Orange Socks
Stephen Anselm

Summary: Not everyone's good at everything, but sometimes that doesn't matter. A quiet night with our favourite couple. Huntress/Question.
Severe warning: One-hundred-proof plot-free H/Q fluff, written while working on the next few chapters of Ugliest Man, which is going to become a novel if I'm not careful.
Disclaimer: Standard disavowal of ownership of all nonoriginal material, especially that of DC.
Historian's note: JLU continuity, but with some references to Q's history in print; takes place soon after #509

Note: minor hat-tip in the direction of coldqueen's Tempest buried within.

"and I believe in reinvention / do you believe that life is holding the clue / take away all the lonely moments / give me full communication with you"

She sighed. Maybe he was right. Maybe it was a waste of time to sit perched on this ledge waiting for Black Canary to do something suspicious.

In which case she could justify taking a break, and she smiled a little at the thought.

"So," she asked, playing idly with her binoculars, "what are you wearing?"

"Blue overcoat. Fedora."

"You really stink at this."

A pause. "Orange socks?"

She hung up.

JLU #509: Grudge Match (story by Matt Wayne, teleplay by J. M. Dematteis)

"Sometimes you're impossible. Orange socks? Honestly, that's the best you got?"

"It sounded adventurous. And I wasn't actually wearing them."

Idiot. "I knew that much."

She made sure to elbow him as she cat-stretched on the plush couch. She wiggled her toasty-warm toes, and then leaned into his lap. Fireplaces were good.

"What were you hoping for?" he asked, rubbing her shoulders right where they met her neck with strong fingers.

Mmmm. Qs were good too.

No wonder they're worth ten points..

"I can't believe I have to explain this. You're supposed to say 'nothing'. And then you guess what I'm wearing.."

"I was busy, Helena. You were on some building playing voyeur. I, on the other hand, had broken into a top-secret high-security storage bunker."

"Give me a break." She did a fair imitation of his rough sardonic-earnest voice, and tried to put enough self-satisfaction in: "'As I suspected. Thirty-two flavours'."

"They had a dual Rabson on the inner doors. That's a quality lock."

She rolled her eyes, but then her brow tightened. He stopped at once. "What?"

"You hit a knot."

"Turn over. I'll be careful."

She obliged, and he began to knead the muscles of her upper back.

"I should have listened to you," he said. "Although even having heard the whole story, it's hard to credit. Mind-controlling female superheroes for broadcast cagematches? Whose bright idea was that? But I'm turning over a new leaf. From now on, I'll follow up on all your suspicions, however irrational they may seem."

"I appreciate the sentiment."

"You're pretty tender under the shoulderblades. I'm guessing you're not fully healed yet."

"Nowhere close. Take it from me -- mmmnnnf, yeah, right there -- Vixen and Hawkgirl are bad enough.. at least they're human. Um, though not the one with the wings. But going up against an Amazon is a terrible life decision. The kind you don't get to fix later."

She made contented noises as he gradually pushed and pulled the tension away. "At least Canary and I didn't have to face the princess for long. The other two got the worst of it."

"Which reminds me," he said, "you didn't tell me who won."

"Who won what?"

"The rematch between you and Black Canary, after everything was over. Two falls out of three?"

Wait a minute. Now hold on just one minute.

She sat up, and poked at his breastbone, hard enough to make him wince. "How'd you know about that?"

His face went completely impassive, almost as if he were wearing his mask, but she wasn't having any of it. "Oh, no. No you don't. Too late for your Buddha routine. You're busted, mister. I didn't say anything about that fight, and there were onl--"

A thought struck her. She climbed on top of him, not gently.

"There something you want to tell me, Q? How much alone time you been spending with Canary?" She grasped his neck with both hands, thumb on his common carotid, and felt his soon-to-cease pulse. "Because if it's not none.."

He didn't move, which she thought was wise. "I promise, I didn't speak to her."

She exerted more pressure. He'd be seeing dark spots soon. "Didn't speak? Are you playing some word game on me? You can get up to all sorts of mischief without saying anything. Remember wh--"

"I remember. But aren't women supposed to think it's the emotional side of the affair that hurts? Would it bother you if it was purely physical?"

"Not helping yourself, Q." Twenty seconds now. She pushed harder. He'd be unconscious in another fifteen.

"Maybe she couldn't resist. She was overwhelmed by my raw animal magnetism and confessed to everything."

She fell into him, satisfied. "Now I know you're innocent. No guilty man could say that with a straight face. You still haven't told me how you learned, though."

"I'm not the only detective in the room. You figure it out."

"Let's see." She counted the possibilities off on her fingers. "I didn't tell you, Canary didn't tell you, I didn't tell anyone else, so.. she must've told someone.."

"Green Arrow! She told him, didn't she? And then he told you. But I didn't think you two talk much. You don't even get along."

"We've worked together in the past well enough. We talk occasionally."

"Maybe when your girlfriends fight on pay-per-view. I'm surprised; you two sit around and trade stories about us? You don't have anything else in common."

"We each have an astonishingly beautiful and complicated woman in our lives?"

"Nice try, flatterer. But bad move telling me another woman is beautiful.. especially that one."

"Even if she unquestionably is?"

"That's what the Question doesn't question? That Black Canary's beautiful?" Helena looked up at him, scowling. "Again, not helping."

"Then you misunderstood," he said. "I didn't say Canary was the astonishing woman. I meant that Arrow and I both know you."

"Not bad, as recoveries go. Anyway, Arrow's the original Robin Hood-wannabe bleeding-heart big-government leftie and you're the who-is-John-Galt, government-is-the-problem-not-the-solution type."

"It's not my fault his grasp on reality is tenuous."

She let that one pass. "The point is, I hear last time you guys talked politics at the Watchtower it almost came to blows. Hawk and Dove had to intervene.. by the way, not that it's really my business, but is it true about them?"


"That they're.. you know."

"Apparently I don't. That they're what?"

"Well.." she said. "Brazilian."

He blinked. "Brazilian?"

"You know," she said. "Bra-zil-ian."

"Oh. I have no idea. Why are we saying Brazilian?"

She shrugged. "I'm not sure. Ask Flash, I think he started it."

"Captain Atom's Brazilian, though."

"He is not. You're just saying that because he's big and strong and handsome and sweet, and brave enough to take on Superman singlehanded, and you think he likes me."

"Good to know the feeling isn't mutual," he said, dryly. "But it's true. He's Brazilian. Besides, he has a profoundly stupid name. 'Captain Atom'."

"He's not, and you know he's not. And the name's only mostly stupid."

She shook her head. "Listen, you don't need to worry. He tried to stop me from rescuing a friend of mine. Major mark against him."

They sat silently for a time as he ran a hand through her hair. She took his other hand in hers and squeezed, stroking the palm and caressing the hollows between his fingers. Cadmus had worked a serious number on Q.

Heaven only knew how he'd done it, but despite the electroshock, he'd given them nothing except stories like how Elvis' younger brother and the ghost of John Wilkes Booth teamed up to fake the moon landings. It's rare enough to be willing to sacrifice your life to protect the legacy of people who looked down on you, because the world needed them more.. but after that effort failed, knowing you were going to die alone, unknown, and for no purpose, to refuse to betray them even under torture? That was something special.

That was the Question.

That was worth snipping the ends off your shoelaces for.

"Believe me, Vic," she said. "Nate would have to take me to Monsieur Wong's at least twice before I'd forgive him."

"Only twice? I suppose he was just following orders."

"I said at least twice, didn't I? Could be more. Actually, speaking of Wong's.."

"They're booked for weeks. And odds are we'd have to cancel at the last minute."

She moistened her lips.

"The deposit's a hundred dollars. Nonrefundable."

Helena softened her eyes and slowly drew her fingernails lightly across his arm, teasing the fine down.

"No sense delaying the inevitable," she said. "But you can try if you want.."

Please try..

He conceded defeat. "I'll call in the morning. Not fair."


"What's not fair is a gorgeous young woman like me having a boyfriend so addicted to his work," she said, yawning, and shifted around, trying to get comfortable. "They've got the flag with the yellow and green, right?"

"What? Who?"

"The Brazilians. Yellow and green?"

"Green background, yellow diamond, with the blue circle in the centre, and white stars. It's a celestial sphere projection showing the night sky of Rio de Janeiro in mid-November 1889."

That settles it: I'm never going to play Trivial Pursuit with Q. Unless it's strip..

"Whatever. Awful colours."

"What brought that up?" he asked.

"Just curious. You're not the only one who gets to be random when you're tired."

He tapped her forehead. "So, are you going to tell me who won or not? I know the answer's in there somewhere."

"The fight? Didn't Arrow tell you?"

"No," he said. "He may not have known."

"Who do you think won?"

"You, of course. Because you're the Huntress. The question is by how much."

She grinned. "You're learning. Tell you what. I'll let you know on one condition."

"Interesting. I'm listening."

"And no backing out at the last minute like you usually do. You're in all the way or you're not, Q."

"I'm in," he said. "I trust you."

She flushed, humbled at the sincerity from a man who couldn't always trust his own mind. She hoped he couldn't see it in the dim light.

God, please don't let me screw this one up. Not this time. Please?

"You have to tell me what the flavour was."

He smiled in that way he did sometimes, like it didn't quite fit his face but he couldn't help himself, because she brought it out in him. Not the kind of smile that made the cover of magazines, but she thought it was beautiful; it was for her, and the dimples he denied he had were adorable.

"Okay," he said, softly, accepting, and somehow the moment had become awfully intimate. "Okay. But it's a secret. Just us. You and me."

She nodded dumbly, suddenly shy, and her heart raced, breath quickening. She pushed herself up on her palms, feeling every bump and ridge of the cushions, arms shaking slightly in anticipation, and then he bent his head down to her ear, with stray strands of his hair brushing up against her neck just so, and she swallowed nervously and he whispered to her what he'd found.


"Really?" she breathed.


She knew she had to reply with her own gift. Feeling very exposed she closed her eyes, turned to put her warm cheek on his colder one, and she quietly told him how the other night had ended. Afterward she looked down, oddly anxious, but he lifted her head with his hands. At last she had no choice but to meet his eyes.

"Wow," he said to her, and there was honest wonder in his voice and in his face, and because he meant it and because it was Q she finally couldn't take it any more and she kissed him.

No words were spoken for a long while.

When it ended she fell back into his lap, and nestled into the couch, because there was no way she was moving, no way she was going anywhere, not tonight. Maybe not tomorrow either.

They lay there, drifting off.

In a few minutes Helena stirred. "So," she asked, eyes shut but with a small smile, "what are you wearing?"

"Dark green flannel pajamas," he said, sleepily. ".. oh, wait. Nothing. Nothing at all."

She sighed with exasperated affection, and pulled his head down for a quick kiss, this one light and gentle, spring rain and sunflowers, and bright orange socks.

"Know what, Q?"

He raised an eyebrow as she adjusted the pillow beneath her.

"You're lucky you've already got me."

"I know."

"Cause if I'd known how much work you'd be.."

"I know."

"I'd still probably have done it, though."

"I know, Helena. And thank you. Now sleep."


They slept.