And ya'll thought I was ignoring those "subliminal" messages you kept sending... Charlene--this means more baby fic!!!

Disclaimer--See part one...a long, long time ago, in a place far, far away...

And now, without further ado...

The Ol' Switcheroo, Part 3
by Smitty

On a plane to Geneva, Switzerland...

Barbara Gordon had envied Dick Grayson for as long as she could remember. When she was younger, she envied him the ease with which he flew through night, his athletic ability, and his ability to charm his way into everyone's heart. As she grew older, her envy turned to wistful desire as she watched him become a man.

But right now, the envy was back, full force. Not the old stuff. Nah, she was over that. Right now, she envied his ability to sleep through David Carlson's endless drivel. Granted, David was sweet and charming and funny... for the first four hours. It had all started out so well...

"Ms.Dupin! What are you doing here?"

"David!" Babs and Dick looked up from the seatbelts they were adjusting.

"We're on our way to Geneva," Babs explained, carefully. So far, David had been everywhere they had gone. Two places could be a coincidence. But three? "What about you?"

"Me, too! Wow, isn't that cool? Are you on the tour group, too? I didn't see your names."

"Tour group?" Dick asked.

"Yes! My business is sort of a computerized real estate/travel agency kind of thing. I'm taking a bunch of my top investors, big time computer and techie guys, around to check out my different holdings. We've got people from all over! Japan, Germany, Silicon Valley, even Australia! Right now we're on our way to Castle Dead-End, this old place I bought and turned into a resort."

"Really?" Babs shook her head. A resort? Could the disk holder be one of the people in David's group? Or David himself?

"Really! Is that where you're staying? Or were you headed elsewhere?"


"We stay in der Hof," Dick snapped from his seat.

"The... Huff?" David asked, looking puzzled. Babs decided it must be his natural facial expression.

"Hof," she said, quickly. "The village outside the castle grounds."

"No! You can't stay down there in that little backwater place! Come stay at the Castle! It's my treat!"

"Oh, we couldn't," Barbara protested. "We wouldn't want to infringe on you like that."

"Have you a... what do the Americans call it? Sweetiemoon room?" Dick grinned, devilishly.

"The Honeymoon Suite!" David beamed. "Of course we do!"

Barbara sighed. It was going to be a long plane ride.

Indeed, long did not begin to describe it. While David remained personable and charming, personable and charming was wearing really thin after four hours. " I stomped into the bank and walked right into the president's office..."

Babs glanced sideways at Dick. He was sound asleep, his mustache twitching as he breathed. She sighed and turned back toward David, in time to see the flight attendant pass the seats.

"Oh, excuse me!" she called, getting the attendant's attention.

"Yes?" the pretty blonde replied with a smile. "Can I get something for you?

"A glass of red wine, please," Barbara requested.

"Of course."

"Oh, and one for me, too!" David cut in.

"I'll be right back, with your drinks," the attendant promised them.

"And keep them coming," Babs added under her breath.

"Hey, Timbo, wake up."


"Get up!" Dinah poked the red and green lump on Oracle's sofa.

"Huh?" The lump moved and slowly became the Boy Wonder.

"Yes, you."

Tim looked up to see Dinah towel-drying her hair.

"Man, I slept through the end again, didn't I?"

"Yep. You're never going to know who had that disk if can't ever stay awake through that movie."

"I know," Tim said, miserably. "You wanna just tell me?"

"And spoil if for you? No way!" Dinah grinned at him and cast her towel aside. She was dressed in gray sweatpants and a t-shirt that proudly displayed her devotion to "Spam" complete with a picture of the tin of pink quasi-meat. "Hey, aren't you worried about someone looking for you? I mean, doesn't Batman have a dawn curfew for you little Batlings or anything?"

"Batman knows where I am," Tim said, leaning over to pull on his boots. "And my dad is in Egypt digging up old rocks, so I don't think he even knows school is out."

"Good deal for you," Dinah said, running her fingers through her tangled locks. "Though that sounds like a busy schedule. No wonder you drink Maalox like most people drink milk."

Tim sighed. "What's for breakfast?"

"Um... Does Babs have any Count Chocula?"

Whoever had allowed David Carlyle to rent and drive a minivan in Switzerland was going to be losing his position the moment Barbara Gordon found out his-or her-name. If she lived that long.

"Ooh, whoops, sorry folks," David apologized with a nervous chuckle as he swerved out of the way of an oncoming car. "Guess I'm just used to driving on the other side of the road!" He nearly missed a turn and did a 90 degree skid, narrowly missing a lovely topiary garden.

Barbara dared a glance to her left. Dick looked like he was enjoying the ride. The man in front of her, who claimed to be from Louisiana, was taking pictures of everything he could find. Including Barbara. She frowned and raised her hand to block the camera. The man grumbled and turned away, trading his camera for a video camera he pointed out the window.

"We'll be there in just a few moments, folks!" David called. "Everyone comfortable?"

Comfortably motion sick, Babs thought miserably. She looked around at the rest of the passengers. Three men and three women. One of the men was older, but bore himself in the manner of a military officer. One looked like a cross between a university professor and a GQ model. The last, Barbara decided, resembled a roly-poly Bruce, plus ten years. Obviously, he didn't have Bruce's workout schedule or diet, despite the expensive suit designed the hide the tummy roll. He had been the one taking pictures of everything in sight. The women were all slim and sharp-looking, one prematurely white-haired, one a flaming red-head and the oldest one dyed a sandy blonde. One of these people, Barbara reminded herself probably had the disk she was after, right in their carry bags. Now, she just had to figure out which one it was.

"Barbara Gordon, You Have Won a Million Dollars," Dinah read as she shuffled through the mail. "Tim! Did you hear that?"

"Just throw it away," Tim told her. "Babs always does."

"No, look... it doesn't say, 'Barbara Gordon, You MAY Have Won a Million Dollars' it says, 'Barbara Gordon, You HAVE Won a Million Dollars'."

"Well, that's good," Tim said, poking his head in the fridge and pulling out a carton of orange juice. "Not that Blockbuster doesn't give her all the money she could ask for."

Dinah growled in annoyance at the mention of Blockbuster.

"I should open this."

Tim choked on the orange juice he was drinking from the carton.

"Dinah, tampering with mail is a federal offense. She'll just get it when she gets home."

"I know, kiddo, but who knows when she'll be home, and the envelope says time-sensitive. She probably has to mail something in. I should open it and see what she needs to do. She won't mind. It's not like it's personal or anything. Now, where's her letter opener?"

"Man, you are going to get in deep trouble if this goes wrong," Tim sighed, shaking his head. "Here, use this." He unfastened the "R" from his chest and passed it over to Dinah.

"Huh?" Dinah stared at the symbol in her hand. "Why are you giving me this?"

"It's sharp," Tim explained. "I can use it as a throwing disk."

"Really?" Dinah asked, turning it over in her hand. "Cool."

And with a flick of her wrist, it disappeared across the room into the Oracle command center, where it hit a wall with a determined thunk.


"Um, Dirk?"

No response, as her handsome "husband" carried their bags into the Honeymoon Suite.

"DIRK! Yo, Fledermaus!"

"Huh?" Dick turned around and saw Barbara sitting in the doorway.

"I'm... stuck," she growled between clenched teeth. "The doorframe's too narrow."

"You're stuck?" Dick dropped the bags and walked quickly to where Barbara sat.

"That's what I said, wasn't it?" Babs snapped, irritably. "I thought there were regulations about this kind of stuff."

To his credit, Dick didn't even crack a smile. Instead, he scooped her gracefully from her chair and started to carry her into the room.

"Wait," she protested. "I need my chair in here."

"And here was my first chance to carry you across the threshold," Dick sighed in mock disappointment.

Before she could respond, Dick shifted his arms to sling her over his shoulder. He reached over and released the latch to fold up her chair and lifted that with his free arm.

"Dick!" Barbara hissed. "What are you doing?"

"Carry you, carry the chair..." Dick sighed again and kicked the door closed.

Barbara sighed and resigned herself to her upside-down position. After all, she had a damn fine view of his butt.

"Uh oh."

"What?" Dinah called from the kitchen, looking for something else with which to slit the envelope.

"Um, Houston, we have a problem."

"What?" Dinah asked again, trying to force the envelope open with a fork.

Tim stepped around the corner, holding up Barbara's little stuffed Batgirl doll, stuffing puffing from a rent in one arm.

Dinah's hand flew to her mouth. "Oh, no!" she gasped. "Not the doll!"

"Your aim's dead-on," Tim said, dryly, reaffixing the razor-sharp "R" to his chest.

Dinah reached out and gingerly took Li'l Batgirl from Robin. "Oh my..." She poked at the stuffing with her finger. "Oh dear." She studied the wound a little more carefully, using her finger to tuck the fiberfill back in the hole. "Hey, this isn't too bad," she said, hopefully. "It ripped along the seam. You can tuck it back together and stitch it up."

"I can? Why me?"

"Um, it's your R?"

"You threw it!"

"Well, I can't sew!"

"Ah, the truth comes out," Tim said, narrowing his eyes at her.

"Can you?"

"Well, no."


"We have Alfred... I don't need to know how to sew."

"I want an Alfred," Dinah grumbled. "Mom had the best stories about his tea and cookies. And he could fix Batgirl."

"Hey, speaking of Batgirl..."


"Where is she?"

"She lives here, with Babs, y'know. In the Clock Tower?"

"Batgirl? She lives here?"

"Yeah. I haven't seen her since I got here."

"Sweet Christmas! I've lost Batgirl!"

"We've got six other members of this little world-tour-cum-wild-goose-chase," Barbara ascertained, juggling windows on her laptop faster than Dick could keep up. "And for major players in global corporations, there's not much on any of them."

"I'd act surprised, but you'd know better."

"Good call, Twenty-Something Wonder." Babs switched some more screens around until one rested on top.

"You ready for your debriefing?"

"Hit me," Dick sighed, pulling up a chair and straddling the back of it.

"Don't tempt me. Sweetiemoon room, indeed." Barbara snorted. "Now, pay attention, Mr. Grayson, and no interrupting."

"Yes, ma'am."

"Ok, first lesson, Ms. Rosa Vermillion. Are you taking notes?"

"Should I?"

"Nah, I've got them all in here. Just thought I'd give you some grief."


"Ms. Vermillion is the redhead you didn't think I saw you gawking at. She's the vice-president for a Silicon Valley company that makes second-rate processors."

"I was just wondering how anyone who resembled you could be so much less pleasing on the eye."

"Keep pouring it on, Grayson. Going on to Mr. Midori. That was the gentleman from Louisiana who was trying to take my picture while you were gawking at Vermillion."

"I get no credit."

"Credit is given where credit is due. Mr. Midori is the liaison to a small software company in Japan. They design violent computer games, the occasional typing tutor, and flight simulators. He's married and has two kids, both in college."

"Hope his job pays well."

"So does he. Our next visitor is Bianca Blanca. Don't try to say that three times fast. She's a representative from one of those fancy dot-com places. Don't know what she's doing here, unless it's to tie in the real estate angle. The third woman is Ms. Azure Jay. She's from a company in Japan called Trans-Life. Don't know much about it, but I'll keep looking."

"Who else?"

"The gentleman in the uniform is Colonel Dijon," Barbara said, chewing on the end of a pencil. "He served in the French army, but now works as an international liaison for a German web design firm. Highly decorated, I might add."

"I'm highly decorated, too," Dick informed her. "I have a lovely purple bruise on my elbow from bashing into the ship railing, a big red mark on my hip from the van seatbelt, and--"

"Poor baby," Babs teased. "And I suppose you want me to kiss it and make it all better?"

"Well, as long as you're offering..."

"Work before play, Short Pants. Our last suspect is Dan Corolla, a University of Melbourne computer science professor... oh... my... he must have a lovely Australian accent... and so well dressed..."

Dick scowled. Babs was staring at the screen raptly.

"Is he the last one?"

"Oh, um, yes. I'll keep looking for more info on them. What we have is pretty sketchy. Are you up for a little old-fashioned B&E?"

Dick popped a secret compartment in his suitcase, letting black and blue fabric spill out. "Do you even have to ask?"

"Ok... ok... deep breaths." Dinah's fingertips flew to her forehead and she inhaled deeply. "Ok, here's what we're going to do. Tim, I want you to go out and see if any of the stores have another little Batgirl doll."

"I think someone made this one for her," Tim said, doubtfully, poking at the hole.

"Fiddlesticks. Well, look anyway. And if you can't find one, get a needle and thread or a band-aid, or something."

"Babs keeps her band-aids in the medicine cabinet, with the pink tummy stuff."

"Great. I'll get a band-aid, you get a doll. And look for Batgirl-the real one, while you're out there!"

"Ok," Tim agreed, handing over the little doll.

"Good luck."

"Great," Dinah sighed to the doll as Tim jumped out the window. "We're gonna need it."

"It's time for dinner!"

Babs wheeled around in alarm as David Carlson barged into their room.

Dick managed to grab a pillow and sit down on the bed.

"Oh, um..."

"David!" Babs gasped out. "You didn't knock."

"Yeah, yeah, I'm sorry," David stammered. "I didn't mean to interrupt anything-I mean, we've got a special dinner and I wanted you to um, I wanted you to attend, but if you're busy, I'm leaving now."

"No, no," Babs protested. "We weren't doing anything. I mean, we'll be right down. Just... give us a few minutes to get dressed."

"Sure, sure, sure…no problem." David covered his eyes and high-tailed it out of the room.

Dick fell back on the bed as Babs started giggling uncontrollably.

"See?" she said, setting her computer aside and reaching for his mask. "I told you getting dressed backward was a bad idea."

"Oracle to Batman. Calling all... Batmen..." Dinah spoke crisply into the microphone.


"Batman, hi. It's Oracle."

The screen cleared to show Batman's unsmiling visage.

"Black Canary?"

"Uh, yeah, hi."

"Is there a problem?"

"Problem? No. No, of course not."

His silence was of the grim sort that Dinah knew was not to gather up the courage to ask her for dinner. "Well, the thing is... have you been missing anyone lately?"

Batman's face seemed to become even harder than usual. "Missing anyone?" he repeated.

"You know... can't find, don't know where they are..."

"Someone specific?"

"No, no, no, no, no," Dinah assured him, hastily.

"Just, you know... wondering."

"Wonder on your own time, Canary," Batman told her, curtly. "People are counting on me."

Dinah gaped at the suddenly blank screen. "You... you..." she stumbled. "You big pile of guano!" She shoved herself away from the worktable and careened backward around the room on her wheeled desk chair. She crossed her arms and frowned at the daunting display before her. "I don't need him," she declared to the empty room. "How hard can this thing be, anyway?"

Batman stared at the blank viewscreen for a moment, then glanced over at Cassandra Cain, who was trying to not decapitate her practice dummies.

"If I may say, sir," Alfred said from behind him. "That was an exceedingly cruel trick to play on Ms. Lance."

"I'm not missing anyone, Alfred," the Bat informed him. "Are you?"

Without waiting for an answer, Batman walked over to the new Batgirl and began speaking to her in low tones.

"Well," Alfred said under his breath as he picked up Batman's milk glass and sandwich plate. "Ms. Dinah was right. You are rather a queen, aren’t you?"

"Tell them I had a headache."

"Come on, Dr. Fledermaus. European men are proud to show off their bodies."

Dick groaned. "I'd be happy to show off my body to *you*. Not David Carlson."

"I'm sure he was flattered. Come on."

"Flattened was more like it."

"Shush," Barbara hissed as they stepped out of the elevator.

"Dr. and Mrs. Fledermaus?" A hotel employee in full lederhosen stood waiting for them.

"Yes?" Barbara answered for both of them.

"If you'll follow me. Mr. Carlson is pleased you are able to attend dinner."

Babs and Dick exchanged a glance as the man led them to a private dining room where David and the other guests were just sitting down.

"You made it!" David cried out when he saw them. Then, he cringed. "I mean, I'm glad to see you're here in time for dinner. Please, please, join us."

There were two empty spaces at the opposite end of the table, side by side. Dick pulled the chair away from one of the spaces and cast it aside, where the lederhosen-clad employee hastened to remove it.

Once Dick and Babs were settled at the table, David made the introductions. "Everyone, this is Dr. Fledermaus and Ms. Augusta Dupin. Dr. Augusta, this is Rosa Vermillian, Verdan Midori, Dan Corolla, Azure Jay, Bianca Blanca and Colonel Dijon. Please! Make yourselves comfortable! George, pour them a drink!"

"George" the man clad in traditional dress, approached with a water pitcher and a bottle of wine. He filled both glasses deftly and retreated. Everyone nodded their hellos to the newcomers, then returned to their previous conversation.

"Took us a week to switch the whole place to Nulix, but once we did, productivity went up, 38%," Rosa Vermillion was explaining to Dan Corolla, the college professor.

"That's inspiring," he noted, in the Australian accent Babs had anticipated.

"That accent's inspiring," Babs noted from behind her fork.

"Dr. Fledermaus, do you use Nulix in your work?" Rosa asked, leaning forward.

Dick immediately stuffed a forkful of something into his mouth. He gestured apologetically.

"I'm a freelance security troubleshooter," Babs broke in. "Dirk is in marketing. He's the business end of our partnership."

"Security troubleshooting?" Dan Corolla asked, raising one eyebrow. He ran a hand through his shoulder-length dark hair and flashed a wide smile at Barbara.

Dick scowled at him, trying to look like an angry European man. He was relatively sure he wasn't achieving his goal.

"That must present some fascinating challenges," Dan continued. I'm sure every one of my students thinks they're going to do that in my class."

"Really?" Babs asked, leaning forward and tilting her head in a way Dick recognized all too well. "What do you teach?"

"I'm a computer science professor at the University of Melbourne while I work on my doctorate. I am the instructor of popular classes such as Password Security; Computers, Ethics, and Security, and Computer Architecture." He cocked an eyebrow and his eyes twinkled. "Let me tell you, my classrooms are packed."

Dan and Babs shared a laugh that Dick didn't understand but didn't have to, because his mouth was full of food. He was getting full but at least he didn't have to answer any technical questions.

"Oracle to Batgirl. Come in, Batgirl."

"Um, Oracle?"

"Yes?" Dinah asked, surprised to hear a male voice.

"This is Green Lantern..."

"Oh, sorry. Wrong number."


All too soon for Dick, George-who's real name was Georg-returned to take away the plates. Dick made sure to keep hold of his water glass.

"If you'll all follow me to the study," David spoke up, "brandy and coffee will be served."

Everyone excused themselves from the table and began to move in small clusters after David. Dick and Babs lagged slightly behind the last group.

"I'm taking the bathroom," Dick muttered to Barbara as the party moved into a luxurious study.

Babs nodded, slightly, as Dick peeled off in the direction of the men's room. She just hoped it had a window. She could keep an eye on the guests for a little while as Dick searched their rooms, then claim a headache and go do some research of her own.

She watched Mr. Midori immediately begin cataloguing the room in photographs. Idly, she wondered if she could get her hands on his film--or rather, she thought with a twinge, have Dick get the film--and examine the prints for any kind of clue.

Colonel Dijon instantly lit a huge, noxious cigar and began regaling Ms. Jay with tales from his glory days. Barbara carefully positioned herself on the other side of the room, well apart from Dijon's cigar smoke and other hot air. She found herself immediately included in a conversation between Rosa Vermillion and Bianca Blanca about the injustices of working in a male-dominated field.

"Junk!" Rosa was exclaiming, vehemently. "I keep telling them, junk parts make junk processors, but does anyone listen to me? No wonder we're getting trampled by Outask! We're producing junk!"

"You have to play hardball," Bianca replied, sipping her brandy. "If you need to break the rules to make your stand, break them! The men make the rules for men. It's their protection against us. Don't you think Augusta?" Bianca's nearly black eyes, a startling contrast to her white hair, flashed at Barbara over the rim of her brandy snifter.

"I've, um..." Barbara thought about the satellite time she'd 'borrowed' from the government, the 'sin tax' she'd extracted from Blockbuster, occasional missile defense system she'd hacked into... "I've been known to bend a few rules."

Bianca smiled knowingly.

"In fact," Barbara started, leaning forward conspiratorially. "I've been hearing about a new virus. One that could make the owner rich."

"Who invented it?" Rosa wanted to know.

"I don't know," Babs admitted. "I heard about it on a hacker's messageboard. Supposedly it creates backdoors to any password."

"That's impossible!" Rosa claimed.

"It's improbable," Biana countered. "But how powerful would someone be if they got their hands on that?"

"That's what I'm thinking," Babs told them, quietly.

"Especially in my line of work."

"Hi, ladies. Mind if I join in? Or is this a top secret meeting?"

Barbara watched the two extremely liberated ladies with whom she'd been conversing turn into puddles of quivering mush as Dan Corolla leaned against the arm of the sofa. She decided to join them.

"Oracle to Batgirl. Come in Batgirl."

"This is Power Girl, Oracle. What do you want?"

"Sorry, Power Girl, I was looking for Batgirl."

"What? And you think *I* have her?"

"Look, Peege, I know you're not real hot on me, but don't get your panties in a twist, ok?"


Two floors above the little party, Dick Grayson pulled on his Nightwing costume and fixed the mask around his eyes. He picked up two pieces of equipment and prepared to make his rounds. He wondered if Dan Corolla was flirting with Babs.

"Oracle to Batgirl. Come in Batgirl."

"Oracle, this is Aquaman. Is something wrong?"

"Aquaman? Man, this thing gets good range."

"Excuse me?"

"Um, Batgirl said she was going for a swim. You seen her?"

"No, Oracle, but my fleet of fish can find her in minutes if--"

"Don't sweat it."


Forty-five minutes later, Barbara excused herself with a headache. She'd learned nothing new and needed to continue her research on their traveling partners. Georg kindly called the elevator for her. As she waited for the car, she leaned her chin on her fist and wondered if Dick was making any progress.

"Oracle to Batgirl. Come in Batgirl."

"Flash here."

"Wally, um, hey."


"Can you do me a favor?"

"Sure thing, Oracle. What's up?"

"Can you take a quick spin around Gotham for me and let me know if you see Batgirl lurking around anywhere? She's not answering her pager."

"Sure thing."


"No, sorry Oracle, I didn't see her."

"Oh, well... thanks."

"Any time."


Barbara tapped a pen against her teeth and squinted at her computer screen. There had to be something she was missing. Some connection she had yet to make.

She stared at the list again. There. Dan Corolla had only been teaching at the University of Melbourne for the past year. And despite the accent, he hadn't seemed to exist in Australia before then. He must have come from somewhere. Somewhere he had been living under another name. Sitting up straighter, Barbara ran a search of all airline tickets sold for QUANTAS Air ranging from six months prior to Corolla's date of hire to the day before.

There. A one-way ticket to Sydney, in the name of Dan Corolla.

Barbara's eyes widened as she read the place of origin. Gotham City? She quickly tapped into GCPD's historical database, a database she had built herself, and requested a list of all APBs put out in the month prior to Corolla's flight to Australia, and cross-referenced the name with all known aliases of previous offenders. What she found made her blink twice. Daniel Whittingham, aka Danielle Whittingham, aka Lavender, aka Dan Corolla was the star attraction at the Queen of Hearts, a drag queen club in Gotham's red light district, when he wasn't teaching programming at Gotham University. At least he/she was, until GCPD's vice squad had busted Lavender's ring of pricy, underage call girls-or guys, Barbara amended-and found a dead body in Lavender's home.

Wait 'til I tell Dick about this, she thought with a grin.

"Oracle to Batgirl. Come in Batgirl."


"No, this is Oracle."

"Babs, it's Ted. What's up?"

"Ted Kord?"


"Um, this is Oracle Telephone Services. We'd like you to fill out a brief survey."



Using the master key Barbara had crafted, Dick let himself into the last group member's dark room. The other five had turned up clean. They all possessed laptop computers and multiple disks but quick checks on the spare laptop Barbara had given him had proven none of them was the disk they sought.

The man who stayed in this room, Dan Corolla, was the one on which Barbara could find the least information. That didn't make him the only suspect, Dick reminded himself. Any of the others could be keeping the disk on their person. Besides, he reflected grimly, they had yet to encounter Ra's al Ghul in Switzerland.

He quickly found a small case of disks and ran them through Oracle's laptop. Nothing odd, except for the one disk, that seemed to hold only image files.

Curious, he accessed one and was surprised to find a picture of a naked man displayed on the screen. He randomly checked a few of the other files and found similar shots. Shaking his head, he replaced the disk in Corolla's case. Tucking the computer in an out-of-the-way space, he began searching the room for hidden diskettes. He started with the bed and moved to the nightstand, where he found no disks, but an absurd amount of costume jewelry. Not knowing what costume jewelry could possibly mean, Dick closed the door and moved to the chest of drawers. He eased the top drawer open, and felt around inside. Silk boxers, apparently... lace? Dick activated the tiny light on his gauntlet and peered in the drawer. Still mystified, he lifted a handful of brassieres and garter belts.

The drawer was chock-full of women's underwear. Barely suppressing a laugh, Dick dug through the drawer and the three below it, coming up with plenty of women's clothes, but no disk. Dick moved to the closet and pushed aside several suits to find several long, sequined dresses and a feather boa. This time he really did laugh. Wait 'til I tell Babs, he smirked to himself.

"I couldn't find another Batgirl doll," Tim reported, pulling a package from his utility belt. "And did you know that you can't just buy a needle and thread?"

"You can't?" Dinah asked, looking worried.

"No. They come in all different sizes and sharpnesses and the thread comes in millions of colors and cotton and nylon and a whole bunch of other stuff. But I did find this. It might cover it up."

Tim opened his package and handed Dinah a scrap of brightly colored cloth.

"It's a little Hawaiian shirt," she noticed with delight.

"Yup," Tim replied, proud of his coup.

"Let me see if it works," Dinah suggested, reaching for the Batgirl doll.

"The cape's kind of a problem," Tim noted, watching Dinah wrestle puffy arms into tiny armholes.

"Yes," she agreed when her task was complete. "And look." She pointed to the bandaged arm. "It doesn't really hide anything. And did you find Batgirl?"

"No," Tim admitted. "Did you?"

"No. I tried to call her on the Oracle line but I didn't find her."

"She doesn't really talk much," Tim warned her.


"You know," Tim said, thoughtfully. "That shirt would really look better on the Nightwing."

"You think?"

Dick's search came up with nothing but his secretly cherished discovery that Babs' Australian hunk was a transvestite. He was righted the darkened room and went to retrieve the Babs' spare laptop when he heard it. The very faintest whisper of another someone in the room with him. Another someone who was as well-versed in the art of stealth as he. He froze, counting the seconds as he waited for another indication that he was no longer alone. The slightest whistle. Dick threw himself to the side as something that was probably metallic and probably sharp hurtled right through the place he had been standing and thunked into the wall behind him. He landed on his hands, swinging his legs around, his boot making contact with a leg. The other person didn't go down but lunged at Dick, who barely managed to roll out of the way. The mysterious figure cartwheeled, unfazed, and landed silently. Dick was on the offensive, now, edging closer as his opponent edged away-toward the open window. Feinting to the right, he dove *past* the dark figure, to the left, and rolled around, catching an ankle with his own. The other figure came down, but to Dick's surprise, prepared with a scimitar aimed at his neck. This is not good, he told himself, even before he saw the face of his assailant. This is really bad, he told himself when he did. The moonlight from the window behind him, amplified by his Starlite lenses showed that he was nose to nose with Cheshire, the international assassin.




Tim and Dinah nodded in approval as they hovered over their latest project.

Babs' little Nightwing doll sat propped up against a CPU, proudly sporting the Hawaiian shirt.

"It's fabulous. Absolutely fabulous."

Nightwing tried not to breathe too deeply. The scimitar was just a little too close to his Adam's apple for comfort's sake. He knew he had about three seconds to throw her before she recognized him and raked him with her poison claws. He tensed his hips in preparation to roll his legs over his head and throw her off, but something whistled next to his ear and she was flying backward, the scimitar bouncing harmlessly against his chest. Finding himself free, he snapped his hips, bouncing to his feet and snatching up the scimitar.

Something else whizzed by him and suddenly the room was ablaze with lights.

"Nice shot, baby!"

Nightwing gasped as Roy Harper jumped down from the window sill, Lian on his shoulders waving a bow in the air.

"Lookee Unca Niwwing!" she exclaimed. "I turned on the lights!"

Nightwing's eyes darted to the wall, where a suction cup arrow clung to the light switch.

"Roy, what are you doing here?" he asked harshly. "And why did you bring Lian?"

"Well," Roy drawled, striding across the room to an unconscious Cheshire. "We were sitting in the airport lounge getting Daddy a cup of coffee and my little princess here some hot chocolate when we happened to see Mommy walk by with a nasty looking man..." Roy swung Lian to the ground and crouched next to Cheshire, patting her face gently. "So we followed her, 'cuz we knew that Mommy would never do anything to hurt her little girl. Right, Jade?" Roy smiled as Cheshire came back to consciousness in full force, glowering at him. "A little knock-out powder goes a long way, huh babe?"

Nightwing straightened, keeping his eyes on Cheshire. "Roy, you need to get out of here. I'll take it from here."

"Nah, Chesh won't do anything with her little princess here, will ya babe?"

Cheshire's eyes spat fire at Roy and she kept her mouth clenched shut.

"You might as well tell us what you're here for," Nightwing suggested, crossing his arms across his chest. "It's past Lian's bedtime, y'know." Cheshire sputtered, trying not to spit out the swear words she was dying to utter.

"Please Mommy? Don't make Daddy mad at you."

Ah, Nightwing thought smugly as Cheshire sighed and opened her mouth. The puppy eyes gets them every time.

"I could really go for a Zesti," Tim said, ambling into the kitchen.

"No Zesti in this house," Dinah informed him. "Soder all the way."

"What are you talking about? Babs keeps Zesti in here all the time for me and Dick."

"Babs ain't here, Boy Wonder. This is a Soder pad now."

"What if someone stopped by?"

"I'd give them Soder. But who's gonna stop by?"

"But Soder sucks!"

"It's better than Zesti," Dinah retorted. "Ask *anyone*."

Babs didn't even turn as the door opened.

"Dick, you'll never guess what I pulled up on the GCPD database," she called over her shoulder.

"Cheshire's most recent whereabouts?"

"Roy!" Barbara yelped, spinning around.

"Barbara!" Roy yelped back with a grin.

"This is my room," she reminded him, wryly. The corners of her mouth turned up despite herself. "What's this about Cheshire?"

"Saw Mommy," Lian told her solemnly. "Daddy made her sleepy so she wouldn't fight with Unca Niwwing."

"She attacked Dick," Roy divulged in low tones, lifting Lian from his shoulders.

"Let me guess, Dan Corolla's room?"

"I don't know," Roy admitted. "But we need to interrogate her and get the police here-and better that they talk to me than Pajama-Boy. Even with that crappy mustache, he looks like Dick Grayson."

"And having Dick Grayson and Nightwing in the same foreign country is just a little too tricky," Babs finished.

"Exactly. So do you mind watching Lian?"

"No problem."

"Great! Thanks, babe!" Roy kissed Babs on the cheek. "You ever get bored of the Wingster, you know where you can find me." A wink and a dazzling smile later, he was out the door, leaving Barbara shaking her head. "Love you, punkin'," Roy's voice echoed down the hall.

The door closed, leaving the Babs and Lian to look at each other.

Lian cast her eyes over to Babs' laptop.

"Do you have Battle Hampster?"

"Hi, Bart? It's Robin."

Dinah rolled her eyes. "When I said 'anyone', I meant anyone with taste," she grumbled.

Robin ignored her and turned towards the wall to contain the conversation. "Bart, what kind of soda do you like?"

"Soda? Max doesn't like for me to have soda," Bart Allen informed him in a relatively calm tone.

Relatively. "But, let me think, I like root beer and I like ginger ale and I like-"

"Bart, Bart," Tim interrupted. "Let's make this easier. If you had a choice between Soder or Zesti which one would you pick?"

Dinah watched as Tim's mouth settled into a familiar Bat-poker face.

"Thanks Bart. 'Preciate it."

Dinah narrowed her eyes at him. "What did he say?"

"Max won't let him have soda."

"The *second* time."

"I..." Tim fidgeted, finding it uncommonly difficult to lie to Dinah.

Dinah glared at him and stalked past him to the phone. She lifted the receiver and hit redial.

"Hello? Bart Allen? This is Black Canary."

"Black Canary? Wow! Black Canary's calling me, this is so cool, wait 'til I tell all my friends, wait 'til I tell SUPERBOY!"

"Whoa, cowboy," Dinah called into the receiver. "Hold on a minute. Did you just talk to Robin?"

"Yep! But you're *much* cooler," Bart said, his voice dropping an octave in an attempt to sound suave.

"Gee, thanks," Dinah answered, obviously not thrilled. "Bart, Soder or Zesti?"

"Soder!" Bart exclaimed. "Zesti's an ol' fogey drink! That's what Helen and--"


Dinah frowned as she heard a deeper male voice in the background. Who did Jay say Impulse was staying with? "Did I just hear you say Black Canary? Give me that phone."

"Aw, Max," Bart whined.

"Max Crandall speaking," Max said crisply, his voice now clear.

"Hi, this is Black Canary," Dinah sighed. "I was calling for Impulse."

"Black Canary." Max had the tone of someone who thought maybe he should be concerned about how she'd gotten their number, but was too tired to ask about it. "Can I help you with something?"

"Um." Dinah glanced back at Tim, sulking by the fridge. "Actually yes. I know this sounds silly, but do you prefer Soder or Zesti?"

"It does sound silly. Bart! Put that pigeon back! And I like Zesti. Is that all or do you need to know what kind of fabric softener I use, too?"

"Uh, nope, that's all. Thanks."

"All right then. Good-bye."

Dinah heard the click on the other end of the line and smiled to herself as she hung up the phone. Good grief, she thought. Max Mercury. He'd been around longer than the guys who fought beside her mother. Even Jay, who thought chemistry class was a good time, called this guy a square.

"Tim," she said smugly, "Zesti *is* an old fogey drink."

"So. Cheshire." Dick was pacing a path in front of the bound assassin. Her hands were tied to her knees, so he could see them. She'd offered to spill, on the condition that they take Lian away, but then refused to speak to him. Dick was counting on that changing when Roy arrived. "We know all about the disk."

"I always knew you Batboys were smart."

"Flattery will get you nowhere."

"Not with him, at least," Roy said, swaggering into the room. "But I might be another story." He crouched down, to look Cheshire in the eye. "Tell us all about it and maybe you won't have to be here when the cops come."

"Roy--" Dick started, taking a step toward the archer.

Roy stayed him with an outstretched hand as he studied the woman in front of him. "I *know* you don’t want to have to be put back in the Slab," he reasoned. "So you might as well spill the beans. We'll give you a…what do you say, Nightwing? Fifteen? Twenty minute head start?"

"She'll only need five," the acrobat pointed out, leaning against the wall, arms crossed.

"Good point. Fifteen minutes tops, babe. You like those odds."

Cheshire narrowed her eyes and started talking.

"Let's call someone else," Tim suggested, frowning at Barbara's Rolodex.

"And who do you suggest, good sir?"

"Someone *not* Imp," Tim grumbled.

"All right, fine," Dinah said, picking up the phone again. She punched in a number from memory.

"Hello, Titans Tower."

"This is Black Canary. I need to speak to Jesse Quick."

"Uh, she went to pick up dinner--"

"She'll be ba--"

"Jesse Quick speaking."

"Hi Jesse. This is Black Canary. I know this might sound a little odd, but do you prefer Soder or Zesti?"

"I, uh... Argent, scram."

"What? You don't even--"

"Just scram. I have something else to ask Dinah."

Dinah raised an eyebrow and waited.

"Sorry," Jesse's voice came back through. "I've been trying to convince Argent that I'm a super health freak and don't drink soda."

"You don't?"

"Well, I try not to lately, but when I was writing my thesis I lived off Cherry Soder. Three bottles a night, at least."

"You're a woman after my own heart," Dinah declared.

"We must do lunch sometime."

"Sounds great!" Jesse bubbled. "I had a chapter on your mom for my thesis and I'd love to talk to you about it."

"Uh, I'll call you," Dinah promised, said good bye and hung up. "Whew."


Dinah smirked at him. "Soder."


"Are you gonna marry Unca Niwwing?"

"Am I going to... what?"

"'Cuz if you don't marry Unca Niwwing, maybe you can marry my daddy and then you can be my mommy," Lian suggested.

Babs stared at the little girl, feeling completely blindsided.

"Well," she started, picking her words carefully, "it would be great to have you as a little girl... but what about your Auntie Donna?"

"Daddy likes Auntie Donna an awful lot," Lian agreed solemnly. "So do I. But sometimes they argue. I don't think they're going to get married."

"Oh." Barbara nodded, remembering sneaking out of bed late at night to press her ear against the wall and listen to her parents argue.

"They don't yell," Lian assured her. "But Auntie Donna gets upset sometimes and Daddy just doesn't know *what* to do."

Lian pronounced the words exactly as Babs imagined Roy did, even holding up her hands. Babs to started to smile until she remembered Dick doing the exact same thing.

"Well, honey," she said. "You want a mommy who will make you daddy happy too, don't you?"

"Yeah." Lian nodded. "But I want a mommy really bad." She looked down at her scuffed pink sneakers.

"You want to come on up?" Babs invited, holding out her arms.

Lian immediately scrambled onto her lap and leaned her dark head against Barbara's shoulder.

"You've got an awful lot of Mommy questions," Babs said mildly. "Is it because you saw your mommy today?"

Lian scowled, her lower lip pushed out. "I want a new mommy," she announced. "Mine's bad!"

Babs made a mental note to murder Roy when he next walked through the door and said slowly, "Sometimes people do bad things. But that doesn't mean they don't love you. And it doesn't mean that it's bad to love them."

"But she hurted Chanda's gramma and grampa!"

Babs sighed. She'd known Lian's former babysitter had leaked Cheshire's whereabouts to Quraci terrorists but she hadn't known Lian knew why.

"You don't have to love the bad things Mommy does," Babs told Lian gently, brushing away the tear that slipped down the little girl's cheek. "But your mommy will always be your mommy, no matter what."

"She doesn't even live with us," Lian fretted.

Barbara smiled and stroked Lian's hair. "My mommy didn't live with us either," she said. "Just me and my daddy."

"Was your mommy bad, too?" Lian wanted to know.

"No," Babs sighed. "She died when I was very little. But my daddy loved me very much. Just like yours does. That helped."

"Daddy helps lots," Lian agreed. "But he's not good at stuff."

"What kind of stuff?"

"Daddy always gets his fingers stuck when he tries to do my hair."

Barbara swallowed a grin. "That's ok. Your new babysitter can do your hair. What's her name? Rose?"

Lian nodded. "Rose is nice. But she isn't a mommy."

"No," Barbara conceded. "I guess she isn't."

"Aunt Kory said that Daddy has the taste of a barnyard animal when it comes to picking out pretty clothes."

Behind Lian's head, Babs wrinkled her nose at the thought of Kory.

"But I like overalls better than dresses anyway," Lian admitted.

"See? Your daddy knows what he's doing."

"I don't know," Lian said doubtfully. "I haven't seen him make a single cookie. Or ask me how school went."

"Do you go to school?" Babs asked, automatically trying to calculate Lian's exact age in her head.

"No. But it would be nice if he asked. Or if I had a mommy to ask."

"Ah." Lian needed to stop watching television, Barbara decided.

"And when we go somewhere, just me and Daddy, an' I have to go bathroom, he makes me go in the BOYS' room."

"No!" Babs gasped dramatically.

"Yes." Lian nodded solemnly. "Sometimes he asks nice ladies at the door to take me in, but then he gets all nervous and starts knocking on the door."

"I'll bet," Babs agree, trying to picture Roy panicking over something as trivial as a bathroom break.

"But the very most worst part..."


"He's not very good at finding me a mommy."

Dinah hung up the phone for a third time and crossed her arms smugly.

"Jay just confirmed it," she announced. "Three out of four Speedsters Who Are Not Wally West prefer Soder to Zesti."

Tim scowled. "Why didn't we call Wally?"

"Because," Dinah replied, "if I called Wally, the very next JLA meeting would go something like this: 'Hey everyone, guess what? Black Canary called me at home!' And then Green Lantern would go, 'Man, how did you swing that?' and Wonder Woman would say, 'For what purpose' and then Wally would blow some smoke and then Batman would stare at him and he'd get nervous and next thing you know, I'm getting a phone call from Supes and he'll be going, 'Dinah, you called Wally West to find out what kind of soda he drinks?' And then where would we be?"

"Nuff said. Toss me a Soder."

Barbara was debating whether to tell Lian about Sarah Essen-Gordon, her deceased stepmother, when the computer beeped.

"Uh-oh," she said cheerfully. "Headphone time."

Lian scrambled off her lap and Babs reached for the headset sitting on the desk. She hooked the gadget around her head and adjusted the microphone. "Go ahead, Nightwing," she spoke into the mouthpiece.

"Cheshire sang like a bird," he reported.

"Unfortunately, her tune wasn't in key with what we expected."

"Well then, Sam Spade, what did we get out of her?"

"No ID on her employer. Says she was contacted over email by an encrypted source. Money wired directly to a numbered account."

"Her mission?"

"That's the weird part. She was supposed to kill the guy and take the disk from him. Why would you go to the trouble of killing someone for a disk when you could buy it just as easily?"

"What's strange about that? So whoever it was didn't want to pay. That's certainly not unusual."

"But it leaves a body. A traceable body. Why not just hire a thief to take the disk? But," Dick continued, "that's not the really weird part."

"Oh? And the really weird part is?"

"The man she was hired to kill wasn't Dan Corolla. This man's name was Vachierra."

"Oh." Babs blinked. She had met with Vachierra weeks ago. He had given her the disk. "Oh dear."

"Oh yes. We need a lead on this thing and fast. The bad guys are catching up to us."

"No kidding." Babs rubbed the bridge of her nose. "Let me think. She was supposed to get the disk from Vachierra. Vachierra gave it to me. Why was she in Dan Corolla's room?"

"She traced the disk to Vachierra, who had contact with someone in this tour group. Someone intercepted an email to Corolla and alerted her that he might have the disk."

"An email to him? Or from him?"

"To him."

"Do you know what it said?"

"Nope. She couldn't tell us. Just that the disk would be in his possession."

Babs pondered this for a moment. "Do you think he was the buyer? Going back to what you said about it being easier to buy it than murder someone for it. Maybe he purchased the disk and wasn't planning on reselling it."

"He was a computer science professor. He certainly has the means. What about a motive?"

"Uh..." Babs was at a loss. "He's got a murder rap on him back in Gotham. Think he'd be trying to erase the records?"

"A murder rap in Gotham?" Dick frowned around the room. "Babs, I hate to tell you this, but the guy is a drag queen."

"I know that. But a man was found dead in his room and he disappeared. Turns out he had quite an enterprise going, too."

"My head's spinning," Dick announced.

"So's mine," Babs admitted. "I need a clue... a connection... something."

As if on cue, a corner of her screen lit up.

"Look, you have mail!" Lian cheered, peering out from under the desk. "I wanna move the mouse."

Barbara laid her hand over Lian's and quickly guided the mouse to the correct window.

"Click, honey," she instructed. Lian complied and the screen soon lit up with a new message. "It's from Corolla," she said in amazement. "Lian, I need you to go over and watch TV for a little bit, ok?"

"Ok," Lian agreed cheerfully. She threw herself on the bed and grabbed the remote.

"Are you ready for this?" Barbara asked Dick, her eyes widening as they skimmed down the message.

"Sure. What else could it tell me?"

"He--she--is headed back to Gotham. He's going to turn himself in!"

"Turn himself in? For murder?"

"He says he's going back in hopes of clearing his name. He says he has the disk and is hoping it will buy him some kind of immunity."

"It'll get him turned over to the feds," Dick opined.

"Can we trust that email?"

"As far as I can tell," Babs mused, initiating several security programs. "He sent it from London. He's taking the Concorde back to Gotham."

"London? How'd he get there so fast? You were just downstairs with him a few hours ago!"

"I know. He must have taken a charter."

"An expensive charter," Dick noted.

"Do you think he really has the disk?"

"Only one way to tell, Babs. Sit down and wait it out." Dick paused and looked back at Roy and a gagged and bound Cheshire. "We made a deal with Cheshire. She gets a ten minute head start before we call the police. Anything you need me to save from the room?"

"At your discretion, FBW. I'll see you up here. Oracle out."

Dinah watched glumly as Tim drained his can of soda and wiped his mouth.

"Why do you look grouchy?" he asked, crumpling the can in his hand. "I'm the one who just had to drink Soder."

"Batgirl. Both of them."

"Oh. Yeah."

"If we don't find one and fix the other, my ass is grass and Babs will be the lawnmower."

"There's only one person who can help us now," Tim announced dramatically.

Dinah raised an eyebrow.


"Alfred knows where Batgirl hangs out when she's not here?"

"Well... probably not, but he can fix the doll!"

"Good enough. You ambush Alfred and I'll... I'll do the Hokey Pokey." Dinah groaned and collapsed into the nearest chair.

"Deal." Tim snatched up the little doll and was out the window faster than Wally at his best.

"How does Babs pull this off every day?" Dinah sighed, dropping her head onto the kitchen table.

"Lavender's running back to Gotham," Dick told Roy when they'd released Cheshire. "Says he's going to turn himself in."

"Thinks he'll be safer in jail than out here with Chesh? Probably a pretty good guess." Roy sat wide-legged on a nearby suitcase. "He'll be safer? She'll be safer? Which one do you think it is?"

Dick shrugged. "Probably depends on what he--she--is wearing. We need that disk and we need to get it before the police do. Babs has the other two in the set and needs this to complete the program. I'm calling Batman."

Barbara read the email message for the sixth time. Lavender was on his/her way to Gotham, to turn the disk over to GCPD. At present, they knew that Ra's al Ghul, Cheshire, and at least one other mysterious figure wanted the disk. Furthermore, the disk would be in her father's possession. Would he be the next target? Would the security for a disk with a possibly incomplete virus be as strong as it needed to be? She needed to get that disk before it wound up in the wrong hands.

"Dinah? Dinah, are you there?"

Tim roared into the Batcave in the Redbird. He stepped on the brake and killed the engine. He considered leaping out the window they way they did on the *Dukes of Hazzard* but decided that turning the car back on to utilize the electric windows would not be conducive to conserving time. Besides, *his* doors weren't welded shut.

"Master Timothy. How nice to see you." Alfred sounded displeased. Perhaps by the burnt rubber on his nice, clean, stone Batcave floor.

"Alfred, we have an emergency," Tim announced.

"Of course we do," Alfred replied calmly.

Tim pulled the little doll out from his belt. "Babs' doll got ripped," he explained. "We were hoping you could help us fix it."

"And when you say 'we', shall I assume you mean--"

"Me and Dinah," Tim admitted with a grin.

"I see. And if I may ask?"

Tim waited and after a pointed look, Alfred continued.

"Just how did this tragedy occur?"

"Oh. Well..."

Alfred waited.

"Dinah threw my R."

"I see." Alfred took the doll gently from Tim.

"Well now, let's see what we can do for you, shall we?" He smiled at the tiny toy and started up the stairs.

Tim grinned in relief and headed to the massive Cray. Maybe he could get a little research done while he was here.

"You're about to have a man in your custody..."

"Good God! You're going to give me a heart attack one of these days!" Jim Gordon reached for the pipe that wasn't there and bit back a curse.

"I'll foot the bills."

"You have a Bat Credit Card in that utility belt?" Gordon huffed.

"You're about to have a man in your custody. A man you misplaced a while ago. And I need to talk to him first."

"That's going to make some people grouchy," Jim warned, knowing Batman wouldn't care.

"I can make them grouchier."

"Don't I know it." Jim's eyes searched his desk for the pipe that wasn’t there again. "I need to take up smoking again."

"I need to talk to him."

"Ok," Gordon sighed. "When--"

"Commish--" A sharp knock on the door.

Gordon glanced over his shoulder to see the edges of a black shape melt into the rest of the shadows.

"C'min!" he barked.

Harvey Bullock stuck his head in the door and spoke around his cigar. Gordon suddenly envied him.

"Commish, 'member that uh... preference-challenged individual we were hunting a while back?"


"The, uh, proponent of alternative lifestyles? The uh, the individual who arranged uh, supplementary services?" Bullock seemed to be tripping over himself.

"Harvey, what are you talking about?"

"Aw, man, Commish, they made me go to one of them sensitivity classes. I'm not allowed t'just call him a queer no more."

Gordon choked back a laugh. "Ok, Harvey. What do you have for me?"

"That guy, gal, whatever--Lavender? The one who took dirt on half the screwballs in this city, left a dead body on his floor and walked out the front door?"

"What about him?" Gordon asked, rising from his chair and leaning on this desk.

"He's in interrogation two. Walked right in and wanted to make some kind of deal."

"I hate to tell you this," Renee Montoya said, coming up behind Bullock's mass, "but Batman's already there."

"I understand you have a disk. I want it."

"Oh, my LORD, your cape is FABULOUS!"

"What's on that disk in invaluable to--"

"I WANT one! And those boots! Where did you ever get them? Lovin' Leather down on 8th?"

Batman glanced up at the mirrored wall where he was sure one of Gordon's finest was watching him. Waiting for him to inflict violence. Waiting for him to come into the light. Whoever it was, he or she would certainly be disappointed.

"Didn't I see you in a club downtown?"

"The disk--no. I don’t go to clubs." Batman blinked. That wasn't what he'd intended to say.

"Don't lie. Lavender knows." The person sitting on the interrogation room table nodded knowingly.

Somewhere during the trip to Gotham, Lavender had found a new outfit and wig and was making the most of the new accoutrements. "Didn't you used to have a young'un you use to take around with?"

"Robin?" Batman said automatically.

"Oh, that's the one. Buns so tight-- MMM, oh listen to me! And in MIXED COMPANY! Oh, those LITTLE SHORTS, though! I could eat them up!"

Batman cringed.


"What?" Gordon rumbled.

"Why're you sitting in the dark?"

"So people don't knock on my door."

"Oh." Montoya paused. "Sir, there's a woman here. Black Canary? She's shown me both JLA and JSA identification cards. She says she needs to interrogate Lavender and that it's the a matter of national security."


"Should I let her talk to him?"

"It's a matter of national security," Gordon commented mildly. "And she could probably take this entire squad down in the time it takes you to draw your pistol. Let her talk to him."

"Yes, sir." Montoya paused again. "Sir?"


"Batman's still in there."

"Well, when Batman's finished, let Black Canary talk to him. He turned himself in, Renee. It's not like he doesn't want to sing."

"Yes, sir."

The door closed.

Gordon's head returned to his desk.

Why did he quit smoking?

Black Canary paced the front lobby, ignoring the curious glances that wandered her direction. Robin hadn't reported back yet, and Barbara was insistent about getting the disk from this 'Lavender' person. She was a little wary of walking right into Gotham PD and demanding to interrogate one of their prisoners. Not that she hadn't done it elsewhere, but she felt out of practice. And she couldn't exactly count on the family connection without unveiling Babs as Oracle. Secret identities were such a bitch sometimes.

"Black Canary?" It was the slender, dark-haired young woman she'd spoken to before--Montoya.


"Commissioner Gordon said that you're welcome to interrogate Mr. Whittingham," Montoya told her, leading her to an interrogation room where a cop in plainclothes sipped at a Styrofoam cup of coffee and gazed through the one-way glass. A figure in a purple muumuu sat on the table, chattering cheerfully. Another figure stayed in the corner, nearly invisible.

"But Batman's in there now. The Commissioner says you can talk to him when Batman's through."

"Oh, Batman won't mind if I go in now," Dinah informed her breezily. "He and I are OLD friends."

"I'm not here to play games," Batman rumbled.

"Oh, me neither, baby. Cut straight to the chase--that's what I always say."

The door slammed open and both their heads turned.

"Hey there," Black Canary greeted them. She let the door fall shut behind her and hopped onto the table with Lavender. "Great earrings," she commented. "I used to have a pair just like them, except with an onyx instead of an amethyst. I'm Dinah Lance, by the way. The Black Canary?"

"I've HEARD of you, girlfriend! You were really styling there with those fishnets and the leather jacket. Whatever happened to them?"

Dinah shrugged. "New boss, new fashion consultant. Hey, I got it from here, Bats. You can skedaddle." There was a rustle in the darkness and suddenly Batman loomed before Black Canary, larger than life.

"Robin?" he rumbled.

"What about him?" Dinah asked.

"Is he... all right?"

Dinah grinned. "Right as rain and on his way back to you. Good kid you have there."

Batman inclined his head and was gone.

"My, that man's FAST," Lavender commented.

"That he is," Dinah agreed, blinking at his sudden absence.

"I'm sorry--private property?" Lavender winked at her. "You need to learn to SHARE, girlfriend!"

"Huh, me? Oh no, no, no, no, no! Not mine. Uh-uh."

Bruce Wayne? The richest man in Gotham, the biggest contributor by far to dozens of charities around the globe, the man who provided a home for two different orphans, the man who cared enough for his city to go out every night and fight the vermin that infested it? Even if he was a royal pain in the keister to work with, he was on a whole different level from Dinah.

Lavender raised an eyebrow. "Well, that IS a LUSCIOUS piece of TUSH, and he's got it BAD for you, sweetie. Lavender KNOWS these things."

"No," Dinah protested, with a slightly regretful shake of her head and a rueful smile. "I don't date guys that good."

Nightwing ran a hand through his hair and frowned.

"It seems awfully convenient that Lavender is from Gotham, don't you think?" he asked Roy.

"It is a pretty hefty coincidence," the archer admitted. "But you were looking for the disk because everyone in Blüdhaven wanted it, right?"

"Yeah." Dick frowned. "Wait a minute. Something's not right."

"What? That your city thugs are suddenly interested in a matter of national security. That's no biggie. Any unscrupulous businessman could figure out that disk is worth a buttload of money--"

"No, no, not that," Dick interrupted, shaking his head. "That suitcase you're sitting on. I didn't search it. It wasn't here before Cheshire attacked me."

Robin stretched his arms over his head and yawned.

He'd dug Cassandra Cain's file out of Batman's records, but it had not indicated anyplace she might be.

He was beat. Staying up watching old movies with Black Canary was fun, but he wasn't getting much in the way of sleep. Maybe he could grab a few minutes to crash in the Batcave's most secret nap spot-the trapeze safety nets.

"Girlfriend, we need to talk," Lavender said seriously. "I'm in a jam and I'm hoping you can get me out.”

"I'll do my best," Dinah offered, kicking out a chair and sliding off the table to straddle the back. She tilted it forward on two legs. "What's the beef?"

"First off, I want you to know I didn't kill anyone, I didn't pimp out kids, and I only skipped town because I didn't trust the police to protect me."

Dinah blinked. "Ok," she agreed. "Why should I believe you?"

Lavender leaned forward conspiratorially. "See, I have this disk..."

Batman sat in the chair in front of his Cray, glaring at the screen. He should have gotten Dinah's call by now, if not by her JLA communicator than through the Oracle line. But so far--nothing. He was starting to get grouchy.

"Master Bruce!"

He could hear Alfred's steps coming towards him at a rapid pace. He had a feeling he was in trouble. He had a feeling he needed to get out of there, now.

"Master Bruce, I realize that you are often fatigued by the rigors of your social life, but that is no reason to *hide* your jackets instead of putting them where I can attend to them. I found this garment stained with--dare I say ketchup?--crumpled in the back of your closet."

Alfred reached the Cray and gazed about the cave.

Surely Master Bruce had been down here just a moment ago? Perhaps not.

"Very well then," he sighed, placing the disk he'd found in the pocket of Bruce's stained jacket on the computer. "I suppose you'll find this whenever you return." Draping the jacket over his arm, Alfred went back upstairs.

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