Thanks go out to my wonderful betas Patty, Em, Tammy and Beth. you girls are the best and this fic would not be anywhere near as good without you all. Thanks so much. Thanks to my readers too. Y'all are great. I hope you all enjoy this last chapter. I had no clue when I started this fic that it would turn into the event that it has. That has been thanks to my readers. I'm going to miss this fic ... but its time for it to end. If the formatting here at messes up again, it's all posted at Bludhaven the link is in ny authors profile. I hope you all enjoy. Char :-)
COURT MARTIAL: PART 32
The word echoed in his head. He had been so enervated by this entire ordeal, he was ready for it to be over with. Dick pulled on one gauntlet and picked up the other one. He would be lying to himself to say he wasn't nervous. He was. Edgy. Yet, there was a strange sense of calm surrounding him as well. Or maybe he was just getting that numbness again. Like he had that night. Dick shook his head. No, not like that night. Nothing was like that night. Whatever else happened to him, nothing would ever be that bad.
Pulling his other gauntlet on, Dick turned his attention to his boots. He picked up the JLA badge adorned with the insignia that meant so much to everyone. A quick pass of his hand across the surface to remove imaginary smudge marring the surface, of course, failed. His eyes closed and his breath stilled. There was no amount of polishing that could remove the damage done to that insignia by him and what he had done. He took a deep breath to calm his racing heartbeat and slipped the badge into a compartment in the gauntlet.
"Pull it together, Grayson," he mumbled to himself as he picked up his mask. He slowly drew his fingers across the points of the mask. His finger traced the long curve that swept around the eyes as he took a deep shuddering breath. It was a symbol, a necessity, and a comfort. It was a lifeline. Dick turned it over in his hands twice, before putting it on. Masks had been part of his life for so long. Since he was nine. First as Robin, then as Nightwing, and briefly as Batman. After today, would he wear a mask again? Dick did not know if he knew how to exist without them. Hopefully, he would not have to find out.
The word kept going round and round in his head. The Tribunal had a verdict. It was over. His trial was over. Dick had made his peace to live with the verdict ... and himself ... no matter what the verdict was. Closing his eyes, he hoped that his family and friends could do the same. They had suffered enough for his shortcomings. If the verdict was guilty, he knew they would have trouble accepting it. He hoped the League would let him stay long enough to help them ... especially Bruce.
The heavy door slid open and Plastic Man stepped into the cell. His fingers were drumming his thigh. "You ready?"
"If I said no, would it make a difference?" Nightwing asked with a grin.
"Now what'dya think," Plastic Man replied with a tilt of his head. He placed his hand on Nightwing's arm, "C'mon, let's get this over with."
"Yeah, over," Nightwing stated as he walked out of the cell. Taking a deep breath, he steeled himself for what was to come. It was time.
"Dude, this had better turn out right," Roy groused as they headed toward the Hall of Justice. He was sick of the Watchtower; sick of its gray-white walls, sick of its views of space; sick of the sterile smell that reminded him of a hospital without the latex, but most of all Roy Harper was sick of the Justice League. Roy was sick of them and he was prodding for a fight.
The three Titans stopped at Roy's statement causing him to stop as well. He turned and glared at them. Vic crossed his arms and glared back, as Gar jabbed his toe into the blue-green carpet. It was Garth who responded to Roy. "We must keep faith that the Tribunal saw the truth of Dick's testimony."
Roy nodded. "Yeah, and didn't fall for Stewart's bullshit." His right hand punched his left palm. He spun and headed off down the hall.
Vic grabbed Roy's arm. "You need to calm down. We don't know how this is going down, but you need to stay calm and focused."
Roy stopped mid stride and whirled. "I am focused. I am very focused. It's Dick's life that's at stake. He's always come through for me ... whenever I screwed up, whenever I needed a friend ... Dick's always been there. He's always helped me. Nothing and no one is going to stop me from doing the same for him. So don't worry about me, Vic. I. Am. Focused," he growled.
Gar interjected, his hands up in a placating manner, "Chill, dudes, we're all on the same side, remember?"
"And we are all stressed and worried," Garth added. "But we must not turn on each other."
"You're right," Roy said with a nod, "that's for the so-called Justice League. Vic, I --"
Cyborg held up his hand, "I know. We're all worried about him."
Roy nodded. "When the Tribunal comes in, I'm watching Ollie. I'll be able to know ... Ollie ... I'll be able to read him. Everything's going to be all right." He said with more confidence than he really felt. Rounding the corner, the Titans stopped. Their eyes narrowed as they observed Captain Atom and Booster Gold at the entrance to the Hall. Roy sauntered over, "Well, well, well. What's all this?"
"Security detail," Booster replied. "Tribunal wanted extra security at the exits."
"When did they request that?" Cyborg asked.
Booster held his hands out palm first as if he was surrendering. "Now just hold on. Captain Marvel and the Martian Manhunter decided this weeks ago. We don't know anything about the verdict, so don't go reading anything into this, okay."
The Titans looked at each other before nodding. "Very well," Garth said. "May we enter? Or are you here to keep us out?"
"No, you can go in. We're just here to make sure no one leaves that's not supposed to." Booster moved aside to let the four young men pass.
Captain Atom grabbed Roy's arm as he started in. Angry green eyes turned to face him. "Don't try anything stupid, Harper. We don't want to have to hurt you."
A palpable anger swelled within Roy. "Let go of my arm. NOW!" He stood his ground waiting. A slight smile tugged Roy's lips upward when Captain Atom released his arm. He turned to enter the Hall of Justice, purposefully bumping into Captain Atom with his shoulder. Hurt. If they convict Dick, a lot of people were getting hurt. He'd guarantee it.
"How are you holding up?"
Barbara stopped shuffling her notes and looked up. "Dinah? I'm ... more jittery than I was jumping of my first building with a jump line, to tell you the truth," she answered, pulling her glasses off and twirling them in her hand. "What are you doing here?"
Dinah cocked her head. "Where else would I be? We're all here, Helena, Cassandra ... the GCPD can handle things in Gotham for a while. It's more important that we're here. We all needed to be here for Dick ... and for you," she said taking her best friend's hand. Dinah noticed the slight tremble in Barbara's hand and gave her friend a reassuring smile. "It's going to be okay."
Taking a deep breath, Barbara nodded. "It has to be okay. It just ... they can't --"
"I know, honey, I know," Dinah said patting her hand. I'll be here regardless, she thought to herself. Looking to the side, she could see the Hall of Justice filling up. She nodded toward Wildcat who was sitting with some of the Justice Society. The sight of Catwoman sitting with her hand on Batman's arm, and Robin flanking her on her other side, caused Dinah to slightly shake her head. Who would have thought it. "Roy looks like he could spit nails," she commented, watching the Titans moving in.
"He's worried," Wally added joining them. "Like the rest of us."
"But we're not going to show it. Not to Dick," Barbara ordered. "Especially not to Dick."
A hush fell over the Hall of Justice as Nightwing entered the room. Flanked by Plastic Man and Booster Gold, Nightwing held his head high. He owed it to Batman and his family to face this head on and to be brave. As he approached the defense table, it took all of his strength to keep his head from dropping. On the inside, he was the nine year old about to be led away from Haly's, but on the outside he would be the man his father needed ... deserved ... for him to be. He looked to his right at the prosecution. Blue Beetle sat with his head bowed, Green Lantern looked straight ahead, and Jean was scribbling on her notepad. Turning toward his table, Dick gave Barbara a slight smile and moved to take his seat. She grabbed his left hand with her right and squeezed. Wally placed his hand on Dick's back as he sat down and gave his friend a quick grin.
Nightwing knew they were as apprehensive about the verdict as he was. Everyone in the room was. The Hall of Justice was buzzing with anxious energy. Dick turned to look at Batman behind him. He already knew he was there, but he gained strength and comfort from the direct contact. Dick's emotions were whirling inside him like a vortex spinning out of control. He knew that his father was feeling the same, yet Bruce would never show it, never let his mask break. Dick drew upon that as his own mask slipped over him hiding his emotions behind a safe facade. His breathing stopped when he heard the door at the back of the Hall open. Quickly he turned around to watch the Tribunal file into the room.
Roy sat up straighter in his chair, his green eyes waiting to see his former mentor. He was hoping he could read something from the man's face. He looked around the room at the strategically placed Titans before his gaze moved back to the front of the room. "They're not going to convict him," he whispered to Garth before his eyes fell on Green Arrow. Ollie was looking down; he wasn't making eye contact with him. "No, please no," he whispered as he shook his head. "They can't."
Captain Marvel waited until they had all taken their seats before he addressed the parties. Bracing his hands on the table before him, he began. "This has been a very difficult trial ... for everyone involved. There has been nothing pleasant about any of this. Roland Desmond was murdered. That is an incontrovertible fact; and his death was a tragedy. No one deserves to have their life prematurely taken away. Another incontrovertible fact is that all of the deaths that Roland Desmond caused, the people he killed or was responsible for killing, each of those losses were tragedies. I think we all can agree with that. It is not up to us to determine whether anyone is more or less worthy of life than someone else. We are not gods. We have been charged with the difficult duty of determining whether Nightwing is guilty of the charge of first degree murder and two lesser charges. We have reached a verdict on the three counts of the indictment against Nightwing. Will the Defendant please stand?"
This was it. The moment he dreaded. Dick knew they had a verdict, knew that before he came in this room. However, the weight of the reality pressed down upon him. Keeping eye contact with Captain Marvel, Nightwing stood despite the dizzying feeling he had. Batman and Flash stood along with him in a show of solidarity. Batman's hand rested on his shoulder as Barbara regrasped his hand.
"While it is undisputed that Catalina Flores is the person who pulled the trigger, it has been our duty to determine whether or not Nightwing was acting in concert with Ms. Flores when she murdered Roland Desmond. Whether he was an aider, abettor or an accessory to first degree murder. While it is true that Nightwing was present when the murder happened, he and Ms. Flores did not go there together and they were not working together at that time. He did nothing to aid or encourage her to shoot Blockbuster. She did that on her own and stated in her testimony that it would not have mattered what Nightwing's opinion on the subject was, she would have shot the man regardless. Whether Nightwing secretly wanted Blockbuster dead or not, we found to be irrelevant because it would take more than a secret desire that Blockbuster die to be acting in concert in connection with his murder."
Superman nodded as he listened. Not guilty resounded in his head as his hand balled and unballed his cape.
Captain Marvel continued. "However, that was not all we had to consider in determining Nightwing's guilt or innocence of murder. To come to our conclusion, we also had to decide whether Nightwing had a legal duty to save Mr. Desmond from Ms. Flores. Certainly, a police officer in a similar situation would have a legal duty to act to save Blockbuster just as an EMT would have a legal duty to stop at an accident scene on the highway. But Nightwing was not a police officer. At the time that Blockbuster was murdered, Dick Grayson had been fired from the Bludhaven Police Department. Despite the fact that Captain Rohrback offered him his badge back, Nightwing did not take it. He was not reinstated as a police officer. So we had to look at whether his membership in this organization gives him the same legal duty as a police officer. It certainly gives him the moral duty, but that was not our attention at this point in our deliberations. Only the legal duty."
Dick's jaw flexed as Captain Marvel droned on. He understood their need to explain, but he had had enough waiting. He needed to hear the verdict. Dick needed to know ... not the reasons but the result. For good or bad he was ready to hear his fate.
"After much deliberation," Marvel proceeded with his pronouncement, "the Tribunal has unanimously found that the Defendant, Nightwing, is not guilty of the charge of murder."
Not guilty. The words rang through his head. Dick almost didn't believe it. Relief washed over him, consuming his entire being. It was dizzying. An overwhelming sense of vertigo. His world was spinning ... out of kilter or was it back? Was he finally coming back? He felt Batman's placing a second hand on his shoulder shaking him ever so slightly. Barbara's hand squeezed his tighter than before. Dick felt Wally patting his arm congratulating him in his ear.
Roy's whoop startled Dick back into the present and he jerked his head up, turning slightly around. His lips tugged upward, the beginning of a grin, when he saw Vic attempting to pull the red headed archer back into his seat. Roy was having none of it, his arms were pumping in the air and he was doing his football dance.
"SHUT UP ROY!" Ollie barked from the Tribunal's table. "Sit down before I come over there and sit you down."
"We are not finished with our business here," J'onn stated flatly.
Dick turned back to the Tribunal and faced his judges as calmly as he could.
"Spoil sports," Roy muttered, as he was pulled into his seat by Vic and Garth. He managed to stick his tongue out at John Stewart who only shook his head at his antics.
Captain Marvel waited a moment for the murmuring the verdict had caused to die down. He then proceeded with the second count. "Regarding the charge of deliberate dereliction of duty, we on the Tribunal found our discussions concerning this charge to mirror the primary charge of murder. For Nightwing's action's to be deliberate dereliction of his duty as a member of the Justice League, then he would be guilty of murder as well. Therefore, in another unanimous vote, we find Nightwing not guilty of the second count of the indictment."
John Stewart shook his head in disgust. His gaze caught Jean's. She simply shrugged. Turning to Ted, he shook his head again. Well, he knew, at least, that he could sleep at night, knowing he had done his best.
"On the third count of the indictment, conduct unbecoming a Justice League member, our discussions encompassed not only deliberate action but negligence, morals, standards ... a code of conduct that members of this organization must uphold. A code of conduct that, on the night Roland Desmond was murdered, Nightwing did not or could not uphold. A code of conduct that a League member should, at all times, be able to uphold."
At all times. Nightwing bowed his head, preparing himself for what he knew was coming. His stomach clenched. It felt as if a giant hand was squeezing it. Each breath was coming in short, rapid succession of the other.
Captain Marvel continued undeterred. "Based upon all of the evidence presented, the Tribunal, by a majority vote, finds Nightwing guilty of conduct unbecoming a Justice League member."
Guilty. The force of the word hit Dick like a physical blow. It started in his chest and the pain radiated outward into his arms down into his fingers. His ears were throbbing from the vise-like pain in his head.
"What the hell," Roy groused.
Loud rumblings arose from the assembled crowd. Catwoman's hand encircled Robin's as she watched the little muscle in Batman's jaw flexing. She knew he was grinding his teeth.
Batman's grip tightened on Nightwing's shoulder and his eyes narrowed under the cowl as his anger rose surpassed only by his concern for Dick. How dare they? How dare they judge his son's morals? Decide what standards he did or did not keep. He hated this and he hated them but he mostly hated the helpless feeling he had. He knew what was coming ... he had written the damn charter they were using ... and he could not stop the pain they were about to inflict upon Nightwing.
Dick turned his attention to the table. He was fascinated by the wood grain he was staring at. It was easier to look at the table than at anyone. All of his life, since he was eight years old, he had looked up to the Justice League, had wanted to be part of them. But he had failed. His inaction had cost so much ... to so many. The humiliation he felt wouldn't hurt so bad if he felt it was his alone; but he knew his supporters, his friends and his family would be tarred by his failure. That hurt more than anything else.
If only he had been able to act that night. Things would be different. Desmond would not be dead ... but who else would be? Bruce, Tim, Barbara? The list was unending. He wouldn't trade any of them for Desmond. Dick looked up, his eyes locking with the Martian Manhunter's. The alien stared at him as if he was looking into his soul. "I wouldn't," he thought, just in case the telepath was listening.
"Nightwing," Marvel's deep voice brought everyone's attention back to the matter at hand. "The tribunal sentences you to sixty days confinement, suspended but for twenty-five days, credit for time served. Further, your status as a member of the Justice League is suspended for a period of one year. As such, you shall be prohibited from entering the Watchtower or any League facility, utilizing League resources, attending meetings, and being summoned for any form of duty. Now, we discussed just what this means. There is no precedent. While, some of us believe that any form of duty means just that, we realize that certain others," Captain Marvel's gaze fell on Batman, he cleared his throat and forged ahead with the unpleasant task, "may not agree. So we are specifically saying that during this time period, you are restrained from working on any cases that are within the League's jurisdiction or working alongside any League member. This conviction and suspension shall be recorded in your permanent record with the League, Nightwing."
"Nightwing, please approach the tribunal." Aquaman's solemn voice brought Dick's eyes up.
Dick stepped around the table and stood before the bench and stood expectantly. He felt like a small child standing before disappointed giants. Waiting for another blow to fall. Waiting for the another slap to his fragile equilibrium. Waiting for the end.
"Nightwing." Aquaman spoke again as he nodded at Captain Atom who approached from the side. "You will surrender your JLA insignia to Captain Atom. After this hearing, you are ordered to leave this station. In two days time, you will return any League property or materials that may be off-station in your possession." Aquaman turned his gaze toward Captain Atom. "Captain Atom, please retrieve the League's property."
Captain Atom stood before Nightwing and held out his hand.
Dick looked down at his hand moving to the gauntlet, opening the compartment and pulling the League insignia out. It was like someone else was doing it, like it was him just watching some awful event. He was amazed that his hand appeared to be so steady considering that his insides were rolling with emotion and pain.
Nightwing paused and looked at the badge. Sighing he extended it to Captain Atom who snatched it from Nightwing and then crushed it in powerful silver hands. The shattered badge fell to the floor at Nightwing's boots. Captain Atom pivoted and moved off to the side of the room. Nightwing paused to look at the remains and the returned to his position at the table.
Wally West stood unmoving processing what he had heard and seen. He stared at the symbol of the Justice League on the wall behind the Tribunal's chairs. Slowly he shook his head.
Resounding silence encompassed the Hall. It was over. No one moved. No one seemed to know what to do now.
Jean Lorring stopped scribbling her judgment on her pad and looked up. She listened to the silence and understood what they meant by saying silence was deafening. Someone had to do something or the would all stay in this awkward state until the universe was threatened. Jean stood. "Thank you, your honors," she said to conclude the proceedings.
Dick sat heavily in his chair. He was numb again. He was starting to believe that numb was a natural state of being.
Green Arrow leaned across the table, "Plastic Man, get those shackles off Nightwing."
Plastic Man stretched his eyebrow up into the shape of a key, "I don't have the necessary tools. Does Wonder Woman?"
"I will get the keys," she said standing.
Nightwing leaned over in his chair, seeming to almost go under his table. Barbara's hand was quickly on his back, rubbing in a comforting gesture. "Honey, are you okay?"
Dick nodded. "Yeah. Just ... give me a ... minute."
Barbara's concerned green eyes looked up into Batman's face. She wondered if his blue eyes were hard and cold beneath his cowl in anger over the conviction or soft and sympathetic towards his son's apparent distress. "Dick," she whispered softly as she looked back to the man she loved.
Nightwing sat back in his chair and calmly placed the four shackles on the defense table. "You don't need any keys."
"How?" Diana exclaimed. "How did you --"
Nightwing did not respond. Instead, he turned toward the back of the room. He scanned the audience until he saw Mr. Miracle. Scott Free nodded toward him and Nightwing reciprocated. Turning back to the Tribunal he softly asked, "May I go now?"
Green Arrow grinned broadly. "I don't see why not. We're done here."
"Damn right we're done here," Roy grumbled as he headed down the aisle toward his friend followed by Garth. "Dick doesn't need this shit. Let's get our boy and go home."
Flash stood still staring straight ahead at the Tribunal. Time had seemed to stand still. He watched as the Tribunal members started to leave, he felt the flurry of activity beside and behind him, and he found his voice. "Wait a minute." All eyes in the room turned to the scarlet speedster. "There's one more order of business before we leave." He looked at Dick, his best and closest friend, and then turned his gaze back toward the Tribunal. With a flick of his wrist, Wally tossed his Justice League badge toward the front of the room. "I quit."
"Wally," Dick started to protest.
His friend shook his head. "Let's get outta here."
"Whoop!" Roy shouted as he joined them flinging his arms around them. "That's my boys," he crowed. "Told you things were going to work out. Look at the opposition. Buying a ring off Ebay doesn't make a Green Lantern."
Stewart glared at the red headed archer, but Ted and Jean caught his arms, halting his progress toward the defense table. They headed off to another section of the great room.
Dick moved away from Roy's revelry. Dick saw Dinah hugging Barbara, he could read the relief on Babs' face. Kory threw her arms around him nearly squeezing the breath from him. He moved from Kory to Tim. The teen wrapped his arms around him as Catwoman gingerly patted his shoulder. The Titans were all congratulating him, they didn't seem to see the conviction as important. Congratulations were the last thing he wanted.
"Ready to go?" Batman asked him.
Nightwing faced his mentor and shrugged. "Yeah, I just ... I need to get my things from my ... the ... cell."
"I can do it in two seconds," Flash said. "Give me three and I'll have my quarters all packed up and ready to go too."
"Thanks Wally," Dick said as he caught John Stewart staring at them. Keeping eye contact with his persecutor, Dick continued, "I'd rather go myself. If you don't mind."
"I'll go with you," Robin said.
Dick smiled at Tim as Batman moved to shield Dick from Stewart's prying eyes. "Thanks bro, but I --"
Batman placed his hand gently on Robin's shoulder, "I need you to contact Alfred for me, Robin. Let him know the verdict and that we'll be home soon."
"Yeah, and tell him to start cooking 'cuz we're partying!" Roy said slapping Garth on the back.
Dick tried to grin at their antics before using the distraction to slip away from his well-wishers. He noticed some of the audience glaring at him or turning away. His eyes traveled through the gallery of gathered heroes. The trial had changed everything, but the verdict had changed nothing. Some still thought he was guilty, and others … his eyes traveled to Wildcat who smiled and nodded at him. Others believed differently, even though Dick knew that while he wasn't guilty, he wasn't innocent either. Not anymore or ever again. He needed some alone time ... Dick stopped and looked up at Captain Atom who was blocking the door. "Excuse me."
"Where do you think you're going?" Atom inquired.
"To get my things, not that it's your business," Nightwing replied. He started around the large silver man only to be stopped when Captain Atom grabbed his arm.
Nightwing jerked his arm out of Captain Atom's grasp. "Look, I've served my twenty-five days and I'm going home. So get out of my way because I'm free to leave."
"Leave, yes. Walk around and have free access to this facility, no. Not anymore." Atom replied with a militaristic bearing. "You want to go somewhere, you will be escorted by a League member ... in good standing."
"Whoa! Hold up! No problems here," Booster said as he interjected himself between them. "Where ya headed, Nightwing?"
"My ... the cell. I want my things so I can leave this facility," Dick ground through clenched teeth.
"Okay, well I'm heading that way. Pick up my cards and stuff. I'll walk with you."
Barbara and Dinah watched as the Titans filtered one by one though the transporter. Everyone had the same destination. The Bat Cave.
"It's going to be some party," Dinah said watching Roy laughingly push Ollie towards the transporter pads.
"Yeah," Barbara replied sedately. "I'm not sure a party is what Dick is going to want. They need to speak to Bruce before they get too far into this."
"Barb, he's been --"
"Convicted. Not of murder, but for Dick ... it's just as bad." Barbara knew the anguish this conviction would cause Dick. Celebrating was the last thing he was going to want right now.
"It's not just as bad. He's not going to an ice planet for the rest of his life. And the people that count, don't think anything less of him. He needs to remember that," Dinah stated.
A red blur streaked beside them and stopped. "We'll have to remind him," Wally added.
Dinah rolled her eyes at Roy's train conductor pose as he was waving his arms. "It's time Mr. Harper left the Watchtower," she said and moved over.
"You were good Wally. Throughout the trial. You have an aptitude for law I think," Barbara said.
Putting his thumb under the bridge of his cowl, Wally pulled it back, his red hair sticking up at odd angles. What he called cowl-head hair. "I dunno about that. I know I had to make a lot of mistakes in there."
"You were great," she replied taking his hand in hers. "We made a good team."
"We were fighting for Dick," Wally replied. It was that simple. No other explanations were needed.
"Flash," The Martian Manhunter's deep voice called. "May I speak with you?"
Wally turned with a shrug. "Sure."
"Nope. You got something to say, J'onn, say it."
"I wanted to ask you to please reconsider your decision to resign your membership in the League. You need to take your time and think about what you are doing. Remember that any member who resigns can only be reinstated by undergoing the standard active membership selection process. There is no need to be hasty."
Wally flashed him a grin. "I'm the Flash, I only do hasty."
J'onn moved closer. "This is not a joking matter, Wally."
Wally's eyes flashed as he replied forcefully. "Really, J'onn? Not joking? Because up until now, I've just been rolling in the aisles watching the League rip apart one of the truly good guys. Yeah, it's a real chucklefest seeing this all important body not give a crap about a hero. Showing one of your own no loyalty, but that's part of this isn't it? Who do we deep down inside owe our loyalty to?"
"Wally-" J'onn held up his hands trying to slow Wally and stop the impending outburst. He failed utterly.
"Are we loyal to the whims and dictates of this august body and its never-ending hypocritical rules?" Wally raised his arms and gestured about the room. "Are we better than that? Are we what defines this body? Is it Justice we serve or the need for rules? Do we owe anything to those who would die to save others?" Wally moved closer to J'onn. "Do we fight alone or do we forget the people who die and bleed beside us? Because J'onn … I got to tell you that I don't really feel that feel good I give a shit vibe from you guys."
J'onn's voice was laced with concern. He pressed onward. "Wally, your Uncle Barry."
"MY Uncle Barry would do the exact same thing!" Wally exclaimed through clenched teeth as he stalked back over to Barbara. "I've thought about this for the last twenty-five days." Wally grasped the handles on the chair and paused. He looked down and back at Martian Manhunter. "You know, I'm sure that there are some good people in the League. People I care for, you care for. Hell, you're a great guy yourself, but you're no Dick Grayson and I know where my loyalties lie." He pushed Barbara to the transporter. "Let's go."
"We should wait for Dick," she started.
"Batman's waiting for him."
Batman stood in the observation room looking down at the blue ball of earth. The stars twinkling around the velvet black darkness of space. The view from the Watchtower was more than breathtaking. It was a view he would miss. Space was a solitary place where a solitary man could find comfort. But it was cold comfort now. He moved from the window to stare at the bronze plaque and the words emblazoned there: The JLA's major responsibility is the peace and welfare of Earth. His hand ran reverently over the words.
"This has been a tragedy," her voice came softly breaking through the darkness. Wonder Woman moved closer to him. "So much has been destroyed."
Batman nodded, pulling his cape closer around him. "Yes."
"Can we rebuild it?" she asked, looking at the plaque of their creed and crossing her arms across her chest.
Batman moved to return his gaze to the earth below him. Her question washed around him like a dispassionate sea. "No."
Diana sighed. "Just like that."
He whirled to face her. "You convicted my son! Did you expect me to be grateful? Didn't you understand that there would be repercussions to this verdict."
"I didn't ... Majority vote not unanimous. Ollie and I," she started. Diana moved to place her hand on his arm but he turned, blocking her chance.
"The League convicted my son. That's enough for me."
"And you brand us all with the same brush?" she queried.
"No, but you asked if we could rebuild it and we can't. Its broken and I've no desire to fix it," Batman said. "Where was the League when Blockbuster was terrorizing not just Nightwing but all of the residents of Bludhaven? No one but Nightwing even tried to help that city."
"And who protects the earth?"
"Your League ... what's left of it. I'll take care of Gotham and my family ... just as I always have. That is what I'll protect."
Diana watched as he stalked past her and disappeared into the darkness. She wrapped her arms around her, and closed her eyes.
"He will change his mind."
Diana wiped at the tears and shook her head before turning to Zatanna. "You know he won't."
Zatanna looked down and then back out the crystal blue world below. "I know."
"The League will never be the same. It is broken. How can we rebuild it?"
Zatanna shrugged. "You can't. You can only build something new and learn from this."
Diana shook her head. "It feels empty all ready. How can one man's absence do that?"
A smile teased at the edge of Zatanna's lips. "Because he's Batman."
Jean Lorring finished putting her books in her briefcase as she packed up to leave the Watchtower. "You both did a good job. A hard and unpleasant one."
"Someone had to do it," Stewart replied.
"Yes, someone did. I wish it hadn't been us," Ted added.
Allen Scott moved into conference room. "John's right Ted, someone had to do it and the two of you did it well."
"I just wish the result had been different," John said slamming his fist on the counter. The empty coffee pot shook from the force. "I don't know that I belong here anymore. If they could let him go --"
"They didn't let him go. I think the verdict was ... okay," Ted replied. "I think it was right."
"We'll agree to disagree on that point, Ted," John stated.
"Yeah, and that's fine too." Ted walked over to his now former co-counsel and held out his hand. "But you belong here John. You belong in the League."
John looked at the outstretched arm a moment before he took Ted's hand in his and gave it a sturdy shake. "It was good working with you. I'll work with you anytime Ted."
Ted nodded. "Yeah, but next time, can we fight some megalomaniac trying to destroy the universe, or some rogue spy satellite, or an alien war. Something normal."
Allen chuckled at the younger men. "Come on boys, I'll buy you a cup of coffee in the cafeteria. Jean, you too. I'll tell you about a time I faced a megalomaniac trying to destroy the universe."
Dick walked around the small cell that had been both his refuge and his prison in this last month. He was happy to be leaving but Dick had to admit that there were times he had relished the imposed solitude. As he packed his meager belongings into the box Booster found for him, Dick picked up the green scrubs he had worn. The clothing of his confinement. He shoved them in the box as well. They could send Bruce a bill.
He didn't know why he needed them, just that he did. Maybe it was the fact that he needed a physical reminder of everything that had happened. Not that he would ever forget ... Blockbuster' s death, the blood on his hands, and his trial. This trial had laid bare all his sins and failures. But, had it purged him of them? Granted him absolution of sorts? Could anything?
"Well, Grayson, what do you do now?" he asked himself and sighed.
"That's a good question."
Dick turned to see Superman standing in the doorway. "Got any good answers?" he asked with a cheeky grin that did not entirely reach his eyes.
"That's a question you're going to have to answer for yourself," Clark said as he moved closer.
Nodding, Dick exhaled a deep breath. "Yeah and one I don't know the answer to. Guess I'll just have to take it one day at a time."
Clark sat on the metal stool opposite Dick, his cape draped behind him. "Are you going to continue as Nightwing?" He watched Dick's shoulder's slump as his hands held on to the sides of the carton.
"I dunno. Captain Marvel said I was prohibited from being summoned for any form of duty. I know that they qualified it but maybe ... I dunno ... maybe that's exactly what the sentence means and maybe that's what I should do." Dick pushed the box to the side, turned, and sat on the bunk facing Superman. "Then I vacillate to my other train of thought ... that I need to be Nightwing so I can help. It's my only way to atone for what I did."
"You didn't do anything, Dick. No one thinks you're a murderer. You were found not guilty, remember," Clark cajoled.
"I know ... but not completely. Conduct unbecoming a Justice League member." Dick leaned back resting his head against the cool metal of the wall as his emotions threatened to overwhelm him. Failure, More than that ... embarrassment, humiliation ... his friends were ready to celebrate but he did not feel there was anything to be happy about.
"Dick?" Clark prodded.
He opened his eyes, but refused to make eye contact with Superman. "It's ... just ... a lot, you know. To absorb. To come to terms with."
"You will come to terms with it and you will move past this. You're a survivor, Dick."
"I hope you're right. All my life, all I ever wanted to be ... was a member of the League. I wanted Bruce ... and you to be ... proud of me. Instead I've wrecked everything."
Clark leaned over, closing the gap between them, "Listen to me. You haven't wrecked anything. You made a mistake. The League imploded all on its own. If anyone made a mistake, it was me ... bringing you here. I don't know if it was right or wrong. I know I was trying to help you, protect you. No one could've thought ... I certainly didn't."
"Alfred would say we're a fine pair."
"Sitting here, morosely blaming ourselves?"
"Something like that," Dick said standing. "I need to be going."
"I'll walk you out," Superman said placing his arm around Nightwing's shoulder. "Will you be moving back to Bludhaven?"
"I don't know. I'm going to stay at the Manor a while. Get my bearings, you know. Everything's changed now." Dick nodded to Booster as they left the secure area and headed for the turbo lift.
"Change isn't always bad," Clark punched the buttons to take them to the transporter.
"You're starting to sound like Alfred," Dick said. Clark smiled at him and they rode the lift in comfortable silence. The lift, like the rest of the Watchtower, was a mixture of Kryptonian, Amazonian, and Thanarganian technology plus some Batman devised improvisations, the best of the best. It passed through the five floors in under two seconds without its occupants feeling any movement at all. The door slid open and Dick spotted Batman waiting for him. He smiled and headed out of the lift.
"Ready to go home?" Batman asked.
"Yeah. You go ahead. I'll be right behind you."
Batman watched the duo standing before him for a moment, then nodded and headed toward the transporter pad, his black cape billowing behind him as he stepped upon the round device. "Superman, you," and there was no mistake from his tone that the you meant only you, "can conduct any debriefings the League requires in the cave. Just call me." The transporter hummed to life and in a blinding flash of light, Batman was gone.
Dick looked around, one last time, and then looked at Clark with a wistful expression. "I guess this is it."
Superman studied the younger man as a sadness crept over him. "I guess it is. I'll be seeing you though."
"Yeah. Sure. Take care of everyone, Clark." Nightwing moved to the transporter. His stomach and chest still ached, but the pain was already becoming duller. He was used to it. Nightwing took a deep breath and stepped on the transporter. He was going home. Dick smiled. Turning, he took in his last sight of the League's headquarters. His life had been full of leaving ... his parents, then his circus family, Jason, Joey and the other lost Titans, and his friends and neighbors in Bludhaven, and now ... more leaving. More moments passed never to happen again.
Nightwing squared his shoulders, ready to face his future as the transporter again hummed to life and he disappeared from the Watchtower.
Superman watched as Nightwing disappeared from the League in the bright white light. Turning, he saw the League members mulling about, attempting to return the Watchtower to normal. Superman shook his head. He knew that the lingering effects of all that had transpired and what they had done, stained the League forever.