In A Song (part 6 of 12)

Sunday, 10:46pm: Alley in the club district

Helena winced at the crunching sound the mugger’s cheekbone made as flesh met bricks. “That’s gotta hurt,” she said, picking the stunned man up and shoving him against the wall again. “Maybe next time you’ll pick on someone your own size. Or better yet,” she said, pulling the zip tab on the plastic handcuffs, “stay home and watch TV.”

< Alarms are going off in a jewelry store on Fifth. >

“Is there some sort of criminals’ convention in town we don’t know about?” Helena asked as she made the jump up to the fire escape and then up to the apartment building’s roof.

< I wouldn’t know. I’ve let my trade journal subscriptions lapse. Convenience store clerk on 13th just hit the silent alarm. >

Helena bounced on the balls of her feet. The apartment building she stood atop was on Ninth street. “I’m taking the convenience store,” she said, running for the edge of the roof and making the jump to the next building easily.

< Good call. Alarms are going off in every neighborhood in the city and NGPD is spread thin as it is. I’m rerouting as much as I can but let me know if there’s anything I can do. >

Barbara could practically hear the grin spread itself over Helena’s lips.

< I can think of a couple of things you can do, Oracle, but I’d much rather show you some things I can do first. >

Helena’s voice was low and silky. Barbara chuckled even as she routed a silent alarm call to a private security company before it hit the NGPD call center. She closed that window and in a blink another popped up on her screen. She tracked the call with a brief flick of her eyes. Houseboat. Interesting. Barbara let that one go through to the NGPD switchboard while she rerouted two from office buildings to another private security firm.

“Cat got your tongue, Oracle?” Helena asked in the silence that followed. Turning the corner onto Ninth, Helena spotted the convenience store easily. The low sound that came back down the open comms line stood the hair on the back of Helena’s neck on end; the content of the reply didn’t help matters any either.

< If she’s good, I know a certain little cat who will be getting my tongue later, Huntress. >

Helena was still shaking her head with laughter as she clothslined the armed robber who was trying to divide his attention between keeping the clerk covered and exiting the store. Quality banter was definitely going to make sweeps a lot more fun.

Sunday/Monday, 2:17am: Clocktower

Barbara barely registered the elevator doors sliding open as she routed two more silent alarms at high-end retail establishments to private security companies. She closed the windows confident that the macro she’d written to track the alarms’ addresses would dump the data in the right file. “You must be tired,” Barbara said, not looking away from the monitoring systems open on the screens in front of her. She shivered as she felt Helena’s fingers brush the hair away from her neck.

“What gave you that idea?” Helena whispered as she caressed the back of the redhead’s neck with her lips.

The smiled turned Barbara’s mouth unwittingly and it occurred to her that smiling was something she could very easily get used to. “The low level of sarcasm and lack of complaints, plus, you used the elevator.” She turned her chair in a tight circle and couldn’t control the sharp intake of breath at the sight before her.

A diagonal rip shredded the right thigh of Helena’s leather pants. Her tank top sported a similar hole but what bothered Barbara most was the blood stains. Helena smiled softly. “Don’t worry. It’s not mine…mostly. Hey!” She looked down at where Barbara had taken firm hold of her arm.

“We need to get you checked out and cleaned up,” Barbara said, using her years of training to suppress her reactions to the powerful wave of fear that washed through her system. The severity of her reaction to what were, very probably, minor wounds was something her analytical mind filed away for later consideration. A quick glance showed Barbara the stubbornness rising in Helena’s eyes.

“They’ve already started to heal up,” Helena replied, the eyerolling she was doing mentally leaking through to her tone.

Barbara sighed. “Humor me.” She groaned inwardly as Helena’s stubborn look was replaced by one of mischief.

“Only if you humor me later.” The smile that turned Helena’s mouth promised that humoring her would be worth Barbara’s patience now. Barbara rolled her way down the platform ramp toward the small medical facility confident the brunette would follow.

Sunday/Monday, 2:56am: Bond Bread warehouse

The woman slammed her hand down on the desk. Both the coffee cup sitting on the blotter and the programmer sitting in the chair next to her jumped. The man seated behind the desk, by contrast, remained motionless.

“God damn it, Marcus! I thought you said the city was clean.” The brunette relaxed back into the chair showing no ill effects from the force with which flesh met wood.

Marcus King leaned back in his chair. “You worry too much, Jess. Random do-gooders. We just need to step up the pace and they’ll be overwhelmed as easily as the police.”

Jess sighed and raked her fingers back from her face through her thick, auburn hair, remaking her pony tail almost absentmindedly. “Neighborhood watch maybe, but whoever this is she’s way too organized to be working alone. Our operations were reduced by a full 35 percent tonight,” she said with a shake of her head. “A crime fighter outside the law acting with strategic help spells trouble. It doesn’t matter how you look at it.”

“You know for sure it’s a woman?” King asked with a slight raise of his eyebrows.

Jess nodded, sitting back in the chair and crossing her legs. “It took all the diplomacy skills I have and then some to get just that bit of information. I’ll check it out for myself during phase two.”

Jake Tupper sat forward in his chair and looked at her with open derision. “Oh, that’s fucking perfect. You get pinched and who’s going to run security on go day? Freak show over there?” he asked around the half chewed straw he held in the right side of his mouth. He regretted the straw’s sharp ends in the blink of an eye, about the same amount of time it took Jess’ fingers to close around his throat.

“What have I told you about being politically correct, Jake?” she asked, her voice even and showing no signs of stress. Tupper blinked and swallowed hard; she released her grip on his neck. Jess glanced at the back wall of the office out of the corner of her eye. “Nicky, get down. It’s rude to show off.”

Nicky Street gracefully dropped the 15 feet to the floor from where he’d perched against the back wall. The only bit of him visible in the low light of the office was the yellow glow of his eyes. King’s gaze flicked from Nicky back to Jessica’s face. “Tupper has a point, Jess. Nicky is a bit off-putting for some of the guests. Recon only. Check it out but don’t get involved. In the meantime, we’ll see what we can dig up information wise.” King looked pointedly at Jake who groaned in anticipation of a night with the New Gotham Times’ online archives.

Monday, 6:10am: Barbara’s bedroom

Her loud groan of pleasure still echoing through the soft gray light of the room, Barbara relaxed back into the pillows and slowly opened her eyes. “You’re going to get smug really quickly, aren’t you?” she said, a gentle smile threading through her voice.

Helena grinned up at her from where she’d rested her head on Barbara’s thigh. “I could already sell tickets to me. I get any more smug and I’ll be completely unbearable instead of just annoyingly confident and charming.” She shifted her weight to her hands and knees and laid a soft kiss on the redhead’s abdomen just above her belly button, a place Helena knew Barbara had full feeling, before she settled down next to the redhead on her side. Helena brushed her fingers over Barbara’s forearm. “Play hooky with me,” she said, not looking up from where she watched her fingers moving through fine, soft hair.

Barbara took Helena’s hand in hers and raised fingertips to her mouth kissing softly. “I can’t,” she said as she moved from one finger to the next. “We’ve got an all staff meeting this morning before school.”

Helena grinned, desire rippling off her in waves as she watched Barbara’s lips just barely surround the end of each one of her fingers before she moved on to the next. “Changing the brand of coffee in the teachers’ lounge?” Barbara shook her head and changed her grip on Helena’s hand so that her thumb brushed across the brunette’s knuckles. She brushed her lips across the backs of Helena’s fingers, tongue darting out to trace the gaps between them.

“New uniforms for the girls’ basketball team? Now
there’s a meeting I’d like to be at,” Helena said, still grinning.

Barbara met Helena’s eyes with a slight feeling of dread forming a lump in her throat. “Personnel changes. The new guidance counselor starts today,” she said quietly.

“Oh, I see.” Helena’s voice was soft, just barely audible in the quiet room. Barbara’s dread dissipated somewhat when Helena squeezed her fingers. She leaned in and kissed the brunette softly. Helena’s return kiss held a lot of love but not very much heat. Barbara pushed, her free hand skimming up Helena’s arm to brush across the swell of Helena’s breast.

Helena groaned under her breath as the spike of arousal nearly pushed away her unease. Nearly. Helena pulled back and smiled at the redhead. She kissed Barbara softly on the forehead as she extracted her hand from Barbara’s grip. “I’m gonna make some coffee. I’ll bring you some while you’re in the shower.” Helena turned back the blankets and got out of bed quickly. She pulled on a pair of sweat pants and was still pulling the accompanying tank top over her head as she left the bedroom.

Barbara sighed and stared up through the early morning light. When her alarm went off several minutes later she hit the off button without looking. Helena wasn’t a problem she could “solve” no matter how much brain power she put into it. Call it a hunch, call it intuition, call it years of experience with Helena’s moods; whatever it was, Barbara knew deep down that if this thing between them was going to work she was going to have to do the one thing she really hated doing: deal with her, and Helena’s, emotions. With a sigh, Barbara flipped back the covers and moved to transfer herself to her chair so she could begin her day outside the bedroom.

Monday, 6:41am: Clocktower kitchen

The sugar rushing out of the container was more than a little hypnotic and Helena shook her head to get rid of the effect. “Have a little coffee with your sugar, D,” she said, taking a sip from her own mug.

Dinah rolled her eyes and clanked the spoon around in the coffee cup. “What are you doing up so early anyway?” she asked, putting the nearly empty dispenser down on the counter and raising the mug to her lips all without benefit of touching either one with her hands.

Helena grinned. Even though she’d washed them, her enhanced sense of smell rewarded her with traces of Barbara’s scent still lingering on her fingers. “Busy morning,” she replied as evenly as she could. She laughed as the blush darkened Dinah’s cheeks. “Hey, I’m not the one who was up IMing with my girlfriend until 4am.”

Dinah held her hand up in front of her face. “Just checking to make sure I’m not see-through or something. When did you get the x-ray vision?”

The brunette’s smile just got wider. “Bling! Bling! Bling, bling!” She laughed at the teenager’s puzzled look. “You might want to consider turning the sounds off on your computer,” she said, taking another sip of coffee. “That little incoming message noise every 90 seconds or so is pretty hard to miss.” She turned toward the sound of Barbara’s approaching chair, smile growing wider.

“Dinah, are you ready to go?” Barbara asked, putting her now empty coffee mug in the sink. The blonde girl nodded, putting her own coffee mug in the sink. Barbara held out her key-ring. “Meet me down in the car.”

“Cool. I’m driving,” she said, taking the keys from Barbara.

“We’ll talk about it,” Barbara replied with a smile as she watched the blonde out of the kitchen. The smile still painted her face when she turned to Helena. “You aren’t seriously going to let her drive, are you?” Helena asked, arms crossed over her chest as she leaned against the kitchen counter. Barbara laughed; it was a warm, round sound that made tension Helena didn’t know she was holding drain right out of her.

“Let a seventeen year-old who got maybe two hours of sleep drive a custom, $70,000 automobile? I may be besotted with you but I haven’t gone completely insane,” Barbara said, edging her chair closer to where Helena stood. She reached out and stroked soft fingers over the curve of Helena’s hip. “Thank you…for this morning,” Barbara said quietly, eyes following the motion of her fingers over Helena’s form. “Take a rain check?”

Helena bent down and kissed her softly. “You don’t owe me, and I’m not keeping track.” She kissed Barbara again, this time with more heat, hand automatically slipping up the redhead’s arm to rest on the back of her neck. Helena grinned at the flush she saw in Barbara’s cheeks when she finally pulled away even though it took every ounce of control she had not to let her own desire turn her blue eyes feral. She took a sip of coffee from her nearly empty mug. “You better get down there. I’m sure she’s changed the radio station already.”

Barbara grinned as she backed away and turned her chair around. “Her taste in music can’t be any worse than yours,” she said quietly.

“Hey! I heard that!” Helena yelled after her.

Barbara’s laugh echoed back down the hallway. “I know.”

Helena rolled her eyes and poured the rest of the coffee from the pot into her mug. She considered the sugar dispenser for a moment, grabbed it, screwed off the top and dumped the rest in her mug.

Monday, 6:55am, Bond Bread warehouse

Jake tupper scrubbed a hand over his eyes and spit the blue,plastic straw into the trash can. He’d mashed both ends during his marathon troll through the New Gotham Times’ archives. Hacking past the script that required payment for articles older than 14 days had been a snap. Developing the right search criteria had taken the time but it was time well spent.

He shook his head as the printer spit out the last page of articles on New Gotham’s mysterious, black-clad vigilante. Reports had varied on the crime fighter’s size, hair color, eye color, and gender but one thing was clear: the NGPD would be lost without the help of what so many of the reports he’d pulled after hacking into the police database called “an anonymous informant.”

Tupper dumped the pile of articles on Marcus King’s desk, squinting at the bright morning sunlight. Sleep or more caffeine was his current dilemma. Jake pulled a 20oz bottle of Dr. Pepper out of the office refrigerator on the way to his living quarters. He could hear his Playstation 2 whispering his name.

Monday, 7:10am: New Gotham High teachers’ lounge

Barbara navigated her chair carefully through the door that was just barely wide enough to accommodate her chair’s wider wheel-base. She glanced at the assembled staff as she moved inside the room. The only person she didn’t recognize immediately was a tall woman deep in conversation with Dr. Jeffords, the school’s principal, with her back to the room. Something about the way the woman held herself, though, stirred details long buried in Barbara’s eidetic memory.

The details fell into place as the woman glanced at her watch and turned to face the teachers milling about the crowded room. Barbara was gratified to see that the smile she felt on her own lips was echoed immediately as Jessica Kalen’s gaze lighted on her old friend.

Monday, 12:22pm: English hall, New Gotham High

Dinah leaned against the row of lockers and watched as Gabby rooted through the stack of papers at the bottom in search of her biology notes. “You are just so hot,” she said softly.

Gabby turned to look at her. “What?”

Dinah felt the blush rise to her cheeks. “Nothing.”

When she found the two pages of notes near the bottom of the stack Gabby pulled them free. She stood and held them out to the taller girl but didn’t let go when Dinah tried to pull them out of her hand. “You said what, now?” She stepped a little closer and leaned in.

“Gabby,” Dinah hissed. “What are you doing?”

Gabby smiled. “I’m about to be kissing you,” she said just before her lips met Dinah’s. She heard the taller girl moan softly and smiled; Gabby’d given the hallway a quick check and hadn’t seen a soul before she’d made her move. The suddenly loud throat clearing made her literally jump.

“I’d say ‘get a room’ but, since the official school policy is to emphasize abstinence as a first choice and teach safer sex as a back-up, I only have one piece of advice. Keep it off campus,” the dark haired woman said quietly. Gabby swallowed hard and nodded.

With raised eyebrows the woman turned to Dinah. “Yes, ma’am,” she mumbled.

The woman nodded and turned to make her way down the hall. She turned back before she’d gone a step, leaned in, and said quietly, “And don’t think you’re getting singled out. I’d be telling a straight couple the same thing.”

As Dinah watched her prowl down the hall a feeling of unease prickled the skin on the back of her neck. She turned to look at Gabby. “Who was that?” Gabby shrugged, “The new guidance counselor.”

Monday, 1:46pm: Dark Horse office

Jaycee sighed and snapped her fingers in front of Helena’s face in an attempt to banish the glazed look in her eyes. The brunette blinked. “Sorry, you were saying something about something, weren’t you?”

“How long have you been up?” Jaycee asked as she tapped her pen on the desk in front of her. Helena shrugged. “A while. It doesn’t matter. I’ll catch a nap before we open tonight. What?” she asked in response to the other woman’s raised eyebrows.

“Leonard didn’t just put you behind the bar because you’re good looking, Helena. You’re the best bartender we have,” Jaycee replied. “We’ve got regulars who ask for you.”

Helena nodded. “I know, I just…hey, wait a minute, I’m the boss right? That means I get to do whatever I want,” she said with a grin, her tone only half-joking.

“Yep, you get to do whatever you want as long as you don’t care if the place stays open,” Jaycee smiled as Helena parroted along with her.

Helena grinned at her friend. “Right, I got it. So…show me the schedule again,” she said, pulling her chair closer to the desk.

Monday, 2:12pm, after last bell: Barbara’s class room, New Gotham High

The sound of Barbara’s laugh echoed out of the classroom and down the empty hall. Dinah grinned to herself knowing that a happy Barbara meant a greater chance of getting a ‘yes’ to her request to spend the night at Gabby’s. She turned the corner into the class room prepared to rib Helena about hanging around her alma mater but she stopped short when she saw the woman leaning against Barbara’s desk. Barbara’s gaze moved past her companion to where Dinah had stopped dead in her tracks in the class room’s doorway.

“Dinah, come in and meet Ms. Kalen,” Barbara said with a wave. “She’s the new guidance counselor.”

It took Dinah mere seconds to take in long, slim legs in stylish dove-gray trousers; the lean, athletic profile of the woman’s torso under the brick-red silk blouse; and the dark auburn hair that gracefully framed Jessica Kalen’s amused expression as she held out her hand. “Nice to meet you, Dinah,” Jess said, smile still turning her lips.

Dinah grasped her hand briefly and tried to ignore the small stirring of arousal she felt. “Nice to meet you.”

“Are you yet another one of Barbara’s star pupils,”vJessica asked, sliding her hand into the pocket of her slacks. Dinah shook her head.

“I’m Dinah’s guardian, Jess,” Barbara said, backing her
chair away from the desk slightly and turning so that she included the young blonde in their conversational orbit. “She’s Carolyn’s daughter.”

Jessica turned with eyebrows raised to look at the girl standing in front of her. “That explains why you look so familiar.”

Dinah frowned. “You knew my mother?”

“Briefly,” Jessica replied with a nod. “Barbara was nice enough to let me spend a summer with her and the Commissioner our junior year in college. We ran into your mom occasionally.”

Dinah looked at Barbara seeking confirmation. “Jessica and I were on the gymnastics team together,” she said. “Your mother taught Aikdo at the gym we where trained during that summer.” The teenager nodded, gears in her brain twirling fast to assimilate the new information.

Jessica looked at her watch and stood with ease. “I’ve got to get going. Can’t be late for my first administrative meeting with the senior staff.” She laid her hand on Barbara’s shoulder and let it linger there. “I wasn’t kidding when I said we should go out and catch up. I’ve missed you, Babs.”

Barbara nodded. “We’ll work something out, Jess. I’ve missed you, too.” To her own surprise, instead of just being the polite response she’d intended, Barbara found the words actually had weight.

Jessica withdrew her hand and turned her attention to Dinah whose frown had deepened in the face of the exchange between the two older women. “Dinah, it was nice to meet you,” she said, a small twinkle in her eye. “I don’t want to see you in my office any time soon.” Dinah turned to watch the older woman go; she didn’t turn back to Barbara until the classroom’s door had clicked firmly shut.

“You ready to head home?” Barbara asked, radiating happiness as she stowed a stack of papers that needed to be graded in her bag. Dinah opened her mouth and then closed it again, overcome by the sense of unease she felt earlier. She nodded. Barbara grinned. “Stay that quiet and I may let you drive home…slowly.” She closed the bag and slung it over the back of her chair before making her way to the door. Dinah followed her out, her hand automatically hitting the switch to turn off the overhead florescent lights before she shut the door.

Monday, 6:47pm: Clocktower training room

Helena quietly shucked her warm-up jacket without taking her eyes off Dinah who stood, back to the door, pounding the heavy bag repeatedly with her fists and feet. Helena crept up behind the teenager. “What’d that bag ever do to you?” she asked, the grin evident in her voice. The only thing that stopped Dinah’s fist from connecting with her nose was Helena’s swift meta-enhanced reflexes.

She held Dinah’s fist tightly in her palm. “Slow down there, Big D. I’m all for readiness training but give a girl some time to warm up. Goes for everything else in life too,” Helena said, throwing in a little flirting as she was wont to do. She let go of Dinah’s fist and the teenager turned without a word and continued to slug the canvas bag. “Hey, grasshopper, back off.” Helena circled around the bag and grabbed it to stop the natural motion created by Dinah’s punches.

Dinah swiped her forearm across her face to control some of the sweat that covered her skin in a fine sheen. “I thought we were sparring.” Helena nodded. “Yeah, after you tell me what the hell is bothering you. A fight fought in anger is a fight lost.”

“What is this, Kung Fu all of a sudden?” Dinah asked, taking a swig from the water bottle she’d retrieved from the bench by the wall. “Besides, I’ve seen you fight angry. You do fine.”

Helena nodded. “Yeah, I’ve been really lucky, plus, I’m wired differently than you are. I’ve got innate abilities to fall back on – speed, agility, stamina – that you don’t have.” The brunette dropped down onto the bench next to Dinah. “So, spill.”

Between sips of water Dinah sketched out the details of both her meetings with Jessica Kalen. Helena listened quietly as she fiddled with a loose thread poking out of one of the side seams of her track pants. After Dinah stopped speaking Helena glanced at the teenager out of the corner of her eye; something nibbled around the edges of Helena’s perception. “You sure that’s it?”

Dinah nodded. She’d held back some strategic details including just how attractive the auburn haired woman was and how free she’d felt to touch Barbara; Dinah’s discomfort stemmed partially from not trusting her own perceptions and partially from the still-felt sting of her previous efforts at matchmaking with her two closest friends.

Helena sighed and ran a hand through her hair. “It’s only natural to want to know more about your mom. I’d be careful, though. Check this lady out before you tell her too much about your life. Trust me on this one,” she said, rolling her eyes slightly. “Your mom dealt with all kinds of people just like mine did, and some of ’em weren’t very nice.” She grinned widely. “As for that whole ‘macking in the hallway’ thing…I recommend the nook just outside the back entrance to the girls’ gym.” Helena wiggled her eyebrows.

“Helena! Did I really need to know that?” Dinah asked, wishing for the millionth time, and probably not the last, that she didn’t blush at the drop of a hat.

Helena’s laugh was full and rich with the undercurrent of recently surfaced pleasant memories. “You did if you have any hope of getting any sugar during school hours.” She patted the teenager on the thigh. “So, we sparring or what?”

Monday/Tuesday, 2:39am: Alley in the warehouse district

“Bitch, you are so gonna get what’s coming to you,” the thug said, grabbing his crotch with the hand that wasn’t holding the switch blade. He spit the blood that had leaked from his busted lower lip onto the pavement at Helena’s feet.

Helena shook her head. “Not in your wildest fantasy,” she growled. The guy closed on her, the motion of his hips telegraphing the direction of his movement and giving Helena a chance to vent the full force of her anger as boot’s sole met knee. “Normally I’m a girl who favors the direct approach,” she said, sweeping his feet out from under him. “In this case, a little romance would have been a better move. I’m guessing you don’t see a lot of action with that caliber of pick-up line.”

The thug spit again from where he writhed on the pavement; blood and saliva covered the toe of Helena’s boot. “Oh that’s just gross.” She kicked him onto his stomach, held his wrist down with her foot and picked up the switch blade. She held it up in the dim light from the street lamp and considered its lines. “You know, I hate these things.” Keeping her foot on the thug’s wrist, she threw the knife so hard at the facing building it embedded in the bricks up to the hilt.

When she was done cuffing him, Helena wiped the toe of her boot clean on the thug’s jeans.

< Squad car’s ETA is about 45 seconds. >

Helena took a deep breath in search of some calm. “Got it.” She darted off down the alley and around the corner just as the NGPD patrol car’s lights swept into the mouth of the alley.

On the rooftop above the alley, two figures continued to watch as the police poured the now screaming mugger into the back of the squad car and drove off. Glowing yellow eyes showed from even the deepest reach of the shadow. “I hope he wasn’t one of ours,” Nicky said softly. The woman shook her head, pale moonlight turning auburn hair the color of blood.

She turned to look at her companion, finding him automatically even though he’d returned his attention to the street below. “Things are about to get very, very interesting.”

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