Fandom: DC Comics (BIRDS OF PREY)
Pairing: Barbara Gordon/Dinah Lance
Author: the Jack
Summary: The Birds are on the hunt.
Spoilers: References events introduced in BoP #75 and the War Games storyline in the Gotham titles, as well as numerous older comics.
Rating: SC for Suggestive and Creepy
Disclaimer: Nobody herein belongs to me, but their trademark holders have grievously underused most of them; I've taken the opportunity to let some deserving characters do something for a change. Tacoma, WA is a real place and belongs to its taxpayers.
Notes and Acknowledgments: Follow the story.
Reflects the Darker Passion
Dinah stands looking out over Puget Sound, one eye on her (still unconscious) prisoner, taking in the play of the city's lights over the water. Planes take off and land from the airport every few minutes, adding their own colour and movement to the dance of reflections in the choppy water below, and filling the night air with cycling crescendoes and decrescendoes of jet-engine whine.
Despite the volume of the airplane noise, and the more muted traffic noises of the city opposite the airport, it shouldn't be difficult for her to pick out the helicopter sound she's listening for. Helicopters' spinning rotors make a distinctively bass thump that drive under the higher-pitched noises of other vehicles, land- and air-based alike.
And touching the place behind her ear where her communicator is nestled isn't going to help (or impede) her hearing any, but her hand keeps going there anyway. There's no external node, and barely even a scar where the implant went in now, but Dinah knows exactly where it lies beneath the skin.
"It's just a communicator, Dinah," Babs had said, the piece of metal in her hand gleaming with a green glint that hadn't seemed quite as if it was solely reflected glare from Oracle's computer screens. The leads protruding from it had seemed to move, just slightly enough that she couldn't be sure, and staring at the thing was giving her eyestrain, so she'd looked at Barbara again.
The sincerity in Babs's eyes was what had convinced her, even before she'd added, "It's better than anything else available, even with my... connections," with that self-deprecating smirk that Dinah knew so well. She knew Babs, and she trusted Babs, and this *was* Babs.
Dinah hadn't been wrong. Babs had still been herself -- is, still, herself. She's just more than she was.
Like Dinah is, now.
"Faster, stronger, better," is the joke everyone has made, that was tired the first time Dinah heard it, but it's true, too.
She isn't quite a "bionic woman," certainly not to the degree Babs is, but she wouldn't trade her enhancements to be what she was. Besides the internal communicator -- which provides Babs with video and full-spectrum scanning as well as audio when Dinah is in the field -- most of what's been improved has to do with her hearing and her inner ears. Her balance is better, to the point that she can leap across rooftops the way only Nightwing used to be able to, without needing a line except to gain altitude sometimes and without ever failing to stick a landing exactly the way she wants to, and it's done wonders for her martial arts abilities, too. Even Cassandra can't always take her one-on-one anymore.
"You're not *yourself* anymore, Dinah, can't you *see* that?" Roy had yelled at her when he'd found out. He wasn't the only one who had been angry, but he is the only one (aside from Helena) who still hasn't forgiven her. "The Dinah Lance I know *never* would have agreed to have her own *head* messed with!"
"No, I wouldn't have agreed to it if I'd known what I was getting into, Roy -- but I would have been *wrong*," she'd told him, her own voice even and only as loud as it needed to be for Roy to hear her over his own shouting.
Rehashing that conversation yet again? Barbara's voice steals into Dinah's mind as smoothly and (heh) naturally as ever.
Dinah smiles for Babs, on the inside. It's because of that blowup he and Lian had, she points out needlessly.
According to Mia.
According to Mia, but credible on its face even if she weren't the reliable source she is, and even without the corroborating surveillance we have. Most of the caped community has balanced the Birds' integration of what had once been the von-Neumann nightmare known as Brainiac against the other weirdnesses among their allies -- the Firestorms, the Green Lanterns, the Captains Marvel, the Omegadrome, the Hawk avatars -- and decided *they* could live with it. That "most" includes the rest of Ollie's "family," but not Roy.
"We were in the indoor target range, practicing. Roy said Lian wanted to show me how good she was getting with her bow," Mia had told her. "And she is good, pulling a twenty-five-pounder already, and her aim's impressive too. But she just... when I praised her, she just, you know, shrugged and looked away."
"That doesn't sound like Lian," Dinah had said, frowning.
"No, right? So I pressed her a little, and she said..." Babs cues in the surveillance tape, so that the recording of Lian's words echoes over Dinah's recollection of Mia quoting them to her. "Everybody thinks I should *shoot* stuff, just because *Daddy* does."
"Oh, honey... you can be anything you *want* when you grow up. You don't have to be like me and your dad," Mia's recorded words play over Dinah's memory of her saying, "I got down on my knees and hugged her and told her she could do anything, be anything she wanted." "You can be a... a teacher, or a doctor, or a racecar driver, or a stockbroker... whatever *you* want to be.
"And she looked up at me and frowned and said, 'I want to be like Aunt Dinah.' And that's when Roy almost fell the rest of the way down the stairs."
Stop playback, Dinah tells Babs. She knows what Roy said. She's actually not in the mood to hear about it again; it's hard enough to keep her mind from getting stuck in a rut etched with all the things she *would* have said in answer. Dinah sighs and tilts her head back and lets the salt-laden breeze wash over her, and then asks, Change the subject.
Babs is only silent for a moment, almost unnoticeable. You're done with Jinx.
It isn't really a question, but Dinah answers it anyway. All wrapped up with a bow, just waiting on--
There still hasn't been any sound of helicopters she couldn't dismiss by their timbre and vector as local police or media craft. Instead, streaking up from the south, lighting the Sound and the humid haze over it, is what resembles a shooting star, glowing yellow-white. As it approaches the bridge, it seems to slow, and dims enough that she can make out its shape: humanoid, with an all-too-familiar fin on its head.
--transport. You knew he was coming instead of a standard retrieval team.
S.T.A.R. gave me a heads up, but he was already en route. Babs's voice in her head lets things like laughter come through in ways the old Oracle scramblers never had. I didn't think giving you extra time to get ready to be annoyed would help any.
I'm not annoyed, she tells Babs. And she isn't. Ray has grown up a lot over the last few years, and the awkwardness between them is almost as much a thing of the past as their short-lived entanglement.
"Evening, Canary," the Ray says, alighting on the bridge's walkway rail. "Fancy meeting you here -- the second Black Canary, the second Ray, the second Tacoma Narrows Bridge..."
"Evening, Ray. It's clearly kismet," she volleys back, hoping to keep the tone of the conversation light. "Unless you think I staged getting my hair singed just on the off-chance I might run into you."
"I'm sure you did, but I won't let it go to my head." Ray wriggles his eyebrows. "You have something for me?"
She snorts. "Something for S.T.A.R. Labs. What made them send you instead of a regular retrieval team?"
"I was already there. Sarah Charles had some theories about my powers she wanted to test out. Turns out the lab we were using is the one they could configure to hold somebody like this Jinx easiest on short notice, and since I had nothing better to do..." He smiles at her. It's charming, but professional.
"Did you get any briefing on Jinx before streaking off?"
"Magical abilities, probably not much use against me, negated so long as she's not touching the ground -- I take it that's the reason for her 'suspension'?"
Dinah nods. "I knocked her out, but keeping her high and dry was a precaution."
"Easy enough to keep her swept off her feet, so to speak," Ray says. "You want your cord back?"
"Keep it. If whatever you bind her with fails, at least you'll have some backup. And keep her gagged, too."
"She needs to be able to say her magic words?"
"I'll play it safe, don't worry." Rising from the railing, Ray reaches out to Jinx's limp form, the aura that surrounds him extending around her torso and then fading as he fashions it into a straitjacket. He hooks one arm through the buckles at Jinx's back and gestures with his other hand at the part of the cord attached to the one of the bridge tower's struts, slicing through and leaving Dinah's line dangling.
"I appreciate the assist," Dinah calls up to him. "Fly safe."
"Will do," Ray answers, giving her a grin and a salute. He rises further, putting enough distance between himself and the bridge to gain altitude, turns back long enough to wave, and blazes off again southward.
Well, look who's all grown up.
Don't start, Dinah says, but she's grinning -- for Babs, and on her face for anyone to see -- as she heads back to where she left her motorcycle.
So you don't want to take a side trip down the coast tonight? The laughter in Babs's voice is a different kind of warm now. Dinah can feel an answering warmth in her own body.
Not unless you're planning to. Or, Dinah thinks as privately as she can, unless some other crisis calls her back on duty. But it's already been a long night. Besides, isn't Zinda still off on her own down-coast jaunt?
Radioed in from Ferris Aircraft a little over an hour ago to make sure we didn't need her. Having a blast in some vintage prop-planes.
I'll bet, Dinah answers, her mental voice rich with innuendo.
Why, Ms Lance, whatever could you be suggesting?
That there's nothing Ms Blake likes better than getting strapped into a cockpit and riding the stick?
Babs actually laughs out loud over the comm channel.
So how's containment on the rest of the... I can't believe they're calling themselves the Fearsome Femmes.
Bluebird hunted Deuce down while you were busy with Jinx, and is transporting her herself.
You know Indy hates it when you call her by her codename over secure channels, Dinah chides. And their sub-audio connection is about as secure as it gets, but that doesn't mean Indigo isn't listening in. Installing her communicator had led to an unexpected level of interfacing, which Babs blames on "synergistic cybernetics" or something like that. Indy gets a better understanding of the human psyche, and in return tries to respect their privacy. It's the kind of compromise that makes their team work.
Yeah, well, if she calls me on it right now, she's gonna be grounded after she finishes that delivery.
And ruin her hot date? Are you sure you want to do that?
Dinah can almost see Barbara's smile as she tells her, Come back to base.
"Honey, I'm home," Dinah says over the comm channel, slowing down as she approaches Aerie One. The aft ramp slides smoothly open and Dinah rides up into the vehicles section of the cargo deck and parks. Dogging her bike down -- even with Zinda away, there's still the possibility that they might need to take off on short notice -- she heads for the lift to the passenger deck.
Thanks to creative remodeling from the Aerie One's original specs, they each have their own cabins up here, as well as spare cabins for part-timers and other guests. Babs, predictably, is back in Oracle's nest. Dinah can almost "read" what's on the screen in front of Babs, the words ghosting through her mind, faint but partly recognisable, like a reflection in a window.
As usual, Stephanie is in the lounge compartment where the lift deposits Dinah, reviewing files there even though she has a terminal in her own cabin. Stephanie would rather be in Gotham, as much as she *can* want anything anymore. Besides the ever-present and iconic Batman and Robin, though, the city is well-protected by Cassandra and Selina -- and, of course, Helena. The Birds are still "welcome" in Gotham... so long as they're invited or don't stay long.
Stephanie's face isn't visible behind the Spoiler mask, which makes looking at her at least a little less uncomfortable for most people who knew her before. She stays in full costume whenever she goes out, unless it's for an undercover assignment, but tends to leave her head uncovered when she's "home." She's in jeans and a Knights sweatshirt now.
"Hello, Steph," Dinah says.
Stephanie looks up from her files. "Hello, Dinah." Her voice is nearly as flat and affectless as her eyes.
Dinah (and Babs) knew Steph before, but she's learned to live with seeing Steph's face now.
The hatch to the nest is open. Inside, Babs is hooked into the Oracle mask, processing data at speeds faster than Dinah's own enhancements will let her follow.
"Welcome home," the voice emulator tells her when she stops inside the hatch and leans on the jamb. Babs's head hasn't turned towards her, but that doesn't mean Babs can't see her there, just as Dinah can tell that it's Babs greeting her despite the subtly-different tone of the mechanically-generated version of her voice. Most people wouldn't be able to distinguish the emulator from the "real" Babs, unless they saw the mask on and knew she couldn't be speaking "normally" behind it.
It's funny the things you get used to. As happens from time to time, Dinah isn't sure whether the thought originated in Babs's head or her own, or both simultaneously.
"I'm back. Are you going to work all night?"
Close the door.
Worried about Stephanie overhearing? Dinah asks as she does so. She dogs the latch and shrugs off her jacket.
The murmur of high-speed data echo in Dinah's head starts to slow; Babs is finishing up. She wouldn't -- object if she did.
You were going to say 'mind.' Dinah has a moment of wishing she could see Babs register the smirk on her face. And *you* wouldn't mind?
Significantly less so than you. And you've left hatches open when it was just the three of us before. Babs reaches up and lifts the mask free from her face. The retracting leads inside are just visible inside the rim, moving incrementally in their familiarly insectile way that nonetheless still makes Dinah twitch a little to see. "Or when it was just us and Indigo, or us and Zinda."
Dinah feels her face heat, even though she's still smirking, as she drapes her jacket over the back of an unoccupied chair.
"Besides," Babs goes on, "Catalina will probably be back sometime tonight."
"She's not back already?"
"She said she ran into 'somebody she knew from the Squad' and was going to 'go do some catching up.'"
"And?" Neither the fact that Catalina's shooting of Blockbuster had been ruled justifiable as defence of self or others, nor the way she had voluntarily enlisted in the Suicide Squad afterwards, have been enough to overcome Babs's distrust of her. She trusts her enough to work with, but not even to the degree she trusts the rest of the team. Not for the first time, Dinah is reminded of the way Babs had turned Savant... only this time it's Babs who has the capital-I Issue.
"Surveil says, Lorraine Reilly showed up and helped her take her Fearsome foe -- who turned out to be Carmen Leno, of all people -- down."
"...Lorraine wasn't in the Suicide Squad."
The corner of Babs's mouth quirks. "Not when Catalina was, no."
"Hunh," Dinah says, and moves closer, until she's standing right beside Babs's chair. Babs turns to face her, and Dinah puts her hands on the arms of the chair and leans down. "So, what do you think?"
"I've been monitoring her activities."
She can feel Babs's breath on her own face, so it stands to reason that when she answers, "Uh-huh..." Babs feels her breath too.
"Objectively, the logical conclusion is that she feels isolated and may be reaching out to someone she knows we've discussed recruiting in the past."
"Interesting. But it doesn't explain why she was evasive with you."
"No, it doesn't." Babs's hands had been in her lap. Now they're covering Dinah's, palms warm and soft between the callus patterns.
Dinah leans in a little farther. "Sounds like she continues to bear watching."
"I have continuous surveillance programmed."
You're so sexy when you're hard at work, Dinah thinks, clearly enough that she knows Babs will 'hear,' but aloud what she asks is, "Are you planning to work all night, *Oracle*?"
Babs's nose brushes hers as *she* leans in, and Dinah thinks she's going to kiss her. Instead, Babs just speaks against her mouth. "My operatives are all present or accounted for, Black Canary."
"Is that a 'no'?"
"That's a no." This time Babs's lips brush hers, but when Dinah tries to make it a kiss, Babs retreats just out of reach.
"And are you planning to spend all night in this chair?"
"No again," Babs says, and traps Dinah's lower lip between her own.
Dinah kisses back until Babs tries to deepen it, then pulls away. "Then shall we go to bed?"
"Let's," Babs says.
Notes: Futurefic. Not necessarily AU at time of writing, but certain to become more clearly so as time goes on, and intended as AU. The future posited has eaten my head and there's a good likelihood of sequels. There's an excellent chance that anyone reading will be unfamiliar with at least one of the characters referred to in the story, but google is a treasure of a research tool.
Acknowledgments: Written for Rysler (joran) in the femslash05 challenge organised by Sophia Jirafe (sophia_helix). Thanks to my assigned recipient for giving me carte blanche to play with Huntress, Oracle, Batgirl, Black Canary, Renee, and/or Shiva in any combination; thanks to Te thete1 for pointing me in an intriguing direction when I was flailing at all the possibilities. Additional thanks to Te, Livia liviapenn and Petra petronelle for audiencing and sharing beta thoughts which helped me make this story better. Finally, thanks to Jean-Francois cccarioca and Prop notpoetry for lending their knowledge of archery for my reference, and to Ang angisageek for sharing fantastic info about Dawn Granger (although she didn't make it into this story, even by mention, she's there in my head; she stays in one of those cabins regularly). Title taken from "The Great Response" by Alice Mary Buckton.
Cross-posted to my own LJ; feedback welcome there or here.