ElseWorlds™: Saving James
By: Christopher W. Blaine
DISCLAIMER: Refer to chapter 1 for the disclaimer for this entire story.
Arsenal spit out some blood and then touched his split lip. He winced. "Why do I get the shit beat out of me every time our teams get together?"
Nightwing laughed and put his hands on his knees as he doubled over. Around them, the various members of the Titans (U.S.) and Titans (Canada) were backslapping and congratulating each other over their victory over the Injustice League. "Would have been nice if the Justice League had been around to help," Nightwing said as he tried to stand up. His back simply hurt too much and he sagged to his knees.
Arsenal plopped down beside him. "So, how's little John?"
"Fat," Nightwing said. His baby son was becoming famous throughout Canada for his love of breast milk. He wondered if he resented the little boy for getting more of Jennie's chest than he was. The thought brought a chuckle. Arsenal took that as a good sign and then asked about James Gordon.
Nightwing had taken the boy in after his grandfather's suicide. It was ironic that the one man who Barbara Gordon had loved more than life itself had not only betrayed her, but had also ended up raising her child. "He's…adjusting," Nightwing said. "Jennie is good for him; she's all full of the motherly love thing right now."
"Any progress on finding the Joker's killer?" he asked. Several more members of the Titans were approaching. Cyborg was rounding up the members of the Injustice League so there was no chance of the hostilities arising again.
"It's very difficult. The police did a crappy job of gathering evidence because they didn't care. I try to question suspects and everyone gives me the run around. Even Bruce is indifferent to it all. You can tell he's upset about the murder, but at the same time he's relieved."
"Is it true he's back to being Batman?" Donna Troy asked. She was the leader of the American version of the Titans.
Nightwing nodded. "Yep, though Selina has gone back to her Catwoman identity."
"Much better costume," Arsenal said with a wide grin.
"Hey! That's my mom," Nightwing retorted. Everyone started laughing except for one person. Nightwing received a cold scowl from Starfire, but he sort of understood why. There was a time a few years back when she meant the world to him.
They had been teammates, then friends and finally lovers. They had talked about marriage and he found himself comparing Starfire to his current wife. They were both supermodels, both unique skin colors, both fiery and independent.
They were also very different. Jennie was all heart, willing to do anything for her man whereas Nightwing always assumed that Starfire wanted to kill him for breaking her heart. She was a Tammaran, a race of warriors and she had become rougher around the edges in their time of separation.
"Are you okay, Kory?" he asked, hoping to start a conversation.
She gave him a cold stare. "I am always fine, Richard; but you never understood the ways of my people."
He started to reply when he suddenly saw the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. He said nothing else to her, realizing that in public like this she would only try to humiliate him in order to preserve her honor.
It was when they were alone that he finally spoke. "You killed the Joker," he said. His tine was not accusing, but more resigned.
"Let me guess, Richard," she said as she dropped the towel from around her shapely figure and sat down top rub lotion on her legs. "You forgot all about me, didn't you?"
"No, I forgot what your people are really like. I forgot the moral code of Tamarra that you so often spoke of. Your people have a unique way of dealing with problems. You don't so much go after someone who offends you as you go after the person who initially caused the offense to occur." He averted his eyes as she rubbed lotion on her breasts. When they had been together, they had not been so open sexually. She had changed so much that he didn't even recognize her sometimes.
"Exactly," she said, no remorse in her voice, no hint of regret for what she had done. "The Joker started the chain of events that took you away from me. Do you know what it is in my culture to have the male break off an engagement? I'm scorned, Richard; I have to marry below my station now."
He didn't apologize. "Murder?"
"Human laws, as I have learned, are so arbitrary. It's a wonder how your planet even survives. You coddle the guilty and laugh at the innocent…"
"You're a super-hero…"
"Again, human definition. I'm a princess training in the ways of war. I have lost my innocence, Richard, and it feels good," she said, scooping up a robe. She tied it in the front and then moved over to her make-up mirror. "For too long we non-humans have tried so hard to fit into your molds, to be the nice aliens you wanted us to be."
"You killed an innocent man!" Nightwing screamed.
"Prove it," she said without missing a stroke of her eyeliner. "All you have is a gut feeling. There is no evidence and if there was, do you think any prison on this planet could hold me, Richard?" She threw her head back and laughed. "I'm a royal princess; I can make a liaison with a dozen alien races. Do you think the other aliens on this planet will allow it?"
"Spare me, Kory; this isn't about alien rights! This is about your warped moral code that has no place on this planet!" He took a step closer and pointed at her, his finger shaking from rage. "Why didn't you kill Barbara then?"
She turned to him and smiled. Despite his anger, he felt it having a calming effect on him. "She was the wounded puppy; of course you went to her. I handled my anger towards her. I knew it wouldn't last, but then Jennie came along."
He felt sick. "My God, you're insane!"
"Kal doesn't think so," she said, striking a hard blow to Nightwing's heart. She seemed to sense it. "That's right, Richard; I moved from a Teen Titan to a super man."
"I think the better question is does he care? You will never know, Richard, because there is no proof." She went back to putting on her make-up and he stood there, his hand becoming a fist. He wanted to strike her, to toss her around the room and then slap handcuffs on her.
But she was right. The Joker was dead and nobody cared except for him. And why did he care anyway? After everything the Joker did, shouldn't he have paid the ultimate price? Wasn't society better off without that madman?
He swallowed hard and his mind raced to find the answer. "Go ahead, Richard, go ask your hero Superman if I killed the Joker. See what he says. I dare you." She started laughing again. "You won't though, because you can't bear the thought he might know, that he might approve. Maybe Batman was right; yes, I remember our late night talks. Batman hates aliens, doesn't trust them." She turned back to face him. "There could be a good reason for that." Her eyes suddenly started to glow, but he didn't back down.
"I don't have proof, Kory, and I'm willing to bet Superman doesn't know. True, he might not be looking to find out either, but that doesn't make him guilty. He can't do everything…"
"Oh, cry me a river, human," she said. There was contempt in her voice and he commented she sounded like her evil sister. "Maybe I just finally realized she was correct about most of you insects."
"Listen to you! What about Donna? What about Roy? They are your friends!"
She shrugged. "True, but they are honest with me. They didn't lie about loving me."
"I did love you."
"Go to hell, Kory," he snapped. "I won't give up and you know it. I will find the proof…"
"Fuck off," she said in her native tongue. He knew enough of it to respond with a few choice words. He left then, slamming her door shut and shoving past a startled Arsenal.
"Uncle Dick," James started as he approached the man who was now raising him. It had taken weeks for him to find his voice again after all that he had seen. Richard spared no expense in therapists and specialists and their progress was really beginning to show. James had even laughed the day before as he played with little baby John. "Can I ask a question?"
"You just did," Richard joked as he set down the French-language newspaper. The boy seemed confused and Richard rubbed a hand through his dark hair. He thought he could just make out a hint of red in it. "What is it, sport?"
"Did you love my mommy?"
Jennie appeared at the doorway then and nodded silently to Richard, giving her blessing for him to continue, to speak his heart. "Very much, but I didn't love her enough. Your mother required a special love that many people wanted to give her, but couldn't."
"Did my daddy love my mommy?" he asked, his bottom lip trembling.
"Your father…was hurting on the inside. He had problems that nobody knew how to help him with and in the end, it made him do some very bad things." The boy started crying and Richard felt his eyes watering. It reminded him of when he had asked Bruce why his own parents had to die.
He took James in his arms and gave him a hug. "A lot of bad things have happened, Jimmy, but its over now. Your mother wanted you safe and I'll keep you that way. Me and Jennie and grandpa Bruce and grandma Selina…"
He sniffled. "She don't look like a grandma…"
"I've heard that," Richard said, a big smile on his face. "Just remember that because bad things happen, it isn't your fault."
"I know, Uncle Dick, but I want to do something…I'm so sad…"
It was déjà vu for Dick and he was immediately taken back to that night in the Batcave when Bruce offered him the chance to become Robin. Is that what he was supposed to do?
The Jade Falcon landed on top of the roof of the Gotham Municipal building and turned off his energy field by absorbing it into his body. He stepped to the edge, behind his quarry and smacked him in the back of the neck.
Batman turned around and put his hands on his hips. "Hi, John."
John Grayson pulled off his mask and wiped the sweat from around his eyes. "Terry as I live and breath! Imagine finding you here, watching a building burn." Batman ignored the joke. "You're older than me," Batman said. "You should act it."
John shrugged and stepped to the edge. There was nothing they could do now except watch. Batman was dressed in his normal costume, a black body suit with a large red bat. Again, John offered his opinion. "My dad says the older costume with the cape and cowl was better."
"Your dad is married to a hottie; he can say what he wants."
"Yuck! That's my mom you're talking about!"
"Seen Jimmy anywhere?" Batman asked.
"He's around…there!" John said, pointing down at the fire. A figure was emerging from the building, carrying a bundle that both men knew was a child. The bundle was immediately handed off to awaiting paramedics. James Gordon was then led away from the fire where he could get out of his fire suit. "Playing hero again," John said.
"What the hell are you talking about? He is a hero," Batman said. John agreed and James seemed to sense their presence above. He pulled off his big red GCFD hat and waved to them. "You think he regrets your dad's decision not to train him?"
"Nah. He's carrying on his own family tradition," John said. "You got to respect that."
"Yeah, I guess you do. With guys like him, do you think we're going to be needed anymore?"
John considered it for a moment and then smiled. "It would be nice, wouldn't it?"
Batman nodded. "A world without super-heroes, where policemen and firemen were able to solve all of society's problems. Yes, that would be nice."