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A Storm That Took Everything

Chapter Text

Prologue

She sends me blue valentines all the way from Philadelphia
To mark the anniversary of someone that I used to be
And it feels like a warrant, out for my arrest

By the end of the Bats’ meeting, Oracle wheeled herself out of the meeting room and made her way up to the Wayne Manor through one of the elevators connecting the Batcave to the main building above ground. Alfred had already set up her room beforehand and the older man had insisted her to spend the night in the Manor instead of braving the danger of driving alone back to the Clock Tower at night time. Not that she needed the protection so much, but when the family was in a time of crisis, safety measure naturally went up.

Usually, the Oracle operated at her top floor suite in the Clock Tower but today’s emergency had brought her to the Batcave instead. Given the danger the entire Bats clan was facing, spending the night in the Manor was a sensible thing to do. She would return to her base of operation as soon as tomorrow.

On her way up, Oracle tracked back all the procedures she had taken to aid the Bats clan to weather the crisis at hand. She had hacked into the orphanage’s CCTV system and then spent hours editing the video footages carefully before she got herself into her car at the last minute and drove to attempt the Bats clan’s family meeting in the Cave.

She knew all her hard work could ensure both the Gotham City Police Department and the general public would never witness how Bruce Wayne, the billionaire playboy, could wield a gun like a professional, or any too-clear image of Red Hood and his team rushing into the scene to protect Bruce.

As she turned things over in her mind, Oracle looked at her own vague outlines reflecting on the stainless steel wall in front of her: a red-haired young woman, sitting on her wheelchair. She wore a pair of black-framed glasses, a thin dark green cotton jacket over a white blouse, long skirt with color matching her jacket, her expression was unreadable.

Outside of the Bats clan, no one had ever associated the fearsome Oracle with a harmless-looking disabled young woman.

The elevator’s doors opened as it reached the second floor, Oracle---Barbara, or Babs to her family and close friends, again wheeled herself out.

As she passed through the corridor, a fleeing thought suddenly entered her mind: although she regularly turned down offers of help and the rest of the Family knew better than to view her as a woman in need of assistance, still if Dick were here, he would offer to wheel her to wherever she wanted to go, and she would have accepted his aid.

Dick, formally known as Richard Grayson, was her best friend, and one of the few people who knew Barbara and her double lives well. The two of them had first met in high school and became friends. It was an unlikely friendship between the adoptive son of the richest man in town and the daughter of a policeman. Barbara’s father---Inspector Gordon, had never been a well-off man since he had always done things in the old-fashioned and proper way, refusing to accept bribes, which certainly didn’t improve his income.

Yet, their friendship had worked out so well between the two youngsters, they had tried out dating when they grew a little older, they would even have been something more, developing an in-depth romantic relationship if Dick didn’t have his own set of family-related secrets to look after and Barbara didn’t have her ‘accident’.

By the end of their high school years, they were both accepted into Gotham University and they had expected to start their freshman year together. But before this could happen, Barbara became paralyzed as she fell victim to a shooting when she was on her way home at night.

After being shot, the two hired guns hovered over Barbara as she sprawled, bleeding on the dirty sidewalk, pitifully moaning in pain and horror. Through the haze of pain, Barbara could feel the two men gripping the front of her shirt and started to tear them apart, she could also hear the thugs exchanging words about removing her clothes and taking pictures of her broken body to show to her father, as a warning to both her old man and anyone else who dared to disobey.

She thought this was the end of her, that she was going to bleed to death on the sidewalk as the two men bending over her and she was entirely powerless to save herself from whatever they had planned. She indeed would have been stripped, humiliated and eventually died if she wasn’t discovered by a pair of passersby couple quickly enough.

The young couple who discovered Barbara cried out for help immediately, drawing enough attention to scare the hired guns off, and they also called the police quickly---which was brave and noble for them when most passerby would have simply ignored an injured woman bleeding all over the sidewalk in favor of their own safety. This was Gotham City, after all.

Despite being rushed to the hospital just in time, which saved her life, Barbara would still never walk again.

As for the two thugs who were obviously hired to maim Barbara in order to threaten her father, plus the mastermind behind this attack, all of them had remained at large despite police’s effort.

This almost destroyed the young woman and her family alongside her. Barbara thought she would never overcome the pain and humiliation, the helplessness and dread she was forced to endure under those evil men’s hands.

She could no longer face the outside world, not even her own friends and family, she locked herself up, drowning herself in hopelessness and despair. Once she had so many plans for her future, but now all was lost just because of a bullet piercing her through the spine.

She had nothing to live for.

Until Dick literally beating down her door and forced her to face herself and the outside world again. He talked to her constantly, even when she was unresponsive, he persuaded her to eat again, to do exercises to help her body to gain back its strength. The young man took it upon himself to keep her on her scheduled therapy sessions even when she threw things at him, refusing to leave her room.

Months had passed, Dick didn’t give up on her, until one day she recovered enough to finally manage to wheel herself out of her parents’ house and went back to the land of the living again.

One of the first things she had asked for Dick’s assistance after she became strong enough to be active again, was for him to help to locate the young couple who had helped her to survive in that fatal night. Barbara still remembered how they boldly screamed at the hired thugs until they retreated, how the young woman--only a few years older than Barbara herself, took hold of her hands, murmuring words of comfort to her until an ambulance arrived.

Barbara wished to finally thank the couple for their kindness and courage.

However, her dream of meeting her benefactors again came crashing down around her when a few days later, Dick came back with the news that the young couple in question had been murdered.

According to the information Dick managed to gather, they were shot at their own home in what appeared to be a robbery went wrong.

Were they really the victims of a senseless crime, or were they being silent for acting as the good Samaritans? No one would ever know the truth.

Even since waking up in the hospital and learned about her own injury, Barbara had refused to cry, but once she heard what had happened to her benefactors, she broke down and cried her heart out.

There was nothing she could do. For a moment it felt like she was going right back to that fatal night when she was bleeding and helpless. She hated it, hated this world, all the horror and ugliness, all the injustice. Every evildoer who managed to walk free from their crime and the broken victims they left behind. She hated it.

She hated all these with a burning passion.

As she dried her tears, she vowed to herself she would never, never be helpless again.

Little bit by little bit, the young woman picked up the broken pieces of her life. First, she took up the job offer to work in Wayne Enterprises as an intern for the computer networking and communication department. The workload was heavy and the work itself was highly demanding, and Barbara threw herself right into it. At least unlike in the university or at her own home, no one was looking at her with pity in where she worked.

At the back of her mind, she knew for someone like her, who still hadn’t yet finished university, to be accepted as an intern in the famed Wayne Enterprises, Dick must have pulled a few strings behind the screen for her to get this opportunity.

So Babara threw herself into her work and hit it with everything she had, she improved her skills and knowledge on the subject of computer science, working on every piece of new knowledge she could get her hands on.

Secondly, she signed up for lessons and started training herself to use firearms.

Once again, Dick took it upon himself to drive her whenever she needed a ride to attempt her lessons, he stayed behind to watch her practiced how to use guns, even giving out advice for her to improve her performance, how to aim better, how to have better balance, etc.

She was surprised by Dick’s knowledge on the subject of firearms, through the years of them knowing each other, he had never seemed to be the type to fancy guns or used them frequently. She was aware of the fact that Bruce Wayne, Dick’s adoptive father would take his children to hunting trips occasionally, but Dick had never said much about those activities and Barbara had never given much thought about them.

This changed after Barbara saw firsthand how with ease Dick had seemed to be when he demonstrated how to shoot properly, just in order to show her how it was done.

It was the first time Barbara had this uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach like she was seeing a side of Richard Grayson she had never seen before.

 

****

Barbara was in front of the door to her room in the Manor when she noticed a lithe figure slipping into her line of vision. The lighting in the corridor wasn’t strong enough for her to make out much of the details but she had quite a good idea who it might be.

She was tired and didn’t have much will and patience for a long talk, plus his presence was rather unexpected. She had thought Robin would stay behind to raise some hell with Red Hood, or at least, she hoped he would do this. Not that she liked seeing Robin and Red Hood at each other’s throats, not at all. It was just…...she would rather have him bothering Hood instead of tailing her like he was doing now.

When she spoke up, she didn’t even turn her head to acknowledge the other’s presence. “You have something to say, Damian?”

“I have something to say about the fake alarm you’d given in the meeting, Gordon.” The 15 years old teen replied, his voice was low, with barely veiled accusation.

“What fake alarm?” Barbara asked, though again, she had quite a good idea of what the current Robin was talking about.

“There has never been any real concern for Grayson’s safety because you had already sent a warning to him even before the meeting. Am I correct?”

“......”

Barbara closed her eyes, she should have known she couldn’t fool everyone. Once she was made aware of the attempt on Bruce’s life, one of the first things she did was to send out a warning to Dick through a channel which was known only to the two of them.

Damian had seemingly taken her silence as a form of admission. “Why?”

Well, through the years, Barbara had learned Damian could be many things, but she had never expected the teen to be the type to ask questions when he already had an answer in mind.

“The same reason why you want to go all the way to Blüdhaven to warn Dick, even when it only takes one phone call to get the message across,” She replied, as gently as she could muster.

This time, Damian had nothing to counter, and Barbara didn’t bother to wait for him to start, she mutely opened the door to her room and got in.

Once the door was closed and she was left alone, Barbara admitted to herself, she had brought up the topic of Dick in the Bats’ meeting because she wanted to see Bruce’s reaction. The older man’s reaction was one of the details she quietly stored into her memory during the family meeting.

Chapter Text

Part 1

Baby you got me checkin' in my rearview mirror

 

When Barbara first came to work in the computer networking department, her supervisor, the department’s manager, mostly threw unwanted data and tasks at her. Thinking she couldn’t do better than dealing with leftovers and petty tasks. She was assigned to sort out the messy leftover in the department’s computer system, sorting out bugs, classifying data and putting them back under the right index, the most mundane kind of tasks within their department.

At the very beginning, none of her coworkers in her workplace thought too highly of her, mostly for the fact that she was one of the few people who worked in the department but didn’t yet have a university degree and working experience under her belt. Plus it didn’t take long for rumors to be spread that she got her internship only because she was the girlfriend of Richard Grayson-Wayne, adopted son of the company’s owner.

As for Barbara herself, she didn’t care too much about her coworkers’ opinions and their treatment to her. If people felt the need to judge her so quickly, then so be it. She understood that to her coworkers, she was merely a newcomer yet to prove herself, who had entered the Wayne Enterprises with a suspicious manner. The only way to gain her coworkers’ respect was to prove her own worth first.

So she worked on the materials handed to her without complaint, sorting through each worn out folders and case files being thrown her way, cataloging them and turned those chaotic data back into meaningful information, ready to be reused again.

One day, Barbara’s supervisor took a look at the database she had been working on, and he checked on it again, this time more slowly and carefully, then the man returned to his office without a word only to reappear minutes later with his both hands full of heavy case files and pieces of equipment and brought them all to Barbara’s desk.

The manager wanted the newbie intern girl to work through those data and files and build up a system based on them.

When faced by the man’s challenge, Barbara responded by doing her best.

Later the manager would tell her he had expected her to finish the task in two weeks or even longer, but Barbara brought up a finished model for him within one week.

When one week was up and she was finished, the manager was once again impressed by the result she proved. This time, even her coworkers started to notice her achievement.

Her manager continued to allow her to work on more and more data, sorting through them and built up different systems.

Little by little, the rumors about how the young woman got her internship and the harsh words against her began to die down. Later she earned herself a promotion and became a formal employee of the department.

She was happy with her newfound success, but there was still one problem on the horizon: the more she worked, with more data she came into contact and analyzed, the more she sensed something was amiss.

During her research, she noticed there was something not adding up inside the Wayne Enterprises' system, something which had no explanation. The young woman soon noticed there were undercurrents within the Wayne Enterprises, there were unexplained flows of money running through the system, 'employees' who were receiving paychecks on a regular basis but no one could tell exactly what they were working on, or even which department they were supposed to be in.

Well, if she was to be entirely honest with herself, she had broken a few rules in order to get to these pieces of information and take a peer at them.

Out of loyalty to Dick, for the longest of time, Barbara had turned a blind eye. She kept her discovery a secret, kept her suspicion to herself, never revealing anything to her coworkers. She also didn’t say anything of her finding to her supervisor.

The sense of suspense and secrecy weighed heavily on her, she had been taught by her parents to be honest all her life, but now...she was collecting secrets and keeping them as though those things were hers to keep.

Despite the heavy feeling in her heart, she fixed her mind on analyzing the details she’d found. There was a picture hiding under all those data, she kept looking for hints until the main structure started to take shape before her mind’s eye.

She checked each piece of details until she discovered something more. She kept looking until she could make sense of what she was seeing, the hidden picture underneath layers of lies, disguises and misinformation.

What she had found, had with the hidden side of the WE’s business, it also had a lot to do with Dick’s family, the Waynes.

It took her a lot of hesitation before she could make up her mind to call Dick for a meet-up. She had things to show him.

If she were honest with herself, she would call this meeting a confrontation, but at this moment, it was easier to avoid giving her own thoughts a name.

When the arranged day of their meeting arrived, they met at one of the top floor suites in the Wayne Tower, in a sunlit parlor at the top of the Tower, one of those places which were reserved for the Waynes. Barbara gathered the information she’d found, saving them in her laptop and then turning all those files to Dick, and all she wanted in return from him were some answers.

At first Dick was on the phone with someone else, Barbara waited until he was finished and came up to greet her. Once she opened her laptop and showed him the files, he started checking those digital files one by one patiently, then looked at the folders and case files she had made ready on the desk. When he closed the last file, Dick remained silent, seemingly deep in thoughts.

Barbara waited for his move and was slightly taken aback when he walked around the desk, then getting down on one knee in front of her, and asked her the question.

“I see that you’d put many things within the WE together, Babs.” Dick looked into her eyes as he spoke in his usual calming tone. “So what is your conclusion?”

Closing her eyes for a second before reopening them, feeling wearier than she had ever been, Barbara chose to go straight to the point. "My conclusion is, there are certain connections between Waynes and the Bats crime family. Connections that go as early as the beginning of Mr. Wayne, your adopted father’s career.”

Now she had put her cards on the table. What she said was the conclusion she had come up with after looking at all the evidence, putting every clue together and analyzing them. Yet, why would she still feel nervous when she uttered this conclusion?

Dick’s muscles tensed up for a moment, he quickly relaxed but his instinctual reaction wasn’t lost to Barbara. He didn’t say anything, he only continued to look at her with those blue eyes reflecting both curiosity and caution.

“I even have a few pieces of evidence to prove that they are one and the same, your family and the so-called Bats clan." The young woman whispered, she tried to stay calm but even at this moment, her hands were shaking on top of her laps. " But what I need to confirm is, who are you, Dick? What role have you been playing in this...family?"

Her question echoed off into the silence in the room. Dick watched her for another long moment before he took a deep sigh and spoke. "I have something to show you, come with me, Babs."

Then he stood up, taking hold of the handles of her wheelchair and wheeled her out of the parlor. When they reached the underground parking lot there was an unmarked car waiting for them. Once he got Barbara settled on the passenger seat of said car, Dick started the engine and soon they left the Wayne Tower behind and drove to a highway, exiting Gotham City altogether.

Perhaps Barbara should be afraid, she was alone in a car with a person who she had just revealed as a member of the Bats clan, a dangerous crime family. If said person wanted to silence her in order to keep his 'family's secret', there wasn't much she could do as they were alone on an increasingly deserted highway, no one would be there to save her or even be close enough to be able to hear her scream.

However, unlike what had happened when she was attacked by the two hired thugs, this time Barbara wasn't afraid, it was Dick sitting beside her after all, she trusted that Dick would not harm her, even after all the evidence she had discovered, even after she had figured out his family secret.

It was during this car trip, Dick first revealed bits and pieces of his Family’s true identity, and the truth of his double lives to her.

Batman and his clan were real, and Dick, this young man whom she thought she had known so well through the years, had harbored a secret identity as Robin, Batman’s partner in crime and now, being groomed to be the successor of Batman’s empire.

Dick didn’t look at her during this confession, didn’t try to look her in the eyes when he confirmed, with his own words, that Barbara’s hypothesis and suspicion were true.

Dick’s monologue came to an end when they reached their destination, a large, rundown barn in the middle of nowhere.

"I'd never wanted to be put into this position,” The young man said when he drove his car into the garage behind the barn. “but this time I'm glad to be part of this 'family', because it means at the very least I can finally do something for you, Babs."

Before she could ask what did he mean, Dick leaned forward to kiss her on her forehead, told her he was going to give her what she wanted, a present.

How could Dick know what she wanted when she herself hadn't yet known what she wanted?

She was helped out of the car and brought inside the seemingly empty barn, there were a few men, all dressed in dark business suits, sitting inside, waiting for them. They bowed in unison when they saw Dick.

Instantly Barbara knew these men must be members of the Bats clan, who were under Dick’s command.

“Once I got that phone call before our meeting, I’d been thinking about how to tell you, Babs.” Dick said when he held her bridal style so they could get down the stairs to a hidden basement, with one of his men holding Barbara’s wheelchair for her.

He paused, then looking down at her in concern. “ I wouldn’t have known how to reveal this to you, Babs. But...I think we can get past this state of second-guessing now, right?”

Barbara didn’t know how to respond, and Dick merely ended his sentence with a failed attempt to smile before they reached the bottom of the narrow stairs and went into a poorly lit basement.

Soon Barbara would discover there were two rooms within this stone-made basement, the two rooms were separated only by a heavy steel door and a large full-length glass window, which Dick explained as a specially prepared one-way mirror.

They were on one side of the one-way mirror, and on the other side, a whole squared room was covered from ceiling to floor with some kind of white plastic wrapping, plus there were three blindfolded men hanging from the ceiling by the chains wrapped around their wrists. It was obvious that they had all been previously beaten and interrogated.

Barbara gasped at the sight, she thought there was something familiar about these men, while she was still focused on the men’s blindfolded, bruised faces for clues, two of the men in dark suits opened the steel door and walked into this other room, getting into positions behind the three hanging men.

“You had seen these men before, at least two out of these three; Babs.” Now Dick was lowering her back to her wheelchair. “Remember their faces? Should we take off the blindfolds? Don’t you worry, they really can’t see us.”

“...no need, Dick. I remember.” Barbara was surprised to hear herself answering, her own voice devoid of any emotion, but it was true that in a flash, she did remember who two out of these three men were.

Those two were the hired thugs who had put a bullet through her spine one and a half years ago.

Her mind was racing and everything came to make sense to her now, it was Dick’s ‘present’ to her, he had brought her torturers to this hidden location, and they were now chained before her. Just as battered, scared and helpless as she once was when she was attacked.

“Finding the hired guns isn’t the difficult part, Babs,” Dick commented, in a matter-of-fact tone. “Ratting out the one who’d hired them to do the job? This is the difficult part.”

With a hand gesture from Dick, one of his men moved to stand behind the bound man at the center and undid his blindfold.

So Barbara came face to face with the person who had ordered her to be maimed, and this face would stay with her for a long time afterward.