Her disease reared its ugly head for the first time when she was 14; she’d been having her period for a couple of years and only got moderate pain for a few days, never incapacitating her. She’d just gotten in from a stressful patrol and was hoping for a decent, all be it short sleep, as she had several exams the next day. She’d curled up in bed and had just started to shut her eyes when agony short through her body, the stabbing pain starting in her lower abdomen and coursing up her back and down her thighs. She curled into a tight foetal position and prayed for the pain to go while her breath left her in short gasps and tears ran across her face. She’d ended up missing her exams, along with patrol the following night. Her dad had taken one look at his daughter, curled up in pain and called the school saying she’d not be in. He had suspected she’d suffer at some point, her mum had suffered for a few days each moth with her period too. If only it had lasted for a couple of days.
By the fourth day of his daughter curled up in bed, only able to move to the toilet and keeping little down, he dragged her to their doctor. He was seething as the doctor took one look at her and told her to ‘get over it’ and that ‘she just needs to get used to the pain, all women get period pain’, he’d then prescribed the same over the counter medications he’d been dosing her with for the past four days. He helped her back to the house and swore to her he’d do whatever he could to make it better for her; get her to see whoever could help her, find her someone who’d listen. In truth he wanted to find someone to listen because it was tearing his heart to pieces to hear his daughter sobbing as quietly and still as she could while her own body caused her so much pain. He’d watched her over the four days, and remembering her mother, knew that the pain she was experiencing was far beyond the pain of being shot. Little did he know that his daughter would agree having been shot a few months earlier.
On the sixth day of her being confined to the bed by her own body a gentle knock had her lifting her gaze up to her bedroom window. The black and blue of Nightwing, Dick Grayson, was there, not surprising her in the least, what did surprise her was the small traffic light clad boy who’d followed him in. They crouched down and she could feel their eyes scanning her body.
“Little Wing here said you’d not been on patrol in a few days. He didn’t know where you lived and I’d been with the Titans so hadn’t noticed.” He rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. She looked up at the man she used to fight alongside when he was a traffic light; before he’d handed it down to his younger brother and created the Teen Titans; and was grateful for the friendships she’d formed with the brothers. She tried to sit up, her body choosing that moment to bring up the meagre amount she’d managed to force down an hour earlier. Robin, the smaller boy called Jason Todd, was by her side in an instant holding the bucket for her and rubbing her back while Nightwing moved and helped hold back the hair that had fallen from her rough ponytail. Once the retching had subsided and she’d swished her mouth with water, she looked between the two boys. They were as much her family as her dad and little brother were.
“I’ve got period pain,” she managed to get out between gasps, “never usually this bad.” She sat more upright using the older boy to support her weight while she tucked her feet under the younger. “I usually only get it for a couple of days, like my mum did, this month is different. It’s been six days and it’s not gotten much better, I can eat now which I couldn’t for the first couple of days.” She’d expected a shudder of repulsion from the younger, not the older, of the two but was surprised when it was the other way round. Robin took her hand and started to rub small circles on her back.
“Me mam used to get ‘em bad. Ya know, ‘fore she got too skinny from the drugs to ‘ave ‘em anymore.” He said, eyes glued to the floor as his shoulders hunched in slightly. She felt Nightwing tense behind her; it was such a rare thing for Robin to expose anything about his past, even more so when it concerned his mum Catherine. They helped her get settled back in the bed, after Nightwing helped her to the toilet. Robin had removed her hot water bottle and found an electric blanket her dad kept in their winter cupboard. He gently helped her wrap it around her torso and thighs so she’d have heat in all the places she’d need it. He also popped a couple of their electrolyte replacement tablets into her various water bottles so she’d not be losing as many with her vomiting and sweating. Both boys kissed her on the head and said they looked forward to her being back on patrol; Robin even joking he’d let her win rooftop tag.
A few days later and Batgirl was seen swinging between the rooftops again, her purple and yellow outfit being outshone by the laughter escaping her. She was running along with Robin while Nightwing tried to catch them both. Batman, Bruce Wayne when out of his suit, could be seen on his perch near the GCPD glad that the city was letting them have a quiet night as his children needed the fun and freedom to cheer up their comrade in arms. He wouldn’t admit it aloud but he considered her family too; along with her father Jim. He’d met the police commissioner on the GCPD roof earlier that night and been met with a knowing smile when he’d mentioned to the officer that Batgirl was back from her respite. Jim had figured out who the Bat was early on in his career once they started working together, instead of the GCPD trying to catch the crime fighter. It hadn’t taken him long to figure out who the others were as they came along; especially after seeing Batgirl get punched in the face and his daughter, Barbara, appearing at breakfast the next morning with a poorly concealed bruise in the same place. He’d not said anything; just left her a large expensive collection of makeup on her bed so she could feel more comfortable with the coverage for the wounds.
The following month when Barbara started to recognise the start of the pain she’d had the month before she was mid-fight with Penguin’s goons. She managed to take down two more of the twenty her, Robin and Batman had been fighting until she’d doubled over. Robin was by her side in an instant with Batman ordering them out of the warehouse. As she was helped out to the batmobile she could sense Robin looking over her for injuries, then heard him counting back the dates when he saw none. Once settled into the car he tucked a blanket around her as she curled up on the backseat, while he set the autopilot to take them back to her house she sent a silent prayer to all the goddess’ that she’d not actually come on until she had a chance to change and get ready. Blood was already too difficult to get out of her suit; she didn’t want it to be on it from something that wasn’t an injury.
To her surprise Robin helped her up into her bedroom and disappeared while she changed. When she got back from the bathroom the electric blanket was back, along with electrolyte boosted water and a mug of tea. She also noticed a thermos beside the cup and asked about it. The explanation surprised her as much as his revelation the month before.
“Me mam used to drink Raspberry Leaf tea when she had cramps bad. I, uh,” he blushed and she pulled him into a hug. “I been carrying ‘em around for the last two weeks not sure how often you had ‘em. I know they can vary and wanted to help, you know?” She kissed his head and took a sip of the tea, only then noticing the ginger biscuits he’d also tucked onto her bedside table. After she’d eaten a couple of the biscuits and drained one cup of tea, Robin tucked her into the blanket and pulled out a couple of syringes from his first aid pocket. “Got you some of the good meds from Alfie, I’ll be back with more tomorrow night.” With that he gave her a dose into the space on her arm that Dr Leslie had taught them to give intramuscular injections and pressed a kiss to her forehead, then disappeared out the window. She was asleep before the batmobile disappeared down the street.
That was how their months went on for the next few years. Each month Robin or Nightwing would help her back to her bedroom, check she had everything including the pain medication from Alfred (then eventually Dr Leslie) and leave her to sleep. They’d check in each night; sometimes even Batman checked in as he got more concerned with how severe her pain was. Jim was at a loss as to how he could help his daughter as the only doctor willing to help couldn’t do much for her outside of her free clinic and the pain medications she gave her. Even Bruce Wayne’s connections were unhelpful; they pushed her between the different gynaecologists and never gave her any answer.
By the time Barbara was twenty she’d come to expect her life going on hold each month. The Bat’s ranks had expanded with Jason passing down the mantle to his new younger brother, Tim Drake, and taking up the title of Red Hood. She’d also taken on the training of two women that had been accepted into the eclectic family. One was a bubbly blonde, Stephanie Brown, who managed to take down her criminal father’s operation without help, with Barbara and the Bat’s training the blonde had gone from strength to strength. As she hung up Spoiler she’d had the role of Robin handed down to her with Tim becoming Red Robin. The second girl she took under her purple and yellow wing was a small Asian teenager called Cassandra Cain. She was more deadly than any other member of the Bat-family as she’d been trained from early on by her birth father to become the world’s greatest assassin. He hadn’t counted on the young girls’ compassion and love for other people, which proved more powerful than any indoctrination he attempted. Ultimately she fled and Bruce took her in while Barbara helped her work on detective skills after she’d helped her learn to speak.
Jim was out of commission after being shot in the line of duty and so when Barbara’s latest period rolled around Bruce convinced her to move into the manor so they could help her through it. Jim was still in hospital and so she’d have no one to help her while her body fought against her. She settled into the guest room that over the years had unofficially been assigned to her, she’d even put up posters to make it more her own. Tim had already checked in and given her a special lightweight body wrap that plugged in, it was far more effective than her electric blanket and enabled her to have none of the weight the blanket. She felt the relief from the lack of weight almost immediately and curled up trying not to sob. Alfred soon appeared with some pain medication for her along with a simple broth. He also gave her an anti-sickness hoping to help get ahead of any nausea.
It was a couple of hours later, after a restless sleep, Barbara could feel an octopus curled around her. The limbs were careful of her lower torso and the tops of her thighs. As she inhaled she caught the scents of cotton candy, lucky charms, and motor oil; three things that made her heart beat a little faster as it meant her love was with her. She turned around carefully and found Dick awake, reading over some mission intel and watching over her. She gave him a fragile smile and he pushed the ginger hair that had slipped into her face behind her ear.
“Hey,” he whispered. “I heard you were here.” He kissed her quickly and helped her sit up. She blushed as she realised he must have come from Blüdhaven for her. It made sense considering Gotham was down a vigilante and the commissioner; but her heart still fluttered at the idea. Dick slipped off the bed and put in Now You See Me as Barbara loved the mystic The Horsemen created through their shows. He pulled her into his side, his arm tightly around her shoulder, and offered her some of Alfred’s homemade oat and ginger wheat-free biscuits. During her time under Alfred’s watchful eyes over the years they’d discovered a number of foods that she couldn’t eat, along with a set of foods she had to rotate through. There were only a select number of foods she could eat every day, they didn’t cause her to bloat or feel nauseous but best of all they didn’t increase her pain either.
Barbara wasn’t surprised when her door creaked open once patrol time had rolled around and in walked the 6’5’’ dark haired man that she’d known since he wore green scaly pants. Jason arrived with a tea try and a book tucked under his arm, along with a couple of films for them to watch. Whenever he was free, Jason made a point of helping her through the week. He hated seeing his older sister in pain, especially when it wasn’t caused by people he could punch but her own body.
“Jay you should be on patrol.” She said, still not quite being able to believe the twelve year old malnourished boy she’d met was now the hulking eighteen year old stood in her door. He just rolled his eyes and plopped down onto the bed next to her. “When have I ever done what people want? I’ll just go later.” They sat watching the films, Jason reading his book at the same time as Barbara knew he didn’t have the patience to watch a film more than a handful of times. The tea was both decaffeinated black tea and another cup of raspberry leaf; she was happily dunking her ginger biscuits in the black tea when Jason’s phone went off.
All hands to Amusement Park. Scarecrow seen with Joker.
Jason rolled his eyes and huffed. If there were two types of toxins you didn’t want to be combined it was Joker Gas and Fear Toxin. Scarecrow was constantly working on his newest formula to create the most fear while Joker liked to mess with the formula so Batman would struggle with anti-toxins on a larger scale. Barbara pulled out her tablet and scanned over the latest information, watching Jason struggle with his need to care for his sister and his need to protect the rest of his family. She’d never say anything to them but between Dick and Jason, the younger man had taken to being an older sibling quicker than the older had. She suspected it was from his time on the streets and taking the younger kids under his protection; creating a makeshift family of sorts.
“Go Jay,” she cupped the side of his face, thumb rubbing his cheek. “Not like I’m going anywhere soon.” She chuckled but could see the sadness in Jason’s blue eyes. He turned his head and pressed a kiss to her hand, then moved to leave the room and go to the cave. He needed to suit up and get to the other side of the city. He gave her one last glance and saw she’d gone back to dunking her biscuits but the tablet was propped up beside her so she could help monitor the action.
That night; or more early morning once they all made it back home; she was joined by both Steph and Cass. She knew both had relatively pain free periods and so, despite being in sync as most close women were, the team didn’t lose three of them from the field every month. Cass had fetched Jane Eyre to read together, while Steph was attempting to research the latest case Barbara was working hoping to help her bring down the human trafficking ring once she was back. Her family were being an amazing support and her day brightened when Bruce fetched a slightly larger tablet into her room and she discovered he’d set up a similar one in her dad’s hospital room. Seeing her dad looking healthier than the last time she saw him; and actually being able to talk to him; brightened her day. She knew she couldn’t thank Bruce enough. Over the years he’d gone out of his way to cater to her medical needs, for all of them. Dick had a private yoga room so he could practice and meditate to work out his explosive rage. Jason had a helmet that helped cut out any extra noise, along with gloves that had parts that turned or clicked when pushed so he could calm himself with his repetitive behaviours. His suit also connected to his HUD so he got real time data on everything around him to help reduce the potential for meltdowns. There were many other adaptations he’d made to help Jason live with his sensory and Autistic behaviours that also ended up helping Tim with is anxiety disorder. He’d set up any access Tim could have to the internet to stop at 2200 and didn’t come back on until 0900 every day. He got Alfred to switch out Tim’s normal coffee for decaf every day after midday. For Cassandra he had a series of flash cards made for when she’s out in Gotham so she can communicate even if the words get stuck. He also set up a dance studio for her as ballet enabled her to relax and turn some of her most dangerous moves into the most beautiful dance moves to help her feel more human. Bruce also makes it a requirement for all of his family, himself and Barbara included, to see mental health experts because of all the trauma they’ve seen. He’s vetted them to such an extent that they’re all able to talk about their nightlife as well as their normal lives without coming across as insane.
With how understanding and accommodating Bruce is with his family and their medical needs that it didn’t surprise Barbara when a new gynaecology appointment appeared through the post. She had to trudge to Metropolis to see the specialist and finally got answers. Dr Leslie had always suspected that she could be suffering with Endometriosis but with the little resources she had access to there wasn’t much she was able to do. When Barbara sat down with the surgeon she was surprised when they were the first suggestions out of his mouth. Ultimately Dick ended up accompanying her to the city a few months later for surgery to confirm the surgeons suspicions and try to remove as much as they could.
For Barbara the recovery from the surgery took two weeks out of her life; but she hoped it’d mean she could be free for the rest of the year, if not longer. Three months later and she felt the stirrings of a familiar pain she’d hoped to banish for longer. Instead of telling her family she did what she’d done before, she curled up on her bed at home and prayed for it to go away.
As the months progressed the pain kept getting worse. Barbara was back to vomiting multiple times a day when the pain was at its worst and had to have Alfred or Dr Leslie rush to her aid with medications. She’d even tried to deny and ignore it was happening for some time.
Barbara was out on patrol, she was twenty-two and newly engaged. Instead of an engagement party with her friends, although they were still having to have one for the ‘social circles’ what with Dick Grayson being the eldest Wayne, they’d all joined the couple in Gotham. It was a night just for patrolling, rooftop tag, and generally pranks that was supposed to end with milkshakes and cake on the roof of Gotham’s old clock tower just before 3am. All of Dick’s siblings had returned from wherever they were based around the world, including Jason who’d been in space with his new team mates Koriand’r and Roy Harper who also happened to be ex-team mates of Dick. Titans new and old had converged on the city with Batgirl and Nightwing announcing their engagement a month before Barbara Gordon and Dick Grayson were to do the same. For one night only Batman had waved his ‘no metas in Gotham’ rule so they could have a large, brightly colourful, fun filled crime fighting night. Barbara was so excited, she’d been off her period for over a week and a half so knew she’d be pain free for the night and could join in with all the hijinks that were to happen.
It all went south when she was fighting a group of mobsters with Cass and Jessica, the newest appointed Green Lantern. She was about to roundhouse kick one of the more effective fighters out of the criminals when a pain shot through her right side. The pain was so severe that she thought she’d been shot initially. She carried on fighting, panting her way through the pain and knowing full well that Cass had picked up on the pain she was in through her body language. The small Asian may have gotten better with spoken language over the years but reading body language was still something she excelled in. They made their way through the goons and once they were all zip tied so the GCPD could collect them Jessica floated them all to a nearby roof on a simple platform construct.
As soon as Barbara’s feet touched the ground Cass was at her side checking her over for injuries. She’d not seen the girl move from where she was attentively checking her over to tap her comm unit, but within a matter of minutes Nightwing and Flash were on the roof with them. She glanced up and caught sight of her future husband in a bridal carry by Wally and laughed at the sight, despite having seen it often over the years, but instantly regretted it as the pain began to increase and her breathing became laboured. The only way Dick could have been at her side quicker was if Flash had continued to carry him, as it was he’d jumped down when Barbara had looked up so leapt to her side as soon as she’d doubled over.
“Are you injured?” His voice held none of the distortion it usually did as Nightwing meaning he’d either turned off the voice modifier or it had broken in one of his earlier antics, she wasn’t sure. She couldn’t answer, too focused on breathing as normally as possible so she didn’t get lightheaded. Cass just tapped ‘no’ on his arm in Morse code and continued to look at her mentor with grave concern. “It’s too early, you’ve only just finished haven’t you?” He asked voice laced with concern. Barbara waited until she was sure moving wouldn’t trigger another bout of the intense stabbing, then rocked back onto her heels and let the momentum carry her back onto her arse to sit on the roof.
“I think it’s ovulation pain, too one-sided to be anything else.” She finally managed to answer. Dick continued to look her over; double-checking Cass’ earlier efforts as he didn’t want to take any chances with his fiancée. She took out some of the tablets she had and dry swallowed them. As she waited for them to kick in Dick launched into a story of how him and Jason had managed to prank Tim during a game of rooftop tag which had resulted in him falling into an open dumpster that had been full of old Chinese food. Wally had managed to get photos of the end results and a video of the small hero falling into the bin without managing to get out his grapple quick enough. She appreciated the reprieve and, although she didn’t laugh aloud Dick could see the laughter in her eyes.
When her tablets had kicked in, and she’d switched on the heating pads Tim had installed in her suit for when her period would surprise her, the five of them took off into the night. She managed to spend the rest of the night out but had to refrain from tag or crime fighting, her pain just too much. As 3am rolled around the large group of heroes crowded on to the clock tower roof; glad it was out of commission; with milkshakes, cake, and Chinese food. After all the large group of bat siblings couldn’t turn down a perfect opportunity to rub in the best fail of the night to one of their own. Barbara looked around at her friends, thankful they were all there but glad it was time to return to the comfy super-king bed her and Dick shared at the Manor.
Barbara’s pain kept getting worse from there. The ovulation pain turned from only lasting twelve hours to two days, then five. Her period got heavier and the pain started coming a handful of days before and lasting after she’d finished. By the time she was twenty four and now Mrs Grayson, she was considering hanging up her cape. Her pain was taking her out of the field for so many days that she was feeling less like a hero and more like a hindrance to her family, despite their reassurances to the contrary. She’d began sleeping less, lying awake and watching Dick as she thought over all they’d been through. When she’d first gotten her diagnosis and they discovered it came with a high chance of infertility she’d told Dick he could walk away, no questions asked and no resentment but if he stayed then he had to be sure he was 100% in. That night he’d asked her to move in with him while also telling her he was moving back to Gotham as he knew she couldn’t leave her father alone in the dangerous city. She looked over at him and wondered if he’d be happier if he’d walked away that day, if he’d have a future with children biologically related to him, or with a partner who could walk down stairs on her own for more than half the month.
Soon she started to notice her body acting up in new and strange ways. Her pain seemed to be around nearly every day, somehow managing to get worse still when she ovulated or it was that time of the month. Her hands would go stiff while her feet switched between having no feeling to being oversensitive without warning. She seemed to ache all over and felt a new level of fatigue; the term exhaustion didn’t feel strong enough to her for what she felt. Sleeping long periods was almost impossible and she found herself napping around the manor more and more. With the arrival of Damian, an entitled ten year old, who turned out to be Bruce’s biological son Barbara saw an opening. Steph passed the Robin mantle down to him and she took up the reins as Batgirl. This just forced her further into a spiral of depression she was refusing to admit she’d fallen down. Her life helping people was over, her pain and fatigue had confined her to a wheelchair for most of the time and she felt like an inconvenience when her and Dick returned to the manor to find Bruce had made the entire place wheelchair accessible (including his cave).
Dick was at a loss as to how he could help his wife. She was getting more depressed as her body failed her more and more. Doctors were unable to help, telling her she’d developed fibromyalgia and that there was no treatment for it, only medications to manage some of the symptoms. He ended up curled up in the kitchen at the manor at 4am post patrol, while Barbara was at their flat, crying into Alfred’s shoulder. He felt as helpless as he did all those years ago when he watched his parents fall to their deaths. He was standing by while another family member of his suffered. Unbeknownst to him, Bruce was listening just outside the kitchen door and spent the next twelve hours thinking up all the ways he could help give Barbara a purpose again; help her save people again. She’d been manning the Batcave computers when she felt up to getting out of bed, but was struggling more and more with going to the manor. Seeing all the adaptations that had been put in for her caused her to shut more of herself down.
With the help of Lucius Fox, and a dedicated team of helpers in the form of brother-in-laws, Bruce gave Barbara a new hope. He remembered how they’d all congregated on the rooftop of the abandoned clock tower to celebrate her engagement to his eldest; so purchased the whole structure for her. They revamped the tower so it would contain flats for her and Dick to rent out (being built and decorated by builders), but that wasn’t the best part. The top floor started just below the old clock face; so you could get a view across the city without obstructing the intricate ironwork of Gotham’s old clock. He set up a computer system that far exceeded that of the Batcave, the monitors and server power requiring him to put in extra generators so the flats didn’t lose power. He turned half the level into living quarters; there were two large bedrooms, a fully adapted bathroom, large kitchen and large living room with state of the art entertainment systems. He even installed a holo room and training centre so she could continue to train and mentor Steph and Cass; along with any other potential heroes she desired. Tim worked closely with Lucius to ensure all her operating systems were at the highest grade they could be as he knew her tech and hacking skills were the best he’d ever seen. Jason had seen all Tim was doing and suggested they find a way for her to switch her monitor backlight from blue to orange whenever she needed as he’d read it helped with painful eyes and headaches caused by fibromyalgia. Barbara was already using voice commands on her phone and tv system in their flat when her hands seized up too much; so Tim set about creating one for her computer system so she’d not feel hindered.
Bruce called her to the clock tower two hours before patrol was supposed to start. He accessed the Grayson’s private lift and took her up to their floor. The first thing she saw as they entered the apartment was a beautiful wall painting done by Damian depicting the sunset over the Paris skyline, a constant reminder of her honeymoon. He could see the spark come back into her eyes as she took in the computer system and other technological items he’d put in place for her. She was already starting to form ideas for what she can do to aid their fight.
“Bruce this is,” she was gobsmacked as the system booted up and she saw all she had to work with. “This is too much, you didn’t have to.”
“I didn’t, but I wanted to. You’re family Barbara,” he placed a hand on her shoulder. “You may have had to give up the physical aspect of helping people, saving this city and the world, before any of us. That doesn’t mean you can’t help; hell you’ll probably do more good here than I can ever hope to do out there.” She ducked her head, floored by all he’d done for her. As she ran through the programmes she realised just how far she could reach and all she could do.
“Bruce I won’t let you down.” She looked up at him and saw him turn away to look out over Gotham. “It’d be impossible to do as I’m already so proud of you.” His praise wasn’t anything new, but hearing it as she sat before her future made it more meaningful to her. “Now all you need is a name.”
“Seeing as I’m going to see all, be all knowing, and send out jobs to you guys,” she rubbed her chin, pretending to be in thought. “I know exactly what you guys can call me,” she pushed over to join Bruce at the window. “Oracle, call me Oracle.”