Uninvited In Gotham
FANDOM: Birds of Prey (comics)
PAIRING: Black Canary/Oracle
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.
SPOILERS: Very vague spoilers through BoP #89, War Games, Infinite Crisis, and Identity Crisis, but you have to really squint.
SUMMARY: Despite her speech to herself about what grounded her in Gotham, Dinah still slept aboard an airplane, and it was there waiting for her on the tarmac that night. Helena, despite her pleading, could not be separated from her city while the Birds were there, but Dinah had gotten used to...coming home.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Beta-ed by thenewhope, who has the patience of a saint.
WEB SITE: http://www.broodingdetective.com/
Dinah was sitting on the rooftop of the Falcone Hotel on 15th Avenue. The brick against her calves felt cold and the smell of garbage tickled her nose, but neither sensation distracted from the light show playing over Gotham's skyline. The sunset cast an orange glow over the glass buildings, and she got caught up in it, and in missing the way the clocktower used to look, lit up like fire.
She felt warmth against her right shoulder, and her stomach clenched. His presence blocked the wind and made the evening seem quieter. He seemed to watch the sunset too. The light was purple, turning grey, before he spoke.
"Canary," he said.
"Change is coming."
"That's our one constant." Her lips twitched. She could feel him grinning, too, but she didn't look in his direction. No one really looked into darkness like that. So instead she looked at the place where the clocktower used to be. Not blackness. Just grey.
"I know what you're doing here."
"Just refueling, right?"
"That's not about you."
She kept silent. Kept her watch on his city.
"You're doing something else."
She ignored him. He didn't say "I'll find out," but she felt the ominousness of his curiosity fall over her. The air became colder.
He finally said, "You take good care of Barbara."
"I don't take care of shi--"
His hand on her shoulder stopped her. "You do."
"It's not my responsibility."
"Because it's mine." His hand dropped.
She didn't say, "You didn't fucking shoot her, Bruce." Instead she said, "Ever considered she can take care of herself?"
"She has a lot of power."
"Yeah, she does." Dinah shrugged her shoulders. "And me?"
His voice was gravely. She wondered if it was because of the mask. He said, "You're different."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
He didn't answer.
She felt guilty then, but more angry, remembering what she'd done to Savant, remembering tasting the power and kicking his ass just to show she was the alpha bitch. She'd beaten a man nearly to death, just to prove to him that she could, when he was already chained. And she'd done it before.
"I know what you did to Savant," he said. "It was the right thing to do."
Dinah rolled her eyes.
"And it stopped there." He leaned forward, into her peripheral vision, so she could see him looking toward the center of Gotham. "For some...It never stops."
She didn't want to think about the ferocity and carnality of the street, so she said, "Are you making some sort of point? Because our bonding is usually...unspoken."
His head disappeared from view again, and her vision blurred. He said, "I know what you're doing. With your fighting."
She felt his glower, but he answered anyway. "Batgirl."
Of course. It was maddening. She wondered how people who actually feared him coped. Or maybe that was his secret. Power, not strength. Just intelligence. Enough to see what no one else had in her. But then, no one else had been looking as closely. She wondered where he found the time.
"You don't need to be anyone's heir."
Dinah pushed herself straighter with her hands on the brick. "Or their teacher?"
His flinch was palpable, a retreat of his presence from her body's senses, and she cringed, too, looking at the clocktower, because it was hard to look at anything else. "I'm sorry."
"Me, too." It didn't ease any of the pain when he said it, but she still felt a little peace. Then he said, "You don't get to choose who you care about. Sometimes the choice is made for you."
"Deep." she said.
And then he was gone.
Losing the clocktower hadn't meant the destruction of the rest of their lives in Gotham, facades though they were, and Dinah still had her flower shop, heavily subsidized by one of Oracle's off-shore accounts. Delphi's Rose, or something. She couldn't remember the last time she'd actually set foot inside, and she felt shaky as she looked at the door.
After Barbara almost dying, after all that Helena and Savant, and hell, Barbara, had gotten her into, she was feeling unsettled. Gotham had always made her unsettled. Even when she was more welcome than unwelcome, she was still a guest. The city wasn't home. But the flower shop still was. She hoped.
She had to practically drag Helena into the shop, clutching her hand, past the bells chiming above the door. She didn't let go until Helena was safely inside. Helena's eyes were wide with fear as she glanced around the one-room shop with walls lined with refrigerated cases and profusions of colors and fresh, floral scents covering every table. "Dinah."
"Why did you bring me here?"
Dinah smiled, picking up a pink rose and then turning to face Helena. "Afraid to show your soft side?"
Helena rolled her eyes. "We have work to do. It's not exactly time to stop and smell the--"
"Do you know anything about lying low? What will happen if someone finds out what we're doing and doesn't like it, Capo? Someone with more power than a few guns and drugs at his disposal?" She twirled the rose in her fingers, careful to avoid the thorns that protruded from the stem. "We've had a hard...a hard time. A long, hard time. Flowers make everything better. They're alive. And vibrant. They're just..." Dinah sighed and pressed her nose into the rose's bloom. "Good."
"Unlike us?" Helena's eyes narrowed.
"I didn't say that."
Dinah moved closer to Helena and touched her cheek with the rose. "Listen. Learn. Smell that? See that? A rose can say so much. But add a little baby's breath to it..." Dinah reached over her shoulder and plucked a sprig from a canister, and entwined it with the rose. "It becomes completely different. More. Less. Inhale."
Helena breathed. Her nostrils expanded and her eyes narrowed. "Dinah."
"Mm?" Dinah was still tickling her with the petals of the rose.
Helena finally sneezed. "I'm a teacher, remember? I get flowers all the time. From parents. From students. From loyal henchmen. Christ, Dinah, I got daisies from Creote. My parents had a rose garden. Whatever this is? It's not about me."
"What's your point?"
"My point is...you're dragging the wrong person into this shop. Because you know I'll go more easily. When's the last time she ever got flowers?"
"You mean Babs? ...Was it Dick? No...funeral? No..."
Helena's impatience made her tear petals from the rose and toss them at Dinah's face. "When's the last time she ever got flowers from you? You, the damn florist. Whom she pays. Whom she..." Helena gestured with her hand, and turned to walk out of the shop. "Honestly, Dinah."
Helena tucked her hands into her coat. "Florist. Trees. Call me when you need someone's ass kicked. Hopefully in Gotham."
"Because Barbara can't do that?"
Helena's lips twisted into a fierce grin. "Because I'll enjoy it more."
Despite her speech to herself about what grounded her in Gotham, Dinah still slept aboard an airplane, and it was there waiting for her on the tarmac that night. Helena, despite her pleading, could not be separated from her city while the Birds were there, but Dinah had gotten used to...coming home.
She stood in the central cabin of the airplane, the part that still looked like a commercial jet, with rows of seats and small porthole windows that showed Gotham glittering in the distance, across the river. The cabin was empty, though she thought she could hear, somewhere, Zinda snoring.
Dinah didn't hear any squeak of wheels or thudding of traction, but Barbara was there in the doorway in the back, looking curiously at Dinah. Once a bat, always.
"I brought you an orchid," Dinah said, and offered the pot. Barbara didn't roll forward to get it, and Dinah held her ground, so the plant was suspended in midair.
"You brought me an orchid?" Barbara sounded disbelieving.
Dinah had gone through all the flowers in the shop, ashamed that she couldn't remember Barbara's favorite. She'd thought of calling Jim Gordon, but that had seemed too weird. "Hi, Dad. Do you know Barbara's favorite flower? Because, well, Helena gave me a dare." Okay, that might have worked. But Dinah was a florist. A real one. She'd spent five years running her own shop, she could handle this.
Roses, tulips, daisies, lilies, carnations, violets...orchids, though, were a pain in the ass, and beautiful after getting over how crazy they were. They'd seemed perfect until now, with Barbara staring at her like she'd gone redhead. "Um. For the plane? Liven things up?"
"You brought an orchid for my plane?" Barbara's grin was obvious now.
Dinah set it down on the nearest seat.
"Aren't they hard to care for?" Barbara stayed in the doorway, but her eyes were on the plant.
"I'm sure you could look it up on the internet."
Barbara laughed. "Not when I have my own personal florist."
Dinah blushed. It was oddly nicer to hear than "personal assassin" or even "personal ass-kicker." She settled into a seat in the back, by Barbara's door, that was already worn from her butt and fit her perfectly. "What's for dinner?"
"I'm having Chinese delivered," Barbara said, slowly looking from the orchid to Dinah.
"To the plane?"
Barbara chuckled again, and Dinah thought that she was really nicer than everyone thought. No, not nicer. Happier. Dinah folded her hands over her stomach and closed her eyes, letting herself bask.
This, she thought, is what marriage would be like. What it had been like with Oliver, wild and annoying, but comfortable. He could make her laugh with just the twinkle in his eyes, and Barbara had learned to make smilie faces on her plate with the little corns when Chinese food came.
Only it wouldn't be that, because it wasn't quite legal in this state, and she and Oliver had lived their life of sin to the fullest. Maybe she'd just traded one unconventional marriage for another, and hadn't really escaped at all. So much for the newer, enlightened Dinah.
Barbara interrupted her thoughts just as tears stung her eyes. "Your father was a policeman."
"Yes. A detective." Dinah opened her eyes to blink at Barbara. "Like yours."
"I just wondered why you never followed in his footsteps." She gestured at the orchid.
"Well, I took after my mother." At Barbara's smile, she continued, "I always felt I would be something more. A creature of the night."
"Destined for greatness."
Dinah closed her eyes again. "Or something. You were never going to be a cop, were you?"
She heard Barbara's hitched sigh, before confession. "No. I just wanted to be like my father."
"I'm not. I'll never be that...kind of person." Barbara paused. "But you are."
Dinah leaned her head against the glass porthole. She looked out at Gotham. "I love you," she said.
Barbara didn't say "I love you, too" or "Thanks" or "I wish you hadn't said that" or "What?" She didn't say anything she might mean, because she was one of them, and Dinah never would be.
She said, instead, "Come here," which startled Dinah into looking at her.
Barbara's lips were pursed, unsmiling, as if she were compelling Dinah to move with her mind. So Dinah moved. She knelt in front of the wheelchair so Barbara's head was just above hers and put one hand over Barbara's wrist and the other on her knee.
She watched intently as Barbara wet her lips, and then spoke. "It finally occurred to me that whenever we hug, it's your doing. You pull me out of rivers. You throw your arms around me. You serenade me and kiss my cheek and I hadn't even noticed that I expect it now. But I know what you're doing."
Dinah's "I'm sorry--" was cut off by Barbara's finger against her lips.
"I've been afraid to touch you. You'll see how small my hands are. How calloused. How I dye my hair because the first grey strands came a few days after I was shot. How I really can't see two feet in front of me without my glasses. You'll finally figure out that half of me doesn't move. How I let Brainaic because...Because I..."
Dinah couldn't remember the last time she had seen Barbara stammer. Or try to say so much. She slipped her fingers around Barbara's wrist, felt the pulse, rapid. Saw her throat constrict with a swallow. She tried to make it easier for her. "The woman behind the curtain?"
The corners of Barbara's eyes crinkled. "Just an ordinary girl."
"Right. Babs, I--"
Barbara pressed her finger against Dinah's mouth to keep her quiet. This time the tip of her finger slipped between her lips. The nail clacked against her teeth and Dinah nipped at the skin.
"I've spent so long proving I can be independent. That I don't need anyone in my life. That no one has to look out for me. I forgot...That it's optional."
Oliver had been the same, fiercely independent, kind of a butthole, and Dinah was finally figuring out she had a type. She could be good at this. She could get it right. She turned her head to press her cheek against Barbara's fingers, until Barbara curled them and stroked her face.
Barbara looked like she wanted to say something more, but didn't, because her exposition was probably over for the year, so Dinah raised herself on her knees and kissed her. Barbara's mouth tasted sweet, but it was Barbara who drew back enough to whisper in Dinah's ear, "You taste like roses."
"Definitely have to spend more time at my day job."
Barbara nodded in agreement, and then Dinah captured her lips again, biting gently, sucking against her mouth, trying to coax her tongue into play. Barbara didn't know about Savant or Shiva and Dinah hadn't known about Brainaic. A marriage had secrets a friendship didn't, and Dinah felt sad, until Barbara's tongue solidly, daringly connected with hers. Then she decided those things didn't matter.
When Barbara pulled back, Dinah curled her lips over her teeth and said, "Batman said I had to take care of you." She smiled faintly, letting her nose brush against Barbara's.
Barbara chuckled. "He doesn't know what the fuck he's talking about." She pulled Dinah's head closer for another kiss.
Dinah mumbled against her mouth, "He never does."