Author's Notes that no one archives:
I was asked to provide the following, given reactions produced by the last installment:
SPEW WARNING! Please do not eat, drink, chew gum, have sharp objects under your chair, or have valuables nearby when reading this story. Smitty is not responsible for any injuries up to and including death endured in the reading of this fanfic.

Disclaimer can be found with the prologue, a long time ago, in place far, far away.

And, without further ado...

The Ol' Switcheroo
by Smitty

Somewhere in the Caribbean...

"Did you remember to pack your toothbrush, darling?"

"Yes, dear."

"Nice accent."


"Oh ho! You DO speak German."

"Wo ist der Bibliotek?"

"What'd you just say?"

"I asked where the library was."

"Why do you need a library?"

"I don't. I need a bathroom. Bruce taught me the word for library, but not the word for bathroom. I figure most libraries have bathrooms, right?"

Barbara regarded him skeptically.

"Well, a *good* library would, anyway," he amended.

"Right. Are you ready to board?"

"After you, Mrs. Fledermaus." Dick bowed deeply, and swept his arm toward the gangplank.

Barbara sighed at her new sobriquet and started up the steep ramp, Dick walking slowly beside her, holding both their bags. The plank was steep and ridged with raised footholds. It was a rough ride, and Barbara's arms were aching before she was halfway to the midpoint.

"You know," Dick commented, after watching her struggled over a particularly high ridge, "I'd offer to help, but," he paused for effect, "*you* don't like to be pushed."

"That's right, Grayson," she ground out between gritted teeth. "I don't."

"Fledermaus, meine Schatze," he corrected. "Dirk Fledermaus."

Barbara just grunted in reply.

"Aw, get a move on, up there, will ya!" an irate passenger-to-be shouted from the back of the line.

Barbara felt her cheeks flush hot with embarrassment and her hands faltered. Her wheels slipped back, but not far. Dick had one foot wedged behind the wheel as he shouted a string of heavily accented words down to the offending traveler. Barbara quickly took control of her chair and began to inch her way up the plank.

"Dick, give me a hand," she whispered, desperately.

"No," he hissed back. "If you want to get up this ramp by yourself, you are not going to let some big-mouthed tourist tell you no."

"Yeah!" Dinah, who had been quiet all morning suddenly cheered from her earrings. "Listen to the hunk, girlfriend! You tell that fat-ass where he can shove his-"

"I'm sorry," Robin's voice suddenly cut in. "This transmission has been edited for content."

Babs managed a small smile.

"But, the moderator would like to add his support and remind the listener that she if she didn't have so much class, she could kick his ass into another time zone."

Barbara bit her lip and pushed harder on the wheels, each stroke a measure of silent determination, until she reached the deck of the cruise ship. She breathed out a quiet sigh of relief at being on flat ground again.

"That was embarrassing," she muttered under her breath, as Dick handed their tickets to the purser.

"Yeah, if I was that much of an asshole, I'd want to keep my trap fastened," Dick muttered, as they walked away.

That wasn't what Barbara meant, but she knew better than to pursue the argument.

"What did you say to him, anyway?" she asked, to change the subject. "That was some pretty foul sounding German."

"That was English," Dick told her, matter-of-factly.

"And my mother's second cousin, once removed, Hildegarde was a spy in the German-"

"Nope, no Hildegarde."

"Drat. Well, that just leaves weirdo cousin William-he's my first cousin, once removed-and his dopey kid, Bobby-"

"Wait! I have a great-uncle William who really wasn't all that old!"

"Great-uncle? What was your grandfather's name?"


"Uncle Lance? No way!" Dinah happily licked the last of the cookie dough from the wrapper.

"Uncle Lance? He and your mom were brother and sister?"

"Nah, actually they were cousins, but it was a pain in the butt to say First-Cousin-Once-Removed Lance."

"Ok, so let me see if I've got this: Your mom and my grandfather were cousins…"

"And they had another cousin, William."

"Ok, so then that makes your mom and my dad first cousins, once removed…and that makes me and your mom first cousins, twice removed, so that makes you and me second cousins, twice removed?"

"Are you sure you didn't remove us an extra time? 'Cause I think when you go up a cousins, you go down a removed."

"Dad has a cousin named Bobby?"

"Second cousin. He's my second cousin, too…I remember him being at Dad's funeral. He was a little brat. He ran around and tried to look under my skirt."

"Great," Tim commented, poking the empty wrapper. "What else do we have to eat around here?"

"What kind of crappy connection is this?" Babs complained, tapping idly on her keyboard as her connection screen burped at her.

"Well…" Dick said, from the bathroom, where he was investigating the additions that made their room Babs-friendly, "you are in the middle of the ocean."

Barbara's answer wasn't fit for a story read by children.

"No trapeze bar above the bed," he continued, stepping out of the bathroom. "How do they think you're going to get in?"

"The mattresses are pretty low," she told him. "I'll probably be fine. But, since we reserved the room as husband and wife, they probably assume I'll have a hand."

"You can have more than a hand," Dick offered with a smirk.

"Counting on it," she replied, blithely. "Where's the phone? I'm starving."

"You're tying up the line with your modem," Dick reminded her, quirking an eyebrow, Batman-like. "You're going to have to travel for your grub."

Babs sighed. "Let's go," she suggested. "It'll take that long for this thing to connect."

"Great," Dick said, as they prepared to head for the lunch buffet. "And afterward, if you want to take a nap, I'd be happy to help you into bed."

"I just bet you'd be."

"One, two, three, shoot!"

"Rock crushes scissors! I win!"

"Nuts," Dinah complained. "What if they're really well-made scissors? Adamantium alloy, or something?"

"No dice," Tim told her, cheerfully. "This isn't a comic book. I get to pick the music."

"Ok, fine," Dinah relented. "But none of that Briana Harpoon chick. Oops, I broke her nose, again," she grumbled, as Robin left.

And then, the worst thing Dinah could imagine, happened.

The Oracle line activated.

"Oooh, look, um, Dirk…they have little meatballs! They're your favorites! Aren't you going to get some?"


"Here. I'll help." Barbara cheerfully dumped a spoonful of meatballs on Dick's plate.

"But I-"

"Scalloped potatoes! Here you go. Oooh, look! Chocolate mousse!"

The door to room 838 was locked, but that made little difference. A swipe of the master keycard allowed access to any room on board the ship. The perpetrator entered swiftly and quietly and went directly to the computer, which had finally connected to the ship's LAN. He swiftly pulled up the menu of programs and scanned it quickly for the most likely candidate for an email program. He pulled one up and was greeted with a request for login name and password. The login name was familiar to him, and the password was no problem. He inserted a 3.5 inch floppy disk which set up a temporary gateway through the password program. It was a much cruder program than the one he hoped to acquire, but with a little skill, and the delete button, the competition would be severely narrowed. He smiled to himself as the entry screen cleared to bring up a handful of mailboxes…and one new message. He accessed the message andscanned it, quickly.

"I found that disk you wanted. You can have it tomorrow, but it'll cost you. Meet me at 12 on the top deck of the Princess Grace."

The signature was of no relevance, now. The darkly clad man smiled to himself as he typed a quick reply in the affirmative, erased all traces of the message, and made a quick and stealthy exit-one of his specialties.

"Mmm." Barbara gazed at Dick's plate pensively. "How are those potatoes?"

Dick glanced at her own plate, which had contained only some steamed vegetables, a piece of fish, and a small pile of dry rice, which had been pushed around the plate until the grains made a thin layer over the entire platter.

"Not bad," he told her. "You want to try some?"

"Well," she said, brightly. "Since you're offering…"

Dick Grayson had his vision checked by Dr. Leslie twice a year. He had 20/20 vision. Of this, he was certain. And yet, he still didn't see Barbara's fork until the potato was halfway to her mouth. He blinked. And then he caught on.

"Here," he offered, dipping his spoon in the chocolate mousse she'd made him take. "This is great…you have to taste it." He waved the spoon in front of her face.

"Oh, I couldn't…it's fattening…" she protested, half-heartedly.

"Oh, you have to try a little bit," he played along.

"Well…it's really good?"

"To die for."

"Maybe just a little bit," she relented, closing her eyes and opening her mouth.

Dick tried not to smile as he fed her the dessert.

"Ooh…you're right…it's heavenly."

"Have some more…I can't finish it by myself, and I don't let it go to waste."

"Well, if you insist…"

Dick Grayson smiled proudly to himself. I'm starting to understand this 'woman' thing, he congratulated himself.

"Oh, schnookies," Dinah sighed to herself. "Tim!" she called, hoping to make herself heard over the strains of Pink Floyd. The Oracle line beeped again. Dinah reminded herself that it was a computer, and could not possibly sound irritated. She tentatively reached out and tapped the connection key, cringing at the idea of having to do anything really technologically complicated. The screen cleared to show the caller, and Dinah dropped her head to her knees with a groan. Not him! ANYone but HIM!

"Oracle? Oracle, what's going on?" Batman demanded. "What's wrong with the screen?"

"Nothing, Batman," Dinah replied, attempting to sound cool and professional, a tone with which she was quite adept…with anyone but Batman. "Go ahead."

"Barbara? What's wrong with your visual?"

"Nothing. I'm…" Dinah glanced frantically around the apartment. "…naked."

"Naked." Batman's voice gave away only the vaguest hint of skepticism.

"Yes. Buck naked." Dinah nodded with satisfaction, then realized Batman couldn't observe the action, and sighed.

"So get dressed, so I can talk to you face-to-face," he said, calmly. "Unless, of course, you're not really Oracle." Suddenly the screen glowed blue around the edges, as Batman activated the two-way video.

The two JLA founders stared at each other.

"Black Canary?"

Well, Dinah thought, resignedly, at least she'd succeeded in drawing emotion from the Bat. That should keep her warm and fuzzy for a few nights, at least.

"Batman. How 'bout them…Knights?"

"Canary, where's Oracle?"

"Oh, she's tripping around one of those oceans down there with your kid. The older one," she added. "I've got Tim here."

"'Tim.'" Batman's face was expressionless. "And what, may I ask, are you doing with 'Tim'? Is he taking over as Oracle? He's perfectly capable of defending himself. You don't need to act as his bodyguard."


"And I don't suppose it occurred to you," Dinah started icily, her jaw set, "that Babs could *possibly* have left me to fill in as Oracle."


"Oh you are SUCH a queen!" Dinah exploded. "Of COURSE Oracle left me in charge. You don't think I hang out in Computerland for FUN, do you?"

"I'm…" Batman stared at her, perplexed. "What did you call me?"

"A queen," Dinah spat at him. "You're queenie. As in those dirty old men who want everything 'just so' and get all snippy when their little boys don't perform to their impossible standards!"

"Hey, BC," Tim's voice wafted from the other room. "Babs has the Pet Shop Boys!" Less than a second later, the notes of "Absolutely Fabulous" blasted throughout the apartment.

"You," Dinah informed Batman, "are Absolutely Fabulous."

Batman blinked.

"That mousse was absolutely fabulous," Barbara sighed as she and Dick made their way back to their cabin. "I can't believe you made me eat that! I'm going to gain five pounds because of that."

"Maybe we can find a way to work that off," Dick suggested with a lecherous rise of his eyebrow.

"A swim does sound like a good idea," Babs agreed, innocently.

"Don't you have to wait a half hour?" Dick asked, annoyed that she was ignoring his innuendo.

"What? That won't give you enough time?" She blinked her wide, green eyes up at him.

"Stop! That's it! I give in. Good grief," he grumbled, rolling his eyes.

"It just doesn't pay to be efficient around here." He swiped the room key through the door lock and opened the door for her.

"I love efficiency," Babs assured him, rolling immediately to her computer and clearing the screen saver, "but…wait a minute…"

"What? First you want efficiency, then…"

"My computer. Someone's been on it."

"How can you tell?" As soon as he asked the question, Dick knew the answer.

She was Oracle. She knew *everything*.

"Dummy box has been accessed. Anything that comes through unencrypted automatically goes into the dummy box."

"So it's fake email?"

"No. It's where I keep my stuff from you."


"Shh, Boy Wonder. Heavy thinking going on over here."

"Heavy is right." Dick watched her fingers fly over the keys for a moment, then settled down on the bed, tucking his arms behind his head. "Watch that brain smoke!"

Babs ignored him and continued tracing her email messages.

"I'm losing my title as the World's Second Greatest Detective, aren't I?" Dick questioned from the bed.

"You just missing it, now?" Barbara replied with the ghost of a smile.

"Like a hole in the head. So do I get to be number three, or has Robin been tutored by Sherlock Holmes while I was out?"

"Is this a roundabout way of asking me to stroke your ego?"

"No, it's a roundabout way of asking you to stroke-"


"What?" Dick was on his feet and leaning over her shoulder before she finished speaking.

"New email. Two of them," she replied, opening both of them. "First one says…'I have the disk you want. Meet me tonight on the main deck at midnight.' Snappy patter, there, don't you think? Second one…'Tomorrow afternoon; 3pm; pool deck. I'll have a drink with a little umbrella. See you there!'"

Dick scratched his head. "You making dates without me, Babs?"

"Nope," she replied, frowning at the second email. "They can't both have the disk. Can they?"

"If they have copies."

"Maybe…" Barbara frowned. "I would have thought Dr. Manheim would have write-protected the disk, so it couldn't be copied or changed."

"Didn't you say he sent the details to a colleague? Have you contacted him?"

"Tch, tch, tch. Dick, I was the colleague."

"Dinah? Dinah, are you ok?" Tim Drake waved a hand in front of Dinah's face, brows creased worriedly. Dinah was curled up in a fetal ball on the computer chair, face tucked into her knees. She let out the most pitiful groan Robin had heard since Nightwing had found out that his car had been totaled by Blockbuster.

"Dinah, what happened?"

Dinah lifted her head, mournfully. "I called Batman a queen."

"You called him…" Tim blinked at her, confused. "What did you call him?"

"A queen! He's queenie! You know, as in those dirty old men who want everything 'just so' and get all snippy when their little boys don't perform to their impossible standards!"

"Batman's not like that!" Tim automatically defended his mentor. "I mean…"

"He lived on a hill in a big old mansion with an old man and a teenage boy," Dinah pointed out, forgetting her prior regrets. "That doesn't look good, Tim."

"He's actually kind of fun when…"

"And when that teenage boy left, he got another teenage boy to live with him. And that looks worse."

"Yeah, but that was Jason, and we don't talk about Jason…"

"And why *don't* you talk about Jason, Tim? Hmmm?"

"Well, we…well, Batman's kind of touchy on that subject…"

"And what happens when you try to exercise anything resembling free will?"

"Hey, I have lots of free will! And after No Man's Land, Batman asked if I really thought he could ever replace me. That was nice!"

"Tim…" Dinah regarded him, thoughtfully. "Which Robin are you, again?"

"Hey, I was the first to get to wear tights!" The words echoed in the air long after Tim said them. He scowled. He listened to the echo again. Unfortunately, this echo sounded an awful lot like the last 47. He listened one more time.

"I don't feel so good," he decided.

Dick Grayson stretched his arms above his head and closed his eyes against the glare of the warm, afternoon sun. The late afternoon was hazy and hot, and the pool deck was inhabited by more children and daiquiri-sipping divorcees than anyone else. Dick shuttered his eyes open to watch Barbara's toned arms propel her across the pool, lap after lap, and the water sparkle in her hair.

Robins belong in the air, not in the water, he reminded himself, wryly. Not that he was afraid of the water-there may be several things he feared, but water was hardly one of them-but after the little swim he was treated to in Blackgate, he'd just as soon stay nice and safe, on dry land.

The sun shone hotly on Barbara's back as she turned at the wall of the pool and ticked off another lap on her mental abacus. She cut almost effortlessly through the water, flying from one end of the pool to the other. She noticed the pool area was starting to clear out, probably as people started preparing for the dinner hour. That was fine with her-the water was her rooftops, now, and this was as close as she got to flying, these days…except for when the circus was in town, she thought with a secret smile. Finishing another lap, she switched to a strong side stroke, turning her face up to the warmth of the sun. At least it was warm before an artificial tidal wave sent cool chlorinated water rushing across her face.

"Wha--?" she gasped, pulling herself up to face her attacker. "I thought you didn't like the water," she protested, accusingly, to the laughing Dick Grayson, treading water behind her.

"Not lately," he admitted, pulling himself closer. "But you just looked like you were having sooo much fun…" He smiled charmingly at her and tilted his head.

Barbara had to smile at his little-boy look and at the way her heart still skipped a beat when she knew he was about to kiss her. Emphasis on *about*.

"Unca Niwwing!"

Dick was out of the water in a flash, standing on the edge of the pool, when a small bomb in red, blue, and gold, followed by a tall, red-headed man, exploded on his knees.

"Roy," he groaned, in a somewhat-German accent, as he bent to pick up Lian, "what are you doing here?"

"We're on vacation! R & R-as in Rest and Relaxation-or Roy and Rugrat, if you want to make puns. Trip. Escape. Holiday." Roy Harper protested cheerily, ignoring his friend's scowl. "What are you doing here? We all know you Bat-Boys don't believe in down-time."

"We do too," Dick grumbled, poking Lian in the tummy. "Uncle Nightwing knows how to have fun, right Lian?"

"Unca Niwwing has grumpy face," Lian announced. "Lookit my new bathing suit."

She spread her arms to show off her new Wonder Woman suit-a two piece, with a red and gold top and star-spangled blue trunks.

"You look beautiful," Dick told her. "Just like your Aunties Donna and Diana."

Lian beamed.

"Speaking of beautiful," Roy drawled, crouching beside Barbara, who had pulled herself onto the edge of the pool. "My name's Roy Harper and I'm here to save you from that lout I call my friend."

"Charmed," Barbara replied, dryly, taking his proffered hand. "I believe Dick's mentioned you once or twice."

"Did he mention how handsome and debonair I happen to be?"

"No, but I think he did say you were a hopeless playboy and had an ego the size of Toledo."

Roy blinked. "Toledo, huh? Well, if that impresses you, you should see the rest of my arsenal."

Barbara hid a smile and slipped her hand out of Roy's grasp as he stood, intending to pull her up with him. "If you don't mind," she said, eyes twinkling, as she indicated the wheelchair sitting several feet away.

"Roy, meet Barbara Gordon," Dick said, smiling. "You've probably already met her-as Oracle."

"Oracle?" Roy glanced back and forth between the chair and Barbara. "Oh, god, and I used that lame arsenal line on you…I'm such an ass."

"Daddy's an ass!" Lian confirmed, cheerfully.

"Lian," Roy groaned. "What did I say about using that word?"

"Only when Auntie Donna's talking to Unca Lantern."

"You got it, kid."

"Uh, Roy," Dick started. "We're kind of undercover, here."

"Could have fooled me," Roy told him, bluntly. "What's that? A stick-on mustache? Or a drowned ferret stuck to your face? Nice disguise."

"Ich bin Herr Doktor Fledermaus," Dick informed him, with a passable German accent. "Und diese ist meine Frau, Augusta Dupin."

Lian giggled. "Unca Niwwing sounds funny," she declared.

"Unca Niwwing is playing pretend," Roy stage-whispered to her. "So we have to call him Herr Doktor Flyingmouse."


"Fwedermowsh!" Lian repeated, cheerfully.

"Close enough," Dick decided.

"And you are the famous Oracle," Roy said, thoughtfully, swinging Barbara into his arms and placing her gently in her chair. "I must say that I much prefer this face to the one that pops up on the computer."

"Owacle pretty," Lian said, leaning out of Dick's arms. Dick set her on the deck and she toddled up to Barbara.

"Thank you, Lian," she said, smiling at the little girl who was holding her arms up to her. Once she gave him the ok nod, Roy lifted his daughter into her lap. "I love your new bathing suit. It's very pretty." Lian beamed.

"You two are spoiling her," Roy complained, half-heartedly.

"Well, let us spoil her some more at dinner tonight," Dick told him. "We should go get ready, now, but we'll fill you in on everything tonight."

"Great. We'll stop by your room 'round six. 838, right?"

Dick groaned. "How do you know that?"

"Hey! I was taught by the World's Second Greatest Detective! C'mon, sweetheart!"

"Bye-bye, Unca Niwwing! Bye-bye, Auntie Owacle!" Lian called as her daddy picked her up and swung her onto his shoulders.

Dick winced.

"Here," Dinah instructed, holding out a spoon filled with pink syrup. "Take this."

Tim obediently swallowed the medicine and grimaced.

"I can't believe you got a stomachache from Chinese food and cookie dough," Dinah complained, screwing the lid back on the bottle and returning it to the shelf.

"It was General Tso's chicken," Tim protested from his perch on the bathroom counter. "And then we ate pork rinds."

"True," Dinah agreed, reluctantly.

"And gummy worms..."


"And those Double-Stuf Oreos with the blue filling."

"But *I'm* not sick!"

Tim groaned. "I think I'm getting an ulcer," he complained.

"You need to drink milk, then!" Dinah suggested, cheerfully.

"No." Tim held up a warning hand. "Not now."

"I'm not surprised," Dinah told him, matter-of-factly. "Hanging out with Tall, Dark and Gloomy is enough to make anyone a little nauseous. Or do you do it to yourself, like Oracle?"

"It's just-I mean, sometimes I think I'm too cautious…I think-"

"That's your problem, kid," Dinah told him, munching on a Hostess SnoBall.

"You think too much."

"What *is* that?" Tim asked, staring skeptically at the pink-coconut coated cake.

"Sno-Ball. Want one?" Dinah held the companion snack out to Tim.

Tim clutched his stomach and closed his eyes.

"H. A. M. B. U.-"

"Sir, I know how to spell 'hamburger'. But we don't serve them here."

"It's a hamburger! It's a slab of ground beef, tossed on a grill! How hard can it be to make?"

"It's not hard, sir. It fact, it's very simple. And that is precisely why we don't serve it here in the Gratherton Room."

Roy Harper and his daughter exchanged long-suffering looks.

"Look at her," Roy pleaded, lifting his daughter toward the waiter. "She's four years old. She's adorable. She's not going to eat *foie gras* or anything. Can you please just make her a hamburger?"

"Roy, it's all right," Dick offered, leaning over to touch his friend's arm. "We can go somewhere else."

"No," Roy replied, stubbornly. "You two are all dressed up and ready to go to a nice dinner. I'm sure we can work something out here with Ol' Ramrod, here."

Dick glanced at the elderly waiter who obviously did not appreciate being called 'Ol' Ramrod.' Truth be told, the man reminded Dick somewhat of Alfred. "Do you have any fish fillets or some breaded chicken?" he asked, quietly. "Something in a small portion?"

"I believe I can arrange something, sir," the older man agreed, and left while Roy was still grumbling under his breath.

"Dick, what are you doing?" he asked when the waiter was out of earshot. "The hamburger was for ME! Lian likes frog legs," he added, naming the dish he had ordered for himself.

"You're a big girl, aren't you, Lian?" Barbara smiled at her.

"I'm gonna grow up and run the JLA," Lian told her, solemnly. "Just like you."

Barbara laughed and glanced over at the men, to see if they heard the exchange, but they seemed deep in conversation.

"That singer wants me," Roy confided to Dick, nodding at the blonde chanteuse who was making doe eyes at their table as she sang a sultry love song.

Dick dared to glance back. The singer caught his eye and slunk off the stage, her voice growing huskier as she walked toward them. "Uh-oh," he sighed, under his breath.

Barbara caught his murmur, and glanced the same way, to see the slinky seductress with her eyes on Dick.

"I'll take care of this," Roy announced, gallantly. "Take care of my special girl for me, will ya, Dick?"

"Always," Dick replied, poking Lian in the tummy. Lian giggled delightedly, thrilled to be the object of Uncle Nightwing-uh, Uncle Fledermaus's affections.

"Uncle Fwedermowsh silly!" she exclaimed.

"Amazing," Dick commented as Roy stood, folding his napkin and placing it on the table. "A four-year old can remember my alias, but no one else can. You must be a prodigy, Lian," he teased the little girl.

Lian laughed delightedly, not because she understood the reference, but because Uncle Nightwing, Auntie Oracle, and Daddy found the comment funny.

Roy smoothly intercepted the singer, as she was finishing her song.

"Hi, I'm Roy Harper," he told her, taking her arm and escorting her back to the stage. "I'd love to do a song with you."

"But-" she started. She never finished. Roy twirled the shocked star over to the other end of the stage and whispered something to the pianist.

"What is he-" Barbara started to ask.

"Somewhere…" Roy started, in a pleasant baritone. "Beyond the sea…"

"Roy sings?" Babs asked, wide-eyed.

"Somewhere, waiting for me…"

"Roy sings well?" Dick echoed, just as shocked. In all the time he'd known the archer, never, but never, had he had the occasion to hear the man sing.

"My lover stands on golden sands…and watches the ships that go sailing…"

"Daddy's a STAR!" Lian called, adoration shining clearly on her face.

Roy grabbed his co-star by the wrist and spun her into him, wrapping his arms around her, and rocking back and forth.

"Somewhere, beyond the sea," she continued, "he's there, watching for me."

"If I could fly, like birds on high," they sang together, "Then straight to her arms, I'd go sailing."

"Daddy sang with the pretty lady!" Lian cheered, when Roy returned to the table.

"She wasn't as pretty as you, princess," Roy replied, kissing the top of her head.

"Thanks for saving me," Dick muttered, under his breath.

Roy snorted. "Are you kidding? I was saving *her* butt. I saw the look Babs was giving her."

Barbara glanced up from her food to grin at Roy.

"So," Roy asked, leaning closer and stabbing his fork in his oversized fish stick, "are you going to tell me what's up with the code names and fancy disguises or am I going to have to follow you around?"

"It's actually Babs' case," Dick said, eating a bite of food. "I just kind of horned in on it."

"Mind filling me in?" Roy asked, shooting Babs a charming smile.

"I suppose you can be trusted," she teased, and proceeded to lean forward and explain the situation in hushed tones.

"Are you enjoying your frog legs, Miss Lian?" Dick asked his small dining companion.

"Most excellent," she told him, solemnly, giving him a thumbs up.

"Glad to hear it," he said, equally solemnly.

"Aren't you supposed to have a funny talk?" Lian asked, quizzically, carefully spreading her baked potato around her plate.

"A funny-oh! *Ja, meine Schatze! Ich kann Deutsch sprechen!*"

Lian laughed delightedly, oblivious to the discussion taking place between her father and Oracle. "Teach me to talk like that!" she exclaimed, clapping her hands.

"I'll teach you back home," Dick promised. "But now, you have to eat your veggies. Mmmm…yummy veggies."

Lian eyed him in distaste. "Unca Fwedermowsh?"

"Yes, sweetheart?"

"You're smoking something."

"It's just not a spooky, clandestine meeting if it's not pouring-down rain," Dick commented, his normally incorrigible forelock plastered to his face by the drenching downpour.

"I could do without the 'spooky', the 'clandestine' or the 'pouring-down rain'," Barbara mumbled, pulling her windbreaker closer around herself.

"Aw, come on Babs! Where's your sense of adventure? Excitement? Je ne se quois?"

Babs shook her head at his misuse of the phrase. "I thought you were German," she replied, peering out from under her hood.

"Actually," Dick said, checking over his left shoulder, "I was claiming to be from Austria."

"Hmmmph." Barbara tugged her jacket closer again and wrapped her arms around herself.

"You hear something?" Dick asked, suddenly.

"My teeth chattering?" Barbara asked, but Dick was already moving away from her. "Dick?" she called, turning her head in the direction he left. "Where are you-oh!" As the ship rolled hard to port, her chair was given a solid push from the back and began rolling across the deck. The hit was low, her analytical mind raced, so it must have been a kick to the seat. Her hands automatically lowered to stop her forward motion, but the wheels, already wet from the slick deck and spinning too fast to catch, only burned her, scraping the skin from her palms. "DICK!" she yelled, knowing her voice wasn't carrying through the inky night and driving rain, the wind sweeping it away. She bit her lip as she tried to change the direction of the chair, but something was impeding her maneuverability. The wind whipped her hair into her face and the last thing she saw was the guardrail hurtling toward her.

"Barbara!" Dinah snatched the headpiece from the desk and called into the mike. "Barbara, what's going on?"

"What's happening?" Tim asked, running up behind her.

"I don't know," Dinah growled, punching buttons indiscriminately. "She won't tell me!"

"Maybe she's busy," Tim suggested, diplomatically.

Dick's fingers had been inches from the back of Barbara's chair when he first saw her start to roll. He'd missed, and seconds later, his arms had been pinned to his sides in a bear hug that was less than friendly. He heard Barbara call his name as he struggled to free himself from his assailant's constrictive hold. The man was a giant, pulling Dick high enough for his feet to leave the deck.

I should have worn my suit, he thought, desperately, trying to use his feet to swing himself some leverage.

Suddenly, his center of balance was thrown as his captor was hit by something moving very fast, and Dick found himself suddenly released. Without a second thought of his former captor, he dashed after Barbara, grabbing for handles that weren't there, then for the back of her chair. An ill-placed puddle of water slid his feet out from under him, his fingers just missing the chair as he tumbled to the deck. Despite the starless night and driving rain, he could see the chair careening toward the rail guarding the ship's passengers from a close-up view of the water below. On automatic, he threw himself across the slippery deck, prepared to do anything necessary to stop the runaway wheelchair.

Fear was not a foreign sensation to Barbara Gordon. She'd felt it on the street of Gotham as Batgirl. She'd felt it in her daily life as she wrestled with two identities. And she'd certainly felt it the night she opened the door and saw the Joker's rictus grin. The flash at the muzzle and the horrifyingly loud bang of the gun seemed almost trite after that first grip of terror. And this came nowhere close. As the railing grew closer, Barbara threw her body to the side, knocking the chair over and spinning crazily on the deck.

"Barbara, talk to me!" Dinah shouted in her ear.

Suddenly, she hit something solid and bounced to a halt. She looked up to see Dick Grayson's blue eyes gazing at her, worriedly, as he braced himself against on of the railing uprights, one arm around her, his leg stretched out to catch her chair. She leaned his forehead against his and breathed out a shaky breath.

"I'm fine, Dinah," she said, her voice shaking just a little. "Someone gave me a push. Dick caught me."

"Someone PUSHED you?" Dinah echoed. "Someone's out to kill you? Or just scare you?"

"Just scare, I think," Babs replied. "Or distract us."

"Thank God you're ok!" Dinah replied. "Do you want us to-"

"We're fine, Dinah," Babs interrupted. "Oracle out." She reached up and turned off her transmitter. "Nice catch, former Boy Wonder," she cracked, grinning at Dick. He didn't return the favor.

"*This* is why people put handles on these things," he snapped, kicking the chair away from the railing. It skittered across the deck until it bumped into a bulkhead and rocked to a halt. "Handles!" he bellowed, over the rain. "Remember them? 'You know why I don't have handles, Grayson?'" he mimicked in a fair imitation of the shocked woman in his arms. "'Because I don't like to be pushed!' Yeah, well it didn't help you tonight, did it? How about being caught, huh? Would that have been so bad? Twice, *twice* I would have had you if there had been handles on that chair! But oh, no, not you! You can't just let anyone else close, can you?"

"You don't understand what it's like-" Barbara started, hotly.

Dick cut her off there, pressing his mouth to hers and kissing her like he was trying to meld them into one person. When he'd kissed her thoroughly breathless, he pulled away and tenderly brushed her hair away from her face. "Don't scare me like that again," he whispered, fiercely. "Don't ever scare me like that again."

"She…called me a queen."

"I trust she did not mean the good lady of England."

"No, Alfred, she meant like…like the men who like little boys."

"Ah." Alfred Pennyworth absorbed this information and mulled it over as only Alfred could. "I'm sure she was only referring to your tendency to…micromanage the activities of Nightwing and Robin."

"Robin! Tim told her his true identity! He knows how important separating his professional and civilian life is to the continued existence of our image."

"Yes, sir, I am beginning to see Miss Dinah's point of view."

"Batman to Oracle. Canary, put Robin on the line."



"Don't just stand there looking at me like you've never heard the word before. He has a tummyache and it's probably your fault anyway," Dinah blustered, trying to pretend her earlier words had been a simple character comparison. Yes, of course. Merely a psychological evaluation.

"Robin's medical condition is my imminent concern. Get him for me."

"Y'know," Dinah said, her temper flaring for the second time in as many days. "I have to say, Batman, I don't think much of your parenting skills, either."

"My…parenting skills?" Batman asked, his stern demeanor hiding incredible confusion for the second time in as many days.

"Yes! You practically disowned the first Robin! Sure, Nightwing is a better name, but he was stuck with that horrible collar until you two made up! The second Robin died, and Tim's developing an ulcer, since you can't take the time or effort to give him a pat on the back. What ails you, man?"

"I don't think allowing a boy under your care to become addicted to heroin was exactly model parenting, Dinah," Batman replied, trying not to let her show he was reeling from her mention of Jason Todd.

Dinah, to her credit, managed not to throw anything heavy at the screen.

"Let me check my facts," she said, slowly, her mouth set in a hard, cold line. "You're blaming *me* for Roy's heroin addiction. Roy, the ward of my former boyfriend. My former boyfriend, Oliver Queen, who was *several* years older than me and who ran around behind my back more than I even want to know. You're blaming me for Ollie not being around for Roy?"

"I'm blaming you for not being there for Roy."

"Let me tell you about being there for someone," Dinah snarled, her eyes stinging with tears that would never be shed. "Let me tell you about the nights I spent in detox, holding Roy's hand. Let me tell you about the days and days of sitting with him, cooped up in a house with only Hal to keep us both sane. Let me tell you about your own sidekick, who's drinking Maalox in the bathroom, because you have him worrying about absolutely *everything.* Lighten up Bruce! The sun doesn't rise and set on you!"

The dramatic pause was punctuated by the further hardening of Batman's jaw, turning his expression downright stony. Dinah closed her eyes.

"Did you just call me Bruce?"

"You're soaked," Dick noticed as they entered their room.

"It *is* raining out," Barbara pointed out, faintly.

"Go take a hot shower," Dick suggested. "I'll bring you a towel and something to wear."

"Ok," Barbara agreed, a little mechanically, as she wheeled herself into the small bathroom and shutting the door.

Dick sighed and ran a hand through his wet hair. He hadn't meant to yell at Barbara. It was just the thought of failing her again, of losing her forever, terrified him. "I'm pulling a Bruce," he said aloud, with a rueful chuckle.

After changing into dry sweats and rubbing a towel over his hair, Dick gathered up one of his old t-shirts and a couple of clean towels and knocked on the bathroom door.

"Come in," Barbara called over the rush of the shower. Dick opened the door and entered the bathroom. He lay the towels and shirt on the shelf next to the shower.

"Your chair's all wet," he called to her, as the shower stopped. "I'm going to wipe it off for you."

"Thank you," Barbara told him, peeking around the corner as she reached for the towels.

"Anytime," Barbara heard as she dried off. She tucked one of the towels under her to keep the seat from dampening her nightwear. She slipped the shirt over her head and smiled to find BLÜDHAVEN POLICE DEPARTMENT stenciled across her chest. She slid the door open to watch Dick kneeling before her chair, mopping up the last traces of the downpour.

"Dick," she said to get his attention. He was on his feet in seconds and to her side in two strides. Wordlessly, she held out her arms to him, a silent affirmation of trust. He scooped her into his arms and walked her to the bed, where he gathered the comforter around her, and lay down, wrapping himself around her.

"Barbara," he said, softly. *I want you to go home,* his mind raced, wildly. *I want to put you on the next plane to Gotham and get you out of whatever danger we've found here.*

Barbara lay enfolded in the thick comforter and Dick's strong arms, his mouth mere inches from her ear, breathless, as she waited for that endless silence to be broken. *Please don't make me go home,* she pleaded, silently. *I won't let you. I won't go. This is my mission, and I'm going to complete it.*

"I love you," Dick finally completed, burying his face in her damp hair.

"I love you, too," Barbara replied, snuggling down into the safety of his arms.

Barbara shuttered her eyes open to the harsh sound of something heavy ripping. The heavy weight of Dick's arm that had kept her lain across her waist through the night was gone, so she pushed herself upright.

"What are you doing?" she asked in bewilderment, staring at Dick, who was crouched on the floor by her chair.

"I'm making you handles," he grunted, tearing off another strip of duct tape with his teeth and affixing it to the escrima stick already hanging from the back of the chair.

"You're duct taping my escrima sticks to the back of the chair," Babs said, staring at his masterpiece.

"Nope," Dick corrected. "Yours are still under the seat. These are my spares. Here," he offered, tugging on the end of one last piece of tape and moving the chair to the bed. "Try it out."

With a mournful shake of her head, Barbara eased herself out of bed and into the chair. "This doesn't change anything for me," she told him. "Unless you've managed to position them so they're stabbing me in the shoulder." She paused and settled back in the chair. "Which they're not."

"Great," Dick proclaimed, putting the duct tape on a shelf.

"I hope you feel better."

"I do, thank you."

Barbara's next words were forgotten as a loud rapping on the door interrupted their exchange. Dick stood to answer it, and Barbara hastily yanked the comforter over her bare legs. Roy Harper, his daughter Lian on his shoulders, stood in the doorway.

"Howdy ho, neighbor," he called, cheerfully, shouldering past Dick. "Good morning, fair Madame-whoa!" Roy caught sight of Barbara's mussed hair and the t-shirt that was only partially hidden by the comforter. "Whoa!" he repeated. "You two finally did the Mexican Hat Dance!"

"I can dance!" Lian announced, grabbing Roy's hair in an effort to swing herself to the ground. "Put me down so I can do the Mex'can Hat Dance."

"Let's stick to the Little Teapot for now," Roy suggested, a note of panic in his voice as he swung his daughter to the floor.

Lian bobbled around the room for a few minutes, waving a small, covered plastic bowl, as the adults stared at each other in mutual shock.

"No!" Barbara and Dick blurted out at the same time, Barbara emphasizing her exclamation with another tug to the comforter.

"She was in the shower," Dick started.

"In the shower…" Roy repeated, slowly.

"I needed something to wear," Barbara cut in, "and Dick didn't know where my clothes were…"

p>"He didn't?"

"Well the ones she was wearing were all wet…"

"Stop." Roy held up one hand. "There are children present." The child in question had given up dancing and was sitting on the floor, eating dry Cheerios from her plastic bowl. Dick and Babs shut up and just glared at Roy.

"So, um, how'd your little meet-and-greet thing go last night?" Roy asked, quickly changing the subject.

"There wasn't much of either," Babs replied

"We had a little…incident," Dick told him.

"No way. What happened?" Roy asked, his face showing his surprise. He hooked a hand around the top of a nearby chair and flipped it around. He straddled the seat and rested his chin on the back, the very image of innocence.

"I got pushed," Barbara said, dryly.

"Pushed?" Roy echoed.

"No harm done," Dick told him. "We're thinking it was just a distraction attempt. Someone pushed Babs and jumped me. Fortunately, she thinks fast, and I got loose in time to grab her."

"Wow." Roy shook his head. "Sounds like you two have gotten into some serious stuff. You'd better watch your backs." He stood and pushed the chair back into its slot. "Guess I'd better cut out so Barbara can put some clothes on, huh?" He winked at her, and she glared at him. "C'mon, princess," he called, holding his hand out to Lian.

"Oh, Roy, before you go…" Dick said, as he helped Lian fasten the top back on her Cheerios.


"Here." Dick stood and walked to the small desk. "I think this is yours." He walked over to the archer, tapping an arrow against his palm.

"Mine?" Roy held out his hand, but Dick didn't give up his evidence.

"Yeah. Funny thing. We found it on the deck last night."

"No way."

"Roy…" Dick's voice held a warning.


"Thanks for watching our backs, buddy."

"Who? Me?"

"Did you just call me Bruce?" Batman echoed.

"That's your name," Dinah said. "Don't wear it out."

"Black Canary, where on earth did you come up with 'Bruce'?" Batman asked, seemingly mystified.

"Bruce Wayne. Gotham's richest, handsomest, most eligible, and downright dippiest bachelor."

"You think…" Batman coughed, as if holding back a laugh.

"The only man outside of Lex Luthor rich enough to fund Batman's operations, smart enough to run a multi-billion dollar business behind an air-head smile, who lost his parents in a street slaying he observed when he was six, and later adopted an orphaned acrobat named Dick Grayson *just* about the time Robin came on the scene in all his short-pants glory. By the way, it helps that Roy called Robin 'Dick' the entire time he was in detox, and your little buddy Tim just confirmed it for me."

"Not bad, Dinah," Batman said, nodding. "Nice detective work. And yes, Wayne does fund me. We've been on close terms for quite a while now, when he found out Dick was Robin. And just for the record, Bruce doesn't do a damn thing for that company. A man named Lucius Fox pulls all Wayne's strings." Batman smiled, not altogether pleasantly. "Except for the few I pull."

"Actually, my mother told me," Dinah said, flatly, crossing her arms.

The smile dropped.


Ted Kord sat alone at an outside table of the Princess Grace Restaurant and Bar, a copy of "The Bread Anthology" sitting next to his glass of water. At quarter of one, he stood up and left, taking his compact disk with him.

"I hope you understand the importance of keeping this information to yourself, Dinah," Batman was saying.


"Excuse me?"

"Why? I want to know why this info is so extremely, vitally important. I mean, it's pretty easy to figure out, once you get all the facts."

"I-The-" Batman scowled at her. "Because I said so."

"What?" Dinah burst out. "Because you *said* so? Bruce, Ollie had better excuses than that."

"I'm not Ollie, Dinah."

"Well, that's painfully obvious," Dinah muttered, staring at the piles of computer equipment surrounding her.

Batman watched her turn away and instantly realized how insensitive his words had been. "My headquarters are under the mansion," he finally said. "I have people-people who have never put on a costume…people who I never want in danger. People who can't defend themselves the way you and I can."

"I don't know, Batsy," Dinah said, leaning back in her chair, a mischievous twinkle in her eye. "I think Alfred can still kick some ass."

"Well…" Batman's mouth quirked. "He can still whip Nightwing and Robin."

"Everyone here has a little umbrella in their drink," Barbara hissed at Dick.

"It's a pool deck," he replied. "What did you expect?"

"So what am I supposed to do?" she asked. "Go around and ask everyone with a drink that has an umbrella in it if they have a disk for sale?"

"You'll probably be able to discount that row over there," Dick suggested, nodding at a string of women sunning themselves in tiny two-piece bathing suits.

"So will you," Barbara grumbled, scanning the deck with a hand shielding her eyes from the sun.

Dick offered a long-suffering sigh. "Very well, then. I'll just have to sit here beside the most gorgeous woman on the ship. What if this person decides to back out? We still have one night to go sneaking around the ship, trying to find Ra's al Ghul."

"If that wasn't Ubu who attacked us last night," Barbara replied, "then we'll probably see him today."

"Drinks with little umbrellas aren't exactly his modus operandi," Dick pointed out.

"No, but last night's meet was. He may default to interrupting this one, if he gets a chance."

"I much prefer the term 'interject'," a voice said, behind them.

"Sit down, Ra's," Barbara offered, without turning around. "Talk with us."

"I'd be delighted, Ms. Gordon," the ageless man said, as he sat stiffly in the deck chair.

Dick did a double take. He'd seen the older man in a variety of odd disguises, but this was undoubtedly the most frightening.

"That's an ugly shirt," Barbara informed him, bluntly.

"That it is," Ra's agreed. "Unfortunately, this seems to be the ideal attire for blending in on this vessel. And it was a mere five dollars at a nearby Valu-Mart."

"And you need to get some sun on those chicken legs," Barbara added, crossing her arms across her chest.

Ra's studied her for a moment and chose to ignore that comment in favor of a more pressing matter. "I do apologize for Ubu's…zeal…last night. He's certainly overeager to please."

"So that was just a scare? Not an attempt to get me out of this race, permanently?" Barbara asked, arching one eyebrow.

"That would be unwise of me, Ms. Gordon," Ra's continued, "as you have the other two disks."

"And you don't know where they are," Dick finished.

"Oh, I'm quite sure I could locate them, Mr. Grayson," Ra's said, "if that becomes necessary. But there is no point in wasting life when there are other methods of achieving my goals."

"Do you have the last disk?" Barbara asked, bluntly.

"I'm afraid not, my dear Ms. Gordon," he replied, steepling his fingers. "And I am uncertain of the identity of the one who does possess it."

"So we're on the same page, at least until someone gets the last disk," Dick finished, flatly.

"Exactly," Ra's al Ghul acknowledged. "The Detective has trained you well. I, too, have been received and invitation to this summit. I'm sure we will be able to come to an acceptable agreement."

"We'll see about that," Dick growled in reply.

"Dr. Fledermaus! Ms. Dupin! Mr. Rourke!" All three looked up to see a man in an orange and green flowered shirt, an exact duplicate of the one currently worn by Ra's al Ghul, running toward them, waving his drink. "You're here! This is great!"

"Is that David Carlson?" Dick asked, squinting at the figure in the eye-searing shirt.

"He's going to sit here and talk all afternoon, and we'll never find the seller," Barbara murmured under her breath.

"Quite correct," Ra's agreed, his beady eyes tracking the man's path to them. "We shall have to excuse ourselves immediately."

Turned out, they didn't have to. David Carlson's cheerful dash across the deck took him right into a waiter with a tray of colorful drinks. Carlson, the waiter, and a platter of Midori Sours went into the swimming pool.

"What can we do now?" Dinah asked Tim, spinning lazily in the chair.

"Um…I dunno. Midnight Slurpee run?"

"But I can't go."

"I'll get one for you."

"But what's the fun of a midnight Slurpee run if I can't go?" Dinah bemoaned.

"True that," Tim agreed. "Hey, does Babs have Battle Hamster on this thing?"

"Battle Hamster?"

"…and in all the confusion, the seller didn't show," Babs finished telling Roy, who was sprawled on her bed.

"That bites," he observed, guarding over Lian's afternoon nap. "Got any idea where else you can meet up with him? Or her?"

"Not yet," Babs admitted. "But with any luck we'll get an email in the next few hours."

"Barbara!" Black Canary exclaimed in her ear.

"Dinah? You're back online?" Oracle asked.

"You talking to Dinah?" Roy asked, sitting up.

Barbara nodded as she listened to Dinah.

"I was whupping Tim at Battle Hamster," she explained, "when the screens cleared and brought up a picture of um, Schloss Totende. It flipped around a couple of times, and vanished. Think it means anything?"

"Get me two plane tickets to Switzerland and we'll find out," Babs promised.

"Switzerland?" Dick asked, as she cut the connection. "What are we looking for, there?"

"Schloss Totende," Barbara told him. "Dinah received a message with a picture of the structure."

"Castle Dead-End," Dick translated. "Sounds like a nasty place."

"And you won't have me around to save your sorry butts," Roy put in.

"We appreciate what you've done during this trip," Barbara told him. "But we can take care of ourselves in Switzerland. Ra's insists Ubu just got a little out of line."

"I don't trust that man as far as I can throw him," Roy said, bluntly. "Watch your step."

"And his," Dick added.

Continue To Chapter Three

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