Paper Hearts, part 26

by Chicago

Disclaimers in "part 0"



Barbara barely glanced up from her swift typing as Dinah set a cup of coffee at her elbow. "Thanks," she said distractedly.

"You're welcome," Dinah replied, taking her own mug to the chair she had dragged into Barbara's workroom. Around her, detail maps of the Bludhaven docks and Crime Alley floated below smaller city-wide maps. She'd been watching the tracking dots, noting when the yellow of Robin's dot had slowed and observing the grey dot rushing toward it. Barbara had mentioned that they thought they had found Nightwing. She hoped that were true, that they were in time.

In Gotham, a blinking red dot had replaced Batgirl's steady orange - the sat phone tracker, Barbara had explained. The blinking was now pulling in at Leslie's clinic. Barbara had switched off Canary's own purple dot, wryly remarking she might forget in all the hubbub that Canary was sitting right there. Not remotely true, but the attempt at humor had been welcome.

Dinah sipped at her coffee, faintly lulled by the constant typing, occasionally punctuated by a forceful strike of the return key. She idly wished she could type so fast, but such a skill would have involved more time at a desk than Dinah had ever been interested in. Action was better, although she rather hoped she wouldn't be called on again tonight. Not because she was unwilling, but because that would mean the night had managed to get even worse. She regretted her earlier jocularity about crummy Valentine's Days - that ambulance ride with Dick and J'onn seemed to belong to another decade instead of a scant three plus hours ago.

It was the worst part of this business, she decided - that way in which every moment could be the last one you saw someone alive...

She banished the thought, glancing guiltily at Barbara. Not that she could read minds, but still, no sense even entertaining such an idea.

The monitor in front of Barbara was filling with words, a digest of the information Oracle had gathered through the night. Dinah's sharp eyes noted that Barbara had moved on to the Hatter case, was summarizing his rantings on possible motives...

"Didn't New Concept Industries just reconfigure their electronic line?" she asked.

Barbara paused. "What?"

"New Concept Industries - you were talking about it the other night. They developed some thing-a-bobber that made one of their components obsolete and-"

"Of course!" Barbara exclaimed, and the screen in front of her winked over to another position as she opened another file. "Because of the Wayne merger. They discovered that one of WayneTech's circuitry designs could be fitted more efficiently... Dinah, you're a genius!"

"I keep telling you," Dinah replied with a grin.

Yet another screen flashed on, this time running a rapid set of comparisions. "He totally was using the New Concept circuitry design in his control equipment. Oh, J'onn's going to be annoyed at that."

"J'onn? Why should he-"

Barbara glanced at her. "His company," she explained.

Dinah blinked. "J'onn owns New Concept? The company out of Japan?"

Barbara shrugged. "J'onn has lots of weird holdings. I thought I had most of them before all this with Bruce, but turns out he's good at sneaking under my radar. I doubt-"

"Hold on," Dinah interrupted suspiciously. "What thing with Bruce?"

Now Barbara turned her chair, a near laughing smile on her face. She opened her mouth as if to speak, then froze.

"Barbara? What is it?"

"Oh, thank God," Barbara breathed, raising a trembling hand to her face. "Thank God."

"Barbara? Is it Dick? Did they find him?"

She nodded. "He's okay. Beat up, but he's going to be okay. J'onn's got him." There were tears at the corners of her eyes.

A sudden ping sounded, and she spun her chair to open the comlink. "Oracle," Batman's voice echoed in the quiet workroom, "get me Leslie."

"Right away, boss," Barbara replied, forwarding the call. Then she slumped back in her chair, her eyes shining and a faint smile on her face.

"And the Bat crew does it again," Dinah marveled.

"I could just kill him, making me worry like that," Barbara stated.

Dinah chuckled. "I'd let him recover a bit first. You know where they're taking him?"

"J'onn said they're going to the Cave - Batman will catch up with them there." She shook her head with a kind of wondering disbelief. "It looked so bad..."

"Well, all's well that ends well," Dinah stated firmly. "How soon can you wrap up here so we can go see him?"

Barbara shot Dinah a grateful look, then glanced reluctantly at her screens. "All these notes-"

"And none of them can wait until morning - I mean, later morning? Everyone's in custody, right?"

"Well, I'm showing BPD closing in on the docks..."

"Come on," Dinah urged. "Surely Batman's got a computer you can borrow if you REALLY need to get something done."

Barbara considered, responsibility and longing warring on her face. She glanced at the maps - Batgirl's blinking dot was already en route to Bristol, and Batman and Robin were on the move. "We should keep an eye on Gotham-"

"Please," Dinah contradicted. "I think its time for the Batcrew to catch a break. If you're that worried about it, I'm sure Plasticman or whoever's up at the Watchtower could -"

"Oh, that'd be great. Plas, defender of Gotham. Bruce would flip."

"Why? He apparently has softened on his visitor stance," Dinah remarked cagily.

Barbara gave her a blank look, then, "You mean J'onn?"

"Girlfriend, I know you've been holding back on the gossip."

Barbara laughed and turned back to her keyboard, typing in a few more swift notes.

"Come on, Barbara," Dinah wheedled.

"I just can't believe that your keen instincts haven't figured it out yet," Barbara mocked. "Didn't you even begin to wonder why J'onn and Bruce were out together on _Valentine's_ Day?"

Dinah felt her jaw drop. "You are shitting me."

Barbara turned enough so Dinah could see her grin.

"You are."

Around Dinah, screens began to close down as Barbara began exiting programs, humming softly to herself. Could it be? She thought back over the night, over J'onn's cryptic explanations, Dick's surprising knowledge of Martians, J'onn's sudden appearance to coordinate their pursuit of Scarecrow and the rescue of the cover, his apparent presence in Bludhaven now. Of course, teammates often worked together on things - it didn't mean -

She snorted to herself. This was Batman she was thinking about. What else could it mean?

"How long?" she asked.

"Hmm? Oh, since that White Martian thing." The steady whir of cooling fans diminished slightly as Barbara powered down her system.

Dinah felt her jaw drop. "That was four months ago!" she protested.

"Yeah, that sounds about right," Barbara agreed easily. She looked ready to giggle, heady with relief. "You coming to the Cave with me?"

"You knew about this for FOUR MONTHS and you didn't tell me?" Dinah objected, walking in the direction of the elevator.

Barbara pressed the call button on the elevator, prompting the doors to slide open. "It wasn't need to know," she replied slyly. "Are you coming, are you going to sit there spluttering all night?"

Dinah shook her head and stepped into the elevator. Just when she thought she had the world figured out...



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