Dick: “So. You’re heading off with Slade Wilson. To track down a part of your History. This is where I’m supposed to ask you if that’s a good idea.”
Things have not exactly gone according to plan for me of late. The investigation in to Bruce’s death has hit a wall at nearly every pass. Given the combine ability of every Bat-family member involved, it is nigh-unto impossible to calculate the odds that we’d all be getting no where fast. Yet, here we are. Made all the more confounding by the ramp-up of Nowhere. Which has now played in to Damien getting himself in trouble with them. A fact that brought them in to Gotham. Damien doesn’t even realize his mistake there, with the Princess from Outer Space. He’s essentially erased a decades long agreement between Black Canary, the original version, with Nowhere to leave Gotham effectively out of their crusade.
Oh and let’s not forget. Hawk-Lady literally flew away, while I was stuck dealing with the after-math of an all out assault on her. Damien’s involvement there was absolutely baffling and with her ‘getting away,’ I’m left back at the basics tracking the Hawk-people and their ‘magic metal’ down. I’m not even sure how Damien got involved with that, but… I do know who to talk to about being in charge while I was gone. I’m looking at her.
Or rather, I’m looking at the person I thought was going to be in charge. She’s apparently got something to do too. “Dinah, do I really have to tell you how preposterous it is that Slade fucking Wilson shows up. With the kind of information he’s throwing to you. At exactly the moment we need you in Gotham most? Much less with his hat in hands and willing to help you with Ollie?”
“…and Tim is letting you just… go off on your own?”
Dinah: “I wouldn’t call it with so much as Deathstroke adjacent. And when is anything we do a technical good idea?”
Because on paper, going to a concrete war with mobsters and psychopaths toting guns and acid while wearing lingerie and boots sounds like an absolutely terrible one. Fighting an army of criminals with minimal, no matter how skilled, backup to call on is essentially in the same boat. We could go on to talk about well armored Halloween costumes and not sleeping while maintaining double lives. The list goes on. And it doesn’t stop a single one of us. So really, the determining characteristic of whether or not an idea is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ in these parts seems to come down to whether or not you’re the one doing it.
“And no. You really do not. Why the hell would you even think that I haven’t run all that through the over-thinker a time or six? It boils down to what it always boils down to, and I shouldn’t have to tell you that. It’s about what’s in it, or not in it, for him.”
Clearly he’s been talking to his brother. Or alternately getting into the computer, though I have to assume it’s more of the former. There’s a pause in my unceremonious packing of a duffel bag, aka cramming clothing in a wad into its interior, and a puff of breath to get blonde hair out of my face as I look over my shoulder at Dick. The last time we had a one on one conversation I had the distinct impression that he was trying to get a certain answer out of me, and not listening to the words that I actually had in his quest to get them. I also ended up very annoyed, and so here I am. Debating already if I want to instigate a fight or to not give anyone else a reason to try and interfere in all this. Especially when I’d managed to get out of one round of this with his brother better than I’d expected.
“Y’know. I really can’t decide if I want to coo at you over actually saying out loud that you need me, or go the righteous indignation route for using ‘Tim’ and ‘let’ in a sentence. Tim wasn’t invited, and hopefully will stay busy with his protege and not try to tag along anyway.”
Neither is anyone else, for that matter. But I think he’d gotten the message well enough. Gotham doesn’t need to be involved in this, and no matter how much I might insist that Gotham is as much my home as it is any of theirs, that one little gene makes for a line. A line that also was, up until lately, an unspoken boundary around the city. One that doesn’t need to get any more blurry than it already is. Besides. I’m actually quite good at identifying my personal quirks and foibles, and I know I can’t sit on this particular situation any longer.
“They’re threatening family. So I’m not looking a gift horse in the mouth. That’s how you get bit. So why are you here, exactly?”
Dick: “We both know, maybe better than any two people have a right to, that there is absolutely no such thing as Deathstroke adjacent. The man utilizes over ninety percent of his brain. Most people never use more than ten percent. Me and you? Forty, tops. He’s next level and he’s got some sort of an angle in this. Engaging him, even adjacently if it were possible, without knowing his angle? Is like hugging a hornet nest with the hope of not being stung.”
By this point in the conversation I’ve switched from hanging out at the doorway, to actually making sure she has to see me by crossing in to her line of vision. I want her to see that I’m not in the Batman’s costume. Nor am I here with that stone cold face of distance. I don’t want her to do this and I’ve come without a mask so that she can read my features and know the truth. First rule of engagement with Dinah, pick your battle wisey. Second rule is to choose the right weapon.
“A lot of research was done on those implants, Dinah. Tim told you everything he could find, but did he tell you that Bruce knew about all of this?”
Clues within a clue. I’m giving away something for free; Tim didn’t go behind Dinah’s back to give me a total debriefing of their discussion. At the same time I’m also laying on the table that I know more about that aspect of it than Tim could have uncovered from notes on one of Bruce’s files. Bait, that’s what a comment like that is and I’m not an idiot, so I know that Dinah knows exactly what I’m doing. Which is why I have to throw something else out there.
“I know my little brothers, Dinah. As good as you are. You couldn’t stop Damien or Tim from being Damien or Tim, without permanent damage. Maybe not even then. So. Yeah, I’m asking if Tim let you go. You’re choosing to take it as my saying he could prevent you, but I mean it as a question of whether he is allowing you to go without a struggle of some sort? No argument? No drones keeping tabs on you?”
This is the second time I’ve felt the twitch of the detective side of my brain screaming at me over this topic. Unlike last time when I couldn’t put my finger on it, this time … I came a little better armed for the discussion. Pick your battles -and- your weapons, remember? “One of the most frustrating things I’ve dealt with since getting in to this life? Is this whole ‘Family’ idea. Bruce hated it, you know? I mean he thought of all of us as family, don’t get me wrong, but he thought of the whole idea of us being a ‘Family’ as a bad idea. Alfred pushed him in to it. He knew Bruce needed an anchor. Something to keep him from crossing that line. A tether of sorts that would hold the darkness at bay. Originally that ‘Family’ started with me, Dinah.”
“I’ve been the one pushing this family agenda since day one. I’ve fought for it. Pushed it. Kept it alive. Time and time again, Bruce would pony up to the table and tell us all to go away. Or worse, he’d put the weight of the entire family on his shoulders. Lock the rest of us out and go cowboy on some issue to protect us. Time and time again, until I had enough of it. Until I couldn’t take it any more and walked away.”
“Who drug me back? Who made the big speech about doing my part and protecting my family when they needed me most? Spoiler Alert: It was you. Now you are going to go maverick, with Slade Wilson and you think. Wait. Here’s the Clown Prince of Jokes. You actually think that I’m going to let you go off half-cocked when this City… and this Family needs you most?”
“So. I’m asking you. Seriously. Did Robin give you permission to go?”
Dinah: “So if you have to hug that hornet’s nest, you go in with a suit and do it at arm’s length. There’s any number of easy angles, which means that they’re probably not the correct, or only, ones. Whatever it actually is, he’s motivated.”
Information is a good one, and even if they hadn’t started messing with people that I care about and pushed the issue, information would have eventually led me down this path. Knowledge. You can’t brag about knowing yourself, only to then find out that you really don’t, and not have that stick in your craw. I might have been able to hold off a lot longer, go about it in more long game ways and taken time to gather resources that were not homicidal mercenaries, but it was still only a matter of time before I did it nonetheless. That was when it was just about me. But it’s not anymore. It’s about Ollie. It’s about Roy. It’s about that blurred line. Because if they’re targeting non-metas, no matter their reasoning for that targeting, then who’s next? Tim? Lian? Dick and Alfred?
There’s a very high probability that this is a trap. I’m not stupid, I’m not even especially trusting. That’s why I’m still alive. And if it is, their choice of bait has only made me even more certain that I’m going to make them pay for this. And it’s going to hurt. And it’s going to stick and the whole damn world is going to know about it.
“No… but I made an educated guess.”
And I was even butt-hurt about it for a minute or two when I realized it. Those minutes weren’t even when Red Robin was giving me the information that he had in the first place, so much as after my initial discussion with Slade. There wasn’t much that went on here that Bruce hadn’t known about, but knowing him made it absolutely impossible to believe that he would have missed that assault on Arkham. And having not missed it, that he wouldn’t have found out about the participants. Which leads to…
“I’d even bet you five bucks that it’s actually why he brought me in, in the first place. You know. Adjacent to the fact that he couldn’t seem to help himself when it comes to orphans, and not wanting me to really futz up the status quo with my wanting to be heard.”
Because it had never been just to help me. That was an end result of course, giving me that family which he supposedly hated and seemed to instinctively amass just the same. I really can’t fault the reasoning, and maybe were he alive I’d get a little more righteous about him not telling me. But…
There’s no skulking in the shadows of my apartment, or even especially looming which means I can’t really call him Batdad, but it also means that he’s got a reason. Or maybe just knows that trying to get me to not do something by trying to order me around in the cowl is only going to push me in the opposite direction. So I do him the moderate favor of pausing in my preparations, straightening my posture with hands on my hips. It’s a more relaxed posture than one of defiance, mostly because of the inquisitive tilt of my head. Even if I am muttering under my breath.
“Drugging doesn’t even work, either… Drones are kind of a given, especially now that he’s sonic proofed them, and he didn’t argue so much as spin out my logic and then not really fight me on it.”
Honestly, he’d fought me on it a lot less than I expected. Because what I’d expected was bribery. Of him withholding his help on the technical aspect that I didn’t have a prayer of figuring out on my own, unless I took him along even though I hadn’t thought Tim was in any shape for much of anything. I’d tried to bench the guy after the Iceberg, and the second I’d turned my back he’d gone out anyway, with someone that really wasn’t good enough to pick up the slack and keep him safe.
“You were half-back on your own, Dick. And even me ranting and scolding couldn’t make you do this if you didn’t have your reasons. So while I appreciate the warm welcome, and have every intention of being here for my family, I’m not exactly the only one with multiple irons in the fire here.”
He’s doing it again. Asking me the same questions over again, when I already gave an answer and Dick’s a lot of things but forgetful and dense aren’t really among them. Barring some sort of cranial injury that has messed up his short term memory that I hadn’t heard about… there’s a clucking sound of annoyance as I suck my teeth at him, arms moving from my sides to folded across my chest.
“We discussed it. He told me to go and that he’d man Fort Gotham until I got back. Why are you harping on this? I don’t need any of your permission.”
Dick: Drones probably are a given. Honestly. That’s beside the point that I’m making here, but I should really look in to the whole drone thing. Oh, hey. Irons in the Fire, by example. Right, so I’m going to need to escalate my plan of action here aren’t I? “Sucker’s bet there, Dinah. I was there, remember? I was always trying to get in his head. He was always trying to let me, too. He wanted me to become him. Oddly, I’m unique in that way. He never wanted this life for Tim. He regretted that Damien was forced in to this life before he even got a choice. You? He wouldn’t have gotten his friend’s Grand-Daughter in to this life. You were already in. He brought you in to protect you.”
“…and to get to the bottom of the whole mystery…”
“Which brings me back to the point. I was there.” Two of us can put our hands on our hips and I just might be the one person she knows who has more shapely ones than herself. “I was there and you haven’t asked me what I know.”
“Wait. Stop. You’re going to launch in to some witty retort. For once, let me talk. Not just because I like the sound of my voice, but because I’m good at this Dinah. I want you to think about what I’m saying and what I’m about to say. Really. Think about it. Walk through it like Bruce taught you. Like your Dad would have. Let’s take a stroll down memory lane. You’re not the side-kick type. So what is Tim? A friend? Little brother-type? I’d buy it. He needs a Batman, you’re his best option. But you care about him. Natural. Makes sense. We have a similar connection, but… if I tried to take you out of the field and make you a trainer you’d kick my ass. Or at least, you normally would.”
“That was actually the first clue. I couldn’t understand it. Barb thought maybe you were crushing on my little brother, but I couldn’t see it. Until I started to look closer. But then you denied it. Hard. I mean like stone cold hard. So I started to re-examine my clues. There were a number of them. I started with your return to Gotham. Then I started to piece oddities together. Your shift from keeping Tim at arms length to letting him slowly open the doors. You two became the new dynamic duo. But I couldn’t get past your denial. You’re self-awareness is keen, even more so than my own. So I started to back-track. When could I pin-point your first shift…”
“Moping around the apartment, when Tim didn’t listen to you.
“Coming to me to protect Tim.
“Not breaking Damien’s arms for murdering people.
“Letting me taser you.
“Taking in Tim’s stray to train…
“Staying in Gotham, to be Robin’s partner in the field.
“Everything. Every little squiggle of this centered around Robin. Robins. So maybe you were just being protective. Momma Bird. Right? As much as I wanted to think that, you’re more of a mock us until we do what we should have done in the first place -or- go do it your damned self type. So.. I just couldn’t let it go. Not after our last talk.”
Gesturing finally for Dinah to follow, I take about three whole steps needed to cross her floor and point to the little eye-in-the-sky drone that most people wouldn’t notice out across the street. “You’re the one who said it yourself. Drones were a given. They have been since he came back to Gotham. So, I took a page out of the book of the guy that’s been hacking the Batcave’s system. I asked Alfred to access them.”
“Fifteen Seconds. One of Tim’s drones tracked you. You were with Jervis Tetch for fifteen seconds according to that drone. Then Robin interrupted him. You told Robin that you had no memory of what was going on for those fifteen seconds. But you’ve been nicer to the three Robins in this City than you’ve ever been before.”
“So. Dinah. I have a hypothesis. Ready? Can you keep packing that bag, if I tell you that Robin is lacing himself with a chemical that is going to drive him insane in order to repair his body. Because -he- can’t stand the fact that you benched him? Listen to me closely. Can you even try you finish packing with the idea of leaving? You know, intelligently, that I’m capable of stopping Timothy. But can you, are you capable of even thinking of leaving without tending to it yourself?”
Dinah: He’s right, I was about to retort and it wasn’t going to be witty in this instance so much as snotty, because no. I don’t remember and that’s the entire problem. It was also before my first introduction in a personal way to anything Bat, or Batlike. That I knew of. So while I might have learned the timeline after the fact, I couldn’t have known for sure if he had been there or not. Now. Maybe if I wasn’t still a little pissy about him tasering me I might have thought to ask but I hadn’t needed to, because I had Tim and he’d been pretty damn happy to have me actually ask for his help on something.
I do actually let him talk. Much to my credit, right? I may like to talk, but I don’t need to in order to make a point. I do that with fists. Though not right now. Right now I employ my expressive face, and some body language so that there’s no missing what I think about any number of his points with quirks of my lips, or what starts to threaten to be blue eyes rolling to one side or the other. So I let him talk. And I wait. And I build up my tirade of a reply one little building block at a time. I’ve got a good memory, after all, which is another reason why the entire situation with the Suicide Squad was so goddamn obnoxious.
“I did not mope, he was going to get himself killed and me telling him so was only going to wreck his confidence and make it happen even more quickly, one of you two ought to muzzle Damien, but mostly we didn’t need our ranks thinned mid-ninja invasion, Stephanie Brown is also going to get herself killed without a whole lot of instruction, and Bruce was my family, too. Just like Gotham is my home, and I’m not staying for the purpose of being anyone’s partner.”
Okay so maybe skipping over the letting him taser me bit was telling, but if I’d protested that I hadn’t let him, then that would be admitting the lack of the ability to anticipate it, or to prevent him. I definitely haven’t forgotten. Oh no. I’m biding my time for a suitable opening on that slight. And as glorious as that imagined revenge has been in my head a time or two, it’s really not what I’m going to dwell on right this moment. Because I’m trying to understand what he’s getting at, without having to insist for what feels like too many times that I don’t have a ‘thing’ for his brother. He’s a little young for me, for the least of the reasons I might want to throw out there.
Gah. The damn drones. I’d gotten good enough at spotting them, that I think i’ve stopped trying to do it, and so…
“Is this a hypothetical situation or is he actually…”
The speed and sharpness with which my eyes have narrowed, and my brows pulled together actually makes my forehead feel a little twitchy, because I find it hard to believe that Tim would do something so stupid, unless he felt he didn’t have a choice, and then I’d like to think he’d invent or devise another one anyway. Or that someone would stop him. My expression stays focused and pensive, and my lips parted mid sentence as my brain… I realize it’s churning through its own hypothetical like it can’t puzzle out a result when it’s a very simple question he’s asked me. Of course I can finish packing. There’s not even much to finish, because I don’t really travel heavy. Don’t require tech and gizmos and gadgets when my weapons are usually just me, myself and I.
“He told me to go.”
Why is that my answer? Whether I was told or not has zero pertinence, because I was going to go anyway. I had just done Red Robin the courtesy of warning him. Mostly because I wanted to make sure Spoiler was getting training from someone who wasn’t me. I’d been so frustrated and in need of a pressure release after the phone call I’d gotten from Fake Oliver that I’d taken a sparring session far, far too . Well . Far. If I hadn’t told him, and he realized I’d gone, it would have only made it that much more likely that he’d follow me, and we couldn’t all be gone.
Dick: “Mm. Do you know how many times Barbara told me to go when she stuck in that wheelchair? I lost count. She meant it too. It was actually more painful for her to know that I was witnessing what she was going through, than it was to actually go through it. Babs wanted to be out there. Doing what we do. It got taken away from her, when she wasn’t even in uniform. She just opened the wrong door and bang…”
We’re not normally the close knit types. Oh, family might be what we say but it’s not always what we are. Our sort of little family talks usually involve teasing one another until the other submits. Or beat the crap out of each other in a spar/fight or video game. We don’t have heart to heart talks like this. So why are we having this one?
“Tim got put out of the game, when he wasn’t even in uniform. Doing something he’s done a thousand times. He took a fall the wrong way, because he couldn’t give away that he knew how to take a fall. He was protecting us. All of us, but mostly you at the time. He probably needs surgery. We all know it. You know it, you’re the one that pulled his wings. Why did he tell you to go, Dinah? Do you think he wants you to see him like that? Not a chance. He wants you to believe in him, Dinah. His time as Batman was singularly fueled by your belief in him…”
“And he’s going to do whatever it takes to make himself good enough to be that partner. Including the use of experimental Wayne Corp nano-probes that are fixing his shoulder. Lucius Fox reported it missing from the lab, during Tim’s overnight disappearing act while you grounded him. He went ‘shopping’ while he was out on the town. Lucius’ report to Alfred says that all the trials have resulted in ‘aberrant behavior’ in the test subjects, prompting the tests to be black listed.”
One thing I -do- know right now, based simply upon the look she’s got on her face, I’m not going to be able to break through what Tim said to her. I’ve got to do this a little bit different. “Back to my hypothesis. The Dinah that I know would never leave Tim to something so dangerous. Even if her mission was important, it’s been laying dormant for years so it’s not time sensitive. That means you don’t have to go. Unless you have to obey Timothy. He did tell you to go, like you said.”
“That Dinah. Always obedient. Sounds just like her. That’s what they say.”
Dinah: I could continue to argue this with him, but it feels much like our last conversation. Only this time he’s not in a cowl and interrupting my movie. I’m going to answer his questions, that I don’t actually have to answer. He’s going to ask them either in a different way, or more irritatingly the exact same one, over again. It’ll turn into a cycle that will continue to ramp until one of us gets irritated enough to cut our losses and bring it to an end. Tim and Barbara aren’t the same people. No matter the similarities he’s drawing between these two particular events. I’m clearly not the only one concerned about him, and if his actual family isn’t moving to put a swift stop to his behavior then why do they expect me to do it?
“Well. My personal guess is that he knew full well that I’d be going anyway whether he said it or not, and it was a way of taking on what I’m foisting back onto him without saying as much. Or because it’s a way of seeming to acquiesce while having every intention of meddling via tech and drones and whatever else he has at his disposal because medi-nano-whatevers? I’m sure there’s even fancier things in those vaults.”
I make a show of snagging the trailing sleeve of a dark sweater that I’d actually discarded from my planned packing, wadding it up and cramming it into my bag. See? I can pack just fine, thank you very much, even though I know he couldn’t have meant the physical aspect of it, so much as the mental follow through. But the act is.. actually more difficult than it should be. Not physically of course. I had no problem taking this course, and nothing Grayson’s actually said is enough to sway me because I don’t intend to be gone that long. His disapproval actually is a non factor. That much I know for sure. The fact that I hadn’t had to argue and cajole his brother to stay in Gotham had been a surprise, and if anything his willingness to stay and keep things safe (ish) in Gotham had been like a giant weight off.
“Are you really accusing me of being obedient over something I decided to do, marched into the Nest and told him I was doing…” Okay not really in those exact words… “And am now trying to get onto doing, even with you standing here griping at me about it? It stopped being dormant, and something to be backburnered Dick, when people’s real names started getting named. When me being here is going to bring them here again, and I assume you know they really don’t need much of a reason at this point.”
Superman’s already been and gone a few times. Wonder Woman turned up. The alien that crash landed. I made myself a little too interesting and tipped the balance of my grandmother’s agreement.
“Do you want to maybe just tell me in simple terms what it is you’re actually wanting me to say right now? I really don’t actually have to explain any of his to you, but hey. I might also point out that the ‘Dinah you know’ has bailed on Gotham before without actually having intentions to be back. So unless you have advance knowledge of the League coming back for round two, or some other immediate looming threat that is something you want to tell me you cannot handle…?”
Dick: “You’re not wrong. There is a lot worse in those vaults,” it almost seems to be an after-thought, the topic of the vault. “Or rather, there was. It would seem that Timothy took somewhat took care of that issue. As a means of preventing whomever has been attacking the Bat Cave from finding that sort of weaponry.”
Her point is actually a really good one. Timothy is my brother. Just as Damien is. I -should- be there for him, physically in person, but that’s the strange truth of Bruce’s philosophy. Doing that would take me away from what is actually going on out there, beyond Gotham City. A point that I think Dinah herself was espousing to Tim and I not so long ago. Her own argument about this Slade-business is that exact point of view; She could back burner it until it began to impact more than just herself.
“You’re going to have a hard time swallowing this right now, but I can’t. I’m pursuing a lead that might flesh out the entire situation in Khandaq. I only even became aware of the situation in Gotham, because Damien showed up at a location that I was investigating. Apparently your Kryptonian boy-pal decided to give him a choice between being useful in Khandaq or being put in jail for the entire Alien debacle there in Gotham.”
“Dinah,” starting over after a brief pause to pivot my approach to something a little more palatable to her. “I want you to say that you’ll tend to this Timothy matter, but I don’t think you can. Tim told you to go, so I don’t think you’re actually capable of doing anything but exactly what he said.”
Dinah: “And the situation in Khandaq is your problem why?”
I don’t actually need him to answer that question, though. Because he’s following through, once again, with something that Tim started. Tim, as the Batman, ventured out of Gotham and publicly worked with this Wonder Woman. With the new Flash. Why settle for one Pandora’s box being thrown open when you can manage a baker’s dozen? I know Bruce had his fingers in all the pies, but he’s not Bruce. He doesn’t have to be. That was where Tim was going wrong, even as I think he was also going right in other things.
“That does sound like my Superfriend. But let me get this straight. You had enough time to watch drone footage, do some other research, and drop in to badger me about this, and yet not enough time to go have a bro-talk with him yourself?”
The set of my mouth is expectant, if not exactly patient as he tries to swap tacks again. This feels like bait, like he’s trying to provoke me into a certain reaction only I cannot for the life of me fathom what it is. No, that’s not true. I just don’t know the purpose. Is Dick trying some reverse psychology bullshit to steer my actions? There’s a low, soft growl in my throat as I yank the zipper on the duffel closed, and push a hand through loose blonde hair to try to calm my irritability a little.
“Jesus Christ, Dick, do you hear yourself? You can’t say I’m someone’s puppet for doing exactly what I was already doing before they were even aware or involved. I. Will. Handle. Tim. If Tim is something that still needs handling when I get back, even though it shouldn’t be me that needs to do it, and with the track record of him not listening to me last time. Do you want to also tell me that I’m going to watch my ass around Wilson only because someone else told me to be careful? Or maybe breathing only became a good idea after some stray ‘deep breaths’ comment??
I don’t need to be half the good read of people that I actually am to know that Red Robin wouldn’t be at all pleased if I were to suddenly and abruptly reverse course to hang around and mother, and scold and nag and hover over him.
Dick: The snort that makes it past my otherwise unemotional veneer is simply because, “Wait. You don’t get to ask that. Not when you talked me in to taking the mantel over when I thought he was doing a good job. Making the Bat a symbol for hope again. It’s the only reason I agreed to do it in the first place.”
One thing that people easily mistake about Dinah, she’s as good with her mouth as she is with her firsts. Equal opportunity weaponry. She’s using the former as a means of trying to knock me off the path of attack. All deflection without actually answering my accusation. That part, I at least understand. Because she’s right about a lot of things. We three brothers haven’t exactly been playing the part very well. Who would have thought that Bruce was the glue binding the three of us together. These days we work independent of one another to such a large extent that none of us even know what the other is doing most of the time. Unless you account for the spying on one another. Which is mostly Alfred doing it, then sicking one brother on the other to keep them in line.
I’m not rising to that particular bait though. Not this time at least. “Despite what a couple of my ex-girlfriends might think, I actually can’t walk on water. Compliment noted however. Chicken or the Egg question, by the way. I’m not going to follow you down that rabbit hole Alice, beyond pointing out that if you had made up your mind to go? Your normal m.o. would have been to blown town before a loved one could try to stop you. Taking your own argument for example, you went against your own nature by going to Tim for permission.”
“But,” a hand finally comes up to make a very soft gesture to the packed bag. “The truth is, I really don’t have time to go have a bro-talk with him. Nor do I have time to keep trying to get through to you. So I’m going to make this easy Dinah. You might not even need to go with Slade, because we have the case files from Bruce. If you’d have come to me, I’d have shared them with you originally. Take care of Tim, Alfred will bring you the case files.”
“Here is where you lash out again. Bark at me some more about your mind being made up. Here is where you argue with me, when presented with an opportunity to have actionable intel, in order to do as you were told.” With this comes a resolved shake of the head and a soft sigh that brings a hanging of my head with it and the rummaging of a hand in to the vest pocket for a thumb drive. “Alright. Well, if you’re going at least take the intel from Bruce’s case files…”
Dinah: “He was doing a good job. He was also trying way too hard to be an ideal, and wasn’t playing to the strengths that would have kept him alive while doing it.”
I still can’t believe he was trying to do the job without his ‘signature’ weaponry. Maybe there would have been the crook out there who would have picked up on the fact that he was fighting differently than Batman used to, but chances are that crook is also one that likely already had noticed that something was up in the vigilante corner of the ring. Or maybe Gotham would more correctly be a Thunderdome. I might not often use my meta-powers, but I’ve had every bit as much practice, maybe even more, in using fists and feet and the rest of the my body.
“And you and I both know how that would have gone, Dick. I didn’t want him following me when he realized I was gone. Or saw me heading towards the city limits with a drone. Not when I already don’t think he should be anywhere but resting that shoulder, and here there’s at least other distractions. So, sure. I made a tactical choice.”
Tim doesn’t want to hear from me that I don’t want him slowing me down. That’s not something you say to a partner. Not if you want to maintain that relationship at any point in the future. And that’s what we’ve been working as. And we were before my run in with Tetch. I let the guy crash at my place before that, too. We’d been unable to figure out what exactly, if anything, the Mad Hatter had been able to talk me into during that time I don’t have memories for but it’s completely ludicrous to believe that it would have been to obey one of the Bats. Or all of them. I think my interactions ought to be proof enough that it’s definitely not the latter.
“You’re busy. Remember?”
Okay, so that isn’t fair entirely and while I’m not going to apologize for making it sound like I’m faulting him for being occupied in doing something that I actually do think is important, and good, the cluck of my tongue and the momentary wince is at myself and not Dick.
“No, I’m not going to, even though I’m pretty sure you’re actually trying to bait me into screaming you out that window over there. Barking at you is working as well as cajoling did on Tim. I’d worry that I was losing my touch if it were another week than this one.”
And I am going. So I hold my hand out, palm up, expectantly. It isn’t just about intel though. There’s a lot of this I feel like I shouldn’t have to explain or justify, and maybe he’s just caught up in this nonsense. To go from accusing me of having a thing for a teenage boy, to deciding that it must be mind control. There’s some things you can’t get just from information, like sussing out what Wilson’s part in this is. That? I need to be there for. I also need feet on the ground to make someone hurt for hurting Ollie. And past all of that? It’s just the way I work.
“So if you were there, why didn’t you bring it up before now? I know why Bruce didn’t. Because he’s… was… you know what, never mind. Apparently ain’t no one got time right now.”
Dick: “Originally I never brought any of this up with you because Bruce would have never allowed it. Not to mention, I actually sort of agreed with him. We didn’t really know all we know now about Nowhere, so all we knew was that some very highly placed government officials sanctioned a squad of suicidal super-people to do something in Arkham. We didn’t even know what at the time. Faced with the very real possibility that a headstrong Girl with a bad attitude might get herself killed trying to find answers? Bruce did what Bruce does and kept it all internal.”
“And for some real full disclosure, Dinah, I really hate the fact that once again Bruce is right. A decade later, he’s still right.” One more sigh for the road, but this time it comes without the hung head as I put the thumb drive in to her hand. “In more recent times, I didn’t bring it up because… because the real truth is that we, collectively, have a lot of things pulling at us. You wanted me to step in to the mantel, Dinah, right? You knew what that meant and frankly, I think you’re being a little silly about not at least giving me a little benefit of the doubt here. Being the Batman can be about inspiring Hope, it can be about solving crimes and cleaning up the City… yada yada yada… but it’s also at the very core? About being the Leader. Hell, you make fun all the time with your Bat-Dad jokes.”
“I made the choice to prioritize the problems, the cases, we’re all dealing with. Starting with ‘the potential end of the world as we know it’ crisis in Khandaq. Does that mean I love my little brother(s) any less or that I don’t want to help you with all of this?”
Has this discussion spiraled a little too far abroad of the reason I came here to begin with? I don’t like what I’m becoming reasonably sure is the situation before me, but I really do have to prioritize. I can’t drop every single thing I’m dealing with to try to convince Dinah that something is wrong. Just like I can’t stop pursuing these Hawk people just to stage an intervention for one of my little Brothers. I’m realizing all too quickly what made Bruce in to the man we all love/hate. These decisions eat at you, you can’t stop that.
So you just have to make the decisions be something you can live with. Right? “One thing. Just to be clear. You never asked for my help. Not once. Not even a hint at it. Yet, I’ve found the time twice now to be here trying to offer it. How do you even know that I haven’t tried to do the same with Tim or Damien?”
“When you’re ready to ask for help, I’ll be there. Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel,” pointing the finger-gun at her duffel bag on my way through the door of her apartment. “For someone that isn’t hung up on someone, you may have just packed Tim’s underwear in your overnight bag.”
A few seconds later, from just beyond the door of her apartment. “Hah! Made you look.”
“And my inner cynic can’t <i>not</i> chime in with ‘and not at all because it would make for juicy just in case leverage to use later against one of the only operating metas in the city.'”
Cynical sentiment or not, I can’t even really fault it. One of the many reasons besides his not being here any longer to be mad at that I’m not. Mad. Now, Dick would make a better target for it, but with my not remembering it could also have just been a matter of why bring it up if I don’t need to? There’s any number of reasons to not share something like that, and while I would have preferred to not have been caught flat footed when Slade Wilson showed up wanting to be chummy old pals it is what it is.
“The moment I stop making fun of you is when you can bet I have <i>actually</i> been mind controlled. Or whatever this is you think is supposedly going on. You’ve got a lot on your plate, I get it. I can juggle plates, too. Ollie and Roy and Diggle are <i>my</I> family, too.”
And frankly I trust the Batcrew in residence a whole lot further than I do the Arrows at this particular moment in time, to be able to keep their shit together long enough for me to deal with something else. How do I know he hasn’t tried to bash some sense into his brothers already? I don’t. Though if it’d come to actual blows I think I would probably have noticed the marks on someone, especially as much time as I spend around the youngest of them.
The only ‘looking’ that goes on with his jab is an exaggerated eye-roll towards the ceiling, as he’s on the way out. Psh. Please. Has he not seen that Red Robin suit? Even if there were underwear under that thing, Tim is far too OCD to leave any laying around. That’s <i>my</i> shtick, not his. Once I’m alone, I steal the luxury of wasting a few moments rubbing my face with the heels of my hands. Letting my brain tumble at a less aggressive responsed pace to the suggestions/accusations that he’d just made. Yeah, no, still sounds just as crazy as it had at first blush.
Maybe I should just go have a nice, quiet chat with Tetch on my way out to settle this once and for all.