Summary: What happens when the news of Oracle and Nightwing's breakup spreads?

Author's Note: Takes place during the current Nightwing story arc.

Disclaimer: All characters belong to DC and Time/Warner; this is an original story that doesn't intend to infringe on their copyright. Feedback is welcome.

Copyright January 2004

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She Loves Me--Not!

By Syl Francis

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"So...*spill*, girlfriend--!"

"I'm *not* your 'girlfriend,'" Black Canary growled. "And how did you get this number?"

Flamebird blithely ignored the interruption. "Is it true, then? Did he finally dump her? Inquiring minds--" Like me, she mentally added. "--*sooooo* want to know."

"For the record," Black Canary began, her voice taking on threatening overtones. "*He* didn't dump her...*She* dumped him!"

"No way!" Flamebird squeaked, her shock at the news apparent. "Oracle dumped Nightwing? Oh, the poor boy must be devastated. He *so* must need comforting!" She paused at a sudden thought. "You don't know if anyone has already been trying to comfort him or anything?"

Black Canary sighed. "I don't have the slightest--"

"I'll just bet that hussy, the Huntress, has been trying to cut into *my* territory!"

"*Your*--?"

"Or that alien witch--and you can exchange a 'b' for the 'w' if you know what I mean--Starfire has already--"

"Look, Flamebird," Black Canary cut in, "I've gotta go. Y'know...mission to save the world and all that--?" She stopped at the sudden ~click~ and dial tone. Flamebird had hung up. Black Canary stared at the dead phone and shook her head. Flamebird was the fifth female superhero who'd called her to verify the recent breakup of her best friend Oracle and that Hunk Wonder, Nightwing.

"Barb," she muttered to herself, "I sure hope you know what you're doing." Replacing the handset, Black Canary was just about to walk away when it rang again. Sighing she picked it up. "Hello?"

"Um...? Black Canary?" The tentative voice over the phone sounded young.

"Yes? Who's speaking?"

"It's me...the Star-Spangled Kid..."

****

"What's this all about?" the Huntress demanded. "Why did you call us all here?" She gave the woman in the loud orange and red outfit that sort of resembled Nightwing's a hard, measuring glare. "Flamebird...isn't it?"

"You know very well, why I called for you," Flamebird sniffed. Crossing her arms, the Huntress's demeanor took on a dangerous edge. "And don't go all dark and batty with me," Flamebird poohed. "I've seen it all before."

The Huntress blinked, slightly taken aback by the other woman's unconcerned attitude. She glanced around at the other women who were gathered on the rooftop of St. Thomas Aquinas Cathedral in central Bludhaven. She recognized most but not all. They all gave Flamebird blank looks.

"Perhaps you would care to explain it nonetheless." The tall woman with golden skin, long red hair and strange green eyes who had spoken up was Starfire, of course.

"Yeah...like, I had a really hot date tonight and all--" A dark-haired girl of about sixteen piped up. The Huntress noted with a secret grimace that she had a pasty-white complexion that would've looked good on Casper the Friendly Ghost, and a practically-nothing-there costume. The Huntress' eyes narrowed slightly when she realized that the girl was yet another former Titan, Argent. "--And I'd really like to get back to NYC before I miss--"

"--Your curfew?" A muscle-bound, tattooed woman who looked like a nightclub bouncer asked with a sneer. Before a thoroughly piqued Argent could come up with a witty retort, a blue-skinned girl with pink hair laid her hand gently on the tattooed woman's arm. The Huntress didn't recognize her.

"Grace..." She spoke in an odd-sounding, almost computer-generated voice. "You promised--"

"What'd I say?" Grace gave the blue-skinned girl a look of innocence.

A shy kid still in braces, holding a staff with a star emblem at the end, hung back from the others. She wore a red, white and blue outfit that was enough to blind them all even in the middle of the night. After a moment's consideration, the Huntress recognized her as 'the Star-Spangled Kid.'

"Okay, Flamebird," the Huntress said with finality. "You called us, remember? We're here. So tell us--why?"

Flamebird pouted slightly at the Huntress' tone, but relented. "Okay, okay. Look, girls. I called you because I've tracked your movements for the past 48 hours and--"

"You did *what*?" The Huntress' crossbow was automatically locked, loaded and aimed at Flamebird's heart.

"You dare--?" Starfire's hands began glowing as her anger built.

"Who do you think you are?" Argent demanded, just barely holding back her plasma bolts.

"Looks to me, Blondie, that you're cruising for a bruising." As she spoke, Grace took a step forward, only to be held back by the blue-skinned girl.

"Grace, remember your promise."

"Indigo, nobody said anything about not clobbering simpering *@#$%*'s who stick their noses where they don't belong--"

"Grace, we cannot hurt those who are purportedly on *our* side just because we disagree with their methods of operation. I am certain that Flamebird has a logical reason for her seemingly illogical actions. Don't you, Flamebird?"

Smiling nervously, Flamebird nodded. "Logical reasons? Of course, I've got a logical reason! Lots of them, in fact."

"Let's hear them," the Huntress said quietly. Swallowing a little nervously Flamebird noticed that the female vigilante hadn't lowered her crossbow.

"Um...could you put that down, please?" The Huntress didn't react to the request. Flamebird smiled a bit apprehensively. "Well, as I said...I've tracked each of your movements for the past 48 hours." Her smile grew a little bolder. "And each of you has been here in Bludhaven, lying low shall we say, during this time. The question is...why? Why are we each here? Is it because of the increased criminal activity?" She shook her head. "I think not. After all, Bludhaven has a reputation for its corruption and criminal element." Flamebird looked at each woman present in turn.

"So...I think that we are each here for the same reason--Nightwing. We've all heard of his recent breakup with Oracle, and I think that we each are looking for a chance at being a shoulder for him to cry on--"

"Oh, for crying out loud!" the Huntress said in disbelief. "Is *that* what this all about? I don't believe--!"

"Your assumption is not only incorrect, it is highly insulting--!" Starfire spat out angrily.

"You're out of your freakin' mind, Bird-brain!" Argent looked ready to throw a plasma bolt at her.

But before any of the others could protest, a quiet voice spoke from behind them. "I've always wanted to meet him." They all turned as one to see who'd spoken--the Star-Spangled Kid. She walked up to them, holding her staff shyly behind her. "I would've liked to join the Titans, but my family had ties to the Justice Society so I was kind of obligated." She paused, her eyes shining. "But who hasn't heard of Nightwing? All those things he can do? All the teams he's led? And...I've even heard that he doesn't have any super-powers."

The Kid looked down suddenly embarrassed. "I guess I was just being silly. But I kind of hoped that maybe if I could just meet him..." She looked up again. "But I haven't even been able to find him." She shrugged. "I keep hearing reports of places where he's been spotted. When I get there, I find bad guys tied up, but no Nightwing."

The other women avoided each other's eyes. Indigo nudged Grace.

"Grace, this is why you said you wished to come to Bludhaven. To find Nightwing and be there for him in his hour of need, I believe is how you put it."

"Ah-ha!" Flamebird said triumphantly.

Grace glared at Indigo. "Oh, yeah? Indy, I seem to remember your reasons for coming with me weren't all that pure."

Indigo shrugged. "I admit that I said I should like to experiment with the male/female mating rituals of your species. I am fascinated by how obsessed you humans seem to be with the performance of what is a simple biology function. It is in all of your literature and--"

"If you were just interested in 'experimenting,'" Starfire said sardonically, "why didn't you ask Arsenal to assist? The archer is infamous for his experiments in this subject area."

Indigo seemed to turn a darker shade of blue, but she stood her ground. Raising her chin slightly, she said quite clearly, "Arsenal as a test subject does not interest me. However, Nightwing--"

"All right! All right!" the Huntress interrupted. "Enough already! Okay, Flamebird, you've made your point. I think we can all admit why we're here in Bludhaven." She glared at the others. "But there's more to the story than Nightwing's breakup with Oracle. Something's going down in this town. Something big." She paused, gauging their reactions. "Oracle might've dumped our boy, but she hasn't abandoned him. Apparently, Blockbuster's targeted him and those close to him. She asked me to come and keep an eye on him for her."

They all stared at her in disbelief.

"Yeah, yeah...I almost couldn't believe it myself. But, for obvious reasons, he's not answering her calls, and he's removed or turned off his tracking devices. So, I agreed to keep an eye on him and watch his back."

"Oh, that gorgeous back," Grace murmured. "Someone's *got* to protect such a thing of beauty."

"And the front," Argent said almost worshipfully. "Don't forget the front. He has the most beautiful, dark blue eyes. And that sculpted, Greek god *body* of his--"

"If he's in trouble," Starfire said quietly, "I'd like to help. Di--Nightwing and I broke up a long time ago, but that doesn't mean that I've stopped loving hi--" She stopped abruptly and looked away.

"I'd like to help, too," the Star-Spangled Kid said.

Flamebird looked at them all in turn, and then shrugging said reluctantly. "And me." They all turned to the Huntress who seemed to be glaring at no one in particular. Finally, she let out a long sigh and nodded.

"Okay...I could use the help. Our boy may be the World's Second Greatest Detective, but personally, I think he's the World's Greatest Stealth Operative."

****

"Target spotted."

"What's your location?" Flamebird sounded professional for once.

"Mealtide. The Municipal train yards. Located just across from the Littleneck Narrows Bridge," the Huntress replied. "I'm sending my GPS--now!"

"Got it!" Flamebird acknowledged. "Flamebird to all Wingnuts. Target of our adoration spotted." The Huntress gritted her teeth at the ditzy blonde's radio procedure. "Make haste, ladies. We have us a cute behind to protect." The Huntress closed her eyes momentarily until a sudden, stabbing pain went away.

"Amateur!" she hissed.

"This is Indigo. Grace and I are on the way."

"This is Starfire. Argent and I copy."

"I copy, too." This last was the Star-Spangled Kid.

Melting into the shadows, the Huntress moved in.

****

"Target spotted."

"Good. Are you all set?" Blockbuster felt his weak heart start beating just a little faster. The machines that surrounded him began sending warning beeps.

"We sure are, boss," Sonny Brewer said smugly. "We have us a little surprise party awaiting our stalwart hero." Sonny Brewer was one of Blockbuster's oldest numbers runners. While he usually kept his hands clean, as it were, Sonny and his men had been called in to once and for all hit the vigilante with everything they had.

Blockbuster had hired others to hit those close to the vigilante, to cut his legs out from under him, isolate him, hurt him psychologically. But now the big guy said it was time to hit Nightwing directly. Sonny and his boys had just the right amount of party favors to make the junior crime fighter's last night on earth go out with a bang.

"Brewer...you and your men better not fail. If you know what's good for you."

Sonny broke out in a sweat and swallowed suddenly. "Sure, boss. No sweat. One dead vigilante coming up."

****

Nightwing moved stealthily through the rail yards, a shadow among shadows. The report Capt. Amy Rohrbach had given said that there was a suspected gun smuggling ring operating out of here. Amy had agreed to give him two hours before she brought in the Bludhaven Police Department. So far...nothing. Just a lot of empty railcars. He spotted movement out of the corner of his eye.

Or not.

Crouching down, he ran in the direction of movement. As he ran, he adjusted his Starlite lenses. If there was someone skulking in the shadows, he'd spot their heat signature. About to round one of the railcars, Nightwing stopped dead in his tracks.

"Whoa..." he whispered. At the base of the railcar, tucked in snuggly between the tracks and wheels a blinking red light warned him of the danger that he'd just been suckered into. The red light was accompanied by a timer that was even now counting backwards...3...2...1...0...!

****

In the instant that the black night went white-hot all around him, Nightwing felt the concussive force of the explosion lift and knock him backwards. But even as he fell into a deeper, darker oblivion than he had previously known, Nightwing knew he wasn't dead.

I should be dead...why aren't I dead...?

****

"Target safe and secured," Argent reported. "I have him in a protective plasma shield. He's unconscious, but unharmed."

"Thank, X'Hal!" Starfire cried out in relief.

"Good work..." the Huntress muttered. "Oh, my aching back..."

"Huntress?" Flamebird called. "I didn't copy that! Huntress, are you all right?"

"Yeah, yeah," the Huntress replied tiredly. "The concussion from the explosion knocked the wind out of me. That's all. Look, just before the big bang, I spotted movement over by some of those warehouses. I'm going to check it out."

"I'm way ahead of you!" Starfire yelled. "If whoever did this to Di--to Nightwing is still in there, they'll answer to me!"

"You mean, they'll answer to *us*!" Grace and Indigo's voices chimed in simultaneously.

"Yes...! Us!" the Star-Spangled Kid added.

"Well, let's not sit around talking about it," Flamebird retorted. "Let's show these bad guys some *real* girl power!"

****

Against the combined might of the former Titans, current members of the Outsiders and Justice Society of America, and the newest Bird of Prey, Sonny Brewer and his men stood little chance. But the girls had to hand it to them. They did attempt to stand their ground and fight.

"Remember what Blockbuster said he'd do to us if we failed!" Sonny shouted out to his men, a pathetic battle cry.

"Perhaps you should worry about what *I* shall do to *you* once I get my hands on you!" Starfire warned.

"Oh, yeah?" Sonny taunted, brandishing his weapon. "You want some of this--?" Flamebird winced at Sonny's use of the 'b'-word, especially as she'd called Starfire that many times in her own mind. "Come and get it!"

Before the alien princess could do so, Flamebird fired off a grappling hook and swung rapidly towards the numbers runner. She released her safety line at the last minute, and tumbling gracefully in midair, kicked out and connected with his chin.

As Sonny went down, his men who'd been seemingly frozen in place sprang into action, each spraying the warehouse with a deadly hail of lead. Before long, the air was filled with the loud roar of automatic weapons fire; the whizzing sounds of flying batarangs; the pulsating bolts from Starfire; the Star-Spangled Kid's star staff, and Indigo; and the triumphant whoops of Grace as she knocked some heads together the old-fashioned way.

The whole battle probably took less than five minutes. In fact, it was over before Starfire got the 'mad' entirely out of her system, and she could only look around wildly, her green eyes blazing in fury, for something else to target with her starbolts.

The wail of distant sirens finally brought her back down to earth.

****

The Huntress aimed her crossbow directly between Blockbuster's eyes. Grace held him easily immobilized in a head lock, a rather unusual position for him to be in. He was more used to being the one who was doing the holding, not vice versa.

"What do you want?" Blockbuster demanded. "I'll sue! I'll see that you're each--!" Grace squeezed just a little, enough to choke him. "~GAK~!" After a moment Huntress nodded at her, and disappointed, Grace released him just enough to let him take in some air. Blockbuster gulped in huge amounts of air, but he didn't offer any more defiance.

"Much better," Grace murmured. "I think he's ready to listen."

"We're here on a mission of mercy," the Huntress said dryly. At Blockbuster's look of incomprehension, she gave him a chilling smile. For once, Blockbuster felt fear in the pit of his stomach. "We want you to know who you're up against when you go after Nightwing. Besides the obvious enemy you'll make of Batman and all his followers, myself included, you'll have several groups of meta-humans who'll be just a might testy with you should hurt Nightwing. Y'see...everyone's real fond of our boy. Isn't that so, ladies?" The other women nodded in agreement.

She paused for effect. A trickle of sweat began wending its way down Blockbuster's cheek as he watched her finger tighten on the trigger. "You'll have every member of the Titans to contend with, past--" She indicated Flamebird and Argent. "--and Present." She jutted her chin in Starfire's direction. "The Outsiders--" She indicated Grace and Indigo. "And, of course, the JLA and the JSA." She nodded at the Star-Spangled Kid.

"In other words, Mr. Desmond...if you mess with Nightwing in any way, you are messing with just about every single hero organization on this planet. Think you're up to the challenge?" She nodded at Grace to release him. "I'd give it some serious thought if I were you."

****

"How is he?" the Huntress' husky voice came over her headset.

"Still unconscious." Barbara watched him sleep. Why did her chest hurt so much just to look at him?

"Will he be all right?"

"Yes...the doctor's been here and gone. He just needs to rest."

"Good...Will *you* be all right?" the Huntress' usually brash tone had been replaced with one of compassion. Barbara's tears began to fall unchecked. She sat in silence, unable to speak. After a long moment, she knew that the Huntress had finally cut the comlink from her end.

Gazing upon his still, sleeping form, she finally answered, "I don't know."

****

The End