Dinah : There’s nothing quite like the dedicated ‘hobby’ of vigilantism to remind you exactly why you’ve never been a fan of ‘the system’ and cooperating with ‘the law.’ Just how many ways the rules that they’re there to enforce can also tie their hands. Once upon a time, I thought it was a path I’d be able to follow. That I’d be next in the line of a long family tradition of Detective Lances. Like Dad, like Grandpa, like his father before him. Maybe I could have succeeded at it, too, had I gone about my life in a different order.

Maybe trying to work a criminal justice degree while you’re moonlighting as a masked, powered ass-kicker doesn’t exactly set you up to succeed. School? That’s back in Star City. Along with a lot of other things that should probably have been harder to leave with Helena called me than they were. Taking orders and following the rules just wasn’t going to work for me anymore. Not after all the personal examples I have of it failing, and my successes in walking in the grey areas.

To say everyone in the GPD knows me would be a stretch, there’s new faces or officers from different precincts than my family had traditionally work. But there’s enough of them who know me, or were like part of said family in all but genetics, that there’s no sneaking around in broad daylight at the station trying to find out what I want to know. There’s talk to pick up on, but not enough to give me anything good and mostly? Just the irritation of the person I need to talk to not being there. I don’t leave a note, or even ask after the Detective I’m seeking. I don’t want to tip anyone off.

You never know. And you can never be too careful. Still. Leaves me wanting to go punch something in a place that’ll make it squeal. Maybe twice. Gotham isn’t my place anymore, even though I’ve just as much historical claim to the place as Batman ever did. It leaves me feeling in a weird sort of … limbo, and the sun’s not nearly low enough in the sky for me to be able to function in the way I really want to just now.

“Did you have anymore luck than I did today?”

Hanging out with a minor in a bar is normally not the best idea, even if you are fast and loose with rules and regs. It’s not late enough at night for ass kicking, which means that it’s also not late enough that the Pretty Bird is serving alcohol either. I guess that means that we’re both safe in here right now. Heavy enough on the espresso, and while it might not burn the throat it at least has a bitter enough taste to make my senses upset with me.

Tim : “Learn anything? No, but that doesn’t actually mean that I do not have anything.”

Despite this being a bar it’s pretty clear to even the casual glance that I’m right at home here. That or I don’t know enough about the seedy element of Gotham to have learned to be afraid, yet. On one hand it speaks of familiarity, perhaps with the owner who happens to be talking to me. On the other hand, I’m all but asking for trouble at the same time. It happens to be a fine line here that I’m walking. Asking for trouble, yet putting it off too.

This is topped off by the manner in which I’m sitting there. The nonobservant would think I’m a school kid doing his homework on the counter top before him. They wouldn’t be wrong, actually. The notebook has some scribbled names, which are then being cross-referenced with connection that were known before I left Gotham to go to school. Along with those is a series of marker points that tell the story of people either no longer in play and those whom still happen to be active. Detective Work, more so than homework. The purest kind too. Boots to the ground sort of work that isn’t done from a Bat Cave, with a Bat Computer.

Although, in almost the same breathe, the trained eye would notice quickly that those scribbled notes are only footprints. Everytime I make a connection or cross one out, I’m entering the data in to the mini-computer on my forearm. Much like the act of seeming to be an innocent schoolboy to lure someone in to a fight, there’s no true effort put in to hiding my expensive computers. All but daring someone to try to take it from me.

“For example. There’s no reports of some of the usual suspects being at play, at all. No Penguin, no Two-Face. In some cases, there’s even hints at a couple of the usuals being angry that someone else did the dead. Also? Despite being a bad ass, you eat some of the worst things I’ve ever seen consumed. This is likely due to your inability to cook. Which likely stems from the familial connections to Police routine. No, not all Cops are terrible cooks, but they have a preference for things you can get out of a microwave in under four minutes. This is caused by the innate need to be ready for any call that comes in.”

“Oh. You have a lot of people who know your name, remember the cute girl who’s daddy brought them around the precinct, but otherwise know so little about you that they’re more acquaintance than friend.” Looking up, if only briefly, to peer toward Dinah’s face in curiosity at how she’ll react to this. “You also sleep in the nude. Snore slightly. Think you’re much quieter than you are at night. Oh. And. Uh. I have eliminated you from the suspect pool. Officially.”

Dinah : The raised eyebrow and slight tilt of my head says the words I don’t think I need to out loud. Enlighten me, kid. No, they’re not the same thing. Learning and having information. It can mean that you’ve just confirmed something you were already aware of and wanted to double check for safety’s sake, or to quell any doubters of your intuition. I just continue to drink my espresso like it’s regular, watery coffee. I’m fairly sure at this point, my taste buds are approaching ‘dead.’ Maybe it’s a sort of karma for the sharpening of the other ones. I’ll take it.

We’re not exactly busy, but there’s been enough people in and out that I haven’t helped at all because…I have people I pay to do that. They got along fine before I turned back up, they’d probably be just as happy if not happier if I was gone again and that little ecosystem works for me. They can handle their shit. I’ve got mine.

“Why even bother with the notebook? Visual thing?”

Or it could be the act of doing it twice, like copying ones’ lecture notes, to commit it even better to memory. Tim makes his way from information that’s actually pertinent to what I was wanting to know…

“Which ones? I’m not as up to date on the patterns of the ‘regulars’ as I used to be. But it seems like there’s a bit less bedlam that I might have anticipated. I don’t know if that’s because Damien’s out venting his spleen, and everyone else is back in town or because they’re all waiting for someone else to make the first… well.”

My mouth pulls to the side that’s a grimace over what I’m speaking of, rather than the drink I’ve polished off.

“Second move. Or because they’re all scared of who exactly it was that made the first.”

And from pertinent, he moves on to things I already know because it’s all about me and when it comes down to it? I’m pretty wise to most of my quirks and bad habits. I just don’t care to do anything about them.


One hand on my hip, the other is held up in front of me in a defensive, halting gesture.

Can cook, just don’t. I’d like to say it’s because I’m a firm proponent of combating food waste, but mostly it’s because I’d rather spend my time doing other things. Except maybe on special occasions. And when you look like this?”

That halting hand shifts to gesture demonstratively to my figure. Which right now, in an old concert teeshirt and a pair of jeans isn’t exactly shown off to best advantage, but most of the criminal underground (and all the bats) have seen me in what amounts to little better than fetish gear and combat boots.

“You sleep however you want and the Universe thanks you for it.”

Propping my elbows on the counter, I cradle my chin in the palm of one hand and flash him a grin the walks the line of flirting and threatening his life depending upon which ‘mask’ I’ve got on at the moment.

You’re welcome. Perv. And boy, thanks for the name clear. Do you want to just stay with me instead of where ever you holed up since you’re keeping an eye already?”

Tim : For a moment longer than is actually needed I’m settled there looking at Dinah in such a way that suggests that is being re-measured. Weighed in a manner than going to determine whether she is worthy of the information that she is asking for. We both know that she is, but there’s actually a moment’s hesitation. Simply sign that She is not the partner I’m used to working with. Not the one I’d answer without a second thought.

Just as telling though, is the frankness with which she is then given an answer. “Joker. Near as I can tell from the underground. He’s actually hunting the killer. And he’s not being sidetracked, having to wait for leads. If what I’ve been told is even half true he’s gathering funds for a Bounty on the killer. A big one. Like.”

Her theatrics are just that. A put on show for people to watch. She’s just as good at what she does, as Batman was at what he did. There’s simply a difference in how they did things. Her game is one a sort of magic show. Slight of hand. You look at her. You focus on those theatrics. How she looks, how she dresses, how she saunters. Then you’re not quite as focused on her. It bridges the gap in skill. She doesn’t have to be an unmatched martial artist, when you’re distracted by the sway of her hips just enough for her to kick your ass.

Me? I’m fine watching the show. But only because I recognize she’s putting one on. Theatrics which are matched only by the Cheshire grin she is given once she’s finished. “Thank you.. Speaking for the Universe at large, of course.”

Oh,” having almost forgotten to answer the original question she’d posed, perhaps having been distracted after all. “The notebook is actually for … well… I’m keeping a journal. For Him. Chronicling what I can of his last moments. Piecing it together. A case file. A real one. For the Cave, when this is over.”

If that was a small crack in the armor, a look behind the ‘Mask’ named Tim Drake? Then the mask is back in place soon enough with a soft, chiding, “Hmm.” That is soon followed by a grin that would melt a polar ice cap. She’s in trouble.

“Certainly. I’ll put my bag back in your closet.” That little journal is flipped open again, but this time to one of the loose pages in the back. With no effort made to conceal the pen scratching out a line of text that reads ‘Get picked up by hot Cougar.’ The top of the page says Bucket List. “Alright. So. Are we calling it the Canary Cave? Canaries and caves seems like bad kharma, given their years in the Mines. But Canary Cage? Given your preference in attire, that’s going to give people all the wrong ideas.”

“Or the right ones. Who’s to judge? Canary Cage it is.”

Dinah : “Mmrm.”

The noise I make in my throat, and through pursed lips, is equal disgust and understanding. Straightening upright again, I shuffle my emptied cup towards the end of the counter so that it’s out of the way, and out of my immediate sight like that will keep me from helping myself to even more caffeine that I do not at all need at this point. More effective would probably have been the sink behind the bar, but I’m just not that ready to be done.

“It makes sense. If anyone was a true nemesis it was him, and frankly would have been my first guess. Except that we would probably have had giant shrieking monstrosities in various forms around the city immediately, to make absolutely sure we all knew who was responsible, if it was him. I’m not sure I like even vaguely being on the same side as the Joker, or I’d suggest we take advantage of his generosity.”

There’s pragmatism, and then there’s morality and insanity. No matter what your end goal is, and how important it is, there’s some lots you just don’t throw in with or you’re going to be forever tainted by the association. Figuratively and perhaps in this case literally as well. That’s a line that’s easy to cross when you’re already taking part in the violence. Tim’s thanks are met with a curtsy, dipped and swept with all the grace that belongs on stage by a songbird after she’s finished some truly impressive bit of vocal acrobatics. Just, y’know. Sans microphone, and dress. Stage. Unless you consider that basically everywhere is my stage.

“I think that’s a nice idea, Tim.”

In complete and utter opposition to the behavior before, that’s said with simple sincerity because I mean it. We’ve all got our different walls to hide behind, and some of us do it so well that sometimes? It’s easy to believe that someone isn’t erecting that facade to cover up something vulnerable and raw. Helena may be who actually asked me to return to Gotham, but I’m here for all of them.

Well. Maybe not Damien. He’s a twatwaffle. Tim’s on his way to earning an ‘endearing’ nickname or two himself. Blue eyes roll at his next page of text, but if I take offense to it I cover it up just like I do everything else.

“Well, you’re half right. Isn’t there some sort of age requirement before you can really be a cougar though? I don’t want you to take credit and pass up an opportunity later in life if a real one comes along.”

Hell, a few more years from now and we wouldn’t even get that many raised eyebrows. I’m not that far past twenty, and he’s not that far below it. Far enough below it, however, that I’m not even a teeny bit interested in justifying any sort of…behavior.

“It might have been pretty apropos before you cleaned it up, to be fair. Maybe the Nest. Then we can brag about how cozy it is, and I can take care of the baby bird.”

Reaching over to pinch his cheek, maybe just a little harder than is strictly necessary.

Tim : Once more there comes a pause. Only this time there’s genuinely no way to discern whether or not I’m giving genuine thought to one question or the other. No tells. No give away. That same grin remains, though there’s a tensing of the eyes that belies seriousness. It’s a pick’em as to what I’m actually considering. Right up until I slap the notebook closed and give the Canary my undivided, full attention.

“Truth is, I’ve been thinking the same things. Joker’s insane, but he’s got no moral constraints. I’ve even wrestled with the mortal dilema of knowing that if I do nothing, then whatever I let that madman do unopposed, is as good as my fault too. I think, to tell you the truth Dinah, given the circumstances here? I could probably live with it, if I knew where it stops. That’s the problem for me. I don’t know where it stops.”

“I mean the bounty itself is going to get eyes on it, all through the city. But. Also from outside of the city. Every bounty hunter, every half-assed detective, every assassin for hire. They’re all going to come looking for the payout. The City could be pushed in to absolute insanity, quick. More than we can handle too, if it brings in people of your… particular meta-human skillset. It’s Bruce’s end-game scenario. And if that wasn’t enough to make me worry? Because it is. It really, truly is. Unlike some of my other comrades, I’m not insane enough to think I could possibly take it all on.”

“If we could eliminate his bounty, contain the potential for it spilling out of Gotham. Going world-wide? Then maybe we could take advantage of it. Of him.” Maybe for the first time, ever, I reach out to touch Canary’s hand without being invited to. “I can’t tell you how important it is that we contain this. All of this. To Gotham. I’ve met people. People we do not want to have turning their eyes on Gotham. So we need to contain this. Contain him.”

“If you know a way to do that and still make use of him as a source for leads? I’m all ears.”

Which leads the way back to the smarmy grin and the shift in tone for the discussion. “Oh. Eh. Don’t you worry about the Bucket List. Good eye, by the way. You’re not really the classic definition of a Cougar, but you’re trying awfully hard to be the Momma Bear of the Cave. What with you rushin home to take care of us. Offering me a place to stay. Worry about whether I even have a place. That kind of puts you in the same bracket. You know. Being hit on by the sexy pseudo-Mom-like figure? I’m countin it.”

“Don’t worry though, Dinah. Even though you’re older and think you’re unavailable. You’re still the second hottest Blonde, I know. So I’ll say Thank You again, if you like.”

Dinah : “He can, and will, do the things that we won’t and shouldn’t. To people that arguably deserve everything that they get. But you’re exactly right.”

I’m more or less recapping what he’s said, just different words for the same thing. The Joker doesn’t have to wait to speak nicely to a detective for the information that they have. He busts into the GPD, or worse, abducts and tortures the information out of someone. That could be some asshole that’s going to be on the receiving end of a Batarang from one of the flock anyway, or it could be a GPD Detective. I doubt very much the madman cares who as long as he gets what he’s after. We let him do what he wants and reap the benefits? It means we’re allowing him to do what he wants to get what he wants. A loose cannon, loosed on the city, is a terrible proposition.

And it goes a step beyond that. I didn’t know about the bounty until now, and consequently I hadn’t considered the latter half of what he has to say on the matter. The Out of Towners. I’m an in towner, who saw the logic in leaving when Bruce had very frankly spoken to me of it. The presence of the Batman had brought people like the Joker, the Penguin, all those others to more prominence but they’re all non-powered. It stands to reason, then, that powered individuals would bring a suitable response.

“Newton’s Third Law. On a Meta-Nuclear scale. You been making some high-flyin’ friends out there in Metropolis, Tim?”

I may have powers, but I’ve never really run with anyone else that does. I worked with Batman and Co. here in Gotham, after he brought me into the fold, but in Star I’d worked solo except when someone else butted in. I haven’t run into many folks who belong in the wild and weird crew like I do, but it’s impossible not to have heard about the Superman and the like. That craziness just seems to keep itself around Metropolis, which I suppose doesn’t disprove Bruce’s theory.

“He’s not likely to be terribly clandestine, maybe it’ll be easy to tail and observe. Stay out of the way, make sure that whoever he’s getting his information from is …suitable. Put a stop to it if it’s not and then run with that bit of string.”

Clucking my tongue, the shit-eating grin on his face earns another eye roll but it’s all in fun and good humor, as much as I’m still absolutely serious in my reasoning.

“I was angling more for cage match referee, but yeah sure. We’ll go with that. And someone’s got to, for all the reasons we discussed the last time.”

I don’t refute the hitting on him part, I hit on everyone. It’s both how the persona and I operate. There’s a very big difference between words and actions, and arguing and denying simply plays into the banter. I know better. Sure, I could probably ‘win’ but I”m not going to go to that point with a teenager. Even I have limits.

“Aww, thank you, so sweet. Know just what to say to a gal. Who’s this first hottest blonde? You’ll have to introduce me so I can check out the competition. Maybe get a phone number…”

Tim : With a subtle nod there’s confirmation that we’re of one mind when it comes to the Joker. The downside of using him -and- the potential repercussions of allowing him to spiral out of control. In a way, there is also unspoken acceptance that she’s got an idea of how to corral the psycho without actually trying to take him head on. Which leaves me only agreeing that I’m going to let her make a play at it.

Understandably, there’s a not-so-subtle moment of my hand squeezing her shoulder that is meant to also convey something else. A reminder of the surveillance. That I’ll be watching out for her, as she watches out for others. A gentleman’s agreement that goes beyond the playfulness that distracts at least one of us from the Death of the Batman.

“Not just Metropolis. All over the world. When Bruce suggested that I go away to further my education, at first I had thought I was being snubbed for Damian. Sending me away to make room for the real son. I was bitter, for all of about a week. Then I started to piece it together. He wanted me to see the world. Not just see the sights, but the world outside of Gotham. He wanted me to apply the tools he’d been cultivating, on that world beyond.”

“I’ll tell you something, Dinah,” leaning closer still, but it’s no longer in an effort to flirt or put the moves on her, this is a genuine secret to be shared. “We all thought he was laser focused on Gotham, but he was keeping an eye on everything. Everything. He knew about the Capes. He knew about some people who didn’t even know they were Capes.”

“And. He knew about the group that’s been tracking those people. So I think, maybe, that was part of the education. Making friends with the High-Flying variety. Which, I was only to happy to do. When they’re leggy, blonde, athletic, cheerleaders that can toss around cars like soft-balls.”

Settling back in the seat for a moment, long enough to gather the things that have been strewn about in to some semblance of a pile that could be carted off in a moment. He was right. You know. About you. About asking you to leave. There’s a boogeyman out there, Dinah. Someday they’ll come for you and when it happens, it’ll be too big for Gotham to handle. Those are the words I’m chewing on, wanting to say but not actually doing so. Instead of saying it, I’ve wormed my way in to her temporary home and graces. All because she thinks she’s protecting me. If she knew the truth, that I’d maneuvered her in to letting me protect her without her knowing? I think she’d probably punch me. Or worse.

“Hey, Dinah. Don’t worry about the flirting thing. I don’t have any false notions,” rising up off the stool, in the same fluid motion that both hands sweep up my notes and books. “Like I said, you’re hot for a number two, but after spending time with a Goddess? I’m pretty sure you couldn’t handle me.”

Dinah : The move of my hand that leaves it patting his on my shoulder is almost absent, almost a ‘yeah, yeah, okay..’ but not quite. The last pat lingers just long enough that it’s more ‘I get it.’ I’ve worked solo, and I did okay. But I’ve also worked on a team and it doesn’t take a brilliant observer to know that there’s a lot of benefits there, like someone watching out for you sometimes even when you don’t know you need it. That requires trust, but if you can give it and get it in return? More than worth the vulnerability.

Maybe even worth the emotions like the sadness that we’re all feeling in different degrees, that brought us back together right now. Something that sets us apart from what we’re fighting.

“I’d say that I’m surprised, but knowing him I’m really not. There’s a lot more to the world than Gotham. A lot more ugly, and a lot more beauty. A lot different.”

I’m taking in every word he says, and I do mean every word. I know I’m not the only meta out there, obviously. They existed before I was born, it runs in my family. You just didn’t much hear about them, for good reason. Either they were a secret government group or… maybe that group never entirely went away. With the way the world works now? Hell, maybe it’s turned into something else.

“Well she sounds lovely. I guess I can’t be too upset if that’s what I’m up against. It is a she, yeah? I mean… not that there’s anything wrong with it if it’s not…”

Sidling out from behind the counter, I round to his side. I can come and go as I please. I just write the checks, and I don’t even actually do that, because management does that part, too. But he’s talking about a Goddess. So I suppose that does mean it’s a girl, and I can’t help but be more than a little curious. It makes a good subject to move onto instead of more eyerolling that I’m rated second best by a teenage boy.

“Wait, like. An actual Goddess or figurative because you’re in looooooooove? Has she been handling you, you scamp? This calls for pizza. To the Roost!”

It’s not the most dramatic exit, though I gesture with some flair. If nothing else, ‘girl talk’ and pizza will allow for some time passing before we really get to prime action time. For crime fighting. Not for anything else.