The places you're not
by Te
February 9, 2005

Disclaimers: No one and nothing here is mine.

Spoilers/Timeline: Everything up through War Games,
taking place in some nebulous time *after* NW #100 and
BoP #78.

Summary: Roy actually *had* a good reason to call in

Ratings Note: PG-13.

Author's Note: The crack generator gave me: Roy Harper
and/or Barbara Gordon... in a story where
wrestling/sparring/fighting leads to sex.

I didn't quite get to the sex.

Acknowledgments: To Jack and LC for audiencing and
helpful suggestions.

Roy actually did have a reason to call in Barbara. A
*good* reason, even.


For example, it's a *good* thing that he knows, now, that
their hangar isn't quite big enough for the Birds' jet --
though Grace can stop with the 'giant jet ass' and 'up-flap
porn' comments *any* time now -- and it's also a simple
fact of life that no one is better at designing exercise and
training programs for humans and metahumans than Oracle.

Barbara -- and it's both cool *and* annoying to know that,
now, because it means that even though he *wasn't* as far
in the loop as he could've been back in the day, he *is*
now. (And also it improves the hell out of every memory he
has of flirting with Oracle.)

And while it was also extremely helpful -- as these things
go -- to find out once and for all what Indigo's limitations
are in terms of how well *she* can design these things --
Jade'll be fine, really -- it's mostly just...

Well, he had a good reason, which is why Barbara had
waited until they were alone in the brand-new training
control room and the two-way was toggled off before

"I haven't heard from him, either. Not since he left."

Which is something she could've said in one way or another
from... wherever the fuck the Birds were calling home these
days, but she didn't, and that means something.

Even now, with the fact that Roy honestly can't remember
the last time some part of his world wasn't all fucked-up
(he was possibly on the nod at the time), and no, it
*doesn't* matter that it isn't him, this time.

And Barbara had only brought Zinda instead of Helena or
Dinah, which works fine, especially since the worst thing
Zinda's done is try to drink Shift (and Grace tries to do that
herself, periodically), and...

And it would probably be pretty pathetic if the only thing he
could manage was a nod despite -- *because* of the fact --
that he knows Barbara would understand. So he opens his
mouth, because that's almost never a *terrible* idea, and --

"So what's say we take my new toy for a spin?"

She raises an eyebrow.

Roy *doesn't* punch himself in the face. Hard.

And Barbara... smiles. "Get in there."

Right, fine, perfect. He can work out some of this...
*whatever* (and where the fuck *is* Dick, anyway?) and let
Oracle -- *Barbara* -- humiliate the hell out of him, too.
It's the kind of therapy which tends to explain why he's a lot
less weirded out by BDSM clubs than he used to be, really.

And he's saying that out loud in front of Grace... never.

He'd done much of the construction with Indigo to Barbara's
specs long before she'd arrived, so the room itself doesn't
feel new. And -- he actually does have to ask.

"So... you *did* speak to him. Before he left, I mean."

"We had... a very brief game of phone tag," she says.
Through the speakers. Good to know they're working,
though he should probably...

He should probably deal. "How did he sound?"

Barbara sighs, but she doesn't sound irritated or anything,
which probably counts as a victory. "Tired. Sad. Alive."

Roy closes his eyes, and -- right. The room. Focus on the

Everything that's been altered is behind soundproofed,
armored, flame-retardant, and padded walls, though he
could point to the tiles which are, actually, easy to remove.

And he'll have to remember to get Shift or Anissa to punish
them a bit before Barbara leaves, and also --

"Whoa --"

"Pay attention, Arsenal."

All of it through the speakers, even though Barbara *could*
just use his comm. Her voice -- now that he's, heh, paying
attention -- isn't very different from the Oracle's, at all. A
little warmer, a little more rounded, a little fucking *surreal*
considering the fact that there's a not-quite-hologram of
Batgirl smiling at him and, possibly, gearing up for another
kick to the head.

The *original* Batgirl.

"You know," he says, dancing out of range and circling, "I've
always *loved* that uniform."

"Most boys do," she says, at which point Batgirl kind of...
shakes her hips.

And makes a come-on gesture at him. And that's...

Well, okay. It's *Batgirl*. He'd never gotten the chance to
work with her, but some things made it through the
grapevine. It's just how they -- all of them -- worked.

Everybody knows Superman can't deal with Kryptonite,
everybody knows that Batman is, actually, human.

And everybody *knew* that as *good* as Batgirl was...

She goes for the fake, dodging and leaving herself open for
the leg-sweep. The way she tucks, rolls, and flips back onto
her feet in less than a few seconds is *good*, but he's
been sparring with *Dick* for years.

"You're better than you used to be," offer the speakers.

"Can't *just* rely on my guns and my bow," he says, moving
in --

"Or your knives, or your explosives --"

-- and taking a -- very freaking *sharp* -- heel to the shin.
"Are you trying to distract me? *That's* not fair."

"Life's not fair, Arsenal. Pay *attention*."

And he is, he absolutely is, and --

It's different with holograms. He'd done a little work with
them in the CBI, but they'd never managed to be much
better than first-person shooter games, and the 'enemies'
didn't smile, flirt, or look *exactly* like a woman he
knows -- *knows* -- Dick has been in love with for the
better part of a decade.

Also, when he punches people, he's used to them at least
looking a little distracted.

Psych-warfare. Right.

But the not-holo is exactly as good as it should be, slowing
down measurably after every hit Roy gets in, showing
weaknesses in one way or another --

"This is good work," he says, aiming a knife-slash at a
gauntlet which wasn't, actually, tough enough to handle it.

A flash of yellow detaches from Batgirl and -- disappears.
Hunh, cool --

*Ow* --

"Tch," says Barbara, and Batgirl dances back and away from
him, sticking her tongue out *and* shaking out her fist after
the punch.

Which is just... okay, so he doesn't trust Barbara to let him
call a time-out at *all*, but if he just circles for a while...
"Did you do all of this programming yourself?"

"Most of it. Robin added a large amount of detail, especially
to some of the... later holos."

"Robin. You mean -- never mind." He's not asking, because
Vic, at least, keeps him posted, and he knows there's a lot
of crap there that he's frankly glad that *he* doesn't have to
deal with.

And Batgirl stumbles, and that's just too perfect. He moves
in, going for the kick that'll hit her right beneath that truly
inspiring... *bat* --

And gets his ankle grabbed.

He manages to roll instead of getting thrown, but it's still not
fast enough to completely avoid the boot to the back.

Roy grunts and tries to be grateful for the disappearing flash
of yellow across his vision that means Batgirl's broken at
least one heel, but mostly he just really needs to stop
playing and get serious before a hologram of the Batgirl
who *wasn't*, actually, hardcore enough to take out Shiva
manages to put *him* on IR.

Especially since Barbara is actually *chuckling*.

So. A little of this, a little of that, and a little of the zen of
hardcore ass-kicking -- as picked up from a certain Connor
Hawke -- and... there.

Batgirl's down, and... gone.

Roy takes a breath and scrubs a hand over his face.

"Hmm. I give you a B-."

Roy snorts. "The holos get an 'A.' Jesus, that's fantastic."

"Glad you approve," and Roy can hear the smile in her voice.
Which is nice, but...

"I can't help wondering if I'm about to get a boot to the back
from --"

"Hey, why don't you take on someone your *own* size,

He whirls, and... "Holy fucking *shit*." The voice wasn't
quite right, but... "Jesus."

"Some people have suggested I'm not a friendly person,"
Barbara says, and, Jason -- fucking *Jason* -- points what
looks very much like a harpoon gun at him, purses his lips in
what's probably a 'kapow' noise -- *not* added to program,
for whatever reason -- and smirks.

And... Jesus.


Roy reaches out and the holo... stills. He can't quite say why,
but it seems both more solid and less *real* than it did a
second ago, and... and, either way, it's right there. It's...
him. A little taller and broader than the last time Roy had
actually seen him, which hadn't been *that* long before the
kid had gotten killed.

Still not actually 'his own size,' but... fuck.

"He's a good program for training hand-to-hand fighters.
*It's* a good program, I mean. And..." Barbara sighs. "I'm
doing a bad job at making my point, aren't I?"

"You had a *point*?" And, okay, maybe his voice is a little
harsh, but... fucking *Christ*.

Jason Todd, big as all the life he *doesn't* have, anymore,
because... because.

He hears Barbara wheeling in to join him, but he can't
actually turn around. Not even when Barbara brushes her
fingers over Jason's entirely perfect gauntlet.

"Do you know who we got most of the tech from?"

"Someone with a fucking mean streak?"

"Hm. No, that's *me*, I'm afraid." Barbara leans back in her
chair, slowly enough that Roy *has* to look, if only to make
sure she's okay, and --

And Barbara's smirking at him, one eyebrow raised just as if
she knows *exactly* what he was thinking. She's probably
way too fucking used to it. Just like he's way too fucking
used to the kind of attention his bullet scars get if he
showers with the others. He doesn't shower with the others
very much, these days.

"A couple of prison breaks ago, I got the... opportunity to
play with some of Mirror Master's tech. It was incredibly
advanced, and I still haven't worked out all of the
variations -- I'm not sure anyone could, without an advanced
cybernetics degree, a background in theoretical physics, and
telepathy -- but..." A gesture, taking in the thing which isn't
Jason. "I'll get there. And, eventually, I'll decide how much
of it I wouldn't mind making it into -- more -- wrong hands,
patent it, and make a large amount of money. For now, I
can do... this."

Roy nods, slowly. "What's it like. Watching... who you used
to be?"

"Better this way," she says, "than in my dreams."

There are photographs of himself, with Ollie and not, that
he really can't look at anymore without being at least a little
drunk. But. "I still don't see what your point is."

"No?" Barbara smiles at him in a way that manages to be
rueful *and* just a little cold -- a distinctly *Oracle* smile --
and wheels herself around to the hologram's other side.
She reaches up to trace the smile lines around Jason's
mouth. "I didn't add all of this. Neither did the Boy Stalker,
for that matter. Batman, for his part, has learned to ask
permission before playing with my toys." The look she gives
him is sharp, and...

And Roy gets it. Dick tends to leave -- *tended* to leave --
the computer stuff to him and Indigo, and probably left it to
the rest of his family for Bat-stuff, but... when you're a Bat,
you're not actually allowed to be bad at anything but living.
It's probably in the charter. "Should I ask what parts he
added to the Batgirl holo?"

"Hmm... no." Another smile. "But you can ask *him*, when
he comes back."

Roy snorts. "And if he doesn't?"

And Barbara leans back in her chair and smiles, casual as
hell. Just as if Dick hadn't been as fucked-up as Roy had
ever seen him -- *including* right after Bruce had fired him
from being Robin. Just as if every fucking thing was going
to be *okay*, just as if *she* won't be stuck in a
wheelchair for the rest of her life, instead of dancing and
teasing and ass-kicking her way through Gotham's criminal

Just as if she *isn't* rubbing her side like she's got a cramp
or muscle strain -- probably from being stuck in that *chair*.
It's probably the most fascinating thing he's ever seen in his
life, and it makes him wonder, not for the first time, if the
Bats couldn't try a *little* harder to keep psychiatrists alive
in their fucked-up city. Because clearly --

"No one ever really stays gone, Roy. Not from this. Not even
the dead ones. Tell me you don't know that and I'll kick your
ass myself."

"I --"

The escrima sticks come out of nowhere. "You're not the
only one who's better than you used to be, you know."

"Do you really *mean* that?" And he could probably sound
a *lot* less skeptical...

But he could *also* be talking to someone who hadn't spent
the last four years hiding *out*.

There are a lot of reasons why he hadn't actually expected
Oracle to take him up on his offer, and he only wound up
with more once he knew who Oracle was. Barbara Gordon,
the girl in the Tower, now and forever. Even Wally hadn't
ever really managed to get her out. Even *Dick*.

And Barbara smiles again, and tucks the escrima sticks back
in her sleeve, and it's... it's an *absent* smile, not really for
him at all. And she's rubbing her side again.

"Barbara --"

"Hmm?" She stops rubbing and looks at him again, with
almost nothing but apology in her eyes.


"Sorry, got a little distracted. Look, Roy, just... you and I
both know, probably better than most, that life goes on, that
nothing ever *really* changes, and that..." A shrug. "There
are ways to hold on to people even when they aren't as
there as you could wish. That's all."

He tries. He... can try, at least. Dick in the lines of Jason's
smirk, and in every move he'd taught Barbara when she was
Batgirl, whether or not he'd done the programming himself.
The persistence of futility, because that's what they did and
that's who they are. Death as... well, he has *Ollie*.

It's just that sometimes -- most of the time -- it doesn't
matter that it's the truth. Because when the good times are
*only* for old photographs and frighteningly good
holographic projections of the people they all used to be...

"I appreciate it, Barbara. I do."

She nods, and looks down at her own lap for long moments.
When she looks up again, her expression is blank,
professional, and just a little bland. "It's all we can do,

"I... right."

Another nod, sharper this time, and she starts to wheel
herself out of the training room again, and she'll probably
be collecting Zinda from wherever the woman's gotten to
and booking back out to the western side of nowhere within
the next half hour. Probably.


She pauses. "Yes?"

"Buy you a drink? Least I can do."

She... well, that's pretty much a snort. But, well, when you
make a woman laugh... the woman doesn't tend to *go*
anywhere. At least, not in *his* experience. Roy jogs up to
join her, resting a hand on her shoulder --

"Hey, 'mano, you look like your lady just dumped you
like an ashtray --"

"Never, ever touch the back of Barbara's chair. Just... really


-- and leaning in. A little.

"My treat," he says, in the voice which tends to make women
either smack him or give him their phone numbers.

Barbara, for her part, narrows her eyes in something which
is either another Oracle-smile or a threat.

Tough call, really. "And I *promise* not to make your drink
out of *any* part of Shift."

The face she pulls... wouldn't really be out of place on
Batgirl, at all. "Roy --"

"Okay, maybe a *little* Shift, but you haven't lived until
you've tasted an Earlobe Margarita."

"Oh God, okay, *fine*."

Score. Roy grins -- the *nice* one. "Yeah?"

"Yeah," she says, and starts rolling again. "But I'll pick the