DISCLAIMER: Birds of Prey is the property of DC Comics. No infringement intended.
SPOILERS: Some Batgirl-specific spoilers for Shiva's background. General background spoilers on Dinah.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

A Canary in Coal Country
By Rysler


The sound of the ocean hid Shiva's footsteps until she reached the beach chair where a blonde rested, a half-empty mai tai sitting on the sand at her knee, the umbrella askew. Dinah looked so... exposed. Shiva would never allow herself to be in such an open place, certainly not without the knives and powders she was carrying. Certainly not half-naked and with her eyes closed. Shiva inwardly rolled her eyes, wondering how this woman had become one of the highest-ranked martial artists in the world. Not through effort. Must be natural talent. Shiva smiled.

She glanced one more time around the beach, sweat trickling down the back of her neck, before approaching Dinah. Perhaps leather wasn't the most appropriate choice for the beach. Perhaps the beach wasn't the most appropriate choice for Dinah Lance. One hundred and two people crowded the beach at nine in the morning. Sixty-seven were blonde, or pretending to be. The pretend-to-be blonde's face in front of her scrunched into a grimace.

"You're blocking my light."

Shiva stood between Dinah and the morning sun, watching silently as Dinah lowered her sunglasses and squinted at her.

"I believe the only way to get your attention is to get between you and your precious self-destruction," Shiva said. She had to admit that skin damage looked good on Dinah, although she looked rather like a bimbo. Shiva kept the evaluation quiet, reminding herself that she was dealing with a physical fighter almost as good as herself.

"Does this mean you're going to stand between me and any cute guy, too?" Dinah sighed. "What can I do for you, Lady Shiva? Come to turn yourself in?"

Shiva allowed herself to smile. "You have no wish to see me in jail."

"I totally do. Wait, first things first... How the hell did you find me?"

Shiva folded her arms. A breeze blew from the ocean, mussing Dinah's hair and cooling the sweat on her face as she said, "Look on a beach for the Black Canary in repose? Do you think it was a difficult task?"

"There are a lot of beaches. Like... fifty--um... Lots. "

Shiva sighed. "This is your favorite beach. The only one of forty-seven where you have not met a man who has deceived you."

"Of forty-seven, really? Ha, I was close." Dinah grinned brilliantly at Shiva.

Shiva said, "I had a two percent chance of finding you here."

"Hey, those are sucky odds..." Shiva watched Dinah straighten and drop her sunglasses. "Desperate odds. What's wrong?"

Shiva glanced away, out at the ocean and the dull yellow haze that blurred the horizon. She ran her tongue across the back of her teeth, tasting salt, and said, "Are you sure I am not interrupting some important heliophilic ritual?"

"Just tell me what's wrong." Dinah shoved her chair back, and patted the colorful towel at her feet.

Shiva shrugged out of her jacket, dropping it onto the blanket and sitting on top of it, not eager to have sand anywhere near her ass. Her feet already itched from the sand in her boots. She watched thirstily as Dinah picked up her pinkish mai-tai and took a swallow, wincing at the slushiness and the grit of sand. "Go on."

The beads of condensed water on the outside of the glass tempted Shiva, but she merely said, "Someone is hunting our sensei's students."

Dinah shrugged. "Someone is always hunting us. We're the best in the world. You came all the way here to tell me that? You could have sent a telegram. Passenger pigeon. Instant message."

Shiva lifted her hand to cut off Dinah's rambling. "They killed Paul."

"Paul?" She saw Dinah's fingers tightened on the glass. The memory of finding the body came into Shiva's mind again, and she barely heard Dinah's words through the pounding in her ears. "Jesus, Shiva. Paul's just an accountant. He'd never hurt anyone."

She looked at the mai tai. The murky liquid reflected the smog. Like Dinah was drinking poison. Shiva said, "I agree. Paul had information. About you."

Dinah set down the glass. "Shiva..."

"Yes. You are the next target." Shiva looked down, so she wouldn't have to see the way Dinah's eyes widened with fear. She brushed sand off the askew sleeve of the jacket under her. "You needn't worry. I secured the area."

"Secured the area? You didn't hit anyone, did you?"

Shiva smiled. "Not yet."

"Do you know who's after me? ...Us?"

"Yes." Shiva had recognized the handiwork as soon as she'd seen Paul's body.

"Well?" Dinah leaned forward.

Shiva ran a hand through her hair. The top of her head felt burning hot from the sun. She winced and let her hand drop back into her lap. "Darren Tor. A student of Slade. Now wishing to become the next sensei. But he must remove the old legends, first, before he becomes the one students seek out."

"Instead of you. Do you think he will train Gotham's heroes as well as you do?" Dinah smiled slyly.

Shiva ignored her and rose, plucking her jacket from the blanket and shaking off sand. Being in Dinah's presence was exciting and insufferable simultaneously, and she had at least another day of the blonde's company to experience. She said, "I have already procured plane tickets."



Dinah sighed. "I want an arch nemesis who can fly."

Shiva smirked, and said, "As do I, Black Canary."

Dinah got to her feet. "This Darren. Is he cute?"

Shiva didn't dignify that with a response as she started off across the beach.

Dinah dropped a few dollars on the chair for the hotel and scrambled after her. "Is he good?"

"He fought Paul to the death in fair hand-to-hand combat."

"And he's Slade's student. So imagine what he could do in an unfair fight."

"Precisely. He has intelligence. And perhaps it is about restoring order. Our sensei's students are so good they're disrupting the balance of the Earth."

"I thought we balanced each other pretty well," said Dinah.

Shiva felt a rush of warmth at Dinah's off-handed compliment. She scowled to hide the tint in her cheeks, and Dinah rambled on obliviously.

"So where are we going? Somewhere warm?"

Shiva knew she was going to disappoint Dinah with her answer. "Pennsylvania."

Dinah rolled her eyes.

Shiva ascended to the boardwalk, tossing her jacket over her shoulder. "I knew you would not take me to jail."

"You were right. I've never wanted you there. I've always wanted you at my side."

Shiva glanced at Dinah. "And I, you."

LAX was chilly after the heat outdoors. Shiva was grateful again for her jacket. She allowed herself to sink into anonymity in the bustling, coffee-stinking crowds waiting for flights. Dinah reiterated her wish for an enemy who could fly. Shiva thought she just wanted to get out into the sun again. Dinah had thrown a gauzy open shirt and drawstring canvas pants over her bathing suit, and while she looked reasonably appropriately dressed for the Los Angeles Airport, her arms were peppered with goose bumps.

Any one of the thousands of people catching a flight on a balmy Tuesday afternoon could be an assassin. She was an assassin. However good Darren Tor was, he wasn't as good as her. He probably wasn't even as good as Dinah, but Shiva felt too responsible to see that battle unfold without her support on Dinah's side.

Shiva gazed through glass at the planes taking off, leaning her forehead against the glass. She said, without looking back at the digital schedule board, "Our flight has been delayed."

"Argh," said Dinah at her side.

Shiva chuckled to herself. "You heroes, with your eloquent speeches in the face of adversity."

Dinah said, "I also know how to say, 'Bite me.'"

Shiva heard Dinah shift, and then Dinah's voice came, closer to her ear. Lower in pitch. "This whole evil rival honored teacher bit is just an excuse to see me, right?" Dinah said, placing her hand on Shiva's shoulder, and smiling broadly.

"Any excuse..." Shiva gave into the desire to kiss her.

Dinah kissed her back softly, keeping her hand on Shiva's shoulder as she pressed her mouth against Shiva's. Shiva could taste alcohol and salt. She could still feel heat from the sun on Dinah's lips, remembered watching Dinah on the beach before she approached, remembered how beautiful how Dinah was, how untouchable, and now they were kissing. She nipped Dinah's lower lip, and then drew back. "You won."

"Lucky me," Dinah purred, cupping Shiva's neck, caressing her throat with her thumb. "And, what's the contest?"

Shiva arched into the touch. "You made it to the airport before we..."

Dinah smirked, and said, "Training in martial arts has given me great discipline." She stroked Shiva's jaw. "What's my prize?"

Shiva exhaled the word against Dinah's lips. "More."

Dinah kissed Shiva again, seizing her mouth, demanding it yield. Shiva parted her lips and felt Dinah move inside, finding her tongue. Kissing Dinah was like kissing sunshine, in the way the surface of the sun bubbled due to fusion, and threatened to erupt and obliterate whole power grids. Memories of kissing Dinah in previous encounters came unbidden to Shiva as she explored wet, warm lips. Dinah was always eager to kiss; Shiva had never met someone so free.

Shiva panted, her abdomen shifting and contracting under Dinah's traveling fingers with each breath. Dinah slid her hand higher, brushing the underside of Shiva's breast through her shirt. Shiva moaned against Dinah's lips. Dinah knew just where to touch her to arouse her. Her heart racing, Shiva withdrew. She let arms hung loosely at her sides. "We're in a public place," she pointed out.

"And we're putting on a show." Dinah stepped forward.

Shiva eluded her. "We have enemies."

"Speak for yourself."

Shiva pointed to a newspaper rack, where the headline of the Los Angeles Times read, JLA Proponents of Martian Invasion?. "Do you want to see us there?"

"I could frame it," Dinah said, folding her arms. "It'd last longer."

Shiva felt the bitterness of Dinah's comment, and it hurt, dampening the arousal that withdrawing from Dinah's touch had not sated. She scowled.

A voice came over the loudspeaker. "American Airlines Flight 3952 to Pittsburgh now boarding all rows."

Shiva headed for the ramp.

Dinah scrambled after her. "I can't believe they let you fly. Aren't you on some sort of terrorist watch-list?"

A few passengers glanced their way. Shiva frowned. "You are a bitch. Keep your voice down."

"You assassins, with your eloquence of speech."

Shiva stomped onto the plane. She was stung by Dinah's comments, annoyed by her presence, and aching from the kiss.

Dinah was stopped at the gate by a worried attendant who looked too closely at her J.L.A. I.D. "Are you carrying any weapons?"

Shiva saw Dinah shoot her a look, before saying, "No, of course not."

"We have sky marshals aboard with jurisdiction. We don't want any trouble."

"I don't cause trouble. I prevent trouble."

The attendant looked at her dubiously.

Dinah blinked. "Why, what have you read?"

Shiva left her to fight it out on her own. She was already settled against the window when Dinah appeared and sat down, kicking her beach bag under the seat in front of her. "It's going to be a long flight," Dinah said glumly. She bumped Shiva's arm with her elbow. Shiva ignored her, feeling stubborn. Dinah rolled her head against the seatback. "They always are."

Shiva remained silent until the plane was in the air. Dinah had closed her eyes, seeming to doze, and Shiva took the opportunity to study her. She wondered if the rumors about Dinah having a link to the mysterious Oracle were true. How did they communicate? Did Dinah have a transmitter on her right now? She leaned closer, examining Dinah's ear for any telltale metal or plastic.

Dinah wet her lips groggily, and opened her eyes to see Shiva unexpectedly close to her. "What?"

"Is Oracle always with you? Is he an internal spirit? Is he there right now?" Shiva brushed back Dinah's hair for a better look behind her ear.

"Christ, Shiva. Stop looking in my ear."

"Is he listening?"

Dinah wrinkled her nose. "No. I live my own life. Oracle's not always around."

The corners of Shiva's lips twitched. Dinah had just confirmed Oracle's existence. Knowledge that was valuable.

"Now what?" Dinah plucked a Cosmopolitan from the seat pocket in front of her and flipped it open.

"We will be successful," Shiva said.

"We usually are."

"When we're together." Shiva brushed her hand against Dinah's thigh. She forgave Dinah for being a hero, and for being less than perfect.

Dinah covered Shiva's hand with her own. "Do we have a plan?"

"Our plan is to be successful."

From Pittsburgh, Dinah and Shiva rented a Ford Escape and drove east into the countryside. Shiva used a GPS palm pilot to guide their journey until they found a dirt road that ended among grassy hills.

"Should we hide the car?"

"There's no reason. If they find it, they will not find us."

"If they destroy it, it'll ruin my credit rating."

"Perhaps if you had a secret identity, you would not have such interference in your regular life."

"Thank you, Sandra."

The two women hiked among the hills. The sun was setting, turning the area golden. Conversation, scant but pleasant, turned to competition.

"You are one of the best martial artists in the world, Dinah," Shiva said, not looking her as they crested a hill. "But not the best. You could not beat me."

"Wanna try?"

Shiva chuckled. "Only one person has ever beaten me."


When Shiva cringed and looked to the east, Dinah smirked. "She kicked your ass."

"Ah. And she is much younger, Dinah. She is meant to retire us."

"Speak for yourself."

"The student surpasses the teacher."

"I'm not old enough for this conversation. Are we going to stand at the top of a hill, exposed to the satellites and motion sensors all day?"

"We are two hilltops from our destination. We will camp in the valley tonight and attack before dawn." Shiva set off down the hill.

"Sleep in the most vulnerable spot?" Dinah said as she scrambled after Shiva.

"Who would think to look?" Shiva shrugged, and said, "The Batgirl who trained with me is young and new, but the legend is far older. I wonder where the figure in the legend has gone."

Dinah stopped in her tracks. Shiva heard her suck in her breath, before Dinah said, "Where all legends go."

"Dead?" Shiva turned around and squinted at Dinah against the fading sunlight.


Shiva nodded. She began her descent again. "A dishonorable form of battle. She was cheated."


Shiva began walking, and trying to keep her voice casual. "Did you know her?"

"Never met her."

Shiva tried to tell if Dinah was lying. She assumed she was, if only because Dinah knew everyone. When they reached the bottom of the hill, she looked back at Dinah, and allowed the jealous part of her to speak. "You are an enigma."

Dinah ambled easily down the hill, saying, "Wrapped in a mystery, trapped in a conund--"

"Please." Shiva lifted her hand.

Dinah squinted.

"You have no secret identity. You are simply you, Dinah Lance, the Black Canary. And yet..."

Dinah took the last few steps to stand in front of Shiva, and offered a wide smile. "And yet... you fear me as much as the Dark Knight?"

Almost. Shiva smiled thinly, her lips barely creasing the corners of her mouth. "And yet I know nothing about you beyond your fighting skills. And your distressing code of ethics."

"Want to play Truth or Dare?"

"I was thinking," Shiva said, "Of a simple exchange of information."

Dinah raised her eyebrow.

"To build trust."

"Oh, right."

"Okay, I guess I'll go first," Dinah said. Shiva watched as Dinah surveyed the area, and then moved toward a patch of wildflowers. She plucked two from their stems. "I work in a flower shop. I'm a florist. A flower girl. Really. That's what I do." Shiva struggled not to laugh at her, as Dinah gently pushed Shiva's hair back. "My mother did the same thing. I don't have quite the same knack for it, but... It's a way to create beauty." She tucked a flower behind Shiva's ear. "Beating people up is not an act of beauty. This is my compensation."

Shiva said, "You've never seen yourself fight."

Dinah snorted. "Your turn."

Shiva briefly touched the flower in her hair, and furrowed her brow. She met Dinah's eyes and stepped closer. "I spared Green Arrow not only because of Robin, but because of you."

"I knew that," Dinah said softly. She brushed some fallen pollen off Shiva's shoulder.

Shiva leaned in, to whisper against Dinah's cheek. "I love you."

"I knew that, too."

Shiva tilted her head and kissed Dinah, feeling her arch closer as their lips met. This kiss, this solid contact, is what Shiva had been waiting for since the airport, and she moaned against Dinah's lips. Dinah turned her head to mumble against Shiva's jaw, "Let's camp."

"There's some trees to your right," Shiva said. She ran her hands over Dinah's ass, squeezing and pulling her closer.

Dinah had been squirming against her, but now she froze. "Trees? Are there animals? Snakes? Ants?"

Shiva dipped her head to nuzzle Dinah's neck. "Are you going to let me kill them?"

Dinah threw back her head and reached up to run her fingers through Shiva's hair. "What if they're cute?"

"Then their deaths with be twice as slow," Shiva said, and bit into Dinah's throat.

Dinah laughed, her whole body shaking against Shiva's. Betraying arousal, hard nipples pressed into Shiva's breasts as she kept her hands on Dinah's ass, exploring curves, stroking her thighs, circling her waist. Shiva's lips moved against her neck, and Dinah said, "Screw the trees."

Shiva felt the words vibrate against her mouth. She let go of Dinah's waist long enough to shrug out of her coat. She wrapped it around Dinah's shoulders. Dinah giggled as she lowered herself to the ground. "I love the smell of leather," she said, reaching up to hook her fingers through the belt loops of Shiva's pants and tug her downward.

Shiva crouched on top of her. "I am glad you are not in your usual uniform," she said, as she plucked the top button of Dinah's jeans.

"Don't want to wrinkle it before our raid tomorrow," Dinah said.

Shiva's lips found Dinah's bare belly. She loved undressing Dinah. She worked her hands into the gap of the open jeans, slid along Dinah's hips, and then yanking downward. Having Dinah on her back was a victory. She circled Dinah's belly button with her tongue, her lips curling as Dinah gasped and buried her fingers in her hair. Dinah lifted her hips so Shiva could pull off her pants.

Shiva returned and said against Dinah's stomach, "You are very sensible." Her lips buzzed with the words. She moved lower, following Dinah's scent. Arousal, wetness, moans, all for her. Dinah was tugging at her hair, not Green Arrow's or anyone else's. Shiva lowered her head to Dinah in supplication, inhaling once, deeply, relishing her position, until Dinah's fingers tightened in her hair.

Their encounters were often in moments of pursuit--train rides, private jets, the occasional moving car--when they were together fighting an enemy who threatened a common interest. Once, the second time they had come together, it had been in a prison. Though their coupling was born of desperate circumstances, it continued, and Shiva admitted that she wanted it to continue, that she sought Dinah out, that she seduced her.

Dinah's thighs were pressed against the sides of Shiva's head, blocking out the noise of the outside world. Shiva's tongue dipped into Dinah, tasting the wet heat.

One pierced cry rose above the roar, and Dinah's hips stilled against Shiva's mouth. Shiva held her tongue against Dinah's clitoris, and Dinah came. Shiva felt her body tremble and jerk as she gasped for air.

Shiva pressed soft kisses against Dinah's inner thigh, and saw Dinah turn her head and press her nose against the shoulder of Shiva's jacket. Shiva watched her inhale, and smile, and felt closer to Dinah than if she herself had been the jacket. She had the rare opportunity to observe Dinah's rapture, and indulgence, in her. The gesture nearly broke Shiva. She nearly gave into Dinah, and gave up her life of crime, and became what Dinah saw in her.

But she bit her tongue. She knew such a pledge would not last, that she'd quickly and easily betray Dinah when she thought it necessary. Shiva would kill a thousand men before betraying Dinah. She crawled to Dinah's side and fell forward onto the ground. Separated from Dinah, she was more able to smell the land around them. The sweet summer grass tickled her nose as she inhaled, and beyond it, she could smell dirt and dust.

Dinah rolled over, pressing herself to Shiva's side. Shiva closed her eyes. "Shiva..." Dinah said her name almost sadly, and then Dinah touched her back. She wondered what Dinah would give up to preserve this night. If anything. Dinah's fingers moved to her hair, stroking the lock, scratching at her scalp until Shiva exhaled.

Shiva flipped onto her back and looked over at Dinah. Dinah was smiling, looking at her with undisguised pleasure. When Shiva met her eyes, Dinah leaned closer and kissed her. "Thanks," said Dinah. Dinah was easy to please, and yet Shiva still felt pride. Shiva watched her lick her lips, surely tasting herself in the flavor she'd stolen from Shiva's mouth.

"You're welcome."

Dinah worked her way on top of Shiva, on all fours, one knee between Shiva's legs. Shiva groaned. She reached up, sliding her hands under Dinah's shirt to cup her breasts. Dinah leaned into the touch and said, "I want to see you naked. Naked in a --" She stopped talking and looked around. "What kind of field is this?"

Shiva rolled her head to the side. "Mm... Grass?"

"A field of grass," Dinah said. She captured Shiva's mouth.

Shiva succumbed, lifting herself against Dinah's body, wanting more contact, wondering if her enemy would soothe the throbbing in her, or heighten the torture.

"So, the naked part?" Dinah said, breaking the kiss and poking Shiva in the ribs.

Shiva gauged Dinah's level of cruelty if she resisted, and squirmed, trying to escape her fingers. "If we must."

"Oh, we must," said Dinah, kneeling and pulling her shirt over her head. Her breasts bounced slightly as she lowered her arms. She attacked Shiva's shirt, pushing it over her breasts, giving the same treatment to the sports bra, before sliding lower on her legs to tug at her pants.

Shiva's pants ended up bunched around her calves, and she raised her knees to find leverage to spread her legs, so Dinah fit between them, and said, "This isn't exactly naked." Her shirt, rolled above her breasts, constricted her chest and made it harder to see Dinah.

"It's good enough," Dinah said, her hands working where Shiva could only feel them.

"For what?"

"To make love to you."

Shiva closed her eyes. She then felt Dinah's weight on top of her, and their breasts met, nipples pressing into tender skin, and Dinah began kissing her. Soft lips brushed her shoulder, her collarbone, her chin. Shiva moaned. She wanted to be consumed by Dinah, where here, skin to skin, they could forget their separation. Dinah began to move on top of her. Shiva wrapped her arms around Dinah's shoulders. Her head was in the dirt. Grass blades sliced at her calves. But Dinah was there, taking care of her.

When Dinah's hand slipped between her legs, Shiva lost her breath. She clutched at Dinah. One of Dinah's fingers dipped between her lips and find her core. Dinah touched her with pointed expertise, touching her with precise pressure until she moaned. Dinah's finger slipped into her and she clenched, feeling connected to Dinah through that one point, as if it were a conduit for electricity. Shiva felt herself begin to lose control, overwhelmed with the cosmic forces, and Dinah flattened the heel of her hand against Shiva. Dinah added fingers, her strokes becoming hard, firm, demanding.

Shiva spread her legs as wide as she could, surrendering herself to Dinah's force, and shuddering as she came. Dinah maintained the pressure against Shiva's quivering slowed, and Shiva clung to her, reluctant to let Dinah retreat.

Dinah kissed her neck, licking the sweat from her skin. "We will meet again," she said into Shiva's ear.


4 A.M. Shiva stood with Black Canary atop a hill, looking down at a nondescript rectangular building that could have been a factory, but was Darren Tor's castle. Dinah was wearing night-vision goggles. "It's an ungodly hour."

"You're a defender of the night."

"No, I just work for defenders of the night. I have a day job, remember?"

"Yes. Flower girl." Shiva shook her head. "I see four guards. I recognize them all as famous students. There are probably a few more inside, but Darren probably keeps to himself."

"We should take them out," Dinah said.

Shiva lifted a small blowgun to her lips and exhaled four times in rapid succession. The guards fell. At Dinah's scowl, she said, "Do not worry. I used tranquilizers."

"It's not that. Why did you bring me along? Don't I get to kick some ass?"

Shiva smirked. "Once we're inside, you can be as loud as you want."

"I'm not loud!"

Shiva pulled a lockpick rake and a small torque wrench from her belt and knelt in front of the complex's back door. She slipped the wrench one into the bottom of the lock and held it with one finger, and then pushed the rake in above it. The lock turned easily. She was not concerned about tripping the motion alarms. She wanted Darren to know they were coming. They found him in the central room, a gymnasium, wearing fighting trunks, his chest bare.

"Welcome, Lady Shiva. Black Canary. How odd it is to see you together."

Dinah crouched into a fighting stance. "The enemy of my enemy..."

Darren smiled. "Of course. How honored I am to be a threat."

Dinah opened her mouth, but Shiva stepped in front of her, with folded arms. "You are no threat. We're here because of Paul."

"Just petty vengeance?" Darren paced. "I will be the greatest martial arts champion in the world. I will defeat you, and then I will defeat Connor Hawke, and the Batman. I will not be brought down due to some personal grudge. Killing Paul wasn't personal, why do you make it so? Women." He paused mid-step to smile broadly at Shiva. "Your emotions have clouded your focus. Good." He signaled his guards.

Three guards charged, and Shiva quickly found them skilled in martial arts. Darren watched from the side of the room until Dinah had knocked one guard unconscious and was battling a second. Shiva dropped her guard with a punch that broke his nose. She smiled at the sound of bone crunching. Darren let out a yell and sliced at her, hitting her shoulder with an ineffective chop, and then swinging around to elbow her. Shiva lunged out of the way, and then Shiva swung around, kicking at Darren. Her boot contacted with his face, and he stumbled backwards, spitting blood. She heard the clatter of teeth on the smooth floor, and smiled with satisfaction as she raised her arms against the next blow.

Dinah was behind her, still panting from the fight with the guards. "Shiva, stop."

Shiva watched Darren wipe blood from his mouth. She asked, "What will you do if you live?"

"I will move you to the top of the list. Who is Dinah Lance, without your protection?"

"Hey!" Dinah stepped forward.

"It's life and death, this ancient dance. It must be."

Shiva balled her hands into fists.

"I won't let you kill him," Dinah said.

"It's who I am."

"No, it's not."

Shiva glanced from Darren to Dinah. She couldn't fight both of them. Dinah shifted weight, bringing her hands into a defensive stance. She danced backward, away from Darren, behind Shiva, as if to draw her attention away from her prey. "Try me, Shiva." Dinah's eyes widened as she looked at Shiva and she called out, "No!"

Shiva pivoted on one foot, lunging out of the way as Darren came at her with a knife. She swung out her arm, catching in him in the kidney, and he fell. Darren let out an agonized scream, and Shiva crouched, trying to evaluate his next move.

Dinah, still standing, approached him. "Oh god, he landed on the knife."

Shiva reached out and pushed his shoulder, rolling him onto his back. The muscles of his stomach were exposed, and his front was soaked red. He was still alive, gasping for air as his lungs filled with blood. "I had to..." He said the words to Shiva. "You know I had to take my chance. Press my advantage..." He choked.

Dinah fell to her knees, and clutched at his hand. She squeezed his fingers, looking into his eyes until they glazed over. When she'd passed his eyelids over his eyes, she looked over her shoulder at Shiva. "Divide and conquer. It nearly worked."

"But did not. Our goals are always the same, Little Bird."

Dinah gave her an appreciative smile, and got to her feet. "Let's blow this joint. Pennsylvania makes me chafe."

"Oh really?" Shiva followed her toward the door. "I rather like it."

"Master Tor!"

Shiva looked behind her to where a guard, recovered from the knock out, stood staring at the body of his teacher. He glanced over at the two women by the door, and screamed.

Shiva raised an eyebrow.

The guard began running in the other direction, toward the far wall of the arena.

Shiva smirked. "Our reputation precedes us."

Dinah frowned. "Uh, Shiva? I don't think he's running from us. I think he's running to--"

The guard pulled a lever, and the floor began to shake.

"Apocalypse?" Dinah asked.

"Isn't it too late?"

"The old ones will die. Tor will be the master forever!" The guard screamed. The floor split, and swallowed him up.

The rumbling became more intense. Dirt and stone began to rain on them. "We have to go," Dinah shouted, grabbing Shiva's hand and tugging her.

"You're going the wrong way."

"It's the only way out!"

The rumble became a roar and the hallway behind them disappeared into blackness before her as something heavy landed on Dinah. Shiva saw her knocked unconscious, and began digging at the rubble that had once been the ceiling. The rumbling subsided. Shiva managed to drag Dinah away from debris.

She examined Dinah, finding a wooden beam had ripped a gash in her shoulder, but had left the bone intact. She was more worried about bruising to Dinah's pelvis. She was applying pressure to the shoulder wound when, Dinah groaned, and said, "Canary in a coal shaft. Can you smell gas?"

Shiva smiled. "Methane doesn't have an odor. Hence the animal sacrifice."

"So we stay until I'm dead. Jesus." Dinah rolled her head back against the dirt wall and closed her eyes.

Shiva pressed her shoulder, trying to stem the blood flow. "Breathe deep, Dinah. I'm here."

Dinah grabbed Shiva's arm and tugged her closer. Shiva felt Dinah's lips against her neck, chalky with dust, as Dinah said, "I love you too, you know."

Shiva turned her head, pressing her lips against Dinah's temple. "I know," Shiva whispered. She settled closer, ignoring the rocks pressing into her hips, and held Dinah as she passed out again.

When Dinah opened her eyes, she was in a hospital room. She could tell from the smell. "What?" She called, wincing as her dry lips cracked. Almost immediately she felt a sponge at her lips, and she sucked gratefully, feeling the cool trickle of water coat her tongue.

The sponge-provider was Oracle, sitting in a chair beside her bed and looking concerned.

"Shiva..." Dinah could only remember blackness and suffocation.

Oracle frowned. "Lady Shiva? Dinah, you're in a hospital in Los Angeles. The doctors think you hurt yourself surfing. You were dumped outside the emergency room." Oracle rolled her eyes. "Only, you and I both know you don't surf. God, Dinah, can you not stay out of trouble on vacation? That's kind of the point of vacation."

Dinah closed her eyes again. "Darren Tor?"

"Who is..?" She heard Oracle type into what she presumed was a laptop, and then Oracle said, "Dead. Clearfield, Pennsylvania."

Dinah opened her eyes and saw the paleness of Oracle's face.

"Shiva killed him?"

Dinah shook her head.

"Did you...?"


Oracle exhaled.

Dinah looked away from Oracle, and at the profusion of flowers along the side wall. She said, "No. But I owe Shiva a debt, anyway."

The End

Return to Bird of Prey Fiction

Return to Main Page