You know the drill. I don't own them.
I woke just before dawn to a certain brooding Bat sitting at the foot on my bed. "I think you should spend more time with your father."
"Lame at best. I'll give you a 9.2 for trying, though." I sat up in bed and pushed the pillow behind my back. He'd ruined my nap for this?
"I have monopolized too much of your time."
"Incase you haven't noticed, I chose Gotham over Bludhaven."
"It was a choice I shouldn't have let you make," he told me in a voice that was completely devoid of everything—emotion, stone… it was just… gas.
"So. You regret me being here the last eight years of my life? I don't. I can't work with my dad. I love him—but we don't see eye to eye on method. You and me—we always knew which way to play it. He has Jimmy. He does NOT need me." I tilted my head. "Unless you're pushing me out."
"I'm not pushing you out."
"Are you swapping me out, then?"
There was a pause. "I don't think so."
"Great. You think I'm bad, wait till you have the twip," I grumbled.
"Spend time with your father."
Boy did that sound like an order. I was taken aback. He'd never ORDERED me to do anything where my family was concerned.
"I don't want to see you in the city when I wake up," he informed me.
"You know, you're not my only grandparent within city limits." The nerve of some people…
"BRUCE." I hated playing this game with him… but HE started it. I stared at him intently, trying to figure out what the hell his problem was with me.
"I see we're experiencing a lot of love and togetherness in here. Care if I join?" Saved by the Black Canary.
"Grandpa's kicking me out of the city, and he won't tell me why," I complained.
"Stay out of it, Dinah." Grandpa ALWAYS said that. And in exactly that tone.
"Tell me, when's the last time I ever stayed out of ANYTHING? First of all, you're not supposed to be wearing that up here. It's almost dawn, so go change before you turn into a pumpkin."
She folded her arms over her chest. Her chest inflated and she stared him down.
He rose and left.
"So. I obviously missed something."
"Me too," I told her. "Like… why I'm in the shithouse. Welcome back, by the way."
She took her jacket of and set it on the bed beside me. "Well, your mother hasn't had too much dirt for me. Tell me what's been going on?"
"NOTHING!" I declared in frustration. "Grandpa Jim had his retirement party last night, and everyone's been weird."
"Well, it does change things…" she said patiently.
"Let me rephrase that. Everyone's been acting weird towards me."
She gave me a pat on the leg, through the covers. "Well, let Auntie Dinah go kick Brucie's ass into submission. Why don't you go run along and play?"
"Am I like five or something?"
"It makes me feel young. Get going."
Thank God no one was in the cave when I went down. I'd have screamed if I'd have had to deal with my grandfather again. Fortunately he and Dinah were upstairs doing whatever it was that they did. Intermittently fight with each other and make out, was my suspicion from the sounds coming from the master bedroom.
I couldn't stand listening to it any more, so I went down stairs. I suited up, and shipped myself to the moon.
"Incoming!" I heard Green Lantern senior cry out.
"It's just me," I said grumpily. "Where's Jordy?"
Kyle Rayner, also known as the Green Lantern, rose from the computer console that he was monitoring. "Who says he's here?"
"Don't try to pull a fast one on a student of the Bat," I informed him. "I know the monitor schedule by heart. And I know you drag Lil' Lantern up here for some male bonding ritual every Saturday that you have duty."
"Aren't we in a good mood."
I sighed. "Sorry." I told him. "Trouble with my Bat."
Now if that wasn't something we could all associate with, I didn't know what was. He just nodded his understanding and let it go. "Jordy, get your butt in here, boy!" he called out. I couldn't exactly picture MY partner doing that to me, somehow. Maybe Kyle Rayner wasn't such a complete drain after all.
My "other half" appeared in the door way to the observation center. His face was smeared with chocolate cookie and white filling. It contrasted perfectly with his light green skin.
"Pig. At least wipe the crumbs off your chest," I told him.
He ran up to me and threw his arms around my midsection.
"ROBIN!" It was nice being needed and wanted.
"Hey, hey! You're getting me dirty!" I brushed the crumbs off of me and off of the lantern emblem on his uniform.
"How'd you get here? Is the Bat here? How long are you going to stay?" he turned to his dad. "When we're off duty, can we take her home? Can she stay for dinner?"
"Are you SURE you're not a speedster?" I asked him. NO. He was just fifteen and suffering from massive ADD. "Bat's not here. If the Bat comes up here chasing after me, I'm gonna space him or something." Tossing him out an air lock sounded like a good idea at this point.
"Trouble on the home front?" Kyle asked.
"Aww… you can tell Unkie Kyle."
I made a face. "As I recall, LAST time I talked to you, I got in trouble."
He made an innocent face. My dad was a jerk… but Kyle was a special kind of jerk. At least he was a cool jerk.
"You and Wally and Wonder Woman and Superman teamed up against me."
"Hey… Robin," Jordy started. "Lets not… you know. Get into that. That was a big ol' mess, right?"
Jordy was right. "Well… yeah. It was a mess. Ok. No harm, no foul, Mr. Rayner?" I held out a gloved hand. He shook it.
Jordy tugged on my arm. "I got some stuff I put on DVD. The good ones."
My face lit up. "You've been recording Shatzi for me?" He nodded vigorously. "I now have four CD's filled up since Christmas."
I gave him a high-five. We left the main observation center and went into one of the rec rooms. Fortunately it was one of the ones with a nice view of the lunar landscape. How many kids could say they had a room with a view like that?
I couldn't help it. Once we were alone, I gave him a big squeeze. "Damnit, I've missed you, kid."
He poked me. "Shut up. I'm not your stupid side-kick."
I snorted. "I wouldn't WANT you as a side-kick!" He lunged at me, and I let him knock me to the floor. "No ring!" I declared as he started tickling. It figures that my costume wouldn't cover the underside of my arms… the ONLY place I was truly ticklish.
"Why have a ring, if you can't use it?" He used its power to clamp me down on the ground as he straddled my stomach. "Now that I have you… hmm… think of all the evil things I could do!" he stood up and looked like he was going to jump on me.
"I swear, if you do… you'll be sorry!"
He jumped up in the air, but was stopped by a beam of green light a centimeter from my stomach. The restraints flicked off. "You're the deadest of meat," I informed him, grabbing his spandex-laden chest and pulled him towards me. "I know where you live… and I know where you sleep…" Ok. So I wasn't the master of intimidation that the Bat was.
He tried to struggle away from me. "I didn't really jump on you!"
"It's the principal of the matter…"
"The only principal I have is tall and bald…"
We both collapsed on the floor laughing. We were hopeless when we were together. He was like the little brother I didn't have because my own little brother was too busy being evil. My hand crushed down on his straight black hair, and I smushed it around.
"I've missed you. A ton," I confessed.
"I missed ya too. Hence the teddy bears."
"Where in the world did you get the song they were singing?"
"I made it up," he said, and blushed a little. His green cheeks turned a little greener.
I blushed a little too. He'd made up that song for ME. "So. Anyways. Now that we're best friends again… tell me about what Superman did to Superboy."
"Well, nothing. He picked up the door, pushed it back into the door frame, and it was really REALLY quiet in there. Then Superman fixed the door, and left. Kon stayed in his room for like an hour, and then he left… and no one's seen him since.
"WOW. Woweee. I always miss the good stuff." We sat in silence for a moment, then we couldn't help it. The laughter started rolling out of us again.
When we're done, we both crawled up on to the sofa, tired from laughing so hard.
"So… you gonna tell me why you were so cheesed when you got up here?"
"Batman kicked me outta Gotham."
"What'd you do? Hurt the car?"
"No freaking clue," I told him honestly. "He's being all weird, Nightwing's being all weird… and I have too big a case load for him to go kicking me out right now." I sighed. Laughing with Jordy… I'd temporarily forgotten just how mad I'd been. Now I wasn't mad… just depressed over it."Anyways, he's not getting rid of me that easily."
"See, I don't have to worry about that because I'm my dad's kid. He CAN'T kick me out of New York."
"Wait till your eighteen. He'll probably buy you luggage," I muttered.
"Hey, it's just YOUR family that's screwed up like that," he informed me. "My dad LIKES me."
"Great. I'm the only kid in the world who can get kicked out of town by their partner. And who the hell said he can do that anyways, you know? I hope Black Canary kicks his ass."
"Angry much?" he asked. "BITTER, much?"
"Ok, so I'm angry and bitter. He didn't wake you up this morning and tell YOU to spend quality time with Nightwing."
"So, what's so bad about that? Nightwing's a cool guy."
I sighed. I wanted so badly to tell him Nightwing's my dad, and we don't get along, and it always ends up in a fight… "Lil' Lantern… I have no idea what's going on with those people," I moaned. "All I know is that the full assault of their dysfunction is being aimed directly at me."
"You sure you wanna be up here, then? Those guyses are always running around up here." he asked.
"Good point. But… can't a girl see her best friend?"
"Well, dad's done in an hour. Wanna ask if you can come back with us? We're having spaghetti tonight. Not like mom used to make, but dad's got meatballs figured out, straight up. New York's like close to Gotham and stuff."
"If you can FLY. I guess I could take the monorail." We curled up on the sofa, trying to find the right place on the DVD. I've been telling him for like a year he needs to program a menu on them, so we're not flipping through each scene. "You know, it'd serve him right if I went over your house for dinner…"
He grabbed my neck and pulled me flat on the sofa. "No grouch-grouch. This is the Fun-Happy room. I designate it so."
I grabbed his belly and dragged him down with me. "The Fun-Happy room? I think YJ's taking down your IQ."
"Lemme have SOME joy in my life."
I snatched the remote out of his hand. "Can we PLEASE just find an episode I haven't seen before?"
He crawled over top of me and started reaching for it. "Come on… its mine. I was here first…"
"You're whining! There's no whining in this job… bla bla bla…. Who do I sound like?" I changed hands with the remote.
"Like… a Bat I know?"
I was laying stretched out on the sofa, and he was on top of me. "Two points for you. You're still not getting the remote. And NO ring. Second you flash that ring, I'm shoving this down my shirt, and you're gonna have to come in after it!"
"I'm brave enough to go down there!"
"ROBIN." Damn. Guess Black Canary DIDN'T win that argument, huh??
Little Lantern blushed and sat up, still on me. He looked over the back of the sofa to the door. "Umm…." He whispered. "I think your Bat's here." He glanced down at me. "He looks pissed."
"So… uh… come up with a good reason yet?" I sat up, and knocked Lantern into my lap.
"We're going home."
I crawled out from under Lantern. It's a good thing I was a foot taller than he was. "I was kicked outta Gotham, remember? 'Sides. Mr. Rayner invited me over for dinner." It wasn't lying. It was called 'reengineering the truth,' I told myself.
"You are not having dinner in New York."
"Ok. I'll have dinner here. Then I'll sleep over there."
I think I heard his teeth ground. "We're going NOW. And you are not coming back here without escort."
I leapt off the couch. "Alright, now I KNOW I didn't just hear that. You DIDN'T just say that." Huffing, I marched past him.
"I'm going home, and don't you DARE talk to me, or tell me what to do. If I want to hang out in Gotham, I WILL. It's my city too. And if I want to visit a friend, I WILL." I spun around and gave him a look of death. He didn't move. I continued on.
"Problems?" Kyle asked when I entered the observation room.
"No. No problems at all, Mr. Rayner," I said, barely biting down my desire to scream. "Unfortunately I won't be able to join you for dinner this evening. My Bat is smoking crack."
"ROBIN," he growled from behind me.
"Well, it's nicer than what I was THINKING!" Great. Get yourself in a little deeper, Mara. "Robin's going home," I informed him.
I got back into the cave and started throwing things. "What the hell is wrong with all of you people? Are you on drugs? Did aliens come down and take your brains? Or are you all just STUPID?" I tore off my glove and threw it at the car. "This is my city too, Damnit!"
"Mara!" Dinah tried to grab my shoulders, but I pulled away from her. Alfred was the smart one. He just stayed away.
"I thought you were going to make it better! Leave me alone, I want the hell out of here. I'm not sharing a cave with HIM." I continued tearing pieces of my costume off.
"Mara, calm down. I tried talking to him--" She looked back behind me to HIM. "He's emotionally retarded, what do you want?"
"Isn't there ONE person… one NORMAL person in my life? Is there some reason that you're all INSANE?" I pounded my feet on the stairs as I ascended. When I got to the top, I stripped off my cape, rolled it into a ball, and kicked it down the steps.
"I am going out," I announced in an icy whisper. "And then I'm going to go on patrol tonight. And I have about six cases I'm working on. I'm going to keep working on them."
With that, I left the cave. The temptation was great to slam the grandfather clock behind me, but I resisted. It wasn't the clock's fault that grandpa was completely flipping out on me. There was some satisfaction in hearing Dinah raise her voice below.
"Do you want to tell your mom what happened?" Oracle's image asked me from my watch. I was sitting in a park down town, staring at the water fountain.
"What's to tell? He's gone spastic on me," I whispered dejectedly. See, we coulda had this conversation on my cell phone, but, well, she'd taken that off of me yesterday. "All I know is whatever it is, he and dad are in on it together."
"Why don't you come home and talk to your dad about it."
"Why don't I just go take a jump off a building without a decel cable."
"Hey, hey hey. Come on. Come back to Bludhaven. We can't be having this conversation in the middle of Caddick Park."
I didn't bother to ask how she knew my location. She was Oracle. She was supposed to know this stuff. All-seeing, and all that. "Maybe." Going home seemed as good of a thing to do as any at this point.
"Dinah told me what happened, and what she got out of Bruce. It isn't much. I'd like to at least hear your side of the story. And I think I can shed a little light on the situation."
"I'll jump a train," I said, rising.
"Why don't you get in and ride as a passenger. I'm sure it'll be a new experience for you."
"Yeah. Point taken. Mara out."
I walked to the train station and paid fair for the monorail ride to Bludhaven. Maybe if I was especially good, I could get a ride home from the train station. Mom had been really decent to me lately. Annoying, but decent. She wasn't being all insane like Dad and Grandpa… Was this some kind of guy-versus-girl thing? Well, Grandpa Jim didn't seem to be losing his mind. Of course, he'd taken an impromptu fishing trip this weekend to celebrate the fact that he didn't have to go to work on Monday.
The ride home, I looked out the window as the scenery passed by. I'd heard there was a monorail in the Midwest that went about 400 miles an hour. I wondered if I could latch on to one of those with the magnets in my costume and not fly off. Maybe I could refit some of the stuff in the gloves and boots. You never knew when you'd be in the Midwest… and you might want to hop a train or something. Right. If Batman had his way, I'd never even go to the corner store without supervision ever again.
Obviously my mother ratted me out to my father, because he was there to pick me up at the train station. He appeared to be even less happy than usual.
"So, dad," I asked as we got in his muscle car in the guise of an old Buick. "Mind telling me why I'm facing all this wrath all of a sudden?"
He scowled. "It isn't wrath." He sounded uncannily like grandpa.
"So, what's everyone's problem?"
"All your grandfather asked was for you to spend time in Bludhaven. You didn't need to go make a big scene over it."
"Chill out. Kyle Rayner's the only one who saw and he's secretly suspected our dysfunction for years. He idolizes Batman, so he won't say anything to anyone else, so our dirty little secret is safe."
His hands gripped the wheel tighter. "Just patrol with me tonight. We'll see how things are after that."
"See how things are? How else can they be? What are you two planning?" I hated this. I hated this with an undying passion. Why couldn't they just be upfront?
"Planning? We're not planning anything. You just need to spend more time in Bludhaven."
"I don't want to play this game any more. Tell me why I'm being benched?"
"God, you're so suspicious. You're not being benched."
"Bludhaven isn't my town," I informed him.
"I claim a kid on my taxes who resides in Bludhaven. Not on a kid who lives in Gotham."
"I feed you, I clothe you. You can come out on patrol with your old man once in a while."
That got me fuming. I didn't know where he got off trying to do that to me. "I already told the Bat that he can't kick me outta Gotham. What makes you think that you can just PULL me out? I have SIX cases I'm working on right now. I don't have time for bonding. You want to bond, you can tag along with ME for a night."
"The Penguin and your small-timers can wait."
I folded my arms over my chest even though it was a little strange to do so, and stared out the window. So, basically he thought that what I was doing was too miniscule to really matter whether I was there or not. Tim or Cassandra could deal with it, right?
The rest of the ride home was completely silent. I seethed, he made faces. He was just being unreasonable. When we got inside, I could smell dinner cooking. Good, I was hungry. When all else failed—when the world was crumbling down around you—EAT.
My dad went directly for my brother. "Hey, champ," dad said to the twip. "Feel like having some company on patrol?"
My brother scowled at me. "No," he said smartly.
Dad laughed. I could kill him. I could kill them both.
"That's ok, twip, I don't want to be there either."
"She can only come if she follows my lead," he said.
Oh, that was indignant. Following a 12 year old. "Look, you may be the "king" of Young Justice, but you are not the boss of me."
"Mara, chill out," dad ordered me.
I huffed off into the kitchen, tearing off my jacket and tossing it over a chair. "How did dad find out I was coming home? Why was he at the train station? Why do I have to patrol with him? What's going on?"
Mom looked at me from the sink. "Calm down. I was getting ready to leave, and he came home from taking your brother shoe shopping. He cut me off at the pass." Of course it had to be out somewhere with my brother.
I sighed, sitting at the table. "I don't want to go on patrol with him tonight." Hell, I didn't EVER want to go on patrol with him ever again, especially with the way he was acting right now.
I could hear him in the living room, talking to Jimmy. They were laughing it up and rough-housing. I didn't BELONG here. I belonged in Gotham.
"Just go with him tonight. I'll talk to him after that, and Dinah is trying to talk to Bruce again…"
A moan escaped my lips. "She was SUPPOSED to talk to him this morning. And then he ended up at the Watchtower, and he was all like GERRRRRR, and then I left." That about summed up the afternoon.
"And what about the reports of… 'Inappropriate behavior' with Little Lantern?"
My eyebrows shot straight up in the air. "We were messing around on the couch in one of the rec rooms"
"And he said something about going down your shirt?"
"Geeze. Talk about blown out of proportion. I said if he used the ring to get the remote, I'd stick it down my shirt. Who told you that? The Bat? It figures he'd go blowing it all up like it's something. Then he said I couldn't go to the Watchtower without 'supervision', whatever the hell that means."
"Watch your mouth. He has a point."
I stared at her blankly. Something was going on here, and I didn't understand it. "What?"
"Well, you're a young lady now, and you have to worry about how it's going to look."
"So… it was OK to roll around on the floor with Jordy BEFORE I turned sixteen, and now it's suddenly NOT ok? What about training? Should I just never train with another male cape and tights job until… like, I'm old and decrepit because it makes BATS uncomfortable? And what's DAD'S problem?
"Um… separation anxiety?"
I buried my head in my arms on the table. "These are not the answers I'm looking for."
"Ask better questions."
"Thank you, Cassandra, for that sage wisdom. Need a side-kick?"
"I thought you weren't a side-kick. I thought you were a full partner."
"I thought so too. I'm certainly being treated like a side-kick, aren't I?"
"Just go out with your dad tonight. We'll see what we can do to fix things. Patience, grasshopper."
I picked my head up and looked at her. "How can you be all like making jokes? Do you have ANY IDEA what's going on out there? What they're doing to me?"
"You're blowing this out of proportion."
"Mom, am I? They've both officially gone INSANE." I took the bowl of mashed potatoes from her and put them on the table. "Am I missing something here?" I still had no idea why they were acting like total nutbars around me.
"Yes," she told me. She looked me right in the eyes. "Last night was a bit of a shock for them. Give them a few days to settle down."
"From Grampy retiring?"
"Umm… no, that you're growing up. I swear. You're all anti-self-aware or something.."
I laughed. Mom was starting to sound like me. "So… like. Last night was the big epiphany, because I dressed like a girl?" She gave me a pat on the back. "Well, that's just plain stupid."
"Now do you see what I mean? Spend some time with your dad. Let him know he's not losing his little girl."
I took a deep breath. "Ok. I can do that. But… I have stuff to do in Gotham."
"Be patient. Let them sort things out."
I set the table. I could have fought and made a big deal about how my brother should have been in there helping, but quite frankly I was too tired and didn't feel like dealing with him or his attitude, or dad taking his side. Why? Because that's what dad did. As sure as the sun will rise, Dad will side with the twip.
"Can I make a deal with you?" I whispered to mom as I finished dispersing the napkins. "I'll give him half the night. Then can you recall me to Gotham. For something, ANYTHING?"
"We'll see how the night goes. If you're up to your armpits in trouble, then I won't yank you."
"I wouldn't go even if you did. But somehow, I think this is going to be a bust. Like… Holy third wheel."
"Deal. See… Your mom's your friend. Remember that when it's time to choose nursing homes. I get the good one, your dad gets the one with the rats and the fat nurses."
She rolled to the doorway to call 'the boys' as she called them.
"Yeah, mom, you are. You get the cute male nurses in tight pants." We certainly were getting along better, even despite the whole cell phone fiasco. What was up with all that getting along stuff?
I sat down at the table and got my share of the "mashies" before anyone else sat down. Some day, mom would learn that no matter how much she made, it will never be enough.
"Will you boys quit rolling around on the floor, before you break something? I've had that lamp since before your father and I were married, and now it's on its side. You break that, and I'll break you. BOTH of you."
I grinned. It was nice to see mom inflicting her special powers on someone else for a change.
Dad ignored me most of dinner. Figures. He'd start world war three, then wouldn't finish it. I was informed that steak sauce is for steak, not for mashed potatoes, though. That was all he could do, wasn't it? Criticize?
It was a relief when the dishes were finally in the dishwasher and I was told to suit up. Family dinners were painful experiences any more. I was so happy when dinner was over, the plates in the dish washer, and I was suiting up. That seven minutes or so that I spent taking my time was likely to be the only quiet and peace I got all night.
When we were finally out there, my brother swung in front of me. "Watch it, Crow Boy," I told him. I wasn't his boss any more, but damnit, I was older.
"Follow my lead, Gurl-Hostage."
I growled. "NIGHTWING," I called. But did I REALLY think I was going to get any help from him?
"Follow our lead. At least until you get the rhythm of how we do things."
When my dad shot ahead in front of me, I made a face. Half a night. My mother better not be late.
It took about half an hour to find any action. Near one of Blockbuster's warehouses we found two teenage guys trying to break through the chain on the side door. This fell into that 'stupid criminal tricks' thing that Tim was often so amused with. Blockbuster was NOT the guy you wanted to try to rip off. We were doing a service busting these guys.
"Naughty monkey," my brother announced as he and my father dropped. I was tempted to do the same, but what the hell? Two bad guys and one third wheel didn't add up to a good number.
I remained on top of the building, watching idiots one and two actually try to fight them. My dad could take someone out in two motions. My brother was a twip, but he did make a short fight against most folks. They moved well together. They BELONGED together. I was the outsider. And if my father didn't see that, he was just stupid.
Suddenly, the guy my brother had on the ground produced a knife from his boot. I hesitated, wondering if I should even bother, or not. They had things under control.
The guy got one swipe in, and tore at the brown hawk on his black costume before my dad could lay him out. He looked up at me. "Were you waiting for something?"
I shrugged, then jumped down. "You guys had it."
My brother pawed the hole in his costume. "Yeah, RIGHT. You WANTED that guy to slice me!"
"Damned sissy," I told him. "You don't even have a scratch."
"Stay behind us. But don't get lazy." My dad started tying up mooks one and two.
I didn't bother waiting until he had his back turned this time. I scowled straight at him.
"And watch your mouth."
"Yes, sir," I said bitingly. He wasn't going to beat me at this. He wasn't going to win. As a final show, I saluted, then took off.
Of course, Blockbuster's men had to show up to check out the 'disturbance,' so not only did we have to get out of there, but we had to take Larry and Curly with us too. These mooks obviously didn't appreciate us. Of course, Nighthawk had to go all wimpy on me, and I had to carry one guy to the roof while dad got the other. I sighed. How many more HOURS till I got off this trip of love and togetherness?
"These guys're getting fatter or something," I said as we moved them a safe distance from the edge. My father scowled at me. I scowled back. Never give an inch, was my new motto.
It was half an hour before the men were gone. How come there weren't any chick guns in these gangs? Couldn't Blockbuster be an equal opportunity employer? I really wanted to bust some heads, but I had a feeling dad didn't want to get into it with Blockbuster tonight. Now, see that's where we differed. I'd have at least messed with their heads for a few minutes just to spook 'em.
When they were gone, my father leaned into Nighthawk. "Hey, sport. Why don't you go home and change. Then you can meet back up with us."
My brother nodded, made a face at me, then departed.
"You know, if that had been me, I'd have been told to suck it up and deal—the world doesn't come to an end because my costume got hurt."
"You have me confused with Bruce," my father informed me.
"No, because I think you're meaner to me than he is."
There was a dead silence. I hated when it got quiet like that. Especially when I was arguing with someone.
"I am NOT meaner."
"Listen to yourself. All you've been doing is criticizing me all night."
"It's my city—my rules. Your brother doesn't seem to have a problem."
"Lemme guess, the steak sauce is yours because you pay for it, therefore it doesn't belong on mashed potatoes."
"Bite me. Ok this is your city and your steak sauce. That's just the thing—this isn't my town."
My dad's arms folded over his chest, completely eclipsing the blue emblem there. "Well, Robin's going to be spending a LOT more time here, so you'd better get used to it."
"You can't do that," I protested bitterly. "This isn't my town. I picked Gotham over Bludhaven." Two people in one day!
He froze. "I guess that's it, then. You chose Gotham over me. You'd rather be with Him than ME."
Oh my God. He was SUCH a baby. "You're a hell of a lot harder to work with than He is!"
"That's because He trained you!"
One of the mooks started to wake. I slapped him upside the head and he collapsed again into a heap of human flesh. "It wasn't much of a choice," I informed him quietly.
"You hate me THAT much?"
"You don't NEED me! HE needed a Robin when Tim melted down. You didn't need a partner then, and you sure as hell don't need one now." This all sort of went back to Tim's burn-out break down thingy. It was a long story, years old, and I didn't understand why it was suddenly rearing it's head these last two days. Yes, I'd chosen grandpa over him. Get over it.
"I LIKE having one."
"So? You have Nighthawk. Wish fulfilled. And he's always the perfect little partner, isn't he? It's why you like him better than me!" I jumped from one roof to the one directly across the alley. I was in desperate need of space.
"Robin, get back here!"
I put my hands on my hips. "I will not. As insignificant as my effort in Gotham may be to you, I'm going back there. At least that's MY town. And not you, or Batman or anyone else is going to kick me out."
"Don't you dare--"
"Look, I have THINGS to do! Besides the pathetic shit that passes for bonding in our house."
"Just accept that we'll never be partners, and move on. You have your perfect kid with Nighthawk, so just give up on me. Now—I'm going back to Gotham." I turned around and took myself away, then whispered under my breath, "before another psychopath gets murdered by supposedly sane individuals."
When I was on top of the 11:45 train, I contacted my mom. "Guess you heard that I sorta had a fight with dad," I told her.
"Sort of? He's burning up. I had to just put him on mute and let him ramble on."
"Sorry. I know I said I'd stick out half the night—but he's just NUTS."
"Robin—Mara… try and understand."
"Mom, I can't possibly BEGIN to understand what the hell's going on with them. Surprise, it's a girl! It's got to be more than that. Like… I've been a girl for a long time, as far as I can tell." I tucked my head near my chest. The only problem with traveling this fast was that you got serious windburn.
"Mara… they're both very good at ignoring things when it suits them."
"To say the least." I sighed. "Look. I'm going to go see Tim. That'll keep me out Batman's hair. Can you see if you can deter both of them from hunting me down and killing me tonight?"
I heard her groan on the other end. "I'll try. But you can't keep running away. You have to stick around and face them. Now Dinah and I are going to try and calm those two down. We're going to do that much for you. But you ARE going to have to face them. I was hoping you could just assuage your father's concerns for one night and keep him happy… well, I guess that's a lost cause."
You know, I was the one being seriously wronged here. She could stop taking his side so much at any point in time. I had no idea what all this 'girl' stuff was about, and I feared I'd never understand why they were acting like complete idiots.
"I think THEY should start acting normal first."
"That's how I know you're your father's kid. You do all the same stupid stuff he does, only you do it with your grandfather's stubbornness."
"Great. Thanks for reminding me I'm blood-related to this madness. Listen, I'm coming up on Gotham. I'll come home when I'm done. We can all duke this out then."
"Take care of yourself, kid. You got enough enemies on your team, you don't need any on the other side."
"Will do. Thanks, Oracle."
The least I could do was give her a professional sign-off.
I did the naughty thing and let myself in to Tim and Steph's apartment. Stephanie was in the kitchen, and didn't even turn around from her seat at the table when I came in. "Knocking works too, you know," she said cheerfully.
"Can Timmy come out and play?" I asked.
She put down her pencil. It looked like she was working on some new design pattern. "He's asleep on the couch." I didn't say a word. "It's the first time he's slept in a while, so I didn't have the heart to wake him when it came time for his 'other job'."
I nodded. "Maybe I shouldn't wake him then. Hey. How're you doing?" I didn't love Stephanie, but I didn't quite hate her either. 'Sides. It was Tim's kid too. Tim was good people. He had been my cartoon watching buddy when I was a little kid. Lord knew he didn't do much of anything else that year and a half he spent on our couch.
"Junior and I are doing well." I hadn't seen her in a while. She'd put on a little weight, under that sweater. "Take off your cape and stay a while," she said smartly. Everyone's a comedian.
"It's a boy?" I asked anxiously. This was worse than waiting to unwrap the Christmas presents.
"I don't know. I just call him Junior. Or her. It was my idea, not knowing. You know Tim… anal to a fault. All planning and thinking—no fun. I figured it'd be good for him."
I smiled. It was good to see someone was taking care of him. He needed it. I was glad he was happy. It kind of irked me that SHE made him happy, but we all don't get what we want, now do we? That sudden though sort of made me jump a little.
They'd been quietly remarried, Justice of the Peace style, last month. I could see why they didn't want our family involved. When two or more Bat-people are gathered, chaos ensues. I was happy for Tim. Really.
"Eh, it's what we love about him."
"Quit saying stuff about me," Tim said tiredly. I turned to see him rubbing his eyes, his hair sticking straight in the air.
"Have a nice nappy-pooh?"
He looked at the clock on the microwave. "Yeah. Shit. You should have woke me up."
"She decided you looked too cute to wake. 'Sides, that's probably gonna be all the sleep you get from now until the kid's 18th birthday."
"Haha. Now, Robin. What the hell're you doing in my kitchen?"
"Did a certain red bird wake up on the wrong side of the couch? I need a little help with a project you worked on. I want into Arkham's computers."
"Talk to Oracle."
"I want in On-site. I don't want to telecommute."
"Because you don't want Oracle to know about it. What's the game?"
"No game. This is just my gig. I'm keeping to myself. Batman and Nightwing're on my ass. You built the security system on the network at Arkham, and I'm sure you put some back door on it."
He rubbed his stubbled neck. "Yeah, I put in a back door. But Tim Drake didn't design the security for Arkham so that Robin could have free reign of their records."
"Can you just trust me that it's important and I wouldn't ask if it weren't?"
He chewed on his cheek and thought about it. "I'm not comfortable with you keeping things from your mom."
I set my lips in a firm line, trying to think of a way around this. I'd have got give up something to get everything else. "I'll tell you when I get what I need."
"I can't give you much time."
"It's ok, I know what I'm looking for."
He sighed. I got him. His soft spot was well noted. Stephanie used it often. I only used it when I had to.
We were in a terminal within their server room. "What the hell are you pulling out of there?" he asked.
I copied entire sets of records to my CD. I was dragging and moving things furiously. He'd only given me twenty minutes, and I had a hell of a lot of stuff to move."Telling you would be cheating."
I burned my second CD, then closed myself out of what I was doing. "Ok, you're done. Now talk."
"Wait till we're out of here. You wouldn't believe me if I told you."
I put the CD's into my belt, then turned to go.
"Ok. Meet me on the roof," he informed me. "I have a few more things to back out of."
Redwing bent over the terminal. I knew he hated crossing Tim's work and Redwing's, but he shouldn't have taken the contract to secure their files if he knew their being used by our 'group' was a possibility. And he knew. This was US.
I went up and out. I hated this place. I hated the people who ran it, I hated the people in it…
The air smelled. It was crisp with cold and stung my nose. It was too late in the spring for it to snow, but it wasn't quite that cold. I looked out over the roof tops of the facilities of Arkham. I was sure there was some sort of irony in all of this, but right now I couldn't think of it. I was too deep in thought of my problems—professional and otherwise. I now had a new commissioner to attempt to convince of my evidence. Two days ago, I could have gotten action taken just by dropping a hint supported by logic.
On top of that, I was suddenly in a situation that I couldn't get help with, just with this Arkham problem alone. I'd needed Tim to get me in. I knew better than to mess with a system he designed. It was better to have him as a friend than an enemy. Cassandra knew a piece of it, Tim knew a piece and was about to get another piece. I couldn't tell the important parts to my mother. I couldn't tell my father or the Bat any of this. That of course went back to my problem with them, and their sudden fiery anger towards me.
"So. Mind telling me why I broke into my own system?"
"The Board at Arkham's trying to thin the patient population. Harvey's break-out and Quinn's involvement were completely orchestrated on their part. This may go back to the Joker's death. I'll have to coordinate data and patient status all the way back from that time. This is MY case. I don't want anyone touching it," I told him stonily. It was time to put on my bitch-face. The same one I used on Ms. Weitz.
"Tim, I mean it. This is mine. I have a score to settle with some people, among other things. I also don't know where I stand with the Bat, or my father… I'm not going to have them screwing this case up, or pulling me off of it. I know what I'm looking for—they don't."
He frowned. I knew he hated when I called him by his name when the mask was on… but I needed to make myself perfectly clear. At least he was a male who wasn't getting weird on me. Of course, he hadn't been there last night.
"Look… I won't say anything—for now. Anything happens, and there's another incident with an inmate… well, I'm going to have to say something."
I nodded, glad we had an understanding. "Thanks for trusting me. Let's hope I have the home situation squared away before it comes to that." Then they wouldn't have to yank me off the case. They'd just kill me for knowing more about the Joker's death than I let on.
"Just… don't give your dad a hard time," he told me. I kind of hated that he and my dad were so close. It sometimes put us at odds.
"Go back to bed. Nothing happening in this town tonight that Batgirl and an angry-bitter Batman can't handle. I'm going home now too. I promise."
I spent WAY too much time hanging on to metal cars hurling through the air. Of course, I wouldn't do it if it weren't fun. There was something… freeing about hurtling through the air that fast… on the outside.
"Oracle, I'm on my way back through. Are the male figures in my life under control?"
There was a long pause. "Umm… now's not a good time."
My dad's voice broke on. "You better get back to this house right now…"
"Dude, I just said I was coming back."
"Can someone tell me WHY you were in my city?" Where the hell was the Bat? What the hell was he doing on my channel?
"I TOLD you I was coming back to Gotham! And it isn't your city--"
"Its my city," a gravely voice replied. "I told you to stay with your father."
"I had stuff to do."
"See, Bruce," Dinah cut in. "She had stuff to do."
"Stay out of it, Dinah."
"Can we have this conversation in person, or are we going to continue to scream over an open channel?" With my luck, the whole damned Justice League was listening right now.
"We can't have this conversation in person because YOU keep running away!"
"Dick!" Thanks mom, but he's gone into 'insane mode' again. It's too late, save yourself.
"YOU really need to quit siding with her."
"I'm not siding with anyone! You need to start acting like the adult here."
"THAT is siding with her."
"Babs is right. Both of you need to--"
The Bat cut back in. "DINAH. STAY out of it."
"I am NOT staying out of it. You can't kick Robin out of Gotham just because you just figured out she's a girl!"
"This isn't about her being a girl!"
"No, it's about her being a WOMAN."
"She is not!" my dad cried pathetically.
"Can I be excused?" I muttered to myself. "Thanks." I tore out my earpiece and tossed it into the water we were running along. I removed the tracking piece from my belt and threw it in as well, then dug for the tracking piece in my cape—the one I wasn't supposed to know about—and it went into the water same as the rest. I couldn't deal with that. How could I possibly talk to either of them? When they were intent on just yelling?
Fortunately I was still held on to my Young Justice communicator. And even better still—I still had Jordy on my speed-dial. "Hey, um…"
"Robin? Is something serious up? You need Young Justice or something?" I could tell just from the sound of his voice, I woke him up.
"Crap. I'm sorry for waking you up. I forgot not everyone has a night gig. Umm… I was wondering if I could spend the night at your house?" Actually, they lived in an apartment, but a place to sleep was a place to sleep.
I could hear him sitting up. "Wow. That's serious. Let me ask my dad."
"You can't tell your dad."
I passed Bludhaven and kept going north. I actually felt relief flood through me when the city disappeared behind me. "Cause he'll tell my family where I am, and then they'll come after me. You think that scene with Batman at the Watchtower was something—I just escaped a four way argument between him and Nightwing and Oracle and Black Canary." It made me sick to know I was the center of an argument between all of them. I didn't know why, but it made me feel like I was going to throw up. THAT was why I'd ditched my communications equipment and went into hiding.
"Way. Look, I just need a place to crash. I'll be out of there in the morning." I couldn't go to my hidey holes. That'd be the first place they looked for me.
"Sure. You can stay in my room. Come in the window. There's stuff all over the floor, dad can't get the door opened. He stopped trying about a month ago."
I breathed a sigh of relief. "Jordy… you're the bestest in the whole wide world." God bless his dirty room, too.
"I know. It's part of my charm." He was a dweeb, he didn't have any charm. That's why I liked him.
Half an hour later, I was laying in a spot on the floor on the side of Jordy's bed opposite the door. He'd even cleared it away of comic books and clothes for me. Now if that wasn't love, what was?
"You're just gonna sleep in your costume?" he asked me.
"Unfortunately, I wasn't planning on going on a field trip," I informed him as I looked up from the floor. "So I didn't pack my whole wardrobe."
"That's gotta be SO uncomfortable." He hopped off the bed and started going through the piles of clothes on his floor. "I got clean stuff," he promised, then produced a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, and threw them on top of me.
"First of all, shorty, I don't trust you. And second of all, I don't trust your dad's ability to do laundry." But I took the clothes and sat up. He was watching me. "Well?"
"Turn around or something. Bats isn't too hot about me even being AROUND people. I don't think he'd like to know I strip in front of them too."
He turned around. "Stripping. That's hot."
"You know, I can break every bone in your body."
"I know," he said with a shrug. His white t-shirt wrinkled just 'so' when he did that. "Stripping's still cool."
"You can turn around now. You're such a guy."
"Great come-back, leprechaun boy."
He belly flopped onto the bed. "I try." He looked over the edge at me, batting those innocent black eyes. "Well, what're you gonna do? I mean… if you're hiding from Bat-people. It's kinda hard to stay hidden from them, isn't it?"
"I figure I bought myself a day or so. I have a case I really have to work on."
"Can I help?" God, he tried so hard. Well, maybe I could teach him more about this stuff.
"I guess. Just… don't tell your dad where you're going. I have to get this thing settled before I go back for more family madness."
"My dad's cool."
"Your dad would rat me out so fast."
He sighed. "Yeah… well, fine. I just won't tell him. What's up with your family? Anything you can talk about?"
"Status is same as it was this morning—only I don't feel like dealing with it right now. And I don't want to deal with their potential to screw this case up." I paused for a minute, thinking. I guess this was a question that HAD to be asked. "Am I as screwed up as they are?"
"I dunno. You yell a lot."
"Thanks." At least I knew where I stood. "I don't mean to. Well, I don't yell any more, cause there's no one to yell at. Hope Superboy's having fun," I muttered.
"Superboy's still missing."
"He's probably making out with some girl." I sighed. "You're like the only normal person I know. Which isn't saying much considering you're a Lantern… and green."
"Are you bringing my ethnicity into this?"
"I don't think that green counts as an ethnicity. I think it's just a state of being."
He rubbed the spot on the bed next to him. "I aint swept the floor in a year. Come up here before I start feeling guilty."
"This is just a conspiracy to get me into bed with you."
"Yeah right. I don't dig chicks in body-armor. Besides. You aren't my girlfriend, you're my big brother."
I crawled up next to him, bringing my pillow. Yeah, it was dusty down there. And his bed WAS comfortable. Hell, his clothes were comfortable… I started drifting off.
"You just hang around Superboy so you can get his cast-offs."
"Totally," he informed me.
"Good night, Lil' Lantern," I said dramatically, letting him know it was time for bed. I lay with my back to him, and I could feel him turning so his back was to me. Completely, totally chaste.
"Good night stupid poop-head." He turned out the light
I smiled and pulled the pillow closer to me. Why couldn't my relationship with my family be as simple? It was so good to be here with him—so safe. I didn't have anyone opening my door, or appearing at the foot of my bed. I didn't have anyone yelling in my ear. No mad Bat, no mad dad, no dresses, no nothing. Just me and a squishy pillow, and my best friend.
Deep inside me, I knew it wouldn't last. My mother was right. I had to confront my family. I had to get things under control. I needed to get enough to bring this case to a close—or at least get the board put under official review—before my involvement in the Joker's death was found out.
With the light out, the room was blue with pre-dawn light. Hopefully I'd be safe for a few hours, and I could relax. The bed was warm, the pillow was soft. I had at least a little safety and respite. And then… back into the fire.