Paper Hearts, part 3

By Chicago

Disclaimers in "part 0"

"So," Barbara began as Dick pulled into one of the visitor spots of the garage beneath the Clocktower, "you wanna come up for 'coffee'?" She glanced at him suggestively as she spoke, letting her eyes trail down his body.

He replied with a lacivious grin. "With cream?"

She snorted at that, then found herself swept into a deep kiss that sent a thrill through her body. "Oh yes," she breathed when her lips were free again, "definitely with cream."

He grinned again and swiftly exited the vehicle, vaulting the hood to open her door. Then he leaned in, once again claiming her lips. She responded eagerly to his tongue, unwilling to break the contact to object when Dick lifted her from the car. She heard the door slam and then beep of the alarm system, but neither sound distracted her from the sensation of Dick's mouth working against hers.

She only laughed when Dick fumbled with the elevator codes, swearing quietly as he tried to deal with the buttons while not loosing his hold on Barbara. "You got yourself into this mess, twenty-something wonder," she pointed out indulgently. She reached a languid hand to the keypad, entering the correct sequence.

"Thanks," he acknowledged, kissing her neck. She leaned her head back, giving him access to the curve of her throat as the elevator traveled upwards. He accepted the invitation, nibbling and kissing at her soft flesh with relish. He barely broke of his ministrations when the elevator doors opened, only glancing up enough to see his way to the couch.

When they entered the living room, though, Barbara stiffened suddenly and pushed away from him slightly. "Something's wrong."

He followed her gaze, noticing the red signal light over the door to her workroom.

"Chair, now," she ordered, and he did not hesitate, immediately spying one of her spares and settling her into it. He followed without comment as she wheeled into the workroom.

Nearly every monitor was active, displaying muted news feeds from a dozen sources. She heard Dick breathe, "Oh no," as an image of Bruce Wayne crossed one screen, his tuxedo shirt bearing an unmistakable smear of red. "What happened?"

"I'm getting that, Dick," she noted sharply, activating the queued police dispatches. Her eyes tore through the transcripted text.

"Busboy pulled a gun on Bruce at Chez Ambrose," she reported. "Claims he has no recollection of doing it. Only fired once, but -"

"J'onn," Dick noted grimly, watching as WGTM showed an image of "Alana Jones."

"Well, that's a stroke of luck," Barbara commented, opening a phone connection. "At least it wasn't a civilian."

"Wayne Manor," a cultured voice suddenly cut in through the workroom speakers.

"Alfred, it's Barbara. We just heard. Status?"

Palpable relief came through the line. "Miss Alana is recovering from surgery and Master Bruce is seeking her release to a private facility," he reported crisply. "Master Tim has managed to get downtown and stands ready to bring the ambulance in, but-"

"I'm sending Dick," Barbara cut in, glancing at him as she spoke. She reached to grab a set of keys and tossed them to him. "Take the bike," she mouthed.

He was out the door almost before he had caught the keys.

"Miss Barbara, it might be wise to also send someone less - recognizable. Ms. Bordeaux is also on hand."

"Right," Barbara affirmed, opening another comlink. "Hold on a sec."

"You've called it an early night. You and your birdboy have a spat?" a cheerful voice remarked.

"Dinah, I need you at 17th and Comorant two minutes ago."

Dinah's voice became all business. "On my way. Situation?"

"Back up for Dick. Ambulance pick up."

Dinah inhaled sharply, and Barbara could hear her processing the information. "Who?"

Barbara hesitated. It wasn't strictly need-to-know, but - "J'onn."

"Oh, jeez. What-"

"Caught a bullet in human form. We need to get him clear of public scrutiny as soon as we get him released. Dick can brief you further."

"Understood. Canary out."

Barbara returned to Alfred. "Tell Tim he can stand down as soon as Dinah gets there. You need me to do anything else?"

"Not now, Miss Barbara - although I suspect you will be hearing from a mutual friend in short order."

"I'm surprised he hasn't called yet."

There was the faintest pause. Then: "They didn't want to interrupt your evening. And I think Master Bruce has been - preoccupied."

Barbara paused the still scrolling transcripts. "Are you okay, Alfred?" she asked.

"I'll carry on, Miss Barbara. As always."

"Yeah," she agreed quietly. "Call if you need me."

"I will," he promised. "Good bye."

"Bye, Alfred." She hung up the connection and opened the comlink to Dick.


"Go ahead, Barbara."

"Dinah's on her way." She glanced at her tracing monitor. "ETA two minutes."

"Got it. I'm almost there. Any more word?"

"Negative. Alfred will call when they need you."

"I'll be waiting."

"Oracle out."

The adrenaline was beginning to fade. Barbara sighed and stared at her screen for a moment, then unpaused the transcripts. They quickly degenerated to media control reports - no new information there. She shut them off and began pulling all her files on the Mad Hatter. It was going to be a long night.

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