Liz’s Favourite DC Characters - Barbara Gordon / Oracle
//Apologies for my relative absence tonight again.
I have family drama to deal with and still further bad news. I prefer not to get into it but chances are there will be another family funeral in the near future.
"That must’ve been lovely on the set. I’m sure they appreciated educating you on things you shouldn’t repeat."
"I’m a student of derivative comedy. Where else would I get something like that?"
"Yeaaaah…At least back then I was in character more often than not on set, and Baby Doll doesn’t think about those kinds of jokes."
"Were you very…method, back then? Is that why you kept in character on set?"
The swelling in her face had gone down, but there was still considerable bruising. Around the edges and in spots in the middle there were indications of healing. Sickly yellow patches were starting to replace the angrier purple of the bruise.
"And I mean sleep. None of this laying there with your eyes closed." Barbara had been aware the previous night of his avoidance of sleep. His breathing would slow and even out. The night before he would almost seem to nod off when his breath would hitch, grow ragged and she would hear him move about.
He put his bowl in the sink, “fine… Fine.”
He would rather stay busy, do something around the house, anything but go quietly to bed.
It wasn’t his style, he was more the go till he passed out type, and sometimes he’d even fight that. But he grumbled off, fighting Barbara Gordon was the motets of points, especially now that she was healing.
She followed him triumphantly to the bedroom, intending to indulge herself in a nice warm bath. Until that day she’d avoided the tub for fear of passing out and drowning. With Jason agreeing to sleep, she was going to relax at last with a book about a great European royal.
"I heard that," she sang, "but you need to sleep. You do that, I’ll have a bath, and in a few hours we’ll both feel a lot better.”
Barbara’s faith in him was unshakable. He did stupid things when he got scared, that was all. The gun was but one emblem of that fear. At least, that’s how she saw it, though a measure of projection was at work in her analysis. “Left in you? Not just left in you. There’s a hell of a lot more good than bad. And you make it sound like ‘good’ is a tank that’s running on empty. Not with you. I’m not going to kick you out because you got drunk once, alright? But maybe we need to work out some ground rules for the guns.”
He nodded, and leaned his forehead to hers. “I know, no more random discharge in the house. Pretty obvious start.”
"Can we keep them locked up?" she asked. "Two palmprint safes, unloaded weapons with ordinance in the second? Or there is the armory to consider. Fortified, safe, close by. I think I’d feel better if we had some control. I mean, I have a rifle and a pistol in there. Would you, could you accept that?"
For a brief second, she wished she could hate him for what he’d said. Her life, he seemed to think, lacked value though she had persevered. He thought that it was difficult for her but impossible for himself. What Dick was forgetting was that she’d had Olympic dreams, once. For months she’d been cloistered in the Clocktower during the NML after the power system failed, after the elevators stopped working. It still wasn’t easy. She couldn’t go in an out of all the stores she wanted to at the mall because of too-narrow aisles.
All this and he still didn’t get it.
"I used to think like you," she replied softly. "I’d have it in my head that it wasn’t if I walked again but when, like around the next corner would be the restoration of my body and my physical capabilities. It seemed that this wasn’t a fit way to live for anyone. You’d lose your mind, get lost in self-loathing that things you’d once found so laughably easy were now impossible. It changes how you see yourself because once you go through this, you can’t help but compare who you are to who you were."
"I still do it. I still look back and when I see even the word Batgirl, my mind says, ‘Pay attention, that’s you,’ even though I haven’t worn the cape for a very long time." This rare candor exposed more than she typically did with words. Barbara shoved parts of herself into compartments called "Oracle" and "Batgirl" and many different "Babs" bins, depending on who she was dealing with. Now she was showing some of what was hidden inside, what she saw of herself.
"I dream of dancing. Clubbing, ballet, even just walking up to a balance beam, not even mounting it or going across it, just walking up to it and maybe, someday, being able to sit on it without having to be helped up."
"I hate that I can’t go everywhere, and that people look down on me literally and figuratively when they’re not overlooking me entirely."
"And in those early days I had to look at my father’s face, the guilt he felt that I got shot and he couldn’t save me. That he couldn’t protect me. And I just wanted to die because every time he saw me in that infernal chair, he saw a memory of that day, that terrible day and what he considered a personal failure. A failure to protect his child. A failure to protect himself. I thought it would’ve been kinder if I hadn’t made it because then he wouldn’t be constantly reminded."
"The tradeoff between leaving him with guilt no letter could stop him from taking on if I killed myself and seeing the guilt in his eyes every day was to leave Gotham entirely, to do whatever I had to do in order to find a cure. I worked with a group I was ashamed to admit to being a part of because I thought that with the full weight of the Government, there had to be a way to restore my body so I could go home again and resume my life."
"For a long time, that’s how I saw it. I didn’t just roll with that blow, if you’ll pardon the bad pun. It was only a matter of time before I found or forced some way to become myself again. Eventually, after many months, I needed to accept that I wasn’t that person anymore."
"You endure something like this, like you’re just starting to experience, and you’re changed. It’s inevitable. And if you’re stuck here like I am, you’ll realize eventually that there are two choices available. Stay bitter, focus on what you’ve lost and how you’re going to get it back even if it costs you the joy of living while you chase your white whale, or accept what you still have, reintegrate what is you and figure out how to still be you without your lower body cooperating."
When Barbara turned her face towards him, two wet streaks could be seen tracing a thin line across her cheeks to her jawline. “I’m not the same as I was before. Whether you walk again or not, this will change you. And while I have been praying to every God in every faith imaginable these last weeks that you find the miracle which has eluded me, even if you don’t, you’re still you. But this is not an easy journey no matter what destination you find.”
"The best advice I can offer you is probably the simplest. You don’t have to think about spending the rest of your life like this. Take it one day at a time. Deal with the here and now, which is the most important, rather than an unknowable future. For me, at this point, there’s nothing that will give me what I had, but I don’t need to worry about ten years from now because what’s here, today, is what I need to focus on."
"You have a doctor’s appointment on Monday, when we’ll find out if this opportunity will give you some hope. That has to be your goal. Keep yourself stable, don’t do anything stupid that could change your status and thus screw you out of what opportunities exist."
She held back only a little, the explicit statement that if he kept pushing he would potentially worsen the damage and thus be less able to care for himself than he was today. Theirs was not an easy transition to make. For her, years in, it seemed easy because that’s what she showed the world. It wasn’t, it would never be easy, but it became easier to accept to the point where she no longer focused on it.
If he didn’t recover, Barbara hoped that the example she offered would help him to cope long term.
Again her phone rang and rang in its holder on an adjacent table. She ignored it. Dick needed her attention more than some idiot who kept calling.
Dick sit in complete silence even after she stopped talking. He didn’t know what to say. A part of him wanted to argue with him. A part of him wanted to comfort her. While yet another part just wanted to get away or to stay silent because he had already done more than enough damage for one day. More than enough damage for years to come.
If he ever did get out of the wheelchair and found himself able to walk again, coming back to this moment, which he knew he would have to face eventually, would be one of the hardest. How would he be able to face her if he was able to walk after he had said all of this shit? He torn open old wounds and reminded her of things that were best forgotten.
Dick ran his hands through his hair and took a shaky breath. There was only one thought that continued to make itself know. Dick Grayson, you are the most horrible person ever.
"I…" Dick started and then stopped as he focused on her face. She was crying. Then again why wouldn’t she be crying? Dick looked down at his lap and shook his head. The things she was saying he didn’t want to accept. He didn’t want to become this different person. He wanted to stay Dick Grayson. Barbara was right. She had changed. She had become more jaded and she wasn’t as near as upbeat and perky as she used to be. She was still flirty and still drove him insane but she was different.
"Okay…" he said simply with a nod. He would take it a day at a time. He would try not to do anymore reckless stunts. He would try to hold on until Monday came. Until then he needed to focus on what was happening around him. Until then he needed to focus on Barbara. If he could walk, this time staying with her would have been more than he could have asked for. Instead of appreciating her company, he had focused on the the negative.
Carefully Dick scooted closer to her and held her hand. “I’m sorry…. I… I didn’t think about your dad… or Batgirl or…” Dick trailed off and leaned back against the the headboard. “I didn’t think period….” he murmured and hesitantly looked back at her.
He didn’t have anything worth value to say to her. He wanted to comfort her. He wanted to fix all the damage he had caused in the past few weeks but he found himself speechless. “I’m sorry…” he repeated as though saying it again and again would make it clear how sorry he was.
"Don’t apologize," she said, her hand squeezing his as she lay back, staring upward at the stippled ceiling. There was nothing else that seemed sensible to say. Already Barbara had said far more than she expected or was truly comfortable with.
All she could think was that she wanted his happiness. He was so desperately unhappy this way.
And then she swore aloud, angry once more at the insistent drone of the buzzing phone. “Goddamn it. I hate phones.” In a heartbeat she’d transferred to her chair and crossed the room to her telephone.
The call display showed a telephone number in the 415 area code. She considered whether to answer it, or hand it to Dick. In the end, he needed to do this. Barbara said, “It’s for you,” and put it on speaker, greeting the caller with a “Hello” that echoed through the large room.
"Failed argument. This started before you got knocked up so don’t try to attribute this to maternal instinct."
"And then you started keeping secrets. If the trust between us and the friendship has gone down the tubes, that’s on you, not me."
"It didn’t..your concept of time is off.." Kat continued to be in a state of denial over the situation.
"No, my concept of time is perfectly correct. My mind is a steel trap that doesn’t miss a trick. Don’t play that game with me."
Jason looked up and glared at Barbara, “What do you even want?”
"To make sure my former Robin is alright," she said gently. "You don’t honestly think I forgot about you all this time, did you?"
Jason looked up in surprise, glad he was wearing a helmet to hide his dumbfounded expression. “Babs…” He stood up and removed his helmet wanting to clearly see her face. He honestly didn’t think anyone cared as pathetic as that was. Well, other than Talia but he had his own doubts there.
"I…guess I did." He was feeling like a kid again and you know what? It felt good.
Her hand slipped into his hair, at first tentative as she stroked through it. “I mourned you sincerely, and I wished to God at all costs that you’d been spared the hell you endured.”