Little Bird in the Desert Kingdom


FANDOM: Birds of Prey (comics)

PAIRINGS: Black Canary/Lady Shiva, Oracle/Huntress

DISCLAIMERS: Birds of Prey is owned DC Comics, which is owned by Time Warner. I make no claim to any piece of that empire, but intend neither profit nor injury.

RATING: Very Mature, NC-17

WARNINGS: know...together...without clothes. ::gestures::

AUTHOR'S NOTE: The views expressed concerning nondescript desert nations, the ins and outs of Catholicism, and what Chuck, Mike, and Gail have done to Dinah are not necessarily the views of the author, and so on. Thanks to [info]cercatrice for making it better than it was.

SUMMARY: Dinah goes to the nation of Tizan to protect its king. Shiva goes to kill him. Hearts collide!

WEB SITE: - Date: 08/22/05


"Damn, it's hot." Dinah lowered her sunglasses and looked out across the desert. She saw yellow. Just yellow. Everywhere. The oppressive noon heat was the only company she had and she was beginning to think she saw visions in the sand. Despite her nom de plume, as Black Canary was a perfect name for a nomadic tribe, she thought, Dinah was more relegated to the Seattle rains. Or at the very least, a hot summer night in an urban setting, like a sweltering Gotham. Heat with nothing else was just...depressing.

"Yes, it is."

Dinah looked to her right. A figure walked toward her, hooded and in all black. "Where did you come from?" She demanded, both recognizing the walk, and knowing that in a world full of villains, heroes, and innocent victims, no other individual would appear out of nowhere just to say hello. It was Lady Shiva who pushed back the hood and smiled.

"The shadows."

"What shadows?"

Shiva faced northwest, ignoring the comment. "Can I get a ride?"

Dinah looked at the motorcycle she'd parked in the dirt a few feet away. "Bicycle built for one."

Shiva ignored her and looked out across the desert. "We had the same idea." She crossed her arms.

Dinah nodded. She doubted Shiva and herself had the exact same idea, seeing how Dinah's boss had hired her out to be a bodyguard to some Arabian prince who was recently targeted by...assassins unknown. She shivered, and walked to her bike and straddled the seat, kicking up the stand. "What brings you to Tizan?" As if the shadowy assassin, the famously rumored Lady Shiva, would answer such a question directly.

Which she didn't. "What brings you?" Shiva settled behind Dinah and wrapped her arms tightly around Dinah's abdomen.

Dinah closed her eyes. The pressure of Shiva's arms felt delicious against her and it had been a long time since someone had touched her like this. Especially on a motorcycle. The last person had been...Shiva. The thought made her nostalgic, and slightly bitter, and she bit her lip. Bad idea to have an old lover out for blood. "Who are you here to kill?"

Shiva's hand was caressing her stomach. "Who will you protect?"

So Shiva wasn't stupid. Dinah wondered if Shiva was just using her Asian beauty and rough Detroit tongue to seduce her to make her an easier mark. Even if it were true, better to keep Shiva close-by and keep an eye on her. Right? Dinah pushed her sunglasses into place. She cursed Oracle for sending her to a hot, yet beachless country to protect some guy she probably wouldn't even like. She cursed Oracle for not letting her parachute into the central city of Tizan from the Aerie One, thinking there was no use in having a jumbo jet as a secret superhero lair if it was useless. Oracle had mentioned satellites, blah, blah. Sovereign airspace, blah, blah.

Dinah said, not for the first time, "This is a bad idea."

Shiva chuckled against her ear. "Cynic."

* * * * *

The plane that had refused to land in Tizan to drop Dinah off was now somewhere over Kansas, and Barbara, a.k.a. Oracle, boss to legions of superheroes (or, well, a few) and information broker to many others, could hear Zinda, her pilot, singing from the cockpit. "All my exes live in Texas..."

Helena, the more obnoxious of the superheroes in Barbara's stable, was draped over a couch. "Can't someone tell her we left Texas 20 minutes ago?"

"She knows that. She's the pilot." Barbara rubbed the bridge of her nose.

"Why'd you bring your gear up here anyway?" Helena gestured in the vague direction of the piles of computer equipment that surrounded Barbara. A second keyboard leaned against the wheel of Barbara's wheelchair, and several cords looped around the spokes.

Barbara glanced at the haphazard configuration of laptop and flat screen monitors and wires that she'd shoved into the back corner of the main cabin. "I wanted to be more social. I'm tired of being the witch in the clock tower. Or in the belly of the 747."

Helena snickered.

"...Texas is the place I'd really"

Helena yawned. "All you do is stare at your computer anyhow. Does it matter where you sit?"

"At least I don't spend all of my time asleep," Barbara said.

"If I had something to do..."

"You didn't want to stay in Gotham. You know, where you might have something to do."

"I wanted to go on a mission."

"Dinah's on the mission."

"Yes, and God forbid both of us should go."

"It's a one woman-mission, Helena."

"Why? Does she have something to prove out there in the desert? Is this more of your feminist healing superhero crap?"

"Helena!" Barbara wheeled her chair in a backwards loop until she faced the woman who was now sitting upright on the couch, glowering at her. Helena pushed herself to her feet, and began pacing. Barbara sighed. "Helena. You look like a bird in a cage."

Helena tapped the ceiling. "I wanted to go to the desert." She made a face so twisted into whining Barbara laughed.

Helena smiled.

"No, you don't. It's hot and sticky and thankless. At least in Montana you'll get the pleasure of taking down a cult."

Helena's smile turned feral.


"I knew I could trust you, Barbara."

Barbara grunted and turned back to the computer.

"When I said I wanted to be down there...That doesn't mean I don't want to be here. I mean, this place doesn't suck."

Barbara grinned. "Thank you."


Barbara sighed.

"...That's why I hang my hat in Tennessee!"

"Hey, Helena, mind shutting the cockpit door?" Barbara looked over her shoulder.


"And, then, do you want to learn how to use this thing?"

Helena paused by the doorway. "The computer?"


"You'd trust me...?"

"Well, I figure you'd break into it anyway, eventually. Just like you did the clocktower. Several fortresses. My life..."

Helena smirked.

* * * * *

Shiva stood next to Dinah outside a rambling stone and clay building. Sounds of merriment came from inside, and they could see other motorcycles parked in a row along the exterior. Dinah was tying a scarf around her head, covering up the blonde strands. "You should have dyed your hair," Shiva said.

"I thought about it. But in the end, I was too lazy." Dinah shrugged. "Neither of us will exactly blend in, but hopefully we won't stand out too much either."

"At least you dressed appropriately."

"Yeah. I left my Hawaiian shirts at home. Even though they were gifts from Ollie and are of the highest quality. And you don't look like a ninja, Sandy." Dinah saw Shiva twitch at the use of her given name. More than a decade had passed since Shiva was a nameless street thug from Detroit. Years of discipline and training had turned her into a different person entirely. Even in the way she spoke, as precise as the way she threw a block or a chop, Shiva maintained focus. Even when she was looking a little worse for wear, as she did now, with a greenish pallor to her face.

Shiva merely said, "Shall we go inside? Do you think they'll rent a room to a single woman?"

"I already got my reservations on Travelocity," Dinah folded her arms, daring Shiva to challenge her.

Instead, Shiva furrowed her brow and studied the building in front of her, a 14th century construction, and eyed the Soviet-era power lines protruding from its corners. "The information age is amazing."

"You don't have to tell me that. You don't look so good, Sandy. Car sick from six hours on a motorcycle?"

Shiva walked toward the door.

"Will you split some curdled goat's milk and grasshopper surprise with me?"

Shiva took off running, pushing through the doors. The uproar of the main restaurant silenced for a moment, and then Dinah heard a burst of laughter. She walked into the building and went to the main reception area to check in. "Don't worry, honey," she said aloud, not to anyone in particular, "I'll hold your hair."

When she had gotten room keys, she made her way to the ladies bathroom at the back of the bar, which was, thankfully, Western, and thankfully, clean, and found Shiva in a stall, crouched on the floor and hugging porcelain. Dinah knelt down, stroking the back of Shiva's head, running her fingers through her hair and ending up on her neck, where she gently massaged. "Feel better?"


Dinah let go and pulled out two ibuprofen from her belt, pushing them into Shiva's hand. "Big, tough, killer of men. Bowled over by a little old motorcycle?"

"I'm sick. Not even you could do that." Shiva glowered.

"No? Food poisoning?"


Dinah raised an eyebrow.

Shiva sighed, rubbing her forehead. "A bad cold. That is why, of course, I came to the desert. For rejuvination."

"And do you feel cured?"

Shiva said nothing, but swallowed the offered pills and then leaned back to let Dinah support her.

Dinah, tugging Shiva closer, could tell Shiva didn't have a fever, if, in fact, she was telling the truth about the cold. Maybe it was lingering dehydration, which prompted Dinah to ask, "At least feel well enough to eat?"

Shiva turned, and pressed her forehead into Dinah's neck. She said, in a low voice that set parts of Dinah on fire, "We should forgo dinner."

Dinah kissed Shiva's hair. "Fine. But brush your teeth."

"If you take a shower, you smelly gringo."

"You can bite me."

Shiva did.

* * * * *

"So, this cult I'm going to be taking down. I can get that done by Sunday night, right? I'm giving the kids a quiz on Monday," Helena asked as she tapped the mouse against the desk.

"On Monday, Ms. Bertinelli? You villain." Barbara laughed. She still had trouble picturing Helena as a teacher, and had always wanted to visit one of her classes, to see what it was really like. A person's calling, she supposed, didn't have to make sense. Barbara glanced at the computer screen. It didn't have to make sense at all.

Helena shrugged. "Strength through discipline. If I can't teach them how to use a crossbow, I just have to torture them with this."

"You never thought about becoming a gym teacher?"

Helena looked sideways at Barbara, letting her hair cascade toward the desk. "While I may have the right kink, I don't think I have the correct figure."

Barbara squinted at the monitor. "Mm hm."

Helena chided, "The all-knowing, all seeing..."

"...Oracle." Barbara turned and grinned at Helena. "I think you're getting the hang of this."

"The hang of it? I'm shocked that you wow the bats with such simple configurations." Helena clicked the mouse, bringing up a map of the data traffic.

"I prefer 'streamlined,'" Barbara said, placing her hand over Helena's on the mouse.

"I'll bet you do."

"If I may say...You seem almost happy."

"I am. Almost. And it's not this." Helena gestured at the monitor with her free hand. "It's this." She waved at the plane. "I've never been more..." She pursed her lips. "At ease."

"I'm glad." Barbara stared at the screen, because to look at Helena and say the next words simultaneously might kill her. "It's been good having you around. Who would have thought you'd end up being the nice one?"

Helena chuckled. "Barbara, I want to ask you something..." She leaned closer to Barbara, coaxing Barbara to meet her eyes.

Barbara looked at her. "What?" Helena's face was close enough so that she could feel Helena's breath against her cheek. Barbara felt her mouth go dry and parted her lips to lick them, aware that Helena could see exactly what she was doing, and afraid to send the wrong signal. Or the right signal. Or stop breathing. Another breath from Helena and Barbara gasped, losing all the ground she had gained. "Helena... Whatever you're planning, get it over with."

Helena's eyes narrowed into an expression of concern. "Is that a yes, for what I'm planning?"

"That's a yes." Barbara's breaths were shallow. She kept her eyes on Helena's, refusing to let her gaze drift downward.

"Was there something else?"

"I have been wondering...what it would be like," Barbara said.

Helena bent down and kissed her. Helena's lips were soft against hers, Helena's touch shy, as if Barbara were a balloon that might pop if Helena pressed too hard. Barbara was frustrated, and leaned forward, intensifying the kiss. She reached up to touch Helena's cheek, and Helena jerked back, her lips glistening with dampness.

A communication node beeped behind Barbara. She glanced over her shoulder to see that it was only a GPS alert of Dinah arriving at a rendezvous, and tapped it off. When Barbara looked back, Helena was gone. Barbara tried to turn her wheelchair to follow her, but her wheel had gotten tangled in computer cords, and trapped her. She cursed, shoving at the console.

"You all right?" Zinda came into the main cabin, frowning at Barbara.

Barbara scowled. "Fine. Where's Helena?"

Zinda grinned. "Flyin' the Aerie One."

"She's what?"

"Well, she's got her boots up on the controls, she's leaning back, grading papers, and keeping an eye on the autopilot."


"You all right? You look a little flushed."

Barbara reached up to feel her face. "Fine. I'm fine, Zinda." The computer beeped at her again. She turned around, blocking out the rest of the aircraft. "I have work to do."

* * * * *

Dinah leaned on the windowsill, looking out at the Tizan evening. She could make out brown hills, turning black in the fading light, and the mountains beyond that, but directly below her were old pick-up trucks and motorbikes, and a few men sitting in the sparse, sprinkler-fed grass outside the hotel, smoking and talking in low, lilting voices. "I kind of expected it to be more...romantic," she said.

Shiva, wrapped in a silk robe, came out of the bathroom they shared with the next room. "We're still four hours from the central city."

"Then I have high hopes."

Shiva walked behind Dinah and put her hand on her shoulder. "Do you?"

"Mm." Dinah inhaled, smelling the night air, which was tinged with dust and motor oil.

"Will you tell me about your mission?"


Shiva pressed her face against the back of Dinah's neck. "Should I express that I wished to see you more?"

"Will it change anything?"


Dinah's shoulders slumped. "Then I guess we should just live in the moment."

"You have always been wiser than your hair color implies," Shiva said.

"Thank you. But wise isn't what I was going for."

"No?" Shiva rubbed her nose against Dinah's neck.


Shiva slid her arms around Dinah's waist. "Very wise."

Dinah grinned. "Is there something you and I agree on?"

"Your beauty." Shiva's hand slid lower, under the waist of Dinah's jeans. "And?"

"Your perfect technique."

Shiva pushed her hand lower, under Dinah's underwear, across curls that scratched her palm, until her middle finger slipped between Dinah's lower lips. Her hand was constrained by the jeans, so once she touched Dinah where she was swollen and wet, she could only squeeze, causing Dinah to gasp and begin grinding back against her. Her nipples tightened as they grazed Dinah's back, strafed against the silk and Dinah's shirt. Dinah covered Shiva's hand in her pants with her own, pressing down. Shiva listened to Dinah's breathing become heavier, and timed her short strokes against Dinah's clit with Dinah's panting.

Dinah squirmed, pulling Shiva's wrist free and turning around. She faced Shiva, leaning in so her forehead pressed against Shiva's. Shiva reached down again, unbuttoning the top button of Dinah's jeans, but keeping the rest of her body still, and her eyes intent on Dinah's. She tugged the second button open, and then reached up, cupping Dinah's face with her damp hand. Dinah turned her head and kissed Shiva's fingers.

Shiva slipped her middle finger into Dinah's mouth, and Dinah sucked. When Dinah's tongue, stroking her finger, cleaning the juices from her hand, had aroused Shiva, she drew her hand back. "Greedy."

Dinah grinned. "I was going for hedonistic."

Shiva leaned forward, her mouth almost touching Dinah's. "Wild."

"Passionate," Dinah said, closing the gap between them and kissing Shiva. Shiva opened her mouth to the kiss, letting Dinah's tongue inside. Dinah's hands gently cupped her face, and Shiva closed her eyes, giving herself over to the brief moment of gentleness that she rarely experienced, even with Dinah.

When Dinah drew back, breathing quickly to catch her breath, Shiva opened her eyes and said, "Good."

"You're not too bad yourself," Dinah said. She untied the sash of Shiva's robe and parted it, taking a long look at Shiva's body that made Shiva's nipples tingle under Dinah's hungry gaze. Shiva grabbed Dinah by the flap of her open jeans and tugged her forward. Her robe slid off her shoulders.

Dinah kissed her again, and Shiva took her time exploring soft lips, as Dinah rubbed her back, scratching the bare skin with her nails, paying particular attention the line of her spine, which made Shiva arch into her, and grip the denim in her fist more tightly. Dinah began pushing against her, grinding against her knuckles, and her lips traveled to Shiva's jaw, then her throat, then her ear, before she said, "This is one of the more romantic settings we've been in."

Shiva swallowed. She relaxed her grip and slid her hand into Dinah's fly. "Did you want to celebrate our relative comfort in a particular fashion?"

Dinah pushed Shiva back, onto the bed, and crouched over her. "I've been having this fantasy..."

Shiva inhaled sharply.

Dinah drew Shiva's hands over her head, and folded her fingers over the bars in the headboard. "...Where I get to do whatever I want, and you just hold on."

Shiva gripped the bars, and watched Dinah, who straightened up and pulled off her tee shirt. "As if I were bound?"

"Do you want that?"

Shiva pursed her lips.

Dinah stood before her, in just her jeans, and crossed her hands over her breasts. "Would you let me tie you up?"

Shiva wanted to answer yes, but a cold wave of fear washed over her. She squeezed the bars tightly, trying to ground herself. Naked on the bed before Dinah's gaze, she suddenly felt too exposed, when she hadn't moments before. She looked past Dinah, out the window, at the desert night sky, and closed her eyes against the glittering, watching stars. The bed shifted underneath her as Dinah climbed onto her, and then she felt Dinah's breath tickling her cheek. "It's all right. I just want to try this." Dinah kissed her throat, and, realizing she was covered by Dinah's body, Shiva relaxed.

"Must you get me into this position in order to be on top, Dinah? Am I that imposing?" Shiva said.

Dinah chuckled. She kissed the side of Shiva's breast. "I'm not afraid of you."

"A shame."

"I won't give you anything you don't ask for," Dinah said, and then took Shiva's nipple between her lips.

Shiva gasped, arching up, trying to push more of her breast against Dinah's mouth. Dinah teased her, biting gently into the nipple, and then drawing back, just licking the tip of her breast with the flat of her tongue. Her hand crept across Shiva's torso. She lightly drummed her fingers against Shiva's taut abdomen. Shiva sucked in her stomach in an effort to get away from the tickling sensations. "Don't...tease."

"Who's teasing?" Dinah said, her head diving between Shiva's thighs. The first flick of her tongue relieved the burning ache Shiva had been feeling since she straddled Dinah's bike in the desert. Shiva groaned gratefully, pushing her hips against Dinah's face, gripping the railings for leverage. The tongue, with each new stroke, was less soothing, arousing in Shiva a new twitching. She jerked her hips, trying to twist away from Dinah's insistent mouth.

Dinah had planned this all along, to steal control through pleasure. Exquisite, excruciating pleasure made demands of Shiva she couldn't quite meet. Dinah pressed the flat of her tongue against the hood of Shiva's clitoris, a place Dinah had explored with her fingers and lips for years until she memorized what Shiva needed. The intimacy made Shiva shudder, and as Dinah's fingertips began to tease her outer lips, Shiva protested. If Dinah touched her ass it would be too much, too much indignity while she was chained to a bed being robbed of everything by a woman's tongue.

"Dinah, stop...Don't. I can't...You promised." When Shiva realized she was pleadin, she shut up, squeezing her eyes closed and gripping the bars behind her head because they were her only reality beyond Dinah. She realized that Dinah's touches had lessened, and Dinah was talking, mumbling against her. Dinah's lips vibrated with tormenting sensation against Shiva's swollen center.

"This is the perfect place...The only place I want to be, Shiva," Dinah said.

Shiva's body screamed with the agony of lost contact, and she was reminded of being careful what she wished for. "Dinah," Shiva said. Defeated, she gave herself over to begging. "Dinah, please."

Dinah's words against her clit became laughter, and then the tongue was back, taking her. Shiva bit hard into her lip and tried not to scream as she bucked against Dinah's' tongue, knowing the men downstairs would eagerly come running at a woman's cry, but not willing to invite them. When she gave a final, jerking shudder and opened her eyes again, Dinah's head poked up between her thighs. Dinah was smiling.

"You're shaking," Dinah said, leaning forward so her chin rested on Shiva's belly. She wrapped her arms around Shiva's waist. "You're shaking and I barely touched you."

Shiva scowled.

Dinah's smile grew wider.

Shiva's arms ached, but when Dinah suggested she let go of the bars, Shiva said, "No."

"No? But I want you to..." Dinah pouted.

"Now, I want something," Shiva said, tilting her head to study Dinah. "I want you arched above me, with a look of ecstasy on your face. I want your breasts shaking. I want your nipples hard. I want your orgasm to come while I'm looking at you. I want you to be shameless."

Dinah was already on her knees, straddling Shiva's face, before Shiva stopped talking. She rested her hands lightly on the bedposts to balance herself, but supported herself mostly on her thighs, and offered her wet center to Shiva's mouth. "Shiva."

Shiva merely smirked. A flush reddened Dinah's neck and chest, arousal and heat. Her nipples were hard, as requested, bouncing slightly with full breasts as she moved. Shiva's eyes watched her, between her legs. Dinah's hips were moving and her back arching, not just for a touch from Shiva's tongue, but for Shiva's visual benefit. Shiva's eyes narrowed with desire, and she tilted her chin back so Dinah could see her tongue flick against her upper lip, and then disappear again, under Dinah.

"Yes," Dinah said in a hoarse voice, and Shiva liked the broken sound as much as she liked Dinah's usual liquid tone. Shiva's tongue moved against Dinah's trimmed, dark curls, rather than through them, so she could apply the barest pressure to Dinah's clit. Dinah reached behind her and cupped Shiva's breast, brushing her thumb over the nipple. Her hips now rocked with steady motion, and Shiva could feel the slickness on her face created by the small, intent path Dinah's center traveled.

Shiva knew Dinah was trying to tempt her, but Dinah had been too good, and now Shiva was too sated to do anything but smile as Dinah's thrusts against her mouth increased along with the pace of Dinah's breathing.

"Shiva..." Dinah dropped her head, panting, and ground into Shiva, moving up to find a bone. She was sitting up, her back curved, arched against Shiva's tongue so that her naked body seemed to fill the room. Shiva knew that Dinah's pleasure did not need to be conquered and taken from her.

Dinah was free. Shiva found that beautiful, and in thanks she conceded to Dinah's pleas. "What?"

"Please, let me come."

Shiva closed her eyes, blocking out Dinah's urgent, straining body above her. Her heart fluttered in her chest. She offered her lips and mouth and tongue, letting Dinah guide herself to a shuddering climax. The bed creaked underneath them. Dinah moaned, sinking onto Shiva for a moment, before lifting herself again to slide down, and Shiva let go of the bars, ignoring the ache in her arms. She embraced Dinah, holding her close as Dinah trembled. Dinah kissed her, and then settled next to her, wrapping her arm around Shiva's waist. "Mm," was all she said.

"Travelocity?" "Yeah."

"We should leave them feedback. This place is...inspiring." Shiva looked through the window at the starlight. The night air had turned cold, and in a minute she would have to poke Dinah to get off the blankets. For now, she let Dinah's body heat sustain her.

* * * * *

When Dinah woke, it was morning, and she was alone. Sunlight was streaming through the open window, warming her skin. She grunted and pulled at the sheet around her waist, drawing it up to cover herself.

Something clicked.

She froze.

Someone said something in Arabic.

"What?" She turned her head to see three men in military uniform surrounding her. One was holding a rifle, pointed at her head. At her movement, they lunged forward. A man grabbed her wrist. She twisted, pushing the heel of her hand into his chin, and he fell backward. Someone behind her kicked her, making contact with her kidney and she crumpled with pain. The rifle went off. She looked up to see that the man had fired it through the window at the sky, and was staring at her intently. "You are under arrest," he said, in English.

"Fuck you," she said.

"Get dressed."

She glanced at the two pieces of jewelry on the nightstand, her only means of communication with Oracle, and then reached for her blue jeans.

When she was escorted out, with her hands cuffed behind her back, they put a hood over her head. She could see out through eye-holes, but no one would be able to identify her. The satellites orbiting above, bounced pictures into a plane in the atmosphere, which tracked her via the necklace sitting in the hotel room. After a night in her lover's embrace, she felt shockingly alone. She rashly hoped Shiva was far away, killing whoever needed to be killed.

A shadow crossed Dinah's face and she looked up. On the rooftop, she saw Shiva, staring down at her. Dinah was pushed into the back of a truck. She shouted, "Don't hurt anyone!" Then the truck flap fell closed and she saw black.

* * * * *

Aerie One flew through the middle of the night. The things that had happened in the desert morning shouldn't have happened yet, so like a prophetess Zinda walked out to where Helena and Barbara were playing chess and arguing. "There's somethin' on GNN you'd want to see."

"What is it?" Barbara asked the question, not taking her hand off the bishop she had been about to move. Helena wasn't bothering to look in Zinda's direction. She seemed fixated on Barbara's hand.

"Well, it's...that feller you sent Dinah after in the desert. He seems a little pissed off."

Helena turned her head to look at the computer monitor at the end of the cabin. Barbara whispered a command to the screen, and GNN flashed to full screen.

The young prince--king, Barbara reminded herself--was saying, "...The famous Black Canary was sent to kill me, but I want to show the world that this is a civilized nation. I have made her a guest of my people, so that she can learn our ways, and see we are a greater culture than her own Americans, who...interfere in everything."

"Shit," Helena breathed. The bright daylight on the screen made Dinah seem even further away from the darkness that shrouded the airplane's portals. On any other night, Barbara would have been asleep, and the digital word filter would have plucked "Black Canary" out of the airwaves and awakened her with a shrill alarm. She was suddenly glad Helena was there, and reached out to take her hand.

Helena squeezed her fingers as the camera panned, to see Dinah being led to the podium in shackles.

"God, she's chained," Helena said.

Barbara stared at the screen. "Caged canary."

"Let me parachute down there."

"Out of the question."

Helena, to punish her, let go of her hand and stood up to pace the length of the airplane cabin. "I'm feeling caged, myself." She kicked a wall. "Goddamn plane."

"Would you feel better if you were in Gotham?"

Helena kicked the wall again.

* * * * *

Dinah was to the king and the first thing she said upon entering his office was, "Someone's here to kill you." Then she looked around the office, decorated like any corporate office in the States would have been, making note of entrances, exits, vulnerabilities, and objects that could be used as weapons.

He looked at her in surprise. "Is that a confession?"

Dinah rolled her eyes. "Not me, dimwit. Someone else. I was sent here to protect you. My name is Dinah Lance. Google me."

"Who sent you? The Americans?"


The king folded his arms. "Funny, they didn't send a letter of introduction. Although they're certainly calling now."

Dinah rolled her eyes. "It wasn't exactly supposed to go down like this."

"I'm sure." His English, loose and slow, sounded like he had learned it by watching the Simpsons, rather than the clipped British lilt most English-speaking Arabs had. Dinah wondered if it was due to his youth, his education abroad, or just his level of annoyance at having her in his office.

She said, "Look--"

"No, you look." He stood, raising himself to a height taller than Dinah had expected, but he was thin. Dinah could have taken him, could have pounded his nose into his stapler if she hadn't been sent to prevent others from doing just that. So she merely scowled, pretending she had Superman's lasers, so she could shred him to pieces with her annoyance. "I've scheduled a press conference," he said, walking past her to the door. Guards dragged her after him. "So whatever little assassin friends you have can see that their efforts are...laughable."

"My friends can help you."

"Tomorrow. When the excitement of this is over, perhaps we'll talk."

"You'll make me talk, you mean."

The king stopped walking and turned to look at her. "No. Of course not. How barbaric do you think we are?"

"Does that mean I get a lawyer and a phone call?"

He smirked. "Modernization comes, but comes slowly. Tell me, Ms. Canary, your theory is that assassins have been sent, presumably by outsiders, to kill me, and you have been sent, presumably by outsiders, to preserve me...Do you see much of a difference in the two?"

Dinah's eyes narrowed. "Should we have just let you die?"

"Perhaps you could have given my people, my guards, my police...a chance to stand on their own. They might not be the incompetent pawns you think they are. Tizan has been a sovereign nation for sixty years, and has been a noble race for thousands."

Dinah felt her cheeks burning. The king said no more as he led her outside.

After the public humiliation in the town square, though they hadn't drugged her and forced her to confess, they'd locked her in a cell in an old Soviet prison, but she had a window and she wasn't chained to the wall. Ten hours after her capture, she heard a faint scratching at the cement brick just below the window, and made her way over, saying, somewhat unhappily, "Bike break down?"

Shiva appeared at the window. Her dark eyes studied Dinah, presumably searching for signs of injury. "Are you ready to leave?"

"I can't go. How else can I stay close enough to protect the bastard? You know, from you?"

Shiva squinted. "I see."

"Well, this should be fun. Who hired you?"

"In Tizan's third largest city, Riu, there is a university. Twenty years ago there was a student rally for wider democracy, a plea to the king. This king's father. There was...violence."

"I remember."

Shiva squinted. "I forget you're not as young as you appear."

"It's the green tea body wash I use. Shiva, that was a long time ago. How'd they get your number now?"

"Outsiders have come to Tizan to fight for many years. Neighboring governments. Mercenaries. Even the United States donated a few crates of M-16s, until the king pardoned some of the students to make amends."

"Pardoning political prisoners? Those bastards. Does that sound like facism to you?" Dinah frowned, leaning against the stone wall, trying to seperate the images she had seen on television twenty years ago with the young, kind man she had met today. The stone wall, too, weighed in, its cool, damp touch discouraging mercy.

Shiva, too, discouraged it. "Does it, little bird?"

Dinah pressed her forehead against the bars. "Shiva, why--"

"The new king is perceived as weak. Riu decided to...aim higher."

"Is he weak?"

"The king? Perhaps you've evaluated him already."

"Oh, no. I'm not going to help you kill him," Dinah said. She shrank away from the window.

"Wait." Shiva grabbed her wrist, and then shoved her hand through the bars, and opened her fist to reveal Dinah's earring and necklace. "I presume you need these."

Dinah stretched on her toes, holding onto the bars and squinting through them at Shiva. "Take the earpiece. That way you can coordinate my rescue." She offered a brave smile.

Shiva frowned, and looked away, at the open sky. "I'm no bird."

"No, you're my paper monkey," Dinah said.

Shiva wrinkled her nose at the nickname, but she covered Dinah's hand with her own. "Riu or not...I will kill him. I will tear him limb from limb, and I will relish it."

Dinah said nothing. She closed her eyes when Shiva kissed her fingers, and when she opened them again, Shiva was gone, having disappeared into the shadows outside the prison. Dinah turned around, and sank down to the concrete floor. She wrapped her arms around her knees.

The moon rose, and passed overhead, shifting the shadows on the floor. Dinah imagined the shadows were connected to the ones outside, where Shiva was hiding. Watching.

* * * * *

Barbara frowned at the screen. She was talking to Lady Shiva, who had Dinah's earpiece, but that didn't mean Shiva was taking orders like Dinah would. Or wouldn't, really. Barbara tried again, saying, "I'd pay double. Just for this little incident with Dinah. No strings for future endeavors."

She heard Shiva sigh through the phone. "I have a reputation. I do not cheat those I serve, Oracle. I choose them as carefully as they choose me."

"Who's paying you?"

"The loyal opposition."

"I'm aware of their cause. But not this king. He's new. And he's open to negotiating when the terrorism stops. Hiring you isn't a great step in that direction."

Shiva's angry voice came over the speakers. "Who's paying you? The king? Is this a tit for tat?"

Barbara put her forehead in her hand. "Actually, Alliance Oil is paying me. They think an assassination would bring anarchy to the country and affect their pipelines."

The line clicked off.

Barbara sighed.

Helena said from the couch, where she was lounging upside down, "Good work, angering the assassin."

Barbara turned and scowled at Helena. "It's not my fault she's pissed. Being a multinational oil conglomerate doesn't make them evil. The king wants peace. I wouldn't send Dinah to protect him if he didn't."

Helena raised an eyebrow.

"He's at least halfway decent."

"Of course. And so is Alliance Oil. That's why you didn't tell Dinah who the connection was, either. Did it ever occur to you that maybe we should just stay out of the whole thing and let them work it out themselves?" Helena twisted until she was upright. "No one's calling Shiva a saint of the oppressed. She's a bitch who just acted bitchy. You can relate." Helena offered a lopsided smile, making it clear that she was talking about herself, not Barbara, although the label could be applied broadly.

Barbara squinted. "I still sense a but coming."

Helena inhaled, and looked out a cabin portal before answering. "Well...Alliance Oil? I have been wondering what it is with you and money."

"Computer equipment is expensive. So is dry-cleaning purple velvet."

Helena raised an eyebrow.

"I don't have a family fortune. I can't patent my hacking. I have birds to feed."

"Chirp." Helena offered a weak smile. "But..."

Barbara sighed. "You want more?"

"Just a little."

"How is it your business?"

"We did kiss." Helena smiled lazily.

"And that entitles you?"

"One kiss, one question. I've decided. And this is my question."

Barbara folded her hands over her stomach. "When I was shot...After I was shot...I went to live with dad. He fed me, he clothed me, he changed my..." Barbara sighed and shook her head. "He didn't have a lot of money. Honest cops don't. I was going to sap him for the rest of my life. A long life."


"I became an independent information broker. Do you think Batman was going to pay me? Nightwing, who is just another honest cop on a dole? Robin from his allowance money? It's survival. I'm no one's charity case." Barbara turned back to her computer, and made a show of creating an elaborate screen of communications channels, in an effort to look busy. She felt Helena's hand on her shoulder.

"Ask any of those men. Or me. Loving you isn't charity. We give because we're grateful."

"You got the answer to your question."

Helena's hand left her. Though Barbara had not heard Helena move from the couch to touch her, Barbara heard her now, stomping through the plane toward the cockpit. She buried her face in her palm.

Inside the cockpit, Helena flung herself into the co-pilot's seat with as much dramatic anger as she could muster.

Zinda, as ever in the pilot's seat, swiveled to face her. "Skipper's more stubborn than you are, you know."

Helena furrowed her brow. "Yes, I know. Why is that?"

Zinda put her hands on Helena's knees. "She has more room for fury because she has less shame."

Helena looked intently at the clouds rushing past the window. "So does that make her inhuman? Just because she doesn't second-guess anything ever? That's unfair. She...When she looks at me..."

"I didn't say she had less love."

Helena looked over at Zinda. "What am I supposed to do? She's stubborn."

Zinda chuckled. "She needs you. Isn't that what you've wanted all your life? To be needed, Helena?"

Helana scowled. "I just thought there'd be some appreciation in it."

Zinda chuckled. "You can't help who needs you. You just go when you're called."

"She hasn't called. She hasn't written."

"The skipper moved all that computer mess up here. Think she did it to be with me?"

Helena frowned.

"Now get out of my cockpit." Zinda said.

Helena sighed and pushed herself out of the chair. She walked back to the main cabin, and saw Barbara staring at the keyboard. Barbara looked focused, so intense, that Helena thought her jaw might shatter with the tension. Helena went to her side, and then stood, looking at Barbara not looking at anything, and not knowing quite what to do.

Barbara sucked in her breath. "I'm sorry, Helena. Dinah's trapped, and it's all my fault. No matter what I do, I feel helpless."

Helena stooped and wrapped her arms around Barbara's shoulders. "It's not your fault."

Barbara said, "You're pissed. Dinah's caged. The only ally we've got is a professional killer. I can't even be good at the only thing I'm good at, anymore." Helena pressed her face against Barbara's shoulder. Barbara turned her head and kissed Helena's head. "Money doesn't buy happiness."

"I'll make a note."


"Can we kiss again?"

"Can I ask another question?"

"I hate you."

Helena pulled back and grinned. She brushed damp hair from Barbara's face. "But you can't live without me."

Barbara's eyes narrowed.

Helena kissed her.

* * * * *

Satellites tracked the two figures as they walked along a parapet of the desert palace. News media, private industrialists, and superheroes gazed at their television screens, analyzing each bit of visual information received. Was the Black Canary's hair shorter? Was she wearing slacks instead of fishnets in deference to custom? Was the king armed? The satellites, though, provided no audio feed, and the king and his prisoner spoke in private.

"Your government's entreaties and our own intelligence have convinced me it's true. You were here to protect me. How much better it would have been if you'd just arrived at the front door. Or asked."

"You would have refused American intervention. And I wouldn't have really blamed you."

"Good point. Still...I hope our shabby accommodations last night will not lead to a formal protest from your government. We may have overreacted...It seems like we overreact, and people die. Or we don't overreact, and people die." He shook his head.

"Seems like the new fad." Dinah shrugged.

The king said, "And yet, you don't seem alarmed. Have you seen this all before, at such a young age? Because it's all new to me. Or, should I say, it's all news to me." He offered a smile.

Dinah noticed that he really did seem quite young. She hadn't paid enough attention to the background packet that Barbara had provided to remember his history, but she remembered the international news when his father died unexpectedly of pneumonia, one year after the country had changed its name and reinvented itself after transitioning from the former Maoist regime. If the king had been considered weak due to his inexperience, he probably had bolstered himself in public opinion after capturing the Black Canary. Naked though she had been.

If the Riu rebels held the country, things would have been much worse for her. She felt a shiver crawl up her spine. Then again, if the rebels held the country, they could have just nuked it, let Shiva kill any straggling survivors, and she'd be free, but because the king was an ally, he could do any horrible thing he wanted to her. Politics were complicated. Dinah finally just said, "Believe me, your majesty, I am old enough to be your mother."

"I don't believe it. You are so young, so healthy. No marks of age at all to--"

Dinah closed her eyes. "The scars may be invisible, but they're still there."

"And yet you retain your goodness."

"You say to the accused assassin?"

"That was before I knew you," the king said, and winked.

"A day can change so much." Dinah said, just as sarcastically, and looked at the sky.

He chuckled. "So you are older than 30?"

"Try 40." Dinah bit her lip, and said, under her breath, "Or more. And this isn't how I expected to be spending my golden years. No Ollie, no mixed collie puppies..."

"I suspect," the king said, indicating politely that he'd heard her, "that you expected to die young."

Dinah looked over the parapet at the square below. Soldiers swarmed. "I guess I get another chance at that."

"The assassin. The real assassin. Will she kill you, to get to me?"


"Are you certain?"


"Is there going to be a showdown? At high noon? I know this is really about the opposition and the oil and the new government and the old Maoists and the balance of power that America and Russia both still care about even though they pretend they don't, but...It's funny how the politics of nation-states can be reduced to two women duking it out. Almost makes those pagan legends seem true, doesn't it?"

"Maybe we should see how this all turns out before you start comparing me to the mother of the earth," Dinah said.

"You know, when I became king, I thought I might have some say in how the country was run. More say than the Americans, at least, after all, they're a whole ocean away. More say than the opposition, or a handful of women--"

Dinah glanced at him sharply.

"No offense to your sex, but...I guess fiefdom has passed me by, and I should welcome globalization with open arms."

"I don't want to tell you how to run your country. I'm just..." Dinah frowned.

"Following orders?"

Dinah studied her hands.

The king nodded. "Ms. Lance, can I ask..."

Dinah linked her fingers together, and braced herself for whatever he was going to make her re-live.

"Have you killed before?"

"Yes." She saw Seattle in her mind, and tried to block it out by keeping her eyes open and focusing on the desert around her. But she could still smell the rain.

The king cleared his throat to regain her attention. "Why?"

"Why did I kill someone?" Dinah looked at the sky, which was completely clear of clouds. Pristine. Nonjudgmental.

The king said, "Yes."

She thought about those she had killed, and their memories brought up a taste of blood and bile in her mouth. Unable to swallow, or spit, that would be unseemly, Dinah let the metallic hate fester as she answered, "Revenge. When it comes down to it. Fury."

"Do you regret it?"

"I...wish I did."

"And if 'it came down to it,' would you kill this woman?"

Dinah looked across to the next tower. "Not today." She saw a flash, like a mirror's reflection, probably an intentional signal for her to get out of the way. Instead she stepped closer to the king, making herself a larger target than he was, and said, "Maybe we should go inside, your majesty."

"But..." He saw her eyes. "All right."

They walked quickly forward, toward the archway that would take them into the tower and away from the rest of the world, but it was not quickly enough and Dinah heard a soft thud behind them. Shiva had landed on the parapet, her feet settling onto stone, and she lunged at the king.

"No!" Dinah grabbed her wrist, barely glancing at the knife Shiva held.

Shiva glared at her and whirled around, bringing up her other arm toward Dinah's neck. Dinah ducked out of her grasp only to find Shiva's knee connecting with her hip. She grunted and fell sideways, but twisted around to hit Shiva's back, hoping to slow her down.

The king ran toward the archway, and soldiers appeared, to swallow him up. Shiva turned to face Dinah, lunging at her with the knife. The blade brushed past her throat as Dinah moved back, staying out of Shiva's reach. She could see Shiva was angry.

Now Shiva stood between the archway and Dinah, and the soldiers and Dinah, and seemed to realize Dinah had drawn her attention elsewhere. She stilled, and looked over her shoulder.

The soldiers raised their rifles.

Dinah knew she couldn't defeat Shiva. Not when Shiva wanted both justice and vengeance, and Dinah was already in the inferior position on the parapet. She said, "I know you can take them all, Lady Shiva. I know you won't get shot. But perhaps you can concede that your moment has passed, and that that you must wait for the next, paper monkey."

Shiva gave her a look of such hatred that Dinah shuddered, and then Shiva disappeared.

* * * * *

"What did you do that for?" Barbara nearly screamed into the communicator. In the midst of her kiss with Helena, Dinah had appeared on GNN, and though the networks had cut the broadcast as soon as Shiva attacked, Barbara had seen every uncensored moment on the satellite wild feed, and had called Shiva herself, using Dinah's earring commlink.

Shiva seemed calm for a woman who had just tried to kill someone as she said, "It is my duty. He has Dinah. These things are simple."

"You can't do that." Barbara put her face in her hand.

"I'm not your employee, Oracle. I am not someone you can dangle at the end of a rope and then abandon when things go wrong."

Helena stood next to Barbara's wheelchair, and now her hand tightened on Barbara's shoulder.

"We both want the same thing, Shiva. We have resources and timing and--"

"You're not here. I am. This relationship is over." Shiva cut the comm.

"She's right, you know. We aren't there. Can we be?"

Barbara put her head in her hands. "This is Shiva's fault. That's who Dinah was protecting the king from in the first place. She's screwed it all up."

"She knows that. She's trying to make it right."

"We can't let her."

"I know." Barbara lifted her head. "Okay. Go down."

Two hours later, as Zinda was helping Helena adjust the straps of her parachute, Barbara wheeled into the main bay. "You can't go."


"I contacted the Tizan government. They won't allow the airspace. Seems they're on high alert due to a recent terrorist attack." Barbara's voice held irony, her usual way of sounding apologetic.

"Since when do we treat the king like he has authority? Let me go."

"We have to let Dinah handle this on her own. Remember, the feminist healing superhero crap? We have to trust her."

"Trust her," Helena said, and scowled.

"I've got to call home. Don't jump out of any airplanes." Barbara wheeled toward the elevator.

"You can trust me, too," Helena muttered.

Zinda began unbuckling the shoulder strap. "That was sweet of you, not putting up much of a fight. The skipper sure is under a lot of stress."

"Stop pretending I'm a nice person." Helena scowled.

Zinda put her feet back on the console. "I can't help it. It's what I keep reading about good Catholic girls."

Helena found herself laughing.

* * * * *

Dinah stood at the picture window in her quarters in the palace, watching the first night star rise. Despite the better accommodations, she still felt trapped, and the uncomfortable constraint and the hot wind that blew in the open window kept her awake and pacing. She'd taken a quick shower in the extravagant marble tub, too guilty to indulge for long in the hot spray and the soaps that cost as much as Barbara's airplane, but aware of how foul she smelled after a night in the less cozy holding cell.

She wondered where Shiva was, and if she had forgiven her. Dinah felt, beyond the anger at her circumstance, the pressing loneliness, and finally admitted she had hoped Shiva would join her to christen the thousand count sheets of Tizan's finest palace.

She wondered if Shiva liked fineries. Most of their encounters had happened in seedier locations. Sadly, Dinah thought she wasn't sure what Shiva liked at all, besides herself. And, unaccountably, Tim Drake. Perhaps Shiva was mentoring the Boy Wonder because she saw the child as a threat, as the future Batman. But Tim Drake wasn't the sort to be threatening, and when it came to martial arts, he hadn't even taken black belt training seriously, preferring to defer to Batgirl's obviously superior skills. So maybe Shiva liked Tim for less noble reasons...Dinah cringed at the thought, and recalling the way Shiva ran her tongue across her thigh several nights ago, decided Shiva's relationship with Tim was purely professional.

Dinah wondered if prison was like this. Boredom and speculation about the antics of fifteen year old boys until you finally carved Biff's name into your arm and started pumping iron. She was two seconds away from lying on the floor to do sit-ups when a knock came at the door.

A knock. As if she weren't their prisoner. "Yeah?" She called as snidely as possible.

The king himself entered. "You're free to go, Ms. Lance."


"I have negotiated a truce with the opposition. There is talk of elections. Just the beginning of talk, but they are satisfied. We have withdrawn our troops from their held city of Riu, and they have withdrawn...their contract."

Dinah raised one eyebrow. "Huh." Then she turned and grabbed her backpack.

"I can have a car..."

"No thanks, I can find my own way out of your country." She brushed past the bewildered king, and almost felt bad for the insult of rejecting his hospitality, but he'd been imprisoning her, and she wanted her independence. She filed away words like troops and contracts and truces for examination when she was free again.

Outside the palace, the desert air smelled sweeter. The king had walked with her to the gates, waving off his guards. Dinah wondered how much he would change in twenty years, and if she'd even be around to see it. If a fight didn't do her in, old age might. But he was far more prone to dying from a sniper's bullet. Studying his profile in the dim torchlight as he looked apologetically at his city, she felt pity for him.

It was the first kind emotion she felt toward him, and it hurt her to realize that she approached her assignments with such mistrust. Was it because he was a man? Or because she was suspicious of Barbara's motives? Either questioning thought disturbed her, so she turned her attention back to freedom. "Thank you for your hospitality," she said.

The king winced, and Dinah cleared her throat. "No, I mean it. It...could have been worse. Your mercy was all that kept it from being so, whatever you might think." She gave the king a genuine smile, and he returned it thinly, but said nothing as she walked down the steps and onto the wide road that would lead her out of the city.

* * * * *

"The king wishes he could see your face," said the Tizan government official, on videophone with Barbara. "Or at least know your name."

"Don't they all, sir," Barbara said.

Helena, entering Barbara's office, chuckled. "No, they don't. It's so anti-climactic. Just some snotty redhead who sits around all day."

Barbara swatted at Helena.

The man smiled. "This'll make a great headline. For GNN, Al Jazeera, and everyone else, I believe. Perhaps there will be a Nobel Prize."

"I'm glad to hear of your ambitions. And I'm sure Riu is grateful for the amnesty package," Barbara said to the monitor.

The man grinned. "Thank the U.N."

"That's a phrase you don't hear every day."

Barbara and the Tizan official hung up, and then Helena cleared throat. "So, we all made peace just to bust out Canary and keep Shiva from doing what I'd sincerely like to do to that guy?"

"Pretty much." Barbara leaned back and folded her arms over her stomach. "Funny how the fate of a world can fall on the connection of two women." She craned her neck to look at Helena. Helena was idly playing with the crucifix at her neck, and Barbara let herself become entranced by the shape of Helena's fingers. "What were you doing while I was toying with the fate of nations?"

"I was..." Helena glanced toward the screen, and then back at Barbara. Her hand stilled, and then dropped to her side. "Did everything go well?"

"Yes. Peace, prosperity, and Dinah's coming home." Barbara smiled. She leaned forward and took Helena's limp hand. "Now, what were you doing?"


Barbara lifted Helena's hand to her cheek. "It worked."

* * * * *

Dinah stood outside the city walls. Darkness had settled in and she was alone, save two guards a few dozen feet away. The king had imposed a curfew in order to protect the fragile peace. He had also denied Aerie One a permit to land. An American display of power to rescue a spy would undermine his authority. Or worse, make it seem as if he liked them. Dinah had insisted she'd be fine, hoping that Barbara would finagle something. She'd remembered belatedly that she was the one rescuing Barbara from misadventure constantly. Dinah sighed.

"Need a lift?"

Dinah turned to see Shiva rolling a motorcycle toward her.

"Funny thing, that," Dinah said.

Shiva straddled the bike and gestured to Dinah.

Dinah leaned on the handlebars. "Shouldn't I--"

"No. I'm driving."

Dinah grinned. She adjusted her earring, deactivating it, and settled behind Shiva.

"The king lives." Shiva sounded unhappy. "My employers have cancelled their arrangement. They felt their objectives can be better met by..." Shiva spat the word. "Negotiating."

"How odd."

"Don't be patronizing."

Dinah said, "You should be pleased to hear the oil company is looking forward to hefty reconstruction contracts from both sides."

Shiva cursed.

"At least there's peace," Dinah said, squeezing Shiva's waist, feeling the rigid tension of her back, that didn't subside with Dinah's offered, soothing words.

Shiva responded, "Do you feel a moral victory?"

"It's not about the politics, it's about letting people live."

Shiva kick-started the bike and the wind prevented further discussion. Three hours later, Dinah's legs were numb and her grip around Shiva's waist was iron, as if her arms had forgotten any other way to be. She'd found herself half-dozing twice, only to be jolted into alertness when Shiva swerved away from a snake or bandits. Dinah contemplated telling Shiva about the drool on the back of her leather jacket when Shiva slowed the bike and turned onto a dirt road, leaving the paved highway behind.

When she stopped the bike, Dinah was grateful for the pounding silence. She inhaled deeply and said, "Thanks, I needed a break."

"Indeed. Your hands were blue."

Dinah blinked and flexed her fingers. Tickling pain moved along her joints. She winced. "How long until the border?"

"Four hours. Then your plane will be waiting, and I'll..."

"We could give you a lift," Dinah said. She snuggled Shiva's back.

"No." Shiva paused, gripping the handlebars a little tighter as she said, "I'll miss you."

"There's still time," Dinah said.

"I meant..."

"What did you mean?" Dinah slid her hands along Shiva's thighs. Her nose burrowed into Shiva's neck and she inhaled the sweat and dust, drawing the scent inside her to remember, knowing she'd miss it once she was inside the airplane's sterile air conditioning.

"I mean, I..." Shiva inhaled. Her body was tense in Dinah's arms. Dinah imagined her eyes were closed. "I'm sorry I failed to rescue you."

Dinah chuckled. "That's not what you meant."

Shiva covered Dinah's hand on her leg. "No."

"I want to hear it."

Shiva turned around, swinging her hips over the bike. Her eyes narrowed. "What do you want to hear? How much I want you?" She leaned forward, pressing her lips to Dinah's cheek, and then saying near her ear, "Something more? Something less?"

Dinah arched her neck as Shiva's lips found her skin. "How did you get the upper hand so quickly?"

"My sensei taught me well." Shiva's hand slid between Dinah's legs.

"Wait," Dinah said. She gripped Shiva's shoulders. "You want to fuck me? Here? Now?"

Shiva lifted her head and gazed at Dinah intently. "Yes."

"Then I get to drive the rest of the way."

"Fine," Shiva said without hesitating.

Dinah smiled.

Shiva kissed her. Dinah's answering moan against her mouth made Shiva chuckle. She placed her hand between Dinah's thighs again. "Your body gives you away," Shiva said.

"Yeah, well." Dinah gritted her teeth as Shiva pressed harder.

"Perhaps I should have held out. Would you have conceded the bike?" Shiva's hand played with the button of Dinah's pants.

"I guess...You wanted me to drive," Dinah said, and grinned.

"So, I'm as transparent as you."

Dinah laughed and brushed her lips against Shiva's mouth. "Only to those who know you."

"Those few."

"I consider it an honor."

"Dinah. A little less honor." Shiva took Dinah's hand and drew it to her breast. Dinah squeezed. Through the jacket, she massaged the mound and Shiva's eyes closed. Dinah leaned into her to kiss her forehead. The top button of her jeans was ripped open.

Dinah kissed Shiva's cheek and asked, "Do we have to hurry?"

"Is anyone expecting you?" Shiva slid into Dinah's open pants and cupped her. Dinah moaned. She could smell her own need and feel Shiva's fingers, slippery now, coated with her wetness. Shiva whispered to Dinah as she stroked, "Is Oracle waiting?"

Dinah bit back a gasp. She buried her face in Shiva's neck, wanting to share her desire. She was bracing herself on the bike with one boot in the dirt, and the strain and the constraint of her jeans kept her from thrusting against Shiva, but Shiva's hand was generous.

"You can be as loud as you desire," Shiva said.

Dinah let out a hoarse moan. She pushed one hand inside Shiva's jacket, touching her breast, rolling the bump of the nipple she found between her fingers until Shiva arched into her with equal force. Then, with Shiva's stroking timed with her squeezes, Dinah said, "Do you want me to scream?"

Shiva squirmed on the bike. "Dinah."

"Are you discovering the benefits of this form of transportation? The hard seat...the smell of leather..."

Shiva pulled free of Dinah's pants and wrapped her arms around Dinah's waist, while seizing Dinah's lips in a hungry kiss. Dinah kissed her back, still holding her shoulder with one hand as she slid her tongue into Shiva's mouth. Shiva sucked, capturing her tongue, until Dinah begged for breath. Shiva cupped Dinah's ass and yanked her forward.

Dinah straddled Shiva's lap, hooking her legs over Shiva's. Her feet left the ground. "Shiva, I don't think..."

"Trust me." Shiva kissed Dinah's exposed throat. Dinah, guided by Shiva's hands, rocked against her abdomen. The warmth of Shiva's torso and the seam of her trousers pressing into Dinah's crotch gave her resistance to move against, and as she bucked her hips, Shiva spoke hoarse, encouraging words that vibrated along her neck. "I want you...You're safe...You're so sexy like this...I wish you could see yourself..."

Dinah cried out, a short piercing yell as she stilled her hips. Her back was quivering, and Shiva moved one hand to rub it. "Good, Dinah."

Dinah chuckled, feeling the energy drain from her as the orgasm passed. "Why good?"

"Because you are beautiful when you are like this."

Dinah settled back onto the bike, feeling the seat damp underneath her. "Shiva," she said, brushing the wet hair out of Shiva's face. She became aware of the chilly night as her body cooled. Shiva was still warm, so she cupped the back of Shiva's neck, her fingers tangled in black hair, and drew Shiva closer for a kiss.

Shiva tugged Dinah's lower lip between her teeth, sucked, and pulled back. "Sandra. I want you to call me Sandra."

Dinah kissed her again, and said against her lips. "Sandra." She slid her hand down the front of Shiva's pants, but was thwarted by sleek, impenetrable leather. "Where did you find motorcycle pants in a place like this?"

"I traded my flash drive for them."

"You have--had--a flash drive?"

"How did you imagine I received my assignments? Self-destructing tape?"

"Fascinating." Dinah realized Shiva was squirming against her, and grinding down on the bike. "Are you hot, Sandra?" Shiva grunted. Dinah settled for caressing her breasts, after working one hand under her tee shirt. She let her lips worry Shiva's brow, pausing to whisper, "Sandra" again when Shiva's only response to her question was panting. "I want to see you come."

"How badly?"

"Do you want to drive?"

Shiva threw back her head and laughed. She rocked into Dinah's squeezing hand. "No."

"Do you want it enough to let me say I love you, Sandra?"

Shiva jerked against Dinah. She made no sound, but Dinah could feel Shiva's orgasm under her fingers, and she clutched Shiva, holding her in case she trembled enough to slip off the bike.

When Shiva regained her speech, she said only, "Per our earlier conversation, I will miss that, Black Canary."

"I bet you will."

The rest of the bike ride was passed in silence. Dinah left Shiva and the bike at the border, after a soft kiss, and boarded her plane. She was greeted with hugs and endearments by Barbara, Helena, and Zinda, but once settled into her cabin, watching the pinpricks of lights on the surface get further away, she felt lonelier than she had in Tixan. She whispered her goodbyes to Shiva and the desert, with her forehead pressed against the glass.