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New Gotham Clocktower, Thursday afternoon
Dinah was supposed to be practicing with her eskrima. She'd already run through the drill twice, though, and had abandoned it in favor of a practice sword. Had to stay in practice no matter what. Barbara probably thought she'd left the work-out space, or she never would have started the conversation with Alfred right below the practice balcony. Dinah pulled off her iPod earphones when she realized they were talking about her.

"I can't believe you didn't tell us more about the place, Alfred."

"Forgive me the presumption, Miss Barbara. But it still seems to me an ideal solution to Miss Dinah's particular situation."

"And what situation is that?" Barbara demanded. "We just wanted her out of the way of the paparazzi and the Quinn and Hawke henchmen who could identify her for a while. Not to find her a completely new danger to be fascinated by." Dinah could hear clicking keys, and a frustrated sigh. "Although I'm tempted to offer Lady Ghanima enough money to quit working there and privately tutor Dinah. I don't think she'd take it, though."

"Impressive, is she?"

A quiet minute, then a careful, "She does seem to have a grasp on Dinah's situation that we don't. I wish I'd been able to find a teacher for her before this. One who lived closer."

"I believe that most of the teachers at the school are highly qualified in their fields. As well as proficient in the more usual subjects." Alfred's quietly dry British voice was just daring Barbara to dispute that.

"That doesn't compensate for the fact that the Island is inherently unstable. Or that half her classmates might have abilities she can't protect herself from. What if something happened, a fight, a misunderstanding? Then where would she be? Hoping a teacher with more power or ability showed up in time to stop something?"

"Didn't Miss Atreides mention the preparations the teachers have in place?"

"Yes," Barbara admitted. "But that can't be the only line of defense."

"The first line of defense is that all of those students are there for the same reason Dinah is: to learn," Alfred pointed out. "And the second is Dinah herself."

"She's just barely discovering what she can do, Alfred. Some of those students may have been fighting or working for as many years as I've been doing this."

"That is not what I meant." A sound like a teapot being set down. "Miss Barbara, what would you say Miss Helena's greatest strength is?"

"I..." Barbara sounded as confused as Dinah did at the change-up. "Her ability to think on her feet, I guess. To improvise, make a situation work for her, work without back-up."

"And in its more extreme form, her ability to improvise and to rely on herself tends to become isolation," Alfred said calmly. "She is unafraid to walk alone but is also unable to, I believe the American expression is, 'play well with others.'"

A longer period of quiet, and then Barbara slowly said, "You think Dinah should learn to work with other metas."

"Not just metas. The police, the public, the undecided as well. By necessity the Oracle must often remain hidden from the public and other allies. Huntress, while an excellent fighter and investigator, will never be of more than limited use in a liaison capacity. Which leaves Miss Dinah. Who is in danger of picking up the same extreme habits as Miss Helena, if she is exclusively partnered with her."

"Isn't this throwing her into the deep end of the pool, though? Kids from other times, other places, kids from who knows where..."

"And yet, still adolescents for all that. She will have more in common with them in this setting at this point in their lives than at any other time." Alfred's voice gentled. "She may even be safer on the Island than she would be in New Gotham. And may be able to explore other avenues aside from crimefighting. It would be criminal to deny her the chance to have this. To form friendships without lies, with children who share common experiences."

Another long pause. "I can see your point of view."

Yes!

"I still have to talk to Dinah, though."

Dinah quickly put her earphones back on and re-started her drill with the sword, trying to look efficient and absorbed, until she heard Barbara's chair approaching from the entrance. "Hey." She pulled the headphones down. "'Sup?"

Barbara gave her wry look. "How much of that did you overhear?"

"How much of what?" Barbara just gave her another look, and Dinah fidgeted. "Most of it. Maybe." She bit her lip, trying to stand up, look adult. "So you e-mailed Miss Atreides? What did she say?"

"Several things. She's happy with your progress, from what I could gather." Barbara sighed. "And that I should talk to you about this in more depth." She folded her hands in her lap, studying Dinah. "Why do you really want to stay? Your friends aside. Acceptance, lack of secrecy aside. What are you getting out of this, Dinah?"

Dinah wanted to just say all she'd said before, but the way Barbara phrased the question made her stop and think. Why did she like it so much? Why didn't she miss New Gotham more? She did miss it, but she missed the city, and her family, not the school. What did Fandom have that other schools didn't when everything was boiled down?

"It's like... every day is Cop Convention." At Barbara's questioning look, Dinah explained, "They had a law enforcement convention one of the first weekends I was there. And it was great, I took notes, I learned a lot. But just-- any day there, I can learn something. Not just about crimefighting. About, you know. How to live as a both a meta and a normal person. Or how people think. What I want to do, aside from be a crimefighter. I think I could really figure this out there. How to have a job, and a life, and be... I don't know. A superhero. Someday." She bit her lip, watching Barbara. "And I already know it helps to have friends when you do that."

"You don't just want to be a normal girl?" Barbara asked. "This could be your last chance."

"There is no normal. Or average. Or ordinary." Dinah made a face. "Not even here. I'm Helena's unknown adopted kid sister, who punched a reporter in the face. I like 'normal' there better than normal here because it helps me deal with everything else in my life."

Barbara was silent for several long minutes, thinking, then nodded slowly. "Okay."

"Okay?" Dinah's eyes widened, and she squeaked. "Okay? You mean it? I can stay? Seriously?"

"Yes, I mean it, seriously." Barbara laughed as Dinah pounced on her, hugging her hard. "But there's going to be conditions. Your grades stay up. No fighting! And I want weekly reports from you on what's really happening there." She held onto Dinah a moment longer, then pulled back to say, "You could have told us, you know. The first day you got there."

"I know." Dinah squirmed, then gestured with the practice sword. "It's just-- I didn't believe it at first. I didn't want to come back. And then it was fun! But Helena gets so worried, still. You all have been so tense with the trials, and Wayne Enterprises, and, uh. Wade." She snuck a look at Barbara, who closed her eyes, then hastily said, "I didn't want it to end over something stupid, like my roommate being a boy."

"Your roommate's a boy?" Barbara's eyes popped open.

"Um, yeah, Yatsutora's, uh. Chad. I might have mentioned him."

Barbara put her hands to her face and snickered. "You get to tell Helena that."

Dinah winced. Then grinned. "Better than meeting all my friends when they'd come here to rescue me, I guess." Then more quietly, "Thanks, Barbara."

"Just don't let me regret this." Barbara smiled, shaking her head. "I'm trusting you. And you're welcome."

~*~


"You change your mind, you've got the Delphi ring," Helena reminded Dinah at the steps to the Wayne Enterprises jet. "Just use it, and we're there." Probably. They weren't sure it would work over such a long distance, but it made Helena and Barbara both feel better, so Dinah had accepted her little jewelry lo-jack.

"I will, I promise."

"If you change your mind, you can come back immediately. Okay?"

"Okay."

"Do not get hurt. Do not get pregnant. Do not get arrested again."

"Helena!"

"Deal. I love you. I'm allowed." Helena swept her into another very-hard hug.

"Take care of Barbara," Dinah whispered. "She's not dealing about Wade. Not really."

"Yeah. I know." Another squeeze, then Helena let her go. "Stay safe. And have fun on Spring Break!"

Dinah waved good-bye, and settled into her seat on the jet with relief.

Next time she went home, she'd have to tell them about that Portalocity thing she'd heard about.

[nfb,nfi, done! And Dinah is back in Fandom as of Thursday evening.]