Author's Disclaimer: Don't own them. And don't have any money worth suing for. Just taking them out for a spin.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and places are the property of the WB, Warner Brothers Television, Tollin/Robbins, and DC Comics. This piece of fan fiction was created for entertainment not monetary purposes and no infringement on copyrights or trademarks was intended. Previously unrecognized characters and places, and this story, are copyrighted to the author. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author. . This site is in no way affiliated with “The Birds of Prey,” the WB, or any representatives of Dina Meyer, Ashley Scott, or Rachel Skarsten. This site contains stories between two mature, consenting adult females.
Author’s Notes: This is an alt-universe -- because Wade isn't going to die. But he won't get the girl, either. And, Helena had trusted Dr. Quinzel enough to tell her Everything.
Dedication: As always, this is dedicated to my very dearest friend Quire. I do it all for you, Mulder.
**I’ll Be Your Mirror**
The Velvet Underground and Nico
I'll be your mirror
Reflect what you are, in case you don't know
I'll be the wind, the rain and the sunset
The light on your door to show that you're home
When you think the night has seen your mind
That inside you're twisted and unkind
Let me stand to show that you are blind
Please put down your hands
'Cause I see you
I find it hard to believe you don't know
The beauty that you are
But if you don't,
Let me be your eyes,
A hand in your darkness,
So you won't be afraid
When you think the night has seen your mind
That inside you're twisted and unkind
Let me stand to show that you are blind
Please put down your hands
'Cause I see you
I'll be your mirror
Two days later…
“Holy SHIT!” That was, initially, the only actual comment. Offered by Helena, naturally.
Barbara, Nightwing and even Batman were too stunned to say anything at all. Though—to judge by their eyes, they, too, were thinking ‘holy SHIT.’
Because Dinah’s transformation was nearly complete. Her clothing was leather—and black. As was her hair—jet-black. And it had been cut nearly as short as Quinn’s and was styled in an elaborately messy and spiky coif. Her eye makeup was heavier than even Helena had ever worn hers. And the effect of all of this was startling. Her complexion and the youth and voluptuousness of her features were in sharp contrast to her hair and kohl-rimmed eyes, making her look like a petulant, suddenly grown-up Lolita. And Dinah looked like she could, and probably would, kick your ass up between your shoulder blades if you fucked with her or even looked at her sideways.
But the voice was still Dinah the kid’s. ”You GUYS! C’mon. Say something. Do I look alright?”
Helena snorted. ”Hell, I’d sleep with you.”
“Ewww!” Dinah shot back, looking pleased, nevertheless.
Helena laughed as the two men scowled at her, at the same time she felt Barbara swat her on the ass. “It was a joke.” She laughed again, “Jokes—tension relievers. Heard of ‘em?”
Quinn smiled as surveyed her work. “Dinah, darling, you haven’t shown them the piece de resistance.”
Dinah took off her leather jacket, pulled up one short sleeve and, there, on the shoulder was a tattoo—of a red and white harlequin’s hat.
”You did NOT get a TATTOO!” Barbara barked, somewhat illogically, given the empirical evidence.
”Why not?! Helena has one!”
”Helena is an adult!” Barbara interjected, immediately and conveniently forgetting that A.) Helena had not been an adult when she got her tattoo and that she’d been furious and that now B.) She loved Helena’s tattoo.
Quinn interjected. “At ease, Sergeant Gordon, it’s merely semi-permanent. It’ll eventually fade right off. “
Barbara glared at Quinn. “If you’ve…pierced her in ANY capacity, I swear to you I’ll—“
Quinn’s merry laugh rang through the Clocktower. “I have not…” she gave a salacious waggle of her eyebrows, “pierced her—nor do I intend to.”
“Let’s move on.” Batman’s voice was firm.
Bruce was distinctly uncomfortable with this, as were they all. Sending Dinah undercover with Quinn was the craziest idea he’d ever heard of—he could scarcely bear the thought of it. But the thought of Joker’s freedom and of Barbara’s peril was something he really couldn’t bear. At all. It actually scared him. In a way he hadn’t been frightened since his parents were ripped from him. Because he loved Barbara—for everything she’d ever been to him, for what she’d lost because of him, and for what she was today. And now his daughter loved her, too. Losing her would rip something essential out of him and Dick and Dinah but it would ruin his daughter.
And that could not, would not happen. Not to his daughter. Barbara must be kept safe. And if this was the quickest way to achieve that goal…
Two days earlier, Dick had sighed as Bruce pulled him over. Though he was used to Bruce’s sometimes irritating sidebar conversations, he knew they were rooted in the older man’s trust and love for him, so he really couldn’t be irritated for long.
“Truth. Can she do this? How good is she?” Though Bruce had gone on a few sweeps with the girl, he didn’t feel qualified to judge. And Dick’s judgment was second only to his as far as he was concerned.
Dick thought about it. God knows, with the powers the girl possessed, what the future held. But Dinah was already a remarkably gifted fighter—and getting better every day.
No—she wasn’t Helena, but, then again—who was? Even he [in a small space, in a box, in one really dark corner of his mind] would concede that his little sister could probably kick his ass. And that he could only barely match with sheer length of service and experience what she effortlessly possessed as her birthright.
No, Dinah wasn’t Helena.
Dinah was…well…Dinah was a Collie.
He laughed at the analogy but he knew where it came from.
He’d had a friend at school, Tim Garver, who’d been such a dog fanatic that it’d been nearly creepy at times. And one day, at lunch, Tim explained, spraying food in his great enthusiasm, something Dick had never forgotten.
”Look, here’s the deal. Dobermans and Collies both make great pets but there’s a difference between them. A Doberman, Grayson, is bred to protect. To PROTECT. With force, if necessary. And they have the bodies and minds and spirits to do that work. A Collie, on the other hand, is bred to SHEPHERD—AND to protect. The Collie will watch over its flock and make sure no particular sheep gets into trouble—and that everybody stays together. BUT—at the first sign of trouble, the Collie will move between that trouble and its flock. And HEAVEN HELP the wolf that fucks with that flock. Because a Collie will DIE to protect its flock and it’s just as vicious as a Doberman if you threaten its flock.”
Dinah to a tee. A Collie.
”She can do this, Bruce. I have absolute confidence in her.”
And so it was two days later. Dinah the Collie now looked like Dinah the Doberman. And those who loved her, including Bruce and Dick, were nearly beside themselves with worry.
Helena pulled Quinn aside for their own little sidebar after the unveiling of the new Dinah.
”Take care of her, Quinn.”
”Of course I will.”
”I know you’re not going on any capers but if there’s any sign—and I mean ANY sign of trouble—call us and we’ll all be there stat.”
”And…DON’T sleep with her.”
”Aha!” Quinn’s eyes widened. “Did I hear a wee bit of jealousy there?”
Helena smirked. “No—but you are supposed to be pretending to be lovers. And it wasn’t exactly subtle—the look you were going for.”
”Actually, I patterned her after a cross between you and me—because I adore you and I’m half in love with myself sometimes.”
Helena winked at her. “As you should be.”
And, for that comment, Quinn looked at her with such gratitude that it made Helena catch her breath.
Although Barbara had determined to move past what she called in her mind ‘The Quinn Issue,’ she still ground her teeth as she watched Helena and Quinn together. She couldn’t hear what they were saying but she could see the rapport between them, the easy familiarity.
Batman had been the one who’d immediately, tersely pointed out that Dinah didn’t look like she was Quinn’s lover—in fact she looked like a kid who was slightly afraid of her.
Quinn had laughed at this. ”Give me one week with her—we’ll just spend time together and—“
Quinn smiled at Barbara. “Of course not—not until she looks like, “ she batted her eyelashes at Dinah, who gulped, “my girlfriend.”
“And NO sex.”
”BARBARA!?” Even to Dinah’s ears, her voice sounded like a embarrassed child’s.
Quinn tilted her head to one side and smirked at Barbara. “Well, seeing as how I left my cherry-picker back at the orchard—“
”OHMIGOD! YOU DID NOT JUST SAY THAT! GROSS!!”
Dinah’s mortified reaction made Helena convulse with laughter, though Dick was able to stifle his. Barbara and Bruce, however, remained deadly serious and it was to them that Quinn replied.
“No crime. No sex. Promise. We’ll spend one week together, we’ll return for my next injection and you all can see what you think. If it doesn’t look like we can pull it off, we’ll try something else.”
Which is how Dinah found herself sitting, as nervous as she could ever remember being, in a car with Quinn.
“Ah…alone at last.” Quinn said silkily as she pulled the car away from the Clocktower.
Dinah felt her heart racing a mile a minute as Quinn’s car moved through the streets of Gotham toward the older woman’s apartment.
“Would you like some music?” Quinn gestured toward a CD case.
”Uh, sure.” Dinah flipped through Quinn’s CD’s, shoved one into the player, and flipped through to the song she wanted to hear.
The low bass rumble of Lou Reed’s ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ filled the car and Quinn laughed.
”Darling! That’s so sweet. We already have an ‘our song’.”
Quinn’s apartment, Dinah found, was, although fantastically and exquisitely furnished, surprisingly…normal. And after an even more surprisingly normal and pleasant dinner, that Quinn cooked, they’d both retired to the couch in her living room. Quinn put on some light jazz music and dimmed the lights, handed Dinah a glass of wine.
Which made Dinah swallow hard. ‘What have I gotten myself into here,’ she thought—‘and wine! Barbara would never let me have’—she immediately and greedily took a big swig. ‘Not bad—not what she’d expected—but not bad…’
Quinn smiled at her as if she knew every single thing she was thinking. The woman was eerie that way—uncannily reading any body language, any verbal nuance or hesitation.
”Dinah, I’m afraid we’re going to have to do something now that you might not want to do.”
”Oh yeah?” Dinah’s voice shot up a half-octave. “What’s that?”
”I’m going to have to kiss you.”
Dinah’s eyebrows shot to the ceiling. “Oh? And…uh…why’s that?”
Quinn moved closer to her. “Because…if we’re supposed to be playing lovers, I can’t exactly have you squeak like you just did if I kiss you in front of Mr. J. “
“Would you…uh…really have to do that?”
”Maybe—just for show. He needs to believe something beside anger at your Dear Daddy has made you decide to help us—and you wouldn’t be the first person who fell for sex.”
The word ‘sex’ that seemed—suddenly somehow—to pertain to her, made the blood rush to Dinah’s ears.
Sex. And her.
Well, no. Not yet, anyway. And certainly not with…
Quinn moved closer. “But don’t worry—nothing’s going to happen beyond a kiss—I promise…it’s just in the interest of verisimilitude…”
Dinah, tremendous student that she was, knew that word meant ‘trueness to life’ but her vocabulary was inadequate for what happened next.
She was startled by the softness of Quinn’s lips. She’d never kissed a girl—much less a woman. And had limited experiences with boys of her age.
Her mind slipped a gear as she allowed Quinn to deepen the kiss.
‘Ah, yes, well, Dinah thought, ‘…evidently, one truly…needed experience to know how to kiss. Because this woman…evidently had experience and…certainly knew how to…’
After about five minutes. Quinn pulled away and, as normally as if they’d just been playing checkers, asked suddenly, brightly, “Wanna watch a movie?”
”Uh…” Dinah replied. She unconsciously raised her hand to feel her face, since all of the blood in her body had, for some reason, decided to detour there.
”Dinah? Darling, would you like to watch a movie?” Quinn resisted the urge to laugh, which she knew would have mortified the younger woman.
“Uh, yeah. Sure. Yes,” she said, as she made a lunge for her wine glass.
After Quinn and Dinah had left, Bruce and Dick had retired rather quickly to the Manor.
And Alfred had put the last touches on dinner.
”Miss Barbara, Miss Helena, I’ve taken the liberty of scheduling Master Bruce and Master Dick for the next two nights of sweeps…and I won’t be here either.”
”Oh? Abandoning us, Alfred?”
”No. Actually, it occurred to me that you two had never had complete privacy in your home since…”
”Ah yes, I see.” Barbara jumped in at this awkward pause, though Helena was lost.
”I’ve also stocked two days of meals for you. Happy…honeymoon.”
Helena smiled softly at him as Barbara squeezed his arm. “What would we do without you, Alfred?”
”I’m sure I don’t know, Miss.”
As he disappeared, Barbara turned to Helena with a salacious grin. “For 48 hours, we can be as…loud as we want.”
”But I’m not all that lou—“
“You’re going to be.”
Two hours later, Helena felt sure she was going to lose her mind or scream or both. She was naked and lying spread-eagled on their bed. And for the last hour, a full hour, Barbara had only touched her with a piece of velvet—about the size of a handkerchief. As Helena had watched Barbara pull it out of a drawer and as they’d positioned themselves in bed, Helena had asked. “What’s that for?”
”You remember that green velvet blouse I used to wear?”
”Yeah—it was one of your favorites.” She leered at the memory, “And mine.”
”Exactly. Well, when it got too threadbare to wear—I couldn’t bear to part with all of it so I cut out this little patch. Now close your eyes, Hel, and don’t open them.”
And then, Helena had lain there, feeling the soft, teasing, infinitely feathery touch of the velvet on her shins, her knees, her hands, her arms, her breasts, her shoulders. And again. And again. It was lovely…and infinitely maddening.
With her eyes closed, her senses were beginning to pick up the sweet scent of Barbara’s sweat, which had always been an aphrodisiac for her. And of course, Barbara would know this. That, bereft of her sight, her meta-human senses would immediately compensate—and far, far more than a normal human being’s would. She could actually hear the silent sound of the velvet on her skin; she could smell their arousal and…she wanted so badly to taste her…
But her sense of touch…Barbara was teasing her sense of touch to the point that…
She shivered violently as felt the velvet move over her breasts again, aching…aching…for contact—any contact. She wanted more—and she wanted it now.
”Please Barbara…please, darlin’.”
“Shhhh, honey…soon enough.” Helena’s back bucked slightly at the feeling of Barbara’s warm breath on her skin.
But it wasn’t soon enough. It seemed to go on forever and ever and ever.
So long that Helena was astonished to feel tears running down her cheeks. She wanted to be touched by her woman so badly…she wanted it…needed it.
Then, she was more astonished to find she was begging for it. And not faux-sexy begging for it, either.
Begging for it for real. She felt entirely out of control—no—she corrected herself instantly, what she felt was that she was under Barbara’s control.
At the sheer pleasure of that thought—of so completely belonging to Barbara—she began to whimper. She clutched the sheets with both hands and begged, moaned for release as Barbara traced her stomach with the velvet…and then…
The first real-warm touch she felt was Barbara’s hands gripping her hips—and Helena shouted in surprise.
The second was Barbara’s hot mouth pressed between her legs. And, then, Helena was amazed at her own volume.
Later, as Helena lay wrapped up in Barbara’s arms, she heard her lover laughing under her breath.
A smile tugged at Helena’s lips. God, how Barbara loved to laugh in the bedroom. ”Whatcha thinking about—or do I want to know?”
”Nothing, really. Just that my girl loves her velvet.”
Helena snorted then answered, ”Actually, your girl loves you.” Helena pulled slightly away, and then turned to face Barbara, her face very serious as she stroked the outlines of her lover’s face. “You know you’re the only person who can do that to me, don’t you? “
Barbara smiled but her tone was firm, the expression on her face somewhat obstinate. “Yeah? Well, I’d damned well better be.”
Helena, realizing this was a carry-over from the Quinn situation, wasn’t smiling. “Of course you are. Forever. But that’s absolutely a given, isn’t it, Ms. Gordon?” Helena watched as the tension in Barbara’s body disappeared as quickly as it had appeared.
Then she continued, “But you do know what I mean, don’t you? You’re absolutely the only person I’d let take that sort of—“
Barbara, slightly embarrassed, pressed two fingers briefly against Helena’s lips. ”I know exactly what you mean, love.”
Now, slightly embarrassed herself, Helena smiled. “So…uh…I guess we’re pretty lucky, aren’t we?
”Yes, we are.”
And then Helena kissed her, which to Barbara, was the very definition of good luck.
After their initial evening, Quinn and Dinah had settled into an odd sort of domesticity. They ate all of their meals together, took walks together, and stayed up late into the evening talking. The only time Quinn left her was when she received her daily injection from Joker’s Dr. Feel-Good. Or Dr. Be-Crazy, as Quinn called him.
Of course, initially, during their time together, Dinah had been sceptical. Of course the woman was a good listener; of course she knew all the right things to say. That was her profession. But as the days went by, despite herself, she found it intoxicating to be listened to and taken so seriously by someone who was…
Who was what?
Well…certainly disturbed, certainly dangerous.
But also frighteningly smart, incredibly witty.
And, just being around her, Dinah felt herself wanting to meet this adult, who was taking her so seriously, at her own level. With Quinn an eager and entirely non-judgmental listener, she found herself, for the first time in her life, saying whatever the hell she wanted to—and what she actually thought and felt, anyone else be damned.
She also found that not censoring herself for fear of sounding too young or too juvenile was actually pretty damned fun. Under Quinn’s influence, she realized that one day soon she really would be an adult—and that, she, as an adult would be smart and witty and interesting and sexy. Just like the other women in her family.
And because she was touching her, Dinah was shocked to find how very truly, strangely compassionate Quinn actually was. Helena had been right, after all. Quinn, when taking her medication, really was…among other things, a person.
And she was always touching her. Through it all, Quinn insisted on maintaining physical contact.
“Dinah, dear, as I’m sure you’ve noticed from Barbara and Helena, people who have a physical relationship actually look like they do. It’s an ease, a familiarity that comes with intimacy.”
So they held hands, a lot. They always sat next to each other, body touching body. There were more kisses that always ended within five minutes. Dinah could sense a brick wall of propriety in the woman where this was concerned. Quinn would go so far—but no farther.
Dinah could also sense, as the days went by without Barbara’s injections, Quinn’s mind begin to spin…and slip. And it was heartbreaking. To feel someone work so hard to have the control almost everyone else had by right of birth.
And on the fifth day, as they’d sat on the couch watching the evening news, they were holding hands and Dinah caught a flash of something—a tsunami of sadness in Quinn, a sadness that was all the more gnawing and immense because she knew there was no end to it.
This—Dinah realized—this was what Quinn wanted. Sure she enjoyed the excitement, the uncertainty of her life of crime. But she also wanted to wake up with someone, and eat breakfast, and read the paper and laugh and walk and watch the fucking evening news together. And just be normal. But, for so many reasons, that was almost certainly, never, ever going to happen for her.
And Quinn knew it. Dinah felt such a surge of compassion for the woman that she leaned in and put her arm around her.
Quinn, knew, of course, what feelings had motivated the movement but she merely shrugged and rested her head on Dinah’s shoulder, before asking, ”Where’s the remote, darling?”
”You left it over there.” Dinah reached out, gestured, and the remote flew like a dart to a dartboard, right into her hand.
“Wow! A girl who can fetch my remote with telekinesis. Will you marry me?
Dinah smiled. “I’d almost marry you just to see the look on Barbara and Bruce’s faces.”
“Hmmm….not to mention Helena’s,” Quinn added with a smirk, then asked. “Whatcha wanna watch, huh?”
Quinn marvelled at how quickly Dinah was transforming herself. But, after all, the girl did sort of have an advantage. She wasn’t just hanging out—absorbing, hearing and watching a certain attitude she needed to assume. Through touch, she could actually enter that attitude. And it was working.
On the sixth evening, they’d been walking down the street hand in hand, when two men approached them on the street. One of them chose to speak.
Dinah had been utterly taken aback. Sure, she knew such prejudice existed. It was just that no one she was close to—Alfred or Dick or Wade, or even Bruce, had ever cared, in the Barbara-Helena pairing, that Helena was a woman.
Just that she was…uh, well…Helena.
”Excuse me, gentlemen?” Quinn’s voice was cool and polite. “Are you addressing us?”
”Don’t see any other dykes around, do you?” The first man eyed the taller, darker Dinah and sneered, “You must be the man, huh?”
”That’s right!” Quinn said brightly, “More of a man than you’ll ever be, more of a woman than you’ll ever have.”
It was rather unfortunate that this man chose to reach for Quinn because, in two blows, Dinah had knocked him cold.
As the second man reached for Dinah, she glared at him so ferociously that he hesitated, hand outstretched. She glanced between that hand and its owner. “Two choices, motherfucker. You wear that hand home tonight on the end of your arm—or I’ll be using it for a key-chain.”
And he could see, from the glitter in her eyes, that she meant it.
He ignored her, stooped to help his fallen comrade. But he couldn’t help but comment. “Bitch, you’re crazy.”
Quinn looked at Dinah and they both smiled.
That night, Dinah lay in bed mulling over her return to the Clocktower the next afternoon. Bruce and Barbara had said they should come ‘in character.’ Exactly as they’d present themselves to The Joker. Which, even with the slightly new attitude she had, might prove a little embarrassing. She would never have considered kissing someone--even someone her age, like…Paul Teasdale, maybe…in front of her family, much less a grown--
Her thoughts were interrupted by a groaning, whimpering sound from outside her bedroom. She jumped up, padded out into the hall and heard that the sound was coming from Quinn’s bedroom.
As she opened the door, the whimpering grew louder. Clearly, Quinn was having a nightmare. She crossed to the bed and touched the older woman.
Quinn stirred slightly, looked up at Dinah. “I’m empty. I see it—I’m empty—there’s nothing there.”
The slightest touch told Dinah this was not a dream. It was past time for Quinn’s injection and her mind was seriously unravelling in her sleep.
”Shhhh, you’re not empty. I’m here.” She tried petting Quinn’s shoulder—anything—to ground her. And felt, immediately…empty, lost, vacant, unloved, unwanted, alone.
She helped maneuver Quinn away from the side of the bed and climbed in with her.
”But there’s no one there…no one…the mirror’s empty. I look and I look…and the mirror’s empty.”
Dinah didn’t know how she—much less Quinn—could bear the anguish the woman was feeling.
”Shhh,” she whispered as she stroked Quinn’s face. ”Quinn—look! The mirror is here. Look at me.” She smiled at Quinn. “Look—look!”
She watched Quinn try to focus on her face.
”It’s hard. I know…I know. But look! I’m the mirror.”
Quinn looked into her eyes, focused, then asked plaintively. “Really? Is that me?”
Quinn touched Dinah’s face, tentatively. ”But…I…I’m so…beautiful.”
”Yes, you are.”
“I know that.” Dinah smiled at her again. “But that’s why I’m here—to tell you.”
Quinn stared for a few beats, blinking her eyes, then seemed to relax. “Please don’t leave me…I’m afraid.”
Dinah tightened her grip around the woman. “Shhh…I won’t leave you. I promise.”
As Quinn fell into a fitful sleep, she murmured. “I never…I didn’t want to be this…”
And Dinah lay there, for hours, thinking.
At that same moment, someone else was looking in the mirror, closely. When The Joker looked in the mirror, after a shower, brushing his teeth, he always kept his eyes focused…on his eyes. Not on his ruined face. Not on his supernaturally white skin, or on the red slash of his leering grin.
He knew what all of it looked like—had learned it, feature by feature, over the years, and he was tired of it.
No. Tonight he was looking through his green hair—for…there! A gray hair! And there! Another. He hadn’t been sure whether it would be possible—his hair had always seemed so very determinedly green. But there it was—gray. Not that he’d ever thought himself immortal, though sometimes he felt that way. Evidently Fate had a few more jokes in store for him. Gray hair. He cackled into the mirror, wondering vaguely how much he had in his wardrobe that would match gray hair.
Then his mind drifted to Quinn. So…she was sleeping with Bruce Wayne’s long-lost daughter. A daughter who wanted to get back at her billionaire daddy. Hmmm. Possibilities. Definite possibilities.
He wondered briefly whether Quinn might not also be trying to make him jealous. Sure—they had history—and no one—no one on Earth could make him laugh like Quinn. But jealous? Him? Over her? He cackled again at the thought. Not likely. Been there, fucked that.
The first clue the people in the Clocktower gathered about the success of the experiment was that Dinah didn’t greet them, didn’t even really look at them as she strode in, hand in hand, with Quinn, who was pulling, yet again, viciously on a cigarette.
”She needs that injection! Now!” Everyone’s eyebrows, everyone’s, rose at this new and sharp command tone from Dinah, but Barbara hastily injected Quinn. Everyone watched as Quinn relaxed, fell naturally against the younger woman’s shoulder as Dinah wrapped a protective arm around her.
”Ahh….see? That’s getting better, isn’t it, sweetheart?” Dinah asked as she felt, through their contact, a wave of clarity breaking over Quinn’s mind. And, thank God, no other physical effects.
Quinn blinked her eyes a few times, rolled her head from side to side. Then she smiled up at Dinah, kissed her full on the lips, and answered. “Yes…much better now. Thank you, darling.”
Dinah, feeling inspired, smiled and play-nipped the woman on the cheek before taking the cigarette from Quinn’s hand and taking a long pull from it. Then she extinguished it on her leather-clad leg.
Her eyes widened and she tilted her head to one side as she blew the smoke out at the utterly staggered denizens of the Clocktower. “Personally, I’m thinking we’ll pass.”
“Holy SHIT!” That was, initially, the only actual comment. Offered by Helena, naturally.
The second comment came from Barbara. “You are NOT SMOKING!”
Dinah’s smile was a smirk and her laugh was a low sound in her throat, “Of course not. Even Quinn doesn’t smoke. We just needed something to do with our hands ‘til we got that shot.” Dinah hadn’t let go of the ‘she’ in question. And Quinn was smirking, too.
Looking out at the group that was staring at her and Quinn, Dinah felt as if four furiously blinking owls had suddenly inhabited the Clocktower. She shrugged and pulled Quinn closer, “Hungry, sweetheart?”
Quinn purred in response and batted her eyelashes at Dinah, “Why, yes. Yes, I am.”
The third comment came from Batman. “That’s just about enough of that.”
”You said to come in character, didn’t you?” Quinn blinked right back at a blinking Batman.
”We get the point.”
”Hmm, I daresay you do. You know what? I’m sure you’re going to want to debrief poor Dinah in private so I’m off to get my crazy shot while you catch up a bit.”
She turned to Dinah. “I’ll catch some lunch on the way, darling, and be back in a jiff.“
“Okay, well…” Dinah surprised everyone by cupping Quinn’s cheek, then kissing her gently on the forehead. “Be careful. And hurry back. I’ll miss you.”
Quinn’s head tilted slightly at this, as if to see whether Dinah were teasing her or not.
Which Quinn found so entirely disarming, she skipped a beat before she said with a smile, “Get something to eat and…thanks again for last night.” This last sounded as provocative as Quinn could make it.
And Dinah grinned as she returned in kind. ”Oh, my pleasure. Entirely.”
Helena sounded more than a bit annoyed. “Ya know, there ARE other people in the room here.”
Dinah turned to her and said, “Uh, yeah. But we weren’t talking to YOU, were we?”
“That’s my girl, “ Quinn snickered, as she turned to the blinking owls. “I’ll walk myself out.”
As soon as they were sure Quinn was in the elevator, Helena erupted, “Just what the FUCK—“
Dinah looked at Helena and suddenly squealed with laughter, “OHMIGOD, you thought I was serious! The look on your face—OHMIGOD!“
She squealed again and doubled over. When she caught her breath, she wiped her eyes and smiled at them. “It’s so good to see you guys! I’ve missed you!”
She crossed to kiss Barbara on the cheek, and then pecked a sulky Helena. She hugged Dick and even maneuvered a hug with Bruce, who was clearly unpracticed in the art of hugging.
“I’ve got to get some chow. We couldn’t eat today because Quinn was…well—you saw. Can I get something and bring it back in here so we can talk?”
”Of course you can.” Barbara’s smile was gentle.
”Anybody need anything?” No, nobody did.
As she crossed to exit the room, Bruce asked her, “Dinah?”
”Quinn. You said you would miss her.”
“Why did you say that?”
The young woman frowned, then smiled, evidently considering this a no-brainer.
”Uh…hello? Because I will?” And then she left the room.
Helena scowled. “Personally, I don’t know how much Lippy-Dinah I can take—just a little goes a long, long way.”
Bruce concurred with his daughter. “I know exactly what you mean.”
Dick whistled appreciatively. “What IS it with this Quinn woman? I don’t get it. I mean—she’s cute and all but she’s just like...catnip to some people, isn’t she?”
Barbara turned to Helena, a smile shellacked on her face. “Yes, isn’t she?”
Helena groaned inwardly. Great. Just great.
Dinah returned with a sandwich and began to wolf it down, then paused between bites.
“Bruce, sorry about my tone a minute ago. That probably sounded disrespectful…it’s just that it’s hard moving between what I’m supposed be right now—and what I really am.”
She caught Dick winking his approval at her and surprised him by winking right back.
Which Bruce ignored. ”Apology accepted, Dinah.”
Helena ignored all of it. ”Tell us about your week, D.”
She shrugged and said through bites of sandwich. “We just hung out. Listened to music, took walks, watched movies. Stuff like that.”
“Nothing…else?” Barbara prompted, unsure that the change she saw in the young woman could be accounted for by such innocuous—
“Nope. No crime, no drugs, no sex. I mean, sure, we kissed a few times but Quinn said that was,” Dinah grinned at the memory, “strictly in the interest of verisimilitude. “
“Oh yeah.” Helena snorted. “I’ll just bet.”
Dinah’s eyes widened. “Jealous?” Then winced as she saw the pained look on Helena’s—and Barbara’s faces. “God, I’m sorry. Ignore me, please.”
Helena, for once, kept her silence, realizing that absolutely nothing she could say would improve the situation. And Barbara felt the dull, steady stab of a tremendous headache approaching as she wondered for the five hundredth time in a week just what the hell they thought they were doing.
Dinah sighed, then put her sandwich on hold. “Look, this is the deal. I’ve been holding Quinn’s hand or sitting right next to her—basically touching her for a solid week. So I know her pretty well now. She really wants to do this—but it’ll be nearly impossible for her once the medication wears off. If we go in together, she thinks we may be able to smuggle in one injection, tops. And from there, I’ll just have to keep a hand on her and keep her steady.”
“Can you do that?”
”Yep. Did it last night.”
“What does that mean? What did you do?”
Dinah looked at Barbara, opened her mouth to answer, and then clearly changed her mind. “I’d rather not say—it was…personal.”
Bruce’s eyes’ narrowed. “That’s where you’re wrong, Dinah. You can’t afford ‘personal’ when you’re undercover.”
Dinah jerked her chin at him, “I get your point, Bruce, but if Quinn’s feelings have nothing to do with this operation, then they’re personal and private.” Her eyes had a mischievous gleam in them as she continued, “I mean, I’ve touched each of you. Do all of you have any idea what I could tell this room about your feelings—your thoughts? Would you want me to? I don’t think so.”
That gave everyone a few beats pause.
“So, give us your assessment.” Barbara’s voice sounded resigned.
”I can do this; she can do this.”
Bruce answered Dinah, not ready to give in. “No. We haven’t seen enough yet. Dick and I will do the sweep tonight. You and Quinn stay here this evening.” He turned to his protégé, “Barbara—you and Helena—spend the evening with them, watch them and see what you think.”
Barbara, though entirely used to Bruce’s executive decisions, actually had to stifle a groan over this one. An evening with Quinn. And the two women who loved her. Great. Just great.
Bruce and Dick left before Quinn’s return. Barbara noticed that Helena seemed just as wary about an evening spent with Quinn as she did. And she didn’t know whether that should make her feel better—or worse.
“Sounds like fun. I’ll cook.”
Barbara, for the thousandth time that day, blinked furiously as she answered Quinn. “You don’t have to. Alfred could—“
”I know I don’t have to—I’d enjoy it. Dinah sweetie, want to go to the grocery store with me?”
”Sure. Cool. Let’s go.”
Barbara blinked again. This woman, Joker’s girlfriend, actually…cooked. And, more inexplicably from her point of view, shopped. And was even capable of involving others in shopping.
As they drove to the grocery store, Dinah was more quiet than usual.
”What’s wrong, darling?”
Dinah paused for a few beats before responding. “Will it be weird—I mean—having to act like you’re with me—when it’s Helena that you really…”
Dinah’s question trailed off into silence and its tone was so odd that Quinn furrowed her brow as she shot a glance at the young woman. Surely not. Surely Dinah couldn’t actually be falling in…like with her. She glanced at her again. Or maybe she could. She frowned at the windshield. Because God knows she, too, was becoming increasingly fond of the girl.
Quinn knew she’d have to think about this and the ramifications of this—and soon—but she knew that only a quick answer, however truthful, would dispel the tension the younger woman was feeling. “Of course not. You’re my girl tonight.”
Which earned her such a grateful smile that Quinn felt butterflies in her stomach.
When the two women returned from the store, Barbara was further disconcerted by the fact that Quinn could actually wrangle her girls into some sort of cooking frenzy. As she watched Helena and Dinah chop and peel, and quite clumsily, she asked, innocently enough, “So what are we having?”
Quinn answered brightly, “Brie and chive toasts with arugula for an appetizer and, umm-roasted salmon with red pepper and corn relish for our entree…tricolor potatoes with pesto and Parmesan…and roasted green bean, red onion and beet salad. Then raspberry cake with marsala, crème fraîche, and raspberries for dessert! How’s that sound?
”Well…great, actually.” Barbara admitted with a bit of reluctance. She winced nervously as she watched Helena ineptly butcher a red pepper, then asked, “When did you find time to learn to cook?”
”You mean how’d a lunatic fit cooking in between getting her doctorate, starting her practice and becoming the Queen of the New Gotham Underworld?”
Barbara’s lips—and eyes—twitched. “Exactly.”
”Well, I…” Quinn began to answer but stopped as she jumped to rescue her red peppers. She laid a light hand on Helena’s forearm. “Helena darling, heaven knows you’re good with your hands in other ways but maybe you should keep go keep your woman company—and leave this up to Dinah and me.”
Barbara glared at this but Dinah smirked at the potatoes she was washing as Helena shrugged and relinquished her peppers. “So I’m not Emeril.”
“No, thank God.” Quinn watched as Helena crossed to sit with Barbara, grabbing the older woman’s shirtfront playfully, pulling her forward and kissing her forcefully before taking a seat next to her.
It was Quinn’s turn to blink…because she hadn’t expected that sight to cause the twinge of emotion that it did.
But it did.
So she laughed as she turned back to her preparations. “To answer your question, Barbara, I can only say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, even a man with green hair.”
She turned back toward Barbara and Helena and continued rather too blithely, “My Mr. J. loves good food but, as I’m sure you can imagine, it’s not really all that easy to go to a restaurant with him. You wouldn’t believe the way it clears a place. One look at that green hair and…we have our choice of seating.”
Barbara’s smile was brittle. “Oh, I know that. The last time I saw your Mr. J., I got my choice of seating, too. For life.”
Quinn’s laugh was an immediate short, staccato bark.
She tilted her head to one side and her smile was just as brittle. “You’re Batgirl, Barbara—not the Lone Ranger. So wouldja do something for me? Don’t lie in bed at night thinking you’re the only person whose life’s been ruined by The Joker. ‘Cause you’re not. And—news flash—in case you haven’t noticed…” Quinn gestured at the room, at Helena. “Your life’s not exactly ruined, is it? You look pretty goddamned lucky to me.”
Barbara was too stunned to respond and was even more shocked to see Quinn’s eyes suddenly fill with tears. She watched the woman turn back to her food. “We’ll catch him and soon I’ll be out of everyone’s hair.” Quinn wielded her knife with an expert’s grace and speed as she repeated, ”We’ll catch him.”
Barbara watched as Dinah moved to Quinn’s side and laid her hand on the woman’s back. Then she saw Quinn smile softly, gently at the young woman. And she watched as Dinah’s face hardened, jaw twitching as she turned toward…her.
”Hey, Barbara. Could we talk? In private?
It only took a few seconds to move into the next room.
”Just what the FUCK was that?”
Barbara, who wasn’t used to her young charge cursing in her presence, much less at her, didn’t answer right away.
”ANSWER me. Huh? What the fuck was that?”
Barbara’s voice was cool. “Please excuse me if I’m just a bit…offended by the presence of a woman who’s aided and abetted the man who crippled me and who’s responsible for killing Helena’s mother.”
Dinah lowered her voice, and attitude, a notch at this.
”I understand that, Barbara. I do. And I realize I can’t even begin to understand what that means to you. But what YOU don’t understand is how guilty, how…truly wretched Quinn feels about it. You don’t—you can’t know what she’s gone through. I do. “
Dinah had, by this time, lost a bit of her fighting spirit. She wasn’t at all used to arguing with Barbara and it made her feel like hell. “I guess what I want to say is that…there’s more to her than you’re seeing. All I’m asking is that you TRY to look at her objectively. Just for tonight—just try.”
Barbara stared at Dinah for a long beat, realizing the force of emotion it must have taken for this usually entirely pliant young woman to snap at her. “Alright.” Barbara said softly, as she turned away from those blue eyes to look at the floor. “I’ll try.”
Dinah exhaled in relief, then crossed, leaned over and kissed Barbara on the cheek. “I’m sorry I raised my voice.”
And Barbara sighed as she pulled her into a hug. “It’s okay, honey. You had to become a real teenager at some point, I guess.”
As they re-entered the kitchen, Barbara was freshly irritated by the sight of Helena standing next to Quinn, chatting and snatching little bits of chopped pepper and popping them into her mouth.
Helena turned as she heard the two women re-enter the room and then smiled at Barbara with so much honest affection as she crossed to her that it made the older woman’s heart ache. ‘Alright,’ Barbara thought, ‘time to make an effort.’
”Quinn, I apologize for snapping at you.”
Quinn kept her eyes on her work but her voice was perfectly pleasant as she responded. “Apology accepted. Not that you owe me one. Believe me, I understand I’m beneath having people treat me with respect.”
Dinah crossed, put her arms around Quinn and both Barbara and Helena winced as they watched the young woman kiss Quinn lightly on the neck before she spoke. “No you’re not. Not my girl.”
”Well, oKAY!” Helena countered quickly, brightly, “Anyone want to watch a movie after dinner?”
For this Quinn did turn around, slipping her arm around Dinah as she did so. “Sounds great. But do you mind if we watch something with a low body-count?”
”You’re kidding right?” Helena snorted. “You’re complaining about a body-count?”
Quinn’s eyes widened. “Not exactly—it’s just that…watching that stuff makes my fingers sort of itch for the old days. Know what I mean?”
It was Helena’s turn to blink. “Gotcha. But that doesn’t mean we have to watch some Steel Magnolias crap, do we?”
”Oh hell no.” Barbara chuckled. “Actually, Quinn, I believe I get your point…I have to admit Steel Magnolias made me feel like getting all Batgirl on a few of those women.”
Quinn looked Barbara over for a long beat before turning to Helena, “I’m beginning to understand what you see in this one.”
The dinner was as delicious as it sounded—and, because everyone was on tenterhooks, the table conversation was perfectly and successfully innocuous. As they moved into the next room to watch their movie, Quinn flinched and swallowed, hard, while watching Helena gently lift Barbara onto the couch before taking a seat beside her.
It was one thing to commit violence. It was quite another to see the actual ramifications of that violence. And to know, forever and forever, to the end of her life, that the mere action of getting up and sitting down would be an actual task for Barbara, or for Helena, rather than something that she, Quinn, took for granted. Quinn again felt tears welling in her eyes, then felt the protective arm of Dinah wrap around her. She glanced at the young woman and could see the sadness and pity in her eyes—of course she knew how she felt.
It was so difficult not to wish to be dead to this—to be vacant and empty—without sensation or care. To know these things—and her part in them—was so wracking, so painful—while oblivion, for her, could be so easy.
She felt Dinah’s arm tighten around her. The young woman knew. Of course she did.
And then Dinah kissed her gently. And Quinn felt a different kind of oblivion.
The soft oblivion of understanding. And forgiveness.
Barbara watched Dinah’s interaction with Quinn as subtly as she could during the course of the movie. The intensity of it worried her—while at the same time she realized there truly must be something worthy about Quinn to engender such a tender and gentle response in Dinah.
Quinn’s reciprocation of Dinah’s affection was just as much a wonder to her. The woman was so unfailingly…kind with Dinah that it had the effect of jamming her brain’s transmission of all of the Joker’s girlfriend/bad/crazy/don’t trust messages that her brain generally screamed about Quinn.
It was all very confusing.
Helena watched Dinah’s interaction with Quinn as subtly as she could during the course of the movie. The intensity of it worried her and made her feel…what? The answer popped up without her bidding. Jealous. She felt jealous. Helena thrust the idea away immediately—only to have it pop back into her mind just as immediately. Yes. No doubt about it. She was jealous. Of Quinn. Not that she wanted Quinn—not that she wasn’t unalterably tied to Barbara. It was just that…Quinn was HER friend. Not Dinah’s. Except that, somehow, now she was.
It was all very confusing.
Dinah felt, as she watched the movie while holding Quinn, intensely grateful that Quinn didn’t share her powers. So that Quinn, as well as no on else in the room, would know that she’d suddenly realized that she wished this charade were real—that they were just two happy couples sharing an evening. Not one happy couple and another couple of people who’d been thrown together by circumstance. And she felt, of course she did, how conflicted Quinn was at the sight of Helena’s arm around Barbara. And how she was fighting not to show that to Dinah—though, of course, that was impossible.
And at each fresh realization of this fact, Dinah felt Quinn react to reassure her—to tighten her hold upon her. Which touched her in a way she couldn’t wrap words around.
So the four women spent the long evening watching each other, each feeling at different times, the infinite sadness of knowing that hearts that yearned were only rarely awarded their hearts’ desires. And, with this fresh understanding, Barbara and Helena realized yet again their good fortune and basked in their gratitude for each other. But not Dinah and Quinn. Dinah and Quinn felt like hungry and penniless children with their faces pressed against the plate-glass front of a restaurant.
Dinah, because she was still too young to know that life still might hold a different love for her.
Quinn, because she was too old to believe in happy endings. At least where she was concerned.
And so all four of them held each other tighter.
Four Days Later
Taller. He was so much taller than Dinah had imagined. Taller than Dick, even Bruce. She felt a horrified chill run through her when he stood up. Next, she felt an explosion of anger course through her. This—this was the scumbag who’d crippled Barbara, who’d ripped Helena’s mother from her. He’d been sitting on a plush chair and, strangely enough, eating an apple. It was difficult to wrap her mind around the fact that this…mythical figure was real. Then she snorted to herself. Hell, why should SHE be surprised by anything? She almost smiled as a vision of Batman scoffing an apple rose into her brain.
Dinah watched as Quinn crossed to the Joker and she almost shuddered as she watched the woman hug him, kiss him.
Then Quinn motioned toward Dinah. “Mr. J. This is Dinah Wayne.”
The Joker kissed Quinn again, released her, then looked Dinah over, twice, while taking bites of apple. “So you’re Bruce Wayne’s kid, huh?” He looked clearly underwhelmed by Dinah and turned back to Quinn. “I thought you said she was special. She doesn’t look all that--”
The Joker’s sentence was cut short by his shock as he watched his apple fly out of his hand, like a rocket, right into this new girl’s hand. And with one motion of her hand, the Joker felt himself rudely pushed, by some invisible force, right back into his chair.
The girl’s tone was dismissive. “Oh yeah? What the fuck do you know, Bozo?”
She took a bite of the apple before tossing it to Quinn with a sweet smile. “Want some, sweetheart?”
Quinn took a bite and handed it back to the Joker with a wink. “See!? Told you! Would I lie to you, Puddin’?” She climbed into his lap as he began…to cackle. And cackle. And Quinn threw her head back and joined him.
Dinah, watching Quinn run her hands through the Joker’s green hair as she laughed, felt the chill of seeing what Quinn had once been. And the greater chill of knowing that she—Dinah Redmond—was going to be the only thing between…Harley Quinn and…The Joker.
Barbara was sitting with her eyes glued to Delphi. The comm was on but her mic was off. She didn’t want Helena being deafened by her laughter. She hadn’t wanted Helena to hear, either, what had caused her laughter.
Dick was keeping her company while Bruce and Helena did the evening sweep. And, because they had the easy familiarity of past lovers and nearly lifelong friends, he was, as he often did, regaling her with a tale about one of the funnier things that had happened in his rather rambunctious love-life. This one involved a short-term girlfriend.
”There I was, all ready to go—but I had to stop and put my condom on. So I sorta sat up a little and just when I was slipping it over Mr. Happy—I shit you not—her fucking Rottweiler leaped up on the bed and started humping me.”
Barbara was laughing as much at remembering, now, that Dick called his dick Mr. Happy as at the image of a dog leaping into his love scene.
Dick was laughing, too, but he tried to act wounded. “Don’t LAUGH. Have you ever almost been…invaded by a—”
Barbara wiped her eyes, “I’m sorry, honey. What’d you do?”
”Well, naturally I started screaming—so my girlfriend started screaming, too, which only seemed to excite the dog more. But when she realized it was only her pet that was about to sodomize me, she started laughing at me. And by then, of course, Mr. Happy was Mr. Sad. Which didn’t seem fair somehow.”
At the doleful look on Dick’s face, Barbara burst into laughter again and tousled his hair, which made him beam. Then the smiling pair turned back to Delphi.
Dick glanced at Barbara, hesitated for a few beats. “Hey Barbara? Mic’s still off right?”
“Mind if I ask you a really personal question?”
She turned to him. “Sure. You can ask,” she said, then smiled, “I may not answer but you can ask.”
He hesitated again. “I’ve…always wondered about something. Wasn’t it…weird for you—having sex with a woman for the first time?” He hastened to add, then stammered, “I mean—I guess, I mean, I realize I’m assuming Helena was the—“
She helped him. “She was.” Then she thought about it for a few beats, which he misinterpreted.
”I’m sorry, Barbara. That’s too personal. Forget I—“
”No. It’s okay. Ummm, let’s see. Before Helena, you’re right, I’d never even considered having sex with a woman. And I guess it…might have been odd for me if I’d thought about it like that.”
She furrowed her brow, deciding how best to word it. “I don’t know whether this will make any sense to you but I think if I’d just been having sex with a woman for the first time, it might have felt strange. But making love with Helena for the first time felt like the most natural thing I’d ever done. Does that answer your question?”
Dick smiled at her. “Yes, and it does make sense.”
Barbara then upped the ante with an impish grin. “And, by the way, I’ve found that I share your tremendous passion for cunnilingus.”
”BARBARA!” Dick squeaked, sounding not unlike Dinah. And Barbara’s grin widened as she watched him turn a shade of red she’d never seen on him.
”What? You do like it, don’t you?” She raised an eyebrow at him, “I mean, I seem to remember very well how much you like it.”
’Well, yeah, of course, but—“
”That’s where you’re wrong, Dick. Not ‘of course’.”
Dick had recovered enough to ask, “What do you mean?”
”You see—for a woman who’s only had that performed upON her, without the experience of doing it herself, it can sometimes be a little…difficult to believe a man’s actually enjoying it.”
Dick grinned. “Yeah, well, some men probably don’t…but they’re idiots.” Then he upped the ante with an even more impish grin. “But, hey Babs, I could have told that you’d like oral sex—I seem to remember very well that—“
”DICK!,” Barbara squeaked, sounding not unlike Dinah, as she immediately flushed red.
Barbara scrambled to turn on the mic, never so glad to get out of a conversation in her life.
”Huntress, are you alright?”
<Yeah. Just missing your lovely voice in my ear, that’s all. What are you and Dick up to?>
<Sounds as interesting as our night. It’s dead out here. Me and da man might go play pool for a while if you don’t mind.>
Barbara’s eyebrows lifted. ”Pool?”
<Yeah, pool. You know…the kind with pointy sticks—not the chlorinated kind.>
“O…kay. Well, have…fun, I guess.”
<Well, I’m going off comm. so I’ll see you later—and, uh, Oracle? Keep everything warm for me. I’m sure I’ll be hungry when I get home.>
Then the comm. went silent.
And this was so clearly not a reference to food that Dick shouted with laughter as he watched Barbara’s blush deepen.
Bruce changed into some jeans and a sweater before Helena took him to one of her favorite dives that wasn’t that far, actually, from her bar and which even had some of the same patrons.
They ordered a couple of beers while waiting for a table. As they stood talking, Helena thought how strange it was for Bruce to have asked her out to play pool—and how even stranger it had been for her to have accepted. But, then again, maybe not so strange—just another billionaire masked crime-fighter on a night out with his crime-fighting daughter, right?
She groaned as she saw two of her bar’s regulars enter the room. And, naturally, they spotted her. Terry and Beth, inseparable friends united in the effort to find eligible bachelors.
“Helena!” Beth squealed as she spotted and crossed to her with Terry hot on her heels. “Where’ve you been?” Beth hugged a rather unenthusiastic Helena as the woman replied, “Oh, just taking a few months off.” Helena felt the looming presence behind her and turned, “Beth, Terry…uh, this is Bruce.”
The two young women felt their eyebrows approach their hairlines as they realized that this Bruce was Bruce…Wayne. THE Bruce Wayne.
After they murmured their polite hellos, Terry, who had not been particularly graced with tact at her birth, blurted out, “My God, Helena, now THAT’S a catch.”
Bruce responded quickly, “I’m not…we’re not—I’m, uh, her—“ And with this he stopped, unsure what Helena would want him to say and unwilling to spoil what had been, thus far, a surprisingly pleasant evening.
And, as Helena watched the usually entirely urbane Bruce come stammering to a halt, she knew that was what stopped him. He didn’t want to mess up. Bruce Wayne. Batman. Didn’t want to mess up his night with…her.
So she rescued, and surprised, him by saying, “Bruce isn’t my date—he’s my father.”
Both Beth and Terry’s jaws dropped open at this. Beth was able to speak first. “Bruce Wayne is your…father? And you’re working as a bartender?”
Bruce answered this. “Helena’s grown up to be an independent woman and I’m very proud of her for that.”
When Helena turned to Bruce and smiled, she saw such love for her in his eyes that she was momentarily speechless.
When the next table was available, they’d played against Terry and Beth three times, and won three times, before the two women seemed to realize, simultaneously, that this was not going to score them a date. As they watched the two women depart, Helena asked, “So how’d you learn to play pool like that?”
Bruce almost smiled. But not quite.
”Bored billionaire playboys always play billiards. It’s almost a cliché.”
”Oh? Is that what you are? A bored playboy?”
Bruce hesitated before answering. “Among other things. I’m also an unlucky loser in love, a lousy friend, an absent father and entirely self-absorbed vigilante crime fighter.”
Helena’s eyes widened at this but she didn’t feel equal to answering the emotion in her father’s voice, so she turned back to the table. “Wanna play again?”
”I don’t think so—let’s call it a night.”
They rode home for a long while in silence, Helena watching his profile as he drove. This—this man—was the love of her mother’s life. This rigid, obsessed crime-fighting man had bent his rules enough to love a thief. That thief had thrown away her former life to give her daughter everything she needed. And Barbara had moved beyond the rules that said a guardian couldn’t love what it had once protected, much less the rules that said she couldn’t love a woman.
Would it actually hurt her to bend her own rules a bit? To move closer to this man?
Because Helena wasn’t blind—she could see the shape of Barbara’s personality had this man’s firm imprint upon it, just as Selena had been irrevocably changed by his presence in her life. She had worshipped her mother and now she worshipped Barbara. What if…
So she decided to try. “I’m finally understanding it all, you know.”
Bruce glanced at her. ”Understanding what?”
”Why you couldn’t kill him…not that I agree with that, mind you, but being so close to Barbara has helped me see that she couldn’t have done it either. It’s not in her...or in you. I understand that now.” Helena hesitated for a few beats before continuing, because she felt her throat constricting and she didn’t want to cry in front of him. “And I could never hate Barbara for being herself. I love her too much. So…I’m beginning to realize—no—I know now that I can’t hate you either. Not for being who you are.” She hesitated again, “Anyway…just wanted to tell you.”
Bruce paused, then cleared his throat, before answering. “Thank you, Helena.”
Helena gritted her teeth, willed herself to bend.
Bruce took a deep breath, and then exhaled very gently.
After Bruce had picked Dick up and dropped Helena off at the Clocktower, the young woman was surprised, but delighted, to find an entirely naked Barbara in their bed.
”Thank God you’re home.”
Helena climbed on top of the bed to kiss Barbara before unclothing and was a bit surprised when Barbara grabbed her and kissed her so forcefully that she was sure her lips would be bruised the next morning. Not that she minded, though, because—
And then she was even more surprised to feel Barbara pull her closer and pour such a delightful set of instructions for the evening into her ear—and phrased in such uncharacteristic profanity—that she hastened to straddle her woman as she took off her shirt.
And, as she looked into Barbara’s green eyes, ablaze with desire, she answered with a smirk,
“Oh, don’t worry, darlin’, I’m going to fuck you so hard tonight, you won’t be able to walk tomorrow.”
After a beat, as each burst into laughter at the same time, both of them felt newly amazed at how desperately they loved each other.
Dinah hated it. She’d known it was going to be this way but she still hated it. Quinn was all over her scumbag boyfriend, sucking up to him, laughing with him. And it was entirely obvious, that whatever the denizens of the Clocktower’s hold on her, Quinn had a true and vibrant connection, not to mention a white-hot sexual chemistry, with her green-haired psychopath. They laughed at their little in-jokes; they easily finished each other’s sentences, all the while looking like they could barely wait to hit the bed together.
It was all very disturbing and it made her feel very, very…jealous.
Because Dinah realized, as she watched this, that she’d moved beyond a crush for the first time in her life. She’d fallen in love. With a woman who was in love with Helena. Which was great. Just great.
She was under no delusion that Quinn felt the same way about her. Touching Quinn gave her the sense that the older woman held her in great esteem, felt very fond and affectionate toward her and was even mildly sexually attracted to her. But certainly not what the woman clearly felt for the Joker and not at all the same sort of attraction she could read the woman had for Helena. Not that that necessarily surprised her. Who would prefer Dinah Redmond to the perfection that was Helena Kyle?
Easy, she thought.
The Joker was nothing if not blunt.
”So—Daddy gets you down, does he, Dinah darling? Why not just take his money and run? I know I would.”
Dinah winked at Quinn as she answered. “You can thank my therapist for that. She explained to me that taking his money would make him happy. But extorting his money and making him pay the Joker would hurt him. It took months of therapy to understand that I’d prefer to hurt him. Any other questions, clown-boy?”
At this little dig, the Joker merely smiled, though it was difficult to tell because of the grin already plastered on his face. He seemed to like women who stood up to him because he crossed to her and ran his hands lightly over her body. And then it was everything Dinah could do not to flinch—or scream. Because the visions that ran through this man’s head, and hers at this touch, were nothing like Quinn’s—even at her worst. This was a man whose sole purpose on Earth was to do as much harm—to as many people—as he was capable of doing. And merely because he enjoyed it. He was a true rarity—an entirely malevolent being, almost a force of nature. And she’d just called him clown-boy. Holy shit.
He looked down into her eyes as he spoke. “You and I could have some fun. I’m a fun guy. Ask anyone in Gotham.”
Dinah forced herself to channel Quinn—or Helena—or hell, Barbara—anyone tougher than she felt right now.
”Oh yeah, you’re fun alright. Never a dry eye in the house after you leave, is there? New Gotham’s own personal Bob fucking Hope.”
She looked him over with visible distaste. “Thanks for the offer, Perma-Smile—but I don’t do men.”
The Joker didn’t rise to this, only continued to look—and sound—both intrigued and amused by her. ”Oh? And I don’t suppose that’s negotiable, huh? My girl’s spoiled me, you know. I keep thinking that all women are as flexible as my sweet Harley. Not that I don’t understand your point, mind you. I couldn’t see having sex with a man—unless, of course, it was with that Boy Wonder. I wouldn’t mind giving Robin the old heave-ho—but only because I’m sure it would really irritate his Bat-Daddy.”
Dinah immediately filed this information away under things never to tell Dick.
“So! What do you think? Are the rumors about those two true?
Dinah shrugged. “Who can say? All I know is that it sure seems a little fetishistic to me. You know—the costumes, the leather, the rubber, the ropes…”
”Exactly!” The Joker cackled as he turned to Quinn. “A girl after my own heart! See? She’s noticed it, too. Something has to be up with those two! ”
Quinn grinned up at her older lover. “Would I bring you anything less than a girl who would understand my puddin’?”
And then Dinah watched with what amounted to horror as the Joker crossed and scooped Quinn up into his arms, giving her as passionate a kiss as Dinah had ever seen, and a kiss that Quinn was thoroughly returning.
As they broke away from each other, Quinn literally cooed at the Joker. “Ooooh, bedtime, darlin’.”
”No…I don’t think so. I’m not in the participatory mood tonight. And I know you know what I mean.”
Quinn pouted a beat before the Joker scooped her back into another heated kiss, then broke away and shoved Quinn quite violently toward Dinah. “Bedtime, kitties!”
As Quinn took Dinah’s hand to lead her out of the room, the Joker seemed, suddenly, to consider something and interjected, “Harley dear…are you sure you’re not keeping something from me?”
Quinn smiled brightly at the Joker. “Only my girlfriend, puddin’.”
They walked toward their bedroom with the sound of his cackling in their ears.
Touching Quinn after she’d been shoved by the Joker was a revelation for Dinah. Quinn was humming with sexual tension.
So…that was it.
Quinn, the master manipulator, loved to be dominated, wanted to be controlled. No wonder she liked the Joker. Then Dinah snorted. And Helena, for that matter.
Quinn whispered to her as they moved down the hall. “He’s a bit of a voyeur. He’ll be watching our bedroom through a video cam. But he has a 15-minute attention span—tops. You could be in the middle of saddling me to ride me like a pony and he’d turn off the monitor after 15 minutes. So—all we have to do is act like we’re really girlfriends for—“
”15 minutes. Gotcha.”
Dinah smiled, intrigued. 15 minutes suddenly seemed like a really long time.
As they entered their bedroom, Dinah pushed Quinn up against the edge of the bed.
”Take your blouse off.”
Quinn was startled, naturally, by the young woman’s demand. “What?”
”I said take your blouse off. NOW.”
Dinah’s tone was stern, uncompromising, but she winked at Quinn to reassure her. And then gulped as she watched Quinn’s trembling fingers unbutton her blouse. When the blouse had been tossed aside, Dinah crossed to a chair and sat down. “Now take off your bra.”
“Hmmm…very nice. The rest of your clothes—NOW.”
Quinn hesitated, her eyes widening enormously. And Dinah knew, for the first time in her life, the feeling of sexual power. “You’re not listening, sweetheart. Clothes off. NOW.”
And then Dinah watched, with a feeling of wonder, as Quinn obeyed her. And undressed, entirely, before her.
Then Dinah stood, crossed and roughly pushed the naked woman onto the bed, climbed on top of her and kissed her.
And when she touched her, she knew she’d made a different sort of impression on Quinn—and that Quinn was aroused, terribly aroused, by it—though she also felt her fighting it.
So she fought back, by kissing her as if her life depended on it—and it felt like it did. And the kiss went on and on and she pressed her luck, scarcely believing how bold she was feeling knowing that Quinn couldn’t stop her because the Joker was watching.
A flash of insight flooded her mind—contact with Quinn must really be affecting her if she didn’t care about someone watching her and if it felt like the most natural thing in the world to caress the woman’s breasts, then move down to kiss one, suckle one, then the other, and then move one hand down, and down the length of Quinn’s body—until—Quinn, who was looking at her watch the entire time, hissed. “STOP!”
The older woman pushed Dinah with all of her strength, up and off of her. Her voice was forceful, though it was a whisper. “STOP it, Dinah! Fifteen minutes! This will NOT happen!”
“But why not?” Dinah realized her voice sounded like a whiny child’s, which she also realized wasn’t exactly cool, under the circumstances.
“Because it’s wrong. I’m sorry—really I am—but this is NOT going to happen.”
”But you want it. I know you do. I can feel it.”
Quinn’s gaze became nearly inscrutable. “That’s not exactly fair of you, young lady.”
And Dinah couldn’t, suddenly, meet the other woman’s eyes, feeling the shame she always felt when people called her on the unfair advantage she had over their feelings.
“I know. I’m sorry.”
When Dinah looked back into Quinn’s eyes, she asked, with real emotion. “But really. Why not? I know I’m not as pretty as Helena but—“
Quinn pressed the tips of two fingers to Dinah’s mouth and she was still whispering.
“Shhh…that’s nonsense. You’re…so beautiful—so attractive to me. And you’re right—I do want you. It’s just that I’m not good enough for you, sweetheart. And I’m too old for you—old enough to be your mother.”
”I don’t care about—“
”But I do.”
”And so? What?” Dinah’s whisper was suddenly bitter. “You promised Helena you wouldn’t sleep with me or something?”
“Yes. I did. Not to mention Barbara. But, even more importantly, to me, I promised myself.” Quinn blinked a few times before continuing, as she stroked Dinah’s face. “And I’ve broken so many promises to myself. Please…please don’t let me break another one.”
Dinah felt a wave of tenderness envelop her with these words and she took Quinn’s hand and kissed it gently.
Quinn chuckled, “And let’s face it, if you came into my office as a patient and said you were a seventeen year old girl enthralled and considering a sexual relationship with a barely psychotropically controlled sociopathic criminal twice your age, even I’D call the police.”
Dinah winced at the truth in the statement. ”But that’s not all you are, Quinn. I know that.”
”Maybe not—but I would be if I allowed this to happen…and beside that, honey,” Quinn smiled, whispering even more softly, “your first time shouldn’t be like this—it should be special.”
“I know that.” Dinah gently cupped Quinn’s cheek. “That’s why I wanted it to be with you.”
Tears immediately welled in Quinn’s eyes and she hesitated a long beat before whispering, “That’s probably the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me.”
Dinah kissed Quinn gently. “I love you, Quinn.”
And watched as tears slid down Quinn’s cheeks. “I love you, too, baby. And that’s why we can’t.”
They lay there for a long minute before Dinah asked one last question—because she had to know. “What if I were…seven years older?”
Quinn smirked as she wiped the tears from her face. “If you were seven years older, your clothes would have been on the floor seven minutes ago.”
Dinah again took Quinn’s hand more firmly in hers, “Oh yeah? And…then what would happen?”
Quinn’s eyes widened. And then she tilted her head, as she took in the implications of this. “You’re a little young to be this kinky, aren’t you?”
”Please! Look at my family. If I can’t have the real thing,” and it was Dinah’s turn to smirk, “I’ll settle for a mind-fuck.”
Quinn considered this for a beat, and then relaxed into her pillow. “Alright then. Hold on, honey. It may get a little bumpy.”
Dinah had thought the phrase ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ only applied to the Beatles, but evidently not. She’d never realized that…actual…people could do some of the things Quinn was imagining for them. It was astonishing. Mind-blowing. And after about an hour both of them were thoroughly keyed-up, entirely unfulfilled and wretchedly and sleeplessly horny. But they were also completely and blissfully unified in the fact that they knew what might have been—had things only been different for them.
And so, after a long while, they slept contentedly, and entirely chastely, in each other’s arms.
As Barbara sat next to her lover, she reflected for probably the ten millionth time in their relationship that Helena was the most formidably charming flirt she’d ever encountered in her life. She’d thought so as her teacher; she’d thought so as her guardian. And, actually, being her partner had only deepened her appreciation of this quality since she now had quite intimate knowledge of just what such flirting could lead to.
These days, however, she had to admit that this flirting lost a lot of its appeal—no, scratch that—she corrected herself, all of its appeal when she watched Helena flirt with others. She’d concluded very quickly after the beginning of their relationship that Helena was not trying to hurt her feelings, not trying to make her jealous. The young woman simply didn’t realize that she was doing it. It was obviously in some sense reflexive—she breathed, she ate, she flirted. If a thing was living and not utterly reprehensible or repugnant to her, she flirted with it. Dinah, Alfred, cats, potted plants—Barbara got used to these easily enough.
But server girls?
It was Barbara’s first night out in two weeks. She’d literally had to beg Helena to take her out—anywhere. Anywhere but the Clocktower day after day after day. Which was how she found herself sitting in a booth in a small Italian restaurant with Helena sitting next to her, both to shield her from view and from any potential harm. Which was also how she’d found herself grinding her teeth into powder over their server’s near inability to breathe, much less serve, when Helena batted her eyelashes at her.
Did it help that the server was one of those damnably gorgeous young Italian women with kohl-black eyes, long beautiful tousled ringlets of hair that practically begged you to run your hands through it and a body that was the very definition of sexual insinuation?
Well, no, actually. It did not.
They’d just finished their dinner and the young woman was ostensibly speaking to both of them but she was looking only at Helena. “Could I get you two anything else? Something…sweet, perhaps?”
Barbara rolled her eyes as Helena purred up at the server, “Well…that all depends. What have you got?”
The server looked for a split second as if she were only too willing to show Helena exactly what she had but a glance at the piercing green eyes of the woman next to her snapped her back to task. “I’ll get the dessert menu!”
Barbara watched as Helena quite openly appreciated the server’s departing assets and cleared her throat.
Helena turned to her and smiled. “It’s really nice to be out together, isn’t it, darlin’?”
One of Dick’s favorite phrases sprang immediately into Barbara’s mind.
There it was—what she’d least expected:
That look. She never knew when it was coming but, every time it appeared, that look always took her breath away. It was a look of ferocious adoration, a look of such utter devotion that it seemed, somehow, almost violent. And every time Barbara saw this look, she realized afresh that no one on Earth really existed for Helena, no one but her.
Barbara stifled a sigh. And just when she’d really, really wanted to be angry, wanted to pick a fight even. It was actually sort of a tough job, sometimes, loving Helena Kyle, but somebody had to do it. And that person was certainly going to be her. She felt a wicked inward smile creep into her mind. Sexy server girl be damned.
So she returned Helena’s smile and whispered, “I love you.” Then she leaned forward and kissed her. Which surprised Helena because Barbara wasn’t big on public displays of affection. She was even more surprised by the passion in the kiss and was soon returning it two, then five, then ten-fold.
Lucia, the server, jotted her home phone number down on a slip of paper before hastening back to the table. She’d just slip it in that dark-haired beauty’s hand while the dragon lady wasn’t looking. Because she could tell the older woman wouldn’t appreciate it. She wondered briefly about their connection—and decided she was probably just some uptight friend of the sex-kitten’s mother or something and so super-straight that she was getting irritated by the obvious connection her young friend had with another woman.
As she rounded the corner and her table came into view, Lucia realized that she really needed to brush up on her people-reading skills.
Now…that…was a kiss. She stood there for a few seconds before finally clearing her throat. She watched as the sex-kitten quite reluctantly ended the kiss and turned toward her. And as those entrancing blue eyes met hers, she realized she didn’t exist at all to this woman. At least not in the way she thought she had.
As she handed them the menus, because she was a woman, too, she could see the smirk behind the perfectly bland expression on the redhead’s face.
The redhead spoke, “You know what…” then paused as she looked at her nametag, “Lucia? I think we’ll skip dessert.” She turned to her sex-kitten. “We have ice cream at home, Hel. Do you think there’s any way you could work up an appetite for some ice cream?” At this perfectly innocuous comment, Lucia was astonished to see a deep blush tinge the features of the sex-kitten as she looked up at her and said, firmly, “Check, please.”
Later that night
A wide-awake Dinah readjusted her position in the bed and felt Quinn, who was sound asleep, immediately tighten her hold on her as she slept. Quinn’s head was resting on her shoulder and Dinah was reflecting on the last week.
She felt so miserable that she wanted to cry. She missed her home. She missed her family. She was tired of pretending to be something she wasn’t. She was tired of pretending she wasn’t scared shitless of the Joker. At the thought of that crazy motherfucker, she winced, remembering that they’d used their last smuggled injection for Quinn the day before. So soon she knew she could add the pressure of keeping a lid on Quinn to what already felt like the weight of the world plus the planet Saturn, on her shoulders.
And, last but not least, she was tired of not knowing where the fuck she was. Because neither of them did. She and Quinn had arrived at one spot and had been taken in a van with no windows to where they were now. She knew the Joker still didn’t trust her, still didn’t trust Quinn, actually.
Dinah only felt slightly better knowing that the Clocktower knew where she was—because she and Quinn both had GPS chips implanted under their skin. But the plan was to lure the Joker out into the world and to catch him and as many of his underlings as possible. If not, they’d be walking into an armed camp. And if not, Barbara might remain in considerable danger from those wishing to carry out the Joker’s plans.
The young woman sighed heavily. At least they were making some progress. The Joker was sending them out on their first job the next day—nothing too big, he’d warned. They were going to knock over a bank. Dinah sighed again. Knocking over a fucking bank. What kind of job was that for a 17-year-old? She felt Quinn stir and kissed her lightly on the temple in order to soothe her but felt no telepathic connection as she did so.
This, she had to admit to herself, was the major benefit of the experience. She was making fantastic strides in her ability to control her touch telepathy. Through continually touching another person, something she’d never done before, she was learning to block her connection at will. She smiled at the thought—who would have known that all that she needed was a sociopathic faux-girlfriend?
She was also aware that this growing control was giving her the ability to focus and concentrate her powers, and because of that, they were growing stronger—like a ray of sun focused through a magnifying glass.
She looked out into the darkened room and very casually waved her hand at the dresser and watched it instantly levitate confidently from the floor—not at all in the shaky way she used to move things. She picked up the chair next to the hovering dresser and made them switch places, then lowered them gently to the floor. Not a sound.
She smiled and half-spoke, half-whispered in her best Yoda voice. “Impressive I am.”
“Hmm?” Quinn murmured, “You say something?”
”No, sweetheart. Go back to sleep.”
The Joker was striding back and forth in front of Quinn and Dinah as he finished debriefing them, then turned sharply toward Quinn.
“And you’re sure you don’t want to take a few of the boys inside?”
”Perfectly. I only need Dinah and a driver.”
The Joker moved closer to Quinn, and then he was looming over her. “If you do well, I might reward you with a little…surprise.”
Quinn smirked saucily as she looked up into his eyes. “Hmmm—if it’s what I’m hoping it is, it’s not exactly little, is it?”
The Joker cackled as he turned to Dinah. “Only too true, Dinah, my dear. When the Ancient of Days created yours truly, he said “Jack, my boy—I have only one question—would you like to super-size that order?”
A tight smile was the only indication that Dinah had heard this, much less the merry sound of Quinn’s answering laughter.
So, here’s how it was going to go: The job had been planned for a day that the bank was scheduled to receive major cash deposits from a number of businesses. They’d stroll in close to closing hours and knock it over. Dinah was armed and in charge of handling the guards. Quinn, too, was armed and was running the show. One of Joker’s goons would be waiting outside for them in a van. Quinn was wearing her harlequin costume and Dinah was clothed in black, with a black mask that entirely obscured her face. Quinn would enter first, Dinah immediately afterwards...
As they drove in the back of the windowless van, Dinah felt her heart beat double, then triple. She was about to commit an aggravated felony—and it was up to her and Quinn not only to rob the bank but to make sure that no one got hurt.
Her brain churned…ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod—this was not just nerves—it was an actual prayer.
What the fuck had she been thinking? Why’d she think she could—her brain skidded to halt as she felt Quinn’s hand on her arm and turned toward her. She found the older woman looking at her with gentleness, kindness and a bit of amusement.
”We can do this—we will do this—and no one will get hurt. Well…knocked around a bit maybe, but nobody’s dying.”
”Not buts—remember, darling, I’ve done this before. Many, many times. Now take five deep breaths.”
Dinah did and Quinn smiled. “I think you’re going to find it’s easier than you think and maybe even a little exciting, actually.”
Dinah shook her head. “I doubt that.”
Quinn looked away with a small smile. “We’ll see.”
As Dinah watched Quinn move out of the van, she thought she might hyperventilate but she managed to keep an eye on her watch. She heard Quinn on com as she waited.
Quinn’s voice, even through the com, sounded carefree, entirely calm.
<Don’t worry, baby. Piece of cake. Watch the master.>
A few beats went by...
Dinah’s heart beat triple time as three incredibly interminable minutes crept by on her watch.
<Next in line—get ready.>
As Dinah pulled a backpack on, she felt a wave of nausea and fought it for all she was worth. She put her hand on the van door.
Dinah exploded out of the van and ran to the bank entrance. As she entered, she saw Quinn stepping up to the teller. The debriefing had been accurate—as she jumped the guard on one side of the door, knocking him cold instantaneously, she turned toward the other, pointed at him as he drew his weapon and watched his astonished face as his gun flew into her hand. In three seconds, this guard found his own gun trained upon him—and the third guard across the lobby found her gun pointed at his chest
Dinah growled out a warning to the third guard. “Drop it, motherfucker!” She gestured toward the unarmed guard. “Or this one dies!” She watched the man hesitate, then drop his weapon. She used her mind to move it far enough away from him that he couldn’t possibly get to it.
In the adrenaline of the moment, she hadn’t registered the shrieks that had come from customers—but now, suddenly, the sound seemed to echo in her ears. She looked at their terrified faces and instantly felt such pity for them that she wavered for a second.
Luckily, Quinn stepped in. “On your stomachs, chickens, and everything will be over in a sec.”
As they complied, Quinn stepped toward the teller, pointed her gun point blank in her face. “Money. Now.” The petrified teller hesitated and Quinn pushed the gun closer. “Trust me on one thing, lambie-pie. A bullet would do nothing for that pretty complexion of yours. Money. Now.” She turned toward her cohort and the young woman tossed the backpack to her. “You’ll find two duffle bags inside. Large bills, no dye, and don’t fuck with me ‘cause I’m itching to use this thing.”
As the wide-eyed teller complied, Quinn smiled sweetly at her.
Another teller, however, hadn’t been so overcome by fear that she hadn’t tripped a silent alarm. Which is what found Nightwing and Batman outside the bank in less than three minutes. As they burst into the bank, Dinah turned on them with her weapons.
Bruce and Dick. Aw, man.
”Back the fuck up, boys!”
Bruce and Dick stopped cold. That was Dinah’s voice. It took only a second to register Quinn’s presence, as she sang out to them. “Welcome, gentlemen.” She turned back to the teller, tilted her head lightly to one side. “I’m sorry, did someone tell you to stop packing the money?”
In the same three seconds, Bruce and Dick were assessing their options. Holy shit. What to do?
Then, instantly, Bruce knew and he put all the power of suggestion he could into his words. “You’d better put those down—doesn’t a young lady like you want to make a good impression?”
And...it was odd…Dinah didn’t know exactly how she knew—but she knew that she needed to fight—and that they would let her win.
She tossed both guns to the side and prepared to do battle.
What was even odder about it all, at this point, was that she felt, as Quinn had said she would, excited.
And as both of them advanced upon her, she knew that they’d be pulling their punches...but she also knew, with a sudden sheer exhilaration, that they didn’t need to.
Dick tried to hit her first. She put out one hand and his fist was hanging in mid-air. And caught Bruce—with her other hand—stopped him cold.
And she saw, in their eyes, bewilderment. Astonishment.
“Step aside,” she moved her hands and watched as the force of her mind skittered them to the side, “and nobody gets hurt.”
Never turning her back, she joined Quinn and they both shouldered duffle bags. They both moved out of the bank and were in the van in five seconds, barely entering before the vehicle screamed away.
Bruce and Dick looked at each other as they watched the van depart.
“You’re fucking kidding me!” Helena’s voice had risen a half octave.
”Uh…no.” Dick grimaced as he reported. “I’m telling you—the kid’s a superhero or something—I couldn’t have hit her if I wanted to.”
Barbara turned to Bruce for confirmation. “Her powers are astonishing. No other word for it.”
Barbara heard Helena curse quietly behind her but ignored her as she answered. “Then it’s a good thing she’s on the right side, isn’t it?”
”Yeah, for the time being,” Helena snarled.
Barbara turned to her and snapped sharply. “What the hell does that mean?”
“Just what I said. For the time being. Who knows what—“
Barbara’s voice was as stern as Helena had ever heard it. “Helena Kyle, I can NOT believe you’re implying that Dinah’s capable of—“
“I’m sorry.” Helena interrupted, immediately abashed. “I know you’re right. I’m sorry—I didn’t mean it.”
Barbara registered this apology silently, with a slight, cold nod of her head, and then continued. “So where does that lead us? Our youngest is committing felonies and we’re not stopping her?”
Bruce winced, then cleared his throat. “It’s a lousy means to a good end. If I know the Joker, and I do, just a couple of these escapades will embolden him enough to attempt a major heist—or a major act of terrorism. And…when he does…” his eyes and mouth were grim, “we’ll nail him.”
The Joker was sitting at his office desk as they entered with their duffle bags. They watched as he counted the money, his perma-smile expanding by the moment. They listened as he cackled with unqualified glee as they recalled Dinah’s stopping the premiere crime-fighters of New Gotham—without even touching them.
After he finished, he looked at Dinah with what she imagined was respect tinged with lascivious intent. “So, you robbed a bank and Batman and Nightwing just had to stand there watching, huh?” He cackled again. “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship.”
Dinah didn’t trust herself to answer but it didn’t matter because he had already turned to Quinn, motioned to her. “Come here—I’ve got that present for you.”
Quinn crossed, obediently stood next to his chair.
He barely gave her a glance before he said, “Pants down.”
Dinah watched as Quinn pulled her tights down to below her knees. The Joker pulled Quinn roughly over his knees and spanked her bare bottom with every syllable of “You’ve been a ve-ry, ve-ry, ve-ry good girl!”
And with the last ferocious smack, he tossed her unceremoniously onto the floor in front of him.
Then he kicked her. ”Get up, bitch,” he snarled.
With that kick, it was everything Dinah could do not to launch herself at that sick son of a—and then she was struck dumb as she watched Quinn emerge from behind the desk with a look of raw, animal desire in her eyes.
The Joker stood up and roughly pushed Quinn over the desk, gripped her hair, slammed her head to the surface with one hand, then let go and reached for his zipper. As he did so, he looked into Dinah’s stricken face and laughed. “What? Didn’t you know foreplay’s for pussies?” He smacked Quinn’s ass again. “Isn’t that right, dear?”
Quinn pulled her head up from the desk, met Dinah’s eyes and her look was one of regret and sorrow that the girl was present to see her undeniable hunger for this treatment.
Dinah flinched as The Joker hit Quinn again.
Quinn’s voice was a ragged whisper. “Dinah…please leave.”
”NO!” The Joker’s voice thundered in the room. “Not before you tell her you want it.”
As long as Quinn had known him, The Joker had loved dominating her, humiliating her—and she’d truly enjoyed it, time after time. But she’d never felt as conflicted about it as…
She started, winced with pain and desire as she felt the sting of another vicious blow.
Oh God…she wanted it, wanted it, wanted it.
She didn’t know how she could bare to do it…but she looked into Dinah’s horrified, repulsed eyes and told her, firmly, “I want this—please leave.”
Dinah was in bed, staring at the ceiling, when Quinn entered a few hours later. She watched as the woman changed into a pair of shorts and a t-shirt but, as Quinn got into the bed, she turned immediately toward the wall.
Quinn smoothed the covers around her, feeling all the while the white-hot indignation of the young woman sharing her bed.
A long five minutes went by before Dinah spoke. “I don’t understand.”
Quinn took a deep breath, exhaled, and said with more bravado that she felt, “Then it’s lucky it’s not yours. You don’t have to understand.”
She watched as Dinah turned toward her and whispered, “And just what the fuck does that mean?”
At this, Quinn stiffened, felt suddenly indignant herself and answered in a harsh whisper. “It means that I’m an adult—it’s my kink—not yours—and I can enjoy whatever the fuck I want to.”
Quinn winced at the pain in Dinah’s eyes and tried again.
”Look—I know you don’t understand.” She lowered her eyes…and her voice. “And I don’t either—but I like it—I need it and I’m not ashamed of it.” She hesitated before she continued, “I’m only ashamed, with one exception, about whom I’ve gotten it from.”
Dinah digested this for a beat. “Helena did that to you?”
Quinn blinked twice, then answered. “That’s none of your business.”
Dinah felt her heart sink and she felt tears prick her eyes as she realized that she was truly too young for all of this.
But she bluffed anyway. “So what? Is that why you don’t want me? You don’t think I could do that to you?”
Quinn watched with alarm as Dinah’s eyes became suddenly cold…“I could hurt you—if that’s what you want. You don’t think I could?” She lifted Quinn into the air with her mind and flipped her so that she was facing her, hovering above her. “I could hurt you without even touching you.”
Quinn could see it—behind the anger, she could see Dinah’s anguish, her youth, her confusion—and desperately wanted to reach down and pull herself into the young woman’s arms. But she hesitated…because she didn’t feel she deserved to touch her.
Dinah saw, watched the hesitation, the sadness in Quinn’s eyes and reached up and touched her, let herself connect. As the sensation of Quinn’s scorching guilt washed over her, she instantly and gently let the woman hover down gently onto her chest, hugged her tightly and whispered into her ear. “I’m sorry.”
And Quinn wrapped her body tightly around her young friend, fervently wishing for a moment fate had not created them so far apart in time. Then she snorted quietly, laughed at herself as she made a mental inventory. Let’s see, since meeting her, she’d introduced Dinah to the delight of kissing an adult when she was too young to be doing so, drinking when she was too young to be doing so, the joys of committing armed robbery, and to the various kinky ways adults could get off. And, most alarmingly to her, their contact seemed to be, for some reason, increasing Dinah’s powers. What if she…
Quinn suddenly felt like the mouth of hell might open and suck her right out of the bed. She heard a tiny snicker from Dinah and the girl’s voice was a tired monotone.
”Number 1. We’re doing all this shit to reach a goal. Number 2. Don’t worry, Mom. I’ll use my powers for good. Number 3. The mouth of hell is not going to open and suck you out of the bed. Go to sleep.”
“Hey! Those were private thoughts!”
“Sorry—my kink—not yours.”
Quinn drifted off to sleep fairly quickly but Dinah didn’t. She realized now what criminals saw in their pursuits—beside the lust for money—she HAD been truly excited, thrilled even, as they’d driven away with the loot; it had been, undeniably, the biggest adrenaline rush of her life.
But now, she kept thinking about the bank customers’ faces—especially the teller. That poor girl was probably still shaking, would probably be afraid to go to work every day now, would be nervous every time a customer stepped up to her window. SHE’D done that to her. She’d taken all of those customers’ sense of security and control and destroyed it.
And had enjoyed herself while doing it. Which scared her.
She knew she wouldn’t be getting any sleep that night.
Barbara was sitting up in bed reading but that didn’t keep Helena from feeling the woman’s stern disapproval of her earlier outburst. As she lay there, she wondered what to say—even if she should say anything at all.
So it was embarrassing. She’d never heard Dick and Bruce say anything like that about her—not like what they’d said about D.
And fuck it all—she was jealous. There it was. She was jealous. And now she’d basically all but said she was jealous—and dissed Dinah—and embarrassed herself and pissed Barbara off in the process.
Should she say something? Or let it go? Or give it time, then say something? Or…
Oh, fuck it.
”Let’s not talk about it, okay?” Barbara continued to read, seemingly undisturbed.
”But, I’m really—sor—“
”What? Sorry that you’re jealous? Sorry that you suggested Dinah might become a criminal? Sorry that you said something incredibly disrespectful about someone who worships you? What, exactly?”
Barbara still hadn’t looked up from her book.
Helena felt tears sting her eyes as she answered truthfully, “I’m sorry that I’m…fuckin’ immature and stupid enough to want to be the most…special…” she gulped with embarrassment as she continued, “And that I want…that I need to be the coolest…to you, at least.”
She watched as Barbara quietly closed her book, placed it on the nightstand and turned to her. And didn’t say a word—but, as Helena looked into her eyes, she thought…aw, man.
There it was. That look.
And she realized, suddenly, that it really didn’t matter whether Dinah walked on water or not—no one else existed for Barbara. No one but her.
So she smiled. And kissed her.
Later that night, as Helena lay sleeping in her arms, Barbara thought about the elephant in the room that they were all busy skirting around—the reason she’d lashed out at Helena’s comment. What if The Joker WERE able to sway Dinah into his control? He obviously was capable of it—after all, Quinzel had been an adult and a trained psychologist when she’d met him and been lured into a life of crime. Dinah was at a very, very impressionable age and obviously already enamored of Quinn. Couple that with the seduction of her increasing powers and you had a recipe for…she sighed as she watched Helena sleep, knowing Helena truly had no such qualms about Dinah. She knew Helena entirely trusted the girl, despite her earlier words.
She also knew she wouldn’t be getting any sleep that night. And that she owed Helena an apology.
Bruce and Dick were both lying in bed, despite the Joker’s insinuations, in separate bedrooms in Wayne Manor, thinking about the events of the day.
And they were both profoundly troubled. Dinah was far, far more powerful than they’d ever imagined she could be. So powerful that they both shuddered to think…
After all, she was with the two most manipulative and seductive people they’d ever encountered in their long careers as crime fighters…and what if she…
Dick played out the scenario in his mind and then laughed out loud. There was no way. They could trust her—he knew it. He knew it as sure as he knew his name was Dick, or..uh, Robin or…Nightwing. He made a mental note not to ever change his fucking name again, turned over and fell promptly to sleep.
Bruce played out the scenario in his mind. Again and again. And he knew he wouldn’t be getting any sleep that night.
The Joker lay in bed feeling particularly…relaxed, sated. He had to admit—he and Harley were a match made in—well, wherever matches like theirs were made.
Dinah, Dinah, Dinah. Having her on his side would immeasurably increase the power of his ministry of crime. He thought of it that way, sometimes. Someone had to spread the gospel, bring crime to the people.
But she was still an enigma to him. Not that he didn’t think he could crack that code. Of course he could—he was, after all, who he was.
He thought, perhaps, what she needed was a few more exploits that would show her how very exciting crime could be—a few jobs that wouldn’t involve people this time. He could tell she was a typical bleeding-heart criminal—feeling badly about people after the fact. Yes, a few exciting jobs—without the people. That was what she needed.
She could be groomed, Harley had been groomed, after all. It might take some time, but he could see a day where he’d have Harley AND Dinah on their knees.
He turned over and slept the peaceful sleep only the innocent—and the damned—sleep.
One Week Later, Morning
“You know what? I really don’t give a shit anymore! We need to get her out of there.”
This was such an unusual outburst for Barbara that it made Helena, Bruce and Dick blink.
“No, Helena! I don’t care what sort of danger I’m in—she’s too young to be—“
Bruce’s calm, measured tone brought the conversation to a halt.
“This situation is…untenable.”
Helena rolled her eyes. Leave it to her father to call bullshit on something with the word untenable.
Dick spoke up next. “I don’t know, guys—except for the bank, it’s not like they’ve done anything serious yet.”
Serious? Not by a long shot—they’d only, evidently, done things that would amuse the Joker.
Well, for starters, one night, he’d stolen every green clothing item out of the top twenty retailers in New Gotham.
He’d gone to Bloomingdale’s and switched all the clothing on all of the male mannequins to female mannequins, and vice versa.
He’d taken all of the merchandise from Tiffany’s and dumped it into a burlap sack and left it in the middle of the store.
He’d broken into the main poultry/egg producers for New Gotham, boiled and colored their eggs, then carefully placed them back into cartons for distribution.
Jokes. All of them. Jokes with a point—he could infiltrate, steal almost at will. And they could only be the precursor to something far more serious, far more dangerous.
The men had retired to Wayne Manor without having come to any conclusion. Which had pissed Barbara off. Although she wasn’t saying anything, her disquietude was radiating off of her in waves.
Helena watched her partner sitting quietly in front of Delphi for nearly an hour. She was sure those green eyes were taking in nothing that was in front of them.
She felt as helpless as she knew Barbara was feeling. Hell, all of them knew Quinn couldn’t be doing all that well at this point. Which left Dinah with…what? The fucking Joker and a half-cocked Harley Quinn. Both of whom were more than a match for her—or Bruce and Dick for that matter.
But the kid?
She swallowed against the lump in her throat.
She was slightly startled by the sound of Barbara’s voice. And even more by the despair in that voice.
“Why the hell do we do this?”
Helena crossed to her, sat on her desk, facing her. “What?”
Barbara waved at Delphi, vaguely at the Clocktower.
”This—all of this. What does it matter?” She paused, looked down at her legs before adding, “Have you ever thought about how much we’ve all lost because of…” she waved again. “All of this?”
The bitterness in her lover’s voice was new to Helena. But she thought about it for a beat before answering. And thinking about it made her angry, so she answered with no little heat.
“Are you kidding? Of course I’ve thought about it. My mother was murdered right in front of me. And as old as I am, I’ve only recently known what having a father’s like.“
And then, suddenly…what a pussy, Helena thought…the tears were falling.
“Not to mention the fact that I went through knowing the most important person in my life might die—that she might…really want to die.”
Barbara stared at Helena for a long beat, then pulled her into a hug, then a kiss.
As Helena pulled away, Barbara’s voice was quiet, sincere, “I’m so sorry, baby. Maybe I don’t tell you enough how happy I am that I’m alive.”
Helena looked into her lover’s eyes. Barbara smiled. “Even…the way I am, I’m so grateful that I’m alive—to share my half-life with you.”
Helena smiled, then growled. “Half-life my ass—I’m taking you to bed.”
As Helena lifted her out of her chair, as desperately depressed as she was, Barbara was newly reminded of the reason she was alive.
Love. She had love.
And that made all the difference.
At the Same Moment
That’s what Bruce had decided upon. In all their years together, Dick had never been wrangled into fishing.
Much less fishing with cane poles and actual worms, for God’s sake.
But Bruce, since he’d reconnected with Helena, was doing a lot of things that weren’t all that characteristic of him.
So they were sitting on the bank of a fairly large pond near Wayne Manor.
Silently watching the water.
For what seemed like hours.
”It’s a dog’s life, isn’t it?”
Dick was a little thrown off by the emotion in Bruce’s voice.
“Uh, I’m sorry. What?”
Bruce waved vaguely at the water.
”What do we accomplish by doing all of this? Look at the cost. Barbara, Selina...and now what if…”
There was so much pain in Bruce’s voice as it trailed away, that Dick glanced at him with concern.
What could he say to his mentor? The man who’d changed his life? When what that man was saying was, essentially, true.
“Because that’s what we do. We fight for…the people who can’t. And sometimes we get hurt. Sometimes we lose. But, no matter how many times we lose, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fight.”
Dick’s voice softened. “I know you’ve just walked back into to this but don’t give up now. It’s hard, I know…but we can do it.“
Dick watched as the muscles in Bruce’s jaw twitched before he spoke.
”I know we can. It’s just that…with Barbara and Helena and Dinah…I just can’t…I couldn’t bear to—“
Hearing the pain in that well-known voice, Dick did something he rarely did. He put his arm around Bruce’s shoulder.
”I know. I know it’s tough…but it’s going to be okay.”
Almost immediately, he moved that arm away from Bruce, embarrassed by the familiarity. Bruce nearly laughed, amused by Dick’s anxiety at their proximity.
But he didn’t. He merely punched Dick gently in the shoulder.
Dick looked at the water, pleased, but because, after all, he was a guy, he swallowed his smile and thought, ‘yeah, love you, too, man.’
At the Same Moment
Barbara was always astonished by how quickly Helena could have both of them naked, in bed, together. Was that a meta-human power, she wondered, as Helena showered kisses on her neck, her collarbones, her…ahh…her breasts.
As she watched Helena’s beautiful mouth encircle her nipple, she wondered, not for the first time, how she’d lucked into having this beautiful, violent, gentle supernova share her life. To be honest, her loss of mobility was nothing compared to the addition of this amazing woman.
She gasped as she watched and felt…it was astonishing that she could feel, Helena enter her. As Helena moved inside her, she also moved upward; she was looking into Barbara’s eyes.
Barbara assented instantly.
No other words were necessary.
Quinn watched Dinah sleeping as she went through the list in her shattering mind, starting with letter A:
A rose by any name would smell as sweet.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder
Absolute power corrupts absolutely
Ace in the hole
Ace up his sleeve
Actions speak louder than words
All dressed up and nowhere to go
All's fair in love and war
Always a bridesmaid, never the bride
An idle mind is the devil's playground
And idle mind? Devils’ playground?
I’ll say, she thought.
Then, for no actual reason, she reached out…traced the edge of Dinah’s collarbone with her fingers. Dinah’s eyes flew open.
What the f—, the girl thought.
She gasped and was relieved to find it was only Quinn. She looked again.
A very aroused Quinn.
Bingo. Just what she’d been waiting for.
She pulled the older woman closer, kissed her as passionately as she could.
And was surprised to find the woman returning her passion. Dinah immediately undressed herself; removed Quinn’s clothing and, then, she felt for the first time the astonishment of a lover’s naked skin against hers.
But, as she kissed her way down to Quinn’s stomach, she could feel the residual disapproval…this wasn’t…she kissed her way closer to…but felt something in Quinn resist…
And she stopped.
She didn’t know how it was possible, but she stopped. She moved up—so she could look Quinn in the eyes.
”You don’t want me to do this, do you?
”What? Yes!” Quinn’s eyes and her mouth were smiling. “Of course I do.”
But Dinah could feel it—NO. A tremendous no from somewhere else inside the woman’s mind.
She pulled away, began to clothe herself again.
Quinn lunged forward. “What are you doing?”
Dinah smiled faintly as she pulled away, then pulled her nightshirt over her head. “Saving both of us.”
Quinn’s eyes didn’t register any understanding but her body relaxed immediately.
She was awake. Which wasn’t saying much—because she hadn’t slept all that much.
“God, I wish we could go home.” Dinah was sitting on the bed next to Quinn, pulling on her boots.
“If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.”
Dinah sighed deeply. Quinn was doing that a lot lately—answering in clichés, which Dinah knew was her way of saying something that didn’t sound quite as unbalanced as she was beginning to feel. Which, in itself, was beginning to sound unbalanced.
But she was really trying. Dinah had to say that for her. So she smiled, stood up and offered her hand to the woman. “C’mon, Quinn.”
And Quinn tilted her head. “Ah…there’s no time like the present? Nose to the grindstone?”
“That’s right, sweetie. Long row to hoe. Shoulder to the wheel.”
As Quinn took her hand, Dinah felt a wave of desperation from the woman that took her breath. And made Dinah very, very angry.
As she marched out of the room and down the hallway toward the Joker’s office with a somewhat alarmed Quinn hurrying to catch up with her, she marveled at how much she really just didn’t give a shit anymore.
Jokes, the latest crimes they’d committed were little pranks the Joker had arranged to get Dinah used to crime. Jokes that wouldn’t hurt anybody—crime that was fun—crime to soothe the liberal criminal in her.
But perhaps the joking was over, he thought, given the look on the young woman’s face as she barged into his office with Quinn in tow.
“That’s it, motherfucker!”
The Joker’s voice was calm, amused. “What’s it, cupcake?”
“Quinn’s not having any more of those goddamned injections. Got that? Over. Done. Finito.”
”Oh? And why’s that?”
”If you don’t want her to take medication, fine! But she’s going to be a major liability to you in a few days if don’t back the FUCK off with those injections. “
The Joker stood up and crossed to Dinah. Leaned over her.
His voice was silky.
”Alright, dumpling, you got it. On…one condition, though.”
Looking up into his eyes, Dinah felt a wave of panicked revulsion. What if—
“You’re a touch telepath, am I right?”
The question caught her off-guard. “Uh…well…yes.”
“You tell the truth. How quaint. And, because I know you’re never going to be willing to…” He paused, as if in thought, but he knew what he was going to do.
He suddenly turned to Quinn, grabbed her by her hair and pushed her over his desk. He roughly dragged her pants off of her and reached for his zipper.
His voice was still as smooth as silk. ”Hold her hand, Dinah—this may get rough.”
Their eyes locked. That wasn’t a request. As Dinah took Quinn’s hand, she felt a tremendous jolt of desire wash over her.
As the next few minutes passed, she experienced what she never could have imagined that she would—being sexually in thrall to another person. As she felt the other woman’s utterly mortified but nevertheless intense enjoyment of what happened…as her knees nearly buckled as she shared the eventual climax, as she watched the mad malevolence in the Joker’s eyes during that climax, he leaned over and kissed her.
She allowed it, allowed it to deepen, even returned it with more passion than he’d been prepared for. In a few moments, however, it was over, for all of them.
And then Dinah was smiling. Because it had suddenly occurred to her that, no matter what, she was going to kill this man.
And she was going to enjoy it.