There was a long period of nothingness, and that was fine. If there was the black void of unconsciousness, then I was not thinking. If I couldn't think, Then I couldn't remember. If I couldn't' remember… then I could not feel. Eventually, though, as much as I tried to resist, consciousness pulled at me, waking me from my hollow state.

As I woke, sounds lapped against the edge of my awareness, like the tide. I woke to their comforting lull. As I climbed ever so steadily towards the land of the living, I was aware of the bright light of day, and held my eyes closed against the sun's painful rage. Tentatively, I put my hand against the bed to push myself up, but a hand gently pulled it away, placing it on the covers.

"Careful, Miss. You have quite a bump on the head."

Alfred. I attempted to open my eyes to look at him—he deserved at least that much. I picked up my aching head and attempted to shield my eyes with my arm. "I don't want to be in bed," I muttered fitfully.

"Mara, do as you're told," my father said firmly.

My heart shuddered in my chest and my eyes snapped opened. Without thinking, I attempted to sit up. Doing so caused blood and pain to rush to my head, and bile to my throat. I collapsed on my side. Fear grabbed hold of me, but before I could give in, darkness sucked me under again.

                                                *                      *                      *

On the periphery, I was aware of someone coaxing me to eat. It was Alfred, it had to be. He forced me to be vertical when my body wanted to be flat. He badgered me to eat even though I did not wish it—until I ate simply to get him to leave me alone. My body rebelled against the intrusion, and much of it came back up. Still, I was told that I had made an honest effort. A hand brushed hair away  from my face, and told me to rest again. Knowing Alfred, the force that was pulling me downward yet again was drugs.

Going back to sleep, I realized how much I missed Doctor Leslie. She always wanted you to be awake and suffering.

                                                *                      *                      *

It was dark when I finally woke with a clear head. It was a painful head, but fortunately a clear one. I was lying on my side in the dark room clutching on to something—it appeared to be a stuffed bear. I stayed where I was, fearful of moving too much of myself at once. Slowly, my fingers went to the bandage on my forehead. Vaguely, I remembered smashing it off an end table before I hit the floor. Tim desperately needed carpets.

After a time, I reached up and turned on the light. It hurt my eyes, but not as badly as the sunlight from earlier. I was at Grandpa's, in the room that was mine there. I wasn't sure I wanted to be here.

I looked down at the furry toy I was wrapped around. It was a pale green bear, the color of Jordy's constructs. On its belly was the Lantern symbol. It was real—not a construct—but I didn't want to think too hard of where it had come from.

Still clutching it to me for dear life, I sat up and prepared to test my feet when the door opened.

"You still shouldn't be up, Miss Martha."

I looked down at the fur. "What—how did dad?" I lost my voice quickly. It cracked with uncertainty and emotion.

"He's concerned for you. As we all are."

A bitter frown plastered itself across my face. I knew my father's type of concern. He'd likely yell. A lot. I already couldn't bear to be near myself. I didn't know if I could stand to hear the things he'd have to say. They were true… but I knew I couldn't stand to hear it.

I wanted to say something rude—something insulting about how they shouldn't be worried about me. I wanted to say something nasty to get Alfred to leave me alone.

But as I watched him fuss around the room, waiting for me to be reasonable—I couldn't bring myself to even try opening my mouth again. I just stayed sitting on the edge of the bed, my cheek buried in green fur.

Ever so slowly, I glanced at the clock on the bedside. It was late. Everyone was working. That was why I was not being converged upon right now. Or… they knew and just never wanted to see me ever again. Somehow, with my father, I found that unlikely. He'd want to yell—if even a little—before he took up ignoring me.

"I see you are still attached to the bear Mr. Jordan Rayner sent to us via the teleport pad in the cave when he learned of your… illness."

I couldn't even fathom the confirmation that it was from Jordy. What was he thinking?

The uncertainty made me sick to my stomach yet again.

"I will leave you for a moment?"

Not that Alfred ever waited for confirmation on anyone's part before doing anything he wished—but he left.

That left just me and the bear.

I didn't know how they'd react—but their lack of presence was starting to get to me. It was making me nervous, if nothing else. I should have asked Alfred who knew—and what they knew, and how.

I'd tried to ask how dad had taken it, but nothing seemed forthcoming. When I'd seen him outside Tim's room… I'd lost it. If I could have kept this from him for the rest of my life, I would have. It was so hard just… existing, knowing that he knew what I'd done. Or not done. Or had let happen.

Why was I sitting here alone? Why was I not being yelled at—disowned?

Ever so slowly, I found my feet. It was a difficult thing. The world still swirled about me just a bit. I could do this, though. I'd gotten through difficult situations in worse shape than this.

What, like your situation with the Joker?

I almost wept a little then, but I held it back. I didn't deserve to be allowed tears.

Biting my lip, I crept towards the door and turned the knob, then pulled it opened.

I let out a small cry, and nearly fell to the floor.

Not an inch from my face, was dad. He grabbed one arm and kept me upright. My heart began racing as he pulled me back to the bed. Alfred had set me up, I realized. He hadn't told me where he was going, because if I knew it was to get my father, I'd have done something—like trying to leave.

"Mara, I thought Alfred told you to stay in bed?"

No. He just said I shouldn't be up. I was too terrified to say anything, though. All of my clever responses died half way up my throat.

"Look, we have to talk about this."

I sat on the edge of the bed and looked away. He sounded… frustrated. But not yelling. A shudder erupted in my chest, but I didn't cry. I just clutched the bear tighter to me, and looked away.

"Look at me when I'm talking to you."

Clenching my eyes shut, I turned my head towards him.

"Open your eyes."

I shook my head 'no.'

"Mara, listen to me. You should have told us about this sooner."

I shook my head again, curling around the bear even tighter. I couldn't stand that disappointed tone in his voice. It always made me want to crawl into a hole and die.

"We need to know these things. We… should have been told. Not just that we need to know to do our jobs… we're your family."

A few tears leaked out of my tightly closed eyes. "I couldn't," I whispered, trying to pull away from him. "I couldn't tell." I wiped my nose on my sleeve and shuddered. "Can't… listen to it."

"To WHAT?"

I started crying harder. "Go away!" I demanded with the most energy I'd had since waking. "Lemme alone." I crawled away from him to the head of the bed, taking the damned bear with me. "I'm not talking to--" I couldn't finish the thought. Another shudder had come. I couldn't stand the sadness in his voice—the frustration—or the disappointment.

"Mara, for God sakes. I'm not yelling at you. I'm trying to talk to you about this." There was a hint of anger in his voice. "I'm NOT YELLING AT YOU," he said harshly, trying to pull my hands, and the bear, away from my face.

"Go away," I said in one quick breath.

"Mara, all you do is run away! You can't run away from this one any more, or me." He gently turned me around.

I stopped struggling, but my body remained tense.

"Why can't you talk to me about this?"


"That's not a reason."

"Are you my Bat or something?" I asked angrily. Good. The anger was finally coming back. I could have some measure of control.

"Cripes, work with me here. We need to talk about this."

I glared at him angrily. Why was he bothering? "I don't need to talk about it. Its over, it's done with. You hate me."

"I don't hate you."

"You should," I said spitefully. I wouldn't be able to bear it if he looked on me with the same pity I held for Harvey Dent.

"Get this through your head, kid. I do NOT hate you."

"It would be easier if you did," I answered.

"I'm your dad, I can't hate you. Even when I'm yelling at you."

I shivered. I realized suddenly how true what I'd just said had been. It would be so much easier if he hated me. It would make ME feel better. Then I'd be free to hate myself as much as I pleased.

"What would you have done?" I asked. I needed to know that he had the solution in order to continue hating myself.

"I don't know."

"You'd have done something."

"I don't know that I'd have done anything."

I shook my head, realizing where I stood. "You wouldn't have been tied to the damned tree!" I moaned in frustration. "It wouldn't have taken you ten minutes to find the end of the piano wire!"

"Mara this isn't a contest!"

"My point is, you wouldn't have had to…" I couldn't even bring myself to finish the thought. After I'd told all to Alfred… I just couldn't bring myself to say it.

"I'll not rehash this and pick out your mistakes up until that point. However you got there, you got there." He wrapped an arm around me and pulled me closer to him, and I sniffed and sniveled like a little kid. I missed his arms around me. "Look. You're still a kid. You were even younger then. I… didn't always come out on top where Two Face was concerned."

I shook my head no.

"When I was about Jimmy's age--"

I shivered. HE had to be brought into it, even if in name only. "Don't--" I started. "I'm sorry. He's a better… than me. Because I was never very good. And and… that's why I said..."

He sighed. "Cripes. Mara, he has you, doesn't he?"

I shook my head. Why didn't I understand any of what he was saying?

"I don't love him more. I thought you were resentful that I started training him. That THAT is why you started getting mouthy and hateful towards me. Listen, Mara, we let this get out of hand. Can we TRY to fix things?" He put my head on his shoulder and held it there. It was a closeness with him I hadn't even known I wanted as desperately as I apparently wanted it—but the longer we embraced, the more awkward I felt. The more I felt like I didn't belong there, or deserve to be there.

"I don't want to," I said bitterly. I didn't want to try. He'd just find out that Jimmy was the better kid.

"I can't make you. But if you don't try—then your good intentions are all for nothing."

I had no idea what he was talking about.

"You didn't want the Joker to hurt anyone ever again, right? That's why you were scared to move. Who's he hurting right now?"

I abruptly pulled away from him. It wasn't true. None of it was true. He was dead.

"Mara, he'd be laughing his pasty white ass off right now if he knew how badly he's messed with your head."

I rose and went to the window. It was a black, cloudless night. The moon was a silver glowing sliver in the sky. Think about the moon. Think about something else, anything else…

"Alfred's right. He isn't worth it."

The bottom fell out of my stomach. I couldn't believe what I was hearing.

"Mara, what I was saying before—when I was Jimmy's age, I went up against Two Face. It came between Batman and a civilian. I made the wrong choice."

I knew he had a history with Harvey. I knew people had died. Never the specifics. No one ever gave those.

"Inadvertently, Two Face made you choose between the Joker, or yourself and a lot of innocent people. It was a lousy spot to be in."

"You'd have found a way out," I reiterated, not turning away from the glass.

"What part of me not being perfect do you have a problem with?"

I rested my burning cheek against the cool glass. Alfred would kill me for smudging his windows.

"I… I hesitated. I was scared."

"And the rest of us never hesitated? The rest of us have never been scared? Kid, you've scared the shit out of me regularly for the last nine or ten months. And yeah, I made a lot of screwed up choices because of it. I can't believe that friend of yours had the guts to send you that bear, after what I said to him. And I did that because I was scared too. I was terrified of you getting in over your head." He gently tried to pull me away from the window. "Here's another problem. Bruce pretends that all choices are black and white. They're not. There's a lot of grey. Sometimes your only choices are light grey and dark grey. Alfred's right. If it's between you or the Joker, I'm taking you."

"We're supposed to be willing to take a bullet for someone."

"Your mom will agree with me on this: You're my kid. Between that fucker and you, it's you all the way."

                                                *                      *                      *

The more dad talked, the more I wanted to just crawl into a hole and pull it in after me. I was so… confused. I cried a little bit more, and he decided to let me get some more rest, as if that would fix the fact that I was being torn to pieces, from the inside out.

He wanted to call mom. I told him I couldn't bear to talk to her too just then… and somehow, he let me out of it. When I was finally left alone, I lay on the bed curled around that bear. Oh god, I felt so guilty for even that.

And Grandpa, what would he say? Dad had been so… strange. Could I really handle listening to grandpa as well? If he'd even come back and talk to me. I wanted to grab hold of my hair and scream.

I milled around the house, trying consol myself, trying to forget—something. I don't know. Maybe I was trying to make sense of it all. There wasn't much to make sense of. There was just this knot in my soul, being pulled tighter and tighter.

I went into the cave and waited, but grandpa didn't return. I sat and I waited a long time, but it was just me and the bats for a very long time. I needed to do something assuage the pain inside me—sleeping more was impossible, and I knew that wouldn't help, ultimately. Nothing could ever, or would ever take this away. I'd always have this shame gnawing away at me. I'd tried so hard to forget… but I knew I never could.

                                                *                      *                      *

"God, Mara… you look like crap." Jordy met me at the teleporter pad. "You should still be at home—in bed." He held on to my arms—maybe he thought he was holding me upright.

I shook my head no.

"Mara… listen to me. For real." He began pulling me away from the Observation Womb, and his father. "You need to sit down or something." He sat me down in a soft red chair in the recreation room we often frequented., then looked down at me with concern. "I'm glad you like the bear," he said seriously, noting how I clutched it. "What's up?"

"I came to talk," I whispered.

He sat on the arm of the chair. I didn't deserve him, or his concern. "What about? Is everything ok at home? When I called, your mom didn't say--"

"Its ok." In a manner of speaking.

"Then what's going on?"

"I… I wanted to talk to you about something."


This wasn't going well. It was so hard to do.

"Jordy, Lantern… I'm sorry I haven't been a good leader. Or a good a friend."

He looked honestly surprised. "What're you talking about? Everyone in Young Justice is still here, and bodily intact. And you and me've been on some of the wildest rides… What's going on?"

I moved over on the big chair. "Sit," I said. I couldn't stand having him sit over me. When he'd slipped beside me, I put an arm around him. "You've been a good friend. You've been my only friend. Ever." My voice caught. "Jordy… I… I don't deserve you."

"Quit being stupid, Robin. I'm your friend because I want to be. Not out of pity or something."

I clenched my eyes shut. "Jordy, I've screwed up. I've screwed up a lot. And… and I'm not the person you think I am. I'm not the person the Justice League thinks I am, otherwise I wouldn't have been in charge of Young Justice."

"Mara, you kept us all under control. We went up against Terminum with you. I mean… you're good at your job."

"I have skills," I told him. "That's all."

"Uh, and you use your powers for good, instead of evil?"

I winced. "You don't know that."

"What did you do?"

"I… It.. I can't tell you. It's too bad."

He turned in the chair a little to look me in the eye. "Robin… you stupid girl. I care about you. And I don't like seeing people I care about upset like this."

I rose and kept my back to him. "Look… I hesitated and someone I'm happy is dead died." I swallowed my heart and tried to keep it down inside.

He didn't have anything to say to that. I heard him rise behind me.

"Just… just stay there. I was just coming to tell you… what you mean to me. So you'd know. And… and to ask you to… maybe think of me." Ever so slowly I turned to face him.

Before I could stop him, he'd pulled me into his arms. "Robin, you're so stupid. I think about you every day. When we weren't talking… it just about killed me."

"NO." I said. I didn't like the way he was talking. "Shut up. I… I don't want to hear it."

"Robin… you shut up. Listen, my dad taught me about the ring. YOU taught me everything else I know. And you ARE a good leader—even if you're bossy. You're one of the best at this. We all think so. That's why Young Justice was mad… they just think you're arrogant. Do you understand what I'm saying? You're who the Justice League thinks you are, and you're who I think you are, and you're who I need you to be. So shut up. Quit being stupid. Ok?"

Tearfully, I lifted his face and looked into his ink black eyes for a moment. He was a Lantern. He'd taken an oath… how could he stand to be near me?

With uncertainty, my trembling lips pressed against his. When we let go, I couldn't look at him. "Jordy… You… you're all the good things in the world. And… and I'm going to miss you…"

"What the hell are you talking about?" He grabbed my arm. "Mara, stop it, ok? You're scaring me."

"Look, just know that you're the best guy I know. But I have to go. And… and you can't follow me. Ok? Just… just leave me alone." I gave him back his bear. "Take care of it. I'm not worthy of it, or of you." I looked around. "Or any of this. I'm not worthy of the rest of you." Out of the pocket of my flannel shirt, I produced an envelope. "This is for Superman. If… if he wants to share the contents, that's fine. But it's for him." Turning, I fled quickly, back to the womb. I needed to leave now, before I completely broke down in front of him.

Kyle was at the computers, pretending to actually monitor while on monitor duty. When I entered the womb, his full attention was on me.

"I'm sorry for all the trouble I caused Jordy, Mr. Rayner." I went towards the transporting pad. "Can you… can you send me home?" Before Jordy decides to follow me?

He took his feet off the counter top. "I can. As long as you promise me you're gonna get some sleep. You look like crap."

"It… it wont be a problem for much longer, Mr. Rayner. Thanks."

He started punching in the pass code at his console and I pushed the coordinates on the teleporter itself. It was done this way this way the exact location of the cave wasn't broadcast knowledge. 

The blast door to the womb slid opened. "Dad, don't let her go!" I looked, and he was holding the letter I'd addressed to Superman. It was unfolded, and I could tell he wasn't happy with the contents. "Mara, how could you!"

I stepped into the transporter anyways. "How could YOU, Jordan? That wasn't for your eyes."

"Dad don't let—oh forget it." A hand erupted from his ring and dragged me off the pad. "I could smack you silly!" he yelled at me. I'd never seen him angry before. "I know what this is all about! You're stupid!" The hand forced me into a chair.

"Jordan, what's going on," his dad asked, rising.

Angrily, Jordy handed the letter to his father.

"That wasn't for you," I told him. "You shouldn't be opening other people's mail."

"She's making her good-byes," he informed Green Lantern.

He finished reading. "Yeah, looks like it. What gives, kid?"

"None of your business," I said bitterly.

"Well, when you go sending letters like this—yeah, it's our business."

"He shouldn't have freaking opened it."

"When I think one of my friends is going to do something stupid, yeah, I'm gonna open private correspondence," Jordy said to me angrily. "And how the hell do you think that'd make me feel? If you just up and kill yourself? Over some guy that apparently wasn't even WORTH it!"

I struggled against the hand gripping me. I needed to clear my head and think of a way out of this, but the pain in my heart just wouldn't let me think. "And how do you think I feel!" I screamed. "That bastard has hurt EVERYONE I care about, and I'm glad he's dead! I'm just sorry it wasn't more painful! And at the same time, I shoulda fucking did something! That's the part that's killing me. That if I were as good as you guys, and this place, and my dad and everything people in colorful costumes are supposed to stand for, I'd have done the 'right thing'. But I didn't."

I let out a few raged breaths. They both seemed to be looking at me and waiting for something. Maybe for me to finish my outburst.

"I'll take care of her," Kyle said. He replaced Jordy's hold on me seamlessly. Think of a way out of this, idiot! I was so stupid!

Kyle leaned into Jordy and whispered in his ear. I'd give two fingers and a toe to know what they were saying.

"I'll be right back," Jordy muttered, inching towards the door.

"No!" I screamed. "Stay here!" I knew he was going to call my dad.

"Jordan, go. Sometime today."

Jordy left. It was just me, and Green Lantern. He pulled a chair over and sat with me.

"So. Thought kicking the bucket would be easier than dealing with all this… stuff, huh?"

"What do you know?"

"I know what I read in that letter. And you're wrong. You ARE worth our trust." He leaned a little closer to me. "Even if you think you screwed up once. Look, we all do it."

"People aren't supposed to end up dead."

"Sometimes, they end up dead."

"I was there. All I had to do… and I didn't do it. Ok? And my dad may think, hey, that's just fine, but I don't. And I'm mad at myself." I wouldn't look at him. It was the only way to preserve any of my poise.

He sighed and shook his head. "It just sounds like you're really confused right now. It's ok to be. It is a complicated situation."

"I took an oath that I'd die first before I let someone else die. I let him die."

There was a silence. He rested his chin on his hands for a moment, then sat up. His uniform poured off of him and dissipated into the ring, and he was left in a pair of jeans and a black t-shirt.

"Ok. We need to have a talk here. Just a guy named Kyle and a girl named Martha."

"Mara." He didn't say anything. "Don't call me Martha. My name's Mara."

"Fine. A guy named Kyle and a girl named Mara. None of this super-hero bullshit."

I really didn't want to talk to him about this.

"Look, kid, we might be bureaucratic and a little petty sometimes, but when it comes down to it, we're not going to let someone hurt themselves."

"Its cause you're a freaking hero," I spat.

"What did I say? None of that shit. We're all just a bunch of regular people."

"Like hell."

"Last week, I locked my keys in my car."

"Bet you used the ring to get it out."

"Naw, I couldn't figure out how to pick the lock. I had to call the auto club." He shook his head. "My point is, we all just do our best here. Me? I'm just a guy who was given a ring."

"You're the freaking Green Lantern. You go to other worlds--"

He shook his head. "You don't get it. We're all human. Some of us more than others—you know… Anyways, my point is that we all are imperfect."

I frowned. "I highly doubt that."

"What? Do we have to show you membership cards to prove we're members of the human race?"

"That you're all imperfect. When's the last time Superman screwed something up? When's the last time Wonder Woman got benched due to 'excessive force'? When's the last time any of you broke the rules around here?"

"Look. Everyone's problems are a little different."

I tried to stand up against my bonds. "Shut up. It doesn't matter. Leave me alone!"

He just watched me struggle for a while, until I gave up.

"It MUST matter, if you're going to go off killing yourself over it."

"What the hell do you know? Have YOU ever gone against your oath? Have YOU ever been scared?" Green Lanterns weren't supposed to be afraid of anything.

He sort of stiffened. See? I knew it

"See, it isn't just crap! This hero stuff isn't just crap! And you know it, and I know it… What do you think is going to happen when they know what I did?"

"This is a job we do. You seem to think we're some higher order of beings."

Oh my god. Like YES?

"What I'm trying to tell you," he said steadily, "is that we're all just people who have this job. Yeah, it involves saving the known universe on a regular basis. And dressing up funny clothes. But it's something we do. It's part of who we are. And since it's part of who we are, and since we mess up sometimes, sometimes we mess up in the suit. Is any of this making any sense?"


He sighed. "I didn't think so." Sighing, he waved the letter at me. "You think none of us have ever screwed anything up. Look. Someone really close to me died because I wasn't so good at the secret identity thing. This guy cut her up into little pieces and stuffed her into the fridge. You don't think that didn't hurt like hell? God. I could tell you about making wrong choices. You think you're screwed up with someone who really didn't deserve to live? Superman had to execute three criminals from his home world for the sake of the universe. HAD to. Like… NO OTHER CHOICE. And it screwed with his head for a long time. Every one of us could probably write a book of regrets and choices we wish we hadn't made."

I stiffened. I didn't know what to do with this new data.

"And what's this? That you're not 'worthy of the trust' we placed in you? Mara… when Jade Arrow left YJ for France, your name was the ONLY name mentioned as a replacement. We trusted you then. And even though you're going through a tough spot, we still trust you. I still trust you. I know what Superboy said, and I didn't give it a second thought. Superman scolded him for spreading rumors—especially blatantly untrue ones. Wonder Woman gave him a look of death that your Bat would have been proud of. The point is, we know who you are, even if you don't. And you're someone we trusted even as a little zit-faced Robin, and you're someone we trust now."

"You SHOULDN'T! God, don't you get it? Someone died because I didn't do what we do!" Why didn't he understand? Why didn't my FATHER understand?

"Look, dummy. You've been going out there every night since you were eight, right?"

I nodded.

"Ok. Have you ever screwed up before? Say like… when you were ten?"


"Ok. And maybe Batman made a face, you got a little grounded…"

"Something like that." Where prey tell was he going with this?

"My point is, you weren't perfect then. You're not perfect now. You're never going to BE perfect." He grabbed my hands. "NONE of us are. We're just people who do our best. And when we fall, we get back up. THAT is why we're where we are at."

Maybe I could grab the ring off of his finger…

"The point is… The one I'm trying really hard to make… is that we have to learn from our mistakes."

"And I'm learning that I shouldn't be here. Me being in this gig… is a mistake."

"That isn't true, and you know it. Batman would never have an incompetent partner. Look, I know this stinks, but you have to trust us. We see where you're at, even if you don't. Do you really think you suck that badly?"


He shook his head. "Geeze, you're a frustrating kid, you know that? You could tell this story to the whole damned Justice League, and they're not going to throw you to the wolves, as much as you'd like us to. We know shit happens. We're experts on shit happening. And we like you, and we like the way you do your job, we know what kind of person you are, and you're just going to have to deal with that."

I lowered my head, defeated.

"Good, I'm glad you're listening to reason. Now. If I let you go… can we sit here and talk? Or are you going to try something?"

"Probably try something," I muttered.

"At least you're honest." He let go of me anyways. "And you're not going to take a long walk off of a building or something either, right?"

I shook my head no. "But it still hurts," I whispered.

"Painful stuff happens. And it hurts like hell. That's life. That's not just this business. If it doesn't hurt sometimes… then you're not living. If it hurts all the time… Well, just promise you'll get help, ok?"

I nodded. I still wanted to crawl into a hole and hide.

He got really quiet, and I began looking around. "Where's Jordy?" What I meant was, where was the rain of hell he was supposed to bring down

"I think he got the hint that we needed some alone-time."

"He went to go call my dad."

"You're observant. There's a reason you're the Bat's sidekick." He grinned.

"I'm not a sidekick. I'm a partner."

"Yeah, yeah," he joked. "We just tell you that so you can have SOME self-esteem." Kyle gave me a pat on the head. "No. I told Jordy to tell your dad to wait until I'd talked to you a minute. I figured if you already talked to him, and you were like this, probably talking to him again wasn't gonna do it." Kyle Rayner was an ok guy. "But you're a little bit better now, right? I don't have to go worrying about you, right?"

I nodded ascent.

"I just have one more order of business before they get here." He turned somewhat serious. I wondered if I was in trouble. "I want to know what your intentions are towards my son."

I buried my head in my hands. "What is it with you people?"


I thought about it, then looked up at him. Part of me wanted desperately to just go along with the line I'd been giving on this. "I… I don't know." But you couldn't exactly do that when you'd just kissed the guy.

"Fair enough. I only have one request."

"We'll behave ourselves. I wont let any more rumors get started--"

"Oh. No. Just that the kids grow up to be Lanterns and not Bats."

I rose out of the chair and started smacking him affectionately.

"Ouch! I'm going to restrain you again!" I began poking him on the arms. He didn't seem to be in the mood to fight back, so I went especially easy on him.

"Robin, are you beating up a superior!"

I spun around. "DAD." Was I in trouble? "MOM?" what the heck was she doing here? Not that she wasn't welcome here, but this wasn't her usual hang out…

She rolled over to me and put an arm around my midsection and almost crushed me. "I could smack you silly," she whispered. She probably would, too. "Talk to us, girl. Try it once in a while."

I put my arm around her shoulder. "I will, mommy."

"You know how to scare a guy," my father told me. "I went back to your room to check on you… and you were gone. Alfred said you were in the cave… I figured I'd give you a little while… and I go down THERE and you're gone." He shook his head. "Then I get a call from Jordy? No more scaring me, ok?"

I nodded.

"I think she's ok for now," Kyle told my parents.

"I know," my mother said.

I sighed. "You have this place wired too, don't you?" They'd probably heard the entire conversation.

"I monitor security up here. It's part of the knowing all and seeing all thing." She gave me a pat on the back.

"Thank you," my dad said to Kyle.

Oh wait. Now they were being all 'love and togetherness'? Oh boy.

"Hey, she's a good kid. We've all had her moments," he added meaningfully. It sounded like they both knew something they weren't sharing with the rest of the class.

"No. Really. You did a good job. Jordy too. I'm glad he contacted me. And he really handled himself well—considering how I've behaved towards him." My dad looked both ways before talking. "I'm sorry I threatened to disembowel him."

Mom smacked dad. "Dick, you idiot! Your didn't!"

Just then, Jordy came through the blast door.

"You threatened to WHAT?" Kyle didn't look happy.

Jordy rushed get in the center of all of us. "Hey, dad, it's ok, we're all cool. Right, Mr. Nightwing? Like… heat of passion and all that."

I had to smile. He had such a good heart, really. I'd meant what I said, when I'd told him he was all that was good in the world.

"Why didn't you tell me about this, Jordan?"

"No harm no foul?"

Kyle looked at me, remembering my words the last time we'd spoken. "Ok. No harm, no foul. Just take this kid home and get her some rest. Before anything else happens." Yup. Kyle was another victim of the hurry up and relax mentality.

My dad nodded, putting an arm on my shoulder. "Will do, Kyle. Thanks." He looked back to Jordy. "Thanks kid. We owe you one."

Jordy beamed from ear to ear. "I'm glad you're better, Robin."

Why did I have the feeling HE had heard our conversation too?

"Thanks Jordy. Sorry about what I said. You ARE a good friend. The BEST." And that whole kissing thing? We'd just pretend that didn't happen, for now.

I let my parents lead me back to the teleporter, feeling like we were a real family, for the first time in a very long time. Nighthawk? Who was he? I had my parents back. That's what mattered. And somehow, I'd get through this. The pain wouldn't last forever. If it did… well, I wasn't going to go ending my life to end the pain. Kyle was right. I'd think up a better way.

                                                *                      *                      *

When we were back in the cave, and the haze of teleportation diminished, I was greeted by a dark immoveable object with his arms crossed over his chest. "AS much fun as it is to scare Green Lantern, I need my partner in Gotham, not on the moon."

Ok. Lets just pretend the whole last week or so hasn't happened. The last twenty four hours especially. But… he'd called me his partner. Not his former partner who couldn't be his partner any more because of my ill-deed.

"Bruce? A minute with my kid?" dad asked.

Grandpa hesitated, then vanished.

"Hey. I'll leave you and your dad," mom said with a smile.

"Do I really want to be left alone?"

"Yeah. I think you'll like this."

"Its… like, not a big lecture?"

"It's not a big lecture," she promised me. "I think you know that if you ever did try to  kill yourself, we'd resurrect you so that we could punish you." She gave me one more hug, then smacked me upside the head. "Now listen to your dad." She looked up at him. "Now, Dick, we've all talked about this, so don't you dare back down. Or I'll tell Roy what a sissy you are."

Interesting. More adult conspiracy stuff, AND I wasn't being killed for planning on killing myself. My family was being… dare I say it… COOL? About all this. They were taking my confusion and my onslaught of mistakes in stride. Could it be that my family didn't suck after all?

Wait till you talk to the Bat, I told myself. If he doesn't kill you, bench you, destroy you, wipe the name of Robin off all the pillars… no wait, that was Moses. Anyways. If he doesn't do that, then your ok.

Mom rolled herself away.

That left me and dad… gulp. Alone.

"Ok. Now… Your mom thinks this'll help out with the whole 'confused' thing, and maybe it will, I don't know. But you've sort of reached a point in your life…"

Please, God. Don't let it be the birds and the bees.

"And you're kind of at a place where you need to figure the whole hero gig out. And where you fit into it, and that's ok. You did a good job with Young Justice. You learned how to work with the Justice League, and how to be a leader… um. I guess what I'm trying to say is that its time to help you find your own place."

Ok. It WASN'T the birds and the bees. So was he suggesting I leave Gotham, or something?

"SO." Dad swallowed. He sounded nervous. That was a really weird thing. "Donna and Roy were trying to talk me into this since like… before your birthday, and they wanted to… like, present the opportunity to you for your birthday, but I messed that up. It just… seemed like just yesterday you joined Young Justice, and I didn't want to think ahead any further than that. But… well, you're not a little girl any more…"

Ok, dad. The point.

"So. Like. Uncle Roy and Aunt Donna and I were wondering if you'd like to… like… move up a little."

"Am I being asked to get my own gig?"

"See, I knew I'd screw this up. Roy was right, I screwed it up." He ran a hand through his hair. "We were wondering if you wanted to be a Titan."

I blinked. A Titan? Like… dad's group. Like… the grown-up's club?

"Ok. Lemme get this straight. I screw up all over the place, and you ask me to join the Titans?"

"You're not being punished. I wouldn't exactly call this a reward… It's just… right now, you have a need. You need to find your place. We fulfill that need. We try to give new folks a shot and help them find their place."

I bit my lip, afraid suddenly. "I… I don't know if I can do it."

"Mara, you CAN'T disappoint me. I'm your dad. You are STUCK with me. I just hope I don't disappoint you."


"If we work together, you're going to find out pretty quickly that I make mistakes."

"What if I disappoint you?"

"What did I just tell you? You CAN'T disappoint me. I know you're going to make mistakes. We all do. Look at it as a learning experience. Think you can do that? Put on your best Bat-face, suck it up, and deal with whatever beating you get?" Ok, thanks for putting it in terms I can understand.

"I think my ego can handle it."

"Good. And just think… you'll be closer to Manhattan."

"Jordy and I are SO not going out."

"Guilty conscious or something, kid? I just said Manhattan. I didn't say anything about the people who live there."

"You're so mean," I said with a smile.

His arm reached out and pulled me to him. "I try."

I wrapped my arm around him too. It was weird having a dad, all of a sudden. As opposed to a monolith.

"So, shall I set up a meeting to make introductions?"

I nodded my ascent. I could do this, right? Student of the Bat. Prepared for anything…

"Ok. If we're all good, I am going to get ready to take your mom home. I have to get back to Bludhaven. Feel like coming with?"

"I think I have a Bat to talk to."

"As with all Bruce conversations, I'm betting it'll be incredibly short."

"I walk up to him. He says 'you're fired.' Then I walk away."

"I think he'll surprise you yet. I'll hold the bus. Then when we get back, we can see if your brother's driving Batgirl nuts yet."

"He's twelve. He can't patrol by himself? You have to send Batgirl to babysit?" I'm sure Cassandra must love that!

"Nope. I trust him about as far he can throw ME."

"Good point."

He squeezed me again spontaneously, and rubbed my back. "While I'm thinking about it… I'd stop in and see Tim tomorrow. He's holding some of your stuff."

"My CD's?"

"He's finished up the case. But he's waiting for YOU to give it to Akins."

"Wow. Didn't know he cared."

"He does think a lot of you."

"Lately I've wondered."

"Like a younger sister. A really ANNOYING younger sister."

"Don't you have some place to be?"

"I'll be waiting upstairs."

And dad was gone. Which left me with one last person to deal with.

I called out to the darkness."I… guess I'm not fired."

"You're not fired," his rumbling voice returned. I could feel him approaching.

"Am I benched?"

"We have this conversation too often lately."

"I keep screwing up."

"You're not benched."

I was skeptical. "You know what happened, with the Joker, I mean. And I'm not benched?"

"You're not benched."


"I have my reasons."

And they were never ever to be shared with others. "Are you mad at me? Do you hate me?"

"I don't hate you. I'm not angry either."

"Then what are you?" I asked.

"It is my fault that you were put in such a position."

I groaned. "I don't want any self-torture on your part, ok? I did it. I broke the rules, I went out, I screwed up."

"I'm sorry you went through it."

But. I could hear it in his voice. But something. I waited, staring at his boots. "And?" I asked presumptuously.

"But I thank you."

I sat down in the closest chair at hand.


 His voice almost filled with emotion and broke. "Taking the burden from me."

I was shocked into silence. Slowly, as I regained my wits, I realized what he was saying to me. All I could do was nod.

Intuitively, I understood him. It was why I never had asked for anything more of him than  partnership. I knew I'd be disappointed if I demanded the type of relationship I had with Grandpa Jim.

It was why I didn't bother him now by asking him to explain further, or pressing him.

"I've not broken the oath?" I asked.

He shook his head no, then vanished into the darkness of the cave.

"Well… then I guess I'll see you on the roof tops, then," I said softly.

I found a jacket of mine (I had a collection of clothes everywhere, it seemed), and stopped to put it on before I left the cave. It was spring, but it was still pretty cold without your Kevlar to keep you warm.

As I pulled it on me, I heard the transporter sputter. It radiated a small green light, and I wondered briefly if I was going to get in trouble for Lantern finding his way here. But when the light faded, no one was there.

If it was malfunctioning, my parents and I had been lucky to not have been toasted earlier when we came though. I walked over to it to inspect. Upon looking, I found the bear on the pad. I picked him up, and removed the rolled mint parchment attached to his neck with a bow. With quick fingers, I unrolled and read.

Sorry, Robin. You have to keep the bear. My own next rough patch you can reciprocate with the toy of your choice. I love ya, you imperfect lioness.

Smiling, I  crumbled the note and shoved it in my pocket. His total ability pretend something on an emotional level hadn't happened was either a credit to his ability to make me feel more comfortable, or he was in denial of Bat-proportions. I just hoped to myself that his next 'rough patch' could wait till I was in the clear with my own, and that he didn't expect bears with bat-symbols plastered across their chest.

Pausing for a moment, I squeezed the little green fuzz ball to my chest, burying my head in it's fur. It still vaguely held the smell of him. It tempered my aching heart and filled me with a breath of renewed hope with which to face the challenges ahead.

I'd survive this moment and all the moments to come, I told myself. Jordan's image in my mind and his name on my lips, I took the steps two at a time.

The End….For Now.