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
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
"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
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
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.
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
I couldn't even fathom the confirmation that it was from
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.
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.
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
"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.
I started crying harder. "Go away!" I demanded with the most
energy I'd had since waking.
"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.
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
"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.
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.
"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.
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
"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."
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?
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."
I shook my head no.
"I came to talk," I whispered.
He sat on the arm of the chair. I didn't deserve him, or his
"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.
He looked honestly surprised. "What're you talking about?
Everyone in Young Justice is still here, and bodily intact. And you and
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.
I clenched my eyes shut. "
"Mara, you kept us all under control. We went up against
"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?"
He turned in the chair a little to look me in the eye.
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.
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.
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. "
"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
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
He took his feet off the counter top. "I can. As long as you
promise me you're
"It… it wont be a problem for much longer, Mr.
He started punching in the pass code at his console and I
pushed the coordinates on the
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,
"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.
"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
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
I let out a few raged breaths. They both seemed to be
looking at me and waiting for something.
"I'll take care of her," Kyle said. He replaced
Kyle leaned into
"I'll be right back,"
"No!" I screamed. "Stay here!" I knew he was going to call my dad.
"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.
"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
"Ok. We need to have a talk here. Just a guy named Kyle and a girl named Martha."
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."
"Last week, I locked my keys in my car."
"Bet you used the ring to get it out."
"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.
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?
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
"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?"
"Ok. Have you ever screwed up before? Say like… when you were ten?"
"Ok. And maybe Batman made a
"My point is
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. "
I lowered my head, defeated.
"Good, I'm glad you're listening to reason.
"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
I nodded. I still wanted to crawl into a hole and hide.
He got really quiet, and I began looking around. "Where's
"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
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,
"We'll behave ourselves. I
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?
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
"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
"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.
Mom smacked dad. "Dick, you idiot!
"You threatened to WHAT?" Kyle didn't look happy.
I had to smile. He had such a good heart, really. I'd meant
"Why didn't you tell me about this,
"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."
My dad nodded, putting an arm on my shoulder.
Why did I have the feeling HE had heard our conversation too?
I let my parents lead me back to the
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
"Bruce? A minute with my kid?" dad asked.
"Hey. I'll leave you and your dad," mom said with a smile.
"Do I really want to be left alone?"
"It's not a big lecture," she promised me. "I think you know
that if you ever did try
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…
Mom rolled herself away.
That left me and dad… gulp.
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
"Am I being asked to get my own gig?"
"See, I knew I'd screw this up.
"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
"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.
"So, shall I set up a meeting to make introductions?"
I nodded my ascent. I could do this, right?
"Ok. If we're all good, I am going to get ready to take your
mom home. I have to get back to
"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
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."
"He's finished up the case. But he's waiting for YOU to give it to Akins."
"He does think a lot of you."
"Lately I've wondered."
"Like a younger sister.
"Don't you have some place to be?"
"I'll be waiting upstairs."
And dad was gone.
I called out to the
"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'm sorry you went through it."
"But I thank you."
I sat down in the closest chair at hand.
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
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,
"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