Thanks to Charlene for Beta help. Thanks
to Brendan for being an assistant author and for single-handedly developing
I don't own, surprise surprise.
The Hard Way
I climbed the first two flights of
stairs to Club Lava with ease. Flight number three was a bit of a challenge,
due to the array of human refuse littering the steps. "You're a fire hazard!" I
grumbled to the kids as I passed. I was too old for this. I was graduating in a
semester from college, and these kids looked like they weren't even in eleventh
"Ten dollars," the bearded blonde bouncer said as I
attempted to enter.
"I'm just here to pick up my brother," I explained.
"I can hold your ID, then give it
to you when come out."
That was reasonable. I fished it out of my wallet and handed
it over. He gave it a brief glance to ensure it was legit, then
let me pass. I found that kind of amusing, considering the amount of illegal
activity I'd seen since I came in off the street. Great place for my seventeen
year old brother to hang out, you say? I quite agree.
Crossing the threshold, I was met with an assault on my
senses. The techno music was loud and wordless, the air hung thick with
artificial atmosphere, cigarette smoke and pot. Somewhere among these aromas
was the lingering tinge of sweat. I began scanning the room through the dancing
red lights for a tall kid with dark hair. Unfortunately, sans the tall thing,
that was most of the people in the room. As I began walking through the throngs
of teenagers, I contemplated my situation. I was too tall and too old to be
here. When I found Jimmy, he was exceptionally dead.
cursory scan of the room produced nothing. He was not in the line
of people gossiping behind the DJ. He was not sitting at the foot of the stage
with the pot smokers. He wasn't even hanging in the back of the room, where the
drug deals were happening. What I really wanted to do was drop some smoke
pellets, make the losers fall like fruit flies and find my brother that way. It
wouldn't be good, necessarily, but I was NOT in the mood to deal with these
If he wasn't near the drug dealers, that
left one spot: the bathroom. Slipping through the crowed, I walked unabashed
into the men's room. And lo and behold, my brother was in the corner wearing
army fatigues and a purple boa. I would rip him a new one for this little
outfit, even though it seemed to fit in with everyone else's wardrobe. "Time to
go home, Scruffy," I told him.
"You're a freak," he informed me as he exited the bathroom
with speed I'd never have thought possible. "What're you doing here? This is my
case. Well, mine and dad's."
"Stuff it, twip. I'll explain when
we're out of here." I wiped a line of sweat from my brow. All these bodies
produced WAY too much heat.
I grabbed my ID from the body guard, who complemented my
brother on the boa, then we started down the steps.
"Congratulations," I informed
him without emotion. "You were just hit on by a guy."
"I hate you," he told me.
Out on the street, we waded
our way through a group of kids dressed just as… uniquely as my brother. We
headed up an alley, and when we were out of ear shot of the main street, he
stopped. "Ok, jerk-wad. Why're you screwing with my
"You're being pulled off of
it," I informed him.
You can't do that. Dad--"
"Look, Dad's missing. If you'd
have left your stupid ear piece in, you'd know that. He was helping grandpa
with something, and poof. Batgirl's out of touch, so that makes me senior
member of this expedition, and I'm yanking your ass out of the house of hash,
and I'm putting you on the 'get our partners back' project. That ok with you?"
God I hate how she can
just walk in and ruin everything. Four
years older than me and she thinks she's the senior member. Works with the frickin
Titans, why can't she go play with them for a while? She has a mental breakdown because Timmy
takes her case a few years ago, but she can waltz in here and pull me out of a
stake out. Like where's the equity in that? She's a total head-case, but she
can do whatever she wants. And me? I was working, and
I get the raw end. I was undercover for petesake.
"Well besides the
fact that I almost had the name I was in there all night for, and the damn
earpiece was generating feedback with the amps?
That's fine. So what does his Lordship
have Pop working on this time?"
I frowned. "You could show a little respect, you know
that?" I hated the way he always talked about my partner. Like he was evil or something. Yeah, Grandpa was grumpy, was
totally devoid of personality and generally was a drag at family gatherings,
but he ran the show. Period. "Ra's
"I thought Ra's was YOUR deal."
"I was out of town tonight,"
"Probably fucking Little
"Bite me, asswipe. You're
here because you speak Arabic and we're going east."
on. What do you need my help for? Didn't you kick his ass naked or
"What part of I don't fucking speak Arabic do you
have trouble with?" I knew this was a mistake. My brother was a complete
waste of human flesh.
made it to her car, and I sat quiet. She
does the brooding thing way better than dad does, but I know which buttons to
push. Finally I asked again. "What happened?"
She didn't respond. Well,
are you going to tell me or not? Ok, Bitch. I have an idea. I'd do what I do
I pulled out a stick of
gum, "Want one? It's yer fave, Minty."
"Fuck off," I told him. I wanted to just kick
the living shit out of him on a regular basis, but I even laid a hand on him,
*I* was the one in trouble. It was the perpetual problem with my family. We've
worked through a lot of issues over the years, but the issues with my brother
have forever remained a constant.
"Tell me what's going on."
"I don't fucking know. Oracle lost communication with
half the JLA around midnight. She lost everyone else just after that. We still
can't pick up contact with Batgirl. We couldn't even hail Tim to get him out of
retirement. There's something jamming,
but she managed to open up a second channel for a few minutes to at least hail
me and let me know about the trouble. Apparently our guys took the Batwing to
and were headed east. I came back from New York just in time for Batman and Nightwing to blip off the map. And I was doing Titans
"As opposed to doing Little Lantern.
Musta been a first for you."
I ignored him and continued on. "The strong hold that
Oracle was investigating was outside Egypt. Hence the need
for someone who speaks Arabic. For once in your life, you're going to be
useful, so don't screw it up."
unlike some people, Killer. I don't screw up." Had to duck away from the
reflexive punch. Got to admit I'm
I HATED when he called me that. And I knew what it was
about, too. He never missed an opportunity to bring that up. The rest of my
family had forgiven me, I'd nearly forgiven myself… the Justice League
pretended like they never even heard it… and the second my father's back was
turned, he was calling me that… that name again.
Despite the fact I wasn't allowed to kick his ass, I threw
a punch while driving. Little bugger was getting faster. He had to be, all he
did was piss people off. If everyone who he irritated beat him up, he'd just be
a mound of battered flesh full of pulverized bones. "You know, I pray
every night that Blockbuster'll make me an only
child. Obviously God's punishing me, because you still live." I took a
deep breath. Count to ten, breathing exercises… something, anything.
Superboy and I had buried the
hatchet when he'd stopped playing games and started leading YJ. That left my
brother. He was the only person in the world that could get me THIS worked up.
"Can we just shut up and work on this case?"
"Fine, can we swing by
home before we save the world. As much as I want to save the world wearing sparkle blue nail polish." I grimaced, I wasn't going
anywhere with her without the suit.
"Your uniform's in a
duffel bag under the seat. There's nail polish remover in the glove box. You're
NOT going home. We don't have time. Ra's is always on a short time table by the
time Batman gets involved. That means WE are on a short time table."
"How's mom feel about
"Mom doesn't know. I
lost communication with her after we lost Batman and Nightwing."
"I'm not sure I wanna go, if mom doesn't know."
"Sissy. Listen, we are the ONLY people who can do this job,
until mom finds a way around the communication problems. Like what is your
PROBLEM? You scared of partnering with me?"
"How do I know you're
not doing this just to get me killed?" Hell, this whole thing could just
be a vast plot on her part to make sure I end up dead.
"Cause dad would have
my head and that's the only reason you're still alive. And none of this
side-kick shit. Dad watches after you like some little baby or something.
You're going to have to pull your own weight with me."
"Hey, we're partners, I watch him, and he
watches me. OK?" I opened the glove box and pulled out the
stuff. God it was rank. I put it back. "Your partner lets you
get hurt unnecessarily and you like it that's fine. I need a drink, pull over
here." I pointed at the nearest gas
station. It was time for my pills. "Did you bring them?"
She was silent.
God, Mara! How can you make me go with you if you don't
even know anything? I need my
know that!" Damn.
Damn, don't panic, she's not stopping,
I've done this before without them. I
just have to be real careful.
Ok, got to play it off or
she'll send me away and tell everybody.
"Crap. You probably forgot the knockout gas pellets too."
"Oh my god. Like what kind
of person takes vitamins four times a day? Are you THAT big of a
hypochondriac?" I swore, this was some kind of
hold-over from a bunch of years back when he met Scarecrow for the first time.
He now had this fear of getting sick or something that never went away. When I
mentioned it to dad, he said taking the vitamins didn't hurt anything, and it
was really his only hang up so let it go. When I talked to Bats about it, he'd
just do the typical thing and not respond at all. My brother was SUCH a
I passed the quickie mart and kept going. Our partners had
the plane, which left us to find our own way east. We had to be at grandpa's air
strip in twenty minutes. That didn't leave time for his vitamin break. Damned freak.
From that moment, I made it my sworn duty to toughen him
up. Dad might play into his stupid little games, but I wasn't going for it.
She passed the store and
kept driving. God, I hated her.
Great she thinks I'm
mental, at least I'm not useless. That was some small satisfaction—she needed
ME on this expedition.
I began muttering at her
in Arabic, then switched to Romany after she quit
looking at me. she
never learned dad's heritage either. She
doesn't deserve him.
My brother started out in what I assumed to be Arabic, then moved to something else. Probably
Romany. So he spoke fourteen languages? Did that make him special or
"What the hell?" I yelled as this guy cut us
off. We were half a mile away from grandpa's private air strip. "Those
yield signs are for everyone else!"
"Screaming in my ear, again!"
He was SUCH a twip.
"I don't care about you, or your freaking ears,"
I informed him harshly as the car in front of us stopped and the driver got
out. I recognized him as one of Ra's faithful followers. "This is about to
get ugly. Hold on."
I put the car into reverse and slammed on the gas.
"See? I knew it. You're going to get me killed."
"Bat-bitch," he muttered.
I backed up enough to do a J-turn, and then took off.
"Shit. Three guys," I told him. "See the
two sedans on the other side of the road? They're after us too. The second we
come around this bend, we're toast."
"Then don't go around the fucking bend!" he
"You think this driving thing's easy?" I
screamed as I cut the breaks to do another J turn. We jerked against the seat
belts, then went back the way we came. "You've
only had your license for a year, buster!" I sped up, trying to ditch my
two guys in the sedans. It had begun drizzling. Perfect. "So don't tell me
how to drive!"
This was the problem with Ra's. He knew our identities,
and he wasn't afraid to use 'em.
The sedan on the left was an armored job, and it looked
like the engine had been worked on too, because when he gunned it, he got
closer. Right over my left rear wheel, to be exact.
"We're gonna get hit!" And if he hit me
where he was planning on, there'd be no way to control the spin-out. These guys
were obviously professional drivers.
Two seconds later, his right front smashed into our left
back, and we spun out. I tried to regain control, but we'd gone off the burr
and into the grass, and we were spinning down a slight incline. Ah, fuck. I was
going to roll the car. She was mine, I built her, and I hated when something
like this happened.
The right front wheel hit first, and we rolled twice, then came to a stop. Upside down.
"You ok?" I asked. Not cause
I cared, I swear. "We gotta get the hell out of
here. Come on." Unfortunately, it wasn't moving. "Come on, fuck-face,
undo your seat belt!"
Great! The first time you partner with your little
brother, and you get him killed! I reached over, he had a pulse. That was good.
If I had gotten him killed, dad'd be pissed.
He moaned. "Come on, for God sakes. Undo your seat
belt. I can pull you out this side..." I unbuckled myself with one hand,
while holding myself in a sitting position with my arm
pressed against the ceiling. "I quit," I told him. The men were
getting closer, I could feel them. Two on my side, two on my
brother's side, one at the hood of the car.
I unbuckled his seat belt. "Will you wake up,
already? When they open the door, kick hard."
I realized that even though he'd hung out with Young
Justice when I'd been in charge, I'd never tested his capabilities. I had no
idea what my brother could do in the field.
There was a second when I
blacked out, but I got myself back together again. It was kind of easy—all I
had to do was concentrate on my sister's bitchy voice. It could cause even
someone in a coma to wake—this way they could get up out of bed and smack her
upside the head. Or at least
that was the thought that made me smile a little as consciousness
came back and she started yelling more.
I was in a real bad spot.
It took both of us almost ten seconds to get the seat belt to release. By then
the guys were opening up the door. I had to figure out some way to make this
quick. I had to keep myself outta trouble.
Brain working hard,
work... um pen, polish remover, duffle bag itself. Shit, I don't have my
things. The door opens I spray the first
guy with the polish remover. Grabbing
the duffle bag I flip out and take one good kick then up and on top of the
car. Gotta put
on the suit, Never fought without it.
Where's Mara? Spin kick, keep them back. Pen to the hand. THAT'S
going to need stitches. Shit shit... She is so going to get me killed.
The door opened and I kicked out as hard as I could. I got
the first guy, the second was a little quicker. Remind
me why I couldn't wear my utility belt with my civvies again? I hated Ra's
guys, they were always trained too damned well-and more specifically, they were
trained to handle US. Another car pulled up and more men got out. I had five
guys on me now, and the twip only had two.
"It's on you," I told him as I saw him deliver
another kick. He kicked WAY too much for a guy.
"RIGHT," he said.
It was. He had less attackers.
Didn't he understand? Youth and being a side-kick were both horribly
underestimated, especially by Ra's and his men. Jimmy had the advantage.
My arms were pulled behind my back. "A
little help here!" I yelled as I ducked and pushed my weight
forward, pushing the goon over top of me. I got up quickly, trying to assess.
It wasn't good that he was on the other side of the car and I couldn't see him.
Ducking, the flying fist of one of the men missed me from behind. With all my
strength, I slammed him in the stomach, knocking him to the ground. Rolling off
of him, I tried to back up far enough away from the car that I could see him.
"Fuck!" I screamed when I realized I still
couldn't see him. Where was he? "REPORT!" I
kicked the next guy in the face. I'd had three down, but one was getting back
up. I needed to make this quick, especially since butt-munch wasn't responding.
There she was, she let them get too close. Bat teaches her that. I thought that was part
of how the Gotham folks were all a little nutso. She and her partner were the worst. Batgirl… well,
she was like from some other planet. She and Mara both shared this need to bust
out of everything. Like now. Couldn't she find a
better way out of this? Guess not.
Timmy was still neurotic,
though semi-retired. He was probably the only person who didn't think busting
heads THEN asking questions was a good idea.
Can't wear my suit, I
suppose I should still use it. If she
were Dad she'd know all the moves. The
only weapon I have is the steel-toed boots.
One of my guys is down and out the other one has a tazer. I have to evade, get some running space.
"Mara! Down!" I fling the
duffle at the one that has her pinned, it hits him in the back and he's
startled. Ra's doesn't know me. I'm just the side-kick. I have no weapons. Kick, keep kicking. "Report this!" One good shot into the goon's knee. We can beat them if she's smart.
"Fucking hell," I muttered as I delivered the
blow that left my guy unconscious. "About damned
time." My partner didn't let me swear. I was abusing the
opportunity. And my brother moved me to profanity.
SKIPPY!" I yelled. What the hell was he doing with that bag? Nice
use of every day objects, but don't give your uniform away! "BEHIND
Stupid move, stupid, she
doesn't have anything. WHY doesn't she
have anything? I thought she was perfect. I let my eye get off my guy and
"YAAH!!!" Damn tazer. "You are
trying to kill..." and the ground came up to see me.
Aww, fuck. I tried to warn him.
"You can come quietly. Or we can kill him," my
brother's attacker informed me in broken English. A knife slid from his trench
coat pocket, and came to rest along his pasty white throat.
"You can kill him," I said flippantly as my last
two assailants closed in on me.
"If that were true," the man with the knife said
in a thick accent, "then you would not be the Detective's little
I put my hands on my hips. "News
flash. I'm his BIG partner. The fish you caught right there? THAT is a
sidekick. And I hate him, so there." But the guy had me. I was stuck. They
were on the other side of the car. There was no way to get to him before he'd
slit Jimmy's throat. And I still had two guys between me and Jimmy.
He spun the knife in his hand. "Chain her!"
Ok, I could get outta chains. Let just
play along, for now.
I don't do unconscious
very often. Dad's better than that. He anticipates, has tools, keeps
his eye on me. I'm just a
side-kick. God I hope I didn't cut
myself. Anyway, unconsciousness is a lot
like being held by Crystal. She's a year
younger than Mara, but she's so fun to be with.
She cares about me. She's the
only one I can open up to besides dad.
And her kisses, mmmm how can a girl who's
power is creating ice be so incredibly warm?
She does this thing on my back with her fingers projecting ice and her
mouth kissing each spot when I bruise. Icy/hot, therapeutic and arousing.
But of course I also found
out that unconsciousness doesn't last as long as you'd like it to. When I woke up I was just getting to the part
where she was running those cold fingers across my neck, and moving up to my
ear. Turned out that it wasn't her fingers. I was scared, cause
I knew it was a knife. I kept limp. Dad says that if you're down and they know
you're down then you have surprise.
Surprise and planning can win over brawn any day.
keep telling yourself that. No blood, thankyouthankyouthankyou, stay limp. Listen in.
Intel, gotta have intel. I need my suit.
I need my pills. I need dad. Ican'tdothismyself. Stow that.
Be like her. Be like Robin. The oath. I wanna tell
Crystal I love her. Shit.
Ok, small peek, they're chaining
her. The knife is right there. I am such a screw up. I thought I could do this. Mom was right. I have an elbow right there if I could just
be sure I won't get cut. No no she can escape chains,
she has her emergency kit in her shoe.
Well, I know I do. They're taking
My hands were pulled behind my back, and I was restrained.
That's when I notice the little bastard is awake. When we survived this, I was
going to kill him.
Even though he was supposedly out, they did the same to
him. Damn, these things were heavy.
"So, what's the plan, chimps?" I asked.
"Kill the kids? Take 'em to your grand and
I was twenty-two. I was above kid age, but they didn't
need to know that.
"You, be quiet," I was told as we were both
placed in the Sudan that hadn't hit us. Good. They'd brought Jimmy's bag. That
was a relief. We were still in good shape.
My brother was a dead boy when we were done, but we were still in good
About an hour into our little drive, Jimmy pretended to
wake up. I mean… you can't stay asleep forever. Of course, my brother being in
a coma would have been a blissful thing.
"Hey, don't go through that bag!" I called out
from the back seat. The gun to my head pressed a little further into my flesh.
"What the hell?" my brother asked. "That's
fucking baseball equipment! Mara, you're a complete shit-head!"
The man pulled out catcher's equipment-pads, a glove…
I scowled at him. "So I grabbed the wrong bag!"
I hadn't. It was SUPPOSED to look like that. I didn't need any Wayne
Enterprises employee wondering why I had an arsenal in that bag, in addition to
my costume and my brother's. Oh yeah… going to see Grandpa. We're NOT
vigilantes or anything, though. And he is so totally NOT Batman.
The little buggers were
talking in their native tongue, but it didn't tell us much we didn't already
know or surmise. Everywhere Ra's went, that guy collected followers. He had
people and pits everywhere. Last time, Mara got to go to Canada to kick his
That left me with one
thing… I had to play along with her. I
knew she was upset with me, but we needed the intel. I know
they don't know about me. I know they
can't know Crystal taught me Arabic, even if this Ra's guy pretends to know all
and see all. Just let em tell us what's going on.
I look right at Mara and use my eyebrows to ask for the plan. She's either oblivious or hasn't made one
yet. Those goons tied me up good, but
she can reach my shoe. Or at least if
she were thinking right now she'd be going for my shoe.
His eyebrow went up. Ok. I can deal with that.
"YOU are such a fuck," I told him tersely. My
captor didn't know what to make of the fact we had turned on each other. They
were muttering to each other. Good, say something we can use. Jimmy… I hope
you're getting all this.
He looked invariably disgusted with me. Like… you have no
fucking idea what you're doing. Look, I know, ok… But I guess if he didn't know
I knew, that was ok too.
"I can't believe you. I warned you. But do you
listen? NOOO. We wouldn't be here right now if it
weren't for you."
Come on, dickweed. Insult me
"I can not believe
this. You really are trying to kill me
aren't you, Killer? Geeze. There were rocks, pebbles, a fuckin' tree branch, anything…but no. Don't you fucking understand teamwork? I look after you, and you do the same."
I push my shoe into her hand, come on Mara you're the Bat's partner, pony up
and remember that sidekicks keep the spare shit. "You want me to die. You fucking want me out of your life so you
can have them to yourself! You mint-sucking ass."
That ought to get them confused.
"Hey! Hey buddy.
I'll fucking sign up with ol Wraith you'll let
me have a go at her. Come on. You can't know what hell it is to be her
brother. Maybe you can throw her in the pit so she can regrow
her personality, her sense of family!"
"You leave Little Lantern out it, you sissy assed
butt-wipe boy. He's twice the man you'll ever be, and he can kick your ass
without the ring. You can't do shit, even IN costume." I pushed his foot down. Now wasn't the time.
We need to get where we're going.
I leaned forward. "You can take him! Take him and do
whatever the hell you want with him. You're right, I want you to die! I want to
be an only child!"
"You two stop!"
They didn't know what the hell to do with us. Same thing
our parents did, when I still lived in the 'Haven. Either scream or yell, or
smack us. Unfortunately, these guys didn't know the trick. That meant we kept
"I want to be the only child!" he said.
"I hate you, you suck," I informed him.
"And I got a just fine sense of family. I don't hide behind my dad."
"No, you hide behind your BAT."
"You fuck off."
I stomped my feet. I hoped Jimmy was getting the hint.
"Lemme hit him! Just one good shot is all I
need." I needed them to really knock the shit out of me.
"You can't get it in one good shot!"
I lunged for him. "That's it, you asshole! You're
dead! I'm going to be an only child because I am going to kill your ass!"
I started trying to bite him.
"Get Off Of
Me!!!" I do not do the voice. I'm getting the deeper voice but when I'm mad
and I yell it's deafening, especially in this small space. I knee her in the face. "You're already doing a great job of
killing my ass!"
She's going nuts on me and
I just play along because I know she has a plan. She wants to know where they're taking us(I hope that's it).
I want in my suit. "What you gonna gnaw
off my kneecap? You bottom feeding, do
the chores for the Titans because they can't trust you to not kill somebody,
more neurotic than Tim--psycho! You
fucking belong in Arkham just for thinking the
Knights are a great team." Where
did she want to go with this, Stomping, Mr. Ed? Kick a baddie? Come on give me
"DIE YOU STUPID SON OF A BITCH!" I avoided
head-butting, even though that normally would have been my first option, I
needed him conscious. I didn't WANT him conscious, because I was sure he meant
everything he was saying, but I needed him.
"DONT BRING MY MOTHER INTO THIS!"
"The bitch is going to kill him!" They were
trying to pull me off of him.
"DIE FUCKER! DIE!" I
kneed him in the leg.
I knew what was coming behind me. I grinned then winked as
the butt of the gun came down on the back of my head. Nighty night. Keep yourself
out of trouble, kid.
damn. I was
all by myself again. Dad may put me out
on stake outs but I do not go into full battles alone. Ever. It's not that I don't want to. I'm a team player.
Just for the sake of
appearances, and because she really deserves it, I get in one good kick before
they pull her unconscious body back.
She's bleeding a little behind her ear.
God I wish Kon or Crys
were here, or at least in on it. I missed YJ.
Ok the only thing I can do
is stay put, listen to the goons and hope they are going to let something
better slip soon.
Soon being… Damn.
The blood under her ear
had congealed already. What-- that takes
like three minutes. I tried looking
around outside. Lower
New York, Farm country. They said
something about taking us to some sort of private airfield.
I looked at her
again. It's not that I really want her
dead. She's just screwed up, like her
"partner." Every day she ever worked with Grandfather she got colder,
more distant, and mean. The thing with
Two-Face and Joker really messed her up and they didn't yank her. If something like that were to happen to me
and I'd be on the sidelines with mom, in a heartbeat. I should be now. I'm not even a real crime fighter. I'm just one of dad's tools, and I'm so glad
to be out here with him.
don't understand why she's so neurotic.
Is it because she hangs with Him?
She's got it all. She gets to be
Robin. She gets a car,
she has a great sense of humor. I have
every time she's ever dressed down Kon on tape. I listen to the highlights with Uncle Roy for
fun. Dad lets her be herself. I have to prove myself every night. I have to be so damn careful. She's invincible. But she keeps going mental on us. I hate her for that. Can't she see how much fun this job is?
get up every morning, go to school, and instead of hang out with those losers
at school, I get to fly! I help Dad save people every day. It's not a crusade to be out here. It's an honor, and all she does is try to
throw that away. Her dumb geek boyfriend
knows what I mean. He at least is able
to laugh on a mission. He and I get
along. She hates that. I call him Minty,
he calls me sidekick. He actually knows
how to utilize me in a mission. I keep
telling him he needs a normal girl. My
sister is such an ass.
we make it to an airport and stop by a Learjet.
No name on the side, so I know it's private, gotta
be ol ghul's private
plane. Good news, we'll be first class,
bad news we'll be in chains and we don't get to see Patch Adams on the way to
of the goons come for us. One throws
Robin over his shoulder the other shoves me into the Hanger. Duffle bag is where? The suit's under the lining. If I can get that on I may just be able to
get a diversionary tactic up while she gets her plan underway. Unless her plan was to kill me in which case
I'm on my own and I have to think of something.
goons take us to opposite ends of the hanger, I get locked into an office—and
of course, I get more guards than someone who's unconscious. Stupid bad guys, thank you
for separating us. Maybe it was smart, since I'm pretty sure she's going to wake up
remembering I called her a worse-than-Tim-Psycho. I'm tired of this.
roll around and thrash a while till I'm sure they aren't watching and then
reach behind me to my shoe. I'm not as
flexible as she is, but I can pick a lock faster. Dad has contests at Christmas. I'm faster, I'm finally taller, and I never
leave a set up line hanging. It only
takes a moment to get out of the chains.
I carefully and quietly lay them on the couch.
I dropped down out of the vent
in full Robin regalia when he had the chains off.
"About fucking time," he muttered,
taking his costume from me.
I blinked, trying to clear the
"Sorry. They clocked me a
little better than I thought. See, I had a plan. I ALWAYS have a plan."
"Getting your brains bashed
out was part of the plan? You're sick."
"Hey. Look. ALL of our guys
are down for the count. Betcha didn't know there were
seven more guys at the other end of the hanger, taking care of the jet. I got our bag back. I got our arsenal back. I
got the correct coordinates for Ra's joint…after you interpret them, and our
partners' location. Lets see YOU do better, Crow-boy."
I kicked the door of the
office down. "You're flying," I informed him. "I hope you know that."
"What, you forgot how, or
"No. I can't freeking see straight, if that's ok with you." I handed him
a CD. "You're going to need this. It transmits proper codes to clear us at
their landing space. Your boot isn't zipped all the way. Come on, lets go." I don't know why I cared if he didn't zip his
boot, it just matter a whole lot somehow.
As we boarded said plain, I
rubbed the caked dry blood off my neck. "Got any wipies
in those gauntlets of yours?"
"What the hell do I look like?
A baby-changing station? You and your partner're always bragging how you can keep more in a belt
than on the rest of your person… where're YOUR wipes."
I groaned and collapsed in the
"Wake me up when we get there," I whispered,
then turned my head to a comfortable spot in the chair.
"Are you sure you should be sleeping?" he asked
"I'll be fine," I grumbled.
"If you go into a coma, and I have to save them
myself? I'm gonna kill you."
This was going to be a
long flight. I sat at the controls,
comfortably encased in the suit. Kevlar
on the outside, cool gel casing inside to soften blows. I'm probably the only person in the
business that wears a helmet. My sister picked on me, called it my 'tribute to
Booster Gold, but it kept me safe. And it had a lot of cool computer stuff.
That's another thing I
hate about her. What a great plan. Bash your brains out and sleep through the
mission then show up when I was planning to rescue us. Damn.
She was probably possuming like I did while she got lose of the chains. She's so dang perfect.
She's going to have an
ulcer before she's 23. The guy mom takes
me to at STAR Labs thinks we're all crazy, but I can at least laugh about
it. She has to loosen up. She probably has a concussion right now. I reach over and check her pulse. Her arm stiffens a moment then relaxes. She murmurs something about Jordy. God, he
probably kisses her there.
I wouldn't mind… that is,
if getting some green ass made her less ornery.
I woke with a start, sitting straight up with wide eyes.
"Another nightmare?" my brother asked snidely. He took
sick pleasure in knowing my sleep was troubled. What the hell did HE have to
worry about? He was probably the only one of us out there that didn't have some
sort of private demon to assuage. He just went out there, did it, had a great
time, and to hell with everything else.
"No," I lied. Yes, it was another nightmare. And I always
woke up at the same part—hot brains spraying my face. "Remembered
the Finance midterm on Monday."
If it gives you nightmares so damned bad, you're probably in the wrong major."
I made a face. He thought I'd gone into business to make
grandpa happy. I'd tried the programming thing, with every
intent of following through, but I was bored out of my mind. At least
this was a little interesting. And only one more semester after this one!
"See, this all harkens back to my earlier point about you
needing a life."
"Bite me," I whispered, closing my eyes again.
She closed her eyes
again. Not good.
"Hey, Eat something. You'll
get a sugar imbalance and get cranky. I
found some stuff back there. I even found mint chocolate chip ice
cream." Get her mad and moving
around a little. That might help.
"Shut up. I'm fucking
fine. My head just hurts."
"Ok fine, don't have any steak then. I'll eat it myself."
I didn't respond. Maybe he'd
shut up. Usually I didn't have to keep going for a long time after getting
beamed in the head. Usually… I'd just finish the night
and we'd be done. Unfortunately, we were tripping over into hour twelve of this
adventure, and I hadn't had a real rest.
Shut up, I told myself. Batman could do it.
"Look, you better eat
something. You're not Batman you
know. You might have a concussion, an
infection, a brain hemorrhage or something; did I mention what a brilliant idea
it is to get hit with a .45?"
"It was PROBABLY a .33. You are
such a fucking hypochondriac," I muttered. "What could I do? I know those guys.
They'd have drugged our asses as soon as we were on the plane, then we'd be
wherever dad and grandpa are. I'm not trying to be fucking Batman,
I'm trying to SAVE Batman, you fucking…"
I let my head roll back onto the
chair. "I'm fucking fine. Leave me the fuck alone."
I took a few deep breaths. He was the only person in the world that pissed me
off so bad that I lost control. The breathing exercises worked just fine to
keep me from throwing up—that was—when the twip kept
his mouth shut. I pressed my hand to my stomach, as if that could make the
contents stay inside there. "I'll be fine by the time we get there."
"Isn't nausea a symptom of concussion? How many fingers?" He flipped me off.
"I'm going to break that thing off," I informed him. "Then
how'll you fuck your girlfriend?" I lunged for his finger and almost fell out
of the chair. "I don't have a fucking confussion."
"Oh shit. Call
mom right now. Cause I'd better get you
to a hospital."
"I'm fucking fine. Can't call mom, retard. Ra's is
blocking us. I already tried boosting a signal over his obstruction. And were like over the fucking ocean. Do you have fucking
ADD or something?"
He grunted. He was probably rolling his eyes under that
Booster Gold wanna-be visor of his. "Amateur. Lemme see that
"I thought you were flying?" I pulled off my ear piece,
the circuitry from my belt and the power supply.
"Ok, first of all, retard. You're not going to be able to
do it with that. Try this." He removed his own power supply.
"What the crap is that? That isn't even Star-technology."
I didn't even recognize the thing.
"Fifth grade science project. Now
hook the two together. Make sure mine is attached directly to the transmitter.
What you're going to do is use mine to power your transmitter, then use yours to power the on-board computer in my power
"What the hell do you need a computer in a battery for?"
"It modulates signal, regulates amperes, controls systems
within the suit, makes toast, and a few other things."
"Cute." My hands were trembling as I connected everything.
"Oh my God. You are so slow. You
got pliers in that damned superior belt of yours?"
"Bite me," I muttered, getting it all attached. "How the
hell do you input anything into—never mind," I said as the front facing of the
supply popped off. That left me with an LCD and some buttons. "You have too
much fucking time on your hands if you can build this shit."
"You scoff, but you're using it."
"Scoff? Who the hell says—It's
beeping at me."
"The battery's charged. That's all that means."
"Yeah, it's charging off of MY power pack."
"What the hell do YOU need it for?"
"Tazer," I said snidely.
"Ok, that tazer freaking hurt,
so shut up about it already. Look. What you have to do is create a signal where
the sine of the wave--"
"Quit talking so fast. How do
I?" I couldn't figure out how to work the display. Not with my head swimming.
"Look. Ok. I'm not even going
to bother explaining it to your ass. It's obviously over the top at this
point—now that you left half your brains all over a car in New York."
I winced at the thought of
leaving brains anywhere—a harkening back to my nightmare.
"Just do what I tell you to,
can you handle that?"
"I hate you."
"Alright, Little Miss Low
"Oh man… shut up."
threw a candy bar at her. She glared at
me. I glared back. I glared at the instrument panel. I glared back at her again. The Glaring would have been cooler if I hadn't
had my helmet on. I was starting to get
a little tired.
you hurry up with that? I wanna call Crys when you're done
getting screamed at by mom."
"Ok, see, I knew you were screwing that
know, you two USED to be team-mates."
I recall, she instigated the great rebellion against me."
know. It was so fucking cool. By the way, I am not screwing her! We make out
passionately, but she wants to wait till my birthday."
Cause she turned 21 and you two fucking suddenly
wasn't legal any more? Were you screwing BEFORE she turned 21?"
damn it because unlike you rabbits it means something to us. It's not a cure all ointment to why my life
the hell said I was screwing Little Lantern? Who the hell said we were even
crap, Mara. You two have practically
eloped twice already. Will you open your
eyes and look at the situation? I'd be
happy for you if you weren't such a bitch.
And would you PLEASE not splice that wire to that one or you'll fry the
damn thing." What, was she
"God. Fine. Ok. We're… we're seeing each other." Exclusively and
seriously, she failed to add.
An admission. What the hell did I tell you about that
have too many damned wires running here. How the hell am I supposed to know
which one? I don't know what the hell to
do about him, ok? Its… there're problems. Complications."
"Bullshit. For being in college you sure are an idiot. The black with the yellow stripe to the other black with yellow
stripe. Do you love
him?" Holy cow, she was talking
isn't just about love!" she said angrily, stripping the correct wires. "God. You think you know everything, you little punk. A
weekend relationship and any other time the Titans can drag me into New York
doesn't cut it!"
you do love him. Good. There is something in there then. What do you want? Picket fences? Hi honey how was your day? He's a damn SUPER
hero. Except for Bats, we're just guys
in suits. Get over it. Move to New York. Change your name and join JLA, you're fucking
Marry the twip. Just quit making a goddam
mountain out of a mole hill. You love
him. I know he loves you, he sits there
at meetings saying 'I love her' to himself and making those stupid pandas you
I took a
breath. "That's why I hate you so
much. You have to make everything so
much harder than it is. Get Zen, or Epicurean
or something. Seize the fucking day,
Mara cause the next thing you know another one of us will have their costume in
a damn case in grandfather's cave!!!"
silence was slicing through my brain just like her look. I flicked my visor up and wiped a tear then
quickly shut it again. I didn't want her
to see how shocked I was at that outburst.
glared at him, then concentrated on the wires… or I
pretended to. I couldn't move my fingers to twist them around each other. I
licked my lips, thinking. There had been some snippidy
comment on the edge of my lips, until the end. Costume in a
case in the cave. Like Stephanie.
think about that," I said quietly. "And… maybe… I don't want HIM to end up. You
know." Alone. "Face it. When it comes down to it… It's
probably going to be me. Not him." I pushed the transmitter off of my lap. "God. You don't get it. Just leave Gotham?
Once it's in you… you can't go. I feel guilty every minute I'm in New York. I
feel guilty every minute I'm with him." Why was I telling him this? Maybe in
the hopes it'd shut him up. "I don't know how dad could ever leave. I HAVE to
be there. And… as much as I HAVE to be there… that's how much he can't be there…
God. You don't get it. You really DON'T get it. We're
from two fucking different worlds."
the hell was he screwing with his visor? What the hell was his problem?
think this is so fucking easy. YOU're not in Gotham every night. You don't know how it… gets into you."
it's not easy. It is not ever
easy." That was the first time I'd
ever heard him use the Voice. I despised
that he was taller than me… now he was going all Bat? "You
just do it. And you're perfect at
it. And I have to work so hard at
it. Because I know that one wrong step,
one screwed up move and I am a dead man."
What the hell was he talking about? "Quit looking at the damn trees
and... and just look at the forest. Make
it work Mara." He paused, "Make it work with Minty,
because you just open a door and you're like mom, or you have regrets like
Uncle Roy, or you have the best time every day you can, like Kyle does. Because one day, one of you
will make a mistake, like Spoiler.
And... and...oh fuck. I have to go
to the bathroom."
frowned. What the hell was he trying to say? I knew what he was saying… but it
was like information overload. I put my head in my hands. I wasn't fucking
perfect. And yeah, it seemed I spent a lot of time trying to just deal with
the hell was he obsessing over what COULD be? I had a hard time comprehending
my future—besides the logical thought that it was going to be me first—and that
he'd be better not… getting too attached. It seemed like… I'd go on forever as
I was... WE would go on forever as we were... unfulfilled. What did I want?
the hell did you do, fall in?" I called back. "You're wrong. I see the
forest." I thought I did, at least.
me alone!" He yelled
SEE THE FOREST, DAMNIT!" I took a deep breath. "I see the damned forest and the
trees. And all that shit. Look… I just CAN'T." I didn't know if he was even
listening to me, or cared. He seemed just intent on getting me all riled up,
then leaving. I bet he didn't even have to go to the bathroom. "And I guess you
love her. And it's reciprocated. And you don't feel ashamed or unworthy every
time she looks at you."
began working on the patch again. I didn't have the slightest idea why I was
doing what I was doing. Only that he'd told me to. How dare he accuse me of
being perfect, especially when I was so lost right now? And I could kill him…
he'd done it with the transmitter, and he'd done it in bringing up Jordy.
probably not listening to a damned word I say. Well, fine. I'll tell you something.
I worry every night. I worry it's gonna be grandpa's
suit in a case in the cave. I have nightmares that I'm the one that puts it
there, because I'm the only one that cares. Dad has Bludhaven.
Cassandra… she cares too. But I don't know if she can lead. I don't know if she
can run things. And Tim? He has Sammie to worry about.
He can't be a full time dad and run the show. Maybe it would be different if Steph were still here… no. it wouldn't. He'd be more
distracted. Who does that leave? It leaves ME. It leaves ME to close the glass
case, and it leaves ME… God damnit, Jimmy, get the
hell out here! I just lost the power to the LCD!" I knew I'd wired this thing
right. What was it's problem?
that's why I don't want him to get attached. Because some day
I'm going to be closing a glass case with a Bat suit in it, and then what?"
at least you enjoyed the time you had, honey." Mom's voice came over the speaker just as I
came back from the bathroom. My eyes were red from crying. I didn't get a chance to blurt out that that
meant she did it. "Where are you
"Oracle! I, I forgot my vitamins and she got clocked in the head, I
think it's a concussion."
isn't a concussion!" She cried out. "And make him shut up about the vitamins.
We're an hour out of Europe. I know where they're holding our people, and we're
going to get them out. Do you have communications with the Justice League back
I have is you two." The output crackled.
the output of your power pack!"
but the signal was breaking up.
"Damnit, he's latched on to this signal too." I looked at
the display. "We have another minute maybe," I told mom.
be careful, Mara watch out for him, I'll try and get a call out to somebody if
I have to send a pigeon." I looked
over the wiring she'd done and whacked the battery with my fist.
tell Crys... tell Crys that
the lessons paid off." Mara scowled
at me. "You got anything you wanna say? Twenty seconds before it fries."
everything you just heard—I don't know how much it was—don't
tell anyone. Just forget you heard it."
we lost mom, I slid out of the seat. "Don't bother me," I ordered, going into
something or something, while you're back there. You're not going to be a shit
of good if you're passing out."
curled up in one of the large chairs. My head hurt, but mostly I was just
emotionally raw and didn't want to deal with him any more. If I did, I'd say
more things I didn't intend to come out. Things weren't easy. Jordy… I didn't know why he stayed. I didn't know why he
put up with all of the things I put him through. But there he was. He was there
to pick me up every time I fell. Didn't he or my brother know how intimidating
needed to sleep this off. I needed to be ready for what was coming—because I
had a feeling my new partner wasn't up to the task. He'd surprised me a few
times the last day or so—but I didn't know if he was used to playing on the
level that Bats and I played on. He and dad had a totally different style. Then
again, they faced a totally different kind of enemy. Bats and I were used to
hitting hard and getting out. And Jimmy… well, he seemed opposed to just the
hitting aspect of it.
I was sure he'd leave me alone, I dared close my eyes. I could repair before we
were there, and then I'd be able to keep up our end of this rescue mission.
It was a
real quiet flight after that. I sat up
front and she sat in the back. I never
meant to give her a piece of my mind, but holy revelations, Nightwing,
I hope she understood. Deep down I did anyway. The
rational brain was screaming Moron at the top of its lungs.
was immortal, that's why Ra's likes screwing with him. He, he couldn't die.
stupid plane had to be owned by a villain, had great seats but no music. I played the passcode
cd and parked the plane on the tarmac. Then I saw the henchmen henching
their way over to the plane. I switched
Robin, we're here. What's the plan
appeared next to me. "We go kick their asses. No real way out of here without
fighting our way out." I was NOT happy
day you're going to find a way to get through a situation without cracking
herself between the seats and looked through the windows. "We can take 'em all. Don't hold anything back." She began readying
razors from her belt. Little miss prepared. "You know… we'd better watch our
just said we can take 'em."
has been too easy."
said before that Ra's underestimates us."
up, dork-face," she said as I began following her to the door. We might as well
meet our attackers, I supposed. "I'll watch for you. But you have to do this."
were almost to the door. "Fine, twad."
I guess we had to do this her way.
The End… for now.