Pairings/Characters (this chapter): Barbara Gordon, Donna Troy, Stephanie Brown, Bruce/Dick (Bruce does not appear in this chapter)
Genres: AU, Historical, Mystery, Romance
Rating (this chapter): G
Warnings (this chapter): None
General Summary: A series of daring robberies on Gotham City’s Gold Coast catches the attention of the Raven and the Nightingale.
Chapter Summary: Intense research is the word of the day.
Date Of Completion: March 30, 2015
Date Of Posting: December 13, 2015
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, DC does, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 1550
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
Author’s Notes: Submitted to my 2015 DCU Fic/Art Dick Grayson Diamond Anniversary Challenge. The entire series can be found here.
AMONGST DUSTY TOMES
The light shines in
As the thirst for
And polished floors.
"Ode To Learning"
Barbara entered the last of the daily statistics in her ledger. It was extremely quiet in the library as it was only a half hour before closing time. She appreciated the lack of patrons. There would be fewer to herd out through the door.
She closed the ledger and plugged the inkwell with its cap. She put away her pen and rose from behind the Reference Desk. Time to start the preliminary closing-up.
She frowned as she heard the front doors opening and footsteps heading toward the Circulation Desk. She disliked last-minute patrons. They rarely considered the staff’s desire to end a long shift.
She went through the lower rooms and drew shut the drapes. Heading up the back stairs, she did the same for the upper rooms, putting books left on tables onto carts for tomorrow’s shelving. She went downstairs, hoping the late patron was gone.
To her delight, not only was the patron still there but she was…
“Oh, hello, Miss Gordon.” Donna smiled, looking lovely in lavender, complete with large-brimmed hat and sweeping ostrich feather.
“Hello, Miss Troy.”
“I’m sorry to stop by so late. I just wanted to return my books. The Jean Loring mystery was excellent.”
“I’m glad you enjoyed it.”
“Silver Spring’s historical epic was a great read, too. It’s as if she lived back in ancient times!”
“Speaking of ancient times, have you ever read Ben-Hur by General Lew Wallace?”
“No, of course I’ve heard about his novel but have never read it.”
“I can recommend it. A bit too slow in parts, but a good yarn being spun. It’ll take you awhile to read it but you’ll remember it after you’ve finished.”
“Well, then, I consider that a good recommendation.”
“I know exactly where the book is. Would you like to check it out?”
“Yes, I would.”
Barbara lifted her skirts and went swiftly up the stairs, grabbing the book off the shelf. When she returned, Donna was laughing over a joke that Stephanie had made.
“Here it is. Miss Brown, would you please do the honors?”
After Donna signed the book’s card, Stephanie stamped the insert in the book with the due date and filed the card. She handed over the thick book with a smile.
“Thank you.” Donna placed it in a canvas bag and looked at Stephanie. “You should go on the vaudeville circuit with that wit, young lady.”
Stephanie laughed. “Thanks, Miss Troy.”
“And, you, Miss Gordon, would you care for a cup of coffee?”
Barbara blinked. “Yes, I’d like that.” She turned to Stephanie. “Could you close up for me, Steph?”
Barbara got her hat and coat and pulled on a pair of gloves as she and Donna went outside.
“What a beautiful night,” Barbara said, taking a lungful of fresh air.
“It is.” Donna pulled on her own gloves. “I know a little café.”
“Lead on, Miss Troy. I could use a bracing cup of hot coffee.”
The two women walked briskly down the street. They went to The Coffee Bean, a small café tucked away on a side street. There were a few patrons at various tables as Donna and Barbara took a table by the window. They ordered coffee and cream pastries.
“Thank you for the invitation.” Barbara placed her napkin in her lap.
“You’re welcome.” The waitress brought over their orders. Donna put cream into her coffee and stirred. “You’re a very smart woman, Miss Gordon. I need your help.”
“I need you to research Bruce Wayne for me.”
Barbara raised an eyebrow. “What kind of research?”
“Oh, his personal life. I want to know the romances he’s had in the past, how they ended up, who broke it off…”
“That sounds like work a Pinkerton detective might do.” Barbara took a bite of her pastry.
“Well, it’s also information you may be able to obtain, too. I’ll pay you.”
“There’s no need. As a librarian…”
“…you aren’t paid much. There will be intense research. Please, I would feel better if I could pay you something.”
Barbara hesitated. “All right, I will do some very intense research for you.”
Donna smiled. “Thank you.”
Barbara did not ask why Donna wanted the information. That was her business.
Besides, Bruce Wayne was an interesting subject.
“Good morning, Miss Gordon.”
Barbara looked up, startled. “Oh, hello, Mr. Grayson.”
Dick smiled ingratiatingly at her. “Do you know off-hand if there is a definitive history of Gotham right before and during the Civil War?”
“Hmm.” Barbara closed her book and stood. “I think I have just the thing.”
Dick followed her to the stacks. She took her key ring from her belt and unlocked a door at the back of the room.
“This is our Special Collections Room. I’ll get you what you want.”
Dick waited as Barbara went inside the darkened room, re-emerging with a large tome. “Let’s go over here,” she said. They settled at a long, wooden table and Barbara opened the book.
“See, this section covers the 1850s, particularly the latter part of the decade.” Barbara turned the page. “There’s an extensive section on the War years, and even some postwar.”
“This is exactly what I’m looking for. Does it mention the Gotham Abolitionist Society?”
“Let’s look.” Barbara turned to the index. “Yes, a whole chapter.”
“That’s great.” Dick checked out the index. “I take it this book doesn’t leave the library?”
“You’re correct. As a Special Collection book, it stays here, but you can request to see it any time.”
Barbara left Dick to his research and returned to her desk. She was glad that he had not noticed the picture she had been looking at when he had come over.
She opened the book, Society Swells Of Gotham, and found the page she had been reading. The chapter was a glowing puff piece about the Prince of Gotham but gave many details. She made notes and learned that Bruce Wayne was the inheritor of a name that had been privileged even as far back as the Colonial era.
There wasn’t a generation of his family who wasn’t of the silver spoon.
Barbara found the chapter fascinating. Not a native of Gotham, she had not grown up with the Prince’s legend.
Mr. Grayson, you’re involved with a very aristocratic man. Is that what appeals to you? His resemblance to European aristocracy?
Barbara knew that ballet dancers often practiced inversion. It was not proof that Dick was sleeping with his patron, of course, but if he was, that was his business.
She wondered if Donna was in love with Dick. Was that why she wanted Bruce’s romantic history? To prove to Dick that his handsome patron was not serious with his romantic partners?
It would be satisfying to know, but I’m sure she’ll keep her own counsel.
Some of his romances were listed in this chapter. Some women were socialites while others were actress and ballerinas. It was an impressive list.
Keeps busy for a member of the idle rich.
She wrote down the names and professions. How they broke up was not mentioned. She continued reading and paused. Her eyebrows rose.
Well, now that’s interesting.
She wrote down the name and quickly finished the chapter. Closing the book, she re-shelved it and wandered over to where Dick was sitting.
“How’s the research going?”
Dick looked up with a dazzling smile. “Very well, thank you. How was Society Swells?”
Barbara managed not to look surprised. “Some light reading.”
“That’s good. You probably read such deep stuff that some fluff is necessary, eh?”
“Um, yes.” Barbara fixed the bow at the back of her dress.
“I bet you read Harper’s and The Atlantic Monthly.”
She smiled. “I do.”
Dick nodded in satisfaction. “I knew it.”
“Do you need any further help?”
“No, thank you.” Dick smiled again. What did you think about the Atlantic cover story last month about…?”
Barbara found herself drawn into a serious discussion as she sat down, impressed by Dick’s intellectual prowess. Most dancers were self-absorbed, but this man seemed interested in the world.
“The writer really laid out the facts,” Barbara said.
“Wasn’t he the same writer who reported on the San Francisco earthquake last year?”
“You know, I believe you’re right.”
Dick put his pencil down and flexed his fingers. He had a long list of notes on his paper. “When we read about it in the European papers, we were shocked.”
“It certainly made news here in the States.”
Dick looked pensive. “Of course, I didn’t know Bruce yet, but we discussed it after we were acquainted with each other. It must have been hell on earth.”
“Yes.” Barbara was impressed by Dick’s seriousness. He was usually so cheerful. “Please feel free to ask me or Miss Brown if you need help.”
Barbara returned to her desk, smiling slightly. So Dick had noticed her book. Somehow, she was not surprised.
Well, I doubt that he knows this little fact: that Bruce Wayne had a torrid romance during his Harvard years with prima ballerina Selina Kyle.