Part 6: The Farewell
Babs was just cinching the final strap on her luggage when the phone rang.
"Miss Gordon?" the desk attendant asked."Yes, this is Barbara Gordon," she replied. "Miss Gordon, Mr. Jones is here."
Babs smiled. Ever the gentleman. Even last night, he had said his good-byes at the elevator in the lobby, brushing a kiss across her cheek and waiting until he saw her safely closed into the elevator before leaving. "Let him know I'm on my way down," she answered the desk attendant. "And can you send someone for my luggage?"
"Of course," the voice on the phone agreed, and she cradled the handset. She gave herself a hasty inspection in the mirror, chuckling for a moment at her own vanity. She'd chosen to wear a crisply tailored long-sleeved silk blouse in a deep green-a color which highlighted both her eyes and her hair. She paired this with a smart pair of black slacks and the stylishly chunk heeled black shoes that Cassandra of all people had mysteriously insisted that she buy. She'd brought this outfit on the off chance that her presence would be requested at one of the more formal dinners of her father's conference, but she never thought that she'd wear it.
She ran her hairbrush one more time through her hair and tucked it into the pocket of her carry on. Then she wheeled from her room and across the hall, where she rapped lightly on the door to her father's room.
"Just a minute," she heard, and then the door swung open.
"So! You did make it home last night," Jim Gordon teased, although Babs sensed a hint of relief beneath his joking tone.
"Yep. We went to a jazz club after the ball game and kinda lost track of time."
"A jazz club, eh? You kids have a good time?"
Babs nodded. "It was great. In fact, John's downstairs now-"
"Don't tell me you've decided you're going to abandon me and stay in Denver."
She chuckled. "You should only be so lucky, Dad. I'm afraid you're stuck with me. But I wanted to let you know I'm all packed and everything, so we can just meet up downstairs when you're done."
"You got it, kiddo. See you in a bit."
"Yep. See ya."
Babs turned and began to wheel toward the elevator, pausing when Jim suddenly said, "Barbara."
She turned half back. "Yeah, Dad?"
He was standing in the door of his room, his eyes fondly on her. "I just wanted to tell you you look great today," he said.
Babs felt a broad smile blossom on her face. "Thanks, Dad!" She was still smiling when she emerged from the elevator on the ground floor.
John was standing at the lobby desk, chatting easily with the desk attendant. A tan trench coat hung from his broad shoulders, and a hat sat in front of him on the desk. His eyes lit up when he saw Babs wheeling toward him. "There she is," he commented, picking up his hat from the desk.
"Hey, John," she greeted. "What's with the hat?"
"It's raining," he answered, gesturing out to the grey weather outside the lobby glass. "Besides, shouldn't every private detective have a fedora?" He settled the hat on his head with a lopsided smirk.
She studied him for a moment. "It makes you look Bogart-esque," she decided.
His lips quirked into a fuller smile, and he pushed the hat back on his head as he leaned down to kiss her cheek. "And you, my dear, could give Bergman a run for her money," he said softly, bringing a pleasured flush to her face.
He straightened. "Do you like walks in the rain?" he asked.
"Oh! I forgot my coat, but-"
"You have an umbrella?" he interrupted, shrugging off his trench coat.
"You're wearing a suit!" she exclaimed, appreciating the way the tailored jacket fit his assumed form.
Did she imagine it, or did a faint blush color his cheeks as he laid his coat across the desk and he began unbuttoning the suit coat. "I'm going to work this afternoon," he explained, removing the jacket and draping it around Babs' shoulders. "If you don't have an umbrella, I'm sure Jody here can-"
"I've got one," she assured him, reaching into a pocket of her chair and producing the requested object. "Even clips onto my chair." His jacket carried his scent, she noticed in a corner of her mind, snuggling into the body heat it retained.
"Smart thinking, that," he acknowledged, pulling his trench coat back on and settling his hat more properly on his head. "Shall we, then?"
"Lead on," she encouraged, dropping the umbrella into her lap to follow him out the hotel doors. On the sidewalk, under the hotel awning, they paused as Babs opened the umbrella and fixed into it's place on her chair.
Seeing that Babs was ready, John started down the block. "There's a nice park just down the street; it's got a nice path through it. I figure a day like this we won't have to worry too much about bladers and bikers."
Babs nodded. "Sounds good to me." She breathed deeply. "I love the smell of rain," she commented.
"Me, too," John agreed. "Especially this kind of summer rain. The earth is hungry for it."
They continued in silence for a moment until Babs spied a promising puddle. With a sudden burst of speed, she splashed through it, laughing as the water arced from her wheels. Her umbrella threatened to turn itself inside out for a moment, then settled back into its sheltering shape as John jogged to catch up with her.
"Been a while?" he asked, his eyes laughing.
"Too long. Or rather, too often it's been a story of aggravation, dealing with a wet chair, slippery hand holds, focusing on the crumminess of it."
John nodded in understanding, and she was relieved that he didn't start apologizing for dragging her out in the weather. But then, he could hear what the others' couldn't-that she was *happy* to be out, remembering why she used to love the rain.
They crossed the street to a block of inviting green. "Here we are," John announced unnecessarily, and they slowed their pace as they entered the park.
It was nice, Babs reflected. The silence between them as they ambled along, listening to the patter of rain on the leaves of the trees arching over their heads and onto Babs umbrella, smelling the warmth of the wet earth and the scent of early summer blossoms-it was a contented silence. A silence in which she could think.
"Hard to believe we're in the middle of the city," Babs finally said.
"Yeah, I know. It's busy here when it's drier, but I like it like this."
A little overlook opened off the path, and Babs pulled into it and up to the low wall at it's edge, gazing down into a shallow ravine through which a small brook babbled. John followed her unquestioningly, hitching his hip onto the wall to look down on the water.
"John," she began uncertainly.
"Go ahead," he encouraged, his tone neither demanding nor reluctant.
She hesitated for a moment. "This week-you took me lots of places."
He nodded, leaving open the quiet for her to continue.
She glanced up at him. "You took me to places where people stomped their feet and danced and stood and cheered."
His eyes met hers, their expression warmly supportive.
"I thought you would enjoy them," he answered simply.
She nodded. "I did. I truly did. But-"
"You could've-I know your powers. You could've let me dance, given me a chance to stand again-and you didn't. You had to know I miss it, that I wanted to..." She trailed off, her eyes again focused on the watering cheerfully travelling to wherever it was going.
His voice demanded that she meet his eyes, and when she did she found herself arrested by the intensity she saw there.
"You're right. I could've done those things for you. But what then?
"You would've had those things for that moment or two, but then you would be back in your chair, and that's a bitter gift. And you would've doubted what I'm going to tell you now."
Now he looked away, out toward the horizon of trees across the ravine. "I know you live your life among your friends and family, and there is always that fear that they are loving you for what you *were*-the girl who danced 'til dawn or took down the bad guys with grace. You see this body as a broken version of what you had.
"I thought you'd like to meet some people who would love you for what you *are*."
His eyes returned to her, their gaze penetrating. "You see, Barbara, you are an incredibly beautiful and gifted woman. You have a strong spirit and power in your hands to brighten the lives of millions-which you do, in a million small ways every day. It's not just that you can save the world-" a faint smile crossed his face- "it's that you have one of the most lyrical laughs I have ever heard. It's that you really listen to people-as long as they aren't trying to give you advice. It's that you know the infield fly rule AND the square root of two, but you never make people who don't know those things feel bad for not knowing. It's that you've held together *two* families in the face of adversities they would not have survived without you."
He reached out a hand to cup her cheek. "I know about the woman you *were*, Barbara Gordon, but I love the woman you *are*."
Closing her eyes, Babs leaned into his hand. In her mind's eye, she imagined the picture they painted, only somehow they seemed not to be in a rain-washed Denver park, but rather in red sands teased by the wind. And it was not John Jones, Denver P.I., who touched her face, lending and drawing strength from the same contact, but J'onn J'onzz, the Martian Manhunter, his eyes lit with an admiring compassion that felt simultaneously alien and nostalgically familiar to her. One single slow tear fell into his hand.
They stayed there a moment longer, until John finally said, "Your father is going to worry I made off with you."
Babs looked up with a crooked smile, her eyes shining. "Thank you, J'onn."
"No," he chuckled. "Thank *you*. It's been a while since I had few uninterrupted days of such pleasant company." He stood. "Let's get back to the hotel."
She nodded, and they made the trip back in companionable silence. When the hotel came into view, though, John paused, and Babs stopped with him. He gave her a sidewise glance and a tight smile. "Well, Barbara, I guess this is good-bye."
Her face echoed his expression. "Yeah." She swallowed past an unexpected lump in her throat. "Back to the grind."
He reached out his hand to hers and gave a comforting squeeze. "You know how to reach me if you ever want to talk or anything," he reminded her, tapping his temple significantly.
Remembering the previous evening, Babs responded by stretching out tentatively with her thoughts. There was the brief electricity of contact, then she felt a comforting swell of contentment radiating out to her from J'onn's mind. His lips brushed down to hers in the briefest of contacts, a sweet kiss of farewell.
A heavy sigh escaped her, and he released her hand. A final stray thought passed between them, and with simultaneous grins, they bolted forward in a last race to the hotel.
"No fair-the umbrella slowed me down!" Babs protested as John held the door for her. Their faces were flushed with laughter and exertion.
"Excuses, excuses," he teased.
"Ahem," a third voice added.
"Dad!" Babs cried cheerfully. "We were just racing."
Jim Gordon looked at his daughter with undisguised affection and pleasure, but when he turned to John, Babs watched his face assume a sterner expression. "You'd better watch out, Jones. My daughter doesn't like to lose."
"So I've learned," John replied, holding out his hand to Jim. "She's quite a woman."
Jim accepted John's handshake. "And don't you forget it."
"I couldn't. Give my regards to our mutual friend?"
"Certainly. Ready to go, Barbara?"
Babs nodded, slipping out of John's suit coat and handing it to him. "Thanks, John. If ever you're in Gotham, give me a call."
"You got it. Looks like your cab is waiting."
Babs glanced out to the taxi at the curb. "Looks like it. Good-bye, John."
"Good-bye, Barbara, Jim."
Babs followed her father to the car, relieved to discover he had secured one with a lift for her chair. The driver got her in with minimal fuss and smiling good cheer, and she enjoyed his casual flirtation. Soon both she and her father were settled, and the driver pulled away from the curb.
"So it was a good vacation, then?" Jim asked.
"Yes," Babs agreed, her eyes tracking the man in the trench coat and the fedora as he disappeared into the midday traffic of downtown Denver. As he faded from view, she turned to her father with a smile. "Yes it was."