It's almost a relief that monitor duty has been reinstated now they have the satellite. Dinah had forgotten how much she had relied on those hours sitting at the bank of computers, watching news channels for things of Justice League interest, tracking the movements of the members, keeping an eye out for anything that would require their attention. For the most part, it's a relaxing job, and they share the shifts equally between members. Even Ralph's wife Sue has volunteered to take a few shifts.
(Dinah, remembering her father, isn't sure how she feels about non-League family members participating in League activities. But she reminds herself that it's not like Sue is coming with them on missions as Larry Lance did. The satellite is safe, right? Safer than the Earth headquarters were, in any case.)
On monitor duty there are no bad guys to fight, no flowers to arrange, and above all, no mothers to fight with. Funny how finding out the cause of all the fights hasn't actually made them go away. If anything, now Dinah knows her mother was lying to her for two years, she wants to be around her even less.
Which is why, when Batman appears on the satellite to take over from her at the monitors, Dinah is so reluctant to leave. There are a whole host of problems on Earth she doesn't want to face right now.
"Mind if I stay?"
"If you want to."
He sounds – okay, he sounds like Batman, which means he's deliberately being hard to read, but she never lets that scare her off. Instead, when Dinah relinquishes the chair to him, she leans against the computer bank, watching him. It occurs to her that they haven't been alone together since the whole music singing-her-love-for-him incident, and that could well be awkward.
But it's not like things are awkward with Yugo, and that was actual bona-fide makeouts. They just need to small talk to prove everything's okay.
How do you start small talk with Batman?
"I've been meaning to talk to you," he says. "About the fight with Jest-Master the other day."
"What about it?"
"Your form was off."
"My form was perfect, Batman."
He shakes his head. "It was adequate. It got the job done. But you were unusually reckless: you went for damage rather than a safe ending. If anyone else had tried some of those tactics, they would have ended up dead."
"But it wasn't anyone else. It was me. You know, Bats, if you have a problem with my performance on the team..."
He pushes the chair back, and looks at her. "If I thought you were a danger to the team, I would have you removed."
"Are you threatening me?"
His mouth hardens below the cowl. "I'm not trying to insult you, Canary. I'm just sharing an observation. You have been below form in your fighting. Distracted, maybe even reckless. That's not a danger to the team, yet. But it could be a danger to you."
Dinah stands up from where she was leaning against the computer bank, takes a step towards him.
"If you're not trying to insult me, you're failing."
He is silent for a second, and she wonders why. When he does speak, she can hear the regulation in his voice. He was looking for the words.
"Is there something going on, Dinah? Something that's distracting you."
She turns away from him, looking out over the Earth turning below them.
"My Mom," she says quietly. "She has cancer."
It's the first time she's said it out loud. First time, she realizes, she's even let the word settle into her mind.
She's aware of the movement behind her, and when she turns around, she's faced by the cape and the body armor, and has to look up to see the cowl looking down on her.
There's nothing hard about his mouth, now.
"I'm sorry," he says. "If you need to take a leave of absence..."
Dinah shakes her head. "I need the League right now, Bruce. I need you guys. You're the only thing keeping me sane."
Well, them and Milliways. But she wouldn't give up the League for all the perfectly-normal florists in the bar.
She leans her head against his chest and after a moment she feels his glove on her shoulder, realizes that shoulder is shaking and that there are tears in her eyes.
Why didn't she tell anyone? If anyone in the world can understand, it would be the people of the Justice League. And it's now - she hadn't realized how much was building up behind the floodgates.
Bruce holds her for a while longer, until the sobs pass, and then Dinah looks back up at him, wondering what expression he's wearing right now. All she can see of him in costume is his jawline and mouth, and when he's not saying anything she has only them to read.
For a few more seconds all she can see is that mouth, and all she can feel is his breath on her face.
Her ears fill with the tune of the Music Meister.
Suddenly, it seems inevitable.
Dinah pulls away.
"I have to go," she says. "I'm sorry, Batman."
She. Is such. An idiot.
When the door to Grant's Gym slams, the only people who don't turn around to see are Ted himself, and the two men he's coaching in the ring – teenagers she's seen around. One of them, a tall black boy, has recently started his professional career; has a middle weight championship coming up.
She was willing to wait for them to finish, but something in her face prompted the rest of the trainees to suddenly find business elsewhere, and the way the gym empties, causes Ted to turn around to see her.
"Alright, Chris," he says, "take a break. Junior, come here and put Rob through his paces."
Rob, the one-day champion, freezes in place. "Aw, coach," he says, with a whine that makes Dinah smile.
"Aw nothing, kid," Ted says. "You scared of fighting a woman."
"I'm scared of fighting her, Coach. I ain't stupid."
Dinah smiles, ducking her head to catch the laugh that rises, and leaps up into the ring. "Call it practice taking hits. You'll need them."
She's grateful, right then, to Rob for the way he accepts the fight without further argument, and for Ted for being able to read her so well that he knows exactly what she needs. A nice, quiet fight with rules and structure and the chance to punch someone she won't break her fists on.
In a straight up boxing fight, she has the advantage, but Rob gives her a good fight, and after a few rounds she can feel the tension moving out. Ted starts by spotting his champ, yelling instructions, correcting strategy, until he turns his attention to his niece.
"Alright, Junior," he says. "Talk."
She doesn't avoid the subject.
"She lied to me, Ted. She lied."
"She thought it was for the best."
"That's not - no, Ted, she doesn't get to do that."
"You weren't in the country, Junior, remember? You dropped out of college, married, divorced, and dropped everything else in your life to go to Okinawa. She didn't have you to talk to."
"No," Rob is a saint for taking that punch as well as he does. "I wasn't on Mars, Ted. I had a phone."
"And what was she going to say? 'Come home, Junior, there's nothing you can do?'"
He shakes his head, wipes non-existent sweat from his forehead.
"She was wrong, Junior. That's what you want me to say? She was stubborn and stupid and thought she could deal with it all on her own, rather than call you away from the first thing you were doing for yourself rather than just following in her footsteps."
"Shit, Junior. You know how proud she is. She was proud of you, not for choosing the same path of her, but for going out and making it your own. Okinawa was a big part of that. She was terrified you'd abandon that for her."
"And that's why she didn't tell you. Look, Junior, she was stupid and stubborn and crazy, but that's your Mom. She's always been stubborn. Like someone else I know."
"I should have been there. I could have faced it with her."
"Like the last time someone she loved faced something scary with her?"
Dinah is so shocked, she very nearly lets Rob land a hit.
"Oh my god. Mom."
When the fight is over, Ted brings her a sports drink and wraps a towel around her shoulders.
"Look, Junior," he says. "You've got to be prepared. This is going to hurt. I mean, hurt bad." She leans into his arm, and doesn't tell him she knows that, because he continues: "worse than your Dad, I mean."
She remembers coming downstairs to see the Society gathered in the kitchen, her Mom's face streaked with tears. Dinah hadn't really considered that anything could hurt that bad again.
"That was a sprint," Ted continues gruffly. "This is going to be a marathon. And when the pain gets unbearable, you're still going to have to finish the race."
Dinah buries her face in his shoulder.
"I'm so scared, Ted."
"I know, Junior."
Oliver is looking at her again. He's got his beard propped in the green-gloved heel of his hand, and he's watching her with an expression which could be appreciative, could be pensive.
The meeting room is clearing out, but he doesn't seem to be showing any inclination to leave the table, so she takes the hint, indicates to Hal that she'll be right there, and drops back so it's just the two of them.
"What is it, Arrow?"
"Nothing, Pretty Bird," he says, and it sounds reflexive, so he quickly backtracks. "Well, no, not nothing. I just wanted to know if you were okay."
She pauses, unsure if this is just another tactic to get 'close' to her. Decides that she's not giving him nearly enough credit. Realizes that the way he's looking at her – he knows.
She sinks into the chair nearest him. "Why is Batman so bad at keeping a secret?"
"I think he thought it was best to let me know," Oliver says. "The rest of us are your friends, too."
It's true, and she's been bad at reaching out to her friends. Hopefully, Bruce won't have told Oliver about the nearly-almost-sort of kiss.
"I'm okay," she says, after a moment to make sure she means it. "I think. It's more than just the cancer, though. She had it before – two years ago, and she kept it a secret from me. She wouldn't have told me at all if it hadn't come back."
"Keeping secrets from your nearest and dearest in the name of protecting them," Oliver muses. "I can't imagine why she thought that was a good idea."
She smirks at him. "Shut up."
It's a good point though. Dinah never really got the hang of it, but it's probably second nature to her mother.
"The prognosis is good," she tells him. "That's what the doctor says. She's got a great chance."
"That's good, right?"
Dinah nods. "But if she beats it this time, there's a greater chance it'll come back. It's just so unfair, Arrow. She's a goddamn superhero, this isn't supposed to happen."
"Hey," he says. "The thing about most of us superheroes, is under the masks we're just people, too."
He returns her smile. "Except Superman," and shifts his chair closer so he can nudge his elbow gently into her arm. "But enough about Canary One, Pretty Bird. How are you?"
She breathes in deeply, and lets a long slow sigh come out.
"We can't stop fighting," she says. "All the time. Over the slightest thing. Because she thinks she saw me punch badly on the TV. Because she didn't order enough take out for me when she didn't know what time I'd be coming home. Because – god, yesterday she yelled at me for picking up and washing her plate. Said I was trying to nurse her! And I'm just as bad with her. It's like everything she does is calculated to annoy me."
"She was a florist, too, right?"
People always pick on that! "Yeah," Dinah says, looking up at him. "So?"
"And she watches the store while you're away?"
"Well, it sounds to me like she's hip deep in every part of your life. There's no escape from her even if you're not in the room. That's got to be annoying."
Dinah bites her lip. "Maybe. But I like being a florist. I don't want to quit."
"I don't think you should quit if you don't want to," he says quickly. "But – aw, hell, I'm the last person to talk, I'm still running my Dad's old company. But you know what I did as soon as I came of age and took over? I made it my own. I just think maybe space is what you need right now."
Dinah finds herself staring at him. "When did you get so insightful?"
He grins. "I'm not just a handsome face and a quiver, Pretty Bird."
She considers the option again. "I can't afford to move out. And I can't leave her."
"The thing about these wonderful gadgets your Uncle Hawkman left us, no matter where you move to, you're still only two beam tubes away from her. And don't worry about the money. That'll work out."
Spoken like someone who has never worried about money in his life.
"And I'm not going anywhere until after her surgery at the very least."
"Of course not," he says. "And hey, Canary?"
"You're the bravest, and strongest superhero I know. You'll get through this."
Hurt worse than anything she's ever had before, Ted said.
Well, she's a superhero. And what do superheroes do when they know something is about to hurt?
They make a strong stance. They wrap their hands, and then they take all the pain the universe wants to throw at them.
With their friends at their back.