Roomies

October 13, 2018:

Barbara reconnects with Dinah, and gets herself somewhere she can get her head on straight.

Sherwood Florists

See opening pose.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Frank Castle, Jim Gordon, Larry Lance

Plot:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

Sherwood Florist is one of those peculiar edifaces that didn't quite get wrapped up in the Projects that periodically sweep through Gotham. Urbanization, it's called; knocking down old buildings and houses and building towering condos and apartments. Trying to make the best use of every square foot possible.

It's actualy a double-deep lot, too, and would be perpetually in the shade of the trestle track across the street and the apartments down the block save for its position next to a gas station. Thus protected, it's always in sunshine. Good for the flowers. Good for business. The paint's peeling and faded, and there's a tarp covering a few missing tiles where the last storm blew them off. The house behind the shop itself isn't in much better shape, but retains the sort of lofty dignity that used to go into Gotham homes. Built by craftsmen, with pride behind every nail.

Dinah's working in the shop. The orange and black sign on the door reads 'CLOSED' but the lights are on, and if one stands in front of the security screen Dinah can be seen pruning plants and doin a little gardening to close out the work day. Earbuds in, she's wearing yoga pants and a vastly oversized grey hoodie she clearly stole from someone in the past. Dancing and singing to herself, she isn't paying particular attention to the door at the moment.

*

It has been a long twenty-four hours for Barbara Gordon. She finally got herself out of New York City, which took basically breeching a barricaded tunnel out of Manhattan on her motorcycle. She managed to avoid getting a few imps along for the ride on her way out, shooting out of the tunnel to be free from the sulfurous air that has saturated the air.

Once she was out of New York, the journey back into Jersey and home was a lot quieter. No one was heading into the city, no one was heading out. It was as if New York City had become a gaping, abyssal hole that no one wanted to talk about.

Once she was home, she was read the riot act by Jim Gordon. She was fourteen all over again, ditching school because she was an angry, recently-orphaned girl who hated the world. He wanted to be gentle, but his disappointment was worse than any kind of yelling he could have done. She stormed out of the house in that same, almost childish rage she had back then. She got on her bike and beelined for Dinah's house. She should have checked in, but there was no going back now. She had parked, dismounted, and was half-way to the door before she realized she hadn't even told Dinah she was showing up.

With a polite, nervous cough, she taps at the door gently as she spots Dinah through the screen. It's a soft knock, and when she notices Dinah's earbuds, she knocks harder, calling. "Di?"

*

It takes a minute, and Dinah turns around and blinks at the door. The light from inside mutes Barbara's features until Dinah gets closer, and she blinks in surprise. "HEY!" She pulls her earbuds out. "Er, hey! One sec," she says, voice muffled. She opens the shop door and pulls the rusty security door aside with a creak of under-lubricated hinges. "Barbara!" A smile blossoms across her features, but once she gets a better look at Babs' expression, her face falls. "Woah, hey, what's up? Is everything OK?" Even as she speaks, she's already reaching for Barbara's hand to tug her back inside the shop before the question can even be answered.

She mutes the music on her phone and puts it back into her hoodie pocket, and eyes Barbara worridly. "I know that look. Bad day look. Is this a 'get out the Ben and Jerry's' visit or 'where's the tequila?' visit?" she inquires, a dimple appearing in her cheek as she smiles in an encouraging fashion.

*

Barbara rocks back a step, smiling almost sheepishly at the sight of her friend. She steps forward, and almost falls into a hug with Dinah that is full-bodied and perhaps just a bit longer than normal. The fact that she's back with a familiar face that isn't frowning at her in disappointment helps quite a bit. She's sure that Bruce has a frown ready for her the moment he sees her.

She steps back, letting Dinah secure the door and then she sighs out a slow breath. She rubs slightly at the line of her jaw. "I've been staying with Dad since my apartment got shot up. He's feeling a bit overprotective lately." She sighs out a breath, and then presses her lips together thoughtfully at her offerings. Then she shrugs her shoulders slightly with a half-tip of her smile. "Both. Can we mix them? Tequila and ice cream? Blended? Milkshakes?" And considering it takes quite a bit of reasons for Babs to go for the booze — hello, designated driver — it must be for a good reason.

*

Yep, all the hugs, and Dinah doesn't mind as Barbara clings to her. Sometimes even superheroines need a shoulder to cry on. Er, cling on.

"Oh, my god. With you dad?" Dinah shakes her head. "I'm just glad my folks are nowhere near this. Also, the demon-things seem to be happy staying out of Gotham. Of course, that means we're all working overtime 'cause of the goddamn criminals moving here, but—" she blinks and cuts off her words with a wave of her hand. "Sorry. Been a long few nights for me, too." She slings an arm around Barbara's shoulders, hugging her between palms. "C'mon. Lemme lockup here and we'll go to the house and see what I can find, okay?"

Five minutes later they're in Dinah's kitchen, and a roaring blender cuts off communication while her finger hits the 'spin' button. Dinah stops the blender, samples it, and pours in the rest of a bottle of Bailey's, then for good measure, spikes it with some chocolate flavoured vodka.

She samples again. "Wooooh, that'll do it," she says, smacking her lips and blinking rapidly. She pours Barbara a tall cup of the milkshake-smoothie-booze, and moves to sit crosslegged on her countertop and dig into her cup with a spoon while the milkshake settles. "So what's up? Is it just your dad being all CopDad again?" she inquires, waving her spoon absently after swallowing a bite.

*

Dinah's initial reaction to Babs living with the Commissioner again has the woman smiling a bit tiredly. Dinah gets it. She would always get it. And the fact that Lance doesn't even ask a single question until they are both in her kitchen, slurping away at boozed milkshakes, is something she also appreciates about her friend.

Then takes a deep sip on the cup and then sighs out a slow breath as she sinks into her own chair. She looks up to Dinah, blue eyes serious as she hesitates. "The last few months, I've been an ally to Frank Castle. I haven't killed anyone for him, but I've been trying to help him finish up his revenge without further collateral damage." She breathes out a slow exhale. "His former commanding officer from Force Recon — guy name Ray Schoonover — was the Blacksmith." She hesitates, adding a small aside, "He's been that guy pushing heroin into New York and Gotham for the last year or so."

She breathes out a slow exhale. "Schoonover framed Castle for TCLEC, and District Attorney Reyes, and even shooting up my own apartment. I've been going to New York City to help out Castle." The redhead looks almost rueful. "Dad thinks I have a long-distance boyfriend… or girlfriend." She smirks a bit. "He's trying to be modern."

She shakes her head. "I feel like I'm standing alone on this one… Nightwing, Red Robin, Batman… none of them would condone me helping a murderous vigilante… even if he's murdering gangbangers, drug dealers… the people who killed his family. And I don't know if I could ever tell them what I'm doing, which means I'm hiding something from everyone I care about."

She finally takes another drink of her milkshake, taking in each swallow of booze and ice cream as if it will keep the frustration and exhaustion from taking over. But those two emotions manifest in the form of tears at her lashes which she dashes away.

*

Dinah's quiet for a while, letting Barbara talk. She listens— really listens, intently. She's the scion of detectives herself. Trained by cops. Brought up with the thin blue line wrapped around her like one big extended family. Barbara's in that circle as well, and there's something unspoken that exists between everyone who has a loved one serving in uniform. A solidarity.

She reaches for some bourbon and pours a little into her milkshake, then leans forward and sets it near where Barbara can get it. "Aside from Spring Break in '09, I don't think I ever remember you having a girlfriend," she says, with a sly nonchalance. She bites back a smile that still makes her bright blue eyes dance, and struggling to feign innocence, takes a heaping bite of ice cream as if stalling for a followup.

She swallows, blanches. "Gaaah, brain freeze," she moans, putting a hand to her head. Milkshake's set aside and she unfolds her legs, feet dangling halfway to the floor as her heels absently drum the cabinet door beneath her.

"I mean, honey, I know how it is to be in a bad spot like that. Making choices you know other people are going to hate. Everyone's been there. This life—" she gestures vaguely in a circle, including herself and Barbara. "The cape and tights crowd. We're out on our own. We make do with the tools we've got. And ultimately the only person you're accountable to is -you-."

Dinah picks up her milkshake and swigs from it. "I'm not gonna sit here and tell you you're screwing the pooch because you're in bed with Castle."

"I mean, figuratively or otherwise."

*

Barbara is mid-drink when Dinah mentions Spring Break of '09, and she stops to give Dinah a look. "Look, love is love, alright? That woman was amazing." Then she breathes out a slow exhale and takes another mouthful of milkshake, swallowing it down before she takes the offered bourbon. She adds a heavy pour-over to the drink before she sets down the bottle on the table she's seated beside.

Then she looks up at Dinah's words, listening with genuine earnestly. She cares what Dinah says. She's here because she needs to hear what Dinah has to say. Her shoulders seem to bunch and tighten, and it only gives her a more defensive look when she shoots Dinah a slight glare.

"Definitely not otherwise." She breathes out a slow exhale, before she mutters, "Though there was one or two really nice dreams that you're not asking me about." She rubs at her cheek with the glass before she takes a sip.

"He's a good guy, Dinah… he obviously has done dark things before, because this comes easy to him… but he's got this… code. He's guided by something that… I haven't figured out yet. But, I think he actually needs the families we've all created through this life we've chosen."

Her mouth tightens. "I just don't know if I should be part of it. I haven't taken care of my own city in weeks." She grimaces slightly. "Not that I don't think everyone else can't handle it."

*

"Jesus /Christ/ on a pogo stick, Barbara," Dinah explodes, eyes rolling skywards in a lamenting appeal to whomever she just blasphemed. She slams her spoon into her glass and sets it aside, palms on the edge of the countertop. "Forget Gotham. Forget New York. Do you -hear- yourself? 'He's a good guy'. 'He's different when we're alone'. 'I need to stick with him for the sake of the family'."

She stares at Barbara, then makes a throttling gesture at her in midair. "This— this is me!" she exclaims, pointing rapidly from her to Barbara. "Remember? Remember when I started dating Bill?" she inquires. "It was this -exact same thing-. He cheated on me, and I made excuses. He got arrested, I bailed him out. For god's sake, he ditched me on a date and it turned out— hey! The 'altoids' he asked me to hold were molly tablets. My dad pulled every string he had to keep me out of jail." She falls silent, then drops her eyes.

Dianh rubs her face, blearily. "I— I'm sorry. God," she groans, palming back her hair and resting her palms on her neck while she looks up at the ceiling. "I shouldn't be such a bitch. I just don't … I know there's a good chance one of us will end up in jail some day. I just don't want it to be over a nutcase who runs around with a machine gun and loose attitudes towards collateral damage."

*

That grounds Barbara like being hit with an ACME anvil. She blinks, leaning back a bit from Dinah. Her hands tighten briefly around the glass of boozy milkshake, and then she breathes out a slow exhale that sets her into a loose slump in the chair.

"I know it sounds the same," her words are soft, almost a bit reproachful, "but it isn't." She takes another sip, but mostly out of a need to do something. "But you're right about one thing… we're all playing the same game, just in our own way. We decide which laws to break, which excuses to make for what we do… I have the entire GCPD totally monitored, which alone would land me in jail for a few decades."

She rubs at her jaw a bit, looking down at the floor of Dinah's kitchen. "I need to get out of my dad's house… I need to get back into the cowl… I need to just get my feet under me again."

*

"You can take my old room," Dinah says immediately, tossing her chin in the direction of the stairs. "I finally moved into my folks' room. Felt weird for a few weeks, so I got rid of the furniture, repainted it, and went on a binge at IKEA. Feels a little more like mine, now."

"I've got some spare furniture in the office upstairs. If you help me move it to the garage, you can set up your computers and equipment in there. Just promise to chip in on the electric bill and no wild parties after 11 PM unless I'm invited, yeah?" She unfolds her legs and gets down from the counter to retrieve her bourbon, and pours herself a couple more shots into her increasingly liquid milkshake remains.

*

The casualness of Dinah's offer throws Barbara off, and she's opening and closing her mouth a few times. Then she chokes out a rather stunned, "Dinah… are you sure?" She looks around the kitchen and then back at Dinah. Sitting up a little straighter, she asks quietly, "I can bring Alaska, right?"

Alaska being, of course, her big, fluffy, dog-like Burmese cat.

A bit of relief settles around Barbara, and she looks thankful at Dinah. "You're a lifesaver, you know that?"

*

"I was gonna be angry if you -didn't- bring him. I love that floofers." Dinah smiles lopsidedly at Barbara, dimpling her cheek. "And yeah, I'm sure. This isn't any worse than some of the stakeouts we've been on. Or a few road trips, either. It's a big house and we've both got a busy day and night life." She walks over to Barbara and kneels down next to her chair, giving Barbara's hands a reassuring squeeze. "You're my best friend. I'd take a bullet for you. If I can give you a little peace and quiet, that wouldn't even begin to square us."

"And I promise not to charge you Gotham rental rates," she adds, eyes dancing merrily again.

*

"He likes you better than me, anyways." Then she sets the milkshake glass on the table. Surprisingly, she's finished off half of it, which means she's about five minutes from being more than just a little tipsy.

Then she takes Dinah's hand and squeezes it. "Hey… I'd take a bullet for you, too. Just so we're square on that."

Then her smile redoubles into a laugh and she nods ruefully. "Thanks… because no way that I can afford that. Alysia and I were on rent control in Cherry Hill." Then she sighs out a slow breath, and nods. "Yeah, we're going to need to hit the Atlantic City IKEA. Most of the stuff from my apartment has bullet holes in it."

*

Dinah gets to her feet and hugs Barbara with firm reassurance, patting her head fondly before letting go and backing up to rest her hips against the counter behind her.

"I've got the shop van, we'll need to empty the potting soil out of it first. But she'll limp us down there and back." She folds her arms lazily across her stomach and crosses one ankle over the other, wriggling her toes inside pink athletic socks. "Umm… speaking of 'storage'," she says, with lazy air-quotes. "I'm not sure what the sitch is vis a vis…" She wiggles index fingers up near her temples, pointedly. Dinah plays it safe with other people's secrets, at least. "Do you need some shop space for your ride?" She wiggles a finger towards the front business of Sherwood Florist— and the Canary Cave underneath it.

*

The hug is accepted with warmth, and she squeezes a bit tightly to convey her silent thanks to the Black Canary. There's no denying that Dinah just gave Babs some grace, and she's needed it. When she settles back down into her chair, she wiping the heel of her hand across her eye where some extra sentimental tears have gathered.

"So, tomorrow I'm unloading a shit ton of potting soil," Barbara replies dryly with a small sniff. Then she smiles a bit to Dinah before she starts to take back up her milkshake. Then she glances toward where Dinah gestures, but her eyes drop toward the unseen cave. She nods silently. "Yeah. Maybe just a place to stow the bike and the suit… I got the Belfry at the library."

Then she takes another swallow, and she feels the sway of alcohol. "I'll let Dad know," she says tiredly. "He'll be relieved, I think. He thinks you're very down to earth."

*

At that, Dinah starts laughing. Hard. "Oh, my god, your -dad-," she marvels, covering her smile with her hand and laughing again. "And my dad thinks you walk on water. 'Dinah, you should talk to Gordon's daughter, Barbara does so well in school," she says, mimicking her father's voice. " 'She'd be a good influence on you,' blah blah blah," she adds, hand making a talking motion. "Gosh, if only they knew. But if it makes your dad feel better, you tell him whatever he needs to hear, and I'll back you up. Hunnered and ten percent," she assures Barbara.

Dinah's a pretty heavy drinker, but she's slurring her words a bit as well, and her poised cheerleader/gymnast posture is looking increasingly noodly. "Gosh, I'm trying to think— I don't think I've ever had a -roommate- roommate," she concludes, blinking. "Not for more than a week or two at a time. You did the college thing, is there any special rules I oughta know about?"

*

"I like your dad," Barbara says with her own warm laughter. Then she smiles ruefully toward Dinah. "But, yeah… if they only knew." Then she rubs her hand back through her hair, tugging at the red waves gently. It keeps her focus a bit more as she feels the edges of her vision swim with the alcohol in the milkshake. And her own weariness.

"Don't touch my books," Barbara offers out with a wry smile. "Cra-shee library chick." She points at herself, and then she rests her head down onto the palm of her hand, elbow pressed into the table.

"I've been told I am a fabulous roommate."

Because nothing can go wrong with two vigilantes as roomies.

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