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Dinah Lance blondecanary
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The Clocktower, very early Wednesday morning
The jewelry store heist had been foiled within an hour, which had led to a patrol around New Gotham City Park and Crime Alley, a thwarted mugging near the docks, and a carjacking on the Trigate Bridge that ended up with two guys tied to a support post and Dinah and Helena laughing about how one of the carjackers had tripped over his feet trying to get away from Helena last night.

Dinah should be sleeping in, but she has a butler to cross-examine.

"So you knew what it was like before you suggested it, right? Fandom?" Dinah was helping Alfred set the table for an early, proper breakfast, and making sure all her ducks were in a row for when she talked to Barbara and Helena.

"If you are asking, was I aware that the population of the school favored more unusual students... yes." Alfred gave her a mild look as he took the sweet rolls out of the oven. "As well as its positioning on a version of a dimensional nexus. I trust you've discovered that as well?"

"Yup, nobody's heard of New Gotham City. Or the Wayne family or... yeah." Dinah folded the napkins and put them on the table, watching Alfred putter about. "I love it there. I'm having so much fun, and learning so much, and I feel normal with all of those kids. But why didn't you tell Helena and Barbara what it was like?"

"If you had hated the school, or failed to find friends there, it would certainly not have been relevant; you would have returned to New Gotham at the end of the term." He raised an eyebrow at her as he put the butter dish on the table. "A first-hand account is more convincing, for all its eccentricity, than one only told by second-hand. And you would be better to make your own case for staying there."

"You'll back me up though, right?" Dinah checked, rubbing her palms over her jeans. "I can handle it, Alfred. I know I can."

"As much as I am able," Alfred agreed.

"How do you know about it, anyway?"

"Butlers have their sources." He gave her a mysterious look, and Dinah grinned. "Suffice it to say you are not the first person of my acquaintance to have reason to visit Fandom."



"So, we need to talk about school for you," Barbara said seriously, and Dinah stopped buttering a croissant to check that Alfred was paying attention. "The press is going to stay interested. Which means that New Gotham High probably isn't the place for you any more. Unless you really, really want to go back."

"No," Dinah said quickly. "I mean, it was okay, but the only person I'm still speaking to there is Gabby, and I was only there for a semester and a half anyway. I won't miss it too much."

"So that leaves us with three options," Barbara said. Helena was still drinking coffee with her eyes closed, apparently not paying attention. Dinah knew better. "Private tutors."

"Ew."

"We can't homeschool you ourselves, Dinah. We both have jobs, and I'm only certified in English and basic science." Barbara shook her head, lips twitching. "Westfield Academy for Girls, north of town near the manor."

"The rich girl school?" Helena blinked herself into full consciousness and echoed Dinah. "Ew."

"It's a very good school! She'd be able to get into any college she wants if she went there." Barbara wasn't looking at Dinah, though, which meant she wasn't convinced, and she so had Helena on her side.

"I'm with Helena. More ew. All-girls school, and the third one in a year? No, thank you." Dinah held her breath.

Barbara gave her a wry look. "Which leaves you staying in Fandom. Which is three states away from home, and frankly, more than a little odd, now that I've heard about your classes."

"But it's a very good school," Dinah said in her perkiest voice. "This is just a sabbatical semester. You know. To de-stress from stuff." She took a sip of juice, and smiled hopefully at Barbara. "I have friends there. And a lead in the local play. People to spar with."

Both Helena and Barbara were giving her narrow-eyed looks now. "What?"

"You're hiding something," Barbara said thoughtfully.

"Definitely," Helena agreed.

"Pffttt." Dinah's smile widened, and her eyes flicked to Alfred, standing by the coffee pot.

Tell them, he mouthed.

She swallowed, took a breath-- and chickened out. "There's people from other countries, so it's very... cultural. And, they've got a Spring Break cruise to Mexico next week!" Which was true, so she relaxed a little. "Plus, there haven't been any reporters there, no one knows who the Waynes are..." Um. She frowned, back-pedaling. "At least, no one knows I'm connected to them."

Barbara's frown had deepened. Crap. "Dinah, if you like the school so much, I'm all in favor of you staying. But I'd really like to know what's going on."

"Nothing!"

"Okay, that was a definite lie." Helena pointed at her. "Spill. What's got you so hyper?" She grinned. "Is it a guy?"

"No, it's not a guy." Dinah reconsidered, then nodded hard. "Yes! It's a guy. Who... you will get to meet. If I get to keep going there." Barbara was now giving her her most dubious Don't Try It look, and Helena just looked cranky and confused. "Because what else could it be?"

"Dinah...."

"Barbara, please? I just really like it." She took a breath. "I like the people. And, um. Actually, I wanted to tell some of them the truth. I trust them. About, you know. What we do. The crimefighting."

Worst segue in the world. Because now both Barbara and Helena were staring at her like she was crazy. Dinah's shoulders slumped. "Please? I hate lying to them. They're my friends. They won't care!"

"Dinah, you know how important the work we do is. We can't just tell anyone everything. You've never questioned that." Barbara put her glasses on, studying her like she was a clue to a crime. "What's going on here?"

"I just..." Dinah pushed her croissant around her plate, not looking at either of them. "I fit in there. I miss you guys like crazy, I wish I could be here, but not if it's going to be tutors or a rich kid school or being stalked by reporters. Can't I just have something a little normal?"

"I don't like this." Helena was watching Dinah very carefully, waiting to pounce. "You're up to something."

"You know what? I'm going to No Man's Land," Dinah decided, getting up and clearing her plate. "It's been too long, and I just want to say, that if you get me a tutor, I won't be the only one regretting it. You know I think school is stupid anyway, why are you fighting me on this?"

"Why aren't you coming clean?" Barbara countered. "You haven't lied to us months, what is going on? You're worrying me, Dinah."

Alfred gave her another significant look, but Dinah just turned away, humming. "Nothing. Nope. It's fine. Gotta go. See you in a while!"

"Dinah--"

Dinah hurried out of the kitchen and up the stairs, grabbing her purse, then heading for the elevator.

She could hear Helena calling as the doors closed.

"This isn't over!"




[nfb, tbc]

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