Thanks to Debbie and Kathy for the beta!
Riesling Pear ice cream is a specialty of Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams in Columbus Ohio. Thanks to Debbie for confirming its deliciousness. (Me? I Googled 'Best ice cream in the world' and Jeni's made the top ten.)
This fic won by Mrswoman in the "Stop SIDS" fandom auction on Livejournal.
Disclaimer: DC owns the characters. Jeni's owns the Riesling Pear. I am receiving no financial remuneration for this work of fanfiction. (However a donation was made to First Candle/SIDS Alliance in exchange for my writing it.)
Answers over Ice Cream
Barbara poured herself a cup of coffee, considered for a moment, and then reached for the cream pitcher.
Helena's eyebrows rose. "Cream? And sugar? Since when?"
"I just feel like a treat," Barbara said with a touch of defensiveness. "You ever tried Riesling Pear ice cream? Better question: would you like to?"
Helena smiled. "Don't tell me you're one of those people who can't indulge unless everyone around you is also packing in the calories."
"And you lead such a sedentary life, these days," Barbara bantered back. "You just got back from basking in the sun on Oolong Island..."
"Basking in the glow reflecting off of the semi-automatics, more like..."
"Bonding with a new friend..."
"Well, there was bondage involved, but..." She blinked at Barbara's stunned expression. "Oh, get your mind out of the gutter. Syndicate tied us both to a bomb. All in a day's work, when you're one of 'Oracle's ops'," she grinned.
Barbara laughed. "So was that a 'yes' on the ice cream?"
"What do you think?"
"I think I need to get two bowls and spoons."
"Good call." Helena frowned. "So, I never got around to asking, but how far back do you and Question go? I mean, I wish I could have filmed her reaction when I introduced, correction, when I thought I was introducing you two for the first time."
Barbara considered. "Well, she knew me as the commissioner's daughter, so that should give you a few thoughts, right there."
"Look," Barbara sighed, "I have files on her—just like I do on virtually every 'cape' in this sector of the galaxy. Thing is, what's in those dossiers is mostly 'need to know'. I mean, if she were to contact me tomorrow asking for details about you..."
"Point taken." She didn't say anything else until Barbara rolled over with two bowls of ice cream and slid one across the table to her.
"She made an impression on you," Barbara remarked as she took her place at the table.
"More like being with her was a lot like being with a somewhat grittier, less-experienced me." She lifted a spoonful of ice cream to her lips. "Oh my G—where did you get this stuff?"
Barbara grinned. "Flash owed me a favor. He happened to be passing through Columbus, and..."
"Columbus? You mean, I can't get it here?" Helena set her spoon down and gave Barbara a direct look. "Please tell me that some criminal mastermind has set up shop in Ohio. I mean, they can't all be based on the East Coast."
"I've been checking! So far, no luck, though."
"Figures." She took another spoonful, leaned back, closed her eyes, and let it melt slowly in her mouth. "I think I'm in heaven."
"So," Barbara said, "a somewhat grittier, less-experienced version of you?"
"I don't mean she's an amateur," Helena said hastily. "She's anything but. Still, I got the impression that she's fairly new to the whole 'mask and Kevlar' scene. She has skills... but," she looked away as a slow flush colored her cheeks. "Fine. I'll say it. If you hadn't offered me a place with your team, today I'd probably recognize her as even more of a kindred spirit. Except I'd probably be egging her on instead of... of..."
"Trying to mentor her?"
"I wasn't!" Helena exclaimed. "I mean, I'd like to show her the ropes, sure, but..."
"Look. I've spent enough time trying to impress Batman, win his approval, try to be..." Her hand flew to her mouth. "I tried to be Batgirl. I didn't know that you—"
"Hey," Barbara grimaced. "It's water under the bridge now." The grimace became a smile. "Although the first time I saw you in that suit, it took a lot out of me not to lock my rifle sights on your insignia."
"I believe it. Anyway, I think I finally got the Bat out of my system. I guess I'm not really looking to take on a Robin."
"That's okay," Barbara laughed. She swallowed another spoonful of Riesling Pear. "I doubt she wants to become anyone's sidekick. But what if it involved another team-up?"
Helena set the spoon down. "All right. I'd like to finish this before it melts, especially since I don't have a scarlet speedster in my rolodex who's likely to bring me my own pint."
"Naturally. So, instead of me fielding questions from you while this little taste of Paradise slowly liquefies, how about you tell me why you're so interested in my impressions of her?" She picked up the spoon again and used it to scoop out a larger-than-polite morsel.
Barbara finished what was in her mouth. "I've been thinking about inviting her aboard," she admitted. "What you asked me before, about how far back we go... well, she's a former GCPD officer; that much, I think I can tell you. And she was a damned good one, too."
"So, what happened? She quit? Or did they fire her?"
"Better ask her that one. It's not easy being a cop in Gotham City, as you can imagine. I think what impressed me was that, underneath it all, she still had this idealistic streak that just couldn't be stifled, no matter how bad things got. Not that she was some cheerful Pollyana, but... Look. I don't have to tell you how bad Gotham was, right after the 'quake. Even before NML was declared, the criminals were carving up the city. She was able to get Two-Face to stand down—by talking to him."
Helena let out a low whistle. "I didn't see much of that when we teamed up. But I think I'd have liked to." She attacked the ice cream again. "So..."
"So, you know how you accused me of running a rehab program for broken heroines?"
Helena rolled her eyes. "You think she'd agree to something like that?"
"She might. The fact that the two of you worked well together could be a major selling point." She grimaced. "The fact that she's still trying to process what Commissioner Gordon's little girl is up to these days might be another one. She likes to delve. My point is, when a mission came up, it used to be I'd just call on whoever was best suited to handle it. Now? Now, we're a team. Any time I bring in someone new, it changes the group dynamics. I think she'd be a good fit for the team. I think she'd enjoy it, if she'd give it a chance. But I won't extend the invite if there's any reason why you and she can't work together. To date, you're the only member of the team who's met her, so your opinion carries a bit of weight at the moment."
Helena took another bite of ice cream. "Invite her," she grinned. "I think it's a good idea."
Barbara smiled. "Actually, I thought you might want to do that honor. Seeing as how you did hit it off."
Helena shrugged. "I don't mind. Whereabouts is she?"
"Hang on," Barbara said, wheeling toward her monitors. "I'll check."
A moment later, she was back. "Well," she said, eyes dancing with suppressed mirth, "you probably won't believe this, but..."
"She's currently trying to track down a serial killer. In Columbus, Ohio."
Helena ceremoniously poured the last of the melted ice cream into her spoon, popped it into her mouth, and grinned.