The Birds and the Bats:

First Impressions

by Smitty

Author's Note: Didn't wanna write this. I read 'rith's "A Bird, a Bat and One Dark Knight" and the description of how Babs and Dinah first met face to face leapt down my throat and refused to let me breathe until I'd written this. All her fault.

Disclaimer: Not mine. Characters belong to DC Comics; Sea & Sky Universe and its subsection of "The Birds and the Bats," under which I believe this falls, belongs to Kerithwyn Jade.

"Don't have to live like a refugee...something, something...LIVING like a refugee!" Dinah Lance sang the Tom Petty tune under her breath as she strode jauntily along the ragged Gotham sidewalk. She stepped nimbly over a rather sizable pothole and nearly pitched facefirst onto the ground as the toe of her cowboy boot caught in a crack. "Well, nuts to you, too," she informed the broken concrete. Didn't matter anyway. She was almost there.

A light shone high in the Clocktower that broadcast the time to all Gotham within sight. It was also the home of Dinah's partner and friend, Barbara Gordon. Until just recently, Dinah had known the other woman only as Oracle. That had changed when Nightwing slipped up and referred to the information broker as 'Babs' over the radio one night shortly before No Man's Land had gone into effect.

Black Canary was still on assignment when the bridges had blown, but she'd managed to fit in enough research during her downtime that year to find out a few things. After all, she knew Oracle had stayed during No Man's Land, and she knew 'Babs' was generally short for 'Barbara' and really, how many Barbaras must have stayed behind in the dredges of Gotham City?

Dinah grimaced at the thought as she picked her way around a taped-off construction site. *That* had been a bit of an adventure, finding a list of people in No Man's Land. In the end, it had been Impulse, of all people, who had given her the biggest clue. He, Superboy, Robin and Lagoon Boy had snuck into NML without Batman's permission and gotten themselves in a heap of trouble. Upon close cross-examination and a batch of oatmeal raisin cookies, Impulse thought he might have remembered a bunch of police officers still running around.

Jim Gordon had been the commissioner when Dinah had left on her last mission before Gotham was abandoned. It took a few hours with the microfilm in the basement of a university library--a place Dinah had sworn she'd never again set foot--but her foggy memory had been right. Gordon did have a daughter named Barbara, and she had been shot by the Joker a few years ago. Suddenly a lot of things had made sense.

But that was then and this was now, and Dinah was on her way to surprise Babs with a visit. Surprise was the operative word. Oracle wasn't exactly forthcoming, identity-wise. But who was going to turn a real, live superhero away from their door?

"And here we are," Dinah announced out loud as she stopped in front of the Clocktower lobby. She pressed the buzzer marked 'B. Gordon' and waited smugly for the answer.

"Dinah?" came an incredulous--but familiar--voice from the intercom system.

Dinah blinked at the sound of her name. Oh, who was she kidding? This was Oracle.

"In the flesh!" she announced cheerfully. Good recovery, she congratulated herself. "Batman's not the only detective in Gotham! Wanna let me up? I even brought ice cream. And two spoons. So we can chill and do the girl thing and--"

"Now's really not a good time, Dinah," came the soft reply.

"Not a good time?" Dinah blinked at the speaker, then looked up for the camera. Finding the lens, she backed up and glared into it. "What do you mean it's not a good time? Just buzz me up. I'll be quiet if you're in the middle of something. Unless..." An idea struck her. "You're not up there with Mr. Buns-of-Steel, are you? Shoot, girl, all you have to do is say so--"

"No, I--come up. I'll explain." The intercom clicked off and the door buzzed.

Dinah grabbed the door handle before it had to a chance to re-lock and yanked the door open. Barbara lived on the top floor and it took a few minutes to call the elevator and ride all the way up.

"Babs?" she called, tapping on the door.

"Come in."

Dinah pushed the door open and walked into a pleasant and little-used living room. "Are you in here?" she asked, walking a few steps further into the spacious apartment.

"In the back."

Dinah walked easily through the rooms toward the backroom. She didn't have to weave through the furniture, she noticed. Each piece was set far apart from the rest. She walked into the very back--Oracle's lair, she realized as she gazed at the huge screens, the assorted keyboards and CPUs, the miles of wiring lining the walls.

"I'm in the bedroom."

"Oh, sorry." Dinah turned from the lair and stepped back into the hall. The bedroom seemed to be to her right. "Barbara?"

The red-haired woman glanced over her shoulder. "Hi, Dinah."

She doesn't sound happy to see me, Dinah thought, slightly hurt.

Then she saw what Barbara was wearing. A black dress, just past knee length, and with a full enough skirt that it lay tucked securely around her. She'd just finished tucking her feet into black shoes and she was fastening a string of pearls around her neck. She's so pretty, Dinah thought immediately, but she looks so sad.

"What happened?" she asked, instinctively knowing the answer wasn't going to be good.

"My stepmother's funeral is today," Barbara answered. "I--dammit." She winced and tugged at the necklace. "I keep getting the clasp caught in my hair."

"Your...I'm sorry." Dinah bit her lip, suddenly aware that she had intruded on something very personal. "I lost my mom a few years ago."

"I know."

"How'd it happen?"

"The Joker," Barbara said emotionlessly. "He shot her. He shot her when she was saving the babies." The Joker had shot Barbara, too. Dinah's heart broke. She'd never meant for them to meet like this.

"Let me help," she offered suddenly, trying to salvage the meeting the only way she could. She walked up to the wheelchair and took the ends of the necklace from Barbara's long, pale fingers. She untangled the clasp from the strands of red hair and fastened the string. "If you want," she offered hesitantly, "I can French braid your hair so it won't get caught again."

Barbara's green eyes stared at her in the mirror. Their gazes locked and suddenly Dinah felt better. This was still the woman she'd shared some of the scariest moments of her life with. This was her friend on the other end of the line. And her friend needed her now.

"If you don't mind."

"Not at all. Just put your head down." Dinah took the silky strands in her hand and began to weave them into an orderly plait. She pretended not to notice the tears that dripped from her friend's bowed head.


* The song Dinah's singing at the beginning is "Refugee" by Tom Petty. It can be found on the "Damn the Torpedoes" album, 1979, or the Greatest Hits, 1993.

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