Hehe. Muches of thanks to Andrew and Brendan who fixed my widdle boo boos. Don't own. Please don't sue my ass.

Corporate Retaliation

**

"Ahh, shit," I muttered, flipping off the news station and tossing the remote on the coffee table. I just cringed any more, when I heard a business report come on. There was always a new chapter in the never-ending saga between Wayne Enterprises and LexCorp. Invariably Mara's name was mentioned, and it was seldom because of something innocent.

"Master Jordan," Alfred warned indulgently behind me. I never got the full- blown lecture on language like Jimmy and Mara got. That was the extent of my abridged version.

"Sorry Alfie. It's just. wouldn't it be nice to hear something GOOD about Mara on the news? Or nothing at all. No news is good news."

He readjusted some things on the writing table behind the sofa. "I dare say Mr. Luthor is thinking the same thing right now."

That got a small smile out of me. "Yeah, she's really making his life miserable, isn't she?" We both had to give a nod laced with guilty pleasure. That was my girl-bane of Lex Luthor's existence.

My cell phone rang, breaking us out of our naughty thoughts of how wonderful it would be-a world devoid of the influence of Lex Luthor.

"Emperor Palpatine's Office," I said, greeting whoever was on the other end. I really need to start looking at the caller-id.

"You know, Minty, this is why your cell bill is five bucks a month. Everyone hangs up on you."

"What can I do for you?" I asked Jimmy. Alfred migrated a little closer.

"First of all, you are such a geek. Second of all, my sister is insane,"

I rolled my eyes. "I didn't listen to the news report, if that's what you mean. If this about something else, um."

"Look, I know she already turned down the Justice League and quit the Titans. That's insane too. Luthor's going to seriously burn her. He doesn't like being on the receiving end of hostile take-overs. Is there a reason I'm related to a megalomaniac?'

I shoved my hand into the pocket of my jeans. HE was a megalomaniac. She just wanted to wipe him off the face of the earth. I wasn't sure what that made her. "Look, I'll talk to her when she comes home. You should come here and talk to her, if you're worried. She might listen to you."

"What? You mean me being a former Bat-person and all? You're got to be kidding me, man. The day the partnership ended was the day she stopped acknowledging me as a human being."

"Jimmy. you should come back." She needed someone to ground her. I was worried.

"Minty, I told you. I am NOT coming back. Now. I got my own issues to deal with." I wondered what that meant. Jimmy and I were getting closer, but suddenly I had the feeling he'd gotten in over his head on something, and I also had a feeling he wasn't going to share with me.

"Jimbo. Look, she needs someone. I know you can't. I guess. I just wish it were someone."

I began pacing around the room. Alfred wasn't exactly following me, but I wasn't escaping him either. "Why don't YOU go out there with her?"

"First, she doesn't want me. Second, I agree with Bruce. If I go out there. Jimbo think about it. Not only are you inviting Bat type trouble, but LANTER type trouble too. My grandfather won't even touch this town. This place is like the Twilight Zone. I don't need to add to the madness, my friend."

He let out a worried, weary sigh. "I know, man. I just wish. Well, same thing you do. Look. can you put Alfie on? I really, REALLY gotta talk to him."

"Ok, man. Keep yourself out of trouble."

"Too late for that," he grumbled.

"Ok. Then take care of yourself." The kid had survived graduation. I wondered what possible new terror could have taken hold of his life. "Alfred?" I held the phone out to him. Sometimes I got the impression that Jimmy thought I was Alfred's personal secretary. He'd complain to me about something stupid his sister had done and then he'd ask to talk to Alfred. Relinquishing the phone, I realized that that was my cue to leave.

I guessed I should talk to Mr. Kent and see if I could smooth things over with that. The Justice League wasn't too happy with her right now. This was getting petty and ugly like her fall out with Young Justice. I had a feeling that the Justice League was taking this personally, the way they took her leaving Young Justice.

I could go to Metropolis and find him, I supposed. Usually I picked Mara up at the office, just so we could spend time together on the ride home, but I'd been off doing whatever it was that I do when she left this morning, so she'd driven herself.

What was it I do again? Oh yeah, ring, save universe. check.

Why the hell was I so damned moody?

Taking off from Gotham, I got to Metropolis in about fifteen minutes. I could get across the galaxy lickidy split, and it took me this long to get to Metropolis? I really was distracted and grumpy.

He was flying what amounted to a patrol pattern when I caught up with him. I wasn't even in the mood to fly tonight. The wind in my face was kind of. annoying. "Sir. can we talk?" I asked, coming up along side him.

Superman's head turned and he looked at me with something resembling sympathy.

"About Robin."

He slowed. "Well, there isn't much to talk about. I anticipated her response."

"So. you guys aren't all mad?"

We both stopped mid-air. The sun was getting kind of low in the sky. I turned a little so the orange rays of late-afternoon weren't going directly into my eyes. When that didn't work, I made a pair of shades with the ring. Most powerful weapon in the universe, and I used it for accessories. ok, knock it off, Lantern.

"We're not mad. We need to repair our ranks."

I sighed and nodded. "You're sure?"

"I wouldn't spend all of your time fixing her messes. We don't see anything she does as a reflection on you, if that's what you're worried about."

I shook my head 'no.' "I'm worried you'll see it as a reflection on HER."

"Lantern." he stared. "She is the way she is. That's all."

"She's. you guys don't know her," I protested.

He folded his arms over his chest in that classic pose. "I know her. The Justice League knows her. We've known her longer than you have."

"But you don't KNOW her," I asserted. I'd always, ALWAYS held my tongue with my elders. But right now. I was so tired and so frustrated. "You can't completely cut her off."

"SHE has cut herself off. She no longer has a partner in the Justice League and she no longer has an association with the Titans. SHE is removing herself and we can't give someone who's doing that full access to our resources. Oracle can help, and that about all. I'm sorry."

"This isn't right."

"Son, her father agrees with me. It's the only way to show her she needs people."

I folded my arms over MY chest. "All it's going to do is make her try to do it on her own even more."

"I'm sorry, son. I don't think I can help you any more."

"I guess not. Sorry for bothering you."

"Jordan, it's not a bother."

I held up my hand. I knew what the tone I'd just heard meant. "Go ahead Oracle." mid-air, I turned my back to the Man of Steel.

"Lantern, we need you back in Gotham, immediately!" If I was NEEDED, it was BIG. Like world-ending big.

"I have Superman here. Should he come as well?"

She hesitated. "He can if he wants. It. it's Mara." I turned and looked helplessly at Superman. My stomach twisted suddenly into a million knots. "Just. just get here."

"Something's happened to Robin," I reported to him.

It wasn't even sunset! What kind of trouble could she have gotten into?

"No. It's not Robin. It's Mara. I'm on my way to Gotham now. There was an accident." An accident? That. didn't sound right. Not at all.

We both took off east as quickly as possible.

* * *

We arrived minutes later-well ahead of Mara's parents. There were some advantages to flight. I'd been given the name of the hospital. We both went directly to the emergency room, which seemed awfully damned crowded. "You'll forgive me," I said. "If I don't like your profession very much, sometimes, sir." I said to Mr. Kent. We were both in civvies and we were both ready to throw our hands up in the air in frustration.

"I'm her fiancée," I told the guard at the front desk. We weren't really officially 'an item', but we'd been in semi-permanent residence together for a hell of a long time. A couple of years and I could quit bugging her to marry me, because it'd be common-law.

The guy looked at me, and seemed to be fidgeting. I had no word on how she was, and I was getting upset. ROBIN-these things happened to Mara? NO.

Unfortunately, he had me, and half a dozen media types to contend with. Security started backing them off, and they wanted to drag me and Mr. Kent out with them for being 'rowdy'.

"Look, can't I just stay here?" I begged when they tried to persuade me to wait outside. "Just until her parents arrive? Come on!" I knew if I got any angrier, they WOULD remove me, but I couldn't help it.

It had been three months since the old man died, and the media treated her like some hot new piece of meat-she ignored them and went about her business as if they didn't exist (much to the disgust of Lucius Fox). Since her brother stopped working with her, she'd withdrawn again, and lately she'd been acting like I didn't exist either. I didn't know what to do. All I wanted to do was be there for her-and she wouldn't let me. Now THEY wouldn't let me!

"I'm not leaving!" I protested loudly. The ring tingled on my finger and almost crackled with energy. Right now I'd move heaven and earth for her sake with this damned ring. All I wanted was a freaking status report! I wanted to know how she was, for God sakes!

Mr. Kent grabbed my wrist, and his fingers closed over the ring. "There are even MORE reporters outside," he reported to the guard. "If you send this young man out there, it's going to set off media frenzy. Save yourself the bad PR, and let him stay."

The guards talked tough for a few more minutes, informing me that they WOULD remove me if I didn't 'behave'. I threw myself into a chair.

"Why can't they just tell me how she is?" I asked miserably.

"She isn't in emergency any more," he said quietly. Oh, right. X-ray vision. Sometimes I wondered if it hurt to be as perfect as he was. "The police followed wherever they've taken her, but she did appear to be conscious."

I breathed a sigh of relief. "She's trying to kill me," I muttered. "Why can't she drive something safe? Like a Hummer?"

"You know Bruce has had work done on all of those cars."

"She doesn't have to drive the damned Jag every time she goes somewhere," I grumbled like an overprotective parent. Ok, I was overprotective of someone who could obviously take care of herself. Or maybe not.

He pushed the glasses up on the bridge of his nose and tried to remain quiet and supportive.

"I have a bad feeling about this," I whispered. "A nurse should have come out by now, something. anything. ANYONE."

"They may be waiting for her parents."

"There's something wrong with all of this. Mara doesn't HAVE car accidents." The last time she'd trashed a car had been when her grandfather died. Even then, it had just been a smashed windshield, even though she'd rolled the thing. Before that. it had been the great car scandal from her sixteenth birthday. Running the Batmobile into a brick wall was NOT the way to start out you career as a driver.

"If you can sit here, I'll see what I can find out."

I thought about that. I didn't WANT to sit here alone. It was funny, I made life or death decisions when I was working with my father, but I didn't want to sit here alone. Well, in our game we seldom got what we wanted, right? "Ok. I'll be fine. I'll watch for her parents."

About ten minutes later, Mr. Kent had still not returned. I was sans cell phone, so I found myself at the pay phones near the door. I called a secure number that put me through to her parents. They said they were about ten minutes out, but were having trouble now that they were in the city. Apparently her car had smashed into the glass lobby of the SX Steel Tower. Instant media circus. I said that no one had been out to talk to us yet. It was an anxious conversion. Oracle was worried for Mara. Mr. Grayson seemed a little suspicious of the circumstances as we knew them. Mara wasn't stupid, and she could handle a car. There was no way she'd end up in an intersection the way they were saying she did. Hydroplaning my ass.

My father was worried I was becoming a conspiracy hungry paranoid Gotham- ite. Maybe I was. It was with good reason. This place really was something out of a movie. Or a nightmare.

Last week, projections were made that she'll have 51% of LexCorp by Christmas. This week they announced another subsidiary buy-out. Today Wayne stock goes up. This afternoon she ploughs through an intersection and is broadsided into a glass wall. Her grandfather had taught me to notice trends and patters, and I don't believe in coincidence. Not where Lex Luthor is concerned.

Both of her parents arrived and checked in with security. The man at the desk assured us he'd talk to the staff and let them know we were there. I wondered if it was true. Her mother reached out for my hand and grabbed it. "And they still haven't said ANYTHING?"

"Nothing. No one's even come out here. I don't know if they don't believe I belong to her or what. I guess the fact that I showed up with Mr. Kent didn't help." I squeezed her hand back. She'd been especially affectionate to me since the funeral, and it was kind of strange.

"Where is he?" her father asked.

I looked up and then over at the double doors to the emergency room.

"Good. Maybe he can tell us something,"

"He said she wasn't in the ER before he left, that they've taken her somewhere else, but she appeared to be awake."

Her father nodded, and her mother took a deep breath.

I glared at the door, as if staring at it hard enough could make it open up and someone come out. "I'm ready to start throttling answers out of someone if they don't come out here and talk to us."

Mr. Grayson's eyes narrowed, and I just stepped out of his way. "Stay here, Barb." I watched with admiration and amazement as he marched over to the guard at the desk and flashed his badge. He and the guard exchanged words, but then the guard let him through. Bloody hell, I wish that were me going in there, not him.

"Do you think it was." I started, unable to finish.

"You want to think the best." Oracle trailed off.

I sat down across from her. "Yeah, I know. This is us."

"So all you do is hope and worry."

"Shit." We sat in silence for a moment while I tried to just NOT think about what was going on. It didn't work. "Where's Jimmy?" I'd like. just talked to him, not even an hour ago.

Oracle looked both ways before answering. "He and his grandfather are. looking around. They'll come here when they're done, or when they're kicked off the scene."

I nodded. "And Alfred?"

"He's taking care of getting the car towed some place where we can look at it." And where someone wouldn't be looking at the modifications to the car too deeply. It wasn't the armoring that you had to be worried about- important people did that all the time-it's the 'other' modifications.

"So I guess it's just us for now."

She leaned back in her chair. "Yup."

And that was it. We didn't have anything further to say. Wasn't there some kind of RULE about not telling us what the hell was going on? When this was over, I was going to lodge a protest somewhere with someone. Oh that's lame. You kick the world's ass on a regular basis, and all you can do right now is sit on this side of that double door and think about bureaucracy and making a formal complaint.

I looked at the ring, hating it suddenly.

"Sometimes. things just happen," Oracle told me quietly. Did she know so well what I was thinking?

"Yeah. Sometimes."

"If she wasn't. if we weren't."

"If she wasn't, she'd possibly be dead."

I shook my head. Ok, Jordan, knock it off. This is that wallowing angst-pit that the powered types talk about. Just because you're IN Gotham doesn't mean you have to act like a Gothamite. You're a New Yorker. You're a Lantern. You know this stuff happens. All kind of things happen. And they happen to costume-types in strange, unpredictable ways. Roll with the punches, pick your fights, and sometimes-you move on.

It's the speech I've been giving myself since I was six, and I realized the dangers of my parents' jobs.

And you don't even know anything. Chances are she bumped her head, and they're panicking because it ruins that stupid little TV face of hers.

I spent the next several minutes seething that she'd let them keep us away. I knew how Mara was, but dammit! How dare she make us worry!

"We can go back," Mr. Grayson said quietly, startling me out of my thoughts. "Jordy. she's been asking for you."

My head snapped up, and I looked at him. He looked green. "How is she?" I asked, trying to keep my voice even.

"She's ok. Had to sedate her when she realized she was in a hospital though. Typical Mara stuff." It sounded like he was putting up a brave front for us. "Broken arm. Concussion. pretty banged up." So why was he kind of sick looking?

"Why the hell haven't they come out?" I asked. And where the hell was Mr. Kent?

"The police wanted to talk to her. then she didn't want to see us."

"Didn't want to see us?" My heart dropped down in my stomach, and stayed there.

"Jordy. don't take it personally. It's Mara. And. she's kind of looped right now."

I shook my head but didn't respond. I had a feeling he was just trying to make me feel better. That was Mara and me-the more I showed her I wasn't going anywhere, the more trust issues she developed. We needed to be on a talk show or something.

She was in a private room on the third floor, and still no Clark Kent in sight. When we got in there, she didn't even ask that her parents be shown in. She asked for me and only me, and that the blind over the window on the door be drawn.

"What's up, Slugger?" I asked as casually as possible. She was in the bed, in one of those ugly hospital gowns. I had no idea how they'd gotten her into that or admitted so quickly. I guess money and the threat of media coverage can do strange and powerful things. Her eyes were black and sunken, her cheeks were whiter than I'd ever seen them. She just looked so. lost.

"Come here," she whispered, gesturing with her good hand to the empty spot on the bed next to her. The other arm was already casted in a bulking ugly thing.

Ever so gently, I sat down beside her. I put my arm around her, mindful of her head and neck, and gently twined my fingers within hers. "What's up?"

She looked down at our hands for a moment, gathering her thoughts. "I. I don't remember what happened," she began. There went my hopes of clearing THAT up. "I. I just know when I came in here. And I woke up. That's why they sedated me. I. it hurt so much, and when they told me." She was trying to tell me something. All I could do was squeeze her hand supportively. She'd never been much for talking.

Her voice was hollow when she next spoke. "I know we never talked about. kids. And I didn't even know. I thought you should know." Mara drew in a ragged breath. "They said I was. maybe three months."

I couldn't breathe. WAS. Had been. She'd been. And now she wasn't. I put both of my arms around her and held her. I couldn't even fully comprehend the magnitude of what she'd just told me. All I knew was that my soul had been ripped in two, and that she needed me.

"It'll. it'll be alright," I stuttered when I could finally breathe.

"I. I didn't know. You know. Stress. I can go months without. And we were." Suddenly, she was silent. Her purple and yellow bruised cheek came to rest on my shoulder, and I felt my shirt grow wet from her silent tears. On instinct, I clenched my eyes shut against my own, not sure if I should mourn with her or what to do.

Eventually, I couldn't hold them back, I cried too. I tried to do it as quietly as possible. I knew why I was in here alone. They weren't to know.

I could tell whatever they'd given her-whatever she'd been through-it had taken its toll on her physically. She didn't fall asleep; she merely drifted off into exhaustion-too tired to cry and too tired to fight me. I held her face in my hands and kissed both cheeks. "We'll get through," I promised. Please, God, let us get through.

Somehow, the more I knew Mara, the more religious it was necessary for me to become.

"What. do we know," she asked in a voice completely devoid of the energy she always possessed.

"Nothing. You went through an intersection, were broad-sided and ended up in the lobby of the Steel building."

"'S ok," she whispered. "I own it."

I didn't respond. Her eyes and closed and she was asleep in my arms. When I was sure she'd not wake if I moved her, I gently placed her back on the pillow. She continued to rest, and I went to the door to let her parents in.

"Is Jimmy here yet?" I whispered as her mother rolled past. I desperately wanted to talk to him. I needed to know what they found.

"No," her father answered on good authority.

"She's asleep. Let her sleep," I ordered. "She doesn't remember the accident."

I passed through the door way and Mr. Grayson grabbed the door. "What's going on? Where are you going?"

"I need to find out what happened," was all I said. I let the door close behind me, and I marched right out of the hospital, then took off to the air. Her Grandfather wouldn't have approved, but I couldn't deal with the press.

The summer air was warm and oppressive against me as I flew. It was constrictive and I wanted to tear the layers of humidity and wetness away from. I hated feeling tied down, especially now. I wanted to stay with her, but I couldn't let this go on. I couldn't let this perpetuate. When I was nearing the Steel building, I saw something big and blue out of the corner of my eye. "You didn't stick around because you knew what happened," I said softly. He could hear.

"I'm sorry, Jordan. I'm sorry for your loss."

I stopped about half a block away, looking at the intersection. Traffic was already flowing through it again. Workers were attempting to place plastic over the demolished wall of glass. The car had been already towed. That meant Alfred would be at the hospital shortly.

"It was Luthor."

"You have no proof," He reminded me. Superman, always the guardian of Justice.

"You KNOW it was Luthor."

He attempted to place his hand on my shoulder, but I just pulled away. "Let's find Jimmy and talk to him. See what he has to say."

"Superman, there isn't a damned thing that will ever prove to me it WASN'T his fault."

"Jordan, you're in a dangerous place. Vengeance. is tempting, and sometimes blinding. Don't let it consume you." There was a subtext. Or you'll end up like Him.

"This isn't vengeance, Mr. Kent. This is justice."

He had the decency to not follow me when I went to street-level. By the time I was back in my jeans and oversized t-shirt, he was gone.

"Jordan!" Mr. Gordon raised a hand. He and Jimmy were standing as inconspicuously on the street corner as possible.

I walked over to him and shook his hand. "I hope you have some news," I said desperately.

"Not much. And not much we can prove," he informed me. "There were some folks I know here, and I tried to talk them out of it, but they're really trying to chalk this up to operator error." He shook his head. "How's my granddaughter?"

I looked down. "She's. well, you know Mara. They had to sedate her when she woke up in the ER. Couple of broken bones, concussion. They want to keep her over night." That was the short version, at least. I wouldn't tell something she didn't want me to tell. In fact, I didn't think I could deal with anyone else knowing right now either.

He glanced around at what was left of the scene. "That's Mara. She got off lucky. The car's armored and she still managed to blow out the driver's side window."

So much for the wonders of bullet-proof glass. The old man sure knew how to outfit his cars, though. Then again, in his line of work, you needed it.

"We got here as soon as we could, but I don't know how much there was to see. The driver who broad-sided her was a hit and run. No one got the plates." Probably one of Luthor's men. Jimmy looked out into the four way intersection and pointed to a dark smear near the traffic light. "They're claiming she hydroplaned off the oil there. Before they had traffic moving, I only saw one set of tire tracks in it, though. It could have been fresh, or I might just not have gotten a close enough look." He rubbed the back of his neck. "Mara can probably clear this up."

"She can't," I told him. "She doesn't remember." I scowled at the hole in the glass of the building across the street.

"I know what you're thinking, man. And it was the first thing out of my mom's mouth when she told me to get down here. But. really, without her to tell us-I don't think we even have grounds to put the fear of God into Luthor, much less go after him."

I shook my head, but didn't respond. It was Luthor. God himself would have to tell me otherwise, and even then I'd ask for tangible proof.

"Look, my grandfather could do that kind of stuff. This is us, man."

I put a hand on Jimmy's shoulder, but didn't say anything. I looked to Mr. Gordon. "If you guys stop to see her, she's on some serious drugs right now. so. that's why she's all reticent." Leaving it at that, I took off. I didn't know where to go from here or what to do. I'd never wanted to pound something or destroy anything in all of my life. I'd never contemplated just using the ring to. annihilate. The magnitude of my feelings, and my ability to act upon them daunted me.

When I was outside of the city, I looked down at the ring upon my finger. It was the most powerful tool in the universe, and I DID want to break things with it-to make that man feel the way I was feeling. But I knew I could NEVER do that, because he had no heart. He'd never know what I felt. I could bring him down, though. I'd have to take some-satisfaction in that.

But still. in the mean time. what did I do with this feeling of hate burning inside me?

Not even sure what I was staring at, I continued looking out in the sky. I was just slightly aware of my surroundings, and that was only because the ring crackled and hissed as uncontrolled energy sizzled around me.

"Hey, kid."

I turned in the air to face my dad. I'd not heard him approach in my anger filled daze.

"Saw the news, and Oracle's off-line. Figured something big was up."

I just stared at him by the light of the energy escaping my ring, wondering what the hell I could say, and still keep my unspoken promise to her.

"What's going on?" When I still didn't answer, he grabbed my arm. "Jordan."

"Dad. I don't want to talk out here. Up here. Whatever."

* * *

For lack of any place better to go, we ended up on Robin's favorite hang out-police headquarters. The night was still hot and the moon was bright and ugly. It glowed with a halo around it in the humid sky. I couldn't do anything but stare out at it.

"You understand." I told him after he'd listened to everything I'd had to say, "I didn't tell you this."

"I can keep a secret," he assured me.

"It's. it's eating me up. From the insides out." That was about the only way to describe how I was feeling. "And. I'm almost scared I'll do something about it."

He nodded. "I can't tell you what to do. You have a family protect." It sounded like he was giving me some sort of sanction. "But remember this- every time you think about doing something." He grabbed my hand and pointed to the ring. "Think about your oath. Say it if you have to. And then. if you can still do what it is you're about to do-then do it swiftly and without hesitation."

I bit my lip and nodded, staring at the ring, thinking of the oath. Luthor was the darkest night. Luthor was that evil I was supposed to fight. I'd failed to protect the most innocent of all-it wouldn't happen again. Somehow-I'd have to do it without becoming the darkness. When I treaded so close to the edge myself, how could I possibly keep Mara from slipping over?

"Green Lantern? Is something going on?" Dad and I spun around. I didn't know if it was a blessing or a curse that we were still in uniform.

"Uh." I started softly. It was Commissioner Akins. Or as Mara called him 'That Akins Guy.'

"Nothing, sir," my father supplied for me. "We were about to be on our way."

"Are you looking for Batman?" he asked suddenly. I almost jumped out of my skin. I didn't need THAT now too.

"No, sir," I said quietly but surely.

"I. haven't seen him in a while."

Do we HAVE to deal with this now? "The Justice League has been keeping him busy, sir. Robin's been handling things." I was going to throw up if I had to continue talking. "We're just. passing through. Wanted to see if he needed any coverage here."

We made quick good-byes and got the hell out of there. We knew we were going to face the lack of Batman situation some time. Did it have to be tonight?

* * *

When I parted ways with my father, I wasn't necessarily feeling better about things, but I knew where my duties resided. I took off south towards the yuppy lofts.

I pressed the buzzer at the door on the ground floor and waited. "What can I do for you?" Tim Drake asked in an overly professional manner over the speaker below the buzzer.

"I need to come up," I said very matter-of-factly.

"Fine."

The door made a sound, then released. I walked the few yards to the elevator and road up. I could have just been a normal heroing type and came through the window, but he'd set a rule against that when his wife had died. So I took the 'normal' rout. Too bad the socially acceptable way of entering the building was not the most efficient. I wanted to get this done and over with, not linger in the freight elevator while it ever so slowly crept towards the top floor.

When I pulled the door opened for the elevator, there was a cute little brown-headed girl waiting for me. "Jordy! Where's Mara? You bring my cartoons?"

I put my hand on her head and let it rest there, thinking of what had happened today.

"Cass can take Sammy for a walk if we need to talk," Tim said.

I shook my head, finally letting my hand fall to my side. "No. This is for both of you."

There was absolutely no compromise in my voice or in my stare, so he grabbed his daughter's hand and led her to her bedroom. "We'll finish loading the dishwasher when I'm done talking to Jordy, ok?"

Sammy launched herself head first onto her bed and grabbed a doll. "As long as you get me a dog!"

Tim shook his head and closed the door, then called Cassandra out of the kitchen. I followed him to his desk. He leaned against it, staring at me. "Ready, set. go."

I looked from him to Cassandra, who didn't want to be seeing me either. I knew it was because of who I represented. "Look. I'll make this short. You know what happened today. Half the free world knows. Mara needs someone to cover her territory-at least for tonight."

Tim's arms folded over his chest. I knew what he was asking with that. He wanted to know why I needed him too.

"I. would appreciate if you'd look at something for me," I asked him, practically begging. "Her father used to brag how you were the best with computer stuff. I'd like you to look at the on-board systems in the car and see if it tells you anything."

"I don't do that any more."

"Look, someone just tried to kill her. Excuse me if I don't take too kindly to that."

His eyes narrowed. "Oracle can look into that."

"I want you to do it." I didn't want Oracle to know how seriously I was taking this. She'd tell me that public figures were targets, and that Mara could handle herself.

We stared at each other, neither of us willing to give. Finally, he looked away. "Fine, but I'm not retrieving it. If you can find it, and disengage it without initiating the destruct, I'll look at it. If not, you're on your own."

He wasn't about to make this easy for me, was he? "Fine." I said, and then turned to Cassandra. "And thanks. She's kind of out of it right now. Broken bones and stuff. And. I think folks need to see a Bat on her route. Get rid of suspicions."

She nodded, but I could tell she wasn't happy. She and Mara had never really gotten along. I knew I couldn't ask now. but I really needed Cassandra to take an interest in Mara starting really soon. I didn't think it was good for her to be alone to begin with, but now? Well, I needed all the help I could get in keeping her back from the abyss.

* * *

When I got back to the hospital, she was on the phone with her cronies from work assuring them of her continued health and coaching them on what to put in the press release. Her mother had gone back to Bludhaven, but her father and grandfather had stuck around. It was something I didn't need-two very suspicious people hanging around the hospital.

"You shot out of here pretty quickly before," Mr. Grayson pointed out as we sat outside her room waiting for her to finish the phone conference. Her grandfather had gone to get some coffee. I had a feeling they wanted to talk to her and try and drag some information out of her.

"I had stuff to take care of. And some Lantern stuff, too."

Why did he look to skeptical? "Clark took off too. We're not stupid."

"Look, I'm pissed that someone tried to kill her, ok? And he's pissed that it was Luthor. End of story." I got up and walked away. Dammit. I hadn't meant it to go like that.

I ran my hands through my hair and tried to collect my thoughts. I was tired. This had to have been the longest day in recorded history, and I day I wish had never happened. Finally I made it to the lounge at the end of the hall and threw myself into the ugly brown chair. The springs poked into my back, and I almost cared. Bloody hell. I was about ready to go out on the streets and take the pounding she regularly took just so the outside of me would hurt worse than the inside.

"They ran out of lids. You wanna take one of these cups before I burn myself?" her grandfather asked, stopping in front of me.

Before I could think about it, a hand reached up from the ring holding a cup holder.

"Not exactly what I was intending, but it'll work." He put the three small cups inside. It was that stupid vending machine coffee, but it'd do. "This is bugging you, isn't it?"

"What tipped you off," I asked. With a little concentration, the color of the cup holder became closer to socially acceptable brown, and we walked back towards the room. "You have no idea how much I hate that guy. And what bothers me worse is that we're never going to find enough to tie to ANYONE much less HIM."

He gave one nod. "She can take care of herself."

I had had a feeling this was the first of many folks to tell me she can take care of herself. "Ok, so I'm being over-protective."

Behind his white bushy mustache, he gave me an understanding smile. "Don't worry, its easy to do. I nearly popped a blood vessel the first time I saw her in uniform. I almost killed both of her parents and Bruce. But you know- I don't know if I've seen anyone more capable. She can take anything he can dish out."

We'd come back to her door, and Mr. Grayson sitting there. I handed him his coffee quietly. There were just some things you couldn't anticipate, I thought. She and her partner had been obsessed with planning, and yet-there had been no protocol for this.

"Sorry I flipped out," I told her father quietly.

He just nodded. I knew from the look he was giving me that this wasn't over. I wondered how long I could possibly evade him. Mr. Grayson was right. They weren't stupid.

* * *

Her father and grandfather tried to talk to her for about twenty minutes, but she wasn't in the mood. I knew they thought it was curious that she now wasn't fighting nearly as hard about spending the night in the hospital. I recognized the very subtle good cop/bad cop routine. Unfortunately, she really DIDN'T remember anything, and she had no intentions of easing up on Luthor. They were worried, even though they were trying not to show it. Her anger and her determination were probably what worried them more than Luthor possibly making another attempt on her life.

They left, finally-just when I thought neither of us could stand it any more. Her father gave me another warning look, like I'd better fess up, if I knew what was good for me. Her grandfather just told me to keep my chin up.

When I was sure they'd gone, and I was sure they weren't coming back, I went into her room. "Hey, Slugger," I said gently, sitting next to her. "Sorry I took off for a while when you were sleeping."

She didn't respond. I hoped to God she didn't think I was walking out on her. I'd better give her some good news.

Ever so delicately I put my arms around her and "Talked to your grandfather and brother. Talked to Cassandra. She's going to watch your route for a few days. And Tim's going to look at the car's computer, see if it'll tell us anything. Then we can feed Luthor his ass."

That seemed to bolster some confidence in her. "It was him," she said with certainty.

"I know." I kissed her black-cherry colored hair and stroked the cut on the left side of her temple. "Take it easy. Get yourself ready to go, because as soon as you're back, we're going to rock his sad little world." Pulling back a little, I stared into those steely gray eyes of hers. The first time I'd seen her without the mask, I'd been surprised at their depths. I still was. "The gloves are off," I told her firmly.

"I wish he were dead," she whispered. "And I don't feel guilty for that."

"I know. The world would be a better place." What had I said before about Luthor being the devil?

"He'll go down," she said with the quietest resolve. "One way or another."

I lifted her chin with my fingers. "Just. keep your soul in tact," I warned. "He isn't worth your soul."

She was hollow and quiet with grief, and I wondered if she would go back to being silent again-but I took it as a good sign that she cried with me early on. It meant she'd hopefully not harbor all of that grief within herself.

I held on to her until she fell asleep, wanting to take all of it away from her somehow, and knowing I couldn't. She was so completely pulled under when I moved to sit in the chair nearest the bed. I had to guess they'd given her something else to help her rest. She must have been in a real state to take medication willingly. Sometimes, it was an effort just to get antibiotics into her.

Unable to rest, I shut off the lights and sat staring at her in the dark. I remembered the first time I ever met her. My father'd lectured me up and down about making a good first impression, and about listening to my team leader, and learning from her. and I'd been scared. I'd heard rumors from my parents' Justice League type friends that she was some kind of cold, no- nonsense girl who was as freaky and difficult to deal with as the Bat.

Dad had tried to talk me out of that way of thinking-I knew he admired the Bat-and he told me that Robin could teach me what I needed to know about working with others.

"Once you get settled in," my father told me, "get her to take you aside and teach you some strategy. She learned from the best." Yeah, right, I'd thought to myself. I'm going to spend my free time hiding. "As far as tacticians go, she's got what it takes."

I'd been sick to my stomach when my father and Superman brought me to the Young Justice head quarters. I was fourteen, I had this ring that was the most powerful weapon in the universe, and all I really wanted was a cookie to make things better. Mom hadn't been gone long at that time, and the irony of my situation grounded me more heavily than anything else could.

What if she hates me? I thought to myself. What if she tells my dad I'm incompetent and that she can't possibly turn me into someone who knew ANYTHING about saving the universe and they should give the ring to someone else?

All that anxiety.and when I saw her the first time.. I was speechless. Her dark red hair waved up in soaring spikes, and she stood tall and thin beneath her fathomless black cape. I fell in love the moment I saw her. I was terrified of her-but I had the hardest, most painful crush.

She just took one look at me, and I saw her brows go up. "Wow! You're a LITTLE Lantern, aren't you?"

I looked down and blushed. Yes, I'd been incredibly short, and a bit round at the time. I was the world's biggest geekwad-and here I was, in front of the leader of Young Justice, and she'd just acknowledged my existence. I could have died right then and there, and died a very, very happy young man.

"H-hi," I had muttered, finally getting up enough air to talk. Sort of.

"Hey."

She looked to my dad and Superman. "You don't need to stay," she said politely, but forcibly. "I wont murderize him on his first day here."

"Robin." Superman warned. I couldn't believe she'd talk to him like that. He was like. the worlds best, you know? Even better than my dad, and I thought my dad was really great. "Just. no 'murderizing' on subsequent days either, ok?"

She shrugged. "One day's all I can promise."

He smiled, and left. My dad stood staring at me for a minute, then gave some goofy smile. "Behave yourself," he told me. "And listen to what they tell you to do, and--"

Despite the fact that I was in front of Robin, I rolled my eyes. "Da-ad."

"Alright. Have fun. Robin, return him in one piece."

And then dad was gone. Which left me alone with someone who knew like eighty-one ways to disable a guy, and who'd threatened to murderize me. And looking at her-yes, if I was going to go, I wanted her to be the one who took me out.

Even for the days events, I slouched in my chair and grinned at her sleeping form in the bed. That had been the best day of my life. My dad had always thought I was being so academic, the best student in the world, always asking to pair with her when we were running simulations, or when we were learning something particularly painful or hard. No, I just wanted it to be HER that hurt me and kicked my ass.

Over the coming months we'd become friends. I guess she had to respect someone who was always willing to take whatever beating she was going to dish out, and who listened to her implicitly (which, with Superboy around, was always a nice change). I knew about her late-night cartoon addiction and got her started on a show that I thought was the best in the entire world. I was also the only member of Young Justice to EVER have a phone number for her. It was basically a number that patched through to Oracle, who played operator and connected me to her.

That in itself was kind of weird. Oracle would always be so amused when I called and timidly asked to talk to Robin. She'd ask me to hold, and then she'd put me through. Once she told me Robin was unavailable, and even though I was disappointed I thanked her and apologized for bugging her (I knew she was busy-it was a full time job keeping all of us guys in costumes on track). She promised me it was no bother, and assured me that I was welcome to call any time at all. It was then that I got the impression that I was the only person who called for her.

As we started growing closer, my crush never diminished, and she never gave me cause to see anything in her besides that inner light she kept hidden behind layers of cape and armor. It was still what I saw in her, and still what I loved in her, and it was why it would take restraining orders and subsequent imprisonment to get me to give up on her. Of course, once, when we'd gotten into a particularly ugly fight, I'd told her that after I got out of jail, I'd start stalking her again. It was really hard for her to keep throwing things when she was laughing so hard.

I wouldn't let her push me away over this, and somehow, I'd drag some hidden energy out of my self to keep us both from going too far.

* * *

Back in Mara's apartment, rooting through her clothes, I drew a blank. "Ok, Alfie. What says 'casual' but also 'back to business'?" I asked desperately. She'd asked me this morning to come get her clothes so she could leave the hospital today, and it was a task I eagerly set upon. I really didn't want to listen to the doctors any more, questioning the strange things they saw upon the x-rays, or recommending various drugs for pain or depression. She just lost her baby to a madman, you idiots. Happy pills are NOT going to make that go away.

"Well, she's showing a preference for dark red as of late. I highly recommend white cotton top, no jacket." He was getting the rest of the bag together for her. "Tan or brown trousers as opposed to her typical black, and flats as opposed to heals." He put appropriate jewelry into a box then placed it in the front zipper of the bag.

"Dude, she'll kill me if I dress her like that."

"She said casual. Red and black is her current power-suit structure."

I sighed. "You're right. Hopefully she'll see it our way, right? I mean, you know what you're talking about. You've dressed people for a long time."

"Master Jordan. do you wish to tell me what's wrong?" He caught me so easily.

I stopped rambling and stared at him. "I. I can't. I promised her I wouldn't."

He nodded, then walked past me and took the appropriate clothes off the hangers. "Then she will tell me in due course, or I will discover it on my own."

Was that a threat?

"Well, I guess that's everything. I found an entrance we can use that might help us dodge our friends in the media. I'm sure she's itching to get out-- " My cell phone began ringing. If it was Jimmy, I was going to kick him.

Looking at the caller-id on the phone, I saw it was. Shaking my head, I answered. "Jimmy, I'm not Alfred's secretary. If you want."

"Shut up, man. She's gone."

"What?"

"She checked herself out before I could get there. I just had some info for her on the hit and run guy. Minty, turn on your damned TV."

With the ring, I grabbed the remote and flipped it to the news station. They were showing a warehouse outside of New York. Fortunately, it wasn't on fire or smoking or anything. It still didn't give me a good feeling. ".A break-in late this morning which resulted in the loss of hundreds of LexCorp records. Still suffering from the effects of Mara Grayson's emotional display at her grandfather's funeral, Mr. Luthor said through his press agent that the documents taken from the data storage facility would be of no interest to anyone, and are probably lost as the result of a childish prank." Knowing Luthor, though, they probably WERE important.

"Aww, shit," I choked out, staring at the television. "I hope she has an alibi."

"Representatives from Wayne Enterprises were unavailable at this time. This comes less than twenty-four hours after it's current head, Mara Grayson was badly injured in a car accident that officials are calling."

"Minty," I heard faintly in my ear. I'd pulled the phone away from my head in the excitement. "Mom checked into this. I don't know how she did it, or if she was there, but security footage has her coming into the manor just before that. She's cool."

"It still leaves a lot of gaping holes in things," I told him angrily. "Dammit, I want him to!" I cried out.

"Chill! I'm sure there's plenty of Luthor to go around."

I frowned. "I have to go, kid." Without waiting for a response, I hung up. The images continued to play across the screen, pictures of people I knew, a portrait of the man I hated. I couldn't watch any more. The ring crackled once and enough energy shot out from it to blow out the set. There was the snap as the glass cracked and smoke escaped.

For some reason, Alfred thought that was a good time to take a step closer to me, ignoring the wafting smoke and the stinging smell of burnt circuits. As if his nearness would keep me from destroying the room.

He was right. It did.

My ringed hand ran through my hair as I tried to compose myself. It was hard. "I didn't think she'd do that to me," I grumbled. "I thought. we were in this together." Maybe I'd been wrong.

END