TITLE: Half Truths or Consequences

AUTHOR: Pink Rabbit Productions

PAIRING: Oracle/Catwoman

UNIVERSE: The comics

DISCLAIMER: This is likely to include angst , all girl action, and who knows what else. The characters beclong to DC comics, not me, but heck, somebody needs to let 'em play now and then.

Chapter Two

Two Days Later

 

Sleek, Monica Jeffries decided as she watched the lean figure stalk---she tested the word mentally and decided it was the only one that fit curvaceous figure moving easily through the confines of the public library, her body graceful, expression intense. Hard to miss stuff even if Monica's preference hadn't run to women. The newcomer was ... well, she was definitely something and not like the normal clientele of the Gotham Public Library at all. The woman spoke to someone at the counter, who gestured Monica's direction as she answered, leaving the computer records specialist wondering what she should do first, fall into a dead faint or run for cover. She settled on just staring wide-eyed as the woman drew close, her eyes bright, a faint smile on her lips. Monica had the distinct impression the brunette stared right through her and instantly knew her every fantasy---which was incredibly embarrassing given that the woman smiling down at her suddenly figured very heavily in them. The librarian offered a weak smile, her eyes falling on crimson that lips that drew into a charming smile.

"Hello, Ms. Jeffries, I understand you're the one I need to speak to about accessing public records?"

Monica's head bobbed in a nod as she struggled to keep her gaze from trailing down from those full lips to a body that was both curved and lean in all the right places, and all the right proportions. "Uh ... yeah ... public," thank god, she didn't say pubic, which was mildly amazing considering where her brain was apparently residing at that exact moment, "records."

"Perfect," the brunette drawled, her eyes and voice promising all the pleasures in the world. "I'm ... Lena ... Carstairs, by the way," she added and held out a hand. Her skin felt scorchingly hot as Monica automatically reached up and accepted the light handshake.

"Um ... Monica Jeffries," Monica stammered nervously.

"It's a pleasure to meet you Ms. Jeffries," Lena murmured, then directed another slow smile Monica's way as she pulled a chair over and sank down into it, sitting as gracefully as she walked. "You see, I'm rather hoping you can help me with a bit of a problem."

She could pretty much have anything she wanted, Monica mused as she felt her body respond as though there were tiny firecrackers going off all over the place. "If I possibly can," she said quickly.

Lena smiled and settled a hand on Monica's, thumb just barely grazing her knuckles. "Well, it's kind of ... embarrassing...." She leaned a little closer, her tone conspiratorial. "You see I met this woman I was very attracted to---I hope that doesn't shock you...."

"No ... not at all," Monica insisted almost instantly, though she seriously considered settling in for a good cry. There was just something almost too cruel to be true about the notion that this woman was into women, but was already interested in someone. Not that she thought she'd ever be in this woman's class, but itís no fun having oneís fantasies shattered just as theyíre being formed. "I mean ... it's ... uh ... everyone should be able to express what they feel without feeling any shame...." Dear God, she'd slid into some weird babbling space. Who knew what she might say next? She tried to put her mind back on her job. "But I don't understand what I...."

"Well, we met at an art show ... and I didn't get her name ... but I'd really like to see her again."

"Ok-ay," Monica exhaled uncertainly. "I still don't see how I--"

"Well, you see, an old friend of sorts showed up, and I lost track of this woman, but I did get her license plate number as she was driving away."

"Oh ... um ... well..." she stammered, trying desperately not to notice the warmth of the hand covering her own.

"And I was kind of hoping you could look it up, and tell me who she is." Lena offered a tiny grin ... possibly the sexiest smile Monica had ever seen in her life.

Monica would have preferred it if the was romance directed her way, but barring that, she had the softest heart for these sorts of things. She also had a job. "Oh ... you do know that we're supposed to notify the person and get permission before giving out any information?" she murmured, sensing that other woman wasn't likely to be happy with that news.

Full lips pursed ever so slightly, but the brunette's tone was almost fawning. "An excellent precaution obviously. There are so many maniacs out there these days." She paused momentarily, a faintly pleading expression glowing in her almost hypnotic green eyes. "It's just that I was kind of hoping to surprise her with flowers."

"Oh," Monica exhaled. Oh god, that was the most romantic thing she'd heard since her best friend, Annie, started dating a guy who wrote greeting card poetry. Heíd been smart, funny, brought flowers, remembered anniversaries, and always knew exactly the right thing to say. If he'd just been a woman, he'd have been perfect. This woman was better. "Well, I suppose ... maybe..." she murmured, still staring into a mesmerizing pair of green eyes. She felt her heart kick into high gear as a high wattage smile was directed her way.

"I knew you looked like someone who enjoys helping true romance."

Monica nodded, her heart throbbing in her chest, the sound so loud it was a wonder she could hear a thing. "If you'll just give me the number, I'll see what I can do."

Ten minutes later, Monica cursed very softly. "I'm sorry, but it looks like it's a corporate vehicle. Probably a loaner from her employer."

"I don't suppose you could tell me what company," the brunette suggested quietly.

Monica pulled up another screen, then shrugged. "Satco. Erudex Unlimited. It's an offshore corporation...." She frowned. "There's a local contact address, but I recognize it. It's one of those mailbox companies." She frowned ever so slightly, trying to make sense of that. One would think a company large enough to own executive vehicles would have more than just a box drop. She was still considering that problem when the other woman interrupted her thoughts.

One dark brow arched suggestively. "Damn." The brunette considered the problem for a moment, then began again. "Any way you could trace her through a driver's licence ... physical features and such ... at least narrow it down maybe? She's pretty unique ... red hair, green eyes, 5'-4" to 5'-6"...." She paused momentarily, then quietly added, " and she uses a wheelchair."

Monica's brows shot up. "You're looking for Barbara Gordon?" she exhaled in shock.

Cat green eyes narrowed faintly. "You know her?" she said, her tone clipped this time.

"We were in the same library science program in undergrad," Monica said in shock. "I mean I don't know that it's the same person ... but she matches the description ... and the last time I saw her she was driving a Hummer."

Full lips moved, mouthing the name as Lena floated away for a moment. "I know that name," the brunette murmured after a moment, her expression thoughtful.

"Her dad used to be the police commissioner."

"The police ... commissioner?" the brunette repeated, her voice creaking ever so slightly. She shielded her face momentarily with one hand, and Monica could have sworn she muttered, "Of course."

"And she always seemed really straight ... y'know ... in college."

When the brunette finally dropped her hand, she offered a charming smile, though for the first time Monica had the distinct feeling it was artificially pasted on. Or maybe that it took effort this time, since it suddenly occurred to her that maybe it had always been artificial. "I don't suppose you'd know of some way to contact her?" The question was hopefully asked and green eyes gleamed.

Monica still felt the force of the raw charm directed her way, but it was finally starting to sink in that maybe she'd gone too far. Even if she'd been able to answer the question, she wasn't sure she would have. She shook her head. "Sorry ... no. She used to come in here sometimes, but I haven't seen her in more than a year." She wasn't really sure about that, but she suddenly didn't want this woman coming here in search of Barbara. She remembered the other woman fairly well since they'd been part of the same study group at one time. She'd always liked her, and Babs had been one of the few people who hadnít freaked when she came out.

Green eyes flashed, but Lena's---and Monica abruptly had it in her to wonder if that was her real name---tone remained cool. "Thank you anyways, then." The fire drained out her gaze, leaving Monica with the impression that it wasn't really directed her way, and she rose gracefully. "I appreciate your help." Her gaze became distant, as though she was seeing another place and time. "At least I know more than I did." She started to turn away, only to turn back, her expression serious to the point of grimness, any attempt at charm gone missing. "I don't suppose you know what happened to her ... the chair, I mean."

Feeling her brows draw together in a frown, Monica stared up at the other woman in shock. Given that it had been all over the Gotham papers, she was surprised there was anyone left who didn't know what had happened to Barbara Gordon. "I guess you weren't in town a few years ago," she said softly.

Lena shook her head. "I was away for a bit," she said without elaborating. "What happened? Some kind of accident ... a fall maybe?"

Monica shook her head, the words threatening to dry up as she remembered the morning she'd opened the paper and found Barbara's picture on the front page under a screaming headline. It was the closest she'd ever come to real violence, and it still made her shake. "You really don't know," she breathed, a little caught up in that old shock.

"What is it? What happened?" Sick fear throbbed in that husky, warm voice, turning it from the sensual to something much darker in an instant.

"She was shot," Monica said and glanced down at her own hand where it rested on the mouse. "She was at her dad's one night ... knock on the door and she answered it. Some sick fuck mad at her father was there ... he just shot her." She knew her mouth was running unchecked, but the memory was still enough to shake her ... especially the sickest parts of it. "Then he took pictures ... stripped her clothes off and photographed her like that." Her stomach rolled. The local papers hadn't printed any of the pictures, but the tabloids had, and they still popped up online sometimes---on snuff sites that catered to sickos who got off on that sort of thing---though they never seemed to last long. She guessed law enforcement made sure they came down. She'd glimpsed them a few times when people had used library computers to try and access that sort of thing. It was beyond sick.

"Who?" Lena broke in on Monica's thoughts, her tone so rough it sounded as though she'd been gargling ground glass. "Who did it?"

"Some freak who called himself the Joker. Guess he...." She didn't get a chance to finish as the brunette turned on her heel and all but fled without another word. It occurred to Monica that maybe she should have kept her mouth shut. She'd always had a problem with saying too much, and instinct told her that she'd done it again. Oddly enough, despite a few moments of nervousness, she suddenly wasn't worried for her old schoolmate's safety. The hell she'd seen in green eyes hadn't been threatening. It had been shattered and even guilty ... which made no sense now that she thought about it.

* * * * * * *

Selina grabbed the first thing she could reach when she entered her apartment, and flung it hard, the sound of shattering porcelain nowhere near as satisfying as she'd hoped.

The Joker.

That white-faced, green-haired freak.

He was the one who'd....

God.

A sick burst of nausea twisted her stomach into knots.

And she'd worked with him a couple of times ... helped him ... looked to the mainline chance, calculated the profit, ignored what might happen to his victims, and gone ahead with it. Even knowing what he was, she'd played the game for her own benefit. She almost screamed, then slammed her fist into the wall, the pain in her knuckles nowhere near enough to dull the agony throbbing in her chest. She could have killed him more than once, could have reached out and snapped his neck and ended it all before it began. How many lives could she have saved? How much pain could people have avoided?

She grabbed for something else, felt the compression of arm and shoulder muscles as she hurled it as hard as she was able. Again the shattering sound was strangely devoid of any satisfaction. Once upon a time such displays of temper had soothed her. Of late, they only seemed to make things worse.

Maybe it was because she now knew what the pain was like. Once upon a time she hadn't let herself care, had simply thrown herself into her chosen career, not caring where the chips fell so long as she came out ahead, and they didn't land on her head. Only the last year had shown her just how thoroughly people could be hurt and she'd suffered her own losses, the last one enough to wind up with her sister in a mental ward, totally catatonic, and very probably there for the rest of her life.

Sighing heavily, she leaned against the wall, abruptly deflating as it all swept over her. She'd done it all. No escaping it now. She'd done it and never felt a moment's guilt when she was doing it. No, that wasn't entirely true. At least one thing she'd done still haunted her ... in every way imaginable, good and bad. She'd shoved it into the back alleys of her mind for years, only pulling the memory out during the darkest, loneliest hours of the night, but ever since running into Valerie Lewton, her mind had insisted on replaying it. And now to see her again. She shook her head, eyes sliding closed as she remembered the feel of a firm, heated body trapped in her arms, the soft sounds of innocence lost as silky flesh clutched at her fingers, the taste and smell of a body discovering arousal for the first time. She'd wanted---still wanted, if she was honest---and taken. And the worst part was that she couldn't even find it in her to back away from the course she'd set ... to take again. She'd tried to pretend it was simple curiosity, maybe even a possible tool somewhere down the line, but faced with her own perfidy, she couldn't maintain the faÁade that it was anything but desire that drove her. It would be gently done seduction rather than handcuffs this time, but no less a campaign to steal something she wanted. And with the same refusal to be denied.

Selina pushed away from the wall, straightening her shoulders, the wild rage sliding on past, leaving a cool kind of determination in its place. She was a different person now, one who wouldn't repeat the same mistakes. There'd been temptation in Batgirl's green eyes before; her body had exploded with pleasure under the ministrations of Selina's fingers. And before it was over she'd capitulated at some level. A shudder slid through Selina, heating her body as she remembered the feel of soft lips and rough tongue sliding over her finger, tasting the evidence of their encounter.

All that was assuming that Barbara Gordon really was her. If Joker had shot her, there would have been news stories, undoubtedly pictures as well. She flicked on the laptop computer she'd finally given in and learned how to use some months before, logging on with the intent of hitting the local newspaper archives.

A little over two hours later she knew the truth.

Red was Barbara Gordon.

And human nature was just sick some days. She'd found the original newspaper articles, with pictures of the pretty redhead from her college days.

And then she'd found the reference to the other pictures....

The ones the Joker took.

And wound up learning things about human nature that she'd probably guessed and deliberately avoided seeing when she was working with some of the slimiest scum ever to walk the earth.

There were perverts sick enough to want to see that---to be aroused by seeing that---and they were out there looking for it.

In fact, an entire mythos had developed around them, replete with tales of virused images, hacked websites, and a nasty little tapeworm that once loaded on the owner's computer would check for kiddie porn and turn the IP number over to the F.B.I. if it found anything.

The amazing part was that at least some of the rumors appeared to be true. Several snuff sites had apparently gone down within hours of posting the stolen shots, and the computer system of one rag that had printed them apparently hadn't worked right since.

Oracle, Selina realized in a blink. The computer hacker wouldn't have a problem doing something like that ... or building up a little bit of urban myth around it. Good for her. It seemed to have the perverts cowed. Quite a few even insisted that they knew of people who'd downloaded the jpegs and even they were somehow virused.

And then she actually stumbled across two of them, freshly posted on a usenet group, and automatically decoded. Selina had to back away from the computer to keep from destroying something. When she finally moved again, it was to slam the screen shut so she didn't have to look at them any longer.

She sat frozen for a long time, then finally reached up, massaging her temple slowly, trying to work away the headache throbbing there. She'd spent her life pretending that the things she did hadn't really hurt anyone ... that somehow a rough childhood made it all right ... that the world owed her something ... that it was just money she was stealing.

She let her head fall forward into her hands, suddenly exhausted beyond measure. She needed to think, to figure out what to do next.

The only thing she was certain about was she couldnít just walk away.

Not this time.

* * * * * *

Dark blonde brows drew into a frown as Dinah Lance entered Oracleís clocktower lair. Babs was hunched over a computer station, her full attention on a readout onscreen, her gaze focused and intense. It wasnít what youíd call an unusual sight. Barbara Gordon---AKA Oracle---in full-out intense mode was pretty much the norm in the clocktower. The only reason Dinah didnít see it all that often was that usually Oracle was so intense because she was desperately trying to keep Dinah alive. Being the Black Canary could be a real bitch some days.

Still, despite the fact that desperate and driven were pretty much Barbara Gordonís default mode, there was something about it that just felt off to Dinah and had for a couple of days. Her partner had gone missing for close to twelve hours and come back insisting sheíd just needed a little time off, but Dinah was certain something wasnít quite right. She just couldnít put her finger on it. She paced around behind her best friend, watching her silently, then abruptly vaulted over a nearby desk chair, somehow managing to land in a comfortable pose with her feet up on the desk, legs loosely crossed at the ankles. She folded her arms across her chest and grinned as an annoyed green gaze swung her way. "So, Babs, whatís up?"

Russet brows rose in a high arch and Barbara made a small, random gesture to indicate the computer screen. "Just trying to track some things down," she murmured without getting specific.

"Ah," Dinah murmured. "So are you doing okay?"

"Fine. Why?" Barbara responded, her tone more clipped than usual, not that she was generally a bundle of warm fuzzies when at work. She could be sweet as hell when she wanted, but when lost in a computer problem, sometimes it seemed to Dinah like she became a bit of a computer herself.

Dinah shrugged. "I donít know. You just seem a little...." She trailed to a halt, expression scrunching up as she considered her words carefully. "Are you and Nightwing having any problems?" For a steady couple, they seemed to have a lot of come and go weirdness---not that weirdness was exactly unheard of in their business, but they seemed to have more than their fair share, and Dinah often got the feeling that Barbara was nowhere near as committed as Dick, although there were times she wasnít all that sure about Dick either. Actually, now that she thought about it, there were definitely times when she got the distinct feeling they were both there because it was comfortable and safe rather than out of any great, passionate desire for each other.

Barbara blinked owlishly behind her glasses, her expression disapproving. "Why do you ask?"

Which wasnít an answer in Dinahís opinion and seemed far more evasive than Barbaraís usual style. Still, it didnít pay to attack Babs head on. She was much too smart for that. A more devious approach was typically called for. Which wouldnít have been so much of a problem were it not for the fact that devious wasnít really Dinahís strong suit. That was why her partnership with Barbara worked so well. Babs did the devious thing, Dinah did the leap in, feet first, asskicking thing, and all was good. Dinah considered her response for a moment before shrugging. "I dunno, youíve just been in a funk for a couple of days, and funkishness in your case often seems to relate to the former boy wonder." Okay, so screw deviousness. It just so wasnít her thing.

Barbara shook her head, turning away to glare at the computer. "Itís not about Dick."

Which was a tacit admission that something was indeed wrong, Dinah realized as the words sank in. "So what is it about?" she asked, eschewing any attempts at trickery altogether. Ironic though it was, considering her history as an undercover agent, but she was just no good at being sneaky, at least not this kind of sneaky. Though, judging by how quickly her efforts to go undercover usually got noticed, possibly not that kind of sneaky either.

Barbara flashed a quick glance Dinahís way. "Itís not," she said too quickly. "I mean, itís not about anything," she babbled, which was almost too weird for Dinah. Barbara Gordon just did not babble under normal circumstances. "That is, thereís nothing for it to be about." Clearly, that hadnít come out quite right either, and Barbara tried again. "I mean, Iím fine."

Dinah just stared at her friend for a long moment. "Well, that was as clear as mud," she said at last.

"Look, itís nothing," Barbara insisted. "Iím fine."

"Well, that was incredibly believable...not," Dinah scoffed and pushed to her feet, easily insinuating herself between Barbara and the computer screen, arms still folded across her chest, hip hitched against the edge of the computer station. "So whatís really up?" she tried again.

Barbara glared, leaning back and forth in an effort to get a look around Dinah, who neatly blocked her efforts. "Dinah..." the redhead said at last, her tone brusque.

Dinah grinned and leaned down into her friend and partnerís space, now utterly convinced that Barbara was hiding something important and determined to find out what. She drew a breath to ask, then suddenly blinked. "Hey," she said abruptly, her attention caught by the red mark just barely visible under the edge of Barbaraís blouse, "is that a hickey?"

Already pale skinned, both naturally and from hours avoiding sunlight, Barbara went bone white, one hand instinctively rising to cover the mark in question. "No!" she insisted.

Dinah batted her hand aside and leaned in close to get a better look. "The hell you say," she disagreed. "Thatís a hickey." Blonde brows shot up. "Believe me, I know hickeys." She offered a knowing grin and straightened enough to stare into green eyes. "If itís not about Dick, pray tell, whoís been giving you hickeys?"

Barbaraís mouth opened, lips working silently for a long moment as she struggled to formulate an answer.

"And no, Iím not gonna drop it," Dinah informed her cheerfully. Whatever this was, it was big, and she had no intention of being left out.

Barbara snapped her mouth shut and leaned back in her chair. A soft, disgusted sigh escaped full lips. "Itís---"

"Nothing?" Dinah finished for her, then shook her head. "Oh, no. That is so not believable." She braced her hands on the arms of her friendís wheelchair, then grew more serious. "Somethingís up. What is it?"

A long moment passed, and then Barbara let her head fall against back. "Youíre not going to let this go, are you?" she asked in a defeated tone.

Dinah shook her head and simply said, "Babs?"

Barbara sighed and folded her arms protectively across her chest, her eyes firmly on the ceiling overhead. She was silent for a long moment and then she finally muttered. "The other day ... when I took off ... I did something I really shouldnít have."

A frown creasing her features, Dinah leaned back against the computer station, worried now. "What?" Barbara just wasnít one for doing things she shouldnít. Well, except for the fact that she regularly broke dozens of computer security laws, and stole money from organized crime to fund her work as Oracle, but other than that she was completely honest, and that was in the name of good, which wasnít the same thing as regular dishonesty at all.

"I cheated on Dick," Barbara admitted almost inaudibly, her eyes still firmly on the ceiling, looking anywhere but at Dinah.

Shocked to the core, Black Canary froze for a long moment, her mouth hanging open. Finally, she managed to snap it shut. "You ... you ... on ... with ... cheated?" she babbled, comfortably certain that any meaning was seriously missing from her attempt at communication.

A heavy sigh escaped full lips. "It wasnít something I planned," Barbara insisted. "It just ... it happened." She shook her head helplessly. "I shouldnít have ... but I just ... it wasnít like anything Iíve ever felt before...."

Dinah was still staring goggle-eyed at her friend. "You ... cheated?" she finally managed to get out. "Who with?"

Barbara waved the question aside. Certain things just werenít easy to imagine. "It doesnít matter---" she started to say, but Dinah cut her off.

"It was the Blue Beetle, wasnít it?" Dinah demanded. "Because Iíve seen the way he looks at you---"

"No!" Barbara instantly denied the charge in outraged tones. Sheíd had her chance and while his attention had been flattering, it wasnít the same thing at all. "Look, itís no one youíd---"

"Oh, my god, was it Batman?" Dinah continued, barely pausing long enough to take a breath before offering another guess.

"Good God, no!" Barbara shuddered with unconcealed horror. If she had a brother, that was exactly what that suggestion would feel like.

"Yeah, that would be kinda icky," Dinah allowed, but it didnít slow her down. "Yíknow Jason Bardís still in town, and still has a thing for you---"

Speaking of people sheíd had her shot at and turned away from. "No," Barbara growled. "Look, I really wish youíd just---"

Dinah refused to take the hint and went on guessing. "Is it one of the guys with the JLA?"

"No."

A sudden, uncomfortable though occurred to the blonde. "It had better not be Ollie---"

"Dinah, donít be ridiculous!" Barbara all but shouted, the whole topic getting on her nerves in a fairly severe fashion.

"Superman---"

"Heís married!" Barbara snapped, blowing the sort of information she really was supposed to keep completely confidential before she could think better of it. Thankfully, Dinah was so absorbed in trying to figure out who sheíd slept with that she never noticed. The blonde made several more suggestions from the usual list of steroid enhanced superheroes, plus a few of the cyber geeks whoíd wandered through the clocktower over the years, each suggestion soundly denied by her partner.

Finally, running a little low on candidates, Dinah frowned momentarily as she hunted for another option. "That pizza delivery boy who has a crush on you---"

"Dinah, he canít be more than 17," Barbara pointed out. She saw her friend draw breath to say something she was comfortably certain was going to piss her off even more. She stuck a finger into the blondeís face. "Donít even suggest it."

"Right," Dinah allowed. "That would be pretty disgusting ... not to mention illegal."

Barbara leaned deeper into her chair with a tired sigh. She hadnít slept well for the past several nights and it was starting to show. She loved Dinah to death, but at that particular moment, she really could have done without her unique charm. "Look, youíre never going to figure it out, so why donít you just give it a rest." She fervently wished sheíd just kept her mouth shut. Shut was good. Silence was good. Clearly Dinah knowing was bad because it went against the whole shut and silence being good concept.

Pausing, Dinah stared at her friend, trying to put things together in her head. Normally Barbara shared everything with her, and she didnít like being cut out of the loop. And considering some of what Babs had told her over the years, she couldnít figure out why sheíd keep this secret. "Babs," she said at last, her tone cautious, "it is one of the good guys, right?" After all, Barbara wouldnít walk on the wild side, now would she? Hell, even Dinah hadnít done that ... much anyway. Okay, so there was that little fling with Ra's Al Ghul, but sheíd honestly thought he was just a sexy millionaire. It had never occurred to her that he might be a immortal demon type out to turn her into his mate and evil minion. Really, it wasnít like every guy out there was either a hero or a bad guy. Okay, so most of them in her experience, but thereíd been a chance he was just a normal guy. It suddenly occurred to her that Barbara hadnít answered and her expression fell. "Please tell me itís not a bad guy," she requested in a surprisingly calm voice all things considered.

"Itís-itís not," Barbara responded so haltingly that Dinah didnít believe a word of it.

"Oh. My. God," Dinah exhaled, completely shellshocked. "Please tell me itís not Raís Al Ghul." One of them falling for that line of B.S. was more than enough. Too much really. But if Babs---the uber-genius, practical, super-smart one---went off and did something that stupid, well, it was probably a sign of the coming of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, or at least the return of Elvis. And given that Dinah never had liked Viva Las Vegas, she wasnít at all comfortable with that idea.

"Itís not," Barbara insisted.

Dinah was still in shock mode. "Now tell me itís not a bad guy," she requested in that same, slightly flat tone.

"Actually," Barbara sighed, accepting that she couldnít play this game any longer and Dinah wasnít going to stop with the guesses until she learned something more concrete, "itís not a guy at all."

Dinah blinked, struggling to decode that sentence and come up with what it might be if it wasnít a guy. Well, okay, so there were a couple of more or less asexual energy creatures running around the superheroing world, and she supposed there were probably a few non-human alien types that might qualify, but she couldnít quite imagine some energy creature giving Babs that hickey, and while there was probably some alien out there with a sucker that could do the job, she just couldnít see her friend being swept off her wheels by that sort of thing. "Then what was it?" she finally found the courage to ask.

Barbaraís head tipped to one side as she considered that question. "Well, if itís not a guy...." She trailed off suggestively.

Dinah shrugged a little helplessly, still struggling to work it out. "Considering some of the ... er ... people you and I know, it could be almost anything."

Momentarily caught by surprise, Barbara could only stare. Dinah had a point, she had to admit, but still.... "Well, itís not a something, itís a someone, if that helps."

Dinah still looked blank. If Barbara had ever had any doubts about her friendís heterosexuality, they were completely quashed. Dinah apparently couldnít even contemplate the idea. It just didnít compute for her.

"Itís a woman," Barbara explained at last. Clearly, this subject wasnít going away, and Dinah wasnít going to figure it out without help.

Judging by her expression, an alien might have seemed more logical to Dinah. Blonde brows drew together in a frown and there was a definite sense of the gears between her ears grinding to life. "Wonder Woman?" she said at last. "Because okay...yeah, sheís pretty impressive." As JLA members, theyíd worked together a few times, and she was definitely.... Yes, she was. Dinah could almost imagine that. Wonder Woman had shoulders, muscles, lots of shoulders and muscles. Dinah liked shoulders and muscles.

"Iíve never even met her in person," Barbara responded and started to say even more.

Before she had a chance, Dinah slapped her forehead. "Oh, god, Powergirl," she said suddenly, looking none too thrilled by the concept. "I always thought there was something a little intense on her part where youíre concerned---" More shoulders and muscles, even if they were attached to a personality that had all the appeal of a hedgehog.

"She hates me!" Barbara exploded, leaning back in her chair as Dinah suddenly thrust a finger into her face.

"Which is only one step from love sometimes," the blonde pointed out. "And Iím telling you, that woman is very intense where youíre concerned."

"Because she thinks I got a lot of people killed!" Barbara shot back.

"Or maybe itís all frustrated lust---"

"Itís not Karen," Barbara insisted.

"Then who?" Dinah demanded, still half convinced she was right and it was Powergirl.

Barbara flopped back in her chair, fervently wishing sheíd just left it alone, but no, Dinah was her best friend, so sheíd let it slip. "It doesnít matter," she sighed on an exhausted note, "since itís never going to happen again." She pinched the bridge of her nose between her thumb and forefinger. "God, I shouldnít have...." She shook her head, momentarily blocking Dinah out. When she opened her eyes again, Dinah was crouched in front of her wheelchair.

"Babs?" Blue eyes searched green and any humor dropped out Dinahís voice. "This really has you ripped up."

"It was ... itís ... I donít what I...." Barbara kept trying and failing to describe her emotions. How could she, when she didnít understand them either.

"Who is it, Babs?" Dinah asked after a beat, no longer trying to play any guessing games.

Barbara swallowed hard, eyes sliding away from her friendís closely watching gaze. "Selina Kyle." She heard Dinahís soft gasp.

"As in Catwoman?"

"Is there another Selina Kyle I donít know about?"

"God, I hope so ... or rather I hope thereís one I donít know about and thatís who you...." Dinah didnít finish the sentence, just made a rather half-hearted gesture with one hand. She stared at her friend, her posture deflating as it all sank in. "Oh, god," she exhaled at last. "You did it, didnít you? You slept with Catwoman." Dinah didnít know quite what to do with that knowledge. This meant that Babs had managed a grand slam surprise, a woman and a ... well, not a bad guy precisely, at least not these days, but a long ways from somebody on the side of truth, justice, and the American way.

Barbara nodded, slumping in her chair and hiding her face. God, why hadnít she just kept her mouth shut? She was surprised when she felt a gentle hand cover her own where it rested on her thigh.

"You okay?" Dinah asked gently.

Which was a far more complex question than it really should have been. "I donít know," Barbara admitted.

"What happened?"

A soft sigh greeted the question. "I went to the art show ... the one with the paintings I blackmailed her into returning ... and she was there ... and then she was at my car ... and then we were having lunch ... and somewhere along the way she was kissing me ... and then I was suddenly in a hotel room with her...." Barbara fell silent, the stilted confession ending as suddenly as it had begun as it occurred to her that Dinah was staring as though sheíd grown a spare head or something.

Unable to think of anything else to do, Dinah blinked, then blinked again when an appropriate course of action still hadnít occurred to her. Twenty or thirty blinks later, she finally managed to work up a question, "Does she know who you are?" though she was uncertain whether the who referred to Batgirl, Oracle, Barbara Gordon, or possibly all three.

"I donít know," Barbara admitted without looking up. She thought about it for a long moment. "She might have recognized me as Batgirl...but I donít see how she could know about Oracle."

Dinah took a moment to absorb that answer, her expression twisting into a confused frown. Something was going on with Babs, something she wasnít talking about. They worked so closely together, and while Dinah knew she wasnít always the most sensitive soul in the house, she knew Barbara Gordon better than most. She was still hiding something. "Okay, so if she recognized you as Batgirl," she said at last, feeling her way, then continuing to pursue the subject when she saw Barbara tense, "why would Selina go into pursuit mode?"

Barbara stared down at her twined hands with laser-like intensity, but didnít answer.

"Babs?" Dinah whispered when Barbara still hadnít spoken a full two minutes later.

Another minute or two passed in total silence, leaving Dinah to wonder if maybe her friend had stroked out.

Finally, Barbara tipped her chin up and green eyes rose. "I told you about how Catwoman helped me stop Ryder Burnham when he was murdering young women...."

Dinah nodded, but didnít speak, afraid of scaring Barbara back into silence.

Barbara took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "What I didnít tell you was that afterwards...when she gave me that painting I told you about...she was there...and...."

"And?" Dinah finally prompted when Barbara fell silent and didnít appear to be ready to continue.

"Something happened," Barbara continued at last. "It shouldnít have...but it did..."

Dark blonde brows shot up, and Dinah simply stared at her friend and partner, waiting to hear the rest of the story.

Barbara looked back down at her hands. It was easier if she just stared at them and didnít even try to look anywhere else. "It wasnít...simple...and Iíve never known how to feel about it." She looked up, and there were tears in green eyes. "She handcuffed me," she said very softly, "and she touched me...slid her hand inside my costume ...and...and...." She couldnít finish.

"Babs?" Dinah demanded, looking scared and more than a little appalled now.

"She touched me," Barbara whispered the hardest words sheíd ever uttered in her entire life. Sheíd never told anyone else, had locked the memory of that unwanted and terrifying arousal away in the deepest recesses of her mind, refusing to look too closely at it. "Used her hand ... and made me ... I was begging her to stop and begging her not to. And when it was over, everything was different." She looked up again, frowning deeply. "When she was done, she held up her fingers with my blood on them...and made me taste it...and I---"

Dinah abruptly jerked to her feet, hands clenched into tight fists at her sides. "Iím gonna kill her," she hissed as what her friend was telling her sank in.

"Dinah!" Barbara shouted before Dinah had gone more than two steps. "What are you doing?"

Dinah spun back, her expression twisted into one of rage. "Unless Iím very mistaken, you just told me the bitch raped you ...and Iím gonna kill her."

"Dinah...no, you canít." Barbara shook her head, struggling with her own emotions. "It wasnít ...it wasnít that simple," she whispered, her voice ragged and uneven.

"Not that simple?" Dinah disagreed. "Handcuffs, begging to stop...blood! Sounds simple to me...and like I said, Iím gonna kill the bitch." She had no idea where Selina was, but she was going to find her---Gotham wasnít that big a city---and then Selina Kyle was dead. Whatever had happened in that hotel room, clearly, it hadnít been kosher, and on top of the whole blood and handcuffs thing...yeah, Selina Kyle was dead. Babs was big on the whole shades of grey concept. Dinah didnít have that problem. Black and white. "No" equals "no." Dinah was very comfortable with seeing things that way too. Selina hadnít taken no for an answer. Specifically, she hadnít taken it from someone who was family as far as Dinah was concerned. Yup, that was over the line. Dinah had never killed before, but she could learn.

"I wanted her," Barbara admitted the truth that sheíd never before spoken aloud, had barely been able to look at before because she could see the intent in the way Dinah moved and she couldnít allow it.

Dinah froze, her back to Barbara. "Babs?" she hissed tightly, unable to believe what sheíd just heard, her rage on the verge of becoming free-floating.

"I never wanted to ...to admit...to look at it...to be what it meant...."

Dinah did a slow turn, brows drawing into a frown as she stared at her friend. "Babs," she whispered, her voice ragged and uneven. This was too much, overwhelming, and scary as hell. Barbara Gordon was supposed to be completely together, completely in control. Hell, knock her spine out of action and she was still one of the most powerful people in the superhero biz, because she was the hero that controlled the others. A chess master among pawns. She was not some weakling at the whim of...of whatever.

"I wanted her," Barbara said again, her eyes filling with scared tears, "but I could never have admitted it then...and I guess she knew that."

Her own eyes suddenly edged in silver tears, Dinah shook her head slowly, trying to deny what the other woman was saying. No, no, no. Barbara Gordon was not supposed to say things like that, or think things like that. She was Miss All Right and Good with the World. She might see things in shades of grey, but she never did them that way.

Except she did all the time, even if Dinah didnít like to admit it. Babs stole, she hacked, she slipped in and out of corporate records like most people ate potato chips, and she manipulated the weak and evil with ease. Oh, she did it to good ends, which was why Dinah was able to keep her up on some impossible pedestal, but in terms of rigid ethics or morals, Barbara Gordon was nothing but shades of grey.

"I wanted her," Barbara said again, more strongly this time, though she still sounded sick and ashamed. "And I hated myself for it...or for what it meant...." She shook her head, seeming small and scared, not like the hero that Dinah knew. "I donít know. It scared me so goddamned much I just didnít let myself think about it."

Dinah strode back, kneeling in front of her friend, her chest and throat so tight they hurt. "Babs...what are you...." She didnít know what else to say. "Did she force you into that hotel room in any way?" she demanded quietly, thinking maybe she could deal with the things she was hearing if she just focused on that. Maybe that would be simple and cut and dried, and maybe it would give her the goddamned excuse she needed to go and kick Selina Kyleís ass the way friendship seemed to demand.

"No," Barbara denied, "she just asked."

Dinah deflated, looking away and swallowing hard. Her hands were trembling, she realized in a rush. "And so you just went?" she demanded, still trying to puzzle it out, feeling as though maybe sheíd entered the Bizarro World sheíd read about in JLA records, where everything was the reverse of reality.

"Yes," Barbara said simply, not adding that those hours had been among the most intense of her life. At least when it came to sex and romance, there was nothing that equaled them..

Dinah considered that for a long moment, still trying to parse it all out. "Why?" she asked at last, the question low and softly spoken and yet still nearly enough to knock Barbara out of her wheelchair. The redhead froze, staring down at her own hands with that particular intensity that she had, which Dinah had literally never seen in anyone else. Even Batman couldnít do this trick, and god knew, he could do the intensity thing. But with Babs, she always had a sense that every fiber of her being was looking at a problem when she got that expression. It was like she got inside the problem, turned it around and looked at it from every angle possible at almost a molecular level. Considering the genius behind those eyes, it was entirely possible she did.

"I wanted her," Barbara said at last, the admission coming at the cost of rasping vocal cords and a heart pounding so hard it threatened to seize up. She looked up, as scared as sheíd ever been in her life, fully expecting to see---she wasnít sure what---in Dinahís eyes, but nothing good. Instead, her friend looked a little scared and a lot shaken, but there was no anger, and no disgust, just a rather unexpected sympathy.

For her part, Dinah didnít understand at one level. The notion of being that swept away by attraction to a woman was something she had to admit she just didnít get, but being that swept away by attraction, period? Yeah, she understood that one too well. She could chalk up any number of really bad decisions in her life, and maybe a few good ones as well, to that sort of instant, chemical, just go with the flow because youíve got no choice, overwhelming need. "Okay," she exhaled at last, spinning it around in her head and looking at the problem from all angles. Babs might be Miss Computer Goddess, but she was a dolt when it came to relationships as far as Dinah had ever been able to tell. "What are you going to do about it?"

Pale by nature and recent career choice---redheads not being great for tans, and staring at a computer all day and night being no better for it---Barbara still managed to lose several shades of color in response to that question. "Nothing," she muttered. "It was a one time thing...I shouldnít have let it happen...and itís never happening again...itís just." She shook her head, her eyes dropping again. "I need to forget it ever happened."

Oh, yeah, that was likely to happen, Dinah thought as she watched her partnerís uncharacteristically flustered response. Dinah knew all about "forgetting" things like that, and just how thoroughly that didnít happen. "Babs," she began cautiously, still struggling to come up with the right thing to say even as she began. The problem was she truly couldnít think of a delicate way to phrase what she needed to say. "Are you sure thatís the best way to deal with this?"

Green eyes slid closed, and Barbara seemed to shudder gently. "Itís the only thing I can do," she insisted doggedly, her hands twining together in her lap with white knuckled strength. "I have to," she added, her voice little above a whisper. "Iíve got Dick in my life...and I...I canít...."

A hint of a frown touching her brow, Dinah watched her friend closely. Forgetting definitely wasnít going to work. Whatever had happened between Babs and Selina Kyle had been with the redhead since she was 19 years old. It wasnít going to just go away now. She might not understand the why of it, but Dinah knew that much. She reached up, resting her hand over Barbaraís. "Iím not sure thatís the best approach," she said very softly.

Green eyes swung up, narrowing faintly. "I have to," Barbara disagreed.

A soft sigh escaped Dinahís lips. "Itís just that," she began a little hesitantly, "it seems like maybe," boy, she really didnít know how to say what she was thinking, "your relationship with Dick...itís kind of...I mean, it seems like...."

Barbara was watching her closely now, which only made Dinah stumble over her words even worse.

"Itís just that...as long as Iíve known you...even when you and Dick were together...it just seemed like...yíknow...you werenít entirely...like you were still looking around...not really all that...into it...." She stared at her hand where it covered Barbaraís, totally avoiding her best friendís gaze. "Like you werenít really in love," she exhaled at last, finally getting to the main point of what she wanted to say.

Barbara instantly yanked her hand back, sitting stiffly. "I love Dick," she said very softly, the words coming out frightened and a little lost sounding.

Looking up, Dinah stared at her friend, trying desperately to understand. "Yeah, you love him," she agreed. There was no doubt about that. Barbara and Dick had been friends, flirted, fought together, cried together, and been through so much. There was definitely love there. But...but maybe not the kind of love Barbara wanted it to be or Dick wanted. "But youíre not in love with him...and you never have been."

Barbaraís eyed dropped and she stared at her hands where they now rested in her lap. "I know," she whispered at last, then looked up at Dinah, green eyes blazing, "but that doesnít mean I love her."

* * * * * *

 

Selina appears at a party that Barbara is also at...purposely. They have words, and Selina ultimately sweeps Barbara off.

They are watched by someone...bad guys working for Valerie Lewton, who has some very nasty plans of her own, and suspects that her old friend Barbara is more than she appears.

Selina sweeps Babs off over the rooftops. They talk, wind up making love again, but Babs is confused and feeling very guilty. Finally, she gives way though, and they wind up making love in one of Selina's hideouts. Give Selina the line about silk sheets after their second encounter. "I knew youíd look good with your hair spread over silk sheets." Barbara realizes Selina knows she was Batgirl, they struggle, argue. Selina apologizes for what happened. Was all wrong, and she knows it now. They were both different people then, Selina admits how sickened she is by what she learned about what happened to Barbara and by her own past.

It's that very regret and darkness that draws Babs in, and they make love again, but it's very sweet this time.

Meanwhile Valeries' spies have appeared and get a bug on their things.

Afterward, Selina doesn't want to let Babs go, but part of proving she's changed means not making those decisions for the other woman. "I want to see you again."

Selina is involved in a scene where she helps Batman with a couple of thugs, and is hurt (though not badly), while "Oracle" is listening in. Babs doesn't know how she is, and quizzes Batman who's not much help, and is quiet, lost in his own thoughts about Selina.

Later, unable to stay away, Babs calls Selina, worried about her. Selina's hurting, but not so much that she can resist. She teases Babs, wants to see her, stresses that she played the good guy and got hurt, and needs someone to nurse her. Finally Barbara agrees to see her, ostensibly just to check her injuries, but there's a lot more to it. Agree to meet at an expensive hotel (neutral ground).

Valerie is still listening in, and realizes that Babs already knew Selina was hurt.

Babs checks Selina's injuries, and they wind up kissing, then making love. 

They're lazily enjoying each other when they hear something in the other room. Thinking it's probably room service, Selina climbs out, pulling on a robe and goes to see. Instead, as she steps through the bathroom door, she's hit from behind and goes down hard. Valerie Lewton is there in her catwoman knockoff outfit, with a couple of men who are apparently working for her. Barbara tries to fight, but they hold her up and she and Valerie confront one another then they hit her with knockout gas. Selina regains consciousness as the men are about to carry Barbara out, is ready to fight but Valerie braces her claws against Barbara's neck. "If she lives, she won't be moving from the neck down this time." Selina backs down. "What do you want?" Valerie gives Selina a cell phone, says she'll find out in four days. In the meantime, if she contacts anyone, Valerie will know ... and Barbara's dead. And she leaves.

Selina debates what to do, and is very close to going after Batman or trying to find Oracle ... still doesn't realize the truth. But the phone rings. It's Valerie who reminds her that any attempt to find them will cost Barbara her life.

 

******************

When Valerie finally makes contact it's because she wants Selina's services. Needs her to steal something...and then she can have Babs back. It's a scientific doohickey, and Selina takes it with ease, then appears at mansion Valerie has purchased (Ryder Burnham's as it turns out). Valerie is jealous as hell of Barbara, taunting Selina that she could have had her equal and instead went with a cripple. Selina is furious, but not giving way.

At some point, Selina realizes that Valerie has used the time to have the same sort of surgery performed on as was done to Burnham. It allows Babs to walk, but means she could slide into insanity at any moment.

Oh, and Val has made it very difficult to get out alive...at least with Babs in tow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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