Disclaimer: I don't own Batman, just this story.
Chapter 2: Grounded
Gotham City, 2003
"Straighten those limbs! Straighten those limbs!" Barked the irate voice of one thirty-five year old Barbara Gordon. "Is there a fire in your muscles? You're not reaching your fullest potential if there is no fire in your legs! Come on Melendez! Work!" The poor teenager who was taking the heat from Barbara lost her grip on the uneven bar and fell to the blue mat. Ariana Melendez moved into a sitting position, keeping her head bowed, hiding the hot tears the pricked her eyes from her coach's ice blue gaze.
Barbara gripped the arms of her wheelchair, trying to keep her temper in check. She had already lost five students due to her notorious attitude and she wasn't about to lose another, no matter how awful their working relationship was. Heaving a sigh, Barbara blew a piece of scarlet hair out of her face and wheeled herself over to the crestfallen Ariana. "Get up Melendez," she called. "Restart the routine, that was a disaster." She started to wheel away when a quiet voice stopped her.
"No." Barbara turned back to the young gymnast. "Excuse me?" She asked incredulously. Ariana looked up at the older woman, the beginnings of a steady fire in her liquid brown eyes. "No. I will not start over. In fact, I'm leaving. I am sick and tired of you screaming at me all of the time. I work my ass off day in and day out on this routine and not once have you given me an ounce of respect!"
"I will give you respect when you have earned it," Barbara shot back. "And believe me, little girl, you haven't earned it. You will certainly not earn it if you keep talking back to me."
"Respect is a two-way street coach!" Ariana snapped before leaping to her feet and storming out of the arena.
Even though she was seething on the surface, Barbara inwardly sighed. "Damn, another student lost. There's no way I can pay rent this month." She raked her fingers through her shoulder-length red hair and gripped it as a wave of frustration washed over her. She forced herself to breathe deeply, pinching the bridge of her nose in an attempt to reign in her irritation.
Once her nerves were settled, Barbara wheeled herself into her office, the door automatically opening and closing behind her. She placed her elbows on her desk, resting her chin on her fingers, meditating on what to do. Her eyes fell on a picture frame. It was a school photograph of Pamela. Her smile was a carefree smirk while her twinkling emerald eyes radiated mischief and mirth.
Barbara smiled ruefully. Oh, Red, if only we hadn't been so careless. She could easily imagine Pamela scoffing and rolling her eyes at her.
"Ah, come on Red!" Pam would say. "How many times do I have to tell you to stop being such a Morning Glory? Do you really think I regret dying? That Pan kid is right. 'To die is an awfully big adventure.'"
Barbara chuckled, a rare thing for her to do anymore. She closed her eyes and yielded to the memories that started to flow around her.
"Barbara? Barbara can you hear me?"
Barbara groaned, wanting the unfamiliar voice to go away. She shifted and mumbled, "Just five more minutes Dad," her voice became slurred. "M'kay?"
"Barbara, honey, you're not at home, you're in the hospital." Barbara frowned as she focused on the voice of her father and compared it to the clipped and professional sounding voice that had spoken not too long ago. She then listened to her father's words. Hospital? She forced her eyes open and saw the blurred outlines of her dad and what appeared to be a doctor at his side. "Dad?" She asked groggily. "Why am I in the hospital? Wh…what happened?"
As her vision cleared, Barbara gasped. Her father's posture was hunched, his shoulders stooped. The lines in his face deepened, making him seem older, the gray in his hair much more apparent. Exhaustion hung off of his frame. To the hospitalized teenager, her father looked like he was a stranger. As he spoke, relief filtered through his voice, "Barb, I'm so glad you're awake." His throat became thick with emotion. "I'm so glad."
Confusion still plastered on her face, she managed a weak smile before turning to the doctor. She repeated her question. The doctor looked grim. "Well young lady, you were in a devastating car crash. The vehicle was totaled. You've been in a coma for three weeks."
Barbara looked horrified. She made to bolt upright, her instinct toward such a trauma. She found however that she couldn't. Feeling terror creep over her, Barbara focused on her body. Her head and torso ached, but her waist…..it was if she had become a pencil sketch and someone came along with a giant erased and rubbed away….
Eyes wild with fear, she looked at the doctor and whispered, "Why can't I feel my legs?"
The doctor became sympathetic. "There was severe damage done to your spinal cord when the paramedics and firemen pulled you out of the wreckage. I'm sorry to tell you this, but you're paralyzed from the waist down I'm afraid you won't be competing in the Olympics Miss Gordon."
Barbara's throat went dry. She wouldn't be able to compete let alone move? Well, walk, she supposed. She could barely fathom the harsh reality that was in front of her eyes when she croaked, "And what about Pam? Where is Pamela Isely's room located?"
This time it was her father who spoke, "Oh Barb, I'm so sorry."
Barbara went blank, retreating inside herself. Forget considering being paralyzed as harsh reality. She barely heard her father utter the words, "Pam is dead." She didn't want to hear them. She wanted to scream, cover her hands over her ears and thrash around like a child with a temper tantrum. She wanted to make the words dissolve, throw them away. Just keep those ugly, cruel words away from her. Pam and dead did not belong in the same sentence. Not now, it was just too soon. Barbara didn't react, instead she felt as if the atmosphere alone was pressing down on her, crushing her.
In the safety of her own mind Barbara let out a bloodcurdling scream.
Barbara opened her eyes. No longer was she the grieving eighteen year old apparition of the past but the guilt ridden, grieving, embittered thirty-five year old of the present. Sorry to be such a Morning Glory Pam, but I still think what happened was so stupid. I think this because I miss you.
Raising her gaze to the ceiling she thought, I guess somehow I'm channeling a bit of your behavior. Only, instead of being angry over the jeopardizing of the planet's flora, I'm angry over kids who can't tell the difference between dismount and tumble. I guess I should give up trying to live vicariously through my students since my temper isn't helping at all.
Gathering her coat and purse, Barbara wheeled herself out of the office and gymnasium and into the parking lot. Surprisingly, she glided through traffic and found herself home a lot sooner than predicted.
"Hey Barb," Jim Gordon, retired commissioner greeted his daughter when he heard the apartment door swing open.
"You sound tired," Jim speculated. "Kids giving you a hard time?"
"One of them just quit on me." Barbara rubbed her hands over her face.
"You lost another student? C'mon Barbara, you know you need to ease up on those kids."
"I know, I know," Barbara sighed. "You and Zee keep telling me the same thing."
"Well, Doctor Zatara does make a good point."
Barbara nodded. "Once again I'm sorry. Maybe I'll take up that anger management course like Zee suggested." As she began to roll towards the kitchen to start dinner, there was a knock at the door.
"Stay where you are Dad, I'll get it."
She opened the door a crack to see her visitor, when she saw who it was, surprise colored her face and voice.
Wow, I haven't updated this in a while. Sorry, school and lack of inspiration are annoying obstacles. Yes, I used Zatanna as Barbara's therapist. I was going to use Raven but I don't want this story to be too laden with Titans so I think I'll just stick with using Richard and Kori. Read and Review please!