Usual disclaimers apply. Thanks to Brendan and Charlene for putting up
The sidewalk glowed orange in the light of the street lamps. I concentrated
intently on my target, the house at the end of the block. I arrived and
took one last quick look around me. Trying not to notice the occupied
vehicle half a block away, I rang the Grayson's door bell. Mara would kill
me if she knew I'd ended up here, but I really had no other place to go. I
knew she wouldn't listen to anyone. Perhaps if she couldn't be reasoned
with, we could at least keep her from self-destructing.
I stared up at the clear black sky. The humidity caught the city lights and
it tinged a salmon color, but beyond it, the stars were still visible.
Growing anxious, I rang the bell again. I would have used the 'other'
entrance on the roof, but I didn't have the patience to evade the security
up there, and I wasn't sure I could get in without alerting my friends in
Finally the door opened. "I got it, mom. Shut up already--" Jimmy's tired
eyes set on me. "Oh, it's you. What the hell happened to your head? Anyway.
Dude, I told you, I'm not."
I pushed past him. "I need to talk to your parents."
"And you couldn't come during the DAY?"
"NOW, Jimmy." I pushed past him and came into the house. He stood in the
doorway. I grabbed him by the arm and pulled him through the door, then
"What're your damage?" he asked me. I heard his father coming down the
"I told you before what my problem is. You don't want to help."
"What's going on?" her father asked me, coming to the bottom of the stairs.
"Mara's off the deep end. She's going after Luthor alone, and she no longer
has any regard for her safety or his life."
"Jimmy, go to your room," his father told him.
"Hey, wait! She's my sister, and if you want in the cave, you need me--"
His father glared at him. "Jimmy, get out of here. This doesn't involve
Jimmy shook his head and marched to the steps. About half way up, he turned
around. "Look, I'm so sick of everything being about her. SHE gets in
trouble with the Joker. SHE loses her partner. SHE goes psycho. And you all
keep cleaning up after her. We used to go AFTER nutcases like--"
Before he could finish, I punched him in the jaw. His father grabbed my
shoulder and pulled me back.
"Jimmy," he reiterated angrily. "Go the hell back to bed."
"You're gonna let him hit me?" I could tell he wanted to hit me back.
"We'll finish this conversation later," I ground out. "I'll even take the
ring off when I kick your ass."
Mr. Grayson pulled me away from his son again. "Jimmy, this is the last
time I'm telling you to go to bed."
"Its not fucking fair," Jimmy muttered, then took himself up the steps.
We waited until we heard his door slam. "She's going to go after him and
she's going to get herself killed."
"I know. I know why."
I nodded. "I'm sorry I've been avoiding you, but I don't know where else to
go to now. I don't know that there's anyone else capable of stopping her."
* * *
I rolled onto my back. I'd seen it coming. Why in the world had I let her
hit me anyways? Not good, Drake. You're getting funny in the head again.
Next thing you know, you're going to be drinking like a fish again.
"You didn't have to flip me, just because I want you to keep an eye on
"Yes I did."
"You think I'm betraying you or something, because I'm suggesting it." I
was beginning to catch on to that great mystery that was women.
"YES." Cassandra stood over me, straddling me in the body suit part of her
costume. I'd ceased being intimidated. For now I was just enjoying the
view. I wouldn't enjoy it so much if she tried to hit me again, though.
"Come here, for a second," I said, holding up a hand.
"I'm HERE," she pointed out.
I rolled my eyes. "I mean. down here. Don't make me get up." because I
probably couldn't, right now.
Cassandra sighed and flopped on the mat beside me. "And why am I NOT
"You need a reason to not kill me? Listen. I want to tell you something.
You don't know this. I don't know this. so keep this to yourself." I made
sure she was looking into my eyes. "Cass. Jordy's worried about her. She's
flipping out. Luthor's last little stunt caused her to lose her baby."
Cassandra's face hardened and she rolled away from me.
"Cassandra!" I reached out and grabbed her shoulder. "Look. I think we
really have to put things behind us and try to help her. Jordan's right. If
SOMEONE isn't looking out for her, she's going to get herself killed."
I put an arm around her and pulled her a little closer to me. She was not
escaping this conversation. I needed an answer from her. "What's not fair?"
I hated when she got reticent and stopped speaking in complete sentences.
She was quite mouthy and spoke her mind when it suited her. I supposed now
was not the time.
"Everything. Life. You take her side. And. that I can't be mad at her any
"Well, not over this. She is. difficult. But Bruce was difficult."
"Spent a lot of time mad at Bruce."
I sighed, resting my head on her arm. "I know. Now just can't be one of
those times. We gotta save one of our own."
"No matter what she does, she's always going to be your little Robin, isn't
Deep down, yeah, she would be. No matter how mad I was at her. I didn't
know how she saw me, but she was my little sister. "Look," I said finally.
"I just know how I felt. Loosing someone. And I didn't always make the best
choices, but you were there to drag me out of what I'd gotten myself into.
I mean. I wouldn't be down here getting the tar kicked out of me every
night, if you weren't such a persuasive person. You can be good for her
"YOU be good for her." With that, she leapt to her feet and ducked into the
tiny bathroom off the training room. So much for giving me an opportunity
I rolled onto my back, waiting for her to finish. After all this. it was
easy to forget that Mara had turned into a controlling uber-bitch. It was a
lot easier to remember how playful she used to be. She'd jump on anything
and anyone in sight, laughing as she did so. SHE had been why I'd come back
into the game after I'd burned myself out. I wanted to have that same love
for it as she did.
Things had changed so much, and now we were at our current place. Gotham
lacked defenders, where once they were plentiful. Those defenders lacked a
common bond, where once their leader pulled them together. I was laying on
the ceiling, staring at the cement block ceiling, wondering where all the
time went. Wondering where the commonality went. where the direction and
sense of purpose went. Bruce was the bond that had tied us together. Now we
needed something else. Would being family be enough?
* * *
I didn't like what I was hearing about my daughter's mental state. Not at
all. I was glad someone was finally letting us in, but it seemed like a
fruitless gesture at this late date.
"I've tried feeding her information over the last two days," Barbara told
us, "but she's completely restricted access to all of her machines. She
won't accept ANY help."
"I. I don't know what to do," Jordan admitted finally, staring at the
kitchen table. It seemed like we always had the hard conversations at this
thing. He rubbed the nasty welt she had given him, and then stared at the
crusted blood on his finger tips.
"We'll think of something," I reassured him. "It's what we do."
There was a look of misery on Jordan's face. I didn't envy him. I knew he
was going through something pretty damned awful just from what had
happened. He didn't need what Mara was currently putting him through. And
Mara? God. If I started thinking about it, and wallowing in it, I wouldn't
be able to do anything. I had to just keep focused for now, and think up a
"Jimmy designed the system she's using in the cave. so. we may have to
involve him," Jordan said with a tired, defeated sigh.
"Jimmy has his own problems," I said darkly. That kid had done nothing but
get himself in over his head since Bruce died. I had no idea what he was
trying to prove. But, I had to concede; he was probably my best resource.
The boy had been setting up force fields since the LAST time Mara taped him
to the ceiling. He should know how to disable one. "Never mind. We'll talk
to him in a little bit." I wondered if he could put aside his own issues
with her and help. "I agree we have to get in there. Who knows what the
hell plot she's hatching down there. But talking to her down there's like
talking to a brick wall." That was something we all could attest to first
Barbara turned her attention back to the laptop that lived on the kitchen
table. "Well, whatever we do, we'd better do it quick. She's blipped
entirely off the map. Well, electronically. She's not doing anything via
computer. Holy Hell. Only Bruce could be that stubborn."
I squeezed her arm. Yes, we'd managed to conceive the only person in the
entire world as stubborn and pigheaded as my father. "So we have to do
whatever we're going to do? before she does what she's going to do," I
added. "Great. This is what I love. When they work entirely in a vacuum," I
said sarcastically. She knew how to not leave a paper trail for us to
follow, which left us very, very little to go on.
Jordan's head fell into his hands. "Its. why is she?" he took a deep
shuddering breath. "Why? I mean? God. I just want to kill her sometimes."
When he finally looked up at us, I could see the exhaustion in his eyes. He
was a young man who had endured much. "Jordan, we're going to straighten
"Before or AFTER she gets herself killed? Look-she's sick. She isn't even
working a full day because she can't stay awake. Her arm's broken in two
places.and." he swallowed. "I'm afraid I'm not going to see her again."
I nodded. "You'll see her again." When I got my hands on her. putting this
boy through this. I knew she was likely dying inside right now, but pulling
a Bruce wasn't going to help in the long run.
"Even if she. you know. Doesn't want to see me again." Sometimes I wondered
if she'd ever be aware of how much he loved her. No father could possibly
complain with the amount of devotion he'd shown. He put up with everything
she put him through, didn't he?
"You'll see her again," I told him firmly. Neither of us was getting
anywhere wallowing. "There is no other acceptable alternative." I looked to
Barbara. "I say we involve the Titans. The more people we have looking for
her and trying to stop her, the better odds we have. Just Say No to the
Justice League." Which was going to be hard, since we were both members,
but their current Anti-Robin policy was NOT going to get the job done. "We
can work on anticipating her movements, Jimmy can work on penetrating her
lair. Then if we can't get hold of her directly, we'll at least have access
to her supplies and her records."
Barb gave me half a smile. "On it, Boss."
"Don't call me that," I told her with half an ounce of humor to cut through
"Ok, Short Pants."
I sighed. "Better. Much better." I tapped my finger on the table, trying to
think, based on the information Jordan had given us, what her next move
would be. We could look for more illegal operations, but I had a feeling
that wouldn't be her focus. She wanted the head of the Snake.
I noticed Jordan was looking at me, hopefully. It was the first time I'd
seen any light in his eyes. "Listen to me. We're going to get a handle on
this, and on her. And then once we've done that, then Luthor can kiss his
ass goodbye." You didn't hurt my kids and walk away. Clark was the uncle I
never had, but this was being taken care of in Bat-style.
"Looking for anything tying him to Mara's 'accident' is going to prove
fruitless," the love of my life reiterated. "My father and Jimmy found
about all there was to find. We need to find some other way to legitimize
anything we do to him as well." She was typing again.
* * *
I came back to my loft shaking my head. Cassandra was such a. female
sometimes. She was cunning and almost ruthless out in the field. But when
she was at 'home', she was like any other woman. She was impossible to
read, difficult to understand, fussy, and frequently disappeared when I
asked her to do something particularly distasteful. She never came out of
the bathroom, but her cowl and belt had disappeared.
Changing shoulders with my bag, I dug into my pocket for my keys. I
supposed that by the fact she hadn't stayed to face me, that meant that she
was going to do as I'd requested. Was there a reason I'd become part of the
most emotionally challenged clan of cape-and-mask types on the face of the
There was a man sitting in that car parked on the corner. Well, a person.
Let's be politically correct and not say it's a guy till you know for
certain. Unlike Mara, with whom everyone is male until proven otherwise.
Anyways, there wasn't much around here. It was sitting just beyond the
light from the convenience store. I should probably watch, incase they were
going to knock the place over. I wouldn't get involved directly, but I did
happen to have emergency services as number one on my speed dial. I knew
too many people who required backup too often.
Taking my time, and keeping my attention focused around me, I found the
right key and began placing it in the lock. As I did so, I noticed that
there was damage to the lock, and to the metal door that hadn't been there
when I'd left this evening. I swallowed, growing very, very worried.
Suddenly, I felt a presence behind me. He felt at least my height. Ever so
slowly, I turned. "I'm not looking for trouble."
He was, though. He had a gun leveled at my chest. The hammer had been
pulled back. That meant he anticipated pulling the trigger before he had
even come up behind me. Keeping my eyes on the gun like a good little
victim, I was aware of his black head-to-toe clothes, and the ski mask. He
must have been hot on this August evening.
"Give me your--"
Before he could say another word, I took him down. I had no qualm about
leaping at him and taking the gun-he had every intention of killing me,
then probably making it look like a robbery. I was not leaving my child an
orphan. I realized as I disabled him and secured him with the strap of my
bag that I was quicker now than I'd been before. There was something to
training with Cassandra.
As soon as I was sure he wasn't going anywhere, I bolted for the door.
Without even making it to the elevator, I saw that it was disabled. That
wasn't good. Flying up the flights and flights of steps, I made it to my
floor. My door was already opened. I could hear my step mother's muffled
moans and Sammy's frightened shriek. I had no idea how long whoever was in
there had been in there, but I was pretty sure there was only one of them.
The way the door had been ripped out of its hinges, I was pretty sure I
only had one person to deal with.
Slowing down, I entered my flat. There was stuff everywhere. All the cables
were ripped out of my computer, and the tower was on it's side, presumably
ready for transport. The only two plants I owned were on the floor, their
pots crushed. The dishes we'd washed together were smashed on the kitchen
floor. Big ol' robbery attempt gone wrong was how this was supposed to
look, I was sure of it.
The sounds of struggle were coming from Sammy's room. I made my way there
past the wreckage which was once my moderately tidy home, and into the
doorway. Whoever he was, he was dressed the same as my other 'friend', and
he was searching for something. It wasn't Dana, she was on the floor with a
big bloody welt on her forehead-it must have been Sammy.
I took one step into the room, and he felt me. As he turned, I did what
Cassandra had done to me earlier in the evening. I grabbed him by his shirt
and sent him head-first into the floor. He hit with a thud on the hard
wood, but he wasn't unconscious. The bugger tried to roll over, reaching
for his gun and grab my leg. The other came down on his head, HARD. When I
was sure he wasn't going to move, I secured him as well.
That being done, I started looking around Sammy's room. The stuffed animals
on her desk had exploded, apparently the victims of gunfire. He'd done that
to frighten her. I kicked his unconscious form. "Sammy, honey. It's daddy.
Where're you at?"
Suddenly, the unaffected mountain of toys in the corner near her bed
erupted, and her tangled brown hair shot through, followed by her bloody,
tears stained face. Without thinking, I picked her up and looked her over.
Whoever he was, he'd hit her. Her face was purple and there was a cut above
her eyebrow. I hugged her fiercely to me, promising that everything would
be alright now. Grabbing my phone out of my pocket, I hit number two on my
As I knelt beside Dana, I shoved the phone under my shoulder and clutched
on to my crying, bleeding child with one arm and checked my step mother's
pulse with the other. She was just unconscious, thank God. The phone rang
twice, then picked up.
"Busy, Tim." There was the sound of Cassandra inflicting considerable
violence on the other end.
I adjusted my daughter's weight on my shoulder. "Get to my house now," I
said, my voice trembling. "Someone just tried to kill Samantha." Luthor was
now my pet-project as well.
Suddenly there was silence. "Coming." The line went dead.
What happened next was a blur. It was a slow-moving blur, like watching
Bart in a slow-motion video. Vaguely I remembered the same sick feeling
from when Stephanie had died-the incident and the subsequent clean up.
Rocking my sobbing daughter, I looked at the row of destroyed toys in front
of me. They were all from that cartoon show that Mara had been so
infatuated with in school. In my distant memory, I remembered sitting on
the sofa with her when she was little, when she'd return from patrol with
Bruce. I'd sit there with my arm around her, the way I sat with Sammy after
school. It hadn't been a simpler time, but it had been a more innocent one.
Samantha cried herself to sleep in my arms, and Dana didn't wake. That let
me do what I needed to do. I replaced my bonds on these guys with official
Bat-issue restraints, opened a few windows and then called the cops. I was
now another hapless victim that had walked into the situation, but it had
been The Bat who had taken these guys down. I had a feeling that if these
guys woke up remembering anything, they wouldn't admit it had been me.
Cassandra arrived as they were loading Dana into an ambulance. They also
wanted to check over Sammy to make sure she was physically alright, but I
had a feeling she was fine. Still. let's play the game. Besides-the more
public we were, the harder it would be for a second attack.
Cass was wearing the body suit part of her uniform with a long black
sweater over top. I wondered if she ever washed that thing-she seemed to
always throw it on whenever she needed to change quickly. Then she just
looked quite. well, dangerous. In a leather pants, big boots kind of way.
The entire time we were sitting in the curtained off room in the emergency
room with Samantha, Cassandra kept her arms folded over her chest and her
dark, rosy lips pressed firmly together. I could tell that she was trying
to keep from saying something. It looked as though she'd gotten back her
tongue and was now trying to swallow it.
"What?" I asked finally, rubbing Sammy's tender shoulder. She lay on her
side, sucking her thumb, enduring all of the things the police and hospital
staff inflicted on her. I hadn't wanted this for Sammy. I wanted a safe,
"I don't like. just sitting. You know that."
"I know." She didn't like what I was going to ask of her when this was all
"I don't like. tonight. Tonight's a bad night."
"Yeah, you could say that," I answered sarcastically.
"Mara's not in the cave. She said if I want the city, I can have the city."
That was not good. She wasn't planning on coming back.
"Shit," I muttered, drawing in a deep breath, trying to gather my thoughts.
The world had spun so far out of control in the last twenty-four hours.
Before we could discuss it more-the curtain pealed back and the doctor
entered. No. I couldn't finish this conversation now. For the time being, I
had a part to play. The other rolls in my life. would be picked up again
As I suspected, when Dana woke and talked to the police, she didn't
remember anything at all. She'd been knocked out before anything else had
happened. It wasn't Dana they wanted-it was Sammy. Mara's little mascot and
former ice-cream buddy, adopted niece and current holder of ALL of Mara's
Shatzi toy paraphernalia.
Sammy said that when the man came in, she'd ran and hid with her toys. She
hadn't seen Dana get hurt, or my little maneuver. We lived in a precinct on
what had been Batman's regular patrol rout, so it wasn't any big deal when
I started spouting about a large bat swooping in like lightening, and
leaving before I could think or blink or move. Cassandra appeared to be
enjoying the performance.
Finally, an acceptable opening appeared. "Cassandra, stay with Sammy. Make
sure my dad gets Dana home alright."
Her warm brown eyes narrowed. "What?" She seemed supremely agitated, and I
did briefly fear that I'd get punched.
"I am going after these guys."
"Cassandra, YOU can protect her. Maybe even better than I can."
I rose to leave. "I dropped the ball," I confessed. "Now I'm going to pick
it back up again. For Mara, and for Sammy." She stepped out of my way and
let me pass.
And in the mean time, Luthor better hope to God he doesn't cross my path.
Continued in Part Two