Disclaimer: Disclaimer: I do not own Huntress, Question, or Del Arrazio. They are property of DC Comics, Time Warner, Cartoon Network, etc. etc. Nunzio, however, is all mine.
Perdonare é Divine
"So put that in your pipe and smoke it," Helena Bertinelli snapped, slamming the car door closed. She flooded the engine and took off with the engine roaring and tires squealing. When she finally glanced up at the rearview mirror, the Question was almost lost in her dust.
"Stupid...presumptuous...ass," Helena muttered. She twisted the wheel hard to the left and skidded around a corner, westward to Little Italy. "Don't let you into my life my...."
"Can't. Busy tonight," she had said. "Catch you tomorrow?"
"I can't come with you?" he had asked neutrally. His mask showed no expression but Helena was used to the subtle shifts and ticks.
"We're dating," Helena had said flatly, her stomach turning in displaced dread. Even with all he knew, she wasn't ready to open her family to his scrutiny. "Not joined at the hip. I do have a life other than you."
"And you won't allow me to be part of it? Why is that?"
"Because it's personal."
His head had tilted and his mask moved ever so slightly in a way that had made her think he was raising an eyebrow. "Isn't what we do together personal?"
Helena tried not to think of her answer as she eased her foot off the gas. She was approaching Little Italy and the streets were filled with cars parked parallel to the curb on both sides. Helena slid her car -- Question's car, to be exact -- into a gap a few blocks from the rows of red and green flags. She made sure to lock it before walking toward the increasingly noisy area. She hadn't walked far when she found the street blockaded by parked police cars and jovial GCPD officers greeted the families walking in.
"Vinny Del Arrazio," she called back. She was glad she'd already changed into her civilian clothes when she'd taken off. Trying to get the Huntress outfit off in the back of Question's car was a gymnastic feat that had given her enough trouble on the first attempt.
"Vince," he protested, arms akimbo. "Gimme a break."
"What are you doing in uniform?" she asked, walking up to him. "I heard you made detective."
"I did," he said proudly. "But they wanted us all to match, you know. Deterrent."
"Anyone who thinks you're a deterrent for trouble needs to talk to someone who knew you as a kid," Helena teased.
"Oh, now she's pulling out the big guns." Del Arrazio winked at her. "Get in there and have a calzone for me."
"See ya later," Helena told him, waving a little. She liked Del Arrazio. His cousin, Jack Inzerillo, was mobbed to the gills, but Vince had gone fed for a while and then come back to Gotham as a cop. It had never really occurred to her to go the legal route.
Helena Bertinelli didn't have a lot of friends in Little Italy, but one wouldn't know from the number of people who recognized her and called out greetings. The Italian Festival was an annual Gotham tradition and everyone was friendly from the heady combination of companionship and wine. She saw people she'd known in her childhood, people she knew when she'd come back from Italy, people from the school where she taught, and even people from outside, who just came for the food and the music and the fun.
She got a calzone, because Del Arrazio's comment had made her hungry for one, and ate it while she walked through the crowded streets.
Helena turned around and saw a slim, dark-haired woman waving at her from a cannoli booth. She recognized her cousin -- actually, second cousin, on her mother's side -- instantly. She'd played with Ella as a girl -- they were of an age -- but when she'd returned from Italy, her cousin had been too busy making preparations for her wedding to be of much companionship. She'd married a man not connected to the Mafia, though, and had no desire to be, and so she and Helena had rebuilt their friendship when Helena had brought gifts to the birth of her first son.
Ella spoke quickly to another woman in the booth, then pulled off her apron and came into the street to hug and kiss Helena on both cheeks. "How are you?" she asked eagerly. "I haven't seen you in months!"
"You're pregnant again," Helena replied, delighted. "Number four?"
"My Tony," Ella said proudly. "Come on and talk to me. I have cannoli." She dragged Helena to a table and unwrapped a napkin with two cannoli between them. "Try them. Hazelnut and this one's pistachio. Nonna's recipe."
Helena broke off a piece of shell and scooped up some of the filling. It was heavy and sweet in her mouth and she closed her eyes as she crunched on the shell.
"Ella, these are delicious," she said. "I'll eat them all and get fat."
"Ha! You, never. You're too skinny," Ella scoffed. "How have you been? What have you been doing? I heard you quit your job and then asked for it back."
"Yeah," Helena said, breaking off another piece of cannoli. She had resigned her teaching position at St. Anthony's because she had fully expected to assassinate Stephen Madragora and if she were caught, she didn't want the school's name to be dragged through the mud. "I thought maybe I'd go somewhere else for a while, but then I didn't have to. They were nice enough to have not hired out my position yet. Classes start next week."
"Lucky you," Ella replied, working on the second cannoli. "Where were you going to go? Did it have something to do with a man?"
Helena felt her cheeks flush red.
"It did!" Ella cried. "I knew it! So what are you doing here? Why didn't you go to him?"
"Actually," Helena said, concentrating desperately on the pastry in front of her, "I stayed for him." It was more accurate than Ella's assumption, at least.
"Wow, so it's serious. Tell me everything. What's his name?"
Helena paused, not sure how little she could get away with.
"Vic," she said carefully.
"Oh? And is he a good Italian man?"
"He's not Italian at all," Helena said, pleased that Ella didn't press on the matter of his last name. "But he's a good man." Except when he's been a presumptuous ass, she thought.
"As long as he treats you right," Ella told her, patting her hand. "Speaking of, there's my gorgeous husband right over there!" She got up and waved to her husband Tony, sitting a few tables over with their three kids and a ring of funnel cake. "C'mon over and say hi."
Helena scooped up the napkin, careful not to spill the powdered sugar, and crumpled it for the trash before following Ella over to where the rest of the family sat.
"Hey, you guys," Helena greeted her cousin's children. Tony Jr. was nine, Nunzio was seven and Bella was four. She reached out and ran her fingertips through Bella's hair, smoothing out the tangles. "Having fun?"
"Yeah!" Tony Jr. piped up. "We went on the bumper cars and the Tilt-a-Whirl, and Nunzio threw up and Bella wouldn't get on but she was too little anyway -- "
Helena cast a sympathetic look at Nunzio, whose face was covered with powdered sugar from the funnel cake. She'd never heard him talk, but Isabella assured her that he was just shy.
"All right," she said, interrupting Tony's running commentary. "Let me have some of that and we'll go see if we can win some prizes."
"Yay!" Tony yelled as Helena pulled off a section of their funnel cake and popped it in her mouth. "Are you going to play darts? Are ya, Aunt Helena?"
"Yay!" Bella called, because her brother had said it. Even Nunzio looked pleased. Silently pleased. Helena smiled suddenly as she thought of Vic.
Maybe she should have brought him, she thought with a twinge of longing as Nunzio slid a sticky hand into hers.. She would love to see Vic with her cousin's kids. He'd be awkward, she thought fondly. And maybe a little shy. There was always the chance that he'd be arrogant and obscure -- that chance was always existed with Vic -- but she was entirely convinced that no one could resist Ella's kids for long.
Except that she was mad at Vic, she reminded herself, her smile fading, and didn't want to bring him here.
"It's how much?" she asked incredulously when she saw the sign at the dart booth.
"Five dollars for three darts, Helena," the vendor said.
"You're robbing me blind, Dom," she grumbled, handing him a ten and noticing his fingers starting to grow fat around his wedding ring. She'd known him since she was a little girl. He grinned at her and laid six darts on the counter. "I only need three," she said, setting her weight on her back leg and squaring her shoulders. She balanced the first dart in her hand. "You guys ready?" she asked her cousins.
"Yeah!" Tony cried as they clustered around the side of the booth.
Pop! Pop! Pop! Three balloons popped in quick succession. Dom quietly passed a five dollar bill across the counter.
"What do you guys want?" Dom asked in good-natured resignation. Helena's cousins were choosing their stuffed toys when Ella and Tony Sr. appeared.
"Spoiling my kids, Hel?" Tony joked as the kids bounced around, showing off their new prizes.
"What are aunts for?" Helena replied, rubbing Nunzio's head.
"Thank you, Aunt Helena," he said politely.
She grinned, pleased to have finally gotten words out of him, as his brother and sister echoed their thanks.
"It is almost nine o'clock, kids," Ella announced, "and none of you have had a bath, yet."
Various sounds of disappointment replaced the bubbly thanks.
Ella glanced significantly at Helena. "It was good to see you out," she said. "Next time, you bring that man of yours, hear? You should spend more time with family."
"All right, all right," Helena conceded with a laugh, kissing Ella on both cheeks and turning her head to let Tony kiss her as well. "You guys be good," she called to her cousin's children as they let their father lead them off.
Ella kissed Helena goodbye and held her face between ring-laden hands for a moment. "Take care of yourself," she said. "Or let that man take care of you." She dropped her hands and gave Helena a motherly glare. "You're too skinny," she called over her shoulder by way of explanation. Helena smiled faintly at her retreating back.
The sounds of the fair were dying down as kids trickled home and vendors began to tack plastic covers around their booths. Helena picked her way over the littered lots toward the street. There were still musicians and food and would be until after midnight. She could stay and lose herself in the crowd, but suddenly anonymity didn't seem quite so appealing.
"Last call! Last ride of the night! Ferris Wheel romance!"
She glanced to her left, seeing the Ferris Wheel hulking against the sky, its bright lights illuminating the surrounding area almost to daylight. On impulse, she reversed direction and bought a ticket. She lingered until the ride was almost full, and then joined the end of the line.
"Stop me on the top for a minute, would you?" she asked the young operator, giving him a smile calculated to charm him into anything.
"Sure thing, ma'am," the boy said, grinning dreamily.
"Oops. Looks like you're getting company after all," the kid said, unlatching Helena's car and holding it for the man rushing up to them.
Helena nearly told him to have the interloper wait for the next ride, then remembered there wouldn't be one. She sighed in frustration, not wanting to share the summer night with a stranger and most certainly not one brandishing a stuffed bear that stretched his arms and hid his face. She wedged herself as far over in the seat as she could and crossed her legs away from the man.
"'Scuse me," he muttered, forcing the bear between them.
Helena huffed again in irritation and turned to tell the man off as the ride crept forward, lifting them off the ground. "Look," she started.
"Yes?" The bear lifted and suddenly it was Vic sitting next to her.
"Vic? What are you doing here? How did you even find me?"
"Followed you," Vic said succinctly. He wasn't wearing his mask, but his face was still unreadable.
"How did -- never mind, I don't want to know." Helena crossed her arms and slumped down in the seat. She didn't want to be mad at him. Half of her wanted to throw her arms around him and hold on forever. It was the other half that wanted his head on a stick.
"I'm here to apologize," he said. "I...understand now, why you would wish to keep your costumed life away from your family."
"Funny that you come here to tell me that," Helena murmured, staring out at the tops of tents and booths and hearing the strains of a band off in the distance.
"I always did have a flair for irony," Vic said archly.
Helena couldn't help but smile a little. "Did you have someone?" she asked. "Someone you couldn't tell? A family?"
"A while ago," Vic said vaguely. "Not anymore."
The Ferris Wheel slowed to a stop, leaving them on top of the structure, gazing out at the fairgrounds. Helena looked up. The stars seemed closer than the ground. Vic reached over and wrapped a large, warm hand around her smaller one.
"Now I have you," he said quietly.
"I told my cousin about you," she said. "Now you're obligated to come to dinner."
"I'd like that," he said immediately, surprising her. "Your cousin's spaghetti sauce contains no xanthan gum and her husband has no ties to organized crime."
"You scare me sometimes," Helena said dryly.
"Only sometimes?" He smiled and laid his arm along the back of the little seat and Helena snuggled happily into his side.
"You're still not off the hook," she reminded him, and herself.
"Of course not," Vic said, his arm now comfortable around her shoulders. "I haven't paid nearly enough...lip service."
He kissed her then, and Helena didn't tell him that he was already forgiven.