Disclaimer - Warner Brothers owns D.C. Comics and its characters.
A/N - Written for the 2010 DCU Fic/Art The Wheel Of The Year Challenge on LJ using Ostara (Spring Equinox). Inspired by the fourth season episode, Artifacts.
Looking out from the front window of her family's home, Barbara could see the first few real signs of spring. New grass was starting to grow and a few of the flowers her father had planted in a small stretch by the window were starting to peek out, but she wasn't in the mood to celebrate. To her it was just another painful reminder of what she wouldn't be able to enjoy anymore.
Hearing the front door open, Barbara looked over and watched her father enter with a bag full of groceries. "It's beautiful out, Barbara, why don't you go spend some time outside. Read a book on the porch."
"No thanks, Dad," she replied, and reaching down, began to wheel herself away from the window.
"Honey," Commissioner Gordon called as he followed her into the kitchen. Putting the bag on the counter, he turned to his daughter with a worried expression. "You've been holed up inside all winter. Getting some fresh air would do you some good."
"I'm fine," Barbara grumbled in response as she took an orange from the table.
Watching her practically tear the orange apart, the Commissioner sighed softly. Pulling out a chair, he sat down in front of her. "Forgive an old man worrying about his daughter, but I'm going to be a little over protective after… what's happened. I almost lost you."
Not wanting to hear this, Barbara slowly wheeled away from the table. "Really, Dad, I'm fine," she said before pausing just long enough to slam the busted orange pieces into the garbage.
Commissioner Gordon let his head fall defeated. He knew she was struggling to come to terms with everything, but she was refusing any kind of help. Someone needs to get through to her. But who? She certainly won't listen to the doctor, and she really doesn't have many friends to begin with. Maybe that's my fault. I pushed her too hard; I only wanted to encourage her gift. Maybe by helping her achieve so much academically, I crippled her socially. There has to be someone who'll get her to open up.
Sitting in the middle of her temporary bedroom, Barbara stared down at her lap. To say she was miserable was an understatement. Because of her injury she was forced to move back in with her father, and even the basic things that she had taken for granted were now so complicated to complete, if at all. Going the bathroom had become almost a two person hassle, she couldn't cook anything, and she was stuck for now on the first floor with her old bedroom up on the second.
Unable to deal with her anger, she had begun to take it out on everyone else. She didn't mean to, it just seemed to come out too easily. Remembering how she had treated her father earlier just made her more upset.
Suddenly a loud knocking on her door startled her. "What?" she snapped at whoever was behind the door.
"Nice to see you too, Babs," came the voice as the door swung open to reveal Dick Grayson. With a small grin, he entered the room and casually looked about. "I like what you've done with the place," he teased.
"Why are you here?" She didn't bother to mention she hadn't invited him in.
"Came to see you. Haven't bugged you since you got out of the hospital, had to take care of that," he answered. "Besides, I thought you might be getting sick of staring at these four walls. Might want someone to talk to."
"I wish everyone would just leave me alone. I don't need to be babied," she snapped again. "I don't need anyone to talk to."
"Fine," Dick said, growing serious. Grabbing a sweater from a nearby chair, he tossed it to Barbara who deftly caught it. "Then you can listen. Put the sweater on, we're going for a walk."
After a brief protest, Barbara finally relented. As they left, she did notice a happy smile finally appearing on her father's face. If she had had time, she might have thought more of it, but Dick was too busy babbling about something.
As they made there way down the sidewalk, Barbara didn't pay attention to Dick, but instead began to feel bitter as she watched everyone out and about, enjoying the early spring day. Why couldn't the bullet have finished the job? Instead, I'm stuck in this damn chair the rest of my life. Like some baby to be pushed around when there's some place to go.
A few blocks from the Gordons' home, was a small park. Reaching the park, Dick brought them over to a bench. Putting her before it, he came around and sat down in front of her.
Great. Now here comes the speech. How are you Barbara? Does it hurt? Are you ok?
But Dick surprised her. Instead he reached out, took her hands and gently tugged her forward. "You scarred the crap out of me," he said softly. "When Bruce told me what happened… I did something stupid."
"What?" she asked before she could think. Caught off guard by his sudden honesty, she found herself unable to raise any of the defenses that she had been using.
"When Bruce said Joker shot you, I went after him even though Bruce said not to. He was right, usually is. I took it too personally and I wasn't thinking clearly. But I just had to get my hands on that bastard."
With his sudden change in tone, Barbara quickly closed her hands around his. "Dick, what did you do?"
"Nothing, thankfully I guess. Batman got to him before I could."
"Why are you telling me this?"
"Because I want you to stop blaming yourself," he answered. "I know this is bothering you. I've known you too long not to see it."
She instantly let go of his hands as if they were scalding. "So that's what this about. Poor, little Barbara should stop pitying herself and be thankful that she's still alive. Well tell me, how good can my life be when I'm stuck in a goddamn wheelchair!"
"Look, I know you're frustrated," he told her softly, trying to keep himself calm. "But it's not the end of everything. Look at this from a different perspective. Yeah, you can't do a lot of the stuff you did before, and I know hanging up the mask was painful, but you've got a chance now to find something else. Find a new path."
Dick paused for a moment as he thought about what he had just said. "Damn I've been hanging out with you for too long."
She smirked at him and at the backhanded compliment. "Why? Because you're finally using that brain of yours?" He grinned at her and Barbara felt nervous about how that stupid smile that usually so annoyed her, made her feel almost happy.
"Look, you still have your best ability. It wasn't your legs, but the huge library of stuff you got crammed away in your head. Maybe we could find something like a librarian or scientist. Something where you can use that freakish intelligence," he teased lightly.
"I think me making any future plans is a ways off."
"Yea, alright. But just promise me you'll think about it, ok?"
As Alfred left the kitchen of Wayne Manor carrying a tea set upon a tray, he glanced briefly out the window. What a marvelous spring evening it is. I could only wish my young ones would be able to enjoy it properly.
Arriving at the grandfather clock that stood in the Wayne study; he reached into the face and gently tapped a concealed button. With a metallic click, the sound of a lock opening, the clock and wall behind it swung forward like a door to reveal a hidden staircase that descended downward. With an expert step, Alfred made his way down the stairs while carrying the tray.
Reaching the bottom, he entered the Bat Cave. While it was mostly quiet, he could hear the gentle tapping of fingers on a keyboard. Turning towards the main computer terminal, he saw the vibrant red head sitting before the large computer, working on some program or another. Watching her work brought a smile to the old man's face. It had been almost a year ago when Miss Gordon had had her accident and sent everything in to a tailspin. He had seen how hard it had affected everyone and how her recovery had done the same.
After the incident, in a poorly executed attempt to protect him, Master Bruce had tried to forbid young Richard from joining him, even going so far as taking the Robin mantle away from him. But Master Dick wouldn't be stopped, and created a new name and place for himself in the Gotham night. The duo eventually repaired strained feelings between them and returned to working as a team. Along with a few other new additions.
Walking forward, he smiled as he continued reminiscing. Out of everyone who had tried to reach out to Miss Gordon, it was Richard who seemed to have the most effect. Alfred had watched the two grow up from young children to now young adults, and long suspected that their quasi-sibling rivalry had grown in to something deeper.
"Evening Alfred," she called out.
"Evening Miss Gordon," he replied as he came up next to her. "I figured you could do with some tea this evening."
Barbara looked up at him with a large smile. "Thank you Alfred," she said as she took the cup and saucer that he offered her. She sighed happily after taking a sip. "Alfred, do you think you could teach my father how to do this? His always comes out far too strong."
"I will see what I can do. How is everyone else doing this good spring night?"
"Well, Bruce has got Cassie and Tim on a training run over by the bay and Dick is keeping watch over the city in the meantime." With an expert flick of the hand Barbara turned on the radio. "Batman, its Oracle. I found out who owns those two ships you saw last night. After digging around some bank records, the Dubai company does own them, but they're funded by our good friend Lex Luthor. The manifestos don't say anything out of the ordinary, but since when have they been truthful."
"Good work Oracle," came the gruff voice of Batman back through the speaker. "We'll check them out."
With another expert wave, Barbara changed the channel. "Hey, Boy Wonder, what's up?"
"I told you to stop calling me that," came the annoyed voice in answer.
Barbara giggled a little. "If you want I could come up with something else," she teased.
"The name's Nightwing now."
"Sure, sure. Batman is going to take the kids on a tour of some ships in the harbor. Anything up in your area?"
"Been pretty quiet. Might end up calling it an early night? How are you settling in Oracle?"
"Quiet nicely. Cup of tea, the vast resources of the internet at my finger tips, what else could a girl want?"
Nightwing laughed softly over the radio. "How about breakfast? I know a little bakery-"
"Remember what we talked about," Oracle said, cutting him off. "Baby steps, baby steps."
She couldn't help but hear the disappointment in his voice. It tugged at her, but she knew this was the right thing to do. She needed to take everything slowly. Glancing backwards, she made sure Alfred was on his way back up the steps before speaking again.
"Although, if you're still free. I know of a nice place where we can get a cup of coffee. The décor is a little bit to be desired, and there's flying rodents all over the place, but the cook… is a miracle worker."
Laughter could be heard over the radio again. "Alright Red, it's a date. I'll see you there. I'll check back in a few hours, before calling it a night."
Shutting off the radio, Barbara leaned back in her chair for a moment. Knowing she had a stupid, cheesy grin on her face. She couldn't wipe it away, and part of her really didn't want to. It's a date. He was right. Spring is a time for rebirth, new life, new energies. Batgirl might've had to have been passed on, but Oracle is here to stay.