After reading The Killing Joke, my first thought was of Nightwing. What would he have done to the Joker if he found out what had been done to Barbara? I'm morbidly fascinated by the psychology of revenge and I love Dick Grayson to death, so this just kind of happened.

**Oh, and for any DC newbies, the Killing Joke is one of the most famous graphic novels in the Batman-verse. Basically (very basically) the Joker tries to prove he can turn any normal man insane simply by giving him "one bad day," and he makes Gordon his experiment. To make Gordon's ultimate bad day complete, the Joker shoots Barbara Gordon (Batgirl) through the spine, resulting in paralysis, and then emotionally traumatizes her. Google "The Killing Joke," to read more. There's a good page about it on Wikipedia.

I'm aware that I'm mixing the comic world with the New Adventures animated series, but otherwise this story is pretty well researched. Be that as it may, I anticipate certain errors in timeline continuity, etc. There's just so much to keep up with in the DC-verse! So don't hesitate to point out mistakes. I'll fix em (if it doesn't interfere with my plot, if it does, ya'll will just have to deal) and give you credit.

Hope this one turn out well - let me know (r/r)!!

As Barbara awoke in the darkness, she didn't feel the immediate inclination to open her eyes.

She needed a minute or two.

The feeling Barbara was experiencing was that of disorientation, and it wasn't scary or unfamiliar, by itself. It was the common feeling of awakening and knowing something major had happened, but not knowing what it was. Knowing that she ought to know where she was, but she didn't.

It was the sick sensation that went along with it that made her want to push away the realizations and keep her eyes closed forever. The idea that when she remembered what had gone on and left her so sleepy and confused, she would wish that she had stayed asleep forever instead.

But a sharp pain below her waist caused everything to start flooding back.

A doorbell ringing, the sound of laughter.

The sound of a gun, the feeling of a hot, all-consuming pain.

The flash of a camera.

Demanding what she had done wrong, why it had to be her lying on the ground feeling so numb.

An accumulation of tears forced Barbara to open her eyes whether she wanted to or not, and the blurry outline of a sparsely-furnished hospital room materialized. She coughed once or twice and tried to focus.

"Barbara! Honey – can you hear me?"

The anxious voice above her was wonderfully familiar, but the compassion and pity it held made her want to cry all the harder.

It was Dick.

Of all people to see her like this.

"Barbara, if you can, I need you to talk to me," the voice repeated, growing more anxious.

Summoning up the strength to control her sobs, Barbara nodded.

"I'm here, Dick. I hear you."

"Oh, thank God!"

Barbara felt the sensation of cool hands closing around hers, and managed to finally clear her eyes enough to see the young man standing over her. His long black hair was pulled back into a messy ponytail, and dark circles surrounded his eyes like he hadn't slept for days. He also looked due for a shave.

"I feel like I should get Bruce…" Dick started, biting his lip.

"Not now. I just woke up, give me a second," Barbara said, freeing her hands and wiping away a few tears.

"But Bruce told me-"

"Not yet," Barbara repeated. "I don't need him here."

Dick sat down again, but not back in his chair. Instead, with the carefulness he would have given a porcelain doll, he sat down on the end of Barbara's hospital bed. It was all he could do not to start crying, too, but he knew that would make everything worse. Instead he focused on her face, which was as perfect as ever despite her uncharacteristically messy red hair and make-up-free face. There was some bad bruising on her neck and arms.

"Don't look at me that way!" Barbara exclaimed, bursting into tears again. Ashamed, Dick stared at the ground. Barbara continued to cry, and the feeling of depression and helpless that had settled so heavily in Dick's chest began to burn worse than ever.

"I'm sorry for staring. It's not that you look bad, I promise. I just wanted to do something to keep myself from falling apart," Dick confessed, more honestly than was his habit. "I really want to hold you, more than anything, but they told me not to pick you up."

"I know," Barbara said through her tears. "I'm sorry for getting mad at you. It's just… I don't know what to do, either."

Dick took one of Barbara's hands again, entwining his fingers with hers. She held on tightly.

"Tell me, is my father okay?"

Dick took a second to word his answer the right way. How could anyone be okay after watching his own daughter go through what Barbara had?

"They had him checked in here at the hospital right after we found everyone, but the tests showed that he's not hurt physically. He's still thinking straight, too, which makes him a far stronger man that I could be in his place."

"It's good to hear that he's alright," Barbara whispered, her throat scratchy from crying. "What about the others?"

"They're fine, Barbara," Dick sighed. "Everybody's really shaken up, of course, but they're safe. Can't we focus on you, just for once?"

"You're not going to let me peacefully live in denial, are you?" Barbara demanded sadly, though Dick could tell she was trying to make him laugh. That was definitely not going to happen. Instead, he shook his head sadly.

"Nope. Not my style. But Barbara… how are you doing? You can be honest with me. You know that."

The Batgirl's expression was vague as she gazed out the window into the gray Gotham sky.

"I'm fine, right now. But it feels unnatural. They have me drugged, don't they?"

Dick paused again, but he knew it wouldn't be any good to lie.

"Yeah. You're coming off some pretty heavy sedatives."

"No wonder. I'll probably be a mess in a few hours when I start recalling specifics. You might want to clear out before I become a total basketcase."

"I'm staying around," Dick replied staunchly. Barbara shrugged.

"Figures. Have you been here since they brought me in?"

"Well, you've been out cold for about forty-eight hours now," Dick admitted hesitantly. "So we took turns. Bruce started out, then me, and Tim after that. After your father was checked out, he took a lot of shifts too."

"You didn't tell Tim what happened?" Barbara demanded, grabbing her companion's arm with more strength than he would have believed she possessed.

"Of course Bruce skirted around the issue, but you better believe that the kid's been asking," Dick replied sadly. "Personally I think he deserves to know – "

"If you think that, then you obviously don't know the whole story yourself!" Barbara snapped, her grip tightening. For just a second, Dick saw a shadow of fear and shame in Barbara's fiery, determined eyes. But it was enough to render him incapable of thought or reply.

"You can get Bruce now, if you want," Barbara announced, her tone one of dismissal. Dick nodded and departed the room calmly, but after he was out of her line of sight, he took off at a desperate run.