I don't own, bla bla bla.
Thnx to Charleen and war rabbit for putting up with my pestering.
There was a rapping at the window like rain. I stirred every so slightly and snuggled closer to Jordy, where it was warmer. I probably shouldn't, but somehow his arm had ended up under my head last night, and my body turned towards him, with my arm over his waste. My reasoning was that a single bed wasn't big enough for two almost adult people. So if we got a little comfy together, then so be it.
I drifted off again, and then came the sound that sort of broke my hopes of any normalcy to my day.
"Holy CRAP! The little dwarf gets some!"
I turned my head around and got myself untangled from him. I took a deep breath and squinted at Superboy, hovering just inside the window. "You ever heard of KNOCKING?" I groaned.
"ROBIN? HOLY HELL!"
I leapt out of bed and grabbed him by the jaw before he could fly off. "I swear to God, you tell ANYONE about this, and you're gonna wish you could die from Kryptonite poisoning, because that's gonna be the EASY way, compared to what I do to you." A lot longer than the Bat's usual threats, but I was getting better.
"I… I wont tell." Good, he thought I was serious. Well, he should.
"This is coming from the same guy who told Superman I said I wasn't his monkey boy."
"I don't know WHAT you're talking about," he said with feigned innocence.
"What're you doing here?" Jordy asked. He crawled out the covers and knelt on the bed, rubbing his eyes.
"WELL… we have a meeting this afternoon, and I wanted to know if you wanted to go to the pancake house before…"
I let go of him. "Ri-ight." I wasn't his team mate any more, but I knew how he worked.
"And I wanted to see how pissed everyone was for me taking off the other day." He rubbed the back of his neck. "So. Like how long've you guys--"
"We're NOT," I informed him.
"Does… like… Mr. Rayner know? That like… in his house…"
I scowled. "NOTHING is going on. Anything you think you see is a product of your diseased imagination. And if you lead ANYONE to believe anything to the contrary… Well, Kon El… lets just say you're taking your life into your own hands."
Kon bit his lip and thought about it for a minute. Then he looked around my shoulder and to Lil' Lantern, who was still kneeling on his bed. "Well, um… I'll catch you later, then." He flew out the window, and I collapsed on the bed with Jordy.
"We probably only have about ten minutes before he blabs. Are you still intending to come with me?"
He nodded. "Lemme get dressed. I'm cool with dad. He knows I have the YJ thing today. And I think Young Justice will understand me skipping out, once Kon starts blabbing."
I turned and looked out the window while he started dressing. I had a problem. It was a little too cold for shorts today. "Got any sweat pants?"
"You're too tall. I'm gonna have to get you some of my dad's stuff."
"If you wake him up, I'll kill you."
"I won't. Ring-people do quiet snooping. Ok, all done." Jordy was dressed in jeans and a flannel shirt. I think we both shopped at the same store. Geeks R Us.
He constructed "Stealth-boy", who just so happened to look like James Bond, and sent the "Ring Person" on its way.
It was kind of cute to see his head poked out the door while he was observing his creation doing his dirty work. His dad's ring was much more powerful, and his dad certainly had better control over it, but Lil' Lantern had that special flair.
The ring had been his mother's, until she'd been killed in battle. Jordy had been raised around the whole cape and tights gig, and he'd helped out the Justice League more than once already… so giving the ring to him had seemed the logical and natural thing to do. I hadn't met him until he'd gotten the ring.
He took the clothes from his Ring Person, and handed them to me. Mr. Bond disappeared promptly upon completion of his task.
I looked at the neatly folded jeans and white button down shirt. "These don't look like your dad's."
"They were mom's. Dad won't get rid of them. Someone might as well get some use."
I looked at him, and held them in my hand a minute… It had only been a year and a half since she'd died. I didn't know if I had a right…
"Well, hurry up. We got like two minutes before Kon blabs himself to the whole world."
He was right. Practicality had to win out over feelings of discomfort. Especially if HE was ok with it. Kyle we could deal with later. I dressed, without bothering to ask him to turn around. He'd either get the hint or not. We were running out of time.
"Wow. That shirt's a little tight. You want a t-shirt?"
I shook my head no, stuffing my costume into a duffle bag he'd provided. We didn't have time.
"I think we should go west. I don't care where west, but the east coast is too hot right now. We need to steer clear of Metropolis as well. Superman'll be the first person to put the clamp down on me." He and my dad were too good of friends.
"I can fly us."
I thought about it. "Fine. But low. I don't need radar picking us up. My mom'd be on that so fast…"
"Who did you THINK my mom was?" I asked as a beam of light from the ring grabbed hold of us and away we went. This wasn't as thrilling as the trains, I thought, but I'd ridden this way often enough when we'd run with Young Justice that I could enjoy it at least.
"I don't know. Your family's so messed up. I mean… you and your brother not really being in the same city and stuff. I don't know who belongs to who."
"Well, I guess I can tell you. They'll get mad… but if they ask—your dad told you." When all else fails—place the blame on Kyle Rayner. "The quick version: Oracle's my mom, Nightwing's my dad and the Bat is my grandfather. Redwing and Batgirl are sort of adopted family members. Your dad knows all this stuff. And I guess if we're running away together, even temporarily, you ought to know that my first name is Mara."
"Hi, I'm Jordy. I'll be your co-conspirator. I'd have never pegged you for a Mara. I just thought you were Robin all the time."
"As much fun as that'd be… nope."
We were cutting across northern Pennsylvania. It was very… green. Except for the open fields of grey and brown where the strip mines once stood. There were a lot of golf courses too.
After about ten minutes, he said to me, "so. Where're we going."
"Dunno. How far west is too far west? I don't want to run into the Titans on the west coast.
"How's about Chicago? We can get lost there." And it only had a part-time defender, who wasn't in league with the east coasters.
I squeezed his hand that was not bearing the ring. "You're brilliant, you know that? I can get lost for a few hours and get some work done."
Chicago was awesome. It… umm… had a lot of glass. I'd passed through here a few times on cases, but I'd never really gotten to stop and look around. The over-head view something to behold, the sky scrapers, all glowing gold in the early morning sun. We stopped in a neighborhood north of down town, the Loop, as they called it. Under the train station was a hotdog shop that had the greasiest, best fries in the whole world. Jordy and I sat at the counter eating a late breakfast of grease and more grease.
"That's all of my allowance," he whispered after getting a refill on his drink. "I'm gonna get hungry real quick, unless you keep money in that belt of yours."
"I have some emergency money. It's ok, though. I have a plan."
About twenty minutes later, I was doing some highly illegal stuff with an ATM. No, I wasn't robbing it. I got a cash advance on my 'only use for emergencies' credit card—and routed the transaction so it looked like it came from an ATM in Mexico. There were some advantages to hanging around my mother. We were lucky she used her powers for good, instead of evil.
Jordy was playing look-out. He popped his gum twice that someone was coming. I'd better wrap this up. I pulled out the card and stuffed the money into the duffel bag, and we were on our way.
"You've got to be kidding me," he whispered. "Who gives a kid a credit line that big… that they can take $2000 cash advance? And why can't your family adopt me?"
"You do NOT want into this madness. It's the super duper emergency card. I'll promptly be killed upon returning home for this. I have probably a day before my mom figures out that I'm not really in Mexico. I say tonight, we high tail it some place else, if I don't have this case wrapped up by then."
"What're we doing with the money? And how can my stomach benefit from this?" I groaned and shook my head, promising to feed him before we started working.
We went to the shadiest electronics dealer I could find down town, and I put a thousand on a used lap top. I was being ripped off, but I wasn't in the mood to negotiate. It had a CD drive, which was all I really needed. "Unfortunately, all my stuff's back on the east coast. I gotta work on national hidey-holes," I told Jordy as we were leaving.
"Where to now?" he asked. We'd wasted the rest of the morning trying to get ourselves together.
"I need some place with a plug and a network jack," I told him. "And I think I know how to do that."
Twenty minutes later we were on the top floor of a building that housed a two floor mall dedicated to music. The next six floors were owned by a university with a good business and law school. True to my suspicions, there was a large lounge with ports and Edison outlets. Jordy was kind enough to create student id's with his ring to show the security guard, and were on our way to the spot furthest away from the door. We turned the table so our back was to the wall. I told the security lady that Wiatt Earp was shot because he sat with his back to the door. She figured I was one of those weird programming majors and let me be.
"I hate just sitting here," he whispered. "Give me something to do."
I scowled. "One computer. Sorry."
He frowned. "Well, what's all this stuff mean?"
"It'd be a hell of a lot easier if I could print it out. But I think what I really need to do is just reorder these files so they make sense to an outsider."
"That'd be me, right?"
I sighed. "I'm sorry, LL. I'm not saying you're dumb. This just works me up easily. This goes back to something… that I don't really like thinking much about."
"Oh." He put his feet up on the computer desk.
"So, what're you doing with the news paper articles?"
"Confirming dates, mostly. It's called CYA."
"Cover your ass. We got a new commissioner in Gotham. I'm making sure he can follow my paper trail with absolutely no difficulty. I don't know the new guy. I don't know how he's gonna play things with us masked types." Oh the great frustrations of my life.
"He doesn't like vigilantes?"
"We're not vigilantes. I try to think of us as 'alternative law enforcement'."
He snickered. "At least I can show my face in public without getting my butt arrested."
"The many costs of being an urban legend. Look at this. Wilson is fired, replaced on the third shift with Metz. Metz is consequently on duty during two break-outs, and during the Zsaz's 'accidental' death… Ahh geeze. This is exactly what I am looking for. A scan of the orders moving people around. Same three signatures on all the personnel changes. Bing. We have a winner. Now I'm getting somewhere."
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a few miniature constructs dance across the table and then sumo wrestle. I peeked over. They were the teddy bears from the card he'd made me.
"You have some serious problems," I whispered. "Now are you concentrating on this, or not?" How in the world had my grandfather put up with me as a student?
"How can I concentrate on it? I have no idea what you're talking about, or it's importance in all this. Heck, I don't even know what all this is."
I bit my lip. "I'm sorry. I'm a doof." I backed up a few files and tried to explain it to him. There was a blank look in his eyes. I felt really bad, all of a sudden."Look, its ok if this isn't your thing."
"It ISN'T my thing. Can I leave the Sherlock Holmes stuff up to you?"
"Yeah. You do the saving the universe stuff. I'll work on just saving Gotham."
He gave me such a warm smile, I almost didn't know what to do with myself.
"Dude… its getting dark," Jordy decided to inform me.
I looked over to the window. I was almost finished with what I was doing. "Thank you, Captain Obvious. Lemme guess, you want fed, too."
"Yeah. How's about spending a bunch of that money on my stomach."
I shut down the lap top, and we left. I had all my ducks in order. Unfortunately, that only left going back to Gotham to finish up this case. I was so close, I just needed to officially nail my people to the wall and get them into a position they couldn't squirm out of.
"So… umm… am I going to school tomorrow?" He asked.
"I don't know. Depends on if you want to go home or not. I won't keep you here. Or wherever I end up next."
"Naw, I aint leaving you."
"You're a loyal friend, kid. It's probably going to be your down-fall."
We were walking under the train tracks that wrapped around the down town area. The faded yellow paint that covered them glowed a dirty gold in the salmon street lamps.
"Can you do me a favor," I asked very quietly as we searched for a place to eat that was opened. "Get as far away as possible when the shit hits the fan."
"Mara, quit acting goofy."
"Jordy, I'm serious. It's going to be a war. You don't want to be caught in the middle."
"Goofy," he said again.
We walked another block, past the symphony center, and found a burger joint that was still opened. "This is disappointing. I come all the way to Chicago, and we end up eating dinner at a franchised joint."
"It isn't that bad. I'm sure we'll be able to have cool foods in other cool places. We can make it a weekend hobby—eating in different cities. I'm getting a Number One. Can I have your fries?" Man. I hadn't even said I was GETTING fries yet.
I felt a presence above. "Shit hath arrived," I whispered. "Go inside and get two Number One's." I handed him a twenty dollar bill. "If I am dead when you come out, you get to eat both."
He accepted the money, but didn't budge. "I think I'm in this too… whatever they heard."
"Lantern… that's an order," I whispered.
He still hesitated. And he hesitated a moment too long, because Nighting's voice rang out so grimly that I was almost unsure for a moment as to who it was. "Robin."
"So," I said to the shadow above me. "Ya found me. Obviously I over-estimated how much time I had before you'd put the smack-down on me." Being mouth was the only thing that kept me from just screaming at him.
"Batman knew you'd use that card. We were searching for the number before you even did it," Nightwing informed me. He was hidden in the shadows of beams beneath the El platform. "We HAD been about to drag the river for you, until we heard what Superboy saw." His eyes narrowed. I could hear the barely controlled rage in his voice. "We're going home, NOW." He fell out of the shadow and landed in front of us, scowling at Jordy.
"Well, whatever you heard, it isn't true," I informed him impatiently. I wondered if any excuses or protests I gave would be good enough.
Jordy nodded vigorously his affirmation.
My dad grabbed him by the shirt and twisted it, pulling Jordy to him. "Stay away from her."
"Dad," I said in a harsh whisper. "Get the hell off of him."
"You're in enough trouble," he ground out. Then turned back to Jordy. "If I ever see you near her again, I will disembowel you."
I grabbed my father's wrist. "Stop acting like an idiot," I told him. "Jordy didn't do anything. Get the hell off."
His other hand shot out and grabbed me, holding me at arm's length. "You're not in any position to say ANYTHING, do you hear me?"
"Let GO of me! Quit being an asshole and just LISTEN!"
His nose flared and his lips were pressed together so firmly that he didn't even appear to have any. I wasn't going to get out of this gracefully. We were at a stand-off. His grip was tight, so I used that to my advantage. I picked both of my feet off the ground and slammed them into his stomach. He lost his wind enough that I could rip Jordy's shirt out of his grasp. Too bad it meant leaving a majority of his shirt in dad's hand.
"Get out of here," I ordered. "I'm taking a rain check on dinner!" I leapt onto the lower beams of the train platform to put some distance between me and my father, who had recovered all too quickly.
Jordy hovered, now in full Lantern regalia. The advantages of keeping your costume in a ring, I thought to myself. "I'm not going."
"Lantern, I'm not going to tell you again!" The next beam was about twenty five feet away. I swung out, flew and connected. Without gloves, my hands were going to smart tomorrow. "I can handle things here. Now get the hell out!"
"Jordan Rayner," my dad said with authority. "Get down here."
He hovered for a moment, staring at me. I nodded, begging for him to go with my eyes.
"I'm sorry… Mara," he said in a hollow voice. "I'm really sorry."
And then he was gone. "I'm coming down," I said calmly. I jumped and landed in a crouched position, then rose. "You leave Jordy out of this," I ordered.
"You are NOT in a position to make demands."
"If I told you NOTHING happened, would that matter to you?"
I was met with his unyielding scowl and unbearable silence.
"Well, I guess that's that, then." Yeah. I was the deadest person in the world.
They'd pulled a chair away from the kitchen table. And I was the lucky person sitting in that chair, with dad circling around me like a wolf. Mom was sitting at the table, but I didn't think dad or grandpa would let her get a word in edgewise. Her voice had been hoarse when I'd returned home. I had a feeling they'd all screamed at each other all night.
"What the HELL were you thinking?" it was the question my father had asked a thousand times since we'd left Chicago.
"What the hell were YOU thinking?" I fired the accusation right back. "I didn't do anything wrong."
"NO. You ran away, gave us all a heart attack, throwing all your stuff in the river, then you're in bed with some guy, then you're in some other city? You've done enough."
"I had to get some work done in peace and quiet," I told him. I was past the point of being mad. I knew how much shit I was in, and I knew how they were going to act towards me.
My grandfather was leaning against the counter, his arms folded over his chest, watching the proceedings.
"And what do YOU have to say for yourself?" I asked him accusingly.
"I am not the one on trial," he informed me.
"You're out of the suit," he told me steadily.
"Good." I told him.
He actually twitched. Good. That had gotten to him. It had been intended to.
"Then you don't need what I've spent the last two days working on." I elaborated. "Just don't come crying to me when another Arkham inmate turns up dead. I'd say by the way the schedule's going, you're looking at the Tally Man next. Of course, no one'd really notice him dead."
"What're you talking about?" my dad asked me angrily.
"I could tell you… but I'm out of the suit."
"DON'T try to blackmail me."
I shrugged. "Just explaining how it is."
My dad leaned closer to me. Damnit, I'd really hate to be in an interrogation room with him. "Don't even try it. You're in absolutely no position to attempt manipulating us. Your mother was up all night worrying about you. What the hell has gotten into you?"
"What the hell has gotten into YOU? Into BOTH of you?" I looked to my mother. "You're going to LET this happen?"
She sighed wearily. "I've tried, Mara. They won't listen to reason." She rubbed her temples. Yeah, sometimes you couldn't talk to these guys.
They both shot her a look of death. I wondered where Dinah was. Something must have come up. She was escaping my personal hell, here. She was very, very lucky.
"So. Just tell me what the hell you're going to do to me, and get it over with. Because we are NEVER going to get past this. I looked to my grandfather first. "You obviously don't want me any more. And you…" I looked to my dad. "I'm not sure you ever wanted me to begin with. All you want to do is make my life miserable."
"Make your life miserable? I'm having a freaking ball here, kid. I wake up every morning HOPING you'll do something to scare the shit out of me."
My teeth ground together. "And your response is to threaten my friends? What kind of jerk are you?"
"I won't have you seeing him."
"I hate you."
Dad and grandpa shifted.
"As long as you live here, you'll obey me. And if I say you can't see him, you can't see him. And if you're grandfather pulls you out of the suit, that's final too. You'll give us what you have on your ongoing cases, you make yourself available to answer questions. Once those cases are closed, you are through."
"Then maybe I shouldn't live here any more. That'd certainly solve the fact that I think you're an evil vindictive bastard."
"Mara…" my mom whispered. "Don't…"
"Don't, Barbara. She isn't going anywhere."
Mom's eyes were wet. "We're not getting anywhere."
I felt bad for her hurting her. Couldn't she see it wasn't her… it was him. It was THEM.
"Dick… just let me talk to her for a few minutes."
He and my grandfather remained unmoving.
"Both of you… I mean it. I've watched this go on long enough." They stared at her, and I was sure there was that urge to start fighting again, but I had a feeling they'd gotten their screaming out last night when I'd been on the line with them—and after. My grandfather was the first to move.
He looked directly at me. "This is NOT over."
It's never over, I wanted to tell him. Not in this house. Not in this family.
My dad followed him out of the room. They were going to mom's war room. Good. Then they couldn't hear us.
"Mara, you scared us shitless," were the first words out of my mother's mouth when we were alone.
"I'm sorry. I had to get some space."
"And what the hell were you thinking?" Her voice was calm, but tired.
"Mom, I swear to God, on a stack of Bibles, NOTHING happened. NOTHING. It was dusty on his floor, so I crawled up with him, and anything after that is just Superboy making shit up." Close enough to the truth.
"Ok. I believe you."
I let out a breath. "Thank you," I whispered. "Mom… I… I can't stay here. They don't listen to me."
"I know they don't." She appeared to be thinking… more of how to say something, than of the substance of what she was going to say. "Why don't you stay with your grandfather for a while? He's coming back from his fishing trip tomorrow night."
"I don't want to stay in Gotham."
"HE'll leave you alone. HE doesn't have any business with my dad any more, and after this last turn of events, HE'll be avoiding going over there… like the plague."
"I hope so."
"You're going to pay off the credit card, though."
I nodded. That was far, far more than fair.
"And you can talk to Jordy on the phone, just don't let your dad know about it. As for seeing him... I wouldn't push your luck for a while."
That wasn't what I wanted to hear, but she was right. I'd just be stirring up trouble if I did that. "So. How're you going to convince the Prince of Evil and Darkness to let me stay with Grampy?"
"I don't want to hear you talking about your father that way. He's acting like an idiot, but he's still your father."
Don't remind me! "I just… can't talk to them." Understatement.
"Now come here." She sniffed and pulled me into her arms. "Don't scare us, ok? I know why you did it, but… don't scare us." She slapped me upside the head. Not hard, just enough to rattle me. "And that's for being a dumb kid," she told me.
That's why mom was better. She'd just smack you around a bit and then you go back to being friends. Dad… his mouth would start running, and he would go on and on and on. "Thanks, mommy," I whispered.
"Now… go upstairs in your room and start getting yourself ready. I'd pack for at least a week or two. That should at least keep you out of trouble while I talk to grumps one and two."
I nodded, then dashed upstairs.
The next morning, I went into school early. I was sitting on the floor beneath the pay phone, talking away. "Yeah. They were both psycho-pissed. It's kind of weird. First they were fighting over me, now they have a common enemy: ME."
Jordy asked if there was anything he could do.
"Nothing for now. Mom wants me to stay with my granddad."
"The OTHER one, dumb-dumb. I have two!" I laughed a little. "Yeah, I can just picture me staying with HIM after all this. They'd be mailing one of us home in little pieces."
A few teachers stopped and looked at me strangely. Yeah, it wasn't normal procedure to be jabbing with friends at 7am.
"That's rough," he told me. "How're you doing?"
"I have no idea. I haven't really stopped to take it all in. I'm just SO sorry my dad went all psycho on you."
"Not your fault. I don't take it personally. Apparently it's an honor to be murderized by a Titan. But the good news is, my dad doesn't believe Superboy."
I let out a breath. "That God for some small things. Why is your dad so normal, and why is my dad so… NOT?"
"Too much time with the Bat?"
"MAYBE. One too many hits in the head, I don't know. How in the world did your dad end up being the most normal person in the world?"
He laughed hard on the other end of the line. "Dunno. Come on. There have to be more normal people out there. What about Redwing?"
"Sweet, I love him to death, but he's neurotic."
"He's too good of friends with my dad."
"I don't see that as being a fault."
"See, you're too nice." I saw Ms. Weitz coming down the hall. "Look, if I didn't say it properly enough before… I'm sooo sorry my dad went off like that last night. And I'll give ya a call when I get to my grandfather's." I stood up.
"Ok. You'd better call me tonight, or I'm going to get scared that they ate you or something."
"I'll call tonight," I promised. "Hugs and kisses and teddy bears."
"Mostly teddy bears!" he replied as I hung up. I smiled to myself. He was such a dumb guy. Like… you have to be pretty brave, or pretty geeky to not fear teddy bears.
She was wearing one of those flowery dresses that seemed to be her trade mark. Her tan shoes clacked upon the floor as she approached. "Mara Grayson." It began again. "I see the loss of the cell phone is not hindering your life style."
I took a deep breath. I didn't need her crap. You know, the woman and her son were being held at gun point by an obvious psychopath, and I stopped that. You'd think she'd have just a smidgen of gratitude. "Well, public pay phones certainly lack the convenience of a cell phone. But now no one can say I'm breaking the rules."
"I see." I hated when she got that tone. She used to be an ok teacher. Too damned cheerful, maybe, but now she was just another thorn in my side. I didn't go out there every night for gratitude. But I didn't go out there every night to get grief from everyone—including the people I help.
"Well, you won't have to deal with me too much longer, I'm staying with my grandfather for a few weeks."
"I heard from your mother already when she called to arrange the completion of your classwork. Problems?"
"My father and I aren't getting along." I smiled ironically. "You'd just LOVE for it to be something more than that, wouldn't you?"
"I don't take pleasure in other's pain." I'll bet, lady. I was beginning to think that being a sadist was one of the prerequisites of getting into teacher's college.
"If you're lucky, I'll be gone till after school lets out. Then we can part ways," I said grumpily.
She smiled like she knew something. It was a dangerous smile. "I don't know. I'd check your schedule for next year when it comes out this week."
"I KNOW I passed your class."
"Oh, that isn't what you should worry about."
I hated that kind of confidence in people. Especially the enemy. "We'll see." I would fight this. It seemed I spent my life fighting the people around me, instead of the bad guys. Back in the day… when I was like… I don't know…nine, we used to all get along. Life had been manageable. When my dad and I could talk without fighting.
I left her with that, not wanting to say any more.
I walked to home room, thinking about just how wrong things were. Things had always been good, BETTER than good with my grandfather. I knew how to be with him, and we'd gotten along well. We weren't exactly best friends out of uniform, and that was ok. I could handle just having a professional relationship.
Tim and I had always gotten along. Steph and I had always been on minimal contact… Cassandra really didn't get along or not get along with anyone. She was too much of a character.
Mom and I mostly got along. It always came back to me and dad. I think we'd been fine until the last few years. We'd had a casual relationship. We'd joke, occasionally we'd wrestle. I guess things really truly went down hill when he started training my brother. See, my brother really was the cause of all my problems.
I was defeated. I'd probably never patch things up with my grandfather. . My dad was probably a lost cause, and I was out of the costume. God only knew for how long. Probably until I was 18 and I could get my own identity, the way Tim had. I suddenly had a new respect for Stephanie. She'd been out there when no one had wanted her to be. Right now, they didn't want me out there… but I was too weary of fighting to protest. Not when I knew they had MUCH more control over me than they ever had of her. That was really sad that I was starting to see Steph as a kindred spirit.
The day passed achingly slow. There really wasn't much for me at school. I'd never been attached to anyone; I wasn't really interested in any activities… I barely tolerated the academics. Which member of my family decided that public education was the best course?
Mom had taken me to Grampy's before dad got home from work. I hated it. I hated that I had to avoid my own father. I also hated that one of the conditions of him letting me go was that I had no access to an automobile. Trust me, if I really wanted to escape, I'd use Green Lantern express, not my used Buick.
Grampy had gotten home just before we came over, so I was kicked out to the roof garden while mom explained that I needed put up for a little while until the vigilantes in my life cooled their little heals. Then she left. Without even saying goodbye. Did mom still like me?
Grampy came outside and sat with me. "See what happens when I go away for the weekend? You people can't survive for five minutes without me."
"They're all just being stupid," I muttered, then sighed.
His arm went around me. "I'm sorry."
"Why does it have to be this way?" I always had questions for him. I was always searching for reassurance.
"My professional, or personal opinion?" I leaned into his arm just a little. He still smelled like the woods. It was a refreshing smell.
"Personally… it's a tough job being a dad with a girl."
"What's the Bat's problem?"
"Oh." That was a strange thought. It'd take me a while to process. "Professionally?"
"It's new territory. They're mixing professional and personal problems."
"But… you know, I've been a girl for a long time."
"You never were the pigtail and frilly dresses type. Trust me. Even I was a little surprised to see you on Friday night. They must have dropped over from heart failure."
"So they're being mean because of THAT?" Mom had suggested it as a possibility before, but I hadn't really understood. Hearing it from a guy was a little different. "And you're not a frothing psycho… WHY exactly?"
"I don't have to work with you any more. And I've already raised a daughter."
Was there a reason why I couldn't just live with him? He had all the answers. It'd certainly cut down on my problems, if I could.
"I'm still bummed about being pulled out of the suit." I was beyond bummed. I was on the verge of having a life crisis, once the full implications of losing the only identity that was worth anything to me sunk in fully.
"You're allowed to be upset," he answered patiently.
"WHY? Why did they have to do it?"
His arm wrapped around me a little tighter. I remembered being curled up in his arms for stories when I was a tot. It was a comfortable, relaxing feeling that I missed. "I think your running away only aggravated the situation."
"I ran away to get some work done."
He told me that of course, no one had really seen it that way. "Tell me what you found," he asked.
"They have all my leg work—you should ask THEM," I said dismally. "I… don't want to talk about it. Safe to say… it's something we should have caught on to before." I yawned. "It was just a horrible weekend. The only good part was actually being in Chicago."
"I don't get back there too often. How was it?"
"I don't know. We didn't get to really do anything. Jordy wanted to go to a museum or something."
"And why don't you tell me about him?"
"Are you my therapist or something?"
"You're suspicious. Just want to know about the boy son-in-law is threatening to disembowel." He chuckled.
"First of all… NOTHING happened. Second of all… There is nothing happening. Third of all…You wanna know what he called me last night? He called me his big brother. That fact being known, I have NO idea why dad and the Bat can't just chill out and take it for what it is. I mean…we've been best friends for like a year. Since he became a Lantern. It's a work relationship." And we loved gossip. If he overheard any good JLA gossip, I was the first on the receiving end. I did tend to get some good things too, not from working with the Bat, that was for sure, but mom occasionally had good fodder.
The sun had set and it was beginning to get cold. I rubbed my hands together a little. Grandpa looked at me very seriously, and I had no idea what he was about, suddenly.
"I won't be surprised, and I won't yell if you say it's more. Down the road."
"Why doesn't anyone believe me when I say it's nothing?"
"Because it's exactly what your parents used to say. Now they have 2.2 children and a minivan."
"YUCK. I don't think of him like that."
He smiled. It made me kind of mad.
"Hey, can you stop that? He's a dweeb. You want to know what he was doing yesterday while I was working? He was making teddy bear constructs and making them sumo wrestle. That's juvenile. That's not exactly someone you want to make out with." That would be so very gross. "That'd be like… making out with Jimmy. It's more wrong than Tim and Cassandra making out at Christmas. Yuck."
The wrinkles around his eyes became more apparent as he smiled. It was that smile that said 'she doth protest too much.'
I got up. "It's cold out here." I went to the sliding glass door and opened it. "So… I'll like cook you dinner or something." I didn't think I'd have to clean and gut fish. I'd learned a long time ago that his fishing trips seldom yielded anything. It was just time out of this nuthouse.
He followed after me. "Well, if by some miracle, Or accident, or whatever, it ends up being more, tell one of us? Your mother or me?"
I growled. "It will NOT be more." What the hell was everyone's problem?
I'd made vegetable stew with barley, just like Alfred used to make (and still did, when I could wheedle him into it). Dinner was really quiet. I didn't want any more questions or weird comments about Jordy, so I didn't initiate any conversation. It was strange, but it was a welcome change. Usually I ate dinner in the cave, or with my family, which was always disastrous, and loud and noisy. I'd invariably get into a fight with my father or my brother, or both. Well, I wouldn't have to worry about dinner with my family for a while, or in the cave. I couldn't believe I was being yanked out of the suit. The painful part was not knowing if or when I'd ever be allowed back in.
After dinner, Grampy went into his bedroom to 'work on some things', but I had no idea what that meant. What in the world could a recently retired guy possibly have to work on?
I went into the living room and flipped through the channels. Unfortunately it was still too early for prime time television, which left me with the news or reruns of shows that weren't very good to begin with. Well, during this little break I could catch up on my TV watching. Like Shatzi. Jordy had gotten me hopelessly addicted to it last New Years when we'd been snowed in at Happy Harbor with nothing to do but watch his DVD's.
Without thinking, I started looking for the cordless phone. I owed him a call anyways, and it wouldn't hurt to hear a sane person's voice. I loved Grampy, but all that reassurance stuff wasn't doing me any good right now. Besides if I DID have a "relationship" with some guy, the LAST person you'd want to go to is your grandfather with that. I laughed. If I went to ANYONE with that, it'd be Alfred. He knew what to do, he wouldn't yell, and he wouldn't tell anyone.
Why had I stopped talking to Alfred? I couldn't even recall when I'd stopped talking to him. Had it been recently? It's been a couple of years, maybe. Time flies so fast.
I dialed Jordy's number. Someone picked up on the second ring. "Yellow! Universal Pizza, anywhere in the Milkyway, thirty minutes or less!"
"Jordy, you're such a dork. What if it'd been like a real person calling?"
"Then they'll hang up and leave me alone."
"What if it's someone for your dad."
"They have is cell number. He doesn't even give people his home phone any more."
He was doing wonders for my mood already. "Probably because he knows you're going to pick up the phone and do that."
"You're so mean to me. So. I take it you're still alive?"
"I'm actually calling from the pearly gates."
We were generally stupid when we got together, so we laughed.
"It's actually not too bad. It's quiet here. Being pulled out of the suit is killing me though," I admitted in a whisper.
He was quiet for a minute. "Think of it as a vacation."
"Think of what it'd be like to have someone take the ring off of you."
"Geeze. No talking to them?"
"Does my dad seem like the talking type?"
"I don't know, that whole disembowelment thing was pretty wordy. Wordier than your partner."
"Ex-partner. Ex-grandfather, ex-everything. As far as I'm concerned, I don't even know him. He and my dad are just people that I have the misfortune to be related to."
"Ouch. That's harsh."
"YOU deal with them."
"Can we talk about something else?"
"Superboy says he's sorry."
"I'm going to KILL Redwing." Tim HAD to have laid Superboy out. That's the only reason he'd be contrite for ANYTHING.
"Maybe he's really sorry without outside inspiration." Did either of us really believe that? "Well, can I just watch you kill him? This way I can say I was there."
"You can help. Well, I guess it could be worse. You know? He could have ratted me out to my parents about something else that's a big thorn in my side right now.. Not that they didn't get all my research anyways, but it coulda been worse." I sighed. "Man, I wish you were here."
He sounded skeptical when he replied. "So your dad can kill me and kill me until I'm dead?"
"No. I just need some company that isn't above the age of twenty-five." Grampy was right, I needed more friends my own age.
The doorbell rang. "Hey, Jordy, I gotta go. Someone's here. Probably to kick my ass."
I hung up and carried the phone to the door with me. Looking through the peep hole, I was surprised. It was Harvey Bullock. I pulled the door opened with feigned enthusiasm.
"Hi!" I said with just enough life to ally any suspicion that I was anything other than just peachy with my perfectly normal life.
"I came to see if your grandfather caught anything."
"Naw. He never does." I turned from the door and called out. "Grampy! Bullock's here!" I looked back to Bullock. "Well, come in. I'll go get him."
He looked around suspiciously. "Naw, kid. Let him be. He's probably sleeping or something. I just came to see if he caught any fish." Ok, that was weird.
Bullock waddled back through the door way. "You know, kid, you gotta stop wearing the flannels. Wear more dresses."
"Um… yeah. Well, I'll tell him you stopped by…"
"Night, kid. Keep him in line."
And with that, Bullock was gone. That was almost surreal. Well, I should at least tell Grampy that Bullock was here. I went to his bed room and was about to knock when I realized Grampy wasn't alone in there.
'Well,' I thought to myself. 'So much for mom's theory that the Bat would stay away.'
"And YOU didn't like it very much when I punched Dick. Barbara didn't either. It's the same thing." Grampy PUNCHED dad? Wow. My family was more messed up than I knew. I always thought Grampy and Alfred were the sane ones. I wondered what skeletons Alfred had in HIS closet.
"It isn't the same. The boy is a threat."
A threat? I thought back to the sumo wrestling teddy bears. He wasn't a threat to ANYTHING.
"Do you think I wanted your son anywhere near my daughter?"
I almost busted down the door. What part of 'there is nothing going on' do these stupid adults have trouble with?
"They're too young--"
"So you just thought you'd drive a wedge between them like you did Dick and Barbara. Like I was ENTHUSIASTIC with my daughter being involved with a sixteen year old." Some day, I was going to write a book about all my familial dysfunction. "But I knew if I said anything to her, I'd LOSE her. Need I remind you about the FOUR YEARS you spent not talking to Dick?"
Haha, the Bat had NO reply to make.
"And another thing. I was told you kicked her out of the suit."
"I had my reasons." His voice wasn't gravely like usual. It sounded like he was eating glass. Oh, this must have been a sight to behold.
"That's the only thing that means ANYTHING to that kid, and YOU took it away because YOU can't deal with her growing up. You screwed up with Dick, and you screwed up with Tim, don't make the same mistake again."
Wow. I was glad Grampy used his powers for good, instead of evil.
The phone rang. Damn. It was still in my hand. I ran into the living room and answered. "Hello?"
"Hi, honey. Is your grandfather there?"
Renee Montoya. "Um… he's kind of busy. Can I have him call you back?"
"I just wanted to know if he caught anything."
"Um… no. But I don't think anyone expected him to. Can I tell him you called?"
"No. I just wanted to check… to see if he caught anything." The Major Crimes Unit was more than a little weird. Now all we needed was that Sam guy who'd hit on me last Friday, and we could officially declare this a bad dream.
"Ok. Have a good night," I said cheerfully, then hung up. I wasn't too keen on phone conversations with folks I saw on both sides of the fence. Especially since my English teacher had proven that my voice WAS memorable. Too memorable.
Just as I hung up, the bedroom door opened. "So. How much of that did you hear?"
Next time you're spying on someone, don't take the phone with you, stupid.
"I wanna know why you punched my dad and exactly what kind of 'relationship' my parents had when he was a teenager?"
He laughed. "I could tell you, but then I'd be holding you up."
"Well, there's a certain Bat that wants to see you at the Clock Tower as soon as you're dressed."
I grinned and threw my arms around his neck. "You're the BEST," I told him. "And you owe me some stories when I get back!" I ran and grabbed my bags. Unfortunately my only costume not at the cave was in my hidey hole, which was… a bunch of blocks away. I had to hurry!
I dropped beside him on the roof. "Hi." That seemed like a good start.
"You shouldn't be listening in on other's conversations."
Yeah, well, you shouldn't have all been talking about me behind my back.
"I blame Cassandra for leading me astray in my formative years."
He continued to stare out over his 'kingdom' pensively. "I take it that is how you got the information on Arkham."
I nodded. "SHE bugged the mayor's table. I just listened in. Can I have the case back?"
"I gave it to Redwing."
It was all I could do to swallow the anger. It was MINE. "So I should ask HIM for it back."
"You should stay away from it."
"I really don't want to fight with you."
I looked out over the neighborhood. It was a clear night, and warmer than it had been in a while. "But that really was my case."
"It's Tim's system. He should have been doing the leg work."
I had an answer for this. I had all night last night, and all day at school last night to come up with a good answer. "Either way, I did it. It's done, and the rest of the things that need done I can do."
"He did systems for the mayor's office. He'll stay on the case."
"I HATE being treated like a side-kick."
"I'm not treating you like a side-kick."
"Oh yeah. That's right. You order EVERYONE around." I seethed for a moment. "I don't want to fight with you," I repeated. Maybe I could take this up with Tim. There was no crime in circumventing Grim and Grumpy. We all did it now and again.
"You're unfired," he informed me.
Yeah, I sort of guessed that from the fact that I was here right now, having this conversation. It was his idea of an apology. It wasn't quite an admission of guilt or anything, but it'd do.
"Thanks. I think."
There was a pop in my ear. "I hate to break up this loving moment, but there's shooting reported on Adams. The guy's is still firing."
I rolled my eyes.
"Well, lets get to work," my partner grumbled.
We were there in two minutes. The south end of Adams had a few factory type setups near the train tracks. The place we went to had a well-lit floor. It was apparently a packing place for fortune cookies and dried Chinese foods. We were really close to Chinatown.
It was one of those old stories—frustrated worker goes postal. He fit the profile too, white male, appeared to blame others for his problems, and was 'doing something about it' so to speak.
When we'd dropped in, the night foreman and two packagers were down. I went to him while Batman dropped the other guy. The dumbass was obviously a bad shot, because he'd no doubt been aiming for the heart, and had just taken off a large piece of his scalp. Hopefully this guy wouldn't have any brain problems when this was all over.
The other two were laying about a yard away. One was a young man, probably not much older than me. The bullet had gone through his hand and looked like it had lodged itself in his arm. THAT was going to hurt. The third victim, a woman, was dead when I got to her side. The bastard had gotten lucky. It was a bullet straight to the heart. I could tell by the bulge in her clothes that she was pregnant. Probably six to seven months. Checking, I found no fetal pulse.
"I have two down, looks minor, third victim dead," I said softly.
"Got it," Oracle said.
Batman had tied the creep up and was about to leave him, when I jumped up from the woman's side. "Wait," I told him.
I stomped over to the guy, who was face down on the floor. I turned him over and punched him in the face. Excessive force my ass. "Baby killer," I said stonily. "I'm a frustrated loser too, but I don't go around shooting people!" I got in a swift kick to the ribs before Batman grabbed my arm and pulled me back.
"We're done here." I let my muscles go slack, and he let go. "Be GLAD I didn't let her go on." He grabbed the edge of my cape, pulling me out of the building. Sirens were getting closer, and we got the hell out of here. This wasn't what I wanted my first cruise around the city. No dead mothers or scalped men wearing wedding rings.
All it did was bring back horrible, disjointed memories of that night, two years ago. The innocents laying dead on the floor because I couldn't do anything. Because I was tied up. It had happened tonight—I'd been at the Clock Tower with Batman, instead of both of us getting on with our patrol. Maybe we'd have been up near Adams sooner. Maybe not. Either way, a woman and her child are dead.
After that last little display, Batman sent me home, surprise surprise. It wasn't the face I wanted to put on now that I was back in the suit, but it had gotten to me. All of this… and the memories… then seeing that poor woman… Let's just say I didn't put up a fight.
When I got back to the cave, I reluctantly pulled off my gloves and mask. I sat down at the computer and buried my head in my hands. I wondered if this was going to get me kicked out of the suit again.
I heard the clock open, and I didn't think anything of it. It was probably Alfred. If nothing else, he'd console me.
"Why am I not surprised?"
"Hi dad, I love you too." I didn't pick my head up out of my hands.
"You know, I'd gone to your grandfather's to try to talk to you."
"Well, you found me here. So talk."
"You were ordered out of the suit."
"By the Bat. Then I was ordered back in. By the Bat. No parental involvement necessary. And mom said a week cooling off period. She'll be pissed to know you're here."
"I can talk to my kid any time I damned well please."
I dried my eyes discretely before turning to face him. I was glad to see I was dealing with my dad instead of Nightwing. "It's your funeral. I don't think I have anything to say to you anyway."
"You always gotta run that smart mouth of yours. Ever think I might have something to say to you?" He had stopped at the bottom of the steps. Good. Keep your distance. I don't want to be anywhere near you.
"I don't CARE about anything you have to say! Look, just get OVER it. ALL of it!"
"First of all, I want you out of that damned costume."
"No can do, chief. That's Batman's call. You know, my PARTNER."
"I'm your father."
"So you keep reminding me."
"And what I say goes."
"This costume isn't yours to give me. It's his. If I remember my ANCIENT HISTORY correctly, he took it off of you!"
"Oh, I see where this is going. I'm so tired of being the evil one—the unreasonable one. I'm so tired of being the bad guy. You're the one who doesn't listen to a damned word I say, professionally or otherwise. I can't get you to behave for five seconds—even on patrol! And you're going to make demands? I'm responsible for you!"
"No you're not! I go out there every night with HIM! All I do is come home to you BITCHING. HE watches my back. YOU give me a hard time! You take away the only thing in my life, you threaten my BEST FRIEND, and I'm supposed to just be contrite and demure? NEWS FLASH: first, I am NOT demure. I'm loud, and obnoxious and bitchy. And I am NOT contrite. I will NEVER be sorry."
Throughout the course of my diatribe on why my father was Satan, the Car came rolling into the cave. Dad was stalking over to it before it had even stopped. The lid slid back. "You knew I wanted her out of the suit and you let her back in! You're against me too! You're conspiring with her!"
Grandpa got out of the car. "You just keep thinking that, Dick."
Dad's face was red. He actually grabbed hold of grandpa's cape. "That's all you have to say? You keep thinking that? When you obviously have NO concern for my rights as her father?"
"Jim Gordon is a very convincing man."
"What is it with all of you people? You, and Barb, and Jim… You don't give a DAMN about what I want!" He pushed grandpa.
Grandpa grabbed his wrist. "Dick…" he said in a warning tone.
"NO! You're not going to play that way with me! She's my kid and if I want her out of this game, that's the way it's going to be! YOU don't have the right to go behind my back!"
The Bat shoved dad's hand. "She is my partner. I say whether she goes out or not."
Before grandpa could react, dad had decked him. I stood there in absolute shock, a sick feeling growing in my stomach. It was that same feeling I'd gotten the last time… when I didn't do anything.
"Get out of here," the Bat told him. "NOW."
I collapsed into my chair. His voice had been like the gun going off… abrupt and sharp… permanent. I covered my eyes and just wished to God that I could disappear.
"This isn't over! She is MY child!"
I couldn't stand them fighting over me. It was like before… Two Face and Joker… arguing over who got to kill me. The sticky, wet feeling of being restrained, the screams echoing in my ears…
Dad marched up the steps with heavy quick feet, and slammed the clock behind him with the finality of the gun that killed the Joker. There was a cracking noise. It was broken. It was all broken.
The end… for now.