DISCLAIMER: Birds of Prey is the property of DC Comics. No infringement intended.
CHALLENGE: Written for the Dead of Winter ficathon.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Helena Kyle and the Policeman's Ball
Jim watched Helena watch his daughter. Helena's dark gaze seemed focused on a certain point on Barbara's neck. Her spiked hair, a mane of daggers, added to her monstrous vampire appearance--was that the fashion of kids these days? Or were mutants allowed at the policeman's ball this year?
Helena Kyle was an animal and he couldn't figure out why Barbara had invited her. Of all the dates in all of Gotham Jim shook his head. Lex Luthor might have been a better choice. Or, Rachel Dawes, if his daughter were so inclined. Not that he had any idea of his daughter's inclinations.
He strode forward, placing himself between Helena and his daughter's vulnerable neck.
"Enjoying the ball, girls?" He asked.
"Well, I've never been the biggest fan of policemen," said Helena. "Unless they're out of uniform, of course." She winked at him. Jim cleared his throat.
Barbara leaned back, and asked, "Is that Bruce Wayne I see? I didn't realize he was in town."
"Just for tonight. I don't know where he spends the rest of his time. But he did pay for most of it," said Jim.
Helena rolled his eyes. "He can solve the whole crime problem in Gotham with a check."
Jim ignored Helena and said to Barbara, "Have you said hello, yet?"
"Not yet, Dad. I'm sure he'll make his way over soon." She seemed to be blushing slightly, or maybe that was just his imagination. Sure, Bruce was older, but he was single, and despite his ability to party--he had a martini in each fist at the moment--he was a good man. He'd be a good man to Barbara.
He had been a good man. He'd spent long days at Barbara's bedside after she'd been shot. They'd talked for hours, and played board games, and Bruce had even bought her a laptop computer. Her first, if Jim recalled correctly.
Helena's expression had darkened. Jim remembered her spending a lot of time with Barbara, too, but he couldn't picture Bruce and Helena there at the same time. Maybe they never had been. Strange, given the family resemblance.
Barbara said, "Can I have a Cosmo?"
Helena knew she was being dismissed. She patted Barbara's shoulder and walked off toward the bar.
"Helena? Really?" Jim asked. "She hates--" He hesitated. Everything seemed rude to say.
"It's good to see Helena and Bruce in the same room for once." Barbara tossed her hair. The red locks cascaded over her shoulders. She looked more like a woman than made him comfortable. She asked, "And really, Dad. Who else would I invite?"
"After the last time you invited her somewhere?"
Barbara ducked her chin onto her hand, propped up on her wheelchair arm. "Daddy, that Thanksgiving she was 19. Her mom had just died. Of course she'd be a little upset."
"She threw food."
Barbara smiled, as if she enjoyed the memory.
Jim sighed, and said, "It's just when you became a teacher, I thought you'd settle down. And now you've got another new ward. So Helena could--"
"So you thought I'd graduate Helena? That's not how it works, Dad. She and I--" Barbara didn't finish the sentence, and he didn't particularly want her to. He had never liked her friends. Even before she took in Helena, a career criminal's darling heir, for crying out loud, she'd be out at all hours, coming home scuffed and dazed. Keeping secrets.
He should have worried more, but Barbara's headstrong behavior made her seem invincible, and she'd always been such a bookworm, he knew she wasn't into anything too wild. Jim Gordon's daughter could take care of herself.
When she'd been crippled, that should have been the end of it. But she'd found Helena as a kindred spirit. Instead of opening up to him. Helena, who snapped at anyone who came too close. Helena, who was young and beautiful and who hadn't been arrested in two years.
Right family, wrong branch. But maybe it didn't matter with the right family. Selena Kyle's rap sheet had never had too much in the way of violence. Maybe that's why she'd been surprised by the knife. Maybe Helena's mean streak came from the other side of the family.
Bruce had his arm around a man's shoulder. He laughed and took another sip of his martini. Across the hall, Helena mimicked the gesture with Reese. Reese was laughing. She was smiling. Smiling like maybe she'd tear out his throat and bring it to Barbara as a price. He felt his chest constrict slightly.
"What do you think of Detective Reese?" Barbara asked, following his gaze.
"Well, he made 2nd grade last year, but he still believes in Batman," he said.
Barbara pursed her lips. Jim had believed in Batman, too, once. Then he'd seen his daughter lying in a hospital bed. Better it had been the mob that had gunned her down than a crazed madman.
Better it had been a world he understood.
Bruce came over, to kiss Barbara on the cheek. "You're looking beautiful," he said.
"You too," she answered.
Jim watched them paternally, and accepted a firm handshake from Bruce. "Wayne," he said.
"Gordon. I'm on my way out."
Barbara's expression fell. "To where?
"The white, sandy beaches of California."
"The city needs you," said Barbara.
Bruce grinned. He mussed Barbara's head, and said, "It's your city now."
"And your heir's," Barbara said.
Bruce winced. Helena turned away from Reese, and met Jim's eyes. He could swear her irises flashed yellow. Bruce left, heading toward the coatroom.
Jim sighed. He didn't understand Helena. Or Bruce, or Barbara, for that matter. And Helena was returning with drinks. "Beer, Commissioner?"
He smiled as politely as he could, and said, "How did you know, Helena?"
She merely grinned. Barbara accepted a martini. Jim was saved from awkward conversation by a ringing of the bell on stage.
"If we could have your attention," Reese said into a microphone. His tux was immaculate. Helena hadn't drawn blood yet. "Commissioner Gordon has a few things he'd like to say."
A chorus of boos and catcalls greeted the announcement. Jim kissed his daughter's cheek and made his way to the stage. Helena took his place. He saw, as he climbed the steps to the small platform, Barbara grasp Helena's wrist. Helena chuckled. Barbara leaned in to whisper something.
"Remind me why I'm here again," said Helena, glancing at the stage, moodily stirring her ice with her cocktail pick.
"I like to see you in a dress," said Barbara.
Helena smirked, and said, "Then let me wear a dress crimefighting."
"Well, I also like you in leather pants."
"Oh, Barbara. Choices, choices."
Barbara laughed, but she kept her eyes on her father.
Helena felt a little jealous. She took a large swallow of her drink. She said, "You know, Barbara--"
Gunfire interrupted her. Men in black masks entered the room. Helena spun around, raising her fists. Behind her she heard the clank of metal as Barbara pulled nunchucks from the wheelchair.
On stage, Reese threw Jim to the ground. Jim groaned. "Careful, Reese, you could break a hip."
"Sorry, sir. You'll need that for kicking ass."
Reese had his gun drawn by the time they rolled to their knees, looking across the platform, using the podium as a shield. Jim didn't have a revolver on him. He was retired. He cursed.
"Four," reported Reese.
"You missed the two under the table, pretending to be victims."
"Damn, they move fast. Snipers?"
"Smart choreography." Jim scanned the room. Policemen weren't ones to panic, but most of them hadn't come armed. The hotel had gotten nervous at all the armament. And their wives weren't as well-trained. Some were still screaming in their expensive ballgowns. Most were crying. The intruders--thieves? terrorists?--were still taking position in the room. Two were rushing to the stage. Reese aimed.
Jim looked at where his daughter had last been. She wasn't there anymore. He scanned the room. There, between the running thugs and the platform, was the wheelchair. Barbara covered her head, looking scared. His heart lurched.
Reese hadn't fired.
Where was Helena?
The thugs reached his daughter, and assessing her as a non-threat, jogged by her. Her arm lashed out, and one doubled in pain. She'd hit him in the thigh, and then the groin, with nunchucks. The second man raised his gun over the doubled-over one's head, sighting Barbara.
"No!" Jim yelled.
Helena, from nowhere, grabbed the second man around the neck. She squeezed.
Barbara knocked the first man over the back with her nunchucks and he collapsed to the floor.
"Now!" Reese shouted. He fired. Other gunshots rang out, and the sounds of scuffling. In ten seconds, it was over.
Helena had her high-heeled boot on the neck of a fallen assailant. She brushed tousled hair away from Barbara's face. Jim looked away. He straightened and tapped the microphone. "Someone call the police?"
Laughter. Hotel security came and dragged the men off. Later, they'd find out what they wanted. There would be interrogations and hot lights and signed confessions. And press. They probably wanted press.
Everyone wanted fame, these days.
Jim said, "I guess they expected to catch us with our guard down. But someone had our back." He gazed at Helena.
The music began to play again. Wives went to the powder room to wipe away streaked makeup. Jim headed to the bar. Barbara and Helena were in the corner of his eye. Helena leaned over, whispering to Barbara. She was laughing.
She was happy.
They'd taken down two armed men in seconds, without words, without planning. Neither had protected the other. Neither had mistrusted the other. Just like cops--if they were the most capable partnership on the force. He had to accept that Helena wasn't a guard dog. And that Barbara didn't need one.
Barbara was the same girl she'd been before she was shot. He hadn't seen it. Helena had, maybe because she had before and after experiences of her own.
Jim picked up a beer bottle and headed back to them. Helena's expression was wary. Barbara was giggling.
"What's so funny?" He asked.
"Dinah's expression, when we tell her what she missed. She begged to come to this party. She wanted to dress up."
"Why didn't you bring her?" Jim asked, glancing at Helena.
"School tomorrow," said Barbara.
"Ah, right. I get enough calls from the truancy office as it is," said Jim. He offered the bottle to Helena. "Nothing washes off a good fight like hops."
She took the bottle and took a sip, keeping her eyes on him.
Reese appeared. "Care to dance, Helena?"
"Sure. I can drink and dance at the same time," she said, smiling and taking his elbow.
Jim knelt next to the wheelchair, and asked, "Is there something you want to tell me, Barbara?"
"Is Helena invited to next Thanksgiving?"
"If she's not in jail by then," he said dryly.
Barbara leaned forward and kissed his cheek. "I'm a big girl, Daddy."
"I know. And I'm proud of you." He stood, and placed his hand on her shoulder. "For everything."
The excitement had overwhelmed the crowd. After two more songs, people began to leave. Wives dragged their husbands to the coatroom, ignoring protests about having to make statements downtown. Helena, Barbara, and Reese lingered, but finally, he left. Jim knew he wanted to see if any of the gunmen were metahuman, and Reese would stay up all night next to his phone, hoping masked vigilantes brought him information.
Barbara would be on her computer, and Helena--Well, whatever it is she did, Jim knew the night was just beginning for all of them.
Except for him. Another beer and a taped football game were waiting for him at home. Let the younger people play outside in the dark.
He kissed his daughter goodbye on the steps outside the hotel. Helena tried to push the wheelchair down the sidewalk. Barbara slapped her hand. Helena turned her face to the sky and inhaled deeply. She pulled her leather coat around herself. Barbara wheeled faster, and Helena yelled and began to jog after her.
At the street corner, just before they turned and disappeared around another building, Helena leaned over to say something. Barbara tilted her head toward Helena. Their noses touched. They were silhouetted by a street lamp. Helena laughed. Barbara leaned closer. They kissed, the corners of their mouth touching. Barbara kissed Helena's jaw and then pushed her away.
Helena jogged backward into a shadow. Barbara wheeled herself after her. They disappeared around the corner.
Jim could swear he had seen them kiss. He could testify to it in court. He just couldn't believe it. Stranger things had happened at night in Gotham, though. He pulled his pipe from his coat pocket. He could trust Helena Kyle with his life, he'd learned tonight. And his daughter's life. Even among cops and masked heroes, that meant something to him.
He lit his pipe. A thin stream of smoke rose up, perfuming the night air. Maybe his daughter's connection with the Wayne family was even stronger than his. He knew Alfred worked for her, although he didn't know in what capacity. She seemed to have inherited everything, even if it had come with the price tag of one bullet and one bastard to look after.
He wasn't going to ask questions. That was something he and his information-junkie daughter disagreed on. Some things, he had to accept on faith.
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