What the Butler Saw, Part 2

Previously: Part 1 [A]

Second and final part of Birds of Prey one-shot. [And, yes, I understand that a two-part one-shot is a contradiction in terms.]

Rated A.

* * * * *

Three years ago

There had been a change in the tides, perhaps not in the affairs of men, but definitely in the day-to-day emotional currents of the Clocktower.

After Helena moved out, Dick Grayson reappeared in Barbara’s life in an on-off capacity. It was never stated—and neither Alfred nor Helena ever asked—but they assumed that he was Barbara’s lover once more. There were no dates, but Barbara visited him in Bludhaven a few times, and Dick was seen leaving the Clocktower in the wee small hours while in New Gotham on business. Alfred had not witnessed this himself; Helena informed him in her succinct fashion (‘Booty call last night’). It confirmed Alfred’s suspicions that Helena spent many nights on the rooftops nearby, watching over Barbara. He also knew that she snuck into Barbara’s room on occasion. He was, after all, the one who cleaned the floors and he recognised muddy boot prints when he saw them.

Helena also ramped up her flirting with everyone, but especially Barbara. Everything Barbara said, in person or over the new comms system (which Helena hated on principle), was responded to with innuendo. During Barbara’s physical therapy, which Helena had been providing since the day she had been discharged from hospital, Helena challenged her with a series of guttural moans and grunts.

“You like that, don’t you, Barbara?” she would ask.

“No-one else will ever make you feel this good,” she would say, letting her fingers drift up Barbara’s thigh.

Barbara never responded. Alfred suspected she didn’t know how. But from his few observations of Barbara’s physical responses, which Helena could read so much better than he could, Helena was not wrong in her boldly-stated assumptions. Her paralysis might prevent her from actually feeling Helena’s hands on her, but Barbara’s eyes and imagination seemed to be working just fine.

And it obviously bothered Barbara when Helena would flirt with the beat cops and detectives while out on business. Despite her own affair with Dick Grayson, Barbara’s jealousy at Helena’s implied sexual relationships was not well-concealed. Alfred had no doubt that she rationalised it as something like parental concern, but he could see the pain on her face as she overhead Helena’s voice dripping with promise and seduction.

Helena still treated the Clocktower as her home. She ate at least three meals a day there, although for Helena three meals could constitute an afternoon snack. Her old room was still full of her clothes. She did most of her sleeping on the couch during the day while Barbara was teaching.

Alfred visited Helena’s apartment above the Dark Horse bar once a week to keep the mess to a minimum. She had never decorated, never added any personal touches. There was barely any furniture. Mostly, his cleaning consisted of removing fast food wrappers and liquor bottles, and picking up items of women’s clothing that he knew were not Helena’s. To his knowledge, no-one had ever returned for their items. They remained folded and tucked away in cardboard boxes on the floor of one of the built-in closets.

He was in the middle of one such visit when there was a knock at the door. Frowning to himself, he answered it suspiciously. He was entirely surprised to find Barbara on the other side of the door. To his knowledge, she had never been there before.

“I’m afraid Miss Helena is not here, Miss Barbara,” he informed her as he opened the door fully to let her inside.

Barbara was staring open-mouthed at the item in Alfred’s hands. Too late, he realised that he was holding a pink cardigan sweater, one of several items he had recovered that week. Barbara looked at the sweater and then to Helena’s bed, which dominated the loft-style apartment. The sheets were pulled off the bed in a manner which implied vigorous sexual activity.

“Ah, I thought I might—” Barbara blushed and looked at her lap. In a small voice, she asked, “Is she seeing someone? She never talks to me about anything important any more.”

“I very much doubt she’s seeing anyone,” he stated.

“But, that.” Barbara pointed to the garment in his hands.

It was a pink sweater. There wasn’t a chance that he could persuade anyone, much less Miss Barbara, that it belonged to Helena.

“I believe it may have been left behind inadvertently.”

“Oh.”

He could see Barbara’s mind working, piecing together the information she had.

“May I get you a cup of tea?” he said, putting the garment down on the back of the couch. There was never any real food in the apartment, but he did keep it stocked with tea, coffee and Pop-Tarts.

“What? Oh, no. I mean, no, thank you.” Her brows were knotted together. “So she sleeps with women as well?”

“I don’t think I—”

“No. No, of course. I shouldn’t have asked.” Barbara looked annoyed with herself.

“Perhaps if you were to speak to Miss Helena?”

“It never occurred to me that—” She stopped herself. Looking around the spartan apartment, she shrugged. “Well, if she’s not here, I should go. I just, I miss her, that’s all.”

“Why not wait for her? I’m sure she’ll return soon.” Helena was usually in bed or lounging around watching TV when he visited, so it had been a surprise to find the apartment empty.

“I really shouldn’t. I’m not sure that she—”

“Not sure that I’d what?” Helena interrupted, letting herself in through the window to the fire escape.

“I, uh, didn’t know that you’d want me to be here.” Barbara’s hand reached to the bridge of her nose to adjust her reading glasses, a nervous tick that she had. Only she wasn’t wearing her reading glasses, so she ended up having to rub her forehead instead.

“I think I should leave,” Alfred interjected.

Helena’s head swung round in his direction. “No, you stay. I only went out to get these,” Helena held up a box of Swiss chocolates, Alfred’s favourites, “so we had something to eat with our tea. We’re still having tea, aren’t we, Alfred?”

He bowed his head. “Of course, Miss Helena.”

“Then I should be the one to leave,” Barbara said.

Helena walked slowly and deliberately towards her. “Why? Don’t you like tea and chocolates?”

“I, uh, well, I wasn’t invited,” Barbara stammered, trying and failing not to look at either the bed or the pink sweater on the back of the couch.

Helena noted the line of Barbara’s sight and smiled. “My apologies. Would you like to join us for tea and chocolates, Barbara?” There was a menace in the tone and Alfred wondered what was going through Miss Helena’s mind.

“That.. I, uh… Yes.”

“Lovely.” She gave Barbara a curt nod of her head. “I’m just going to have a shower and I’ll be right back. Please, make yourself at home while I’m gone.” She walked towards Alfred and picked up the sweater. “I take it this just goes with the others?” She smirked at him. Neither of them had to look at Barbara to know that her curiosity had just kicked into overdrive.

“Yes, Miss Helena,” he sighed. She made him sigh a lot. And still, he loved her. She was hard not to love.

When she returned some ten minutes later—a notably short time for someone who thought showers should last at least an hour—Alfred had made tea. He had looked for a plate to arrange the chocolates on, but the apartment contained only cups and bowls. There wasn’t even a saucer he could use. He had been forced to leave them in their box, and the lack of proprietary rankled.

Helena was wearing track pants and one of her seemingly never-ending supply of t-shirts which were both too short and too tight for decency’s sake. With her hair all mussed from being towel-dried and her lack of make-up, she looked like a young girl again—a young girl with a very obvious hickey on her shoulder blade, just peeking out from the neckline of her t-shirt. Barbara was staring at that mark with a look of bewilderment.

“So, to what do we owe the pleasure?” Helena asked, picking up a chocolate and placing it between her lips. The way she traced her tongue over the sweet was almost sinful. Alfred had to suppress a smile at both her obviousness and Miss Barbara’s unconscious reaction to it as her tongue darted out to wet her lips.

“You haven’t been by much in the last few weeks.”

“Busy.” Helena shrugged and sat down opposite her. “Been pulling double shifts downstairs.”

“Is that all?” Barbara toyed with her mug of tea.

“What else could there be?”

“If you’re seeing someone, Helena, I would hope that you feel you could tell me that.”

Helena glanced sideways at Alfred and smirked at him before chuckling at Barbara. “I’m not seeing anyone. I don’t date.”

“Oh.” Barbara flushed an even deeper red. “Well, it’s not for me to pry, obviously.”

“What is it you really want to ask, Barbara?” Helena drew her knee up to her chest, her bare foot resting on the edge of the chair. Barbara’s head dropped, unwilling to speak. “Okay, how about I make it easy on both of us?” She picked up her own mug and took a drink of her tea. “I’m gay, Barbara. That means I do not sleep with men because I like women. A lot. I like the way they look and the way they smell. I like their softness and the way they feel and, oh, how I love the way they taste.” For emphasis, she licked her fingers clean of chocolate.

The silence stretched out. Alfred watched his two charges, wondering which one of them would speak first. Miss Barbara would want time to process, while Miss Helena would want an immediate and honest response.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Barbara finally asked.

“Why didn’t you ask?” Helena shrugged and inclined her head towards Alfred. “He didn’t even have to ask. He just knew.”

“You did?” Barbara lifted her head and there was pain in her green eyes. Alfred gave her a nod to confirm what Helena had said. “How long?”

Helena snorted. “How long have I been gay or how long has he known?”

It was obvious the women needed to talk in private, so Alfred said, “Perhaps it would be best if I—”

“Stay,” Helena interrupted, her tone almost pleading. She reached out for him, resting her hand on his arm. “I’ve always been gay. And he’s always known.”

“But what about all those men?”

Helena raised an eyebrow. “What men?”

“When you don’t come back from sweeps. I’ve heard you.” She was referring to the flirting she heard over the comms, and the admission looked hard for her.

“That’s you taking two and two and making six or seven, Red. If you’d have asked me, I’d have told you that it’s all a bit of harmless fun. Sometimes, it doesn’t hurt to use a little of what God gave you to get what you need. Maybe not very modern or PC, but effective.”

“So, you haven’t?”

“What? Slept with half of Gotham PD? No, but thanks for thinking I’m a slut.”

“I really must go,” Barbara announced suddenly, reversing her chair from the table and turning it in the direction of the door.

“Of course,” Helena agreed sadly.

“Will you still come by for training tomorrow?” Barbara asked, her back to both of them.

“Bright and early.”

Without another word, Barbara left the apartment.

Helena turned to Alfred and laughed, a wry, unhappy noise. “Well, I don’t know about you, but I thought that went fabulously.”

* * *

Two years ago

“Kid, I am going to kick your ass so hard, you won’t sit down for a week,” Helena taunted, dancing away from the blonde in front of her like a boxer. Her taped hands ghosted punches in Dinah’s direction.

“Stop calling me Kid!” Dinah responded, her fists balled at her side while she tried to concentrate her telekinetic abilities in Helena’s direction. The young meta-human, the latest stray to be co-opted by the Wayne-Gordon family, was a touch telepath with a level of mental ability and stability of which Helena could only dream.

Alfred regarded them both with amusement. Miss Dinah too easily allowed herself to be distracted by Miss Helena’s teasing. It was why she had yet to win a sparring match against her older partner.

Dinah’s unofficial adoption had, however, brought a sort of peace to the Clocktower. She was a joint project on which Miss Helena and Miss Barbara could work together as a team, easing the tension between them which had never really let up since the ill-fated twenty-first birthday party. Her presence even allowed Helena to ignore—or at least not focus on—the fact that Barbara was now in a serious relationship with Wade Brixton, the guidance teacher at New Gotham High School. He was a handsome, earnest man who obviously cared for Barbara, and, as such, was probably more of a threat in Helena’s mind than Master Dick had ever been.

Just as Dinah’s attention was caught by Barbara entering the training room, Helena took the opportunity to launch a roundhouse kick at the young blonde’s head. Dinah’s hand shot out, as her mind tried to block the blow before it landed. She never saw the acrobatic leap or the second kick coming, and Helena’s bare foot connected with the side of her head, knocking her from her feet.

“Helena!” Barbara exclaimed, glaring at the brunette. “How could you?”

“How’s she ever going to learn if I don’t teach her?” Helena rolled her neck, dancing from foot to foot and shaking the tension out of her shoulders, her hands twitching restlessly. “You think the Joker’s gonna come at us with sponges or feathers? Surely you remember that he comes with guns, and those bullets hurt a helluva lot more than my foot.” It was a low blow, referring to Barbara’s shooting and subsequent paralysis, but it was par for the course in the constant point-scoring the two women seemed to be hell-bent on these days.

Alfred opened the medical cabinet which was kept stocked for just such occurrences and extracted some antiseptic cream. With meta-healing, there would be no trace of the small cut above Dinah’s eyebrow within a matter of hours, but it was always best to be on the safe side. He knelt before her and urged her into a seated position so that he could treat the wound.

“Not every fight has to be to the death, Helena,” Barbara said.

“And not every session can be with the training wheels on.”

“How could you be so reckless? You could’ve really hurt her!”

Helena scowled as she started to pull the tape from her knuckles and looked over at the blonde for support.

“I’m not hurt,” Dinah protested, upset that her two mentors were fighting again. Alfred placed a hand on her shoulder, shushing her. It might be hard for the girl to stay out of it, but this was how things were and would probably always be. There had been many versions of this fight, and it was never about what it appeared to be on the surface. It was always about the basic dynamic of Barbara and Helena: Barbara’s need to be in control and Helena’s need for Barbara’s love and acceptance.

“Why can’t you ever trust me, Barbara? I know what I’m doing. I am good at this shit.” She pulled the last of the fighter’s tape from her hands and wadded it into a ball. Gracefully, like Jordan hitting a three-pointer, she took a jump shot towards the waste bin in the corner. Even Dinah chuckled at Helena’s obvious glee at making the shot.

“This is not about trust.”

“Bullshit! It is always about trust. You just don’t like it when I don’t play the game by your rules. Well, guess what? I don’t like your rules. And, in this case, they’re just wrong.”

Barbara’s hands shot up in frustration. “When have you ever played by my rules?”

Helena glanced in Alfred and Dinah’s direction, lowering her voice and answering steadily, “I play by your rules every day, Red.”

“Don’t.” Barbara also looked over at them, no doubt trying to ascertain if they had picked up on Helena’s undertone. He couldn’t speak for Miss Dinah, but Alfred had a fair notion of what wasn’t being said.

Helena folded her arms and stood her ground. “Then admit that I’m right.”

“No.”

“No, you don’t think I’m right or, no, you won’t admit it?”

“Both.”

“It can’t be both. If you don’t think I’m right, then there’s nothing to admit; therefore, you must think I’m right and won’t admit it.” Helena looked inordinately pleased with her logic.

“She’s hurt!”

“No, she’s not. We’re meta. That was barely a love tap. If she can’t block me, she’s not ready to be out there.”

“I’m honestly not hurt,” Dinah said, quietly enough that only Alfred heard her.

“She’ll never be out there if you break her neck,” Barbara said.

“Jesus! Why do I always have to be wrong? Can you not let me have this one thing? Is it that important for you to be right about everything?”

Barbara’s face crumpled. “Is that what you really think?”

“You don’t approve of my clothes, my attitude, my job, where I live, who I sleep with, how I train, my lack of discipline. Go on, name one thing about me you actually like, Red, because I sure as shit can’t think of anything except maybe—” She stopped as Barbara wheeled away and positioned herself in the corner of the room, her back to everyone.

Helena bounced on her toes, staring up at the ceiling, as if seeking divine inspiration. It didn’t seem to be forthcoming.

She moved over to Dinah and Alfred, dropping to a crouch, one knee on the floor. “Alfred, can you take Dinah and get her some ice-cream or something?”

“Ice-cream?” Dinah muttered. “Do I get a dolly and a balloon too?”

“Kid, I like ice-cream, and I’m more adult than you’ll ever be. This is my way of asking you nicely to give us some space.” Very deliberately, Helena placed her hand on Dinah’s forearm, staring evenly at the younger woman.

She was passing a message to Dinah telepathically, allowing her inside her mind, Alfred realised. And from the younger woman’s gasp, it was something shocking. Helena nodded at Dinah solemnly and inclined her head towards the living area.

“Come on, Alfred. Let’s go,” Dinah said, picking herself up off the floor.

As the three of them stood, Alfred was shocked to see Dinah pull Helena into a quick, tight hug, which Helena not only tolerated, but returned gladly.

“Thanks, Big D. We’ll talk later about…”

“We don’t have to.”

“I know. We will anyway.” Helena stepped back from the embrace and smiled weakly at Alfred. He peered into her eyes, trying to read her. She looked over her shoulder to Barbara with her usual mix of longing, hope and trepidation, then back at him. The brief nod she gave assured him that she would be okay.

A guiding hand at Dinah’s back, he led her through to the kitchen. He did not give into his curiosity by looking back. If the fight were to continue, half of the block would hear it soon enough. If not, well, they’d hear that soon enough too.

There was no conversation as he prepared a bowl of vanilla ice-cream and retrieved chocolate sauce from the pantry. He placed both in front of the young girl and waited as her mind ticked over. She had been with them for such a short time, but already she had picked up some mannerisms from each of her mentors. Her current thoughtful look was pure Barbara Gordon.

“So, how long has Helena been in love with Barbara?” Dinah asked.

Alfred smiled to himself. “What did she show you, if I might ask?”

“It was weird. It wasn’t so much that she showed me anything specific, more that I could feel what she felt. And what she felt was, uh, kinda overwhelming.”

“Miss Helena is a very passionate young woman.”

“Yeah, that bit I got.” Dinah winced with embarrassment. “She’s definitely lustful.”

Alfred tried not to laugh. “I am sure she would not contradict you.”

“I kinda thought they were a couple when I first came here,” Dinah admitted.

“In a way, they are,” he allowed, “but not in the way Miss Helena would like.”

“And Barbara?”

Alfred paused, considering his words. “She does not understand.”

“How Helena feels about her?”

He shook his head. “No, somewhere within her, somewhere she does not wish to explore, she has always known what Miss Helena feels. She does not understand what she feels for Miss Helena. She does not accept that which she cannot rationalise or categorise.”

Dinah seemed to think about that for a few moments. “They’ve gone very quiet,” she noted.

“That won’t last.”

“Should we check on them?”

He winced. “That would be most unwise.”

Dinah looked at him questioningly. “Why?”

“They may be indisposed.”

“You don’t mean they’re…”

And then Alfred began to recount a summarised version of the previous eight years: Helena’s abiding love; Barbara’s inability to see Helena as an adult; the flirting; the misunderstandings; the jealousy; Barbara finally hearing that Helena was gay. “And, after that, things changed again,” he explained. “At first, I found it difficult to pinpoint what the shift was, but during my duties one morning, I came upon Miss Helena and Miss Barbara asleep together, naked. Since then, I have, well,” he looked away, “seen and heard certain things. Certain unmistakeable things.”

“Wait, I’m confused. So they are together?”

“I rather think they are very much not together and that these incidents,” he knew of five instances over the previous year, although he supposed there may have been more, “are aberrations on Miss Barbara’s part. The tension builds until it breaks and, when it breaks, it is usually best to leave them for a day or two.” He shook his head. “Sadly, I think this hurts Miss Helena more than just being ignored ever did.” Unusually, he had not been taken into Helena’s confidence on this. From that fact alone, he had concluded that the young woman thought of these nights with either pain or shame. After each occasion, she would not return to the Clocktower for several days, processing in her own way, regaining her equilibrium.

“So, why does she let it happen?”

“Because she can’t not. She could no more deny Miss Barbara than she could deny her own existence.”

“That’s terrible. How can Barbara treat her like that?”

“Miss Barbara loves her like she loves no other. She does not want to hurt her. I believe she feels that all they can ever have is occasional physical comfort.” He wasn’t entirely certain that comfort was the correct term given the animalistic noises he had heard from both Miss Helena and Miss Barbara.

Dinah pushed her ice-cream around the bowl. “Is it because Helena’s a woman?”

“No, but that fact led her to ignore Miss Helena’s true feelings for many years. I believe it allowed her to write it off as hero-worship. She still thinks Miss Helena should be with someone her own age, someone not in a wheelchair, someone who is not involved in all this. She also, I suspect, does not believe that a woman such as Miss Helena could ever be satisfied with a life with her.”

“That’s just stupid. Helena doesn’t want anyone else! No-one else even exists for her.”

“Indeed.” He wondered just how strong the feelings Helena shared with her truly were.

“So, what’s with Mr Brixton and Detective Reese?” Dinah had seen first-hand that Helena openly flirted with Jesse Reese, and that he was patently keen to pursue a relationship with her.

“Wade Brixton is who Miss Barbara thinks she should be interested in—a kind, rational man who can offer her a normal life. You’ll have to ask Miss Helena about Detective Reese, although I suspect it’s a mixture of being flattered by his genuine interest and wishing to make Miss Barbara jealous.”

“I don’t get this.” Dinah shook her head and pushed her ice-cream away, untouched.

Helena appeared in the doorway, a sheepish look on her face.

“You told her?” she asked Alfred. He nodded. “The recent stuff, too?” It was the first time she had acknowledged her sleepovers.

“Yes.” He heard a door slamming and saw Helena’s eyes shut for a moment.

“We’ve agreed to disagree,” she said, referring to the argument. “Again.”

She took a calming breath and walked over to the seated Dinah. “So, kid, what say we find a greasy spoon, get some burgers and I’ll tell you all about women?”

* * *

Present Day

“See, this is why I love you so much,” Helena said around a mouthful of pie. “Did you bake this yourself?”

Alfred rolled his eyes. “Are you going to talk to me at any point?”

“We’re talking!”

He looked at her pointedly. She ate some more pie.

“Miss Helena.”

She stuck her tongue out at him, and pushed her chair back from the table. She folded her arms over her chest. “She thinks I should move out. Of my own home.”

After the Clocktower was destroyed and their lives were utterly decimated by Harley Quinn, Helena went to her father for the first time in her life and demanded that he pay for a new base of operations. He purchased and converted a warehouse near the harbour. At Helena’s behest, it was almost nothing like the Clocktower. Where their former home had been dark and brooding, just like Wayne Manor and the Bat Cave, the warehouse was open and airy, despite being more heavily fortified than most nuclear bases. The only thing they had retained was Delphi, Barbara’s beloved IT mainframe. Everything else was new, untainted by Wade’s murder.

There were two upper floors: one just for Barbara, with her living quarters and Delphi; the other divided into bedrooms for Helena and Dinah, although Dinah mostly lived on campus at New Gotham University, where she was a freshman. Helena had given up her apartment over the Dark Horse bar and lived there full time.

“Did she say why?” he asked.

“I need my own life again. Apparently, I can’t stay here looking after the ‘spinster cripple’ forever.” Alfred had no doubt that was a direct quote from Miss Barbara. “Like I’d ever leave her.”

Alfred laughed. No, Helena had always maintained her teenage promise; despite everything, she had never left Barbara, even when she had pretended to try and when Barbara had begged her to move on with her life.

“May I be frank?” he asked.

Helena furrowed her brow. “When are you ever not?”

“Far, far too often,” he admitted. “I have watched both of you make too many mistakes to count and ruin your lives through pride and stupidity and stubbornness. But even I must draw a line, Miss Helena. I simply will not stand for this!”

He realised that he had raised his voice and they both looked up, wondering if Barbara had overheard. There was no sound from upstairs, no indication that she might be hovering nearby.

“You have let her set the terms of your relationship for over ten years, and it has made neither of you happy,” he said in a lower tone. “It is well beyond time that you stop letting her push you around. You know that she is in love with you and you allow her to run from it by never confronting her.” He could see that Helena was about to object, the scowl on her face telegraphing her disagreement. “Don’t misunderstand, I understand why you don’t push the issue. I understand that you are afraid that she will spurn you again and you will lose the life that you have together. But faint heart never won fair maiden.”

Despite her obvious shock, Helena burst out laughing. “Faint heart never what?”

He ignored her and continued, “Miss Barbara is a wonderful woman, but she holds duty far too dear. She thinks she is doing what is best for both of you by not tying you to a ‘spinster cripple’, as she so eloquently put it. She wants you to be happy and fulfilled and she does not believe that you could ever be either of those things with her.”

“But I’m only ever happy when I’m with her.”

“Well, quite,” he agreed. “But you must make her understand that. For all her intelligence, she does not see that denying herself is not freeing you, but merely making two good people unhappy when all either wants is the other.”

“But what if she says no?”

“Then don’t let her!” Really, the whole situation was quite infuriating and he wasn’t getting any younger waiting for one or other of them to settle matters satisfactorily. “I had to watch your parents be miserable apart for almost twenty years, and they both believed that they were doing the right thing. I will not stand by mutely while the two people I love most spend another decade torturing each other. I know that you fear an early death.”

“I do not fear death.”

“I did not say that you did; I said that you fear an early death. What if you do die young? Do you wish to meet your fate without ever having given yourself a chance at true happiness? Do you want Miss Barbara to spend the rest of her life as your father spends his, mired in regret and recriminations?”

“She doesn’t even want me any more,” Helena said.

Their intermittent sexual liaisons had ended after Wade had been murdered and Barbara had come very close to murdering Harley Quinn, prevented only by Helena pleading with her.

Alfred explained, “That she will no longer sleep with you is not proof that she does not wish to.”

“You’ve lost me.”

“She feels guilty. She feels guilty that she allowed Master Wade to think they had a future together while all she really wanted was you. If she had been honest with herself and her feelings, he may still be alive. Similarly, she feels she was being unfair to you by allowing you no more than the occasional liaison when you could have been pursuing someone else who could offer you a full life and a relationship.”

“She’s trying to be fair to me? You think I can ever be with anyone else now? She has ruined me for other women. She is all I can think about, all the time. She is my life!”

“Oh, good Lord, Miss Helena!”

“What?” she frowned at him.

“You can sit here with me brooding about how hard your life is, or you can actually man up and go do something about it.”

Helena laughed again. “Man up, huh?”

“That is the right term?”

“Yeah, yeah, it is, Alfred. It’s not that easy, though.”

“Why is it not? Do you love her?”

“Oh, God, you know that I do.” Helena’s head sank and she ran her fingers through her dark hair.

“You are in love with her?”

“Yes.”

“And you believe that she feels the same for you?”

“Yes.”

“And you wish to be with her?”

Helena looked up, her eyes filled with anguish. “Hell, Alfred, I want to marry her, if she’ll have me.”

“Is there some added layer of complexity that I am somehow missing, then?”

Helena considered this for a moment and then got up from the table. She walked through the open living area until she was standing below the balcony which led to Barbara’s quarters and shouted up, “Barbara Gordon, I am totally in love with you and you know that you belong to me, so get your ass down here right this minute and admit that you’re in love with me too or, so help me God, I will come up there and force it out of you. Repeatedly.”

She returned to the kitchen with a triumphant grin and sat back down, forking another mouthful of pie. “Happy now?”

Alfred rolled his sleeves back down and started to fasten the cuffs. “It wasn’t quite what I had in mind.”

“Eh. I’m not big on the planning. I have Red for that.”

He rose from the table. “In which case, I shall leave now.”

“You’re going?” The vulnerable look on her face betrayed that she was already second-guessing her bold actions of a few moments ago.

“Miss Barbara is either going to do as you asked, or she is going to murder you. Either way, I guarantee she is on her way down here now and I do not care to be here to witness whatever happens next.” He retrieved his overcoat and hat from the coat stand. “Now, give me a hug.”

“A hug?”

He understood her reticence. He did not hug: a kindly hand, a well-placed word, perhaps. But he loved this young woman more than family, and he wanted her to know that. “Do not make me repeat myself.”

Helena stood hesitantly and he pulled her to him briskly, patting her back fondly before he pushed her to arm’s length, so he could look her in the eye.

“You are truly a lovely young woman, Helena Kyle, and I consider it my greatest honour to be a part of your life.”

Helena blushed. “Thanks.”

“And you will be fine. You are more than brave enough for both of you, and I suspect you may have to be, so remember everything I’ve said.”

“I’m not likely to forget the fair maiden thing,” she joked gruffly.

Alfred stepped back and turned towards the door which led to the secure exit in the basement. He tipped his hat to the brunette and left.

As he started down the stairs, he heard Miss Barbara enter the kitchen, demanding, “What the hell did you just say to me?”

He smiled to himself when Miss Helena confidently replied, “I said that you’re mine and that you’re in love with me. Now, start telling me all the reasons why this won’t work so I can dismiss them with my awesome reasoning and then we can get to the hot, hot sex.”

He moved down the stairs towards the security gate in the confident knowledge that, one way or the other, things would be settled between them finally. He had a good feeling, though. No two people who loved each other so much were destined to be apart.

* * *

Epilogue: Helena’s birthday

“No fair! Alfred, she’s eating my cake!” Helena wailed, pointing at Dinah.

“That is what it’s there for,” he replied evenly. Dinah ignored the tantrum and continued to eat the chocolate cake in front of her.

“But it’s mine!”

“And you’re a big girl who needs to learn to share.” Twenty-five years old and yet still not a day over twelve, he thought.

“Oh, you know I don’t share,” Helena chuckled, flashing a lascivious grin in Barbara’s direction. The older woman flushed a most becoming shade of red. “Tell her I don’t share, baby,” she crooned.

“Helena,” Barbara admonished, but there was no force behind it.

Helena climbed into her girlfriend’s lap and nonchalantly kissed her soundly and thoroughly. Neither Alfred nor Dinah bothered to look away. They had seen much more explicit displays and were well used to it. The only shocking thing was that Barbara never seemed to object. Having accepted their love for each other, Barbara had developed quite the fondness for public displays of affection. In truth, with Helena for a partner, it was hardly a matter left to choice, as the brunette took what she wanted, when she wanted, and cared not for who might be around to see or hear. Alfred had, for the first time in his long career, taken to announcing his arrival each day, having found them naked and spent together in the public areas more times than he could count.

“I don’t share,” Helena repeated, pulling back from her kiss to rest her forehead against Barbara’s.

“Cake is different, Hel,” Barbara murmured, rubbing her nose against the younger woman’s. “You have to share your cake with your family.”

Alfred couldn’t see where Barbara’s hands were, but from the soft purring he could hear from Helena, he suspected that there was skin-to-skin contact involved.

“Do I get a reward for sharing?” Helena asked. Barbara leaned in and whispered something into Helena’s ear, which caused another, much lower sound to emerge from the brunette. “Yeah?” Helena’s eyes shone with love and happiness.

Barbara nodded shyly, glancing to Alfred and Dinah. “Later.”

“Now,” Helena countered.

“Later, or not at all.”

“You don’t mean that. You can’t resist me.” Helena got up from her partner’s lap and stretched to her full height, raising her arms above her head. Alfred saw that Miss Barbara watched this display with a mixture of love, desire and pride.

“No, I can’t, but you need to learn self-control.”

“That’s not what you said last night. Or this morning.”

“I might throw my cake back up,” Dinah teased, earning her a scowl from Helena.

“Jealousy gets you nowhere, Kid.” Helena reached her hand out to Barbara, who took it and squeezed it gently. “But you’ll find the right boy or girl one day. Or maybe you’ll finally let Gabby get lucky.” Helena winked. Gabby was Dinah’s best friend from high school, and openly gay. Helena always teased Dinah about their friendship being more than platonic.

“I’m not even gonna respond to that,” Dinah said. “I’m just going to keep eating your lovely, lovely birthday cake.”

“Don’t push it, Big D. I only have so much patience.”

Barbara raised their linked hands to her lips, kissing Helena’s knuckles. “Oh, I don’t know. I think you have a lot of patience when you really need it.”

Helena grinned. “Only for you, baby. Only for you and only when you do that thing with your—”

“Miss Helena!” Alfred interrupted, not wishing to hear the end of that particular thought.

Helena sighed dramatically. “What do I have to do to get some respect around here? You people should be a lot nicer to me, you know. One, it’s my birthday and, two, I’m sleeping with the boss.”

Barbara made a choking noise, but Dinah merely replied, “There’s not a lot of sleeping going on from what I hear. Or from what half of New Gotham can hear, in fact.”

“Dinah!” Barbara gasped.

“Aww, come on, Red. She’s not wrong,” Helena said. “We do have an awful lot of sex. And you’re not exactly quiet.”

“Helena, how dare you!” Barbara Gordon was actually flustered. It was such an unusual occurrence that it took Alfred a moment to recognise it.

The brunette pouted. “I hope you’re not going to treat me like this when we’re married.”

“Married?!”

Alfred suppressed a laugh at Miss Barbara’s look of both stunned outrage and delight at the suggestion.

“Well, I just assumed that’s where we were headed,” Helena said, a slightly puzzled look on her face. “Do you mean you don’t want to marry me?” There was no accusation in the question; Helena seemed genuinely perturbed that Barbara was not thinking the same way.

Alfred gave up pretending to be doing anything other than enjoying the confrontation. He leaned against the counter, his arms folded. Dinah had also stopped eating her cake and was sitting back in her chair, waiting to see what Barbara would say or do next.

“Well, I mean, I hadn’t thought… It’s so… What we have is so new and we’re…” She stopped and took a breath. “You really want to marry me?”

Helena knelt down in front of Barbara’s wheelchair so that she could look her girlfriend straight in the eye. “Since I was fifteen years old, Red.” She rested her forearms on the arms of the wheelchair and leaned closer. “And every day since.”

“Oh, sweetheart.” Barbara lifted her hand to cup Helena’s cheek, rubbing her thumb across the soft skin.

“I would go to City Hall today and take out a licence.” Helena’s sincerity was written all over her face.

Alfred moved to stand behind Dinah, who looked up at him with a knowing grin. While neither of them had suspected that this would happen so soon, they both felt that it would happen sooner rather than later.

“You would?” It was a rare moment to see the normally guarded Barbara Gordon display her emotions so openly, but the bright tears of joy at the corners of her eyes were unmistakeable.

“God, yes. How can you not know that? You’re my whole world, Red, and I want to be yours forever.” She reached out and wiped the tears gently from Barbara’s face. She smiled and stood up. “But we can discuss this later when the old guy and the kid aren’t here.”

Helena had spent too many years having to second-guess Barbara’s feelings, Alfred knew, and she wouldn’t push her girlfriend into anything in front of an audience. She composed herself and gave one of her best predatory smiles. “And you already promised me special reward treats later, and I definitely intend to hold you to that promise.”

Alfred watched Miss Barbara processing everything she had heard. Her eyes darted left and right, no doubt weighing up options and possible scenarios. Her fingers rested on her own cheek where Helena’s thumb had brushed away her tears.

“No,” she finally said.

Helena’s whole body tightened, the fear causing her answer to come out in a hoarse, low tone. “No?”

“No,” Barbara repeated. “We will not discuss it later.”

“Oh, well, fine. We won’t. No big.” Helena folded her arms across her chest and tried to affect an air of nonchalance. Alfred and Dinah shared a look of fond disbelief. She was fooling no-one with her insouciance.

Barbara rolled her eyes and shook her head. “Oh, hush up, woman! We’re not going to discuss this later because we’re going to discuss it now. Here. On your birthday. With our family here.”

Helena narrowed her eyes, still not really trusting her instincts about what was happening. She waited for Barbara to continue.

Barbara ran her fingers shakily through her hair. “Okay, so I hadn’t thought about it before, which is kinda stupid, really, because I like to think that I’m always prepared for every situation. And I should have thought ahead because, well, it’s not like this thing that we have isn’t something that I have wanted for the longest time. And marriage is an obvious final step in a serious relationship. And I do think of our relationship as serious. Very serious. The most serious and important relationship I’ve ever had. And I love you so much that I can’t even explain it, so I should really have thought about it, but I guess I’ve just been so caught up in enjoying what we do have.”

Alfred smiled at Miss Barbara’s discomfort. She was quite adorable when she was flustered.

“Anyway, what I’m saying is that I am in love with you, Helena Kyle, and I very much want to marry you one day.”

Alfred and DInah switched their attention to Helena, who was grinning widely.

“Is that a proposal, Barbara Gordon?”

This time it was Barbara displaying fear and panic. “Well, uh, I don’t have a ring, so it’s, um…” She winced, for once not knowing what to say. “I know, why don’t we call it a rain check?”

Helena threw her head back and laughed. “At no point have we ever done things in the traditional way, but suddenly you feel the need to hold to tradition?” Barbara just smiled and shrugged her shoulders. Helena waggled her eyebrows. “Hold that thought, Red.”

Everyone’s head turned as Helena ran from the room. They listened to the sound of boots on metal as she sprinted up two flights of stairs. No-one spoke, but Alfred and Dinah watched Barbara carefully. The redhead was breathing in and out deliberately, trying to keep herself calm. Soon, they heard Helena jumping down from the balcony and landing with her usual cat-like grace.

Confidently, Helena strode back over to Barbara, one hand behind her back. She dropped to one knee and reached for Barbara’s hand, taking it between both of her own, rubbing her thumbs across the redhead’s palm. “So, this wasn’t exactly planned and I was going to wait for the right moment, but, hell, neither of us is getting any younger, especially Alfred.” She flashed him a quick grin.

Pulling the other hand from behind her back and opening it to reveal a ring box, she said, “I’m not so good with the words, so I’m gonna keep this simple. I love you and I want to spend the rest of my life with you, so, Barbara Gordon, will you marry me?”

Barbara removed her hand from Helena’s and opened the box. She held it up so that Alfred and Dinah could see a very traditional white gold or possibly platinum band with three diamonds, set in a row. She looked at Helena, a question in her eyes.

“It was my mother’s,” the brunette said, “but I had it resized for you.”

Barbara removed the ring from the box and handed it to her girlfriend. She then extended her left hand, her ring finger raised expectantly.

“Yes,” she said, her voice hoarse with tears. “Of course I’ll marry you.”

Grinning, Helena slipped the ring onto Barbara’s finger and then raised it to her lips, kissing where the ring lay.

“I am gonna love you so good, Red,” Helena vowed.

“You already do, sweetheart.” Barbara pulled Helena towards her for a passionate kiss which lasted just long enough for Alfred to feel embarrassed and Dinah to look away with a slight wince.

When the happy couple pulled apart again, both Dinah and Alfred rushed towards them, enveloping them in hugs and good wishes.

Unobtrusively, Alfred slipped away from them and made his way to the butler’s pantry, which was really just a small cupboard off the kitchen. There, he had been storing a bottle of Lafitte which he had ‘liberated’ from Master Bruce’s personal wine cellar at Wayne Manor.

As he returned to the kitchen, he surveyed the scene before him—Miss Barbara kissing Miss Helena almost constantly as the brunette tried to talk to Dinah—and he felt very satisfied with his lot.

Finally, all was right with his world.

* * *

THE END

7 Comments

  1. SONiluv
    Posted 17 April 2013 at 2.00am | Permalink

    sooo…I was totally biased to only SON fanfic. Recently I’ve found that apparently, if you write the fic, I’ll not only read it, but thoroughly enjoy it.

  2. Doctor Who
    Posted 17 April 2013 at 3.57am | Permalink

    I remember watching this show and having Barbara and Helena as my headcanon, there was so much potential with those two, it’s a shame they never ventured that way. Anywho, I’ll be honest, at first I wasn’t sure I was gonna like this fic, but who am I kidding , I’ve read and loved every fic you’ve written so I was bound to like this one. And I was right, I really loved this story, I wish it were longer. Having Alfred pretty much tell the story was just perfect.
    I’m all for it if you want to write some more Birds of Prey fic (especially if it’s a nsfw Helena/Barbara ;)

  3. SmurfyMc
    Posted 17 April 2013 at 11.27am | Permalink

    Nawwwww! I don’t have words for this. Partly because of the man flu currently affecting my brain, but mostly because no words can quite sum up how much awesome is contained in your fics. I just love it. And now I’m obsessed with Birds of Prey all over again. Thanks for that! :P

  4. tongue-tied
    Posted 17 April 2013 at 7.20pm | Permalink

    Beautiful ending Devly, I love how different Barbara and Helena were written yet in your fic they fit together so well. Such a cute ending too!

  5. Charlotte
    Posted 18 April 2013 at 5.09pm | Permalink

    Loved the story. This is a fandom I don’t read that often but as others have said, if you write it, I will read it and love it.

  6. Angela
    Posted 19 April 2013 at 3.27am | Permalink

    When I started reading this I was sad that it wasn’t about Spashley, I actually didn’t read it for awhile once I seem that. Then I really felt like reading so I thought I’d just try it by the second paragraph I was in love with everything about the story.
    You can write anything and I know I’ll love it. I check this website like 3 times a day hoping for an update constantly. I seriously love your writing.

  7. cosmic
    Posted 25 April 2013 at 8.37pm | Permalink

    Awesome story.. I can’t wait for the Spashley version hehe.

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