task.
"Thanks," Barbara said shyly with a blush, wondering if she should spill something else on herself.
You Idiot! Helena silently chastised herself. "Perhaps," Helena quickly said, gaining Barbara's undivided and hopeful attention. "…you need to get his attention," she suggested with a smile.
Barbara sighed with disappointment, hoping for Margay's attention. "I'm guessing you mean something other than what happened on my first outing?" She said with a frown, her side still sore.
"Oui. My mother used to say that if you wait for opportunity to knock, you're gathering moss," Helena said dryly.
Barbara blinked, having to admit there was some logic to that. "And I wouldn't want to . . . gather moss," she responded with mild amusement.
"Exactly," Helena said with a smile. "Let's walk," she said, standing up, offering "I think better when I'm moving."
They slowly walked through the park towards the Gotham University Campus. Barbara enjoyed this time of year when the air was brisk and the trees turned color. She looked over to her intriguing companion.
"What did you have in mind?" Barbara asked with interest, shifting her book bag on her shoulder.
"What would compel him to want to mentor you?" Helena countered, recalling how Barbara would answer her questions with questions. That was really frustrating, she recalled with a small smile, though knew it was a good tool for getting you to think.
"Using the Socratic method on me, hmm?" Barbara asked with a smile.
So that's what you call it, Helena considered and paused, looking at her innocently. "What would make you say that?"
Barbara chuckled. "All right, I think he would need to know I was sincere."
"If he thought I had something to add," Barbara offered.
"What else?" Helena asked.
"I'm going to need to talk with him," Barbara said worriedly.
"You should get him to invite you to," Helena said with a smirk as an idea formed.
"I could get arrested for this!" Barbara hissed softly as she logged onto her school's computer.
Helena stood behind her and rolled her eyes at the future Oracle. Thankfully, the cyber crime-fighter had gotten over her little aversion to hacking.
"Couldn't I just write him a letter and have Alfred deliver it?" Barbara asked uneasily, glancing nervously around the cubicle's partition and not finding anyone nearby.
"Hmm," Helena responded thoughtfully. "How's your hand writing?" she asked, knowing Barbara had sloppy script.
Barbara's eyes narrowed at Margay, then returned her attention to Plan A. "All right, I'm in the Wayne Industry Main Frame," Barbara said, typing away at the keyboard and getting a prompt for a password. "Great. I'm going to need to run another illegal program to crack his password so I can illegally access his email. Just great."
"You seem tense," Helena offered innocently, getting an irritated look from the redhead.
"I must have had too much caffeine today," Barbara muttered.
"Let me," Helena said, motioning for the redhead to give her access to the keyboard.
As Barbara moved to the side, she could not help but take in the scent of the woman hovering so close to her. Nice perfume, she considered watching Margay type in a password confidently and hit enter.
A red screen popped up reading "ACCESS DENIED."
"You just used up one of three attempts!" Barbara hissed in panic. "After three, we'll be locked out and they'll know someone was trying to break in!"
"Barbara, if you're successful, he'll know you broke in," Helena said with calm reason, causing Barbara to frown.
Helena shook her head and tried the password again. When she hit enter, Barbara blinked with surprise, seeing the password accepted. "How. . .??" she blurted with amazement.
Helena shrugged. "The ball is in your court, mon ami."
Barbara was torn. While she really wanted to probe why Margay knew Bruce Wayne's password, she really did not want to stay logged into his account for any longer than was necessary. Her fear of getting into trouble made her turn her attention to the screen and composing her email.
Later that evening, Helena reached under her bed and pulled out a small cardboard box. Sitting with one foot tucked under her, she placed the box down next to her and pulled out one of the hourglass pieces. She eyed it critically, like she had done every night since she arrived, as if somehow she could extract its secrets and find a way home. But like every night before, she was left with a pile of broken pieces and no answers.
She knew she had already affected history by getting involved with Barbara's initial outing as Batgirl. But she rationalized that since Barbara had survived it in her timeline that her involvement, which she thought necessary due to the ridiculous odds the young teen faced, had only kept the status quo. But tonight, something had shifted. Something had her really worried.
It was getting too personal - though her heart screamed otherwise. Recalling the day they shared, a small smile reluctantly emerged at Barbara's panic at the idea of hacking. A memory she would cherish, like all of those she shared with Barbara, young and old.
But she couldn't keep getting involved with Barbara's life. The attraction was growing between them and it just couldn't be. For one thing, a sixteen year old Barbara was too young, as Monique had warned her the other night. She didn't have to be reminded of her age, knowing that was a line she would not cross. She also knew that even if Barbara was a little older and no longer jailbait, Barbara would eventually choose another, which she knew would devastate her if they got intimately involved. Her heart already ached enough, without adding that complication.
She didn't belong here. She had to go home, she concluded, pulling out folded sheets from the box. Opening the paper, she glanced over the names of prominent researchers and their contributions to the field of temporal mechanics. Each one had promising experiments, if the science magazines and texts had correctly reported. But how could she possibly bring the needed resources to bear to solve her problem? And if one of these scientists actually helped her find a way home, how could she trust that they wouldn't use it for their own nefarious purposes? David Clinton was a two-bit thief. But what if someone more creative and power hungry got a hold of the technology enabling time travel?
Every time she thought through the possibilities, she thought of more reasons to worry. With a feeling of helplessness, she placed the pieces in the box and shoved them back under the bed. When she felt helpless, she grew angry. When she was angry, she needed to move.
Helena ran like her life depended on it, though it was more for her sanity. She ran through the night, jumping from building to building, until she grew too tired to run and too tired to jump. Where she ended up when she was ready to collapse was not a surprise. The Clock Tower beckoned to her, even though she grew to hate it for not being Barbara's Clock Tower.
She sat on the ledge and took deep breaths as the cool breeze caressed her. She looked over the familiar city, never feeling so alone. She had never really been alone before. She always had someone to depend on. Her mother, then Barbara and even the Kid, she thought, smirking at the utter and obnoxious glee Dinah would express if she ever found out. Her smirk faded as she realized that Dinah wasn't even born yet.
There was absolutely no one she could turn to for help, she thought as tears of despair filled her eyes. As the fiercely independent Huntress wiped them away with irritation, she noticed a light suddenly appear in the sky, piercing through the darkness.
"You've got to be fucking me," Helena blurted, staring at the bat-signal.
Chapter 11 - Getting Help
Helena pressed the ornate doorbell, feeling decidedly uncomfortable as the deep chimes echoed through the large residence. This was the last place she thought she would ever want to visit, let alone come for help. But she was desperate.
After a few moments, the front door opened. "May I help . . . you?" Alfred said hesitantly, immediately recognizing the white-haired woman wearing sunglasses.
"I hope so, Alfred," Helena said with a weak smile. "I need to speak with Mr. Wayne about something important."
Alfred frowned. "Mr. Wayne is a busy man, Miss."
"Margay Chasseresse," she supplied, feeling comfortable with that name.
Alfred nodded. "Perhaps you can make an appointment and come back at a more convenient time, Miss Margay?"
"Is he truly busy at the moment, Alfred, or is this stalling to underscore the fact that the billionaire is far more important than the average, lowly citizen who really needs his help?" Helena challenged, getting Alfred to shift uneasily.
"Let me see if he is available," Alfred said tersely, clearly not pleased with the young woman's accusation.
Helena waited in the foyer, studying the paintings that adorned the walls. Bruce Wayne certainly did have an interesting taste in art, she considered, squinting at a particularly appealing water color that caught her eye.
"That was painted by my mother," the deep voice announced, startling her. She turned to see Bruce Wayne enter the room and join her.
"The scene draws you in," Helena said honestly, ignoring her discomfort around the billionaire. "The colors are moody and yet . . . compelling. The composition makes me sad, like I am missing out on something . . . like the painter is," she said, amazed that this art came from Granny Wayne, having always thought her artistic side came from her mother.
She reluctantly turned to the man who influenced so many and yet to her, would always be the man who ran away. "I am Margay Chasseresse, Mr. Wayne," she said, eyeing him closely.
"Alfred said you had something important to discuss with me. It wouldn't happen to be about a certain teenaged female who emailed me, would it?" He said with a knowing smile.
She looked at him with interest. "No. Although, I would encourage you to take her seriously. This "teen" will prove to be an incredible asset to you, if you are smart enough to mentor her."
He chuckled. "I thought you came here to ask for some help, but you end up giving me advice on how to deal with an adolescent . . . female?"
Helena's eyes narrowed. She really wanted to show him what a "female" could do to his billionaire ass, but smiled instead. "You surprise me, Mr. Wayne. For someone who knows that some of the most dangerous criminals out there are female, it is amazing you are unable to comprehend that some of the most successful crime fighters could also be female. Why is that?"
Bruce eyed her. There was something incredibly irritating about her. "With the information you know, I am certain you are dangerous, Miss Chasseresse," he said, deliberately not answering the question, giving Helena some small pleasure she had called him on his prejudice. She figured Commissioner Gordon was also cut from the same cloth.
"And you are most certainly female. I don't suppose blackmail has crossed your mind?" He asked conversationally, as if he hadn't just insulted her.
"Well, it didn't before you mentioned it," she said with irritation. "I had hoped to get your help the old fashioned way, and just ask. You are known for righting wrongs and being generous with your help. But then, perhaps I shouldn't have been so quick to believe all the hype," Helena said tersely and turned towards the exit, surprising him.
"Exactly what help are you seeking, Miss Chasseresse?" He called out, more and more curious about this woman.
Helena stopped, knowing it was paramount to not let her anger get in the way. Whether she liked it or not, he was the last resort. Taking a calming breath, she turned toward the billionaire. "I need help getting home," she said.
"Where is your home?" the billionaire asked, sensing it wasn't as simple as it sounded.
"The more appropriate question, Mr. Wayne, is when," she said somberly.
His brow rose in surprise.
"Care for something?" Bruce Wayne asked, motioning to the impressively stocked wet bar.
Tempted to ask for something exotic to see just how well stocked it really was, she dismissed the idea, thinking it prudent to just focus on the issue at hand. "No thanks," she said, looking around the study curiously.
"Have a seat," Bruce motioned to the couch as he sat in a chair adjacent to her.
"You say you should be in 2005 but are here, in 1987," he said without judgment, which surprised her. He seemed to take her claims in stride, not once letting her know what he was thinking.
"Oui," she said uncomfortably.
"Why do you think I can help you?" He asked curiously.
"You have resources that no one else has," she said plainly.
"Why would I use them?" He asked bluntly.
Electing not to answer that he really owed her for not being there when her mother died, she opted for a more immediate argument. "Because I am affecting history. The longer I stay here the more impact I will have. I shouldn't be here. It's wrong and you right wrongs, do you not?"
Bruce looked at her thoughtfully then asked "How did you travel back in
the first place?"
He curiously watched as she frowned and pulled the large bag off her shoulder. She reached inside the bag and pulled out a box, placing it on the coffee table. His eyes were on the box as she opened it, revealing parts of . . . something.
"An hourglass. As you can see, it's broken now," she said as he slowly reached in and picked up a piece to inspect. It appeared to be made of gold, inlaid with precious stones. If this woman was trying to con him, she would have to have put up some real money for this prop, he considered.
"Where did you get it?" He asked, picking up another piece for inspection.
"A thief I was trying to stop from robbing Hillman's Antiques," she said, getting a surprised look. "The hourglass was in the store and he seemed to know it had some sort of power. He managed to escape the first time I saw him; I didn't realize he jumped forward in time. Then I found him robbing the store a second time, with the hourglass in his hand. I thought he was nuts for bringing the items he had stolen previously with him," she said, shaking her head. "But it must have been only seconds later for him. When I grabbed the hourglass, he managed to push me back into the display case, that's when it must have been damaged," she said, looking at her hand that had since healed. "I noticed a dent in the side before it started to hum. The next thing I know, it shattered and the sand sprayed everywhere. The pain was . . . excruciating," she said tensely. "After getting over the pain, I noticed it was day, I was in 1987, and looking like this," she said with a frown, pulling down her glasses to reveal her pink eyes.
"You are a crime fighter?" he asked curiously.
"That is the first question that comes to mind?" Helena asked incredulously.
"Actually, yes," he admitted honestly. "Do I . . . will we work toge . . . ?" he asked with great interest.
"Mr. Wayne," she interrupted. "The less you know about the future, the less impact I'll have," she said.
He eyed her. "This situation raises some fascinating philosophical questions. Would you not want to change things for the better?"
Helena looked at him uncomfortably. "What if something worse happens?"
"Of course," he said neutrally and picked up another piece.
"You seem to be taking this rather well. Especially the part where I, a mere woman, could fight crime like the big boys," she said with a thin smile.
He looked at her with a scowl. "Miss Chasseresse, I do appreciate a resourceful woman and understand the contributions she can make to crime fighting. But the operative word is woman," he offered.
"You do realize that she is likely try again, with or without your help?" Helena countered. "She's stubborn, brilliant, and has a calling, which could get her killed without the right guidance."
Bruce shifted in his chair with a frown.
Sensing it time to change the subject, she pulled out her notes from her bag. "I've done a bit of research on the leading theorists and their work in temporal mechanics but it doesn't look like any of them have gotten very far," she said handing the list to him with a grimace.
"Hmmm," he said reading the list, thankful for the subject change. "I'm familiar with some of these efforts," he said, gaining a surprised look. "I donate to research I find interesting," he explained.
"Right. Interesting," she replied flatly. "So what do you think the chances are for any of those efforts to get me home?"
"Unlikely," he said, returning the list to her.
"So, that's it then? I'm stuck here?" she said weakly.
"Not necessarily. If this worked in 2005," he said, holding up a piece. "I would guess it would in 1987."
For the first time, Helena was hopeful and a smile appeared. As she thought through what that really meant, her smile disappeared. "But if I take the hourglass with me, then it won't exist where it was the time I first used it. I wouldn't have gone back and Barbara . . . ," she said worriedly.
"And Barbara, what?" Bruce interjected with concern.
"She went out alone that night, Mr. Wayne. As I have told you she is prone to do. She needed my help and I gave it to her. If I wasn't there, I don't know what would have happened. She might have been killed or her secret discovered. And that did not happen," Helena stressed firmly.
Bruce took a deep breath, digesting everything this strange woman was telling him. Surprising himself, he was inclined to believe her and her incredible tale. He had listened to many hustlers in his life, both inside the boardroom and out, and nothing about her made him think she was one of them; her concern for Barbara Gordon was genuine.
"And I mentor her and she becomes Batgirl, doesn't she?" Bruce said bluntly.
"Are you going to keep asking me questions I shouldn't answer?" Helena said with a frown.
"I'll take that as a yes," he said with a smug smile, sitting back in his chair.
"You won't be sorry," Helena said, then realized that was a lie. He would blame himself for the shooting and regret helping her become a crime fighter. "So," she blurted, quickly changing subjects. "If the research is a dead-end and using the real hourglass is a non-starter, maybe you could still locate the hourglass and figure out how it works," Helena said, her enthusiasm back.
"You have a lot of faith in my abilities," Bruce cautioned.
"I'm desperate," Helena said bluntly.
He exhaled heavily. "Given those conditions, I would have to agree that is the best chance for success," he admitted.
"We can go to the batcave and start the Batcomputer looking for the hourglass right now!" she said with enthusiasm.
Bruce Wayne eyed her, wondering what else she knew. When he took a breath, she cut him off. "Not another question I can't answer, is it?" She quickly interjected.
He sighed. "I must admit, it is a bit disconcerting to have someone I don't know, know so much about me."
"Actually, I hardly know you, Mr. Wayne. I know your reputation and a few . . . particulars. But I have no interest in disturbing anything. Trust me, I just want to go home," she said earnestly.
He nodded, believing her. "I'll do what I can to help," he promised, standing up. "To the batcave then?" He asked with a smirk, politely holding out a helping hand to her.
Helena looked his extended hand a startled moment before looking up into his sincere blue eyes. Ever since she had learned he was her father, she had despised him. To her, the legendary Batman, hero to the weak and downtrodden, was a coward; he left.
He left, never trying to find her mother's killer, never attempting to face the fallout from a crippled Barbara and a distraught daughter, orphaned without a father. But now, the daughter who had clung to her anger for so long could almost see the man that Barbara had always admired, a man who was willing to help her in her time of need.
She nodded uneasily and hesitantly placed her hand in his.
Grateful her last class for the week was done, Barbara quickly left campus and headed home. As she walked, she realized a dark sedan was slowly following her. She struggled to tamp down her worry, really hoping this sedan did not have a green question mark on the rooftop. Glancing at the Rolls Royce's license plate, she noted it read "BW01" and breathed a sigh of relief. She stopped and waited as her mind raced, contemplating all the possible outcomes from a meeting with Mr. Wayne.
The Rolls slowly pulled up to the curb and stopped. The back window glided down smoothly. With a fortifying breath, Barbara walked towards the sedan window.
Bruce Wayne looked at her neutrally, save for a raised brow. "I got your email."
"I kind of guessed that," Barbara said with a weak smile.
"We have much to discuss," he said firmly, getting a nod of agreement from the teen, who hoped he meant what she suspected he meant.
"Now?" she asked, not wanting to assume.
"Unless you have a class, no time like the present," he said, looking at her critically.
"I'm done for the week," she quickly said, growing more confident.
"All right," he said, getting out of the back seat and politely motioning for her to get in.
Barbara had never sweated so much in all her life - even when she was confronted by Riddler's goons on her first night as Batgirl. She rubbed the towel over herself to sop up the abundant moisture from her ten mile run, twice as much as she normally ran and nearly twice as fast, trying to keep up with Dick. She watched him stretch as if he hadn't expended a lot of energy. She knew better, having seen the signs that Dick tried to cover up. The tenseness in his face and the sheen of sweat that covered him were indicators that he was not having as easy a time as he wanted to project. That gave her a small sense of satisfaction, not having any illusions that proving herself physically would be easy. It was still a boys' club and she had a lot of proving to do, she considered. She tossed the towel aside and went to the mat and did some gymnastic tumbles with grace and aplomb.
Dick watched and sighed with irritation. She was not going to give up easily, he considered with begrudging respect.
"What's next?" she asked innocently, eyeing the Boy Wonder in challenge.
"Hand-to-hand?" he suggested, thinking this would be the most straightforward way to convince her it was a bad idea for a woman to be a vigilante.
"OK," she said with a smile as she took a defensive stance. "I'm always ready to learn something new," she said with amusement, prompting a frown from her opponent.
Dick looked at the young woman, who was much more than he had expected. She was serious and . . . good.
From the walkway above the gym, Bruce watched and wondered what kind of crime fighter the young woman would become. Margay Chasseresse was a big supporter, he considered, prompting more questions he knew he would not likely find the answers to.
"Told you," Margay said smugly, walking up next to him watching the two.
"Actually, you've told me very little," he said flatly.
Ignoring his complaint, she noted "all the searches seem to come up empty. And they seem to take a long time. Maybe you need to upgrade your processor or something," she said helpfully, chuckling when Barbara's crisp leg sweep caused Dick to fall.
"I assure you, the Batcomputer is cutting edge technology," he said with irritation, seeing Dick get up and rub his butt.
"Oh," she softly said with a wince.
"It will take some time, Margay. If it's out there, we'll find it," Bruce offered as they walked away from the gym.
"Margay?" Barbara said with surprise, catching sight of the white-haired woman leaving with Bruce on the overhead walkway as Dick slipped in a punch that hit her squarely in the face.
"Jeeze! Sorry . . . ," Dick said with a cringe at the bloody nose that marred the pretty face. "Here," he blurted uncomfortably, handing her a towel. "Are you ok?"
She looked at him with the towel at her nose. "Ow," she responded flatly to the dumb question, then glanced back to where Margay had been with great curiosity.
"I didn't mean to actually . . . ," Dick said, feeling really bad about hitting a woman.
"Dick!" she interrupted with irritation. "Stop. I let myself get distracted. It won't happen again . . . trust me," she scolded him with a thin smile. "Now, do you know why Margay was here?" Barbara asked, holding the towel to her nose.
"Bruce mentioned something about getting the Simpaticos to play at our Halloween party. She's been checking out the acoustics or something," he said, eyeing her face with a cringe.
Barbara stared at the empty walkway, wondering if that was really the case, knowing the ball room was on the other side of the Manor . . . .
Chapter 12 - Getting Close
Several days passed without any sign of the mysterious hourglass, seriously depressing Helena, who returned to the dressing room after her final set for the night. Not bothering to turn on the light, which she didn't need, she sluggishly walked to the vanity, she sat in front of the mirror with a heavy sigh, staring at the white-haired reflection that she was sick of.
Her immediate elation at getting very promising help from Batman was quickly squashed. She knew she was impatient, but each day that passed without a clue about the hourglass's location made her more convinced she would never get home. Pulling off her sunglasses, she tossed them onto the table as tears welled up. She sniffed and wiped the moisture away, wishing she could just be home with Barbara and ….
Feeling the hair on her neck rise, she tilted her head.
"Barbara?" she said hoarsely.
"How . . . ?" the teen asked with amazement, emerging from the shadows.
"Magic?" She joked softly. "To what do I owe this pleasure?" Helena asked with a weak smile, awkwardly wiping her face as she turned towards the teen.
"I wanted to see you. When I saw you at the Manor I hoped . . . ," she blurted awkwardly, then looked at her closely. "What's wrong?" she added softly with concern.
Helena took a deep breath, knowing not to try to lie to the perceptive young woman. "I'm a bit home sick. I miss my family."
"Can't you go visit them? Or have them come here for a visit?" Barbara suggested, sitting next to her.
"I am hoping to find the resources to go back home," she offered uncomfortably.
"If you need money, I'm sure I could . . . ," Barbara offered generously, making Helena want to cry more. If only it were that easy.
"I would not be able to accept," Helena said.
"But . . . ."
"I truly appreciate the offer, mon ami, but I must find my own way," Helena said sadly, starting to wipe another tear from her face but Barbara beat her to it. Helena's breath caught at the tender touch upon her cheek.
"I don't like to see you like this," Barbara said softly, as her caress lingered. "I wish I could do something for you."
Helena gently took Barbara's hand off her face and held it for moment as she nodded weakly and took a fortifying breath. "Then tell me about your time at the Manor. Especially how you kicked Dick Grayson's derrière," she said with a small smile. "I'm sure that will cheer me up."
Barbara grinned. "I did give him a good run for his money," she said with pleasure, then winced with embarrassment. "Although he did bloody my nose."
Helena frowned. "I will kill him," she said flatly.
Barbara laughed, warmed by her protectiveness. "Actually, it was your fault."
Helena's frown deepened.
"I saw you on the walkway and let myself get distracted," Barbara explained.
"So letting yourself get distracted is . . . my fault?" Helena challenged with mild amusement.
"Of course, you are very . . . distracting," Barbara said honestly.
"Uh, well," Helena said at a loss for words, feeling very uncomfortable with Barbara's intense gaze. Her discomfort skyrocketed when Barbara surprised her with a hug.
"Thank you for helping me, Margay. I couldn't have done it without you," Barbara said softly into her ear, the warm breath bringing a wave of goose bumps that washed over her skin. Helena took a deep breath, unfortunately inhaling the alluring and familiar essence that was Barbara. She could almost pretend she was home.
"I doubt that," Helena said tensely, selfishly returning the embrace, giving into her desperate need for the comfort she found there.
Feeling Margay's arms tighten around her, Barbara grew emboldened. "I'm serious, Margay," she whispered, pulling back slowly, gently brushing her lips over Helena's cheek in the process.
Helena closed her eyes tightly, trembling. She desperately wanted exactly what was being offered. But it wasn't right . . . for so many reasons. Her emotions battled as she felt Barbara's warm breath against her lips as she offered "No one has ever supported me like you have."
Oh dear GOD. Helena thought, frozen in panic, unable to move as she drew a ragged breath.
"No one has ever made me feel like you do," Barbara admitted, slowly closing the small distance to tenderly kiss the white-haired woman. She reached up and placed her hand on Margay's cheek as she teased and suckled the older woman's plump lips. It was if all her nerve endings were connected to her lips, Barbara thought absently as arousal washed over her.
Betraying what little willpower she had, Helena responded tentatively, returning the gentle kisses, trembling as she yielded to her addiction.
Barbara smiled against her lips and drew Helena into a deeper kiss. The teen couldn't help but moan as her arousal pooled between her legs, aching for attention.
Helena was overwhelmed by her senses - Barbara's intimate touch she had always wanted to receive, her soft moans of pleasure she had always wanted to provoke, and her intoxicating scent she had always wanted to arouse; Helena's eyes began to augment….
"Margay? Do you have the key to . . . ?" Monique said, marching into the room on a mission. She quickly halted, seeing the two abruptly break from a kiss as if burned. "Oh. Excusez-moi."
Barbara quickly stood up, nervously tucking a strand of red hair behind her ear as she fiercely blushed. She would have never guessed she might one day have been mere moments away from being caught having sex . . . in a dressing room . . . with a woman; yet here she was.
"It's all right, I . . . ," she blurted, her voice cracking. Barbara glanced to Margay, immediately noticing she would not look her in the eye, as if ashamed. That thought was like a physical blow. Horrible doubt consumed the teen, mortification fueling her rapid exit, leaving the two musicians behind.
Monique bit her lip and looked at Margay for a long, uneasy moment, expecting her to say something. She finally sat next to her quiet friend, who continued to stare at the ground and breathe heavily.
Seeing the silent trail of tears, Monique's heart went out to her friend. "Oh, my," she said in soft surprise. She knelt in front of her friend, who would still not look her in the eye. "You really do care for her, don't you?" Monique asked with sympathetic understanding as Helena weakly wiped away the tears and nodded, feeling her eyes return to normal. She almost laughed at the disturbing thought of pink being normal.
"I know . . . it can't. And I almost . . . GOD," Helena choked out then stopped with a heavy exhale, feeling like she had betrayed Barbara's trust.
"It will be all right, mon ami," Monique said gently, knowing it was something her friend needed to hear and desperately wanted to believe. But Helena's heart ached too much to be convinced anything would ever be all right again.
"You . . . you were looking for a key?" Helena said, clearing her throat and wiping her eyes again.
"Oui. The key for the stock room," Monique said softly, taking the clear hint not to discuss the young woman any more.
Several nights after the kiss, Helena stared at her bedroom ceiling feeling like a slimy opportunist. She should have found a way to stop Barbara before they kissed. God! She cursed herself for giving into her baser instincts. She laughed without humor considering that she was supposed to be the adult in this time. Barbara was sixteen for GOD'S SAKE!
She knew they needed to talk, but she was afraid. It was difficult enough to suppress a desire for someone who did not feel the same way. But this Barbara wanted her . . . . This SIXTEEN year-old Barbara, she reminded herself with a deep scowl.
The phone rang, startling her. She hesitantly sat up in bed and stared at the phone with trepidation. What if it was Barbara? What would she say? The phone continued to ring as Helena sighed, concluding that she had to set things straight. She snorted at that irony then realized that the phone was probably a better choice for that conversation they needed - no caresses, no intoxicating scents, no mesmerizing green eyes looking at her hungrily….
Picking up the receiver, she cleared her throat and hesitantly said "Bon Jour?"
"Margay?" A male voice asked.
"Oui," She sighed with relief.
"This is Bruce. I've got some good news," he said warmly.
"You found it?!?" Helena asked, her interest piqued.
"Yes. It was in a museum in Alexandria Egypt," Bruce said with a smile in his voice. "It should arrive at the mansion tomorrow," he said.
"Won't they know it is missing?" she blurted with concern.
"A replica is in its place; a rather good replica," Bruce offered.
"Well, well," Helena said with amusement. "How did you manage to pull that little heist . . . off," she finished awkwardly, her smile fading as a crisp memory suddenly surfaced - an unexpected trip to Egypt. Her mother had taken her out of school for several weeks, telling her that the trip was very important business for . . . .
"A friend," Bruce offered cryptically.
A very good friend, Helena considered. Selena had unknowingly broken into a museum for her own daughter, Helena considered numbly, wondering how her heart could keep beating under the crushing weight of her emotions. "Ah," Helena said feebly, wiping the tear from her cheek.
"Are you OK, Babs?" Dick asked as he tossed a heavy medicine ball at her. "You seem a little out of it."
"Just a bit tired," she said truthfully, catching the ball. She hadn't gotten much sleep the past several days as she wallowed in her depression. Why wouldn't Margay look her in the eye after those incredible kisses, she wondered, certain Margay had enjoyed them too.
"I have a defense for my thesis to get ready for, then I can start sleeping again," she joked with a weak smile, tossing the ball back. She knew she couldn't exactly open up to Dick "Mr. Romeo" Grayson about her feelings about Margay.
"I'm sure you'll kick ass, Babs, with whatever you set your mind to," Dick said without sarcasm, surprising her. He threw the ball back to her.
Or could she? She wondered a moment, then took the plunge. "Dick, if you met a girl you really liked who was several years older than you but . . . ."
"Are you asking me for romantic advice?" he chuckled with amusement.
"Forget I asked," she said tersely, throwing the ball at him in irritation before marching towards the bench press.
"Whoa, hold on Babs. I didn't mean . . . ." he said, then frowned as she started her reps and gave him the silent treatment.
He placed the ball on the ground and sat on it as she continued to bench press and ignore him. He sighed and thought a moment. "You're sixteen and she's what? Twenty four or five?"
Barbara stopped and lowered the bar looking at him with cautious surprise.
"Hey, just because I keep hitting on you doesn't mean I can't see you're interested in someone else," Dick explained reasonably.
Barbara slowly sat up and continued to look at him.
"Did she make a move on you?" Dick asked delicately.
Barbara shook her head no, then frowned.
"But you want her too," Dick supplied knowingly. Barbara sighed.
"She probably can't get over the age thing right now. You know you are not "legal," he offered, causing her to frown. She certainly thought she was old enough. "And maybe she's thinking your father, the Commissioner, might not be so keen on the woman-woman idea either…." Dick offered with a sympathetic wince, making Barbara frown more, acknowledging he was probably right.
She really needed to talk with Margay.
Helena flew into the study, finding Bruce looking over some papers. "Where is it!" she blurted anxiously.
He lifted his head and eyed her with a smirk at the forgotten pleasantries, grateful Alfred wasn't there.
"In the batcave. Care to take a look?" Bruce asked innocently.
Her eyes narrowed before she plastered on a thin smile. "No rush, let's visit a bit," Helena said. "And in case you are not aware that I am prone to sarcasm - Oui!" she blurted with exasperation as he stood up with a small smile. "Have you . . . tried it?" she asked hesitantly.
"No. I believe caution is warranted," he said as they exited the study. "It should be interesting to compare the scans between the working hourglass and the broken pieces."
"Hmmm," Helena said as they left the study, not caring whether it was interesting or not. She just hoped he found out enough to get her home.
Alfred walked purposefully towards them. "Master Bruce, I do believe you might wish to go the back way. Master Dick and Miss Barbara are in the main hall," Alfred said, briefly glancing over his shoulder in their direction.
"Ah, thank you Alfred."
"Certainly. Miss Margay," he said politely before he left.
"Alfred," she responded and watched the man with the most impeccable timing leave. "You've got a lot of secrets you're juggling," she noted, without criticism - just stating fact.
"Skill comes with practice. And I have had a lot of practice . . . and help," he offered, glancing in Alfred's direction. She nodded, expecting that he had.
As they headed to the batcave, she eyed him. "So are you actually going to mentor Barbara yourself, or are you outsourcing all of that to Dick?" She asked, prompting a flicker of surprise on Bruce's face.
"Patience is a valuable skill to develop," Bruce replied thoughtfully, prompting Helena's frown. "And with Barbara, Dick is making great strides in that area," he offered.
Helena snorted. "My apologies for doubting you, Sensei."
"With doubt, comes questions. With questions, come answers," he said sagely.
"Really," Helena said, unimpressed.
"Well that's what my fortune cookie said last night," Bruce offered dryly, surprising Helena, who had to admit the old man had a sense of humor. Of course, he did dress up as a bat.
Helena paced in the batcave behind Bruce as he performed some more tests of the hourglass.
"Fascinating," Bruce said with genuine interest as he looked at the hourglass under a black light which caused a spectrum of color.
"Neat light show. What does it mean?"
"Thanks for clearing that right up," she said flatly with a frown.
He looked at her with a raised brow.
"I'm not a patient person, I know," she responded defensively.
He sighed. "Chronitons are theoretical particles that travel not just in normal three-dimensional space but in the fourth dimension…of time. This hourglass is able to contain the particles and manipulate them to generate a temporal flux."
"That is what I'm trying to find out," Bruce said.
"So where do where do we get Chronitons for another hourglass contraption?"
"Another good question."
"I thought with questions, come answers," Helena grumbled, staring at the rainbow of particles in the hourglass with a frown.
"I'll do what I can to find them, Margay," Bruce vowed softly, causing her to turn and to look at him.
"I know," she said with a faith in a man that she had never expected to have faith in. "Thank you," she added sincerely.
Helena returned to the dressing room after another good night. The tips were generous, the music good for her sanity, and there was hope now that her father had found the hourglass. She turned the light on and stopped with surprise, seeing the teen sitting, waiting for her.
"Barbara," she said uneasily.
"We need to talk, Margay," Barbara said firmly, standing up.
"Oui. But not here," she said, looking back at the door.
"I still need to change," Helena said, glancing down at her black dress that fit her curves very nicely.
Barbara's eyes dropped over her form with appreciation, almost suggesting she not bother changing but knew that would likely scare her off and not help her case.
"Why don't I meet you in the park by the water fountain?" Helena suggested.
"Really?" Barbara said skeptically, then noted the surprise on Margay's face. "Sorry, I'm just a bit . . . I'll meet you at the water fountain," she said with frustration.
"I'll be there in a few minutes," Helena vowed softly, getting an uneasy nod from Barbara before she left Margay to change.
Barbara sat on a park bench, looking up at the starry sky and sighed. Logically, she understood the older woman's reluctance to get involved with someone her age. But in her heart, she knew they were a good fit. She would just have to make her see that age didn't matter.
Hearing footfalls on the brick walkway, she turned anxiously. She sighed with disappointment finding it was not Margay. She watched the old couple, who walked closely together, arm in arm, as they softly talked and chuckled on their romantic evening stroll. As they passed, she continued to watch, longing for a relationship like that. She could see it with Margay. . . .
Hearing leaves crunch behind her, she eagerly stood and smiled, determined to argue her case to Margay. Her smile faded when she saw three familiar students approaching. She knew trouble when she saw it, and this was trouble multiplied by three.
"So you do get out of the library, Barbara Gordon," Jerry Buckman said with a big smile, glancing over to his buddies, who chuckled. One guy wiped his nose and sniffed a few times. Her frown deepened as she suspected they were not just jerks but stoned jerks.
"Occasionally," she responded, noting Jerry's friends circle behind her. "What exactly are you and your friends planning on doing, Jerry?" she asked flatly, glancing at them then him.
"Thought you might need some company," he said smoothly, causing his buddies to chuckle again.
"How thoughtful, but I'd actually prefer to be alone. Thanks anyway," Barbara said.
"You know, it's not safe for a good looking girl to be out this late at night, alone," Jerry said stepping closer to her.
"Really," Barbara said, glancing at them, keeping track of their movements.
"Yeah. But we'll protect you," he said with a smile as he reached out and tried to caress her face. She moved slightly back, enough to avoid his touch. "Playing hard to get? You know that makes guys more interested. And hornier…."
"Jerry, go home," Barbara said with a sigh.
"Don't you tell me what to do, bitch. You think you're so smart and special being the Commissioner's daughter. Well I've got news for you, you're just a cunt. And me and my friends are going to show you exactly what you're good for," Jerry said as he nodded to his friends to grab her.
"Don't you mean my friends and I?" Margay called out curiously, startling the three guys, who glanced at her with surprise. "I do find the English language difficult at times too," she said, walking up, pushing up the sunglasses on her nose. Two of the jocks looked at each other, not exactly thrilled with another person joining them.
"I know, you have it under control," Helena said, lifting her hands up in a conciliatory gesture to Barbara, causing Jerry to frown at being ignored.
Barbara crossed her arms over her chest and sighed. Helena stepped right in front of Jerry and faced Barbara. "I'll go over there," Helena said with a guilty shrug, pointing to the bench "and let you take care of…."
"You shouldn't turn your back . . . ," Barbara interjected with alarm just before Jerry grabbed Helena's shoulder and sneered "the more the merrier."
With a swift, hard elbow to his stomach, Jerry doubled over with a groan, the wind knocked out of him. A forceful shove with one hand pushed the jock to the ground as he still fought to get his breath back.
"Sorry, I'm not trying to intrude on your fun," Helena apologized with a wince. "I'll just sit over . . . ." she said, interrupted by the heavy foot falls of two of the guys running away. When Barbara's gaze returned to her, Helena continued with a weak smile. "…there," she said and headed towards the bench. "Did your mentor teach you that not turning your back thing?" Helena asked conversationally over her shoulder.
"No. It's just prudence…" Barbara said with a frown, watching Margay pick up a used news paper on the bench and glance at it with interest.
"Prudence? Do I know her?" Helena asked dryly as she made herself comfortable on the bench and opened up the paper.
Barbara rolled her eyes. "Something tells me you don't."
"Hey, did you know there's a shoe sale tomorrow?" Helena said with an enthusiastic smile, glancing up from the advertisement curiously. It was very hard for Barbara to stay annoyed with this woman.
Jerry finally stood up, holding his stomach. "Bitches," he growled and grabbed for Barbara, who easily stepped aside and pushed him to the ground. Placing a knee on his back, she grabbed his arm. With a simple twist and pressure on the elbow, she easily locked his arm and kept the squirming jock in place.
"Jerry, you need to cool off. If you keep this up, I'll get the police involved. How would that look, the star basketball player getting arrested because he was high and tried to sexually assault a woman?"
"Not just any woman, the Commissioner's daughter," Helena supply helpfully from behind the newspaper.
Jerry stopped squirming, though he still seethed in anger.
"That's better. Now if I let you up, will you just go home and not bother me any more? I'll forget this ever happened."
Jerry turned his head to look back at her with a frown. He curtly nodded his agreement, prompting Barbara to release him. She stepped back and watched him get up awkwardly and look at the redhead with clear hate.
"What do you think the odds are he's going to continue to be stupid, Barbara?" Helena asked as she folded the paper over and looked up.
Barbara sighed, wondering if Margay was always so talkative at times like these.
Jerry glared at the white-haired heckler and pointed to the ground with irritation. "That was a lucky shot she won't get again," he spat.
Helena just shook her head as he lunged for Barbara again. She spun around, eluding his hands and landed a side kick on his back, propelling him away from her. He stumbled and fell on his face. "Give me a "B" !" Helena shouted out and stood with enthusiasm. "B," she answered herself with amusement. "Give me a . . . !"
"Would you stop it??" Barbara hissed with embarrassment, glaring at her cheering section as Jerry got up angrily.
"You, Barbara Gordon, are a party pooper!" Helena declared with a pout, sitting down and picking up the newspaper again.
Jerry growled and rushed Barbara again and once again, grabbed nothing but air before he was hit on the back with a double-fisted hammer blow and ended up face down on the ground.
"Does he remind you of a bull?" Helena said thoughtfully as Jerry scrambled to his feet again, shaking his head to clear the growing fogginess. "Too bad you don't have a cape," she offered, then smiled to herself.
He held up his fists as he more carefully approached Barbara, who sighed. He tried to punch her but missed, repeatedly. Barbara finally hit him with a hard jab on the nose, then a powerful right hook, followed by a solid round-house kick, causing him to drop to the ground like a ton of bricks.
"Aggg!" he moaned, curling up into the fetal position, and whimpered in pain as he cradled his bloody, broken nose.
"That had to hurt," Helena said with a wince.
"Go home, Jerry," Barbara said, cringing guiltily as he flailed to get up off the ground.
When he finally managed to get to his feet, a glimmer of common sense emerged and he stumbled away from them, holding his nose.
Barbara sighed with mixed emotions and turned towards Margay, who folded up the paper and watched Jerry leave. "You were nicer than he deserved," Helena noted firmly, turning her gaze upon the teen.
"Perhaps," Barbara said and sat on the bench.
"No, you were," Helena countered. "You gave him every opportunity to walk away. He was just too stupid to accept."
Barbara shifted uncomfortably. "Do you always talk so much during fights?" She asked, changing the topic.
"Don't tell me they have not yet taught you trash talk and witty fighting repartee," Helena said with disapproval.
"Trash talk and witty fighting repartee, huh?" Barbara looked at her. "I guess they are saving that for later."
"So Dick Wonder Boy does not aggravate you during your sparring sessions?" Helena interjected curiously.
"Are you saying he's being a jerk intentionally?"
"Uh . . . well that is a good question, come to think of it," Helena said thoughtfully as the two fell into an uncomfortable lull in the conversation.
"Not exactly how I expected to spend my evening," Barbara offered, leaning back and staring at the fountain.
"Soon you will spend many evenings like this. Battling people as stupid as Jerry the Jock and his friends," Helena said.
"Kind of makes me wonder why I'd want to do that," Barbara weakly joked, glancing down the lamp-lit walkway where Jerry left.
"Because, Barbara, as long as there are idiots like Jerry out there, you will be compelled to protect those who can not defend themselves."
"There's Batman and Robin," Barbara said, looking down at her hands.
"Oui. But who else can make someone like Jerry wonder if the next girl they try to victimize might just kick their derriere . . . or other important parts?"
"You?" Barbara ventured, certain Margay would have easily defeated all three without too much trouble.
"What? And break a nail?!?" Helena said with a frown, inspecting her nails, which she had to admit, never looked better.
Barbara couldn't help but smirk at the older woman. She sighed a moment and returned her gaze to the water fountain. "You seem to know a lot about how I feel about things. Do you know how I feel about you?"
Helena sighed. "It can not happen, Barbara," she added firmly.
"Why? You responded," she argued. "I know you feel something for me too. Are you worried about the age difference?" She asked.
"You are young," Helena offered softly.
"It doesn't matter, Margay. I'll be seventeen…" Barbara blurted.
Helena smiled sadly. "October 31."
"You know my birthday?" Barbara softly asked with surprise, very pleased.
"Oui. Barbara, I am flattered that you are attracted to me - you are an amazing and beautiful woman but I can not be what you want me to be. You are young and still have to figure out your path in life," Helena said.
"I don't need to get older to know my path is with you," Barbara countered with surprising conviction.
If only, Helena thought sadly. "People change with time as do their feelings," Helena said, cringing inside, recalling similar words Barbara had spoken to her when she declared her undying love for her mentor.
"You think this is just a phase?" Barbara spat with irritation. "That I don't understand what I'm feeling??"
"I am certain what you feel now is real, ma chére," Helena said. "But I do not think it is lasting."
"You can't know that!" Barbara blurted.
Helena sighed. "You deserve someone who can give you their whole heart and stay by your side. I can not."
Barbara looked at her with alarm. "Your whole heart? You love someone else? It's Monique, isn't it?" She guessed worriedly, feeling an uncomfortable pang of jealousy as she recalled how Monique thought nothing of touching or kissing Margay.
"Not Monique. But my heart does belong to someone, back home," Helena said honestly.
The admission hit Barbara like a cold bucket of water as she faced a hurdle she did not know how to overcome or whether she should even try. "And there is nothing I can do to give you a reason to stay?" Barbara asked as her heart broke, already knowing the answer.
"It can not be, Barbara," Helena said with difficulty, desperately wishing it could.
Barbara exhaled heavily, feeling something very special slipping through her fingers. "I love you, Margay," she said vulnerably.
"You are an exceptional woman, Barbara. You will find someone. Someone, perhaps surprising, that you will love better," Helena said firmly. "And it will be right for you."
"You don't know that!" Barbara blurted in frustration and bolted from her seat, marching off.
"But I do," Helena whispered sadly.
Chapter 13 - Collaborations
Bruce's grunt of frustration echoed in the batcave. The containment field failed again and the chronitons he had painstakingly collected escaped.
"Hey, you've figured out how to attract those little guys. That's good, Oui?" Helena offered, walking around the test bench, eyeing the metal rods that stuck up from the collection device, no longer producing the force field.
Bruce looked up at her. "It's a start. But every time I try to transfer them from the field to the storage chamber," he said picking up a small rectangular container made of quartz. ". . . the field becomes unstable and I have to start collecting them all over again."
"Well, be careful. Chronitons cause a lot of pain if you touch them."
"Hmmm," he responded and stared at the containment field and the problem at hand.
"What if you don't transfer them?" Helena suddenly asked.
"I can't manipulate their properties in the containment field. I need them in the quartz chamber," Bruce explained.
"Ok, but can't you set up the field within the quartz chamber? Then you won't have to disrupt the field while transferring them. They will already be where you want them," Helena said enthusiastically, getting a blank stare. "Ok stupid, idea," she blurted self-consciously and exhaled heavily.
"No. No, it isn't," Bruce said slowly, turning to the metal rods thoughtfully before starting to disassemble the equipment. "I think you have a knack for this sort of thing," he mentioned, surprising her.
"Nah, I'm just a master of the obvious," she said dismissively.
"Don't sell yourself short, Margay," he mentioned, unscrewing the rods from the metal plate. "The obvious to one, may not be to another," he said sagely.
"Dipping into those fortune cookies again?" Helena countered, crossing her arms over her chest, clearly unimpressed.
"That's where I get my best lines," he countered with feigned defensiveness.
She couldn't help but grin.
The sound of the elevator drew their attention, and each watched curiously as Alfred approached them.
"Miss Margay," he greeted her politely before turning to his employer. "Master Bruce, I have prototyped Miss Barbara's costume," he said, then grimaced. "However, I am not so sure the costume will be a good fit."
"But you used her measurements," Bruce said with a frown.
"Indeed. But . . . uh, the design is not . . . aesthetically pleasing," Alfred said gently.
"Aesthetically pleasing?" Bruce looked at him curiously.
"Why don't you just let her design her own costume?" Helena asked, shaking her head. Men.
"We did," Alfred and Bruce said in unison.
Helena and Alfred stood in front of the prototype costume, hanging in its full glory under a spot light. They stared at it a long, silent moment.
"Eew," Helena finally said with a grimace as if she had tasted something disgusting.
"My thoughts exactly," Alfred sniffed in disapproval, tilting his head with a tense expression on his face.
"She's got the drab, utilitarian look down. Like a Starship Trooper reject," Helena said with a frown, walking around the costume.
Alfred eyed her curiously. "Excuse me?"
"Uh, a French act. Trying to capitalize on ABBA's . . . Super Trooper . . . sort of," Helena mumbled uncomfortably, waving her hand dismissively, hoping to return his attention to the problem at hand. "She's gotta have a cape," she complained, shaking her head at one of many flaws with the design. The butler nodded in agreement.
"I had expected Miss Barbara would have had better fashion sense. She usually dresses very nicely," he said, grimacing at the incongruity.
"She probably wanted to avoid ridicule from the boys club for having any hint of taste," Helena guessed, biting her lip as she lifted up the black arm that sported several pockets.
Alfred looked at her and frowned.
She glanced down to the pant legs that also sported several pockets, then eyed the clunky black boots that looked like Army surplus. Helena shuddered.
"Do you know what this means, Alfred?" She asked, looking seriously at Alfred, who tilted his head curiously. "We're going to have to save her from herself."
After Alfred left to assemble the overhauled design, she took the elevator down to the Batcave. She stepped out, surprised to see Bruce in his Batman costume and Robin next to him in front of the Batcomputer. "What's she doing here?" Dick blurted with alarm.
Helena glanced at Batman, who sighed. "We're working on a project," he said and turned to the woman. "Margay, we are needed at Gotham bank."
"How'd you know?" Robin asked her with narrow eyes as Batman swiftly headed to the batmobile. Margay shrugged, prompting an irritated exhale from the Boy Wonder.
"Robin?? If you want to stay behind, just let me know," Batman said as he fired up the Batmobile. The loud turbo-engine caused Helena to wince.
After another exhale of frustration, Robin jogged over and hopped into the passenger's seat. "How'd she know?" He asked the Dark Knight.
"I believe that is what you would call a lucky guess," he said and revved up the engine before the car shot out of the cave like a rocket.
Alone, Helena scratched the back of her neck and looked around the batcave, studying it more closely. She had been there before, when Barbara needed to search for some data that was buried in the Batcomputer archives. But during any previous visit, she wanted to get the hell out of there as soon as possible, not stopping for the scenic tour. She walked over to the Batcomputer and sat down at the keyboard. She swiveled around as she took in the magnitude of the cave. It was large and full of nifty "toys."
In one area, she spotted a slick looking batplane, ready for aerial battle. On the small stream several feet below the main platform, on the far side of the cave, there was a small dock, where the batboat was moored. No doubt also equipped with the latest technology, she considered, vaguely wondering if he had ever gone out fishing….
Glancing over the amazing space with every bell and whistle you could imagine, she wondered why Barbara just didn't modify the cave for her needs. She quickly shook her head with a frown, knowing they both would have been uncomfortable there.
She had never talked with Barbara about Bruce just leaving after she had been newly paralyzed and needed help. While Helena knew Barbara never blamed Bruce for the shooting, which was an act of revenge by the Joker, she wondered if she blamed him for not being a good friend. He left just when she had to learn to live with a devastating injury, not to mention taking on the daunting job of taking care of his volatile daughter. After all the crap Barbara had to deal with, Helena was amazed how Barbara was able to remain a truly wonderful and decent person.
Helena released a wistful sigh as her mind drifted to how perfect her lips were….
"Miss Margay?" Alfred said, startling her.
"Is it ready?" she asked with a growing grin of excitement.
Alfred presented the new and improved costume for Miss Margay's inspection.
Helena smiled, lifting up the dark two-tone cape. She really, really liked the cape. "Functional, yet fashionable," she noted with appreciation, walking around the form-fitting costume. "And NO pockets," she stressed firmly, caressing the costume's arm with pleasure. "She'll just have to learn to carry what she needs in the utility belt," she said with a smirk as she traced her fingers over the functional yellow belt, getting a raised brow from Alfred.
"Now the criminals will be so distracted by her presence, she'll vanquish them with ease," Helena dramatically declared with a grin.
"Not all the criminals will be male," Alfred noted.
"I, uh, don't think that will really matter," she muttered, clearing her throat. Alfred eyed her a moment as new understanding dawned. "Nice work, Alfred," she said with a smile.
The butler stood a little taller, then frowned. "I hope she's not insulted by the change," he said worriedly.
"She'll love it," Helena said with confidence. "When are you going to present this to her?"
"Her seventeenth birthday. . . ."
"The night of Mr. Wayne's party," she said with a pleased smile.
"Master Bruce was intending on waiting until her eighteenth birthday but he has been immensely pleased with her progress. He planned on pulling her aside for a few moments during the party to present this to her. Perhaps you will be able to be there for the unveiling?"
"I . . . wouldn't want to ruin the moment for her," Helena said uneasily.
Alfred eyed her curiously. "You have been a very good friend. I would think she would want you there," he said.
"We'll see. I will be working that night, as you know," Helena said uncomfortably.
A few days later, Helena glanced at the wrist device curiously. "What are these dials for?" Helena asked, pointing to the two rows of dials. Leave it to Batman to refine the technology of the gawky hourglass into a nifty wrist device, she considered.
"Location coordinates," Bruce said, looking up from the device he was still assembling. "I don't think you'd like to risk transporting into a solid object, so I had a location parameter designed into the device."
"I know a few criminals who would love to get their hands on something like this," Helena said. "Even without the time traveling part."
"No doubt, assuming it works," Bruce said, returning his attention to the device.
"You have the chronitons contained…." Helena said with surprise "what's left?"
"Plenty. I will need to run several tests before I am confident I'm not going to strand you someplace you don't want to be."
"Like in a wall?" Helena said weakly.
"Well that's one concern," he noted. "But I'll set the coordinates for the batcave, which I will ensure will be clear of obstacles."
"Good thinking," she said with a wince, eyeing the device.
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