Usual disclaimers apply. Charlene got me through some rough spots. Brendan and Andrew read and gave moral support.

Personal Retaliation


I drove to the manor, though I probably shouldn't have been driving. Alfred had offered to take me, and I'd dashed out without replying. I was too angry. I couldn't believe that she'd go ahead and move against Luthor. I felt like she was ripping away my chance to do anything. Like she was devaluing my pain and what I thought was righteous anger. How dare she?

With a crackling force from the ring, the kitchen door flew off its hinges. I'd taken to coming in the side of the house to avoid my friends in the press. I had no idea what I'd do to her when I got my hands on her. Damn it all to hell, Mara Grayson! Who the hell do you think you are?

I all but flew through the house to the entrance to the cave, flung the clock opened and bowled down the steps. "Mara! I don't know what you think-- "

I stopped at the bottom of the steps. Fuck.

She was in her costume lying unconscious in front of the glass case. No, it wasn't the only one in the cave; it was just the only one that mattered. His.

I came to her side and took the mask that was in her hand out and gently turned her over. "Mara." I said softly. "Geeze. What've you done? I told you. you stupid girl. To get yourself well first." The anger was gone from my voice, but I still felt it. I knew she didn't get it. I knew she was doing this to fight the pain. But what the hell would happen to me if she killed herself pulling these stupid stunts?

Trying not to jolst her too much, I pulled her into my arms and carried her upstairs. I got her out of that stupid suit and her into bed, and I wondered what in the world was happening. Was there anything I could do to cease hold of this? I still wanted to blow Luthor off the face of the earth. I wanted to smack Mara upside the head. I wanted to do a lot of things I couldn't do right now.

I hated this house, too. It was big and lonely like some kind of museum, and I hated that she spent the afternoons sleeping here before she began her night job. I swore she only kept her apartment down town so she could go there to change before work. This wasn't the life I'd wanted for us.

You stupid idiot-what did you think you were going to get? That suit in that case should tell you where you stand.

Pulling the blanket to her chin, I stared at her. In the noon-time rays, she looked chalk white. She was sick, and she'd never acknowledge that or stay in bed. She'd kill herself going after him and it made me so damned angry. I wanted to shake her sometimes.

I pulled the rocking chair from the corner over to the bed and sat in it. Propping my feet up on the edge of the bed, I stared at her, wondering what in God's name we were going to do.

"We need to talk." A voice snapped me out of my reverie hours later.

"No we don't," I said, taking my feet off the comforter.

"We need to talk about Her."

Now we're using definitive pronouns? "She's sick. Go away."

"It must be something in the air in this place," Mr. Kent said. "It makes people ornery." I didn't bother responding. Didn't he get it? "She can't be using Justice League technology to steal from Luthor." Yeah, I'd had a feeling she'd used their teleporter to pull this off.

I gestured to her still, pale form on the bed. "How do you know she did anything? Does she LOOK like she can do anything?" I got up out of the chair and faced him for the first time. "Maybe I did it."

"You didn't do it. I investigated the warehouse. By the fact that not a single trace was left, it has Bruce written all over it." His jaw was set and he stared through his glasses at me, as if I was expected to flinch. Sorry, I used to hang around the Bat. I live with someone who has been making grown men flinch since she was ten.

Why the hell was he so mad? It wasn't like he had a right to be. "It doesn't matter. She can't talk to you now. You can lecture her on how she can't be using Justice League resources without actually joining up when she's CONSCIOUS." The nerve of some people. no, the nerve of HIM. "Until then. I'm sure you know where the door is. Or use a window. I don't care."

"Jordan, this isn't like you. You're letting this consume you."

The ring crackled and an instant later I was in my uniform. "Get the hell out," I told him. "Get the hell out of here before I do something to make Alfred mad." Like destroying more than a TV set.

"If you can't be trusted--"

"If I can't be trusted, you'll WHAT? Take me out? I find it humorous, Mr. Kent, that you're so active in persecuting your allies and yet people like Lex Luthor are free to go about their business."

"It isn't like that," he said, attempting to be patient.

"Then what is it like?" I asked accusingly.

"Gentlemen." Alfred said, coming into the room. "I don't think this. display will do any good for the young lady in the bed, should she wake." He walked right between us, as if this were some mere exchange of words, and began straightening the nightstand. "Well?" he asked.

He was a strong soul. One had to be, in this crowed. "Fine. On the roof." The house was large and spacious, but I found all the extravagant clutter. confining. I turned back to look at Mara, who still hadn't so much as moved. Maybe I should have taken her back to the hospital. When I turned back, Mr. Kent was gone.

It was Superman that I met on the roof. "Make this short." I really wasn't in the mood to listen to him at all, but I knew if I wouldn't have told him to come up here, he'd still be down there, potentially bothering Mara.

"Jordan, I understand you're upset. And I understand taking this loss very hard. But we can't get ahead of ourselves--"

Before I could stop myself, a blast shot out from the ring and hit him square in the chest. "What the hell do you know! YOU can't loose what you can't have. You just let him go on and on! And as if ONE Luthor wasn't bad enough, we've had to put up with the cloned body he created for himself! Which means we are NEVER going to be rid of him."

"Are you implying what I think you are?"

Another blast hit him, but all it did was push him back a few inches. "I don't know WHAT I'm implying. But I know what I'm saying. Its. Your. Fault."

He stood there in stony silence, as if waiting for me to finish my tantrum. Finally he spoke. "Jordan, the code we live by doesn't allow for us to run rampant. Not even in the pursuit of justice. You know this. Your father taught you better. You remember what happened to your predecessors."

"And you can go ahead and say that it's not like me, and you can say that I'm just angry-HE TRIED TO KILL HER! He's killed my child! And I'm supposed to play by the old rules? The Bat-people have it right. Bruce had it right. You do what needs to be done, and you hit hard, and you take them out. Because if you don't, people end up dead."

"Think about what you're saying."

"That I think Luthor should be strung up by his balls? That I would personally like the privilege of skinning him alive? I know what I'm saying. And you want to know the sick part? I can do all that without the aid of the ring. And I'm willing to, too. I'll give it up, if it means I get to take him out. HE didn't need a ring to hurt us." I looked out to the back yards. They were gold mixed with black shadows in the setting sun. "That son of a bitch knew the car was armored. That's what Tim told me this morning. Do you know how the hell fast that other car had to have hit her to knock out bullet proof glass, and throw the car twenty yards into a building? He wanted to erase her off of the face of the earth. YOU should have erased him off the face of the earth a long time ago. WE are paying for your. inability to act. Your incompetence. SOMETHING. WHY hasn't he been dealt with? WHY have you let him go on?" My voice was hoarse from screaming.

"I've tried every legal means--"

That was it. My nerves snapped. I felt the energy from the ring coursing around me as it flowed almost through me to hit him before he could react. There was a loud clap like thunder, and he blew off the roof. He stopped himself from going further about half a mile off the property-out over the water.

I launched myself after him and met him off the coast. His cape was in tatters, and he stared at me with a furrowed, disappointed brow. "Every legal means? That is NOTHING! And you KNOW it is nothing! We are beyond the law. We HAVE to be. We do what normal men can not. And have you? All of the power in the world-and you can't stop ONE MAN? You let a murderer and a-who knows WHAT else strike again and again?"

Green lightening crackled around me and I felt the ring actually grow hot on my finger. It had never done that before. "You come here, all this time- pretending to be her friend-trying to keep her back from the edge-but its just that you're AFRAID. Of LUTHOR. Because you KNOW you can't stop him. You're off the case. WE will handle it from here."

He folded his arms over his chest. "Jordan, you are crossing the line. I won't let you do that."

"Won't let me?" The lightening turned white, it grew so hot and bright. "Mr. Kent," I said patronizingly. "You can't stop me."

The energy surged through me and burned my insides as it hit him and shot him upwards over and out of the Gotham skies. Instinctually, I moved to follow, to make sure he didn't come back, but stopped. The electricity crackling around me died, and I was left in the dark of twilight.

I returned to the manor in a cold sweat, shaking slightly. My insides hurt. They were raw and throbbing. I didn't know if it had been from the energy I'd taken in to me, or from what I'd done.

Alfred was waiting on the second floor patio when I landed, and he handed me a towel. "I take it Master Kent came to see your point of view?" he asked sarcastically. I wondered if Batman had often faced this tone when he'd done things that the old butler hadn't approved of.

"Not exactly," I said weakly. "I'm not sorry for what I've done," I whispered. "THAT is the part that scares me most."

Gently, he pushed my shoulders down until I sat in an iron chair at the table. "Direction, young sir. It is what separates us from the heathens." I wondered if he meant 'bad guys' when he said heathens.


"Without direction, someone in your position has no clear path to follow-no line which may definitively be drawn."

"I've tried following their Code. Look where it's gotten me."

"You have your oath. That is a start."

"And even with it. a Lantern can find himself in a lot of trouble." I looked down at my hands, to the ring. I'd just blasted earth's greatest hero into space. The Justice League hunted down people like me. I still hated the Man of Steel. I still hated what he'd let transpire. It was on HIS head.

"So can a Robin."

I buried my head in my hands. I couldn't keep myself out of trouble, much less Mara. "WHY? Why hasn't he been stopped?"

"Perhaps the world has lacked before the means and the incentive."

Why did my child have to die to give us incentive? Why the hell wasn't Superman on our side?

"So what do we do? How do we do this? Without." turning into the people we were supposed to fight.

"If a parent corrects a child out of anger, the lesson is lost."

Was he suggesting we 'spank' Luthor? No. He was suggesting we use our brains. "Reason. emotional detachment."

"I'm not advocating becoming Him, sir."

"What ARE you advocating, Alfred?" I needed some sense of order, some sense of reason in all of this madness.

"You need a plan, sir. Miss Mara seems to have one, but is currently. incapable of fulfilling it. I suggest working with her."

"I WANTED to! SHE shut ME out!" I still wanted to shake her and yell at her and.

"It may be necessary to. force her to an alliance. And you both must act within reason. The Justice League may be of little help, but they will be a formidable opponent, if roused." The subtext of that seemed to be 'no more blasting Master Kent into space.' He squeezed my shoulder supportively, but looked in my eyes with firmness. "They will not understand your plight." Alfred knew. I didn't know how he knew, but he did.

"You'd think HE would."

His hand slipped off my shoulder and clasped the other one in front of him. "He may think that conventional methods are still valid. They are not."

"Conventional methods haven't worked in over thirty years with Luthor."

"Master Kent is rather attached to the past."

Looking at the dark pink terracotta tiles of the patio, I sighed, thinking. How could I force Mara to let me in? I knew it was her natural instinct to push me and everyone else away. She called it her 'room to work', but it was just an excuse to isolate herself. "Ok. We can do this, right?"

"You two can."

Now I just needed a plan. Some sort of strategy for fighting a battle on two fronts-with my ally and with my enemy.

* * *

Sitting back in the rocking chair, I had spread the papers across the empty space on the bed beside Mara. I looked them over, and right now, they weren't making much sense. They appeared to be random to my eye-schedules, old shipment orders-things that couldn't possibly interest anyone. It was just like the LexCorp press release had said. I'd found the box of papers in The Car an hour ago. There'd been some CD's as well, but they were encrypted, and I wasn't sure I wanted to involve anyone else just yet.

So quietly, I almost missed it; she began to stir across from me. "Hey, Sleeping Beauty," I said gently. "You missed all the action."

"Huh?" She pulled herself up on pillows to an almost-sitting position.

"You're mom's called here three times. Only once cause of the LexCorp break- in thing. Congratulations, you are no longer the most hated person in all herodom."

"What did my brother do?"

Stacking up the papers I'd been reading, I gave her a shy smile. "I. umm. Sort of blasted Superman half way to the moon. Ok, probably the whole way." The Justice League hadn't taken that well. "He deserved it."

"Uncle Clark ALWAYS deserves it," she grumbled, rubbing her temples. If I didn't know better, I'd say she looked hung-over or something.

"I think he got the message that this is our case."

"My case."

Putting the papers away, I closed the lid on the paper box everything had been stashed in, then came around the bed to sit next to her. "This is for both of us. That guy isn't going to hurt people any more."

"You don't have what it takes," she told me coldly.

"Mara, don't play that game with me. I am NOT letting you do this alone." I grabbed her arms and looked directly into her eyes the way Alfred had done to me earlier this evening. "You can't do this alone. Luthor's never fallen before."

"He's never faced ME before," she spat.

"Do you think you're the only one that's hurting?" I asked in harsh seriousness.

She looked away.

"Mara, I mean it. As much as you'd like to be LEFT alone, you are NOT alone. You can't afford to be alone, and neither can I. Besides what we just lost. we can't do this alone. You don't know how you are when you're working alone. You forget about everything-including your own safety."

I knew she didn't like that by the way her face froze and her breaking eye contact with me. But I wasn't finished yet.

"You know what happened to other Lanterns. I saw a glimpse of that tonight. I saw-no. I felt Parallax. I'd really rather NOT become that. Not over a worthless piece of shit like Luthor. And I will get him, Mara. I WILL rid the Earth of that scourge, because if I don't, I might as well just take my oath and stuff it. What I'm saying is that we can either work divided, or together. What do YOU think is going to be more efficient?"

Damn it all to hell, look at me, answer me. yell at me. SOMETHING!

"I don't want to be alone, and I don't want you to be alone," I pleaded finally. "HE wouldn't want you to be alone."

Slowly, her good hand slid up my arm, and she hugged me. I held her head to my shoulder, and let her cry.

Alfred passed by the door way but did not come in. He knew what was going on in here. I rocked her gently, and silently was thankful that she let me. She had no voice left, so her cries were silent but mournful.

I decided not to bring up that I'd been hurt over this morning. It wasn't the time or the place any more. Since I'd found her in the cave, so many things had changed. I'd officially made the Justice League 'disapproved' list, my dad was quickly losing favor, and Mara'd been officially banned from making any further use of JLA technology. Two against the world. The other things didn't matter now.

"Ok," I said after she'd stopped crying. "I know you want to go out there. But for now. just get yourself well. Besides. I need you here to make sense of all this stuff you got." Her body had taken gun shot wounds, burns, even stabbings better than it had accepted this last blow, and I wasn't going to let her kill herself in her desire to go full throttle against Luthor until he was eliminated.

She reached for the box. "I'll be out there soon," she said.

"I know you will," I promised as I pulled the paper box closer. "Till then. just let me be your hands."

"The first thing I want to do," she whispered, going for specific files. "Is take down his less than honest subsidiaries. I've been trying to do it for months. But if takeovers don't work, then we go to Plan B."

I didn't know what Plan B was, but I hoped it involved blowing things up.

* * *

"Minty, have I mentioned in the last forty-five minutes that my sister is a complete fuck?"

I frowned and almost hung up on him. I thought I'd shut my phone off. "What the hell do you want, Jimmy?"

"Dude, quit channeling Bat. I wanna talk to Alfred."

"You can't talk to him."


"Because I'm not at the manor," I said sarcastically.

"It's daylight and you're not at the manor?"

"This conversation is over." I shut the phone off. My costume opened up just over my jean pocket, and pushed it inside. My uniform closed up over it like black ink rolling across paper. That being done, I set the last charge. Mara was going to kill me. We'd gone into radio silence so her mother couldn't pick us up, only to have my location blown by Jimmy, former Batman and all-time dork.

Setting the timer for fifteen seconds, I flipped my comm back on. "We have to get the hell out of here. Like the hell out of Metropolis," I told her. "Nighthawk has us, and if he has a location, so does Oracle." And thereby Superman, the whole damned Justice League, and everyone else who thought we were going 'too far' but couldn't prove it was us, and not industrial espionage.

"Piss." she muttered. "Fine."

I knew what the last meant; we were going into the sewers. Fortunately for us, our good friend Mr. Luthor had lined the sewers under his property with lead. We'd be safe from the Blue Boy at least. It also helped that Bat- people usually worked at night. He probably wasn't on alert for a day attack. We were only doing this in the day because she had to be back for some stupid thing tonight that I'd have to wear a suit for.

This was day two of 'lets blow up everything we don't like', and it was working pretty well. We'd had two retaliation attempts in twelve hours, both of which had failed thanks to precautions that Robin had previously taken. Luthor couldn't even drag Wayne Corp through the mud in the media, because ALL of these holdings were not on official LexCorp records, and ALL of them were known shady operations. If he knew what was good for him, he'd keep his hands to himself.

I met her five blocks away. "I set them all, except for one. I couldn't get it to arm."

Kissing her, I gave it to her. "Damn. We'll have to work on that. We should have gone over kill though, so one missing wont matter." We began the mad dash to her vehicle. "How did my brother get us?" she asked while she was running. I had no idea how she could talk and run.

"Cell. phone. Must have bumped it. Turned it on."

"Crap. No car," she ordered, then turned a corner. I almost flew past, but she grabbed my arm and dragged me behind her. "Oracle will have the plates by now." We came to a dead end. Just before I was ready to MAKE an exit, she ripped a piece of metal facing off of the wall to our left. "I ALWAYS have a Plan B," she said smartly. "I can get us out of the city. From there, there are a series of mine shafts that'll get us free of here." Out of Superman Territory was what she meant.

I'd have liked to have stuck around and at least HEARD the explosions. Oh well. I was sure I could catch it on the reruns. We were getting serious news coverage out of this.

"You know," I said as we slowed down. We were descending and it was dark, and it was a little safer not to go full tilt. "I'd say we're like Bonnie and Clyde, but we had a better car, and it's a righteous cause. I guess I should say--"

"Lantern," she said, cutting me off with Bat-abruptness. "We're in a sewer. Shut up before you get germs in your mouth."

Germs in my mouth? That was almost funny, and probably not completely true. Then again, she knew a lot more about that stuff than me. "Yes, dear," I said, trying to get a little light into the vertical tunnel we were lowering into.

* * *

Mara had fallen asleep in her chair in the Cave. She'd done the same thing last night after our little mission. It had only been five days since her accident, and I knew she wasn't nearly as repaired as she wanted me to believe. She was pale and thoroughly unconscious, her broken arm resting very carefully on the arm rest. I wanted to take her up to bed, but I knew she wouldn't want me to. It was a sign of weakness. While I didn't approve of how stalwart she attempted to portray herself, I knew there were some things I'd have to concede in order to win the war.

She'd given me temporary access to the cave's computers, so I was putting in some data about what we'd seen in the hopes that she or it could draw some conclusions. I got kind of lost in 'data entry land' and didn't realize someone was setting up a direct link to our communications until they were in.

"Let me speak to Mara, Lantern." It was the Flash, and he looked pissed.

"She's sleeping," I said evenly. Betray nothing was the new motto. I deflected calls from the Justice League all day and night, lately.

"Then wake her up."

"She's awfully grumpy if you wake her."

I heard her sigh. "It's ok," she muttered. "I'm awake." She didn't get up. She just pulled her chair closed to the communications consol. "What do you want?"

"Mara, you can't keep doing this."

"Doing what?"

"You can't play stupid with us."

"No comment, Wally."

"Look, I'm your dad's friend. I've watched you grow up into what I thought was a responsible adult. This isn't responsible. And this is childish. He embarrassed you at the funeral. You can't be causing problems in both of your lives over it. GET OVER IT."

Her good hand slammed on the table top. "You have NO idea what is happening, Flash," she said icily. "You have no idea of the what or the why."

"Then TELL US," he said frustratedly. "Mara, just know this. You're crossing over the line right now. You want to take him down, you do it by the books. If not. we take you down."

Her eyes narrowed. "Just try." Mara's gloved hand slapped the communication's console. The image blinked off, and I sunk a little further into my chair.

"Alfred said not to make enemies of them," I warned.

"They can't prove anything," she answered peevishly. She unclipped her cape and tossed it over her chair, then went for the stairs. "They're blowing smoke, Lantern. Don't let them intimidate you." She wrapped her robe around her, not even bothering to slip her arms through the sleeves. "We got a party to get ready for," she said with a bit of a cringe. Neither of us liked them-they were just a necessary evil. A lot of business was done at these things.

And right now we needed some folks who were in tight with Luthor to jump ship. This morning, before our little adventure, I'd been coached on the fifteen individuals we'd be courting this evening. Actually, she'd be courting. I'd just be smiling and talking about sports with them.

I followed her up the steps. Even as drained as she was, she was going to go through this. I was ever amazed at the depths from which she could pull within herself to get through a situation. I was proud of her. Tonight she'd set the business world on fire. Then tomorrow, she'd set Luthor on fire.

* * *

"She sure has a lot of. personality," one of the men surrounding me said. He had a big bushy moustache and was chomping on a cigar like it was a carrot. He had to be in his fifties, and quite frankly, I didn't like the way his eyes were following Mara around the room.

"That she does, sir." Be polite. Don't kill him. If he decides to subcontract for Luthor, THEN you can kill him.

"She's the only one who can wear a blazer with a ball gown and make it look sexy!" one of the men behind him said.

Politely, I smiled. It wasn't a blazer, it was a silk jacket, and believe it or not, it came with that dress. It was a deepest plum with a long billowing skirt and a high-necked collar. She did look a bit no-nonsense, but in an exotic sort of way. "And she's all mine, gentleman," I ribbed gently, but my meaning was clear-she was spoken for.

"How does a Lantern hook up with someone like her?" The question was clear, and I could have avoided it, but I chose not to.

"Purely innocent means, gentlemen, I assure you." All that coaching she and Alfred had done was paying off. Alfred was right, I didn't have to take this seriously. It was a role. As soon as we'd left this party on the top floor of this hotel, I could go back to be an introvert. "My father's an artist. It was all of HIS images behind the 'Silver Era' campaign a few years ago."

They seemed impressed with that, and it seemed like a logical enough explanation.

"Even back then she was very interested in Wayne Enterprises and her grandfather's work." Why did I feel like I was running a marketing campaign? "She's the brightest person I know," I told them honestly. And the most beautiful and the strongest. And the most frustrating. And. oh shit, that is Diana Prince mingling her way over to Mara and her gossip circle. "Now, if you kind gentlemen will excuse me, I'd like to occupy her time for a few moments," I said with a wink. For the last two months I'd been memorizing everything Alfred could feed me on these 'polite' gatherings, and I'd made short work of the 'polite' brush-off. I'd have to give him a play-by-play later.

As I made my way across the room, I gave courteous nods to individuals who caught my attention, and I felt a bit of power run through me. This was what the old man liked about these stupid affairs. playfully manipulating people. Lets see if it would work on Wonder Woman. I mean, she couldn't out- right berate me in public, right?

"Ms. Prince! I didn't know you had an interest in Wayne Enterprises," I said loudly, trying to place myself between her and Mara. By the slight turn of Mara's head, she let me know that she knew who was here, and what was going on. Damn, these things were like a field mission, only it was a battle fought with words instead of fists. If you have the right words, you win.

"Actually, my interest is in the competition."

Mara had stepped next to my side. So much for saving her. "Lay-offs are predicted for next quarter with LexCorp. WayneTech is expected to hire a thousand new employees in the Japanese market alone. Let's just say. a smart cookie knows which team to play for."

Ms. Prince's eye arched just a bit. "One could say the same thing for you, Ms. Grayson."

Oooh, we were going with last-names.

"I'm on the same side I've always been on."

"You've certainly made some. changes in the way this company is run."

"No," Mara replied quickly. "I've just modified our focus to make us more effective. Our mission statement has remained the same. And our method of operations. My grandfather was not a stupid man, Ms. Prince. This company was given to me for a reason. I would ask for your trust as you trusted him, but I wonder. how much DID you trust him?"

Mara turned and walked away, waving a hand and calling out to Lucius Fox. This left me and Wonder Woman in painful, gut twisting silence.

Too bad Alfred's lessons didn't cover awkward situations with super heroes you'd really rather not be in. I decided to try a previously used tactic. "Well, Ms. Prince. As you can see, she's QUITE a girl."

She took a step closer to me and her voice dropped. "We're watching her, and you. There WILL be a formal inquiry into the physical fight with Superman this weekend, whether he or you want one. I'm not sure what game you're playing with him, or why he's playing with kid-gloves with you two. You're both obviously beyond that. You two are treading a thin line," she informed me, grabbing my wrist. "Her grandfather ALWAYS walked a line, but we could trust him not to go over it. DO NOT let her pervert everything he stood for." In a split second, she'd dropped my wrist and raised her hand, hailing an older man with peppered hair. "Charles! It's been years!" An instant later, she was at his side, and I was not unscathed, but I was free.

Next order of business was to find out who put HER on the guest list. I walked over to Mara and Mr. Fox. "Jordan." Mr. Fox's greeting was curt if nothing else. He didn't dislike me, but I didn't know if he liked me hanging around, either.

"Mr. Fox. How are things?"

"They've been less hectic."

I nodded. "I'm sure, sir."

"If you don't get this girl out of here for an early night." He was staring at her still-casted arm beneath her sleeve.

"I'm fine. I have four commitments and seven maybes. That leaves me four more people talk to," she told us quietly. "I need them to at least be thinking about it before they leave."

He shook his head. "You certainly are a different breed than your grandfather."

"I'm not trying to step on toes. But if we're not proactive, Luthor will swallow us up." She was scanning the crowd, looking for her next victims.

"He always did have high hopes for you."

She stopped looking around and stared right at him.

"I know you two weren't overly affectionate towards each other, but he was exceptionally fond of you," he told her in all seriousness.

I wasn't sure now was the time for a trip down memory lane. She was volatile enough as it was.

"I. we spent a lot of time together."

"He spoke a lot of you. You didn't have to prove yourself to me when you came in, though you already have. His word was good enough."

Her hand discretely slid into mine. This was hard for her, when people who knew her grandfather started sharing memories. Fortunately Mr. Fox's memories didn't consist of Brucie's greatest hits. "Thank you. He. I. there are a lot of things we never said."

"I don't think you had to say them."

A sad smile crossed her lips and she nodded.

"I'm sorry. Just seeing you work a room reminded me of him. He was a bit flighty, but he knew how to get people on our side." He squeezed her good shoulder gently. "You have a lot of his spirit in you." He gave her an encouraging smile, and then made himself scarce.

I squeezed her hand encouragingly. "He's right. And you're doing a kick-ass job." Sneaking a quick peck on the cheek, I scanned the room to see if Wonder Woman was going to make another go at letting us have it now that we were alone. She appeared to be otherwise engaged. "How are you feeling?" I whispered.

She nodded. "Holding. No pain, no gain."

"Don't kill yourself over doing it. You do that, and he's won." I couldn't help it. My lips met hers, and then a flash of light surrounded us, which coincided with a camera clicking. "Oh well," I said with a cringe. I hated having my picture taken this much any more. The only heroing types less photographed than this particular Green Lantern were the Gotham folks, but I still hated it-in or OUT of costume but especially in Gotham. All I was doing was inviting Lantern type trouble here, and this town had enough of its own problems.

"Four people," she whispered. "Give me. an hour."

"Forty minutes," I told her.

"Fifty. Keep the Justice League infiltrators out of my hair that long."

"Plural?" I whispered. "Who else is here?"

"J'onn. See the German business man in the corner? I've been dodging mind- scans all night."

I chanced a glance over, and dammit, didn't we make eye contact. Stealth was my middle name, really. "Ok. Fifty minutes. Starting. now." Ok. Stewart was my middle name. I sucked.

She left me, and the Manhunter was on my butt so fast. "Jordan."

I sighed. "Can we skip the lecture and go straight to the threat?" boy was I getting mouthy. Mara called it 'channeling Robin'. "Sir."

"Ms. Prince has already said her peace," he said very formally. Nice accent, by the way. "She needs a balancing force. That is all I will say."

"I'm trying to be that."

"You're too close. It can't be you." His brown eyes bored into me. "Not when you are also in need of an anchor. Especially right now." I didn't know if he knew what had happened, from that statement, or if he was referring to my fisticuffs with the Man of Steel. Either way, the Manhunter always knew far too much.

I sighed, so tired of these games. "I know, sir. I know what you're saying. Robin needs a Batman."

He smiled. "I didn't say exactly that."

"I'm opened to suggestions."

"As for the rest-I won't repeat what you've already heard. But you're causing an unnecessary stir."

I nodded, not sure how to respond. I mean, what DO you say to that? "I can talk to her. You know. Maybe."

"I wouldn't put it off too much longer. Not only are you creating unnecessary opposition for yourself, but you are also causing strife within the League."

That was new information. I was sure Mara suspected as much, and I knew my dad was not a favorite person right now. HER dad had been siding with them, but he'd lain off the last day or so.

"Look, I'm sorry if my dad's getting in trouble. But this is the way it is." Maybe. he was right. "Would. being open with motives. change things?"

"For some."

"I'll talk to her." It wasn't enough. Not for me, and probably not for her. It hadn't been for Superman yet, so what about the others? So what if we had a few more people 'feeling our pain'. Alfred was right. They wouldn't understand. There was one thing that she and I had to take into consideration-this wouldn't remain a secret much longer. J'onn knew. Her parents weren't stupid. Alfred knew.

I found a place to hide (as much as a green guy can hide) until she was finishing up. She came over to me with a wicked grin on her face. "Make that EIGHT yeses."

"Good job," I said, impressed. "Now get them to put that in writing."

She frowned. "I can get them to keep good on verbal agreements. This is ME."

"You're so modest," I told her. I handed her a water, and she nearly collapsed on the lounge beside me. "Hey. Guess who I got nailed by twenty seconds after you left me?"

"J'onn. I know, I saw." She sighed. "It was a short conversation."

"Yup. But I think maybe I should fill you in when we get out of here. The grumpy German businessman had an interesting point."

* * *

I was SO glad I was driving, because SHE was incensed. No, she was probably going to kill me. I didn't think I'd EVER seen her just red-faced, screaming mad. This was all over the suggestion that we not keep our reasons entirely to ourselves.

"Mara!" I yelled back, pulling the car off the road. I wasn't going to give the media MORE fodder by wrecking this thing. "The Manhunter knows. Alfred knows. You're parents are going to get wise eventually, if your mother hasn't broken into you medical records already."


"Deal with reality! All we're doing is making them mad, and they're probably going to ALL get wise eventually." I wouldn't look at her. I continued staring out the windshield at the people passing our car. They ignored us mostly. No one wanted to be involved in two people fighting in a silver Porche.

"No. They don't know. They don't understand."

"YOU don't understand. They're not all the cold, heartless bastards you make them out to be. They're. for the most part. human beings. And they understand loss."

"They're all so far above revenge," she ground out miserably.

"Mara, is that why you're doing this? Revenge? We can't go into it thinking like that."

"If you're going to give me 'the path of righteousness' speech, save it. I don't care." She tried to unlock the door, but every time she unlocked it, I locked it again. "Let me out of the damned car. I'll get a cab."

"You're not going anywhere." I used the ring to hold her arms at her sides. I knew it wouldn't hold her indefinitely, but now I could at least drive. I pulled out of the spot before anyone realized the green glowing interior of the vehicle.

"You bastard," she whispered.

"You can call me names," I told her. "If it makes you feel better. You think I don't want to beat the living fuck out of that guy? I do. I even told Superman I'd hand in the ring to do it."

"Then DO it."

"Look, I want him, and we will have him-but not out of revenge. There's got to be SOME justice in it."

"There is justice in revenge," she spat.

"What did I tell you? DON'T jepordize your soul over this! I'm not going to let you."

"So, instead, you'd just like everyone to KNOW what this is about?"

"Say it Mara. Say what this is about."

"You know what this is about. I don't need to."

I smashed my palm against the steering wheel. "Why wont you say it? You haven't talked about it once since you told me. You obviously derive some sort of sick pleasure in being like the old man."

"You shut up about my grandfather."

"You won't talk about him, either. What the hell's going on in your head?"

"None of your god damned business. I'm not talking to you any more." Her mouth snapped closed and she stared out the window.

"Fine. I might FINALLY get a word in edgewise. It'll be the first time in six years." I smiled darkly when she didn't answer. "Quit being a self- righteous bitch and listen to me for five minutes. I am having enough problems trying to keep myself from going Parallax on this guy's ass. I can't keep. DEALING with you. If you make this about revenge, not only are you going against what HE stood for, and you're going to lose your soul. And I don't want that because this guy is not fucking worth it, and because I love you. You're acting like an idiot, and I want to shake the hell out of you half the time, but I still love you. But listen to me. Its bad enough we're going outside the law. THAT doesn't bother me. It's bad enough we're not seeking eventual legal justice. That puts us in a grey area, and above all else, we need a code to follow. We need our motives clear. Revenge can't be part of it, Mara. As much as we'd like it to be."

"When we get home," she told me coldly, "I want you to pack up your things, and I want you to leave."

* * *

We got to her apartment about twenty minutes later. I tore off my tie and threw it on the nearest chair, then put my hands on my hips.

"What're you waiting for? Get your things and get the hell out." She ran a hand through her hair then unzipped her dress. I would not admit out loud that I thought it was very sexy that she could do that, she was liable to kill me right now. She stepped out of the dress and threw it on her bed, then glared at me as she went for her costume.

"You're not going out there. You needed a six hour nap this afternoon."

"I'm fine now. See? I'm so fucking fine I can go out there by myself. You're dismissed."

"I'm dismissed? Who the hell do you think you are?"

"The one running this operation!" Tearing off her nylons, she threw them over her shoulder onto the bed. I had a good mind to tie her to that bed and keep her there until I was satisfied that she was healed. "Get your things and get the hell out." For emphasis, she opened the top drawer of the chest next to the bed and began throwing my under clothes at me.

"Real mature, Mara." A net snapped out of the ring and caught the clothes before they hit the floor. "And I'm not leaving."

"Why? You're not wanted here."

"Because that's what you want me to do."

"You're a real stubborn bastard."

"I learned from the best." The net turned into a bushel and I put it by the door. "You thought this partnership was only until you were better, didn't you?"

"It doesn't matter what I thought."

"It matters to me. I don't know who the hell you think you are, using people the way you do. I KNOW you are better than this. You scared the hell out of your brother, you're using Fox's loyalty to your grandfather to inspire this war, and now you're pushing me out because I'm asking you to do difficult and painful things. I see how you run your ship now, and quite frankly, I'm worried for you. I'm worried like hell."

She'd thrown on a t-shirt and cotton shorts, and now she was piling the armor on over it. "For WHAT? It's not like I have to worry about the most powerful weapon in the universe. You're afraid of Parallax, FINE. Be afraid. I have no such constraints. I'm going to do what needs to be done."

"You're not leaving this apartment," I told her, creating a barrier around us.

"Jordan, get out of my way," she told me icily.

I shook my head no.

Clipping on her cape, then adjusting her belt, she inhaled deeply. "I gave you fair warning," she said. As she spoke, a batarang shot out from her belt with a speed I couldn't even follow, and hit me in the side of the head. As unconsciousness came, my will wavered. She'd won again.

* * *

"Young man, you will tell me this instant how many fingers I am holding up."

I groaned and slowly opened my eyes. "A bunch," I muttered.

"Not good enough. Concentrate. How many?"

I squinted at Alfred. "Three."

"Very good, young sir." As he helped me to a sitting position, I rubbed my eyes.

"Where's she at?"

"In the Cave, sir."

I touched the wound above my eyebrow, and suddenly felt nauseous. Fortunately Alfred pulled over the waste paper basket before I could be sick all over those stupid tan carpets. SHE was the one who had had this place recarpeted. I could kill her. I loved her, but I wanted to kill her. "Gotta. go. Thanks, Alfie."

I wiped my mouth on the towel he gave me, still not feeling too swell. I probably had a nice concussion. "I fear she is not in a listening mood, sir."

"Well, I'll MAKE her listen."

"I attempted to make her listen."

"What'd she do? Try to fire you?" I'd heard that Bruce had done that a few times, in fits of anger. Like me, Alfred just wasn't going away.

"No. She ignored my presence entirely."

I rubbed my neck. I couldn't believe she'd hit me. I couldn't believe she'd hit me that hard. Was that her way of giving me a hint? "Alfred. I still have to try."

I grabbed hold of the bed and dragged myself to my feet. "I know you do."

* * *

"This is cute," I whispered to myself, daring to reach out and touch the force field again. And as it had done the two previous times, it shocked me. "You're such a bitch," I muttered to myself. What the hell had I been thinking? The girl was bound and determined to take down Lex Luthor. THE Lex Luthor. Who had never let anything get in HIS way, including HER. Why did I think she'd let me get in HER way?

I stood in the library, staring at the yellow glowing field that wouldn't let me penetrate the cave. It also blocked the other entrances, I'd already checked.

Pulling out my cell phone, I dialed the number without looking. A tired voice said hello on the other end. "Jimmy, don't give me any lip. I need to know how to disable a force field based on the design you used last year to contain Id."

"Minty, shut up. It's late." he was going to hang up on me.

"Jimmy, wake the hell up. Listen to me. Do you remember the device you used when Young Justice went up against Id?"

"Shit, man. Where the hell are you? Is it Id again? You should be calling Young Justice."

I stomped my foot impatiently. "Tell me how to disable it. This one's using a yellow force field instead of one in the UV spectrum, but I'm sure she's using your technology."


"Your sister. Now tell me how to disable the damned thing."

I heard a moan and a sigh on the other side of the phone, a moan and a sigh that WASN'T Jimmy.

"Oh my god. Did I interrupt something?" I didn't wait for an answer. "Jimmy! I can't believe you. Do your parents know you're sleeping with her? No. Wait, I don't WANT to know. I have my own problems to deal with." You know, like the fact that my girlfriend had just effectively shut me and everyone else out of her life and she was probably going to get killed avenging our child's death going after a man with no soul. The Bat-people confused me sometimes. They confused me badly.

"Dude, my parents know already. And shut up, I'm thinking." It was quiet for a minute. "I can't think. See, she always has to go up-staging me. You know Crys and I were followed all afternoon? Makes it REALLY hard to make wedding arrangements."

"Wedding, Jimmy, just shut up and think."

"No dude, listen. She's just doing all this going psycho shit cause she's jealous of me and Crys."

"Yeah, Jimmy. That's it. That's it exactly. Now tell me how to disable the field." I was seriously running out of patience, with both of them.

"Alright, shuddup. I'm thinking. It aint easy, you know. The generator for the field is INSIDE the field." He made some noises on the other end. "And it's yellow? Well, there goes just blasting your way through."

"Tell me about it."

"She isn't coming to my wedding."

"Jimmy, now's not the-you're not getting married. You said college first."

"Yeah, ran into a little snag."

Suddenly, I felt like throwing the phone against the wall. "You have REALLY lousy timing, Jimmy. And if you tell your sister WHY you're getting married, I'll kill you."

"She's going to notice in about seven months. I don't think we can short it. I used Kryptonian technology in the original model so that it couldn't be overloaded or anything so that Id couldn't get out. The only way was to turn off the generator. I'd have to look at it to think up a plan."

"Well, then get your ass down here."

"Why? Cause you two're having a fight and she turned on you? Fat chance."

"Jimmy, she needs someone. Her health isn't that great, and emotionally, she's pretty close to the deep end. I need to get down in the cave, and I can't. Are you going to help me?"

"Look. I'll come in the morning. That device created a field that penetrated inorganic matter. That thing is creating a sphere that goes through the rock in the cave, through the house, and probably through the water running under the cave. You are screwed, and I am NOT getting up. That bitch is always pulling shit, and now they're looking too hard at our family. She can sit down there and go WACKO for all I care right now." He hung up. Usually, that was my job.

I sat down at the chair at the desk, and pulled opened the top left drawer. That was where the controls were for the intercom system. I pressed the button for the Cave. "Mara, I know you're down there. I'm not leaving Gotham. And I'm going to find a way past the field."

"You wont. And neither will my brother," she said with self-assurance. "You'll leave Gotham. You have until dawn to settle your affairs. And then. if you enter this city, you do it at a risk to your own health."

There was a snap as she cut the intercom service, and there was a buzz as she destroyed the connection with the Cave. If she wanted to play like that, I could. The gloves were down. I was going to catch hell either way-I might as well at least take the righteous path.

* * *

She was so damned stubborn. Didn't she understand. this was part of the reason her grandfather and Dinah could never fully commit to each other? They were both intermittently pushing the other out of their lives. Then again, she never had any intention of fully committing to me. She'd never kicked me out before, but she'd never responded to any of my marriage proposals. I had no choice but come to the conclusion that she'd never had any intention of fully sharing her life with me. That would mean never giving up that part of herself that made her angry and secretive.

"Please let me up," I begged into the intercom at street level.

I couldn't hear a sigh on the other end, but I was sure it was there. The elevator came down, and I stepped into it, sending it up to the top floor.

"Do you know what time it is?" Tim Drake asked me wearily.

"Look, I know what time it is, and I'm sorry. I have a problem."

"That's the only time any of you know me."

"I need you to talk to Cassandra. Mara NEEDS someone."

"Mara doesn't WANT anyone. And besides, I heard you were side-kicking her. At least against LexCorp. At least. those are the rumors."

"Look, don't get smart with me," I told him. I honestly didn't have time to be polite. My mother wouldn't be proud of me, but that was ok. "I WAS. We WERE, but now we're not. I was told I wasn't even allowed in Gotham any more and I had until dawn to settle my affairs. She's lost it."


"Congratulations. You now have a rogue Bat on your hands," I answered miserably. "She needs someone. She won't let it be me. And I wasn't even doing that great of a job when she was. I have my own problems."

"Cassandra can't work with her. All they do is fight."

"She's going to do something she's going to regret." It looked like I was going to have to give a little to get a little. "Look. She's taking this hard. Think about it this way. You know what Bruce was like. When he lost a child."

The air rushed out of his lungs. "Shit."

I tried to keep myself from getting teary eyed. For just this moment, it wasn't about me. Still, they grew wet. "Yeah. Look. She wants Luthor. I want Luthor. I don't care if he ends up dead, to be honest with you. But Mara's going to kill herself doing this. Or someone else is going to do it for her.and some people might go out with her. I know I'm asking for a lot. I know there's a lot of bridges burned. But. you two used to be good friends. Just. I don't know. She needs someone, and it can't be me because she won't let it. And even if she did. I don't think I'm right for the part. I've tried so hard to get her to open up completely. she never may," I told him unhappily. "And. and I don't know what I can do about that. I don't know if I can NOT work with her. and keep her steady. She. needs someone there. You know?"

He gave me a sad nod. "I'm sorry. I am. And. yeah. She's going to take that hard. I'll talk to Cassandra. I'll see what I can do. I can't. promise anything."

I nodded. "Thank you. over her. She won't let me right now. Please." I clenched my eyes shut. "Never mind."