Author’s note: This story has been a work in progress for over a year now, and I’m pleased to finally have it ready for viewing. I probably never would have gotten around to finishing it, if it hadn’t been for Syl. Call me old-fashioned, but I’ve always been a firm believer that Barbara Gordon and Dick Grayson should be together. This little vignette serves no purpose other than to indulge my fancy. It obviously takes place before Sarah Gordon’s death, and contains no spoilers for the current DC titles. The passage on love used in this piece of fiction can be found in the Bible, 1 Corinthians 13:4. As far as dedication goes, this short story is for all of the incredibly talented, inspiring Nightwing authors out there like Terri and Syl. I only hope I can do justice to the characters we all love so much.
Too much pink, Barbara Gordon mused, with a pang of annoyance. Far too many cards dripping with decorative hearts and cliché sentiment. A sideways glance at her calender confirmed her suspicions. Today was the holiday she disliked the most. St. Valentine's Day. Of course, that had not always been the case. When she was younger, she had secretly enjoyed the additional attention the 14th of February had provided her. The sweet-smelling flowers, creamy dark chocolates, and poetic verses given to her by hopeful admirers had all been extremely flattering. But things were different now, and her situation had changed dramatically since her youthful days of high school and college.
Her gaze trailed down, falling to rest on her slender legs, which bent in confinement to a sturdy, metal wheelchair. The legs she could no longer experience sensation in. She closed her eyes, feeling a dull ache in the base of her skull. Living alone, secluded and secure in her fortress of knowledge, it was safe to say that the gentlemen callers had ceased their courting. The only ‘callers’ she received were usually decked out in capes and masks, seeking information from her. Hardly proof of a social life.
So perhaps, on this day, a little self-pity could be justified. Or perhaps not. After all, moping was a privilege Oracle seldom allowed herself. Despairing over her condition was useless, not to mention tedious. She had given up that tired routine long ago. Geez…you're pathetic, Barbara scolded herself. Now get over it. She opened her eyes once more, prepared to forget all about the holiday, as well as her past, and concentrate on the tasks at hand. There were several long police files to sift through, and Batman had requested a detailed background check on one of his shadowy informants. And if she should complete that in record timing, there were always her other research projects.
Perfect. Plenty to do to rid her mind of such depressing thoughts. Oracle pushed away from the computer and wheeled towards the kitchen for a cup of hot coffee. Passing her coffee table, she noticed her answering machine was displaying an unread message.
“Must have called while I was in the shower,” she muttered aloud and pressed the ‘play’ button.
“Good morning, Barbara,” Jim Gordon's husky voice rang out from the machine's small speaker, laced with affection. “Just calling to wish you a happy Valentine's, honey. I was hoping to stop by later for a quick visit so I could drop something off. Just give me a call whenever you’re available, and let me know what time. See you soon.” The message ended with a click as her father hung up the phone. Barbara allowed herself a half-hearted smile. Since her life-altering accident, her father had developed the habit of calling her almost daily. It was his way of assuring himself that she was still safe and sound.
She reached for the phone, grasping the receiver, and brought it to her ear. Dialing her father’s office number, she waited patiently while his secretary put her on hold. At last, someone on the other line answered gruffly, “Jim Gordon here.” Her father's tone differed so much when he was in his police environment. She couldn't help but think of how she herself had tried to make her own voice seem deeper in her Batgirl days.
“Hi Mr. Popular, I see I finally got through. Gloria's had me on hold for ten minutes,” Barbara greeted him.
“Hello, sweetheart, sorry about the wait. I've been on the phone with the Mayor. Important business that's been wasting my time all morning,” Gordon explained, his voice already lighter.
“Well, that's what you get for climbing the corporate ladder,” she teased him. “You get to deal with all of that fun responsibility.”
Gordon gave a chuckle. “I suppose you're right. So you got my message?”
“I did,” she affirmed somewhat reluctantly, a splinter of guilt nagging at her conscience.
“Great, so what time should you expect me tonight?”
Barbara took in a breath, resolved to remain firm in her decision. “I don't know how to tell you this Dad, but maybe dropping by tonight isn't a good idea.” There, she had said it. Oracle had a long night’s work ahead of her, and didn’t feel like entertaining guests. Especially when her father could be spending a special evening alone with his wife, Sarah. Barbara wouldn't want him to miss out on that, not when she was fully capable of taking care of herself. Barbara always refused offers of help or sympathy, no matter how amiable the gesture. She never wanted to be felt sorry for; it made her feel like a victim. And Barbara would never be a victim again.
“Oh? Why not?” Her father's inquiry was cloaked in disappointment, but Barbara could pick up on the underlying curiosity.
“To tell you the truth, I'll probably turn in early tonight,” she said, managing to pull off a convincing yawn. “I've been feeling a little exhausted lately. Probably coming down with a cold.” It wasn't entirely a lie, she reminded herself in her own defense. Going to bed early for a change was beginning to sound more and more appealing.
“Well, it's your choice, honey,” her father relented. “We can always do it later this week when you feel up for it.”
“That would be fine,” she consented, adding, “Thanks, Dad.” At least he wasn't offended -- it was for his own good, anyway. Considering his usual stress-ridden routine, he deserved the time off. “Take Sarah out someplace romantic tonight,” she said, hoping he would put her advice to good use. Anything to get him away from the office and his consuming towers of paper work.
“I just might do that. In the meantime, you get some rest and take it easy.”
She smiled a little. “I will. I promise. I'll talk to you later, okay?”
“All right. Feel better, sweetheart.”
Oracle glanced up from the printer feed-out she was hunched over, and stretched her protesting muscles. The clock read 8:05 p.m., a painful reminder that the evening was not passing as quickly as she would have liked. It had been a slow night -- unusually slow, particularly for Gotham. Even with her additional assignments, Barbara still couldn’t help but feel restless. She pushed the stack of paperwork aside, and maneuvered back towards the computer console to check her messages. Perhaps Dinah had sent her something, an urgent request for immediate assistance. Even one of her patented Canary catastrophes would suffice, so long as it saved Barbara from her boredom. Feeling needed tonight, though, was probably too much to hope for.
A couple of keystrokes revealed what she had suspected all along. Nothing new to busy herself with. Oracle removed her glasses to rub at her fatigued eyes. Maybe she ought to go straight to bed after all. Then, as if on cue, her computer chimed, indicating that she had an incoming message. Barbara replaced her glasses and peered at the screen to get a better look. It didn’t take her long to guess the identity of her latest contact. She shook her head with a smile upon reading the bold, red font: “Roses are red, violets are blue, milkduds are sweet…and so is Barbara Gordon.”
There was a brief pause, and then the sound of an agitated sigh filtered through her headset. “Hey, where’s my applause?” A most welcome voice greeted her ears. “That took me twenty minutes to compose.”
“Twenty minutes?” Barbara repeated with a doubtful snicker. “That’s pretty sad, boy wonder…”
She could almost make out the grin in his tone. “Yeah, well, poetry was never my strong point,” Dick Grayson confessed.
“Clearly. So what’s up?” she asked eagerly, ready to be put to work. “Want a background check or something?”
Without faltering, Oracle continued her list of services. “You need me to keep tabs on someone for you?”
She blinked, wishing he would just get to the point. “Do you have evidence that needs to be analyzed?”
“Then what can I do for you?” she said at last, weary of the guessing game.
Barbara heaved an exasperated sigh. “Then why are you calling me?”
“Honestly, Barb,” he interjected in a too-innocent manner. “Can’t a guy dial up an old friend without being up to anything suspicious?”
“Not if they’re you. You really don’t need me for anything?”
“Well, I wouldn’t say that. I was interested in some company.” Her old partner sniffled, apparently wounded. “But if you’re going to be so insensitive…”
She rolled her eyes at his goofy dramatics, suppressing a giggle. “I have tracing programs I could be testing,” Barbara informed him pointedly, in an attempt to remain no-nonsense. “And you’re tying up my line.”
“Come on, Babs,” Nightwing coaxed. “Here it is, Valentine's Day -- the most romantic day of the year, and you're at home on your computer.”
His jest brought a flush to her pale cheeks. “Thank you for the deduction, Captain Obvious,” she returned with haughty sarcasm. “And they say Batman is the brains.”
“So... No date tonight?”
“You know I don't have time for any of that,” Oracle countered tersely, stung by his comment. “Besides, last I heard, all of the eligible bachelors were out of town.”
“Not all of them,” Grayson replied coyly. “It just so happens that I'm in your neck of the woods tonight.”
Barbara arched a thin, coppery brow. “On business, I'm assuming?”
“Initially. I had been tracing some druglord’s dealings from Bludhaven to Gotham’s East Side,” he explained, sounding pleased with himself. “But now that the creep’s bagged, tagged, and sitting pretty for the authorities, my night’s free.”
“And just what are you implying?” Oracle asked with half-hearted curtness, knowing full well that she wouldn’t be able to stay angry with him.
“You know very well what I’m implying,” he told her slyly. “Care to be my Valentine for the evening?”
“Dick…” Her stomach knotted with uncertainty, torn between the familiar flirting and the need to maintain her distance. “I don’t think we…”
“Then don’t think, Barbara.” Dick cut her off, frustration in his tone. “For once in your life, just let things happen.”
“It’s just that I have so much work tonight…” she fumbled with the lame excuse.
“So that's it, huh? You're done humoring me?” His deadpan voice prevented her from deciphering the true meaning of his words.
She squeezed her eyes shut, flustered with the conversation’s turn. “That’s not what I meant, Dick, and you know it. Things tend to get…complicated between us --”
“Fine then,” he interrupted. “I’ll just eat the chocolates I bought for you myself.”
Barbara paused, eyelids fluttering open. “You liar, you’ve never bought me chocolates before.”
“I guess you’ll never know…” he said. “Unless you let me in.”
She blinked, bewildered. “Where are you right now?”
“Standing at your front door.”
It took her a second to get over the shock. “Since when do you enter the conventional way? Or are you finally tired of getting your spandex-clad butt kicked by my security system?”
“Oh please,” came the exaggerated reply. “You know very well those toys don’t take me long to figure out and bypass. Now come on, I’m feeling sort of conspicuous standing out in your hall talking to myself. A couple of your neighbors gave me funny looks on the way up…”
“Well, if you’re going to whine about it…” Working the wheels of her chair, Barbara made her way towards the door and opened it for him. There in front of her stood a devilishly handsome Dick Grayson, cradling an object behind his back. A boyish grin darted across his features as he took in the sight of her. His warm blue eyes lit up with affection.
“Thanks,” he said, crossing the threshold and stepping into her apartment, managing to keep his surprise hidden all the while. “Been a while since I’ve come through this way.”
“Yes, I’ll admit, using the front door is an original attempt at normalcy for you.” Her gaze lingered on his sculpted frame. It took her a moment to wrench her eyes from his.
“Now what kind of gentleman would I be if I had broken through your window?” He extended the box of chocolates to her with a proud flourish. “For you, my lady. As promised.”
Barbara smiled sheepishly, fighting back a blush. “You didn’t have to do this…”
He seemed to enjoy her reaction. “I know.” As she rolled forward to accept the gift, he caught hold of her hand, gazing at her intently. “You never answered my question, though,” Dick reminded her, his eyes glinting suggestively. “Won't you be my Valentine?”
“I…” Barbara’s voice caught. Her heartbeat was rapidly picking up speed, pulsing with anticipation. Stop it. She scolded herself furiously: He’s a friend -- a friend who dropped by to cheer you up. That’s all it need be. Don’t make a bigger deal out of this than it is… Clearing her throat in an effort to cover up her discomfort, she flashed a light smile. “I appreciate what you’re trying to do here, Dick. Visiting me so I don’t have to be alone on Valentine’s Day… it’s sweet of you, short pants. But not necessary.”
Dick shook his head, relinquishing her hand with a sigh. “You don’t get it,” he stated flatly. “You never do.” Coming closer, he knelt down in front of her wheelchair, his eyes burning fervently into hers. “It is necessary, Barbara. When are you going to get it through that thick head of yours? I didn’t come here tonight out of some detached sense of duty. I came here because I --”
“Dick, don’t...” She knew how he felt; she had felt it, too, for a long time now. But things could change so easily, especially in the lives they led. Nothing was certain, and Barbara couldn’t bear to trust in something that she had no control over. Heartbreak was prevented only when you didn’t have to depend on someone else for your own happiness. And if she were to let herself go, allow herself to drown in what she felt for this man...
“Don’t what?” Grayson gave a short, disbelieving laugh. “Don’t tell you how much you mean to me? How I’d go stark raving mad if I didn’t have you around to scold me? Don’t tell you that you’re one of my best friends in the whole world, and that I wouldn’t know what to do without you? Well, sorry Babs,” Dick concluded, setting his jaw. “No can do.”
Oracle watched him through a watery sheen, stunned for a moment into speechlessness. “I know that you care, Dick," she said finally. "And it means so much.” She looked away, a wave of humiliation washing over her. “I… just don’t know if I can give you what you want from me.”
His expression softened upon glimpsing the tears in her jade eyes. Taking both of her hands in his, he gave them a reassuring squeeze. “I never meant to upset you, Barbara. I just wanted to be honest with you. I need you to know how I feel.” He brought her fingers to his lips, kissing them tenderly. “As for what I want… only what you have to give. And we’ll leave it at that.”
“You know I care for you,” Barbara said, warm tears spilling down her cheeks. “That I --”
Dick glanced up from her hands, still enfolded in his. “You don’t have to say anything more, Babs. Not until you’re ready.” He traced a hand along her porcelain cheekbone, gently wiping away a small trickle. “This is just a first step. For both of us.”
She nodded, silently relieved. Dick observed her for a moment longer, before jerking a thumb towards the door. “You’re not going to kick me out now,” he inquired cautiously, “are you?”
Barbara shook her head and laughed, in spite of herself. “No,” she promised, hurriedly mopping her eyes with a sleeve. “After everything you’ve done for me tonight, I couldn’t do that.”
Dick brushed his lips against her forehead, chuckling. “I’m glad to hear it.” Getting slowly to his feet, he cocked his head to the side, giving her an impish grin. “So should we get started on that box of candy?”
She marvelled at his unfailing stomach. “I wouldn’t mind that. What kind of chocolates did you bring me?”
His grin grew wider at her question, and he winked mischievously. “Well, you know what they say about chocolates…”
“Dick Grayson,” Barbara groaned, his intentions becoming all too clear. “I swear to God, if you’re going to do another Forrest Gump impression…”
“Life is like a box of choc-o-lates, you never know what you’re gonna get…” He ignored her, drawling out the most atrocious Tom Hanks impression she had ever heard.
Despite his obvious flaws, she knew she was lucky to have Dick. As a friend, as a confidant, as a soulmate -- he was her second half. The one who knew and understood her best. Her feelings for him were so strong they could scarcely be summed up with mere words. But before she could act on those emotions, she needed to fully accept both them and herself. ‘Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.’ There was so much within Barbara that needed to relearn those truths. Needed to discover them for herself in order to be whole again...
“I know what I got," she murmured earnestly, gratitude flickering in her bright eyes.
“So do I,” Dick said softly. “And I’m willing to wait for it. For as long as it takes.”
Yes, she did love him. And one day, when they were both ready, she would tell him.