AUTHOR: Gaeriel Mallory
DISCLAIMER: All characters are the property of DC Comices, Warner Brothers, and their individual creators. I own nothing and am receiving no profit from this story.
NOTES: Sequel to 'Journey's End', which I had not planned a sequel for but then this came to me. It can be read without reading the first one, though.
I drove over to Barbara's place wondering what the occasion was. She had called me early this morning--well, early for her anyway--asking me to come over for dinner because she had something she wanted to tell me. Maybe she and that Grayson kid were finally going to get married? I smiled at the thought. I remembered when the two were kids and the little squirt had the biggest crush on my Barbara. Yeah, it would be nice if they were finally making it all formal.
I parked my old battered car in the parking garage and rode the elevator to the top floor. I smiled into the camera over her door as I rang her doorbell. I never quite understood her need for all the security but it does make me feel better that she's safe. Well, safer. No Gordon in Gotham City will ever truly be safe, thanks to me being the old commissioner.
She opened the door and grinned up at me from her wheelchair. "Dad! Hi! Come in," she gestured me in and rolled back into the kitchen. "I'll just be a minute. This lasagna's taking longer to cook than I thought it would."
"That's fine," I replied. "Take your time." I sniffed the air appreciatively and heard my stomach grumble in response to the smells wafting from the kitchen. Wherever Barbara got her cooking skills from, it sure wasn't me. I might have to ask her for the recipe and try it out one night. God knows I have the time now. I thought about it for a second before deciding against it. Knowing my luck, I'd manage to set off the fire alarm and the entire station would be pounding at my door to make sure I wasn't dead from smoke inhalation.
She came back into the living carrying a tray of iced tea in her lap. "It'll be another fifteen minutes," she told me as she set the tray onto the coffee table. She poured me a glass of tea from the pitcher and handed it to me.
"Perfection can't be rushed," I told her before I took a sipped of the cool liquid. I sighed as it slid down my throat. Even though it was early spring, the weather had gotten warmer than what I would normally find comfortable and my old wreck of a car didn't have air conditioning. I set the glass down on the table, careful to use a coaster. "So since we have the time, what was it you wanted to tell me?"
Barbara froze for a split second and I wouldn't have noticed it except that I had been watching her. She seemed nervous. I started to chuckle a bit. "It can't be that bad, can it? If you can't tell your old man, who can you tell?"
She started to open her mouth when a loud beeping filled the room. I looked around. "Is that the lasagna already?"
She was already wheeling away from the coffee table, "No," she told me over her shoulder. "It was actually what I was going to tell you." She disappeared into the hallway muttering, "I told them no emergencies today!" I shook my head, debating whether to follow or not.
"Well? Are you coming or not?"
I guess that decided that. I walked past her bedroom and into a large room that had not been there before. Studying the door, I saw that it was designed to blend into the wall, making the hallway look like a dead-end. More computers than anyone person could ever need lined one side of the room. The yellow glow of the clocktower face overlooked us. Barbara had already reached the computer desk and had a headset on. "Oracle here. What's the situation?"
"One of yours," a male voice said through the speakers. "The plant lady."
"Poison Ivy?" Barbara asked.
"That's the one. She attacked a meeting of the American Beef Association because cattle ranching is destroying the rainforest. She's covered the entire hotel with a barricade of plants."
"What's the problem?"
I was getting a sinking feeling in my stomach. I leaned against the doorframe weakly.
"The leaves are covered in kryptonite."
"That's a new one. Give me a second." She typed on her keyboard and another computer screen blinked on, displaying a map of the world. She studied it for a second before hitting another button.
"Lantern here. What's up?" another voice said.
"Can you get to Metropolis? Superman's in a situation."
"On it. Just give me a few seconds to make the excuses to the boss."
Barbara hit another key. "Superman? Green Lantern's on his way. He should be there within ten minutes."
"No Batman?" the voice sounded puzzled.
"In France for the week. Business meeting. Speaking of, why aren't you in Kansas? I thought you were visiting the folks for your mother's birthday."
"There was a change of plans. Ma and Pa decided to come here for once. We're going out for dinner tonight. Or at least, that was the plan."
"Well wish your mother a happy birthday for me. And tell her thanks for that recipe for rhubarb pie."
"Will do." There was a pause in the conversation. "Here comes Kyle now. He should be able to bushwhack through the vines with no problem."
"All right. I'll keep an ear out in case you need me."
"I'll holler, Oracle. Superman out."
Barbara sighed and slumped in her chair. She pulled the headset off and it dangled weakly from her fingers. I somehow managed to force my legs to move and I walked towards her. "So," I said hesitantly.
"So," she answered back.
I laughed shortly. "And here I was thinking that you were going to tell me Dick Grayson had finally asked you to marry him." I laughed again and shook my head. "I wish. Might have been better on my heart."
Barbara smiled shakily at me. "Well, now you know. I was hoping that I would have been actually able to tell you rather than this but," she shrugged, "at least it's out now." She placed her headset on the desk and looked at me. "Does it bother you?"
I looked her in the eye. "It'll take awhile to get used to. I had thought you had given it all up."
She didn't even flinch. Good girl. Never let them see you sweat. Rule number one. "I learned you can never totally give it up. And this," she waved at the computers, "is what I am. Someone told me last night that I should tell you. That it was past time to tell you." She looked at me with her intense green eyes, waiting for my reaction.
I sighed and closed my eyes. It was horrible of me, I know, but I had been so relieved after the Joker attacked. I'm horrible person. I hated that madman and would have spared my daughter all that pain if I could have but... Part of me was so happy to know she would not be going out night after night again to risk her life.
I never told her that I knew about her nightlife. I probably should have but then I would have been obligated to arrest her for vigilantism. And deep down, I realized that all the good that she did as Batgirl far outweighed all the gray hairs I got worrying about her.
I suppose it's the same thing here, only on a larger scale. It wasn't just Gotham City anymore but the world. I had heard about the Oracle, master hacker wanted by the FBI, CIA, NSA, and probably a whole bunch more that I don't know about. Probably don't want to know about.
Oracle. My daughter. "I guess," I told her, "I can deal with it. Just...give an old man a warning next time you're going to spring some big news one me."
She smiled brilliantly at me and I leaned down and hugged her. "I love you, Daddy," she whispered.
"Love you too, Barb." I kissed her hair and backed away slightly. I gently grasped her chin with my hand. "I'm proud of you, princess," I told her, calling her an old pet name I haven't used since she had grown taller than my waist. "No matter what you do, I'll always be proud."
We hugged again. I sniffed the air. "Do you smell something burning?"
She let go of me. "My lasagna!" she shrieked as she sped out of the room. I chuckled. Some things will never change.
Later, after a dinner that was only slightly extra-crispy, the two of us sat comfortably on the couch. Barbara looked over at me. "You sure you're okay with everything?"
"It's just going to take a while to adjust my view of you. When I was watching you grow up, I never would have imagined you sharing recipes with Superman's mother."
She laughed. "It's more a one way thing. That lasagna tonight was hers."
"Really? Think I could get myself invited to Thanksgiving dinner?" I asked jokingly.
"I'll see what I can do." She smiled impishly at me and we shared another companionable silence as we sipped at our iced tea. After about five minutes, she looked over her shoulder. "You can come in, you know. Or do you plan on standing out there all night?"
A black and blue figure slipped in through the window. He shifted nervously from foot to foot as he glanced at me and then back to Barbara. "Are you insane?" he asked her.
"He knows. I told him tonight." She smiled gently at him and patted the couch space next to her.
He ignored the invitation though I saw the muscles in his body relax. "You couldn't have warned us a little before you go springing our secrets on people?" I hid my grin at the hint of a whine in his voice. He smiled back at Barbara to show he was only joking. He better be joking. I may be retired but I still carry around my gun.
"Relax, Shortpants. I didn't tell him about you. Only about me and where I get my cooking recipes from."
"Ah." Nightwing again stood awkwardly in the middle of the room.
I finally took pity on him when it didn't seem like Barbara was going to. "Was there something you wanted, son?"
"Uh, not really. I sometimes just drop by and visit sometimes."
That was interesting. "You don't say. Isn't this a little out of your way?"
He looked embarrassed. I sneaked a glance over at my daughter and was amused to see a little pink on her cheeks as well. Huh. Very interesting. I filed this little tidbit away in the back of my head where I keep all the information about the masked crimefighters. "Say," I said casually looking at my daughter. "I thought you were seeing that Grayson kid."
Both froze. I stared innocently at the two of them for a long second before chuckling under my breath. "Just because I'm getting on in years doesn't mean I'm getting senile." I wagged a figure at Nightwing. "You treat my daughter right or I'll sic the entire police force on you. I still have some pull in this town."
Barbara smiled sheepishly. "You're taking all this a lot better than I thought you would," she remarked.
"I'll have my mental breakdown later when I'm alone." The corners of my lips turned up slightly. "Though after spending so many years around the costumed-types, there's a lot you learn about them and about yourself as well." I glanced at Grayson, who had removed his mask after my letting him know that I knew. "I had you and Bruce pegged for years now. It took me awhile to figure it out, though, if it's any consolation."
A gloved hand ran through black hair. "It is," he admitted ruefully. "If there was anyone to find out, I would rather it be you. Bruce and I trust you to keep our secrets."
I nodded, aware of just how much was said in that last sentence. Batman was not one to give his trust lightly and I was probably one of a handful of people he called a friend. The fact that he trusted me-- That in and of itself spoke of how high a regard he, both as Bruce Wayne and as Batman, held me in.
Beeps sounded throughout the apartment again and Barbara resolutely moved from the couch back into her wheelchair. Flashing an apologetic smile to both me and Grayson, she wheeled herself into her operations room.
"So how often does this happen?" I asked him softly. "Her having to deal with emergencies."
He sighed. "Too often. She really is a large part of the glue that holds the superhero community together. I don't know how we managed before she became Oracle. She's a priceless member of the JLA and she's helped all the other various groups out at one point or another." He looked over at me. "You're really okay with it?"
I shrugged. "I prefer her being behind some computer than out on the street facing danger every night. At least here, she has some protection and is out of the frontlines."
"It's true that she isn't out there night after night. But because of her association with us, the people who do come looking for her are that much more dangerous." He then proceeded to rattle of a list of names that had my eyebrows trying to meet my hairline. "But she has some very powerful allies to help protect her if she needs it. And she can hold her on very well without help from anyone." He looked at me soberly. "I won't tell you not to worry because that's just stupid. You'd worry about her whether or not she was hanging out with the superhero-types. But give her some credit. She's been doing this for years, ever since the Joker."
"Dick!" Barbara's voice called out. "Robin needs backup in the diamond district."
He slapped his mask back onto his face and stood up. "On it," he yelled back as he headed for the window. He nodded farewell to me as he slipped outside and jumped. I faintly heard the familiar sound of the grapple-gun firing and he swung away.
After Grayson left, I stood up and began cleaning up the iced tea glasses, moving them to the kitchen to be washed later. I then wandered down the hallway and stood in the doorframe, watching with no little pride as my daughter competently handled the current crisis, careful not to distract her. Finally, she took the headset off and sat back with a tired sigh. I walked over to her and kissed her temple, rubbing her shoulder gently. "I think I'm going to head home," I told her. "You take care of yourself, okay?"
She smiled at me and kissed my cheek in return. "I always do." She accompanied me to the front door. "Night, Dad."
"Good night, Oracle." I winked at her and headed out of the apartment.