I climbed the first two flights of stairs to Club Lava with ease

Thanks to Charlene for Beta help. Thanks to Brendan for being an assistant author and for single-handedly developing Jimmy's character.

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 grade.

"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.

A  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 people.

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 case?"

"You're being pulled off of it," I informed him.

"By who? 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 al Ghul."

"I thought Ra's was YOUR deal."

"I was out of town tonight,"

"Probably fucking Little Lantern."

"Bite me, asswipe. You're here because you speak Arabic and we're going east."

 "Oh come on.  What do you need my help for?  Didn't you kick his ass naked or something?"

"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.

**

 "Fine." We 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 best.

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 stuff, shitface."

"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."

**

"Hey, unlike some people, Killer.  I don't screw up."  Had to duck away from the reflexive punch.  Got to admit I'm getting faster.

**

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 this?"

"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.

"Oh God, Mara!  How can you make me go with you if you don't even know anything?  I need my vitamins.  Mom'd know that!"  Damn.

Damn 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 hypochondriac.

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 something?

"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."

"SHUT UP."

"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 informed me.

"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.

"Yo, 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 YOU!"

**

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 side-kick."

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.

Right, Jimbo, 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 dufflebag.

***

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 glorious leader?"

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 shape.

                                                @@--@@--@@

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 butt.

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 back.

**

"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 yelling.

"I want to be the only child!" he said. "Kill her!"

"Kill HIM!"

"Kill HER!"

"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."

"Fuck off."

"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 a clue.

**

"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 damn 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. 

I 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?

I 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. 

Eventually 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 wherever.

Two 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. 

The 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.

I 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 double vision.

"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 something?"

"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 copilot's chair.

"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 peevishly.

"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."

"Ri-ight. 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."

"Large vocabulary."

"Fuck-off." 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 thing."

"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 pack."

"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 Blood-sugar."

"Oh man… shut up."

**

I 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. 

"Would 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 bitch."

"You know, you two USED to be team-mates."

"As I recall, she instigated the great rebellion against me."

"I 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."

"Why? Cause she turned 21 and you two fucking suddenly wasn't legal any more? Were you screwing BEFORE she turned 21?"

"No damn it because unlike you rabbits it means something to us.  It's not a cure all ointment to why my life sucks."

"Who the hell said I was screwing Little Lantern? Who the hell said we were even going OUT?"

"Oh 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 clueless?

"God. Fine. Ok. We're… we're seeing each other." Exclusively and seriously, she failed to add.

"Finally. An admission. What the hell did I tell you about that wire?"

"You 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 about it.

"It 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!"

"So 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 good enough.  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 like." 

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!!!"

The 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.

**

I 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.

"I 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."

Why the hell was he screwing with his visor? What the hell was his problem?

"You think this is so fucking easy. YOU're not in Gotham every night. You don't know how it… gets into you."

"No, 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."

I 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 that.

Why 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?

"What the hell did you do, fall in?" I called back. "You're wrong. I see the forest."  I thought I did, at least.

"Leave me alone!" He yelled

"I 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."

I 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.

"You're 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?

"Look… 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?"

**

"Then, 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 two?"

"Oracle! I, I forgot my vitamins and she got clocked in the head, I think it's a concussion."

"It 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 up?"

"No. All I have is you two." The output crackled.

"Turn up the output of your power pack!"

She did, 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.

"Jimmy, 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. 

"Mom, tell Crys... tell Crys that the lessons paid off."  Mara scowled at me.  "You got anything you wanna say? Twenty seconds before it fries."

"Just… everything you just heard—I don't know how much it was—don't tell anyone. Just forget you heard it."

**

When we lost mom, I slid out of the seat. "Don't bother me," I ordered, going into the back.

"Eat something or something, while you're back there. You're not going to be a shit of good if you're passing out."

I 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 that was?

I 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.

When 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. 

Grandfather was immortal, that's why Ra's likes screwing with him.  He, he couldn't die. 

This 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 to intercom. 

"Hey Robin, we're here.  What's the plan now?"

She appeared next to me. "We go kick their asses. No real way out of here without fighting our way out."  I was NOT happy about that.

"Some day you're going to find a way to get through a situation without cracking heads."

She got 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 asses."

"You just said we can take 'em."

"This has been too easy."

"You said before that Ra's underestimates us."

"Shut 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."

Ra's men were almost to the door. "Fine, twad." I guess we had to do this her way.

The End… for now.