Slade: “Hmph. You sure know how t’ keep a guy waiting, Birdy.”
Slade Wilson. Assassin. Mercenary. Professional Do-Whatever-The-Fuck-You-Pay-Him-To-Do. Also certified bad ass of extremely epic proportions. Last seen taking on the entirety of the League of Assassin -and- the Penguin’s goon squad at the Iceberg Lounge. Now waiting all too impatiently at the top of the one Dinah Lance’s place of residence and Bar.
Not known for his manners, most of the time. Nor is he usually the type of guy that waits for a Lady to be ready. All of these things tie in together to truly explain what it means that Slade is here in the first place. He didn’t come to Dinah with his hat in hand, he came with something that he knew would entice her. Furthermore he’d come willing to help her, before she helped him. Every little clue tying back to one simple fact: Deathstroke was actually going to be doing something that he needed help with.
“While you’ve been playing patty cake with Bat v.2 over your young stud v.2, I was getting some intel together from my source in Star Cityyyyyyyyyyyy……………”
Superman: Superman. Superhero. Photographer. Doesn’t-know-or-care-how-scrary-Deathstr oke-is-or-should-be. Just threw Slade Wilson 15 miles due north, in to the Gotham Harbor. Doesn’t seem to really blink much over the thought that a normal human body probably can’t handle that sort of fall. Also a badass, doesn’t have a problem reminding people. Frequently. When the opportunity calls for it.
“You live the worst neighborhood, with terrible neighbors.”
There are entrances and then there are entrances. My predecessor would have made with polite chatter and asked Slade to excuse them for a private chat. Or hung there in the air like some monolithic God, waiting for the two Super-Ninja to have their tete-a-tete. Luckily I’m not that ass-clown. My arrival goes from my simply not being there, to Slade simply not being there. Fluttery cape not withstanding.
Once I’ve landed, I simply give her a long look. With absolutely anyone else that looks like Dinah. I’d be looking right through her clothing. With Dinah, I’m intentionally looking at what she is wearing instead. “Star City. What is it is with you and terrible choices? That place is a car fire, stacked on a dumpster fire, being juggled by a clown that’s also on fire. Being chased by a flaming, pink, Bat-like-Vigilante. That’s also on fire.”
Canary: “In the words of far, far too many of my current companions: ‘uh, duh.’ You do pointy blades assassin, I do blunt objects tease. If we all just stick to our roles, everything be fine.”
It’s not as if I’m the old lady of the Gotham Gang. That job falls squarely to Dick, who is probably scowling somewhere about now. But with the teaching role I’d fallen/been asked into, I’m once again stuck with badgering/beating the younger generation. Five-ish years is a vigilante generation? Actually, that sounds sadly about right. But no one told him he had to skulk up here, I would have preferred if he hadn’t. Despite it not exactly being any sort of secret that the place is mine, and frankly at this point my identity is more courtesy than fact to the majority of the supercrew, it’s not the best for business or my healthy sense of paranoia. My demeanor says ‘bored’ more than ‘bothered’ though, as I shake blonde hair back out of my face, and roll blue eyes at the old man’s talk of patty cake, and next I expect to hear about some philandering, so I distract myself with making sure my jacket’s how I want it. I am still listening about the source, however.
Until there’s a very unDeathstroke yelp, a whoosh and when I look up in wide eyed surprise, body already shifting on its own into the defensive posture I should probably have had around Slade in the first place, if I hadn’t already figured out he needed me for all of this. That’s as close to ‘phased’ as I get by what has just happened, I spend a moment looking for whatever trajectory Deathstroke had been sent on, momentarily concerned that something permanent might have just happened.
“We can’t all have penthouses in Metropolis. Then they wouldn’t be fancy. They’d just be normal, and I don’t think you could handle that.”
It’s apparently costume night, at Pretty Bird’s Bar & Bistro, though the last part no one actually uses, and I’m fairly sure half the ‘neighbors’ wouldn’t know what one was, anyway. Higher education and culture wasted on this place. The fact that Superman’s in his is of course much more interesting to me than the fact that I am also in mine, the fishnets, the boots, the not exactly just a corset anymore suit that Tim’s been pathologically incapable of not messing with and beefing up the construction of. None of it’s really what it looks like anymore, though. The fishnets don’tn exactly need constant replacing anymore, on account of how they could probably stop a knife. He’s not here in plainclothes, like the times before, and that makes me just a tad wary/curious all at the same time.
“You’re being awfully judgemental tonight, Supes. Must be Tuesday. I just don’t do nice places, apparently. Or I muck them up when I’m there. A pink one, now? I clearly have been away too long.”
My tone’s got a sing song lilt to it, the Canary persona out to play, just without the edge that takes it from joking and having fun to you’re half a second from my fingers in your Adam’s Apple.
“Not that I’m not happy to see you, but…”
Superman: “…but why am I here, in Gotham, in plain sight, wearing this?”
Frankly, this is comfortable. More comfortable of late than my actual costume, Conner Luthor. Everything has gone sideways or backwards or some other way than how I want them of late. Yet being Superman? Has gone strangely right. To a very surprising, waiting for the other shoe to drop sort of way. Do I say all of this? Hell, no. What Dinah gets is no less the truth, but not exactly the whole truth.
“I’m starting to learn that there are times people listen to me a lot more seriously when I’m wearing this.” A flick of my finger against the metallic S-shield makes a very audible tink. “People who otherwise might not always listen to a guy that ordinarily looks sixteen, going on seventeen.”
“Kind of like the way your pupils dilated when you saw it. Your heartbeat picked up noticeably, after you saw it. It didn’t pick up because of the potential danger, either. It was a good six one hundredths of a second -after- you took a defensive stance. Fear doesn’t move you, Dinah. I’ve known that since we first met. It’s one of the many, many reasons, I’m particularly fond of you.”
“You know if I’m here wearing this, I’m here for something serious. And I am. Part courtesy, I wanted you to hear it from me. One of your people has been arrested. He fashioned himself as a sort of Red Hood, of late. When I heard, I decided to get involved. Personally. He’ll be working in Kahndaq and if he assists with that, I’ll see to it that he is released back to Gotham. Back to you. I’ve arranged for all charges to be dropped and for things to go back to the way they were. Your people police Gotham. We stay out. My predecessor had that arrangement with your predecessor, I’d like to think we can come to a similar agreement.”
“That’s the first part of why I’m here. Dressed like this.”
Black Canary: “All those muscles. The good looks. The money. The ability to pull off that kind out getup and you’re a mind reader, too? Tch. Talk about uneven distribution of luck and talents.”
I know he’s not really. God, I hope he’s not really. The last thing the world needs is a telepathic teenager who can also hear and see everything the regular way from hundreds of miles away. And I say this as someone that actually likes this kid. Again, generations. I get to call him kid. Hell, we’ve practically got two generations between us. More if you go off his chronological age. I feel old, all of the sudden. Not the point though. Banter aside, he’s probably right. Conner Luthor doesn’t scare people who don’t know what he actually is. No one’s going to actually listen to him. Everyone listens to Big Blue. Everyone pays attention. Symbols do that.
Now. I actually have demonstrated that I will listen. Which is telling, because he’s turned up like this regardless. Now. It could just be that it’s what he was already wearing, he’s been all over the news doing Superman Things in Khandaq, so that’s reasonable. But it’d probably take him just as much time to change into plainclothes as it did to do whatever it was he actually did with Slade Wilson. My money’s on ‘it’s on purpose.’ And since he’s here talking to me, instead of wearing his ‘listen to me, jerks’ suit over in the direction of a Bat?
“Awww, you like me. You really like me.”
He’s not wrong, fear is something to ignore and deal with later because reacting to fear, in the face of whatever caused it, probably gets you dead. My new and improved suit might be a lot more resistant to a lot more things, but I don’t rely on that to protect me. That’s also how you get dead. So, I listen for the ‘why’ that he’s here. The courtesy. And as he goes on to tell me, there’s a distinct twitch to my right eye. Damien. Apparently can’t stop himself from getting into it with the flying caped crowd, and that might be more than slightly problematic.
“Mmmn. And the second part is where you tell me what you want me to do for you, because otherwise you’d be talking to BigBat about this and not me.”
Oh, I’m not offended, or miffed, or hurt. No ‘but I thought we were friends!’ whining. Conner’s already done me a favor by warning me about Oliver Queen before now. I also ruptured his eardrums. Even if I wanted to ignore what he’s doing for Damien, though that’s mostly in Damien’s court, I owe him.
Superman: “No, the mind reader is actually a snotty cheerleading shapeshifter. She’s the first real person that I ever met, actually. While I was in the virtual reality simulator, she would use her telepathy to enter my mind and present me with problems. So that the scientists could test my reactions to stimuli.”
See this? This isn’t something just anyone is told. I only talk this openly when it’s with someone that I believe can handle the truth in a very unfiltered way. Conner Luthor is the filter, the mask, the human side of this world that needs boiled down and made pretty before being spoken about. Ironic then, that everyone thinks of him as the crude asshole in this little sideshow.
“She’s also why I’m still alive. Once the scientists realized that my natural reaction to annoyances was to kill the offender, they were planning to abort my project. Megan saved me. She’d realized at some point that my senses were so acute, I could actually hear the real world -through- the fake one of the Virtual Reality. They thought I was some sort of psychopath. Megan realized I was treating the VR like a video game. Resetting the game any time I got a result that I didn’t like.”
“So. When I broke out the V.R. she’s the only one I didn’t murder for real when I leveled the place. Martians don’t like heat vision, you should put that in the old Bat Computer.”
By the time she’s gotten to nudging me about the second part, I’ve floated closer to her. Only letting boots crunch upon the gravel of the roof once I’m within arms reach of her. Those perfectly sculpted features soften quickly once I’m close to her. She’s still defensive. I really do appreciate that. As if she could do anything, should I really choose to be an attacker. I don’t see that at foolish, I love the fact that she is exactly what I said. Not fearless, but not controlled by it. Dinah is able to look past what I could do and I think she really does see what I want to do.
Which is quite simply: Be worthy of Cassie Sandsmark.
That requires something much different than what I’ve been talking about though, doesn’t it. “Buzzzzzz. Wrong. That would suggest that I’m only doing what is right, because I’m motivated by what it gets me in return. I’m helping your friend, because he and your whole group have the wrong idea about Nowhere. At least, part of Nowhere. But talking to you or any one of you about it? Is just going to get me … no where.. fast, pun not intended.”
“The only way I’m ever going to convince any of you, is if we stop talking and start doing the right things.”
“So, no. Part two is not about what you can do for me. Let’s stop making this a habit, could we? People find out that I’ve turned you down twice and it’s going to ruin one of our reputations. Probably your’s.” There’s the charm, the grin that threatens to be a smirk. Teasing the teaser is not exactly something I get to do often and fewer people do it to Canary. “The second part, is also about you.”
“I told you, before. You’re much more than you know. I can’t always be around to protect you. It’s time you started to learn how to use…” fingertip up and pointing at her face, lips, down her throat. “… for something other than being a smart ass.”
“… ahem… not that I’m one to talk, really, but… it’s kind of shitty that the only type of friendship you know is the sort that only does something for you, if they think you’ll owe them something. The way I understand it, friendship starts with trust.” Transitioning from the joking gesture to a very simply, elegant even, open hand offered to a lady, like a proper gentleman. “And ends with it too.”
“Have you ever looked at the drum set on stage while your band is playing? Or the speakers when the bass rolls through them. If you put a quarter on top of them when it’s happening, it’ll bounce. If you direct the bass. Control it.” The grin isn’t just charming, it’s downright obscene. “Before I could fly, I started by leaping over small buildings. I didn’t have someone to help me and make sure I wouldn’t fall.”
Canary: Now that sounds like an even bigger problem for humanity, for many different reasons, and the cynic in me would like to point out to Conner that a shapeshifter, in the employ of NOWHERE, is probably not someone who should be counted on in order to be a ‘real person.’ But it didn’t take long to figure out he’s not half as dumb as he pretends to be, and he might actually be even more suspicious than I am about some things, so I suppose I have to go with his version of what happened to him. I have a whole lot of questions about the wisdom of subjecting a developing mind to that sort of situation, and that’s probably the least of what they were doing. I don’t know if it’s to my credit, or a mark against me, that I don’t even flinch when he offhandedly drops the fact that he killed who knows how many people at a scientific research facility. But. We are talking about the same sort of people that took a teenage meta, put a chip in her brain, and sent her into Arkham with Deathstroke and a pack of others, and then made her forget about it so…
“Now, I didn’t say that. In those exact words. But there’s a whole lot of leeway in being amenable to doing a thing, and seeing the benefit in what people might maybe do in return if you do.”
So. It sounds like someone has actually been listening at least a little, and is even trying, because he’s right. It does start with trust. Not the least of the reasons that I’d prodded Tim about being honest with his supposed friend. If I were actually leery of the man. Boy. In front of me, this conversation would probably be going differently. There’s fear of a thing, or a person, and then there’s healthy respect. Which is what I actually have of our current Superman, because I’m fully aware he could eyelaser me with no warning, and no amount of training I’ve done can stop that, or protect me from it. We’re very, very lucky that he currently has a reason to want to be better. But underneath all of that, he’s still a person. So I interact with him for who and what he is. I do actually have friendships that are built on that, though. Trust.
Not many, mind you, but it takes a lot for me to let someone in that close and allow for that vulnerability. When I do? They become the M word. Mine. And whatever he may be saying about us having the wrong idea, his people currently have one of mine. Well. Two. Apparently.
“You wound me, Blue. Make a girl think she’s going to have to actually try harder, and that’s about where I lose interest.”
The dubious look on my face as he gestures towards it is one part ‘you think you’re going to what?’ with a side of ‘you do realize I’ve taken your advice and pushed my lung capacity up another few notches, right?’ But it ends with a shift to surprise and amusement, as I take the extended hand.
“…somehow I doubt falling is all that problematic for you, except maybe in the ego department. Are you actually proposing to teach me to fly or is this a metaphor?”
Superman: A lot of the people that I associate with think that I don’t listen to them. They couldn’t be more wrong. I listen to everything and more importantly everyone. On a very world wide scale, I’m listening a lot more than anyone would ever be comfortable with knowing. Sure, a lot of that time it’s nothing but garbled, overlayed, background noise, but as I’ve gotten more and more used to focusing on the sounds I want to hear? I truly do listen to far more than I ever should. The secret, I found, is that once I know the voice? I’m able to listen for that specific voice or a tone or even a heart beat’s specific rhythm.
Just because I’m hearing what people say, does not always mean that I’m taking it to heart. Psychologists say that you can never really change the foundation that your personality is built upon and if that’s true, then I’m always going to be the little boy that was raised mid-western parents, with wholesome values at first. Then learned very early in life that consequences for people like me are far and few between. Nothing I’ve learned outside of the Virtual Reality has changed that understanding. If I killed Dinah right this second, what would happen to me? Nothing. I’d fly away from Gotham and the people here would investigate it. While the people at Nowhere would be very happy that I’d removed someone like her from the game board. The two sides would cancel themselves out and life would essentially go on just as it always had.
The true consequence, which I really have learned, wouldn’t come for weeks or months. When Cassie found out, I’d have a lot of explaining to do. With the inherent risk associated with that, in that I’d need to either tell her the truth and risk her unhappiness becoming nuclear or I’d need to lie convincingly enough that she’d believe me. With all my super powers, apparently I have a genetic incapability of lying very well. I’m fine with that, though, because lying to Cassie is one of the few things in life that actually does feel wrong to me.
“No argument there. My observation is that most people do things, whether in general or specifically for someone else, to engender a sense of mutual cooperation. Whether they’re after a favor in return or a payoff in the relationship. And maybe you could say that’s my end game too. I might actually like having a certain beautiful kung fu master as a real friend, but for once.. I’ll let you in on a secret; I didn’t actually put that much thought in to the payoff, because seeing your face when I show you this? Is about as far as I got.”
That’s another thing I’ve caught on too in all my ‘listening.’ Dinah Lance does not have a lot of friends. There are people she’s friendly with. Not to mention the whole bat fam that she’s close enough to that they’re part of her inner circle. I’ve not yet found anyone that she’s close enough to that she opens up, trusts them enough to actually open up too. I get a distinct feeling that one of the rare times she’s shared anything of substance with someone, happened when I took her up in to the stratosphere.
“Mhm, yeah-yeah, save the ‘girls don’t like to make an effort’ routine for someone that hasn’t seen you dismantle an entire Russian flop-house. To get that good you tried very hard and you’ll do it again, if you think it’ll help you learn something that would give you an edge.” Flicking my head back over my shoulder in the direction that Slade Wilson went flying. “You’re hob-knobbing with the likes of that clown, so you’ll take an edge you can get and that means… trying harder is just what you do.”
This? Is the rare side of me that few people other than Cassie get to see. I can count on one hand how many people know that I’m not just some meat-head, that says the first crude thing to come to mind. Kyle saw it. Megan knows the inside of my head better than anyone. Cassie sees it when we’re alone. Somehow, though I still struggle with how, Freddy managed to see through my ‘secret identity’ too. Dinah Lance might be the only one of that list that I make any effort with trying to show it to. In a way I feel like she understands me better than any of them. Even Cassie struggles to see why I can’t be like this all of the time. The world that I live and work in wouldn’t allow it.
My Father wouldn’t allow it. And the truth? The downright scary truth is that I’m not sure I want to be this person all of the time. There is just no reward in it.
“The first step here, is going to be learning the right amount of base to use to get off the ground. Since you’re neck isn’t reinforced with super-strength, you’ll want to be careful at first. Until you learn the right amount to use, but there’s a trick to that too.” In one of my hands is her’s, with the other I gently put it at the small of her back. Looking at us from the outside you might think us about to dance. “I generate a tactile field around my whole body. That’s how I was able to keep a small pocket of air for you to breathe when we were up so high. You don’t have that power, but your Grandmother was able to simulate the same thing by creating a envelope of sonics around her entire body. She would hum. Deep, deep down. Simon Cowell calls it singing from your diaphragm.”
“That’s the easy part, the sonics of you voice will reverb through your whole body. It’ll reinforce you, so that when you start to direct your sonics at pushing? It won’t tear your head off. And… you can thank me later, when you take this lesson and realize you can use it to shield yourself in a fight too.”
“You’re looking at me like I’ve grown a third eye,” one brow raises up, but I can’t help it now, I have to smile at her. “I know. You think of your gift as something to break out when natural skills need just a little boost or a surprise, but… there’s more to it, to you, than that. If you learn this and choose never to do it? Cool. But, after our talk about whether you’d be helpless in a fight against someone like me? Knowing what’s going to happen if things keep ramping up between … people like Luthor and people like your friends here in Gotham?”
“I want you to actually have the choice, Dinah.” There is a timber to my voice in this, that isn’t normally there. I’m too young for regrets that would make me sound so old and sad about the past, but Billy Batson didn’t get the chance to learn his powers. Nowhere sent me to bring him down before he was ever able to harness them properly. They punished him, by way of me, for his inability to use his power properly. “Besides, just imagine Big Dick the Batman’s surprise when he realizes you can fly.”
Black Canary: “Krav Maga is actually my style of choice but. You’re not wrong.”
On the exterior, I look a little young to be a master of two martial arts styles, let alone the dozen I can actually boast. I’ve never been a barbie girl, and when you have a cop for a father that had the raising of you for most of your childhood, your interest in a little physical training may start small but it’s only going to bloom. I always liked the physical portion, and maybe a small bit rather guiltily may have liked throttling the boys my age, and older, because I shouldn’t have been been able to. Before I was even at my angriest, I was put into Wildcat’s ring. You can blame him for a lot of my teaching style, too. I may only be in my early twenties, but I’ve been training since I was four. I’ve been at this for longer than half the Batcave’s been alive.
“And believe it or not, I might actually kind of enjoy your company. But I find that all my best relationships are founded in a little casual assault and battery.”
I think the guy needed someone who took him for what he was, proverbial warts and all, and just listened without a lecture, or a pursed and pinched expression and while I can definitely say whether or not Tim did that from experience, I haven’t met the First Hottest Blonde in person. I’m not sure even she does that. Despite the pretext of our first meeting, I’m not interested in Conner Luthor for any of the reasons people usually are. Maybe it’s going to be kind of a weird friendship, all facts and figures considered, but it’s still shaping up to be one just the same.
“Oh, I meant with the flirting. I’ve been trying very hard to be very good at beating people up for a very, very long time. And anytime I can find a new way to do it? Sold. Dinah’s in. The better I am, the easier it is to look out for the people who need it.”
I.E. my friends. See. I do have a heart, and that’s mostly an admission of it. Even if it had been spoken in a much more general sense. Did I have other things I was planning to do tonight? Yeah, but they can wait, and while he’s said, and I believe him, that there’s no real ulterior motive here the tactical part of my brain always analyzes and measures the timing of things. He has other things he’s supposed to be doing on the other side of the world, faster than a speeding bullet be damned, so I’m just going to take the opportunity as presented. My grandmother was actually alive for most of my life. Unlike a lot of metas in the world, not only did I have someone to help me practice with my powers, I also had that same someone who had the same powers as me, and a particular insight in things to do with them. Was this something she’d ever tried to teach me? Instinct is to snort and blow him off because this is my thing, not his. Except he’s got access to information I do not.
And it’s very believable that Grandma may have tried to show me this, but I was much more interested in screaming the walls down in the basement of their shop. I.E. the building that we were standing on. My head’s cocked to one side, a plain look of consideration over what he’s saying, as the cogs spin. I’d honestly never considered using my powers defensively. Not like that. I should have. Especially since my preferred method of fighting is rooted in defense and aggression in the same motion.
“Actually, I’m thinking you better not let anyone know you actually have a pretty sharp brain up there, or they’re going to expect all kinds of things from you and that’s bound to be exhausting. There’s a reason for that logic, though. Beyond not needing to use it, most of the time, I didn’t want to attract a certain kind of attention, and generally I try to avoid kicking off the escalation here myself. Though we might be a little beyond that, now….”
I.E. NOWHERE’s. His. Which I guess makes a glaring testament to the import behind my actually using them on him. In Metropolis. While I was pretending to just be there for a show. Now, the band is another way of practicing that power that I can do out in the open, with a little bit higher stakes. When I was little, I couldn’t scream without using my powers, and for a long time the solution to that was focus. Willpower and personal control. Then as I got older, it was honing the gift so it only functioned when, and if, I wanted it to. The rock band’s made a perfect outlet. So has playing harmonica, but that’s much, much lamer and we don’t talk about that.
There’s actually a lot that could be unpacked from the last bit. From the tone of voice, and I can’t help wanting to dig into it some, but instead I just opt to go along with why he’s here. What he wanted. A half-gloved hand may just be getting laid on his shoulder in a moment of silent reassurance before I do start to hum. A look of concentration because I have never even attempted to do something like this. Direct my powers outwards explosively, or mute them entirely? Yes. Letting the sound build around me, rather than throwing it out and it’s a very, very peculiar feeling. Then I hear his very, very last comment. For a moment, I’m laughing internally over that, because I do owe Dick Grayson one for tasering me, still, but then blue eyes widen and I’m rattling my own teeth, and brain, with the sonics.
Does he know who’s under the suit? I had the impression that had been kept from NOWHERE, and that transition is recent so if they’re that aware of what’s going on here, we probably have a larger problem than guessed. Or maybe he was just calling him a name, not knowing it’s his actual name. Either way… this isn’t a sensation I particular enjoy. I’m actually normally immune to the force of my powers, which lets me use it in enclosed spaces without fear. So it must be something with the way I was channeling it. The hand that had been on Conner’s shoulder moves to pinch the bridge of my nose as I steady myself with a breath and wait for the world to quit spinning for a second.
“I swear. This never happens.”
Superman: “Batman. The cowl is lined with lead, but the rest of the suit isn’t. Faces are not the only identifying mark people have, Dinah, and honestly I thought you’d be the last person I would need to say that too. Original Batman? Well, hung but old. The one with Wonder Woman and Flash that I met? Eh. The one I met in the ruins of Coast City? Brick shit house. Dude’s jacked and must not do steroids. Me? Genetic perfection, no brag Dinah, I’m designed to be just about as perfectly proportioned as possible. The guy you people have pretending to be Batman right now? His proportions are way off. He doesn’t have to fake that deep voice like the first one I met.”
Head tilting to the side just a bit, so as to show her that I’m being serious and not joking about a word I’m saying. I’m well aware that Timothy Drake was the first Batman that I met, the little jerk told me so after he passed the cowl off to someone else. I’m also well aware that he’s got two older brothers, but -I- am not a detective. Nor do I want to be. In fact after a discussion with Cassie, I’m not entirely sure that I even want to know who’s under that cowl at this point.
The whole thing is a little worrisome, truth be told. Because if Nowhere found out for certain? I’m fairly sure this little truce I’ve negotiated would be a thing of the past. Just as I know they’re working several different angles on finding out the inner workings of the so-called rebellion. Huntress and Miss Martian, are both working in Gotham city currently to that very end. Even as I’m running through all of this, I can’t help but think about how convoluted all of it is. How very close to exploding it all could be.
“Your equilibrium might be thrown off by the act of keeping your sonics internalized. When I first started to learn to use my abilities, I had to learn to focus on the specifics I was looking for or listening for. You wouldn’t believe how shitty it is to walk around seeing everyone’s internal organs and not be able to turn it off. When my hearing first started getting acute, I thought I was going insane. This isn’t going to happen right away. Like I said, leaping small buildings is our first milestone. We’ll get closer to flying by lesson three or four.”
“Here. Let me show you a trick that Megan used on me.”
We were working from a stance that was almost like dancing. The next step is a little different. A hand brushes along her jawline, nudging her to make eye contact with me. “When you’re first learning to dance, that first inclination is to always look down. You want to see where your feet are. But, if you actually want to learn to dance you have to stop looking at your feet and start trusting yourself to move the way you’re supposed too.”
“Follow my lead,” for effect I start us off with a very soft hum of my own, Blue Danube is one of the most famous Waltz renditions of all time and I’m sure that Dinah would know the classics even if she didn’t want the Bat Clan to know she was even an ounce sophisticated. “Doesn’t this make you want to laugh? You’re dancing with Superman on the top of your Family Business, in the middle of Gotham.”
Ah, but if she were to look down she’d realize that I’ve said something slightly untrue. We are no longer on the roof of her building. The solid ‘ground’ beneath her feet is a layer of telekinesis that has expended around her from contact with me. “I’m going to tell you a secret, Dinah. One of the best, cherished, little secret pleasures of my life? Is being equally my father’s biggest success and failure. He loves having his own Superman, but it grinds his gears that Conner Luthor is just another dumb jock to be manipulated to his end goals. He doesn’t even suspect that I’ve been working him, because he thinks I’m just another Dolt in an S-Shield and cape. With no more careful planning than it takes to get my next payoff. Whether that’s a piece of ass or whatever else I can dream up to ask for.”
“To some extent, everyone buys in to Conner Luthor, I think you’re the only person in my whole life that even has a clue.” Clearing my throat finally. “Normally at this point in the song, I’d either kiss you or let you go.”
Canary: “Aaaand we shall file that under ‘more information than I wanted to have, but now do, and can’t un-imagine.”
Especially because I do know who each one, in the progression of Batmen, was. Well hung but old. Christ. That’s going to be a potentially humorous discussion to have at some point. So, boys. It’s not just your facial features you might want to think about covering up, because Superman’s noticed some other identifying features. I’d say it must be a guy thing, but I haven’t bothered with a mask in a long time. There’s other ways than the eyes and cheekbones to identify a person, I rely on makeup to shift and smudge and look just different enough. It’s not as if I’m posing for pictures when I step out in the fishnets. I suppose superheros as a lot have evolved in that respect. Some of them, anyway. I know what the Superman in front of me looks like, what Wonder Woman appears to be, are not what the kids underneath those monikers actually have in the way of features. It’s possible they might eventually but not now. There’s a shrug of one shoulder, as much as I can move without making me shift positions otherwise.
“Literally, I’m sure. I temporarily deafened or knocked out my whole kindergarten class so. No stranger to losing control, I just got a tutor very, very quickly after that. And learned it. I’m not worried.”
I think most of what just happened then was what amounted to a startled sputter, or spraying a drink you’d just taken a sip of, only it just happened to be the Canary Cry’s back-beat I choked on instead when Conner shared his new fun nickname for Batman. Supes also isn’t apparently worried about my controlling it either, because he’s in front of me, still. And he, with all that incredibly amplified hearing, has felt a point blank demonstration before. There’s also a little general level of absurdity going on here, and I hadn’t needed it pointed out to me as we shift stances. If anyone is paying attention, which I’d imagine they have to be because the SupermanInc! Alert has probably already blared.
It always seemed pointless to me, because if he was coming with a head of steam he’d be here faster than it would have a chance to do any good.
I do know the waltz. I know it well, actually, and I do know how to waltz. You want the core conundrum that is me? Clinically unattached, and also a big gooey romantic at heart. I did this with Ollie many times, though the song wasn’t always the same, and the memory makes emotions tug and quirk the corners of my mouth and eyes. Amusement, sadness, tense threats at anger and back again, before I push it all out of my head.
“And I’m actually letting him lead, too. Must be his lucky day.”
I’m not looking down. I don’t need to in order to perform the steps, nor do I need to in order to know we’ve risen off the roof. I take over the instrumental portion of this little scene we’ve set, humming the Strauss piece. It would work without an actual tune, it would also work without me making any sort of audible sound at all, at least not to normal ears, but this is fitting. It’s low, as I shift, and fine tune the vibrations in my throat and out of it, still listening to Conner’s admissions as we go. I have to stop in order to chuckle at him, though.
“Talk about a potentially ominous double meaning. No thank you. On both. Last time you kissed another girl here, I was pretty sure your girlfriend was about to go thermonuclear on the city. But what can I say, you remind me of me. Can’t bullshit a bullshitter, right?”
Superman: Ah, but if I wasn’t looking to steal the kiss then why am I smiling so much once more? The point of this wasn’t a kiss, nor was it that Dinah would suddenly manifest independent flight. It was to get her thinking about something else. Distraction. A tactic that she knows all too well. Good conversation and a little music, has her thinking of far more things that the harmonic vibrations that were tossing off her equilibrium and making her head swim. We’re now hovering above the block and she’s no longer commenting on it, nor forced to stop.
Step one achieved.
“Well, for the record, I’ve been told that I’m an excellent tutor,” you just can’t fake the wolfish grin I’m showing off right now, the tutor thing is apparently far too humorous to be anything but an inside joke she doesn’t get yet. “You should probably make sure that Wonder Woman knows how well I’m doing tutoring you.”
We come to a bit of a stop, such as it is given that we’re airborne. At this point the wind rustling past us is movement of it’s own. Between her hair and my cape there really isn’t a stop. The point is exactly that though. The wind is touching her, no more field from the super boy protecting her from the elements. The chance isn’t something that can hidden, at some point the weight distribution shifted from a sort of second gravity to my arms holding her in the air. What I wanted is for her to feel the actual, sensation of her own sonic field keeping things like the friction of movement, even the breeze, from affecting her too much. Much like the age-old saying that someone must learn to walk, before they can run.
“According to the database, your Grandmother wore a choker necklace that had a harmonic stabilizer in the crest. It did half the work for her, but bringing something like that with me would only make you dubious about where it came from. One of your boyfriends can make you a new one, if you can’t find the old one in that chest of her things you keep in the basement.”
We’ve reached the point in all of this where the casual onlooker that knew me would be waiting for the inevitable moment when I let go. Dropping Dinah would force her to sink or swim and that’s basically my whole M.O. It just never happens. Not with Dinah and it has absolutely nothing to do with fear of the repercussions. Our waltz is nearing it’s end when her boots crunch once more softly upon the insulation of the building we’d just left.
“I’m sure you know this already, but visiting you wasn’t about bringing a gift. It’s about the dance Din-…” In the span of moments between syllables, I turn my head just enough that my eyes aren’t precisely upon her and a blast of heat results in the voice of Slade Wilson letting out a surprised yelp, before the fire escape melts away from the building, depositing him on the ground, in a heap. “..-nah. You’re about to do something dangerous, even silly, but for the right reasons. If something of mine was taken from me, I would do no less. But… isn’t that a little funny? If you really think about it. The reason we met, is because you were sent to distract me from doing exactly what you’re doing?”
“You’re not going to like what you find in Star City, Dinah. You’re going to like what Wilson shows you even less. You’re not in the V.R. but you may as well be. Someone is marionetting you and in my experience that’s more about seeing what you’ll do than caring if you do it.”
Canary: “If I ever talk to her, I’ll be sure to do that. Should I throw in some outrageous winks and an elbow nudge or two?”
Normally, people would probably argue that it’s really unwise to goad someone who can crush your skull without too much effort. Especially when that someone is apparently some degree of a God, and only likely to get more powerful and have a very long time to hold a grudge. I’m not really in for all that, but there’s something that makes her more powerful, just like the alien that crash landed here, or the engineered half-alien in front of me. I do a whole lot of things that conventional wisdom wouldn’t consider all that smart, though, and I make it work. There’s an expression of almost detached fascination as I watch around us. I’m actually not a very big fan of flying like this. I don’t like doing anything that I’m not in absolute control over. This is a little bit different, and it’s not even difficult. Yes, it’s a new power application but that gift is something I’ve been honing just as long as my body. It’s still singing, just a different melody.
“Give me some credit. I ate the cookies without even a stray thought they might be poisoned or drugged. I trust you farther than I can throw you. And I don’t have boyfriends. I have partners. Roommates. Family. And then people I blow off steam with on a very limited and trial basis.”
But I will look through the things in the basement. Something I probably should have already done, but I just hadn’t had the heart at first, and then I didn’t think about it. My grandfather died right before I bailed on Gotham to go to college on the other side of the country, leaving all of it to me. And I do trust Conner Luthor, something very few people would actually say I think, because I trust him to be himself and everything else fits into a narrative around that. When we step down again, combat boots meeting roof, I tilt my head in to give him a shockingly chaste kiss on the cheek. Translation: the thank you that I’m not going to say out loud right now. In part because he’s finally getting to what I was waiting for. The reason for ‘why now?’ in his visit. Because the rest of this could have been done anytime. Any place. And he’d shown up right as I was speaking with Deathstroke. Right as I’m leaving to handle my business.
I don’t care who you are, the eye lasers from that close up? That’ll make anyone flinch, and I don’t even think they’re aimed for me in the first place. My head’s craned over my shoulder, to the slag of my former fire escape and the sound of the least dignified sound I’ve heard Slade make. Something I’ll surely find a time to mock him over. When I face Conner again, my mouth is pulled into a displeased, if determined, little line. Full lips tight and set.
“Your something wasn’t taken against its will while I had you looking at my tits, Conner. But the rest of that… I know you would. I already don’t like everything I know about the situation with Wilson. Hate it, actually. Knowing there’s missing time there makes me more than a little insane. So why did you tell me in the first place? About Ollie?”
Though I’m actually fairly sure I know the answer.
Superman: “Wasn’t it? My life was all about spending the week pretending to need a highschool education, so as to con my girlfriend in to scandalous situations for sex. Now it’s about capes, tights, tactics, and choices people our age haven’t a right to be make. I’m fairly sure our lives were stolen out from under us, while I was looking at your tits. Before that, a child’s innocence was taken away…” This draws me up just short of outlining the whole example, a shake of the head puts me back to the explaining from a different direction. “… the point is that this business, this whole super hero business. Whether it be a vigilante, a cape or even a policeman, it takes and takes.”
“We have to come to terms with that.”
Just before breaking contact with Dinah, I give her shoulders a very serious little squeeze. “Coming to terms with it, doesn’t mean accepting it blindly. It doesn’t mean rolling over and showing them your belly. It means, that when it’s time for righting the scales you don’t just restore balance. You put so much weight on their side, it takes them a lifetime to even restore balance. Much less hurt you again.”
Why did I tell her about Ollie? That’s not such a difficult answer, actually. When the Huntress was being given her time away for her Father’s death, Nowhere was looking at means of destabilizing Gotham. Yes, yes, that’s ironic because Gotham is never stable in the minds of people who live here. To those of us on the outside these people juggle chaos brilliantly at times. The answer to her question, then is actually about as straight forward as possible. But explaining it… doesn’t do much for my desire to get these people thinking we’re the good guys. Unfortunately, I don’t think I can choose not to answer her. Even if I wanted too, I just can’t.
“Okay. Before I answer you, let me give you just a little background. Your Dad was a cop, I know. When the Police thing a group of individuals are bad, but getting credible intelligence on them proves difficult the police send in an under cover unit. Take it a step further, when the FBI finds a terrorist cell, they use infiltration as a means of connecting one cell to the network. You need to accept that the U.S. Government views the Vigilante group here in Gotham on a level beyond that. You’re a terrorist cell that has proven to have connections that aren’t known or even totally understood. You’re insulated from standard action by connections to the GCPD, and through the civilian government. The only way to deal with your group at this point? Is through infiltration, intelligence and disillusionment.”
“While I understand that they have to take this path, as surely as the cops have to use undercover agents, I couldn’t be party to it. I certainly couldn’t condone. I don’t think all of you are the bad guys, but… I don’t think all of us are the bad guys either. So right now, I’m just trying to protect the people I can. While I try to find a way to make this work for all of us.”
“Not exactly the way I wanted to end this Date, Dinah, but I should let you get back to playing with Deathstroke. Remember, be home by eleven. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do. Actually, on second thought, specifically do nothing. Nothing at all. That I would do. He’s very old, and wrinkly. Things that make you go… eww..”
Canary: “So stop.”
I could debate some semantics with him, because he’s taken the comparison I was making and then shifted it into something else, but like most things in life, I cut straight through to the blunt end. There could have been time spent pointing out that from my understanding, he was the one that kick started that life for his girlfriend. Maybe he didn’t have the exact luxury of making the choice how he wanted to make it, and maybe she could have chosen not to do it again after getting pushed out onto that stage and into the lights of the world’s view. Spotlights definitely don’t bother me, but I sing in them. Not fight. Unless you count that one time with the pit fighting ring.
“Shit. I feel like a broken record lately, because I’ve been saying this to a lot of boys… you’re right. It does take. And take. And it’s impossible, and hard and it’ll kill you or someone you care about if you’re not in it. Really, really in it. Whatever reason it is that you’re in it for. And sometimes, it’ll still manage to do it then anyway. For the people that are really, really in it together? That makes a brotherhood unlike anything else.”
It’s why soldiers are so loyal to their unit. Cops. Vigilantes. Why the death of one, or the betrayal, hits the rest with such personal vengeance. Vengeance won’t keep you in the life if you weren’t already a permanent fixture though. In a way, Batman made sure with one hand that I’d stick with this, while the other was trying to shoo me out the door. Avenging my father would have been an end. I had to have another, better, reason. I’m actually still waiting to see if Tim’s protege is going wash out when her own Dad’s hoisted by his own petard, though there’s still some internal debate on which way I hope that it goes. The smirk on my lips, for the words he’d said after squeezing my shoulder, is much more predatory wolf than a flirtatious one.
“See, now. There you go again. Reading my mind.”
Because I could probably find the black site where they’ve got my. The Ollie. I’ve got resources that are even more resourceful than I am. But breaking in, breaking him out, achieves what? Making NOWHERE right, ruining Ollie’s cover story of a life. Another reason for them to come after us here, despite the fact that I’m the only one that really, technically, falls under their usual purview and I was supposed to be untouchable. I’m going to Star City first to do some recon. To gather some information. Because when I do come for them, I am going to not only make it hurt, I’m going to make damn fucking sure it sticks.
There’s a lot of room for debate, again, but on the exterior of all of that, I know it’s not exactly his call despite all that power he has, and he did warn me when he didn’t have to. Another note I’m going to file into the folder labeled ‘Things Tim’s Wrong About,’ and another reason that I do actually like this kid a lot. Whether or not I agree with his analogy for our situation in Gotham, I can see the validity of the comparison. So I don’t argue it. I just tick my head to one side at his word choice. Reaching up a hand, I pat where I’d smooched a minute ago but it’s a fond gesture, not one of condescension.
“I don’t think you’re a bad guy, either. Secret’s safe with me, and if I can help you keep yours safe, you let me know. I won’t even expect anything in return. Friends, and all that.”
Blue eyes roll after that, and his teasing, before I step backwards from Superman and pivot on a bootheel with a jaunty, and sloppy salute.
“You probably broke the old man’s hip, he may not even be any fun anyway.”