The penultimate chapter! I've got one more chapter with an epilogue planned, and then that's it for our dynamite duo! ... At least when it comes to this fic - I've got another DickBabs fic in the works, a regency romance called "On the Reciprocal Attraction of Heavenly Bodies" - so if you're a fan of Jane Austen's works like me, you might wanna check it out ;)
Barbara let herself into Dick's apartment, precariously balancing a brown paper bag in the crook of her arm while she removed the key from the stubborn lock.
Dick looked up from his spot on the sofa.
"What d'ya got there?" he said curiously, motioning at the bag. "From Amy?"
Barbara grinned and shook her head. True, she had just come from another meeting of the Circle, while Dick had only returned today from another visit home, but the contents of the bag were completely unrelated to their secret schemes.
"Actually, this comes courtesy of your landlady."
Dick stared at her, puzzled: "Clancy?"
"That's the one," Barbara nodded, while slipping out of her boots and shoving them next to the shoe rack with her feet.
"I just ran into her in the hallway," she continued, letting her messenger bag slip unceremoniously to the ground, "I think she hoped to catch you alone and give 'em to you personally, but as I was literally just in the process of fiddling with the lock to your apartment door, she just handed them to me in the hope that we "might enjoy them"," Barbara unfurled the top of the bag so Dick could take a look at their "mystery":
"Muffins," he said, blankly.
"Muffins," Barbara repeated, amused by his reaction, "Cranberry muffins, to be exact."
Dick pulled a face: "No, thanks, I'll pass."
Barbara laughed, knowing full well of Dick's disdain for cranberries in baked goods. "More for me."
She set the bag of muffins on the couch table and finally shrugged off her jacket, draping it over the backrest of the sofa and joined Dick on the couch.
"A very attentive landlady, I must say," Barbara said slyly, while fishing a muffin out of the bag, "mine can't even be bothered to fix the stair railings."
"I mean, Clancy and I, we're sorta friends," Dick spluttered awkwardly, "so.."
Barbara grinned, mouth full with muffin.
"I'm just teasing," she managed out carefully, then, after gulping down the bite: "Besides, I'm not one to complain - I get free pastries out of this."
This time, Dick matched her grin, before taking on a more serious expression and returning to the topic of his initial inquiry.
"So, about the meeting - how's it look?"
Barbara gave a non-committal half-shrug:
"Well, Amy seems to think that we have a pretty solid case here, but the D.A. is still a bit hesitant - he thinks it would be better if we had something more… substantial regarding the mayor's office. I think he wants to make sure that there won't be any interference from Mayor Ayers and his cronies - it would help if we had enough evidence to bring them down along with Redhorn and company."
Dick let out a deep grumble. Despite the growing amount of collected evidence, they still couldn't make the final move - this whole ordeal was getting beyond frustrating by now.
"I know," Barbara sighed, sharing her partner's feelings on the matter.
"I wish we had someone from city hall on our side… But if there happened to be one honest soul in there, they've managed to conceal themselves too well… or they're not in a position to be of much use for our purposes."
Disheartened, Barbara set down her empty muffin wrapper on the couch table. She eyed the nearby paper bag with scrutiny, paused, then grabbed another cranberry muffin and started to carefully peel off its wrapper.
"But hey, at least I've got some good news," Barbara said, glad she had at least something positive to share.
"I got a message from my contact at the bureau: Mary and Alex have been successfully moved to a safe location," Barbara told Dick.
"I have also received a "thank you" text from a certain burner phone," she added with a meaningful look, before taking a bite out of her muffin.
"Well, at least something has worked out as planned."
"Yeah," Barbara agreed, "if only one of those crooks in city hall had a disgruntled family member who's just waiting to find someone to spill their beans to… 'Course we couldn't be that lucky."
Dick let out a chuckle.
"Yeah, while the people on top generally tend to be surrounded by people with grudges of some kind, I don't think that banking on someone being willing to actually throw them under the bus is the way to go…"
Here, Dick trailed off thoughtfully, calling Barbara's attention away from her pastry.
"Hey, wait, I've got an idea..." he said slowly, "maybe I could ask Bruce whether he's got anything that could help us out."
Barbara raised an eyebrow, "Bruce?"
Dick gave a shrug, a sheepish expression on his face: "Even as a Wayne, you don't just get to do this amount of charity projects unopposed, when people could make a profit from whatever societal problem it tackles instead-," he pulled a face, clearly disgusted by the selfishness of it all.
"If you don't have some sort of leverage against the corrupt people in power, you'll get 'outbid' or overlooked real quick, no matter how much money and reputation you've got to your name. After five Wayne Foundation projects in a row had been nipped in the bud, Bruce pretty quickly figured out that having your ear to the ground and keeping track of the whispers of wrongdoings of some influential people can go a long way if you want to get something done in Gotham."
Barbara's arched eyebrow went up even higher.
"I mean, Bruce would never keep a serious crime under wraps to use it to his advantage!" Dick added hastily, suddenly becoming aware of how shady the whole ordeal sounded.
"He would just use stuff that was more of an embarrassing secret… if he ever got wind of any serious crimes, he would make sure the police knew…"
Barbara watched Dick squirm for a moment, before she could no longer hide her grin.
"I know that, you doofus."
Dick stopped his wild gesticulations and stared at her: "You do?"
"Commissioner's daughter, remember? All these 'anonymous' tips implicating important higher-ups only so many people actually would have access to? Don't you think my dad put two and two together and figured out who was behind those?"
"Huh," Dick replied blankly, clearly taken aback, "and Bruce always thought he was being soo sneaky…"
"I mean, I'm sure he was able to keep this a secret from most people, and rightly so (I don't think most people in the upper crust take kindly to what he's doing, even though it's the right thing to do), but I can assure you that my dad knows - he's just keeping this particular detail to himself."
"Good to know… Well, anyway, what I mean is that Bruce has to mingle with a lot of other influential people all the time, and sometimes, this crème de la crème of society is not exclusively based in Gotham, y'know? As sister cities, there are still connections between Gotham and Blüdhaven, even if there are now fewer ties between them than there used to be… I haven't told Bruce what we've been doing - with the Circle, I mean; but I'm sure he'd be happy to help us if he can… It'd be worth a try, don't you think?"
Barbara pondered Dick's proposal.
"Sure, let's give it a try."
A couple of phone calls on their and Bruce's end and a trip to Gotham later, Dick and Barbara held in their hands the last piece to the puzzle they had been working on for months. As it turned out, Bruce had had his fair share of run-ins with people from Blüdhaven and their rumor mill and proved to be remarkably skillful at extracting relevant intel from his "informants". When they finally handed Bruce's impeccable file over to Mateo Flores (under Amy's watchful eye), Barbara felt herself buzzing with excitement.
The DA scanned the content of the manila folder with a critical eye for what felt like hours to Barbara. When the lawyer finally looked up, his face split into a triumphant grin: "We've got them."
Nightwing #11: In this issue, Clancy knocks on Dick's door to offer him some cranberry muffins. Dick accepts politely, but his internal monologue makes it clear that he thinks cranberry muffins are gross
Nightwing#75: Bruce gives Dick incriminating info on Mayor Ayers (in the Batcave, so I had to tweak that moment a little)