Dinah: Tonight was apparently Mama Bird’s night out of the nest. Never something I’m terribly inclined to argue with, especially because my prolonged benching was starting to make me a little stir crazy. I know. I’m not really sitting out, I just have a different purpose to serve at the moment, one that I’m better equipped and suited to than any of the rest of them. I know almost a dozen different fight forms and types, though my preference is mainly to use one or two of them sprinkled in with a couple others. I’ve been doing this since about the time I learned my alphabet. The English one, that is. Another one or two came later. This is how I’m best helping my family at the moment. But there’s nights when my pupils aren’t in, and those are the ones I get the itch.
Tonight I’d been more or less sent to go find someone to take some frustration out on. It’s exactly what I’m doing, too. I think there was an expectation of a very angry rage monster being unleashed after the DickMove that Dick pulled. He said he wanted to teach me something, like it wasn’t a tactic I was well and truly familiar with. That people cheat. That your opponent is going to play dirty, and not follow the rules. That’s why they’re the bad guys. Unless he was trying to teach me that you shouldn’t trust your own family to behave themselves this wasn’t really anything new. Was I happy that the asshole had tasered me mid-sparring conversation? Nope. Of course not.
Dick’s just opened up a door that I fully intend to make him sorry he remembered existed before I let it be closed again. That’s all. What’s fair is fair, right?
I’m not sure that the Ibanescus fully agree with the sentiment right now. What did they ever do to deserve what’s happening to them right now? Other than peddling in innocent flesh, that is. It could have been worse. I could have caught them kicking puppies tonight, or using them for bait for a dog fight. I’m not a great fan of anyone that picks on someone who can’t defend themselves. And they’ve been stepping up again, getting a little braver after the Joker and Red Hood made such a show of what they did to the Irish. In a way, they should be thankful it was my attention that they caught.
One of them mistook me for one of the prostitutes they were rounding up to badger, started getting a little mouthy. A little more aggressive when I didn’t cower like he was used to. Wrong tree to be barking up on a good day, because I don’t do cowed and meek then and I definitely won’t do it when my mean streak is showing. One of his ‘cohorts’ recognized the mistake, because he recognized me, and started to try to warn the rest of them. The stiff fingered strike into his windpipe cuts his words off with an ugly gurgle, made all the more forceful when I grab the arm that was stretched out to grab me and yank him into my oncoming attack.
Throwing my shoulder back like I’m preparing to wind up and do it again, I pivot around on the ball of my foot. The angle of the knife coming down at my shoulder I could have ignored. My jacket would have more than blunted it, but that’s not a risk you take when you’re fresh and don’t have to. So we start the dance. A fluid elbow into the guts, ducking with the force so that when he crumples over my back, I can just simply throw the guy. He’s barely finished rolling into a groaning pile on the ground in front of me before I turn him into my glorified doormat/springboard to meet the next thug.
He’s brought a bat. That’s cute. He hasn’t started swinging fast enough, to offset how hard I’m about to hit him as I tuck in the air, arriving elbows and knees first into his torso.
Conner: Today has been a mixture of awesome and suck. Guess which one has me arriving in Gotham City? You got it. The suck. I went all the way to France on a fake quest for Macaroons, because Cassie asked. I know why she asked, she needed me to not worry about what she was doing while I would be gone. I’m pretty sure she also needs some time to get whatever she’s doing completed before I come home. So one lay-over in Coast City, added to a brief detour in to the one place in the world where I’ve been told never to go? [ Don’t look at me like that, I’m a grown ass Clone. I go where I want. Sort of. ]
What I hadn’t counted on? Was zeroing in on ‘Dinah Laurel Lance’ and finding … this. When I got here, I’d had to do a high level pass of the City to find the heart beat I was looking for. What I was expecting? Was to find her at one of the clubs in Gotham. What I found? Was a very high level heart rate that made me pause before seeking her out. I mean. She could have been doing something naughty. One has to imagine that a hot piece of ass like Dinah isn’t going to be spending her nights solo all the time. I’d been -this- close to turning and flying on my way back to Metropolis too. I’ve been exceptionally good today since Mr. Holier than Thou Solomon-boy spoke to me like a learned Sage. I’ve made progress. Good progress. Even made a friend. I’m just not there yet. So I looked. No, I mean looked. My disappointment was audible through most of the City, I’m sure.
How long have I been there? Probably five minutes. Give or take a straight jab to the esophagus. Arms folded. Cape swirling. This would probably be stealthier, if not for the red glow that surrounds me. Bathing the ‘fight scene’ in an amber sense of displeasure and judgement. Yeah. That’s right. I’ve probably never been more ‘Superman’ than right this second.
Dinah: He’s been there three minutes and fifteen seconds. Give or take ten to twenty seconds. When you’re used to a surprise entrance by the likes of Batman? This guy’s about as subtle as a rock through a plate glass window. Or a mobster through one, which is much more likely to be the case tonight. Your eyes track the action in your peripheral, keeping you aware of incoming threats. When one comes in from a completely unexpected angle? You’re going to see it. Even if they’re not covered in red light. I’ve started to almost automatically pick up on Red Ro…Batman’s drones at this point, and Superman is a hell of a lot bigger than a drone.
What was I supposed to do? Drop what I was doing because he decided to show up for a visit? No one else is. Well. Not true. I’d rolled away from Baseball Bat mobster, after bowling him over, with his bat tucked in against my chest. Mine now, smuck. Rule number six of combat. Don’t bring a weapon if you can’t keep it away from your opponent, or are prepared to have it used against you. A love tap is delivered to the top of the downed man’s skull, to make sure he stays down. The second person to notice Superman is standing there gawking, after coming around the corner to join the fray. Too easy.
You get the angle and height right and you can throw nearly anything like a tomahawk. Including baseball bats. He’ll probably assume Superman hit him in the morning. Guess that’ll be a good story to tell in lock-up. Or the hospital. I think I shattered his nose. I wonder if he’s intending to interrupt. Or if he just really expects me to stop and pay attention to him. I hope neither, because I’m not stopping. Not until I’m good and done.
“Heeey, Red Leader. I don’t know if you’re home or out, but were you, or were you not, aware that we’ve got a visitor in town?”
Conversational, almost sing-songy and it feels good to talk while I’m fighting. These idiots are giving me less than nothing to work with. Which is a shame. Physical exercise it is, then, instead of mental. The truth is, there isn’t nearly enough of them to actually challenge me. Even without Superman throwing them off. No resistance to my closing with the next one, the punch that comes much too slow gets knocked off track with a stiff armed shove into his shoulder, followed up by a bootheel into the knee with a crunch that should disturb me. It really doesn’t. They fall. One after another, a dance of bodies that is more thrilling when your opponents are good but I seem to have gotten the B squad tonight. Ah well. Nights still young.
I’m left with a fist full of greasy hair in my glove, with the head still attached when I finally noticeably turn any attention to the man in the sky. Yes, the head is still attached to the body, and it’s groaning from the knee that mercilessly met scrotum. Oh. Wait. He’s gonna hurl. I abruptly let go, and practically prance back a step to get clear of any splash zone.
“I thought you weren’t supposed to come to Gotham, honey? To what do we owe the pleasure?”
Conner: “Turns out that Batman doesn’t want me in Gotham, not Wonder Woman. Big difference. I actually give a damn about what she wants.”
Despite what I’ve just said, I haven’t actually stepped foot on Gotham soil yet. Nor have I taken even an ounce of actual action here. For quite some time now I’ve been floating there. Watching the Symphony of Destruction that is Dinah Lance. Mild mannered Singer-Songer-Writer. Color me both impressed and a little displeased to see the skill with which she’s dispatching guy after guy. Are these people members of a local crime syndicate? I know just enough about law enforcement to spot all the tell-tale signs of criminal element. Their efforts at attacking her. The implements they bring to the fight. One by one she takes them down.
No. That isn’t true. Sometimes she takes two, even three, of them at once. “Your heart rate indicates boredom, but your blood pressure and muscle tension suggest that you’re angry. I’m not an expert on these things, but it would seem that these people aren’t the actual focal point of your ire. They’re just in the wrong place at the right time.”
Red Leader? One brow has cocked a little bit higher than the other. I can see the comm unit, hear the radio signal. I just don’t bother telling her these things. After all, it’s pretty obvious that I’m not the only one keeping secrets. I don’t get it. Why does everyone do that? Hrmph. I think it bothers me more right now, than it even did with Cassie, because I thought Dinah and I had a very good talk. She didn’t -need- to keep all of this from me. Even if my logical mind acknowledges that she also had no reason to tell me any more than she did.
“There are five men with automatic rifles waiting for you in the next room,” part of me wanted to see how she’d handle that, but slightly smaller part didn’t want to see Dinah shot full of holes before she had a chance to answer me. “Do you want me to…?”
Dinah: “Oh, did he say that?”
It could be debated, as far as whether or not he’s in Gotham right now. Depends on whether you think you can buy air rights, or if only touching something attached to the soil counts as being ‘in’ a place. I’d lean on the side of, you’re within the map borders of a place? You’re in it. Maybe until you get up to the clouds. Admittedly, even though I’ve got my own powers, I don’t tend to factor flight into decisions like seems to be more necessary nowadays. Times. They are a changing.
“There needed to be at least four more of them with a moderate degree of skill, or a firearm to make this a challenge.”
I’m not really exaggerating, here. All melee weapons, or no weapons, means that your tactics are based solely on proximity for a threat. Firearms and the like mean you have to worry a lot more about who is where. Not to say that I’m letting myself be sloppy, sloppy can get you dead even with the B Squad. It just requires next to no thought for me in a situation like this. Cocking my head at Superman, one eye goes a hair squinty as I look at the expression on his face, like I’m sizing up the exact reason for that. Then it cocks the other way for a moment, during a break in the hurling from the man on his knees in front of me.
“They’re the job, Supes. Not the reason I’m mad. Other…” A hop forward on one foot, brings the other swinging up for a blow to the exposed chin. I was nice, at least, to send him away from his own pool of vomit. “…than the fact that people preying on anyone because they think they’re more powerful, or entitled, always makes me mad.”
He’s not wrong though, I suppose. I’m wound up like a spring, and I needed an outlet. I think Tim knew as much, and that’s why I’m out here by ‘request’ and not being left to my own thumb twiddling somewhere else. Yes. I noticed. I don’t actually care whether or not he hears what I said, or picked up that I was speaking to someone over a comm. I’d think it was probably obvious. It’s also about the only piece of tech they can ever get me to wear, because I see and know the value in field communications. They may already be out of the ‘cave,’ though. Hands on hips, I suck in a deep breath, and then let it out. Just a sigh. A moment of collecting myself in the lull.
“Only five?” Ah, yes. X-Ray vision. One hand leaves my hip, held up in the universal ‘hold on just a damn minute’ gesture. “If you’ll excuse me for a minute, Mr. Superman…”
How I handle it? I don’t go in the damn door that’s waiting right there with five guys and guns trained at it. Nor do I ask someone to handle it for me, whether they could probably do so in an instant or not. And not just because we don’t need tales of Superman thrashing mafia shmucks running around. The front door doesn’t have any glass in it any longer, so I just go out through the frame, scooping up the baseball bat I’d used earlier on the way, along with the remnants of a chair leg. Reach isn’t required, but it damn sure helps. There’s another door to this place. Don’t need x-ray vision to know that. One that’s frequently left ajar to facilitate quick entry and exit for goods and ‘victims.’ No, I didn’t snoop (though I did verify), I just asked.
By the time they hear me coming, I’m on them. Bruce and the Robins weren’t the only ones who learned to move silently when needed. The chair leg is more distraction than weapon. Throw full force at the door I’d just come in through, wheels them around. A scared trigger finger is even worse than an itchy one. The first spray of bullets brings another, in the wrong direction and covers up the sounds I do make as I start to pick them off from the end down. Fists. Bat. Knees. Rifle stock, when I yank one from a hand, and then send it right back up into a nose. This is better. A more satisfying rhythm, that doesn’t last nearly as long as they lead you to believe in the movies that it would.
Only someone stupid and careless lets a fight drag on. Or maybe if you’re proving a point. The longer this went, the more likely I was to get hurt. Or someone else. By the time I push through that door he’d warned me about, I’m rolling my shoulders like they’re finally now loose.
“Thanks for the tip, big guy.”
Clearly the saucy grin and the winking weren’t only the purview of Dinah Lance pretending to be a sultry frontlady.
“Now. Are you going to share the reason for your grumpy face, or are we just going to talk about me?”
Conner: “He did. He asked Wonder Woman to keep me out of the City.” There’s a definitive nod of the head which suggests that’s exactly what happened, because Cassie said so. If I were going to say anything more? I would have to wait for Dinah to finish with what she’s doing.
And I do just that. Wait. Right where I’m at. The grumbling, groaning, mafia types on the floor all around? Well they’re getting to see me working with one of the compartments on the suit. Normally there’s an iPod stored there for various flavors of mood. A little Rob Zombie when it’s time to fight. A little something saucier for when it’s naughty times with a certain Cheerleader. Right now though, I’m running through the list of songs that I’d given to Kyle. Dinah’s greatest hits, which seem to be lacking due to a missing sort of Bruce Lee montage song. Oh, well. She’s being given a theme song of her very own right now: Battle Born, Five Finger Death Punch.
No, it’s not like Rocky Balboa’s theme song but that’s not what this all feels like. This is something else. I’m not even sure these ‘Bad Guys’ realize they have no chance at all. They sure seem to put up the effort, but maybe it’s their part in going through the motions? I’m not sure. All I know is that there is a certainty to this, that is playing out like some sort of preordained judgment from on high. Even with me playing the part of studious witness, as opposed to being part of the combat. Though, that’s a large part of the bit that is what makes it scary. Dinah is doing this with out being much more than working out.
“Sure, not a problem,” because it wasn’t, I actually wanted to see how she’d handle it. “You’re not using your ability, I had assumed that was just out of respect to this being Gotham, but… you don’t need it. That’s part of how you’ve stayed off the Radar, isn’t it?”
Good question, Dinah. Why am I here? Well, my girlfriend ran off to handle something without me. Something that she probably needs my help with, but can’t risk it because she knows how closely Nowhere monitors me. Which probably wouldn’t be a problem for whatever it is she’s dealing with, but definitely a problem for the people she’s helping. So here I am, trying to do anything but look towards Metropolis. Because if Cassie needed me, she knows how to signal me. So how do I answer that question without being dishonest.
“Well. I had these macaroons and I thought to myself; ‘Self, do I know anyone who would like some of these Macaroons while they’re still fresh?’ Hard to believe, I know, but I thought about you. Don’t let it go to your head, Fishnets. Wonder Woman’s busy.” The first time I’ve moved from the spot that I’ve occupied, is when I draw in closer to the ground where Dinah’s been cleaning house. “It’s been a busy week. I’ve met a guy who was imbued with the blessings of some gods. Had a chit-chat with a Green Lantern, gave him your CD by the way.”
“So. I know a really nice place to eat Macaroons and drink Whiskey, but there’s a lot less people to bludgeon with your fists. I know, tough choice. Interested? Or should I point you towards some more people you can beat senseless? I mean, I’m actually pretty open to both options.”
I mean, it makes sense. I’m not sure that Wonder Woman would have come up with that plan on her own, or really had much of a reason to. When the last Superman was around, I’m not sure that he ever had much of a call to pay us a visit, and that was with a lot more active mayhem going on. Gotham’s been downright sleepy in comparison to the city we know, love, and hate all at the same time around here. She’s a PMSy bitch. Which means he’s probably here to see me, though there’s the possibility it’s just because someone said he shouldn’t. No. Couldn’t. Not words that I imagine ever play out well with this guy. Back in the room where we began this little conversation again, my eyes flick over the collection of unconscious or unable to move men. Just to be sure.
Of all the things I thought he might have to say about what he just watched, I guess that wasn’t what I was expecting and I let out a short, surprised laugh before I shake my head.
“I didn’t need to, I usually don’t. I suppose it might be. Not trying to be evasive, I just hadn’t really thought about it that way. It’s been a long time since I went full volume.” Implying that what he’d experienced was not the upper limit of what I can actually do. “Too much collateral damage. Too flashy.”
Yes, I’ve made myself smirk, and I do actually look down at my chest, or more appropriately what my corset-like uniform does to it, and what the entire ensemble actually exposes. Then I shrug, like ‘ah well, what are you going to do?’ But I’m probably the least gimmick or technologically flashy person in the city. I don’t usually bring weapons, though I’m able to use them, I don’t cart out millions of dollars in tech that makes me enhances like I was a meta. I’m the only meta in the crew, and I happen to also be the most honestly bare knuckled fighter in the city.
The million dollar question though, is why is he here. We’ve cycled back to me, but is this just checking up or is this something else? My eyebrow lifts slowly at the mention of macarons. You might not think someone with a training regimen like me would like that kind of thing but, boy. Do I. Almost as much as I like to drink, though I don’t think he had any real way of knowing about the training. Or the tastes. So he had them and something fell through, or he just assumes that works on all the ladies. He’s probably not actually wrong. The eyebrow just keeps on climbing as he relates his week, and his new acquaintances.
“…well, that makes me sound downright boring in comparison. I’m not sure if my ego can take that. Really taking this manager thing you wanted to do seriously, huh?”
There’s another shake of my head, as I turn my back on him to survey the carnage I caused once again. That’s a message in and of itself, isn’t it? I’m pretty aware that if he wanted to put me down, he could make a pretty good shot at it whether I’m facing him or not. Or maybe it could be some sort of show of a start of trust. Whichever works better in the moment.
“This was about making a point, and I made my point. So either they’re going to cut back on roughing up the ladies in the area, or they’re going to be more subtle about it. But. Whiskey. That’s a magic word. A really, nice place? I know a hole in the wall where we could do that and also maybe give me people to punch, but that’s my place, and that’d be awful forward of me. I mean. It is only our second date. But I’m not picky about where I have liquor and cookies.”
I’m teasing. Obviously. Except not about the liquor and cookies.
Conner: “Oh, come on. You knew the Bat didn’t want me in Gotham, didn’t you? It doesn’t even bother me. I’m starting to catch on that I’m literally the last person to know a lot of this stuff.”
Which goes hand-in-hand with some things I’ve just learned about Dinah Lance. She isn’t just some nameless singer, who could have been more but chose not to be. This woman is a certified Bad Ass and I happen to know a couple of Bad Asses. Capital B, Capital A. The girls at the Project are nothing to be sneezed at, yet I’m getting a distinct feeling that without powers? They might not last more than a few rounds with this ‘No Name, Singer.’ How blind have I been? How in the dark have I been kept, because of who I am and what I’m working with?
Too much collateral damage, I can relate too, but the bit about flashy? That’s something I’m not sure about. I mean, I came out as Superman, alongside Cassie as Wonder Woman, intentionally to make a splash. Our uniforms are meant to be flashy, to catch attention and make us media darlings. Mine is patterned off of the original Superman, with distinct differences that I hope set me apart. While her’s is meant to capture the eyes, much like Dinah’s. Just in a little bit more of a tasteful, but empowering way that young women across the world could idolize. Yeah, no joke. I put the Luthor side of my genes to work with our ‘arrival.’ Targeting the Social Media demographic specifically. Flashy isn’t a bad thing.
“You are clearly not exactly who you presented yourself to be, Dinah, but I am. I want to give you a bigger stage. Because there are other ways to be a Hero than…” Arms opening wide to encompass all of the carnage we’re surrounded by. “… do you have any idea how many people would buy your music, to hear your message? You just throttled these guys to save what? A handful of ladies in the area. You could empower more …”
“Honestly, I didn’t come here to try to rehash,” finally lowering down so that I’m hovering just a couple inches above the ground, with a hand offered out to Dinah in invitation for her to accept a ‘lift.’ “Normally, I’m the one being forward. You’re a hundred and thirty pounds of temptation, wrapped in a deadly package of ear-drum ripping pleasantries. Now if you’re done beating up helpless members of the Gotham, Mafia? Gotham’s police department is already on their way. If we give them a photo op of you with Superman? Bat Leader is probably going to be very upset with you.”
Actually, I don’t really need her to take my hand but the gesture is about choice. As in the choice I’m leaving entirely up to her this time. Last time I didn’t leave her with a choice, because she barely left me functional at all. This is about differences, change and growth isn’t it? It also happens to be about the way that I look at her, but this time it’s without looking at her entirely. Besides the momentary stolen glance, but I don’t think anyone could avoid that. Not members of the Mafia, certainly not sixteen year old boys with super-hormones.
When we depart, whether she’s coming with me or not, I’m going straight out the way I came. Then up, up and away from the City Streets. Though not nearly as far from here as she might think. In fact, if she can get past the disorienting sensation of flight and speed, she’ll recognize our destination. Considering that it’s the roof top of her Bar and Apartment.
Dinah: Lifting a hand, covered in finger-less gloves, I waggle one finger back and forth at him.
“Assumed? Yes. A logical assumption, I might add. Gotham is his, and he’s historically a little ornery about newcomers on the turf. Especially powered newcomers. Knewbecause someone personally told me? Nah, not really.”
In a way, a fight isn’t a whole lot different than singing a song. Maybe that’s why they’ve both been such easy things for me to do and train in. Outside of the dedication factor. You have to watch your breathing. Build up your stamina and lung capacity if you want to get those high notes, pace the low ones to still have power. There also needs to be a build. Variety. If you do nothing but perform at 11 all of the time, you get predictable. You get boring. Maybe in a way, it was conscious here in Gotham to not use my powers. I’m not actually entirely sure that Spoiler even knows that I have them, except through rumor. The insurance policy that I’ve got to fall back on, when fists and feet aren’t quite going to be enough to do the job.
“Well. Neither were you at first. I doubt you let much of anyone in on who’s really behind your masks.”
Yes. Plural. It didn’t take much to realize he had more than one the last time that we spoke. He’s put on someone else’s tights, not unlike someone else that’s near and dear to me, and with that wardrobe choice comes a name and a symbol to live up to. I suppose they have an awful lot in common, more than they each probably realize about their friend. Because the money, the name, the earthly power that comes with those things wasn’t exactly who they were born as.
I fill in helpfully, with a wry grin that’s threatening to twitch up into a much more fullscale version. I rein it in, though, mostly to reach up and take the offer Super-hand, and the offer of a lift, because he’s right about a number of things here.
“And we don’t want Batleader to be upset, but I’m basically never done beating up Gotham’s assortment of bottom-feeding assholes. They can wait. I appreciate what you’re angling about, I really do. But this? Is what I do. By choice, even. And I’m doing an entirely different kind of empowering than vocals that really speak to a soul. The band is…about as much exercise as what you just saw, for me.”
Funny enough, he knows me as a singer, that he stumbled upon …being me. I’d wager most of my ‘family’ doesn’t actually even realize I’m in a band, let alone that I can, and like to, sing. I learn, or maybe relearn quickly, that I still don’t particularly enjoy the sensation of flight. More to do with moving quickly and not being the one in control of it than a matter of heights. I prefer the ground and being the one in the driver’s seat. It’s definitely a different view than what you get except on a street map. Still. Once we get close, I have a pretty good guess that we are, in fact, going back to Pretty Bird’s. My place.
“Ah, home sweet home. Hope you like your whiskey cheap, because that’s mostly what we have up in here.”
Dinah Lance. Purveyor of booze to underage superheroes everywhere.
Conner: “It won’t matter, Dinah,” comes the soft response that lacks any real bite other than the shrug. “Right before I met Wonder Woman the first time, I discovered that I am extremely resistant to the effects of liquor from this world. The only thing I’ve ever had that even gave me a buzz, was a drink called a starfire.”
Once we’ve touched down, I’m actually much more the gentleman than I’d even hinted at being the last time we met. Allowing her to part from me without even getting handsy. Flying with me is a lot different than it would have been with the original Superman. My tactile telekinesis spreads around those in my protection, shielding them from the blistering effect of friction at the speeds we travel. Letting in only enough of a breeze that I’m treated to a wind tussled look of her hair. Cassie loves flying, because it’s a symbol of freedom in expressing her powers, but for me? It’s a tool. No different than a car, getting me from point A to point B as quickly as possible most of the time. A little slower when I have a passenger.
The macaroons were a real thing. Of the two boxes I’ve purchased, one whole box is offered to Canary before she goes for the booze. “Mm. I understand that this is what you’re doing right now. You’ve found a niche, people who are like minded. This is where you felt safe. It’s where you had me take you after what happened before. But. Are you keeping it small because you don’t think you could do something more, something bigger? Or is it because you don’t want to do something bigger?”
“I’m not picking on you or trying to convince you this time. Actually, I’m trying to understand you. I just saw you tear through a small battalion of crooks, for exercise. You could take on so much more, but you’re holding back.” Opening a hand out towards the open sky. “Wonder Woman keeps trying to tell me that I have all these powers, that it’s my responsibility to use them. To make this world a better place. She’s right. I could, I can, but just because I can doesn’t mean I should. Which, funny enough, is also something that she tells me all the time.”
“How do -you- decide what is enough?”
Clearly this is a deeper discussion than we had before. Leading one to wonder why it is that we’re even having it or why I’d be having it with Dinah Lance. At just about the moment when you might be wondering those things though, I’ve got something else to say. “Before you answer, I want you to know. You’re right. We don’t let many people past the ‘Masks.’ At least, I don’t. She doesn’t really have two masks. Me? Superman. Conner Luthor. I’m not sure which of them I am or if I’m either of them. ‘Conner’ was created by a virtual reality to teach me about Humanity, Values and stuff like that. I used it to blend in and be with Wonder Woman. Superman, was someone else of course. I was created to replace him, so I have.”
“Really, I mean it. I’m not sure which of them or if either of them are real. I’m trying to work that out, because if I don’t know who I really am? How can anyone else know who I am.” Clearing my throat, throwing her another quick look. “Go grab your booze. You can’t invite me in. Your room mate might be home any minute.”
Dinah: “From this world? Well, now you’ve got me all kinds of intrigued.”
I take the rather elegant looking box of macarons from him, eyes flicking over the packaging as I head for the set of stairs that leads down to my apartment’s landing positioned on the back of the bar’s exterior. Definitely doesn’t look like the kind you get from the freezer section at your local grocery store, not that my local grocery store here would be likely to carry them at all. Maybe he actually got them ‘at the source,’ I mean. He’s Superman. It’d take him what, fifteen minutes? With most of that time being picking out the confections and then paying for them. There’s another short little bark of laughter at him telling me what I ‘can’t’ do, but it’s more the mental picture than any real rebellion at his words.
“Unlikely, but boy. That’d be awkward.”
I’ve not ignored the rest of what he said, or the questions that he asked me, they’re just going to wait until I’m back up top and can dedicate full attention to them. I really do only have cheap stuff in my apartment, and when you can’t get drunk what is the point of drinking awful whiskey? That stuff has you chasing effect more than taste. If I’d known I was having extra company maybe I would have not finished off that thousand dollar bottle I drank on Halloween. Oops. As far as reservations about serving hard liquor to minors? If you’re old enough to put on a mask and put people down with extreme prejudice? You’re old enough to drink. My lazy pass through my small apartment has me shrugging out of the leather jacket I’d been wearing, and claiming an oversized and stretched out sweatshirt that says GCPD on the chest, and fits more like a mini-dress than something meant to provide warmth. Hair’s piled up on my head in a bun, as I locate the first bottle I can get my hands on, and a pair of tumblers. Casual Dinah achieved, if still wearing the fishnets and boots, I make the climb back up the staircase again to the roof.
“That’s kind of a heavy question there, Superman. And not actually one with a simple, flippant answer, either. What’s enough? That depends. On what’s important to you. On what is going to be the best tool to get done what you need in a given situation. Looking just at tonight, I didn’t need to use any other advantage than what I got through a lot of training. Pretty sure you don’t have to use that heat vision of yours to save kittens from trees. Or all those stacks of fat Luthor cash. Kittens only need flight, and some super tough skin for when they claw the shit out of you, because they don’t understand you’re trying to help.
Sitting my half covered ass on the edge of the short wall that surrounds the top of my building, I pour a more the generous amount of booze into one glass, then a normal sized amount into the second which, after a moment and a shrug of my own, I fill the rest of the way up again. The second tumbler claimed for myself, and a generous drink taken before I start to dig into the cookies.
“I know you don’t think I’m doing enough with what you thought I was capable of. And that was before you had a little better idea of what I’m actually capable of. I won’t even deny that I could probably be doing a lot more. I mean, I’m pretty damn charming, and stubborn on top of that. I put on the ‘Canary Suit’ for the first time when I was fourteen.” It looked a bit different then, mind you. My exhibitionism has gotten more….noticeable as I’ve gotten older. “The only thing that’s really going to teach you ‘what’s enough’ is experience. What I’m doing right now? Is actually a little back-seat for me, but it’s important to me, too. More important than any band or fame is every going to be.”
Conner: Waiting upon the rooftop for the Black Canary to return is the least adventurous thing I’ve done all day. What a day it has been, let me tell you. Between the visit to Fawcett City. The fight with Cassie at the Library, which was followed by making up with her a bit later. Preceded by a whole visit with ‘Momma Sandsmark’ and the Vault of Mystical Whatsit. That then became a quick trip to Italy, for some dinner food. Only for us to be finishing that up when she got the call that drug her away on whatever adventure she’s having without me. This one I’m in the dark about, because apparently she wanted macaroons. Go figure.
As I wait for her, I watch the city. Habits die hard, I suppose. I’ve been doing this for a ‘long time,’ in the grand scheme of my four year old life. Most of it, actually, has been spent watching the world for threats. Admittedly that watchful eye has recently gotten a little bit of a refined look. A little less searching for Nowhere and a little more searching for people who need help. Cassie is proud of that chance, but I’m still having trouble working through the true difference.
“In a bottle I’m aware that we need to do exactly what is required to get the job done. Whatever that job may be, setting the amount of effort requires. That’s the easy part to get. No offense, Canary, but that was one of the first things I learned. And it’s the lesson that put me on the search for a Wonder Woman in the first place. A guy like me can’t apply the same amount of effort on someone like you, as they can with someone like her. I wouldn’t want to kill you, even if it was the best sex you were ever even capable of experiencing.”
“What I’m having a problem with is the … existential effort, I suppose.” Looking from the City, to the box of Franch-bought macaroons to the glass of Whiskey she’s offered me for the taking. “Wondy has these big ideas, but… I’m not sure we have the same ideas. I’m not sure I want my whole life being for other people. The problem is, I recognize that’s a selfish whim. But if the Black Canary can be selfish, then why can I?”
Head canting slightly, curious but not to such a point as wanting to derail the other discussion. “One of the people I work with? She’s a Martian. There’s this blue drink she makes. I call it Martian Rum, because two drinks of it and I’m talking like a pirate.”
Dinah: “None taken. I think. Except the whole ‘best sex I’m capable of experiencing’ part. That might have been a little offensive. Tough break, kid. Kind of severely limits your playmate options.”
But my tone, demeanor, and expression all say that I’m not in the least. Offended, that is. He’s also just told me something that I find really interesting. Maybe even relate-able, though not on the exact same terms. He sought out Wonder Woman, because she could handle him. Physically. You could either view that as a sort of sad need for companionship, or the pragmatic angle of he might crush any partners if he’s not careful. I suppose it’s the same for her. I wonder if he had any idea of what he was actually getting himself into, though. Last time we spoke, it was made very clear that physically was not the only way she could handle him. Maybe not even the most important way to him, and since this is a teenage boy we’re talking about…?
Jesus. Wonder Woman, Batman and Superman are a pack of teenagers. What a world. All things considered? Things could be going a whole lot worse than they are currently. None of them are exactly normal teenagers though, and I don’t mean because of the titles and capes.
“You know it’s probably okay if you don’t, right? Think exactly the same way she does. You’ll work out a balance eventually, between what you want, and what others want for you. It may just take a proverbial crisis of ‘faith’ to get you there. Or. You know. Growing up a bit.”
Not that I’m a whole lot older than them, but I sure feel it sometimes. Where I can appreciate the gravity of asking someone who hasn’t even finished maturing physically, emotionally, or mentally to shoulder the kind of burdens that they are. Drawing my legs up, I adjust my posture to a cross legged one, balancing my glass on a knee after taking another swing.
“Once upon a time, I knew a girl who was pretty dead set on doing things her way, and only her way. Took a lot of help from some really pushy friends, with opinions and ideas she didn’t agree with up front, to get her to see that there’s good out here, and that it’s worth protecting. Even if it sometimes means not so much drugs, sex and rock ‘n’ roll.”
Conner: The macaroons aren’t that bad. I’m not sure why Cassie wanted them though. Actually, scratch that. It’s confectionery. Which is reason enough all on it’s own. These just happen to also be from France. So I have to assume she sent me there for the time aspect. Probably the first thing she could think of. Good thing she didn’t ask for Siberian Walnuts, they only take shape in the Spring. In Siberia. I’d be waiting all Winter.
“It’s really not. Offensive, I mean. Instead of thinking about this in terms of sex, look at it in terms of fighting. You’re good, hell you’re better than good, Dinah. ( Let’s not revisit the fact you were holding out on me. ) As good as you are though? Someone with Super-Speed, with half of your skill? Would effectively become better than you are even capable of being. Everyone has limits. Your’s, because of being Human, are just different than mine. I’d be happy to demonstrate, but I’m not sure the blow to your ego would be worth proving my point. I find myself liking how cocksure you are.”
One might actually think I was teasing, if they didn’t have historical references to know that the tone of my voice is just about as serious as it ever gets. I’m not trying to be insulting. I just believe that people without the abilities like Cassie and I are… limited. In a lot of ways, but sex is certainly something they’re just not capable of being liberated with. Even older. More experienced. Arguably even more skilled. She is limited by the fact that she is human and therefor she can’t keep up with someone like Cassie or I.
But, I’ve also allowed this to derail me slightly. So I take a quick drink of the liquor and look back to Dinah with renewed seriousness. “Growing up. Heh. We spent the summer looking at colleges. Her biggest worry was not being too far away from her mother. Now she’s sending me to France, to keep me busy so that she can save the world. Meanwhile, I’m sitting on a rooftop in the worst place in the world. Drinking terrible whiskey, trying not to look through the most beautiful human in the world’s costume. Seeking life-advice from someone that I just watched beating a gaggle of men to within an inch of their lives with a baseball bat and a smile.”
“You are right though. There is good out there and it’s worth protecting.” Fixing her with a sidelong look. “You think I’m here just for advice? I haven’t given up on saving you, Dinah.”
Dinah: “Speed and strength aren’t everything, though. And I’ve found that people that have one or both as far as an edge goes, have a tendency to underestimate their opponents.”
And I’ve studied multiple different fighting forms that are centered upon dealing with people like that, or alternately just punishing them for their arrogance. Could this guy right here, sharing shitty alcohol and fancy French cookies with me turn me into paste before I even knew he was there? Yes, probably he could. I know that, accept it even. It doesn’t mean that if I had a cause to, I wouldn’t fight him anyway though. I find myself laughing again, shaking blonde head at him before I nibble on another delicate confection.
“Oh, honey. There’s not enough demonstration in the world to do that. I may actually give yours a run for its money.”
Doesn’t matter that dumb ol’ Dick caught me off guard and knocked me out like. Yesterday. I’m still sitting here having a conversation while deciding how I’d go about fighting Superman. Besides. Only one of us has ever made the Man of Steel bleed. And it’s not Grayson. Not really a feat I’m actually that proud of, but he thought he was teaching me a lesson in fighting dirty. I still feel a little bit bad for what I’d done to Conner. Especially with what I know now. But cornered? I’d still do it again.
“What changed, the costume? The name?” I guess that timing would line up. “Maybe she’s trying to figure out what’s important to her, too. With the added responsibility of having a lot of someone’s looking up to her to be an example in mix.”
I didn’t care what Damien, or Tim, even Dick though he was older, thought of me when I was figuring my shit out. I barely cared what Bruce thought either, but he had a way of interjecting that just the same. I’d say I was a lot more Conner than Cassie, except that neither really makes a good comparison. I knew what I was after. What I needed to do. I’m not fully sure that he does. And that might be why he’s here, talking to someone he barely knows, about this in the first place.
“Gotham is the worst, and this whiskey is terrible. And it looks every bit as incredible under here as you probably imagine it does. Or so I’ve been told. And they were mafia. Important distinction. Usually someone has to deserve it to get that kind of attention from me. I will admit, tonight I was basically spoiling for an excuse. Didn’t want to feel rusty.”
I spend a moment, after another drink, and another cookie, looking up at the sky above us. It’s definitely the only good view from my roof. Straight up. Before I let my head loll over towards one shoulder and look at him again.
“And for the whiskey, obviously. I met my demon when I was fourteen, Conner. I slayed it already, and I spent the last couple years sorting out what I wanted to do from there. Right now? I’m doing what I need to be doing. Where I need to be doing it. And when I’m done with that? Well. I suppose we’ll have to see.”
Conner: “Speed and strength are not everything. I’ve met people who are faster, people who are stronger. More than one who was more durable. I’ve met some with greater power than I have. But, the insurmountable fact remains. If you take someone who can move at the speed of sound and give them half of your skill? You would lose far more often than you would win. The same is true for human limitations in other realms.” Lifting the glass, I point with a stray finger toward the city she calls home. “I know it’s hard to swallow. Because you’ve worked hard to be as good as you are. But, I’ve seen you do the math. I saw it first hand. Sometimes being limited by who or what we are sucks, but we can’t escape the reality of it.”
One thin brow raises slightly, before I lift that glass back to my lips and enjoy the taste of pig swill. That’s really all this is and I’m once more left wondering who in the world drinks this stuff for the actual taste of it? I have to imagine that no one really does. That they start out that way, but by the time their mind catches up to the fact that this slop is killing their taste buds, it’s too late. They’re drunk. Singing Y.M.C.A. and dancing on bar tops. ( Hrm. Does Dinah dance on bar tops? )
“Tim happened,” it sounds funny, I know, but it’s really the truth. “A friend of mine. Sort of my only friend. His Father passed away. He had to leave. So no one was around to talk me out of taking the Superman and Wonder Woman show on the road. He would have talked me out of it. He hates Capes. Every time it’s come up before, he’s always talked me out of it in the past.”
“F.Y.I. I don’t really have to imagine. Spoiler Alert: X-Ray Vision has it’s perks. Not just seeing through walls, to armed men meaning to do hot young damsels harm.” The shrug isn’t meant to be an act of shirking off the topic, so much as shifting from one aspect of it to the other. “Spoiling for an excuse, eh. Why did you need an excuse? You know I’ve seen through the act by this point. You were out there braining those guys, to let off steam. Sure. But you picked those guys. Specifically those mafia goons. Because of what they were doing. What they were responsible for.”
“So. That kind of brings me back to the original question, albeit rephrased. Why did you need an excuse? With the things you can do, the skills you have. Why aren’t you just doing it? Making the world a better place, I mean.” Swirling the drink in the glass, while looking away from her and down to it instead. “Or maybe you are doing that, huh? After all. You see, I came here to talk to you for a reason. Maybe I was seeking some answers and thought you’d be a good sounding board. Or…”
“Maybe, I didn’t need to have X-Ray vision to see through you, Dinah Lance. You didn’t run. You had no way to know I wouldn’t lose my shit and bring that place down on their heads. You were willing to give your life to save every man, woman and child at that Night Club. You turned down potential fame and fortune. You’ve set aside the pursuit of material needs.” Placing the glass down on the opposite side of myself from her, on the ledge of the building’s roof. “I believe you, Dinah. I believe you’re right where you need to be. Doing what you need to be doing.”
“Though, I also believe you’re meant for something more. There’s a storm brewing, Dinah and people like us? We’re going to be on the front lines whether we want to be or not. It isn’t even a question of whether we’re going to be there or not, but when it’s going to hit and how it’s going to surge. Wonder Woman is out there. Pulling people together. Getting friends. She’s got plans. I think you have friends too. Friends with plans. I’ve been doing the math. Nothing else makes sense to me, for you to have been in Metropolis. For you to call me out. Then to take me down like that.”
“I thought, at first, that it was some sort of underground railroad. Wonder Woman denied that existing. Right after promising me not to lie to me again. So if there’s no underground railroad for Metas. Then your trip to Metropolis, on the same day as her trip to Fawcett City. You getting my attention, while she was out finding more friends. Her keeping me out of Gotham, at Batman’s behest. You saying this was the safest place for me to take you.” Reaching over with my free hand, carefully touching her fishnet covered knee. “Don’t. You’re going to have to confirm what I think or lie to me again. I’m not sure I’m ready for anyone to lie to me again. So just nod, smile and continue looking beautiful.”
DInah: Dinah does, in fact, dance on bar tops. Sometimes while singing. Though it’s not YMCA, and it’s been a while since I’ve gone all Coyote Ugly downstairs. But that’s not actually what we’re talking about, and I don’t do it while drunk, either. Though that is what the cheap crap is mostly good for. Really. I’m regretting the bottle at Wayne Manor. It makes this stuff a little more awful by comparison. Ollie always had the good stuff, too. The actual topic is how I think he’s gotten the impression that it bothers me that there’s someone out there that could beat me. I know there is. And it actually doesn’t bother me in the least.
“But you may still win. Having those advantages doesn’t mean people know how to use them, or use them best. Like how you thought I was woefully underselling my potential by ‘just’ being a singer in a band that does a show maybe once every six months. I’ve fought, and lost, to better fighters than me before. Some of them without powers. One of them’s been training me since I was six. Another one got himself killed. I know people that have everything, but their head in the game, and it’ll probably get them killed, too. Who, and what we are, is never a limit, Conner. It’s not some reality to escape. You just have to know how to work with what you’ve got, and the will to do it, even if you factor in knowing that sometimes? The universe is an epicly unfair bitch.”
Tim, Dick, Damien. They’ve got the training. The gear. The money. The brains, and the on the ground training and experience. I still worry it’s not going to be enough if their hearts aren’t in it. And that isn’t something I can drill into their muscles for them. I realize, then, that he’s talking about Tim. His friend. Only friend. Like this is someone I don’t know. Which tells me that Superman here did an X-ray exam of my apartment, saw the hide-a-way- bed made up, and the bags and clothes that were clearly not mine.
“He talked you out of using your superpowers for good? As in he knew about them, or are you speaking in a more general sense of putting your advantages to use?”
Now, I know Tim knows he has them. The superpowers. I just didn’t think that Conner knew that Tim knows. Tilting my head with a smirk, I’m picking out another macaron, aiming for a different flavor each time.
“You said you were trying not to, so I assumed. I don’t mind, except the part where you called me a damsel again. My roommate can’t help looking either. I have that effect. It’s part of the reason for the costume, such as it is. And I guess I didn’t really need an excuse. I’ve just been focusing my attentions on other things than going out and picking up on random acts of violence. I’ve been chasing a more specific rabbit lately, and then Ivanescu’s aren’t actually it. They’re smaller fry, right now at least, that were trying to get ballsy.”
Maybe excuse was a bad word. I just feel like my priorities should be elsewhere right now. Huh. Maybe that’s the ‘problem.’ A thought which requires another sip of whisky, before I’m open about it. I don’t know why, I mean. I know who this guy is, who he works for, and there’s a lot of reasons not to be. But I also have gotten a better sense than I think he even knows, of what he’s trying to be. He may not know it yet, but he’s making his start and as he said.. he probably doesn’t have anyone else to talk to about it, besides the woman that popped his eardrums for him. I get complimented, and sworn at, for telling people what what they need to hear. It’s kind of my thing.
“Because right now, me feeding mobsters their teeth is a lot less important than making sure other people can do it without getting hurt. Or dead. I happen to like feeding mobsters their teeth, but right now it’s not about what I want.”
And. Another gulp of my liquor, big enough to require tipping my head back a little, before I swirl what very little is left in it, watching the liquid move and spin in the glass.
“Here’s the thing, Supes. I lost everything. And I mean everything that mattered to me a long time ago. And while I found new things? Not everyone gets that shot. I’m not ever going to be able to just stand by and watch that happen to someone else. My cohorts, by and large I think, feel the same way.”
No, I’m not going to smile and nod, but I’m also not going to lie to him either. I am beautiful either way.
“Your girlfriend didn’t actually lie to you. There really is no meta-railroad here. Unless you count the fact that Batman and Company usually railroad metas out of Gotham. I was born here. Even I got ‘politely’ asked to leave. I’ve been living in Star City for the last few years, I only just came back.”
Nothing he couldn’t figure out with a little googling, so not exactly much in the way of ‘sensitive personal information’ there. Looking at his hand for a moment, before I set my own down on it in a little bit of an awkward pat.
“But not being especially tolerant of metas in Gotham, doesn’t mean that Red Leader doesn’t see the value, and necessity, in cooperation with the ones outside of it. Even if that means a little sleight of hand, distractionary tactics and trickery. Because something big is coming.”
Conner: “I’m not sure that’s accurate. At all. Because who and what we are? Is almost always it’s own limitation. Is that fair? No, of course not. Being unfair, doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t true. I’m limited by being Alien. I’m limited by being the Son of a Luthor. Limited again by being a Clone. Limited even more by being a product of Nowhere. Just because you’re limited because you’re Human, isn’t an insult Dinah. It’s just who you are. You should take solace in knowing you’re an amazingly gifted, well endowed, beautiful Human. You have more going for you than most.”
There’s a moment in there, when I started to smirk. Everything I said is true, as I see it and believe it to be, but I’m still teasing her. Normally she’s the one doing the teasing, I can see that from a mile away. She likes being in control, being the one in the driver’s seat. Having someone else be the one teasing her? Is probably a change up she doesn’t normally enjoy.
“The latter. You probably wouldn’t like him but he’s a good guy. Rich. Introverted. Nerdy. Broods a lot. As much as he seems not your type, a lot of things about you is the opposite of the way it seems.” Again with the smirk, but talking about Tim is a different type of teasing entirely for me. “He’s one of the only people that knows what I can do. He’s super smart, so he figured it out when I made like six thousand shots in a row at basketball practice. It was -before- I became Superman, so there really wasn’t a secret identity to keep at the time. Y’know?”
“Anyway. He’s got a thing about Capes. Every time I talked with him about the things my girlfriend wanted to do? He’d talk me out of it. I forget what he called it, but he likened it to Newton’s Law of Equal and Opposite. Coming out as a Hero, would inevitably mean that someone of equal power would rise up to oppose me. He told me more than once that I was actually saving the world, every time I -didn’t- use my powers. His Father was a big meta-activist, I think. I don’t really know, we never really got to deeply in to it. Because he’d eventually get to the part where he was lecturing me about ‘Cheating’ with my powers. I think he thought I was using them to ‘Gain Something,’ but my girlfriend thinks showboating is turn down and my interest level in Girls that are probably going to explode during sex? Is remarkably limited. So he was worried about a whole lot of nothing.
“Like the whole trying not too. I -tried- not to look, but at a certain point here? C’mon. Who wouldn’t look at you naked if they could? Am I right?” There. More teasing. Playful, but light. There’s something she says though that tips me away from playful, to something more serious. “Doing the right thing, even if it’s not the thing you want? Is selfless. In and of itself, that’s a heroic act. But. My conundrum.. and maybe your’s too… is that I’m not sure doing the right thing is really the right thing.”
“I mean. I saw you tonight, obviously. What if -you- are the right person for the Job, Dinah? Sometimes the best player should be in the game, while the others practice and work on being better. Look,” again my hands goes out across the city, but this time there’s a real sense of ‘No, really, look out there.’ “I think this hive of scum and villainy, is a little safer because Dinah Lance was out there kicking ass tonight.”
“The right thing to do is tell you I’m sorry for your loss,” reaching over to pick back up the drink I had set aside, but instead of tipping it back I offer it out in a sort of toast to her. “But those losses are what made you who you are. Which happens to be a kick ass, semi-good lounge singer, with a crazy right hook and the best set of … yams… I’ve ever seen.”
Another look over that city I keep pointing her too, before I turn and look down at the hand she’s touched. I’m quick. Faster than most who aren’t named Wally West can even see. Catching her hand before she retreats is child’s play. “Something big is coming. Very big. Wonder Woman is putting together a group. They’re going to oppose the people that created me. She’s keeping me out of the loop because I can’t be… trusted. I mean, she can trust me, but she can’t trust the people who made me not to ‘cheat’ and get everything out of my head or out of this suit or any number of things they could do.”
“When it happens. It isn’t going to be contained to Metropolis. It’s going to effect everything. Everywhere. If she pulls it off, it is going to be Great, but if she doesn’t? It’s going to get worse, Dinah. A lot worse. So very much worse. My Father will rain ten different kinds of hell on people like us. People like -you-. He’ll convince the world people like you are the bad guys too. He controls the narrative.”
“And. He controls me too. You’re a smart cookie, right? You’re smart enough to know he wouldn’t put a Superman out in the world without an insurance policy.” Squeezing her hand just a bit, enough to highlight how much control over my powers that I have. Fine control, if I’m able to do this without hurting her. “When that happens. Someone is going to have to put me down. How long can you hold that note, you did in my ear?”
Dinah: It’s a point we’re not really going to come to agree on, but we’re also coming at it from different sides of the fence. Even though technically I suppose I’d be on his side of it, in the meta-yard but mostly I operate among people who don’t have powers, and I don’t always use mine. I’ve got everything going for me, with the exception of super strength, speed, flight… I can’t turn water to ice, or make myself invisible. But I’ve never needed any of those things, either. His description of Tim has my mouth tugging up at the corner in a bit of a smirk of my own, and we’ll pretend it’s because he’s trying to tease me. Though it’s also for what he has to say about the guy.
“Well, he just sounds awful. The only thing that could possibly make him less my type is if he were in to computers. I enjoy an asshole. Nothing more fun for me than knocking them down a peg or four. Maybe making them cry a little… but he wasn’t wrong about the Equal and Opposite part. It’s why Batman keeps the metas out of Gotham. We’ve got enough whack-a-doo problems without someone deciding they have to up the ante on destructive forces, because the ‘good guys’ have.”
Millionaires. Pft. Amiright? I seem to keep ending up close to them, just the same. Because apparently superpowers/vigilantism goes hand in hand with money. Seriously. Every single person I’ve ever met with a net worth in the seven digits and up category is a caped and/or masked crimefighter. Coincidence? I think not.
“You’re so right. Wins me a lot of fights, too. People looking at my boobs and not my fists. And I’ll take that compliment. Even agree with it. It’ll be exponentially safer if I manage helping the riff-raff learn to do it as well as I can, though.”
This is probably the truest thing he’s said tonight. No, not the part about all the good stuff about me, or the world being safer because of me, or about how shitty Gotham is. Where he talks about how society says he should tell me he’s sorry. I’m actually pretty impressed that he doesn’t, and that he’s got the insight to see it the way he does. So I lift my own glass and clink it against his, before I throw back what’s left in my tumbler, making a face that’s got more to do with the taste than what we’re talking about.
“They are. I had my meta ability long before then. I knew how to fight long before then, too. The losses were my reason. At first, just a reason to try harder. Then a reason to come out here and vent my spleen on the world. And with a little guidance, they turned into a reason to help others see reason in their own losses.”
Hand holding is… really not my thing. I’m affectionate in different ways, physical isn’t one of them. I don’t even know when the last time I held someone’s hand that wasn’t three was, because babies? Those are a different story than grown men. Well. Mostly grown men, in this case. I can’t help but wonder how much of this he knows because his girlfriend told him, or what he’s pieced together. Guy’s sharp, just doesn’t always draw the exactly correct conclusion with the facts in front of him. He’s not usually very far off, though. And he’s trying to warn me, which I appreciate ego and bluster aside. He really isn’t a bad guy. If this is where he would have gotten to without the influence of his girlfriend? I can’t say. But he’s here now, and that’s what matters. I’d probably be in prison for murder if it wasn’t for Bruce. Or Bruce would have turned me into NOWHERE for it.
“Thirty-two point five seconds.”
Haha, funny joke right, at the end of such a serious warning? No. Really. I’ve tested it. Timed it even.
“I’m told it gets worse the longer something. Or someone. Is in the area of effect.”
Conner: “Wow it’s like you know the guy. He walks around with a laptop in his bag. A phone he stole from Wayne Tech R&D. He used to turn off my porn, with his phone remote.” Let’s not sound -too- aghast there, I’m not trying to tell her all of Tim’s secrets! “Wondy doesn’t think he’s Gay, but I’m pretty sure. That’s okay though. There’s nothing wrong with being Gay. Especially if you’re best friends with someone that’s going to always get the girl anyway.”
Sounds like the Riff-Raff need a school. Somewhere to go where they could learn, practice to be better. That wince on my face? Is because I recognize that I’m actually -thinking- the N.O.W.H.E.R.E. party line. I wonder if that’s how it all started? With the best of intentions. Clearly they did, in fact, pave the way to hell. But, I can’t help but think that Nowhere and Batman have a lot in common too. Sounds like they practiced the same rules, just on a different level. After all, Nowhere doesn’t want Metas or Aliens on this planet. Unless they’re controlled, like Dinah. I’m probably not supposed to be thinking that either.
“I’ve never suffered any losses. Because I’ve never been allowed to have anything to lose. As soon as I got something to lose, I was made aware that acting out of bounds would mean losing it. In a way, Loss is what made me what I am today too. Just not the act of losing it, so much as the fear of doing so. Everything I try to do. Everything I want to do. Has to be measured against the potential for loss. I only have one thing, so if I lose it? I have nothing. It’s a terrible thing to actually know that, Dinah. To really know it, that you are alone in the world. You’ve been allowed to have one thing. For no other reason than to have it taken away, if you do the ‘wrong thing.'”
“Really, I don’t mean to sound like a sad sack, but I feel like I’m in this impossible position sometimes. How the hell is -anything- impossible? I’m a Luthor, that is a Superman. Yet, I’m as stuck with this situation as you stuck behind the scenes. It’s a choice we make. Even if it’s not the choice we want to make.” That’s the moment I finally tip the tumbler back, allowing every drop of the drink to go down the gullet. Without the humility of making a bad face over the bitter-sweetness of it. The glass is placed on the opposite side of me from Dinah. “Thirty -two point five seconds. Hmm.”
“Can you get it closer to forty five? The damage you did to me was bad, but no where near enough to keep me down for any real length of time. Obviously not enough to make me not use brute strength. When you first did it, I could feel it all the way to the core. You burst my ear drums, but for that few seconds you were actively making sound? I couldn’t -think- to defend myself. If you could do it for longer, I wouldn’t be able to -think- to counter attack. If you could keep it going, I don’t believe I’d be able to re-direct my abilities to blocking you or repairing the damage.”
Giving her hand another squeeze, during the strangest portion of our conversation. It feels wrong, but I’m actually trying to encourage her. “Train. Get better. When the time comes. I’m going to hesitate. Because I want to save you. The world might not get another chance. You understand?”
Dinah: “You don’t mess with a dude’s porn. I’m pretty sure, and admittedly I’m no expert, that is bro-code rule number three. So, what you’re saying is it’s like… self-preservation of his ego, because the ladies all want Luthor? Makes sense.”
I’m laughing. No, really. The entire conversation, who’s having it, where we’re having it, and who and what we’re talking about is pretty damn hilarious. I’m not going to tell Superman that his girlfriend is, once again, right. Blue eyes dancing with how amusing this all is to me, and I think it would be even if I didn’t personally know the people involved. It just gets extra funny when you know there’s always a drone hanging around, and while they don’t have communication ability, they can definitely relay sound.
“I can see why that’s a hard thing to work with. Really.” I manage to stifle my almost helpless laughter, because this subject actually is quite serious. “It sucks to even think about letting someone in, if life’s already taught you in spectacularly clear and cruel fashion that connections are just something it’s going to sever for you. Then you do, and you have to worry about what happens to them. You only sound a little like a sad sack. It’s okay. I won’t tell anyone.”
That used to be me, in a nutshell. Hell, maybe it still is, but I like to think I just have more important things to do than serious relationships. The job, which is also a very good reason not to get involved with anyone. And I’m still young. So either I’ve got lots of time or…the job is going to do me in before I get there.
“But. From what you’ve told me about her, and what I’ve seen on the news? I think you didn’t just pick someone that you could have crazy-monkey sex with, without a death by snusnu situation. You picked someone that doesn’t sound like she’s just going to let them take away from you. That’s the trick, I think. Life’s a bitch, and there’s a whole lot more assholes out there than there should be, and having your heart broken? I’d rather have my arms snapped a dozen times. So we pick the people to let in that will fight for us, just as much as they’ll fight for them.” Flicking a finger out at the vague ‘they/it’ that he keeps waving to. “And when we don’t think they’re good enough? Then it’s on us to help them get better.”
He may not be teaching Wonder Woman any moral lessons, but clearly he doesn’t think she needs help in that front. Doesn’t seem to be especially worried that they’re going to sway her compass needle from honest and true to something more nefarious. That may not actually even bother him, as long as he still had her. But physically, if she were off the board. And I’d bet he can teach her a lot about how to fight.
“It’s been about a year since I clocked it the last time. Adrenaline and need can push you harder than any kind of test will really show, too. I understand, Conner. And I will.”
My turn to squeeze his hand, though I sure don’t have to hold back on the gesture like he did. The truth is, when he’d heard me scream I hadn’t been going to full tilt. Not even close. There’d been no need, because his ear was literally an inch from my mouth, and I was only aiming to put him down long enough to get to the sewers. Not to really, really hurt him.
“Guess I better add more heavy rock to my set lists. The band’s really just practice for my vocal chords. Our little secret.”
Conner: “Good. Because, Frankly, I’m not sure there’s a lot of other chances out there. I’m happy to talk about my bad assedness all night, especially when the company I’m keeping has an equally swollen ego, but really. I mean it. They created me to be unstoppable. It doesn’t make sense to me that they’d breed out all the kryptonian defects, without putting something they can exploit in it’s place. I just need to be sure that I know someone is ready to do what Wonder Woman won’t. If they turn me on the world, she’ll fight it. And, she’ll lose. So if it’s me or her, I need someone that will pick Her and make it stick.”
That is why I took hold of Canary’s hand. Though she doesn’t know it, I was subtly shifting that field around me out to encompass her. Through that I could get a feel for her. Attune myself to the rhythm of her heartbeat. The flutter of her eyelashes. Take a real hard look at the facial muscles tensing and moving. Dinah was able to lie, right to my face the first time we met. Then I flew her home. She isn’t aware of it, but when I’m in contact with her she can’t lie. Lately? Everyone lies to me. Then they tell me it’s for my own good or for my protection or because I would maybe let the wrong people know the truth. On this one topic, I needed the truth and now I’m sure Dinah means it. She’ll try to put me down, if she thinks she has too. This woman won’t need a second chance, that she might not ever get.
Strangely? I’m not just okay with that. For the first time all week and especially today? I’m at ease with everything. Almost casually I start to float off the edge of the building. “I agree with what you said before though. We do pick people who will fight for us. It takes a lot for people like us to let our guards down. We don’t trust easily and once we do? We’re all in. We need people who can carry that trust. To make up for the small weaknesses we have or even the weakness -they- are for us.”
At the moment when I am once more hovering there, above her but still close enough to maintain the touch of her hand? “You’re not who I thought you were, Dinah Lance, but I still want to save you. Not from Nowhere. You’re perfectly capable of doing that yourself, I think. Some people don’t need to be rescued, because they’re not damsels in distress. Some of us need saving from even bigger things. The World needs people like the Black Canary, but I realize that I’m not going to get you to come save the world tomorrow. So I’ll start here. With Gotham City.”
“This place? It needs you. I won’t stay out of Gotham, because some ghost sicked my girlfriend on me. I’ll stay out of Gotham, if you ask me too. If you tell me Gotham doesn’t need me. Because it has a protector that -I- trust.” My head cants off to the side, that wolfish smirk has morphed in to a slowly widening grin. “This isn’t a big record deal, Blondie. It’s also not an offer you get to tell me no on.”
“Now. Before I go. I have to confess, I didn’t come just to see you beat people up, drink whiskey and eat cookies. After I dropped you off, I had to communicate with my ‘Handler,’ Doctor Fairchild, about what happened and why I didn’t bring you in. It turns out that you’re not on the Catalog at all. In fact, your grandmother’s arrangement with the original Project, basically make you one of the few Metas in this country with a free pass. But…”
Dinah: “I wouldn’t be doing it for her, but if I had to, I’d still do it.”
I may not know he’s got a build in lie detector, or that he’s checking for any such thing right now, but I’m still putting that out there just so that we’re 100% clear on my motivations. The first time it’d happened, I’d been sent to Gotham as a distraction, and I’d done it because Tim had asked me to, and because he’d told me why it needed to happen. The actual shrieking in his ear had only been because I’d felt cornered and didn’t think I had many other options in that second than to seize it, and bolt before the timing wasn’t as good. Whether I’d agree to do my best, this time, to put Superman down and keep him down, because he asked me to and if you’ve met this guy you know how almost unthinkable that actually is, or because the world and the cause might require it of me is debatable. But the bottom line is that in that hypothetical situation? I wouldn’t hold back next time.
“Speaking of your suit, I assume that means you still haven’t sorted out what to do about it. I’ve asked a friend of mine if they might be able to whip something up. There were a lot of technical words that went over my head said. Bottom line, it’s not ready but… we’re seeing what we can do.”
He’s telling me something serious again, as he’s getting up…levitating… off my roof and taking to the air again. Much less disapproving looking this time. There’s a smirk on my face that says ‘no duh I’m not what you thought I am,’ but I manage to not say that portion out loud.
“Right now? Gotham’s my world. Maybe down the road it won’t be anymore, but It’s got people in it that are looking outside of the city, and you can bet your perfect blue ass that I’m going to be watching theirs. Gotham doesn’t need you. Other places do. So I’d appreciate it if you’d continue to do your saving of citizens elsewhere. But that said? If you need to talk to someone about something you can’t talk to your girl over? You know where to find me.”
I mean it, too. Not just that confirmation that we don’t need his help to sort out our ruffians and crazies, because they’ll only come back stronger and more twisted from something like that. Cockroaches, us Gothamites. But about being available and willing to talk. Maybe next time I’ll even have better booze, but I’m not going to offer that. That is a promise I definitely can’t keep.
“Where I come from, that’s dinner and a show. But I assumed friendly neighborhood NOWHERE checkup was a lot more the reason why you’re here. That sounds like a heavy ‘dun, dun, dun’ there.”
Conner: “I’d be hesitating for you to do it, for her. Maybe a small bit for you. You’re not much, other than a whole lot to look at, but you’re my first.” Once more with the wolfish smirk, that reads more like I’m about to be the cat who ate the Canary, whole. “You’re the first person I really tried to save. Without Wonder Woman being the motivating factor.”
That cocked eyebrow, along with the smirk that’s pretty well become a fixture during this conversation, would lead her to believe that I’m certainly going to let her have the City to herself. Though having her to come talk to? I like that offer. That makes it much more friendly in terms, than a mandated parole visitation. In spite of the fact that I’m here for my own reasons, I dislike the fact that it -is- a mandated visit at this point. We’re going to have to see what we can do about changing that in the future.
“My new friend, the green lantern, is also working on it. With some luck, I’ll be able to be free of the monitoring. Without losing the suit itself. The ‘armor’ portion of the suit aside, it helps me absorb solar radiation in more palatable amounts. While also storing it, so that I can recharge even without the Sun being up and out. The original Big-S had decades to store up solar reserves in his system. Arguably, I’m more powerful, but being more powerful means using more energy. Being younger, far younger, means I have less reserves to call on.”
“Yeah. I know. I’m telling you another of my ‘weaknesses.’ It’s probably because I have to keep talking or I’ll need to leave and I’m not done X-Ray visioning your breasts.” With a half shrug, it’s me that returns the laugh she had at Tim’s expense before. “You’re right again though. It’s a little dun, dun, dun…”
“Alright. So. I just want to apologize. I should have told you this as soon as we were away from prying ears, but I … well.. I didn’t lie to you either. I’m a little selfish and I needed advice from someone that doesn’t -really- have a horse in the race, so to speak. The reason I’m here… officially… is to let you know. Oliver Queen has been taken in to custody by the D.E.O. His assets have been frozen. He is being charged with a slew of offenses. Too numerous to even name. They literally abbreviated half of them on the official forms. For the time being this is being kept out of the Press, but that’s not going to last long. I suspect they’re waiting. To make a big splash that counters a lot of what Wonder Woman is doing.”
“When I was looking in to you, Dinah. Queen’s name came up a lot. I can’t help but think, that since you’re ‘Off Limits,’ this Queen fellow is being punished to send a message to you.”
DInah: “Gee. You know just what to say to a gal to make her want to simultaneously coo and punch you in the nuts, don’tcha? If I had many girlfriends I might go brag about being the one who popped Superman’s cherry, though.”
The smirk says he knows it, too. That maybe it was a little intentional, or a lot intentional, but my snort of laughter says that I’m not actually likely to do either one of those things right now. All kidding and ribbing aside, though, I can see why that might be important to him. To look out for something that was his first ever, real honest attempt to do something ‘right.’ I might feel bad, except he already figured out that I was there with an agenda. Doesn’t really change what he’d done either way, though.
“Look at you, making new friends. Wait. Green Lantern?”
That might be the first time I look even vaguely alarmed the whole night, and a room full of automatic weapons hadn’t even phased me earlier. I think the whole world knows what the Green Lantern was responsible for in Coast City. Now he’s back? Or is this a continuing trend of new Superheroes taking up old names? Of the ones that I know from Tim’s files, that they’ve been speaking to? Wonder Woman is the only one that isn’t a Second of Her Name kind of situation. An interesting fact, and I sure hope they can spin it so the Children aren’t responsible for the Sins of their proverbial Fathers.
“Since I can’t blot out the sun, I don’t think it’s one I’m going to be able to act on. You’re probably safe.”
I have the good grace to roll my eyes at him this time for the X-Ray talk, and I go for another cookie as he lays out why he’s really here. A cookie that I nibble on a little more studiously with each word, more and more slowly. Until I’m not really chewing any longer, so much as pulling my mouth to the side in a look of rather tight displeasure.
“Probably because I slept with him a few times. Well. More than a few times. And worked with him a few times more than that. D.E.O. seems like a bit of an…overreach. He’s not a Meta. Did they tell you this, figuring you’d tell me or did you just find the information, Conner?”
Conner: “Who am I to presume about what you can or can’t do, Whistler?”
That little call back to our first few moments in the same orbit as one another is about as true as you can get. How do I know what she can or can’t do? She hasn’t exactly been forthcoming with the details. Even if I’ve been a wee bit too open with them on my end. I’ve never really been one for keeping secrets though, even if I know I’m supposed too. In a world where nothing I know of can hurt me, what good does it do for me to keep secrets like that? She’s right. What would someone do with that information? Blotting out the sun isn’t exactly all it would take. They’d also have to run me out of energy in the here and now, before I put a stop to the blotting out of my energy source.
Not to mention, that it would only eventually eliminate the kryptonian elements of my abilities. The rest? Happens to be one of the only secrets I actually have kept. Tactile Telekinesis isn’t something you just talk about. It’s something you -do-. While nodding in confirmation apparently. “Yes. A real Green Lantern. Power Ring and all. He was -in- Coast City, when the D.E.O. alerted me and sent me in. He seemed to be going through some.. I don’t know… training or something. Learning about the past, why he was chosen. I determined that he isn’t a threat.”
“For the record. I’ve also learned that my Handlers and their psionics can’t read that I’m not telling the whole truth. If I pick my words correctly. He’s not a threat. To the country or the planet. As I see a threat. They’re not asking me if he’s a threat to -them- or if I would associate a threat to them as a threat to the planet or the country. You’d think my Father would know not to trust a Luthor.”
This last bit? I’d waited. Until the ‘end’ of our conversation. Selfishly, yes. But also because I wanted to share a few moments. Like the one with her laughing, before I told her that another person she cares for is lost. Now? Now I have to tell her and I’m realizing all too quickly, that I’m actually feeling compelled to tell this woman the whole truth.
“Agent Grunge made sure that I’d know and if he made sure I knew? It’s because he’s taunting. That’s the only reason he does anything really.” The last time I squeeze her hand, is to give some small amount of reassurance. Even if I know it’s not likely to happen. “The Department of Extranormal Operations isn’t limited to Aliens or Metas, specifically. People of a certain non-genetic sort of power. Unexplainable abilities. Or just technological advantages. Magicians. Cyborgs. Some sort of plant thing from the Everglades in Florida.”
“This Queen fellow. He’s being kept in a Black Site, like the one where I was created. Until they make the announcement, he’s being replaced by one of the Agents. Agent Dibney.” Taking a soft breathe, my instinct is to go higher and away, but I sink lower in order to put my hand upon her shoulder. “Dinah. The more Wonder Woman pushes. The more people like you come out publicly. The worse this is going to get for people like Queen. This is a message to you. Just like the one they sent me about Wonder Woman. You might be untouchable, but the people you care for aren’t.”
“Can I do anything?”
Dinah: “Now you’re learning. There may just be hope for you yet, Superman.”
Pointing, and shooting, a finger gun at him I hop down off the ledge that we’d been sharing. My feet just land on the opposite side, on the solid ground of my roof, as I start to gather up the remnants of dinner. Boozy, sugary dinner. The box of cookies, or at least what’s left of it, and the bottle of whisky under one arm, the two used glasses pinched between thumb and forefinger of my other hand. He’s once again telling me something important. Not just about the apparently new Green Lantern, who he actually called his friend which is a word I’ve only heard the guy use like. Once. Learning about the mistakes of the past, hopefully so there won’t be a repeat but that isn’t the only important point. The fact that he thinks he can fool the psychics. That’s important, too.
“That’s good. Very good, actually. I’ll pretend I was your inspiration for that move, but I think you probably had a much closer person to watch and learn that trick from.”
After all, he’d never asked me what else I did besides singing in a band, and so many other things that would have painted a different picture for him of who the Black Canary is. His handler didn’t ask him the right questions. Hopefully they never figure out they have cause to, and never puzzle out what those questions should actually be. That might actually give this little group the chance to get its legs under itself, before Conner’s forced to try and knock them out first.
“Replaced, you said?”
For a moment, I look at his hand and the comforting gesture like it’s a strange bug. I’m not outraged, I probably should be. Certainly annoyed and more than a little indignant, but that’s because I’m reining it in at the moment. I’m not sure if I’d have picked Oliver Queen as the person to ‘hurt’ me with the most. That tells me that NOWHERE doesn’t know me as well as they think they do. But the gall of it, well. I may have been mostly keeping out of this particular fight, except for the bit part Tim asked me to play, but they may have just made the mistake of inserting me into it. Mess with mine, and I’ll mess with yours.
“No. I mean, I’m sure that you could but that would be a blatant hand tip, I think. Telling me what you did is probably at least one part a trap they think they’ve set, but it’s also giving me a lot I can use. So thank you. You keep yours safe. I’ve got to go look after mine.”
Conner: “Fair enough, Dinah Lance. So long as you remember that you are one of mine.”
There is absolutely no ego to that statement. Not a comment of ownership, like might be expected of a Luthor. Nor the all-encompassing ‘Superman protects the planet’ tripe of Kal-El. This is simple, straight forward candor. That she is someone I value enough that I believe her to be among those I would tend to, if push came to shove. Funny, even I know at this point, because Dinah certainly doesn’t need protecting from much of anything. It is, if anything, just a point to be made that I consider her worthy of being one of those that I would act to protect. Going back to the first things we discussed tonight, about my not knowing what I -want- to do with these powers.
“Mhm. The D.E.O. isn’t constrained by standard rules of law enforcement. Since just being an unregistered Meta or Alien is by law illegal. Then assisting one. In any way. Sets someone up for a whole host of charges. With the D.E.O. you’re not innocent until proven guilty. You’re potentially aiding a meta who might create another Coast City scenario. So you’re guilty until proven innocent. They remove you from the population, replace you with one of the agents who can shapeshift. Then by virtue of actually becoming the person they’re investigating? It’s relatively easy to substantiate the charges.”
“One of the girls in my Girlfriend’s class was actually replaced two years ago. By a registered Martian, in the D.E.O.’s employ.”
“At any rate. I thought it was important you know. Because if this doesn’t work? They’ll just keep going until they find the one that gets you under their thumb.” Just like I told her had happened to me. My blood runs a little cold as I even think about it. “Another reason I want to keep this suit functional. Wonder Woman’s Mom. Not needing to sleep, means that I can keep a watch on her most of the time. Because I’m pretty sure they have a cell with her name on it, next to Queen’s.”
“Speaking of Wonder Woman. I can hear trouble in Metropolis. Something is wrong. My dog is barking. I’ve got to go—
The word doesn’t even finish, before I’m actually gone. A blur of red and blue-grey streaking across the night sky. Leaving one of the two boxes of macaroons, even if it’s half-empty, behind with the Black Canary.
Dinah: “You’d think he’d get some credit for all the times he tried to stop me, but apparently not…”
Another thing about billionaire vigilantes, apparently, is that they’re highly territorial and don’t seem to like other vigilantes encroaching on their turf. Especially powered ones. I wonder if that’s something I bring out in these guys, or if there’s some sort of cosmic being up there that has a type they like to play with. Maybe I just have a lot of history repeating sorts of scenarios, actually.
“Because they can just fabricate whatever they didn’t actually catch you in the act of doing. I assume the same Martian that makes the SuperRum.”
It makes sense. Very Machiavellian, which certainly seems up Luthor’s alley the more I’ve gotten to really know about him. Who needs actually guilty metas and their collaborators when you can just make your own, and have them act in a way that fits your narrative? The problem is, no matter how much someone may agree with a politician who’s trying to make them feel safe? They never, and I mean never, like it when that same politician encroaches on their privacy and other liberties. Especially in such an underhanded way. The martian comment was maybe unnecessary, but it serves to prove a point of my own I suppose. That I listen to everything, and I am very, verygood at putting pieces together.
“It was important. Not just for my sake, but maybe for something bigger, too. I’ve got a pretty limited circle of ‘mines,’ I’m not sure they’d like what’s under those other rocks they might kick up. For their sakes, not mine.”
I’m definitely not going to keep him, not if he’s hearing trouble over in Metropolis. Knowing he can hear that far away? Also filed away for later use. I start to ask about his dog because that’s a little absurd sounding, but he’s gone. After a moment of squinting the in the direction the streak flew off to, I shrug and then head for the stairs. I’ve got some cookies, and another half of this bottle to polish off before my roommate gets home and lectures me about whether or not this is a healthy, balanced meal.