Maraverse. I don't own, except for the characters I created and the concepts, bla bla bla, pie.

Sorry it's been so long. Had a dried up well of creativity for a while.

Down The Spiral Stair Case


A fiery red dawn ignited on the Apokolyps horizon. From the bottom of a rocky ridge, Icarus surveyed the landscape. It was quiet now, save for the usual grinding of the planet's vast machinery. From miles away, Darkseid's palace looked serine, like a mythical castle against the landscape. He knew that this planet was never as docile as it appeared, nor would this complacency continue. This world was on the verge of war, and if the wrong side lost, it would mean certain strife for his own planet.

It was sad, and slightly ironic that the side he now had to choose was probably not even the lesser of the two evils. With a touch to the nearly invisible panel on the back of his wrist, infrared lenses slid into place behind his full-face helmet. His gaze panned across the torn, scarred surface, looking for something in particular. This was a trick he'd actually picked up from the old man, a dozen summers ago when he'd been a terrified child forced to camp on his grandfather's back grounds.

"They'll either be pushing up a cool breeze, or more hot air. Either way, you'll see the heat movement flowing from the mouths of the caves," Bruce had explained.

And like the stupid little creature he had been, he'd neither nodded acknowledgment or made any gesture of understanding. He'd simply stared out on the horizon, an eight year old in abject forlornment at having to spend a day and a half with the Bat.

Two areas covered over with the thick thistle that passed for Apokolyptian shrubbery seemed to give him hope. Both seemed to be cool zones on this obviously uncomfortable planet. Choosing the one with the most cover, he turned off the infrared and set out.

* * * "I thought I was grounded," Jimmy Grayson pleaded tentatively as he was pushed through the darkness of the Batcave and towards The Car. "Alfie said I couldn't do nothing. Mommy said I couldn't do nothing." He'd zapped his sister again. She'd attached him to the dining room ceiling again. She'd been grounded to Bludhaven. He'd been sent to Alfred. To learn good manners. If he'd have known getting sent to Gotham meant spending time with the Bat, he'd have forgone hotwiring her laptop. Even though it was very difficult to resist the urge to do her harm.

"You can't have fun. You can work, though. If I'm going to lose my partner to these childish antics on a monthly basis, then I'm going to get something in return. That would be your hands. Working for good, instead of evil for once." Jimmy snuck a peek back at Dark and Scary. His jaw wasn't locked in that way that the boy had come to despise. There was something almost relaxed about it, which made him worry even more. The roof of the car slid back, revealing the cockpit. Jimmy swallowed.

"I want a full diagnostic on the communication, GPS and defense systems. The car passed through a heavy magnetic field last night, and I want to be SURE there are no lingering problems."

Jimmy shoved his hands into his pockets. "What about the armor?" he grumbled. A field strong enough to make the old guy worry must have done SOMETHING to the car.

"If you find something wrong with the defense systems, then we'll run a more thorough check of the armor. If not, we will assume that there were no lingering effects."

The boy bit both of his lips together, not sure what to say. He was dressed like Bruce, whom Jimmy still despised as well, but Jimmy knew who he really was. Batman wasn't ordering him, he was telling him. It still felt like he was being ordered. Though it wasn't the ordering voice. When one is an eight year old, it all left the same chilling impression.

"You're to stay in this area. Do not make me have to deliver an unsatisfactory report to Nightwing." He handed the young man a small toolkit. "If you need anything. let me know."

Jimmy ceased biting his lips and began gnawing on the inside of his cheek, staring down at the box in his hand. Finally he ended his hesitation and crawled into the car. Looking back, he saw the old guy already at the computer. He hated that computer too. No one needed a machine that big. Uncle Roy said the twenty-foot computer screen was 'obvious compensation' for something. Jimmy didn't know what that something was. He just thought the old guy had to outdo everyone at everything. It was why he couldn't stop tormenting his sister-they were cut from the same cloth, and he couldn't stand it. The need to hit back swelled its siren song within him, until he had to retaliate or be swallowed by the sea.

It was calling to him now. Batman was complaining about Justice League presence in his city to Superman, saying the intrusion, and damage to his car, would not be tolerated.

The first thought that entered his head was to run up behind Mr. Scary and make a nuisance of himself, asking to talk to Uncle Clark. But certainly if his mother didn't tolerate infringing on "work time," the Bat's reception would be even less desirable.

The second and third thoughts. Those struck his fancy much more.

A chuckle lighting his heart, the boy began unscrewing the main access panels on the dashboard. Instinctively and without qualm, he began rewiring the internal defense system.

* * *

Remaining motionless in the dried, burnt brush, Icarus listened intently to his surroundings. He didn't want this to be a wasted trip through the cave. Amplifying the audio receptors in his helmet, he searched for one sound in particular, among the cacophony of natural and mechanical noises. Among the rushing of the wind, the bowls of the earth released steam from it's massive machines. These were not the sounds he sought. Not even the continued churn of massive engines interested him.

There was the swift trickle of water beneath the surface of the thicket- covered opening. He had the right hole.

His glove ignited in a white blur of lightening-energy and fire shot outward, toward the opening. There was an acceptable explosion as the wildlife burned away and rocks covering the cave enterance were pulverized. It was still nothing akin to the satisfaction he'd garnered when he'd destroyed Ra's head. The look on Talia's face.

* * *

Jimmy had been sent to bed for the fifty-seventh time only an hour ago. Tim had tucked him in, then said if he got up again, he's find himself 'in a world of trouble,' whatever that meant. He hated when Timmy acted like a grownup.

That aggravation deeply rooted within his soul, he crawled out of bed once again. He grabbed his teddy bear. It used to talk, until Mara unzipped the backside and pulled the box that made it speak out. Now it was where he kept his 'stash.'

Taking a peek inside, he made sure he still had the C4 buried in the bear's head. It would be enough to blow her door of it's hinges. He'd gotten spanked with a wooden spoon the last time he'd snatched any of dad's equipment, but it had been worth it then, and it'd be worth it again.

"The boy is dangerous," a rumbling voice announced above him.

Instantly he was bounding up the stairs, crawling to his mother's door.

His mother sighed. He knew when she sighed like that, and got the tired sound in her voice, not to mess with her. "He's eight, Bruce. He doesn't know the difference between the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny." Mom was being mean. He knew the difference. Kind of.

"The whole damned car nearly exploded."

"So?" She'd reached that high pitched sound of exhausted annoyance. He wondered if that meant the Bat was going to get it. It'd be nice to see. "I'll make him fix it. I mean, it's your own stupid fault. I could have told you he'd sabotage Robin's side of the car."

They'd found out about his 'modifications' early. It figures the old guy would check everything he'd done to the car before taking it out. It was like Dark and Scary didn't trust him or something.

"And changed all of her passwords on my computers, took a seam ripper to her costume and took apart Mr. Freeze's gun." He wasn't sure if Batman sounded annoyed or impressed.

"I heard he put it back together again. I'll ground him for the other stuff."

"He put the gun back together with a two percent increase and efficiency. The boy is dangerous."

"We'll TALK to him, already. God. Why aren't you harassing Dick about this?" His mom sounded like she was going to lay into him for getting her in trouble with the Bat. He hated that.

"Don't talk. Do something about it."

"What do you want me to do, Bruce? Kill him? Lock him in a cage until he's fifty?"

"Set him to doing something productive. Keep him engaged. The other one is perfectly capable of causing problems when she isn't put to good use. This one is a danger to himself and others."

Geeze, he must have thought Jimmy was some kind of supervillian, the child reasoned. He gave a critical frown, hoping his mom would stick up for him.

"You know, YOU could take some responsibility."

The last thing Jimmy wanted was the Bat to take ANY responsibility for him.

"ME? They are your offspring." He could just picture the old man's lower lip twitching in displeasure.

"You can start by not calling them 'this one' and 'that one.' They have NAMES. And try having a real relationship with him. Maybe he'll stop trying to blow you up."

He didn't want a relationship with the Bat! Every time dad tried to foist one on him, and make him spend time with his sister's creepy keeper, it ended badly.

There was an uncomfortable pause, followed by the sounds of leather gloves tugging on Nomex cape. "I call them by their names."

"In PUBLIC. And you wonder why he doesn't want anything to do with you."

"The other one doesn't seem to have a problem with me."

His mother growled in frustration. "NAMES. They have NAMES. They even have NICKNAMES. You know, terms of endearment."

"Maybe he should stay in Bludhaven."

"Maybe he should spend more time in Gotham."

"Maybe he should be out in a suit, with his father," The Bat said sternly. "Then you'd have a better eye on him."

Jimmy nearly jumped up in surprise and excitement. He and the Bat were on the same page about something? What were the possibilities of that happening?

"He doesn't want to be out there."

"Have you asked him?"

"He doesn't want to."

"Why don't you ask him? JAMES. Get in here, boy."

Sheepishly, and unceremoniously, Jimmy crawled through the doorway. "Uhh. was on my way to the bathroom?"

"DO you want to be out there with your father, instead of making trouble here with your mother?"

"YES!" he screamed out before he could contain himself, then looked at his mother. Two hands slapped over his mouth. "I mean. no, sir."

Batman nodded curtly. "You begin training tomorrow."

* * *

"I just think?" Mara Grayson sighed. "I just. can we wait on that?" She pulled the blanket up a little further around her shoulders and shifted slightly in the high-backed kitchen chair.

An image on her lap-top screen looked back and forth, trying to find some kind way to put it. "I don't know. They'll see it as a sign of weakness?"

She closed her eyes and sighed. "I know. But the truth is?"

"I know," Lucius Fox responded quietly.

"Ok," Mara said with resolve. She rested her hands on the edge of the kitchen table, trying to find the right way to say it. "You have temporary control. I know if we publicly make the change, we're toast. So? I'll just sign off on whatever you decide. Get rid of the rest of the LexCorp subsidiaries as you see fit. Do whatever you need to with that weapons deal? Cindy knows where all my notes are. But. I need some time."

"I know you do," Fox said.

"Call me if you need--" she stopped. "Well. I'm here. But I know you won't. You've been doing this longer than I've been alive. If my grandfather hadn't gotten weird and sentimental in his old age. it would have been yours."

"I don't hold his sentimentality against either of you," Fox said confidently. She appreciated that he wasn't getting. mushy. She didn't know if she could handle that right now.

Behind her, the kitchen door opened, and for the briefest of moments, she could imagine it was Alfred behind her, scolding her for being out of bed.

"When did you sneak down here?" Jim Gordon asked her.

"I guess,,, I have to go," Mara said tentatively. "I'll be back?" she shook her head, conceding her uncertainty. "I don't know when I'll be back."

"Take care of yourself." She felt fortunate that Lucius ended the video conferencing session before her. Lately. she hated hanging up.

Closing the lid on her lap top, she looked at her grandfather. "I? got a call. There was some stuff we had to take care of."

Leaning heavily on his cane, Jim reached for a chair and pulled it out from the table, then carefully lowered himself into it. "The world will keep spinning without you for a little longer. And you'll keep spinning without work."

Mara nodded once. "It's just. we had a few deals that. and we still don't know where Jimmy. or the Man in Black. And the Titans." Letting out a breath, she closed her eyes and lowered her chin to her chest. "And not a thing I can do about any of it." Her hand slid beneath the dark blue blanket, and she rubbed her belly. "I can't. FIX any of it. But. if I weren't. then I could at least be out there."

"Doing what?" her grandfather asked, his voice mixed with reprimand and sympathy at the same time. "Fighting to hide the pain?"

"Looking for-he's not. He's just gone."

"He is gone," Jim said with a nod.

"I felt him go."

Jim couldn't say he necessarily understood that, but he believed that she believed she had.

"But. there's no body?"

"Mara, sometimes there isn't."

"If there was one, maybe I could. you know. But there isn't, and just the ring?" her hand wrapped around the chain at her neck. "I. I know. I know I can't expect. but. I don't want them to have this thing. Not today. Today's a bad day?"

"Get it over with," he instructed her.

"A wake is a stupid idea."

He reached for her hand and pulled it away from the ring, and unlaced her fingers from the chain it sat upon. There wasn't much he could do, he decided. Other than be there. How many times had they done this? Too many for his caring. It seemed the older he got, the more frequent these events became. "You need to get it over-with. And they're going to do it with or without you. It'd just get YOU back on the right track sooner."

"Right track?" Mara asked painfully.

"I just mean? towards moving on." He felt her tense, and he knew she didn't like it, but she nodded, pretending to accept his words.

* * *

After pushing past the outer three levels of Darkseid's defenses, Icarus slowly made his way up through the bowels of the castle. Keeping his eyes trained directly in front of him, and his jaw clenched, he ignored with purpose the cries from the dungeons. It took enormous self-restraint to resist the urge to reach out and simply free them, he had both the technology and strength to remove the old iron bars and rudimentary torture devices from the sad, broken captives who's crimes, real or contrived, he was as yet unaware of.

His boots tread quietly through the mire and refuse of the lower dungeons, then more quickly up the stone-cut stairs leading from the lower basements into the more sophisticated research and torture areas. The metal doors were tightly sealed down the entire corridor, but occasionally, behind them, he could hear the muffled cries of the unfortunate souls left to suffer.

Icarus' brow furrowed beneath his helmet as he casually progressed upward through the lower regions of the castle. He remembered the philosophical lessons of his youth, and how they often contradicted themselves. With one lesson, all mattered more than one. With the next, none was more important than the one. It was a conundrum he had never managed to reconcile within himself, and yet, he had to put himself past it. The fate of two worlds relied upon his ability to turn a deaf ear to cries of pain and hopelessness.

Stopping abruptly at the end of the well-lit hall, he stared at the thick blast door held closed by a man-sized iron counterweight. He folded his arms over his chest and pondered it a moment, then turned, looking once again down the hallway and the rows of private torture facilities.

The hall way was white, and each door was identical. Glancing over each door quickly, his eyes came to rest upon the left door, two down from his current location. Rethinking his decision, he walked to it, making note of the cries coming from within, unrecognizable, and yet drawing him towards them.

He despised the lack of speed that accompanied the palace guard, and decided to force their sweaty, heavy green hands. In doing so, he cold at least aid ONE tortured soul, on his quest to save all.

A white flash of energy pulsed from his glove, thrumming against the metal door. It dented and warped the thick shield, but did not penetrate, even for the smoke that was generated in excess heat.

There was a bit of surprise at this turn of events, and regret that his calculations had not been accurate. Of course, that was why he found himself in his current situation-inaccurate planning. In the distance, he heard the alarm being raised. Raising his hand again, another force let loose from his glove.

This time, the door was not blown apart like Ra's head, it simply left a black smoking hole gilded by molten metal. Through the foggy hole, he could see two figures standing over a third on a table. One was wide and squat, and obviously inflicting the most damage on the poor wretch on the slab.

"Granny Goodness--" he called out, just as the guards surrounded him.

The woman looked up at him as weapons were raised. A second blast proof door slammed down behind the first, cutting the smoke in half, and eliminating his view.

Looking around at the husky, well-armored guards, Icarus felt a twist in his stomach. Batman would have known whether to stick with the original plan, or improvise. Instead, he simply stood there, numb and stupid, an eight year old afraid of a shadow.

* * *

Fourteen pairs of eyes tried to hide their emotions for the sake of the woman in the high-backed kitchen chair. The beers had been passed out, the story telling had begun.

"And then, he kept sneaking into the Titans Tower," Roy continued. "And I was all like. dude, use the front door, and he was like. 'Batman said.' and then, I was like. eww. you guys discussed it?" He took a long swig from his bottle. "And he was like. 'Batman said I could do whatever I wanted to in New York, as long as I was discrete and stuff.'" Roy smacked his forehead. "Then Batman's like. 'I don't know what you're talking about.' The kid was a pervert after my own heart."

A few of the older members of the team smiled and almost let out a silent laugh. Dick remained staring at the mouth of his bottle, remembering all the comings and goings that they all collectively ignored. "Bruce just didn't want to see it. If he wasn't seeing it, it wasn't happening."

"Minty had everybody turning the blind eye, including Mr. Uptight." Roy affirmed. "He was all round-eyed and cute and stuff."

"He was just a nice kid," Donna affirmed, speaking up for the first time. "Young man," she corrected herself a second later, looking at Mara, who wasn't making eye contact with ANY of them. "It's hard to turn down someone like that."

Iris and Balius shifted uneasily. They looked at each other, then to the tiled floor. No one said anything.

Mara's hand ran around the inside of the ring on the chain around her neck, staring at some invisible spot on the table. "He used to bring me doughnuts. Then.. I was the one that wanted him to go on a diet." she hadn't trailed off necessarily. Her thought had simply run out. "I'd be happy if he could eat more doughnuts," she added pointlessly.

Eyes stopped searching each other around the room. Everyone had found something imperceptible to focus their attention upon. Roy opened his mouth to say something, then closed it again.

* * *

"Howb farb bid you bink you werb boing bo bet?" One of the thick-skinned lizard-like guards asked sarcastically as he rammed his lightening rod into Icarus' back. The suit absorbed the shock, but he moved forward none-the- less.

His obsidian-like helmet swiveled as he looked at the guards to his left and right, then glanced once over his shoulder, then stared once again at the ugly football-shaped head of the guard in front of him. Of all the species that populated Apokolyps, the Borr were probably the least asthetically appealing, with their thick, rippling hides and their tumored, uneven snouts.

"Heh. The huban doebn't dalk," one of them snorted heavily as he pressed on a security panel with the hilt of his rod, forcing the next door in the neverending sea of corridors to slid open.

"I talk," Icarus said very calmly. "To those worth my breath."

Another insignificant shock ignited in his back, crackling the air around him, but causing him no harm. "Borr nod worf dalking do?" one asked threateningly, raising his brass and chrome rod.

"You can do nothing for me," Icarus informed them steadily.

"We cabn kill you-b," The lead hissed, spinning around and pressing his wet nose to his captive's helmet.

"You can't kill me. You can't even detain me." In a motion and a half, his head smashed against the leering, tumored snout of the leader, his foot shot out behind him, catching another in the face, and his fists snapped quickly into the eyes of the flanking Borrs. "I am your captive because I choose to be," he told them stonily. "I no longer choose to be." In one quick step, he moved from among their moaning bodies upon the floor and through the open door way. "I was simply unhappy with the speed it was taking me to attract attention before. I consider this all the introduction I should need with Darkseid."

Finding the most well lit, opulent hall way, he briskly made his way through it, even as he could hear other guards closing in upon him. He presented himself in the doorway of the throne room, as though he were expected.

"So this is the trouble-maker from earth."

Icarus nodded.

"I have annihilated for less."

"You wonder why I'd come this far, so you won't do anything to me now," Icarus said with confidence, even as more guards closed in on him from behind. "Enough pretense. Neither of us cares anything for the other. You have in your midst a traitor who has gained access to technology capable of destroying both of our worlds. Quite frankly, I'd like to have my home in one piece, and you would have no kingdom to rule, were Apokolyps destroyed." Icarus clasped his hands in front of him, patiently waiting for the only sane response.

"Why would someone want to destroy my world?" Darkseid asked, his gray brow furrowing in contempt. "What is to rule, if it is destroyed?"

"That is plan B. Plan A involves micro technology that's sole purpose is to consume to reproduce. That alone would incapacitate your entire army and consume your resources. If that does not bend you, exactly fifty percent of your planet would be a complete loss," Icarus said calmly. "Half of a planet is still more than this party currently possesses. I'm going to venture a guess that it will be the half of a planet that you currently do not reside upon."

"It sounds like an unveiled threat," Darkseid informed the black-clad figure at the opposite end of his throne room. He rose from his stone throne and took two steps forward, arms clasped behind his back.

"We can weed out the problem," Icarus said logically, "or we can both face undesired consequences."

"And what would weeding out this problem entail?" Darkseid asked with mild curiosity.

"Give me Granny Goodness," Icarus stated.

A low rumbling laugh escaped the depths of Darkseid. "Granny Goodness." Casually he walked towards the Man in Black, gesturing for his guards to stand down. "Nightwing's little brat. Time passes so quickly. You were but a tiny creature the last time our paths crossed. I'm not sure which of you is more troublesom. You, or the puppy who tagged along behind the Bat. I hear she's encountered some. personal tragedy as of late."

Every muscle in Icarus' body tensed. "What happened to Jordan Rayner?"

"Personally, I don't care. Your entire generation is more trouble than it is worth. I'm not amused with you attempting to create dissension within my ranks-I was told you would come here. I was told what your business would be." A thick, yellow index finger rose, pointing itself past Icarus, to the Borrian Guard-cluttered door way. "I trust if you found your way to my planet, you can find your way off. "

"You've miscalculated," Icarus informed him. "You think you're elite are not capable of faulted loyalty? Ask Granny Goodness about her involvement with the DEO."

"A pet project of mine for years," Darkseid informed him. "As have you been. As all of this has been. You have the Bat's intelligence, but not his wisdom. You've been a lousy chess partner. Out of my presence, boy. Or you'll find out how your friend met his demise."

Icarus' hands dropped to his sides. "I am the ONLY one who can stop this," he warned Darkseid. "When she hits you, it's going to be hard, and you are going to be at a loss. This isn't going to be battling the Justice League to a stand-off. This is going to be devastation."

"Granny Goodness would have an extremely pleasurable time. molding your offspring. I suggest you find the door, before my people find a teleporter."

The rockets on Icarus' boots ignited, giving enough lift to the fine traces of Nth metal in the weave of his costume to give him flight. "I will return," he warned.

Darkseid smiled and nodded. "I know you will be. Wretched infant."

Icarus shot out the window, towards the plateau etched in gold near the horizon. The black figure disappeared into the burning pink sky, and Darkseid gazed at the complement of guards filling the back recesses of his chamber. "Bring me Granny Goodness. I want to know what she is up to- IMMEDIATELY."

* * *

Roy leaned back in the wooden kitchen chair, two legs off the ground. He took a bottle cap opener to another bottle, recalling a less than public adventure.

"Then the kid's throwing up all over the place, and this one here's threatening to poke my eyes out with my own arrows," he continued, gesturing with his chin to Mara. "And his dad comes all the way down from the moon to slug me. And all for what? All because ol' Roy gave the kid a decent twenty-first birthday party. He got his stomach pumped and he was just fine. No harm, no foul." Before taking a long draw on his bottle, he rubbed his chin. "Well, I did get busted on by an angry Green Lantern, but it was worth it. Cuz now I know green people turn peach when they puke."

Dick pinched the bridge of his nose. "Man. I remember that. Then I had like three people calling for your removal from the Titans, only it wasn't on the grounds of corrupting a minor or anything because he was twenty-one."

"What's corrupting a minor?" Peaches asked Mara, who had an arm protectively wrapped around the little invincible whirlwind.

"What Roy's doing to you right now, honey," she responded, something resembling humor invading her voice. "I couldn't believe you did that. I was like an hour late coming home from patrol, and the next thing I know, you're bar hopping with someone who gets nuts from too much coffee."

"I'm not allowed to have coffee," Peaches pointed out.

Mara actually smiled that time. "There's a reason for that."

"Don't drink and fly!" Roy blurted out.

Before Peaches could interrupt again, Superman put a hand firmly on her head.

Hearing Donna hang up the phone mounted on the wall behind her, Mara turned slightly, a look of question in her eyes.

The answer was in Donna's sigh. "He's not coming," she said sadly. "I'm sorry."

"He hasn't talked to me at all," Mara said, her mood suddenly falling.

"I'll get him here," she told the group. "He needs this more than we do."

"Maybe if I wasn't here." Mara mused. "Then he'd come."

Donna put her hands on her hips. "It isn't you, honey. Kyle needs to face this. He's going to do it, if I have to make him." She grabbed her jacket off of the back of a chair, throwing it around her shoulders. "And I think that's what I'm going to have to do." Without waiting for Mara's inevitable protests, she took off, causing a rush of wind through the house.

Just as the air died down, a small group of teenagers moved en-masse into the doorway. "Superboy said we could come if we behaved," a sallow-faced Twilight informed the rest of the group gathered as the rest of Young Justice nodded in earnest.

"We'll find you chairs," Dick offered, rising.

Mara gestured to what was left of the free space in the kitchen. Other places in the house were more adept at holding these kind of functions, but any more, they felt cold and lifeless. This place was right because it was where Jordy'd spent most of his free time. "The more the merrier," she responded sallowly.

* * * Within the sterile confines of the main databanks chamber of the JLA Watch Tower, Icarus pushed buttons as quickly as he could, attempting to maintain both his focus on the task at hand, but also in maintaining the mental block that hid him from the Martian Manhunter. Aquaman had taken over duty an hour ago from Superman, yet transporter logs has indicated that Manhunter had arrived shortly there-after. Icarus had been taught many ways of "disappearing" and he intended to use all of them.

* * *

Bruce's hands were folded and resting loosely on the top of his desk. He was staring intently at the young man before him, and did not look away until the boy buckled. "You're going to sit there, and you're going to behave until it is time to go."

The young man inclined his head, hoisting the heavy duffel bag higher on his shoulder. "Why did we have to stop here? Why couldn't we just go straight home? Why couldn't Alfred take--"

"I haven't been to the office in three weeks. I would like to check on things before we go home." The man turned back

Jimmy thunked himself into a large leather chair, neither taking his coat off, or moving the bag from his shoulder.

"Good." His grandfather turned on the computer, giving him barely any notice. That's how this entire stupid trip had been. It had been a great trip, he'd learned a lot from a lot of different people. It had also been a terrible trip. He'd spent most of it with his grandfather.

Mara had gotten to go to Tibet and Japan for two whole months, and he'd gotten a lousy three weeks. And Alfred didn't even come. It was just him and Mr. Scary for all that time. Life was lousy.

"Why don't you practice some of the telepathic blocks you learned," Bruce informed the child, after he noticed him fidgeting.

"Why? There a telepath in the room?" he said smartly. Three weeks' worth of frustration was coming to a head, and though he'd learned a lot about control and temperance, he couldn't put a jot of it into effect at the moment.

"Just do it," Bruce informed him, looking back to his machine.

"Why, because you said so? MAN. You've been bossing me around the whole trip! Now you're even tellin' me what to THINK! You don't know me, you don't know nuthin' about me! So unless there IS a telepath in the room, I'm not doing nuthin." In a final gesture of defiance, he folded his arms across his chest.

"Actually, YES, James there is. I can see right through you. This is a talk I've been meaning to have with you for a while, but since you bring it up. That sweet smile you're giving you father while you're in the middle of planning something to do to your sister. The chemicals and electronics you keep lifting from the cave. The binder you keep in your locker full of notes on how to take over the world. I know all of it, James, and I'm not amused."

No one knew about that binder. Not even his father.

The red-headed boy scowled up at his grandfather, never breaking eye contact with him. He'd never liked his grandfather, he'd always been slightly scared of him. But he'd never hated the man before. Never like this. Not with a super-nova like passion. "You're not the boss of me," he said coldly. "You're not my dad, I don't have to listen to you. I can do whatever I want."

"I'm not your father," Bruce said with icy precision. "And I have no doubt in my mind that you royal stubbornness WILL endow you to do whatever you please in the future. But I want you to know a few things. First, you can go one of two ways. You can either use those gifts you're squandering for the benefit of the world, or for it's harm. And if you choose unwisely, I WILL take you out, is that understood?"

There was absolute, complete and total silence. It was a black hole in it's vastness and strength of pull.

The boy's face was red and blistering with repressed rage. "I. Hate. You." He finally managed to squeeze out.

"That's all right," Bruce answered calmly. "I just want you to know, I'm on to you, and if you step out of line, I WILL fix the situation. I care too deeply for your father to let the burden fall to him, and I care too deeply for this city to let you run wild. I suggest you rethink the course your life is taking, and make steps to alter it. Or I will alter it for you."

* * *

Unpracticed telepathic blocks and his father's stealth techniques had gotten him out of the Watchtower unnoticed. His mother's gifts had gotten the watch tower's coordinates slightly altered for Apokolyps in the form of a virus that would upload to the other teleporters in the morning, temporarily diverting access from the universe's newest hot spot.

"I still hate you, you sanctimonious asshole," Icarus informed the frozen earth. Behind his helmet, he scowled once at the large rose colored polished granite tomb stone. Not letting his gaze linger, he dove the spaded shovel into the hard ground with anger tempered ferocity. "But you're the only one who can stop me, God damn you."

Something salty and wet rolled down his cheek, and he hoped it was sweat as opposed to. something else. "You're the only one who can stop what I put into play."

To Be Continued.