Barbara avoided meeting Wally's eyes as she wheeled into her kitchen and fixed them both some coffee. Finally, she blurted out, "I told you, we're friends! That's all we are -- just friends!"

Wally sighed in some exasperation, "Dick and I are 'just friends,' Barbara. The way you and Dick were acting, I was about to start scouting the place for the nearest fire extinguisher, 'cause you were about to set that bedspread off!"

"You don't understand ..."

"Then explain it to me. That is what you said you wanted to do, isn't it?"

"I didn't think you'd need any other explanations after you met me."

"You mean, the chair?"

"Of course, that's what I mean!"

Wally replied sarcastically, "I hate to tell you this, Barbara, but I think Dick, being the great detective that he is, has figured out you're in a wheelchair." When Barbara just glared at him, he continued, "I'm serious. Look, I know Dick. If he's serious about having a relationship with you, he's already thought through the consequences of your, uh, situation. He's knows what, or rather who, he's getting, um, into." Wally blushed as he realized his last speech hadn't quite ended the way he'd intended.

Barbara continued to glare at him for a minute, but then her expression changed. "I understand what you're saying Wally, but it's more than that. What about me?" When Wally stared at her in confusion, she continued, "I sort of thought you'd understand more than anyone else. When you were told to stop running, that you couldn't be Kid Flash anymore, what did you do? Did you still hang out with Dick and the others?"

"No, but..."

"I know you couldn't run across the country anymore, but you cut ties completely, as I recall Dick telling me. And I know why you did." As a look of comprehension crossed his face, she nodded. "Even though they were still your friends, it hurt too much to be around them. It just reminded you of all the things you couldn't do anymore."

"But you're still Oracle! You hang out with the Bat-guys all the time!"

"When you stopped being Kid Flash, you could still be Wally West. Me? Being Oracle is different enough from my old life that I can deal with it. But Dick..." she paused as her emotions began to get the better of her control, "Being with Dick would remind me of all of the things Barbara can't do anymore -- would remind me of all the things, feelings ... intimacies that have been stolen from my life." She sat, tears flowing slowly down her cheeks.

Wally pulled a chair up next to her, handed her a Kleenex, and thought over what she'd said. Finally, he spoke, "I know our circumstances aren't all that similar, but I did learn something that you may find useful. I know it's easy to focus on what's missing from your life, but have you stopped to think about the life you're missing out on?" He saw her look of confusion, and explained further, "You're only looking at the potential for pain from a relationship with Dick; what about the potential rewards?"

Seeing that she understood his meaning, Wally finished his coffee in silence and left the way he came.

Barbara sat staring at her coffee as Wally's words went around and around in her head. Memories clashed with one another until she was ready to scream. As she looked across at the still figure in the next room, she finally came to a decision. Emptying her cold coffee into the sink, she wheeled herself into Dick's room. She sat staring at him for awhile until she almost lost her nerve, but eventually she rolled over to the unoccupied side of the bed. She took off her shoes, slipped off her sweatpants, and pulled herself onto the bed beside him. She instinctively held her breath as he stirred, but the drugs were too strong, and he soon became still again. Barbara lay down beside him, and the regular sound of his breathing lulled her to sleep.


*** Epilogue ***


Barbara awoke as Dick began stirring next to her. Sometime during the night, she had shifted position and was now curled up with her head on his shoulder. She smiled to see him start with surprise as he saw who was sleeping with him.

"Babs?" he asked rather muzzily. He stared at her for a few moments as her face couldn't decide whether to blush or not. "I thought Red Riding Hood was supposed to run away from the Big Bad Wolf in her bed, not join him!"

Okay, she was definitely blushing now. She pushed herself up on her elbow to look down at him. "That was her grandmother's bed, former Boy Wonder! And besides," she paused to gather her strength, "I think I've done enough running away, don't you?" She looked down at him, hoping he understood her meaning.

He smiled at her -- not the devil-may-care smile that was his usual stock-in-trade, but the gentlest smile she'd ever seen. He lifted his hand, and brushed her hair back from her face, and drew her head down towards his. "I think we've both done enough running, but I also think we've finally crossed the finish line."

She responded, just as her lips touched his, "Together."


*** The End ***