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Dinah Lance blondecanary
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Room 312, Saturday night
Post-luau, Dinah was playing with Camille in her room, music on and thinking of everything that had happened over the last two weeks, including vampires, demons, boys-who-were-girls, and presents and the party and everyone else there.

Loooots to think about.

[for one blonde witch]

"Some of them, yeah. But some of the medicines are expensive, and they don't have money for them. And the doctors don't have enough free samples for everyone." Dinah sighed. "And no, HIV doesn't have a cure. Just a treatment. You're still a carrier. It leaves them open to secondary infections, and... it's a really ugly way to go. If they use condoms, it's a lot harder to catch, but some people don't want to. And it's not a guarantee. Sharing a needle for drugs is a way to catch it too."

"Elena's city has them?" Dinah tried to think of how to explain, then rolled her eyes at herself. "I can show you. Slowly. If you want to see?" She held out her hand, watching Karla carefully.

"No treatment?" Karla asked, looking horrified. "That's awful! And your Heal--doctors don't have enough money to treat people? Why aren't your ruling people giving them the money necessary to treat them? You don't just let your people walk around sick and untreated!" Karla was actually doing a credible imitation of Francine's 'You are my brain on drugs' expression.

It was probably a really good thing that Karla didn't watch the news.

"I think I have to," she said, taking Dinah's hand. "All these things you're talking about...I don't understand them. But I need to. Maybe then things like your doctors and your laws will start to make sense."

"They're hard and expensive to make, and ... well, our government is trying to change that right now. But some members of our ruling bodies can only see the downsides, of how much it will cost. Or how difficult to distribute fairly." Dinah's face was sad. "And at first, it was only prostitutes, and homosexuals. And the ugly, ugly truth, is people didn't care. For way too long." She still didn't know if Tony had ever been tested. Was afraid to ask. Sometime, when they were both really calm, she'd get the nerve. Not yet, though. "And there's always someone who says they deserve it, or that it's unsolvable, why try?"

Dinah took a breath, and centered herself, trying to think where to start, and then decided: as if it were a normal patrol. Closing her eyes, she put her hand in Karla's, and let herself see New Gotham...

...The edge of Crime Alley; not the slums yet, but the low-rent district. After midnight. A slow walk down the street. A convenience store still open on one corner, lights shining in the dark, one cashier looking nervous behind the counter. Streetlights shining on the street, traffic lights blinking their after-2-am pattern of red-yellow, red-yellow. A few other people on the street, hurrying fast, New Gotham-wary-walk. Eyes open, watching Dinah approaching, giving space as they hurried home, or to their cars down the street, past a movie theater that would be closing soon. A patrol car, slowly going down the street, officers checking the pedestrians, eyes hard and professional.

A turn down onto Robinson. Narrower street. One streetlight burnt out. Another one, farther down, deliberately broken. Sirens in the distance. No one there along the sidewalk. An argument happening on a stoop; two men, low-voiced and angry, glaring at Dinah as she passed by, picking up their conversation in hushed tones as she got farther away. A man above, his voice drifting out of a window: I told you not to buy that crap for my dinner, Matty. Why the hell you never listen to me? A baby crying that almost covered the sound of a slap. Or a punch.

Windows with bars on them. Doors with double-locks.

Another turn down the street. And now the hookers could be heard, one block over: Hey baby, you lookin' fine, you wanna party? Yeah? A dog barking. No lights at all. Walking faster, keeping closer to the walls.

A fight spilling out of bar down the street, no one stopping it, just men letting it go by. A few laying bets.

"How dare the government just not care about about certain people, just because they don't agree with their lifestyles!" Karla exlaimed. "They're still people! They don't just get discounted and ignored!"

"And what do you mean, 'too expensive'?" She was confused and indignant at once. "What else are they going to spend all that money on?" For all that Karla was wise and wordly in many ways, there were just as many that she was pig-ignorant of. The concept of not having enough money was one. She understood, intellectually, that poverty and want existed. She had even seen it first-hand. But that didn't mean she understood it.

Dinah's vision helped with that, a little. Not just the images, but the emotions that echoed down the link as well, Dinah's ingrained emotional responses. "Those are slums?" she asked.

They didn't seem so bad. About as bad as the worst of Glacia's cities.

"Karla-- sometimes they just don't have the money. The government's in debt here. They're fighting a war overseas. The economy took a big hit last year, a lot of mistakes made with businesses, lots of people out of work. Even rich people in this country are having to make adjustments, and a lot of them already give to charity." Dinah wasn't certain if Karla's experience of rich/poor was so different, or if like Priestly, she felt everyone should share the wealth. Maybe if she could show her...


The scene changed, and Dinah-in-her-mind turned into the Narrows. "This is."

Named because the streets were so narrow only one person could walk down a street at a time. Tenements on either side. Overflowing garbage dumpsters, abandoned and not picked up in days. A grubby man in a patched coat was rooting through one, and stopped to sample a discarded chicken wing from a KFC bucket, still standing in the dumpster. He ducked down as they walked by. No lights. Dirty water flowing over into the gutters from broken siding above.

An old lady dragging a shopping cart rumbled past the mouth of the alley, talking to herself. And I said, I said to him, no, I ain't goin', you can't make me go... Exiting the alley, Dinah's gaze followed her down the street as she stopped to put her trashbags of possessions back in her cart as they fell ove. She didn't notice them, carried on her angry conversation with herself, then kept moving. A man darted out to grab a bag off her cart, and she screeched, furious, but couldn't abandon the rest of her stuff.

More noise here, more people, too many people in too little space. Everyone inside who could be. And those who couldn't....

On one of the stoops, a group of kids, not much older than them. Some were smoking, the strong smell of marijuana mixed with something else. One of them coughed wetly, looking obviously sick. Dull eyes. A gleaming lock on the door of squat behind them, and nailed-across boards. No shelter there tonight. On a space on the sidewalk down the way, an older couple huddled together under a plastic tarp, the woman asleep, old man watching warily. A woman with two children, huddled against a wall, crying silently, counterpoint to the baby wailing next to her, and the toddler huddled under her arm.

A pimp down the street arguing with a hooker got up as a Japanese schoolgirl, crying. It's not enough, Jenny, I told you! You go back out there and get me my money! You're not good for shit until you bring me two hundred a night! A raised hand that didn't fall, because the girl cringed away on high heels, and nodded, then walked back toward the thoroughfare.

A group of bangers on the street corner, exchanging money and dime bags. And in the corner park behind them, addicts sleeping on the benches, needles discarded on the ground. One shivered convulsively over a heating grate, glaring at them as they went by. My space! You don't touch my space!

Running by, a man was chased by three others, who caught him in an alley. Sounds of a beating could be heard, screams of pain, and then the three left the alley, and the last did not.

Another narrow street, and a smashed-in window at a Chinese deli, the owner standing on the street, facing a well-dressed man who smirked at him. See, you pay the protection to Charlie, and we'll make sure this doesn't happen to you again... As the man's wife looked at the window in despair, and the owner hung his head, already beaten.

Someone dying, off above them. Someone crying. Another street, more people sleeping on it; the burnt-out husk of a tenement behind them, still smoking in the rain.

Welcome to New Gotham.

Karla swallowed convulsively. The images crashed into her head like blows from the fight in the alley. She felt battered, bruised, and a little sick. She had never seen...never guessed... could never have done either. She let go of Dinah, slamming up her inner barriers, heedless of the hot tears that spilled down her cheeks. "These are your people?" she asked. "They live like that? And Elena's people? And your givernment can do nothing?"

She sniffled and scrubbed at her face. "And yet people judge them for the choices they make to survive. Oh, Dinah!" she wailed, trying to imagine her people like that and shuddering. "This is why we have Queens! They're the hearts of the land, of the people. They couldn't see this and not feel it!" She was babbling now, the eyes of the toddler burning into her, accusing her of not taking better care of her people, of abandoning them to people like Hobart who wouldn't be able to feel this pain, who;d allow things like that to happen.

Dinah hugged her, feeling terrible now, wondering how young she'd been when she'd realized some people were really, really poor. Eight? Six? When did she first see those commercials on TV, with kids dying in foreign countries, or sick and dying in hospitals? However young it was, Karla's response was just as intense and horrified, and she wished she'd eased her into it. Gotten her a book. Something.

"They try, Karla. You saw. The women's shelter in the Narrows is just full, all the time. During the day, they have a soup kitchen open so people don't starve. The police can patrol better in daylight. But at night..." She sighed. "It's better than it was. That guy offering protection? He's in jail now. There's probably someone else starting the same racket, but at least that one's gone. So's the pimp. Helena beat him up later that night." She hugged the other girl. "Maybe your magic is the way it is so it never gets that bad. I hope. I hope it is."

Dinah wasn't the only one who thought Karla acted like a six-year old sometimes, but that's for another time.

Karla curled up next to Dinah, mirroring Dinah's own position from a few moments ago. She was silent for a few moments, pushing her own emotions away as she'd been taught and analyzing the scene. What could she learn from it? How could it be used? How could she be better for having seen it.

"I think that of everything I have or will learn in Fandom, this will rank among the most important," she whispered. "Now I know what could happen without Queens. It makes my job so much more important. It's easy to say that I am the heart of my people, of my land, but seeing what I stand against...I won't be lured into complaceny. Into wondering what the worse that could happen."

Resolved, she sat up and gave Dinah a tight squeeze. "What can I do to help New Gotham?"

Dinah blinked, surprised, then feeling dumb that she was surprised. Of course Karla would take it to heart like that; of course she'd want to help. She reached out to push some of Karla's hair back, thinking. Nothing wouldn't be accurate, but something was so hard to think of.

"I don't know, right off the top of my head," Dinah said slowly. "There's a lot of problems, I don't know where to start. Helena's trustees put as much money as they can into charities like the shelters, but that's just a symptom. We're working on the crime angle, and that's improved a lot, the last couple years." Partly because of her mom, and the deal that Al Hawke made; partly because of their more active crimefighting style since Dinah came on board, and became Helena's partner in the field. "The main thing, I guess, is people need work. And hiring them isn't so easy. But after that...." She frowned. "You were talking about medicines. About Healing. You couldn't heal everyone. But maybe, maybe..." If she got information from Barbara, on the worst of what was there, maybe there was something Karla could do. She smiled at Karla, loving her for wanting to help. "That you want to, that means a lot. So much."

Karla smiled. "Of course I would help. Even if I could pretend that these people don't matter because they aren't my people, well..everything you say about Barbara makes me feel like she's New Gotham's Queen. You are one of my Sisters, and if I can't help out a fellow Queen, your Queen, then what kind of person am I?"

That would possibly make sense to someone from Kaeleer. Maybe.

"Call it the opening of diplomatic ties between Glacia and New Gotham if you like," Karla said, trying to joke.

Then, more subdued, she added, *Don't think too highly of me. I have my share of selfish motives, too. By helping your people, I feel less as if I've abandoned my own.*

Dinah grinned, highly amused. Helena would laugh so much if they called Barbara a queen, half because it was true. Bossy worried SuperBarbara looking out for everyone, on monitors and computers and phone lines.

"Okay, I will. I don't know if magic works there," Dinah cautioned her. "Or at least yours. But hey. Can't hurt, can it?"

And underneath, she added: You didn't. Not in your head. Not inside. They're still yours. You're just away for a while. Then, more softly, And you're helping me. You're still a Healer, no matter what.

Karla shook her head. "Trying never has," she said. "And I have plenty of non-magical brews I can give to people that should work properly. That might help...somehow."

Though the more she thought about it, the more she realized what little effect even a hundred vials of calming teas or soothing lotions would have. And started to understand Dinah's explanations some more.

*Thank you. You have no idea what that means to me.*

"Maybe if I get them to Barbara and she analyzes them," Dinah thought aloud. Hunh. "Maybe if they're new enough, and work well enough, Helena's company can make more of them, if the ingredients are similar enough. Jobs, plus medicine... That could help, you know? Especially anything good for the mentally ill."

It would take years, and effort, but still. Every little bit helped.

Dinah hugged her back, hard, then smiled. "Hey, I brought you souvenirs. Silly ones." She got up, and dragged two presents out of her closet, and handed them over. "Go on! Open them!"

Karla reached for them eagerly. "Here is where I'm supposed to say, 'Oh no, you shouldn't have!' or something, but I'm not gonna," she said, sounding like a smug six year old. "I'm as greedy as a child for presents. So, while you didn't have to, I'm awfully glad you did."

She opened them up, aww'd at the moose, and squeezed him tight. "He's adorable!" she said. "He's got a little stuffed creature, too! No moose in Glacia is as snuggly. What should I call him? Maybe...'Vancouver?' Where he's from? Vann, for short."

Shut up. Karla does not have a secret fondness for stuffed creatures.

The maple syrup provoked more curiosity than squealing. At least until she opened it and dipped her finger in. "This is tasty!" she said. "Now I want pancakes!"

Dinah snickered. "Vann he is. And yeah, I got him at the gift shop at the airport there. Baby moose!" She grinned. "Pancakes this weekend, maybe? Since you're not allowed to cook and all." In the major irony of the week. She hugged Karla again. "And it's what you get friends when you're away."

She gave Karla a more sober look. "You're okay? I didn't wear you out too bad, with all my stuff, and New Gotham too? It's a lot to process."

(no subject) - glacial_witch, 2009-08-21 04:14 am (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - blondecanary, 2009-08-21 04:19 am (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - glacial_witch, 2009-08-21 04:29 am (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - blondecanary, 2009-08-21 04:31 am (UTC)(Expand)
(no subject) - glacial_witch, 2009-08-21 04:45 am (UTC)(Expand)