AUTHOR: Gaeriel Mallory
DISCLAIMER: Barbara Gordon is the property of DC Comics. I just borrowed her to give her the swift kick to the head that she needed.
NOTE: My muse planted this story into my head and wouldn't leave me alone until I wrote it. I can't say that I'm terribly upset... I'm very pleased with how this turned out considering that I really had no clue where the story would go when I started it. Comments would be greatly appreciated.
Barbara Gordon woke to the sound of waves breaking against sand. She groaned and opened her eyes. Blinking, she held up a hand in front of her face to shield against the bright sun.
"Where am I?" she wondered out loud. The last thing she remembered was going to bed after having a conversation with Kyle Rayner over the JLA communications system about baseball. Now, she woke up lying on a beach that seemed out of some Hollywood movie.
"You're awake," a feminine voice said behind her.
Barbara was startled. She heard soft footsteps and a woman came into her view. She was tall with black hair piled on top of her head and dressed in a toga. "Who are you?"
The woman chuckled. "To know your name is to know mine," she answered cryptically. Holding out a hand, she smiled gently. "Come, walk with me."
Barbara shook her head. "I'm sorry, but I can't--" She waved helplessly towards her legs.
"There is nothing keeping you but yourself. If you will it, it will be." Her hand was still outstretched and she stood there, looking expectantly down at Barbara.
"You don't understand!" Barbara said defensively. "My legs--"
"Work fine." Brown eyes looked down at her. "Or are you too blind to see?"
Barbara looked down at her legs and realized for the first time that she could feel the sand under them and the warm heat from the sun through her jeans. Wordlessly, she grasped the other woman's hand and pulled herself up until she was standing. "But how?" she whispered.
"This is a place of no limitations--save for those you place upon yourself." The woman started walking down the beach, toward a mountain in the distance.
Barbara brushed loose sand off of herself and paused as she saw the ground. The sand was unbroken except for where she had woken up. She looked towards the other woman and saw the footprints that she had left behind. How...? Where did she come from? Barbara shook her head and hurried to catch up.
Muscles long unused sang with the joy of moving again. Has it really been that long? "Wait!" she cried out after the strange woman. "Where are we going?"
The woman paused and looked back. "Home," she replied.
"But where are we?" Barbara looked around at the virgin beach and the mountain that was in the distance.
"Nowhere. Everywhere." The woman waved her hand across the landscape. "This is what you make of it. Is it illusion? Reality?" She looked at Barbara. "Does anyone ever truly know?"
"You're talking in riddles."
"Maybe. Or maybe you just cannot grasp the answers." The woman bent down and scooped up a handful of sand. "It's all in perception. To you, this is worthless, insignificant. But think how many centuries it took for each individual grain to become this way. Chipped off a larger rock, tumbled to and fro among the waves for who knows how long until it ends up here, on this beach."
"I don't understand." Barbara was beginning to feel frustrated.
"It is not so much the destination, but it is the journey." The woman cast the sand back onto the beach and moved on. "Don't you agree?" she asked.
"I don't know. There's a lot to be sad for the end product."
"The end is in the eye of the beholder, whether it is good or bad."
Barbara sighed. "Maybe I'm just being dense here, but I'm not quite sure what you're trying to say."
"An artist may slave away at a sculpture for years and when he finally has it perfect, he unveils it to the world. If one person looks at it and scoffs, saying that it is trash, does that make the artist's hard work that much less?"
"Of course not!"
The woman nodded.
The two walked in silence for a bit. Barbara pondered what the woman had said. What is she trying to tell me? Argh! It's worse then the Riddler's clues! She then turned to her strange appearance in this land, wherever it was, and the fact that she was able to use her legs. Remembering what it was like to be bound in a wheelchair, she faltered, feeling her legs give out under her.
She cried out as she fell to the sand. The woman stopped walking and looked down at her sadly. "You still do not see," she remarked.
Barbara pounded her fist into the sand and felt tears sting her eyes. "Why?" she cried out.
"Because you will it to be," was the simple answer. "Did I not tell you that you are only limited by those restraints you put upon yourself?"
Barbara gritted her teeth and used her arms to lever herself into a sitting position. I will stand! she declared to herself. She swung one leg underneath her and then the other. Slowly, she rose until she was standing fully upright.
The woman nodded. "Good," she said before continuing down the beach.
"Why did I fall?" Barbara asked.
"You fell because you believed you would. You are only as strong as you would have yourself be."
"But you don't understand. In the real world, not wherever this is, I can't walk. I can't just will myself to stand again because some laughing bastard put a bullet through my spine!"
"There are more types of strength than just the physical. You of all people should know that."
Barbara reached forward and grabbed the woman's shoulders. "Wait one minute here. Now I'm not walking one step further until you tell me just who you are." She glared at the woman.
"Does it matter who I am? The real question is who you are."
"I know who the hell I am!"
The woman tilted her head and studied Barbara. "Do you really?" She shook her head. "No, I do not think so." She then shrugged out from under Barbara's hand and started walking again.
"What do you mean I don't know who I am?" Barbara yelled after her. "I know exactly who I am! I'm Barbara Gordon. My father is Jim Gordon. I live in the Clocktower in Gotham City."
The woman paused and looked back. "That is how other people know you. How do you know yourself?" she asked before turning around again.
"Damn you," Barbara whispered before running to catch up with her.
"There is a lot more to what defines a person than our physical relationships to others," the woman remarked once Barbara, a little out of breath, had rejoined her. "The largest part is how we define ourselves." She looked pointedly at Barbara's functioning legs.
"I don't think of myself as a cripple!" Barbara said defensively.
"Don't you?" was the innocent question. "Then why do you hide behind that wheelchair of yours?"
The woman did not respond but kept her eyes focused in front of her.
"I don't, I tell you."
"If you wish to believe that, then there is nothing I can do to make you believe otherwise."
Barbara walked beside her for a long while, deep in thought. "Fine," she stated finally. "How do I delude myself?"
"Why is it that your father, the most important person in your life, is not privy to the most important aspect of it?" the woman asked.
Barbara gritted her teeth. She was getting tired of her questions being answered with another question. "Because if he knew, then he would be in danger."
"Would he be?"
"He wasn't in danger everyday of his life when he was a police officer?"
"Is it really?"
"What does this have to do with anything?" Barbara demanded. "I'm tired of being talked to in riddles. Answer me straight!"
The woman looked Barbara in the eye. "You will find that in life, there rarely are questions that can be answered straightforwardly. It is a complex web."
Barbara seethed. "You know what? I don't care. I'm leaving. I don't have to take this." She stomped back the way she had come.
"Typical," she heard behind her.
She whirled around, her hands in fists. "And just what do you mean by that?"
The woman stared calmly at her. "You are always running away from the difficult issues. They are hard to unravel, yes, but in the end, you might find that it was worth it."
"What if I don't want to?"
"Then you have already lost."
The two woman stood there looking at each other for a long moment. Barbara sighed and shoved her hands into her pockets. "Maybe it's easier to lose then to bear trying," she remarked.
"But if you never try, then you would have never lived." The woman resumed her trek. She walked a few steps before looking over her shoulder. "Are you coming?" she asked.
Barbara nodded. "I suppose so. Though I don't know what's the point. That mountain doesn't seem to be getting any closer."
"Ah, but it's the journey, not the destination, remember?"
Barbara shook her head in confusion.
"Don't worry," the woman remarked. "You'll get it eventually."
Barbara sighed and continued walking. "What if the destination is someplace that you really did not want to reach in the first place?" she asked suddenly. "What if you get there and you find out the entire journey was a waste of time?"
"Then you shrug and you go on. The destination may have been useless but what you did to get there is always useful if only so you know that you would never want to do that again."
"But if you know that in the beginning that you wouldn't like the end, why go?"
"Do you truly ever know anything about the future? Can you possibly? The future by its very definition is mutable." The woman glanced sideways at Barbara. "Can you say with utter certainty that what you think will happen will in fact happen?"
"You're talking in riddles again."
The woman smiled. "In your relationships with those around you, just because you believe that someone will behave a certain way does not mean they will."
"Okay, I'll give you that." Barbara admitted.
"Why do you not admit to your feelings towards Dick Grayson?"
Barbara turned bright red. "I don't see what that has to do with anything," she muttered. "And it's not any of your business."
"Do you think that he will refuse you?" When Barbara did not answer, she continued. "Or are you afraid that maybe that he won't?"
"He doesn't deserve to be shackled to a cripple!" Barbara exclaimed harshly.
"It is about perceptions." The woman stared out at the water without saying anything after that statement.
Barbara pursed her lips and her hands returned to her pockets. The two walked in silence as Barbara's brain worked furiously. How dare she! She has no idea what I'm going through! I do not delude myself at all. I know damn well who I am and where I stand with everyone. An insistent little voice kept poking at her though. What if she's right? the voice whispered. What if...?
"All right," Barbara finally said. "Assuming that Dick even wants to be with me, why should I do anything at all?"
"Do you like where you are now?"
"Not really," she admitted before realization hit her. "Oh. It's about the journey again, isn't it?"
The woman's lips curled up. "You're finally getting it."
"It could blow up in my face, you know," Barbara remarked cynically. "We could just ruin our friendship."
"Do you know that?" the woman asked.
"Well, no." Barbara fidgeted a bit before sighing. "I suppose I could try, at least."
The woman's lips spread into a full smile. "And your father?" she prompted.
"I guess I could confide in him a little more. And maybe let the other people I know into my life more..." Barbara said slowly.
The woman stopped walking suddenly. "Oh look. We're here."
Barbara looked up and staggered back a step in amazement. "How...?" Right in front of her face was the entrance to a cave. Two pillars stood to either side, engraved with a language Barbara identified as Greek. She stared upward and the mountain that had been so far away now towered over her.
The woman looked at Barbara in amusement. "It's all in the journey," she replied.
Two figures ran out of the cave. They were women, both younger than Barbara and dressed similarly to how Barbara's companion was. "Sybil!" one exclaimed. "You've returned!"
The woman, Sybil, nodded. "Yes."
"Was your trip fruitful?" the other inquired.
Sybil looked at Barbara and nodded again. "Yes, I'd say that it was very fruitful." She turned towards Barbara and held out her hand. "It was nice journeying with you."
Barbara clasped it. "Thank you," she said simply.
"You're welcome." Sybil then moved towards the cave entrance. "I must be going now, and so must you. An Oracle's work is never done, as you well know." She winked at Barbara before disappearing inside.
Barbara stood there blinking in confusion. Suddenly, a harsh beeping reached her and she winced, covering her ears. The surrounding landscape blurred together and the colors swirled together faster and faster until--
Barbara opened her eyes and groaned. She groped blindly for her glasses on her nightstand as she blinked the sleep out of her eyes. Maneuvering into her wheelchair, she wheeled herself into her work room. She hit the Enter key on the keyboard, causing the screensaver to go away.
"Hey, gorgeous!" Dick's grinning face looked out at her from the screen. Taking in her tousled hair and bleary eyes he frowned. "I didn't wake you, did I?"
Barbara waved her hand to the side. "Don't worry about it, Grayson. What do you want?"
Dick studied her face. "If you say so." He waved something at the camera. "So guess who won the Wayne Foundation raffle for two tickets to see the Gotham Orchestra this Thursday?"
Barbara smiled and leaned back in her chair. "Congratulations, Shortpants."
"Anyway, I was wondering if you would like to go with me? Seeing as how there are two tickets. And there's only one of me." Dick grinned hopefully at her.
She opened her mouth to say no when she thought back to her dream--was it a dream? "Sure," she heard herself saying.
Dick's jaw dropped. "What did you say?"
"I would love to do, Dick. And maybe we could go out to dinner beforehand."
Barbara watched as a massive grin spread across his handsome face. "That's great, Babs," he exclaimed. "I'll pick you up at six then?"
"It's a date," she said. She chuckled a bit as his grin got even bigger. After exchanging a few more pleasantries, she signed off and stretched. She glanced at the clock and made a decision. It was late enough in the morning that her father should be up. She picked up the phone and dialed a number. When the other person picked up, she smiled. "Hey, Dad. It's me. I was wondering if you wanted to come over for dinner tonight. There's something I want to tell you."