Huntress and Nightwing were wrapping up patrol for the night when Dick swore under his breath. "Great," he muttered. "Who is this supposed to be?"
She followed his gaze and felt the hairs on her neck rise when she spotted a woman in a hat and trenchcoat standing on a rooftop across the street. She raised her head and Huntress saw her face --- or, rather, a flat, featureless plane where a face should be.
The air was too thick to breathe; the crossbow dropped from her hands without her even noticing. "Huntress? Hey, what's wrong?" she heard Dick say, from miles away. He touched her shoulder. "Helena?"
The touch snapped her out of it. When she looked back Renee was gone but it didn't matter. She'd delivered the message. Dick said something about how they should check this out, this could be a problem, but Huntress was already backing away across the rooftop. She shook off his attempt to grab her and clambered down the fire escape, dropped hard to the ground and threw up until her sides ached.
Barbara said once that you couldn't cross the street in Gotham without tripping over criminals and detectives. Crouching in the hallway picking the lock to Renee Montoya's front door, Huntress wondered which she counted as. Probably a little of both.
By the time Renee swung the door open hours later she'd paced the floor enough times to lose count twice. Renee stood in the doorway a moment, her new face shadowed under her hat. "I guess I should give you a key."
"Depends. How often are you changing the lock?"
Renee slid her hands into her pockets. "Good point." The mask altered her voice more than it had his, just driving home how it was the wrong voice. "He said you'd find me quick."
Huntress' mouth was so dry at was hard to speak. "When? I mean, when did...."
"Five days ago." She felt like she should have known. "It took time getting back in the country," Renee explained. "It was peaceful, at least. He...."
"I can't hear this," Huntress said, sinking to the bed with her head in her hands. "I can't. Not now. Later. Later I'll want to hear everything, but not now."
"He said you'd say that, too." She leaned against the door, her gloved hands in her pockets.
She even stood like him now. Huntress dug her fingers into the mattress. This had been a mistake. It was too soon. It would always be too soon. "I should go."
"Why?" Renee tilted her head with the question; the chemicals had lengthened her hair and a strand of long curls fell over her blank face. Huntress fought the urge to get up and brush the hair away, grinding her teeth; Huntress hated needing anything.
Before she could force out another word Renee was next to her. "You don't have to ask. I got you in the will, remember?"
Huntress let out a choked laugh and pressed her face into Renee's hair; she smelled like Gotham rain and the incense Question burned when he needed to focus. The combination was more comforting than she'd expected. "Could you leave the mask on?" She wished her voice didn't sound so fragile. "And...and maybe the coat?"
Renee nodded. She took her time, gentle caresses and long, slow strokes until Huntress felt like she was vibrating. Renee whispered, "Thinking about doing this has been the only thing keeping me upright."
"Q must have thought he was so smart, setting this up." Renee set about proving him right and Helena didn't have the breath to say anything else.
When Huntress woke it was already night and Renee was dressed for patrol. No, she corrected herself, not Renee. Not now. Not wearing that face. "Aren't you worried?" she said. "About..." and then gestured at her face.
The Question shrugged her shoulders. "Vic said he fixed the formula so it wouldn't cause problems. And if it does, well..." She spread her hands. "A year ago I wasn't sure I'd make it through another week. It's worth the price." She shook her head. "He said he needed an apprentice and I needed a purpose. Damned if he wasn't right."
"What happens?" Huntress asked as Question opened the door. "The two of us. What now?"
She paused. "Now that. That is the question, isn't it?"