You might wanna read Family Reunion and Get a Life. They come before this.
I don't own any of them, I'm not making any money off this, I wish I was. It could support my comic book habit. Then DC would cease to have more of my money than I do.
The Spinning World
When I got home, I showered first thing. I really wanted to eat, but I couldn't stand to be near myself. When I was safe and secure in flannel pajamas and my oversized robe, I went down stairs. Dad was already up for work. I wondered if he'd even gone to bed from the night before. I could tell mom hadn't. Dad tried to do afternoon into evening shifts, but it didn't always work out that way. Especially at vacation time, and any other time the schedule was overly thinned. It was February, so I was sure illness around the office was changing his schedule.
"Morning, peeps. Anything happening here that I need to know about?" Dad was eating French toast. I wanted some, but his were always soggy in the middle. Just leave them on the grill for two more minutes. That's all I asked.
"We're not peeps," my mother told me. "We're your parents. And not anything, really. Except Redwing is requesting your head on a silver platter." I winced.
"Whoops. It slipped." Didn't they understand? Sometimes the gossip was too good to hold inside. It just burst out. You know, like Old Faithful. "Besides, we'd have all noticed SOONER or later that Spoiler was um… you know." Preggers.
My mom frowned. "Still, he told you not to tell."
Sighing, I promised to do better with keeping gossip to myself. I wouldn't call it a secret. If you looked hard enough, you'd figure that stuff out yourself, and we knew I was obviously good at keeping secrets. My family was one big secret.
"So, what time you have to be at work?" I asked dad
"Not till seven."
It was 5:30 currently. That meant… well, I had him all to myself till it was time to get ready for school—or until my brother got up. "Don't go in too early today," I told him. "You'll freak them out." My dad was the only man alive who was consistently late for a noon shift.
"Or they'll think that it's a good idea to put me on these early shifts. Outch." Yeah, that WOULD hurt.
"So, how did things go, after I lost contact with you?" mom asked as I was digging through the fridge. Mmm. Left-over steak.
"I ruled, as usual. And I discovered the lock-picking powers of the under wire bra."
Dad blinked. Mom just gave me an indulgent smile. "There's a reason I tell you not to wear the sports bras." She was right about that.
"Wait a minute. You mean this is something you two knew about, and didn't tell me?"
"Well, I just figured it out. And what're you gonna do, dad, start wearing a bra?"
He turned red. "I'd just rather know my… assets going into a situation."
I laughed. "Grandpa didn't go that far. He just said nice job, and we got the hell out of there. By the way, Canada sucks. And that Ra's guy sucks too." Understatement of the universe, Mara.
"Well, tell me what happened. Why did both of your comms go dead?"
I chuckled a little. "You worry too much, mom. That Ra's guy is smart. Had us both stripped to our underclothes, masks still on. He drugged grandpa, but he left me go. I think he still thinks I'm eight and not a threat or something. Anyways, he coulda just killed us, but we know he doesn't think too highly of me," I frowned. I was as small of a threat as I could be, in his mind. He just wanted The Detective, "but he just needed us out of the game long enough for his plane to take off. Then they were going to dump the virus, and let it spread through the Americas. Oh, yeah, and when we did get communications restored, Dinah called from Egypt to say she was gonna kick Batman's ass—butt for not bringing her along. Still bitter much? Anyways. So here I am, freezing to death, just in my shorts and t-shirt. They even took my SOCKS.
"Bats was down for the count, so I managed to twist myself around enough in the chains to get the bra off. Then I bit out the under wire, pealed off that little plastic thing, and picked the locks. Nasty little buggers. I kicked the guard's butts, found our clothes, found grandpa, got Sleeping Beauty vertical, then we went after the plane. Grandpa torched the thing to kill the virus, and of course, his royal highnessness Ra's and his stupid daughter escape. I think grandpa knew he would, cause he fired at the thing while they were still in there. Or he's turning into psycho-bat." At least the second option would be entertaining. Ok, I hadn't slept in three days, and I was getting a little funny in the head.
My stuff was done in the microwave. I sat down at the table and grinned. "So, anyways, the plane catches everything else in the cavern on fire, and that does away with all of that, including the Lazarus Pit. He's got them everywhere, I swear." Dousing it in steak sauce, I took my knife and started cutting. "So. Then we established communications again, but you weren't near the computer, so the first thing we got was our butts chewed out by Dinah. And that is that." Master story teller I was not.
"Good work, kiddo." Mom told me. I decided to let the kid thing pass. I was working on making a better relationship with my parents. "I trust I'll have your report by tomorrow morning?"
My shoulder sunk. "Mo-om. I haven't slept in a million years. Can't you just go by grandpa's report?"
"He spent a good deal of time unconscious, didn't he?" I nodded. "Then it falls on you to hand in a second field report." I groaned. This was the thing I hated about major action—paperwork.
"Do I still gotta go to school today?" I hated Mondays. Well, there were a lot of things I hated.
"Go in for attendance. I'll pick you up after your second class." I was really good at faking stomach aches. My mom even told the nurse it was a chronic thing and I was on a prescription for it. The truth was, I could probably drink orange juice and milk together and keep it down. "And before you start, two classes is my final offer. A little birdy told me you have a Trig test today."
"Curses, Red Barron! Curses!"
Dad told me to quit quoting cartoon strips and finish eating.
"I aint got nowhere to be."
"Finish eating anyways." He drank the rest of his coffee.
Why did I have the feeling I was about to get a good talking-to about something?
"When were you going to tell me that you officially resigned from Young Justice?"
I sighed. This was like… two days ago. It seemed forever ago. "Well, I was going to, but your Bat came and dragged me to Canada. I told mom, so it wasn't like some big secret."
"You know they want to put the whole team on inactive until you come back."
"That is entirely Superman's doing. I thought he was going to be cool about this, but maybe not. Look, maybe you don't understand this, but I can't handle them any more. They're too rowdy. I don't know how you and Tim did it, but I just can't, any more. I LIKE being Robin in Gotham. The commute is horrible, but hey. That's what I'd like to do for now, until I have myself figured out." Please, PLEASE don't give me a hard time, I was begging.
"You really need to learn how to operate in the rest of the world. That is Batman's biggest failing with the Justice League—he doesn't deal well with their type of problems, and he doesn't play well with others."
"I've been doing the Young Justice gig for three years without any complaints from you or from the Justice League. Trust me. Clark would be the first one calling me up if there's a problem. I CAN deal with 'world' sized situations. Right now, I just don't WANT to."
"Well, maybe if you need a vacation from Young Justice, you need a vacation from Gotham, too."
I stood up and threw my fork down. "Oh my God! I can't believe you just said that! BATMAN is being cooler about this than you are. Do you know what that means? It means you need to get a grip." I stalked away from the table and up the steps. So much for quality time and all that stupid stuff. Everything was always fine when I was doing what they told me to do, and the minute I wasn't… things stopped being fine. Mom had taken the news well. Superman HADN'T taken it well, but he was dealing… Batman had suggested it, and my dad was having an aneurism? What the hell kind of world did I live in?
I stared out my window for a few moments. My natural instinct was to put on the costume and hit the roof tops. It's usually what I did when I was mad at someone in my house. I didn't want to come home and have to change though, so I got dressed for school, grabbed my book bag, and high-tailed it out my window. It was another identity for me—that of the studious highschooler.
Damn, it was cold out here without my thermal underwear. It seemed colder now than earlier in the evening. The wind certainly had more bite. I had about an hour until I had to be at school. I was sure I could find something to do AT SCHOOL until then. You know, like all of this weekend's homework.
I decided to walk directly to school. If I deviated, I'd get into trouble. It was probably too cold, and too early in the morning for people to be doing naughty things, but with my luck, I'd find the one mook in the entire world who'd do something at 6:15 in the morning.
"I didn't think our conversation was over." I kept walking. "Mara…"
I sat on the bench outside my school. Thank God it was DAD who was stalking me and not Nightwing. I'd have been really really mad. I hated when he handled family situations as Nightwing. It was like mom lecturing me on the Oracle line. "You want to talk, here I am. You found me."
"I hate when you go storming off."
"Its better than the alternative," I said darkly. "Besides, I'm not sure what else I have to say. You don't like that I did it, but I did it. You're going to give me all the same reasons Superman did as to why I should stay, and I only have one reason why I should go—because I can't hack it any more."
"What alternative? And I'm not going to do that. Not if he already has. I just want to know that Bruce hasn't put you up to this."
"He hasn't." Well, actually he had. He'd said if I needed time away from YJ, to take it. But he hadn't forced me into it. "And the alternative is a screaming match."
"How much time off do you need? Maybe we don't need to make it a formal resignation. We can talk to Clark before it becomes news to the rest of JLA today…"
I shook my head. "Dad, you're trying to manage my problems for me again. Its cute, it's sweet, but it isn't going to work." I was trying to play this cool, even though I was screaming on the inside. I wanted to tell him to get the hell out of my life.
"I'm just trying to help."
"Can we talk about this later? Like after I've slept?" You know, in honor of the fact I have been up since noon on Saturday?
"I'd rather discuss it now, before the rest of the League--"
"Dad, what does it matter? So they find out? They'll either get over it or they wont. It's been a long time in coming. So an official announcement is made? Who the hell cares?" I was going to get in trouble for being rude, I knew it. But I never could hold myself back where my father was concerned. I always just had to push a little further. "Look, I'm going inside. I'm cold, I spend four hours in my skivvies in the Yukon, and I have English homework to finish. So you can either let me go, or you can follow me in and TRY to have this conversation around people."
I rose and went through the double doors. He didn't follow.
I went into the library and ran a hand through my hair. It was so dull and lifeless when I brushed it down. That was Mara, total lack of any sign of life. That's why Robin was better. At least she had a pulse.
I dug out Cyrano and read the last act. It wasn't bad stuff. I just wish I had more time to invest in these happy little worlds where everything comes out all right at the end. Or at least the literary requirements for a just ending occurred.
"Mara Grayson! Just the person I wanted to see." Mrs. Weitz was coming into the library with her arms full of papers. She set them on the counter at the front desk. "I was going to discuss this with you in class, but we might as well do it now, if you have a minute."
Actually, I didn't. "Sure," I said sweetly.
"It was about your last essay. Usually your grasp of what I'm asking in the assignment is excellent. I don't think you quite got this last one."
Don't roll your eyes, I ordered myself. "Oh?" Good. You didn't roll your eyes. You get a biscuit.
She smoothed her flower print dress as she sat at the carol next to me. "You made excellent use of sources, but you only told me what other people thought, the pro-super hero side, and the con-super hero side. You gave excellent support for both. But you never said how YOU feel."
I closed my eyes so she wouldn't see me rolling them. The last paper had been on current events, and my group had the misfortune of having to write a paper on our feelings of meta-humans and cape-and-tights folks in general, with support from outside sources.
"Well," I don't really have a strong feeling one way or another," I told her.
"For the sake of the assignment you should have just chose one thing."
"Then that'd be lying." I could play this semantics game too. I played it very well, and very innocently. What did this lady wanna hear? That I was a cape-and-tights type? That almost everyone in my family was or had been a cape-and-tights?
I knew the bigger names personally, and yes, Kyle Rayner really did have an attitude like that, Impulse was really the shining beacon of innocence like Superman, the Flash could be made to squirt chocolate milk out his nose if you made faces at just the right time, and Starfire had been two steps away from being my mom. Messed up childhood? Yeah, I think so. I was entitled to not divulge my opinions. I loved Lian like the older sister I'd never had, but we compared notes: we had a special type of screwed up childhood. Everyone's was screwed up, but ours had its' own brand name, patent pending. Coloring under the table at a Justice League meeting while the big guns made world-altering decisions sort of warps your perspective a little.
"Sometimes," Mrs. Weitz said sympathetically, "by just choosing a side, and writing about it, you can convince yourself to either accept what you're writing or reject it, thereby choosing a side."
I shrugged. "I don't like to think about it too much."
"Your grandfather is friends with that Black Canary woman, isn't he?" Geeze, like the woman was too up on current events. She needed to just put the newspaper down, and read some Shakespeare. "Certainly that has shaped your perspective SOMEHOW?"
I shrugged. "Well, I don't really know her. My grandfather knows a LOT of blond chicks." Sorry, Dinah, for hurting your rep. But if it is any consolation, I just made my grandfather sound like a dirty old man. "She's a bottle job anyways." I wanted to laugh. I could be so shallow sometimes.
"I'm willing to hand this essay back to you and let you rewrite it."
She handed it back to me, and there were no markings on it. "What if I don't?"
"Then you'll get a zero."
"You didn't fulfill the requirements. You have support, but not as to what you believe. THAT was the requirement of the assignment."
I sighed, doing the tally in my head. "If I get a zero on this assignment, and do the extra credit on the next three tests, assuming I get perfect scores again, I could get out with an A minus this half of the nine weeks. Assuming I get an A on the midterm and an A the second half of the term, I'd keep my A, and thus keeping my perfect 4.0 grade point average. How's about we just forget we ever had this talk?"
"Granted, you may not HAVE to do it, but I think it would be good for you." Adults usually said that when they had something really painful for you to do. "Obviously you have something inside that you're trying to work out. Why don't you use this essay to get it out?"
I could see it now. 'An Essay as to Why My Family Sucks' by Mara Grayson.
"I'll think about it. I'm kind of loaded with trig and physics right now. When's it have to be in?"
"I could give you until Friday."
"Ok. I'll try." Meaning: I'm just saying that to shut you up, lady. I have no intention of doing this assignment. I never had any intention when my idiotic group mate Veronica drew the prompt out of a hat. I betcha her paper was stellar. 'Nighthawk and Why I Want to be Just Like Him When I Grow Up.'
Maybe I could fake my own death, then I wouldn't have to deal with school any more. Maybe mom could home school me. Maybe I could tell my teacher where she could put this dumb paper. Hah. Only in my perfect little dream world. Well, best get on with it. I was losing momentum, fast.
"I'm almost done with the questions for class. Give me a few minutes, and I'll have them done before English starts."
"Homework IS for at home."
"I had a bit of a cold this weekend."
She looked at me sympathetically. "You DO look a little wide-eyed. Maybe you should have stayed at home."
"I told my mom that." I shrugged. "I miss so much school as it is, I guess she wants me to just stick it out when I possibly can."
"IS that stomach thing getting any better?"
I shrugged. "I don't know. It comes and goes." When you were a straight A student, never in trouble, practically blended into the woodwork you were so good, you got special dispensations, like missing 40 school days a year.
She left me to my work. Unfortunately, even as I sat answering the stupid questions, I really couldn't think them out fully. All this meta-human people in tights stuff was working on me.
I'd had the same curfew as my predecessors, 9 pm in grade school, 10 pm in junior high, but then when I entered high school it seemed the game got taken up a notch. I tried to be home by midnight on school nights, but it didn't always happen. Especially when I got caught up in global type things with Young Justice, or tagged along with Batman on some Justice League thing, or just a crazy night in Gotham. It didn't happen every night, or even every week, but occasionally not even all the Gotham factions (Batgirl, Redwing, Spoiler... Huntress when she came out of retirement) could keep things under control, and then you needed every spare set of hands you could get. I suspected, that's why dad chose Bludhaven—shorter commute than New York. Occasionally, if I had been really good, I got to skip school the next day just for the heck of it.
About two years before I became Robin, they'd put in a monorail that ran from New York City past Bludhaven, through the northern tip of Gotham and on to Metropolis, Philadelphia, and a dozen other cities. The thing went 210 miles an hour and ran 24 hours a day (computer geeks work weird shifts). It was a 20 minute trip to and from, and I was just another one of those weird kids that rode the trains all night, as far as most folks were concerned. If it was a quiet night, grandpa would drive me home. Hence my weird commute.
There was something cool about riding the train when you're about ready to pass out from exhaustion.
Ok, I was getting all weird from lack of sleep right now. That was what my problem was. That's why I was dwelling on all these strange things—where I was going, where I'd been. Maybe my teacher was right. Maybe I did have something bubbling up to the surface on the issue. But I doubted that writing HER an essay would fix that. In any case, I took out a piece of paper and began writing.
Why do people with extraordinary abilities get to be above the law? Some folks think these abilities mean they get to take from the weak. Does this mean we need other people with these abilities to 'police' for the sake of humanity? Perhaps. What about vigilantism in Bludhaven and Gotham? They do have certain skills, but none that were endowed through being born with a meta-gene, or coming from some other planet. Why do they, especially, get to be above the law? Some would argue because they're the only ones who CAN do it, or the only ones who WILL do it. Is that enough?
I put my pen down. Was I questioning my job? I had never ever done that before. I had merely accepted that my family, the people my family hung out with—all kicked bad guy's tails. But I didn't understand why we all got to be above the law, suddenly.
Other cities have fought corruption without masked vigilantism before Nightwing. Is he necessary?
I tapped my pencil.
Some argue the psychotic costume type would be less intense in Gotham without Batman to fixate on. Does masked vigilantism do more harm than good? What is the difference between Superman and the Justice League, and their Government sanction, and Batman, who has always been outside the law? Assuming, of course, Batman exists. Assuming that the rumors of his MO and methods are correct. Why would the head of the Gotham police force tolerate such things?
Well, that was enough for now. Things sucked so bad. I'd just lost my place in this world. Thank you Ms. Weitz, and your stupid essay assignment. Could I please just have ONE more issue in my sorry little world? Grandpy would kill me if I called him this early in the morning. Then my mom would kill me, then my dad would kill me.
I'd never really had much of a social life. I liked keeping to myself. Usually it suited me and my ends, but right now, what I wouldn't give for someone on the outside world.
I logged onto my e-mail. Two more e-mail messages from Clark, and one from Tim, telling me how incredibly uncool I was. He was so anal retentive. He should just get really mad, tell me what a horrible person I was, and get it over with. It seemed the only person that could get him really worked up was Stephanie. God, I was glad they were back together. No help there. Tim would really be the last person I could go to right now. Why did everyone in my family have to be insane? Why did I have a family full of people, and no one to talk to—no one who really understood. You'd think being related to two other Robins, you could like TALK to someone about something. Apparently not.
Screw it. Time for home room. On my way I got a soda, to clear the taste of steak out of my mouth. Non-caffeinated, non-sugar… basically it was lemony selzer water, but if I drank anything it'd seriously interfere with me crashing in a few hour's time. And I was feeling it. I felt sick to my stomach, and my chest ached. I just wanted to pull covers over me and rest. Almost there, I told myself. Go to bed, and you'll understand why you wear a cape and tights and you'll know why your dad's a complete freak who needs a reality check. You don't need to bother grampy and ask him why the hell he put up with Batman in his city. Sleep, Mara… sleeeep.
I muttered my good-mornings, and sat in my seat. This was truly the 10 most wasted minutes of my day—attendance and morning announcements.
I hugged my trigonometry text book to my chest and rested my chin on the top as I sat there. Waiting, waiting…
My eyes popped opened. "I'm awake!" I sounded in protest.
"The bell rang three minutes ago."
I looked at the home room teacher, that old guy Dr. Bozth, cursed his existence, cursed myself and my inability to do such a simple thing as be bored out of my mind for ten minutes, then dashed off to English.
There was almost a physical pain in sitting there, listening to her go on and on, Romanticism, Irony, we're reading Camille next week…etc etc. I won't bore you with the details, but I did stay awake. I was a little self-conscious though, like a drunk who's trying to prove he's not drunk, sitting there wide-eyed and hurting.
I don't remember what answers I put on the math test. Maybe they were right, maybe they weren't. I didn't know, and quite frankly, I didn't care. When I was done, I asked the teacher if I could go to the nurses office. He said I looked like I needed it. Of course I needed it. Now that the adrenalin rush was over, I had nothing keeping me awake.
As I waited for the nurse to take my temperature and run through all the requirements for sending a kid home sick, I started seriously worrying, as much as I told myself not to. What the hell was going to happen when I talked to my dad tonight? I didn't even know what I'd say to him, especially if I was questioning EVERYTHING right now. I didn't want him to win, I didn't want to take a break from Robin. Maybe I just didn't want him to win. But I had no idea why we did what we did suddenly. Maybe I could just fall off the face of the earth before tonight.
My mom came, and I dozed in the car. I went home, I ate again, then crashed in my bed. Even all the dumb thoughts in my head couldn't keep me from sleep. The pillow felt extra squishy, my bed felt extra warm, and I was out.
When I woke it was dark. I dug around on my nightstand for the clock and squinted at it. It was after eight. Man, I needed that. I still felt dragged down, heavy in the chest and entirely like I could roll over and go down again for another twelve hours. I picked up my phone and dialed the secure number that connected me to our communications channels. I pressed one for grandpa.
"Hey, Bats," I muttered tiredly. "I know I'm way late… well, I'm gonna be later. Gotta talk to Nightwing. My bacon's in the fryer. Talk to you later." I hung up before he could respond. He sounded busy anyways.
Might as well get it overwith. Got dressed, kissed mom, told her not to work too hard, then I left.
I asked for his position, but I didn't announce myself. When I found Nightwing and my brother, I told the twip to buzz off. "Dad and I have to talk," I told him.
He scowled up at me from his binoculars. "Talk outta costume. Work in costume."
I folded my arms across my chest. It kept me from hitting him. "If you don't get out of here, I'm going to tell that Allison girl that you like her."
Nighthawk's lips pressed together. "Dad, do something about her."
"Why don't you go check on third street? Make sure those guys from last night don't come back."
When my brother was gone, my father frowned at me. "You know, now is not a good time."
"There's NEVER a good time. Why didn't you wake me up? And why the sudden procrastination? You couldn't wait to have this conversation this morning."
"I called Clark at work, got him to postpone making an announcement until Thursday's meeting. I want you to think this over again."
I coughed into my glove. "You've got to be kidding me, right?" I cleared my throat, not feeling quite right. Now I was getting a cold. That Ra's guy was officially off my Christmas card list.
"Just give it two days. And we can talk about this when I get home. I just don't want you to do something you're going to regret." He was still looking in the window.
"I think I'd regret it more if I stuck around. Just… can't you let it go? What's your deal?"
He looked up at me. "I just don't want to see you make a big mistake."
"I've been playing games with Young Justice for four months. I've been dodging the Justice League for that long too. This'll make things actually quiet and normal and calmed down."
"I've been hearing reports that you've mouthed off to Superman, Green Lantern AND The Flash, just in the last two weeks. How do you think that reflects on me? How does it reflect on your mother?"
I rolled my eyes. "Clark told you about that conversation we had in mom's office. That was for his ears only. As for GL and Flash… come on, dad. They're bugging me. They're ALL bugging me. I guess you ought to know that I hung up on Wonder Woman last Friday. You'll hear about that too. I have the whole Justice League stalking me. Quitting Young Justice is the only way to put out the fire. Official resignation."
"I can't believe Batman hasn't run you up a flagpole yet for all of this. The only way he'd not be chastising you for insubordination is if he's encouraging it."
"You know, I'm capable of making decisions without Batman. Unfortunately I have a Nightwing who keeps riding my butt constantly, and it's sort of interfering with me running my life."
"Bite me." I didn't know why I was here, or what I was doing, but whatever happened, it had to be because I made it happen—not because he wanted it to. I took off. As I made my way to the monorail line, mom's voice popped in my ear.
"Do you want to tell me what just happened with Nightwing?"
"I told him to bite me."
"You need to be nicer to your father. He's just concerned that your motives aren't clear. Just finish hearing him out. But of course, neither of you are EVER going to listen to each other because he still has petty arguments with Bruce, and you take directly your grandfather. Now, I'm pretty sure you're my kid, so I think we'd better have a talk."
I saw the train coming. "hold on a minute, mom. Gotta train to hop."
The train began to pass. I counted to two, then jumped. I landed on top and slid a little, the way I always did before I got a good grip. "Ok. Look, I'm not like grandpa. I'm not dark and brooding. That's all I can say. Dad just doesn't like me because I do things my way and not his way."
"Your father LOVES you. He doesn't agree with all of your decisions, but he loves you."
"I don't know, he seems to get along a lot better with Nighthawk."
"He spends more time with Nighthawk. They work together."
I clung to the white metal roof by the electromagnets in my gloves and boots. I adjusted just a little to get into a more comfortable position, then I sighed. "This is why I don't hang out with him—all we do is end up fighting." I liked it much better when we joked around, or when it was all pleasantries. I'd actually thought things were going to change when we talked before Christmas, and he'd tried to console me over the whole Young Justice Christmas party thing. "Look, I know this is going to sound all… 'Bat' and all, but Gotham's my town. I just live in the 'haven." I had no idea what that meant, but its how I'd felt for years.
"Maybe you should take some time off from Gotham." Her voice was so controlled…
"Dad put that idea in your head. Look, maybe I do need time off. I don't know. But can I figure that out on my own?"
"We're your parents. We're the ones who're supposed to make these decisions."
This was going to be a long trip to Gotham. "So it's ok for me to lead Young Justice off into the great unknown, make life or death decisions in the field, but I can't make decisions for myself? You sound like dad."
"You win. I'll talk to him." I heard a bit of a smile in her voice. "It's all the stuff he complained about with Bruce, and then he has his own shining moments of stupidity in which he reenacts the same mistakes. He trusts you, honey. We both do. We just see you going through this… transition, and there's nothing we can do to help."
"Just a little space. That would be great."
"I'll try. And one more thing…" here it came. "A few members of JLA asked us to have a talk with you about your mouth."
"I brush and floss."
"Hardy-har har, kid. You're not the one who has to put up with grumpy super-hero's telling her that her kid is a delinquent."
"WHO said I was a delinquent?"
"Wally's calling me a delinquent? Man, the nerve…"
"You did tell him you weren't JLA's puppet-leader for Young Justice, and to put that in his pipe and smoke it." Man, those JLA guys. They come off as your friend, and how you can tell them anything, bla bla bla, then they go stab you in the back with the parental units.
"I'm not their puppet-leader. And he CAN smoke that." I sighed. "I'm getting so sick of those Justice League people. Who put them in charge of everyone who wears a cape and tights?" Of course, I was asking this of someone who was a member of JLA in good standing.
"Honey, they've been doing this since before you were born. They are the best at what they do. And they deserve some respect."
I guess it all came back to what I'd written out this morning. "But WHY? Why do we—do they, do any of us go through this… exercise in lunacy? What gives anyone the right?" I realized what had just come out of my mouth. "Uh, sorry, Oracle. Gotta go incommunicado. I think I'm about to see some action." I cut off the connection, and put my head on the cold roof. "I am a freaking idiot." I'd just said something that'd get me pulled out of this suit for sure.
What was so wrong with that? Was I some kind of action-junkie that needed a fix? Was that why I did this? I knew why Grandpa was in this, it was his own little holy war. Dad had his own reasons, as did mom… what were mine? Assuming THEIR reasons were good enough, would MINE be good enough?
When I hit Gotham and found the Bat, a lot of wind had taken out of my sail. "So. What've we got?"
"Don't you need to be home in a few hours?"
"Sleep's for sissies."
"Things have been unusually quiet."
"Are you trying to ditch me?"
"I think of it more as giving an out."
My shoulders sagged and I followed him to the car. "It's been a bad day. My dad told Clark to hold the official announcement. He's hoping I'll change my mind."
"Did he say why?"
"We never got that far. He got on my nerves and I stalked off." I sighed. "Everyone's making such a big deal. Can't a kid get a break?" We got in the car, and I watched him drive. So thaaaats what I did wrong when I stole the car. Missed that last security switch on the emergency break.
"They take Young Justice very seriously."
"I have no position, for or against."
"You're helpful, you know that."
"I am aware of my limitations."
"And dealing with family AND with the Justice League are really high on the list, huh?" Whoops, that was mean. "Didn't mean it like that. I just meant…"
"You are correct." Ok, so I was dealing with Quiet Bats tonight.
Did I screw up or something yesterday? He'd seemed happy with me. He hadn't mentioned the whole bra thing, so I thought we were going to just ignore that.
"Ok, what's got YOUR tights in a twist?"
"I am perfectly fine."
"Wally thinks I'm a delinquent."
"You are a delinquent."
Silence. Hours and hours of silence. In the car, in the air, busting minor baddies, all of it. Now Batman was torqued with me. Could I do anything right by anyone? I thought I'd done well yesterday. I'd pulled his bacon out of that mess.
"I'm gonna go home, if that's ok? You said nothing was happening. I'm feeling kinda sick. Next time tell your nemesis to leave my socks."
He didn't say anything in protest, so I took myself off. But I didn't go home. I went to go see the one guy who stood a shot at helping me straighten this out. I thought it would be fair to warn a guy I was coming, though. I hopped on top of a bus and skedaddled away.
Grandpy had always looked away at so much. How could he do it, in good conscience? I took out Mara's cell phone and began dialing. "Are you up?"
"I am now. Who is this?"
"Your favorite granddaughter."
"What can I do for you?" he sounded like he was going to fall back asleep any moment. I felt bad for doing this.
"I'm having another crisis. Why do you put up with Batman and Robin?"
He sighed. "We need to talk about this now?"
"It's bugging me."
"Ok. Because in the beginning, it was just me and Batman against the corruption of the whole force. And then, he was the only man who could get the job done. And now, it saves lives. When it comes down to it, the human life factor outweighs the law. I got into this job to save lives. Is that what you're looking for?"
"Good answer. QUICK answer."
"I've had years to think about it. Can your grandfather get a little bit more sleep before I have to go face the mayor in the morning? Oh and do me a favor. No more withholding evidence. It was cute, but Bullock almost busted a gut."
I smiled. He was awfully loveable when he begged. "Sure, grampy. Sorry for bugging you. Just… lost my place in the world. And sorry. I should have given it to Bullock. I was just showing off."
"You kids today. Now be a good girl, and do what your Bat tells you to and stay out of trouble.
"Love ya, bye." I hung up. I wondered if the Bat ever got a little… lost? I wouldn't be the one to ask.
So much for going over Grampy's house.
Might as well go home and try round two with dad. Bats hadn't said it, but I think what he was trying to say was I had to find out why he was so pissed off. Just as I was about to switch buses, though, someone landed beside me.
"Busted." I looked over at Redwing.
"If I said I was sorry, would I live any longer?" '
"No." He grabbed me in a head lock. I didn't resist. I was getting better at tossing people from moving vehicles and making sure they actually were thrown OFF, as opposed to hanging back on so they could climb back up.
"Then kill me and get it over with. Dad is next in line."
"I said to make them come back groveling, not make all the heavy-hitters mad at you." He let go of me.
"Heavy hitters? Can someone PLEASE tell me why Kyle Rayner is in the Justice League? The guy's a complete dweeb. And the sick and demented part is, I think he idolizes Batman. Dad's stupid friend Wally went crying to mom because I told him to put my resignation in his pipe and smoke it. Superman and dad have entered into some kind of conspiracy against me, and all I want you people to do is leave me alone. Not you people, them people. Superman and Wonder Woman's personal hit squad."
"Woh. Attitude like that, and you wonder why you're in trouble."
"World's Finest pains in my butts. You want to know something? Batman's mad at me now too. And I'm going to be old and grey and with grandkids before I figure out what the hell I did to piss him off. So you wanna murderize me? Take your best shot, boy-o. I don't have a damned thing going for me right now."
"Alright, chill. Chill."
I closed my eyes for a few seconds and listened to the sound of our capes flapping in the wind. His black and red, my black and yellow… we must have looked like the freaking circus up on this bus.
"Sorry. Everyone's bugging me, and I keep screwing up. I guess I should say sorry for blabbing to everyone about Steph. You didn't do anything."
"It gets a little hot under the collar—being Robin sometimes, doesn't it?"
"You don't really handle it well, either. Not lately. You need to just chill. Roll with the punches."
I looked down at my palms. It was a lot easier to hang on to a bus going 25 miles an hour, versus 210. "Chill? CHILL? I don't even know what I'm freaking DOING here any more! In any of this! I've got some kind of… of… unhealthy addiction to the costume… and I can't stand ANY of those people any more. Not when they're in costume. They all suddenly turn into the biggest jerks in the whole world. Superman doesn't even act like a human being. He's just a big blue suit. He acted like he was going to be all cool about the YJ thing, then he goes all conspiracy on me, and tattle tales to my mom and dad… I hate everyone in a costume right now," I said with a final pout. "And I hate grownups too. Who the hell do you think you are?"
Tim sighed. I could practically hear him rolling his eyes. "You know, you'd think you'd understand. You were a Robin. Hell, you've been a teenager more recently than the rest of the retards around me, but you're just like them. You suck."
There went that apology that I'd dragged to my lips moments earlier. Now I'd need another one. "I'm sorry, Tim. I just can't… you people don't understand." I jumped off the bus. He had the decency to not follow me.
I walked along an alley, trying to clear my head. What the hell was wrong with me? My parents were beyond right. They were all right about me. My mouth was getting me into trouble. But why did everyone have to suck so much? Arugg. Maybe it wasn't them. Maybe it was me. Maybe I was a complete and total loser who should be looking for a new line of work and a new family.
I took out a tissue and wiped my nose. "I thought you were going home."
"Lemme guess, Redwing told you how I just flipped out on him. You grownups sure know how to stick together."
Saturday night, when I'd been talking to my mother, everything seemed so much clearer. I'd work on my relationship with my parents, I'd get a hobby, I'd take time off from my larger gig with Young Justice and let that sort itself out—and now the world had unraveled again.
"Why don't you come back to the house if you're sick. Alfred will take care of you."
I frowned. What was that supposed to mean? "My mom takes care of me just fine when I'm home. And I don't need anyone to take care of me anyways."
He frowned. That special, don't argue with me frown. "Get in the car, Robin." It pulled around the corner. Gotta love that GPS and auto-drive feature.
"Alright. But I'm just coming because my belt is out of tissues."
Well, I did end up spending the night. Alfred gave me a box of tissues of my very own and made me apple cider. He also slipped me the Mickey because I put my head down on the kitchen table and went straight to sleep.
I woke in my room at the Manor the next morning. Of course, I only wok because I heard the screaming down stairs. This was why I hated my family. We'd gotten through Christmas with just Tim and Stephanie throwing food and raising their voices (and me kicking my brother in the head) so it figures my dad has to come all the way from Bludhaven to have it out with grandpa. Why, you ask? Because my family is insane. Certifiably crazy, every last one of them.
Creeping to the top of the steps, I listened.
"And you're harboring her!" Thanks dad, for making me sound like a criminal. I knew I could rely on you. So much for mom talking to him, huh? "She's GROUNDED. She shouldn't have even BEEN in Gotham last night. And now you're telling me I can't take my own daughter HOME?"
"She has a cold," grandpa said stonily. "And it's snowing outside. There's no sense taking her out into that."
"You just want her here so you two can conspire against me."
"Did you hit your head last night?" I tried not to laugh. Yeah, dad acted a little nutty sometimes. We kicked ass in the field, but whenever the masks came down and the gloves came off, we were incredibly neurotic towards each other. "She has a cold. She worked hard this weekend. All you're going to do is frustrate her if you go up there and start trying to persuade her that she's done a bad thing."
"Yeah, she's done a bad thing. She has half the Justice League pissed off at her. I think that qualifies as a bad thing. What's going on? If I'd have EVER been that disrespectful to them, you'd have had me for lunch."
"She needs to find her own way. And right now, that way isn't with Young Justice."
"You're smoking something, obviously. This is the same guy who went all control-freak on me and Tim?" Dad sounded like he was spitting mad. These two could REALLY get on each other's nerves if they tried.
"Is it polite to be eves dropping?" My shoulders sunk as I turned around to face Alfred.
"The fate of MY world hangs in the balance. I'd have the place bugged if I could." I moved to take the basket of towels he was holding off of him.
"Shoo! I wont have you coughing or sneezing on my towels. Take your illness some place else." I was disappointed. He usually let me help. I was far to annoying to turn down, as he'd learned in my childhood.
"And another thing, Bruce, exactly WHAT are you getting out of her being out of Young Justice? Because I know there HAS to be something."
"Knowing that my partner isn't babysitting a bunch of over-powered infants?" wow, had Batman almost made a funny?
"There will be signs in the heavens…" I muttered.
"I suppose the question is, what do YOU get out of her staying in, Dick?"
I tried to sniff quietly. Alfred handed me a cotton handkerchief.
"It's where she needs to be. I'm her father, and what I say is FINAL."
"Well, I'm so glad to see all of the lessons you've learned from my poor parenting are finally paying off."
"Come along. Get yourself back into bed, and let the boys fight amongst themselves, Miss. It is going to be a long morning."
I drew in a deep breath through my nose and let it out in a sigh. "I'm so glad they can talk about me like I'm not even here."
"They haven't had a good row in ages. It isn't you—it is their nature." He was taking this awful light-heartedly.
I let him see me back to my room. "Is it just me, or is the whole world spinning out of control?"
"Not the whole world. Just your world, perhaps?"
I put my head on the pillow. "Yeah. I know. I just wish it would stop. You know… stop, I wanna get off."
He began closing the door. "You're a big girl, Miss Martha. And quite capable of jumping off." The door closed gently behind him.
I was a stubborn kid. I'd gotten myself into that Robin costume a full four years before anyone was comfortable with me being there. I earned the title of Alfred's little helper out of shear annoying stubbornness. I'd impressed the Justice League enough to give me membership and control of Young Justice in the same week. I could jump off, right?
SO. How did one do such a thing, as jump off of a wildly raging world?
The first thing I was certain I had to do, even if I didn't want to, was approach this logically. I had a lot of variables. Some I could control, like my own behavior. Some I could not control—like my father's reactions to my behavior.
That was part of the thing that had been driving me to insanity the last few months—lack of ability to anticipate other's overly emotional reactions. I didn't know what they were doing or why. Young Justice decides to put me on permanent ignore. Like what kind of reaction was that? Dad gets all defensive over this… what was that?
I couldn't stand it any more. I wrapped the blanket around me, and hugged the pillow to my chest, then went to the top of the steps.
"Oh yeah, and who's bright idea was it to take her into the den of the Demon?"
"She did just fine."
"Saved YOUR ass from what I hear."
"Yes, she did. Hence my taking her."
I started coming down the steps. "You two TRYING to wake the dead?" Why couldn't I just put the sarcasm in a box, wrap it up with a pretty little bow, and hide it away for a special occasion?
My dad looked up at me. "Get dressed and get in the car.
"Go back up stairs and go to bed," grandpa ordered me.
I froze on the steps. So who did I listen to, my father, or my partner? Finally I sat down on the steps. "Since you two are determined to not let me have any say in my life, I'll just sit here until you're done duking it out."
"Get in the car, Mara." That sounded like dad's warning tone to me.
"I just have one request," I said very calmly. "I know I'm a minor and you're my parent and it's your job and mom's job to do what's best for me, but can I please just mess this up and make the wrong decision on my own?" I blew my nose into Alfred's handkerchief.
Dad ran a hand through his hair. "Can't you just benefit from years of experience and advice? Do we really have to go through this?"
"The pains of adolescence?"
He stared blankly at me. Checkmate.
Lets use a little of mom's words against him. "I know you want to protect me, and I know you want to help me out, but just let me go at this. I promise to be more respectful to the Justice League. I shouldn't have mouthed off to Diana and Wally or Kyle and Clark. But… they have to learn they can't push me around. You know? It just isn't cool. And… and you need to trust me a little more."
He nodded slowly. "I do trust you. With my life."
"Then, can you do me a favor?" he nodded. "Trust me with mine?"
His head bobbed up and down.
"Why don't you go back to work, dad? I'll see you tonight."
He came up to the top of the steps and gave me a hug, kissed the top of my head and told me to get better soon, he'd be looking for me on the roof tops.
I nodded and gave him a quick hug back. I knew he wasn't happy with this. I could tell just by the way the muscles in his neck felt when I held him. He was going to tolerate it for me, though. Maybe.
He waved and left, and I was alone with grandpa.
"You're getting better at this. I think you have one up on me and your father. We still can't settle disputes without yelling."
I held the pillow up to my eyes and started sobbing.
"Mara?" I knew he didn't handle these things well, and I felt bad for doing it to him, but suddenly I was very lost. I'd done it. I'd jumped off the spinning world. I'd held my ground and stayed out of Young Justice. I made it clear to my dad.
I heard grandpa calling for Alfred. "Do-don't bother him. I'll be fine. Gimme. A…" I sniffed and tried to pull myself together, but it didn't work.
I'd jumped off the spinning world.
But what did I do now that I was floating out in space?