The Birds and the Bats:

A Bird, A Bat, and One Dark Knight

by 'rith

Archive: Ask first, please.
Disclaimer: All characters property of DC Comics, no infringement intended or money made by use.
Continuity: DCU. S&S universe but no slash here except in passing. (Right after S&S 19, the Clocktower visit.) A little bit of revisionist history re: when Dinah and Babs first met face-to-face (earlier, on this timeline). Set before Batgirl #4, when Cass got her brain rewired for sound-- I mean, language. *g*

Dark enough for patrol, Dinah judged, and Cassandra must have agreed because she'd come out of the back room dressed in her Batgirl leathers. Dinah wasn't overly thrilled by that costume; looked like someone's bondage gear to her. Not that, uh, she'd know what that looked like. Of course. But that whole full-face mask thing--creepy. How did the girl *breathe?!*

Not a problem, apparently. Cass made a motioning gesture at the window, and Dinah finished stowing the last Canary Cry in her equipment belt. "We're outta here, Babs, catch you later!" she called toward the back room.

"Have fun," the distracted answer came back. Barbara was deep in Oracle-mode. Time for all good little superheroes to get to work.

"Lead on, MacDuff," she said, and followed Cassandra out into the Gotham night.

As soon as No Man's Land ended, Black Canary had come back to Gotham with a single purpose in mind: to meet her mysterious partner Oracle. Her timing had been...unfortunate.

When Dinah'd appeared at her door, demanding entrance to the Oracle's lair, Barbara Gordon had been dressing for the funeral of her father's wife.


After that, once they'd met, Dinah knew she had to stay. Because, obviously, Babs needed someone around to drag her out of that damn 'tower. Oracle was important, yeah, Oracle had made herself essential to half the super-heroes in the business, including the JLA. But the woman was seriously in need of a *life.*

Maybe it wasn't so surprising that she and Barbara had become friends so easily, outside of the Oracle-Canary relationship. They'd both chosen to wear the costumes, adopt the vigilante life, take the risks. They'd both been...hurt. Dinah had welcomed Oracle's direction in her career, the partnership giving her focus. Maybe she could help Babs rediscover life beyond the superhero world.

Cassandra, Barbara's approved-of successor to the Batgirl legacy, lived in the Clocktower too, though the girl went in and out like a ghost. No one was even sure if "Cassandra" was her real name. She'd been raised by the notorious assassin David Cain, who might really be her father. Cass, of course, couldn't tell them the truth. About any of it.

Dinah's offer to join tonight's patrol was mostly pure curiosity about how the Bat-clan did their sweeps of Gotham. Black Canary had never established that kind of patrol or pattern; she'd usually been focused on individual criminal targets or organizations as they got her attention. But Batman considered all of Gotham *his,* and anything that happened here was his business. So, his protégés Robin and Batgirl did their nightly patrols, and Oracle in her own way as well. Nightwing down in Blüdhaven, and Azrael and Huntress...well, no one was entirely sure about them. Not quite "sanctioned" but still evidently permitted in Gotham. Dinah supposed that she now fell under the same category and scowled at the thought. She didn't need *his* approval for anything.

The other part of it involved wanting to see Cassandra in action for herself. Babs had told her what she knew, the whole martial arts teenage prodigy thing. Even Batman had reportedly been impressed by her abilities. Well, good. Dinah was more interested in the *rest* of it. Like how Cass couldn't read, or speak, or really understand spoken language clearly. And yet, Batman had accepted her into his little "family" and sent her out patrolling, night after night. It wasn't like he was forcing her to do anything, that was clear, but still...shouldn't a teenaged girl have MORE to her life than dressing up in fetish outfits and beating up bad guys?

Then again...Dinah recalled her own adolescence, and grinned. SHE hadn't wanted anything more than to put on mom's old fishnets and start her own superhero career. Black Canary, idol of teenaged boys everywhere!

At least she had PANTS on her outfit, now.

She actually had to stretch a little to keep up with Cassandra. Dinah had a grapple-line of her own, courtesy of Babs, but she'd never been as comfortable with rooftop-swinging as the Bat-guys and girls. "Street-level heroes," Ollie had proclaimed proudly more than once, working on a very local basis against (usually) purely human criminals. No flashy "Rogues' Gallery," just a long list of drug runners and other mundane predators they'd put out of business. Back in the JLA and now with the JSA, of course, she'd fought more than her share of metahuman villains...

...but things were different than when she'd had powers. A lifetime ago.

Enough of *that.* Introspection was all well and good, but not here, swinging on a line barely thicker than a hair through the Gotham dark. Weird, though, how it seemed so much *gloomier* here than other cities. All that bizarre art-deco construction, probably. Or maybe it was a reflection of the city's protector. Which had come first? Grumpy city or grumpy Bat?

Batgirl had stopped on a rooftop ahead and was scanning the streets with one of those nifty mini-binoculars out of her belt. Dinah suspected the pause was at least partly to give her the chance to catch up, but that was okay. SHE wasn't seventeen anymore. *But still pretty damn good for thirty-four,* she thought to herself as she dropped down next to Cass. "Something brewing?"

The girl pointed. Down below, four men in ski masks were moving intently toward a jewelry store. Looked like a bunch of yahoos out for a quick score, smash and grab. No visible guns, which would save them from a weapons' charge, at least. But jeez, did they really think they could get away with it? In *this* city?!

Dinah suppressed a sigh at her own thought. For all the grumbling, yeah, the whole urban legend/"strike fear into their hearts" thing DID work. Even she bought into the hype, and she'd *met* the man.

Batgirl was tensed on the side of the roof like a greyhound waiting for the starting bell. Well, she'd wanted to see the kid in action, right? Four guys shouldn't be any big deal. And she'd be watching in case something went wrong.

"Go for it. I've got your back."

Cassandra dropped down onto them.

Black Canary knew she was among the best costumed martial artists around--on the superhero side, anyway. Oh, there were better. Batman knew dozens of obscure styles and was widely considered one of the most dangerous purely human individuals alive. Nightwing was outrageously acrobatic, working under the "bad guys can't hit a target who isn't there" theory. Master sensei Richard Dragon was still out there somewhere. Connor Hawke had nearly perfect form, though he lacked the experience and ruthlessness of his elders. Politeness was all very well in the dojo, but Canary was perfectly willing to fight dirty if it got her out of a bad situation. As for the opposition, no one disputed Shiva's superior skills, made infinitely more dangerous by her willingness to kill.

But Batgirl was uncanny.

Dinah would have tagged her as a meta if Babs hadn't told her otherwise. Two of them were down in the first second, before Cass had even reached the ground. She was just so *fast* -- not Flash-fast, still more-or-less human speed, but far quicker than normal reflexes could match. Despite her relative slightness she hit hard, precisely, and the first two went down with barely a sound. Batgirl landed, half-turned, and her foot lashed out to catch the third man's chin. He was still falling when the fourth, finally realizing he and his buddies were under attack, turned to confront her. He'd barely begun to draw back his fist when her own caught him in the solar plexus, doubling him over. And that was that.

"Astonishing," said the deep voice from behind her, "isn't she."

Dinah did her best not to flinch, took a breath, and turned around. "Pretty impressive," she agreed, striving for casual. Why no, Mr. Batman sir, you didn't startle me when you appeared out of nowhere. "But I'm a little disturbed by the no-speaking no-reading thing."

Batman moved up beside her to watch Cassandra tie up the would-be robbers for the police. "She's learning. Slowly."

Dinah frowned. "Babs says it's not really working, though. The language lessons. Kid's just *wired* all wrong, or something."

"She'll adapt." Such absolute confidence. As if saying it would make it so, and heaven help anyone who dared defy his command. It was inspirational. It was also damned annoying.

"I know something you don't know," Dinah sang under her breath. Oh, yeah, he'd heard her, but was being too Bat-stubborn to ask. She let that hang for a minute before she decided it was too much fun NOT to share. "Saw your 'eldest,' by the way. Dick dropped by the Clocktower, looking damn fine. All tan and happy as a clam. He and Garth were on their way to meet up with the Titans. Should be an interesting night over there."

She watched him digest that, jaw tightening ever so slightly. "'Dick'?"

Dinah blew out an exaggerated breath. "Yeah. Grayson. Nightwing. Forgotten him already...Bruce?"

At least he didn't try to deny it. "How long have you known?"

"Since the hospital. Roy."

Batman nodded. "Ollie?"

Her first impulse was to be irritated by that. As if everyone expected nothing more of Black Canary than that she'd been Green Arrow's pretty little gossipy bird. But Batman had reasons for his paranoia. "No. Never a clue."

"I had wondered," he murmured.

"...he envied you, you know," she said, wondering why she was volunteering. "He never got the respect you did."

"It wasn't a competition."

"Yeah, well, it hardly matters now, does it?" No way was she was gonna get emotional on this rooftop. All of that was in the past, anyway.

She was reaching for a change of subject-- something, anything-- when Cassandra reappeared on the rooftop. Canary grinned and gave her a thumbs-up sign. "Great job, Cass!"

Batgirl returned the gesture. It looked like she *might* be smiling back under that mask, but Dinah couldn't be sure. Then she sort of half-nodded to Batman, took a few steps away, and resumed her post on the side of the building, watching.

Maybe Cass couldn't talk, but she could communicate pretty well anyway. *Adults are talking, they're probably talking about *me,* I'm not supposed to listen, bored now, I'll just look for more bad guys until you're done.* Something like that. Dinah remembered: It always sucked having to cool your heels while the grown-ups talked. Did Cass have *anyone* around her own age to hang out with? The Young Justice kids were probably a little young, and supposedly Batgirl spooked Robin pretty good. Which was understandable. On the other hand Cass was too young for the Titans, except maybe Damage and Argent. Dinah didn't know much about Grant, and Toni seemed kind of flaky. Maybe... maybe she could spar with Connor. Hey, not a bad idea--

Batman's voice cut through both the dark and her thoughts. "Planning to be in Gotham awhile?"

"I had," Dinah said, trying to keep the defensiveness out of her tone, "I can stay available to Oracle easier that way. And I think both she and Batgirl need someone to look out for them."

There was a pause. Dinah would have given an awful lot to know what he was thinking, but there was no way to tell under that cowl. When he spoke again, his voice was even deeper than before. "If you think--"

She KNEW what was coming. "This is your city, I know, we're all very aware of that. I won't get in your way."

"If you think they need looking after," Batman said without missing a beat, "then you're welcome to try."

She blinked, startled, and glanced over at Batgirl to see if she'd heard. No reaction. When she turned back...he was gone.

Oh, that-- how DARE he! Letting her know she was "allowed" to stay in Gotham, as if he had any kind of say in it. That arrogant, posturing--what did Arthur always call him?--"sanctimonious," infuriating, MAN!

Great voice, though. Incredible body under all that Kevlar. And... she stopped the thought dead in its tracks. Definitely not going there.

"Besides," Dinah sniffed in his direction, "I already have a boyfriend."

Behind her, there was a muffled sound suspiciously like a snicker. Dinah whirled again, but Batgirl was staring off into another part of the city. And she didn't really understand anyway, right?

That was the theory and she was sticking to it.

But hey, if Batman had decided that Dinah was "worthy" of his stamp of approval...that just made her job easier. She resented the fact that he'd needed to give it, even as part of her basked in the implied compliment--and *that* annoyed her too. She didn't need it...but it still felt good anyway.

Complicated, just like everything else about him and his city, including this new Batgirl. Canary signaled and they were off again, resuming the patrol route while she considered. She'd been half-joking when she'd said it, but maybe Cassandra COULD use another...influence in her life. The girl hadn't had any kind of childhood, she couldn't speak, she couldn't read, and her only relationships with other people had been based on violence. Dinah wasn't exactly a social butterfly herself, but she wasn't *that* bad.

Better than Mr. If-I-Cracked-a-Smile-My-Face-Might-Fall-Off, anyway.

Okay, then, a new project. Socializing a Bat--probably only slightly less hazardous than lion-taming. She'd already been working on Babs, wouldn't be that big a deal to drag Cass out into the world as well...or try, at least. Get the girl some clothes that weren't black. Or leather. Show her the sun once in a while.

She'd heard people say that Batman kept a partner to remind himself that there was more to Gotham than the dark. That Robin was a symbol of all the light and life Bruce couldn't or wouldn't allow himself. Babs and Cass weren't as bad off as all that...but that same obsessiveness that made them such useful allies for Batman might lead them down the same road. None of her business, maybe, except that she'd chosen to live and work in this city too. And Canary always flew more steadily when her allies were friends as well.

"Look out, Gotham, there's a new winged critter in town," she muttered to herself, smiling. If nothing else, her iconography was already the right color for it. Birds and bats--

*Definitely* different species. She shook her head to clear the image of Batman's tight abs. Pretty, but *nuts.* No, thanks. Pieter could be serious, but he HAD a functioning sense of humor. And an owl, which made him an honorary bird. Crime-fighting made for strange bedfellows, but there had to be a limit....

Dinah chuckled and followed Batgirl into the dark.



Yes, Dinah got the Shakespeare wrong. She would. ;)

Very much inspired by Smitty and her take on Dinah, Bruce, and Cassandra. Minus the romance-bits, of course; I *like* Pieter Cross. ;) Aquaman calling Batman "sanctimonious" is Chicago's inspiration (thereafter used to great effect by Kerrie Smith), and I'm told Dick's "damn fine" originated in chat between Smitty, Kat, and Charlene Edwards. *g*

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