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ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
The Price of Freedom Is Missing Your
"Hold the elevator!" Dinah shouted, clutching a bouquet of flowers in one hand and a box of chocolates in the other. She ran as fast as her high heels could carry her, the duffel bag slung around her shoulder flapping against her body.
Helena, wisely, held the elevator until Dinah was onboard.
"We going to the Delphi floor or is there a shoe sale I don't know about?"
"Very funny. Delphi."
Helena hit the button. Dinah panted, out of breath. They rode in silence for a moment. Then Helena reached for the box of chocolates and Dinah kicked her hand away.
"These aren't for you," Dinah said.
"Let me guess. That cute bellhop on floor 35?"
"No, he's still wide open. All yours."
Helena laughed. "Hahaha good, because I'm going to ride that thing until the wheels fall off. So, who are the flowers and candies for?"
"Barbara? The woman I've been dating for the last year? Our anniversary?"
"You've actually gone a year without crawling back to Ollie? Did he die again?"
A thundercloud passed over Dinah's face. "Hel, I won't be carrying these things forever, and when I put them down, you will feel my wrath."
"Awww, you big softie, you've got something special planned!"
Dinah nodded. "Homemade breakfast, then a game at Beethovan's Field, lunch at the Waffle Place, a spa treatment "
"What waffle place?"
"That's its name."
"Sounds like you've got your day all planned out."
Dinah glowed a little. "This is going to be the most romantic day she's ever had."
Helena nodded and checked her watch, then the floor indicator. Realizing she'd be getting no respite from the lovey-dovey talk, she said "So you want I should duck out while you do the bump and grind with occasional rimming?"
"I'll just go somewhere and whistle at members of the Superfamily as they fly by."
"Speaking of, could you stop doing that when Krypto flies by? It's tacky."
"I suppose I could find some young, impressionable virile bellhop to corrupt."
"That would be great."
The elevator doors opened and Dinah stepped out.
"Have fun sixty-nining!" Helena said, pressing the button for floor 34.
"Oh, we will," Dinah said as the doors closed.
The Delphi floor of the Clocktower was quiet. There was the ever-present hum of supercomputers (Dinah wondered what noise they made when Barbara just wanted to play Solitaire. How many Crays did it take to play Solitaire?) and, if you listened closely, the machine-gun hum of typing. Both sounds could be drowned out by just opening a window. Dinah went to the kitchen, dumped her gear on the table, and unzipped the duffel bag. Although she had no reason to believe Babs didn't have pancake stuff on tap, better safe than sorry.
"Barbara, you busy?" she called down the hallway.
"Uh-huh," Barbara responded on the intercom, obviously distracted.
"Can you wrap it up in ten?"
Great. She was in monosyllable mode. If she was lucky, maybe Dinah could get to her before she started drooling.
Ten minutes. She had given fair warning.
Dinah preferred to go out to eat, order in, or use the magic of the microwave. She had once dated a man for six weeks because of his culinary skills. The sex was mediocre, but the food was fantastic. Although Dinah had never claimed to be a chef, she was pretty sure she could handle pancakes, the same way she handled hot dog recipes (Step 1: Put hot dog in bun. Step 2: Add condiments. Step 3: Eat.). She had grown up making her own pancakes and the whole thing with freshly squeezed orange juice and microwave muffins was really intuitive. With the pancakes piling up on her plate, Dinah shouted down the hall again.
"Two minute warning!"
"Uh-huh," Barbara said, not bothering to use the intercom this time.
Dinah finished with the pancakes, washed the dishes, threw away the ingredients, and looked at the breakfast table. She put the flowers in a vase and set them out as a centerpiece. There. Perfect.
"Okay! Babs, no more warnings, I'm coming in after you."
Rolling her sleeves up (and checking her make-up in a mirror), Dinah walked into the computer room. Barbara was scary. Awake-since-four-in-the-morning scary. She had apparently constructed a small nest of empty Frito bags and Mountain Dew, which was kind of impressive, in a warped sort of way.
"Babs, if you're trying to beat my Tetris high score, it's just not going to happen."
"Huh? Oh, Dinah!" Barbara cleaned her glasses and gave Dinah a smile through faded lipstick. "Oh, God, what time is it? I'm really sorry, it's just that Japan started to sink and I've been directing Aquaman in fixing the plate tectonics since dawn."
"Oh." Dinah felt a hot blush of guilt. Had she just been about to unload on Barbara for putting people's lives ahead of their anniversary? What was Barbara supposed to say? Sorry, Arthur, I'd love to help you save a continent from drowning, but it's my anniversary and my girlfriend made pancakes. They're blueberry.
"So, is the world once more safe for hentai and used schoolgirl panty vending machines?" Dinah quipped.
"Uh-huh. Situation resolved. You start without me, I will be right out. Just need to dot some Is, cross some Ts."
"Okay," Dinah said, withdrawing once more to the kitchen. Idiot, idiot, idiot! She loved that Barbara was responsible, always thinking of other people first, always considering other people's feelings and weighting their arguments so unlike Ollie and his boatload of hotheaded overreactions to the slightest perception of criticism.
So when the responsibility thing came back to bite her on the ass, it really pissed her off. Morosely, she started on a pancake. No Barbara. Seconds. No Barbara. Thirds, fourths, and fifths before she declared damage control on her thighs and shoved every pancake into the fridge. No Barbara. She drank some fresh squeezed orange juice, blanching at the pulp. No Barbara. Finally, she stampeded back into the computer room. Disaster or not, there was such a thing as common courtesy
The computer room was a war room. A couple dozen monitors were screaming distress signals and real-time feeds showed scenes of havoc. Dinah saw Tokyo in trouble, Hong Kong in flames, and Singapore sinking.
"Flash, watch that crossfire! GL, you're going to have to contain that volcano better! Cyborg, for God's sake, back-up Zatanna!"
"What's going on?" Dinah winced as one of the real-time feeds flickered and went to static.
"Oh, nothing. As it turns out, Japan was sinking because of an invasion from the Lava Men."
"I'll tell Zinda to fuel up the Aerie. We'll be there in "
"In twelve hours? The Lava Men are jamming the JLA transporters. Just get me some icewater, please? I'm 99.9% parched."
"Hawkman, watch out for that tree! Watch out for that"
Dinah left, accompanied by Barbara's groan of sympathized pain.
Dinah checked her watch. They should be doing brunch by now. Nothing fancy, just a small stack at The Wadworth Shoppe. They sold delectable French Toast with powdered sugar and maple syrup. Finally, there was the sound of a door and squeaky tires approaching. Barbara hadn't oiled her wheels. They paused outside of the kitchen.
"Okay, all hope is not lost!" Dinah said quickly. "If we hurry, we can still make it to our reservations at "
"Dinah," Barbara said, cutting her off. "There's been an incident."
"Could you do me a small favor? Like, teensy-weensy?"
2 P.M., in flight over Idaho.
Look on the bright side, Dinah thought to herself. Everyone wants to know what a cockpit looks like and now you're sitting in the co-pilot's seat.
Zinda saw some gauge or another spinning and reacted by pushing some level.
"Dinah, has anyone ever broken their anniversary date with you?"
"Truth be told, I haven't dated many a person for a whole year."
Idly, Dinah wondered what Zinda and Helena talked about when they were alone. And instantly regretted the thought.
3 P.M., Star City
It wasn't that Dinah didn't like Star City. It was a great place to live, provided the dead weren't rising from their graves. Because apparently zombies could stay dead for twenty years before reanimating, but God forbid they wait one single day!
No, no, the zombies weren't the issue. Really, it was the Arrows. They were great when Dinah was with Ollie, but when she wasn't, they apparently spent all the time she was away rehearsing the same song and dance.
"Ollie's really changed," Roy said, launching an arrow in a zombie's head. Just like in the movies, shots to the head killed them. Of course, arrows couldn't readily penetrate skulls, so until they could find bows with a bigger draw, they were stuck aiming at eyeballs. So instead of having a sensual oil massage with Barbara, Dinah was getting her nice trenchcoat stained with eyeball goo. Fun!
"Did he change into Barbara Gordon?" Dinah roundhouse-kicked another zombie's head off. "Because if he hasn't, I don't care. And even if he has, he probably kept the goatee. There's a mental image I really didn't need."
"What's this about Barbara now?" Roy asked. He hadn't heard her over a sudden new chorus of "Braaaaaaaaains!"
"Nothing," Dinah growled. On the one hand, Ollie probably wouldn't miss an anniversary, even if he was out for the entire day fighting ninjas and only showed up at their restaurant by crashing a yacht into a pier or something. On the other hand, Barbara would understand why Dinah was upset at both the anniversary-missing and the yacht-crashing.
"You should talk," Roy said, shooting two arrows at the same time. Two "Braaaaaaains!" were abruptly cut off.
"Arsenal! Stop pimping out Green Arrow!" Mia shouted, firing a fire arrow into a gas station. That took out thirty zombies and generated a scent that would put Dinah off pork for a long, long time.
"Thank you, Speedy," Dinah said before dropping another five zombies with a Canary Cry.
"Although Ollie's a really sweet guy, I can't see why anyone wouldn't "
Dinah gritted her teeth. Sensual oil massage.
4 P.M., flight back to Metropolis.
"How do I look?" Dinah asked after about a half hour of cleaning and primping herself in the cramped Aerie bathroom. The latest in stealth technology and they couldn't make a toilet with enough room to wash zombie brains off your feet.
Zinda gave her a once-over. "Dinah, if I were of the third sex, I would be glad to share a sandwich with you."
"Thanks," Dinah said, setting herself down across an entire aisle of vacant seats. So half the day had been spent pigging out on pancakes and fighting zombies. Didn't mean the whole day was a wash.
"Ummm, Dinah?" Zinda took off her headphones. "Just got a call from Barbara. You wouldn't mind a little detour?"
5 P.M., forest fire, Washington D.C.
"Dinah, if you modulate your Canary Cry just right, you should be able to snuff out the flames," Dinah said between throat-ripping sonic screams, miming Barbara's insufferably justifiably arrogant know-it-all librarian tones. Because God forbid someone could just say "You know what? You're a kung-fu artist and I'm a hacker. Let's leave the forest fire to someone else."
"You know, you sounded a little like Barbara Gordon just then," Superman said, cooling off a flashpoint with Arctic Breath.
"Supes, not to take away from the moment, but what would you do if someone missed your anniversary to fixate on work?"
"I'd try to understand their reasoning and, if they were sincerely apologetic, I'd forgive them."
That was the problem with asking advice from heroes. Whatever they said was likely to make you feel bad for feeling bad.
6 P.M., nuclear meltdown.
In the distance, Firestorm's yells could still be heard as he struggled to contain the radioactivity. Dinah grabbed a scientist, his face awash with boils, and began dragging him to the shelter. They had radiation treatment there.
"Black Canary? What are you doing here?"
"I plan to kick the meltdown until it stops."
7 P.M., bank robbery.
"I could be watching The African Queen on the big screen," Dinah said as she socked a robber right in his ski-masked face.
8 P.M., drug shipment.
"I could be having dinner with Barbara right now," Dinah muttered as fifty thousand pounds of crack cocaine sunk to the bottom of the sea.
9 P.M., another bank robbery.
"I could be " Dinah thought about it and kicked the robber more times than was strictly necessary.
10 P.M., Clocktower.
"Dinah, I'm so sorry," Barbara was saying, waiting in the door, hands in her lap.
Dinah vaulted right over her. "Not now."
"I know how important this day was to you and "
"Anger to kill not lowering!"
"Okay, you need space."
"Space? Oh, that what I need!" Dinah felt like tearing her hair out by the roots. "Because I thought I needed a girlfriend who didn't send me to every single crisis in America on our anniversary!"
"It hasn't been easy on my end either!" Barbara said defensively. "I've got earthquakes in Asia, tidal waves in Australia, meteor showers in Europe, I only just managed to talk Darkseid into parking his planetoid elsewhere, and throughout it all I've been thinking how much I'd rather be with you."
"At a spa? Getting our nails done?"
"Even at a spa, getting our nails done." Barbara smiled, then looked at her nails. "Actually, they are kind of ratty."
Dinah knelt down and slumped her way into Barbara's lap as the other woman soothingly massaged her shoulders. "God, Barbara. Do I smell like zombies?"
"You smell sweaty and gunpowder-y. Come on, I'll draw you a hot bath. No more disasters."
Dinah stared warily at the computer as Barbara squeaked away, the sound of running water soon filling the floor. The computer remained obligingly silent, perhaps sensing that Dinah would smash its circuits out if it blared one more trouble alert.
"I'm glad we understand each other," Dinah said to the computer.
The sound of running water stopped. "Dinah, come over here."
Dinah stepped out into the hallway. Something cricked underfoot. She bent down to examine it. It was, or had been, a rose petal. And it had brought company.
"No way," Dinah muttered as she followed the trail of rose petals to the bathtub, where Barbara was waiting for her. The wheelchair was sitting nearby, although Dinah had no idea where Barbara's clothes had gotten to. Or much concern.
"Come on in," Barbara said. "Water's fine."
It was unlikely, Barbara mused, that someone could use the Speed Force exclusively to disrobe, but not outside the realm of possibility.
"You know why I think this is the best thing you've ever given me?"
"Because you're sweaty and gross and really could use a wash?"
"Because I plan to stay in here with you for a very, very long time." Dinah said, stepping into the other end of the tub. The water came up to her knees and she took a moment getting used to the heat, a moment that Barbara enjoyed much more with the way Dinah just happened to arch her back and jut out her hips.
"I've got J'Onn covering the JLA, Power Girl covering the JSA, and all the others I've routed to the Metal Men."
"The Metal Men?"
"Yes, I've been training them to serve as back-ups. Delegating and all that, since I can't handle everything on the Earth. At least, not and still have time to take long, luxurious baths with smart, funny, beautiful Well, I would go on, but you're not wet yet."
"Getting there." Dinah was slipping into the water and oohing at every inch.
"My point is, no more interruptions. The world could end and I've got it covered. Now, you don't think it might get a little awkward, me being over here and you being all the way over there?"
"I don't know," Dinah said from the other end of the tub, rubbing her foot up and down Barbara's stomach. "Maybe I'm still mad at you. Maybe I want to keep you away."
"So you're saying I might just have to come over there?"
"You might at that."
Barbara smiled wolfishly and Dinah smiled back. "I think that could be arranged."
Her cell-phone rang.
Dinah's eyes narrowed.
"Dinah, keep your temper "
"Check. The. Caller. ID."
"Because whoever is calling is about to die."
Barbara snatched up the cell-phone before Dinah could locate it.
"Babs, the first words out of your mouth had better be 'I'm sorry, I can't come to the phone right now, my girlfriend is horny and tired and full of the killing rage.'"
"Hello?" Barbara said instead.
It was Tim. "Hey, Barbara, you're not in the middle of anything, are you?"
"I might be."
"Sorry to bother you, but do you know what they call that pirate wheel thing?"
"The wheel on the ship?"
"No, whatever it is they use to raise and lower the anchor? Oh, Steph wants to talk to you."
Steph got on the phone while Dinah's face turned a new shade of red. Barbara hoped to end the phone call before the bathwater came to a boil.
"Hi Barbara! Good work with the Lava Men, by the way."
"Steph, could you please "
"The point, right right right. You know, the big wheel that all the pirates turn and the anchor comes up. And in Muppet Treasure Island, they're all spinning the wheel and Gonzo's like 'hurry Rizzo!' and Rizzo's just hanging off the wheel because he's a rat?"
"How do you spell it?"
"Let me look it up in the dictionary. Yeah, that's it! See, Tim, I told you it was a word!"
"Steph, are you playing Scrabble?"
"It's not Strip Scrabble!" Steph said hurriedly. "Whoever heard of such a ridiculous notion? Plus, I asked Kon and Cass and none of them think that this counts as corrupting a minor! And we've got about five people named Cass or Ciss or Cyst or whatever, so one of them would have to know, don't you think?"
Barbara pressed the phone against her neck, muffling it. "Dinah, you have my permission to kill her."
"No, I like Steph. She idolizes me."
"Then kill Tim."
"Batman might take exception to it."
"I'm glad to see you've taken murder off the table."
"Yes, it would be letting them off too easily."
Barbara firmly reminded herself never to make Dinah angry. She put the phone back to her ear.
"So then, can I call you if there's another idiot wants to say that wobbily isn't a word?"
Barbara got a smirk on her face. "Why don't you call back in a minute? I'm going to go do something, so just keep ringing until I pick up, okay?"
"Gotcha!" Steph said just as Barbara hung up.
"Barbara, is that a nefarious scheme I see you hatching?"
"It is at that," Barbara said, setting her cell-phone to vibrate.
"Because when you get that look on your face, thermonuclear arsenals tend to get disarmed."
"Dinah, do you know that this phone is waterproof?"
Dinah spread her legs a little. "No, I did not. Please, tell me more "
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