When Barbara Gordon's phone rang, she saw the caller ID and immediately picked up the call from her father.
"Barbara, sweetheart, I need an enormous favor from you, my dear. Please don't be angry with me, but I'd like you to be Bruce Wayne's date to the Children's Literacy Gala later this month at the library. It would mean so much to the kids, and the library too. Gotham's been strapped for cash and Bruce has promised a generous contribution, but he says that his usual dates have turned him down."
"I personally think that he's concerned by their lack of education. Do your father a favor, Babs, I know you're not his biggest fan, but deep down he's really a decent guy."
Jim tried to sound sincere, knowing his daughter's low opinion of the billionaire's 'playboy' stature.
"So this isn't one of your subtle attempts to do a little bit of matchmaking, Dad, you're serious?"
"I'm sorry, sweetie, but I'm completely serious, literacy has always been close to your heart, but on my salary I couldn't afford to buy a ticket, I'm on his dime, too. Just think of the children, it can't be the worst evening if they're going to benefit, right?"
'Damn! Why did he have to hit me in the heart? How could I turn him down when he asks me for something like that? The devious man', she thought.
She exhaled a huge sigh. "Okay dad, but you'll owe me something big for this!"
"Thanks, Babs, I'll let you collect on that one day."
Jim disconnected the phone and turned to Bruce, saying, "You know this is blackmail."
"That all depends on how you look at it, Jim. I can't attend a literacy gala with a scatter-brained starlet. That hurts even my sensibilities. I know Barbara doesn't have the high opinion of me that you do, but she doesn't know me as well, either."
Jim Gordon let out the breath he didn't realize that he was holding and sighed.
"She really hates me now, you'd better make a contribution that overwhelms even my accomplished daughter. She's not easily swayed."
"I'm aware, her own reputation is the complete opposite of mine. If I'm a mindless skirt chaser, she's known in my circles as the Golden Ice Queen of Gotham. Maybe she just hasn't gone out with someone worthy of her intellect, Gotham's not exactly a hotbed for education." Bruce sighed.
"Not despite my trying for years to find someone for her to date that she doesn't outright reject sight unseen. I'm not that old-fashioned, but she deserves a chance at happiness. She doesn't realize that you're brighter than you appear, you've done too good a job of pretending to be shallow." Jim rolled his eyes.
"But you understand why I need to do that. I can't be seen as too much like my other persona. A certain amount of mystery is essential in my line of work."
"But I certainly can't tell her that, Bruce. She'd never believe it anyway, and then she'd try to commit me. Just be a gentleman to her, and less shallow than usual."
"Of course, Jim, I'm not an idiot! Besides, I don't think she realizes how beautiful she really is. She's more concerned with her mind than her looks, and I mean that in the kindest way. She's not vain. Do you think I should send her a nice gown for the evening? I doubt she can afford anything so extravagant on her salary."
Jim stared down at his shoes.
"She's very, um, independent. She'll challenge you and take it the wrong way, thinking you expect some sort of corrupt payback. But it's completely out of her budget, what with keeping an apartment in the city and all. I can find out her sizes next time I visit. She simply can't show up in something from the thrift shop."
"Better yet, what if we arrange it anonymously with a personal shopper? She'll need more than just a dress. If I recall from my former wife, she'll need the, er, ah, proper undergarments. You couldn't possibly send that over, she'd be mortified."
"What if she'd won a contest? She'd surely enter that if the prize was a complete Oscar-worthy outfit, wouldn't she?" Bruce surmised, thinking that winning a contest might well be a way out of any embarrassment of receiving an expensive gift from a man-about-town with a bad reputation.
"She just might, she's very practical. But even if she doesn't, she can't think that she's a charity case. She's much too proud, just like me. It hasn't been easy raising her alone, Bruce. If you hadn't arranged that full scholarship for her..."
"I can't see her wasting her talent in a city college. She's much too bright."
"I'm grateful Bruce, but if she finds out, she'll kill me!" Jim made a motion of his own throat being slit.
"Don't you worry about that, Jim. I'll be invisible from the entire thing."
Bruce smiled to himself. Barbara would look fabulous in the right outfit, with a little bit of makeup.
Beneath her modest clothes, he was sure that her real beauty was simply hiding, waiting to be discovered.