Usual disclaimers. First Jordy story for the people who like Jordy! Sorry if yer not one of them.

No Quarter Given


I was cold, I was tired, and I was wet. I was sitting in a ditch on a planet with a red sun where it rained cold, misty pink droplets of half- frozen water. The rain collected around me, sinking in past my black uniform and I slid into the mud just a little further. I wanted to go home.

A weary hand lifted to my nose and wiped it. At this point, I didn't know if that was blood or snot I felt running down it. With my luck, it was both. Lightening cracked, and I stared up to the orange skies, praying it'd stop raining, if only for a moment. Then I could crawl my way out of this ditch and think up some way home.

Slowly, my eyes fell upon the two mechanical beasts that'd spent the last two days in constant battle with. They lay upon their backs, the seven- story giants now creaking in the wind. I shuddered once, then placed my hands in the gray clay-filled mud and attempted to push myself to my feet. My trembling hands collapsed under the weight of me, and I slid back into the mud. A groan of misery and defeat escaped me as the puddle filled around my backside.

I hadn't seen my wife in two weeks. She'd been working late, then she'd been doing under-cover stuff with her 'night job' as she called it. Then a week ago I took off on this God-forsaken mission to rid this sector of space of its robotic terrorizers. We were used to the frequent times apart, due to our respective heroing careers, but still. I was soaked, exhausted and unhappy—and I missed her.

Out of desperation, I sighed.

"This a private pity party, or can anyone join."

Slowly I turned around and looked above me, to my father. There wasn't much left of his costume, and he had a giant welt on the side of his face. Slowly, he sat down on the edge of the ditch and looked down at me.

"Shut up," I muttered. I needed a nap or something.

"To-ouchy. Aren't you going to ask how I found you?" I didn't quite understand how he could be so thoroughly trounced, yet his mouth was still going. It had unlimited energy like his ring.

A nap would be soooo good right now. "My brain hasn't caught up that far, yet."

Using the power of his ring, he dragged me out of the mud and next to him. "Followed the smoking worlds."

"Funny," I grumbled sarcastically. "We didn't do THAT much damage."

"Sure did, Sport. You're lucky Iet Seven was uninhabited."

I groaned. "Sorry. I ran into some problems."

"Well, you did ok," he said, putting a hand on my aching shoulder. "Ready to get outta here?"

I looked down at my ring. "One problem with that plan, Pop. She's all pooped out." Focusing all my will upon it, I made the tiniest spark shoot out of the ring. It needed recharged, badly. I was REALLY lucky he'd found me, or I'd be stuck on this grub-hole.

"It'll be just like when you were little. Get somewhere, go like a chicken with your head cut off, run out of energy, then I end up carrying you home."

I scowled at my father. The wise-cracking hero was so LAST century.

* * *

I woke on my father's couch the next morning, my communicator buzzing on the glass coffee table next to me. My tired arm crept over to it and I shoved it my ear, then turned it on.

"Glad you're within communications distance," someone too damned cheerful to be my wife said on the other end.

"Ugg!" I groaned.

"I love you too," she informed me. "You know what today is, don't you?"

I shuddered. "Mara… I'm sick," I said in all honesty. Sitting in the freezing rain in nothing but your ripped up costume wasn't a great illness- prevention method. My nose was running, my head was heavy and my throat was going to start hurting any second.

"I really need you there," she informed me. I hated these lunches. This was the second one this month, and it was practically the only time I saw her lately. They were trying like mad to sell off a bunch of LexCorp holdings. Mara just plain didn't want them, mostly. She used the excuse that she didn't want to be caught in a monopoly suit. "If you come," she promised sweetly, "I'll give you dessert."

"Oh, that was just bad," I told her as I turned onto my side. "Tempting, but incredibly lame on your part."

"Well, I'm desperate," she informed me. "And I miss you."

"I'll come, but no hunk of burning Green Lantern just yet. I can't move, and I'm coming down with something." Suddenly, I stopped trying to sit myself up. "I can't," I told her. "I gotta final today."

"You said that wasn't going to interfere with this." She didn't sound happy. I was, unfortunately, good for business.

"Yeah, but I had a project to do too. Guess what didn't get done while I was off getting my ass kicked."

"Ask for an extension." She'd been really good at asking for extensions in college. She'd bat her eyes and explain how she'd been off with her grandfather observing a deal in Japan, and hadn't had a chance to compile her presentation or some other nonsense. I wish I had a really good excuse like that. Being a public hero, you'd think that'd be good. But this professor—well, lets just say the guy was unique.

"I've already asked for an extension." I looked at my watch. "What're the odds Tim can help with this, just for the sake of me graduating on time?" Slowly, I got to my feet and began searching for clothes. You weren't supposed to be clean when taking a final, I supposed.

She was almost amused by the position I was in. I could tell by the silence on the other end. "You're really out of the loop. Most of the Justice League got called out yesterday and they're not back yet."

I groaned. I was so dead.

She was typing. I hated when she typed and talked. "My mom'll be on in fifteen to help you."

"BLESS YOU," I got out before she closed the connection. I wondered why she didn't use my phone, then I remembered, it was smashed into oblivion when this started last week. I wasn't with it enough to remember what happened one minute to the next, much less take this test. This teacher didn't like me. He didn't need any more incentive to fail my ass. This was my SECOND time in his class too. Sometimes I wondered if it was really necessary to take programming classes to be a computer animator.

I dug through my bag and found the appropriate CD's, my notes, and a squished package of Twinkies and then turned on my father's computer. I noticed he was already gone for the day. I had to learn whatever it was he did to heal himself with the power of the ring. Mine just didn't have the umpf his did.

It booted a few seconds later, and I cringed to see the desk top image. It was a picture of him, my mother and me at the beach on Tarvist. I was a chubby twelve year old with dark green sunburn on my cheeks and sand in my hair. He always changed it to something from the family photo album, and it was always a picture with mom. It was kind of sad, the way he was still so hopelessly devoted to her. He seemed happy enough, well adjusted enough. He just wouldn't ever get over her.

I connected to the internet, found my program as it stood now, and waited for Oracle to come save me. While I waited, I opened the squished Twinkies, put the cardboard full of filling and crumbs up to my mouth and began shoving cakey goodness into my face as fast as humanly possible.

"THAT is an image your wife would find amusing."

I moaned. Unfortunately, my mouth was full with cake and cream, and it just sounded like I was being smothered.

"Swallow," she said with humor in her voice. I nodded and swallowed all of it. I could feel my eyes tearing up as the mass tore down my throat. "Good boy. Now send me what you have so I can tell you how pathetic it is."

My aching shoulders slumped. With a few key strokes, my program was on its way. "What I can't make it do is run all the little animations in order."

Her image in the corner of my screen shook its head. "That's because your database is all messed up."

Great. Lets see if I can make it THREE consecutive semesters in this class. Last semester was screwed up with the remainder of that Luthor stuff, Mustard coming back and wanting blood, my wife going missing for a week on a 'job' with Batman, a universal crisis and Crystal having the twins early. This semester had been littered with three off-world things, one of which screwed up the midterm in this guy's class, acquiring two new guys who want to kill me, and a break-out from the Slab. Not to mention my wife running me ragged with these functions.

"I'm gonna die," I muttered. "Kill me now."

"You're not going to die. You're going to graduate. You'll be the heroing gigolo who married Mara Grayson, but dammit, that degree's going to look nice on your wall. Take a look at this…"

With a sigh, I reminded myself that I knew what I was getting into when I discussed the possibility of frequent absences with the admissions counselor four years ago.

I spent the next hour trying to fix everything I'd managed to screw up in the program over the last four and a half weeks of effort. All I wanted was for the little teddy bears to climb up to the top of the hill, do their dance, then slide down, hug each other, and run the end titles. They were round, it was cute, I hadn't had to try to integrate dialogue and Jimmy's kids loved the parts that they had seen. This guy might not like it, but the goal had been to amuse five-month olds. Nothing deep, nothing meaningful—just keep the crib bunnies from pulling each others hair.

We got it to play the second half of the end titles when I realized I was running out of time. I changed the audio to match up with the last sequence, we burned a new CD that didn't include the part I couldn't get to work, and I grabbed my bag and opened a window.

On any other occasion, I'd take the subway like a normal person, but I was late when I really couldn't afford to be. Hopefully I wouldn't run into any trouble along the way.

* * *

Pealing into the auditorium, I licked my split lip. I'd helped a lost kid find his mommy, then got punched in the face when I called her sir. Well, she DID look like a guy. Just add it to my world of hurt. If I was a good puppy, Mara would catalog all my injuries later. Mmm… catalog.

Everyone was already in their seats, the little desk tops pulled up over the arms of the auditorium chairs. I could see a huge packet of stapled paper on each desk and one of those stupid answer sheets where you fill in the bubbles. I was bad at those and I was convinced they were sent from Hell to torment me.

As quietly as I could I dashed down the side aisle to the counter that the professor sat at on the stage. His navy jacket hung opened over his grey pants, and his legs dangled down off the stool he sat on like the claws of a giant arachnoids—thin legs hanging off a round, pear shaped body.

I rubbed my forehead, trying not to acknowledge his comb-over as I thrust my CD at him. "Sorry I'm late," I whispered. Did the fact that I was all bruised up mean anything?

"Right," he said peevishly, putting down his news paper. He glared right into my eyes with something akin to distrust mingled with disgust. With his fat, ruddy fingers, he took the CD off of me and put it in his pouch. He kept staring at me.

"Uh… can I have a test?" I asked, trying to keep impatience out of my face.

"If you'd have been here for the review," he whispered harshly, "you'd know that I said individuals entering the auditorium late would not be given a test."

I smacked my forehead. "Then give me my CD back. I'll save it for next semester's final." And I'd have fifteen weeks to get the end title to run correctly. Maybe Oracle could wipe him off the face of the earth for me. "Look—Earth's Lanterns were off-world for six days. I want my degree—but freedom for a whole solar system sort of took precedence. Gimme the test, or gimme my CD." Wow, I was learning how to be mouthy, hanging out at Mara's dinner meetings.

His dark black eyes bored into me. He squinted a moment, then thrust a test packet at me and pushed an answer sheet in my direction. I looked at it for a moment, trying to think if I had a pencil. I SO needed a vacation.

* * *

I heard a quiet swishing sound, like grains through an hour glass. It was kind of… comforting, in it's own way. It was warm and I was comfortable and content. Beyond I heard the lapping of the ocean upon the beach, the calling of birds, and mischievous laughing.

Waking, I sat up suddenly, praying I wasn't being dumped on by some strange alien birds. As I sat up, white and pink sand went flying out my hair, and my mother laughed. "HEY!" I yelled as she leaned back in her chair, grinning with contentment. My hands ran vigorously through my hair, but it was too late, I could feel it on my scalp. "That is SO not cool."

Her green eyes shined almost purple in the red sun. I could see the beginnings of a tan coming out on her jade skin. That meant I was probably burnt to a crisp by now. She gave me a pat on the head. "You were adorable. Your father was going to take a picture." I looked over to my dad and stuck out my tongue. He was playing with the lens cover of the digital camera mom had gotten him for Christmas last year.

"She wanted to burry you all the way except for your face," dad said in consolation, putting the camera in his lap.

I sighed and my shoulders slumped. I was the biggest dork in the world, and my parents were going to just reinforce that by taking embarrassing pictures of me. Seventh grade was bad enough. I didn't need that stuff on the internet.

"Why don't we get a picture of everybody together?"

I pulled the blanket I was laying on over my head. "Why don't I just hide in here till I'm grown up or you guys find someone else to pick on? You should invest time in getting me a sibling. You know… deflect the attention."

My mom tugged on the blanket nice and hard, and I went tumbling out of it. I could feel the sand clinging to my suddenly stinging skin. When I looked up with sad puppy dog eyes, mom threw her head back and laughed. Her short green hair bounced with each chuckle. "Get on the ball, here," she told me finally once she caught her breath. "You're not going to let a little thing like your mom stop you, are you?"

I struggled to my feet then came over to her, kicking sand in my wake. Putting my hands on my hips, I pouted for a moment, and then, when she was about to say something to my father, I grabbed her ankles and dragged her off her chair and into the sand.

My dad threw his hands up in the air. "I'm staying out of it!"

A hand full of sand hit my father in the chest. Another handful hit me in the face. I let go of mom's legs.

"My eyes! My eyes!" I put my hands over my face and sat in the sand. "MOOOOM!!"

She grabbed my wrists. "I'm sorry! Jordy, let me see! I can't make it better if you don't-"

Pulling my hands away from my face, I grabbed her forearms and pushed her backwards into the sand. I wasn't taller than her yet, but I definitely weighed more. I liked to think of it as 'baby fat.' With my arms firmly on hers, I used all my weight to keep her from getting away. "I win!" I shouted. As long as she didn't…

A blob of green energy from her ring pushed me off of her. "THAT is for being a brat."

* * *

I had the sensation of falling, and I snapped awake. In doing so, I nearly fell off the small desk attached to the auditorium seat.

"Find any answers in Dream Land?"

Turning my head, I was met with a stunning amount of navy jacket. "Sorry. Long week. I'm on it." I looked down at the packet. I was on page three of eight. I could do this.

He moved back to the front of the auditorium and his lanky legs bent like a cartoon character's as he went up the two steps to the stage. Quickly, I scanned the room. There were about fifty-two people in the class, and most of them were gone. It was just me and the slackers left. Of course, trying to convince this guy I wasn't a slacker…

With a mushy, wet cough, I pressed down the top of my borrowed mechanical pencil and went back to work. Deep down, I hated dad's desk top images.

* * *

I closed my eyes, and then adjusted the pillow under my head. I knew I needed a shower, food and other life-necessities, but I was too tired. Even the little Alfred-voice in my head that knew he'd be mad to see my dirty body lying on his clean bed spread couldn't motivate me to move any more. I missed that guy. "It's not fair," I whined pitifully.

Across the room, I could hear Mara taking her jewelry off. "Life isn't fair," she muttered. I could tell she wasn't happy either. She HAD to go out tonight on a case, and I had just gotten here.

"NO it's not," I grumbled. "That guy was so mean to me. He doesn't have to be so mean. I never did anything to him."

"You don't know that," she said suspiciously. "Look him up. You'll find that some Lantern somewhere wronged some ancestor of his, or your dad ticked him off two years ago, or he just hates green people. Know thy enemy." I could hear her clothes coming off. I'd think that was hot, if I weren't so damned sick and tired.

"Thanks, oh great strategist. Tell me that AFTER I spend thirty weeks in his class."

She slid onto the bed next to me. "I've had other things on my mind. Be GLAD you missed that lunch today. It was almost a total disaster. Catering was half an hour late, and I had seven REALLY unhappy Japanese businessmen staring me down until catering showed up--"

I breathed in the scent of her and just wrapped my arms around her for a minute's rest. "We need a vacation. If I graduate, that's your present to me. A weekend somewhere where costumed psychos and people with yellow rings can't find us." I was totally begging, and I knew it.

Opening my eyes, I saw her smiling in the dim light of the room. "It could happen. I have two more deals to close, and I'm almost done with this case…"

I silenced her with a kiss. "No, I really mean it. We have to get the hell out of here." If I had the energy to drag her off somewhere tonight, I would. "Think drinks with umbrellas. We gotta do some serious work on making babies." That hadn't been going well either.

"I'll try to pencil you in," she teased.

I moaned. "Just do it, ok? INDULGE me?"

She began pulling away from my embrace. "I'll see what we can do. Let's just make sure you passed, first, Slugger." Mara pulled her robe around her and went to the door. She was going down to the cave to get ready for tonight. "Rest up," she told me. "I don't have to be at the office 'till noon." She winked, then closed the door behind her. I didn't know whether to groan or cheer. I needed to get some serious sleep before now and then if I wanted to have my dessert and eat it too.

* * *

No dessert for me. Apparently I slept right through Mara coming home, right through her insistence that I wake up and have a proper homecoming, through her phone ringing at ten-thirty and all of her complaining and screaming that the deal she'd set up yesterday was falling through because of the Japanese media's unfavorable slant on the news. I didn't wake up when she called at one-thirty to check on me, nor when she came home to get ready for her 'other job.' Nope. I didn't wake up until midnight, and by then, it was just me, my grade sheet, and the Lonely Spouses' Club in Bludhaven.

I crumpled the grade report print out and threw it across the table. It missed Jimmy and landed on the floor of the Grayson kitchen.

"Minty, I'll build a shrink ray, and shrink him down to the size of a GI JOE doll, and you can put him in your back pack and take him on your next mission," Jimmy told me as he cut another piece of pie. I'd tell him after he was done eating that Mara made it. He always seemed so suspicious of her cooking. "Then he'll see that you DO do stuff when you're not in class that's a little more important than his class."

"He'll probably just reiterate that if my career as a Green Lantern means more to me than my education, I should quit school. And it's only HIS class I need to graduate. And graduation is next week. And now I can't walk, because I didn't pass the ONLY class I was taking—and WHY is half the universe calling me Minty Lantern on official JLA and Titans channels?"

He held up his hands defensively. "So… uh… you noticed that, huh?"

I scowled, lifting my ring hand at him.

"Uh… well, you couldn't be Little Lantern forever, could you?" He picked up the pie with one hand and took a bite. "Did I mention this is really good? It's really good pie. The best," he added quickly.

"I very well could have," I told him. "Now they're all calling me Minty. THREE semesters in this guy's class." I lowered my fist and sighed.

"Do something about it. Go complain to the dean."

"Can't," I moaned. "School is in recess, all the offices are closed."

Crying started above us. Those kids seemed to have radar for when you really needed some 'grownup time'. "Well, do something about it," he said, wiping his hands and getting out of his chair. "My mom could doctor the records or something—just do it." He climbed up the steps, and I shook my head.

I didn't want her to doctor the record. I wanted to earn this on my own. Even if Evil Teacher was thwarting my ability to do so. And the last thing I wanted to do was tell Mara about this while the problem was still on- going. She'd go up there with guns blazing and shoot the place up. I was going to have to be a grown up and handle this all by myself. I really did just want to go back to bed and not wake up until this was all fixed. Too bad that's not the way things worked in the world—heroing or otherwise.

* * *

With a sigh, and lurch of disgust in my heart, I climbed two flights of steps to Oracle's office. Not having the patience to play the 'trick Oracle' game that seemed to consume the Bat clan, I knocked on the door. Personally, I thought they all needed a hobby—if that's what passed for entertainment.

"What can I do to you?" she asked me, not looking up from her monitors. "Dick, if you get your ass blown off, I'm going to leave you there to bleed to death." It was nice to see they still had a healthy marriage.

There was a rumbling and then the roar of an explosion on her speakers.

"Uh… does he need back up?" I asked, trying not to sound anxious. Mara wouldn't be happy if I let her father fry.

A fire crackled on the sound system, and Oracle kept typing.

"I can go now," I asked finally with some impatience. The back lantern uniform wrapped around me and I prepared to go out the window.

"I'm FINE!" Mr. Grayson howled. "This old man doesn't need BACKUP!"

"You just keep thinking that, Mr. Stubborn," Oracle said with a sigh, pushing the microphone away from her mouth. "You need a location on Robin?" she asked me as she turned around.

"Actually, I was looking for an address and phone number for someone," I said, rubbing my hands together nervously.

"Try a phone book," she smartly, giving me half a grin.

I winced, knowing when I was whipped. "Well, I left the Manhattan directory in my other uniform. "It's for my programming professor…"

She winced. "Um… I gave Mara the address. I thought she was getting it for YOU."

I buried my head in my hands and moaned. "No, no no no. Did ROBIN threaten him, or did Wayne lawyers threaten legal action against the university?" I wondered out loud.

"She didn't say anything. She just called from work and asked…"

"Put her on," I said firmly.

Oracle had an almost contented smile on her face as she made the connection with Mara, then pulled away from her main computer to let me talk. "What is it?" Robin asked impatiently. It sounded like she was busy.

"Dearest love of my life," I said sweetly. "What did you do to my programming teacher?"

"Do we have to talk about this now?" she asked. I heard the sounds of some bone crunching on the other end.

"Well, I would have at least liked to have found out I failed for myself before you went off to annihilate him."

"You were unconscious," she reminded me smartly.

I sighed. "I can fight my own battles."

The fighting stopped, and I could hear the sounds of her whizzing through the air. I knew how much she liked flying. "My therapist said I have to make an effort to show people my affection in a tangible and realistic way."

"I don't think that's what the Manhunter meant. You DID threaten legal action, DIDN'T you?" I moaned, leaning back away from the computer. "ROOOOOBIN!" My hand slammed down on the counter top. Looking behind me, I saw that Oracle was taking perverse pleasure from all of this. "Help me out here!" I begged.

Unfortunately, that was the wrong thing to say, because she bust out laughing. "It's sweet," she said finally.

"I thought I WAS helping!" Mara said, offended.

"Not you, Oracle!" I growled. "Ok. You tried really hard," I said patiently. "But, Robin… we're gonna have a talk when you get home." My finger pounded against the green lit panel beside me, closing the connection.

I could find a hole and crawl into it.

"Are you gonna move, or are you going to sit there and pout all night?" Grabbing my shirt, she pulled me away from the computers and took my place.

I watched the glowing displays for a moment then sighed. "I just wanna do something on my own," I complained.

An alarm went off. "Oracle here," she said, slapping a headset on her head. She listened for a moment, and then turned to face me. "You can go save Superman," she said. "All by your little lonesome. He's over Antarctica."

Before she could tell me what I was up against, I shot out of there. She could fill me in along the way.

* * *

Oracle gave me what little information she had. I had no idea what it was, but I wondered what good I would be, if SUPERMAN needed help.

Following the coordinates she gave me, I found Superman being smashed around by a friend of mine—it was one of the two robots I'd vanquished two days before. Well, obviously I hadn't vanquished him well enough. It still had a large tear in the chest armor, but apparently, wearing it out then beating it senseless with rocks wasn't a good way to get rid of these things.

"Hey ugly!" I called out as Superman dug himself out of a crater of rock. "Looking for me?" I sped towards him, as fast as the ring and my imagination could take me. At the last second, I shot upward, barely missing him.

"What is that?" Superman's winded voice asked over my communicator. We were in trouble.

"Robot enforcer for a robot overlord. I thought I kicked this guy." The best I could hope to do for now was play chicken with it and maybe tucker it out some. Which wasn't bloody likely if it had just flown here from the other end of the known universe, just to kick my ass. "I'm opened to suggestions," I called out loudly.

It took another swipe at me, and I saw the damaged cannon on its shoulder try to get me in its sights. I scrambled between its legs and came up behind it. Direct assault with the ring had NOT worked last time, so I wouldn't bother trying it.

"It's auto-repairing every time I attempt to use any powers on it," Superman yelled, trying to draw it's fire as I stirred up a storm of ice chips to throw at it.

"Yeah!" I hollered over the rainstorm of ice. Somewhere in the mist of the clatter, I heard a buz, like a circuit gone bad.

Superman was on the other side of the beast, trying to crush it with a rock. He stopped mid-motion over top the hulking red and brown mass. He was staring at the hole I'd put in it's chest a few days ago. "We disrupted it's electrical field," he said with sudden realization. "Oracle!" he called out. "Watch our coordinates. Tell us when we hit the pole."

FINALLY, we had a plan. Wish I'd have had one before this guy kicked my tail the other day.

We pushed into the whiteness. The sky was pretty white, below us was white, and we were going towards it. If this was what was at the end of the long dark tunnel, a place that looked like the penguin exhibit at the zoo, I didn't want to go to heaven any time soon.

I gave the machine occasional bursts from my ring to entice it onward. It was a bird, and I was leaving a bread trail. As it were.

"You're a hundred meters off," Oracle announced FINALLY, right when the cannons on it's shoulders had auto-repaired to the point that they could aim in on me.

There came a sudden quiet as we stopped. The wind wasn't rushing past my ears any more, and I'd stopped throwing bolts of energy. I could hear the repaired motors taking aim, and I wondered quickly if I'd done something to piss off the Man of Steel. He might now want me dead, but this thing could at least maim me real bad.

I could hear the cannon humming, and beyond the hulking mass of metal Superman was not visible. A cookie was NOT going to make this all better.

"GET OUT NOW!" Superman hollered.

Not sure where I should go, I shot downward. It lost me for a moment, its electro-magnetic field disrupted. Superman forced it away from me, then downward. I used the ring to force wedges into the ground, pulling up long shards of ice.

Concentrating so hard, it made my stomach twist into knots, the volley of ice shot at the creature from all direction, and actually pierced the exoskeleton. There was a roar of wind and electricity, and it began plummeting downward with no help from the Man of Steel. It hit the white ice with a crash and a boom. When the wet flakes and shards settled, there was a crater the size of a lake and a twisted mass of metal at the bottom.

Using his heat vision, Superman melted the ice within and around the creature, then used his breath to freeze it again. I'd seen this trick before, but I still thought it was so cool.

* * *

"Well, I can't remember which one it is," my dad told me as I sat in his dining room. "It's either put your head back, or put your head forward." I scowled at him as I pinched my nose with a tissue. My fingers were sticky with blood, and we couldn't quite get it to stop.

"Yeah, it's either one or the other. And you're being NO help." The extreme cold back to east coast summer hadn't gone well. That and I'd been smashed in the face like six times today. As soon as I started stuffing my face, thinking up new ways to kill my wife for being a pest, the darn thing started gushing.

"Want me to call Mara and tell her you got a boo-boo?" my father mocked.

I stuck my tongue out and picked up the phone, trying to get the information from Oracle that I'd been denied last night.

* * *

"I'm the world's biggest spaz," I told myself as I looked at the apartment number scribbled on the back of a daily calendar page. I was on the right floor; I just couldn't find the thing. Looking back and forth, I pushed the cotton plugged up my nostrils inside a little more securely.

Then I realized that the numbers were completely random in this hall way. I stared at the yellow walls as I passed each door, looking for the right number. Two hundred and seven was of course right after two hundred and thirteen. I should have figured that out on my own, right?

Knocking, I took a deep breath. Dad said to be firm and persistent, without being a pest. I could assert myself. Really.

After what seemed like forever, the door opened. "I was advised not to speak to you," Mr. Evil Professor From Hell told me, then began closing the door in my face.

Instinctively, a hand reached out of the ring and held the door opened. "I just want to talk!"

"Legally… I really can't." Even this was said rather smugly.

I sighed. "What did my wife do?" I had a pretty good idea. It probably involved her grandfather's lawyers and a discrimination suit.

He shrugged, then tried to close the door again, noting the green hand currently holding it forced opened. I was sure THAT would be used against me. I could see the headlines now! 'Green Lantern intimidates professor, student accused of using powers to salvage grade.' Could someone please just kill me? Right now?

"Ok, fine. You don't have to talk back, but you have to listen!" I stepped into the apartment. Hey, lets just add trespassing. Maybe I could tell the authorities there was some big alien thing… ok, I was in trouble.

"Look, I don't have much in my life. I have baseball cards from back when baseball didn't suck. I have a few thousand comic books. I have a wife who is completely insane, my dad's hair line and my mother's power ring. That's all I have. I didn't ask for the stupid ring. A bunch of Justice League big wigs got together and decided hey, lets give a kid who gets picked on in school for being a mama's boy a ring."

I continued advancing into his apartment slowly, entirely lost in my train of thought. "This way, if he wasn't a BIG enough dork already, they can REALLY find ways to pick on him. Firstly, it sucks when your parents are on the news every night. And secondly, I'm going with Kermit on this. It's not easy being green." I shook my head. "I got the ring. Fine. Whatever. If I could give the damned ring back, and have my mom, I'd do it. But I'm stuck with it. And I'm stuck with all the responsibility that comes with it. That means getting decked by over anxious mothers, nearly having my face ripped off by guys with yellow rings, and spending an entire week battling seven- story robotic minion of an evil solar system overlord. And that's why my nose is stuffed with cotton, thank you for asking." I sighed and shook my head.

He stared at me, seething. His hands were folded over his chest, and I could see every muscle in his jaw and neck tightened. I wasn't really making any friends here. Oh well. At least I was getting all this… spew out of me.

"You probably think I'm some Meta trying to get away with something. Maybe you think I'm some "super-hero" who thinks he's better than everyone else. I don't. I'm just some guy who has to keep running off to save the universe. All I ever wanted was a fair shot. All my other teachers have understood that sometimes stuff's a little late. Sometimes I need to get the notes off of someone, and I really only spend about one third of class- time in class. But damnit, I get my homework done. Even if it means not seeing my wife for an entire weekend, missing what PASSES for a social function with those stupid kids in Young Justice, and passing up free tickets to a Yankee's game. Why? Because I want my stupid degree. I want that bloody, stupid piece of paper that's been my goal for the last four and a half years."

I clasped my arms behind my back and stared at his cluttered counter. It made me feel only marginally better to know that this guy wasn't entirely perfect, and wouldn't get the Alfred seal of approval.

"I LIKE animation. I like making stuff that makes people happy. I spend enough of my time causing property damage, and making people UNHAPPY even though I'm saving their lives. My split lip is just how unhappy I made somebody today." I liked it quickly, wondering if there was any justice at ALL in this world. Probably not for the likes of me. Some of us are born losers.

"And I want something that's mine. Not my mother's ring, not Justice League hand-me-downs. Not being some stupid 'advisor' to a group of over-powered kids." No offence to the Young Justice brats. I'd just recently outgrown them, then I'd been assigned to keep them from killing each other. And right now, I was pretty annoyed with them.

"I want something that belongs entirely to me. Nothing to do with saving the world. And nothing to do with my… overbearing wife who happens to own half of the known universe. And I don't need her help or her lawyers." Some day, I'd convince her of that, too.

I turned back to face him. "What I'm trying to say, is that I want my freaking degree. I want to earn it fair and square, and I don't think our ideas of fair meet up. Maybe… next time—next semester—you'll at least show a little mercy upon me. I can't stop the universal crises from happening. I can't even keep Young Justice from killing one another. But I'm going to keep coming back till I have that stupid piece of paper, and I either finally meet your expectations, or you give me a passing grade just to get the heck rid of me." I let go of the rest of my breath. "And that's all I have to say. I'm going."

Turning away from Evil Teacher, I began moving towards his door. I was sure there'd be unpleasant consequences when this was over—but for right now it had felt almost good to say all that.

"If you stay a minute," he said from behind me with some touch of humor in his voice, "I'll change the grade."

I spun around, the ring crackling. I really COULD blast him off the face of the earth right now, and not feel much remorse. "WHAT?"

"You've fulfilled everything I wanted for in my students."

My brain was going to explode. I could feel it throbbing and pushing against the sides of my head. "So then why did you fail me!?"

"Because you hadn't yet made the last requirement." He pushed the contents of the counter around, revealing a lap top. He opened it and logged on.

"What's that? Stalking your teacher and then spilling your guts out?" Suicide seemed like a perfectly viable option right now. Cause if I didn't kill MYSELF and put me out of my own misery, I was gonna hurt this guy. Repeatedly.

He typed away with vigor, making the change. One side of his fat lips curled upward in a smile. "Passion, Mr. Rayner. You were previously lacking passion."

Maybe I'd just poke my own eyeballs out.

Passion? Honestly. Since when did anyone need passion to program animation sequences? And where the hell had that been on the syllabus?

* * *

I lay on my side on top of the covers of my bed. I was getting a little chilly in just my boxers and socks, if the truth be told, but I was waiting for something—or someone. As I heard my someone moving around in the bathroom, I kept staring at it. My diploma. I had started something, then finished it. Under the light from the bedside lamp, it glowed—all heavenly and stuff.

Bachelor of Arts and Sciences. All in a pretty red folder, stamped and signed by the president of the university. And I still had both of my eyeballs. Life was good.

I felt weight on the bed beside me. "You gonna stare at that thing all night?"

"It's the perdiest thing I've ever seen," I informed Mara. Then I turned and looked at her. "I mean. Well…" she glared at me, waiting for a recovery. "And you're the prettiest person?"

She reached across me and pulled the diploma out of my hand then tossed it gently onto the floor. "Are we going to do this, or what?"

I grinned, staring down at the gold and blue silk robe. I knew she wasn't wearing anything underneath. "This is the graduation present you didn't give me at the party, huh?"

"Belated goodbye, belated welcome-home, on-time graduation and early birthday present," she told me.

"This is gonna be quiet a night," I said, tugging on the top of her robe. The therapy must be seriously paying off—she'd NEVER have taken a whole night off before.

"Making a one-night-only appearance—Mara Grayson! In her own bed!" Grinning, she reached across me one more time and turned off the light.

Maybe dorks, geekwads and little green men COULD triumph once in a while.

In the darkness there was a great rustling of clothes, impassioned kisses and occasional giggles. It was damned good to be home and have time off. There really was nothing quite like one of Mara's 'welcome home' parties. I assumed a graduation party could only be better since it happened so rarely.

Of course, I'll probably never know. BOTH of our communicators started buzzing simultaneously.

Removing my lips from her skin, I growled and dug around in the dark.

"We live but to serve," Mara said frustratedly.

"You've reached Lantern and Robin," I said, speaking into my mouthpiece. "Leave a message after the tone…"

"Jordy, they need you and Mara up on the moon."

"This had better be big," Mara told her mother in an alto version of the Bat-voice. She rolled off of me and pulled the robe around her. Was it just me or was this room always cold? Conspiracy to make us snuggle more. Good plan.

"It's big. They're recalling EVERYONE."

It wasn't really a consolation but it'd have to do. Turning the light on, I found my shorts.

"What've we got?" I asked as Robin began throwing clothes on. "As long as it's not seven-story robots from outer-space, I WON'T go kill myself tonight," I said angstfully. I dug around on the floor. If I were dirty pants, where would I be? She disgustedly threw a clean pair of pants in my face.

"I'm still getting details," Oracle informed us. "The initial report only contained the recall." It had BETTER not be some newbee on monitor duty freaking out and calling in all of civilization for a monster made entirely out of chunky peanut butter.

Following my t-shirt and shorts clad wife down to the cave, I hopped into my pants like a total degenerate spaz-boy.

By the time I got down to the cave steps, Mara was entirely in uniform, sans cape and mask.

"Nope, no alien robots, but it involves spaceships, a mine-field surrounding earth that's so thick it's blotting out the sun, and ten billion dead fish covering the moon."

I'd have made a smart remark, but there isn't anything you can say to ten billion dead fish.

"And you wanted to take a vacation!" My wife declared disgustedly as she cued up satellite records of the mine infestation on the cave's computer.

One of the tracking monitors showed that Batman was headed back towards the cave. We'd have company shortly.

"You're right. There's no place to hide," I said in all seriousness. "I guess the only vacation you get is when you're six feet under."

Mara flipped through displays with incredible speed. Could she even be understanding what she saw at that rate? "Well, Ring-Boy, you might have your chance at lasting rest before this one's all over..."

Here we go again.